Friday, July 23, 2010

Forties Club Finalist #30

Finders Keepers
by Katherine Tomlinson


When my husband and son came home early from their camping trip, hauling a footlocker in the truck bed and grinning like fools, I got a bad feeling.

Deke carried in the trunk and dumped it on the living room rug. “Open it honey,” Deke urged, but I didn’t want to touch it, so he knelt beside it and threw open the lid.

The trunk was packed with small velvet pouches. Deke pulled one open, pouring the contents into my hand. Diamonds, each stone as big as a pearl. “They’re real,” Deke said. “I tested them.”

“Put it back,” I said. This was a dragon’s hoard; so precious it was worth its weight in blood.

It took me all night to convince him but in the end he agreed to return the trunk to its hiding place.

Three days later, there was a knock during dinner. Deke opened the door and stepped back to let the visitor enter.

“You have something of mine,” he said. “I want it back.”

“We have nothing of yours,” I said.

“You are misinformed,” he replied mildly.

I turned to my husband in horror. “What did you keep?” Deke’s face was ashen as he pulled an antique rose gold watch from his pocket.

“You’re welcome to the time-piece,” the visitor said. “I’ll take your boy in trade.”

And simple as that, Andy was gone.

I could have left Deke but that wouldn’t bring Andy back.

Deke wears the watch every day. It keeps perfect time.

36 comments:

pegjet said...

That felt like a gut punch. Stunning.

Aniket said...

I went so into the piece that I am left wanting to know more about who's treasure it was and what sort of powers they had. It'll make a brilliant plot for a novel, where the father fights to get his son back. I like grey characters.

Aimee Laine said...

Mom needs more 'feeling' in the loss of her son, but Deke's lack of feeling at all is well shown.

Leatherdykeuk said...

Lovely. No negotiation just *gone*.

nigel p bird said...

A really well put together piece of writing. 250 words doesn't leave much room to manoeuevre, but you've managed with room to spare.
Nice touches, the mild voice and the matter of fact disappearence. Agree with the gut punch comment. Nice.

suburbanbeatnik said...

That was great-- very chilling. I almost wish it could have been longer though!

JR's Thumbprints said...

I don't know ... I'm thinking Andy was a rotten apple. In fact, I wanted some kind of tip off as to his character. Yeah, hard to do in 250 words. Very very very well written.

dabnorfish said...

I think it's the understatement that did it. Out of any wider context, you're given the idea that material objects are as important, if not more so, than people. And the fact that she stays with him could suggest a strong patriarchal society where a pragmatic woman would tolerate more, just to be able to get by (you only have to look at early women writers such as Austen to see how marriage was all). In flash fiction, I think you can generally go two ways - try and fit it all into a small, encompassed package, or, create something with a wider, unseen existence for the reader to fill in.

Peter Dudley said...

LOL @JR.

Agreed that it is well written and chilling. What's unclear to me at the end is whether Deke wears the watch every day as a reminder of/penance for his mistake, or just because he really likes the beautiful watch?

These "massive consequences for a simple little 'no one will notice' mistake" stories really hurt.

Oddyoddyo13 said...

Yow. Talk about consequences.

Katherine Tomlinson said...

Thanks so much for your responses!
Peter, he wears the watch as penance and if I'd had just one more word, I could have made that clear.

John Donald Carlucci said...

The last line is perfect.

JDC

Sarah Laurenson said...

Hah! Ouch! Wow! Gut punch is right.

And I liked her pragmatic, detached response to losing their son. Seemed to indicate a long history of accepting the unacceptable.

I got pennance out of wearing the watch and sarcasm on it keeping perfect time, like it's the only perfect thing in their world.

Peter Dudley said...

Yes, the curse of Word Limit! :-)

Sarah, excellent observation about the "long history of accepting the unacceptable."

Jade L Blackwater said...

Great storytelling in a short space. We know from the get-go that someone's gonna take a wrong turn!

Precie said...

Ditto what Sarah said! :) Nicely done!

September said...

There are always consequences! From the beginning I was thinking of a story I read years ago in sixth grad -- "The Monkey's Paw" -- a favorite of mine.
I loved this. So nicely done.
But that ending - wretching. How can he wear that watch? And why would she stay with him? Sigh.
I want more. Thank you. I really enjoyed this.

Cormac Brown said...

That floored me, such a hell on Earth for that woman. Well-written, well done.

Mona said...

That was chilling!

But extremely well written flash!

Well Done!

Dale said...

Completely unexpected. Wow!

Shona Snowden said...

Really liked this one; good tone and a complete story. Lovely last line; I took penance from it also.

MRMacrum said...

250 words is a tough challenge to tell as complete a tale as you just made look easy. And as usual, your writing is superb.

Angel Zapata said...

Wearing that watch says everything I need to know about Deke's character. His poor son.

Well-told.

Lee said...

Well done! Like some of the others, I think this would be great expanded into a longer work.

Dottie (Tink's Place) said...

Hi Katherine!

Nicely done, wow! I guess it's a case of tit for tat. The voice of the narrator is so detached, passed the horror of the moment. Another favorite.

Dottie :)

fairyhedgehog said...

This was a powerful story. I don't see how she could stay, though.

Deb Smythe said...

A great little story. Nicely done.

Aerin said...

I'm stuck on how Deke tested the diamonds if they were just out camping. It just sort of threw me out of the story and I couldn't get back in.

Katherine Tomlinson said...

Aerin--
in the long version I explain that they tested the diamonds by using them to cut the windshield glass. (I minored in geology.)

Fairy--my thought was that if Deke's penance is wearing the watch, the mother's is staying with him...

Everyone--thank you so much for taking the time to read the story and comment. I really appreciate it.

Aerin said...

Ahh, thank you. See, I'm just enough of a science geek to wonder but not enough of one to know. Very cool.

Laurel said...

Oh, wow. I took away penance as well, and not so much that the wife was pragmatic as she didn't care anymore after losing her son through her husband's greed. I also wondered if the son had kept something instead, would the father have been taken? Or did the son keep something as well?

This has just enough going on to satisfy and make you wonder. Nice job.

JaneyV said...

I think Sarah said everything i wanted to say only better!

Good job Katherine.

SzélsőFa said...

quite a stunning and dark outcome. hm... i wonder what's next.

word verification: creep.
jeez!!

Vincent Kale said...

Loved the line: a dragon's hoard, worth its weight in blood. And that's exactly what was exchanged.

I really liked the idea of a dragon being able to appear as a man (if I'm reading this right!). Opens up a ton of possibilities for continuing this story. Also made me think of the villain from "The Golden Child."

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

I liked this a lot! I think you've done a great job with building up the tension, and I love the dragon ideas in here. Nice!

Catherine Vibert said...

Ooh, very creepy unexpected ending. Loved this one.