Flash Fiction by Sandra Arnold
Saints and Sinners
Devlin watched the sun sink below the rooftops and started enthusing about the next team-building weekend he was planning. “Jebel Akhdar! You haven’t lived until you’ve sat on top of the green mountain and watched the sun break through the morning mist. It’s like watching God creating the world.”
But everyone was listening to Kassidy.
Yesterday she was panicking over her dental appointment, so I recommended a massage at the Moroccan Hammam afterwards.
Now, she had everyone’s eyes popping at her blow-by-blow of what happened there.
All eyes swivelled to me.
Rick winked. “Alexa!” And held up his glass of wine.
Ignoring him I said, “but you must have given her signals.”
“I didn’t. It’s a natural consequence of segregated societies, don’t you think?”
Hafiz dropped cross-legged onto the edge of the roof, his back to us, and stared at the streetlights arcing out to the Arabian Sea.
“But if you close your eyes there’s no difference,” Kassidy insisted. “She could just as easily have been a man. In fact, to be honest, it was better!”
Marty cracked up.
Crispian and Dom moved away from our group to join Hafiz.
“So … are you going again?” Rick asked with studied casualness.
Kassidy’s face arranged itself into a saintly expression.
On my first day, Philippe, the Director of Studies, asked Kassidy to give a workshop on teaching phonemics. Pronunciation was her topic for her Master’s dissertation. Kassidy wrote on the whiteboard in phonemes: The most important things in life are manicures, pedicures and massages. Hussein, the CEO, arranged his face in a studious expression, pretending he could read the sentence. Philippe glared at Kassidy. She blew him a kiss. A bubble of laughter grew in my belly until I felt I would burst. Neither Hussein nor Philippe noticed, but Kassidy did. After the workshop she invited me to go roller-blading with her that evening in the carpark of the Intercontinental.
In the dark, empty carpark, holding our blades, we collapsed, helpless with laughter.
Still laughing over Kassidy’s story we finished the food and drank the last of the wine.
“So … Jebel Akhdar?” Devlin tried again.
Crispian left with no goodbyes.
Rick was drunk so Hafiz gave him a lift home.
Dom packed up his CD player in silence.
Marty looked at him and rolled her eyes.
To Kassidy she whispered, “when are you going back?”
The Girl Who Felt No Pain
After Chrissie was caned at the age of seven for talking in class, the teacher and Chrissie’s classmates stared at her in disbelief.
“Why didn’t you cry?” the classmates demanded.
“Nothing hurts me,” Chrissie said.
“Liar, liar,” the classmates chorused. Billy the bully pinched her on the arm. The children leaned in to watch the spreading bruise. Billy pinched her again. Six bruises later, and still no reaction from Chrissie, the children laughed at Billy. He slunk off, red-faced. Four children said they would give Chrissie their sweets if she would take the blame for their misdemeanors and get caned instead of them
She soon accumulated a pile of sweets until the teacher cottoned on. He didn’t bother caning her for deception because he knew there was no point.
When Chrissie was sixteen a circus came to town. She watched Rick the tiger tamer with his tiger, Solomon, and saw where her future lay. She waited for him after the show and persuaded him to take her on trial to work with him and Solomon.
After a week of watching how Rick fed Solomon, stroked him, talked to him and cuddled him, Chrissie said she was ready to go into Solomon’s cage. As soon as she went inside, Solomon lay down beside her and started purring.
“Yep,” Rick said. “Animals know who they can trust.”
“I used to have a cat called Silas,” Chrissie said. “My father washed him every week in the kitchen sink with laundry soap. He developed scabs all over his body. If he squealed while he was being washed, my father whacked him. Silas ran away from home.”
“Same reason as you?” Rick asked, noting the cigarette burns on her arms.
Chrissie didn’t answer and slipped her hand inside Solomon’s mouth.
“Oh my God,” Rick gasped, and carefully withdrew it. “Not yet. There’s a way to do that.”
“He can’t hurt me,” said Chrissie. “I have Congenital Insensitivity to Pain.”
“Not the point,” Rick said. “You’re bleeding. He could have bitten your hand off. There’s a technique to handling his mouth correctly. I’ll teach you how to do it.”
Next month a newspaper printed an article about an amazing young circus performer who could put her hand in the tiger’s mouth. Soon after the article appeared Chrissie’s father turned up at the circus and demanded she return home immediately. She told him about her work with the tiger and asked if he’d like to see what she did. He nodded.
She went into Solomon’s cage while he stayed outside and watched Solomon purr as Chrissie stroked him. Chrissie told him to come into the cage. She slid her hand into Solomon’s mouth.
Her father scoffed. “He’s just a pampered pussy, otherwise he wouldn’t let you do that.”
“You’re right,” Chrissie said. “Would you like a go? He won’t hurt you.”
“He’d better bloody not,” her father said. “Or he’ll find out who’s boss.”
Chrissie watched the hand that had whacked Silas shove itself between Solomon’s teeth.
Writing the Write Stuff
“Stan says you’re a writer.”
“Nice job. Sitting on your bum all day waiting for inspiration.”
“What name do you write under?”
“Never heard of you. I like to read that crime guy whatsisname and the wife likes that romance authoress whatserface. Maybe try your hand at that, eh?”
“So what do you write?”
“Yeah? Whatsisname and whatserface are millionaires. Reckon it’s worth giving that a go, if you ask me.”
“I won a couple of writing competitions in primary school. Might take it up again when I retire.”
Sandra Arnold lives in Canterbury, New Zealand. She is the author of five books including three novels, a non-fiction work and a collection of flash fiction. Her work has been widely published and anthologized in New Zealand and internationally, placed and short-listed in various competitions and received nominations for the Pushcart Prize, Best Microfictions and The Best Small Fictions. She has a PhD in Creative Writing from Central Queensland University, Australia. http://www.sandraarnold.co.nz.
Flash Boulevard is edited by Francine Witte. Banner photograph Wes Candela.