Friday Flash Fiction: The Archer

As you may (or may not) recall, I’ve joined a Facebook group called Friday Flash Fics. We’re given a photo as a writing prompt, with our flash fiction responses (500 words or less) to the photo posted every Friday.

As soon as I saw this week’s photo prompt, you can guess where my mind went:

photo of man in underwear firing bow and arrow

It’s also where my friend ’Nathan‘s mind went, given his comment “If Jeffrey Ricker’s story isn’t about Jamie I will ragequit.” He was kidding, of course, but once the idea worked its way into my head, I couldn’t get it out.

Jamie, as you may or may not know, is the main character in my YA fantasy The Unwanted. Now, the guy in the picture (um, wow) is obviously much older than a teenager. Also, if you’ve read my book, you know something that wouldn’t quite square with this picture. In the sequel that I was working on and set aside, I had a plan to address that. So, ripped older Jamie firing arrows in his underwear? Not completely outside the realm of possibility.

Anyway, without further ado…

The Archer

The other side of the bed is empty. Billy rolls over and hears the whistle of an arrow, the sharp thwack of impact against wood outside. Silence, then again: whistle, thwack.

Billy looks out the window. The bedroom faces the backyard—more of a clearing, really, the woods surrounding it on three sides. At the far end is the target he and Jamie set up shortly after they bought the cabin. These days, whenever he needs to think a problem through, Jamie picks up the bow.

Close to the cabin, Jamie readies another arrow, raises his bow, and fires. The arrow hits dead center. Billy squints to get a closer look: Jamie’s split the arrow he’d fired previously. Another dozen split arrows litter the ground.

Mostly, though, Billy watches Jamie, who wears sandals, an arm guard, and a pair of briefs only slightly darker than his tanned skin. They’ve spent a lot of time outdoors this summer, but apart from skinny dipping in the river that runs just at the back of the property, they’ve normally gone out in much more coverage, on account of the mosquitoes if nothing else.

Billy doesn’t pull on shorts or a shirt before lumbering outside in his underwear. He doesn’t even put on coffee to brew, which is why he feels kind of lopsided as he takes a wobbly trajectory across the yard to Jamie, who keeps firing arrows, hitting the bull’s eye every time.

“You won’t have any arrows left at this rate,” Billy says.

Jamie doesn’t stop. “I’ll buy more.”

Billy could watch Jamie do this forever, the way his arm tenses and his torso clenches with each draw of the bow, the grace of his pull and release. Jamie’s never been aware of his own beauty, and for Billy that’s just one of the many things that drew him to Jamie.

Well, that and the whole sons-of-Amazons thing.

“Hey.” Stepping behind Jamie, Billy rests a hand on Jamie’s drawing arm. “What is it?”

Jamie’s head drops at the same time he lowers the bow. Billy wraps his arms around Jamie’s torso. “Sparky, what’s wrong?”

Jamie sighs before answering, and Billy notices the morning sounds: the drone of insects, a wood thrush’s musical song carrying high on air so humid it feels like it might be dripping around them. A film of sweat forms between their skin.

“We need to go home.”

It takes a moment for what Jamie’s said to sink in. “You don’t mean back to St. Louis.”

Jamie shakes his head.

“Sparky, you know nothing good ever happens when we go to Penthesiliopolis.” It’s taken Billy the better part of twenty years to be able to pronounce the name of the Amazon homeland. Most times, he still calls it P-town.

“How long since we’ve been back, three years?”

Billy calculates in his head; it’s been longer, but he doesn’t say that. Instead, he traces a finger along the scar running up Jamie’s flank. “Every time we go back, one of us gets a new scar—and that’s if somebody doesn’t die.”

“That only happened the first time.”

“Yeah, well, I died first, so excuse me if I’m not all that thrilled about going home.”

“Ha!” Jamie spins around so they’re facing. “You called it home. Don’t try to pretend it doesn’t matter to you, too.”

Now it’s Billy’s turn to sigh. Why does he let Jamie do this to him? Actually, he knows the answer to that, too. He draws Jamie’s head to his shoulder.

“Something’s wrong,” Jamie murmurs, his lips brushing the hollow above Billy’s collarbone. “I’m not sure what, but I just know it.”

“You know what I know?” Billy asks. At the moment, there are three things he knows: one is that if Jamie has a hunch about trouble, he’s probably right. Another is that there’s no way he can talk Jamie out of going home. The third is that Jamie at his most headstrong and obstinate is also the Jamie that Billy can’t resist.

He draws back and looks Jamie in the eye at the same time as he hooks a finger in the waistband of Jamie’s shorts. “What I know,” Billy says, “is you’re still way overdressed.”