by Michael Seese
Now that we're a few weeks removed from Flash! Friday's swansong, I decided to try my hand once again at Indies Unlimited.
We were given this photo prompt
(courtesy of K. S. Brooks; the folks at Indies ask us to attribute), and asked to incorporate the ideas of this text prompt.
Every year, Mabel set out milk and cookies for Santa. Every year, she threw them away the next morning. This year, the milk was still there but the cookies were gone. Her refrigerator door was open, and what was left of her Christmas ham was out on the counter...
My initial pass was 375 words; the limit is 250. So out came the red pen. I do like the longer version more. But I'm sharing the shorter one below, though I did decide to add back three sentences, the ones about the bucket of water.
So here is the not-so-jolly “Payback”
Weak and worn down, his throat could not muster the strength to push the words past his desiccated lips. His last meal -- a morsel, a trifle -- now was a distant memory.
The door at the top of the stairs opened, casting a pittance of light upon his swollen face. A cold splash blanketed him seconds before the clang of the bucket assaulted his ears. He couldn't care. He lustily lapped the liquid from the floor.
“Finally awake, eh fat man? You just couldn't resist the trap, could you?”
“Why are you doing this?”
“I thought you had all the answers, Nick.”
"It's about the horse, isn't it?"
The shadowy figure, now halfway down the steps, said nothing. That had to be it. The details were coming back. The notes. The pleas whispered in his ear.
“I'm right? Aren't I?”
"Of course it's about the horse!" she screamed. "It's the only thing I ever really wanted. Year after year I asked you for a horse And what did you give me? Barbie dolls. Coloring books. Underwear."
"Your mother and father didn't want you to have one." Nick said softly. "You forget. I know what everyone wants. That includes parents. They simply couldn't give you a horse."
"They call it an evergreen tree because it ‘survives’ the winter. But once you cut it down, it's dead. Even if the tree thinks it's still alive,” she said over her shoulder as she ascended the stairs.
"So that's your plan, Mabel? To keep me here until I'm dead."
Mabel stopped, and turned.
"It's December 27th, Santa. Christmas is over. You missed it. You're already dead. To them."
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