Permission to Fail – Flash Fiction Photo Story


As I walked out into the crowded city streets I reflected on the interview.  I shuddered at the recollection of the way the twenty-something interviewer had actually smirked at the sight of me.  What had I been thinking applying for the job in the first place?  I must have been crazy to think that borrowing my God daughter’s  leopard print Laboutin’s and wearing a skirt that showed one inch too much of my sagging knees would be enough to land me the job as Fashion Editor. Pounding the sun scorched concrete in these damned shoes suddenly felt like I was walking in lead boots. I was tired.  Face it, they weren’t going to call.  It was time to go home and search the Want Ads once more.  Fail.

The house was cooler than the street outside and I was relieved to close the door behind me and head to my room.  I kicked off the shoes, threw my interview outfit on the floor next to the bed and pulled on my lazy day vest.  I called out for John, but there was no reply.  He must have gone out running again; he had taken to doing that every time a new bill landed on the mat.

I moved into the kitchen, the cold marble floor cooling my bare feet.  I loved this room; it was the first thing we had installed when we moved here last year, solid oak counter tops and acres of cool stainless steel.   It was stunning, the ‘wow’ room and everybody said so.  I opened the refrigerator and reached for the first thing I could see, a bottle of Lanson, black label of course.  Sure it was three in the afternoon, but I’d missed lunch and there wasn’t any real food in there anyway.  I poured myself a glass, sat at the kitchen table and opened the credit card bill that John must have left leaning against the centerpiece of Cala lilies.

Default payment.  Account in arrears.  Final demand.  Please settle immediately or we will take the appropriate action.  I tore it up, tossed it over my shoulder and took a sip of champagne, the freshness and fizz relaxing me in an instant.  Fail.

That night I couldn’t sleep for an overwhelming feeling of nausea that had me tossing and turning through the small hours.  By dawn John was clinging on to me in his sleep, always too tight for comfort.  It was his thing.  He liked to wrap himself around me like a cage, I’d often wondered if it was his way of stopping me from leaving him during the night.  He’d always been insecure but I guess that had been part of the attraction.  He needed me, which made me feel important, and I had enjoyed having control over him.  I didn’t like to admit it, but that was the ugly truth of it.  I tried not to wake him as I wriggled out of his grasp.  I hid my face in my hands and whispered into my pillow ‘I don’t want to live this life.  How the hell did I end up here?’  My heart raced as I searched my mind for the answer.  I had accumulated all the trappings of success on my way to this point, and yet here I was unemployed, out of love, no money in the bank and nothing in the fridge but champagne.  Fail.

Sleep must have taken over eventually because I hadn’t heard the phone ring before John put the telephone receiver on the bedside table and tapped at my shoulder.   It was 10.30am.   I looked at him confused, my eyes still bleary as I struggled to focus on what he was saying.

“It’s the magazine.” He said.

“Huh?”  Already I could barely recall yesterdays interview, having tried to banish the whole experience from my mind.   I picked up the receiver.  “Hello.”

A familiar voice echoed down the line.  “Hi there, it’s Cathy from Stranded Magazine.  I’m calling about the job.  We thought that with your age and experience, you could maybe bring something more to the fashion desk.  We’ve been thinking of starting some features to suit our ageing demographic and so it seemed like it might be a good time to bring in somebody who can identify with that end of the market.  We’d like to offer you the job.”

As I put down the phone, I noticed that John was standing at the door in anticipation of an explanation from me.  “So?  Did you get it?  Did you?”

I looked at him, and for the first time I faced everything.  I didn’t want him.   I didn’t want the job.  I didn’t want any of this.  It was time move on.  “No John.  No I didn’t.  Like I said at dinner last night, I was pretty sure I would fail.”

Flash fiction photo story by Vanessa Matthews, written in response to a ‘Fear of Failure’ prompt for Wednesday Wake Up Call over at New World Creative Union.  Images courtesy of (click on images to link back to original photo).


12 responses to “Permission to Fail – Flash Fiction Photo Story

  1. Seriously Vanessa…you seriously have to stop doing this to me…but goosebumps…FAIL? Yes, when we agree to the grind, to the trappings, to the way we’ve been conditioned to live our life…I LOVE LOVE LOVE the fact that that final “FAIL” was by choice and the result was the courage to admit it all. Hooked on your flash fiction lady…you truly rock a pen! And thank you, thank you, thank you for playing along!

    • Thank you so much, I really do appreciate your comment. I enjoyed writing it, this one came tumbling out and I found the pics easy enough so decided to combine. I do have some short stories and flash fiction competition entries I wrote as part of a recent 30 day writing challenge I set myself so keep a lookout for them over the coming weeks. I will post them once the deadlines have passed and I get results in.

  2. Strong post Vanessa. Love the repetition in here, where you set up a single word, Fail, that became a tempo, intonation organically grown. Fantastic piece. Thanks

  3. nice….not sure i have read your longer stuff…and great closure on it…i think she found a bit of freedom in her failure there at the end…great bit of prose ma’am

  4. read this piece the day you posted to NWCU and was left touched. in fact this led to discovering your creative urges images where I found the one I borrowed from you 😉 nice piece of writing, vanessa 🙂


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