Posts Tagged ‘ flash ficiton ’

Merry Christmas

From the first moment he saw the sign, he felt aggrieved on their behalf:

“Open Christmas Day 24 Hours.”

He was not overly fond of the holidays. In fact, he mostly resented the days overstuffed with his wife clattering around in the kitchen while he talked to portly second cousins about their peculiar interests–one was especially fond of beach volleyball and always had predictions for the upcoming Olympics.

Yet, this, this was a bridge too far. Fast food workers consigned to laboring all day and night on Christmas!

The plan was cemented in his mind as the brown-toothed woman who always served him his morning McMuffin and McCafe deluxe chanted cheerily, “Merry Christmas” on the 23rd. He had to do some last minute shopping anyway, he thought, finding that perfect something for his wife–the cranberry colored purse she had picked out and put on hold at the mall–so he had ample opportunity to do his own little part to put things right.

He did not explain the package to his wife when he got home. (Perhaps she thought it was something extra for her.) After watching his two children dig, ferret-like, through the glittering vistas of pre-printed snow scenes on the three hundred square yards of wrapping paper his wife had used on their various presents, he excused himself and snuck to the garage. Before his wife could even protest the grinding of the garage door, he was off on his own personal Santa mission.

As he’d feared, there were customers making the employees’ Yuletide drudgery even worse. Seeing the cars in the parking lot made him feel even more righteous about his Christmas errand.

He strolled in with the over-size gift basket under his arm. Pretzels and truffles, cheese and crackers, some peppermint sticks and durable, blackberry scones. A little knot tightened, though, as he approached the counter and faced the bepimpled young man at the register.

“Hello…may I take your order.”

“Actually,” he told the boy. “I don’t need anything. I, um, I actually wanted to give you guys something. I felt bad for you all having to work through the holiday, so…”

“Oh, okay, sir,” the register jockey said, raising his stick-like pasty arm to point. “Thank you, you can leave it with the others.”

“Oth…”

He turned and noticed the cornucopia of pre-packaged and baked goods piled on the largest of the dining tables behind him.

“Um,” he muttered to himself as he nestled his shrink-wrapped care package between a long dish with a fresh fruit cake and a white Merry Christmas bear holding a box of caramel candies.

Confused, he bowed his eyes as he inched away from the pile of gifts and back toward the exit.

“Thank you, sir,” he heard the boy call after him mechanically. “And Merry Christmas.”

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A Question

The wool taste clung to his lips as he felt the vehicle rumble to a stop. Whimpering, he followed the sounds as they moved from the front of the vehicle–the slamming of the driver’s side door–toward the trunk–the rustling of keys just outside the dark space holding him.

The car trunk opened, but he saw no light pressing its way through the hood covering his head.

“Please, please,” he moaned through the fabric.

His captor did not answer, but he felt hands wrap themselves around the upper crooks of his arms, pulling him to his knees in the bed of the trunk and then urging him to extend a leg out of the car and onto the ground outside.

“Please, please,” he said again. “Take my money!”

“No thank you,” the voice outside the hood said. Then the covering was lifted and he saw the man’s face–thin and calm–staring down at him. “I’m not interested in your money. Do you have much?”

“What do you want? Whatever it is, I can–I can give it to you.”

“Good,” the man answered. “That’s what I want.”

“What?!? What do you want? Why am I here?” he said, casting furtive sideways glances at the barren desert shrubs barely visible in the dim light from the bulb on the inside of the open car trunk.

“You’re here for two things–insight and punishment.”

“I don’t understand.”

“First the insight–that one’s for me. The other part’s for you,” the man said, pacing around his back where his hands were bound. “I want to understand what kind of person you are. You mentioned money. Do you have a lot?”

“As much as you want!”

“No, I don’t want anything that’s yours. I just want you to answer me. What do you do for a living?”

“I’m in sales!” he wailed. “That’s all.”

“Interesting.”

“Why are you asking me this stuff?”

“I told you, I want to understand you. Do you ever do things that are deliberately cruel?”

“What?”

“You know, drive around with a scrambler for radar detectors so everyone panics on the road or pull the wings off flies. Anything like that?”

“No, never!”

“Cheat on your taxes?”

“What?”

“Do you cheat on your taxes,” the man said, coming around and standing in front of him again.

“No!”

“No?”

“Well, maybe just–I mean, everyone works the numbers a little bit, you know.”

“I see. If you see an unfortunate event, like someone falling down the stairs, do you snicker to yourself?”

“Snicker?”

“Laugh? Do you take pleasure in the misfortune of others?”

“No, of course not!”

“Sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure. Why? Why are you asking me this? Who are you? What did I ever do to you?”

“Me? You’ve done nothing to me. I just happened to witness your offense and, I’m not sure why but for some reason I just couldn’t let it go. I saw you back there at the theater, in the bathroom as a matter of fact. I was so disgusted by what you’d done that I felt compelled to investigate. Firstly, I just went in and checked the facility to make sure it was in working order. Sure enough, there was nothing wrong with it, so then I just started to wonder.”

“Wonder? Wonder what? I don’t understand. You kidnap me, drag me out here into the middle of nowhere, you say you want answers, but I don’t understand anything you’re talking about!” he screeched into the night.

“I just had to know what, in addition to your complete disregard for other human beings like your fellow patrons and the poor staff members at that establishment, you were like. I just had to know what kind of man would actually leave the stall of a public restroom after a bowel movement like the one you had–and it was a doozy from the looks of it–and not bother to flush,” his captor said. “Now, let’s hurry up and figure that out so we can get to the punishment phase…”