The following story was written for the Furious Fiction contest for April 2019.
The guidelines were as follows:
'Writing short fiction is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution. If you’ve never done anything like this before, it could have you spending most of the Furious Fiction weekend asking yourself “what’s it going to be then, eh?”
And so it was, to celebrate the launch of our new Fiction Essentials: DIALOGUE course, that we threw a trio of random lines of dialogue at you for April’s competition – asking you to somehow knit them together into a comfortable and attractive piece of prose. A tricky task! These were the lines:
“It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution.”
“He’s never done anything like this before.”
“What’s it going to be then, eh?”
We felt your pain. It’s not easy using someone else’s words, let alone three different sets of quotes. But challenges are what we like, and we have some lights to shine on the stories that caught our collective eyes this month.'
By S. W. Stribling
Jay was hanging out in his one-bedroom apartment, slouched in his favorite black chair, watching the Queen at Wembley concert for the 100th time. The tomato-stained dishes were still on the counter, his beard had grown out in the horrible way it did when he got in a slump for a few days, and he had more cigarette ashes on his purple robe than he did in the ashtray on the coffee table. Sometimes the ashes would still be burning and sometimes they would miss the robe and fall directly on to his bare chest, causing a frantic reaction of cussing and wiping off the tiny ambers hastily.
He got a buzz at the door and got up to look out the window, down to the street and at the front door. It was Helene. She looked up at him and waved a bottle of wine that she pulled from her bag.
Helene walked into the apartment with a story.
‘Well, it’s over.’ She said.
‘Again?’ Jay said.
She handed the bottle of wine to Jay and he opened it and poured two glasses. She took out a cigarette and lit up as she fell into the couch.
‘You don’t know how I’ve suffered for this man.’
Jay turned down the TV and handed Helene her glass of wine and found his place back in his warmed black chair.
‘Give me a smoke.’ He said.
She handed him the pack and he slid one out and lit it up.
‘I’ve missed you.’ She said.
‘I’ve missed those lips of yours and how you used to go down on me.’
‘You’re an asshole.’
‘What’s it going to be then, eh?’
‘Is that all you think of me?’
‘That’s all we ever were. Seriously, I get excited just looking at them.’
‘Fine.’ Jay said. ‘I’ll listen.’
‘I was supposed to be done with guys like you.’ She said. ‘I wanted a good man, someone with brains, educated, and made real money. Somebody that could treat me like a real lady.’
‘So what happened?’
‘He was too clean.’ She said. ‘It was disgusting, like he cared more about cleaning than me.’
‘Finish your glass of wine. You’ll feel better.’
‘The man couldn’t even make love.’
Jay leaned forward and pulled her towards him for a hard and fervent kiss.
‘See.’ She said. ‘He’s never done anything like this before.’
‘So, what?’ He said. ‘He couldn’t get it up?’
‘No.’ She said. ‘He could get it up. That was never a problem. He just didn’t know what to do with it. All that money and education and the man was useless.’
‘I wish I had a college education.’
‘You don’t need one.’ She said. ‘You have everything you need.’
‘That’s the problem being with a strong woman.’
‘It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should, therefore, be treated with great caution.’
‘Don’t try to be clever with me, you drunken ass.’