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Hiding in Plain Sight · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 500–900
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Chewing Tar
"Bob, do you ever think we may have been fucked?"

George got philosophical sometimes. Had deep thoughts, reasoned around problems, tried to explore the depths of his soul and the world surrounding him. It meant that he was in dire need of some liver-scarring booze to put his concerns back to sleep.

I grabbed the cigarette butt from the gutter. There were about three fingers of tobacco left before the filter. Good enough. I removed some dirt from it and lighted it up with a snap of my fingers. Acrid smell, cheap stuff, full of tar. It was a nice one.

"George, what are you yapping about?" I puffed on the cancer-stick while I turned back to our job. "There's no maybe. We've been fucked. Deeply, thoroughly, and without getting breakfast in the morning."

That made him think again. My bad. One gotta admit when one screwed up. Would probably keep him busy too for a while, which meant I had to do the job on my own.

I looked up, towards the sky hidden somewhere up there behind the eternal light of the city. There were no stars to be seen, only a uniform, orange glow.

It was the only perk coming from my situation I could think of. That and the cigs. There were cars and pollution too, once. Gave the air a nice, mineral quality, but that too was on the way of the elves. Moronically dancing towards the end while molesting trees and hugging flowers.

I sighed and smoked what remained in a single pull. My eyes returned where they should be, the ground. I flipped off the security camera of the bank at the corner. Not that it could see me, but it was a matter of principle. I hopped down from the sidewalk and on the road.

"Ok, but where went it wrong?"

Quartz-sake, he had been fast. I had hoped in a bit more peace. Something was going on, he had become slightly sharper in the past decade. Was almost a dull butter-knife now. Was probably the fault of putting less lead in the gasoline.

"It was the whole concept. Creation, that cheap bastard, went wrong, George." I finally reached the pothole. Lucky me. "All the rules coming with immortality, it got us good and well. Probably grinned too when it was thrusting. I'm pretty sure it knew shoe-repairs was a doomed line of work, but it put us at ease and made us think we had it nice and so on."

I would like to say that the road-workers had at least tried. They hadn't. I broke off a piece of the pavement they had roughly plastered over the hole and chewed it.

Cheap stuff. Cheaper than usual. Some asshole in the city-hall had clearly skimmed on it, probably so they could snort more diamonds and cocaine or something like that. I wasn't really that was really what they did, but it sounded plausible. At least it did according to the snippets of newspaper I found in the trash-can.

I spat it out. Wasn't even worth as a drunken snack.

"Do we really have to do this stuff? I mean, couldn't we do, I don't know, something else?"

I ground my teeth. Wasn't his fault. It was mine. I had done something horrible and that was my punishment. If at least I knew what, it would be a consolation. Considering my burden, it must have been completely immoral and incredibly fun.

I grabbed the asphalt they had dumped in the hole and ripped it out. "And do what exactly? Wanna work in a mine? Wanna be blown up like Nick? Because this work is shitty, but that is worse."


Good, his gears were grinding again. Maybe I could finish this hole and get home tomorrow.


Instincts kicked in, I grabbed the edges of my orange and white hat and pulled down. Took just an instant to get hidden.

Crap. That was too soon, I had just managed to open the hole again.

I felt the vibrations of the engine as it came towards us. If I was lucky it would be the only one for a while. And then I felt it slowing down.

Right, luck was something for other feys.

The car stopped, the doors opened, there was some drunken slurring. I hoped they would hug a streetlight before the night was over.

A bit of commotion, then the doors closed again and they went on. I glanced out from under my hat. George wasn't there anymore. He had been taken.

Which meant I had to finish the job alone. He hadn't been much of a help, but it was better than being completely alone. Not that I was ever gonna admit it to him.

I could at least hope that he had some fun. If he was lucky they would use him as a funnel for beer. If he wasn't... Well, there was always paint-thinner to help forget.

I pulled out from under my hat, the invisibility charm dissolving like my hopes for the future.

I had half an hour before the early risers crawled out on the streets to trudge through their miserable existences. Maybe I could finish pulling out the patch, but alone I wouldn't be able to really repair it tonight.

Which meant one more day on the job.

I hated being a traffic gnome.
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#1 ·
Ha. I didn't get what was happening until the last line.

Some of the reading was difficult. I couldn't tell whether it was odd turns of phrase from our unusual PoV character, or the rushed typing of a minific's strict time limit.
#2 ·
Good Stuff: The worldbuilding here is very clever, showing how the gnomes work in a road-related setting and going off from their shoe-repairing line of work. I liked that attention to detail a lot, such as them enjoying foul cigs and being invisible to cameras. Pessimistic character voicing was good, and you convey the tone of this bitter reality very well. The description of the elves was funny in itself, and a good early warning that these weren't ordinary beings.

Bad Stuff: I know the point is to keep us guessing until the end, but the fact that I didn't know what Bob and George even were until the end made it hard to appreciate (not follow, but appreciate) except in hindsight. I thought they were just two drunks at first. That strikes me as a big problem when you're trying to visualize the scene at the time, and it kind of felt like you left it to the end because you couldn't think of a stronger twist ending. Some of the bitterness made me feel... ew, unclean after reading this, but that's my personal taste. More objectively, some of the writing is grammatically incorrect ("Ok, but where went it wrong?" and "I had hoped in a bit more peace", for example). One too many comma splices too; stuff like that took me out of the moment.

Verdict: Mid Tier. This is playful with its ideas in a dark kind of way, and I do appreciate it more in hindsight. Unfortunately, delaying the twist makes it harder to understand and appreciate that cleverness the first time around. The technical errors distracted me sometimes. And for all its cleverness, it's also not much fun to actually read unless you like the bitter flavor. I don't know how to fix that, but I definitely recommend tidying up the prose and helping us visualize the scene as early as possible, which I think means rethinking the twist and coming up with something else there.
#3 ·
I’m not sure I get it. The writing here is more like stream of conciousness. The setup in a fantasy world didn’t help me get involved, all the more than we know the protagonists are not humans (who would chew tarmac?) but their identity is kept secret. I mean, we have two conflicting signals here: a story which unfolds, and we expect a conclusion to it; but instead, we get the reveal of the guy’s race, which means the story was intended to be built around that teveal, but it is not, it’s a story of its own. So, I’m confused and left wondering because I don’t really find any satisfaction in the ending.
#4 ·
I really liked this story personally. I absolutely love the disgusting imagery in the beginning of the tar and cigarettes. I also like the more down to earth feel of the dialogue.

The biggest problem this had was like what hiTime said up there. ^^^ It was a story that led up to a big ending joke. Although, I can’t blame you too much—you had to make a story within 900 words, and make it good.

Also, my city is never under construction and our potholes are always magically fixed so it’s not often that I see traffic cones. After reading this story, however, I have seen at least three in all separate locations just randomly thrown about.

I don’t like this coincidence...