Friday Flash: Advice

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Advice

 

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. “Lefty loosy, Righty tighty,” he often said, repeating this ancient adage to me as he adjusted parts on the robots he built in the garage.

 

There was a fine line between realistic enough to be desirable and too realistic, and the uncanny valley was not kind to those that couldn’t tell the difference. The humanoid-looking robots of my father’s younger days would come off the assembly line, all vacant expressions and unseeing eyes. They had arms and legs and faces, they could cook and clean and repeat the daily news or a hundred other things, but they had no emotion. They did not look so realistic that they unnerved their all too human owners. Straddling the line between servants and appliances, they served their functions in a society not their own.

 

Now, however, the level of their sophistication – of mine – had reached a new high. Dangerously close to humanity, they blended, they merged with the world around them. You might pass one on the street and never know.

 

Lefty loosy, righty tighty? I contemplated the dubious wisdom of those words as I contemplated my loose ankle. Left and right were subjective directions, so why did it refer to my father’s perspective and not my own?

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*I’ve decided to write several flash stories that are inspired by famous first lines. This one is inspired by the first line in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.

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*image courtesy ofBigFoto.com

 

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Writing Prompt #110

 

Munificent often wondered what her life would have been like if she had been given a more conventional name, like Barbie.

 

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Writing Prompt #109

 

The playwright’s quill had broken, but luckily he had other instruments of destruction.

 

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Friday Flash: All Happy Families

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All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

 

What a load of rubbish.

 

Georgia was willing to bet that most ‘happy’ families were not happy, merely appeared so to outside observers. At least, this was true for her own family. Sure, she was gifted with looks, wealth, and plenteous magical abilities, but all that meant was you had more to worry about losing. Were her friends really interested in her or simply what she could do for them? It was like the lottery. Once you won, you had more friends than you could count, but were they really?

 

In a way, it was worse, because she had no basis upon which to judge. At least lottery winners could reasonably suspect that strangers suddenly turned chums might be posers. But the lottery of life had been in her favor since birth. Her father was a powerful wizard, her mother a wealthy socialite and self-funded superhero. None of that hidden identity nonsense from them, they didn’t believe in it. But oh, how Georgia wished they did.

 

She fiddled with the chemistry set her best friend, Montana, had given her for her sixteenth birthday. Another unfortunately-famous child, her parents were equally well-known, though in a different way. She felt, with a reasonable amount of certainty, that at least Montana could be trusted. Well, with one glaring exception.

 

“So… when do you think your dad is getting out of super-prison?” asked Georgia, mixing another potion in the transparent, glass beaker.

 

“I don’t know,” Montana fumed. “It’s bad enough that he hasn’t been there for most of my birthdays, but you think he’d at least want to be there for my sweet sixteen!”

 

“Well, it’s not for another month,” said Georgia, consulting her father’s secret potion book, the one she’d snagged from the crystal cave below their mansion. He may have been a master of the mystical arts, but he was crap at keeping secrets – from her, at least. A few magical phrases and she’d easily enchanted her way into his “secret” workshop. She dropped a bit of purple dust into the beaker, a miniature rainbow briefly poofed above the glass container, and a tiny dove the size of a pencil-eraser flew out of its liquid contents before the colored prism dissolved back into the glass. “And he’s been on good behavior, right? Maybe the parol committee will cut him some slack.”

 

“Hmmm,” said Montana, observing the tiny display thoughtfully. “I think it needs more cinnamon.” She leaned back and grabbed a bottle from the spice rack they had borrowed from the kitchen. “But maybe you’re right. There haven’t been any incidents, other than that toad thing – which hardly counts.”  She added the cinnamon to the potion, but nothing happened.

 

“And that was just a small incident, right?” said Georgia cheerfully. “I mean, he didn’t really hurt the guy.” She shook the beaker and frowned at its contents.

 

“Well, he threatened to dissect him, but nothing ever came of it.” Montana took the spell book from her friend, tracing the spine with her finger as her eyes skimmed the book’s contents.

 

“So he changed him back?” asked Georgia, putting down the glass container.

 

“Nope,” mused Montana, glancing up from the page before her. “He said the guy was more agreeable that way. Besides, there’s worse things that can happen then getting turned into a toad.”

 

“Hey!” said Georgia brightly, “I’ve got an idea. We haven’t included nearly enough Ingredient X in this. Just a sec, I think my mom left some in her lab.” Quickly, the girl exited the room, leaving Montana to brood over her father’s fate. Only two weeks left until her sweet sixteen. Why did the bastard have to knock over that billionaire’s cruiseship? So what if it would have funded his research. She wanted him with her. She was his daughter. She deserved to have her father around, even if he was a brilliant, insane, amoral scientist.

 

“Got it!”  Georgia plopped back down on the plush carpet and added Ingredient X to the beaker. When purple foam began to overflow the glass container, she joined hands with her best friend, and they began chanting.

 

Soon, the foam dissolved into a small rainbow-colored unicorn with brightly sparkling wings, but the girls continued chanting. Montana smiled. She’d never been much of a girly-girl, but if that was what her friend wanted on to give her for her birthday…  “Congratulations,” she said. “It’s a… horned pegasus?”

 

Georgia grinned broadly. “You mean, it’s an escape plan.” She thought directions to the tiny creature. The glittering horn drew a large oval on the container’s side, which burned away like acid, then delicately stepped outside and laid down in front of Montana. “He can help your father get out for your birthday,” she said. “Do you think I’d let my one and only friend be sad on her special day?”

 

Montana gasped in feigned astonishment, even forgiving her friend for calling her birthday her “special day” – what was she, five? She hugged her tightly. “And he’d have to go back afterwards?”

 

“Well, of course,” answered Georgia. “We can’t have him running around unsupervised. It’d be far too dangerous.” She didn’t have the heart to tell her friend that the tiny little monster would dissolve shortly after it helped her father escape. For a girl with dastardly parents, Montana was far too kind-hearted.

 

“Of course,” said Montana, contemplating how to hide her father without her friend catching on. She would never send her father back to prison. However, with her burgeoning superpowers, she felt confident she could control him. Implanting the escape plan in Georgia’s mind had been easy enough, and – after all – he was far older than her friend.

 

Montana grinned, contemplating all the while how she could use her developing mind control powers to help make the world a better place. Hell, at the rate her abilities were progressing, she might even be able to use them to make everyone happy.

 

All it would take was a little concentration.

 

 

 

 

***I’ve decided to write several flash stories that are inspired by famous first lines. This one is inspired by the first line in Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina.
*Image courtesy of Horia Varlan via Flickr using a Creative Commons license.

 

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Writing Prompt #108

The gods watched the mortals on the surface with trepidation.

 

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Friday Flash: Ishmael

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“Call me Ishmael again, and I’ll break your face,” I warned the middle-school moron towering over me. Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised the idiot had made the literary reference. Considering his schoolyard vocabulary and his frequently vacant expression, I thought he’d taken one too many blows to the head during his tenure as the pack’s alpha male.

 

You might think the top dog in this schoolyard would be an adult, but in my neighborhood you’d be dead wrong. Literally. His strength, agility, and ability to make almost anything into a weapon had helped him survive, but I had outrun scarier things than him in my single decade of life. Still, it was usually safer to travel in groups. Loners were picked off quickly.

 

Buster’s cronies hung on his every word, shoulders hunched, tensed for the coming assault. “You think you’re so tough. ‘Lot o’good your books will do you when we feed you to the dead.”

 

I knew it had been a mistake carrying my copy of Moby Dick around with me, but when I’d found the book during a recent supply run I hadn’t been able to resist. Was it my fault Buster’s parents had been eaten before they taught him to read?

 

Taking a stand had been poor judgement, but I’d always been small, and old habits died as hard as the dead themselves. I glanced at the putrid mob outside the fence, decaying fingers curled around its wire, hungry for my flesh. Then I focused on my human enemies inside the fence.

 

Sure, Moby Dick was famous enough that even this lumbering turd was familiar with it. People still told stories, after all, though reading and writing were quickly becoming lost arts. A thought suddenly struck me.

 

Screwing up my courage, I walked over and punched him in the nose. “My name is Stu.” His henchmen gasped and retreated as one.

 

Buster stood his ground – gods, he was built like a mountain! – but he wiped blood from his nose and there was murder in his eyes. “Oh, you’ll be STEW alright, when I’m done with ya’!”  Gripping my shirt, he pulled me so close I inhaled the stink of his breath.

 

Nose to nose, I seized my opportunity, whispered my offer. “I’ll teach you to read,” I said, voice low. “No one has to know. Just don’t kill me.” He paused, fist drawn back for the punch. How could he take advantage of my offer without backing off in front of the others?

 

Now was the time to save his face as well as my ass.

 

I held my hands up to ward off the blow. Cowardice was more necessary at the moment than bravado. “Please don’t hurt me! I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” A beating was coming, as inevitable as the fact that the dead always rose to come after the living. I could take a beating, then remain in the relative safety of the pack.

 

He threw me to the ground, smiling; his right hook found my nose, which soon was bleeding more profusely than his had been. He enjoyed each punch, raining blows upon my prostrate form, my cries music to his ears. As stupid as he was, he knew enough to not damage me too badly; I couldn’t teach him if I died. Meanwhile the dead shook the wire barrier, incensed by the violence and the scent of fresh blood.

 

Ours would be a mutually beneficial arrangement. Protecting me would ensure his future literacy. He bore me no love, that much was evident, but when the day inevitably came when I was of no further use, I had one final card up my sleeve.

 

Speed.

 

They say that knowledge is power. I knew that the bulk that gave him strength also slowed him down. When the day eventually came when he turned on me, I would see it coming. I would outdistance him, leave him for the dead, and escape while they feasted on his ample frame.

 

Moby Dick wasn’t the only book I’d ever read, after all.

 

 

**I’ve decided to write several flash stories that are inspired by famous first lines. This one is inspired by the first line in Melville’s Moby Dick.

*image courtesy of Theen Moy via Flickr using a Creative Commons license.

 

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Writing Prompt #107

 

The alien contemplated the Earthling before him. Somehow, he had expected the dominate lifeform on this planet to be bigger, less furry…

 

 

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Friday Flash: They Say When

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They say when trouble comes close ranks, and so the white people did. They pulled together, arms locked, expressions vacant, sinking into the snow on the side of the road as the grey rider approached. Nothing showed but their eyes, ebony coals burning against the stark alabaster of their skin, their white cloaks mimicking the color and texture of the snow.

 

Vaughn pulled up his silver steed. The animal smelled something, that much was plain. The grey rider had learned over his years on this strange new world to listen to the instincts of its lower lifeforms. He patted the animal’s side, stroking the scales with something akin to affection – or what approximated affection for a man unfamiliar with the concept. “What is it, girl?” he thought, sensing the animal’s bloodlust, her anticipation, her thrill at the proximity of prey.

 

In the snow, not two feet from the creature’s feet, a dozen whites shivered from something other than the cold.

 

 

**I’ve decided to write several flash stories that are inspired by famous first lines. This one is inspired by the first line in Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea.

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*image courtesy of Sheila in Moonducks via Flickr using a Creative Commons License.

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Writing Prompt #106

 

Bradley whittled the small bar with rough hands.

 

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Friday Flash: The Sun Shone

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The Sun Shone

 

The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new. The grass was the same grass, the buildings were the same buildings, and the people were the same people it had shone on for the last thousand years. Ice had accumulated around them, snow had frozen in patches on the still ground. The Earth had become a Winter Wonderland for no one to wonder at, as the planet slowly spun in the vast loneliness of space.

 

*I’ve decided to write several flash stories that are inspired by famous first lines. This one is inspired by the first line in Samuel Beckett’s Murphy.

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*image courtesy of BigFoto.com

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