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Flash Fiction: Marli Knows

Here's my Muse Fusion Freebie, just barely in time for #fridayflash.

Torn world has newspapers, both official ones and "grey rags". Today, at the Muse Fusion, hawkwolf asked about how news and rumor travel in the Empire. That led to this little piece:

Marli Knows

A Torn World story by Deirdre M. Murphy

“Did you hear?” The rag seller waved his paper, cleverly folded to show just the name, “Marli Knows” blazoned in ornate letters at the top.

“Did I hear what?” Lassati replied, automatically polite, as she wiped the table. Osatha hadn’t showed up for work, so Lassati was serving the food as well as cooking. She really didn’t have time for gossip today.

Marli gave her a significant look. “I’m sure you’ll want to read about it. Come on, buy today’s issue?”

Behind him, her nose poked into a book, Ressa rolled her eyes. Lassati reflected that Marli must not have noticed her—the man avoided licensing officials almost as assiduously as a purist.

“Haven’t you noticed?” Lassati reached into her apron, pulling out a red cloth napkin folded around a set of silverware.

“Noticed what?” Marli looked around sharply, but didn’t see anything new. “Have you added a new menu item?”

Lassati shook her head. “Osatha isn’t here.”

He grinned. “Well, of course I noticed that. Half the reason I come here is to tease your pretty server.” He grinned broadly. “But I knew that before I came in. Word is—oh, but you’re not interested in gossip.”

“Are her whereabouts in there?” Lassati rolled the sleeves of her man’s shirt up, looking at him with a raised eyebrow. Osatha was no celebrity; if she was in the news, even the grey rags’ idea of news, something extraordinary had happened.

“So, you’ll buy one?”

The man at the next table held out a token. “I’ll buy one.”

Marli quickly traded the paper in his hand for it. “Thank you, Orluu.”

By the time Lassati returned with a clean plate and mug, Marli was waving another copy of the rag under her nose. “You want to buy it. You know you do. Find out who’s getting married!”

Lassati was certain, if Osatha was getting married, even to someone famous, she’d tell Lassati herself. Her momentary temptation to read the rag vanished. “I’m running a business, here, Marli, and I’m rather busy. Do you want to order some food or not?”

Orluu held up his glass, and Lassati nodded, waving her order pad pointedly under Marli’s nose as she headed back to the kitchen. “I’ll be right back for your order.”

She returned with the pitcher of honeyed tea and poured a second helping for Orluu. “Do you want dessert?”

“There’s nothing about Osatha in here.” Orluu waved the rag.

“I didn’t say there was!” Marli looked offended.

“This is all about some actor who plays women in romantic plays who is marrying some mystery man—well, by the time they get married, I guess the man will be legally a woman.” Orluu shook his head. “What is this world coming to?”

Behind him, Ressa looked up.

Lassati sighed. “I see you’re still here, Marli. I’m glad you decided to buy something after all. What are you ordering?”

Marli looked at the token in his palm. “Um, could I have some tea?”

“You’re taking up a table right before the lunch rush, and you’re only ordering tea?”

He looked up at her hopefully. “I could order soup, if you bought a copy.”

Lassati took the token from him, shaking her head.

Ressa stood up. “I’ll buy a copy.”

Marli paled. “Licensing official?” He put one hand protectively over his license pouch.

She held out a token. “I said I’ll buy a copy.” When he made no move to take the token, she frowned. “Are you going to sell me a copy, or am I going to ask to see your licenses?”

Lassati picked up the rag from where he’d dropped it and handed it to Ressa, collecting the token from her. “It’s your lucky day, Marli. Soup it is.”

His eyes darted toward the door, but Ressa was already halfway there. “Enjoy your soup, citizen.”

Marli stared at her back as she walked off purposefully. “What was that all about?” Ressa never bought Marli’s rag.

Lassati laughed as she headed into the kitchen. “I guess you don’t know everything after all!”
If you stop by the Muse Fusion and leave some questions or prompts, I'll see if I can use at least one of them!  If I use your prompt or answer your question, you get a private peek at what I create even it's not sponsored.



( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 14th, 2011 09:59 am (UTC)
I haven't read any other 'Torn World' postings, but on this evidence, I think I should. Your characters are well drawn and have great personalities.
May. 14th, 2011 04:06 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
There's other stories about these characters over at www.tornworld.net. This is the first story starring Lassati: http://www.tornworld.net/storypageview.php?id=124

From there, if you want, you can check out Ressa or Lalya on the lead characters page to find related stories.
May. 14th, 2011 02:46 pm (UTC)
Ooooohhh, I really like this. I want to follow all of these people around until I get the rest of the story!!
May. 14th, 2011 04:28 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
For me, the story started with a prompt at the Muse Fusion, someone asking to see how the new gender laws affected some particular family. In response to that prompt, I wrote Building A Home, which is over here: http://www.tornworld.net/storypageview.php?id=61
May. 15th, 2011 11:55 pm (UTC)
Count me as another who wants to track down the other stories with these characters. They are well drawn, even in the sketches here, as is the world they inhabit.

Just enough to tease the reader's imagination - and I love when a writer does that for me.

Nice work.
May. 16th, 2011 12:01 am (UTC)
Thank you!
I'm glad you enjoyed this.

I hope to see you sometime, over at www.tornworld.net.
May. 16th, 2011 02:32 am (UTC)
That's a tempting little snippet. :)
May. 16th, 2011 02:49 am (UTC)
I'm glad you enjoyed it!
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )


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