Chance

Barn

Today’s Daily Post prompt was to write a story with an open ending and invite my readers to finish it. So, I’m going to do just that. If anyone would like to finish the story, please, leave it in a comment. :)

Daily Post prompt: Write a story or post with an open ending, and let your readers invent the conclusion.
Flash Fiction 365 prompt
: chance.

Barn

NOW…

“Oh my god. I can’t believe you just did that.”

“What? It’s not like I killed her or anything. She’ll be alright in a minute.”

“No she won’t, David! She’s dead! She’s clearly not breathing and blood has stopped gushing out of her head wound. You killed her!”

“She’s just faking it. She’ll be fine. See?” David bent down and rolled the prone body that was lying in a pool of blood onto its side. Two vacant eyes stared back at him. “Oh, shit.”

FIFTEEN MINUTES AGO…

“What if she doesn’t come?”

“We’ve got enough information on her to send her to jail for the next twenty years. She’ll come.” Felicity only hoped her words would be true. She heard a noise. She and David both looked towards the barn door.

“Well, hello, lady and gent. What’s with all this skullduggery then? I wouldn’t have worn heels had I known this was an actual barn. When you said ‘the barn,’ I thought it was one of those kitschy restaurant names that city folks who need a change of pace are so fond of bestowing on country buildings that are nothing like barns.”

“Hello, Scarlet. Watch the manure.”

“Thanks. Now, what’s all this about then? Why are we meeting in an actual barn with actual animal droppings that’s 40 kilometers from where we live in the middle of the night? This all seems so French gangster movie. Wait, do they have barns in French gangster movies? Probably not…”

“We invited you here to discuss your part in the Harrister deal.”

“Oh, that old thing? Please, that was ages ago.”

“Don’t be coy. We know that you took money under the table. We know that instead of giving the money to the needy children or whatever, you pocketed it. We have proof.”

“What proof? Show me.” Scarlet held out her upturned hand.

“Don’t be daft. We didn’t bring it with us, ” Felicity pulled out her smart phone and pushed some buttons, “but here’s a picture.” Scarlet opened her handbag and put a hand in.

“Stop right there. You make another move, so help me, I’ll hit you with this.”

“Don’t be silly, David. I’m only…”

NOW…

“What are we going to do? I think we better call the cops.”

“David, seriously, stop being an idiot. No, we’re not calling the cops. What are we going to say? ‘Hello, police? We were doing a bit of blackmail in the barn over here and it all went terribly rake-to-the-head. Can you send someone over to clean up the mess, please? That’s a dear.’ And what do you mean by ‘what are we going to do?’ You are the one who killed her.”

“You are just as much to blame for this as I am.”

“I am not the one who hit her!”

“Well, you are the reason she was here to be hit at all. If it weren’t for you and your cockamamie blackmail scheme, she wouldn’t have a rake wound.”

“Do not pull that shit with me, David. I did not kill her. You did.”

“Fuck you, Felicity. Fuck you. I was protecting you. She had a gun.”

“She very much did not have a gun!”

“Well, what do you call this then?” David picked up a pair of reading glasses that were covered in blood on the ground. “Oh. Well, I saw her reaching into her purse and I figured that she was fishing for a gun. It was random chance.”

Felicity sighed. “Chance, my ass. Once again, your figuring is all wrong, you idiot. She did not have a gun. She was reaching into her purse for reading glasses. She was not threatening in any way.”

“Well, it seemed that way to me. What are we going to do with her then?”

“She’s not a sack of potatoes. She’s a person. Or she was a person until you clocked her on the head with a rake.”

Version A continued by jaschmehl and ponderingspawned.

Version B continued by djmatticus.

Version C continued by draliman.

Version D continued by eof737.

Please feel free to continue any of  the versions or start your own.

Ten Minutes: Three Reasons

Cary Grant in Arsenic and Old Lace.

Flash Fiction 365 prompt: three reasons.
Daily Post prompt: Set a timer for ten minutes. Open a new post. Start the timer, and start writing. When the timer goes off, publish.

“Rachel, will you marry me?” Will said from the one knee he was leaning on.

“Why would I do that?” came the unexpected reply.

Will obviously hadn’t thought that far ahead. He should have. Rachel was a lawyer. This would have to be a negotiation.

Cary Grant in Arsenic and Old Lace.
Cary Grant in Arsenic And Old Lace.

Will stood up and began pacing like Cary Grant in Arsenic And Old Lace. “OK,” he said, “reason one.” Rachel sat down on the sofa. “Um,” Will was just full of pregnant pauses today. “OK, reason one. You love me.”

“Well, of course, I do, Will. Otherwise I wouldn’t have spent the latter half of my twenties with you. But is that a good enough reason? My parents loved each other, too. They divorced only three years later.”

“OK, Rachel, I still think it’s a valid reason though. People who love each other and spend seven years dating should get married. It’s what humans do. And for the record, I love you very much. Reason two. We would have beautiful children.”

“Yes, that’s true,” Rachel said, “But we haven’t decided to have children yet.”

“Well, it’s an important part of marriage. Reason three. Financially, emotionally, socially, culturally, educationally and in every other -ally way, we are a good match. We could each support the other if one of us lost our job. We believe in the same things. We have the same core values. Your parents didn’t. He wanted to be a rock star and she wanted a house in the suburbs and three kids.”

“Now you’re speaking some sense. That is an excellent point. Alright, Will, I will marry you if that’s what you really want, but don’t expect me to get all sentimental about it and I am certainly not planning a wedding.”

Where Will It Be Found?

Portland Quarry. Image from Wiki.

Triple challenge combo achievement unlocked!
Daily Post prompt: A sanctuary is a place you can escape to, to catch your breath and remember who you are. Write about the place you go to when everything is a bit too much.
Flash Fiction Challenge: Where will it be found?
Trifecta Challenge: 33 to 333 words featuring the word Crush:to reduce to particles by pounding or grinding <crush rock>

Pete just wanted to get back to the bed that he had lately come to think of as his. It was the one place that made him feel better about his current lot. All day long, he thought about the moment, hours later, when his shift and the hour-long commute would be behind him and he could finally crash-land on his bed. Whenever he got back to quarters, he fell diagonally on his bed and didn’t move for a long while. It was his favorite moment of the day: the longest possible time from having to go back there again.

He couldn’t wait until this job was done and he could leave this forsaken landscape. If he had known, he never would have signed on for six months of this. The boys all felt the same. This was a private job and his union had been very angry with him for taking it, but the money was great.

The foreman was a back-breaker. He never let up. He kept saying that the sooner they find it, the quicker they get out of here. It was true, but there’s only so much a man is willing to do for an hourly rate. It’s not like he and the boys got to keep it once they finally got it. They all kept wondering where will it be found? They had a betting pool going. Pete’s money was on finding nothing. They’d been hauling rocks for three months already and hadn’t found a thing.

Pete sipped his last mouthful of cold coffee, suited up again and went back out to crush the earth. Eventually, they had to find it, right? Unless it just wasn’t here…

Portland Quarry. Image from Wiki.
Portland Quarry. Image from Wiki.


Can’t Be

1949-Cadillac-DeVille-Coupe-3

Nate got out of the car haphazardly parked on the edge of the shoulder where he had barely managed to careen when his car died again. He opened the hood, peered into the massive engine compartment’s depths and failed to see any particular problem. Sadly, there wasn’t a neon sign pointing to the broken part. He half expected a naughty gremlin to jump out and scurry away.

He pulled out his cell phone to search his recently called list. He didn’t have to look too far. There were twelve calls to and from Travis in the last two days. He dialed the number. One the fifth ring, Travis answered.

“Travis.”

“It’s Nate. She died again. Same symptoms as last time.”

“Can’t be. We replaced the part.”

“Well, whether it can or can’t be, I’m currently dead on the side of 95 by the car wash.”

“Huh.” There was a pause. “OK, I’ll send Johnson out there with the tower.”

Twenty-three minutes later, the kid pulled up and parked in front of him. “What’s the problem this time?” he said.

“Same as last time.”

“Can’t be. We replaced the part.”

Nate let out an exasperated sigh. “Well, try her for yourself.”

The kid gently slid behind the wheel and tried starting the car. It let out a rumbling guffaw and died a slow, painful death. “Huh. OK, we’ll get her back and take a look.”

Effortlessly, Johnson eased the chrome and steel, cherry red 1949 Cadillac Coupe DeVille into the stirrups and raised the front off the ground. He delicately slid his hand along her haunch and half to himself he said, “They just don’t make them like this anymore. She’s a beaut.” To Nate, he said, “Don’t worry. We’ll get Betsy right as rain.”

When they arrived at the garage, Travis had obviously cast aside the Toyota he had been working on to make room for Betsy in the garage front and center. He took on newer cars to eat, but his real love was the classics. He loved Betsy as much as Nate did and treated her like his own daughter.

“Well, Betsy, did you miss me that much?” Travis popped the hood and peered into its depths as Nate had done. “Start her up,” he said to Johnson. The car shuddered and let out a tremendous backfire like a wild horse kicking someone trying to put a lasso around its neck. “OK, turn her off.”

“Did you put any weird gas in her?”

“No, Travis, I haven’t had a chance to. It’s the same fuel that’s been in the tank since you had her yesterday.” Nate said defensively.

“OK, OK. Well, we’ll go over her again. Need a ride?”

Shreds of Doubt

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Flash Fiction 365 prompt: Shreds of doubt.

God, she hated this feeling that she was stuck with. She wanted it to go away, but it wouldn’t. It kept flashing back to her when she least suspected it, making her heart flutter and leaving a metallic taste in her mouth. She kept shooing it away, but it always came back.

It was only yesterday that everything was normal. It seemed like a lifetime ago now. She had gone into his office, under the guise of tidying up like she had done a million times before, but really she was trying to get a sense of him, to feel his presence. She often went into his office when he was away. She sat at his desk, feeling the smooth leather under her as if he was enfolding her instead. That’s when she found the document.

How could it be? It just wasn’t possible that her handsome, witty, intelligent, successful, charming husband could be guilty. How could the man whom everyone adored, especially his wife, be anything but the man that he seemed to be, the man she knew he was?

After seven years of marriage, she thought she knew every fiber of his being just as she knew every inch of his body, but it didn’t seem to be the case. Everyone has secrets and here she was confronted with his. How many more secrets were there? How could she ever trust him?

She brushed the thought aside again. No. It’s jut not right. She knew him better than anyone. There has to be some other explanation, but she could find none. At the time, sitting in his chair, she made up her mind to ask him, but the nearer the hour came to his returning home, the less her confidence held.

How would she ever be able to ask him? Should she just hand him the paper as soon as he walked in? How would he react? Well, there was nothing to it, but to do it, she reassured herself. She had to remove any shred of doubt one way or another. Either he was the G-word or he was not, but she had to know. The uncertainty was killing her.

She went into the office and sat in the big, brown, leather chair. It always made her feel like a little girl as it was much too large for her and her feet barely reached the floor. She looked at the document sitting squarely in the middle of the desk, willing it to tell her the truth. The grandfather clocked chimed. He should be home in half an hour.

Why Didn’t It Happen To Me?

emergency

Flash Fiction 365 prompt: Why didn’t it happen to me?

Tom ran inside the hospital, pushing an orderly out of the way, as if he knew where he was going. He didn’t. He stopped at an occupied desk and asked. The girl behind the desk pointed up at the fifth floor. He took the stairs because it seemed faster. It wasn’t.

He reached the fifth floor and looked down the hallway. He spied his mother and ran. When he stood in front of her, she didn’t even look up. Tom sat beside her and bundled her into his long arms. She accepted them gratefully, but no tears came. Her eyes were puffy, red and stinging.

They sat there, enveloped in each other’s arms for what seemed like forever. It was the first time they had hugged since Tom grew taller than her. “How are they?”

“Your father is alright. The entire left side of his body is broken. The truck hit his side of the car. He’s got a broken rib, a broken clavicle and a broken arm, a broken everything really, but he’ll be alright. He’s unconscious, thankfully.”

“And Eddie?”

She wrung the tissue in her hands, “He’s in surgery. It’s his leg. His leg, Tom.” She imparted the news with the gravity that only Tom, and the hundreds of basketball fans and scouts interested in Eddie’s burgeoning career would understand.

“Oh,” he took the weight of the words on his shoulders and they sagged from the strain. “Will he…”

“We don’t know yet. The doctor said that he’ll definitely be able to walk and there’s a good chance that he will recover full function, but he won’t know until after surgery. He’ll miss the playoffs.”

“Mom…” Tom didn’t know how to express the obvious, that it should have been him in that car. He was the one who was supposed to run up to Big Fork with his dad. He was the one who should be in surgery. If it hadn’t been for that stupid argument, he would have been, but he had run off in a huff and his brother had no choice but to go instead since his father needed the help.

“Why did it have to be Eddie?” He said the words as much to the universe as to anyone else, “I was supposed to be in the car, not him. I don’t have a basketball career ahead of me. Why didn’t it happen to me?”

“Don’t you go blaming yourself for this.” His mother took his hand and gave him a look that said she would not accept his guilt. “These things just happen, Tom. It will be alright. You’ll see.” She squeezed his hand to reassure both of them that her words would be true.

I Didn’t Go There

Mug+1

Flash Fiction 365 prompt: I didn’t go there.

“Well? How did it go?”

“It’s a mess, Kathy.” He sopped up some egg on his plate with a piece of toast that he didn’t eat. He did not look up at her towering over him at the kitchen table with a spatula hinting at violence.

“I know that, Stan, but what happened?”

Stan sighed and slowly picked up his cup of coffee and took a sip. He held it in his mouth for longer than necessary. Finally, he swallowed, sat back and looked her in the eye for the first time that morning. “Well…”He didn’t know where to begin, so he just spat the words at her as fast as he could: “She’s staying at a squat over on Henderson with a bunch of junkies.”

“And?” She sat down at the table still clutching the spatula.

“And what? That’s where she is and we both bloody well know what she’s doing there.”

“Why didn’t you bring her home? You should have dragged her out of there!”

“I didn’t go there to pick a fight. You know how that always ends. If we locked her in her room, she’d find a way to get out and go right back to it.”

“But…”

“No buts, Kathy. You know just as well as I do that we can’t just drag her out of there. At least we know where she is.”

“Knowing where she is doesn’t help me sleep at night. I want our daughter home safe and sound.”

“I want that, too, but we need a plan. This is bigger than you and I can handle. We need help. She needs help. We can’t just drag her back home. We’ve got to get to the root of the problem.”

Stan leaned back in his chair and reached over to the cork board on the wall next to the phone. He grabbed a business card and handed it to her. It said SIERRA WELLNESS CENTER in friendly bold letters with a sunset behind them. She looked at him, puzzled. She was surprised that she hadn’t noticed the card before.

“I’ve already talked to their intake person. All we have to do is let them know where she is. They’ll handle the rest.”

She gingerly turned the embossed card on crisp linen paper over in her hand looking for something on the back. There was nothing but more expensive paper. “Can we afford it?”

“We’ll have to if we want her back home safe and sound. Don’t worry, I’ve already talked to Bob about it.”

She shot him a look of horror.

“No, not like that. I just told him that she’s got a medical condition, which is sort of true. This place is a medical facility. Anyway, I told him and he said I could take on any extra shifts they have and with your sewing money, it should be alright. They have a payment plan.”

Candy Apple Red

(image from polishesandpleasantries.com)

Flash Fiction 365 prompt: Candy Apple Red.

(image from polishesandpleasantries.com)

Myra placed the UV light over French Manicure’s hands; The top coat just needed to dry. She was almost done listening to French Manicure’s weekly marathon bitchfest about her husband for the umpteenth week in a row. Some people never learn. If French Manicure was so unhappy with him, why did she stay? She never said that to French Manicure though. Part of her job was to listen to people. That’s why these rich women paid her every week. It’s not like French Manicure really cared about her nails; Myra was just a cheap form of therapy.

If she had known that her job was less about giving manicures than it was about listening to people, she might have become a gardener like her father instead. It’s not like she was a trained psychotherapist or anything; she was a manicurist. Myra realized that she was like a bartender or a barber, paid to listen under the guise of providing another service. All of these trades should form a Listening To Other People’s Crap Union. She thought it would be nice if all the trades that have to listen to people could get together and swap stories and share advice on what to tell them.

She glanced at the clock and interrupted French Manicure mid-whine. “Alright, Sandy, I’m going to have to move you to another station to dry. I have another appointment coming any second now.” French Manicure gave her a look of horror, but she knew her time was up. It was the same every week. She would be shunted to the tiny station in back with no one to talk to. French Manicure hated that part.

Myra let out a discreet sigh as she walked back to her station at the front to set up for Candy Apple Red. She cleaned up all of French Manicure’s debris and pulled the bright red shade out of her bin. Candy Apple Red was late this week. She was never late. Every week, like clockwork, she would arrive before French Manicure was dry, but not today.

Myra glanced at the receptionist and they shared a shrug. Myra stood up to go grab a quick cup of tea as Candy Apple Red barged into the salon. Her normally immaculate hair was a mess. Her hose had a run in them and her skirt was crooked. She slumped down in the seat opposite Mrya.

“What happened? Are you okay?”

Candy Apple Red waved her off. “Nothing a manicure won’t fix,” and she held out her hands to Myra.

Candy Apple Red did not need a weekly manicure. Whenever she came in, Myra took pride in her craft because her nails were always immaculate even after a week of use. It always pained Myra to have to remove her perfect manicure and replace it with another, but that’s what she was paid to do. If it weren’t for repeat business like French Manicure and Candy Apple Red, Myra couldn’t afford to pay for her station at the salon.

Myra took her hands and let out a gasp. Instead of a perfect manicure, she discovered hands covered in scratches. Half the nails were ripped off down to nubs and still bleeding. The blood was almost a perfect match with the remnants of nail color that desperately clung to the battered nails.

“What on earth…?” Myra started, but Candy Apple Red interrupted her. “Please, Myra, get me a cup of tea and a nice soak.”

Myra asked the receptionist to fetch a cup of tea while she went to the faucet and prepared a suitably hot bowl of plain water. She knew that if she went right to soaking in a solution of nail polish remover, given the state of Candy Apple Red’s hands, that would likely kill her with pain. It’s best to start with water.  She brought the steaming bowl back to the station, placed Candy Apple Red’s hands in and covered them with a warm cloth.

“Ah, I feel better already in your capable hands. I’m glad I came here.” The receptionist brought a cup of tea with a straw. “Myra, if I tell you something, will you promise to keep it a secret? At least, until this afternoon?”

“Um, sure, Melissa. But, you don’t have to tell me anything if you don’t want to. Just relax.” She took Candy Apple Red’s right hand from the bowl and started to get to work.

“Myra, I need to tell someone, and well, sadly, you’re as close to a real friend as I’ve got. Please, just listen and don’t say anything?” Myra nodded.

“Did you know that I’m married?” Myra shook her head.

“No, of course you don’t. I don’t wear a ring and I never talk about him, but I am. My husband is gone more than he’s here. Most of the time, even I forget that I’m married. He does something with finance. I don’t know, I never listen when he talks about work.” She took a sip of tea through the straw. “Can I get some honey with this?” Myra asked the receptionist for some honey.

“Anyway, he came back today. I wasn’t expecting him, but then, I never do. He came back when I was sleeping and he, well, he… he raped me. I know it’s weird to talk about a husband raping a wife, but that’s what it was.” Myra gave her a sympathetic squeeze of the hand, but she didn’t say anything.

“I struggled. I tried to fight back. I scratch and bit and kicked, but it was no use. I don’t really want to go into that now, but the end result is that I won. Well, I didn’t win. Nobody wins. But, I… I killed him. He’s dead. My husband is dead. I think. I’m not sure. I ran. I got dressed and ran. I had no idea where and then I remembered it was Tuesday and we had our appointment so I ran here. Silly isn’t it? My husband… did what he did and I did what I did and the first thing I could think of was getting a manicure?”

“Don’t worry, Myra. As soon as we’re done here, I’m going to the police station to turn myself in or whatever it is they call it. I just couldn’t bear going there or to prison or wherever they’re going to send me without a proper manicure.”

The lovely Sofia Leo continued the story over at I Won’t Take It.

Suitably Warm: No Three Letter Words

5583758-fireplace-poker-in-flames-of-fire-background

Double prompt!

Daily Post Prompt: Write an entire post without using any three-letter words.
Flash Fiction 365 prompt: Suitably Warm.



Everett absently coaxed already blazing flames with a fireplace poker, getting angrier with every poke until there were glowing embers fluttering up. He stood up. “What is going on down there?” He resumed pacing. “Is that a sound?” He stopped pacing. He listened. “No, it is nothing.” He took a step, then another, until he might be called marching by more militarily inclined members of society than he. Hardly military issue, flop, flop, flop went slippered feet on hard wood.

“Perhaps Laura is unsure whether it is warm enough. I have made a bridal chamber as comfortable as anyone could desire. Clean sheets, pleasant aroma, a suitably warm fire.” Everett’s absentmindedly held fireplace poker pointed in fitting directions as he thought of each. “There is nothing here worthy of reproach! Laura couldn’t possibly be that picky!” He stood indignant, arms folded. “No, that cannot be it. My bride isn’t that kind of woman. Laura must have some other reason to tarry downstairs.” He paced some more.

“It is strange that a newly married wife should take so very long to join a newly married husband in a newly married bedchamber, right? What on earth is taking so long? It is true that we hardly knew each other before marriage. Could it be that Laura doesn’t like me?” He paused. “PISH,” drawing a diagonal line on nothingness with venerable aforementioned fireplace poker; “POSH,” he drew a second, intersecting line to complete an X. “Laura would never have gone through with marriage if that were true.”

Everett went to a mirror to examine himself, almost to reassure himself. Clad in a nightshirt, he thought he looked decidedly unmanly, even with reliably present fireplace poker held as a sword. Somewhat narrow shoulders, gangly arms, spindly neck, a face appearing older than it should. He felt a little stubble. He last shaved this morning. He waved a hand with loyal fire poker, accidentally jostling a light fixture. “No matter. Laura doesn’t care about such trifles.” He resumed patrolling.

“So, what then? Perhaps Laura is afraid.” Three words shouted at Everett: “I am afraid.” He stopped pacing a moment. “I have never done this before either. I hope I know what to do. I hope I don’t make a complete fool of myself.” He sighed. “People have been facing this exact dilemma as long as humans have existed. Countless ancestors have managed. I’m sure it is fairly self-explanatory. We shall learn together.”

He resumed walking, hands clasped behind back, dearest friend fireplace poker still dependably in hand. Everett’s pace slowed as a little self-confidence escaped with every step. He stopped again, no longer angry. Instead, full of self-doubt. Suddenly, he hoped that Laura would take forever to come upstairs, “Until tomorrow morning at least.” At that same moment, he heard timid, unmistakably female footsteps coming up from below.