(A pretty pic to catch your eye – we writer’s our shameless in our ability to solicit attention – but don’t say you weren’t warned.)
Got my snippet of conversation for a flash fiction assignment from the Ramsgate Women’s Fiction Group – check out their blog http://ramsgatewomensfiction.blogspot.ca/
Anyway, here’s the result – fiction with a wee twist of autobiographical feeling – then again, what fiction isn’t like that?
“Yes, well she said she wasn’t drunk, but I don’t know.” Shit – why had she tacked on those last three words – I don’t know – in that tentative, weak tone? She sounded like she didn’t have a clue, like her client would have been better off telling her problems to the first passerby she saw on the street. Shit.
Monica clutched at the file in her hand and told herself to breathe. The weekly peer supervision sessions with one of her graduate school colleagues always rattled her composure. They were supposed to share case notes from their practicum counselling sessions and try to help each other identify blind spots, work on their edges – what a load of shit. It was the blind leading the blind – one-upmanship spurred on by mutual insecurity. The first person to show a hint of weakness would be brought down like a crippled zebra before a pack of slavering lions.
And who the hell did this guy think he was to be questioning her judgement in that snide tone and making her feel like some sort of beginner? The thought of him being a counsellor someday made her pity anyone who might end up as his client. What a joke this entire program was turning out to be. Why she had thought going back to school to get her Master’s degree was a good idea was a total mystery to her now. And at her age – it was laughable, really. She knew how to help people – she’d been doing it for years. But instead of being out in the world doing what she was good at, she was stuck in a corner of the graduate student lounge being grilled by an egotistical smart aleck who was young enough to be her son – peer my ass.
When she let herself dwell on what her graduate school experience had been so far she felt like vomiting. Insecure professors who were also younger than her, nitpicking over ridiculous crap – academics who hadn’t had an original thought in the last twenty years, people so busy cannibalizing any real work they had ever done and stealing their own students’ ideas for more publications and research grant money, they had no time or inclination to give a shit about teaching. Her fellow classmates had either come into the program thinking they already knew everything or they were so busy spewing back every word the prof said like it had just come down from God on high they couldn’t possibly open themselves up to really learn anything. The curriculum for the entire program made her question when the last time anyone designing this bullshit had been in the real world. What a colossal mistake it all was.
“Monica, can we drop the peer supervision roles for a minute? I really need to talk to someone.”
The tremble in his voice propelled her out of her spiral of negative thoughts as she sat up straighter and met his pleading eyes. “Sure, Jeff – what’s up?”
“I haven’t slept for a couple of days – I can’t keep up. Work is crazy right now and I need the job – I’ve got to pay for school. I don’t have that old silver spoon in my mouth like some people in this program. My girlfriend is on my back every minute about how much time I’m spending on campus and I’m behind in the readings for every course. Forget about that bloody theories paper for Mr. Dickhead – it’s not going to happen.”
Monica watched him drop his head into his hand and rake his long fingers through his hair. When he looked up his voice shook, “I admire you – you’re the one person in the whole frigging cohort who seems to care about anybody else or even slightly have her shit together. I watch you and I wonder what the hell I’m doing here. I feel like such a bloody imposter every second – like it’s only a matter of time before they find out what a total incompetent I am and kick me out of the program. Sorry to dump all my crap out like this – I just feel like I’m drowning.”
Monica took a deep breath and reached across the space that separated them to put her hand on Jeff’s knee, “Let’s take things one at a time – OK? Maybe together we can figure out where you can get a little room to move in all of this.” She smiled warmly at him and she could feel her world pivot back to where it was supposed to be.
These flash fiction assignments must be quite a challenge. You are certainly up to the task, though. I enjoyed reading this latest vignette. The last parargraph is terrific. Maybe you should write a book of short stories after your novel goes to press? I have always been a fan of well-told short stories that are insightful and satisfying.
What I love about flash fiction is the set starting point – on my own I would be hard pressed to come up with a place to start – having just a snippet of something to prime the creative pump is really a lot of fun. Short stories – something to think about for sure. Thanks for checking in and thanks so much for the comment.