Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Escape

Aaron Lazar reading to guests at the Author's Tea, April 2008 in the Dansville Public Library

This piece was first published in the Great Mysteries and Suspense Magazine in 2007. It evolved from a flash fiction exercise I joined on the notorious Crabby Cows website. SW Vaughn will remember it and laugh - we both participated in writing exercises on that site on a regular basis. I'd rarely written anything but novels, but it was fun. Thought I'd share it with you today.

The Escape

©2008 Aaron Paul Lazar

Victor slumped on the metal café chair beside the canal. Muddy water eddied along the breakwall, propelling filmy bubbles of yellow pollen in tiny whirpools. A blue heron soared overhead. Without warning, envy sliced through him, insidious in its intensity. The bird disappeared over the treeline, descending into the swamp.
He’s free. Unlike me.
The thoughts hit him hard and then the blackness descended, pitching unquenchable desire.
I want out. I need out.
Tobias, his Secret Service agent, sweated bedside him and swatted at a fly buzzing persistantly around his face.
“Hot one,” he drawled, mopping at the perspiration with his shirt sleeve.
Victor shifted in his seat, suddenly uncomfortable. Something was about to happen. He could feel it. Trying hard to squelch the bizarre desire, his hand tightened on the glass of lemonade, shaking like palsey.
I can’t. I mustn’t.
Without warning, he splashed his drink against Tobias’s shirt front and onto his holster that sweated against his armpit like a hairy girth on a horse. The big man spluttered and stood suddenly, shocked out of his lethargy.
“You said you were hot,” Victor chuckled.
Tobias stripped off his hoster, threw it on the table, and began mopping at his shirt with a handful of paper napkins.
“Mr. President. Why in the world…”
Victor grabbed the gun. The agent hissed with annoyance and tried to grab it.
“Mr. President. Please.”
Victor laughed, pretended to relent, then smashed the weapon against Tobias’s temple.
Swaying, Tobias touched his forehead, palpating the cut with bloody fingers. He looked at his hand in disbelief, then back at the President. His eyes rolled in their sockets and in one lumbering crash, the behemoth agent toppled to the ground.
Victor’s eyes raked the property.
Had anyone been watching?
The rolling hills of the private sanitorium were green, fed with underground sprinklers that popped up each morning with monotonous regularity. In the distance, the buildings loomed. Gorgeous architecture festooned the porch and patios. Marble statues guarded the walkways lined with pop-up book yellow maples. Visitors oohed and ahhed over the trappings. But Victor abhorred the place, ever since he’d been incarcerated last year. That’s when the voices started. Freddie. Clive. Even Millie. They’d been relentless for the past ten years, rattling their chains and shaking their prison bars until he’d finally given in and let them out.
The sitting area near the canal was one of Victor’s favorite spots. Clusters of wrought iron glass-topped tables and chairs were carefully arranged to resemble normalcy. Errant clumps of buttercups defied the best intentions of the groundskeeper, popping up between the paving stones.
Usually he relaxed here, soaked in the sun, took comfort in being outdoors. But today he found no refuge. Something broke inside. He needed out. And fast. Freddie insisted, convincing Victor he needed to fly far away from the loonies. Away from the mammoth nurses with man-faces and bobbed hair. Away from the…rules.
He shaded his eyes against the strong August sun and peered down the length of the canal. A boat churned around the bend.
Without hesitation, he ran along the shore, waving his arms.
“Help!” he screamed. “Help us!”
He gestured wildly at Tobias’s prone body. The big man’s chest rose up and down. The fly landed on his hand, nestling into a patch of thick black hair. Blood had trickled down his temples and pooled on the ground, mixing with the carefully coiffed lawn. In the distance, the doors of the sanitorium burst open. Figures in white coats streamed toward him, legs pummeling and arms flapping.
The boat pilot spun the wheel in the direction of shore, pulling close to the bumpers on the dock. It was vintage. Wooden. Freshly painted. His ticket out.
Freddie urged him to put on his best campaign smile to lure the man closer.
Don’t forget to look worried. Frown a little.
Sandy-haired, about thirty, the sailor jumped over the side, secured his boat to a mooring, and raced to Victor’s side.
“What happened?” he asked. His eyes widened as he recognized Victor, darting rapidly between Tobias and the President. “Mr. President?”
Hiding the gun behind his back, Victor pointed to Tobias.
“Can you help him?” he asked.
The boater leaned down. Victor slammed the butt of the gun against the back of his neck. Instantly, the man crumpled atop the agent.
What a twit. Didn’t even see it coming.
With Freddie, Clive, and Millie shouting encouragement, Victor leapt over the bodies, dashed to the boat, freed it, and headed up the river just as three orderlies reached the shore. He shoved the throttle to high and saluted them. The craft roared to life, zigzagging along the canal as it sped toward freedom.
There was something he wanted. Something he remembered… but it eluded him, playing around the edges of his brain.
What was it?
Tea with the Russian Ambassador?
No. That wasn’t it. He pictured Yuri and chuckled. He sure was a stuffed shirt. The thoughts niggled at him again as he churned up the waterway.
Something to do with a dark-haired girl in a blue dress?
He shook his head. Nope. Wrong again.
A conference at Camp David?
Millie piped up, dwarfing the cacaphony of voices that screamed inside his head.
Fudge ripple. We want ice cream.
Victor smiled, relieved to have pinned the thought to his mental corkboard. Right. That’s it. Ice cream. Okay, troops, let’s go!


Marta Stephens said...

How delightful!! So much going on in just a few short paragraphs...and I never saw the ending coming. LOL

Good one!

jean said...

Excellent story, Aaron. I truly enjoy your writing :-)

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Thanks, Marta! You know my usual genre is lots of novels - I'm a right novice with these flash fiction things. But it was fun!

Hello, Jean. Thank you so much! Stop by anytime, and tell us about yourself when you've time. ;o)

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Aaron, just added your blog to my roll of Authors You'll Want to Know at YOu may want to go to peruse the other authors. I think Marta who left you a note on this blog is there. (-: You might find other authors to contribute to your ever growing blog.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Great idea, Carolyn. And yes, the Marta who commented on this piece is one of my partners in crime who host Murderby4. It's Marta Stephens, SW Vaughn, Kim Smith, and yours truly. ;o) We're delighted you added the link, thank you! And I'll check out your blog roll today.

s.w. vaughn said...

Of course I remember this! An absolute delight of a piece, Aaron. So glad you posted it!

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

SW, it seems like so long ago, but I guess it really was just 2006. LOL. Thanks so much!

Kim Smith said...

Great story Aaron! I love fudge ripple too!!