Pretty Short, Trifecta Challenge

The Green Line

Your ex has a weak case. Flimsy, my lawyer says, and gives a little snorty laugh into her coffee mug. The mug advertises her services as a ‘Law Diva‘ and she sets it down on a photograph of a baby, made into a mouse pad. The bubbles on the surface of the coffee pop softly, one by one.

I can’t lose my son, I say.

Don’t worry, she says.

Her mobile phone rings. She makes an apologetic noise and swings her desk chair around to face the window. I can see the top of her head, stiff with hair spray.

Well, she says, did you take her temp? She snorts again. No, I can’t come home now. I have three more clients.

Outside the window, a crane hauls something heavy upwards.


Let’s take the tube to the end of the line.

His eyes widen.

Where does it stop?

I don’t know. Let’s find out.

He stands in front of the colourful map, chin straining upwards, straight blonde hair falling back from his face, and chooses the line that goes furthest away.

It’s not to scale, I say. But green is his favorite color, so that’s the line we choose. I buy him a packet of crisps and a Mars Bar, because he asks.

Don’t you have to go to work?

I shake my head. He munches thoughtfully. I help him push through the turnstile.

When we get there, it’s what I expected. I think I may have been here before. We cross a car park and over a triangle of grass, dotted with broken-off saplings, each inside its own battered wire fence. On the other side there’s a brick wall. I lift him onto the top, holding him round his waist while he dangles his legs over the other side. He points at things: a church spire, a shop window, a bright red sports car.

This is the best day, he says, with a slow starting smile. Where do we go now?


A Bit Longer, Trifecta Challenge

Semper Fidelis

“It would be apreshated if gests would take there shoes off.”

It’s written in childish block letters and taped just above the doorbell. There’s a drawing too. I would have expected a pair of sneakers or maybe some feet, but instead it’s a picture of a Rambo style character, with an AK-47.

That’s a new one, I think. Sherice didn’t used to be so house-proud. I guess the kids are on board too. I always knew my brother was a neatnik, but when he retired from the Marines and got married, Sherice softened him up around the edges, made him realize that four kids (in three years) and an incontinent pug (that she found at the bus station and kept for the kids) were not compatible with high levels of barracks-style cleanliness. We have to band together on this one, she would say.

It’s drizzling, cold. The wind chimes she gave him on his forty-fifth birthday hang limply from a porch rafter. I ring the doorbell again. My brother’s broken-up face appears in the bubbled glass of the door lite.


Yeah. Let me in.

He’s quiet.

Let me in, would ya? It’s shitty out here.

He opens the door in full dress uniform, medals, epaulettes, white cap and belt, the whole deal. Except no shoes. His socks have HANES in blue across the toes.

He points an M9 Beretta at my chest.

Christ, Jerry.

He doesn’t move. I step backwards, knocking into the wind chimes.

C’mon Jerry. Quit it. Put it away.

There’s a small black lump lying in a pooled shadow on the hallway floor behind him. I think I see a pink collar. From further inside the house, a crash and a child’s high-pitched wail.

Where’s Sherice?

Jerry’s eyes flick away, back to me. He laughs, like when I would tell him my stupid kid brother jokes.

That’s a good one, he says.

Trifecta Challenge

Pardon My French

He’s standing at the pisser and this is what he sees, scrawled on the subway tile in crude red letters:

so michel FoUCault is cRap??

He’s in the philosophy library john, on the third floor of Doolittle Hall, on the campus of a mid-sized Midwestern state university, in the middle of the afternoon. Spring semester is officially over, has been for two weeks.

The graffiti – no shocker, except that there’s not a soul around. He was in this exact same stall twenty minutes ago (he has an addiction to energy drinks and a bean-sized bladder) and he’d bet his right nut it wasn’t there then.

So who wrote it? And – Foucault? It’s weird. No way anyone round here has ever heard of Foucault. Shit, he only found about him last semester, and then he let that faggy French prof talk him into a whole fucking thesis.

Yeah, weird. It gives him the chills.

He shakes himself off in a hurry and yanks up his fly, and now he doesn’t feel so vulnerable. Who is this ignoramus anyway? Like they even know how to write like a grownup. The random capitals? What is this, ‘The Da Vinci Code’?

Back in the library, he tries to keep the words ‘visibly shaken’ out of his head but they keep popping back in. Ridiculous. But he still has the messed up idea that someone was watching him in the john… Like, big deal, he thinks, I’m used to it. I’m on the lacrosse team after all. Haha.

Scraping his chair back up to the reading desk – the place echoes like a museum – he notices a piece of paper tucked inside his pristine copy of ‘The History of Sexuality’ (Volume 1).

He throws a glance over his shoulder. Nobody. He unfolds the paper.

Pouting at him is a Playboy centerfold, and there’s a note in red ink splashed across her implausible tits.

You’re in way over your head, FUCkeR. Stick to Dan Brown.


Trifecta Challenge – 333 words – “Crude”

Trifecta Challenge


So I had to get rid of the dog. I didn’t want to, but I had to, so I put an ad online and the next day I get this call.

“Kinda dog is it?”


I glanced at Rusty, flat out by the TV, wiener dog body twitching under collie dog fur. “Survivor” always put her to sleep.

“She’s a….”


“Yes… She’s sort of a….”

“A bitch?”

“I’m sorry?”

“She’s a bitch?”

“Yes… I guess, a girl dog, yes…”

“Kinda name is that for a bitch?”

Rusty stirred. Her stump of spaniel tail quivered. On the screen, the competitors were gathering for the tribal council. Torchlight flickered on anxious faces. She whimpered.

“Where you at? I’ll come git ‘er now.”

When the bell rang, twenty minutes later, I’d decided not to answer it, but Rusty woke in a fury of barking and flung her pug snout at the door. A small bald man stood on the stoop, looking as if he was going to ask for an odd job, then stuck out a hand, in a martial arts move that stopped just short of my solar plexus. The back of the hand was covered in dense orange fur.

“Howdy. Name’s Rusty.”

I ran into him a few months later, on my way out to the bus stop.

“Thought you were leaving town,” he said.

“Well, I… there was a delay. Visa trouble…”

He looked cynical. I went to pat Rusty’s grizzled red head, but she shied away from me and pulled back on the rope that he was using as a leash. I was sure I gave him her leather leash when he left.

“C’mon Daisy,” Rusty said.

“I see you’ve resolved the issue,” I said, forcing a smile.

“Wasn’t going to change my name, was I?”

“I like it,” I said.

He nodded, pleased. Daisy got tangled up in his ankles and he aimed a kick at her head.

“Don’t think much of this dog though.”


Trifecta Challenge – 333 words – Rusty

Trifecta Challenge, Uncategorized

Starting Over

Wednesday at the Club, Selma pulls up a wicker chair, looks at me over the table number (our regular – 23), says: ‘I’m breaking up with you, Leonard’ – and I just about bust out laughing. It’s the way she says ‘breaking up’ all serious, and pulls a paper square from her purse, the edges secured with tape. Makes me think of schooldays, grubby pawed-over notes, passed hand-to-hand under desks. When breaking up meant the end of the world. Around here though, surely, nobody breaks up anymore. There just isn’t time.

But, because I catch something, an increase in the moisture that lately seems to be constantly brimming in her eyes, I don’t laugh. Not that she’s sad: the tears are something hereditary, she told me, an ailment that strikes in later years, malfunctioning ducts. She dabs at her eye with a lace handkerchief. (A fine looking lady, she’s got a lot of class, always turns out nice for brunch, no jogging pants or those nasty shuffly slippers.)

She lays her hand next to the note. Her fingernails are hard crimson shells. She’s looking over my shoulder. It’s hard to twist my neck (shrapnel wound, Pork Chop Hill, June 1953) so I kind of shimmy round in my chair. And there’s George Malone’s ugly mug at table 25. Jesus wept. Who let him in the Club?

He’s wearing a baseball cap (‘Combat Veteran – Korea’) which he pushes back on his liver-spotted forehead with knobby knuckles. He winks at me, the old bastard. Combat? He saw just enough to make him put his dick between his legs and jump the first trooper home, faking something colorectal. I’ve got his little number. Then I swivel back to that look in Selma’s eyes and realize: no, I don’t. The scar on my neck gives an electric twang.

So that’s the deal. I’m eighty-nine years old, weigh a buck five on a good day, have to sit down to piss, and now, goddammit, I’ve got competition.


333 words

Trifecta challenge