Friday, April 25, 2014

Friday Flash Fiction: False Advertising

Every Friday, Kurt posts a new piece of flash fiction. This week...

False Advertising
Word Count: 600

Anna arrived at Caleb’s cash register and pulled her key out of her pocket, ready to do a refund, post-void, or whatever Caleb needed to do that required managerial approval. She smiled at the customer, a wiry old man with white hair and large plastic-framed glasses. “What can I do for you today?” she asked.

“This young man overcharged me for peanuts,” said the customer.

“They rang up incorrectly,” said Caleb.

“Can I see the receipt?” asked Anna. She glanced over it. The display read two for five dollars. The first peanut jar rang up at $2.99, so the second one should have rung up at $2.01, but instead it rang up at $2.50.

“I see what happened,” said Anna. Her fingers flew across the register keypad as she re-scanned the peanut jar and adjusted the price. The coin counter spat out a handful of change. “There you are, sir, fifty-four cents is your refund and I do apologize for the mix-up.”

She put her register key back into her pocket and started to walk away. All in all, it had been a painless transaction that she’d handled in less than thirty seconds. Now she just needed to fix the price in the computer—

“You know that’s false advertising,” said the customer.

Anna stopped. “Excuse me?” she said, trying to sound chipper.

“Charging $2.99 when the sign says $2.50,” the customer helpfully clarified. “It’s false advertising.”

“I’m sure it was an honest mistake,” said Anna, “and I’m going to fix it in the computer right now.”

“I could sue you,” said the customer.

Anna exchanged a look with Caleb. He shrugged. “Excuse me?” asked Anna.

“I know my rights. I could sue you—the store and you personally—for false advertising. I could get you fired. The young man, too.”

Anna was dumbfounded. “Please don’t,” she said, although it had come out sounding rather more like a question.

“Don’t you know who I am?” asked the customer.

Anna shook her head.

“I’m the customer, and the customer is always…”

“Right!” shouted Caleb.

“See?” said the customer. “He knows.”

Anna swallowed. She took a deep breath. Then she climbed up on the counter. “Is that who you are?” she asked. “Well, let me tell you who I am. I am the shift manager, and I am in charge of dealing with brainless shits like yourself whose lives are so vacant and meaningless that you exercise power by threatening the jobs of cashiers who have no choice but to stand there and smile and thank you for shopping with us. You pathetic little man, fretting over fifty-four cents while you shop for discount peanuts. You know what? Sue. Sue me. Do it. And when you find a lawyer who’ll take on your case for forty percent of your fifty-four-cent cash-grab, tell them Anna Kowalski will see them in hell before she forks over another god-damned nickel.”

The customer stared at her. “Are you okay, miss?” he asked.

Anna blinked. She hadn’t stood on the counter. She hadn’t said anything. She still had a job. So, that was a relief. She smiled. “Thanks for shopping with us,” she said.

The customer nodded and left.

“What a jerk,” said Caleb. “Hey, mind if I take lunch early? I was going to meet—”

“Thanks for shopping with us,” said Anna, smiling through gritted teeth.

“You know… I can wait,” said Caleb.

“Good,” said Anna. And she headed to the back to fix the price of peanuts in the store computer.

Edited by Carolyn "Heh, I've Been There" Abram

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Friday Flash Fiction: Little Bastard

Well, it's that time of life where we talk about baby names, so this week's Friday Flash Fiction can only be...

Little Bastard
Word Count: 597

I’ve always liked the name Clive. I grew up reading Clive Cussler novels; I have fond remembrances of Clive Owen’s films. Anyway, as far back as I can remember I promised myself that if I were going to have a son, I’d name him Clive. I never even considered what my last name might be. If my husband didn’t like the name Clive, that was a deal-breaker. So when I suggested that name to Todd, I was a little taken aback by the face that he made.

“Is that an official suggestion?” he asked.

“Uh, no,” I said.

“Good, because I’d hate to have to waste a veto on that,” he said.

And I’m like God, where did I go wrong? How could I not have told Todd that my firstborn male child was going to be named Clive? Had it never come up?

“How about Aiden?” asked Todd.

“Ugh, no,” I said.

“You’re going veto that?”

I hesitated. Here’s the thing: we had a system. It was convoluted, but the short version is that if I use a veto, that means I have no more vetoes for that round. Then, that means I either agree to Todd’s name or we go to another round. I promise, the whole system is on-the-level.

Only, Todd was gaming it. There was a maximum number of vetoes available, and he was up three vetoes on me. Which meant he was going to trick me into naming our firstborn son Dale after his father, and that was not going to happen!

“Oh, come on,” I said. “You know how I feel about names that end with -ayden.”

“Well, you already shot down Hayden, Braden, and Jaden,” said Todd.

“You know how I feel about those names,” I said. “Jaden isn’t even a real name.”

“Well, I liked them all,” said Todd. “You didn’t have to veto them.”

“You didn’t really like them,” I said.

“Oh?” he asked.

“No, you’re just goading me,” I said.

“If you feel that way, don’t use your veto, then I’ll have to use mine if I don’t really like them,” he said.

“No way,” I said. “Then we’d end up with a son named Jaden.”

“Then use your veto,” said Todd.

“You’re cheating,” I said.

“It’s not a game,” said Todd.

“You’re still cheating,” I said.

This went on for a while.

“Look,” said Todd, “you helped put together the rules, didn’t you?”

I agreed that I had.

“You said this was fair,” he said.

“Yeah, but that was before you started cheating,” I said.

“No one’s cheating,” said Todd. “If you don’t like how this works, you should have said something before we started.”

I didn’t say anything, I just folded my arms on top of my eight-and-a-half-month-preggo belly.

“Now,” said Todd, “I’ve always liked the name Navin.”

“No!” I screamed.

“Well, that puts me up by four vetoes,” said Todd. “I guess we’ll just have to go with my standby, which was Dale.”

“I didn’t submit last round!” I said.

“What?”

“I didn’t actually submit,” I said. “If you veto, then we push again.”

“Well…” he started to say.

“Little bastard!” I said. “I submit Little Bastard.”

Todd blinked.

“Are you going to veto?” I asked.

“You’re cheating,” he said.

“So are you,” I said.

And things escalated from there. And then neither of us wanted to back down, and a week later he was born.

Anyway, Your Honor, that’s how Little Bastard got his name, and that’s why we want to change it.

To Clive.

Edited by Carolyn "Just Because The System Is Convoluted Doesn't Mean That The Sentence Has To Be Incomprehensible" Abram

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Friday, April 11, 2014

Friday Flash Fiction: A King Someday

Every Friday Kurt posts a new piece of flash fiction. This week...

A King Someday
Word Count: 600

The King had two draughts in his pocket: one for guilt, and one for innocence. His young son sat across from him in the empty chamber. The boy had just reached his thirteenth year. A tiny blood smear traced the Prince’s eyebrow.

“You wanted to see me, father?”

The King let his eyes wander around the room. He’d sentenced men to death in this room before, and family members, and children, and heirs to land and title. But never all at once.

“Father?”

“I’ve heard disturbing reports about you,” said the King.

“From whom?” asked the Prince.

The King frowned. An innocent man would have asked what kind of reports. “What happened to your horse?”

“It died,” said the Prince matter-of-factly.

She died,” said the King. “How did she die?”

“It was an inferior animal,” said the Prince.

“And how did the ears of this inferior animal end up in your bed chambers?”

“Well, someone put them there, obviously.”

The King frowned once more. “What sort of someone?” he asked.

The Prince removed a kerchief from his pocket and dabbed his forehead, blotting the blood. There was no sweat to mop. “I’d been trying to ascertain that myself,” he said.

“Do you remember my cousin Reginald?” asked the King.

“We met once or twice,” said the Prince.

“He was a troubled youth,” said the King. “When he was eight, he was discovered butchering one of his mother’s favorite dogs. It was a shock, but not a great one. Animals had been disappearing for months. The family kept this a secret, of course. When he was twelve, he assaulted a servant. He was reprimanded. His father, my uncle, had hoped to cure him of whatever… sickness… might drive him to such acts.”

“Was he successful?” asked the Prince.

“No,” said the King. “Reginald’s tendencies could not be controlled. So an arrangement was reached. Reginald kept his activities private, and in return, some undesirable would be allowed to disappear. At first it was the odd criminal or peasant. Soon it was servants. Then Reginald killed his sister…”

“That was foolish of him,” said the Prince.

“It was indeed,” said the King. “You see, if Reginald had kept his end of the bargain, their arrangement could have gone on indefinitely.”

“So why are you telling me this, father?”

“I have no other sons. You will be king someday. If you have certain needs that can only be met through distasteful means… then an arrangement will have to be made.” The King cleared his throat. “However…” he said.

“However?”

“We can only make an arrangement if you tell me what those needs are,” said the King.

“I see,” said the Prince. “So you want me to tell you about killing a horse?”

“Did you?” asked the King.

The Prince stood, and the King backed away instinctively.

“You are frightened of me, father?”

“The entire realm is frightened of you, my son,” said the King.

“And so you intend to kill me?”

“No,” said the King. “I intend to save you.”

“How?” asked the Prince.

The King produced a phial from his robe. “Drink this.”

“What is it?”

One for guilt, and one for innocence.

The King sighed. He was a good liar—all good rulers are good liars—but he hated to lie to his only son. “It’s late, and this tonic will help you sleep. I have one for myself as well.”

The table flipped as the Prince leapt. The King fell backward. The boy was on him in a flash, pouring both down the King’s throat.

“Then sleep well, father.”

Edited by Carolyn "I Both Love And Hate The Ambiguity" Abram

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Friday, April 4, 2014

Friday Flash Fiction: Lingonberries

Every Friday Kurt posts a new piece of flash fiction. This week...

Lingonberries
Word Count: 600

“Do you know why I pulled you over?” asks the officer.

“I don’t think I was speeding.”

“It’s a rhetorical question, citizen.”

“Beg pardon?” I ask.

“I ask if you know why I pulled you over, and you say ‘no, why did you pull me over?’ Understand?”

“I think so,” I say, trying to be helpful. “Why did you pull me over?”

“Your headlights are off,” says the officer.

“But it’s daytime,” I say. “I can see just fine without them.”

“They’re also there to make you visible to other drivers. By law you’re supposed to have your headlights on fifteen minutes after sunup.”

“It’s 9:30,” I say. “Sunrise was hours ago.”

The officer lowers his aviator glasses and stares at me with piercing green eyes. “Then where is the sun?” he asks.

The sky is a mass of solid gray. I gesture towards the East. “Over there,” I say noncommittally.

“Where are you coming from, citizen?” he asks.

“Badminton practice,” I say. I nod to the equipment bag in the backseat.

“Badminton?” says the officer, looking into my backseat. “I was not aware that badminton was something that required practice. Show me your birdie.”

“Birdie?” I ask.

“A badminton ball,” says the officer, enunciating every syllable with cool deliberation, “is called a birdie.”

“Actually, it’s called a shuttlecock,” I offer. I am no longer in the mood to be helpful.

“Well, look who’s soooooo fancy,” says the officer. “I bet you’ve never done a hard day’s work in your life. I bet you’re the kind of person who knows what lingonberries are!”

“What is the meaning of this?” I ask.

“Shuttlecock,” says the officer, rolling the word around in his mouth. “Shuttlecock. Alright, Lingonberries, show me your shuttlecock.”

“No,” I say. “And don’t call me Lingonberries.”

“Citizen, I’m going to need to ask you to step out of the car.”

“No,” I say. “And stop calling me Citizen.”

“Are you not a citizen?” asks the officer. “You got something against America?”

“I am a citizen.”

“Aha! I thought so, Lingonberries!”

“Stop. Calling me. Lingonberries!”

“Then what should I call you?” asks the officer.

“You’d know my name if you ever bothered asking for my license.”

“Give me your license!”

“Give me your badge number,” I counter.

“Never!”

“You’re not even a real police officer, are you?”

With that, the officer rips off his shirt and begins jumping on the hood of the car.

“Really?” I ask. “This is what we’re doing?”

“Give me your license!” yells the officer just before pounding his chest like a gorilla.

I turn to the director. “This is why I hate improv,” I say.

“Don’t break the scene,” she responds.

“Don’t break the scene?” I ask, pointing at the ape-man on the hood. “We left the script three minutes ago. The scene has been broken. Why are we still rolling?”

“These are DVD extras,” says the director.

“Should we finish the movie first?” I ask.

“Pipe down and act, Lingonberries,” says the director.

“Yeah, Lingonberries,” yells Devon, who has abandoned all pretense of being a police officer. That nickname is going to stick.

He’ll pay for this. Oh yes. He’ll pay.

“Okay, I’m done here,” I say. “I’m heading to my trailer.”

“Your trailer is twelve miles away,” says the director.

“I know,” I say, starting the engine.

Devon’s eyes widen. The director shouts. But I’m in gear and moving before either of them can stop me. And now I’m heading down the road, speeding, with a half-naked actor clinging to the hood of my car, shouting obscenities into the wind.

Edited by Carolyn "Well, That's Inappropriate" Abram

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