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by DerekH 

Posted: 18 October 2004
Word Count: 235
Summary: My entry for this weeks flash thingy. On the "thumb" theme.

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A gaunt figure stands on the hard shoulder, pushing a stiff thumb out through the rain. His name is Danny Bird. His friends used to call him Birdy.

His coat is sodden, his hair plastered to his skull. Raindrops roll off his beakish nose onto his trembling lips, diluting the salty tears.

He holds a sign that says ‘anywhere’. His face says ‘victim’. He’s left nothing behind, waved no one goodbye. He only has what’s coming.

He fishes the motorway for a ride; a way out, another step along the path to the life he knows is out there, somewhere.

A brown Volvo takes the bait, and veers over. The tyres cut through pooling water, slowing, with the crisp crunch of tread on tarmac. It stops just short of the mark, as if making Birdy walk those few feet is down-payment on a hidden fare.

Birdy turns up his collar and considers the invitation. White water-splinters dash through the headlamps’ glow. Rusted wipers squeak and churn, making waves. The ripples melt the featureless form within. The driver doesn’t beckon, just waits.

Birdy gets in, coughing. He’s nervous. Shaking. It’s hard to speak.

“I’ll go as far as you’re going,” is all he can manage.

He clicks the belt secure.

Pulls his coat close.

Slips a hand inside.

And pushes a stiff thumb along the top of the Stanley. Clutching it tight. Until the next stop.

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Comments by other Members

Account Closed at 14:53 on 19 October 2004  Report this post
What a tragic character. I think you paint him well but would like some sort of clue as to what went wrong.

Well done for getting the thumb in at the beginning AND the end (did you notice that, Ani?)

Loved "He holds a sign that says ‘anywhere’. His face says ‘victim’."

Oh, the end, I'm assuming the knife is for self defence, just in case - he isn't a murderer.


DerekH at 15:16 on 19 October 2004  Report this post
Hi Elspeth, I was just running with it, so to speak. I like that about these flash challenges...I'm not trying to prove anything so I can just let go and write whatever comes out.

I visualised the character and the scene...and told what I knew. I thought about writing some history for him, but this is just a bit of fun and I just wanted to try leaving it to hints. His story changed while I was writing it, but I left it open for the reader to decide what the knife is for.

I think Birdy's a killer...a tragic, haunted, crazy killer. He doesn't want to be a maniac, but he just can't help it. The driver thinks Birdy is the victim.

But that's only my opinion :)...he might be a nice guy, down on his luck, hitching a ride.



After all my rambling I forgot to say - Thanks for reading and commenting :)>

crowspark at 23:50 on 19 October 2004  Report this post
Hi Derek, I love your power to visualise and to present it to us. You demonstrate it again here.
Typo - tires is what I do, you wanted tyres.

DerekH at 01:01 on 20 October 2004  Report this post
Bill, thanks for reading, and for the compliment...and the typo spotting.

I was thinkin about adding a 'death knoll' sound effect and some animated tumbleweed to this piece...it's very quiet in here ;).

Cheers again,


bjlangley at 15:03 on 20 October 2004  Report this post
Hi Derek. Really liked this piece, some great touches like his 'beakish' nose. Loved the sign and the face that said 'victim', and fishing the motorway is another one I really liked.

All the best,


DerekH at 15:15 on 20 October 2004  Report this post
Thanks Ben. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

BTW - do you still need me to look over any of your flash for the collection?


bjlangley at 15:20 on 20 October 2004  Report this post
Derek - if you don't mind 'My Right Foot' could do with a fresh pair of eyes looking at it.

I think I've read and commented on all 6 of yours, if not let me know and I'll take a look.



anisoara at 08:41 on 22 October 2004  Report this post
Marvellous writing, Derek. This is full of great lines, such as "He only has what's coming" and "fishes the motorway for a ride" and "as if making Birdy walk those few feet is down-payment on a hidden fare". You've captured SO much with that last line.

I wasn't quite sure about the ending - I floundered a little. Is the Stanley a gun?

Anyway, super flash!


DerekH at 10:36 on 22 October 2004  Report this post
Thanks Ani, great to get such praise. Makes me happy :)

The Stanley is a Stanley Knife, the kind you buy at B&Q... to push the blade out, you slide the trigger thingy along the top, with your thumb...(Intended for DIY use rather than cutting people up)

I could have made it a gun or a normal knife, but there's something that really sickens me about the idea of the utility knife.


anisoara at 10:47 on 22 October 2004  Report this post

I agree with you. It's so much more immediate, isn't it? Pulling a trigger, it's more like sanitised burger patties at the supermarket. But a knife. That's right in the butcher's shed!


ShayBoston at 15:12 on 23 October 2004  Report this post

A fine piece. Great use of short sentences make it all the more gripping. I understand exactly when you say you like the flash challenges because you can just run with them. I feel the same. Sometimes it takes a little longer for the word to spark something, but when it does I'm off! I think over 22 weeks we've seen so many inspired pieces that would never have been written and that's fantastic.


DerekH at 15:25 on 23 October 2004  Report this post
Cheers Shay,

Yeah, the word challenges opened up a whole new world to me. Our group really is a marvellous thing.

Thanks for reading, glad you liked it. (I was thinking of swapping this for another to go into the collection...but I guess that might slow us down so maybe not...)

There's always the next book :).



ShayBoston at 15:37 on 23 October 2004  Report this post
Wouldn't slow us down at all, Derek. If you wanna swap just say so.


anisoara at 16:17 on 23 October 2004  Report this post

I was thinking this would be a good one to put into the collection, too, but I didn't say just because I didn't want to trouble you about it. But if you think so too, then please go for it!

scottwil at 01:42 on 25 October 2004  Report this post
Hi Derek, this is great writing. Beautifully visual. I especially liked the sign saying anywhere, face saying victim line.
Forgive me, but I found the ending a bit too similar to 'scream if you wanna go faster'.
I wonder if there might be another resolve such as: he gets in to find that the driver is silent but utterly distraught. The car is then drives at high speed into the oncoming traffic or at a tree. Just before impact he has time to reflect that his sign did say 'anywhere'.
Sorry about that.


roger at 08:52 on 25 October 2004  Report this post
Sinister, Derek, sinister. I especially loved - 'It stops just short of the mark, as if making Birdy walk those few feet is down-payment on a hidden fare', but the whole thing is great. For what it's worth, my opinion is that this SHOULD be in 'the book'.

DerekH at 12:55 on 25 October 2004  Report this post
Hi Sion, Thanks for reading. I'm glad you liked it. I can see there's a similarity to 'Scream if...', but only in that Birdy (like Johnny B), carries a knife. I don't want to change the story but if both go in the book I might look like a one trick pony...I'll think it over.


DerekH at 13:00 on 25 October 2004  Report this post
Hi Roger, yes I'm especially fond of that line. I'm glad you thought it was sinister instead of only sad...proves it works two ways as Elspeth saw it as a tragic tale. I see it as both sad & sinister, so I'm happy either way :).



roger at 13:05 on 25 October 2004  Report this post
Hi again, Derek....don't know why I didn't spot it before - possible because I was so impressed by the line that I didn't notice the detail - but the 'is' in it should be 'in', shouldn't it?

Sinister; definately sinister btw!

DerekH at 13:16 on 25 October 2004  Report this post
I see what you mean Roger... I think it works both ways, though 'in' may be more correct...not sure. I also thought that "As though" might be better than "as if".

I was very happy with the line, and still happy that it won't lose the feel if I change those small things... I need to think it over.

Thanks again,


roger at 13:26 on 25 October 2004  Report this post
Yes, it can work both ways, but I think 'in' is the more correct. For 'is' to be absolutely correct, I think you'd have to remove 'making' and change 'walk' to 'walking', and if I were you, I wouldn't want to do that. Re if v though, I think that's pure personal choice. I favour 'if', as it is now.

DerekH at 13:53 on 25 October 2004  Report this post
'Is' is definitely wrong, it flows better, but wrong is wrong... Changed to 'in'.

Cheers Roger.

anisoara at 14:15 on 25 October 2004  Report this post
I don't think 'in' or 'is' makes a difference, except that it alters the grammatical function of different parts of the sentence. If you leave it as 'is', then the subject is the gerund phrase "making Birdy walk those few feet". Just to be troublesome, I liked it better with 'is', but Roger is right, either works.


DerekH at 14:38 on 25 October 2004  Report this post
I liked 'is' better too, but after thinking (very hard) about it...it seemed like bad grammar. I've thought about it so much now that I don't know if it's right or wrong. I must admit to being a bit of a dummy where grammar is concerned.(I'm sure you've all noticed ;)

anisoara at 15:05 on 25 October 2004  Report this post
Oh Derek, don't make me laugh! (Yes, I'm laughing. Now stop it!) I like 'is' better, and you like 'is' better, and it's grammatically sound, so why not?


Dee at 14:08 on 27 October 2004  Report this post
Derek, I’m really sorry. I thought I’d commented on this when you posted it but I can see I didn’t.

I love it. I particularly like that you have given him no history and that he doesn’t know where he is going.

And I’m with you on the Stanley knife. There’s something intensely vicious about them, isn’t there. In fact, in the novel which my agent is trying to flog, there’s a nutter who is obsessed with Stanley knives and tries to cut his brother’s face off with one. (this is my idea of romantic fiction – which could explain why no-one wants to buy it)

Only tiny picky point I found was the repetition of the word ‘tight’ in the last three lines – otherwise, I’d say line it up for the collection.


DerekH at 14:23 on 27 October 2004  Report this post
You have eagle eyes, Dee. I didn't see the repeating 'tight'.

BTW - Your book sounds very scary, I can't think of anything more horrific than doing that (although R Kid does bug me sometimes...I'll nip down to B&Q before his next visit ;).

Cheers Dee.



Changed to 'Snug' for the moment. 'Tight' seemed wrong followed by him slipping a hand in anyway. 'Snug' is perhaps too cosy a word for the situation, or perhaps that makes the knife more of a surprise...thinkin it over...

Dee at 15:10 on 27 October 2004  Report this post
No, snug isn't the right word... how about 'around him'? ... although that's adding an extra word... or you could drop that line and extend the next one to say 'his coat pocket'... or leave the coat tight and grip the knife firmly/hard/securely...


DerekH at 15:16 on 27 October 2004  Report this post
Or could do - pulls his coat close.
or - pulls his coat around.

Dee at 15:20 on 27 October 2004  Report this post
Close is good. Around feels like it needs a word following it.


DerekH at 15:23 on 27 October 2004  Report this post
Sorted...for now ;).

Thanks Dee.

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