FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE

100 Word Flash Fiction Challenge by Chuck Wendig…

See Chuck’s Challenge Rules

SHOTS FIRED

I couldn’t contain myself any longer. I shot the first kid, maybe five or six years old, right in the chest. He cried out. I shot the next kid and then another and then another. People saw what was happening and were shocked. I was the new Pastor of a little town named Riata in New Mexico. The annual Chili Pepper Festival attracted hundreds from near and far. I walked over to Nina Fuentes, last year’s Festival Queen, and handed her the green water pistol. She took it and smiled. “I wanted to do that since I found it in a pew this morning.”

Walter’s Lesson

Walter Blydenson has had enough. He pulled the school bus over to the side of the road.

“Alright, all you little bastards sit down and shut up for five minutes or else you’re walking home!”

Walter’s reluctant supervisor for the 4th grade school trip to Sutton’s Planetarium-Ms. Dunston-was aghast at his outburst. “Mr. Blydenson, that language is completely inappropriate for children.”

“I’m sorry, Ms. Dunston. It’s just that these kids are completely out of control with the screaming and running up and down the aisles. I spoke without thinking.”

“Please remember that you’re on probationary supervision and should act accordingly. And thinking is mandatory for this position.”

“Yes, I understand.”

Walter has been a janitor at Hilson Elementary School for 5 years. Getting the job was not easy. His life was seriously sidetracked when he was 17 and got arrested along with his 3 older brothers for stealing a mailbox from in front of their own house. He was given 3 years probation for being a minor. The whole caper was caught on video by his teenage neighbor, Danny Meeks. Danny’s father, Niles – an Englishman and a bit of a dandy, if you asked Walter – was a videographer, so he had all the high tech equipment .  The perfect scenario for a curious and horny teenage boy who’s first foray into the world of HD Video was shooting 5 minutes of Mrs. Reed’s lingerie hanging in her yard and then setting it to the music of Tool. Although her bras and panties were all white, Danny colorized them on the video to fully saturated hues of purple, red and pink.

“You don’t want to be a janitor the rest of your life, do you? Have you forgotten I am here to judge your demeanor and interaction with the children?” said Ms. Dunston, all 97 pounds of her quaking as she pointed her boney finger at Walter.

“No, mam.”

“I didn’t think so. Now please let’s get these kids back to the school and without any further outbursts from you.”

Walter was seething. Who the hell does she think she is? Walter turned off the bus and spun out of the driver’s seat to address the kids. “Kids, Ms. Dunston has informed me that it’s time for today’s lesson.” He glanced over at Ms. Dunston. “And today’s lesson is titled The Pros and Cons of Smoking.”  Walter wasn’t exactly sure what this lesson would consist of.  

Ms. Dunston’s face turned white. “Mr. Blydenson, have you lost your mind?”

Walter turned away from the kids and leaned in towards Ms. Dunston. “Ms.-what’s your first name?”

“Never mind that-”

Walter got right in her face. “What’s your first name?!”

“Imogene.”

“That figures. You never really had a chance with a name like Imogene, did you? Now this is the story. I’m going to give my little lesson and you’re going to sit nice and quietly with your hands folded in your lap. Understand?”

“Yes,” she said, instinctively taking out from under her powder blue cardigan the sterling silver rosary she received from her Aunt Ann on her 13th birthday.

Walter was thrilled to have the class at his disposal. The teachers dismissed him as the jailbird janitor and the older students mocked him, although never to his face.

Walter opened the carton of cigarettes he had in the messenger bag he carried with him everywhere and started handing out the packs. The kids were grabbing at them as if he was giving out Christmas presents.

“We don’t have enough packs for everyone, so I’ll teach you guys first and then the rest of you kids will get a chance. The most important thing to do before smoking is to pack the cigarettes. That makes the tobacco tight in the paper so you get a better draw.”

The kids, for the most part, were thrilled.

One of the little girls in the front of the bus spoke up: “My mother says that smoking is for lowlifes and losers.”

“That’s nice. What’s your name little girl?”

“Amy Rogers.”

“Okay, Amy, your mother sounds like an uppity bitch, so let me have those cigarettes back so I can give them to a kid who will appreciate this little lesson.”

A huge frown appeared on Amy’s face as she handed over the cigarettes.

Walter threw the pack to a kid further back in the bus. “Move up here so you can hear the lesson. Amy’s going to see what it’s like in the back of the bus.”

“What’s your name, son?”

“Reggie,” he muttered.

“Welcome, Reggie.”

Reggie is small for his age, likes to read and isn’t interested in sports.  Naturally, he gets picked on by some of the other kids.

“Alright, the first thing you do is hold the pack with your pointing finger on the bottom of the pack. Then you bang it against the palm of your other hand. It looks and sounds like this.” The kids observed with wide-eyed glee. Then they began banging the packs into their little hands. Some packs went flying onto the floor, but were picked up immediately for another try.

“That’s right. Good job, Reggie.”

Reggie, due to his newfound skill, bristled with excitement.

“You’re still a geek, Reggie,” some kid called from the back of the bus, inciting laughter from the other kids.

Walter saw Reggie turn red and his shoulders slump down.

“Just a sec there, Reggie.”

Walter went to the back of the bus, grabbed the kid who put down Reggie and dragged the kid to the front of the bus. Reggie just looked at the floor, afraid to look the kid in the face.

“What’s your name?”

“Danny,” the kid sneered.

Walter let out a maniacal laugh. Imogene shuddered in the driver’s seat.

“How is it, correct me if I’m wrong, kids, that every punk-ass bully in school is always named Danny? Am I right?”

No one spoke up. Danny’s reputation is legendary.

“Am I right?” Walter asked again.

“You’re right,” someone said from the back of the bus.

“Who said that?” Everyone turned around to see Amy raise her hand.

“Good for you, Amy. You’ve really picked up on that back-of-the-bus ballsiness. You feel like a new person back there, don’t you?”

“I guess,” she said.

“See, kids, besides the cigarette lesson, thanks to our friend Amy, we’re also going to learn something else today.” Walter leaned over towards Reggie and Danny and chuckled, “Besides the fact that Ms. Dunston’s name is Imogene.” He continued, “What we’re going to learn about is perspective. Can everyone say that for me?”

The kids yelled out, “PERSPECTIVE!”

“Very good. Now, perspective is the way you see things. Take our little smoking lesson for instance. You guys are having fun, right?”

“Yeah!”

“I know I’m having fun.”  Walter high fived the closest kid. “But, you know what? I can guarantee that Imogene is not having fun. See, that’s perspective. Even though Ms. Dunston is on the same bus as us guys-and we’re having fun-she’s not.” Walter got back in the driver’s seat and started the bus. “Next time we’ll learn about forgiveness and second chances.”

 

 

 

 

 

Leon

When I left my girlfriend’s apartment last night I mistakenly got on the downtown N Train instead of the uptown train. I fell asleep and before I knew it, I was at Coney Island. Although I’ve lived in New York City for over 10 years, I’d never been to Coney Island. It was an unusually beautiful, mild July evening, so I got off the train. I was kind of surprised, not knowing what to expect, but there were other people around. A few couples, several joggers and kids doing various gravity-defying maneuvers on skateboards.  I walked along the path leading to the boardwalk when I came across an old man who was apparently putting in some overtime at his hotdog cart: it was 10:55 on a Tuesday night. The old guy was sitting in a slingback canvas chair. If it hadn’t been for a single overhead light attached to the top of his cart, he would have been sitting in complete darkness.

“Excuse me, sir, can I get two dogs with mustard and kraut?”

“Certainly,” he replied. “I don’t get many customers at this time of the evening. I usually head home earlier than this, but my wife, Anna, passed away last week and I can’t bear to be in our home without her there.”

I certainly wasn’t prepared to hear this. He handed me the hotdogs and I just stood there dumbfounded. I didn’t know what to say. 

“We met 47 years ago on line for the Cyclone. She was so beautiful… Tiny and exotic to a guy from Brighton Beach.” He continued. “She was born in Argentina, but her family moved to Brooklyn when she was seven years old. Naturally, she hated being here at first. The day we met, she reluctantly got on line for the Cyclone with her cousin, Gina. I was in line with my friend, Carlo, right behind them. When it came time for Anna and Gina to get on the ride, Anna couldn’t do it. In one of my bolder moments, I stepped toward her and told her I wasn’t crazy about going on the ride either, but I would go on the coaster if she would. She was still very hesitant, but agreed.” The old man was beaming as he recounted what was probably the defining moment of his life. “We went on the ride three more times after the first time.” He laughed. “It’s not like we enjoyed the ride…we just had this…attraction and didn’t want it to end. The four of us spent the rest of the day together.” He looked at his hands and then he looked at the ground, a huge smile on his face. “A year and a day later, Anna and I were married.” He took a deep breath and looked at me. “You just thought you were getting a couple hot dogs and I spout off about myself. I apologize.”

“Are you kidding me? That’s a beautiful story,” I said. I had to look away from him as I said it because I thought I would ball my eyes out right there. 

He started to pour out his hotdog water and clean up. “I can’t stay out here forever. I guess I’ll head home. It’s funny, even now I feel like there’s a chance that Anna will be there when I get home.”

We just looked at each other for a moment. 

“What’s your name, son?” he asked.

“Ryan. And you?”

“Leon.”

We shook hands. He walked over to his cart and started pushing it up the hill. He looked over his shoulder at me. 

“Ryan.”

“Yes?”

“May you be as lucky as I’ve been.”

I know it wasn’t to be, but I hoped Anna was going to be home to greet Leon, too. 

 

Joyously

It was the warmest December anyone could remember. It definitely didn’t feel like Christmas. No talk of the big snowstorm or even the chance of flurries. Regardless of the temperature, the houses in Chadston, the Northern-most suburb of New York, were dripping with lights and lawns were covered with mechanical Santa’s, reindeer and a Grinch or two.  Dan Riles was late to the decorating game, but was inspired enough to get out there and put up his best offering. He was teetering on the top rung of a 6-foot ladder, desperately reaching out to the gutter above with a string of sturdy but outdated non-LED lights. The ladder is not on level ground, so he’s trying to compensate by leaning forward, but has to keep putting out his hand to brace himself from falling towards the bay window.

“Fuck!” Dan screamed out, pushing himself away form the house. The Moulders house next door looks like the cover of the LL Bean catalog he just chucked in the recycling bin.

Callie, Dan’s girlfriend of two years, is inside the house doing a test run of a pineapple upside down cake she found online. Dan and Callie are going to her mom’s house tomorrow for Christmas Eve dinner. Callie’s mom is an excellent cook and baking is her specialty. Dan comes into the house. “Another fine job done by yours truly!” he declares. “How’s the sideways-over-under blueberry strudel you’re crafting?” Dan doesn’t understand why Callie needs to be a good baker just because her mother is. Everybody has their thing. “Smells like the Gates of Heaven in here. Since I’ll never get there, this is a pleasant surprise.”

A few houses down from Dan’s, a crazed serial killer slowly pulls up in a ’78 Dodge Scrambler and turns off the engine. Little do Dan and Callie know that while they are busy with a session of grab-and-feel in the kitchen, the serial killer, given name Baxter Bartholomew, is starting his ritual.

“If your fudge ripple side-splitting Swedish tort is half as decadent and tasty as you are, your mom is going to throw herself on the floor with spasms of wonder and amazement” said Dan.

“Please. You’ve already got your hands on my goodies. You don’t need to give me the snowjob about how wonderful my – did you call it a Swedish tort? You friggin’ clown,” she said, pulling his hands out from under her shirt. “Get out of here!”

Baxter, now sitting in the back seat of the Scrambler, opens his Tuba case.  He methodically inspects then attaches the mouthpiece and starts playing his scales; Chromatic,  Pentatonic, Diatonic. He has to lean over towards the passenger side of the car and open the window a few inches because the horn is too wide to fit upright in the car. After his scales he always goes right into the song that ignites his rage: Copacabana by Barry Manilow. He slows the tempo down to a chugging, deliberate 88 bpm. As he blows on his tuba, halfway through the second chorus, he’s distracted by a high-pitched shriek.

“Is that Copa?” an elderly woman asks, leaning towards the open window. “Sounds too slow, but I’d know that melody anywhere.” It’s Mrs. Slocum. She lives two doors down from Dan. She’s walking her Poodle, Barry. Barry has on one of those doggie vests that no dog needs. On the side of the vest is an impressive needlepoint rendering of Barry Manilow, circa 1975. “I can’t help but shiver a little bit whenever I hear a Barry Manilow song, even if it’s not performed properly. No offense.” As of yet, Baxter has been completely calm. Showing no signs that Mrs. Slocum has interrupted his prelude to murderous rage. “Bye now” said Mrs. Slocum and heads off on her way. Baxter does seven deep breaths then starts packing up his tuba.

A car pulls up in front of Dan’s house and honks it’s horn a couple times.

“Can’t he do anything without you?” said Callie to Dan. “You have 45 minutes till this Salmon is on the table. If you are not here, my Salmon will be on the table and yours will be under the table for Coco.” Coco is the cat Dan inherited when he and Callie moved in together. Dan is not a cat person, so he wasn’t thrilled about Coco, but she grew on him.

There’s a knock on the kitchen door.

Callie whispers to Dan,”Christ, for someone with zero responsibilities or ambition he certainly is very impatient.”

Dan opens the door. “Hey, Ronnie.” Ronnie enters. He’s 32. A year younger than Dan. 5 Foot 7. Wearing fatigues, Doc Martin’s and a trucker hat with a John Deere logo on it.

“Hey, Ronnie,” said Callie. “Expecting an ambush tonight?” She tries unsuccessfully to muffle a chuckle.

“You know, Callie, you could cut me some slack once in a while. I don’t like to talk about it, but since we’re pretty close I’ll share something you don’t know about me,” said Ronnie. He steals a quick glance at Dan. “Are you familiar with Dessert Storm? The US con…conflagration of Kuwait?”

“Conflagration? Do you mean Infiltration?”

“Jesus, Callie,” said Dan.

“Conflagration is a bad fire. Infiltration is more of a military deal. You know, stuff you’re versed in. What about Desert Storm?”

“Well, ever since Desert Storm…this is not easy…”

“It certainly isn’t, but it is entertaining.”

“Please get on with this” said Dan. “My dinner is ticking away towards an epic meal for Coco.”

Ronnie continued. “Well, ever since Desert Storm, I haven’t been able to…perform. You know,” said Ronnie, sticking out his index finger and then curving it, the universal sign for a limp noodle.

“How old are you, Ronnie? Same age as Dan, I would imagine?”

“Up! A year younger, I must say.”

“I’m sure you will use that extra year wisely and eventually join the rest of us in adulthood. Regardless. You are 32, correct?”

“That’s right,”said Ronnie.

“Well, Desert Storm occurred in the beginning of the 90’s. You are 32. It’s 2013. You were…9 years old when Desert Storm was happening.”

“And?” said Ronnie.

Callie chuckles. “So, you obviously weren’t in Desert Storm. How exactly did Desert Storm”-Callie mimics Ronnie’s curved finger and makes an exasperated face-“effect your ability to ‘perform’ as you put it?”

“My Uncle Maddox was staying with us at the time. He had lost his job and fallen on hard times. My dad was never around, so he sort of became my mentor.”

“Mentor?”

“A person who teaches you stuff-”

“I know what a mentor is.” Callie looks at the clock on the wall and then at Dan. “39 minutes.”

“Move it along, Ronnie.”

“Well, long story short, Uncle Maddox had a whole box of The World at War VHS tapes. We used to sit around watching them and they were very dramatic and…powerful. But then Desert Storm started and, you know, that was my war and the coverage was non-stop.”

“Please.”

“Well, I watched so much coverage of Desert Storm on CNN that it effected me to my very core. It paralyzed me.”

“From the waist down, physically, and the neck up, mentally. So you haven’t had a hard-on or a clear thought since you were 9. Both of you, get the hell out of here.”

….

A letter to Kat and some history…

Kat,

Will all due respect, you can’t buy talent with a Visa card. Tiger Woods first set of golf clubs were fashioned from odds and ends around his parents house: a knob off an old sink, one of those candy cane shaped plastic tubes, some duct tape and an old radiator hose. His father took little seven-year-old Tiger with him to the Chad Williamson Classic 9 course in Bloomington and history was made. Tiger’s Dad-given name Huey-dubbed Puddin’ by his Aunt Clarisa when his love for Rice Pudding became apparent at the annual Banjo Bonanza of Bloomington Blowout-made the unfortunate decision to eat a footlong wiener while trying to negotiate one of the notoriously speedy carts at the CWC9.

Little Tiger, completely oblivious to the terror that was to ensue, smiled like a beacon of youth as the glistening sunlight kissed his pudgy little chipmunk cheeks. For the first time in his life, Tiger felt unencumbered of his usual restraints: intense shyness, poor fashion sense and a mind-numbingly silly name. Feeling empowered by his surroundings and an as yet undetermined calling, Tiger stood up in the cart and yelled at the top of his lungs, “I’M ON THE BRINK OF GREATNESS!!!” Puddin’, shocked at his sons boisterous outburst, hurtling along in the cart at a deceptively fast 7 miles-per-hour, simultaneously lost control of the last bite of his wiener and the cart.

What happened next remains unclear.

One witness, Harlon Diddle, a retired glue salesman from nearby Shadsville, swears that in one of his most lucid moments in years, he saw the whole twisted event unfold.
“When Puddin’ lost control of the cart and the wiener he screamed out, ’Fudgebucket!’ Then he veered off the paved path, clipped a Wisconsin Fir and flipped the cart. Puddin’ was wedged under the cart, but Tiger lay a few feet from the cart, unconscious.”

“Please, please, God,” Puddin’ pleaded. “Let my boy live. Please bless my boy. Please give him a gift that will translate to big bucks from silly, totally left-field type endorsements like Prune Juice and Toner Cartridges!”

Tiger rose up a few minutes later and the rest, as they say, is history.

Tear it up, Kat!

Kev