Thursday, April 28, 2011

Flash Fiction Friday: done with all this measuring of truth

Prompt: RANDOM FIRST SENTENCE (Grab the book closest to you. Open to page 70. Choose the 7th sentence. Use this pseudo-random sentence as your start sentence.)
Genre: OPEN, though hard-boiled, noir, crime action would be nice.
Word Count: UNDER 700 WORDS
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My opening sentence is from Hugh MacLennan's Two Solitudes.
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There would be plenty he could say before such a thing was allowed to happen. He could tell them about the times that she had tried to turn them all against him with her lies. Lies about drinking, lies about how tight he was with money, lies about him hitting her. He had never once, never in his life, laid a hand upon her, although god knows she deserved it.

He worked hard to provide for them. They were the only reason he stayed in this soul-destroying backwater town. They were the rope that kept him tethered, grounded, even while it tightened imperceptibly around his neck.

Years ago, before the kids, before the failure of the business, they both had dreams of something better. We'll go to Toronto they told each other, with our talent, our vision, we'll create amazing things. We'll have to fight off the press, and the offers, and the accolades. Maybe someday we'll go to New York, San Francisco. Nothing was out of reach.

Nothing was out of reach, but nothing was ever within grasp either. After the first one was born, he could feel the dreams loosening their hold. Suddenly there were overflowing diaper bins, never-ending wails that shattered his concentration, another mouth to feed. His work suffered. Where he was once so sure of each step, he now questioned every movement. Nothing looked right anymore.

By the time the boy was born, he agreed to take that job in her brother's garage.

He did it for them, and now he was losing them. For the longest time now he had seen the disdain in her face when he came home exhausted and spent the evenings on the front porch with bottle and a glass filled with ice. He hadn't stepped inside his studio in years.

Shortly after she started her evening course at the community college, the lies started. At first they were lies to him. She always had a ready answer, of course, when she arrived home late at night looking flushed. There were so many assignments, their study group had met after class. That young fellow driving her home? He was in their study group, of course, the only one heading home in the same direction as her.

Later, the lies became about him. He could see the veiled glances aimed at him as he parked the car at the Liquor Mart, could hear the conversations abruptly stop as he rounded the aisle at the drugstore. Until finally, that young fellow from her evening course stopped him in the street and admittedly, in a halting voice what he had suspected all along, that she was leaving him.

And now she was filing for divorce. Well, there would be plenty he could say before such a thing was allowed to happen. Plenty he could say, but only one thing he could do.

He glanced over at the boy and the girl, bound and gagged in the corner of the living room, but he avoided their eyes. Their terrified whimpers had not ceased since he had surprised them after school, since they had burst into the house where he was waiting for them with the ropes and the bandanas. His children, but more importantly, her children.

As he heard her turn the key in the front door, he reached down and picked up the rifle that lay at his feet.

15 comments:

Flannery Alden said...

Jesus! What a story! And you're right; we went in similar directions. And I think this was very well constructed. Frighteningly well done.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Thanks so much, Flannery. I have to admit that this story sort of creeped me out as it wrote itself. Who knows what monsters skulk around in our brains?

The McIlrath Family said...

OMG. Wow,that left me chilled and I find my heart is racing. Very disturbing.

Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw said...

WOW!! OMG!! Okay, those weren't the first words out of my mouth when I finished your dark little tale, Barbara... but, I'm trying not to say "fuck!" so much... Tina says it isn't "lady-like"... whatever... ;)

Excellent story... dark, horrifying... I love the progression from idyllic dreamers to unfaithful wife and murderous husband.

"Nothing was out of reach, but nothing was ever within grasp either." That line resonates with both hope... and hopelessness...

Very well crafted story, Barbara... gave me the chills! Thank you!

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Oh goody, that's what I was aiming for, McIlrath Family! I'm glad to hear I was getting close.

Thank you, Veronica Marie! I am humbled that you found my tale effective. Can't wait to read yours.

Doc said...

"They were the rope that kept him tethered, grounded, even while it tightened imperceptibly around his neck."

Didn't see the end coming at all and it left me with a disturbing whiplash feeling. Way to pack a punch! You really do have a knack for writing dear. I'm delighted to see you giving it a go. Well done!

Doc

Ron Earl Phillips said...

That's what we call in writing 'a slow burn' and you did it well. The progression was nice and end was straight out of Criminal Minds.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Thank you, Doc, I am honoured that you find this story effective. And thanks so much for encouraging me to join FFF; it's exactly what I need to reach outside of my writing comfort zone.

I am thrilled to hear you say that, Ron, as I was rather nervous about trying my hand at crime fiction. Thanks so much for your kind words.

Beach Bum said...

Wow! That story hit me hard! Heard about similar, real life cases that can challege assumptions about basic humanity.

Great job.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I was somewhat concerned that I was capitalizing upon real life tragedies, Beach Bum, but in the end, this had to write itself.

Allison said...

What a great story, Barb. And a great idea. I'm going to have to steal this idea and do a post this weekend. Thanks for the inspiration!

Joyce said...

No way did I see that ending coming. What a perfect study of the progressive deterioration of a human being. Frightening and extremely disturbing indeed. Those ending images will remain long after I move on to the next screen. One never knows what's going on behind a neighbor's closed blinds, does one... Excllent.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I look forward to reading your stories, Al! You write the most amazing pieces. We all need a source of inspiration sometimes and joining a group like Flash Fiction Friday has certainly made me stretch my writing muscle.

Thanks so much, Joyce! I tried to pace it progressively and have to admit I am quite happy with the results.

RegCPA5963 said...

Great story! My interest was piqued right from the start!

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Why, thank you, Reg! I'm very pleased to hear that.