It's time! It's time!
OK, everybody, the flash fiction contest is here. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to match the entries below - six of them - with the appropriate writer. Five Working Stiffs and one guest author have contributed. In alphabetical order:
and - drumroll please - best selling author John Lutz!
(Thanks, Will, for inviting John! Thanks, John, for being a good sport!)
Without further ado, here they are:
If you have to die, February is the best month for it. The days are short, the weather is miserable and cabin fever has firmly taken root. Even the holiday cheer has soured. February seems to amplify the hopelessness of it all.
I never asked for this. All the responsibility, all the work, the finances, the constant bitching. I slave all day and most evenings. And for what? Her clothes, her makeup, her daily lattés at Starbucks and the martini parties. Even her gym membership. I wish the hell I had time for a gym membership.
She complains every night about being alone. She says I should spend more time with her. But the truth is she doesn’t give a damn about me, just my bank account. I’m the one that’s alone and now she wants a divorce? I can’t take it any more. It scares me to do this but it’s my only way out.
“I’m so sorry it had to end this way, but I’ll be sure to toast you with an Apple Martini tonight. Here’s your note. Don’t drop it and don’t forget your gun. Sleep well you cheap bastard.”
If you have to die, February is the best month for it.
And Quinn Conlan was ready. After a year, three months, and sixteen days in the prison camp on Marica-3, he was more than ready. He’d die today, this hour, this very minute, if it would get him out of another session with the camp medical team.
They were the best in the galaxy. Both when it came to bringing a prisoner to death’s door and to making sure he didn’t walk through it.
And they’d be back. Soon. But maybe this time they wouldn’t revive him afterwards.
A man could dream, right?
Or not. Dreams are dangerous things.
Back on Earth, it was Valentine’s Day. Flowers, candy, sappy cards. Even in 3045, people celebrated a guy who’d been dead almost three centuries.
Someone else was bringing Josie flowers this year. Buying her candy. They’d told him that. Quinn didn’t know whether it was true or just another form of torture, but he’d decided to believe it. Without Josie, he had one less reason to stay alive.
He was ready, dammit. You hearing this, God? It was February. If he had to die anyway, might as well be now.
“If you have to die, February is the best month for it,” Clara said.
“Oh, I know just what you mean,” Marie said. “It’s such a dreary month.” She took a sip of her Earl Grey, made a face, and added more sugar. “Do you know in what month I’d hate to die?”
Clara poured a cup for herself and added only cream. “No, dear.” She didn’t indulge in sweets the way Marie did.
“May. It’s such a lovely month.” Marie finished her tea and closed her eyes. “I can almost feel the sun on my face.”
Clara took the afghan from the back of the sofa and tucked it around her sister. It wouldn’t do for Marie to take a chill. She’d taken good care of her all these years. Mother would have been so proud at how she’d given up everything for Marie. Even given up Lester. But that was years ago. And now Lester was back. A widower!
Marie’s eyes fluttered open. “I’m so tired today. I think I’ll take a little nap.” She closed her eyes again.
Clara smiled and sipped her tea. It would be a nice, long nap. Yes, February was the best month.
"If you have to die, February is the best month for it," I remarked.
"Oh, yeah? Who says?" I looked over at my husband, bloated and belligerent, his mean little bleary eyes splotched with broken blood vessels, and wondered what I'd ever seen in him.
I slid the gun out of my pocket and picked up a pillow to muffle the sound of the shot. "There's one way to find out."
If you have to die, February is the best month for it. It’s hard to defend that statement. My wife, May, was difficult to convince. But her critically ill mother, June, will have legally adopted little April on the first of March. So another heir, or I should say heiress, will have been created. May is driving now to deliver a very special and deadly sponge cake to her mother, thus creating, shall we say, a larger piece of the inheritance pie. No one will suspect foul play, least of all the doddering coroner in our small town. I knew May would come around to my way of thinking; her entire family is greedy. It’s in their blood, even though they pretend otherwise. I’m going to celebrate now by eating several more of the chocolates just delivered here to the house. They’re delicious, though they taste a little funny. The card that came with them reads “For May and August, with all my love forever.” It’s signed by May’s sister, Jan.
"If you have to die, February is the best month for it," Sheila is saying, “As long as it doesn’t ruin Valentine’s Day, we’ll be able to remember the anniversary because there’s nothing else going on. I hate February.”
Katie shushes her. “Mom, that’s awful. What if Nana hears you?”
Katie is my favorite granddaughter. Unfortunately, she lives in the same house as my least favorite daughter-in-law. Thank goodness Katie takes after my darling Bill. I miss him so much.
“She can’t hear us,” Sheila insists.
“But I heard on NPR about a study that said people in comas are more aware of their surroundings than doctors thought. Maybe Nana knows we’re here.” Katie sounds hopeful.
“Honey, she’s brain dead and she wouldn’t want to live this way. We have to let her go.”
“First Dad, and now Nana,” Katie sobs. “I’m sorry, but I miss them both so much.”
I will miss her, too. But what I am most sorry about is that I didn’t see Sheila add the white powder to my tea or Bill’s evening cocktail – and that I can’t tell anyone what I overheard when she called her lover from this room. What a bitch.
# # #
So there you have it. Six authors. Six stories. Who do you think wrote which story?
Leave a comment with your guesses, and I'll tally them up at the end of the weekend and let you know Monday what's what. Winner is the reader who matches all six - or the most - correctly. If we have a tie, I'll draw a winner. At random, I promise.
Oh, yeah; almost forgot the prize!
Since I believe Will is giving a copy of his book, "A Reason for Dying," to the reader who writes the best 200 word flash fic story beginning with the words "If you have to die, February is the best month for it," during the month of February, I guess the winner of this little shindig will get a book of mine. I can offer a choice between the three books in the DIY home renovation series: "Fatal Fixer-Upper," "Spackled and Spooked," and the brand new "Plaster and Poison" (although if you want that one, you'll have to wait; it won't be available for a month). Or, alternatively, the winner can choose an advance reader copy of "A Cutthroat Business," the first book in my new series, about a real estate agent in Nashville, which will be released in June.
Let the games begin!