Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Wednesday Briefs: A Rock and a Hard Place

Good morning and Happy Hump Day ! If it's Wednesday, then it must be time for more flash fiction from the Wednesday Briefers! We're a group of authors who bring you our finest flash fiction every week, 500 to 1000 words, inspired by one of our prompts.  

If you'll recall, last week was the last of Char and Ty, at least on the blog. I'll be starting something new next week, but this week I wrote a little one-off, entitled A Rock and a Hard Place, and I was inspired by the prompts: toffee, smoke, and bar.  Don't forget to visit the other Briefers. Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

A Rock and a Hard Place

The smell of toffee was overwhelming. For some reason, it reminded her of stories her great-grandmother told of the Great Molasses Flood. But that had happened back in 1919 Boston and this was 2019 Boston, and never the twain shall meet.

Breathe, just breathe, Carly.

She’d always had an overactive imagination, even as a child, as well as the most unusual interests for someone her age. Her favorite companion had been Richard Feynman, the physicist. It never mattered to her that no one else could see him, she could and that’s what counted. He came to her room and played his bongos and they talked about quantum field theories and other things that went straight over her head. But she was grateful for the companionship. He never made fun of her, always treated her as a person, unlike the others.

Even so, he wasn’t with her now and she wished he was because she was sure she heard footsteps behind her and that made her more than a little nervous. Why had she agreed to go on this scavenger hunt in the first place? Mostly because one of the top prizes was round-trip airfare to the destination of one’s choice. There were restrictions, of course. Had to be continental US, couldn’t be during certain holidays, blah blah blah. But Carly knew just where she wanted to go, had dreamed about going for years—Los Alamos, New Mexico. A place very important to her friend Richard, not to mention his friend, the one he called Oppy.

But she was beginning to think she’d made a very serious error in reading the map. This street was very desolate and not what she’d been expecting. Not to mention there were no other participants in sight, and surely there would be, wouldn’t there. The buildings on either side of the street were dark and foreboding, almost as though they’d lined the windows with black-out material.

Get a grip, Carly, this isn’t WWII London, and this isn’t the Blitz.

She took a deep breath then took a few more steps, listening carefully. Nothing. See? Just her imagination getting the better of her. She breathed a huge sigh of relief. Such a story she would have for Richard when she saw him again.

Wait, what was that? Footsteps, louder this time. Carly’s heart almost burst from her chest.

Get away, gotta get away, gotta get…

She spied a doorway just to her right. Above the door a dingy sign read avern. She assumed the word was tavern and the t had simply melted into oblivion or fallen from view. Either way, it was a public space and she was going for it. She grabbed the handle and pushed. A bell rang, betraying her presence to anyone within.

The first thing she noticed, after pushing the door shut behind her, was the smoke. Hanging in the air like an almost palpable cloud, it reminded her of a London fog. The difference was that this fog smelled sickly sweet. She realized recreational marijuana was legal in Massachusetts, and people were open about smoking it, but this was taking it to an all new level. She could probably get high for free at this rate, if she were given to such things.

“Hey sweetheart, what’s a pretty thing like you doing alone?” a voice leered at her from somewhere in the smoky depths. At the same time, she heard the bell tinkle behind her. She gasped, whether from the unknown danger before her or the possibility her stalker had just found her, she couldn’t say.

Why or why hadn’t she stayed home? She could have found a way to get to Los Alamos somehow. And she wouldn’t be in this precarious predicament.

A hand grasped her wrist. “Come along then, ducky. Let’s find someplace private.” Mr. Lewd and Lascivious again. He was tugging her forward and her inclination was to dig in her heels. But what if the other guy was right behind her? Talk about being between a rock and a hard place.

“Let go of me!” she screamed. But her voice didn’t come out as a scream, and she couldn’t even be sure he heard. Or if he did, he didn’t care, as he tried to drag her… who knows where. She felt heavy breathing on her neck. Great, another country heard from. What she wouldn’t give to hear the soothing sounds of Richard Feynman’s bongos right about now.

“You there! Unhand my sister!” Another voice, a quiet yet commanding voice, broke into her panicked thoughts.

From out of the reefer smoke that surrounded them, a figure emerged. A fairly young man of indeterminate age, curly dark hair, pretty blue eyes. He reminded her of Tony Curtis, especially when she caught a glimpse of pearly white teeth.  She knew he wasn’t her brother, but the lecher didn’t know that, naturally.

The newcomer detached the would-be attacker’s grip from her arm with a firmness that would not be denied. The other man grumbled but melted back into the mist, and when she dared to turn her head, no one was there, thank goodness.

“Sorry for the lie,” her rescuer whispered into her ear. “I didn’t mean to overstep my bounds.”

“No, no, thank you,” she reassured him. “You saved me from… well, you know.”

“I know, I know.” His voice was soothing and gentle. “If you don’t mind my saying so, this is not a good place for you, Miss, not at all. Why don’t I see you get somewhere safe?”

He guided her toward the door and they quickly stepped outside into the fresh air.

“What’s your name, Miss?” he asked.


“Lovely name.” He gave her a very wide, very Tony Curtis smile. “My name is Albert. Albert DeSalvo.”

“Nice to meet you, Al.” She beamed at him. To hell with the contest. She would just go home and call it a night.

She was safe now. And she couldn’t wait to see Richard again.


Now go see what the other Briefers are up to!

Cia Nordwell

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