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Summer, 2008
24-Hour Short Story Contest
1st Place Winner!

TOPIC OF THIS CONTEST WAS:

The bells on the door were still echoing as she stepped further into the old toy store. The owner winked at her and turned back to his black and white television set. She reached under the rack on the back wall and pulled it out. It was just where she'd left it last week. She approached the counter and put the item down.

He turned to her, grabbed the item with surprise, and said, "This is NOT for sale..."

Entries must touch on the topic in some way to qualify.



Apology
By R. Scott Shanks, Jr., Hillsboro, OR

Natasha slammed through the door of Babeland, a seedy adult toy store. The unshaven counterman grinned at her and winked. Without a word she turned around, flipping the sign on the door to "Closed" and dropping the blind. When she turned around the grin had turned into a full leer.

Natasha threw a gun on the counter. The counterman looked surprised. "What's that?"

"That," she said, "is a gun."

"Hey, we don't sell guns here."

"That's okay, I have one already, just like it. See?" She had another gun out and pointed it at him. His eyes widened and he held his hands, palms out.

"Hey, hey, what's this? Let's just stay calm, all right?"

"Oh, I'm perfectly calm."

"Then maybe you could put the piece down, right? I don't get paid enough to get shot for this place."

"You don't recognize me?"

"No, I don't know you."

"Maybe if you get two friends to hold me down and you crawl on top of me like a dog, Ron, then maybe you'll recognize me." Ron blanched and backed away until he pressed against the wall.

"What are you talking about?"

"Think hard, Ron. Think about four years back. Think about grabbing a woman off the street." She saw guilty recognition in his eyes and she smiled.

"Oh, jeez...what's with the guns, lady? You don't need no guns."

"Sure I do. I need two. See, that gun," she indicated the gun on the counter, "is the replacement I bought for this gun, which I reported stolen about a month after you and your friends picked me up off the street."

"What --?"

"This stolen gun has been killing people, Ron."

"Jesus, lady, listen." He licked his lips, watching the gun barrel pointed at him as if he could stare it away. His voice took on a pleading tone. "Listen. That was a long time ago. Nobody has to get hurt here, right?"

"I think someone probably does need to get hurt here, Ron. I'm pretty sure it needs to be you, too."

"I didn't mean nothing -- it was them other two."

"But Ron, it was your idea. They said they had no choice but to go along."

"You talked to them like you're talking to me, right? You think they wouldn't say anything to keep you from shooting them?"

"But I did shoot them, Ron. I shot them lots. I had to reload with Nate." She smiled, calm again. "I liked that." She squinted, aiming at Ron's face. "And I'm going to like this even better."

"Ah, Jesus, lady, what do you want from me?"

"What do you think I want, Ron?" She smiled at his helpless misery, and said brightly, "I want to give you a chance that they didn't get. I want an apology."

"What?"

"You're not very bright, are you, Ron?"

"I'm sorry! I am -- I'm really sorry! Don't shoot me, all right?"

"Do you have some paper, Ron?" He nodded. "Write it out for me."

"No way. You're trying to trap me. I don't got to write nothing."

"I already trapped you, stupid. Get the paper." He hesitated. She aimed at his face again. "You can pick; bullets or paper." She watched him carefully as he looked for a pen. "Good. Now listen closely, and I'll tell you just what I want you to say."

It took ten minutes. The note read <i>I don't know why I did it. I didn't mean to hurt anybody. I'm real sorry.</i> Natasha smiled. "There. That isn't going to send you to jail, is it? So relax. You get your chance."

"I did what you wanted --"

"Yes you did. So I'll give you what they didn't get. I'll give you a chance to shoot me first." Ron looked at the gun on the counter.

"That ain't loaded."

"Wrong. I loaded it, and there's a round in the chamber. Just point and shoot."

"As soon as I go for it, you kill me."

"Oh, what a baby. Fine." She let her gun fall to her side. "I'll let you get ready --" Ron scrambled for the gun, bellowing profanity and shooting almost before he got it pointed at her. The gun boomed once and then clicked several times as Ron kept pulling the trigger.

"Wow, Ron. If that hadn't been a blank you might have hit me. Good job. Now toss that on the floor." His face slack, he dropped the gun.

"You ... what do you want?"

"Powder traces, Ron, to prove you shot two men. Face the wall. I'm going to leave, now."

"You ain't going to shoot me?"

"I'm not going to shoot you." Ron faced away, obviously not believing her. "Do you remember what you told me just before you raped me, Ron?"

"...No...."

"You said I was going to like it. You lied to me." Her voice had dropped softer, almost a whisper. She leaned forward, speaking softly into his left ear, holding her gun to the side of his head. "I lied, too," and pulled the trigger. Blood sprayed the wall in front of them and Ron's head slammed to the side from the impact, knocking her over.

Smiling faintly, she got up and wiped her gun, dropping it near Ron's hand. Natasha picked up the other gun and left, smiling at the blood spattered across the suicide note.


What Scott won:

$300 Cash Prize
Publication of winning story on the WritersWeekly.com website
1 - Freelance Income Kit Includes:
-- 1-year subscription to the Write Markets Report
-- How to Write, Publish and $ell Ebooks
-- How to Publish a Profitable Emag
-- How to Be a Syndicated Newspaper Columnist Special (includes the book; database of 6000+ newspapers; and database of 100+ syndicates)

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