Monday, August 23, 2010

Für Elise

5:57 PM

She knew time was running out, fast, but opening that door was Pandora's Box all over again.

5:48 PM

Osvlado has had more than a few drinks, and this is not a new development. He enjoys a cerza (beer) or two with his desayuno (breakfast), a snort of tequila in his cup of coffee on the drive to work, and a generous pour of more tequila before lunch. The problem from two weeks ago, is the same as today's. Osvlado can't seem to stop drinking when he's supposed to be working, and he can't seem to be able to do the balance of his drinking at his own home.

12:30 PM, fifteen days ago

Chester Brock is patient; at least, that's what he believes himself to be. This...this, however, this would be too much even Job. Or even for Jesus. He doesn't mind if the gardeners are not constantly working, but that asshole Osvaldo spends more time sitting on his butt and not-so surreptitiously sipping from his flask, than doing anything that involves his job. Now, Osvaldo is urinating all over Chester's yard...and no, he's not even bothering to do it behind the bushes. In these trying times, no one should be out of work and yet...oh, great, now Mrs. Addison across the street sees this spectacle, too!

Wonderful, on top of everything, Chester is going to get an earful from Mr. Addison when he goes into work tomorrow. No, no, screw this, it's time to call Miguel up and let him know what kind of employee he has. This dickweed can work anywhere he wants, but he definitely won't ever work in Chester A. Barraza's yard again.

5:59 PM

Once the butterfly has emerged, it can't go back into the chrysalis, right? The butterfly can't go back to being that ugly, woolly, crude thing that crawls on the ground, and devours what tasteless foliage it can find. That is, the butterfly gets to sail on the wind and feed from the sweetest nectar. Such is Nora's dilemma.

She is in the front bedroom of Chester's l-shaped ranch-style house. She moved into his house over two years ago, but she still doesn't quite feel at home, so he lets her have the spare bedroom as her own little oasis from him. That crazy drunk that Chester got fired two weeks ago, is threatening Chester and she knows that Chet doesn't see the huge hunting knife that the angry asshole has hidden behind his back.

Nora clutches a simple little jewelry box. It's poorly lacquered and while she knows that it's not balsa, the wood that it is made of doesn't seem that much stronger. If you open it up, it plays "Für Elise," and if you lift the poorly disguised compartment below it? Well, no one wants that, especially Nora.

3:30 PM

Osvaldo was happy with his job and while Miguel wasn't happy with his drinking, he tolerated it as long as Osvaldo showed results. It's been two long weeks since then. Two long weeks where no one will hire Osvaldo, because Miguel has told everyone at all of the local garden nurseries about the whole incident. Yes, two long weeks where Osvaldo's money has dwindled down to nothing, and he has had to choose between drinking and eating.

At night, he has walked by Chester's house and seen this pinche cabrón living well, while Osvaldo starves. For reasons that baffle Osvlado, Chester's beautiful girlfriend actually wants a man whose hands are softer than hers. Osvaldo has twice the Spanish blood as this Indio, yet works harder everyday, than this puto has ever had to in his entire life. So, Osvaldo has called on Arturo, who always seems to have a bottle of liquor, a spare knife or two lying around...and the same itch to stir things up.

6:00 PM

Nora clutches the jewelry box as if it was a long lost relative, and in a way, it is. Osvaldo is shouting at Chester and Chet shouts back in the few words of Spanish that he knows. She knows that Chester still hasn't registered the hunting knife that is waiting for him, and that he also hasn't seen that a man has just stepped on the porch. It looks like Osvaldo is trying to lure him out and then, the other man will attack Chester from the side or from behind.

Nora opens the box, then the compartment. Inside there is a piece of red cloth with white and black spots, wrapped around something silvery. She takes the cloth out and wastes precious time touching in it to her forehead, because everyone has their own rituals.

6:01 PM

Chester steps off the porch. His first instinct is to just go back into the house and call 911, but this isn't high school anymore, and he will not be bullied. The two months of judo that he had taken almost six years ago, has given him an undeserved sense of bravado. If the adrenaline and testosterone had not clouded his sense of reason, then maybe he could remember that he couldn't even wrestle the TV remote from Nora two nights ago.

Arturo is about to let Chester's kidneys taste the steel of his switchblade, when he feels something cold poke the back of his neck. He hears the distinct sound of a slide going back and a bullet being chambered. That sound is the universal language of "don't move a fucking muscle, behave!" A woman whispers in Arturo's ear and he drops his knife, which clatters on the porch. This grabs the attention of both Osvaldo and Chester.

That woman is Nora and the red cloth is a bandanna that is tied tight around her forehead. It is pulled tight like a headband, just above her eyes, in the old Pachuco-style and Arturo seems to fear what she is whispering more than the gun that is jabbing him. He runs past Chester and grabs Osvaldo, who is about to take a run at Chester with his knife. Chester hears Arturo screech in Spanish the letter "m," and his both of his would-be assailants flee as if Nora is three jaguars.

Chester turns around and even he's not so sure that the nice girl he knew hasn't become some kind of creature. She has a fierceness in her that he's never seen in her, much less any human being. She's angry and she doesn't even see him, her focus is completely on the retreating duo. Suddenly the things that Chester took for granted or really didn't bother with follow-up questions, have taken on a meaning.

It always struck him strange that she has saved absolutely no pictures of herself, from ages thirteen up until she turned twenty-one. And the scars on her hands that she claimed were just burns from a cooking accident? Chester now knows that those must have been gang tattoos that she had removed. She puts the gun's safety on and she goes into the house. Chester hesitates several moments, before he follows her in.

Nora didn't want this, she wanted safety and boredom. She wanted to leave her old life behind and to find a nice guy to settle down with, where she could just stay in the background and relax. She wanted to go back to school and now? Now that's gone, and this isn't the first time.

Nothing can be as it was, and now she can't blend in, as she has become the alpha of the house by default. Even if Chester won't initially be scared like the others, how can she stopping being her old self now? Nora beckons Chester to follow her into the kitchen.

She sits down at the little breakfast nook and puts her feet across the table, as she slides into a comfortable, but tough stance. She pulls the bandanna down until he can barely see the whites of her eyes and Chester leaves the kitchen. He comes back with the music box and he opens it, Beethoven's familiar song begins.

Chester pulls the bandanna off of her forehead and kisses it, and then he kisses her on the lips. Chester remembers that in the myth of Pandora's Box, the one thing that remained in the box was hope.

The End

Note- this is part of Friday Flash Fiction #39, and Randal came up with the starter sentence, "She knew time was running out, fast, but opening that door was Pandora's Box all over again." The "Nora" in this story is nobody that you know, but my variation of Pandora.


Alan Griffiths said...

A riveting tale, Cormac; all the way from the starter sentence right up to that last terrific line.

Crybbe666 said...

Sensational, Cormac. You wove so many characters into this tense tapestry. And yes, that final line was terrific!!

Bukowski's Basement said...

A nail biter...

MRMacrum said...

Very cool take on the tragic hero notion. And once again you have built way more depth into this tale than the number of words would indicate. Very well done.

Cormac Brown said...

Alan, Aussie Paul, and Anthony,

Thank you.


Thanks, and like a kid with a big ol' scab, I can't stop picking at it. I have to leave it alone and remember that it is only flash fiction.

Randal Graves said...

Antithesis in front of the mirror. The tale contains violence, yet it is, in its own way, dreamy; there's no forced staccato. The final line, which, since its about hope, should be soft as down, hits like a hammer. Fantastic stuff.

Flannery Alden said...

I concur with all of the above.

Gaye Bear said...

A "wow" from me too. Beautifully crafted.

Cormac Brown said...


Wow, thanks, that's quite a review. If only you could write my blurbs.

Secret Agent Flan,

: )


Welcome, and thanks.

Coraline J. Thompson said...

WOW now I know why you are king. Um... yeah, king. Long live the king! A most excellent piece cormac, I bow to you oh master.

Doc said...

You really know how to spin a yarn, that's for sure. You have crafted a masterful piece that you should be very, very proud of. You make the rest of us look like hacks at best.

Randal pointed out the dreamy feel of the piece and that is really what hit home with me. I noticed a couple of typos here and there but no writer can ever completely escape those. My hat is off to you sir, and with time and years of hard work I might become half the writer you are. For what it's worth, you inspire me.


P.S.- I'm ashamed that I know what a puto is.

Cormac Brown said...


> ; P

(note that the emoticon is winking and thank you very much, uh-huh)


Thanks, though you probably inspire me more, because you can write outside genres. Me? Not so much.

P.S. No writer can completely escape those typos, when his wife doesn't have time to prove his work anymore.

Sue H said...

Finally got to finish reading all the stories this week - and saved this, the best, for last!!

A riveting tale Cormac, so much intricacy that I went back and enjoyed it all over again! :-)

David Barber said...

Yes, top write Cormac. I totally agree with you on the "I've got to remember it's flash fiction."

This, I think deserves a little 'bigger outing' but maybe you're already onto that.

Nice job, mate. Good to see you gracing us with your skills.

Have a great weekend!

Cormac Brown said...


Thank you.


Thanks, but other than a punctuation tune-up, I'm done with the thing. You have a good weekend, too.

Paul D. Brazill said...

Brilliantly well done. Perfectly pitched. Glad I didn't miss that!

Cormac Brown said...

Paulie Decibels,

Thanks, Mr. Brazill and it's good to see you pop in.

sunshine said...

Finally found the time to sit down and read this piece. I tried about 3 times and those damn kids kept interrupting me. ;D

Cormac my darling... as soon as I saw the word "dickweed".. I was in body, mind and soul. That is one of my favourite words.
And let me just say .. that was an amazing, AMAZING story. It was really tight (can I use that word to describe a story?? I'm feeling a bit "dirty girlish" today so you'll have to forgive me).. yes, as I was saying.. it was tight and colourful and WOW!

I loved it. From beginning to end. Perfect. Muah!


Cormac Brown said...


Wow, thank you!

And way to go Super Mom, I couldn't handle three kids, and taking them to practices