Tuesday, 10 August 2010

FFF #38 DYING FOR A SMOKE


Or illustious mentor, Cormac Brown, has set us quite a task this week for Friday Flash Fiction !

Using the words: BUBBLE, TOIL, RUBBLE and COIL in any order, we were invited to create a story. So, here's my interpreation of said words. I hope you like it!



DYING FOR A SMOKE


Blood, sweat, toil and tears. That’s all Frank Grady’s life seemed to amount to, he thought wearily, as he lay amid the rubble of his home. He didn’t remember much about the blast except being bodily carried through the air when the gas exploded and ripped the walls apart.

The only saving grace was that the man who’d forced his way into the neat little terraced house in the early hours of the morning and trussed him and his wife Martha up was lying somewhere under what used to be the kitchen. He wouldn’t be going anywhere soon, thought Frank; not with the severed remains of one leg, still complete with intact trainer-shod foot, thrown across the room together with a mixture of loose digits scattered in the general carnage and debris.

At least he’d got to see some sort of justice done before he shuffled off this mortal coil but, curiously, the last four hours had seen him almost thank the intruder in a way.

Martha’s dementia had concealed from her the horrors that might have filled her with terror. She remained locked inside a bubble of her own reality, where she’d imagined the young lad to be a long-lost son.

Her incessant questions and total compliance with the thug who had tied her up with the flex from the table lamp he’d smashed, had seen him turn from amused to frustrated, until he’d been obliged to silence her once and for all. As he’d tightened the cord around her neck her face had grown mottled and bloated, but her eyes had never really expressed any sense of fear.

Frank had watched with a sense of desperation tinged with relief that Martha’s living hell was finally extinguished. She had died with a smile on her face and if he had to remember that last sight of her, then it was almost a blessing. She remained slumped in her chair, the colour drained from her face and her head rolled forwards with a soporific grin on her face, as if enjoying an afternoon doze.

Yet justice was seen to be done, thought Frank, as he lay in the ruined debris of his home. Having ransacked their precious belongings, smashing photos and ornaments and found a small amount of cash they had saved up, the intruder had grown angry and had tied Martha up threatening all manner of atrocities, hoping to get Frank to reveal where the rest of the money was hidden.

After the third slap to Martha’s face, Frank had realised neither of them were going to get out alive. There were real tears in his eyes as he had begged for her to be left alone and agreed to get the money together. This had seemed to relax the young man, made him cocky even, so that when Frank persuaded him to untie him he’d rested a hand on Frank’s shoulder.

“You got any beer, old man?” he’d said, a smirk smeared across his vicious face. “ I could kill a beer; thirsty work getting money out of you.”

Frank had felt his chest rise as he’d eased himself from the chair. A sense of hope had renewed his resolve for justice and if he’d have been younger and fitter, maybe he would have taken the young punk on.

Moving into the kitchen he’d rattled around, shuffling drawers, lifting an old coffee pot down from a cupboard as he’d quietly turned all the gas burners on. He’d reached into the larder, almost as an afterthought, and pulled out a bottle of Ringwood Fortyniner; he doubted the young man would appreciate it but he’d been willing to make the sacrifice.

As he’d trekked back into the other room something in Martha’s eyes had suggested she recognised the bottle of beer and began to tease her assailant about how her little boy was all grown up now. After a few swigs he’d grown tired and wrapped the cable tighter round her neck until she was at last quiet.

Frank had mourned silently and swiftly, almost paying lip service to Martha’s passing. In his heart he’d known that the vibrant woman he’d loved all these years, who’d planned for babies that had never arrived, had effectively died months previously, snatched away by the dementia that left him married to a stranger.

With the beer all but consumed, the man had lunged forward and grabbed the coffee pot from Frank’s grasp, sending the contents flying. A few tenners fluttered free and something else. The man pounced and retrieved the half empty packet of cigarettes.

“I was trying to give them up,” Frank had said, shrugging his shoulders.

“Don’t mind if I finish them off, then Pops? Anything I can do to help, y’know!” the man had sniggered back, patting his pockets. “Lighter?” he'd said, looking questioningly at Frank.

Having looked briefly around, a last glance sweeping over his wife’s body, he'd nodded towards the kitchen.

“On the counter,” he'd answered quietly.

As the young man sauntered past, Frank had resisted the temptation to trip him or have a chance of lashing out. There was no need. Justice would be served. Just like he’d planned. He'd counted off the seconds in his head and reached six before the blast sucked away all the familiar reality around him in a maelstrom of colours, shapes and movement.

Now, some minutes later as the ringing in his ears began to subside, he heard a distant wailing sound growing louder. Two-tone sirens. Too late, he thought. Too late for any of them. His world had been taken from him, all he’d worked for in his life. But in the taking, had come what he had silently longed for these past months as he heard a voice quietly in his head.

He closed his eyes.

Did he really hear her voice? He was certain he could smell her favourite perfume, and surely behind those closed eyelids he saw Martha in all her beauty?

He allowed a soft smile to leak onto his lips, the intense pain and pressure in his chest beginning to fade along with everything else.

10 comments:

  1. I liked the way Frank was able to trick the intruder into blowing up the house. Very clever!

    One thing, though: Martha died, then was living, then died again. I know some of this was told in Frank's memory, but it seemed out of sequence somehow. Especially since the first description of her strangulation was so vivid.

    Overall, though, this was a great story of seething revenge!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Nice work, Sue. I've got to agree with Flannery. 1, Certainly great work with Frank and tricking the intruder. 2, Maybe some kind of sereration between paragraphs to show us they were his thoughts when telling us about his missus. I had to re-read a few of them.

    Great job, though, young lady. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Agreed with both of the above points, but I just love the touch of Martha dying with a smile and then Frank doing the same. I guess you could call it symmetry. A great story indeed!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Yup - I agree with the business of 'time shift' - if I'd have taken time to re-read it through properly I would probably have changed things so it made more sense, but I was hurrying to get it in on time - sorry,chaps.

    (... but then, you could argue that it's really the incoherent ramblings of a dying man...)

    ;-p

    ReplyDelete
  5. Sue, no apologies necessary! ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Great piece especially since having to hurry it along to get it in on time. Brava!

    ReplyDelete
  7. There is justice in this world after all. No matter how "liberal minded" we might be, we might not be out for revenge, but isn't there some glee in the baddies getting what for? A clever story.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Good story, Sue. Sometimes working on a tight deadline can be a good thing.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Yes! Justice is SERVED!
    A great little snippet here. I enjoyed the ending too.

    I apologize for my delay in commenting, been a busy week, ya know?

    http://wordvamp.blogspot.com/2010/08/fff-38-simple-request.html

    ReplyDelete