Saturday, May 1, 2010

F-F-F #30 - Be Careful

Here's my contribution to Friday Flash Fiction. I couldn't let these two super sentences go to waste. Hope you enjoy!


I know what I saw and years of anti-psychotics and group therapies couldn’t convince me otherwise. You have to believe me, Ethan. I know everybody around here thinks I’m the loony in 4B, but I do take my meds for my depression, and I’m not crazy.”

Marissa’s eyes filled with tears. The pained look on her neighbor’s face made her feel ashamed she had run across the hall and pounded on his door in the middle of the night. A second glance, however, revealed that she was squeezing his hand so hard it was turning a deep shade of purple. She quickly released her grip.

“Oh, I’m so sorry, Ethan. I’m just so upset. It’s not every day you see someone getting killed.”

Ethan massaged his hand to try to get some of the feeling back.

“Marissa,” he said quietly, “nobody think you’re crazy, least of all, me. We all have problems, you know, but yours just happen to be rather public. I mean, your parents being killed in that accident because the train signal failed, then the train jumps the track, the lawsuit and the trial--why, the media was all over it. You know how those people are. The more gruesome a story is, the more coverage it gets. Your moving here could have provided you with some peace, but everyone had already seen you on those court television shows. I’ll tell you, your public breakdown was quite understandable and actually predictable.”

Marissa now knew she had made the right decision to tell Ethan what she had seen. She hadn’t known him for long, but he was so calm and self-assured, he made her feel so safe. Yes, he could be trusted. He would let her know what she should do.

“Tell me again now, slowly,” he began, “exactly what it is that you saw.” Ethan got up and put the kettle on. Something hot and soothing was definitely what she needed.

“Alright,” Marissa took a deep breath and continued, “I had finished my dinner, took my medicine and decided to lay down for a bit. When I woke up, I realized I had fallen sound asleep and it was after 11, so I decided I’d have a cup of coffee and go to bed. I didn’t need the kitchen lights on because of all the streetlights and traffic and all. I was pulling the curtains closed by the window above the sink when I noticed something odd across the way. You know those new apartments across the street with the big picture windows in the living rooms?

Well, a light was on in the one directly across from me on the 3rd floor and I saw this woman backing up in the room, holding her hands up. All of a sudden, a man came into view--I couldn’t see his face--but he grabbed her around the neck with his left hand, picked up a lamp with his right, and began to hit her on the head with it over and over, then it all went dark. It was so horrible. I just can’t seem to get that picture out of my head. I wanted to ask somebody what to do and I knew you’d be able to advise me. I know I should call the police, but like I said, I never saw his face, but there was one thing. When he held the lamp up right before he hit her, I saw a bright silver ring on his finger. The light caught it and it flashed so brightly, I could see it all the way over here. It had a really strange shape, like a long, narrow diamond shape. I will never forget that image. But what good would that do the police?”

“A silver ring? Really?” Ethan began. “I’ll bet that would help the police find the killer. An unusual piece of jewelry like that? They could probably check around and find the jeweler that sold or made it and be able to identify the purchaser. Oh, look, the coffee’s ready. Let’s have a cup and then you can call the police. I’ll stay here with you when you call if you’d like.”

Marissa was feeling so much better. This young man’s moving in across the hall was a real Godsend. The coffee smelled fantastic and the company was charming. She’d be able to get through this ordeal in one piece after all. She looked at the coffee Ethan set down in front of her and smiled. He’d added the perfect amount of her favorite creamer and it looked so warm and somehow comforting.

She had finished about half her cup when the began to feel as if something wasn’t quite right.

“Ethan,” she was already slurring her words,” is it me, or does this coffee taste weir…

The cup slipped from her hand and Ethan caught it before it hit the floor.

“’Weird’? Is that what you were going to ask? Does the coffee taste weird? Truth is, mine was just great. Yours may have seemed a bit off since I spiced it up quite a bit with some of that bottled Prozac you’ve got on the counter. Nice of your doctor to prescribe it like that for you since you can’t swallow pills. Handy, really.”

Ethan began washing the cups and straightening up the kitchen.

“No sense confusing the authorities with extraneous details. The simplest explanation is always the best. You’ve been very depressed of late, and tonight while you were alone, you accidentally took way too much of your medicine. Overdoses are so tragic.”

Marissa was having great difficulty breathing and it was getting harder to keep her eyes open. She looked up at the young man she thought she knew--thought she could trust--and wondered why.

Once all traces of his being there had been wiped clean, on his way out, he decided to explain.

“I had to off that bitch. Just because I got tired of fucking her, she decided she was going to tell her old man I had been helping myself to his investment money. She needed to be silenced, like, permanently. Oh, and the ring you saw? She had that made special for me. It’s supposed to be some kind of Egyptian symbol or something, and was very expensive and one of a kind. One call to the right jeweler and…, well, all I can say is, you should have just closed your curtains and gone to bed.”

He took one last look, and Marissa’s eyes were closed and her breathing was shallow and strained. It should be over by the time he got back to his apartment. The ring should be done soaking in that solution too, he thought, and no more blood should be visible. He looked forward to putting it back on now that he was free to wear it in public. The dumb bitch did have good taste in jewelry, at least. He made sure Marissa’s door was securely locked when he left. These days, one just couldn’t be too careful.


  1. Joyce,

    Nice incorporation of both sentences and congrats, you're on the author list. Your story is scheduled to be published with everyone else's on Tuesday.

  2. A great, suspenseful story, Joyce. Very well done.

  3. Great portrait of the blurred line between fiction and reality. Nicely used to build tension and keep us guessing Joyce.

  4. Thanks, Cormac. When I read those two sentences, a story just popped in my head. I love when that happens. I look forward to Tuesday. There are always so many terrific ones on there. Glad to be a part of this.

  5. David, Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Glad you enjoyed it. Tried to build it up nice and slow. Those two sentences were so great--I couldn't pass them up.

  6. Thanks, Richard, for taking time to read and comment. You just never know who you're talking to, do you? I wanted to sneak in my character's dark side. Those sentences were just too perfect, and having two to work in was twice the fun.

  7. Can't let those nosy neighbors go ruining your perfect crime now can you? Nice story.

  8. A cautionary tale to always carry bottled water wherever you go. Good stuff!

  9. This was very nice, Welcome to FFF, I hope after reading this that you'll stick around for a while! One such as myself never grows tired of reading such soul sucking pieces!

    I loved your flow and pacing. Great Job!

  10. Joyce:

    I enjoy the real imagery that I "see" when I read your story. And I enjoyed the "suspense" of the ending as well. It is a graphic, yet well described tale.


  11. This is really nice and dark! Welcome to FFF!

  12. It's always a matter of perspective...fine piece of work.

  13. Joyce - this was a real good read! Just makes you think - jumping from the frying pan into the fire!

    Well done, looking forward to seeing more!!

  14. Flannery, Thanks, and I'm really happy to be a part of all this. 'Nice and dark' is my favorite! Glad you like!

  15. WellesFan, Thanks. If only she'd just closed the curtains and gone to bed like she was supposed to. But, no.....................

  16. Randal, Thanks. Now we know why moms everywhere always say, get up and get your OWN drink!

  17. Nicole, Thanks. I'm in to stay. Great stuff on there. Glad you enjoyed my little tale!

  18. Prof, Thanks. I love to create a sense of danger while sneaking a peek behind somebody else's closed doors!

  19. Paul, Thanks. I guess she didn't see it quite as simply as he did--just eliminating a liability. One man's trash, and all that.

  20. Sue, Thanks. She just HAD to tell somebody. She couldn't just jot something down in her diary like a normal person...