Friday Flash Entries October 20 Keyword: initial

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Here are the five entries for the October 20th “Friday Flash” fiction competition using the keyword initial. The entries are posted in the order they were received. Each is no longer than 350 words.

To vote for an entry, send an email to gem4sixers@gmail.com. Include the number of the entry in the subject line.

All voting ends Wednesday, October 25 at 8 a.m. (GMC-5). Winners will be announced around lunchtime.

Please vote for one story only, and if you are one of the contestants this week, I only ask you don’t vote for your own piece.

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#1 — The October 20th Friday Flash Winner

The Last American in Baghdad

by Jerry Kalman

Edwards looked like a TV anchor. Coiffed salt and pepper hair, bright shiny teeth. While the fourteen-year-old prostitute practiced her craft, neither spoke. His sculpted chin pointed out the window. When she finished he flicked make-up off his pants and thrust a wad of money at her.

Overhead, the thunk-thunk-thunk of Coalition helicopters.

“Gotta go Marta. My ride awaits me,” Edwards said.

“I do you again?”

“No, Marta.” He glanced through the glassless window to the street below. The flash of light from a roadside bomb just disintegrated his Humvee. The shockwave threw both back onto the sooty grease-stained mattress she used.

“You want more now? Eh?”

“No, Marta,” Edwards said and pushed her away. He chipped a nail. That bothered him.

She pouted. A tear ran down her cheek.

He muttered: “Father’s initial assignment, the Fall of Saigon. Forty years later I’m doing likewise in Baghdad.” He pulled a camcorder out of his pack, recorded the bloodied debris of his HumVee, and then aimed the lens at him.

He made sure Marta remained huddled in the corner out of view and intoned: “Ross W. Edwards in Baghdad. Outside, chaos as Coalition troops withdraw. Our vehicle was just destroyed by an IED. Soon I join the caravan of Iraqi officials seeking asylum in Kuwait.”

Dramatic pause. Calm. He leaned into the camera: “We don’t know if the sheikhs will grant them asylum, though, so soon after the First Gulf War.”

He looked over his shoulder to the scene below. “Insurgents race through the streets firing automatic rifles in the air.”

Helicopters overhead again. He stopped and feigned an anxious glance upward. “A once proud jewel of the Middle East returns to the Middle Ages,” and with a smug look, “I like that, don’t edit it out.”

In the rubble-strewn hallway, he heard excited Arabic voices. Edwards held out his press badge off camera while he spoke: “Ross W. Edwards, live from Baghdad.”

A scimitar flashed. The camera fell to the floor to reveal Marta’s bloody body at sandaled feet. Off-camera, an accented voice added: “Ross Edwards, dead in Baghdad.”

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#2

In the Doghouse

I can’t believe I did it again.

It’s always exactly the same. Someone knocks on my door, I invite them in for coffee, we get to talking, we start to flirt, I make a mental note of the length of her skirt, I skooch my armchair across the tile floor, she leans over a bit, but not enough to give anything away, I put on my “I’m interested in what your saying” face, she gives a coy sideways glance, I loosen my tie, she crosses her legs and flings her hair over her shoulder, I move my seat even closer and stealthily switch to my “I can bench press 300 pounds” face, she puts her hand on my knee… I mean, c’mon! You can cut the sexual tension with a knife! And that smile, my God! That smile! That “you’re the one I’ve been waiting for” smile, that “if you don’t make a move right now you’ll be sorry” smile. She’s begging me!

This is the exact moment when I bust out the “whatever you want, just ask me because I would so go there” face, and she is hooked! So just as I stand up and move towards her to take her, panting, into my strong and protective arms, BAM! Out comes the contract. It’s a signature here, an initial there, 16 quick numbers and an expiration date and she’s out of my life forever.

Every damn time. First it was the Cutco knife set, then a gross of Tupperware containers, the deluxe Comcast cable package, the Miracle stain remover, that tart of a girl scout with her damn cookies! And what the hell am I supposed to do with 23 subscriptions to Reader’s Digest?

And now this! How am I supposed to explain a luxury yacht parked in our front yard?

I can already picture her face. My wife has made an art of the “don’t even try to get out of this one” face, followed by the “guess who’s sleeping on the couch tonight” face.

I’ll have to brush up on my “it’ll never happen again” face.

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#3

Ongoing

My earliest memories of my grandfather, the noted biologist B. Charles Daniel, were of him telling war stories. All his stories revolved around the battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War. It was his hobby, I suppose, as the Civil War was decades before his time. But he told his stories with incredible detail, and they were always in first person. It never failed to put us in the action. By the time I was ten, I knew as much about the struggle for Little Round Top as any reenactor, yet my grandfather never participated as one, as far as I knew.

Occasionally, someone would ask him what his first initial “B” stood for. He would reply with a gentle smile, “What do you think it stands for?” and after a few moments, change the subject. Asking my mother—his daughter—was also no help as she simply said she didn’t know. I began to suspect it was rather like the “S” in Harry S. Truman; it didn’t stand for anything.

Shortly before he died, my grandfather received the Nobel Prize for his work in linking bioluminescent markers to other genes in order to passively study biological processes. I don’t understand most of that sentence, but evidently it was important work.

But time moves on and the impressive accomplishments of the long deceased are forgotten under the weight of more important things. My logistics supply company has gone through many personnel changes recently. As president, I was struggling to fill the gaps.

One young man, C. Dan Ellsworth, looked bright enough on paper. But there was one thing on his resume that stuck out, to me in particular. He claimed to have won the Nobel Prize—in some sort of biochemistry, no less. Why someone would pad their resume with such an easily disproved point, I have no idea. My HR manager told me that when she asked him about it, he replied, “That was an earlier time.” I’m much too busy a man for this sort of nonsense. Needless to say, he wasn’t hired.

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#4

Skirting the Issue

I glanced at the resin clock on the vanity: 6:55. He was due in five minutes. Lightly, ever so lightly, I tapped my thumbnail with my ring finger to see if my fingernails had hardened. Not dry yet, and I had to zip up my skirt.

In quick puffs, I blew on my fingers then waved my hands in the air with more fury than a hummingbird beats its wing. With forefingers only, I pulled the back of the skirt to the front, gently pulling the zipper closed.

Thankfully I had inserted the belly ring before I realized my polish needed a touch-up.

I hadn’t seen Kent since our ten-year class reunion. When he called a month ago to say he would be coming to Long Island for the weekend without his wife, I said, “Of course, you should come.”

It had been five years. We had much to talk about.

I hoped not to spend all our time together in conversation. Tonight I banked on my Chanel No. 5 and lace-edged camisole to generate a little…pillow talk.

I took one last look in the full-length mirror. Before I could determine whether the nails had dried, the doorbell sounded. I breathed in and out deeply to still my heart, glided to the door, and threw it open.

“Hello, Kent,” I purred.

He stood speechless, motionless, for a long minute, eyeing the silver hoop with the rhinestone charm dangling from my navel.

I swirled around, showing him a hint of thigh high stockings and a black garter belt.

Still he was silent.

“What do you think?”

“My initial impression–,” Kent cleared his throat. “Sorry. My initial impression is…you looked better as a man, Mark.”

“Markie,” I corrected him.

“What?”

“It’s Markie now. Like Markie Post from Night Court?”

“The busty babe, right? You got bazooms like her now, too?”

“Not exactly.” I took the six-pack from his hands. “So what do you want to watch, Kent? World Series or the Rangers?” I asked, kicking off the Ferragamo heels, popping the top on a Bud Lite.

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#5

The Cold Haven

She shivered and wrapped her arms around herself, as if doing so would make her feel warmer. The day had begun well enough. It had been nice and toasty just a few hours earlier; a welcome change from the bitter cold of the past few days. In fact, it was so nice she decided to play hooky—just this once—from work, to just go out and enjoy the weather.

But by the time she got to the woods, one of her favorite haunts, it had gotten chillier and the wind was starting to bite. “What a bummer,” she muttered. “And I didn’t bring a jacket!”

Still, the beauty and tranquility of the place soothed her. Whenever she was here, she felt a sense of comfort that she couldn’t describe. It was like she was in her own little world. She had spent many hours on various occasions in this secluded place, but it didn’t look like she was going to be able to do that today. “Goodbye, my lovely haven,” she murmured regretfully as she patted the robust trunk of the tree she had been leaning against. “I’ll come back again, I promise.”

“If the trees could talk, they’d ask you not to leave so soon.”

She whirled around in surprise. Her eyes took in the man standing a few feet away from her. He was tall, with dark, curly hair, and a few days’ worth of stubble on his jaw. But what she noticed most (and set her at ease) were his eyes—they were twinkling with good humor.

She sighed.

The memory of that initial meeting almost twenty years ago had always remained fresh in her mind. With a flick of her wrist she opened the urn she was holding and gave it a little shake. “Goodbye, my love,” she whispered, watching through tear-filled eyes as her husband’s ashes were lifted by the wind and scattered among the trees in the very same woods where they had first met. It was still cold. Except now it seemed much colder.

 

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