Tuesday, 1 January 2013

For those who have taken the time to read...


The Flashnificent 7.  A simple concept.  Seven writers, seven days of the week.  Get a story out on each day of the week, give the public some high quality fiction in bite-size portions.

It worked for a while.  Each of us sweated, cried, and in some cases urinated over our respective pieces.  We were as steady as P-Funk’s rhythm section and twice as glam.  It was as the number of page views started to rise that the problems began.

We lost George first, to croquet.  These temptations exist to snare the successful.  “Come back George!” we cried, but to no avail.  He saluted, waved his little mallet, and was gone.

Next something strange happened to India.  She changed her name to Scott.  We’re an inclusive, unprejudiced bunch here at the Flashnificent 7, we simply pretended not to notice.

Chris and Davis were next to flounder.  Chris became involved in every musical project connected with the University of Winchester.  The toll of leaping like a crack-fuelled gazelle from musical project to musical project soon began to show.  We knew things were bad when we found him, slumped in a corner, unable to even strum his own guitar.  (Not a euphemism)

Davis, who claims to be a time lord, insisted that he had been writing consistently each week, but because he is currently stationed in the late 1800s the technology did not exist for him to post.  We attempted to remonstrate with him, but he pointed a screwdriver at us and said “It may not be sonic, but it’ll bloody well hurt.”

That left Brendan, Antosh and Mark.  One wintry night the three gathered on a blasted heath.

“When shall we three meet again?” Brendan cackled.
“Hold on,” Antosh said, “weren’t we going to talk about the Flashnificent 7?”
“Tis true,” Mark said, stroking his (frankly revolting) moustache, “we were.”

“Shall we go in then?” Brendan suggested, “It’s unnecessarily cold out here.”

From the warmth of the pub, a consensus was reached.  The Flashnificent 7 was no longer working.  We were not fulfilling our brief of providing a high-quality piece of flash fiction a day.  Antosh and Brendan suggested something looser and less formal, like silk pyjamas.

A site where there was no set day to post, where the pressure to post was off.  Open to external submissions and (short) poetry as well as flash fiction.  Fewer rules, greater freedom.  At first Mark was as resistant and unyielding as his moustache.  Then as Movember melted into December, he shaved, and realised Antosh and Brendan’s idea had a simple beauty that could not be appreciated by a moustachioed man.

“Could such a nirvana exist?” Mark gasped.  Antosh and Brendan put an arm each around his neck and pointed him at http://theflashnificents.tumblr.com.

Join us, dear reader.  Join us.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Minotaur Blues

‘It’s just not fair!’ I butt my head against the wall. Perseus looks at me, amused.

‘What’s eating you, cow brains? You’ve got lots of room to roam, an endless supply of meat, and no one to tell you what to do. What more could you possibly want?’
I turn to him, tears streaming from my eyes. I can barely get the words out.

‘I’m horny.’
He laughs. ‘Well, of course you are. You’re a bull. What did you expect?’

I shake my head. ‘No, I mean I’m sexually frustrated. I’m the only one of my kind and no one wants to shag a half breed human.’
‘I don’t know about that, some of us Greeks are pretty perverse…’

‘Really?’
‘Oh yeah. At the last feast for Dionysus, I saw someone fuck a harp. Trust me, if you’ve got orifices, you are getting laid.’

‘You think so?’
‘I know so. Come on, let me take you to a party. I’ll see if we can hook you up.’

‘Great. Wait, hang on, how are you going to find your way out of here?’
‘I got the princess to give me a ball of string to uncurl to mark a path.’

‘You crafty bastard.’
‘Hey, you bang a princess, you can get her to give you the world.’

‘Neat. Ooh, do you think I could get with her?’
‘Not in a million years. Besides, she’s mine. I’m not letting you get anywhere near her.’

‘Oh yeah?’
‘Yeah. Honestly, I swear you lay so much as a single hoof on her, I’ll slice you into beef wellington.’

‘You and what army?’
‘Oh, I don’t need an army, I’ve got my sword.’

‘That won’t do you any good…’
He thrusts it straight through me. It definitely did him some good.

Ow…
I slump to the floor. Looks like I’m dying a virgin. Dear Gods, I hope there’s some heifers in the underworld…

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Clown Therapy

I stick a cloth into the glass. I twist. It squeaks. I clean it for the clown staring at me across the bar.

"What'll it be mate?" He isn't a conventional clown. His hair is purple. We usually get gingers in here. He has tears painted on his left cheek as well. Black, like he's killed a few men.

"Would you choose for me?" he answers with a normal voice, not a broken, helium filled one.

"Why do you want me to choose?" I ask.

Kid gloved fingers stroke an invisible beard on his chin. He raises an eyebrow, hums and then the sound of rushing air twinges my ears. A yellow balloon inflates behind his head, harboring an exclamation mark.

"Because you're unhappy!" he replies, with a smile that stretches his scarlet frown into a strange expression.

I sigh. "I'm not unhappy. I've had a long day."

"Ah but you are unhappy. These days are long because you stretch them with those polish and push hands of yours. Pull more pints for the clients climbing in through the pipes from outside, you strive to serve seven 'til nine, in the evening, with no sense of unreasoning alarm bell dinging in your head to tell you, YOU'RE WASTING YOUR LIFE! Seriously, uneasy seeing you fall apart at seams, streams of your inner thought lusting for the colour drapes, take a rollercoaster ride on my tongue if you want friend, we can glide into a new life for you and those glass fondling fingers, whaddaya say?"
 
He hands me his card, which states his name is Riddles The Clown. The frown on his face has reversed and is now a smile spanning his white painted jawline.

I shake my head. "I don't want your therapy. I'm just tired. What do you want to drink?" Why couldn't he just be the regular, depressive clowns we get in here.

"It was worth a shot," he answers and his grin falls back in to frown state. His posture slumps and purple party poppers blow as he sits down. They make the sound of trumpets tooting a minor chord. "I'll take a pint of absinthe, please. Double. Rejected help is something I could do with forgetting." He headbutts the bar and his red nose squeaks.

This brakes my hard face and I crack up laughing. The clown watches as I drop the glass and it smashes. I shudder with giggles and tears spring out onto my cheeks. Between the laughs, I manage to tell him this is good therapy and give him the drink on the house. His frown stays as a smile for the rest of the night.

Santa's Saucepans by India Roberts

It was snowing in the secret place where Santa and his helpers live. Over everywhere else, but the North Pole, a rain cloud sifted hail into rain and rain into hail, making men and women’s faces uglier than before with their disapproval of such weather.

The closest he could get to seeing what Santa was doing in the middle of the night, out in the tool shed was behind an evergreen tree strung with a few yellow lights. Rudolf could never know, but the fantastic nature of his nose acting as a stand-alone light to guide Santa’s sleigh each special night was only fantasy. It was actually the case that his nose lit up from the absorption of external sources. It would take the smallest amount of light, the stars on a clear night, the distant street lamps below, some believed, even the glisten of an eye could be enough, but nobody has ever had the chance to determine whether this is true. 

A clattering of sauce pans inside the shed should have been heard by all the residents if there were any hills or mountains surrounding the red and white painted town, but it was only a plain flat ground, a safe place for snowmen and women and children and recently, snow-dogs to land.

‘Which pan of sauce is it?’

Through a small box window pane, Rudolf saw there were a many hundred sauce pans, none of which he had ever seen before. Some shiny and some dim, but all silver and gold.

‘Beautiful, you were beautiful Patricia, yes, it could be you. It could be.’

His master was never one to have expressed any losing of the mind.

‘Oh but Georgina, I loved you, I liked the freckles, and remember I bought you a very good gift, despite what a naughty girl you’d been.’

Rudolf leaned in smelling the coffee that was far richer and exceptional than any he had smelt before. And the yellow lights strung around the tree moved with the breeze close to Rudolf’s nose so it glowed brightly outside Santa’s window.

‘My dear, my dear it must be you. That’s it. I will go to Mr Postman and ask for all thoughts from you, for you must be true,’ he turned round, ‘Rea?’ 

Santa looked out the window and Rudolf, seeing he was spotted, began to dig through the snow. ‘I wonder if I dropped it here?’

The door swung open. 

‘What did you hear?’

‘Nothing much. I’m looking for something… I dropped.’

‘I see.’ Santa held a golden saucepan behind his back, the sheen of it was bright, causing Rudolf’s nose to glow 
brighter.

‘What is it?’

‘Well, er.’

‘Speak from the heart.’

Rudolf lifted his head high and took in a deep breath preparing him for saying something he’s stored for a long, long time. ‘I’ve dropped my willingness to keep myself from asking questions.’

‘And?’

‘Why am I here? Why is there no… No grass? Why do the snow men melt and what are you doing?’

‘Alright, alright. There is no grass here, because of the snow. Snowmen melt where snow is not always found 
and I am trying to find the right saucepan to make snow with.’ 

‘Sauce pan?’

‘Yes?’

Rudolf peered closer and Santa stepped back, stroking the golden pan with his thumbs, away from his deer’s sight.

‘Are they alive?… The pans, I heard you talking to them.’

Santa grew red in the face.

‘Alive! Well of course not! I’ve never heard such a silly thing.’ He drew back towards the door.

‘Wait! Where are you going?’ 

Santa turned round as fast as he could. He opened the door and pushed in with his round tummy stopping him from slipping away quickly. He was somewhat slower at running since the ‘Mrs Santa’ had enough of feeding him and looking out to the tool shed and wondering about the pans. 

Now Rudolf stopped him, pulling him out from the door with his teeth. The golden sauce pan fell through the air and onto the ground, hissing sharply as it touched the snow. A large hole surrounded it where the snow had melted.

‘Don’t – touch it.’

Rudolf frowned at the ground. The hole was so deep he wondered what was underneath. A strong wind came from the south, rattling Rudolf’s bells and almost taking Santa’s hat with it. The saucepan rolled to the side revealing a patch of grass. Rudolf’s eyes widened, his last memory of grass lay by his mother’s side, the first sound of bells, the last sight of his mother. It was grass that he amongst the other reindeer dreamt of each cold night. 

‘There must be more of it,’ Rudolf meant to say with Santa’s jacket crammed between his teeth. 

Suddenly, Rudolf had a grand idea. He threw Santa flying across the snow and onto the ground. Next he walked into the shed, looked around at the many glimmering pans. He took the nearest silver by the handle and tossed it out onto the snow. Again he saw the snow melt and small flecks of grass appear from around it.

Santa began to clamber up. Rudolf hurled another. He was too slow. He turned to the wall made of thin logs. 

Stamping his hooves he tensed his body focusing on the wall. Santa was up on his feet, looking wearily over to the shed. 

‘No, get out of there, right this instant!’

Rudolf blew out a long deep breath, rattling the saucepan against one another causing a shrill almost scream-like rattle to clamber between them. Santa began to jog to the shed, holding out his sausage like fingers. Rudolf took in a deep breath and charged at the wall with his antlers that smashed through the wall and fell to pieces into the snow along with the reindeer, who, only a little scratched, shook his head from a head ache. With such force, each saucepan fell onto the ground erasing every patch of snow in sight.

The eleven peered out of their stables.

‘Grass.’

The Flashnificent Files: Mark

Just a year after the Flashnificent 7 started, we've hit 9,000. We're celebrating in our traditional fashion - with an interview with one of the team. This time round, it's the turn of Mr Thursday (ie he posts on Thursdays) AKA Mr Mark Wilkson.


What do you bring to the Flashnificents?
Decrepitude.


What’s the first thing you wrote?
The first thing I wrote and took seriously was a short story that I submitted for a competition in 2004.  The brief was to write a story about my hometown, the winners would be considered for publication in a real live book.  I was one of the lucky few, and my story was included.  The book was called Alt-History (by Queenspark Publishing).  I can’t remember what the story was called, but was happy enough to send it off, so must have liked it.  It remains the only story I’ve ever submitted to publishers.


Who are your writing influences?
Unless I’m writing a parody, I try not to be too directly influenced by anyone I enjoy reading.  However, I read Paul Auster, Annie Proulx, Will Self, John Steinbeck and Martin Amis (earlier work especially).  The books I return to again and again as ‘literary comfort food’ are P.G. Wodehouse’s novels and the Philip Marlowe stories by Raymond Chandler.


Can you summarise your writing style in one word?
Schizophrenic.


What are your favourite flashes?
Of mine or generally?  Personally I was quite pleased with the two Tooth and Claw stories, plus Birth of a Story and Placebo.


I still have a soft spot for the Party Week story that we all did together at the beginning of 2012, then I read Antosh for beautifully under-explained stories that require reader effort, and Brendan for humour and general punnery.  I also read Warped of the Words because the author has a nicely developed mix of humour and horror with an evil streak.

Do you think you’ll still be writing flash in twenty years?
I hope so.  Flash fiction is perfect for trying different techniques and ideas out.  Except where deadline pressure causes me to post something (frankly) half-arsed, I find the blog the perfect place to experiment.  If the worst comes to the worst and I’ve written an unintelligible or below standard post, there’ll be another opportunity next week, so I just move on and learn a lesson (hopefully).


What should the Flashnificent motto be?
Someone foolishly gave me access to the admin page of the new blog (look out for an announcement) so the Flashnificent motto as presented there is currently ‘Fuck yeah.’  Personally, I’m happy with that.


Joe Pesci told us he thinks you might be good at poker.  Are you? [We might have nicked this question from an Empire interview with De Niro – Ed.]
That fucker just wants to win his house back.  He’s a funny guy…


Complete this sentence – there’s no party like…
…an S-Club part...oh.  Sicked up a little bit of my self-respect there.


Where is the love?
Geneva, along with the money.


Anything outside of Flashnificents that you’d like people to know about?
My very favourite flash fictions can be found republished at http://hierarchyofone.com  (along with a couple of previously unpublished stories)


The love isn’t really in Geneva.  Sadly, nor is the money.
Thank you Mark! You can find his flash here every Thursday. He tweets @nonchalant_g.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

364 Days

Meat.  Must have it.  We hunt in a pack.

I organise the reindeer, chasing down arctic foxes.  Gored vulpine remains shudder and heave as Rudolf’s red nose presses into the flank, shining and wet.  When they've eaten their fill, the real hunt begins.

Harnessed to the sleigh, the reindeer circle in the perpetual night, gaining height while I seek out a herd of seals.  This is my larder for the year ahead.  My fat, fur skins and meat.  The candles that light my home, the bones that are carved into tools.

What dyes the costume red?  What do you think?  I've seen the grotesque cartoon mockeries gracing your cards and advertisements.  Try living here for a year.  Think I've got anything to laugh about?

And when I enter your homes, you leave me brandy or wine.  I have a job to do.  I'd never deliver anything if I actually drank the stuff you gave me.  Not to mention the pies, sandwiches and chocolate.  Have none of you seen me recently?  Couldn't just one of you leave me a fucking salad?

Your weakling children are so pleased to see me, for one night only.  I am invisible for the rest of the year, left unheeded.  If they saw me in June they would be repelled by me.  Obese old man smelling of salt, seal blubber and sweat.

Undisturbed until December, I'm reminded of your existence by the fledgling letters of greed.  Children learning an artificial need, encouraged by parents too stupid to understand what it is they’re encouraging.  Begging letters.  I want, I want, I want.

Ritual is a powerful magic.  I cannot abandon you entirely without ceasing to exist myself.  An old man dying alone in the snow.  My displeasure with this annual summons has to be manifested in small ways.  The gift of socks, the right item in the wrong size or colour, the absence of batteries.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Stuffing

Drinking.

Drinking, Drinking, Drinking.

Turkey. Stuffing in the teeth teeth

Ferrerro Roche.

Unable to spell Ferrero Rochet because of

the Guinness, the HP sauce and too much late night

drinking.

Drinking, Drinking, Drinking.

Thinking,

about a melody,

about a betrayal

about Seasonal Bullshit Disorder,

about the next drink,

about writing properly again.

Bring out the stuffing,

I'm going on vacation

and I'm not coming back

til I'm in love again.