Five Minute Flash Fiction
This road is one I’ve walked up many times in my life. I’ve seen it change over the years, the closing of the pubs is like the passage of time. First it was the Black Bull, then the Fox and Grapes, The Crown, just last week it was The Jezebel – although it might have been last month, it’s hard to keep track.
I was walking up here the other day and the throb had just started up as a reminder I should find somewhere for a quick pint before heading home. But all the old places were boarded up, the ring of the last-call bell was a noisy echo lost in the past.
I needed a cigarette too, my fingers started to get that itch, but it’s been a long time since you’ve been able to smoke indoors, you can’t even have a cig with your pint; that’s too much freedom.
That’s what they came for first, the clouds of smoke, then the pubs. It’ll be having a laugh next, then what’ll we be?
I’m not sure what it was that triggered the gunshot in my mind. I was walking past the car showroom, having a gander at the new models all out on display just waiting for the birds to shit and taint their shine.
I hung about for a bit with a bottle I’d picked up from the Polish supermarket, just to dull the twinge for a little while. There was this blue-suited fella, a salesman, doing his bit with a young couple on the forecourt. I could just tell looking at him, he was one of them: A placeholder person.
They always end up as salespeople or advertising types, talking the talk, as my old man used to say, but when you actually listen to the words they’re saying, it’s just as if they never said anything; it’s all just a load of noise. The fella in the blue suit was like a character from a board game, just following a script, always getting to the same point no matter what. If you spat in his face he’d probably just keep on going without pausing to wipe the slow oozing goo off of his skin.
I left him to his shiny cars and shiny-shoe-business and nearly broke my neck over the uneven pavement. My bottle had gone flying and when I turned back to snap a quick photo to let the bloody council know just how dangerous their pavements were, it was hard to tell which bit had tripped me up. It’s all shoddy workmanship these days, you watch them watching each other as one fella digs a hole and six of them stand with their arms crossed doing nowt.
I went arse-over-tit again a little further up, outside the Chippie. My legs weren’t so steady, that’s for sure, but once I’d righted myself I could see this young lass with her legs splayed out over the pavement, like an obstacle course for any poor fella walking by.
“You alright, love?” I asked.
“It’s all just a game to all of them, and I sure as shit ain’t winning. Five years me and Darren were together and it turns out he was shagging Chloe from the flat upstairs for Christ knows how long. Now I can’t get it out my head, every time I heard her bed smacking against the wall when Darren wasn’t in…” She lit a cigarette. “Well, then work let me go, even though they’d only hired some kid straight out of school a couple of weeks ago. I feel like I’ve been royally shat out by a giant arse.” She looked in my direction. “Could you spare a couple of quid for some chips?”
I shook my head and moved on. “Sorry love.”
“Have a good one,” she muttered.
I kept walking, feeling in my pockets to see what I had left – a couple of quid, just enough for something from the Offie to replace that smashed bottle. This time, I stuck to tins, one in each of my pockets for safekeeping. They didn’t last long, a couple of sips and they were dead.
It’s all just a game. That’s what the lass had said and the words were following after me like an angry echo, round and round my head they went.
I didn’t know though, I didn’t know. Surely that’s an unfair disadvantage to not know the rules; you’ll never know if you’re winning or losing.
Everything started to get cloudy for a bit after that. My jacket wasn’t right thick and the wind found its way in through one of the tears from when I’d fallen earlier and when I looked about, I wasn’t too sure which bit of the road I was on. None of it looked all that familiar and I must have got myself turned around and dizzy and it was all spinning and the concrete wasn’t looking too different to the buildings and I realised I must have fallen down again.
There was some blood on the pavement and this hot wetness on one side of my face and I reckoned I must have hit my head.
I sat there for a bit, just to gather myself so I could work out which way led back home.
I dunno how long I sat there for but I started to shiver. A couple of coins sat on the pavement in front of me, a couple of passers-by had dropped them furtively as they skirted on by and I gathered them up into my pockets and got a little unsteadily up onto my feet to keep on walking; even though I wasn’t too sure if it was the right way.
My breath started to go as I got further along and I fumbled about lighting a cig to calm the butterflies that went with the breathlessness.
I think I know the game: It’s tiddlywinks.
Fate’s finger gives you a flick and where you end up determines if you’re winning or losing, sometimes on top of other players, sometimes not.
I’m pretty far down the road. Time’s ticking down and I realise there’s no way my wink’s on top.
Want to read more short fiction?
A short story about a woman who’s not all she seems and a murder at a picnic. Or an urban fantasy about the mysterious Woman By The Lake.