Flash Fiction Challenge: The Last Review

photo by K.S. Brooks

Every December, for the last twenty years, I have had to drive up to the central office to get my performance review from old Mr. Detweiler.

The drive takes over an hour. The weather is always frigid. Detweiler drones on and on about how much better I could do if I applied myself.

I only half-listen. My attention is on the poster behind his head. I love that beach. I can see myself walking along, the sand warm on my bare feet.

I must have stopped nodding at the right times. Detweiler slams his fist down on his desk. Now he’s talking to me about my lack of focus. He says he expects more from an employee who has been with the company for such a long time. he says I am lucky to have this job. Times are hard.

I have been with the company for a long time. Maybe too long. I may be the only employee left who knows about the safe behind the poster. That safe is where Detweiler keeps the money he skims from the company.

That beach looks pretty good…

In 250 words or less, tell us a story incorporating the elements in the picture. The 250 word limit will be strictly enforced.

Please keep language and subject matter to a PG-13 level.

Use the comment section below to submit your entry. Entries will be accepted until Tuesday at 5:00 PM Pacific Time.

On Wednesday afternoon, we will open voting to the public with an online poll for the best writing entry accompanying the photo. Voting will be open until 5:00 PM Thursday.

On Friday afternoon, the winner will be recognized as we post the winning entry along with the picture as a feature. Then, at year end, the winners will be featured in an anthology like this one. Best of luck to you all in your writing!

Entries only in the comment section. Other comments will be deleted. See HERE for additional information and terms.

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9 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Challenge: The Last Review”

  1. Keep calm. Don’t look suspicious.

    Robbing Detweiler’s safe had been easy. Stupid old codger used his date of birth for the combination. Now if I could just slip through airport security, my beach retreat would be a piece of cake.

    A deep voice demanded, “Sir, step over here, please.”

    My fake ID and passport are perfect. And my carry-on should have cleared the scanner, because all the bills were in hollowed-out books. I tried to grin and conceal the nervous shake in my hands. “Anything wrong, officer?”

    The officious jerk didn’t reply. Instead, he pulled me away with a brusque movement that hurt my arm. He cuffed me. A K-9 sniffer came out of nowhere. Another officer cut off the lock. I cringed and hoped that they wouldn’t try to open any of the books. Curious passersby stopped to gawk, and someone’s overpowering perfume made me sneeze. The K-9 barked. My insides knotted like a hangman’s noose. I could feel the hot beads of sweat trickle down my nose.

    One of the officers laughed. “Look at all the little blue pills. He intended to make some girl happy. And what’s this? A firearm? Tsk. Tsk.”

    I strained to pull myself free from the cuffs. “That’s not my stuff. Honest. Someone must have switched suitcases with me.”

    “Hmph. Likely story.”

    The last thing I saw as they led me away was Detweiler clearing security. He wore a smirk wide enough to swallow his face—and he had my carry-on in tow.

  2. Again he slammed his fist to the table, this time I saw the pain in his eyes, the twinge in his arm. I knew of his heart condition, I was only a few of the long term employees that were aware of it. He kept that news away from the other employees, always worried that they would use it against him. Well now it will cost him.

    I took the chance, I jumped to my feet and started yelling back at him, this caught him off guard and he withdrew back into his seat. I went on about how I knew about the money, and the plans on leaving the company high and dry. Then to push him over the edge, I told him about the affair I have been having with his wife that was one fourth his age.

    That’s when it happened, at first it was a twinge in his face, then grabbing his left arm, he collapsed from his chair. As I slowly walked around his desk, he reached up to me, begging for me to help. I only laughed, and said I will be on the beach with his widowed wife by the weekend. Slowly he laid his head back, and as was taking his final breaths, I was already emptying the safe into the bag I had brought with me.

    Heres to the beach…

  3. I could do a few things. I could wait for after hours, crack the safe, and be gone with the cash. I could go back to my desk and get back to work like I do every year. Or, I could use the water pistol in my pocket to make him give me the cash. Everyone else is at lunch…why not?

    He continued to blab on about my mediocre performance and how replaceable I am. But when he said a monkey could do my job, it flipped a switch in my head.

    “Really, Detweiler? That’s, right, I didn’t say Mister this time.” Suddenly, I was out of words. I didn’t want to flounder here. “And no one would miss you.” I jabbed the fake gun forward hoping he could see the shape of the muzzle through my blazer. I was going to finally show him who was replaceable.

    He burst out laughing. “It’s the end of December, not April Fools day,” he choked out, with the emphasis on fools. “Who put you up to this? That’s probably not even a real gun.”

    As he laughed on, I wanted to shrivel up and dissipate into a pile of dust that could be swept under his desk. Then I heard a female voice. “But this is.”

    I turned to see Sylvie, one of the analysts, standing next to me. She had a huge handgun pointed at Detweiler.

    “Neither one of you will get away with this,” he blustered.

    Sylvie smiled. “I’m with the FBI, you embezzling turd. I’ve been investigating you for a while.”

    “You are?” I blurted.

    “You have?” Detweiler echoed my shock.

    “That’s right. Now open that safe right now. And give Mr. Rosenbaum here his bonus. I think one hundred thousand will do just fine, don’t you, Mr. Rosenbaum?”

  4. When the book slammed against the table, I nearly jumped out of my skin. “There is no point in furthering this relationship if you can’t even give me a few minutes of your time.”

    He was right of course. There wasn’t any reason to keep pursuing a career with the company. Hell, at this point I wasn’t sure how I made it this long. “I’ve already given you twenty years,” I said. “What else do you want from me.”

    “That is what I am getting to…”

    I cut him off. “You’re always just getting to,” I said. “I need something more than this. What can you offer me that is worth the past twenty years of my life.”

    His face turned a deep shade of crimson. Never have I seen him this pissed. Rage and confusion fought the battleground of his face. He stared at me lost for words.

    “That’s what I thought.” I stood up and walked to the door. “I want to say that my time here was the time of my life, but really I lost some great years to your crap and bs.” I shut the door behind me as I walked out.

    I said good bye to Veronica, his secretary before the final walk down the hall. I could still hear his screams of rage through the doors of the elevator.

    That margarita is going to taste so good.

  5. But what the old man didn’t know was that the bonds he’d tucked away behind that painting were fakes. Oh, it had taken a small fortune to have them made but that was a small price to pay for the fortune I’d make when I sold them. Getting the combination hadn’t been all that hard, he was predictable when it came to some things. All I’d really need was a few minutes with mew HD camera. A few high res pics and a few thousand for the copies themselves. It’s amazing what you can buy if know the right people and in this case, a friend who was a graph design student.
    So there I stood, half listening to his dissertation of my skills and how I could do so much better if I’d only tried. He had no idea about the plane ticket in my brief case or the small house I’d bought a couple of years ago.
    During his tirade and my musings the door opened behind me and felt a heavy hand fall on my shoulder. The cold smile made my heart sink. How could he have known?
    “Mr Foster?” The behind man me asked.
    Detweiler settled back in his chair. “You really should be more careful who you hire,” he told me.
    The beach was gone.

  6. It was now or never. The attorneys said this was as good a time as any to fire Mr. Detweiler. It was all I could do to sit there and listen to him one last time, but this moment was mine and I was going to savor every torturous minute. The money in the safe would take him to a nice little beach like in the poster behind him. How ironic—the money he’d socked away would be his severance pay.

    Buying the company was what I deserved after all these years having to work under the management of Mr. Detweiler. They had taken too long to figure how to correct the main problem. Didn’t matter, they were being fired next. I will bring in my own management.

    The owners have been the type who loved money at the expense of the little people—their employees working their asses off—who put it there. Under my ownership, things were going to be a lot different.

    I slowly stood up. Mr. Detweiler looked at me with puzzled bewilderment. “What are you doing? Did you not hear what I said? You’re fired.”

    “No Mr. Detweiler, you’re the one who is fired.” I threw the paper down on his desk. “Read it and weep. Clean out your desk and be on your way. I own the company now.”

    “But…how can this be…you can’t own the company. It wasn’t for sale.”

    “Everything is for sale, Mr. Detweiler. Thank goodness for the lottery.”

  7. I was standing in my beachfront penthouse apartment staring without seeing out the window when the assassin fired. That shot hurled me into a review of my life and evaluate everything I thought, believed or wanted.

    There wasn’t a tunnel only an enormously intense light. I saw my life, an excruciating nothing-hidden review. My preferred drugs of choice were greed and lust, power and acclaim. I was a junkie who needed to have the biggest, best and most of everything. What a waste I was. Mortified doesn’t touch how I felt. I fell face down in gut-wrenching agony.

    That light coalesced around me. Tangible love! Oh lord, I could stay forever wrapped in it.

    The light shimmered, “You must go back. There remain things undone.”

    “I’ll be in hell,” I said drawing the light closer around me, “Let me stay! Please…”

    I awoke shivering cold under a gurney, white curtains hiding me from public view. Knowing how hospitals transport dead bodies to the morgue, I knew this one’s destination.

    Something pushed me to the floor. “Let me stay!” I mumbled. The orderly fainted.

    My death certificate is framed. It sits on my desk, a physical reminder of when peace and appreciation replaced unquenchable obsession. I remain success oriented, but nowhere near as intense.

    Standing on my penthouse apartment’s balcony I thought about my goal. I want the last review of my life to be much different than the first. I know unconditional love and want to return to it.

  8. Title: Time for Change

    As expected old Mr. Detweiler went on and on about my lack of focus, need to apply myself, I could do so much better, and he expected so much more.

    He was so right and this was the time for change. I was staring at the picture behind him and my new future, when he slammed his fist down on his desk.

    “You are so right Mr. Detweiler, you son of a beach! I know how you embezzled company money, which you keep in the safe behind that picture.” For once, he was speechless.

    “So here’s the deal…you are going to open the safe and put one half of the money into my briefcase. You are also going to sign my performance review, which I took the liberty of filling out for you.”

    He went right to the summary –

    ‘…although for some time I have been critical of John’s past performance and lack of focus, I realize my assessments have been flawed. I am the one who has been incapable of making sound business decisions. Therefore, effective immediately, I am resigning my position as CEO and appointing John Goodfeller, CEO.

    As CEO, John’s annual salary will be $750K, plus bonuses.

    He will occupy my office.

    Although I never cared for his method of accomplishing company objectives, I can now better appreciate the results. I truly feel this change is in everyone’s best interest.’

    I saw his smirk as he signed, and then headed towards our future.

  9. Bam!

    Detweiler’s hand slams the desk. Hot coffee splatters from his cup, but I don’t care. What kind of scrooge does performance reviews right before the December holiday season? For twenty years I’ve schlepped over an hour in freezing weather to put up with his abuse, silently turning a blind eye to his backdoor shenanigans.

    “Are you even listening to me, Tim?”

    In his eyes I’m a slacker, I lack focus. Little does he know the information I’ve gathered over the years. Like that safe hidden behind the beach poster over his desk, or how much he’s embezzled. Swiss bank account numbers as well.

    I try not to smile as he mops up the spilled coffee. Good thing he took a long sip when his new secretary handed it to him. I’m a patient man. The poison finally kicks in. I lean over the desk and press the intercom.

    “Miss Cratchit, Mr. Detweiler doesn’t seem to be feeling well.”

    Fran sashays in and places a suicide note and jar of poison next to Detweiler’s lifeless hand. She smiles as I open the safe and fill a bag with piles of cash. The ledger with all his other shady deals I leave for the police. By the time the ambulance arrives our prints are wiped clean and we are long gone.

    Fran’s lips press against mine. Numbness spreads through my body and the world begins to fade.

    “Goodbye, Tim.”

    Her parting words sink in as the poison takes me.

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