Notorious already in 73 states, their infamy will grow with every broken promise, every crushed desire. After they pull off the Biggest Con of All, they will be universally admired. Envied. Revered.

I shot a man in Reno



The middle of Fifth Avenue

Literature will record exploits too numerous, too outlandish to fathom – sometimes faithfully. Sometimes with more than gusto. The legends will grow and grow. Mitotic mayflies, cannibalizing themselves (literally) to feed the Legend. But the media used remain unstable. Ephemeral. The sources long degraded. The machines remember, but will we remember them?

How do we know? We survive – against the odds. You might say, a miracle. If you were given to such quaintness. Harken! The eternal

yeah! yeah! yeah!

The Mosaic of St. Pudenziana

The Allegory of Fortitude

Satan Smiting Job with Sore Boils

Les Demoiselles d’Avignon

art history, motherfucker

Assuming we could. If we did. If you we they let us. What if were that not true? If not, what we are then  

Fractured fame through a slanted frame

The rest is silence.

Herring in the wild forage near the coast mostly the family but also for humans move in large banks most species belong to the genus but PCBs PBDEs eggs cholera to a degree of curing salt dried garlic rice

(our) flesh

(our) skin

(our) oil

(our) bones


I picked a word by picking up the nearest book, opening at a random page and sticking my finger on a word without looking. The word was ‘notorious’ (the book was The Rings of Saturn by WG Sebald). Trying to think of something that conveys the opposite, I chose ‘revered’, though in so doing I thought this is perhaps also or more a counterpart than an opposite – notoriety is gained from doing ‘bad’ things, but can be seen as attractive and sexy (outlaw chic, Bonnie & Clyde, Ned Kelly), and reverence can likewise be given for a whole load of reasons: what is considered laudable, desirable, personally or socially ‘good’ (who is revered these days? Far more difficult to say, seems to be more partisan – Jesus, probably. Muhammad Ali? Martin Luther King? Thomas Jefferson?).

So I started and ended on Notorious and Revered, initially with ‘he’ then changing the pronoun to ‘they’, making it less about one person. The idea being that notoriety can work in your favour, the ‘bad boy’/‘maverick’ can get away with anything (Donald Trump: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and not lose any voters”). I didn’t start off thinking in the arena of big/US politics, but that’s where I soon ended up.

I went through the prompts again to re-trace my process and realised I hadn’t really shifted narrative perspective, so I have now gone into future tense, which is something I wouldn’t normally use.

For the second random word, I again opened the Sebald book at random, and it gave me (aptly) ‘literature’. The literature – the record. How do we know? Also talking, storytelling. The opposite of that, for me, I thought would be silence.

Third time through the book gave me the word ‘herring’, which I almost rejected as I couldn’t think of a disintegrating antonym, but they I thought of the fish itself disintegrating, and what is finally left – ‘bones’. Then I thought maybe this idea of disintegration could echo the first section, which is kind of about the disintegration of the human race/society. I looked up the Wikipedia entry on herring and selectively blacked out, keeping only words of six letters or less, then whittled these down, at first trying to make short sentences, but then I decided to abandon sentence structure and punctuation and just string the words together, selecting but not re-ordering.

For the last four lines I picked words out of sequence and put each on a new line to form a kind of coda or outro, prefacing each one with an ‘our’ in parentheses, probably hoping the reader will wonder who the ‘our’ refers to – us, or the fish.

Terry Holland grew up in England and lives in Utrecht, the Netherlands. His work has been published by Almond Press, the Bath Flash Fiction AnthologyStukah! magazine, Full House Literary, Free Flash Fiction, Stereo Stories, Daily Drunk, Voidspace, Ellipsis Zine and Pure Slush.