Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Claw Machine

Good morning, all. Today's post is a response to Chuck Wendig's most recent flash fiction challenge to write a story half from the viewpoint of the protagonist and half from the antagonist's POV.

Hope you enjoy!

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She’s holding my hand too tight.

It hurts. “Lemme go!”

“Stop it.” She squeezes tighter.

I don’t like her face. It’s frowny. And mean.

Mommy told me to be good, but the girl’s not good. And Mommy’s not here. I even looked around, just to make sure. She won’t see.

The frowny girl makes a funny noise when I kick her leg, but she still squeezes my hand. It hurts more.

She puts her face next to mine. It’s even meaner up close.

“Listen to me, you little monster. If you don’t cut the crap, I’m going to tie you to a lamp post and leave you out here.”

I don’t wanna stay out here. I like the inside. And the lady with the scary brown dog is coming down the street.

But the frowny girl is still mean. “My hand hurts.”

“You’ll live.”

I don’t know what that means. But she lets go of my hand, so it’s something good. Except now both her hands are on my shoulders.

She’s pushing.

“Daddy says no pushing.”

“News flash, kid. Daddy’s not here. Now, get inside the store.”

I want Daddy. And Mommy. Where are they?

“Inside.”

I take a step before she pushes again, but something stops my foot and I fall. The floor hurts my knee.

And my hand still hurts where the mean girl squeezed.

And I don’t know where Mommy and Daddy are.

The mean girl is talking. Her frowny face is even frownier. When she picks me up her voice is low and scary. “Stop crying. I didn’t push you. Your shoe’s untied.”

She drops me on an inside bench. Hard. “Sit here and tie your shoe. Do not leave this chair.” Her voice gets even lower. “And stop crying.”

Frowny girl walks away.

I don’t know how to tie my shoe. Daddy showed me, but none of the loops are working now. I make sure the frowny girl isn’t looking and I stick them inside my sneaker. She’ll never know.

There’s music in the back. It’s my favorite. It comes out of a magic box filled with toys. There’s a big claw inside. But, don’t worry, it’s okay, because Mommy says that it doesn’t hurt the toys.

He’s still there. My favorite.

His name’s Clyde.

Sometimes Mommy and Daddy let me try to get him. But I can’t. They said we could come back and try again.

But they’re not here.

I don’t think the frowny girl’s gonna let me try.

Clyde wants to come home with me, too. I know it. It’s mean to keep him in this box. Even if it is magic. He’s getting all squished. He’s too big. Like me.

That’s why Mommy and Daddy say I can’t sleep in their bed anymore. I’m a big boy. Too big for their bed. Just like Clyde is too big for the magic box.

But my room’s big enough for both of us.

And I can save him from being squished.

***

Where the hell is the peanut butter?

Luke wants a “PB sammich.” Which I’m sure would be just freaking adorable if Mrs. Duncan had peanut butter. And if her kid wasn’t a mini nightmare.

I swear if he kicks me one more time, I’m kicking back. See how he likes it.

There it is! Thank God.

The lady at the register smiles at me. “You okay, honey?”

“I hate babysitting. My mom said this is karma, ‘cause apparently I wasn’t the most easy going kid. But, you know, I think that karma stuff only works if I have a kid who’s crazy. Not if I’m watching someone else’s. This is just a news update waiting to happen. Crazed Sitter Slays Tot, story at eleven.”

That was too much. Stop talking.

Okay, she’s not even looking at me now. I get it. Crossed the line with the whole slaying sitter thing. But the look of horror is a little dramatic. It’s not like I actually killed him.

Her mouth opens and she points behind me.

Okay, so it’s not me bothering her. Good. Pretty sure I won’t get paid if someone calls the cops on me.

And she’s still pointing. Fine, I’ll bite.

I turn around.

No. Freaking. Way.

The kid’s in the claw machine.

Oh, this is so not good.

I run to the back of the store. “What the hell are you doing?”

Naturally, the kid’s smiling now. All temper tantrums and tears from the moment his mother left, but now life’s hysterical. Of course.

He yells something. His voice is muffled through the glass, but it sounds like “Clyde.” I’m guessing that’s the stuffed dragon he’s clinging to.

The guy who had been restocking the shelves is standing next to me now. “I don’t think he should be in there.”

“Yeah. No shit.”

I can make out his muffled voice this time. “Shit. Shit. Shit.”

The register woman joins us in time to laugh at this. Not horrified anymore. Lucky her. “I suppose his parents aren’t going to love the addition to his vocabulary.”

“I’m thinking they’re gonna notice the claw machine first.” I bang on the glass. “Luke, climb out of there. Now. I’m not kidding.”

He’s still smiling. “Tried. Can’t.”

Fantastic.

The woman says, “I called the fire department. They’ll get him out.”

Luke stops smiling. That’s right, kid. You’ll be out soon and then you’re mine. Be very afraid.

Yeah, he definitely looks nervous.

Wait, not nervous. Something else. I recognize that face.

No.

I bang on the glass again. “Absolutely not, Luke. Do you hear me? You hold it in.”

“What’s the matter, honey?”

I don’t bother looking at the woman. I just have to stop the kid. “Luke, listen to me. Do not – ”

But he does. I can tell. And now he’s smiling again.

I close my eyes. “He peed.”

This is so not worth ten bucks an hour. 


******

4 comments:

  1. Cute and funny. The tension in the first half was so high, I spent most of the story worried that something terrible was going to happen. I'm glad it was only peeing in the claw machine!

    -- Jo Eberhardt

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  2. I had a laugh out loud moment with the last line. I can just hear one of my students having this moment. Good job Kel.

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