Thursday, August 29, 2013


Taylor tried to act casual. The fresh brewed coffee, usually a welcome smell, was making him slightly nauseous. He got his feet to stop tapping the floor; his fingers still drummed against the cafe table. Not that he could hear the sound. Cups clattering, the low hum of conversations, chiming and chirping cell phones all contributed to the rolling din. Taylor forced his hands flat, spread his fingers, tried breathing only through his mouth. "Where is he?" he murmured to himself.
He backhanded the sweat off his forehead, wished he'd worn something other than fleece to hide the manila envelope. A timer buzzed. The barista rolled her eyes at the woman texting. A man at the table next to him laughed, leaned across the table to wipe the whipped cream mustache off his girlfriend.
A bald man wearing a long leather coat slipped into the chair across from Taylor, laid a briefcase on the table. Taylor didn't know his name—he'd only called him "the guy." During their two brief phone calls, they'd only discussed the transaction: one hundred thousand dollars, do the exchange, the end. In Taylor's case, maybe not the end. If this worked, the money wouldn't matter.
The briefcase looked unremarkable: faded black leather, worn handle, chrome flaking off the clasps. "Is it inside?"
The guy snorted. "You could say that. Got the cash?"
Taylor started to unzip his fleece jacket, hesitated. "Th-this is my life's savings."
The guy looked expectantly, said nothing. Taylor pulled the manila envelope out, passed it across the table. "Will it work?"
The guy peeked inside the envelope, then slipped it inside his coat. "If you don't believe me, go ahead. Open it."
Taylor pulled the briefcase closer, pushed his thumbs against the clasps. The locking tab clicked. He hesitated.
The guy got up. Taylor lifted the lid.
"Good luck t—"
Light glowed from the interior. Silence descended. Taylor looked up. The guy's coat flared behind him, frozen in place. Behind the counter, baristas stood still as statues. The man at the next table seemed transfixed by the sight of his girlfriend, who in turn seemed mesmerized by her Iphone's blank screen. Taylor turned. Every patron was frozen in place. Everyone, except Taylor.
He checked his own cell phone, watched it, counted to sixty. It worked!
Time had stopped.
Taylor closed the lid.
"—to you." The coat tails fell against the back of the guy's legs. He left the coffee shop.
Taylor slammed the clasps into place, tucked the briefcase under his arm and ran out the shop. He ran all four blocks to the hospital, ran through the lobby, slipped into an empty elevator just before the door slid closed.
A chime announced each floor. Taylor waited for the fourth chime, got out on the oncology wing, went straight to Room 442.
Lizzie's eyes were closed, the IV bag dripped into her bruised, thin arms. Dr. Patel put away his pen light, greeted Taylor. "How is she?"
Dr. Patel shook his head. "It won't be long now." His expression filled with sympathy. He cleared his throat. "I suggest you say your goodbyes."
Taylor only nodded, waited for Dr. Patel to leave the room. He sat gingerly on the side of Lizzie's bed, stroked her forehead. Her eyelids fluttered open.
"You're here," she whispered.
Taylor swallowed the lump in his throat. He set the briefcase on his lap, unlocked the tabs. He took her hand in his, closed it around the handle. "I love you, Lizzie."
Taylor lifted the lid. 

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My son's newest project for his video editing class is to create a story, then shoot and edit it into a 2 minute film. The prompt is a briefcase. Him and I brainstormed, and this is the story. 
I hope his classmates like it enough to film it. That would be a hoot for me. For now, enjoy it as a #fridayflash


Larry Kollar said...

Wow, that would make a great short film, yup! Pass the kudos along to your son for this one.

Icy Sedgwick said...

Seems kind of sad, that he'd be able to spend more time with her but she'd be frozen.

Margit Sage said...

I agree with both Larry and Icy. Great concept, poignantly used.
(P.S. Love your tags.)

Richard Bon said...

Cool concept! I'd love to see the video if it gets made.

Katherine Hajer said...

This reminded me of that short story by Borges about the poet getting assassinated, or "Endless Summer" by Christopher Priest.

It would definitely make a cool video.

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Mike Robertson said...

Hi Peg, I'm late as always. Remarkable little tale, no question. It made me wonder how Lizzie might feel if she knows she's stuck in time just before the moment of death. Which is a doozy of a premise.

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