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Flash: You Can`t Go Back and Fate

by Dreamer 

Posted: 17 May 2007
Word Count: 724
Summary: Entries for Flash I and Flash II word counts are OK

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You Can't Go Back: Flash I

ĎYou canít go back.í He had heard it so many times he was sick of it. He wanted to go back, to turn back time. To go to that place where life was carefree, where he was loved, unconditionally; where he was never alone.

At night, as he lay in bed, if he closed his eyes and concentrated hard enough, he could almost make it. Could see the house reappear out of the mists. Smell the scents that told him he was home, feel the slate beneath his feet in the front hallway, hear the furnace beating somewhere in the basement. He could see himself as a child, his motherís breast pump stuck to his chest, as he came up behind her, held onto her skirt and peeked out at the mailman in the open doorway. Even now, he couldnít help but smile when he pictured the look on her face.

But then, as happened each time before, something always pulled him back and he found himself, alone, lying on the bed with the metal railings, the scent of his home replaced by the smell of stale urine; the sound of the furnace become the beep of a monitor. He raised a skeletal hand shakily and made a fist.

Maybe tonight it would be different.

Fate: Flash II

Ernest sat at his desk, the same desk he had sat at for twenty years, eating the same sandwich he had always eaten; tuna.

His pencil moved over the crossword filling in squares as it had done on countless other days. Nothing about this day seemed any different than any of the other days and that was just how Ernest liked it. Very little ever upset Ernestís routine. There was the time that Dick, the new employee, hung his coat on Ernestís peg. What type of person hangs his coat on just any peg? Anyway, that was a long time ago. Now things were back the way they were supposed to be. Back that is until this fateful day that was to change Ernestís life forever.

Sometimes the smallest thing can have unforeseen consequences; like breaking your pencil lead while filling out the final square of your crossword. Ernest leant over the table for his pencil sharpener and knocked his newspaper onto the floor. When he placed the paper back on the table it fell open to a different page, a page Ernest had never turned to. He hesitated before turning it back, his eye drawn to an ad. He read: ĎIs this all there is? Does your heart merely beat or does it soar? Are you merely alive or are you living? If your spirit is dying, trapped within its gilded cage reply to this ad and we will make our escape together.í

Without knowing why, he took out a sheet of paper from his desk drawer, wrote a reply, copied the box number onto an envelope and popped it in the mail.

A week later he received the fateful letter. He was to meet her outside the Zoo. She was going to be wearing red boots and a red hat. He checked his watch. It was almost time. He picked up his bowler, dusted it and placed it on his head. With a final look in the mirror he tipped it at a jaunty angle. The newspaper lay unopened on his desk, the tuna sandwich uneaten.

He caught the bus and arrived on time. What was he doing? This was unlike him, no way to meat a future wife, leaving everything to fate. He pushed off from the lamp post, straightened his hat and checked his watch. The bus would be by any minute. If he left right now, he could probably complete his crossword before the end of lunch. After all he had never missed finishing one in twenty years.

That was when he saw her, an apparition beyond his expectations. In an instant his resolve evaporated. He would throw away his routine, be impulsive, let his heart guide him; he would no longer be ruled by a schedule.

He stepped towards her, but unfortunately some things were still ruled by their schedules. As Ernest stepped off the curb his spirit burst forth from its cage and so did his spleen, for the bus was on time.

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Comments by other Members

Forbes at 22:26 on 17 May 2007  Report this post
Hi Brian

Flash I

Very sad. Makes you want to make it better. Gets the message across very well - Sick old man dreaming of old times. Very, very sad.

look on his her face.

I think very well done too.

Flash II.

Did it really take him 20 years to eat one sarnie? Small bites - eh?

Sums up a very claustrophobic life. A life only half lived? & just when he goes for it - wham! What a shame!!

Nicely done, and although I knew something was coming I didn't get what until it happened. Well phrased too.

So 2 sad ones - is it something in the water over there? Or have you been working too hard?


no way to meat a future wife
What on earth is he going to do?!!!!

an apparition beyond
so not a looker then?!

She was going to be wearing red boots and a red hat.
..er - and anything else?!

Sorry to pick, I still enjoyed both of 'em




Jumbo at 22:49 on 17 May 2007  Report this post


One thing at a time: Flash 1

Loved it - great writing - loved the inclusion of all of the senses in that second para:

Smell the scents that told him he was home, feel the slate beneath his feet in the front hallway, hear the furnace beating somewhere in the basement.

A tiny pick: not sure about the 'his her' in when he pictured the look on his her face.

Fabulous last paragraph. Especially

...the scent of his home replaced by the smell of stale urine; the sound of the furnace become the beep of a monitor. He raised a skeletal hand shakily and made a fist.

Wondered if the last six words should be on there own line to add extra impact?

Great writing. Off to read FFII


Jumbo at 22:57 on 17 May 2007  Report this post

So, to FF II ........

I enjoyed this, but didn't see it coming! But then, apparently, neither did your man Ernest.

Clever piece of characterisation in this - all those little idiosynchrasies (?) that make young Ernest what he is! Laughed at the section with the peg - so true, and yest SO pathetic, but that's office life for you!

Must admit, I also picked up on Forbes wuote: She was going to be wearing red boots and a red hat. What paper was he reading?

Very definitely 'life changing'! - and nicely written.

Thanks for the read



tiger_bright at 09:28 on 18 May 2007  Report this post
Excellent pair of flashes, Brian. The first one was perfectly poignant, the warm images replaced by the cold, the impotent anger of the old man. The second was perfectly brutal - that ending out of nowhere - pow! Loved them both, and they worked quite well as a pair, I thought, in terms of the similarity between expectation/dream and reality.

Thanks for a great read.


Account Closed at 13:45 on 18 May 2007  Report this post
Not much I can add to the above - except to say I was sad at Ernest's demise! And I wondered if it would be sharper if it started at the 2nd para?


Dreamer at 15:29 on 18 May 2007  Report this post
Thanks Forbes,

Have fixed the little nits, at least some of them. As to whether or not she is wearing anything other that red boots and a hat, well, I'll leave that up to you...

Glad you liked them.



Nothing in the water that I am aware of. Have been working hard lately. Just visited my Mom in the nursing home for Mother's Day so you may be onto something there that I wasn't aware of consciously.

Dreamer at 15:33 on 18 May 2007  Report this post
Hi John,

Have separated that last line. Glad you enjoyed it. Glad you challenged me. Wasn't going to write anything this week, but that gauntlet just can't be ignored. :)


Dreamer at 15:39 on 18 May 2007  Report this post
Hi John,

Maybe that IS all she is wearing. Certainly would explain his missing seeing the bus...

Yes, poor Ernest may have been better off fighting over his peg, doing his crosswords and eating tuna sandwiches.

Glad you liked it. Thanks for the comments.


Dreamer at 15:52 on 18 May 2007  Report this post
Hi Tiger,

Not intended as a pair, just did not have the time to upload two separately this week. Thanks for the comments, what a nice succint summary of them. Should get you to write the synopsis for my book!

Glad you liked them.


Dreamer at 16:18 on 18 May 2007  Report this post
Hi Holly,

Thanks for the comment.


Forbes at 21:21 on 18 May 2007  Report this post

just a thought if you put "as" in here

eating the same sandwich he had always eaten

making it

eating the same sandwich as he had always eaten

implies more than one Sandwich(or sarnie as we Britishers call 'em)(well either that or butties, depends from whence you hail)- yes?

And I'd still like to know what you folks do when you "meat" someone - anything along the lines of "pork is not a verb"?



crowspark at 23:56 on 18 May 2007  Report this post
You Cann't Go Back

This gave me a tingle, not only because I recognised the house.
Strong opening and ending. I liked the flash of memory. They happen like that don't they. You remember some particular moment outside of any context and you are never quite sure why you remember it. I wanted to explore that moment a little more and discovered a bit more about that unconditional love.
As it is though I thought it was sad with a shock twist, the coy child now a skeletal thing smelling of stale urine. Strong contrasts and an excellent flash.
Thanks for the read.

tractor at 11:05 on 19 May 2007  Report this post
Flash 1: very strong writing, and memorable. I thought it was almost Dylanesque (Dylan Thomas, not Bob) with the old man shaking his fist and not going gently into the night.


Elbowsnitch at 15:57 on 19 May 2007  Report this post
Hi Brian, this is very powerful writing -

he found himself, alone, lying on the bed with the metal railings, the scent of his home replaced by the smell of stale urine; the sound of the furnace become the beep of a monitor. He raised a skeletal hand shakily and made a fist.

The meaning I get from this story is that death, for this poor chap will mean a reunion with the past, with his mother and memories of love, warmth, enjoyment. You convey this really well, through the images and smells.

Whoops, have to go - a friend has just turned up at the door!


optimist at 18:19 on 19 May 2007  Report this post
Hi - both very good and yes, they do work well together though one feels the character shaking his fist probably had more fun than Ernest along the way - and maybe did get to meet the siren in the red hat and boots before he was hit by a bus?

At least, I'd like to think so :)

The description of the child was lovely - very vivid.

Hope your research trip goes well!


Dreamer at 20:28 on 22 May 2007  Report this post
Hi Bill,

You recognised the house did you? Well you were right. Yes, it is sad. So many people, I think, end like this. Their dignity gone, all alone.

Glad you liked it.


cherys at 22:09 on 14 July 2007  Report this post
Flash 1

Fantastic detail. I loved the breast pump (what a brilliant image - it had me liking the child and seeing him , all because you'd chosen something so brilliantly singular and odd.) And the furnace. Superb - nothing run of the mill in there, it's all fresh, unique, vivid detail.

Flash 2

Could you cut "same" from first sentence, as "always" already does the job, and then say "eating his sandwich with the filling he always chose, tuna.

As others said, i liked the peg - lovely observation.

Must admit, although you planted the bus well, it disappointed me. Bit comic strip when the rest wasn't. I was so nearly gutted when he so nearly changed his mind. I thought he was going to see her and like her and still get on the bus because even such an appealing woman is change and that's what he couldn't handle. Made his own fate. When you half went there I found it very moving. The ending as it stands left me thinking you didn't really want us to invest much in the character cause you ran him over with a punctual bus - making light of it. Have I misread that?

Dreamer at 15:55 on 15 July 2007  Report this post
Hi Susannah,

Welcome to the group. Sorry I have been late responding but I have been driving across the States, literally. Just got back.

Thanks for the time and your comments.

I like your solution to the sandwich problem. I see your point about the bus and that would have been a good rnding. I was trying for something a little unexpected. I like the irony that Ernest was killed by something that kept to its routine while he was finally freeing himslef from his. There is something safe in routine after all. I guess that is why so many people are trapped in one.

Thanks again for your comments and welcome to the group. What is your novel about?


Prospero at 13:02 on 15 September 2007  Report this post

These are excellent. Powerful, evocative and poignant. I would try these out with a local magazine or newspaper if I were you.



Dreamer at 13:22 on 16 September 2007  Report this post
Thanks John,

I had forgotten about these. Your comments made me re read them. Sort of apropos today as I am off to a second funeral this week. This one my favourite uncle.

I apreciate the supportive comments, they mean a lot.

Have not even thought of sending anything out as the book monopolises most of my time.

When you are up to snuff I must send you a chapter you might be interested in.

Glad to see you wondering the halls of WW again. Maybe soon you will be able to join me in the lounge for a brandy?



Jubbly at 10:10 on 21 September 2007  Report this post
Hello Dreamer,

Most of the queries I had have already been pointed out by my fellow WWers. The first F is very sad and reminded me of a conversation I had with my eldest son only this week. The image of the breast pump struck me as odd, I couldn't picture it coming in contact with a child's chest, might just be me.

The second F is terrific, obviously the sandwich needs to be adressed, but loved it. Have you ever read the opening of Robin Dalton's - Aunts up the Cross? It is - My great aunt Juliet was knocked over and killed by a bus when whe was eighty five. The bus was travelling very slowly in the right direction and could hardly have been missed by anyohne except Aunt Juliet, who must have been travelling fairly fast in the wrong direction.

Your last line reminded me of this little masterpiece.

Well done


Dreamer at 13:16 on 22 September 2007  Report this post
Hi Jubbly,

Thanks for the comments. I'm glad you liked them.

Re the breast pump... Trust me, it can be done... nuff said...


Course, perhaps yours are different over there, and the one I'm talking about came out in 1959, made of glass with a big red bulb on one end...

tusker at 15:12 on 13 October 2007  Report this post
Hi Brian,
Being a new memember,I've only just read your Flash1 Flash11.
Flash1, sad but vivid. Lived next door to a man like Ernest but I doubt my neighbour ever experienced a jaunty moment. Keep writing. Tusker

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