Friday, 19 February 2010

Morning Assembly #fridayflash 480 words

He'd never any toys when he was a child. Well, when he was younger than he is now. Left to peck with his fingers in the dust alongside the chickens. He didn't even know he was draughting imaginary maps and coastlines that now he was surveying for real.

There was no instruction guide for this kit. No box with a picture on it for comparison. It was however made in China, more coastlines away from his home than he could ever limn.

The flat curved box with the grooves was easy. He knew where that went, but it was ever the last piece of the jigsaw. The other chunky part, the wooden one which vaguely echoed the shape of a hobbyhorse, not that he had ever seen one of course, well that too was relatively straightforward. Though it was the one that posed him the greatest trial, forever slapping his shoulder with tremendous vigour. More so even than his father, or the man presiding over him here.

No, what caught him were all the fiddly bits. The bits that actually looked like fun. First there was the spring and a metal gulley you could make it slide across. Push the spring back with your fingers, then release it and watch the spring dart across its cradling runway and fly out like an arrow. Then there was the bolt. You could wedge it into the ground and then roll or throw miracle fruit towards it and see which gets the closest. Of course he would never be allowed to stick the bolt in the ground and get it covered in smut. Then he would most likely feel someone's hobbyhorse smashed over his head by the man in charge.

The thin tube, my how fine a blowpipe might that make, for going hunting bush monkey or birds. A silent and deadly weapon, like the old ways. Though he knew if he brought this tube to his mouth, it would taste of oil and make him retch. But he knew metal toys needed oil to keep all their parts working. And finally, the strange little drum. That seemed to do nothing at all. Yet if he held it to his ear and shut his eyes tight enough to block out the world, if he then shook it he could just hear the sea moving about inside it. Like listening through a conch shell, but so far more distant. All the way from China perhaps. Did China have a sea of its own? The man had told them that the drum contained a gas, not water. But to him it sounded only like the waves. Alas there was never sufficient hush around in the camp for him truly to be able to hear it quite enough and prove the man wrong.

"Okay boys. Thirty seconds only to assemble this AK47. Or I shoot you".

27 comments:

Laura Eno said...

Oh, dear. No time to be wondering if it sounds like a conch shell. 30 seconds goes by quickly.

PDAllen said...

Very cute this. I was beginning to think he was building a bomb, but the parts didn't sound right. It didn't occur to me he was assembling a gun.

Cascade Lily said...

The old double bluff start had me a bit confused as to where I was, but it all clicked into place in the end (slight pun, sorry).

And I learnt a new word too (limn - had to look it up!).

Marisa Birns said...

So you've written a horror story.

Disobedience is not an option. 30 seconds to death, for not knowing how to fit the pieces of the puzzle.

Powerful.

Anonymous said...

I really like when people are expressing their opinion and thought. So I like the way you are writing

Dan Holloway said...

And Rolf Harris' voice singing round his head was the last thing he heard...

Sulci Collective said...

Two little boys I assume Dan?

As proof of warrior status to their adult commanders, often child soldiers have to shoot their mates.

Carrie said...

I really enjoyed this, especially the exotic words, very educational and took my mind in different directions before I went Oh. :P

mazzz in Leeds said...

Oooh - limn. Limmmnnnnnn
Very edible word, that

Olivia Tejeda said...

Little boy warriors. What a sad reality. This story made me think of my nephew's fascination with all things mechanical. I easily saw the boy "playing" with all the interesting parts, but then end comes and it's a real punch in the gut. Top form, Marc! ~ Olivia

David Masters said...

Dark and tragic, yet sadly the truth of this world.

I liked how you put his poverty and his age into a single paragraph.

Anne Tyler Lord said...

Oh my, that is a tragic reality in our world, unfortunately. Very good perspective here, I didn't know where it was going, then blam! the twist!

BTW - the "fiddly bits" always catch me up too.

Melissa said...

Chilling-when I finally realized what was going on. Violence and innocence don't mix. Powerful. And yes--limn-awesome!

Deanna Schrayer said...

Marc, I really appreciate that you increase my vocabulary skills each week. :)
Very well-written, vivid, and yes, a punch in the gut! Great work!

peggy said...

Thanks to my penchant for crosswords, i understood limn.

The story took a little more time for me to get, but it all came together in the last line. Though I have to say, you didn't lose me even though I was a bit confused.

Deft.

John Wiswell said...

Toys for big boys!

Cathy Olliffe said...

Scary.

Karen from Mentor said...

Speaking as a tomboy who grew up with guns. I knew what we were assembling right off, but it doesn't make the story any less harrowing.

Hope he makes the 30 seconds......

Skycycler said...

Nicely limned, Marc! Darfur? I must remind my children how lucky they are again...

Slapping the shoulders: that one made me recoil on my first reading - but delivered a playful punch on the second. Spectacular word play, as usual.

Sulci Collective said...

Take your pick Simon, sadly there are plenty of child armies around the planet

Cole Bitting said...

I love fiddly bits. My supply is almost out :)

Laurita said...

Fascinating and dark and tragic and an absolute pleasure to read.

shannon said...

OH. This is one subject that I have a hard time with. Absolutely tears me up. More so now that I have boys. I do love the way you lead the reader slowly into the trap and then bam, slam the grim reality on their heart. Must go get more wine. :-(

Linda said...

"...more coastlines away from his home than he could ever limn." Yet throwing together guns meant for bigger boys an almost universal act. Enviably deft wordplay. Peace, Linda

Tony Noland said...

I was going to say that "... or I shoot you" is clearly an empty threat. Drill sergeants don't kill ignorant recruits for being incompetent, or they'd run out of army in a hurry.

But then I realized, he didn't say "... or I kill you". there are plenty of ways to shoot somebody without killing them, or even rendering them incapable of assembling an AK.

So it's not an empty threat after all.

Tough piece of writing.

One note: I like the word limn, but here, it felt discordant to use in conjunction with this uneducated kid. He describes the stock as horse-shaped, not "equine", for example.

Sulci Collective said...

Tony, sadly where life is so cheap and child soldiers so readily available through a system not dissimilar to the old press gangs of old, there is no shortage of boypower (as against manpower). Also as said above, part of the inuring and tempering process in one of the child armies I read about, they did order the children to turn their guns on each other as the final part of the selection process.

The Block House said...

I too thought of Darfur, but of course you're right, there are far too many places where this could be. A sad tale, awfully well told.