Patti Abbott's latest Flash Fiction Challenge was to take the directions for completing a task, any task, and build a story around them in 1,000 words or less. Here's mine.
Insert Tab A into Slot B...
When he was a kid he had a hard time following some directions. Tab A was either too flimsy a piece of cardboard and kept bending and not wanting to go into Slot B, or the perforation on Slot B wasn't big enough or would stick and wouldn't open. Even at a young age, this made him feel as if the universe was against him, and it probably was. When he let his frustration take him, when the anger rose -- and it always did, his clumsy fingers would tear the cardboard as he tried to do what the directions wanted him to do. Then he'd try to fix the whole thing with tape but the tape wouldn't go down evenly, or would stick in the wrong spot, or would adhere some foreign particles (hair, dust, sometimes an ant or other smell bug that came from who knows where), or his fingerprints would be visibly stuck to the cardboard. No matter what he did, it wouldn't look right. It was never what he wanted. Young as he was, he was never as he wanted.
He was an awkward child. He knew his father never liked him, would never spend more time with him than he had to. His mother was gone -- he had a few hazy memories of a heavyset woman, always pacing, always smoking. A part of him felt he was the reason for the pacing, the smoking, the loud words, why she was no longer there.
One year for Christmas his father gave him a toy garage, flat sheets of colored metal that had to be assembled, with two plastic men, a small automobile and a small tow truck, also plastic. The men were out of proportion to the vehicles, making everything look weird, and the tow truck's hook wouldn't fit on the car. When he tried to assemble the garage, the tabs and the slots wouldn't line up. He tried to force them and gashed his hand and bent the metal. Blood poured. In his mind he thought it was gushing. The gash was in an awkward place and it hurt; it would take days to heal. He heard his father, "Chrissakes, kid can't even put together a simple toy!" The anger, the frustration, the hurt, the embarassment was rising...rising as he just stood there, blood dripping down on his ruined toy...
Use a number 2 pencil to mark your answer. Be sure to color in the box completely without going outside of the box...
This was a load of crap. How did they expect him to know all this? They talk and talk and it's boring. They say read this and it doesn't make sense. They call on you in class just because they want to show you up, to pick on you because you're an easy target, a dumb kid who doesn't understand what they are saying. Well, maybe he wasn't so dumb. He was smart enough to know that all of this was a big pile of bull. Let them keep trying to teach him crap he would never use. He just won't listen. Why bother?
His attention kept turning to the girl in the next row, one seat up from him. What's her name? Cheryl, maybe? Geez, her skirt was short. She's shift in her seat every now and then as she bent over to mark a box with her goddamned number two pencil and her skirt would hike up just a bit more. Nice.
They were looking at him now, probably to see if he was trying to copy someone's answers. Bastards. He didn't need to cheat. This damned test was a joke anyway. They handed out the papers and the special pencils and told you when to break the seal and get started. It was all bull. Pushing the pencil point hard against the desk, he broke the lead. He snapped the pencil in half. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a ballpoint pen. Click. Click. When in doubt, choose C -- isn't that what someone said? He went down the answer sheet, marking an x in every C. He didn't bother to color in the box. They watched him do it. They were too startled or afraid to say a damned word.
"In point one mile, turn right...turn right...recalculating...in point three miles, turn left...in point one mile, turn left...turn left...recalculating..."
He had no idea where the guy was headed. Wherever it was, the guy had programed it into his GPS, for all the good it did him. The jamoke was stupid enough to keep the car running while he ran into the donut shop. It was a neat car though, probably cost a bundle. Bet they soaked him on the crappy GPS too. He hated the damned things. They didn't know jack shit about the city. Always giving you directions like turn into this one-way street the wrong way or turn here where there isn't even a goddamned street or turn on this street when it shoul have been the next street. Yeah, a GPS is right up there with tits on a bull. Useless "Turn left... recalculating...In two miles, turn right..." And the voice. So condescending. It's tone seemed to say: Don't bother to think, turdbrain, I can handle this because I know you can't. He rolled down the automatic window and tossed the GPS. He pushed down on the gas, weaving around traffic, while he fiddled with the dials. The radio had been set on old man music. He twisted the dial, searching. This car deserves something rocking!
Insert Tab A into Slot B...
He was getting better at these directions all right. Except Tab A was now his fist. And Slot B was now Slob B. He put a lot of muscle into his Tab A, driving his fist into the slob's belly. The guy didn't really look like a slob. He was pretty well-dressed, in fact. But he was prey and that made him a slob. The guy crumpled up from the gut punch. A couple of quick jabs to the temple and the guy was down for the count, his head making a thonk sound as it hit the pavement. His wallet. Gezz, there must he a couple hundred bucks here. Fistful of credit cards, too. He checked the guy's wrists. No watch. Doesn't anyone wear watches any more? Phone. What's this? A small plastic packet of magic white powder. Well, isn't this a lucky day. Beneath him, the guy groaned, shifted a little. He gave him a hard kick in the head and strolled away, whistling a tune. Oh, yeah, whistling a happy tune.
Later that day, Tab A met Slut B. Young. College girl probably. Maybe even high school. She shouldn't have been walking where it was dark and where there were no people around. It only took one punch to knock her out. A couple of bucks in her purse, nothing worth while. She wasn't cute like you would want to think all young girls were. Plain, really, with a bit too much flesh. He dragged her further into the dark. She was still unconscious. Lucky for her.
Right. Like that was going to happen. He kept running. He was getting further and further from the body. Not stopping for anything or anyone, especially no damned cop.
He glanced back, looked at the cop. A uni. All alone and he looked pretty much out of shape. Sucker would never catch him.
"Stop! I'll shoot!"
Really? You know what happens to a cop who shoots his gun in the city? Even at night, there are people around, all snug in their homes, watching tv, sleeping, make a jaunt to the bathroom, trying to make a howling brat keep quiet for the night...all those civilians never knowing when a stray bullet from a gun -- a cop's gun -- will find them. Cops never fire their guns like in a movie or a television show. This was for real.
He kept running and could hear the cop begining to pant. Geez, he sounds like a goddamn dog.
He had enough of a lead. He could turn at the corner up ahead and lose the cop. He knew the city and he knew where to hide. Just a few more ste
He didn't hear the shot. He didn't even feel the punch that drove him forward and down to the cement, because that punch drove half of his brains out of his head before he could even feel it..
The cop slowed down, stopped running. He holstered his weapon, walked slowly to the body. Young kid, maybe not even twenty-one, but he looked old in death, just lying there in a pool of stcky red. The cop radioed it in and leaned against a wall, waiting.
Still breathing hard, the cop lit a cigarette. He knew he was going to have to go through all the hoops. There would be an investigation and he's be suspended with pay during it. He'd be cleared because no civilians were hurt and because that punk was not going to hurt anyone again. And then be back on the streets. No biggie. Yeah, he knew he shouldn't have fired his gun. They drilled that into you, told you the chances of someone innocent getting hurt were too great, don't fire the gun where there are other people around, where other people might be.
But the cop was never very good at following directions.
For more of today's Flash Fiction Challenge, go to Patti's blog -- pattinase.