So, our Flash Fiction challenge at Terrible Minds this week was to write a gripping short story all while the main character made a sandwich, to prove that even in a mundane scene, you could still advance a story along and make it interesting. Since I have some good sub shop experience, I thought I’d play off that. So, hope you enjoy.
“Foot-long club on white.”
Grip glanced up at the fat man standing on the other side of the counter and nodded. Snatching a twelve inch sub bun hardly required a turn, which was in Fatty’s best interest considering Grip hardly felt the compulsion to play sandwich guru today.
Sitting to his right was the ten inch bread knife. He grasped it, and in his mind, it still felt warm. He peered at the blade—spotless, as he had ensured. He’d bleached it until his hands nearly bled from irritation.
He jammed the knife into the bread, Fatty in his periphery, and wished for a moment that he hadn’t washed all the blood off the knife. Fatty and every other selfish asshole that walked in here, too damned lazy to take care of their own lunches, deserved a bit of hot blood on their bun.
“Why they call you Grip?” the fat slob asked.
Grip finished slicing the bun and bent it open so that he could apply the toppings. Then he held up the knife in his hand, blade to the ceiling, and said, “Cause I got a good grip and I don’t let go.”
Without waiting for a reaction, he laid out processed cheese, next adding the beef, the turkey, the ham.
The cold bacon resembled the colour of Joe’s face as the bread knife penetrated his abdomen the night before. Joe had screamed like a banshee. Grip was lucky this building was detached, sitting dozens of feet away from any other. The screams went unnoticed.
“Cool tattoo,” Fatty said. “Where’d ya get it?”
Grip glanced down at his thirty-year-old arm at the three-year-old tattoo. “Jail.”
Fatty shut up right away and looked back at his sandwich. “Can you toast it?”
Grip didn’t turn to face the customer as the contents browned. He watched the coils inside the oven grow red and then a blazing orange; it was the colour that Joe burned last night, stuffed in an oil drum out back. Different accelerants ensured that his body burned to ash, that only his nasty rotting teeth were left. Grip had collected those teeth, and then dumped the barrel of ash into the sand pile behind the building, where they’d never finished construction.
Later, the rain turned the ash and sand into mud.
The oven dinged. Grip moved the sub to the veggie station.
As fatty voiced his requests, Grip worked on autopilot; thoughts of the rain had cooled him down, so much so that he could not help but shiver and ruminate.
He had rolled that barrel onto his truck bed and dumped it in a ditch ten miles away. For each half mile he travelled, he chucked a tooth out the window. The rest he scattered in a corn field another five miles from the barrel’s dump site.
“Gimme some of ‘em hot peppers, too. Lots.”
The hot peppers—they had been all Grip could smell as he scrubbed the bloody knife in the sink behind him, and the pungent odor had overwhelmed his senses above all others as he leaned against the sandwich prep station, struggling to process what he had done.
“Salt and pepper, please.”
Salt and pepper were yin and yang, but Joe and Grip were about as uncomplimentary as mammals around penetrating objects. Living next to one another had not eased tensions between them. Instead, the situation had accelerated out of control.
Joe had been a fifty-four year old divorced, childless, miserable prick, one that liked to protest everything he could. Hedge was overgrown on Grip’s side. Car tires were an inch too far into Joe’s side of the driveway. Grip’s branch needed cutting; it was dropping apples into Joe’s backyard. Why did Grip have to have friends over all the time? Why did Grip have to have his music so loud? Why did Grip’s dog never shut the fuck up?
The dog. Grip’s Golden Retriever, Bruno, had only ever barked when Joe was in the backyard, shooting his pellet gun at old cans. Bruno had never done anything wrong. He was the picture of a good dog.
“Can I get sub sauce and mayo?”
Grip glanced up at the fat man and saw the concern in his eyes. “Yeah.”
“You okay, dude?”
“Fine,” Grip said.
Grip shook his head. “Nah, just… my dog died yesterday. He was a good dog.”
The fat man looked down and shook his head. “Sorry. Old?”
“Nah,” Grip said. “Someone put a bullet in his head.”
A face of shock overwhelmed Fatty, and he said, “Shit, man. On purpose?”
Grip could remember the expression on Joe’s face as he’d smacked him upside the head with his own pistol, the one he’d stolen from Joe’s house an hour earlier.
“Look familiar?” he’d asked as his boss collapsed to the ground.
Grip had worn sub gloves to ensure no fingerprints. He also refused to shoot his boss, because he would not only have to contend with gun powder residue, but also the casing and the bullet after he burned his boss—too many factors. Instead, he’d stuffed the gun into the back of Joe’s desk drawer.
“Dude, on purpose?” Fatty asked again.
Grip nodded. “Right between the eyes.”
“Call the cops?”
“Yeah, I took care of it. Don’t worry about it.”
Don’t worry about it were the last words to come from Joe’s mouth: “It’s a stupid fucking mutt, Grip, don’t worry about it!”
Grip’s first murder was the hardest thing he’d ever done, but also the most justified action he had ever taken. Not like the petty crime that had landed him three months of prison time in the first place.
“Where’s the boss-man today?” Fatty asked as he paid for his sandwich. “I heard he lost his license because of another DUI charge.”
Grip smirked at Fatty now. “Yeah, I’ve been driving him in. Joe’s sick today, or so he claims. I don’t know when he’ll be back in again.”
And as he considered Joe’s third DUI charge, only one word rang in his mind: justified.
© 2012, Lindsay Mawson