Lesser of Two Evils

November is less spooky than October, but still a little bone-chilling. Let’s start off the month with this chilling prompt submitted by JosephFazzone. Thanks, Joseph, for the wonderful writing idea!

Creative Writing Prompt: The Lesser of Two Evils

A knock on your door reveals a stranger who hands you their business card, claiming they are The Lesser of Two Evils. Write a scene or story that reveals what happens next.

Post your response (500 words or fewer) in the comments below.


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63 thoughts on “Lesser of Two Evils

  1. AvatarTrinitywintwin@yahoo.com

    She heard a rapping at the front door that demanded attention. Thump, thump, thump, thump, thump…. She playfully finished the last two raps of the well-known sequence before opening the door to a vaguely familiar man.
    “Good evening Madam, my name is Retaery Live.
    “Helen.” She said, holding out her hand.
    “I know who you are,” he said seductively.
    “Oh?” she replied, confusingly flattered as smoldering eyes disarmed her personal alarm. There was an edginess to his tone.
    “If I could have a few minutes of your time.”
    “Well…sure, I have a few.” She said with a bit too much enthusiasm, aware of her weakness for bad boys. As she stood there waiting for the next exchange, she wondered whether to invite him in. He clearly had something on his mind and dang, he was hot! ‘Won’t you come in?’ she thought but held back the offer remembering her roommate Ressel’s morning admonition.
    “I have it on good authority that Ressel Live resides here,” the stranger continued.
    “What business is it of yours?”
    “We’re related.”
    “That’s it! I thought it odd that you shared the same last name. He’s been renting a room for 666 days now.”
    She had been counting the days until Ressel’s second-year lease expired. Only 64 days left. He’d been moody and rather frightening as of late. Why just this morning before storming out the door, Ressel leveled a rather creepy warning.
    “Beware Helen, something dangerous is lurking, keep your guard up.”
    “Don’t you think his name rather odd?” the stranger spoke, breaking Helen’s ruminations.
    “I think both of your names rather odd.”
    “They would make more sense if you said them backwards.”
    “Okay, Ressel Live – L-e-s-s-e-r…Lesser, E-v-i-l… Evil, Lesser Evil.” She whispered. How do you spell your name?”
    “Retaerg Live. I’ll spare you. Greater Evil,” he hissed. His breath smelling like sulfur.
    She recoiled knowing she’d been duped. Bile roiled upwards as the great deceiver continued.
    “Helen, sweet Helen don’t fight it, you are destined to be mine.”
    “No!”
    “But you see, your name portends it – you will let Hell-in.” He flashed shark-like teeth as he moved forward with Evil intent.
    “Oh, Hell NO! Get back!” she shrieked, while managing to slam the portal-of-the-damned closed tight. The door shook violently, but once denied entry, Greater Evil could not force his way inside.
    “We’re not through!” he screeched.
    Helen steadied herself against the wall, “Oh yes we are most definitely finished. I choose to let the Lesser of two Evils stay!”
    A few moments later as the quiet of the evening returned, Helen thought to herself, Mom was right; The devil you know is sometimes better than the devil you don’t.

  2. AvatarJennifer Park

    7.

    Jennifer looked at her wrist again, then shook her head. Why did she keep doing that?

    What was true for sure was that her date was late.

    Stupid blind date…

    “Pardon me… Are you… Jennifer?” Asked the maître d’.

    “Yes?”

    “Ah. Your companion… has been waiting for you at another table. My apologize. Here you go.” He motioned for someone to sit on the other chair.

    But, there was no one there.

    The maître d’ waked away before Jennifer could inquire as to…

    “Sorry,” said a voice.

    Startled, Jennifer looked toward her “date”.

    There was still no one there, except for the continued Southern twang, “I should have recognized you from your hair… It is exactly as Ms. Jodhi had described.”

    Jennifer finally thought to look down.

    Her date was a small beetle with a long snout. “Hi. I’m Rhett. Pleased to meet you.”

    “Hi, Rhett. Jennifer. Nice to meet you.” She would have reached out for a handshake, but she wasn’t sure if it was the right thing to do in this situation.

    “Have you had a chance to look over the menu?”

    “Yes… Yes…” Jennifer blushed. The neighbor who had set up this date had not told her that he was a bug. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t expecting… I was expecting someone very different…”

    “Oh? I thought she had described me to you in great detail?”

    “She did… I just had pictured… differently?”

    “I see. I’m curious, how did you picture me?” Rhett smiled charmingly.

    Jennifer was already warming up to him… except… “Well, she said you were in sales…”

    “Yes.”

    “And that you were quite a gentleman… in the old fashioned sense.”

    Of course, a gentleman would not confirm this. “I strive to be civil, I do.”

    “And that you are… evil…”

    He was visibly taken aback. “Evil?”

    “That people considered you… I mean, this was so unfair, but that you were… the lesser evil?”

    Rhett blinked a few times, and then his face melted into a broad smile, then a guffaw. The ensuing laughter lasted several seconds.

    It was an exceedingly attractive laughter.

    “I’m sorry. No, not the lesser of two evils. Lesser of two weevils.”

    “What?”

    “I’m the boll weevil… you know, from the joke?”

    “…?”

    “I am known as the lesser of two weevils. You know, my sister, you’ve heard of her, Jackie McVeigh? The billionaire?”

    Of course Jennifer had. She nodded.

    “I’m the less successful weevil, you see. Lesser of two weevils.” He smiled half-embarrassedly, half-proudly.

    “Oh!” Jennifer finally got it. “Oh, I’m so sorry! I… That makes sense. That is exactly what she said… I just completely misunderstood…”

    The server finally arrived. “Hello. I am Jackie, and I will be at your service tonight. Would you care to see the…”

    Actually, Jackie had to wait until Jennifer and Rhett both got all of their laughters out.

  3. Avatarsnuzcook

    Miscommunication

    “Finally,” I thought. The knock on the door was brusque, like someone with urgent business. As well it should be, if it was the delivery I was expecting two hours ago.

    The man handed me a box of business cards, turned on his heel, and dashed through the pouring rain back to his vehicle.

    He was already half way down the block before I got the box open. I pulled out a sample card.
    ‘Dr. Simson Smallwood…The Lesser of Two Evils.’

    I crumpled the card in my fist, slammed the box on the hall table, and fumbled for my phone.

    “Print Shop.”

    “Put Anderson in the phone!” I snarled.

    “Uh, Dr. Smallwood? Just a moment”

    Anderson came on the line, sounding twelve years old and packing a bit of attitude. “What is it now, Dr. Anderson? Aren’t you happy with the cards?”

    “I am not…”

    “Hold I right there. We’ve corrected the phone number, and the spelling of Entomology. We changed to the special card stock you requested, even though they don’t make it anymore. We’ve reprinted these cards four times, including the last minute addition of the topic of your talk. It’s Friday and we’re closing up shop. I’m going skiing. What could possibly be wrong with this batch?”

    “I appreciate all your efforts,” I said with as much sarcasm as I could muster. “But the final addition is all wrong!”

    “Now wait, I took down the information from you over the phone myself, word for word. ‘The Lesser of Two Evils.’ That’s exactly what you said.”

    “You moron!” I growled. “I’m an entomologist, not a theologist. I’m doing a lecture series on agricultural pests, describing their relative impact on local economy and culture. The lecture is titled, The Lesser of True Weevils.”
    I had to spell it for him before he got it. Finally I heard his mental lightbulb go on and a sheepish, ‘oh.’ But nimbly he turned the tables back on me.

    “Well, frankly Doc, I think the way we had it is a much more interesting topic. Can’t you work your lecture around to fit it the way it is?” My response was mercifully interrupted by the grandfather clock beside me chiming 8 p.m.
    “It’s just there’s really nothing we can do about it now. We’re closed.”

    I hung up. The lesser of two evils. Moron.

    But I could see how it happened. I so much prefer dealing with a live person over the phone like I’ve been doing for fifty years, but maybe I have to face facts. I really should do all my print orders electronically from now on, even if it does feel like dancing with the Devil.

    1. Avatarsnuzcook

      Oops–typo I didn’t catch before posting:
      “Anderson came on the line, sounding twelve years old and packing a bit of attitude. “What is it now, Dr. SMALLWOOD? Aren’t you happy with the cards?”

  4. AvatarTrave Heath Lien

    For all the world he appeared to be impersonating a dad with one too many kids and just enough income to support them. Disheveled, but not sloppy. Rings under his eyes but a look that said content rather than desperate.

    “You’re late.”

    He smiled, looking rather cheerful.

    “I always am.”
    The Lesser of Two Evils walked in with more confidence than his appearance suggested, eyes moving about her home with a childlike glee that spoke of a demon freshly minted to the human world.

    “Golly this place looks swell.”

    “You’ll need to brush up on your vernacular,” she sighed.

    He waved her words away.

    “I always do. I’ll spend a few days cruising the local library and Cinema. It’s much the same no matter the time, kids will speak in riddles and the old will resent them for it. Besides I can always claim I’m bone jacking.”

    “We don’t have a few days, your first client will see you tonight,” she said, handing him a tablet. “Just youtube people interacting with others, that should do the trick.”

    “Youtube?” The demon tapped the black screen, flipping it upside down and examining the device in complete befuddlement. “I heard the acceleration of technology this century has been overwhelming, but this is…”

    “Intense?”

    The demon raised his eyebrows, shrugging with his whole body.

    “What’s got you lot calling on me all of a sudden?” Lesser asked, gesturing outwards. “You already have Subtle Implications, Spite, and The Great Agitator on your team, why have me working humans below their graves.”

    A crash sounded above them.

    Lesser’s eyes shot up to stare at her roof.

    “What was…”

    “The reason you’re here. He arrived seven days ago. The Great Agitator has been in charge of him your partner since Wednesday.”

    “Why would you do that?” Lesser said, ashen.

    “Because I am Grievance and every demon has been vying for this since 1917 when you abandoned him in Europe.”
    The Lesser of Two Evils buried his head in his hands, digging fingers into the bags under his eyes and leaving trails of blood behind as he moaned. There was the desperate exhaustion he was missing earlier. He looked much more like himself now.

    Another crash sounded on the roof.

    “Your appointments at eight tonight.”

    Lesser staggered to his feet, clutching the tablet to him like a shield. She heard the door open and the sound of something impossibly large and alive crashing into her front yard. She glanced outside her window to see a baby larger than a bear, covered from head to toe in elaborate tattoos and piercings. The baby’s face set in a perpetual expression of a mean drunk who’d had a brick smashed into his face.

    Repeatedly.

    “Hello Bigger,” Lesser said in resignation. The baby squealed and scooped the man up, planting a saliva filled kiss across his entire face. The thick leftovers sliding down Lesser’s sweater vest and tablet.

    She’d never met the Bigger of Two Evils before.

    He seemed nice.

  5. AvatarAmaria

    Regina was not in the mood to deal with this nonsense. All she wanted to do was get out the door and go to work. However, when she opened the door, a man stood before her in a black suit with a smile way too friendly.

    “Hello miss. I am Simon Church. I am vising your neighborhood to introduce myself. I’m running for town council.”

    Regina stopped him before he could continue “I’m sorry sir but I’m running late for work.”

    “Oh, I won’t take up much of your time,” Simon responded, removing his black hat. “Let me give you my business card with my website address. You can find much information about me there.”

    “Okay, that’s is fine. I’ll take a look later.” Regina really hoped that was the end, but Simon continued chatting.

    “I just hate to see our people voting for a man who hates us down to the bone.”

    Regina blinked. “Well I don’t know what man you’re talking about, but I’ll make sure I’ll find out before Election Day.”

    Simon leaned forward and whispered, “You should. He is in with that radical group. You can’t tell them apart nowadays.”

    “Radical group?” Regina responded.

    “Oh yes, they want to overturn the government and ruin our way of life. You must not let that Marshall man on to town council.”

    Regina crossed her arms, purse hanging heavy off her shoulder. “Are you talking about Robert Marshall?”

    Simon’s eyes lit up. “Why yes, ma’am. That man…”

    “Is a decent man. I have known Robert Marshall and his family for years. He works hard, volunteer at the church soup kitchen, coaches the peewee football team.”

    “He also been orchestrating protests before the town hall, questioning the Police Chief, petitioning the school board about the history curriculum.” Simon countered.

    “As well as we all should. Things been happening in this town that aren’t right, Mr. Church. It’s been that way for fall too long. If you ask me, we need more people like Mr. Marshall.”
    Simon shook his head. “It’s not that simple.”

    “Oh yes it is. I would rather have him than you” Regina responded.

    Simon gasp. “What? Why? I’m an upstanding member of this town. A proud business owner. I have a nice wife and family.”

    “And a man who steps out on his wife every chance he can get. Oh, I hear plenty about you at the hair salon. You should be more discrete Mr. Church.”

    Simon looked at Regina dumbfounded as she continued. “I also know that you’re part of a secret group that wants to run the “other people” out of town. You pay your employees the bare minimum and they’re ready to revolt. I wouldn’t be surprise to find out that Mrs. Church is ready to step out on you as well. “

    Regina uncrossed her arms and looked Simon straight in the eyes. “No, my vote is for Mr. Marshall. Good day, Mr. Church.”

  6. AvatarJosephFazzone

    “Lesser of two evils?” Aaron asked, perplexed.

    “Yes, ma’am,” the man, though gaunt and faceless, appeared to be amiable enough. He straightened his tie, and continued, If I may come in, I would be able to explain this in more detail.”

    Something a faceless man rung a few alarm bells. “Uh, I think not,” Aaron explained. “And it’s sir.”

    “Your hair is long,” he apologized.

    “Men’s hair can grow too,” Aaron retorted. “You said evil?” I pointed out “Evil. Evil is never good so now I’m just going to shut the door now. It’s not you, well it is, but also it’s my common sense, an affliction, you understand.”

    “Of course, I assume this means you are passing on me in favor of the greater” His voice caught as if he too was afraid.

    “And what is that?”

    He shook himself of whatever spell he was under and said, “You are the first to ever ask that question.”

    “Am I,” Aaron remarked uninterested, “do you have an answer?”

    “I’m afraid I have no idea,” he answered with some embarrassment.

    “Okay, so you aren’t even sure if there is another one of you? What sort of evil did you even have in mind?”

    “Oh,” he laughed. “My apologies.” He pulled out a red and black flecked envelope. “The instructions are listed here.”

    “Why is this happening,” Aaron moaned. “Can’t you just knock next door? Mrs. Vanderwal is pure evil already. You just would end up being superfluous.”

    “You are an innocent,” he apologized. “It is the way it has to be.”

    Aaron’s heart froze. “I don’t want to choose,” he cried.

    “In order to right the wrongs, something wrong must happen.” His patience was comforting.
    Aaron was sure that on another plane of existence, they might have even been friends. Given his lack of facial expressions, Vegas would be his to conquer. “But I don’t want to choose,” he repeated angrily.

    “It is already done,” he said sadly, “Either what’s in here, or we wait for my greater other to come.”

    “I won’t do it!”

    “You have no choice beyond this. I return at nightfall for your decision.” He handed me the envelope, bowed slightly, and left.

    Aaron went back inside his apartment, flopped on the coach, wiped the sweat from his forehead, breathed a sigh of relief, and with nervous hands, opened it up and read the instructions.

    Something about the writing triggered a faint memory. His finger absently rubbed the pendant around his neck. Suddenly, the pendant pulsed, and he remembered everything.

    30 years of deep cover, the model citizen, all for to take down the system. After a moment, he stood up.

    The man said he’d return for an answer. Aaron knew his fight was not with him, but his superior. He walked to the closet, pulled out his Ethereal Sword. He felt a surge of holy fire enter his body. With a flash of light, he was once again donning his armor. His eyes, shining with purpose, crushed the envelope in his hand.

    He knew what choice he’d make, and they were not going to like it.

  7. Avatarjhowe

    It was the summer or 1983. My wife had left me days ago and I could barely get off the couch to pour another glass of Jim Beam. Nature called, as it did often when I drank large amounts of liquid. Luckily I didn’t have to puke this time.

    The bell rang as I stumbled past the front door. If I wasn’t already on my feet, I wouldn’t have answered.

    A man stood in a white jumpsuit and an American Flag crash helmet. He wore aviator shades.

    “Evil Knievel?” I said.

    “Actually, I’m Weasel Knievel, Evil’s brother. Evil is setting up the ramps.”

    “You don’t say.”

    “It’s a job he doesn’t take lightly,” Weasel said.

    “No, I would think not.”

    “You said, to a source I have… you said you told your wife you’d stop drinking to save your marriage. But you didn’t, did you? You said you had no drinking problem, unless you weren’t drinking, which I believe was a poor excuse for a joke.”

    “Yeah, my wife said the same thing.”

    “Hence her absence.”

    I nodded.

    “Anyway, you said you’d quit drinking is she would come back. You said that last night while praying.”

    “How did you know that?” I said.

    “Because I’m the lesser of two Evils. And I made a deal with God.”

    “I’m not following you.”

    “You see, my brother also has a little problem with alcohol. And a few other substances as well, but I told God I wanted to help him.” He paused while I caught up. “So, to be brief, God told me to help someone else and then, maybe He’d help Evil sober up.”

    “God spoke to you?”

    “Well, not directly. But your name and address were given to me by some little guy in a suit who claimed he was an angel.”

    I rolled my eyes.

    The room blurred and I blamed the Jim Beam. As I faded out, Weasel Knievel caught me before I fell. When I came to, I was astride a Harley Davison dirt bike. My hands wouldn’t pull away from the handlebars despite great effort on my part.

    “If you make this jump,” Weasel shouted above the roar of the bike, “your wife will come back, no questions asked. You can drink all you want and she’ll support you.”

    I looked down the ramp and about pissed myself upon seeing a row of 14 Greyhound busses lined up.

    “I can’t do it!” I said, my entire body quivering. The crowd roared and chanted, Jump, Jump, Jump. Weasel left me and the bike sped down the ramp. Before the end of the ramp, I swerved the bike to the left and felt myself float as the Harley crashed to the pavement well before the jumping zone.

    From my couch, I swam in sweat and my hands shook. I eyed the whiskey on the end table and the TV blared. I got up and turned it off and carried my glass to the sink. I dumped it and all the bottles in the cupboard.

    Getting out of the shower, my phone chimed out Louie Louie from the counter. My wife’s ringtone.

  8. AvatarNot-Only But-Also Riley

    The Koala Story

    This dude stands there on my porch, giving me some kind of stink eye, although that might just be his resting face, and handed me a little card. I flip the thing in my hands, hoping it might be a piece of gum or something, but it was blank with just five words on it: The Lesser of Two Evils.

    I’m like, What is this even supposed to mean, is it, like, a joke or something? ‘Cause I don’t really get it, and trust me, I’m not happy when I don’t get things.

    Georgia was sitting on the couch in my living room, waiting for me to come back so we could start the movie, and she piped up like, It’s true you know. She’ll go wild when she doesn’t get something. I just told her that one joke, you know the one, about koalas. Damn. She didn’t speak to me for a week.

    And I was like, Oh shit! Don’t even get me started on that fucking koala joke!

    But the big man, still with that stink eye interrupted me like, I don’t care about a koala joke. I’ve never even heard it before. I just need to talk to you about…

    Suddenly, I hear Georgia jump from the couch and run up behind me so she’s getting stink-eyed too, and she’s like, You’ve never heard the koala joke? The fuck, has everyone been living under a rock?

    And I’m starting to think that stink-eye might just be this dudes resting face, ‘cause it starts getting stinkier, like you can really tell he’s getting mad now, and he’s like, Aren’t you curious, even in the slightest, about what this means? Don’t you want to know who I am and why I’ve handed you a card that says I’m The Lesser of Two Evils. (And he said it all like that too. Like, you could tell it would be capitalized, just from the way he said it.)

    I look at Georgia, and we’re both thinking the same thing, and I’m like, Dude, of course I want to know what your deal is. That’s what I asked you about in the first place. But can’t you see this stupid koala story is important to my friend here.

    And Georgia wraps one arm around me and leans in close, and gives me these eyes that seem to say, Thanks for standing up for me, but why do you still gotta be so negative about my koala joke.

    The man’s eyes are really stinky now, you could smell them from a mile away, and he starts doing a little movement, something with his feet where they move up and down, back and forth, he clenches his fists and gets all red, as if to say, Now I’m really angry, but I don’t know how to release it in a proper manner because society has always told me to hold it in, so now a bunch of years worth of anger is coming out of my body physically in the form of this embarrassing little dance that I need to do right now on your porch.

    And when he settles, I’m just like, Woah. Dude. Settle down. It ain’t that big a deal.

    And Georgia is like, Do you need, like, a cup of tea?

    And I’m like, Listen man, we got some pot, if you’re into that. But Georgia makes a face at me that’s like, Don’t offer this guy pot. He could be a cop. Plus I want that pot. And I just do a little shrug that seems to say, I’m just trying to be helpful. This dude looks stressed.

    The dude is silent for a minute, you can tell he’s thinking, relaxing, and his eye goes back to its minimum stinkiness (which still is stinkier than most).

    He’s like, No, it’s all good. Just tell me the koala story I guess.

    Georgia perks back up really quick, she moves her hand from around me, ‘cause she’s gonna do all these little movements while she tells it like pretend to hug a tree, and eat eucalyptus leaves. And sure enough, she does all of that, and she even starts hopping around in the part with the kangaroo, and I don’t remember, because I never forgot, but it just hits me hard why I love her.

    And at the end, stink-eye dude is standing there, still stink-eyed, but with a little smile on his face. And he’s like, It’s a pretty good story, but it isn’t a joke.

    I look at him, and gesture with my hands like, Thank you! And Georgia scowls, but it’s the kind of scowl that just means, I don’t agree, but also you guys are pretty cool, so it’s all good ‘cause we don’t have to agree on everything, especially when it’s as unimportant as a koala story.

    And then I look at the dude, and I’m like, So what’s the deal, with this whole Lesser of Two Evils thing? (And I even say it all capitalized like he would, ‘cause even though it seems pretentious, I think Georgia’s scowl offers a convincing argument.)

    He’s like, Nah. I think I’ll just drop it.

    Georgia smiles at him, and she’s like, I mean, who cares anyway. Evil is evil right? How can you even quantify it?

    I look at Georgia like, That was pretty profound, and then I wonder if maybe she had gotten into that pot while I was at the door.

    The guy is like, Yeah. I can see that. And his eye reaches a level of stinkiness even closer to non-stinkiness, and I don’t know why but I feel proud, so to keep the good vibes going I’m like, You want to come watch this movie with us?

    I think Georgia might give me a look, but instead she’s like, Yeah! We’re watching a documentary about grilled cheese. You should totally come watch it with us.

    At first, the dude looks kind of disappointed, he looks down at his wrist, but there isn’t any watch there, so he looks back at us, kind of flustered for a minute and then he finally smirks and shrugs, as if to say, Sure I’ll watch a documentary on grilled cheese with you guys, but it might make hungry, so do you have the stuff to make a grilled cheese?

    And Georgia and I both just step out of the way to let him in, as if to say, Of course we have stuff to make grilled cheese. What kind of house would this be if we didn’t?

      1. Avatarhillsworth

        Usually I’m like, a stickler for tense shifting and I’d be like, dude, you broke tense four times in that paragraph…but I just figured I’d like, smoke some of that pot you mentioned and I made myself this awesomely delicious grilled cheese sammich after watching the documentary you mentioned on Netflix and then went back and like, re-read your story and it all makes sense to me now…dude.
        (Glad you found your own typos, cause I seriously am a stickler on that subject because it was pointed out to me by many in my earliest works and now I’m somewhat of a jerk about it. And I seriously did not smoke the pot but a grilled cheese does sound delicious and I clearly see one in my immediate future.) This was a fun ‘stoner’ read that I did enjoy.:-)

    1. AvatarDenise G. Monello

      No need to apologize for your tense shifts–I didn’t even catch them. I was too busy wondering about the koala and enjoying the dialogue of Georgia and her guy. So on target of some of the way the youth speak today. I sometimes listen to them and count how many times they can say “like” in a conversation. It’s like a million times! Enjoyed your take on the prompt.

  9. Avatarcarnek1

    “I’m the lesser of two evils,” the man said, handing off a business card that proclaimed the same.”

    “I see,” replied the man who answered the door. “And you’ve made it official.”

    “Just makes things cleaner, you know?”

    “Right. Well, shall we get on with it?” The man welcomed the Lesser of Two Evils into his parlor. “How would you like to get it done?”

    The Lesser Evil gestured towards two seats in the room.

    Sitting as instructed, the man anxiously grabbed a nearby pipe, fumbled igniting the tobacco stuffed within, and gobbled its smoke. “Tell me now,” he said, buying a moment. “What is it that makes you lesser?”

    “Thank you for asking,” the Lesser Evil responded, while removing his overcoat. “I guess it has to do with execution. The Greater Evil, well… she maims, I merely kill. She wreaks havoc, I merely reek. She punishes, I merely scold.”

    “I see,” the man responded, glancing at the clock and puffing more from his pipe. “And how does that make you feel.”

    “To be honest, quite inferior. It wouldn’t be so bad if she didn’t rub it in my face all the time. I mean she’ll show up and say, why did you only push this person off the ledge, it would have been better to let them dangle for a while. Or why did you only drop a piano on this person, or only give fast acting cyanide, or well,” he paused, sat back, and motioned towards the man with a knowing hand, “you get the picture. Everything I do, just doesn’t seem to be enough for her.”

    “Have you ever shared your feelings with her?” He coughed a bit, gagging, as he asked this question.

    “Well, I never have the chance. It’s like, she doesn’t even respect me enough to listen, or –”

    Suddenly the clock dinged. “Oh my, that was much faster than I anticipated. Mr. Lesser Evil, I’m afraid to say we’ve run out of time.” He rose from his chair. “Until next week, try thinking of yourself as great. Afterall, Greatness comes with such subjectivity. Those you treat with less, might just regard that lessness as great.” He ushered the Lesser Evil to the door. “Stacy will send you your bill, and remember: Be great, and less. Ta-ta.”

  10. Avatarrlk67

    Ah, I do believe my guest has arrived. I slowly opened the door to reveal a smartly dressed squat man with a huge smile. I offered my hand, but he declined.

    “No, detective,” he said excitedly, “you should have offered your other hand. This one was obviously dipping into the teurgoule, while your left was only patting down the soil below your golden lillies.” Hmph. Upstart.

    He held out a card. Lesser of Two Evils. Excellent.

    “Well, Monsieur Lesser, I am pleased that you accepted my invitation. As I described to you, I have a most difficult murder to solve, and your advice would be much cherished.”

    “But of course, Detective. If I could be of any service.”

    “Let’s have a drink first, Monsieur.” I brought two glasses on a tray and held them out.

    He winced. “Oh, Detective. You amuse me. The Kir Royale can pierce even the most tenacious intestinal epithelium, while the Chambord has been known to exacerbate dysequilibrium in horrid ways. I, of course, will take the former.” And he did. In three gulps.

    “Er…now Monsieur Lesser, let’s get to business, shall we? I will give you some choices relative to the case at hand, and you will tell me your inclination.”

    “Very well, let me sit first,” he said, choosing the lumpy divan over the mismatched chaise.

    I commenced. “I have narrowed it down to Peacock and Mustard. What do you say?”

    “Most difficult. I would need to choose Peacock, as neither she nor the Colonel would stop at nothing to get their way. But at least Peacock smells nice.”

    “Very good. In that case, I’ll go with the Colonel. Now what do you say to the billard room or the study?”

    He rubbed his chins. “I would need to go with the billard room. The red decor makes blood less noticeable.” I stared at him, unsure why that would be any better.

    “And now, Monsieur Lesser, the candlestick, revolver, or exploding i-phone?”

    “Hmmm…it seems you have upgraded a bit. Nice. However, I cannot answer. You see, detective, you have given me three choices. That would mean that I would need to choose the LESSEST of three evils, as opposed to the lesser of two. And ‘lessest’ is not a word.”

    I took a deep breath. “Choose one or I will give you ONE choice…out the window!”

    “Revolver,” he said meekly. “More bang for your buck.”

    “Thank you, Monsieur. I believe that concludes our meeting. You have been most helpful. Please give regards to Poirot, that roach infested Brulee.”

    “Of course, Detective, I see him Thursday. They all use me. Marple. Wimsey. Tis quite the busy season. Au revoir.”

    ********
    In the end, it was Scarlett in the conservatory with the dagger. Well, at least I have learned that there is ALWAYS another choice.

  11. AvatarEmis_Faa

    (sorry if this is a little long)

    It was 5:42 am, and Aaron was sitting on the toilet, slightly hung over and praying to the Gods that whatever spirits he’d put in his body would vacate it via the front or the back, when he heard a knock at the door.

    A rhythmic summon: thump thump tha-thump thump… thump thump.

    Aaron, in mid prayer and push, raised his head and listened to the air. Nothing. The only thing he heard was the silence of his apartment and the throbbing in his skull. Maybe this hangover was worse than he’d thought? As he began to put his head back into his clammy palms, there it was again.

    Thump thump tha-thump thump… thump thump.

    Who the fu…

    He reached for his phone and read the time: 5:44 am.

    Are you kidding me?!

    As if on queue to respond, there again was another rhythmic rapping upon his cheap apartment door.

    Thump thump tha-thump thump… thump thump.

    Aaron thought it better to sit and wait, letting the unknown knocker knock themselves out; after a while, they would get the message. However, after the 4th knock, the tone suddenly changed and lightweight raps became pounds.

    THUMP THUMP THA-THUMP THUMP… THUMP THUMP

    The series of blasts on his door nearly knocked Aaron off the toilet. They were invasive, almost violent feeling. He felt the vibrations in his head and his chest. More irritated than intrigued, Aaron proceeded to clean himself up and confront the person that was banging on his door at… he checked his phone again: 5:52 am. Making his way out of the bathroom, he hurried to his bedroom and lifted the mattress: a Glock 19 was resting peacefully. He grabbed it with an unsettling feeling that he was going to have to wake it up.

    THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP

    A continuous stream of pounds now poured from the door. Aaron’s footsteps were in sync with the violent pounding at his door. Taking the gun off of safety, he peered through the peephole. He couldn’t believe his eye.

    You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me.

    Putting the gun behind his back, he cracked the door and found himself looking down at a girl, maybe around 12 years old, dressed in khaki pants and a navy blue turtleneck sweater. Her smile was delicate.

    “HI!” she chirped, bouncing up and down. “For a second there, I thought I was gonna have to break your door down!” There was a giggle and her voice sounded like bells filtered through a giant fan. Aaron stared down at her blankly. His body was halfway out the door and he shifted his attention down both ends of the hallway. Nothing out of the ordinary could be found, other than the pint-sized pounder peering at him with large brown eyes.

    “What do you want?” Aaron stammered out. “Why are you here? Do you know what time it is?”

    “Oh yes! It’s 5:59 am, and it’ll be 6:00 in… “ she closed her eyes and counted down, “7… 6… 5… 4… 3… 2…” In the distance, the church bells could be heard, signalling the top of the hour. The little girl opened her eyes and an unsettling smile broke across her face. “1.” Aaron gripped the pistol a little tighter.

    “As for what I want,” she continued, “I am here to sell some cookies!” Her enthusiasm was sickening. It made the contents in Aaron’s stomach slosh about like waves. He closed his eyes and rested his head on the door frame like it was the shoulder of an old friend.

    “Cookies. At 6 o’clock in the morning?” his tone was flat and gruff.

    “6:02,” she promptly corrected. “It’s 6:02 now.”

    “I don’t give a fuck,” Aaron muttered in frustration. He wasn’t one to swear at children, but his patience for bullshit was still in bed. “And, I’m not interested.” Aaron started closing the door, but the little girl’s foot slithered its way in between.

    “Yo, what the hell ar-”

    “I came a long way to get here, Aaron, and I’m not leaving until I give you what I came here to give you.”

    He froze.

    “How do you know my name?” The pistol in his hand slowly eased its way closer to the opening of the door, like it had a mind of its own; he had to remind himself that this was a child he was talking to. The pistol now rested in front of his waist. “Who are you?”

    The little girl’s foot snapped back to the rest of its body with an unnatural agility. Aaron thought of when he went to the zoo as a kid, and saw bulky gorillas jump and play with the grace of Olympic acrobats. It just didn’t look “right”.

    “I am The Lesser of Two Evils.”

    The little girl had a book-bag and she carefully unsheathed it from her shoulder and proceeded to unzip it, all the while never taking her attention off Aaron. She slipped in her hand and instantly pulled out a box of Girl Scout cookies and a small white card. Aaron was blank. She extended the gifts to him and he reluctantly accepted. A box of Thin Mints.

    “Don’t worry,” she giggled, “I know I said sell, but don’t have to pay for them.”

    He turned the box over and read the small white card; a business card.

    “Tasha Brooks: Sales.” He read the words like an unknown language. There was a phone number neatly handwritten on the back. “Tasha Brooks? Is that you?”

    “Yup!” Tasha’s excitement sent another ripple of discomfort inside of Aaron. “From now on, anytime you want to buy Girl Scout cookies, you’ll call me.”

    “What? Why?”

    “Because,” Tasha giggled, “if you don’t, someone will be back here, someone much scarier than I am. They’ll shatter this door and before you have a chance to register what’s happening, they’ll rip you from your bed,” she told him. “Or… they’ll snatch your shitty ass from the toilet you just got off.”

    Aaron looked at the strange girl in his hallway, wearing a school uniform and a twisted smile.

    Tasha continued, “and then you’ll REALLY be in trouble! Neither of us want that, Aaron.”

    Rustling from inside the other apartments could be heard, which seemed to catch Tasha’s attention. “Well, it’s time for me to go to school now,” she said. Sheathing her book-bag back over her shoulder, she began walking towards the elevator, leaving Aaron stuck on stupid.

    “Oh,” Tasha added, stopping on a dime. She turned her head and looked at him right in the eye. “That pistol wouldn’t have done you much good had you chose to use it.”

    Aaron felt his stomach collapse from under him.

    Tasha smiled. “See ya later!”

    And with that, the young girl was gone. Aaron didn’t move for what seemed like an hour, before finally looking at the box of cookies and the card. Confused, he went back inside and just so happen to look at the clock on the stove: 6:16 am.

    It was time for him to start getting ready for work.

  12. AvatarSonyahetan

    my feet were warming.
    I took my boots off because I thought the soles of my feet were wet, I have bad circulation and sometimes confuse wet with cold. my socks are dry and I can’t remember where I sat my boots when I took them off and I can’t see far in any direction. my only sense of area this yellow melting rock-shaped thing smalling in its lubrication. I’m afraid if I run off I won’t find my way back. I hear a doorbell and voices over my shoulder and above my head, but my feet are starting to crack from heat and it’s painful. hard to listen closely, “…the lesser of two evils” an unfamiliar voice is split… “red or white?” I move my head confused and vibrated with laughter. I see them, my boots… at that instant, my feet are lifted from below I’m thrown an immeasurable distance landing with the hard sound of shattering cast pipe dropped on just cured cement. below me is angry. shaken like the piles of earth in a battle between tectonic plates of insidious attempt. I’m covered, described in: a dropped vanilla soft ice creams puddle. I reach down to leverage my body erect, “ouch!” I screamed. my palm scorched. devil-red burned. my eyes scan the horizon in all directions in a frenzy, my boots! running, my socks scattering into chared nothing with every step, next to them see a door open and without thinking I jump: here I am, out of the frying pan and int the fire.

    1. AvatarDMelde

      Delightful read. I confess, I don’t know what we’re cooking, but I liked it. I liked your term smalling quite a bit. fun, creative word use throughout. and the answer is red, definitely red. thanks!

  13. AvatarDMelde

    Stan entered the room.

    “Listen up, Nosepickers! I hate your guts, every last single one of you, so don’t think I’m your friend. This casting call is for the lesser of two evils, so if you’re not here for that, then get out!” Stan said.

    Stan glared about the room. Several Evils glared back before leaving. The rest stood around and waited for Stan’s next instructions.

    “Now that the Altar Boys have left, and just so you know, I hate them just as much as I hate you- I want everybody to line up single file. Have your business cards ready for me. Don’t make me have to ask.” Stan said.

    He sat down at a tired, wooden desk and motioned with his hand- “First Evil, come on, I don’t have all day.”

    The first Evil in line stepped forward and gave Stan his business card.

    “What experience do you have?” Stan asked.

    “I was instrumental in bringing about the Black Plague, and I have extensive experience in world wars.” Evil said.

    “Stop,” Stan said. “Those are greater evils. Listen up all you Rhino-miners! This casting call is for lesser evils only. If you have greater evil experience, then you’re over qualified. You’ll only be getting the lesser rate of pay, so if you were hoping you’d get bumped up to greater rates, you’re wrong and I hate you! Get out!”

    Stan felt the room tense as half of the Evils visibly stiffened. He reached into the desk drawer and put his hand on his Swiss Army Talisman in case they decided to fight. The light in the room dimmed and everyone waited, until one Evil turned and left, and then another and another, until half of the Evils had left. The light returned to normal.

    Stan removed his hand and gestured to the next Evil in line- “Next! What’s your talent?”

    “I fart really loud.” Evil said.

    “Wrong! Get out! Next!”

    “I sell vacuum cleaners door to door.”

    “Not in here you don’t! Next!”

    “I like clowns.”

    “Whoa,” Stan said, “you just gave me the chills. You mean you like evil clowns, right? You don’t mean you like good clowns too, do you?”

    “Sure I do,” Evil said, “clowns like Button and Patches are some of my favorites.”

    “Stop right there!” Stan said. “You’re almost in greater evil territory, but not quite. You know what, you’re alright kid. Don’t get me wrong, I still hate your guts, but you just might do. Tell you what, I’ve got a fantastic Greater Evil but he’s got some issue problems and an inferiority complex. Do you think you could tone it down a bit and be a little lesser of an evil? Maybe only like one good clown instead of them all, so you won’t show him up?”

    “I can do that, sir.” Evil said.

    “Great! Be here at ten tomorrow, kid. As for the rest of you, I still hate you! Now get out!”

  14. AvatarPete

    The knocking was swift, sharp, and not entirely unexpected. Sandra Donningham opened the door to find a handsome, clean shaven man with piercing brown eyes.

    “Good afternoon, Ma’am. Sorry to disturb you.”

    Sandra smiled at the man’s precise accent. The careful consideration to pronounce syllables. She couldn’t help parroting his crisp pronunciation. “It’s no problem. How may I help you?”

    “My name’s Lester. Detective Lester Evil.”

    She chuckled. “What a peculiar name.”

    “Yes, well. I’m not sure if you’ve heard but there’s a manhunt underway in this area. We’re searching for a suspect in a string of robberies. A few convenience stores, gas stations. First Capital, on Durham Ave?”

    “Oh my.”

    “Not to cause alarm, but our suspect was last seen in the vicinity. As I said, we’re sweeping the area, knocking on doors and spreading the word.”

    From his jacket, Lester produced a picture. A still from a bank surveillance camera, zoomed and focused on a man with a ponytail, beard, but otherwise the spitting image of the well-kept individual on her porch step. “If you see this man, do not approach him. Please. Call authorities immediately.”

    Sandra took in the picture, cocking her head. “Hmm, sure this isn’t a picture of you?”

    Lester conceded the point with a nod. He rubbed his chin, as if to be sure a beard hadn’t suddenly sprouted across his cheeks. “Yes well, the suspect happens to be my brother. I suppose there may be a slight resemblance,” he said, somewhat bashful now.

    “A resemblance? I’ll say. Are you twins?”

    “We are.”

    Sandra flung her hair back, batted her eyes and set a polished red fingernail to the photo. “A handsome devil, if you ask me.”

    Lester blinked several times, his face flushed. Two patches of pink bloomed on his clean-shaven cheeks. “Again, not to cause panic, but Mucho Evil is extremely dangerous. If seen you should contact authorities. Or me.” Lester produced a card.

    Sandy looked up from the photo, a lingering touch on Lester’s hand as she took the card. “Are you asking me out, Lester?”

    “Of the house? No, evacuation won’t be necessary. At least not at this time. I would, however, keep your doors and windows locked. Only as a precaution.”

    A small laugh escaped Sandra’s mouth. She covered it and shook her head. A Google Maps Prius whirred by, watching everything, capturing all. “Okay Lester. I can assure you. I will take precaution.”

    “Yes, please. Until we apprehend him.” He tipped his hat. “Good day, Ma’am.”

    Sandra watched him the way one might watch a determined toddler set off to fly. Detective Lester Evil turned as he reached the sidewalk, nodded again to Sandra. She held the card between two fingers in a salute.

    Lester set off for the next house. Sandra smiled, smacked the car against her palm, then turned away. Closing the door, she was still smiling.

    “Okay Mucho, he’s gone.”

    A figure appeared in the doorway, the late evening sun finding his tattooed shoulders. He gulped down the bottle of beer in his hands then belched. “You did great, babe.”

    Sandra flung the card at him. “Oh the poor thing,” she said, leaning against a wall, her chest rising and falling, as if she’d just run a marathon. “He asked me to take precaution.”

    Mucho swooped in and wrapped Sandra in his arms. “Lester has always been a stick in the mud.”

    Sandra pulled away, starting for the windows. Mucho watched her fiddle with the latch, craning her neck to watch something outside. “What are you doing?”

    “Nothing.”

    Again, Mucho came over and took her in his arms. “Why are you still thinking about him?”

    She shrugged, leaned back and took him in. “I don’t know. He was sweet.”

    “I’ll show you sweet.” Mucho leaned in to kiss her. Sandra set a palm to his chest. “Mucho, why don’t you take a shower, maybe shave?”

    Mucho smirked. “You want me to shave?”

    Sandra went back to the window. “Uh huh. Maybe cut your hair too.”

    Mucho started for the steps. “I don’t believe this.”

    Hearing the water upstairs, Sandra looked at the card again. She slapped it against her palm, smiling despite herself. Mucho began singing, deep and soulful, the songs that used to make her melt in his hands. But they no longer touched her the way they used to. For the first time in her life, Sandra gazed out the window, thinking about precautions.

  15. AvatarTomMorgan

    I’ve not written in years and a Masterclass suggested I pick up these prompts. Here goes!

    Siare closed the heavy steel door, the fallen lock bar grating to match the feeling running up her spine. “By. Traxio’s. Beard.”, she thought as she slid the three deadbolts back into place, the final ‘thunk’ echoing around the chamber.

    Fear entered her previously settled mind, the trickery of entering her old, well-worn routine had smeared a balm on the panic she felt before returning here. Now, she’d be introducing the problems she’d hoped to have escaped to her old comrades. A bead of sweat ran down her ribs and pooled where her weapon belt sat atop her hip. The visitor was bound to have disturbed her training partner from his post-sparring meditation that the Etosian used as time to reflect and be thankful to their Anima. There was no hiding the scale of her troubles now.

    Sure enough, slippered footfall and the rattling of clawed pads approached, searching for somewhere to hide the card, remembering the Etosian distaste for the use of Spesouls, Siare found herself still holding the dreaded thing. The slender Etosian half rounded the corner, leaning against the pillar demarking the end of this chamber and the beginning of the long corridor beyond which lay the rest of the citadel. His Faenix, a large black cat like animal with thick leathery wings slinked past him, folding himself by the fire designed to warm the guards whom Siare had dismissed prior to opening the door. He raises his head momentarily, his eyes going blank as Vox’s eyes go from catlike to the same, opaque white. The Faenix sniffs long and hard, unfolds and approached Siare, hacking and spitting at the card behind her back.

    “Epak, how did you know?”

    His head rocked forward; a breath escaped him as if held despite the steady breathing he’s maintained. His eyes cleared again, sad and brown.

    “Your adrenaline is through the roof, the scent was easily identified by Vox”, he shook his head in dismay, “You would keep this from me?”

    Flicking the card to the floor Siare turns away, embarrassed remembering the disappointed look from her time spent as a student, studying the various arts of war under the marital prowess of this old Animae before she ran away. The card had landed face down, revealing the burning ring of a solar eclipse in white-blue and black – the symbol of the Enlightened. Bending slowly, picking it up as if it were a gram from a beloved friend, Epak turned it over to note it’s content before pressing hard on the centre of the shadow, activating the Spesoul. He let the card tumble between his fingers to the cobbled floor as it burst into flames.

    As the card curled and its final corner became smoke Epak winced, the tiny swan song of the creature, its soul having been fuel for the magic, squeaked out, the dying sound of a rodent likely a Roxao.

    “Disgusting practice.”, the gentle warrior muttered.

    “We need to tell the others.”

    He turned without another word; she was expected to follow.

  16. AvatarDenise G. Monello

    WHAT TO DO?

    The storm knocked out the electric, and roads closed. The block was black and deserted.I sat alone by candlelight, warmed by the fire. In my uncomfortable boredom, I read the newspaper. They still hadn’t caught the man who tortured and killed all those girls. No suspects, no leads, he’s still out there. Suddenly there a knock on my door

    I stared at the door, fear intensified my breathing. “Who is it? Is somebody there? Are you in trouble.”

    “If you’ll allow me, I’ll introduce myself,” replied a baritone voice.

    My eyes rapidly scanned the room. I ran back to the fire, picked up the poker. I pressed my ear against the door and tightly held the knob. “Who are you?”

    “You’re not going to hear anything but maybe me shivering. I have something for you. I mean no harm.”

    Something told me to open the door. I took a deep breath and yanked it open. On my stoop stood a frail older man in an oversized black raincoat with water dripping from his straggled white hair on to his pale skin. His eyes bulged from their sunken sockets. His shriveled hand peeked beneath the wet cuff, and he handed me a soggy business card.

    “What do you want?”

    “I am Grim. I work for the Lesser of Two Evils.”

    “I’ve heard of that company. What happened to Between a Rock and Hard Place?”

    “They closed down months ago.”

    “How about The Best of a Bad Bunch?”

    “Still around. But working for this company is more exciting. I’m here to help you decide.”

    “Decide what?”

    “The future.”

    “Okay, so it’s not about a hard decision or something that may not end up to be too great, it’s about evil. I have to choose something evil?”

    “Bravo,” the decrepit man cried.

    My fear subsided, curiosity arose. “Okay, tell me.”

    “With this storm, there is no communication, no activity, no one around. My dear, you have a choice to take that poker, go across the street to the home of the young man who has a twisted desire towards young women. He’s inebriated. Your visit will go unnoticed. You are to smash him in the head until he breathes his last.”

    “You want me to kill him?”

    “Or you can go across the street to the young man who harms young women in the cruelest of ways, take the pillow he rests his head on, and put it over his face until he’s finished gasping.”

    “And what happens should I not do either of them?”

    “My dear, you will run out in this treacherous weather and attempt to retrieve a howling dog from your yard. You will slip on the wet leaves, hit the concrete, crack your head, and die.

    “Bottom line, I won’t save the dog, but I’ll save young women from harm.”

    “Exactly.”

    “So technically, in the end, I’m doing a job for The Greater-Good.”

    “Yes, my competitor. An honorable company, not a fan of their benefits package.”

  17. Avatarmayboy

    The lesser Extention of the Evil

    Somehow, he always manages to smuggle in through the tiniest hole, knocking on the membrane of another door in the hope it opens. And some are more than willing to accept his presence, helping him to grow and spread, fueling the oil on the fire.

    “Here I am,” he says, spreading the net all over the place, waiting to seed malicious intentions to conquer and rule.

    “I feel as the hair, depilated, persistent to grow stronger to make the life of my inhabitants miserable. Every time they shave me or cut me off, my roots burst into the wire of the Indian bridge above the cascades.”

    “And you, little human creatures, are not immune to my temptations to let me in your conscious or unconscious world. I pull all the cards, mostly,” the malware scratches the surface of the project before the unexpected blow from aside catapults the intruder from the sphere.

    All the entrances closed. No way to get in except for the little tiny beast keeps on trying to put the foot between the door until it finds the fertile soil. There is plenty of it for the malign tumors to grow until the cure turns them into the benign one, and they vanish in the thin air. If not, it is one space they can not flourish, can not possess the right soul, not here, not there, after the life steps into the afterlife space.

    “Don’t you think you got rid of me!” the echoing rumbled among the souls, the sinners of the world since the universe began to bend reality.

    “Don’t bet on it,” giggle the ones whose intentions are pristine, “we are aware of your presence, You can not prevail cos we won’t let you do it even if you are transmitted or transplanted into our brain. One-click away, brainstormers always find a way to erase you from the surface of the hemisphere. We are growing the sustainable chain of nondestructive souls in the life up and beyond, lifted to the level your bad intentions are not acceptable.”

    “That can not happen,” the virus can t digest all the healthy food, “I am lesser than evil, I am the villain, the Beast, deeply rooted in the humans’ being.”

    The cells of the kind souls vibrated,” The one thing you will never be able to understand, accept or consummate, is the feeling of Love.”

  18. Avatarnelleg

    ‘Bing Bong’ ‘Bing Bong’

    The sound of the old doorbell drives Owen nuts. His wife Mindy insisted on keeping as much as the “original charm” as possible. She also insisted on buying an existing home and make it their own instead of just building a new one with the exact things they wanted.

    ‘Bing Bong’ Bing Bong’

    Owen opens the door and there stands Todd Parsons from his work. Owen works at the biggest accounting firm downtown where he is one of the more senior associates. Todd is a new junior associate and here he is standing on Owen’s front stoop. Todd is dressed in a black suit, black shirt and black tie and is getting drenched from the leaking awing, another unique feature that Mindy wanted to keep.

    “Todd? What are you doing here? Come inside and dry off. Sorry about the leaky porch roof.” Owen says with a combination of confusion and concern.

    But Todd just kept standing there in silence and then hands Owen a card. Owen is even more confused now as he looks at the card and then back at Todd. “What’s this? Why don’t you come inside?”

    Todd didn’t move despite Owen’s persistence.

    “What does this mean?” Owen reads the card out loud “You need to choose the lesser of two evils!”

    Todd then hands Owen two more cards and then says “Choose wisely!”

    Owen looks at the cards. They are business cards for the two senior partners.

    Todd speaks up again “They will expect your answer on Monday.” Then he turns and walks back to his Toyota in the driveway. He is completely soaked by the time he gets in and shuts the door.

    Owen just stood there holding all three cards. He is trying to wrap his mind around the whole scene. As he stands in the open doorway completely bewildered his wife’s vintage jaguar pulls into the drive. She runs up the walk to the open doorway.

    “What are you doing standing here with the door open? Are trying to let the flies in out of the rain? Was that Todd Parsons from your work? What did he want?” Mindy asks as she hangs her wet raincoat. Mindy has a bad habit of asking multiple questions and not waiting for the answers.

    Owen is still standing with the door open. A thousand other questions going through his mind. ‘Are they splitting the firm up?’ ‘Which one do I go with?’ ‘When did they decide this?’ ‘What happened?’

    Then Mindy reaches over and closes the door and continues talking. It is what she says next that snaps him out of his trance. “I saw Barbara Hillman at the store today.” Barbara Hillman is the wife of Jerrod Hillman one of the men that are on the cards Owen is still grasping to. “She was going on and on about the company picnic this year. Apparently, Jerrod and Andy are really excited for it this year.” The Andy she is referring to is Andrew Winters the other man on the cards that now have Owen’s thumbprint imbedded in them. “They have come up with this idea of who is the lesser of two evils. They are letting all the senior associates decide which team they want to be on then dividing the junior associates up. They are going to have a baseball game and silly Olympics. It sounds ridiculous. Are you okay? Why are you still standing there? Why is that vain bulging in your forehead? What are those cards you’re ripping up? Owen, don’t you think it’s a little early in the day for alcohol?”

    Owen downs his highball of scotch and then walks over to the antique doorbell and rips it down off the wall. He looks at Mindy and then says “I am just choosing a lesser of two evils.”

  19. Avatarndevendran

    There was an annoying rap on my door. Leave it alone. They’ll go away, I think. Rap, rap, rap. It continues incessantly. I get up out of my chair and head to the door grumbling. This time I’ll show them. This time I’ll tell them how I really feel. I open the door and on the other side is an old man wearing a Hasidic wool hat. He’s stooped over on my porch his eyes carefully summing me up. He has a curly white beard and some papers in his hand. I just want to get back to watching my show.
    “Hello” he says. “I’m the lesser of two evils.”
    “I’m not religious” I reply attempting to close the door. I stop before crushing the old man’s well-placed foot.
    “Well that’s fine. Neither am I!” The old man heartily cackled. My ears pricked up. I could hear the T.V. playing in the background. Did I leave it on again? Oh man, I’m not even recording!
    “I’m here to tell you, that I could save your life! Now what kind of man would I be if I knew that and didn’t act on it?”
    A man who could let me rest in peace. “A monster?” I asked. “Is that the reply you want?” An explosion in the background. An explosion? Already? But, how did they?
    “Look sir, I really don’t have the time to deal with this. Can you please remove your foot?”
    A scowl formed on his face.
    “That is no way to talk to an elder young man! Didn’t your mother ever teach you about respect?”
    I tapped my foot.
    “Oh, with the tapping now! What a fine thing to do! I can tap too. Now we can stand here tapping all day or you can give me a few minutes of your time.”
    The TV blared on.
    “OK!” I replied. “But make it short!” The old man was taken aback by this. The scowl disappeared. They were replaced by watery blue eyes.
    “This is a matter of life and death. Life and death young man. But if you don’t have time to talk to an old man about death then…” And that was it. A switch flipped. I groaned inside. If I were to let him walk away, I could never enjoy watching television again.
    “Wait!” I said as he was about to leave. “I do care! Look I’m sorry. It’s just that my TV is on. Tell me what you want. Tell me what to do!”
    The old man turned back. He cast his eyes down as if listening for something.
    “Oh yes. Yes, I thought that sounded familiar. That’s that one movie…yeah.” He looked up at me with his big blue eyes. “Old but still have good ears you see? Yes, that’s the one where his brother betrays him at the end. And his wife. Never saw that coming. Well goodbye young man. Enjoy your television.”
    And with that he hobbled away, leaving me speechless.

    1. Avatarsnuzcook

      I enjoyed this, ndevendran. I was not sure why your narrator was quite so disturbed by the fact that the TV was on, but given that he was, it created a nice tension to counter the conversation with the old man. The exchange kept my interest. Would be a truly bizarre meeting to have on one’s front step.

      1. AvatarBushkill

        “I don’t get it,” I stammer, November wind whipping through my boxers. I read the card again.

        The well-appointed woman in front of me scowls. “Sir, turn it over.”

        I do, chortling, “Well, will you look at that? The Lesser of Two Evils.”

        “Yes. That would be me,” she says, the pants of her suit fluttering in the wind.

        I shrug. “Can’t see where I’d be helped by that, ‘mam.”

        “I’m from the accounting offices at Black Cat Temporal. Our records from tomorrow show you fraternizing with unseemly types.”

      2. AvatarBushkill

        “You don’t say?” I muse, leaning against the door jamb.

        She purses her lips but says nothing. I keep going. “I’ve heard of your company. My brother works for Shattered Mirrors and I’ve got the low-down on your business model.” I smirk, “Or lack thereof, I should say.”

        “You are correct about the variability of our business model. We remain a flexible Temporal company, operating in and out of a number of regulatory motifs to better position our clients.”

        “There’s your problem, lady, I’m not a client.”

        “You will be.” She looks down at her clipboard and then back at me. “Like I said, our records tomorrow show that to be the case.”

        “Shabby way of drumming up business, you know?” I straighten and turn, reaching for the door. “I don’t need you or your business.” I hand the card back to her.

        She declines, “Keep it.”

      3. AvatarBushkill

        As I close the door, my cell rings. “Yeah?”

        “Mr. Timbre, good to hear your voice. Can’t be too careful with them Black Cats.”

        “And—you are?” I ask.

        “I work for Ladder 13. We manage Temporal accounts and notice you are about to activate one.”

        Shaking my head, I resist. “No, I’m not. I gave the other lady the same boot I’m about to give you.”

        I hate these pesky telemarketers. They once called in real-time. Now they call from the future with vague and infuriating messages.

        My phone pal continued unabated. “I’ve got you down for quite a sum and its more than you can afford. Frankly, I notified collections an hour from now and they will stop by. Consider it an encouragement from our firm to make the right choice.”

      4. AvatarBushkill

        “Sir, if you could just relax—”

        I expounded exasperatedly. “Relax, my buttered biscuit! I’m calling Shattered Mirrors. I’ll get this sorted straight away!”

        “We bought them out next week.”

        I fumed, my hand absently spinning the card I held. I looked down, thought crystalizing. “Forget you!”

        I hung up, scanning the number on the card with my phone. An even-toned voice answered. “Thank you for calling Black Cat Temporal, home of The Lesser of Two Evils, how may I direct your call?”

          1. AvatarDenise G. Monello

            Enjoyed the way the characters spoke in the future. Fun story–even though you had to edit some things out.

  20. Avatarsnuzcook

    City Council races in our neighborhood can be hotly contested. Usually one candidate is a familiar face: local doctor or attorney, former PTA parent/Scout leader/Little League coach; he or she is someone familiar enough that we all know ahead of time what will be in the covered dish they’ll bring to the Fourth of July picnic. The other tends to be a newcomer getting his or her foot in the door; taking possession, as it were, of their new community like a dog marking its territory.

    So it wasn’t a big surprise when answering a knock on my door one dark, blustery afternoon the week before Election Day revealed a stranger with a broad smile. He was fairly ordinary looking, somewhere between thirty and forty-five, medium height, neatly but mundanely attired. Instead of launching into the tired and much-rehearsed introduction I expected, designed to identify himself and disarm me with his charm, his honesty and his caring, he simply offered me his card.

    Sim Smallwood for City Council, the Lesser of Two Evils

    “And what exactly is it that you are claiming to be?” I ask, warily.

    “I am exactly what it says. I am not perfect, but I am adequate. I am not experienced in local politics, but neither am I lock-stepped with the current system.”

    He cocked his head to set the hook of his gaze directly into my eyes, then continued. “I am not well-known around here, but neither do I have a reputation to bolster at all costs. I have nothing to lose except an election; my opponent will stop at nothing to be reelected because if he loses it, his years of mismanagement will be exposed.”

    With difficulty I pulled my eyes back to the business card. “Sounds like just what every other new candidate might say about an incumbent.”

    “Yes, but you see, neither of us is really new. You might say we’ve been running against each other for a very long time.” His words took on an odd echoing quality. As I glanced up, the dark sky seemed to brighten, and for a split second, I heard, or I thought I heard, something I can only describe as a celestial sigh. It was like an entire choir sang a single note momentarily. Then the sound and the light were abruptly gone.

    “Did you…?”

    “As I said,” Sim Smallwood repeated in his perfectly adequate voice, “A very long time.”

  21. AvatarBushkill

    “I don’t get it,” I stammer, November wind whipping through my boxers. I read the card again.

    The well-appointed woman in front of me scowls. “Sir, turn it over.”

    I do, chortling, “Well, will you look at that? The Lesser of Two Evils.”

    “Yes. That would be me,” she says, the pants of her suit fluttering in the wind.

    I shrug. “Can’t see where I’d be helped by that, ‘mam.”

    “I’m from the accounting offices at Black Cat Temporal. Our records from tomorrow show you fraternizing with unseemly types.”

    “You don’t say?” I muse, leaning against the door jamb.

    She purses her lips but says nothing. I keep going.

    “I’ve heard of you people. My brother works for Shattered Mirrors and I’ve got the low-down on your business model.” I smirk, “Or lack thereof, I should say.”

    “You are correct about the variability of our business model. We remain a flexible Temporal company, operating in and out of a number of regulatory motifs to better position our clients.”

    “There’s your problem, lady, I ain’t a client.”

    “You will be.” She looks down at her clipboard and then back at me. “Like I said, our records tomorrow show that to be the case.”

    “Shabby way of drumming up business, ya’ know?” I straighten and turn, reaching for the door. “I don’t need you or your business,” I say, extending the card back to her.

    She declines, “Keep it.”

    As I close the door, my cell rings. “Yeah?”

    “Mr. Timbre, good to hear your voice. Can’t be too careful with them Black Cats.”

    “And—you are?” I ask.

    “I work for Ladder 13. We manage Temporal accounts and notice you are about to activate one.”

    Shaking my head, I resist. “No. I’m not. I gave the other lady the same boot I’m about to give you.”

    I hate these stupid telemarketers. They once called you in real-time. Now they called from the future with vague and infuriating messages.

    My phone pal continued unabated. “I’ve got you down for quite a sum and its more than you can afford. Frankly, I notified collections an hour from now and they will stop by. Consider it an encouragement from our firm to make the right choice.”

    “You’re strong armin’ me, aren’t ya?” I wailed, ticked. I didn’t want the visitor, I didn’t want this caller, and I certainly didn’t want goons showing up to leverage me for a debt I didn’t have in a time I hadn’t lived.

    “Sir, you need to relax—”

    I yelled. “Relax, my buttered biscuit! I’m calling Shattered Mirrors. I’ll get this sorted straight away!”

    “We bought them out next week. No help for you there.”

    I fumed, my hand absently spinning the card I held. I looked down, thought crystalizing. “Screw you!”

    I hung up, scanning the number on the card. An even-toned woman’s voice answered. “Thank you for calling Black Cat Temporal, home of The Lesser of Two Evils, how may I direct your call?”

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