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It’s been a while since I did one of these, but Chuck Wendig at terribleminds.com put up a delicious flash fiction challenge that I had to give a go.  A random ass one, where you rolled a d20 and were given by mad luck your style, conflict, and one element to include.  With a thousand words to work on and blind chaos, I did what I could with Hard Boiled – Heist Gone Wrong- with Poisonous Snakes.
Yeah…. I’m calling this one Balloon Animals – 992 Words Long

 
Balloon Animals

Never work for a clown, even a sexy one.

That’s not a metaphor.  We all work for clowns in the end, from bosses to politicians. I mean the actual circus type clown. She wasn’t wearing the make-up when she came to my office, but she had been working a plaid skirt so short it was probably the circus midget of its kind.  Her legs had been distracting enough and the job simple enough I had agreed without much hesitation. She just wanted me to dig up dirt on her husband for her upcoming divorce proceedings, though she claimed he was holding important papers ransom. Probably just a pre-nup, but breaking and entering and a little petty theft were all part of the P.I. gig.

Mr. Ricardo was staying in the kind of cheap motel that I spend far too much of my time in. He wasn’t the only one form the circus there.  Jugglers practiced by the pool and what had to be a seal was playing ball with three small children.  A group of clowns watched me pass with painted smiles and dead, tired eyes.  No one seemed to notice as I went up to the third floor and jimmied my way into his room.

The room looked just like you’d expect, dingy and banal, with lights dim enough that you couldn’t see just how bad the paint was fading and peeling.  Three honest to god steamer trunks seemed to contain the whole of Mr. Ricardo’s possessions.  I really hoped the whip was part of his act, not his social life. I didn’t see any of the papers I was supposed there to steal back.

I heard footsteps approaching the door.  There wasn’t a closet to duck into so I slipped into the bathroom instead.  A woman giggled and a man murmured something low and presumably enticing to her.  I shut the door to the bathroom with equal parts speed and stealth.

A hiss and a high pitched rattle quickly distracted me from the voices in the other room.

The room was hot and wet, like the inside of an infected wound.  Bright fluorescents mixed with an odd red lamp someone had rigged over the bathtub.  The cheap tile floors smelled of bleach and an odd, dry musk.  Something slithered behind me, brushing my heels.

I jumped forward, a pure involuntary motion, and felt a sharp pain in my calf, hot and quick.  For a moment I thought I had been cut by broken glass, and I looked around for it.  I didn’t see any glass.   Just snakes.

Like a bad dream they now seemed to fill the bathroom.  The tub, bathed in red from the heat lamp, writhed like the pits of Hell.  Long, limbless bodies squirmed along white tiles with deceptive speed.  Behind me the one who bit me rattled in a way that could never be mistaken with a child’s toy.  I swear the bastard was grinning at me as it flicked its tongue.

If it hadn’t been for him I’d have gone right back out the door.  I’d have made my apologies to the man and whatever woman other than his wife he was sleeping with, and make my way to the nearest hospital.  As it was, I was wondering if I could draw and fire before he got in another bite.  My leg was starting to burn.

There was a window on the other side of the room, just big enough.  Of course we were two stories up, but if I could make it past the room full of scaled death I was willing to jump it.  A broken leg couldn’t be worse than a poisoned one. I started to edge, slow and careful, across the treacherous terrain of this festering bathroom.  A face appeared in the window, and I was startled enough I almost fell into the tub.  My client, white faced and crying for me, like a mourning angel.  Only after I recovered my balance did I realize the white face was mime makeup, and the tears were painted on.

“Hurry,” my not-quite angel beckoned, reaching through the second story window as if she hovered on unseen wings.

I was in no position to argue, but complying wasn’t a simple thing.  My leg was really cramping now.  I hobbled, and the motion seemed to attract the snakes too me.  In exactly the reverse reaction they had to Saint Patrick, the snakes flocked to me.  One hissed, and I kicked it just as hard as I could, my leg screaming with agony even as the pest hit the wall with a satisfying wet, crunchy sound.

I got to the window and grabbed the hands offered to me.  It took some work to swing my leg through the small opening, and a moment of vertigo made me reel.  The ground was too far, the sky too close, and my client’s magnificent legs stretched forever.  Too far really, all the way to the ground.

She gripped me, stronger than I’d have figured, and swung me down and between the pair of stilts she was perched on.  I hit the ground in a roll, managing despite my pain to land on my ass and not my face.  The group of clowns were there, having followed my client I imagine.  They silently considered me, then raised their fingers like judge’s score cards.  The jerks only gave me a six.

I looked back up at my client and savior.  She was leaning into the window, shouting at the top of her voice.  I could just hear the voices inside the hotel room, her husband and his mistress.  I could have stayed but I knew how those fights went, and I had an appointment at the emergency room to get to.

I had to admit as she leaned in to shout louder, working out on two story stilts gave a girl a magnificent ass.

Or maybe that was the cytotoxin talking.

 

 

 

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