Category: Stories

Esmeralda (Flash Fiction Friday)

Esmeralda (Flash Fiction Friday)

Max read the words on the curled slip of paper and his face went dark.

“Max, c’mon man what does yours say?” Julien said.

“Don’t worry about it. It’s stupid. Nobody believes that shit anyway.” Max stuffed the tiny slip of paper into his pocket.

“Stupid? Nah man, these are legit. Henry’s came true. He got that job at Comic Readers didn’t he?” Julien’s brow furrowed, “What did his say again? Riches will befall you or some shit. Anyway, I’m looking forward to mine: Love is on the horizon.” He grinned to himself.

“Maybe you’ll get lucky at Lisa’s party tonight.” Max laughed, “But I gotta get home, man. See-ya later.”

Max stuffed his hands deep in his pockets and walked toward home. When he’d rounded a corner he pulled the fortune out of his pocket.

Blood is red. Veins are Blue. Someone out there watches you.

It had to be a joke. Kids at school had been raving about the new restaurant, Uncle Mick’s, since the beginning of the school year. It was a regular burger joint, but they had Esmeralda, an animatronic gypsy who sat behind glass in the foyer. She was old. Nobody knew how old, but old enough that her joints creaked with rust when she moved, turning her head back and forth, her painted eyes looking through you. After your burger, you’d drop in a quarter and get your fortune spit out on a slip of paper.

Weird thing was, they came true. At least, that was what kids at school were saying. He’d never heard of her producing something like this before.

His home was only a few blocks from Uncle Mick’s. He couldn’t wait to be inside; to be safe. His backpack felt heavy on his shoulders. Sweat beads formed in the hollow of his back. Max started as a squirrel leapt out of a bush and ran up a tree. A curtain moved in a window. Were those eyes?

This is stupid, Max consoled himself, it’s just a fortune. Totally fake. Stop freaking yourself out.

At his door, Max fumbled with his keys, his fingers trembling. He looked over his shoulder at the neighbour’s house across the street. The blinds were parted, but snapped back into place as he looked. Come on he plead with the dead bolt as he felt it slide open. He flung the door open, pulling it closed behind him and twisting the bolt shut.

He dropped his backpack to the floor and flopped down on the couch, closing his eyes and trying to slow down his breathing. Get a hold of yourself.

A knock at the door.

Max froze. His eyes shot open and his shoulders tightened. Was he expecting anything? He rose from the couch, his eyes on the faceted glass inlay in the center of the door. His heart beat hard in his chest as he peered through the glass. There was nobody there. What the fuck.

Max opened the door. Nobody. Birds chirped and the summer sun played shadows on the lawn. Something on the front step caught his eye. It was an envelope with his name scrawled on the front in awkward strokes, as if written by a child. He made a quick sweep of the surrounding houses with his gaze as he snatched the envelope up and closed his door once again.

The envelope sat on the counter, unopened. Max stood with his arms crossed looking down at it. It was a faded yellow, inoffensive looking, so why was he so scared to open it? You’re letting that fortune get to you he scolded himself. Fuck it. He tore the envelope open and peered inside. Inside was a tiny slip of paper, not much larger than his fortune from Esmeralda. On it was written:

We’re watching you Max. -The Bones

Gasping, Max dropped the slip of paper and stumbled backward. He tripped, his back slamming hard against the corner of the countertop. He cried out, grasping for purchase. The sleeve of his hoodie caught the edge of the knife block, pulling it sideways as he tumbled to the floor. A carving knife toppled and fell, landing in the bone of his forehead with a thick twanging thud. As blood turned his vision red, the last thing he saw before losing consciousness was an impossibly thin man with hanging yellow skin emerging from the broom closet. His bloodshot eyes were looking directly at Max, and he was smiling.

Flash Fiction Friday: Le Restaurant de l’Homme

Flash Fiction Friday: Le Restaurant de l’Homme

James straightened his tie as the limousine stopped out front of the restaurant. Mr. Frank Kravenport, the CEO of Kravenport Industries, surprised them with reservations to some French place where it was impossible to get a table. It was to be a memorial dinner for their colleague Doug Longman. Cancer.

“We’re here boys!” Frank’s voice roared, “Ahh, ain’t we in for a treat?”

James and three others waited while Frank hefted his weight from the limo before following him onto the deep red carpet that led to the front door. An elaborate awning in matching red bore the name “Le Restaurant de l’Homme” in gold script. James hadn’t taken French since 8th grade, but apples vaguely came to mind.

As the hostess led their small group of suit-clad men through the maze-like dining area, the smells from the food were intoxicating. The dimly lit tables provided a relaxing atmosphere. Strange paintings hung on the walls. James scanned the room, seeing portraits in various styles, all in elaborate gold frames. One painting caught his eye as looking just like Jeffrey Dahmer, but was probably some French icon.

The private table reserved for Frank in the back was expertly set with gold rimmed china and crystal glassware. Red napkins dazzled in gold rings. Fancy, James thought as they were seated.

“Now, boys, you know why we’re here. I took the liberty of pre-ordering for you. Steaks, as this is a special occasion.” Frank looked around the table at James and his colleagues, his face suddenly falling to a grim stare. “I’ve asked you all here firstly to honor Doug’s work, and secondly to see if any of you have what it takes to step up and fill his shoes. You can tell a lot about a man by what –and how– he eats.” His wide-mouthed grin returned and he looked around the table again.

The men each visibly straightened in their chairs. They knew Frank was looking to fill Doug’s position. He wanted someone with guts and someone who was ruthless. James looked sideways at his competition. Mike was vegan, and he already looked visibly shaken, so was hardly competition. He was already sweating.

The kitchen doors burst open and a train of three servers brought the pre-ordered steaks to their table. James thanked his waiter, who smiled down at him, “Bon appetit, monsieur.”

The steak glistened. It was huge, smothering nearly three quarters of the oversized plate. A small side of sauteed asparagus accompanied the meat, but nothing else.  

Frank raised his crystal glass, “To Doug!” he proclaimed.

The other men raised their glasses in unison.

Frank had a fork and knife in his hand and was sawing away at the juicy cut on his plate. James followed suit, and stole a glance at Mike who was holding his utensils, the blood drained from his face.

“I’m sorry Mr. Kravenport. I can’t.” He simultaneously pushed the plate away from himself and his chair away from the table.

Frank grinned and motioned with his hand for Mike to leave, “You can pick your things up on Monday”. Mike made a quick exit.

And then there were three.


James wouldn’t be intimidated. He eagerly cut up and began eating his steak, which was chewy and delicious. He kept close watch on his colleagues. Peter to his left was making steady progress. Matt to his right seemed to be having trouble. Frank was nearing completion. James ate faster, taking brief sips of water from the heavy, faceted crystal glass between bites.

Frank stared at them, a fevered grin on his face and grease shining on his lips. “Atta boy!” he was speaking directly to James, “nothing like a good steak to put iron in your blood!”

James smiled, meat juices coating his chin. Frank continued.

“In this business, you need to go for the throat until you taste blood. We need men at the top who will not hesitate to devour the competition.”

James finished, putting his fork and knife down.

Frank laughed hard, his hand slapping the heavy table.

James felt the steak heavy in his stomach. He looked down on his plate. A hair, silver, just like Doug’s. His stomach clenched. He tasted bile. He held his food and Frank’s eyes while he listened to the men on either side of him vomit.

And that was how James became Vice President of Kravenport Industries.