Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Dinner Party - The World in Miniature

by Jeff Hall

The Dinner Party

Cedric tapped his foot impatiently. He detested tardiness. This was, after all, a feast fit for a king.

It bothered him not a bit that others had done all the work. He would vent his frustrations on his inconsiderate guests as if he had painstakingly prepared each morsel.

He began to pace, fretting and muttering to himself about the lack of manners these days.

What was that? Was it her? Was she here, finally?

No, it was those two buffoons, Beauregard and Sinclair, making a valiant effort to appear nonchalant as they slunk to their customary places, avoiding Cedric's stern looks.

As he prepared to scold them Cedric detected a delicate aroma, a sweet scent that he associated with…her.

She was here, at last! Gloria!

Time stood still as she magically appeared, elegant in her fur coat, the moonlight playing in her eyes.

Suddenly, everything came to a screeching halt.

Gloria had a companion.

Who is he? Cedric hurled the question at Gloria in a single, pained look.

Oh, the nerve! How could she do this to him, after he had arranged such a banquet, all for her.

He swaggered towards them, locking eyes with this new, unwanted guest. They both refused to look away, battling in tense silence.

He had to admit, the newcomer was handsome, and young. He was probably stronger than Cedric, too. But there was a certain decorum to be observed. A hierarchy existed, and he was willing to risk personal injury, if need be, to preserve his honor.
Cedric forced a smile in an attempt to convey suave self-confidence. His opponent, obviously unnerved by the resultant ghastly leer, relented and looked away. The others released a collective breath.

Sniffing with disdain, Cedric sauntered back to his place at the head, confident that this impertinent fellow had been put in his place.

With a slight nod he signaled for the feast to begin.


As the evening progressed, Gloria grew restless. She fumed over Cedric’s boorish behavior. After his fit of jealousy she could not resist the opportunity to further antagonize him. Catching her companion’s attention she winked an invitation to sneak off. He hesitated for a moment, then followed her.

Over her shoulder she could see Cedric’s stricken face as they walked away. The sight of his pompous ego deflating was too much for her.

She began to giggle. Soon her chuckling became contagious laughter. Her companion joined in and she thought she could even hear Beauregard and Sinclair cackling. Their combined yelping echoed across the savannah.

For a moment, Gloria felt sorry for Cedric. But, no, he deserved it. He had always thought he was God’s gift to hyenas.


Wanu said...


Matthew Rush said...

Excellent! What a fun surprise. Beauregard has got to be the best name for a Hyena ever.

Deb Salisbury said...

Brilliantly done!

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Awesome! A furry treat. :)

JM Leotti said...

God's gift to hyenas. That's funny! Clever story.

Okie said...

Great twist. It really changed things up...I loved the internal monologue as well. Great fun.

Bookworm1605 said...

Thanks for the kind comments.

Since this is a writing blog I'll rehash a related topic that the three of us tossed about in emails a while back. It was inspired in part by this story and the feedback I got on it at a writing site long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away. It seems that there are two camps in the Flash Fiction universe: those who are OK with twist endings and those who are incensed by them.

Obviously, I don't mind a twist ending, as long as it doesn't jerk the reader around. It's hard to carry much punch in so few words and so a clever twist can put meat on the bones. Bryan's story from last week is a nice example of good Flash without a twist but a all Flash isn's so well fleshed out. A lot of it feels like small chunks of beautifully disjointed prose, but not a story.

I'm not saying every Flash story should have a twist ending. But I think it's OK of some do. That's my two cents. Got an opinion?

Wanu said...

I tend to memorise some of the quirky things I read on submissions guidelines. I don't recall where it was, but among a massive list of 'Do not!'s somewhere, I came across something like, 'stories with a reveal at the end that would've been obvious to all of the characters during the story'.

I'm going to take a really broad perspective on this. I think that kind of guideline is given where the editors have seen a bunch of examples where the technique isn't used well. As in, that type of twist needs to be done with a degree of panache.

I totally say you did that with the right punch, Book. It was brilliant, and also one of those stories that causes smiles on second read. Some of the word choices are sublime!

So, yes, totally works because... well because it works!

On the greater debate of whether a flash piece should have a twist end or not, I don't think there's a place for 'should' either way really. You and Ink have shown great works from both sides of this, so, I'm left with a clear conclusion: as long as it's done well, flash works with or without a twist.

Bookworm1605 said...

And I definitely agree with you. In my opinion, all stories should succeed or fail on their own merits. But in addition to sparking a lively debate at a Flash forum, this story also got me quite a response from an editor. Soon after I wrote it and got a little feedback in critique I sent it off to one of the big Flash ezines. Almost immediately I got a response from the editor. He liked the piece, BUT...on principle, he never accepted stories with twist endings. He went on and on and on about how twist endings cheat the reader and he even provided me a link to an article he'd written on the subject for another Flash ezine.

The story has languished on my hard drive ever since.

Wanu said...

The way is shut! The dead keep it from the living!

Hehe. That was naughty, huh? Do you still have the link, Book? I'd like to see the rationale behind this.

Bookworm1605 said...

I don't have the rejection any longer. Periodically I construct a pyre with all my rejections which I then light afire all the while dancing in circles and chanting positive, self-motivation nonsensicals.

And I tried to find the link on the website but either the fellow saw the error of his ways or I dreamed it all up in a bourbon haze. I'm afraid the whole experience dented my psyche, regardless of the source.