Every month, the Australian Writer’s Centre holds the Furious Fiction contest, where they give a handful of writing prompts, limit you to 500 words and see what you come up with.
The prompts for September were:
- Your story must start and end with the same sentence.
- Your story must feature something being inflated.
- Your story must include the words FLAG, FLAME, FLASH and FLATTER.
** The Captain **
Nobody would ever suspect the captain. He’s expected to lead from the front, to make the key plays, to inspire, to encourage, to extract the best from his teammates at all times. To see the truth, they think it would be someone weaker, lesser. Their vision blurred by decades of wilful ignorance.
They’ll never know the strength it took to stay true to one’s heart while playing such a prominent role. Fan’s perception is that such a facet would be easier to spot and wouldn’t last in the most important position. At best, a flash in the pan. At worst, a shameful admission that statistical breakdowns that affect the rest of the globe had somehow touched their beloved sport.
As he pulls the laces tight and breathes in, deep in concentration, he knows who he is. He knows what he’s been through to get here. He’s had to do more than just laugh along with off-colour jokes in the locker room, pretend he’s indoctrinated with the same subtle bigotry running rife through the professional sporting world. He’s had to stare down an old flame, now playing on a rival team, both hiding in plain sight, and try his hardest not to imagine the questions their well-known friendship would bring should the truth come out.
More than just abilities and athletic prowess, it’s taken every bit of smarts to get here and stay here. The politics of being the captain, the bureaucratic bullshit one must wade through on a daily basis. It’s more than just hiding who you are at times, it’s actively trying to be someone else. Someone whose merits should speak for themselves but who must instead also use all their connections, all their nous and canny observations to work the egos of the ultimate decision-makers.
A true leader knows when to compromise, of course, and will compliment to the point just short of sucking up, using flattery to the point just short of being obsequious, in order to maintain their position at the top. Be they a coach or a manager, there’s not a one of them that doesn’t visibly swell as they breathe in the sweet air of their own pitard.
So he’ll lead from the front, and he’ll do it with the spirit of a true leader. One who puts others’ dreams above his own. His teammates stomp up the tunnel and out into glory with stars in their eyes, a flag the ultimate goal for nearly every single one of them. None would ever know that he’s put this paramount above his own, that all he really wants is to finally settle down with someone special, have a quiet wedding, a modest house, hopefully a couple of kids.
Not a single one of them, from the dozens he shares a jersey with to the thousands upon thousands that might soon be chanting his name, would ever know what type of love truly beats in the heart of their leader. Nobody would ever suspect the captain.