Look Right (Garage Fiction #22)

In a little over two hours, Bill Frederik would be dead.

A death by character flaw.

You see Bill was a team player. He would ruthlessly sacrifice himself to make sure others around him were taken care of, no matter the cost.

Work, church, a neighbor, a friend, wherever a need he’d go out of his way to meet it.

It was just part of who he was.  A learned response from younger days.

Days when he’d come home from school, to find his mother passed out from all the drinking. And as the oldest child he quickly made it his job to take care of his brother and sister.  Then in the morning, he’d check to make sure his mother was still breathing, then nurse her back from the dead, only to start the whole process all over again when he got home from school.

Selfless sacrifice was the only life Bill knew.  A way for him to hear his mother tell him he was a good boy for helping out. An affirmation that just drove him to work harder to  please her and make life easier for everyone else.

That’s why he could never say no.  When someone in authority asked for help, the compulsion to dive in took over.  Only this time, the cost would be higher than he’d want to pay.

You see it all came to a head when Bill’s firm asked him to move to the London office. And while the thought of uprooting the family from Atlanta to London was unfathomable.  He felt compelled to do it.  He needed to hear the powers that be tell him he was a “good boy”.

That of course would come after Sabine hit the roof and told him to pound sand after she found out they had to move again.

“What? You’ve got to be kidding!”  Bill thought back on the night he first told her about the move.

“It’s not going to be for forever.  Maybe two years,”

“Two years!” He could see she was about to explode.

“Look, I don’t want to move either.  But they need me in London. I have to do it.”  Bill needed to hear those words.

Who’s going to help me with the twins while your working twelve to fourteen hours a day? Sabine’s face was bathed in panic.

Bill knew how hard it was to chase two toddlers around on the nights he made it home before bed time. He couldn’t imagine how Sabine made it through the day.  But with her mom close by, they seemed to have made it work.

“I’m sure I can get them to cover the cost of a nanny.  They know the boys are young.”

Sabine rolled her eyes. Once again he was putting the needs of others before her and the family. But he never saw it that way.  They were just an extension of himself.  Another sacrificial lamb he would have to use to hear those words.

Thwack!

Bill snapped to as Eliot hit the office window next to the desk.

Standing outside in the London drizzle, Eliot tipped back his hand with the little finger and and thumb splayed out wide as he chugged a pint.

“C’mon to the pub laddie.” Eliot’s voice was muffled by the window. “All work and no play makes Billie a dull boy.”

Looking up at Eliot, Bill motioned to his desk.

Raising his voice though the glass he yelled, “I have to finish this for Monday.”

Smiling Bill waived him on.

Eliot gave a shrug as he turned and headed to the cub.  After looking right and letting the Black Cab pass, he bounded across the rain soaked street to the pub on the opposite corner to the left.

Bill could see him shake off his umbrella and make his way inside.  He thought about calling it day, but just another hour or so and he would be at a clear stopping point, which would make it easier to pick back up tomorrow and finish things up over the weekend.

Two more solid days of work and he could take a few days off when Sabine and the boys got in next week.

By eight o’clock, Bill was able to pack it in. Another thirteen hour day was behind him and that pint was sounding better by the minute.

Grabbing his umbrella he headed out the door.  He turned up the collar on his jacket as the cold wet weather sent a chill across his neck.

Texting Eliot Bill asked, “You still there?”

“Yes. It’s about time you called it a day. You’re going to kill yourself with hours like that.”

Bill smiled.  He knew if Eliot had noticed his sacrifice, it was only a matter of time before he’d hear those coveted words from the powers that be.

Wearing his eighty hour work weeks as a badge of honor Bill shot back, “Been working like this all my life. I’ll be fine”

Rubbing his tired eyes he stuffed his cell phone in his pocket.  Looking up and to the left he could see the pub and that the coast was clear.

But unfortunately, as he stepped into the street, he never saw the big letters under his feet that said “Look Right.”

CC License Garry Knight (Flickr)

CC License Garry Knight (Flickr)


This week’s Garage Fiction prompt was provided by Jinn Zhong…

The Japanese word: Karōshi (過労死)

From the Wikipedia entry:

Karōshi (過労死), which can be translated literally as “death from overwork” in Japanese, is occupational sudden death. The major medical causes of karōshi deaths are heart attack and stroke due to stress and a starvation diet.


These weekly scenes & stories are part of an ongoing project codenamed “Garage Fiction”. Since January 2015, three writers (Jinn Zhong, Dogwood Daniels and Me) have committed to writing a flash fiction or scene each and every week. We post on Fridays and dissect on Tuesdays via podcast.

To read Jinn Zhong’s Garage Fiction-of-the-week, Click Here:  The Vermillion Mage
To read Dogwood Daniel’s GF-of-the-week, Click Here: Scar, P2

I’ve Seen the Future And It’s a Cardboard Box (Garage Fiction #21)

Martine finally made it home.  It was eleven-thirty at night and Miguel and Abigail would already be asleep.   She hated that she’d done it again.  Put work before family.  But this was going to be the last time. 

The recent launch of Occulox was a huge success.  Twenty million units were sold in the first three hours. 

CC License othree (Flickr)

CC License othree (Flickr)

A brilliantly simple cardboard box with two bifurcated lenses and a magnet. And at $4 a pop, anyone with a smartphone could now immerse themselves in over thirty thousand virtual reality apps that played on the Occulox headset.

Making her way through the kitchen door she tried not to wake anyone.  She set her cell phone and briefcase on the table but held on to the copy of New York Times.

The front page headline gleamed with the Occulox launch.

We’ve Seen The Future and It’s a Cardboard Box.

Pouring a glass of 1997 Silver Oak Cabernet, Martine grabbed her laptop and took the paper into the living room.  Just a few quick emails to a manufacturer in China before the day gets away and she could call it quits.

Opening up the laptop she set the paper down on the table by the keyboard. She couldn’t stop staring at the headline.  It’s as if she’d been training her whole life for the olympics and had finally gotten the gold.

Sacrifice? Of Course.  She’d calculated every move until now.  When kids were playing in High School, she was studying.  Her life had been perfectly measured.  From undergrad to grad school she knew exactly where she wanted to be and how to get there.

She had waited until her career was established before ever thinking about getting pregnant.

But when Abigail came it changed everything.  All the things Martine detested like a lack of order and unfollowed routines were replaced by laughter and life.  Replaced by little feet, dirty noses, and crayons on the walls.

None of these things added up in her ordered world.  Which is why she kept working.  Even after Miguel quit Occulox right before the IPO. Martine stayed at it. Doing everything she could to avoid uncertainty.

Martine opened up her email on the laptop.

Looking at the blank screen She thought back on the fight last night.

“It’s always the same Martine.” Miguel yelled in a whisper so as not to wake Abigail. “Nothing changes unless we choose to change it . . . until you choose to change it.”

Late again.  Miguel had already put Abigail down for bed.  The crayons and building blocks still strewn across the living room.

Miguel had left Occulox a year ago to be at home with Abigail.  And after the Occulox IPO, there was really no need for him to work.

But Martine couldn’t let go.

“I get it Miguel.  But this launch is what I have worked my whole career for.  This is my baby.”

“And Abigail isn’t?”

Martine sat speechless.  There was no retort.  There was no answer.  Her eyes started to glaze over.  What had she done.  Three years and she barely knew Abigail.  Her bouncy curls had been brushed by the nanny, and now Miguel.

Heading back into the kitchen for a small splash of Silver Oak, Martine glanced over at the sideboard table near the kitchen.  A small cardboard box dancing with scribbles and colors from Abigail’s crayons.

She stopped and read the front where Abigail and Miguel had scribbled, “NO PHONE ZONE.”

It was Abigail’s idea that phones go in the box at night. Once she’d realized how much time Martine and Miguel were on the phone she’d begged over and over again, “get off the phone mommy” … “play with me”.

Martine walked back to the coffee table to grab her phone and put it in the box.  As she did, se saw the newspaper headline again, We’ve Seen The Future and It’s a Cardboard Box.  That’s when it hit her. All the calculations and she missed the most important.  Virtual worlds weren’t going to connect more people, they were going to isolate them even more. Occulox wasn’t bring people together it was going to drive them deeper into their own made up worlds.

Glancing again at the headline, Martine no longer felt like she’d grabbed the olympic gold.  If anything, she’d traded truth for a lie.

Sacrifices? Of course.  But at what cost.  What has she who gains the whole world but loses her own soul.

Martine took a photo of Abigail’s “NO PHONE ZONE” box with her cell phone as well as a photo of the New York Times headline. Attaching them on an email to the Occulox CEO, she wrote the simple words…

“I too have seen the future and it’s a cardboard box.”


This week’s Garage Fiction prompt was provided by me…

A New York Times article titled:
Google Intensifies Focus on Its Cardboard Virtual Reality Device by Conor Dougherty

Here’s an excerpt:

Google has seen the future, and it is littered with cardboard boxes.

At its Google I/O developer conference here on Thursday, the search giant announced several programs that aim to put its virtual reality viewer, called Cardboard, at the center of a growing online world in which people can use their smartphone and YouTube to watch videos rendered in 3-D.

Google introduced its virtual reality viewer — a cardboard box, with some lenses and a magnet, that looks a lot like a plastic View-Master toy — as a gift at last year’s I/O conference.

The idea was to create an inexpensive virtual reality device that allowed anyone with a smartphone to do things like fly through a Google Earth map of Chicago or view personal pictures in three dimensions.

It is a comically simple contraption: A smartphone slips into the front so it sits just inches from a user’s eyes. Peering through a pair of cheap, plastic lenses renders the images on the phone’s screen in 3-D. It costs around $4.


These weekly scenes & stories are part of an ongoing project codenamed “Garage Fiction”. Since January 2015, three writers (Jinn Zhong, Dogwood Daniels and Me) have committed to writing a flash fiction or scene each and every week. We post on Fridays and dissect on Tuesdays via podcast.

To read Jinn Zhong’s Garage Fiction-of-the-week, Click Here:  Fey Eyes
To read Dogwood Daniel’s GF-of-the-week, Click Here: Scar, P1

The Old Man With A Knife (Garage Fiction #20)

Gillis Tibideaux wasn’t much to look at.  It was’t that he was ugly.  He was just rather plain.  An everyman.  Maybe a bit too skinny perhaps, but otherwise a nice fellow.

He was a quiet sort who kept to himself.  And after the incident in New York, he liked it like that.

CC License - dwstucke (flickr)

CC License – dwstucke (flickr)

Nearly twenty years ago, his dad gave him the old 1961 Shasta Airflyte before he died.  Even though it was only sixteen feet by seven feet, he’d made it home, one of the few permanent campers in the RV park.

Summer was in full swing, and the bayou was full of campers from all over the midwest.

His little oasis had fallen prey to the little banshees running around the campsites disturbing his peace.

He didn’t mind so much. Never married, and never any children of his own.  He’d learned to welcome how loud a six year old could belt out a holler from down by the river.

The setting sun burned through the blinds on the west end of the trailer.  He’d positioned it that way so he could always see the sunset.

He adjusted the blinds just enough for him to see the sun start to touch the water at the far end of the bayou.  Every summer it was the same.

In about an hour, things would get peaceful again. The campfires would start as the kids got too tired to wreak any more havoc.

It was also the same time the loneliness would set in. And the thoughts of regret would  swarm though his mind like a beehive hit with a stick.

He eyed the cupboard.  It was just a few feet away.  It would be quick and easy. No one would know a thing.  At least not for a while.

It was Friday on a long weekend.  He wouldn’t need to be at the butcher shop preparing fresh cuts until five a.m. on Tuesday.

Just real quick.  It won’t hurt anyone.  It will make you feel better. 

Gillis rubbed his temples with the middle three fingers of both of hands.  Taking a deep breath, he willed the thoughts away.

Bzzzz. Sting. Bzzzz. Sting.

Every weekend got a little harder to stop the swarm.  During the week he didn’t have to worry about it as the 14 hour days at the butcher shop kept him too tired to care.

But weekends.  That was always difficult.

I wonder if the customers would miss me, he thought.

Ms. Graham always asked for him.  For some reason she thought his cuts made the meat more tender. Then there’s Mr.Cunningham.  Gillis started to list off the locals he liked.  And even a few of the visitors, at least the ones that came back year after year.

Like the Freeneys who started coming down from Baton Rouge. Bill and Jen had been down several summers in row with their daughter Allison and son Scotty.

Gillis knew them from both the butcher shop and the campground.  They were hard to miss when they first pulled up in that Prevost motor coach that would make a rock star jealous.  It was a palace on wheels.

Even though the Freeneys were obviously wealthy, they were always kind to Gillis when they came into the shop.  They’d catch up and ask him what had changed since last year, even reminding Gillis of what he shared last year when they were in town.

It felt good being remembered.  And he always made sure they were well taken care of when they came to the shop.  He smiled for moment as he thought of them, and little Scotty’s twenty questions a minute.

What would it have been like to have a family?  Too late now. Buzz. Sting.

Gillis fought back the regrets.  He knew it was too late for family. And with no siblings and no family of his own, he’d learned to find comfort in the little things.  Like the people who came into the shop and made him feel needed or wanted.

All they had to do was notice him, maybe say his name.  Just a little chit chat.  Something that distracted him from feeling completely alone in the world.

Even if they were just customers. It made him feel good that someone took note he was there.

You know it will be quick.  No one will ever know. Bzzz. Sting.

Gillis sat down on the bench near the door.  He could pull it out to make the bed, but once he did that, there was next to no room to move around.

Sitting on the bench facing the simple wood cupboard, he thought about the last gift his dad gave him before he died.

Opening up the sparse cupboard, the leather knife-roll sat on the top shelf.

Remember son, a butcher has to have good knives. If he’d heard that once, he’d heard it a thousand times.  A sad smile came across his face as he remembered his dad’s voice.

Gillis never wanted to be a butcher, but after the fiasco in New York, he figured a butcher was a more noble profession than Wall Street banker.

And the year or so they got to work together side by side was worth it, even after his dad sold the butcher shop to cover the legal fees back in New York.

At least they were both free and didn’t owe anything to anyone.

Looking down at the knives Gillis thought You can join him.  It will only take a moment.

This time there was no buzz, there was no sting.

It was a lucid thought that somehowe made sense.

Your life is nothing really. No purpose.  Why go on? 

Gillis looked outside the blinds.  The sun was had cut halfway through the horizon at the end of the bayou.

The kids had quieted down. The grills were going.  Families were being families.

And here you are, with nothing. Avoided jail in new York only to live in your own prison.  No one cares about you.  Why should you?

The knives glistened as the rays of an orange sun angled through the blinds and washed over the leather roll.

That one.  The big one.  It will be quick.  Do it!

Gillis tried to keep his thoughts in check. But now the clear thoughts and buzzing ones all flowed into one seamless grind in his head.

No one cares about you. Who are you kidding?  This isn’t a life.  You’re already dead.

Gillis set his hands on the table in front of the knives as his palms began to sweat.  Moving his right hand from left to right over the leather roll, splayed out with all five knives, his hand hovered over the Wüsthof 9″ Hollow-Edge Carving Knife.

That’s the one.

A numbing feeling coursed through his body as his heart began to race.  He questioned why he hadn’t done this before.  All it would take is a firm thrust in and sweeping motion down and he could rest.

No more swarming thoughts. No more fly on the wall.  No more standing in silence while everyone around you lives life.

That’s it, right there. 

Gillis took the point of the razor sharp knife and pressed it into his neck about three inches under his right ear and just behind the jawline.  With the angle of the blade pointing down toward the table in front of him, all  it would take is one thrust.

Don’t wait.  No one will ever miss you.  They may mourn  for a moment, but in a day or two, you’ll be forgotten.  But this time, instead of walking around feeling the pain of being forgotten, you will sleep Gillis.  Do it!

Gillis gripped the handle of the knife with all his might, tensing his bicep he closed his eyes.

Bham … wham … wham.  The pounding on the door just a foot from Gillis’ left ear shook the trailer.

“Gillis? You in there! It’s Bill Freeney.”

Snapping to, Gillis looked at the knife roll and the missing 9” blade.  Without moving his head, he saw the butt of the blade near his clinched fist and pulled the knife away from his neck.”

“Yes. Just a moment.”

Startled. Gillis put the knife back in the roll and then flopped one end over onto the other. Still sitting on the bench, he reached over and opened the door to see Bill Freeney and his son Scotty.

“I hope we aren’t disturbing you.”

Still shaken Gillis kept his composure. “No, uh … I was just settling in.”

“Well we didn’t want to bother you.  But Jill has fixed more food than we know what to do with and when I went to put the steaks on … the ones we picked up earlier … I noticed we had an extra steak. Have you eaten yet?”

“No.”

“Great.  We want you to come have dinner with the family.  Jill told me she wouldn’t take no for an answer. So you better come.”

Gillis looked at Bill and Scotty with a half smile “Thank you very much for the invitation.”

“If you haven’t eaten, ’no’ is not an option, we want you to come.”

“Well fine then. I just need to take care of something before I do anything else. It will only take a minute.”

“Fair enough.”

Gillis watched Bill and Scotty head back to their motor coach.  Closing the door and the blinds, he reached for the knife-roll on the table.


This week’s Garage Fiction prompt was provided by Dogwood Daniels…

It was a simple phrase, in the traditional of old school fiction prompts:

The Old Man With A Knife.


These weekly scenes & stories are part of an ongoing project codenamed “Garage Fiction”. Since January 2015, three writers (Jinn Zhong, Dogwood Daniels and Me) have committed to writing a flash fiction or scene each and every week. We post on Fridays and dissect on Tuesdays via podcast.

To read Jinn Zhong’s Garage Fiction-of-the-week, Click Here:  XII: Gouda – Hippopotamus
To read Dogwood Daniel’s GF-of-the-week, Click Here: Flowers  NOTE: “FLOWERS” IS A HIGHLY DISTURBING STORY. READER DISCRETION ADVISED

 

Three Fingers (Garage Fiction #19)

Tom Skinner looked down as the pale yellow light from the floor lamp in his study cascaded over the three fingers of 14 year-old Balvenie scotch his wife left for him on the armchair table before heading out with friends for a show at the National Theater.

Evelyn was meticulous.  She knew exactly how he liked his scotch.  Just one cube of ice and a slight shake of the glass so the scotch breathe enough for the bouquet to fill his nose on that first cool sip.  A sip that quickly turned into a gulp as Tom tried to take the sting out the call on the encrypted line, hardwired into his study.

CC License - Intangible Arts

CC License – IntangibleArts (Flickr)

“You’ll get the job done as a discussed Tom.  Unless of course you prefer Evelyn to get a copy of what I’m holding in my hand. I would imagine once she sees the extent of your depravity, she will never  want to see you or speak with you again. She is a bit more demure than the woman with the whip in this picture.  I suggest you finish what we started unless you want to live the rest of your life alone.”

Tom hung up on Miles without a word.  Grabbing another gulp of scotch he melted into the leather of his favorite wingback.  The chair, the side table, and all the other furniture in his study hadn’t changed in more then 30 years.

They were the same pieces he and Evelyn had hand picked when they first built the house in the early eighties.  He had just become the Deputy National Security Advisor for Bush 41.  And as a non-partisan patriot with one of the fastest rising stars in the intelligence business, it was no surprise when the current Administration tapped him to become the Director of National Intelligence, a role that put him in charge of all sixteen U.S. intelligence agencies including the CIA, NSA, and Homeland Security.

But with all his years in intelligence.  One lapse in judgement could cost him everything he holds dear.  The one thing that was irreplaceable, Evelyn.

He thought back on all they’d been through together, she deserved better than this.  Better than being ambushed from a White House thug like Miles Barton.

He should never have gone to that private club in Budapest with the Hungarian Ambassador, but it wasn’t completely voluntary. He knew after that second scotch that something was wrong.  And after waking up without his clothes in his hotel room.  He knew it was bad.  But after a thorough investigation by two of his trusted aides, everything came back clean.  Until Miles showed him one of the pictures.

He always tried to shield Evelyn from his work.  Intelligence was always a dirty business.  But this time he was at a crossroads.  Risk losing her, or make sure General John Cabot died in a tragic, untraceable accident during his next trip to Iraq.

His stomach churned as he mulled the options.  He’d been in the situation before.  Innocent people had died during intelligence operations, but all of it was in the line of duty, never to protect his own agenda  He’d only net General Cabot once, and he seemed a true patriot, not unlike himself. And the thought of killing an innocent man just for doing his job was virtually unconscionable.

Tom looked down at a remnant of the melted ice cube as it hung on for dear life swirling in the amber hue of that last finger of scotch.  Taking a final gulp, he got up from the wingback and walked to the sideboard to grab the decanter of Balvanie and another ice cube.

Walking back to his chair, he winced at the thought of living alone.  Amputated from the only woman he’d ever loved.   Their routines were like a dance.  From morning to night the they didn’t vary much.  Even with a chef in the house, Evelyn liked to make the two of them breakfast.  And in the evenings she wasn’t going to let the maid fix her husband’s drink when she was around.  For years the ritual had been the same, and they mused about growing old in the same brick home they’d raised their four kids in.

But now, this dirty intelligence business was about to rip their life apart.

Early on in the marriage, Evelyn had found the magazines one day while cleaning his office. She immediately withdrew, pained by the thought that she wasn’t enough for her him.  He assured her it wasn’t the case.  And about the time they’d healed the rift and begun to build trust once again, the Internet exploded and so did the access to porn. Now Tom had a silent way to keep his addiction going without being caught.

He loved his wife, but the sexual urge and easy access consumed him more and more. Sure he’d stop for a while, think it was behind him, but then the trigger would come and he’d be off to the races in his mind, looking for a way to act out. But he drew a line with porn.  That was until that night in Budapest.

He knew for years he had a weakness.  Had even sought solace in confessing his struggles to his Pastor.   And although he was conflicted, stepping out on Evelyn was never even a remote possibility.  Especially after more than 40 years of a happiness.   But in Budapest, even though he can’t remember what happened, he knew it all went south.

Staring at another three fingers of Balvanie, Tom silently wished he’d never gotten into this dirty business.  And as disgusted as he was with his own behavior.  He took another hard gulp.  The last thought before he dozed off was, there was no way I’m going to kill another patriot to save my own ass.

Tom came to as Evelyn stood over him, as beautiful as ever.

“Hunny, you look awful. Is everything ok.”

“Not really sweetheart, we need to talk.”


This week’s Garage Fiction prompt was provided by Jinn Zhong…

“Svefn-g-englar” written and performed by Sigur Rós

LYRICS in original Icelandic and Vonlenska:

(Ég) er kominn aftur (á ný)
Inn í þig
(Það er) svo gott að vera (hér)
En stoppa stutt við

Ég flýt um í neðarsjávar hýði
(á hóteli)
beintengdur við rafmagnstöfluna
(og nærist)

tjú, tjú
tjú, tjú

En biðin gerir mig (leiðan)
Brot (hættan) sparka frá mér (og kall á)
Ég verð að fara (hjálp)

tjú, tjú, tjú
tjú, tjú, tjú

tjú, tjú, tjú, tjú, tjú

Ég spring út og friðurinn í loft upp

(Baðaður nýju ljósi
Ég græt og ég græt, aftengdur)
Ónýttur heili settur á brjóst og mataður af svefn
Svefn-g-englum

tjú, tjú, tjú
tjú, tjú, tjú
tjú

English Translation:

(I) am here once more (anew)
Inside of you
(It’s) so nice to be (in here)
But I can’t stay for long

I float around in liquid hibernation
(in a hotel)
connected to the electricity board
(and drinking)

tjú, tjú
tjú, tjú

But the wait makes me (uneasy)
I kick (the fragility) away from me (and I shout)
I have to go (help)

tjú, tjú, tjú
tjú, tjú, tjú

tjú, tjú, tjú, tjú, tjú

I explode out and the peace is gone

(Bathed in new light
I cry and I cry, disconnected)
An unused brain is put on breasts and is fed by sleep
Sleep angels

tjú, tjú, tjú
tjú, tjú, tjú
tjú


These weekly scenes & stories are part of an ongoing project codenamed “Garage Fiction”. Since January 2015, three writers (Jinn Zhong, Dogwood Daniels and Me) have committed to writing a flash fiction or scene each and every week. We post on Fridays and dissect on Tuesdays via podcast.

To read Jinn Zhong’s Garage Fiction-of-the-week, Click Here:  Neðarsjávar Hýði
To read Dogwood Daniel’s GF-of-the-week, Click Here: The Mural, P1

Care for Game? (Garage Fiction #18)

Miles scrolled through the contacts on his phone, contemplating a random call or text.  He couldn’t stand being alone for too long.  The silence was suffocating.  He needed movement.  Interaction. Conflict if need be.  Just no silence.  One of the unfortunate scars of being an orphan.

Funny thing about being orphan, your parents don’t have to be dead to abandon you.  They just have to be absent, even when their sitting in the same room.  As far as Miles was concerned, he’d been abandoned long before the fire consumed his mom and dad as he watched while the house burned.

Sitting in the back corner of the coffee shop he watched the normal people come in and out.  Nurses, couriers, students, accountants, the occasional lobbyist or mid-level staffer, mostly just the working crowd back,  for another day’s grind.

He knew most of them were probably struggling paycheck to paycheck.  Washington D.C., wasn’t a cheap place to live and play. It could easily eat a couple of paychecks in a single weekend if you couldn’t hold your liquor or keep your pants on.  At least that was his experience. He smiled at the thought. He didn’t need his $175,000 Chief-of Staff salary, so his paychecks seemed to burn with ease.

He tried to hold back the disdain for the normal people. Empathy was never easy. Feelings were foreign to Miles.  He preferred calculation and mental gymnastics any day. It was better to keep people spinning like a plate on a stick than get too interested in the sappy side of life.

It was all about controlling the environment and bending it to what you wanted, emotions just got in the way. Unless you needed them as a tool.

Miles to a long sip of his French pressed java as he read the front page of the Financial Times.  He always preferred it over the Wall Street Journal.  The writing was better and he liked how the salmon color of the paper stood out on a newsstand.

He liked things that stood out.  Things that were bold.  Boldness, was a well used calling card he used to be heard and get things done. So the times was a fitting accessory.

Setting his cup on the table he caught a glimpse of John Copper as he walked in.  Nodding to Miles, John motioned toward the counter signaling he’d grab a coffee. Miles nodded back as he watched the six foot three brit get in line.

John and Miles met during orientation on their first day at Goldman Sachs.  Two alpha males who’d just as soon take you out in the alley and beat you then let you take money from them on a trading desk.

For them, it was all about the win.  And after seven years in a Wall Street foxhole together, they were ready to fight whoever, whenever—as long as it put money in their pockets.

“Morning Miles.”

“Morning Copper. How was the flight. Uneventful.  Thanks for sending the plane.  I was able to stay on at the High Street office until Tokyo opened.

“With pleasure my friend. So where do we stand.”

“I spoke with Hilal twice on the flight over.  And it looks good.  There is a Panamax Oil Tanker leaving the port of Dubai empty, later today. If you’re ready to put up the money. We can probably have it full by Wednesday next week.”

“At what price?”

“I think we can get it filled at about $20 a barrel.”

“Well done. That’s 60% under the market.”

“It’s possible it could go higher than twenty if ISIS has trouble getting it through Syria.”

“That’s fine.  We will be holding the tanker in Panama until oil hits around $80 a barrel.  We won’t miss five bucks.”

“You mean, you won’t miss four million.  That ship holds about 800,000 barrels.”

Miles laughed.  “I won’t miss four million.  But don’t give it away.  Better to let them think we’re unwilling to pay a dime over $20. They’ll capitulate.  Its the only way they can fund operations.  That’s blood oil, and their buyers are going to get harder to come by.”

“Why’s that?”

The President has a new guy running the coalition against ISIS. A General Abbot.”

“I think I saw him on the news.”

“I tried to dissuade him of Abbot.  But he wouldn’t listen. Seems to be a friend of a friend thing.”

“This guy a hard ass.”

“He’s a patriot and an Eagle Scout. All I know is that he’s tightening the noose by expanding the coalition.  And those who aren’t supporting the cause with troops and support on the ground are beefing up intelligence in the banking sector.  They’re watching global cash flows like a hawk.  Cut off the flow of funds, and you cut of the growing Caliphate.”

“That’s why your in the Whitehouse my friend. You take care of your end, and I’ll take care of mine. If we do this right, we will be sitting on fat check of about $44,000,000, even if we have to pay $25 a barrel.”

Miles smirked.

“That makes it easier to let that four million go. Even so, tell them not a dime over $20 and see what happens.”

“I will.”

“The bottom line is that we need this first one to go off very smoothly.  I think I can get to General Abbot, but it’s going to take a little time.  But, if I’m successful, it will be very easy for us going forward.  So make sure this goes off without any issues.”

“C’mon Miles. You know I’m a closer.”

“I know.  But this one has to be flawless.”

“Consider it done my friend.”

Copper took a sip of his coffee and looked down at the Financial Times.

“Glad to see you still like our paper over that American rag.”

Miles smiled.  They’d argued the merits of both papers, many a morning on the trading desk, until Copper finally convinced him that the Times was superior in every way.

“I have to run Copper.  I have a staff meeting in forty minutes. Why don’t we meet at the club later and I can kick your ass in a game of squash.”

Incredulous, Copper looked up as Miles stood.

“You amuse me Miles.  What are we now, seventy games to none? My favor of course.”

Miles grinned like the Cheshire cat.  He knew Balaam should be back by then. And hating to lose, he wanted to finally give Copper a good drubbing.

“I’ve been gaining some skills since we lastplayed.  C’mon, it’ll be fun.”

“If you say so. Around five o’clock?

“Perfect.”

“Fine.  See you then. Oh and leave the paper. I still need to finish my coffee.”

“Cheers.”


This week’s Garage Fiction prompt was provided by me …

The Wrath of Jinn
(In reference to Garage Fiction Podcast Episode #15)

 


These weekly scenes & stories are part of an ongoing project called “Garage Fiction”. Since January 2015, three writers (Jinn Zhong, Dogwood Daniels and Me)  have committed to writing a flash fiction or scene each and every week. We post on Fridays and dissect on Mondays via podcast.

Author’s Note: Depending on how Jinn and Dogwood are feeling, their writings, posts, or podcasts may warrant an R rating for mature content (99% of this comes from Dogwood).

Godspeed… and I hope you enjoy our project.

To read Jinn Zhong’s Garage Fiction-of-the-week, Click Here: Coming Soon
To read Dogwood Daniel’s GF-of-the-week, Click Here: The Tramp Redux