"The Uncleared," by Thomas Pluck, at A Twist of Noir, Friday September 16, 2011.
I have been reading Criminal Thoughts of R. Thomas Brown for some time. Mr. Brown reports almost every day on several flash stories he has read. I usually follow his leads but this is the first time one of his tips made my best of the week.
I have a rule about flash fiction (usually defined as under 1000 words). I think it only works if the story needs to be that short. Either it is a simple anecdote (like a joke, a setup and a punchline) or something so unique that it only makes sense as a very short piece (like Man Changes Mind, by Jason Armstrong).
But Mr. Pluck has made me break my rule. I can easily see this story as the outline for one of those looong broody tales that EQMM loves so much. Instead he fit it on a postcard, and did it with no sense of cramming or shorthand. Quite remarkable.
Here, in brief, is the brief story. When the narrator is in college his parents decide to sell their house. His mother, a brand-new real estate agent, attempts to do so and is found murdered in it.
We learn what happened to the family afterwards, and then there is a twist that is staggering and yet neatly foreshadowed. It all works perfectly and even though it could be told at five times the length, it isn't missing a single necessary detail.
And my, the last sentence...