Tagged: money

Conflict of Interest

Flash Fiction Month 2019, Day 23

Challenge  #10: Write a story involving something that sparkles, and someone who wants to steal it.

“On behalf of Ólafsson and Sons, I’d like to thank you for banking with us and—”

“Ahem.”

Grundi Gunnarsson and Frig Hjörleifsdóttir turned to stare at the dragon who had just poked his head (and most of his neck) through the window.

“I don’t mean to interrupt,” said the dragon, “but I have a proposition that I think you’ll want to hear.”

“I’m sorry,” said Frig, “but this isn’t a good time.”

“I’m afraid it’s the only time.” The dragon poked its beaky snout towards the cloth pouch on the table. “It pertains to those sparkly jewels of yours, so naturally I must put the idea forward before you entrust them to the care of this establishment.”

“I really don’t think that—”

“Hang on.” Grundi put up a hand. “Let’s at least hear the creature out.”

“Well, Ólafsson and Sons is a fine institution with plenty of satisfied customers who trust them with their treasure, but have you at least considered the dragon-guarding option?” Continue reading

Demon in a Copper Case

Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 28

Times were hard in Singstoat. The rebar in the ruins was all but mined-out, and the old city—the twisting nest of structures that had once made the fortune of many an investor—had become a blight on the new. All the crops for miles around were feeble from the dust, so the people of Singstoat had no trade left to fall back on.

There were those who did alright. Bicca the Blacksmith was one—for there was still enough steel in the stores—yet someday soon even her trade would dwindle to naught. Myke, her rival, was already resigned to giving up his business: a streetfall last year had robbed him of his apprentice, and he saw no point in two smithies struggling where one might thrive.

Owhen wished he could give up so easily. He had inherited his business—a shop set up to serve the miners who now fled—and with it a large debt. He could afford to move no more than he could afford to stay. Continue reading

The Dragon’s Lamp

Flash Fiction Month 2016, Day 30

The corpse of the dragon lay steaming upon the floor, the marks of its wrath seared permanently into the cavern walls. Yet the heroes stood victorious. Leaving the dragon to stink and smoulder, they ventured deeper into its lair, appraising the stock of treasure the winged terror had amassed across the ages.

“This will ease the suffering of our land…” observed Khemaghan the Keen, lifting a gem-studded chalice, worth several fortunes on its own.

“…but it will not repair the devastation that the beast has wrought.” Quilbar the Quick was troubled by the same thought.

“We beat it,” said Skondar the Strong, speaking firmly as ever. “We won. It’s over.”

But from the bones of the dragon, there sprang forth a new threat. For in its hoard—beyond the reach of mortal man for years known only to the gods—there stood a copper lamp upon a bare pedestal. In every other room, gold and jewels had lain strewn across the floor, a careless bed for the vile serpent.

In this room, the floor was bare. A perfect, solid circle of clear stone marked a perimeter about the pedestal, as though gold and silver feared to draw too close to the base metal that stood atop it.

Continue reading

Small Print

Flash Fiction Month 2016, Day 19

“Alright, Ms. Gibson. Just a few more questions—purely a formality, I assure you—before we approve your loan.” Mr. Smith of Smith, Smith, and Smith Associates brought up the relevant form on his computer screen.

“Okay,” said Ms. Gibson. “Ask away.”

“Very good. Question one: have you ever kicked a puppy off a cliff, collected Nazi paraphernalia, or done that thing where you accidentally bite the inside of your cheek while eating?”

“Wait, what?”

“It’s a simple yes or no question, Ms. Gibson.” Mr. Smith folded his hands. “Have you ever kicked a puppy off a cliff, collected Nazi paraphernalia, or accidentally bitten the inside of your cheek while eating?”

“I don’t understand.”

“For our purposes, a puppy is defined as any dog under one year old,” explained Mr. Smith. “If that helps.” Continue reading

Tree Rings

Flash Fiction Month 2016, Day 1

Challenge #4*: Write a story of precisely 1,000 words, including at least 15 examples of jargon or slang. It must include a flashback and a flashforward, but with the exception of these sections the story must take place within a single day. The story must also include a fossil, an hourglass, a broken clock, an old lady’s wrinkled face, and tree rings.

Ron jabbed his shovel into the earth. Or he would have if there had been any earth available. Instead, for the seventh time in a row, he hit a big rock lurking just beneath the surface. It was like the rocks were following him around. Rocks were crafty that way. Blisters stinging from the sudden jolt, he straightened up to have a stretch. He could remember the conversation that led him here, way out in the middle of nowhere, like it was yesterday…

You know that guy Mike? The one who was all like ‘I’m gonna be a famous footballer, you’ll see!’ and then stopped turning up at school before he even got his GCSEs?” Jenny flipped over the souvenir hourglass Ron had brought her back from the Isle of Wight, watching the sand trickle through.

Yeah?”

He ended up planting trees in British Columbia.”

Hahaha! What a loser.”

Nah.” The sand having run through, Jenny flipped the hourglass once more. “Turns out he actually made a shedload of money doing it.”

Wait, seriously?…”

And that was it. Or at least, Ron was reasonably confident that was it. Now that he thought a little further back, he may also have seen something about the whole tree planting setup on TV beforehand. It wasn’t clear. He’d accidentally swallowed a tiny bit of petrol earlier that day trying to siphon fuel from the generator into the quad bike to avoid having to walk to the planting site, and he was beginning to suspect that it was messing with his brain. It had certainly stripped most of the skin off the roof of his mouth.

Only one thing was certain. You had to be crazy to try planting a thousand trees a day.

“You’re never gonna be a highballer if you keep stoppin’ all the time like a big wet wuss.”

Ethan was a case in point.

“We’ve got all day,” groaned Ron. “Quit hassling me every time I take a two second break.”

Ethan pointed at the smashed-up station-style clock the loggers had left behind while clear-cutting the place. “It ain’t break time.”

“That thing hasn’t worked since we found it.”

“It. Ain’t. Break. Time.”

Ethan was very much a case in point.

“You’re not the boss of me!” It sounded even dumber when Ron said it than it had in his head, but he carried on regardless. “You get paid per tree. That means you can take a break whenever you want.”

“Nope.” Ethan looked insufferably smug. “You get paid per tree. That means you’ve gotta bag out as quick as you can, and bag up again even quicker. Screef for show, plant for dough!”

Ron wasn’t sure what “screef” meant, but he’d heard about enough cache whores and slutty trees (and sexy trees for that matter) to guess that it wasn’t good—though at the same time it probably wasn’t as sexual as it sounded. At least he hoped it wasn’t. However, he couldn’t think of anything to say in response, so instead he just went back to digging.

That was, if anything, the problem. Ron knew he shouldn’t have to actually dig holes to do this: he should just be able to stick the shovel in, push a sapling in beside it, then pull the shovel out, nice and neat. As it was, the whole block was raw land full of red rot, and as a result his work for the day was probably worth a grand total of about eight dollars. Less if the bean-counters decided that the planting wasn’t up to scratch, and some of those trees were looking very slutty indeed.

Ron took a step forward and found that his not particularly neat row of trees was going to be further disrupted by a massive, rotting tree stump squatting right in the middle of his line. The thing was probably a thousand years old. Or a hundred. Or whatever. Ron could see it had a lot of rings, but didn’t know how the whole ring counting thing was supposed to work.

“You’ve got rookie stare,” said Ethan. “What’s up?”

Ron was going to say something about how Ethan should stop watching him and get on with planting if he was so enthusiastic about making all that dough, but instead he just sighed.

“This job sucks,” he said at last. “You come all the way out here, you do the same thing over and over again all day every day, and it’s really hard, and it costs you just to be here. I had to buy this stupid shovel and everything. Even if I stick around until the end of the season, I’m still probably going to end up owing my boss money.”

Ethan put a hand on his shoulder. “Yeah,” he said, consolingly. “This year’s pretty much gonna suck for you.”

“Thanks. I feel loads better.”

“But next year—if you make sure there’s a next year—you won’t be a rookie. And the year after that, you might be a highballer. And then…” he stood up tall, doing a kind of fist on chest salute. “Then it’ll suck less.”

“Great.”

There was a pause. Ron squinted at a rock he was pretty sure was actually a fossil. Although he would have been more sure if he knew anything about fossils, or the geology of this bit of Ontario, or generally anything that would allow him to identify such things. He really wished he hadn’t tried to siphon that generator.

“Look,” said Ethan, “I’ll level with you. It’s this, or head back early and face Ms. Andrews being disappointed with you for the rest of the day. Whaddaya say?”

Forty minutes later, Ron would be trudging back across the campsite, Ms. Andrews’ wrinkled face scowling at him all the way from the hatch of the food truck, her silent disapproval boring deep into his brain.

But he would be planting again the next year.

And the next.

And Ethan would be right: it would suck less.

Continue reading