Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Black Earth Flash Fiction #1 - Pizza Ambush

Back in 2010, when Black Earth: End of the Innocence - Book 1 in my Black Earth series - was released, I also released five separate flash fiction stories that I inconspicuously hid on my website for fans to find. Since close to nobody knew what the Black Earth series was even about, I didn't have much success getting the stories read.

I've dug them out of the vault (my hard drive) and am releasing them in blog posts - one each Wednesday for the next five Wednesdays. I also have plans to make them available on my  website in the very near future.

Each flash fiction story pertains to one specific character from the Black Earth series - Cynthia Ruin, Heather Rhodes, Howard Grey, Nathan Pierce, and Daisy Pierce - and each takes place shortly before the events of End of the Innocence unfold.

So without further ado, here is the first of the five flash fiction pieces:  

Pizza Ambush -
“So, Nathan, what did you say you were going to college for?”

He set his slice of pepperoni pizza down on his plate. “Astronomy.”

“Astronomy?” Shannon’s mother asked, startled at the answer.

He nodded, picking his pizza back up. He crammed it in his mouth and took a large bite, hoping that he wouldn’t be able to answer anymore of her stupid questions for a little while.

Shannon, who was sitting to his right, turned to him with a bright smile on her face. “I told my mom that you might want to check out other interests when you actually get down to the college."

He took a few moments, chewing his pizza with a slow regard for the crowd he was with. Shannon’s father, Gary Cook, was at the end of the table minding his own business. He looked up occasionally, giving Nathan an evil glare when he did. Shannon’s mother, Christina Cook, seemed intent on interrogating him until he died there in the pizza parlor, but what could he expect from a psychiatrist? And then there was Shannon, who wasn’t all that supportive of his academic pursuits to begin with. What was he doing with her again?

He was almost done chewing but decided to slow it down a bit, desiring to tally up better things he could be doing at the moment, like playing his Playstation 2 or hanging out with Heather. Taking a walk on the surface of the sun sounded good too, but he would opt for the two previous things first before looking into that.

“Nathan, did you hear what my mom asked you?”

He snapped out of his daze, swallowing the finely chewed pizza. “What?”

Christina adjusted her glasses and glared at him. “I asked what your plans for a job are after you graduate high school.”

“I’m going to apply at the grocery store.”

She scowled. Shannon shifted uncomfortably in her chair. He moved ‘walking on the sun’ to the top of his list.

“Dear, you can’t be serious. You’re going into college on a limited income. You can’t expect to handle all of your finances by working at the local supermarket.”

“I won’t really have any expenses. I’ll be living with my family.”

“What about when you and I want to go out?”

He turned to Shannon. “What are you talking about?”

“How are you going to pay for our dates?”

“Yes, I too am curious how you’re going to take care of my daughter. She may be older than you, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have certain social responsibilities.”

What are these crazy’s talking about?

He glanced over to Gary. The man looked up, glared at him, and then went back to eating his food. Nathan wondered if her cop dad had his gun on him at the moment.

Shannon grasped his arm. “Honey, I really want you to rethink what you want to do with your life. You have so much potential…”

“I’ve been dreaming about astronomy since I was ten. That’s what I want to do for the rest of my life. It’s the interest that God gave me, so it’s the one I’m going to pursue.”

Christina shook her head. “God? Here we go again. Shannon, what did I tell you about this?”

Her daughter nodded, pulling away from him. “I know. It’s what he believes in though, mom.”

Are they aware that I’m sitting right here?

Christina threw her napkin down and excused herself from the table.

Silence spread across their corner of the restaurant. Nathan turned to Shannon. She was cradling her head in her arms, staring at the table with a frown.

“Just so we’re clear, you guys are covering dinner tonight, right?”

Her father looked up from his food and sighed.

Copyright © 2010 David N. Alderman


Anonymous said...

Very cool to see a bit of Nathan before the Legion coming to town and him gaining crazy hallucinations that aren't really hallucinations.

Unknown said...

Glad you liked it, Scott. It felt good to write a bit of story that takes place before the chaos - when things are somewhat calm for my characters.

J.H. said...

__The verdict is in, you, Mr. David, have some real writing bite to go with your bark! Hello, and I'm glad to at last comment on some of your fiction. I hope my thoughts are well received as I aim to give you intelligent feedback: at least one prop, criticism, and question. This is such a good idea, writing special made flash fiction, inspired from your series', to deepen your readers experience with your characters. One could learn from you, sir. Alright, here I go.

^First, props. This scene I find Nathan in definitely makes a solid impression of his character. Not only because he believes in God, but that he is completely unphased at how uncomfortable it makes the Cooks. "It's the interest that God gave me..." really brings home the strength of his conviction and yet, with the mention of Play Station 2, and his sardonic asides, it feels real and accessible. You made a statement with this character, about life, even, and I feel it was well written.

<^Now a criticism. Mr. Cook didn't really add anything to the scene; personally, he shouldn't have been in it. Why? because, I didn't believe his actions. You mentioned he was cop, "minding his own business", saying nothing. Sure wish cops would mind their own business as I politely go over the speed limit! What kind of father isn't going to have his b.s. detector active as he's listening to his daughter's boyfriend talk about his means, or lack thereof, in providing for her? Maybe your thought was to make Gary the silent and scary type dad, then his physical features ought to have described him as such. He could have been the only one not eating, with arms flexed and crossed. As it reads, it seems like he doesn't care about what's happening or, he just doesn't know what to say. If so, why is he in the scene?

^?Question, and though I've asked several already, this one has no polarity attached. Why astronomy? Maybe the significance of Nathan's academic interest is explained in "End of the Innocence", but initially I didn't find the subject too "startling" an answer. He could work as a teacher if nothing else. Now, if your reply will spoil some of the novel then don't answer it. Write on!

Unknown said...

J.H., I always appreciate your comments, and your prop, criticism, and question regarding this piece of flash fiction did not disappoint.

First, thanks for the prop. It's definitely a challenge trying to get character across in such a limited piece of flash fiction and it's good to know I succeeded on some level.

Second, thanks for the criticism. Essentially, Mr. Cook is written as a character who doesn't necessarily have control over his household, even if he is a cop. His wife pretty much takes control of things, at least that's how I tried to portray her in the scene.

Third, to answer your question, Nathan's love of astronomy - and its significance - is expanded on through the novel and the series as a whole. Now that I think about it, I guess it isn't really a 'startling' answer, at least not as startling as others might have been.

Thanks again for dropping in and giving your view of my fiction.