Trumped (Furious Fiction Short Story)

At the beginning of every month, the Australian Writers’ Centre has a competition to write 500 words using prompts. This month, the prompts were:

Your story’s first word must be FIVE.
Your story must include something being replaced.
Your story must include the phrase A SILVER LINING (‘a’ or ‘the’ is fine). 500-word limit.

by Russell McGilton

Five survivors. Five straws. Soon they’d just be four.

Crammed into the lifeboat were Cherry T, a model; Ms Archana Singh, a naturopath; Peter Smith, a CEO; Francois Carre, a Jesuit priest; and Rhonda Rawhide, a Fox News journalist. They (oh, and how they’d laughed) had been the lucky ones. They’d escaped the virus rampaging on the Ruby Princess. But that was then, four long months ago.

Things had quickly gone from bad to worse: a violent collision with a right whale (‘a wrong whale more like it!’ they’d joked) had replaced the confines of their dry lifeboat with a briny pond that was growing dangerously bigger by the day.

There had been more people to start with, fifteen in all, but once they had started to show the faintest of viral symptoms – a cough here and sniffle there – they had conveniently fallen overboard during the night (no one had ever said ‘pushed’ – rather, as Rhonda called it, ‘socially distanced once and for all’).

But another crisis had raised its hungry head: the lifeboat’s rations were out and now only one rational thing remained: who to eat first.

Cocktail straws, their flexible and expandable bends cut off to stop cheating, were drawn from Peter Smith’s hand, who had insisted that, as a CEO of a now collapsed bank, he was most suited to the task, having overseen many staff cuts.

One by one they revealed their straws. Rhonda, to her surprise, had drawn the shortest.

‘I choose Cherry,’ she said without hesitating.

Cherry protested, claiming that there was nothing really left of her, just skin and bone and that her enormous chest was a mere distraction, a lie. ‘There’s no flesh there. They’re just implants!’

Cherry’s skinny carcass would sustain them for a while, Rhonda explained, but her implants would serve a much greater purpose.

‘We won’t last long with the bow ripped up like that, honey. But those big babies will keep us all afloat for weeks!’ Rhonda spat at the foul water lapping at their waists. ‘Trump says Mexicans been usin’ implants for years to cross The Rio Grande. It’s such a problem he’s thinkin’ about building a giant brassiere to catch ‘em all!’

They all applauded. Cherry gave them an angry pout (though it was hard to tell with all the fillers in her lips).

‘Don’t be like that, ma cherie, Cherry’ said Francois Carre. ‘It is…how you say in Eengleesh? A silver lining to your unfortunate death. Your breasts will set us free.’

Cherry wailed and begged for her life as the priest read her last rites (even though she insisted she was a staunch Aquarius) and was dispatched soon enough by Ms Singh with a pestle. Cherry’s breasts were immediately stuffed into the leaking bow.

‘We’re saved!’ they declared.

Alas, weighed down by laws of science (or rather, Cherry’s negatively buoyant breasts), the boat erupted with a furious burp and promptly sank, proving, at last, that fake boobs can trump fake news.