A few weeks ago, I entered a writing competition for flash-fiction, hosted by the University of Iowa, a school I had the privilege to attend.
The rules were simple. You had 48 hours, and were given three prompts to write a story under 1,000 words. A location, an object, and a drama. Detailed rules are available here.
I chose to write on this: The place? The Main Library on the U.Iowa campus. The object? A goldfish. The genre? A drama.
My selection was not chosen, and to be honest, most of those who read it (and even me!) were sure it wouldn't be chosen based on the subject matter, but I'm still pretty damn proud of this little story.
So here for your reading pleasure, is... "Never Saw Him Coming" in all of its 531 words. Story is copyright Emmie Brown, 2020.
The first time someone grabbed my ass, I was fourteen years old, standing in the checkout line of the QuikTrip with a pack of Now ‘n’ Laters and a bottle of Pepsi. My dad was waiting in the car. I paid for my stuff and left, never once looking behind me. I got in the car and pretended like nothing had happened.
Three years later, I was at a concert - a Christian band at that. I don’t remember who. They were terrible. That time, it was a caress across my lower back and a pinch just below the cutoff of my Daisy Duke’s. I whirled around but it was a mess of people and nobody was looking at me. I told my friends that night and they said I probably imagined it. We were all packed in there so tightly, it could have been anything!
Six months later, my best friend and I were at the pet store, looking at kittens. I liked the black one; he liked the tabby. Then we wandered over to the fish aisle. Up against a tank full of goldfish, he stuck his hand up my skirt and touched me. I left with a goldfish. He bought it. I never talked to him again. The fish died three weeks later.
I’ll be honest with you. I’d forgotten about them. Until yesterday.
Yesterday I was standing in the library. I’d finally chosen my major, and I could hear my mother’s hyper voice over the phone, prideful and a little… how do I put it? Like the legacy she’d concocted for me was finally coming to pass. My mother, the Great Feminist, had a daughter who was going to major in Women’s Studies.
Filled with foolish inspiration, I had chucked my roommates’ lunch date and gone in search of great women. Nowhere better than the Iowa Women’s Archives. “Every Girl Has A Voice”, they say.
It was quiet, in there. And I was lost in stories of women who Lived. With a capital L. Not always famous, but with stories that shone a light on the full paradigm of womanhood. I was awestruck, enveloped, alive. And I never saw him coming.
The hand that snaked its way around my mouth smelled of turpentine and gin, and the one that reached the other way around and slipped under my shirt and bra was slick with sweat. It slid slowly down, across my stomach. I was frozen, fear bubbling through my brain like a kettle about to boil over. When his hand dipped inside my underwear, the kettle started screaming.
It was convenient, the way the pen poked out of my pocket. Adrenaline is a funny thing. I don’t really know how I threw him off, but oh, how everything moved in slow motion after that.
I should apologize to the staff there. I probably ruined a few books. It’s surprising how soft the wood is in that part of the library. Is it pine? Whatever. It doesn’t matter. At least that creep won’t be using his hand again for a long time.
So no, Officer. I don’t regret a thing. Except maybe that I can’t use that pen anymore.