Friday Fictioneers: Brief Reprieve

I pretend I don’t hear gun shots afar off.

Fourth of July’s in three weeks. It’s just fireworks. Drunk frat brothers shooting off exploding rockets for practice.

But I back inside just to be safe, close the sliding glass door to the balcony and lock it.

Money and privilege doesn’t mean a thing these days. You can be a United States congressman and still be targeted. How many presidents absorbed the bullet? How many of them lived?

I’m only here for the weekend though. Be back in Chi-Town by Monday, where I recognize the gang bangers who shoot me.

word count: 100


PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

Friday Fictioneers challenges you to write a story in 100 words or less using the provided photo prompt as inspiration. Click the froggy icon to read other stories and add your own.

The Year They Lost Santa (Part 3 of 3)

Nick temporarily lost his hearing after the first shot. Tiny, high-pitched bells rang in his ears. He closed his eyes and saw his wife running toward him, the shooter close behind, bearing his teeth, biting down on his bottom lip, aiming the .22 at her head.

After the second shot, the young mother fell to his feet. Blood puddled around his boots. The baby wailed, reached down for the dying woman, pulling Nick down with him.

The third shot slowed time. Nick saw the flash of light each time the man fired at anyone too close— man, woman, child. His wrist violently flicked back when he pulled the trigger. He twisted his wide open mouth— bottom lip pulling left, upper lip pulling right— as if he’d been punched in the jaw. He stopped and pointed to Nick, laughing at the child in his arms.

“There’s no such thing as Santa!”

Nick laid the baby in the chair, reached into his waistband for his weapon. He swung his arm around, his finger slipping, firing twice before he could aim at the perpetrator. The little girl who stood next in line to sit on his lap crumpled to the floor— in the line of fire.

“Freeze! Put down your weapon!”

The uniforms surrounded both men. Helmets down, shields up.

The man raised his hands, dropped the gun onto the green and red carpet. He was still smiling at Nick, that same straight-line grin his wife’s killer gave as officers handcuffed him. With one hand holding his wrist in place, Nick aimed the gun at his chest and pulled the trigger.

The bullet shattered his heart.

* * *

On the evening news, police named two suspects. Both dead. One, a drunken department store Santa Claus, shot by officers on the scene. Motive yet to be determined.


Part One
Part Two

Day 6 of 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans

The Year They Lost Santa (Part 2 of 3)

White wig and beard lay next to bottle and bread. Nick rubbed a slice against his face, the stubble on his chin scratching it like sandpaper, bread crumbs falling onto the straps of his suspenders and the collar of his red thermal shirt, settling onto the countertop.

She always caressed his face to calm him when he was hot with anger. He remembered her slender hand, her smooth skin, the coolness of her wedding band against his cheek, how her fingers melted onto his lips as he kissed them.

He tore off the crust. Rolled the bread between his palms, dropped the ball into the shot glass overflowing with whiskey. He patted the nine millimeter tucked in his waistband, watched the clock as the bread swelled. His shift started in fifteen minutes, enough time for one, maybe two more. He plopped the ball into his mouth, refilled the glass, and took another slice of bread from the bag.

* * *

The child, dressed like an elf, round as a snowman, couldn’t sit straight. His head bobbed as he tried to look up.

“And what is it that you want for Christmas, little boy?” Nick feigned jolly, belched between words.

The child made spit bubbles and wiggled further down between Nick’s knees.

“His father was deployed to Afghanistan.” The mother stepped in, pulled her son up by his collar. “We’d feel much safer if he were home.”

Behind her, Nick saw a man running from the food court. He shook his arm as the object inside his jacket sleeve slid into his hand.


Part One

Day 5 of 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans

The Year They Lost Santa (Part 1 of 3)

The bread felt soft in Nick’s hands, as if the dough had been filled with air— an edible cumulus cloud. He imagined a bakery at the back of the grocery store, where they sliced and packaged loaves of bread fresh from the oven and stacked them on the shelves.

In the checkout line, the cashier winked at him. “Shouldn’t you be in your toy shop?” he said with a smirk. “Only three more weeks.”

Nick grunted, walked through the sliding doors without taking his change. The paper sign taped to one of the doors flapped in the wind as they moved. He turned to read it: “Protect yourselves and your loved ones.” Below was an image of a pistol circled in green. He’d seen a similar sign on the front doors of Mercy Street Mall, where he worked. Stores across the country had been changing their policies against weapons on store grounds since the latest mass shooting. The number rising to more than one a day; the death toll even higher.

“Too little, too late,” he muddled.


Day 4 of 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans