So, a couple of months ago I entered a short story I wrote into a flash fiction contest. And, guess what?
I didn’t win.
These things happen. I’m over it. Kinda.
Anyway, I thought I’d post the story here for you fine folks to read. If you like it, then I consider myself a winner.
All together now: “Awwwww!“
It’s well past midnight when I kill the headlights and turn the van down Cooper Road. Any streetlights still standing have been shot out long ago and the dusty windows of the ramshackle houses are black.
In the passenger seat Charlie points ahead. “Up here, Lucy. On the right.”
I park a few yards from the next corner and cut the engine. Charlie turns in his seat to see Rick and Turbo kneeling on the floor of the van next to the crates. They already have on their gloves and armored leather motorcycle jackets. Like true professionals, their faces reveal nothing, but I’ve run with these guys long enough to know they’re itching to get to work.
Charlie motions out the window. “There’s the path next to the fence. When it ends, the garage will be on the left. The goods are inside.”
The guys nod and Charlie turns his attention to me. “You clear on the escape route?”
I give him a smirk. “You even have to ask?”
Charlie smiles and motions to Rick, who opens the side door of the van and jumps out. Charlie leads the way with the flashlight while Rick and Turbo follow with the crates. I lose sight of them after they make it a few yards up the weed-choked path. I try to keep my breathing slow as I listen and keep an eye out for anyone who might cause trouble.
Less than five minutes pass when high-pitched yips and low barks break the uneasy silence of the night. Sounds like more dogs than we’ve ever come across before. The guys have mace, but hopefully it won’t get that messy. I start up the van and keep my eyes trained on the path.
Rick is the first one back. He lumbers out onto the sidewalk, struggling to keep hold of a crate. I catch a glimpse of two sets of eyes peeking out through the door of the crate just before he slides it into the van and crawls in after. His scruffy, weathered face sports the biggest grin I think I’ve ever seen. He almost looks like a kid.
“Hot damn, Lucy!” he says, clapping his hands. “We got ‘em all!”
I don’t have time to answer cause Charlie and Turbo are already here, loading in the other crate. Two black noses poke through the wire bars of the crate door. Turbo slides the van door closed behind him and Charlie hops into the passenger seat. I put the van in gear and pull away from the curb.
The guys are whooping it up, giving each other high fives, and I hear panting and low whines from the dogs. I concentrate on my route and keep my eyes on the road. I’m careful not to speed, but I don’t take my time either. Two lefts then a right on Mason Drive and I can already see the sign for the highway.
A hand is on my shoulder and I turn to see Charlie smiling at me. “Calm down, Luce,” he tells me. “There wasn’t anyone at the house. No one’s following.”
I ease up on the gas and notice Charlie’s right arm is wrapped around his middle and there’s movement under his jacket. Seeing the question on my face, he dips his left hand into his jacket and pulls out a squirming black and white ball. He places the puppy in my lap and I instinctively cradle the helpless creature while also trying to keep the van on the road. Charlie digs out a second pup and holds him up for me to see.
“Four dogs,” Charlie says. “And these two pups. They hadn’t been fighting long, so I don’t think we’ll have problems socializing them. Should be able to find all of them great homes. Not bad for a night’s work, huh?”
I steer the van back to the warehouse and smile as the puppy nurses on my finger.