the short story project


Emily Benson

The Ransom Note

“What does it say?” 

“It says, ‘Give us the grill.’”
“The grill?”
“That’s right. It says grill.”
“…The grill?”
“Are you not getting this? Yes, it says grill.” 
“As in like the metal contraptions that middle-aged men use for cooking burgers and summer barbeques? That kind of grill?” 
“I guess so. What other grill is there?” 
“But we don’t have a grill!”
“It must have been a mistake.” 
“A mistake?” 
“Yes, a mistake. They clearly didn’t mean to write grill.” 
“Oh Sarah, come on. Do you really think somebody would fuck up that on a ransom note?” 
“Well, it’s obvious isn’t it? They’re talking about me.” 
“You? How are they talking about you? Are you a grill!?” 
“Obviously I am not a grill, but I think it’s clear that they meant to write ‘girl.’” 
“Yes, girl. As in ‘Give us the girl.’” 
“You really think they meant to write ‘girl’?
“It makes total sense.” 
“But it doesn’t say, ‘Give us the girl.’ They specifically ask for a grill! Maybe they’re plotting to build some bomb.” 
“You can’t make a bomb out of a grill. They just got the spelling wrong.” 
“How can you misspell girl? It’s a four letter word; I could spell it in kindergarten!” 
 “Well, if I’m right about who I think left this note then believe me, he would misspell ‘girl.’” 
“Why would they even want a grill? Why would anybody want a grill! They’re dangerous you know.”


“Yes, I know. I’ve heard this story before.”


“I’m just saying, my mother’s eyebrows would still be here if it wasn’t for that Black Friday Sale on summer grills. I think that shop sold us a malfunctioning propane tank.”


“I think your mother got drunk on sangria and dumped half a bottle of lighter fluid on hot coals.”


“Well, I say she has a point.”


“You always do.”


“Maybe this was supposed to go to Jacob and Louis. They’re right next door and you know they were remodeling their back porch. I heard Jacob was looking at new outdoor furniture and Louis always organizes the neighborhood Labor Day picnic…”


“Andy, they did not mean to write grill.”


“Let’s call the police, just in case.”


“No way, I’ll take care of this. Michael is not the sharpest knife in the drawer. I’ll just call him up and tell him to call of this little joke of his then everything will go back to normal.”


“Michael? You think this is from Michael.”


“Yes, definitely Michael.”




“I really don’t know why you’re not getting this. Yes, it has to be from Michael.”


“But we haven’t spoken to Michael in months. Well, I haven’t at least. He’s been so busy with his new job new he hasn’t been by the house in ages. What’s he even doing again? Something in management? I miss that guy.”


“I actually just saw him today at the grocery store. He was buying cabbage and some gross looking beets, I was going to say hi but you know how I feel about purple vegetables.”


“We should invite him over.”


“If we had a grill we could invite him to a barbeque.”


“Not if he still wants his eyebrows. Anyways, there’s no way this note could be from Michael. He’s a good guy and he’s our friend. What makes you think this would be from him?”


“Because he works for Tony.”




“Yes, Tony.”




“For fucks sake, not this again.”


“Tony, as in your vindictive, lunatic ex-boyfriend Tony DiGiro. That Tony?”


“The one and only.”


“There’s no way Michael would work for him. What kind of work would be even be doing? That crazy asshole is in the fucking mob! If Michael was working for Tony all he would be doing is running around the streets all day beating people up or leaving ransom no-…”


“Okay good, you’re getting this now. I’m going to put on some coffee while you process everything.”


“I need gin, not coffee.”


“I’ll get that too.”


“Why would Tony even want a grill? Maybe they’re plotting to build some bomb. You can build bombs with grills you know. I saw a YouTube video on it once.”


“Okay, first of all, you cannot build a bomb out of a grill. Second, this note has nothing to do with a grill. When we were dating, Tony use to leave me notes all the time. Sometimes they would be little cute ones like, ‘I saw you downtown, you looked nice!’ Stuff like that, nothing crazy. This is just him being silly for old times, but obviously he still can’t spell.”


“What do you mean, ‘I saw you downtown’? Did he follow you?”


“No. I made sure he gave me space, but Tony has eyes everywhere. Kinda how the mob works I guess. So he would tell his buddies something to write for me and have them plant the note somewhere during the day. It was kind of romantic actually.”


“I can’t believe I’m hearing this. How would he plant these notes?”


“He would leave them places where I would find them. I’ll be looking through my purse for gum and I’ll see a post-it asking me to grab milk on the way home. Once I found one in my dress pocket saying, ‘Dinner at Johnny’s pub tonight or you sleep with the fishes.’ That one was cute. I still don’t know how it got in there.”


“Cute? Your mob ex-boy boyfriend stalks you around town and leaves you threatening notes and you say it’s cute!? Let me just say that that I brought home an edible arrangement for you last week, and may I add that it was with the chocolate covered strawberries!”


“I know, and I loved it.”


“I’m just saying those fruits on a stick are very expensive.”


“No one is coming for your stick-fruit.”


“I still can’t believe that Michael left this note. He doesn’t seem like the blackmailing or kidnapping type. Plus he was smart! Like honestly, who misspells girl?”


“Believe me, Michael may have gotten through college but it was nothing impressive. Remember when he worked for Jimmy’s pizza down the street? Louis went there once at midnight to pick up a calzone order and Mike was baked out of his mind, trying to see how many pepperoni toppings he could stick to the ceiling.”


“I still don’t like this.”


“Honey, Tony is all talk. After he had that falling out with the DiFabio’s he was desperate for bodies so he recruited Michael, but neither of them would actually do anything serious.”


“Well, I’m serious about this note! Joke or not I don’t like this one bit. How quickly can we pack up the house and move? And where’s that gin?”


“Andy, relax. Nobody is going to kidnap us so you cannot keep obsessing over this. Let’s all just let this go. Besides, no matter what happens we’re not giving them anything.”


“Is that a good idea? They dropped the note off at our house, so clearly they know where we live.”


“It wasn’t dropped off at the house. It was put on my car windshield while I was shopping.”


“What did you have to go shopping for?”


“Just groceries. I got some steaks and a George Forman…”








“We’re not giving them the grill!”



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