Fictionista, Foodie, Feline-lover

Saturday, November 12, 2011

NPR's Three-Minute Fiction Contest Winners

Several months ago, NPR announced the return of their "Three-Minute Fiction" contest for flash fiction that could be read in three minutes (around 600 words). The theme for round 7 was "Arriving and Leaving."  The winners were announced tonight and you can read them here.
Here is my entry for the contest:

Exit Strategy

Toby saw the man stumble as he came out of baggage claim hauling a rolling suitcase and hefting a laptop bag over his shoulder.
He looked like he’d slept in his clothes, a white dress shirt that gapped over his belly and black suit pants that badly needed a press.
His face was sickly pale and he moved like he was drunk but Toby couldn’t smell booze on his breath or in his sweat as he walked past him.
That guy looks like a heart attack waiting to happen, Toby thought and then, as if his thought had summoned the action, the guy stumbled again, this time falling heavily against Toby.
“Sorry,” the guy mumbled, and dropped the handle of his suitcase to clutch at his left arm, which had suddenly gone rigid with pain.

“Hurts,” he complained to no one in particular as people around him began to recoil, moving to distance themselves from him, pulling out their phones and pretending to answer nonexistent phone calls. Anything so they didn’t have to make eye contact with him.
They didn’t know what kind of trouble he was in but they knew he was in some kind of trouble and they had schedules to meet and taxis to catch and really didn’t want to be caught up in a stranger’s problems.
“Help,” the guy said and then vomited as the circle of space around him widened.
Jesus, Toby thought, but he didn’t have it in him to just abandon the guy.
“Is there someone I can call?” he asked the man when he finally straightened up. “Are you traveling with anybody today?”
The guy moved his head from left to right, too short of breath to answer.
“Please,” he said to Toby when he was finally able to speak. “I’m sick.” And then he collapsed. He would have kissed the pavement if Toby hadn’t grabbed him and held him up.
Toby muscled the man over to a bench and laid him down. “Someone call 911,” he ordered and a dozen spectators pulled out their phones.
The man doubled over in pain, huffing shallow breaths.
“Is someone meeting you?” Toby asked.
“No one knows I’m here,” the man managed to say.
“He was on my plane,” a fat women in a too-small “I (Heart) New York” t-shirt volunteered. “He flew here from New York.”
“I saw him too,” another woman said. “He seemed really stressed out.”
“Ambulance is on its way,” a random guy announced.
People were starting to gather. The guy’s crisis was morphing into free entertainment.
“Hang in there,” Toby said to the guy, who kept looking up at him with glazed eyes that held a question.
“What?” Toby asked.
“I don’t feel so good,” he said.
 “The ambulance is on its way,” Toby said. “You’re going to be okay,”
He’d no sooner made the pointless comment than the guy convulsed and went still.
“Oh my God,” a bystander screamed. “Is he dead?”
Toby put his fingers to the man’s neck and felt for a pulse.
“Yes,” Toby said. “He is.”
Toby stood and took a picture of the dead man with his phone.
“What kind of a ghoul are you?” asked a horrified bystander.
Toby ignored her. He had been headed to New York to kill the man now lying dead in front of him and knew his client would want proof of death.
They’d be pleased he’d made it look like natural causes.
He wouldn’t tell them it was natural causes.
And next time he did a job of work for them, he’d raise his prices 25 percent.

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