Today I found this little flash fiction piece lying around in one of my writing folders. I wrote this as a contest entry for a local newspaper, but I never heard back, so I assume it didn’t make the cut! I might as well get some use out of it, though, so here it is.
The guidelines for the contest were that the story had to be under 500 words and had to include the words whale, impress, and cosmos.
“Pardon me, miss; you aren’t allowed in here.” The declaration came from a furtive, bespectacled man with a thinning patch of salt-and-pepper hair. He was peering around a sheet of plywood that was acting as the door to a makeshift beach hut constructed out of stacks of driftwood and covered over with a few patchy tarps.
Heather Normandy flashed her press badge. “I’m not just another gawker, sir. I’m with the newspaper.” A gust of wind kicked up some sand from the beach, and she turned to shield her camera.
“I’m sorry, but you can’t come in,” replied the gatekeeper.
A rough hand tapped Heather on the shoulder. “Excuse me, miss,” said a gruff gentleman holding a large bucket of seawater. Heather stepped aside, and the gatekeeper let the man through.
Heather craned her neck to see through the gap as the man passed inside. “I know you have a beached orca in there. You have no right to hide this from the public!”
“Is your bravado supposed to impress me?”
“Oh, I have to impress you?” said Heather sarcastically. “What if I told you I was the second runner-up of the 2004 Miss Cosmos Pageant?”
The gatekeeper gave her a funny look.
Heather heard the sloshing of water and a low moan of distress. Several voices muttered inside the hut. The man who had just entered stepped back outside with an empty bucket.
A tall man wearing a toque and carrying a large bundle of old bed sheets walked up next. The gatekeeper said, “Excellent, Jason!” and let him in. Returning his attention to Heather, he said, “I’m afraid I simply can’t let you in at the moment. You’re a woman; it wouldn’t be decent.”
Heather was outraged. “What is this, some kind of sexist publicity stunt?”
“No, no, of course not! How could I expect to maintain my membership in the Oak Bay Society of Moral Living if I were a sexist?”
Someone else on the inside whispered into the gatekeeper’s ear. “Excuse me, miss,” he said, pulling the plywood shut behind him.
Heather heard some whispered conversation. Then the gatekeeper popped his head back out.
“Good news!” he said. “You can come in now. But please keep your photography, um, tasteful.” He politely held the door open.
Heather strode into the gloomy hut and pulled out her camera. The beached orca was lying on its side, feebly opening and closing its massive jaws. A dozen men were stationed around it, rubbing it with wet cloths and dousing it with buckets of seawater. Heather began snapping photos.
Then she saw what had been done with the bed sheets: they had been crudely pinned together and wrapped around the orca about two-thirds of the way down its body.
“What’s with the whale diaper?” asked Heather.
“Far be it from the Society of Moral Living to expose a living creature’s nakedness to a member of the opposite sex,” said the gatekeeper. “It simply wouldn’t be decent.”