Short Story Of the Day (flash fiction) – A Man Walks Into a Bar in Ouagadougou by Bill Chance

I went home with a waitress the way I always do
How was I to know she was with the Russians, too?
I was gambling in Havana, I took a little risk
Send lawyers, guns, and money
Dad, get me out of this
Warren Zevon, Lawyers Guns and Money

The bartender pouring the absinthe, note the clear green color.
Pirate’s Alley Cafe, New Orleans


I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#79) Getting closer! What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.

A Man Walks Into a Bar in Ouagadougou

When Sarah decided to major in Botany and pursue it as her life’s goal her mother’s first (and only) reaction was, “Oh, dear, now you will never find a husband.”

Jobs for botanists are few and far between and she was eager to take the most extreme and exotic assignments. It didn’t take her long to end up in backwater West Africa doing research on plants used for traditional medicines.

She found herself in the City Resto Bar having dinner with a local businessman that she agreed to meet because he seemed harmless enough and could at least carry on a conversation. The place had the best sushi in Ouagadougou, which wasn’t saying much. Burkina Faso was landlocked, after all, and a very long way from the ocean.

The door opened and a large man entered. He had a jagged, angry crimson scar running from his left ear to his jaw. Sarah couldn’t help but stare.

“You find him attractive,” the businessman said. “Odd, I assumed you were a lesbian.”

“Why do you think that?”

“I thought that only a lesbian would be able to get as far as Burkina Faso without being caught by a man.”

“You don’t think I’m hot enough to snag a man?”

“On the contrary, you are the most attractive woman in Ouagadougou.”

“What about them?” Sarah gestured to the six gorgeous young women lined up behind the bar.

“Oh, the Russians?” the businessman let out a hearty laugh. “They don’t count.”

“Why not? They are very pretty. I can see that, even if I’m not a lesbian.”

“First, they are professionals. And I don’t mean professional bartenders. Take a sip of your Mojito and you will understand that they aren’t. Cheap rum and Mojito mix… that’s the extent of their mixologist skills.”

“It is a shitty drink. But if that is the first reason they don’t count, what’s the second?”

“They are spies.”

“All of them?”

“Oh yes. That is how they end up here. Desperate men, American or British or Japanese or Chinese, are scattered everywhere in the third world looking for love in all the wrong places.”

“Even here?”

“Especially here. They will marry some unfortunate expat sap, follow him home… and he is doomed. That’s why the Russians send their young women to places like this.”

Sarah didn’t buy that story but didn’t feel like arguing it. She understood the businessman was showing off and just making conversation. The scarred man settled in at a table and a cloud of gray smoke rising from the shisha he was smoking partially obscured his face.

The businessman followed her gaze. “Do you want to meet him?”

“You know him?”

“Very well.”

Sarah thought for a moment. “What the hell, see if he’ll come over.”

The businessman walked to his table and chatted with the man while he took up another hose from the shisha and shared the tobacco. They picked up the smoking apparatus, carried it over to Sarah’s table and sat down with quick introductions.

Sarah reached out for a third tube from the shisha.

“I don’t see very many women smoke,” said the man with the scar.

Sarah only replied with what she hoped was a haughty smirk and nod. In truth, she had never tried the shisha smoke before, though she had thought about it. It made her dizzy, enervated, and a little nauseated.

With very little prodding, the man with the scar told his story. He was in the army in Yugoslavia and then Bosnia but forced to bolt the country when his general Ratko Mladic, “The Butcher,” fell. He fled to Congo where he became a mercenary in Kisangani for Mobuto Sese Seko. He had to take off again when that dictator tumbled from power. He ended up in Burkina Faso.

“There is always work for a man that can use a machine gun,” he said.

Sarah’s head was still swimming from the shisha and she was drowning in waves of being attracted and repelled, excited and frightened… all at the same time. She realized how far from home she was. She finally understood how dangerous the world was. She decided she wanted to hear more. She decided to start with the obvious.

“Where did you get that scar?” she asked.

“Oh this?” he said rubbing his hand along the line across his face. “I left a bottle of Perrier out in the sun. Stupid. Didn’t realize how hot it was. When I tried to open it, it exploded.”

“Perrier?” asked the businessman.


“Never liked the stuff,” said Sarah.

As Sure As Kilimanjaro Rises Like Olympus Above the Serengeti

As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti

—-Toto, Africa, the most awkward song lyrics

Yesterday, I wrote about three colossal, iconic works of art that I hope to see after they are finished. Today, I found out about a small work of art in a very remote location that I’m certain never to see.


German artist Max Siedentopf,  set up a sound installation in the remote Namib desert that will play Africa by Toto on a loop forever.



It seems pretty silly – but that oh-so-familiar music wafting around those dunes while the wind blows sand through the scene – it has a strange beauty.

My only complaint is the “forever” part. Those boxes, wiring, and speakers don’t look very indestructible. The first sandstorm roaring past will scatter everything.

If it were my installation I would put it in an armored canister buried in the sand with only the speakers and solar panels exposed. That might last at least a couple weeks, if not “forever.”

As a matter of fact, I would bury it, hide it, and add a sensitive motion detector that would turn off the sound if anyone approached. It would only make sound if nobody was there to hear it. I would call it “A Tree Falls In the Desert.

A Month of Short Stories 2015, Day eleven – Safari

The last two years, for the month of June, I wrote about a short story that was available online each day of the month… you can see the list for 2014 and 2015 in the comments for this page. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.

Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year.

Today’s story, for day eleven – Safari, by Jennifer Egan

Read it online here:


I wasn’t very far into reading today’s story when I realized I had read it before. The story Safari is one section of Jennifer Egan’s novel A Visit From the Goon Squad. I read the book about three years ago and wrote a blog entry about it.

A Visit From the Goon Squad is as much a collection of linked short stories as it is a singular novel. I wanted to read the story in isolation – to see if it would work. The collection is very good but it is so complicated that it helps to have a timeline and a 3D interactive character map to get through it. Safari is pretty much one arm of that 3D map – the one gathered around Lou.

I have always enjoyed linked short stories and think it is a crackerjack way to structure a novel or longer work. The best of both worlds – so to speak.

And Safari works very well on its own. Even in this piece of the whole – Jennifer Egan throws a surprisingly complex and extensive batch of characters against the page. Most of them stick. The setting is unique, a kaleidoscope of Hollywood weirdos is transported to the African Wilderness, where their weaknesses are allowed to fester.

The Samburu warriors have arrived—four of them, two holding drums, and a child in the shadows minding a yellow long-horned cow. They came yesterday, too, after the morning game run, when Lou and Mindy were “napping.” That was when Charlie exchanged shy glances with the most beautiful warrior, who has scar-tissue designs coiled like railroad tracks over the rigorous architecture of his chest and shoulders and back.

Most short stories are told from a single point of view. In Safari the author jumps around and plays fast and loose – everything is told from almost everyone’s perspective. That adds a richness to the proceedings and reveals truths that would otherwise go hidden. The only characters that don’t take a turn are the two bird watching ladies. It’s interesting how that their motivations are never revealed, yet the ending… the last sentence… revolves around what their true motivations are.

And they might not even be aware of it.