Monday, April 5, 2010

Hollow Pursuits

By Steve Weddle

Jay had the bright idea of running a flash challenge this week -- focusing on crime in the recession.

Seems like a great idea since the economy is poo, etc, etc.

Here's what Jay wrote earlier in the year ->

So this here is a DSD flash fiction challenge. And I’m giving you plenty of run up time on this; lets call the deadline Tuesday, April 6th. Just after we’ve all enjoyed the Easter weekend, that seems somehow fitting.
Let’s have your recession stories. The usual flash rules apply, length no more than 800-900 words (I’m looking at you, Weddle). Write about anything and everything, as long as it’s tied into the theme.

But then a funny thing happened on the way to the challenge. According to Scott's most recent post, the economy is fine. In fact, something like 93 million people lined up for the iPad this weekend. In case you're unfamiliar with the technology, you can use this box to read books. And for only $500. (Price of book not included.)

So I figured the whole bad economy flash thing was dead. Turns out, Jay still plans to go through with it. I guess he had the invitations sent and the contract with the caterer signed.

So here's my shot in this week's alleged-recession flash challenge. Enjoyz. And if you're in, link your entry up in the DSD comments tomorrow. Thanks for reading.

Hollow Pursuits

He was fifth in line at the store in Bethesda. Too far back for the newspaper and TV people to care. The “I Speak 1337” baseball cap and Spider Jerusalem hoodie might have been overkill, but he wanted to be sure he could fit in. And the hoodie was good for hiding what he needed in the big pocket. He took his flask out, had a swig of whiskey, took off his cap and set it aside.
Took his phone out of his pocket. Snapped some more pictures of people in line. Sent them to Jay.

He saw himself in the reflection of the storefront window. Hat-hair sweated down. Plastic, gas station sunglasses hiding his slimy, blurry eyes. Larry Sparrow looked tired. Like that bum he’d given his sandwich to a half-hour ago. His roommate Jay had wrapped him up an egg biscuit, but he’d grabbed a sausage one. One meant for one of the other guys. Since he’d given up meat, there really wasn’t much he could do about it, except be hungry.

A bright voice behind him. “So you’re here for this Jesus tablet, too?”
He turned to see a woman holding a voice recorder, pen behind her ear. Dirty blonde. Green-lensed sunglasses down on her nose. A nice smirky, smile saying maybe she was too good for this. Or thought she was.
He went into his spiel. “Very excited. This is really going to revolutionize everything.”
“What do you plan to use it for?”
Larry did the snorky little nose laugh he’d practiced. “What don’t I plan to use if for. Movies. Music. Reading. Email. It’s like the mother ship is calling me home.”
He wasn’t sure about that last line, but Jay had said throw it in when he could. Added to the act.
“Thanks,” she said. “Your name and where you’re from?”
He told her just like he’d told everyone. “Reginald Barclay. The third. From Endicott, Wisconsin.”
She popped her face back a little in surprise. “Long way from home?”
“Family,” he said, which seemed a good enough answer and hoping she didn’t hear his stomach growl.
“Oh, well OK. Thank you for your time,” she said, walking down the line. Then she stopped, turned back to him. “I hope you get your money’s worth.”
He sent a “thanks” her way and went back to taking pictures and sending them along. He took a shot of her, but clicked “Save” instead.

The store would open in another 30 minutes. His phone made the “Exterminate! Exterminate!” sound to let him know that Jay was sending him a message. He pulled out his phone, read the message, then called, thinking about the reporter he’d just talked to.
How her nose was a little crinkly. Little flecks of gold in her green eyes.
“How many more you gonna get?” Jay asked.
Larry thought about the past three years. The cons they’d pulled. The close calls they’d had. The fifty times in the last week he’d applied for real jobs.
“I’ve pretty much got everyone around here. The program working OK?”
“Yeah, man. Just like they said. Gotta love facial recognition.”
“Welcome to the future,” Larry said, looking around at the people in line. “And the team? Finding the addresses? Houses all cleared?”
“Yeah,” Jay laughed. “We were right. All these geeks in line for that tablet thing. Empty houses full of gadgets. Best idea you ever had.”
Larry was watching the reporter make her way down the line, talking to people and moving on.
“You OK with that?” Jay asked.
“What? Sorry. What was that?”
“Just head on out and give Terry the phone. He’ll get the rest of the stuff for later. He’s at the sandwich place on the corner.”
“Yeah, no problem. Couple minutes.”

Larry left his place, walked towards the back of the line. Pretended to talk on the phone, taking and sending pictures while he did. He saw the reporter on her phone. She was standing off to herself, holding the phone with one hand, running her other hand through her hair. She clicked off as Larry came up behind her.

When she turned, he was a couple of feet from her, trying to think of something to say.
“Story going to be OK,” he asked her.
“Just called it in,” she said. “At least it’s done.” She looked at him, then leaned around him to look at the front of the line. “You giving up your spot?”
“Yeah. Other stuff to do, you know. I’ll come back later.”
She smiled. “You want to get something eat? You look hungry.”
He laughed. His real laugh, this time. “I do, don’t I?”
“I saw what you did for that homeless man earlier.”
“Hard to find a nice guy these days.”
“I imagine it is.” He looked down the street. “You wanna get a sandwich over there?” He nodded to the store where Terry was waiting.
“Sure,” she said. “Can we get it to go? Walk with me to the park?”
“That sounds good.”
“It’s such a nice day out,” she said.

He agreed, then pulled his phone from his pocket and found her picture. As they walked to the sandwich shop, he clicked the “Delete” button.


Scott D. Parker said...

Very timely story you have here, Steve. And I appreciate the Star Trek: TNG reference. Oh, and for of y'all that don't know it, I ain't gonna spoil it. Scary thing about us crime fiction writers: it's a good thing we aren't real criminals...

Dana King said...

Nice twist. We don't often see someone's good side win out in these stories.

Steve Weddle said...

Scott and Dana -- Thanks. Looking forward to some good entries this week.

Jay Stringer said...

great way to kick off the flash challenge. Interesting take on the idea, and a perfect ending to a story- by which i mean the point when many people would be starting the story.

Unknown said...

Wow, I just read a Weddle story without any dead people in it....I feel confused and a little frightened

Anonymous said...

Well done, Herr Weddle, but enough with the good side winning out. Here's my entry.

Steve Weddle said...

Keith, he killed 39 people on the way to the store. I just cut out that part because I didn't have space to detail the morning at the church.

Cormac Brown said...

Beautiful psyche.

Dorte H said...

Nice to hear about all these good guys helping people pull through in hard times ;)