Monday, August 13, 2012

Flash Fiction Challenge: The Thirteenth Saucer

Chuck Wendig, over at Terribleminds, had a contest: write the best first sentence you could.  The winner got a copy of his novel Bait Dog.  The three winners have been picked, and today's challenge was to write a story with one of those starting sentences.  We could choose between:

  • “Everyone else remembers it as the day the saucers came, but I remember it as the day a man in a suit shot my father.” 
  • “Three truths will I tell you and one lie.”
  • "Thursday was out to get me.”
I chose the first one.  However, since it looked so obviously like a science fiction story, I had to do something different.  At 998 words, this is the result:

The Thirteenth Saucer

Photo by: Cheryl
Everyone else remembers it as the day the saucers came, but I remember it as the day a man in a suit shot my father.  It was early on a Monday morning, and my father had told me to be into work early that day.  We were expecting a new shipment of clay pottery, some of the earliest pottery work in history, and we were getting a chance to display it for a month.

I got there early, and as I arrived, I heard the high pitched squeal of the delivery truck’s brakes, so went out the back door to greet the delivery guy.  It was a different company than usual, but I shrugged it off and signed for the package.  The guy carted the crate into the storage room, tipped his hat to me, and left.

“Hey,” my father called out to me.  “I got here just in time.”

“Sure did.  I was just about to open this bad boy up.”

I grabbed a crowbar and pried off the top of the box.  Inside, nestled in the foam packing, were not ancient clay pots, but porcelain saucers.  They were beautifully decorated, hand painted, with gold trimming around the edges.  I picked one up gingerly and examined it.

“These are...uh...not clay pots.”

“Dammit.  I’m gonna have to have a word with FedEx today.”

“FedEx?  That’s not who delivered this.”

My father arched an eyebrow.  “What do you mean?  I always have them shipped FedEx.  What company was it?”

I shrugged.  “I don’t know.  I didn’t recognize them.”

My father bit his lip and ran a hand through his hair.  “Maybe they left a packing slip or something.”

We carefully unpacked the saucers and cups, then dug around the packing material.  After several minutes, I flopped into a sitting position with a growl and picked up one of the saucers to examine it.  It really was a gorgeous piece of china.  The molding, the painting, the gold work, it had all been done by an extremely careful hand.  I flipped it over and noticed something written faintly in blue.  I read it outloud.

“To GW.  1792.  Trummel.  Number 1.”

My father snatched the saucer out of my hands.

“Holy shit.”


“This is a tea set for George Washington.  This must have been made for him early in his presidency!”

I took back the saucer and examined the writing.  “Who is Trummel?”

“Jedediah Trummel was a very well known craftsman.  A set of his china would sell for several hundred dollars, even back in the 1700’s.  This has got to be worth...a couple million now?  I’m not even sure this set is on record.”

He glanced back at the rest of the set and furrowed his brow.

“Weird.  There’s thirteen.  Usually they come in even numbered sets.”

I picked up a different one.  “Maybe they had him make an extra in case one of them got broken?”

I flipped over the one I was holding and examined the bottom.  It was almost the same, but this one was number thirteen.  I noticed an extra set of numbers as well.  I didn’t recognise them, so I showed them to my father.

“Weird.  Those are coordinates.”

Shattering glass from behind made me look up just in time to catch a boot to the chin.  I managed to hang onto the saucer, which was then snatched out of my hands.  Several men in suits carrying pistols began grabbing the cups and saucers and repackaging them.

My father looked outraged.  “Hold on, now.  Get your hands off these.  They are valuable--”

An explosion followed by the smell of gunpowder.


He collapsed in a heap, gripping his leg while blood poured out from between his fingers in streams.

“You bastard!” I shouted.

I dove at the one that shot my father.  As I did, his gun went off again.  I heard the bullet whiz by my ear like an angry bee.  I wrapped one of my legs around his and we both tumbled to the floor.  I grabbed for his gun, but a swift kick to my gut took my air and my strength.  I rolled away, gasping and holding my stomach.  The one I tripped got to his feet, his lips pulled back in a sneer, and placed the gun against my temple.  I closed my eyes and when the blast came, I flinched and screamed in spite of myself.  Then I realized I wasn’t dead.  I looked up.

The leader lay on the ground, a smoking bullet hole in his chest, a puddle of blood slowly forming.  One of the suited men held a smoking gun on hand and a radio in the other.  Just then, ten other policemen burst in, pointed their guns at the other suited men, and forced them to their knees.

“We need a paramedic here, stat!” the suited man shouted.  He rushed over to me, where I lingered on the edge of fainting, and gave me a weary smile.

“Sorry to get you guys wrapped up in this.  We’ve been trying to bust these guys for months, but we had to find where they’d been stashing the tea set.”

“Yeah, it’d be a shame to lose a few million dollars like that,” I muttered.

The suited man gave me a strange look, but said nothing.  Instead, he went over to my father and began applying pressure to his leg.  The cops took the thieves away, and the paramedics arrived shortly after.  They loaded my dad on a stretcher and carted him away.  I followed, climbed in, but hesitated at the doors for a moment.  I flagged down the suited cop.

“Hey...what are those coordinates for on that one saucer?”

One of the paramedics was urging me to close the doors, but I held on for just a moment.  Finally, the suited man gave me a coy smile.

“Have you ever seen National Treasure?”


“This is nothing like that.”


  1. I think a lot of 'us' picked the other kind of saucer. I like the heist you set up, and the twist at the end.

    1. Ha ha, I noticed that, too. Even still, it's interesting to see all the different ways that people dealt with the same twist on the original idea.


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