August’s Zeroflash Competition Entries

Forgotten Youth

By S. Maine

She sits in front of the window; her eyes, her decrepit hands and her hair falling to the floor. It was only yesterday she was young, burgeoning with hope and dreams yet to come. But youth.

Somehow, youth has been taken away.

All of their youths. Gone. Teenagers—mere adults—woke to find themselves wrinkled, raw and seemingly savaged by time. They have aged not ten, not twenty, not thirty years, but eighty years have passed overnight. As their youth vanished, so did their hope. Hope is a luxury they can no longer afford.

Tonight, and for all nights, she sits in her chair, rocking incessantly.

Back and forth,

back and forth she rocks in her creaking chair, the unsteady legs mocking her.

Her hair is now on the floor by her side. Once worried what shade of blonde fit her best—how insignificant now—is falling from her scalp as she rocks.

Dehydrated and unready.

Unwilling.

All of them woke to find themselves in such a condition of aged horror; a condition they could not reverse. How could it be? They wondered. But wonder trailed off and melted to passing thoughts quickly forgotten.

Her hands folded on her lap, her view now hazy.

She hardly rocks anymore.

Hair drifting away with the breeze.

She tries to rock, but her body protests. Gravity is failing her as her bones weaken, her muscles stiffen. All she has left is a deep sigh of billowing grief.

Now she stands hobbling on her legs. “Tomorrow,” she says, her voice shaking, “tomorrow I will do something.”

Tomorrow came and as time before her seemed to slip, so did her plans. Along with the years they have all lost, she soon will vanish, forgotten to a world already forgotten.

Honour Among Family

by Jamie C. Weir

The shouting escalated. Finally, with a dull crack, William brought his axe down hard on the back of his brother’s skull. Robert, a boy of thirteen and the youngest of the three brothers, scrambled backward, whimpering, and pressed himself hard against the broad trunk of an oak. William fell madly upon his brother John’s body, searching his pockets and waistband.

When they had burst in on the bank earlier, brandishing their revolvers, there had been seven of them. The furtive glances and anxious twitching had begun soon after, during their flight across the desert. A detachment of cavalry were close behind. Dean—the eldest of the group—was slow. Too slow. It had been easy to convince themselves that he would lead to their capture, and that it was nothing more than a happy coincidence that the solution to this problem would increase each man’s share

“Where the hell is it!” cursed William, his face half cast in daemonic firelight. He began to pull violently at his brother’s clothing. “Damn it, tell me!”

John made a soft gurgle, perhaps an attempt at speech, then fell quiet.

After Dean, the brothers talked quietly amongst themselves. It became more and more difficult to justify sharing the rewards, for which they had risked their lives, with people they barely knew. Of course, there was only one way to prevent that.

After the first, it had been so easy

Suddenly, William stopped dead. He looked up, toward Robert, his eyes blazing in the firelight. He blinked and smiled grotesquely. Slowly he stood up and wrenched the axe free. Hefting it gently in his hands, as if it were the most natural thing in the world, he advanced.

“Come on, Bobby. Where did he put it? You wouldn’t lie to your brother now, would you?”

When best to marry a murder suspect

by Nick Black

Fiona couldn’t decide on May or September for the wedding; the months in between would have her sweating straight through her dress.  Her fiancé Brian plumped for May.  “The sooner the better,” he whispered, running a finger down the middle of her as they lay on her bed in the moonlight.  She giggled at his touch.  He pictured her body, unzipped.

Fiona knew that her friends and family were concerned about the police investigation – they’d all squirmed at repeatedly seeing Brian in the news, that awful old photo before he’d got his hair cut, but they didn’t know him like she did.  “It’s been a nightmare for him, poor thing!  For both of us, really.’  Her friends would nod, of course, of course, but none of them wanted to be bridesmaids.  I might be on holiday, I don’t want to let you down.  The children.  Work.  This before any talk of dates.

The police continued interviewing Brian.  His car had received a parking ticket near the murder scene and his driving that far from home to buy Chinese rang hollow, but they had nothing concrete so their chats remained informal.

“If I was ever going to kill someone,” she told him one night, “I’ve got it all worked out.  Establish what days the bins are emptied where that person lives, then the night before, ring their bell, beat them to death with a can of beans in their hallway, touching nothing, walk a few hundred yards down the road and drop the murder weapon in a recycling box.  It’ll be long gone by the time the body’s found, no evidence, no prints.  Nothing to pin on me.”

He searched her face for black humour, found none.  He wondered why beans, especially.

“Let’s book the service for next week,” he said.

Homecoming

Saurabh Sawhney

Zophy, my former assistant, is waiting for me, wearing a smile half-hidden by the wind-blown hair. We are in an open field, under a brilliant sun. A dendritic dirt trail leads to a few low-slung houses. A few clouds are ambling along in the distance.

“Hi Zophy,” I say. “What’s going on? Where are we?”

“The Wanzerus have been busy,” she replies. As if that answers everything.

When the Wanzeru beings had found us helplessly hurtling through space on our planet, they had scoffed in disbelief at a race that couldn’t even steer its own home. Then they had decided to help us poor humans with their technology and knowledge. On the very day of contact, my team and I had been teleported to their starship to answer their earth-related queries.

Now, three months later, I have been sent back to earth.

“The Wanzerus have changed everything,” Zophy says. “We now live in ecologically sound dwelling units with technology that you wouldn’t have dreamed of. We have wireless power and pipeless water. There are no roads anymore; we teleport everywhere. It’s amazing. Come, let’s go, I’ll fill you in.”

“I need to get to the UN headquarters to file a report. How far away is New York?”

Immediately, I realise it is a silly question. I can teleport to the UN instantly, so distances don’t matter anymore. But Zophy points to a hut.

“That’s the new UN building. They rebuilt it at the same spot.”

I look at the thatched roof in disbelief.

“You mean this is …” I ask hesitantly, spreading out my hands.

“Yes, this is the new New York.”

I look around the green fields and nod sagely at a distant herd of cattle. This is going to take some getting used to, but I’m home.

A New Arrival

by Gary Buller

Gareth and Leena Swailes stood and admired something that they had created together, his hand hooked around her hip. They had tried for such a long time without success, but it actually looked like they were going to get a positive result this time. In preparation he had painted the walls blue, and dabbed dandelion tufts of cloud using an old sponge. Leena still had white paint on her nose where he had playfully swiped her.

“Everything good to go?” he whispered into her ear, inhaling that familiar scent of her hair mingled with honeysuckle shampoo.

“Of course,” she replied, “I made a checklist remember? The overnight bag was numero uno.”

The parts had been sourced mostly from ebay. Some were quite difficult to come by, especially the nozzle itself which had arrived from Peru in a dusty state of disrepair. Gareth stole an ‘x’ axis from work, risking his job in the process and they had cancelled the house extension to get the ‘y.’

They built the cube from instructions on the internet. It was a struggle, as is often the case with first-timers, soldering, repairing, slotting and screwing. The inevitable struggle to find the correct sized Philips screwdriver.

It didn’t help that grandfather was expected to expire within a month, had been hooked up to machinery of his own and had signed the paperwork over to them with a shaky hand as the tubes assisted his breathing.

Remembering this, Gareth reached forward and prompted Leena to do the same. They both flicked the switch together. The pumps hummed into life and the nozzle extruded grandfather’s liquefied remains.

 Leena squealed with excitement and leaned over to kiss her husband. Two tiny pink feet had already formed in the gel below, but there was a long way to go.

The Big Fall

by Jennifer R. Lloyd

@jlloydster

The airtight wood smelled tangy with tension from her folded body. It lacked the gaudy shine of a high-end casket but wasn’t rough enough to splinter. Her breath moistening her calves crossed next to her bowed head.

A bike helmet protected her from knocks as she bobbed downstream. Last night, she had practiced for this one last time.

Taylor knew every inch of the barrel despite absolute blackness: the knot in plank seven, the ridge niggling her left buttock.

“Bridg, take the top off!” she shouted. “Bridg!”

A hammer banged and pried, revealing a bright crescent. Her sister’s head came into view.

“You ready?” asked Bridget, eyeing the living room’s grandfather clock.

“Yeah.”

Taylor’s claustrophobia struck at age 5, trapped in an old refrigerator during hide-and-seek. Discovered hours later, her screams continued dry and muted after losing her voice.

Her parents closed her in a barrel — typically used as their living room coffee table — to help her “overcome her fears.” She scratched them and Bridget raw as they shut her in. But as the dark air grew heavier, she went within, turning her fear inside her head like a ball, examining it from all sides. Finally, with a burst of synaptic energy, she detonated the ball into shards of light in her mind.

Since then, she’d been fearless. On a trip to Niagara Falls for her 10th birthday, Taylor hatched the plan.

She’d begun creeping into the barrel at night, training for The Big Fall.

With a freshly laminated driver’s permit, her sister loaded the barrel into their sleeping parents’ truck so Taylor could roll over the falls at sunrise.

Bridget smiled as she watched the barrel pick up speed, approach the brink, catching the journey in short bursts on Snapchat.

She’d missed being an only child.

 

Weekend with Daddy

by Eddie Spohn

It is Sunday. My six year old daughter Claire is over for her once a month weekend with Daddy. Claire tells me she wants to go feed the ducks at Miller’s Pond. I tell her that I can’t promise the ducks will be there; it seems that lately the birds have been flying away or being stolen. Nobody really knows. But every time the town’s park commission puts in a new batch, they are soon gone.

And of course when we get there, the pond is empty. Claire is disappointed and begins to cry. I come up with the great idea to make paper boats and float them on the water. We do this with the comics section of the Sunday paper. Most of the boats are horribly constructed things that soon sink. But there’s one which Claire is fond of that she begs me to retrieve.

So I take off my shoes and socks and wade out there. The pond isn’t too big or deep, but I’m in up to my waist when I see the massive grey shape coming my way. It’s something way too big to be in here and I hurry back towards shore. It rises behind me, all opened jaws and teeth, and I realize it’s a shark and I’m about to die.

I make land just in time, roll to a stop beside my daughter, who is all smiles and giggling contentedly. It’s the happiest she’s been all weekend, possibly the happiest I have ever seen her.

The shark has sunk back down into the mud somewhere.

“Do it again, Daddy!” Claire begs me. “Make that fish chase you again!”

It’s deja-vu. Her mother had that same excited glint in her eye when we filed the divorce papers.

Every Mind Useless

by David Williams

It was only supposed to be a flash fiction story, just an idea that I jotted down before I dosed off, just another curiosity. “What if human creativity disappeared from the world”? Those words were as far as the concept was meant to go.

Then the next morning my girlfriend rang my doorbell and when I opened the door she dove into my arms before we made love. She scratched, pulled hair; oh she was an animal and by the end of it she whispered that she needed to unleash her passion because she couldn’t get the ideas for a poem. This only seemed a little strange to me but then we went for a walk and I saw that my throwaway idea was now real.

All creativity was lost and everyone was taking out their experiences in drastic ways. That horror novelist who had trouble relating to his family? He grabbed an ax and destroyed his furniture to keep himself from destroying something more precious. That poet who just had an amazing hiking trip? There’s no way he’ll be able to express the details of nature and he’ll grow old, miserable and ungraceful. That musician who woke up at midnight to play a tune in his dream? He just threw his instruments out the window because they now felt useless to him.

So many people had become mindless and were destroying everything around them as a result. In an effort to undo this I ran back into my house to write a counter story. But the words wouldn’t come; only a concept but no way to give it life. Was there ever a world filled with more woe? From this day forward every mind was useless including the one that made it so.

Clearing

By Erica Naone

Tina shouldered her machete and shoved her front door open. The jungle had thickened overnight. Its deep green vines threatened to tie the house as securely as the birthday present she hoped to deliver to Leticia.

Bugs sang in her ears. Sweat trickled down her sides. Her shoulders stretched and strained toward a pleasant ache. The machete swung merrily. The jungle, ever so gradually, parted before its blade.

When she was young, when she first met Leticia, Tina had wished for an easier way to reach her. She’d dreamed of cleared spaces that stayed cleared; bare, wide, even ground; a part in the jungle like the one on the top of her head, pale and straight.

There were days she couldn’t make it all the way to Leticia’s place, days the jungle seemed to want her to stay home and it didn’t matter how early she got up.

She’d learned not to mind. She cut patiently, sun heating the sap of the severed plants and lifting its scent toward her nose. She soaked herself in thoughts of Leticia. The geology of her smile. The anatomy of her laugh. The cartography of their shared humor. Tina had sliced through the jungle for her a thousand times. She would do it a thousand more.

An unexpected swish, snap, and grunt made Tina raise her head. A soft curse skittered through the vines, brushing Tina’s ear like a winged insect. She knew that voice. Tina adjusted her direction, so now her machete pointed right toward it. She grinned.

The days they met in the middle offered half the burden and twice the joy.

George and Harry

by Isobel Horsburgh

      George and Harry stepped off the Tyneside Metro together, into a crowd that milled about them. Then Harry turned and walked smartly up the platform towards the lift, George following.  George found the button for the concourse, the doors opened and up they went.  They passed through the ticket barrier, a woman pausing to tell Harry what a clever lad he was, as though he, and not George, was the brains of the outfit, but George was used to that and only smiled. Sometimes well meaning people though that George was lost if he was standing still, and if they came up and spoke, he couldn’t concentrate on his mind-map. Harry, however, could always get them back on track.

They made their way along Grey Street, with its sweep of elegant terraces. George couldn’t see them, but he felt the reflected warmth of the sun on his face, and heard how the sound echoed off the mellow stone. Architecture wasn’t really Harry’s thing, but he was happy if George was, and together they ambled towards the Victorian Grainger Market, where George’s sense of smell and sensitive touch soon helped him to fill a basket of ripe cherry tomatoes, a plump aubergine and a sweet-scented punnet of strawberries for a pie. George had once been asked in all seriousness if Harry helped him with the cooking, but he explained that his friend’s little legs made it difficult for him to reach the kitchen table, and the stall-holder had accepted this.

Afterwards, they went to Oliver’s cafe, where Laurie the waitress had a pot of hot tea ready for George, and a lemon scone. Harry got a bowl of catfood.

Dust

by Cath Barton

@CathBarton1

The world has ceased to turn and the dust is accumulating.

From my window I used to be able to see the sea, distant and alluring. Even on overcast days there was a sparkle on the horizon, a promise of the annual renewal. Once upon a time I watched in wonder as, each year, impossibly tender leaves began to shoot from the bare wood of the small bushes outside my window.

But the time of miracles is over. Now everything is enveloped in dust and my mind has become dull. The spiders are the only creatures which thrive. Still they spin across my room, back and forth, and each day a little more of my life is obscured.

I am free to come and go, but it feels increasingly pointless. Everywhere I go is becoming the same, buried under the dust. Even short journeys sap my energy.

I have heard that this has happened before, in cities of the ancient world. But I think that in Pompeii and in Herculaneum the people did not suffer. Death took them by surprise. Now the dust falls slow. Each day we breathe a little less. There is talk of us all being issued with masks, but who here can do this, and what would be the point?

Today even the spiders have slowed down. There are no longer any flies for them to catch and their webs droop. I go to my window and all I see is the dust, falling like grey snow. I pick up a photograph of my old cat, long gone to the great mystery. I smile as I remember the way she scampered in the twilight. Such a happy memory. Now the light is fading but I hold, very tightly, onto that memory.

And still falls the dust.

 

Sunless Skies

by Mark A. Mihalko

@ScarletCircus

Something is clearly wrong; it has been weeks since the sun graced our skies. The once majestic kingdom in the clouds replaced by binding darkness, a forbidden black shroud drowning our life force. Yet, the heat inside this masked reality continues to rise. How is this heat is so overwhelming? Could Hell really be any worse?

I have no idea. All I know is that this is killing me, driving me to place even blacker then the dismay that extinguished our once beautiful skies. I know that I cannot endure this world much longer. I gasp for air, but the putrid pong of decay that surrounds me suffocates my every step. The blood, the bile, the intestines; it is clear that the sun was not enough for the evil that has risen from the pit.

In the distance, I hear a call; the fallen ones again rise to prey on those of us that remain. The dark angel grows strong, and his reapers worse. His blade of sorrow steals another life and my faith shudders at his might. My soul mourns, as the merciless truth of my destiny becomes clear.

Thunder echoes in the distance. Dammit, they stole the lightning as well. I look back toward the Nephilim, as scarlet flows from the tears I cry. I can feel them burn through my entrails; my fate lay ahead. I can see my salvation and redemption inside the murky depths of his eyes.

Alone, I bare my soul to the reaper. My pure heart shudders, as the tears cascade like a waterfall from my sunken eyes. I can feel warmth of the inferno radiate from his blade; my end is indeed at hand. The flaming gates open as his blade penetrates my soul.

And the reaper laughs at my despair…

On The Bench

by Stephen Lodge

@steveweave71

Chris Jolly sat huddled on the bench at Summerfield Common Railway Station. It was his third day and night on the bench. He looked ill. His stubble was multi-coloured. His hair matted. He thought he had dog’s breath, probably unfair to man’s best friend.

He dare not leave. He needed his place on the bench. Occasionally, he had to pop to the public lavatory, or the cafeteria for a paper and a cup of soup. He couldn’t take much more than that. His stomach was knotted, taut with anxiety, fear maybe.

He’d developed a smoker’s cough and he didn’t even smoke.

The next train from London to the coast was due in 45 minutes.  Right, he thought, if she isn’t on this train, I’ll go home and write her a letter, see what’s happened to her. Maybe she’d had second thoughts and didn’t love her darlink Chris as much as she said in her letters. Maybe he should have gone up to London and met her at the airport or a bigger railway station. He scratched the back of his neck. Something’s gone wrong. Where is she?

He looked up and saw a vicar standing in front of him. “Is everything all right, my son?” the vicar said in a kindly voice.

“Yeah, you’re alright, vicar. Thanks all the same. I’m waiting for my mail order bride. She was due a couple of days ago from that Eastern Europe, must have been a hitch. Her name, vicar?” Chris thought for a minute. “Her name escapes me, but I think it began with an S. Yes I’ve checked the newspapers for air, train and car accidents. Oh, you are exactly right. It would be great if there was a way for us to speak to each other across the miles.”

Beer Joint

by Janice Rothganger

Mike won’t go to the beer joint tonight. He won’t don his faded-to-perfection Levi’s, his gray t-shirt, or his bad ass leather jacket. He won’t order a draft, or bet ten bucks on a game of billiards, or eat stale popcorn while smoke rolls across the room. Mike won’t do any of those things because beer doesn’t exist.

There is no magical concoction of hops, rice, and malt crafted in breweries throughout the world. There is no thirst quencher of various shades of ale with the perfect head of foam at the top of its glass. Without beer, there can be no beer joint, no neighborhood tavern, no place for good folks to make the occasional bad decision.

So Mike won’t wake up tomorrow with a hangover or bloodshot eyes. Instead he will wake up on time with a vague yearning for a buzzing feeling that he cannot quite put his finger on. He will spend his work day wishing for a shadowy dive with a jukebox in the corner, a regular patron stationed at the end of the bar, and a lonely gal looking for a dance partner. Mike pictures a bar-room brawl. Two drunks exchanging punches over some perceived slight.

“He stole my girl!” one guy claims.

He cheats at pool!” the other retorts.

A few drops of blood on the floor only add to the ambiance.

Mike has to do something. If only he knew what something was. His galley kitchen becomes his laboratory. He pulls pots and pans and large metal spoons from their racks. He gathers hops and barley and water and….yeast. Yes, definitely yeast. He turns from blue-collar guy into mad scientist. Mixing and pouring and measuring. His jotted notes form his recipe. With any luck, tomorrow he will have a hangover.

A Hangover To Celebrate

by Rick Haynes

Trying to read my messages on social media is useless, yet I try. I know my hangover is partially to blame, but I really needed an evening out with friends last night, for after so many years of despair I had something to celebrate.

I can still recall that day, that day of days, when I stepped from my cosy world into something that I had never considered.

Finding an ideal partner on a dating website should be easy, and it was. Fill in personal details, state preferences, pay the fee and wait for the lovely ladies to contact. It didn’t take long before the photos arrived complete with full details of their likes, dislikes and mostly their willingness to meet up.

Being over sixty can still be fun as long as others can be a part of your life. Conversely, loneliness can be an invidious killer, slowing eating away at your very soul and leaving your mind to wallow in self pity.

Doreen was as charming as she said she was in her profile. Ten years younger than me, her zest for life was matched with my own, and the good times returned for one lonely widower.

I knew that my sight had deteriorated over the years but I had been blasé, ignoring all the warning signs. Doreen soon put a stop to my indifference and before long I had visited the specialist. The news of cataracts in both eyes was both a blessing and a curse. I knew what was wrong, but due to budget cuts, would have to wait a long time for the first operation.

I can cope with my hangover though, for wasn’t it last night that my wonderful Doreen told me, and my friends, that she would pay for my first operation?

911

by Karen Heslop

Stefanie gripped the phone in terror as her eyes darted around the dark street.

“911. What’s your emergency?”

“I think I’m being followed.”

“Where are you miss?”

“I don’t know. I…the bus broke down and I decided to walk.”

“Okay. Do you see any landmarks? Signs?”

“No…wait,” she quickened her pace and strained to see the building a few metres away.

“Oh! It’s a restaurant! It’s Phil’s. Thank God! I can wait for my friend there. Hello?”

Stefanie looked at her screen. The timer inched forward but the line had gone quiet.

“Must be a bad connection,” Stefanie muttered before shrugging and ending the call.

The dispatcher listened to the buzz of the dial tone, afraid to move and disconnect the call on her end. Her coworker held the gun he had used on the other dispatchers before her face. The acrid smell of gunpowder burnt her nostrils as he moved closer. She had heard rumours that he was unstable.

“Ironic isn’t it?” he remarked, “I wonder who dispatchers are supposed to call?”

Glenda closed her eyes. He pressed the small pistol to her forehead. The gun’s muzzle was still warm. Bang.

A Good Deed

by Jack Koebnig

@koebnig

I can’t be the only one who’s thought about it. Surely I can’t.

‘You there!’

His voice as ever is broken and raspy. He sounds as though his words have evil serrated edges and have attacked his throat on the way to his mouth.

‘Yes, Sir?’

‘No day dreaming,’ he barks and wipes rose tinted spittle from his cracked lips. ‘Back to work!’

And I do.

I have no other choice … or do I?

Later that day … I want to say evening but since the People’s Government seized power such concepts as morning, afternoon, evening and night have been abolished. It’s now just work, work, work. There is no rest. No relaxation and no sleep. Sleep (and eating for that matter) has been replaced by a little purple pill.

Father and I, however, still cling to the old ways.

‘Good evening, son. Come in.’

In his study we drink coffee and eat cake (baked in secret by mother).

We both know why I am here; it is the conclusion to a hard conversation which began three long months ago.

Once the coffee and cake are finished, he closes his huge hand over mine, stares deep into my eyes and nods.

On my way to my third shift of the day I think of mother and what she said as I stood by the study door: ‘When they come for us, we’ll go with proud hearts.’

Suicide is illegal. So proclaims the People’s Government. A popular law made extremely unpopular by round the clock working. And if you’re found guilty of taking your own life (and as a deterrent to others) your whole family is exterminated.

Thank you mother, father.

I turn up for work for the last time.

 

Heloise and Dixie

by Kelsey Dean

Heloise’s alarm didn’t wake her up for a full two minutes, because it sounded so faint and far away. When she finally opened her eyes, the reason was immediately apparent: it was floating on the other side of her room, tangled in her blanket. She blinked and wiggled her backside to scoot across the mattress and toward the clock. She stopped when she felt no resistance against her back, and groggily realized that she, too, was floating.

Heloise wasn’t a morning person on the best of days; she was even more opposed to mornings when they started like this.

“Well screw you, gravity,” she huffed. She looked around for a way to propel herself to the alarm and shut it up, and spotted her bedside lamp within arm’s reach, still plugged into the socket. She yanked on it, hoping to pull herself close to the wall so she could kick off. Instead, the plug popped out and the cord floundered around like a flimsy piece of seaweed.

“Summer vacation, huh, gravity?” she said angrily. “Or are you off to flirt with the moon?”

She berated the absent force as she spun slowly around in the middle of her bedroom, flailing her arms and kicking furiously. It was even worse than trying to make progress in the bayou out back, where you had to wade and wallow if you wanted to get anywhere. She whipped her head around when she heard the click of the door opening.

“Good morning,” her sister Dixie said cheerily, bare feet planted firmly on the ground in the hallway. Heliose’s eyes bugged.

“Are you kidding me!”

“Remember yesterday, when you dropped those water balloons on my head after my voodoo lesson?” Dixie asked, smirking. Heloise deepened her scowl.

“Well, karma’s a witch, isn’t it?”

Control Freak

by Alex Z. Salinas

@Alex_Z_Salinas

Joe Bodelo III, a man who hadn’t so much as laid a disciplinary finger on his daughter since she was four years old, threw his fork in the direction of Joanne’s head. He missed a foot to the right—on purpose, of course, the control of his once All-City pitching arm still intact. The fork banged against the kitchen drywall, spraying white powder on Joanne’s dark hair. Her eyes widened, a look Joe had never seen before. Fear.

“Are you crazy?” his wife, Lisa, shouted.

“She’s a murdering liar!” growled Joe, who would regret those words for the rest of his life.

Joanne fled from the kitchen past the living room and out of the house, the front door left wide open. Joe heard her cry-screams fade.

“You’re incredible,” Lisa snapped, teary, before running after Joanne.

What angered Joe was that she got away with things, always had. He loved Joanne as a father should, but had noticed when she turned two how cruel she could be to other children. She once slammed a rock into another boy’s face at the park all because he playfully tapped her shoulder.

This time, her weapon was Facebook. And the kid on the receiving end didn’t wind up with a facial abrasion; she was dead, her chunky teenage wrists slit with her mother’s razor-blade in her parents’ bathtub.

When the investigation started, Joanne had a chance to come clean about the cyber bullying, the fake account, but she lied, until the dinner table confession.

Disturbed neighbours would soon phone the police. Sirens would wail under the quiet suburban night sky.

Joe began to laugh. She had turned him into Dr. Frankenstein. It’s pronounced Fronkensteen. But what really tickled Joe was a thought that suddenly entered his mind: Boy, can I still throw.

 

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