Cud Flashes In The Pan
This month’s theme: Truth Is Sadder Than Fiction
David M. Fitzpatrick

This month’s theme:
Truth Is Sadder Than Fiction

This fiction is not my usual fare—no sci-fi or fantasy or supernatural horror, and not even complete stories. They’re slice-of-life vignettes about real things that are unfortunately happening in the world today. I’ll keep this one very short, because nothing I could write can exceed your own thoughts on these subjects. I’m skipping the usual decorative filler art this month, because these brief bits are all about the words and the real-life implications. During the holiday season, I encourage you—beg you—to follow the links at the ends of the stories, because the truth is far more important than the fiction this month.


Limits on Love

Once upon a time, two people dedicated their lives to each other.

They met in high school, and were sweethearts through college. They lived together, went to their jobs every day, and came home to each other every night. They shared meals together, kissed and held each other, and shared their hopes and dreams. They went on vacations and enjoyed hobbies.

They did so much together. They both liked to ride motorcycles, for example, and also loved to hike together. They shared a deep love for Star Trek, board games, 1980s home-computer video games, going to art walks, and sampling microbrew beers and local wines.

Each had unique interests, of course—things that one of them loved and the other had zero interest in. One of them loved to knit; the other restored old cars. When one of them went with friends to romantic comedies at the theater, the other preferred to stay home and read Stephen King novels. They were okay with their differences as much as they loved their similarities.

It was all just what one might expect in a tale of true love.

Their families loved them and supported them, and were so happy when they announced their engagement. But when they went to get their marriage license, they were denied because they were both women. The law said that gay people could marry, but a far-right conservative in charge of issuing marriage licenses decided that the law did not matter because he believed that his religion gave him the right to deny the rights of others when he did not agree with who those people were…

This sort of thing really did happen in the U.S., which you can read about at And this sort of thing will keep happening for a long time. It’s happening now with a case going before the Supreme Court of the United States; a baker refused to make a wedding cake for two gay men, citing his religious beliefs. It’s easy to see that if we allow this sort of discrimination, we’re a few short steps away from allowing religion to be used as an excuse to discriminate against anyone for anything. Read


Because She’s Just a Woman

Once upon a time there was a woman living in Myanmar, and in extreme poverty. She had a husband and three children, and she was pregnant with their fourth.

She was nervous every day, however, as she heard of the marauding militants in the region. She prayed every day that these armed invaders wouldn’t find their way to her little village. The stories were too horrible to consider—stories of men being killed, children being beaten, and women being raped. Some of the stories were far worse. She tended to her house and children, and trusted that her god and her husband would protect her if the militants ever showed up.

One day, they did.

She was cleaning her son’s face when she heard the sounds of automatic gunfire. Outside, there was screaming and crying, and her husband ran to the window to see. Trucks and cars tore into the village, and the woman gathered her children and hid in the corner as her husband cursed the arrival of the militants.

And suddenly her husband bolted for the back door and out of the house, even as she heard the heavy boots thudding up to her door. Even as the militants kicked her door in, her husband was fleeing for his life, leaving them to their fate.

The four men who burst into the house came for her. Two of them pulled her children away from her despite her pleading, and they began to beat them. She tried to get to them, but the other two men held her back and made her watch as they beat her oldest son until he was dead. The others they threw into the street.

And then they west upon the woman, tearing her clothing from her body until she was naked. They stole her earrings, and then they beat her into submission. They tied her hands and took turns raping her while the others held her down.

On the cold floor of her home, she could only scream in terror as they violated her. All the while, she could see the broken, bloody body of her son, his lifeless eyes staring back at her.

The men just laughed as they took turns, over and over again, for hours. When they were done, it wasn’t enough for them to leave her in shame. Instead, they began kicking her pregnant belly, and they kicked her until she was bleeding
from her vagina. They left her there on the floor to give birth to a stillborn child.

Her husband never returned…

If you think that was dreadful, remember that it was fiction. But consider it your duty to read the Associated Press story at, which details 21 real stories of such horror done to actual Myanmar women. My little piece of flash fiction will pale in comparison, because those stories are all terribly real.


Death So That Others Might Prosper

Once upon a time, there was a man who was sick. His illness would ultimately be terminal. It likely wouldn’t be if he could have afforded health insurance. But although he worked hard and made enough money to support his family, he made just too much to qualify for welfare. He could have quit his job and lost his home and had to live in shelters with his family so that he could qualify for free medical care, but he couldn’t do that to his family. He resigned himself to hoping that he could beat his illness on his own, but the prognosis was grim.

And then something magical happened: President Barack Obama and the Democrats in Congress passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which subsidized his health insurance and got him the care that he desperately needed. And unlike before the PPACA, his insurance company could not deny him for having a pre-existing condition—that is, one that he had before he purchased insurance.

The man began getting life-saving treatments, and he got better. The family was happy, for his wife had her husband and their children had their father, who would now live to an old age. The PPACA had been possibly the most common-sense legislation the nation had ever passed—one that put the lives of people above corporate profits, one that stopped needless deaths, patient suffering, and the sorrow and tragedy that came with the loss of a loved one who should never have died.

But suddenly, the Republicans took control of Congress and the White House, and began a relentless push to undo the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, to return control over people’s health and very lives to the insurance companies, and to return the nation to a darker time when human lives meant nothing compared to the greed of the wealthy and sky-high corporate profits…

This could be the story of many people. And it will be worse if the Republicans get their way.


Greed and Power Rules the World

Once upon a time, there was a formerly Communist nation masquerading as a democracy. One man really ran it all, and he wanted to rebuild his nation’s previous global superpower. So he invaded countries, worked against the United Nations, and even began interfering in the elections of other countries, such as the United States.

There was another man in the U.S., and he was a money-grubbing billionaire who lied to the American people at every turn and colluded with this foreign adversary. The adversary did indeed affect the U.S. presidential election, and lied about it. But worse than that, the man who was elected president, who colluded with this adversary, lied about that as well.

Many Americans were stunned that an elected American president would collude with an adversary leading the remnants of what had been a global superpower—one that had once sought world domination, with the United States being all that truly had stood in its way. The people were shocked that the United States could in any way cozy up to this evil adversary.

Unfortunately, there were many Americans who were as evil and selfish as those two men, and they were often very stupid and very gullible. They believed whatever the lying, criminal president told them to believe. They couldn’t really think for themselves, and were happy to let this idiot think for them. And as America and the world watched, the president continued his collusion with the adversary, dragging the nation and the world into a greedy, self-serving cesspool of political disaster…

Something just like it really is happening. Is the real president a liar and a colluder? The investigation continues, but if you ask me, you bet your sweet ass he is. Start with but remember that this article is updated constantly as we learn more about the dishonesty and dishonor the president has brought upon our nation.


Children Must Be Punished

Once upon a time, a woman and a man in a country ruled by its extreme religion were accused by their own families of bringing dishonor upon them.

She was just 19 years old, and he 20. They were in love, but they made a mistake: They had sex before they were married. For them, it was passionate lovemaking—beautiful and wonderful, joining the bodies and hearts in an act of physical intimacy that was the truest love. But they weren’t married, so they knew that it wouldn’t go over well with either his family or hers. They knew that they had to flee their country to be together. But on the eve of their planned escape, their families discovered their plans—and their most shameful, dishonorable deed.

The men of both families banded together to chase them down and capture them. They dragged the tragic lovers into the forest, where they tied the man up and whipped him until he bled, and then whipped him some more. This was his punishment for dishonoring his family and his god by having premarital sex. His scars would be a reminder to him of his wrongs for the rest of his life.

Then it was time to punish the woman. The brothers, uncles, and nephews of the lovers worked together to repair the damage to the families’ reputations. They hogtied her, ankles to wrists, and they threw her to the ground. While her parents cheered them on in the name of their god, the men set upon her with knives, stabbing her repeatedly until she was dead.

Honor for both families had been restored…

The very idea that honor killings are a real thing is absolutely horrific. This abhorrent practice is primitive and tribal, fueled by religion and typically the ultimate example of treating women as subhuman—objectifying them, owning them, punishing them, treating them differently than men, and indeed killing them. Read about it at


How Dare They Disbelieve

Once upon a time, there was a nation of elected representatives. Religion was popular, and most of the religious people shared some version of the same religion, and they believed that the nation was founded on their religion’s principles. Even though the nation had laws protecting freedom of and from religion, these people believed that all of the nation’s citizens should obey this one religion, whether they liked it or not.

So dictatorial were these people that they would elect people who were less interested in fair legislation that treated all people equally than pushing their religious agendas. They preferred to legislate in ways that echoed the stories in their revered holy book—stories which any sane, intelligent person would interpret as fairy tales. These fairy tales were written a long time ago, and most of its views were antiquated and silly, but these people believed in it. This was fine, except that they were unable to stop trying to make everyone else believe in it.

As more people in the nation began to profess disbelief in religion, some people who did not believe in any religion began being elected to office. One day, in one of the nation’s states, such a person ran for a seat in the national legislative assembly. But this was a state whose laws specifically prohibited those who disbelieved in the predominant religion’s deity from holding public office. It was an old law that no one ever enforced, because everyone knew that in this day and age it would never hold up under court challenge.

But some deeply religious people in the state were furious and offended at the very idea that someone who disbelieved their religion might hold office, and they sued to stop the nonbeliever from running. A fierce court battle ensued, and the nonbeliever won. The angry religionists appealed through state and federal court system, and they lost every step of the way. Finally, there was just one stop left: The nation’s highest court.

And now the nonbeliever was nervous, because that court had, in recent years, been stacked with far-right conservatives who were known to interpret laws in whatever ways supported discriminating against anyone that that religion’s practitioners didn’t approve of…

This is the United States today. Atheists are the last great oppressed minority here. Like every other oppressed minority, it’s going to take a while to end such discrimination.


Evil Among Us?

Once upon a time, there was a happy family. The father worked hard. The mother worked hard. They paid their taxes, They raised their children. They participated in their community. They donated to the needy. The children got good educations and went to college.

Then one day government agents knocked on their door. The man and woman, it seemed, had fled their original country a long time ago because they had been oppressed and their lives had been in danger. They had come to this one with their first two young children, and had had two more since they had arrived. But it didn’t matter how hard they had worked, how good they were, or how productive they had been. They were illegal aliens, the government agents said; nothing else mattered, so they were all going to be deported.

The two children who were born here were citizens, so they could stay—but with whom? They were too young. The others had to go, despite knowing nothing but being citizens of this country. And the parents were just illegal criminals.

They would be deported back to their home country, where their rights and safety had been in danger. The government would not hear their pleas; there was no path to legal status, no forgiveness for their wrongs. They were just bad people, and that was all there was to it.

All that mattered to the government was that they didn’t belong here…

Of course there should be laws about illegal immigration. But making this a purely black-and-white matter is not the answer. Shipping people back to where they will be in danger is wrong. Declaring that all illegal immigrants are the same is ridiculous. And deporting them solely on the basis of hatred and intolerance for people from countries or of skin colors that you don’t like is dreadful.


In Closing….

Once upon a time, there was a writer. He could write these little slice-of-life vignettes all day, each of them veiled references to real problems on this planet.

These are things that reflect on the character of our race, and on the foundation of our civilization. We must develop better character. We must build a stronger foundation for our global society before we can dare call ourselves a civilization.

As you celebrate whatever you celebrate during the holiday season, think of these sad, terrible things, because real people endure these things. And if you suffer from any of them, may that be all the more reason to think on the sufferings of others.

Reflection isn’t the only thing to do, though. We must act to effect social change.

Peace, hope, and action from us all.

-David M. FItzpatrick


David M. Fitzpatrick is a fiction writer in Maine, USA. His many short stories have appeared in print magazines and anthologies around the world. He writes for a newspaper, writes fiction, edits anthologies, and teaches creative writing. Visit him at to learn more.