Flash Fiction Challenge – Random Cocktail Generator
This week’s flash fiction challenge from Chuck Wendig instructs us to use the Random Cocktail Generator to come up with the title for our next 1,000-word piece. I got “Brutal Hammer,” which sounds like a completely disgusting drink (half French red wine and half vodka, mixed in an old fashioned glass and then slammed) but sparked a whole slew of ideas for a short story. I went in what I hope is an unexpected direction, and the story turned into a little YA/coming of age piece.
I’d been trying to get into the Honeys for weeks. It’s never easy being the new kid in town, but since we’d moved a dozen times in my sixteen years, I’d gotten pretty good at figuring out who to hook up with, and the Honeys were the most popular girls in school. I didn’t particularly care for them, actually, because they seemed too focused on looking down their noses at people, but I knew that getting accepted by the in crowd was the only way to survive high school when you were an outsider.
I’d been thrilled when Beth, the leader of the Honeys, invited me to go check out a carnival in town. When I showed up, though, I realized why they’d invited me.
“Oh look, girls, here comes Cissy,” Beth said, her eyes scanning me from head to toe. A few of the girls snickered. I tried to ignore it.
“Hey, Beth,” I said, trying to sound casual. I’d never been into fashion, but I’d tried to make an effort today. I’d worn my favorite blouse and pulled my hair back into a ponytail, trying to emulate the Honeys’ look, but my non-designer jeans and scuffed sandals were definitely sub-par. I made a mental note to upgrade my wardrobe. “What’s up?”
“You, hopefully,” Beth sneered. “Gillian tells me you want to join the Honeys.” Gillian peeked out from behind Beth and smiled. She was the one member of the Honeys that I genuinely liked.
“Yeah, I’d like that,” I said.
“I’ll bet you would,” Beth said, which set off another round of snickering. “But we don’t just let anyone in. You have to prove yourself worthy.”
“Prove it how?” I said. Something told me this could be bad.
Beth gestured toward a ride towering over the midway. “By riding the Brutal Hammer.”
I hate carnival rides, especially ones with names like The Brutal Hammer. I’ve hated them ever since I got stuck on The Zipper with my little brother, who puked all over me about ten seconds into the ride. The operator was too busy looking at his Hustler to notice my pleas to stop the ride, so I endured the longest three minutes of my life covered in half-digested cotton candy and corn dog.
The Brutal Hammer looked like a bunch of dryer drums rolling on a flat track, which then tilted straight up and down. Not only would I be somersaulting horizontally, but spinning vertically as well. As we walked toward it, I knew I was in trouble. No one getting off that ride looked well, and the screams and groans sounded more like people being tortured than kids having fun.
“You know, spinning rides aren’t really my thing.”
“Why am I not surprised. Your name is Cissy, after all. It figures you’d be chicken.”
“I’m not chicken, I just don’t like rides that spin. How about if I ride the Mega Wheel or the Tornado Coaster instead?”
“Sure, if you want to. But the Honeys are riding the Brutal Hammer, so if you want to be one of us, you have to ride it too.”
I’d been willing to do almost anything to be accepted into the Honeys, but now that almost anything involved this, I wasn’t so sure. If I puked, I’d never live it down, but I might still be admitted into the gang. If I refused to ride, though, any chance I had would be gone.
Gillian came out from behind Beth. “It’s okay. I’ll ride with you,” she whispered, leaning in close.
Surely I could stand this for a couple of minutes. How long could the ride be anyway? “Okay, let’s do this,” I said, hoping I sounded brave. Beth flashed a look at Gillian and then marched to the front of the line. We all paired off and loaded into our drums, and I was relieved to find my seat puke-free. I sat facing Gillian, our knees touching. She reached out and took my hand as the ride operator latched the door.
“It’ll be okay, Cissy,” she said. “Try closing your eyes if you start to get sick.” I nodded, too nervous to speak. My hands were shaking as I pretended to look over the midway, embarrassed to make eye contact. She gave my hand a little squeeze as the ride fired up and I closed my eyes, feeling myself roll backward. Gillian squealed as we flipped over, but it was such a happy sound that I smiled in spite of myself.
“I can do this,” I chanted in my head, willing the ride to be over. Then the track started rising and the drum began to lurch crazily.
Gillian was really shrieking with delight now, but I found it oddly comforting. I was hardly even surprised when she pulled me toward her and pressed her lips to mine. I kissed her back, hard, caught up in the dizziness, the spinning, holding on to the one thing that felt good in the chaos around me. She smiled against my lips and opened her mouth slightly, our tongues touching tentatively at first. She tasted of vanilla lip gloss and I clung to her, cupping her head with both hands, pressing as much of my body as I could against her. We seemed to kiss forever and I didn’t care if everyone could see us making out as we tumbled ass over tea kettle.
She pulled back as the ride began to slow, and I opened my eyes to see her smiling in that shy way of hers. As the ride stopped she sat back against the headrest and said, “You did it, Cissy! You survived the Brutal Hammer!” The ride operator opened the door and unfastened our seat belts, offering us his hand as we climbed down. I felt pretty wobbly, but I wasn’t sure whether that was from the ride or from Gillian’s kisses.
That’s when I heard the puking, and I looked over to see Beth, head over a trash can, dry heaving for all she was worth. There were splotches of puke all over her and her ride partner. Suddenly, it didn’t matter whether or not I was accepted into the Honeys. It didn’t matter whether I was one of the cool kids or whether the other girls liked me. All that mattered was what Gillian thought.
She caught my eye and took my hand again, giving it another little squeeze. I squeezed back and we turned, walking away from the Honeys.
“Can I buy you a soda or something?” I said as we left the midway.
“I’d like that,” she said.