Friday 29 March 2013

Word of Mouth

Some things in life we look to for certainty but find only disappointment in their uncertainty. Spring, for example, has so far failed to spring with anything that might be considered either conviction or temperature. The good news, however, is that April is filled with certainties, if not for spring at least for a couple of dates: 30th April sees the closing date for submissions to the Bristol Short Story Prize and, to help promote this, Word of Mouth is hosting some short story readings on Wednesday 3rd at The Thunderbolt with Bristol-based authors Tania Hershman, Holly Corfield Carr, Nick Rawlinson and me.

In the meantime, here is "Authenticity", my 250-word entry into the Lascaux Flash contest. Next month also sees publication of some of my flash fiction in The Delinquent, The Treacle Well and The Were-Traveler.

Friday 15 March 2013

Flash Fiction: To Catch a Falling Leaf

They say it's good luck to catch a falling leaf. Some say it will bring you a day of luck and happiness, others say a month. A few say you should make a wish when you catch it.

"Is no such thing as luck." Mr Korzhakov might not believe in it, but I could really do with some. Parents are talking divorce, someone nicked my bike, I failed last week's applied maths test, Milly dumped me and Leona just looks right through me.

"What people call luck is just experience of the one in probability of one in N. If you bet heads you have one in two chance. If you get heads you feel lucky, if you don't you don't. If you bet on rolling three, you have one in six chance. If you roll three you feel lucky, if you don't you don't. And so on." Mr Korzhakov sweetened dry lessons in probability and stats with a rambling preamble, before moving on to a syllabus that invited sleep and doodles.

"Not if you use my dice!" Aaron spilt gaming dice over his desk. Mr Korzhakov walked over and picked up a d20, holding it close enough to peer over his bifocals.

"Icosahedron? Is Geometry. Pure maths is Mr Brown, Aaron, not me. But of course, this one in twenty. Bigger N, luckier you feel if you get it. Is why people like to play lottery — N very big!"

"What about bad luck?" I asked.

"Ah, good question, Jim. Is still luck, just different type. You want one-in-six bad luck? Play Russian roulette with six-shooter! You buy lottery ticket? Have more chance of being hit by car than winning! Good or bad, luck just name we give to events we notice but not see bigger picture, when we hope instead of predict."

It's Mr Korzhakov first this morning. I'm about to head through the school gates when I spot Leona on the other side of the road. I slow to match her pace, to think of something to say, to think of a reason to talk to her.

I spot a leaf twist in the breeze and fall from the sycamore overhanging the road. The breeze is gentle enough that I can tell how the leaf is going to fall and where. Golden and crisp, touched by a reluctant autumn sunrise, it hangs in the air for a moment, like an invitation. Luck is on my side. I run, crossing over to catch it before it hits the road, my wish at the ready.

But it falls through my hand. Passes through it. Right through it. As if it didn't exist.

I look up. Leona is standing next to me, staring right through me, her mouth frozen, open, covered by her hand. I turn to see a car, a shocked driver fumbling an emergency call on his mobile, teachers and pupils running towards the gate, a fallen boy on the road wreathed in uncaught autumn leaves.

"To Catch a Falling Leaf" was first published as part of National Flash Fiction Day New Zealand's Write-In. More background here.