This week’s flash fiction challenge combines two things: a character provided by a random character generator and an emotion randomly selected from a list. We had 500 words to craft our story.
I’ve decided not to tell you what my character and emotion are. Instead, see if you can figure it out as you read. I’ll say what they are at the bottom of the post.
I stand and run my hands over my suit jacket, smoothing it and checking for lint. I need to look my best for my first public appearance as senator.
“Sir? Are you ready?” Ray, my campaign manager, holds his arm out towards the open door. A wide smile covers his face. This is as much his victory as mine.
I nod and take a reassuring breath. “You bet. Let’s do it.”
Ray lets me walk past him and follows me under the grand dome. We head for the doors, to the front steps, where my supporters and at least three news crews wait for me.
The bright sun hits my face as I open the door, and I step towards the podium set at the top of the stairs. I scan the sea of faces, all hopeful and eagerly awaiting my words.
“Sir, what is your response to allegations that you accepted bribes during the drafts of the Miller-Walsh bill?”
A reporter sits on the other side of the wide table, but I can hardly see him with the lights shining in my face. Ray’s silhouette is behind him, standing tall with his arms crossed, like a disappointed father.
I blink and consider the question. Bribes? “They weren’t bribes. I have documentation they were legal campaign contributions.” That was the script I’d memorized.
The reporter picks up a stack of papers. “I have evidence that in the three years since your first election, your campaign has received nearly fifty thousand dollars in illegal transactions…”
Dad. It’s Molly.
Dread fills my gut, and I swallow the lump in my throat. I look at the teleprompter set near the camera. The cameraman counts down, showing the final numbers with his fingers. The red light appears.
“Good evening.” Another swallow. “Three years ago, and again last year, you elected me senator of our fine state. In that time, I made some poor judgement calls. Tempting offers were made, and I did not say no.”
Someone shakes my shoulder, and my daughter appears before me. The room fills in behind her – the sterile walls, the beige curtains, the hospital bed.
I swallow the lump again. The discomfort refuses to leave my gut. “I shouldn’t have done it.”
“I know. Come on, let’s get you into bed.” She wraps her arms around me and helps me out of the chair.
“How could I?”
She looks into my eyes. “It was twenty years ago. Remember? I was a little girl.”
I touch her hair. “Yeah. You had braids.”
“That’s right.” She leads me to the bed, and I sit on it. “It was a long time ago. You made a mistake. But it’s time to let go.”
Her words echo in my mind. “Have you said that before?”
“Dozens of times.” She kisses me on the forehead. “I’ll get you some water.”
I nod, and another familiar voice echoes in my mind.
Sir? Are you ready?
This was the character description: A dishonest 52-year-old man, who comes from a comfortable background, lives in a fantasy world and tends to have difficulty saying no.
And the emotion: remorse.
How’d you do?
4 thoughts on “Flash Fiction: The Senator”
Funny, we’ve talked about how you (a female writer) can write in first person and show the sex of the character without beating the reader over the head with it – because sometimes the character in your story is male and sometimes it’s female. I have learned to look for clues as a kind of game for myself when I read these short stories because I typically assume when a woman says “I” that the character is a woman. (I wouldn’t normally do that, I’d just read, but you don’t want a reader 3 paragraphs into a story and suddenly realize that Tom Jones is actually Tammy Jones.)
Not the end of the world, but you don’t want that. And by “you” I mean any writer.
Here, you (and by “you” I mean you) established it pretty quickly. “Sir” was an obvious identifier, but reading back I thought “suit jacket” was, too. The title, The Senator, leans heavily male just cos most senators today are male, but that doesn’t mean anything when a woman is authoring the piece. (Again, “I” is a woman until declared otherwise, to me, if a female author is at work.)
So I asked my wife about “suit jacket,” trying to phrase the question in such a way so as not to suggest a specific answer. “Hon, I have to ask you a question for a story and I have to do it in a round about way.” Authors’ spouses are used to this type of out-of-the-blue thing. “I’m going to a business meeting and I put on a charcoal gray suit and a tie. You are going to that same meeting and need to be similarly dressed. How do you refer to the article of clothing you wear over your shirt?”
“Suit jacket. Maybe a blazer if I was wearing a skirt.” (For the record, she has LOTS of suits that have skirts, so I assume she meant a less formal skirt-jacket combination, like a gray skirt and a blue blazer or something.)
So, suit jacket started to make me think the character was a man, but a woman senator refers to it as a suit jacket, too. If my wife is the senator, at least.
Which means we needed sir. As plain a word as it is, I wondered if it was still too overt. Guess not.
I started out thinking anticipation (no, I didn’t check the list to see if anticipation was on there) and then I shifted to guilt/shame. And shame counts under remorse.
I thought this story was pretty thought provoking, almost like a puzzle. That’s kinda how your short stories tend to go.
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Glad I got you thinking. 🙂 Sometimes the gender isn’t even important. Once I didn’t include it at all and readers just assumed it based on other info in the story.
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I was leaning towards, regret, mixed with Alzheimer’s.
A cool read.
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Good job! 🙂 Thanks for reading!