Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the twenty-second piece of flash fiction in this weekly series. This week’s piece is a 477-worder entitled ‘A Damned Hot Day’ by Michael C Boxall.
A Damned Hot Day
It was a damned hot day and the man and the girl were drunk.
“Damn,” said the man.
“Yes,” said the girl. She was a very fine girl. She had her own teeth. Sometimes men looked at her teeth and whistled. Now the heat was making her perspire.
The man was thinking about a horse he had bet on with the Mexicans. It crept about in the middle of the night and ate cheese. It made little scurrying sounds. Nick Adams said it wasn’t a real horse. He said it was a mouse. The man wished he hadn’t bet money on the horse.
They had come to Venice to shoot elephant. They drank Cuba Librés at Harry’s Bar while Mjumbo built a hide on the Piazza San Marco. Now they were waiting under the mosquito netting in the burning sun. They waited for a long time. The man grew tired of waiting and stripped down his elephant gun. He rubbed the barrel up and down with an oily rag. He put the gun back together. There was a piece left over and the man held the piece in his hand, frowning.
“That is a big weapon,” the girl said. “It makes me want to …” She wrinkled her nose and laughed.
The man looked up sharply. “How does it?” he asked. “After last time?”
For a moment the girl made no reply. She watched a herd of rhino charge a tourist bus. Then she said,
“Oh, Havana,” the girl said. “The old hair trigger problem.”
The man flushed angrily. “Damn.”
The girl said, “I never expected it to go off.” She laid a hand on his arm and gazed at him with her grey eyes. “It was just beastly damn bad luck. Don’t hate me for it.”
The man looked away. He remembered the hospital in the shade of the trees, and the smell of pine needles and other people’s feet. Or perhaps it was his own feet. Or rather, foot. He couldn’t be sure. Then he said, “We need to get rotten drunk.”
He thought of how he would drink Cuba Librés until he couldn’t stand up. Then he would fall down. Then he would get up and drink Cuba Librés until he fell down again. Then he would …. He lost the train of thought somewhere. But that was perfectly fine. He thought of the colossal headache he would have. And that was perfectly fine too. He would go to Harry’s Bar with Nick and drink pastis and eat a dozen bull’s testicles and sausage boiled in varnish with black mustard.
But first he would shoot an elephant on the Piazza San Marco. He listened for its trumpeting above the drowsy buzz of Lambrettas. He listened for a long time. His eyelids began to droop. It was a damned hot day.
I asked Michael what had prompted this piece and he said…
I was not so much inspired to write this as enticed, by the prospect of a trip to Italy and dinner at Harry’s Bar for the winner of a writing contest. The task was to write “a really good page of really bad Hemingway”. I didn’t win. Rats. Hemingway himself was not enthusiastic about parodies and said the step up from writing them was writing on the wall above a urinal. His reputation has diminished steadily since his suicide in 1961. But few writers have had such a distinctive voice. Who else is recognizable after just a few sentences?
Morgen: Not winning must have been disappointing (been there a few times) but it got you writing a story which you then had to give to me. Thank you Michael.
Michael C. Boxall is an expatriated English magazine journalist-turned-novelist currently living in North Vancouver, B.C. He is obsessed with the sales of his newly-published thriller, The Great Firewall. Even for a debut work by a writer no longer in the first flush The Great Firewall had a long gestation. The original idea came after a trip to Shanghai to do a travel piece. It was for a story set in the White Russian community in the 1920s, and it was to be not a novel but a multimedia game. But one thing led to another, and after aborted incarnations as a radio play and a movie script it became what it is now: the story of bankrupt software genius Daniel Skye, “Orson Welles with a laptop,” and his quest to Shanghai to find money for his dream project, and the enemies he makes in the process. You can read more about it (and see more short fiction on the blog) at www.thegreatfirewall.com. Even better, you can buy it at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk. Reviews much appreciated.
If you’d like to submit your 1,000-word max. stories for consideration for Flash Fiction Friday take a look here.
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