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Double Homicide by Emil Ostrovski | Word Riot
Flash Fiction

March 15, 2012      

Double Homicide by Emil Ostrovski

Listen to a reading of “Double Homicide” by Emil Ostrovski.

She said not to wait up, that she’d probably crash with her sister.
     The next morning she is headline news.
     At the police station, on an uncomfortable chair.
     “We got the son-of-a-bitch,” they say. “He’ll be tried for double homicide. Once we get the report from her doctor. That’s what’ll happen.”
     Home to crushing quiet, you look up the definition of homicide over and over, waiting for it to change.
     Also: rape.
     Then: anger.

     Double homicide.
     The dictionary is an old Merriam Webster that belonged to your father. It has all the definitions but none of the answers.
     Your father calls. You pick up this time.
     He asks how you’re holding up. You ask if he remembers that old dictionary.
     “Yes,” he says.
     “It’s been a source of great comfort.”
     “The dictionary?”
     He asks if you’re okay.
     “I’ve been looking up words,” you say. “All I want to do is sit and read the dictionary.”
     “Matthew … I’ll be there tomorrow. Can you—will you be alright? By yourself?”
     “I doubt it,” you say, and hang up.
     He calls back, but you let the machine take it. You know it’s selfish but it feels right. You’re tired and have nothing to say. He says he knows you’re there. He asks you to come to the phone, over and over, until you do. You lift the phone and throw it against the wall; that feels right, too. Next you throw the plates across the kitchen. Ceramic shrapnel. You go through the entire apartment in this way, until everything’s broken. Only the dictionary is left, untouched in the rubble. You pick it up gently, flip through its pages gently, strike a match gently, light it on fire gently, and watch it burn, gently, watch the pages turn black and the smoke rise. The smoke alarm doesn’t go off because you stabbed it with the mop.
     You sit there, watching language burn. It burns. So. Fucking. Gently.

About the author:

Emil Ostrovski is a twenty-one year old philosophy major attending Vassar College. He is represented by Laura Langlie of the Laura Langlie Literary Agency and has had two other short stories published in Word Riot.

    13 comments to Double Homicide by Emil Ostrovski

    • Pathetic Story. Word Riot seems to be hard pressed for decent fiction. My complaint is the penultimate paragraph and the last line. Particularly irritating since the only relationship we know is the father-son / father-daughter relationships here; and no clue who ‘she’ is; and all in all we have no viewpoint for the final actions. We do not feel the adequacy or the righteousness of language burning! One could really take the dictionary and do this kind of a thing with fancy.

    • Emil

      Thanks anyway for taking the time to read it.

    • Lauren

      This story was awful. Writing it in the second person was a huge mistake because later in the story you name the character, and my name isn’t Matthew. In fact I’m not a man at all. Leaving the gender of the character ambiguous would’ve been much better. The woman, who we know far too little about, could’ve been my sister, my mother, my daughter, my girlfriend, etc. Also, the overuse of the word gently irked me. I get it, you’re trying to be poetic and deep. But it just doesn’t work. It came off pretentious and convoluted.

    • Emil

      Appreciate your reading my work.

    • Abe

      Not sure what possesses people to make jerk comments. I suppose if those comments were better/more insightful it would make a bit more sense. Probably not, though.

      Anyway, I thought this was a nice piece, with some subtleties some people might miss.

    • debbie and Mike

      I also enjoyed reading this piece. I do not find that writing it in second person was a bad choice at all. Not all second person pieces are literally supposed to be named after the reader (whoever that may be) because obviously you have all sorts of people reading it and not all of them will be male or female or have the same name. It’s ok to name a character even if it is in second person. It makes sense the way you wrote it. I think its short and powerful the way flash fiction pieces are supposed to be. Good work and keep writing!

    • Emil

      Abe, I appreciate your kind words. Thank you for reading!

      Debbie and Mike – Thanks so much for reading, and for your encouragement.

    • Peter

      Great work, Emil. Those first few lines capture conflict, setting, and character so nicely.

    • Emil

      Thank you, Peter! Appreciate you taking the time to read and comment.

    • Nice work Emil. I enjoyed the piece. People hating your stuff is sometimes the highest form of praise.

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