The following story was written for the Furious Fiction contest for June 2020.
The guidelines were as follows:
'This month on the Furious Fiction show, we asked contestants to conjure a short story out of thin air using the following criteria:
Each story’s first and last words had to begin with J.
Each story had to include a game being played.
Each story had to include the phrase MISS/MISSED THE BOAT.
Out came the Scrabble, Monopoly and Chess boards (no doubt already handy after months of lockdown). Juniper berries mingled with Jacarandas in January, June and July and characters named James, Jane and Joe were suddenly in vogue. Boats were missed literally and figuratively from bathtubs to beaches.'
By S. W. Stribling
Jezebel sat down at the bar and ordered ‘The Painkiller’. She wasn’t much of a drinker, but she knew rum would put her out of her misery real soon. Still, she couldn’t bear the image of what she had just seen, so she pulled out her phone and started playing the game she had promised her husband she wouldn’t play during their vacation together. ‘Screw him!’ She thought as she watched the game load.
The drink came over and she looked up to say ‘thank you’ when she noticed that the bartender had on an eye-patch and walked with a wobble due to a wooden peg-leg. He even had a hook as a hand.
‘Excuse me, sir.’ She said. ‘If you don’t mind me asking, what happened to you?’
‘The leg?’ He said. ‘Aye, I lost it to a shark.’
‘Jesus. That’s horrible. And the hand?’
‘This…’ He said lifting up the hook. ‘Well, I had read online that you are supposed to punch a shark in the nose when attacked, so I tried that and the bastard bit me hand off too.’
‘My god. And the eye?’
‘Me first day with the new hand.’ He said.
She looked away with big eyes and took a sip of her cocktail while trying not to make eye contact with the man.
‘If I may ask,’ the bartender said, ‘You seem to be having a worse time than me. What happened to you?’
‘My husband cheated on me with the maid. I guess she was making more than the bed.’
‘That is a shame.’ The bartender said. ‘Here, have a cake. It’s on the house.’
‘Thanks.’ She said and ate the cake.
‘Would you like another?’
‘Sure.’ She said and ate that cake too.
‘Did you enjoy the cake?’ The bartender said.
‘Yes.’ She said smiling.
‘Would you like another?’
‘Do you see what the problem is here?’
The man seemed wise to her with his long black beard, and she tried to come up with a response that she thought he would want.
‘Yes…’ She said. ‘I should learn to enjoy what I have and not ask for more. I should let my husband go and be happy I had him for as long as I did.’
‘No.’ He said. ‘You’re fat. You should watch what you eat if you want to keep a husband.’
‘What the f…’
‘If I may, ma’am.’ The bartender interrupted. ‘We have ways of taking care of things on this island. The rules are a bit different here if you know what I mean.’
A few days later, Jezebel came home as planned and went out for drinks with her girlfriends as a new woman.
When one of her friends asked about her husband and their recent vacation, she responded, ‘Aye, me husband is me treasure, but I won’t tell you where he’s buried.’
Her friends were awestruck and stayed in silence, looking to each other while waiting for more.
Jezebel winked. ‘Just joking.’