Flash Fiction Friday #1: “The Merchant and the Mermaid”

In case you didn’t see my Facebook post on flash fiction, here’s the scoop (straight from Facebook):

I’ve been experimenting with flash fiction lately; I even pounded out two micro stories the other day! I can’t wait to share them with you. They are, surprisingly, a lot of fun. What is flash fiction? Technically speaking, it’s a teeny tiny story of about 1,000 words (roughly 3 printed pages) or less. Some publications consider 1500 words and below to fall in the flash fiction category. This art form has seen a revival in recent years, thanks to the popularity of cell phones and social media, and, supposedly, people’s waning attention spans. Up until last year I shied away from short fiction, believing I write better in long form. Now, I think I was simply avoiding it because I was afraid: afraid of being bad at it, afraid of not enjoying it, and afraid of it because I didn’t know how to do it. My theme for this year is “no fear.” In line with that theme, I began researching how to write short fiction, the shortest being flash. I stumbled across the below article, which was a tremendous help. Thought I’d share it, for anyone else who is curious about this unique art form. David also has a fun collection of micro fiction out called Sawn-Off Tales. Being on sale for $2.99 in ebook, I snapped it up so I could read, enjoy, and learn. 

Read the article: How to write flash fiction by David Gaffney

The other morning, I decided why not try it? This cute little story flew out of my mind within the span of about thirty minutes, shortly before I went to bed. I find those hazy moments between fighting to stay awake and drifting off to sleep are my brain’s most fruitful times for producing fiction. It appears micro fiction is no exception.

Without further delay, here’s “The Merchant and the Mermaid,” clocking in just over 400 words. (Please pardon any grammatical whoopsies. Consider this the raw format. This piece will be fully edited before being published in a collection of short fiction later this year.)

“The Merchant and the Mermaid”

A Fantasy Flash Fiction

By

K. D. Jones

The merchant had never been a rich man by any means, but that didn’t stop him from trying to acquire nice things. Things far above his earnings from hauling his weekly catches into the bustling, stinking market of the little seaside town of Aspire.

Saying Aspire didn’t have much to offer or that it didn’t look like much was like saying the sky is blue and fish lived in the sea. Those things were simply facts begrudgingly recognized—or ignored—by the Aspirians. Shiny, unique things of great value were hard to come by.

Which is why when the merchant caught a beautiful mermaid in his net one day, his face lit up in surprise and wonder.

“Hello,” said the mermaid, trying to untangle herself. “Do you mind? I’m running a bit late.”

“But you’re a mermaid.”

She stared at him. “Mermaids keep schedules, too,” she said matter-of-factly, as if he should already know this.

Beneath the waves, her long, graceful tail shimmered. Sunlight glinted along hundreds of tiny scales.

“I can free you,” he said, “but it’s going to cost you.” Her brows raised, so he went on, “One scale.”

The mermaid’s jewel-blue tail swished in the deep green of the sea. Those pink lips grinned. “If freedom is the price for one scale, what will you give me in return for two?”

He blinked and scanned his tiny boat. “What about this knife?”

“I have plenty. Fishermen drop them all the time.”

“My hat?”

“Oh, starfish and sea turtles! Where would I wear that to?”

He pulled at his graying beard when she said, “I know! That! Give me that!” He looked around, and she thrust a finger at his wrist. “That!”

He lifted his arm to examine the worn band of braided leather. “This old thing?”

“Yes, I’ve never seen another one like it!”

“That’s because I made it when I was a boy.” Shrugging, he slipped it over his hand and tossed it to her.

The mermaid squealed with glee and threw him two glimmering scales. They landed in his palm, and his eyes widened. “These are sapphires!” The mermaid was too busy admiring her new bracelet, so he said louder, “You sure you won’t miss these?”

“I’ll grow more.”

“But I gave you junk in exchange for treasure.”

“Depends on the perspective.” She produced a knife—from where, he did not know—slashed herself free and dove beneath the waves.

***

Did you like it? Tune in next Friday for a fresh flash fiction. New micro fiction posted every Friday as part of my new Flash Fiction Friday meme. To receive notifications of new posts, subscribe to my blog using the sidebar to the right.

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