short fiction

Flash flash flash

Okay, enough pondering, let’s read a short story with the word ‘fuck’ in it.

This was meant to be written for one of Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenges back at the start of June, where he asked people to write a story inspired by this image:

I didn’t get my act/ideas in gear fast enough to be part of that, but it stuck in my mind, so I’ve been fiddling with a story in my few idle moments. And here it is.

For sale, baby heads, never worn

One dozen kewpie doll heads for sale.

One dozen kewpie doll torsos for sale.

Two dozen kewpie doll arms for sale.

Two dozen kewpie doll legs for sale.

‘The ones who buy the legs are fucking sickos,’ Jeanette tells me. ‘The heads, they get bid on by Goths and arts students and teenagers who want to surprise their mother when she opens her jewellery box. The arms and torsos mostly go to doll collectors who need them for repairs. But the guys who bid on the legs? Fucking perverts, every last one. Those legs will end up in a permanently sticky jar under the bed, only to be discovered when CSI finally bag and tag them along with all the other evidence.’


‘I don’t see why you don’t just sell, you know, the dolls. Intact and undismembered. That way people could actually use them.’

‘And that’s why you’ll never make a fortune on eBay,’ she says. ‘There’s no money in selling them whole. Who the hell wants to give their kid a kewpie doll? But you separate them into pieces and you get some interest, because there are people who just want the arms or the heads and don’t want the hassle of pulling them apart themselves. That’s my customer base – weirdoes that have creative (or disgusting) ideas but are too lazy or busy to do the basic legwork.’

Her workshop (which is what Jeanette calls her garage) backs her up. We sit in a corner pulling the heads and limbs off the dolls she’d bought for next to nothing, sorting them into piles and sticking them with all the other racks and boxes and baskets of disassembled geegaws and widgets. Toaster handles. Typewriter keys. Smurf feet. Dozens of collections of bits, waiting to be sold in online auctions.

‘The future is piecemeal,’ she says. ‘We’ll assemble our houses and jobs and lives from collections of stuff, buying one bit at a time and sticking it into place. Drive cars made from recycled parts, listen to mix tapes made from bits of other mix tapes, leftover pieces of other people’s lives coming back to us. Like bottles in the surf. But, y’know, cooler.’

She talks like this a lot. And yeah, she’s a little bit crazy. But she might also be right. And she’s definitely beautiful. And I’m kind of in love with her, so I hang on her every word and pull the hands off old alarm clocks for her just so I can hang around.

I know it’s pathetic. But it’s who I am, and what I can hope for. So I come by and hang out every day, and help her disassemble and sort things that used to be whole, and wait for her to realise that I’m the guy for her.

I’ve been waiting a while. Every time I come over, I try to work my courage up to tell her how I feel, and every time I lose my nerve and just disassemble old Atari joysticks without pay instead.

But not today. Finally, after months, I just think fuck it and lunge in to kiss her while she’s writing up an auction for a set of five ‘ESCAPE’ buttons prised off computer keyboards (surprisingly popular items).

And she recoils. Not in a disgusted way, but in a disappointed way, which is a lot worse.

Then she has to goddamn explain herself.

‘I go to the movies with Dave. I run my business with Solomon. I sleep with Donell. I read Takashi my poetry. I cry on Lukas’ shoulder. And I talk to you about my ideas. None of you can be everything I want, because no-one is ever everything that someone else wants. People will understand that one day, and we’ll live in clouds of piecemeal relationships, focusing on people when they matter and ignoring them when they don’t. Flitting like butterflies. But, y’know, cooler.’

Jeannette puts her hand on my chest and smiles, like she doesn’t want to hurt me, like she knows it’s not my fault that I’m not advanced (or crazy) enough to understand what she thinks we should be. Like her choices are always someone else’s problem.

‘You get to be a piece of my life,’ she says, ‘same as the other men I know. That’s all I can offer you. And you have to decide if that’s enough.’

Is it enough? I think about it.

No. No, it’s not.

…and yet, I nod my head and give her a little smile and say sorry.

Because even if it’s not enough, it’s enough for now. She might change her mind. I might grow on her.

Or I might just bump off all those other guys.

One by one.


But that’s a plan for another day. Today, there are baby heads to sort. And names to remember.

The current plan, by the way, is to write flash fiction here and there when I get inspired, until I have nine good stories. Then I’ll put them together into a 99c ebook, provisionally entitled Nine Flash Nine, and whack it up for sale. Low effort and cost from my end, and a chance to see what sales of short work might be like at that bottom end of the market.

More on that when it pans out.

ebooks short fiction

Godheads and Other Stories

It was something like six months ago when I published Hotel Flamingo as an e-novella, and at that time I said I’d have an anthology of short stories available soon.

Well, ‘soon’ turned out to be more than six months later, but I’ve finally gotten my arse into gear and produced something new – Godheads and Other Stories, a collection of six short stories about the intersection between high weirdness and low mundaneness, and how even the very strange can see normal once you get used to it. They are:

  • ‘On the Redeye Express’: It’s about an hour or two into the ride when Nick realises that people are vanishing from the bus. He’s too tired to question it, and too worried that his girlfriend might dump him at the end of this trip – but when it keeps happening, what’s he going to do about it?
  • ‘Metatext Otis’: One morning, Otis Blincher woke up to find he had turned into a Franz Kafka novel. What’s a man supposed to do when his day starts like that?
  • ‘Objects Seen in Hindsight May be Deader than They Appear’: Armed only with a plastic homebirthing kit and some paperclips, Simon confronts the ghost of a ghost as part of his initiation into an order of paranormal investigators. But when a creature exists only in your memories, how are you supposed to fight it – and how can you trust what you learn about it?
  • ‘The Salbine Incident’: Doctor Edward Sabine set out to prove the existence of the ghosts of fictional characters like Sherlock Holmes by creating his own. The results were… regrettable.
  • ‘Meanwhile, at the End of Days’: Two pensioners wait for the bus. Meanwhile, Jesus Christ returns to Earth for the Second Coming. Is there time to make it to the Rapture and still get to the RSL in time for the bingo specials?
  • ‘Godheads’: In an age where gods and spirits have been captured and rendered down into consumer drugs, Diane and Angela head out to their favourite club to get high and dance. But Diane’s too angry to have fun tonight – and convinced that something strange and dangerous threatens not just her relationship but reality itself.

Some of these are old (I wrote ‘Godheads’ in 1996), some are new (I finished writing ‘Objects Seen in Hindsight…’ last night); some of them are very long (‘Godheads’ is more than 6000 words), some are very short (‘Metatext Otis’ is exactly 500 words), but they’re all worth reading. Well, I would think that, but I’m biased.

Here’s a picture of the current cover, just for entertainment’s sake, but this is getting replaced with a sexier, better cover later in the week once the designer finishes it. But I couldn’t wait that long to get the book out the door!

So where can you buy this collection of literary dynamite and bizarro horror for no more than $2.99 American (or even less in Australian dollars)?

Well, two places. First, there’s the website Smashwords, which has it available in a variety of formats including EPUB, MOBI and PDF, which can be read by devices like Kindles, Kobos, Nooks and pretty much everything else.

Second, Kindle users can get it directly from the Amazon Kindle Store – except that Amazon have a slower approval process than Smashwords, so at the time of this writing they don’t have it up for sale yet. However, if you wait about 24 hours and go to my author page, you should be able to find it there. Or search for ‘Patrick O’Duffy’ on the Store via your Kindle and buy it directly that way. (If it’s not there yet, keep trying! Never give up!)

(EDIT TO ADD: Okay, it’s there now.)

(It’ll also show up on the iBookstore within a few weeks, but why would you wait that long?)

While you’re at it, feel free to check out Hotel Flamingo on Smashwords or Amazon if you haven’t already. Plus, of course, the free fiction in the Downloads section, if you missed the announcement about that a couple of days ago.

And please, if you like either book, tell a friend, leave a review, or just shout my name really loudly in the street until the police show up. I’d appreciate it.

short fiction

Look! Stuff!

Right, time to add some actual content to this site!

Said content takes the form of two short stories to download, absolutely free – ‘The Descent’ and ‘Watching the Fireworks’. They’re available on the Downloads page as PDFs with charmingly crap cover art, which I made myself with my limited Photoshop skills.

More will probably follow. But not before the link to buy and download Godheads and Other Stories, which should be up by Saturday afternoon, the good Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise.

Also, don’t get too used to the appearance of this site. I may end up changing the entire theme to something that works a bit better for things like author pics and sidebars and the like. Or I may not. I’m mercurial!