Friday, December 11, 2009

The Choice of a Lifetime -- flash fiction

Maggie wandered listlessly from room to room. Mr. Smooshy gathered cat hair and dust bunnies in his fur as she dragged him along behind her.

Denise peered through the window across the alley and saw the neglected toddler roaming around the empty apartment again. She had on the same grungy footie pajamas as yesterday only today she was holding a sippy cup in one hand and dragging a stuffed toy around behind her with the other. She looked awful. Her skin was blotchy and dull and her hair stood out around her head like a dandelion seed pressed into service as a depository for bits of lint and what looked like leaves. Denise wished again that she had binoculars. She'd love to be able to look closer at the notes and things stuck all over the refrigerator. There was bound to be a phone number for a relative or a babysitter on the refrigerator. Who leaves a child alone like that without a babysitter?

"There she is again all by herself in the apartment. I'm going to call the police or child services and this time you're not talking me out of it Fred." Denise looked over at Fred on his perch. His beady parrot eyes gleamed back at her. "Where's my purse? Where's my purse?" he squawked.

"I know that I'm too soft hearted. But this isn't like the hurt pigeon that the cops wouldn't come to rescue from the window ledge, this is a child. A child who needs assistance."

Denise picked up the phone to dial 911 but then she remembered the dispatcher telling her in a rather sharp voice that she should only call if it was a life threatening emergency. She put the phone back in the cradle and wondered how she'd know. She had thought that the pigeon's life was threatened and therefore it was a life threatening emergency, but the dispatcher hadn't seen it that way.

Denise made up her mind. She removed her indoor sweater, hung it neatly on a padded hanger in the closet and took her outdoor sweater off the hook by the door. She inserted her spindly arms and counted all eight buttons neatly shut. She stood a moment running her arms over the soft familiar fabric while taking deep calming breaths to steady her nerves. When she was ready, or as ready as she'd ever be, she undid the bolts, opened the door and stepped out into the world.

Maggie was so very hungry. She could feel the lady across the alley staring. She willed her to come. She took a sip from the sippy cup and made herself look even smaller and more pitiful. She looked down at Mr. Smooshy. Nothing could make Mr. Smooshy look more pitiful. After all, what's more pitiful than a dead cat? He hadn't suffered. None of them ever suffered. Maggie made sure of that. She hoped the lady made up her mind soon because she was so very hungry. She was so very hungry and it had been days since she'd fed.



The link to this week's 60 #fridayflash stories at Mad Utopia


The Choice of a Lifetime also appears HERE at WEIRDYEAR a very cool online magazine published by the very cool E.S. Wynn.

48 comments:

Laura Eno said...

I love this! I didn't see that twist coming at all. Poor Denise, only wanting to help. Who will take care of Fred now?

J. M. Strother said...

Yikes!

Did not see that coming at all. I suppose even monsters start out small. :)

This is a Great one, Karen.

Al Bruno III said...

Well done!

Anton Gully said...

Fred's next.

Creepy!

peggy said...

you got me

mazzz_in_Leeds said...

haha, excellent twist :)
I find little girls terrifying, I thnk they make great monsters!

jaredbranch said...

This story would have been good with a twist. I always assume little girls are going to eat me :)

Oh, and Maggie? Mr. Smithers? Were you watching an episode of a Simpson's Halloween Special while writing this? ;)

Karen from Mentor said...

Oh that's funny Jared, I've never seen the Simpsons, I must have plucked these two names from the collective social consciousness through a process of television osmosis or something.....

[goes off to rub her jaw after spouting that mouthful]

Karen from Mentor said...

I'm the same way about mimes Mazz
:0)

David said...

Spooky... skin crawling... ewww...

I loved the line: "like a dandelion seed pressed into service as a depository for bits of lint and what looked like leaves".

Marisa Birns said...

There I was, feeling so sorry for the little darling when...

Truly did not second guess twist. I thought, maybe, Fred might do something, heh.

But at least the little girl doesn't let her victims suffer. There's a comfort, no?

Spooky, scary, and very good!

Jim_Wisneski said...

Very nice. . . creepy. . .

Jim

Linda said...

This has such a Chucky feel to it - wonderfully evil. But Denise will only be an appetizer, just spindly arms and all! Peace, Linda

Kris said...

Wow! Kind of makes me think of the time I found a lost kid in a Kmart, and helped him to the service desk to page his mom. I didn't realize it at the time, but I guess I was really taking my life into my own hands! Never again!

I loved the twist! You go, girl!

Karen from Mentor said...

Thanks Kris...glad the kid didn't kill you off... the world would have been a less fun place.
:0)

Lol Linda.....never seen Chucky either...thank you for the "wonderfully evil"

Glad you liked it Jim...thanks for stopping in.

Karen from Mentor said...

I'm glad that you let me lead you down the gentle sloping path Marisa. :0)

I told a friend that this story almost reads like literary fiction....right up to the point where it doesn't...lol

Karen from Mentor said...

@ Laura and Anton.... hmmm...Anton's guess would take care of the Fred dilemma.

But I actually hope that someone nice adopts him and IMMEDIATELY moves away.
:0)

Karen from Mentor said...

Thanks so much Jon, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

I deliberately left off the category when I put the story into the collector cause I didn't want to tip my hand.

Now I'm glad I did.

Thanks for stopping in.
Karen :0)

Karen from Mentor said...

Thanks Al!

Glad to get you Peggy. :0)

And David? How do you consistently pick my own favorite line out of a story? REALLY enjoyed the spooky...skin crawling...ewwww. lol

Thanks for stopping in guys.

elizabethditty said...

Ha, nice twist. :-) Very "Snow, Glass, Apples" or LET THE RIGHT ONE IN-esque. Well done.

Rachel said...

At least she doesn't put their head on a jack-in-the-box and then send them away to the cornfield.

I like it! It looks very nice and professional on Weird Year too.

Karen from Mentor said...

Yes! A Twilight zone reference! I loved that episode Rachel.
And you're right she doesn't do either of those things...but the bodies ARE stacking up in the bedroom like cordwood.

I love the look of Weirdyear.
There are a LOT of amazing stories over there in the archives.

Thanks for taking the time to visit my story in both places.

hugs honey!

Karen from Mentor said...

Hey thanks Elizabeth. I had to look up "snow,glass,apples".... I STILL haven't read any Neil Gaiman... gotta do that...very remiss of me cause people keep suggesting him to me as someone I'd love to read.
:0)

~Tim said...

Great twist. Very creepy. I like this one a lot.

jdanetyler said...

Great story. Love that closing. The shifting PsOV sort of threw me initially, but I loved the bookend of the child's POV.

Nevertheless, a very cool story, congrats on being published! Bravo.

Karen from Mentor said...

Thanks Dane. Glad you liked it. And having a bunch of stuff starting to appear in mags all at once is pretty cool. I actually feel like a bona fide writer lol

Hey Tim thanks for stopping in. I liked your little quick slick offering today too.

Karen :0)

Deanna Schrayer said...

Wow! What a super ending Karen. Poor Denise, just wanting to help. This is probably what will end up happening to me. :)
Great work!

Cat Connor said...

Your mind is a scary scary place! I love it. :-)

Chance said...

Another reason why little people should have a big label accross their head saying "EVIL!"

Good Stuff

estrella05azul said...

That's an ending with a twist! Great story, like always honey :)
Now I might reconsider being so darn helpful :P

It looks great over at Weirdyear too!

harmzie said...

Yikes. Some days I feel like I've got three Maggies. Way to serve up that comfort food! ;-)
Love it.

Karen from Mentor said...

LOL Harmzie glad you enjoyed it.

And not to worry since your children are humans.....um.....right?
:0)

Karen from Mentor said...

Oh Estrella, don't let Maggie deter you from being helpful...MOST little kids ARE actually little kids and not horrible alien shape shifters in disguise.

Well, as far as I know anyway.[grins at you]

Thanks for stopping in honey.
Karen :0)

Karen from Mentor said...

NOOOOOOOOOOO Deanna! Just don't even goooo there lol.

I knew you'd like this one Ms Connor. It was JUST bloodthirsty enough to appeal to the twisty in you. Thanks for stopping in Cat.

Chance have you had DEALINGS with evil little people? Here, sit down and make yourself comfortable and we'll talk about it.....
:0)

judy said...

Excellent! One of my favorites! I love the little surprises before the big surprises in your stories. Like the fact that Fred is a parrot for instance. I always have this feeling nothing is quite as it seems. Which, of course, is wonderful.

Karen from Mentor said...

So glad you liked it Judy. Thanks for coming in to visit with a "wonderful" in your pocket.

The funny thing is the phrase that Fred squawks is what a friend's budgie used to say all the time. But there's no other resemblance to the friend and Denise.
:0)

Chadwick said...

Simply a great story. I liked the end, but I LOVED the subtle 'boy who cried wolf' dilemma for Denise.

I had cat trauma in my Friday Flash too!

Dana said...

Ooo -- totally caught by your twist at the end.

I also loved the bit where Denise mulled over her dilemma about the emergency with the pigeon.

Sam said...

Classic! Loved every minute of it. :-)

Iapetus999 said...

That's just wrong.
Stoopid psychic zombie kids >:(

Good job!

Karen from Mentor said...

Oooooooooooo Andrew! Can I PLEEEASE put that phrase on a tee shirt?
[still laughing]

Karen from Mentor said...

Thanks so much Sam and thanks for retweeting my link!
Karen :0)

Amy J Taylor said...

Soooo creepy! The evil children are always the most disturbing part of every horror story! :)

Karen from Mentor said...

@ Chad and Dana...Denise was a lot of fun to imagine. And we all three had death in one form or another in our stories today.

Huh, imagine that...flash with a dark theme... although your death was pretty funny Dana... loved the slapstick....and Chad your cat death was how shall I say it? Tasty? lol....
[and eeew]

Thanks for stopping in guys.
Karen :0)

Karen from Mentor said...

@ Amy
I agree, using something that is assumed innocent as a monster is always a fun set up.
[tangent alert]

hmmm....I wonder if I could write a story with an evil man eating cucumber?
:0)

Eric J. Krause said...

Very cool! Made me go from wanting her to just call 411 so she could get the number for child services to making me want her to just shut her blinds. I guess that's what she gets for trying too hard.

Karen from Mentor said...

"I guess that's what she gets for trying too hard."

Oh man Eric, that's COLD.... lol

Thanks for stopping in!

Karen from Mentor said...

UPDATE WEEKS LATER:

I edited "Mr. Smithers" to "Mr. Smooshy" today because I just saw what Mr. Smithers from the Simpsons looks like.

And just now when I reread the story I could see Maggie dragging him along behind her ....and that image just gave a whole new twist to the story.

Oh even with that image the story would still build to a horrifying conclusion, but maybe a bit off track from where I was going......

hee hee hee
Karen :0)