Flash Fiction Challenge: Choose Your Random Sentence

Relevant Chuck Wendig Blog Post (clicky)

“Go click the link to the random sentence generator.

Get a random sentence.

It’s okay if you have to reclick a few times.

Let’s say, upwards of ten reclicks.

Choose one of those ten sentences.

And use that sentence in a piece of flash fiction up to 1000 words long.”

(author’s notes appear at the end)

“The highest incompetence originates with the grave disorder.”

Grave Disorder

by J N Keir

Bartholomew had always been an idiot, a functional idiot. He was the kind of idiot that could be trained to arrange nails so the “bad ones, with the heads on wrong” could be set right-wise. Strange though, how this arrangement required nails to rest with the point upward. The sad part was Bart’s idiocy wasn’t a learning disorder, or something for which genetic insufficiency could take the blame. The real nutmeat was that Bartholomew was lazy. It started when he decided to just be “Bart”, because writing the rest out on a check was too much work.

It ended when he fell off an extension ladder into several collections of nails arranged in a singular – and rather dangerous – unidirectional pattern. Bart punctured both lungs, his heart, one kidney, and somehow managed to dislocate his hip. That’s not what killed him, though. What killed him was trying to pry a nail out of his groin with a utility knife – he managed to sever the femoral artery. That, in a flash of blood and dumb, put and end to his living idiocy.

Of course, Bart tried to be good at being dead. He’d always wanted to be the best at something, especially at something easy. So when this opportunity came upon him, he felt a great rush of relief – here was a thing that shouldn’t take any effort at all, and people would remember how good he was at it. He could even try to out-dead all the other deaders out there piled in graveyards, or sitting on fireplace mantles in old salad dressing jars.

He started his quest with an EMT.

“Excuse me, sir? Mister emergency guy? Can you tell me how to be …”

The EMT shrieked. It was a startling, girlish sound to come from such a sound-looking fellow. His partner driving up front – a rather girlish looking girl with slender hips and compassionate eyes – barked a laugh.

“Jesus, Hal! What was that all about?” she asked.

“The… The, the… He-” Hal wasn’t making much sense.

Bart opened his bodybag and focused on the driver, “Miss, I wonder if you-“

Something must have surprised her because she just lost her mind. The ambulance bounced off a curb, jostled a bit, clipped a fire hydrant, and rolled several times down an embankment into a slow, dirty stream. Both EMTs were killed, of course, and already they seemed to have a better handle on it than Bart. Their eyes were glassy, and the girly one even managed to be upside down, with blood dripping from her eyelashes. It was an admirable start at being dead.

Bart cursed under his breath, “Friggin’ prima donnas…”

It took some clambering around, but he managed to right himself in the unrighted ambulance, and push through the double doors at the back. Up the hill a great plume of water erupted from the wreckage of the hydrant. People had gathered in stunned silence a ways away from the jetting water, but they broke into a shocked cheer as Bart crashed out of the ambulance. When he turned to them to wave, the cheering faltered. A man in a tracksuit made his way down towards Bart shouting nonsense.

“Sir! Sir, you need to lay down. Please just lay down here… that’s right, I’m going to cover you with my jacket. You’re hurt, you’ve been in an- Jesus.”

Bart let the man lay him back on the grass. He tried to talk, “Sir, I need advice on how to-“

The man cut him off, “Stay calm man, I’m going to help you; I’m Kyle – a med student. Hold still for me… your pulse is weak, uh, your pulse is… shit. What the hell?”

“Yes, I know,” Bart started, “that’s what I wanted to ask you about.”

“You’re dead, man.” Kyle discovered where the EMTs had cut Bart’s trouser leg away from his groin. “You’re fucking dead!”

“Well, duh.”

Kyle scrambled backward and away, his face betraying a mixture of uncertainty and shock. Bart sighed.

A couple of unusual figures pushed their way through the crowd above and started down the hill towards the ambulance. They looked oddly like Sherpas from the Himalayas, but with gaunt, gray skin and smoldering eyes. Each of them drug an EMT out of the ambulance. Well, sort of. They drug the spirits of the EMTs out, slung them across their shoulders fireman fashion, and lumbered into the stream toward the opposite bank.

“Hey, wait! I need to talk to you! You guys, yeah, the … uh. You guys!” Bart shouted.

From somewhere behind Bart heard a shuffle.

“Hey buddy, let them do their thing. Anyway, they don’t speak English. …work cheap though.” It was a new voice coming from Bart’s right side. He turned and found a figure standing over him. The newcomer looked something like a Benedictine Abbot without skin, leaning on an tall, slender-bladed scythe with a haft of deep ebony.

“Dude…”

“Yeah, yeah,” Death acknowledged.

“I just wanted to be good at this, but I can’t. Would you- would you help me?”

“Help you? Everyone else manages to figure out how to be dead within a few seconds. But you, sir, you have a problem.”

“I’ve never really been good at anything,” Bart whispered.

“You don’t say? Well, you’re in luck, kid. Turns out you just have a condition, an ah… a disorder! A grave disorder. You can’t manage the state of being dead.”

“I thought maybe I would be good at being dead – that it was something I could do well. Brag a little.”

“You just wanted to be good at something, huh?” Death asked.

“I really did.”

“Well, I’ve got some good news for you. You’ve achieved the utmost pinnacle of something.”

“I have?” Bart was astounded. “What could that be?”

“Incompetence. You can’t even die proper.”

“Oh, I see,” Bart said. It didn’t sound like a superlative.

“The highest incompetence originates with the grave disorder,” Death offered.

“No shit?”


Author’s Notes:

Another go at the Terribleminds FF challenge. I find myself going for exactly on the word count again. The tools I use for document editing never agree on word count, and I’m sure as hell too lazy to… finish this sentence.

This was fun; it came together pretty quickly. The generator is a little taste of low-cost clickjoy. I copied down the first ten it spit out and picked the above for this challenge, but I hammered on that generator for a good thirty minutes before I started actually writing.

Here’s a little gem from the aftermath: “The believer thirsts.”