“Regret, Inc.” | Flash Fiction | Written by Todd Rigney - Mishmashers Mishmashers

“Regret, Inc.” | Flash Fiction | Written by Todd Rigney

The clock reads three in the morning.

I’m coasting through an upper-class neighborhood in a lower-class automobile. Someone will notice that I do not belong here.

Will they call the authorities?

It doesn’t matter.

What I do is legal.

After fifteen minutes of creeping, I locate the house. It sits toward the rear of the neighborhood.

The property looks worn, unkempt, and tired.

The house seems to sag.

Their chaotic lives have taken a toll on the grass, trees, and bushes. Life seems to have vanished completely.

I feel for these homeowners.

The property feels depressed.

Mentally ill.

I will attempt to bring change to their lives. I solve regret. Some may not agree with the company’s methods, but we get the job done.

Regret, Inc.

Returning to the life you once knew.”

It’s not an easy job. The screams get into your head and take root. You hear them in your dreams. Some of them stay there.

Forever.

I park my lower-class car in the upper-class driveway and take a deep breath. I focus on my breathing.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

I clear my mind and take the small device from the glovebox. I slide a clip into the bottom and flip the red switch on the side.

The device begins to hum.

I steel myself once again and step out of the car. I notice someone watching me from behind the bay window curtains.

One of the homeowners most likely.

They must be anxious about my arrival.

Understandable.

But I will be comforting, professional.

I am always professional.

I make my way toward the front door.

Someone opens it as I step onto the porch.

Thank God,” the pretty middle-aged woman says.

My name is Randolph Boots,” I tell her. “I am a representative from Regret, Inc. You scheduled an appointment with us?”

We did, yes,” the woman says. “Call me Cynthia. Please, come inside. I apologize for the mess. I can’t keep up.”

No worries,” I say in a soft voice.

With caution, I step into my client’s multi-million-dollar home.

It’s nothing short of amazing.

Minus the mountains of clutter, of course.

I can see the anxiety on Cynthia’s tired face.

I cannot apologize enough,” she says.

No need to apologize,” I assure her. “Is your husband around tonight? It’s always best to perform the process together.”

Yes, he’s here,” she says, leading me into the study. “He’s been beside himself all day. He’s frightened of the process.”

The process can produce unusual results,” I tell her.

I understand that,” she insists. “My husband is just nervous about what will happen to our little boy. Our precious little…”

She stops.

Yes, the little boy.

The person they hired me to remove.

As we enter the study, the husband rises from a leather chair and shakes my hand. I take a quick look around his study.

So many books and periodicals.

I’m jealous.

I’m afraid we don’t have much time,” I tell the couple. “Could you please call in your little boy? I need to get the process started.”

Yes, of course,” Cynthia says. “James, would you mind calling him in here? He responds so much better to your voice.”

James clears his throat and calls out to his boy.

His little boy.

His only child.

At first, I hear nothing. Then, the pitter-patter of bare feet. I grip the device, ready for whatever’s headed my way.

And then I see him.

Normal.

Perfectly normal.

Perfectly suburban.

James and Cynthia clutch one another in terror.

Everything feels off.

Strange, unbalanced.

Have I done something wrong? Am I in the wrong house? What is wrong with the couple? What is wrong with the little boy?

Thoughts.

Thoughts.

So many thoughts.

So many racing thoughts.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

I can sense the tension building to a breaking point. Everything seems to pulsate. Anxiety becomes palpable.

The house reverberates.

Panic sets in.

Overwhelmed by the home’s overwhelming atmosphere, I aim my device at the boy’s head and pull the trigger.

I don’t say anything.

I simply do my job.

It is not my place to judge.

The room briefly stinks of static electricity and burned flesh. Then, a bright flash of light engulfs this normal suburban boy.

In a blink, he disappears.

In his place: a delicious turkey dinner. The spread looks like something out of a glossy magazine.

My mouth waters at the sight of the mashed potatoes.

A turkey dinner?” James says, disappointed. “I thought we’d get a New York strip or something fancy. Goddamn it.”

I make an attempt to shift gears.

This is the offering,” I tell the couple. “I would highly recommend eating it before it gets cold. He may start to turn… gamey.”

After we eat him, he’ll be gone?” Cynthia asks.

Yes,” I explain. “But you must consume him within eight hours, or he’ll return. Pieces of him will return. Not all of him.”

Oh, God,” Cynthia gasps, tears welling in her eyes.

I can assist you,” I say. “It’s my job to help consume the food. But I’ve never encountered a feast that failed to impress.”

James and Cynthia exchange glances and nod.

Perfect.

I help them gather the turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, and green beans. We arrange everything on their dining room table.

Before we dig in, James holds up a glass of wine.

To my boy,” he says.

To our new family,” Cynthia adds, raising her glass.

I pick up my glass of wine and raise it.

To Regret, Inc.,” I say.

Everyone smiles.

Our tummies rumble.

We dig into the food with warm hearts.

And everything tastes delicious.