Powder Burn Flash # 282 - Katherine Tomlinson
by Katherine Tomlinson
Len had left the house 42 minutes before the movie started but when he got to the theater, his favorite parking space (the one only 15 steps from the elevator ) had already been claimed by an SUV crowding a spot clearly marked “compact.”
Len thought about going home, but he’d burned a twelfth of a gallon of gas on the drive to the theater, and it seemed a shame to waste it.
When the guy in line in front of him began swearing into his cell phone, Len wondered—not for the first time—why people always abbreviated “mother fucker” as “mofo” instead of “mofu.” Or for that matter, why nobody ever abbreviated “cock sucker” at all. (“Cosu?” )
As the line slowly moved up, Len’s eyes strayed to the billboard across the street, a cheesy ad for a gentleman’s club in Hollywood . The name “Spearmint Rhino” always reminded him of that game “Googlewhack,” where you type two unrelated words into the search engine and see how many “hits” you get.
The object is to get as close to zero as possible. The odds of winning the game were pretty low when you considered how many words were on the web but Len found the game soothing.
Ephemeral Elephantiasis 24300
Euphonious Psittacosis 656
In the end he’d admitted the seductive pull of Googlewhacking was dangerous and quit it cold turkey, the way he’d stopped buying on eBay after he ended up with the world’s most comprehensive collection of Adam-12 memorabilia.
But “Spearmint Rhino” still fascinated him. Why not “Peppermint Pig?” He’s heard of peppermint pigs, those glassy hard candies the Christmas catalogues hawk in the name of a dubious holiday tradition. They come in a velvet bag, he remembers, with a little hammer to break the candy into shards. He’s never seen a photograph to scale, so he has no idea how big the pink pigs are or how many pieces there are for people to share.
And of course, that gets him to thinking about what you do with the little hammers when you’re finished with the candy. He’d never seen the pigs sold separately, so he assumed that if you liked them, you had a pile of teeny little hammers stacking up in your tool box. Maybe you could donate them to one of those shows, Extreme Makeover: The Munchkin Edition.
The line moved another step and closed up, leaving only 18 inches between each person and not the optimal 24. The guy in front of Len finished his conversation with a hostile “You blew it, pal” and closed the phone with a snap.
That was one drawback to cell phones, Len had noticed. Slamming a phone handset down on the receiver had been so very satisfying and you couldn’t really do that with a cell phone. You could throw it across a room, of course, or on the floor, but then you’d have to buy a new one.
“You blew it,” the man had said and although Len heard “blew,” he saw “blue” in his mind. That started him thinking about colors and how many sounded just like other words that weren’t colorful at all. Blue and blew; red and read. He’d used a lot of colors playing Googlewhack, with gratifying results.
Mauve Propinquity 748
Dangerous Chartreuse 40,700
The line moved again and the woman behind Len lurched into him, having taken too big a step forward. She was wearing fancy flip-flops (why not flop-flips? Len wondered ) and stubbed her toe as she stumbled.
She dropped her purse, which opened up and spilled her life onto the dirty sidewalk. Coins and tampons and makeup flew out. Also used Kleenex and three packs of cinnamon gum, her key ring, a tiny bottle of hand sanitizer and a .38 caliber pistol that was so heavy it gouged a chip out of the concrete as it fell.
With a cry, she knelt to gather her belongings—the coins and the tampons and the chewing gum and the plastic bottle of hand sanitizer. Her key ring had skittered off the sidewalk into the grass. Len reached for it just as the woman scooped up the .38. He met her eyes and recoiled.
The blink of an eye lasts just 100 milliseconds and scientists believe a human can recognize a threat in half that time.
Len registered the expression on the woman’s face and the message it sent to his brain was …get away. Now, now, now!
To Len, the woman’s eyes looked blank, but inside her mind was racing.
Psychotic Permutations 25,700
Insane Harbingers 94,500
She had bought the gun with the intention of shooting her ex-husband and the blonde bitch who had taken him away from her. She’d been following them for weeks looking for an opportunity to carry out her plan. Now they were standing in line for the movie, totally oblivious to everyone around them. They were like randy teenagers, his hand deep in the ass pocket of her jeans, her arm wrapped tightly around his waist. The sight disgusted her.
She was going to buy a ticket and sit behind them and wait until the movie started. She knew the noise of her shots would be lost in the racket of the opening sequence.
She had planned on shooting him first, then the skank and then herself. But now it was all ruined because of Len. People had seen the gun. People were beginning to scream. So she pointed the .38 at Len and pulled the trigger.
The velocity of a bullet varies depending on a number of factors—the caliber of the gun, the length of the barrel, the kind of ammo. Her gun had a four-inch barrel and was loaded with high-velocity Remington Green Box Handgun Ammo (available at $27.81 for 50 rounds, stock #95155 ).
The bullet traveled 950 feet per second. Len was 29.5 inches away from her.
There wasn’t time for Len to do the math.
Instantaneous Obliteration 96,700
BIO: Katherine Tomlinson lives in Los Angeles where she works as a writer and editor. Her fiction has appeared in Astonishing Adventures Magazine, A Twist of Noir, Dark Fire and Thug Lit.