Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the one hundred and seventy-eighth piece in this series. This week’s is a 460-worder by Anne Kingsbury.
The Butterfly Defect
Kirt Marse stretched and rose from his desk. His second novel, Effect, delivered to his publisher. He hadn’t meant to write a sequel to his first book, Cause, but one thing had led to another. Cause was a murder mystery based on Chaos Theory: “when the present determines the future, but the approximate present does not approximately determine the future”, as defined by mathematician and meteorologist Edward Lorenz.
In Cause, Kirt twisted the fates of five characters who all attempted to kill the same man for different reasons, by assorted methods, at separate times. Each character’s actions started a trajectory of events that eventually ensnared them. Their carefully planned approximations with room for error was the logical despoiler of the expected result, an intended untraceable death. The approximate actions of the present did not approximate the result in the future because wildly different tangents became initiated. The success of the book demanded that another follow, and Kirt had obliged within a year’s time.
Effect began with in-depth narratives surrounding the widely diverging outcomes seemingly spreading from the ‘five stones’ dropped in still water, the ripple effect, of the five murder attempts. The satisfying conclusion was the surprising eventual death of the original intended victim based on all he had done to deserve it, but by unpredictable means.
Kirt made his money as a pharmacist, though he boasted a scorned minor in English at River University in New Hampshire as well.
“There’s a reason for everything,” intoned Kirt to himself as he thought of the nay-sayers in his life. He resigned his position at SNH Pharmacy.
He arrived at home to find Lindsay, his wife, sitting on the floor surrounded by pricey housing development brochures in several states. She hurried over and threw her arms around him.
“Take a look at these beautiful homes! I thought we’d also need a bigger place to entertain family than the pied-a-terre in New York we were talking about.”
Kirt poured himself a glass of Gaja Langhe Conteisa and picked up a brochure for New Hampshire farms in mountain country. You reap what you sow after all.
Six months later, Kirt never could have envisioned the course of events that occurred. Lindsay left him for a former lover. His first book, Cause, was contested in court as a past colleague’s idea. The scandal caused its removal from Oprah’s book club list. The hefty down payment on the Chelsea brownstone almost purged his royalties, and legal fees would decimate the rest.
On his way to an interview at a rival pharmacy, Kirt focused on his next book with a working title of Crap Shoot. His life had indeed suffered from the wiles of chaos but he knew that all theories were defective. Life is random.
I asked Anne what prompted this piece and she said…
The inspiration for this flash piece is my interest in all things scientific, and my belief that theories are too quickly viewed as fact.
Thank you, Anne. I always enjoy reading stories about writers. And one of my editing clients is a pharmacist-cum-writer. J
Anne loves to write flash fiction. It’s what she usually produces for biweekly meetings of her writing group. She has created several children’s book stories – picture books and chapter books – and has had poems published.
Anne teaches poetry at the Walt Whitman Birthplace, as well as interprets his life, work, and times for visitors. The Huntington Historical Society has a subgroup called The Ladies in the Attic, which conserves historic clothing and creates exhibits. Anne’s been one of the ‘Ladies’ for a year.
- and guest blogs about short stories on this blog: Alberta Ross, Jane Hertenstein, Helen M Hunt, Morgen Bailey, Sarah Grace Logan, Warren Bull.
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