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Friday, December 9, 2011

What Choice Did She Have?

Jim Harrington is one of two contributors to Flash Jab Challenge #8. His story is based upon the photo to the left.

((c) Kim Britt Photogrpahy 2011)

What Choice Did She Have?
by Jim Harrington

Elsabeth placed the sneakers on the windowsill every year when Winter's nip began to fade, hoping Erik would see them and return home. It'd been twelve years since he went out to play and was never seen again. All the sheriff found were the new shoes covered in mud.

It was the third time he'd gotten them dirty. The first time Elsabeth sent him to his room. The second time she spanked him with a hairbrush. She couldn't stand things being dirty.

Elsabeth stood at the bedroom window for a while, waiting for Erik to appear. When her back began to stiffen, she fingered a strand of purple-streaked brown hair from her eyes and turned to the girl with the muddy shoes.

She sat in a wooden chair, struggling against the ropes that held her tight. A ball gag kept her quiet. Elsabeth guessed she was about the same age as Erik, but with blonde hair. She wore jeans and a sweatshirt with a college logo on it. A maroonish bump where the hammer had struck protruded from her forehead.

Elsabeth snorted. Not very lady-like clothes, she thought. She hadn't spoken since the girl showed up at the front door selling magazine subscriptions. Yanking the girl's hair, she finally said,

"Those shoes are expensive. You should be more careful with them so they last longer." She'd said the same thing to Erik many times. "Sending you to your room didn't stop you. Neither did spanking."

Elsabeth picked the knife off the table and rubbed it against the whetstone. The sound excited her, just as it had with Erik.

She ran the blade across her finger. Satisfied by the trickle of blood that oozed from the cut, she turned her attention to the recalcitrant girl.

"You could have a least said you were sorry," Elsabeth said.

The girl squirmed and screamed into the gag.

Elsabeth frowned and placed the tip of the knife against the girl's cheek. "You should have listened, Erik. You know I don't like you getting your sneakers muddy." She drew the point across the ashen skin. The girl lunged back, away from the blade. The chair's front legs rose off the rug. Elsabeth grabbed the girl's shirt and pulled her back. "Now, now," she said and waggled the knife in the girl's face, "Running away is no solution." She dragged the knife from the girl's hairline to the tip of her nose and then across her forehead, forming a cross. "God-fearing folks behave the best. Did you know that?" The girl's eyes widened, and tears streamed down her cheeks.

Elsabeth left the room and returned wearing a yellow slicker and drinking from a dark-colored glass. She cradled a roll of plastic in her armpit. The hand holding the knife hung at her side. She walked to the girl and held the glass out. The girl shook her head. Elsabeth shrugged.

"I wouldn't let you wear sweatshirts. Is that why you left, Erik?" She placed the glass on the table. "I guess I should have known you would start wearing stuff like that, since you refused to keep your shoes clean." She laid the knife next to the glass and unrolled the plastic. "And it makes me really angry that you disobeyed me over and over and over." She placed the plastic on the carpet around the chair. "I told you the last time what would happen if you didn't stop." She picked up the knife and tested the sharpness once again. "And you still wouldn't listen." Standing over the girl, her hand caressing the knife, she said, "And just like last time, you leave me no choice."


  1. Very, very nice.. I was there in the room actually..x

  2. Solid detail, Jim. Lots of story in those few words. tragedy and madness. Pain and fear. Impressive, buddy. Very.

  3. Chilling. Terrific writing, Jim.

  4. Wow, Jim! Dark, but beautifully done.