This short fiction contest provides prompts for several rounds of judging. Each participating writer is pitted against 40 or more other writers to compete for the top spots to move onto the next round. For more on the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Contest, click here.
Round Time: 48 hours. --- Word Count maximum: 1000 --- Prompt: Genre > romantic comedy. Object > a rowboat. Location > a private investigator's office.
Synopsis: Nonagenarians Roger and Kandy follow their television hero Doc Quimby to the Atlantic Diamond, and right out their front door. Wheelchair access provided.
Wind sweeps across the foliage in front of West Shore Assisted Living. Less than a mile from the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean sits ninety-year-old Kandy, in a nautical-themed common room—sea shell wallpaper, anchor lamps, and a small wooden rowboat with a sailor manakin sitting inside. Kandy squints out the window at the blowing American beach grass and closes her eyes. She can almost feel the salt on her face. A distant memory of fishing from her family boat rolls into her mind…
Doc Quimby—nothing gets by, this private eye!
A theme song on the television chimes. Kandy sits upright in her wheelchair and adjusts her thick glasses.
“Did I miss anything?” A thin elderly man pulls up a chair next to Kandy and hands her a small bowl of popcorn.
“Nothing yet, it just started,” Kandy replies popping some buttery pieces into her mouth. The screen fades to an open atrium full of suits, A-line skirts, and cigarette smoke. “Thanks, Roger.”
“Sure. You want some water or something?” Roger asks. Kandy pulls a flask from her sweater, twists off the cap and takes a swig.
“I came prepared,” she says winking at him. She offers him a drink, but he shakes his head politely. The two zone in on the scene. Doc Quimby, the title character, sits at his office desk covered with maps, measuring devices, photos, and fantastical equipment.
“I am so close to the next clue!” Doc Quimby expounds. In walks his pretty marine biologist partner, Camellia.
“Doc Quimby, you won’t believe it! I isolated the pathogen that causes Beluga Whale Fever!”
Roger and Kandy gasp simultaneously.
“Now,” Camellia goes on, “I can design a cure, once we have the diamond.”
“Don’t worry, Camellia. I’ll find the Atlantic Diamond,” Doc Quimby espouses, “I know it’s off the coast of Nova Scotia. It’s the only way to save the President’s daughter!”
Kandy rolls her eyes; Roger sighs hopefully.
“Oh Doc, be safe!” Camellia reaches for him. Doc Quimby goes in for the kiss and they share an imperfect mouth-to-mouth moment. The scene fades to a sea-sprayed Doc Quimby standing on the bow of a sailing ship.
“Now that was a sloppy kiss,” Roger comments. Kandy doesn’t hear him, watching the silly maritime transition scene. She stares at the ridiculous nautical décor of the common room, at the lifeless sailor manakin sitting stupidly in the rowboat.
“Who decorates this place anyhow? I’ve lived on the coast my entire life and I’ve never seen anything so dumb,” Kandy says pointing at the fake sailor.
“It’s as if they don’t think we remember where we are,” Roger comments, “But, it’s not so bad. I like it here.”
“I’d give anything to be out on a boat again,” Kandy says, watching Doc Quimby walk across the boat on the television. She moves her rear uncomfortably in her wheelchair, rubbing her knees with her knotty, ancient hands. “Feel the ocean air on my face, cast my line out.” She makes a casting motion with her hands, reeling in an imaginary halibut. Roger looks at her curiously, laughing a bit. “Ah well, I guess I’ll just die in here,” Kandy declares, gesturing to the common room. “I’m ninety and stuck in this chair. I’ll never get on a boat again.” Her eyes turn glassy and she looks away. Roger reaches for her hand but hesitates and withdraws. He looks at the rowboat and claps his hands together.
“Well, you know what Doc Quimby would say,” Roger says, taking the manakin’s sailor hat. He dons it and spins around, hands open, asking for praise. Kandy huffs unenthusiastically.
“Impressive,” she comments flatly.
Roger puts his hands on his hips. He looks at a Ficus tree in the corner of the living room, its pot sitting on a wheeled caddy. Determined, he walks over to it, hugs the pot and lifts it onto the ground.
“Roger what on earth—”
He brings the wheeled plant caddy over to the rowboat. He tosses the manakin in front of the television. It lands with a thud.
“Man overboard,” he exclaims. Kandy laughs. With deft skill that only decades of longshoreman work could provide, Roger slides the tiny rowboat onto the wheeled caddy. After a few maneuvers he figures it is safe to board. “Madam, we’re on a mission to find the Atlantic Diamond,” Roger says to Kandy, extending a hand, emulating Doc Quimby as best he can.
He waits; she purses her lips.
“Wrong ocean, but whatever,” Kandy replies, struggling to a stand. Roger helps her gingerly into the rowboat. He hands her a wooden oar, takes the rope from the bow, and pulls her out of the common room and down the hallway toward the building entrance.
Kandy finally gives in to the charade and sweeps her oar toward the ugly facility carpet with gumption. She squeals as Roger swings the boat up to the front desk where a nurse with a clipboard stands, shocked. Two old ladies in wheelchairs in the hallway snap pictures with their smartphones.
“This shit’s going on my Instagram,” one says to the other.
“Hashtag…#assistedlivingit,” the other says.
Before the nurse can say anything, Roger tips his sailor hat to him. “My good sir, we are on a mission to find the Atlantic Diamond, which will require a short roll outside on the sidewalk. May we pass?” The nurse peers behind him at Kandy whose smile is so big her dentures are in danger of falling out. The nurse smirks and punches the remote ADA-door access button.
“Okay Doc, but be back before dark,” the nurse replies.
They sail out of West Shore Assisted Living, down the wheelchair ramp with a bit of unnerving speed, and onto the sidewalk. The salty ocean wind hits Kandy’s face and a wrinkly smile spreads over her cheeks.