I can't believe I made the top 5 in my group of 30 international writers for the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction writing contest!
This Friday, I'll be going on to the third round with the remaining 240 contestants--down from 1,440! We'll have 48 hours to come up with a 1,000-word maximum story based on whatever premise we're given.
My Round 2 story (pasted below) came in 1st place for my group! The story had to be a comedy that takes place at a nature preserve, and it had to make reference to iced coffee.
Okay, so I lied a little to get the job that broke not only my left arm, my front tooth, and my alter ego, but even worse, it almost broke my tough-as-nails heart. I also lied about my name because it's hideous. But I needed the money and I wanted a shot at the finest figure of a man I'd seen in all twenty-two years of my Southern Californian life.
I met him in the financial aid line at San Bernardino Community College. He stood there. In front of me. With his squared shoulders. I saw his chiseled face and knew he needed to meet me. So I asked him a dumb question.
"Are you a park ranger?"
He answered with a real-man voice and raised eyebrow, "No."
I waited for clarification but only got a subtle shrug, which I interpreted as an invitation to dig a little deeper.
"So what do you do then?"
He completely faced me and said, "Big Bear Nature Preserve Steward."
"Oh!" I fumbled my only chance to prove I was not some ditz-brain So Cal girl. "So you're like in charge of wild animals and stuff?"
"No." He stepped away from me, but only because the line was actually moving. "I count and track wounded animals."
"Oh cool!" I regretted my word choice as soon as I said it. "I work with wounded animals too."
He nodded, which I knew meant he wanted more info.
"I'm a receptionist at an animal hospital...I weigh them and take stool samples...from the animals...of course." My chuckle came out more like a snorting moose, but I got his attention enough to actually look at me for a nanosecond, which was just long enough for him to hopefully admire my newly colored hair--soft ginger to chestnut ombre, which cost me a whopping $240--which is why I'm back in the financial aid line, trying to peddle myself some extra cash to make it through my last semester before I transfer to U. C. Somewhere.
He coughed under his breath, so I went for the jugular.
"So how can I get a job there?"
He pointed to the clerk in front of us and mumbled seductively, "It's a work-study job. Talk to her."
"Awesome!" I beamed. "Thanks!"
And that was the end of our first interlude. After I deceptively convinced the work-study clerk that I was qualified to track and count wild wounded animals, I went to the Big Bear headquarters and filled out papers and got my official Nature Preserve uniform--a tan short sleeved shirt and matching pants. I had to buy my own boots and belt then I was set to start the following Saturday.
That morning, I stepped into Valley Royale Nail Salon, and the lady who always does my nails waved me over to pick my color. Strawberry Soufflé was too girly. Hot Kiss, too seductive. Aqualicious, too juvenile. So I went for a neutral tone and spotted one that matched my uniform perfectly.
Iced Coffee. Bingo.
With my fresh new nails, I managed to follow my GPS guy until he glitched on me halfway up the mountain. Guaranteed lateness. Story of my life. When I finally pulled into the parking lot, I felt a twinge of nervousness that climbed out of my stomach when I saw Mr. Hotness. I don't think he noticed me though with my hair in a sporty ponytail. I slammed my car door, hoping he'd look. He didn't.
Inside the office, a motley display of murdered animals mounted on the wall startled me. It really is a preserve, I guess. A woman with way too much botox, silicone, and spray tanner called me over.
"You must be our new girl...um...how do you say your name?"
"Yes. Hi. Just call me Elle."
She stapled a packet of papers together and handed it to me as she sized me up...and down. "You can have a seat while you read over your materials, and I'll send Clark to meet you in fifteen minutes."
I sat down on a larger-than-life log chair and tried to ignore the enormous moose head looming above me as I scanned the information.
Clark, I repeated in my head. That must be him for sure, but when the door swung open, it was definitely not him.
"Hello...I'm Clark." The squatty man reached out to shake my hand. "I'll be your trainer today." His hand was warm, but clammy.
"Okay," I said with fake optimism, lead the way."
We headed out, passed some deer and a caged wolf, but before I could say the word Help, I caught my boot under a root and went flying. In mid-air, I had a fleeting thought about my nails getting ruined, but upon a hard landing, I felt two cracks. My arm then my tooth. Two faces stared down at me. Clark and the hotty, both making a huge fuss over me as I blinked away some gravel.
"Hey," Mr. Hotty said, holding a baby peacock, "you're the girl I met the other--"
"I wish I wasn't." I sat up, spit out a piece of tooth, and tried to straighten my hair, but my arm wouldn't work.
He took my other hand to help me up and said, "Nice nails."
I forced a chipped-tooth smile.
"My fiancé would love that color."