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Hey y’all. I wrote some flash fic.

Yesterday I found a tiny crew of writers participating in the newish game of Flashtober, a fiction counterpart to Inktober. Here’s my entry for today’s prompts (which I’ll add at the bottom of the work so as not to distract).

Mary’s Shame was feeling particularly fragile today, having fallen victim to an uptick in propaganda from Mary’s “self care” circles. It would pass, Shame knew; it always did. Each new attempt Mary made to rid herself of him eventually fell short and enough bits remained to build into a much stronger force. 

So when Mary ran into that fellow (call him Coffee Boy) with what Mary said were “kind eyes” and “rock-formation shoulders,” Shame felt the need to fire up his control panels. He sent through the standard start-up sequences: Self-doubt. Check. Fading confidence in fashion choices. Check. 

On cue, Mary looked down at her bright yellow loafers. When she bought them, they seemed “cheery” and “off the beaten path.” Shame snickered. She was such an easy mark. The creative ones always were. 

Coffee boy spotted Mary and worked his way over. Like a gift from Fate, he was jostled in the early-morning crowd and his hand grazed her Prime Shame Inducer Spot #2. Shame bellowed with laughter at his luck. He quickly cued up Painful Memory #63, that old standard, and let it roll. 

Mary’s Levels immediately went up. Heart rate. Face redness. But Shame furrowed his brow. He wan’t imagining it. #63 was definitely losing efficacy. It was probably that dastardly therapy group. 

Coffee Boy spurted some apology. Another stroke of luck! Perhaps Shame could salvage this. Mary’s head was down and her Levels were ticking up. Another memory would help. Shame scrolled through some more candidates. There were too many. He muted the sound so he could concentrate. He made a note to update his filing system. 

Suddenly Shame’s board lit up. Mary’s levels were dropping sharply. With shock, Shame saw Relief and Belonging were up early this morning and working together like the little ingrates they were. Shame turned up the volume. Coffee Boy was talking.

“… a thing. I have 5 older sisters! You OK?”

Shame made a fast move but Mary spoke before he could hit the Seize button on her vocal cords. His reaction times were failing. Dang that therapy. 

“Yes, actually,” Mary said with a laugh.
A laugh! Imagine!
“Thank you.”

“Let me get your coffee. Soy vanilla latte, right?”

Did he seriously just wink at her? 

“Decaf,” she said.
“You got it!”
Mary’s face bloomed into a wide, hapless grin.

Shame stretched to hit the “Hate My Smile” (HMS) button, but Joy and Delight must’ve hacked his controls. HMS was such a great algorithm. He wrote it over a decade ago with the “Goofy->Awkward->Ugly” sequence that came free in the Middle School suite. 

Mary’s endorphin levels were going up, her muscle tension and nervous stomach reaction were going down, and Shame knew he’d been bested. He pulled out his notebook and began scribbling. Time with Boys (TwB) always yielded such great material. Later he’d replay this for Mary, now labeled TwB Incident #1M4591.3C, as soon as all the positive gits took a break. He sent an email asking Doubt if he wanted in on this opportunity. 

When Mary and Coffee Boy sat down together at a tiny table in the big front window of the cafe (where she’d never sit otherwise), Shame knew it was over for now. His screens and panel went totally dark. He had no choice but to wait.


white woman in her late 20s with dark hair and green and black striped shirt sitting in a coffee shop front of a big window. She has a latte in a white ceramic mug and is sitting across from a white male, same age, in a gray t-shirt. He also has a latte in a white ceramic mug. We do not see his face and he is blurred a bit.

Today’s words were YELLOW FELLOW and BELLOW. Did you catch them? Hopefully not. The best flash fiction seamlessly incorporates the most unwieldy words.

I didn’t intend for this to come out like fan fic of the Pixar movie Inside Out (which I did not like for many, many reasons), but there it is. I wanted to write about shame because I’ve been cognizant of it in light of my participation in Inktober and Blogtober this month. I don’t feel a heck of a lot of shame in my blog postings or my (terrible!) drawings. Why does fiction writing fall into the “OMG NEVER SHARE IT EVER” category? I’ve been asking myself some tough questions about that. Some mixture of shame and attachment and hope and magical thinking poisons the pot, methinks. I treat my fiction writing unlike my drawing or my non-fiction blogging. It holds sway over … well, everything. Maybe.

I’m sick of that, though. And I’m sick of myself for allowing it. Flash fiction is a great way for a perfectionist to beat that exacting tendency into submission. You have only a little time (this wasn’t time-limited but my day is) and some odd restrictions (word count and weird words to incorporate). These requirements alone are great get-out-of-perfectionist-jail free cards. I’ll keep trying #flashtober. Maybe it too will work like #Inktober by helping me darken Shame’s control panels and letting the creative work flow.

Image by Rachel Scott from Pixabay

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