My Year of Busking

Fifty two weeks. Fifty two stories.

https://pixabay.com/en/busker-hat-money-collection-3293754/

As of the middle of July, my Friday flash fiction project had its anniversary. To my utter astonishment, I didn’t miss a single deadline. I came close a couple of times, but not nearly as often as I expected.

What have I learned from a year of whipping up a brand new genre cupcake once a week?

Well first of all, I’ve haven’t learned my lesson, because I’ve decided I’m going to keep going. In the back of my mind, my plan was always to see if I could keep the streak going for as long as possible. I didn’t think it was likely I could complete a year without missing a beat, but now that I have, I want to see how long I can keep the plates in the air. Getting the streak to triple figures would be a heck of a thing.

I wasn’t just writing a new story every week just to see if I could though. There were some objectives. So how did I stack up with those?

Results were mixed, let’s say.

On the positive side, one goal was to build a regular writing habit. I often fall into periods of productivity sitting somewhere between ‘underwhelming’ and ‘utter emptiness like a black hole crushing the core of a dying star’. The weekly challenge of juggling a novel story concept and a constrained word count was a very healthy exercise for me.

I learned to trust the process of polishing a rough idea into something at least recognisably story-like, even if I didn’t always know where I was going with that idea. And I learned to tell the difference between ideas that fit into a thousand-word box and ones that don’t.

(Hint: there’s a reason almost none of the stories have more than four named characters. There’s just no room for them).

I think over the course of the year I’ve improved as a story teller. One lesson having a serious word limit teaches is focus. Within such tight constraints, there’s no time for extraneous description or inconsequential dialogue. Every word has to serve a purpose and earn its place in the story. Otherwise it gets cut. Having to exercise real disciple about what’s in and out makes for tighter writing. Repetition from week to week builds those muscles. Over time, as a consequence of practice, I’ve found myself skipping straight past the fluff to get to the muscle, which makes for much less rambling story telling.

In retrospect the main downside of this project is obvious – while I’ve been writing all these flash fiction stories over the past year, I haven’t written much else. In fact, other than the Friday flash catalogue, I’ve only finished one other story in this whole time.

I had hoped that as I built a reliable writing habit, I might start to stretch myself and simultaneously work on other projects. In practice, what’s happened is that I finish my Friday story some time during the week, rub my hands and congratulate myself on a job well done, and forget to move on to something else.

Making the decision to continue with the Friday flash project has to come with a commitment to keep building on my successes. I know I can reliably knock out a simple yarn once a week; it’s no longer in question. So what harder target do I aim for next? I’m tempted to say I will try to write one other new short story (say, 2000 words or more) a month, but I’ll have to think about it. Many of my stories stray into the 8000 to 10000 word range, which I doubt I could sustain on a monthly basis.

Finally, I had a semi-private goal of converting my weekly flash fiction performance into a regular audience. My hope was that I would see steadily rising reader numbers over the course of the year. In my head, I imagined people coming across the stories from a Facebook share or a retweet on Twitter, liking what they saw and deciding to make it part of their regular weekend reading.

With the greatest of respect for the handful of readers who do just that – you know who you are, and you know I appreciate that sweet trickle of clapplause – this part’s been a complete failure.

I have seen website visits increase over time, but that has more to do with cross-promotion to people who signed up for my mailing list to get a copy of my book. Now, that was certainly the main purpose of the book, so I can’t complain. However it’s pretty clear I need to do a little more than just just fling a story out once a week and post a link on Facebook.

What ‘to do a little more’ means is an open question right now. I’ll have to think about it. I’m open to suggestions.

Seriously, leave a comment. I have *so* much to learn about self-promotion.

So why keep going with the weekly format? Why not work on turning this new-found writing discipline into more marketable forms of fiction?

Good question. Part of it is that the new-story-every-week gives me an outlet for my very attention-deficient writer brain. Like every writer ever, probably, I struggle to keep my focus on the idea at hand, because shiny new ideas come along to distract me with alarming frequency. Exorcising an idea from my brain once a week keeps my twitchy imagination in check.

The bigger explanation is the simpler one: I’m enjoying myself. I’m having fun with the challenge of inventing something new, and I’m constantly surprised and delighted to go from ‘nothing’ to ‘story’ in the space of a few minutes. Some of the stories with the least planning have come out almost fully formed. (Others are like extracting teeth).

Posting up the story each week, and chatting about it on Facebook and Twitter, has been a crucial part of the entertainment for me. I don’t especially crave attention, but I imagine the gratification of seeing readers’ reactions – amusement, curiosity, the odd speculation or demand for a sequel – is a bit like a busker’s tips. You probably can’t live on them, but they might encourage you to try again next time.

I’ll keep going as long as I’m having fun with it. We’ll see where I stand in another year.

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Friday flash fiction – The Gallery of Extraordinary Oddities

Mademoiselle de la Faim closes the heavy iron door behind the final stragglers and begins her well-rehearsed tour speech. “Ladies and gentlemen, I am glad to welcome you to the Gallery of Extraordinary Oddities. No doubt your feet feel tired and your purses light from your long day’s visit to our fair city. You distinguish yourselves as seekers after knowledge and curiosity, where others are mere sightseers. You are drawn to mystery and wonder and, if I may, a certain danger, yes? Then you can have made no better choice, for secrets and wisdom are yours for the learning.”

https://pixabay.com/en/tunnel-metro-darkness-old-3345130/

From a long bag slung about her hip, Mademoiselle de la Faim draws an electric taper. She circles the stone chamber of First Gallery, lighting the wall sconces. They gutter and smoke, giving off an oily orange light, throwing nervous shadows across her customers’ faces. They are typical of their ilk – eyes constantly flickering with an uncritical greed for novelty, clothes chosen for comfort over elegance, and well-fed faces. Mademoiselle de la Faim, who is lean, cynical and dresses in precise accordance to her business-gothic aesthetic, cannot hate these people, but she surely does not admire them either. They allow themselves to be deceived, and were she not their deceiver, someone else would take the role.

Though they are caught on her every word, none of them spares her a glance. They are all captivated by the exhibit.

“This statue depicts the angel Herael, who conceived the Architecture of Heaven and presented it as a gift to God. When God in turn built upon the idea and brought about Creation, Herael became dismayed and fled to Earth, in what is undoubtedly the first intellectual property dispute.”

She returns their nervous chuckles at this casual blasphemy with a polite smile. The statue, mounted on a small marble plinth, is a shade over ten feet tall, and nearly touches the worked-stone dome ceiling. Cast in a green metal of bronze or some lesser-known alloy, it depicts an androgynous and undoubtedly powerful being wearing a belted robe. This time none of them think to ask aloud how this massive construction was brought into the centuries-old chamber with its two human-sized doors.

Mademoiselle de la Faim waits for them to take their photographs. She helps with their phones to ensure they have a single perfect shot with Herael. She is patient, answering all their questions about this unknown apocrypha with bland assurance, reciting information on the artist, his model and his influences.

All falsehoods. This is no statue, but the real Herael, whose long-ago bargain to remain hidden from the eyes of God has been upheld by generations of Mademoiselle de la Faim’s predecessors. It has been an equitable arrangement thus far; one she has no plans to jeopardise. Her clients will not, of course, recall Herael’s name upon their departure.

They move down an uncomfortably narrow corridor to the second chamber. “This is the bell rung by Claude Menon and Valerie Jardin, the teachers of the town of Bienvenue, with which they called to arms all those who had ever been their students. On the morning of twelfth of August 102, almost every man, woman and child of Bienvenue under the age of thirty seven years, lay down their tools and took up a weapon. They stormed the home of a wealthy landowner named Georges D’Est. They dragged him and his family outside and set the building aflame. They tethered D’Est to a stake in the wheat fields and made his family watch as he was consumed in a frenzy by his own prized pack of manticores. Both teachers took their own lives with nightshade while the grisly spectacle took place, and none now know the nature of their dispute with Georges D’Est.”

Her clients whistle appreciatively and murmur to one another; speculating, questioning and arguing. She allows it to continue, feeding both curiosity and scepticism with equal generosity. When she judges their appetites have been almost satisfied, she moves the tour along.

In the next chamber, the mummified cats of an obscure Egyptian noblewoman, flawlessly preserved. In the next, an illuminated manuscript depicts a phoenix rising from the ashes of a monastery in the Italian Alps. In the next, a bubbling fountain fed by a groundwater spring said to confer good fortune and healthy teeth (“It contains trace solutes of fluoride and electrum,” says Mademoiselle de la Faim with a secretive smirk, “but it is perfectly safe to drink.”) In the next, the claws, teeth and eyebrows of the great dragon An Ji (the generous donation of one of the Gallery’s oldest sponsors).

“And now, ladies and gentlemen, our tour is almost at an end, but not before the final exhibit. Let us take a moment to contemplate these astounding artefacts. Let us take succour that the world should contain such wonders and let our imaginations soar in delight at what greater mysteries may yet be unearthed. Finally, let us demonstrate our appreciation not just with grateful words but also the generous flow of Euros.”

Mademoiselle de la Faim allows ample time for her clients to push banknotes into this penultimate room’s sole furnishing, a strongbox. She notes a few mild grumbles but judges them not yet truly aggrieved. Then she shows them through to the final exhibit.

“This simple box is the handiwork of the master craftsman Jacob Kirth. It is said to contain the secret of Perfect Happiness, which Kirth and his lover distilled after a lifetime of study. One glance is all that is required to know the secret. Does anyone here have the courage to-”

Someone opens the box. Someone always does. They learn the secret of Perfect Happiness. Mademoiselle de la Faim alone declines to look and so remembers the last two hours.

She leads them out. She sips water while she waits for their eyes to clear of fog. “Ladies and gentlemen,” she begins again, “I am glad to welcome you to the Gallery of Extraordinary Oddities.”


This is the second of my stories inspired by my recent trip to Europe, and specifically the ridiculous number of wonderful museums in Paris. For the record, I wish to assure my French readers – of whom there are, I believe, absolutely none – that in reality none of the guides I met were in any way sinister and all the exhibits I saw were above-ground and well lit.

Some of them were almost certainly magical, however.

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Friday flash fiction – Final Stand Protocol

“We’ve been in this foxhole for eighteen hours and you still haven’t told me your name. Do you think I’m an alien spy or something?”

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Renee Carlton considers the question. She doesn’t know this person. “You might be,” she concedes. “I don’t think we’ve met before the alarm.”

When the sirens sounded, she was walking home from her late shift at the 24-hour diner. Between checking the charge on her plasma projector and following her Sheltr phone app to the nearest community bunker, she had no time to call any friends. Besides, the Planetary Defence Authority comes down hard on breaches of the signals blackout. With Final Stand Protocol in effect, the only calls allowed are for emergencies or air strikes.

“Ask me something only a human would know.” Cheeky grin in the early evening light. We could be the Earth’s last line of defence, says their smirk, but why be morbid about it?

“Have you ever been on Final Stand Protocol that went for this long?” Renee’s almost ready to drop. She was already wiped at the end of her shift, and she’s seen a dawn and now a dusk since then. The shelter is a small concrete dome on the corner of Hubbard and Long. The steel door is locked and the gun ports have unobstructed views of the empty streets and the empty skies above them.

“No, but come on, that’s not a proper interrogation question. Ask something I can’t answer with yes or no.”

“Have you seen any Landers?” Renee checks herself. “I mean, how many Landers have you seen?”

The stranger rolls their eyes. “You need more practice at this. Let me demonstrate. What’s your opinion of the PDA’s latest announcement about extra heavy weapons drills?”

“I figured it makes sense for some civilians to know how the ionic disruptor cannon work, so I signed up for Mondays and Thursdays.”

“Do you always do what the PDA wants you to?”

“Of course not. I have a life outside of sky-watching.”

Her companion frowns at this obvious lie. Appearing to suddenly remember they are on the lookout for alien spaceships, they resume their watch, sighting along the barrel of a newer-model blast carbine. Renee feels a pang of envy. The weapon issued to her is bulky, snags on her diner uniform, and sometimes trips her when she lugs plates back and forth from the kitchens.

Renee is unsure whether her sense of guilt is because the Final Stand Protocol discourages distracting chitchat during invasion alerts or because she has bored her companion. “We just have to make the best of the situation, I suppose.”

“That’s more like it.” The grin returns. The flashing teeth banish the latter thought but spike the former with adrenaline. “You’re the ‘Keep calm and carry on’ type, then?”

Renee shakes her head, but she can’t quite conceal a smile of her own. But she says, “I’m not calm. I’m terrified all the time. I can’t go outside for more than a minute at a time without looking up at the sky for lights or missiles or whatever.”

“But you persevere. Look, you’re dressed for work. Come to think of it, I think I ate at your diner the last time I visited town.”

“I don’t remember you, sorry. I must have been off that shift.”

“Why, do you remember every customer who has ever walked through the doors?”

“I wouldn’t forget someone like you.”

“Flatterer.”

They both lapse into silence and look out through their portal windows. No movement. Everyone is hunkered down in a shelter or a building. No aliens to speak of. Renee’s head is fuzzy with exhaustion. She needs something to focus on, so she asks, “No really, though. The alert invoked Final Stand Protocol but we haven’t seen a thing.”

“Are you that impatient for the end of the world?”

“No, but if it’s not about to end, I’d like to have a shower and get some sleep.” She takes a deep breath, tries to swallow but the words bubble up anyway. “I just think it’s madness, you know? For no better reason than I have good eyesight, I spend my entire day carrying around enough firepower to melt a department store in half. I work two jobs and I haven’t had a date since before the aliens vapourised Zurich. I’ve never ever seen a live invader but I train fifteen hours a week to prepare for a firefight which, statistically speaking, I’m likely to survive for no more than eight seconds, without pulling the trigger once, which is a good thing because I am so scared and tired that I am, again statistically speaking, much more likely to accidentally kill you, me and everyone else in a three block radius than I am to hit a bus-sized alien Lander travelling at nine times the speed of sound five kays overhead.”

The stranger’s mouth is slightly open. She is gulping air, as if she needs to breathe for both of them.

Renee blinks in embarrassment. “Sorry.”

The stranger stands, depowers their weapon and disconnects the power unit. “I’ve got good news and bad news, Renee. You can go home and have that shower.”

“Oh, thank–  Wait, you know my name? Was this all a drill?”

The stranger folds her weapon into a case and slips it into a backpack. “Think of it more as an interview. And you passed. That’s the bad news.”

“It is?”

“The Planetary Defense Authority needs self-disciplined recruits who can think for themselves. Pack an overnight bag. You’ll be issued with everything else you need.”

Renee shoulders her rifle before she drops it. “Where are you taking me?”

“Someplace we can put that training to use. People with your resolve are wasted on the last line of defence.”

“So I’m just a pawn?”

“Sooner or later pawns move or they get knocked off the board, Renee.” The stranger’s eyes are sympathetic. “We’re pushing you up a square or two.”


Welcome to the start of Friday Flash Fiction Year Two! ‘October Music‘ was published one year ago this Saturday. I’ve decided to keep the project going for the foreseeable future. I’m putting together some thoughts about what I’ve learned so far and where I see this going. I’ll probably post it up in the next few days.

This isn’t quite the story I planned to write this week, but the one inspired by my recent visit to Paris hasn’t quite come together yet. This little idea saw an opportunity and muscled its way up the queue.

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Friday flash fiction – Gallows and Plank in the Cotswolds

“Question for you,” remarked the Australian magician to the American detective as they roared down a narrow lane between towering blackberry hedges, “did you know they drive on the left in this country?”

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Emily-Jane Plank reefed the wheel, missing a recalcitrant sheep by inches. “Really? You sure?”

“The bloke at the rental agency made a special point of it.” Cornelius Gallows tightened his grip on the door handle. The plastic creaked.

“That’s crazy! Brits, huh?”

Gallows refrained from mentioning his homeland followed a similar convention. “Speed limits are also a thing.”

“We’re on the clock, partner.” The lane ahead filled with the smoky silhouette of a farm tractor wide enough to scrape the bushes on either wall. Plank sounded the horn in one continuous, affronted blare. “Out of the way, idiot!”

Sensing the imminence of both an argument and a fatal collision, Gallows waved his fingers, tapping out a rhythm between his pinkie and thumb.

The next instant, he was behind the driver’s wheel, Plank was holding a half-folded road map in the passenger seat and the tractor was receding in the rear-view mirror.

“I’ll drive, you navigate,” he said, easing back below a breakneck speed. “Where are we going, anyway?”

Plank’s habit was to mask her annoyance at “being spelled at” whenever Gallows used his magic on her by pretending it was all her idea. “I knew you couldn’t be trusted to read the map or listen to directions. We’ll turn in a mile or so. It’s a village called Little Stiffbody.”

“It’s pronounced ‘Stibdy’.”

Gallows’ habit was to double down on finding ways to annoy his partner, until she yelled, laughed or threatened to shoot out one of his kneecaps. She claimed some expertise in the latter technique, which apparently came in handy in bail recovery work.

“Whatever.”

Today she was positively unflappable, a sure sign they were up to something a little out of the ordinary. “So aside from a duck pond and one café that shuts at two, what awaits us in Little Stibdy?”

“You didn’t listen to a thing I said on the plane, did you?”

“High altitudes and geomancy don’t mix well,” replied Gallows indignantly. “That’s why I always put myself in a trance the minute I’m clicked into my seat. Airplane mode, eh? Otherwise I might blink and the instruments’d think we were a thousand miles off course.”

Plank snorted. “Get better at timing your alarm. Next time I’m not pushing you through a terminal in a wheelchair.”

“Yeah, yeah. What’s the case?”

“It’s a recovery job.”

Gallows groaned. “I thought you said we were getting out of the bounty hunting game.”

“This is different. It’s a kidnapping.” She held up her phone. Gallows squinted at the fluffy mass on its screen. “Or rather, a catnapping.”

Gallows swore so loudly and emphatically he missed the intersection. As he backed up and pointed the car at a side road almost invisible beneath drifting willow leaves, he added, “We came all the way from New York City for a cat?!”

“Not just any cat,” replied Plank, inspecting her notebook app. “Tiddles here – or rather, Reuben Horatio Gernsback the Third – is a purebred August Rio Parana from Paraguay.”

“Rare?”

“Practically unique. He’s insured for eight million. Of which we are eligible for three per cent upon his safe return to Mrs Dolly Bertram-Shandy of the Hemlock Lake Bertram-Shandys.”

Even Cornelius Gallows, whose avarice typically extended no further than the source of his next free drink, whistled at that.

“And what makes you think we’ll find a Paraguayan moggy in the middle of the Cotswolds?”

Plank shrugged. “The housekeeper bought two tickets from Newark to Heathrow the day before she and the cat disappeared. I figure she and an accomplice will run the ransom from her home.”

“Criminal masterminds, eh?” Gallows slowed the car as the overgrowth parted to reveal rows of thatched cottages haphazardly bordering a wide green lawn and a slow-moving stream. Some ducks, a goose and one old dog seemed to be the village’s sole occupants. “Can’t be more than two dozen houses here. This’ll be the easiest money ever. You have something for me to home in on?”

“Right here,” smirked Plank, holding up a zipped plastic bag containing a dark mass.

Gallows gagged. “Is that -?”

Plank nodded. “Laid in a solid silver litter tray the day before yesterday. Fresh as it gets. Do your thing, Gandalf.”

“I am not even going to ask how you got that through Customs,” grumbled Gallows as he unzipped the bag. His stomach convulsed like he’d been slugged with a cattle prod. He retched with gusto.

When his vision cleared, the talisman had done its work. In Gallows’ eyes, a glittering web of green and orange threads had settled over the serene village. He pointed. “Last house on the – ack – on the right.”

Plank rapped smartly on the indicated door. A young woman wearing just a baggy sweatshirt opened it with a forlorn expression. “Oh,” she said. “That was quick. You’d better come in.”

Inside, the cottage was a dim clutter of old timber furniture, stacked books and a scorched iron stove. Halfway up a staircase, a shirtless man with dark curling locks inspected his fingernails. Plank gave him a watchful look, which he ignored.

“Yasmin Gould, I presume. You know why we’re here?”

The girl nodded miserably. “She can’t have him back. That old bat treated him terribly.”

“But she pays well, so cough him up.” Gallows coughed, though not for emphasis.

“She kept him like a slave. I had to set him free!”

“You could’ve just left the door open.”

Yasmin frowned skeptically, “Oh, really? Is that what you’d have done?”

“I wouldn’t have half-baked a ransom plan.”

“Who said anything about ransom?” Yasmin clutched at the shirtless man’s leg. He leaned down and rubbed her head with his face. “Reuben and I just want to be together!”

Gallows groaned. Plank stared at the diamond-studded choker around the man’s throat.

“Meow,” said Reuben.

 


I’m back from my holiday. Right now I am more than a little bit jet lagged. That might explain this story, or it might not.

While I was travelling I had the brilliant idea that I would write a flash fiction story inspired by the various places I visited. I planned the first two, but the third one seems to have turned into the outline for a novel. Not quite sure what happened there, since it’s nothing whatsoever to do with the novel I intended to outline while I was away.

Oh well. It was a lovely trip, even if it set my writing plans back a bit.

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Friday flash fiction – The Nonemyr Play (A Gleaming Principalities Tale)

“Do you mean to tell me that your masters’ gift to Princess Naomi is a – a play?”

https://pixabay.com/en/theater-play-show-audience-actors-105574/

Flopknot’s fuzzy little nose twitched with a profound irritation which careless onlookers might misinterpret as adorable cuteness. It was the sort of mistake some people only got to make once in their lives.

“A performance of a theatrical treasure.” The Envoy from Nonemyr was too canny a diplomat to further provoke a fluffy white rabbit in executive wear. “Perhaps, rather than gift, we should call it a cultural exchange. A beginning which may yet lead to a better understanding between our people.”

Mellowgrass had already calculated the exact degree to which the meeting was a waste of their time, to two decimal places of golden franchets. He muttered under his breath, “You know what’s even easier to understand than culture? Gifts.”

The Envoy smiled thinly. “Of course, my masters hope their humble gesture will lead in time to a richer and more rewarding relationship with the Gleaming Principalities.” He slid a book across the table, a slender volume tastelessly bound in gently sparkled unicorn leather and embossed in gold with the title. It was entitled ‘The Gallery of Errors.’

“Why a play?” asked Cloudpuff, regarding the Envoy’s hooded features with rank suspicion. “Don’t you have any proper hobbies? Martial arts? Death races? Gotta say, around here you’re not going to win hearts and minds with four acts and an intermission.”

Standing, the Envoy shook his head with a convincing show of deep regret. “We Nonemyr are a people of the mildest disposition. Our tastes run to the sublime and intellectual. But perhaps if you review the manuscript, you may find something to arouse your curiosity.”

When the Envoy had departed with his retinue of stalk-thin bodyguards the size of emaciated ogres, Flopknot pawed the book across to the team’s forensic accountant.

“In exchange for presenting the Nonemyr delegation to the Council of Princes, Naomi’s expecting a gratuity generous enough to tremble a dragon’s knees. Trashy melodrama and a couple of musical numbers are not going to cut it. You’re good with numbers, Mellowgrass. Read that and calculate exactly how screwed we are.”

The mottled angora pinched a set of glasses on his nose and flattened his ears in concentration. He flipped the cover open and scanned the first couple of pages. “Unless I miss my guess, it’s an existential farce about disaffected artists starving at the inimical feet of rampant capitalism.”

Cloudpuff groaned. “Oh, we are very screwed.”

Mellowgrass puffed out his cheeks in dismay. “You have no idea. Listen to this: ‘Canst virtue thrive beyond the moth-eaten walls of the consumptive lung? Canst a heart not wracked with whiskey’s grief be true unto its convictions? I deny and denounce it, lords!”

“That’s just gibberish-”

Cloudpuff
(agitated)
Is’t not so?

Mellowgrass
Thine words resound, my friend. Hold them affixed and
surrounded at all quarters by my heartfelt clapplause.

Flopkot
(also agitated)
How speakest thou, dear ones? And likewise I also?
Whence such florid and obtuse utterances?

Cloudpuff
I like it not.

Mellowgrass
(reading the Book)
These words, these dense articulations, are writ upon the pages!
They writhe in inks of serpentine facility as e’er they are pronounced.

Flopknot
What vexatious business is this?

Cloudpuff
‘Tis the play itself, and we three are not apart from it!

Flopknot
Not apart, but playing parts? How so, pray?

Mellowgrass
By designs heptagonal, and ill-inclined deceits, by some
malign thaumaturgy unknown in our fair domains, are we
bound to these theatrical recitations, ‘pon the Nonemyr stage!

Cloudpuff
(with urgent leaps)
Stage-bound, undeniably. A giant’s scrotum
bounces farther than my lustiest hops will carry.

Flopknot
Sh

Mellowgrass
What is the Envoy’s sinister purpose? Is this vile entrapment
a prelude to subornment or invasion?

Cloudpuff
This insult cannot be borne beyond this moment.
‘Pon my oath shall I swear bloody vengeance.

Flopknot
Sh

Mellowgrass
Doest the Nonemyr hand grow by kings and aces at our dispossession?
Will they gain by act of liturgical incarceration some advantage of trade?
Would that we perceiv’d the angles of their design.

Flopknot
Sh

Cloudpuff
By the glisten of their entrails may we surmise their intent.
Let one but stray too close to these hungry paws. I’ll-

Flopknot
Sh – sh -shut up. Both of you. I’m concentrating.

Mellowgrass and Cloudpuff
Say on, Flopknot.

Flopknot
The book triggered some kind of environmental enchantment.
That Nonemyr bastard trapped us inside a rite of procedural immurement.
Apart from us, the only things inside the blast radius were the walls
and about six minutes of breathable air.

Mellowgrass
Such potent workings are not easily undone.

Cloudpuff
Are we bound thus, to recite explanations until our expiration?

Flopknot
We probably would be, if I weren’t tattooed with about fifty
separate counterspells, disenchantments and antihex equations.

Cloudpuff
I knew not of your ink’d hide, dear Flopknot.

Flopknot
Pft. As if you’re ever getting a look under my fluffy white fur, buddy.
Now both of you back up. I’m detonating an illogic bomb under this little bunny snare.

Mellowgrass and Cloudpuff
(withdraw stage left)

(Effects)

 

Flopknot’s ears drooped with the exertion of the dispelling magic. She sniffed the air for lingering signs of the entrapment but found none. “Are you both okay?”

Quaking all over, Mellowgrass panted indignantly, “That was awful. I feel typecast. I couldn’t think of anything but idiotic plot theories.”

Cloudpuff turned his head this way and that, clicking his neck bones. He stood slowly, balancing on his hindquarters in a centred stance. Cracking his knuckles, he said, “I feel a powerful urge for narrative closure, boss.”

Flopknot nodded. “The Gleaming Principalities has a literacy rate in the high 90’s. My bet is copies of this book are being delivered to every other doorstep from here to Point Fantabulous. We can track down the Envoy and introduce him to his own innards later.”

“What’s first?”

Flopknot picked up ‘The Gallery of Errors’ and weighed it thoughtfully in her paws.

“I think it’s time for some old-fashioned book burning.”


This issue of Friday flash fiction has been pre-scheduled while I gallivant around Europe on holiday with the family. Hopefully it all worked as planned, because it’s going up on my birthday, and i wouldn’t want to get it wrong.

This is, of course, a sequel to two previous flash stories of the Gleaming Principalities (known less formally as the “Mafia bunnies” sequence): The Overzone Rule and The Going Rate for Peace and Harmony. I can’t believe I am saying this, but the bunnies are back by popular demand. 

 

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