by Dana Starr
I spend hella amounts of time on a Facebook page called Ninja Writers. It's an interesting page full of writing prompts and contests. I decided to put some of my Ninja Writers stories in this space. Most of my stories are flash fiction. I have a defined amount of time to finish each story that can range from 15 minutes to several hours, but I always finish flash fiction in one sitting, excluding bathroom breaks.
Less than 1,000 words
Finish in one sitting
Prompt: major character gets $1,000
It Takes One to Know One
Grime is thick on the windshield; Kenny can hardly see through it. The scent in the car is heavy with stale cigarette smoke, ripe body odor, failure, and desperation. There’s no more drugs; there’s no more money; there’s no more gas. Kenny’s not going anywhere. That’s the understatement of the century.
Peering through the filth, he notices the old man leave the store across the street. Weaving in between the cars parked in front of the store, the old man almost drops the sack he’s carrying. Kenny’s heart speeds up at the thought of what might be in the sack. It’s not meth, but he’s sure it’ll be something to take the edge off. He continues to watch the old man from the front seat of his car, which has also been his home for the past three months. He can tell by looking that the man isn’t in much better shape than he is. It takes one to know one, he figures.
The old man settles himself on the ground next to the dumpster on the side of the store. He doesn’t even bother removing the bottle from the sack before he takes the first swallow of whiskey. The burn down his throat gives him instant relief, but that’s not good enough; he’s seeking oblivion. Before he can take another swallow of relief, he sees Kenny approach. Reaching under the dumpster, he pulls out an old, wooden baseball bat, but it’s too late. Before he’s able to brandish it, Kenny is looming over him. The whiskey ain’t worth dying over; the old man simply holds the sack out to the young man and says, “Go ahead and take it. You look like you need it more than I do.” They make eye contact for just a few seconds before Kenny snatches the offering out of the gnarled hand extended to him, but it’s long enough for him to clearly see his future in the old man’s eyes.
Back in his home on wheels, Kenny locks the doors in case the old man decides to come calling. He anxiously pulls the bottle out of the sack, and uses the dirty sleeve of his shirt to wipe the top of it before he puts it in his mouth. The irony is not lost on him. He’s shared needles with strangers, but he doesn’t want to drink after the old man. That’s his last coherent thought of the night before he sinks into oblivion.
The sun shining through the grit on the windshield wakes him. He’s thirsty, but there’s no liquid left in the bottle. The sack is in his lap; he brushes it aside, and a scratch off lottery ticket falls out. Using his dirty thumbnail, he starts scratching the ticket, but it’s not effective. Searching in the debris on the floor of the vehicle, he finds a penny and uses the edge of it to scratch the ticket. He’s scratched three baseball bats off the home run ticket before he notices that the dollar amount under two of the bats is $1000. There’s one bat left. He takes a deep breath and scratches, uncovering the amount of $1000. His head is pounding too hard to actually read the fine print on the ticket, but he’s pretty sure he’s holding a thousand dollars in his hand.
Before he can walk across the street to the store to verify the ticket, he’s already spent the money in his mind. This kind of cash will enable him to buy enough meth to feel human again; he could even sell a little to get back on his feet. Inside the store, people step away from him because of the way he looks and smells. He couldn’t care less.
His mind is on the money in his pocket, and the meth that will be in his vein just as quick as he can pump gas into the tank of his car and track his dealer down. When the tank is full, he replaces the hose in the gas pump, and glances up to see a little girl with a dirty face holding the hand of a gaunt woman trying to talk to a middle-aged couple getting out of their car in the parking lot. Kenny watches as the couple steps away from the pair because of the way they look and smell. As the two approach him, he hears the little girl say, “Mommy, I’m hungry.”
He can tell by looking at the woman that she isn’t in much better shape than he is. After all, it takes one to know one. They make eye contact for just a few seconds before Kenny reaches in his pocket, pulls out a twenty-dollar bill, and extends it to the woman. He says, “Go ahead and take it. You look like you need it more than I do.”
He continues to watch them as they enter the store, and he’s glad the little girl will have something to eat. As he drives away, he can still see the haunted look in the old man’s eyes, just like the look in the woman's eyes. Looking in the rearview mirror, he recognizes the look in his own eyes.
Less than 1,000 words
Finish in 15 minutes
Prompt: write whatever you want
Sheila accidentally hits an errant button while cruising Facebook. Why did that happen? It was an accident; it really was. She shouldn’t try to eat and cruise at the same time. Now, she can’t stop staring at the screen, and her soup is getting cold. It’s him. After all these years; it’s him. She hasn't seen his face since she looked in the rearview mirror twenty years ago. Why is her heart beating so fast?
He can’t see her; he has no idea she can see him. He looks older. She does too, if she's being honest. She wonders how he knows Dan Fisher? She can’t even remember how she knows Dan Fisher. He looks very happy, and slightly drunk, in the picture with Dan and three other people. She hopes he is happy. He made her ecstatically happy, until he didn’t. She can’t believe he's still able to make her heart race.
She has typed his name into her computer dozens of times over the years. Not once has anything ever popped up on the screen for her to pursue. Why tonight? Why is he right in front of her with his intelligent eyes just because she hit the wrong key with her pinky finger?
Her husband is talking to her. What did he say? She has to ask him to repeat himself. He wants to know if she wants a glass of tea. No, she doesn't. She wants those four years back. She wants the feelings she felt for four years. No, she can’t go back to that. She can’t live for the elusive ecstasy and the soul-crushing despair that kept her heart beating for four long years. But, she wants to. God, she really wants to.
Can she just go back to eating her soup? No, she has lost her appetite. She has also lost her heart, again.