I’ve been participating in some writer challenges lately. Last year I joined the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge and plan to participate this year. This is the first story from 2015.
Location: Martial Arts Studio
Object: Paint Can
Synopsis: What happens when you mix a martial arts gym and an unlimited amount of alcohol in one night of celebration? For Carl, it’s a headache, that’s what.
Carl tried to smile through the thumping in his head. He was still sweating tequila and needed sleep, but his future depended on him keeping his composure for the next few minutes.
It was bad enough that he hadn’t thought to cut the guys off before he left the night before. It was even worse that he’d forgotten to tell Gabriella about the party. No, the crux of the matter was that, just a week before, he had announced his candidacy for mayor on a, “Clean Up Our City!” platform in front of the entire town, promising he’d clean up corruption and entitled behavior in the government.
If this got out he would look like a fool or worse, a complete hypocrite.
Carl looked at the detective. Things didn’t look good.
Somewhere to the side, Gabriella loudly shoved a few empty cans inside a trash can.
He squeezed the bridge of his nose. He had already taken four aspirin and a few antacids. He wanted more, but didn’t want to risk putting himself in the hospital. An option that, right now, didn’t feel like a bad idea.
Instead he groaned to himself and drank more water nervously, trying to keep his composure.
“Sir, are you hung over?” The detective asked.
No, Carl thought putting the cup down, I’m pretty sure I’m still drunk. But he didn’t say so out loud, and instead offered the detective a small nervous smile, eager to keep explaining that a crime had not happened the night before and it was simply a misunderstanding.
Behind him Gabriella shoved a stack of empty plastic cups into the trash can even louder than before.
“I’m sorry officer, I’m just a little tired,” he replied with a chuckle. It was the understatement of the century, but he hoped the detective would let it go.
The detective said nothing.
Carl shrugged. “We were just celebrating our dojo’s first big win at regionals,” he offered, trying to keep the mood light.
“What time did you go home?” The detective asked, not budging.
“2 AM. I took a cab.”
“And what time does Ms. Thompson usually arrive?”
“About 6:30 every morning.”
“So between the time you left and the time she arrived?”
“The rest of the management team were free to continue partying,” Carl added with a sigh.
And boy, did they. He didn’t know if it had been the high of winning or the implied freedom he had given them. Or maybe, Carl pondered, if it was just the alcohol, especially with a group of guys that admittedly didn’t drink much to begin with. But from the looks of the studio that morning, the team leaders went wild.
Someone “decorated” the place with toilet paper. Someone else, he had no idea who, found a can of spray paint and crudely wrote the words “Kung Fu is Lyfe!” in the middle of the mat.
But it wasn’t just the mess. The lead instructor, a man in his early thirties who was trying to calm his frantic fiancée on the phone, had fallen asleep on the floor holding onto one of the punching bags for dear life. He still had his dark red robes on, and Carl could see stains of alcohol and drool on it.
But the sensei- a man well into his 70’s who never ate anything wilder than unsalted hard boiled eggs for breakfast- had so much to drink the night before that he simply pulled off his pants and passed out on the middle of the mat.
And that’s how Gabriella found him in the morning, looking like he’d been mugged, stripped and left for dead with his pants around his ankles with both hands pointing up to the “Lyfe!” painted in silver. By the time they’d calmed her down she’d woken Carl, the lead instructor, half the neighbors, and almost the entire police department.
Carl looked at her. When she saw him staring at her, she narrowed her eyes and glared at him, dropping bottles inside the trash can one at a time, each with a loud thud. It occurred to him, for the first time, that maybe she was upset at not being invited, not at the mess they’d left for her to clean.
He owed her a long apology and a raise.
As the thought crossed his mind, she walked up in front of him and grabbed the empty can of spray paint from where it lied discarded. Staring at him, Gabriella held the empty can as high as she could for a second, then let it drop inside the trash can with a loud metallic clang.
Carl flinched but said nothing, still holding his smile. He looked over at the sensei, who was icing the top of his head and reassuring the uniformed officers that no, he didn’t need medical attention.
No, this didn’t look good at all.
“I’m sorry to waste your time detective,” Carl tried to say smoothly. “But as you can see, this was just a bunch of guys who partied a little too hard.”
Just as the words left his mouth, there was a knock on the door. Carl stopped, his headache getting worse instantly. His smile froze on his face and part of him cried internally, knowing nothing good would come from opening that door. But he was powerless to stop it. One of the uniformed police officers opened it. They all watched as he revealed a clown and a girl in a bikini, pulling a donkey along on the other side.
“I really hope you have a good explanation for that,” the detective commented dryly.
“Yes,” Carl replied through his smile, trying not to react as a flash of maroon scurried away quickly from the corner of his eye. “So do I.”