In keeping with my commitment to write more flash fiction, here’s something based on a 500 Club prompt: “The new year marks ends and beginnings. Write 500 words where the last line mirrors the first.”
Admittedly, it’s an easier prompt than I usually go for. Half the fun of flash fiction, for me, is the challenge. But, to make up for that, I chose to write this in the present tense (which I find harder) and I tried to cram a lot into these 500 words. Perhaps too much. I’ll let you decide.
This is crazy.
I’m at the Fuzzy Cat sitting in the back with Rick and Tony. Rick’s drinking double Jack and Cokes, knocking them back like he’s pissed off at them, and Tony is nursing a Shiner. Nursing because he’s scared. He doesn’t put much stock in liquid courage. I think that might be the only kind of courage Rick has ever known, but I need him to pull this off so here he is.
“Why tonight?” Tony asks.
I wave at the waitress, a cute thing with a big ass. She shuffles over. “Crown, no ice.”
“You got it, baby.” Rick smiles at her like she told him a secret.
“Because,” I say to Tony, “Shelly is gone tonight and I’m not doing this with her around. She’s at her dad’s.”
“He actually made good? Took her for the weekend?” Tony’s got kids, two from his ex and a step son. He’s never shirked on his responsibilities, though.
“But I thought we were going out to Little Sal’s place to do this.” Rick says. “What does it matter if Shelly is home. Brenda’s there, right?”
“Yeah, yeah,” I say, still nodding. “The plan is to keep this business at Sal’s, but I’m not taking any chances. God willing, Brenda won’t even know about this for a couple of days. When she runs out of shit and tries to buy more, her connection will be gone. Then I can try to get her and Shelly out of here, maybe go to Phoenix to my uncle’s, I don’t know. Don’t care, either. I just want to cut off her supply. That’s my best shot at helping her.”
“Fuckin’ A. Lesh do thish.” Rick is trying to light the wrong end of a cigarette and Tony is giving me a look. It’s not a good look.
“Rick, man, get your shit together. Order a coffee or something.” Tony is pragmatic.
“Here,” I say, offering Rick my hand and helping him to stand. “You go to the john and I’ll get some coffee for you while you’re gone.” He has abandoned the cigarette and takes my hand. He stands and, reeling to and fro, stumbles toward the men’s room.
As soon as he’s out of earshot I turn to Tony. “Leave some money on the table. Let’s go.”
My turn to be pragmatic. “I just want to scare Sal. You know why they call him ‘Little Sal’? He’s small time. Two guys he don’t know come and tell him to back off, one of them waving a badge, he’s gonna tuck tail. I don’t need Rick fucking this up. Grab his wallet from his coat.”
Tony grabs the coat. “But it’s Rick’s badge,” he says.
I throw forty bucks down on the table and nod to the waitress. “Make sure our friend makes it home.” She smiles when I hand her a twenty and says she will.
I take the coat from Tony. “I know, man.”
This is crazy.