View Full Version : "The Altar Boy" - Flash Short Story

Don S.
07-28-11, 06:33 PM
Aside from “Pride's Prison,” my thinly-veiled childhood memoir of growing up with Tourette’s Syndrome and ADHD and the almost inevitable bullying such incurred, the only other piece of fiction I have written is a flash piece (1,000 words or less) set against the backdrop of the struggle which is termed by many to have been the Irish War for Independence. I do not give a date for the events depicted, but it is circa 1919.

What inspired the story is explained in the introduction to the piece on AuthorsDen. As with “Pride’s Prison,” there are only two major characters, an adult man and a twelve-year-old boy. However, I considered the piece to be a challenge in that both characters might be termed polar opposites of the characters depicted within my former story.

As with “Pride’s Prison,” “The Altar Boy” is rooted in fact, though more removed from such than the former piece. For those pressed for time, I thought that an offering that takes but five minutes or so to read might be more practicable than one that takes an hour.

It might be helpful to be even minimally familiar with the Irish struggle for independence (from Britain) in order to fully appreciate the piece. Even having seen the movie Michael Collins (with Liam Neeson) would provide some context for the reader. For those with no familiarity, Michael Collins (sometimes—quite incorrectly—referred to as the “father of terrorism”) employed the methods recounted within my story in order to further the cause of independence. Such ultimately proved effective. Collins was one of the towering figures of the revolt and was called “Mickey” by intimates and sometimes “The Big Fellow,” a double entendre referencing his importance within the rebellion as well as his physical stature.

As with “Pride’s Prison,” I took great pride in the realism of the story’s dialogue. (I acknowledge that I am better at dialogue than narration.) While writing “Pride’s Prison,” I spent a day with a twelve-year-old boy and his father in order to study the boy’s vocabulary and speech patterns. (He had been a perfect model as he came from a near identical background, ethnically, religiously, socially and economically, to my juvenile character.) For the flash piece, I had to do research in order to present the characters accurately, capturing the dialectic English of the old sod of that time period. You might note, for example, that the word “kid” (for a child) never appears even though it might seem natural that it would. The word was not in general usage in Ireland at that time, and is still not in widespread usage.

On a final note, if any choose to read the story, I’d be interested in knowing whether you understood the ending. It is a sort of twist ending. I had been astonished when two editors of publications that rejected it indicated that they hadn’t. Indeed, my fear had been that I had been too obvious about it. I didn’t feel I could have been any more obvious without actually spelling it out; thus insulting the reader’s intelligence.

Thanks to all and here is the link if any are interested:

Don S.
07-29-11, 09:08 AM
For the flash piece, I had to do research in order to present the characters accurately, capturing the dialectic English of the old sod of that time period.

On a brief note, “dialectic“ should have been “dialectal.” I’m sorry for the rather embarrassing error from a would-be writer!