[writing] Flash fiction open round

Per a suggestion from , and with agreement from whose photo this is, I propose a flash fiction open round. Using ‘s photo as your inspiration, write a piece of flash (500 words or less) and post it here in comments, or on your own blog, with a link here in comments. If I get a decent response, we’ll have a voting poll later, with prizes. Go to it!

Your story starter:

Hat by criada

Photographed at the Whatcom Creek Estuary, in Washington State, by .

© 2009. All rights reserved. Reproduced with permission.

21 thoughts on “[writing] Flash fiction open round

  1. Cora says:

    I’ll play:

    Gone

    His hat was all that was left. A fedora, pale blue, always worn at a jaunty angle. It made him look dashing. More dashing than a vacuum cleaner salesman had any right to be.

    When the police went door to door after Jack Bryce vanished – tracing his sales route, whether by accident or design – “dashing” was the adjective most frequently used to describe him. “Flirty” was another common one. The women used words like “handsome”, “charming” and “gentlemen” to describe him, the men preferred “slimy”, “oily” and “that bloody bastard”.

    It quickly became obvious that Jack Bryce had not been a man without enemies. It became obvious with the third doorbell Inspector Cranford rang, only to find himself faced with an enraged man who swore that he’d bloody kill that bloody bastard if he’d ever catch him near his wife again. The enraged husband hadn’t actually killed him. Turned out he’d been at the dentist’s, having a wisdom tooth extracted, at the precise time Jack Bryce vanished. However, in the course of the investigations it also turned out that Jack Bryce had slept with no less than six different women on his sales route. And that was only the ones the police had been able to locate.

    When Inspector Cranford went to bring the bad news to the family, after a local fly fisher had found the soggy fedora in a mountain brook, Mrs Bryce had neither seemed overly shocked nor overcome with grief. “He’ll be back”, she said, sitting stiff-backed in her parlour, “He always comes back when he runs out of clean undies.” Jack Bryce junior, a sullen teenager who – hidden somewhere beneath pimples, greasy hair and an “Anarchy Now” t-shirt – had inherited his father’s good looks, just shrugged when Inspector Cranford asked him if he knew where his Dad might be and whether he was worried about him. There was another child, a little girl with long dark braids and big frightened eyes. She was the only member of the Bryce family who actually seemed to miss her father.

    What had happened to Jack Bryce? Inspector Cranford never found out. Had Jack Bryce decided to try peddling vacuum cleaners to the inhabitants of some remote mountain shack, slipped on the trail and fallen into the brook? Perhaps. Had he become the victim of an cheated husband? It was certainly likely. Had the wife had enough of his extramarital activities and decided to off him? Possible. Had the sullen son pushed him into the mountain brook? Might be. Or had Jack Bryce simply decided to start a new life without putting himself through the hassle of divorce and support payments? The latter was actually Inspector Cranford’s favourite theory, but he was never able to prove it.

    All he knew was that Jack Bryce had left for work one morning and vanished. And that all that was left of him was a pale blue fedora in a mountain brook.

  2. Matt H says:

    Philosophy and Headwear

    He had always been a particularly inquisitive hat. The older hats had told him so. When he asked them about the purpose of life, they answered, “Why, to do the will of the hat maker”, and when pressed about the hat maker’s will, they answered, “To cover people’s heads of course”. In his younger days the answer sufficed, but upon entering the great big world of head-covering he soon realized the fallacy of his ontological upbringing. For lack of a better reality, he simply resolved to have as much fun as he could.

    And oh what fun there was to be had. He first moved to the big city, where he passed throngs of other headwear on the streets; the distinguished velvet top hats, the sassy berets, the scoundrel of a skull cap, and maybe a yarmulke or two for ethnic flavor, all nodding, bobbing, and tipping their greetings to each other. Then there was the nightlife, tucked away into closets where he could meet other hats in a more intimate setting. Sometimes he’d meet a derby hat on a nice rack, or one of those sunhats with their wide brims that set off all sorts of feelings in his puggaree, but he never settled down.

    On his 6th monthday he had a midlife crisis. That haunting question returned from the days of his youth; what is the meaning of all this? Those seven little words sank into him like a tacky peacock feather. The streets and closets were now dull, empty places that no longer brought him joy. After dragging himself through another miserable month, he quit his job, and flew away via an open convertible top. He didn’t stay in any place for too long, though he did see many sights. He worked odd jobs, here a trucking gig, there sanitation duty in a local landfill, but he didn’t enjoy any of it. He figured he didn’t enjoy the city life either, so he was no worse off. He finished his working years in raging existentialism.

    He retired not for lack of ability or energy, but because he decided he had nothing left to do. He took up residence in the Whatcom Creek Estuary Retirement Home for the Inanimate, a jumble of squat, concrete buildings on the waterfront that enjoyed the amenity of a short, shallow beach. He thought the beach might bring him some pleasure in his older years. He was wrong. Instead, the beach gave him a view of everything he lacked in his life. The diapers were cliquish, either from want or necessity, but they always had fun together. A pair of young flipflops snuggled together in wild abandonment. The old condom had no companion, but lived out his bloated, wrinkled twilight recounting the glory days of his youth. The hat had to content himself with wading in the water alone. Occasionally he looked back at the others, lying contentedly on the beach and wondered, “They can be happy with their lives. Why can’t I?”

    1. You’re a prescient one, since that area totally is the retirement home for inanimate objects. Here’s a wider view.

      1. Jay says:

        Somehow your link fell off the comment. You might try to edit it?

      1. Matt H says:

        I just took a shot in the dark. Guess it worked out 😀

  3. Deanna Hoak says:

    Stained

    A wrong-way wind tore the hat from Vander’s head, flipping it to land among the rocks and broken cement at the edge of the water. Ripples shoved at the brim and darkened the faded blue where the hat tipped itself to the dirty bubbles of the stream. Vander eased close and snatched it from the water, then flung fetid droplets through the air as he shook it out, glancing around with wary eyes.

    “She’s not here,” he muttered to himself. “Stupid imagination.” He shoved the hat down tight on his head and set out with steps made big by nervousness toward the underpass.

    Outhouse smells reached him as he spotted the bright splashes of rags and tarps beneath the freeway. A dog pulled at its rope and barked at him as someone told it to hush; people stared at him, then turned away. “Jim!” someone yelled. They knew what he was here for.

    Jim crawled from beneath an orange canvas and approached him, plastic grocery sack with something in it dangling from one hand. Vander stopped and waited for him outside of the makeshift camp, shifting his stance to hide his jitters.

    “You got it?” Vander asked, low. “You sure it’s going to work?”

    “It’ll work. You got the money?”

    Vander glanced toward the camp, then reached for his wallet. He counted out $200.

    “Here. Now what do I do?”

    Jim took the money and put it into his filthy coveralls—they had the name “DAVE” on the nametag.

    “You said she has a spell that sees whatever you do, makes bad things happen?”

    “Yeah.”

    “This’ll blind her to you. She can’t see you no more, through her powers. When you know she’s looking, you just turn this on and shine it all over the place, to try to get where she was looking from.” He pulled something that looked like a weird flashlight out of the sack. “See? It’s got a special lens in it.”

    It looked like a normal lens colored over with green and black swirls to Vander, but he listened, then took the device to examine it.

    “You better not miss, though,” Jim said. “If you miss, she’s gonna be pissed.”

    Vander looked up at him. “How do I know if I hit her?” he said.

    Jim laughed. “Oh, you’ll know.” He started walking back toward his camp.

    “Wait!” But Jim kept walking.

    Sullen, Vander turned back the way he’d come. As he neared the greenish stream, the wind gusted again, and his hat flew from his head. Wildly, he reached for his device and flipped the switch, turning every way to shine it up and down and around. The rocks shifted beneath his feet, and he fell, banging his head on a piece of cement and landing with one eye in the stream. He watched as blood swirled into the water, staining the edges of his hat beside him, then released his hold on the device and gave in to unconsciousness. The wind laughed.

  4. …that was the hour the old man who pulled and tugged on a faded hat every time we brought up the subject of finding a nearby bar for drinks gazed around the men surrounding the fire.

    “You probably know I once lived near here,” he said, even though we had ever seen him before.

    “As a boy, my cousin and I would fish here. On occasion we found items of extraordinary beauty. One summer as the setting sun turned the water and skies that magical shade of golden which permeates in the memory of a boy with brightness more real than an old man knows possible, we found half-buried in the pebbles a wooden statue.

    “The artist had given the statue the form of an ocean god with such detail and care that had I known then what I know now, would have believed the work machined. We recognized the inscription was written in English, but neither me nor my cousin spoke or read enough to make sense of it. We took it to my father. He sold fried squid from a cart to sailors on the dock.

    He examined it with guttural queries to himself and then handed it back.

    “It says, ‘If you wish to join me, throw into the sea.’

    “That evening, after many speculations of the undersea world, my cousin and I struck a bargain, that we would weekly trade the statue and when the time came go down to the ocean and throw the statue into the lapping waves. Together. We didn’t know what fate awaited us there, but whatever it was, we would face it together.

    “We attended school and continued our trade. When the war came, my cousin joined the navy and flew a plane with a giant red sun on the wing, a sun that looked almost as bright as the sky on the day we found the statue. He was shot down and captured by Americans.

    “The night he returned we walked together to the shore. He wore his disgrace like a scar, but he decided not to throw the statue.

    “Tragedies came in waves and we came here to throw the statue in after each one, so that we could go together, but he refused—I’m not sure if it was because of fear, but he refused.

    “Today my cousin failed to bring me the statue. I called his home, but his wife told me he had gone for a walk and not returned. She thought he was taking the statue to my house, because he had it with him. I came looking for him before I met with you gentlemen and heard your stories told around this fire.

    “I found his old fishing hat, the kind like we wore when we were boys, washed up here on the shore. I’m not sure it’s his. I don’t question why he left, that I can understand; it’s that I wonder why he left alone. Alone? Why would anyone want to leave alone?”

    The old man turned then, and moved like a ghost back down the beach until he was far enough away from the fire’s light that nothing remained of him but darkness.

  5. Jim C. says:

    It wasn’t a particularly outstanding day; weak sunlight filtered through a nimbostratus shroud to suspend the mid-afternoon in a pasty twilight, and still mountain air enticed the smoke from a distant grass fire to linger lovingly about the dense tree line.

    The river displayed its typical enthusiasm for bubbling and churning gently over a rocky bed carved deep and wide into the mountains by centuries of spring thaw runoff. The tiny noises of nature chittered and hummed under the acrid atmosphere. All manner of life was watching, waiting, trying to decide if the blaze was close enough to flee from yet.

    Michael Flanagan wasn’t as keenly aware of the fire’s approach as the unrelenting weight in his chest. The same weight had exhorted him for nearly a week to relive his moment of despair in excruciating detail: the sterile white of the floor, pastel furniture arranged with lifeless decorum, the periodicals strewn across a secondhand coffee table. Michael felt like he could trace from memory every line in the doctor’s face as he solemnly shook his head and offered stale, rehearsed condolences.

    So absorbed was he in the sediment-encrusted rocks and errant trickles of lost stream beneath his feet that at first he didn’t notice the small field of impossible blue in the periphery of his vision until he nearly trod upon it. Jerked from his reverie he stumbled to a halt, creating an awkward flourish in the tap-tap-tap of his canteen. He stared at the item, so alien at the edge of the isolated river that he scarcely recognized it as a fedora, powder-blue with a teardrop crown and far too pristine to have been there long.

    “You like it?” Michael nearly leapt out of his skin when the other man spoke. Somehow his occupied mind hadn’t expected this hat to have an owner.

    Less than ten feet away in the middle of an eddying pool stood an ageless man in a matching blue suit, pant legs rolled neatly to the knee, smiling broadly at him. Michael swallowed and nodded gravely.

    “My father had one a lot like it when I was young,” he managed to croak. “Aren’t you dressed a little fancy to be all the way out here?” The other man spread his arms and surveyed himself, then pursed his lips and shook his head.

    Nervous about the stranger, Michael made as if to leave. “Nice meeting you,” he said. He got no reply at first, but as he picked his way around the pool the man’s voice came to him again:

    “I just stopped by to say she loves you, and that everything will be alright.” Michael spun around, wild-eyed, but the pool was abandoned. The only proof that anyone had been there was the hat, perched on a flat stone at the water’s edge.

    He placed it gingerly on his head. It fit perfectly, and as Michael looked out towards the approaching smoke, he felt the knot in his heart finally loosen a bit.

  6. Jonathan says:

    I was passing Lefevre Hall in search of a cup of coffee and the afternoon paper when I heard the shouting.

    Someone had finally beaten Jacques.

    During the Golden Times, I would have been seeking merriment instead of coffee, scuffling billiards for the sake of conversation and drink, pausing to take in the girls. But that was before Gentrytown’s golden goose, the foundry, had burned. The fire destroyed the foundry, and with it, the Golden Times.

    Afterwards, Gentrytown had grown meaner and more primal. The fights replaced the brass bands and the cabarets. Drunken spectators cast down grubby money, cheering when their guy won, cursing when he lost. They loved champions and ignored losers.

    Everyone loved Jacques.

    The men loved his company as much as they feared and admired and envied him. The women’s love of Jacques was more primal. His lack of grace outside the ring only heightened their attraction. It wasn’t charm that won their affections; his brutal efficiency and spotless record did the trick. Jacques broke no smiles, only noses and cheekbones and hearts.

    Jacques’ fists worked in concerted fury, driving the fight out of his challengers. I swear his body was a conduit for the savagery of the nine hells, not only beating down his foes, but also taking a part of their soul.

    Before I stopped going to the fights—my friends, and thus my good times, disappeared when my money ran out—I often watched Marie watch Jacques as he planted bare-knuckled blows into the ribcage of his over-matched opponent. His physical supremacy mesmerized her.

    Between rounds, Marie often glanced at the other women in Lefevre Hall, smug in the knowledge that she would tend Jacques afterwards. Still, the other women waited. That Marie had not been the first to sit next to Jacques fortified their patience.

    Without the fights, I saw less of Marie and none of Jacques. Staying away didn’t keep the rumors from reaching me that Jacques had cast aside Maria for another.

    More shouts broke my reverie and scattered the images of those nights at Lefevre Hall.

    I found Marie weeping along the rubble-filled stream behind the hall. A few mascara-black tears tumbled from her eyes but washed away no sorrow. Her right arm hung limp by her side, a small pistol in her hand. Jacques lay on his back, his hands resting palms up as if pleading. His face looked all wrong, as if it had been hastily assembled and painted black and blue and red.

    “They beat the hell out him. I didn’t even get a chance,” she said.

    Water pooled upstream of his body, swirling in little eddies before spilling over his chest. Nearby, on the bank, Jacques’ pale blue hat, like a piece of the sky fallen to earth, lay beautiful in the golden afternoon sun.

    1. Irene says:

      Beautifully written………

    2. Dad says:

      Outstanding, both in content and style!! You are extremely talented but of course I am biased.

  7. Billy says:

    At Castle Miz, St. Iggimax appeared before his sister, the magician Josephine Iggimax, and petitioned for her aid.

    ‘A periapt, a charm, a spell to defend myself while traversing the desert Vaich to the heathen lands beyond.’

    Josephine, sitting at her work-table, arched her eyebrows. ‘Why not just fling you across the desert with a Tertiary invocation. You’ll arrive whole, though perhaps slightly tousled.’

    ‘My disciples must arrive with me.’

    Josephine mused. ‘Well, there is a rather rudimentary spell I could teach you. Hibbly’s Hickup. Harmless really. –but what of your doctrines? Do they not enjoin such an association with sorcery?’ She eyed her brother closely. He dismissed the matter with a peremptory wave of hand.

    ‘Certainly it is the will of the benevolent Yaqmoo that I arrive safely, by whatever means necessary. Do the scriptures not tell of how Ob’louch of Eek sought counsel with a certain witch?’

    ‘Ah, well in that case I’ll teach you the Rip-Spizzel Gyre, as well.’

    Josephine rose to instruct her brother. ‘Hibbly’s Hickup is a simple procedure. Merely direct your focus to an object, and…’ she paused, glancing at the many fragile relics and scrolls displayed about her work-room, and, thinking better, said, ‘Let’s go out into the courtyard to practice.’

    They proceeded to a spacious courtyard. ‘We will practice the spell using your hat.’ St. Iggimax scowled, but reluctantly gave it over, a small blue adornment of no remarkable design. ‘Observe. Simply pucker your lips like thus, and wink twice with the right eye. Then utter the activating vocables.’ Josephine puckered her lips, blinked twice with right eye, then hooted. The hat gave a jerk, and lurched from existence. ‘In essence, the spell transports the object ten leagues away. To reverse the spell, merely repeat the steps, but wink twice with the left eye, instead. Like thus.’ And the hat flopped down before them. ‘Now try.’ St. Iggimax puckered his lips, but his eyelids were not as deft as his sister’s, and the hat was lost forever. They passed the afternoon perfecting the spells, and finally, before turning to depart, St. Iggimax asked:

    ‘Are these the only spells you offer? What of talismans, incantations, powerful runes? What if I am beset by a horde of desert imps?’

    ‘In that case you will have to rely on the force of your vast erudition. Perhaps you’ll be able to confound and stupefy them with a smattering of metaphysical rant, and thereby narrowly escape doom.’

    His face became a wry grimace. ‘Humph. You verge on blasphemy, dear sister. I am constantly interceding on your behalf, mind you. It is a tiresome sacrifice.’

    Josephine smiled. ‘How comforting to know that my soul is being tendered to so diligently. But just in case, I am formulating a series of agents that, if successful, will prolong human life indefinitely.’

    St. Iggimax nodded. ‘Doubtless an abomination. Still, I just may need to test the efficacy of your potion to better rebuke it in my epistles.’

    ‘Indeed,’ said Josephine.

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