New Flash Fiction - It's Good To Be Back

So, yeah, this is like the first new flash fiction in months. I hope you like it. 

Making Ends Meet

She lives in the space between the here and there.

She floats along, grasps at false hopes and tempered dreams; she places small bets on the purchase of Glocks vs. the instincts of simple prayer. And in this space, there’s sometimes desolation and despair. The chafing between the haves and the have-nots.

Border town.

She sucks electricity illegally from the utility pole that’s next to an Airbnb Airstream, where faint whispers of conscience of what she’s doing to make ends meet are muddled with the windmill-attacking dedication to the truly downtrodden. She feeds her neighbor’s dog, which is chained to a nearly dead mesquite tree, illegally over the fence. The guy she shares the fence with is probation officer; he’s already called the sheriff on her three times. Yet she documents the animal’s cruelty on her cell phone.

The borrowed bold cutters and calls to a no-kill shelter the next county over means she’ll be moving soon. Again.

She makes $11.50 an hour waiting tables at a fancy stop on the foodie trail – a place where her own creeping morality could never afford. A novice in the ranks of the true guerrilla extremists in the food service industry, she mainly picks her nose and touches the pan-seared duck breast with fresh blueberry compote, or the date pudding with the caramelized rum sauce. She smiles as she does this, and again when she goes to ask how everything is tasting and the foodies oooohhhh and aaaaahhh and Instagram the event like it’s a baptism. Blissful ignorance, yes, but it’s the least she can do to help stick it to The Man – or at the very least, try and make some sense of the absurdities of life today.

It’s a living. She has a calling. Misdirected as it is some days. It is an ethos.

And that’s good enough for her. For the right now.

In the here and there.

3WW: Sins of the Father

My Three Word Wednesday contribution (and my first flash in months). Your opinions matter.

Sins of the Father

The waitress is especially chatty and you lie of course and say you’re on holiday because that’s what people who come here, come here to do. They arrive for the fresh mountain air and the trout fishing and hiking. Or they come in hunter orange over cammo in the fall to chase big game, like elk and moose and antelope.

You’re certainly here during our down time, the waitress says. There’s not much to do right now on account of the unpredictable weather. She smiles and does a mock shiver, which sloshes dark coffee around the round glass carafe in her hand.

The quiet suits me, you say, remembering that you need to be respectful, just not memorable.

That’s why your clothing is from thrift stores, and the smell of other lives hangs on you like fried meat. Because you don’t want to stick out. You need to blend in. Be downright ordinary.

You finish your coffee and the tip isn’t extravagant, standard 20 percent on a tab of $11.67 for the bison burger and coffee. You pay with cash, and you leave a $10 and four singles under your half-empty coffee mug that you discreetly wiped off your lip marks and fingerprints with your napkin.

You look both ways as you cross the street, then walk all the way around the nondescript rental car, a late-model domestic so as not to attract undue attention, making sure that there’s nothing out of the ordinary that would alert the cops to a traffic stop. You start the engine, turn on the lights and make a sweep around the car again.

Just in case. Just to be safe.

There’s a sharp thump from the trunk. And another. You grind your teeth across your chapped lower lip, taste the faint flavor of blood and let a slight smile loose, until you regain complete composure and check your mirrors, turn on your turn signal and ease into traffic.

The hole was dug the night before. With the help from your college roommate who lives in this part of the state. A guy with a backhoe and a side business of installing septic systems for people who buy land and build cabins next to U.S. Forest Service boundaries. A guy with three daughters of his very own.

There’s a duffle bag in the backseat, one of those sports models, blue canvas with white handles. Inside there’s a change of clothing (again, thrift store finds, gently used) and a wooden baseball bat. A Louisville Slugger 180 model, 32 inches long, made of ash, retailing for $24.99 plus tax (and which you paid cash, naturally).

The young sales clerk in the green shirt at the big-box retailer (in an adjacent state, of course) kept trying to steer you to the aluminum models, the kind that start at $200, saying that you’re son would be better off learning to hit with power early. You don’t disagree, but you’re softly adamant that you’re son will learn the joys of wood, the satisfying “crack” when ash makes contact with cowhide. He laughs and says he understands the desire, the need to stick with the classics.

(And besides, you can’t quite imagine what the hollow ding of an aluminum bat making contact will do to your resolve.)

You make a slow, 360-degree turn before putting the key into the trunk and pop it open. His eyes try to focus, adjust to the falling dusk. Fresh bruises have sprouted around his eye sockets. You don’t quite remember inflicting those. You shrug. He wilts back into the depths of the trunk before violently bobbing back up again, face flush red.

He pleads around cotton gauze and black duct tape, eyes wide, nostrils flaring. You neither care, nor respond. You don’t really even notice as you heft his body out of the trunk and onto the hardscrabble backcountry road.

Even in latex gloves, there’s no sweat our your palms. There’s a breeze, and considering the month it’s bracing, but you’re not at all chilled. And the baseball bat feels good in your hands. Solid and comforting as it rests on your right shoulder.

You take a couple of practice swings to limber up and the swish as the bat cuts through the air reminds you of a time long ago, of fall and Legion baseball. And despite your better judgment, you’re going to enjoy what happens next.

You’re going to beat this guy to death with that bat.

For turning your little girl into a victim.

A ghost.

A recluse.