This week began the first week of 4th grade for my son, Monsterbat. Mommy things take priority, so I haven’t had time to write something for #FridayFlash. Last night however, as I read a post by the brilliant and talented Jim Bronyaur, a wonderful idea struck me – I’ll repost my original #FridayFlash too as a gauge of my progress over the course of the past year! It’ll be a bit embarrassing because it’s not terribly well written, but that’ll show my progress over the past year… So, Jim, thanks for letting me steal… um, I mean BE INSPIRED BY your idea.
So, below is my very first #Friday Flash, ‘Of Penguins and Men,’ originally posted August 28th of 2009. I wrote it as a children’s story for my little boy. At the time my writing experience was very limited, and I had absolutely no experience writing flash fiction. So please… be kind.
Of Penguins and Men
Once upon a time, there was a penguin that dreamed of attending a fancy party. Specifically, the fanciest kind of party. The kind where you had to wear black ties and tuxedos. He had seen enough sitcoms to know that tuxedos made people look like penguins, so he thought he’d fit right in. In fact, he’d be the life of the party.
The only problem was that he wasn’t. At a party, that is. He wasn’t able to go to a party, because he was stuck here in these tiny little rooms. Rick kept the fridge stocked, well- the mini fridge anyway, with plenty of raw fish for him to snack on. His bedroom was kept very cool and stocked with the finest television series available on DVD. So, Charlie really felt that he had little to complain about. Still, there must be more to do than sit in a chilly room watching sitcoms and eating raw fish. At the moment he wasn’t sure what, but the party idea seemed like a good place to start.
He needed a black tie. Didn’t everyone call these fancy wear-a-tuxedo parties “black tie?” That was the one thing he wasn’t equipped with. Tuxedo looking body, sure. Black tie? Nope.
These were the thoughts going through his head as he rummaged through Rick’s closet. Shoe boxes, crates, piles of old clothes and smelly socks went flying. Rick entered the room to a barrage of laundry and airborne clothes hangers. A sock caught him squarely in the eye.
“Anything you need help with, Charlie?” asked Rick, removing the sock and holding it at arm’s length.
“Do you have a black tie?” asked the penguin.
“Um…I don’t think so. Why?”
“Because I need one.”
“Um… guess I have to ask the obvious here. WHY do you need one?”
Charlie looked at him for a moment, shocked. “For a fancy dress party, of course! Why else would I need one?”
“Because you’re becoming a magician? I don’t know. I just work here.”
The cotton and polyester hurricane subsided as Charlie reached the closet’s bottom. “Nothing? Nothing! I can’t believe you haven’t got a black tie. Have you no sense of decorum or style?”
Rick looked at the disheveled room, the soda cans littered on the ground, and his little black and white friend sitting there in Hawaiian shorts. “Clearly not,” he replied.
“Why are we here, Rick?” asked Charlie in shrill, high tones. “Why can’t I leave?”
“What? The room?”
“No… I mean, YES! LEAVE leave. Go outside!”
“Well, you could if you really wanted to. Do you?”
Charlie nodded vehemently. “Is a jellyfish an invertebrate? Of course, I want to go!”
“Well, finish getting dressed then. This place has a strict ‘No shirt, no pants, no entrance policy.’”
Charlie grinned, as much as it’s possible for a talking aquatic bird, and quickly ran to his room for his suit.
Penguins, thought Rick, sometimes there’s simply no reasoning with them.
Within 20 minutes, they both stood on the surface, taking in the sights.
“Happy now?” asked Rick, punching the mike button in his helmet.
The Earth’s reflection made it hard to judge Charlie’s expression through the helmet, but he looked disappointed. His space suit seemed to sag. He started to waddle back to the hatch. Rick stood for another moment, gazing at the blasted planet, shrugged and then followed.
“You didn’t really think there’d be anything to see out there, did you?” asked Rick, removing his helmet and beginning to undress.
“Well, no… not as such,” evaded the penguin.
“I told you, it’s going to take years for us to make it to the colony,” said Rick.
Charlie hung his head.
“But don’t worry! We’ll get there eventually! What about that black-tie idea of yours?”
“Well, your culture is fascinating, really. But truth-be-told, I was getting really BORED just sitting there while you did all that work. I wanted to have a little fun, even if it was just pretend.”
“Well, once we get to your planet, you can have your own fancy dress party. Hey, I’ll introduce you to my family. They should have quarters set up nicely by now.”
“Are you sure? Your technology is so much more primitive; I’m not sure they’d be comfortable with so much unfamiliar machinery. And we don’t have fancy dress parties.”
“Hey, you guys are helping us out, taking us in. The least I can do is help you throw a party. Besides, I’m sure my family will feel more than comfortable. Your people, well- penguins in general, are very hospitable.”
“If only I could repair the FTL drive, we could get there so much sooner, and I wouldn’t be so darned BORED,” whined Charlie.
“Well, do you have the parts?”
“No, I was trying to be cheap and didn’t get spares,” admitted the bird.
“Then sit back, my friend, and enjoy the fish. Want me to replicate some more?”
“No thanks. I’m stuffed. Hey, do you want to watch ‘Stellar Trek’ again?”
“Sure thing,” answered Rick, plopping into another lazyboy and popping open another soda.
“Fizzy bubble drinks,” laughed Charlie. “What’ll you humans think up next?”
They both reclined in their chairs to watch Ruddenburry’s classic show.
The ship flew silently through the great void.
*I hope that you enjoyed that. I like to think that I’ve improved a lot in the past year, in large part thanks to #FridayFlash – the brainchild of author J.M. Strothers at Mad Utopia. Friday Flash is a wonderful community, and I’m very grateful for the support and stories available through this wonderful community.
As a direct result of my involvement in #FridayFlash, I now have a story, Hell of a Job, published in the wonderful Best of Friday Flash Anthology, as well as my story, Doomed, published at Flash Me magazine. I really encourage you to check out both these publications. They are absolutely wonderful. Did I mention they were wonderful?
Also, just a quick reminder – For the theme, Sleep, I posted another story, ‘Morpheus‘ up at the 52/250 flash challenge site.
Update: Click Morpheus to hear this story in audio (for #SpokenSunday) or visit my Audioboo account for my other short audio stories. Due to technical difficulties with Audioboo, I will most likely be posting my audio stories and poems directly from my blog. Thank you for your time.