regory kept all his receipts in a plastic bag he picked up from a convenience store that still gave out plastic bags. It was probably called “Smiley Gas” or “Beauxfords” and it certainly wasn’t a chain. Gregory would approach men and women from his past (ex-girlfriends, schoolyard bullies, his old boss Steve), and pull a receipt from his bag. “That’ll be four and a half years, Steve. Or $135,000 before taxes, your choice.” Steve fumbled with his wallet; he didn’t have $135,000 before taxes on him and he didn’t understand how he could give Gregory four and a half years of his life but soon Gregory was gone and Steve was left feeling a little tired and with a pair of crows feet that hadn’t been noticeable before.
Gregory grew up in Salt Fork, Indiana and it was there he found Wilt Parsons, who relentlessly tortured Gregory from the ages of eight to thirteen, until Gregory was transferred to a special school after he refused to take part in a discussion on the importance of grammar. Wilt was managing a wrecking yard and was about to go to lunch when Gregory approached him, pulling a wrinkled receipt from his plastic bag.
“I don’t see a return limit on this receipt so I’d like you to start punching yourself in the head for the next five hours and when you’re finished with that make sure to steal your lunch and throw yourself into the women’s restroom.”
The satisfaction Gregory felt from his unique brand of revenge made him feel like a rock star, standing in a downpour of endorphins without an umbrella. Riding high from watching Wilt beat himself half to death, Gregory stole a bike from the rack in front of a local coffee shop. The Reckoning of Gregory rode his new BAMF Assassin to the home Brenda shared with whatever his name was. Sometimes he saw their pictures on Facebook and scoffed. Their façade of happiness was so false that he spent hours scoffing to anything that would scoff along with him (the toaster, his image in the mirror, etc.).
Brenda recognized his knock and while she hadn’t been expecting Gregory to show up at her front door (he had been prone to neither confrontation nor conversation) it wasn’t a surprise. What he lacked in social graces he more than made up for in the ability to endlessly dwell on perceived slights and rejections. She opened the door to Gregory smugly waggling a torn and taped piece of receipt paper. He was gaunt, his eyes were hollow, and while they used to be green in the way that the ocean is actually green, they were sunken into his head and closer to an overcast sky than anything else she could think of. When was the last time he had slept?
“Well hello Brenda, I’ll be having those three years back. Unless you happen to have $3,120 and whatever that sweater I bought you last year for Christmas is worth to you. Don’t worry about the first two holidays, I’ll cut you a deal.”
Had he been so hateful when they were together? On all of their nights in on couches and out in bars Gregory had never been so mean. She couldn’t remember exactly when he began to count pennies and save receipts, but one day she owed him an entire birthday cake. Brenda felt sorry for Gregory but wasn’t about to let him make her feel as bad as the last time he saw her, when they bumped into each other at Southside Pizza and he gave her a receipt for making him go with her to her sister’s birthday party.
“What about the Return of the Living Dead box set that I made for you? Can I have the hours back that I spent tracking down the thickest construction paper available on the consumer market? I don’t even want the money back for the DVDs, they were like a dollar apiece. That’s right, those movies are worth a dollar, so get the fuck off of my porch and ride your ugly bike to whatever rock you’ve been sleeping under and for fuck’s sake eat something. You look like Kate Moss.”
Brenda slammed her door in Gregory’s face and left him like a dog trying to comprehend a stiff breeze. On his ride home Gregory bought two orders of nachos and consumed them on his living room floor while going through his receipts, seeing who was next.
During the summer of 2014, we held our inaugural Flash Fiction Contest with Kathleen Hale serving as judge. This story is one of Kathleen's winning selections.
Jacob is an all around weirdo and cautionary tale to anyone who has ever wanted to follow their dreams. His short fiction has appeared in various literary journals across North America & he writes a weekly column for Kill Pretty Magazine.