Category Archives: Flash Fiction Friday

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3-Apr-2020

A sassy aunt and a dead cat at the museum

Rain pattered down on the crown of Arlene’s clear umbrella. Little streams ran off of the spokes, creating a downpour around her. Her sneakers slapped on the cement stairs in a slow cadence. Gina, her niece, ran ahead, covering her long, curled hair with the flannel shirt she’d been wearing.

Arlene sighed and followed. By the time she got to the door, Gina had put her flannel shirt on over her tank top, tied the bottom corners together and was smiling broadly at a young man standing nearby. “What are you doing here today?” Gina asked.

The ginger boy, who smiled broadly, nodded. “I came to see the chandelier.” He jerked a thumb over his shoulder to indicate the twenty . I love musicals.”

Gina’s expression grew sour. “Oh.” She immediately moved to the door and opened it. “Come on, Aunt Arlene.”

The poor boy looked crestfallen, and Arlene leaned in as she went by him. “She hates anything that has to do with culture. Trust me, it’s better this way.”

The entryway to the museum rose before them, three stories high, open, and full of wonders cascading down from the ceiling and up from the floor.

Arlene waved at the man at the desk. “Morning, Gerry.”

He gave her a smile. “Morning, Arlene. Where are you off to today?”

“The botanical garden. Did you get your wife flowers, like I suggested?”

“Yes, ma’am. It worked like a charm.”

“Good fellow.”

He waved Arlene and Gina in.

Gina had her phone out, taking pictures of herself with a dinosaur skeleton in the background.

“We talked about this,” Arlene said.

Gina sighed and typed on her screen for a moment before rolling her eyes and dramatically slipping her phone into the back pocket of her jeans. “Let’s get this over with.”

Arlene followed Gina as the teenager stomped off toward the gardens. “You brought your homework, didn’t you?” she asked in the girl’s wake.

“It’s on my phone,” Gina said without looking back.

“Good morning, Stan,” Arlene said to the old, skinny janitor. “How are your hands?”

He flexed them. “Not bad.”

“Have you been using that cream every night?”

“Nearly every night.”

Arlene held up a finger and waggled it back and forth. “Every night.”

“So you said.”

Gina was already inside when Arlene reached the door to the garden. She moved in through the first door, let it shut, then went in the second door.

Warm air caressed Arlene’s skin. The scent of dirt and plants filled her nostrils. Moisture hung in the air. She could see the clouds through the glass, domed ceiling.

“Which way to the herbs?” Gina, who stood with her arms folded across her stomach, asked.

Arlene narrowed her eyes as she saw a section of the gardens that had been closed. “Hold on a minute.”

Gina let out an exasperated groan. “Come on, Aunt Arlene, can we get this done?”

“In a minute, dear.” Arlene moved toward the portable white, picket fence that stopped her from going into the local flower section. The path curved, and Arlene could see three people standing over a prone cat.

“Whoa, is that cat dead?” Gina’s phone appeared in her hand, and she began taking pictures.

One of the museum employees noticed them and came over.

“Elyse,” Arlene said. “How’s your puppy? Still chewing everything?”

“Of course.” The tall, thin woman wore a blue staff uniform.

“What’s going on?” Arlene asked, pointing.

“Someone left a dead cat in here,” Elyse said. “We’re just cleaning it up.” She shot a frown at Gina. “Should only be a few minutes.”

“How did the cat die?” Arlene asked.

“No visible signs of distress, but who knows. People are sick.” Elyse gestured behind Arlene. “Please, explore the other side of the gardens.”

“Of course,” Arlene smiled. She and Gina turned and walked the other way. Something wasn’t right. Arlene could feel it.

“About time,” Gina said.

They made it halfway to the herbs, when Arlene stopped at a bench and sat.

“I’m going on ahead,” Gina said.

Arlene could almost tell what was wrong, but not quite. Her brain tugged at her. “Let me see your phone.”

“I’m not taking selfies.” Gina held the device close to her chest.

“I need to see something. Show me the pictures you just took.”

“Why?”

The whine in her words made Arlene sit up straighter. “Now.”

“Fine,” Gina huffed and handed her phone over.

Arlene began to scroll through the photos. When she got to the one she wanted, she tried to zoom in, but only succeeded in turning the picture on its side. She put her glasses on, and still couldn’t see what she wanted. “How do I zoom in?”

“Like this.” Gina did the right thing with her fingers, and the plants in the background of the photo came into focus.

Arlene eyed the pink flowers. “Ah, I thought so.”

“You thought what?” Gina asked.

Arlene handed Gina her phone, stood and walked back toward the dead cat.

“What did you see?” Gina ran to her side. “Tell me.”

Arlene held up a hand. When she got to the picket fence she waved Elyse over.

The woman pursed her lips and approached.

“No one murdered that cat. It ate some of the Azalea flowers.” Arlene pointed. “They’re poisonous to cats.”

Elyse frowned. “Are you sure?”

Gina held up her phone, which now displayed headings for at least ten articles about plants toxic to cats. “It says so right here.”

“Tell your people to keep the cats out of here.” Arlene gave Elyse a nod, then turned to Gina. “Come, let’s get your herb homework finished.”

***
This one turned out better than I anticipated!
Genre – Gardner Mystery
Character – An old wise aunt who lacks a filter and is always giving advice
Setting – A Natural History Museum’s botanical gardens
Random Object – Swinging chandelier that was used in the original performance of Phantom of the Opera


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27-Mar-2020

A murder, a ghost, and a desperate man.

Herman glanced at Jacob, noticed his relaxed posture—leaning back on the settee in an easy manner with his legs crossed—and copied the other man’s position.

It felt odd to slouch, even the smallest bit, but Herman endured the wrongness about it and gave Miss Marie Axton his most practiced smile.

Miss Axton gave him a slight nod, her blond curls bouncing at the side of her face, before turning her attention back to Father Lester.

The good father wore his traditional religious attire of a long black tunic and white collar. He had dragged a small table into the middle of the room. The clawed feet carved clean lines through the dust on the floor. He spoke in a deep, rumbling voice, that contrasted his meek appearance. “We are here to find the murderer of Abigale Rose.”

The words vibrated through the air, and Herman shivered. He glanced beyond the small circle of furniture to where the rest of the house lay under large sheets and spider webs. Dust hung in the air, coating his tongue and muffling the sunlight coming in through the single window they had uncurtained.

Jacob shifted a little, and kept his eyes locked on nothing. Miss Axton smoothed her skirts. The other two women in the room put their hands over their mouths. One let out a little squeak.

Father Lester reached deep into his black tunic to retrieve a long, wooden spoon, which he then lay on the table. Then he dropped to his knees, and began to pray silently.

Herman caught Miss Axton’s gaze over the father’s head. “How was your Christmas holiday?”

Her blue eyes went wide. Her lips moved once, but she closed them and started again.

She’s certainly struck by my sincere inquiry, Herman thought. How could she not be?

“Shhh,” Jacob hissed along with shooting Herman a scowl.

Herman smiled and nodded, and kept his eyes on Miss Axton. “I heard you went to town?”

She gave him a single nod.

Was she blushing?

Herman kept the satisfied smile from his lips.

“Have you no respect?” one of the other girls asked in a harsh whisper.

Father Lester’s booming voice overcame all other sound. “Abigale Rose. One year ago today your life was taken by a fiend and a villain. One of such brutality that their very existence is offensive to the heavens and the earth.”

A shiver ran up Herman’s spine. Miss Axton’s face turned an ashen gray. Jacob shifted again, and a frown creased his lips.

The other two women looked around as if expecting the fiend to snatch them next.

Herman opened his mouth to speak words of comfort to Miss Axton, but Father Lester interrupted.

“Abigale Rose, we are here to sooth your soul. If any in this room were involved with your death, point the spoon toward them.”

The group, less Herman, took a collective breath. Silence fell like a blanket. The slight gasp one of the other girls let out in response to nothing at all, seemed the loudest thing they had ever heard.

Herman had been in the sitting room with several ladies at the party, not near Abigale, who had only invited him after he had promised not to speak to her. He had nothing to fear from her ghost.

So he caught Miss Axton’s brilliant blue eyes, the shade of which matched the summer day outside, and spoke. “How are your parents?”

Father Lester didn’t move a muscle, but a silent command to be still seemed to push into Herman’s mind.

Herman did not allow any distress to show on his face, but raised his eyebrows in silent expectation of Miss Axton’s answer. Her lovely face had drained of all color, drawing out the beauty of her eyes.

The spoon twitched.

“I’m not feeling well,” Miss Axton said. She locked gazes with Herman. “Perhaps Mr. Norton would be willing to escort me outside.”

Herman beamed. She had finally submitted to her feelings. “Of course.” He started to rise, but stopped when Father Lester threw out a hand. A heavy weight fell on Herman’s shoulders, and he collapsed back to the settee.

Miss Axton’s jaw dropped open, as she too was pressed down.

The spoon began to turn. Slowly. First at Jacob, then one of the other girls. It took so long to do so, that both of the other girls began to scream, and continued to scream as the spoon moved past each one of them and to Herman.

Herman sighed.

Everyone in the room looked at him with fear.

He waited.

The spoon did not slow as it went past him.

Past him and then settled on Miss Axton.

She let out a little squeak.

Herman wanted to go to her, she needed comfort, but the same pressure that had reseated him, kept him in place. His own eyes turned to the spoon, and he frowned when it floated off the surface of the table.

“Miss Axton had something to do with your murder?” Father Lester asked. Tap once for no, and twice for yes.

The wide end of the spoon hit the table once, the sound dying in the circle of people.

Miss Axton put a hand on her breast and sighed in relief.

Tap.

“No,” Miss Axton whispered. “I didn’t do anything…” Her voice trailed off as the spoon came toward her. Floating. Accusing. Not wavering its course.

“No,” Herman said. Miss Axton was the last woman in town who had not rejected him. She had to be the one.

Father Lester stood. His eyes blazed red. “Miss Axton, confess, or we will force a confession.”

Miss Axton burst into tears. Sobs. Gibberish.

The invisible hand holding him relented, and he slouched back.

The other girls began to wail.

Without thinking, Herman reached out and patted one of their hands. “There, there.”

When the fingers grabbed onto his, Herman smiled. Perhaps there was hope.

***
I admit, I giggled while writing this one. Also, I had to look up who DeVerl was in The Single’s Ward. There’s not much on him, but needless to say he’s desperate to find a girl, and not very smooth with his approaches.

Genre – Historical Murder Mystery
Character – DeVerl’s Doppleganger from The Singles Ward movie
Setting – Haunted House
Random Object – Wooden Spoon


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20-Mar-2020

The Purple Man is Creepy.

I don’t like him.

Long ago, when the world was dark, someone invented light.

Not the sun and the moon in the sky. Not even the glow that came from fire. No. This light was different.

It was contained in a small, glass orb, and could bring illumination to a place without gas or fire or the sun.

The light spread quickly, giving safety and peace wherever it went.

During this time, the Purple Man lived.

Neither his hair nor his skin was purple. No, he liked to wear purple.

Purple waist coat. Purple trousers. Purple shirt. Purple cravat or tie. Purple buttons. Even purple socks.

All different shades of purple.

But his shoes he left white. So white that they gleamed in any light, but most especially in the globes of light. And with such hard soles that they clicked wherever he walked.

His short, pointed goatee matched his shoes, as did his white hair that sat under his, you guessed it, purple hat.

The Purple Man—no one called him anything different—bought an old courthouse. He hired men and machine to tear it down to the foundation and build it again. Only instead of using bricks, he used metal.

He called it the Heavy Metal Theater, because the whole place was made of, well, metal.

People are curious, so they flocked to the theater to see the spectacles that the Purple Man promised: musicians, freaks of nature, astounding acrobatics, and the lights.

Each night the crowds would file into the metal lobby, follow the long red rug to the theater, then be escorted to their cold, metal seats that creaked when the bottom hinged down so they could sit.

The Purple Man rented purple cushions for the seats for a mere penny a piece.

Once the crowd settled, the Purple Man would welcome them. Pacing across the stage, clicking his shoes on the metal surface, and introducing the act for the evening.

As he did so, he looked at his guests. Met each of their eyes. As if extending them a very personal welcome.

Instead, he was looking for a certain someone.

A certain someone who had swindled him out of an arm.

Not his own arm. Certainly not, they were still quite attached.

No, this was a fake arm that his grandmother, Dorothy, had procured during a séance. Someone had stolen it from her, and the Purple Man wanted it back.

Needed it back.

Whomever had taken a fake arm would be drawn to the unusual, the Purple Man had mused, which is why he had started the Heavy Metal Theater. Everything about it was unusual. People loved what made them a little uncomfortable.

After almost a year of shows, the thief finally appeared.

She wore a beautiful red dress and held the arm of a man in stylish clothing that was usually seen on the very rich. One of her arms was very stiff, and covered to the tips of her fingers.

The Purple Man went through his routine, meeting everyone’s gaze, and marking where the couple sat. He made certain the won a contest for a free show the next week, and began to plan.

He needed to get that arm back, and couldn’t get caught in the act of stealing it. So he came up with a plan so dastardly that the devil himself would be green with envy.

When the couple returned the next week, the Purple Man was ready. He gave them front row seats and instructed the magicians to use her in their tricks.

A slight panic filled him when at first she refused, but the magician gallantly entreated her, and her companion urged her to participate. The Purple Man breathed a sigh of relief as she walked up on stage.

The trick was simple. Hypnotize her, levitate her, put her back down, and wake her up.

She would never know the arm had been switched.

The Purple Man waited under the stage, and the moment a dummy replaced the woman, he rushed to her prone form. His assistants helped get the old arm off and the new arm on.

The woman groaned in pain, but did not wake up.

The Purple Man held the arm close to his chest until she was once again raised back onto the stage.

His assistants looked at him with hope-filed eyes.

The arm, on sensing him, had warmed, and he could feel the power thrumming through it.

He gave his minions a nod. “We have it.”

They smiled.

Now they could go home.

***

This one is a stretch, but it’s all I could come up with! It’s more like a Doctor Who Episode than a Fairy Tale Retelling. Oops.

Genre – Fairy Tale Retelling in the Early 1900s

Character – The Purple Man

Setting – Courthouse Converted into a Heavy Metal Venue

Random Object – Prosthetic Arm Dorothy Won Off Another Resident in a Poker Game


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13-Mar-2020

When old people get bored, find a spell book, and use it.

You’ve never seen comedy until you’ve seen an entire busload of assisted living gamblers trying to get off of their bus, find their luggage and get inside the casino.

No, really. Either they can’t hear or they can’t see. Or both. It’s inevitable that one of the men will be trying to impress one of the ladies by shouting at her to find out which bag is hers.

And why is it that except for the one suitcase that’s glittery red, they all have black bags? Not only that, they somehow all bought the same bright yellow luggage tags.

Usually I sit and watch them come in. The best are those who are return customers. They think they know what they’re doing, but they usually forget an important step. Like pants, or their oxygen tank.

I do have a favorite couple. He’s hunched over and walks with a cane. He always wears a different plaid suit. His wife of something like sixty-five years, holds on to his arm as they shuffle up the handicap ramp for ten minutes before reaching the hotel. She’s always got a huge hat on, that he makes fun of her for. She laughs, pats his hand and tells him someone has to compete with his suits.

They’re adorable.

Today’s bus pulls up, and the door pops open with a hiss. The assisted living center director jogs down the stairs and the driver follows. It will take another couple of minutes before the first patron makes it down.

I lick my lips, wiggle my whiskers, and shift my weight. It’s blazing hot out, and I’ve taken refuge under the steps to wait for my prey.

The last thing I thought would happen after I got squished by a farmer with his shovel was waking up again. Not only that, I was sentient.

I tell you what, old people have too much time on their hands. My masters—the Underground Geriatric Bingo Mobsters—had brought me back to life as a joke. Just to see if they could do it. The spell caster said she got the book for her granddaughter because it had pretty pictures in it, then realized it had spells in it, and she started to dabble.

I’m the only undead in their arsenal, but they’ve got plenty of other tricks up their sleeves. Or, more appropriately, in their walker pockets. One man has every single herb needed for ever spell in that book in little plastic bags in his walker.

Can he read the labels on them?

No.

Can he get them open?

No.

But he has them, which gives him some sort of power, and he really likes power.

The other men say he never wore the pants in his family, but not when he’s around.

I narrow my eyes and the bus empties, and droves of old people walk back and forth trying to remember what their luggage looks like.

There he is.

The man my masters had told me to trip up.

Apparently he’d somehow cheated their precious bingo game—not idea how anyone as idiotic as this guy could do that—and they wanted him gone.

If I don’t obey they’ll burn my heart and kill me…blah, blah, blah. I’m not sure that would actually work, but whatever. They feed me and I do what they say. Better than my first life.

I keep telling my masters that I’m a gopher. I dig holes. But the parking lot is solid asphalt. Sure, I could get under it and dig out, but it would take a while, and the hotel people keep it nice and smooth, to avoid something called getting sued.

So I have to improvise.

I wait until they’re all milling about and the director begins rubbing the bridge of her nose, before I slink out from below the stairs.

The sun is high, so I’m quite visible, but their blindness works against me, and most of them think I’m a cat.

“Oh, look at the kitty.”

“Good kitty, come here.”

Hands reach down to pet me.

Someone offers me a dog treat. I take it. Why not.

“What is that?” the director asks.

“The hotel’s cat.”

I stay near the middle of the pack, avoiding the director, until I reach my target. I rub up against his leg, pretending to care.

He wiggles his leg. An indication I should leave him alone.

As any self-respecting cat would, I go for his other leg.

“Get off,” the man says in a grouchy voice.

I grin and go between his legs, pushing him a little as I do so.

He leans, and stumbles a bit.

I press harder, and I’m about to go through his feet again when something hard and flat smacks me on the back.

“Get away!” a woman shrieks.

Pain doesn’t register like it used to, but I felt something. I turn to hiss at the woman, and find a blubbery arm holding a flat spatula with three lines cut out of it. The woman glares at me in righteous anger.

“He’s allergic to cats. Get back!”

Allergic? Seriously? The spatula comes at me again, but I dodge. And I hiss.

The man shrinks back.

I ram him with my head, taking a glancing blow from the spatula, and then dart off.

The man finally falls.

The woman glares at me.

I smell burning, and look at my back. My fur is charred in three perfect stripes. I glare back at the woman. Only magic can hurt me.

Looks like the Underground Geriatric Bingo Mobsters have some competition.

***

Seriously? Who came up with these entries???

Genre – Underground Geriatric Bingo Mobsters

Character – A Zombie Gopher

Setting – The Fun Bus to Wendover with a whole assisted living group of gamblers

Random Object – Spatula


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