This is my entry to the Terribleminds.com Flash Fiction Challenge: The Flea Market.
Another bit of flash fiction where I had no idea where I was going with it until I got to the end. Exciting, eh?
Here it is, comments are always welcome in fact they are positively encouraged.
The Cockney’s Story
A tattered doll with only one eye; a stack of fire damaged books; a side table so uneven that a building bloke would roll off it. There was no doubt about it, this was a terrible flea market. Once again Reg had been completely taken in by the posters that had been put up around town. The golden stars and bright colours beckoned to him, whilst two half-naked women, who were stroking an old bicycle a little too provocatively, adorned the centre. The title across the middle ‘Oldstein Brothers Flea Market: It will blow your mind!!!’ in thick block capitals shouted at you from the bottom. Even the additional exclamation marks in the advert didn’t put him off, which to him were a sure-fire way to show how unprofessional you are.
Reg idly wandered past all the tables, casting nothing more than a half-glance over the tables. He’d never seen so much overpriced rubbish all in one place. Turning around, almost about to leave, Reg saw something out of the corner of his eye. How did he miss it the first time? It was a disc shaped object, around a foot wide that glinted in the dim light. Entranced by the rather celestial looking object he crossed the tent, whatever it was it had captured his interest.
As Reg approached, the light shifted and the glinting dulled revealing the object to be nothing more than a child’s tambourine. He picked it up, almost as if he believed his eyes were lying to him and touching the object would clarify everything.
“Nice ain’t it?”, the man behind the stall spat out, the cigarette stuck to his lip wobbling up and down.
“erm, yes. It’s very nice.” Up close Reg knew it was crap, but the man didn’t look the type who would take open and honest criticism too well. The faded, green tattoos emblazoning his arm and neck gave the impression of pragmatism, probably fist related pragmatism as well.
The man snatched the tambourine off Reg, “Funny story, ‘baat this”, his Cockney accent so thick, you could have cut it with a knife and buttered your toast with it.
“Really? What story?” Reg’s posture didn’t shift but inside he slumped and was sighing loudly. He knew when he was about to be bullied into doing something he didn’t want, and although Reg knew you couldn’t always judge a book by it’s cover. He was sure that the book of the man standing behind the stall, would just be one page long, with the words ‘I’m going to hurt you’ written over and over.
“Yeah. See, this old lady was gettin’ rid of all her stuff right. Just frowin’ it out on the street. When she saw me and me van, she practically begged me to take it. You didn’t ‘ave to tell me twice so I started loading everything up. The old lady started talkin’ to me while I was shiftin’ it. She started telling me this story about her daughter and what happened to her when she was a little girl.”
“How much for these books?” Reg said holding a couple of books he’d hastily grabbed to try to change the conversation.
“pound each.” and without breaking “Anyway, this tambourine, right. When this old lady, erm Doris her name was, I think. Doris had bought her daughter this tambourine, right. Her daughter couldn’t hear too well, and her legs were knackered from Polo’s or something, so she thought…
“Polio! Her legs would likely have been weakened by Polio. The disease?”
“Oh right, yeah that does make more sense. I wondered how mints would do so much damage. Anyway, stop interrupting! She bought her daughter this tambourine, right. Personally, I would have avoided the music thing altogether but the old bat thought it would be a good idea. Every night her daughter would just tap on this tambourine. All day, to late at night and it would start again early in the morning. She’d just tap away. Tap, tap, tap”
The stall owner tapped the tambourine as he said each word.
“Right? So then what happened?” Reg couldn’t believe how much he was being dragged into this story. Not just out of intimidation either, but out of curiosity.
“They took her to see all these head doctors and stuff, she’d gone really weird over this bloody thing. She wouldn’t eat anything or go anywhere, she’d only tap this tambourine. Tap, tap, tap. No one could understand, she’d never acted crazy before, and doctors knew it wasn’t the Polo, er.. polio or nuffink. They had no idea. They figured it was just some phase thing right, and that she’d grow out of it.”
“… did she?”
“Well one night as er, Doris sat downstairs knitting or somefing trying to ignore the tapping. She’d got pretty much used to the noise now. Tap, tap, tap it went.” Once more banging the tambourine as he spoke. “Then…”
“Then? Then what?
“Well, then the tapping sound just stopped, the house was eerily silent except for a low almost inaudible thud. The old lady ran upstairs, right. Panicking an’ sweating with fear. Every second felt like minutes had passed, right? She burst through her daughters bedroom door, and her daughter…?”
“Yeah? Yeah? What had happened to her…?”
“…her daughter, right?”
“Yeah? What?” Reg’s frustration now quite clear.
“…The Dozy bint had fallen out of her bed hadn’t she. Now do ya want this facking tambourine or what?”
Reg walked slowly back to his car as the paramedics treated one stall-owner for a swollen, painful and bleeding nose.