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Red Light and Heat and Rush

A Flash Fiction Story

By Kieren WestwoodPublished 2 years ago 4 min read
Red Light and Heat and Rush
Photo by Elliott Blair on Unsplash

It took Jed two attempts to haul the bag into the dumpster, the first time it just swung around and almost took him off his feet, him being pretty short and pretty thin.

He could hear an engine out in the night somewhere, outside of town. He might have liked a moment for a cigarette and to lean against one of the cars like he owned it, but he knew better. Instead he settled for flicking his imaginary cigarette into the gutter and then went back inside into the hot air. The jukebox was trying to sell him another life as he passed it. One filled with a load of things he was supposed to want at sixteen years old but that actually terrified him.

Almost everyone was gone now and the floor was glistening from the mop. His mother was leaning in the doorway to the back room, tapping her foot. There were still voices in there. Jed wanted to go home.

‘How much longer?’ he said to his mother. She didn’t turn to him, she just kept watch. Beyond her, Jed could see the table, four players and the dealer sitting around it, a pile of cash and some valuables in the middle.

‘Joe’s out now. Monty’s on his last legs. Lawrence and Julio are still very much in.’

‘So we’re waiting on Lawrence to do something stupid and blow it all in then.’


‘I’ll get my jacket on, in that case.’

His mother finally looked at him and cocked her head.

‘You’re tough when he can’t hear you.’

‘Tough anyway, don’t you worry about it.’

Lawrence pushed out from the table a little, then threw his cards down. Julio, knowing his opponent, said nothing and didn’t celebrate anything. Lawrence stared at him while his hand searched the tabletop. Eventually it found his drink and he settled back again as the next hand came to him.

Just then, the phone in the storeroom behind the bar rang. Jed and his mother looked at each other, deadlock for a moment, then Jed rolled his eyes and ducked under the bar.

No need to bother with the lights. He'd grown up doing homework and watching TV in the storeroom while the bar bustled on the other side of the wall. Too young to be on his own, not old enough to be of any help. Summers past, he’d made prank phonecalls to the police station across the road until one of them had come around and calmed the whole bar down so he could do his long division. To this day his mother thought they had it in for her and her business and Jed wasn’t about to admit it was any different.

‘McKay’s’ he said, he slumped down onto some piled up hard lemonade crates. No one was buying it. People said they didn’t drink ‘cocktails.’

‘Jed, it’s Davey.’

‘If it’s about the illegal gambling that’s going on in our back room right now, I can promise you no one’s betting enough to make it worth you crossing the street.’

No one cared if Kelly McKay made a bit of extra money hosting poker after everyone else had gone home for the night. Or if her kid had a smart mouth. They worked hard.

Nothing. Something was off about Davey, he wasn’t playing along. He always did.

‘No, it’s not that. Look. Is Frances there?’

‘We’re closed, everyone left a while ago. Why?’

‘Just need to speak with her is all. If she’s not there, that’s fine. I just…’

Something was up, Davey was worried. He pretty much always sounded worried. It was like he’d accidentally found himself a police officer one day and was living in constant fear of a crime happening. Jed thought maybe tonight was the night.

He heard movement, chairs being pulled out. Voices. Maybe the game was all over.

‘Has something happened?’ Jed asked Davey. It took him a few seconds to answer.

‘We just need to talk to Frances, if you don’t know where she is then-’

‘I can call James if you want? He’ll probably know-’

‘Christ. No, don’t call James. It’s fine, just...thanks Jed. I’ll find her.’

Jed pictured Davey across the road, sitting behind the desk in the station reception. Glare from the monitors on his face, grey carpet under fluorescent bulbs, the coffee maker with the red and green LEDs but the green one doesn’t work anymore so you have to just guess.

‘What’s happened Davey?’

‘I ain’t built for this.’ Davey said.

‘Jesus Christ, what?’ Jed clutched the phone, standing in a strip of light from the other room, among the boxes and barrels that were yet to be drunk.

His mother was still leaning against the door, how she’d been before. It was like nothing had changed, but everything had. The shape of the night outside was different. The sound of the engine he’d heard when he was smoking his fake cigarette and struggling with the garbage, that was different. The stakes of the game going on ten feet away around a folding card-table, different.


She turned to him.

‘Who was it?’

‘James has been hit by a car. A drunk driver. They hit him with a car.’

His mother turned to him, away from the game, ‘oh my God, is he alright?’

‘No.’ Jed could feel his eyes burning now.

Lawrence stepped out of the shadows, from back where the bathrooms were. Jed remembered the scraping of the chairs, before.

‘What did you just say?’

His eyes were burning too but in another way, a way that was red light and heat and rush.

Short Story

About the Creator

Kieren Westwood

Kieren Westwood is writer of short fiction and novels usually focussed on the meeting point of literary and crime fiction. He also shares writing experience and flash fiction on his YouTube channel.

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