Walmart: I Love You Flash Fiction Challenge
Here they are, 6 stories that I'm hosting for the Walmart I Love You flash challenge. The prompt to write a 750-800 word story that is set, or at least partially set, in a WalMart Store. It could also be a story that refers to such a store in a meaningful way. If you take exception to Walmart, name it something else. A list of participants can be located on Patti Abbott's blog Pattinase
The 6 particpants listed below are:
Stpehen D. Rogers
IN AND OUT
by Stephen D. Rogers
I walked slowly towards the entrance to the store, half an eye on the surveillance cameras that covered the parking lot.
Old habit I guess.
I hadn't so much as nudged the speed limit since my release.
No way, no how. One tiny violation and I'd be where the sun don't shine. I couldn't afford to go back. Not again.
That's what the kid didn't understand. He couldn't see the big picture. Didn't understand long term. To him, it was all about the easy and the now.
I couldn't fault him on that. I'd been the same myself.
Once upon a time.
I paused to let a car cross in front of me.
Two-year old Toyota Corolla. No dents this side. Tires no more than six months old. Driver was female, early twenties, smoker but she wasn't smoking at the moment, perhaps because of the girl in a rear-facing car seat.
Figure under seventy-five in the purse. Three charge cards. Cheerios.
I just stood there.
Stared at the entrance to the store.
The weight felt heavy on me. The weight of the past. The weight of fatherhood. The weight of the DVDs tucked into my pants.
The kid. He had to be like his old man, back in the day.
The kid didn't realize his old man would do almost anything to change the past.
The kid didn't realize a thing.
I took a step forward and nearly got clipped.
The white car never even slowed down.
I lowered my head and crossed to the entrance.
Slowed as someone came out the door at me, charging at me with a cart filled with future obligations.
It's easy to get it now. Pay for it someday. The next score, the next lottery ticket, the next year, you could be in the money. No problem.
I stood back as two women came through the door, one saying to the other, "Of course I still wear short skirts."
Before the doors slid closed, I slipped in.
Alone in the airlock entry.
The buffer between in and out, here and there, dreams and reality.
I could still turn around.
Maybe a few hard lessons would do the kid good.
I sniffed. What good had they ever done me?
Now that it was too late, I knew better.
And the one person I wanted to share that with didn't hear a single thing I said.
I stepped to the side to let a family pass, the kids all complaining about what they didn't get, the parents swearing that next time they were all getting left in the car.
Not total silence of course. I could hear the music inside the store. Chattering at the registers. Somebody being paged.
Behind me, I could hear someone lay on the horn.
Maybe it was a warning.
Bail out the kid and he might grow accustomed to it.
Let's be honest. What was he learning from this?
Next time, he knew to hide his loot better, to keep his mouth shut.
When I'd taken the stolen DVDs, said I was returning them, he'd called me a hypocrite. A coward. A stooge.
He didn't see that I was saving him from the mistakes that I'd made when I was his age.
No, that horn wasn't a warning. It was a call to action.
I walked into the store.
Colors and sounds, lights and movement, a manufactured world of conditioned air and consumers.
I'd never felt comfortable here, and today's mission left me even more unnerved than usual, as if this was my first foray outside the law.
My throat was actually dry.
Someone set off the store alarm, and I continued walking out of habit. "Nope, not me, I'm just going about my business," and this time it was true.
Only an employee approached and asked to see my receipt.
I tossed a thumb over my shoulder. "I'm just coming in."
"That's the exit."
Turning, I saw he was right. I'd come in the wrong door, and the stolen DVDs must have tripped the scanners. "Sorry. I wasn't thinking. Good thing it's no crime to come in the out."
"You set off the alarm."
"Come to think of it, the person I passed looked kind of guilty." If he asked how I came to that conclusion, all I'd have to do was describe myself. Could everybody hear my pounding heart?
A manager joined us. "Please come with me."
"I'm sort of in a rush." I pictured the aisles. "I just stopped in for some batteries."
"Please." He lowered his voice. "We've already called the police."
And what lesson would my kid take from this?
BIO: Over six hundred of Stephen's stories and poems have been selected to appear in more than a hundred publications. His website, www.stephendrogers.com, includes a list of new and upcoming titles as well as other timely information.
THE HIDEOUS LIME GREEN TRUTH
By Albert Tucher
“Nice to, uh, see you again.”
Concentrate, Mary Alice thought.
She prided herself on never flinching or freaking unless the client wanted those reactions.
“You too,” said the client.
She recognized his voice, but nothing else remained of the man she remembered. He had gained a huge amount of weight, but that was only the beginning. A white-blond bouffant wig concealed whatever remained of his hair. On his feet he wore strappy white sandals with four inch heels. But the real shocker was the hideous lime green spandex dress that he wore over nothing but his lumpy glory. He had covered his beard with heavy makeup.
At least he had shaved his legs.
Mary Alice couldn’t remember where, but she had seen his ensemble somewhere.
“You’ve made some changes,” she said.
“The internet is a wonderful thing. I didn’t know the real me until I saw it.”
He pulled the dress up over his waist and sat on the edge of the bed. When he spread his legs apart, a lesser woman would have screamed.
“You remember what I like?”
That was why she had dressed in a trim corporate skirt, severe white blouse, stockings and heels.
She got down on her knees. From that angle she could see how his new contours draped themselves over his arousal and hid it from anyone who might care to look.
That was a pretty big “might.”
Come on, Mary Alice told herself. You’ve seen worse.
As she leaned forward and went to work, his rolls of fat enveloped her. A stray thought about crawling back into the womb flitted through her mind. She stifled a giggle.
After the preliminaries he wanted her naked on the edge of the bed in the doggy position. He stepped up behind her, but then he seemed to realize that things didn’t work the way they used to. He had to lift his mounds of flesh with both arms to get at her, which meant that she had to reach back and help.
When he had finished, Mary Alice disengaged and rolled over to look up at him.
“I’m glad you worked things out,” she said.
“The recession is history. For me, anyway.”
He smiled but said nothing more.
At the end of the hour she dressed, picked her envelope up, and gave him the usual peck on the cheek. It no longer surprised her how quickly the strange had become the new normal. It was part of her job to adjust.
But back in her apartment she picked up the phone and punched in a familiar number. Apparently she wasn’t as tough as she thought, because she needed to debrief.
Her friend Diana was still at her desk at Litvinov Associates, where she had become president after retiring from hooking. It was a long story.
“How’s the bodyguard business?”
“Oh, you know,” said Diana. “There’s always a body needs guarding.”
“You remember Bill Winterborn?”
“Well, you don’t know the new him. ”
Mary Alice described the client as she had seen him that day.
“Now I remember where I saw that outfit. It was in one of those emails everybody is forwarding. You know, ‘People of Walmart,’ with all the plumber’s crack and all those getups you can’t believe are real?”
“After the first one I started deleting them,” Diana said. “Since I retired, I’ve lost my tolerance for weirdness.”
“He has a new gig too. He wouldn’t say what. He used to drive big rigs, but about a year ago he lost the job and stopped coming. Said he couldn’t spend the money anymore. Maybe now he does drag performances or something. There must be guys who like the BBW thing.”
“I don’t think it’s that,” said Diana. “Let me make sure we’re talking about the same thing--bright green dress, big white wig?”
“Don’t forget the sandals.”
“Well, it was on the TV news, maybe fifteen minutes ago. A woman dressed like that just held up the Walmart in Lakeview. Only now we know it wasn’t a woman, don’t we?”
“I guess not.”
“The news also said it sounded like the same woman who held up six Walmarts in the Midwest. She fit right in. Nobody even noticed her, until she walked up to the registers and pulled a gun out of her bag.”
“I guess Bill gets around.”
“You need to call the police,” said Diana.
“Why me? You’re the respectable citizen here.”
“But you’re the one who can identify him. And I don’t need to earn points with the cops anymore.”
“I don’t know.”
“Look at it this way. You’re helping to keep America safe for spandex.”
BIO: Albert Tucher is the author of twenty-five published stories about prositute Diana Andrews, as well as several about her sidekick Mary Alice aka Crystal. He is searching for a home for his series of hardboiled novels about the same characters. His first stand-alone story, the novella The Acting Librarian, recently appeared in Mysterical-e.
by Garnett Elliott
2:06 A.M. and the stocking pallets choke the narrow aisles, the cleaning crews run Zamboni-things over a thousand scuff marks and the freaks descend From Places Unknown, lurching in from the blackness, the orange-yellow dimness of the parking lot to do their furtive shopping or wile away insomnia's guts until the customer service counter opens prompt at 7:00 A.M.
One of the stockers, Woof (his nickname), thinks how he took this shift to get away from the daytime hordes, and now he's surrounded by these weird-ass people, their problems. He thinks this as he cuts open box after box of Generous Fit, Natural Softness of Cotton Tees and stuffs them into racks. He does a lot of thinking versus actual talking, because when he speaks the right half of his face tends to contort and he'll yip or bark.
"Hey Woof, hey dog, got a whole truckload of American Spirits needs to go behind the case," says Banger Angelo, slapping him on the shoulder. He points towards the bowels of the stockroom and gives a parting bark as he saunters away. Woof smiles like its goddamned funny, but inside he seethes, he seethes.
So he doesn't go where ordered, he goes to the grocery aisles instead. Figures he'll just walk around until some of the fury seeps away, but man, he's feeling it tonight. And the food section's thick with Freakage, like it usually is. He passes:
A skinny young woman leaning against her cart, hyperventilating so loud her short breaths are croaks.
A bald guy, indeterminate age, hands jammed into the pockets of his ketchup-red sweat pants though he's wearing a mustard-yellow top, sunglasses and headphones blocking off the world.
And in Produce, the biggest homeless dude Woof's ever seen, black electrician's tape patching the holes in his jeans, and he's eating hothouse tomatoes right out of the carton, washing them first with an open bottle of Evian, just letting the water dribble onto the floor. That's Loss Prevention's problem, Woof thinks, not mine.
He rounds the corner between Snack Cakes and the first of the refrigerated aisles, almost bumps into the Handy Kart parked there. The rider--holy shit, the rider's none other than Shopper X, He of the Mystery Disability, dictating to Lottie, the unlucky checker who must've been picked to service him tonight.
"No. No. That one over there. Under 'novelties.' Novelties. Lowest shelf."
Nobody knows what his handicap is, but Shopper X comes in most nights, plunks himself down in the nearest Kart and demands a staff member follow him around to assist. And he's reveling in the power, you can tell. Leaning back in the Kart with his arms folded across his chest like a Pharaoh, eyes narrowed to slits. Wearing his omnipresent gray windbreaker zippered up to the chin, gray hair combed back. Fingers delicate as porcelain sticks protruding from the sleeves.
Poor Lottie, her fingers are red with cold, because X has her rooting around in Ice Cream Novelties, the glass panel already frosted from being open too long. She's bending low in an awkward position, ample things and buttocks swelling her khakis. The back of her polo's crept up, and you can see the fine sheen of black hair covering her tailbone.
Shopper X's eyes are fixed on that patch. He makes a groaning sound, almost too low to hear.
"No. Next row, honey. You're real close."
He glances sidelong at Woof. Raises his eyebrows a millimeter, letting him in on the game he's playing.
"That's good, sweetie. Let me see it."
Lottie straightens and shows him a king-size pack of Otter Pops. She sees Woof, her eyes going from glazed to sort of pleading for a second, like maybe she wants him to do something, say something. Woof feels a rictus coming on. She's about to slide the Pops into the kart basket, next to a lone box of Mrs. Freshley's Pecan Twirls. X holds up his hand. "Price check?"
"Two dollars even," she says.
"Nah. Put it back." She bends down again and X starts humming, rocking back and forth a little in his seat. Mid-hum he leans his head towards Woof and whispers: "I've got a dollar bill in my pocket. Her tip. Maybe I'll make her reach down there to get it."
His gray-gummed smile shows a world of anticipation, but Woof, he's had enough. He snatches up the box of Mrs. Freshley's and cocks it over X's head, feeling the weight.
"You keep your dollar--"
"--you mother-loving, kart-riding-around freak."
And he says it with crystal focus, no yips, barks, or anything.
BIO: Mr. Elliott lives and works in Tucson, Arizona. Previous work has appeared or is slated to appear in Plots With Guns, Thuglit, Out of the Gutter, Beat to a Pulp, Darkest Before the Dawn, A Twist of Noir, Hardluck Stories, Blazing Adventures Magazine, and Shred of Evidence. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE NEW WALMART
by Jimmy Callaway
I knew she was Delara’s daughter right away. Her nose is a little flatter and her chin’s a little stronger. But same hair, same eyes, same mouth. Same everything. Her name tag says “Michaela.” She’s clocking out every night as I clock in. I always smile and nod. She does the same, but looks kinda uncomfortable. I hope she doesn’t think I’m hitting on her. I mean, for chrissakes.
I’m technically old enough to be her father.
For years, there was nothing off this exit but an Arco and a Park-and-Ride. Folks’d haul their 4-wheelers and ATVs and stuff out here and tear around on the hillside. The rocks up near the top of the hill had graffiti you could read from the freeway: “Chris Loves Sarah,” shit like that.
First, they built some condos down Camino Cañada there, and Delara’s family bought one. Once I finally got my license, I’d go pick her up, drive down to the Park-and-Ride, and we’d make out for hours. She’d never let me get past second base. I tried not to push the issue.
Then all this sprang up over night, it seemed. A Vons, a Taco Bell, a Subway, a whole string of little shops. They paved over the Park-and-Ride and built a Shell, a Denny’s, a McDonald’s. And of course, as the anchor, a Walmart, the first Walmart in this part of town. Now you had to differentiate: the new Walmart.
“Hey, man, they got a sale on Super Nintendo at Walmart right now.”
“Man, I don’t wanna go all the way to Santee .”
“No, no, the new Walmart.”
I tried not to push the issue, I really did. But c’mon, man. I was sixteen years old. Delara would fend me off her belt all night, and then I’d drop her off sharp at 10. Drive home fully hard, balls bluer than a Smurf’s. Sometimes, I’d have to beat off sitting in my driveway, just so I could walk to the door without being hunched over.
All that time and she never let me past second base. We busted up after a while.
A year later and Delara was pregnant. She had to get an extra-large gown for graduation. I haven’t seen her since.
Delara’s daughter meets her boyfriend in the back of the parking lot every night, in the shadow of the biggest hill, where there’s not much light. How those two manage to fuck in the back of a Honda Civic is beyond me, but they do it every night, steaming up the backseat. I park facing away a couple rows down, just so I can keep an eye on my rear-view.
I never technically met Delara’s daughter’s father. I don’t think he knew who I was. He’d park over at Kennedy where the rest of us smokers parked, and he’d wait for Delara after school, leaning against his car with one knee up, his shades on. He musta only been twenty or so, but he had sideburns that made me feel like a pre-schooler. I didn’t realize I musta been staring at him, until one day, he said, “Whadda you lookin’ at, faggot?”
I took my chances smoking in the senior lot after that.
Tonight, Delara’s daughter seems upset as she clocks out. She doesn’t pretend to smile or nod at me. She has that same look on her face that Delara would get sometimes. My pants straining against me, my hand in her bra, my other hand trying to wriggle between her and her jeans. That same look. Not angry, exactly. More like disappointed. And just...bored. Bored with the whole thing.
I watch them in the rear-view. I can hear their voices, but I can’t hear what they’re saying. I light a cigarette and stub it out after two puffs. Then the Civic looks like it’s rocking. One rock, two. I squint at the mirror. They’re not in the back seat. I see him raise his hand. The car rocks again.
I leave my keys in the ignition. The open door pings at me as I walk away.
They both are startled as I walk up, my hands on the driver’s side door. Delara’s daughter has a big red mark upside her face. She’s keeping herself from crying.
Her boyfriend recovers a bit and plasters on a sneer. His chicken-shit mustache rides his curled upper lip. He says, “Whadda you—”
And then I crack him in the face with my flashlight.
Delara’s daughter moans, almost a scream. Her boyfriend shakes his head a little before I grab him by the collar and pull him out the driver’s side window. I hear Delara’s daughter get out of the car and run away. The open door pings at me.
There’s not a lot of light back here, so I have to work by feel most of the time. But then the punk goes and passes out after only a couple of smacks. I give him a couple to feel when he wakes up and pour him back into the car.
A few hours later, after my mid-shift nap, I pull back around and scope it out. The Civic’s gone. That could be an oil stain there, it could be blood. There’s not a lot of light back here.
The whole lot’s pretty much empty. I drive over to the Taco Bell parking lot and get out. When you go and stand out by the drive-thru menu, you can look down and see it all: the freeway, the Shell, the Arco, and then down into the valley, down Los Coches, and all the way over into Lakeside . There’s no clouds tonight, but there’s barely any stars, with all the streetlights and the big billboard down there for El Cajon Ford, Tony Gwynn’s fat face grinning down at everybody.
The wind’s high up here on the hill. The roar of traffic from the 8 always seems steady, even when you can’t see no headlights. I let out a big breath and unzip my pants. As I take a mighty piss, I look down at the view and I laugh. I feel the post-nap pee come up from what feels like my knees, down from my back teeth, and I laugh long and I laugh loud. The wind splashes some of my piss back on my hands, my sore knuckles, and I laugh some more. A car in the Taco Bell drive-thru honks, but I don’t turn around.
BIO: Jimmy Callaway lives and works in San Diego, CA. For more good times, visit attentionchildren.blogspot.com
GETTING MESSED UP
by Randy Rohn
I’d never seen so many flashing lights in my life. Red and blue slices of light cutting through my brain. I could literally feel them dicing, slicing through gray matter. I wanted to just jump out of the car and run. Of course, I couldn’t, since I was in a Walmart parking lot surrounded by staties. I thought about closing my eyes. Going to sleep. Of course I couldn’t do that, either, tweaked to the gills the way I was.
I love drugs. I mean, I really do. Some of my best days have been on drugs. And this, at first, felt like it might be one of those good days. I had that elation.That all-powerful feeling.
Then we had to pull into Walmart.
Drugs have never been my problem. They treat me all right. It’s the stuff associated with drugs that’s been my downfall. Usually they’re female.
That’s what got me into Q. in the first place.
Sell a little this, so you can buy a little that, and the judge frowns. Sell it to a girl you coulda swore was over 14 and the judge frowns a little more intensely. Doesn’t get all hard core, but you’re gonna do some time. When it’s the second tango, like I’m supposed to check I.D., the judge hands you a nickel.
Ripping a guy’s throat out kept me there a bit longer than I anticipated. But it was self defense. I wasn’t gonna be anybody’s ass pony. Had to draw the line. Anyway, since it was ruled self dee, I was out in 15.
Got a job. Got an apartment. God a connection so I could get the stuff I loved. Didn’t deal. Didn’t hold too much. Never drove.
Where was Gail?
Met her at a bar. Just having a couple of beers to get a little balance, if you know what I mean. Sweet little piece. Nice smile. Perky. Tight. Mentioned she had some pineapple and an eight ball. Seemed like a good idea.
Then we had to pull into Walmart.
Said she wanted some Cherry Chapstick, for chrissakes. Left me in the passenger seat with the car running.
Then came the lights out of nowhere.
I slowly moved my hands to the glove box. Grabbed the bindle. Brought my hand to my mouth like I was muffling a cough. Popped the plastic wrapped powder and tried to swallow. Oh God. Oh sweet Jesus. It wouldn’t go down. I was opening and closing my mouth like a guppy out of water. I was going to choke to death. Damn.
A beer. A Coke. Water. Anything to help it slide down my sticky throat. As I was gasping and sputtering, I could see the cops walking to the car. Two on the right. Two on the left. Could they see me choking? At last. The shit was starting to go down. Oh so painfully slow.
It seemed to get caught just above my breast bone. A hard knot of pain. But at least I could breathe. A cop tapped on my window. I rolled it down, trying to smile in spite of the agony spreading through my chest.
“License and registration, please.”
Where was Gail?
I fumbled around the glove box. Tissues. Insurance card. Mints.
“License and registration.” Stern voice. Didn’t say please this time.
“Just a second, officer, you see this isn’t my car and…”
“Yea sure.” I fumbled and bumbled around my wallet with my shakey shakey hands and finally found it. “Here you go.”
The cop took the license from me and walked back to his car.
I saw her. She was chatting with another cop in front of the Walmart. She was pointing over at me. Good. Things were going to get copasetic. I was gonna come out on the other side of this thing and be okay.
The other cop, the one who had been talking to Gail, walked over to the passenger window.
“How are you doing?” He gave me a friendly smile.
“Fine.” Okay, this was feeling right. “I saw you talking to Gail over there.”
“Gail? Her name is Marty, Martha. She’s my sister.”
“Well she explained everything then?”
“Yes she did.”
“Good. Good. Then things are cool?”
He pulled his gun and pointed it at my head.
“But wait. Wait! I thought she explained things.” I looked around. There were four other po-po with their guns drawn.
“Yea she explained that she was picking up groceries for our mother. This seems to be a stolen car.”
“But it’s not mine.”
“Yes, that is the definition of stolen.”
“No, I mean, it was Gail’s, I mean, Martha’s.”
“Marty’s never seen this car before or you.” The cop motioned at me with his pistol. “However, I have.”
“Yea, I got your photo over the internet when my brother died.”
“His name was Charles Laughlin. You probably knew him as Chuck.”
I had held Chuck’s bloody neck in my hands ten years ago when he tried to rape me in the shower. Didn’t know his brother was a cop.
I had a feeling there’s one thing as bad as killing a cop.
It’s killing his brother.
Once again, it wasn’t the drugs that messed me up.
BIO: Randy Rohn is an Executive Creative Director at Indiana's oldest and best Advertising Agency, Keller Crescent by day and leads a life of crime at night with the written word. A story first published, The Man Who Fell In Love With The Stump of a Tree, in Darkest Before the Dawn is now in The Best American Mystery Stories 2009.
by Katt Dunsmore
"Mom, can you help me with this? I'm having trouble folding it right," Valerie asked.
"Sure hon, I'll fold this one, and you watch me and do what I do to fold yours, okay?"
Valerie nodded and watched as her mother took the shoulders and put them together, then smoothed the arms and folded them down across the front. She repeated her mother's motions and then, together, they folded the material over in thirds until it was a nice, smooth shape.
"Now," Mother said as they put them in a basket, "I want you to do this one by yourself. Do you remember how I showed you?"
"I think so, Mom," Valerie stuck the tip of her tongue through her lips as she took the legs and put them together just right, then folded them over at the knees, and then again. She looked up at her mother, who nodded and smiled. Valerie put them in the basket, too.
"Good girl. Now, let's finish this up so we can start dinner."
They finished the folding in quick, sure movements, soon filling the basket. When they finished, Mother picked up the basket and they started from the room.
"Why don't you go to the kitchen and start peeling potatoes while I put these away? Daddy will be home from work soon, and we'll probably have more to do," Mother said as they walked down the hall.
"Aw man...I hope we don't have to do more mending. I hate sewing patches on!"
"Now, now, honey. You know how rough Daddy is on his clothes."
"I know, he's always tearing his clothes. Mom, how come human skins are so hard to take care of?"
© Copyright 2009 Tonya D Dunsmore. All rights reserved.
BIO: Katt is a writer and an illustrator. She writes crime, suspense, horror, mystery, and the occasional prose and humor. Her stories and essays have appeared in Crime and Suspense Magazine, Flashing in the Gutters, Associated Content, Bewildering Stories, The Curveball Conspiracy, Flashshot, MicroHorror, Silver Moon Magazine, and Mouth Full of Bullets. She has three stories in the anthology “The EX-Factor: Justified Endings to Bad EXes,” published by Koboca Publishing. She also illustrated a children’s book, “Gracie’s Wilderness Adventure” by Steve Wohl. Katt has several projects currently in production. Katt has many hobbies. They include doll-making, sewing, quilting, painting, and designing and making Native American art and jewelry. Katt is married to her beloved husband, Dinny, and they have three children, Letitia, John, and Thomas. They make their home in northern South Carolina with their feline companions, Oghma and Ashba, and their Giant Breed Rottweiler – German Shepherd mix, Briscoe.