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What will you regret most in those final moments? What you did or didn't do?

What's it matter? Ain't no use crying over spilled milk...

SURPRISES by Randy Whittaker

“Christ,” I thought a millisecond before the bullet hit my face, “I just came to the store to get milk.”

The bullet hit my head at about 1,200 feet per second and smashed through my cheekbone, causing the bullet to fragment. Molars and bicuspids shattered and began to fly out of my mouth like calcified confetti. The bullet then exited through the other side of my mouth tearing the flesh away as easily as phyllo pastry. I fell to the ground with a pain so excruciating my urine-soaked pants were the least of my concerns.

As I lay on the ground, my pain-riddled brain thought of my wife and the conversation we’d just had.

“You forgot my milk,” she’d said.

“Geez, honey, I’m sorry…I’ll pick some up tomorrow…”

“Aw, babe, I really need it for my coffee in the morning.”

“Are you sure? All right, I’ll head back. I shouldn’t be too long.”

“Good. Thanks. See you in a bit.”

Our marriage was perfect for the first ten years. We had met during our first year of college. I was in engineering and she in nursing. The biggest disappoint we had was not being able to have children.

“Honey…I don’t think more tests are going to change the outcome.”

“I know, but I just want to make sure,” her eyes so pleading I couldn’t say no.

Something changed in her that day and it was palpable. The three-mile ride back home seemed like an eternity.

Minor inconveniences would send her into a foul-mouthed tirade against me or anyone else in her path.  She blamed me for the lack of children and nothing could convince her otherwise. I spent more and more time at work, becoming ever increasingly distant. She found solace in food. People at the hospital avoided her. Patients complained about her rude and often aggressive behavior. 

My wife was constantly nagging at me. She always found fault in every little thing I did. I often contemplated divorce but never went forward. I had known a lot of men at the office who had lost everything through divorce and I didn’t want to lose all I had worked for. No, that was just not an option for me at this point in my life. But I didn’t know how much more of her nagging and complaining I could take.

Suddenly, this all changed.

She began to exercise at the local gym. The mousy, straight brown hair received a makeover from the local celebrity hairdresser. The frumpy clothes were replaced with designer dresses that accentuated the newly toned body. I’m no genius but I’m not an idiot either. The private detective told me she met him about twice a week at a local watering hole, then off to “Hotel L’Affair.”

A local “thug” he called him, a guy with a shady past and a lousier future. My boring but safe lifestyle must not have been good enough for her. Maybe she thought this stud’s sperm was more viable.

As I drove back to the store to get her milk, I was wondering how much money a divorce would cost me and who I should contact regarding a lawyer. Sure, we had lots of money but I would be goddamned if I was just going to give her everything without a fight. All of those years of putting up with her bullshit…no way was I just going to roll over and take it.

I didn’t notice him in the store when I entered. I went straight to the back freezer area to get the milk.

As I approached the cash register, I saw the clerk’s eyes were as big as saucers. I just started to turn my head when the bullet found its mark.

As I lay on the floor, blood and life draining from my body, I thought I heard him say, “It's taken care of. See you in a bit,” before calmly exiting the store.

With the kids full grown, Randy Whittaker finally has time to write. He enjoys all genres.