Flash Fiction Fridays: Honesty


I have hesitated to write anything about the cheaters — the ones who purchased reviews, set up sock puppet accounts, gamed the system — and ongoing debate that accompanies them.

They were wrong. They deceived readers and flipped a middle finger to their fellow authors. They have cast doubt upon indies, as if any of us needed more of that to combat, and cast a shadow upon our years of hard work. 

I do not appreciate this, but rather than blather on through some sanctimonious sermon, I’ve decided to combat this the best way I know how — by providing you with one hell of a piece of flash fiction by Jack Andrew Urquhart who holds a Master of Arts degree in English, Creative Writing, from the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he was the winner of the Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Award for Fiction (1991). His work has appeared at "Clapboard House Literary Journal," "Crazyhorse Literary Journal," and "Standards: The International Journal of Multicultural Studies Online." 

And he is a self-published author. 

We must let our work speak for us. It is what we do. We are writers.


Throw-Away People
By Jack Andrew Urquhart

He blames it partly on Daddy, but mostly on the NSA.

Broken families make broken minds — fertile territory for the experiments these government sadists, these purveyors of insanity, conducting brain games in the name of national security, national security in the guise of mind control.

“But not today!” Cal, newly defiant, yells down the back alley where he’ll take a stand. “Today it ends!” Today he’ll call the shots, outfox the government geeks back east at their computer terminals; Daddy Dearest down the coast with his smart phones and Über-rigged laptops.

It’s a strategy — sharper now that he’s amped — so brilliant it cracks Cal up, sends him bounding into the alley, cackling like a crazy man.  What’s cooler than pre-empting the Fort Meade brainiacs in their concrete bunkers, Big Daddy frantically texting from his Los Altos mini-manse?

Let ’em try ’n beam him now — now that he’s good to go in military regalia: genuine officer’s trench, friggin’ epaulettes ’n all; M-1 brain bucket strapped tight on his head. Let ’em mess with him now that he’s stoked — pint of biker coffee under his belt, 0.8 g’s of ‘strawberry quick’ I-don’t-give-a-shit fizzing in his veins!

Tweeking the system—that’s what it’s about. And it’ll be a bitch to track him in this concrete canyon, only the single bar showin’ on his cell.

“Not enough juice to zap me on that,” he mutters. Fucking government brutes ’n their super computers, programming mischief, beaming microwave malice.

Then there’s Daddy-O. Probably in cahoots with the eggheads — his sappy texts to “get off the street,” “get clean,” “get back t’school,” nothin’ but ersatz mercy missives, scams to lure him back to the laboratory. Christ!  What a picture the old man takes, Cal chortles scrolling the BS. A hoot, the fool’s caller I.D. shot — those hair plugs like sawgrass sprigs sewn into spur leather. He’s pushing sixty now, losing his sap, tree trunk not making wood like it used to. Nothing better to do than tippy-tap crybaby texts.

One—two—three, Cal selects them, fingers flying over the touch screen. Poof! Deleted!

“Turnabout, Arsehole!” he exults, thinking how ironic that it irks the old man now — being ignored.

Hangin’ up, Pops.  No more rehab & boarding-school slammers 4 me! His last text home.

Not another dose of group shrink either, of study halls‘n’placebos; not another night in some hellhole dormitory, voices making brainskeeze in his head. Pops can damn-well suck-it-up! Make do with his Barbie Doll wife, his little blue pills, his flat-screen TV with its 300-cable channels of daily disaster‘n’porn.

Cal wants to shout it from the rooftop — what he’s only just learned — that it’s anyone’s game to throw.

Instead, he pulls a bottle from his coat pocket, leaves the other in place for later. One hard swig and — up‘n’away! — the liquor still dripping off his chin as the bottle soars into space.

No need to wait for the crash; random destruction’s a certainty.

No pity for Pops either; only fair he should get what’s coming — the price of tossing the baby with the bathwater.

“Done with ‘em!” Cal vows, confident that he’s cracked their modus operandi.

“They start with the lowest,then work up!” he yells at the scrawny chick relieving herself beside the Goodwill dumpster. “Let ‘em in your head, and they’ll have you up on the roof, prolonging the agony; zapping you with a chorus of ‘jumps!’”

But it’s wasted effort, nothing for his trouble but an obscene grin when she stands, lifts her skirt, flashes the hungry eye.  Shot as shit, she’s another ‘Bernard’ crapping in the street — another dog waitin’ to be run down.

Ten yards up, there’s more — pack of fags smokin’ rock, doin’ doggie under a cardboard box.

“We’re throw-away people!” he screams at them.  “Bunch ’a guinea pigs!”

But who’s listening?

Only the ones a few rungs up, the Arseholes in their subsidized gulags.

“Shut the fuck up, ya junkie shit!” one of them yells down at him.

“You’re next on their list!” Cal screams in warning. “Lab animals! That’s what you’ll be!”

No surprise, the chorus of ignorance that befalls.

“The ‘polis’ don’t smoke ya, I’ll come do the job!” one of ’em bellows.

They are cattle queued at the abattoir.

“Bring it on!” he howls. “I’m armed to the teeth!”

Soon another one bawls: “Yo! Big guns! Copper’s on the line for ya!”

Five minutes shows the heifer’s good for her word.

It’s like he figured; two of ’em stand sentinel at alley’s end.

Cal has met the baby-faced one before. The other is older — has a mug like a bunion.

They wait by their bikes, legs splayed in a show of authority, batons swinging like dildos from their duty belts.

“What’s up, Sarge?” the younger one shouts. “On the meth again? How long before that shit kills you?” he asks, grinning like he doesn’t know.

The other one, hand twitchy on his holster, isn’t so nicey-nice.

“This ain’t what I signed up for,” he snarks at smiley boy before getting down to business. “Lose the helmet, Soldier Boy!”

It takes the Arse a moment to notice, to snap to attention.

“Shit, here we go! Got us another player! Whats’zat in your hand, Bro?” he shouts, assuming the stance. “Up’n the air, nice’n slow!”

Cal keeps still, relishes the sound of adrenalin-drenched fear.

“Christ on a cracker!” he hears the fool growl. “Train for CSI an’ draw this shit?  Lousy bike beat? Bunch’a junkies, hookers, and beat-up bookies dyin’ to check out?”

Cal draws a breath, feels the ‘strawberry quick’ sizzle in his veins. He watches them watching him, wonders why they don’t get it.

“Your turn’s comin,’ Man!” he blurts, feeling truth rise to power.  And then: “Here! Get ready for it!” he laughs, throwing it away all by himself — the bottle arcing through space.

No need to aim.  Everything’s a target.

©2012 Jack Andrew Urquhart

Jack Andrew Urquhart is the author of So They Say, a collection of self-contained, inter-connected stories, and "They say you can stop yourself breathing", a short story available for Kindle. Formerly a writing instructor at the University of Colorado’s Writing Program, Mr. Urquhart was, until recently, a senior analyst for the Judicial Branch of California.  He resides in central Florida. For more information, please visit his blog.


Leah Griffith said…
Excellent writing! I had a blast reading this. There were so many surprises. One of my favorites: "I-don’t-give-a-shit fizzing in his veins!"
I'd like a shot of that!
Well done, fabulous!
Great piece of writing! And I'm happy to see you address the honesty of writers -- you handled it well. I've been thinking about how to address it in my blog too. As you say, we must let our work speak for us...
John Wiswell said…
Very energetic story, and it went in a different direction than I expected after the "cheaters" intro.
R. Doug Wicker said…
Excellent piece. Absolutely, positively excellent.

Wish I could write this good.

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