Flash Fiction Challenge: Just Desserts

House at Dusk Flash Fiction Prompt 02012015 COMP
House at Dusk photo copyright K. S. Brooks. Do not use without attribution.

Jay walked up the long, narrow drive to Mr. Smith’s house. There it is, a perfect picture postcard of a place. Crime pays after all.

He marveled at how much money Smith must have raked in from naive writers like himself. Everybody pays for editing, Everybody pays for cover design. Everybody pays and pays and pays…

But you don’t pay, do you, Mr. Smith? Jay shoved his hands deep in his pockets and started forward. This confrontation was long overdue as far as Jay was concerned. But it seemed trouble had arrived early. As he approached, he heard raised voices from within the house…

Welcome to the Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction Challenge. In 250 words or less, write a story incorporating the elements in the picture and the written prompt above. Do not include the prompt in your entry. 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. No political or religious entries, please.

On Tuesday night, judges will select the strongest entries, and on Wednesday afternoon, we will open voting to the public with an online poll so they may choose the winner. 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!

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9 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Challenge: Just Desserts”

  1. *****FINALIST*****

    Itchy Pen (250 words)

    Jay and Mr Smith met at a writers’ conference at Amherst College. Jay had a new manuscript that he was passing around… a play about a family in turmoil. It was good. People were interested but Jay entrusted it to Mr. Smith because they just seemed to click and Mr. Smith really liked the characters. Ten months later and no action. No returned calls. Just brief texts and emails saying he was still working on something.

    Jay had heard that Mr. Smith had the midas touch and had launched many young writers. But he was getting suspicious. Is Smith ripping off the over-eager newbie? Is he selling stories and plot lines to other writers to use? He must be eating up and spitting out clueless talent. Jay knew his play was a winner. He needed this.

    Jay drove with a six pack to confront Mr. Smith. He trudged through the snow to the secluded house. Peering through a window Jay saw a woman throwing her hands around a man and shouting: “You’re mine, I’m as proud as sunshine!” Jay could not believe it. “That’s my line!” He thought. “I wrote that! They’re acting out my play!” Livid, Jay worked his way around the house through the waist deep snow. “I’ll show them,” Jay said as he gripped the handle of the pistol. Inside Mr. Smith waved Jay’s manuscript in the air. “Call the kid. Tell him we’re going to make him rich.”

  2. “My wife left me because of you. And I’m going to even the score.”

    Jay listened from the snowy front stoop. He didn’t recognize the low-pitched voice.

    “I didn’t touch your wife.”

    Mr. Smith. Jay’s fists clenched.

    “Margo left because of all the money you cost me. You had your hand out for editing fees, book cover fees, printing, distribution and marketing fees.”

    “You signed a contract. Agreed to my terms.”

    Smith again. The louse.

    “To hell with your terms! You fee writers to death. I was forced to file bankruptcy. We lost our house. Our credit. Our pride. Had to move in with my parents. It was more than Margo could take. More than I can take. That’s why I’m moving in here with you.”

    “About time you came to your senses,” Smith said.


    “Yeah, call me a slow learner.”

    “That house you lost?”

    “A dump.”

    “Yep,” Smith agreed.

    Jay peered in the window.

    Smith clapped the other man on the back. “And your wife…”

    “A nag,” the man said with a laugh. “Nothing pleased her.”

    “Good riddance,” Smith said.

    “I’ll toast to that. Let me grab the scotch from my car. I bought the good stuff.”

    Before Jay could duck behind a snow-laced bush, the door flung open.

    “What’s this? Who are you?” the man asked.

    “Let’s just say I’m an unhappily married writer who appreciates good scotch,” Jay said.

    “Go on in. We’ll all have a drink and talk over your options.”

  3. *****FINALIST*****

    Jay crept to the window, but stopped dead when a twig snapped in the woods. He tried hard to control his breath, waited and then watched the scene through a gap in the curtains.

    Smith stood by an open fire and faced a woman.

    “Trespass is illegal, whoever you are,” he said.

    Jay wondered if she was also a writer come to confront this criminal. She was brave if she had. And foolish. Jay held pepper spray in his hand because of his concerns about the man.

    “Are you a thief?” Smith asked. He picked up a hunting whip from a coffee table.

    “I came to see you.”


    “To give you a last chance.”

    “You threaten me? Do you know who I am?”

    “A third rate corrupt politician.”

    The man relaxed. “So that’s it.” He laughed and cracked the whip.

    “And more.” She spoke a language unlike any Jay had ever heard. “I offer you redemption.”

    Jay saw recognition and fear. “Impossible!” Smith dropped the whip; inky darkness poured from his hands. She spoke and the air vibrated. Light poured from her. When the darkness touched the light, the room exploded. Jay fell back onto the snow.

    Footsteps approached. “He’s gone.”

    “Who are you?”

    She walked towards the trees.

    “That way.” He pointed along the snow covered drive.

    Branches snapped, and a creature walked out of the woods. She rubbed its nose gently, then mounted its back. The black dragon flew up into the darkening sky.

  4. *****FINALIST*****

    “You’re nothing but a thief, a leach living off people’s dreams,” someone yelled.

    Jay froze, hand inches from banging on Mr. Smith’s front door. He’d been thinking those same words as he slogged down the snow-covered driveway. So excited that a publisher wanted his novel, Jay didn’t think twice before shelling out thousands of dollars for editing, cover design, and postage. He even paid for most of the printing. All he had to show for his work and money was the box of overpriced books he bought from the publisher. The novel wasn’t even available on-line.

    A second voice squeaked like a rat caught in a trap. “I’ll pay you your royalties. Just let me get my checkbook.”

    It seemed Jay wasn’t the only one taken in by Smith Publishing. He peered in through the narrow window next to the door, but all he saw was a pair of shadows on the wall. One of them waved what looked like a weapon, just like the gun weighing down Jay’s pocket. The other held its hands in the air.

    “It’s too late, Smith.”

    “Please. I’ll give you anything.”

    Three shots rang out. The smaller shadow slumped to the ground. Flakes of snow slipped inside Jay’s jacket collar, but he didn’t notice. He wouldn’t be getting any money back after all. Nor did he get to confront Smith himself. At least he had a new novel idea. This time he’d be careful and check the Editors and Predators website first.

  5. *****FINALIST*****

    Jay slowly walked up and peeked through the front window. Mr. Smith and a huge sinister looking man were having what appeared to be a violent argument. Smith’s face was red and swollen and a trickle of blood oozed from the corner of his mouth.

    Smith raised his hands as if to surrender and walked over to his desk with the other man moving close behind. From under the desk Smith pulled out a medium sized lock box. The man grabbed the box and pulled it across the desk. He loudly demanded the key.

    Smith muttered something unintelligible and opened the drawer. Instead of a key, he pulled a gun and fired three shots. The man crumbled and fell lifeless to the floor.

    Jay could not believe his eyes. He had come to demand the money he knew he deserved. He suddenly realized that had he be earlier it could have been him on the floor. Jay watched as Smith poured a large jigger of whiskey into a glass, walked over to the dead man and spit on him. Then grabbing hold of both his legs Smith laboriously dragged the body across the floor, stopping to open the door before dragging him outside. He continued dragging the body across the yard toward the woods line.

    That is when Jay saw his chance. Jay ran through the open door, grabbed the lockbox and was out in a flash.

    He had no idea the misfortune he had just brought down upon himself!

  6. *****FINALIST*****

    The front door was unlocked so Jay slipped inside to a darkened hall. Peaking around a corner, he saw a woman pacing feverishly with papers gripped in her hand.

    “You paid for her apartment in the city?” She was shouting in an outraged voice. Damn, too late. There went Jay’s plans for blackmailing the bastard for his cheesy affair.

    “Where did you get the money, Harold? It’s not from the cleaning business. I keep the books, remember.”

    Jay leaned forward just enough to see Smith sitting at the kitchen table, his chubby fingers rubbing his temples. “I got a side business in publishing,” he responded with a hint of a satisfied grin.

    “What the hell do you know about publishing? You don’t even read!” The smartly dressed woman looked shocked and exasperated, her hands on her hips.

    “You made me go to that writer’s festival last spring, remember?” Smith pointed an accusatory finger at the woman. “While you were kissing up to those damn writers you read every single night in our bed, I learned how hard it was for newbies to get published. So I saw an opportunity.”

    “Twenty-two years wasted.” She shook her head bitterly. “I’m leaving you, Harold. You can keep the cleaning business. Heaven knows you’ll run it into the ground without me. But I’m taking the house, and the other business. I will fix whatever scam you started.”

    Jay tiptoed back to the front door. He’d return tomorrow to formally meet his new publisher.

  7. Jay noticed the front door was slightly ajar. When he got inside, he saw a woman pointing a gun at Smith. “Wait! Don’t shoot him!”

    The woman’s sight, and the gun, diverted to Jay.

    “Please don’t shoot me.”

    “This shyster deserves to die,” she said.

    “I won’t argue that. You an author too?”

    She nodded.

    “Well, then, if you kill him, we’ll never get our money back.”

    “He refused to refund my money. He says I signed a contract. Frankly, killing him seems way more satisfying at this point.”

    Jay glanced at Smith. “Don’t you think we should torture him first?”

    After a brief sidebar, the two authors tied Smith to a chair.

    Jay sat at Smith’s computer. “He’s logged in to his bank account.”

    The woman smiled. “Great. I guess we don’t need to keep him alive after all.”

    “No! No!” Smith screamed. “I’ll give you what you want!”

    “That’s right, you will,” Jay replied. “I’m going to issue a refund to every single author you’ve ever scammed. This may take a while, so we have something for your listening pleasure.”

    The woman slapped headphones against Smith’s ears, then started the MP3 player.

    Smith grimaced. “What the hell is this crap?!”

    She smacked a strip of duct tape over Smith’s mouth before joining Jay at the computer. “What’s he listening to?” she whispered.

    Jay grinned. “The hideous audiobook version of my novel, complete with all the mistakes HE added to my manuscript.”

    She smiled as well. “That’s what I call just desserts.”

  8. Jay had rehearsed the confrontation for days, prepared the words and his reactions. He wanted justice. Well, not justice, that was drastic, but he did want a refund. He had paid far too much for the “services” that Mr. Smith never actually performed.

    The voices had grown louder, punctuated by cracks of thunder. The thunder came from inside the house. Jay ran, not away, but up to the side door. He couldn’t see anything from the front windows so they had to be in the kitchen.

    He swung the door open wide and peeked around the corner into the kitchen and the dining room beyond. It was as the door swung open that he regretted never owning a gun.

    Alice Weatherby stood at the edge of the kitchen, her back to Jay. He couldn’t see anyone else past her. A counter divided the kitchen and dining room, next to the walkway between the two. Her hands were at her sides and empty.
    “Everything Okay, Alice?” He said.

    She shook her head but said nothing. As Jay stepped into the kitchen she didn’t move from where she stood. A Glock lay on the floor at her feet. “He took it all,” she said. She stood her ground in front of Jay, didn’t turn around.

    Mr. Smith lay on the ground in a crumpled heap. His left hand covered in blood had reached for the holes that blossomed from his chest. Alice made sure he paid.

  9. Jay kept a steady pace as he neared the door. Inside he heard the voices were a phone conversation.

    “Right. You get 80% royalties. There’s only one token payment you need to give me, your soul.” There was a pause. “No, this deal is only available for 24 hours. Think it over. I’ll call back tomorrow.”

    Jay shuffled his feet on the porch. Was loosing his soul really worth it? He had to come to terms with what he was about to do.

    The voice inside answered his thoughts. “You have only one choice Jay. Open the door.”

    Compelled by the tone, Jay pushed the door open. He saw before him a beast of horns, scales and hooves. “Mr. Smith?”

    The demon smiled back at him. “You assume right. You’re payment is due. It’s not easy selling your soul for your art. At least, you have the right idea to come in person.”

    He stood before Jay, a towering reminder of the price he was paying for publishing his work to the world. He felt a pulling action from his chest. Everything started to loose focus. “Wait. I don’t regret anything. Writing is something I have to do.”

    “Yes, but you should have been more smart about it. Next time, research your options. Oh wait, there won’t be a next time for you.”

    Jay’s last thoughts were of seeing his name in print for the first time. “It was all worth it.” And then, there was nothing.

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