SmokeLong Quarterly

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Walking the Plank

Story by Sheila Killian (Read author interview) September 15, 2003

“Walking the plank, again,” he’d grinned, as he passed me at reception. Typical of him to choose such a swashbuckling image to describe his routine annual review. He should never have become anything so mundane as a banker!

And it really didn’t suit him, not in the long term. He could talk it up and joke about it, but still the relentless mediocrity and sameness of his job got to him. Or something did-–maybe nothing to do with work, with that part of his life we saw. In any case, he hit the sauce hard again that evening after work. And he hadn’t eaten, so he hadn’t long to wait for the swelling in his abdomen, the familiar dizziness as the world turned slowly inside out. He slurred his goodbyes and made for the street, a cab, the dark hallway, the fifty-seven TV channels that filled his silent night.

It was his umbrella, flying back against the door, that made the barman look up. An impassive reptile of a man, such shock on his face caught everyone’s attention. Outside was all sirens and light, crowds gathered around his broken body. His polished black shoes unnoticed, for a while, neat beside the curb.

They called it an accident, of course. But at the service, as the orchestra played his casket into the fire, that throwaway phrase came back to me, and I saw him, clear as day, stepping barefoot off the pavement, walking the plank, breaking free.

About the Author

Sheila Killian is an Irish woman living and working in Johannesburg on a year-long family adventure. Previously published poetry can be found in the Electric Acorn. She is a political satire prizewinner in the Strokestown Poetry Contest.

This story appeared in Issue One of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue One

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The SmokeLong Quarterly Award for Flash Fiction

Deadline November 15!

The SmokeLong Quarterly Award for Flash Fiction (The Smokey) is a biennial competition that celebrates and compensates excellence in flash. The grand prize winner of The Smokey is automatically nominated for The Best Small Fictions, The Pushcart, Best of the Net, and any other prize we deem appropriate. In addition to all this love, we will also pay the grand prize winner $2500. Second place: $1000. Third place $500. Finalists: $100. All finalists and placers will be published in the special competition issue in December 2022.