flash fiction


A TV control room big screen showing mutiple feeds at once.Belle ordered the TV to increase the volume to 40, struggled to get out of her chair, and hurried into the kitchen. “Noah!” she shouted through the open door leading to the basement stairs. “Noah, come quick. Lucas Walker is going to be on TV.” She paused momentarily, listening to the whir of Noah’s band saw, then shouted again. “Noah! Did you hear me? Lucas Walker is on the TV.”

Without waiting she turned back toward the family room. The sound of the band saw shutting down confirmed Noah had indeed heard her.

“What?” her husband called back up, but she was already reclaiming her seat in the recliner. She strained to get it to recline, the damn mechanics were breaking down, and waited for the commercials to play out. She could hear Noah’s steps racing up to the kitchen.

“Is everything OK, Bella?” he called once on the main level.

“In here,” she shouted back. “Your old workmate is going to be on TV.”

He stepped into the doorway, one side of his face turned down in exasperation, clearly displeased at being interrupted for a news item. “What are you talking about?”

“Lucas Walker,” Belle said, pointing at the TV. She had all but one of the channels muted and it was now showing the seventh commercial of the break. “He’s going to be on the news.”

“What for?” Noah stepped into the room and took up a position that gave him a fair view of the screen.

“He’s retiring.”

His look of consternation bordered on disgust. He took a step back toward the kitchen, as the commercials finally came to an end. Belle urged him to stay, and changed the image to full screen.

“Today is one for the history books,” the news anchor said when programming resumed. “Today, Lucas Walker is retiring from his position as head analyst with Hartman-Roberts Securities. We have been following the career of Mister Walker for some time now, and it is exciting to see his long and successful career come to a close. As the last worker in America to officially retire, Mister Walker opens the door on a new era, where all Americans can now enjoy the life of leisure.”

Noah snorted, threw out a hand in disgust, and headed for the kitchen.

“Aren’t you going to watch?” There was a plaintive tone in Belle’s voice.

“Life of fucking leisure, my ass.” Noah almost spat out the words. “Fucking robots broadcasting the news. Fucking robots delivering the goods. Fucking robots making more fucking robots.”

Belle gave a little sniff. She hated it when Noah got like this. She started to say something to placate him but stopped, wide eyed, drawn back to the screen. “Ooh.”

Noah stepped back in to see what was so interesting.

The camera focused on the reporter, sprawled in the street, it’s head cracked wide open on the curb.

“He gave it a shove when it stuck the microphone in his face,” Belle explained to her husband. “He looked quite pissed.”

“Not to worry,” the anchor said in a cheerful voice. “The stress of transitioning into retirement frequently results in such outbursts. We have another reporter standing by in case something like this happened. Bob, can you step in for Bill?”

“Will do.” The camera swung up to focus on a chipper young man with thick dark hair and a broad smile. Only the eyes gave it away. As it stepped over the hulk of the first reporter the camera swung back to Lucas Walker, who was squaring up for a right uppercut.

Noah leaned in toward the TV, his fist clenched the same way.

“Get ‘em, Lucas,” he hissed under his breath. “Get ‘em good.”


© 2015 by J. M. Strother, all rights reserved.

Photo by Loozrboy via WikiMedia, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.


A bar with many bottles

Typical Friday night at The Roundabout, bar packed, mostly with guys hoping to get lucky, tables full, mostly with couples who already had. A few loners, some drifting about constantly casting for a nibble, others like me, content to sit and nurse their beer. I vaguely wonder how many of them are married but on the prowl, also like me.

I come here often, ever since I found out Jeffrey was cheating on me. He knows I come, assumes I’m cheating on him. Fine. Let him think what he wants. Actually, I’m hunting. Some day I’ll find the right one.

Joe and the Stringers play from the tight little corner set aside for the band near the back, a mix of blues, jazz, and something I can only characterize as “different.” Just in front of the bandstand another little square is set aside, supposedly the dance floor. Some couples actually dance.

I watch the crowd with feigned disinterest. A guy, maybe just out of college, brushes up against me, then gives me the grand apology, purely an accident, as if he didn’t mean to bump into my boob, all the while looking me up and down assessing my potential. I probe him more subtlety, assessing his. I’ll pass.

“Get lost,” I say, taking another swallow from my bottle. He moves on, still fishing.

Four couples are dancing now, trying to follow the music without much success. Joe is playing an actual danceable tune. They just can’t dance. One lone fellow is out there too. He dances like my dad at a wedding reception after having too much Champagne. I sort of feel for him. I stare too long and he looks up, catching me watching him. I quickly look down and swivel back around to face the bar.

I feel him coming toward me. At last, I think, I may have found the one.

He slides between me and the next barstool, violating any decent sense of personal space. I look at him coolly.

“Would you like to dance?” he asks, all puppy dog enthusiasm.

I shake my head, no, then brush the hair out of my face.

He wiggles his bottom up onto the barstool and signals to Mary for two more of the same, one for him, one for me. Mary pops the tops off two bottles and sets one before each of us. I glance down coyly and blush a bit.

“You come here often?” he asks.

“Yeah, pretty often,” I admit.

He’s taken aback. “I’m surprised I haven’t noticed you before. What’s your name?”


“Kevin. Kevin Waller.” He extends his hand. I just look at it.

He slowly pulls it back and wraps it around his beer bottle. “So,” he keeps casting, “do you dance?”

I nod. “I’ve been known to.”

“Just not with me?”

I laugh and give him a soulful look of commiseration. “My feet hurt, and nothing personal, I’ve seen you dance.”

Now he blushes.

“You get an A for effort though.”

“Well, I try.”

We sit there in companionable silence for a bit before he goes on, unwilling to give up.

“So, Marie, what do you do for a living?” he asks.

“I’m a research assistant at the university.”

“What kind of research?” he asks with what seems like genuine interest.

I smile and shrug. “For all you know, I’m doing research right now.” His face lights up at my warm smile. In the back of the room Joe shifts from fast-paced to slow dance.

“I’m better at slow dancing,” Kevin tells me, extending a hand. I shrug, what the Hell, and take his hand. I spend the next five minutes trying to protect my feet.

When we get back to the bar I ask him to watch my drink while I use the lady’s room. He nods and watches me walk off. From the corner of my eye I see him slip a little white pill into my beer bottle. I smile to myself.


I have a little difficulty getting him up the steps to his apartment. After he drops his keys for the third time I snatch them off the floor and let us in. I don’t want to attract attention out here. I lead him in, close the door, and settle him on the couch. I don’t sit down, and keep on my white cotton gloves.

Switching the bottles was easy. I just waited until his was about at the same level as mine and then laughed at some goofball out on the dance floor. Of course Kevin had to look.

I’ve always had this strange power of suggestion. If I want to make someone leave me alone, I can usually get them to wander off. But to plant a complex suggestion, perhaps a suggestion a person would strongly object to, I need the subject to be compliant. Kevin was now putty in my hands.

I took a photo of Jeffery from my purse and held it in front of Kevin.

“Look at this picture, Kevin. He’s the manager at the QuickWay on Jefferson. You know where that is?”

He nodded, yes.

“This guy’s a real asshole, Kevin. We hate him. Don’t we?”


“In three weeks, at 8:15pm, go into QuickWay and shoot the bastard in the head for me. Will you do that, sweetie?”

Another nod.

“Make sure he’s dead.”

I repeat the routine a half dozen times to ensure it takes, then lead him into his bed room, have him strip and crawl into bed, then plant a false memory of him coming home with some blond who looks nothing like me.

I let myself out.

After I caught him cheating Jeff asked me if I wanted a divorce.


I want the insurance.


© 2014 by J. M. Strother, all rights reserved. Photo © 2014 by J. M. Strother, all rights reserved.


A NASA concept image of a space station.I hovered just outside the circle of Dockside officers surrounding Captain McGuire, trying to catch his eye. No doubt they were busy, what with launch just six hours away, but I really needed to bring this issue up with him post haste. McGuire was known for his temper, as well as his disdain for civvy staff members. Since I’m definitely a civvy I dared not interrupt. Hendricks, our Chief Operations Officer here on LF-4, finally left the little cluster of uniforms and the Captain cast me a skeptical glance.

“What is it, Abbot? You’ve been dancing around there like you’ve had to piss in the worst way for the last half hour. Get it off your chest.”

Clearing my throat, I stepped forward, close to the remaining circle, yet not actually joining it. Fleet boys have an overdeveloped sense of personal space and have been known to deck anyone stupid enough to intrude. The three remaining officers stood nonchalant regarding me with smiles, bordering on sneers. I paused, uncertain of myself, of the situation. “Get it off your chest,” was a questionable invitation at best.

“Sir, I need to talk to you about the supply situation.” The sneer on Lieutenant Du Val’s face melted into a blank, unreadable expression. Lieutenant Anderson looked at her watch.

As Dockside Logistics Specialist for this launch it was my job to make sure everything was properly procured, delivered, and stowed aboard the ship before we sent her on her way. Once launched there’s no turning back, no resupply. First Crew would not emerge from stasis until the ship reached its full cruising speed, in about three years. The survival of the colonists depended upon a full manifest.

I cleared my throat again. “There seems to be a problem.”

Lieutenant Du Val frowned, folding his arms over his chest. Sub Lieutenant Gamble assumed Parade Rest, hands behind his back. His half smile-half sneer remained on his face. Anderson looked like she suddenly remembered something needing doing, and departed at a good clip.

I did not interpret the officers’ body language as good signs, and felt my situation growing tenuous.

“May I speak to you in private?”

Captain McGuire scowled, ever so briefly, then jerked his head to the side, dismissing the others. Du Val saluted and walked away, casting a black glance my way. Gamble stood off to about 3 meters and resumed his at ease position.

“What’s on your mind, young lady?” McGuire asked, his countenance all sincerity and concern.

“I’ve just finished my inventory, Captain, and there are critical shortages in the supplies.”

McGuire looked puzzled and stepped a bit closer to me. “What do you mean? Last week you told me everything was well accounted for.”

“Last week everything was well accounted for. I supervised that inventory personally, and everything was there down to the last gram of coffee.”

“Then how can there possibly be any shortages?” he asked, scratching his graying beard. “And what kind of shortages are we talking about here? Food? Medicine? Materials?”

“Yes. Yes to all of that. Plus equipment. Two tractors are missing. Otherwise, about 30% of the food and building materials have disappeared, and fully half of the pain killers.”

He shook his head in disbelief. “That can’t be right. All those supplies have been under guard and seal since their arrival. Either you must have made a mistake upon delivery, or are mistaken now. I can’t see how they could have just gotten up and walked away.”

My stomach dropped.

“With all due respect, Sir, there was no mistake. Then or now. Obviously someone has stolen these goods, and in doing so put the lives of hundreds of colonists in peril.” I could not help letting my eyes drift toward Sub Lieutenant Gamble. As if being reminded he was there, Captain McGuire turned and signaled the Officer over. As Gamble approached I took a reflexive step back.

“Yes, Sir?” Gamble stood rigidly at ease.

“Joe, Liz here seems to think there is a problem with the supply inventory.”


“She says close to a third of it has disappeared.”

Gamble’s face remained a study in stone.

“You can confirm that Warehouses 6 and 7 have been under 24/7 security?” McGuire looked stern.

“Yes, Sir!”

“And that the contents were moved, in their entirety, aboard the SS Hudson last night?”

“Yes, sir. I observed the transfer personally.”

“But–” McGuire cut me off with a gesture.

“And that the hold has been under constant guard since being sealed?”

“Yes, sir.”

McGuire turned to me with a skeptical, half bemused look on his face. “I think you must have made a mistake, Ms Abbot.” I opened my mouth to object, but he cut me off again. “Now don’t fret. We’ll double check everything, and believe me, if anything is missing – one, I will personally lead the investigation, and two, we will not launch until any shortfall has been filled. Thank you for coming to me with this. We’ll get on it right away.” He turned to Gamble. “See to it, Joe.”

“Yes, Sir!” Sub Lieutenant Gamble saluted, smirked at me, turned on his heal, and marched away.


McGuire glared at me. “I think we are done here, Ms Abbot. Dismissed.”

He walked off, leaving me drained and shaken.

I knew what I needed to do. I had to downlink right away. I turned and rushed back to my quarters.

I locked the door even as I noticed my message board blinking. When I called up the text any hope for support melted away. Instead of a reassuring message from Captain McGuire, it was orders. I was being reassigned. I was the new Logistics Specialist for SS Hudson. I was to report onboard within the hour. As I reached for the communications console my door swept open. Two Marines stepped in, one to each side, followed by a grinning Lieutenant Du Val.

“Good afternoon, Liz. Come with us please. Oh, don’t bother to pack.”

© 2014 by J. M. Strother. All rights reserved.

NASA image believed to be in the public domain.


Fireworks rocket burstIn the spirit of the holiday I am reposting this one from several years ago. I liked it then, and I still like it now. Happy 4th, everyone.


Semper Fidelis

Usually Maggie Walton would go down the block with her best friend, Ross Little, and the rest of the neighborhood gang to watch the big Forth of July parade proceed down Jefferson. After the parade they would head for the annual Freedom Fest Picnic and spend hours on rides and playing carnival games. Ring toss was her favorite. Then home for barbecue with the Littles, and the big fireworks display, which they could see just fine from their own back yard.

None of that would happen today. Well, maybe the barbecue and fireworks, since they were enjoyed from home. But nothing else. Maggie was grounded.

An hour before the start of the parade her father sternly reminded Maggie that she was not to leave the premises. At nine o’clock she wandered out to the front yard and stood at the very corner of their lot, to peer down the half block towards Jefferson, where the crowd was gathering. Neighbors and friends passed by on the sidewalk and she declined several invitations to join them. She was surprised that her grounding was not common knowledge, and somewhat deflated in that realization.

By nine-fifteen she could hear the distant thrum of the marching band, and the occasional scream of the siren from the old red fire truck that lead the parade. Soon she could pick out the tune the band was playing, and she saw the crowd tighten along the curb as people vied for better views. Now the music was loud and clear. The band was passing, blasting out Semper Fidelis, and for the most part stayed in tune. She could see the broad shining throats of the tubas swinging in step above the heads of the crowd that otherwise blocked her view. The band passed, followed by a parade of cars and pickup trucks which she could not see, though she could see groups of people drift by, standing and waving to the crowd from the backs of those pickups. Some were in costumes of various kinds: old man Heinz done up as Abe Lincoln, a few veterans, assorted throw backs from history, but mostly just plain old townsfolk waving energetically to their fellow citizens.

Her attention peeked a little, then her spirits sank even more when the truck carrying the VIPs passed. The mayor waved magnanimously, as several volunteers tossed candy into the crowd. Kids, for the most part, surged forward to snatch up as much of the sweets as they could. Maggie would end up with none of it. She sat down on the curb, dejected.

After a bit she became aware that people were passing by, now heading home. The parade was over, and the crowd was breaking up. She turned and saw Mr. and Mrs. Feldon passing behind her. She returned their nod politely. Then Ross came rushing up the street, holding his shirt like a basket. He spotted her, and veered over to where she sat. He plopped down beside her and dumped the contents of his improvised basket onto the grass between them.

“It was a great parade, Maggie,” he puffed, still catching his breath. “Too bad you couldn’t come.” He looked at the candy and nodded. “I got candy for both of us. Even steven.”

“No kidding?” She sat up with brighter spirits.

“Sure. It’s my fault you got grounded. Well sort of.” He had lured her away from her chores last Saturday, after all.

They began to split up the candy 50/50, each taking a turn at picking what they wanted. It was mostly unbranded bulk stuff, but there were a few bite sized candy bars, which got picked rather quickly. They were in the midst the divvying up process when they became aware of someone standing in front of them.

Brian McMartin stood just off the curb in the street, at their feet. He looked down at them, a contemptuous smile on his face. “Giving your girl friend some candy, Ross?” he taunted.

“Shut up, Brian,” Ross growled.

“Why don’t you kiss her?” Brian gibed.

“Just go away!” Maggie urged, shaking her head in disgust.

Brain took a step closer, looming threateningly over Ross. “Who’s going to make me? Little Ross?”

Ross jumped to his feet, spilling his candy on the curb. Brian gave him a slight shove before he had steadied himself and Ross fell over in a sprawl. He scrambled to his feet again, but not before Maggie was standing in front of Brian, fists clenched and ready to fight.

“Oh, so your girl friend does your fighting for you, huh, Little Ross?” Brain cackled.

Before Ross could shove Maggie aside Mr. Walton stepped out of the front door and began to fiddle with the garden hose. He casually looked over to the kids. “Morning Ross. Brian. How was the parade?”

Brian suddenly needed to check his shoe laces and muttered some inaudible reply as he bent to attend to them. Mr. Walton pulled on the hose to line the sprinkler up so that it would reach the garden under the bay window. By the time he looked up again Brian was gone, wandering off down the street. He gave Maggie a wink, looked up at the clear sky, and said, “Fine day, isn’t it?”


© 2009, 2013 by J. M. Strother – all rights reserved.





A Beagle sleeping on a couch

Worn Out

I posted my story for the Friday Flash Writer’s Pets Contest. This picture of Max is the one that goes with the story, Worn Out. There are still a few hours left to get your entries in. Just post a pet pic on the #FridayFlash Facebook Pets Album and your short flash on the Friday Flash Contest Group page. Look for voting to begin soon.



Jack Hurley lifted a single slat of his blinds and surveyed the street below. It seemed pretty well deserted. Every once in a while a car would pass by, but they were all nondescript. No sign of Internal Control. He gave the backpack at his feet a slight kick, cursing his fate. Here he was one week before his twenty-fifth birthday and still no prospects for marriage. If he was going to make the break he should have left weeks ago. He knew that, but he had kept hoping Mary Beth would come around. But her goddamned father would have none of him.

Yesterday he paid the rent for three months in advance, to make it seem like he planned on being around for quite a while. Sometimes Internal Control was content to simply observe, and stability was one of the markers they used in making that decision. But Jack knew he had too many markers going the other way: broken home, abusive father, above average IQ. He had taken the Potentiality Test on the Internet with Tony and Jerry. Of course they were drunk at the time, but he still remembered their reactions when he scored an 87.

“Bummer, dude,” Jerry had said. Tony just shook his head, downed his beer, refused to meet his eye. “You better get married soon,” Jerry laughed, still thinking it all a joke, then popped another beer.

But they had been drunk. So Jack took the test again two days later, anonymously at the library. He scored even worse – an 88. Then he begged Mary Beth Anderson to marry him. Her father threatened to call IC himself if he ever came around again.

Since then Jack had been hitting the singles bars almost nightly. He was able to score often enough – plenty of one-night stands. But no one willing to commit. No one willing to help out a guy in a jam. Now he was just about out of options.

Another car passed down Sheridan Drive, going slow – too slow. Jack swallowed hard. This was it. The car stopped just beneath his window. Jack broke out in a cold sweat. Then a guy got out and dashed across the street to No. 1122 to deliver a pizza. Jack’s knees almost buckled underneath him in sheer relief.

He was not a serial killer. No way. That just wasn’t him. Damn the Potentiality Test. Damn Internal Control. The hell with this. He was making a break for it. If he could make it away from his apartment building unobserved he might be able to make it out of town. Then he could disappear, make his way north to Canada. Or maybe try for Mexico. He just didn’t think he could take twenty-five years in Preventative Detainment – all because of some theoretical ‘potential.’

He slung his backpack over his shoulder and slid out the door. He paused in the hallway, listening, then made his way to the basement, to the back door for the alley where they discarded the rest of the trash. It was dark outside – he had unscrewed the light bulb yesterday, and knew the super would be weeks in getting around to replacing it. He glanced up and down the alley, then took a deep breath. Instead of turning towards the railroad tracks on impulse he turned toward Dinsmore Park. Maybe he’d pay Mary Beth’s dad a visit before he left town.


We have 51 stories listed this week, which is pretty good given all the holiday activities. This includes one debut, by Ruchira Mandal. Please drop by and give her a warm welcome. There is no news section this week. No news was sent through and I was too tied up (or lazy) to go out surfing for it. If you have any news for next week please send it in so I can include it.

If your story is not in the list below please go to the Collector and add it. Then shoot me a note and I’ll add it to the listing (hopefully). Sometimes I forget but it will show up in the following week at the latest.

Thanks for participating in #FridayFlash. I hope you all have a glorious 2011. Keep on writing.

The Stories

A Mahatma Fatwa by Donald Conrad @NoddlaNocdar ~ Crime ~

A Man Undermined by John Wiswell @Wiswell ~ Slice of Life ~

A new year to remember by Steve Green @n/a ~ Science Fiction ~

Aloha by Rachel Blackbirdsong @RBlackbirdsong ~ Literary ~

Aspirations by Tony Noland @TonyNoland ~ Literary ~

Best wishes for the new year by Orjan Westin @Cunobaros ~ Humor ~

Bleeding Out, Part 2 by Ramsey Lyons @ramslyons ~ Thriller ~

Borrowed Time by Angie C. @techtigger ~ Fantasy ~

Christmas in the trenches… by CRJAMES @CRJAMES55 ~ Humor ~

Cigarettes and Gin by Katherine Nabity @katen ~ Unspecified ~

Compromised by Karen Schindler @karenfrommentor ~ Horror ~

Dignity for the Dead by David Wilson-Burns @fictdoodles ~ Literary ~

En Garde (an excerpt for In The Shadow Of His Nemesis) by Al Bruno III @albruno3 ~ Horror ~

Evening News by Stephen Hewitt @ThoughtMonkeyZ ~ Magical Realism ~

FOR WHOM THE BELLE TOLD by Absolutely*Kate @AbsolutelyKate ~ Suspense ~

Fresh Start by Clive Martyn @clivem ~ Paranormal ~

Gargoyle by David Robinson @DW96 ~ Horror ~

Grandma’s Sewing Basket by Cathy Webster (Olliffe) @Matthiasville ~ Unspecified ~

Heroes Wanted (Part 7) by Stephen Book @StephenBook ~ Western ~

Hollow Rage by James Tallett @thefourpartland ~ Unspecified ~

How We Met by T.J. McIntyre @southernweirdo ~ Romance ~

How We Met by T.J. McIntyre @southernweirdo ~ Romance ~

King of the Gnomes by Catherine Russell @ganymeder ~ Humor ~

Late Summer in the Life of Layla: Shopping by Deanna Schrayer @deannaschrayer ~ Literary ~

Merry and Bright by Laurita Miller @lauritamiller ~ Slice of Life ~

Neighborly by Aaron Conaway @M_Gideon ~ Magical Realism ~

New Year’s Dance by Icy Sedgwick @icypop ~ Paranormal ~

New Year’s Eve: San Juan, 1979 from Franky Benitez by Julio Ricardo Varela @julito77 ~ Literary ~

No Cure for Longing by KjM @kevinjmackey ~ Fantasy ~

NPETV by Eric J. Krause @ericjkrause ~ Fantasy ~

On The Seventh Day Of Christmas by Kari Fay @morganafiolett ~ Fantasy ~

Operation 2011 by Nick Bryan @NickMB ~ Humor ~

Out of Nowhere by Jessica Rosen @jessrosenbooks ~ Slice of Life ~

Perfumes & Lipstick by Ruchira Mandal @RucchiraM ~ Horror ~ Debut

Prologue by Melissa L. Webb @melissalwebb ~ Horror ~

Quiet Storm by David G Shrock @dracotorre ~ Horror ~

Red Shoes et al. by Susan May James @yamnasus ~ Unspecified ~

Reiki Master by Linda Simoni-Wastila @drwasy ~ Literary ~

Stay Just As You Are by Harry B. Sanderfod @HBSanderford ~ Humor ~

The Archangel of Downward Spiral by Maria Kelly @mkelly317 ~ Fantasy ~

The Conquerors by Isabel Joely Black @TheCharmQuark ~ Thriller ~

The French Cognac Kiss by Susan Cross @SusanJCross ~ Slice of Life ~

The Ghorag Delimma by Mike Robertson @miker_lazlo ~ Science Fiction ~

The Grove by Matt Merritt @1block ~ Horror ~

The Journey by Thom Gabrukiewicz @tgabrukiewicz ~ Unspecified ~

The Pearl outside Mudan House by Aidan Fritz @AidanFritz ~ Fantasy ~

The Surprise Santa by Ruchira Mandal @RucchiraM ~ Humor ~

The Time Machine by Trevor Belshaw @tbelshaw ~ Steampunk ~

Tiger by J. M. Strother @jmstro ~ Fantasy ~

Worse Than Death by Seleste deLaney @selestedelaney ~ Horror ~

The wrap

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Dahan crouched uneasily. A big bear of a man, he did not like crouching. He watched the newest member of their hunting party with a mixture of skepticism and awe. So far he had seen damned little that warranted the purple sash the fellow wore. Still, he had to admit their luck had increased dramatically ever since Hon Tau invited the young Adept to join them. The man may not possess much in the way of magic, but he was deadly accurate with the bow. They would have to go to Chaun Cha soon just to relieve the pack animals of the weight of the salted meat and pelts.

Min Lee rose from his blind and waved off his companions. The doe sensed his movement and burst from the brush, directly towards Dahan. “Oy! Hold! Hold!” Min Lee shouted. Dahan let loose his bowstring and the arrow flew straight and true. The doe stumbled, buckled once, regained her feet, then stumbled a second time, not to rise again.

“You nearly ruined my shot,” Dahan complained as the four men gathered round the fallen doe.

“I didn’t want you to shoot. She is carrying fawns.”

Dahan shuffled his feet, somewhat abashed. “I didn’t know.” Now, looking at the animal laying dead on the ground, it seemed obvious she was swollen with young.

“We can do nothing now,” Min Lee said. He drew his hunting knife and began field dressing the deer. As he expected she carried two, now still, fawns.


Much to Min Lee’s relief the Emperor’s banner did not fly over Chaun Cha. Still, he was wary and on guard the entire time they were within the city walls. Since his expulsion from Xueshi Shang, and his terrible betrayal of Lia Yong some weeks later, he tried to avoid cities – too much chance he might be recognized by someone and turned in. The petty thievery was of little importance, warranting a public lashing at most. The theft of the purple sash of an Adept on the other hand – he hated to think what trouble that would bring down upon his head. As far as he knew it was a crime wholly unique to himself. They had certainly never been lectured about any such incident while he was at the school.

They left Chaun Cha with heavy purses, and none too soon as far as Min Lee was concerned. After buying new supplies, including salt to last a month, there was still enough money for a tidy four-way split. Min Lee’s purse had not been so full since leaving Xueshi Shang. At last he had nearly enough to buy a horse. One more month of hunting… For now he was content to lead the pack mules. Of the four, only Hon Tou and Shòu Lan had horses, poor specimens though they were. Dahan claimed there was no horse alive that would tolerate his size, and was probably right. The hunting party never moved faster than Dahan’s slow yet steady pace.

Twice during the day’s march Min Lee noticed Shòu Lan looking at him askance. Both times when he caught his eye the man looked quickly away. He saw the glance again over the campfire as they ate. Shòu Lan, usually Dahan’s foil, seldom responded to the big man’s jibes. A sense of unease settled on Min Lee.

He heard whispers. Min Lee forced his breathing to remain steady, feigning sleep. He concentrated on the hushed voices, blocking out all other sounds, drawing them out of the darkness around them.

“… rogue mage on the loose.” Shòu Lan – barely whispering.

“I don’t know…” Dahan seemed skeptical of his friend’s words.

“Keep your voice down,” Shòu Lan hissed. “If the stories are true… kill us with…”

“He’d never do that.”

“…the reward…”

Min Lee heard enough. His bow lay at his side, as always. His kit neatly bundled by his head. He cast his thoughts outward, to the picket line – the horses, the mules. Tiger. He envisioned a tiger creeping through the woods. Tiger. Hungry. One of the horses whinnied nervously. He envisioned a tiger crouched, ready to pounce. Hunger! The horses began to rear, the mules to buck in fright.

“The horses!” Hon Tou cried, throwing his blanket off. “To the horses, quick!”

They found nothing wrong, of course, but it took some effort to calm the spooked beasts.

When they came back to the campfire the young Adept was gone.
© 2010 by J. M. Strother, all rights reserved.

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If you enjoyed this story you may enjoy previous tales of Min Lee:
Tangled Webs


I think NaNoWriMo has taken its toll on #FridayFlash this week. We are down about twenty entries from our usual numbers with just 65 stories, including four debuts. Please welcome Martha Williams, Allie, Tracey, and Alex F. Fayle to the #FridayFlash mix. Drop by and leave them a comment or two.

NaNo is a terrific event to supercharge the muse and I wish eveyone well who is participating this year. We’ll still be here once you get your masterpiece finished later this month. If you are a regular #FridayFlasher and you’re doing NaNo leave a comment and let us know what you’re working on. I’d love to know.

If you did do a #FridayFlash, and it’s not in the listing below, please visit the Collector and add your details. Then drop me a note to let me know and I’ll update the listing.

The Stories

A Still Moment by John Wiswell @Wiswell ~ Western ~

A Thousand Rooms Called Home by J.E. Ignatius McNeill @dreamrock ~ Cross Genre ~

Appreciation by Thom Gabrukiewicz @tgabrukiewicz ~ Unspecified ~

Archrivals by Tom Allman @yoohootom ~ Fantasy ~

Autumn Days by Rebecca Emin @RebeccaEmin ~ Slice of Life ~

Big Pimpin’ by E. D. Johnson @geektreasure ~ Unspecified ~

Boxes by Johanna Harness @johannaharness ~ Fantasy ~

Burning the Guy by Alan W. Davidson @AW_Davidson ~ Cross Genre ~

Café Sensorium by Marc Nash @ExisleMoll ~ Literary ~

CHAIR ON HIGH by Linda Simoni-Wastila @drwasy ~ Literary ~

Claims by Anke Wehner @Anke ~ Fantasy ~

CORPSE WARS: Attack Of The Crones episode one by Al Bruno III @albruno3 ~ Horror ~

Couches by Susan Helene Gottfried @WestofMars ~ Slice of Life ~

Detour by A. S. Boudreau @ASBoudreau ~ Slice of Life ~

Eavesdropping by Lauren Cude @NA ~ Fantasy ~

Edna Saves The World From An Alien Takeover by John McDonnell @McDonnellWrite ~ Humor ~

Fairy Gold by Lyn Thorne-Alder @LynThorneAlder ~ Fantasy ~

Family Business by Trisha Castillo @trishalcastillo ~ Slice of Life ~

FOUNDATION by Martha Williams @marthawriting ~ Literary ~ Debut

GREAT SKATES ALIVE ~ The Roller Derby Chronicles by Absolutely*Kate @AbsolutelyKate ~ Adventure ~

Greed by Kari Fay @morganafiolett ~ Unspecified ~

Green County by Michael J. Solender @mjsolender ~ Literary ~

Guan Yin (part 2) by Mike Robertson @miker_lazlo ~ Fantasy ~

Hellfire by Tony Noland @TonyNoland ~ Slice of Life ~

Her Past by Eric J. Krause @ericjkrause ~ Fantasy ~

Hia Breoedd, Final by James Tallett @thefourpartland ~ Fantasy ~

If by S. May @yamnasus ~ Unspecified ~

Is This Real? by Laura Cummins @jacsmom ~ Romance ~

Jane by Laura Rachel Fox @LostLibraryGirl ~ Suspense ~

Lollipop by Clive Martyn @clivem ~ Slice of Life ~

Never There by Allie @Allie_Wilde ~ Unspecified ~ Debut

Nice Guy by Mandy K James @akjames61 ~ Slice of Life ~

Nike’s Resignation by T.J. McIntyre @southernweirdo ~ Fantasy ~

Nine Days by Gracie Motley @gracecrone ~ Fantasy ~

No Shoe Zone by Aidan Fritz @AidanFritz ~ Fantasy ~

Penny by Tracey @moosicle ~ Crime ~ Debut

Perfect Toothpaste by Rachel Carter @rachcarter ~ Slice of Life ~

Remember by Coyote Southbridge @AntiSocBtrfly ~ Unspecified ~

Salvation by Nomar Knight @Nomar_Knight ~ Thriller ~

Seep by Melissa L. Webb @melissalwebb ~ Horror ~

Seven Year Itch by S. May @yamnasus ~ Unspecified ~

Seventh Hour by Catherine Russell @ganymeder ~ Slice of Life ~

Sirocco by Angie C. @techtigger ~ Fantasy ~

Skiouro and the Meltemi by Kathryn Eastman @katheastman ~ Slice of Life ~

Sleepy Hollow by Danielle La Paglia @Dannigrrl5 ~ Horror ~

Sliver by Annie Evett @annieEvett ~ Science Fiction ~

Spacewalk by Alex F. Fayle @alexfayle ~ Science Fiction ~ Debut

Staying in touch by Estrella Azul @EstrellaAzul ~ Slice of Life ~

SURPRISE AT THE COUNTY FAIR by Anthony Venutolo @bukowskisbaseme ~ Literary ~

Symbiosis by Jason Warden @shadowCastAudio ~ Horror ~

The Crossroads by Alison Wells @alisonwells ~ Literary ~

The Drop by Steve Green @n/a ~ Science Fiction ~

The Kill by A. M. Harte @am_harte ~ Horror ~

The New Book on the Shelf by Maria Kelly @mkelly317 ~ Fantasy ~

The Perfect Silence of the Night – Episode 5 – Final by Denise Covey @pichetsinparis ~ Horror ~

The Promise by Icy Sedgwick @icypop ~ Horror ~

The UCF Stories #27: Questions, Questions by Sam Adamson @FutureNostalgic ~ Fantasy ~

This is me by Diandra Linnemann @LaCaffeinata ~ Slice of Life ~

Towards a Poisoned Canal by Rachel Blackbirdsong @RBlackbirdsong ~ Literary ~

Twitching by Rol Hirst @rolhirst ~ Slice of Life ~

Unproven by J. M. Strother @jmstro ~ Fantasy ~

Vampires at the Moulin Rouge by Lara Dunning @LaraDunning ~ Fantasy ~

What She Left Behind by Stephen Book @StephenBook ~ Unspecified ~

Winter by Harry B. Sanderford @Harry B. Sanderford ~ Unspecified ~

Yes. by Daine Salmon @Sayer ~ Science Fiction ~

In The News

Peggy McFarland placed her story Charity Case at Long Story Short. Be sure to drop by and read it. Congratulations, Peggy.

Remember to send me word when you have news of interest for the Friday Flash community. I’ll be happy to include it here.

The wrap

Thanks to all our readers. We love you. And please, if you enjoy a story leave comments when you visit. Writers love feedback almost as much as chocolate. Maybe more! Then go tell your friends to read it too. Help these writers grow.

You can subscribe to the #fridayflash hashtag (external link) on Twitter every week for more great flash fiction.

We’re on Facebook (external link) too.



I know a ridiculous amount of time has passed since the Best of Friday Flash was first released as an ebook. The physical book was supposed to come out shortly afterward.

Unfortunately one delay ran into another: I had a devil of a time figuring out how to generate the Table of Contents, getting the PDF formatted correctly, and then getting the whole CreateSpace process figured out. My only excuse is, I’ve never done this before.

At long last I can inform you that tonight the Best of Friday Flash – Volume One has been submitted to CreateSpace for publication. I should get a response from CreateSpace within 24 to 48 hours. If all is well I should then be able to order my proof copy, and (hopefully) finalize all for publication within a few days. It should go live on Amazon sometime next week.

Thank you all for your patience. ~jon

NOTE: See the comments for further details.

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