Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Flash Fiction

I love writing flash fiction. It's short, it's fun, it keeps my brain working, and as long as it's writing I can tell myself it's not really procrastination, right? Right? 

Here is a piece of flash fiction I wrote a gazillion years ago. I don't remember the prompt, but I know it had something to do with making a bank robbery fun. And it had to be under 1000 words. 

source
     Okay, first of all I’d just finished a goliath caramel latte. That’s the size up from big-as-your-head. And all I had to do was deposit the petty cash. That’s how Lara put it: “Taylor, all you have to do is deposit the petty cash,” as though it would only take five minutes, and the place wouldn’t be filled with six hundred people all trying to do the same thing, plus one old man with a jar of five cent pieces he’d been saving since 1986.
     Anyway, the line wasn’t moving at all when I joined it. And then it kept not moving. And when it finally did move, that old man was right in front of me and he had to watch the teller count all his money because he didn’t trust those scales, and he also had some things to say about his medical conditions, bank fees, the government and refugees. And whatever he said about refugees was so startlingly racist that the teller lost count and had to start again. And there was my lunch hour, ticking away.
     I did those things that impatient people do. I looked at my watch. I sighed. I shifted my weight from foot to foot. I grumbled. And I really, really needed to pee.
     The teller’s polite smile was stretched to breaking point by the time the old man finally moved to the side and started buckling up his bag. I was in like Flynn.
     “Hello,” I said.
     In thirty seconds I could be out of here, straight to the toilet, and still have eleven minutes left for lunch.
     “Hello,” I said again, because the teller’s smile was suddenly frozen and her too-much-mascara eyes were fixed on something over my shoulder. “Hello?”
     “Everybody get down, this is a stick-up!”
     I looked at the teller. She looked at me. And then the screens on the counter came up and it was okay for her in her little bulletproof sanctuary, but what about the people still in the queue? What about the racist old man with arthritis and angina? What about me?
     “Everybody get down!” the robber yelled again.
     So we did. The old man was shaky on his legs, and when he was lying beside me breathing heavily he smelled of Fisherman’s Friend and Dencorub.  
     “It’s alright, dear,” he whispered and patted me on the arm. I couldn’t tell him the pained expression on my face was entirely down to my goliath caramel latte. God, what if there were television cameras outside when this ended, and I’d wet myself? Think positive, Taylor, I told myself, maybe he’ll shoot you before that happens.
     Our robber looked like the nervous type. I couldn’t see much apart from his black clothes and balaclava, but I got the impression from the way he waved his shotgun around that he didn’t have a background in baton twirling. He was clearly very new at this. It was my first time as well.
     “Okay,” he said, his voice wavering, “okay, give me all your valuables.”
     In just under thirty seconds he’d gone from armed robber to mugger. That must have stung. He walked along the prone queue, holding out his backpack for watches, wallets, jewelry and bank bags.
     “I’ve already made my deposit,” the racist old man told him when he reached us. “And I don’t carry a wallet.”
     “Everybody carries a wallet!” The robber’s green eyes flicked to me as though I might agree.
     I shrugged.
     “I don’t,” the old man said, turning out the contents of his bag to prove it. A piece of string, his empty jar, a key, a pencil stub and a soiled betting form.
     “How can you gamble if you don’t carry a wallet?” the robber asked, a note of triumph in his voice.
     I sighed. I hadn’t spent twenty minutes waiting behind the old man without realising there was no arguing with him. When the teller had suggested that perhaps he ought to change banks if he was unhappy with the fees, he’d gone off on a tangent about how much he hated her generation and their horrible doof-doof music.
     “I put five dollars on the horses every day,” the old man told him. “Just five, never more than that, and I’ve already been there today. If you were responsible with your finances like me, you wouldn’t be in this position.”
     The robber’s eyes widened.
     “I paid my taxes my whole life,” the old man continued, “and now I’m on the pension. They should bring back capital punishment for people who rob pensioners. And public floggings as well! It might teach you a lesson, young man!”
     The robber’s eyes flicked back to me.
     “Hello,” I said. “I’m not with him. Here’s my watch, and my purse. Are you taking phones as well?”
     “No,” said the robber. “You can keep that.”
     “Thanks,” I said. “My bank bag’s still on the counter. Do you want that? It’s only eighty-seven dollars, but it’d be a waste to leave it.”
     The robber stepped back, leveling the shotgun at me. He eyed the calico bag on the counter. “You get it.”
     Standing up was worse than getting down. My bladder was killing me.
     “Are you alright?” the robber asked.
     “Old knee injury,” I lied.
     The robber’s shoulders sagged. “Look, I didn’t want it to go down like this. There weren’t supposed to be any hostages.”
     “No,” I agreed sympathetically. “Um, if you don’t mind me asking, is this going to take much longer?”
     “I don’t know,” the robber said. “I guess we’ll just have to sit it out.”
     Like hell.
     I handed the robber the bank bag. He took it, and looked at the name on the side. The balaclava shifted upwards as he raised his eyebrows. “Matsimo Martial Arts Academy? You work in the office there?”
     “Actually,” I told him as I delivered a roundhouse kick to the arm holding the shotgun, “I’m a trainer. Black belt.”
     And that’s what happened, officer. 

***

Do you write flash fiction? 

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