500 Word Noir Project
Suggestions: A Park, A Pair of Siblings, A Dusty Bottle
Word Count: 587…Is less than 600 within the 500 word ballpark, or am I equivocating?
I’m waiting in the dirt behind the community center. I kick a plastic bottle back and forth between my boots. Scratchy clicks sound from the parking lot.
Stacy totters toward me in white denim and spike heels.
“Get out of there!” She hisses.
“You said ‘in’ the park.”
“It’s under construction! No wonder you’re hurting for work,” Stacy uncaps her Fuji water with a clementine-colored claw, “Genius.”
“I’m doing you a favor,” I remind her and step over the sagging orange plastic fencing.
“Belinda told me you didn’t suck.”
“What a review. Next time, tell her to retrieve her own kidnapped shar-pei. What do you want?”
Stacy offers me the half-drunk Fuji.
“No, thanks. I don’t drink cheap vodka.”
“Bitch,” She returns, “Listen, for fifteen hundred dollars, prove that some little cunt in Bailey’s Daisy troop rigged the vote for the new playground mascot.”
I never set foot in my hometown if I can help it. Also, I hate my sister. She’s petty and loaded, in every sense of both words. Worse, Stacy’s right: Biz has been dry for this P.I. I ate gas station crackers and my pride before coming here.
Plausible. Stacy’s husband is a darkweb scuzzbag.
“Shake on it.”
Stacy’s manicure rakes my palm.
“So. What the fuck?”
Stacy spills, “Troop 931 gets to select an animal mascot for the new playground sign. Democratic vote. Slips of paper. Box. Three choices: Capybara, Sloth, Write-in Candidate.”
“Kids are too sophisticated now.”
“Maybe for you,” Stacy sighs, “So, a fucking write-in candidate won.”
“Pangolin won. Excuse me? There’s not going to be a gross pangolin on the fucking sign, Trish. Only one girl even knew what a pangolin was! Annalise,” Stacy sneers, “She’s a bully.”
“Takes one to know-”
“I mean she is toxic,” Stacy continues, “I’m Troop Leader. Everyone voted. I left the room to pee-”
“Drink too much water?”
“I returned. The girls looked weird. All votes read ‘pangolin.’ I totally cut more than twelve slips of paper. When I came back, all the slips of paper were gone. Annalise took the real votes out of the box and bullied the girls. No evidence other than missing slips. The slips weren’t in the trash. Not in Bailey’s pocket-”
“Bailey voted pangolin?”
Stacy spits, “I need more proof than my snitch daughter’s word—not for the kids’ benefit—so I can rip out the asshole of Annalise’s mom. I need the missing slips.”
“Troop meets here?” I point to the nearest window of the community center.
“In that room!”
“How old are ‘Daisies?’”
“Five to seven.”
“Did you finish a…Fiji before going to pee?”
I step back over the plastic fence into the dirt. It takes me seconds to find the dusty Fiji bottle with the label ripped off. The one I kicked. I now notice the litter inside are paper scraps, scrawled with creative spellings of ‘Capybara.’ I hand it to Stacy.
“Stuffed the slips in there. Threw it out the window. Without your genius sister’s powers of observation, you would have met your psycho match in little Annalise.”
Stacy grins like a monkey with a tambourine and she claps between each word, “I! Knew! It!”
She opens her Vuitton and hands me a rubber-banded stack of bills.
“Annalise’s bitch mother is gonna wish she’d never been born!” Stacy cackles. She totters back to her Hummer.
I stick the cash in my sweatshirt pocket. As I cut through the park to the bus station, I’ve never felt dirtier.