What do birds have to sing about at 3am? It was another battle with insomnia again. There were no deadlines. No one was awake to call or text. Then again, after moving around so much, everyone was a flake. She had already counted all of the pens and pencils in the old chipped coffee mug, which perched on the desk. There wasn't anything she wanted to watch on TV, no new books to read, and still too early for coffee. She lay back on the bed, eyes staring at the ceiling fan, as it lazily turned. Three hours until sunrise.
But for the mechanized bed, the series of beeps and clicks, and the whoosh of the HEPA-filtered air, they could be in an expensive hotel room. A view of a vast blue lake below them, the wood-paneled window seat, the aggressively boring landscape painting. The unit is a ‘scent-free’ zone, since perfumes and cologne add to the nausea, but she always snacks on Clementine oranges, if only to puncture the room’s sterility with the sweet smell of sunlight and sugar. He pulls his paper mask down a bit, and breathes deeply, nostrils flared wide; it smells so good, he says.
Drunk Bearded Man, for the cigarette you’ve bummed me on the bench beside the bar. It accompanied the 32 ounces of Pabst Blue Ribbon I consumed nicely. Let’s chat of motorcycles, woodworking and bourbon brewing.
You start to slump, eyes heavy.
Drunk Bearded Man, I hope all is well. You’ve begun to meditate, trying to suck down your incessant hiccups. You dropped your cigarette. Your searching your pockets for the lighter next to you to smoke another.
Crickets chirp. Someone just broke the triangle on the billiards table inside. You’ve fallen, unable to stand up.
Isn’t tonight perfect?
He marches across the fields to the trenches. This soil under his boots could grow the corn he sows at home, repaying his toil, season after season, until he would sleep beneath with his ancestors, his life well lived.
Dearest Martha awaits him back there. The parson’s daughter, a good catch indeed! Their wedding will be when this is all over.
He’ll return a hero, making her proud!
Yet now his entrails spill onto no man’s land, where the fields are ploughed into craters and mud by shells, and seeded with bullets which have reaped the harvest of his blood.
In Earth's final hours, a Saviour appeared: an ordinary woman who could do one extraordinary thing: listen. She listened to everyone, the poor, the weary, the sick, the desperate; she listened to everyone.
She heard answers in their own voices: the way to salvation from poverty, sickness, ignorance, and desperation. Most immediately, from destroying the planet.
"Blasphemy!" cried the Christian.
"Blasphemy!" cried the Jew, the Hindu, the Muslim, and the Buddhist.
"Kill her!" they all cried, even those of no religion. It just seemed easier.
They were still fighting when the lights went
The word 'umbrella' was missing for three hours. If I hadn't asked the cashier for 'one of those' and been asked, 'What, an umbrella?' who knows how long it would have been gone.
I've no idea how long I lost the word 'key'. Didn't need it until I did. Then hadn't got it. Had to make the gesture of turning something in a lock.
Losing some words, you know straight away from the anguished look on a face you don't recognise. They could be anyone. Have any name. And right then the words 'umbrella' and 'key' come to you uselessly.
"How... How much are you offering?" Mrs. Bender asked.
"Two million dollars. All you have to do is kill your husband."
Later, as her husband kissed her after work, he tasted tears on her lips. The gun dropped from her hand; a heart had stopped beating.
Mr. Bender exhaled slowly and pulled the knife from her back. On a bent knee, he whispered into his wife's ear, "Sorry, babe, but two million is a lot of money."
Nazrul Habib was visiting his doctor. In the waiting room, he picked up a copy of a local newsmagazine. An article described about a local teacher’s effort to educate middle-schoolers how to distinguish between the “Real” and “Fake” news. In recent Presidential election, the winning candidate’s supporters deliberately spread false messages to defeat the opponent. The article stated “The leading fake news earned 960,000 engagements on Facebook, while the leading real story garnered only 850,000 during the same period.” Habib, a member of a minority religious group, demonized by the newly-elected President, wondered “Didn’t this happen before in Nazi Germany?”
The dust hadn’t settled as another bang was heard. The wall came down unceremoniously, wood shuddering on impact. Rubble lay everywhere and vans were parked haphazardly outside.
Janine walked towards the man wielding the sledgehammer. He put his hand up imperiously.
“If you’re going to stay here, Jan, you need a respirator.” He handed her the mask and added, “It’s worse than it looks. We’ll finish getting the rotten timber out today then we can start to replace the joists, floorboards and…“
"…and most of my house.” She grinned. “You really think you’ll finish the renovation next month?”
A body was discovered in a lonely flat, the victim of a drug overdose at the age of only 39. But rewind the film of time: a new Cardiff City player is arrested by the Transport Police for not purchasing a ticket.
Robin was a Hammersmith boy, wild eyes, flowing hair, they don't make them like that any more!
Although possessing silky skills he is immortalised by a photograph showing him giving a goalkeeper a two-fingered salute after scoring, decades ago.
But he was a "party animal" and his magic sadly declined, the demons came...and unfortunately ruined the show.
“Ever get the feeling that Pluto isn’t being treated fairly?” Venus asked sadly.
“All the time,” Neptune responded. “He was one of us for a long time, but suddenly got booted.”
“I have amazing rings, and I’m still here,” Saturn reflected.
“And I’m totally hot stuff! They couldn’t axe me,” Mercury boasted.
“I feel bad for our friend,” Mars lamented. “How can we help him?”
“Well, we could show him all the Friday Flash Fiction stories dedicated to him here on my planet,” Earth suggested. “He’s a celebrity now.”
“Genius!” Jupiter gushed. “Our buddy will feel better in no time.”
“Things are just too quiet around here. I wonder where she is.”
“Probably napping. After all, she WAS out all night.”
“Not good. She’s so young. She doesn’t understand how dangerous the world can be. We need to find a way to keep her in – particularly at night.”
“But she likes to go out so much.”
“That’s not the point! Just because she likes it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.”
“Let’s show her some love. How about giving her a present?”
“Great idea! I’ll leave that mouse I caught next to her dinner plate tonight.”
“The perfect gift, Fluffy!”
Sam Burch was exploring Morocco with his youthful tour-guide Hassan. Lecturing about the country’s history, Hassan mentioned that he belonged to the original Berber-tribe, different from the Africans who came later. They were on the way from Fez to Chefchaoun on a winding mountainous road. Suddenly, Sam spotted two roadside dark objects. At his request, Hassan took a quick U-turn in the middle of the highway to get back to the spot. The objects turned out to be two left-behind wooden puppets.
Hassan smirked: “Must be those first generation migrant Africans, still waiting for a ride to go to Chefchaoun.
The bobber popped under, and the rod jerked. Dad dropped his beer and wrapped his arms around me, his worn-smooth, calloused paws over my tiny hands, holding me holding the fishing pole. He loved me then, me laughing and struggling, reeling in my first bluegill.
That night I watched Dad swing on the porch, sweating Bud in his hand, smoke curling from the ash tray like a pig’s tail, all set against the overlapping buzz of AM ballgame static and bugs zapping in the summer night. I couldn’t get any closer, but from that distance I could love him too.
Jack arrives, flaunting his Armani shirt. He’s made it in the 40 years since high school.
Three pints later, he’s bragging to Ian and Larry about his barrister’s job and BMW.
“So how’s teaching?” he gloats.
“Pays the bills,” says Ian.
“Still acing the crosswords?” Jack says, seeing Ian glancing at one on his smartphone.
“Yeah, this clue’s a bugger though.”
“What is it?” asks Jack.
“Crusoe stuck, begins with ‘m’, 8 lett…”
“Marooned!” Jack booms, now even beating the Oxford guy at his own game.
“Mine’s a Heineken,” says Ian to Larry’s laughter.
Jack, flummoxed, is all at sea.
Todd was exploring the medina in Fez, when he got lost in its labyrinth. He asked a teenager for the direction, when several adults carrying dry clothes and towels passed by. Mentioning about a historic bathhouse, the teenager offered him to show its ongoing operation. Todd followed him to the dark basement of a decrepit building. A young gentleman was hand-feeding saw-dust to an open fire that being used to warm the water in the pipes above. An old radio-set was playing Michael Jackson’s Thriller, stopping to announce the US-missile attack on Syria.
But, the fire-man continued with his responsibility.
Legs hanging out the Huey, chopper blades spinning overhead. Fresh Marlboro from the C-Ration hanging out my mouth. Fella next to me vomited his ham and lima beans once Charlie fixed their AK’s on us. Bullets pang off the heli’s steel side.
I’m an angel floating down from heaven.
Hot lead whizzes past me, clips the sick guy.
Jungle sure looks pretty from up here. Whisking, vibrant tree leaves shake beneath us. Tall stalks of crisp grass wave heavily. I forget I’m in Nam, constantly.
Even soaked in sick guy’s blood, my side of the grass is greener.
I wait for money. I get paid to wait for hours. I’m a professional line-stander. Sometimes I’m very busy. Black Friday. iPhones. Barbara Streisand tickets. Today it’s $23.00 Norwegian cupcakes baked once a day and sold on a first come basis. Two divorce attorneys are paying me $250.00. To wait. I’m seventh in line with seventy or so people behind me. It’s been four hours. My ex walked by carrying a poster with the words handwritten Fair Wages Now! She left me. I was not ready to be serious. We took a break. That was two years ago. She’s marching.
The chalice of knowledge was half full when his demons began to chase his moth-eaten body. He was told the light at the end of the tunnel would be his salvation. There was no tunnel, only nooks and crevices sewn together, dead end dreams. They were right about the light though. It shown bright and heavy, his life played back in high definition. Was this hell? He watched his years expand and contract, people waxed and waned. His mother remained stark, sobbing louder than the beat of his heart; awakening him, untainted, a miracle, immediately forgetting that time was fluid.
I read about builders finding a forgotten vault under the deconsecrated St Mary-at-Lambeth church.
A cellphone camera at the end of a stick had revealed an archbishop’s mitre on a stack of coffins.
Five archbishops, the great and the good of their time, had lain there for centuries in that dank void in company of rats.
It is an ironic resurrection at Eastertime.
On TV the current incumbent gives the age-old message of hope from Westminster Abbey to the dwindling faithful.
While he preaches my heart fills with gloom as I think of his predecessors immured in their sordid tomb.
Ted was as frazzled as could be, sitting at his computer and trying to think of a story topic. “What will I write about?” he moaned.
Then he heard a voice. “What’s something you’re truly passionate about?”
He turned, but was alone.
Then he heard another. “Write about something that will interest other people.”
When Ted glanced down, his jaw dropped as he saw his computer and mouse speaking. “We’re your delivery, but the story is up to you!”
Ted tried to process this event. But then his eyes lit up. Talking computers--the perfect story! Eagerly, he began writing.
The building where I worked for almost 30 years – yes, that was a school – is currently being demolished. The Sunday Post and the Weekly News are two of Scotland's more widely-read news publications; they're not so widely respected for their journalism. Those connected with the Portobello High School in the 1970s and early 1980s will recognise the character.
As far as I know there is currently no civil war in Edinburgh.
“I’m still waiting for global warming to kick in.”
“Not half. It’s been a long winter.”
British weather offered conversation for every situation. Our new neighbours—four small children and a dog—moved in last week. We watched, half-hidden behind curtains, as they installed a trampoline in their garden.
It had been cold and wet ever since.
“How old are your wee ones?”
“The twins are three, Alex is five and Karly’s six.”
The four of them had appeared, fanning out behind their dad. They regarded me coolly, shaking their head when told to say hello.
War was silently declared.
"I shall not be coming out again. Love you always. God bless."
I kissed her hand and left the sick lady drowning in that warm hospital bed.
Outside the spring sun still shone and the beautiful pink blossom had not withered into dust in the park opposite as a man and a woman are engaged in a petty argument of a materialistic nature.
I think how hospitals make even atheists question their beliefs as I picture my dear friend as she once was: carefree and without pain etched on her face, a million miles from drowning in that warm hospital bed.