Tag Archives: flash fiction

THE DAYS OF MY YOUTH by A M Smith ©


 

 

Periodically I post my short fiction on my blog.  The following short memoir could have been titled “Interview with a Monster” but I opted for “The Days of my Youth”  because it was written in response to the question: what happens before or after a famous fictional event? So I chose Thomas Harris’ famous fictional creation, and  wondered what sort of a childhood could produce such a complex, monstrous character? The character is being interviewed by a brave journalist:

 

 

I’m hoping to set the record straight, by agreeing to this interview about my earliest childhood experiences.  Everyone seems to think that people like me emerge from the womb dripping with wickedness, right from the start.  It’s not so – nothing could be further from the truth.  I had a perfectly normal childhood.  Normal –  whatever that is. It’s all relative isn’t it? But perhaps you don’t agree.

My earliest memory? Mmm, let’s see. I remember Mother pushing me up and down the garden path in my pram, humming quietly under her breath, trying to get me to drop off to sleep no doubt.  Father didn’t like to be disturbed, he made it very clear he would not tolerate a screaming baby, and once he was in his workroom he definitely didn’t want to be disturbed.  I remember being allowed to visit his workroom, I might have been four or five, maybe?  I was allowed in, on condition I sat on the stool and didn’t touch anything.  I remember the smell of the formaldehyde, and being enchanted by the box containing the glass eyes – I was longing to touch them, and play with them, but I sat on my hands, and looked around at the animal heads mounted on the walls, the glass fronted display case containing the most delicate examples of Father’s craft, the birds, seemingly caught in mid-flight. No, no, I don’t think Father’s taxidermy had anything to do with my interests in later life.

Oh – one of my fondest memories from my early years, was Spot.  My dog – I loved him dearly.  He had black spotty patches on his white coat, and so lively, as only fox terriers can be!  And I’d like to emphasize that I did not spend my boyhood  doing unspeakable things to small animals!  Really, you have no idea, no idea at all, of the dreadful letters I receive on this subject – I often wonder whether the authorities have locked up the right person when I read those letters. Trust me, some of those letter-writers ought to be in here, if what they write is to be believed.  I’m sorry, but I feel strongly about this and again it takes me back to my first question : what is normal?

You think my name might have been an influencing factor? Well – I must admit it is an unusual name – Mother was obsessed with the ancient world and she chose my name. Of course, once I went to school, I was teased mercilessly about my name. And then, later, the newspapers had a field day inventing that silly rhyming couplet to describe me.  So juvenile, don’t you agree?

My first love? Oh, that’s an easy question to answer: she was the prettiest little girl (I have a soft spot for pretty women – but perhaps you’ve heard). Anyway, she sat in the desk in front of me in Primary School.  She had long brown ringlets, and her name was Clare.  It’s a name that keeps recurring in my life, quite strange really. Very recently a young woman came to interview me and her name was Clarice.  But not a pretty girl, I have to say, rather thin mousy hair and a pale, strained face.

Another vivid childhood memory?  Well, let’s see. I know!  it was Uncle Gregor’s visit. I must have been about seven at the time. I found him very exotic, with his thick accent and funny foreign clothes. But what I remember most clearly is the night he took us out to dine, in a restaurant, what an occasion! The starched tablecloth, the smart waiters, the bright lights, the odours of food, wine, cigars, the buzz of voices – so different from our usual quiet life at home.  What? What did I eat? Do you know, I can’t remember, but I do remember what Uncle Gregor ordered. I’d never seen or heard of it before – hardly surprising, Steak Tartare was not a feature of our modest suburban cuisine. I remember being fascinated by the deep redness of the raw steak, and the intoxicating rich, sharp bloody smell of the meat – somehow it struck a deep note in the depth of my being. Hmmm. Now that I look back, perhaps a seminal moment.

What? Sorry, I was wool-gathering. More about my school days? Well, I don’t know – nothing really springs to mind.  My favourite lesson? Oh – biology I suppose, especially when I reached Senior School, and we started dissecting specimens. I was quite handy with a scalpel, Father’s tuition paid off there, and it was always so intriguing to slice through the muscle tissue and come to those perfect little organs, those tiny little mouse-hearts glistening with the blood … Are you alright? You’ve turned quite pale. Maybe you should call the guard and get some water?  Or should we stop now, perhaps it’s enough for one day.

But I must say I’ve enjoyed re-living my childhood memories with you, it’s not often that anybody shows any interest in Hannibal Lecter’s youth, no, they always want to hear about my later career. Oh well, that’s the way of the world, I suppose.

 

 

 

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*A PASSION FOR PISTACHIOS


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SHORT-SHORT # 3 : A LESSON IN LIVING & DYING


 Here is another short flash fiction piece, at under 500 words.

 

Lifting-moving-placing; pausing; lifting-moving-placing; pausing;  with exquisite care Karen is doing her walking meditation. Each step a slow, attentive ballet.  Her careful feet make a crisp crunch on the dry winter grass.  Her nostrils register the dusty smell. Her ears pick up the wind in the gum tree plantation at the bottom of the hill.  Otherwise its quiet, really quiet.  No voices, cars, music; just the muted sounds of the countryside at the hermitage in Kwa-Zulu Natal.

Karen reaches the end of her allotted ten paces, stands momentarily, before slowly engaging with the process of turning her body, 360 degrees, so that she can embark on the return journey, ten deliberate steps in the reverse direction.  Her eyes involuntarily fall on the ground to her right.  What is that on the ground? She looks at the dark form on the grass. It takes a second or two for the image from her retina to register in her brain.

It’s a dead bird.  Her gaze take in the thin, stiff  legs, the curled claws, the buff chest feathers, the black head and tail, the white marking around the eye, the slightly opened beak. She looks steadily.  It’s the first dead bird she’s ever seen. If you live in central Joburg you don’t come across dead birds.  Apart from squashed pigeons on the road, but they’re usually a mashed smear of feathers ground into the tarmac. They don’t count.

She tentatively nudges the tiny corpse with the toe of her takkie.  It’s so light! Suddenly a torrent of little black ants boil out of the beak, onto the grass, running in frantic random patterns.  She draws back, startled.  Until now the dead bird has been impersonal, a little feathery husk, but now …. all those ants ?  Her heartbeat quickens, her palms are sweaty, she can’t take her eyes off the rigid scrap of feathers surrounded by the swarm of little black ants.

Those frail  leathery legs, those curled claws – they remind her of something; no, of someone. Her mind skitters to the Joburg Gen, visiting her Gran just before she died. Gran’s arms were frail and leathery, Gran’s fingers were little curly claws, Gran …. blood roars in her ears,  her breath catches, her throat spasms, red-hot tears leak out of her eyes.  She takes in a gasping lungful of air, then another, then another, but still the sobs build in her chest. She holds her ribs, gasps, wails, bends over, stands up, clutches her arms around herself, wails, throws her head back , scrunches her eyes closed, but still the tears stream down her hot cheeks.   She never cried at the hospital, or at the  funeral, but she’s crying now, alone, under the midday sun in a clear blue sky, mourning her Gran, and understanding the flavour of impermanence, death and dying, way beyond the Teacher’s dry lecturing. This fleeting world – like bubbles in a stream.   The words echo in her mind, sink into her heart.

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SHORT-SHORT #2 : Prize Winning Entry!


 Here is another short-short i.e. flash fiction of only 500 words. I’m thrilled to tell you that it won First Prize in a UK competition run by FLASH 500  http://www.flash500.com/,   My entry into the Flash 500 comp was part of the prize I won with this story  from my local writing group, the *West Coast Writer’s Circle, at the end of 2011. I wrote the story in an experimental format, which seems to have worked.  I hope you enjoy it.  *http://westcoastwriterssa.weebly.com/

 

 

EVERYBODY’S TUPPENCE WORTH by A M SMITH

 

He said:      C’mon Cynthia – I’ve gotta condom.

She said:     Darren …  you promise ?

We said:     If only Cynthia would find herself a decent boyfriend!

They said:   Did you hear Cynthia Jenkins is going out with that Darren Baroda?

He said:      But we used a condom!

She said:     Well it didn’t work, did it?

We said:     Cynthia – you don’t have to get married, we’ll stand by you.

They said:   The Jenkins are heartbroken : Cynthia has to get married, and to that no-good Darren Baroda!

He said:      Doesn’t that kid ever stop screaming? I’m not up for this!

She said:     It’s not my fault – he’s a colicky baby

We said:     Aww … who’s Nanna and Gramps’ precious ?

They said:   Darren Baroda must have shares in the pub by now …

He said:      Sorry Cynthia, this isn’t working; I’m off to London – I’ll phone you

She said:     Get out you useless lowlife-drunk  – who needs you?

We said:     What a relief! We’ve sorted out your old bedroom Cynthia, plenty of  room for you and little Wesley.

They said:   Such a shame : Darren Baroda left Cynthia in the lurch, and with such a difficult baby, too.

 

He said:      Thought I’d give you a quick buzz; I’m off to Australia next week, gotta job with a mate of mine. Wish Wesley happy birthday for me, will ya?

She said:     I hope a kangaroo kicks you to death!

We said:     Cynthia, this can’t go on; Wesley’s a big boy now and he should know he mustn’t hurt poor old Kitty  like that

They said: Wesley Baroda’s a nasty piece of work – and only 7 years old .

He said:      Thought I’d just check in – I’m back in London. Wesley’s birthday today – 13 isn’t he? Oh – sorry –  I meant 12

She said:     Drop dead

We said:     Cynthia : unless you do something about Wesleys’ temper tantrums,  take him to the psychologist, you know it isn’t natural; if you don’t, we’re really sorry, but you’ll have to leave.

They said:   Wesley Baroda’s seriously bad news; been spoilt by his grandparents of course.

He said:      No, nothing to do with me – no I don’t know  Wesley Baroda; yes, it is an unusual surname, just a coincidence – I told you I don’t know him from a bar of soap; now bugger off and stop pestering me!

She said:     I can’t  – he couldn’t have – not Wesley – he loved his Nanna & Gramps – no-no-no-I can’t believe it – all that blood –  surely he couldn’t have… aaahhhhhhhh

We said:     ……………………

They said:   Absolutely shocking! that boy’s a monster – pity they dropped the death penalty

 

He said:         Time for me to change my name and do my disappearing trick.

She said:       I’m not eating that.  I want  to  die.

We said         ……..

They said:     We blame the education system  and  all those single mothers. Suppose two life sentences gets some justice for the Jenkins. By the way, did you hear about the axe murder in Lambeth?

 

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SHORT-SHORT 500’S : #1


I’m currently in love with the short-short format: stories that come in at 500 words, or less.  So, to make a change from my book themed ramblings, I thought I’d introduce a dash of fiction once a month. I hope you enjoy this first short-short story. It comes in at 438 words. I’m keen to know what you think of the idea. I hope you like it, because I’ve got more, tucked away in my hard-drive.

I should add that this story was prompted by my recent viewing of the movie The Bourne Supremacy. Even if you haven’t seen the movie the plot is not that hard to follow.  Enjoy!

JASON BOURNE DRIVES A WHEELIE BIN  

Vroom- vroom- eee – skreeee – ka-dooom – vroom – graunch – skreeee: he’s wrenching the wheel left, the crappy old Lada taxi shudders with the strain, ricochets off a silver Volvo, slides on an icy patch, lumbers into an intersection, misses a garbage truck by a whisker, gathers speed on the downhill gradient – his foot flattens the accelerator pedal – sweat stings his eyes, his hands cramp on the wheel, he’s welded to the wheel. His eyes flick up to the rear-view mirror.  He’s lost the black Jeep, by some miracle he’s lost the Jeep!  Moscow’s snowy streets careen past.  He needs to get off this motorway, hide, lose himself, ditch this bright yellow Lada, fade in amongst the muffled walkers on the pavements, bury his hands in his pocket, tuck his chin down into his scarf, become another Tovarich.  He’s Jason Bourne.  He’s on the run.  He’s in Moscow.  Someone – he doesn’t know who – is chasing him  – could be CIA, could be Russian police, could be Russian Mafia doing the dirty work for his own side, could be … could be … possibilities swirl round his head.  His knees ache from colliding with the dashboard, his leg burns after the badly judged jump onto the garbage scow, a molten  glass needle stabs his right shoulder every time he turns the wheel, but he’s okay, he’s done it – he’s Jason Bourne and ….

“Jason!  Dammit – are you deaf? JASON !!”  roars his mother. “How many times do I have to – oh never mind – Jason! Focus!  ts Wednesday night: the wheelie bin – you haven’t taken out the wheelie bin ! It’s the only thing I ask you to do, and every week it’s the same, nag-nag-nag, why do I have to nag you all the time? “

Jason Brown’s eyes slowly focus on the flushed face, take in the angry arms-on-hips-pose, vaguely register the pitched tone, the raspy breathing.

“Okay, okay – I’m doing it” he mutters, sliding off his bed with all the speed and grace of an exhausted  sloth. I bet Jason Bourne never had to push stupid wheelie bins around, I bet he never had a mother who yelled at him all the time, I bet ….

A red-hot pain at the back of his knees registers. He jerks round. His Mother is advancing on him, raised arm drawing back, ready to lash the sjambok against his calves again. There’s a look of cold fury that’s drawn her lips against her bared teeth, whitened her face, made the veins on her neck stand out like cables: Jason Brown runs like hell, runs for his life.

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