A Celebration – Submit Your Third Short Story For 2018

And there goes March… Well done to everyone who made it.

Goodness, 2500 words felt like a lot, but I still managed of run out of words. I think next year we should make a long story challenge.

We are presenting our first online class on Friday, 23 March 2018. Join us for The Ultimate Short Story Checklist. 

Submission process:

I will accept and approve posts for A Celebration (Word count: 2500 words) from 21 March 2018, 8:00 (Johannesburg time | GMT +2:00), until 22 March 2018, 8:00 (Johannesburg time | GMT +2:00) on 12shortstories.com.  Please ask Google to figure out what time that will be in your part of the world. 

Please use the correct format:

In the post title bar:              Story Title by Author Name.

Just above the story:             Prompt: XXXXXX | Word count: XXXXXX | Genre: XXXXXX

Warning: Please add a warning if your story is not appropriate for sensitive or younger readers.

Can I still join?

You can join the 12 Short Story Challenge in any month. So, if you start in June, that will be month one for you and then May 2019 will be month 12.

Here is the procedure:

  1. Read today’s post.
  2. Post your story on 12 Short Stories.
  3. Read and comment on at least four other stories. Please spread the love. Look for stories that haven’t been read, instead of everyone reading and commenting on the same stories. If you want tips on how to comment, read this post: The Complete Guide To Evaluating Your Short Story.
  4. This is an exercise in discipline. The comments are a bonus. There is no prize because I want you to focus on writing for yourself and to try and take more risks.
  5. Be kind when you comment. Start with a positive comment, suggest an improvement, and end with something positive. We are here to learn.
  6. Our next prompt is at the end of this post.

A few more points:

  1. I will try to read as many posts as possible, but I do have a day job that I would like to keep.
  2. NO hate speech. None. If you see something nasty that I should be made aware of, please send me a message.
  3. Be careful of profanity.
  4. I need to approve every post. Please be patient with me. I am teaching during the day and I will approve them as quickly as I can. They will all go up.

Here is my short story:

Title: Blood in the Eye by Mia Botha

Prompt: A celebration | Word count: 2500 words| Genre: Action

Warning: Violence and a psychopath

[This is the fourth story featuring Joy. Click here for story one and two and three.]

Joy breaks off another piece of the Styrofoam cup and adds it to the growing pile on the table. She shifts and stretches her legs. The hand on the clock marches, resolute and undeterred, towards the next hour. Plastic coffee cups, no ventilation, and an absurdly loud clock. Basics of Interrogation 101: Make ‘em wait.

She breaks the last pieces of the cup when she hears them stomp down the passage, at least six of them. The door bangs open and they file in. Three local cops in uniform, two Americans in ill-fitting suits and ugly ties, despite the sweltering jungle, and one wilted government official. They take their seats behind a long narrow table facing her.

Drew saunters in a little after, loose jeans, once-white vest, aviator shades. It’s like he got stuck in a mid-‘80s episode of Miami Vice. He heads for the corner and settles against the wall. He doesn’t acknowledge her.

Joy takes a moment to look at each one. She is seated at a small table in a what she was told is the conference room.  Her table has worn holes where the chains and handcuffs would go through and the one-way window on the opposite wall creates a black hole. Odd additions to a conference room.

A cop steps forward and fumbles with a Dictaphone, placing it in front of her. “Ma’am,” his voice cracks and he clears his throat, “Miss García, for the record, this interview is being recorded.” He stammers and steps back into the line. He’s nervous. Afraid. She wonders what he has heard. She smiles.

“So, kind of you to inform me, Señor.”

“Please state your name for the record.” He says.

“My name is Joy Andrea García, only daughter of José García, but you know that already or we wouldn’t be here.” She grins.

The young man continues. “Do you agree that you are here of your own free will and are helping your government without force or duress?”

She laughs. “Yes, I suppose I agree.” The irony would be beyond them. Free will?  Without force? Not if José raised you. There was only his will and a lot of force.

Drew frowns at her but looks away before she can react.

“You are under the protection of the government you do not have to fear. You will be taken to a safe house until the operation is over.” He speaks softly as if she was a child.

She leans back in her chair. “You can’t protect me. He knows I am here. Death is inevitable. I just have few things to do before that happens and apparently, you have the tools to help me.”

Drew rolls his eyes.

“Your presence here has not been reported. No one knows you are here.” It is the taller of the two Americans, he speaks with confidence. Can this man really not know who he is up against? 

“He knows I am here.” Joy says again.

“How would he know, Senorita García? Unless you told him?” The other officer finds his voice and pipes up.

“He has informants in places you wouldn’t dream of having informants. You don’t become the richest man in the country through canny guesswork.  He knows everything.”

“Ok, Miss Garcia. I think we started off on the wrong foot. Let’s begin again.” The second, shorter American says, “The purpose of this interview is to gather information regarding José Garcia. What can you tell us?”

“What kind of information do you want?” she shrugs.

“Anything you can think of.”

She leans forward and puts her elbows on the table. “He has men everywhere. Resources, weapons more than you can even imagine. He has his own army. Hundreds of men at his disposal. He has close ties with both the military and the guerrilla forces. He calls on either of them to have his demands met. It just depends on what his goal is.”

The one cop is writing, making notes, the others are listening, so she keeps talking.

“He probably has more weapons than the military but dispatches the government’s men to deal with his local problems. More cost-effective, you know. He loves saving a buck. The compound is a fortress. He has escape routes and plans in place for almost every scenario.”

The second American stands and walks towards her, holding papers. “We have these satellite images of his compound. Can you confirm a few points for us?”

He gives her aerial photos of the compound. She arranges them in order of the dates stamps. The images were taken over the last few months. José must be enchanted to know the Americans are watching him.

She works through the images noticing the progression and changes Lupe told her about, but several of the familiar landmarks remained the same. The house. The barracks. The processing plant.

“Most of the area is obscured by trees. We are hoping you can give us some new insights about what we can’t see.” He leans over her as he points out the areas.

She shifts away. The jungle heat has had its way with him. “I haven’t been there in months, but Lupe…”

“The man who was blown up?” He raises his eyebrows.

“My brother, Lupe. Yes, who was murdered by José.” She glares at him.

“We are sorry for your loss.”

Joy turns back to the photos. “Lupe showed me some changes. Do you have a pen?”

Everyone fumbles, tapping pockets until a pen is produced. She recreates the images Lupe drew for her. Explaining the significance of each as she goes along. Once the map is done, squares added, arrows drawn, she turns back to the men. “What else?”

“That will be all, Miss García.”

She gets up to leave and then men gather their papers and follow suit when Drew steps forward.

“What can you tell us about him? On a more personal level.” He says.

She freezes.

“Why did he choose you? What was the deal with that?”

She sits back, sighs and rubs a hand over her face.

“Why would you want to know that? Very Freudian don’t you know.”

“I’d like to create a picture. To know what we are up against. You are obviously a weakness. How can we exploit that?”

She snorts. “You do know he is going to kill me? There is no weakness where he is concerned.” 

“I know you are estranged, but I’d like to get a sense of him. We need to separate fact from rumour.”

“That is easy, the rumours are true, and the facts are a joke.”

“So, it is true that he adopted you because you beat up a boy on the day he was at the orphanage?” Drew is relentless, the easy-going charmer gone.

She looks up the ceiling following the outline of a brown stain. She doesn’t want to go back to that time.

“It’ll help if we know what we are dealing with.” Drew presses on. “I am worried some people are underestimating him.” He glances at his colleagues.

She inhales and closes her eyes. When she opens them again the memory plays in her mind.

“I was thirteen. I had been at the orphanage since I was small. I wanted to be adopted, more than anything, I wanted to have a mother and a father, but I was too old already. Everyone wanted the babies.”

She inhales again and her breath shudders as she exhales.

“It was late in the year when Padre told us there was a special person coming the next week. He was looking for older children. I decided then and there that he would pick me, but then Padre said the man only wanted boys. Two or three boys to raise as his sons.”

She slumps, weighed down by old memories. “I was devastated. There were only five older children at the orphanage. Three boys, Lupe, Miguel, and Rico. Miguel and Lupe were the same age as me, Rico was a year older. Then there was me and another girl. The girl was younger and annoying, and I wasn’t friends with her, but I was friends with Lupe and Miguel. The rest were all little kids. I realised he would choose the boys and I would be left alone without my friends. Rico was bigger than all of us and an idiot. I wouldn’t mind if he went, but Lupe and Miguel were my world.”

She wants to stop talking, but her audience is rapt.

“Rico kept taunting me because I wouldn’t be chosen. Anyway, José came early, and the boys were lined up in clean white shirts and ridiculously tidy hair. He looked them over once and announced them adopted. I was standing on the other side of the courtyard and I wanted to die. The boys walked past me, Lupe and Miguel with sad smiles, but Rico laughed and called me ‘niñita’.

She stops. “It means ‘little girl’”, she adds for the benefit of the Americans, “and I snapped. I jumped him and punched him. I kept punching him until Padre and Lupe and Miguel dragged me off him.”

The room is silent. No one moves.

“The man walked over to us and looked at Rico who was all bloodied and said he couldn’t adopt a son who got beat up by a girl. I was still being held back, hair everywhere, covered in Rico’s blood, but he didn’t even look at me. He just told Miguel and Lupe to come and they got in the car and I watched my friends drive away.”

She sighs. “Rico was complaining to Padre when the car turned back. The man got out again and spoke to Padre who turned to me and told me to get in the car so, I got in the car.”

She is hoarse and clears her throat. Too many emotions piling up.

“And then he raised you as his little princess and you all lived happily ever after?” Drew said, arms crossed.

“Something like that.” She half smiles.

“There were rumours that he raised you as an assassin.” A cop chips in.

“They weren’t rumours. We were trained as soldiers. He had no interest in being a father. He wanted an army. A loyal army. That is all.”

Drew walks to the side table and pours a glass of water. He puts it beside her. It is warm, but she is grateful and drinks. She has to find a way to explain what kind of man José was. They thought it was a story.

“He gave us all the same birthdate.” Joy started again. “He said we had to have a new birthday because we were his children. We had been there for about three weeks when he announced we were going to have a party. We were very excited because obviously, we had never had a party before. It was huge. So many people came. We thought it was heaven.” She waves her hand as she speaks. “We got new clothes. There was cake. We even got to blow out the candles and then it was time for our presents. I wish I can explain to you what it was like to be us. To have nothing and then everything. We were so excited.”

She stops and takes another sip of the water. Drew hasn’t taken his eyes off her, neither have the others.

“He herded us and the guests to the back of the hacienda.” She nods the general direction of where the pictures were stacked.  “There is a row of water tanks. The same ones that are in the photographs.” She shifts in her chair. She spent a long time trying to forget.

“Each water tank has a small wood platform. On three of the platforms, there were men with nooses tied around their necks. They were men who worked for José, we had met them in the weeks before the party. Simple men, good men who were kind to us. We didn’t know at that stage what José did, what he was, but he told us the men were stealing from him and that they must be punished. We would get to punish them. Everyone was very quiet, Jose said this would truly make us his children.”

She pauses.

“The men were pushed off the platforms, and they kicked and dangled and José gave us each a gun and told us to put them out of their misery. We started firing, but we’d never ever held guns before, so we kept missing. All the while Jose was laughing and cheering us on. Eventually, Lupe and I hit our targets and they stopped moving, but Miguel couldn’t hit his target. We were all crying, and in the end, I grabbed the gun from him and shot the man. I sealed Miguel’s fate that day. José called him a coward every day since then.”

“And you, what about your fate?” Drew asked.

“I’ve never missed another target since.”

No one moves. No one speaks. Everything is heavy. It feels like she is clawing her way through the fog. The Dictaphone clicks signalling the end of the tape jarring them back to the present.

The taller American speaks, “The officers will escort you to the safe house now.” He is clearly uncomfortable. He wants to get away.

“No. Thank you.”  

“It has been arranged.” The cop says.  

“I am safer on my own.”

“You must accompany them.” The second American insists.

“Am I under arrest?”

“No,” Drew says.

“Then I’ll leave.” She stands.

“You cannot leave. It is not safe.” A hint of panic rises in the cop’s voice.

“He knows every safe house. He has probably already paid the guards who were going to keep me safe.”

She smirks at the fake outrage of the officers and steps out from behind the table.

“I’ll stay with her,” Drew says.

“No.” Joy snaps.

“Yes.” The second American agrees.

“I’ll stay with her.” Drew continues. “That way we know your whereabouts, he nods at Joy and turns to the men “and we know our asset is safe and no one can report your location.” “I’ll make sure she is in position on the day of the operation.”

“We cannot let you leave otherwise.” The taller American insists.

“Fine.” Joy says and walks to the door.  

“Thank you, Miss Gracía.” The taller American says. “We are confident this matter will be resolved quickly and without any more bloodshed.”

She pauses, it’s like he hasn’t heard a word she has said. “There’s an expression here, we say ‘you walk with blood in your eye’. It means you bear a grudge. José has blood in both eyes. There will be more bloodshed, plenty of it. I just want to get my brother out of there and away from him. I don’t care what you do. I get you in and you’ll get us out, but do not underestimate José Gracía.”

She walks out, Drew only a step behind.

Here is the fourth prompt for the 2018 challenge:

If you want to learn how to write a short story, join us for Short Cuts in Johannesburg or sign up for our online course.

 by Mia Botha

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  4. Desperate Times – Submit Your Second Short Story For 2018
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