Wednesday, October 17, 2018

WEP: Deja Vu and Voodoo

https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com/2018/10/welcome-to-wepff-writeeditpublish.html
Write…Edit…Publish (WEP) is an online writing community now partnering with the Insecure Writers Support Group (IWSG). We post the third Wednesday of every second month. WEP challenges are open to all. 

I don't really like horror, so I took the prompt in a different direction, and wrote a short story from my Pismawallops PTA mystery series. You'll only get the "deja vu" part if you read Death By Trombone :)  I managed to hit 1000 words exactly, exclusive of the title.


Deja Vu All Over Again

“We’ve been over this, Kitty. With my new job at the library I don’t have time for everything. I really can’t do the Fall Formal.” I crossed my fingers as I said it; I worked a great deal less at the library than Kitty did at their gas station.

“We have been through it all before.” Kitty didn’t sound like she agreed with me. She sounded like she was laughing at me, or humoring me, which was worse. “You can afford one evening, and the library isn’t open Friday nights. Well, plus some time to decorate. Come on, JJ. You know I depend on you.”

Dang. She was invoking our friendship and all our shared history. How could I say no?

I made one last attempt to weasel out. “You know I hate how loud the school dances are, Kitty.”

“Wear earplugs,” was her heartless response.

I finally cut to the real issue. “Don’t you remember what happened the last time I chaperoned a dance?” That actually silenced her. We were unlikely to forget the body I’d found while taking a phone call behind the high school gym.

“You win.” Kitty sounded so contrite I almost felt bad.

I had to be supportive in my turn. “I’ll find you someone to help, or I’ll come myself. I won’t leave you in the lurch.” I knew as I said it that I’d probably end up doing it myself, but Kitty had been right there for me when I found that body. Finding volunteers was almost more painful than finding bodies, and nearly as rare. Staying in the gym through an entire high school dance might drive me crazy, so I was motivated.

*
Motivated or not, even I couldn’t accomplish the impossible. The day before the dance found me in the gym, swathed in bunting and strings of fake colorful leaves. Our local evergreens didn’t provide the desired ambiance, so we hit up the party store on the mainland for an affordable substitute.

I took another swig of my coffee—cold—and considered the logistics of affixing plastic leaves to cinder-block walls. There was only one logical solution, and the ringing of my phone gave me the excuse.

“Brian!” I summoned my son and his best friend. “You and Justin get started hanging this stuff. I need to answer this call.”

I headed for the front door, phone in hand. Not even to escape the decoration would I go out the back door. It was out that door, while decorating for the Senior Prom the previous spring, that I’d found the last body. I took my call and waited while a bevy of teenaged girls hauled in a giant basket of plastic jack-o-lanterns. In all the noise, I couldn’t make out who was on the other end of the call.

“Hang on! Let me get somewhere quieter!” The breezeway in front of the gym was still crowded with kids, so I headed around the side of the building, not thinking about where I was going.

“So have you taken up a career in steam-fitting?”

I knew that urbane and sarcastic voice, and snapped, “What do you want?” My Ex didn’t deserve a polite response. “I’m not letting you off the hook. I want the money you owe in my account by the end of the month.” Good God, I thought I was done battling with Allen.

“I really don’t think you—” he began, but I didn’t hear any more. I was too busy tripping over something in the near-darkness, and I didn’t like what it felt like. I gasped, but contrary to Allen’s later claims, I did not scream. I did hang up on him in the process of trying to find the flashlight app on my phone, but I assure you it was entirely unintentional. Well, mostly.

For some reason my hands were shaking. It was pretty cold out there; an October night on Pismawallops Island can be pretty chilly and damp. That must have been why I shook.

When I finally got the light on, I wished I hadn’t.

Someone was stretched out face-up on the ground, eyes open and unseeing.

*
Kitty told me later that I screamed, though I know she was exaggerating.

Ron told me I phoned him.

A dozen people told me a dozen different stories about what happened next, and I don’t remember any of it.

I must have called Ron, though, because the next thing I knew, the police chief was holding me in his arms and repeating my name.

“Huh?” It wasn’t a very articulate response, but it must have been better than he’d been getting, because he stopped saying my name.

“It’s okay,” he said instead.

“No, it isn’t,” I pointed out. “It’s another corpse. What killed this one?” I didn’t really want to know, but I was determined to appear calm, and settle all the people who were hovering around as though I needed help.

“Clear out, all of you,” Ron took care of the problem for me. “Don’t you have a gym to decorate or something?”

“You just want to get her alone,” someone quipped. It was probably either my kid or Kitty’s.

“Darn right I do,” Ron growled. “Now go!”

They went, and I assumed Ron would move into investigator mode, but he seemed to be a great deal more interested in investigating me than the corpse I’d tripped on.

“Stop that.” I pushed him away, though in general I liked the way he kissed. “Don’t you need to figure out who killed him?”

“I believe that would be Archie McPhee,” Ron said.

“Huh?” It took me a minute to recognize the name of the famous  purveyor of magic tricks, gag gifts, and tasteless practical jokes. Then the lightbulb went off, and I flipped on my flashlight again. Steeling myself, I brushed off Ron’s hand and took a closer look at the “corpse”. Someone had left the price tag on the left cheek.

I really hate Halloween.

###

 ©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2018
 As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated.
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63 comments:

  1. Big smiles. This was a totally unexpected ending.

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    1. Thanks! That's the way horror usually goes for me--right into humor.

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  2. That was awesome! The ending totally surprised me - love it!!

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    1. Thanks! Told you I like humor better than horror :D

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  3. Great practical joke! Halloween pranks can backfire though.

    Happy Halloween!

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    1. If someone did that to her on purpose, it was downright mean!

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  4. LOL. Love this story! Your humor is priceless.

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  5. HA! That's my kinda "horror." I'd much rather make 'em "die" laughing than draw actual blood. Great job!

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  6. Eeek! But that ending made me laugh. This was a great practical joke for Halloween, and expected really. Too bad she had bad memories to make it real. Loved the voice in this too. It is well paced, and completely engaging. WEll done!

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    1. Thanks! It's cheating a bit, because the characters already exist in 3 novels, so I know them pretty well :)

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  7. "Finding volunteers was almost more painful than finding bodies..."

    Isn't that the truth!

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    1. Well, I have a lot of experience with the PTA, which is sort of why I started the series. In the first book I kill off the most obnoxious "volunteer"(not a spoiler since it happens right off). That was SO refreshing! :D

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    2. Joey, I couldn't comment on your blog, but you had a lovely humorous twist at the end of your story! And what WAS that bulldozer up to??

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  8. Oh man, I would have been scared out of my mind, especially if that had really happened to me beforehand. If that doesn't justify a bucket load of wine and chocolate, I don't know what does.

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    1. I have little doubt that JJ will get the chocolate. Her weakness is espresso brownies. She's not so big on wine, but might make an exception for this one.

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  9. It is true that finding volunteers is almost more painful than finding bodies. And I love the ending! I could see something like that happening on Halloween. If I were her, I would never volunteer for a school dance again. It wouldn't matter how much someone begged.

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  10. What a great twist right at the end. I wasn't expecting that, but it was lovely to end on a humorous note. A great Halloween story.

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  11. A corpse a joke
    A kiss of delight
    I say she had
    a very good night

    ***

    you might like to read
    my reply to you in my blog

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    1. Love your poetic responses. Yes, I see what happened when you cut your story. Hate it when that happens!

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    2. Yet if I was more careful about my writing that wouldn't happen.
      I shouldn't get so wrapped up in the story I can't tell my fingers when to quit.

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    3. Oh, let the fingers run. To me, it's all about the editing.

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  12. Phew! What a relief at the end!
    Great take on the prompt!

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    1. JJ has had enough corpses. But I'm busily plotting the next one...

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  13. Hi Rebecca - what a great ending ... and I certainly didn't see it coming - clever ... oh dear - I'm glad it wasn't real. Next year it won't happen ... cheers Hilary

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    1. I don't think anyone is every getting her behind that gym again! Well, maybe Ron :D

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  14. Thoroughly enjoyed that. Hahahahahahaha.
    What a lovely twist and ray of light to the 'horror' that is Halloween.

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  15. I liked the humour in this story, but I don't have a Halloween sense of humour either. Pranks - no thanks. It's nice to read a lighter type of story. This story did bring back memories of decorating the gym for dances, though.

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    1. Happily, I never had to decorate for--or chaperone--a high school dance. I hated them when I was in high school, which might be where JJ gets her attitude :)

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  16. I loved this lighthearted, humorous take on the prompt. Neat storytelling. Thoroughly enjoyed the read! :) Well done.

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  17. Very amusing! such fun! Great, unexpected twist ending!

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  18. A humorous and unexpected take on theme. Well done, Rebecca.

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  19. Whoa. That was fun. I really liked that story; the end was perfect.

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    1. Aww! Glad you liked it; that is praise, coming from you!

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  20. Oh thank goodness for a positive ending. I loved the way that story unfolded, and there were some excellent turns of phrase there.

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    1. I hear you about the positive ending! I have been having to read this month's stories in modest doses, because I can only stand so many horrors. I'm not the only one to put a humorous twist on, but we are definitely in the minority.

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  21. haha that was a fun ending. Sure got her good. Last dance she'll get sucked into maybe .

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it! Might be her last dance... bet her son won't want her at the prom!

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  22. Oh that was fun to read - love the ending, really wasn't expecting that.

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  23. Really good twist at the end. This was sounding like it could be a librarian murder mystery series with all the dead bodies showing up. Funny ending and I bet the folks on Pismawallops talked about it for years.

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    1. PTA murder series instead, though it's starting to merge with my library leanings.

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  24. You must have a cruel sense of humour, Rebecca - great twist on the Deja Vu theme. What's in your yard? Now how do they get her to volunteer next year?

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    1. JJ's stuck volunteering. It's what happens when you run the PTA. No getting out of it.

      And don't all authors have a streak of cruelty? The things we put our poor characters through!

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  25. This was scary and fun all at the same time. Thanks for the Deja Vu enjoyment.

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  26. What an unexpected twist! That was a really fun read.

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  27. Good story, good characters, fun ending! I enjoyed the way you wove the flashback into this story. Very nice work. This is my kind of mystery story.

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  28. Neat story. Is the MC bi or just going with a friend? Hard to tell.

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    1. ? You lost me here. Is this comment meant for some other story? Because JJ is boringly hetero and I don't think there's any suggestion of anything else.

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