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.


The Cartographers Vault

The piece below is my attempt at the flash fiction challenge Chuck Wendig presented in his terribleminds blog.  He had two columns with twenty words each. Participants needed to either roll a d20 die (or in my case, use a random number generator) to create a two-part title for their story. And since it’s a flash fiction, it needs to be a 1,000 words or less. I got a 9 and 4, resulting in:

Flash Fiction by AJ Bauers

The tour guide is less than pleased with our group. Probably because we’re all hammered.

Very hammered.

“This is lame,” I whisper. Judging by the dirty looks the elderly couple gives in front of me, my volume levels are little out of whack. When the brochure said ancient burial ground, I expected shrunken heads, ominous fog, and hot chicks clinging to me for protection. But instead I get a bald guide who hates happiness, signs pointing to weird rocks indicating their ritualistic significance, and the local chapter of the AARP as my guide buddies.

Definitely lame.

“I think it’s cool,” my buddy Jimmy says, turning his head over his shoulder to make sure Liz and Jeanine heard him. “To think it was built over a thousand years ago…”

Jeanine, who said those exact words only ten minutes ago, reacts as if it is a new thought, tripping as she catches his arm, “I know, right?”

“It’s amazing,” Liz adds, nuzzling the words in Jimmy’s neck.

When Jimmy told me that his parents had a time share down in Costa Rica we could use for Spring Break, I had been ecstatic. When he told me that Liz and Jeanine, the hot Sigma Phi girls, were coming with, I hailed him as a God among men.  But what he failed to mention was the time-share was in the middle of San Jose with no beach in sight. And to make things worse, both Liz and Jeannie seemed to find Jimmy’s quarterback physique more appealing than my great personality.


“Careful not to cross the velvet ropes,” British Mr. Clean says. He’s looking pointedly at Liz, who tripped three times as we climbed up the steep stairs to get here.

“Why not?” she asks, pouting her lip into perfect form.

“Will she be put into time out?” Jeanine says, casually draping her arm around Liz’s waist. The girls giggle and Jimmy keeps darting me this crazy grin like he just won the lottery. I respond by placing my own arm around Liz and taking another long swallow, drowning out whatever explanation baldy is stating.  Knowing my role, I finish off my drink with a rather loud belch, making the girls squeal and jump closer to Jimmy to get away from me. He’s winking at me as I stumble backwards, having been pushed away by Liz’s bony hip. Just as I’m about to right myself, I trip on the velvet ropes. And then the ground disappears beneath me.

For a moment, I can’t breathe, which may be for the best since dust and debris keep falling on my face. There are shouts and I can hear the guide saying something about a ladder. I groan and roll on my side, hoping that this at least gets me some sympathy points from the girls. “I need to lose weight,” I groan, hopefully in an actual whisper this time, as I struggle to my feet. The hole that I fell through is about eight feet above my head and I can’t believe I didn’t break anything. That or I’m just so wasted right now I’ve lost my ability to feel any fractures.

There’s a harsh clanking sound, and I see a flashlight rolling in a semicircle on the stone floor. I quickly grab it and click it on, immediately bathing the wall in light.

At first, I don’t see much of anything except more strange rock formations that could or could not be a symbol of death as everything in here seems to be. I’m slowly looking around, thinking how cramped it is, and how it reminds me of my time spent in the bank vault back home where I’m a teller.

And then I turn to the last wall and I see them.


Now a cartographer may look and see the historical significance of the different papers and leathers hanging in front of me. Me? I don’t understand a word, nor do I recognize any shape to be that of a specific country. But I do notice the Xs. More specifically, the giant red X in the most elaborate map with gold foil lining. And then I see dollar signs.

“We got a ladder!” Jimmy’s voice echoes above.

“Ahhh… okay,” I shout, thinking quickly. I’ve seen Goonies. I’ve played Uncharted. How hard could treasure hunting be? My trust fund opens up next year; I could hire some ridiculously smart historian and a parkour expert.  There’s probably an e-how for a treasure expedition.

“You ready?” Jimmy calls.

I quickly grab the map off the wall, carefully rolling up the fragile document. I stick it under my shirt, hoping the thin paper doesn’t soak up my sweat that smells like last night’s tequila. The ladder has just hit the bottom as I stand beneath the hole.

The climb up is brutal. I wasn’t joking when I said I needed to loose weight.  I’m gasping when I reach the top, leaning over my knees from the exertion. Mr. Clean keeps asking if I saw anything down below and Jeanine is cooing over me like I’m some hurt puppy.  And I’m just about to raise my head to lie to Mr. Clean and to lean into Jeanine’s chest when that inevitable clenching of my stomach occurs and I vomit all over the velvet ropes and a rock that probably means resurrection or rebirth or something with a ‘re’ in it.

The girls are screaming at me and Mr. Clean is dry heaving in a corner. The AARP group has all turned toward one another to exclaim profanities about spring breakers. So it’s only Jimmy who sees me look down at my shirt in horror, realizing that I’ve gotten sick all over it, effectively turning the map into a pile of mush.

“What did you eat bro?” Jimmy says in a disgusted fascination, staring at the sodden lump I’ve pulled out of my shirt.

I throw it on his chest and walk away.