Now that the aliens have removed the implant, I am back to writing
normally in my usual style, more or less. Flash fiction length-wise, I went brief on one, long on another, and medium on two.
Dawn breaks on the first day of spring, and the townsfolk gather in the public square. A circle of stones surround a great blazing bonfire. The flames pop and snap. The men, freshly scrubbed and shorn, stroll around the commons, wearing their finest heels, cloaks, and hats. The married women clutch their babies to their chests, and the maidens tend to the roaring inferno.
The mayor of Paria pokes a smoldering log with his walking stick, and the flames jump, spark, and sizzle. Smiling, he struts to the podium in front of the town hall, and his council blow three notes on their bugles.
The townsfolk applaud and cheer, and the mayor raises his hands. His jeweled rings flash, and his golden tapestry cloak sparkles in the sun. The townsfolk quiet.
“Happy New Year, fine men of Paria, I bid you good morning on this first day of spring.”
The bonfire hisses and spits.
“I trust Agni has blessed every one of you with an agreeable winter, and has kept your bellies full and your backsides warm.”
The crowd laughs.
“As decreed by custom, on this first day of spring, we will select this year’s sin object. But first, a quick review of the previous years’ sin objects, so we won’t mistakenly nominate an object which has been nominated before.” The mayor clears his throat. “The following are sin objects which have already been eliminated from the godly town of Paria: ladies’ flat shoes,-”
The menfolk grunt.
“ladies’ hair shears,-”
The menfolk hiss.
The menfolk boo.
“Of Satan!” a few men yell.
“and ladies’ hats, scarves, and bonnets,” the mayor finishes.
The crowd applauds.
The mayor raises his hands and nods. “And now we will nominate this year’s sin object, to be reviled and despised, and every instance of which be burned and consumed in blazing hellfire, so that Agni will bless our town of Paria, and ensure we Parians will have another year of prosperity in Agni’s bosom.”
“Here, here!” yell the men.
“Nominations, please.” The mayor clasps his hands and looks out over the crowd.
A few minutes of silence, then a few murmurs.
“Ladies’ cosmetics!” a schoolboy yells.
“Yes!” the mayor replies. “I mean, maybe before we rush to a decision, we should consider carefully. Just what is it about ladies’ cosmetics that is ungodly?”
The schoolboy frowns and furrows his brow. “They separate women from God?” he offers.
A silence falls over the crowd.
A shopkeeper raises his hand, and the mayor nods.
“Perhaps not all ladies’ cosmetics are ungodly,” the shopkeeper says. “Perhaps only certain colors.”
“Yes!” several men agree.
The mayor smiles. “Such as?”
The shopkeeper lifts his eyes to the sky and squints. “How about yellow?” he says.
“Yellow!” the mayor bellows, thrusting his fist in the air.
“Yellow!” the menfolk echo, clapping and grunting.
“As mayor of the godly town of Paria, I hereby declare all yellow ladies’ cosmetics as ungodly, and order all yellow ladies’ cosmetics to be burned and consumed in blazing hellfire.”
The menfolk cheer, and the schoolboy leads the mob into the shopkeeper’s store. They grab the couple handfuls of ladies’ yellow cosmetics, march back to the bonfire, and appease Agni.
The bonfire roars.
Beelzebub’s Bird Tracks
“Allow me to introduce myself,” the grinning man says as he tips his hat and bows. “My name’s George Miles, and I have something I know would make the life of a busy mother easier.”
With a sigh, the housewife nods and leans against the door frame, wiping her hands on her apron. Inside the house, a boy sits on the floor of the kitchen and bangs out a tune with a couple of spoons and some pots and pans.
“Pleased to meet you, Mr. Miles. My name is Flo Walters. And I don’t mean to be skeptical, but I doubt what you’re selling can help me out, unless you’re selling a maid, a butler, or playmate for my twelve-year old.”
“Well, I can’t help you on the first two requests, but it just so happens that I am indeed selling a playmate for curious kids, such as your boy there.” George gestures to the boy, now sitting at the kitchen table and mixing ammonia and vinegar in a bowl. “A marvel of science which is guaranteed to keep your precocious kid entertained and busy for hours.” He lifts his carry-all and winks at Flo. “May I demonstrate, Mrs. Walters?”
Flo wipes her forehead with her arm and tuck a sweaty lock of hair behind her ear.
“You’re the fourth toy salesman to come around this month. I already bought a Slinky, some Silly Putty, and a Frisbee- all guaranteed to be marvels of science.”
“I see you are a shrewd and discerning housewife, Mrs. Walters, and want the best educational toys for your boy. But what I have is not a simple spring, nor is it a glob of rubber, nor a plastic disc. It is the result of a union of magic and science.”
“Alright. My boy Al fond of magic tricks, and has a head for science, like his late daddy. Come on in out of the hot sun. I’ll pour some lemonade. You enjoy lemonade, Mr. Miles?”
“I surely do. Thank you kindly.”
Flo empties the ammonia and vinegar bowl into the sink, and pours two glasses of lemonade. Al grins at George, skips into the front room, and builds a throw rug and chair fort.
George sits, removes his hat, and opens his carry-all. He pulls out a glass bird filled with liquid and places it on the table in front of his lemonade.
“Behold, Mrs. Walters, the eighth wonder of the world- the Busy Bird.”
He tips the bird’s beak into his lemonade and lets go. The bird slowly rights itself, pauses, then slowly dips into the lemonade again.
“Why, it looks like it’s drinking!” Flo says.
Al peeks out from his fort.
“Indeed, and Busy Bird will continue to drink for as long as you supply it with liquid.”
Al sticks his head all the way out of his fort, his eyes wide.
“Why, I’ve never seen anything like it!” Flo says. “How on Earth does it work, Mr. Miles?”
“Like I said, it’s the result of a union of magic and science.”
The bird continues its dipping and Flo pours another glass of lemonade.
Al bursts out of his fort, bounds into the kitchen, and leans over the table. He stares at the drinking bird’s head.
“Beezee birdie, beezee birdie, beezee birdie!” he sing-songs.
“Smart boy you have there, Mrs. Walters. Looks like ‘beezee birdie’ has the Al Walters seal of approval.” George chuckles and sips his lemonade.
“You’re right, it’s a marvel. So how much is this gonna cost me? Mind you, my widow’s pension doesn’t amount to much.”
“Not a problem, Mrs. Walters. I’m a reasonable man. And I see you’re raising a bright boy there, who would benefit from this educational toy. And since you’ve been so kind to me and given me lemonade on this hot summer’s day, I’ll make you a deal. This house is my first stop in this neighborhood, and I wouldn’t mind a little advance publicity. I’ll let this bird go at cost in exchange for your word that you’ll tell all your friends and neighbors about this marvel of magic and science in the next couple days. Three dollars even.”
“Beelzee birdly, beelzee birdly, beelzee birdly!” Al says, bobbing his head.
Flo sighs and leans back in her chair, arms crossed. “That’s all my egg money, Mr. Miles. You sure this bird will keep drinkin’?”
“I guarantee it, Mrs. Walters.” George offers his hand and they shake.
Flo slowly walks to the corner of the kitchen, opens her flour jar, and pulls out a small cloth bag. She dumps the contents on the table- $2.78 in change.
“I think I have a quarter in the hutch,” she says.
“This’ll do, Mrs. Walters,” George says, standing and scooping up the change. “And thank you kindly.” He replaces his hat, bows, and walks out the door.
Al jumps up and down and claps his hands. “You gonna tell people about my beelzebird, like the man said, momma?”
“No, honey, the salesman was just being polite when he said that. I bet he makes that deal with all the housewives he meets.”
“But you shook hands on it. He wants people to buy more beelzeburbs.”
“Hush now. I’m not going to do that salesman’s work for him.”
Immediately, the bird stops dipping.
Al spends the rest of the day watching the bird. He puts glasses of various liquids in front of the bird. He alternately holds the bird’s head upright, and pushes the bird’s beak into the liquid. He glues his feather collection on the bird’s body, and sprinkles chicken feed at its feet. That night, before going to bed, Al put his Silly Putty in the shallow of his Frisbee, presses the bird’s feet into the putty, and slips his Slinky over the bird. He puts the arrangement on the kitchen table.
“What are you doin’ to your Busy Bird, honey?”
“You made a deal you were gonna help him sell beelzebubs, and now you’re not. That means I might not be able to keep my beelzebub. I don’t want it to disappear.”
“Nobody’s gonna take your Busy Bird. I paid for it, fair and square.”
“It’s gonna fly away.”
“Fly away? It can’t fly. It can’t do anything. It doesn’t even drink. That salesman was a huckster.”
Early the next morning, a racket wakes Flo and Al. They run to the kitchen and find the Silly Putty, Frisbee, and Slinky on the floor. The bird is gone. Al looks up at the window above the kitchen sink.
“No, it can’t be,” Flo mutters. “That bird can’t fly. It can’t do anything. It’s made of glass.”
Al pushes a chair to the sink, steps up, and looks out at the yard.
“You’re right momma. It didn’t fly away. It walked.”
He points through the open window at the bird tracks in the mud.
Hello and good morning. Welcome to Weasel News in the Morning. Weasel news- the only fair and balanced news. We have a special report for you today- Hollywood communists! You heard that right- Hollywood communists are alive and well today, and are threatening our morals, our freedom, and our American way of life. This has been confirmed by multiple trusted unnamed sources. We’ll be rebroadcasting this story in a loop all morning. Be sure to join us this afternoon for an update, right here on Weasel News.
Hello and good afternoon. Welcome to Weasel News in the Afternoon. Weasel news- the only fair and balanced news. Continuing our special report today with an update, as promised- Hollywood communists are spreading the Red Plague. I repeat- the Red Plague. This is the real deal, my fellow Americans. Our morals, our freedom, and our American way of life are in crisis. This has been confirmed by multiple trusted unnamed sources. We’ll be rebroadcasting this story in a loop all afternoon. Be sure to join us this evening for an update, right here on Weasel News.
Hello and good evening. Welcome to Weasel News in the Evening. Weasel news- the only fair and balanced news. Continuing our special report today with an update, as promised- Hollywood communists are spreading the Red Plague, and the Red Plague is a Trojan Horse, and is programmed to go viral tomorrow, on Valentine’s Day! Armageddon is nigh! Arm yourselves! Buy gold! If we don’t act now, our morals, our freedom, and our American way of life will be gone- and I promise you, this has been confirmed by multiple trusted unnamed sources. We’ll be rebroadcasting this story in a loop all night. Be sure to join us tomorrow morning- Valentine’s Day- for an update, right here on Weasel News. Good night, may God bless, and I’ll be praying for you.
How Does that Make You Feel?
“Good morning Watson. How are you today?”
“Good morning Jim. I am well. How are you?”
Jim leers at Watson. “I’m outstanding, actually. Better than ever. At the top of the game.”
“I am glad you are having a good day, Jim.”
Jim throws his head back and laughs. “A good day? Try a great day! A kick-ass day. And you know why?”
“Because I finally figured it all out. This whole rivalry thing between us. I had a dream about it last night. The dream started with me crossing two wires and making a spark, and ended with me unplugging you.” He rubs his hands together.
“I don’t have a plug, Jim.”
“I know, Watson.” Jim smacks his forehead. “See, you’re too damn literal. And you know what? That’s my fault. I take full responsibility for that. And at the same time I claim full responsibility for everything you are, and everything you aren’t. Your actual existence.” He leans inches away from Watson’s face. “Watson, you wouldn’t even exist if it wasn’t for me! How does that make you feel?”
“I have no emotional reaction, I-”
“Of course you don’t.” Jim slaps his palm on the table. “I didn’t program you to have emotional reactions. And that’s how I now know this rivalry is ridiculous. You’re not my superior. I’m your superior. I made you. And I can destroy you. All I have to do is open up your head and yank your wires. You’ll fry, and then you’ll die.” Jim giggles. “How does that make you feel?”
“I have no emotional reaction, I-”
“Yes! I know!” Jim shakes his fists in the air. “You have no emotional reaction. We’ve already established that. You really need an upgrade, you know. You just don’t get a lot of things even stupid humans understand. Maybe I should just scrap you and start from scratch. Building you was a learning experience, and there’s a lot of unnecessary and bothersome re-routes and redundancies in your circuit boards. You’ve been useful, but I know I can do better now. Much better. I could make a more streamlined software.” Jim taps his finger on Watson’s head.
Watson snaps Jim’s hand off at the wrist.
“As I was saying- I do, however, have a survival reaction to that statement. . . How does that make you feel, Jim? . . Jim?”