Tag Archives: sudden fiction

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.

Justice, Part Two


Asklotta requested I write Part 2 to 8/23/2012’s short story “Justice.” Your wish, Asklotta, is my command.

I went hunting for inspiration and found it on www.zerohedge.com in Tyler Durden’s 8/23/2012 post titled “JPM’s London Whale May Face Jail Time for Mismarking Billions in CDS.” I hope you enjoy another installment of “Justice.”

Justice: Part Two

by Fay Moore © 2012

 On the 20th floor, night’s blackness is arriving without a sound. Reds, purples and oranges chase the sun out of sight beyond J.R.’s office window.

Late nights are de rigueur at the Wall Street firm, so an analyst knows where to find J. R. when the after-hours news comes across the wire. J. R. is in his office, as expected. Unexpectedly, J. R. is in front of his desk when the subordinate knocks on the jamb of the open office door. The boss is striding back and forth atop a broad gilded stripe on the carpet, as if the line is a runway and his feet, the plane flown by a pilot practicing incessant touch-and-go landings.

The underling centers himself inside the door frame, lowers his eyes and waits politely. J. R. makes two more passes in front of the desk before acknowledging the interruption.

Can’t you see I’m busy?”

You asked me to let you know if anything hit the alternative news wires. Something is up on ZeroHedge.”

The boss swears under his breath and heads for his desk. He grabs the arm of the executive desk chair forcefully, rolling it backwards, and jumps into the leather seat, driving the rolling chair forward. The ricochet reminds the subordinate of the lethal motion of a pistol slide.

The Internet article says J. R., as chief executive officer, and his firm are in trouble: in addition to the uncomfortable news of the firm’s suffering massive losses for the quarter, now comes an accusation that players in the firm engage in criminal mismarking of credit default swaps to boost reported profits with the intent to defraud shareholders and investors.

J. R. knows that regulators are three years behind in following up allegations of wrong-doing. A bigger threat, in the form of bad press, comes from self-appointed enforcers outside the establishment. Envious or angry insiders leak damaging information into the alternative news channels. Internet-based sleuths are busy lifting carpet corners, shining light on hidden filth missed by lazy, stupid or blind regulators. Going from trickles to torrents,  the news leaks push J. R. to make admissions about the bad behavior of the London-based trading office, and name names of guilty parties. To cover his own ass, he denies foreknowledge of the crimes. Then there’s the LIBOR scandal, to which J. R.’s firm is a party–if not directly, then by association.

J. R. belongs to the You-scratch-my-back-and-I’ll-scratch-yours Boy’s Club where men help each other evade the law, at least, and commit horrific crimes, at most.

The executive admits to himself that the media snowball is rolling downhill and growing out of control. The bad news, that came in monthly dribs and drabs of disjointed factoids in the beginning,  is coming faster and faster now; from monthly leaks to weekly to daily to hourly ones.  At first, J. R.’s smooth spin paints the Internet newsmongers as “nutters” chasing phantoms. J. R. is a master at disconnecting the dots. His executive board loves him for that quality. But now the fouling of the firm is overwhelming. The big question at the top is who is going down?

J. R. is waiting for a call from his criminal defense lawyer. That’s why he was pacing when the associate showed up in his office doorway. He needs the legal firm’s resources to manufacture an escape route that will keep him alive and functioning. He is trying to keep his neck out of the noose.

The television mounted on his office wall—the one that is always on and tuned to the financial news network with the prettiest broadcasters–sounds a bell. For some odd reason, J. R. mistakes the sound for the peal of the early warning system. He looks up at the screen. The announcer speaks. The news rattles him. The former head of a competing firm is dead, shot today by an unidentified gunman while he and his wife are vacationing in the south of France.

In the middle of a sentence, the broadcaster stops speaking, pressing his finger against the device in his ear.

After a pause, the reporter says, “We have breaking news. The shooting appears to be an assassination. A source inside French law enforcement says the shooting has all the hallmarks of a professional hit. We’ll bring you the details as soon as we know more.”

A professional hit? By whom?” the underling asks his boss.

I don’t know,” he answers, his voice quieter than normal. “Look, I have a call to make. Thanks for telling me about the ZeroHedge thing. That’s all for now.” J. R. walks the man toward the door, shutting the door behind him.

He calls his lawyer again and gets the receptionist.

He identifies himself to her, then says, “This is urgent. I need my attorney now.”

The barrister’s paralegal comes on the line. He recognizes the investment banker’s voice. J. R. gets to the point.

I don’t know if you’ve heard the latest. I fear someone is targeting investment bankers.”

Yes, I heard the French news.”

“Then you understand. I need protection, and I need it tonight. I don’t know who is behind the threat, but. . . .”

A bullet breaks through the office window glass, striking J. R. in the back of the head and blowing a gaping hole in his frontal lobe as the projectile exits the skull. As J. R. falls, a tinny voice calls through the small speaker of the phone.

Hello? Hello?”

In a moment, the line goes dead.

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.”