[NPR’s All Things Considered is doing this brilliant flash fiction bit, asking writers to send in stories that can be read in under three minutes and which are based on a given prompt. Round Three’s stories were inspired by a photo. I entered Round Four with the story below which was really fun to write. I’m hoping they keep these little competitions up. The requirement for Round Four stories: they must include the words ‘plant’, ‘fly’, ‘trick’ and ‘button’. Read NPR’s winner here. Or just read my bit below. I swear it will take you no more than three minutes.]
I Saw It Twice
I was sixteen and hanging from pulleys when I saw it for the first time. I was wearing my momma’s old wrinkled cotton sheets; she bought me a bunch of rope at Home Depot to tie around it like a toga. I was wearing the same sandals Reese Witherspoon wore in Teen Vogue. Really strappy black ones with thin soles.
Jess had just shot Billy in front of his entire family. Billy was trying to play dead and sucking at it, and Jess was waving her gun like her arm was a metronome. Everybody else on stage was screaming at each other. I was hanging up there in the flies, nervous as hell, really. I just kept saying my lines, hanging there trying not to kick the lights and curtain ropes and then wondering what was going wrong that Heather, our stage manager, was climbing the ladder to the fly floors. All the sudden, she just blasted up the backstage wall. Then my nerves were completely shot, thought I was going to fall and die or something, so I flailed my arms trying to grab my harness’s rope, looking for some place to hold on.
I kicked some flaps on one hanging light, and Heather whispered all angry, “Deena!” I looked over in time to see her swung around and miming self-decapitation, but sweeping her fingers made her catch the wire on her headphones and pull them right off her head. Now, it was only an a couple of inches, but I swear the headphones were too far for her to catch them. She sucked them right out of the air and into her palm. It wasn’t until my feet were planted on the stage floor and Jackie was feeding me lines like “What the hell are you doing here? Tell me or I’ll shoot you!”, that I realized I still had to say my monologue. But it went great, and Todd Billford told me I looked good with all that make-up on.
I saw her do it again last year in the Dairy Queen parking lot. When Billy used to work there we’d go and wait ‘til close and he’d make us Blizzards. So this time, Heather brought Todd along. I heard he took her virginity just that week, but I don’t even know how ‘cause she’s way too short for him and plus their kids would look all swedish but with Jew noses. They walked up, and Todd’s friend Jim told him that he’d learned a new trick and didn’t he want to see it. Jim was a year younger than us, and his dad had just given him that rusty old F150. He handed Heather his Blizzard and jumped into the truck with Todd and then blasted to the end of the parking lot. When he whipped around, you could here the tires screeching. He was doing a donut right there under the street light, but then my other friend Lisa yelled at him, “There’s a cat!” And everybody looked at the cat except me. I looked at Heather, and I saw her twitch her eyes to the right and she shook the Blizzard that way, too. Then I looked back at the cat. Everyone says it jumped out of the way, but I know Heather picked it up and flung it 12 feet into the grass.
That’s why I’m saying this officer. You gotta believe me. That button didn’t just jump into Todd’s throat. He’s dead ‘cause Heather threw it in there with her mind.