She strikes the match. A spark of light ignites the end of the cigarette perched between her lips.

“I wish you wouldn’t smoke,” he says. “It’s not ladylike.”

“What do you know of being a lady?” She blows smoke in his face, laughs when he inhales and coughs for air.

She needs something to laugh at. After the week they’ve had. Police in and out. Guests confined to their rooms. Bodies in bags wheeled through the rotating doors.

It’s the first day she doesn’t see a news van camped outside her hotel. She’ll savor this moment of peace and quiet.

“Why do you think he did it?” he asks.

She shrugs, takes another drag. “Why does any husband kill his wife?”

“But Maria, too?”

She closes her eyes. She will choose to ignore the pain in his voice at the mention of the second-floor maid. Especially since she’s not supposed to know about the affair. As far as he, the authorities, the hotel guests, and the rest of the staff are concerned, Maria was strangled after she walked in on the man finishing off his wife.

And that’s how she wants to keep it.

© 2017-2022 Nortina Simmons

Originally published October 20, 2017


After three attempts—breakfast, lunch, and dinner—my husband went to bed alive and well, even demanding sex before he eventually passed out.

Immediately, I dial the apothecary.

The poison didn’t work!” I say a pitch above whispering.

“These things take time.”

“But he’s not even sick!” I glance down to ensure he’s still asleep. His shoulders rise and fall at an even rhythm.

“A stronger dose may be necessary.”

“I’ve paid you a fortune!”

“Half-priced this time!”

Weary of her promises, I hang up, decide to take the matter into my own hands, press the pillow over his face.

© 2022 Nortina Simmons

Guilty conscience

“Guilty!” the judge declares.

I lose all feeling in my legs.

My sister helps me up, and I watch, through tears, the bailiff handcuff Michael and guide him to the door left of the defendant’s bench.

He doesn’t take one glace back at me.

“This can’t be happening,” I say breathlessly. “I can’t let him go to prison for something I did.”

“Shut up!” she snaps. “What’s done is done. Let’s go.”

But I can’t move. Because the man in my freezer isn’t the first. And with Michael locked away, what will happen to me when the next one dies?

© Nortina Simmons

Insane asylum patient #13

She liked to set things on fire. The final victim, a young poet, secret admirer.

He wrote her a poem on parchment, slipped it under her door.

roses are red, like
the polish on your nails, like
the blood in my veins—
my heart beats for you as I
muster the courage to say...

“I love you,” he finished. He couldn’t help it, had to invite himself in to see her reaction.

“Would you like to burn?” she asked.

His pulse quickened. “Yes!”

She crumpled the paper, stuffed it in his mouth, struck a match, watched him light with passion.

© Nortina Simmons

Duplicitous lover

I lie back and sprinkle tiny flower petals on my neck and shoulder.

I tell him they are edible. “Come have a taste.”

He licks them off of me, planting a trail of quick wet kisses until he reaches my mouth. I bite down on my bottom lip.

“Don’t stop,” I say, but he’s convulsing, his eyes bulging, veins in his neck popping. He stumbles backward, gasping for air, and then I remember.

Aren’t oleanders poisonous?”

I’m laughing as his mouth struggles to form an answer. I close it, and his eyes too, as his body starts to go still.

© Nortina Simmons 

Murder in the basement

I haven’t slept in days. I keep thinking about what he said.

“If you love me, you’ll accept this part of me.”

Mama warned me about men who begin sentences with “If you love me…”

If Mama were here, she would’ve never let me marry him. Mama had this sixth sense about her. She could smell the evil on people.

I unluckily inherited my father’s desperation to appease. It’s why I lie in this bed alone, unable to ignore the screams from the basement below.

“Just hurry up and finish,” I find myself saying, “so I can get some rest.”

© Nortina Simmons 

#1MinFiction: Emergency Exit

I make sure she’s under the center of the bed. The room will start to smell soon, but maybe our cabin steward won’t notice when he comes to clean it.

But I gotta get lost. Hit an emergency button and head for the muster station to board the lifeboats. Women and children first, but with the right make up, one of her padded bras, and that horrible blond wig she brought, maybe I can pass.


Monday’s One-Minute Fiction challenges you to write a story in one minute, no more, no less, based on the prompt provided. For the next several weeks our prompts will be Alaska themed. This week’s prompt is: women and children first.

When I returned from Alaska, everyone at work asked if I was on the ship where the man killed his wife. 😱 No, thank goodness, but you knew a story was coming. 😉 This guy apparently did it because she kept laughing at him. I wonder what provoked our narrator . . .

No Holds Barred Poetry Writing Challenge: Day 28

I heard the voices,
knocked over trash cans. I saw
the blade plunged into
his back. Blood pooled on asphalt—
seven minutes until death.

© 2015 Nortina Simmons