Short Story: Breaking the Rules

This story appeared issue #3 of Outburst Magazine in 2010, and later in Death Zone and Other Stories in 2011.    It was an experimental piece of flash fiction, using the rules to keep cadence.  At the time I wrote this, I had rediscovered For Whom the Bell Tolls by Hemingway, and was impressed with his effective use of short, succinct sentences. I was attempting to replicate that style in this piece.

I hope you enjoy it.


Breaking the Rules

RussianRoulRule 1: Check that there is one bullet in the revolver.

Edmond locked the door of the home and pocketed the key, along with the other keys he had collected from the family. He posted the ‘No Trespassing’ sign on the door, and with a sigh, turned around. Facing the family he had just evicted, he said the words he has said hundreds of times before.

Rule 2: Close the revolver and cock it.

“In accordance with the laws of the United States of America and the contractual agreement with your lender, you are hereby evicted from this residence and are not to occupy or stay upon these premises from this day onward. Violators will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, including a fine of up to a $60,000 and/or incarceration for up to five years in a state penitentiary.”

Rule 3: Spin the cylinder on the revolver.

He looked at the family in front of him – a man, his wife and two children. They had left the home willingly. Most don’t, and law enforcement has to be called to help complete the eviction.

“Where will we stay?” a little girl asked. She is maybe five years old.

Edmund didn’t answer. He never did. He didn’t have an answer. He walked past the family and past the piles of tattered belongings, clothing and furniture that they had hurriedly carried out of the home after he arrived. He walked to the street and got in the van. His face was grave.

Rule 4: Put the barrel of the revolver in your mouth.

Edmund called the home office to let them know this eviction was complete, and he checked the address of the next. He drove to the next location and parked in front. It was another old home in a poor neighborhood. There were toys in the yard.

Rule 5: Imagine that you only did good things for people, and that you are loved by everyone.

Edmond took the revolver out of the glove compartment. He checked that there was one bullet in it; the same bullet that has been in it for the last seventeen days. As he had done on every eviction for the last seventeen days, he closed and cocked the revolver, and spun the cylinder, listening to the mechanical whhhhhhrrrr until it stopped. He put the barrel in his mouth and thought of what it would be like to do a job where people did not hate you.

Rule 6: Pull the trigger.


Just as had happened the previous times he had followed this ritual, the gun did not go off.

Rule 7: If the gun does not go off, do your job.

Damn the rules! He pulled the trigger again.


And again.


He put the gun down in the seat next to him and began to cry. This wasn’t meant to be. There must be another way. He wiped away the tears, started up the van and drove to a local homeless shelter. Walking up to the volunteer sheet posted near the door, he signed his name and went inside.  If he could not prevent people from being evicted from their homes, at least he could help those who have no homes.



Hope you enjoyed it, and if you did, please share.


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