My second round story in this years NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Competition – for the edification of fellow NYCers and the enjoyment of all. This version is as submitted, with no further edits, I’ll post the feedback when it comes in.
The set up was a Crime Caper involving a waterfall and a toothbrush, with a 1000 word limit.
No Son of Mine
Stolen gems and exploding plumbing bring an estranged father and son back together.
No Son of Mine
Five years had passed since I had last seen Dad this close up. I’d seen him from a distance of course: on the news the day he was arrested, across the courtroom during his trial, and from the street outside when they bundled him into the van to put him behind bars.
The judge had made parole conditional on Dad giving up his stash of stolen cash and gems. Dad knew he could never enjoy it, that when he did eventually get out every step would be dogged by police and villains alike, but he wouldn’t give it up.
The last time we were together he had disowned me. The hurt from his words “You’re no son of mine” echoed down the years. Papers had flown behind the words. They held my entry details to university to study Chemical Engineering. I had to get on my knees to gather them as they drifted to the floor rather than make a dignified exit. On a neat pile on the kitchen table was the other offer letter, the one I wouldn’t be taking up: law school. We stopped talking that day. A week later I went to university and that was it.
Mum had backed me. Dad always said she spoiled me, that her indulgence would be the ruin of us all. Not his thieving, not his lust for danger, not his disregard for other people’s property. Mum told me to give him time, Dad would come round.
Dad used to say I had inherited his intelligence, the fine analytical mind that saw possibilities where others only saw problems. He’d wanted that mind trained as a lawyer to save him from prison. He knew he’d get caught one day, and that with the swathe he had cut through the rich and powerful there was not a lawyer who would give him a fair run at a defence.
If Dad was clever, Mum was wise. “I know your old man, I know him better than he knows himself” she told me, “And there’s nothing that will stop them locking him up, so follow your heart son.” Of course she was devilish clever too, which we would only appreciate years later.
True enough here he was in jail and I was talking to him through an inch of glass.
“How are you?”
“OK. I don’t cause trouble so they’ve given me some privileges.”
“I heard. I brought you some things.” I gestured to the guard who was making his way through the security doors with a cardboard box. There was a woven blanket inside, a couple of books, and a toothbrush. The guard had checked everything without comment.
“So what are you up to these days?”
He sat back in his chair in shock. “Plumbing? You spent three years in university to become a pipe strangler?” He sighed. “You could have been anything you wanted.” Fortunately the box landed beside him to stop a reprise of our last argument.
Dad picked the toothbrush out of the box. Turning it over in his hands, thinking about the last time he had seen it. I’d retrieved it from Mum’s old house on Statton Street, the one we never went to after her father died, which was slowly falling into disrepair and dereliction. It turned out Dad had been there frequently.
“It was all about plumbing in the end.” I explained. He looked at the toothbrush for a long time before he looked up. I think the wetness in his eyes was pride; everyone had looked, but I had found his stash. “It’s all about plumbing now as well,” I went on. “I’ve marked some passages in the books that you should read.”
When I left they let him carry the box back to his cell.
* * *
The old thrill was back when I walked to my cell. I dropped on the steel bed and put my feet up. In the box were two John Grisham novels. The cheeky sod had given me books about lawyers. They both smelled odd.
The cipher was a simple one and I read through his instructions carefully before I sat up. There was a nylon filament in the thick wool of the blanket. I began unravelling.
After lights out I took the pages I had carefully torn from the books. The first pair were slapped on the wall with a little water. My prison issue sheets went over my mouth as smoke rose in stinking puffs. My regular blanket was draped over the bars of my cell so the smoke would not escape and trigger the smoke alarms.
When the smoke died down a little I could see a small hole. A few swift kicks on the weakened mortar exposed the cavity between the walls. A thick water pipe ran up the cavity to the storage tanks on the roof. A second pair of papers did for the outside wall. I kicked the bricks out of that too before playing out the filament and wrapping the sheets round it to protect my hands.
I slipped the toothbrush into my pocket and wriggled feet first out of the two holes in the walls. All about plumbing he’d said, and how could I resist? I stuck all the remaining pages to the pipe on the side facing into the prison.
It erupted when I was halfway down the wall, and the shockwave nearly made me lose my grip. I held on, imagining the full force of water in the six inch pipe sweeping through my cell. I had been on level three; it would be pouring through the bars and arcing across the atrium. A waterfall as my parting gift, and chaos to cover my escape. As I dropped to the ground a car engine started nearby and an old BMW rolled up.
I sat down in the passenger seat and smiled at my boy. “Plumbing, eh?”
“Plumbing,” he replied.
“Well, lucky for me you’re your mother’s son.”
If you are interested in more of my writing please check out my book: Image and Other Stories