The Iron Writer Challenge #210
2017 Autumn Equinox Challenge #5
The Iron Writer Grudge Match #18
500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements
Author’s name will be posted when the voting is finished.
A medical condition
Justice Is Blind
The grueling air stifled many, but for the beggar, it told him much. The season, time of day, even what type of people surrounded him. He swore he could even smell hostility or friendliness. His hearing was more acute than most as well. He heard the tweeting of far-off birds, the cracking of twigs and the twisting of gravel under hooves. He developed these skills after many years when he lost his sight to fever as a child.
So when the knight approached him, the beggar turned to greet him.
“Hello, good sir.” The beggar bowed low.
“What sort of trash are they allowing in the good streets of the king? Be gone, you filthy creature, before I run you through.”
The beggar smiled. He’d had a good day begging and felt his heavy purse. He would lose himself in a pint of fresh ale by a warm fire. Maybe even splurge on some hot meat. He turned to be on his way when his walking stick brushed the leg of the knight.
“You fool!” The beggar heard the soldier spit, then felt the glob land on his cheek. “How dare you assault a knight of King Shirewood!”
The beggar dropped to his knees humbly, tilting his chin toward the ground. “Good sir knight, I meant no harm. Please show mercy on a pitiful, blind beggar.” As he knelt, his purse clinked against the ground.
“Oh, ho. What do we have here? A disrespectful worm and a thief.” The soldier thrust his foot into the chest of the beggar, sending him sprawling.
As the beggar scrambled to regain his bearings, the knight barreled on top of him, the heat of the knight’s breath on his face chilling him to his bones.
“No one cares if you live or die. I’ll slit your throat right here and take what’s rightfully mine.”
The beggar choked out the few words he was able, for the knight had a tight grip on his throat. “Sir, those are rightfully my own.”
He heard the sneer in the knight’s next words. “I think I shall add these to my purse as payment for cleaning up the streets.”
The knight unsheathed his sword, the beggar recognizing the movement. He flung his arms, searching for anything to help him. He touched a pile of warm manure and smashed it into his captor’s face.
As the knight lifted his hands to remove the muck from his face, the sword clattered to the ground. The beggar made his move. He pulled himself up, the sword held unsteady in front of him.
The knight, still blinded from the excrement in his eyes, ran haphazardly towards the beggar, shrieking.
The beggar held fast and was surprised when the force of the knight pushed him against a nearby wall. A cloying, metallic scent filled the air, the odor nauseous. The beggar released the sword, but the clanging of it against the cobblestones never came. As he turned to flee, he heard the gurgle of the knight’s final breaths float away on the breeze.
Blood flowed from the tip of the sword’s blade that rested on Mark’s shoulder. Every drop dripped from the saber stained a new spot on his white dress shirt.
Danny’s hand loosely curled around a butcher’s knife as he lay on his bed in a pool of his blood. Mark bowed his head, inhaled a congested breath and hastily wiped a tear away.
Mark aimlessly stared over the body of his one-time best childhood friend who became a recluse but not by choice. Danny drank himself into solidarity, which let to paranoia.
It also led to his death.
Danny’s descent was cliche. The high school football star couldn’t make it in the real world, boozes it up at local bars retelling stories of his glory days. That’s where the story usually ends but heroin had infiltrated the two-stoplight town with a new Piggly Wiggly.
When local police made their late-night bar rounds, most sobered up, or at least tried. Not Danny. He didn’t care, always believing they were there to bust his balls. Mark eventually patrolled Danny’s hangouts. Mark gave him breaks.
However, over time Danny’s lust grew. A lust for women. A lust to challenge authority. A lust to tempt fate.
Danny eventually became known as the drunken bandit, who’d stumble into salons, pizza joints and other easy targets wielding a butcher’s knife and wearing a ski mask. Everyone knew it was him, but couldn’t prove it.
The end of Danny’s life started when he robbed the wrong pizza joint tonight. Mark was off-duty picking up dinner. Danny swung the front door open with his butcher’s knife high in the air. “Open the cash drawer,” he yelled and stood there teetering.
“Danny?” Mark cocked his head and flashed a look of disbelief. “Really?”
Danny bolted out the door, stumbling as the cement outside ended and the grass began. He careened down the street as Mark gave chase. Danny cut through yards before he entered an apartment building just a few blocks west of the pizza place. Mark pulled out his cellphone, pressed it a few times and held it to his ear. “This is Officer Mark Jones. I’m off-duty and witnessed a robbery. I gave chase to an apartment at Charles and Downton. Suspect is believed to be Daniel Roberts. He was armed with a butcher’s knife.”
He pressed the phone screen again, stowed the phone back in his pocket and went inside the building with his gun drawn. The door was open, and Mark saw Danny, still with the butcher’s knife, running toward the back of the apartment.
“Danny, stop!” Mark’s demand was met with a slammed interior door.
Mark entered the apartment, counted to three before he kicked the door open. Danny was cornered in the bedroom. He lunged at Mark, whose gun jammed. Mark at the last moment eluded the attack but dropped his gun. Over the bed hung a saber, one that belonged to Danny’s dad. Mark took two steps and jumped on the bed reaching for the sword. He pulled it, swinging as he spun.
Looking into the padded room, the two doctors watched the woman carry on as if she was in a sword fight. Seeing the doctors, she became angry and charged the door, as if she was going to run them through with the sword; her eyes wild with rage. The visiting doctor shook his head as they walked away from the room.
“You call this Worrell Disease?” he asked.
The resident doctor replied, “Yes, it’s a new form of dementia named after her. Come to my office and I will let you read the case study.”
The visiting doctor opened the woman’s file and began reading it.
“Utterly fascinating,” the visiting doctor said as he read the file.
“Yes, she was sent here to the Huntley Institute for the Criminally Insane after killing a man named Brian Rogers with a sword. She thought he was after her newspapers,” the resident doctor explained.
“Yeah, she hoarded the New York Times newspapers.”
“Why the Times?”
“Well, she was apparently an author and had a couple of books published and religiously checked the New York Times to see if she had made it to their bestseller list. It soon became an obsession and then drove her mad as a hatter, so to speak.”
“She got greedy with them, huh? I see the report says that she had stacks of them in her apartment.”
“Yes, she apparently went to newsstands and grabbed them by the bundles, just in case she made it to their list,” the resident doctor explained.
Reading the file on Jennifer, the visiting doctor asked, “She was arrested in the Times building for carrying a sword?”
“Yes, she was apparently going to kill someone for not listing her on the list. She was ordered to probation and to undertake psychiatric counseling. She failed to comply and when she committed the murder, she was recaptured and sent here. I conducted a battery of tests, MRI’s and CATscans and found her brain to be shrinking.”
“Amazing,” the visiting doctor remarked.
“Quite. I am in the process of finishing my paper to be sent to the medical journals.”
The doctor then chuckled and said, “Looks like she is finally going to get the notoriety she longed for.”
The visiting doctor laughed and replied, “I guess so.”
“She got mad when she saw us at her door. How do you calm her down to give her medicine and food?”
“We had a mock up made of a New York Times newspaper and she is listed in it as number one on the bestseller’s list. She reads it and calms right down. When she goes to sleep, we take the newspaper and the whole process starts over when she awakens,” the resident doctor explained.
“She doesn’t remember the paper?”
“No, her brain is shrinking so she remembers very little about anything.”
“Fascinating. Truly remarkable,” the visiting doctor quipped.
“Yes, now I have another case I want you to see. Mamie Pound. She’s a witch.”
Thrusty Stabbington Saves the Day
Dr. Huntley read his first patient’s chart. “Michael Johnson…performance artist…self-inflicted esophageal lacerations—to cure globus sensation? What?”
“He ain’t smart, but I love him anyway,” said a raspy yet feminine voice.
“Who said that?” Dr. Huntley whirled around.
“I did.” A three-foot-long steel sword propped her quillons against the windowsill. Above her ornately carved grip were tiny features set into the pommel: glittering almond eyes, a dot of a nose, and plump, red lips puffing an Esse Superslim. Blood streamed down her blade and pooled on the floor. She nodded toward the bed. “Idiot’s tryin’ to talk.”
Mike—better known as The Great Schwertfresser—gestured at his neck and shook his head. A stuttered hiss took the place of words. He flapped his sequined arms in frustration.
“Still feeling a lump in the throat, Mr. Johnson?”
Mike nodded, fire vanishing from his cheeks.
“What exactly happened?” Dr. Huntley couldn’t believe he was talking to a sword.
“Genius over there was feelin’ a lump for weeks. Came on every night before a show. I says to him, I says, ‘Mike, baby, youse just nervous about going on, like.’ Stage fright, you unnerstan’. He says to me, ‘But I been doing this all my life!’ Lord have mercy.” She reached behind her and jerked, revealing a tiny flask. She took a long swig, then reattached it with a click. “Magnets.”
“Ah. Go on.”
“I tol’ him I’d take a looksee after the show. I’m in my dressing room taking off the whore-paint and a whole goddamn arsenal comes parading in. Figgers a sword swallower’s gonna have a big mouth, right? Musta tol’ the whole circus. Jimmy Stabbington—that’s my brother—is running around yelling, ‘It’s cansa! It’s cansa!’ I go in, try to help my lover out. I’m not seeing anything, my brother’s making everybody antsy, then Einstein has to get greedy.”
“He figgers, the more eyes the better. Tries stuffin’ everybody in there. Then some fool elephant sneezes during his act, drops thirty spinning plates off his trunk. Mikey nearly hits the ceiling!” She laughed.
Dr. Huntley clutched his own throat. “Oh dear.”
“It ain’t so bad. You ain’t bleedin’ so much now, is ya, baby!”
Mike reddened again, this time trying to hide a grin.
“Let me take a look, Mr. Johnson. Maybe I can see the problem.” Dr. Huntley poked and prodded, then straightened up with a grand “Aha!” After injecting Mike with anesthetic, he reached in with a scalpel, made one quick slice, and proffered a mound of hot-pink flesh.
“What the great goddamn is that?” The sword dropped her cigarette into the puddle of blood, where it extinguished with a loud sizzle.
“A tonsil! He had rampant tonsillitis. Thanks to you, I only had to remove the one. The other will make it’s appearance in a day or two.”
Mike deflated against the pillows, pumping the doctor’s hands in gratitude.
“You relax. I’ll have the cafeteria bring up some ice cream.”
“Make it two, honey,” the sword said, taking another swig. “I’ve had a doozy of a night.”
Cholesterol is Gold
Two golden arches towered over the restaurant. The two remaining competitors sat back, awaiting their final servings. The adjudicators weighed the patties, and the toasted buns sucked up the grease – no salad required. A waiter cleared the debris from the previous round, and another set the burgers on the table.
The outdoor tables were full of diners, who had lost their appetites. A dog barked, looking for scraps; his owner, a homeless man, dipped an empty hand to console his companion. Spectators muttered their predictions to one another. Most were there to see “Big Brad” break his previous record, roughly equivalent to a small bullock, but some fancied “Tiny Tim” to force another round.
Brad sipped beer from his cardboard cup. Tim took a gulp of his milk. Brad wiped his mouth with a greasy hand. Tim dabbed his lips with a napkin. Brad pulled his XXL T-shirt down, trying to cover his belly. Tim straightened his collar. Their eyes met. Their hands reached out. Grease dripped, while the patties were re-minced between teeth. Tim forced a small morsel through his gullet. Brad swallowed a mouthful, instead of his pride. They both took a drink, and sat back once more. Beads of sweat cried from Brad’s brow; his body was revolting, and starting to show. Tim took a nibble, and licked at his lips. He brushed crumbs from his lap; the dog watched them fall. Brad took another bite of his burger: he ground at the meat, like a cow chewing cud; he sipped at his beer, and lowered his cup; he slumped in his seat, and reached for his chest.
The crowd turned quiet, watching the behemoth drop. The remains of Brad’s meal fell to the ground. His heart pushed hard, forcing blood through blocked arteries. His embolism jammed, stemming the flow: the sword of Damocles fell; we all know it will. He had tasted seven sins, all of them deadly. He had never tasted hunger, and never said grace.
Tim finished his burger, and reached for a napkin. Brad’s eyes closed. Tim raised a finger – a universal sign. Waiters and medics surrounded the scene. The crowd edged in closer, watching the action with morbid glee. Sesame seeds fell like the last sands of time. The body was hefted like a huge slab of meat. There would be no mints with the bill, and no chance of a tip.
No-one noticed the dog retrieving the meat from under the table. No-one noticed his master breaking it into two small pieces.