This time last year I wrote a short piece of flash fiction. It was planned as a submission to Firewords. Each issue along with their general submissions they look for 400-words-or-less pieces incorporating a phrase. The designated phrase that inspired this tale was and as the lights went out, everything changed.
It was a classic example of a piece that worked perfectly in my head but I’m not sure it translated to the page and in the end I decided not to submit it. In hindsight that was a bit stupid. At best it would be a piece that I’d misjudged and would be well received and at worst, knowing the lovely people at Firewords, it would have been rejected with some advice or feedback.
Note to self…be prepared to fail occasionally in order to learn.
Anyway, I stumbled across it while I was tidying up some folders and after reading it again I found that I liked it more than I recall liking it at the time. I also dug out the email conversations I had at the time with both my faithful pre-readers which yielded a missing word which I had never fixed and the addition of a single line to perhaps make the story more understandable.
Would love to hear any advice and feedback you have on this one folks…
The rhythmic thrum of stamping feet pulls him along the corridor. Draws him upright like a leather-jacketed evolution of man.
The closed door muffles the sound and he pushes it a crack. Closes his eyes at the upswell, the rising treble. He smiles.
“You ready Joe?”
He keeps his eyes closed. Broadens his smile. “Just one more minute.”
Headshake in the darkness. Cigarette flare. “Whatever you say Joe. Whatever you say. Treat ’em mean and keep ’em keen.” Joe’s companion exhales long and slow. Joe keeps on smiling. The tears on his cheeks are safe in the shadows. Safe as the flecks of blood on his lips.
“It’s time,” says Joe pushing the door wide. “Let’s make some magic.”
The spotlight falls as he crosses the stage. Somewhere in the middle of the screams and whistles a chant fights its way to the surface. “Jo-ey! Jo-ey! JO-EY!”. He raises his arms and steps forward to the microphone. “What do you say we have some fun?”.
The roar of approval hits a wall of distorted chords and the cannon of the bass drum. The burrowing sickness abates and Joe begins to soar. A second spotlight and then a third try to pin him down as he spins his way across the stage and up on to the riser. His arm stretches out over the crowd below and the words he wrote in the margins of a teenage diary are hurled back at him with devotion.
Four decades of truth compact into two frenzied, diamond hours. And for that small while they are his and he is theirs. The rest of the band share him for a time but it ends as it always does with Joe Lyle under a single pool of light.
“I wrote this when I was young and foolish. Now I’m just old. And foolish. I hope you like it.”
The cheers fade into a gentle, supporting choir as Joe begins to sing. Every word is shared among them as if they had all played a part in its creation. Joe is content to let them have their moment. Content to be in the spotlight listening to his story retold by ten thousand strangers. Content to strum the final chord, close his eyes and smile one more time.
And as the lights went out, everything changed.