Fun With Fiction
I’ve recently written two fun ‘flash fiction’ pieces with specific guidelines.
Completed within 48 hours. 1000 words or less. One assigned genre. One assigned location. One item that must appear in the story.
Genre: Ghost Story Location: A Holding Cell Item: Chopsticks
“I’m gonna need the laces from your boots.”
Barney wobbled, then did a nosedive. “Easy does it.” said Deputy Bill, as he steadied him.
Too drunk to fiddle with laces, Barney kicked off his boots and abandoned them.
Bill noticed Barney’s back pocket. “I’m gonna need those chopsticks too.”
Barney had forgotten about them.
“Come along,” Bill said, helping Barney walk.
The Deputy led the way to the holding cells in the courthouse basement. “County Jail’s full tonight, eh? Not often we get overflow,” Bill added, making small talk for his own benefit.
The Deputy stopped. “In you get.”
Barney stumbled into the cell.
Deputy Bill closed the iron bars, secured the lock and noted Barney’s unsettled condition.
“You probably won’t be alone tonight,” said Bill. Another drunk will likely show up before long or maybe our ghost Reginald, will pay you a visit!”
Deputy Bill’s words didn’t register. Barney’s thoughts were colliding haphazardly in the sea of alcohol inside his head. But when a clear thought emerged, Barney cried out, “Oh, God…my sweet Roberta!”
He curled into the fetal position on the rollaway cot and drifted through varied states of consciousness.
Barney’s blurred vision was unreliable, but he woke feeling certain a figure in black now stood inside the cell.
Adrenaline forced Barney to his feet but drunkenness forced him back down. Shaking his head to clear it had been useless.
Man? Ghost? Feeling fear right down to his bootless feet, Barney yelled, “Oh, God! Are you Reginald?”
“Relax, my son,” he spoke. “The deputy was worried and suggested I sit with you. Are you okay?” the man asked.
Barney was oblivious to the question.
“I didn’t kill Roberta,” Barney shouted. He kept repeating, “I didn’t do it! I didn’t do it!” Rambling in his drunken stupor, Barney declared, “I didn’t do it, Tommy did! Mama, I swear. I didn’t steal no candy, honest.”
Barney remembered Tommy had been furious. “Papa whupped me real good because of you. Why’d you lie, Barney?”
“But I did know,” he confessed to the man in black. “And I did it again. Worked like a charm for me, not so much for Tommy. Trouble started followin’ Tommy after that. Trouble’s what killed him. I knew those guys were comin’ for Tommy but I wasn’t gonna get mixed up in it. Tommy shoulda known.”
The second those words left his mouth, Barney looked terrified by something only he could see and yelled “Tommy! No!” before he passed out.
Barney was still sleeping when he started calling out for Penny; his own voice roused him from sleep. Blurry minded, he slurred in the direction of the man in black.
“Penny spurned me. Showin’ up at that dance with Jimmy. She had it comin’ to her. Always flirtin’ and then shutting me down. She wanted it, so I gave it to her. She shoulda known.”
Barney trembled, released a blood-curdling scream and collapsed again.
The next memory began in silence. The man in black watched Barney turn white as a ghost then Barney backed up as if threatened. “Billy!! It wasn’t my fault!” Barney shouted into the air.
Then, more bravely, ‘You and Bobby were cocky bastards, with your fancy cars and tools, always shovin’ it in my face. I stole your tools, big whoop. You shouldn’t of chased me. Everyone knows, you can’t take that corner fast. You dyin’ and Bobby bein’a vegetable, that ain’t on me. You shoulda known.”
Whatever Barney had seen, disappeared. He looked to the man in black for redemption.
“I’ve done my share of wrong. Yeah, I hurt people. But Roberta. No way! Oh, woah, woah, Roberta!” Barney wailed.
Hours passed and Barney’s thoughts became more lucid.
“They said she was shot. Said it was my gun. I’ve done wrong, but I ain’t no killer.”
“We had a fight. She’s always gettin’ on me about work. Who can find work these days? I wanted to make up, so I took her out for Chinese food. She loves all that rice and noodle stuff. I thought it would make her lay off me a bit. But, she said I was flirtin’ with the waitress and she tore into me real bad, said she was leaving me for real. Roberta needed cooling off, so I went to the bar. I was there all night. Same seat. Never moved,‘cept to take a piss. Then the cops showed up.”
Barney breathed deeply, exhaling his guilty past with the breath. Exhausted, he fell asleep.
In the morning, the cell was empty. Had last night been real or imagined? Either way, Barney was grateful to see the light of day.
Sheriff Willis escorted Barney to the courtroom. As they entered, Barney was surprised to see the man in black again wearing his clerical collar.
Barney was directed to his seat. Everyone was busy, preoccupied as they prepared for court.
Barney felt the gaze before he saw it and shivered when their eyes finally met.
The judge glared down from the bench. Quietly and directly, he spoke so only Barney could hear. “You killed her. You went back to the house, shot her and returned to the bar. Your own lips revealed your crimes. I watched you confess to the priest last night, even though I already knew. I can see your murderous, raping, thieving heart clearly. And, I, Judge R.P. Simpson, eternally dedicated to the pursuit of justice, will not let you escape punishment this time.” Then he mocked, “You shoulda known.”
The judge’s words unleashed the truth. Barney suddenly remembered driving home. He remembered the gun. He remembered the scream. Oh, God. Roberta’s scream. Barney gasped a horrified breath and as it released, his body slumped into the chair.
At that exact moment, all heads turned to the sound of the door opening on the other side of the courtroom.
If he had been alive, Barney would have heard the court clerk say, “All rise. The Honourable Judge Reginald Simpson Junior presiding.”