Flash Fiction

Flash Fiction: Fair Game

It’s been a while since I’ve tried my hand at some #FridayFlash! This was written in response to this week’s Writer’s Weights Dialogue Voice Challenge posed by Aidan Fritz.

The Challenge: write a scene of 1000 words or less where the dialogue uses one or more techniques discussed above to differentiate the speakers. The theme for this week is: sand.

Fair Game
by T.S. Bazelli

“Welcome, mes enfants! Do you like a challenge? Do you want to see how well you fare in this rat race of life? I am Monsieur La Vie and I assure you, that my name is quite apt. You’re bound to have a lively time. Beat me, and choose your prize!” The mustached man swept his hands along the walls of his stall setting a row of stuffed pink piggies swaying on their hooks.

The other children kept on walking, but Toby’s greedy eyes ate in the contraption laid out beneath the red and gold striped tent.

“What’s this for?”

Brass fittings gleamed warm in the light of an old candelabra. The great hulking mass or polished wood, glass, and metal, twisted together in an intricate moving puzzle. A wooden wing was screwed onto a metal rod, swayed up and down, sending a panel sliding back and forth. An old spoon held a marble balanced in its hollow, swayed precariously atop a metal pin. A toy plane propeller spun in the breeze sending off the sugary tinkling of tiny bells.

“I see you are a young man of great intelligence.” Monsieur La Vie bent down low until his great big eye matched up with Toby’s. “You are not like the others at all, no. Try your hand at this game, and for only one silver dollar, I guarantee that you will walk away from this tent not a boy, but a man!”

Toby reached into his pocket, and pulled out his only dollar. He had been saving it for a candied apple, but he wanted to see how the contraption worked.

With a flourish, Monsieur La Vie whipped away a green velvet covering revealing a cage with four compartments. Each compartment contained a rat.

“Choose your racer, mon enfant. Choose wisely, for this will decide the outcome of the game. Let me introduce you to my darlings Roquefort, Chèvre, Munster, et Banon.”

One was a white rat had a great brown spot upon it’s side, the next rat was jet black, another rat had red eyes, and the fourth rat was missing a tail. They eyed Toby with what looked like suspicion.

“I want that one.” Toby pointed a grubby finger at the spotted rat.

“Excellent choice, mon enfant. Roquefort it is for you, and I shall select Banon as my racer. If Roquefort beats Banon to the end of the maze, you shall win your  prize. If neither of our rats make it to the end of the race by the time the hour glass has emptied, then you shall win your prize.”

Monsieur La Vie gestured at a lever that connected the rat’s cage to a glass tube, that was in turn connected to puzzle maze that Toby had admired.

“On the count of three the race will begin. Pull that lever, and we shall see how well Roquefort performs, non?”

Toby nodded.

“Un, deux, trois!”

It took Toby took a moment to register the count in French, and he fumbled with the lever. Roquefort shot off into the maze of tunnels, his whiskers twitching. The spotted rat took a left, and was blocked by a sliding panel. It backed up the other direction, and climbed up a ladder made of salad forks.

The game’s master lazily waited to turned over a tiny hour glass, and the pink grains of sand began to flow in a trickle.

“Good boy Roquefort!” Toby cheered, his head bobbing up and down as he tried to follow the rat through the maze. An elevator brought Roquefort one level closer to the ratty prize: fried potatoes slathered in gravy, sitting at the base of a checkered flag.

Toby realized that Monsieur La Vie had not yet pulled his lever. The game’s master had plucked Banon from his cage, and was cradling the fat rat in his hands.

Roquefort hit a junction. He could not decide whether to turn left or right. He chose left, and disappeared into a wooden box, to emerge moments later, turned in the opposite direction.

“No Roquefort, the other way!”

“I’m afraid, mon enfant, that it is too late. You have lost the race.” The hour glass had not yet emptied.

Toby stared at Monsieur La Vie in confusion. The game’s master had plunked Banon directly into the box with the flag and fried potatoes. The fat old rat had already begun nibbling away at his prize.

“But you cheated!” Toby stamped his foot against the hard-packed dirt.

“Hasn’t anyone ever told you that life, is not fair?” Monsieur La Vie grinned and twirled the tips of his greasy mustache between his fingers. “Now you have learned an important lesson, mon enfant!”

“Not fair! You cheated! Cheater! Cheater!”

Monsieur La Vie sighed and waved his hands. “I thought you were a smart boy, but now I see you are just like the others. Oh, tranquille! Tranquille! Ok ok you want a fair race? Lucienne, where are you?” He paced back and forth in the stall muttering while Toby continued to scream.

The back wall of the tent parted, and a thin woman with a serious expression squeezed into the stall beside the game’s master.

“You want a fair game? A rematch? Very well. Some call her the fairest of all. Let me introduce you to my sister, Madame La Mort.”

23 Comments to “Flash Fiction: Fair Game”

  1. I was instantly won over by the French-fluent huckster. I wouldn’t give him my silver dollar but understood his type and enjoyed him immediately. He was a good way to pull us into the rest of the story.

    Bring on Madame La Mort! I’m getting on in years and can’t turn down meeting new women.

  2. Dun dun DUN!

    Very interesting, I love it. The ending is so ominous…! (Although I wonder if it’s a bit of a cheat. Because there’s more story, obviously! What will La Mort do, and how will Toby react?)

    Regardless, you have by far one of the best imaginations I’ve ever encountered. I’m constantly amazed by the things you come up with, and this story is a great example of why. 🙂

    1. Hehe this story started as a pun on “Life’s not fair.” I wonder what Madame La Mort would have to teach poor Toby… though I have a feeling he might be just as disappointed by that experience.

      Thanks Kristan!

  3. Nice story. The ending is ominous, I worry for Toby’s sake that she may only be fair in one respect. I like what you did with the voices in this piece. “cheated, Cheater! Cheater!” definitely brings out Toby’s youth. Monsieur hit a nice balance of word choice emphasizing his french-ness without resorting to accents. Very nice.

    I liked the sly way you worked sand into this.

    1. T.S. Bazelli Author

      To be honest, I forgot about the theme until going back to link to this post. It was a bit of an add-on. I really haven’t tried accents before. I’m not sure I have the ear for them, but attempting to reproduce phonetic speech patterns might be a good challenge for another day.

      Thanks Aidan 🙂 Good challenge.

  4. I enjoyed the tone of the story, though thought their names (La Vie and La Mort) were a little too contrived, though I’m curious about what Life’s sister, Death, is going to teach the boy. 🙂

  5. The diversity of what you write is definitely making me wait eagerly for whatever you write. Even if it is not genre fiction, I am always left pleased. 🙂 This one is no exception. You rocked it! And the ending is so delicious.

  6. This was a great little story…

    And being as things are these days, I read a bit of sad-but-true socio-political commentary into it as well (or was that in there on purpose?)

    And… somehow… I also read this as Speculative Fiction… even though nothing in it was necessarily outside of the realm of possibility. It’s kind of a rather soft fantasy, I think.

    1. I thought of it as steampunkish/fantasyish as I was writing it, but indeed there are no elements that are outlandish, unless Mr. La Vie is truly the embodiment of life, and Mme. La Mort is truly the personification of death.

      And was it on purpose? Yes and no. 🙂

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