Category Archives: Flash Fiction (F)

Happy Birthday, Sis

“Citizen Ralph, we must go to the guillotine.  Today, there are spry and energetic – if somewhat aged – bourgeois, my favourite. And we must buy a wrinkled, pathetic turnip and week-old wine for our supper.”

“I also, Citizen Margaret, enjoy the shopping with a little chopping. Ha Ha. But perhaps we might steal something on the way and make a feast of it. I am rather fond of a good Bordeaux.”

“Do not get above your station, Citizen. Be satisfied with what you may find in the hands of the 1 percent. Personally, I’m hoping for a claret, and perhaps a chicken, but I’ll take what providence and your bludgeon provide.”

“It is a merry life we have, is it not Citizen Margaret, in spite of being three score years and ten?”

“It is indeed, Citizen Ralph. We have many years of enjoyment ahead. HO HO. Did you get that, Citizen? A HEAD!”

“Very drole, my dear, very drole. Onward.”


This scene was inspired by a postcard depicting an old man and woman, perhaps during the French Revolution, deep in conversation. In honour of my birthday, my brother, Ken, wrote  les mots amusante to accompany the drawing. Definitely the best birthday card ever.

Moraine (F)

“I still can’t believe you named her Moraine,” Jill said.  Liz had just re-filled their teacups with her latest concoction of herbal tea.  Another experiment gone wrong, Jill thought.

“Why not?  Moraine is a beautiful word.”

“If you like piles of gravel,” Jill teased.

“Stop thinking with your eyes. A glacier carries treasures lifted along with the ice for eons and only set down with great reluctance at the end of its life.  The gravel, as you call it, is then free to be lifted up again by the river it creates.  What could be a better name for a cherished child?”

“You must be talking about me,” Moraine said, entering the kitchen with a pile of school books. “And you’re trying to justify my name again.”  She eyed her mother with pretend annoyance.

Jill had to agree that this special girl deserved an unusual name. “Your mother was calling you a treasure, which seems appropriate,” she said.

“But did she tell you my nickname in grade school?” Moraine asked, her eyebrows raised.  “More,” she announced without waiting for her mother’s response.  “OK, I guess I was a bit chubby.”

“Not any more,” Jill laughed, envying her trim silhouette.  She glanced at Liz and saw her gazing wistfully at her daughter.

“Moraine has been accepted into Cambridge for her undergraduate studies.” Liz said, her eyes bright with pride.

“Congratulations.  That’s wonderful news, Moraine,” Jill said hugging her.  But she knew what a loss this would be for Liz and wondered how well she would cope.

Moraine, as if reading her mind, said “Mum’s work is taking up a lot of her time these days.  I doubt she’ll even notice I’m gone.  Besides, she still has you to experiment on.”  She lifted the lid on the teapot and frowned as the bitter aroma escaped.

“Of course I’ll miss her,” Liz said to Jill. “But communicating is a lot easier these days with e-mail and video calling.  When I was a student at Cambridge, my parents had to wait for snail mail.” She paused in thought. “I’ve threatened to install a chip so I can track her movements.”

“Yeah, like I’d ever allow that,” Moraine smirked.

“Isn’t Paul still in Cambridge?” Jill asked.  Paul and Liz had separated a few months after Moraine was born.

“Yes,” Liz said without enthusiasm.  “When we told him Moraine was coming over, we caught him off guard.  I think he was afraid he might have to be Daddy.”

“Oh Mum, I suspect he was concerned about my tuition.  He sounded relieved when I said I had a scholarship.”

Liz looked guilty.  “You’re right, and I’m glad that someone who loves you will be there to look out for you.”

Before Jill left that day, she told Liz she’d be around to talk whenever she wanted.  Liz squeezed her arm and said, “The problem with moraines is that the ice has to leave before they can form.”


Bright Minds (F)

Emily heard Dan rooting around in the fridge.  She turned to look, but only his backside protruded.

“Someone threw nanoparticles in the city reservoir.  Well, to be precise, carbon nanotubes,” he said.

She thought about aphasia – when you hear but can’t understand the spoken word.  She stopped slicing the bread and stared out the kitchen window. A cloud of tiny gnats hovered over the herb box just outside their ground floor apartment.  “What are you talking about?”

“You know.  Nanoparticles.  Those teeny microscopic metal or plastic things. They’re in everything now.  Even your sunscreen.”

“That’s helpful.” Living with Dan was causing Emily’s brow furrows to grow ever deeper.  “Should I care?”

“Only if you plan on drinking the water,” he responded, handing over a jar of mustard as if it were prey after a successful hunt.  “Two graduate students did it as a prank and then told everyone. The nanoparticles they used were fluorescent, so if you swallow one and it comes out in your urine, you’ll be able to find it because it’s bright red.  Only thing is, you would need a special microscope to see it.”

“What ever happened to putting Volkswagens on top of buildings?”

“These guys are nerds, not jocks,” Dan explained.

She could see some logic in that. “So, did the kids get arrested?”

“Nah. It was a stupid prank and no harm done.”


When Dan came home the next day, he waved the newspaper and told Emily that a reward was being offered to anyone finding a red nanoparticle in their urine.

“How big a reward?” she asked, her eyes mere slits.

“Five thousand dollars, so I guess they don’t expect to have many winners.”

“Didn’t you say you would need a microscope to find these nano things?” she asked.

“Yeah, but some enterprising university students have offered to do the analysis for a pittance and a cut of the prize money.”

“Not the same students who spiked the reservoir, I hope.”

“That would be a good scam, wouldn’t it?  No, these kids are much brighter.” Dan replied.  Looking back, Dan and Emily wondered why they hadn’t thought to question who was supplying the prize money, and why.  Instead they had talked about the possibility of finding the right kind of fluorescent nanoparticles to add to their urine.


Over ten thousand people gave urine samples for testing, but only three lucky people received prizes.  A  few months after that, a neighbour was approached by a genetics testing company that offered him five hundred dollars for providing a sample of his blood and filling in a questionnaire.  He was told that his name had been picked randomly from the white pages of the phone book.   A while later, Dan read an article in the paper reporting that the same company had just identified and patented the gene responsible for a type of heart disease.  When asked how they had been able to make this discovery from only twenty blood samples, the company admitted to performing preliminary tests to identify key individuals likely to be disease carriers.

“I bet I know what they used for their preliminary tests.” Dan said.

“Our urine samples, of course,” Emily replied, feeling proud of her deduction. “And they didn’t pay five hundred dollars for those samples either.  We gave them up for free.”

“Ah, but we had a chance for a big reward.  The company had to fork over fifteen thousand dollars for prizes and a few more thousand for the critical blood samples.  But now, would you believe it, some drug company has paid the genetics company a hundred million dollars for the rights to the patent,” Dan said, poking at the business section of the newspaper.  Not a bad return on their investment.” Dan pondered a moment. “You don’t suppose those students were paid to put nanoparticles in the reservoir, do you?”

Emily stared at him, considering the implications. “And you thought those kids weren’t bright.”


I wrote this before ocean contamination with microplastics became such a big item in the news, but not before micro beads appeared in bodywash, cosmetics, and toothpaste and ended up polluting our water and damaging sea life. Efforts are now being made to remove them from the market.

Man’s Best Friend (F)

Brian opened the back door and invited Alfie into their cozy kitchen.  He trotted over to his padded bed near the stove and settled down with a contented sigh and a small belch.  Emma shot her husband an annoyed look.

“What?  It’s cold out there,” Brian said.

“You’ll spoil him.”

“If we’re cited again, we could lose him.  You should never have left him in the car with the windows up last summer.”  When Emma frowned, Brian turned to Alfie instead. “It’s not like you’ll run away, will you?  Where would you go?”  He placed a cup of fresh water next to his bed.  “She thinks you can’t understand a word we say, but you know lots of words, don’t you boy.”  He patted Alfie who looked at him with large brown eyes.

“Can you understand what he says?” Emma asked, smirking.

It was a strange question, almost as strange as their interview before they brought him home. As well as answering the usual financial questions, they filled in a form that was used to match owners with their perfect companions.  They indicated that they preferred a quiet companion, not too energetic but affectionate, and they were willing to do some training.

“The great thing about Alfie is that he can’t talk so he can’t criticize,” Brian said, pleased to see Emma’s raised eyebrows at his less than subtle complaint.

Alfie had turned out to be a much better companion than any pet they’d ever owned.  The program had started ten years earlier when a severe world food shortage led to the outlawing of household pets.  As a result of the public outcry, a viable alternative presented itself.  Pet owners from affluent countries, who had previously spent billions of dollars a year on pet food and medicines, could now adopt starving climate refugees as companions.  In return, they agreed to provide modest living quarters, nutritious meals, a video player (deemed environmental enrichment), and a signed contract not to mistreat in any way.

“So he’s learning your language but you don’t understand his?  You might be interested to know that I found him using my iPhone today,” Emma said. “He was texting.”

“What?”  Brian couldn’t hide his shock. He stared hard at Alfie, and for the first time, the adoring gaze looked more like scrutiny.  His face felt warm.  “He knows how to text?”

“There are no rules against it, apparently.  I checked.”

Brian nodded absently.  He wondered why he felt so upset by this news. Eventually he said, “I don’t feel good about him using an iPhone.”

“Aha.  I thought that might bother you. I think it’s a question of loyalty, don’t you?”

“What you mean?”

“If he has internet friends, where does that leave us?”

Brian was quiet as he mulled over this statement. Emma was right. What was the point of having a pet if it wasn’t loyal?  “I see what you mean. So we shouldn’t let him use an iPhone?”

“I would say not,” Emma said, pursing her lips.  “That would definitely spoil him.”


The American Pet Products Association says that sixty billion dollars will be spent on pets in the US alone in 2015.

The Angel’s Share (F)

Cheryl’s last memory of Karl was mingled with the sound of squealing tires, a thump, and the faint smell of butterscotch.  Striding ahead of her, he’d looked the wrong way when he’d crossed the road to the car park.

She had wanted to see the prehistoric burial mound located nearby.  According to her guide book, the finely carved stone chamber was infused with sunlight for a few precious minutes on winter solstice eve.  The sun’s rays were thought to carry off the souls of the dead.  Even in the middle of summer, it had sounded much more interesting than a visit to another distillery, but it was Karl’s birthday so she relented.

She heard the tour guide tell them about the importance of using peat fires to imbue the amber liquid with its musty single malt signature.  It was a taste that Cheryl had yet to acquire.  The gas that escaped the confines of the huge copper distilling vessels smelled like butterscotch but with an acrid twist that irritated her nose.  The aroma was almost gone when they reached the barrel room, even though they were told that up to two percent of the alcohol evaporated from a cask each year that the scotch was aged.  They called it the angel’s share.  For an exorbitant price, forty-year-old scotch was purchased by those who didn’t mind paying a premium for lost fumes. Cheryl amused herself by working out how long it would take until all the alcohol had gone from the cask: a little more than fifty years, exactly Karl’s age. That morning, he had told her that she was responsible for the best years of his life, and it amused her to think that she had received his angel’s share.

He turned and smiled at her, as if reading her thoughts. “This is the last distillery visit. I promise.”

“But not the last bottle of single malt scotch,” Cheryl teased.

“The liver is evil and must be punished,” he said, smoothing his hands over the same words printed on his T-shirt.

In the tasting room, they were served samples of twelve-year-old scotch in thimble-sized glasses.  Karl purchased a bottle and was given a postcard that he passed to Cheryl.

“What do I do with a postcard of a distillery?” she asked.

“You could start a collection,” he shouted back at her as he crossed the road.



1 2