Part three of Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenge. Part one was written by John Freeter. Part two was added by JD Stoffel. I am concluding the tale with part three. All three parts are collected below. Enjoy!
“I’m not going to make it, am I, doc?” Thomas asked, reaching out to Doctor Johnson with a pale, trembling hand. “My heart’s just no good…”
Doctor Johnson wrapped Thomas’ hand in his, irradiating warmth throughout the bed-ridden man’s body. The doctor’s square jaw trembled, and he averted his cobalt-blue eyes as manly tears rolled down his finely sculpted cheeks.
“I…I wished I could you give you my heart, Thomas…but I’m afraid it’s already yours.”
“Well, that’s just shit…” I muttered to myself, and deleted the last page of trashy MM fiction I’d typed up—half an hour’s work.
“Fuck my life.”
It wasn’t meant to be like this. Almost four years ago I’d decided to quit my job at the bank and start a lucrative career as a day trader, making my fortune from home. It didn’t work out. We soon burned through our savings. My wife shot me disappointed glances when she thought I wasn’t looking. I lost my son’s respect. My dream was dead.
However, during my research for speculative trading tips I kept finding reports of authors making money writing erotic novels, and I thought…why not?
And so, Rotten Girl was born. With my day-trading skills, I was able to get on every erotica trend before most rival authors. Monster porn, torture porn, animal stuff, whatever it was. Rotten Girl knew no fear. I wrote fast and hard…really hard, and the money started pouring in.
I leaned back on my fancy leather chair, and chuckled as I looked at the trading journals and print-outs scattered around my home office. A façade. My family could never know what really paid the bills…mommy porn. Sure, it’s not about the sex, but…it’s also about the sex.
I rubbed my eyes, and tried to focus on Rotten Girl’s newest novel: A hospital sick lit man on man erotic tale. I had to have it up by the end of the month. I’d be damned if that stupid bitch “Erica Savage” would beat me to this new trend. She probably was just another unemployed middle-aged man, trying to—
“Hey dad, can you give some paper?” my son asked, barging into my office. My fingers flew to the Alt-Tab keys. Forgot to lock the door…shit. Good thing the monitor faced away from any unwelcome visitors.
“Uh, yeah, help yourself,” I said, and picked up the trading journal I had on the desk. I circled words and numbers at random until he left. His eyes glimmered with pride as he left the office.
He must never know.
I tossed the paper aside, and checked my—Rotten Girl’s—fan mail. A readership is like a delicate garden after all; it must be tended with love and care. I noticed an urgent message in my inbox right away…from my nemesis, Erica Savage. I clicked on it, and read the first line. I almost pissed myself.
Dear Rotten Girl…or should I say dear Robert Statham?
She knew my real name.
“Oh, fuck my life….”
I bit down hard on my hand as I read further.
I can’t believe it has taken us so long to get to know each other. Of course, I was shocked to learn that Rotten Girl had a little more man in her than I thought.
It can be a lonely business, writing. It’s good to get to know your peers, don’t you think? But then you have your lovely wife Megan, and James is a real chip off the old block.
I would love to hear back from you soon. What is it that you’re writing lately?
P.S. You should receive a package with what I consider to be your best works, printed on demand for this occasion. I personally loved ‘Mother May I.’ What genius! If you would sign them and send them back, I’ll pay the postage.
I wonder if you’ll sign them as Robert Statham or Rotten Girl?
I stared at the characters on the screen as sweat trickled down my back. A few different replies buzzed through my mind, and I even started typing one. A scathing rebuttal, saying she had it all wrong and telling her which side of the afterlife she should visit at the earliest opportunity.
No. I held down the backspace key, watching the letters disappear one at a time. Erica knew who I was. There was no putting that genie back in the bottle.
Other options flew my mind’s coop. Ignore the email? Call the cops? Move my family to Canada?
Finally, I gritted my teeth, pounded out four words.
What do you want?
I hit send before I could second guess myself.
The doorbell rang and my shirt harvested a fresh crop of sweat. The clock said quarter after two.
“Shit,” I said, standing up from the desk. I knocked the laptop askew in my haste but could not stop to right it. James appeared in the doorway of my office as I exited. I nearly bowled him over.
“Sorry! Be right back!”
Megan reached the front door before me and opened it. She reached out and came back with a heavy box. Maybe I could snatch it and escape with it before she asked any questions…
No, that was stupid. “Hey, honey,” I tried. “I think that’s for, uh, me.”
Megan thanked the mail carrier and shut the door. “It’s addressed to me,” she said, hoisting the box so I could see the label. “Care of Robert Statham?”
My fingers quivered, eager to take the explosive textual material out of my wife’s hands. “Oh, heh,” I said. “I, uh, got you something for our anniversary?”
No fool, Megan noticed me reaching for a coverup. “That isn’t for another seven months, Robert, and I know you don’t think that far ahead.” I tried my last resort, taking the box, but she dodged and cut the tape with a pocketknife.
From my office, I heard James shout. “Daaaad?”
“Double fuck my life,” I said.
Megan flipped open the box lid. Helpless, I watched her in silence. I wasn’t sure whether to go to James, try to explain myself. It was probably too late anyways.
I usually loved the smell of a freshly-printed book, ink and paper and binding glue. But as the smell wafted across from the box Megan was now rummaging through with an intent expression, it only made me feel sick.
She lifted out a book, hardcover and glossy. Mother May I . Rotten Girl embossed along the spine.
“Rotten Girl?” asked Megan, her face carefully blank. “You ordered this for me for our anniversary?” Was there a slight emphasis on the last word, a coldness in speech?
“Daaad?” James called again, just as I was opening my mouth to try and explain that no, the publishers must have mixed up my orders, seriously, I had no idea what this smut was. And then James walked into the kitchen, and his face was white.
“Dad?” he said again, ignoring Megan. “I just cut myself with your paper cutter accidently. I know I’m not supposed to use it but could you get me a bandage?”
If stomachs could lurch and swoon in relief, mine did just then. While I got him a bandage and patched him back up, I saw Megan out of the corner of my eye,flipping through a few of the books in the box.
When James left, I turned back to her. “Honey-” I began, but she cut me off.
“Rob,” she said, “I don’t know how you found out about these books, but I-”
“I’m so sorry,” I spluttered. “The publisher must have sent me the wrong ones. I meant to order you the collected works of Emily Bronte, I know you love her and I thought a leatherbound collection would look fantastic above the fireplace-”
“Robert!” she said sharply. “stop making excuses for yourself, and own up to your decisions.”
Miserably, sensing it all falling apart, I said, “Fine. Ok. You got me. I’m not a day trader. I write porn – well, I prefer to call it erotic fiction -” at the same time as Megan said, “I think this is actually a really good gift. Maybe it’s what we need to spice up our sex life-” and then we both said “oh” at the same time and looked at each other.
And then Megan added, “which is why I ordered it for us. I must say, I was tired of you thinking you could keep a secret from me, Robert Statham. Or should I say, Rotten Girl?”