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Five Further Flash Fiction Pieces
by Barry Ergang


When the New York critics lauded Louis Mercer's work as important and original, Emily Parker, his retired high school art teacher, felt as if she had been indirectly honored.

Obsessed in adolescence with painting, Louis had, under her tutelage, experimented with water colors, oils, and acrylics. Eventually, however, his maturity brought disenchantment with brush on canvas, and he sought new ways to express his roiling soul.

Emily attended the opening of his latest exposition. Mercer's newest works were montages sculpted from peanut butter, oatmeal, gelatin, and other edibles, all preserved in Lucite.

"What do you think, Miss Parker?" Mercer asked.

"You came a long way from paint, Louie."

Originally published in The Writers Post Journal, September 2005



The men's room had all the charm of a ragpickers' swap meet. Its occupant had a revolver, pointed at me."

You a cop?" he demanded.

"No, but you're busted."

His finger flexed on the trigger. "You tryin' to piss me off?"

"No, just bowl you over with my recognition skills," I said to stall him.

"Know who I am?"

"Sure, you're in all the wanted posters."

"And I'm the guy holdin' the rod, chum."

I plunged it from his grip with my pipe wrench. Suddenly drained, he sat down hard, gurgling.

"Who are ya?"

"Irving Crumlish, crime-rusting plumber."

Originally published at Flashshot June 9, 2005



"He's your son! It's important that you spend time with him."

"Doing what?" James Norton demanded of his wife. "He's five years old. He likes cartoons and coloring books. I like golf and baseball."

"Then watch golf matches and baseball games with him. Explain how they're played."

"Did you hear me? He's five!"

"It doesn't matter if he understands them. It's important that he spends quality time with his father."

James Norton flapped his hands in frustration. "What the hell do you want from me?"

"What could be simpler--you or what I'm asking you to do? Bond, James--bond!"

Originally published at Litbits January 29, 2006



Seated on the living room sofa, I glanced at the young Asian woman dusting a bookshelf and remarked that Lou, finally, had hired a domestic.

"Actually," he said, "I bought her."

"Bought her?"

"Yeah, when I was in Bangkok a couple months ago on business. The Thais train these girls from childhood to be servants."

"Who're you kidding?" I protested. "They're trained to be slaves. In case you've forgotten, slavery's illegal and immoral. You're a regular church-goer. How can you be part of something like this?"

"Now wait--don't get the wrong idea. A fat old guy like me needs someone to cook and clean up after him. That's all she does; I'm no barbarian. Anna--I call her Anna because I can't pronounce her real name--takes care of me and gets a good home in return. It's a reciprocal arrangement."

Anna abruptly stopped dusting, her breathing ragged and labored. Without haste she produced an inhaler from a pocket of her green smock, took a couple of puffs from it, and resumed her work.

"She has asthma," Lou said. "Otherwise, she's just about perfect."

Upon arriving home, I told my wife about Lou's acquisition. She was as appalled as I that our long-time friend was capable of trafficking in human beings, his rationale notwithstanding.

A week later, as we strolled the crowded corridors of the local mall, my wife said, "There's Lou."

I looked in the direction she indicated and saw him waddling along, sipping soda from an oversized cup.

"That girl just behind him. Is she...?"

I nodded. "The Lou wheezy Anna purchase."

Originally published at Flashing in the Gutters April 2006



"The Krot is a fascinating example of alien life." The instructor indicated the horned vermiform creature that lay at its full length of six inches upon the laboratory table ringed by his students. All wore protective clothing and goggles. "When threatened, it coils and springs, releasing an acid that renders a predator helpless. I've removed this specimen from a terrarium of its native soil and bathed it gently so you can observe it better."

He prodded the Krot with the tip of a pen. It didn't move. He poked it again, harder this time. Still the creature lay placid, unmoving.

"You won't get a reaction," someone said.

Instructor and students alike turned around to find the source of the voice. An angular woman stood several feet behind them, a gentle but self-assured smile on her face.

"And who might you be?" the instructor asked.

"My name is Anthea Lane--"

"Professor Lane?"

"Yes. I don't mean to intrude, but--"

"It's an honor to meet you," the instructor, suddenly deferential, said. "I had no idea you were on campus."

"I'm here to do further research on the creatures with some colleagues. I heard you were conducting a demonstration, and I--"

"For those of you who don't know," the instructor addressed the class, "Professor Lane is Earth's leading expert on extraterrestrial bio-forms. She was the first Earth scientist to make an extensive study of the Krot."

"I just wanted to tell you that bathing your specimen was a mistake." Professor Lane's smile widened. "They seem to feel safer with their own turf on them, so to speak. Without it they're defenseless and won't move."

"I see. You're saying a washed Krot never coils."

Published at Flashing in the Gutters, October 2006