A List of Demands

Submitted into Contest #203 in response to: Start your story in the middle of the action.... view prompt


Coming of Age Funny Sad

The young man on the phone was laughing after the first slap, but I kept my cool.

“We are listening.”

“Then you know that I am not screwing around and that I want to speak to someone higher up right now!”

There was a particular etiquette in these situations and I was following it to the letter. My boss, the main officer on the case, put me in charge for a reason: he did not really care about this one. A man – really, a kid - had a supermarket locked down with a gun and the promise to use it. It was not in a very important part of town – immigrants and poor people, of course – and he thought that this would be good for me. You did not get many hostage incidents in this city, but I was glad to have this opportunity to prove myself. My other cases were all incidents involving the occasional drunk, dumb fights, and one missing person case where the person who was missing had been on a long vacation without telling anyone. Three weeks of wasted time until the woman arrived at home in an out of city taxi and wondered why so many reporters and citizens with placards were camped out on her front lawn. So many apologies and speeches to too many cameras that day… At least I kept my job.

The phone rang again.

“Yes, sir, we are list-”

“It’s not him. It’s me. What is going on?”

Now, that was my boss. Officer Martin…sometimes Officer Merlin to his staff and friends; sometimes Officer Merkin to the press and those who were inclined to say something about the unfortunate haircut he had only the one time. He was breathing very heavily and I could hear some of the other noises in the background (the press really wanted to get him on something; the missing person case was a bad call).


“What is happening with the case?”

I cleared my throat and looked around the van. I was allowed two assistants and, because cosmic jokes come in all sizes, I was give Stan and Laura (yes, I was thinking of Laurel and Hardy, too, even with the wrong gender and lack of weight). They had joined up about a year after I came in, and they were even more “wet behind the ears” than me when I started. And I knew why they were there. Laura had the cameras working on every entrance and exit (had to remind her that the building had its own cameras we could access; no understanding of tech, that one), and Stan was in charge of the tactical unit which would eventually go in and clean up (that’s how they describe it). But it was all my call.

“Sir, he wants to speak to someone higher up.”

The pause did not fill me with much hope. I could almost see the cameras that would be aimed at us as we explained another bad call.

“Officer Welkes, you are the senior on this one. You are the ‘higher up’ that he is dealing with. You know the procedure and you know what to do. Let him blow off some steam, explain how these things actually work, and then...,” he let out a long breath and I knew that he had finished his thought.

“Yes, sir.”

“Good. And the press does not have to know how you do it as long as you do. Just keep those assholes away from the heat.”

“I will.”

“Right.” A sharp click in my headphones and he was gone.

Away from the heat… I always hated that phrase, especially when I thought about the time of year and the sweat running down my back as I dealt with this.

“What did the Merkin say?”

Stan was not on the mikes, but he knew who called.

“He says that the ball is mine and I have to play with it. And don’t call him that.”

“Not within a live mike, anyway. Merlin sounds much more pro.”

Laura was on cameras. She did not worry about being heard.

“Right.” I kept looking at the call button as I pretended not to listen to the two who obviously wanted to go home. The kid in the store wanted to speak to someone higher up; someone who could give him what he wanted while people sat terrified in a supermarket. I just wanted to get the day done. I just wanted to eat something decent soon (great to be near a supermarket without having any real food; Stan’s pretzels were no longer appealing). And I wanted to get away from this whole thing.

Away from the heat…

And that is how I developed my idea. There was a phone call I had to make.


“So, am I on yet?”

“Just one minute…”

Stan and Laura were laughing, but I knew I had made the right call.

“You really doing this? The Merkin wants this over and this is the way…?”

“Keep the team on alert. This will end soon.”

“I am just glad that we have cameras to record this.”

“Keep watching…”

I opened up the phone line and could hear the ringing from the building.

Now, one interesting thing that I learned later is that one of the cameras on the kid was connected inside our van. I had not seen it, but playing back the information was quite interesting. All the ups and downs of this were being saved and savoured by Laura, so to be an interesting study for plenty of officers in training all over the city.

“I’m ready…”

“Yes, sir. We have found someone higher up.”

A brief crackle of static and electricity let her know she was on.

“Young man!”

“Who is this?”

“Never mind ‘Who is this?’ Who are you stopping all of these nice people from going home because you wanted to grab some money that is not even yours? Who are you?”

My feed into the mike was being recorded. This had to work.

“Um, are you with the police, or is this…?”

“Hey, you! I am the one who is handling this. Don’t bother with more police. You have me. Now, what is your name?”

Laura was giggling; Stan was sighing and shaking his head. This would work.

“My name’s… Michael.”

“Good. You can speak and you have an angel’s name. Now, Michael, why are you doing this?”

That was when I turned to look at the monitors. Some of the tactical team looked bored earlier. Now, their attention became very focused on what they heard through their mic’d helmets.

“I just…well, ma’am, I…” The boy sounded nervous, but it was going well. That “ma’am” was good to hear. “Well, I am out of school, and I just…”

“So, no money, no education, but you have a gun?”

Silence, for just a moment.

“Answer me, son.”


“And you do this?”

Was he about to cry? There was a crack in that throat that sounded like it was holding back tears.

“I just did not know…”

“How old are you?”


“20.” My guest could not hide her contempt. She was doing so much better at this than I ever could. “No plans, no education, and no… Hey, wait a minute; you have not given them a list of demands yet?”

I wanted to cut off the mike right there. We had a plan.


“Yeah, like in the movies or on television. You have things you want to get what you want. You didn’t even make one, right?”

“No, I just thought…”

“You weren’t thinking. So, try it now.”


“Make a list. We need to hear it.”

Okay, I was going to be out of a job. Recording this nonsense was a terrible idea. And I wanted to come in with my line, but…

“Think it’s too late, ma’am.”

“It is not too late…Michael. What is too late is going back and pretending this will end well. So, what do you want?”

Sometimes you can see a life moving at a different speed than everyone else’s. I was seeing my entire career being slowed down and stopped as we all waited for the boy to speak.

“Well, I guess…a car?”

The contempt was high and hot in my ear.

“You don’t have one already?”

“No, I did not…”

Stan was trying not to laugh out loud. “A nice little piece of information there, like all the others.”

“The woman is doing well. Who is she, anyway?” Laura could see that the boy was really listening.


“Who’s that?”

“Officer Welkes…”

“Officer, I am handling this. The boy knows what he wants.” She cleared her throat and spoke past me. “So, a car?”

“Yeah…and I guess we should take a break now.”

“You’ve got the food.”

They both laughed in my ear. It was really strange to see how well she did.

“Just let them go to the bathroom if they need to, son.”

“I did! I did! Only a few wanted to go. And it wasn’t too crowded.”

“Good, Michael. Now, anything else?”

I was really beginning to hate all the pausing and waiting that I could not control. No one seemed to breathe on our side. But I knew it was over when the boy said the next thing on his mind.

“I just want to go home.”

He started to cry.


So, final report: no one injured except one smart-mouthed manager whom all the other patrons and staff blamed for getting slapped. The Merkin – he can’t hear me now – was pleased that the boy came out on his own. And the press was on our side again.

I really have to thank Stan and Laura for all they did, especially getting that camera feed set up and having everything recorded. It allowed me to keep my job and consider more work in negotiation and containment.

And you have probably all guessed who that was on the phone.

Ah, Mom.

So many lessons were learned at your feet, especially when things look desperate.

That boy…

He was lucky that family looked after itself.

I somehow managed to keep that out of the news, too.

There is a long road ahead for all of us…

…away from the heat.

June 24, 2023 01:59

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Helen A Smith
10:22 Jun 27, 2023

Really well-written story with strong dialogue and ending, I thought the behind-the scenes action played out well, as did your bringing in the human elements (not wanting another gaffe and wanting to get the thing over without anything going wrong and great characterisation), but I was a little confused as to who did the slapping in the first paragraph.


Kendall Defoe
23:56 Jun 27, 2023

I can see that a lot of readers had a problem with that. Point taken. I was so focused on the set up with the mother and her interrogation that I did not double-back to check on this. Thanks!


Helen A Smith
08:23 Jun 28, 2023

I hope you are are not discouraged as this was a well-crafted story. It takes me hours of editing and still there are minor things that are not right which is frustrating. The time limits don’t help, but it’s a good discipline and seem to learn from it.


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Jody S
22:07 Jul 02, 2023

It is difficult to start in the middle, but I think this was an interesting way to start. It may have helped to explain the slap closer to the top, but that is just me. The one thing I was a little confused on--and had to go back and read a second time--was who was speaking to the boy--Laura or your MC's mom? For some reason at the beginning I thought it was Laura, but then at the end it sounded like it was the MC's mom. If that is the case, great twist! Overall the dialogue was wonderful and really moved me through the story wanting to kn...


Kendall Defoe
02:09 Jul 03, 2023

Yeah, those points were on my mind. But after the narrator decides to let someone else on, I thought the reader would put things together. I am going to keep writing here. I have a pretty good idea for one of this week's prompts. ;)


Jody S
13:27 Jul 03, 2023

Looking forward to reading more!!


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Janet Boyer
05:58 Jun 28, 2023

I think the title is great! I, too, was confused by "the slap" (wanted to stop reading, actually). A little more clarity, and keeping "mike" spelled "mic", and this would be a great story! 🙂


Kendall Defoe
17:23 Jun 28, 2023

Yeah, I see...and the "mike/mic" dilemma bothered me, too... 🎤 🎙


Janet Boyer
01:32 Jun 29, 2023

One of those tricky words, for sure! 🎤


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Lily Finch
14:18 Jun 26, 2023

Your introduction is gripping. Makes the reader want to read on to figure out why he wants too speak to a higher up. What will the demands be? The title suggests there will be a list. You address PofV extremely well in this piece Kendall. Nicely done. The story is stacked in such a way that the reader wants to know what will happen next and thus has to read on to see. Thanks for the good read Kendall. LF6


Kendall Defoe
14:27 Jun 26, 2023

Thank you for that. I have had some critiques of the opening and how I used the title to develop the story (not sure this is a big deal), but I understand what people are going for if they do read my work. A lot to contemplate...


Lily Finch
14:38 Jun 26, 2023

Nah, it's all good stuff. LF6


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05:19 Jun 25, 2023

Quite a lot going on here. Great story. I know you chose and wrote to the particular prompt which doesn't give an option of starting at the very beginning. POV is another factor which you have handled well. I would have liked to have seen this story started in a slightly different place. Apart from wondering when the demands would come out I kept trying to figure out who slapped who at the start and why. In media res (or in the middle of the action) does hook a reader usually. I struggled a bit to understand initially because of the title. A...


Kendall Defoe
23:58 Jun 25, 2023

The best comments I will receive on this one, I think. I understand what you mean with the slap. I wanted a little ambiguity because the act itself is a shocking thing to do. Next time, I will point out who would do such a thing. And where to start... I thought that people would fill in the blanks by the way I began with some violence and a phone call. Again, I will rethink this. Now, titles: I cannot agree with your suggestions. A title should not give the whole game away. The one I chose forces the reader to wait and expect something uniqu...


01:21 Jun 26, 2023

I was worried my comments may have come across as critical. Agree that titles shouldn't spoil the story by giving the show away. Your stories are popular to me! A writer has to be true to their story and their voice. Critique circle is useful but the suggestions are not always ones to take on board to alter a story to a given formula.


Kendall Defoe
01:56 Jun 26, 2023

Indeed. And I cannot be that affected by a critique, especially one that I respect!


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Mary Bendickson
02:33 Jun 25, 2023

Real cute criminal mamma's boy. Thanks for liking my spidery tale.


Kendall Defoe
03:07 Jun 25, 2023

Hey, I'm not a mamma's boy! Oh, you meant the one with the gun... Sorry. 😉


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Delbert Griffith
09:33 Jul 04, 2023

LOLOL Loved it. Mom negotiating with her newly-minted criminal son. The dialogue was delightful, and the "heat" theme was well written. I found the tale quite amusing, a lighthearted hostage story. You don't see that very often. Nicely done, my friend. Funny and inventive. Cheers!


Kendall Defoe
03:23 Jul 06, 2023

Thank you, sir. I have been considering this week's prompts, and I'm heading in a very different direction... 🤔


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