Sunday, November 20, 2011


This week’s prompt was to use a bottle of ketchup in your story. The genre was open, and the word max was 1,000. This one was nothing but tons of fun!


“I’m telling you, Joey, my new landlady’s CIA or something. She’s always at her front window, peeking through the curtain, writing down when we all come and go in a little black notebook. I seen it, Joey. She’s a fuckin’ spy. You gotta help me find another place right away.”

Oh crap.

Here we go again. No use telling him the woman’s just some nosey old cow who’s got nothing better to do with her life than monitor her renter’s comings and goings. Really. No point.

See, Petey’s my wife’s brother. He’s nuttier than a Christmas fruitcake, but he’s got a special talent that more than makes up for his daily delusions. The kid’s got the stickiest fingers in town. I mean, he can steal the chair you’re sitting on right out from under you and it will be an hour before you even know it’s gone. He really is THAT good, so helping him move 16 times over the past couple of months is no biggie. When I send him out for anything, he always comes through. Doesn’t ask for much either--just enough to get by on; that is, until today.

“Joey, I need to find a better place, so after I do this one, you think maybe you and I could have a long talk about me getting a raise?”

“Petey, you get that clerk to pull out that tray of diamond rings and then swap out the biggest one for this piece of glass and we’ll see. All I need is one more score and then your sister and I can get a nicer place too and rest easy for awhile.”

Petey was real anxious to apply his sleight of hand skill, but wanted me to help him move out of the ‘CIA agent’s’ building first. ‘Paranoid Petey’, my wife’s always called him. Considering the magic in those quick hands of his, “Petey, The Magnificent’ is the moniker I prefer. I got the dolly out of our storage locker and the Bengay out of our bathroom cabinet.

* * * * *

“Where have you been, Petey?” I was in the throes of a major panic attack. “You were supposed to be here two hours ago. I thought you got pinched.”

“Oh no, Joey. I got the ring okay, but then there were these plainclothes dicks everywhere--I seen them--so I stopped in over to the Royale Hotel’s dining room and got a burger. That’s so I could throw them off. See?”

“Okay, Petey. No problem. So, where’s the ring?”

“Well, I couldn’t very well just up and leave with it on me, now could I? So I stashed it in a safe place.”

Uh-oh. Petey may have been quick with his hands, but his mind was something else altogether. Not the sharpest tool in the box, as some say.

“You stashed…, I mean, you don’t have…, where is it, Petey?”

“Oh, it’s where nobody would ever think to look for a ring. You can go over to the hotel to get it because I can’t, see? They’d remember my face. I heard clicking the whole time I was eating my burger. I just know somebody was taking my picture over and over the whole time I was there. All you gotta do is walk in the dining room and go to the first table on the right side up against the wall. That’s where I left the ring.”

Oh crap.

“You left the ring right there on the table? A big fat expensive diamond ring?”

“Joey, Joey, Joey. What kind of a stoop do you think I am? You think I’d leave a ring like that right there on the table? No. I dropped it inside the ketchup bottle that was on there. It was brand new and I’m sure it’s down on the bottom by now. Just go over there and sit at that table and order something. Then when nobody’s looking, put the bottle of ketchup in your pocket and bring it back here and we can get the ring out. Smart move, huh?”

I began to wonder how my wife would feel about becoming an only child.

Okay. How hard could this be? Just stroll in, ask to be seated at the first table on the right, order coffee and pie, slide the ketchup bottle in my pocket, and stroll out. Piece of cake.

* * * * *

Some big group was making their way into the hotel, heading for the dining room. I figured I’d just blend right in, but the hostess was checking names off a list. Not to worry. I just told her that all I wanted was some coffee-and, but I needed to sit at the first table on the right by the door since I was meeting a friend and didn’t want to miss her arrival. I gave the girl my most seductive wink and she blushed crimson. Tonight, I was going to score a home run.

“I’m very sorry, sir,” she composed herself and smiled that fake smile hostesses always wear. “As you can see, we’re expecting a large group this evening. We’ve moved all 30 of our tables together to accommodate them. I would be happy to get you a seat outside on the patio, if you’d like.”

When she stepped back to point to my Plan B seating arrangement, I saw that they had set up the tables in two rows of 15, each one covered with a white tablecloth, each one’s center containing a salt and pepper shaker and a brand new bottle of ketchup.

Oh crap.

On my way home, I decided that Petey and I were most definitely going to have a long talk about getting him that raise…


  1. You know putting that ring in a ketchup bottle would be something my own brother would do. So much I felt a ten-pound lead weight in my stomach in sympathy.

    “I’m telling you, Joey, my new landlady’s CIA or something.

    Back in the late 90's was forced to transfer my Army National Guard unit to something closer to home and I ended up being assigned to a squad that had worked together for years.

    Because I did not want to make waves or upset anyone I tended to stay very quiet, keep to myself, and just help out as much as possible.

    I was so quiet and unassuming about a year later I learned one of the guys in the squad thought I was an undercover agent for the Army criminal investigation division.

  2. I love the characters here, Joyce... you give them such a great voice! There is a nice balance between dialogue and narrative that really keeps the story moving along.

    This is a real treat to read... as all of your stories are. I love the lighthearted style here.

    Very well done, Joyce! I'm sorry I missed this one. It's plain to see that you had a lot of fun with the prompt.

  3. Nice one, Joyce ;-)
    I thought when Petey said he'd stashed it in a safe place he meant he'd swallowed it! Somehow, given the way the story panned out I imagine a waiter or waitress may have got a bigger tip than they expected ;-)

  4. Good stuff Joyce, I love the not-so-bright but oh so-sticky fingered Petey. He's a keeper.