Monday, April 11, 2011

Terribleminds Flash Fiction Challenge

Chuck Wendig posted a flash fiction challenge on his blog, Terribleminds. The challenge was to write a 500-word-max story named after a cocktail.

Here’s my attempt at exactly 500 words.

Swimming Pool
by Pia Newman

As soon as we stepped onto the patio and saw the swimming pool spread before us, I knew this was the perfect location. The house was like all the others; a sprawling edifice of concrete and glass on the top of a hill, displaying the obligatory view over the city. But the house wasn’t the criteria for which I’d been rejecting one property after the other these past few weeks. It was the swimming pool and its location that interested me.

The trees and bushes surrounding this garden, terrace and pool provided a pocket of intimacy in the middle of the city. Nobody could peek in, neither from the sides nor from a house on the slope above. Perfect.

“This one,” I said to both my husband and the estate agent. The latter’s eyes immediately brightened, whereas Bjorn’s sparked with annoyance.

“How’s this house different from the previous ten thousand we’ve looked at?” he demanded to know.

“It has the most… possibilities,” I murmured.

“What? Speak up, for God’s sake.”

I knew better than to actually do that, especially because Bjorn had already turned to the estate agent and was talking to him. The estate agent answered his questions, completely ignoring me. He’d quickly learned that Bjorn didn’t take him seriously if he tried including me in the discussions about prices, garage space, sauna sizes and tennis courts.

I tried to listen to them, but my gaze and thoughts kept flitting back to the pool. I felt a long forgotten tension inside me and hoped Bjorn wouldn’t find a reason not to take this property. The prospect of having to openly defy my husband was making me wring the handle of my handbag between my hands.  

“Well, that rules this one out,” I heard Bjorn say. “I want a Jacuzzi with a view, not some dank hole in the cellar. Sorry, Grace.” I could tell by his voice he wasn’t sorry at all. He’d come up with this threadbare excuse just to spite me.

My heart stomped through my chest like a giant with steel-capped boots as I squashed the urge to accept his decision in demure silence. I took a deep breath.

“We’ll take it,” I told the estate agent.

“Shut up, Grace” Bjorn said, “you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I know a lot more than you think,” I said calmly. “About Rita, for example.”

For the first time in over fifteen years of marriage, I saw Bjorn speechless. Here was my chance to speak and I grabbed it.

“I don’t care, you know. I don’t even care anymore that you won’t get a divorce because of your precious image. I want this house. You do this one thing for me, and I’ll try my best to help you make sure nobody ever forgets you.”

I’d make sure alright. A former world champion swimmer mysteriously drowning in his own swimming pool? He would go down in history. And, for once, we’d both have exactly what we wanted.

Please tell me: Was this too predictable? I'm never sure I don't give too much away in the beginning...


  1. Great job Pia! I do not think it was too predictable, though I do believe that some people might be able to figure it out... I thought you did a lovely job building my curiosity as a reader (my first thought - is she a mermaid seeking a spot to revert to her natural form?) Good job with tension between Grace and Bjorn - and you establish him as an increasingly unlikable, spiteful enough character that I am actually happy that she is planning to murder him - but not so evil that his murder is a forgone conclusion. Your narrator remains sympathetic... but I am left wondering about Rita... probably a good thing :-) A complete piece in 500 words. ~Demeter

  2. *phew* Thanks, Demeter! I'm glad her plans seem ... justified. :-)

    I actually had a little more information about the Rita-situation but deleted it when I realized that I was quite a bit over the suggested 500 words. I think/hope the gist of what it's about is still clear... I also originally had the info in there somehwere that this story takes place about thirty to forty years ago, when divorce wasn't as easy and accepted as it is today... that he doesn't want a divorce because of his image makes more sense then, IMO.

    Great to see you're still lurking around the writersphere! :-)

  3. I didn't think it was too predictable. I thought the tension was nicely done. 500 words is hard. Nice job.

  4. This is now my favorite of the challenge. I lked how you made the reader raise a question. "Why does she want the privacy?" It could have ended in many ways, for privé parties, her lover, skinny dipping.

  5. Wow, what a nice compliment. I'm glad you liked it so much. Thank you Angie!
    Oooh, skinny dipping... you're giving me ideas. ;-)

    Thanks to you too, Bea. Yes, 500 words is rather challenging. It's a great way to train yourself to figure out what's important and what not.

  6. Well done! I think you manage a nice pace through careful balance of dialogue and description. Go Grace!

  7. I knew it was going to be big, but I didn't know it was going to be THAT. :) Well done!