Lie Back And Think (Flash Fiction)

As I channel my energies on NaNaWriMo, I’ve been neglecting this blog a little.  I’ll be back in earnest from December but I don’t want it to stagnate in the interim.  The following story is something from my archives; that is to say it’s a piece which I’m not completely embarrassed about but which I can’t imagine finding a home elsewhere.  In this case, it was an Authonomy Flash Fiction submission, the challenge being to end with the sentence, “The laughter echoed all around as he wandered off towards the setting sun”.  There’s a nice idea in here somewhere, I think, but I sacrificed it a bit in favour of the wordplay.  Anyway, hope you enjoy it; I’m hoping to put up some excerpts from my NaNo project in the next week or so.

Their laughter echoed all around as Ashley Henderson wandered off toward the bus shelter. The setting? Sunderland. 

 ************************************************************* 

“You getting anything?”  He calls out, his voice taking on a perculiar tinny quality. 

“Nope,” a second voice replies, “Just lie back and think. I’ll say when we’re ready” 

He lies back and thinks. 

****************************************************************

 

It was a cold November evening in 2006 and Ashley Henderson was out on the town, looking for love.  He’d been drinking with a group of friends but they’d peeled off one by one.  By 10pm, only he remained, a little worse for wear but still standing and more than a little horny.    Looking around, he saw two women, drinking at the bar, decided he’d approach them. 

“Hi,” he said to the taller and blonder of the two woman, “How’s it going?” It was an old line, but he’d known it to work in the past. 

“Push off, loser,”  the woman replied, not evening trying to make it soundaffectionate.

 Unfazed, he went on, “Perhaps I could buy you ladies a drink.”

 The woman’s friend replied for her, “She’s not interested, creep.”

 He gave her his most winning smile and said, “I’m sure your friend can speak for herself.”

 This time, the blonde spoke, “I can, and I’m not interested.”

  It was then Ashley decided to show what he hoped would be his winning hand, “You wouldn’t say that if you could see me dance.”

 Bored, the blonde replied, “Oh? Go on then.”

 He didn’t need to be told twice. Within seconds, he was on the floor writhinglike a tubercular badger at a young farmers’ social. He’d hoped to impress the women, but he’d misjudged their mood and his own state of intoxication.  Their cruel laughter reverberated around the Wearside nightclub instead.  As he sloped away; he knew the memory would stay with him forever.

.****************************************************************

 “How about now?” he shouts, above the mechanical humming.

 “Nothing yet,” comes the response, a little testier, “Try thinking about something else.”

 He tries thinking about something else.

 ****************************************************************

 The slaughter echoed all around as he wandered off towards the unsettling sound.

 It was a house party, 2003. He’d gone along in the hope of impressing Christabel Whitchurch. The living room door was closed, the sound of swordplay ringing out from within. He knocked and entered, was pleased to see Christabel there, watching a DVD with Alan Thetford.

 “What you watching?” He asked.

 “Hamlet,” Thetford replied, “Seen it?” There was a hint of challenge in his voice. Ashley looked at Christabel, saw she was waiting for his response. If he pitched it right, he thought, he might have a chance with her. 

 “What you want to watch rubbish like that?”  He sneered at Thetford, looking at Christabel to gauge her reaction. Bafflingly, she seemed unimpressed.  He was forced to improvise, “You want to watch a proper film, like Die Hard.”

 “Think we’ll stick with this, Ash,” said Thetford, unnecessarily gently, “Join us if you like.”  Christabel Whitchurch just looked at the floor. Ten minutes later,  Ashley was walking home alone.

 ****************************************************************

He blushed thinking about it, wondering if he’d spontaneously combust in the confined space.

 “What about now?” He yells out,  growing claustrophobic and tired of reliving past failings.

 “Just keep still,” the voice suggests, “Maybe think back a bit further.”

 He does.

 ****************************************************************

 The childish  laughter echoed all around the assembly hall. He wandered off,tottering backwards.  The jelly was almost setting and there were gallons of  Sunny Delight to drink.

 “How’s your party going, Ashley-Pashley?” asked his mum from the service hatch of the kitchen. “It’s not every day my little man turns eight.”

 “It’s rubbish,” he lied. It hadn’t been, he’d just lost pass the parcel and was feeling sore.

 “Rubbish?” She asked, still smiling. He should have stopped then.  He didn’t.

 “It’s boring.  Clive Butler had a clown for his party. “

 “But you said you didn’t want a clown. We did you  a disco, like you wanted.”

 “It’s a crap disco.”

 His dad came out from being the sausage rolls to intervene.

 “What’s up?”  He asked, curious, not yet angry.

 “He doesn’t like his party,” his mum answered, her eyes moist, her lips trembling.

 “Because it’s a crap party,” he yelled, “You should have let me stay at home.”

 His mum started crying as his dad, shaking with anger led him into the kitchen and told him to wait there until the party was over.  They didn’t even let him hand out the party bags in the end.

 ****************************************************************

 Thirty years on, he still feels the guilt.

 “You must have something now,” he says.

 “It’s bang normal,”  breezes the doctor.

 “You sure?”  Asks Ashley, sliding out of the scanner.

 “Positive, Mr Henderson. No abnormality detected.  It’s a completely unremarkable functional MRI.”

 “So there’s…?”

 “Nothing wrong with you? No.”

 “But…what about all mistakes I’ve made? If there’s nothing wrong with my brain, wouldn’t that mean it’s…”

 “Your fault?” The doctor asks. Ashley nods.  The doctor continues.  “Of course it’s your fault.”

 “But…”

 “Mr Henderson, the only thing wrong with you is that you’re a twerp,”

 “A twerp?”

 “A little makem twerp,”  The doctor pauses, allowing time for the diagnosis to sink in.  “Don’t worry, Ashley, most people are.  It comes with the territory, doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you..”

 “But…there’s got to be a reason why I do the things I do.”

 “There isn’t. You’re just a twerp.”

 “There must be more to it.  Just let me go in the scanner again, I’ll prove it.”

 “There’s no point.  It’ll only turn up the same results.”

 Ashley sucks his teeth, “Listen, doc, I got BUPA.”

 The doctor sighs.  “Alright, then, one more go. Get in the scanner. Maybe think of something happier this time.”

 “Knew you’d see sense in the end, Doc,” Ashley chuckles as he slides back into the scanner.  He closes his eyes and reminisces.

****************************************************************

 The laughter echoed all around as he wandered off towards the setting sun.

 

 

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