Flash Fiction: Sucks to be You

This flash fiction piece is inspired by a particularly weird ‘stock photo’ found at Buzzfeed. I will link to the picture after the story, because I want to see if the story stands on its own without the picture backing it up.

Hope you enjoy.

—–

Detective Hernandez’s eyes widened as the informant entered his office.

He blinked, looked down at his clipboard, then back up at the man. “Brock… er, Brock Candy?”

The informant nodded, his head bobbing up and down along with the giant lollipop. Brock’s tongue stuck to one spot near the top of the lollipop. When Detective Hernandez examined the big candy, its swirls almost seemed to rotate, threatening to draw him in.

“Aye ‘ee um ell,” Brock said.

That brought Hernandez back to the man holding the oversized sucker. Caucasian male in his sixties, thick framed glasses and… backwards baseball cap? Stained wifebeater?

“We will help you,” Hernandez replied, “when you help us.”

Brock’s sigh indicated that Hernandez has correctly interpreted the muffled words. The sigh also dribbled the older man’s spittle onto the detective’s desk.

Hernandez scanned the clipboard. “You said you’re a middle manager at Confectioners Coalition, right?” Brock nodded. “How did you find out about our investigation?”

Brock shrugged and raised an eyebrow.

“I… see,” said Hernandez, who was not so sure that he did. “What level of access do you have to the Confectioners financials?”

“I cah thee ih aww,” Brock assured him, his tongue providing little assistance to his diction, being planted firmly on the candy disc. “Dogetheh, we cah dake eh doww.”

“You understand, sir, that your company is dangerous?” Hernandez flipped a few pages. “Three months ago, we tracked a shipment of highly dangerous materials to the Confectioners warehouse, and your Vice Presidents have been seen with dangerous criminals.”

Nodding again, Brock fished in the collar of his wifebeater and withdrew a wilted cigar. Plugging the cigar into his mouth beside the lollipop, he asked, “Godda lighd?”

“This is serious, Mr. Candy, and there’s no smoking in the building.” Hernandez thought about the cigarettes burning a hole in his pocket, right next to the Thickers bar. Both were products of Confectioners Coalition. He could not decide which one he wanted more right now.

He stared Brock down until the old man tucked his cigar back down his shirt. “Could you please put away the lollipop?”

This time, Brock shook his head. “Can’t,” Hernandez interpreted from his grunt.

“Why not? We need to focus, and there’s not much time before–”

“Cursed,” Brock said, though it took three tries before the the detective understood the word. “Cursed lollipop,” Brock clarified.

“What do you mean?” A chill crept up Hernandez’s spine. “We’ve heard rumors about Confectioners Coalition getting into bed with supposedly powerful magic practitioners, but–”

“It’s true,” Brock said around the lollipop. “They knew I would come talk to you, and did this to shut me up.”

“But… but why?”

Brock shrugged. “I need help,” he repeated.

Detective Hernandez leaned back in his chair. The springs creaked and popped beneath him; Hernandez had himself been a victim of Confectioners Coalition unparalleled success. No one understood how their candy had sold so well, how people could just not stop eating them.

“Is it a step further in the addiction scheme?” Hernandez asked, running his hand across the lump that the Thickers bar raised in his pocket.

Brock shook his head. “Different.” He pulled the lollipop forward and stretched out his tongue. “Stuck.”

This case was too important to let slide. The upper brass, Hernandez knew, were already sliding into the pockets of Confectioners Coalition. If someone did not get this before the courts soon, there was no telling what the future would hold.

Aside from a spike in insulin sales.

“If I help you,” Hernandez said, pacing the words of the offer to hide his reluctance. “You will help us. You will help us find out what the Confectioners are doing to us.”

A vigorous nod this time. Brock did not even bother to affect a smile anymore. His tongue must be sore. How long had he been stuck that way?

“Tell me what to do.”

After Brock Candy explained, Hernandez leaned back again, this time repulsed rather than contemplative.

“Only way,” Brock insisted.

Too much riding on this, Hernandez knew. If he didn’t secure Brock’s help, who knew when another witness would come available? “Okay.”

Brock leaned over the desk, leaving a line of drool across the wood. Fighting his impulse to retreat, Hernandez leaned closer as well.

Hernandez stuck out his tongue, pointing it at the big candy disc.

The moment the tip touched, Hernandez halted.

The lollipop fell away from Brock’s face and the sudden weight dragged on Hernandez’s tongue.

No, thought Hernandez as he grasped for the cardboard stick beneath the candy. No!

The lollipop remained affixed to his tongue as Brock smacked his lips and rubbed his jaw. “Thank you,” Brock said.

“Wha’ joo do?” Hernandez demanded. Brock ignored him and pulled out the cigar from his hairy cleavage, lighting it with a match from the same. “Ge’ thi’ ohha me!”

“No can do, Detective,” Brock said with a grin. “The Confectioners want to make sure you understand how we feel about your little investigation.”

“Buh…” Hernandez said.

Brock laughed. “Only two ways to get rid of that sucker, sucker. You saw one, make someone else lick it. The other…” He reached forward and twisted the lollipop so that Hernandez could see the other side.

Three fleshy lumps stuck to the candy in various positions. The blood drained from Hernandez’s face.

“Either way, you won’t be doing much talking,” Brock said. “Remember that, and maybe we’ll keep you in cigs and Thickers bars.”

Brock stood from the chair, puffed his cigar, and dusted off his grimy wifebeater. He exited the office, laughing.

Hernandez stared down at the lollipop that had become a permanent fixture in his life.

The lollipop tasted like bubblegum.

—–

The picture may be found on this page, picture number 4 on this list.

—–

The story is over now, folks. Here I just blather on about the extended process that went into its creation, and the death of of story to give life to this one. It’s like the behind-the-scenes ‘bonus’ content. All opinions absolutely reflect my own opinions.

(This was originally written to be an independent post, so try to disregard anything that seems a bit schizophrenic.)

Any levelheaded writer (and even plenty who are not levelheaded, no doubt) will tell you that not every story produced by that writer is great. Some are kind of bad. Some are just terrible.

I recently wrote a really crappy story in response to a flash fiction challenge over on Chuck Wendig’s blog. It was a difficult prompt, largely because it said nothing more than, “Here’s a picture, now give me a thousand word story.” About 800 words in, I realized that my ‘story’ was stupid, had no meaning, and, within 200 words of the maximum word count of the challenge, hadn’t actually started yet.

I ran into two major problems, I think. First, the story I attempted was ‘funny,’ or at least based on a funny idea. The picture was ridiculous, so I thought I needed to write a ridiculous story to go with it. I’m discovering, however, that writing straight up humor is not my strength. Sure, I can put humorous situations into otherwise serious stories, but I will never be Douglas Adams.

Second, the story was too complex. In a thousand words, I hoped to convey: the preposterous situation — one character who found himself, through no fault of his own, with the police thinking he was holding hostages; a police detective who was handling the hostage crisis and dealing with dumb bosses; a specialized hostage negotiator that dealt exclusively with candy-store related hostage situations. Funny idea, difficult execution. Even trying to mix the story up as I went along just made matters more confusing… as no doubt you can see in my attempt to summarize the idea. And, like I said, I had not gotten around to working anything resembling a ‘plot’ yet.

So I stepped back and looked at what I liked in those 800 words. There was not much, but I managed to extract a few elements.

Obviously, I was stuck with my ridiculous, lollipop carrying man from the picture. I decided to go ahead and keep the stupid name, Brock Candy, because I thought it would be good enough for my purposes. I also liked the police detective with boss troubles. He seemed like a good straightman to contrast the ridiculous Brock Candy.

Then I started thinking… what could I do that would play closer to my strengths? The old man with his ‘hip’ clothing and gigantic candy is sort of disarmingly creepy. You can see that something is wrong there, but it’s probably just some sort of diabetic shell shock. But… and this is where I thrive, turning situations on their head… what if Mr. Brock Candy was actually somehow more sinister? What if there’s a reason he can’t pull himself away from that lollipop?

Once I started thinking a little closer to home, the story pulled itself together. Of course there is a criminal organization that uses secret magic to get the public addicted to its sweets. Of course there is a cursed lollipop that won’t let its taster go. Of course there’s a police detective who sees the problem and is the only one in a position to take them down, and of course there’s someone who wants to try and stop him.

I guess the story ended up as a kind of cross between a Grimm fairy tale and a police-vs-monsters story. In that way, I suspect I may have been pretty derivative, but for a thousand word story, I think that’s not such a big deal. (Besides, wasn’t it around 3000 years ago that someone complained, “That which has been is what will be, That which is done is what will be done, And there is nothing new under the sun.”?)

Even so, I am unnecessarily proud of myself for writing this story. Not because it is an achievement of literary genius, nor is it even really that great. What I represents to me, though, is not giving up on a story because it was too difficult. I have left quite a few flash fiction stories along the wayside in the last year or so. Part of me thinks I should go back and try to recover those works, but looking at them tells me that may not be the best option. I honestly don’t remember where I was going with quite a few of the stories.

However, I would like to take this victory and try and commit to not leaving behind any other stories. Sure, there will be some that I finish and never let anyone else see them ever because they suck, but finishing the story gives my brain closure, and I learn something. I learned something from the bad story I wrote about the non-hostage situation, and took the good stuff from that and formed a story that was better suited to my strengths.

Anyone else have some weird stories sitting unfinished in the crypts?

4 thoughts on “Flash Fiction: Sucks to be You

  1. Story stands on its own, no problem; actually, now that I think about it, so do all the stories except for the three-liner. Skin-crawling last line. I confess a bit of envy as I had absolutely no ideas looking at that picture.

    The post-game analysis is really helpful, because I went through a similar process in writing mine; I sorted through various notions and decided to go with the kind of idea that is my kind of idea. What arrived had a life of its own, as yours does.

    1. Thanks for the feedback. The post-game helped me process my own thoughts, so it’s even better that someone else found it useful. BTW, I do not think I would’ve picked that pic on my own. That’s the danger (and beauty?) of rolling the dice.

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