Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Nature of the Con

What do the rest of you do when you have written a story that is obviously for a certain market or anthology and they reject it? Does it get thrown into the dead story file? Does it get changed and sent back out or does it just get sent back out, unchanged?

I have several stories like that right now. Okay, not all of them have been rejected- yet. The story I wrote for The First Line last month was kicked back to me yesterday. It is a flash piece and I had fun writing it, but since crime confessional flash isn't exactly a thriving market I will post it below.

The Nature of the Con

“My life is a sham.”

“What do you mean?” He looked at me with probing eyes and stuffed a cigarette into his mouth. I watched him light it with a match and inhale deeply. He offered me one through the steel bars that separated us.

“Nothing I have done has been real,” I said as he continued to hold out the butt end for me. “Everything is a show. Even this con that got me into here.”

He smiled through the smoke. “I thought that was the nature of the con,” he said.

I took the cigarette from him, he offered me the lit end of his and I breathed deeply as the tobacco started to smolder. “Can I tell you a story?”

The stranger shrugged his shoulders. “You have as captive an audience as you'll ever have.”

I smiled weakly at the joke, exhaled the smog from my lungs and started. “I shouldn't be in here, not for what I am in here for. I should have been in here much earlier if you had asked me. I probably should have been gunned down in some back alley if you ask the right people. Course, no one knows who I am. Even the records they had when they booked me in aren't right. They think I'm Peter Richardson.”

The stranger interrupted and smiled, “So you're telling me you're a dick?”

“Something like that. In Tampa I'm Richard Peterson and in Oklahoma City they only know me as Thomas Gunderman.”

I watched him smash the remnants of his smoke under his heel and pull out another. He offered me another one. I refused this one. I don't really like to smoke, but I hate to refuse hospitality Another con.

“So what should you be in here for?”

“I killed a man. Broke his neck. Not too worried about it. Catfish have probably taken car of the body by now anyway.” I watched and waited for the flash of fear in his eyes that most men had with their own mortality.

He didn't blink. “So, what are you in here for?”

“Stole a piece of a car. Engine block gave out before the cops even radioed for backup.”

“Tough break,” he said and took a long drag.

The metal door at the end of the hall opened with a squeal and we watched them half drag a drunk down the hall. We heard the cell door slam shut and the familiar cough and gag of what too much drink will do, followed by a watery spatter on the concrete floor. We both looked into the hall for a moment but the officer continued to make his way back to the exit. The door shut hard behind him.

“Don't envy his job in the morning,” the man with the cigarettes said to me.

I smiled and continued my story. “I don't like to steal cars, too risky and the profit isn't there. Too many alarms and lo-jack systems. I thought I was doing good. I just needed a ride across town so I borrowed a twenty year old Honda. Easy to wire and good on gas. I thought the owner probably wouldn't miss it for a couple of days and by then another guy would have lifted it. Especially where I was going to leave it.”

Now it was his turn to smile. “I like the way you think.”

“Can I ask what you are in here for?”

He snuffed out the cigarette on the floor under a well worn shoe. “Protection,” he said.

I raised an eyebrow at him.

“I'm undercover.” He raised his shirt and flashed a badge at me. “Guess my life is a sham as well. How much more you want to tell me about the guy you killed. It will clear your conscience.”

I closed my eyes. This was one con I was going to have a hell of a time talking my way out of.


Katey said...

Bwahaha nice ending! Oh, that was satisfying.

Jamie Eyberg said...

Katey- I couldn't just have it be anyone he was talking with. That would be no fun.

Aaron Polson said...

Yeah, all evil laughter is appropriate here. I wanted to say: Gotcha, sucker! but the three year old playing the other room would have looked at me like I'm crazy.

Cate Gardner said...

Ha! Didn't see that coming.

Jamie Eyberg said...

Aaron- my kids are used to thinking I'm crazy.

Cate- Nice to know I'm not totally predictable.

K.C. Shaw said...

Great ending!

I've got a story I wrote for an anthology that filled and closed by the time I finished it. It's got such a narrow focus that I don't think I'll ever find a market for it. I need to stop writing stories for anthologies.

BT said...

This could have gone to the Masque anthology.

Whenever i have something come back that was written for a specific market. I try to revise all the specific things out of it and then find a new market. In the end, shouldn't all stories be just about being a good story?

Should be other markets around once that's the case. None of my stories hit the dead story folder until I've moved on in the craft enough to think I'd no longer want a particular story to represent my writing ability in public.

Of course, it would be nice if I was actually writing new shorts at the moment...

Danielle Birch said...

Cool ending.

I have a couple of stories that were written for specific markets/anthologies and they're now gathering dust. Hopefully something else will come along that suits them. I could pull them apart and rework them but I'm rather fond of them in their current form.

Carrie Harris said...

Snarf. Guess that's just the nature of the con.

Thanks for posting that. Nice way to start off the day!

Jamie Eyberg said...

K.C.- sometimes I feel like I should stop writing for specific markets and sometimes I don't.

B.T.- I had thought about reworking it, but I thought I would just share this one with my friends instead.

Danielle- I should do that with my horror antho stories. It usually doesn't take long for another similar themed pub to come along.

Carrie- glad I could make you snarf this morning. Returning the favor as it were.