Congrats to Colin Milroy, who won the annual Mystery Writers of America Midwest Chapter Flash Fiction Contest at Printers Row Lit Fest last weekend! Thanks to Colin and all our participants for sharing their stories with us!
Colin (right) with Flash Fiction judges Keir Graff, Michelle Falkoff, and Susie Calkins. Colin won books by MWA Midwest members Sara Paretsky, Michael Stanley, Natasha Tarpley, and Jess Lourey.
Here’s Colin’s winning work, using one of our “next chapter” prompts.
If my life was a book, I would want bookmarks sticking up like arrows out of many pages. I like to be reminded of everything. I don’t know how people let go of their past. Lately mine seemed to be haunting me, the failures sticking out the most. Shots that didn’t find their mark. A knife thrust hitting a rib instead of vital organs. My line of work isn’t baseball where a 75% failure rate is considered average.
“Why the long face, Tony? Worried about your next job?”
I looked up at the sharply dressed, bull-necked slab of man flesh speaking these words to me. His tone was mock sympathetic.
“I’d worry if I was you too. You’ve gotten sloppy.”
I looked back down at the black leather bag I was packing.
“I’m fine, Guido.”
“My name’s isn’t Guido,” said the man slab. He always thought of himself as more than some low-level wise guy. But I knew better. Or I thought I did until a few months ago when my work started going south.
He knelt next to me. A hand as wide and thick as sirloin steak clapped down on my neck.
“We been doing this work a long time, Tony. Maybe you ain’t aging as well as the rest of us.”
The mock sympathetic tone was back.
I shoved the last things into the bag, closing the zipper with a slashing jerk.
“Hope you remembered the duct tape this time.”
“Don’t worry about it,” I said.
I heard a chuckle. Then a word from his lips I’d heard before but not for a long time. I turned.
“What was that?”
“Nothing,” he said.
“Better watch that mouth of yours. Might get you into trouble.”
“Come on, Tony. You’ve lost your touch. I’ve been hitting all my marks and you been missing yours. People know where quality in the organization lies. And it’s not from a sloppy someone who got caught on a basic B&E discovering, too late, he didn’t have anything to tie up the homeowners coming home a day early.”
“Good thing I packed my sharp objects, isn’t it?” I said.
He shook his head sadly.
“Sloppy, Tony. Really sloppy.”
He shoved past me out the door.
The next time I saw him, my hand was on his neck, holding him upright. It’s hard to stand when your body is wrapped in duct tape, after all. It was my turn to assume a mock sympathetic tone.
“I told you that mouth of yours would get you into trouble someday, Guido.”
An angry series of muffled sounds almost escaped the mouth in question, now also wrapped in duct tape.
“I’d only done a couple of jobs the last time someone called me a jamoke. I was pretty mad. Mostly because I was bleeding and my personal belongings were being removed by an unknown person as I was called this. There was a certain way it was said. Like the way you did. So similar that I did some digging. Turns out you’re a great thief but bad at covering your tracks. Here I thought I was losing my touch. Turns out there was a certain Guido type sabotaging my work.”
My grip on the bull neck tightened.
“I don’t appreciate people messing with my work. But I gotta tell you…” I paused.
I gave his neck a shove and watched his slab of a body tumble into the river.
“You’ve made me feel like a new man tonight.”
And just like that, I had entered the next chapter of my life.