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Cindy L. Freeman – The Bitter Joke

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 I’ve never written in the genre known as flash fiction, so I decided to give it a try. What is flash fiction? you ask. According to Wikipedia, “Flash fiction is a fictional work of extreme brevity [usually around 1,000 words] that still offers character and plot development.” The idea is to hint at or imply a larger story.

    Here’s what I came up with. Let me know what you think.

    Unlike George and Stephanie, Rebecca had returned to the family home after college. Marshall Worthington trusted only his youngest daughter to run the business and manage his considerable estate.

After the divorce, Marshall’s first wife had succeeded in vilifying him to his eldest children. Rebecca–born ten years later to Lily, the deceased love of his life–scarcely knew her half brother and sister.

    Now, a mere two years after Rebecca’s homecoming, nurses provided around-the-clock care for her father, allowing her to soak up the precious hours of his final days.

    During the months since Marshall’s diagnosis, George and Stephanie couldn’t be bothered to visit or even call to check on their father. Why had they shown up now when he drifted in and out of a morphine stupor?

    Rebecca hadn’t meant to eavesdrop that day, but hearing her name mentioned, she slipped behind the half-open door to Marshall’s study. It wasn’t the first time she had caught them discussing her in hushed tones.

    “We need to find it before it’s too late.” It was Stephanie’s voice mingled with the furious tapping of computer keys.

    “Rebecca will get everything if we don’t change it. She already has the business.”

    “He’s barely conscious, George.”

    “That’s no problem. I’ve mastered his signature.”

    “Are you serious? Forgery is a felony!”

    “Sh! Not so loud. Only if I get caught.”

    “Even if we find the original, Father’s attorney will have a copy. Hurry up! Before somebody comes.”

    “I can’t crack the pass code. It’s encrypted.”

    “Great, just great! I thought you were an expert hacker.”

    Raising a hand to cover her mouth, Rebecca slipped from her hiding place. She charged on stocking feet up the marble staircase, reaching the master bedroom just as Mount Vesuvius erupted. As she collapsed onto Marshall’s hospital bed, her muffled laughter sent shivers through the mattress. Marshall started, but his dark-rimmed eyes remained closed. A pale limp hand reached to stroke his daughter’s silken hair.

    “Oh, Papa! You were right. How could I have been so naïve? They’re downstairs right now hatching a plan. But you’ll have the last laugh, won’t you, Papa? The joke will be on them.

    A weak smile lifted the corners of Marshall Worthington’s lips. Then, with one final puff of air, he lay motionless. It was over. Rebecca wept until evening shadows darkened the room.

    The next day, George and Stephanie each discovered deposits of two million dollars to their checking accounts.

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