Tag Archives: Flash

The Truth About God

It’s been a while, not least because the world has been moving on apace, and I often feel out of sync with it.  This story picks up on that vibe…

 

The Truth About God

“I’m Mike, and I’m the last person on the planet who believes in God.”

The room was silent for a while and then my-name-is-Alison-and-I’m-here-to-help said, “Mike, this is an alcoholics anonymous meeting, I’m not sure we’re equipped to deal with someone with such a… um… eccentric problem.”

I left before it got awkward.  Or more awkward.  I don’t try to proselytise, I never did.  To everyone, Gods don’t exist.  Why question that?  Or the sun, or gravity, or evolution?  I had an embarrassing insanity.

After the AA meeting I decided I needed a break.  From people, from society.  I would go into the hills, restore my faith, and return better able to face the looks of incredulity from my work colleagues, my now ex-friends.  It was probably best my mother was dead.  She’d bought Pascal’s line, and believed just in case.  That’s not belief to me, but she’d have worried about me.  At least someone would have.

The mountain was lovely.  It was behind the wooden shack, and all around were trees.  Going on and on.  The brochure had mentioned wild animals, in a slightly cautious manner.  I was excited about them.

I’d brought supplies.  Food, water.  Enough for a couple of weeks.

Each day I’d start by going outside and greeting the sun.  I’d think that but for God’s grace I wouldn’t be able to, there would be no sun, no mountain for me.  It felt hollow.  I was starting to have a sneaking suspicion.

I read somewhere that for God to exist, people have to believe in him.  If they stop believing, then, well, he just fades away.  Or she.  Either way, the divine entity is gone.  Was my belief enough to sustain a being capable of creating the world in six days?  I was mildly confident I could believe in a divinity who’d take the seventh day off.

At the end of the second week I walked out in the morning and greeted the sun, accepting it was only there because of physics.  Complex physics yes, and we still haven’t worked out how Dark Energy works, but that doesn’t require belief, just observation and maths.  I’d been the last believer.  Now I was just like everyone else.

That day there was a knock at the door.

“Hello?”

“Hi, are you Mark?  That believer fellow.”

“I am Mark.”

“Don’t believe any more?”

I paused.  But then I knew saying it would be the final step of my freedom.

“No.  There is no God, or gods or whatever.”

The man whooped and started jumping up and down.

“I won, I won!”

“Won what?”

Loki turned to me and winked, “My bet with Odin.”

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The Old Ways

A slightly different angle for me.  I’ve described it as gentle.

 

The Old Ways

“What do you think Carol?”

“You look great, a little old-fashioned perhaps, but the barber did a fine job. Did you go to a different place? Usually you look a little like that sheep we tried to shear a few years back.”

“That’s not fair, I’ve never looked that bad, still I’m glad we have Matt the Shearer these days. But no, it was the usual place, but it was a new person. Though it was a little odd.”

“Odd, how? Cup of tea?”

“A cuppa would be lovely. Difficult to put my finger on. Well for one thing, I’m not sure if it was a man or a woman.”

“Don’t be silly Gerald, you must have been able to tell.”

“No, really. He, I’ll call him he, had a scarf over his face, and gloves. It was cold in there and he apologised, apparently the heating conked out this morning. He had a long coat on, and I think he was wearing a wig.”

“That does sound a bit strange.”

“Hmm, no, there was more to it.   He didn’t use the clippers at all, just scissors, and the cut-throat razor. I can’t remember the last time I had a hair cut without clippers, and none of the barbers use the cut-throat any more. I think they keep them these days just there for show.”

“Traditionalist then.”

“Yes, but he did a very good job.”

“He definitely did. How much did he charge?”

“Well that’s the other strange thing. His voice was soft, almost a whisper, and he asked for thruppence. I thought he was being funny, and gave him a tenner. He looked at it bemusedly and then it was if a lightbulb had lit up, and he thanked me effusively. He said as I left, ‘The old ways are best sir.’”

“Sounds like he was just having fun with you!”

“Perhaps.”

#

“Carol…”

“Gerald, you look pleased with yourself love. Come, sit down. Would you like a cup of tea?”

“Please.”

“I’ll just pour you a cup and you can tell me why you’re so happy.”

“Well, my hair was getting a bit long again. A couple of months’ growth, and I went back to my barbers.”

“He’s done you proud again I must say. Here you are love, a nice strong cuppa. Go on…”

“It was looking pretty deserted, but then that new fellow was there again. At least, I think he is a fellow. Same getup as last time. Still problems with the heating he said. I asked why they hadn’t just bought one of those cheap electric things, and he sort of grunted.”

“Maybe they don’t have the cash? It’s tight for everyone these days.”

“You don’t know how right you are…. I sat down, and he went to work on my hair. Like last time there was little conversation, and he used just scissors and a cut throat. When he was finished he asked me for thruppence again.”

“Not one to spot when a joke gets old is he.”

“Well, I’m not sure. I gave him a tenner as before, and he accepted it. I left happy enough with my cut and went to the butchers next door. I was in the mood for steak.”

“Ooh that sounds lovely? Is that’s what is in the bag?”

“Yes. Anyway, I was in the butchers, and it wasn’t the normal guy, you know Frank?”

“The chatty talkative one? I like him. Though I thought he’d moved away a while ago…”

“Well either way he wasn’t there. Instead it was another bloke in a long coat, gloves and scarf. Just like the barber. Could have been brothers. Well none of the cuts were laid out, instead there were carcasses hanging, and he said, ‘What’ll it be?’ Well, I said I wanted steak, he asked a couple more questions and then got a haunch of meat down.”

“Don’t gulp your tea Gerald, you know how sensitive your digestion is.”

“Sorry dear. Could I have another cup?”

“Of course. Sounds old fashioned too.”

“Oh yes. He measured it and quick as a flash I had two fine steaks. He didn’t bother weighing them, just looked at them and said, ‘Sixpence for you sir’.”

“How odd, perhaps he and the barber have the same joke?”

“It did bother me, but I just handed him a twenty. He looked at it, and like the barber, was blank at first before being very happy with it. He handed over my package, wrapped in paper, just like they used to, and nodded at me as I left.”

“Mmm. Gerald, which butchers was it again?”

“Ah, well I think it’s still called Frank’s.”

“Next to old Dudley’s hair dressers?”

“Yes, why do you ask?”

“Where did you really go Gerald? Is it her again?”

“What? What are you talking about, I told you I went to the barbers, just like last month.”

“Gerald Tomkins, you should know, and would if you’d actually visited them, that the whole row of shops containing Frank’s and Dudley’s has been condemned, and they’ve been shut for months now. So come on, where did you really go?”

“What… wait, here’s the steak, let me show you!”

“Dear lord Gerald, what is that stench?”

“It’s the steak…”

“Get it out of here right now. And you too. Come back when you’re prepared to tell me the truth.”

“Carol, don’t cry…”

Gerald stumbled out shocked and confused. He went back to the barber, but this time it looked abandoned. He was about to leave when he saw a shape in the window. He moved closer to see who it was, maybe it was the barber and then he could make some sense of it all. However when he got to the doorway there was no one there. He looked around a bit before giving up.

As he left, wondering what he was going to say to Carol, he heard a whisper saying, ‘The old ways are best…’

 

 

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Returning Home

Returning Home

I played with the monitor in front of me. The flight provided modern entertainment, and I wondered what might be popular these days.

This was the last stage of my long trip. The first had been on a ship, and boarding it had been tough. I held on to Judi’a, as if I was drowning and she was my last hope.

“I don’t want to leave you.”

“You must. You have no place here.”

“Will you miss me?”

“Every day and with all my heart.”

She disentangled herself from my arms and turned away.

I felt cast off, but there was nothing more to say, except, “Goodbye my love.”

Judi’a shuddered and walked out of the room. She’d told me when we’d started our affair, that there could be no future for such as us. We’d have to enjoy the moments we had. Now thinking back to our farewell I tried not to acknowledge that she’d probably be dead by now.

My time on the ship consisted of sleeping. When we arrived at the port I took the next flight to London. I guess I should have been pleased the city was still here. When I left there’d been some tensions and talk of city-obliterating repercussions. Still, that had been a long time ago.

I managed to get a film going, a romantic comedy, as we hit turbulence. They’d said the shuttle flight could be unsettled. The movie was incomprehensible to me, and not just because of the screen juddering. Speech patterns had changed, but it was something else, maybe I just didn’t understand love anymore.

They’d told me my passage home was booked in such a casual way. No ‘thanks for your years of service’, or ‘for a foreigner you’re a good man’. Just ‘here are your tickets, and good luck’. I wasn’t even clear why I needed the luck. I didn’t think I’d made that many enemies. Though all my friends had been light-years away, apart from Judi’a that is.

The shuttle landed smoothly, and I was efficiently transferred to a train. This was unlike the London of my memories. Two hundred years can do that, even if I was asleep for the vast majority of them. The train sped along, through emerald countryside that looked at least vaguely familiar, and then pulled into a stop of the town I’d once called home. I didn’t recognise a thing.

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Lambing

Lambing

The early morning mists shroud the fields, smothering sound and isolating us from the frantic world. The ewe bleats as I approach, perhaps in greeting, though given her Herculean efforts overnight it may be pride. As I get closer, the mists both parting and settling on me in a damp cloak, I see the products of her labour. Three small, brown lambs, still wet from the amniotic sacks they’ve only just escaped. Their mother licks them, trying to dry them off, while the cold morning endeavours to do the opposite, potentially life sapping dew forming on the little creatures. When I am almost on top of them she bleats again, but this time with a mother’s warning. I retreat, and stare at the new arrivals, small bundles of ephemeral joy. Tomorrow, or the next day I’ll have to catch them, and castrate the boys and dock their tails; a chore which is unpleasant but less unpleasant than the alternatives, yet it tarnishes our relationship. From that point they will never trust me again, whereas now, mere hours into the world, they view me as a curiosity and I can take unalloyed pleasure in their very existence.

The early morning was never a source of delight in the city. It would usually mean another day of drudgery, of smog, and smut and the life-draining dreariness of work. The only brief moments of happiness were those found during alcoholic fuelled hazes, where the world appeared to have possibilities again. The ewe bleats again, she is not interested in my musings. I tell her to shush, as even her gentle warning may attract the others. The rest of the flock is out there, currently oblivious to my presence.   If they detect me, via sound, or some other emanation, they will descend, their hunger driving them and making them careless around the lambs. I do not want to see the little ones knocked about by their gluttonous elders. I quickly enter the feed hut and gather a saucepan of food. The ewe has worked hard in the small hours, and she deserves both a treat, and to recharge her energy reserves. With three mouths suckling she will have to toil further to fulfil her maternal duties. I hold my hand out, full of feed. Normally this ewe would be wary, but she is hungry and exhausted and she voraciously chomps at the nuts and grains I offer her. The rest of the saucepan I up-end onto the floor, and she dives in, all concentration on the concentrates I’ve provided her.

The early morning will soon become just the morning, and my normal duties will start again. Till that time I can watch the first unsteady steps of new life. I can even capture some of it on my camera, though when I look back at the photos they will be missing the ethereal beauty of the breaking day, and that loss will render them flat in their two dimensions. I turn away, taking some pride from overseeing the birth, like any father at the arrival of their progeny, despite the paucity of their contribution.

The early morning mists are lifting as I walk back to the house. My day will start now, but I will spend it lifted, my connection with life reaffirmed.

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We Need The Money

We Need the Money

“Oh Sarah, come in.”

Sarah sobbed.

“Sit down, I’ll put a cuppa on.”

Dawn worried about her friend and made the tea quickly. She decided it was time for those American-style cookies, she knew Sarah liked them and probably hadn’t had any for ages.

“Tell me all about it.”

Sarah sniffed, “Well, you know we’ve been having money problems?”

“I thought you might.” Dawn looked at her friend’s gaunt face, and tried to ignore the ragged clothes.

“Well, the thing is. After I lost my job, and then Stephen did too, well we thought we could get by. So I’ve been looking for work. I signed up, but it’s a pittance you get these days, and you have to prove you’re looking. So embarrassing. I had a good job!” She wailed.

“There there love, have a biscuit.”

Sarah had been holding back out of politeness, or fear perhaps. She hoovered up the first cookie, and then the next one.

“So Sarah, what we need to do is find you a proper job again and you’ll be fine.”

“Oh no, it’s too late.”

“Why?”

“It’s Stephen, I think he’s done something drastic.”

A cold weight settled in Dawn’s stomach, she asked, fearing the answer, “What?”

Sarah just sobbed. Dawn, who usually had the patience of a saint was tiring of the tears, changed the subject, and soon had Sarah talking about her little ones. Hours of gossiping later and Sarah had calmed down. Dawn was considering whether to mention Stephen when the doorbell went.

“Who can that be? I’ll be back.”

Opening the door she stared in shock.

“Hi Dawn.”

“Ah, Stephen.”

He wasn’t dead. But, his face?

“Sarah here?”

“Yes, would you like to come in for a cuppa?”

“I’d love one. Hopefully a Thompsons’, they make the finest cuppa there is.”

“Err, it might be.”

When Sarah saw Stephen she burst into tears again.

“Dawn, have you some Fluffex tissues? They’re absorbent and soft on the skin.”

“I’ll look.”

When she came back Stephen was trying to comfort Sarah. Dawn was over the shock of his face, she’d just not seen anyone have burger and soft drink logos as tattoos before.

“Thanks Dawn, you’re a real friend. Real friends buy American Family cookies.”

“Why are you talking like that?”

“Earning money Dawn. Saving just pennies a day for the best life insurance, from Geneva Life.”

Dawn looked quizzically at Sarah.

“He’s sold out…” More tears.

“He’s a brand bunny?”

“We prefer advertorially confident. Confidence comes from whiter teeth, try new Solar Gum Extra Extra White.”

Sarah gathered herself together, “It’s only for a year, and it pays enough for our expenses. If I get a job then we’ll soon be out of this hole.”

“Until then…”

“Every other sentence will be an advert sent to me directly via 5G ear implant. The new Strakia 15S, the phone made for 5G.”

Dawn looked at him with horror and pity, hoping she’d never, ever be that desperate.

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Filed under Flash Fiction

Delivery

This is a flash piece which I wrote while sitting in a hospital.

 

Delivery

George and Mary walked into the hospital holding hands.  They’d made a momentous decision, they wanted to have children.

“I’m so happy George.”

“So am I dear.”

One could be forgiven for thinking George looked more apprehensive than happy as they approached the reception.  Mary had booked so they were quickly whisked off to see the consultant.

“Children, eh?  Jolly good show.  Just need to ask you a few things…”  His questions seemed to last forever, health, education, jobs, he seemed to want to know everything about them.  They were too intimidated by his white coat and over-bearing manner to do anything more than reply.

“Right, sounds like everything should be fine.  We’ll just need to take some blood.  Then the nurse will be with you.”

They were hustled out, Mary still beatific, and George a little green around the gills.  He hadn’t realised they’d want his blood.  Mary realised her partner was uncomfortable, “Don’t worry George, it’s just a prick.”  She giggled, and he felt a bit better.

She was right, it was just a quick needle in the finger.  The nurse bustled about them, “Can you believe we used to take almost an armful?  We’d have had to wait for several days for the results too.”  She shook her head in wonder at modern medicine, and told them they’d have results in thirty minutes.

Then they were asked in to meet the hospital administrator.  He was very forbidding, and asked them a lot more questions, mostly about money, but some seemed about politics.  They answered meekly, for they had no savings, or politics for that matter.  He scowled a little at the latter, but was unperturbed by the former.  They were led out with the feeling they’d failed some form of exam.

The waiting room walls were papered with pictures of smiling babies.  George started to feel a little claustrophobic, and Mary became worried they might say no.

Their turn to see the head nurse came, and they walked in gripping each other’s hands fiercely.

“You do realise you will need to get married, this clinic will not help you otherwise?”

They nodded, and tried to explain they wanted to get their compatibility tested first, but she waved that away.

“Financially you will be able to provide for two legal children, but we can only allot you one at this point.  You might want to consider becoming active in the defence of the state before requesting the second.”  She paused to make sure they understood, they nodded.

“Your results have come through, and are excellent.  We will be able to produce a baby which is healthy, and with appropriate support, will become a productive member of society.”

“Did anyone explain what the next steps are?”

“No.”

“Hmm, I shall have to speak to reception.  Anyway, we have your genetic material now.  We will feed that into the machine and it will do its work.  We will expect you back in nine months.”

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Housework

I wrote this for a competition which gave a choice of opening lines (the same competition as for this, and the same opening line – I obviously didn’t like the other options).   It was for Halloween, but doesn’t really have any connection to pumpkins etc., which is possibly why it didn’t win.

 

Housework

“Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain.”

Yeah, thanks Dad for yet another piece of disturbing and ultimately useless advice.  If only he’d taken less acid when he was younger.  If only he was still here.

“Sorry, what?”

“I said, goodbye dear, and have a good day.”  His wife had a bemused frown on her face.

“Sorry, love, you too.  Knock ‘em dead!”

“Of course, and don’t forget, we’re having the Renquists to dinner tonight.”

Damn, he had forgotten.

“All planned, don’t you worry, I know exactly what I’m cooking.”

She smiled, perhaps a little uncertainly, and then after glancing at her watch rushed out with a passing air kiss.

This was his first day of being an official house husband.  His gardening leave was over, not that the garden had seen any of it, and his wife was back at work.  He’d looked for another job, but there just wasn’t anything for someone of his age, and qualifications, or lack thereof.  The world had changed, tablets, virtual spaces and social presence rooms were all the rage, and he didn’t have a clue what they meant any more.

He shook himself, and decided to take the day by the horns.  First step, shopping.  Laura had shown him what to do.  She’d learnt all the new ways, and when it came to finding a job she’d been beating them off with a stick.  Not that he minded really.  He was all for feminism really.  Anyway, shopping.  It was easy, he just needed to get the tablet thingy, click on the Isquibo icon and click go.  Then apparently it would all arrive.

There was no Isquibo icon.  Or anything else that made any sense.  He tapped a few things randomly before giving up.  This was just like work, why was nothing named properly anymore?  He’d go out to the local supermarket later, they were still around he thought.

The cleanerbot wandered into the room.  Made a sort of hello beep and then started vacuuming, or mopping or whatever.  He wondered where its brain was.  He wondered where his had gone.  Trusting the machines was easy for everyone else, they’d not woken up to the new world with a hangover and a fear of rounded icons.  Or any icons.

Right, he should load the dishwasher.  Except, the dishes were gone.  The cleanerbot had already taken them.  He couldn’t help himself, the anger began to build.  How he hated it.  This horrid square box which was making him feel ever more useless.  He walked into the living room.

It was spotless.  There was really nothing for him to do.  He wondered what his dad would say.  He decided to go for a walk.  As he left the house he could vaguely recall Laura mentioning something about an alarm, but he figured he wouldn’t be gone long.

The trees were lovely in the autumn, and he spent a restful half hour sitting on a bench watching the world go by in the park.

When he got home all was much as he had left it.  He checked in to see that the kitchen was now clean.  Suddenly there was a loud beep behind him, it was the cleanerbot.

“Go away, stupid thing!”

It followed him into the lounge, and beeped at him again.  He had no idea what it wanted.  Laura had told him how to check, but it had all seemed so easy, and yet now the concepts had slipped from his mind, like all these technical things did.

There was another, more angry sounding, beep, and the cleanerbot advanced on him again.  This was getting a bit worrying.  Hadn’t she said there was some kind of pass phrase?

“Shut down!”

It continued to advance, and he backed away, tripping over the table and falling over.  In the process he managed to knock over a vase which smashed.  Maybe the cleanerbot would sort that out and stop bothering him.

The bot stopped still.  Its front bot opened up and an arm extended, and he relaxed.  This was obviously the vacuum.  He started to get up when something jabbed into his side and all his muscles spasmed.  He fell to the ground, and darkness took him.

His wife arrived back that evening, tired, but excited by her day.

“Darling!  Darling?”

She looked around.  The house was absolutely spotless, not a mark or stain to show that anyone was there.

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Flock

Another piece of flash fiction, entered for a competition for darker stories at Darker Times.

It didn’t win, and if I’m honest I wasn’t totally happy with it.  Sometimes the word limit helps, and sometimes it doesn’t, I think this is one where it didn’t.

 

Flock

The rain lashed down, soaking me in the darkness.  I didn’t want to be out here, but the flock hadn’t come in for their feed.  That meant they’d gotten out again.

Fortunately I found the hole in the fence quickly.  Unfortunately it was into the forest.  I’d rushed out without a jacket, and now I was paying the price.  Even better, my torch was running low.  No wait, now it was out.  So now I was in a dark forest, at night, in driving rain, looking for creatures whose colouring ranged from brown to black.  Could it get any worse?

“Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.”

The sound chilled my blood.  It was off to my right.  I called out, “Hazel… Catkin…”  The two leaders of the flock would normally come to me, though I’d always felt their names somewhat mis-sold them.  Hazel could be a real monster when she wanted to be, and Catkin was worse if anything.

“Maaaaaaaa.”

Off to my right again, then answered from the left.  If I hadn’t known better I’d have thought they were stalking me.  Then what sounded like a cry, followed by several more angry bleats.  I ran towards the sound.  I heard screaming.  The flock had found someone, and were stalking them.  I had to do something before it got out of hand.  I tried to go faster, but I was no longer on the path and the branches kept whipping my face.

The scream sounded again, and I leapt forward in a panic.  I found myself on my back, seeing stars and with blinding pain across my forehead.  I must’ve hit a branch.  The screaming had stopped and I could hear snuffling.  The rain seemed to be easing off.

Had whoever screamed been able to get away?  There were a few fences around the wood which the flock wouldn’t be able to get over.  Perhaps they’d made it?  I got up and headed towards the sounds.  I kept telling myself that whoever it was must have got away.

The moon had broken through the clouds, and I could see a clearing ahead.  Dark figures seemed to be clustered near the centre of the clearing, and they were making a lot of snuffling sounds.  I walked towards them, knowing that as they were pheromone bonded to me they’d just assume I was part of the flock.  I gingerly looked over at what they were gathered around.  It was the fresh corpse of a small Scottie dog.  I gagged a little but was relieved, it could have been much worse..

Then I heard more snuffling at the edge of the clearing.  The rest of the flock were there, gathered round a much bigger form.  Peering closely I made out a woman’s shape in the moonlight.  I gagged.  She was obviously beyond help.  I slumped to the floor, dazed and not knowing what I would do.  I couldn’t help railing at the madness of genetically engineering a cross between Soay sheep and wolves.

 

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A Friend in Need

I wrote this as an entry for a competition where the theme was ‘A Friend in Need’.  It was a bit of fun really, and I enjoyed writing it, even if it didn’t catch the judges’ eyes.

A Friend in Need

By Jason Gibbs

Paul sat fidgeting at the table, wondering when the waiter would come.  Laura looked at him and mentally shook her head.  He’d be great if he’d just sort himself out.

“Do you love me?”

Paul froze, caught in the headlights of the question.  The problem was that he did love Laura, or at least thought he did.  It was just that she was, well, demanding.

“Yes! Of course!”  Squeaking out the yes didn’t help.

“Oh Paul.  I love you too, but when are you going to get serious?  How is the job going?”

“Ah well.”

“You were fired… you quit?”

“No, actually.”  He looked a bit abashed, “They promoted me, and asked me to become a permie.”

Laura was shocked.  Maybe he was finally growing up, she was worried he’d stay a man child for ever.

“That’s great Paul!  We should have something to celebrate!”

Paul kind of thought coming out to a nice French restaurant counted as celebrating, but given the smile on Laura’s face he didn’t want to disappoint her.  As she waved the waiter over his phone buzzed.  It was Terry, but he didn’t have time to read the message before Laura turned back.  She’d been very clear with him that he wasn’t to check his texts, or answer anything other than an emergency, while he was sitting with her.  Or she’d storm out.  Again.

The waiter came over and Laura ordered some Moet, which he hated.  Perhaps there was something he could teach her for a change.  He stopped the waiter, and said, “Actually, do you have any Veuve Cliquot?”  The waiter nodded his reply and went off to get some.

Laura was impressed, she didn’t realise Paul knew anything about Champagne, or indeed anything that wasn’t in the Urban Dictionary.

Paul’s phoned buzzed again.  He managed not to make any sign.  Laura was looking particularly beautiful tonight, and he thought he might have properly impressed her for a change.  He didn’t reveal he’d learnt about Champagne during a summer serving at weddings.

When they’d first started going out she’d seemed quite happy with his jokes, and she never seemed bothered when he went out with his mates.  He’d spent time with her friends, who all seemed nice enough.  He’d even tried to set up Carol with Terry.  That had been a disaster though, and it felt like that had been the turning point.  From then on Laura had been pushing him, get a proper job, don’t drink so much, had he ever seen a gym, on and on.  The problem was, he did really want to be with her, he just wasn’t ready for all this responsibility.  The money from the job helped though.

After the starter she went to the toilet.  He’d had a dozen texts by this point, and he now read them.  They were all from Terry.  The first one was just ‘Help!’, they got worse and worse from there.  He was in big trouble, real trouble and he needed Paul.  Desperately.  Paul was certain it was to do with those gangsters Terry had been doing a deal with.  Clearly it had gone bad.  Damn.  How was he going to explain this to Laura?

He tried.  Her mouth slipped from a luminescent smile to a frown before ending flat and angry.

How could he?  She just didn’t understand him.  She’d tried to tell him that Terry was bad news, so many times.  This was it.

“Paul, if you leave now, then we’re over.  Don’t ever bother me again.”

He had no choice.  He left eighty quid on the table, grabbed his jacket and headed out without another word.  After all, what could he say?  He wasn’t going to abandon his mates.

He jumped into his motor and sped home, hoping he’d be in time.  Terry called, and his car automatically answered.

“Paul!”

“Mate, I’m on my way.”

There was a grunt of relief.

“I thought you were leaving me hanging!  Look, I can hold them off for a few more minutes but..”

There was the sound of gunshots.

“Where the hell are you?”

“Back of the warehouses, behind the Fedex office.”

Paul screeched up to his house.

“I’ll get tooled up and be right there.”

“Hurry!”

Paul ran into the house, and dived into the games room.  He jumped into his control chair, with the keyboard on one side and the controller on the other, and hit un-pause.  The speakers squawked, and the logo of East End Wars came up on the screen, along with a Ray Winstone quote he no longer noticed.  His character already had a load of weapons ready, he just needed to dump them in the Jag and get going.  He had to hurry, his friend was in real need.

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