Flash Fiction Challenge: Mr. Polisher is Dead

So this prompt comes from Terrible Minds. The task was to smash together two sub-genres (I picked steampunk and noir) and write a flash story of 1,000 words or less. What follows is the result. It’s silly and filled with clichés but maybe that’s part of the fun…

Mr. Polisher is Dead
by Brenda Stokes Barron

The dame walked into my office. Her gears twitched and throttled with each shake of her hips. I nearly blew a gasket.

I switched on my water-cooling mechanism fast and played it off like nothing happened.

“Hey, if that dress were any shorter, I’d see your compressed air chamber,” I said, leaning back in my chair.

“I bet you say that to all the big-cogged girls,” she said and winked.

Silence passed for an uncomfortable moment before she spoke again, “I need your help.”

I learned forward like I was interested. “Yeah?”

She nodded, the gears in her neck turning and turning. “It’s my husband. He’s ratcheting a human girl. But whenever I tell him I want a divorce, he threatens to take out my perpetual motion generator.” She sucked in a breath, bottom lip clanking and quivering. “I just don’t know what to do anymore. He’s gone insane and I’m afraid for my life.”

I nodded, taking it all in. “But what can I do about it?”

“I was hoping you’d take care of him for me,” she said. The quiver in her voice vanished, probably because she’d automatically adjusted the alignment of her speech brackets. But the grin that creaked across her face was unnerving.

“You want me to kill him?” I asked. I paced behind the desk. I couldn’t look at this dame. She was much too beautiful with too much going on behind that metallic smile. A man could get killed over a smile like that. I snorted back a laugh.

“If that’s what you want to call it.”

Keeping my eyes down, I handed her a contract. Business had been slow. Investigate, eliminate, it was all the same in this town. She cranked a lever at the inside of her elbow and a signature stamp squeaked out of her wrist. Signed. Sealed. Dead, soon enough.


I didn’t like to put a lot of fuss into my work. A paycheck was a paycheck and this dame, Gladia, let’s call her, came into my life and offered me one. I couldn’t rightly say no. But that didn’t mean I had to put my clanking heart and sputtering soul into it, either.

A few nights after our first meeting, Gladia slipped an address and a check for $500 under my office door. I could see her outline through the frosted glass pane—her waist small and constricted by cooling coils and her hair piled on top of her head in a sheath of sparks. I waited for her to leave to retrieve the note. I checked myself:




I was ready.

The address she’d given me was for a bar on the edge of town. I hid the wooden stick in my coat sleeve and walked in like I owned the joint.

“I’m looking for a Mr. Polisher. Mr. Polisher here?”

In this town, there’s no need to be discreet. The cops, the crooks, they’re all in it together.

The patrons looked up at me through sleepy eyes and mumbled something unintelligible.

“Thanks, you’re a help,” I said, and ordered a drink. Water, of course. But I asked the barkeep to add a little vodka to it. It’ll jam my gears, I know. You only live once.

A man sat next to me. “You the one looking for Mr. Polisher?” he asked, his voice high and befitting his lanky frame.

“Yeah, that’s me.”

“You’re looking at him,” he said and grinned. His smiled was stiff and unnatural. He’d probably ground his gears a few times too many.

I took a sip of my drink and let it fully settle into my reservoir. “Would you step outside with me?” I asked, “I have something I want to discuss with you.”

Mr. Polisher—I never got his first name—followed me out to the alley around back of the bar. He opened his mouth like he was going to ask me a question as I slid the stick from my sleeve, passed it to my right hand and jammed it into the large gear that turned on his back.

His mouth stayed open, sputtering like he just couldn’t find the right words as I hefted him into the garbage.

I cashed my check on the way home.


I held Gladia after we knocked compressors and I don’t know what came over me. I asked her to marry me. I’d never heard such a loud exhaust whistle.

We married at the Robotics Chapel down the street. A human couple wished us well. Call me a sap, but I thought that was nice. Especially in this day and age.

Gladia is the perfect wife. She cooks and cleans and looks after me. And when we kiss, sparks shoot out of my ears. That tells you something right there.

We got married over a year ago. But sometimes she gets a faraway look in her eyes at the dinner table. At first I thought she was malfunctioning but when I called her on it, she just apologized and told me that she’s distracted and busy at work. “I never knew the typing pool was so stressful,” I said, and she laughed though her eyes stayed three miles away over in the next county somewhere.

Today, Gladia was up and ready for work before me. She paused at the door before she left and told me she loved me. A smile clung to her metallic lips.

The door shut behind her and all I could think was how a man could get killed over a smile like that.

But this time, I didn’t laugh.


Thanks for reading!

AW June Blog Chain: Setting the Scene

This is the first time I’m participating in a blog chain, but I’m excited to jump right in. Absolute Write is a great site. I highly suggest you check it out, if you haven’t already. The support from other writers there is incalculable!

The previous person in the chain was: Aheïla

The next person in the chain is: TheMindKiller

This month’s prompt is “Setting the Scene”

Write a location description, and make us feel as if we are there. No dialogue, no introductory comments, just a location. We’re the tourists, you’re the guide.

Here’s my entry. I did a little something different. I made the description a tiny story:

The house on the corner of Nowhere Street smelled of burning cinder. It wasn’t on fire, but the pungent aroma of crispy, overdone things wafted out to the street. I’d hold my breath when walking by it on the way home from school, hoping I wouldn’t have to draw the toxic fumes into my lungs. But I always smelled it on my clothes later anyway. 
The  siding crumbled off the house, leaving more gray splotches than white paint and brown vine tendrils snaked from inside around the front door like a giant spider’s legs. I faced the front door. I had to sit on the cobweb covered bench for one whole minute or the bet was off. As I sat, I could have sworn those tendrils were creeping around the door’s hinges and in and out of the mail slot. 
The timer on my stopwatch buzzed. I ran from the porch and turned my back on the house on the corner on Nowhere Street. I’d never go home again. 

I’d love to hear what you think.

And be sure to check out all of the blog chain participants :

orion_mk3 – http://nonexistentbooks.wordpress.com
juniper – http://www.katjuniper.com/
LadyMage – http://www.katherinegilraine.com/
dolores haze – http://dianedooley.wordpress.com/
jkellerford – http://jennykellerford.wordpress.com/
Ralph Pines – http://ralfast.wordpress.com/
AuburnAssassin – http://clairegillian.com/
pezie – http://www.erinbrambilla.com/
Inkstrokes – http://drlong67.wordpress.com/
WildScribe – http://DionneObesoBlog.com/
Guardian – http://daewrites.blogspot.com/
Lyra Jean – http://lyratorres.wordpress.com/
egoodlett – http://wordlarceny.blogspot.com/
cwachob – http://www.corriewachob.blogspot.com/
Aheïla – http://thewriteaholicblog.wordpress.com/
faerydancer – https://digitalinkwell.wordpress.com YOU ARE HERE!
TheMindKiller – http://www.jabberwocky.ws/
Irissel – http://irissel.blogspot.com/
xcomplex – http://www.arielemerald.blogspot.com/
Robbi Sommers Bryant – www.robbibryant.blogspot.com

A Wednesday Word – Prompt for 6/22/11

I’m starting a new feature here called the A Wednesday Word. Here’s the deal: I post a word and its definition and you write a short-short story (under 500 words) and link to it in the comments section based on its meaning. You can even write something about what the word sounds like or–if you didn’t know the definition–what you thought it meant on first glance. And if I like your story the best, I’ll send you a handmade knitted bookmark and post your story on my blog. Pretty cool, huh?

This week’s Wednesday word is:


Dictionary.com Definition: Deserving or causing public disgrace or shame

Write about anything you want, just so long as it has to do with ignominiousness. The more creative the better and the better your chances of winning the bookmark and getting posted on the blog.

How to Participate 

Just in case it wasn’t clear, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Write a story under 500 words about the word of the day.
  2. Post it on your blog and link to it in the comments section here. If you don’t have a blog, post it directly in the comments.
  3. Submit by 6/29. The story I like the most will win a knitted bookmark that I’ll make just for you.

Sound good? Good! Now, get to writing!

Twitter Prompt: Iniabi and Dystopian Romance

apocalypseEarlier today, I posted on my Twitter account that I was holding a mini-contest for my own amusement. Whoever could guess how many articles I could write in a two hour period would be able to pick a character name and topic for a Twitter-based story that I would write on demand! Exciting, right? @liquidtopazeyes won and offered “Iniabi” and dystopian romance as her suggestions. I’ve posted the results of my meager efforts below and in the correct order for those leery of the out-of-order nature of Twitter.

Iniabi had looked at me with black eyes reflecting the light like puddles in the potholes. She didn’t smile.

The air raids had sounded. She didn’t flinch. Just white noise to her. The sky exploded, bits of roofing tiles landing on our tongues.

We should have moved. The siren wails and you run. The unspoken rule. But she did not run, so I did not run. She looked at me.

The heat from the explosion pressed into my skin like my mother’s hairdryer. That same kind of dry heat only on open eyes cooking.

I reached for her. Seconds blinked by and her hand was in mine. Those black orbs of hers burned with flecks of red—the color of the sky.

Iniabi mouthed a kiss, a slow pucker of lips, and I did the same waiting for the last bomb to fall. A few city blocks left to destroy.

The end came in a blast of air. Hot and cold. Sharp and soft. I ran a finger over Iniabi’s lips as we disintegrated. Then ash. Ruin.

Not bad, not great, but fun! I think I’ll make a habit of this. Perhaps some day next week I’ll have an all-day game to see how many articles I can write in one day. Work and fun combined. You can’t beat that.