Every Wednesday, on Writing Under Pressure, you’ll find an essay or a flash fiction post based on a word prompt. Today, I am honored to publish a flash fiction piece by Cathryn Grant.
I met Cathryn Grant online.
That means, she lives too far away for me to chase her down for a cup of coffee and some writer-to-writer face time. So, I follow her on Twitter; I read her blog; I email her with writing questions and advice.
Hmm, as I re-read that sentence out loud, I sound strangely like a stalker.
My point is, as a writer, Cathryn’s been an inspiration and a great support, even if we’ve never sat in the same room together.
I love Cathryn’s writing style. Every Sunday on her blog, you can read a new flash fiction piece. Click around her site and you’ll find links to some of her published works. On her About page, the first sentence sums up how writing fits into her life. She says:
I make my living in high tech Competitive Intelligence, but I live to write fiction.
She works a hectic day job, and at the end of the day, she writes fiction – Suburban Noir – to shake off the stressors of the day. On a post entitled “Crime at Work,” Cathryn reveals how – like many writers – her mind is always open to a story:
I see crime in ambiguous places – white lies, posturing, extravagance in the face of poverty, stealing company time, back-stabbing, obscene bonuses for cheating the average working man or woman, subtle cruelties and road rage.
Her stories reflect what she sees through her writer’s eye.
I’m thrilled to present you with an original Cathryn Grant piece based on a word prompt. Well, make that three word prompts. I chose three words in succession, thinking the first one too Cathryn-esque (I didn’t want her to think I picked it on purpose). But, after I pulled the second and third words, I realized the Fates had spoken. Cathryn’s prompts were: crimes, cheating, and bars.
Enjoy a taste of her writing here, then read Cathryn’s blog for more.
By Cathryn Grant
Elaine turned the page of the newspaper and looked at the snippets of information printed in the police blotter. In suburbia, the crimes were mild, but something still compelled her to read about them. Perhaps she was looking for something exciting – a violent attack, brutality, even death. Instead, she saw that two cars had been broken into. A bad check was passed at a business on Henderson. A woman’s purse was taken from her shopping cart, a bicycle was stolen and there were three reports of tools removed from construction sites. There was an incident of fraud on Crocker Way. She wondered about the details of that one.
She took a sip of coffee, it was icy and tasted sour. She thought about refilling the mug but a quick sniff revealed the stale odor from a pot left too long on the warming plate.
The crimes in the police blotter weren’t the real crimes. Those happened inside people’s homes – children left alone in front of the television for hours a day, women gossiping about their “best” friends, children plucking dollar bills out of their mothers’ purses, and husbands and wives lying to each other. Most of them were small lies, half-truths, but still the lying went on. She heard about it every day from her friends and co-workers. I didn’t tell him how much I paid for the shoes. He doesn’t know our son cut class, again. She thinks I’m working late, but come on, she gives me too much grief if I want to gripe over a few drinks at the end of the day. None of that was reported in the police blotter.
She turned the page and scanned the comics. They refused to elicit even a smile or a flash of recognition. She turned the last page, gently closing the newspaper as if closing the back cover of a book that offered a melancholy ending. She picked it up along with the other partially-read sections, folded the stack in half, then in half again.
Shade still bathed the side of the house where the recycling bin stood, but the June air was already warm. Bars of light came through the gaps between the boards of the fence and fell across the concrete, making it look cleaner than it was. The lid to the paper receptacle was hot on her fingertips. She lifted it open and smelled newsprint, slightly mildewed. She dropped the papers inside but as she was about to let the lid slip closed, something caught her eye – an envelope, still sealed.
Reaching inside was difficult, the edge cut into her armpit and she knew her shirt would be smudged, not an attractive look for the office. She was late already, she shouldn’t be digging in the recycling bin, but she had to see what was in that envelope. Rick gave her a hard time because she insisted on opening all of their mail, even the advertisements and solicitations.
Finally her fingers touched the edge of the envelope. It was light, almost as if it was empty. She nudged it toward the side of the bin and grabbed it. She turned it over, nothing was written on the front. Then she saw a tiny R in the upper right corner. Rick?
She peeled up the edge and slid her finger along the fold. The tear was rough and the paper crumpled behind her finger. She pulled out the single sheet of lined paper, ripped from a legal pad. A credit card slipped out and fell on her toe. She picked it up – a Visa card with Rick’s name embossed on the front. Why would he throw away a credit card, wouldn’t he shred it? Maybe he didn’t know it was in there. After all, he hadn’t unsealed the envelope.
She unfolded the paper. A lone sentence was scrawled across the center, crossing several lines of the paper – I can’t do this anymore.
One of the bars of light fell across the edge of the credit card, making the background sparkle. She stared in fascination. How long would it be until the sun moved enough that the strip of light no longer crossed the card? She couldn’t decide whether she’d known all along he was cheating on her; but she did know that not all the crimes of suburbia were non-violent.
© Copyright 2010 Cathryn Grant
Cathryn Grant’s suburban noir fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and Every Day Fiction – twice: “So Lucky” and the story posted tomorrow, June 3rd (you’ll have to click onto Every Day Fiction to discover that tale).