Friday, July 17, 2009

#FridayFlash - "Picture Perfect"

Trevor jacked the camera’s USB cable into his office computer. Two fingers did a light tap dance on the mouse while he waited. Man, he loved this new job. It was better than pizza deliveries, far better than door-to-door sales, trying to convince every Dick and Jane about the benefits of water purification. And, thank God, the new job wasn’t anything close to herding cattle for his father. Thinking about the farm, how the old man used to whip him like a beaten down mule, a burning wave of resentment flowed through Trevor’s face, his neck.

A window popped up on the monitor. Trevor clicked to view all the files.

To be honest, though, working on the farm had its moments. Like the time he got Cindy Louder to take a walk with him out to the barn. Let’s take a ride on the tractor, he said. Cindy gave him a dubious look, told him to jerk off. Other girls might fall for that one. She wouldn’t. He smiled, put on his best aw-shucks tone, and said that wasn’t his intent. His father had purchased a brand new combine, equipped with satellite navigation and a ton of other cool things. He thought she might like to see it. She looked at her watch and said fine, but only for a few minutes. They were in the barn a little longer than that.

Trevor frowned as the first image popped up on the monitor. A middle-aged woman, wearing a peach halter top with a spaghetti strap around her neck—a perfect little get-up to show off her tanning salon skin. Streaks of blond ran through darker brown hair, all of it pulled back and pinned up with a butterfly clip. He had liked how she looked in the camera’s viewfinder, eyes dark and defiant looking off somewhere, a smile like he’d never seen before. He took the shot.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

She realized he was talking to her, and the perfect smile disappeared. “Piss off, okay? I’m with someone else.”

As if on cue, a man carrying two beers walked over and sat down.

Trevor pasted on a smile, pointed at the camera. “I just wanted it for the paper.”

She shook her head. “No name and no photo.”

He nodded, said that’s cool, and moved on.

The job was simple: drive to a social event like a concert in the park, snap off fifty or sixty shots, and then on to another gig. Clicking for the next file, Trevor remembered his job interview. The Human Resources Director, a heavy woman in her early forties with a glaze of perspiration around her neck, glanced at his application and then looked across the desk. Could he handle a camera? He smiled, told he had worked as part of the yearbook committee back in his high school days. He even produced a yearbook. “You see this one? Well, I took that shot while standing up on a ladder. Trying to get the bird’s eye on the players huddled up with the coach, you know? I almost fell off the ladder. Man, wouldn’t that have been embarrassing? Oh, and look at this one. Prom night. I caught this girl exiting the men’s locker room. You see, nobody was supposed to be back there, but then here came Charlie Guy and… Well, that’s another story for another time maybe.”

None of it was true, but that didn’t matter. Right from the jump, he could tell the Director was an idiot. Dumber than a box of rocks trying to float across the pond, his daddy would have said; but then, the old man didn’t burn the brightest flame either. He only knew how to cuss you out when he got mad. And to hit.

The next picture appeared on the monitor. Another cute girl, this one in a yellow and orange summer dress.

“You mind if I take your photo?” He held up his journalism card. “It’s for the paper. The You’ve Been Spotted section.”

She smiled. “You bet.”

He clicked off the shot.

“Thanks.” He jerked a thumb toward little Miss Piss-Off. “The last one wasn’t as nice about it.”

She looked over his shoulder. “You mean Beth?”

That got his attention. “You know her?”

“Sure. Beth Pritchard. Don’t let it get to you. She treats everyone that way.”

Trevor minimized the window and clicked on his internet browser. She may treat everyone that way, he thought, but it doesn’t mean she gets by with it. He had already taken too much from the old man. There wasn’t a snowball’s chance he would take it off some broad with a fake tan and made-up hair. After a quick search, he had the woman’s address and phone number; he even found her MySpace page. He grabbed a small notebook from his pocket and wrote down the information. It wouldn’t be tonight, probably not even in the next month, but soon enough he’d get back to her.

A warm smile spread through his lips as Trevor thought about what he would do to Beth Pritchard. The possibilities rolled around in his mind and turned him on. After a while, the feeling grew so strong that it would not go unsatisfied—not tonight anyway. He flipped back through the notebook and found the name of Shyree Johnson, a pretty little thing who gave him a big attitude one day while trying to sell her a water filter. Like Cindy Louder, whom the world never saw again after that night in the barn, he’d give Miss Cop-A-Tude the ride of her life.

Trevor wondered briefly what he would do once the camera job ran its course. And it would. They always did. He put the notebook away. Maybe he’d take up a job at the library.


  1. Ohh...what a spooky creep! And they do walk among us, don't they? Great story!

  2. Good one, Stephen. Never saw it coming.


  3. Oooh, liked this one. The Stand is making it's mark, heh-heh. Peace, Linda

  4. Oh, man, I was scared as soon as I saw the word, "combine." Shudder.

  5. So, Cindy was harvested - oh dear me.

    Very nice one. All along I thought this was not-very-nice, but ordinary, guy, a little down on his luck and blaming his Pa.

    And then the train left the rails.

    Well done.

  6. I'm going to be super-nice to librarians in future! Loved the story.

  7. Nasty son of a farmer planting his seeds. Nice and creepy.

  8. Good use of foreshadowing with Cindy Louder and the combine, Stephen. Added just enough uncertainty to keep me suspicious yet unsure. I'd like to say nice piece, but somehow nice and sociopath just don't seem to go together. ;) Good job will have to do.

  9. Great story, Stephen. Spooky creep is right! New golden rule: treat everyone you meet as though they might hunt you down via internet.

  10. Expert handling of the layers and pacing of the story. This line struck me as perfectly understated: "They were in the barn a little longer than that."

  11. I want to thank all of you for reading this piece of flash fiction and offering your kind words.

  12. Nice! I try to be... um... nice to everyone. Here have a cookie...

    Many apologies for arriving late

  13. Controlled piece that creeps the reader out in all the right places. Liked the ease with which he finds his targets.

  14. Tomara & Dan: Thanks for stopping by again. I appreciate the feedback, and I'm enjoying the thrill of reading everyone's contribution to #fridayflash. What a ride.

  15. Well-told piece, Stephen. You've created a character who has motivation and opportunity, and left it to us to imagine what, exactly, he'll do with that. Very nice piece.