Category: Compulsion

A collection of short and flash fiction pieces.


It is a fantasy of hers. One of reconciliation. That word is tossed around a lot in legal circles. Reconciliation. As commonly used as any new-age saying. Her parents would have used the term “making amends,” probably a proverb straight out of the Bible. The good book. Although she now joked that it was not as good the romance novels she gorged herself on during her teen years. A habit that escalated to literary novels. It’s where she spent her extra cash in her 20s and made her a regular at local book stores. Now, she makes her frequent purchases online at deep discounts. She still feels the need to escape into a world that is not this one.

It’s been a while since Shelby thought about this fantasy; it’s about apology. His. To her. The kind of acknowledgement one makes that illustrates wrong-doing.

She knows how difficult it can be to apologize. Jacob called her on it all the time. You act like nothing has happened, he’d say after yet another argument of accusations followed by name-calling, and topped-off with laundry list of egregious errors on his part.

Shelby learned to say, “Jacob. I’m sorry that I said those awful things. I’m sorry I called you a loser. I’m sorry that I called you a dick. You’re not a dick. I was wrong to say those mean things. I’m sorry I hurt you.”

The apologies were standard issue, but they got the job done. There wasn’t a time when Jacob wouldn’t forgive and forget. He was a really good guy, she told friends. And he loves you, they’d say in return.

Jacob had only once said that it wasn’t easy for him to do, as she claimed. He apologized because he’d hurt her, because it was the right thing to do, because it made her feel bad, and he never wanted to be the cause of her pain. He’d once said, she seemed on edge, too often, and never apologized for saying that.

Shelby opens the courier package, slides out a chunky, plastic video cassette onto her desk. Someone has labelled it “1986-07-20” written with a black marker. Shelby shook the envelope and a DVD fell out. It had on it the same date as the tape. Who has viewed this tape, and how many times? Who copied it to DVD? How many copies exist? Her stomach tightened. Geezus.

A full decade before the Internet, plus another before its social media storm.

Her studio on the top floor of the talent agency had two old VCRs, a DVD player, and a reel-to-reel. Over the years, clients brought in demo reels that needed editing. Jacob was on call for that. That was how they met. He answered an ad she faxed to casting agents and creative directors at ad firms when her business representing television actors took off. She expected to hire a post-secondary student studying film and television editing, but Jacob dropped by one Friday afternoon and said he just wrapped a feature film and needed a place to edit his own work. And could he make some sort of deal?

Shelby remembers that the guy in the video was from a small town, here in the city studying law, what her hometown friends would have called a mouth-piece. Her friends today would use words like “persuasion” and “convincing.”

The clips are out of focus, the camera work is shaky. It zooms in as she downs a glass of whiskey. A hand appears in the corner of the screen, liquid pours from the bottle. A handsome boy winks at the camera, turns it back to a drunk girl who makes a face at the camera.

Then the camera exchanges hands. She cannot recall this part. Had he handed her the camera? Had she taken it from him? There’s no sound, so there’s no telling. filming this. The handsome boy escorts her out of the room to the balcony. A sketchy shot behind her shows a hotel room. Back to the night sky. There’s a full moon. The camera is set on a table. The couple in frame. He kisses her.

Shelby turns off the video. What she can’t remember about that night, she imagines. Everybody knows what happens next.

She reaches inside the envelope, fishes for an apology, but there is nothing inside.