Tag Archives: Flash Frenzy

It’s Off To Work She Goes

This photo is today’s prompt for the Flash Friday challenge..

Joan Ranger

She was leaving town now. Her work was done.

Once she had been a simple schoolteacher, and engaged to be married. Then he’d died.

There had been an ambush in which he and his comrades had been killed. She had wept, pined, and drunk whisky by the bottle, because this was the Wild West, after all.

Then months later she’d heard of the mystery avenger, the man with the white hat, the mask, and the ridiculous silver bullets, as if he was up against werewolves.

She’d known straight away that it was him. He’d always been a show-off.

He hadn’t written, he hadn’t telegraphed, he hadn’t even got his friend to send smoke signals. He didn’t care.

So she had set out across Texas, always one town ahead of him, fighting crime in her own way just to annoy him. She wore a mask, simply because she was now single and it made her look hot.

Here in the town of Little Falls (the waterfalls are massive, as you can see, but this is Texas, remember) she had fought drunkenness with stern lectures. She had fought gambling with statistics about the odds against winning. She had fought bar-brawls by fighting everybody in the bar-brawls, because she was still a very angry woman.

Now she was on the bridge outside the town. She made sure she was in silhouette, because that was important. She knew that HE would have reared his horse at this stage, but she had tried that once and had ended up wearing her skirt over her face. She nudged her horse and slowly trotted away.

The townspeople watched her go.

“Who was that masked woman?” asked one of them.

“That was Joan Ranger,” someone replied.

Change Of Venue

This is the photo prompt for this week’s Flash Frenzy challenge…

The empty glasses

Joe’s Speakeasy was packed, as it always was.

The men had loud voices and louder tie-pins. The woman had cigarettes in long holders and dresses that shimmered, like a waterfall on a windy day, when they walked.

Then Brad Spencer had arrived, given the Doorman the password (“I’ve got money to spend”) and been admitted.

“It’s over!” he shouted.

“What is?” asked Sherwood Stewart, sitting at the bar.

“Prohibition,” said Brad. “They’ve just repealed it.” He turned back to the door.

“Where are you going?” asked Joe.

“O’Malley’s,” said Brad, “the Irish Bar on the corner.”

“How can there be a bar on the corner already?” asked Sherwood.

Brad shrugged. “You can throw up an Irish Bar in a couple of hours,” he said. “You buy a couple of cardboard shamrocks, give your bar-staff T-shirts saying ‘Kiss Me, I’m Irish’ and pay a guy a few bucks to sit in the corner and sing ‘Danny Boy’ with one hand over his ear.”

“Sounds good to me,” said Sherwood.

“You can’t seriously be thinking of going,” said Joe desperately. “You’ve all been drinking here for years. It’s where everybody knows your name.”

“That’s not always a good thing,” said Algernona Black, whose parents had wanted a boy.

“Look,” said Brad, “O’Malley will sell whiskey that isn’t made of turpentine and tabasco (Joe had the grace to blush) and gin that doesn’t give you hallucinations. Plus he’ll sell Guinness.”

“What’s Guinness?” asked a man in a fedora (just because everybody knows your name, it doesn’t mean they can always remember it).

“It’s a black drink with a white head,” said Sherwood. “It’s practically Irishness in liquid form. It looks like a nun in a glass, and drinking it can make you fart the tune to ‘Toora-Loora-Loora’, though not always intentionally.”

“I’ll get some in,” said Joe, already planning a recipe that involved sump-oil and wedding-cake icing. “Look, you don’t really want to go to an Irish Bar. There’ll be brawls and bare-knuckle boxing.”

“Whereas here,” said Algernona, “we have police raids and drive-by machine-gunnings.”

And with that they were gone. Algernona hadn’t even finished her drink.

 

Frozen In Time

This photo, by Ashwin Rao, is this weekend’s Flash Frenzy challenge. Our story has to have less than 360 words, so at least I managed that…

Crabs

Deep below the ocean lies the Crustacean Cryonics lab.

It was founded by Krusty the Crab (his mother was a Simpsons fan) and his clients, the Crabwise, as he refers to them, lie in wait for a world in which their claws are not considered delicacies, in which curious children do not lift them up to see if they run on wheels, and in which innocent Irish people trying to write a story can Google “crabs” without learning far more than they wanted to about lower body disorders.

They also dream of a time when the English join the rest of the world by walking sideways to the right.

Wheels Set In Motion

This photo, by Ashwin Rao, is the prompt for this weekend’s Flash Frenzy challenge…

Line of Bikes

They lined the street like ladies of the night, though cheaper to hire.

Their shift was over for the day. They were tired, dusty and had chewing-gum stuck in their tyre-treads. Most of all they were saddle-sore, the human equivalent of a migraine. Having someone sit on your head all day does that to you.

They worked in the cultural quarter of Dublin, available for short-term rent to tourists. Now, like men on bar-stools, they unwound by complaining about their day.

Bike Two had been cycled on the wrong side of the road, a common mistake made by tourists. Bike Seven’s rider hadn’t been on a bicycle for thirty years, and had picked him up and carried him around every corner.

Bike Five had got his wheel stuck in the tramlines, and had watched in horror, like Penelope Pitstop tied to a railway track, as the tram bore down upon him. His rider had wrenched him free at the last second.

Bike Four claimed that a truck had backed out in front of him, and he and his rider had had to slide under it. The others laughingly told him that he had seen too many movies, which was a pity, because it had actually happened. Indeed, they had also cycled through a line of washing, but Bike Four decided that there was no point in mentioning that.

Bike One had got a flat tyre. To a bicycle the sensation of this is rather like what a human would feel if one buttock deflated.

They all agreed, though, that Bike Number Three had had the toughest day. He had been ridden through the old part of the city, along cobblestones, and this had driven his head down into his neck as far as his crossbar.

In Your Face

This photo, by Ashwin Rao, is the prompt for this week’s Flash Frenzy challenge…

Tash the Goddess

The shrine is in a diner in the tiny town of Bedd Springs, Idaho.

This is because there are not many disciples of the Cult of Tash, the Goddess of Moustaches. No woman, for instance, has ever prayed to Tash to bless them with facial carpeting.

The Goddess is depicted as a cat, because they have whiskers, the animal equivalent of a moustache. Legend has it that she grew her middle whisker until it doubled as an eyebrow, and this is why she has a following among men who would never dream of training the hair on their head into a depiction of, say, Sydney Opera House, but who regard a moustache the length of a cello bow as the height of hirsute art.

Among her acolytes have been Groucho Marx, Salvador Dali and Dick Dastardly.

At her feet are her children – on her left foot, in her sleeping bag, is Katnap, the Goddess of Snoozing In Front Of The TV. On her right foot are the twins, Puss and Boots, Gods of Pus, Boots, and Ill-fitting Footwear.

When it comes to selling souvenirs nothing is sacred, not even something sacred, so supplicants can buy small bottles decanted from the products arranged around Tash. The bottle behind her to her right is moustache dye, for dark-haired men who embarrassingly find that their moustache has grown ginger.

The bottle to her right is vinegar and has been left there by mistake, it was supposed to have been on one of the diner tables.

The almost-empty bottle nearest us contains earwax, because a true believer will buy anything.

Most of the pilgrims who visit the shrine are adolescents anxious to prove their graduation into manhood by growing a hedge upon their face. As we watch here one is approaching, bearing the traditional bowl of cat food. Since Tash does not approve of food made from cats, this is a mistake.

That’s why all teenagers’ first attempts at a moustache make them look as if their face has been attacked by a dandelion clock.

Birdie Attempt

This photo, by TheShakes72, was the prompt for this weekend’s Flash Frenzy challenge…

Male golf ball

If you close your eyes you can almost hear the voice of David Attenborough:

“And here. In the long. Grasses the male slowly. Fans. His tail.”

Almost is the important word, though, because David Attenborough has never observed the mating ritual of the male golf ball. No-one has.

People assume that golf balls are manufactured, despite the fact that no-one lives near a golf ball factory and that no-one has ever met anybody who works in one. In fact the golf ball is an animal, and one of the most remarkable species on the planet.

Their natural habitat is the golf course, where they are equally at home in deep sand, underwater, or stuck halfway up a tree. Their breeding ground, though, is in the long grass known as “the rough”, for reasons lost, probably thankfully, in the mists of time.

While salmon struggle upstream to their breeding grounds, and while birds fly through rain, shotgun pellets and small children’s escaped balloons to theirs, the golf ball is clever enough to get humans to drive them to theirs. They have developed remarkably tough hides, and the thump of a golf club feels as gentle to them as a pat on the rump does to a horse. The resulting high-speed journey is so exhilarating that as they leave the tee you can hear them shout “wheeee!”

The humans, without fail, hit the balls into the rough. Nature has programmed them to do this.

When a male golf ball meets a female it fans its tail. The tail looks like a shuttlecock covered in gaudy flowers, and to be honest makes the male look like a bit of a pillock, though in this he is no different to any other male in any other species trying to show off in front of a girl.

If the female is attracted she responds by showing her dimples.

What happens next is unclear, and rightly so. No-one ever asks, for instance, how giraffes do it without toppling over sideways. No-one asks about the sex-life of the hedgehog. Or the Dalek.

Some things should just remain private.

Cat’s Eyes

This photo is the prompt for today’s Flash Frenzy challenge…..

Cat on the Ark

She was the only one left.

Well, apart from the sloth behind her, who was too lazy to move. Creatures get names for a reason.

The trip had been a disaster from the start, and she blamed the humans. To begin with the Ark was about twenty per cent too small, purely because Noah had been unwilling to admit to God that he had no idea what a cubit was. The cramped living conditions had led to cross animals, cross-species animosity and even cross-breeding. The raccoon, for example, had come about after a koala-bear had bred with a zebra.

Each day the Ark sat a little lower in the water, partly because it was filling up with an astonishing amount and variety of poo, and partly because it was now home to 14,279 rabbits.

But day by day the flood was abating, and this morning the Ark had come to rest on the crest of Mount Ararat. And had promptly toppled over.

All of the creatures had tumbled to one side. One of the elephants had landed on a unicorn. The unicorn was now as dead as the dodo, which had been landed on by the other one.

Animals and humans alike had fled, in fear that the Ark might topple again, snowball-like, down the side of the Mount, with them flailing and tangling inside it like socks in a washing-machine.

She watched them now, swimming towards another hill a few hundred yards away, and she knew that she was going to have to do it too. She steeled herself, took a really deep breath, and for the first time ever a cat entered water.

And as she did so she made a solemn vow to herself that she would never forgive humankind, and that her scorn would pass from generation to generation, like freckles.

So when your cat looks at you in utter contempt, or ignores you altogether, or comes in from the garden and drops half a dead mouse onto you newly-cleaned kitchen floor, then this is the reason.

It is because of the covenant of the Ark.

On Limited Offer

This photo, by Ashwin Rao, is the prompt for this week’s Flash Frenzy contest…

Wilted Daisies

Each autumn the pilgrims would come.

They would climb for five days, barefoot and clad only in bubble-wrap, to the Ephemeral Monastery, high in the mountains of Tibet. These hardy souls came seeking answers to universal questions, since they had learned not to trust Wikipedia.

No woman has ever set foot in the monastery, because they have more sense.

The pilgrims would be woken by the Ephemeral Monks at four a.m. each morning to welcome a day that would not start for another three hours, the spiritual equivalent of filming a Christmas special in October. After a meagre breakfast of yak, named after the sound made upon tasting it, they would visit the Gardens of Transience, where they would study the wilting flowers and aging animals, and reflect upon the impermanence of all things.

Then one day a pilgrim offered to buy a bunch of withering roses, to give to a girlfriend who was about to discover the fleeting nature of relationships.

A month later the Monks received a letter from the girl, asking could she buy a dying skunk.

Social media and the smell from the man’s apartment quickly spread the word, and soon the Monks were getting so much mail that they took to waking the pilgrims at three, just to help them to open it.

The Monks reflected themselves, upon their vow of poverty, and decided yeah, right. They have opened a website, WiltedDaisy.com, where along with fading flora and fauna they sell frayed clothing, pre-dented cars and anti-botox, a cream that causes wrinkles.

Their slogan is “get it while you last”.

Other monasteries have quickly set up competing websites, offering everything from balding lions to fallen trees to bottled gout. Indeed, one is selling not dying but extinct items – for example, forty dollars buys you a dodo, though what you actually receive is an empty box and the opportunity to reflect upon the permanence of human gullibility.

So the Ephemeral Monks know that their success won’t last forever. But then, as they’ll be first to tell you, nothing does.

People In Glass Houses

Ethan Hunt

Ethan Hunt lay across the skylight of Grand Central Station. In a moment he would cut a hole in the glass, lower a winch and dangle from it like a puppet after attempting Riverdance. He knew that passing commuters would pay him no heed. This was New York, after all.

He would then complete his mission, scanning the display boards to find the train times to Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

He could have looked them up online, but what’s impossible about that.

As he reached into his pocket for his glass-cutter, his phone rang. He fished it from his other pocket.

“Hello?”

“Hello, Ethan,” said the familiar voice. “The picture on your phone is of Marcus Longmore, senior research scientist on a project so secret that I can’t tell you what it is.”

“Er, this isn’t a good – “

“The photo now on your screen is of his cat, Fluffy. Terrorists have kidnapped Fluffy and demanded that Longmore reveal all details of the Burger-Flavoured Ice-cream Project – ah, crap – or they will test the theory about a cat’s nine lives in a most empirical way.”

“Listen, I’m lying on the roof of – “

“The terrorists have cleverly hidden Fluffy in a Cats’ Home in Queens. Your mission, Ethan, should you decide to accept it, is to gain access to the Home, identify Fluffy from among two hundred other cats, who all look pretty much the same, and extract him.”

“The glass is beginning to creak here –“

“Furthermore, to prevent the risk of kittens featuring in future extortion attempts, since Longmore is bats about cats, we have decided that Fluffy should be neutered. As we can’t let any vet know of his existence, you will have to carry out this operation.”

“Oh, for f- “

“As usual, should you or any of your IM Force be caught, killed or badly scratched by an understandably angry cat, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions. Good luck, Ethan.”

The call ended. Ethan peered through the fragile glass at the concourse over a hundred feet below, and groaned.

The phone was going to self-destruct in five seconds.

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This week’s Flash Frenzy theme is to write 360 words prompted by the above photo, which is by @TheShakes72

A Pocketful Of Rye

Coinstacks

The King was in his counting-house, staring gloomily at the four small piles of florins that were all that remained of his once vast fortune.

The Queen was gone. Today had been the final straw.

She had stood loyally by his side as cutbacks had been made. The King’s throne had been replaced by a kitchen-chair with a book under one of its legs. The royal coach had been sold to a merchant who hired it out for stag-parties and hen-nights. The court jester had been replaced by a collection of humorously-shaped vegetables.

The palace guard had once numbered a hundred men, armed with swords and lances. Now the palace guard was precisely that – a single guard, armed with a frying pan.

The Queen had put up with all of that, but this morning their breakfast pie had been filled with blackbirds. They hadn’t even been cooked properly.

The Queen had taken one mouthful, then rushed off and thrown up in the garderobe, or possibly the wardrobe, she’d been in too much of a hurry to care which. She was now in The Parlour, the inn in the nearby village, eating bread and honey and chatting up men with large halberds.

The maid was gone too, after bizarrely being attacked by a blackbird in what was presumably an act of revenge.

It had all gone wrong because all royalty are related, which is why they have more fingers than toes. One of the King’s cousins was a Nigerian Prince, who had promised him a generous reward if the King would give him the keys of his counting-house so that the Prince could hide his money there from his enemies for a few days.

Well, blood is thicker than water, and sadly the King was thicker than both.

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The photo is the prompt for today’s Flash Frenzy contest, and is by Ashwin Rao.