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March 4, 2014

Writing Challenge: Week 9

by hmsnow1

Author’s Note: I blame this one entirely on Allen’s Brain, who has always been something of a bad influence on me. (Yes, the title is a pun, as befits a story inspired by such a fiendish mind.)

**

Betta Noire

by H. M. Snow

I say to people how I can take trouble or leave it alone, but in truth I just can’t leave it alone. Trouble loves me, and who am I to turn away an admirer? This time, trouble came in the shape of a blue-eyed blonde. Funny, isn’t it, how that ends up being the case so often. I should have known the first time I laid eyes on that dame, but I just couldn’t read trouble in her pretty face. When I first saw her, she was walking past the windows, looking in like she wished she was one of us. Now, I’ve known plenty of janes before, most of them in the old country, and all of them shared the same tattered and tawdry glamour and glassy stares, quicker to fight than a two-bit welterweight trying to make a name for himself. This dame was different. My eye caught hers. Next thing I knew, she had her hand pressed to the glass in front of me. She had slender fingers, lightly golden like sunrise over still water. I was hooked.

That’s when the trouble started. Somebody threw a bag over my head. I’m still not sure what happened after that, except to know I was shook up pretty bad by the time they dumped me in a little room, unoccupied but for the blonde and me. I reversed as far from her as possible, not knowing what she meant to do next.

She smiled. Those mesmerizing blues held me in their gaze. “You are a looker,” she said. “I’m glad I picked you. What shall I call you, hm?”

“You can call me a cab out of here,” I snarled. “Now.”

The dame acted like she couldn’t hear or understand me. “Beau. That’s what I’ll call you.” She dug around inside a cheap plastic shopping bag and produced a small cannister wrapped in gaudy colors. I thought I saw a mugshot of a cousin of mine on the side of the cannister, just for a second. The blonde unscrewed the lid. “Are you hungry, Beau?” She shook the cannister above me. Whatever was in it hissed a little.

My brain jumped to, Snake! and sent my body shooting across to the opposite corner of the room. I didn’t feel any easier in my mind when I saw nothing but a couple grains of food floating down toward me. I’d heard stories of dolls who like to slip a little something into a guy’s food. I’m no chump. I stayed away from the food, though my gut was hollow and my mouth couldn’t recall the last time it tasted a morsel.

The blonde kept watching me. After a few minutes, she got bored with that, turned away and set about straightening the rest of the place. That was the first time I gave a thought to what was outside my little cell. It wasn’t a palace, that’s for sure. One cramped closet stood open to reveal clothes on hangers jammed together inside it. A heap of shoes lay at the bottom of the closet. Across from the closet was a bed, covers rumpled. My cell stood on a bedside table, or something like a table, with a potted sansevieria overshadowing me. The wall opposite me had a tiny window, but that was no help to me because of the drawn curtains.

When she was done straightening, the blonde stretched out on her bed. She put in a call to somebody, as if I wasn’t there to overhear. “I did it,” she declared. “I got one. Come over sometime and have a look at him. I named him Beau. He’s cute.”

Cute, eh? I thought with a chuckle. That dame didn’t know what she’d got herself into– me, a fighter from way back, a champion fighter back in the old country. Hadn’t they kept me separate from the rest of my kin, due to all the fights I won? And I won without taking a single scar, except on my forehead where I tackled big Aran head-first that time. ‘Cute’ indeed. The fighting instinct went to my head. I crouched down low, gathered my strength, and shot up as high as I could and as fast as I could. It was easy to clear the surface.

The blonde screamed as I leaped out of my cell and hurtled toward the window. The table was higher than I’d calculated, though, and I fell a long way, fell real bad. The floor hit me like a headbutt to the belly and knocked the wind right out of me. I writhed and fought for breath on the carpet.

“Beau!” The blonde knelt beside me. Her delicate golden-tanned fingers scooped me up and carried me back to the cell, lowered me into the water, lingered in a worried caress. All the while, she crooned over me like I was her only baby. She picked up a pierced metal panel and laid it over the top of my cell. Drying her hands on her thighs, she retrieved the phone from where she had dropped it in her panic. “He jumped! I forgot to put the cover on the tank, and he jumped straight out! I didn’t know bettas could do that! It startled me. He looks okay now, though. I’m glad. Yeah, it was amazing! Straight up and over, like it was nothing to him.”

What a dame. She’s going to take some watching. That’s when I started to think, Maybe this setup isn’t so bad after all. I mean, who am I to say no to trouble? Trouble loves me.

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