Rosanna flipped through her submission one last time. She wasn’t reading, merely making sure that the words were still on the pages. She took a deep breath and sealed it up in the addressed envelope before dropping it in the mailbox.
Immediately, she went over the guidelines in her head, as best she remembered them. Which was pretty darn well, since she’d read them a hundred times if she’s read them once. Making it into this publication would be a dream come true.
Was her plot well thought out? Were her characters believable? Would they like her style? Was her story good enough? Was she good enough?
Rosanna made a fist with the hand that rested on her thigh. She closed her eyes and clenched her teeth. She was good enough. Her story was good enough. Her characters, her plot, her style: all good enough. It was going to happen this time.
She picked up a pint of Ben and Jerry’s on the way home to begin her waiting game.
I don’t believe I told you; my second round story, that placed first in the garbage competition in which my first round submission wasn’t entirely believable?
You can read it here.
Today feels like a week. Why can’t the good days feel that way?
I woke up before my alarm this morning with right flank pain. I’ve suffered from kidney stones since I was 21, but almost exclusively in my left kidney. I thought I must have slept wrong, somehow, so I got dressed, kissed Ian goodbye, and went to deliver my papers.
Before I made it to the first shoppette I knew it wasn’t muscular. Ugh. It takes me about an hour to deliver my papers, so I figured I’d suffer through.
Then it got worse, like the one I went to the ER for a little over a year ago. I debated posting on Facebook to see if anyone with a military ID could finish my deliveries, but I only have a small window when all the stores accept deliveries, so I decided against that.
I texted Ian to apologize for not picking up breakfast on my way home and asked him to take me to the ER when I got done.
Finally I finished, probably twenty minutes later than I should have, due to moving slowly and carefully, especially while getting in and out of the car.
Have you ever had kidney stones? I can stand, hunched over, and I can lie down, my body curved, but sitting and bending are the pits.
I got home, and Ian drove me to the hospital. An hour after I signed in, I was triaged by a nurse who thought I was faking. I am a little young and female for kidney stones, but I haven’t had to deal with someone that skeptical since 2001, the first four times I sought treatment. I was really young for them then. But for goodness’ sake, woman, it’s in my chart that you’re looking at on your computer screen! I haven’t been in your ER for years, so how can I be a drug seeker?
We waited. We waited through five ambulances and a helicopter; no one was called back from the packed waiting room. You picked a banner day, kidney. Eventually, things started moving in there.
After over three hours, when everyone who had been there before me had been called back, and some discharged, after several of the people who had shown up after me had been called back, after the stone had at least passed from my kidney and I was in less acute pain, I said screw it, let’s go home.
We went home.
I spent a few hours in bed, and Ian went to work. I took a bit of a nap.
When I got up, I saw that I finally got my judges’ feedback for my first entry in the flash fiction challenge. Guess what’s wrong with my story.
It’s not entirely believable.
No shit. I must have missed that section in the guidelines where it says fiction submissions must be entirely believable.
I’m disgusted with this feedback.
I guess I know not to bother entering my surrealist fiction in their contests again.
But I had beef stew for dinner, and that’s what I wanted. So there’s that.
Oh, and my manager called about thirty minutes ago to see if I could open the other store tomorrow. I declined.
Hopefully, tomorrow I can spend a couple hours catching up on my reading and commenting. And figure out what Ben, Betty, and Shepard have been up to.
Not entirely believable. Jeez.
Since we’re now on round two, I’m sharing my first challenge submission. The assignment was suspense genre, located at a radio station headquarters, and including the object an ice cream scooper. Do leave feedback, please!
Hector sat at his desk and stared at the piles of paperwork before him. Seriously? he thought. Wasn’t technology supposed to clean all of this mess up? He sighed and bent to his work. Running a radio station was more trouble than it was worth sometimes.
A crash sounded from the reception area, followed by another, and another, this one louder than the rest. Hector knit his brow and rose, pushing his chair back. He tried to peek through the blinds over his office window, but the angle was bad. As he walked around his desk to open the door, Barbara burst in, disheveled and crying.
“Barbara?” Hector had never seen her anything but calm, cool, and collected. He reached out to steady her, and she collapsed into his chest, sobbing.
“I don’t know what happened. I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know…” she trailed off into more tears.
Hector was on red alert at this point; he settled Barbara into one of his waiting chairs and set a box of tissues on her lap before edging out of his office with no idea of what to expect.
One of the potted ferns in the lobby was overturned, loose dirt scattered across the carpet like a bizarre, dark constellation. Just a little closer, and I can see if Bev is okay.
Bev was not okay. She was crouched behind the remains of her desk, a portable bar that Hector had found on clearance and liked the look of. The sneer on her face was directed at a bag from the nearest fast food joint.
Hector was becoming more and more confused and less and less sure of himself, as a station owner, and as a judge of character. He’d personally done all the hiring. But really, nobody has a handbook for employees who’ve become unhinged by their cheeseburger. At least she doesn’t have a gun. He hoped.
Bev didn’t have a gun. When Hector’s toe nudged a pen, the noise startled her into looking up at him. She brandished her weapon, an ice cream scooper.
An ice cream scooper? I’m getting back into insurance when this is all over, thought Hector.
The sudden, blaring da-da-da of the phone off the hook broke the silence in the room.
“Bev, everything all right in here? “ Hector asked, more timidly than he intended. “I see the fern fell over. You okay?”
“It’s not okay at all!” Bev was screaming, and tightened her crouch, becoming nearly fetal. “Look at this mess!”
Hector was relieved that she was no longer pointing the ice cream scooper at him, but he was in no way comfortable with the direction this confrontation was heading. If Barbara hadn’t made this mess, and Hector would never assume that she had, the only person left out here was Bev. He turned his head to look through the glass to the broadcast room. The lunchtime DJ, Randy, put his hands up and slowly shook his head as if to say I don’t know a thing.
The blinds were closed to the remaining office, so Hector had no way of knowing what was going on with Steve, his ad manager. He turned his focus back on Bev.
Palms out and eyebrows raised in reassurance, he took his time kneeling amidst the wreckage in front of Bev.
“I see the mess, Bev, and we’ll take care of it. Don’t worry. Why don’t you go ahead and take the rest of the day. It’s Thursday already, so just take a long weekend, okay? I’ll get this cleaned up and back how it was and—“
Bev leapt from the floor, uncurling like a cat, pouncing on Hector and knocking him to the ground. She wrapped her left hand around his throat and dug her claws in as she held the ice cream scooper to his eye socket and hissed wordlessly in anger.
Randy double-checked the lock on his door.
Hector’s first instinct was to bat away the weapon as his knee went for her crotch. The knee didn’t have any effect on Bev, but her attention followed her ice cream scooper as it flew into the one and only gold record on display, something Hector had picked up secondhand and spray-painted. The glass shattered raining shards onto the still-vertical potted fern.
Bev cocked her head as if reading the matrix in the reflected fluorescent light. When Hector saw that she was distracted, he pushed her to the left, pinning her underneath his greater weight.
He looked down, and the crazed light went out of Bev’s eyes, and she seemed completely normal again as she apologized.
“Hector, I’m so sorry.”
He was opening his mouth to reassure her one last time as she grabbed a chunk of glass, slicing her palm to the bone, and slit his throat. As his blood washed over her, Bev laughed. Hector slumped to the ground beside her, his eyes already glazed in death.
Randy looked on in horror.
Bev wriggled from underneath Hector’s corpse and dropped the piece of glass she had murdered with. She took two steps to retrieve her ice cream scooper.
When the police showed up, ninety seconds later, she pointed the scooper at them, whispering “Bang!”
Randy ducked, fearing the worst, but the first officer in identified her weapon as a mostly harmless dessert utensil and quickly disarmed her.
As they cuffed her and walked her to the cruiser, Steve exited the bathroom after flushing the remainder of the LSD he had put into Bev’s cheeseburger and hour before.
“You should have given me that raise,” he whispered toward Hector’s body. “I didn’t know this would happen, but it’s been so much more enjoyable than what I imagined.”