Friday, March 13, 2009

Flash Fiction Friday

This is not a regular feature, I just thought that sounded appropriate since I'm posting a flash fiction piece for an online group I belong to. I'd appreciate your feedback!

The Red Ticket

"Twenty on red! Twenty on red!" The pale-faced man waved a note at the attendant. Kicking aside an empty beer bottle, he leaned over the men next to him and stretched his arm into the aisle, oblivious to the stares.

Arthritic fingers curled around the bill, then scribbled on a scrap of red paper and shoved it at the man. Others grabbed at his sleeve but he brushed them off. "Bettin's closed. Fight's about to start." Pushing through the crowd, he waved at the referee.

A bell sounded and the crowd erupted.

The contender in the red corner rushed to the center of the ring, nervous energy rolling down his back.

His opponent approached more slowly. He looked from side to side, then took a cautious step back, but his trainer picked him up and threw him into the center.

A man with a blue ticket leaned over the low wall. "Hurry up, Blondie! What you waiting for?" he yelled at the fair-colored opponent.

Red stepped closer, then leapt into the air. Light flashed off the knife strapped to his claw, and an arc of blood streamed across the ring.

Blondie stumbled, and Red jumped once more, landing on Blondie's back. The dirt beneath them pooled with blood, but Blondie tossed Red aside and scurried to the corner.

The crowd screamed.

The trainer stepped forward and nudged Blondie with a scuffed boot, while Red threw back his head and crowed, the clear sound echoing off the walls.

Blondie straightened, ready for more.

They faced each other, feinting from side to side. Forward and back. A moment's pause, and Red rushed forward, but this time Blondie dodged the attack. He jumped and swung, his blade connecting with the tough muscles shielding Red's back.

The crowd pressed closer, thirsty for more. Drops of blood splattered the dirt, but Red didn't pause. He lowered his head and dove at Blondie, claws flying.

A strangled cry rose over the cheers, and a cloud of dust lingered in the air when Blondie fell to his side.

The man with the red ticket held his breath. It wasn't a large bet – he'd certainly risked more on lesser fights – but his pulse quickened all the same. His gaze focused not on Red, whose chest puffed while his trainer checked his wraps, but at Blondie. Did he have the will to keep fighting?

A quiver of feathers and a cheer from the men gave him his answer. Blondie wobbled to his feet and called to the crowd. His crow wasn't as forceful as Red's, but it got his opponent's attention.

They returned to their dance, each moving in time with the other, their movements slowing as the minutes ticked by.

"Come on!"

"I paid to see a fight!"

The trainers inched into the ring, but didn't interfere. The fighters knew the signal. Each leapt towards the other, knives flashing.

They collided mid-air.

Their bodies fell as one, crashing to the dirt with a whoosh of air.

One moment passed, then two.

A steady crow broke the silence. Blond feathers rustled, then fell to the side as Red stood and paced the ring. Red's trainer rushed forward and held him aloft for a victory lap, indifferent to the drops of blood that stained his shirt.

While the crowd cheered, the attendant hustled through the bodies to collect the winning tickets.

The pale man wiped his brow and waved his scrap of paper. As the attendant moved closer, the losing trainer knelt beside Blondie and rested a hand on his chest. A shadow darkened his face, and he looked into the crowd. Several men laughed and blue tickets rained onto the dirt floor. He swatted them away, then jerked to his feet, pulling Blondie with him. The lifeless body dangled against his legs, leaving a trail of blood in his path.

The attendant pressed a bill in the pale man's hand. A hundred note.

"Congratulations." Someone clapped his shoulder.

He smiled, weak now that the rush had passed. "It's too bad about the blond one. I hate to see the animals die."

The men near him laughed. They came for the blood; death was inconsequential.

"Why you come if you don't like the blood?"

He paused, unsure if they'd understand. When he was a child his mother taught him that taking joy in another's misery was not a good way to live one's life. With gambling it was inevitable, and his mother disapproved of his diversion.

The trainer opened a gate and tossed Blondie into the tall grass.

The pale man looked at the men around him. "I enjoy the sport. It's the dying I could do without."

The man nearest him shrugged, then turned to his friends.

The pale man stuffed the bill into his coat pocket and took his seat to wait for the next fight.


The prompt for this month's piece was Schadenfreude, which German for pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others. This story came to me while I was having a massage on the beach this past Tuesday. There I was, being pampered in a cabana 150 feet from the ocean, thinking about cockfights.


Turkey Lurkey said...

That's a great piece! I never understood watching any type of fighting for entertainment. Even boxing. I like the way you added 'photographs' of imagery. It was like a bunch of snapshots put together to tell a story, and each picture gradually showed more of the event. Very nice.

Oh, BTW, I just finished a book that involved a dead rooster.

Melanie Avila said...

Thanks. :) I actually dreamed about roosters last night and in the dream, I couldn't remember what they're called in Spanish. (gallo)

spyscribbler said...

Oh wow, Melanie! I really like this. It feels like a big difference from last night! I loved the moment when the trainer rested his hand on Blondie's chest. And it was perfect, when the pale man sat down again.

That doesn't sound like a relaxing massage.

Penguin said...

I like it. I got great visual when I was reading it. And suspense.

Melanie Avila said...

Thanks Spy. I always love your enthusiasm. :)

Melanie Avila said...

Thanks Penguin. This was loosely based on the one cockfight I went to - Blondie wasn't looking too good by the end of the fight.

Robin said...

That was great, Melanie! Maybe it was my twisted mind, but I didn't understand until the end that they were roosters. I thought they were mutant people. Then I read it again and it was cool that it could be interpreted that way, because the piece sort of had an anti cruelty message, and if the animals were people. . .

OK. I'm babbling. I really liked it.

Melanie Avila said...

Thanks Robin. I struggled with making sure it wasn't too cryptic that they were roosters. I wanted it to be a surprise, but only through the first 200 words. I might rework that so it's clearer.

Janna Qualman said...

Alright, I didn't say anything yesterday, because I was too out of it (with the flu) to leave any coherent thoughts. I'm a bit better today, so here we go...

I loved how my assumption was that this was a fight between men, and then I only gradually realized it was roosters. It made it all the more "real" in my head. There were a few spots I thought could use more showing, but you did great! Well done.

Melanie Avila said...

Janna, which places do you think need more showing? Do you mind sharing?

Janna Qualman said...

I'm sorry! I kinda blew past that, didn't I?

Let me see... Here are a couple examples.

"A bell sounded and the crowd erupted." Could you tell us what the bell sounded like? Or what the crowd looked or sounded like, in what way they erupted? "Erupted" is a great word, but it could go so many ways here.

"His opponent approached more slowly. He looked from side to side, then took a cautious step back, but his trainer picked him up and threw him into the center."
This excerpt seems flat and passive. I think you could infuse it with more depth, and get the scene to play out better.
His opponent's approach was slow as he looked from one side to another. When he tried to retreat with caution, he was grasped by his trainer's hands and thrown to the ring's center. Or something along those lines. :)

Does that help any?

Melanie Avila said...

Oh Janna, thank you! That second sentence is one I kept fiddling around with and wasn't really happy about how it turned out.

Your examples are muy helpful.

Janna Qualman said...

Ole! Or, you know, something like that. LOL

theblog said...

LOVED the writing.. .hate the cock fighting. :-)

This piece was really well written. You have some great details that drew me right in. Little things set the environment and feeling of the ring in my mind perfectly.

There is only one section that pulled me out of the writing:

"When he was a child his mother taught him that taking joy in another's misery was not a good way to live one's life. With gambling it was inevitable, and his mother disapproved of his diversion."

This felt like a tell to me. I think it *might* have been better if he had actually said it, instead of just thinking it. Not sure though.

Bottom line.. I think you nailed it all perfectly. LOVED IT. :-)

A Synchronistic Catalyst said...

I wasn't sure where this was going at first, but I was definitely disturbed by it and once I caught that it was about cock-fighting, it made sense and stayed disturbing (which is a good thing with this sort of prompt) :>

Bailey said...

I really like this - the suspense and excitement of the fight contrasted with the loss and the guilt is really well portrayed. Good job!

Nadine said...

This was great! So powerful!!!

The only part that threw me was at the beginning when he took the red piece of paper, then Red was in the ring. It made me do a double take and reread that part. Could you make the piece of paper a different color?

Great job!!!

Melanie Avila said...

Thanks, theblog. I went back and forth on that, but thought it would be too pretentious for him to say something like that to the people surrounding him. But it's certainly something to consider, thanks. :)

Melanie Avila said...

ASC, thanks, I think...

Melanie Avila said...

Thanks Bailey!

Melanie Avila said...

Nadine, he's not actually named Red, I just nicknamed him that because that's the color of his corner. So the ticket color and his name are the same for a reason.

I'm glad you liked it!

Jenna said...

Great piece Mel!

Terry said...

Good work on this piece. As others have said, I like the deliberately vague way you introduced the fighters. I had a hint they weren't people, but you kept it up in the air effectively. The descriptions of the fight itself and the crowd reactions are good and made me feel like I was there.

Melanie Avila said...

Thanks Terry. I definitely take that as a compliment from you - I really admire your writing.

Benjamin Solah said...

I liked this piece. You felt sorry for the character, as well as his guilt, kind of.

Kappa no He said...

Wow. Everyone made such excellant comments. It was a very good piece. I like the idea of it being a bunch of snapshots. Well done!


Melanie Avila said...

Thanks Ben & Kappa. :)