Flash Fiction: The Hallway

Courtesy Bloomberg

Prompted by Terribleminds’ “Another Random Word Challenge”.


His opportunity came when the office door opened. She was in a hurry, so he quickly matched her stride. Fortunately, he was twenty years her junior.

“Senator, one minute please.”

“I’m on my way to the floor, Pete, you better make it quick.”

“Lockheed has been on the phone trying to get to you. I’ve fed them every excuse I can think of. Their lobbyists are pissed.”

“They can take a number. I’m not changing my mind.”

“I didn’t think you would, Senator, I just wanted to let you know.”

“Is that all?”

“No. A lot of Blackwater employees have been emailing in. And more NRA members. They’re… getting nasty.”

“Send the usual response. Remind these gun-crazy wanna-be ‘Rambo’ junkies I didn’t just put on a cape one day and jump in to save the hippies from their guns.”

“Already done, but I wanted to recommend an increase in your security detail, at least until the vote for the resolution is completed.”

She turned to look at him as they walked. She was a head shorter than him, her hair a tight cluster of silver and golden curls, keeping a brisk pace as they headed towards the floor. “Peter, how long have you been my aide?”

“Two years, Senator.”

“And in those two years, how many threatening emails, phone calls, and bricks through my home window have I gotten?”

“One thousand one hundred and fifty-two emails, two hundred and seven phone calls, and three bricks.”

“When was the last brick?”

“It was seven months after I started, but I still-”

“Pete, these people are all bark and no bite. I can’t let them intimidate me out of fighting for more sane laws governing our country’s use of domestic firepower. You told me when you started you believed in that. Your sister lost her eye in Aurora, didn’t she?”

Pete blinked. “Yes.”

“How is she doing?”

“She’s fine. We finally saw The Dark Knight Rises together a couple of months ago.”

“It sounds like she’s recovering well. But she’d have both eyes if our country had better gun control.”

“You know I don’t disagree.”

“Which is why you increased my security the first time. And since then I’ve been more safe. Right?”

Pete knew he wasn’t going to win, but rather than concede, he nodded. He actually wanted the Senator to build up a good head of steam before she hit the floor. She was at her best when she spoke from the heart, regardless of how much the others in the room wanted to hear what she had to say. She saved her profanity for outside of the room, of course, but Pete always heard it raw and uncensored. Although he would have paid cash money to hear her call the one Senator from Massachusetts a “raging idiotic cock-piston” to his face.

“Right,” was what he said out loud.

“So don’t get more security people. Make sure my cases are air-tight. Get the words for my speeches exact. You know how I think and how I talk. That’s what you should be focused on. I’m safe. Count on that.”

Pete nodded, stepping in front of the Senator to open the door for her. The session was about to begin and they could hear other Senators milling about by and in their seats. She gave him a smile and patted his arm.

“Thanks, Pete. Time to take the kid gloves off, eh?”

He nodded. “Knock ’em dead, ma’am.”

A twinkle in her eye, she headed into the chamber. Pete closed the door behind her and walked back to his office. He checked her schedule: after her appearance in the Senate, she had dinner scheduled with an anti-gun lobbyist and two other Senators. The actual vote wasn’t for a few more days, but there was no need to slow down once the session ended. He called one of the security detail and arranged for them to get the Senator’s car from the nearby garage. He then went through the Senator’s official email again.

They wanted to shoot her dead, they wanted to grind her into hamburger like the fat cow she was, they wanted to see her burn in Hell for being so anti-American, they called her a socialist and a lesbian, so on and so forth. It was starting to get boring, truth be told. They never did anything original.

A couple hours later, he was walking to meet her after the session when he saw two uniformed policemen and a detective standing in the hallway waiting for her.

They said nothing to him, waiting for the Senator to emerge. That’s when she found out her car had been rigged to explode and the security officer Pete had sent was dead.

“Apparently,” the detective said, “it was on a timer meant to go off when you were on your way to dinner. But they fucked it up and it only killed that one poor guy who went to get it.”

Pete said nothing. His stomach was a knot of nausea. The Senator, her eyes slightly wet but neither wide nor quivering, looked to him. “Did he have any family?”

“A brother at Walter Reed. Both of them are… were… Afghanistan veterans.”

“See to it that he gets full military honors at his funeral. He deserves that much.”

“Of course, ma’am.”

“And Pete?” She touched his arm. “Let’s go ahead and up my security detail. Make sure my husband and kids are safe, would you?”

“Right away, ma’am.”

Pete did his duty. The Senator’s family was all present and accounted for. After he was done making the arrangements, he looked in on the Senator in her office.

She sat behind her desk, quietly weeping, rapidly running out of tissues. Pete got her a fresh box.

“Thanks.” She blew her nose. “I’m sorry.”

“You didn’t know.”

She shook her head. Pete changed the subject.

“How’s the vote look?”

She looked up, her eyes red.

“Oh, you bet your ass we’re getting this bill passed.”

3 Comments

  1. One word: awesome.

    Great piece of political drama.

  2. Help! I’m seeing moire patterns from the white text on dark backdrop! 🙂

    Curiously, I had pretty much the same set of words as you, and our pieces were nothing alike but similar in outlook and sorta the subject matter, so this was interesting for me.

    This piece was well-written but ultimately didn’t quite work for me. I think it was because the focus of the piece was on Pete and his view on his interactions with the senator, but the senator was the one who paid the price in guilt (her guys paid it in blood of course) for not paying attention to him. Pete himself . . . wasn’t really changed by the experience. He was afraid for her before the piece began; he was afraid for her after. And because he was the one pushing for increased security, he was the protagonist of the scene. So the flow was kinda: Protag pushes > antag (the senator) refuses the push > redshirts die > antag feels guilty > Protag wins. The victory was therefore the result of the antag’s action, not the protag’s action. I think that’s why — despite the good writing — this piece ultimately didn’t work for me.

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. @Jon – Thanks very much for your feedback! I can see the flaws, and will be on the lookout for them in the future.

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