Hard Times

Last weekend I found myself with some time on my hands and, as I like to do, had a flick through DeviantArt to see if there were any interesting images to use for some flash. I came up with this one. Click through the image for the actual image on DevArt.

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Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Prompt image for the Fandango's Flash Fiction prompt

For Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #145, where we write about the image below from Jessica Gale at Morguefile.com.

A picture containing grass, outdoor, nature, smoke

Description automatically generated

Justine was flustered. The newest – and youngest – member of the board, she was already fed up. But for this meeting, the new Head of Customer Relations had been tempted to pull a sickie today. As it was, she sat, seemingly in a daydream, but actually reflecting on how to fight the latest fire, when the grossly overweight chairman rose unsteadily to his feet.

“Gentlemen. And lady.” He added poignantly, as if it was not already clear that Justine was the only woman in the room. She fiddled awkwardly with her pearl necklace, which contrasted well with her deep rouge trouser suit. “Item next”, he began. “Staff Absenteeism.”

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Overload

Writephoto prompt image

I came across the WritePhoto prompt from K L Kaley, I had some time, fancied doing some writing, so here goes…

This week, we were asked to write the image below.

Photo of someone pushing a cart down a supermarket aisle.

Oh, wow, she finally trusts me…

Not only will she let me ride to town on my own, but mum gave me a shopping list and some money…

I better hadn’t mess up…

Waiting at the bus stop. Do I still have her list? Her money is safe, I have a purse, but let me check anyway…

Thank goodness, not too long to wait. “A child return to town, please”. On my way. That was easy. Yay, no bossy parents today, I can sit up on the top deck. Oh, there’s Graham. He came to my ninth birthday party last month. And… he’s with his mum. Ha! Aren’t I grown up? Travelling on my own!

“Good morning, Andrew.” Mrs Fletcher. “You’re looking very smart today. I do like your shirt. Where did you get it?” My new blue checked shirt. It goes so well with these new spray-on jeans, and the trainers. I look well cool, today. “Morning, Mrs Fletcher. I don’t know, I’m afraid. It was a birthday present.” “Oh. Graham and I are going to look for some new clothes today. First, he needs a haircut, then we’re going shopping.” I could do with a haircut myself. But maybe next week? In the meantime, there’s a seat free, right at the front…

Made it! How easy was that? I should do this every Saturday morning. “Goodbye Mrs Fletcher.” Poor Graham! Still with his mum. But maybe he’ll get some nifty clothes, like mine?

Right, where’s this list? Ah, still in my pocket. Good…

Okay, supermarket. First on the list, milk. Check. Next? Carrots. What does she want carrots for? If she wants those, she can eat the bloody things herself! Anyway…

What’s next? Ketchup? Oh yes! Easy Peasy. I’m on a roll here. Tortillas? Now we’re talking!

And the last item? Sharp’s extra-sensitive baby shampoo? Must be for Charlie. Little whiney bastard. Still, if she wants it…

But where’m I gonna find that? Let’s ask this assistant…

Right. The baby section is right at the end aisle. Just this one thing, then I can check out. I have everything on her list. She *will* be pleased. Maybe I can have some of those tortillas? Maybe she’ll let me keep the change?

This must be the aisle. Now, let’s hope this thing is easy to find.

Oh, fuck.

Struck Dumb

For Fandango’s Story Starter #20, where we build something around the following phrase:

We had planned to meet under the bridge at midnight, but…

I was late. We had arranged to meet in the park, by the grotto, but I was late. I hoped she hadn’t given up on me. Damn! I glanced at the luminous facia of my wristwatch. This was only our second date, we’d really hit it off first time around, and I had high hopes for her. I crossed my fingers that she would wait.

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Pot Kettle

Prompt image for the Fandango's Flash Fiction prompt

For Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #144, where we write about the image below from Ross Sneddon at Unsplash.

A picture containing grass, outdoor, nature, smoke

Description automatically generated

The extra-hot latte was welcome, warming Neil’s chapped hands, as he entered the shop from the cold February outdoors. He’d seen a flicker of recognition in the barista’s eyes as he’d ordered his coffee and a muffin, but then saw the dismissal as the girl couldn’t quite place him.

Not surprising, concluded Neil, for although his star was rapidly ascending, he was not yet well-known outside of political circles. Discounting the initial interest as a coincidence, he found a vacant table in the corner, and sat down. He was nowhere near warm enough to remove his thick woolen overcoat, so had to push his sleeve up to look at his watch.

I hope Fariq won’t be long, he thought, for although he was not far from his eventual destination, he did not like to be kept waiting.

He lifted the lemon-drizzle flavored cake and paused reverentially, took a deep sniff then, with a small grunt of approval, taking his first bite. For what we are about to do… He deserved this.

Neil was just brushing the crumbs from his Givenchy suit, when a hand tapped his shoulder.

“Mr F!”, he greeted with false bonhomie, standing and turning at the same time. He motioned for the elegant, well-dressed man to join him.

“I can’t stay long,” mumbled the middle-aged Fariq. “The ambassador wants to see me, he needs me back at the embassy by one.”

“No, I can’t stay long, either. The Headmaster…” – his favored nickname for the Leader of the Opposition – “… wants to see me for something, and I need to be in the house later this evening. And before all that”, he added, “I need to do some bloody TV piece for a broadcast we have coming up.”

At that, Fariq raised a thick, black eyebrow, but refrained from passing comment. He was not really interested in what the politician was doing, in any case. He moved the conversation on. “So, Mr.”, then stopped himself. They needed to be careful not to use names in public places. “So, you know what we expect of you?”

“Of course”, replied Neil. “I’m all prepared for the debate next Tuesday. You just need to send the text of the question to me.” He added gingerly, “And do you have what’s… He coughed discreetly. “… er,… expected from you?”

With that, Fariq slipped a hand into his jacket and pushed something under the table, where Neil’s grateful hand was waiting. In an instant, the package was safely inside Neil’s pocket.

Fariq immediately stood and left the shop, leaving Neil to finish his drink. A few minutes later, Neil looked at his watch. Ten minutes, but he was only around the corner.

As he, too, left the shop, he could not resist a quick glance, and pulled a brown envelope an inch out of his pocket. He immediately recognized a bundle of banknotes, before returning the package quickly and resuming his walk to the studio.

He saw the usual suspects. There was Glenda, the party’s Head of Communications, clearly relieved.

“You cut that fine.”

“I told you I’d be here. I just had some business to take care of first. Now, I need to see the Headmaster at 2, so can we make this quick?”

And fifteen minutes later, Neil, freshly brushed and made up, entered the studio.

“Once again”, he read from the autocue, “we find the government unable to get on with the serious task of running the country, because, once again, its ministers have been involved in sleaze…”.

Unfeeling

Image showing a writing book and a quill

“It’s like talking to a statue! Everything I say just seems to bounce off! I told you about this evening, weeks ago! Nothing ever sinks in with you.

“And how can you say that about my sister? You’re so cold, so unfeeling, so heartless… You’re just impervious to anything, your’re so rigid. I wish I could erode that hard-hearted exterior somehow.

https://www.deviantart.com/aniripal/art/postmodern-burden-894157538

Just saw this image on Deviant. It tickled me, and I had a little time this evening so thought I’d scribble something. Anybody else fancy writing it?

Diplomacy

For Fandango’s Story Starter #19, where we build something around the following phrase:

There was something about a music box that always made me…

As we entered the front parlour, the best room of the house, reserved only for Sundays, I took my place on the settee and, with trepidation, adjusted my collar and held my breath.


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Result!

Prompt image for the Fandango's Flash Fiction prompt

For Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #143, where we write about the image below from the Google Photo Frame.

A picture containing grass, outdoor, nature, smoke

Description automatically generated

Mark pulled up to the gatehouse, as usual. His new 5l charcoal Hummer purred as he pressed his smartcard pass against the keypad. Ugh! Even opening the window for a second was oppressive, he grimaced. And it was a real pain in the ass, but constant breaches by the climate brigade had prompted his employer, Natural Development Global, to dramatically increase its security.

A green light permitting him to proceed, Mark looked down to the ditch beside the gate. Originally dug to help with drainage, if he had any concern, he needn’t have, for it was at least a dozen years since it had contained any water. Instead, a few persistent wildflowers clung desperately on to its sides.

Once on site, Mark was an automaton, driving mechanically up to the ninth storey of the car park – a height which might have afforded a breath-taking view over the surrounding countryside, were it not for the ubiquitous slate-grey offices obstructing him.

But Mark had no time for views. He had a deadline as early as 10:30 that morning. An early start today, to prep his manager, Jim, for a meeting at 11.

The increasing heat hit Mark as soon as he flicked the engine, and the air conditioning, off, and he found his hands already sticking to the black leather steering wheel. As he climbed out of the car, he could feel the discomfort of his pressed white cotton shirt, as its smart creases began to evaporate. The immediate heat from the engine block was quickly replaced by the ambience, as Mark hastily opened the back door and reached for his briefcase, taking one last gulp of the still-cool air inside the car, before braving the journey.

By the time Mark had covered the hundred fifty yards back into his air-conditioned sanctuary, he was already sweating.

The first stop each morning was the coffee area, where Mark discovered that his cup had been miraculously cleaned, and tidied into the cupboard, from the day before. But this morning, he could not resist a drink from the water fountain first. Looking forward to the cool flow, he pushed the lever. A dribble. Then he remembered. Low pressure in the system, they would be out of action, today and tomorrow. In the meantime, the water supply would be diverted to allow for hot drinks, and bottled water would be provided instead. As he pulled the chilled bottle of Evian, specially imported from the Swiss Alps, from the refridgerator, he felt Jim entering the area.

“Morning, sir, gonna be another hot one today.” He mustered a smile, and quickly offered the man his bottle of water.

The older man, grossly overweight, mopped his brow. “Man, this summer feels like it’s never going to end.” And then to business. “Are you still good for later? I found out last night that one of the bigwigs from the fourteenth floor was making an appearance today.”

Mark exuded confidence. He’d been preparing this project for weeks. All he had to do was polish up his presentation to Jim.

And he had good news.

It would be NDG’s next big deal, Mark thought. The atoll of Elauru. Way out in the Pacific, down toward Papua New Guinea. Currently, ripe for development, with just a handful of inhabitants. And with surveys that tantalised with promises of the third-largest oil reserves in the company’s history.

And yes, safe in the knowledge that the rights could be bought, that the people could be bought, Mark was confident. This was his ticket into the boardroom.

I just hope I don’t need to go there, thought Mark.