Flash Fiction: Nun For Us, Please

Yesterday I was texting our contractor about some budget items when my phone autocorrected my sentence to: “Once we have the nuns we can decide”.  I chuckled and corrected “nuns” to “numbers” before I sent it, but the phrase stuck in my brain because it really sounded like a flash fiction prompt.

So here goes:

Nun For Us, Please

“Once we have the nuns we can decide when to perform the ritual.”  Zaz raised her carapace and ruffled her iridescent wings in a show of confidence.

Chith eyed their acquisitions, antennae drooping with doubt.  “I don’t know…”  Squealing and grunting from inside the pen made her spring back with a chitter of alarm.  “Are you sure?”

“Magic brought us here.  Magic will take us back,” Zaz said with more certainty than she felt.  “The incantation I overheard mentioned us by name and talked about going home, so it has to be the right one.”

“It didn’t say ‘Zaz and Chith’,” Chith objected.

“Well, no, but it said ‘Pik’ee’ over and over.  An incantation that repeats our race in every line is obviously about us.”  Zaz ruffled her wings again.  “So all we need now is nuns.”

“You said ‘nun’ when you first told it to me, not ‘nuns’,” Chith argued.  “Maybe we only need one, and we’d better get it right.  If we hadn’t been so careless last time, we wouldn’t be in this fix.”  She peered into the pen, her mandibles drawing back in revulsion.  “I hope nuns aren’t like this.  These are so noisy and smelly.  Are you sure they’re the right thing?”

“This is what the human male with the face-fur showed me when I told him the incantation.”  Zaz drew herself up on her hind legs to deliver her newfound knowledge with authority.  “These are pigs.  Nuns are some kind of special human, so they should be cleaner.”  She hesitated.  “Though the furry human was actually quite smelly, too.”

“Are you sure he wasn’t lying?  Because that…”  Chith indicated a malodorous lump beside the pigpen with a contemptuous mandible-click.  “…is either a joke or an insult.  Or both.”

Zaz’s thorax bristled.  “It’s human food.  The cooked muscle of an animal; a ‘cow’, the furry human said.  I can’t help it if it’s disgusting; the incantation required it.”  Her thorax hairs wilted a bit.  “It didn’t smell as bad yesterday, though.”

“It must be rotting.  We’d better hurry up and get our nun.”  Chith backed away from the pigpen.  “Do you know where to get one?”

“Yes, the furry human showed me.”  At the skeptical dip of Chith’s antennae, Zaz bristled again.  “I’m sure he wasn’t lying.  He was very religious.  When I spoke to him, he ritually smashed a beautiful shiny vessel of liquid and prostrated himself to pray to his deity.”  She paused, one antenna cocked mischievously.  “He said ‘Please, God, I swear I’ll never drink again, just make the giant talking bug go away’.”

Chith clacked her mandibles in amusement.  “Let’s go get our nun.”


Sister Mary Agnes made the sign of the cross and gave herself a firm mental reminder that all creatures were precious to God.

“I’m sorry, I don’t quite understand,” she said faintly to the two huge beetles standing on the convent doorstep.  “Exactly what do you need me for?”

“I told you, for a magic ritual.”  The larger beetle, Zaz, buzzed the words by modulating her carapace over her vibrating wings.  “We are small Pik’ee and we want to go home.  The incantation says we need a nun.  We have roast beef, and pigs, too; though I’m not sure about them.  The incantation didn’t mention pigs, but the furry human said ‘definitely pigs’ so we got them just in case.”

“And this incantation…” Mary Agnes asked with rising trepidation.  “Where did you overhear it?”

“A human female was teaching it to her young one.  Like this.”  Zaz recited:

This little Pik’ee went to market
This little Pik’ee stayed home
This little Pik’ee had roast beef
This little Pik’ee had nun
And this little Pik’ee went
Wee, wee, wee, all the way home.

Mary Agnes closed her eyes in a short prayer for strength, then drew a steadying breath.  “I’m afraid I have bad news for you…”

* * *

P.S.  And now I want to write a joke that begins, “A nun walks into a bar with two giant talking beetles…”  😉

Anybody else want to have a go at it?  Please do!  Write a flash fiction piece of 750 words or less using the prompt “Once we have the nuns we can decide”, or tell a joke about a nun and two giant talking beetles.  If you have a blog, post it there and link back here; or else drop your joke or story in the comments below.  Have fun!  (You retain full copyright to any joke or story you post here.)

Diagnosis: Writer

So many of my readers are also writers!

Nelson is serializing his book on his blog,

Jono just posted a sneaky two-part story,

Carrie Rubin has two medical thrillers published and is working on a third,

Nancy Roman blogs, writes for Huffington Post, and has written a novel,

Andrew will soon be releasing a collection of poems,

…And I know @SomeRandomGuy is over 600,000 words into the draft of his epic sci-fi fantasy, and others have mentioned works in progress or in planning.

So I thought now might be a good time for a diagnosis.  Are you or someone you know struggling with writer-itis?  Use this handy checklist to find out:


Symptoms:  Uttering random words at inappropriate times; unexplained giggling, crying, and/or scowling.

Differential Diagnosis:  Writer, Tourette Syndrome, or psychosis.

Tests:  Observe the subject’s behaviour after the outburst.


If the subject scurries off to write immediately after the outburst, they’re a writer.

If the subject acts as though nothing untoward has happened, they might have Tourette’s… or they’re a writer in the throes of plotting.

If the subject carries on an animated conversation with invisible companions, it might be psychosis… or they’re a writer planning dialogue.


Symptoms:  Unhealthy attachment to word processing programs

Differential Diagnosis:  Writer or computer geek

Tests:  Observe the content of the document.


If you’re still reading and completely riveted after ten pages, they’re a writer.

If your eyes glaze over after the first line and your brain explodes after the first page, they might be a computer geek… or a writer.


Symptoms:  Separation anxiety when leaving a computer; obsession with backups; paralyzing fear of data loss

Diagnosis:  Writer, computer geek, or conspiracy theorist

Tests:  Confiscate the subject’s data and destroy it before the subject’s eyes.


If the subject bursts into uncontrollable weeping and/or guzzles alcohol until they throw up and/or pass out, they’re a writer.  Or they were; before you destroyed the only copy of their life’s work and with it, their will to live.

If the subject curses you in Klingon and produces three redundant backups, they’re a computer geek… or a sci-fi writer.

If the subject sidles away with a furtive expression and disappears only to resurface several weeks later with a new name, identical data, and a blog decrying the censorship of the establishment and the oppression of free thinkers, they’re a conspiracy theorist… or a writer.


Symptoms:  Forgetfulness; changes in behaviour; social withdrawal

Differential Diagnosis:  Writer, dementia, or drug addiction

Tests:  Restrict the subject to a controlled environment for 24 hours, then provide a laptop loaded with a word-processing program.  Retest at two-month intervals.

Diagnosis:  If the subject breaks into a cold sweat and suffers tremors, nausea, vomiting, hallucinations, and/or seizures, it might be a drug addiction… or they’re a writer.

If the symptoms resolve instantly when a laptop is provided, they’re a writer.

There’s really no way to differentiate writers from dementia patients in a single test.  Writers will forget to eat, sleep, and bathe; will walk away from stoves leaving the elements on high; will drop the keys in the sugar bowl; will wander away from home and get lost even in familiar neighbourhoods; and may even fail to recognize close friends and family.  Retesting is the only way to know for sure:  At some point, writers will likely resume more or less normal behaviour (at least until they start their next manuscript).


Symptoms:  Immobility and non-responsiveness when addressed

Differential Diagnosis:  Writer, deafness, or death

Tests:  Obtain a lightweight object at least six inches longer than the subject’s reach.  Gently prod the subject.

Differential Diagnosis:

If the subject startles, yells, and/or flails, they’re either a writer in deep concentration or deaf.

If the subject now responds when addressed (and particularly if they respond with creative expletives), they’re a writer.

If the subject still doesn’t respond when addressed, they might be deaf.  Or a deaf writer.  Or a writer in extra-deep concentration.

If the subject falls over and lies motionless, call the coroner… but the subject might still be a writer in extra-extra deep concentration.  Make sure the medical examiner checks for a pulse before starting the autopsy.


If you were reading this hoping you’d find a cure, well… sorry about that.  There isn’t one; there are only short remissions between manuscripts.  But the disease itself is so much fun, who’d want a cure anyway?

Do you have writer-itis?

* * *

P.S. I’m poking fun at myself and my fellow writers, but I don’t mean to trivialize the social and emotional consequences of dementia, Tourette Syndrome, mental illness, hearing impairment, or addiction.  To gain awareness and understanding of these conditions:

Tourette Syndrome

Alzheimer’s and dementia

Mental health

Hearing impairment


The Battle Of The Keep (A True Story)

We shouldn’t have left the keep unguarded.

But we did.

Driven by our need for sustenance, we abandoned its empty larders to forage beyond its protective walls.  From the outside it looked so substantial, its smooth walls defying any intruder.  We thought it was secure.  Impenetrable.

We were wrong.

The foul creatures ambushed us when we returned.  Black and winged, they swooped down when we re-entered the keep, the harsh buzz of their language beyond our comprehension but their evil intentions horrifyingly clear.

We fought.

Back to back, we swung our weapons again and again until we prevailed.

We hauled away the mangled bodies and cleaned the battle-gore from the walls and floor.  Then we set ourselves to the task of fortification.  We blocked even the smallest aperture, securing our stronghold.

The rest of the day we waited, alert to the slightest hint of another invasion.  We could see them circling outside, but none penetrated our bastion.  At last, exhausted, we crept to our bed.  Though we knew they seldom attacked at night we slept fitfully, one ear listening for their vile clamour.

Morning dawned clear and hot.  Still they circled, but none breached our walls.  At length, reassured, we withdrew to our separate chores.

Several hours later I returned to the keep alone.

A mistake.

Laden with the garden’s bounty, I stepped inside unprepared for the seething horde of black monsters, their battle cries rising to a maddened pitch.

I knew they would give no quarter.  Their hive-mind brooked no compromise, no mercy.  And a single touch from any of their loathsome legion could transmit a veritable cornucopia of disease.

I sounded the alarm and threw myself into desperate battle.

By the gods, they were fast; but they were so many that my strikes often vanquished several at a time.  Black bodies surrounded me, falling one upon another, piling three and four deep.  Beset, I could allow no time to ensure merciful kills.  Their wounded writhed among their dead, their lifeblood and entrails defiling the walls around me.

Again I cried the alarm and reinforcements arrived.  We fought valiantly, but they were too many and we were still fatigued from the earlier skirmish.  At last we were forced to retreat.  We fled, barring the doors behind us.

Standing outside, supporting each other in our despair, we swore to return.

After a week without food or water, they would be weakened.  Now we knew where they had breached our defenses.  We would fight again, and we would win.

Next week we would retake the keep.

Story synopsis:  The houseflies in our new-to-us RV are driving me crazy!  We screened off all the appliance vents and thought we’d solved the problem, only to discover that the window screens weren’t properly attached and the whole place was absolutely buzzing by the time we got back in the afternoon.  Despite a fly-swatting marathon that left the interior smeared with guts, we still didn’t get them all.  Next weekend we’ll fix the screens, and hopefully win this battle once and for all.  Flies are such filthy, disgusting little creatures.  But at least I got a story out of it!

* * *

Book 8:  SPY NOW, PAY LATER is still on track for release tomorrow!  And the contest to win a signed paperback copy closes at noon July 22, 2014 – click here to enter.

Flash Fiction: Monkey’s Money

I was in the mood for something different this week, so I went to my favourite place for flash fiction prompts:  Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable.  I chose a random letter and clicked on a random page, and here’s what I got:

“Monkey’s Money:  I will pay you in monkey’s money (“en monnaie de singe”) – in goods, in personal work, in mumbling and grimace. The French had a law that when a monkey passed the Petit Pont, of Paris, if it was for sale it was to pay four deniers (two-thirds of a penny) for toll; but if it belonged to a showman and was not for sale, it should suffice if the monkey went through his tricks.”

* * *

Monkey’s Money

George blew out a long sigh.  Here we go again.

He shuffled into the crowded holding area, trying to ignore the jostling bodies around him.  Hunkering into the relative privacy of a corner, he eyed the antics of the others.  A few familiar faces, but mostly new talent.  Or lack thereof.

From the opposite corner, Bruno gave him a pointed glance and curled his lip to expose gleaming bone-white incisors.

George ignored the challenge.  Yeah, asshole, whatever.  So your teeth are better than mine, so what?  You’re still in the monkey pen with the rest of us.  He eyed the steady stream of passersby outside with undisguised envy.  What he’d give to be one of the privileged few who were granted the dignity of actual money!

How many times had he made this demeaning passage, performing over and over for indifferent audiences?

It had seemed so exciting in the beginning.  He had thrown his heart and soul into it; had thrilled to the slightest sign of approval; waited with pounding pulse to see if he would be one of the chosen ones; dreamed of the day he would strut past the pen and into the coveted status of ‘moneymaker’.

But now his clever tricks seemed so mundane.  In each performance he struggled to imbue them with new life; to wring fresh nuance from the same stale material.

He sighed and squeezed his eyes shut.  God, this place reeks.  Too many desperate bodies clambering over each other for attention.

The shrieking and chattering intensified and his eyes popped open.  Lula again.  Christ, look at her shoving her ass in everybody’s face.  She’ll screw anything that moves.

And now every other female in the place was taking exception…

Oh, God, not again!  George shrank into his corner, trying to make himself a smaller target.  Always, dammit.  Every damn time some idiot starts flinging poop. And then everybody joins in.

Ignoring the commotion, the bored man with the list caught George’s eye and jerked a thumb toward the stage.

My turn at last!  George straightened, willing energy into his body.  Summoning every ounce of talent, he threw himself into his performance.

Maybe this time they’ll realize how good I am.  Maybe this time, somewhere in that small audience, jaws will drop in awe and delight and someone will rush forward offering precious money.

Maybe this time…

It’s over.  Already. 

Damn, if they’d only allowed me a few more minutes.  A few more seconds, even.  I was just getting into it.

But there’s still hope.  The knock-‘em-dead scenario was really only a fantasy.  It usually takes a while before they make the final selection…

Exhausted, George shambled out.  His cell phone rang, and he picked up the call as he slid behind the wheel of his car.  “Hi, honey.  Yeah, it was the usual circus backstage, but my audition went okay.  Now I just have to wait for their decision.”

* * *

I’m Amused

In the vagaries of the English language, I’m “amused”.  I’m also amused by the vagaries of the English language, but that’s not actually what I mean.

No; if “amoral” means “lacking morals”, and “atonal” means “toneless”, and “achromatic” means “without colour”, then I’m “amused”.  As in “lacking muse”.

Which is a fancy way to say I don’t know what to write about today.

So I shall resort to poking fun at the English language.  If the prefix “a-” indicates absence or lack, then why doesn’t “acute” mean “ugly”?  Why doesn’t “along” mean “short” and “alike” mean “hate”?  And if I amend an item, am I actually ripping it apart?

After coming up with a few other examples, I just couldn’t resist messing around with some flash fiction:

Flash Fiction: Afoul Play (On Words)

Setting my torch alight, I stood blinking, blinded by the sudden blackness.  When the vague outlines of the hallway emerged from the dark, I crept forward.  The groan of a loose floorboard underfoot made me flinch, my heart drumming against my ribs.

Glad to be alone, I turned to Jim.  “Man, why did we let Rick talk us into this?  And why are we still doing it when he didn’t even bother to show up?”

Jim replied with his usual unintelligible mumble before pressing his lips tightly agape, but I didn’t let it bother me.  He always spoke aloud.

Behind me, Lucy whispered, “Light the torch.  This is too creepy.  Maybe we heard Rick aright.  After all, it was two weeks ago.  Maybe he meant twelve noon, not midnight.”

“No, I’m sure he meant midnight,” I argued.  “He said we had to sneak in when it was dark, and he teased me that I’d probably arouse at eleven and sleep through the whole thing.”

A few minutes of stealthy tiptoeing later, Lucy hissed, “Oh, gross!  Do you smell that?  There’s something alive here.  It smells like it’s been rotting for weeks!”

“Probably just a dead mouse or something,” I said with more confidence than I felt.

“It can’t be.  It’s too strong.  It smells like something…”  Her voice trembled.  “Something big.”  Her nails dug into my shoulder.  “What’s that aloft?  On the floor under that big table?”

I swallowed hard and peered through the dimness.

“Light it!  Light the torch!”

Jim’s shout startled me so much I nearly dropped the torch.  It bobbled dangerously and Lucy’s shaking hands clamped over mine, pulling the torch atilt to prevent the oil from spilling out.

My lighter clicked.  Flames flared high, revealing the reason why Rick hadn’t joined us tonight.

“Rick!  Ohmigod, Rick!”

Lucy’s screams echoed in my ears as my stomach lurched.  My knees gave way and I arose to the ground, the impact jarring me asleep…

Which means awake… but “awake” actually means asleep.

Which would mean I was awake to start with…

Which means I was sleeping…

So did this really happen, or was it a dream?

Well dang, it looks as though I’ve written a blog post after all.  Maybe I wasn’t as “amused” as I thought.  But I still think English is a very funny language!

* * *

Addendum:  It seems WordPress has been having difficulties lately, and sometimes when you try to leave a comment you get a page that says “This comment could not be posted” or some other error message.  If that happens to you here, I’m sorry, and thanks for trying.  If you want to try again, here’s what has worked for me on other blogs:

  • Type your comment as usual, but before clicking Post Comment, highlight the comment and press Ctrl-C on your keyboard to copy it. 
  • Then click the Post Comment button. 
  • If a page comes up saying “This comment could not be posted”, click the Back button to return to the page
  • Then press the F5 button on your keyboard to refresh the page. 
  • Paste your comment back into the comment box by pressing Ctrl-V.
  • Click Post Comment again. 

Usually the second time’s the trick, but sometimes it wants a couple of tries.  It’s a huge pain in the butt and I hope they have it resolved soon, but in the mean time, thank you for trying.

Flash (Non)Fiction: Labyrinth

I just got back from a week’s holiday on Vancouver Island, and I thought I’d post something a little different for a change.  Thanks to Sacred Circles, Healing Hands for the inspiration of the labyrinth at the Milner Gardens and Woodland, Qualicum Beach, BC.



It doesn’t fit my preconception of a labyrinth.

It’s about fifteen feet in diameter, a shallow muddy path worn into the brilliant green rainforest moss.  A few stones lie in the middle.

I stand beside it, my cynical eye tracing the route from entrance to centre. It’s probably a trick; a series of dead ends to confound those foolish enough to attempt it.

But it’s simple.  Around and back, a couple of reversals and a turn.

The sign says I may walk the labyrinth to meditate, experience feelings.  That there’s no “wrong” way to walk.

Why bother?  I already know the route and there’s nothing remarkable at the end.  The concentric paths are narrowly spaced.  Walking in circles would be a waste of time.  I’d look like an idiot.

I stand outside the labyrinth looking in.

Imprisoned by ego.  Unwilling to court ridicule.  Too old for magic.

I turn to walk away.

I stop.

Turn back.

This is silly.  It’s cold and cloudy and starting to rain.  It’s just a patch of dirt and grass.

And yet it holds me.

When did I become so jaded?

How often have I hovered on the outside, unwilling to step forward and risk disapproval?

My boots squish softly on the wet ground as I skirt around to the labyrinth’s entrance.  I mustn’t reject the established way.

Compelled to the path, I place my feet carefully within the narrow tracks, walking back and forth; around and around like a fool who can’t see that the destination is only a few feet away.

But it’s not about the destination.

I complete the final turn and stand looking down at the stones on the ground.  Just a few ordinary stones.  No discernible pattern.  No reward.

But it’s not about a reward.

Freed, I step lightly, respectfully, straight across the labyrinth.  I place my feet on its paths, but I am no longer constrained by its direction.

I stand contemplating my journey for a moment before I turn, smiling, to rejoin the world.

At Least I’m Edible

This post is not for the soft of heart nor the delicate of spirit.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.


I can barely remember the time before my confinement, before this eternity of solitary darkness.  I was not always contorted like this, but my prison has molded me inexorably to its shape.

A shattering burst of sound.  Rough hands drag me forth.  My disused senses are flayed raw by sudden noise and light but I cannot move, cannot flinch away.

This is not the gentle liberation of my long dreams.

The hands pull mercilessly at my twisted form, forcing me to resume a long-forgotten shape.  The assault is savage, excruciating, but my voiceless state prevents me even the meager relief of screams.

They speak, but their words have no meaning.  Perhaps they try to explain, to apologize.  Or perhaps they mock my pain, taking pleasure in my suffering.


More monstrous yet; they are indifferent.  Though their eyes are upon me, their attention is on each other.  The hands rend me open with eager brutality.  Time congeals in mind-crushing pain.

The attack stops.

But it is not over.

Trapped helpless between them, their fierce heat laves me, easing my tortured body despite my terror.  It is only a bitter glimpse of impossible salvation, for now I understand.

This is their unholy celebration; the culmination of their depraved rites.  They will consume me slowly, their teeth shredding me, their lust burgeoning with every bite.

There will be no clemency for me.  No deliverance.

My doom approaches.  A ghastly abyss of putrid breath.  A hot, slimy tongue ringed by cruel teeth.  My spirit quails.

The teeth tear into me, but I cannot struggle, cannot cry out.  Can only endure in silent desperation, entreating the distant mercy of death.

One final thought drifts above my roiling sea of agony.

At least I’m edible…


…And that’s the first time I’ve ever written from the point of view of a pair of edible underwear.  Might not be the last, though – you never know. Every pair has a story, however tragically, er, brief.

And hey, look what I found just for my loyal readers:  Instructions for making your very own edible underwear!  Brief Jerky, so nobody will ever ask “Where’s the beef?” and a cute little thong you can crochet yourself out of licorice laces – only 302 calories!

You know, just in case you were looking for a little something to spice up your… um… diet.


Madame Weebles is to blame for this post.

It all started with Nigel Blackwell’s post, “What’s In A Name?  I’m A Pig”.  The post includes the French Revolutionary Calendar, in which my birth day is named “millet”.  So I commented, “blah, blah… at least I’m edible… blah, blah”.

Whereupon Madame Weebles dared me to write a post with that title.  There was actually a small wager involved, but it wouldn’t be fair to hold her to it.  She’s one of my newer blogging buddies, and I don’t think she’d read my post “Doin’ It On A Dare”.

With a title like that, it was tempting to go raunchy, but… nah, too predictable.  I can write dirty jokes about anything, so it was far more interesting to write about edible underwear without a single rude word or double entendre. 

…’Cause it seemed like a good idea to keep my edible undies clean.  (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

Flash Fiction: IgNobel Prize

This is another flash fiction challenge.  Our assignment:  choose something from the “M” section of Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, and write up to 1500 words before Friday.

The “M” section is enormous.  I started reading the first page and quickly went into overload, so I clicked on a page, closed my eyes, and randomly clicked the mouse to select my phrase.  The phrase is at the end, ‘cause if you read the phrase first, there’s no point in telling the story.


IgNobel Prize

“We’re really putting our asses on the line.”

“Thank you, Captain Obvious,” Martin snapped.  “It’s worth it.  Pass me that pipette.”

“No, really.”  Devon handed over the glassware and pushed his glasses up again, peering through the thick lenses.  “It was fine as a theoretical exercise, but going ahead with it?  There’s a reason why the senior researchers won’t touch this.”

Martin blew out an impatient breath, careful to direct it away from the delicately balanced equipment.  “Yeah, there’s a reason.  They’re pussies.”

When Devon didn’t reply immediately, Martin spared him a quick glance.  “Come on, man, don’t be a douche.  The simulations went fine, and our dry run was perfect.”  He transferred his attention back to the digital temperature readout.  “We’re almost there.  Let’s gear up.”

He slipped on the goggles, gloves, and mask, but Devon hung back.  “Martin, we shouldn’t be doing this at all without faculty approval, and even if we had approval, we should be doing it in a clean room, not in an open lab.  If we get some contaminant in the solution…”

“Jesus, Devon, how many friggin’ sims did we run?  Yeah, it’s critical, but we’re not talking nanoparticles here.  Unless some big chunk of lint or something falls in, it’ll be okay.  Just don’t drop any of your goddamn hairs in it, and we’ll be fine.”

Devon stiffened and glared.  “You just have to keep rubbing it in, don’t you, Mr. Perfect-Hair-Chick-Magnet?  Just because I’m follicularly challenged…”

“Jeez, dude, chill.  Can we please get back to the experiment that’s going to make us household names in the scientific community?  The one that’s going to make us a fortune and win us the Nobel Prize?  You know, that one?”

“Or the one that’s going to blow up the lab, and us with it.  Martin, this isn’t a good idea.  Let’s just shut it down for today and run it by the senior researchers on Monday morning.”

“Yeah, so they can take all the credit.  I don’t think so.”  Martin shot another look at the temperature readout.  “Come on, man, set me up here.  It’s time.”

Devon shuffled over, reluctance in every line of his body.  Martin placed his forearms in the supports that would hold his hands rock-steady and nodded up at Devon’s frown.  “Go.”

With the precision Martin had always secretly envied, Devon placed the instruments in Martin’s waiting hands.  Devon was by far the better technician.  Good thing he was too much of a chickenshit to do this on his own.  Martin suppressed a smile.  He was the one actually doing the procedure, so he’d get the bulk of the recognition.  And the money.

A hair drifted down.  “Devon, for fucksake, you’re shedding again!  Get your fucking hair out of here!”

“Sorry, sorry!”  Devon whisked the loose hair off the workbench and drew back, one hand self-consciously covering the thinning spot where his scalp peeked through.

Martin jerked as his phone vibrated on the table beside him.  “Jesus!  I thought I’d turned that off.”

Devon turned an ashen face toward him.  “Holy… crap!  Thank God we hadn’t started the fluid.  You’d have blown us up, twitching like that.”

“Yeah, man, turn it off for me, would you?”  Martin held his voice steady and took a few deep breaths, feigning calm.

Devon snatched up the still-vibrating phone.  “It’s Lisa.  Why is she calling you?”

Martin gulped down sudden consternation.  “I don’t know, man, just turn it off…  Shit!”

Devon had punched the Talk button, his round face glowing with happiness.  “Hi, Lisa.”

Martin’s fingers tensed around the instruments, and he concentrated on relaxing his grip to hold them just so.  He couldn’t put them down now.

His heart sank at the look on Devon’s face.  Shit, shit, shit!

“Lisa, this isn’t Martin, it’s Devon.”  Devon’s voice was hollow, and Martin averted his eyes from his friend’s stricken face.  Well, probably ex-friend, now.  He could hear the urgent chatter at the other end of the line, but Devon interrupted, his voice flat.  “I might have believed that, if you hadn’t said his name before you started your little X-rated phone show.  Goodbye, Lisa.”

The silence stretched after Devon hung up the phone.  Martin studied the temperature readout intently.

“So how long have you been screwing my girlfriend?”  Devon’s voice was very quiet.

“Aw, come on, man, it’s not like that.”

“But it is.  She started with some very graphic references to last night.  Before she went on to say what she had planned for you tonight.”

Martin blew out a breath and tried to ease his tense fingers.  “Jesus, it’s not like I’m the only one.  She’s a science slut, man.  She fucks everybody in the research department at least once, just in case they discover something important somewhere down the road.”  He glanced up.  “Christ, don’t look so shocked.  Did you really think a hot piece like Lisa was doing you for your manly physique and great hair?”

He realized he’d gone too far when Devon turned on his heel and strode away.

“Shit, Devon, I’m sorry, man!  I thought you knew…  Come back!  Shit, man, come on!”  He couldn’t turn to see, but the sound of the slamming door told him all he needed to know.

He slumped on the stool, the instruments still balanced in his fingers.  Everything ready to go, and nobody to turn the petcock to start the final flow of fluid.  All the preparation, all his dreams, all the fame and fortune, shot to hell.

A sudden thought made him straighten, excitement racing through his veins.  What if…?

Martin leaned ever so slowly toward the petcock.  Yes, it was close enough.  And he only had to turn it a few degrees counter-clockwise.  He could push it with his nose.  His heart pounded.

Devon was gone, wouldn’t be there for the completion of the procedure.  All the credit would go to Martin.  All the fame, all the money… and Lisa would be all over him.  He grinned and shifted carefully to ease the tightening denim at his crotch as he considered what she’d promised if the experiment succeeded.

Careful, careful…  He nudged the petcock open, and triumph surged through him at the slow drip of fluid into the open chamber.  Temperature perfect, the instruments steady in his hands, all according to plan.

Something moved at the edge of his vision, and cold fingers of fear caressed the back of his neck as he focused on it.  A hair.  Quivering just above his left eye.

He held very still.  Can’t turn back now.  The fluid dripped inexorably.

It must still be attached.  He never lost hair.

It was moving.

His heart banged in his chest, sledgehammer blows that made him gasp.  The hair vibrated with each beat.  Slipping.

Martin huffed desperate breaths, his lower lip pushed out in a futile attempt to blow the hair up and away.  Shouldn’t have worn the goddamn mask!  Shouldn’t have-


The phrase:  “For a hair Martin lost his ass”, from the “Martin to Mary Anne Associations” page

Flash Fiction: Salvation In The Bottle

This was inspired by a flash fiction contest over at Confessions From Suite 500.  We had to write a story in 100 words or less, including the following words:

And we got bonus points for using the phrase “A Devil’s Own”. 

Here it is.  As always, all constructive criticism welcomed and appreciated.

Salvation In The Bottle

“Aagh, darlin’, help me up.  I’ve a devil’s own headache.”

“Which you deserve.”

“Have mercy on yer poor da.  ‘Tis a sin to waste liquor.”

“It’s a sin to lie to me about laying your personal demons to rest and putting things right.  If it’d been high tide, I’d have taken the boat and let you swim home, cancer or no.”

“I’m hellbent, an’ no mistake.  But, darlin’, that was yer grandda’s last original bottle.”

“You’re not going to revive that hoary old fable again… what’s that?”

“A diamond.”

“It’s huge!”

“Sometimes salvation’s in the bottle, darlin’.  I love ye.”

Flash Fiction: That Man

Another flash fiction challenge.  We get one week and up to 1000 words.  This one only needed 100.

Here’s our prompt:

All constructive criticism welcomed and appreciated, as always.

That Man

“Mummy, Mummy, look at that man!”

“Shhh, Donny.  It’s not polite to point.”

“But, Mummy, look!  What’s wrong with him?”

“Shhh.  He’s just different, that’s all.  Look, here’s your toy.”

“Was he in a ak-sident?”

“No, honey, he was born that way.  Look, what does the happy skeleton say?  Boo-oo-oo!”

“M-m-mummy, that man… he’s… he’s scary.”

“Shhh, Donny, look, here’s your toy.”

“B-but what’s wrong with his face?”

“That’s called a lower jaw, honey.  Some people are born with them.  It just takes them longer to change.  Don’t worry, he’ll change, too.  He’ll be fine.  Just like you and me.”