navigation menu+

flash fiction entry for Flood’s speakeasy: opening words

Posted on 11 Dec 12 by in the speakeasy, writing fringes | 9 comments


I took a deep breath and turned the key.

“Which promptly broke in the lock!”

“And the homeowner shot me dead in my tracks!”

“The door creaked and this is a shit beginning.”

Some of the student writers groaned at the interruption, some smiled in tacit agreement while putting down their pencils, the spell of setting the scene broken by Karl whose name wasn’t actually Karl, they’d just named him after the Billy Bob Thornton character in Sling Blade. He had the forehead slope and, one would argue, the mental capacity.

“What? What?” defended Karl. “I can’t work with it as an opening line. Why not start with ‘it was a dark and stormy night?’”

Paula, the workshop leader, tried rubbing away her hatred of this boy with fingers pressed against her eyelids: “Because it was Amy’s turn to pick the opening line and that’s the line she gave us. Nothing has changed from any other week.” She stumbled at the end, nearly calling him Karl aloud but catching herself.

Karl looked down at his feet and nervously shifted his narrow frame on the seat of the metal chair. Paula—unlike the rest of the class, she had no idea Karl and Amy had been fucking each other like two rejects for weeks—suggested the class take a five minute water break. Amy stared straight ahead as everyone dove toward the 10-gallon Igloo on the break table, her earlier enthusiasm being taken over by her usual self-loathing. Karl’s whispered, embarrassed apology disintegrated close by.

Amy’s brother-in-law had enrolled her in this class as a late Christmas present. He’d found her notebook and journals filled with fits and starts and shitty first drafts as movers were packing up her small apartment. She was moving in with him and her sister to help them care for newborn triplets. In seven years, Amy had yet to form an opinion of her sister’s husband, a sales manager for a large technology company and, now, a brand new father. He confronted her with the journals over coffee the first morning in their shared kitchen. “I didn’t read any of them, I swear, but you’re a pretty good writer. And it’s the least we can do.” Amy wondered if he’d been cheating on her sister, then discovered she didn’t really care either way.

Karl took up space in the empty chair on her right. He liked Amy. She made him feel important in what was turning out to be a very unimportant life. She would meet him at the mall and giggle as he picked the pickles off his Chick-Fil-A chicken sandwich, never questioning why he wouldn’t just order the stupid sandwich without pickles in the first place. They would wend their way through the anchor stores, hoping the other never noticed how unflattering the lighting was for their uneven complexions. Only once before had he ever felt as ashamed in her presence as he did today and that was when he kicked aside a dead bird in the parking lot on their way to his rusted beater. The look on her face, the horror-filled gasp at his disregard for the bird’s corpse and, he was guessing, the life before it, made him sick to his stomach. “Did you hear me say I was sorry?”

I took a deep breath and turned the key.

Class was resuming. Paula offered Amy’s opening line for the second time.

A cacophony of answers all around them, Karl whispered only to Amy: “…I was a fucking jerk, but I really really wanted her to let me come inside. Let me feel my way inside her.”

Opening her journal, Amy scribbled along with the shouted suggestions, the story being formed line by line by her classmates, begun with her nine little words. In the margins to this man for whom she seemed to have no tipping point, his redemption found mainly in the absence of her requiring any, a tightly scrawled okay.


  1. Billy Bob Thornton and Chick-fil-A? Love it.
    I used to work at Chick-fil-A in my college days…

    Anyway, the flow of this story is awesome, makes me want to know what will happen to Karl and Amy and what stories everyone comes up with.

  2. I agree – I want to read more about Karl and Amy. Great story and the Billie Bob Thornton line was hilarious.

  3. “Amy wondered if he’d been cheating on her sister, then discovered she didn’t really care either way.”

    Loved that line. I feel like it really sums up Amy. Kind of made me really like her.

  4. I am so intrigued by Amy — she seems completely ambivalent about everything in her life, passive because she’s not made a single choice in this piece until she write the okay. Fascinating character.

  5. I know you say that flash fiction is not your thing, but darn it all you create some fleshed out characters. Great stuff.

  6. I LOVE where you let this story take you!
    It obviously included both prompts, but it was so far away from a dead bird and a lock that it amazed me.
    I bow before you and your mad tyte writing skills.

  7. Wow Erica! Who says fiction ain’t your thing? Such interesting characters. And, I agree with Dawn, I’m amazed at the way you used but yet distanced yourself from the prompts!

  8. I am in awe as to where someone’s (your) creative mind goes to come up with such characters and story line. You do “good” fiction, girl! Amy is so ambivalent, so passive. I love it. Needing a sequel stat!!! Oh, and I forgot there was even a prompt until the end.

  9. This is bigger than us…I mean this story…bigger…than this contest. Romeo and Juliet with fries. The intricacy is intriguing.

say something