Tag Archives: microfiction

Flash, Micro, Sudden, 55-Word Fiction–a Mental Disciple


Not many every-day folks know about the world of abridged, compressed or ultra lean writing known to some as the short short story. It is a lovely genre for its intensity, poetry of language, and voice. There are different sub-genres that include exactly 33-word, 55-word or 100-word renditions of a story. A  laxer variation says anything under 300 words qualifies as a shortie.

The concept is to write a story (beginning, middle and ending) with a few, well-chosen words. It’s like smelting ore to refine for gold. Usually, the story, once distilled, packs a wallop.

Practicing writing ultra-short stories is a mental disciple. Take 15 minutes now to try it. Using the words “sentimental,” “pool,” and “sandals,” write a short story of 55-words (exactly).

I did the exercise, too. Here’s what I came up with:

Think of You

by Fay Moore © 2013

 You left. The air is as blistering as my emotions. I turn off the radio as I sit by the pool. No sentimental songs today. Illusory reflections in the water conjure your face. Your sandals, carelessly tossed into the grass, elicit memories of playful times. Damn it. In spite of myself,  I think of you.

End of Day–Response to Song Prompt Bizet Had His Day


Most of September’s posts were prepared in August. Consequently, the inspiration I got from first listening to Bizet Had His Day fizzled as time passed. I made the mistake of thinking I’d remember the storyline 4 weeks later. Wrong. So here’s the newly inspired short story from the early September song prompt. Hope you like it.

End of Day

 by Fay Moore © 2012

 

The maestro is talking to the concert audience about the credentials of the solo pianist. The musician is about to play “Bizet Had His Day,” a popular composition with the annual subscribers.

 

“. . .attended Julliard. . .frequent guest soloist with the New York Philharmonic, Washington National Symphony, among others. . .guest appearances on Broadway and television. . . .”

 

Enthusiastic applause erupts as the performing artist walks on stage to the piano and seats himself. The house lights dim while the musician adjusts the back panels of his tuxedo jacket, ostentatiously flipping the fabric up and over the piano bench. He places his toes on the pedals, stretches his arms in front of himself to unbind the fabric of his sleeves from around his wrists and levitates his fingers over the keys. Once the audience is still as a midnight snowfall, the showman begins, playing with passion and flair.

 

 At the conclusion, the audience explodes, the concussion of clapping reverberating through the hall as the soloist leaves the stage, after taking multiple bows. Off-stage he is patted on his back repeatedly, congratulated on another fine performance. On his way to his dressing room, he passes the make-up staff clustered around a snack table exchanging gossip, jokes and plans for the evening. He backs up several paces and calls out to the retinue.

 

“Hey, do you know where there’s a jazz club?”

 

He’s caught them off guard, and they stare at him blankly like a herd of heifers. Finally, a heavily tattooed one states there’s a club three blocks away. The pianist thanks him, gets directions, then goes and changes his clothes. When he passes the make-up staff again, on his way to the exit, the entourage doesn’t recognize him: he’s dressed in stained jeans, a long-sleeved, half-zipped hoodie and a knit cap pulled low over his hair and forehead. He looks like the maintenance man.

 

 Once on the street, he pulls a harmonica out of his pocket and presses the instrument to his lips. He plays the blues in time with his slow strut up the urban street. When he reaches the closest intersection, it is choked with pedestrians, out enjoying the temperate fall evening. Some are walking home from work. Others seek a late dinner at one of many sidewalk cafes and pubs dotting the boulevard.

 

The pianist is hungry. He shoves his hand into his pocket and extracts his wallet. It’s empty. No cash.

 

“Damn. I’ve been picked by some stage hand again.”

 

He sounds more dejected than angry. He should know better. It’s for this very reason that he’s quit carrying a credit card to performance venues. He’s tired of the hassle of reporting lost cards. He’s learned to leave the card in the hotel safe and just carry a few bucks in his wallet. Most of the time, he stashes the wallet somewhere in the dressing room. Tonight he simply stuck the wallet inside one of his shoes. Big mistake.

 

 He pivots on his heel, and starts to retrace his steps. His hotel adjoins the concert hall. He rolls his tongue in his throat, mimicking regurgitation. The thought of hotel food nauseates him.

 

 The proximate noise of table conversation, the laughter of bar maids, the clink of glasses and flatware hook him. He rethinks his options. The well-lighted street is full of people. Most seem in good spirits: walkers are unhurried, diners are outside, those waiting in line for a table are talking animatedly with those around them. It’s a jovial vibe.

 

 He positions himself under a street light, pulls the knit cap from his head, and places it on the ground in between himself and the sidewalk traffic. It’ll do to collect money. He plays his harmonica with eyes closed, wailing notes lilting softly over the thoroughfare. He plays from his soul, undisturbed by repetitive clinks from a mounting number of coins thrown in the cap by passersby. It takes about an hour to accumulate enough money to buy dinner. In the time he’s been playing, the dinner rush passes. Tables open up at each eatery.

 

Carrying his cap like a money bag of old, he finds the jazz club, goes inside and claims a table. He piles the coins in dollar stacks in front of himself before perusing the menu. He meets the waiter’s sarcastic smile with a wink. He orders an Irish beer and a bacon cheeseburger.

 

 His plate is set in front of him during the best saxophone riff he’s ever heard. The waiter keeps silent, but asks with his eyes about another beer. The hungry street performer hands the waiter his empty glass. He bites the sandwich to find the burger is cooked perfectly. The bacon is crisp, the cheese sharp, and the sandwich hot. While he devours half of it, the jazz ensemble’s performance sizzles. Great music, good eats; it doesn’t get much better.

 

It’s the day’s end he’s been dreaming of.

Autumn Leaves – A Short Story Response to T’s Prompt


Autumn Leaves

by Fay Moore © 2012

 

The miners knock down the door to the manager’s office with a makeshift battering ram.

 

For several weeks, the miners at this South African platinum mine have been on strike about low wages, poor work conditions and other complaints. The effort is poorly organized. When the mine’s owners ignore the laborers’ concerns, the disenfranchised workers formulate a plan to hit the owners where it hurts: in their pocketbooks. They take their dispute to the next level. The workmen are done with talking.

 

First, all extraction of precious metals stops. Picket lines set up at entrances to the mine. Employees are warned–cross the picket lines at your own risk. Some of the idled men stand in the front of the mob with batons in hand, slapping the bats threateningly into open palms. The baton squad is ready to break  bones—skulls or legs, it doesn’t matter. No one is going to work today.

 

Second, any equipment or infrastructure that is expensive to repair or replace is sabotaged or destroyed. The miners reason, if the owners fire the strikers and replace them with new bodies, mining cannot resume. Without the machines and mechanisms operational, miners can’t get the platinum out of the ground or out of the ore. Mined metals can’t be loaded onto trucks or railway cars to transport the valuable product to smelters or other buyers. If the metal doesn’t leave the mine, money doesn’t flow into the owners’ coffers.

 

Third, any cash in the manager’s office is to be expropriated to create a strike fund for the employees who participate in the work stoppage. The men with the battering ram are looking for the petty cash box.

 

With the expansion of automobile ownership in China and accumulation of precious metals by the world’s wealthy, the demand for platinum is up. Prices are high. The owners want to sell as much product as possible while conditions are lucrative. The mine uses day laborers to supplement the workforce during peak production. Day laborers are paid in cash. The strike organizers know the company’s currency cache is in the manager’s office.

 

Desperate men do reckless things. Once the cash box is located, it is broken open. Two men mount the office building’s flat roof. One has a loud speaker. Another has the cash box. The one with the loudspeaker calls the roving strikers in earshot to come. A dozen men stand below the speechmaker. 

 

“It’s raining Rands. Catch the colorful bills and go home. Feed your families.”

 

The one with the cash box takes a handful of the paper currency and lets the money go. The paper pirouettes on wisps of air before parachuting to the ground. A dozen pairs of hands grab for the cash.

 

“Watch the money fall like autumn leaves. Tell the others to come over for their share as you depart,” is the order.

 

Suddenly vehicle engines roar. Shots ring out. The bull horn clatters to the ground. Men duck and scatter like buckshot as rubber bullets spray the area. The local police, aided by the military, arrive en masse and seize piles of metal rods, machetes and sticks. The cash box is captured though it’s empty, its contents evaporated. In another part of the compound, black smoke curls, an acrid combination from burning tires used as barricades by strikers and tear gas used to disperse the crowd.

 

A few rampaging men are captured and arrested. One protester harangues the policemen, accusing them of apartheid-era tactics. At the end of the day, legal authorities control the shuttered mine.

 

News reaches the dispelled strikers that five other platinum mines in addition to their own have been closed down due to protests.

 

“Just like autumn leaves. They’ll keep falling,” predicts one smiling man.

Response to Forever Young Song Prompt


Forever Young

by Fay Moore © 2012

The halls smell like urine—stale urine, gone rank in the heat, ground into the cheap linoleum tiles laid decades ago when this building was new and this neighborhood was a good place to live. A wire cage surrounds the single light bulb illuminating the dingy corridor. Cecily pulls the door to the apartment shut behind her as she leaves. The soles of her shoes stick to the floor with every step.

Cecily cringes as she thinks of her mother, drunk and in the bedroom, lying under some guy. The grime in the halls doesn’t make her cringe. She’s used to that. She should be used to her mother’s whoring, too.

Her mother puts out for anyone who will pay her twenty bucks. She collects the money in an envelope in her dresser drawer. Momma always worries out loud about having enough money to pay the rent when the superintendent comes around. If the money isn’t there, the superintendent gets ugly. One time, when Momma didn’t have all the rent money, Cecily saw the man shove Momma to her knees. When he grabbed Momma by the hair of her head and fiddled with his zipper, Momma yelled for Cecily to run away, which she did. She made it to the bottom of the stairs.

That’s where she met Guido. He saw her crying and pulled her to safety inside his apartment.

Guido lives on the first floor. He’s older than Cecily by a decade. The apartment belongs to his grandmother, who has lived there forever. She’s got rent control, Guido says, so it doesn’t cost much to live there, so long as his grandmother doesn’t move away—or die. His grandmother is old, blind and crippled, so she stays in her room, playing funny sounding music from when she was young. Guido lives in the apartment, too. He sleeps on the couch. He takes care of his grandmother as best he can. He doesn’t have a regular job. He sells weed in the alley beside the apartment building, so he’s got pocket money.

To Cecily, Guido is fun. He takes her to the corner deli and buys her stuff. He tells her she is pretty.  Today he says he has a surprise for her. He says he’s going to make her a star.

Cecily doesn’t believe him about the star thing. That’s just how Guido talks. He’s always making things up about what he’s going to do when he doesn’t have to take care of his grandmother anymore. He says he is going into business and make lots of money.

Guido shows Cecily the kind of car he’s going to buy when he’s rich by pointing to advertising banners on the sides of the city buses. He wants a black Chrysler 300 with spinner hubcaps and leather seats. Cecily thinks it’s funny because Guido doesn’t have a driver’s license. Guido says he doesn’t need one: he knows how to drive. Cecily knows he steals cars sometimes to earn a few bucks.

When Cecily reaches Guido’s apartment, he’s excited. He has set up extra lamps without any shades on tables around the sofa. The room is really bright with light. He’s talking fast about making movies and selling them on the Internet. He tells Cecily he’ll pay her to act in his movies. She’ll be captured on film, forever young, like Halle Berry or Jennifer Hudson. She listens to him, thinking this is more of his big talk. Then he brings out a small digital video camera and sets it on a makeshift camera stand. He explains that all Cecily has to do is take off her shirt, then her pants, then her underwear while he takes her picture. He’ll pay her twenty bucks.

Cecily isn’t listening to Guido any more. In her head, she is seeing her mother down on her knees, crying out for Cecily to run. Cecily listens to the words of her mother and runs out of Guido’s apartment. She doesn’t know where she’s going, but she doesn’t look back.

Sudden Fiction: Justice


The concept of justice is the theme of the song prompt “Beer for my Horses.” The songwriter romanticizes the style of justice made famous in the Old West–the noose. My story explores another form: vigilante justice. I decided to set the story in the context of this week’s news to give it a contemporary flavor. I found the perfect villain that everyone loves to hate. His own bad behavior and cavalier attitude toward his victims makes him perfect for the villain character in the  story. The old man character takes matters into his own hands to set things right.

This little shortie is less than 400 words. The names have been changed to protect the guilty, and to cover my ass.

JUSTICE

by Fay Moore (c) 2012

The old man shuts the top on his notebook computer. He removes his glasses and sets them on the lamp table next to his easy chair. The glasses rest atop a pile of account statements and letters. He leans his head against the chair back and closes his eyes. The words he  just read are re-playing in his head.

Internet columnist Ben Protess reports, “After 10 months of stitching together evidence on the demise of MF Global, investigators conclude that chaos and porous risk controls at the firm, rather than fraud, allowed the money to disappear.”

The octogenarian pinches the bridge at the top of his nose, eyes still shut.

More words echo:

“A criminal investigation into the collapse of the brokerage firm MF Global regarding the disappearance of $1.6 billion in customer money is entering the final stages. No charges are expected to be filed against any top executives.”

The paper statements on the lamp stand show the accounting of deposits made by the old man into an MF Global investment account. The letters mixed in with the statements describe the loss of the man’s money because his brokerage firm gambled on Greek debt instruments with customers’ money. The firm’s actions wiped out the old man’s account. Another letter promises to repay a portion of the loss at pennies on the dollar. However, repayment is contingent on court approval. The case is tied up in bankruptcy court and may be for months or years to come.

But worse to the old man than his loss, worse than Johann Corsini and his cronies skating on criminal charges, are the last words the man reads before taking off his glasses. The words say to the old man that there will be more victims. A leopard can’t change his spots.

“Mr. Corsini, in a bid to rebuild his image and engage his passion for trading, is weighing whether to start a hedge fund, according to people with knowledge of his plans.”

These are the words that prompt the man to place a call. He listens to the ringing before someone picks up on the other end.

“Hello.”

“Do it,” says the old man.

“When?”

“Now. I want to see it on tonight’s news.”

He ends the call and leans back in his chair again, eyes closed. He is imagining the news broadcaster’s announcement:

“Johann Corsini is dead, shot today by an unidentified gunman while he and his wife were vacationing in France.”

Why Are You So Mean?


Here’s my response to the song prompt “Mean” sung by Taylor Swift. I hope you enjoy it — well, given the subject matter, perhaps “enjoy” isn’t the correct word to use.

Mean

by Fay Moore (c) 2012

 

“You didn’t do it right.”

 

“Sorry, sir. I thought you said . . .”

 

“I don’t pay you to think. I pay you to do what I tell you to do.”

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

“Now go out there and do it over. This time do it the right way.”

 

“I’m not sure how you want it . . .”

 

“You figure it out. I told you once already. Use your head. That’s why it’s there on your shoulders. Quit acting like an imbecile.”

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

“And none of that silly singing. Who told you you could sing anyway? With a voice like that you should get a job scaring away crows. Your voice reminds me of those damnable noisemakers the city put in the trees to scare off birds. You hurt my ears. No singing.”

 

“Yes.” There’s a pause followed by, “sir.”

 

“Well, don’t just stand there. Get to it. Are you going to make me stand here all day supervising you? You lazy dog. Get to work.”

 

No one could hear the reply muttered under the kid’s breath.

 

“Mean bastard.”

55 Words Microfiction: Lightning Crashes


Thanks to you and your advice, my brain was jogged loose from being stuck.

You know what’s funny? The idea that first came to me evaporated when I began to write. My brain took over. It decided that the story generated from the song prompt needed to be a 55-word flash fiction piece. Like lightning, it is quick and brilliantly illuminating.

The story is a study in contrasts, as is the song which prompted it. I hope you enjoy it. It was hard coming, but like childbirth, when it finally happened, it poured out in an instant.

Lightning Crashes

by Fay Moore © 2012

She misses the thunderhead building until a flash illuminates his actions.

When she asks him the first pointed question, she opens a door and looses a tornado in the room. The argument is at hurricane force, words hurling back and forth, slicing through heart tissue, wounding fatally.

From love to hate, it happens so fast.

Response to Song Prompt “The Good Life”


I picked the song prompt “The Good Life” by Three Days Grace a couple of weeks ago and scheduled the post for the future. Afterward, I heard about a man who was traveling through Cumberland, Maryland, on whose true tale this short story is based. The person who told me about him is the cook character in the piece.

It is amazing how well this story fits the sentiment of the prompt song.  It was serendipitous I was told about this story just as the prompt song posted.

Enjoy!

The Good Life

by Fay Moore © 2012

The stranger sidled up to the lunch counter and took a seat.

The cook, who also served as waiter at the rescue mission, didn’t recognize the man as having been there before. No matter. More and more, the faces were new, coming in for a meal or two before disappearing, not to be seen again. Yet something about this man piqued the cook’s curiosity.

Would you like a bowl of soup?” the cook asked.

Yes. Thank you,” said the stranger.

He dropped his knapsack on the floor beside the counter stool, took a seat, then swiveled around to survey the room. A half-dozen wizened-faced men peppered the room, sitting at tables in dark corners. Like fly specks on an otherwise clean kitchen counter top, they were an uncomfortable reminder that something unlikable was present in this city.

I don’t think I’ve seen you here before,” remarked the cook.

No. I’m only here for a day or two.”

Where are you staying?”

At the hobo camp by the railroad yard.” The man showed no embarrassment or shame.

Hobo. Until recently, it was an archaic word that conjured the depression era men who traveled with a bindle, riding in box cars, looking for the next place that promised a chance at a job.

Hobo. Here at the mission, modern hobos arrived daily, attracted to the hobo camp near the railroad hub, where trains converged  for a re-shuffling of the cars into new configurations based on each car’s destination. Men traveling from southern or eastern cities came here to catch a western- or northern-bound train. And vice versa, depending on the season or the work available. Some were disheveled from countless days between using a bath or laundry facility.

The cook noticed this stranger was clean and cleanly dressed.

Hobo. A lifestyle of survival and of necessity exacerbated by bad economic times. Unlike bums, hobos traveled looking for work. A job yielded a good life. Modern hobos might or might not be penniless. The common characteristic hobos shared was using the railroads to travel – for free.

Are you riding the train?” the cook asked.

Hope to. I’m heading for Canada.”

Why Canada?”

For vacation,” came the reply.

You’re kidding me,” the cook gasped.

No. I guess I should explain. I used to be a hobo, always traveling from place to place by rail, trying to find work. Finally, I was lucky and landed a good job. Someone took me under his wing to guide me. I went to law school. Now I am a lawyer. But every year, I take a vacation and ride the rails. For old time’s sake, I guess.”

The cook looked incredulous.

It’s true. I have a hand written book given to me by an old man a long time ago that outlines every rail line, every yard, where the junctions are to change course, which yards to avoid because the bulls are mean sons of bitches. That kind of stuff. He collected it all by writing it down. Before he died, he gave it to me.”

Have you ever been thrown off a train by a bull?” The cook was wide-eyed.

Yes. It’s worse in the deep south. I got roughed up down there and taken to jail. But I paid my fine, and I went on my way.”

The cook shook his head. The man finished his soup and slapped a twenty dollar bill on the counter.

The lunch is free,” said the cook. “The boss says to feed whoever walks through the door.”

I know. This is a donation. It’s what I do now that I can. When I eat, I pay for myself,” he said, panning his arm across the room, “and for my friends. Thanks for being here to feed us. There was a time that without soup kitchens like this one, I would not have had a meal for days while I hunted work. It’s my way to give back.”

The stranger picked up his backpack, shouldered it, and walked out through the same door he entered earlier, without looking back. In his head, he thought about the cook. He thought each of them had found a little of the good life.

Kokomo Moonlight


Okay, so the setting of my short story inspired by the Beach Boy’s song “Kokomo” isn’t in the Florida Keys or in the Caribbean. Instead it is set in south Florida’s seaport Fort Lauderdale. It is a common overnight stop for boaters traveling on the Intercoastal Waterway. I hope you enjoy it.

Moonlight

by Fay Moore © 2012

The sailboat glides through a small channel from the Intercoastal  Waterway into Lake Sylvia. The gunkhole is a perfect overnight anchorage for the weary sailors aboard the small sailboat. It is quiet and protected from the winds.

The moon rises as the anchor drops off the bow into the water. The anchor light twinkles at the top of the mast, looking no brighter than a distant star. A small galley lamp lights the inside of the tiny cabin, but ebony blackness inhabits the deck.

On the shoreline are a few waterfront homes of some of Fort Lauderdale’s prosperous residents. Nightfall cloaks the mansions in darkness; the houses are merely silhouettes dappled by intermittent patches of moonlight filtering through palm fronds.

An occasional house window is illuminated. If the fatigued sailors wished it, they could peer into the lighted rectangles from afar and pry into the doings that transpire inside the glass. Instead they focus on chores.

The woman comments that she wants to clean herself from the salt spray accumulated during the day’s sail. She grabs a bucket and fills it with tepid water from the faucet. With a sloshing bucket, soap and wash cloth in hand, she calls to her partner that she is going up to bathe on deck under the starlight.

Once at the bow, where her movement is unencumbered by the boat’s contraptions, she sets down the bucket and begins to remove her clothing. It is a sultry night, so she works slowly at her task, peeling off one piece of clothing at a time. She makes a neat little pile that she sets atop a hatch cover several paces away from the bucket.

Her clothing secure from a soaking, she turns and dances toward the bowsprit. Standing in the pulpit, she slowly raises her arms toward the full moon and throws her head back, her long hair tickling its way down her spine. A messenger line is tied to the rail. She takes hold of it for balance as she leans back, lifting one toe above the rail and pointing it skyward, in a nymph ballet with her partner the moon. The heat makes her glisten, her moist skin reflecting moonlight.  If light were hands, then the moon holds her everywhere at once, highlighting her curves.

She starts bathing, making sponging a part of her dance routine. She is alone on her stage, watched by an adoring universe of stars.  And by one dirty old man with a pair of binoculars.

Response to “Alyssa Lies” Song Prompt


Alyssa

by Fay Moore © 2012

The protective services supervisor eyed the stack of telephone and fax referrals on her desk.  There were more than one hundred forms she would have to go through before she could go home. It didn’t matter that the state office dictated she attend meetings all day. The new federal mandates, that tied federal funding for the state’s programs for children to measurable behaviors, said the supervisor had to read all referrals daily and accept or decline a case for investigation before departing for the day.

Ever since the economy tanked, the governor was forced to cut positions in children’s services and other departments to balance budgets. No one working under the supervisor had received a raise in pay in four years. Employees quit frequently. Positions went unfilled due to hiring freezes. Social workers charged with protecting abused children found themselves with caseloads of 30, 40, 50 families. With 40 hours in a typical work week, dysfunctional families were lucky to get 30 minutes of the social worker’s attention. The rest of the time, the social worker was completing government-mandated forms or attending court hearings or documenting treatment plan progress in the case record.

The supervisor glanced at the form in her hands. The information was sketchy at best. An anonymous caller to the hotline said she was worried about the child down the street. The child named Alyssa was thin and seemed sad all the time. She didn’t see the child often. Nevertheless, the caller felt something was wrong. She wanted someone to call on the family to make sure the child was okay.

“There’s not enough here to go on,” said the supervisor. “It doesn’t meet the legal definition of abuse or neglect.” She denied the caller’s request for an investigation.

Interestingly, the next referral form the supervisor read was about the same child. This time the referral came from the school teacher, a mandatory reporter for suspicions of abuse or neglect. The report said a six-year-old girl named Alyssa told a classmate that she was hungry, that she didn’t have breakfast at home. The child qualified for the free lunch program at school. She ate lunch at school daily.  The teacher observed small bruises on the child’s legs and arms. The teacher noted that the bruises could be consistent with active play on the playground at school.

“It’s not a crime to be poor. Her family may not have the money for breakfast. The bruises can be explained,” remarked the supervisor. She felt sorry for the child, but denied the mandatory request for an investigation.

Over the course of a month, a couple more reports were called in on Alyssa, but there was nothing specific that matched the legal criteria to open a case. Each time the vague reports were filed away, the investigation requests denied by the supervisor.

Finally, one Saturday morning, the supervisor sat at home reading the paper as she drank her morning cup of coffee. She flipped to the obituaries to see if there was anyone listed she recognized. There was a short article beside the obituary of a child named Alyssa. The article stated that the police had arrested the child’s father on manslaughter charges after the child died in the local emergency room. Physicians diagnosed the child as dying from complications of starvation.