Crossing My Path

It’s time for September’s flash fiction, as incited by the amazing author, ’Nathan Burgoine. I really didn’t think I’d be able to participate, as I am recovering from neck and shoulder injuries, but I did a thing! Sorta. (Suspense is not my gift.)

Our genre is suspense, the object a money bag, and the location is a border crossing. Read ’Nathan’s original challenge post here.

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ID: Canvas bag cloth with stenciled words: Crossing My Path, a suspense flash fiction by Cait Gordon

“Brubacher!”

Immediately after I screamed his name twice more, the blackout engulfed the entire area. Don’t you hate it when you think your words can somehow conjure up shit like this? I didn’t cause the blackout, right? No, that’s silly.

With all the Drumpftastic tweets over the last—How long has Orange Vader been in office? Four, five hundred years?—I’ve come to loathe this job at the US-Canada border crossing. At least I’m on the Canadian side, which is my way of saying I’m grateful to be Canadian. Because reasons. Like the celebration of diversity. And poutine. Maybe also not fearing getting my head blasted off by a toddler with an assault rifle. Lastly, hockey. A Canadian without ice skates is like an American without a hand gun—extremely rare.1

Why am I going off on this tangent? Right, because there’s a blackout, I’ve lost track of my partner’s whereabouts, and I really need to pee. Just before Bru took off on his break—leaving me alone at the only primary inspections booth at this pitifully unused crossing—we received an urgent message. A perp careening into a psychotic break stole some funds from an armoured truck before escaping on foot, just ten kilometres from here.

Where are all the cars tonight? At least headlights would brighten up the place, making it less creepy or prone to visits by unhinged crooks carting money bags. Get it together, Suzanne. You’ve got training, and you’ve a blackbelt. Stop acting like a ’fraidy-cat.

I really hate the dark.

Oh, wait! I feel around the counter for my flashlight. Voilà! I bang it against the counter to switch it on. Nothing. I try again. Franchement?! How the hell can I even do my job without a functioning flashlight? After swearing out loud in both official languages, my fingertips find some new batteries. I unscrew the compartment, remembering to touch where the positive nipple thing is—What? That’s what I call it—so I know how to insert the fresh batteries. There. All done.

I bang my flashlight once again and behold, there is a glow! De-lighted with myself, I look up.

Only to illuminate a pasty, chiseled face with glaring green eyes and a toothy grin.

I scream.

Boisterous laughter fills my booth as the door opens. I dash out, pushing aside the man I vow to despise for the rest of my life.

“Where you going, Suze?” shouts Bru.

“Toilet. Then back straight away to rip off your nuts with my bare hands.”

“I love it when you talk dirty!”

*

Ahhh. There’s nothing like a pee that feels like it’s draining right from your kidneys, is there? I must admit, I take a certain amount of pride in my pelvic floor muscles. That spook from Bru should have covered me in my own urine.

I wash and dry my hands, then dart out the door, only to trip on an object right in my path. Down I go, blocking most of the impact with my palms, but not without a good crack at my knee. It hurts, but I’ll live. I manage to turn myself on my butt and catch a glimpse of the thing that knocked me down. A canvas bag, with writing on it: Currency. If found, please return to

The lights go out a second time.

What the fuck?

I’m not alone. I can hear someone breathing heavily. As if they’ve been running … for about 10km.

Many people can adapt to the dark quickly. Me, not so much. I’ve night blindness. Something about a Vitamin A deficiency. This is specifically why I never take the night shift, but Lewis was sick and they were short-staffed. Besides, I had Brubacher for backup. “Brubackup,” he’d called it. Knob.

This can’t be Bru beside me, as he wouldn’t have left our booth unmanned. Or unguarded. Why I can’t remember to use gender-neutral terms is beyond me. I’m a feminist, for frig’s sake. Patriarchal or masculine terms are only going to—um, I’m going off on another tangent, aren’t I?

“Who’s there?” Is that the smartest question to ask? I mean, does anyone really want to know the answer?

No reply. There’s no reply at all. Great. Phil Colins is now inside my head. Focus, Suzanne, dammit!

I hear movement. I think he’s crouching, because his breath sounds closer to my ears. Another scream wants to burst out of my vocal chords, but I manage to keep it in. His breath is shockingly fresh, like he swallowed a tub of Canada Mints. He’s really close to me. I can feel the air from his lungs brushing my cheek.

“Watch, it buddy. I know karate!”

A laugh, but only through the nose. More breath snorts against my skin.

I inhale and will myself to hurl a punch in the direction of the perp, but it’s a useless swing. I lose my balance and fall over. Not onto him, which is odd, because I was close enough to have landed right on him. I prop myself up again. My knee’s throbbing.

The lights come on.

I’m alone in the hall.

No man. No money bag.

Again, what the fuck?

*

I limp out of the door of the main building and jump at the sound of impatient horns. There’s a lineup of three whole cars at the booth I share with Bru. Only, he’s not there. It’s empty.

With a wince, I step inside. My heart races as I breathe in spearmint. On the seat is a canvas bag, with writing on it. I try to find some saliva to swallow as I watch trembling fingers wrestle with the binding.

HONK!

I leap in fright. Leaning over the mic, I bark, “One second, please!”

The bag is filled with little green candies. There’s a crisp twenty sitting on the top with a message for me:

Sorry to leave you in the dark. Found a new partner who’s worth a mint.

I call for actual backup.


Crossing My Path © 2018 Cait Gordon. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without permission except in the case of brief quotations in critical articles and reviews. For more information, contact Cait Gordon.1I can’t remember if I heard that joke somewhere in the mid-90s or I made it up. Sorry, if it’s someone else’s joke. I’d credit you!


Cait Gordon

Cait Gordon is the author of Life in the ’Cosm, a story about a little green guy who’s on a quest to save half the person he loves. Cait has recently submitted the prequel to ’Cosm called The Stealth Lovers, a military space opera about legendary warriors Xaxall Knightly and Vivoxx Tirowen. When she’s not writing, she’s editing manuscripts for indie authors and running The Spoonie Authors Network, a blog whose contributors manage disabilities and/or chronic conditions. She also really likes cake.

When There’s a Ghost of a Chance

August and flash fiction #8 is here! Whew! Yup, I’m still on board for ‘Nathan Burgoine’s 2018 Flash Fiction Challenge. This month we had to write a ghost story that takes place in a tobacco shop that featured an earring as our object.

Now, I don’t write paranormal. So, I imagined ghosts in my own way. Here’s what came out!

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Pink fabric with black text. Text reads: When There’s a Ghost of a Chance, A flash haunting by Cait Gordon

“Happy Samhain, Eileen!”

“You too, Caitríona!”

“Doesn’t it rub you wrong when the locals call it Sam Hane?”

Eileen smirked. “Sounds like the fella who played with my top half, back in the day.”

Cat laughed hauntingly. A dog barked. “Ah, Sammy Hamish from Scotland. Oh, was he a dish! My top half envies yours just thinking about him.”

“I miss Ireland. Serves us right for following the cailín who seanced us onto that ship.”

“Yeah, I didn’t realize we’d be stuck and eventually make port in Canada. The Easterners were nice enough, though.”

“How did we end up in Ottawa?”

“Come on, Eileen. You remember full well you loved tormenting that Tory politician on the train from Halifax.”

“Making that tosser shit his bunk was the most fun I’d had in decades.”

Cat sighed. “Well, this place isn’t so bad. Especially today, when we can truly experience things.”

Two cigars levitated from the wooden case, stopping in mid air. A long match struck the mahogany counter and lit up, then floated to the tips of each stogie. A few seconds later, wispy smoke rings danced about before fading into nothing. After a few more puffs, two figures materialized, dressed in flowing nightgowns with ruffled sleeves. Eileen wore periwinkle blue and Cat a powder pink. Both women looked to be early 20s at most. Of course, they were almost a hundred years older than that. Still, they liked to keep current. It made them feel young.

Eileen inhaled deeply, expelling more rings. “You know the best thing about smoking when you’re dead?”

“No cancer?”

“Exactly! Hey, when we’re done here, let’s raid the bakery.”

“Shouldn’t we change? We look like unmade beds.”

“Now, Cat, I’m not worrying about being ‘on fleek.’ You promised me we’d be all about the indulging in what’s bad for us.”

“Fine, but next samhain—”

“Shoes, I remember.”

The shop door opened. In walked a woman in her late teens, followed by a man not much older. Instead of looking about the displays of I Like Big Butts’ finest wares, the couple bent down to examine the nooks and crannies along the floor.

Cat and Eileen put out the cigars in a glass dish, then disappeared.

Fred Tierney, a public-service retiree who owned the place, darted into the main shop from his residence, slightly out of breath. His dog Marty stared into nothingness, barking like mad.

The couple nearly jumped out of their skin at the sound of the golden retriever.

“Marty!” shouted Fred. “No one’s in that corner! Heel!”

The dog sat quietly but shot a dirty look at the objects who had intruded his human’s space.

“I hate that bleeding animal,” said Cat.

“Shh!” said Eileen.

Fred stepped around the counter to aid his customers. “May I help you?”

The woman stood up after scrutinizing a floorboard. “Uh, hi. We were in last week to buy a pipe for my father?”

“Ah, yes,” said Fred, adjusting his glasses. The lines around his eyes deepened when he smiled. “Very fine craftsmanship.”

“Yeah, well, the morning I bought it, I’d sort of borrowed my grandmother’s earrings. Maybe without asking.”

“Oh?”

“And lost one. I was stupid to have worn them in the first place. Granny always said the clasps were wonky. I thought I was being careful by regularly checking my ears.”

“Well, now, I’m sure your grandmother will understand.”

“They’re genuine rubies.”

“Oh my.”

The woman sighed. Her boyfriend put his arm around her.

“They’re one of a kind,” he added.

“I’ll say,” whispered Cat. “Beautifully cut danglers with crushed diamonds speckled along the white gold. Just breathtaking.”

“What?!” whispered Eileen. “How do you know this?”

“It’ll go perfectly with the shoes I get next year. Maybe if we follow her home, I can grab the other one for a set!”

“You can’t just steal her earring, Cat!”

“Hey, she took it without asking. Serves her right for losing it in the first place!”

Marty started again.

“NO BARK!” cried Fred.

“Now, you see here, Missy,” cried Eileen. “Show me this earring.”

“Ah, fine.” She huffed while drifting towards the cigarette wrappers. Behind a carton lay her treasure. Cat held up the glimmering piece.

On the shop floor, the boyfriend blinked twice. “Um, Cherie, I don’t do drugs.”

His girlfriend turned to him. “What?”

“I don’t do drugs so I can’t be hallucinating, right?”

“Tommy, what the heck—”

He pointed to the hovering earring. Cherie gasped, but before she could say anything, the earring jerked to the left. Then to the right. And to the left again.

Marty barked his furry head off.

Fred took off his glasses, then wiped them on his shirttail.

The earring continued to dart back and forth.

“It’s mine!” cried Cat.

“No, it’s not! It’s her granny’s!”

“She won’t appreciate it like I will. I’ll treasure it for an eternity!”

“You’ll only be able to wear it once a year!”

“So, once a year for an eternity!”

“Give it!”

“No!”

“Cat!” Eileen lunged, grabbing an arm. Cat howled like a banshee, the noise traversing the spirit realm into that of the living.

Fred jumped. Cherie screamed. Tommy blinked some more.

The earring flew onto the floor, landing at Cherie’s feet. Trembling, she crouched to pick it up. Then grabbed Tommy and fled.

Marty snorted smugly, wagging his fluffy tail while trotting into the den.

The shopkeep searched for hanging wire and hooks, but found none. Pranksters? He scratched his beard and decided he’d be closed for Halloween. One trick was enough. He’d settle for some treats while he relaxed with Marty by the fire.

When the store was empty, the ghosts materialized.

“I don’t like you,” said Cat.

“It was the right thing to do,” said Eileen.

A growl resonated from Cat’s throat. Another woof followed.

Eileen shrugged her shoulders and put a hand on her friend’s arm.

“What?” muttered Cat.

“Shoes?”

Cat’s eyes perked.

“You’re forgiven.”

They exited through the locked door, then drifted towards the Rideau Mall.


When There’s a Ghost of a Chance © 2018 Cait Gordon. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without permission except in the case of brief quotations in critical articles and reviews. For more information, contact Cait Gordon.


Cait Gordon

Cait Gordon is the author of Life in the ’Cosm, a story about a little green guy who’s on a quest to save half the person he loves. Cait has recently submitted the prequel to ’Cosm called The Stealth Lovers, a military space opera about legendary warriors Xaxall Knightly and Vivoxx Tirowen. When she’s not writing, she’s editing manuscripts for indie authors and running The Spoonie Authors Network, a blog whose contributors manage disabilities and/or chronic conditions. She also really likes cake.

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I suck at Mystery. Dam it.

Okay, it’s a billionty degrees, and I’m holed up on staycation, but I’m dedicated to completing all twelve of author ‘Nathan Bourgoine’s 2018 Flash Fiction monthly challenges.

The location is in or on a dam, and the object is a typewriter. I almost died when I saw the genre: Mystery. Yipes. That’s the hardest for me. So, I went with that! Here’s the link to ‘Nathan’s post about the July Draw!

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Image of boat by the locks. Text reads: I suck at Mystery. Dam it. A flash fiction by Cait Gordon.

Fuck my life, FML, FML, FMLLL!

Winston walloped the keys of his Smith-Corona, which he called his M-m-m-my Corona. Hardly anyone had ever laughed at that, especially not his dwindling collection of nubile twenty-something girlfriends. I probably should bang someone who actually gets my prehistoric pop references, he thought, running fingers through his thick salt-and-pepper locks. For a long time he felt good about his full head of hair, thinking women found silver foxes sexy. But that bit of ego got properly shredded when his last date blurted, “Ooo! It’s like the granny-hair trend—but on a man!”

Yay, I’ve got granny hair . . .  and an unused refill of ED meds. He stared at the cream paper in the typewriter. He needed to get his name out there. Publishing one maybe-not-terrible novel in his late 40s had left him scurrying to catch up with younger authors. If he could get his work into as many anthologies as possible, he could network with more publishers and writers.

But to do that, he had to write. Winston groaned, typing:

I despise you, writing prompt!

Things were not off to a good start. The last genre in the world he wanted to tackle was Mystery. He knew he would brutalize this short story. Yet, if he got accepted by this publisher, it would look great on his bio. They also paid decent rates.

Right, one more time.

Harry peered outside the patio door when a crumpled form on his deck caught his attention.

Winston covered his eyes. Seriously?A murder in suburbia. Whodunnit? Probably the gardening fascists who mow other people’s lawns between cutting their own grass every 45 minutes.

He had to get out of suburbatory now that he was single again.

A yellow alert interrupted his musings and a message scrolled across the screen of his workstation. Winston groaned. Lock 23. It’s always Lock 23. He picked up his walkie-talkie.

It crackled with, “Yeah?”

“Hi, Irv, it’s Winst. Lock 23’s being a diva. Check to see if it’s really a thing this time?”

“I was about to take a long-awaited crap!”

“Look, just a glance, ‘kay? If all’s well, I’ll have someone check the sensors. They’ve been wonky all summer for that lock.”

Irving sighed and grumbled, “Fine. Hold onto your panties. I’ll be right back.”

While he waited, Winston ripped the paper out from the typewriter he’d set up by the control-and-monitoring station in the hydraulic power plant. Once he faced another sheet of cream, he wrinkled his forehead. Then his eyes perked.

A dead body? That’s the last thing Sarah had expected to find in her bed. Especially since she had never seen him before.

Aside from a pale complexion and the marks around his neck, he was good looking, for a corpse. Young, too. Why had he ended up in here? She remembered being alone when she’d fallen asleep. He’d not been at the party either. Or had he?

 “WINST! PICK UP NOW!”

He slammed his fist on the keys and grabbed his comm unit. “Great, Irv. Just when I’ve finally got a writing idea worth exploring, you—”

“I don’t give the crap I most desperately want to take! Get down here! NOW!”

“What’s up?”

“There’s something jamming the gate on 23!”

“That’s not my job. I just monitor shit.”

“Oh yeah? Well, tell me how one of your ex-girlfriends ended up as human mortar then?”

Winston froze. “What the FUCK?!”

“Bambi or Boopsie or whatever her name was. I recognized that purple and green hair.”

Oh, babygirl. “I’m coming!”

#

The police had questioned him for hours, after he’d vomited himself dry from what he’d witnessed. Barby, once so full of life, reduced to a mass of oozing flesh between the split gate. What had she been doing? Probably walking up top, thinking to impress him and win him back. She’d never been afraid of bold gestures of affection. So young. He shouldn’t have gone out with her at all. She’d deserved better. Not this old fart.

Officer Stanley Miles looked up from his writing pad. Even though the session was being recorded, he felt more comfortable with hand-written notes.

“Okay, Mr. Burrows. Let’s have it one more time.”

Winston glowered at the police officer, against his better judgment. “I’ve already told you twice, and I think I’m being pretty generous by not calling my lawyer . . . yet.”

The cop smirked. “After 20 years on the force, it still cracks me up how perps think they can intimidate me.”

“I’m no perp. I was just at my workstation at the West Dams, like I said—”

“See, I’m gonna stop you there, Mr. Burrows. This little thing in my ear? That’s to hear my partner suggesting what I should ask. Right now she’s saying someone emailed us a manuscript from an anonymous account.”

“Uh, okay .  .  .  and?”

Officer Miles gestured at the mirror behind Winston. A few seconds later a beautiful young detective entered. Her wavy blonde hair was tied up in a messy ponytail. Determined green eyes glared as she pushed a printout before Winston, on the dark metallic table.

“Staci?!” cried Winston. She’d been the ex-girlfriend he’d left for Barby, maybe before he’d broken up with Staci first.

“It’s all here in this work,” she said. “Oldest trick in the book. Write a story outlining a murder, commit the crime, then assume nobody would suspect you’d incriminate yourself.”

“This is insane!” Winston shouted.

The detective turned to her partner. “Arrest him.”

“Winston Burrows, you have the right to remain silent—”

“Wait! I never wrote that! I can’t write mysteries! They’re not my genre!”

“Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law—”

Winston didn’t remain silent. He protested all through his Miranda rights, even when they cuffed and dragged him away.

Staci sauntered into the hall, watching him. Should have blocked me on social media, asshole. Your constant bitching about mysteries was my way in. That’ll teach you to cheat on me. You’re not the only one who can write.


I suck at Mystery. Dam it. © 2018 Cait Gordon. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without permission except in the case of brief quotations in critical articles and reviews. For more information, contact Cait Gordon.


Cait Gordon

Cait Gordon is the author of Life in the ’Cosm, a story about a little green guy who’s crushing on the female half of his two-headed colleague. Cait is currently working on a prequel to ’Cosm called The Stealth Lovers, a military space opera. When she’s not writing, she’s editing manuscripts for indie authors and running The Spoonie Authors Network, a blog whose contributors are writers who manage disabilities and/or chronic conditions. She also really likes cake.