American Foreign Policy

2nd Prize - Flash Fiction Contest 2023

A split level. Or maybe a colonial. Doesn’t really matter. All that matters is that there’s a guy sleeping in the bedroom. Sleeping in his boxers and T-shirt.

A middle aged guy. Or maybe he’s older. Doesn’t really matter. I mean, he’s white. Of course he is. 

He wakes with a start when he hears a thwock. Then sits up in bed when he hears the sound of something heavy collapsing to the floor.

He gets out of bed, quietly. Like this is something he knew might happen someday. Like this is exactly what he was afraid of. 

He tries to find his slippers, but they’re not where they’re supposed to be. Weird. But not important. Not when he hears the clatter of something wood being dropped on the floor. 

He waits. Nothing. He steels his determination, continues. 

The guy starts down the stairs, strains to hear every little sound. What he hears is the sound of someone retching.

Doesn’t make sense, that part. The retching. But he has no sympathy. 

Ever so quietly, the guy creeps down the stairs. When he gets to the bottom, he peers into the dark living room. 

A figure crouches over at the far wall, facing away from him. An intruder. The intruder is looking for something, something that should be there but isn’t. The guy looks around as his eyes adjust to the dark. What could he be looking for?

The guy starts across the hallway into the living room. He needs something he can use as a weapon. He’s looking around at the walls and furniture and his foot slips in something, something warm and wet, but he recovers, quietly, not alerting whoever that is that he’s there.

The slipping on something makes him look down and when he does he sees his baseball bat. His Louisville slugger. The bat isn’t where it belongs. It belongs in a case the boys had made for him when he got too old to play the game. A case that’s now empty, hanging on the wall. 

He picks it up, hefts it. He knows this bat. It’s the one he used in hundreds of games, back when he was an athlete. Or maybe it’s thousands. Doesn’t really matter. He grips it like he always did, all those games and practices making it truly an extension of his own body. 

He doesn’t need to consider what he’s doing. He’s doing what he knows to be right. He rushes toward the intruder, the one still over by the far wall, still looking around for something. He’s quiet, but not so quiet that the intruder doesn’t sense him coming. The intruder turns, but not fast enough. 

The guy swings the bat with everything he’s got. Years of training have unwittingly prepared him for this moment. His swing is powerful and precise. 

By the time the intruder sees what’s coming it’s too late. The bat connects with his head with a loud thwock.

A splash of blood decorates the wall on the far side of the intruder’s head, a splatter that rises like a wave all the way up to the trophies arranged proudly against the wall. The intruder crumples to the floor. Dead. 

The guy stands over his vanquished enemy, breathing hard from the pursuit and kill. He tosses the bat back toward the stairs, where it lands with clatter of something wood being dropped on the floor. 

The intruder lies on the floor, motionless, unless you count bleeding. He bleeds form his ears and his mouth and his nose all over the wood floor. The guy doesn’t mind, not really. A mess is a small price to pay. He notices his slippers, over there on the floor, like the intruder’s feet came out of them. 

The guy pushes the intruder with his foot. He’s heavy. Big like him. He pushes the guy’s shoulder, rolls him onto his back. The bleeding increases, but it doesn’t pulse. There’s no heartbeat. When the intruder comes to a stop, the guy gets a good look at his face. 

His face. 

The guy’s face. 

It’s him. Himself. 

The guy backs away, horrified. 

Back over by the hallway, the guy can’t hold it. He turns his head and vomits, retching onto the floor in the hallway. 

Finished, he looks up. Wipes his mouth on the sleeve of his T- shirt. He strains to see if he saw what he thought he saw. 

Another shock. The intruder’s body is gone. The blood is gone. The living room is empty. 

The guy rises, moves to where the body was, incredulous. How could this be? 

He looks around, desperate. In anguish. He was there! He knows he was there! 

He goes over to the far wall, like maybe he just doesn’t see the intruder because it’s dark. He looks for the body of the intruder he knows he killed. He sees nothing. No trace, except his slippers. They’re on the floor, over by where the intruder’s feet were. He crouches, but refuses to touch them. He searches the area for more, but there isn’t any more. Only the slippers. 

Behind him, in the background, a figure steps off the bottom step, quietly makes its way across the hallway. The figure in the background slips. Slips on the guy’s vomit. Quietly, though.

So quietly that the guy doesn’t hear a thing. 

The figure in the background looks down, sees the baseball bat. He picks it up, quietly. He hefts it with the familiarity of someone who’s used it in hundreds of games. Maybe thousands. Doesn’t really matter. 

The guy becomes aware of a noise, a foot fall. Behind him. He turns, but not but not fast enough. 

Upstairs, a guy sleeps. Sleeps in his boxers and T-shirt. A middle aged guy. Or maybe he’s older. 

He wakes with a start when he hears a thwock. Then sits up in bed when he hears the sound of something heavy collapsing to the floor.

Doesn’t really matter.

Brian Belefant

Brian Belefant used to be good looking, but now he has a dog, and not just any dog, but a friendly, goofball dog who loves everybody except Santa Claus. A lot of Brian’s writing deals with American cultural imperialism and untrammeled commercialism. Probably has something to do with the fact that he used to work as an advertising copywriter, spreading the gospel worldwide about Pepsi, Pizza Hut, Visa, and other proud American brands. His short story "The More You Take Away" will be published in Curious Corvid’s 2023 Spring Anthology. "The Beneficiary" is shortlisted for the Backchannels 2023 Fiction Prize.