A Friend in Zuma – Flash Fiction and Journey Notes for Writers

Following a request from family in South Africa, here’s a short piece of flash fiction called “A Friend In Zuma“.

 

It was a dark night over the desert. Light from the stars refused to touch the earth. Not even scorpions wanted to witness the meeting between two men splitting a decanter of Remy Martin. It tasted like rocket fuel but neither would admit it – the stuff cost $2000 a sip.

“You need a distraction,” the bald man said. “Don’t make it so bad that it sticks, just bad enough to occupy people. Sex always works.”

“With… ahh…”

“No, not too young. That’s the wrong kind of bad. Make it with a woman but make sure she doesn’t talk. You need to control the conversation.”

The blonde man sipped his brandy. Liquid scorched his throat. He didn’t flinch. “I can do that. I’ll use an affair I had a while back.”

“You’ve had a few.”

The blonde man laughed. “I still do.”

Both men rocked on their heels and listened to the silence.

“I like our talks,” the blonde man finally said. “It’s not often I can have a frank and honest discussion with an equal.”

The bald man chuckled. “The world doesn’t understand us.”

Both men nodded. A cricket chirped then fell silent.

The blonde man frowned. “You think a sex scandal will be enough to divert attention?”

The bald man thought a moment. “Better add murder. Kill the girl. People will stew over that for months. By then the Russian deal will have gone through.”

The blonde man held out his hand. “Thanks again,” he said. “I value your advice.”

The bald man smiled. “You have a friend in me, Donald. Not many men can say that – but you can say you have a friend in Zuma.”

 

 

Journey note to writers: Over the last few months I’ve processed feedback from the last novel. Some of the key issues that killed it included backstory, sequencing and exposition. The way Kathryn (most awesome editor from Cornerstones Literary Agency) put it: “You cannot afford to give them (agents/editors) a single excuse to turn your work down”. When you look at it that way, it’s easy to see how all those lovely passages of prose become irrelevant. Cut whatever diverts from the story. She added that established authors get away with rambling nonsense because a fan base forgives many things. But readers still skim over the bits that don’t carry the story. As a new author, a reader won’t skim – they’ll just put your book down and not pick it up again. So back to that golden advice: “You cannot afford to give (anyone) a single excuse to turn your work down”.

 

Independence – Flash Fiction

The Scottish National Party and Westminster are forever at loggerheads on whether or not Scotland should be independent.

In recognition of the great debates on the subject, here’s a little flash fiction called “Independence”.

 

“I’m leaving!” Sarah stamped her feet on the hardwood kitchen floor. Her fists curled into white-knuckle balls. “I’m going to live with Heinrich and Jean-Paul.” Sarah’s red curly hair fell over her eyes. She forced it back so hard strands came away in her hand. “And don’t treat me like a kid!” She screamed. “I’m not a child!”

Mary Ben stirred her tea. The teaspoon tapped the side of the cup. “Heinrich and Jean-Paul don’t want you to move in with them. They’ve already said so.”

Sarah squeezed her eyes shut. “I  don’t care. They’ll change their minds when I’m there.”

Mary Ben put the teaspoon on the saucer and sipped her tea. Strong, hot and good. Heather tea. A gift from Sarah a long, long time ago.

Sarah picked up her bag. “It’s not like I ever belonged here.”

“But this is your home.”

“How can you say that? You’re not my mother. You don’t own me. You can’t make me stay.”

“But I am your friend.”

“All you’ll miss is my rent.”

“Sarah.” Mary rested her hands in her lap. “You haven’t really been paying rent.”

“I’ve paid my whole life!”

“Sure. You’ve paid £1000 a month, but it’s cost the house £2000 for food, utilities, clothing, medical care, education.” Mary turned the teacup in her saucer. “Heinrich and Jean-Paul will expect you to pay your full share if you move in with them. Or at least a good chunk more than you are now.”

Sarah opened her mouth and shut it again.

Mary smiled. “And Siobhan and Gwen will miss you. Why don’t you stay a while so we can talk about it. We’ve just moved house. It’ll take some settling in.”

Sarah rapped her fingers on the kitchen table. “If I stay I’ll want the big room overlooking the garden.”

“You already overlook the garden. The best part of it, in fact.”

“I’ll want a key so I can come and go as I please.”

“The door is never locked.”

“I want to do what I want. I want to go where I want. I want to be in charge of me.”

Mary picked a second cup off the shelf, poured the strong, hot tea into it and slid the cup across to Sarah. “Why don’t you tell me exactly what you want to do with your life.”

Sarah stared at the cup. Steam twirled off the top like a dancer in the mist. “I don’t know,” she mumbled. “I just want to be free.”

Mary Ben took the lid off a tin of homemade shortbread. “But you are free, Sarah. And you’re among friends. You always have been.”

Last Thoughts – Flash Fiction (a brief look into someone’s mind)

This is a little Flash Fiction about what might be going through the mind of someone who thinks it’s okay to murder innocent people in the name of religion. Maybe they’re not as complex as we think. Maybe they’re not so devout. Maybe they’re just complete fucking idiots.

 

Last Thoughts
“I can do this. I’m right. I have right on my side. Haven’t I? Someone said I did. Anyway, I can’t back out now. What’ll my buddies say? They’re all watching. They said they’ll do it if I go first. Crap. Could murder a bacon sarnie. Ketchup, sausages. Proper fry up. In and out. That’s it. It’ll be over in no time. Maybe I should call Mum in case something goes wrong. But what could go wrong? It’s all planned. It’s the right thing to do. And they know, right? All these guys who did the planning. They know what they’re on about. Justified. Honourable. Honour! Fuck, yeah! That’s me. Now I’ve gotta pee. Come on!! Nut up! I can do this. I have to. Too many people watching. My place in history. History! I’m a fucking hero. People will talk about me. Talk about ME! They’ll put my name in headlines. I’d better call home. Just a quick call. Or she’ll be worried. Don’t want to worry my mum. She’ll understand. Dad won’t. He’s always for talking. Talk, talk, talktalktalk. He says there’s always another way. He’s just a teacher so what does he know. He knows jack about the real world. All he does is read his history books and say there’s no way our way will win. He says there’s a better way to relate. Is he kidding? Relate?! I wanted a car. Did he relate to that? No. I wanted to travel to Syria. Did he relate then? Hell, no. I wanted to go on holiday with my mates. He said no. I wanted a gun. He said no. No. No, no, no! Well, now I say YES! I choose. I say what happens next. I’m in charge. I’m the boss. Me. Me. Me, me, mememememememe….”

News Headlines
“A 21-year-old man was shot dead by police last night after running a van into pedestrians. He killed four people and injured a further nine. The terror threat has been raised to critical meaning an attack is expected imminently.”

 

 

Journey Notes: It’s not hard, I think, to understand what goes through the minds of people who commit these atrocities. I think there are three camps:

  1. Angry people who refuse to accept that their deeply held beliefs are misguided, misinterpretations of a story told a long, long time ago.
  2. Deluded sheep who follow in a doctrine that doesn’t make sense. What it does do is allow them to vent their fury at their own inadequacy and then blame and blow up the world. Cowards really. Weak and deficient.
  3. Inadequate, confused fools who can’t hack the world so join a gang who says it’s just fine to kill folk as long as they shout “Allah” before it.

There’s a special type of hell for these people. We’ve talked about this before… Here are links to So What’s Next, Jihadi John and to The Stalker.

Hearts and minds to the victims of the latest attacks.

Child’s Play – Flash Fiction

The battle lasted 10 hours. No break. No single moment when the soldiers could lie down and stop – to breathe and think. There were no dark corners to sit and rest. Food was soaked with blood and mud. Water full of dead insects. Hot smoke burned their wings, dropping them to the ground to be crushed by running, hiding boots.

“Otez! You there? Still breathing?”

“Hey Boden. Can’t feel my feet, but I’m here. You got chocolate?”

“Oreos. That do?”

“Life saver. I’ll come to you.”

Lieutenant Lizzy Boden saw the enemy first. “Otez! Get back! Incoming!”

Lizzy “Choco” Boden glimpsed Michael “The Raptor” Otez for less than a second before fire and smoke, stone and steel collapsed.

“Tell my family…!”

oOo

Lieutenant Boden sat neat and repaired on Michael Otez’s pink floral couch. His wife, Emily, ripped a tissue with her small, pale hands. Neither woman spoke. Neither could. They both watched Mike Jnr. in his playroom across the hall.

oOo

“Boooooooooom!” The boy tossed Lego bricks, trucks, cars and a Wolverine figure onto the floor. He stood up and lifted his foot, still wearing high polished black shoes from the morning. “Incoming!” He crushed the pile. “Incoming!!!”

oOo

A single tear slipped down Lizzy Boden’s face. “That’s what happened,” she whispered. “I’m so sorry.”

 

 

Trouble: A love story (Flash Fiction)

“This is mad! We’ll never make it!”

Andy pulled his shorts high as he could without doing himself an injury; didn’t need them falling off halfway down.

Karri beamed. “Only one way to find out!”

“You’re crazy!”

What did he see in her? How did they ever become friends? She’s a maniac! Every bit of trouble he’d ever been in, she was behind it. Every cut and scar on his body had her fingerprint on it. Yet every time she came up with a crazy scheme, there he was, right there with her.

“This party sucks,” she’d said. “Let’s duck out the back, head through the woods, break in through the hole in the fence, climb to the top and take the long ride down.”

“It’s not open yet. They haven’t finished building.”

Karri ignore him. “We’ll be back before anyone notices.”

Spine. That’s the problem. Andy’d never been able to say no to women. Certainly not Karri.

One hand clinging to the side of the two-thousand-foot, part-built water slide, the other gripping his underwear, Andy squeezed his eyes shut. “I’m going to die.”

“Die happy!” Karri shrieked and let go.

Andy knew he would follow her. He knew it then, just as he’d known it the moment he first saw her when they were five-years-old, sprinting across a field with old lady Crabbit’s peaches.

He screamed. Couldn’t help it. The drop was vertical. Three loops later he was upside down. Blinded by water, all he could do was hope Karri was far enough ahead to avoid a collision. Not that she’d mind.

**

Soaking and caked in mud from their hike back home through the woods, Karri and Andy fell through the kitchen door just as his mother brought out the cake.

“There you are.” His mother peered outside. “Did you get caught in the sprinkler?”

Karri never had trouble dealing with women. “Sure,” she laughed. “Why not?”

She darted into the lounge full of family who gathered at Christmas and birthdays like an obligation. Andy stared after her.

I’m going to marry that girl. That’s a fact.

“Andy?” Andy turned to his mother. “Help me with the candles.” His mother counted them out. One for each year of Andy’s life. “That girl’s trouble, my boy. You watch yourself.”

Andy put eight candles onto his cake. “Yep,” he grinned. “That’s true.”

The Stalker – A little Flash Fiction

Welcome to your Daily Dose of Fiction. Today it’s 365 words of flash fiction. Happy Saturday, folks… Bit of a note for writers at the bottom. Enjoy.

 

 

“What happens now?”

I know the guy standing next to me better than he thinks. We’ve never met. Not face-to-face. We’ve bumped into each other a few times. Or rather, I’ve bumped into him. I can be subtle when I want to be. Until now, we haven’t spoken. Strictly speaking, he still hasn’t.

No, I’m not a stalker. This guy might disagree, but since he doesn’t know how long I’ve been watching him, he probably won’t.

So here we are. At the edge of a cliff at midnight. Wind screaming at our backs. Black skies above us. Infinite sea beneath our feet. “Any ideas?”

The guy shakes his head.

“Are you crying?”

The man wipes his face but the tears have already dried leaving salt stains on his cheeks.

“We can’t stand here forever.” It’s a stupid thing to say, but he’s not moving. I’m just stating a fact. He must know we can’t stand here forever.

His hands clench into tight, hard fists like he’s holding onto the only thing he’s ever loved.

“Why are you here, anyway?” I ask. Another stupid thing to say. I’m full of it today. Of course I know why he’s here.

The guy shakes his head again. He’s normally so talkative. Just a few moments ago, shouting and ranting all the way, he blew up a school and killed 22 kids.

I rest my hand on his shoulder. “I actually do know what’s going to happen next.”

For the first time, he turns to me.

I smile.

The terror etched on his face makes him look more like a child than the young, battle-hardened man he thinks he is. I see it a lot. Fear strips people of the stories they tell themselves. When someone has been seen for what they really are, they understand there’s no reason to lie or hide. They become honest. It’s a beautiful moment.

The man stares at me. I don’t blame him. The hooves and the tail and the horns are a bit much. But I like the theatre.

“Anyway,” I tap his shoulder. The man flinches. “Like I said, I actually do know what happens next. I’m just curious to know if you do.”

 

(NOTE TO WRITERS: I’m really enjoying Natalie Goldberg’s Wild Writing approach. Her instructions are to set a time limit, start writing and don’t stop. I committed to writing for 60 minutes after breakfast this morning. Crazy words came out and an odd story about one of my dogs. Then this little idea surfaced and developed into The Stalker. I like the notion of the devil stalking souls. Goldberg suggests that when you write whatever comes out of your head without hesitating, you eventually get out of your way and write what you really want to write. It’s a daily practice.)