Monday, February 9, 2009

Flash Fiction Challenge: One Last Night

Sometimes it seemed like the boys had been put on earth to torment her. She didn't know where they came from or where they went when they tired of their pranks. Today it was white rice in her bird feeders and she hurried to get every last grain out before the light faded. Birds choked on rice. Apparently, the boys were not uneducated.

Of course, none of this would be happening if her husband were still around. Hank had died last fall from long undetected skin cancer that eventually ravaged his body. After surviving two tours of Vietnam and a heart attack, a small brown dot on his lower back finally brought Hank to his knees.

She had been against moving out to the Virginia countryside, preferring something less isolated, but Hank was a quiet man who valued reading alone more than neighborhood dinner parties. It had hardly been a year since that first Friday night. Hank had woken her up when he racked his shotgun at the foot of their bed. “Evelyn, I heard voices outside. Stay here,” he whispered. A moment later she heard the shotgun roar in the night, barely making it to the window in time to see the two boys run into the wall of trees in the backyard. The youngsters left them alone after that but, like a dog smelling weakness, they slowly started again after Hank died.

She spent this night like most others, lying in Hank’s mattress dent, long gone cold, watching the trees sway in the breeze; the insects finally putting her to sleep with their monotonous banter.

* * *

The five high school graduates stood on the edge of the tree line watching the front of the house, known throughout school as an easy mark for late night fun. They’d decided to go on a camping trip out in the woods, drinking warm beer stolen from their fathers’ supply and talking up their latest female conquests. This was the last night they would all be together before each went their separate ways.

Johnny Turner was the real star of the group. Before football had become his life he dreamed of being a doctor, so when every college football coach in the country offered him a scholarship, he shocked some when he chose the University of Virginia. His senior year English teacher, Ms. Robinson, had guided him at every turn, offering advice and support when ever he asked for it.

“What the hell are we doing Derrick?” Johnny asked.

Derrick handed him two rolls of toilet paper and a can of shaving cream. “Loosen the fuck up Mr. Perfect,” he said softly. “What’s so scary about throwing some fucking toilet paper?”

On Derrick’s signal they scattered through the yard, adrenaline coursing through them. Johnny joined in, throwing his toilet paper over a large dogwood in the front yard, wrapping it up like a child’s mummy costume on Halloween. Derrick was spraying “fuck” and “cock” in shaving cream on the car parked in the driveway. They all quickly ran out of toilet paper and ran back to the tree line to admire their work.

“Dude, look at the hairy balls I sprayed on the car,” one of the other boys said as they all quietly laughed.

“JT, I dare you to spray a smiley face on the front door,” Derrick whispered in the dark.

Johnny rushed across the driveway, shaving cream in hand, the high of the adrenaline still with him. He reached the front porch and softly stepped up the five wooden steps to the large oak door. Just as he lifted the shaving cream from his hip, the front door flew open and a brilliant white light engulfed his vision.

* * *

Evelyn Robinson pulled the heavy front door open intending to fire a warning shot that would scare off those damn boys once and for all. Bringing the shotgun up as she rounded the opening door, she was startled by the dark figure standing in front of her. The shotgun blast pushed her back into the dark house as she tripped and fell over the threshold, the gun skittering away across the hard wood floor.

She lifted herself back up and walked slowly back to the front door. She saw a foot in the doorway before she turned the porch lights on. As she stepped through the doorway more of the body came into focus. Suddenly, she stopped, staring at her intruder’s blood spattered high school letter jacket and the name “J. Turner” printed over the left breast pocket. When she recognized the raw and bloodied remains of Johnny Turner’s face, she wailed into the quiet night.

She stumbled back to the foyer and found the shotgun laying next to the coat closet door. Laying her back against the wall, she slowly slid down to the floor. Her hands trembled as she reached for the gun, pumping a round into the chamber. The smell of gunpowder was still strong but the barrel had already cooled when she placed it under her chin, the trigger just barely within reach. She closed her tear filled eyes and saw Hank, waiting.

(This is my submission to the Flash Fiction Challenge started by Patti Abbott, Gerald So, and PowderBurnFlash. I'd like to thank Patti specifically for encouraging me to participate and giving me a paragraph of her own to work with. This is my first finished story since I've started writing earlier this year so any advice, good or bad, would be much appreciated! I had an absolute blast doing this!)

7 comments:

pattinase (abbott) said...

You really made this your own story, Jacob. A really sad one but true to its voice.

WellesFan said...

Nice entry, Jacob. Great tone and I love how you let the reader fill in some blanks for himself/herself.

Keep on writing!

Gerald So said...

Of the stories I've read so far, this one works most seamlessly with its starter paragraph. As WellesFan said, keep writing. :)

sandra seamans said...

You really nailed the story, Jacob! I'll third the notion -- keep writing!

Scott Parker said...

Just getting around to some other stories. Day job.

My favorite line is small but one with huge emotional impact: "lying in Hank’s mattress dent, long gone cold"

The POV shifts are effective. It would have had no poignancy otherwise. Good choice.

Ironically, the ending, while tragic, has an inner lining of happiness to it.

This may be your first finished story but I don't suspect it'll be your last. BTW, how's that novel coming along?

Cormac Brown said...

A well written tragedy.

Paul Brazill said...

This is dark and lovely.

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