Our writing prompt this week was a challenge. Every day we’ll be posting a new response to the following prompt:
First line: Manipulating people is so easy. I almost stopped doing it; almost.
In the text: I can’t help it. I lie all the time.
Last line: Sometimes it’s best not to go home again
Our first submission is from Colby Stream. Let us know what you think!
Manipulating people is so easy. I almost stopped doing it; almost.
But then how would people learn?
I walked down the busy sidewalk, searching for my mark. The email had come in that morning. Anonymous, but clear: the mark would be sitting in Bakersfield park around 9am, enjoying coffee and a newspaper. The email contained one attachment, a photograph.
It didn’t take long to spot him on the bench. He looked to be mid-40s, sandy brown hair that was beginning to thin. Nothing special.
I took a seat next to him on the bench and gave him my best pretty girl smile. I tipped my coffee to him, “Nice morning.”
He nodded back, and then looked down at his paper.
It only took 10 seconds for his eyes to flick back over to me, then quickly back to the paper.
I pretended to ignore him for the moment, watching him from the corner of my eye. His eyes flicked over to me again. They stole snatches here and there. I sipped my coffee while he did so.
Finally, I knew the time was right. I cleared my throat.
“I can’t help it,” I said to him. “I lie all the time.”
“Eh, er. Sorry?”
“I said I can’t help it. I lie all the time. You know what I mean? You must know.”
“No, I, er. I mean, no. No, I don’t.”
“Oh come now, Lee. We both know you do.”
His eyes grew wide as he processed my words. Then he folded up his paper and grabbed his coffee.
“Excuse me, I’m sorry,” he said and began to stand.
“Lee, sit.” He sat, seemingly surprised with himself. Like I said: easy.
“You and I are going to have a little chat.”
“Yes, about Sandra. You know what I mean, yes?”
He swallowed, nodding slightly. He looked to me like a child in the principal’s office. Someone who knew they were breaking the rules of the game, and had now been caught.
I clasped my hands on one knee and turned towards him. “Here’s the thing, today is your lucky day. Sandra knows you’ve been lying, and she’s asked me to take care of you.”
He flinched slightly.
“But that’s not what makes you lucky. The particular work I’ve been asked to do today is a little more … well, let’s say, restrictive than I’m used to. That’s why today is your lucky day.
“Most people in your situation leave my conversations with one less appendage.” I glanced at his crotch and back up to his face, giving him my best pretty girl smile.
“What do you want?” he asked, barely above a whisper.
“Sometimes,” I said, once again modifying my voice to fit the purpose. “It’s best not to go home again.”
“Not go home?” he asked.
“Yes, that’s right. Sometimes that’s best, don’t you think?”
His mouth worked, as if digesting the words. After several seconds of strained silence he responded. “Yes, yes. I see what you mean.” He stood, leaving the newspaper on the bench, and began to turn away.
I picked up the newspaper, knocked his coffee to the ground, and skimmed the pages.
So much sadness in the world, I thought to myself, but at least there’s one less scumbag in my city now.
After turning away Lee began walking — to where yet, he didn’t know — all the time mumbling to himself over and over, “Sometimes it’s best not to go home again. Yes, that’s right. Sometimes, it’s just for the best.