I was surprised when the results for the second challenge of the NYCMidnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2021 came out last night. I wasn’t expecting them for a least another month, especially with National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) starting on Monday.
I was even more surprised to learn that I will be advancing to the next round. Yay me! As you may or may not remember, for this challenge, everyone is guaranteed at least two rounds and you are awarded points for each round. Your total points after the two rounds determines if you advance or not. There’s approximately 35 writers in each heat (thousands of entrants overall) and only the Top Five in each heat will advance. I earned 14 points (2nd place) in the first challenge and 10 points (6th place) in the second challenge, so I will be participating in the next round. This is the first time I’ve ever advanced to this point, so I am super excited!
BRAND NEW INFORMATION THAT I JUST FOUND OUT: Only 15% of participants (of 4,022) move on to semi-finals. That’s me, y’all!
This next round will take place this weekend (prompts given at 9pm PT tomorrow and story due by 9pm PT on Sunday) and then I’ll be jumping straight into NaNoWriMo on Monday.
But those are problems for Future Allison. For now, let us look at the story that got me to this point.
NYCMidnight gives random prompts that your story must fit into. For this challenger, my prompts were: Spy Genre/Boxing Gym/Jelly Doughnut. All in 1,000 words with 48 hours to write it.
I’ll be honest, Spy Genre is not my favorite. We’ve been watching The Americans lately and I credit that with getting me through this. Still, I’m please with how it turned out. And here is what the judges had to say:
“The storyline is convincing, and the storytelling leverages engagement.”
“I like the eerie simplicity of the task they have for Brad–and of course the fascinating twist at the end. Great job!”
“I liked the setting of the cold war and the idea of the drop happening at a big boxing match, it gives the moment significant gravitas.”
So, here it is, in all its Jelly Doughnut glory.
Gloria was good at biding her time and had attracted no notice from the shoppers at Tisdale Mall. She wasn’t there for them; it was the large unit at the end, with the sign reading ‘Dizzy’s Boxing,’ that held her attention.
At two o’clock exactly, she stepped out of the car. She strode purposely toward the building, gym bag swinging by her side, keeping her eyes trained for anything unusual.
Outside the gym, near a poster screaming ‘THE EXHIBITION FIGHT TO END THE COLD WAR,’ a man fell into step with her, neither acknowledging the other.
Inside Dizzy’s, fetid air wrapped them in the scents of sweat and the underlying tang of blood. The space was dominated by a large boxing ring and haphazardly set-up folding chairs.
A middle-aged man looked up from his clipboard. “I’m sorry. We’re closed right now.” He spread his hands in apology. “But we’re having a big fight tomorrow night. Tickets are just five dollars at the door. And we’ll be open as usual on Monday.”
Gloria let her shoulders sag, turning to the man next to her. “Oh, Michael. You said I could learn to box.” She pouted, tossing her hair in frustration. She enjoyed her job.
Michael planted a kiss on her cheek before walking over to the door, turning the sign to ‘closed.’ “Don’t worry, honey. You’ll learn to box if I have anything to say about it.” His American accent was flawless; no one would ever guess he was born in East Berlin.
“For sure, we offer classes to everyone, even ladies, but like I said, we’re closed….” He stepped towards her, leering. “I’d be happy to personally oversee your lessons on Monday.”
She sighed. “Monday doesn’t work for us.” She swung her fist, catching him in a swift upper cut, dropping him to the floor. “And I already know how to box.”
He came around quickly, eyes rolling in their sockets as he struggled against the handcuffs, screams muted by a gag. Gloria sat across from him, waiting, while Michael stood in the corner looking like a heavy from a gangster movie.
She began to speak, reaching for the folder on the desk between them. “Are you ready to listen now, Brad?” The man’s eyes widened and he started fighting against the gag again.
Michael reached over, smacking him on the back of the head. “Pay attention.”
“Surprised we know your name, Brad?” She put a small stack of photographs facing him. He looked at the first one and moaned, sweat beading on his forehead. “Not only do we know your name, but we know your wife’s name. And this….” Gloria tapped the picture. “This is not Holly, is it?”
Brad shook his head, his whole body going limp in defeat.
“Holly would probably be upset to see these pictures, wouldn’t she? She’d leave you? No more contact with your daughter except the check you’d have to send every month? No one wants that, Brad. Not you. Not me. Not Michael. Certainly not Holly and little Heather. We just want to do our jobs. Isn’t that what you want, Brad? To forget that this unpleasantness ever happened?”
Brad nodded hysterically, his eyes wide, practically bouncing in his chair.
“Okay, so this is what’s going to happen. You’re going to do a job for us.” Gloria reached into her gym bag and set a few items out on the desk. A pile of gym clothes. Two paper bags, one white, one pink. And a gun.
At the sight of the gun, Brad started thrashing again.
“Calm down. If I wanted to shoot you, I’d have done it already. I need you to do something for me. We’re gonna take the gag out now, but if you start to scream again, I will use the gun. Understand?”
He nodded and Michael tugged the gag so it hung limply around his neck. Brad promptly vomited in his lap.
Gloria waited. Once he was finished, went on. “Tomorrow night, at your exhibition fight, there will be a man called Feliks Mech. This is not his real name. He’ll be one of the coaches with Ozerov. You must give him these.” She slid the white bag across the desk. “You will say: ‘Excuse me, I think you dropped these.’ That’s all. Do not tell anyone about it. We’ll know if you do not do as we ask. Then Holly will know. Or we will come back with the gun. Understand?”
He nodded, his eyes lingering on the white bag.
“Go ahead and look.” Gloria chuckled. “It doesn’t matter.” She emptied the bag and a set of keys with a plain leather fob, tumbled to the table. “See? Nothing sinister. Just a set of keys. But important enough that we cannot leave this to chance. We’re depending on you, Brad. So are Holly and Heather.”
She motioned to the gym clothes. “You’ll want to change before you go home. You smell.”
Brad finally found his voice. “Who are you people?”
“No one you need to worry about, as long as you do this one thing. It’s such a little thing, isn’t it, Brad?”
Brad stared at the keys for a long moment and nodded.
Standing in the late afternoon sunshine, Gloria could feel Brad watching through the window.
“Think he’ll be okay?” Michael gazed across the parking lot.
“I’ll be here to make sure he is.” Gloria looked the other way, down the sidewalk. “Oh, I almost forgot. I picked these up for you earlier.” She handed him the pink paper bag, marked ‘Lizbet’s Bakery.’ “I know how much you like them.”
“Breaking news from KMAS…. A man’s body was found in the parking lot of Tisdale Mall today. The coroner estimates his time of death at approximately 4pm. The car he was in had been reported stolen and he carried no identification. Preliminary tests show that he was poisoned. A bag of jelly donuts from a local bakery was in his lap…”