Flash Frenzy Round 31

Posted: August 16, 2014 in Flash Frenzy Weekend Flash Challenge
Tags: , , ,

Welcome to Round 31!

This weekend, David Shakes returns to judge your stories.

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.

photo courtesy of TheShakes72

photo courtesy of TheShakes72

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  1. The Bicycle Mission

    Like many in New Orleans, Maria and her son, Jimmy lost everything. When the floodwaters finally receded, their home was gone. There was nothing but debris lying along the banks of the Mississippi and Maria saw many of their belongings lying in ruin amongst the rest. As they moved along, Maria tried to hide her feelings in front of her son. He was only five years old. He didn’t know what it was all about but he could sense things in his mother and he certainly was scared during Hurricane Katrina when the floods came.

    “Mama. There it is. There’s my bicycle,” cried Jimmy.

    “I am so sorry Jimmy. It’s gone. The floods have ruined the bicycle.”

    “Fix it mama. Can’t you fix it mama?”

    “I don’t think I can. It is too damaged.”

    Jimmy began to cry and clung to his mother. Maria lifted him into her arms. He cried all the way back to the shelter and later continued to cry as he went to sleep on his cot. Maria sat up on her cot long after Jimmy slipped into a fitful sleep. She couldn’t stop thinking about the bicycle. To Maria, the bicycle had become a symbol of all their loss.

    The next morning, Maria left Jimmy with another mother and returned to the place where they had seen the broken bicycle. She pulled it out of the dirt and looked around for the missing wheel and seat. She found the seat but after thirty minutes, there was no sign of the wheel. Tired and frustrated, Maria began to drag the bicycle back with her. About a block from the shelter she happened upon a drainage ditch where some children were playing. A small boy was playing with a bicycle wheel. Although he was disappointed, the boy gave up the wheel and ran off with his friends.

    Maria walked the rest of the way back to the shelter. She had so much on her mind. There was so much to do to establish normal life for her little family but she now had a mission. Her son would ride that bicycle again.

    355 words
    @ma_holloway

  2. Emily Street says:

    Better Than Nothing

    by Emily June Street
    @EmilyJuneStreet
    Flash Frenzy Round 31
    357 words

    Cars sat deserted on the highway like monuments to a lost civilization, mocking us with their uselessness. We needed a vehicle badly—Jon’s blister had become a festering welt that bled with every step.

    “There used to be a junkyard east of the highway,” I said. “Remember?”

    Jon did not reply. He hadn’t spoken for thirty-six hours, a tally that edged me toward a meltdown. I could face anything but solitude or silence.

    “We might find a wagon or something there.”

    Jon remained mute.

    We stared down at the once-inhabited valley beyond the highway. Revenants had picked this whole place clean, leaving only the skeletons of our former world drying in the sun. A flag, shredded by claws, hung at half-mast in the town center.

    “Over there.” I pointed toward the junkyard. We scrambled down the hillside, stirring up a visible wake of dust. I shivered. Like birds of prey, Revenants detected even tiny motions from afar.
    I scaled the chained junkyard gate and scanned the area. The creatures could lurk anywhere, but they preferred shade. I saw no shadows.

    Jon clambered over the gate, and we examined the nearest heap.

    “It’s been gleaned already,” I muttered as I threw a rag into a packing crate and kicked a spool of wire at a plastic margarine tub. “Nothing useful.”

    Jon collapsed onto a torn mattress, covering his ashen face with his hands.

    Then I saw it: a battered BMX bike. The chain looked hopelessly rusted and the saddle was missing. I had to reattach the back wheel, but both tires still had air. I put the chain back on the crankset before collecting the crate and the wire that I’d kicked aside. Using tripled strands of wire, I rigged the crate to the bike.

    Jon yanked something from beneath his cushion. A skateboard, all four wheels intact. I scooped remnants of grease from the margarine tub onto the bike’s rusty chain.

    I mounted the bike as Jon slid the skateboard beneath the crate. “You’re in for a bumpy ride.” I expected no answer.

    “It’s better than nothing.” His faint whisper galvanized my tired legs to pedal.

  3. Mark A. King says:

    “The Ambulance Chaser” by Mark A. King
    @Making_Fiction
    358 Words

    The streets of London are paved in gold…or discarded kebab remnants, crushed super-strength cider cans and rat shit.

    My London is both of these things. This other London is something else.

    I walk along the Embankment. There are no cars. Bicycles rule this city. They are everywhere.

    The bridges are full of pungent smoke, hawkers of desires of the skin and street-performers distracting the unwary while the destitute steal their foreign coinage.

    My currency here is as worthless to them as a bicycle with one wheel and no seat. I rely on other methods to get what I want.

    In the blackened haze, the towers claw; conical spires, minarets and vapour-hubs reach skyward I am here they yell, look at me.

    I lurk, I creep, I watch. I wait.

    Ttabharthóir an báis has sent me here, they say it is a god from pagan Ireland, they say it is the collector of death. I ask no questions, it’s easier that way. It has exotic taste, it likes the souls of the dying from this place.

    On the scorched grass, an unexpected opportunity. I take the device and ready it.

    “Help me squire,” the crumbling man croaks at me through opium-filled lungs, “don’t let the Ambulance Men take me.”

    I normally follow the Ambulance Men on their trikes and carts. For food, information, or depravity, they will turn a blind eye while I go about my business. For they only take these people to The Abattoir, it is not personal to them; new ones are easy to find.

    “Hush, my friend, here drink this…”

    I pass him the liquid. He gurgles.

    Wheeze, gurgle, wheeze, gurgle, gur, gu…

    The device captures his thoughts, his life, and his lost potential.

    “Sleep, my friend.” I say to the old man, and now I think about you.

    You might think I’m far away. But I am near. I am waiting.

    Sometimes you sleepwalk through life, not knowing how you arrived at a destination. Sometimes you do things that are out of character. This is when you are falling through the cracks and I can reach you here. See you soon, my friend.

  4. @stellakateT

    Ethel
    (360 words)

    Some bugger had stolen the back wheel of my bike. How was I supposed to get to the farm to collect last weeks wages? My mammy would kill me and I mean kill me. Every penny in our house counted. Dad if he ever worked would spend the money up at The Boar’s Head re-telling the stories of how he got gassed in the trenches and his lungs weren’t up for light manual work let alone anything hard. Mammy, apologising firstly for her vulgarity would say the only gas he ever came into contact with was what left his own body. My granny was fond of saying my
    Mammy was a true lady who married beneath her and it was a miracle that my dad with his diseased lungs could still provide mammy with a baby every year.

    I knew I’d get the blame for the pinched wheel. I shouldn’t have left the bike outside Ethel’s home yesterday. Bet the MacDonald brothers had something to do with it. They hated me courting their younger sister and constantly tried to split us up. Albert, the oldest, was head of the household since his father died at Ypres, he thought I was like my dad a wastrel. Leonard listened to Ethel’s tearful remonstrations when they beat me senseless more than once. He shook my hand but I knew he couldn’t go against Albert.

    I felt hot, angry tears springing to my eyes, the whole of my life tumbling away from me. It was difficult trying to do what was right let alone best for everyone. I pulled my shoulders up straight; for God’s sake I was a man, old enough to fight for his country. Thank God the war to end all wars had ended I only said I was happy to do my duty I wasn’t really. I hated killing a spider let alone a man. But I couldn’t have refused like Stanley; his father had persuaded the authorities that he was needed at home. For the rest of his life Stanley would be sent white feathers and called a coward. I would walk to the farm, show them I’m dependable.

  5. Image Ronin says:

    The Tinkerer

    ‘Police been on the phone love … you want to go?’

    Cedric shook his head, his gaze never lifting up from his workbench. His wife lingered in the shed’s doorway as if there was more to say. Finally his silence had the desired effect and she left, leaving behind the usual scent of Chanel and Marlboro. Moments later and Cedric heard the Astra’s engine splutter into life, the sound of tires reversing out onto the road.

    Cedric put down the screwdriver. In front of him were strewn the innards of the kitchen radio. He didn’t recall taking it apart, or even if it needed to be fixed. If Danny were here now he’d be mocking his efforts, telling him to buy a new one off of ebay, that no one repaired anything these days.

    Wiping his hands on a rag Cedric ventured back into the house. Soon the kettle was boiling, a tea bag dangling in his mug. As he poured the water the phone rang. Cedric reached out, his hand hovering, as if the handset was a coiled serpent waiting to strike. Finally the answering machine kicked in, Danny’s voice cheerfully demanding information after the beep. He should change that, it wasn’t right, tomorrow, tomorrow he’d record a new message.

    The beep, Cedric stood waiting for someone to talk, yet there was only the sound of breathing, then the phone was put down.

    Cedric picked up his mug, retreating back to the shed. The bike was hanging on the wall, as it had been since the police had returned it. The back end crushed, the rear wheel missing. He ran a finger over the crudely scratched marks that Danny had etched into the seat post in case the bike got stolen: DH 12501. Cedric had been so cross with him that day, so hurt that Danny had defaced his gift. They had bickered, stood by the shed, Danny’s face flushed red with resentment at receiving another lecture.

    Then he had left, cycling down the road, head down, pedals turning, disappearing into the grey light rain.

    Cedric retreated back to his bench, trembling fingers rebuilding the radio.

    357 words

    @imageronin

  6. jbertetta says:

    “The First Noble Truth”
    by Joshua Bertetta
    Twitter: @JBertetta
    Word Count: 360

    Contrary to what his father thinks, I taught Little Jonny how to ride a bike; I taught Little Jonny life’s most valuable lesson: balance.

    You wouldn’t know it by looking at me today, but I used to be bright red. Little Jonny named me “Fire Engine” and together we raced through town to wherever the day needed saving. You see, Little Jonny’s parents divorced when he was eight and he, living with his mom, moved out of state. Little Jonny’s father took him to buy a bike that first summer; Little Jonny picked me. That’s when I taught Little Jonny how to ride.

    Little Jonny’s father only stayed a week and well past the training-wheel age, I put my best foot forward and took the initiative to show him the bright side of life. Little Jonny had a tough time making friends and his mom worked two jobs. But he had me and I led him places he would otherwise have just sped by. I took him to those places to show him things, and in showing him things, I taught him about life—the good and the bad. That’s how I taught him balance.

    Little Jonny, of course, grew older and on his 16th birthday, his father bought him a car. All of a sudden Jonny made lots of friends—“friends” who used to pick on him and made him cry. He even landed a girlfriend. Needless to say, Jonny lost his “Little” and he didn’t need me anymore. Propped up against the side of the house, I’d see him pull into the driveway. Those first few weeks I was excited to see him, hoping I could take him out for a spin. But he ignored me. Rain battered, cooked in the sun, I waited and waited and waited. I rusted; my paint split and once, he gave his friend’s little brother one of my tires.

    I taught Jonny balance. I was the one who led Little Jonny places. Now, with Jonny at the driver’s seat, his hands upon the wheel, he went to the places he wanted to go. And who needs balance when you have four wheels?

  7. Voima Oy says:

    The Lakeview
    @voimaoy
    356 words

    First, she got the job, then she found the apartment in the rehabbed six-flat. There was a sunporch with bay windows. It was a great location, close to the lake, and she could watch the sunrise in the morning. She was even thinking of getting a bike.

    This was one of those borderline areas, where crossing a street changed the neighborhood. Young men with nothing to do hung out on the corners. She walked by them on the way to the train. Only a couple of blocks west, there were run-down courtyard buildings where there were gunshots almost every night.

    One of these buildings was the Lakeview. As its name implied, it had once been a luxury residence. Now, like its neighbors, it had fallen into decline. Behind the black wrought iron gate, the courtyard was dark and gloomy. Very little grew there. It was mostly bare ground and weeds, with a few sparse bits of grass.

    A rusty bicycle was lying in the courtyard. Dolls with cracked faces looked up at the sky. Overlooking the courtyard were rows of broken windows.

    On Saturday nights, she went out drinking with her friends. She grew African Violets in the bay windows of the sunporch. She thought about the Lakeview, and how much money it would take to make it beautiful again.

    Sometimes, there would be children playing in the courtyard, dirty faces shrieking and chasing each other on plastic tricycles while young women watched in the shadows. They were pale and languid, like flowers that never saw the sun. When she walked past, they would turn away. Sometimes, she thought she saw bruises.

    “We have to do something,” she told her friends.

    “There’s the Tenants’ Committee, ” one said.

    “And the battered women’s shelter,” said another.

    In the meantime, more windows in the Lakeview were broken. There were fewer children in the courtyard.

    Then she heard that the building had beeen condemned. All the tenants had been evicted. Where had they gone? Had anyone tried to help them?

    The Lakeview was empty, the windows blank and boarded up. The gate was swinging open. The bicycle was still there.

  8. Kristen says:

    “The Magical Flight”
    by Kristen Falso-Capaldi
    @kristenafc
    357 words

    “There it is!” I yell over the roar of our ship. It has been over 30 human years since I last saw it.

    “It belonged to him,” I say.

    He was just a boy then. He kept me hidden; the others wanted to harm me. He knew enough of his species’ inclination toward intolerance and probing scientific study. Humans like to, how do you say it? “Play God.”

    Not the boy. He treated me like a brother.

    He nearly died because they said I was a threat. Me? A threat? But they are a race of people who don’t understand, don’t want to understand.

    I wish I could have taught them acceptance. But I had no language. No time. They gave me no time.

    Nothing has changed. We are still hiding in the wooded area of this desert-like topography.

    “It’s called a bicycle.” I point. My comrades look at the primitive vehicle, disinterest like stagnant water in their wide eyes. It was never meant to leave the ground. It was for riding neighborhood streets on sunny afternoons or transporting a young boy home from school.

    But I made it fly. He trusted me to make it fly. We were in danger, and I took him, bicycle and all, up over the hills of this arid terrain, Earth’s moon big and full in the background.

    “There it is!” I point again, and they just nod. It is of no significance to them. But to me, it is the only connection I have with the pale-faced boy, the one reaching out for me in my dreams.

    I knew he’d no longer be here. I understand that humans grow and leave their childhoods behind.

    And the boy, he is a man now. He’s what they call “middle-aged.” Even if he is here, he is no longer here.

    My comrades are impatient, so I lift the bicycle; it is broken and weathered from years in these woods. I load it onto our ship.

    The others will want to study it.

    But I will cherish it. And I will remember the magical flight with my friend. My brother. Elliott.

  9. C Connolly says:

    Chick With The Chat

    Kev sees her sitting on the high stool at the bar when he arrives, all angled shoulders beneath slim spaghetti straps, kitten heels resting on the wooden struts, as she toys with her glass, fingers teasing at the rim. He sits at the opposite end, leaving space between them, guessing a friend may well return from the loo shortly, though they generally always go in pairs, in his experience – or lack thereof. Several minutes later and he figures he is safe.

    “Okay there?”

    “I was.” No eye contact. The tone is low, almost monosyllabic, though Kev can tell she hasn’t had a lot to drink.

    “I meant can I get you anything?”

    “Some sensible conversation?” she responds, raising an eye towards his; aquamarine and penetrating.

    “You riding me?” Kev asks, serious. “I didn’t mean anything by it. Seriously.” He holds his hands out in mock surrender. “You just look like you could possibly do with another drink. Simple as.”

    The woman looks at him; considering. “Okay. Fair play. This is gin, if you’re willing.” Kev nods, gesturing to the bartender. “It’s me who got taken for a ride, by the way.”

    Kev nods again. “Your guy?”

    “Not mine anymore. Someone else’s. Apparently. Wish I’d figured that out sooner, believe me. Cue me sitting here – apparently talking to you, no offence.”

    “None taken, as such,” Kev responds. The woman shoots him an amused glance.

    “You’re far too polite,” she says. “You don’t mean that. You’re thinking something along the lines of cut me some slack given I’m the guy decent enough to buy you a drink, aren’t you?”

    “Maybe I am, at that,” Kev says, grinning a little. The woman’s candour, whether generated by the gin or otherwise, is disarming.

    “Mel,” she says, proffering a hand.

    “Charmed, I’m sure.”

    “Uh huh,” Mel says, raising an eyebrow pointedly.

    “He really did a number on you, didn’t he?” Kev asks.

    Mel gestures assent. “Broken into bits, can’t you tell? Not necessarily needing fixing though – just so you know.” Kev senses she is laughing at them both. He is gathering rapidly her process of repair is well underway, despite original appearances to the contrary.

    (360 words)

    @FallIntoFiction

  10. Done

    Theo sat in the ruins of the burnt out convenience store, the man standing at his side, watching the crowds gather, handing out placards and wiring up a dozen competing sound systems. It was somewhere between a party and a riot, and it made his stomach hurt.

    Across the way, parked kitty corner across the drugstore parking lot, the PD sat in their armoured cruisers, waiting.

    “They gonna fight again?”

    The man shrugged.

    “Perhaps. Perhaps not. There’s a lot of people angry about what happened here.”

    “I don’t know those folks.”

    The man shrugged again. It was less of an answer this time, as if he was just rearranging the curious bulges hidden beneath his overcoat. A stray feather fell loose and caught in the turn ups of his old fashioned suit trousers. Theo stifled a giggle. The man smiled.

    “They know you, now. You’re famous.”

    Theo spat into the ashes of a recent Sportswear Illustrated, smearing the grey black mush with the tip of one bloodied sneaker.

    “Are my folks okay?”

    The man looked at him, all pretence at being a kindly old dude forgotten. All pretence at being human at all.

    “What do you think?”

    Theo felt tears spring up in his eyes, wiped them away before the man could notice.

    “I didn’t even want to do it. I was okay just cruising.”

    He looked over at his mangled BMX, bought with hours of toil after school. He’d loved that bike, and now it looked like shit.

    “Language, Theo…”

    I never even said it, you old-

    “Ahem…”

    “Whatever. We ready to go?”

    “Whenever you are.”

    At the front of the crowd, Principal Myers was talking about a life cut short, a senseless tragedy, a kid Theo barely recognised. A fat deputy climbed up on top of the PD cannon carrier and sighted on the Principal for target practise. Now it was Theo’s turn to shrug.

    “C’mon, I’m done with this shit.”

    The man smiled, let it slide.

    “Do you want to bring your bike?”

    Theo looked down at the bloodstained saddle which lay near his feet.

    “Nah, done with that too. You got skateboards up there?”

    “Powells.”

    “Sweet…”

    360 words
    @Karl_A_Russell

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