Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Matchbook

Writer's Digest has a section on their website called the daily writing prompt. The prompt for this story was to write a story of 500 words or less beginning with the words "My mother always told me not to play with fire" and ending with "and that's how I ended up in the middle of nowhere, naked." How do you think I did? 

“My mother always told me not to play with fire” Bertie thought when he spotted the matches on the sidewalk, but he bent to retrieve the matchbook anyway.

It looked like a regular old book of matches, with a red cardboard cover, but as he picked it up an electric shock shot up his arm. Bertie jerked back, almost dropping it. He whirled around, expecting some jokester to appear, laughing and wanting to retrieve his trick match book from the hapless victim. But the street was empty, save for a woman with a baby stroller rounding the corner at the end of the block. Bertie turned his attention back to the book of matches still clutched in his fist.

Gingerly, with the tip of one finger, he flipped it open, expecting to see the cunning mechanism hidden within that had zapped him. Bertie's eyebrows shot up in surprise as he found himself looking at simply a row of stubby cardboard matches, like those in any other matchbook.

Muttering a curse word under his breath, he very nearly threw the matchbook back down on the sidewalk again in disgust. But then he thought once more of his mother's voice, telling him not to play with matches. Stubbornly, he gritted his teeth and struck a match out of spite.

“Whooompf!” A sudden wave of flame washed over him. Good Lord, he'd sent himself up in flames playing with matches, just as his mother had always said he would! Frightened and slightly dumbfounded, he staggered sideways, then put out his free hand to steady himself against a telephone pole. As he did he happened to glance down at himself. Gone were his usual jeans and AC/DC tee-shirt. Instead, he was dressed in shiny red leather breaches, heeled boots, a puffy white shirt under a black cape and was that really a sword?

Bertie looked in wonder at the matchbook in his hand. Without stopping to think, he tore out another match and struck it. “Whompf!” Another draft of flame enveloped him, and this time he was wearing the uniform of a major league base ball player. Bertie laughed aloud before striking another match, then another, and another. He was a cave man, dressed in animal skins, then a World War II aviator, complete with goggles, followed by a Spanish Matador. The rest of the matches followed in quick succession, each one leaving him in an outfit stranger than the last, until, abruptly, there was only one match left in the pack.

Bertie shrugged aside the weight of his ermine stole as he contemplated the final match. A sudden spark of electricity raced along his fingers as it had when he'd picked it up. He grinned slyly and struck the last match.

Hours later, at the police station, he tried to explain to his mother on the phone. “ . . . you see, it wasn't my fault. It was the matches, and that's how I ended up naked, in the middle of nowhere.”

1 comment:

  1. Very clever Kelly - I like it! A very original premise.