Winners: Ryan Stone - A Capacity for Violence

Ryan's another frequent flyer in our shortlists. Why? Because his writing is solid, succinct, and tightly wound. You'll find no frayed edges in his writing, no opportunities to leave the narrative, to stop for a break. And that's something to be admired. The direct style never fails to pull us in and hook us until the last, and we're always glad when we finally see the names, and find that Ryan's once again found his way to the top of the pack.


Flash Fiction 1000 - Runner Up


A Capacity for Violence

Ryan Stone


My shot missed and brought up a puff of red dust. Donny drew back his slingshot and held a rock steady.


The chicken stood still. Donny released. His rock struck its head and sent the chook scrabbling into the red dirt of my yard. I watched as it rose and tried to escape. The piece of old fencing wire Donny had wound round its leg and secured to a star picket stopped it from getting far. I was sweltering in the afternoon heat and wiped my hand across my forehead, causing sweat and dust to run into my eyes. I blinked it away and loaded my slingshot. I missed again.


“You’re fuckin’ useless,” Donny said.


I looked around the yard and saw a rusted metal bar on the ground, left over from the shed Dad had started to build. Another project that got too hard for him and remained unfinished. The shed leaned to one side and barely stayed upright when the winds howled. I picked up the bar and advanced on the chook.


“Take this, faggot,” I said, and swung hard.


The chook somersaulted through the air, then sprawled on the ground. Still wrapped in wire, its leg was twisted and sticking up in the air. I wiped my eyes, then raised the bar for another blow.


“Stop,” my mother said, emerging from behind the half-finished shed. She didn’t yell—she rarely did—but her presence was enough to make me lower the bar, and my eyes.


“Go home, Donny.” Mother walked to where the chicken flopped around on the end of the wire. With a quick motion of her hands—a pull and jerk—she ended its suffering. She turned then and looked me in the eyes. After a long silence, she said, “Untie it. Bring it into the shed.” Without another word, she walked away.


I entered the shed with the limp and bloody bird, and lay it on the bench my mother indicated. “Sit down.”


I didn’t look at her.


“I said sit.”


“I can’t.”


She tilted her head to the side.


“Turn around.”


I did as she asked.


“Now drop your pants.”


Face burning, I complied. Mother looked at my bare arse, crisscrossed with red welts the same width as my Dad’s belt.


She placed her hands on my shoulders and turned me around to face her.


“Please don’t tell Dad.”


“A real man isn’t measured by his capacity for violence, but by his capacity to contain it. Do you understand?”


I nodded.


She handed me a hatchet. “Cut off its head and pluck it. Then bring it in for dinner.”

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