There are short stories, then there are really short stories. Then there are the six-word story challenges. Haiku deserves its own category, independent of word count. This work is the second of the two; really short stories. Some might call them flash fiction.
RSS = Really Sort Stories
RSS1 Always Othello
Voodoo, tarot readings, Mardi Gras, and street people acting in weird ways are a staple, stereotypical image evoked by the term “New Orleans.” Detective Skip Langdon knows the victim was a familiar element in the French Quarter. Franny Futura, a street name for Frances Reynaud, read tarot cards for lots of people attracted by her unusual dress (a flying saucer hat) but she had a regular clientele, especially three people; one of the three had changed her behavior recently. Skip was attracted by the life style of Futura, many items in her home were very expensive; they just did not fit in with the income that was normal for a street person. A central theme detectives love to focus on, financial discrepancies.
Julie Smith uses some interesting writing tricks to maintain reader interest. One is the use of colorful descriptive names for the New Orleans street people. Totally justified and accepted as the image of New Orleans, the reader accepts these inventions as logical, not just the product of an author using free style automatic writing. Another technique is the interesting title. It would be interesting to know how many people spent a few minutes to reflect on why “Othello” was used. Finally, there is the name of our hero, Detective Skip. I was a bit surprised when the hero turned out to be female, the identification was made in an understated way and showed skillful language use by author Smith.
RSS2 The End of the Earth
Skip and boyfriend Steve are on an adventure cruise to Antarctica. Given tickets by a friend who hated all things cold, Skip and Steve spend their time in the appreciation of a never-before-seen environment. The penguins were a particular draw and Smith has some interesting phrases to describe them. After observing penguin ritual of entering and returning from the sea in the hunt for food, Smith remarks on passenger activity with “The other animals, the more shabbily dressed ones, trudged up a steep hill to the rookery.” [Loc 353-354] Detective Skip also does a lot of people watching, that’s normal, but her interest becomes more focused when a favorite guide, Toby, is found dead. A ship’s doctor notes the circumstances are unusual and Skip, with assistance from Steve, begin interviews to narrow the suspect pool.
Smith introduces a character readers will not like, Hal, the father of Toby. Hal speaks directly, consciously ignoring social niceties. He openly calls his daughter, Dale, fat, naming her, “Dale the whale.” He has had problems with his son, victim Toby, who does not want to return with dad to run the family business; Toby likes the adventuresome life. So, the reader is led down the path of a rich, dysfunctional family with a lot of money in play. There is a father prone to violence (suspect), a withdrawn, sullen daughter (suspect) and a recently spurned possible fiancé of Toby, Shorty (suspect).
But, none of them did it. The whys, wherefores, and identity of the actual killer makes this a fun story to read. Julie Smith’s use of language makes these stories a fun read.