This short story has been published in an anthology titled Aspiring Writers Short Story Winners published by Lebrary.com

Unfortunately this anthology is out of circulation but here’s my story in its entirety.



by Laura Rittenhouse

A very nice stranger just left the travel agency. But not before asking me to help her plan her husband’s Christmas present, the perfect summer holiday. On Christmas day Sue wants to hand Douglas their itinerary then whisk him away with little more than shorts and t-shirt each.

When she gave me their details, I realised that Douglas is an ex-colleague of mine from my days in banking. He’s the monster who enjoyed finding ways to make my work-life hell and played no small part in my career change. And she just gave me the job of arranging his dream holiday!

Now that she’s gone, I waste a few minutes toying with the idea of rising above it all, but honestly, this is the kind of chance that only a fool ignores.

Sue’s request is simple; organise a trip so she and her demon-husband can share a relaxed getaway, escaping the summer rat-race of Sydney. My plan is less simple; give karma a bit of help in providing its payback.

Maybe at first glance Sue doesn’t deserve to share in Douglas’ karmic payback, but she’s married to one of hell’s minions so she can’t expect to escape unscathed.

Pushing back with my heels, I send my chair gliding the length of the office to a filing cabinet, the final resting place of customer complaints: grievances about dirty carpets, roaches and road noise. As they arrive, each is answered with a polite letter and then filed, never to be seen again–until today.

The first drawer I open looks promising. One file in particular bulges. I grasp the folder in both hands, not wanting to risk losing a single precious page, and wheel myself back to my desk.

Fifty-seven minutes later, I have a horror summer holiday planned. The villain-tourist that the gods have entrusted to me will receive his just rewards for six days at a Fijian “boutique resort”. If the complaints are to be believed, the full-pension hotel offers cold food served warm and hot food served cool, excessive fauna of the rat variety, a noisy generator, rude staff and unreliable transport service. There isn’t much I can do about the ocean two steps from the front door since that was Sue’s only requirement, but with two rooms overlooking the parking lot, I figure I can mitigate the beach-effect.

The next morning, after receiving confirmation from the “resort” that my preferred room is available, I email Sue. She rings me five minutes later, thrilled that I’ve found the ideal summer holiday for her and her scoundrel-man.

All that remains is for me to arrange my own getaway between Christmas and New Year when the travel agency will be closed. Even if Sue, or more likely Devil-Douglas, tries to phone to complain or request the seats on their return flight be rebooked away from the toilet, their calls will go unanswered until January second when they’ll be home, karma having once again achieved balance.

My phone rings. It takes me a second to realise I’m home. I vaguely recall a taxi ride after last night’s New Year’s Eve party. The ring vibrates around my eyeballs until I steel myself and press “talk”.

“Sophie, I hope it’s okay to call your mobile. I wanted to thank you for the best summer holiday.”

Oh God No. Sue is happy. Struggling to decipher her ramblings, I deduce that the resort’s new owners are gorgeous people who hold sing-alongs and give free cooking classes. I swing my feet over the edge of my bed while Sue, barely pausing to draw breath, explains how scrumptious the champagne in first class tasted after their free upgrade. When she switches to praising the daily massages, I stagger towards the kitchen for a glass of water.

Passing the doorway into my lounge, I stop dead in my tracks. I survey the ransacked room while Sue drones on about the adorable village children. Dropping cross-legged to sit in the middle of the floor, I pick up a brochure of swaying palms that the thieves discarded and press its cool surface to my throbbing forehead as the phrase “karmic payback” hovers somewhere behind my third eye.

© Laura Rittenhouse 2010