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A Heartless Ruse: Flash Fiction by cam

Updated on October 28, 2017
cam8510 profile image

Chris has written more than 175 flash fiction/short stories. Working Vacation was 21st out of 6,700 in the 2016 Writer's Digest competition.


Adam sat on the concrete, his back against a brick wall, watching the prostitute do her business. How many times he had come to her, he had no idea. How much of his money he had given her, he didn’t care.

She appeared one evening on a street corner along Adam’s walking route home from work. For a few evenings, he simply watched. She wore clothes that showed off her petite figure, and exposed as much skin as possible. The black tank top formed to her thin frame and contrasted with her brown skin. Tattoos peeked around every curve, and piercings penetrated every available flap, fold, lobe and lid, causing Adam to imagine where else she had found to mutilate what otherwise was a beautiful body.

She might have been in her twenties, thirties or forties, he couldn’t tell. The tight frame suggested younger, but her eyes told what Adam deemed the truth. She was desperately mining her aging body for the last, quick bucks it could bring. Her eyes told another truth, that those dwindling dollars were not enough. She had won Adam’s heart, not by conjuring love or lust, but pity.


He approached her for the first time. She was facing away, and he cleared his throat. Carmen spun around and, for a moment, looked terrified. She quickly pulled the frayed ends of her psyche together and smiled.

“Hello baby, you see something you like?” She dispatched a happy face and a sing-song voice to greet him. Was it confidence that came from success, or was it a do-or-die response from a long string of failures to turn a trick? To Adam, it appeared this woman was going down, but she was going down swinging.

“No, I mean, you’re fine but no, I don’t want anything,” Adam said. Being turned down was nothing new to this woman, but being sought out for something other than sex brought carefully disguised fear to the fore and, on its way out, fear donned the carefully chosen mask of rage.

“What?” she said, loudly enough to attract considerable attention. “You come up me just tell me no, you don’t want nothing?” The heels of both hands caught Adam by surprise as they connected with his solar plexus.

“What did you do that for? I just wanted to talk to you.”

“I don’t want talk. I want do my job, then want cash.”

Adam rubbed the pit of his stomach, letting enough time pass for the onlookers return to their own business.

“I wanted to give you something.”

“You got nothing I want.”

“I want you to have this." He dug into his pocket.

She hesitated, staring at the open palm. The effects of adrenaline made her hand shake as she reached out and took the folded cash.

“What is your name?”

Her eyes met his. Jumbled emotions surfaced and their effect ran down both cheeks. The pseudo confidence and seductive smile were gone.

“Carmen,” said the real woman.

“Carmen, I don’t know what is going on in your life, but I hope this helps.” Adam walked away hoping he had done the right thing.


Day after day he returned with his latest gift. One such day, she spoke to him.

“Oh, baby, thank you, thank you for help me. My debts are so much and this will help a little. It is better than nothing.”

Carmen’s words echoed in his memory as he walked home. He tried to sleep, but Carmen's voice ran in a loop through the night. Why had she said something so cruel? He was giving her a significant portion of his income. It is better than nothing.

On another day, he watched from a distance. A white sedan stopped along the curb on Carmen’s side of the street. He could see animated hand gestures inside the car and Carmen’s eyes wide with fear.

She pulled some bills from the pocket of her shorts and passed them through the open window. After the car drove off, she remained on the curb, staring at Adam.

“Come, come,” she said. Adam crossed the street, and Carmen grabbed his hand. “I show you what I do with money.” They walked about ten yards into an alley, and Carmen pulled off her top. “Men pay more now to see.”

“You used the money I gave you to have your nipples pierced?”

“You no like?” she said. Her smile faded like the sun passing behind dark clouds.

“And you gave money to that man in the car.”

“I have many debts.”

He handed her another roll of cash and left.

It was a kind of high he felt giving money to Carmen. The smile that erupted across her pierced lips, the gleam in her eyes that preceded the inevitable flood were outward expressions of something growing deep inside, something she had forgotten existed.

Adam was giving Carmen hope, but it was a promise he could not deliver. The despair was a monster too powerful for him to slay. It was time for the knight in shining armor to ride away. Adam hated himself for not realizing sooner that hope, without the ability to deliver, was a cruel mockery, a heartless ruse.

The new route to work was longer, but he couldn't bear to watch the inevitable, the loss of hope, false though it was. Adam's final gift was to release his grip and let Carmen fall into the familiar darkness of despair.


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    • Reynold Jay profile image

      Reynold Jay 

      2 years ago from Saginaw, Michigan

      Hi, Cam8510.. Sad story and well told. Enjoyed it vey much.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      2 years ago from Missoula, Montana through August 2018

      Mary, Some people face the hardest of times, but then find a way out to a better life. Others don't have such luck. I'll be glad to find someone with a happy life to write about soon I hope. Thanks for your comments.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      2 years ago from Missoula, Montana through August 2018

      William, I also thought of the film "Pretty Girl" as I was writing the story, but I wanted to avoid the obvious plot I could have taken. The life stories of some people is simply sad, and there isn't any good way or a necessity to somehow make it all better. I appreciate your extremely kind words here.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      2 years ago from New York

      Chris this is a powerfully sad story. I think most of the sadness lies in the truth of it, not necessarily for Adam, but for Carmen. Her world is cruel and without hope.

      Voted up, awesome, and interesting.

    • wingedcentaur profile image

      William Thomas 

      2 years ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things!

      Chris, this is one of the most original and literary stories I have ever read here on Hub Pages. I'll be thinking about this one for a while.

      Its hard to know what to say, other than its good.

      You know what this story is like? Its like a miniature, more tragic, and more existential version of the Richard Gere/Julia Roberts film from the eighties: Pretty Woman!

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      3 years ago from Missoula, Montana through August 2018

      Kylyssa, That sounds like some very serious writing. I'll watch for those hubs. Hope I don't miss them.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      3 years ago from Missoula, Montana through August 2018

      Deb, I think you are right. It is predominately about drugs. It's probably the source of debt too, and that gives someone even more power over them. Thanks for reading.

    • Kylyssa profile image

      Kylyssa Shay 

      3 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

      I just wanted to stop by and say that your short story has inspired me to actually get started and put words on pages for the articles and editorials on survival sex and homelessness that I've been meaning to write for some time. Thanks for the inspiration.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      It is a vicious cycle for sure. I have spoken to some of these people. Many of them started out on drugs, and unless they do what they are told, the "magic" is held over their heads.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      3 years ago from Missoula, Montana through August 2018

      Shauna, Carmen has debts and who knows how much they add up to and who she owes. she can't see anything but the big number over her head. Adam has some issues of his own, doesn't he? First, he's a fixer. He wants to fix people. And in the end, he couldn't just walk away, he had to methodically undue everything he did. Thanks for reading.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      3 years ago from Central Florida

      Wow, Chris. I was hoping Carmen would use the money to better herself. But I guess this is the only life she knows. I wonder why Adam is torturing himself by watching her instead of finding another way to help a soul who actually wants help.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      3 years ago from Missoula, Montana through August 2018

      Ruby, Thanks for the comments. Adam's kind of hope was destined to fail. It was based on his own resources which were far too limited. Thanks for reading.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      3 years ago from Southern Illinois

      This was sad Cam. I'm sure it's played out daily where hope is gone. You nailed this. I could envision them both. Even the tattoos told a story of pain. Voted up for sure.....

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      3 years ago from Missoula, Montana through August 2018

      Eric, I'm with you on that one. Hope is all some people have. Adam wasn't in a position to bail Carmen out of all her troubles, but maybe there was a middle way. Thanks for reading and never give up hope. I know you won't.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      3 years ago from Missoula, Montana through August 2018

      Larry, Thank you, I'm glad you found the story to be so.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      3 years ago from Missoula, Montana through August 2018

      Thanks Kylyssa, I appreciate the comment very much.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      3 years ago from Missoula, Montana through August 2018

      Thanks Ann. This story started out sad and just plummeted from there. Adam's actions were his own, not what I think is right or wrong in the situation. Sometimes it's easier to run than it is to stay too long and watch the catastrophe happen.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      What a downer. You did real good getting it across. I would kind of like to believe that Adam is wrong. Perhaps a millisecond of hope is worth all the dashed dreams that can come our way. I reckon I will never know as hope seems to stick to me like my shadow.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 

      3 years ago from Oklahoma

      Wonderfully done. Engaging story.

    • Kylyssa profile image

      Kylyssa Shay 

      3 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

      Powerful stuff.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      3 years ago from SW England

      Another great story, Chris! So sad but, alas, so true. I suppose the only way to help is to start with education so that children don't go along that path, something that is really difficult to do but must be tried everywhere.

      I can understand the path Adam had to take too.

      Off to look at your hub regarding a challenge; can't resist!


    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      3 years ago from Missoula, Montana through August 2018

      John, thanks for jumping in here and commenting. I was getting lonely, haha. Not every story, not every life, has a happy ending. I wanted to highlight Adam rather than the woman and show the predicament he was in when he realized he was not doing her any real favor. This one gnawed at me for quite a while before I finally gave it a shot. I appreciate you being here. By the way, I just posted another hub on a flash fiction competition. You might be interested.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Wow Chris, I loved this story of acceptance and generosity, brief hope, but ultimately, hopelessness and despair. Money is often a short term fix and not the ultimate answer. Voted up.


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