Flash! Friday #42 Story – ‘The New Caretaker’

ImageMy response to Flash! Friday’s forty-second prompt (the above picture). Three hundred words was the limit (with a ten-word leeway). Fantasy has been courting me lately, so I wanted to turn in something a little more grounded. This week, I was more interested in character than concept.

Have said that, though, there was also a moment when I flirted with writing a ghost story. See, the first thing this prompt brought to mind was Stephen King’s The Shining and, although this doesn’t really venture too explicitly into that territory, that book was certainly at the forefront of my mind when I started writing. A possible interpretation is that this little exchange between newlyweds foreshadows a later, Amityville Horror-style unravelling. Unfortunately, this piece got a little short-changed by the word count. There’s something faintly undeveloped about it. However, on the whole, I’m happy with it. It evolved organically and, as a quiet little moment, nicely juxtaposes my recent flashier flash.

* * *

‘The New Caretaker’ (309 words)

Erin stood at her husband’s side, arms akimbo, and took it all in.

‘Nuh-uh,’ she said. ‘Too much like the Overlook Hotel.’

Julian frowned. ‘I thought you were going to be supportive about this. Or, at the very least, show some maturity.’

Erin looked away. It took a moment, but eventually she swallowed her laughter. She cleared her throat, set her tone to sincerity.

‘I’m sorry, baby; I do support you.’

Like everything about him, Julian’s smile was ineffectual. But all, it seemed, was forgiven. Erin wasn’t surprised; Julian hadn’t the capacity for anger. Even Erin’s mother had remarked how bland he was.

Truly, she had said, the only remarkable thing about that man is how very unremarkable he is!

Erin couldn’t deny it: her mother’s disapproval had been a contributing factor when she’d accepted Julian’s proposal. But he was a nice man – honest, dependable, guaranteed never to lay a hand on her. Those were rare qualities. They counted.

In an uncharacteristic display, Julian drew Erin in near. His hands rested upon her hips. His grip was so gentle it was near-apologetic. They stood together at the mouth of Gretchen Lake. Behind them, a thick fog rolled by.

Julian looked at his wife. ‘I know being here … Me taking this job … It’s not exactly what you pictured for our honeymoon …’

‘Not what I—!?’

Julian silenced her with a raised finger. ‘It’s not the Bahamas,’ he explained. Julian fell silent. His head bowed. Then, as if coming back from the dead, he gestured grandly to the building. ‘What I’m trying to say is … will you help make this place home for the next three months?’

Erin smiled. The moment was charged with romance. She had to dispel it.

‘Only,’ she said with a nervous laugh, ‘if you refrain from going all Jack Nicholson on me.’

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