I do enjoy this exercise. As a writer, I often have snippets of stories in my head that have no real context, and the fiction journal has given me a chance to get them out of my head without having to worry about further development or making it good. It’s also a great opportunity to work on writing short stories, which is an area that I’d like to improve in. I know; it’s completely backwards that I find writing novels easier than writing short stories. Usually people start small and work their way up, but here I am coming at it from the opposite end of the spectrum. But short stories are a different form of writing, and the short space and simplicity doesn’t allow for the build up and complexity that a novel does. The fiction journal is giving me an opportunity to work on this regularly, which is what I need to be doing if I want to get any better at it.
This story is titled Five o’clock, and I just wrote it. I was listening to a lecture on writing this morning while getting dressed, and the professor said something that reminded me of my freshman year in college, when I got stuck in a class that met from 3:35-4:25 on Friday afternoons. I hated having a class that late in the day, especially on a Friday, but as a first semester freshman I got the last pick of classes and had to take what I could get. I decided to craft an adventure around a late Friday afternoon class about a graduate student that finds out that there really is a life that she doesn’t see happening on campus after everybody else has left for the weekend.
I hope you enjoy it. If you’re a writer, this will give you an idea of how to do this. And if you’re a reader, I couldn’t think of anything else to blog about this week, so here you go. Enjoy!
Five o’clock 3/23/17
Darn these late classes, especially on Fridays.
Talia sighed as she dropped the graded quizzes in Professor Heegan’s mailbox. Just her luck that she got stuck teaching the Friday afternoon lab, but then again she was a first year graduate student. The things you have to do to keep your scholarships and grants. “What’s going on in here?”
Talia jumped at the noise, putting her hand over her racing heart. Who was still in the building at five thirty on a Friday afternoon? The campus was usually deserted when she left from teaching her last class of the week, and most of the staff had cleared out after teaching their final classes of the day.
“Who are you?” a voice shouted.
Talia turned to see Anna standing behind her. She relaxed a bit. Anna was the department’s business manger, so she rarely crossed path with the instructional staff. “It’s Talia, one of the grad assistants.“What was that shouting?”
“Ok, I thought I was alone in here. Good to know I’m not the only one rattling around on a Friday afternoon. Have a nice weekend –“ she stopped as she noticed a shadow approaching behind Anna. Professor Heegan stumbled out of his office, one hand plugging a bleeding hole in his shoulder and the other holding a gun.
“Professor Heegan!” Talia shouted.
The gun fired, blasting a hole in the center of Anna’s head. She slumped to the floor in slow motion.
Talia screamed. Professor Heegan stumbled to Talia, putting his hand over her mouth.
“Shh, it’s alright. I caught her breaking into my office and she shot me.” Professor Heegan dropped the gun to the floor.
“Will you promise not to scream? I’ll let go of you if you promise not to scream.”
Professor Heegan slowly released Talia. “What are you doing here?”
“Grading quizzes.” She studied the bullet hold in his shoulder and pulled her cell phone out of her pocket. “I’ll call 911. We need to report this.”
He knocked the phone from her hand, sending it skittering down the hall. “You’ll do no such thing.”
Talia backed up. “Professor Heegan, what’s going on?”
He tilted his head. “What are we going to do with you now?”
“What are you talking about?”
Professor Heegan pulled another gun from his back, aiming it at her.
Talia screamed, turning to dash down the hall. A bullet whizzed by her head, causing her right ear to tingle. She stumbled against the wall and pulled the fire alarm. Sirens blared throughout the building.
“No! I won’t have you ruining my plans here at the end. Nothing will stop me!” Another bullet whizzed past her shoulder. Talia screamed and stumbled against the wall. Professor Heegan pressed his gun against her head.
“I’m sorry, Talia. You’re a great student and I’m sorry you stumbled into this. You had a bright future ahead of you.”
A crack mixed with the fire alarm. Professor Neegan slumped to the floor, his ear bleeding. The man who punched Professor Neegan gave Talia a shaky smile.
“Looks like you aren’t the only one working late,” he offered his hand. “I’m Jace, the lab manager.”
Talia shook Jace’s hand weakly. “What happened here?”
Jace motioned to Professor Heegan’s unconscious form on the floor. “This wasn’t Professor Heegan’s only job. He was laundering money through the department for his international friends. He was stealing from us to keep it running under costs, too. Supplies, money, you name it. He had a good thing going until the old business manager retired and I came in.”
“Did you ever notice how much time he spent in the lab after hours, and how adamant he was about keeping it overstocked?”
Talia forced her brain to focus despite the sirens. A memory of a news article she read that morning over breakfast came to her. “The new drug they’ve been finding on the streets that’s a combination of morphene and heroin. Hospitals are flooded with kids overdosing on small amounts of it.”
“That’s him,” Jace kicked Professor Heegan.
Talia gulped. “What about Anna?”
“She was helping me. Campus police said they’d turn it over to the local authorities if I could get computer records proving the irregularities. I have the lab records, but I didn’t have access to the financial records. Anna agreed to help me with that. She suspected that Professor Heegan was behind the new drug all along.”
The sirens stopped. Firefighters crashed into the hallway. “What’s happening?”
“No fire, officers,” Jace pointed to Talia. “She pulled the alarm when Professor Heegan pulled a gun on her.”
They rushed in the building, followed by paramedics, campus security, and local police taping off the scene. Jace and Talia gave their statements, were checked by the paramedics, and were soon walking into the cool spring evening. “Have you ever been to ‘It’s Five o’Clock Somewhere?’” Jace asked. “It’s a new bar they opened three blocks away in that new apartment building. I’m too shaken to spend the evening alone.”
“Me too,” Talia said. “I live in that apartment building and frankly, I was planning to stop there anyway. I’d love the company and to hear more of the story.” She paused. “And I’ve definitely learned my lesson.”
Jace raised an eyebrow. “Which is?”
“Always leave early on Friday’s.”
“Best to learn that early in your career!” Jace laughed as they crossed the street toward the bar.