What is Flash Fiction?
Flash Fiction is a type of writing that I have only recently begun to try. I am not sure how long it has been around, but there certainly seems to be an epidemic of it – competitions, flash fiction websites, festivals, articles about how to write the best, what it truly involves etc etc – so that if you write it is hard to escape the feeling that you should really be having a go …
And, of course, to state the absolute obvious, it doesn’t take up a huge amount of time to try.
So if the main work in progress is stuck in a seemingly insurmountable pit of problems yet the urge to write is strong, the guilt when not writing haunts, a quick bit of flash fiction could be the answer.
Here is some of mine, and you can read more at http://www.fridayflashfiction.com/
My Flash Fiction
My father left when I was 10.
Good bye, my lovely, off on a job, he whispered into my ear, brushing my cheek with the swiftest kiss, the faint smell of his breath, smoky, sweet and warm. Adding, might be some time.
But I took no notice. Because it was Thursday.
And on Thursdays, the Corona Man came. Not to us in the terrace of old agricultural cottages, but to the big, new houses opposite. Houses with garages and gardens and children who wore blazers with braid and went to schools where you had to pay.
We lived on the other side. The sad side as mean people called it. Fiona Povey and Elaine Walters in those braided blazers and velour hats in particular. Such small houses! – they said when I was playing hopscotch on the narrow pavement outside our front door – Can’t imagine how there’s room to breathe in them!
But I loved to watch him, the Corona man. With his deliveries of jewel coloured bottles that clinked like chime bells as he carried them to pristine doorsteps. A promise of another world.
Besides, my dad was always going. I was used to him disappearing in his old battered Ford, usually after a night of argument with my mum. Used to him coming back too, days, sometimes weeks later.
So the visit from the Corona Man that Thursday was more important. I sat on the front wall, waiting for the first sight of those glittering bottles – lime green, shocking pink, bronzed orange, bruised purple, and missed my father leaving. Bye Bye, my lovely, might be some time.
He came back for my mother’s funeral.
42 years later, a stranger followed me from the crematorium, caught my arm, vice-like.
An elderly man, stricken, tears falling copiously down an emaciated face.
Hallo, my lovely, he said.
And all I could think was how I had blamed him, all those years.
Not my prodigal father, but the Corona Man for coming between us, mesmerising me with that false promise of another world.
So that I failed to stop him, my father.
Let him leave like any casual caller.
No-one knew her name: no-one thought to ask.
The engagement ring, found in the pocket of a drowned sailor, remained unclaimed. Unpossessed.
The overloaded Iolaire sank within view of harbour lights, losing 205 war-weary survivors on the last stretch of their long journey back to Lewis. To Harris. Celebrations and reunions were in their minds. Not death. Not so close to home.
The morning of January 1st. 1919, they were seen dancing like sea-horses, onlookers said, their bodies tossed back and forth carelessly in frothing waves.
A woman among so many bereft.
Her ring, that token of promise, of unconditional love, undelivered.
The small child, safely strapped into his car seat, listens. His father drives. At first, his mother is silent.
And then …
“This is ridiculous. Why have you turned left? Straight into impossible traffic?”
“You always think you know best.”
“Because you take no notice. Just like …”
“Oh yes? Like everything else I do wrong?”
The small child closes his eyes, covers his ears with his woollen mittens. Shuts out sight, refuses sound. Instead, he tries to see lights from that enormous Christmas tree in the square, remember that song about the bells.
And then …
“Sorry,” his father says.
“No, sorry,” his mother says. Offers a kiss, touches a hand.
The child smiles.
The Christmas Angel has safely returned.
Outside, already growing dark, the day is damp, dead, the last of the autumn leaves turn to mulch. Curb fodder.
Her class of thirty disinclined, apathetic adolescents, avid only for the shift of the clock towards the end of the afternoon.
But English lesson. And poetry. She recites:
‘”November. The month of the drowned dog.”‘
A slight snigger. At least someone is listening. Noting. She tries again.
Repeats Hughes’ line.
Now there is an audible laugh and an obscenity muttered.
But someone else looks up. Alert. Says,
She says it again. More confidently now.
Under his breath yet audible, the boy says,
“I like that. That’s good that is.”
And suddenly her day is brighter, the afternoon tolerable.
Some light restored.
She sits in the parlour, hands neatly clasped, noises outside remote. Like echoes from a distant place.
The door opens.
“Coming? The whole street’s out there. Celebrating.”
She shakes her head. Tries to smile.
He hesitates, steps towards his mother. She waves him away.
“I’d prefer to stay here. With my thoughts. With the other two.”
He nods, wants to kiss her cheek, but is afraid he might cry. A grown man crying. After what he has seen. Survived.
Outside, jubilant cheers grow.
“Arthur,” she murmurs. “And Gordon. My sons. My lost boys.”
“Their duty,” he says mechanically, “they did …”
But the word implodes, like an unexploded shell.
“Wasted lives,” she says. “The futility of it.”