Okay, here's my response to my own self-imposed Flash Fiction Challenge inspired by my current blog banner, an illustration by the great Mario Cooper. I hope you enjoy it. There might be a couple of other posts whose links I'll add below. If you've written something, please let me know and I'll add the link. Don't let's hide your light under a bushel.
In the meantime, you can luxuriate in mine. (Then link over to Dorian's and John's)
I really do enjoy writing this sort of thing. The result is for you to judge, but I definitely think I should do more of it. Why? Well, because it's fun.
Tales of the Easily Distracted: 'Life's A Beach' by Team Bartilucci
Pretty Sinister Books: 'The Terrible Thing at the Edge of the Lake' by John
A barrage of loud thuds shook the heavy wooden door.
‘Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, “ said Miss Pruett on the verge of tears.
“One more ‘oh dear’ and I will not be responsible for my actions,” said Joe Kirby, grunting as he quickly shoved the second lock into place, hoping the door would hold for awhile.
“No, no, dear me is as bad as ‘oh dear', Miss Pruett. May I suggest that you dispense with the ‘dears’ for the time being? It’s hot as hell in here and I’m damned if …”
“Mr. Kirby, please. My nerves are in a dither and I hardly know what I’m saying.”
Despite her protest, Selma Pruett couldn’t help but observe yet again, that her employer’s body-guard was very tall, very blond, very muscular and very tanned. What’s more, his moist body exuded a manly smell not unlike her favorite saddle. Not many men smelled this good while in an agitated sweat.
"Your language leaves much to be desired as well,” she added after a few seconds of primary confusion brought on by the combustible mix of male testosterone and female hormones. Inevitable, she supposed, given the intensity of their situation. They were under siege, surrounded by a dangerous enemy bent on tearing them limb from limb.
Kirby stepped back from the door. “I beg your pardon, did you actually say ‘dither’?”
“My goodness Mr. Kirby, one would think you had never heard the English language spoken aloud before.” The moisture lurking in her eyes evaporated. “At least I am not ‘helling’ and ‘damning’ all over the place.”
Of all the women in all the world he had to be trapped with a strait-laced librarian. Heaven help me, thought Kirby, trying to refrain from kicking at the door. He was in definite danger of being overcome by a fit of extreme pique.
Instead he made a curt bow. “Pardon me for losing control of my vocabulary, Miss Pruett. I don’t know what came over me. “
“Possibly fear of being mauled to death,” she said, trying to be helpful. Their current situation made impertinence almost mandatory.
“So you do have a sense of humor. Thank God. I’d hate to be caught on the brink of eternity with someone who had no sense of the rightness of things. “
The unnerving sounds of scratching, thudding and growling increased. A large enraged body began slamming against the other side of the door. "I’d hoped they’d forgive and forget, but it seems not yet,” said Kirby. “My apologies, Miss Pruett. It seems we’re in for it.”
“Oh dear….” she said, still slightly bemused by his appearance. Surely someone who looked so much like the heroes in her favorite books couldn’t help but actually be a hero. If only she could stop acting like the fluttering heroine. If only the cottage came equipped with a telephone. If only she’d hadn’t had the notion of heading out on the lake by herself. If only she’d turned down this job. If only the door would hold.
“I do wish you hadn’t broken the chair," she said.
He leaned against the door. “Yes, yes, I admit it all. I behaved like a berserker.”
"What on earth were you thinking Mr. Kirby?”
“Actually I don't think I was thinking at all, Miss Pruett. Maybe I was simply crazed with hunger."
She made no reply.
“Look I know this is all my fault,” he said defensively. "But you definitely shouldn’t be here. Not that I mind the company, of course.”
“Who are are you, Mr. Kirby? I mean, who are you - really?” she heard herself asking - a question that had plagued her since her arrival at the mainland country estate of her reclusive employer: an eccentric peer with a vast library which needed cataloguing. Was it only a week ago? At the moment, it seemed like ages. “Why a live-in body-guard? Lord Barrow rarely steps out in public."
“Rich men make enemies, Miss Pruett. But at this moment, it looks as if I’m the soon to be ex-body guard of a rich man with a low tolerance for practical jokes. He’s bound to think all this some sort of joke that backfired. Unfortunately, he has no sense of humor.”
The outside assault upon the door continued. Accompanied now by ferocious chortling and an ominous creaking of wood.
Kirby slammed a palm on the door in frustration. "I was hungry.. I came in here after my swim, just to look around, you know how it is. And I found three bowls of fresh porridge, still steaming. I suppose I lost my head."
After a moment, amazed that she could keep her composure and unable to hold back a rueful smile, she said, “ I guess I picked the wrong morning to take a cruise on the lake.”
He checked the locks unsure how much longer they would hold. The shoving and growling now combined intermittently with the rattling of the wooden shutters which thankfully they'd had the presence of mind to shut and bolt earlier. "All this fuss over porridge," he said. "Hard to believe."
"I feel as if I'm having an out of body experience, Mr. Kirby," she said.
"Didn’t the old man warn you to keep away from the island?"
She crossed her arms. “I hadn’t planned on running out of fuel. It’s such a pretty little lake. Such a hot day."
“Barrow doesn't come here very often. It’s an odd sort of place, Miss Pruett."
“No. Really? So what were you doing here?” she asked. "Besides foraging."
He shrugged. “An impulse. I swim most mornings, saw smoke coming from the chimney, decided to take a look. What about you?"
She moved away from the door. “ Well, the boat began drifting over and when I saw the cottage I walked up to see if they might have a telephone,” she said. “ Silly, I know, since they have no use for the thing. But there was nobody home. I tried the door, found it unlocked, let myself in, went exploring and found you sleeping upstairs in a rather large bed. Aren't you a little young to be taking midday naps?”
“I was replete.” He said, grinning. But looking into her worried blue eyes, Kirby lost his train of thought. Up close and without her ubiquitous glasses, Miss Pruett was definitely not Miss Mousey. Wasn’t that always the way?
“Yes, I know, I did a stupid thing,” he said after a moment. “ But the bed looked so comfortable.” He gave the door a last frustrated shove. “I like a feather bed.” There was just no way to explain this to the old man, he thought. Not any rational way.
“You snore,” she said. “That’s what drew me upstairs.” She looked up at the skylight. “Maybe we can get out that way.”
“Yes, all you have to do is climb up on my shoulders and I’ll catapult you up to the ceiling. And then what?”
“Did you HAVE to eat ALL the porridge?!” She suddenly blurted in frustration. “Even what was left in the pot?"
"I got carried away. It was very good porridge. Reminded me of my mum’s."
"Mr. Kirby, really. I begin to despair."
"All right, all right, no point in overreacting. Here’s what I’m going to do, I’m going to open the door and let Poppa Bear in and then we’ll see what’s what. You go stand behind the sofa. Try not to look so threatening. He’s usually a pretty calm fellow. It’s Momma Bear we have to watch out for. She’s a terror. But I think she may be getting tired.”
The racket at the door stopped. “Right on cue,” said Kirby.
Miss Pruett stared, eyes wide.
"You mean you knew this all along? Please explain, Mr. Kirby."
"Look, after all we've been through this morning, life and death and all of it, don’t you think you could call me Joe?
“Joe.” She said, hesitating as if tasting the name on her tongue.
He attempted an encouraging smile.
But - “I'm waiting for an explanation, Mr. Kirby .”
He sighed. “Momma Bear is a very possessive sort. But a damn fine cook. She likes to make a fuss, put on a show. But her anger is usually short-lived.” He looked a bit shame-faced. “ I...uh, I’ve run into them once or twice before. Baby bear is a cute enough little fellow even if he is a bit of a brat."
Why didn’t you tell me this in the first place?
“Well, there’s really no accounting for bears. I could be wrong.”
Oh, Mr. Kirby,” she said, shaking her head.
“I’d better let them in,” he said.