Sussuration

At thirty minutes before the start of the tournament’s first bout, the gymnasium floor bustled with activity as fencers ran laps, stretched on the floor, and engaged each other in practice bouts, the buzzing of scoring machines rising on occasion above the susurration of voices.

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Proleptic

Calling Annie a confident teen did not adequately convey her self-assurance. She would contact boys for dates before they worked up the courage to approach her; she anticipated and completed work for her classes before they were assigned; she only applied to one college, knowing she would be accepted by that school. While her peers used their past experience to guide their actions, Annie acted from a more proleptic instinct, certain in the memory of her future success.

The Delivery

PHOTO PROMPT © Ted Strutz

The seaplane descended towards the lake with deliberate intent, like a hawk hunting a mouse in a field. The floats hit and skidded across the water, leaving a wake no higher than most power boats.

The propeller came to rest, and a canoe with two paddlers approached the plane. A woman stepped out of the pilot door, and handed packages down to the canoe.

The rear paddler waved, and the woman waved back before stepping back into the plane. The canoe paddled away, much slower than it had approached earlier. Before they reached shore, the propeller twirled back into life.

Yes! My entry for this week’s Friday Fictioneers is exactly 100 words!

Ten Openings

While reading through my journal in preparation for an experiment in alternate reality, I came across an exercise I completed over twenty years ago from a book on writing called “What If?”: come up with the opening lines of ten different stories. I kinda like what I came up with at the time.

  1. He had thought on the first day of class that he’d eventually fall in love with Janine, but by the end of the third class he knew he had fallen in love with Connie.
  2. John raised his hands in victory on the treadmill as the digital readout told him he had finished his mile in under 10 minutes.
  3. Humphrey snorted a laugh at the error message on the blue screen and, turning to Gillian with a sniggering grin, said coolly, “You’re screwed.”
  4. I was watching Wheel of Fortune when my father walked into the room and, turning the television off, said that my grandfather had just died.
  5. I hate broccoli, which is why I make it a point to eat it at least once a week.
  6. “A week. Ten days, even. Probably no more than two weeks.”
    “That’s how long it takes?” asked Daniel, scratching the back of his head even faster now.
    “That how long I take.”
  7. He was the first hitchhiker I had ever picked up. I want you to keep that in mind, because the rest of the story depends on the fact that I’m a newcomer to such activity.
  8. “My name is Helen Smith, and all I want to do now is go home.”
  9. Cafeteria, 7:48. Time for a quick note before facing another hour with those runny-nosed shits.
  10. Maxine’s shoulder was still sore from racquetball the other night, so when the stranger grabbed her there her first instinct was to scream. Which she did.

I even came up with an eleventh, which I just very well might turn into a full story:

11. I can’t say I’m wild about the title of Vermin Control, but yes, I am the one who’s called in when one of our employees turns into an insect.

Two Voices

[Another exercise from my short story workshop: write a conversation between Voice A and Voice B]

A: How much gas do we have?

B: Enough to get us to the next service area.

A: Well, I have to pee.

B: It’s only seventeen more miles.

A: Why don’t you want to stop here?

B: The next service area’s better.

A: Jesus Christ, it’s a service area. Gas station, vending machines, a convenience store and food court that will be closed at this time of night. But the restrooms will be open.

B: The one here has a Roy Rogers and an Edy’s, but the one in seventeen miles has a Tim Horton’s, and the sign we just passed said it was open 24 hours.

A: You could have said you were hungry.

B: I don’t know if I’m hungry. I won’t know until I see what they have.

A: You’re going to Tim Horton’s to browse the menu?

B: I just want to keep going.

A: And I really need to pee. Let’s compromise — we pull over here, but you park at the curb while I run inside.

B: I though you went to the bathroom last time we stopped.

A: That was two hours ago! Can we just —

B: Aw screw it. [flips the turn signal to enter the service area] Not hungry anyway.

The Adapter

PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

We thought our plan was foolproof.

After connecting to the province’s electrical grid, we would absorb enough energy into our capacitor to power our crippled spacecraft, and return home.

To convert the electricity into an energy we could use, we created three connectors, each adapting separate electromagnetic frequencies into the capacitor.

We tested the adapter, and ran our plan through thousands of scenarios on our computer, which calculated a 99% chance of success.

But the province’s grid failed under the stress of our power draw. We had to abandon the mission, leaving the adapter behind to remind us of our folly.

Friday Fictioneers is a weekly flash fiction contest, where the challenge is to write a complete story of 100 words or less based on a photo prompt.

Harridan

During practice, Coach Gavvy was unfailingly positive, focused more on the development of her students as people rather than as fencers. But her disposition would often change during tournaments, as she would demand maximum effort from each competitor on her team, becoming a harridan of the fencing strip.

The Last Night

PHOTO PROMPT © Ted Strutz

My manager did well, booking me here. Unlike most joints where I’ve done my routine, the marquee here looks professional — bold letters against a white background free of holes and dead lights. Many stand-ups would consider performing at a place like this a sign of their arrival.

But for me, this is the end. After too many years pursuing what had been a dream, I’ve woken up into a nightmare of disappointment. Working at my cousin’s insurance agency may not be fulfilling, but it will pay the bills.

One last performance, then on to a world without punch lines.

Pre-Boarding Decision

PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Twenty minutes from boarding, and there’s no adjacent pair of unoccupied seats at Gate 24. Turbulent landing from the last flight has pushed my introversion over into misanthropy. Can’t bear sitting next to a stranger.

Already went to the bathroom, stomach’s too upset for food, and the newsstand holds no interest. There’s fewer people in Gate 26; I can probably find a seat there, and pay close attention to the announcements.

“Excuse me?” The woman looks like she came from my grandmother’s bridge game. She waves to the seat next to hers.

I shrug, and sit, realizing how introverts make poor martyrs.

 

Heat in the Kitchen

PHOTO PROMPT © Valerie J. Barrett

“Will you two knock it off?” protested Spoon. “Let me lie in peace.”

“Hey, I’m just doing my job,” deadpanned Iron. “Our neighbor’s the one dribbling like a nervous basketball player.”

“Then get off the stove, Flat-Face!” whistled Kettle.

“Settle down — ”

“You’re a tea pot, not a lawn sprinkler.”

“Go play Monopoly!”

The heat on the stove top was turned down, and Kettle cooled to a low simmer, as the water on Iron’s handle evaporated.

“Peace, at last,” sighed Spoon.

“Just hope spigot-breath gets turned towards the wall before I have to warm up again.”

“Go press a shirt!”

Sometimes I just wanna have a little fun with Friday Fictioneers.