Flash Fiction Friday: The Neighbor

Anya slid her fingers through Fabio’s thick curls, marveled at his broad chest. How had it only been twenty-four hours? The love of her life had swept in, whisked her away to paradise—

Jessica snorted and tossed the paperback on the sofa before she headed to the kitchen for coffee. Ridiculous. Romance novels were all the same—perfectly plain heroine meets perfectly chiseled hero and they fall in love immediately. Not reality.

She leaned against the counter, sipped her beverage and sighed. Then again, who was she to judge, right? She hadn’t had a date in over a year. Apparently perfectly plain Jessica wasn’t perfect.

Charlie, her cat, rubbed along her leg. She picked him up and nuzzled him. “You would be the perfect man if you were human, wouldn’t you?”

If only finding a man was as easy as picking a cat. Heck, she didn’t even need a six-foot-four model named Fabio with jet black curls that fell to his shoulders, thick biceps and straight alabaster teeth. She’d take Mr. Average with a dad-bod, who was balding.

Jessica showered, got ready, unloaded the dishwasher, and folded a load of towels. Maybe someday Mr. Wonderful would appear.

“Have a good day,” she whispered to Charlie before she headed out the door of her apartment.

As she locked her door, she heard bangs from the new tenant as they moved in across the hall. She turned to leave and—

“Hello, beautiful. I’m new here.” A man with dark curly hair, the broadest shoulders she’d ever seen, and a smile that would put Jake Gyllenhaal to shame, towered before her.

Her jaw dropped.

The man smiled. “My name’s Fabio. I’d love to get to know you.”

 

©Laura L. Zimmerman 2017

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Photo credit Pixabay by Olichel

Flash Fiction Friday: The Gas Station

The GPS was dead.

There was no cell service, either. Fifteen miles had passed without any connection with the world.

“Think we’ll find a gas station soon?” Ben said.

Maryann cringed. “How low are we?”

“Let’s put it this way…once we’re out of fumes, we’ll be walking.”

“And you’re sure this isn’t the right road?”

“Positive.” He ran a hand through his hair, gave a futile glance in the rearview mirror. Not a single car had passed by in the last hour. “Maybe this road-trip through the desert wasn’t such a good idea.”

“Well, at least it’s cloudy so it’s not so hot.” She stifled a smile.

“For now,” he grumbled. “With my luck—”

“Hey!” She sat up. “Is that a gas station ahead?”

He squinted. “Huh. Maybe my luck is changing.”

The car rolled into the vacant station and stopped in front of the pump, chugged, then died.

“Whoa.” Her eyes were wide.

He began pumping. “Hey honey, check this out. This thing looks like it could be from the 1950’s or something. It’s one of those old style pumps.”

She bit her lip and looked around. Where were all the other patrons?

Once done, they went inside to pay. A bell rang over the door and the two stopped cold.

“Wow,” she said. “This place takes the vintage thing to another level.”

She ran her fingers over the varnished wood counter, eyed the jars of penny candy. Norman Rockwell paintings covered the walls. Signage for Texaco and an advertisement for Lucky Strike cigarettes that said, “So Round, So Firm, So Fully Packed” sat on the counter.

“Check this out,” he said.

He stood next to an ice-filled red chest labeled Coca-Cola. An hourglass shaped glass bottle of purple liquid fizzed in his hand.

“Grapette?”

“Ooo, grab me one,” she said.

“You folks ‘bout done?” A man with white hair stood at the register.

“Just need to pay for our fill up. How much is it?”

“Cheapest price in town. Twenty-five cents per gallon,” the man said.

Their jaws dropped.

“Excuse me?” she said.

“That’s impossible,” Ben added.

The man held one hand up. “Sorry. Can’t go a penny lower.”

“He takes this old fashioned thing seriously,” Maryann muttered.

Ben smiled. “No problem. Also, we’ll take these sodas.”

“They’re a nickel a piece,” the man said.

She guffawed but Ben threw a five on the counter and turned to leave.

“Wait!” she said. “We need a map.”

“That’ll run you a dime.”

“How in the—”

“Great!” Ben said. “We’ll take it.”

Once in the car, they pulled onto a side road and stared straight ahead.

“Did that just happen?” she said.

“Yep.”

“How does he stay in business?”

Ben shrugged.

She frowned. “Maybe I should’ve used the bathroom. Mind if we run back?”

“Sure, we—” His mouth fell open and he froze, his gaze behind them.

“Ben?”

“Where’s the station?”

She turned to see nothing but desert landscape.

“Maybe this was our lucky day, after all.”

 

© Laura L. Zimmerman 2017

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Original artwork by Anthony L. Croman

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Original artwork by Anthony L. Croman

Flash Fiction Friday: Honey

“Heather, did you take the honey?”

The little girl withered.

“It was a full jar,” Momma said.

“Well….” Heather fidgeted with her dress.

Momma crossed her arms. “Did you give it to your imaginary friends again?”

Heather looked down.

“How many times have I told you?” her Momma huffed. “It’s a waste of food! We’ll get rats if you keep shoving food under the floorboards!”

She threw her hands up and stomped away.

Heather knelt and lifted the floorboard. “You okay, Scrimrim?” she said to her Brownie friend.

The fairy nodded and smiled, then took another lick of his honey.

 

©Laura L. Zimmerman 2017

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Photo Credit Unsplash by Amelia Bartlett

Flash Fiction Friday: The Comic Book

Harold was second in line.

He’d fought hard to be the first one out of school, in a race to the comic book store to be there for the three o’clock release of the latest issue of Aardvark Boy. This was the big one. The one where he would learn the fate of Aardvark Boy’s sidekick, Sloth Girl! Had the sinister Roach Man succeeded in killing her? Blood pounded through Harold’s veins as he bounced on his toes. He’d waited a full month for this day!

The person ahead in line was Rob Lambert. A seventh-grader, he was one year behind Harold in school. The kid was weird. Like, really weird. Harold hadn’t seen him with many friends, but that didn’t come as a surprise. Mostly Rob could be seen sitting with his nose in a book–usually a comic–and he often talked to himself. Far too much to be considered normal.

The bell over the door rang and a loud holler drew the attention of everyone in line, which already wrapped around the store. A group of five boys entered, each with a cocky grin in place as they sauntered over to Rob.

Harold cringed. These guys were bad news. They were from his class and pretty much ruled the school. The teachers thought the boys were so great, and all the girls fell at their feet. Why? Harold had no clue. They were just a bunch of jerks.

“Hey, Rob-eee,” one of them said. “Mind if we jump in line?”

“Um…erm.” Rob visibly shook and sweat appeared along his hairline. “S-sure.”

Harold eyes went wide. No! That’s totally not fair! 

“Thanks, little guy.” The jerk patted Rob on the shoulder like he was a child. The group laughed.

Fire burned inside Harold’s chest. He wanted to say something, to tell those kids where they could go and just how to do it. But starting a fight and getting kicked out of his favorite comic store wasn’t a good idea. He shoved his pride back down and simmered.

The sales clerk appeared from behind a red curtain that led to the back, and stepped up to the cash register. Harold’s heart skipped a beat. This was it!

“Folks,” the clerk said. “I have some disappointing news. We only got a few copies of Aardvark Boy. The distributor promised a full shipment on Wednesday. They’ve sent along free copies of another comic in reparation.”

Harold’s heart sank. No big deal. He was seventh in line. Surely the company had sent at least ten copies, right?

The five jerks got their copies and gave a hoot as they left the store. Rob stepped up and grabbed his issue of Aardvark Boy. Then it was Harold’s turn.

“Sorry son. That’s all I’ve got. Here’s a brand new comic, Bubblegum Girl.

Harold grumbled. Figures. 

Outside he flipped open the front cover. Something was stuck tight between the crease. What…? He pulled. An envelope with writing on it.

“Your reward for patience and kindness. Pass it on.” 

Inside was a crisp fifty dollar bill. His jaw dropped. He glanced around. Everyone else read their comic but no one had gotten an envelope. He didn’t deserve this at all!

An idea formed in his mind. “Hey! Rob!” He jogged to catch up to the boy. “Mind if I take you out for ice cream?”

Rob’s face lit up. “Sure! We can read Aardvark Boy together, then!”

Harold smiled. He wouldn’t have to wait until Wednesday, after all.

 

©Laura L. Zimmerman 2017

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Photo credit Unsplash by Mitch Rosen

Flash Fiction Friday: A Cry in the Night

The baby was crying again.

Sarah rolled over with a groan. Her husband, Tom, was gone from bed. Probably getting a midnight snack. With a yawn, she got up and padded down the hall.

She peeked into the nursery. A figure stood over the crib and the baby cooed happily. Tom had gotten him. Good. 

Sarah climbed back into her bed. Tom exited their adjoining bathroom with a stretch.

“You were in the bathroom?” she said, her brow pulled tight.

“Yeah.” He shrugged.

“Then who’s in–”

A chill ran down Sarah’s spine. The baby had fallen silent.

 

©Laura L. Zimmerman 2017

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Photo credit Unsplash by freestocks.org

Flash Fiction Friday: The Date

Chris rolled his eyes at the selection of flowers in the grocery store. When had the price gone up? He sighed and grabbed a bundle of discounted carnations. Whatever. It was only a blind date.

One self-checkout register was open and a woman headed for it. He sped up and cut her off just in time to make it look like he’d arrived first. Her sour look said she knew his game. He shrugged to himself. He couldn’t be late.

The coffee shop was around the corner. There were plenty of parking spaces open but he wanted one near the door. He hit the gas to snag a spot from another car with it’s blinker on. Was that the woman from the store? Small world.

He raced inside and looked around. No single ladies here yet. What did she look like?

“Chris?”

The woman from the store walked in. Chris’ throat closed and his palms went sweaty.

“I’m Lisa.”

He gulped.

She crossed her arms. “I’m your date.”

 

©Laura L. Zimmerman

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Photo credit Unsplash by Clem Onojeghuo

Flash Fiction Friday: The Music Room

“That’s the last of them.” Dylan wiped sweat from his brow as he fell into a chair.

The new Music Room overflowed with boxes, just like the rest of the historic building that would hold the fifty-two students from the extraordinarily small Dunbath Private School. His sixth-grade class had volunteered to help with the move.

“I heard this place was a plantation back during the Civil War,” Maggie said, popping open one of the boxes to peer inside.

Dylan nodded. “Yeah. Some rich guy owned it, had slaves and everything. Until slavery was abolished, anyway.”

“One little slave girl never left.” Maggie bit her lip to keep her smile hidden.

“Huh? What d’ya mean?” Dylan squinted his eyes and straightened up.

“Oh, just a rumor that she drowned in the pond out back. I heard her ghost tried to communicate with the family here.”

Dylan frowned. “Stop it, Maggie. You’re just trying to scare me.”

“Maybe. Maybe not.” She gave him a wink and turned to leave.

A sound stopped them. Music, electronic and muffled, came from one of the boxes in the corner. Maggie gasped.

“What the…?” Dylan said, as he pushed boxes aside.

They worked together and were finally able to find the right one. Dylan flipped open the lid and peered in. The sound grew louder. Inside, the box was filled with small electronic keyboards meant for young children.

At the very bottom, a keyboard was in the ‘on’ position and played a pre-recorded melody.

Maggie’s eyes grew wide. “Ummm….”

Dylan turned the keyboard off, plunging the room into silence. “I think we know where she is.”

Then the music started to play again.

 

©Laura L. Zimmerman 2017

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Photo Credit Pixabay

Flash Fiction Friday: Invasion

Aliens aren’t real.

That’s what I’ve been told the last twelve years of my life, anyway. Sure, science found a single-cell life form somewhere in our system, but it can’t even talk back. What good is that? In our vast universe of planets, stars, and galaxies, we are the only intelligent life.

That was, until today.

Today we learned we are no longer alone. The world around me is in mass hysteria as we await our very first, bonafide visit from a space alien! But not me. I’m calm. My dad is one of the head-honchos at the landing site.

Which is why I stand here, crowded in by another half-dozen family members of fellow employees who got by security, too.

A ship lands in the dirt. My heart stops beating.

This is it.

The door opens. Two figures emerge, dressed in white suits with shiny silver helmets. One stops, holds up a hand with only five fingers. It pulls off it’s helmet, reveals a face with two eyes but only one nose. A gasp draws from the crowd.

“Greetings. We come in peace. We are from Earth.”

 

©Laura L. Zimmerman 2017

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Photo Credit Pixabay by LoganArt

Flash Fiction Friday: Outsider

Rain pelted the window, the one that separated frigid black night from the warmth of the brightly-lit room.

She was in there. Pandora. The female of his dreams.

Rocky sighed and shook rain from his head once more, even though it did no good.

Why had she left him? How could she have jumped at the first chance she got for safety and a hot meal with that man? Rocky could’ve provided. If she’d just given him more time.

A crack of thunder made Rocky wince but he refused to leave. He’d stay there all night, if he had to. To be sure Pandora was truly safe, that that man wouldn’t take advantage of her kindness.

Through the pane of glass he could see her, comfy in her spot on the sofa. Flames flickered from the fireplace across the room. She closed her eyes, a serene look on her face that said it all. Pandora was happy where she was. Happy without Rocky.

Pain pierced his heart. She genuinely loved her knew home. Even if it was with him.

Lightning flashed, illuminated the back alley in which Rocky stood. Bang! A shout echoed between the dirty brick buildings, made Rocky jump. Footsteps sounded, just around the corner. He couldn’t stick around much longer.

With one last gaze upon the only love of his life, Rocky hissed, then hopped down from the lid of the trashcan and skittered away beneath a pile of crumpled boxes.

The man walked into the room and gave Pandora a smile. She purred back. He picked her up and settled her on his lap, content to love on his new-found pet.

 

©Laura L. Zimmerman 2017

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Photo Credit Unsplash Riley Briggs

Flash Fiction Friday: Simon Graham Bean

Simon Graham Bean, 46, passed away Friday night in his home in York. He is survived by no known living relatives. No services planned for Mr. Bean. Contact Myer Funeral Home for any inquiries regarding burial.

The office buzzed with activity as the newspaper circulated from one desk to another. Every employee of the Francis Paper Company, fifth floor of the building on Main, had seen it twice already. This was the first time someone in the company had died in more than ten years.

“Why is there no picture attached?”

“Are you sure it’s him?”

“Who do we pass our accounting reports to now?”

Gerald in HR shook his head. “It has to be him. I’m sure his name was Simon and his desk is empty today.”

“But do you remember what he looked like?” Sally from the front desk said. “I mean, who sat with him at lunch? Did anyone ever talk to him outside of work?”

A sea of shoulders shrugged as Brenda piped up. “I don’t know that I even talked to him while he was inside of work. It was just easier to email.”

“Yeah, I never met the guy face to face,” Louise said.

“Well, he definitely had a dark mustache and glasses,” Harry said. “I saw him everyday as I walked by his desk.”

Bob held up a hand. “Uh, no. He was short with thinning hair, but no mustache and I don’t ever remember glasses.”

“I thought he was tall and skinny,” Gerald said.

Amid the chatter and confusion over the death of Simon Graham Bean, the ding of the elevator got swallowed and lost. A medium-sized middle-aged man with a beard and buzz cut stepped into view. He walked by the commotion of co-workers, as he often did in the mornings, took a seat at his desk and jiggled the mouse to his computer. The screen lit in welcome as he settled in for the day.

Sally’s gaze drifted to where he sat and her jaw dropped. “Would you look at that,” she whispered. “They already hired a replacement!”

Gerald strode over, stuck out his hand. “Nice to meet you. Name’s Gerald.”

The man’s brow crinkled like the paper he sold. His glance bounced from one co-worker to the next. “Simon.”

Harry laughed. “Wouldn’t you know? That’s the name of the last guy who worked at this desk. He died over the weekend, but don’t let that scare ya. We’re happy to have you aboard!”

“Welcome, Simon!” a few of the ladies chimed in, before the entire bundle of employees jabbered away, business as usual.

As he left, Gerald tossed the Obituary section onto the desk.

Simon’s gaze traveled over the few short words that summed up Simon Graham Bean’s life. His shoulders slumped with a sigh and he tossed the paper in the trashcan.

“Simon Dean. My name is Simon Dean.”

Then he picked up his pen and worked in silence, just like he did every day of the week.

 

©Laura L. Zimmerman

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Photo credit Unsplash by Oliver Klein