Untitled (flash fiction)

The server placed Melinda’s stack of strawberry and banana pancakes— with extra fruit and whipped cream— in front of her, and she prepared to dig in.

“So what happened with Ryan last night?” Bella wanted to know from behind her own stack of cheesecake pancakes.

“Well, I had called him to come over and help out, right? And when he shows, he’s dressed up really nicely and he’s holding a single red rose. When I answered the door, he was like, you’re not going out dressed like that are you? Dude thought we were going out on a date.”

“But you weren’t?” Darlene asked. She sipped her diet soda.

“Oh, come on! Ryan knows the score. There’s monsters to slay, and I’m supposed to do it in pantyhose and heels?” She took a bite of pancake. “I am starving. I’m always hungry after a kill.”

“Hence the IHOP girls’ night and after action review,” Bella said. “So, Ryan didn’t approve of your outfit…”

“I will have you know that I picked my outfit very carefully. Also, I did my hair special. I braided it and pinned it up on top of my head– there was no way any fiend from hell was going to be able to grab it.”

“Good thinking,” Bella said, “especially after last time.”

“Right. No more ponytails. Too easy to grab. And I was wearing my new shit-kicker boots— you know, the ones with the steel toes we got at the farm store? I swear, those are now my favorite shoes in the world.”

“But tell us about Ryan!” Darlene implored. “Are you going to see him again?”

“No, that’s not going to happen.”

“But he was perfect for you! He was rich, and handsome… and you said he was pretty good in the sack.”

“He did have a lovely penis, but the life I lead, I need a man with— what’s the word I’m looking for? Oh, yeah. With balls. Not to mention the sense God gave a doorknob.”

“Skip to the part about the fight,” Bella said.

“Oh my God, yes, there was a fight right off. Ryan shows up thinking he’s going on a date, right? That he’s going to get lucky? And if he’d just been cool about the whole monster hunting gig, yeah, we’d probably be in bed right now. But no, he starts going on and on about how he’s not going to allow me to go out hunting tonight, that it’s just too dangerous, because I might get hurt or something, and that as a man he couldn’t allow it. I kind of stopped listening at that point, to tell the truth. I mean, monster hunting is my thing. When the Angel Pookie comes and tells you that hunting monsters is your destiny, you don’t argue.”

“I still think it’s weird that your guardian angel is named Pookie.”

“I think it’s a Velveteen Rabbit kind of thing. My grandmother told me I had a guardian angel watching over me, and if a kid believes in it hard enough, it becomes real.”

“Yeah, but Pookie?”

Melinda pointed her fork at Bella. “Do not mock the Pookster. Besides, I was three.”

“I think it was nice that Ryan was worried about you,” Darlene offered. “It’s kind of romantic.”

Melinda scoffed. “In a book, maybe. In real life it’s just fucking annoying. I need pie. Do they have pie here?” She flagged down the server.

“No, we don’t have pie. We have crepes, though,” the server said. “You can have blueberry, apple-cinnamon, or strawberry.”

Melinda chose blueberry. “With lots and lots of whipped cream.”

“Sure thing, hon. I’ll get that right out to you.”

“Next time we’ll go to Perkins. Perkins has pie.”

“I wish we could go for sushi. There’s noting here I can eat,” Darlene said. “Everything on the menu is carbs.”

“We are not going back to that sushi place,” Bella retorted. “Remember? They’re the ones who serve Nessie sashimi. Scottish loch monsters are endangered, you know.”

Darlene ignored this. “So I guess you and Ryan broke up?”

“Not exactly.” Melinda drew little designs with her fork in the syrup left on her plate. “I finally told him that if he wanted to keep me safe, he should get in the car and help me track down this thing.”

“What kind of beastie were you looking for?”

“Oh, you know. A Thing. Thumb, four fingers, a palm. It was a big sucker, too. Anyway, when we got there, Ryan gets between me and the Thing. I’m yelling at him to get down so I can get a clear shot, and he’s just standing there like he’s going to protect me. That Thing pinched his head right off.” Melinda shook her head sadly. “But then I had my shot, so I took care of business.”

“Which gun did you use?” Bella always wanted to know the gory details of every kill.

“Shotgun loaded with blessed herbs and rock salt. Thing shriveled up and blew away like dust.”

“That works.”

“Remind me tomorrow, I need to go to the gun shop and get some supplies for reloading.”

Two uniformed policemen entered the restaurant, and one made his way over to their table.

“Ma’am? Are you Melinda Sawyer?”

“Umm— yes? Can I help you?”

“Well, ma’am there’s a lot of odd things that happen in this town, and I’ve noticed that lately you’re always right in the middle of them.” He leaned closer to her. “Thank you. You do good work.”

Melinda smiled. “Thanks, Officer…”

“Donovan, ma’am. Jack Donovan.” He handed her a business card. “If you ever need any help, you be sure to give me a call.”

“Thanks, Jack. I will.” Melinda admired Jack’s lean, fit physique as he walked back to the table his partner had claimed. “Hmmm… there’s definitely some possibilities there…”

Author’s note: This story was inspired by a discussion of the difference between paranormal romance and urban fantasy. In my opinion, urban fantasy heroines do not put up with men who treat them badly. Were this a romance story, Melinda would have allowed Ryan to “rescue” her. (If it were supernatural thriller, she would now be dedicating her life and an entire series of novels to revenge.) But it’s urban fantasy, so she will mourn him, briefly, and make sure the next person she dates is neither stupid nor fragile.

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