Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Flashfic: A Fair Trade

My 3WW: in which there are aliens and whiskey. 700 words.

A Fair Trade

Twelve bottles of sour apple whiskey clinked together as the Comet rolled onto the dirt beside I-62. More than a fair price for what he sought--generous, even. But Lyle Maroun's generosity was about at an end.

They materialized out of the pines like more rain. He had to squint to see them; his wipers slapped on, and the heater in the Comet went dead. Damn car. He cranked down the window, and gray fingers rested on the cracked green leather.

It sniffed. "Man is just."

The case of whiskey disappeared, and in its place, a limp bundle.

"You stink," said Lyle. "Get your fish breath out of my car."

Fine droplets of rain rolled off wrinkled skin, and like ash, the fingers melted away.

"Man is just," said the car radio. "Next time, thirteen."

Lyle snapped off the radio and cranked the window closed. Wipers off, he bumped up the heat. He twisted his neck and said over the front seat, "You'll be fine soon. Gonna get warm. Don't worry."

Reaching back, he peeled a corner of the blanket off the boy's face. It was pale, with glassy, staring green eyes. He set his mouth and reminded himself that they were always like this when they first came off the ship. The boy would be fine in twenty minutes or so.  Then there would be the matter of finding his parents. And the story.

No one ever believed a used car salesman, no matter how smoothly shaven or clad in the best suit he could find at the SA, had traded his grandpa's moonshine for a kid -- from aliens.

Well, this would be the last time. He was sick of cops at the house, of getting grounds in his coffee when he stopped at Lou's on his way to work, of teenagers driving by late at night and shouting, "Fucking pedo!" One or two of those brats had been in the back seat of his Comet, years ago. Funny how they forgot. Lyle never did.

He was sick of being penalized for being a nice guy. That's the way it had always been, only now, instead of girls and bosses and ex-wives, it was extraterrestrials. Lyle was the universe's dumping ground. No more, he told himself as the Comet rumbled back onto the road. This was the last time, damn it. Somebody else could figure out what to do about the alien infestation in Crawford County.

The kid in the back mumbled. Struggled to sit up.

"Lay down," Lyle said. "Just rest."

"My sister," said the boy. "Where's Amelia?"

"Probably home. You'll be there soon enough."

The boy sighed and fell back. "Good. I thought she was still on the ship."

His fingers froze on the wheel.

The rain was letting up. It was late September, almost too cold to be making mash. And up on the hill, the leaves were falling. The whole operation would be bared for anyone to find. They should be taking it apart, covering what they couldn't, and counting the bills from the season's profits.

But like every year for the past nine, there were none.

Thirteen, they'd said. He swore under his breath, so the kid wouldn't hear. Some guys would keep thirteen bottles of whiskey for themselves, not trade it for a little girl.

Lyle Maroun was still -- godfuckingdamnit -- a nice guy. But not that nice.

They'd get their thirteen jugs. And a whole lot more. Because Lyle had had enough. If no one else believed him, if no one else wanted to step up and do something about the creepy things in their little ship, then he would.

Besides, Grandpa Maroun had more than an illegal still.

He had enough firearms to comfortably equip a small militia.

And between the two of them, Lyle figured they could make it real clear that abducting people in Crawford County was no longer a viable plan.

He smiled, a real genuine smile and not his sales smile. And turned on the radio, with America on a Horse with No Name. Yep. He was like that guy in the desert. But he was coming out the other side now.


Written for 3 Word Wednesday, which I have sadly, like many of my former favorite writing exercises, not participated in for some time. Good to know it can still get the zombie brain juices flowing.

The words were: generous, just, penalize. I added moonshine and the Comet for fun, 'cause I do that sometimes. Seems like the more words you must use, the crazier the results.


  1. ooh I love this story.I love that he is going to stop the aliens once and for all.

  2. Every word meaningfully placed in this rain drops on the window of the comet..which will hopefully take Lyle beyond the city limits..physically that is!..Jae

  3. So much to like about this. Excellent use of the prompt words. Especially liked the Comet and America reference. Great job! Hope all is well with you :)

  4. Very nicely done. I really like the way you build Lyle's character and the use of the prompt words.

  5. Thank you, everyone, for your comments.

    Sean, everything's just swell :) Hope you're doing well, too!

  6. I like how, even 700 words, you inject shades of grey into a straight up sci-fi tale. So much fun here.

  7. It´s been too long since I´ve read something of yours =)

    Very smoothly done, I didn´t even notice the prompt words =) I love that the aliens want whiskey, it somehow seems likely! And Lyle is a great character.

    You did 3WW =)

  8. Superb storytelling. Just perfect.