Flash fiction

When I decided to write The Great American Novel several years ago I realized my formal education in the literary arts was hiding in the deep recesses of my brain. Although I have been a professional writer for forty years, writing narrative appraisal reports is technical where syntax takes a backseat to facts, analysis, and conclusions. I looked for a refresher course (or four) to bring back the long-lost memories of the litarary style of writing and lucked out when I discovered Harvey Stanbrough, a poet, writer, editor, and teacher. We hit it off, both being Marines – he is retired from the Corps and I’m just a tired Marine – and have become friends.

Harvey introduced me to a new genre – at least new to me: Flash fiction. There are several differing requirements for word count to qualify as flash fiction, although all agree that a complete story must be told in as few words as possible. Some say 55 words, some 100, and others 500 and even 1,000. Think about that: A story with a beginning, a conflict, and an ending, all within 55 or 100 words. I prefer the shorter stories and have written several as a way to hone the craft since it strips the story down to the basics. There is no room for fluff or extraneous words.

Although this story, at 244 words, exceeds my idea of flash fiction, it is within the realm of some definitions.


Jacob sat on the parapet of the house, his legs dangling over the edge, watching the two men sitting at Robert Wilson’s patio table two stories below. The men were dressed casually, both in khaki slacks but one in a sport shirt and one in a polo. The conversation began quietly but soon turned heated. The men stood. Voices became louder and gestures more pronounced.

The smaller man, who Jacob did not know, stepped closer to Robert. He was near enough that spittle from his yelling settled on Robert’s face. Robert stepped back, pointed to the gate that led to the front of the house, and told the man to leave. The smaller man planted both hands on Robert’s chest and shoved. Robert stumbled back and fell into his chair. He stood, his arms rising to a fighting position, his fists clenched. He managed one step forward before a pistol appeared in the short man’s hand and the report of three shots rang out. Robert fell to the patio and blood soon began to puddle beneath his inert form. The other man rushed around the side of the house.

Jacob remained on the parapet for several minutes calmly surveying the scene. Robert had not moved. No one appeared in the yard. Shouting voices came from the street and the muted sound of sirens came from the valley.

Jacob unfurled his wings and floated to the patio. It was time to escort Robert Wilson to Heaven.


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