The Dangers of True Fiction
A Short Story by Doug Dean
Written using the suggestion "Ribbon"
Originally featured on 05-16-2007
As part of our series "Endings"

Punching away on her typewriter, Flo doesn’t notice the room slowly filling with water. She’s halfway through her novel after all and “cannot be disturbed” under any circumstances.

 

Stan, “Mr. Florence Messinger”, has his hand on a faucet knob. Hanging from the faucet is a hose. The hose leads from the gleaming white kitchen, which he has shared with his wife for 8 years, through the hallway — which displays in ivory frames all of Florence’s bestseller covers, through the hands of Nicholas, Florence’s unemployed son, finally ending at the entrance to the basement — in which Florence does all her writing and has for the past 10 years.

 

Flo is steadily punching away while the imported rug at her feet — purchased with the money from her first novel, absorbs gallons. As the “fiction” pours out of Flo’s fingers, she hasn’t noticed the squishing sound beneath her tapping feet.

 

Stan, “Mr. Florence Messinger”, is giving a “thumbs up” through the kitchen window to Oscar — the Messinger’s groundskeeper for the past 5 years. Oscar stands on the lovely wooden deck purchased with the money from Florence’s fifth novel. Oscar turns and relays the message across the deck to James who is standing by the driveway holding a pipe. This pipe is exactly the same as a pipe above Flo’s head except for the huge crack that James and Oscar made in it this morning. James is nervous and doesn’t return the thumbs up. He stands holding the pipe and repeating a line from Evolution Paused, Florence’s sixth novel. The line he is repeating under his deep breaths opens the second half of the book and describes a groundskeeper’s assistant named “Jim.” The line is, “Luckily people can always choose to get off the bus early, so novelists will always have groundskeepers.”

 

James is using both hands to hold the large pipe. Clipped to his leather belt is a walkie-talkie.

 

“Come in, cockroach. It’s Duck. Over.”

“Go ahead. Over.”

“Status update. Over.”

“Pond is filling, Tiger. Over.”

“Duck! It’s been Duck for the past day.” James rolls his eyes. “Over.”

“Got it, Duck. I'll tell you when its time. Over and out.”

 

On the other walkie talkie a few miles away, James was just speaking to Chief Willie Iger, codename Duck, who is sitting next to the pond on the edge of the Messinger’s property. Duck is sitting in his truck and feeling somewhat—well, stuck in his current subservient role. He’s used to giving orders as the town’s police chief, not taking them from somebody who got off the Darwinian bus too early. Duck purchased his truck with money from a lawsuit with a publishing company for using his likeness. Florence’s third novel, Ball-lessness is next to Lawlessness, was a bestseller. The case was settled out of court for a pickup truck that looked to be in far better condition than it actually was.

 

Duck’s waiting for the signal from Cockroach. When he gets it, he will race across the dirt road that spans the property. He will collect from the scene an unbroken pipe, a hose and any other incriminating items his experienced eye detects. Then he plans to vanish from the area using an abandoned logging road.

 

As Nicholas, Flo’s unemployed son, holds the hose he is reading a framed letter on the wall. The letter is to his mother from a fan who “feels like she lives in the fictional world” that Florence Messinger’s novels create. Apparently this fan’s children have some problems and Florence’s second novel, The Seed that Refused to Grow, is a continuing inspiration. Nicholas tries to increase the flow of water by twisting the head. But it is already on full blast. As he listens to his mother pounding away on the keys of her typewriter, he is wondering — as is James, Oscar and Duck — what she is writing about now.

 

Stan, Mr. Florence Messinger, is not wondering about this. He is instead, looking at Oscar who is doing his best rat face. Oscar is trying to look like Ossie, the giant rat from Evolution Paused. Ossie is now a beloved character of Oscar’s children due to the Disney film based on Evolution Paused. Oscar’s children were moved by one song in particular, “A Rat Can Teach a Cockroach To Do Anything.” Oscar estimates that the children have watched the film over a thousand times.

 

Flo feels her feet getting wet. She looks down and moves them. She’s right at a critical point and it can wait. Whatever Stan did to make this wet can wait.

 

Stan is not looking at anyone right now. He is daydreaming. He imagines the unbolted wooden stairs breaking under her and her landing back in the water. Maybe her leg is broken. Yes! Yes, he decides that it is. She tries to climb up the cement walls but it’s difficult with the broken leg and the soundproofing material is slippery. But she insisted. She could not be disturbed. James, Oscar and he gather round the doorway to listen and take notes. They are chanting the title of the book they intend to write together, Do Kill Flo Messinger.

 

Stan looks down the hall. He sees Nicholas. Nicholas nods. The typewriter pounds the ribbon.

 

Flo is working steadily, unabated by the water now around her calves on her new novel that she believes nobody has read a line of. The working title is Mr. Florence Messinger. The first line — in her estimation the most honest line, reads “To be a warrior in the kitchen doesn’t excuse you from being one in the bedroom.” Water or no water, wet feet or dry, she must finish.

Read More By Doug Dean

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