If You Can’t Beat ‘Em | Flash Fiction

Cartoon police officer illustration - "If You Can't Beat 'Em" flash fiction

Don wakes up with a taste in his mouth that is reminiscent of the arse end of a badger. His head throbs and his stomach feels raw and empty. He’s slumped against the locked door of his local pub, and all around him is chaos.

People are running up and down the street, some carrying baseball bats, others lugging cardboard boxes, more still swigging from beer cans and bottles of liquor. Most of them have hoods pulled low over their faces and they’re shouting and screaming, whooping and laughing.

A woman approaches the pub and rattles at the bars on the window, looking for a weak point.

“What’s going on, love?” Don asks, wincing at the burning sensation in his throat.

“Riot, obviously.”


“Fuck knows how it started but we’re just going with it. Some people have barricaded the street so the coppers can’t get down without a fight. All these shops, ripe for the picking! Do you know the best way into this pub?”

Don pulls himself to his feet and shakes his head. He feels like he’s been sleeping for days. He could have been, for all he knows. He doesn’t remember anything beyond the fifth pint.

He wanders down the street and observes the madness. He sees a group of teenage kids leaping out of the smashed windows of a PC World, arms filled with laptops and tablets and flatscreen TVs. There’s a gaggle of blokes divvying out cartons of cigarettes outside an off-licence. A couple of women are filling a shopping trolley with designer handbags and shoes out front of a luxury clothing store.

Don sighs, appalled at the shamelessness of his fellow human. But then he shrugs and heads towards the little Tesco up the street, where people are dashing in and out of the trashed sliding doors, laden down with bags of food and booze.

He browses the store’s battered aisles with as much indifference as he would on any other day. He hears shouts of “Police!” and “Run!” from his fellow looters, but he doesn’t have the energy to panic. He can only focus on gathering his list of highly specific and absolutely essential groceries.

Soon, Don’s hands are full and he’s ready for home. He emerges into the street and comes face to face with a police officer and his baton.

“Shit! Look man, I only got a few little bits. I didn’t touch the fags or anything, I promise.”

The officer peers at the items in Don’s hands. A packet of paracetamol, a large bottle of Lucozade, a microwavable burger, and a bag of cheese and onion crisps.

“Hangover cure?” the police officer asks.

Don nods.

The officer rolls his eyes. “Sorry, pal. Zero tolerance. But I’ll share that packet of crisps with you before I take you down to the station.”

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Author: Ellie Scott

Ellie Scott is a freelance copywriter and fiction writer from Sheffield, UK. She writes speculative and silly short stories and flash fiction. She has published two short story collections - 'Merry Bloody Christmas' and 'Come What May Day'. In 2018 she was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize Short Story Competition. She can often be found loitering on Twitter (@itsemscott), Instagram (@tinysillystories) and Medium (@elliemaryscott).

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