Death by No-Name

Huzzah! A flash fiction challenge from Chuck Wendig! In celebration of the Apple Season, Chuck prepared a list of 41 little-known apple varieties. I used the random number generator to select three of these apples and I had to incorporate the apple titles into my flash fiction.  So in a 1,000 words or less with the apple varieties Oliver, Carter’s Blue, and Hoover, I give you:

Death by No-Name

This is a story of how a boy named Oliver embarrassingly killed his school teacher with a Hoover vacuum cleaner.

Oliver was by all accounts a well-behaved first grader.  He never put spiders down his classmates shirts and he always remembered to say please, if not thank you. Although he had a certain proclivity for throwing tantrums when the cafeteria ran out of apple juice, he was considered well within the bell curve of normality for a seven year old child.

This all changed one month prior to the untimely demise of Miss Carter.

It started with show and tell. Miss Carter had had issues in the past with children bringing in questionable content, which ranged from metallic ’vibrate-sticks’ to ‘empty’ hornets’ nests. To counter the presentment of exotic curios, Miss Carter now required a description of the item to be presented the week before the child’s assigned turn. When Oliver stated he wanted to bring a friend, she reminded him that people weren’t allowed to come in for show and tell.

“He’s not really people,” Oliver had said.

“He’s not really a person,” Miss Carter corrected. “And we don’t allow pets either.”

“He’s not a pet. Besides, he’s already here.”

“What do you mean he’s already here?”

He pointed to the area behind her shoulder, “He’s right behind you.”

Miss Carter, being the clever sort, realized that this friend was fanciful, but played along anyway. She swiveled in her padded chair and tilted her head in a proper welcoming manner. “Pleasure to meet you. What’s your name?”

“He doesn’t have a name.”

“Well, then what does your friend look like?”

“He doesn’t have a face.”

“…and what do you two do for fun?”

“We harness the evil in my backyard.”

Miss Carter had told him to go back to his seat and suggested bringing in a favorite toy instead.

Three weeks later, Miss Carter, being the artistic sort, had her students create pictures for parent-teacher conferences. Johnny, an abstract artist, selected the colors green and brown and fabricated a piece he titled ‘Dinasore’. Shanel, with her unique vision, painted a rainbow amidst a flurry of clouds and birds, which she labeled ‘Happy Day’. Edward opted for a monochromatic approach, using only cyan paint to draw a smiling face with hair, glasses, and a ruler. He gave it to his teacher with a wide smile, stating it was called ‘Miss Carter’s Blue’. She accepted it, but reminded Edward the importance of brushwork, causing his expression to fall.

Miss Carter spotted Oliver engaging in pointillism as he repeatedly stabbed his pencil onto his paper. When she reached his desk, the piece was completed covered in graphite.

“What should we call your work, Oliver?”

“It’s No-Name’s. And it’s called ‘Death’.”

For a moment, Miss Carter tried to believe that the image and corresponding title were perhaps an ironic statement on the human condition. But as her class would not know the meaning of irony until the spring semester, she encouraged Oliver to change it. As if not hearing her, Oliver only put down his pencil and whispered, “So much death…”

That afternoon, Miss Carter made sure Oliver got his apple juice at snack time.

Unfortunately, Oliver’s parents were unable to make the conference. Miss Carter, being the accommodating sort, set up a home visit the following week. She brought No-Name’s artwork as well as a few homework assignments that had a stick figure drawn on the name line with nothing but a black filled-in circle for a face. At promptly 6:00, Miss Carter knocked on the door. She knocked again, only louder, when she realized a vacuum cleaner was sucking away the sound of her fist. So intent was she on her endeavor to be noticed that she failed to detect a presence from behind. When her shoulder was tapped, her yelp accomplished what her pounding had not. The vacuuming promptly desisted.

“Sorry!” exclaimed the man wearing a white jumpsuit with an obscuring, netted hat. “Please, come in.”

Before the faceless man could grab the handle, the door opened to reveal a woman who smelled strongly of disinfectant. “You must be Miss Carter.” She repeated the masked man’s sentiment, “Please, come in.”

As the netted hat man hurried up the stairs, avoiding the now soundless vacuum cleaner that sat midway, Oliver’s mother led Miss Carter to the kitchen table, explaining how her husband recently took up bee-keeping. Sensing a correlation, Miss Carter showed the homework bearing a stick man with a shaded face. When the father came to join, now rid of his buggy uniform, Miss Carter brought up No-Name’s morbid sense of art. Oliver’s father admitted that about a week ago, one of his hives had been broken by some neighborhood kids and a swarm of bees had escaped. They fogged out all the rooms, which had sadly killed most of the bees.

Feeling happy a rational explanation existed (as she knew it would), Miss Carter gathered her papers and bade them a good night. When they exited the kitchen, a scurry of feet ran up the steps; the sound only confirming Oliver’s eavesdropping. His mother lectured him at the top of the stairs until his ears turned red.  Miss Carter opened the door to leave, but paused when Oliver’s mother insisted he apologize, completing the child’s mortification.

Unfortunately, Oliver’s chagrin at being caught kept his eyes so downcast that he looked at his cheeks instead of his feet. Had he been looking properly, he might have avoided the cord plugged in at the top of the stairs. And he might have not fallen on the vacuum cleaner. But alas, he did both and slid spectacularly down the steps. The heavy duty Hoover slammed directly into Miss Carter’s legs, pushing her out the open door. As Miss Carter flew backwards, ‘Death’ flew in front of her face, making Miss Carter realize Oliver would be taught irony sooner than spring semester.


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