Updated date:

The Jackpot: Short Short Fiction

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.


This morning, a man walked into the doctor’s office where I work who looked like he'd lost his best friend. What do I know? Maybe he had. My job was to have him fill out forms and answer any questions.

“Hello, may I have your name and birthdate?”

“Jonathan McCormick. January 12, 1957.”

“Thank you, Mr. McCormick.” I enter his name into my computer. “I see you have an appointment this morning.” I hand the man a clipboard with some forms. “Fill these out and bring them back to me when you’re finished.”

Several minutes later, Mr. McCormick returned the forms to me and said he had a question.

“The forms ask a lot about my personal finances. I’ve never been to a medical facility that required such detailed information.

“Mr. McCormick, as you know, Dr. Leary does not accept medical insurance. The doctor needs to know in advance that you have the means to pay.” The patient was satisfied with my answer, and I let him through the door to the treatment room.



I have followed this basic routine daily for six months. Dr. Leary advertises that his treatment can eliminate a person’s worst pain. My curiosity has gotten the best of me. After the patient enters the treatment area, I never see them again. I inquired about this, and the doctor told me that the patient always leaves by the back door. That seemed to be an odd practice, but I didn’t question it further.

Today, I hope to discover the secret of Dr. Leary’s treatments. If all these people are receiving relief from unbearable pain, why isn’t it front-page news? I am the first person to arrive at the office every day. I get the coffee started, vacuum the waiting area, straighten the magazines and organize myself for the day.

I showed up fifteen minutes early and went directly to the treatment room. A hanging plant with a tag that identified it as a rare blue satin devil’s ivy seemed to provide the best hiding place for the miniature video camera I bought online. I positioned it carefully in the foliage and made sure my phone app was connected.



Mr. McCormick passed through the door into the treatment room, and I went back to my desk. I watched and listened to the treatment session live on my phone.

Mr. McCormick admired the hanging plant, viewed the credentials of Dr. Leary on the wall, and finally sat down to wait. Dr. Leary joined him after a few minutes.

“Mr. McCormick, I am Dr. Leary, it is nice to meet you.” The two men shook hands. “Tell me what brings you here today.”

“Dr. Leary, I saw your ad that said you could eliminate any kind of pain. My pain is of the emotional sort. My wife died of cancer, and I feel that I failed her at the end.”

“How long ago did your wife die?”

“It has been five years. I just can’t let it go. For several years of cancer treatments, I buried myself in my work. Each time cancer returned, I just worked harder. She did it alone, Dr. Leary. And I did nothing.”

“I understand, Mr. McCormick. I believe I can help you.”

“Oh, that is good news, Doctor. I was afraid you specialized only in physical pain.”

“My treatment will alleviate any kind of pain, Mr. McCormick. We can proceed now if you're ready?”

“Yes Doctor, that would be fantastic.”


Dr. Leary pulled an instrument out of the corner of the room. It had an arm that could be extended to different lengths. At the end of the arm was something that resembled the nozzle of a garden hose. The kind you twist clockwise to make it spray. He had Mr. McCormick lie on his back on the examination table and turn his head so he was looking at the opposite wall. Dr. Leary palpated the man’s neck just behind and below his ear.

“This is the location of your hippocampus. I am going to use this instrument to treat that area of your brain that deals with emotional pain. It will only take a minute and will cause you little discomfort.”

The instrument hummed while Dr. Leary aimed the gun at the patient’s neck.

“It’s getting hot,” said Mr. McCormick.

“We’re almost finished,” said Dr. Leary.

As promised, the doctor shut the instrument down within a few more seconds. Mr. McCormick lay quietly on his back, staring at the ceiling. A door in the back of the room opened and Dr. Leary’s assistant entered.


“Okay, Marcus, this one is ready for transport to the city park after you change him into something more appropriate for a homeless person. I’ll meet you at his house.” He held up the chart and showed Marcus the address.

“Yes, sir. Does his chart indicate a lot of wealth?”

“This guy is a jackpot for us. One of the top one percent if you know what I mean. We should find bank accounts, investment portfolios, and cash.”

“Sounds good. I’m amazed every time Dr. Leary. Their memories never come back, do they?”

“It’s permanent, Marcus. The hippocampus is where personal memories originate. He will never remember who he is, what he lost, or how he lost it. Come on. Let’s get him out the back door to your car.”


I was still sitting at the reception desk. What I had just witnessed left me dumbfounded and alarmed. How could one human being be so calloused toward another? I worked for a doctor who wiped out the memories of his patients and stole all their financial assets.

That evening I pondered my options. The man clearly needed to go to jail. I had the ability to make that happen. But I would be out of a job. I needed a solution that ensured justice was done, and my own financial needs were met. I worked on this plan most of the night.

The next morning I went to work as normal. Dr. Leary arrived, and I gave him the patient schedule for the day. He didn’t have any appointments until 1:00 PM. While he was out of the office for lunch, I set my plan into motion.

First of all, I canceled all of his appointments for the day. Of course, I didn’t tell him that. He waited in the treatment room for his first patient. That is when my friends, Arnold and Sylvester walked in. I know these two guys from the gym where I work out. Arnold is six feet six inches tall and is built like a Mack truck. Sylvester is about 6 feet tall and is built like a bulldozer. They had two assignments. One was to put Dr. Leary on the examination table and strap him down. I waited at my desk and listened to the struggle. It was over in a few seconds. Marcus, the doctor’s assistant, stepped into the treatment room to see what all the commotion was about. The two goons strapped him down in one of the chairs.

Arnold and Sylvester returned to the waiting room, and I handed each of them a hundred dollars. They asked no questions and left immediately. I walked into the treatment room and took a seat on the doctor’s stool.

I wish I could say I’m an honorable man who is above taking advantage of such a situation, but at least these two men are no longer preying on innocent, hurting people.

All evidence that I ever worked for Dr. Leary, I deleted. I sent the video file of the McCormick appointment to the police through an office email account informing them that Dr. Leary and his assistant were tied up in the treatment room. The office files will help them solve a number of missing person cases.

When the police arrived, they found two men strapped down who had no memory of who they were or what they were doing in that office. A strange instrument was sitting in the middle of the room, still humming.

Meanwhile, I´m busy learning how to transfer money around until it becomes untraceable. Thank you, Dr. Leary, for the crib notes file on your home computer.

© 2019 Chris Mills


Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on January 06, 2020:

Thank you MG Singh. It is good to have you visit again. Happy New Year.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on January 05, 2020:

A wonderful story. You have teh art of relating simple and interesting tales. Thanks a lot.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 29, 2019:

Genna, I appreciate your visit as always. Thank you for the compliments. I'm glad you enjoyed the story.

Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on December 29, 2019:

Chris, your imagination and writing skills are superb. I was hooked right out of the gate, and found the ending to be just perfect. Well done. :-)

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 09, 2019:

Thanks Shauna.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on December 09, 2019:

Excellent! They got exactly what they deserved, Chris. Love this story!

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 08, 2019:

Thank you, Dora. Nice to see you today.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on December 08, 2019:

Great plot! Great presentation!

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 07, 2019:

haha, very good.

Verlie Burroughs from Canada on December 07, 2019:

Not to mention Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew, Jessica Fletcher, Miss Marple, and that Belgian dude Hercule Poirot. You're welcome!

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 07, 2019:

Verlie, sleuths in literature and film were skilled at trapping the villains with a thorough investigation and their skill with words. A few come to mind. Columbo, Perry Mason, Mike Hammer, Sherlock Holmes, Philip Marlowe, and my favorite, Nero Wolfe. Thanks for reading and for the comment.

Verlie Burroughs from Canada on December 07, 2019:

What did sleuths do to entrap villains before there were hidden cameras? Now they are ubiquitous. Smooth write Chris!

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 07, 2019:

Thank you, Sean. That would be a fun job—the man in charge of karma. I believe I will apply.

Ioannis Arvanitis from Greece, Almyros on December 07, 2019:

Karma has its mysterious ways! Isn't so, my dear brother? A brilliant story excellently written! I am learning so many things from you, Chris! Thank you for the amusement and the education.

Love from Greece!


Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 07, 2019:

Linda, This imagination has gotten me into trouble on a few occasions;

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 07, 2019:

John, it is a fun word. You said it all...college life for hippos. hahaha

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 07, 2019:

manatita, Thank you. Another word for this story might be, "convoluted".

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on December 06, 2019:

This is another interesting and creative story, Chris. You have a great imagination!

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on December 06, 2019:

I love the word “hippocampus”.. the college life of hippos lol.

manatita44 from london on December 06, 2019:

Well Bro.

You're ingenious! I could not come up with such an elaborate plan. Kudos to your genius.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 06, 2019:

Ruby, when I was looking for names for the two studs, Schwarzenegger and Stalone immediately came to mind. You might also recognize Dr. Timothy Leary. Thanks for stopping by.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on December 06, 2019:

What a tale! and the Doc got what he deserved. When I read the names of the two men who strapped him down, I thought of Arnold Schwarzenegger. lol...I'll be alert to any buzzing sound in my doc's office.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 06, 2019:

Eric, the medical/scientific stuff can make or break a story. I think I'm at least in the right neighborhood by choosing the hippocampus for personal memories. Thanks for reading and calling my story, "Cool".

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on December 06, 2019:

Cool. And love your explanations of how it came to pass. Pretty good medical stuff also.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 06, 2019:

Paula, coming up with the initial idea and watching it nearly create itself is my favorite part of writing. Thanks for the comment.

Suzie from Carson City on December 05, 2019:

Chris.....Now there's a devious plan if ever there was one! Pretty smart assistant! Glad he put a stop to the Dr's crimes......How you think of these flash fiction tales, boggles my mind, Chris but you do a fabulous job every time!

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 05, 2019:

Thanks, Pamela. I'm glad you enjoyed the story.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on December 05, 2019:

What a good imagination you have as this is such a good story. I really love the ending to this story.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 05, 2019:

Thanks, John. Not sure where this one came from. Maybe a case of indigestion.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on December 05, 2019:

Wow, good one Chris. I don’ even know how you thought this one up. You have a wonderful imagination.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 05, 2019:

Thanks, Liz. Sometimes it just feels good to set things straight...or at least somewhat straight.

Liz Westwood from UK on December 05, 2019:

I marvel at your creative imagination. This plot had me completely hooked until the end.

Related Articles