Thursday, April 8, 2010

#fridayflash - Forty Minutes

CATHY KNOCKED on the door, cleared her throat and adjusted the camera bag slung over her shoulder.

“Mr. Bennett?” she called out.

Maybe he wasn’t here.

She looked around. No vehicle in the driveway, other than her car.

Maybe he had stood her up.

She had driven 40 minutes for this assignment; 40 minutes of rough twisty-turny cottage roads; 40 minutes straight to the capital of the middle of nowhere.

It was November and nobody was up at Kennisis Lake in November. The municipality didn’t do winter maintenance on this road and so once the snow started to fly only snowmobilers and die-hard survivalists stuck around.

“Ah, shit,” Cathy said, and turned to leave.

She almost made it to her car when the front door to the ramshackle cottage opened and a voice she assumed belonged to poet laureate Ansel Bennett said, “Ya? Whaddya want?”

Cathy turned around.

“I’m Cathy Earnshaw. From the News? I talked to you on the phone this morning. We had an appointment. I’m writing a story about your award.”

There was silence.

She couldn’t see him, just a crack of darkness in the doorway.

“Mr. Bennett,” she said, “do you want to do this interview or not?”

A white hand thrust into the afternoon light and waved her in.

“Fine,” she said, under her breath, between her teeth.

She pasted on her plastic reporter’s smile and went in.

It took her about a second to realize that the subject of her interview was stinking drunk.

“Come in,” the frog-belly pale old poet said, his words slurring. “Sit there.” He gestured to a couch, rattier than the hand-me-down Cathy had in her own apartment. It was covered in newspapers and books. She realized that paper covered every surface of the cottage, paper and empty glasses and the stench of liquor and cigarettes and old man.

“Maybe now’s not a good time for this,” Cathy said.

She certainly couldn’t interview him when he was shit-faced.

“Nonsense,” said the poet. “It’s a perfect time. Sit down, SIT DOWN. You mean to say you drove all the way out here for nothing?”

He stared at her stupidly, weaving slightly. “I’m not going to bite,” he said. “Just sit down. K? Sit down.”

She was almost convinced but her inner voice, her worry-wart voice, wasn’t.

“Mr. Bennett,” she said. “I can’t interview you when you’ve been drinking. We’ll have to reschedule.”

He looked confused.

“Drinking? I’m all out... but if you wait, there’s more coming soon... whiskey... you can have all you want.”

“No, Mr. Bennett, I don’t want a drink. I think I should go.”

“Wait,” he said.“Wait. Don’t go. I’m alone, here. Always alone. Stay. We don’t have to do the interview,” he said. “We could do ... other things.”

Cathy blinked.

“Come here. I won’t hurt you. I just want to taste you.”

“No,” she said, backing up.

“Taste you. Lick you. There. It's been so long,” he said. Moving towards her. White hands reaching out, touching the hem of her skirt, yanking it.

“NO, Mr. Bennett. NO.” She backed into the wall and reached awkwardly for the door.

He was pulling at her skirt, breathing sickly boozy fumes all over her. She felt nauseous. Then terrified when she realized just how far from town she really was.

“You sick, twisted, dirty, BASTARD,” she said, and she pushed him, pushed him as hard as she could. His foul breath escaped him in a solid “wooosh” and he almost lost his balance, almost fell, but he was determined, his hands reaching for her like claws.

She batted him away, pulled open the door and ran into the yard, the prize-winning poet laureate staggering behind her.

Cathy stopped in her tracks, watching as a Village Taxi cab pulled up the driveway.

The cabbie saw her red face, her dishevelled clothing and wild hair. He saw the lecherous old drunk weaving and swaying on the lawn.

“Afternoon, Ansel,” he said. “Got the whiskey you ordered.”

The old man’s shoulders sagged.

Cathy got in her car and drove away.

As the old poet and the cabbie disappeared in her rear view mirror, she started to shake.

In cottage country, you don’t need a vehicle to get what you need.

Village Taxi delivers everything.

A bag of groceries.

A bottle of whiskey.



  1. OOH Nice work. How creepy is the line "I just want to taste you." Yikes. I really felt the panic near the end and was glad to read about the taxi. Loved how you finished it out too.

  2. Salvation, indeed! Wow, I was holding my breath, Cathy, that was very intense. For a moment I worried you were going to vampire route. Excellent story. Frickin' Salinger! ~Olivia

  3. Ick, this made me feel icky and in a good way. Creepy old men are gross, but one thing I'd like to add is the woman probably could've gotten away herself.

  4. Nice. I liked it a lot. That was creepy enough to hold my attention, but poetic enough to have polish. In the the last few stories of yours that I've read I've noticed that you go far enough to paint a picture without it being overkill. (I alwayas go too far.) So kudos for that! knowing the stopping point is tough.

  5. Intense and creepy. The licking got to me too. I loved "frog belly pale" and Cathy's impatience.

    You do have a knack for describing enough to see the three-dimensional setting. Your characterizations are real, tangible. I felt like I was inside your story, panicking with Cathy and fighting-off the lech.
    I especially liked that you made your female character strong, trusting her own instincts adn acting smart.

    Superb ending too.

  6. Why do poets retreat to the wilderness, cut themselves off from all humanity (and therefore 50% of what they could write about), turn to drink and then lose all their humanity? I think you depicted this all very well. Remind me never to turn my back on my city roots.

    marc nash

  7. good timing for her.. nice tension and build to this one..

  8. Lots of great tension. I love the language you use. And the ending? Muah! Superb.

  9. I love it! Great dialogue, tension and what an ending; I was sure he was going to catch up with her again. I love the cab driver's line, as though what he'd just witnessed was usual for the poet.

  10. Heart thumpingly good story!

    I can never find a cab when I want one, so am relieved there was one that came to the rescue--in a matter of speaking--for Cathy.

    Great details and love the dialogue.

  11. Intense!
    “Taste you. Lick you. There. It's been so long,”
    Yikes! Creepy, weird f**k.
    Brilliant read!

  12. yes, the licking caused a few shudders in yours truly as well!

    I think she could have overpowered him if she'd had to though :-)

  13. I thought she was unreasonably angry from the start. She jumps to the conclusion that she was stood up after a minute, then someone appears who she thinks is her subject and within two exchanges of dialogue she's snapping at him about not doing the interview at all. That's psychotic for a reporter who drove 40 minutes to get here. I wished bad things on her by the time she was muttering under her breath. Certainly nothing so bad as what he tried, though. But his force seemed forced, and then out of nowhere a guy shows up with a bottle of booze and the conflict ended. I wonder if this isn't a longer story that needs more words to work. Did you have to work to condense it, or are you working on a longer version? I could be crazy since everybody else is praising your intensity. Maybe I'm a nut in a cabin on a lake.

    The "lick" part is incredibly creepy.

  14. Wow Cathy! I love the phrase "the frog-belly pale old poet". You depicted the isoltation and ramshackle space brialliantly. I stupidly got myself in a situation where I was alone in the middle of nowehere with a stranger...a few years back and I could feel the same terror.
    Thankfully I got the hell out too.
    Well done!
    Yeah, I know about dirty old men, have experienced that at work, yeck!

  15. Cathy, you're a bit special. That was such a great read. Also a fan of frog belly pale old poet! May have it put on my headstone.

  16. While I'm teaching a cr. wr. class at the pen, you've inspired me to put paper to pen, or whatever! Great work.

  17. Nice once.
    Tapping into real fears always brings a sharp immediacy to writing that the imagination will usually pale to. One of my favorite stories that I wrote was about a tractor accident. Too many hours raking hay with nothing but the unmuffled roar of the diesel engine to keep me company.
    Why did the old guy have to be a poet? Couldn't a poet come up with something more seductive than I want to taste you? And what reporter worth her salt turns down the chance to interview Earle Birney shit-faced? I think it would have been a much better story if he seduced her. Part two?

  18. That guy should ask for more interviews. One of these days, he's bound to get "lucky."
    Nice job.

  19. OK, that OMIGAWD came from me.

    Excellent slice of life. You've captured perfectly the image of a typical poet. And just in time for Nat'l Poetry Month! They're really all sick bastards. Ladies, STAY AWAY!

  20. “We could do ... other things.”

    Was the point of no return for me. I was expecting her to then morph into something otherworldly and give him what he so richly deserved, but you kept it in the real world.

    note: There was lots of ranting about sweeping things under the rug and about sickos in general here...laughing....but I deleted it.
    It wasn't relevant to the writing which was filled with great dialog and helped along with great pacing.

    Nicely done.

  21. I had no idea you knew my first creative writing professor! ;-)

    Seriously, Mark is totally right. Fear the poets. As for the story, as usual your detail and pacing is superb. I do see some of what John is saying, I couldn't figure out why she was frustrated so quickly, and I think he's right that this needs to be longer. A very good problem to have, Ms. Cathy. You're awesome.

    Details and voice = A+ Creepiness = Off the charts!

  22. Good story. Very creepy and well paced.

  23. I really liked this, nice work Cathy, that salvation was delivered at the exact right moment :)

  24. Fantastic! Great dialogue & a nice, rounded ending without being cheesy.

  25. ewe... this one is going to give me nightmares. Creepy, smelly, old dude.... eh *skin crawls*


  26. That guy is a total creeper! I could just smell his stinky breath! Great imagery!


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