Chris has written more than 300 flash fiction/short stories. Working Vacation was 21st out of 6,700 in the 2016 Writer's Digest competition.
Tony knocked once on the door of apartment 3C and let himself in. Lisa hated when any of her three best friends waited for her to answer the door. Ralph was the only one who had trouble letting go of the etiquette of knock and wait. But when they showed up at his apartment, etiquette be damned, he just shouted, it’s unlocked, come on in.
The smell of baked chicken greeted Tony as he entered the apartment and so did a flying oven mitt.
“Pull the rolls out of the oven.” Lisa was in the kitchen of the open floor plan apartment.
“My day was fine, thanks. How was yours?” He pulled the dinner rolls out and tipped them onto the counter. “Ralph or Boris?”
“Ralph,” Lisa said, indicating her guess about which of the other two would be more late for dinner.
“Loser does the dishes.”
The main reason Tony considered Ralph, Lisa and Boris to be his best friends is that they all lived in the same building, which was convenient. Hanging out with them beat sitting alone in his apartment, plus, every Monday evening, somebody else was responsible for dinner. Knocking at the door caused both of them to stop and wait, but no one entered.
“Crap, I’m never playing this game again.” Lisa opened the door and Ralph plodded past her, slumping onto the couch.
“What’s the matter with you,” she said.
“It’s my parents. They’ve started bugging me again about getting married.”
“So they still haven’t figured out which came first?” said Tony. “The girlfriend or the wife?”
“Now they want me to try setting some goals. Meet someone by a certain month. Make it exclusive after a set number of weeks. Have sex after a certain number of dates.” Ralph lifted his feet onto the coffee table.
“Feet off the table,” said Lisa. “They actually told you to have sex?”
“No, that was my idea. They still think I’m a virgin.”
“You mean you’re not?” said Tony.
Tony dodged the throw pillow and Lisa caught it before it landed on the stove to become part of dinner.
“No throwing the throw pillows,” said Lisa as she launched it back at Ralph.
The door burst open with no knock at all, and Boris leaped into the room decked out in camo fatigues, black face paint, and a very large handgun holstered at his hip.
Tony and Lisa ducked behind the kitchen counter until they were sure Boris hadn’t gone postal on them. Ralph rolled off the couch onto the floor.
“It’s not a formal dinner, Boris. You could have worn your everyday clothes.” Lisa placed a bowl of chips and salsa on the counter. “By the way, all firearms are to be checked at the door when entering.”
Boris stashed the weapon in a hemp grocery bag hanging from the coat closet doorknob. He was a Russian immigrant and had only been in the states for a year. His accent was thick and he was still wrestling with culture shock.
“Why the hell are you dressed like that?” Ralph climbed back onto the couch. “Halloween is four months away.”
“I cannot tell you, for you will try to stop me.”
“Oh, Okay,” said Tony. Lisa shrugged her shoulders and went on with dinner preparations.
“You’d better be careful,” said Ralph. “If a cop sees you and hears your accent, he’s going to think you’re a terrorist.”
“Russians are not terrorists,” Boris shouted.
“Quiet down, will you? Occupy yourself with this.” Lisa tossed Boris a hot dinner roll.
“I am going to commit ass-nation.” He said after taking a bite of the roll.
“Would you mind trying that again after you’ve swallowed?” said Tony.
“I am going to commit ass-nation.”
“I believe you have to be a nation to attempt that,” said Tony. “Besides, lots of countries have already tried it. They were founded by asses, they’re run by asses, populated by asses and right now, asses are trying to take them over. You should consider something more creative.”
“You talk about Russia, don’t you? And you make fun of my accent.…again.” Boris glared at Tony through the black face paint.
“No, no, it’s not an accent problem this time. It’s a pronunciation problem. Now let’s review what you said and then find out what you meant.”
“What he said was ass-nation,” said Ralph. My mom and dad are ass-parents.”
“Ok, so we understand what you said, now let’s find out what you meant. Please describe what it is you want to commit,” said Tony.
“I’d like to have my parents committed.” Ralph leafed through the pages of a magazine.
“Shut up, Ralph. You’re not helping,” said Lisa. “Let’s all sit down at the table and have this conversation while we eat.” They passed around the Baked chicken, the roasted red skin potatoes, the steamed broccoli and dinner rolls.
“I want to kill,” said Boris.
A potato banged onto Ralph’s plate. Lisa’s fork bounced off the table and landed in her lap. Tony’s mouthful of water sprayed everyone. Lisa passed a roll of paper towels around so they could dry off.
“I see,” said Tony. He cleared his throat. “And whom would you like to kill?”
“The Mayor?” shouted Ralph. “Are you out of your mind? We don’t go around terminating people we don’t like in this country. We think about it, but we don’t do it. And if somebody does commit murder, we convict them in a court of law and kill them too.”
“Um, Ralph,” said Lisa. “I don’t think Boris was finished. You interrupted him.”
“Oh, I see. So you’re taking my parents side, are you?”
“I’m What?” said Lisa.
“My mother is always saying, and my father doesn’t disagree, that the reason I’m not married is because I interrupt people all the time.”
“Maybe nothing,” said Ralph. “Maybe you should talk to your own parents more than you talk to mine.”
Lisa waved Ralph off and turned back to Boris.
“You don’t really want to kill the mayor, do you, Boris?”
“Good,” said the other three. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief and went back to eating.
“I want to kill mayor’s dog.”
“You want to assassinate the mayor’s dog?” said Tony.
“Yes, ass-nate mayor’s dog.”
“Why do you want to kill the mayor’s dog?” said Lisa.
“Mayor increased fines for dog pooping, so his dog must die,” said Boris.
“You can’t just kill politicians’ dogs because their owners raised fines and taxes,” said Ralph. “It’s what they do, it’s like eating and breathing to them. If you killed every politician’s dog because the politician was in favor of higher taxes and fines, there’d be no dogs representing us at any level of government.”
“Mayor raises fines for pooping. I take my Inga for walk and neighbor calls police and tells them she has pooped on his lawn.”
“Did Inga poop on his lawn?” said Tony.
“Yes,” said Boris. “And I get citation.”
“Well, then I just don’t understand why the mayor’s dog has to die. Inga pooped. She’s guilty as charged. And keep in mind, Inga is a 150 pound Caucasian shepherd. When Inga poops, people shutter their houses.”
“Inga pooped and mayor’s dog pooped too,” said Boris. “I watch news last night. Mayor takes dog out for walk and reporter does interview. Dog poops on TV during interview. I go over to mayor’s mansion this morning. Poop still there. I go over this afternoon. Poop still there.”
“But the poop is on the property of the mayor’s mansion. I’m not sure the fine applies,” said Lisa.
“Mayor’s mansion is public property. I ass-nate his dog. He is hippocratic dog owner.”
“Drop it Ralph,” said Lisa.
“Well, if you ass-nate the dog, it may very well prevent him from pooping,” said Tony.
“What kind of dog does the mayor have?” said Lisa.
“German shepherd. Very large. His name is Baby,” said Boris. “I go tonight. I take Inga for protection.”
“Assassination seems to be a bit of an extreme measure to take at this point. Don’t you think?” said Tony.
“Is Russian way. Since we cannot settle this in Russia, I will bring Russia to us.”
“And Mother Russia would be more than welcome to visit my apartment,” said Lisa. “But she would have to check her firearms at the door just like everybody else.”
“Your idea sounds a bit crazy, but if you want, I’ll go along and shoot video of the whole thing with my GoPro,” said Ralph.
“That would be great,” said Boris. “I send copy to my family in Russia so they see how well I do in America.”
“Speaking of your idea being a bit crazy….” Tony carried the chicken platter into the kitchen. “Since both dogs pooped, doesn’t it seem a little unfair that you get a simple citation, but the mayor’s dog has to die?
“No,” said Boris. “In Russia I would sell such a dog pelt for 150 U.S. dollars, the same I paid for fine. We are even if I ass-nate dog.”
“By the way,” said Lisa. “That gun you brought in here. it isn’t real is it?”
“My brother mail me this very special Russian weapon, piece by piece, over many months. It come with very important feature. Silencer.”
After dinner, Ralph and Boris got ready to leave so they could go to Best Buy and get a new SD card for the GoPro. Boris put the handgun back in its holster, but Tony made him carry it in the hemp market bag instead. They all agreed to meet at Lisa’s on Tuesday afternoon to watch the video.
“Well?” Did you do it?” Tony said while he patched Ralph’s GoPro into the TV the following afternoon.
“I don’t want to spoil by telling. It ends with such glorious Russian moment.” Boris searched the GoPro’s menu for playback.
“I have to tell you,” said Tony. “I’ve been watching the news all day, and I haven’t heard a word about the Mayor’s dog being assassinated.”
Lisa dimmed the lights, and Boris hit the play button. In the video, Boris and Inga crept from tree to tree across the property while Ralph brought up the rear with the camera. Most of the time it was a black screen until the assassins got near the mansion where a flood light illuminated everything.
“Okay, mayor’s dog is barking too much, so I pull out flank steak and toss it over edge of kennel. See? No more barking.” The viewers could hear the tearing of meat and the lapping of blood as the dog’s primal instincts took over. The sounds became more distant when Baby took the flank steak into his doghouse.
“Here I pick lock on kennel. See how good I am at this? I learn in Russia.”
In the video, Boris swung the gate open and a German shepherd nearly as big as Inga emerged from the doghouse. First Baby growled, then Inga responded.
“Wait till you see the next part,” said Ralph. “You’re gonna love this.”
The Caucasian shepherd tensed, and Boris stepped into the kennel, separating the animals.
“Wow,” said Tony. “Inga just plowed right over you. “What’s going on now? Are they fighting? I don’t hear any fighting.”
The GoPro viewpoint moved around to the long side of the chain link pen. The focus came and went for a few seconds, then finally stabilized. Inga and Baby were sniffing noses, getting to know each other.
“Uh oh,” said Tony.
Then they were sniffing other parts.
“Oh my gosh,” said Lisa.
“Okay, Okay, you can shut it off now, we get the idea,” said Tony.
The lights came on and the video ended. The four sat around the room in an uncomfortable silence, eyes avoiding eyes.
“I guess that never entered my mind as being the likely outcome of an assassination attempt. But I must say that the world would be a much better place if such things ended this way more often,” said Tony.
“So you never assassinated the mayor’s dog, right?” said Lisa. “I mean, even after….”
“Of course not,” said Boris. “I would not think of killing father of Inga’s puppies.
“So while Baby was providing free stud service to Inga, what were you two doing?
“Well I certainly didn’t just stand there and watch,” said Ralph.
“No, you just stood there and got the whole thing on video,” said Lisa.
“You’re not a very good assassin, Boris,” said Tony.
“No, but I may have future as locksmith or dog breeder. Or maybe even baby back rib chef.”
“Baby back ribs? What are you talking about,” said Tony.
“Oh, it is not important,” said Boris.
“What are you grinning about, Ralph,” said Lisa. “You’ve been sitting there all this time with a stupid grin on your face. What’s her name?”
“What’s whose name?” Ralph fidgeted with the GoPro.
“There’s only one thing that ever put a grin like that on your face. It means you met a woman, right?” said Lisa.
“Well…maybe,” said Ralph.
“How can you maybe meet someone? Either you did or you didn’t,” said Tony.
“He did,” said Boris.
“Come on, tell us who it is,” said Lisa.
“It was woman in electronics department at the Best Buy last night when we bought SD card for GoPro.
“So, in the five minutes it took you to pick out an SD card, you turned a business encounter into a romantic relationship?” said Tony.
“I shoot video too, last night. With my phone,” said Boris.
“You what?” said Ralph. “That’s illegal.”
“So is trespassing at the mayor’s mansion, Ralph,” said Lisa.
For the next two minutes, Tony and Boris fended Ralph off while the video of him and the clerk at Best Buy played on Boris’s phone.
“Espionage, huh?” said Lisa.
“Spy? You told her you’re a spy?” said Tony.
“Hey, it worked didn’t it?” said Ralph.
“Do you mean you’ve got a date lined up already?” said Tony.
“Yes,” said Boris. “But much, much better than just date. She will meet his parents tonight.”
It was time for everyone to leave. Ralph had his date, and Boris needed to walk Inga.
“Boris, I have one more question about last night,” said Lisa. “I understand that when you got to the kennel and the dog was barking, you quieted him down with flank steak. What I want to know is how you avoided the security team that must have been on duty at the time.
“Easy,” said Boris. “Baby back ribs and Russian vodka.”