Image by Ben White

A Good Man


The following story was written for the Furious Fiction contest for September 2019.


The guidelines were as follows:

'This month, more than 1000 writers entered Furious Fiction – mixing alchemy with creativity in the hope of stumbling upon the magic story elixir. The September criteria were varied and many:

  • Each story had to include the name of at least ONE element from the periodic table.

  • Each story’s first and last words had to begin with S.

  • Each story had to contain the words TRAFFIC, JOWLS and HIDDEN.

  • And finally, each story had to include something that BUZZES.

Elementary, my dear writers! In fact, you collectively mined that periodic table well – with more than 80 different elements used. The most popular? Oxygen, carbon and gold. Yes, we DO read every story (hi Peter Clarke from NSW!) and we loved the inventive, fun ways that so many of you chose to get your “story elements” in!'


A Good Man

By S. W. Stribling

‘Syrup and butter and bacon,’ he said, ‘for my pancakes.’

The boy watched him slurp and lick the corner of his lips as the syrup oozed from his mouth.

‘Coffee,’ the boy’s father said. ‘Like I like my women, too hot to hold until it has a bit of cream inside.’

The boy looked away. He was too young to understand the innuendo, but he still felt disgusted. Perhaps it was his mother who gave him away. Sometimes she would make it too hot and his father would spit the coffee out across the table as he tried to swallow it. He would try to yell with a burnt throat. It was their inside joke.

It was always about food with his father.

‘Pork chops.’ He would say. 

The boy could see the gristle hanging like his jowls until falling from his face or being sucked inside, leaving a natural gloss on his lips.

Mashed potatoes. Corn. Dinner rolls or biscuits. It didn’t matter what he ate, he devoured it like a dictator hungry for power. A dictator of dead-cooked animal and flies that buzzed and swarmed around his precious plate.

The boy would watch, and the mother would serve.

His lips would be wetted and his cheeks would be puffed.

Beyond the food he loved and the jokes he made, the father loved to talk about the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow: retirement.

If he wasn’t talking about strawberry shortcakes, he was talking about all the things he would do at retirement.

The boy could only imagine more chili con carne with a room full of his not so subtle or hidden farts that smelled worse than the sulfur in the boy’s chemistry class; followed by one of his even more proud and obnoxious grins.

One day, while pouring a glass of orange juice from the fridge, he straightened like an arrow and fell like the giant he was from the boy's favorite story: ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’. He watched this man, his father, fall back as if a sniper from an action movie had shot him.

The funeral didn’t cause any traffic jams, but everyone said he looked great. He was a man always well put-together with the best jokes. There were a few laughs about how he could be a little loud and lose his temper quickly, but overall he was a good, decent man who never missed a day of work or church on Sunday.