By Jake Hinkson

Tiny raindrops tapped against a muddy suitcase in the weeds just a few yards away from my car. Since it was May and already sweltering in Virginia, I had my window rolled down. The sky had been spitting lukewarm water against my forearm for an hour, but I didn’t pay much attention to it. I just listened to the rain tapping against the trash in the weeds while I waited for the girl to show up.

I checked the time on my cell phone. It was almost noon, and she was an hour late. I tried not to think about that too much. It was difficult for her to get away in the mornings. If her father was working from home that morning, she’d have to invent an excuse to leave the house, and most of the time he didn’t decide in advance if he was going into the office or not.

I wished I was still smoking. The best thing about smoking is that you never feel idle. You’re never doing nothing.

But I was doing nothing. Nothing but sitting in a car in a muddy field waiting for an underage girl to come meet me. I shook my head. Christ. We probably weren’t even going to fuck today. Not here, anyway. We had to meet here today because, increasingly, the town was getting smaller for us. Just a few days earlier, we’d nearly run into a friend of mine from church.

Maybe I should get her out of town, I thought, take her to a motel in the city.

I got out of the car, walked over by the suitcase and some other trash, and took a piss. A misty wind slapped my face, and mud sucked at my heels, and when I climbed back into the car I scraped off my soles with a coffee stirrer and threw it on the ground.

Christ, I’d kill for a cigarette right now.

I hadn’t smoked in ten years. That’s what sex does to you. One day you’re a healthy, nonsmoking, unhappily married man, and the next thing you know you’re a pervert craving a cigarette.

You should leave. You’re a grown man waiting for a seventeen year old girl to drive down here in her stepmother’s car to meet you.

The sky was empty and indistinguishably gray. No sun, no clouds, just a blank slate sputtering raindrops on my windshield. I watched some rats crawling out of the drooping weeds. They scampered over a soggy sofa cushion toward the suitcase.

My phone buzzed and the readout said: J.

I flipped the phone open and waited.

“It’s me,” she whispered.

“Where are you?”

“Home. He’s working here today.”

“Oh,” I said.

“Where are you?”

“Pagano’s Field like we agreed.”

“Are you mad?” she asked.

“No,” I said, sulking like a fifteen year old boy.

“You know I want to come see you,” she said.

“I know. Don’t worry about it. If you can’t, you can’t, that’s all.”

“Maybe later I could meet you. Maybe tonight.”

“I…can’t tonight. I have to work,” I said.

“Oh,” she said.

She could probably tell I was lying. I was going to have dinner with my wife and kids. It wasn’t anything special, but that was exactly the problem. I had dinner with my family every night like a normal person. I couldn’t drop that and run off to have sex with this kid.

I told her, “We’ll just meet some other time, that’s all.”


I heard the faint sound of her father call, “Josephine.”

“I have to go,” she said.


She hung up, and I sat there staring at the cell phone like a damn fool. Time to slink back home and lie to my wife about where I’d been.

I shook my head and leaned forward to turn on the car.

To my left a fat gray rat burrowed through the top of that muddy suitcase. It pushed its way inside and in doing so exerted the last infinitesimal fraction of pressure needed to snap open the worn clasp. The front of the case flopped forward, and I saw what was inside.

I screamed.

My hand rose to my mouth, then up to my eyes.

Was it real?

I jerked my head down to the steering wheel, then lifted my eyes to test them again.

Pale and rotting, mauled by bugs and rats.


I squeezed my eyes shut.


I opened them. It was real. Naked and horrible and real.

My hand reached out, but I didn’t know what I was reaching for. My mind was as blank as the sky. I didn’t know it, but my life had ended the moment I had driven into that field that morning. My tire tracks led down into the muddy trench. My footsteps led to the suitcase. A phone call on my phone from a seventeen year old child. Another child, much younger, dead in a suitcase.

I had driven down into hell.
Jake Hinkson is a writer living just outside of Washington, DC. His work has appeared in Beat To A Pulp, A Twist Of Noir, Crooked, and Powder Burn Flash. He also blogs about genre films at The Night Editor.


Wanda said...

Kick-ass flash.
Delicious visuals of the everyday blended with the unexpected, then the unthinkable. I like.

Paul Brazill said...

Jake, this is wondeful. beautiful prose and a great whipcrack of an ending.

Kevin Michaels said...

Whoa - didn't see that coming at all. A real strong punch to the gut! Well written and well done -love the blend of dialogue and descriptive visuals. The story definitely rocks!

Brian said...

Really strong story, I loved reading it!

Jimmy Callaway said...

Real loving attention to the prose here, and the dialogue crackles. Also, I am never quitting smoking.

Anonymous said...

Jake, great writing! I really think you should Twitter to share with more folks!

Jay Holmes said...

I was completly sucked into this story and found myself reading faster and faster, devouring it. The ending was killer.

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