VISITING TIME • by Jonathan Pinnock

Prisoner number 547812 presses his hand against the glass, spreading his fingers wide and as flat as he can make them. His voice is urgent as he speaks into the phone.

“Babe, I love ya. I know ah’ve been bad but ah’m gonna change. Ah’m gonna do ma time and when ah come out ah’ll be a good husband to ya and a good pop to li’l Nathan again. Ah’m gonna make it right, you see? ‘Cos ah loves ya. More than anythin’ in the whole wide world. An’ ah’d do anything to be with ya again.”

He pauses for a moment. He takes his hand away from the glass and wipes a tear away from his eye.

“Babe?” He is whispering now. “Babe? Y’all gonna wait for me, ain’t ya babe? Babe?” His voice is pleading now. “Please? Ya wait for me?”

The warder taps him gently on the shoulder and shows him his watch to indicate that time is up. He grabs the phone, and for a moment there is the slightest resistance. Then the prisoner’s hand goes limp, and the warder takes it from him and replaces it in the holder. The warder unlocks the man’s cuffed hand from the chair, and re-attaches it to his other hand. He helps the prisoner to his feet, and they begin the long shuffle back to his cell.

The visitor watches the scene with interest. He turns to his guide, with a perplexed look on his face.

“Tell me,” he says, “why do you permit this charade to continue?”

“Well,” says the other, “firstly, as far as we can tell, he still has visiting rights, even if the visitor is imaginary. Secondly, we’re kinda hoping that one day he’ll let slip what he did with her body.”

Jonathan Pinnock was born in Bedfordshire, England, and–despite having so far visited over forty other countries–has failed to relocate any further away than the next-door county of Hertfordshire. He is married with two children and a 1961 Ami Continental jukebox. His writing has won a number of prizes, short-listings and long-listings, and and he has been published in such diverse publications as Smokebox, Every Day Fiction and Necrotic Tissue. His website is

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Every Day Fiction

  • Gerard Demayne

    Not 100% convinced by the Bubba dialogue but I liked that.

  • Absolutely barking! I like it 🙂

  • Great flash.

  • Celeste goschen

    Excellent, neatly executed flash.

  • Nice story in many ways, and you’ve captured the essence of flash fiction mwith its tight ending. But there’s confusion in the writing/editing:

    > Why the black (Afro-English?) accent? This “dialect” is becoming suspect in U.S. writing and journalism and could be seen as condescending authorial bias.
    > You write, “Then the prisoner’s hand goes limp, and the warder takes it from him and replaces it in the holder.” I re-read it to see the antecdent noun is phone, but combined with a hand that’s “re-attached” made my brow wrinkle. For a moment, I thought he was an android.
    > In the third graf from the end you introduce a visitor and guide. Is this scene a tourist attraction, or could they have come into the story earlier?

    Concept: four star. Excution: only a three.

  • Angela

    creepy good with a cool twist!

  • Jen

    Wow, I really wasn’t expecting that. Great twist!

  • I’m in with those who felt the dialect was a tad too much, but I really liked the ending. Clever concept. Nice and tight.

  • Robin

    Oh, what a surprise, and how sad! Great flash. (But I did wonder about the dialect, too.)

  • Hi everyone, thanks for the comments. Regarding the dialect, I most definitely wasn’t thinking black. I try not to do stereotypes, particularly offensive ones. The clue is in the reference to l’il Nathan – think of early Coen Brothers films.

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  • i really liked the story, i didnt expect it and thought it was great.

  • kate beswick

    Loved the twist at the end – nicely creepy – why is the visitor with a ‘guide?’ Is this a ‘true crimes’ museum? The fake Black American accent added to that impression. But it’s a wonderful idea, and tightly written – a lot of backstory packed into a short space. The opening was particularly vivid.If it was cleaned up a bit it would be very moving.

  • Mark Tomlinson

    Great flash, just a slight quibble over the witnesses too but as for the accent used for the prisoner I didn’t immediately assume it was a black man…that sort of accent could equally apply to a white man from the deep south. Good Job John!

  • Cheryl Alleyne

    I loved this and the twist at the end end. I just read it as a strong southern accent!

  • Thanks! One point regarding the visitor – I saw him as some kind of government official checking up on how the place was being run, nothing more sinister than that 🙂

  • I used to live in England and the excecution of the accent was spot on, and I just assumed it was a thick West country accent until I read the comments. And I think the prisoner used to be my ex.

  • Flirtybee

    Fabulous twist. Good original thinking there!

    Not totally sure where the accent was from, but figured it didn’t matter, so long as it was consistent. If a writer has to worry about everything that is politically correct, blimey, we’d have nowt left now, would we?

    And Rena … if thats your ex, doesn’t that make you …

    I think they may be looking for you …

  • Good call, old chap!

  • Effie

    Great ending – well done. If it’s Coen Bros style, perhaps take him down to the chapel, that might make him confess. Looking forward to the next, yours and theirs!

  • jennifer walmsley

    The ending took me by surprise. Great flash. Really enjoyed it. It has the wow factor for me.

  • Oscar Windsor-Smith

    Yup! A neat one, Jon. Keep ’em coming (somehow, I feel sure you will)

    🙂 scar

  • Roberta SchulbergGoro

    Admirable tight construction in this short piece. No corpus delicti? Is there a long piece too?