Welcome to the first of a new series: 5pm Fiction.
Late April 2011 I discovered http://StoryADay.org and the project that is to write 31 stories in 31 days. Anyone who knows me or follows this blog, knows how passionate I am about short stories so my clichéd eyes lit up at this new marvel. And just a few days later there I was, breathing life into new characters. This went on to become (with some editing of course) my $1.49 31-story collection eBook Story A Day May 2011.
I was nearing completion of the 2012 project (which will become another $1.49 eBook in the not too distant future) when I decided that I didn’t want to stop at the end of May so 5PM Fiction was born. I put a load of prompts on the 5PM Fiction page and today’s prompt was to write a second-person short story where Norma is going through her handbag and makes a startling discovery, so here is my 447-worder.
Life in the Old Dog
Condoms. Why are there condoms in your handbag? You look at the outside again to make sure it’s your bag. You knew it was when you opened it and the rest of the contents are yours but these certainly aren’t.
Your mind races for clues. The only other person to go near the bag was Albert and he’d have no use for condoms. As far as you’re aware he’s never cheated on you and anyway, he’s so short-sighted and deaf he’d never notice or hear if anyone was… what’s the phrase the youngsters use today?… ‘hitting on’ him.
You’re always so fastidious about leaving your bag unattended, ever since being cautioned at the airport when Albert took you to Paris for your 40th wedding anniversary. Not cautioned, he’d say, warned, but it felt like they were the police, with their uniforms and polished shoes.
Today, the only time you went out was to go to the supermarket then the garage for petrol. You’d filled the trolley while Albert sat in the café then you’d filled the car while he queued to pay. Then he’d thrown the receipt and some chocolate in your bag. The chocolate you’d picked out when you’d got home, put it to one side on top of the washing machine while he parked the car, and that’s when you’d found the condoms.
The receipt, you remember, will explain all. Chocolate… petrol… condoms. So it was Albert. You look up to the ceiling to avoid the tears you know you want to cry but you won’t give him the satisfaction. You know he’s not bought them for you, you stopped having babies years ago, so if they’re not for you…
The threat of tears turns to welling anger and you have your arms crossed when he walks into the kitchen from the garage.
He looks at the contents on top of the washing machine and smiles. “Great. Fancy some?”
You frown so he continues. “Chocolate? It’s Fruit & Nut, your favourite.”
“And these?” you ask, holding up the packet of condoms.
“I know,” he says. “I’ve tried giving up. I didn’t think you’d mind if I only got a pack of ten.”
“I’ll make them last. I chose a different brand to normal.”
“These are supposed to be better for you.”
You’re about to throw them at him when he continues. “Low tar.”
“Cigarettes. I shouldn’t, I know.”
“These aren’t cigarettes, Albert!”
“No, Albert. These are condoms.”
“They are? Why did she give me condoms?”
You burst out laughing at his pained expression, like the little boy you remember from school.
Albert winks, takes your hand and leads you upstairs.
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Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.