This appetizer is my flash fiction response to the writing exercise in Stephen King’s book, On Writing. Thank you Mr. King, for scaring the hell out of me over all of these years. Someday, perhaps, I will be in a position to return the favor (cue evil laugh- Bwaahahaha).
Dick entered his new house, or at least it was new to him. It was a ninety-year-old Craftsman that smelled of old wax from the scuffed hardwood floors and soot from the old fireplace. It was also the nicest house he could afford after his recent divorce and it offered plenty of room for his son Michael and himself. There was another scent in the air too. Dick couldn’t quite place the familiar smell. A spice? Dick thought. Probably the ghost of a meal coming from the kitchen. He walked across the living room to the corner where he slumped into the torn high-backed chair.
He felt ill at ease as he thought back on the divorce and a shudder went through him. He was fine an hour ago when he had dropped off Michael at a friend’s birthday party. The look of joy on Michael’s face had helped Dick feel good about life once again. Now he had butterflies in the pit of his stomach. He picked up a dog-eared copy of a Stephen King novel but he was too nervous to read. What he needed was something to help veg him out, so he turned on the television. The local news filled the room-
“We have an update on our breaking news. The guard in today’s prison escape has died. Their name is being withheld pending notification of family. To recap, three prisoners escaped today from the Chamber’s prison facility, with one of the three prisoners still at large. One of the two guards injured in the breakout has died. The other guard was treated for minor injuries and released. Please stay tuned for further updates.”
The news anchor sat ramrod straight and spoke in a somber voice, but her eyes danced with excitement. Today had more news than what normally happened in a whole month. Dick fiddled with the remote control, turning it over and over in his hands. His right heel tapped up and down, sending his leg into a jig. The rest of him sat in a numb stupor and watched the screen flicker.
A sudden noise came from upstairs. It sounded like a door closing. His right leg stopped dancing as he turned the television sound to mute. He listened. He heard the Click-Clack of high heels in the hallway upstairs. A wave of nausea overwhelmed him as he added the unknown smell to the sound of high heels. It was his ex-wife’s perfume he had smelled earlier. He suddenly knew who the third escaped prisoner was. Only Jane could have figured out how to have both her perfume and high heels while in prison.
There was the Click of her high heel on the top step of the staircase. Jane took her time in descending. It was torture to Dick and she loved it.
This was followed by a Clack from her other high heel on the next step. With quick breaths he remembered her arrest. She had staged an argument with him in front of their son Michael in order to use Michael to hurt him. When Dick had dared to fight back her temper flared, and she threw Michael hard against the window. This triggered an explosion of glass. Dick then grabbed his bleeding son and ran next door for help.
Click, another step closer- The assault of Michael was the last straw and, after years of trying, Dick filed for divorce. He wanted a civil divorce but she wanted control. Jane emotionally blackmailed her own son. She told Michael she would kill herself if he ever left her. Dick held back tears as Michael testified against him in court. Even though Jane went to prison for her attack of Michael, the judge still gave Dick only temporary custody. “We all say and do things we later regret.” the judge had said. When she got out of prison Jane would have joint custody.
There was a pause filled by silence, broken only by Dick’s stifled cry. A rapid fire Click-Clack-Click-Clack echoed as Jane bounded down the rest of the stairs. She entered the room with a smirk on her face, but her eyes held more hate than Dick had ever seen before. He felt cold when he saw her, although beads of sweat stood on his brow.
“Dick, honey,” Jane said. “It’s good to see you again.”
“The prison guard died, Jane. What have you done?”
“Me? I just wanted to see my son and the guard wouldn’t let me. He had a gun, so I took it. Do you want to see it?”
She drew the gun from her waistband. Dick froze in place like a hare under the spell of a snake.
“Are you going to piss yourself?” Jane laughed.
A tear rolled down Dick’s face. He thought of Michael and how he’d never see him again. He felt guilty for putting his son through so much and he regretted it. Jane was insane. He had been the fool for not doing something earlier when he had the chance.
“Where’s Michael? My son.” Jane said.
“I’m not telling you. Go ahead and do what you came here to do.”
“Honey, what do you think I came here to do?”
She mocked him with her smile. Then she grew tired of playing with him.
“No, I’m not going to kill you Dick. I can’t hurt you physically anymore, not like before. You’re grown stronger, we both know that. Where’s Michael, sweetheart? Tell me where he’s at.”
He realized what her plan was and the look on his face pleased her. Her eyes danced with delight.
“You bitch! You can’t hurt our son to get back at me! He’s innocent!”
Her eyes turned into anger.
“Innocent? You turned my son against me! Every time I tried to teach him you protected him! I didn’t want him growing up to be like his father, a weak, sniveling little man! Besides, he’s not the innocent boy you like to think he is. Don’t you remember the trial and what he said about you?”
“I remember what you made him say.” Dick said.
“He lied! Doesn’t that offend you? He needs to be taught a lesson about lying.”
Dick heard a car door slam outside. His stomach sank. It had to be Mrs. Smith dropping off Michael. He saw the door knob turn, and then the door opened.
“Hi daddy, I’m home!”
Jane mouthed Aha! She turned to the door with a gleam in her eyes. Dick saw his chance. He sprung from his chair and bull rushed Jane. Surprised, she shoved the gun into his belly and pulled the trigger. Dick was pushed back by the punch of the bullet. Then he bull rushed her again and wrestled her for the gun. Michael bawled in terror at the scene and he pressed his back against the hallway wall. Jane began screaming in rage as Dick slowly turned the gun towards her.
“You’re right Jane, honey, I won’t let you hurt me anymore.”
He cast a guilty look at Michael.
“He deserves better than us.” Dick said.
He pulled back on the trigger and Jane’s blood and brains splattered the old room.
Dick staggered as he turned towards Michael and then collapsed to his knees. His shirt was soaked with his own blood, and splatters of Jane covered his face. He motioned Michael forward and embraced him one last time. Then he sat back on his heels.
In between coughing fits he said- “Listen to me Michael. I want you to go live with aunt Peggy… Be good for her… Everything that’s happened is not your fault… It’s not your fault. It’s mine. I did this… I should have been better and I’m sorry.”
He patted his son’s head.
“I love you son.”
Dick fell the rest of the way to the floor where he died.
Michael looked around the room with sad doubt in his eyes. He hesitated, then he walked over to the front door and closed it. He went back to the hallway where he sat down. His empty voice rose as he started to sing Happy Birthday.