My Plan

From time to time, I post short stories that I have written. Helpful comments about what I've written or suggestions for future stories are most welcome. I also have another blog of stories from my family history

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

A Tragic Accident?

It's been a while since I've written anything for Flash Fiction Friday, so here is my latest attempt.  It's a little dark... Hopefully I've met the criteria of the prompt (My story is exactly 1500 word, inlcuding the title).

Prompt: You know something, but you do nothing…ever, no matter what happens
Length: Let’s do it between 500 and 1500 words
Style: Noir, psychological thriller, or horror

An a link -


A Tragic Accident?

‘It was such a tragic accident.’ said Mary, as she poured a cup of tea for Jen.  ‘And you saw it all from the passenger seat.  It must have been awful for you.’
It was murder, thought Jen. ‘The rain was so heavy, I didn’t really see anything.  It was so fast.’ The flashbacks were so slow and clear, though.

‘Perhaps that’s for the best.  What did they charge him with, in the end?’
Cold blooded murder, thought Jen ‘I think negligent driving, or something.’

‘I suppose the death of his best friend is punishment enough.’
Worst enemies in the end, thought Jen, saying ‘Yes, Bill and Scotty were so close, like brothers.’  Cain and Abel?

‘Well, you know I’m here for you if you need someone to talk to.’ said Mary, patting Jen on the shoulder.  Jen tried not to flinch.
‘Thanks.’  Jen would never talk about what happened to anyone, not even Bill.

The two men had been lifelong best friends until that final night, when they’d fallen out over something so stupid.  Jen was with Bill and Scotty in the pub and they had just finished their first pint.
‘Cor, she’s fit.’ said Bill, hitting Scotty on the shoulder with the back of his hand to get his friend’s attention.

‘What?’ Scotty looked up just in time to catch the woman’s eye.
‘Nice!’ he nodded and smiled at her. 

The woman half smiled in return and turned away.  Scotty stood up, needing no more encouragement.
‘I’ll get the next round.’ he said, heading for the bar.

‘I saw her first.’ Bill grumbled to Jen.
Jen didn’t know how to respond.  She and Bill were not a couple but Jen was hoping that one day they would be and she felt jealous of any other women in Bill’s life.  However, she loved him so much that she felt sorry for him when he’d failed with another woman.  Jen hated herself for this and knew Mary would tell her she was crazy.

‘Well, go and get her.  Scotty hasn’t made a move yet.’ Jen said with enough spite in her voice that Bill noticed; jealousy wining over sympathy.
‘What’s up with you?’ he asked, momentarily distracted from the unknown woman.

‘I’m just tired.’ Jen lied.  How could she tell him the truth?
Rather than responding to Jen, Bill looked back at the woman at the bar.  Jen followed his glance and then sighed, sat back and looked at her empty glass in silence.

‘Damn, she’s taken.’ Bill said a few moments later, his sharp tone revealing that he was genuinely disappointed.
Jen looked up to see the woman being greeted affectionately by a man in an overcoat.  Jen felt like a load had been lifted from her shoulders and a smile briefly flickered across her face. 

Scotty soon returned to the table.
 ‘Wedding ring.’ he said to Bill with a philosophical shrug, explaining why he failed to talk to the woman.

‘I saw her first.  She was mine.’ Bill snapped at Scotty, before standing up and walking out.
‘What’s up with him? He’s so moody lately.’ said Scotty.  Without waiting for Jen to respond he added.  ‘Never known him to give up a pint before; oh well, I guess I’ll just have to drink it.’

Jen thought that everything would be back to normal the next day.  Bill rang her around lunch time to see if she wanted a lift home from work.  He said he would be in the area later and it was going to rain.  Pleased by this unexpected offer, Jen accepted, thinking how sweet Bill was.  She remembered that Scotty worked nearby and Bill would often give him a lift, so maybe it would be the three of them together again.
Bill was waiting by the door when she finished work.  There was no sign of Scotty.

‘Hi, Jen.’ Bill gave her a hug that seemed to last a little longer than normal.
‘Hi, Bill.’ Jen gave him a loving smile, she couldn’t help herself.

Bill smiled back and then took her elbow and led her to the car, holding a large umbrella over them.  He opened the door and made sure Jen was able to get into the car without getting too wet.  He then went round to the driver’s side and got in.  After putting the umbrella on the floor behind the seat, Bill put his hand on her shoulder for several long seconds and smiled at Jen.   She didn’t know what to make of his behaviour; while Jen had always wanted more attention from him, it was a shock to finally have him give it.  Not sure how to react, Jen wondered if Bill had guessed how she felt about him and waited for him to speak first, but his attention was on the road.  As the silence lengthened, Jen felt a sudden urge to break it.
‘So, are you and Scotty Okay?  Have you talked to him today?’ she asked.

‘He’s a thief!’ snapped Bill, surprising Jen with his sudden anger. 
‘Bill, you’re not still upset about last night are you?’

‘No.’ said Bill in a tone that sounded like a ‘Yes’ to Jen.
Jen wondered if something else had happened between the two men.  To her, Bill seemed unreasonably angry over the unknown woman from the pub but she didn’t want to upset him by digging any further.   Jen decided to let the silence return and looked out the window.  The rain was getting quite heavy and visibility was deteriorating.   Fortunately, on this stretch of road, there wasn’t too much traffic. Jen saw one man in the distance walking along the foot path towards them.  He was carrying a yellow umbrella and wearing a dark overcoat.  He looked familiar.

‘Look, its Scotty.  We should stop and give him a lift.’ said Jen.
‘What?’ said Bill, looking in the direction that Jen indicated.

Bill checked his mirrors and looked around out of all of the windows.  Next, he beeped the horn to get Scotty’s attention, before giving Jen a strange smile that sent a shiver down her spine.  Then it happened, so fast in reality and so slowly in Jen’s memory.  Scotty saw them and waved, stepping over to the gutter.  Bill slowed down and turned the car towards Scotty, as if to pull up right beside him.  Then, at the last minute, Bill sped up and swerved, hitting Scotty and running over him.  Jen screamed and stared out of the window in shock, unable to believe what had just happened.  Bill spoke and Jen realised that he was calling the police.  Then Bill got out of the car and bent down to look at something, before coming around and opening her door.
‘Get out of the car, Jen.’ He said.

‘It’s raining.’ Jen said, wondering how she could say something so normal.
‘No, it’s almost stopped,’

Bill reached over, undid her seat belt and carefully lifted her to her feet.  The part of Jen’s mind that was still functioning realised that he had her in his arms, just where she’d always wanted to be.  Then, Bill kissed her.  It was a proper kiss, long and hard.  For a moment, Jen forgot about Scotty.  Then the kiss stopped.
‘There was a dog.  I swerved to avoid it.  I didn’t see Scotty.’ Bill looked into Jen’s eyes sternly, looking for agreement.

‘There was a dog.’ Jen replied, thinking that Scotty would know that there wasn’t a dog. Her next thought hit her like a brick; Bill had checked and must know that Scotty couldn’t contradict them.  Scotty must be dead.
Bill kissed her again, before returning to the front of the car and sitting on the gutter, his head in his hands, acting distraught.  A stunned Jen sat back down in the car and waited for the police to arrive.  It crossed her mind that Bill might not have acted on the spur of the moment, but had planned the whole thing.  She quickly suppressed the thought.

Within a few months, Jen realised that Bill had known how she felt about him all along and had used her.  She hated him for that and yet she was still in love with him.  They were a couple now.  She had dreamt of what it would be like for so long, imagined how happy she would be.  Instead, she was in a living hell, living with a man who she both loved and hated, and who she was too scared to leave because of what he was.
The evening Jen arrived home from visiting Mary, Bill was at home.

‘Is Mary still asking about the accident? Does she want you to talk about it?’ he asked.
What accident? ‘Yeah, she just making sure I’m okay, don’t worry about her.’

‘I don’t know. She asks too many questions.’ Bill paused, ‘Does she still have those dogs that she has to walk every night.’
‘Yes, they’re a handful.’

‘Hmm… fancy going for drive?’


  1. Well done! Very chilling. I particularly liked Jen's inner dialog.

  2. Really enjoyed this - I didn't see Bill's action coming, nice surpirse! Well, not so nice for Scotty...

  3. You have a great narrative voice in this story, Susan... it makes for a very compelling read.

    Dark and chilling... I love the irony you create in Jen's changing feelings for Bill... she's living her own little psychological thriller... not quite the love story she'd hoped.

    That last line sent shivers down my spine. A very nicely crafted tale, indeed. Thank you!

  4. When they were much harder to come by than nowadays
    (cassette tapes and only randomly available at certain bookstores) my brother and I would (this was…middle school age, for me) listen to old episodes of the radio show Suspense. Which were always at least good, often were brilliant. Those stories had a tone that I always hope to find in short fiction—they do what they do, with gravity, with clarity, understanding the often simple nature of
    the story, told within the confined expanse of time limit, is exactly what makes them powerful.

    This piece is like that.

    Do we know the story? Sure. Do we know the outcome? Sure.

    Is every word, nonetheless, suspenseful, hopeless, tense to endure? Absolutely, fucking absolutely.

    It’s what Highsmith would do in her writing, long and short, as well. There needs to be no cleverness is set up, but banality and an ordinary person, in that banality,
    discovering, as one person said of Highsmith’s work “…that murder is made to occur with the ordinariness of a bout of food poisoning”. This is what is chilling and what is
    accomplished so well here. It just seems real and in that reality the isolation, the inevitability, the queasiness is

    On a side note, I will say that normally I’d not want the last bit (the “does she still walk those dogs” etc.)—treads too close to a punch-line ending—but in this case I actually prefer it. It’s timed so well off of the main character limply explaining her reasoning for staying with Bill—which is what’s on all of our minds as readers and just the statement she makes doesn’t quite sell it—that
    it doesn’t come off as a literal “he’s actually going to kill Mary” moment, but a moment that seems to be one of many subtle, controlling, horrific asides he makes to consistently assert his control over her. A “just in case you’re ever thinking of talking, don’t” sort of thing that drives home that she really IS under threat.

    And a last aside, I even dig the double play of the
    simple title—A Tragic Accident—the accident of falling in love with the wrong man, as much as the non-accident of the murder. Might not be intentional, but it seems to go with the double-ness of the rest of the piece.