Vignette: ‘The Matador and the Bull’

IMG_3628Brittany shoves him once, twice, spits in his direction.

Her boyfriend, Glen, leaps back, stumbles on the lip of the kerb. His arms make sad little windmills. A passerby sidesteps the spectacle and Brittany laughs, first at the passing stranger, then at Glen. She thinks long and hard about ways to hurt him. She compares him to his father, but the words falter against him; he has heard this one too many times. She brings up that fat sheila again, the one he ‘rooted last month’.

Glen’s frustration finally bests him. He bites back, lists – for the fourth time that week – his reasons for the indiscretion. It was, he explains, a knee-jerk reaction, the unfortunate consequence of months of compounding stress. He reminds her that she is far from innocent herself. Her list of follies is lengthy: there was the handjob she gave Marcus, their mutual friend, at the football; the phone abuse she inflicted on Glen’s family (over an innocuous remark Glen’s father had made over dinner); the gross mismanagement of their welfare money; her endless stream of criticisms; the broken taillight she never replaced; the way she refused to find work, despite dire financial straits; and the … the …

He is shaking, has made a scene. The reasons why they shouldn’t stay together cascade over him. The Bundoora-bound 86 pulls up behind them.

Brittany – red-faced and full of piss and vinegar – boards via the front entrance. On the second stair, she stops, turns, a tear trickling down her cheek, and says: ‘Well, you’re a fuckin’ dud root, you are! Stay away from this piece of shit, girls! Never once made me come in two years!’

IMG_3616The doors close and the tram pulls away. From the middle of Smith Street, Glen watches Brittany exit his life. When at last she’s gone, he turns, walks the five paces to Woolworths and relays his story to anyone who’ll listen.

He misses her already.

* Published in INfusion 47.

Flash! Friday Vol. 2–18 Story – ‘A Missed Deadline’

ImageThis is my response to Flash! Friday‘s eighteeth prompt (the above picture) since their anniversary. One hundred and fifty words was the limit, with a ten-word leeway. The secondary theme (which informed my story so strongly it became my title) was ‘A Missed Deadline’. Enjoy!

* * *

‘A Missed Deadline’ (159 words)

Molly was worried. It was twelve past six and still no sign of Julian. She raised her binoculars and crouched low.

‘How much longer can we wait?’

Stephen’s hands found his pockets. He stepped gingerly from one foot to the other. ‘Long as it takes.’

The wind pelted them with fresh snow. They withdrew into their coats, but it was futile; they were completely exposed.

Molly hugged her knees and said, weakly: ‘I think we should go.’

‘You’re kidding.’

Stephen’s head was bowed. Molly saw a frost cloud rising from the brim of his hat.

‘He’s your boyfriend,’ Stephen went on, his voice deepening. ‘We’re not leaving him.’ He had hoped to sound resolute, but a shiver passed through him like electricity.

Molly’s gaze fell. ‘I’m going, Stephen. I can’t chance them finding us.’

‘But—’

‘I won’t go back there. Stay or join me; choice is yours.’

Stephen held his breath and looked out across the icy abyss.

Flash! Friday Vol. 2–17 Story – ‘Miko Island’

fire-breathers-singaporeThis is my response to Flash! Friday‘s seventeeth prompt (the above picture) since their anniversary. One hundred and fifty words was the limit (with a ten-word leeway). The secondary theme which had to be incorporated was ‘Friendship’. I wanted a break from fantasy this week, so have opted for something a little more grounded.

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‘Miko Island’ (160 words)

On Saturday night, Kyle brought me to Miko Island to see the fire breathers. I remember pushing through a sea of half-naked teenagers, wondering if I was the only divorcee in attendance. Could they smell it on me?

We drank in the moonlight, trading non sequiturs with Kyle’s stoner friends. My discomfort metre was peaking.

Kyle led me across the dunes towards a distant bonfire.

‘I don’t know about this …’

My words scattered on the wind, lost in the dissonance of club beats and bongo drumming.

‘I know!’ Kyle shouted. ‘Isn’t it great?’

We emerged, centre stage, and were absorbed by the throbbing mass of skin, sweat and glow sticks. The air was charged. David had never brought me anywhere like this.

The fire breathers, on a raised mound, moved like flowing water. They were the beating heart. Their flames surged, like beacons opening the night.

We cheered, lost in the majesty.

Hands linked, Kyle and I began to dance.

Flash! Friday Vol. 2.7 Story – ‘No Regrets’

court_of_honor_and_grand_basinFlash! Friday is in its second year! This is my response to the seventh prompt (the above picture) since their anniversary. One hundred and fifty words was the limit (with a ten-word leeway). We were also required to incorporate ‘Destiny’ as a theme.

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‘No Regrets’ (158 words)

His sixtieth had arrived, but Charlie was alone, thinking of 1935, of Pearl. He withdrew the framed picture, hidden in a study drawer, and placed it on the mantel. Looking at it, he felt ill. Estranged daughters, three divorces, and a career spent manufacturing soap, yet this regret eclipsed them all.

The statue stood in all its monochromatic glory. Not an especially romantic spot, but it was where Charlie and Pearl had promised to meet following his tour of duty. His reasons for not showing were trivial at best.

Depleted, Charlie touched a hand to the photo. The image rippled at his touch and he flinched. What was this?

Drawing on reserves of courage, he offered a finger, then a hand, then his entire arm. The portal received him like a body of water.

* * *

This world was colourless. Beneath the statue, an incredulous Charlie surveyed his twenty-something body. Pearl was smiling and waiting for him across the way.

Flash! Friday Vol. 2.6 Story – ‘Möbius Strip’

ImageFlash! Friday is in its second year! This is my response to the sixth prompt (the above picture) since their anniversary. One hundred and fifty words was the limit (with a ten-word leeway). We were also required to incorporate either a tiger or turtle into the story, literally or otherwise. To me, flash fiction is an opportunity to experiment, so this week I let my fantasy freak flag fly.

This piece received a positive mention from this week’s judge, Whitney Healy.

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‘Möbius Strip’ (159 words)

Kurt knew of the legends. Valhalla was the home of the damned, a prison, a footbridge to nowhere. Spurred by heartache, the Goddess had created it. Its twisted design represented her pain, tightly coiled and circling back endlessly.

Approaching, Kurt saw lost souls loitering against handrails, resigned to fate. The portal he’d travelled through deposited him in Valhalla’s centre.

‘Goddess,’ he called. ‘Do you hear me?’

Seeing that the voice belonged to a mortal, the Goddess appeared, pet tiger in tow.

‘Why have you come?’

Kurt looked at the tiger and squared his shoulders. ‘I know of your pain – I’ve heard the legends.’

‘And what of it?’

‘I offer consolation, companionship. You need not go on this way, torturing souls to quell your heartache.’

The Goddess scratched behind the tiger’s ear.

In her toothed grin, Kurt saw he’d been wrong. Valhalla’s twisted design did not represent the Goddess’s pain. It represented her fury, tightly coiled and circling back endlessly.

Flash! Friday Vol. 2.5 Story – ‘The Mission’

ImageFlash! Friday is in its second year! This is my response to the fifth prompt (the above picture) since their anniversary. One hundred and fifty words was the limit (with a ten-word leeway). We were also required to incorporate ‘Time Travel’ into the story, whether literally or otherwise. This week I played with form and voice.

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‘The Mission’ (152 words)

Voice log activated. Time and distance travelled: eleven years, 62,000 miles. Strange. The jumps are getting smaller. Of late, my travel has become almost linear. Fewer extreme shifts; the realities I emerge in seem more and more alike.

Personal note: my vessel appears to match the era. I can visually trace this society’s advancement. Very queer. Perhaps too soon to say, but I sense a pattern emerging. The parameters of my travel don’t seem as random.

I’m passing beneath a tree now — or should that be through it? The trunk is hollow and serves as a tunnel. Oh, the universe and her comedy.

Driven forty-five miles now: can conclude that this period is one of peace. One would be lucky to settle here, to carve out a life and grow old with dignity.

Alas, the key to preventing the universe’s destruction is not here, and so, with haste, we must move on.

Flash! Friday Vol. 2.2 Story – ‘Snowman on the Lake’

ImageFlash! Friday is now in its second year! This is my response to the second prompt (the above picture) since their anniversary. One hundred and fifty words was the limit (with a ten-word leeway). Enjoy!

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‘Snowman on the Lake’ (160 words)

Claire closed the door with her foot and carried the final box to her car. Michael was waiting, hands in pockets, down by the lake. She secured the box in the back seat and joined him.

‘Hey kiddo.’

Michael looked up. ‘Hey.’

She gestured to the stout, slouching snowman. ‘Who’s your friend?’

Michael shrugged. ‘Mum and I used to build them all the time.’

‘Oh.’ Claire looked out across the lake. She’d never been good with children. ‘Still can’t believe my sister lived on a lake. You know she hated water growing up?’

Michael smiled thinly.

‘This can work,’ she said. ‘You can leave this cold behind, meet some kids your age. Have you ever seen the ocean?’

Michael shook his head.

‘You’ll love it. It’s a whole other world, Australia.’

She held out her hand. Hesitantly, Michael accepted it. They trudged up the snowy path and piled into the car.

Michael’s snowman slowly faded from the rear-view.