This week I found out one of my entries in the Princess Ronkonkoma Society of Arts and Poetry placed first in their inaugural short fiction contest. I was thrilled to hear that one of my stories won in its category, but I was surprised the other one didn't get consideration in its category. Then I was informed, you could only win once. I'm not sure which story I like better. It's a bit like a father trying to choose a favorite among his children. So I present them both for you to decide which one you like better. By all means, let me know.
Joke’s on You
Monte Dunlap was a toy maker. The third biggest next to Hasbro and Mattel. Monte made board games and gag-gifts, and a sizable fortune until the advent of video games. Once everyone became glued to their television screens, they found little time to play board games, and even less for novelty items and whoopee cushions. Before the revenue stream dried up, Monte had purchased several spectacular homes along the Pacific Coast Highway, and properties on Rodeo and Mullholland Drives. So, he was cash poor, but seemingly property rich. Until he died.
Monte was always a pleasant and easy-going soul. With a generosity and infinite good humor, he was universally loved by everyone who knew him. Except for his daughters. Monte had lavishly spoiled them. They viewed their opulent lifestyles with a sense of entitlement, rather than gratitude. They hadn’t spoken in years. After he became ill, they began a death-watch in anticipation of inheriting his wealth.
Their younger brother, Kendal was similarly indulged as a child. But, he was a free spirit who could not be spoiled. All Kendal wanted was to listen to smooth riffs, smoke reefer and surf. In his torn jeans, faded tee-shirts and flip-flops, Kendal got government approval to grow medicinal marijuana. He opened a weed dispensary that was now the largest in California. He had remained close to his father. All he wanted was to spend time with him, and enjoy the sense of peace his father afforded him. He was crushed when Monte became ill. Despite his obvious industriousness and business acumen, his sisters found him ridiculous. They began a campaign to cut the embarrassing Kendal out of the will. It appeared they had succeeded.
The attorney addressed the siblings. He got down to the nuts and bolts of dispensing the properties.
“To my daughters, Constance and Marjorie, I leave all of my homes and real property. To my son, Kendal, I leave my collection of toys, board games and novelty items.”
Constance and Marjorie high-fived in front of the attorney. Constance gloated to Kendal.
“He left you the toys because you’re a child, Kendal. How does it feel?”
“Pretty bad,” He admitted. “I miss my dad.”
At this point, the attorney had quite enough of the sisters’ naked greed.
“Before you ladies go spending money you don’t have, you should understand your father’s finances were in shambles for the last thirty years. Every property has been leveraged with several mortgages. They are all in foreclosure. Then there are the tax liens. They’re in the seven figures—each. So, what you actually inherited was massive debt. It will cost you thirty-million dollars to rescue your properties. Kendal, on the other hand has received your father’s priceless toy collection, debt free. Every toy, game or gag gift he ever manufactured, he kept a first edition, in its box, in the wrapper. The entire collection was appraised at Sothebys. It’s worth at least twenty-five million dollars. So, enjoy your inheritance, ladies. I’m sure you’ve earned it.”
The Drinks are Not Free
Rehnquist was drinking at the Brown Derby because it was a good place for a semi-washed up actor to get recognized. Rehnquist was not an actor. He was a vinyl upholstery salesman. But, for much of his adult life, he had been told he looked just like the heart-throb movie star, Rock Hunter. Rehnquist had been using this resemblance to score free drinks over the years. All it cost him was a few lies and some forged autographs.
Hunter had fallen on hard times recently. There were rumors of sexual indiscretions involving under-age girls, and old transvestites. He had been to rehab several times for alcohol and drug abuse. More troubling, there were whispers he had developed a gambling problem. He was reported to be in seven figures of debt to the Los Angeles syndicate. This was a group who would kill you for five figures. So, things were decidedly on the slide for Mr. Hunter. But his biggest obstacle to staying on the A-list was that he was aging badly. This worked well for Rehnquist. He was aging poorly as well.
When his friend Able spotted the two well-dressed men with dark features staring at them from the booth at the front of the bar, he was concerned.
“Relax,” Rehnquist told him. “They think I’m Hunter. In a minute, they’ll be over here buying us drinks and asking for my autograph. They’re just fans.”
“They don’t look like fans. They look like serious guys.”
“Nah,” Rehnquist said. “They’re just business guys out for a cocktail, and to do a little daytime star-gazing. When they come over here, smile. I’ll introduce you as my agent.”
When the two men got up from their booth, Able could see they were enormous. He made eye contact with one of them as they slowly walked over to the bar. The man had a dead-eyed stare and a face that communicated a malice that was pure, and yet somehow ambivalent. To Able, the look screamed danger! But, he had no time to alert Rehnquist.
The men approached Rehnquist at the bar. They stopped six feet away from him, and stood with their right hands in their coat pockets. Able noticed this and was increasingly discomfited. Apart from the fact that this was springtime in Southern California, no one wore top coats in Los Angeles. What Able was more concerned with was what those hidden right hands held. He didn’t think it was pens and autograph albums.
“Are you Rock Hunter, the movie star?” one of the men asked Rehnquist.
“Yes, I am,” Rehnquist said, beaming his practiced phony-baloney Hollywood smile.
Rehnquist’s head disintegrated and splattered across the mirror behind the bar. The two men put their sawed-off shotguns back beneath their coats. The din from the blasts was deafening. The men casually walked out of the bar, leaving Able with the counterfeit Rock Hunter’s skull, brains and blood smeared all over him.
The award presentation will be this Saturday, October 7th at 1:00 PM at the Emma S Clark Library in East Setauket. If you find yourself out East, pop in to hear some great short fiction as read by the authors.