*Short story originally written for The Iron Writer Challenge in which no more than 525 words could be used to tell a story that included the following elements: velvet gloves, bubble gum, playing with fire, and puppy love.

Thank you for reading – I’d love to know what you think in the comments below!


“You’re getting too close, Dave.”

Dave ignored Mac’s voice in his ear bud and continued walking, just a few feet behind the target.

“You’re playing with fire, you’re gonna get burned.”

“I know what I’m doing.” Dave uttered, almost imperceptibly.

The light ahead changed, forcing all the pedestrians, including Dave, to come to a stop and wait for the “ok to walk” signal. The shift in foot traffic presented a natural opportunity for Dave to stand closer to his target.  He pulled his cell phone out of his jacket pocket, pretending to scroll through Facebook like everyone else on the sidewalk, oblivious to their surroundings.

To his left the target reached into her purse, digging around for some hidden object. When her hand finally emerged, it held a piece of bubble gum; Dave recognized the wrapper as the cheap kind he used to see thrown out at parades in his hometown. He was surprised by the wave of nostalgia and admiration that someone still enjoyed that simple treat in a world with so many options.

The girl popped the gum into her mouth just as the light changed and the crowd started moving. Dave slowed his pace slightly; he had to be sure she was going into the record store.

“What the hell are you doing Dave? Your little crush is going to get us spotted.”

“What are you talking about Mac?” he whispered.

“Give me a break, you’ve had puppy love written all over your face for days. Just stick to the plan, ok? This isn’t the freaking dating game.”

For a week, they’d been tracking this girl, a suspected player in a large hacking circuit. Mac and Dave were responsible for collecting the evidence, and bringing her in. Today was supposed to be a simple observation assignment, to determine if she logged onto the record store’s server with the computer in question.  

“She’s going in.” Dave stalled, pretending to look at his phone as the girl walked into the store.

“Ok you know the plan.” Mac said is as a warning, not a question.

When Dave finally went into the record store, the lighting was low, the space was filled with rows of records, tables and couches off to the side. The store included a beverage counter – they seemed to enjoy loitering customers.

Dave walked through the rows pretending to look for some particular albums, but continued to glance around trying to spot the girl.

“Help you find something man?” a young kid in black t-shirt sporting a band he’d never heard of was eyeing him like the newbie he was.

“Uh yeah, I’m looking for the Neil Diamond album, Velvet Gloves and Spit. Think you guys have that?”

“Yeah man, it’s gonna be over here in the classic rock section…”

Dave scanned the room – she wasn’t at any of the tables. But just as they were moving to the classic rock area he looked out the window and saw the girl, blowing a bubble with her gum and holding her middle finger up at Dave.

“What’s the status, Dave?” He might as well have said “I told you so.” 

Dave sighed his response “Burned.”

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