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Room 44

Room 44

A lonely man in Room 44 has to face the consequences of a selfish youth

4

Flash fiction


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Paul Earl (Australia)


They called him Blowjob Bob. Could get any woman on her knees, no word of a lie. Robert’s keen on the young one with freckles. Always had a thing for redheads.

‘I’ve put your morning tea by the window, Mr. Lawrence.’ She taps his hand and points. ‘Over there by the window. Nurse Emma tells me you like the view of the water.’

Robert likes the water; but he prefers the smoking nurses. Twice a day if he’s lucky. Highlight of being on the ground floor; sometimes he misses the array of blue uniforms if he nods off too early. Lunchtime. That’s when they’re out there. Robert doesn’t like the fat one with the fake tan. Has a stupid laugh. It’s loud and it plagues Room 44. He’s like a mutt that recoils in agony every time she tilts her stupid head back.

Blowjob Bob. Robert’s laughter is now a wheeze. Ridiculous. He sees the funny side of life today. Redhead bends over for him when she does her rounds. Calls herself clumsy; knows damn well she’s not. The old boy’s still got it. Not like the others in there. The residents don’t take the blindest bit of notice. He doesn’t care; they’re passed it. One old girl fancies him. Offered him a custard cream the other day. Poor dear.

‘Your daughter called this morning, Mr. Lawrence.’ Redhead says. ‘She sends her apologies, but she can’t make it this week. Your granddaughter’s got the flu. She’ll see you in a fortnight.’

Robert nobs. He rests his frail hands on his lap and shuts his eyes. His mind skips back. He’s now 40 and rich. Wouldn’t change a thing. Nothing. They were marvelous days. Glorious. A house bursting with life; parties and girls. Most envied bloke in Bournemouth. Robert made his fortune from Arthurs’ Cove Ltd. Who’d have thought matches could make a mint? Spent the lot. His daughters had to sell the mansion to cover the cost of Room 44. Crystal says the money’s run out. Flu my arse! Crystal can’t be bothered to come out with it.

She was a beautiful child, Crystal was. Beautiful. Her little sister wasn’t a patch on her. Crystal inherited her mother’s looks. My Jenni. Dear Jenni. Best-friend he ever had. Course, he had to fuck it all up.

‘Mr. Lawrence,’ Redhead comes out of the bathroom frowning. ‘If you need the loo, you need to ring the bell. I’ll be right back, darlin'.’

Robert looks out at the water. It’s too early for the parade of blue. Tears have blurred his vision. It’s the second time that week.

‘Mr. Lawrence, me and Nurse Emma need to clean you up, darlin’. We’ll brew you a fresh cuppa later, alright sweetheart?’

Robert looks at the blue uniforms looking down at him. Bloody marvelous. They’ve brought the fat one too. The three women hoist him out of his seat on ‘three’. They carefully shuffle him to the bathroom.

Blowjob Bob. Doesn’t seem so funny now.


Competition: The Pen Factor 2016, Round 1

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Read Reviews

Review 1:


Compelling hook?

Fresh?

Strong characters?

Entertaining?

Attention to mechanics
  • The grammar, typography, sentence structure and punctuation would benefit from a further round of editing to avoid distracting from the quality of the story.
Narration and dialogue: Balance
  • Your story struck a good balance between narration and authentic dialogue.
Narration and dialogue: Authentic voice
  • The protagonist didn’t always respond believably against the backdrop of the story. Ask yourself if people would really answer to a situation in that way. Think about whether the characters’ voices could be more convincing for their age, background, gender, time period, genre, gender and ethnicity. Dialogue should be natural and consistent throughout the story.
Characterization
  • Make sure your characters are multidimensional. Do they have strengths and weaknesses? Mere mortals make the most interesting stories because they are like you and me and we are able to empathize with their journey. That’s how the connection with a character is formed.
Main character
  • Connect us to your main protagonist with a deeper characterization. Could your protagonist have a few more distinguishing character traits?
Character conflict
  • The reader’s experience of the story is heightened when the characters’ goals, conflicts and purpose are clear. Perhaps giving this aspect of the story further attention could be worthwhile.
Plot and pace
  • Maintaining the right pace and sustaining the reader’s interest is a challenging balancing act. The story had a clear and coherent progression with a structured plot. A truly absorbing story!
Suspense and conflict
  • The joy of reading often lies in the element of suspense prompted by internal or external conflicts. The build-up was intriguing and I felt the tension mounting with each word.
Technique and tight writing
  • When writing is tight, economical and each word has purpose, it enables the plot to unravel clearly. Try and make each individual word count.
Point of view
  • Point of view helps the reader identify whose perspective we are engaging with, i.e. who is narrating the story. It can sometimes be helpful to double check that the point of view in the story is successfully handled. Ensure you consistently use the same point of view and tense throughout, either: a) First person; b) Third-person limited; or c) Third-person omniscient.
Style and originality
  • Creating a unique writing style while maintaining quality of prose is tricky. As writers, we face the daunting task of making sure we are not being predictable. Can you find a way to give the content and characters more of a unique edge? Perhaps say something boldly, something fresh or show an unorthodox approach to a topic?
Atmosphere and description
  • A writer’s ability to create mood and atmosphere through evocative description is vital to the reader’s experience. It’s a real skill to craft out how the characters react to the setting and atmosphere and perhaps your story could go further in its description. The reader wants to experience the same sensory and poignant journey as the characters.
Authentic and vivid setting
  • The scene needs to be vivid and realistic in order to hold the reader’s attention. Being concise and plausible at the same time is tricky. Giving this further attention could perhaps be worthwhile.
Opening line, paragraph and hook
  • Your great opening was a promise of wonderful things to come. I was hooked!
General comments from your fellow writer 1:
Your story would benefit from more detail and development of characters. Without a tangible setting, your reader will lose interest in the story. Your characters must be three-dimensional. The individual is more than physical. There have to be three active participants to make a story credible, Protagonist, (Narrator) Secondary character, and Antagonist. There must also be Conflict, Progression (internalization) resolution, and climax. Without these elements, you will lose your reader. The director of the movie employs actors, sets, and music in successfully hooking his audience. How much more daunting is the task for a writer, who has only his/her imagination to communcate to his readers? You must emply detail and description to tell hook and hold your reader.

Review 2:


Compelling hook?

Fresh?

Strong characters?

Entertaining?

Attention to mechanics
  • The grammar, typography, sentence structure and punctuation would benefit from a further round of editing to avoid distracting from the quality of the story.
Narration and dialogue: Balance
  • There needs to be more balance between narration and dialogue. Avoid overdoing the narrative and remember that dialogue can diffuse long claustrophobic text.
Atmosphere and description
  • A writer’s ability to create mood and atmosphere through evocative description is vital to the reader’s experience. It’s a real skill to craft out how the characters react to the setting and atmosphere and perhaps your story could go further in its description. The reader wants to experience the same sensory and poignant journey as the characters.
General comments from your fellow writer 2:
Maybe you could have chosen fresher words to replace some of the dirtier words in your story, but it was a great story!

Review 3:


Compelling hook?

Fresh?

Strong characters?

Entertaining?

Attention to mechanics
  • You demonstrate a professional quality of writing throughout the story.
Narration and dialogue: Balance
  • Your story struck a good balance between narration and authentic dialogue.
Narration and dialogue: Authentic voice
  • Your characters’ voices were convincing and authentic.
Characterization
  • Your characters were multidimensional. I found them believable and engaging and they genuinely responded to the events of the story.
Main character
  • Your protagonist exhibited a unique voice and had original characteristics. Their actions and dialogue were convincing!
Character conflict
  • Your characters drew me into their world from the very beginning. Their goals and conflicts were clearly conveyed.
Plot and pace
  • Maintaining the right pace and sustaining the reader’s interest is a challenging balancing act. The story had a clear and coherent progression with a structured plot. A truly absorbing story!
Suspense and conflict
  • The joy of reading often lies in the element of suspense prompted by internal or external conflicts. The build-up was intriguing and I felt the tension mounting with each word.
Technique and tight writing
  • The writing was tight and economical and each word had purpose. This enabled the plot to unravel clearly. Your writing exhibits technical proficiency.
Point of view
  • The story successfully solicited the reader’s empathy through the clever use of the narrator's point of view. You show great deftness in handling point of view.
Style and originality
  • I loved your fresh approach. Creating a unique writing style while maintaining quality of prose requires both skill and practice. Impressive.
Atmosphere and description
  • Your story was a feast for the senses. The atmosphere wrapped itself around me and transported me onto the page alongside your characters.
Authentic and vivid setting
  • The setting was realistic and vivid. The characters’ mood and emotions were conveyed successfully through the believable setting.
Opening line, paragraph and hook
  • Your great opening was a promise of wonderful things to come. I was hooked!
General comments from your fellow writer 3:
This story creates an excellent balance between humor and solemnity. I enjoyed it!