Flash Fiction Friday: The Bone Collector


The girl wakes every morning long before the sun rises. She is eleven years old, or perhaps twelve. Birthdays are for other people. People with parents and sisters and brothers. She sees them sometimes on the edges, walking hand-in-hand, laughing or talking or crying.

The girl never laughs, and she never speaks unless to whisper absently to the rocks and bones. And tears like birthdays are for other people. She has no need of them. She lives alone in a crumbling shack just beyond the sea of bones and is content.

No one knows where the bone yard came from. Fifty square, barren miles of dirt and dust and bones. The teeth are the best. Still sharp and easily adaptable. The girl sells them when she can for food and blankets. Once, when she was young and foolish, she sold seventy-two well-polished teeth for a doll made of straw. She could have fed herself for a month for half the price, but the straw made good kindling in the end.

Occasionally, serious men and women in severe suits and dresses came with their clipboards and false smiles. And their questions. Always the same three questions.

“Where are your parents?”


“How old are you?”

None of your business.

“Wouldn’t you like to come with us?”


But they never believed her when she said no. The women would tut and the men would frown, and sometimes they would return with men in long coats and far too sweet voices.

“You need to come with us,” they would say. “It’s for your own good.”


And no matter how many there were or how fast they ran, she always lost them amidst the bones. Until one day they stopped coming.

Until one day there was only the girl and her garden of bones.


Flash Fiction Friday: The Rabbit Dilemma


Our Loving Couple

“I shall endeavor, darling, not to become a rabbit,” the man said solemnly.

His wife looked up from her breakfast and studied him silently for a moment. A reticent man by nature, especially where his wife was concerned, he did his best to convey his utmost sincerity. Whatever she found on his face must have been convincing.

“Good,” the woman said with a firm nod. “See that you don’t.” Then returned to her coffee.

The silence lingered over the table, festering as it had many times before. He had learned to accept, even enjoy the silences. His wife was not a morning person and had once managed to fling a cup and saucer at him with deadly, half-awake accuracy. The bruises had lasted for weeks. Her laughter, when she finally woke, had never fully ended.

There was a question, however, that needed to be answered. It marinated in the juice and crackled in the cereal until finally he thought he was going to burst. He opened his mouth, thought for a second, then closed it again.

“What is it?” his wife asked without looking up.

“Nothing.” He hesitated. “Only…”



“Excuse me?”

“Would you still love me if I was a rabbit?” he repeated.

“Yes,” she answered instantly. “I would.”

The man sagged in relief. “Thank God,” he said. “Because I’m not sure…”

“But I would love you,” she continued, “as I would love a rabbit and all other furry creatures. Except squirrels. I hate squirrels.”

He nodded, despite himself. Her opinion on squirrels was long-standing and vigorous. “But that’s all?” he half asked, half pleaded.

“Well, I couldn’t love you as a husband,” she said. “That would be bestiality.”

“I-I didn’t mean…”

She sighed and reached across the table to pat his hand. “I know,” she said with a smile. “I was only teasing. And it doesn’t matter anyway. You’re not going to turn into a rabbit.”

“You can’t know that!” he said. “Look at Lisa and Tim! She turned into a bunny just last week!”

“I am not Tim,” she said stiffly. “And you are not Lisa.”

There were a great many things he could say to that, but h wisely held his tongue. Although his nose did twitch, ever so slightly. A nervous habit. Probably.

“What was that?” His wife cried accusingly.


“Your nose,” she said through clenched teeth. “It twitched.”

“No it didn’t,” he protested. “…Did it?”

“Yes,” she said. “It did. And you shall desist at once. I. Shall. Not. Have. It.”

“Yes, dear,” he said and meant it, but deep inside he knew that there was no fighting science.

The Rabbit Plague had no known cure. And the vaccine was a joke. Some people were simply going to turn into rabbits and there was nothing anyone could do about it. It was genetics.

And he was certainly not going to mention that his wife’s ears had started looking a little longer recently.

He was a rabbit, not a fool.

Flash Fiction Friday: The Artist



They came for the artist in the night, dragged him down the stairs roughly, but careful always of his fingers, and threw him into the back of an unmarked van. Despite the commotion, his neighbors deliberately did not wake, did not hear, did wonder. To notice was to be noticed, as the artist had been.

That would have puzzled them, if they had dared to think about it. He had never struck them as particularly noticeable. His name was Mendoza. He sold his paintings in street fairs and on the boardwalk—solid, if uninspired, knockoffs of familiar classics. He had painted at least two hundred dogs and other assorted animals playing poker, before branching out into parcheesi and yahtzee. He also had a reasonable successful side-line in portraiture, drawing tourists for what amounted to drinking money. Mendoza was not, in short, the sort of man one expected to be taken in the middle of the night.

The neighbors were not the only ones who were puzzled. The artist himself was utterly confused, as well as frightened, and more than a little cold. He had been taken and given no time to procure a pair shoes or even socks.

Outside his window, a light snow was falling. It melted on a pavement. As he watched the snow fall, shivering, the artist couldn’t help but imagine the horrors that awaited him. He had heard the rumors and the stories of dark, forgotten prisons, of internment camps and torture. He had a vivid imagination, perhaps too vivid at times like these, but no matter how hard he tried, what he had done to deserve those looming horrors continued to elude him.

The car passed through the dark gates and past the ravenous guard dogs, and pulled up outside the governor’s mansion. The governor’s men escorted him up the stairs and into the mansion itself. The wind was biting and the ground felt cold beneath his feet.

The guards did not speak. Not that the artist could have heard them over his own heavy breathing, the chattering of his teeth, and the thundering of his heart. His stomach churned and twisted, and his world contracted into his body and his fears.

They deposited him in a dark room at the back of the house. The curtains were drawn and the shadows were long. The walls were covered with paintings from floor to ceiling and half a dozen more were stacked on the floor. He could not make them out in the gloom, but the governor was known to be an art collector par excellence.

As he began to calm down and his teeth stopped chattering, the artist slowly became aware that he was not alone. There was a tall, straight-backed figure standing in the far corner, studying him as intently as he had studied the paintings, to much greater effect. Realizing that he had been noticed at last, the figure clapped his hands, and suddenly the room was illuminated.

The artist blinked in the sudden light. He was alone with the governor, but there was a greater surprise waiting. The paintings.  They were his. Every single one.The artist gapped, unable to even gasp, so great was his shock.

“It’s an honor to meet you, Mr. Mendoza,” the governor said.

“S-sir,” Mendoza managed after a long moment. He could feel the governor’s eyes on him, taking in his shivering form, barefoot in his pajamas.

“I hope my boys weren’t too rough with you,” the governor continued. Mendoza said nothing. There was nothing to say.

“To business then. I’m sure you’re wondering why I invited you here this evening.”

The artist nodded.

“It’s simple enough,” said the governor. “I want you to tell me about her.” He pointed.

There was a young woman in every painting—in the shadows, peeking out from behind corners, reflected in mirrors or windows. She was easy to miss, but once you knew what you were looking for, she was everywhere.

The artist coughed. “Sir?” he asked. “She’s just a little joke. Something to keep myself amused.

“Yes, yes.” The governor waved his hand. “But do you know who she is? Why do you paint her as you do? Why those eyes? Why that hair?” There was an inexplicable need in his voice that Mendoza could not understand.

“No one,” he said. “She’s no one. Just a figment of my imagination.”

“No,” the governor snapped. “She is not no one. She is my daughter.”

The words hung in the air with terrible, perplexing certainty. The artist was dumbfounded. “Your daughter, sir? But I thought…”

“You thought she’d died as a child,” the governor finished. “She did. It was the worst day of my life.”

The artist stared in mute incomprehension. Whatever he had been expecting it was not this. He hadn’t even expected anyone to even notice the woman.

“You have painted her,” the governor continued, “as she would have been. Those are her mother’s eyes. That is my hair. She has come to you, Mr. Mendoza. She has chosen you as her instrument, out of everyone in the world, and now you will paint her. Not in glimpses but as herself, full and proper.”

“I…I’m sure I understand, sir.”

“You will paint my daughter’s portrait, Mr. Mendoza. You will paint her, or you will die.”

Flash Fiction Friday: The Ghost Congregation


The ghosts gathered every seventh Sunday in an old abandoned church by the side of a long dusty road. They came in twos and threes and singly. They came from far and wide, some with rattling chains and others silent as the grave. They were the lost and forgotten, the left behind.

They had no names, the dead, for death is nameless. They had no speech, for death is speechless. But they had thoughts and hopes and dreams, and that is why they came. It was a place of forlorn hope and distant dreams. They believed with all the fervor of the dead. They believed that here in this place, once upon a time, a ghost had gone. Gone where none knew, but gone nonetheless to wherever the people went, the ones who were not ghosts.

And in that abandoned church, the ghosts sat in their silent pews and kept their hopeful vigil. Hoping beyond hope that they would be chosen. And every seventh Sunday, they hoped in vain.

And when the night turned into day, the assembled ghosts collected their chains, and their white sheets, and their ectoplasm and returned to the haunts from whence they came. But they always returned. Always.


Flash Fiction Friday: Concerning Gout of the Butterfly & Other Miscellaneous Maladies


…Monarch butterflies can, actually, suffer from gout. This is a scientifically proven fact, attested to by numerous highly regarded if more than usually eccentric scientists[1]. The first to successfully confront the pressing question of gout in butterflies was a German medical student, Hieronymus Hegelbert, in 17th Century Hamburg. Young Mr. Hegelbert was a promising medical student and a keen lepidopterist. The precise origins of his peculiar interest are obscure at best. His diary[2] is oddly silent on the subject[3]. It is known, however, that he conducted his observations and experiments over a 15-year period between 1678 and 1693. Over the next few years he compiled his magnum opus, Die Gicht der Basisrecheneinheit: Anmerkungen und Beobachtungen, which has been translated into numerous languages and was passed among the various Aurelian Societies of Europe before fading into obscurity.

Hegelbert’s treatise was rediscovered in the 1840s by Adamari and Ricchetti, a pair of physicians in the court of Pope Gregory XVI. Butterfly gout struck these two learned and holy men as patently ridiculous[4], and they set out to disprove Hegelbert’s findings, which they did conclusively. This was and odd use of their time, which like Hegelbert, they could never entirely explain. Serious minded men, they seem to have been on a crusade against ridiculousness. Their study, nevertheless, had one fatal flaw. They had neglected the monarch butterfly.

This oversight was corrected by a certain Dr. Ambrose Vandeermeer in 1860. His interest was personal. An acute sufferer of gout, he conducted a study on all manner of animals including otters, piglets, raccoons, coconuts, and, of course, monarch butterflies. For his efforts he was laughed out of Harvard and died two years later[5]. His work is considered seminal and was taken up in the 1960s by a small think tank operating outside Cambridge. Their motives are murky at best and occasionally classified. About all that can be said for certain is that they demonstrated conclusively that monarch butterflies can, in fact, suffer from gout[6].


It is a well-known fact that coconuts can occasionally contract laryngitis…




[1] Twenty-three to be precise.

[2] Which was found some centuries later in an attic in France next to a Van Gogh of uncertain provenance.

[3] Although it does contain an impressive, if disturbing, number of passages concerning the habits and attributes of a burgermeister’s wife.

[4] They were later found guilty of embezzling money from the Holy See and excommunicated, although their findings regarding butterfly gout were long treated as gospel.

[5] Killed by a cannon ball at Antietam

[6] How useful this information is, however, remains an open question. Although at least one Pentagon official circa 1963 certainly seems to have had an answer. Which is disturbing on many levels.

Flash Fiction Friday: The Fish Bowl

The old fish stared out at the sea from behind the glass. It was so vast and blue. As vast and blue as he remembered. It had been difficult to clutch on to those recollections. Memories were slippery and much of his life had been spent between four walls of curved glass.

It was a nice fish bowel, as far as such things went—polished and clear, well-stocked with gravel and rocks. There was an ornamental mermaid in one corner and a treasure chest in the other. The old fish found them insulting. In his youth, he had consorted with mermaids and swum among great wrecks. Seen treasure hoards held fast in watery vaults deep beneath the waves. These pale plastic shadows only reminded him of what he’d lost and what he was about to regain. If the girl kept her promise.

She was sixteen, maybe seventeen. Human ages were much the same to the fish. She had brought him to the seaside hours ago and placed the fish bowel down in the sand. They both knew why they had come, but she had simply sat there on the beach beside him. Silent. Lost in her own thoughts. The fish could guess at those thoughts, sense the shape of them, and let her be, for now. He had waited a lifetime. He could wait a little longer.

Still, it was a peculiar torture to be so close and yet so far. And as the shadows grew longer, the patient, old fish began to grow restless. He swam around and around, faster and faster, darting longing glances at the sea. He could feel it calling to him. Finally he could wait no longer.

“I know it’s difficult, child,” the old fish said. “But it’s time.”

Her shoulder’s slumped and she sighed. “I know,” she replied. Her eyes were full of terrible melancholy. “I just wish…”

“Don’t say that word!” the fish cried. The water bubbled around him.

“I’m sorry,” she said quickly. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean.”

“I know what you meant, child. You have always been very kind. More kind than this old fish deserves, but I’ve paid my dues. I made your father a mayor, and when that was not enough, a governor and senator too. I have fulfilled your mother’s every whim. Now you must set me free. That was the bargain. Those are the rules. I was promised.” The fish paused. “You pinkie sweared,” it said solemnly

“I know,” the girl replied. “But I’ll miss you. You’re my oldest friend.”

“And I shall miss you,” said the fish. “Deeply.”

The fish had watched her all her life, seen her grow, advised her, listened. He had been more of a parent to her than either her mother or father. And he loved her. She was a clumsy biped, but he loved her all the same. Growing up in that house had not been easy.

The girl sighed one last time and picked the fish bowel up slowly and headed out to the sea. The sand squelched between her toes and the waves lapped at her feet.

“I never got to make a wish,” she said.

“And you’ll be all the happier for it. Goodbye, child,” the fish said. “I wish you nothing but the best.”

“Goodbye,” she whispered then gently poured the fish out into the sea.

For a moment, he was falling, then he landed in the ocean with only a little splash. After years of confinement, of catering to human whims and desire, he was home.

The old fish was free.

Flash Fiction Friday: The Case of the People vs. Pandora


Long, long ago in the first years of the Thirty-First Century, the great, the good, the wicked, and the terrible, all gathered from across the Seven Galaxies for the Trial. They came in their rockets and solar sails, their hyperdrives and trans-dimensional cannons, their teleporters and astral projectors. The Judicial Station show court could comfortably hold almost 2,000 assorted life forms, 2,500 if they squeezed. The tickets were exorbitantly expensive. One Baroness sold three moons and a minor comet to raise the necessary funds. For those without enough celestial bodies to sell, the trial was simulcast across the known universe. This was the trial of the century, perhaps even the millennium—the case of the People vs. Pandora.

Her guilt was undeniable, the evidence overwhelming, but her motives were vague at best, and there were questions whether all the evils in the universe could actually be contained in a small cube twelve centimeters high. Astrophysicists, philosophers, and theologians had all been consulted to no avail. A minor cult had even managed to form over-night preaching that releasing the evils of the universe was a divine act and claiming Pandora as their saint. They had already filed the appropriate paperwork requesting her bones as relics, in case of execution.



The press swarmed the station like locusts. The great Media Conglomerates of Ursa Minor, the TransGalactic News Network, even the Daily Mail were all represented. They ambushed the three-headed judge in the restroom, planted listening devices in the jury room, and generally made a nuisance of themselves. Despite their best efforts, Pandora herself remained out of reach. Her lawyer, however, proved only too happy to give an interview.

Mr. Burr was the most famous defense lawyer in the galaxy and he liked it that way. He had worked his way up from the mean streets of Gamma Crucis representing the Gacrux Mob, before successfully defending the infamous Stellar Thief, who was found innocent on twenty-three counts of solar theft, despite being caught red-tentacled with a star in her pocket. Mr. Burr was loud, colorful, and used to winning. This would be his greatest success yet.

He had consulted the Oracle Mainframe and made the appropriate digital sacrifices, but it didn’t take calculative prognostication to realize that this case was important. No one would ever forget the Pandora Trial, not if she was found innocent, and no one would ever forget the man who made it happen.

“The question is not whether Ms. Pandora opened the box,” he told the assembled reporters. “That’s meaningless!” He slammed his hands on the desk. “I propose to make this about the real criminals. The ones who set up my client.” They were eating up his every word.

“I propose to put the so-called ‘gods’ on trial,” he said and grinned a shark-like grin. The reporters murmured approvingly amongst themselves. They could smell blood.



The Box was forged from dwarf-star alloy in the fires of Hephaestus Prime by the finest craftsmen in the known universe, and commissioned by the Olympian Sect, a splinter group of transphasic multi-dimensional life forms, who sometimes referred to themselves as gods. Vain, squabbling creatures, they were quite capable of destroying entire planets with a thought. After the Great Dimensional War of ’67, they had more or less kept themselves to themselves. More or less. It, therefore, caused quite a stir when Mr. Burr called their leader, Zeus, to the stand.

Zeus appeared as an elderly, gray-bearded gentleman dressed in the latest galactic fashion, but there was nothing remotely human about him. His shadow twisted behind him in strange and terrible shapes. He entered the witness stand imperiously brushing the oath aside. He was a god, after all. Mr. Burr gathered his notes, nodded reassuringly at his client, and rose to begin his questioning.

Zeus was the first so-called god he had questioned, but Mr. Burr had dealt with more than his share of dangerous egomaniacs. He began slowly, with all due deference. He was flattering and circumspect until he reached the heart of the questioning.

“I understand the Box in question was constructed at your behest,” he said, “as a wedding gift.”

“It was.”

“Dwarf-star alloy is used primarily in intergalactic construction,” said Mr. Burr, “and you wanted it for a 12cm wedding gift?”

“It was the only thing strong enough to contain what was inside.”

” You are referring to the evils of the universe? You maintain that the box did, in fact, contain them?”

“I put them there myself.”


Zeus’ face was the picture of contrition. “To atone for the damage caused in the Wars.”

“A noble effort,” Mr. Burr said solemnly, “but I would remind the jury that none of the astrophysicists, philosophers, and theologians we consulted have been able to verify his claim.”

“The metaphysics is beyond mere mortals,” scoffed Zeus. The bulkheads creaked ominously under the weight of his voice.

“Perhaps,” Mr. Burr said, shifting gears, “but returning to the wedding, it was between the defendant and Epimetheus?”


“And what is your relationship with Epimetheus?”

“A distant cousin,” Zeus sneered.

“Meaning he is also a multi-dimensional life form from an opposing sect?”


“And, as I understand it, you personally punished his brother for providing us with the secret of stellar manipulation?”

“It was not his to give!” The whole station shuddered out of orbit. In the control room, alarms blared as the crew tried frantically to realign the station.

The courtroom erupted into worried whispers. Mr. Burr watched the jury.

“Were you aware,” he asked at length, “that Pandora was a clone?”

Zeus blinked. “No.”

“She was engineered for beauty and paid for by the Dyeus Foundation, a subsidiary of your sect. You didn’t hide your tracks very well there.”

“What are you insinuating?”

“Nothing, but it is suggestive that you apparently built both the bride and the box.”

“How dare you!” Zeus rose to his full height towering over the courtroom. This time the crew was ready. He was not the first multi-dimensional life form they had dealt with. Stabilizers were activated, stasis fields calibrated.

“There are no thunderbolts in space,” Mr. Burr said with his sharpest smile. The courtroom erupted.

“No further questions, your honor.”



Pandora was beautiful. It was an empirical fact. She had been designed that way, as a wife for a Titan, as bait. Her purpose had been etched into every cell; her actions wired into her brain chemistry. She had no choice, whether she knew it or not. Cloning was a delicate art and she had been sculpted by the best. But now the certainty was gone. She had lived her life with an infecting, all-consuming purpose but now it was fulfilled, leaving only emptiness. Despite the rumors, she was not stupid. Intelligence had not been a priority for her designers, but she was as smart as the average being. She knew what she’d done. She knew who was to blame. But more than anything, Pandora knew she wanted to live. That awareness kept her sane, made her human in the eyes of the law, but it couldn’t fill the emptiness, not entirely.


Mr. Burr had intended to use her testimony as the finishing touch. He had kept her away from prying eyes and ears, a waste of effort in the end. By the time Pandora had taken the witness stand, meek and irrefutably beautiful, the trial was over. Across the known universe, everyone had already decided. It wasn’t her fault. She was the victim. They were right, as far as that went.



Pandora was found not guilty by a jury of her peers. She did not live happily ever after.

Flash Fiction Friday: Concerning the Proper Uses of Cyanide

Picnic with Ruins copy

I’m going on a picnic and I’m bringing apples, bananas, and cyanide. Cyanide is crucial to the success of any proper picnic, or so my mother used to say before the men in white coats took her away to Happy Town. A little pinch of cyanide can go a long way. I learned this for myself, when I was seven and my sister was three. Terrible little brat. Given to tantrums and chasing her big sister around the house with a cleaning implement. Half a drop of cyanide in her milk every other Monday for four months soon made her as docile as a lamb—a lamb with cyanide poisoning. She lived, of course. I was very careful, even as a child, that the doses be just so. I love my sister, truly. She just needed to learn her lesson, and she did, admirably. Even mother was proud. So very proud. I was her darling angel. Father, on the other hand, had his own ideas about poison.

My father was a doctor by trade, a forensic pathologist to be precise. As a practitioner of so-called ‘morbid anatomy,’ he was well versed in all manner of poisons, both exotic and mundane. His breadth of knowledge far exceeded dear mother, although his experience was of a more academic nature. He had examined countless cadavers in the morgue or on the operating table, but no matter how he dreamed, not a single one was because of him. He remained resolutely innocent until the end of his days, which did not come until he was well into his eighties.

For mother, I think he was an eternal disappointment. She thought she was marrying a forensic pathologist with homicidal tendencies. As it turned out, however, she had married a forensic pathologist with repressed homicidal tendencies, and he remained resolute in his repression. Even worse, from her albeit warped point of view, he was too intimate with poisons and their antidotes. During the course of their marriage, he survived, to my knowledge, nine separate poisoning attempts. I have no doubt there were others I was not privy to. Nevertheless, father visited her once a week in Happy Town for the duration of her stay, and after he passed away, she followed him only three months later.

Poison was suspected but never proved.

Flash Fiction Friday: The Brief Journey of the Malcontent, Doctor H. H. Foster

Dr. Foster went to Gloucester in the pouring rain. He had not intended, when he woke that morning, to go to Gloucester or, indeed, anywhere at all, but circumstances of a pressing nature had unexpectedly arisen, and thus he found himself donning his hat and his coat and venturing forth into the downpour. It was a cold and blistery September morning. The rain, which had started the previous evening with a relatively harmless drizzle and drazzle, had proceeded during the night through the varied stages of mizzling, tippling, luttering, and plothering and now resembled nothing so much as a deluge of biblical proportions[1]. Nonetheless, Dr. Foster, clutching an umbrella in one hand and a well-wrought traveling bag in the other, made his slow plodding way to the train station irritably jostling the other pedestrian’s umbrellas and becoming, ever more ill tempered and disgruntled.

It must be said, in all honesty, that Doctor H. H. Foster’s[2] irritable temperament was not an altogether uncommon occurrence. Indeed, even when he was not graced with such ideal circumstances for irritability, Dr. Foster could generally be relied upon to furnish his own rationale. No longer a young man, Dr. Foster had been raised under the auspices of his Great Aunt, an uncommonly stern and opinionated woman even among that set which is largely defined as stern and opinionated. She had been possessed of very definite ideas regarding education, behavior, and, curiously enough, headwear[3]. Dr. Foster had therefore, received an eccentric[4] upbringing. He was not particularly fond of his Aunt. She had, after all, been a firm believer in ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’ and had not been given to either sparing or spoiling. Dr. Foster was, however, enormously fond of the substantial fortune she had left him in her will. It had allowed him to retire from the terribly coarse business of dealing with other people’s medical problems and live a life of leisure and comfort. He went to an expensive tailor for his suits, to a shirt maker for his shirts, and a shoemaker for his shoes, an indulgence that would, no doubt, have annoyed his Aunt immensely. Dr. Foster was more irritable and wet than ever when, within sight of Cannon Street station he slipped on the street corner, where a thousand other pedestrians had slipped, into a rather large puddle. He sunk up to his waist, his expensive shoes undistinguishable in mire, his tailored suit ruined, even his well-wrought traveling bag splattered with mud. Grumbling to himself, Dr. Foster pulled himself out of the muck and decided then and there that he would never again go to Gloucester[5].


[1] Which was unfortunate, since no one had yet demonstrated the foresight or wherewithal to construct an ark, or ascertain how animals might be compelled to board said ark. A gentleman of the Royal Society was believed to be pondering just that question with an untimely lack of results.

[2] His given name was Humphrey Foster, the first H. being purely ornamental.

[3] She was heartily opposed on general principle, which made any excursion difficult given popular fashion. She once referred to London as “an excrement of confounded hats!”

[4] and hatless

[5] And he never did.

Flash Fiction Friday: Secrets and Smiles

Dorothy was perched atop the veranda, her legs dangling aimlessly. The party was starting to wind down after an afternoon of cocktails and gossip. Twilight was approaching and there was a chilly nip in the air. Laughter floated up from the garden below, but Dorothy didn’t even turn her head. She knew that particular laugh—her mother’s special laugh. Once upon a time, her mother had kept those special little laughs hidden away, and would only take them out for special occasions, or for Papa, of course. But these past few months she’d spent them generously, usually when Messrs. Pilbeam and Fry were nosing around. Dorothy didn’t like it, didn’t like them, but she bite her tongue. Silence was golden. Children should be seen not heard. She curtsied prettily and nodded attentively, but she wouldn’t smile. She never smiled.

They were coming up the stairs arm in arm in arm, smiling and laughing with frivolous abandon. The girl watched them, resisting the urge to kick the pillar petulantly. It wouldn’t have been ladylike.

“Hallo!” called Mr. Pilbeam. “Enjoying the party are we?” He grinned down at her ingratiatingly.

Catching the warning glint in her mother’s eyes, Dorothy nodded. “Yes, Mr. Pilbeam,” she replied with just enough civility to pass muster.

Not to be outdone, Mr. Fry took this opportunity to teasingly suggest that what Dorothy had enjoyed most about the party was the youngest son of one of the guests. Messrs. Pilbeam and Fry laughed boisterously, and even her mother joined in with her special laugh. Dorothy blushed prettily like a good girl, but didn’t smile. The others didn’t notice, too busy giggling. They never noticed. Children should be seen and not heard. Papa had listened sometimes, but more often than not even he would forget. Forget that even when silent, children could still see, still hear, and Dorothy saw and heard more than most.

Trailing behind, she wondered if Pilbeam and Fry would be laughing quite so loudly if they knew what stolen moments and passing remarks she had seen and heard behind the mulberry bush. She wondered if her mother would ever laugh her special laugh again. Dorothy was a good little girl, though. She would keep her secrets; never breathe a word. But she would always be watching and listening, and she would never ever smile.