This was done for the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge. I was assigned to write a fantasy involving a day trader in night school. This is a story I would never have written if not for the encouragement of friends and spouse. We had eight days to write. I wrote one story and hated it. Twenty-four hours before the deadline, an image of the Amazon home page appeared in my head. I have not revised this story yet, so you are looking at a rough draft.
Edna came to on the deck of a ship. She was surrounded by pirates. Odiferous, dirty, ragged, sweaty pirates. Rubbing the back of her neck, she had a few seconds to review the past ten minutes of her life before the captain, she guessed by the size of the hat, approached her.
Edna shuffled out of the classroom, the instructor’s words fading, “Now that most of you have your ships firmly affixed in the bottle, we are ready to pull up the sails. Just pull carefully on the string attached to the mast and you will see your mast pull into place. After your sails are raised, feel free to take a short break before we finish up. I hope you have enjoyed Ship in a Bottle 101 and look forward to seeing you…”
Edna, having finished her ship in a bottle ten minutes ago, blocked out the droning of what had to be the most tiresome instructor on the planet and plodded down the hall in her scuffed penny loafers as she dug through her Vera Bradley backpack looking for her Tums. What on earth had she been thinking taking this stupid Ship in a Bottle 101 held in a local, mediocre community college known for producing mediocre authors? Oh yeah. Ronald. Her hunky, tall, blonde, impeccably-dressed co-worker. Ronald’s expression and gestures as he had raved about the romance of the sea and the wonderful night class introducing the beauties of ships in bottles had given her a little flash of hope of a chance with this paragon of men.
Plonking her bag on the sink, Edna rifled through papers, lipsticks, mints, and unidentifiable crud until she finally found some loose antacids at the bottom. Her weary slouch straightened into ramrod stiffness at the sound of high heels clacking down the hall and into the ladies’ room. Edna knew what she would see if she looked around the corner. Leopard print stilettos. Shapely legs. Tight pencil skirt. Impeccably groomed hair. Vivienne. Edna’s teeth ground together at the thought of her. Ronald, Vivienne, and Edna worked in the same office each day, buying and selling, plundering the stock market for a tidy profit. Edna was legendary in the day trading world, sensing when to buy or sell. Vivienne was nearly as cunning at their craft, with Ronald coming in a close third. Edna had long dreamed of Ronald in a non-platonic manner, her reveries filled with passionate embraces, but whenever some perfect opportunity for a moment alone with Ronald came along, and Edna had thought she might make a little progress, Vivienne was there fluttering her lashes over some trumped up emergency. The clacks echoed as Edna’s arch nemesis made it into the lavatory, stopping just out of Edna’s view in the mirror.
“Edna.” The word was venom on Vivienne’s pouty lips.
Vivienne sauntered to the mirror to refresh her already flawless scarlet lipstick. “I see you are still making eyes at Ronald.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Vivienne. I have…”
Vivienne glanced at her, vicious sneer marring an otherwise perfect visage, and snarled, “You know exactly what I mean, Edna. I have watched you, you know. I have seen your longing glances, watched your pitiful attempts at flirtation.” She pulled a small device from her cleavage and pointed it at Edna. She clicked something on the device and it lengthened into a wand. “Ronald is mine, Edna. I tire of your silly games. Do you really think he wants a dowdy potato like you when all of this could be his?” She ran a hand down her voluptuous curves. “I am ridding our little office of your pesky presence.” Before Edna could react, Vivienne pushed the button on what appeared to be a laser pointer/wand combination. She uttered a phrase in a harsh language unknown to Edna. As Edna pulled back her arm to take a swing at the sneering harlot, she could hear something like rushing wind or…….waves? Her last thought before she blacked out – I wonder where she got that. I could really use one of those.
Edna blinked as the sparkles of sunlight on the waves shocked her back to reality. Or not reality. It seemed real enough as Captain Big Hat fixed his eyes on her as he circled around her. “Holy crap.”
“Such words from such a lovely lady?” Captain Big Hat circled closer, taking in every inch of Edna. “Are you a witch?” His inquisitive green eyes peered into hers. She was mesmerized, well, at least until she got a whiff of his breath.
“What? No, I..” Her words were cut off by the ring of her cell phone and the sound of an explosion. Specifically, canon fire. From another ship. Looking up, Edna watched as a rough ball of metal caromed over the middle of the ship, missing the mast by a very few inches. Her hand automatically reached into her ridiculous floral bag and brought out her cell phone. “Hello?”
All attention from the rugged men was focused on the new events. In some sort of detached haze, Edna watched as Captain Green Eyes bellowed orders and men scrambled to various positions around the ship. “Edna, I hope you are enjoying your new surroundings. It’s a good thing you built such a lovely ship, since you will be there for what remains of your soon-to-be-over life.” Vivienne. “I wondered if you would get reception in that little bottle. Of course, technically you are still in New York, so it stands to reason that your phone works until the battery dies. I’m sure Ronald will wonder where you went. I’ll tell him you just couldn’t hack the pressures of making all those deals and decided last-minute to take a cruise.”
“I’m sure he will feel crushed by your decision to quit, but, conveniently, I shall be there to mend his heart.”
Another missile whistled overhead. Captain Green Eyes, shouting all the while, ran to Edna. “Women always bring bad luck.”
Edna’s quick mind assessed the situation. She had never been one to panic, and she would not succumb to hysteria now. “Who exactly is firing at us?”
“Victor the Vicious. Even now he gains upon us to take this ship and throw those of us he does not enslave into the watery depths.”
“So, you are saying that we are all about to die or become the property of someone with the moniker of Vicious? Is there no way we can outmaneuver him? Blow him to smithereens?” Captain Halitosis did not answer, merely rolled his eyes in annoyance. He left so he could do some more shouting and ordering about.
There was a reason Edna was considered a genius in the financial world. She saw the need for action and calm decision-making. Questions could come later. Diving once more into the bag, she unzipped the part that held her most treasured possession: her MacBook Pro. Carefully linking it up with her cell phone’s hot spot, she typed A M A Z O N into the address bar. Once her beloved link with consumer goods came up, she clicked the drop down bar. “Ah, yes,” she said to herself. She found the link for magically enhanced weapons. Next, electronics, and finally health and beauty. Thank God she paid her Visa bill off each month. Thank God for Amazon Prime. This stuff didn’t come cheap.
Things were beginning to look bad. Very bad indeed.
It had been nearly twenty minutes before Edna heard the satisfying hum coming from the west. All battle ceased as twenty-six Amazon drones buzzed into view. Each pirate stopped to watch twenty-four large crates and two small boxes land on the deck. Edna beckoned Captain Shouty Pants to come her way. “I have a proposition we may both find beneficial, Sir. Is there a more private setting for us to have a little parley?”
The captain, Brian, said, “So, Edna, we have a deal. If these magical weapons brought from this place called Amazon bring escape from the hands of Victor and I see that they will bring future wealth untold, we will do our best to return you to your world. Now show me these, um, was it surface to surface missiles?”
“Yep. And if you have something a little more appropriate for me to wear, I want out of this suit.”
Five minutes later, after some bickering over what constituted proper ladies’ clothing. Edna and Brian emerged from below deck. She was dressed in knee-high boots, breeches, a tunic, and Brian’s second best hat. She had always been a sucker for hats. Upon Brian’s orders, the crew unboxed three of the crates. Standing around looking puzzled, they watched as Edna and Brian read through the instructions.
BOOM! Evidently Victor and his crew had gotten over the shock of seeing flying creatures deliver packages to Captain Brian. The enemy ship was close enough to allow Edna a good look at Victor. Whilst his hat was quite nice because of the lovely violet plumes, his nasty smirk boiled Edna’s blood. “Are you ready, men?” asked Brian. Three of his most stalwart crewmen placed surface to surface missiles on their shoulders and took aim. “Upon my mark – fire!” It was like taking out a bunny with an AK 47. One fluffy purple feather floated down and landed on Edna’s hat.
“My lady,” crooned Brian, “I see great possibility in this adventure. And you say you can order more of these…surface to surface missiles?”
“Yeah. No problem. I bought a solar charger for my electronics. How many missiles do you want?” Edna said this as she lounged on the deck slathered in her favorite sunscreen. Say what one might, sunscreen was a woman’s best defense against the horrors of aging.
“I just don’t know, Ronald. She said something about being ready for a change and maybe taking a cruise. She took that ratty old bag she keeps pasted to herself. Honestly, Ronald, I don’t know what you see in her.” Vivienne would have gone on ad nauseum, but the sound of a cork popping drew her and the rest of the class’s attention. Twenty bad-ass pirates, Captain Brian, and Edna emerged in a rapidly growing whirlwind from the open end of Edna’s bottle.
Vivienne, no fool, once more pulled out her wand and pointed it at the swarm of buccaneers looking around the room in wonder. The wind died down as the slack-jawed students and teacher stared at the impossible sight. Everyone backed out of the way as Edna and Vivienne circled one another. One of the pirates, Clyde, made as if to help Edna, but a gesture from Brian stopped him in his tracks. This was Edna’s fight. The two women pointed their weapons at one another in grim earnest. “What’s that pitiful excuse for a defense, Edna? A water gun?”
Edna gave a low, throaty laugh. “This? This, Vivienne is a pocket flame thrower/water canon/laser beam. Amazon had a sale.” This time Edna was ready. As Vivienne made to send her back to the briny deep, Edna easily engaged her laser to knock Vivienne’s paltry wand to the floor. With her signature calm and determination, Edna used the flame thrower to dispatch the wand into cinders. The convenient attached water canon ensured that there was not too much damage to the classroom. Ronald, who had been silent throughout the excitement, came forward to examine the pitiful remains of Vivienne’s wand. The next thing anyone knew, Vivienne was running down the hall as fast as her tacky little shoes allowed. Edna’s expression softened as Ronald looked up at her with questioning eyes.
“It seems you’ve had some sort of adventure,” he said. He noticed Brian sizing him up with cool, green eyes. “Who is this?”
“Brian. This is Captain Brian. He sails the seas in quest of treasure.”
“Sort of what we do, huh?” He reached out his hand to Edna. “We should probably get out of here before all hell breaks loose. What do you say to Italian?”
This was what Edna had always wanted. Ronald, Italian food, soft music, a ride in his Pagani. She started towards him. Looked back at Brian. “You guys know the way back? The cell phone should keep us in touch in case you need any more…supplies.” Brian’s eyes focused only on her as she and Ronald made their way to the door.
“Of course, you’ll need to change,” said Ronald. “We can swing by your place first.”
“I don’t know, Ronald, I kind of like this look. And I am definitely keeping the hat. I like it.”
“You have obviously suffered some sort of trauma today. We will get you fixed up before we go.”
“I don’t need fixing up.” She looked once more at Brian, who had neither moved nor allowed his eyes to leave her form. “In fact, I rather liked the trauma of the day.” A step towards Brian. “In fact, I am rather loathe to give up these boots.” Brian arched one eyebrow and, though he tried to hide it, looked quite hopeful. “You know what, Ronald. Why don’t you go on without me? Perhaps you can catch up to Vivienne. I am sure she could use a little company.” She moved closer to Brian. He smiled, and she smiled until she caught a whiff of his breath.
“I need a minute to think.”
Ronald chimed in, “Now Edna…”
“Shut up, Ronald,” she said. “Brian, you understand that this would be a business deal, right?” He nodded his assent, the look of hope becoming a wide grin. “And that this would be an equal partnership?” Another nod. She tapped her lip, thinking of her options.
Edna and Brian went below deck once more to hammer out the details of their new business venture with Ronald as their NewYork liason. If she was committed to the pirating life, this would be her world. She gave a side glance at Brian. He was not what she had thought she wanted. He was grimy. He was rough and tumble. He was, well, actually, if she could get him to take a bath and brush his teeth, potentially gorgeous. She didn’t really have to have a man, but it never hurt to keep one’s options open. Digging into the bag, she came up with a small, red tin. “Brian, have you ever had an Altoid?” She handed him one and watched as he eyed it carefully, gave it a sniff, and popped it in his mouth. The tin was almost empty, but no matter – she could always order more.
I enjoyed your story, especially the rich detail. Especially the last line. I’m entering this contest with you next year!