Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Princess and the Thief (Flash fiction)

Mummy ran out the back door, Daddy went out the front door.
I think they forgot me.
Daddy’s a banker. He travels a lot. Mummy said this time he’d gone too far. She threw the earrings he’d bought her in the bin. Then Daddy threw his briefcase. It hit mummy’s china.
I took my parcel into the lounge and cried.
The string is too tight. I need scissors from the kitchen. It’s messy in there and too quiet. Perhaps Mummy will be pleased if I tidy up. I pick her earrings out of the bin and put them in her special cookie jar and I put Daddy’s briefcase back on the table.
Daddy calls me his princess and Mummy calls me her angel.
I collect the big pieces of broken plates and drop them in the bin. There’s a shadow on the floor, I look up and see a man staring through the window. I know him but I can’t remember his name. I saw him outside the school gates last week. He waves at me. I wave back.
He opens the porch door and smiles.
“Can I help? You don’t want to cut yourself.”
“If you like.”
“I saw your parents leave, so I thought I’d better check on you. I was right to be concerned; I see there’s been an accident.”
“I don’t think Daddy meant to break Mummy’s china. He was cross because Mummy said he loves money more than he loves us.”
“I’m sure he doesn’t.”
He finds the broom and starts to sweep the pieces into little piles.
“I think your Daddy knows how important money is to live. But your Mummy knows other things are even more important. Like children.” He pushes the little piles into one big mound and I brush it into the dustpan. “It’s a question of finding the right balance.”
He smiles again and I smile back.
“Daddy brought me a present. It’s in the lounge.”
“Well, we’re just about done here. Shall we go and take a look?”
I shake the pieces out of the dustpan into the bin and take the scissors from the drawer.
“Lead on my merry mistress! Let’s find the hidden treasure!” he cries.
He smiles and laughs all the time. He reminds me of Santa Claus, only he doesn’t have a beard.
I cut off the string, rip off the paper and open the box.
“Wow, look at that!” he says. “It’s the biggest book I’ve ever seen! The Princess and the Thief. That sounds exciting.”
I trace my fingers over the large, gold letters.
“Daddy always buys beautiful presents.”
“Shall I read or do you want to?” he says.
“I’ll read.”
He closes his eyes. He looks peaceful and content like Daddy does after Sunday lunch. Sometimes I don’t know a word, so I spell it out loud and he tells me what it is. He would be a good teacher as he is very patient. I read on until the story ends.
He opens his eyes and smiles again.
“You have a lovely, soothing voice and read so well.”
“Will I meet a prince?”
“Every girl meets her prince.”
He holds out his hand and leads me to the window. The sky is blue and sunny but he tells me how clouds are made and why rain falls.
“Shall we go for a walk?” he says. “While the weather’s good?”
“What about Mummy and Daddy?”
“We could leave a note.”
“Can I bring my book?”
“That’s a wonderful idea.”
              He laughs and smiles.


Okay, so that's a bit of flash fiction I wrote for a competition and which bombed out. If anyone has any useful feedback please feel free to leave a comment. I'm never quite sure what these judges are looking for and thought something depressing/arty farty might work this time - clearly I was wrong -or maybe it was just simply not good enough!

Update 02/12 - I have now rewritten this piece adding another 130 words. The story above was the original one which was written to a limit of  600 words. This is obviously a worthwhile challenge for any writer as it concentrates the mind and makes you focus on the effect of each and every word.. However, now that I have fleshed out the piece a little more and improved the ending to make it more rounded I feel it is a much better piece of writing. The updated story can be found on my story website.


  1. The ending sounds a bit funny, like your train of thought was interrupted and you couldn't get back on the track.

    Also, what was the story about? I got a little confused reading it.

  2. Thanks G - those questions you raise are giving me some insight into why things went pear shaped; I'm having a good think about them.

    Well to put in context there was a word limitation of 600 words so I am in agreement with you that the ending was probably not exactly as I would have chosen otherwise - so now that remit is gone I shall probably changed it to something stronger.

    Okay- so the premise was this - the story is about a child abductor, an opportunist, who sees his moment and takes it. The fact the parents have rowed is incidental really it just provides the opportunity. I called the story the Princess and the Thief so the story line echoed the gift in the book - so that maybe the idea of abduction would be picked up by the reader without me actually having to say it.

    The ending- "he laughs and smiles" was meant to be double barrelled in a way - he does that a) because child abusers often pretend to be a "friend" (hence the Santa Claus imagery) but also he laughs and smiles because he IS genuinely happy - because he has his victim - but she, unfortunately doesn't realise it.

    Hmm..I am thinking I didn't make the meaning of the story clear enough. The trouble is I have a tendency to avoid too much "signposting" - but I may have gone too far in the opposite direction!

    Thanks for that G- interesting feedback:)

    Ohh- I think the story came from an event in childhood when playing in the school field a smiling man offered me £5.00 to pick up rubbish in the copse in the school park - I didn't, I reported him and he was later picked up and was a known paedophile:(

  3. what I guessed . He's a paedophiliac . Superb story . Immense possibilities for an ending .

  4. Thanks Mrs G - I'm very pleased you liked it and that you'd worked out the premise. I need to work on that ending though just to give some oomph!!

  5. My first thought was that he was a family friend, or someone positive.
    I think I was confused by the little girl recognising him. I should read more between the lines, maybe.
    Enjoyed it Jane.

  6. Thanks Martin:) Well I'm pleased that you thought he was a family friend or someone positive - that was part of my intention; to disguise his true intentions (as such people often do) but still leave a small amount of uncertainty in the overall action but ultimately leaving the evidence in the title of the story/book. It's interesting you say that maybe you should read more between the lines - herein lies a dilemma for many a writer - how much should you signpost? When I sent part of my novel out it came back with lots of demands for explanations - which irritated me a little as it's essentially a thriller - part of the excitement for me as a reader is working out the who/what/why of a novel. I don't want to give the game away in the first chapter! I think somehow I need to achieve a happy balance - perhaps I am not quite there yet and that is why ultimately I bombed out with this story (unless of course it was writing style not content - or both.)

    Thanks for commenting. All feedback really helps:)

  7. I totally got ur story and liked it too... But I think its a bit predictable. I knew right from the beginning that he is a kidnapper sorts. OR maybe cuz am always a bit suspicious of everything. LOL!

  8. Hi Cocktail, thanks for the comment and I'm glad you liked the story. It's funny how a story and/or it's meaning clicks with one person and not with another - maybe a lot depends on our own personal circumstances. Who knows!

    Crikey - I have a totally suspicious mind as well. Snap! I imagine criminals at every corner, aliens about to land and all sorts of crazy things.In fact, I only have to be followed by the same car for a mile or more and I'm thinking kidnapping and espionage!

    I probably need therapy:))

  9. I found this piece chilling from the start, especially as it is written from the child's perspective.

    I think I have to agree that what let it down was the didn't have that one liner, that wrap-up sentence that ties up the loose ends of the reader's suspicions.

    I thought it was a gripping flash piece though.

    And now I'm going to check out Princess Cheryl ;o)

  10. Hi Cheryl,

    Thanks for the comment. I'm pleased you found it chilling - I was kinda hoping it would have that feel of dread/anticipation about it.

    Yep, the more I look at the ending the more displeased I am with it. I'm doing a course at the moment but as soon as that's done I'm going to put my thinking cap on and rewrite it and maybe try submitting it elsewhere:)I don't actually know where -as none of my stuff fits in anywhere but at least the idea is there!


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