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Short Story Writing

By Laura Gross

Operation: Windsock

1000 word flash fiction

August 2022

Prompts >

Genre: Spy

Location: Wave Pool

Object: Police Tape

My little eye spied something that was yellow. I’d been waiting among the Saturday night patrons of AlphaBet City Wave Park to see a glimpse of my target for a metric forever. The rhythmic sound of the waves crashing in the pool were starting to make my eyelids heavy. This whole operation seemed to be brought to us by the letter Zzzzzzz. 

 

I dragged my purple hand down my purple face and sighed my relief.

 

Even O, the disembodied voice in my ear, seemed to be suffering from restlessness. “E, do you have eyes on him yet?” was becoming a minute by minute question like we were on a road trip and she had to pee. 

 

“I spy him,” I told her when she asked for the nine hundredth time. 

 

Her keyboard clacked in response as she prepared for the next phase of the night. 

 

I focused my beady eyes on whom the file referred to as subject 6. He was hard to miss. Seven foot tall and yellow like the goddamn sun. The average height in ABC was a much more reasonable 3 foot five, and I wasn't likely to ever lose a tail on him. 

 

Subject 6 was, unsurprisingly, the 6th target of Operation: Windsock. A series of seek and destroy missions that to this moment had gone smoothly and by the book. 

 

Despite it’s birthday friendly veneer, this wave pool was the headquarters of the largest Fur mafia family inside ABC’s borders.

 

There had always been tension between the Felts and the Furs. Different peoples have always had a habit of forgetting we’re all fluff on the inside. Borders are just made up invisible lines, but when two large cities of two very different cultures sit on either side, there can be some real shenanigans.

 

Operation: Windsock was a direct result of the Felt government funding a number of top secret scientific experiments to eliminate moths. A global scourge, these monsters have been eating through everything since the first man was sewn. We keep the lights off at night. We fear for our children. They terrorize us. These experiments will change the world.

 

They also will push Feltdom into a whole new era of prosperity. A golden age. But the nation of Fur and their spies stole our secrets. They intended to beat us to the market. We won’t be standing for that.

 

“Alright E,” O said in my ear, “It’s show time.”

 

My cue to move. I watched the big yellow mass contort himself through the comically small door at the business end of the wave pool into what the blueprints for the building said was the machinery room and followed. 

 

The machinery was still as I passed through the door, the silence echoed in the cavernous room that housed it. There was a break for the machinery to cool and swimmers to rest their soggy waterlogged bodies before another round. 

 

The window to complete this phase of the mission was narrow and critical so i moved fast in the quiet. 6 had the golden goose. His infamous vault, rumored to be a good size for a man of his stature, could only be accessed from his office, would only open once a night, and required a scan of his eye. Inside was the motherload of secrets. Still encrypted thanks to my work on Subject 3 before he could get his hands on the data. 

 

A siren and the shrieks of excited wave poolers warned of the next round of waves. 

 

I only heard two footsteps before the machinery set to motion. The hydraulics that drive the wave panels churned in alternating patterns. Something deeper in the room rattled with the vibration and something beneath my feet sounded like it needed some oil. The cacophony hid my footsteps, but it hid someone else’s too. 

 

“Who’s in here with me?” I asked O, my voice was drowned out by the machines but still rang clear through the technology. 

 

“There’s too much concrete to tell, but I’d guess hired goons? I hear your frown, E. I only see two moving around in there.”

 

I pulled out my side arm. As I waited for her to provide something more useful.

 

“The first one is at two oclock,” she told me as I caught a shadow to my right and framed up to target one. The only indication I hit the target was the flurry of white stuffing that erupted out as he fell back.

 

“One’s down,” i reported.

 

“Target two is coming up from behind, 20 feet.”

 

I spun myself into a more protected position just as a bullet winged a fence surrounding some computer equipment, sending sparks within singeing distance of my face. I returned fire and watched as the impact to their shoulder spun them 360 degrees and then to the ground. 

 

“Two’s down.”

 

“Marked,” the keyboard clacked. “You have less than 2 minutes.”

 

I closed the distance to the door and toed it open. Big yellow and another Fur from the file stood, backs to me, in the process of opening the vault. 

 

“Just in time,” I said for O’s benefit before I stepped fully into the room, gun cocked and fingers twitching.

 

The vault door popped open.

 

I didn’t hesitate. I fired 4 shots dropping both men where they stood. 

 

Stepping over the fluff and thread coating the entrance to the safe, i used my entire body to attempt to pry the door open enough to squeeze inside. 

 

“Don’t forget the code,” O reminded.

 

I knelt down by the mass of lifeless yellow, snapped my blade open, and sliced down the seam of his chest. I didn’t have to dig around much to find the paper. I pulled it out and shook off the bits of fluff that came with it.

 

I felt like Jack in the giant’s house. But the code opened the safe. I pushed the contents off each shelf into a sack and then calmly and carefully extracted myself from the premises. 

 

The moth secrets were ours once again.

"The Trip"

1000 word flash fiction 

June 2022

Prompts >

Genre: Comedy

Location: Train Station

Mantory word: Legal (or variation)

My vision smeared technicolor at the edges despite my effort to stay steady.

“Train?” I asked the nearest giant.

I only caught a cackled “illegal substance” to their bird-faced friend in response.

A humongous serpent slowed alongside the platform, scales glistening in halogen cones of light. Immediately, commuters squeezed themselves through slits in its sides.

“Gotta ride the snake,” I realized as it hissed loudly and began inching away. Frantic, I lunged to hop on, missed, and fell bodily.

The snake slithered on.

“I missed the snake,” I told the gnomes as they gathered around. “Gotta catch the next one.”

"The Retrieval Man"

1000 word flash fiction 

June 2022

Prompts >

Genre: Crime Caper

Location: Pool Room

Object: Couch

Placed 11th in NYC Midnight Challenge Round 1

*Language & Content Warning*

I’m “The Retrieval Man” – a misnomer, but this is still a man’s world and I pick my battles. The Dolphin – my boss – tapped me on Tuesday and said, “Got an easy job for you, Lou.” 

 

Great.

 

My name’s not really Lou, but “Because Louella said so,” doesn’t get it done, so I work with what I’ve got. Anyway, I gather Grippy, Francis, and Brittney – she’s new – and we plan to retrieve the Blue Diamond from where Gerald – fucking useless Gerald – hides it after Sammy liberates it. 

 

Easy.

 

The night of the job, we meet up in the poolroom at The Dolphin Club. It’s a private section of the club we call HQ. You gotta work for the boss to get past the tree trunk of a man at the door. He’s cool but I wouldn’t challenge him to a fight – or debate – it’d be like challenging a wall. I gave him a wink on the way in. Never hurts to be friendly.

 

Inside, I managed to avoid taking a pool cue to the tit – assholes – and, I broke at least one finger on the hand that touched my ass as I passed a table of goons before I plopped into the last chair at my crew’s table.

           

It’s not every day we’re handling jewels the size of a queen’s asshole, and big jobs like this give a great buzz. But the boss wasn’t in today, the place lacked his usual oversight, and it gave everyone an air of mice partying while the cat’s away; A manic energy that was turning my buzz into a prickle of anxiety.

 

That’s when Ben staggered in with a blood-covered Sammy. These two were to get the diamond out of captivity. This much blood was not a good omen.

 

“The fuck?” I asked Ben as he flopped Sammy down on a pool table.

 

It took him a moment to catch a brainwave and when he did the words crashed out of him. “Security shot Sammy. We got out, lost Gerald. He was taking a piss while we dodged bullets.”

 

“Fucking Gerald,” What a fuck up. “Did the rock make it?”

 

Ben looked grey when he nodded. Likely, it was dawning on him that The Dolphin was going to skin all of us alive if this job was botched.

 

“Let’s go!” I bellowed at my team. They fell in behind me as we made our exit.

 

The diamond was supposed to be stashed at 2nd Presbyterian. The four of us gawking out the windows of a minivan was not the subtlety I’d prefer, but I needed confirmation the idiot got his dick back in his pants and the diamond into the church.

 

We notice right away there’s too many people around. All of them coming out of the church carrying shit, and it occurs to me that we are witnessing some bullshit god junk sale.

 

I send Brittney in for recon. Her short skirt will turn heads among the buttoned-collar crowd, but memorable legs are better than a memorable face.

 

I’m watching her romance info from a teenager when Gerald’s wiry form coalesces from the shadows of some garbage cans. He manages to slip in and out of the church without drawing attention. A fucking miracle.

 

“Lou!” he says overloud with surprise when I stop him.

 

“Shut up,” I hiss, “There’s too many people, give me the rock.”

 

“Uh it’s hidden. Y’know that ugly couch in the lobby?” he doesn’t wait for my answer, but I do know the one – it’s in the narthex, “It’s behind the cushions.”

 

I picture a kid hunting for change to buy junk and I’m about to throttle him when movement behind him catches my attention.

 

“Gerald?” I say.

 

“Yah, Lou?” he says.

 

“Is that the couch?” I ask.

 

As he turns, two men – followed by a skeletal, white-haired woman in pearls – are lugging the damned couch down the stairs.

 

I wolf-whistle at Francis followed by hand gestures that would make any baseball coach proud. But the whistle makes the men stop abruptly, which causes the old lady to run into one and fall on her ass, which makes that man drop his end of the couch, which makes the other man curse, which makes a baby cry.

 

I run at the scene yelling, “The couch,” with all the inferred importance I can muster. Now all eyes are on us as Grippy and Francis each, helpfully, take up a corner. And that is when my toe catches the concrete and I fall, bodily, into floral fabric.

 

My face is a mask of embarrassment as I grab the former contents of my pockets from under the couch. “I’m ok,” I proclaim. The four men, and the old woman, who’s upright again, shuffle on.

 

Brittney and I return to the van.

 

When Grippy and Francis return, they look grave.

 

“No diamond,” Grippy grumbles.

 

“The Dolphin is going to lose his shit,” I say, “Let’s get back to HQ.”

 

They all look skeptical, but Francis starts the van. As we’re pulling out Brittney speaks for the first time all day. “Why’d they call him The Dolphin?” she asks – she’s still new.

 

“Ever heard him laugh?” I ask her.

 

“Yah,” she says and then realization dawns, “Oh.” We drive on as she ponders it.

 

Now, we’re all back in the poolroom. Boss’s furious but watching him threaten Gerald is too good, so when he turns to me, I smile.

 

“You’re fucking smiling?” he asks, still all rage and fire.

 

I reach down my top and pull the Blue Diamond from its safe place in my bra, and the room erupts in curses and confusion. “It must have fallen out of the couch when they dropped it,” I tell them like I wasn’t keeping that punchline between my boobs this whole time.

 

The Dolphin laughs his high pitch machine gun laugh and grabs it from me. “Fuck you, Lou,” he says, but he’s smiling and with a wave of his hand we’re all, except Gerald, dismissed.

"It's Dark Where I Am"

1000 word flash fiction 

Feb 2023

Prompts >

Genre: Winter Survival

Character: Banker

Object: Fence

It’s dark where I am.

 

So dark, I see nothing through the inky blackness. Worse yet, it’s cold. The kind of cold that seeps into your bones and steals even the memory of warmth. I’m starting to lose hope that I'll ever be warm again. The numbness from the cold plus the pitch black give me a feeling of weightlessness when I’m still. It’s soothing like I'm at the bottom of the sea instead deep in a tunnel made of snow.

 

I think I've been digging for… days? Months? Years? Minutes? I’ve lost track of time and I have no way to tell it here. My worldly possessions have dwindled to a garden shovel, a dead flashlight, seven frozen granola bars, and all the warm clothing I could fit on my body. 

 

I put off leaving the house as long as i could, but when the electricity went out and my food supply got low, i had little choice left. All the doors and windows of my home opened to a wall of snow, but the outside world has to be beyond this somewhere, so I started digging.

 

I don't know how much snow looms above me. More than I can dig through without the tunnel collapsing. I don’t know how long it snowed or if it ever stopped. Maybe it still snows now. 

 

I’ve seen snowstorms before. In recent years, it’s not uncommon to witness deep snow pushed up to rooftops by gailing winds. Or drifts too high to drive though shutting routine down for a day or two. But on the eighth day of this storm when the last stitch of visibility was gone from the windows on the upper floor, I knew nothing would ever be the same again. 

 

I should have left then. Rolled the dice when the odds were better. Pushed my way out of those windows and prayed I wouldn't sink all the way down. But the internet was out, and I wasn’t sure, so I stayed another seven days waiting for it to receed.

 

My only hope of surviving now is finding my way out. So far, I've made it to the fence that surrounds my yard. It can’t be much farther now.

 

I was proud of this fence two weeks ago. Proud of my home and its sturdy construction. Proud of the office my job at the bank provided. Proud of my title: Senior Asset Manager. How cozily I slept at night, wrapped in my secure perimeters and success. Living my best solitary life.

 

Now this fence is an obstacle. So I am crouched before it, fingers stiff around my shovel, trying to calculate the benefits of each option. Do I tunnel up over the fence and hope the snow doesn’t cave in from above? Or, do I keep digging alongside it toward the gate and hoping I left it open?

 

I don’t think I left it open.

 

I don’t think I’m going to…

 

“Make it out. Make it out,” is repeating over and over in my mind, but I hesitate to decide. I wish I had more information. I don’t like to gamble without some reassurance of a good yield. Up is  the higher risk option, but up is also where the surface is.

 

I am struggling to get a message to my arms. “Up!” I’m begging my body, but only pain responds. I must force myself through the pain to raise my arms just enough to hit the top of my cave with the pointed tip of my shovel. The dusting of snow on my face burns like acid. 

 

 

I’m digging now.

 

I don’t know how. I feel nothing. If these truly are my own arms, they move automatically now, ignoring my input. There’s some leftover memory in my muscles that hasn’t run out yet. 

 

Or I’m…

 

A ghost of hope is still living inside me. I dream, while I dig, of surfacing to a bustling world that is amazed that I made it out of this endless darkness. I dream of emerging into the sun. I dream of sitting with a cup of coffee, safe and warm, while I wait for the snow to melt away and let me back into my simple, lonely life.

 

 

Against all logic, an infinity later, I have breached the surface. The sky is clear above me, and moonlight from the full moon glares into my eyes like a spotlight in the dark. 

 

As my surroundings are slowly coming into focus. I can see that the world is sparkling. A blanket of tiny diamonds so beautiful and vast, it’s like all the stars in the universe gathered here to greet me.

 

But there’s also nothing here. No sign of houses. No street lamps. No treetops. No evidence that my neighborhood ever existed. Just pristine glistening snow in every direction, as far as I can see.

 

Did the world ever exist?

 

Do I exist? 

 

I feel more separate from my mind and body than ever. Separate from what I know and don’t know. Separate from my dreams and reality. It’s all blurred together so I can be sure of nothing.

 

An otherworldly sound has started rolling over the desert wasteland of snow toward me. The volume and pitch keep rising until they’re a piercing scream that approaches and passes me. I hope it’s just the wind but I fear it’s a creature so horrifying, I can't see it. 

 

My legs have sunk me back down into my tunnel. The scream rises and falls again. The echo is so intense in here, I want to cover my ears, but my arms are not responding. 

 

I’m trying to calculate my odds. Assuming I have any odds left. 

 

I am sinking.

 

The snow wraps around me like a hug from an old friend. It feels warmer now and I can't hear the monstrous wind anymore. 

 

It’s time to…

 

Rest. I just need to close my eyes for a moment. I’ll  head back out in the morning. 

Love at First Hate

600 word rhyming fiction*

October 2022

Prompts >

Genre: Fairy Tale

Theme: Punishment

Emotion: Annoyed

*this story is actually 723 words though

“Perfect” skin and red lips to kiss in the moonlight

are a siren song to all the men; peasant, prince, or knight

So sad these girls waste years locked up in towers, tight.

True love’s reserved for sad, weak hearts who wish on stars at night

 

I leave my green skin natural and coax birds to my hair

I spend my time on wise pursuits like trading gold for heirs

Once i’ve boiled their bones I sit back in my rocking chair

And wait until I feel new need for deals made fair and square

 

Until I saw him and my heart went still…

 

With hate

 

Ugh this Prince Charming

His beauty alarming

And he, so very disarming,

I resolved to do harming

 

I told him with my eyes

That it’d be best if he died

And with a cackle implied

That he’ll want to hide

 

In return he smiled

Even lingered awhile

But his white teeth were vile

So i ran for a mile

 

And running is not my best skill

Panting deep in the woods, I thought I’d be ill

 

And i was

 

This prince and his gauntlet he’d undoubtedly thrown

I was suddenly in territory deeply unknown

My cackle had always made men go prone

He’d flashed me his teeth and, a coward, i’d flown

 

I’d show him

 

Next time i saw him, i wore my best robe

With spiderweb lace from the far side of the globe

a hat tall and thin enough to be a probe

Plus my favorite bat earrings, one wing hung from each lobe

 

The time after that, I cast mud in his path

A river of filth he’d never get past

I kept up behind him so he’d hear me laugh

Yet knee deep in mud he showed no hint of wrath

 

Then it was war, no more holding back

I cast lizards, and rainstorms, two plagues, and a yak

Everything i could think of, a full on attack

I cursed him and the village like some maniac

 

Through the course of my siege he showed only poise

He sucked out of my life all traces of joy

He laughed and he smiled at each of my ploys

Nary a hint that he might be annoyed

 

A new problem presented. Village tempers did pop

Unlike mr. unflappable they demanded I stop

On every outing i heard my name drop

I was near out of time to come out on top

 

They were building a stake

 

Then in a dream where we stood face to face

My hands ‘round his neck in an passionate embrace

Everything suddenly fell into place

I knew how to get him to yield in disgrace

 

On waking I smashed up a rose and a frog

One eye of newt and the hair of a hog

Then mixed in some water i got from the bog

And sprinkled some charcoal from a fully burnt log

 

On offer, he took my brew without a question

He obviously didn’t fear the digestion

Side effects could include gas and congestion

I titled my hand to enforce the suggestion

 

And he drank it

 

We waited in wonder for what would come next

Signs of it working would show he was hexed

With a love spell that no one would ever expect

This prince would love witches and not a princess

 

When nothing happened i thought i would cry

When he laughed from his belly tears sprang to my eyes

What he said next came as a surprise

“I love you already, don’t you feel likewise?

 

I’m keen on your passion, you’re clever and quick

Your confidence truly is what i would pick

For a partner in all times, let’s get married quick”

 

I gaped at him mouth wide “i thought you were a dick”

 

But when i looked back on this war and my glee

In seeking him out to locate the key

To unlocking the feelings trapped deep inside me

I could see

 

My pathetic weak heart sought love all along

It’s traitorous pounding resembled a song

Of true love that briefly had translated wrong

And now that i felt it, i knew it was strong

Hopping Mad

600 word rhyming fiction 

October 2022

Prompts >

Genre: Fairy Tale

Theme: Punishment

Emotion: Annoyed

I couldn’t just turn a blind eye to deceit

I needed revenge, most perfect and sweet.

No one in the kingdom believed prince charming would cheat,

but he did, I can prove it. He was not discrete.

 

He had the nerve to tell me she was “just a frog”.

Then started spending too much time down at the nearby bog.

Plus, there were the warts that sprouted on his lips and… log.

My gut was correct all along; He was such a hog.

 

It seemed to be impossible to hold him liable.

My courtiers all thought his lies were truths most viable.

And despite the fact I’d only ever been reliable,

they insisted my reaction wasn’t justifiable.

 

That’s when I decided I needed some advice

An outside source, a brand new view, even at a price

I marched myself to the local witch without thinking twice.

She served me some delicious tea that smelled like pumpkin spice.

 

She told me she could help and there was more than one solution.

She said she’d gladly do the deed, but there’s no substitution

for doling out to him my very own fair retribution,

and that I’d feel more satisfied with my own contribution.

 

I worked with her the next two weeks to learn her witching trade.

She taught me in great detail how the witch’s brews were made.

Despite her reputation, I never felt afraid.

It’s funny how we don’t all fit into how we are portrayed.

 

It came time that I had all the skills that I would need

to hunt him down, prepare my spell, and finally do the deed.

I hoped that when the deed was done, I'd feel my rage recede.

The witch expressed her confidence I surely would succeed.

 

I found him with his lady frog basking in the sun.

I felt the need to say something before I had my fun.

It felt really important to express that I had won.

It was fitting we were in the bog where all this had begun.

 

“I think you’re truly horrible,” I yelled out from the shore.

“This whole stupid experience has shown me I want more.

Let this be your notice that I’m showing you the door.

It turns out that I find you just to be a bore”

 

The spell went like this:

 

Fairy scales and bobcat tails

Seven snails and a wing of quail

Say goodbye

I hope you cry

You 

Know 

Why

 

And if you are now wondering just what I had cast,

before I tell you, I confess it wasn’t meant to last.

 

I replaced his genitals with those of a frog.

A cloaca is better than warts on your log.

He’d be quite popular down at the bog.

 

And the piece de resistance is what happened next.

He ratted me out, but the court was perplexed.

They didn’t even believe he’d been hexed.

He wouldn’t take his pants off, so no one suspects.

 

He’d suffer for three days which seemed adequate.

His frog parts would disappear lickety split.

Though perhaps a bit shorter, all parts would fit.

This “miscalculation” was deliberate.

 

And as for me, I then felt resolved,

but I couldn’t go back to the court and the balls.

So, I went back to the witch and invested it all

in my witching to see how that would evolve.

 

How ever you slice it, it worked out for the best.

I can’t help the feeling that I have been blessed

with a life of the sort that I'd never have guessed.

I’ve taken a job: wicked witch of the west.

The Yawn Contagion

250 word flash fiction

November 2022

Prompts >

Genre: Comedy

Action: Yawn

Word: Sneak

10th place NYC Midnight Challenge Round 1

George and James went to the pub when the wives were out of town. 

 

As usual, James slept off the night on George’s wife’s finest floral chesterfield. 

 

The next day, sun high, they sat at the kitchen nook nursing spiked coffee. 

 

Neither was sure if George started it, his beard framing the O of his yawn. Or if it was James, his jowls vibrating as he expressed his fatigue, but it was George who chuckled first.

 

“Watch you don’t catch a fly,” George teased, then choked on his mirth as another yawn took him. 

 

“Fit more than a fly in there. Stay clear of chickens,” James ribbed.

 

“Bullocks,” George muttered.

 

“Baahhhloooooks,” James agreed.

 

There was no pause. They went on tit for tat.

 

“Slap m’face,” James growled when whiskey hadn’t worked. 

 

The crack echoed in the tiny kitchen.

 

“Now me!” 

 

James answered in kind.

 

Hope bloomed in the pause, but then…

 

George pinched his lips shut, but a yawn sneaked out anyway.

 

James, uselessly, plugged his nose.

 

Hours later, James begged George to knock him out.

 

“It’s a curse,” James whispered desperately.

 

George was dubious until his jaw cracked leaving a pulsing ache behind.

 

“Fine.” He sighed lifting the cast iron pan from the stove. 

 

“What’re yoU DOING?!” Edna’s shout paused the scene.

 

George turned calmly toward his wife, pan raised. 

 

“Can’t stop,” he began.

 

“Yawnin,” James finished.

 

“Take a nap!” Edna shrieked, confiscating the pan. 

 

George and James both yawned again, nodded to the other, and headed for bed.

Two Ways At Once

1000 word flash fiction

February 2024

Prompts >

Genre: Enemies to Lovers

Character: Author

Object: Spiderweb

Winter Writing Battle 2024

Jane was multitasking. 

 

On one hand, she was celebrating the release of her latest novel at a private party - hosted by the eccentric CEO of her publishing house - where she was dressed to the nines and doing her best to impersonate a socially savvy person who could make small talk and eat canapes without soiling her dress.

 

On the other hand, she was avoiding one particular guest like she was on a navy seal stealth mission and her life depended on successful evasion. 

 

James Rain - handsome and talented romance novel hater - was the last person she imagined would be attending a party for a romance release, and she would not be letting him ruin her night. 

 

James was also multitasking.

 

On one hand, he was embodying the perfect party guest, smiling at his host’s jokes and shaking hands with new acquaintances.

 

On the other hand, he was trying desperately to get a moment alone with the woman of honor without looking like a stalker.

 

She was making it difficult. 

 

Like a dragonfly, she was never in one spot for more than a moment before zigging and zagging her way to another location, all of them seeming to be as far from him as possible. 

 

It wasn’t like him to be so determined about making a point, but his first interaction with Jane had been haunting him for months. Her eyes full of determination. Her mouth pursed in a sour frown. “Have you ever read a romance novel, Mr. Rain?” she’d asked him, cool and even like she already knew the answer.

 

Well, now that he had read a romance novel, he’d be taking any opportunity to tell her what he thought of them.

 

“Your attention please, beautiful people!” their host called out from the orchestra riser. “It’s time for the dance! I want everyone dancing! No exceptions!” he laughed with maniacal glee as the guests glanced around at each other.

 

Jane’s blood ran cold. Panicking, she turned to flee the room only to run bodily into James Rain.

 

James caught her around the waist as she rebounded, teetering dangerously on her heels. “Easy now,” he smiled, hoping it didn’t look like a smirk, “Care to dance?”

 

“No thank you,” Jane took a tiny step back.

 

“I don’t see everyone dancing,” their host sang into the crowd as the orchestra filled the room with a waltz.

 

“Please?” he asked again, “I don’t want to anger Kennedy.”

 

Jane was torn. 

 

“Fine,” she conceded when it appeared they were the only two not dancing. 

 

A flush of heat ran up her neck and into her face as James took her hand and placed it on his shoulder then wrapped his arm at her waist. She could feel the warmth of his chest across the short distance between them.

 

“Not so bad, I hope,” he teased with a smile.

 

Something about his voice so close to her ear made her stomach drop. Eyes cast down, she said nothing as she concentrated on keeping her feet on the rhythm and off of his shoes.

 

“I wanted to talk to you, Jane,” he said, hoping to break her silence.

 

“I would talk to you now if we can stop dancing,” she replied, flustered by his proximity. "Anything but dancing."

 

James cursed his first impression and tried not to be upset by her rejection. “I know a place,” he told her as he took her hand and led her right out of the ballroom and up the grand staircase.

 

She was about to ask where they were going when he ducked through a doorway into a vast and beautiful library that looked as though it hadn’t been dusted in a decade. She could see spiderwebs in the corners as she entered the room.

 

He pushed the door closed, its latch catching with a deep thunk before gesturing to the fainting couch where they both sat. The couch at least appeared clean.

 

“I owe you an apology,” he blurted.

 

“What?” she said, her voice a whisper through her dry throat.

 

“You were right,” he continued, “I had not read the genre.”

 

“Okay,” she nodded, uncertain of his point.

 

“But I have now!” The excitement of his discovery pushed his voice louder. “I read your book.”

 

“You did?” Jane tilted her head and held her breath. She wasn’t sure she wanted to hear what came next. 

 

“That’s not true,” he corrected, and her heart fell with unexpected disappointment, “I read all of them.”

 

She thought she might faint there on the couch. 

 

“And they were good, Jane. Great. Excellent!” his voice didn’t hold the typical condescending note of surprise. “My to-read list is lousy with romance now.” he smiled at her.

 

“Wow,” she breathed. The air felt electric.

 

“I’m sorry, Jane. I should have shown you and your peers more respect.”

 

Jane leaned in closer to him, “You really liked the books?” She breathed.

 

“My favorite is Beneath the Fallen Ash. Andy and Sophie’s ending. Amazing.”

 

She leaned closer still, their faces just a few inches apart, “Fallen Ash is my favorite too. That scene… in the library.” Her tongue dashed across her lower lip.

 

He slowly closed the distance between them with a tentative kiss.

 

She pushed him down on the chaise, her lips meeting his with all the passion she had thought she hated him with.

 

*******

 

One year later…

 

Jane, dressed to the nines at Kennedy’s party for James’s most recent book, was once again evading James for all she was worth.

 

James, for all he was worth, was determined to catch her.

 

“It’s time to dance,” Kennedy yelled into the fray of the party.

 

Jane felt the air shift a moment before James’s arms wrapped around her from behind. “Care to dance?” he asked against her neck with a kiss.

 

“Do you think Kennedy locked the library after last time?” she asked in response.

 

“I hope not,” he told her as he took her hand and they headed in that direction.

Smells Like Trouble

1000 word flash fiction

March 2024

Prompts >

Genre: Buddy Cop

Writing Exercise

“Hey, Boss. How’s it going, Boss? Hi. Hi. Hi,” Bruiser bounced in place, his excitement barely contained as Boss made his way down the path to where the two met every morning, just inside the park where the trees provided both cover and the news of the day.

 

“Settle down, Bruiser,” Boss barked. “You’re giving me a headache.”

 

Bruiser sat his butt down but the wiggle of his tail made it impossible for him to stay still. 

 

“What’s the news today?” Boss sniffed at a tree along the path picking up the scents of the usual suspects. 

 

“Smells like another Tuesday, Boss.”
 

Boss boofed a deep sigh and sat himself next to his animated partner, ready to settle in for the morning when a whiff danced over his olfactory gland. “You smell that?”

 

“Smell what, Boss?” 

 

“Ain’t no Tuesday, I’ll tell you that,” Boss stood again, ears perked, eyes drilling into the distance where the smell drifted in from.

 

Looking out on the park, a single human sat 50 yards away on a bench feeding the birds from a bag at his hip. A couple kids played in the sandbox. All normal, except for the smell. 

 

Bruiser was huffing at the air like he’d been playing fetch for six hours, his underpowered nose struggling to isolate the sour notes that Boss could smell clear as the rabbit excrement all around them.

 

“Oh!” Bruiser suddenly exclaimed, “Oh, Boss! I smell it, Boss.”

 

“And whatcha smell, kid?”

 

“Cat, Boss,” he replied with a snarl. “I smell cat.”

 

“Good work, kid.” Boss stretched, his back arching as he lowered his front half. He yawned a lazy yawn letting his jaw stretch open and his tongue loll out for a moment before shaking it all off. “We outta go check it out.”

 

“Alright, Boss. Let’s go. Let’s go,” Bruiser’s tail was wagging once again with the thrill of the hunt. He spun about scenting the air and hitting Boss in the muzzle with his enthusiastic backside. 

 

“Watch it, Bruiser.” Boss growled at his partner, giving him a little nip in the hindquarters. “If we’re gunna find this cat,” he let the word snap with his teeth, “We’re gunna blow our cover if we go in all wagging tails and braying howls.”

 

“Right, Boss. Sorry, Boss.” 

 

The plan was simple. Based on recent intel, the cat was on the far side of the lake. Boss would take the east side and Bruiser the west, and they’d meet in the middle where they’d confront the intruder and ask them to kindly find another park to pollute with their horrid cat smell. And if they wouldn’t leave, Boss and Bruiser’d make em. This was their park after all. No cats allowed.

 

The lake was pretty this time of the day. The sparkling glints across the rippling water called to Boss as he made his way around. On a calm day with no foul smells, his shaggy fur would be soaking up the lake water as he paddled around, cool and content. But not today.

 

The smell of cat overwhelmed Boss’s senses as he rounded the lake to its south end. He slowed his trot to cautious steps as he hunted with his eyes for a visual on the culprit in the foliage. In the end it was the glow of yellow eyes that gave away his target.

 

“I see you cat,” he announced, “No use hiding. You’re in my park.”

 

“Oh, Boss,” the cat said with a familiar purr. This wasn’t just any cat, it was Princess Catsandra, an alley cat known for her attitude and sharp claws. “It’s a public park, love. Is your dog brain so addled?”

 

Boss growled deep in his throat in an attempt to be threatening that seemed entirely lost on Catsandra. She sat herself up smoothly and licked at a dainty forepaw. She might look small and cute, but Boss knew from experience that those paws held daggers. 

 

He needed backup.  

 

Boss looked across the lake to find Bruiser nose to nose with a human pup, its mother checking the tags on Bruiser’s neck. He was moments away from another trip to the pound. 

 

The panicked bark that escaped Boss surprised even him. A warning to Bruiser to get a move on, to get over to back him up. 

 

Bruiser’s ears perked at the bark. He looked across to where Boss and Catsandra were in a staring stalemate and knew he had to move. He’d have to play with the human puppy another time. With an apologetic lick to the small human’s face, he howled a siren of warning before charging toward the action as fast as his paws would carry him.

 

“I’d say you have about 30 seconds, Princess, before Bruiser gets here. He’s not known for his control, you know. Just as likely to plow you down as not once he gets going”

 

Catsandra, who had slunk within striking distance of Boss’s face, considered the warning. She too had previously been a victim of Bruiser’s tail and had no desire to feel its incredible wagging power again today.

 

“Fine. I’ll go… for now,” she prepared to prance away but the freight train of Bruiser was still coming. 

 

“I’d go fast if I were you,” Boss chuckled light boofs of amusement.

 

Catsandra made an unflattering noise as Bruiser trampled over her, his momentum carrying him well beyond his original target. Tail puffed out, she bolted for the edge of the park leaving the two dogs behind without time even for a parting quip.

 

“Did I get her, Boss? Did I?”

 

“You got her, Bruiser. Good work, kid. Our park is cat free once again.”

 

“Thanks, Boss. Thanks. What now, Boss? Whadda we do now?”

 

“Let’s go for a swim,” Boss decided. The day was warming and the water was still calling him. 

 

“Alright, Boss. Alright,” Bruiser agreed as he bounded straight into the lake.

 

“Why the hell not?,” Boss chuffed another laugh to himself before bounding in after him.

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