In the Group Flash Fiction Workshops, we write a complete story as a group in a limited time. Author Matthew Barron only serves as a guide and typist while the group determines everything else. Nothing is off limits as long as it is age-appropriate for all the participants of that particular session.
Susan D., Reed A., Gail B. and Samantha Wathen
guided by Matthew Barron
August let out a guttural sigh and continued his work as though I wasn’t there. He banged the chisel against the ice and it creaked like chalk scraping against a blackboard, a sound I had never heard from one of August’s creations.
August knitted his brow. “What did you do, Cat?”
I stepped closer and looked over August’s shoulder. “Maybe you’re losing your touch. The bedroom is as cold as your studio.”
“How would you know? When was the last time you spent the night in our bedroom?”
The sculpture’s eyebrow seemed to lift in a way that made me feel she was mocking me, but perhaps it was August she was laughing at.
“That travesty was supposed to be for the event at Metazoa Brewing last night. Why is it still here?”
He caressed an all to familiar frozen cheek, the same cheek I saw in the mirror every morning, but the face is where the similarity ended.
“They cancelled,” he said.
“Did they cancel, or did you… again?”
August circled the sculpture and gazed longingly into the clear eyes. Weren’t they facing forward before? I must have been mistaken. It was staring at the door.
“I can’t let her go.” He caressed her exaggerated bosom again and the corners of the icy mouth twitched in a grimace.
“Did you see that?” I asked.
August’s mouth hung open, eyes wide. His breathing increased, and, despite the cold, sweat gathered on his brow. He shook his head, and his voice cracked. “Merely a trick of the light.”
Water pooled at the floor beneath the princess. I reached for her and the lips seem to open. I staggered, dizzy.
“You didn’t see that?”
I grabbed the hand. Its fingers curled around mine and our eyes met.
Elizabeth Jolly, Amy Jolly*, Linda Sullivan, Cindy Sullivan and Alan Dormlie Guided by Matthew Barron
She jumps three feet back from the sink and hugs her quilted jacket around herself. The smallest cat paw she’s ever seen reaches up from the garbage disposal.
“Where did you come from?” She retrieves the flashlight from the pocket of her quilted jacket and shines it down into the disposal, discovering her tortoise shell cat, Snickerdoodle, covered in coffee grounds and potato peels. Snickerdoodle shelters three tiny kittens, one of which doesn’t seem to be moving. “Snickerdoodle!” Peggy Sue exclaims. “I thought I hadn’t seen you in awhile. Oh, what adorable kittens! What am I going to do with you? ”
She lifts crusty pots and plates from the other side of the sink to make room and finds a clear spot on the floor to toss them, barely missing big gray Snuffles, who scurries away with a screech.
Peggy Sue reaches into the disposal. Big old Snuffles launches himself from a pile of empty pasta boxes onto the kitchen counter and brushes against the wall, trying to rub congealed gravy from his soft fur.
Peggy Sue jerks her hand out of the disposal and shoves Snuffles away from the switch which would trigger the rotating blades and munch up the little kitties along with her hand. “Bad Kitty!”
Peggy Sue reaches back in, but Mama Snickerdoodle withdraws further into the shadows and swats her gnarled hand with sharpened claws. Peggy Sue grasps wet fur and pulls out a slimy, limp body. “Oh, poor kitten. I’ll name you Mr. Lazybones." She finds a comfortable pocket in her quilted jacket for Mr. Lazybones to sleep in.”
She reaches back in, and another cat, Prince Twinkletoes, nudges against her, purring. The big slate Burmese is so pudgy that his weight bangs her elbow against the side of the sink, sending a shock from her funny bone into the rest of her body. Peggy Sue howls, sounding much like one of her pets, setting off the cats in the disposal to howl with her.
Prince Twinkeltoes, finally bored with Peggy Sue, begins licking dry gravy from the switch plate.
With one hand still in the disposal, Peggy Sue swipes Prince Twinkletoes with the other, trying to shove him away from the dangerous switch, but the cat thinks she is merely playing. He rolls over and bats at her fingers which are still tingling from the shock to her funny bone. He finally rolls over and falls off the counter with a thud, sending a sleeping Sphynx scampering and caterwauling into the recycling bin.
Peggy Sue decides to get the salad tongs out of a drawer and sticks them into the disposal. Snickerdoodle leaps from the tongs and plants all four legs on the countertop while hissing at Peggy Sue.
The tongs latch onto something and pull a tiny, ginger kitten head first from the rubbery flaps. Its eyes are still closed as Peggy Sue cradles the squirming bundle against her chest.
“Oh, I never thought I’d see the birth of my very own child! The Flat Earth works in mysterious ways.”
Peggy Sue hears faint mewling and remembers the other kitten. She retrieves a wiggling black kitten from the jaws of death and brushes wet coffee grounds from its pink nose. “I’ll name you Schrödinger.”
Tiff, Ms. Fashion, Joseph, Batman, Jeff, Tomas, Jarrid, Paul P., Wonder Woman, Evan, Master Jedi Yoda, Subzero, God-Ian, Spider Man, ZZ, Cait Egerton, and Jeff, guided by Matthew Barron
All she can think about is getting home to her mom and stepdad before the cops catch up to her.
A scrawny dog barks as she walks by the graffitied walls, but otherwise the neighborhood is strangely quiet. She ignores the dog and continues on, trying to make her way home. She knows the cops will not understand why she had to burn the place down.
The barking suddenly stops. She looks behind her, and the dog is gone. Where did it go?
She holds out her phone and takes a selfie, then sends it to her mom with the caption, “Don’t open the door for anyone but me. I’ll explain when I make it home… If I make it home. I love you.”
The snow crunches in the alley, so quietly that she would normally not hear it but the neighborhood is eerily silent. She crosses the street, keeping her eye on the alley, but slips and falls in the middle of the road. A shadow grows on the brick wall, the giant silhouette of a man.
She smiles when she recognizes the face. “Jimbo!” she exclaims. “You made it out!”
But as Jimbo gets closer she notices that his hands are raised in an unnatural way. His legs gallop in short, quick bursts, zigzagging closer and closer. His skin is chalk white, like a piece of paper.
He is not the same man she knew before. He is one of the monsters meant to be destroyed when she lit the fire.
Cait picks up a rock. Her boots slip, but she manages to stand and she puts up her fists. If this is the end, she is going to go down fighting!
Jimbo focuses on the rock in her hand and snarls. He doesn’t even think about her foot before it lands on his face, sending him sliding over the icy street.
It buys her some time, and she takes off running. Now she knows she didn’t get them all and she needs to make it home more than ever. Her mom and stepdad are in danger!
She finally spies her home at the end of the street, filling her with new hope. She might actually make it!
But something isn’t right. The lights are off in the house. She circles the building and sees one dim light coming from the kitchen. She peeks in the window and sees the refrigerator door hanging open. Mom would never leave the refrigerator open. She always yells when Cait holds the door open trying to decide what to eat.
Ka whips out her phone and dials her mom. No answer. But she can hear the phone ringing upstairs.
“Mom!” she yells.
She doesn’t expect a response, but she has to try. Rather than take the door, she decides to climb the drain pipe. After so many hours of parkour, this is easy for her, but even so, after climbing in the window, she is out of breath. It has been a long day.
She dials the phone again. The ringing echoes from the hallway. She peeks out of the door, and sees her mom hovering over her stepdad, William, a shotgun in her hand. Cait cheers for her mom, but then the bathroom door bursts open.
Cait plucks the gun out of her mom’s hands and shoots Jimbo, blasting him out of the window.
She turns back to her mom, smiling with pride, and wraps her arms around her. Her mom’s grip is tighter than she remembered, nearly suffocating her. With a sinking heart, Cait kicks her mom away. She uses her parkour skill to run up the wall and past her mom, sliding down the stairs and running to freedom. She can’t bear to hurt her mom, even if she is a zombie.
Laura Edwards, Mary Fitzpatrick, Lynn Frost, Reed Hartman, Melissa Kocias, Steve Peters, Bob Richey, Suzan Spitzburg, Loren Adel Ver with Matthew Barron
She wouldn’t let that happen again in the Temporal Accounts department. It had taken her a year to get approved for this transfer.
She smiles, nods, and sits. She repeats everyone’s name as they are introduced. Despite the surprise ambush and her crippling anxiety, things couldn’t be going better. Brad’s assistant, Conner, brings them all steaming foam cups. A brown circle forms on the table under Mary’s cup.
Mary hates coffee, but everyone else drinks, and she must fit in. She follows their lead and sips the dark, bitter beverage. A little drips on her white sleeve, but no one seems to notice.
She places the cup back on the table and folds her hand over the new stain. The brown circle expands under the cup.
Brad beams. “I’m so glad you like the coffee. It’s my personal blend. We live on it here.”
“Oh, it’s really good!” Mary takes another sip, barely hiding the disgust on her lips. The brown circle continues to bleed under the cup.
The staff drones on about a new time micromanagement app they would be beta testing this week. The new app will allow making small, surgical changes in time in order to affect larger outcomes instead of the unpredictable large scale manipulations of today.
She can feel them all stealing glances at her as they drink their coffee, noticing she hasn’t taken another sip. She lifts the bitter liquid to her lips. Something hot falls on her chest, drips down under her shirt and over her belly. Dark brown drips down her hand and she realizes the cup is leaking. She chugs the rest before any more can escape. Maybe now they will let her go to her new cubicle and get started. She didn’t become a temporal accountant to make friends.
Before she can object, Conner pours more coffee in the cup, filling it to the brim. Their eyes meet. The brown circle continues to creep, leaving an irregular puddle on the table. Conner smiles as though waiting for some further reaction. Mary lifts the cup to her lips and the bottom completely falls through. Hot brown scalds her wrist and sternum.
A light flashes.
Mary repeats everyone’s name as they are introduced again. She looks down at her pristine white blouse.
A dark circle forms under her foam cup, but Conner replaces it with another, saying, “This one should work better for you.”
Brad winks at her. “Welcome to Temporal accounts. Where we fix everything in past.”
Indypendent show Group A 11:30 am Sunday April 2, 2017
Justin Little with Matthew Barron
Jack recognized Jon, a trader who visited town frequently, but Jack had never seen him so disheveled. Littleburgh had been raided, the town burned to the ground. It instantly brought horrific images of the night four years ago when bandits had killed Jack’s parents. Jon said the raider’s next stop was here.
Men and women mounted the walls and armed themselves at the gates. Jack grabbed a gun and waited. He was too young last time, but this time, he would fight!
The waiting was painful, but the thundering hooves got louder and louder and Jack could feel the pounding in his jaw.
The people on the wall released flaming arrows. Jack wished he could see if they were hitting their mark . Men on the wall shouted and the gate creaked open. The bandits weren’t equipped to deal with a town that was prepared. Their horses were already down when Jack and Jon rushed out of the gates with rifles blazing. It was almost comical to see the bandits darting away on foot. The refugees from Littleburgh let out a cheer and chased them down, but the villains escaped into the woods.
The raiders would be back, but Jack and the town would be ready.
Baryn Barnes with Matthew Barron
Leroy shakes his head. “No one in the hood drinks Jack Daniels. You don’t want to stand out when we get to Jacki’s. If you see Leroy run, you run.”
Baryn raises an eyebrow. “Are you serious?”
The loud clatter of cigarette boxes and smashing bottles resounds through the store. In the overhead mirror, Baryn spots two men in ski masks pointing guns at the cashier. Baryn pulls Leroy aside and they duck in the aisle.
Boom! A shot rings out. By the time Baryn and Leroy reach the cashier, the robbers are gone and the cashier is on the floor, chest heaving, blood pooling underneath him.
An old man with leathery skin starts shouting from the door “You just shot that man!”
“It wasn’t us!” Baryn insists.
“I saw you!” the man continues to shout. “A white man and a black man ran in!”
“That wasn’t us!” Baryn repeats.
“He won’t believe us!” Leroy says. “Run!”
Leroy takes off. Baryn is trailing Leroy, but catches up quickly. “Where are we running to?”
Sirens blare behind them, and the old man shouts, “They went that way!”
“Crap!” Baryn shouts. “Let’s just stop and explain the situation.”
“They won’t believe us!”
Leroy grabs Baryn and the inertia pulls them both to the ground.
“Damn it Leroy!”
Leroy points at the cop cars surrounding the train station.
Leroy takes off running in another direction. “Keep to the shadows.”
“That’s easy for you to say.”
Leroy finally arrives at a rundown tenement. They climb the stairs and bang on door 3B.
Jacki pulls open the door. “Your early! Party doesn’t start until 10:00.”
Leroy gives Jackie a kiss on the cheek and sinks into a comfortable chair.
Baryn is out of breath. “What are you doing? They’re going to catch us!”
Leroy shakes his head and pops open a beer. “Nah. Not anymore. We all look alike.”