Each week, I’m struck by the diversity and quality of responses to Charli’s regular flash fiction prompt. But there’s something extra special about reading the responses when you’re the one who set the challenge. You can’t help feeling nervous playing host at someone else’s ranch and I wondered whether my prompt on showing someone around would engage writers. It wasn’t until the responses began being posted that I realised there was part of me that had assumed, because I’d given the theme some thought, I knew what was coming. Of course I didn’t! Every 99-word story both surprised and delighted me as the Rough Writers and friends heeded the call to show each other around their imaginations. We met characters who knew more about a property than they admitted, and houses sheltering secrets within their walls. We saw communities that had been broken by neglect and a place where neglected lives find harbour. There was playfulness, in child and X-rated versions, alongside a serious look at life. Read on to be amused, spooked and moved by the stories, as I hand back to Charli to show you around.
The following is based on the April 27, 2016 prompt: in 99 words (no more, no less) write a story on the theme of showing someone around a property. Guest prompt by Anne Goodwin.
The renter’s revenge by Anne Goodwin
Oops, should’ve warned you about that low beam. It’s not normally a problem, though one friend got concussion, but that was yonks ago.
Don’t worry about the damp in the spare room; it dries out completely in summer. Though I should mention my grandson developed asthma after sleeping there.
Oh, those? Yeah, for the rats; you stop thinking it’s cruel after a few sleepless nights with them scurrying through the loft.
Well, nice to meet you too, and sorry it’s not the kind of place you’re looking for. I hope nothing I said put you off.
The White House by Ruchira Khanna
“You must be familiar with most of the rooms, but I thought ‘give you the latest update on some changes.” he commented with a warm smile and friendly vibes as he moved across the hall while ushering her around.
“Time changes everything,” she remarked as she followed him around while appreciating the developments. “You and your lovely family preserved this house while making it your abode for the last eight years.”
He embraced the comment while she chuckled on her life as she followed him while reliving her past wherein she was the First Lady and now the President.
Standing Stones by Sarah Brentyn
“And here,” he grinned over his shoulder, “is where they held their fertility rituals.”
Giggles rippled through the crowd. Hell, he loved this job. Taking tourists around the stone circle, watching them open-mouthed and wide-eyed.
“I’ve saved the best for last,” he stopped near a flat stone and dropped his voice. “This is where the aliens…”
“Okay, Brother. Enough!” She stepped out of the group, long black hair shimmering, eyes flashing, head held high. “You have had your fun. Come home. The Goddess is not pleased.”
“Damn,” he kicked at the ground.
She grabbed his arm and they disappeared.
Realeasing joo-lie first by Elliott Lyngreen
Tom’s blood drips from his forearm under pinch-bug parking lots’ hum exhausting.
Travis and Mark bring Algebra One stuck at full volume into the centre.
“Whhaat-happen dude?” sweeping off phenomenal noise up to rides.
Sternly, “gave skeebs what they wanted.”
Surreal intentions fade. Tom solidly perfects Mark squinting to that ooze; fast forwarding some driving through knee-high corn and flurries streaking lightspeed.
“…crossed the border seven times!” seethed about braiding Stateline Fields with peeled warmspells, “you-guys Kmart shortcut?.. heard ya first!”
“Can’t believe it’s snowing over there?” Travis’ nerve-tips split ends.
Perdition by Bill Engelson
“Dobbs, fancy a drink?” the Banker asked.
I was tempted and not a little thirsty.
Outside, hyenas were on the prowl.
“Why not,” I said.
He found two glasses and poured us some whiskey.
“Take a look out my window, Dobbs.”
I stared through the dirty glass.
The feverish daytime street had blackened into a shadowy tableau.
Screams of drunken debauchery screeched in the air.
Shots rang out.
“THIS…this was MY town once. My people had a good life. A hard life, maybe, but they prospered. So did I.”
“And now?” I asked.
“Caldwell has sucked out our soul.”
Lay of the Land by Larry LaForge
“There’s a gazebo and a huge garden,” Ed said. “It’s got some trees, but there’s an opening.”
Ed’s golfing partner was mortified. His errant shot went directly toward one of the nicer houses surrounding the course.
Ed continued to console him. “No worries. Just step over the Chrysanthemums. It’s level around that side, so you should have a good lie for your next shot. The wind blows toward the green from there. It’s mostly downhill to the pin, about 120 yards. Easy nine iron.”
The shaken partner smiled when he finally realized something.
Ed’s been there—apparently many times.
The Visit by Jane Dougherty
“It’s certainly isolated,” he said approvingly.
“Exactly what we’re looking for,” she agreed. “And the garden! It’s gorgeous.”
They wandered through tangles of roses along mossy brick paths and the scent of honeysuckle, hardly noticing the passing time.
“Estate agent’s running late,” he said, “I’ll give him a call.” He gave up after a few futile attempts. “No signal.”
She hugged herself, suddenly cold. The sun had set. He pointed.
“That must be him!”
She looked in the direction of his pointing finger. A black silhouette striding. Something was not quite…Her hand flew to her mouth.
“Oh my God!”
Foreclosure by Pete Fanning
On a sunny Sunday just before two, the doors opened by way of the bank-owned key from the lock box.
They came in pairs, poking around in closets and bedrooms, asking about square footage. A faint warmth clung to the living room. Notches and dates climbed the kitchen doorjamb. A tree house in the backyard and a faded Child Finder sticker on an upstairs window. Plenty of space, but no interest.
At four, the realtor left her card on the counter and locked up. She thought paint might help. Anything to help the house let go of its family.
Foggy Friend by Kerry E.B. Black
Helen followed the frog as it hopped beneath plants not-yet grown into their foliage, fascinated by the little thing’s movements. New to walking, Helen toddled, entranced by her new friend. For its part, the amphibian seemed to wait until the child caught up, leading a merry tour about its home.
Her lips formed rosebuds when it went afield. “Foggy.”
Mud squelched around her Robeez, holding with greed.
Helen tugged but freed only her foot. She left the shoe to continue after her willing quarry, a memento for a mother who should have kept better track of a darling girl.
You Call This What? by Gulara Vincent
A spacious rotunda room was immaculate. Even the air felt sterile and controlled. The space commanded our full and undivided attention.
‘We have individual cubicles on each floor.’
I looked up and there were pale grey doors everywhere.
‘Do they stay there alone?’ A human rights defender from our delegation broke the silence. He was towering over seven other delegates, distinguished Azerbaijani judges and lawyers.
‘Federal inmates are kept in isolation,’ the American colleague explained.
‘I’d speak up more often, if Azerbaijan had facilities like this. You call this a prison? This is a holiday!’
A House with a Pool by Ula Humienik
“This house has a lovely outdoor pool,” said the woman dressed in a cardboard brown suit as she led Alice outside.
Alice looked at the zomp-colored water in the pool. She was suddenly transported to her 16th birthday. The one where her breast fell into the cake when she was blowing out the candles and she was so embarrassed because she’d invited that boy she’d always had a crush on. The same boy she had sex with for the first time a year later at this very pool.
“I’ll take it.” Alice didn’t take her eyes off the water.
Gotta Start Somewhere by Jules Paige
We decided to look for a small starter home before we
married. And that is what we found. “Balloon Construction”
means no insulation in the walls. Because at one time the
over eighty year old bungalow on a “Postage Stamp”
(very small) lot was heated by the coal stove in the basement.
Heat rose up through the hollow walls.
The two bedrooms were barely able to fit a double bed and
a single dresser. Each bedroom had one closet that had been
added on and took up precious floor space. For eighteen
months we called that building our home.
Secret Room by Ann Edall-Robson
“I don’t want to go in there? It’s old and decrepit.”
“No it’s not. You’ll see!”
Brandi grabbed her best friend’s hand and pulled her through the open doorway of the old house.
“i’m not going up those stairs.”
“You don’t have to. We’re going under them.”
She opened the door. Reaching up on the beam for the flashlight she new was there. Brandi turned it on and opened a second door.
“Oh Brandi! How did you find this room? Look at these old things. The toys. The books.”
Brandi smiled. “We tell no one. It is our secret.”
Let Me Show You by Irene Waters
The agent brought two men,one woman and a dog.”Can you show them around Pippa?” he asked the store’s owner. “You know the business.” Pippa complied showing them the store, the residence and the land that completed the package. The man, John, made her squirm, reminding her of some slimy men she’d met in the city. He expected her to fawn over him. She didn’t need to sell it that badly. Why her when she was paying an agent? Before leaving the dog killed a chicken.
Subsequently they returned and informed her they’d bought a turkey farm. Inwardly she smiled.
New World by Norah Colvin
Thinking it much too quiet, Sally excused herself from the conversation.
She peeked through the door. A sheet was draped from the top bunk to the curtain rail. The drawers were stacked staircase-like, their contents piled high in the corner. Emily, adorned in crown and cape, watched Jessica, in cowboy boots, fossick in the overturned toy box. Max sat nearby reading to assorted stuffed animals. All three sensed Sally’s presence simultaneously.
“Mum! Look what we made!” beamed Jessica. Sally suppressed her initial reaction: mess.
“Come in. We’ll show you! This is our cave. This is our mountain …”
There’s Close and There’s Too Close by Geoff Le Pard
Rupert hopped from foot to foot. ‘Well?’
To Mary he was like a child asking a parent for approval. ‘It’s fine.’
‘You don’t like it? The bedroom? Too small?’
‘Really, it’s good.’ It was delightful so why wasn’t she saying so?
‘I’ll tell the agent to keep looking.’ He turned and ran his finger along the built-in bookcase. ‘Shame really…’
Looking at his slumped shoulders and thinning hair she saw, not just her half-brother but their father. He turned, surprising her. ‘I’m determined to move close. You’re my only family now.’
She nodded, her question answered.
The Grand Tour (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee
Jane stays in the basement, not risking lighted windows. Sleeping bag on worn carpet. A decrepit coffee table holds her few books, framed family picture, battery lantern, makeup, a camper’s mirror. A tattered world map is thumbtacked to one wall. She gazes at it, and dreams.
No electricity. No cozy kitchen smells, no warm lamplight. No heat. But no wind or rain, either, the sprung La-Z-Boy was already here, she pays no rent. Just stay invisible.
And Troubles, abandoned as well, she thinks. She hugs him, gets doggy kisses.