Flash Frenzy: Round 3

Posted: January 18, 2014 in Flash Frenzy Weekend Flash Challenge
Tags: , , , , ,

Welcome back, friends.

This week’s photo prompt comes to you from deep within the recesses of my couch cushions. I was able to use the spare change to bribe my friend and sometimes muse (good for me, not always so good for him), Jaime Burchardt, to judge this week’s entries.

Before we get started, here’s a brief reminder of the rules.

Deadline: Sunday at 6:00pm MST. You all have 36 hours to create your best work of up to 360 words (exclusive of title) and post it into the comments below. Please include your word count (required) and Twitter handle if applicable. For complete rules, click here.

The winning author and their story will be featured as Wednesday’s Hump-Day Quickie, receive a winner’s page, and be crowned Flash Master of the Week.

Here is your prompt. Have fun!

Photo courtesy Ashwin Rao

Photo by Ashwin Rao

  1. drmagoo says:

    I did not look at the pile on the table, not yet. My world was the silver and scarlet circle in front of me. The blood washed off easily, except in a few places where it had dried in the crevices. Those parts took a little scrubbing, and the dish towel I had appropriated for the task was becoming splotchy. That would never come out, and I made a mental note to get rid of the towel somehow.

    When I finished the last coin, I placed it neatly on the stack and began counting. It didn’t take long – eight quarters, seven dimes, nine nickels, and 17 pennies. I’d killed my husband for three dollars and thirty two cents. I should have done it for free. He’d been asking for it for a long time. The love taps that were more than taps. The times he took me when I was sick or hurting or just not in the mood. The scars on my wrists that I told everyone were the result of depression when I could still see his hands holding the razor, his voice telling me I was no good, until he realized he wasn’t done with me yet and called 911.

    He’d been too smart for me, too smart for too long. I had no money. I had no phone. I didn’t even know how to drive the car – he made sure he only bought manual transmissions, to keep me at home. But today was payday. He’d always shown me how much he brought home – made sure to get his paycheck in cash, just to rub my nose in as he forced me onto the bed. I didn’t know where the rest was. The other seven hundred dollars I was going to use to buy my way to freedom was gone somewhere, and I had three dollars and thirty two cents to my name.

    I pocketed my fortune and walked out the front door. They’d know it was me, anyhow, and there was no point in worrying. But I was free, and it was time to see what I could buy with my newfound wealth. And his gun.

    360 words

  2. David Shakes says:

    ‘ A Farewell to Phlegyas’
    (315 words)
    Dry bones clutch at worn silver, piling coin on coin in modest stacks.
    What else is there to do?
    He tries not to hear the low moans on the opposite shore, concentrates on counting his meagre takings.
    When had he last carried a passenger?
    The coins will not tell. Had they ever had markings to begin with – heads of kings or etched numerals? He can’t recall, but if they had his ceaseless stacking and counting has long since polished them smooth.
    The inky waters lap at the jetty. A single lamp burns at it’s edge.
    Across the river its twin flickers, barely illuminating the gaunt features of the waiting souls.
    Oh, the people he has carried! The trials they have faced! The faces on the coins may have gone but the faces in his memories are clear.
    A thought occurs to him. A rebellious thought. Almost a blasphemy.
    Rising from the table dust billows from his cloak, his bones or the planks beneath him creak in protest at the movement.
    Across the river the multitudes stir. The hopeless fools.
    An age ago they’d all come at once. Some apocalypse whisking them here, surprised and penniless.
    The rules were clear. Without the payment he couldn’t allow them to cross. Even now, despite the rising optimism of the waiting dead he dare not go against the precepts that created his being.
    Is what he plans any less damning? He no longer cares. This, in itself, is a revelation.
    Climbing into the boat, he pushes out. Time upon time he has journeyed to the opposite shore. No longer.
    He turns the bow of the boat downriver and finally follows the current he had always paddled against.
    He raises a skeletal hand and throws two coins into the waiting waters. This is his own fare. The Styx swallows them gladly and its current urges him onward.
    Charon is unbound.

    David Shakes @TheShakes72

  3. David Shakes says:

    Pardon the two typos above folks!

  4. Tinman says:

    A Pocketful Of Rye
    297 words

    The King was in his counting-house, staring gloomily at the four small piles of florins that were all that remained of his once vast fortune.

    The Queen was gone. Today had been the final straw.

    She had stood loyally by his side as cutbacks had been made. The King’s throne had been replaced by a kitchen-chair with a book under one of its legs. The royal coach had been sold to a merchant who hired it out for stag-parties and hen-nights. The court jester had been replaced by a collection of humorously-shaped vegetables.

    The palace guard had once numbered a hundred men, armed with swords and lances. Now the palace guard was precisely that – a single guard, armed with a frying pan.

    The Queen had put up with all of that, but this morning their breakfast pie had been filled with blackbirds. They hadn’t even been cooked properly.

    The Queen had taken one mouthful, then rushed off and thrown up in the garderobe, or possibly the wardrobe, she’d been in too much of a hurry to care which. She was now in The Parlour, the inn in the nearby village, eating bread and honey and chatting up men with large halberds.
    The maid was gone too, after bizarrely being attacked by a blackbird in what was presumably an act of revenge.

    It had all gone wrong because all royalty are related, which is why they have more fingers than toes. One of the King’s cousins was a Nigerian Prince, who had promised him a generous reward if the King would give him the keys of his counting-house so that the Prince could hide his money there from his enemies for a few days.

    Well, blood is thicker than water, and sadly the King was thicker than both.

  5. Amy Wood says:

    349 words

    No Escaping the Future

    “Cross my palm with silver.” The crone glanced up at me from beneath her numerous veils and smiled. I shuddered. It was a death’s head smile, all teeth and no warmth.

    “Don’t try and sucker me in with any of those old lines,” I said, trying to sound off-hand and nonchalant. “You sound like you’re in a bad movie.”

    “Either way,” the old woman shrugged, “you want to know the future, you have to pay for it first.”

    “No such thing as a free lunch, eh?” I muttered, but handed her the money. “Fine, there’s your fee, now tell me what I want to know.”

    A wizened old claw reached out and turned my palm up. I sank my teeth into the soft skin inside my mouth and struggled not to snatch my hand back. Papery and wrinkled, I swore her skin crackled as she moved.

    She traced a razor-like nail down one long line on my palm and muttered something incomprehensible to herself.

    “Well?” I asked, again trying for unconcerned and only achieving worried. “What can you see?”

    “The truth,” the old woman replied.

    “And?” I prompted.

    My palm was abruptly turned back down to lie flush against the table.

    “You don’t need me to tell you you’re a dead man,” the old woman said. “What do you want to hear? That you’ll make a miraculous recovery and live a good long life?” She sneered and leaned back in her rickety chair. “You’re a fool if you do.”

    The fear which had gripped me since the doctor faced me with that terrifyingly sympathetic look on his face, eased somewhat. I wouldn’t recover and I wouldn’t live much longer, as much as I wanted to. I suppose I’d always known that, ever since the diagnosis, but hearing it said so baldly really rammed it home.

    “Don’t be afraid,” she said, suddenly just a kindly old woman. “Death’s nothing to fear. It comes to everyone, it’s just another step we have to take.”

    I smiled. Maybe she was right. I was dying but damned if I’d die afraid.

  6. Kristen says:

    Kristen Falso-Capaldi
    317 words

    I grasped the handful of coins and threw them at him. Most of them missed him, but one bounced off the right lens of his glasses. He just stood there looking at me. It wasn’t dignified, I knew that, but when you’re feeding money into a soda machine, and this guy is telling you that the world has ended and there is nothing more he can do for you, your dignity is fried. So, I threw the coins, hard. And good thing for him that he had the glasses on, because he might’ve been blind.

    After that, my legs give out and there is the sound of change hitting a dirty tile floor and the sound of a full aluminum can landing with a thump into the compartment below and the sound of my back in the wrong t-shirt, the one I slept in, sliding against a Coca Cola logo superimposed on a giant, red, ice-covered can.

    I don’t even like soda.

    “This is happening,” I tell myself, over and over.

    I look at his shoes, these stupid, brown, boring shoes, and the scattered change all over the floor. He’s twenty-five or something, and he doesn’t make a move or a sound, except those horrible shoes shift a fraction of an inch. And I think, “He’s so young. He’s uncomfortable. This must be so hard for him.”

    I think he says “I’m sorry,” or maybe it is me who says it. Either way the shoes pivot and retreat, and I am left staring at a bunch of coins on a beat-up hospital floor.

    And I think about all that has to be done. Calls to make and arrangements, and oh God, the stench of flowers.

    And how it should’ve happened somewhere more profound.

    You shouldn’t find out that you are a widow while you are buying a soda.

    It shouldn’t be so ordinary.

  7. Loving Grandma

    335 words

    The coins on the bedside table, like thirty pieces of silver. The room was how I remembered. No posters on the wall, no ornaments, plain like a budget rate hotel. Had I really spent time here? I wanted to look under the bed, pull out the cardboard box, and face my demons.

    “You ok up there?”

    “Fine Granddad, just reminiscing”

    “Don’t be too long I’m making tea”

    I remembered Grandma tutting every time I went to put a poster of some boy band on my bedroom wall. She said it would mark the wallpaper, ruin it and she couldn’t afford to replace it. She didn’t like it when I put little trinkets on the chest of drawers moaned they were dust catchers. I could see Grandma with those piecing blue eyes staring at me in the doorway yelling “I’m not here to clean up after you” but she’d been dead for nigh on six years.

    Her funeral was a big affair, plenty of tears, huge wreaths and a rousing eulogy. The woman in the coffin they were describing wasn’t my mean spirited Grandma. My blonde waist length hair hid my smiles of disbelief and mirth. I held Granddad’s arm when his body shook with grief. I was sure he would soon find another Grandma to marry and live happily ever after. That bit I’d got wrong. He told me later there was no woman alive that could fill Grandma’s shoes nor sleep on her side of the bed.

    “You ok love?”

    “Fine Grandad, just remembering Grandma”

    “You were so good with her love, sorting her medicines, making sure she took them correctly. Doctor could never understand why she took so poorly when she did. And you a Doctor now yourself, your Grandma would be so proud of you”. His eyes glistened with unshed tears.

    I’d studied hard especially the gerontology units. Amazing how a normal dose could be too high for the elderly. Scooping up the coins I hoped Grandma was proud of me too.

  8. Michael’s Birthday

    Sheila sat by the café window, nursing her lukewarm coffee, making it last. The snotty waitress glared at her, but so long as the coffee remained, she was a paying customer.

    She turned away, watching the taxis grind through the wet dawn, wishing she could just jump one and see how far her tips would take her. Then she thought of Michael getting himself ready for school, making a packed lunch with whatever he could find, wondering if she’d forgotten what day it was.

    She sighed, took a careful sip from her chipped mug, then emptied her tips onto the table to count; it didn’t take long. She’d been on the main bar all night, serving countless leering, lecherous pissheads, and all she had to show for it was seven quid. Even with the little dole she’d saved, it wouldn’t be enough. A cheap cake, a few balloons and a card left a tenner for presents, providing she lived on fresh air till next Wednesday.

    Sipping miserly, she stacked up the coins and considered her options.

    Stack one. Do nothing, and let the boy down again.

    Stack two. Go to the newsagent’s across the road, where Ali was just opening up. Risk seven quid on scratchcards and pray to someone bigger for help.

    Stack three. Call Lucas, see if he needed company. It wouldn’t be that bad, this time, if he was sober. She wouldn’t make it home to see Michael off to school, but she’d be there when he got back, surprise him with a real Lego set instead of that Masterbuilder rubbish she got him for Christmas. Probably even have enough left for a takeaway dinner.

    “You could put yourself through that,” she thought, “for Michael’s sake. Or you could risk what you do have on a blind chance. Or you could go home, wake him up with his breakfast made and hope that he understands that there’s not much more than that.”

    She raised her mug, deep in thought, then realised that she’d emptied it.

    Decision time then.

    She swept the coins from the table, dumped them jangling into her pocket, then walked out into the rain.

    360 words

  9. D’oh! – She *thought* of course…

  10. A J Walker says:

    by A J Walker

    The lager never tasted of anything, it didn’t need to. It was just part of the nightly ritual – one quick one, one slow one at the dive before facing the glum reality of home. I didn’t want to get drunk, it was just the daily pause between the stress of a nothing job and being at the house. The dive bar felt more home than the house ever since Michelle had died.

    ‘Cheers love,’ I said to Jill the midweek barmaid. She just nodded as I left.

    It had been a particularly bad day and the drinks would need to be many to change that.

    When I got home I went straight to the fridge. It was a school night but I needed something more today.

    Underneath a soggy lettuce there were some cans from some age past. They’d probably been there a year, may even have been bought by Michelle on her last shop.

    When I sat down the empty room looked different, like someone had been in and moved something. Unless I’d had a very particular burglar though no-one had been in.

    I noticed the precarious piles of dimes on the table.I must have absently put them there in the morning, but I couldn’t recall or think why. Late evening sun was streaming through the rough silver columns producing long shadows, spreading like fingers grabbing at the corner of the oak table.

    The last night we’d spent together we’d played cards on this table. Measuring our luck and judgement with these piles of silver. She’d cleaned me out, though it all went back in the jar at the end of the night. Our house tokens for a little bit of midweek fun.

    She’d knocked the table and sent them into the deep messy rug. Even now when I found change on the floor I’d wonder if it was a coin Michelle had spilt that night.

    Now these silver piles weren’t priceless tokens for me to play with. The coins were telling me what I’d lost. I kicked the table over and a dollars worth of small change went flying, another echo from last year.

    357 words @zevonesque

  11. ladyhazmat says:

    And that’s a wrap for Flash Frenzy Round 3! Thanks to everyone who contributed a story. Stay tuned for results from Judge Jaime Buchardt!

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