Poll

Which three stories merit your vote? [further entries in other posts too]

1. Private Party
3 (6%)
2. Party for the New Kid
2 (4%)
3. The Party
2 (4%)
4. The Most Wonderful Time of the Year
4 (8%)
5. The Christmas Party (#1)
4 (8%)
6. A Christmas Like No Other
3 (6%)
7. Driving Home for Christmas
3 (6%)
8. Conversations
2 (4%)
9. The Christmas Party (#2)
2 (4%)
10. The Last Christmas Party on Earth
3 (6%)
11.Seven-Deuce Off-Suit
2 (4%)
12.The Christmas Party (#3)
2 (4%)
13. Home Again
1 (2%)
14. Invited
3 (6%)
15.The Christmas Party (#4)
6 (12%)
16.In Consideration of Services Rendered
5 (10%)
17. The Bike
3 (6%)

Total Members Voted: 16

Voting closed: December 28, 2011, 07:42:29 PM

Author Topic: Voting now open for Flash Fiction #38 -- 3 votes each  (Read 1944 times)

Offline 510bhan

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Voting now open for Flash Fiction #38 -- 3 votes each
« on: December 21, 2011, 07:42:29 PM »
Those of you who vote please use all three votes. I know it might be difficult, but what [for you] separates the best from the rest? Remember this sort of thing happens in real life, so let's try and make it meaningful -- voters as well as entrants. Thank you. :) :) :)

As there are so many entries (17 altogether) I shall have to put them up in batches, but all the voting will be done here on this poll.


1 -Private Party-

“I see the walk still isn’t shoveled.”

“You grumpy old hag, didn’t you see me just walk through the door?”

“Yes.”

“-and it’s 10:30 at night.”

“So?” Dolly put her hand on her hip glaring at her husband.

“So . . . don’t you think the neighbors might get a little upset if I fired up the blower at this hour?”

“Why didn’t you do it earlier?”

“Because I picked up a job today, Scrooge.”

“You mean you went to a party, drinking with your friends.”

“No. I mean a job. Look at me, does this look like I’ve been out bar hopping?”

“Looks like you’ve been rolling around some greasy sewer somewhere.” Dolly sniffed the air. “You smell like it too.”

“Screw you Hilda. Santa brought home the bacon.” Bill pulled out five, one hundred dollar bills.

“Where the hell’d you get that?”

“Told you; been working.”

“Robbing a bank?”

“Not quite but you’re close.”

“Oh god, Bill, are you trying to get sent back to prison?”

“No dear, relax this was strictly legit. In fact there were cops everywhere.” Bill pulled out one of the chairs to their kitchen table and sat down to remove his boots. “In fact, it was that detective who busted me, came and got me for the job.”

“That bastard, Strickland? I thought you hated him.”

“I do, but for five hundred clams, I’d kiss your sister.”

“You leave my sister out of this and tell me what kind of shit you got mixed up in this time.”

“Damn potty-mouth, you talk this way around your students?”

“Bill, I’m not joking.”

“Neither am I and I ain’t sayin’ a word ‘till you come over here and tell me I’m your hero.”

“You’re an ass. Now stop. My dress is going to get dirty.”

“I know a couple ways around that.”

“You wouldn’t dare.”

“Wanna bet? Right here, right now, Baby.”

“Stop. The curtains are open.”

“You frigid old bat. Let em get their own woman.”

“Please. Where’d you get the money?”

“I told you not to worry. I’m being good. All I did was fix a truck that was broke down on the freeway.”

“For five hundred bucks?”

“Well, the fact there was ten million in gold strapped to it and only a tarp separating it from every thug in town had a lot to do with it.”

“And you weren’t stealing -”

“No. In fact, I got me a permanent job. Days too, so I can bring home more of these and smear grease and oil here-”

“Stop.”

“-and here . . .”

“Okay Santa, you win.”

“Now this is a party.”


2  Party for the New Kid


Gabriel stomped into the conference room and threw his briefcase toward the corner.  It banged off the table and spanked the wall with a loud crack. Ophanim and his twin instinctively moved to their left to protect the computer console at the head of the table.

“What the Hell are you doing?” they shouted to Gabriel in unison, “you know how testy the boss gets when you start messing with things.”

“I’m not messing with a damn thing,” Gabriel said, “I’m fed up with this.” He took the print-out he’d been holding and splayed it open on the table. “Look what that egotistical fool is doing now,” he stomped and shouted as he strode to the front of the room.

Michael and Raphael both came around the table. Uriel was right behind them.  “Look,” Raphael said as he glanced at the paper, “you know this will blow over in a week or two. No need to get all upset about it.” He always tried to find the best way to sooth Gabe and the others when their anger surfaced.

“You know Rafe is right,” Michael said. He put his arm on Gabriel’s shoulder. “The boss gets these wild ass ideas and makes us all jump through hoops, but you know it blows over.”  Uriel walked beside Gabe and prodded his elbow. “Yeah, he’s always changing his mind and going off in some other damn fool direction. It doesn’t mean a thing. The corporation will be just fine.” He gripped Gabe’s arm a little firmer. “Come on over here and sit down,” he said. “The boss will hear your shouts if you keep it up.”

“I’m going to blow a damn trumpet into the old fuck’s ear,” Gabe shouted. “Imagine, asking all of us to fly all over creation just to announce his son is joining the firm. The audacity of that idiot.”

“Hey,” said Malachi, “look at it this way. The kid’s coming on board right after his birthday.” He ignored Gabe’s glare. “It will give us an excuse for a party.”

“Some party,” Gabriel fumed. “Mark my words. That kid is going to go and change everything, and his old man is going to just nod and smile. Someone is literally going to die before this is over. Wait and see.” He walked over to the wall, picked up his case and stomped out of the room.

Rafe waited until Gabe was gone to say anything. “I can see we’re going to need all the stockholders to adopt this one,” he said.

“Yep,” Uriel said, “and I know there’s going to be a lot of dissent. Gabe’s just the first.”

“I agree,” said Ophanim, “we’re going to have to throw some party to get the major stockholders to bite.” He picked up the red phone they used for emergencies. “I’ll line up the lighting crew, get the stage set and line up the singers,” he said.

He motioned to Michael, “You’d better get to work on the invitations.”

3  The Party

I don’t know what possessed me to accept the invitation. I mean, what kind of masochist goes to a Christmas Party hosted by his ex-wife and her new husband?

Perhaps it was because I had never been able to say no to Cathy? Hell, I hadn’t even said no when she asked for a divorce.
 
When we met in college our friends found our pairing amusing; the scruffy artist and the super-smart business major. Didn’t bother us, we were in love. We married right after graduation, and for a while things were going very well. Cathy got a job straight off and I was showing in the right galleries.
 
Then Cathy’s star took off, and the business sea parted for her. Pretty soon she was pulling in six figures and travelling constantly. We found a huge house in the ‘burbs with an artist’s studio right out of Architectural Digest. But the isolation depressed me and Cathy was never there. That’s probably when the drinking became a problem, but I didn’t see it.
 
It wasn’t what you’re probably thinking. There was no drama, no infidelity, no screaming fights. We had an ‘amicable’ divorce, were still ‘friends’. Our marriage just quietly ebbed away, like a small stream eating away its banks until it is so wide and so shallow, that it just stagnates.
 
Cathy was more than generous and set me up so I will live quite comfortably for a very long time. It confirmed that she stilled care for me, but I felt emasculated and more than a wee bit resentful.

The first thing I noticed when Cathy and her new husband Brad opened the door was how much alike they looked. I tried, half-heartedly, to look cheerful. To their credit, they both went out of their way to make me feel welcome. Brad seemed like a nice enough guy, chatting me up like we were old pals, taking my coat and going off to fetch me a scotch. Cathy gave me a kiss on the cheek, slipped her arm through mine and guided me to the great room, where a string quartet played softly.
 
Just as she finished introducing me to a group of very attractive women, the doorbell chimed.
 
“Mingle, it will do you good.” she whispered and hurried off.

Surprisingly, I had a good time. Talked to some interesting women, had another scotch, or two, and was feeling quite relaxed.

It was after eleven when Cathy glided up and laid a hand on my sleeve.
“A word in private, please?”

Her face had that little furrow between the brows that told me it was something serious. Idiotically, my first thought was maybe she was going to leave Brad!

Once in the hall, she turned looked directly into my eyes and said breathlessly, “I wanted to tell you before we make the general announcement, Brad and I are expecting a baby.”

“And that, officer, is the reason you’ve found me standing on this bridge railing tonight.”


4  The Most Wonderful Time of the Year



It was not yet six o’clock and the guests had started to arrive. Professor Blomstock, accompanied by a baby-faced undergrad named DeeDee, led the brigade. The Professor was prone to falling asleep at dinner so his early arrival came as no surprise. When his head eventually hit the table, DeeDee looked relieved and left without a word.

Next came Chancellor Higgins and Mr. Higgins with their Pomeranian, Minnie. They each wore, including the dog, matching red and green Christmas sweaters with little bells that jingled when they entered. We all had a good laugh which we regretted immediately as they blushed. Apparently, it wasn’t the response they were after. Everyone remarked on how incredibly efficient the University had become since the Chancellor’s inauguration and that seemed to lighten the mood.

Soon a gaggle of philosophy professors burst through the door and it was obvious, judging from breath and behavior, that they had already imbibed the Christmas Spirit. They argued loudly whether it was possible to be truly Dionysian under the Christian framework and then proved that it was by drinking all of the wassail and topping each other with elaborate and devout offerings of Grace before the meal.

A few sheepish grad students arrived late and made a point to agree with everything that was said, whether it was in contradiction or not. They agreed austerity and increased spending would solve the troubled economy, the liberal and the conservative candidates were both the better man for the job, artificial sweetener caused and treated cancer, and that God was nowhere and everywhere at once. The philosophy professors had a field day and left them reeling like glass-jawed rookies after a sparring match with a pro.

Around midnight, when the last bottle of scotch was located and drained and Professor Blomstock roused from his stupor, the guests filed out one by one, offering their obligatory “Merry Christmases” and “Happy New Years” and then trudged to their frosty Volvos and hybrids. We surveyed stacks of dishes in the sink and splotches of red on the carpet over which the toasts had become increasingly haphazard. “To the most wonderful time of the year,” we said and raised our glasses. We looked into each other’s eyes and laughed. In the spirit of the irrational grad students, our toast was both sarcastic and deeply sincere.


5  The Christmas Party

I’m gonna wear it. I decided on the way home from work, the blue dress with the plunge. It drives ‘em crazy, that an a little too much perfume. No bra and the black stilettos. They wish their wives dressed and smelled like this; slutty-girl-next-door. Hair ribbons? Nah, too cliché.

Bob, my neighbor, greets me at the door with a big hug and offers me a glass of champagne which I graciously accept.

 “Carol’s in the kitchen as usual. Make yourself at home.”

 I meander back to greet his wife before the real fun starts. “Nice dress,” Carol says, “I wish I could wear shoes like that.”
 
“Thanks,” I replied, swiping a Christmas cookie. It leaves powdered sugar on my upper lip and I leave it there.

Bob and Carol’s fifteen-year-old son Jim is in the dining room trying to act interested in a hand-held video game.  “Hi Ms. Carter” he croaks, but his eyes betray him. He’s able to glance at my face, but the brooch between my breasts seems to have bewitched him. I toy with him a bit longer- tell him the snow on my walk needs shoveling and can he do it in the morning? “Yes, ma’am.” The game makes a dying noise. He’s lost.
 
I’m filling a plate of hors d’oeuvres at the buffet when a pair of arms wraps my waist from behind, pulls me close and a husky voice whispers “Hello neighbor. Missed you at the Halloween party.”

 “Let me guess” I said without pulling away,” you must have gone as Pinocchio because lying makes it grow longer.”

 “Yea,” he said, “that and that dress you’re wearing.”

“I’ll bet you’re enjoying the view from back there.” I said as I tilt my head slightly, exposing my neck.

He nuzzles and inhales deeply “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I haven’t seen a thing.”

“Hmm… Gipetto would be proud….” I teased and turned to face Brent, my recently divorced acquaintance from the Yoga class I take with Bob and Carol. I took a few steps to the mistletoe above the archway between the dining and living room and stopped.
 
“Brent, I seem to have some sugar stuck to my lipstick.” Glancing upward for an instant, I said “Could you help me out?”

6  A Christmas Like No Other



Dr Jekyll invited me. His real name was Larry Crowitz, but I called him Larry from the office.

“The Christmas party starts at six,” Larry had said.

Larry planned on going as Mr Hyde. The only costume I could find on short notice was for a zombie – I was certainly going to be the most overweight zombie in the history of costume parties.

I drove to a large house on a small piece of land just outside town. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to bring something for the host, so I picked up a bottle of Chardonnay on the way.

And who opened the door, non other than Frankenstein’s monster. He mumbled hello and motioned me inside. The large foyer was crowded with guests of all shapes and sizes. In my attempt to find Larry, I mean Mr Hyde, I saw Swamp Thing shaking hands with The Monster from the Black Lagoon. I couldn’t help but smile.

I felt a bit out of character, seeing how the others were doing such a good job of it, that I started ambling towards the stairs in my best zombie walk, groan and all.

I took a few steps up and looked for Mr Hyde. There he was, encircled by a brood of sexy vampires. I decided to wait till he was alone.

“Welcome, honoured guests,” someone spoke behind me. I didn’t dare say anything to anyone, but his Dracula costume looked a bit cheap for a rich guy.

He stood at the top of the steps and saluted us with a royal wave. I stepped back into the crowd as he descended the staircase.

“So glad you all came,” Dracula continued. “Enjoy the festivities. Dinner will be served at twelve.”

A couple of werewolves howled in the back and everyone laughed.

Dracula walked past me and patted me on the back. “Welcome. So glad you decided to come.” He raised his hands in the air and shouted, “DJ, let the music flow!”

In the far corner I saw Hell Boy with a set of earphones show a thumbs up. The music began and Hell Boy gyrated his large, red body – the perfect outfit for a large man, indeed. It would’ve been perfect for me.

The rest of the evening was spent dancing and playing games. I played pin-the-body-parts-on-the-zombie with Mr Hyde and a few other members of the undead, as well as danced with an alien who worked at the hospital. After a few drinks, I even played spin-he-femur with the beautiful vampire brood.

It was such a wonderful evening. The only thing I regret, and it’s only a minor little speed bump in what otherwise was the best night of my life, is the fact that I ended up being the dinner. I begged them to leave just enough of me to make an actual zombie, but I guess they were just too hungry.

It would’ve been great to become a regular.



Offline 510bhan

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Re: Voting now open for Flash Fiction #38 -- 3 votes each
« Reply #1 on: December 21, 2011, 07:49:19 PM »
#7-12. Vote in the earlier box.

7  Driving Home for Christmas


Junction 6, Gravelly Hill Interchange, 3.30pm

The strident tones of the traffic reporter drowned out the clicking of the indicator as Roger joined the M6.

      “... five mile tail back at Junction 8...  two lanes closed on the northbound carriageway.”

      He thought back to last night’s row with his wife.

      “What sort of company has a sales meeting in Birmingham on Christmas Eve?” Laura screamed at him, her face puce with anger.

      “The sort that pays the mortgage and the girls’ school fees?”

      Laura glared. “The Christmas Eve party’s at my parents’ at 8. If you don’t make it you can forget this marriage!”
 
Junction 10, Wolverhampton, 5.20pm

      Would that be such a bad thing? Not having to look at the sullen faces of his two adolescent daughters while Patricia, his mother-in-law, tried to jolly them along like  a bourgeois Butlin’s Redcoat? Would he miss the bewildered expression of Laura’s father, Rupert, staring at them as though they were strangers? Which they were, now that the disease had taken control.

Junction 17, Congleton, Sandbach, 6.45pm

      Roger looked ahead at the brake lights of thousands of cars snaking their way north like a giant strand of red tinsel. Another ten junctions to go to his in-laws in Chorley. He’d never make it. Was Laura serious? Would she call it a day on a twenty year marriage for the sake of one missed party?
 
      Only it wasn’t just one. He’d lost count of the number of family meals missed, birthdays celebrated without him, anniversaries acknowledged over the phone. Laura hadn’t. She remembered every one as if they were personal assaults and not the sacrifices necessary to keep his job. She hauled them out and displayed them like the tarnished pieces of family silverware no one wanted but were afraid to throw away in case they became valuable. And they would, if it came to a divorce, he thought. Each one evidence of his supposed neglect and thoughtlessness, each one adding to her case.

Junction 25, Wigan, 7.55pm

      Ahead of him, emergency vehicles flashed blue and red, bringing to mind the cheap Christmas tree lights Laura despised. The traffic, which had crawled and jerked for the last few miles, came to a standstill. Roger switched off his engine and lit a cigarette. Something else on his wife’s hit list.
 
Junction 27, Chorley, 8.45pm

      He’d made it; late, but not too late.

      Click, click, click. He signalled left and then, uninvited, came a vision of the annual Christmas Eve party; the girls plugged into their iPods, yawning, picking at the food, yawning some more; Patricia plying them all with sherry and canapes; Laura, frosty and unapproachable, and Rupert, lucky bugger, oblivious to it all.
 
      Click, click, click. Roger jerked the wheel of the BMW and rejoined the carriageway.

 Junction 36, Kendal, 9.55pm

      Home. Alone. Single malt, whatever he fancied for dinner and afterwards, maybe, a cigar. Merry Christmas, Roger, he thought.


8  Conversations -- (some swears)


“She’s screwing him.”
“Oh, Tina, how could you possibly know?”
“Why else would she have gone up the ladder so fast, Jill? She hen-pecks her keyboard.”
“Are there people out there that still do that?”
“Apparently so, Jill. Apparently so.”
“I heard she’s out from Dallas headquarters.”
“Probably blew everybody there and was forced to leave. Damn college girls.”
“That college girl has a Masters, just so you know, Tina. She’s no slouch in the mind.”
“I went to college too, Becky, all it got me was two more brats to feed.”
“Always the bride’s maid but never the bride, eh, Tina?”
“Fuck you, Becky.”
“You think she’ll marry the old coot?”
“For his money? I hope so.”
“Not everyone is a harpy like you, Tina.”
“Jealous?”
“Daily.”
“Oh look, guys, it’s Jean! Hello Jean.”
“Hello Jill. Becky… Tina.”
“Jean.”
“Miss Perron, you look lovely in that gown. So slim.”
“Thank you, Jill.”
“Anyway, what can we get you, Jean? A beer perhaps?”
“Rum and coke for Mr. Jacobson, please.”
“Ice?”
“Just a few, please.”
“Here you go, and Merry Christmas.”
“Thank you, Tina. Merry Christmas to you all.”
“Bye Jean!”
“Bye Jean.”

“Bitch!”
"Tina!"
“She doesn’t even bother to hide. It’s so obvious. The new gown. That golden tan from her trip to Aruba last week. Did you see that rock around her neck? Must be two carats at least. He probably bought it.”
“I think she’s wealthy enough to buy her own jewellery, Tina.”
“Hey, can you grab me a few beers?”
“What? Get it yourself… Oh hi, Kevin! Sure hun.”
“Here you go.”
“Thanks.”

“Who were you talking to?”
“At the bar? Just Tina.”
“Just?”
“Well she’s no Jean.”
“Jean?”
“Miss Perron. You know, the boss’s girlfriend. She‘s so hot!”
“Good God. It’s like standing next to a Neanderthal when we hang out. You want to club this one, you want to club that one. Club, club, club. She’s not his girlfriend by-the-way.”
“Wow! You don’t say? Meow.”
“Why do I bother?”
“Because you’re my best friend.”
“Seems like more a one-way deal to me.”
“I’d still want to club Miss Perron.”
“I know, Kevin. I know.”

“Thanks, Jean. They didn’t spit in it by chance?”
“No, Mr. Jacobson. I kept strict watch.”
“Good, good. I’m glad those old girls don’t scare you. The secretary pool can drown a new girl if they’re not careful.”
“I’ve swam with sharks of these kind all my life.”
“Next week as CEO you’ll be taking control. Are you up for it?”
“It’s why I’m here.”
“How long before the cuts start?”
“Headquarters didn’t say.”
“It’s going to be hard to see some go.”
“Probably not all though.”
“Probably. But it can’t be helped… Ah well, I fly to Toronto tomorrow so it’s an early night for me. Good night, Miss Perron.”
“Good night, Mr. Jacobson. Merry Christmas and have a safe trip.”
“Merry Christmas and good luck.”
“Thank you.”


9  The Christmas Party (#2)


She looked across at her husband. Useless though he sometimes seemed, the look of tenderness in his eyes right now bad her forgive him everything.
The journey had been awful, the traffic very heavy and the accommodation was shocking. Still, it was Christmas, what did he expect?

She lay in the hostel bed, holding her newborn baby in her arms. Outside the thrum of traffic offered a rumbling lullaby to her sleepy child.

She saw tears in her husband’s eyes. Well, at least they had made it back to the old home town in time for Christmas, even if things (such as an early birth!) had not gone exactly to plan.  The local Medicare hospital had been helpful, but they just wanted her and baby out as soon as possible. Seemed to be quite a few Christmas babies this year. “Gonna call him Jesus?” The huge Mexican nurse had asked. No, she didn’t think that would suit him somehow.  Not with his ebony skin and curly hair.
“Darlin’?” her husband queried her gently, his arm resting on hers as it cradled the infant.

“Hmm?” she replied, wondering what superlative he was going to bestow upon their son this time.

“Can we call him Gabriel?”  She asked him why; it wasn’t a family name, or even that of anyone she knew.

“Well, I met this guy outside while you were in the delivery room,” (they hadn’t let him in) “and his name was Gabriel. Seemed mighty excited about somethin’, and wanted to talk like no one there had anything on their mind except Christmas. It’s a kinda nice name, isn’t it?”

She looked up at his grizzled head, the grey around his temples offering his usually quite roguish face a touch of distinction this night.
“Sure,” she said. “I like that.”

 Outside their window, Gabriel punched the air with delight. Yes! He felt honoured, especially given who the kid was. Maybe this time it would work.  The dirty snow falling wetly from his sneakers, he skipped off into the darkness, laughing like a child. Time for that party back at HQ! 
-o-

The party was in full swing when he got back to base – the guys and gals were all dancing and singing, laughing and celebrating. The whole team loved Christmas.  “Hey Nick, they named the kid after me!” Gabe yelled to his boss.

“Not again...” Nick said, sighing with mock frustration. “One day they are gonna get this right. Meanwhile, let’s get on with the celebrations. One success in two thousand years ain’t bad going on this backwards planet.”


10 The Last Christmas Party on Earth

It was 15 million years after the last Christmas party on Earth.

“I have brought you a gift, my Queen,” said Jemmy, the Chief Archaeologist.
Workers entered, bearing a huge roll of crinkly pink stuff.  They spread it out to line the wall of my bedchamber, and I saw that it had triangles cut into one edge.  I signalled approval.

“This treasure was found in the Cavern.” Jemmy said. “My report on our findings is complete.”

“Oh, get on with it then, and use words I can understand!”  I glared at this son of mine, and noted the bitter scent of anxiety in response.

 “When we were expanding the colony and discovered the Cavern, we first explored the outside. It is made of an unknown black material which is waterproof, yet flexible.  It can be cut, yet has hardly decayed, despite being estimated at millions of years old. ” He looked up briefly to meet my eyes, so I blinked acceptance.

“There was no entrance, so engineers cut one.  Inside we found the fossilised bones of a monstrous bird.  The biologists say that it was flightless, as the reconstructed skeleton shows it had immense bodyweight and tiny wings.  We assume the Cavern was its home.”

 Jemmy was fidgeting.

“What are you not telling me?” I asked.

“Geologists claim this area was once a tidal estuary. The Cavern was tightly sealed, presumably to provide a dry home in an environment of soft mud and water. How did the bird emerge to find food? 

“We also found shards of a clear crystalline substance.  Three thousand workers have pieced these together to form a symmetrical dome with an enormous vertical antenna, carrying a horizontal disk.  We suspect that this was a communications device, proving the bird had great intelligence.”

I felt like fidgeting myself now.  “Go on.” I said.

“Yesterday we unearthed a yellow tubular object, which bears some resemblance to a crude artificial larynx, larger than the bird’s own.   It could only have sounded a single note in a harsh tone, and may have been used to attract a mate.

“Catastrophic temperature rise caused the river mud to dry out and form sedimentary rock, which enclosed the Cavern.  Because of lack of air, a few fragments of material derived from wood pulp have survived.  Some have strange markings on them.”

“Let me see these.” I commanded.

Workers hurried forward with the fragile sheets.  On two of them were black shapes as big as me:
HY DID THE CHIC
and:
AD?

There was a third, ten times bigger, and discoloured, so that it was difficult to make out:
INMEN STRIKE AGAI

“Translate!” I ordered.

“We are unable to decipher them, Majesty.”  He hesitated before adding:

“The water may return one day.  Soon, perhaps.”

I had made up my mind.  “That is enough nonsense from you. You have no proof at all, do you?”

His antennae drooped.

“You will join the common ants working in the nursery.”  I turned and drifted back to sleep.


11  Seven-Deuce Off-Suit 



   Seven-deuce off-suit. Again! Harry pondered the chances of getting the same hand five times in a row. His mind floated to thoughts of perverse irony that left him hanging for a while. Is a poet ironing if he only experiences irony? He thought to himself.

   "It's on you!" Harry looked up for a moment; then realized the voice was directed at him. It was Chris, the only person at the table he considered a friend. It was Chris who suggested that for this year's Christmas party, they play a friendly game of Texas Hold 'Em.

   "Huh!" He said aloud. "Oh, sorry. Fold." He threw his cards into the muck. He was experienced at folding and put a little spin on the cards so they caught some air and wafted ever so slightly above the table before falling perfectly into the middle of the table.

   "Fold." said the next player.

   "Fold." said the third.

   "Raise-a-daisy." said the fourth, "Let's bump it up."

   "Fold."

   "Fold. Looks like you bought that one!" said Chris.

   "Just playing my hand," he said as he raked the pot.

   "Where's your head tonight?" asked Chris.

   "I guess I'm not very focused," replied Harry.

   "Bad day in bedrock?

   "I guess." replied Harry, who was busy replaying in his mind the conversation he'd had with his wife earlier in the day when he said the Christmas party was a poker game. "My wife told me I'm going to hell."

   "We all know that." Replied Chris. "Why this time?"

   "Apparently, because I play poker."

   "What's wrong with playing poker?" asked the player on his left, a short squat man with an unattended hernia that made him appear barrel-chested. Nobody liked him much, but his hernia made him seem more sympathetic. Maybe that's why he wouldn't get it fixed.

   "She says hell is filled with loose women who smoke pot and play poker!"

   "Death, where is thy sting?" replied the disliked player. The others laughed and liked him better. It was the best Christmas present he ever got.

12  The Christmas Party (#3)

The scream rang out, “Mummy.”

Woken, the woman lurched from her chair and immediately clutched her abdomen. “Ben, it’s okay, Mummy’s coming.”  She hardly recognised her voice strained through dried lips.
 
His bedroom door lay open and early morning sun crept under the curtains. As she entered, the small shape tangled in the sheets barely moved. Holding her breath she stooped and drew him into her arms. Soaked head to toe, he shivered with fever.  Her throat tightened, she pressed her cheek against the boy’s brow and, sobbing, covered him with kisses.

In her heart she knew the virus would claim him, but she’d hoped for a miracle.

She carried him back bedroom, stripped him and laid him next to his sister.

“It’ll be okay Mum,” Sophie said, the girl’s eyes were ringed with exhaustion. “We’ll be evacuated soon…” A coughing fit overtook her.
“I know, pet. It’ll be okay.”

Liar, she thought, biting her lip. We’ve been abandoned. Her head swam as she stumbled back into her chair.

The only official announcement was three days ago when a terrified man interrupted daytime Christmas television. ‘Those infected are to stay indoors and to guarantee a swift evacuation you must paint your front door white . . .’ Later that day, Susan and Sophie both came down with the fever. Before the infection took her strength, she wandered past the police station and up to the bypass. Streets were deserted and without electricity, lifeless decorations cluttered lawns and windows. It was then she realised her mistake. By painting her door she’d told those looking they were already beyond help. From then on she sat by the front door and watched the road.  No one came, but she knew they wouldn’t.

Her beautiful little girl had withered before her eyes as sickness decimated her. There was no way she’d let Ben suffer the same fate.

She already knew what to do and using the chair to support her, she stood and shuffled her way to the kitchen.

The view of the garden reminded her of a life before she lost her husband and before this nightmare began. While she was pregnant with Ben, Jack had taken Sophie camping overnight in the back garden. She closed her eyes and the sounds of their laughter filled her. Tears streamed down her cheeks as she dropped the pills into the milk. She’d made them both warm milk that night too.

When she returned to the bedroom, Ben lay motionless, his skin had lost its colour and his hair clung to his face.

“Here you go pet.” She smiled passing the mug of warm milk to Sophie.

Sat down between them and cuddling Ben gently, she helped him sip his drink.

“See you in the morning mummy.” Sophie yawned as she settled down.

With her eyes closed, she listened as their breathing slowed to a halt. “I love you,” she murmured, the sound echoing in her ears as she drifted to sleep.



Offline 510bhan

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Re: Voting now open for Flash Fiction #38 -- 3 votes each
« Reply #2 on: December 21, 2011, 07:51:10 PM »
#13-17. Vote in the top box.


13  Home Again
   

Home again.  The holidays to me were not much fun anymore.  But to my family, both sides, it was always something special.  Problem is, I’d just gotten back from ‘Nam where I spent my first Christmas pounding through a jungle.  I had been gone nearly four years when I finally arrived home to New Jersey the week before Christmas.

I had been the first, followed by a cousin, since World War II to enter the service.  Mom and Dad wanted this to be a special occasion for us.  Seems I’d been away from home nearly every Christmas since I’d entered the service; duty assignments.

I stood in my old room staring out the window at the snow as it lightly fell coating the ground in white.  Just a few weeks ago I was sweating in the heat, dirt, with insects that would make anybody’s skin crawl; a country where Christmas meant little to the people.

Mom’s voice calling up the stairs jarred me out of my reverie.  “Harry, your cousins are here.”

Wonderful. 

There was an exchange that I could barely make out then I heard rapid footsteps on the stairs.  The next thing I knew a girl, long dark hair, brown eyes; a wide smile peek around the corner of the open door. 

Of all the cousins I cared for was smiling at me:  “Elaine.”

“Hi, Harry.  How have you been?”

I shrugged.  “Okay.  You?”

A weak beginning but I was glad to see her.  She walked over to give me a sisterly kiss on the cheek.  Elaine, my second cousin was four years my junior; the sister I never had, and I the big brother she never had.

“Okay.  I missed you – even with your letters.”

For the moment I felt at a loss for words.  I gave her a kiss; we stared in to each other’s eyes for a minute.  Then a second female voice from the bottom of the stairs shook us:
“You two coming down or what?” the voice of Susan, our other cousin called.

“We better go down stairs before they start wondering what we’re doing.”

I pulled on my uniform jacket.  Mom and Dad wanted me in uniform for this occasion.  Elaine looked me over flicking at some imaginary lint as she studied the awards and decorations. 

We descended the stairs to what me was organized chaos.  Mom with the two aunts was setting the table for the traditional Christmas Eve dinner.  Dad with the uncles was in the living room with the TV on to the football game.  In the middle of all this were our other cousins.  Then there was Theodore, Teddy, who was in the Air Force, the smart one I suppose; he never left the country.  Teddy was stationed at McGuire Air Force Base since training at Lakeland, Texas.

Susan stood beside her brother, Teddy with a faint smile as Teddy and I shook hands, and then the uncles joined in.   


14  Invited

     More than a few singers in the street corner choir stumbled when they saw the dapper, reddish man who stood before them chomping a cigar.

     “Oh, ho, ho!” he chortled.  “Don’t stop on my account!” The carolers scattered, frightened by his sharp fangs and forked tongue. 

     A small man ran up and tugged at the ruddy spectator’s pant leg. “Sir! Sir! Sir! sir!”

     The red man rolled his eyes.  “Tipper, do work on controlling yourself.”

     “Yes, yes,” Tip jabbered.  “But sir, the invitation –“

     “I have not forgotten.”

     “Tinsel, trees and spar-ka-lee lights!”  Tipper balanced on one leg and wrapped his arms around himself to keep from hopping around.

     “You’d like to come along, then?”

     The little man nodded frantically.   

     By now all the singers had run off, afraid of the sporadic fires popping up here and there and the black cloud of smoke hovering over the two strange men. 

     “Well, then.  Let’s go raise a little hell, shall we?” 

     “Parteee!” Tipper yelled.

     They found the place easily, guided by the giant neon star nailed up on the roof.  The entire house was trimmed in glittering lights, and a shiny wreath hung on the front door.

     “Knock, knock,” crooned the red man, and the door swung open onto a brightly lit hall festooned with evergreen garlands.  Revelers stood about laughing and sipping from crystal glasses.  “Hello?  We’re here!  Where’s the birthday boy?”

     A pale woman with a long face glided up and gave Tipper and the man a questioning look.  “Can I help you?” 

     Tip produced the invitation.  “Here, here!  We’re invited!”

     The woman blushed pink.  “Oh, dear,” she said.  “I knew I shouldn’t have left Gabe in charge of the mailings.”  She smiled apologetically.  “He’s dyslexic, you see.”

     “Merry Christmas! “ Tipper screeched.  His eyes darted wildly from the food laden table to the decorated tree and colorful packages.  “Merry, merry!”

    “Tipper!” The redman frowned.  “Control.”

     The woman signaled to a group of men who stood nearby, and soon Tipper and his boss were surrounded.  “You see, this invitation was supposed to go to SANTA . . .”

     The red man scowled.  “Well, blast.  Not like it’s my fault, is it?’

     “But you’ll understand how awkward this is?”

     He sighed and waved the group away.  “Come, Tip.  We’ve better things to do on a cold, dark night.  Not really our kind of people, anyway.” 

     Tipper looked as though he might cry.  He dashed to the table and snatched a handful of cake before following his master out the door. 

     “Do give my best to the birthday boy, won’t you?” The man lit a cigar and pushed tipper toward the sidewalk.

     The woman ripped the invitation in two and shrugged.  “Sorry, Satan,” she said and closed the door.


15  The Christmas Party (#4)


“Thank God that’s over,” she said whilst slipping off her shoes. “I know we are obliged to go, what with your position, but that has to have been the worst one yet.”

“Oh I don’t know, darling. Some of our management meetings have been worse. Less alcohol and dancing, but much the same amount of shouting and arguing.”

“Well I think the whole evening was a disaster. Far too many people got drunk. Did you see that young girl vomiting into the pot plant?”

“No, I missed that, thankfully. I know who you mean, though. Young Sally in accounts. She had her dreadful boyfriend in tow, him with all the facial piercings. He was in the gents’ earlier smoking pot. I caught him there and told him to stop or leave. It would be embarrassing if anyone complained and we were raided... . Here, let me help you with your dress.”

From behind he slowly unzipped her dress and gently slid it down off her shoulders, nibbling her earlobes and gently kissing her neck. She murmured and turned her head, her mouth eagerly finding his. They kissed passionately, feeling their arousal, wanting each other. He undid her brassiere, letting it drop to the floor, cupping her naked skin.

She pushed him back into a large leather chair, helped him removed his remaining clothes, then sat astride him. Their lovemaking was frenzied and urgent, finishing together with a thin bead of sweat on their bodies.

They sat there, just holding each other, cuddling. Soon their bodies began to grow cold. He slipped his jacket over her shoulders whilst kissing her.

“Do you want to stay here like this all night?” he asked.

“No. Come on, let’s get dressed. Do you want to go back to the party or shall we just go home?”

“Well, I need to go back down there. Why don’t you get a taxi and head on home? I need to find my wife anyway. If I see your husband I’ll tell him you left because of a migraine”.

“OK. Merry Christmas, darling.”

“Merry Christmas.”



16  In Consideration of Services Rendered


The Chandler Hotel sat amid a row of shabby apartment buildings. Not yet tenements, they’d been too long neglected. The hotel fared better, but only slightly.

Fifty years earlier, its dining room overflowed nightly. Then commerce migrated uptown and the neighborhood began its decent. The hotel now catered to long-term residents.

It was here I found myself on Christmas Eve in the role of maître d’hôtel. The title was impressive until you considered I was the only person on the dining room waitstaff. Pay was minimum wage. Still, it was a job.

I’d become accustomed to the habits of the regulars. Occasionally, they’d dine together. Then separately and ignore one another. I could only imagine the social dynamics that drove this game of musical chairs.

On this night, only Mrs. Phillips and Mr. Swanson remained. It was late. Mrs. Phillips ordered coffee. When I returned, a new guest had arrived.

He stood in the entryway, nodding as if recognizing all he saw. He was expensively dressed but carried a tattered and much-traveled valise.

“I can seat . . .”

“Here will be fine.” He draped his coat over a chair and dropped the bag. It landed with a thump. “Burn a steak, lad, and bring the wine list. Dinner for a party of one.”

“I’m afraid all we have is pot roast.”

“Then pot roast it is. I’ll leave the wine to your descretion. Hurry now. I’ll have no time to enjoy it.”

I brought wine, only to find more people had come in. A man and woman were hovering around Mrs. Phillips. There was no need to ask for an explanation when I approached.

“Young man, I’m checking out. My daughter’s husband got a new job. I’m going to live with them.”

The kitchen bell signaled my order. When I returned, only my last guest remained. As I served, he answered my unasked question.

“You’ll find Swanson at the desk. His wife called. Seems she can’t live without him. Be a good lad and get us more wine.”

I did, and my last guest disappeared during my absence. The food was untouched, the coat gone and the valise occupied his chair. I went to the lobby. No one had left since Mr. Swanson. I checked the rest rooms. Empty.

I lifted the valise but it was heavier than it looked. I let it drop. When it landed, the latch sprung, revealing a hoard of cash. I snapped it closed. Who would leave such a thing?

I took it home that night. For a week, I waited for the well-dressed stranger to return for his luggage. He didn’t. On Friday, I quit.

That was twenty years ago. Since then, I’ve grown rich and the weight of my indebtedness increased. Tonight, I’ll be rid of that weight. It’s Christmas Eve. I stand in the doorway of the Chandler Hotel dining room. Little has changed. I select the first table and drop the valise. It lands with a thump. Party time.


17  The Bike


Christmas Day her best friend, Joann came to show off the bicycle she received for Christmas. It was decked out with everything a girl could want.

Lilly was filled with envy. She didn’t want Joann’s bike. She wanted one like it, but a different color.

For days the only thing Lilly thought of was a bicycle of her own. Eventually she worked up the courage to ask her mother for a bike.

“I wish I could get you a bicycle, but I can’t afford it.”

Lilly’s expression reflected her disappointment and lack of hope.

“If you are willing to help, perhaps you can get one next Christmas,” she continued. “If you will save part of your allowance, I’ll match it with the same amount. Between the two of us, we should have enough for a bike by next Christmas.”


Lilly got $0.50 a week in allowance. A nickel came out automatically for her tithe to the church. Saturday movies cost ten cents and if she wanted candy, popcorn or a drink at the movie, that was another nickel each. To leave herself a little extra, she turned half of her allowance, $0.25, over to her grandma to save.

Christmas Eve finally arrived. That was when her family always opened gifts. But the one thing she wanted wasn’t to be seen.

The rest of family was having a grand time opening gifts and showing them around. Lilly's mood dropped lower and lower.

A party? Sure, Lilly was deep into her own pity party. It became worse when her Mother told her to go sit on the back steps. She knew it was because she was being so gloomy, putting a damper on everyone happy mood.

After awhile, Lilly was called back in. She stopped in the kitchen, but her mother insisted she come into the living room. What’s the point, she wondered.  Still, she rarely disobeyed her mother.

As Lilly entered the room with downcast eyes, everyone became quiet. Looking up to see why, Lilly spotted a bicycle propped on its kickstand in front of the tree.

She was disappointed that it lacked the streamer, basket, head-light and all the other extras, but it was a bike. A bike of her very own.

In time Lilly came to love that bicycle, perhaps even more than if it had been decked out like Joann’s.

She rode it everywhere, all over town and beyond. When it got a flat, she fixed it. If a spoke became loose or bent, she tightened or replaced it. Whatever the bike needed, Lilly took care of it because it was her bicycle.

When she was older and started driving a car, the bike wasn’t ridden much and finally, not at all.

Years later Lilly disassembled the bike, cleaned every nook and cranny, sanded the painted parts and repainted them a new color Then gave it to her younger sister for her birthday so she could have a bike of her very own.




Offline 510bhan

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Re: Voting now open for Flash Fiction #38 -- 3 votes each
« Reply #3 on: December 29, 2011, 10:02:33 AM »
Voting closed -- winner = boshman with No 15. The Christma Party (#4)


Fabulous entries -- well done to everyone who composed a short story and submitted it. It might not have been your chosen theme, it might have been too long/short for your usual style, it might have been written much quicker than you normally write . . . but you all did it.

Well done and thank you. ;) ;) ;) ;)

Offline heidi52

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Re: Voting now open for Flash Fiction #38 -- 3 votes each
« Reply #4 on: December 29, 2011, 10:48:09 AM »
Congratulations Boshman! Well done!  ;D ;D ;D