The Valet of the Shadow

One thing you can say about the number of people using cellphones in their cars is that you don’t see as many nose-pickers at stop lights as you did ten years ago. In those days, every traffic light featured two or three motorist with a finger crammed up a nostril to the second joint. The way they were going at it, you’d have thought they were digging for gold.

If you’ll notice today, even those drivers texting or surfing the web have their mouths open. This is due to their nostrils being packed more tightly than the noses on Mount Rushmore. President Trump is taking credit for the creation of new jobs, known as “Schnozzola Sweeps,” caused by this malady. According to the AMA, those with particularly large noses can expect to see an increase in insurance premiums.

If this is your first visit to Friday Flash Fiction, our resident expert on all-things-olfactory is Jenny Durante Wisoff-Fields. To learn how to participate in this weekly exercise in madness, head over to her blog for instructions. To rent a box in the writers in FFF Hollywood Squares Authors Block, click here.

PHOTO PROMPT © Jellico’s Stationhouse

The gloomy weather made it tough finding work. Prospective clients were continually in a foul mood. They went to bed grumpy and woke up more irritable than a hapless playboy who’d prefer to gnaw off his own arm rather than risk waking an unsightly bed partner.

The residents of Bellingham moved about as in a trance, a gray world where nothing was real. Even the shadows were artificial. Sunshine was rationed in anemic proportions.

Things got so bad, he was forced to hold a cardboard silhouette of Mr. Strutz’ bicycle and trot along beside the rider.

44 Comments on “The Valet of the Shadow

  1. That’s bad indeed, the residents of Bellingham all deserve a holiday in the sun


    • Thanks, Neil. I’m normally not a fantasy guy, but we’ve been in a gloam for the last couple of weeks and it’s knocked the edge off of my Ha,ha-funny.


  2. totally depressing write… good job. It is “rainy” season here in Ky. When it’s not raining a weird sorta blue clings to the sky and spits out white puffs that seem to want to fly out of the area as quickly as they appear, only to be replaced by a gray blanket and more rain. Hence, it’s difficult to see the elusive shadow. Such a sight gives one the heebeegeebies, and creates a rare phenom known as walking outside, followed by the dreaded picnic. Ugh! Totally miserable. Loved your take on the pic, though, it was awesome as usual. BTW, I have a tiny little nose, but my insurance has gone up 10-fold and then some. Don’t have any anymore.


    • Wow, that’s the first time I’m been applauded for writing something totally depressing. Maybe I missed my calling. 🙂

      I don’t mind REAL rain, but what we’ve had here in Arkansas lately is chilly, grey, overcast with drizzle. You know, the kind of weather that makes you want to kidnap the weatherman, chunk him headfirst into a bucket of fresh cement, and toss him off the nearest bridge.

      I blew you photo up as large as I could. You do appear to have one of those little button noses. Be careful who you let pick it. I’d recommend you choose someone with really small fingers.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Dear Jimmy,

    Shall we do a few choruses of “Inka Dinka Doo?” I saw a strange color in the sky this afternoon…Jan tells me it’s something called blew…I mean bleu…no it’s blue. Valet of the Shadow…:D
    The other day on my walk I was nearly mowed down by a guy texting in his truck. I’m certain he never saw me. I think I’d prefer the nose pickers. At least they waited to get to the stoplight.




    • Dear Jenny Durante,

      Of course he didn’t see you, but I’m sure he told his wife about the purple fire hydrant he almost hit on the way home. Boogers are the #1 cause of nasal congestion, but I expect the Republicans will address it appropriately in their new health care plan.

      Happy pickin’


  4. I’d be lost without my phone GPS. But I have my phone connected via bluetooth to my car’s speakers, so I never really have to fiddle with it.

    That was an interestingly surreal story. I liked how you linked the economic downturn with an anemic sun. It reminded me a little of old myths where the health of the land was linked to the justness of its leaders (which is a terrifying concept of late). Your usual sense of humor had a little more edge to it this time. I liked it.


    • Thanks, Rommy. I’ve been in somewhat of a writing funk lately and was really struggling with this prompt. I’m glad it worked for you.

      I’m glad you’re keeping your eyes on the road, and at least one hand on the wheel, while driving. We can only imagine where the index finger of that other hand is.


    • Yes, it’s my take off on the 23rd Psalm. I really wanted to tie the Grim Reaper in there somewhere, but the story was getting dark enough without adding the Angel of Death.


  5. Love the title. I also liked “Even the shadows were artificial.” Strange that your darkness was one of the lighter pieces I’ve read today. Maybe because you usually do humor, and you just aren’t geared for the dark side.


    • You’re right. I’m not geared for the dark side. I came up with the title first and struggled for hours to make the rest fit. The only part that came together with ease was the booger-pickin’ intro.


  6. Good heavens! As a resident of Bellingham, I will DEFINITELY need to watch out for cardboard silhouettes of Mr. Strutz’ bicycle!!!! Thank goodness I love the rain, shadows or not. Another delightful take on the prompt – boogers and all.


    • I knew you lived in the Northwest, but I never dreamed the city was Bellingham. I just Googled ‘cities with the least sunshine’ and Bellingham came up #1 on every list. Now, I feel like I’ve been run over by the shadow of Ted Strutz’ bike.


  7. Yes, I’ve seen a world that grey. Never resorted to gnawing off my own arm, but maybe the bedfellow wasn’t unsightly enough to warrant it. Good one.


    • I’m glad you still have both arms intact, Sandra. That expression is known as “coyote ugly” and is usually the result of choosing a bed partner after you’d had far too much to drink. I’ve never experienced it either, nor have I awoke to find only an arm in my bed–that would be frightening (and embarrassing).


  8. This is sad. I can relate to it, having moved from the tropics to New Zealand and taking Vit D pills now. 🙂 But much better than Apocalypse when the sun will be blotted out altogether 🙂


    • I promise to be more Joyful next time. There’s just something about sunshine, especially in the spring, that makes me happy.


  9. I’m sure the inventor of the selfie stick will come up with a portable nose-picking device. It’s just a matter of time…

    Your characters live in a world of shadowy bicycles, and we live in a world of nearly non-existent common sense. The struggle is real.


    • I like surreal, but hate depressing. As humans, we have a wide range of emotions and there’s a time for each of them. Glad you liked it.


  10. Things must be bad if even the shadows are artificial. I love the image of a guy running beside a shadow. Do you mean Bellingham Washington? We lived in the Fraser Valley, BC for awhile and liked to pop down to Bellingham to do some cross border shopping. It’s a beautiful place – when the sun is shining.


    • Yes, according to the internet, Bellingham receives the least amount of sunshine of any U.S. city. Unbeknownst to me, one of our fellow Fictioneers, Alicia lives there.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Me too. The majority of my longer stories were spawned by their titles. Here’s a few;
      Donut Abuse, The Academy of Spoiled Rotten Brats, One Idiot Short of a Village, The Ins & Outs of Bellybutton Lint Farming, The Running of the Chickens, Irritable Vowel Syndrome, and Peeves I like to Pet just to name a few.

      Today’s offering is a downer, so I doubt I’ll expand it into a longer piece.


  11. I think the closest we’ll get to that is Doc Tracey, and she’s a gynecologist. 🙂
    But perhaps she can still offer some insight to clearing clogged nasal passages.


  12. Pacific Northwest — even the rain and fog is pretty and wild there, at least in my view. The valet should take a look at the ocean, listen to the birds and the rain and take a deep breath. I like the story, depressing or not.


    • I’m sure it’s beautiful there. If your vocation is to valet shadows, and there is no sunshine, if would be difficult to find work. The grumpiness of others is also contributing to his distress. Hopefully, carrying the silhouette of the bicycle will cheer him up some.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. i wonder what he was humming as he trotted along. it sounded like that old song, the shadow of your smile, but i could be wrong.


  14. What a place. A great portrait bleak Bellingham. And what a job to have.


  15. A bit sad, but I love the surreal quality. Gnawed arms, rationed sunshine, the eloquent silhouette, and let’s not forget the boogers to set it up so nicely. Wow, this is just packed full, Russell, and it’s such an original.


    • Yes, it is terribly sad. The world has gotten so busy and distracted by electronics that people don’t even have time to pick their own noses.

      Liked by 1 person

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