Flash Fiction Story 022: "As Seen On TV"

“If you are watchful, and you are diligent, you could be the missing link between these criminals and the justice they so richly deserve.”

Cue the spooky synthesizer music. Cue the title with the number 1-800-WATCHFUL (1-800-928-2438). Cue the narrator with one more admonition that, “If you have information as to the whereabouts of any of the suspects listed in this evening’s program, call the toll-free number listed from your touch-tone telephone. The only thing missing from justice being served, is you.”

It never meant anything until he looked up at the man ahead of him in line for the bumper cars. There was no mistaking it. It was him. Him him. Matty was sure of it. He was on the show just last night. He held up an armored car in 1968. Or maybe he killed somebody at a convention of circus clowns in 1977. He may have been a UFOlogist of some reputation.

It was a little hard for Matty to remember specifically. He may have been in the middle of an epic Tetris session on his Game Boy when the segment was airing, but he knew he saw this guy on the show.

“Have you ever been on The Solution To This Mystery Is You?”

As soon as the question escaped Matty’s lips, the man’s eyes went wide. Matty knew in that moment that he had his man, whoever he was.

His mother inhaled so sharply that she negatively impacted their air pressure around them. “Matty!” she turned to the man. “You have to forgive him. When these boys aren’t jumping plumbers and hedgehogs, they’re glued to the damned TV.”

Matty scoffed and became indignant. “But mom!”

“Matty!” she insisted, the order implicit. She turned back to the man from Mystery. “Back when we were kids, we would get smacked”

The man looked down to Matty and winked. “It was a simpler time,” he replied to Matty’s mother, and then followed the ride attendant’s direction to take the blue car closest to the ride’s exit.

Matty eyed the man the whole way and took extra care to note the brief moment where he appeared to eye making a run for the exit, before opting instead to take a car as directed. Matty figured that he didn’t want to make a scene, but opted not to mention that assessment to his mother. She wasn’t going to be of much help here, it appeared.

As the bumper car session began, a chase between Matty and his prey ensued. The man from the TV tried to keep his distance, but this was not Matty’s first time behind the wheel. He cornered the TV man and bumped him relentlessly. Eventually the attendant had to intercede, and Matty could tell from the look on his mother’s face that he needed to find some other kind of tactic if he was ever going to fulfill the promise of his favorite TV show.

No ideas came before the ride ended. The man from the TV leapt out of his car and walked as calmly as he could toward the fair entrance. There would be no second chances; Matty’s career as a fighter of crime and defender of justice had ended just as quickly as it began. What’s more, his mom was probably not going to want to hear anything more about it.

Three days later, local news was saturated with the story of police capturing of Robert Smith, ending a twenty year flight from justice after he had murdered a convenience store clerk in 1974. He had been captured not far from the site of the state fair. 

For years to follow, Matty used this incident as a way to cut through any acute reaction of skepticism from his mother. By his own estimation, it allowed him to get away with up to 35 percent more adolescent shenanigans during the first few years of the 21st century than he might have otherwise. Still, he would have liked to catch the asshole himself. If they had been waiting in line for ferris wheel, Matty might have been the one to do it. Damned bumper cars.

Art by Eris O'Reilly

Art by Eris O'Reilly