Woohoo! I now have 4 out of 6 stories featuring on the longlist of the Furious Fiction challenge this year. When am I finally going to make it to the shortlist?
This was the assignment for August:
“This restaurant is a hidden gem,” he wrote in his email. “I'm sure you'll like it.”
“He’s certainly right about the place being hidden,” I mutter when I arrive half an hour late.
“This part of the city is a real labyrinth,” I apologize as he beckons me over to the only occupied table in the room.
“But the food is delicious,” he reassures me.
At these prices, it better be, I think while studying the menu.
“Have you been waiting long?” I ask, pointing at the house of cards he built on the table.
“Don’t mention it,” he says, but I can tell he’s frustrated by the way he smashes the already fragile construction with a single blow of his hand.
“So… what did you want to talk to me about?”
While he quietly stacks up the scattered cardboard coasters, I signal the waiter that we’re ready to order. When that’s taken care of, I hear the three words I was expecting: “I need money.”
“You always do,” I respond. That’s my brother. He falls in a state of euphoria over this or that investment, but every venture he engages in crumbles due to his own ineptitude, much like the house of cards just did.
“But now I really need money,” he insists.
“That’s a shame. I thought I made it clear that I won’t be investing in any of your projects again.”
I wait for him to present his case, trying to convince me that things are different this time, that his new venture cannot fail—as he always claims—but he doesn’t say anything. We play the silent game until our meal arrives.
My brother hesitates to pick up his fork and knife.
“Don’t worry,” I appease him. “I’ll pay for dinner.”
“I wasn’t going to pitch you a new project,” he says, finally taking his first bite.
“Then what do you need the money for?”
His expression turns sour, as if the food in his mouth has suddenly lost its taste. He swallows and then confesses: “I’ve got some debts.”
“Some debts?” I echo. “How much money are we talking about?”
He chokes and drops dead before he can answer. The dark and mysterious silhouette of a man emerges from the kitchen in response to my screams. A gun in one hand and a bill folder in the other, he walks over to our table.
“Whenever you’re ready,” he says, putting the opened folder down with the bill facing me.
Paralyzed with fear, I can’t move as he leaves the scene. I hear the cook and the waiter arguing in the kitchen about who to call first, the police or an ambulance.
I stare at the figure at the bottom of the bill.
“Some debts,” he said.
Inappropriately, I realize that this is the first time I caught my brother making an understatement. I instantly grasp that it’s also the last time.