Flash Fiction: Uncle Alek

It’s definitely time for another bit of flash fiction inspired by the witty and strange Chuck Wendig. And this challenge is especially strange.

The challenge itself involves the F-bomb, but in the interest of readers with delicate sensibilities, I’ll use “eff”. But don’t follow any links if you’re one of these readers, because there are F-bombs falling all over the place.

They’re funny as hell if you do follow them, though. Just saying.

So we were to follow this link that goes to a page called “who the eff is my DND character”. DND stands for Dungeons and Dragons. The site pumps out an odd combination of a character and behavior and possibly a place of origin. We were to use that as inspiration for a piece of flash fiction.

After playing around on the site for ten minutes and laughing my butt off, I remembered what I was supposed to be doing and settled on this:

CONSCIENTIOUS HALFLING FIGHTER FROM A TINY VILLAGE WHO ALWAYS REFERS TO INANIMATE OBJECTS AS ‘SHES’

I had to Google what a halfling is – think “hobbit”. I’m going with dwarf because that fits better.

Okay, so now that we’re all on board, it’s story time.

Uncle Alek

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I stepped out of the car and with my backpack slung over my shoulder, I stared at the house that was to be my home for the summer.

My dad walked around the car to stand next to me. “See, honey? It’s not so bad.” He put his arm around the back of my shoulders, like that would make this okay. Like his decision to work in London all summer and leave me here was okay.

I sighed but stayed planted on the sidewalk.

“Come on, Desiree. He’s waiting.” My dad grabbed my hand and pulled me up the path to the front door.

It’s not that I don’t like my Uncle Alek. It’s that he’s…weird. We had to come here for Thanksgiving a couple times when I was younger, the first time when I was eight. My parents had told me he had a condition called dwarfism, but I didn’t really understand what that meant until I stood face-to-face with an adult man who was shorter than me.

That wasn’t what made him weird, though. For some reason, he referred to everything as “she”. Everything. The table. The couch. His shoe.

Who does that?

Weird dwarf uncles, that’s who.

Dad knocked on the door, and I shifted on my feet.

The door opened, and Uncle Alek stood there, brushing the front of his shirt and then his trimmed beard, like he was worried he had crumbs on them. He looked up at us and held out a hand. “Jack! Desiree!” He shook Dad’s hand, then mine. He spoke with the leftover accent of the little Russian village he’d lived in until I was three. “Please, come in. I’ve been looking forward to your arrival. Wipe your feet on the mat. She won’t mind.”

No, I’m pretty sure the mat won’t mind. I rolled my eyes.

I tossed my backpack onto the couch, and Uncle Alek led us toward the kitchen. “What grade are you in now, Desi? Sixth?”

“I just finished ninth.”

“Ah, time. She has gotten away from me again.”

I gritted my teeth.

After ten minutes of talking, dad announced he had to leave and get ready to fly out the next day. I walked him to the door, but he stopped me from walking outside with him. “Be nice for your uncle. This is a nice thing he’s doing.”

“He’s your uncle.”

Dad chuckled and kissed me on the forehead. “I’ll call you tomorrow. And fix your attitude. You just might learn something.”

He walked to the car and drove away. I stood in the doorway and scowled until the car was out of sight.

Uncle Alek’s voice sounded from behind me. “I have to run an errand. Would you like to come with me?”

“I just got here – “

“Yes, I know. But my schedule, she is not so flexible at times.”

“Where are we going?”

“I’d like to surprise you.”

I shrugged. It was either leave with him or sit around here and mope. I did enough of that on the way here, and it didn’t work. I’m still here.

He led me to the garage and to a car modified for him to drive. I felt insanely awkward next to him in the passenger seat. I slouched a bit, trying to even things out.

“It’s different for you, I know. But she gets me where I need to go.” He started the car by pushing a button. The engine was so quiet I couldn’t hear it.

As he drove, I didn’t know what to say, so I said nothing. He finally broke the silence. “I know spending the summer with me isn’t what you wanted to do.”

I almost laughed but lacked any other response.

“What do you know about me?” he asked.

I shrugged. I’m sure Dad had tried to tell me about Uncle Alek, but I couldn’t remember what he said.

“I had a wife, back in my village. One night, the Soviet soldiers attacked us.They wanted to capture the young men and force them into their army. But the women…” He turned his attention to the road.

I still didn’t know what to say.

“Some were raped or killed. Others were stripped of their belongings and told to wander in the forest. My wife fought them. She wasn’t like me.” He gestured up and down his body with his hand. “She scratched and kicked and screamed, and…” He took a long breath. “Her attacker killed her, slit her throat while another held me back. I could do nothing. I was too weak.”

I stared, waiting for the rest and wondering how he could watch someone murder his wife and not go crazy.

She.

Huh.

He pulled into the parking lot of a gym. While waving a finger, he continued, “They didn’t see me as a threat. They let me live but left me with nothing. I vowed to never let that happen again. To be in a position where I could not defend myself.”

After he parked, he walked to the back of the car and retrieved a gym bag. I followed him into the building, where the people greeted him with big smiles.

Walking down a hallway, he pointed into a room with mirrors covering two walls. About a dozen kids occupied it.

“Wait in there. I’ll be right back.”

I followed his directions and opened the door. The young faces looked at me in unison. I smiled at them.

A girl who looked about eight walked up to me. “What’s your name?”

“Desiree. What’s yours?”

“Molly. Where’s your suit?”

The kids all wore white suits with white or yellow belts – karate suits.

“Oh, I don’t have one. My uncle brought me here to watch.”

Uncle Alek entered the room as I was answering Molly’s question. He wore his own white suit adorned with a black belt. “Good afternoon,” he said.

The kids who were sitting sprang to their feet, and they all bowed together. “Good afternoon, Master Alek.”

Many stood taller than my uncle, but it didn’t matter. He was their teacher. Their master.

He was teaching them how to fight.

I sat against one of the mirrored walls and watched Uncle Alek. He never asked me to join or even acknowledged I was there. It was like he knew this was something I needed to see.

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