Enjoy some exclusive flash fiction from Feedback author D. L. Richardson.
Another Ruined Birthday
By D L Richardson
He walks through the front door, late as usual, dressed worse than the fellas who came to clean the gutters yesterday. He’s sweating, like he’s run all the way from High-Horse to Home, but I can see the sway in his walk and hear the slur in his voice. He’s drunk again.
Grace hugs him and fusses over him while I boil with rage, hotter than potatoes. Never mind me sitting in the corner like a pot-plant wearing a stupid paper hat. And I can see that he’s come empty-handed again. Another birthday ruined. He might as well go home and let me get back to staring out the window.
I never wanted a birthday party, not this year, not last, but Grace insists we do this over and over and over, as though practice will make it perfect. For some reason she thinks birthdays are the glue that hold a family together. I’d tell her not to bother, but it would be useless. Grace loves to entertain, loves to float about the room and torture us all with her cooking and home-made decorations. I just wish this day and the rest of all my days would hurry up and be over.
I know they’re conspiring against me. I’m not deaf. I can hear their muffled whispers, like mice in the walls; they’re always talking about me knowing full well I’m in the same bloody room as them. Damned right I’m angry. Seeing them like this…
I knew this day was coming. I count the days from one birthday to the next. Still, it scares the shit out of me when it creeps up and taps me on the shoulder and says, okay mate, time to go. I tell myself it’ll be better this year. Then I remember last year and the year before that and so on. Every one of these birthday parties are a cruel family joke, nothing will have changed. If anything his eyes will glare more hotly at me, almost bore right through me. He’ll glare his hatred at me and mum like we’re to blame for everything gone wrong in the world.
Five more hours till I’m supposed to leave and already I’m a nervous wreck. My stomach is churning and the thought of breakfast makes me gag. There’s nothing much to eat anyway; my fridge is a place where mould goes for a holiday. Mostly its only beer and jam in the fridge and the occasional tray of sausages. I grab a beer to calm my nerves. Save the jam and sausages for when I’m really desperate.
The first beer does the trick. I start to loosen up. I begin to see a lift to my lips that looks like a smile. I practice this facial move so he can see a smile instead of the look of a man about to meet his executioner. Less than a minute later I grab another beer, this one should give me the courage to call mum and cancel. To hell with dad’s birthday, so many have been ruined now, why break tradition?
Seven beers later I’m giggling with delight about going to a birthday party, even if it is his and I know it’ll be a shit fight. I haven’t bothered with a present. There’s nothing I could give dad that he’d want.
I finally get myself and the car there in one piece and mum stops me at the door like she’s a nightclub bouncer. Her eyes dart about my face, avoiding landing on my line of sight. I avoid looking into her eyes too. It’s a thing mum and I do, but not dad. No, he stares at us both like we’re plotting against him.
Mum releases her hold on me and I’m left staring at the carpet like a naughty boy. He knows I’m drunk. He’s still got his wits about him all right. God, I hate coming here. Seeing him like this…
I know Charles thinks I fuss unnecessarily. He always used to tell me off for hanging too many Christmas decorations, for making too many painted eggs at Easter, for making too much gravy. And I know he’d rather skip this birthday party if only because he doesn’t like wearing hats, but it’s not like we have anything better to do. And it’s one day, for goodness sake. One day where I can pretend everything is like it used to be when we were a happy family. I know it’s silly of me to expect it to be like it was, but a mother never stops trying where her family are concerned.
Charles used to be such a happy man. He’s angry all the time now. I can see the hatred in his eyes clear as day. It’s enough to make me drink. I just hope Michael can’t smell the sherry on my breath. I’m so riddled with guilt about it that I avoid looking him in the eye when he comes to visit.
This hatred is all that’s left of Charles now. Still, I should be thankful for small measures. The doctors gave him three months to live after the stroke. That was six years ago. I think hatred is keeping him alive. But the anger is growing inside him like tar, it’s black and thick and it sludges slowly through his veins, consuming every drop of humanity inside him. And when the tar sets it’s what props his body up, a body that been immobile from the neck down since the stroke. That’s what I think anyway. He’d never tell me. He lost the power of speech with the stroke, but conversation between us was becoming one-sided long before the stroke.
But his eyes…his eyes scare me the most. They blaze with increasing hatred with each new morning. Still, I wear my brave face and pretend everything is okay, because it hurts too much to see him like this…
Ethan James, Florida Bowman, and Jake Inala need organ transplants. When they receive the organs of a dead CIA agent, Dylan Black, they take on more than the task of completing the mission of deactivating bombs that threaten millions of lives. Kidnapped, their lives under threat, the memories stored in the CIA agent’s mind begin to awaken within each of them, except the one piece of information they are abducted for – the location of the bombs.
Genre: YA paranormal
Wednesday, November 9th, Ethan James
AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” blared through the speakers. Apt music considering the weather conditions. Rain pounded the windshield of the Lamborghini. Crushed beneath the noisy rain, the music took a beating, too. I flipped the volume control to the max, drowning out the steady slap of water on the roof.
The dark shroud of night cloaked the striped lines to my left and right. Street signs blasted yellow warnings to drivers to slow down on wet roads. I ignored them.
Instead, I pushed the car to 120 miles per hour. Coming around a curve in the road, I flew up on a van and sharply jerked the wheel to avoid ramming the Lamborghini up its rear end. I owed my life to my quick reflexes.
I drove for another half mile at suicidal speeds, drumming my fingers on the steering wheel to the rhythm of the guitar riff. Another half mile. Then another. Just when the buzz of the ride plunged to a level of indifference, the car hit a pothole, veered me across three lanes, and like a punch from nowhere, it was game on.
A tsunami-sized wave of water fell from the sky. Momentarily blinded by the useless wipers, I sucked in my breath when two rows of lights cut through the haze. Two white lights on the bottom and six or more yellow ones on top—the bright circles headed straight at me.
Semitrailer. Not good.
Gritting my teeth, I tightened my grip on the steering wheel. The truck swerved at the last second, missing killing me by about half that length of time. The driver blasted four long bleats of the horn.
I laughed out loud as I spun around.
I accelerated till the car caught up to its former 120 miles per hour. The chorus kicked in, and I helped with the backing vocals. “Thunder. Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na. Thunder.”
Whether driving under a dome of blue, or a sky darkened by storms like tonight, I liked to push cars to their limit. It didn’t matter what sort of car, but slow cars tended to break apart sooner under extreme pressure. Fast cars handled the punishment of driving at stupid speeds much better.
Speeding made the rush last longer. It filled a void and carried me to a place where I let go of the angst over a waste of a life spent waiting to die of kidney failure. The rush reminded me that seventeen-year-old kids should wish for a professional ice hockey career instead of wishing to still be alive by Christmas.
The song ended, and in that second of silence, my thrill took a dismal nosedive. Images of the hospital I attended every week flickered across my vision. So, I increased the speed. Bad enough the bleak place filled my head and haunted my dreams, but to interrupt my fun—not going to happen.
The next song on the CD kicked in, and it did the trick of hauling me back to the driver’s seat, where I replaced the hospital corridor for a rain-slicked freeway. I figured if I had to die young, I’d do it on my terms. No doubt the doctors would have something to say about this philosophy. If I crashed the car and ended up in the hospital, I’d tell them I reached out to touch life. Better than dwelling on my postpubescent life spent hooked up to a dialysis machine.
I’d probably get pulled over by the cops first, and I couldn’t have that. Aside from speeding, I’d stolen the Lamborghini from a mall parking lot half an hour earlier, and I didn’t have a license.
A crack in my concentration appeared like the lightning bolts streaking the sky. The car drifted into the next lane, and I let it go. A set of lights rushed toward me, and I expertly got the car under control, but at this speed, and despite the car’s sporting capability, the Lamborghini was all over the shot.
Buzzed from pushing the car, I kept going.
At 120 miles per hour, streetlights floated like satiny, white ribbons. The rain-slicked road made it impossible to judge the lines marking the lanes. Curves were hard to anticipate.
Sometimes I oversteered; sometimes I didn’t steer enough and had to yank the wheel to the left or right at the last second. Other drivers blasted their horns. I didn’t care about the rules of the road. Rules were for pussies.
For each minute I survived this suicidal cruise, I’d get two points. So far, I’d accumulated over two hundred. Fifty were up for grabs, if I made it home alive. I had a lot to lose if I crashed the car. I had nothing to lose if I killed myself.
I jumped in surprise when a car came up on my left and honked its horn, whizzing by in a blur of chrome. “I don’t think so, buddy.”
I accelerated. If the cops wanted to stop me, they’d have to use air support. Getting myself on TV only added to the thrill of the chase.
Concern over my reckless driving should have registered, but it didn’t. The speedometer now read 140 miles per hour. AC/DC screeched about “Hells Bells,” and the rain didn’t lessen. If I lost control now, I’d smash into the concrete barriers lining the highway. It’d be game over. No way I’d survive the impact. What a shame this last train of thought wasn’t on whether I’d survive or not, but on whether I’d care.
Lightning bolts exploded across the sky and lit up the windshield. In that brief flicker of visibility, I spotted the plane on fire, blocking the highway—and the spaceship blowing up a bridge with luminous green laser beams. I let go of the wheel, idly watching the Lamborghini plow into the concrete barrier. Metal fragments and orange flames danced in front of me. The sound of something exploding boomed through the speakers. The words GAME OVER flashed across the television screen.
The plane had been okay, but the spaceship insulted me. For sure, the makers of the game reckoned it’d be a hoot to throw unrealistic obstacles in my path.
I tossed the Xbox controller aside and scratched my numb backside. My life couldn’t get any worse…might as well go to school.
About the Author
Music first captured the creative interest of D L Richardson. She got her first acoustic guitar at age ten, and in high school she sang with the school band. When she left school she helped form her own rock band where she sang lead vocals, played bass guitar, and wrote all the lyrics. At age 26 she realized she wanted to write novels for the rest of her life, or die trying, so she sold her equipment, quit pursuing a music career and began writing instead. She currently lives in Australia on the NSW South Coast with her husband and dog. When she’s not writing or reading she can be found practicing her piano, playing the guitar or walking the dog.
Find D. L. Richardson
Win a fabulous Feedback swag bag from D. L. Richardson that includes a poster, bookmark, and postcards. The giveaway runs from December 28, 2012-January 3, 2013. You can enter here.