The Graveyard Shift – Flash Fiction
A life-size, paper mache Shrek donkey, on rollerskates, ridden by a bloke dressed as Xena: Warrior Princess – that’s the strangest thing I’ve seen on the side of the road…until now.
Actually, the donkey isn’t even in my top five of weird things I’ve seen during the graveyard shift at the Roadhouse.
The Roadhouse is a local icon situated a ten-minute stagger from the town’s pubs and en-route to the university’s residential college. It’s also a regular stop for red-eye coaches and long-haul truckies called Bear, Yowie and the like, so I get to see a very special brand of weird.
What isn’t normal is a soccer-mum Volvo wagon pulling up beside the Roadhouse’s skip, at 3am on a Tuesday. I put down the latest detective novel I’m reading and watch as the driver gets out. It’s a woman in jeans and a black hoodie. She looks around to see if anyone’s watching. I slip out of sight behind the drinks fridge.
The woman grabs a garbage bag from the Volvo and dumps it into the skip before speeding away.
Logic tells me it’s nothing, but my curiosity prevails. I don a pair of rubber gloves and retrieve what is a lemon-scented kitchen bin bag from the skip.
My fingers tremble as I open the bag to reveal a single item – a hammer. I take a closer look and my heart stops. There’s a splash of rust-coloured pigment on the hammer. Blood.
I spend the next twenty-four hours debating whether to go to the police, but then an even stranger thing happens. The Volvo comes back.
This time the woman dumps two bags in the skip. What I discover this time sends chills through me. Inside the bags are a saw, a welder’s mask and apron. The apron’s ribbon is singed and there’s a burnt patch in the middle, but I can’t see any blood.
My spidey-senses go into overdrive when the woman turns up again.
This time I sneak up on her and snatch the bag away, ignoring her protests as I pull out a roll of gaffer tape from the bag.
‘Ha!’ I say in a TV-detective kind of way.
‘I can explain.’
I stop short of saying, Tell it to the judge.
But she does explain. Her husband is having a mid-life-crisis that started with him taking up skateboarding again after 25 years. Despite twisting his ankle he was now building a skate ramp. He’d already mangled his thumb with a hammer and set himself alight welding. She’d gotten rid of his tools to sabotage the project, but then he’d resorted to using gaffer tape to hold the ramp together.
‘A likely story,’ I say, but then she shows me photos of the project on her phone.
I make a garbled apology and say she can use the skip any time she needs.
‘Or maybe I’ll just up his life insurance policy,’ she says and winks at me.
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Photo by Andre Moura via Pexels.
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