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.”