Flash Fiction–talk about acting out of character

Here’s a weird little flash fiction thingie I was playing with last week. I have not polished it or even revised/re-read it very much, but I thought it would be amusing to post.

I tried this partly as an exercise in economy. I’ve been mulling over the various critiques I’ve had over the years/months that have said, “You repeat yourself all the time,” because as far as I know, I don’t do that . . . at least not that I notice. Sometimes in an early draft, I suppose, because I’ve forgotten that I mentioned it earlier. Or if I’m doing a running joke. But to hear some critique groups talk, you’d think I restate things constantly, and I simply do not see it. They never give specific examples, assuming that I’m doing it on purpose, I suppose. But then again, I haven’t heard that in a while. Of course, I haven’t posted excerpts to critters or other groups in a long time. . . .

The point, however, is that in flash fic, you don’t even have time to set the scene. So much has to be assumed about what your reader already knows and will assume. It was a neat exercise, at least.

~~The Powers of Pink~~

A pink tentacle poked out of the linoleum between Kerry’s red Mary Janes.

Her knees jerked involuntarily up as she shrieked. Heads swiveled all up and down the rows of folding chairs. Shrieks rarely disrupted the monthly meeting of the Society Against Naming Daughters Jennifer.

The speaker glared. “*IS* there something you would like to share with us, Ms. . . .”–she glanced down at the seating chart apparently taped on the lectern–Hays?”

“Sorry,” Kerry gulped. She glanced back down at the threatened feet. The floor had normalized.

She was hallucinating. The doctor’s office had warned her against going off that sleeping pill cold turkey, but she’d run out and couldn’t afford another refill just to taper off.

She’d barely returned to trying to concentrate on the speech about how confusing it is when everyone in your class is named Jennifer when a cold suction cup plopped on her inner ankle.

The tentacle was back. Kerry felt it snaking its way up her calf until it slapped the back of her knee. She emitted an involuntary “EEEK!”

Again the speaker grasped her pince-nez and glared out into the audience. “Yes, MIZ Hays?”

“Gout,” Kerry choked out. She managed to stand up as everyone turned around to stare. This society dedicated to preventing parents from naming their daughters Jennifer did not cotton to troublemakers and rabble-rousing. Before she knew where she’d be going, Kerry had shaken the pink pseudopod off her leg and was excuse-me-ing into the aisle.

She fled to the ladies, because that seemed to be where people went when they were freaked out or at loose ends. “If you were a pink tentacle poking up through the floor,” she said to her reflection, “what is it YOU would be needing?”

She waited a moment, and sure enough here came the tentacle. It poked through the floor and groped a bit until it found her leg. It spiraled around and seemed contented. It wasn’t all that slimy-feeling, actually.

It seemed best to take a Biblically inspired approach. “Who or what are you, and what do you want with me?”

The answer came inside her head, as a Pee-Wee Herman vocalization. It didn’t seem that weird. “We need pods.”

“Pods??” She briefly considered a Star Trek interpretation, and then a storage-building riff, before landing on the answer. “Oh . . . like iPods?”

“If that is what you call them.” The voice sounded pleased. “We know you have them and we need them. Our sensors have found them in this room.”

In people’s purses, no doubt.

Kerry paused. She wished she could think of a good alternative, but what exactly could she do? She couldn’t exactly report this to . . . who? The tentacle would just slither up, take a few gadgets, and leave–fine. She figured those women had insurance and could manage to replace the players. “Yes, I’m sure it’ll be no problem. Have at it.”

The tentacle released her, and she crept quietly back into the meeting room and stood in the back row to watch.

Tentacles sneaked tentatively up through the floor at various spots (though no one else noticed, as they were bickering about the derivation of “Jennifer” from “Guinevere”), but instead of grabbing the iPods and iPhones to pull back to their dimension or underground or wherever (she should’ve asked, shouldn’t she) the creatures flowed into them.

Kerry freaked a little. Silently she mouthed, “Oops. My bad. Hadn’t thought of that. Hello?” But the tentacles didn’t seem to hear her.

Ultimately, it would be all right. They’d probably get along well with the ladies. Sneaky types were compatible.

She couldn’t wait until somebody’s phone rang.


Pathetic, I know. Whatever. It’s not ABOUT anything, but then most flash fiction isn’t. And I’m sure I could delete this word or that word, and so forth. Just thought I’d sneak it in here, because it amused me when I was writing it.


Author: shalanna

Shalanna: rhymes with "Madonna" and "I wanna," and is not a soundalike with "Hosanna" or "Sha-Na-Na." Aging hippie with long hair, husband, elderly mother, and yappy Pomeranian. I've been writing since I could hold a crayon. I started with fiction, which Mama said was "lying." “Don’t tell stories,” she would admonish, in Southern vernacular. “That's all in your imagination!” When grownups said this, they were not approving. So, shamed, I stopped telling stories for a few years--rather, I stopped letting anyone read them. I'm married to a fellow computer nerd who doesn't really like hearing about writing, but who reads sf/fantasy and understands the creative drive. I'm actually a nonconformist/hippie still wearing bluejeans and drop earrings and the Alice-in-Wonderland hair with headbands and sandals. Favorite flavor is chocolate/orange, favorite color is either Dreamsicle orange (cantaloupe) or bubble-gum pink, favorite musical is either Bye Bye Birdie, Rocky Horror, or The Producers . . . wait, I also love The Music Man. Is this getting way too specific and irrelevant yet? Obvious why I don't sell a ton of flash fiction, isn't it? To define oneself, I always say, it is good to make a list. How about a booklist? Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird Frank and Ernestine Gilbreth, Cheaper by the Dozen C.S.Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (all the Narnia books) J.R.R.Tolkien,The Hobbit/LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy Gail Godwin, The Odd Woman F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby J. D. Salinger, Catcher in the Rye (before dismissing it, actually read it) George Orwell, 1984 Kurt Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle Donna Tartt, The Secret History Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn James Allen, As A Man Thinketh Mark Winegardner, Elvis Presley Boulevard James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times The Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum Winnie-the-Pooh/House at Pooh Corner, A. A. Milne Peter Pan, J. M. Barrie The KJV and NIV Bible (each translation has its glories)

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