Author’s Note: I humbly submit July’s edition of Cait Gordon’s 2020 Flash Fiction Challenge, featuring a car dealership as this month’s setting, the object is a brick, and the genre is an epistolary fiction – all in 1000 words. Thanks for reading and enjoy!
Richard Randall Executive Sales Specialist Vroom-Vroom Cars Santa-Clara, California
May 17, 1977
Dear Ms. Westbrook,
Thank you for your visit yesterday at our dealership. I am sure you would agree that the slick and sexy Mamba-2000 sport-convertible you took for a test drive yesterday is the most unique experience one can drive this side of the ocean.
I enjoyed making your acquaintance and look forward to following up with you in person about your decision to acquire one. If I do say so myself, the car is perfect for someone of your stature. Please remember, if you pay cash, we will throw in a wood-panelled dash, spoilers, and an elite stereo system at no extra charge.
By the way, you left behind the promotional brick we give free to everyone who takes one of our cars out for a test drive. I am glad you wrote your address on it so I can reach you. Please feel free to come by anytime to claim it. It would be a delight to see you again.
Warm regards, Richard Randall
May 23, 1977
Thank you for the kind letter the other day. You are right. The Mamba-2000 was like no other ride I have ever experienced. My excitement heightened when I first touched the velvety steering wheel, and my hands trembled when I inserted the key into the ignition. The soft purr of the motor made me gasp in delight.
Unlike my current Suburban-AF, it responded to my every command. It felt like it knew where I wanted to go without my having to tell it.
I almost lost control when the car hurtled itself on the open road after I kicked down into a higher gear, but the steering hugged the corners so tight, I knew I was driving something special. The vibrations of the chassis reeked of high-quality engineering , and the smooth acceleration surprised me for such a small car.
Pity I could not make a commitment to purchase on the spot. I grieved handing the keys over to you. I despised returning to my Suburban-AF. It is such a depressing vehicle. In fact, the old dilapidated clunker conked out after I filled it with gas last night.
Would I be able to get a good price if I traded in that horrible excuse of a car?
And thanks. I was wondering where I left that brick. I looked forward to putting a bow on it and making it my new dashboard mascot. Will you hold on to it for me until I return?
Sincerely Samantha Westbrook
May 30, 1977
Dear Ms. Westbrook,
As I have not seen you in a while, I am sending a follow-up letter from the one I sent a couple of weeks ago. I regret to say, that we had an incident at the Vroom-Vroom dealership.
If you have not heard on the news, a man showed up at the dealership looking to buy a Suburban-FTW. (It is an upgrade of your current station-wagon.) After he took it for a test drive, he made an offer and demanded a promotional brick.
We had long since run out, but he saw the one I held for you. Despite my protests, he snatched it. He said some rather uncomely things and threw it through the windshield of a Mamba-2000 in the display room. He then smashed the hood and the doors, denting the car severely.
The man drove off without saying a word, leaving some pretty significant damage to the car.
I regret to say, your brick is in pieces, and we do not have another Mamba-2000 available. If you are still interested in buying this car, we will have to put in an order for one. It might take several weeks until a new one is shipped from Europe.
Please let me know if you are still interested, and I will make all the necessary arrangements.
Regards, Richard Randall
June 4, 1977
My poor brick! I had intended to visit the dealership last week to reclaim him and put an offer on the Mamba-2000. Before I could, however, my husband drove up in a secondhand Suburban-WTF.
He presented it for an anniversary gift. I hated it! It’s bad enough I live in the suburbs and drive around in a box on wheels like everyone else. Let him drive it! I want my coupe! I should have gotten my brick. I’d have put it through the windshield of that pathetic station-wagon.
In fact, I despise it so much, why don’t you order me the Mamba now? I would give anything to dump this Suburban boat and ride that wonderfully euphoric car.
Sincerely, Samantha Westbrook
July 8, 1977
Dear Ms. Westbrook,
I am delighted to announce that your car has arrived this morning, awaiting for you to pick it up. It came in a week earlier than anticipated.
Due to your inconvenience, we will paste racing stripes on the door, free of charge. Unfortunately, we no longer have the free brick promotion, but I still have your original brick (in pieces) which you have yet to claim. Given that our current promotion involves small rocks, your brick can qualify instead.
Warm regards, Richard Randall
July 15, 1977
Thank you for all your help over the past several weeks. I squealed in delight when I jumped in my Mamba-2000. You were so right about selecting a manual transition. Driving with a gear shift brings me feel “one-with-the-machine.” It truly is my car.
I am going to tell all my girlfriends about the wonderful service at Vroom-Vroom, and to go and see you about buying a Mamba-2000 for themselves. They will never go back to those pathetic Suburbans again.
Warm regards, Samantha
P.S. You can imagine my surprise when I found the bonus two bricks in the trunk! I know the promotion is long over, but they were put to good use. The Suburban-WTF is no more, and I look forward to many adventures in my Mamba-2000 for many a year.
Author’s Note: I humbly submit June’s edition of Cait Gordon’s 2020 Flash Fiction Challenge, featuring Parliament Hill as this month’s setting, the object is a pill bottle, and the genre is historical fiction – all in 1000 words. Thanks for reading and enjoy! Note: The city of Ottawa was founded as Bytown in the 1820s. Parliament Hill didn’t exist then as it is today, but the Barrack Hill Base did in its place.
Harold stood at the ship’s bow staring over the open water. The wooden dragon head, attached to the front, bobbed up and down in the rolls of the waves, and the rhythmic splashes of the oarsman echoed behind. The westward trek up the Ottawa River had been exhausting. With wind directly to their front, they couldn’t rely on their sail.
Harold’s long flowing beard and braided pig tails blew astern. At least his horned helmet stayed on his head. Content on his first journey, he dipped his fingers in a small leather purse attached to his belt and retrieved a small bottle, stopped by a cork. “Adrenal Nucleoprotein Tablets, take two a day.”
“Not sure what Colonel By will use them for. Too bad Doctor Smith came down with the clap. He would’ve loved the trip.” thought Harold.
A fortress on a hilltop signaled their arrival in Bytown. Harold bounded to the stern.
“Magnus,” he barked, “we’re within a league of Barrack Hill. Reduce speed for docking.”
Like Harold, Magnus wore a horned helmet and heavy furs, and yelled the order to the crew. The longboat slowed.
“What on…” yelled Harold. ”They fired a cannon at us!”
“There’s the entrance to the new canal,” Magnus replied. “It should shelter us from the fortress’ cannons. Crew, full speed ahead.”
Cannonballs rained on either side of the vessel.
“Magnus, know what these are for?” He showed him the pill bottle.
“Why should I care now? We’re in the heat of battle! Oarsmen! FASTER, like your life depended on it.”
After a tense minute, Magnus turned the helm hard to port and the crew slowed the ship gracefully into the inlet. Harold had never seen anything like it, but in the distance steps of the lock appeared that would take his ship down the canal. They needed to come to a dead stop because the lock-master had to lower their ship and open the gates to continue them their journey. He wasn’t around.
“Why did they shoot at us?” asked Harold.
Magnus hopped off the boat with rope in hand and tied the ship down to a cleat and ran to the front. A crewman tossed him a line and he repeated the process before returning.
“Maybe it was a mistake?” said Harold.
“They must’ve thought we were Americans attacking them,” said Magnus.
“Do we look like Americans?” said Harold pointing to his horned helmet. “Besides, the doctor told me he alerted Colonel By of our arrival.“
A bugle sounded from the top of Barrack Hill and a garrison stormed out of the fortress.
Magnus grabbed a two-handed axe. “Ha-ha! We’re in for it now! I’ve been waiting for this moment for nearly a year!”
“What?” said Harold. “When I signed up to join the North American Nordic Society last week, I didn’t think I’d be risking my life!”
“You’re not serious? We live for this stuff! A big part of what we do is historical re-enactments. Look at the men! They’re all primed and ready to go!” The crew had grabbed their axes. “Man, Doctor Smith must be regretting missing this! First one he’s missed in years!”
The crew charged off the ship and ran towards their assailants on the hill. Their blood curdling screams made Harold’s hair stand stiff on the back of his neck.
“Praise be to Odin!” Before Harold could reply back, Magnus leapt off the boat to join the others.
Harold stayed behind and observed the vikings and soldiers having a bally-good time fencing and sparring with their weapons. He never learned in history class of a Viking-British battle that involved muskets and axes, but it didn’t bother his shipmates. Next time, he’ll be sure to bring a weapon.
He fingered the pill bottle again. He had his mission. Nervous, Harold walked forward into the sea of clanging weapons with his hands in the air.
A soldier stopped his sparring. “Why aren’t you fighting?” he asked.
“I have something for Colonel By, may I see him?”
“He’s a busy man. What business do you have with him?”
“I have his Adrenal Nucleoprotein tablets from his doctor,” said Harold shaking the pill bottle, “who asked me to deliver it.”
“Doctor Smith not here? Too bad! He would’ve loved this! I’m Captain Johnson. We are all field engineers working on the canal project. This town is so boring that we welcome some fun from the Society. Hope you didn’t get too scared with our cannon welcome! We need some target practice, ha-ha.”
They walked up the hill together to the fortress. Johnson introduced Harold to Colonel By.
“Your pills sir, as prescribed by your physician.”
“Thank goodness,” said Colonel By. “With this bloody canal project, we’ve had so many delays and cost overruns, I thought I’d die of a stroke. You know, we built this thing to protect us from an invading American force. Doubt that’ll ever happen now. And my reward for my efforts? A nagging headache and missing all the fun outside.”
He read the instructions on the pill bottle and pulled the cork at the top of it without success. “Damn, can anyone open these things?” He smashed the bottle on the edge of a table and picked some pills in between the small shards of glass.
“Ah, much better,” the colonel said swallowing a handful. “Now, Harold. For giving me the relief from my aches and pains, how would you like to take your fine vessel I see tied in my lock on an inaugural sail down my canal tomorrow? Before it even opens up to the public.”
“I’d be honoured. Can I wear my horns?” said Harold.
“But of course, I too am part of the Nordic Society.”
The following morning, Harold, the crew, and Colonel By wearing his viking helmet, navigated the locks to begin their 200 kilometre trek to Kingston. The first of many voyages boaters would take along the Rideau Canal.
Author’s Note: I humbly submit May’s edition of Cait Gordon’s 2020 Flash Fiction Challenge,‘ featuring an fandom expo as this month’s setting, the object is a silken garment, and the genre is action-adventure – all in 1000 words. Thanks for reading and enjoy!
Jack’s sixteen. For his birthday, Ma bought him a much wanted ticket for the Fantasy Filmgoers Fan Expo.
Gieselle Copenhagen, a woman he’d been crushing on for years, was the featured guest. He’d also get a free autograph and photo with her.
Giselle starred in the hit TV program, The Cursed Bow, where she played an elvish princess, Lura Liarel. Jack watched the show religiously, and designed a costume of Gorwin Yellen, a peasant who loved Lura. Tall and thin, Jack’s long prematurely greying black hair helped him look the part.
On the day of the FFFE, Jack realized his mother hadn’t done the laundry.
“Ma!” he yelled. “I’m out of underwear!”
“Why don’t you wear those boxer shorts Granny sent you for your birthday.”
“But Ma, I’ve never worn boxers before! I can’t wear them with my costume, either! Put a load on now!”
“I’ve got a life, too. You’re going to have to try them or wear nothing.”
Not fancying going commando in leotards, Jack opened his top drawer and opened the box of boxers.
Hmm, he thought, red silk. He tried them. Ooh, these make me feel sexy. I’d love to show these to Giselle. Before he could indulge a deep fantasy, he noticed the time and dressed in his costume. Luckily, he had a pair of leggings to wear under the leotard to hide the shorts. A little baggy, around the waist, but it works.
Jack grabbed a black-stringed necklace with pewter amulet of a tree growing from a crescent moon. Gorwin had spent the last two seasons searching for this magical talisman. Lura sent him on a quest to secure it to prove his love to her. The object’s powers would bring peace to her war-torn kingdom. Jack put on the necklace, shouldered his backpack, and left.
The moment he hit the street, a whoosh whistled by his ear. He jumped out of his skin. Behind him, in the distance about fifty yards away, stood a man clad in black leather armour and hoodie wielding a bow. He drew another arrow from his quiver. Jack was unarmed, unlike most suburban American teens, and he bolted in the opposite direction.
Approaching the end of his street, another bowman appeared, dressed identically to the first. He drew, and Jack turned between two houses. The leotard made for uncomfortable running, and the silk boxers created a wedgie effect. He entered the backyard and in discomfort, squeezed his buttocks. On his next step, he bounced twenty feet in the air, and cleared a hedge separating two properties. He released his grip and landed softly on the other side.
He continued to the street. Three more arrowed men were in hot pursuit. Jack clenched his fanny again feeling the smooth silk in his crack, and boinged. This time he was propelled thirty feet forward with each step. It created separation from his assailants, and he bounded to the stop where a bus waited. Last on, the bus pulled away and Jack looked out the window. A dozen more dark bowmen quit their pursuit.
Jack subtly grabbed the boxers from his crevice and relaxed.
What on earth did Granny buy me?
Jack joined the line of orcs, goblins, and trolls outside the convention centre to enter FFFE. A school bus approached, and a pack or the sinister men in black exited with military precision. They goose-stepped in rank towards the back of the building, bows drawn.
Jack breathed a sigh of relief. These must’ve been a group cosplaying as the Soldiers of Fengalla, the personal guard of his love, Luna’s, enemy. King Aimon would’ve been a great costume, thought Jack noticing a young man in the crowd dressed in this character. I could’ve joined the soldiers!
The crowd moved at a snail’s pace among the vendor booths. Jack wanted to buy a Funko-Pop of his love, but didn’t want to dish out fifty bucks for it. He waited forty-five minutes to pay ten dollars for a butterbeer. Man, this stuff tastes like ass!
He proceeded to the autograph area and found the line-up for his Giselle. He saw her at the table, smiling and signing photos for fans. His heart melted. It won’t be long until he’s united with his love.
People screamed. The dark army stormed into the room and bulled their way to the front, surrounding Giselle’s table. From the crowd, King Aimon emerged.
“Lura, this is your last chance. If you don’t forfeit your kingdom to me, I will execute you here and now, and your father will suffer a slow and painful death in my dungeon.”
Something silky snuck up Jack’s crevice, and he squeezed my keister tight. Instinct took over and Jack jumped over the crowd and landed on Lura’s table. The crowd erupted in cheers.
“Gorwin, you succeeded!” said Lura. “You brought me the Talisman of Unification. Give it to me quick.”
Jack handed the necklace to her. She placed it around her neck, and it glowed. The evil king petrified.
“We have to leave, now,” she said.
She wrapped her arms around my neck, and Jack squeezed my derriere tight, and jumped over the crowds in a shower of airborne arrows. They erupted in applause. With another bound, Jack jumped over a curtained partition where other actors were waiting in privacy.
“That was amazing Stephen,” said Giselle. “They absolutely loved it!” She kissed Jack’s cheek and he swooned. “Wait a sec, you’re not Stephen!” She referred to the actor who played Gorwin.
“No, I’m Jack, I’ve loved you for so long.”
“But Jack, how were you able to leap over the people like that?”
“I think it’s something to do with my underwear my granny bought.” he said. “Wanna see them?”
“Uh, no, but great show!”
The king emerged in jeans and FFFE shirt. “That was a great performance G, want to grab some drinks?”
The two exited the building arm and arm, leaving Jack alone.
He didn’t get her autograph, but he’ll never wash his face again.
Author’s Note: I humbly submit February’s edition of Cait Gordon’s 2020 Flash Fiction Challenge,‘ featuring an apothecary as this month’s setting, the object is a spider, and the genre is steam punk – all in 1000 words. Thanks for reading and enjoy!
Albert Pennywise dressed in top hat, monocle, and tailed blazer, unlocked the door to his store. The mounted timepiece protruded from his chest and chimed 8:50 a.m. He turned on the lights which triggered a complex apparatus consisting of conveyor belts, clocks, and mini-broilers. Scoopers attached to a wheel on one end extracted powder from a large bin, then mixed liquid from the bottles en route to the other side where the mixture would be packaged into pill boxes. The process would took less than five minutes.
8:55 a.m. Metal screeching filled the apothecary, shaking the floors and rattling the bottles on the shelves. Albert caught the back end of the air-train in the window of his shop braking its way into the station. It signalled the arrival of his first customer in five minutes.
He retrieved the prepared prescription, labelled it, and placed it on the counter. He spent the next few minutes inspecting the bottles of medicines lining the top shelf on the far wall of his store.
8:59 a.m. The grapefruit sized timepiece on his chest chimed. It activated the series of rods attached to his arms, legs, and neck prompting him to stop his task and take his place behind the counter. He obliged, retrieved another prescription his machine produced, and placed it on the surface.
9:00 a.m. Albert’s first customer entered the store. Albert’s heart leapt, as it did each morning when he had his daily minute with the lovely Agatha.
Like Albert, Agatha had a clock affixed to her chest with rods controlling her limbs. She fashioned a beautiful plumed hat and looked radiant in her floor-length skirt despite moving like a robot.
Albert cursed. She’s fifteen seconds late again. The Watchmakers would not be pleased. He longed for the one minute discourse he was permitted to have with her each day. He’d have to cut out the usual “how are you” pleasantries this morning.
“Hello Agatha, here are your pills,” Albert said.
Her watery eyes contained an emotion which moved him. She picked up the bottle and turned to leave. Albert noticed something falling off Agatha’s back onto the floor when she stepped out the door. About the size of a dime, an eight-legged device with a stopwatch on its back scurried under the counter. Albert moved to investigate, but…
9:01 a.m. The timepiece in Albert’s chest went off forcing him to return to his inventory work, only to stop him at 9:04 to prepare and await for the next customer entering the store. The process continued until 10:00 a.m., at which point the mechanics attached to his body made him complete a requisition form to restock medicines and to refill the drug-making machine.
The next customer arrived at 10:15 a.m sharp, and his day continued as pre-ordained by the governing Watchmakers.
They had scheduled Albert’s life, like everyone’s in the city. No one could deviate from their timetable because of the robotic limbs they were forced to wear. Any resistance to the devices, or worse yet, unauthorized removal, would result in months of painful “recalibration” therapy.
Albert’s apothecary provided state-sanctioned medications to ensure the precision and timeliness of its citizens. People with disease would need to be treated immediately for fear of breaking time-laws. Albert pondered what could have afflicted Agatha to be fifteen seconds late over the last few days.
The pharmacy never had more than one customer at a time. They were all programmed to enter and leave in-between Albert’s other tasks.
5:00 p.m. The screeching metal of the air-train shook his store signalling the end of the work day. Albert locked the shop’s door and left for his home, an apartment above the apothecary.
The Watchmen permitted citizens who weren’t under routine and in the confines of their house to remove the robotic attachments. Albert noticed the small eight-legged creature affixed like a magnet on top if his chest clock. The stopwatch on its back spun around in circles as the creature raised and lowered itself against the timepiece. Fascinated, Albert observed the creature with a magnifying glass. It’s backend appeared to have a microscopic tube attached to his clock, which pulsed with its every movement. It shifted around his chest piece every few minutes and repeated the process. Albert bored of the little spider and permitted it to have its fun. He went to bed dreaming of his next minute-long encounter with Agatha.
8:25 a.m. An alarm went off warning Albert that he needed to don his robotics in five minutes, otherwise be arrested. He rushed to change into his clothes, but noticed the spider was nowhere to be found.
8:50 a.m. His device had him situated in his store to resume business.
9:01 a.m. Agatha arrived over a minute late, sounding an alarm in his chest clock. Albert panicked. He didn’t want his love, Agatha to be arrested. His robotics prevented him from serving her, because he had to perform the inventorying.
She rushed over to him. Her limbs flowed with a grace which Albert never witnessed of anyone in his life. She reached over to his chest-clock and rotated the face 180 degrees, then grabbed his hands.
Albert’s limbs relaxed, almost making him fall to the ground.
“Come with me,” she said. “Before the Watchmakers get here.”
She pulled him out to the back door of the apothecary and ushered him into a passenger seat of steam-powered tricycle. She embraced and kissed him.
“Oh, have I longed for this moment,” she said. “We’re going to finally live among the free.” She turned turned a crank by the steering wheel igniting the engine, and drove full speed to the boundaries of the only world Albert ever knew.
In the back, Albert heard much whirring, ticking, and chiming. He looked over to the boot. Hundreds of mechanical spiders like the one that freed him marched around.
Author’s Note: I humbly submit February’s edition of Cait Gordon’s 2020 Flash Fiction Challenge,‘ featuring a field as this month’s setting, the object is a beard trimmer, and the genre is a mystery – all in 1000 words. Thanks for reading and enjoy!
A nightmare jolted Daryl awake in mid-snore at 3:15 a.m. Monday morning. He stretched his arms out and curled his hands to form a fist, then released them. His arthritic knuckles ached more than usual, so he applied some cream and returned to bed. He couldn’t escape the horror of the weekend retreat, and didn’t know how he could possibly work the next day. He worried. Daryl needed the job and was on probation.
Remaining in bed, he attempted to distract himself by counting sheep. He hit 12,382 when his alarm sounded, prompting him to prepare for the day ahead.
How on earth am I going to teach this morning?
The automatic coffee maker percolated. The aroma of Folgers filling the basement apartment helped Daryl remember his only morning joy—being slightly caffeinated. He drank his first cup black after showering, and turned on an American news station blathering about Donald Trump.
This daily crap motivates me to move so I can shut this tripe off quickly.
A sudden knock from the entranceway made Daryl jump. Who on earth would visit before 8 a.m?
He opened the door and a cool fall breeze cleared the remaining cobwebs in his mind. A woman in her mid-thirties stood facing him wearing a trench-coat. Her brown hair smelled of fresh fruit, and Daryl was taken aback by her beauty. Being a middle-aged bachelor, no one ever visited him in his home, especially nothing this pretty. Her arrival represented a repressed fantasy of his where a gorgeous woman would land on his doorstep.
“Daryl Hodgkin?” she said. “I’m Inspector Bronywn Merrill from the North Vancouver Police department. May I have a few words?”
Daryl hesitated. “Certainly. Would you like to come in?”
He ushered her to the living room. “Would you like a coffee? Pot is fresh.”
“No, I prefer we get straight to business.” She sat on the couch and crossed her legs. Daryl noticed her bare knee and calf protruding from the coat.
“What can I do you for, Inspector.” Daryl tensed, not being accustomed to speaking to women.
Bronwyn opened her bag, and produced a plastic see-through sac. “Does this look familiar to you.”
“Yes,” said Daryl. She held a gold-plated beard trimmer. “That belonged to my colleague Sterling Fox. He’s had that since his teens.”
Daryl and Sterling taught at an all boys private school in the heart of the city. They had known each other since breaking into their teens, and were both the same age. Sterling always looked older. In fact, he needed to shave every day when they first met and would produce a five-o’clock shadow. Daryl, on the other hand shaved once a month. Within a year, Sterling grew out a beard and needed to maintain it.
Sterling teased Daryl calling him “little boy” all the time. Sterling had the looks, he got the girls, and all the popularity. Daryl, though, sat in his shadow, being picked on. Even participating in sports, Daryl played second string to Sterling.
Daryl paused his reflection a moment to observe Bronwyn move her leg up and down.
Shaving and fashion were huge for Sterling. Every second week, they travelled together for school sports or events. Sure enough, Sterling would bring his damn beard trimmer. Every morning he would turn it on.
“Hear that singing sound?” he’d say. “That’s my trimmer little boy. You know what I use that for? Big man stuff. You’d cut yourself if you used it without adult supervision.”
Teacher’s in school had to break up their daily fights. Sterling continually ridiculed Daryl for looking young, and being worthless. One could imagine the shock Daryl had when he discovered they both taught at the same school, twenty-years later.
The tormenting continued. “Little boys can’t teach at this school. The students would be more mature than the teacher.”
Even more alarming, the headmaster ordered Daryl to support Sterling in preparing his class for a weekend campout. The boys would hone their skills in orienteering before putting them to the test at a competition in the forests north of the city.
The trial run took place in the fifteen-acre school-owned field, last weekend. Daryl had to train the students how to camp on their own. His approach was to train three prefects: Johnathan, Ryan, and Trevor—all spoiled brats in his eyes—who’d lead the others.
They pitched the tents in the corner of the field. Saturday, morning Sterling woke first and announced to the teens, “You see this?” He turned on his beard trimmer. “That’s the sound of a real man. When you’re men, you’ll be able to trim beards, too. You see this ‘little boy?’” He pointed to Daryl. “He still doesn’t even shave.
Enraged, Daryl stormed from the field leaving Sterling alone to coordinate the orienteering. He returned after to help with a campfire and dinner. Determined not to be taunted again by Sterling, he ripped open his bag and extracted the trimmer with intention to smash it to pieces.
Sterling caught him, and with one punch, knocked out the weaker man.
Bronwyn raised the plastic bag. Her hazel eyes peered at its contents.
“We found the body this morning, lying in the middle of the field. The cord to the trimmer wrapped around Sterling’s neck. The boys saw your fight, and your fingerprints are all over the weapon.”
Daryl knew this, of course. It’s why he couldn’t sleep.
Before he could say anything, Bronwyn issued the Miranda warning forcing Daryl to remain silent. She cuffed him, and phoned for a police car. She helped herself to a cup of coffee as they left.
Daryl was convicted for Sterling’s murder.
Six months later, a post appeared on Facebook reading, “Thank goodness that bastard father is dead. And I sure as hell am glad I won’t inherit that bloody beard-trimmer.
“I’m no longer a ‘little boy.’ No one will ever call me that again.”
Author’s Note: I humbly submit February’s edition of Cait Gordon’s 2020 Flash Fiction Challenge,‘ featuring a mausoleum as this month’s setting, the object is a pair of goggles, and the genre is goth romance – all in 1000 words. Thanks for reading and enjoy! BTW: I have no clue what is goth romance! : )
Lifelong friends Adrian Ciobanu and Daniel Popa travelled around the world the past ten years. Now, in their sixties, they shared many of life’s joys and tribulations together. The harshest occurred twenty years ago. The high-tech business they founded in Canada went under, and amidst lawsuits of corruption, the company’s doom left the two penniless. Financial stresses led to Adrian divorcing his wife of ten years, who refused to live on meagre income. At the time, Adrian envied Daniel, who didn’t have any familial dependencies.
After struggling for many years to regain their footing, they decided to pack their bags and set out to their globe trotting. They were savvy and learned to live with little means while enjoying the freedom of not being tied down by societal rules and conventions. After a decade of travel, they tired of meandering the planet and returned to their country of their birth, Romania.
They took residence in a cemetery near the borders of Transylvania. No one, not even brave tourists, ventured into the dark, centuries-old graveyard.
In the far corner stood a small building. The monument resembled a miniature version of St. Paul’s cathedral in London, mounted on a small hill. It served as a tribute to many a fallen warrior, and housed dozens of dead soldiers.
When they arrived, the entrance to the crypt was locked at the base of the knoll, but Adrian jimmied it open with a crowbar. The mausoleum provided the two shelter from the torrential rainfalls while they commiserated about their lives.
Daniel took to writing. The permanent stop from travelling offered him a chance to document his and Adrian’s travels. On the few days it didn’t rain, he’d venture out of the crypt and sat under an ancient tree. It faced a large tomb with an open grave. He often wondered why it never been filled, but it offered him inspiration to put pen to paper. He crafted stories explaining the reason for its existence.
Under his tree, Daniel felt the pinch of loneliness with his new graveyard life. He reflected more on his past and regretted the loss of his former wife from a time before he knew Adrian. He missed her youthful spirit and humour, and the overall comfort of having a spouse.
One hot summer day, he fell asleep, only to be awoken to a torrential rainfall. He grimaced at his water logged notebook, and fished in his pocket for a pair of swimming goggles and strapped them on. He always had them, as he developed a quirk of never wanting his eyes exposed directly to water.
He jumped out of his skin once his eyes adjusted to them. A beautiful woman wearing a long gown and ringlets in her hair stood in front of the grave. A bright light glowed around her, making her visible in the night’s darkness, and she managed to stay dry under the deluge. Daniel guessed she might’ve been close to his age, and looked familiar to him.
“I have been awaiting an eternity for you to come.” She held out her hand for Daniel, who stood and took it.
They walked hand-in-hand around the cemetery. The woman introduced herself as Elena, and offered little about herself apart from how she waited for her man to return. Daniel, excited to spend time with a woman again talked of his travels. Elena would laugh and slap his arm every now and again, making Daniel feel a special connection that had escaped him for decades.
Returning back near the mausoleum, Elena faced Daniel. “I’ve yearned to see you for so long.” She leaned forward, and kissed him with a deep passion of a long lost lover.
“Good night, my love,” she said after the long embraced. Her hands slid down his back as she softened her hug and touched the top of his buttocks. “Find me again soon. I would love to spend a more intimate night together.”
She turned and walked away, leaving Daniel staring after her in the pouring rain. He entered his home, and pocketed his goggles.
“Where were you?” yelled Adrian. “I worried you got washed away in the storm!”
“I met this wonderful woman. It was like magic. It’s like I’ve known her forever.” said Daniel. He recounted every detail of his romantic evening to his friend.
“I think we should leave,” suggested Adrian. “Between the effects of this place and your writing, I think it’s causing you to hallucinate. It’s been a while since we’ve been in America. Let’s return to Ottawa. I’m sure we can find you a new wife there.”
“No, I want to stay and see her,” said Daniel, surprised at his conviction. “I want to stay for Elena.”
After some more debate, Adrian relented and decided to indulge Daniel’s fantasies.
For the next several days, Daniel ventured out to his hangout and returned disappointed. Adrian mocked him each night, annoying Daniel to no end.
The rain poured on the seventh night since Daniel met the lovely Elena. He donned his goggles for the first time in a week, and vowed to return with his love and introduce her to Adrian. Adrian laughed at Daniel as he exited the mausoleum.
Adrian grew concerned when he noticed Daniel hadn’t returned past midnight. Poor man is so deluded, he’ll stay up all night to prove me wrong, he thought. He went to sleep and awoke a few hours later at dawn. No Daniel.
In a state of consternation, Adrian wandered the cemetery. He had no clue where Daniel spent his time, and being a huge graveyard, his panic escalated realizing his companion could be lost.
After a couple of days, he found Daniel’s ancient tree, and he noticed a freshly covered grave. The tombstone read: Elena Popa and Husband, 1782-1838.
Author’s Note: I humbly submit January’s edition of Cait Gordon’s 2020 Flash Fiction Challenge,‘ featuring a castle as this month’s setting, the object is a coffee/tea press, and the genre is science fiction – all in 1000 words. Thanks for reading and enjoy!
George opened his bedroom curtains to a sunny day. A lifelong bachelor, the middle-aged accountant maintained strict to routine, including cranking Dave Brubeck when he awoke. His condo chimed with smooth jazz.
He dressed and retrieved his newspaper outside his front door. He had been reading the Montreal Gazette each morning since graduating university—loving the feel of ink on his fingers.
“Language police arrested pet shop owner for parrot saying ‘hello’ instead of ‘bonjour,” read George, reaching for his coffee jar to prepare his morning espresso.
Routine broken, George ventured out to restock on ground coffee so this fiasco wouldn’t happen again.
He could take the elevator to the basement and walk through the underground city to get to the shop. But today was sunny, so he elected to stroll above ground.
The sidewalks of St. Catherine Street bustled with folks enjoying the June sunshine. George weaved through the crowd until he reached the cathedral, which had two entrances to the underground city on either side. He chose the left one, descended to the mall, and joined a queue for the speciality Egyptian coffee shop.
“Twenty pounds ground, please,” George asked the barista. “Oh,” he added, “and a latté.”
It took over a half hour for the barista to grind and package the beans, much to the chagrin of the others waiting. It didn’t phase George. He took the bag and his drink from the young woman and followed the passage under the cathedral, exiting the mall through the other side.
The buildings along St. Catherine Street had vanished, leaving a vast empty space filled with sand. He looked over his shoulder, and a sandy mountain replaced the cathedral. He scanned around. Not a soul was in site. He stood alone, drinking his beverage under the blazing sun.
In the distance, stood a lone castle. George didn’t recognize it, but it must’ve been a couple of kilometres away. Its two round towers on either side of a rounded front wall pierced the sky. A tall pole with a giant ball on the top rose in the centre, a bit higher than the turrets.
Having nothing better to do, and his condominium likely raptured, George wandered over. He walked an hour before reaching it. The castle towered high over him, and the base of the building sunk deep into the sand. The drawbridge couldn’t open as a consequence.
A rope ladder flew down the side of a turret from an aperture and a man climbed down. George rushed over to help him and held the rope ladder taught so he could shimmy down. He noticed a huge hump in the middle of the alien’s spine and jumped out of his skin when George realized the man had a camel-shaped face.
“Who are you?” asked George.
“I’m the Dromedarian,” replied the stranger. “Hey, is that coffee?”
The Dromedarian snatched the cup from his hand, took a swig, and spat it out.
“Ugh, is this the best you denizen have?” the Dromedarian bellowed in anger.
Realizing the stranger probably didn’t come from Montreal, George asked, “Are you from Toronto?”
“I have no idea what’s a ‘Toronto,’ but how can you humans consume this sludge? I’m scanning the universe for the perfect cup of coffee. When I beamed to your world, some twit said I should go to Chez Tim Horton’s, claiming they had the best coffee. I procured some. It was bloody fetid.
“Enraged, I teleported to my ship, and vapourized the surface of the planet. My stupid vessel ran out of juice, and I had to make an emergency landing.”
“That’s awful you were lied to. Can I help?”
“I need fresh-ground coffee to kickstart my ship.”
“I so happen to have some.” I presented my bag to the Dromedarian.
“Espresso? That should do the trick. Ever been inside a spacecraft?”
Mother told George never to go in cars with strangers. Given there’s no one else alive, he figured, what the hell? He followed the Dromedarian up the ladder, down a stairwell, and into the main control room of his ship.
In the centre stood a giant tank, running the height of the main wall. The pole erected outside of the castle was attached to a cylindrical object raised a few feet above it. It resembled a giant coffee press.
The Dromedarian strapped on a jet back, took George’s bag, and flew to the top of the basin, emptying the contents into it. He then flew across the top and grabbed a hose, then pumped in some boiling water. He rejoined me to watch the liquid turn dark. After five minutes, he launched upward towards the ball in the sky, and with his rockets in reverse, lowered the plunger until it compacted all the coffee.
At that precise moment, the castle rocked and all systems came back online.
“Excellent, it worked!” he said. He walked over to a spigot at the base of the tank and filled my cup with brown liquid. “You will never drink Earth coffee again once you try this. Now that my systems are a go, I shall teleport you back to your planet. You can then fend for yourself”
Within a flash, George found himself standing at a safe distance from the castle. The turrets smoked and the vessel lifted off and rocketed into space.
“Wow, this is the best!” George cried after sipping the drink.
He retraced his steps to the remnants of the cathedral and found the entranceway. When he reached the bottom, people scurried around the mall like any other Sunday morning.
George exited by way of the escalator on the other side. Mysteriously, the city had returned to its original state. He paused. “Oh, okay. Guess the alien really liked the coffee—everything’s back to normal.”
Returning home, he sat back and thought, Funny how weird things happen whenever my routine is broken, then enjoyed his beverage and continued reading the morning paper.
Author’s Note: The following is a chapter from my upcoming novel, Dissatisfied Me: A Love Story. The chapter is set in Ottawa in 1977, where the narrator, Dickie Duncan, is ten years old.
Enjoy and Happy Holidays!
Ten was my lucky number. It represented a new stage in life. It meant when I counted my age, I used all my fingers.
Mum recognized its importance and held a big party for me that September inviting all the kids from the neighbourhood. Peppered with gifts, I felt loved. My Auntie Mary from Vancouver mailed me a cool Montreal Expos jersey with my favourite player’s number embroidered on the back. Even my nasty cousin Heather sent a parcel. Her birthday card read:
You are going to start needing this more than ever.
I opened the package—Mennen Speed Stick?
My Scottish Dad cackled as I stared at the deodorant. “Ach, ye’ve been needin’ that fer years!”
Mum’s gift brightened my spirits. She bought me a state-of-the-art Mattel electronic football game, making me the envy of my friends. Everyone at the party crowded around begging me for a turn while I navigated my bright red dot between the dimmer ones towards the end zone.
Owning a trendy game made me popular for once. Could my parents be compensating for forcing me to attend Sunday school at church the next couple of years?
I put my theory to the test a couple of weeks later. Dad asked—as he always did shortly after my September birthday—“Hey lad, know what ye going to ask Santy this year for Christmas? Maybe that Hot Wheels set ye have always wanted?”
I answered like I did every year, “Yes, that’s EXACTLY what I want.”
My ten-year-old self didn’t really believe in Santa. I had no concrete proof, but my parents insisted he was real.
My first Christmas memory five years ago sparked a doubt about Santa’s existence. It didn’t take a rocket scientist, even for a post-toddler like me, to figure out that our neighbour Barb’s boyfriend Rory had donned the red costume at our family gathering. I’d asked for a Hot Wheels set that year, too, but Santa Rory gave me a cable car toy—shedding more uncertainty over Santa’s credibility.
I confronted Dad about it. He replied, “Santy knows deep down what children really want for Christmas. Ye always wanted a cable car. Now ye have one, so go enjoy.”
I never heard of a cable car before that Christmas, and I couldn’t appreciate it—Heather destroyed it by turning it into a projectile.
Two years later, when I turned seven, my best friend Sandy planted more seeds of skepticism. She stopped believing in Santa a year earlier, and we debated the point one hot fall afternoon. I couldn’t understand why she couldn’t believe—after all, where else did the presents come from?
“It’s our parents who play this Santa Claus game,” Sandy insisted. “We kids pretend to believe. It makes them happy, so we get what we want. In my house, we leave cookies and sherry out, and Santa eats them.
“Last year, I asked a friend in school what she leaves for Santa. She said zucchini muffins. I love zucchini muffins, so I asked Mom, ‘Why not make some for Santa?’ But Mom said Santa doesn’t like them. Didn’t make sense why my friend’s Santa likes zucchini and mine doesn’t—but my mom’s boyfriend Rory despises the stuff. It makes him puke. My Santa also loves sherry.” Sandy paused. “My Santa is Rory!”
Sandy had a point. “Neither Santa nor my parents got me the Hot Wheels set I’ve been asking for the last few years,” I said. “The closest to a race car I ever got was that stupid cable car that never worked.”
“Were you good?” asked Sandy. “Santa only gives gifts to those who are good.” My Sandy beamed a beautiful yet mischievous smile.
“I thought I was.”
“You see, that’s the game. You have to be extra good to your parents, then they buy you gifts. I’m gonna prove it. My mom thinks I’m an angel, but let’s do something really naughty. What could we do to make Santa super angry? Something that should guarantee we don’t get gifts from him.”
I couldn’t answer fast enough. I cycled through the usual list of things my parents preached against. Don’t fib. Don’t leave my toys lying around. Don’t speak out of turn. I obeyed all of them. I struggled, though, with eating Brussel sprouts. In fairness, I consumed more of that demon vegetable in the past couple of weeks than I had the previous seven years.
Sandy became impatient. “I’m going to show you. Wait here.”
I sat on the steps outside her home. The warm sun beamed above making me perspire.
She came back with a worn-out Ken doll, a small piece of red felt, some cotton balls, and a glue stick. “Mom and I do crafts, and she showed me how to make simple clothes for my dolls.” Sandy unfolded the red felt producing a small jacket.
Sandy placed it on her Ken doll and glued small pieces of cotton around his face to simulate a white beard. Next, she took a small square-shaped red felt and rolled it around Ken’s head, forming a crude dunce cap.
“This is our Santa.” The hat didn’t work, but I got the point.
She pulled a magnifying glass from her pocket and placed Ken’s head under it directly in the sunlight. The cotton burst into flame leaving Ken’s face a blackened mess.
“You killed Santa!” I protested.
“Do you think I should get gifts for doing this?” Sandy said proudly.
“Absolutely not! That’s horrible!”
That year, Sandy asked Santa for a Weebles House and got it. I didn’t get my Hot Wheels set, again. Instead, I got a board game that taught me French.
Dad told me, “Ye shoulda eaten more Brussel sprouts, lad. It displeased Santy.”
Upset by that Christmas memory, my ten-year old self discovered a family photo album in a bookcase. I flipped through the pages and studied pictures of our annual Santa visits at the mall. These trips were important because I’d officially ask Santa for my gift.
It was fun to observe how I’d changed over the last nine years, but Santa did, too! One had dark skin. Another looked a hundred pounds heavier. A third had a pale complexion. The one from last year was slim and young. Funny, I never noticed before.
I had to give credit to Sandy. Santa couldn’t be real. But, since my parents wanted to keep the myth alive, I figured it would be best to continue to play along with them. Hopefully this year I will finally find my way on Santa’s good list… and get my Hot Wheels set.
Saturday mornings had its share of advertisements for toys like Weebles, Stretch Armstrongs, and Simons, airing non-stop during my cartoons. In late October, something caught my interest—the Micronauts.
The Micronauts were a huge advancement over my Fisher Price people. Their world featured a collection of four-inch characters, vehicles, and play-sets. The ability to change parts, position figures in life-like poses, and adapt potential scenes offered hours of limitless possibilities. Their complex world had many characters and components, like Photon Sleds and Space Gliders.
I loved them and memorized every commercial. I imagined how my Sandy’s destructive spirit could create high-impact adventures in the quest to destroy the evil Micronaut, Acroyear.
Who needed Hot Wheels? Micronauts ruled the universe! I scoured all the toy catalogues we received in the mail and documented every item in the collection in a master list. I wanted them all!
My Dad and I did our annual Santa visit as close to Christmas Eve as possible. Dad, knowing what I’d ask Santa for months in advance, preferred the shorter lines in late December to see St. Nick. I would sit on Kris Kringle’s knee, tell him what I wanted, smiled for the photo, and Dad would whisk me off to a coffee shop for cocoa.
While I’d sip my drink, Dad would soak in the holiday chaos. He’d cackle with delight at people fighting over coveted toys in the stores, or at parents with fretful looks in their eyes scrounging for last second gifts. He told me once, “Ye never git this type of entertainment when visiting Santy in November, lad.” I guess Dad relished people’s hardships.
The Friday, before my tenth Christmas, he took me for our usual Santa visit. We walked by a toy store, and Dad permitted me to browse for a few minutes. He chuckled at a mother looking worried at a stuffed animal she purchased that was missing a tail. I went to the section with Micronauts, but most were gone—only a few action figures remained. I didn’t worry, Santa had it under control!
We joined the short queue outside “Santa’s Village.” I didn’t understand why Dad kept this tradition with me so late in my life. He seemed oblivious that I towered over the other children waiting in line. When our turn came, Dad said, “Sit on Santy’s knee, lad, and tell him what ye want for Christmas.”
I couldn’t really sit on his knee, being too tall, and Santa being smaller than previous years. I more or less leaned into it.
“Ho ho ho, you’re a big one! What’s your name?” This year’s smaller Santa struggled with my full weight against his inner thigh.
“Dickie,” I said.
“Aren’t you a little old to visit Santa?” He gave me a knowing look.
Dad jumped in, accent flaring. “What are ye talking about? Ye’r ne’er too old to visit Santy. Tell him what ye want for Christmas, son.”
My face reddened. “I want the entire Micronauts collection,” I said softly. I produced my list for Santa.
Horrified, Dad yelled, “What? Ye told me ye wanted Hot Wheels.”
Santa asked, “Have you been good or bad?”
“I’ve been really good.” I solemnly looked Santa in the eye. “In fact, I haven’t missed Sunday school since September!”
“You sound like a very good boy,” answered Santa, “setting a strong example for us to follow! I’ll be sure my elves”—Santa pointed towards one tall unshaven man and a young teenaged girl dressed in costumes—“pack them in my sleigh.”
Santa paused and directed my attention to the camera. “Smile for Itchy.”
I smiled towards the male elf who took the shot. Dad paid Itchy, who smelled strong, without uttering a word. I turned to walk towards our usual coffee shop, but Dad grabbed my arm, and proclaimed, “Not this year, lad.” We left the mall with an alacritous stride, and it was an unusually quiet ride home.
I ran to my room and returned to the kitchen carrying a piece of paper. “Hey Dad, this is a copy of the list I gave Santa, in case you were curious.” Though still early, I went back upstairs to get ready for bed.
My father, stressed, yelled to Mum. I struggled to understand his phrasing through his thickened accent from below.
“What the devil is a Microtron? He said Hot Wheels, damn it. I bought it in October. Now this bloody mess?”
“Micronaut. Have you not been watching TV or noticing the reams of cut-outs from the catalogues Dickie has collected? They’re all the rage.”
“Ach, they don’t have kids’ commercials during the news. He has his Hot Wheels, that should be good enough. No idea why he changed his mind on something he wanted for years.”
“No, Richard. He has been exceptionally good. You said he told Santa about Sunday school. If completing your ‘Scottish church tradition’ is important and you want him to qualify for summer camp, you’d better make sure his Christmas wish comes true.”
Qualifying for summer camp? What on earth—
“Bloody hell, it’s only a few days before Christmas!”
“Then you’d better get cracking.”
The heavy discussion continued for a while longer. I only heard the odd cuss coming from Dad. I fell asleep content in the knowledge Santa would come through for me this Christmas.
I found out several years later about the hell Dad underwent to ensure I had no excuse to leave Sunday school. He had to venture out the whole weekend to various stores, and when at home, called every shop in town. On December 24th, he left our house at 3 a.m. and drove six hours to Toronto to buy some items on my list—only to be caught in a snowstorm on the way back. He spent 18 hours in the car that day.
He arrived home in the middle of the night; the thumping in the basement woke me. If I had been younger, I might’ve believed it was Santa visiting the house. However, the amount of profanity that emanated from the basement would’ve convinced young children that Santa belonged to a lineage of swarthy drunken sailors.
I heard Dad stumble into his bedroom, and I checked my clock—5:09 a.m. I waited 15 minutes and ventured to the basement. The Micronauts were all laid out, some in vehicles surrounding a play-set. To his credit, Dad found most of them, and did his best to pose them like a magazine catalogue. Mum told me he had to bribe other parents for some of the figures.
Beside the Micronauts, an attempt to put together a Hot Wheels set had been abandoned. The remaining orange tracks laid on the ground beside a box labelled “some assembly required.” I finished putting everything together, and I raced some cars down it. My parents couldn’t sleep through my racket and joined me.
I enjoyed the toys but had to make a comment. “Hey Dad, did you notice that I’m missing Aquatron in the set? I’m surprised Santa missed it.”
To Mum’s and my surprise, Dad exhausted answered, “Lad, Santy doesn’t exist. Enjoy your gifts and Merry Christmas.” He stormed back to bed and slept until supper.
I showed my Sandy the Micronauts the next day. I thought she’d be thrilled at the destructive potential, but after playing with them a bit, she lost interest. What promised to be months of entertainment, turned out to be a couple of hours. I didn’t see her for the rest of the holidays.
Without Sandy’s creative input, the Micronaut life expectancy expired quickly. My parents were shocked I only played with the prized Micronauts for a couple of weeks. A month later, they were packed in a box, and stored permanently in the bowels of our basement, never to emerge again.
Bruce Gordon lives in the ‘burbs of Ottawa with his author wifey, three basses (hers, but she lends him one), five guitars (totally his), and one drum kit (hers and hers alone). A musician since his teens, he still plays, but has also ventured down the writing path. His upcoming novel, Dissatisfied Me, A Love Story, is about a 49 year old on the verge of his 50th birthday, who reminisces about his life while sitting alone in his room in his mother’s basement.
Author’s Note: I have a weird love/hate relationship with the horror and paranormal genres. I cannot articulate exactly why something I find repulsive one moment can be of high interest the next. For example, one of my favorite shows is “Dexter,” but I have an aversion to vampires – yet I didn’t mind American Horror Story’s Hotel. The August edition of ‘Nathan Burgoine’s 2018 monthly flash fiction challenge,‘ features a tobacco shop as this month’s location, the object is an earring, and the genre is a ghost story – all in 1000 words. I would love to develop the story deeper, but that is the fun in flash fiction. Thanks for reading and much thanks to Wifey, Cait Gordon, for her much needed editing help!
Harold jumped out of bed and turned off his annoying alarm. Today, he officially owned the Up In Smoke tobacco shop. He whistled as he entered the bathroom to start his morning.
He admired himself in the mirror. The same, plump, balding 46-year-old stared back. He noticed his moustache looked a bit greyer, and the handlebar curls were a bit unkempt. Perhaps a trim is in order.
“Now, then,” he said to his reflection, “the first thing I’ll do is rename that store. It needs my own personal touch.” He liked the pun of the original name but thought, How about Export, “Eh?” Perhaps he could get a sponsorship from the real Export “A” and obtain some extra cash.
“Harold, you’re a genius,” he said while applying some deodorant. He grabbed a fresh shirt, pants, and tie. He liked what he saw in the mirror and blew himself a kiss before bolting out the door of his apartment.
Up In Smoke was a few blocks away in the downtown core. The skyscrapers’ shadows always made the streets dark and gloomy, even on the sunniest of days. He unlocked the door to his shop and walked in.
The Bagley family had owned the establishment for nearly 80 years, and it still maintained its 1920s charm. It remained pretty much intact, with the last renovation being the laying of a red carpet. Harold liked how it complemented the oak cabinetry in the dimly-lit shop. A few tables in the far corner rested near a magazine stand. He walked over to take in the old photos hanging on the walls. One perked his interest–that of a familiar beautiful woman sitting in between two young men. One gentleman resembled a younger, athletic version of himself.
Taken aback, Harold diverted his attention to the fully-stocked glass displays. He went behind the counter and spotted some beautiful Montecristos. Laying his phone down on the counter, he grabbed one and placed it under his nose, taking in its rich aroma. This will be a cool perk of ownership, he mused, then struck a match and lit the cigar.
He inhaled. This is amazing. Contently smoking, he checked his cell for messages. None. That was a bit disappointing because he’d expected more on his big day. Miffed, he took an exaggerated drag and blew a dense, thin stream of smoke aggressively over the counter. Instead of dissipating, it morphed into the apparition of a woman’s head and shoulders.
Startled, Harold dropped his Montecristo, and BUZZ-BUZZ-BUZZ, his phone vibrated non-stop. Harold jumped out of his skin as his heart thumped rapidly. He unlocked his phone. Text messages flew in, reading, “WHERE IS IT? WHERE IS IT?” over and over.
By the time all stopped, the smoke had long vanished, along with the facial silhouette of the woman.
Over the following weeks, Harold got to know the regulars. Rory, a handsome young man in his twenties, wore solid-colour cardigans with bow ties. He never said much or bought anything, but every afternoon at precisely 4:30 he parked himself in a chair for an hour to read a high-brow magazine. Customers ignored him as they rushed to buy their evening smokes. The beautiful Rachel Pennington also came in before closing, to buy cigarettes. She always stayed late to chat.
Harold was totally enamored by her. He looked forward to their heart-to-hearts. They were both completely oblivious to Rory, even as he exited each day at closing. Harold particularly enjoyed flirting, making Rachel laugh, and bragging about his entrepreneurial exploits.
Rory arrived uncharacteristically late one day. Instead of grabbing a magazine, he jabbered with an empty chair. None of the other customers cared, but Harold ached to hear the conversation in the distance. The discussion continued as the store emptied. Rachel did not care or notice. He did observe Rory saying, “I will look harder,” over his shoulder as he left. Rachel did not even bat an eye at it.
The next day, Rory yelled at the empty chair, “I have not found it! I don’t know where it could possibly be!” Harold was the only one in the store that noticed.
Rory arrived a little later, behaving a little more agitated each day. No one cared, but Harold observed the changed behaviour. It often distracted him from Rachel, who felt insulted.
Finally, Rory showed up near closing with a joyful expression. He sat down and started a civil conversation about the weather with the chair. Rachel, as always, ignored his appearance, but Harold had something special planned. He took out a jewelry box and placed it before her on the display case.
Before Harold could say anything, Rory stood up and emphatically pointed at him screaming, “HE HAS IT! IT’S IN HIS POCKET!” Rachel put her hand over her heart and blushed as she stared at the box, but Harold looked nervously at Rory.
From the no-longer empty chair, the woman from the photo stood up. Her left ear was bloodied, and a deep red scar lay visibly across her neck. Harold noticed she wore on her right ear the earring he’d once given her.
He shouted, “Get out, Rachel!” but she looked confused. Rory tackled Harold to the floor and pinned him down. Rachel screamed–she’d only seen Harold fall.
“WHERE IS IT?” the woman from the picture yelled as she walked across the floor. She knelt down, put her hand in Harold’s pocket, and smiled. “There it is.” She extracted the matching earring and twirled it between her fingers. “How many of these little souvenirs have you collected from your victims over the years?” She stared at a trembling Rachel, who clutched the jewelry box as she gazed wide-eyed upon Harold’s late wife.
“There will be no more,” said the ghost, placing her hands to his throat. All Harold saw was black.
The woman vanished. Rachel opened her box to find the exact same pair of earrings.
Bruce Gordon lives in the ‘burbs of Ottawa with his author wifey, three basses (hers, but she lends him one), five guitars (totally his), and one drumkit (hers and hers alone). A musician since his teens, he still plays, but has also ventured down the writing path. His upcoming novel, Dissatisfied Me, A Love Story, is about a 49 year old on the verge of his 50th birthday, who reminisces about his life while sitting alone in his room in his mother’s basement.
Author’s Note: I complain about the cold in winter, and I hate the oppressive heat of summer – but I am grateful for writing to pass the time when going outside is just not that pleasant. I humbly submit July’s edition of ‘Nathan Burgoine’s 2018 monthly flash fiction challenge,‘ featuring a dam as this month’s location, the object is a typewriter, and the genre is a mystery – all in 1000 words. Thanks for reading and enjoy this story with “Canada Day” slightly in mind.
Bernard Beaver packed mud atop his lodge in the middle of his pond. Before calling it quits for the day, he swam out to inspect his dam. Proud of his work, his attention quickly redirected to a fissure forming in the heart of the structure. Bernard panicked, for he noted that his prized possession, formerly embedded in the wall – a 1940s Smith-Corona typewriter – his “keystone-signature piece” – was missing causing water to flow through. Bernard found it in the woods while felling trees, and thought it a nice cosmetic touch for his project. Angered by its disappearance, he decided to return tomorrow to repair the hole, and went back home under the dawn sky.
He emerged in the lodge’s wet room, where, while drying off, he heard Beatrice Beaver, in the family room talking. “So nice of you to come over Maurice. I always appreciate your company while Bernard’s out.”
Maurice Muskrat, replied, “I love coming here, you make the best tea!”
“You’d better skedaddle. I don’t want Bernard to see you. You know how he gets.” The last time Maurice dropped in unannounced, Bernard practically knocked out all his teeth with a swing of his heavy tail.
Bernard exploded hearing Maurice’s voice. Wet or not, he didn’t care, and bolted into his family room.
“What the hell is he doing here!” He screamed at Beatrice, “He spends more time in my lodge than I do! It feels like every time I go out, I see this rodent in my home with my wife!”
“There, there, Bernard,” Maurice replied, “I’m only here for Beatrice’s awesome tea – by far, the best in the Wetlands. You know, ever since the spring floods washed away my home, the Missus and kiddies went to live with mother-in-law, or who I call, ‘Nutcracker’. If you knew her, you’d understand why I come over here so often. Besides tea, you guys always have the best food around!” Maurice saw a nice green bit of moss hanging on the wall and ravenously munched it. He rubbed his stomach, and guzzled his tea.
Bernard scowled, “Have you finished your new home yet?”
“No, haven’t started. I figured the kids and wife are happy, and if I only have to stay at Nutcracker’s to sleep, I don’t have to interact with her.” Maurice checked the time, “Sunrise. gotta go to bed. The fam thinks I am working,” he gave Beatrice a surreptitious wink, but Bernard caught it.
He lunged his wet body across the floor, grabbed and wildly punched Maurice. Maurice escaped his grasp, quickly got up, and said, “Well, Mrs. Beaver, as always, loved your company! Best be off now,” and dashed to the wet room and the Beavers heard a splash signaling his exit.
“So help me, Beatrice, that is the last we will see of Maurice!” Bernard stormed to bed.
Beatrice woke up that afternoon, alone. Wondering where her husband went, she exited the lodge and scanned the dam, expecting to see Bernard working away. She saw two new fissures, that concerned her, but no site of him.
The dusk sunlight reflected off something metallic on the shoreline with some Wetlanders surrounding it. Curious, she swam to them to discover, in shock, Maurice lay dead with head bludgeoned by the typewriter, now placed over his crushed skull. Beatrice gasped, and started to cry.
Woodsy Owl, placed a wing around her shoulder. “So sorry that you had to see this Beatrice. I know Maurice was a good friend. Hey! Back off the crime scene. I, too, am a bit peckish, but we have to finish the investigation.” A guilty looking coyote held Muskrat’s leg in his mouth, but obediently dropped it and backed off. The crowd comprised a weeping Manny Muskrat, a large crane, a few raccoons, the coyote, and a badger.
Woodsy proclaimed, “Manny tells me Maurice spent most of his time in your lodge, which didn’t please Bernard. Bernard has disappeared. Did he go off to work?” Beatrice could not answer.
Two days passed before Bernard returned. The Wetland gang still puzzled over who smooshed Maurice.
“Where’ve you been?” Woodsy asked.
Bernard looked over Maurice and yelled in shock, “That’s the typewriter that someone stole from my dam! No wonder there are leaks!”
“Answer the question.”
“I heard rushing water coming through my dam, from the hole opened by someone stealing the typewriter. I clogged it up, but heard more water. I dug around and discovered some human installed a ‘Castor Master’ hidden in my construction! Humans, always try to ruin my hard work and revert water levels. I tried to stuff their corrugated pipe, but got stuck in it. I just freed myself. Can I have my typewriter back? This is war! I suspect the humans will poke a new hole in my dam tomorrow. The typewriter should easily fix that.”
“But if you’re stuck in the pipe, who killed Maurice?” asked a raccoon.
“Who cares!” replied Bernard, “Maurice probably bugged a human by poking his nose around where it shouldn’t, like he did my wife. Humans took MY typewriter to flood our precious pond, but I’ll save our habitat!” Bernard boasted.
The creatures nodded and echoed “Bloody humans,” in agreement.
Woodsy, not so convinced, asked, “Do you have proof you were stuck in a pipe for two days?”
“No, but I can show it and my work to you,” Bernard said, taken aback by Woodsy’s accusatory tone.
“I’m afraid I‘m going to have to place you under Wetlands arrest, for murder.”
Manny sobbed and screeched, “It wasn’t the humans, nor Bernard. it was me!! That bastard slept with everything with four legs, and hated my mother. He’s lazy and deserved what he got.”
Everyone around echoed their agreement.
“Can I now have my typewriter back?” asked Bernard.
“Yes, yes,” replied Woodsy, “Grab it and let’s leave Maurice to rot in peace.”
“No need,” the coyote answered, and with one bite, picked up Maurice’s remains and walked happily off into the woods..
Bruce Gordon lives in the ‘burbs of Ottawa with his author wifey, three basses (hers, but she lends him one), five guitars (totally his), and one drumkit (hers and hers alone). A musician since his teens, he still plays, but has also ventured down the writing path. His upcoming novel, Dissatisfied Me, A Love Story, is about a 49 year old on the verge of his 50th birthday, who reminisces about his life while sitting alone in his room in his mother’s basement.