The Interview

“And your prognosis?” She leaned back, scrutinizing the male across the desk.

“Um…” He fidgeted with his wedding ring. “Err…”

“At this rate, I’m won’t be getting my fifteen minutes of quality time.” Arms crossed, she scanned the room with a huff of disdain. “Tick-tock.”

His fingers tugged at his too-tight collar. “Well, the reports and our tests—”

“Prove, what?” Her swinging crossed leg made her stiletto’s heel to glint in the light like the tip of a black dagger.

His mouth went dry, unable to swallow. “Um, well if you look at—”

“I don’t want to look at the images I can find at home. I’m here for a report. Your verbal presentation. Not a show and tell lesson. I want to know strengths. Weaknesses.” She shifted in her seat. “These chairs are so uncomfortable.”

“I can get you another one?”

“And waste my fifteen-minute time slot. Listen, Mr,” she said, checking her wristwatch. “I want to know the basics. Simple—failure or pass? Brain scientist or truck driver.”

“No one fails grade two and your son is doing well.” Relieved to see her smile, he dabbed at the sweat from his brow, mumbling, “I hate parent-teacher interviews.”

200 words

from the flash collection HOME SWEET—NOT.

HSN TW2

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Sea of Deception

Awoken by cold water sloshing against his face, he winced, rubbing at his salt-filled eyes. Blinking tears until his vision cleared to light blue skies, he was surrounded by a flat calm ocean. Nothing more than a floating speck in the middle of nowhere, trying to remember his Stranded at Sea survival manual.

Still with his wits about him but in time, confusion would become an ally. Headaches would arrive, soon followed by motion sickness.

Licking his cracked lips he noted the first sign of dehydration, and a salt rash irritated his neck and shoulders where the life jacket rubbed against the skin, knowing boils would soon appear.

Hypothermia, he’d survived, so far. But his fingers were puffed-up like boiled pork sausages and it wouldn’t be long and his body would bloat from exposure.

He had to survive the day and contend with a sunburn that would cause his skin to crack and bleed, and try not to attract sharks.

Kicking his legs out beneath him he felt every singular hair follicle. It was as if they were being ripped out from his sensitized, briny soaked skin, unleashing shock waves over his entire being. With his heart pounding in his ears, head back, his screams echoed around him.

Then he floated. Unmoving. Just breathing.

The sea air was strong against his singed sinuses, but it was the smell of deception that burned more. Clenching his teeth, flexing his hands into fists to get the blood flowing, as memories of last night passed through his mind’s eye.

The first mate stirred that pot by turning the crew and it’d been a modern-day mutiny on his own ship. Tossed overboard like fish burly, by rookie wannabe pirates, suffering cabin fever found in a mob of manipulated dumbarses.

Soon to be dead dumbarses.

All night he’d deliberated on elaborate malicious plans. Intricate strategies perfected in retaliation of their treachery. Ensuring every single crew member would suffer in their own unique way. It’s what kept him alive.

He needed to prevent sunburn and cover his eyes to combat partial blindness, another expected side effect from reflective sunlight and needed to suspend his gruesome death by seawater. With measured movements, he found nothing in his pockets. There hadn’t been time to grab anything, only wearing shorts and his own personal lifejacket. For now, it was just waiting while planning his revenge and drift with the tide.

When a whirring mechanical noise echoed in the distance. Shielding his eyes from the rising sun, he spotted a fast moving object coming towards him.

Thank god—a helicopter.

Sighing with relief he smiled. He might be a captain—but he was a modern-day pirate and the EPIRB attached to his lifejacket obviously worked and knew he’d have his vengeance.

 

from the flash fiction collection MOVING MOMENTS

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Sun Burning Melon

Awoken by a slap to the face, Sam winced at the fierce sunlight with his body buried up to his chin in dirt. ‘What the—’ Sam’s heart pounded, unable to move. Lungs, mouth, nose and eyes were filling with choking red dust.

‘Bout time you woke up,’ said Ren, squatting down in front of Sam.

 ‘Ren, let me out!’

‘Why? When it took me hours just to getch’ya in there.’

‘You’ve had your fun. Now, take your photos and drag me out of ‘ere.’ Spying Ren’s ute with a small fuel container close by, realising they were in Ren’s backyard. Which was anywhere to nowhere. ‘You’re hurting me.’ Sam struggled to get free, but the earth just gripped tighter.

‘Bulldust!’ Ren leaned in closer to the buried male. ‘You’re in no pain. I know you’re not.’

I can’t breathe.’ Sam heaved in the hot air, tasting the outback’s dust.

‘You’ve been peacefully nappin’ these past coupla hours in that hole.’

‘Why are you doing this? You swore to our mother on her death bed last week that you wouldn’t hurt me.’

‘That I did. An’ I honour me promises. Unlike you, bro.’ Ren messed up Sam’s hair. ‘Ya know, as a kid, you had that look of them cherubs, with ‘em puffy cheeks an’ blonde curls. Now, you look like a sunburnt melon. But this is me, keeping my end of the bargain.’ Raising himself upright, Ren reached for the fuel canister.

‘Get me out of here Ren,’ Sam pleaded, struggling to free himself.

Ren poured fuel onto the red dirt that evaporated into fumes from the burning sun. Coming full circle, he keenly surveyed the endless flat Australian desert. Satisfied they were alone, he pulled out a box of matches from his shirt pocket and a plastic spoon he tossed to land in front of Sam’s face. ‘You can dig yourself out if you want? But you’ll wanna be quick about it.’

Striking a match, Ren threw the small flame onto the fuel-soaked ground. Flames burst upwards surrounding Sam’s head with hundreds of trapped ants that scrambled towards him.

Ren, don’t do this!

‘It’s already done ‘n dusted.’ Ren watched the circle of flames burn towards the talking head trapped in the desert. ‘As promised, I’m not gonna hurt ya. But the wildlife might?’

The intense heat from crackling flames closed in, panicked ants crawled onto Sam’s neck and face, clambering into his nose, his ears and hair. Their bites stinging, making their way down his body. ‘Please Ren, I’m begging.’

Ren watched the ants move like a suffocating black blanket to swarm all over Sam. ‘‘I’ve kept my promise to our mum to not harm a hair on ya’ head. But I also promised Dad on his deathbed that when mum died—you’d die for bein’ the freeloader who was never his son.’

 

from the flash fiction collection, HOME SWEET—NOT.

Home Sweet Not - by Mel A Rowe

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Summer of Silence

Working on a future set of varicose veins, perspiration trickled down cramping legs to saturated socks. Sweat-filled-gloves flicked endless beads of moisture from her sweat-rashed brow. 

 This was her latest summer job. Not the worst she’d done, but it was in her top three.

The shed was a pressure cooker. Its corrugated doors were wide open to view the red dust swirl, a tease to the scarce breeze that dared enter to brush against slickened skin below sticky clothing.

Hands fumbled in oversized gloves to stop orange staining fingers. Unlike the regulars, with their carrot-coloured digits and hardened nails that didn’t chip at the vegetable parade that passed slower than commercial breaks during a mini-series finale.

She glanced at the other women. The floor manager, with her flashy jewellery, nattered endlessly about her next shopping expedition. The older ladies spoke of the Queen’s birthday celebrations and the dying art of millinery. Food-talk was consistent, peppered with that dreaded adult word Diet.

Old-school music sucked. It all sounded the same after a while, if not brutalized by someone reliving their Karaoke days.

But it was talk-back radio that was king. It was the cornerstone of the never-ending squawking that competed with the cacophony of conveyor belts, forklifts, and incoming truck traffic.

And at the day’s end, when the machines and the stereo were switched-off, the women departed in dusty droves. Left behind, with a broom in hand, she eyed the abandoned shed.

And that was the summer she learned to appreciate the word ‘silence’.

It came in the mail

“Tommyyyyyyy,” hollered the housekeeper from the front door.

“Stop ya bellowin’,” his boots echoed on the wooden floorboards. “What, woman?”

“This came in the mail, got proper paperwork  everythin’.” She passed the envelope and pointed outside.

Tommy opened the packet, his eyes darted across the pages, then flicked to the open doorway. His frown deepened as his jaw locked tight.

“What’s it say?”

He cleared his throat, licked his lips, and stepped forwards, mumbling, “It’s time to stop being the villain of this tale.”

“What does that mean?”

“What do you have to say for yourself, boy?”

“Hello, father.”

 

(100 words)

 

from the flash fiction collection HOME SWEET ~ NOT!

HSN TW2

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The Visit - Flash fiction story by Mel A ROWE

The Visit

‘Doctor, can you explain how to commit the perfect murder?’

Clearing his throat, pushing his glasses along his nose, he frowned at the young woman opposite. ‘Why do you insist discussing this every week?’

She glanced around the room of couches and wandering lost souls. ‘Here’s the best place to talk about characters and do my research.’

‘You’re a … writer this month,’ he said, referring to the notebook cradled in his lap. ‘Writing about the perfect murder?’

She shrugged. ‘Sure, why not. You nearly succeeded didn’t you, Doctor?’

‘Excuse me?’ 

‘Your wife–’

‘Young lady…’ Lifting his pen in the air, he halted mid-thought then crossed his legs and leaned back. ‘I’ll allow you to indulge with this illusion. So tell me then, how did I commit this near perfect murder?’

She leaned forward and explained. ‘Start with a hallucinogenic, slipped into your wife’s cup of coffee, then let her drive you to work.’

‘Wouldn’t I be risking my life being contained within the same vehicle?’

‘You were safe at work when you sent her on an errand all the way across town. That’s when the drug took hold, resulting in your wife’s fatal accident and killing two others.’

‘Why would I kill my wife?’

‘For the insurance claim. The type of drug used, normally, would’ve gone undetected. They should have assumed it was her diagnosed phobia of driving on the freeway, driving an unfamiliar larger car, yours, while her smaller car was conveniently at the garage.’ Hands clasped in her lap, she sat back, asking, ‘Where did you get that hallucinogenic and how long does it take to work? Is there some specific weight ratio–’

‘Why would you want to know?’

She looked around as she leaned forwards. ‘I want to commit the perfect murder by learning from your mistakes.’

‘What mistakes,’ he scoffed, shaking his head, frowning.

‘At the coffee shop, the Barista spotted you adding white powder into a takeaway coffee cup, rambling about your wife’s preference to a certain type of artificial sweetener–captured on camera. And you purposely sent your phobic wife onto a busy highway?’

‘I can assure you, young lady, my wife is alive and well. Remember, I’m the Doctor here, and I want to know why you’d want to commit a murder?’

Leaning back in her chair, smoothing out her skirt, she faced him. ‘I don’t love my husband anymore and this way I’ll get a nice insurance payout. I’ll sell everything to go lie on some beach, drinking cocktails out of coconuts in Thailand, living like a pampered queen for the rest of my life.’

‘What about your family, Julie, what would they think?’ He glanced at his notes. ‘There’s your Father to consider?’

‘My dad wouldn’t care.’

‘Why not?’

‘He’s got memory issues and currently serving a life sentence for murdering his wife.’ She stood up, placed her hand on his shoulder and giving a gentle squeeze. ‘I’ll see ya next week, Dad.’

(500 words)

from HOME SWEET ~ NOT.

Home Sweet Not - by Mel A Rowe

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Burdening Bond, poetry prose by Mel A ROWE

Burdening Bond

The large room suddenly seemed so small

reverberating each scrape of the broom’s bristles

that scratch like nails across a chalkboard

 as it brushes over uneven slate tiles.

Yet it escapes, hiding between the cracks

where grit gristles against my shoe’s soles.

Sore hands grip the handle,

 they burn from bleach

that competes with the potency of wet paint

as they battle to cover the sins of the short history shared.

Another room emptied.

Another room cleaned.

Another scene abandoned.

The red walls were the solid witnesses

 of contained dreams,

The keeper of secrets,

The protector again fears

The shield to hide from heartache.

But it was only a basement that kept a soul safe from the world.

Through the tiny window, emerald palms wave beside the glistening pool.

Its calm surface mirrors the cloudless cerulean winter sky.

A pool that was never used.

A pool I used to clean.

A pool I gladly abandon.

Sweat stings my eyes as I lick the glue from my lips, desperate for a drink.

But to stop would mean to linger

Not when time is so near.

It is time to move on

To shift free from this place of old pain.

The sound of approaching footfall bounces off the roof like unseen ghosts.

The wind rattles against the windows whipping feathery fronds without mercy.

A shadow stretches across the open doorway –

 the only exit now blocked.

My legs shake.

My lower belly weakens.

Fear rises like acid at the back of my tongue.

Sweat bubbles across my skin.

The pulse skips in my ears.

The heart pounds against my constricting ribcage.

My hands grip the broom like the lance of a knight about to face the dragon.

But I’m no hero…

I’m just the border who wants my bond back.

 

(300 words)

Functioning at a Dysfuncitonal Function - flash fiction by Mel A ROWE

Functioning at a Dysfunctional Function

‘Eating meat this year, Jen?’

‘Your sister’s name is Jenny,’ Mum said, wiping palms down her apron, following Dad’s swagger from the kitchen carrying the prize turkey.

Jenny’s fingertips traced the delicate outline of the crocheted threads in Grandma’s lacework spread across the food-laden table. A silent witness to another annual passing parade of corrupt cousins, divorced aunts, and derelict uncles.

 ‘I’ll answer to both, even bitch,’ Jenny said with a grin.

Dad’s exaggerated knife blade to steel swipes stopped. ‘No swearing, young lady.’

‘Talking about age, Jenny, I’m not seeing any grandchildren or husband seated beside you. Not like your brother with his family.’

Jenny side-glanced at her bully brother, the suppressed sister-in-law and their puppet perfect children. Yes, TV lands happy families existed – and they were PC, paper-cut-out, boring. ‘I’ll eat white meat, thanks. Looks great.’

‘You’re always avoiding my question.’

‘Didn’t I answer the food question?’

‘She did,’ said Dad, dishing out slabs of hacked turkey. ‘Still with Charlie?’

Mum’s head swivelled like an owl. ‘Is this the same Charlie you mentioned last year?’

Jenny nodded, forking her food, avoiding eye contact.

‘That’s a year,’ Mum’s said with eyelids narrowing. ‘Do you think Charlie will marry you?’

Another nod. A shrug. ‘We’d like to.’ Shovelling another mouthful.

‘Slow down – don’t you get fed upstate? Or you’re going for the plate clearing record, sis.’

‘Who’s Charlie,’ demanded Mum, ‘and when will we meet him?’

‘You won’t meet him.’ Jenny sipped her water because wine for women was disallowed at her mother’s table.

‘Why not?’

‘Because Charlie’s a female.’ Jenny stood up as cutlery dropped onto everyone else’s plates. She wiped her chin on the napkin, folded it up and grinned. ‘Thanks for dinner, might see ya next year.’ And left them all to digest.

The Transverse Reversal

I shift the stick into gear. Check to ensure no traffic. Commence delicate balancing act of my shoes hovering above the accelerator pedal. With a gradual clutch release, the vehicle is in motion—backwards.

An ear-splitting scream is emitted from the scrape of metal upon metal. Glass explodes. Two bodies jump, necks jerk. Seat belts tighten. The car vibrates and shudders.

Embedded in the boot compartment was a large pole squashing the back seat to half its size, now windowless.

Meanwhiles the wheels were still smoking, engine roaring, the car shuddering—backwards.

Two feet stomped on the brakes and the car stalled still, followed by a smoke-clearing silence.

CREEEEAK.

My skin prickles at the racket reminding of nails scratching across the glass, with the added bonus of an off-key bugle bleating as iron and metal bent behind us.

No, it was coming from above us.

Our eyes shoot to the roof’s interior.  Birds screech. Our bodies flinch. I cover my scalp, wincing at the noise of screaming twisting steel that topples and bounces with an earthquake shake.

It just missed the bonnet by a cat-whiskers breath, with the car now the centre of a triangle, between the road and the bent tee-pee styled pole.

Power lines whip freely like snakes across the asphalt as houses are shut-down and neighbours start to poke their heads outdoors.

Inside the compacted sedan, I turn to my driving instructor and said, “So, that’s reverse gear, huh?”

 

Do you remember your first driving lesson?

 

(250 words)

 

From MOVING MOMENTS collection,

get your copy direct from the author HERE

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