KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 3: Spring 2015
Flash Fiction: 953 words

Letting Go

by Richard L. Herring

The sharp metallic raps seemed to come from far away. Right before I opened my eyes, I dreamed heavy hammers driving chisels through ice. Eyes open, with the glare off the snow knifing in around the curtains, several moments passed before I could see enough to get a clue.

Clothes lay where they landed, or hung from open drawers. Luggage leaned open, empty against the wooden ski lodge walls. I saw me naked under the quilt. The noise came again at the door. Throbbing digits on the clock between the queen beds read 8:47.

“Checking out this morning,” I called to the housekeeper, “can you come back a little later?” I looked over, confused at Shawn’s empty bed, already made up.

“Police officers,” from a voice in the hall. “Need to speak with you.” I freaked and jumped out of bed faster than my equilibrium, realizing I was oddly doped up. During the same motion that sent my feet sliding out to the left and right shoulder crashing through the bi-fold closet doors, I did a quick trouble inventory before I hit the floor. We smoked the last of the weed on the slopes, and finished a gram of coke here in the room before going down to happy hour last night. I remembered Shawn had stash in the Avalanche console and half a bottle of Crown under the seat.

Hearing the crash, the officers entered with the room card the resort manager gave them. One reached inside the open closet and handed me a plush robe embroidered with the Sierra Vista logo. Asked for photo ID, I realized my wallet, iPod, and knock-off Rolex were missing. They processed enough questions to piece together who I was and the answers they were looking for.

“Get dressed,” the senior officer told me. “Meet us down in the manager’s conference room. I’m afraid we’ll be discussing some bad news.”


As I assembled clothing items from around the room, memories emerged like zombies from my foggy mental landscape; wrapping up a three-day holiday ski package. Such a good time catching up partying down that it didn’t really matter we hadn’t hooked up with the snow bunnies bouncing those cotton tails around the lodge. An afternoon blizzard lasted through the evening, and bitter cold drove everyone inside to cluster around the hearth, clutch hot toddies, and consider the prospect of fresh white powder to conquer the next day.

“This is the night,” I told him on the way down to the bar, fueled on our own white powder, and his arm shot up to execute a high five.

“Look, here’s the plan,” Shawn said in the foyer. “Tonight, we go in separate. Lone wolf.” He turned his head, looking both ways, protecting the covert nature of the operation. “Whoever gets lucky first, puts their yellow LiveSTRONG bracelet on the knob outside the room. Finish up, take it back when you leave to give the other guy the all-clear.” He raised up for another high five. “Lance continues to represent, hot damn!”

“I know that’s right,” I think is what I said.

Inside the Tall Timbers lounge, Shawn sat at the bar while I sat in a window booth across the wide flagstone floor. Looking out at a galaxy of tiny snowflakes, in the exquisite, subliminal lighting down the trails, I was content with my last evening in the mountains.

Overall, it was a good time. Shawn neglected to say his heater didn’t work, but I guess he didn’t want to miss the chance to drive, and the old truck made the trip just fine. In the next few days, I’d head back to my job in San Jose. My buddy would redeploy to Afghanistan.

Shawn and I grew up together and graduated high school in Yuba City. We knocked around for a few nondescript years before 9/11 hit, then I joined a software firm and Shawn enlisted. We told that story over drinks more than once those first two nights at Sierra Vista.

“After the holidays,” Shawn would set it up, “we’re both going back to the valley,” (pause, wait), “him to Silicon and me to Korangal.” Not everyone laughed.

Right away I saw the resemblance to his ex, the tall lean brunette sipping a cosmopolitan at the bar, thigh to thigh with Shawn, smiling at his nonsense. Soon I realized the repeated path those almond eyes cut across his shoulder, trained directly on me. A loud guy on Shawn’s other side started telling him about his son, stationed in Iraq. The lookalike excused herself to the powder room and, on the return, parked herself in the booth with me for a fast-track conversation. I stepped over to tell Shawn we were leaving.

“President McCain will turn this thing around in no time,” loud guy was saying. I tapped Shawn’s shoulder and, drunk as he was, he already knew.

“Go man,” he told me. “Know what I gotta do?” He answered his own question in three short words.


The officers told me a rash of roofie-related events were reported throughout snow country this season. A woman with matching description and an ID coming up bogus checked out early that morning. On a lobby couch, a night clerk woke an intoxicated guest last seen pushing through the revolving door to the parking lot.

Police tape wrapped the truck like giant yellow bracelets stretched around it. Shawn lay inside, empty bottle on the floorboard. The face beneath the stocking cap was the blue color of cubes in a plastic ice tray.

“Let it go,” were his last words before I saw him frozen across the back seat. I don’t think I ever will.

Richard L. Herring
Issue 3, Spring 2015

grew up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. He explored a decade of blue collar jobs in southern states before changing course to a 35-year career in education and a PhD from Texas A&M University. He now lives and writes full time on the Florida Gulf Coast. His works appear in Nebo: A Literary Journal, Sixfold, and online at, and are accepted for publication in The MacGuffin and Louisiana Literature Journal.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

In a Blue Moon, Once, a 2,474-word short story in Jerry Jazz Musician (24 December 2014)

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