‘The Exploding Boy’ by Nick Parker

OK, let’s lighten the mood a little, with a story that has possibly the greatest opening of all time.

We only call him the Exploding Boy now, of course; retrospectively. For most of last year he was known as Ticking Boy, which wasn’t nearly so dramatic and led mainly to teasing by us, I’m ashamed to say.

Honestly, find me a better one.

I first came across Nick Parker at a flash fiction event in Bristol, where he proceeded to blow the rest of us off the stage. Despite having written more than my fair share of flash, I still have my doubts as to whether it’s a form that promotes quality. Sometimes it’s a bit too easy to toss off something that sounds profound but doesn’t add up to much in the end.

That said, it doesn’t half lend itself to comedy. It can be a bit of a challenge to come up with something funny that stretches to anything over a thousand words, but in a shorter piece, you can get in, crack the gag, and get out again before it has time to go off. It’s the Fast Show approach to fiction, and ‘The Exploding Boy’ is an excellent example of this. It’s a page long – a small page at that – but the story still manages to be very funny as well as a perfect allegory about how gloriously callous kids can be.

First published on McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, August 2004, and available to read here. Collected in The Exploding Boy and Other Tiny Tales, spigmitebooks 2011

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