Chris Milam is our latest champ and Flash! Friday’s second FIVE-time winner. Read his bio and find links to his previous interviews at his winner’s page here. His fifth winning story, “Penelope Callaghan,” was also featured in a Flash Points closeup: read that here. And now: join me in peeking inside the mind of a five-time winner. I promise to do my best to get us back out at the end.
Some said it was inevitable I’d find myself here, in a state of desperation. Some, as in family. They said I was a gambler, and gamblers love chaos. Maybe they were right.
Sitting in the parking lot with my pal Dave Copeland, I could still hear the thumping of the press. The way its mechanical jaw opened and closed, like a giant hydraulic shark. It feasted on complacency. I often thought of cramming my head between its steel lips: devour me, babe. The machine always stared at me unsympathetically, the same way my ex did when I begged for reconciliation.
Liberty Bank held the answer. Dave turned the radio down. “Forget your dreams of being a writer, or a poet, or anything that deals in words. This is the real world, and that concrete building has real money it.” He was usually a quiet guy, but he was amped up today, like an electrified green dragon of envy. He wanted to bathe in stacks of cash. Blow flaming dollar signs out of his mouth.
I sipped on a root beer. “You think she’d lose respect for me if we got busted?”
“Who? Your therapist? Don’t start with that nonsense. I’m tired of hearing about her. You’re just a sad dude with trust issues sitting in a plastic chair. You’re a paycheck to her, nothing more.”
“Yeah. I know. Forget it.”
He hands me a joint. “Take a hit, calm yourself. We can do this. We can change our fate, man. Retire to Florida and chase bikinis until our hearts burst.”
The press continued to sing in my mind, a melody of two greasy planets colliding. I could taste the boom in my throat. “You remember when we won the Little League title? Our parents acted like we won the World Series. We celebrated with cheeseburgers and ice cream. I never felt so happy. I haven’t felt it since.”
“I remember. But I don’t like living in the past. Our youth is a fiction, man. One minute you’re a champion, the prince of the neighborhood, the next you’re just a disgruntled nobody. I prefer to live in the now, and the now is this bank. You wanna be a degenerate track rat forever? Man up, psycho.”
Dave pulls out the masks, hands me one. It’s my favorite actor, Vin Diesel. I finger it, as my friend morphs into Benedict Cumberbatch. He eats my smirk. “Have you seen Sherlock? Dude can act.”
A flash of sun bounces off the glass doors as we enter. The air conditioned lobby is like chilled lotion on my skin. He pulls a gun from his waistband. I do the same.
He struts to the teller, tosses her two plastic bags. “Fill them or die. There are no other options. I will put you down like a diseased poodle. Obey and you live. It’s that damn simple.”
The press roars in my soul.
Sirens roar in the distance.
Dave’s hand twitches.
Everything is on fire.
Within the confines of the story, Rebekah tasked me with revealing 5 truthful bits about myself, as well as 5 fictional bits. Throw in the other elements I had to incorporate, along with the quick turnaround, and this proved to be a difficult story to write. But I had fun. I hope you enjoyed it. If not, just lie and tell me it was brilliant. M’kay.
* I worked in a steel factory years ago. I can still hear that murderous thumping when the sun dies.
* I had a bit of a crush on my therapist. She saved my life. My respect for her is immense.
* I used to gamble. A lot. Like whenever I was awake.
* Dave Copeland was my gambling and golfing buddy back in the day. He was a quiet fellow.
* The writing dream is pretty accurate.
* I hate root beer and would never in my life sip on one. It’s like drinking a yam. No thanks.
* My favorite actor is NOT Vin Diesel. More like Christian Bale, Clive Owen, or Tom Hardy.
* I don’t smoke pot. I’m always tired, if I got high I’d slip into a coma. Wait, that doesn’t sound so bad.
* I never won a Little League championship. It still haunts me. That trophy is my white whale.
* I’ve never begged an ex for reconciliation. I actually typed that with a straight face.