Benefit of the Doubt – Fiction

Holy crapsticks I’m on a roll.  Two posts in two days, both of which are fiction?  Satan must be ice skating down there in hell, cos I sure didn’t plan for this to happen.  Hell, it almost didn’t happen: I’ve had kids crawling over me all day, cable techs drilling holes in my walls, babies who need attention, twitters to tweet and housework to do.  The last thing I wanted to do was write.

Then I saw this Flash Fiction Friday #29 thing — I always come to these things late, as yesterday’s Free Gisch contest will, well, attest — and a story started taking shape in my head. After many stops and starts, and wanting to alternate between killing my kids and killing myself, here it is.  I suppose I failed the challenge; I didn’t post it before 9am PST.  But in the end, I don’t care.  I finished the challenge, and that’s more important to me. 🙂

I’m not entirely sure I like it, and I didn’t read through it as heavily as I do my other bits of flash… the huge number of stops and starts on this thing saw to that.  But done is done, written is written, and garbage is only garbage if you consider it so.

Call it a writing exercise, and be done with it.  I am.

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My Hero – Superhero Flash Fiction

“Did you see?”  Hannah comes skidding around the corner, her face all aglow with the rush of meeting one of her heroes.  If her eyes got any starrier, she’d have to apply for a galaxy to hold them all.  “Did you see?  The Golden Mask came into my store! The Golden Mask, Erin!”

See him? I want to say. Sweetheart, I’m living with him. But I don’t, of course.  It’s all about the secret identity, David tells me.  If random Joe Q. Everyman on the street knew who he was, everyone in his life would be open to attack. Including me.  And the last thing I want in my life is for the Razor or Captain Beak or Dead Kennedy to come after me, snatch me off the streets and torture me for all three of David’s secrets.

So instead of telling her just who the Mask is, I light my cigarette and blow a lungful of smoke into the air.  “I didn’t know he liked frozen yogurt.”  I don’t know how I manage to keep a straight face.

“Neither did I!” Good Christ, she’s actually bouncing in place and clapping her hands together like a happy toddler.  Don’t get me wrong; I love my boyfriend and I tolerate the superhero gig, but I don’t think he really needs this much enthusiasm when he’s not even here.  “Chocolate raspberry! With sprinkles!” Her eyes go wide and she sucks in  a breath so quick I think for a moment she’s having an asthma attack. “OhmigodIhavetotweetaboutthis!”  Her BlackBerry comes whipping out of her pocket so fast that, if I didn’t know otherwise, I’d suspect she had superspeed.  Within seconds, she’s tweeted about the experience.  The sighting.  The encounter.

If Jesus wore red tights and a glittery papier-mache mask, I guarantee Hannah’d be in church every Sunday.

Hannah tucks her phone back into her pocket and thumps back against the side of the building with a dreamy sigh.  “He’s so cute,” she says, tucking her hands under her chin.  “He must be a playboy millionaire, with a Jaguar and a private jet and…”  She trails off into incoherent babbling about fast cars and mansions in the Hollywood Hills.  She’s probably drooling too.

I roll my eyes and stay silent on the issues of superheroes and money.  As cool as David’s invulnerability and ability to fly are — and trust me, they are — they’re somewhat impractical for cash flow, and McDonald’s was the only one hiring.     It would break her fucking heart to learn that the Golden Mask has a dayjob at the Golden Arches.

I’ll tell David about this later tonight, if he makes it home in time for dinner.  Christ only knows if whatever nemesis-of-the-month he’s currently chasing will be courteous enough to finish the fight by five.  I doubt it; villains are so rude.

I stub out my cigarette and readjust the nametag on my Walgreen’s vest.  My break was over five minutes ago.  There’s still two hours on the clock and I have bills to pay.  Lots of bills.  That are all past due.  David’s too proud to ask his buddy, the rich-as-hell Quakemaster, for a loan, and I don’t know the guy well enough.  We’ll make do; David’s up for promotion to manager in the next few months and I can pick up some extra shifts.  “David’s planning to barbecue tomorrow after the game; y’wanna come?’

And just like that, her nose wrinkles in distaste.  She gets along with David, for my sake, but she doesn’t really like him all that much.  Most days, the irony amuses the bejesus out of me.  Today, I’m too tired.  Being up half the night worried sick that Doc Mayhem or Mantis Face or the Wrangler has finally found a way to kill your boyfriend will do that to you. “As long as he doesn’t start talking about the war in the Middle East or the government or teabaggers,” she sniffs.

“I’ll pass it on.  See you after work?”

“Nah,” she says.  “I’m going to go to the park.  Queen Corona’s supposed to be making an appearance there.” Her eyes brighten at the mere prospect.  “Maybe I’ll see the Golden Mask again! OHMIGOD that would be awesome!”

I sigh, toss her a wave and head back inside.  I know without a doubt, she’ll buy one of our thermal green-earth bags before she goes home, and I know without a doubt there’ll be a chocolate raspberry frozen yogurt in it when she takes it to the park.  With sprinkles, no less.

I’m ringing up an old lady with a million coupons when it occurs to me that David doesn’t like sprinkles.  He hates them.  In fact, the last time he had them was…

Oh Christ.  He got hit with the Reverso-Ray again.

Or the Evil Twin Beam.

Or the Personality Matrix Exchanger.

So help me, if he got himself split into two separate people again, both of him are sleeping on the fucking couch.

FlashFriday (On Wednesday) – Dead Unicorn Bridge Part Two

A few weeks ago, I posted a #FlashFriday fic that started off, “The dragon selling hotdogs on the corner gave me the 411 on the dead unicorn.”  It was a silly little fluff piece I listed under the heading “Suicidal Unicorns”.  I had no intention of ever doing anything with it again (though I said I might someday), but the story just wouldn’t leave me alone.

This second flash installment weighs in a little longer than the first one, at around 950 words.

Back by popular request — here’s lookin’ at you, Julie — I give you the second installment of what I’m now calling Dead Unicorn Bridge.

When we left Mason, he was investigating the possible suicide of a unicorn named George who had either thrown himself or been thrown off the Brooklyn Bridge.  The hotdog vendor, an unnamed dragon with questionable adherence to health code standards, gave Mason a lead to check: the unicorn’s live-in virgin, a girl named Sunshine, who’d left George the previous week for a guy she met online.  With this information in hand, Mason returned to his car, hoping against hope that his elven partner would still be inside it, instead of out chasing butterflies and talking to flowers.

The story continues after the jump.


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Flash Friday: Suicidal Unicorns

I really have no idea where this came from.  It was a prompt I posted to #storystarters this morning, and it wouldn’t leave me alone.  It checks in at 833 words, and is far from the best thing I’ve ever written.  But the point is, I wrote it.  Yeah, I wrote it. Finished it.  Completed it.

Maybe some day I’ll do more with it.

———

The dragon selling hotdogs on the corner gave me the 411 on the dead unicorn. ‘His virgin met a guy,’ he said.  ‘One of those social media online deals. Flitter, or Twerp or somethin’. Left him last week.  Big hullabaloo.  I could hear the screamin’ from here, practically.  George was a fuckin’ mess after she walked out. I’m not surprised he offed hisself, yanno? Dames’ll do that to ya. Drive ya fuckin’ crazy, I mean.’

Didn’t I know it. I had a Tinkerbell wannabe at home, pixie dust and slutty little green dress and all.  She kept trying to get me to give her the clap, said it would help her become a real girl.  I was holding out, but one of these days I was gonna give in.  There was a limit to how many times I could find her in my boxers before my sanity went out the window.

‘Got a name on the virgin or the guy?’ I asked, overpaying for an undercooked Italian sausage. I slathered it with sauerkraut and mustard, took a big bite and tried not to think too hard on what kind of meat I was eating.  Dragons weren’t particularly known for their nutritional selectivity.  It might have been beef or pork, but it was just as likely rat or pigeon.  It tasted a bit funny, but that could have been just my imagination.  I piled more sauerkraut on, just in case.

The dragon scratched his snout, snorted a little flame.  “Yeah,” he said after a little while. “She had some fruity hippie name. Sky or Moonbeam or Rain or somethin’ like that.  Sunshine.  Yeah. That was it.  Sunshine.” I must have had a sceptical look on my face, cos the dragon got defensive then.  “I’m not makin’ this up, Macey.  The broad’s name was Sunshine.”

I shoved the last bite in my mouth, balled up the wax paper, shot for the garbage bin and missed completely.  “And the guy?” I asked after swallowing.

“How the fuck should I know?” the dragon shot back. “I sell franks and sausages, Mace. You’re the fuckin’ detective.  Detect, for chrissake.”

“Yeah, yeah.  Anything else?”

He scratched his snout again and shot a line of flame from his nostril onto the grill.  A glob of something else shot out of his nostril and splattered on the sausages slowly turning over the fire.  Lunch suddenly felt like a lump in my stomach, but I swallowed hard and tried not to think too hard about that either. “Yeah. George loved the shit outta that girl, but I can’t really blame her for walkin’, yanno?  You know unicorns.  Takes a special kinda woman ta deal with their protective macho bullshit.  Georgie had bad luck tryin’ ta find the right one.  Sunshine was the last of a long line, you know what I mean?”

Yeah, I knew what he meant, and I knew unicorns too.  Hell, just last week we’d had to break up a bar brawl involving two unicorns, their virgins and some drunk frat boys who had done nothing but ask the ladies to dance.  “Overprotective” didn’t even begin to cover how unicorns acted towards their women.

The dragon had given me some food for thought, and a couple of leads to chase down.  George the Unicorn had probably thrown himself off the Brooklyn Bridge, but maybe he hadn’t.  Maybe there’d been a fight or maybe he’d gotten pushed.  It was my job to figure that out.  I dropped a Jackson on top of the hot dog cart.  “Thanks for the info,” I said, “and for lunch, as underdone as it was.”

I didn’t see the Jackson disappear, but I knew it had made its way into the dragon’s pockets.  No scaly slinger of questionable meat worth his salt would lose a twenty so easily.  He shrugged. “I do what I can,” he said. “Now get the fuck outta here before you chase away all my clientele. They can smell when cops come around, and I got eggs ta feed.”

I did as he asked and walked back to my car, parked a block away with my elven partner hopefully still inside and not out chasing butterflies or flowers or whatever it was she did when I was out of her sight.  I was tired of it all suddenly; the two-ton unicorn road pizza, the Tinkerbell roommate, the dragon informant, the elf partner, the troll who trained me at the gym, the leprechaun who fixed my shoes last week… I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had any sort of meaningful interaction with an actual human being.

The sausage I’d eaten at the cart was rumbling around in my stomach.  I popped a couple of antacid tabs, rubbed my gut and wondered how long it would be before I could request a transfer out of Exotic Crimes.  Nothing against the elves and fairies and mythical beasties, but after a night like last night I just wanted to deal with normal people again.