Flash Fiction by Rebecca Mikkelson
Flash fiction is a new medium for Rebecca, but an enjoyable one. Most are written for AWC's Furious Fiction competitions.
“Do we always have to go here?” I’d asked year after year.
And yet, here I was.
The lake with the red phone booth was my least favorite vacation spot. It held none of the amenities that I was used to, but my husband insisted I could tough it out for a night. Whoever thought camping was a vacation was vastly mistaken, but the torturous event would be inflicted on society for the remainder of human existence. There was a reason homo sapiens had eventually created settlements.
Comfort. It was comfort for which they settled, much like I would rather be in right now. What I wouldn’t give to idly stroll through the market, looking at this and that, smelling candles, and sampling treats I’d never buy myself. But I knew being here would make him happy, which made me happier than my discomfort could override.
Once it grew dark, I set to making s’mores on the fire. I made sure to burn a marshmallow until it was black and set it aside for my husband. It was too much for me, but he loved them charred. He said it was a marvellous combination of sweetness and smoke; I took his word for it, not wanting to get burned sugar taste stuck in my mouth.
I watched the chocolate melt temptingly. Well, maybe this once. I bit into it, smoky flavor bursting in my mouth. I laughed. Of course, he was right—he was always right. I was just too scared to try new things.
When my eyes began to droop, I crawled into my sleeping bag. It felt like I was lying on marble. I could tough it out for one night. I could do anything as long as I took it one night at a time.
Morning came sooner than expected, and after camp was packed up, I found myself in front of the phone booth. I hesitated before going in but it was something I had to do before I could leave.
I picked up the phone and quickly dialed the familiar number. “Hi sweetheart,” I said.
The empty space on the other side of the receiver constricted my throat.
I put my hand to my mouth to steady my nerves before I could continue. “I made it out to the lake for our anniversary. I tried one of your s’mores, and you were right—it was delicious, just like you said it would be if I could get over myself.”
My laugh turned into a small sob. I closed my eyes tightly and leaned my forehead against the dirty panes of the phone booth.
“I really miss you,” I said through tears to the dead line. “I should get going. It’s a long drive home—well, you know.”
I held the phone tight. I didn’t want to hang up, even if he wasn’t on the other end. But I had to. “I love you. I’ll give you a call again next year.”
A Sandwich Lost
“I’m gonna eatcha, eatcha, eatcha, eatcha,” I chanted as I folded the parchment paper over my sandwich, bouncing in my excitement. I didn’t even care who heard me. I was hungry, and I was getting the food I’d been craving for the past several weeks.
We so rarely were able to have food this fresh on the space station, but I’d worked through my break to be the first in the kitchen after the supply onload. I’d missed out with the last three, and I wasn’t going to let it happen again. What else was there? The tiny tins of lumpy “exotic” food we were supposed to appreciate?
I grimaced. No thanks.
“I can’t wait to put you in my mouth,” I said to the package as I started toward my workstation. I winked at the fellow passing me in the P-way, who gave me a sly grin. It was boring in space, despite what we’d been told, and sometimes we had to make our own fun through innuendo.
I yelped when my feet lifted from the floor and the klaxon reverberated through the passageways. I let go of my sandwich as I instinctively tried to grip the wall. “No!” I reached for it, it slipping just out of my reach.
The artificial gravity must have failed again. The engineers had better get it together and get that fixed. I don’t care what everyone else said about floating being a pleasant experience; it made me dizzy.
I pushed off the wall toward my floating food, increasingly grateful I twisted the paper into itself so it wouldn’t open if I accidentally dropped the sandwich—and now, without gravity, I wouldn’t have to put it back together when I caught my lunch. I brushed the edges of the paper with the tips of my fingers, and it spun away from me.
“Hey!” A man reached toward the package. “Free food!”
“Ensign, if you touch my sandwich, I will eat your hand instead!” I yelled.
He immediately pulled his hand to his chest, looking at me wide-eyed. “Ma’am.” He pushed away from the wall and as far away from me as he could, eyeing me as he passed. “Sorry, ma’am.”
I glared at him. That’s right. Best stay away, Ensign. A hangry Lieutenant Sheppard is a Lieutenant Sheppard to avoid.
My sandwich! I frantically looked around and saw my lunch drifting into another P-way. I had to grab it before I couldn’t find it anymore. I pushed off the wall just in time for the engineers to fix the gravity, skidding into the next passageway on my stomach. The *one* time they work quickly. I groaned and rolled on my back, spotting someone picking up my food.
He unwrapped it and let out a delighted noise, biting into it.
That son of a B! “Hey, that’s my…” I deflated as the man turned around.
He raised a brow. “Your what?”
“Nothing, Captain. Enjoy.”
My stomach growled. Lumpy exotic food it is, then.
I watched the rain patter against the window, soft plops running down the glass. My mother would be here soon to give me the news. I prayed the day’s storm wasn’t an ill omen.
I had called her yesterday to find out how the trial had gone, but she refused to tell me over the phone. It was news to be told in person, she said. My stomach was in such knots I couldn’t eat—not even the apple pie my neighbor brought could tempt me.
I stood when I heard the gravel grind in the driveway. She was here. My stomach flipped—what news would she bring? I went to the door; I didn’t want to give her the opportunity to dally. “How did it go?” I asked as soon as she stepped onto the porch.
Mom looked like the cat who caught the canary. I started to get excited—that could only mean something really good. Or someone had been humiliated in court. That would be the least she deserved after all she’s put the family through.
“It was spectacular, honey,” Mom chortled, her eyes alight. She looked the happiest I’d seen her in years, her old spark returning. “I wish you could have been there. You would have loved it.”
I have no doubt I would have, but after having to take a restraining order out on my sister-in-law, we all agreed it would be better if I didn’t go to court with everyone else. I’d probably end up with a knife in my back in the parking lot, especially since she knows I was the one who reported her to CPS for leaving the kids alone overnight while she got drunk at her boyfriend’s house. “Mama, please. Just tell me what happened. Did he get the kids?”
“I don’t know if you would have been able to contain yourself if you were there. The lawyer humiliated her.” Mom pushed her way further into the house, tossing her coat onto one of the chairs. “You should have seen her face. It was as red as her ass when your brother kicked her to the curb.”
I inhaled deeply, trying to calm myself before I spoke again. It wouldn’t do any good to make her upset. She would take twice as long to tell me the news if I did. “Mama, what did the judge say?”
“A lot of things,” she said with a smirk. “Not many of them flattering.”
Clenching my fists behind my back, I counted to ten in my head. “What did he say in his ruling, Mama? I want to know what the outcome was.”
“He didn’t sit on the fence for long.” She took pleasure in watching me squirm. All I wanted to hear was whether the kids were safe, away from that monster for the rest of their lives.
She smiled finally. “We won.”
Three Minutes Left
Three more minutes.
Just three measly minutes, and I can finally leave this hellhole of a school for the summer. The seconds dragged on as I looked around the room. My gaze settled on the most popular girl in the room. What a relief it would be to never have to see the vicious Becky Sharp ever again. The irony wasn’t lost on me that she shared a name with everyone’s favorite antihero to hate. She certainly took after her—maybe it was a self-fulfilling prophecy?
Becky was flowery to my face, but behind my back I could hear her tell the other girls uncouth things about me. My favorite—if you can describe it as such—was that I would meet teachers behind the bleachers for a quick one because I was just so horny. It was a play on my surname, Horne, and utterly ridiculous. Flirt with one teacher once and you’re a whore for the rest of the year.
Two more minutes. How can time move so slowly?
If it weren’t impossible, I’d say Becky was slowing the clock just to torture me one last time. She was glaring at me just as viciously as she had at the start of the year. Oh, to be a fly on the wall when she gets into the real world and learns the hard way she can’t be a catty know-it-all and still have friends. I tried not to smile thinking of her future comeuppance.
For whatever reason, girls and boys both flocked to Becky. She had a magnetic personality despite how awful she was. I was always suspicious of her; no matter what I said, it would be turned around to make her the victim in her relentless pursuit of ruining my reputation. She could be a professional gymnast with all the contorting that took.
Becky smirked and turned to the girl next to her, whispering behind her hand. The girl looked to me and laughed. God, what now? I tore my eyes away from them to look at the clock.
Just one more minute, and I’d be free.
I heard more giggles and looked back around. More of the class was looking at me and snickering. This must have been a good one. “Care to share, Becky?”
“You just seem anxious to leave.” She smiled at me wickedly. “Is Mr. Davies waiting for you outside?”
“I couldn’t tell you what Mr. Davies is doing. He’s probably looking forward to some peace and quiet away from difficult students.” I gave her a gelid stare that momentarily wiped the smile from her face. Good. Now she knows I don’t have to put up with her anymore. I only wish I had voiced my displeasure with her sooner.
The bell rang and I was immediately inundated with students asking, “Mrs. Horne, can we go now?”
I was already gathering my purse to leave. They’d have to fight me to get through the door first. “Yes, please do.”