My Flash Entry in the Maine Crime Wave Contest

John Clark, nursing a fractured elbow from a Saturday afternoon project that went awry, more about that in a later post. My entry in this years Maine Crime Wave challenge was among the ten best, per the email I received, so I wanted to share it here.

I saw her drop what looked like a hundred dollar bill as she climbed out of her car and rushed into the office building. Then the vehicle sped off, twirling the bill into the busy street.

I hesitated, should I run out and retrieve it, or keep on my daily walk? Curiosity won and I dashed out, bending over to grab it as a taxi whizzed by so close it nearly flattened me. The driver honked and waved. I waved back, using my whole hand.

It started drizzling, leaving me no time to examine my find. I looked up at the building. Twenty-one stories meant finding the bill’s owner would be like the proverbial needle in a haystack, especially since the Uber, or Lyft driver was long gone.

By the time I was back at my condo, the rain was pounding on the sidewalk and I was thankful I’d worn my waterproof topcoat. After starting a fresh pot of coffee and changing into dry pants, I took the bill out of my pocket, only to discover I’d retrieved a horse of another color. At first glance, it did look like a Benjamin, but upon closer examination, I realized it was a bill from a therapist for exactly one hundred bucks.

It wasn’t the person being billed that caught my eye, but the therapy agency and the service provided. I took a deep breath and poured a cup of coffee before thinking things through.

Grief Alleviation Associates was the agency doing the billing and it was for something they called sibling suicide and loss therapy. That was sad in and of itself, but the red PAST DUE stamped across the bottom made my gut wrench.

I thought back to my childhood sixty years before. I grew up dirt poor at a time when personal loss wasn’t talked about. When my mother died, it was one of the things that pulled me into a bottle, not letting me out until I stumbled, reeking of desperation, into my first AA meeting when I was thirty-five.

What had been the equivalent of a hundred bucks when I was a kid, five, ten? Who knew. We hardly ever saw anything bigger than a quarter. If my older brother and I hadn’t been good shots and unafraid of getting caught, the venison that kept us from starving would never have made the supper table.

I closed my eyes and meditated for a while, letting various messages and things said at meetings flow through my mind. One kept returning, something Albie J said at almost every meeting. “Don’t forget to do the next right thing.”

I went to my desk, grabbed a stamped envelope and my checkbook, then wrote out a check for the hundred with ‘next right thing’ on the memo line. After addressing it to the agency, I put the woman’s name and address at the top and sealed it. I’d sleep well tonight.

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6 Responses to My Flash Entry in the Maine Crime Wave Contest

  1. Vicki Erwin says:

    Love it!

  2. Brenda Buchanan says:

    Terrific story, John. Thanks for posting it!

  3. kaitcarson says:

    Wonderful story, John. Thank you for sharing.

  4. judy says:

    Great short story and the quote by Albie J. went into my quote journal attributed to you.

  5. Julianne Spreng says:

    I can see why it’s a Top 10! Should be top of the Top 10. If you haven’t already, you should release a collection of short stories. I’m a lover of shorts, and you are right up there with the recognized best of the best. Thank you for the post and the quote. I’m an avid practitioner of pay it forward.

    Just reread the story and this time it made me cry. Thank you so much…huge smile!

  6. L.C. Rooney says:

    Top-notch! Best of luck to you!

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