Janine wasn’t sure when she first started to go mad. It was either the cut carrots calling out, or the parsnips pleading as the oven heated up to roasting speed. She’d been a vegetarian for decades. A vegan ever since her wedding to Tom, the variety artist. But although he joked that while “meat is murder, but fish is justifiable homicide” he had honoured her wishes to not eat dead animal for the unhappiness of their short marriage.
Janine knew Tom had married for money, but he had always quietly respected her “life choices.” (She imagined him bunny earring the quotes.) and had foresworn the flesh.
So, when the carrots anguished their burns as they boiled, then bathed in butter, and the parsnips screamed to not be ovened, she snapped.
The potatoes remained half mashed, bewailing their half dead. She could not eat. Tom took over, and was sympathy itself. No, he had not heard voices. It must be all the stress of recent days getting to her, mustn’t it? Would she like soup, or a smoothie? Janine could only picture fruit screaming bloody in the blender.
When the police came at the insistence of the ambulance crew, who could not believe a grown woman would willingly starve herself in her own home, the Detective Sergeant was non-plussed, especially when his boss insisted they arrest the husband, even though there was no evidence of incarceration or abuse. The Inspector looked his underling in the eye. “He’s a ventriloquist, Danny. Now book him!”
Alissa Leonard has created the “Finish That Thought” Flash Fiction compo, which usually provides an opening line and some ‘special challenge’ words to include, and must be less than 500 words. This week’s compo opening line was “Three strangers appeared on my [doorstep], and in their [hands] they brought death.” and the judge’s special challenge from the judge was to: “Include at least THREE of the following literary characters: Edward Rochester, Jo March, Harry Potter, Anne Shirley, Sherlock Holmes, Katniss Everdeen, Dracula, Miss Havisham, Rhett Butler, Lucy Pevensie, Gandalf the Grey.”
I didn’t have much time this week, but wanted to put something in, even if it was short, because it has been SO long since I last wrote something. This is my story, but please check out the original submission and read other entries.
Fifty Shades of (Gandalf the) Grey (500 Words)
By Dr. Mike Reddy @DoctorMikeReddy
Three strangers appeared on my doorstep, and in their hands they brought death. This particular death, as any fan boy/girl will tell you, was the worst of all.
“Miss Antrim? Miss Sally Antrim?” the first suit asked. I nodded, then mumbled “Ms…”
“Mzzz Antrim, we represent the various publishers, Scholastic, Bloomsbury, BBC Books and Harper Collins. I have here a cease and desist letter from our clients.”
Normally, “C+Ds” were clean strikes like an Internet transmitted smart bomb. I clumsily received the document and opened the envelope. It must have only recently been sealed; I made a mental note to put it in the reusable pile.
“We, the above… remove references pertaining to… Hogwarts, Panem, Moria… Sherlock Holmes…” I looked up, confused. “Isn’t Conan Doyle’s…”
“Not the Cumberbatch version, dear. Only the early stuff is public domain.” the second suit interrupted. The third shrugged. “Can you sign here.” he pointed to an iPad, and pushed it forward. I squiggled my autograph, long practiced in anticipation of book launches, public appearances and lecture tours.
“Thank you, Mzzz Antrim,” the first man said, “Have a good day.” The three men turned about, insisting that each other go first, then swiftly walked down the garden path, stepping gingerly over the weed strewn cobbles.
They had been gone a few minutes before I realised I was still standing in the open front doorway, in a half soaked bathrobe. A shudder broke the spell, and I hurried inside. Steam coming from the downstairs bathroom recalled my hurry to answer the door, thinking the intrusion another Amazon delivery. Numbly, I cut off the water, and stumbled into the kitchen to make some herbal tea.
“Who was that?” Harry asked, sipping coffee. Black. A little honey to sweeten the bitterness. He could sense my despair. I held out the letter, which floated towards him, bouncing along in time to his flicking wand. Gandalf sighed at the ostentatiousness and snatched it from the air.
“Ho hum… this appears to…” the Wizard began.
“It is obviously a legal document. Judging by the envelope – manila, self-sealing but with no lasting damage to the glue line – so, recently closed… Some disagreement? Negotiation as to how to proceed…? I take it that this is instructions to stop your…” The tall, curly haired man gestured to the other occupants of the kitchen table. “… ‘inspired’ story telling.”
Gandalf coughed his disapproval. “It is as Mr Holmes ‘guessed’”. The taller man snorted, then set about buttering his toast, taking rather more pleasure in scraping his knife than necessary. The Wizard shuddered. He knew the Detective knew he hated that sound.
“I say we go after them, and skin them” Sally heard behind her. An arrow swiftly plucked the letter from the Wizard’s startled fingers and pinned it to the wall. Katniss gripped my shoulders. “You can’t stop writing now. How else will we find out if Sherlock truly loves me?”
Things have been a bit hectic at work, so I haven’t had a chance to record many submissions for #TicckleTuesday. However, responses to a flash fiction podcast have been positive. Watch this space!
What happened to last week? I’m not sure I know! However, a car crash and a hurried trip to Zagreb, Croatia by the wife left me juggling three children with one hand (speaking metaphorically). so, apologies…
Theme this week is “Superstition”, suggested by Jess West (@West1Jess), possibly inspired by my own run of bad luck…
And the image prompt…
… is in your worst imagination…
Go here to post the video or post the text as a comment here or on the FaceBook group.
Things have been a bit hectic at work, so I haven’t had a chance to record many submissions for #TicckleTuesday. However, I’m taking over editing of a board games podcast soon, and wondered whether that format might be a good one for audio versions of flash fiction. Please comment below and tell me what you think.
“An Interview with the Wizard of Stratford”
by Dr. Mike Reddy (@doctormikereddy)
“I know why you are here…” is the first thing Frank says, pulling back the curtain that reveals his work space, but he declines to be photographed for the article. He is a wizened old man, dressed entirely in green; his favourite colour, he confides.
Baum’s farm is dead centre in dust bowl territory, getting hit by tornadoes and dust storms four or five times a year. For other farmers, trying to harvest wheat or raise cattle, these events are devastating. For Frank, the self-styled “Wizard of Stratford”, and his family they are a Godsend.
“So long as the farmhouse survives,” he jokes, “and it don’t end up in Oklahoma! I don’t, by God, want to live in Oklahoma!”
Frank hails from Kansas, another area renowned for tornadoes. His small holding is the sole supplier of industrial grit in the whole of Texas. Others have tried to imitate his success, but don’t have the almost magical Baum gift of harvesting and selling the frequent weather deposits. To be honest, few (if any) really understands who buys his grit, or how he makes money. Frank keeps his customers in the strictest confidence, for obvious reasons. And several attempts at industrial espionage have all failed. Probably due to the Baum Farm being exclusively tended by people of reduced stature: dwarfs, pigmies, midgets and munchkins are all terms used by the ‘normal’ Stratford population..
“These ‘little’ people are fiercely loyal, and ideally suited to harvesting the dust that settles here.” Jim explains, “They drop in all the time to help us send raw material to the Gale Processing Plant in Kansas, were it is environmentally treated before being shipped to its final destination.” Gale’s ecological motto is “Better Beyond the Rainbow”
This link to his Kansas roots in dust farming stretches back to his Great Aunt Dorothy. “A remarkably well travelled adventurer”, Baum fondly describes her. Business must be extremely profitable, judging by the number of exquisite jewelled artefacts on display in the family home.
“Dorothy was always fonder of rubies,” Jim remarks, “but I don’t, by God. Emeralds are my obsession.”
Here is my story:
“All washed up at the Magdalene Laundries”
by Dr. Mike Reddy (@doctormikereddy)
Accounts vary. Reports differ. However, somewhere between ten and thirty thousand ‘fallen’ women lived and worked at the Magdalene Laundries. The Catholic Church dismiss the ‘myths’ of abuse and slavery. The Government does what it always does: take token responsibility for actions taken before most of the politicians were born. Land sales are profitable, but uncover unmarked mass graves. Families (if they exist) care for shattered, institutionalised survivors.
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