Bob took a gulp of decaf and spit it right back out. He couldn’t believe it had gone cold already. How long had he been sitting there staring at his laptop? It was time he faced the fact that he was not prepared for this meeting. It was too late to do anything about it now.

He was going to work on the project Friday but he woke up with a scratchy throat. He came in anyway to stay on the good side of his evil boss. No sense in drawing that kind of attention to himself. By noon the bug had hit him full force and he went home early.

The weekend was a total loss as well, not that Bob liked to spend his weekend working. It might have been better than two days spent filling Kleenex with tons of snot and searching the internet for self-care tips. What a way to live.

Fortunately, he was feeling better today. If it weren’t for that meeting, that is. No sense dwelling on it now, of course. What’s done is done. Or not, as the case may be. He would just have to own up to it and face the boss’s wrath.

He reached for the project file and the flashing blue light on his phone caught his eye. He picked it up to plug in his code, knowing he had no time for this. He didn’t want to be unprepared and late, too.

His fingers didn’t talk to his brain first, though. They moved of their own accord. The phone lit up, revealing a terse message. It was Bob’s boss.

“Meeting cancelled. Going home sick.”

Author’s Note:

This was a flash fiction contest entry. The object was to use five words that are different words when spelled backward. I had to do some searching to find words that would work, since I couldn’t come up with any on my own. As soon as I saw tons/snot I knew I had my story. Spit/tips was just icing on the cake.

Break Away

The smell of unwashed adrenaline-filled bodies was overwhelming. Diana suddenly realized she did not want to be there. Searching for a way out, she found that she was in the exact middle of the crowd. She scouted out the best path for a graceful exit, but before she could take a step in that direction the gun went off.

Diana was immediately swept up in the wave of Spandex clad athletes, surging forward. Daggers of doubt stabbed at her self-confidence even as she began to find her pace. It had been so long since she had run. Everyone else was taller, thinner, more athletic. What had made her think she should try this?

A snippet of conversation floated toward her.

“Remember to run the tangents, son. That’s how they measure the course. Don’t make more work for yourself.” Father and child headed toward the inside of the corner, long legs eating up the short course.

Diana had automatically drifted to the outside, subconsciously avoiding the crowd. She clearly sucked at running.

Halfway through the race, she realized that her breathing was even and steady. The nagging voice had fallen silent, replace by cheering strangers lining the course. She spotted a row of children offering high fives and thought, why not?

A flopping iPod cord caught her attention just a few feet ahead. The finish line was in sight and Diana was tired. Still, she wondered if she should try to pass. She went for it. Determined legs pumping, chest heaving, she crossed the finish line a single step ahead of iPod girl.

Making their way to the end of the chute to collect their “finisher” medals, huffing and puffing from the effort, iPod girl turned to say, “Good race!”

“You too,” said Diana. Maybe she belonged here after all.

Author’s Note:

This was a flash fiction contest entry. The prompt for this was to use the words: Gun, Measure, Cord.

Of course, I immediately thought of a crime, as did everyone else who entered the contest, but I wanted to do something different and I’m glad I did. It didn’t win but it stood out nicely from the crowd.

Independent Women

“Let’s go camping,” she suggested, out of nowhere.

“Okay.” Why not, I thought. It was early in the season and still chilly, but we were feeling restless from the long winter spent indoors.

Soon my roommate and I were searching the deepest, darkest corners of every cluttered closet in search of enough second-hand gear to get us through the trip. Food wasn’t a problem, since we didn’t eat back then. Our nutritional requirements were simply graham crackers, marshmallows, and a chocolate bar or two. Camping essentials.

Using our Tetris skills, we maneuvered our supplies into what was left of the trunk. An impressive sub-woofer already claimed much of that real estate. Task complete, we cranked up the stereo in her little red Celica, pulled away from the curb, and left our dreary brown rental house behind.

We were heading off to play at Mount Rainier, but our adventure really began when we left the house. This would be a unique adventure for us. Usually we were part of a larger group with children or boys or parents. This time we were independent women. We took our time and enjoyed the ride. We found a convenience store along the way where we spent most of our cash on a bundle of firewood and a couple of bottles of Boone’s Farm, sangria flavor. The last of the necessities.

Heavy metal music exploded from the speakers as we rolled over the curving mountain roads watching the trees go by. With no cars and no buildings in sight, it seemed we had the entire world to ourselves. We amused ourselves on the journey by laughing at the unfortunate graphics on the “Watch for Falling Rocks” signs, pulling over to check out the teeniest tiniest wild strawberries, and endlessly repeating our inside joke, “Shut up and look at the trees!”

We had no specific campground in mind, just something cheap with available sites. We cruised right by the first few we came across, assuming they were full and/or expensive. We continued down the highway looking for something a little more remote, thinking our chances of finding a campsite would be better.

“It just occurred to me that nobody knows where I am right now,” she said when Trent Reznor paused for a breath between songs.

“Huh. Same here. We can call once we know where we’re staying.” I wasn’t too worried about it. We both had cell phones.

The trees scrolled by on either side and the music raged on as our search continued. There was no hurry. I had never been this far down the road before and it felt like we were circling the mountain with a subtle but continuous left turn. As I was enjoying the scenery, deer began to appear between the woods and the highway. We idly speculated why there were suddenly so many of them as we began to count the sightings. Eventually we realized the approaching dusk was bringing them out to feed. We needed to find a place to spend the night soon or we’d be caught in the dark.

We pulled into the next campground, the signage so subtle we almost missed the turn. Gravel crunched under the tires as we made our way deeper into the campground and found the registration box. For ten bucks we could set up camp. A quick scan left and right revealed no signs of human life, only deer. This was probably the most peaceful spot on the whole mountain. We had found the perfect accommodations.

The light continued to fade as we selected a level grassy site near the river. I erected the tent, pleased to find that we had brought all the correct poles. We briefly scavenged for kindling, then wadded up pages from a Little Nickel paper for fuel. She built the fire using a tepee method she had learned when she was a Campfire Girl. The technique worked beautifully and the fire caught on the first try.

With our chores now complete, all that was left for us to do was relax by the fire, admiring our work. It’s empowering to be self-sufficient. We had all our needs covered, no men required. Licking melted marshmallow from our slightly grubby fingers and sipping Boone’s apple wine, we watched darkness fall. Everything had come together perfectly for this impromptu adventure.

The sound of moving gravel intruded on our silence as another car rolled into camp. It must have been close to ten o’clock by then. There were plenty of sites available, but I did not envy them trying to set up camp in the dark.

It was time to turn in, so I took the flashlight and went in search of an outhouse. I found one not too far away and the soft glow of our fire led me back to our campsite.

“Did you notice anyone else come in?” she asked.

“Just that one car. Why?” The only sound was the flowing river. She would have heard a car come in just as clearly as I would. We both knew no one would arrive here on foot.

“That poor guy is supposed to meet his girlfriend out here, but he had trouble finding it. He thought she would be here already. He tried to call her but his battery is dead so he came over to see if he could borrow a phone. I checked mine but there was no signal out here. I checked yours too. Nothing.”

“That’s right, we were going to call when got here! I totally forgot.”

“Yeah, that’s what I told him. We were so busy setting up camp before dark that we forgot to call anyone. I guess we couldn’t have anyway, because of the signal.”

I couldn’t believe what I just heard.

“Let me get this straight. In the five minutes I was away, a strange man drove into this remote campground with an unlikely story about meeting someone and you told him that we were here alone, nobody knows where we are, and our phones don’t work? Tell me you’re kidding.”

“Oh, I didn’t think of it like that. I guess I did.”

We had both seen more than enough horror movies to know how this would end. We were going to die here. She had always fantasized about getting eaten by a bear, while I had assumed I would be murdered by my ex-husband. Neither of us had ever seriously considered meeting our end in the axe-murderer scenario which we now faced.

There was no sense in wasting supplies, so we finished off the Boone’s as we silently contemplated our fate in front of the dying fire. Later, cowering in the tent while waiting to be murdered, I wondered if maybe the deer would come to our aid. With no personal experience to draw from, we could only speculate about the attack to come. Would he charge the tent with a sharp object? A blunt object? The peaceful meadow we had chosen to pitch the tent in would muffle his footsteps. Perhaps it wouldn’t be like that at all. Maybe he would attack us one by one as we ventured to the outhouse. There were so many possibilities. I no longer felt empowered and self-sufficient. It suddenly didn’t seem like such a bad idea to bring a man along, even if we didn’t technically need him for anything.

Silence, but for the gentle sound of the river flowing behind us. We laid awake as minutes stretched endlessly into the night. Then came the sound of crunching gravel carried across the stillness. A new car was making its way slowly through the campground. It passed our tent, then came to a stop. A single car door opened then closed. We heard friendly sounding voices, one female.

It was hard to believe, but our stranger’s far-fetched story must have been true after all! We could finally drift to sleep, comforted by the knowledge that we would live to see another sunrise.

Unless, of course, we got eaten by a bear.

New Diet

Hunger pangs were attacking me full force by the time I left the office. I was taking a late break in order to avoid the lunch rush at the post office. Hubs and I had been traveling and I needed to pick up our held mail. It seemed like a clever strategy until I saw the parking lot. I was eventually able to find a parking spot and took my place at the end of the line.

As I began to ease myself into the zombie-like mindset that’s required for survival in such situations, my eyes took in my surroundings. Three clerks were each busy attending to customers at the counter. Another dozen assorted bodies stood in a zigzag fashion, each silently waiting for their chance to advance three feet.

Miraculously, I caught the eye of a roaming clerk who had spotted the pickup tag in my hand. This allowed me to subvert the line, pick up my mail, and stop off at home before rushing back to work. I just needed to drop off my loot and grab some food to take with me back to work. I was starving.

I unlocked the deadbolt and stepped over the threshold just in time to hear an ominous sound. My gaze traveled down the hall, abruptly stopping at a closed door. The office was back there. Also the dog bed. This was not a good sign. The only reason that door would be closed is if Charlie had rolled in a pile of poop at the park again and his dog-walker was trying to contain the mess.

I tossed the pile of junk mail on the couch as I flew through the living room and down the hall to find out the extent of the catastrophe. Charlie stood in front of the recently installed back door contemplating his work. Rays of sunlight shone through the pretty frosted glass, enhancing the shine on the pile of vomit. I tried not to breathe while I opened the door and sent him outside. At first he wouldn’t go, reluctant to pass over the puddle he had created, but he finally  relented.

Next, I dashed to the kitchen for cleaning supplies and then returned to confront the powerful odor of the slimy mess. I cleaned and mopped and then used special biological odor foam to kill anything I had missed. Charlie’s bath would have to wait until later; I needed to get back to work.

Pulling into my parking spot, I realized I wasn’t the least bit hungry anymore.