affectandeffect.com/tales | and accounts

one-hundred-sixty-one-word story

Bethany’s eyes lit up and her mouth gaped as she squealed her amusement. It was but a quiet peep in that moment, but in her head it made the whole scene that much more hilarious. She slapped both hands up to her face, burying her grin, but her laughter was unmistakeable. Through spread fingers, her eyes beamed her delight.

It was more attention than Bethany was comfortable with, especially at an event well above her grade. She retreated to the fruit platter and the chocolate fountain, and later to small conversations in corners here and there. Still, the effect of Bethany’s expressive reaction continued rippling through the social fabric of the banquet hall. Even though the general prattle had predictably returned to film fests and acquisitions and travel and politics, everyone was chortling more convincingly and smiling a little longer.

“You were right,” said Carter.

“Our budding socialite daughter is a hit,” Anya replied proudly. “Aren’t you glad the babysitter canceled?”

one-hundred-sixty-word story

“I could tell you,” Oliver said with a shrug. “But I’d have to kill you.”

Casey burst out laughing.

“What a cliche, Ollie! You always were a joker. Who says that? You gotta be able to tell me something! Just fudge the details, or mix the stories up a bit.”

Oliver hesitated. He seemed to grin a little as he opened his mouth, as if to speak. Casey edged closer and raised his eyebrows expectantly. After another silent moment, Oliver concealed his ambiguous expression as he raised his glass and polished off his drink.

“Why do you want to know?”, Oliver asked.

“Why? You’re some kind of super spy or assassin or something–”

“Or something.”

Casey filled Oliver’s glass. “How many more drinks do I need to feed you?”

“You’ll need stronger stuff.”

Casey’s imagination buzzed.

“You can’t say anything?”

“I could, but–”

“But you’d have to kill me.”

Oliver nodded.

Casey sighed.

“Would you have to kill me today?”

one-hundred-fifty-nine-word story

Herman looked at the many people queued in front of him with their boarding passes and passports in hand. He inhaled deeply and closed his eyes.

“The line’s moving,” Vic said, nudging Herman with his laptop bag.

Herman nodded and quickly closed the gap.

“First time flying?”, Vic asked.

Herman nodded again stiffly and turned around.

“Better hope we don’t crash, hey!”, Vic chuckled with a mischievous grin.

Norah drove her elbow sharply into Vic’s ribs, knocking him to the side.

“Please excuse my husband for being an ass,” she apologized.

Vic rubbed his side, grinning as he whimpered.

“Quit being an ass!”, she snapped.

“It’s okay, ma’am,” Herman stammered quietly. “He’s right. It’d be a shame if we crashed.”

Norah maintained her husband’s silence with a stern look.

“Well, talk like that doesn’t help anyone. Just relax, you’ll be fine.”

Herman nodded and pulled his carry-on baggage along. The ticking inside was too quiet for anyone to hear.

one-hundred-fifty-eight-word story

“Brrlaaaagh!”

The noise roused Mindy from her sleep into a half-waking state. She had been dreaming of lush green fields and ponies. She wanted to be carried back to the pastures, but the intermittent tapping of keys in the next room had started to occupy her conscious mind.

“Rrrolghugh… Brrraaaah!”

She forced her left eye open but squeezed it shut almost immediately. The light slipping through the door crack was brighter than she could tolerate, and now she was certainly awake. She was sure she had been dreaming about something pleasant just moments ago.

Mindy pushed the door open and staggered a few steps into the room.

“You’re not making any sense,” she murmured. “Go to sleep.”

Alvin stopped typing and tried to focus on what she said. Mindy had already stumbled her way back to green pastures when he nodded in agreement, finally making his way to bed.

“Aaarrrgh!”, the zombie shrieked again from outside the house.

one-hundred-fifty-seven-word story

The buzz of the industrial lights overhead filled the otherwise nearly empty warehouse. Francisco approached a large wooden crate set off to one side. It had already been pried open and emptied.

Francisco wasn’t sure why he had come. He rarely met with his clients. And when he did, he always met on his terms. This was a new client, and it wasn’t even going to be a big contract. He should have declined.

As the lights grew brighter and the intermittent flickering began to pass, Francisco remembered how much he hated the sickly colour fluorescent lights gave his tanned skin. A cockroach scurried from underneath the crate into the light. Francisco watched it run a few metres before he got annoyed and crushed it under his boot.

Francisco checked his watch. The client would be there in eight minutes. He could still back out.

Made it this far, might as well see it through, he reasoned.

one-hundred-fifty-six-word story

“We need to talk about these,” Janice said, clutching a stack of notice letters.

Emil’s face went sour and he snorted, muttering something before turning away. He searched around the sofa cushions for the remote control.

“Turn off the TV, will ya?”, he barked as he ran his hand underneath the sofa.

“It is off. Listen, stop avoiding–”

“Or the radio. Whatever. There’s something buzzing.”

Emil rocked forward, up, and off the couch. He stretched his left ear forward and shuffled around the room awkwardly.

“Emil!”, she shrieked, flailing the letters to get his attention. “We have to meet with the bank or we’ll lose the house!”

“Shh! I have to shut off that buzzing! I can’t… think…”

Janice marched up to Emil and stared him directly in the face. She got ready to burst out, but the look of his eyes replaced her frustration with fear. And sorrow.

“I can’t do anything with that noise…

one-hundred-fifty-five-word story

Joselyn made her way into the house and could already feel her heart rate accelerating. She simply wasn’t prepared to deal with her rambunctious children. As she approached the mischievous giggling, she psyched herself for the scolding she’d have to give her kids for whatever trouble they’d been up to.

Genevieve, her six-year-old, intercepted her in the hallway, with ten-year-old Conrad not far behind.

“Mommy, we made a robot for you!”, they shouted together.

There was a mess of plastic and metal and wires strewn about, as if all the house’s electronic gadgets had committed hari-kiri on the kitchen floor. And in the middle stood her children’s creation. With arms akimbo, Joselyn leaned towards them and shook her head.

“Kids,” she began, “did you take the pneumatic stabilizers from Mommy’s workshop without asking?”

“We’re sorry,” confessed Genevieve.

“It’s okay, but your robot better be able to clean up this mess.”

“Directive acknowledged,” the robot replied.

one-hundred-fifty-four-word story

“Gah! I have to stop reading this trash.”

Adrian struggled with the newspaper, trying to get all the pages and creases aligned so that he could fold it properly. He gave up in a huff, leaving a crumpled mess on the counter.

“What’s gotten you so agitated?”, Lauren asked.

“What?”, he snapped. “I’m not agitated.”

He crossed his arms and furrowed his brow. Lauren’s eyes twinkled as she concealed a grin. He uncrossed his arms, positioning one on the counter. She couldn’t help but giggle as he rapped his fingers.

“What is it?”

She leaned her head towards the newspaper, and then looked back up at him.

“It’s trash,” he grumbled. “We’re wasting our money on something devoid of journalistic talent.”

She picked up the phone.

“I’ll call to–”

She chuckled at his interruption and continued dialing as he ranted.

“Hi, I’m calling to cancel our subscription. Also, my husband would like a job.”

one-hundred-fifty-three-word story

It was 10:48 pm, after 17 hours of driving, when Hugo arrived at the hotel. He rubbed his face as he surveyed what would be his home for the next month, before finally letting out a tired sigh. The whole town seemed generic, and not at all as his travel agent had described.

Hugo dragged his two suitcases up to the front desk. Maybe he’d eventually be able to write without relying on his three favourite typewriters, but today wasn’t that day.

He rang the desk bell. Hugo fidgeted as he waited and checked his cell phone for messages. No signal. Worse still, no one had come to the desk.

He slapped the bell a couple of times.

There was a key on the desk. Room 823.

And a mug of coffee. Full. And cold.

Hugo looked around cautiously, but grinned. Maybe this would be the perfect place to finish his mystery novel.

one-hundred-fifty-two-word story

“Still working on the paper?”, Sheila asked.
Greg nodded as he typed. Sheila shrugged and started putting on her shoes.
“I’m going out for a walk,” she said as she opened the door. “I need some air. Be back in an hour.”
Sheila closed the door and skipped down to the sidewalk. She looked up and down the street, contemplating which direction she should go.

“Uh-huh,” Greg murmured about 20 seconds later.

Almost 30 minutes later, Sheila’s cell phone rang.

“Greg?”

“Mint chocolate chip,” he said.

She looked around.

“What are– How did you–”

“You walk east when you need air, west when you need to think. That means you’re right around the Baskin-Robbins, if not inside already.”

“Hey, aren’t you supposed to be working?”

“Couldn’t. I was thinking about ice cream.”

“But, but–”

“Gotta run. Thanks!”

Click.

“Make that two,” she grumbled “And lots of napkins. I hate melted ice cream.”

 

Essentials