“The man prattled on about his prized fighting rooster while his wife fried chicken and smiled.”
I was scrolling through my twitter feed when I came across the above posted piece of flash fiction; I read it and continued scrolling. When it sank in, when I realized how awesome it was, it was too late. I scrolled back through the insipid string of tweets with a frantic thumb upon my iPhone, but I couldn’t find it. I couldn’t figure out who wrote it and my desire to give some random author a virtual pat on the back was left unsated. I’ve posted a couple tweets since asking “which one of you wrote the flash fiction about the fighting rooster” but nobody has responded. Sure, a few quasi poets awarded my tweets with stars because they probably thought I was trying to be funny, but I wasn’t. Twitter is like an enormous room full of strangers who are all talking to themselves, or at best, at each other, and my repeated attempts to find the author of this rooster related flash fiction were nothing more than the quiet shouts of yet another avatar. Oh well. I hate quoting someone else’s work without giving proper credit, but in this case, I must; the little piece is just too cool.
On the surface, the story is nothing more than a banal slice of bucolic life, but underneath, it’s dark and wonderful. You start thinking: holy shit, wait a minute, is she frying his prized fighting rooster? Is she about to feed it to him? I pictured a neglected wife living amongst flowing wheat somewhere in the bible-belt. She’d married a man that’d rather spend his time with a bottle of bourbon and his friends while they pitted rooster against rooster. He came home late one night with a caged rooster and a handful of small bills before passing out on the couch. The wife couldn’t take it anymore. She took the rooster out back to the slaughter house and wrestled it from its cage. She held it down against a smooth butcher’s block with one hand as it crowed for release. She screamed as the cleaver fell and arterial blood, red and foaming, sprayed across the walls and her “kiss the cook” apron. The next morning, breaded the meat before dropping it into the hot oil with a smile; her husband sat at the table nursing a hangover while he waited for his breakfast. He placed his hands on the red and white checked table cloth and tried to strike up a conversation with his estranged wife. He talked about that which mattered most; his prized fighting rooster. She smiled. He deserved the breakfast that was coming.
Maybe I’ve got it all wrong. Maybe she too loved the rooster but he lost his last fight. They could’ve been frying it up as some sort of morbid send off. Or maybe it was an entirely different chicken and the wife was just smiling because she loved to hear her husband talk, and I’m a demented ass for taking it to the darkest place possible. Or maybe there’s a darker place yet, to which you took it, but that’s exactly my point. That little story was awesome, and it’s part of the reason that I’ve decided to dedicate this third and final segment on emerging writing styles to “Flash Fiction”.
Part 3: Flash Fiction, and Emmie Mears
Photograph taken by Colleen Barrett of Blue Tree Photography
My go-go-gadget Wikipedia search on flash fiction tells me that James Thomas coined the term back in ’92, so out of the three styles I’ve touched on, this one is by far the youngest. You could argue that flash fiction is nothing more that super short fiction, which has been around ever since Aesop and his aphoristic little tales, and you’d be right, but this is my blog so there’s no point in arguing with me. To define it, flash fiction is a short medium no longer than one thousand words.
From what I’ve seen, flash fiction seems to be a “writer’s writing” (just like Magnum P.I. was a “man’s man”). Authors love it. They write it and post it and submit it to all sorts of little contests but most casual readers seem to prefer something a bit longer. But that’s just my take on things. In my opinion, the great flash fiction is something that leaves you guessing; wondering exactly what was going on. Like the story that I started this piece with, I’d say that masterful flash fiction leaves things unresolved, yet it also leaves the reader satisfied. That’s a hard feat to pull off, but Emmie Mears is a literary samurai and pulls it off as if it were nothing. I stumbled upon her website, and a piece of flash fiction she wrote thanks to Twitter, and after reading it, I started taking super-short form writing seriously.
Emmie would tell you that she’s not technically a short form writer, and that she has four completed novel-length works of urban fantasy, but whatever. It’s my contention that all you have to do to be considered a “flash fiction writer” is write flash fiction. Seriously; can you name an eminent flash fiction author? Well neither can I, so this is the piece I went with:
“I didn’t expect it to be so wet.
Oh, I knew it rained in Scotland. How else would everything be such a virulent shade of green? Somehow when I pictured majestic mountains shrouded with twilit silver mist, that mist lacked the power to turn my hair into a fro.
Right now the expanding mass of curls atop my head didn’t make number one on my list of problems, but it also didn’t help my visibility as I squinted into the engine of my rental.
Steam rose from the metal, along with the acrid tang of seared rubber. One end of the betraying belt flopped against the oil dipstick.
I’d come here looking for magic. I’d found wet feet and a fro. Two hours to wait for AA – that’s what I got for picking a nameless glen in Sutherland over a pub in Fort William. My brain taunted me with the memory of malt vinegar over chips and Glen Ord scotch.
The forest to the west looked drier and less cramped than the tiny car. I squished into the underbrush and picked my way to an oak tree, sitting on the cushion of moss to wait for my rescuers.
The air smelled of peat and crystal water, clean. A deep breath afforded a small comfort against the damp seeping through the seat of my pants.
Bright in the gloaming, eyes met mine through the trees…”
That was an excerpt from “Rustle” by Emmie Mears. For the rest of the piece, you’ll need to visit Emmie’s site here: http://emmiemears.com/2012/02/20/rustle/
This is usually where I’d summarize the piece of writing I chose to blog about, but it’s unnecessary; my summary would be longer than the piece itself. But please follow the above posted link and read the rest of the piece because Mears did exactly that which I spoke of earlier; she left me guessing but satisfied. It takes Mears a mere three hundred words to lay down depth and substance, setting and suspense, and I think “Rustle” is a perfect example of what “flash fiction” should be. Furthermore, Mears is a true wordsmith and an author to watch. The short fiction that can be found on her website is well worth the perusal, but you’ll have to wait if you want more because that’s all there is. However, Mears is a badass author with a real life agent, so you probably won’t have to wait long. I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, please visit her site and blog here: http://emmiemears.com/