Apartment 51 - Spring Flash Fiction Challenge
Hello, and welcome to Apartment 51!
Apartment 51 is the newly renovated space above the Cup & Platter, and it is meant for those of a literary bent. It is, quite literally, a "speak-easy", but of the more bookish sort. I've heard there's a secret room or two hidden in here, with an assortment of--ahem--banned books, if you are in the mood to explore. It will also be the permanent home of Ditto Town's Flash Fiction Challenges. Flash Fiction Challenges are designed to create very short, self-contained stories on a given theme or prompt, within a certain set of parameters. Once stories have been submitted, writers can provide each other with feedback, of the friendly sort.
As you explore, please note the following rules:
1. This thread is specifically for authors to post finished pieces and receive feedback. It is not for roleplays.
2. For the same reasons, please refrain from discussing tangent topics or plotting in this thread.
Flash Fiction Rules:
1. Keep all posts rated “G” or “PG” for the sake of our younger members.
2. Your story must be longer than 10 words and shorter than 1500 words. All stories must be on the prompt given, and all stories must be given a title to differentiate from stories written by other authors.
3. Members may only post one story per prompt.
4. All characters must be characters you have invented yourself, not taken from other authors. This means fan fiction is not allowed. You can use your characters from other Ditto Town stories, or ones made up just for this thread.
5. Remember again to post the title of your story at the top.
1. Always include the title of the story you are commenting on.
2. Remember to THINK—are your comments true, helpful, inspiring, necessary, and kind?
3. Make your posts substantial. For example, if you want to say “Good job!” or “I really liked your story!” add some details (“I really liked your story because it highlighted the strong friendship between Cheddar the Chipmunk and his Talking Thimble without being overbearing and cheesy”).
4. Please keep in mind that all writers are at a different place in their writing journey. Thus, we ask that you focus on giving feedback, rather than editing pointers.
Without further ado, your prompt is as follows:
You have a gift for cutting deals between parties that otherwise would never have met and come to agreement. The only catch is that you can only cut deals for what your customers need, not what they want.
Today you have a rather insistent customer who will not leave until they get what they want.
Feel free to revise this prompt to fit your individual storytelling style by changing the tense or changing any pronouns necessary to fit your characters. Also, keep in mind this event will come to a close on June 30th.
Now, sit back, relax, and perhaps have a nice cup of suitable beverage. I'll be back down in the C&P, if anyone needs me.
~ Read the Ditto Town Frequently Asked Questions ~
"I want the teacups," Sally says.
There's a sigh from the lump in the other chair. Robert, her brother, has sunk so deeply into the upholstery and his own bulky sweater that my eyes have ceased to identify him as a person. "They're mine."
"And what are you going to do with them?" Sally demands. "Use them for soda or one of those energy drinks? Shove them in the back of a cupboard where you'll forget about them? Leave them on the table or a counter or something where they'll get buried under dirty laundry or junk mail? You don't want them, and you certainly won't use them."
"They're mine," Robert repeats. "Not yours."
I could probably recite both Robert and Sally's lines verbatim at this point. There hasn't been a new argument introduced since we took a break for lunch -- I glance at the clock, and just barely keep from groaning aloud -- two and a half hours ago.
Just last week, I negotiated peace between three countries that had been on the verge of war for nearly four centuries. There's a photo on the wall of me smiling as the president and the media mogul who had been bashing him in the press shake hands. My hometown newspaper did a column on me when I ended a feud between two soccer moms that started with one of them bringing store-bought cookies to a PTA meeting. This should be a walk in the park. Instead, I'm stuck here, sitting in this overheated office, watching my clients go over the same arguments like two kids on a merry-go-round, over and over and over again.
Maybe it's because I can't seem to get a word in edgewise.
"It's not fair. When Mom was sick, I was the one who did everything - I brought her medicine, I kept her house tidy, I cooked her meals. You were never around. She only left you the teacups because she liked you best."
"Sally, it sounds like --" I begin.
"Your only evidence for Mom liking me best was the bicycle thing. You were too little to ride one, but because I got one and you didn't, you decided I was the favorite."
"Robert, I don't think it--" I start.
"All Mom ever talked about was you. Poor Robert this, dear Robert that, 'I'm so worried about Robert's job, his apartment, his future'. You barely ever called, never bothered to visit, but still you were the only thing on her mind."
"Your mother --"
"She worried about me because I was her son. She didn't worry about you because she didn't have to, you were there."
"And where were you, exactly? Oh, that's right, hiding in your trashy apartment, in the same town as your only living family. I suppose you couldn't find time between eating junk food and watching television to actually visit your sick mother or sister. It would have been impossible to fit into your busy schedule."
"Criticism is --"
"You don't even like the teacups!"
Robert sits upright in his chair, the hood of his sweater fallen back to reveal his face for the first time today. Sally's mouth hangs open. It's clear from her expression that she's trying to speak, to offer a retort, but she's too stunned to find the words.
I finally have a chance to get a word in, but I don't take it. Partially because my instincts tell me to let Robert keep going, partially because I'm a bit stunned to hear something that hasn't already been said forty-two times.
"You never liked those teacups," Robert says. "The day Dad brought them home, you said they were the ugliest things you'd ever seen. You wanted to smash them when Dad left, but Mom wouldn't let you." He brushes his hair out of his eyes, then blinks as something occurs to him. "Wait. Is that why you want them?" His voice is quieter. "Because Dad bought them?"
"No," Sally snaps. I don't think even she believes herself. "Don't be stupid."
"Mom knew you hated them," Robert says. "She told me once she would've let you break them, but she couldn't give them up. They were the last thing Dad ever bought her."
"Well, why do you want them?" Sally demands. Her voice wobbles, her eyes are glistening, and her hands are shaking as they clutch the arms of her chair, but she isn't crying. Yet.
"Mom loved them." Robert gives a half-hearted shrug. "I don't think about Dad when I see them, I think about Mom. About the times I'd work late, and find her waiting up for me, drinking tea so she'd be awake when I came home." He looks at his sister. "We'd talk about you, you know."
"You did?" Her voice is small.
"All the time." He smiles. "Poor Sally this, dear Sally that. She hated she couldn't get you nicer clothes, or afford for you to go to the movies or out with your friends like you wanted, but she was so proud that you never complained."
Sally turns away, so it's impossible to say if she's crying. "You never said."
"Well," Robert says, "I kind of thought you knew. Because I sometimes thought you were Mom's favorite."
Sally makes a noise. I can't tell if it's a laugh, a sob, or something in between.
I clear my throat gently. Both of them start, like they'd forgotten I was still present. "Sally, it sounds like these teacups have a more positive association for your brother than for you. I think you should consider whether having them in your house would really help you remember your mother, or if they might remind you of more unhappy things."
Sally shakes her head. "He can have them."
"Thanks," Robert says.
I nudge the kleenex box toward her side of the desk, and Sally takes a few. For a few moments, Robert and I pretend not to see her blowing her nose and wiping her eyes. Finally, she takes a deep breath, and looks her brother square in the face.
"But," she says, "I'm keeping the motorcycle."
Robert's jaw drops. "I thought we agreed, since I'm the one who knows how to drive --"
"You said you didn't want it," Sally retorts.
"That's not what I said, I said I'd stop asking for it if you'd shut up about the teacups!"
My head drops onto my desk as I groan.
Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it. - Rabbi Tarfon
Pop's Bedtime Story
Author's note: This story is meant to be an aural story. Apologies in advance for any trouble that may cause for those reading.
Alright, alright, you just sit tight under those covers, kid, I’ll tell ya a story. Ya ever wonder how ya old Pops decided a beanpole like ya Dad was good ‘nough for ya Ma? You just sit tight an’ listen, okay?
Now this was back when everyone would go to Ratner’s for a nice sandwich and mebbe some ice cream, an’ a few of us would hang out in the back in the tea room. Me, I just did my business there, keepin’ an eye on the whole thing, but that ain’t important now.
So one afternoon I’m sittin’ there with Jack and Toni and we’s’a playin’ a friendly game of cards, when ya ma walks up to me and says to me, she says, “Say, there’s a kid here, wants to see you.” Now I look up from my cards, cause ya ma, well, she’s a good kid, and when she got somethin’ to say, she means it, and ya listen to her. So she’s standin’ there, tray of teacups in her hand, on her way to another table, an’ that’s all she says. Now I don’t like my game interrupted, even if it’s a friendly game, so me, I’m a bit annoyed, so I says to her “he’s got two feet, he knows where I
am, why you tellin’ me ‘bout it? He spifflicated?” and she jus’ says he’s all nervous ‘bout talkin’ to me, says he needs a deal, but he’s scared if he talks he’s gonna get bumped off, like.
So I says to her, “This ain’t a confession booth, it’s a speak-easy. What’d’ya expect? Ya think I’m gonna give him absolution?” Cause I’m thinkin’ if he wants forgiveness he better go talk ta Father Amatuna, cause that ain’t my business. My business is makin’ deals, not takin’ confession. But ya ma, she puts her hand on my arm, an’ bats those long eyelashes of hers.
So I says to her, I says, “Alright, doll, tell him to come on back. I’ve got a bum hand, anyway, might as well fold.” An' Toni an' Jack fold, too, cause they know business.
“Say, ya want us to clear the table for ya?” Toni says. “Give ya some talkin’ space, see.”
By the time that punk came in, Toni had the table all nice’n set with a flower an’ a nice tea cup an’ she even got a tray for me to tamp my cigar in. So this boy comes in all dandified, with his hat in his hand and says to me, he says, “You Mister Polizzi, sir?” and I says, “yeah, who’s askin’?” cause back then, I was Mister Girolamo Polizzi to most everybody, and they didn’t forget it, cause Mister Polizzi was the man who cut all the deals. If ya wanted somethin’, you came an’ saw me, and I got ya what ya needed. Might not be what everybody thought they wanted, but I got them what they needed, an’ I was never wrong ‘bout that either.
So he says to me, he says, “I’m Tom Rastelli, sir. I got myself in a fix an’ Daisy said you’re the man to see about cuttin’ deals and makin’ things go the way they ought.”
I look this kid up an’ down, an’ he’s a real skinny kid, real young, but he’s tryin his best, see, so I have him sit down across from me, an’ I get him a cup, an’ he gets himself settled, an’ jus’ keeps lookin’ round the room, at Toni in particular. Now everyone knows Toni, cause Toni, she’s the Boss’s right hand, ya know. Nobody sees the Boss givin’ orders—Boss’s orders go through Toni, or Jack if she’s busy. But Toni, she knows her place, so she moves off to talk to Louis Sidone’s widow, and Rastelli, he settles down a bit.
“I got in a bit of a jam,” he says, “an’ I gotta fix it before I get taken for a ride, an’ Daisy said you’d be the one to talk to.”
I says to him that he’s gotta be straight with me, ‘cause I can’t solve a problem until I hear it.
“Say, I didn’t mean to,” he says, “but I’m in love with Daisy, see?”
Now, when some punk says he thinks he’s gonna get Roscoe sent after him, I expect he’s got some bad deal goin’ on, where he went against the family or lost a shipment or somethin’, but no, Tom Rastelli’s scared because he fell in love with the Boss’s daughter. So I laugh a little, an’ tell him that he best be talkin’ with Daisy and her pa, not with me.
Don’t interrupt me, child, I’m tellin’ a story. Lay back down an’ get comfy with Mr. Schnoodles, ‘cause you only get one story tonight so ya best listen close.
Now, where was I? Ah, yes.
So I think that’s it, because I got other things to do, an’ if he thinks he’s gonna marry Daisy, well, he can fuhggeddaboudit. But he goes on and he says that he came in to the family for a little extra cash, that he planned to do his job an’ get home, but then he met Daisy. He stops and looks over at Toni again, then he says to me, he says,
“Even Daisy’s in the dark about this, though I think she knows something is up. I didn’t come in here clean. Mister Fischetti”—that’s the head of our old rival family, see—“Mister Fischetti sent me an’ in exchange he paid for my ma to get her treatments, an’ I figgured it didn’t matter what happened to me, ‘cause I got six little brothers an’ sisters, so I’d take a risky job. But now I met Daisy, an’ I don’t want nothin’ to hurt her. So I can’t keep workin’ for Mister Fischetti, but I can’t quit him, either. Ya follow?”
An’ he’s right, cause if he quit workin’ for Mister Fischetti, Mister Fischetti would be sendin’ his mother some flowers, an if he kept workin’ for Mister Fischetti, well, Toni’d be sendin’ his mother some flowers. Either way, she’d be cryin’ an awful lot.
So I says to him, I says, “well, what d’ya want?” and he says to me he wants to marry Daisy an’ blow town, but Daisy won’t go, so can I convince Daisy to go? and I says that’s not possible. His face wrinkles up a bit, then he says, “well, I ain’t leavin’ til we figure out what is, cause I ain’t leavin’ Daisy.”
So I sit and think, and this is where ya old Pops is mighty smart, but he’s also a bit of a sap, too. Ya see, up until then, I always cut deals for everyone, good, bad, rich, poor, family, or gumshoe. That was what Girolamo Polizzi did, but at the end of the day I went home, an’ no more Girolamo Polizzi--just your Pops. But if I cut this deal, nobody’d come see Mister Polizzi again, and I'd always have to be the Boss man. But ya ma, she’s special.
So I call Toni over, and I says to her that we're gonna have a meetin’ with Mister Fischetti, and I tell Rastelli that he’s gonna tell Mister Fischetti that he’s gonna have a meetin’ with me and the Boss, because back then, Fischetti would come by every now and then when he was in a bad spot, an’ Girolamo Polizzi’d work a deal out for him. Course I always knew what he needed, an’ what the family needed him to need, so I was pretty sure he’d come, but I knew it would only work once. We set up for them to meet at the old garage off of 8th, an’ Rastelli went off to do his job, Toni went off to do hers, and I went to have a good sit down with Daisy, because if she didn’t want ta marry Tom Rastelli, I’d put his head on a plate. But she says she loved him through and through, and if ya ma says she wants somethin’, well, that’s what she’s gonna get.
So I get there and there’s Fischetti, with Rastelli standin’ right behind him, lookin’ like he’s seen his grandmother’s ghost.
“Say,” Fischetti says to me, he says, “what’s all this about?”
So I tell him Rastelli’s in love with Daisy, and Daisy’s in love with Rastelli, an’ the families need to make nice. An’ Fischetti, he says to me that he’s not gonna deal with Toni, he’s only gonna deal with the Boss, so I says to him that I am the Boss, so he can deal with me, but my daughter won’t be marryin’ a snitch, she’ll be marryin’ a family man. Fishetti, he pulls out to shoot, and so do Toni an’ the gang, but then all of a sudden, Fischetti he says “huh!” and gets all gray in the face, cause Rastelli wasn’t gonna waste his chance with ya ma, and he stuck a shiv in him, just like that. Course we filled the rest of ‘em with lead, an’ a few weeks later, ya ma and ya dad got married, an’ now we have you!
Now, ya sleep tight, little rascal, and jus’ remember, ya family always got ya back. Goodnight.
Avatar thanks to AITB
The watch was still ticking. That was a promising sign. She had thought it might be broken. Allie tiptoed over to the glass and carefully drew aside the blind. Only a little bit longer, and the most important challenge of her career thus far would be over. If she could pull this off, she would be set for life.
She caught herself looking at her watch again. Mustn't, mustn't! Half the battle lay in imparting the right impression to clients. Nervousness and haste were not at all appropriate. Cultivate an atmosphere of calm and professionalism. That was it.
A rapping at the postern door drew her attention. She hurried over, intent on silencing any disturbance. Who could it be? Surely anyone of any degree of importance was already here.
Cracking it open the veriest bit, Allie whispered,
"What do you want?"
Insistent toe and glaring eye dominated the gap.
"Lemme in! Thee hast everything a person could ever want, or so hearsay hath it. Give me a poisoned dagger! Must needs have a poisoned dagger tout de suite!"
"Well, that's not exactly how it works," began Allie. "Besides, I can't help you right now; can't you see that I am busy? Oh, hush, hush! You'll disturb them if you're not quiet."
Her prospective customer began to make burbling sounds like a kettle on the boil; out of sheer desperation Allie opened the door and dragged her in. She was the ugliest thing Allie had ever seen, even worse in full sight than in anticipation.
"What _you_ need is a facelift," thought Allie, but she didn't say it out loud. With a sigh she offered a seat.
"Look, I'm out of stock on poisoned daggers just now. What about a batch of poisoned apples? Two dozen, with only one gone; a really great deal."
"No, no, hast tried those already. Find me a poisoned dagger--ye must!"
Allie shrugged. "There are limits, you know. But say, I've got a returned order for a very large curling iron...."
"Has it a dagger in it?" eagerly.
"Of course not; why would Rapunzel...? Oh, I see," with a speculative glance. "Just give me a moment..."
Thinking frantically, Allie pulled out her card file. "F.G.--coach, gown, slippers." "E.F.--spindle, thorn-bush." "O.W.--gingerbread kit, bulk candy, oven." No, these were fulfilled orders--she needed the "unmet" ones. Ah, this was the right section--what about this?
"Crack truth-telling mirror, guaranteed to be devastatingly honest, seeking new owner." No, better not mention that one (with a shudder).
"Thirteenth gold plate, on back order, one hundred years." Hmmm, was it any use to remit a bill once more? But this wasn't helping her now. Maybe as a distraction?
"Would you be interested in a lovely gold plate, ma'am? Never been used, originally part of a set of twelve plus one, romantic history, no clawbacks."
The old hag leered at her suspiciously. "Are ye saying that there's something wrong with me teeth? Why, they be freshly sharpened just yesterday the morn. No, no, 'tis a dagger I wants, and a dagger I be having."
Allie glanced at her watch, and a feeling of panic assailed her. She just had to get rid of this hideous creature before time ran out. Only scant minutes remained, perhaps half an hour at the very most.
"I'm sorry, I just don't have any. And don't get me started on the quality of suppliers these days. You can't think how dreadful it is for me; it's leaving me behindhand on orders right, left and center as it is. But I'll look once more. Let's see--recipe for spinning gold into straw; Frog-be-gone wart remover," she glanced up and then put her head down guiltily, "nettle sweaters; crumb remover; a cartload of peas--oh, I believe that should be in the fulfilled orders section; patching kit for seven-league boots--that reminds me, Jack's last order of magic beans turned out to be duds. I'll have to look into the matter. These suppliers!"
The old woman was pacing up and down in growing agitation, mumbling and mowing.
"Poisoned dagger! Poisoned dagger! Where be me poisoned dagger?"
"Just give me a minute, will you? Can't you see I'm trying my best? You know, what you really need is..."
Without a moment's warning, the inner door to Allie's office burst open. Two broadly smiling men, arm in arm, sauntered through the aperture, their jewelled cloaks swinging in unison and their hosen legs in step one with the other.
"Miss Allie--Miss Allie! What a splendid, magnificent, glorious, spectacular, and thoroughly grand send off you have arranged for our adored Romeo and darling Juliet. The best funeral ever, bar none! Unimpeachable, unmatchable, utterly impeccable--such taste, such delicacy. We shall never forget what you have done for us--we are your debtors for life!"
Allie blinked before such a spate of effusion.
"Why, thank you, Signor Capulet; thank you, Signor Montague..." Before she had time to say more than this, however, she saw their pleasant expressions fall away. They pointed accusing fingers, not at her, but at the withered, stooped figure behind her, whose presence she had momentarily forgotten.
"Her!" they bellowed, eyes bulging. With one syncronized motion, the two daggers from their belts leapt out, unsheathed, and they lunged towards the gibbering hag. Allie had only time to snatch up the first thing that came to hand--a very worn and ragged cloak that was draped carelessly over the back of a chair.
Poof! went the old woman, as the cloak fell about her. The two gentlemen of Verona were left foolishly gaping, like dogs that bite at water, until they dashed off through the doorway, jostling each other, daggers still drawn. There were loud clattering sounds and yells of fury and fright, gradually diminishing into the distance.
Allie sank into her chair and wiped her damp brow.
"Oh dear," she said, "what a pity that I was not able to give her the instruction manual to go with it. Guess she'll have to figure it out on her own."
Now my days are swifter than a post: they flee away ... my days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle
Arwenel, I love this! It is such a sibling squabble, but discusses loss in a very poignant way.
I love the Shakespeare references--very artfully incorporated! I feel like I'm not read enough to catch all of the references in this piece, but still loved it.
Avatar thanks to AITB
Well, I hope you all had loads of fun, but it appears it is time for me to turn the last of the lights out. As the saying goes, you don't have to go home, but you can't stay here! If you are looking for a place to hang out before the next Apartment 51 Challenge, which I estimate should be sometime in August, I would recommend checking out the Town Square, where you can chat with fellow Dittotopians great and small. It never closes, even in foul weather. If you wish to comment on any of the stories posted here, stop by the Cavern Tavern.
You can expect the next Apartment 51 challenge to commence in the end of August or beginning of September.
~ Read the Ditto Town Frequently Asked Questions ~