Thursday, August 18, 2011

Flash Fiction: Must Love Guns

As I have mentioned before, Chuck Wendig has a must-read blog over at www.terribleminds.com and hosts a flash fiction challenge every Friday (Friday, Friday, gotta get down on Friiiday). This week, the subject is guns. I decided to throw my revolver into the ring, and knocked a story out today. It's a bit over the 1000 word limit, but I just couldn't shave any more off and still be satisfied with the story. So, while I'm out of the running for the prize, I am still going to submit it since I would like to get some feedback from the regulars who read Chuck's blog. Now, without further ado, here is my submission:


Grace Under Fire

Devereaux's men came at night. Grace was in the kitchen chopping vegetables when her husband, Phillip, went to answer the knock at the door. She had just finished the onions and was halfway through a bunch of carrots when she felt a presence behind her; an almost imperceptible displacement of air picked up by the hairs on the back of her neck that immediately sent her flesh crawling across her shoulders and down her arms.
Grace turned to find a man, wearing an ill fitting suit and a shark’s grin, eyeing her up and down the way one might admire a fine sports car they couldn’t afford. Covetous, the thought flashed across her mind, unbidden. That’s the perfect word to describe the look on his face, covetous. But as she turned, his expression changed into something more sinister and dangerous, deadly even.
“Now, now,” he said, opening the jacket of his suit to show the gun beneath. “I don’t think you’re gonna need that.”
Grace looked down and saw that she was still clutching the butcher knife, holding it out in an unconscious warding off gesture. She didn’t put it down.
“Put the knife down,” he said, drawing the gun and leveling it at her. “Or I’ll have to put a bullet in that sweet ass of yours.”
Grace met the killer’s gaze, and after a moment turned and set the knife on the counter next to the beginnings of the meal she now knew would never be eaten.  He used his gun to motion toward the door and followed her into the living room.
Two other suited goons—one with dark hair and a goatee, the other his exact opposite; blond and baby-faced—were holding Phillip at gunpoint. He was sitting on the couch, his hands duct taped in front of him, eyes wide with terror.
“Grace,” he started to get up, but Baby-face backhanded him with his gun sending Phillip sprawling back onto the couch clutching his bleeding cheek.
Goatee pressed the muzzle of his gun to Phillip's head. “I told you not to fucking move. Next time, I empty this thing into your skull, understand?”  
Phillip nodded his assent.
“Good,” Goatee said. “Now, let’s talk about where the money is.”
“I don’t know anything about any money,” Phillip said, still clutching his bleeding face. “I don’t even know who you people are!” He was practically sobbing.
Goatee slapped Phillip on the uninjured side of his face, hard. “Don’t fuck with me asshole! Four of Mr. Devereaux’s couriers have been hit in the past month, all dead, all missing their bags. After the second hit we started marking the bills, I’ll give you one guess where that lead us. Now tell me, where’s the fucking money!”
Phillip recoiled from that last outburst as if he had been slapped again. “I told you, I don’t know anything about any money,” he squealed, tears welling up and rolling down his cheeks. The sight of those tears seemed to increase goatee’s rage by an order of magnitude.
He leaned in, pressed the muzzle of his gun to Phillip’s head again, and said, “Listen to me you little shit, I don’t know how a sniveling worm like you offed one, much less four, of Mr. Deveraux’s couriers, but I’m going to give you to the count of three to tell me where the money is, or I’m going to make that hot little piece of ass over there a widow right before me and the boys run a train on her. I swear to fucking God. One!”
“I don’t know anything about your money!”
“Two.”
“Please, I’m not lying. I don’t even know who this Devereaux is!”
“Three.”
“No don’t! I’m telling you, you’ve got the wro—“
Goatee’s gun coughed once and the contents of Phillip’s head sprayed out, splatter-painting the couch and walls with brains and bits of skull.
Grace stood and watched this scene unfold, Shark-grin’s gun pressed into the small of her back, without moving or saying a word. Goatee turned to Baby-face, “Toss the house. Find out where he stashed the money.”
Baby-face nodded and walked out. A second later, Grace heard the crash of their—My, she thought, My is the right word now that Phillip is dead—possessions  being tossed about as Baby-face began searching for his boss’ stolen money.
Goatee turned to Shark-grin, “Warm her up for us, I’m gonna go call Mr. Devereaux.” He produced a cell phone from one of his pockets and left the room.
Shark-grin shoved Grace face-first into the wall of the living room and pressed his gun to her temple. She could feel his erection as he rubbed against her. He reached around and squeezed her breast. “You’re a real sweet piece of meat,” he whispered in her ear. “I’m gonna make you bleed.” He started to take his pants off, and Grace sensed his attention waver while he fumbled with his belt.
She moved, fast.
Grace rammed her hips back at the same time she reached up and grabbed the gun against her head, twisting it out of his grasp. She spun around with the ease of a dancer, or expert martial-artist, used one hand to grab Shark-grin’s wrist, twisted it up behind his back, and slammed him up against the wall. Their positions reversed, she pressed the gun under the shelf of his jaw and said, “I think you’ll be the one bleeding today asshole,” and pulled the trigger. His brains erupted from the top of his head and fell in a warm rain.
Baby-face came running from the other room, gun in hand, and Grace put two into his heart. He was dead before he hit the ground. Grace crossed the room and pressed herself against the wall next to the living room doorway.
“What the fuck is going on in there!” Goatee ran into the room and stopped when he saw the bodies of his partners. Grace put a bullet into the back of his head.
Grace stood over Phillip’s body. She had given him the money, of course. A stupid mistake, it never occurred to her that the bills had been marked. He had wanted a new set of golf clubs, and she could never deny him anything. He was dead because of her.
She went to the kitchen and pulled up the floorboards in the pantry, removing the bags of money she had stashed there. Then she lit a candle, set it on the kitchen table, and turned all the knobs for the stove on high without lighting them.
She was half a mile away when the fireball lit up the night sky. She watched it in her rear-view mirror and said a soft prayer for Phillip. She drove into the night, her thoughts dominated by a single word.
 Devereaux.

10 comments:

  1. Oh, no. Oh, Dear. Look, I want to say nice things about your story--it is a good story. It has action, romance, and fairly good descriptive imagery.
    But I've read a small piece of your blog, and you sound like the kind of asshole that craves attention, needs it.
    Just like me.
    Maybe you should join Narcissists Anonymous. My shrink recommended it to me, but why would I want to sit around listening to other people talk about *themselves*? Screw that.
    So I can't tell you how good the story is, because it'll just go to your head. We don't need that shit. Trust me.

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  2. I like this. The twist of it being the housewife is a nice one... about the time that we first see her husband get pistol whipped I was hoping it was her. :)

    I think there are a few places for improvement.

    -The opening where she is saying that Shark-grin looks covetous. That kind of introspection doesn't flow with the rest. And it's extraneous.

    -I think your goons' dialogue is a little too cliche.

    -I don't get a sense of her emotions at all. Her husband is shot, she's threatened and almost raped...yet, she's cool as a cucumber. I know that probably says a lot about her character, but it also makes her difficult to connect with in such a short story. Phillip's emotions? Totally there.

    -I would love to see what she does to Devereaux. This homicidal housewife thing is cool and has a lot of options.

    -Pet peeve: Pick a different word for gun some times. revolver? weapon? firearm? automatic? pistol?

    Overall, this was good. Especially for your first try. :) Thanks for sharing.

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  3. @oldestgenxer: You should read the rest. Its pretty awesome. Like me.


    @Jamie: Thank you for the feedback. I went back and reread the story, and you're right, I use the word gun like fiftybajillion times. Definitely could have changed it up more.

    I also understand what you're saying about Grace, and thinking about it now I can see a few ways I could have made her more human, but at the time I was worried that conveying her emotions could ruin the ending in two possible ways.

    First, if I made her really emotional, it might be too drastic a change when she turns out to be a killing machine. Second, I was worried that I would give away the ending if I got into her head too much.

    So, I just focused on Phillip's emotions, and made Grace more of a stone cold assassin hiding under this facade of "innocuous wife".


    Thank you both for taking the time to read and comment on my story. The cockles of my heart are all aglow.

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  4. I am a sucker for a woman with a gun and a mission of vengeance so I'd like to see the sequel to the story. I think I'm with Jamie on "covetous." On the other hand, I think you could plausibly say she was in shock if you didn't want her to be a cold-hearted bitch.

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  5. @katherine: Thank you for reading! On the subject of the "covetous" line, I was trying to give her a personality quirk where she is always looking for the right/perfect word to describe things--even in situations that wouldn't really call for it--and it's not really something she can control. I was hoping I had seeded it enough through the story that it would make a neat little tie-in with the fact that Devereaux's name is the word in her head at the end.

    Guess I botched it.

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  6. I don't have a problem with the word covetous. But it made me think she was highly religious for some reason. And with her chopping vegetables, as well, the mention of the fine sports car they couldn't afford got away from me, and I thought we were dealing with the old west. The name Devereux also reinforced that for some reason.
    Probably more my problems than your writing.
    A psychopath probably wouldn't love her man. So it would have been OK for her to show some emotion, as she did love Phillip.And would a stone cold killer be caught so flat footed?
    These are all little nitty picks. Because the story is very interesting, and I liked the twist at the end.
    This is a good story> you're a good story teller. : )

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  7. @louisesor: Thank you for the compliment. It really means a lot since I subsist purely on praise and booze. I'll be feasting on yours for a week.

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  8. Very well done. No complaints from me on the usage of covetous. Although it did suggest a vaguely religious aspect, not that that's necessarily wrong. I thought her lack of emotion was great, it's in keeping with her true character. Maybe you could've reinforced it some, with a statement about her "secret life" at the end. Again, kudos, definitely my fave so far.

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  9. Great story. Like Louise said, you're a good storyteller. I had no issue with the word covetous (and it didn't strike me as religious). If you wanted 'finding the right word' to be a character quirk, maybe she could have done it more than once? It's hard to do character quirks convincingly in such a short story.

    If you're interested in feedback, mine is actually about the antagonists. This may be just me, but if I was a vicious mobster intent on (a) finding the boss's money and (b) punishing the guy responsible for stealing it and killing four people (who were my acquaintances if not my friends), I wouldn't kill him so quickly. I mean, the guy didn't even admit it, let alone say where the money was. If I wanted someone to talk, I certainly wouldn't shoot him when I had his pretty wife to torture and rape in front of him. You gotta make people suffer when they cross the boss, and nothing says suffering like forcing them to watch you torment their loved ones.

    Just a thought.
    Jo.

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  10. @rogerkilbourne: Thank you for reading. I'm very pleased you enjoyed my story.

    @thehappylogophile: I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. I felt the same way about the goons as I was writing the story, but since I had only 1000 words I needed to get the action moving, so I couldn't spend as much time as I wanted to drawing out the interrogation and torture of Phillip, and even then I still couldn't keep it under 1K words!

    As far as the character quirk goes, I used it twice, the one everyone saw with the "covetous" line, and one after Phillip is shot while Baby-face is tearing up the other room. I guess it was too subtle.



    @all: I've received some wonderful feedback from everyone, and I have taken it all to heart. I really appreciate everyone who commented, and its given me a lot to think about--It NEVER occurred to me that the word covetous would evoke religious overtones, even though it probably should have--and has made me realize just how deft an author's writing must be to convey all of the things they want to in only 1000 words.

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