The Ties That Bind Us

Zoe felt responsible, and this time it wasn’t just her ingrained catholic guilt. William had been the most straight laced person she knew until she corrupted him. He never would have done it that first time if it hadn’t been for her goading. Now she longed to take it all back.

When William had said he’d do anything for her, she should have told him to stop and think about that first. Instead, she had him prove it with the edgiest taboo she could imagine.

What’s done is done, though, and you can only continue to trudge through the messes you’ve made for yourself.

Now here they were, William and Zoe, in this filthy alley, approaching a seedy, nameless shop. How did William even know about this place?

Stepping through the doorway, Zoe filled with dread, William with anticipation, they were greeted with the smell of marijuana. William wasted no time in tracing it to its source, a greasy, shirtless, long haired dude smoking a joint on a tattered couch. Muscles rippled under densely packed tattoos.

Zoe found a stool in the corner and worked on being invisible while William negotiated the trade of cold hard cash for his new obsession.

She watched his face as the needle entered William’s scarred arm, the initial sting quickly resolving into an expression of pleasure. She couldn’t watch, but she couldn’t not watch. It was both gruesome and fascinating all at once.

Later, she led him glassy eyed from the shop. If only there were some way to make him stop this craziness. It was all because of her. Zoe’s shoulders slumped under the burden she carried. She had ruined William and she would look after him until the bitter end.

Meanwhile, William admired his newest tattoo, the largest one yet of Zoe.

Author’s Note:

This flash piece was written for a contest and it won first place! The prompt was to use the words sting, trade, and stop.

A Man, A Can, A Plan

Myra’s lips pursed and her forehead wrinkled as she watched Ryan kneel and pry the lid off the Behr can with his house key. She wondered what had possessed him to suddenly paint the ceiling. It’s not like those old water stains had appeared yesterday.

“Honey? Don’t you want to cover up the desk first? I think they make big plastic sheets for that.”

“Myra, can’t you just let a man work in peace? I painted houses back in college. I know what I’m doing. Only amateurs use drop cloths.”

“It’s just that – ,” His stern look caused her to stop short of saying that it had been many years since college. It had been just as many since her computer had been new, but it was all she had and she didn’t want paint all over it. Unwilling to watch, Myra turned on her heel and left him to his work.

Ryan thought she’d never leave. As he set about covering the old water spots, he was surprised to find himself perspiring. This was harder than he remembered.

Now it was time for the tricky part. He needed to get some paint on that damned old computer of Myra’s. She complained about it every single day, but she was too frugal to replace anything that still worked. He took a deep breath and held it as he reminded himself; this was all part of my plan. With a quick flick of the wrist, the job was done. Now Myra could get herself a fancy new computer and there would be no more complaining. He smiled to himself while he cleaned up, anticipating the blissful silence.

“I TOLD you to cover it up!” Myra appeared in the doorway, livid.

Ryan, horrified, realized he’d never hear the end of this.

Author’s Note:

This piece was an entry for a Flash Fiction contest. The prompt was “This was all part of my plan.”

I was in the middle of a painting project when I wrote it – could you tell? It’s funny how much real life works its way into these little fiction stories.

Golden Years

What am I going to do with all that zucchini? Hank asked himself as he pulled on his garden gloves. It would be hot later, but this morning the air was cool and dew rested on the plants.

At least the weeds weren’t too bad. He pulled them as he ruminated on his predicament. Last summer, before he retired, he had found himself in the same boat. Back then he just brought the extras to work.

Done weeding, he moved on to harvesting and thought, maybe I need a different hobby. Gardening isn’t much fun without someone to share the bounty with. 

Then he remembered he did have another hobby, the book club. Just two meetings so far, but he met Delores there and she was nice.

Maybe she’d like some zucchini! He would find her number on the book club roster and give her a call. Peeling off his gloves and tossing the dirty ball on top of his harvest, he picked up the basket and headed for the house.

The phone was ringing and he hurried to catch it. “Howdy,” he said, catching his breath.

“Hank? It’s Deloris. From the book club? My garden has been blessed with zucchini this year and I’ve done up a nice basket just for you. When would be a good time for me to bring it over?”

Hank was stunned. There went his plan for all those zucchinis. Then again, chatting with Deloris wasn’t so bad. He kinda liked it, actually. Plus, she thought of him. “Why that’s mighty thoughtful of you. I’m here right now. Hows about you head on over and I’ll put on a pot of coffee.”

“That sounds lovely,” said Deloris.

Hank found himself whistling as he hid his harvest in the garage and put on the coffee.

Author’s Note:

Attentive readers might recognize the bold words from last week’s story, Washed Up. These were both inspired by the same prompt. When I began this one, I was thinking of the recipe for zucchini boats but clearly that was not the story that wanted to be written.

This is the story I entered in the flash fiction contest and, although it didn’t win, I received several positive reviews on it.