Fiction

“To Boldly Go” – #FFC52 – 2014 Flash Fiction Challenge Week 32

flash-fiction-badge1Howdy folks. Here I am, back again with another entry in the ever awesome Thain in Vain’s Flash Fiction Challenge. The prompt?

A celebrity of your choice (alive or dead) applies for a job and gets an interview.

This week’s entry is a strange one for me – I’ll explain after the story, as I don’t want to spoil it for you. Stick around after.

“So tell me, Ryb’neor, what makes you think you are qualified for this assignment?”

Ryb’neor smiled as they orbited slowly over the surface of the planet that glimmered the same blue as his eyes.

“Supreme Commander, I’ve made the study of primitive life forms my life’s work. This is the first chance we have to truly study and understand an alien culture on the cusp of star travel. I’ve studied this species extensively, analyzed their media, absorbed their understanding of the universe. It’s my hope that perhaps I can guide them. Help them understand their own condition, before they reach out to the stars.”

The Commander furrowed his eyestalks, one turned towards the blue orb below and the other staring intently at Ryb’neor.

“You know the Law. You are not to directly interfere with their progress. You are not to directly change the path of their civilization. I know you’ve grown fond of these…children…and I fear you will be unable to resist the temptation to sway them with knowledge they are not ready to have.”

“Your concerns are noted, Commander. I know the consequences of breaking the Law, and fond as I am, truly, of these people, I would not risk breaking the Grand Treaty to push them where they are not ready to go.”

“Even if they are a danger to themselves? To their very existence? Can you let them go that path, if it the path they choose leads to their own destruction?”

Ryb’neor fell silent. He knew that what his superior suggested was a possibility. For all their wonder, their exuberance, their joy, they were still a violent, chaotic, mad species. In truth, it was that madness that sang to him, drew him, inspired him. His race had long since evolved past the passions that drove this species, but the spark of passion burned within him. He hid it well, but perhaps there, on that polished blue orb, he could find himself. Could he, then, let them destroy themselves?

“If it is their path, it is their path…but perhaps I can sway them, discreetly.”

“How?”

“Laughter. Tears. Anger. Sadness. Hope.”

“Emotions? Primitive things…”

“Perhaps…but are they not a primitive people?”

The Supreme Commander sat quietly for a while. Finally, he nodded.

“Understand, if I give you this, it will be permanent. You will not be reassigned, you will not be allowed to leave. The surgery will be…extensive. Painful. Are you truly ready to go through all that, for a species that may kill itself off before it ever reaches the stars?”

Ryb’neor nodded.

“Very well. Assignment granted, Ryb’neor.”

***

Ryb’neor smiled. It took getting used to in this funny new body. Waiting in this room, he could not help but remember the last interview with his commander. And here he was, about to embark on a new adventure, on his new home.

The door opened.

“Mr. Williams? Are you ready for your audition?”

Ryb’neor…no, it was Robin, now…smiled broader.

“Nanu-nanu,” he whispered, and his eyes twinkled blue.

I started this story last week, after struggling with deciding what kind of story I wanted to tell.  I ended up choosing Robin Williams because I thought it would be fun to imagine a world where he really *was* Mork, essentially. Mork and Mindy was a favorite of mine as a child, and is something that, believe it or not, I think about all the time. It’s kind of hard not to when your name is Mark and your wife is named Myndee. And yes, she’s named after the show.

So here it has been, sitting in my drafts, waiting to be edited down from the 630 word story I started with to the 500 word limit of the challenge…when yesterday happened. I will be honest, I thought long and hard about deleting my draft and not posting the story. I didn’t want to seem as if I were jumping on some band wagon or taking advantage of the death of one of the few celebrities I have ever genuinely admired.

But in the end, I decided I’d publish it anyway. RIP, Mr. Robin Williams. I hate that sadness overtook you.

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“Babies From Candy” – #FFC52 – 2014 Flash Fiction Challenge Week 30

flash-fiction-badge1Week Thirty is upon us, and though I’m a bit late, I had to throw my hat into this challenge from the ever lovely Thain in Vain!

This week’s prompt? A man steals a large sum of money to pay a debt to a loan shark. He saves his ass from a beating, but is haunted by the nature of what has done.

 

Here is my entry – “Babies from Candy”

I have a problem. I gamble. Poorly. I ran up a lot of debt to very dangerous people. When Alphonse visited me the first time, he made it clear what would happen if I didn’t have Sal’s money the next. The fingers on my left hand, still in a cast, reminded me.

I was dead. I knew it. I work at a non-profit. I barely make enough to survive…which was why I gambled. Trying to bring in a little extra dough. My early successes got to my head, I got in too deep…and, well…broken fingers.

Then came Mrs. Candace McAnley. The old biddy was loaded; her husband was some kind of tycoon before he’d died. She always came in with a pitifully small check and a huge attitude.

“For the babies,” she’d say with a sniff. Her donation to our children’s cancer organization was so small, we’d joke she could have donated an extra nickel if she hadn’t wasted the money on the paper for the check. When she stopped coming, no one cared.

I noticed, but only because she irritated me. So haughty. So uppity. Then she came back. Different. Fragile, doddering. Not the Mrs. McAnley who would waltz in like she owned the place. No…she came back weak, shaking. Her hair had fallen out.

Ah. Cancer. It’s probably wrong of me, that my first thought was it was about time it hit someone who deserved it. Then I looked in her eyes. I saw the pain, the anxiety, the fear for her life. I knew that all too well. My fingers throbbed in sympathy.

Her hands trembled horribly, holding the check.

“Here,” she managed with a soft, broken voice, “For…for the babies. Be a doll, and finish it out for me, will you?”

She didn’t wait for the receipt, as she’d always done. Just turned and made her way painfully out the door. I looked down. My heart nearly stopped.

It was huge. The exact amount I owed to Sal, huge. The payee field, blank. She’s asked me to finish it out for her…

I slid the check in my pocket, and went home. All night, I tossed and turned. I tried to rationalize, tried to reason. The kids  my charity helped were almost all terminal. The money would keep them alive maybe a little bit longer, but I would definitely be dead without it.  Mrs. McAnley died the next day. I took the check to the bank. Got the money.

Paid Sal.

“Two-hundred fifty thousand,” Alphonse said. My hands were slick with sweat. Sal nodded, and Alphonse took the briefcase back to the Cadillac they’d pulled up in. Sal chewed on a fat, rancid cigar, staring at me.

“That’s a lot of scratch for a dope like you,” he said, finally, “Where’d you get it?”

“Does it matter?”

He shrugged.

“Guess not. We’re square, kid. Come see me again some time.”

He turned. Got back into his car, and left.

I fell to the ground, and cried.

Turn-A-Trope Tuesday #7: “Good People Have Good Sex” – #WOEGTTT

At last! We’re back with another go at Turn-A-Trope Tuesday, where cliches don’t matter and stereotypes are challenged! As usual, the rules to this challenge are simple – take the assigned trope, and find a way to challenge what is expected, and do it in a thousand words or less. Turn the trope around, make it something unusual. These challenges can be really tough, but can also help you to find new ways of looking at things that are expected in good fiction. The best writers today are masters of turning tropes – will you be one too?

Before we dive into this week’s saucy trope, let’s take a look at the entries from the last challenge:

Helen’s Bring Her Back and my Be Careful What You Wish For!

This week, we return with something a bit spicier – the old trope that Good People Have Good Sex!

From TVTropes.org:

Main characters and other positive characters always have healthy sex lives. They might go through long periods of not being in a relationship (they may even be Hollywood Dateless) during which they may have a lot of good sex anyway or not. But when they are in one, the sex is frequent and good (unless the relationship is near its end).

Another version is that when villains have sex, it tends to be quick and emotionless. It will often be treated as an act of self-gratification and only the dominant villain will emerge with their desire sated. When heroes make love, it tends to be caring and passionate, with both parties emerging satisfied. This difference can be cause for a Sex Face Turn for a dissatisfied villain. Of course, this trope applies mainly for experienced adults.

For most teenage characters, even and sometimes especially heroes, any on-screen mention of sex will end in awkwardness at best, tragedy at worst. See Their First Time. Only laughingstock old guys ever need Viagra. In the days before such drugs existed, male impotence was generally perceived as a trait of villains. Impotence leads to insanity, which leads to evil actions, as with General Ripper in Dr. Strangelove or The Man with the Golden Gun.

In many settings, only characters of questionable morality have “weird” sexual preferences. For really old fashioned settings, this may even include gays and lesbians.

“Be Careful What You Wish For” – Turn-A-Trope #6, #WOEGTTT

After a hell of a week, I have finally gotten a chance to write something. I tell ya, it’s a huge relief. I had not realized how much I’ve come to enjoy venting a little fiction into the blogosphere, and how much it would aggravate me when I miss getting to do it. Hopefully, this story, my late entry for last week’s Turn-A-Trope Tuesday challenge, Make A Wish, will get me back on track.

Be careful what you wish for.

I use to find myself wishing for something more. Something bigger, something better, something different than who I am. A real life Walter Mitty, I guess, lost in day dreams about what might have been had I been fitter, sexier, richer. Or born in another era, where my prodigious talents would have been truly appreciated for what they were. Or where I could show off my knowledge of ancient skills and histories and brilliant intelligence and have those things impress instead of finding scorn.

I would wish every night, upon the same star in the sky. Of course, it probably wasn’t a star. It was probably Venus, or hell, something even less sexy. A satellite. Star light, star bright, first star I see at night, probably a Sputnik in low orbit flight. Still, every night, I’d go up to the roof and lay on my back and stare at the cosmos above and just wish, more than anything, to be something different. And every day, I’d awake, the same, old, boring me. And most of all, alone.

It was the loneliness, I think, that made me look for the first time at the space between those sparkling points of light. That emptiness, that black and unchanging void that screamed as much in its solitude as did my soul in its own loneliness. When all was sparkling and bright around it, it was empty. Black. Wanting. I wanted, too. I stared into that void, and wished. No light, just night, nothing sparkling clean and bright, I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish…I suddenly felt very foolish. I think may actually have blushed at that moment, embarrassed by my own silliness. I sighed, hard, and for a moment had to fight back a welling wetness from within my eyes.

Fuck wishes. I think I said that aloud too. But seriously, fuck them. I’ve wished a million, billion things and never once have they come true. And the insidious thing about wishing is that the very act seems to drain you of ambition. I’d make a wish, and the part of me that wanted it was somehow a little more satisfied that at least I’d done something, right? And then I’d do nothing. Because I’d wished. Look at that star, or Venus, or Sputnik, and say “I wish I were in better shape” instead of just getting off my ass and going to the gym. And in my head, that part of me that was tired of being doughy and soft would smile at my effort, and the yearning would fade. I’d never get to the gym. I didn’t need to. I had wishes.

I swallowed the sadness that had lumped in my throat, wiped away the tears in my eyes. I got up off that dusty old roof, brushed my pants off, and started to walk back to the dormer window that brought me out to my nightly wishing spot. As I reached the window, I looked back, realizing that it was over. I was not ever going to do this again. I was done with wishes.

Almost.

I looked to that spot, that void, and I made my final wish.

“I will not wish ever again,” I said, low but heavy with shame and anger, “I will not ever ask another thing, so these are my last. I wish, how I wish, that this wasn’t my life, that I were someone, anyone else, somewhere, anywhere else. I wish that wishing stars weren’t absolute bullshit, and that tomorrow I could wake up and be anyone but me. I wish…”

I paused, fighting back the tears, the lump in my throat, the wetness coming again to my eyes.
“I wish I wasn’t alone.”

And then…I swear, the patch had been empty, black. But I saw a twinkle there. Bright, dancing, sparkling in the night. I laughed, hollowly. My void had been nothing more than a cloud obscuring a star. A star just like all the other junk in space. Brilliant and wishless. I went inside, locked the window, and found my way to bed. Sleep came to me, heavy and burdened. Fitful. I tossed and turned all night, struggling with my self-conscious that didn’t want to accept a world without wishes.

And then I woke.

And I was not in my bed. I was not in my home. I was not in my clothes. All around me, a world of strange and alien sights, strange and alien smells, sounds. I leapt up to my feet, pinched myself. I looked to the sky, and saw darkness filled with points of light, all in patterns I’d never seen. Elation washed over me! My wish! Oh could it be? Had I gotten my wish?

And then, shock. Realization. Numbness, as I began to fully understand.

I was not smart, here. My talents were nothing, here. My knowledge, useless, here. It was like I was someone else entirely. Chills washed down my spine. God, what was I going to do?

And then…oh god, then. I heard it. Out there, far, but getting closer. A horrifying, shrieking sound that reminded my of the last part of my wish.

Because it’d come true. All of it. I wasn’t me here – the me of my world was gone. My world was gone. The stars weren’t bullshit. I had awaken someplace else, someone else.

The shriek was closer now, angry, hungry sounding.

I was not alone.

And the stars above me twinkled and laughed.

“Strangers” – #FFC52 – 2014 Flash Fiction Challenge Week 29

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Howdy all! This week, we have an interesting task in the lovely Thain in Vain’s Flash Fiction Challenge. We’re to write a six word story, a la the famous Hemingway anecdote.

I’ll be honest. I find five hundred words to be tough, so this is near impossible. Here’s my best attempt. “Strangers.”

Married, twenty years. Strangers, last ten.

“Revenge Served Sweet” – Turn-A-Trope #5, #WOEGTTT

Better late than never! Here is my entry for Turn-A-Trope #5, Opposites Attract Revenge!

“Jack! What are you doing…”

Jack walked past her before she could finish, his palm raised in defiance against her words. He glared at Susan, his ex-girlfriend, then over to the guy he’d just caught her kissing. Doug Harlen, football star, athlete, and in general, complete jerk-ass to anyone who didn’t play sports or drive a really nice car.

Jack did neither. He wasn’t a jock at all; his skills were far more brainy. A computer whiz, a Grade A scholar, a musician. If you could call playing the tuba music. And his car? A beat up old pick-up truck he’d inherited from his mentally deranged uncle. He wasn’t the lamest kid in school, but he wasn’t far from the bottom, and guys like Doug couldn’t be more different.

He had to laugh. It was comical, really. When he and Susan had started dating, no one talked to her but him. She was in that awkward stage that some girls hit, a late bloomer who had yet to bud but desperately wanted to be with someone, anyone. Jack never let himself believe that he was her first choice, but he wasn’t bad looking, truthfully, and he was kind to her. And honestly, she hadn’t been his first choice either, but they’d been friends since the start of middle school and had always gotten along.

That is, they had until she’d finally blossomed.

They hadn’t seen much of each other, that summer. She was away on vacation for a month in the middle, he was in camps towards the end. When they finally got together, man, how she’d changed! How was it possible that in three short months, she could develop so quickly? Gone was the flat chested, doughy girl he’d been dating. In her place, a real stunner. Curvy, fit. Even her hair seemed wavier.

Of course, it became immediately apparent that she was no longer interested in a boy like him. She began flirting, heavily, with every guy she’d see, where she used to never make eye contact. She became rude, dismissive of him, where she used to be sweet and a little clingy. Yeah, she’d blossomed, alright.

Blossomed into a real asshole.

Not too long after that, she’d dumped him. First for a higher chair band geek, then working her way up to the penultimate opposite of all that was Jack. Doug Harlen. At first, Jack had been hurt. It wasn’t so much her dumping him that stung. Well, maybe a little. in truth, she really wasn’t his type, and he had been realizing that more and more every day. What stung, though, was her choice of guys. Doug freakin’ Harlen. He ached for justice. For revenge. So Jack went to ground. Started to plan. He was nothing if not a thinker, and a skilled one at that. And after a while, it became clear. Perfectly clear. A path to revenge so sweet, he could almost taste it.

It took work, of course. Revenge wasn’t going to be easy, not this one. He started working out, getting fit. Talked his mom into getting him to a good dermatologist. Got a haircut, some nicer clothes. Fixed up the beater truck, did some bodywork, gave it a paint job. Looked nice, real nice. And he did a lot of reading. A lot of research. A lot of investigating. Soon, Jack was turning heads himself. A slew of girls who never would have given him a second glance were all but throwing themselves at him, but he didn’t care. His focus was singular. Images of Susan and Doug swam before his eyes, and he refused to let that go.

Susan noticed. He could tell. Could see the way she started looking at him, that same look of desire and ambition that had bloomed in her eyes when she left him. Her glances towards him became longer, more flirtatious. She made sure to bend over near him, showing him her now ample cleavage, or the curvature of her feminine rear. He pretended not to notice, and that made her all the more flamboyant in her attempts to get his attention. Of course, it is no doubt what led to her being “accidently” discovered by Jack, in the back of the band room, with Doug. It was time for his revenge. Stalking past her, palm raised. He stared intently at Doug. He could see her face flush with desire, the thought of Jack ready to fight Doug for her affection. Doug got to his feet, his eyes narrowed, his hands clenching and unclenching. Jack walked right up to him, nose to nose. Breathing hard.

And then they kissed. Long, deep, passionate. Doug’s hands sunk into Jack’s hair, as his own found the football star’s impeccably tight end, and drew him closer. Susan let loose a confused gasp, stumbling back and falling to her ass on the band room bench. Doug and Jack broke their kiss, and turned to her.

“You see, Susan…you weren’t my first choice, either. Doug was. He always was. So when you dumped me for him? I felt terrible. Decided to try out this dating app…for guys. Who like guys. And who should I see there? Turns out, Doug’s been tired of living a lie for a long time. And I’m just his type.”

Doug blushed, and shrugged bashfully. Jack leaned in to him, pulling him close.

“You may have dumped me for the football star,” Jack said, as they walked to the door, “But you? You got dumped for the band geek.”

Turn-A-Trope Tuesday #6: “Make a Wish” – #WOEGTTT

Fear not, my friends! I didn’t forget that today was Turn-a-trope Tuesday, where we take a standard trope and attempt to tell a story that turns it on its head!  Yes, I’ve been slack and missed my deadline for last week’s story, but one incredibly awesome blogger didn’t: Helen, you are the goddess of Turn-a-Trope Tuesday! Please, go check out her submission, ‘What She Couldn’t Offer Him.”  I plan on having a story up for last week’s too, but it may not be till tomorrow.

So, what’s the trope this week? It’s “Make A Wish.” You know, how characters in stories make elaborate wishes that come true? There’s a tons of way to invert this one. Let’s see what you come up with!

From TVTropes.org:

Characters in stories always want something; it’s one of the rules of fiction. Some heroes work very hard in pursuit of their dreams, some use wit and charm, but a few look up to the nearest star and make a

longing, desperate wish. It always comes true. Wishing has power in fiction; it’s one of the main sources of Applied Phlebotinum. No matter what you want, from a new car to a sudden age-up, you can get it by wishing. Of course, you have to Be Careful What You Wish For and make sure that if you want to be special, normal, or want someone out of your life, that you actually mean exactly what you say. Good or evil, the wish-granter is almost always a Literal Genie who will gladly warp reality for the heck of it. The best known wish-granter is probably the Genie in a Bottle (or other similar magical creatures) who generally grants Three Wishes. If he’s lucky, the hero will get a Benevolent Genie; unlucky ones will have a Literal Genie or even a Jackass Genie. Other wishing methods, generally only resulting in one wish, include:

  • Wishing on a star
  • Seeing a shooting star
  • Wishing wells
  • Birthday candles and/or wishbones, which generally come with a proviso that telling anyone the wish means it won’t come true
  • Some sort of magic wish tool (like a monkey’s paw)
  • A lunar/solar eclipse
  • Any number of other things, like blowing on an eyelash, blowing the seeds off a dandelion, or blowing on wishing/pixie dust
  • The power of words

After the wish has been granted, the wisher may discover they don’t like the way things are going and will use another wish to hit a Reset Button. If after all the wishes have been used up, the wisher ends up no better off, they’ve been Wasteful Wishing. Big wishes may end in a Wishplosion. The final shot may reveal that the wish story was All Just a Dream (Or Was It a Dream?), but some stories are much more subtle and leave it up to the audience whether the “wishes” really came true or were just a string of marvelous coincidences.

1,000 words or less! Deadline by Monday the 21st!

Turn-a-trope Tuesday #5: “Opposites Attract Revenge” – #woegttt

Welcome back to another episode of Turn-a-trope Tuesday, where we take a standard trope and attempt to tell a story that turns it on its head! What does that mean exactly? I think I’ve explained this enough by now, people! C’mon! ;)

So, last week was a skip week, but that gave us a little extra time for a tough trope to crack – “A Man is Not A Virgin.” We had two entries, though, so let’s check them out and see how they handled such a challenging trope!

A Boy or a Man, at Helen’s Ramblings on This Thing Called Life

The Measure of a Man, at Woegman’s World of Witty Wonder

For this week’s trope, we’re hitting up a classic: Opposites Attract Revenge

From TVTropes.org:

A type of Love Triangle — heavy on the triangle, light on the love. When a girlfriend leaves her boyfriend, and ends up in a relationship with the boyfriend’s ideological rival, resulting in a vendetta between the two men.

 It works with the genders switched around, too.

As usual, you have 1000 words to turn this trope on its head. Have fun! :)

#FFC52 – 2014 Flash Fiction Challenge Week 27 – “The Pen is Mightier”

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Week 27 has arrived in Thane in Vain’s Flash Fiction challenge! This week, the theme was thus:

A journalist writing a story about living on death row begins to fall for one of the inmates she’s interviewing.

I’ll admit, I cheated a little on this one, in that the falling in love part has been shifted slightly, but I like the results so I’m going to run with it. Here is “The Pen is Mightier.”

It was almost time. She felt her heart pound as she heard the thick, heavy bars in the hall beyond. She fidgeted in the hard plastic seat of the visiting room, and a thought slipped through her head.

Should I really be doing this?

It was only a brief thought. Of course she should. She was Samantha Hanes. She had a Pulitzer, for God’s sake, spent time embedded in war zones, survived an attack on her position there. She had nothing to fear.

She fidgeted anyway.

The door opened, and she stifled a gasp.

Jonathon Lemay entered in chains. A part of her, a kinky part of her, stirred. She suppressed it. Must be professional. The guards led Lemay to a chair, fit his chains into slots in the floor. One turned to her.

“We’ll be right outside of the door. Don’t get too close. If you feel the need, hit the panic button.”

“Thank you,” she nodded. They left, leaving her with Lemay.

He was beautiful. She blushed to think it, but it was truth. He was tall, symmetrical, thick hair and eyes a gorgeous shade of blue. His physique, divine. Better than it had been in Iraq.

His eyes narrowed. She felt her face flush again.

“Hanes?”

He remembered her! Her heart pounded with fear and delight. She felt her breath grow heavier. She lingered on thoughts that were definitely unprofessional.

“Why are you here?”

Her vision of him broke, for a moment.

“I’m here to interview you, Mr. Lemay. I’m doing a story on the life of prisoners on death row. I know we have personal history, but I convinced them I could keep things professional.”

“Personal history?”

His confusion bothered her. She straightened her blouse, perked out her breasts.

“You don’t have to be coy, Jon. They aren’t listening. I paid a lot to ensure that.”

“Hanes…”

“Please,” she said with a nervous chuckle, “Sam. You know you can call me Sam.”

She didn’t like the look on his face. Didn’t like it at all. He was supposed to be grateful, damn it; he was supposed to be happy! It was her turn to be the savior, to make him fall in love.

Like he had done to her. In Iraq.

But who was she? Just a journalist? He saved her life, yes, and won her heart. But he didn’t want it. He had another, a girl waiting back home. But that was ok. She didn’t want him either, before he saved her life. She knew that.

That’s why the girl back home had to go away. That’s why she had to make it look like he’d killed her. It wasn’t hard. She’d trained with them, after all. She saw how they worked. And once he was here, in prison?

She could save his life. She would make him love her. She may not have a gun, but she had a pen. She smiled.

After all, the pen was so much mightier than the sword.

 

“Bad Parents” – Chuck Wendig’s Weekly Flash Fiction Challenge. TRIGGER WARNING

Just in under the deadline, here is my story for Chuck Wendig’s challenge from this past week. A story about “Bad Parents”, 1000 words or less.

This is not the story I originally intended to tell. That one I wrote, rewrote, rewrote again, and then finally deleted. I’m not ready to tell that one yet.

This one is dark, very dark. I give you fair warning now that it is about child abuse, murder, and such like things. If this is the kind of thing that upsets you, skip this one.

No one ever tells you about the smell. The movies, the shows, they make it look almost…glamorous, when you shoot someone. A bang, a puff of smoke, a bright light, a splatter of pretty crimson that paints the wall like that abstract painter guy…Jackson-something. Mom always liked his stuff. I didn’t get it. The smell is terrible. Like copper and shit and sewage. Maybe it’s different if you shoot them somewhere other than the balls and lower stomach?

Christ. I can hear him still. I wish he’d die but I don’t have the stomach or the will to shoot him again. And maybe…maybe I kind of want him to suffer, even if each groan that escapes his lips makes me feel like vomiting. Even through the door, I can hear him dragging himself across the floor croaking a strange, strangled, gurgling noise like some sort of sick frog. Disgusting. Bleeding and shitting all over the floor, no doubt. Mom is going to be so pissed off.

After all, he is…was…her husband.

I look down at the gun in my hand and I wonder how many bullets I have left. I never really learned about them. I mean, I knew the basics, but I didn’t even know how to load or reload or whatever you are supposed to do with them. I do know you point the dangerous end and you flip the safety thing and you pull the trigger. And not the button that makes the bullet-thingy fall out. I guess TV is good for something after all, huh? There’s always that ditzy girl who points the gun and presses the wrong button. Or gets reminded the safety is on. Dumb!

I wonder if I should shoot her too. Mom, I mean. Part of me screams at the idea, revolts. Another…not so much.

She let it happen, after all. She had to have known. No…she did know. I can’t make excuses for her. She knew. I told her. I told her what he was doing, how he was touching me…there. I feel sick again, just thinking about it. Have to force myself to stop. She knew, but she didn’t do anything about it. He was husband number three, after all, and she wasn’t getting any younger. She said that all the time.

So she put up with the shit. The laziness. The yelling. The name calling. The slaps, the punches, the bruises. The way he looked at me, her daughter. She listened when he lied and when he locked himself in my room she bought that the door must have “accidently” locked itself. When I would find any excuse I could to be with her, she said I was just too clingy. Seperation Anxiety? Really Mom?

I didn’t tell her at first. I was scared. Scared that he’d hurt me worse, hurt her worse. He threatened that he would. Said that if I told he would beat the shit out of her, break her, make sure no other man would ever want to be with her again. Did I want that? Huh, sweetie? You want your mom to have to earn her living lying on her back for ten dollars a pop, cause she sure as hell wouldn’t make more than that when he got finished with her.

But then one day she found me. Crying. Rocking. She took me in her arms and she rocked with me and she asked me.

“Cass, sweety? Is there something wrong?”
And I felt warm. Safe. I told her.

I still feel the sting of her hand. The bruises have faded but I still feel each punch. My hair still hurts when it remembers her dragging me through the hall, screaming and calling me a liar, a whore, a filthy little tempter. It was my fault, see. I shouldn’t dress like such a slut. She burned my makeup and my music and most of my heart that day.

“Casssss.”

What’s left of my heart plummets. He moans out again.

“Casssssss…c…c…call…..9…”

He stops, coughing. I hear something thick and wet splatter against the wood floor, and something in me snaps.

I open the door.

He’s right there. The smell is even worse now. The floor doesn’t look like a pretty painting. It looks horrible. Dark. Brownish. I gag. He looks up at me. Kind of looks like one of those monsters, zombies. I don’t know…I don’t like those shows. Too gory. He reaches out his hand.

“Cass…sw…sweetie…”

There is a pop, a shockingly loud pop and a ringing in my ears before I even realize I’ve shot him. There is a strange, gurgling rattle, and then he’s quiet. The only sound is the ringing in my ears.

I close the door. I cry. I can’t help it. God, what am I going to do? I sit there, at the door. I sit there for a long time.

And then I hear it. Keys in the lock. Mom is home. I look down. How many bullets are left?

I don’t know.

Maybe just one.

My hands tremble. I am so fucked. So, so fucked. The door begins to open. For a moment, it really is just like the movies. Everything is slow, deliberate. I look at the gun and I think, yes, maybe there’s just one more bullet left.

I raise my arm. The gun is so, so heavy. Heavier than I thought it would be. The door swings wider. I sit straighter. Proper. Ladylike. She walks in all fake smiles and empty cheer and an arm full of crap. She looks at me.

“Cass, sweetie? Is there something wrong?”

I smile. I press the gun beneath my chin, and I wonder.

Will she believe me now?