The following scribble is 349 of 350 allowed words for Yearning for Wonderland's Once Upon A Time flash fiction contest. "Unexpected Fairy Tales" is the theme for the contest, but beyond that, there aren't many criteria. (My draft was well over 1,200 words!)
I deposit my silent screams in the basement file room. Few of my coworkers have the key, and fewer want to visit the rank, dismal bowels of the old newspaper building. Most importantly, Judy never goes there. Last Friday, I sat in my usual spot by the 1994 tax information. I inhaled deeply, opened my mouth wide, wrinkled my nose, and squeezed my eyes shut. As I quietly exhaled, releasing thirty-six hours of frustration, I heard sniffling. Alarmed, I skulked past rows of moldy boxes toward the sound. A tiny woman slumped on a step stool near the 1983 personnel files. Her orthopedic shoes barely touched the floor. Glaring at me from behind enormous purple-rimmed glasses, she dabbed at her nose with a handkerchief. “It’s a good day for this room,” she said.
“Sorry, I didn’t realize anyone was down here,” I mumbled.
“I’m retiring today,” she said, slipping the hankie into her pocket. When I could see her whole face, I estimated she had seen the advent of moveable type. “Not by choice. But they can soak their heads. I have books to read. Cats to feed. Magic to make.” She snorted.
“They say you’re busier after retirement than before,” I offered, making a noise like a little laugh.
“Here,” she stood, scarcely taller than when she sat. A wing-shaped rhinestone comb held her gunmetal updo in place. She pulled a silver glitter-encrusted clipboard out of her coat and shoved it at me. It was heavy. “This will help,” she sighed, ambling away. I skimmed the parchment clipped to the board and immediately understood. I smoothed my hair and made my way back upstairs. At my desk, I studied the form. Everyone in the office was listed on the left. On the right side, a hundred phrases were each accompanied by a blank box. I circled “Judy” on the left side. My pen lingered over “vacation,” on the right side, but then I saw the best choice. “Colon polyps.” My checkmark was bold and dark. I clasped the clipboard to the ink stain on my shirt and grinned.