Flash Jab Fiction is written by fans of pulp and speculative fiction. It is a no pay, no fee, writing-for-the-sake-of-writing type of gig. The stories are usually tough and raw and come from some of the bloodiest knuckles of the hardest punching crime fiction writers around today.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Members Only by Andrew Waters

Flash Jab Challenge #3 was written by Andrew Waters, a nonprofit manager in Salisbury, North Carolina, with a two-pack habit and an unhealthy Raymond Chandler fixation. He is the editor of On Jordan’s Stormy Banks: Georgia Slave Narratives, published by John F. Blair, Publisher. Job well done, Andrew!

Members Only
by Andrew Waters
Isaac snuck out of the condo where his older cousins played video games and headed for the beach, through the opening in the dunes. He walked past the sign that said, “Guests and Members of the Dunes Resort Only.” Afternoon thunderstorms had passed but the beach was still empty. Not even Dusty, the Dunes’ beloved umbrella man had returned to his post. But the boy from the day before, the one with the metal detector was waiting for him.
The only other person around was the man who sold drinks from a cooler attached to his bike. He was rinsing his cooler in the faucet where Dunes’ guests washed their feet. The sight of the boy startled him. The day before Isaac spent an hour following him around, hoping for a turn with the metal detector. About the same time the kid told him to “get the fuck away from him,” Isaac sensed the detector didn’t even work.
“Guess what?” the kid asked. He was a few years older than Isaac, maybe twelve or thirteen.
Isaac resisted the urge to run away. Something about the kid scared him. “What.”
“I saw Dusty ripping people off yesterday. He was taking wallets and shit. You should tell somebody.”
This was unimaginable. During his family’s two decades of vacationing at the Dunes, Dusty was the one constant, a mythological figure in family lore. Yet the kid seemed confident in his accusation. Isaac said, “OK,” and turned to walk back to the condo, eager to get away.

He struggled with this secret knowledge and kept to himself for the rest of the day. No one noticed. He was here with his Aunt Sheila and Uncle Roger because his parents were staying home this summer to “work things out.” His aunt and uncle spent their days under the beach umbrella, getting drunk, while their sons, Jason and Andy, both high schoolers, played video games in the condo, rarely giving Isaac a turn. But word spread through the resort that several thefts had occurred, and the next morning, Roger realized cash was missing from his wallet. Isaac told Andy he thought Dusty was the thief, and within the hour, Roger, his breath already smelling of beer, was forcefully leading Isaac back to the condo.
“Did you see Dusty taking my money?” Roger asked. Isaac was scared by the aggression in his uncle’s voice. He sensed telling about the boy with the metal detector would only make him angrier.
The police came and escorted Dusty off the beach. The next day Andy told Isaac they searched Dusty’s car and apartment but found nothing. “How could you do that to Dusty?” his cousin lamented. “After all he’s done for our family.” Uncle Roger wouldn’t even speak to Isaac for the rest of the trip.

Water's Edge
Flash Jab Challenge #3

Isaac missed his mother and father. He missed his home. His aunt, at least, still fed him, but even she avoided him outside of this basic requirement. Two days later, their last day of vacation, he asked her if he could go for a walk. She said yes without looking at him.
He wandered east, toward the beach town in the distance. He walked and walked, past the resorts and high-rise condos, past the luxury beach homes, to a section of run-down motels, tiny beach shacks crammed onto small lots, a smattering of mobile homes. The crowd here was rougher, what his mother would call “blue collar,” sitting in their own chairs or stretched out on tiny towels in the sand. There he saw the boy, sitting in the wet sand in cut-off jeans, almost directly in his path at the edge of the tide. “Why did you lie to me?” Isaac asked. “You made me get Dusty in trouble.”
The boy stared at him blankly for a moment, then with recognition, laughed cruelly. “Look who it is,” he sneered, then added, “Members only on this beach rich boy. Get the fuck out of here.”
Isaac heard another laugh and looked up to find the man who sold drinks sitting a few feet away staring at him. “You heard what he said. Members only here,” the man said. Isaac felt fear mixing with desperation. The man and the boy were still staring at him, menacing him with their eyes. He wished he could fly away, back to his parents, his house. Instead he turned and began the long trudge back to the Dunes, shimmering white in the far distance.

(c) 2011 Andrew Waters

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire by Jim Harrington

Jim discovered flash fiction in 2007, and he’s read, written, studied, and agonized over the form since. His recent stories have appeared in Flashshot, A Twist of Noir, The Short Humour Site, Dark Valentine, Flash Fiction Offensive, and others. Jim's Six Questions For blog (http://sixquestionsfor.blogspot.com/) provides editors and publishers a place to “tell it like it is.”

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire
by Jim Harrington

Johnny and I sat in these windows everyday after school, like a pair of twin tabbies. We started when we were six, watching the other kids play stickball, and kickball, and flag football in the street. We couldn’t join them. Dad said we weren’t to go outside until he got home from work. He didn’t give us a reason, but we knew it was because mom got hit by a delivery truck while jaywalking and talking on her cellphone.

We ate snacks--Ritz crackers, or Wheat Thins, or dried fruit--as Mrs. Browning walked her yappy Yorkie, Lady Gladys. Mr. Jameson would wave on his way to the lobby to deliver the mail. Ratty Ron--that’s what we called him--played his taped-up saxophone on the corner. He wasn't very good, but a few folks dropped money into the hat lying uninterested by his feet.

We were on the seventh floor and the windows didn’t open, so we took turns having a conversation with each one of them. We agreed we didn’t like Mrs. Browning much, nor Lady Gladys. They both walked with their noses in the air and ignored everyone else, including us.

One Wednesday afternoon, when we were ten, a firetruck, it’s siren screaming for blocks, came to a halt across the street. Six firemen in black and yellow coats and hats--three in the cab and three on the back--jumped off the truck and rushed through the door, almost knocking over a girl who dad ordered us to stay away from because she was a hooker. There was smoke coming out of Mrs. Browning’s apartment. We noticed it, but didn’t call 911. We just waited to see what would happen. The only fireman wearing a white hat stared up at us. We moved away from the windows, afraid he might come and ask us questions. We didn’t want him to know what we knew.

Johnny brought some crack home from school on our sixteenth birthday. I told him he was crazy and that I wouldn't try it, but he called me a chicken. The walls started changing shapes, and then I saw the delivery truck that killed mom. I pushed it. Once. Twice. A third time. The truck crashed through the window. Shards of glass flew beside it in slow motion. I stuck my head outside, saw the truck lying on its back on the sidewalk, its legs bent at odd angles, and smiled. Dad would be proud of me.

The police came. They took me to the hospital and one of them waited in my room until I could talk to him. Dad was there, too. The policeman asked him to leave, but dad refused. That’s when the officer told us about Mrs. Browning seeing me push Johnny out the window.

“The bitch is lying,” I screamed. “She never liked us.”

Dad laid his hand on my arm. I continued to yell until a nurse came in and gave me a shot.

I got home about an hour ago. Dad had to go back to work, but he asked his sister, Aunt Jessie, to stay with me. She hadn't arrived by the time he left, but that was okay. I needed to decide how I was going to make Mrs. Browning tell the truth, and what I would do to her if she didn't. Her and Lady Gladys.

I asked Johnny, and he said a smoke bomb wouldn't do this time. It needed to be a real fire. I perched by the window and waited for Mrs. Browning and Lady Gladys to finish their late morning walk. Our new plan wouldn't be any fun if the two of them weren't home.
(c) 2011 Jim Harrington


(Topic for Flash Jab Challenge #2)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Promises by AJ Hayes

Promsies by AJ Hayes was this month's entry from the first ever Flash Bang Challenge at my newsletter, Bloody Knuckles. The topic was a picture of the 1940s era bathing beauty located in older post here at the Hard Nosed Sleuth. The prose is down right sinister. Enjoy. I did! (The story originally appeared at the Hard Nosed Sleuth.)

I saw her first on the terrace next to mine at the Biltmore. She was reclining on an Adirondack chaise, head tilted to the side, eyes closed, long legs burnished by the winter sun. I had never seen anything so beautiful. I snapped her picture with my Speed Graphic, worried that the sharp click and fast whirr of the shutter would wake her. But she slept on. She was perfection.

That night I saw her in the bar and bought her a drink. She was vivacious and even prettier than I had thought. During the course of the evening I learned that she was from back East and, like most of the pretty girls in Los Angeles, desperately trying to get into the movies. "Just a break, "she said. "Just one little break."

I smiled at her over my martini and told her I thought I had a part for her. Two parts, actually. A dual role. One that could make her famous overnight.

"Like Lana Turner?" she asked, her eyes bright with laughter.

"Even more famous than that," I said. "A hundred years from now, no one will remember Lana. But everyone will remember you."

"Promise?" She asked.

"Promise." I answered.

The barbiturate I'd slipped in her drink hit her pretty hard so I had to half carry her out of the bar. No one noticed. The L.A. of nineteen-forty-seven was a wide open town, filled with post-war celebration and excess.

I took her to my studio in the valley. In those days it was an empty, desolate place where they used to shoot westerns and jungle movies. The only habitations were widely scattered ranches and a couple of movie star estates hidden behind high fences and thick hedges.

She partially woke just as I finished suspending her. Her hair barely brushed the sawdust covered floor of the old barn I used for my art. Even upside down she was beautiful.

Her voice was slow and slurred when she asked what I was doing.

I didn't bother saying anything. She got the idea when I made my first cut. Her screams were as bright as her laughter.

I had an advantage back then. To the cops I was just another free lance photographer scuttling around the city. Hanging on and hoping for the shot that would take me to the big leagues. Not worth noticing. Invisible.

I took her from the trunk of my car, arranged her properly on the vacant lot and shot my photos. Then I waited for dawn to bring the first sirens. When they came I raced to my paper and stunned the morning editor with the first pictures of my creation. He stopped the presses and featured them on the front page, above the fold, under screaming seventy-two point headlines.

I kept my promises to her. She did play in two parts. Well, her carefully separated body did anyhow. And she is more famous than Lana Turner ever was.

I still have the photograph of her on that hotel terrace. I look at it almost every day. She was beautiful then and she is beautiful now. None of my other works compare.
(c) AJ Hayes 2011

Bathing Beauty
(Source for Flash Jab Challenge #1)