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Oct 23, 2010

Obliterati posted:


Flash rule: a pet has gone missing in your story.


Flash rule: your story must include a verse from a country song.


Oct 23, 2010

The Fish That Didn't Bark (821 words)

In the sacred master bedroom with its southern exposure, Henry said, “It's going to be a very short phase.” He shoved the bolster against the headboard.

“Ellen is just learning to use her imagination,” Doris said.

“Learning to misuse it, you mean.”

Doris smoothed the comforter on her side of the bed. “She's five years old. Didn't you ever make up stories when you were little?”

“Well, I never lied to my parents. Sure, now it's all a game for her, but where does it lead? Lies to get attention, lies to get out of trouble...”

Doris put a finger to her lips and cupped her other hand to her ear. In the living room, Ellen was talking to herself.

“I'm a mermaid,” said the girl-child. “I'm a big, green... mermaid? And I live on the moo-oon, live on the moon...”

Doris stifled a laugh. When Henry moved toward the bedroom door, she stopped him.

“I'm not going to say anything,” he whispered. “I'm just going take a picture.”

In the bright living room that smelled of fake orchids, Ellen leaned on the granite-topped coffee table. Her chin rested on her hands, and the tip of her nose brushed the side of the brimming, half-gallon fishbowl. Her eyes tracked Henry through the cloudy water, but she didn't see him.

“My pterosaur only eats crabs,” she said. “There are too many lobsters out here, up here, and my pterosaur, he only eats crabs, so...”

Henry circled around the couch to line up his shot. In the viewfinder, Ellen's face, her elbow and the fishbowl formed a perfect triangle awash in early morning light. He snapped a couple of frames. He would take a few more when the goldfish swam up into view.

Ellen twisted her hand into the shape of a beak. “Theshe crackersh are shoggy,” the pterosaur hand said.

The goldfish had not appeared. In fact, it wasn't even in the bowl.

“Ellen, where--”

Ellen jumped. Her eyes were wide and round and dark as a rat's, and the way she clutched at her hands was also very rodent-like. She could definitely see Henry now, but she wouldn't look at his face.

“Where is the fish?”

“Idunno,” she murmured.

Doris came down the hall at a trot. “What's going on?”

“I don't know,” Henry said. “I just came in, the fish is gone and Ellen's standing there with that guilty look on her face.”

“Did he jump out of the bowl again?”

The parents examined the rug around and under the coffee table while Ellen stood out of the way, silently watching. At last, Henry stood. Doris stayed on the floor and turned to her daughter with an exaggerated gesture of puzzlement.

“Where did the fishy go?” Doris asked.

Ellen pressed her hands to her baby cheeks and simpered, “I don't know.”

Henry rolled his eyes. “Look,” he barked. “Ellen, was there a fish in that bowl?”

Ellen nodded.

“And can little fishes just walk away on their own?”

Ellen shook her head.

“Then where did he go, Ellen? Where is the fish?”

Ellen began to cry.

“Bravo, Henry.” Doris held out her arms. “Come here, Ellen. You aren't in trouble. Mommy and Daddy just want you to tell us the truth.”

“I don't knooow!” Ellen wailed into her mother's armpit.

“Oh, for God's sake, Ellen!” Doris laughed nervously and held her daughter at arm's length. “What could possibly be so horrible, that you won't tell us?”

Ellen's face turned red as she thrashed in her mother's hands.

“What?” Doris chortled. “Did you eat him or something?”

She stopped thrashing. Her round little mouth worked silently, and she stared into space.

“Is that it?” Henry asked. “Did you eat the goldfish, Ellen?”

Doris glared at him.

“Yes,” Ellen whispered.

“You ate the goldfish?”

“I ate him up, in two big bites,” Ellen sobbed. “I wa-wanted, to see, if he tasted like... orange cheese.”

Ellen twisted away and bolted for her room and slammed the door so hard it bounced. The fishbowl shivered. Light danced on the coffee table and the rug.

Henry scratched his chin. “So, is this also a phase?”

“Don't; just don't.” Doris snatched the fishbowl and left.

Henry settled on the couch, almost sitting on his forgotten camera. Absently, he ran his fingertip along the circle of rime where the fishbowl had been. Then he stopped. He'd touched something nearly invisible on the surface of the table: a dried-up flake, roughly the size and shape of his thumb, covered in dull yellow scales. It accused him with one withered silver eye.

In the silent living room, Henry made the OK sign and flicked the tiny corpse away.


Flash rule: a pet has gone missing in your story.

Oct 23, 2010

I got a migraine shortly after I signed up, had it the whole time I was writing and editing that fish story (oh snap, I should have named it "Fish Story"), still have it while I'm reading about all the no-shows. It's three pages, not a triathlon. You volunteered. You had a week. Have you seen some of the word vomit that passes in this thread? You deadbeats make me sick.

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