Well, I made it another month at the writers’ group. The second meeting, where this flash piece debuted, seemed to get a better reception than the first one. Maybe it’s because I didn’t rush through it and had a chance to re-read it and do a bit of editing? Anyway, when we first got the prompt at the end of September, I wasn’t sure if I could come up with something that fit the word count. I knew I could get a longer piece out of it, there’s so many ways to go with It was here when I moved in. Ghosts, cursed items, blood-thirsty plants… so many ways people could die or get maimed in brutal ways. Instead, I decided to go way off track for me and choose… humor. I hope you enjoy this, as it gave me a giggle while writing it.
It Was Here When I Moved In
I stepped back from the table and ran through my mental checklist. Tablecloth, a festive array of browns and oranges and reds—Check! Tacky as all hell centerpiece—Check! Cheap and cheerful glasses from the dollar store—Check! I chewed on my thumbnail. What did I forget?
By the time my guests started arriving, the sense I’d forgotten something critical had morphed from unease into impending doom. Clarity came with a blood-curdling scream.
“What…? Who…? WHY?!” Aunt Frances panted each word like she’d run a marathon. Her eyes were crazy-wild to match her frazzled hair.
“I’m so sorry,” I steered her toward the living room and the wet bar. “I forgot to post the sign not to—”
Another scream, this one deeper and more masculine than my elderly aunt’s. I pressed a glass of brandy into her hand and took off for the hall.
“Merryn!” spluttered Randall. My youngest cousin’s skin had turned a sickly greyish-green beneath his fake tan, and if he opened his eyes any wider, they were going to pop out of his head. “What is that, that thing?!”
“His name is Fred,” I said soothingly. Plucking his coat from his nerveless fingers, I prodded him toward the living room. “Why don’t you go talk to Aunt Frances while I put a note on the door?”
“A note? Fred? You’re insane!” Randall stared. I shifted his coat to one arm in case his eyeballs jumped for freedom.
“Yes. A note. He’s not going to hurt anyone, and I really don’t want to hear folks screaming all night. Do you? Now, go. Pour yourself a drink. I bought a brand-new bottle of Balvenie just for you.”
“Ten-year-old?” His eyes bulged in delight. I fisted my hand to keep it from darting forward.
He brightened and shuffled toward the living room. That damned bottle cost me nearly a hundred bucks. He’d better appreciate it. I hung his coat in the second coat closet and fetched the sign I’d printed earlier. I’d cleared the office doorway when another scream rattled the window panes.
“Oh, for the love of Pete,” I muttered. “He’s not that bad.”
“There’s… there’s… th-th-there’s…” Poor Karen. She stared into the closet, then to me, and then back into the closet. I shut it gently.
“Yes, there is.”
“Is it going to—?”
“Definitely not.” I sighed. “Look. It was here when I moved in, okay? We’ve come to an agreement. I let it—him—stay here, give him the occasional meal, and he agrees not to eat the UPS guy or pizza deliverymen. We’re still negotiating solicitors.”
“What’s it asking for?” She reached for the doorknob, hesitated, then drew her hand back.
“Three turkey feet, a syringe of blood, and a live chicken.” I threw up my hands. “Where am I supposed to get a live chicken in the city?”
“All that so it won’t eat solicitors?”
“No.” I grinned. “It’s so he will.”
Fred chuckled. Karen swayed. I sighed and posted the sign.