Stolen Valor

Jun 24, 2021 | Fiction

Kami cocked her head at the handsome, youthful face on the screen, at eyes that radiated kindness. She zoomed in on the photo until she could make out the name on the badge: Lieutenant Ari Zartman. He was wearing his dress uniform, but grinning at a little blonde girl perched on the crook of his arm. She held his face between her tiny hands, her lips puckered and poised to give him a kiss. Such a zest for life, those two. What had she ever done to be worthy of them? Kami wondered. .

“I had to write,” he said, in his message. “I hope you don’t mind. I hope we can have a meaningful relationship. Are you as sweet as you look in your profile pic?”

Kami inhaled and let the air out of her lungs slowly, through pursed lips. She looked at glass-covered shadowbox on the wall, with its triangular-folded flag. “No,” she typed back.

A sleepy little girl, unperturbed and suffused with clean, fragrant warmth from her bubble bath, stood in the doorway. “Mommy?”

“Teeth brushed, Rache?” Kami asked, her voice cracking with tension. She clicked the Report link, wishing there were a greater crime she could choose from the list than “Impersonating someone I know.” And that wouldn’t do, either, because Ari wasn’t there, anymore, to confirm or deny her claim. “Fraud or scam,” she chose, for the seventh time this month. Lord, liberate me from hate, she pleaded silently.

The child nodded. “Teef brushed. Will you tell me a story?”

Kami nodded. She would tell Rachel the story about the King who loved his Queen and his little Princess, who would one day grow up to slay dragons and run the country. Neither of them ever got tired of that one, and to Rachel’s delight, Kami never, ever, said, “The End.”

This flash fiction inspired by Writing Prompt – Creative Copy Challenge #613 and the words: Valor, Youthful, Zest, Worthy, Unperturbed, Suffused, Poise, Meaningful, Liberate, Kindness

Holly Jahangiri

Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle, illustrated by Jordan Vinyard; A Puppy, Not a Guppy, illustrated by Ryan Shaw; and the newest release: A New Leaf for Lyle, illustrated by Carrie Salazar. She draws inspiration from her family, from her own childhood adventures (some of which only happened in her overactive imagination), and from readers both young and young-at-heart. She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband, J.J., whose love and encouragement make writing books twice the fun.


  1. Mitchell Allen

    Brilliant. I used to tell running bed-time stories to my children. Many lasted for days!
    The photo you selected added the right touch of wistfulness to contrast the dark shadow threatening to overtake your innocent vignette.



    • Holly Jahangiri

      Thank you, Mitch!

    • Holly Jahangiri

      I can’t comment on yours (literally CAN’T) – but I did enjoy the acrostic poem. Very well written. It’s funny, because I was thinking of doing another “hidden message” piece – either an acrostic, or a short story (remember the last one – I think you’re the only one who caught it without having the scheme spelled out!)

  2. Mitchell Allen

    You have so many cool poems, I’m not sure if you’re talking about the Facebook one or something else. (I took a trip down the Fresh Perspective Rabbit-hole to jog my memory.)

    Thanks for your comment about my poem. I know, I know, I should open comments. It’s just so peaceful there in my little walled garden.



    • Holly Jahangiri

      I wish that I could enjoy writing offline, or in a walled garden. I need readers. I’ve been sort of addicted to comments since the early 1990s. I’ve never been good at keeping a journal or diary; it’s boring. I’ve always said that if I were just writing for myself, I could save the effort, the wear and tear on my fingers, and just daydream. It’s fleeting, but there are so many things to dream about. 🙂

      • Mitchell Allen

        I understand. I crave readers, too. It’s just that I prefer the email channel or Telegram-style one-on-ones and have given the blog comments to the spammers.

        Daydreams are just as valid as digital channels, if you get to enjoy your view as much as you want. Daydreaming saved my sanity many a time, when I couldn’t write or program or make stuff physically. I truly believe we all live inside of our heads.



  3. Rajlakshmi

    I love how you unfolded the story. Made me read twice to fully grasp the meaning. Beautiful and touching.

    • Holly Jahangiri

      Thank you! I had to rewrite it a couple of times in order to strike a balance between too coy and smack-you-in-the-face obvious. 🙂 From your comment, and others, I think I may have managed it!

      It was also an opportunity to illustrate one of the harms of such social media Tomfoolery – people callously create fake accounts to scam others with common pleas for money or personal details they can abuse, but I don’t think they think about, or care about, the deeper emotional harm they cause to real people whose photos and lives they misappropriate. They have no empathy; to them, it’s just a means to an end that has nothing at all to do with that person. They choose military men, women in skimpy clothes with pouty lips, guys with jets and cocktails, women who look vulnerable, men sitting alone with small children or sad-eyed puppies. So manipulative and so senseless.

  4. Kala Ravi

    You created such a gripping story in such few words! Brilliant!

    • Holly Jahangiri

      Thank you, Kala! (Not sure why your comment ended up in Spam, but I will have a word with the Bouncer. Thank you for visiting and reading!)

  5. KathleenMK

    Miss Holly ~~ Wow! You lulled me in and then by the time I got to the 3rd paragraph… How could I sit here, clearing my mind of all thought, focusing on nothing, when out there – out there – were children being bought and sold like blow-up vinyl sex toys?….

    Write On,


    • Holly Jahangiri

      I think this comment belongs on “Red Paint”! 😀 Thank you, Kathleen. One thing about flash fiction; it’s a challenge to strike the right balance between “playing fair with the reader” and “telegraphing the ending” too soon. I do think this is also what I love best about short fiction, both as a reader and a writer. Done right, it’s fun. People are always holding up Stephen King as the epitome of the successful author. I love his work, but I’m much more fond of his short stories than I am his novels. Most of his readers seem to be more familiar with the novels. On the one hand, this really surprises me, given what lazy readers the Internet has made of most of us. In his longer work, he drags things out – beautifully, but still – and in his short stories, he writes just as beautifully but incredibly tight. I think most amateur novelists could benefit from reading and writing more short fiction, to appreciate its constraints and learn to make every word pull its weight.

  6. Corinne Rodrigues

    I love how you managed to make the rampant impersonation issue come through and yet right a beautiful story of enduring love.

  7. Reema D'souza

    This is amazing! Loved this story which had emotions while also bringing out the problems that we face with stolen identities.

    • Holly Jahangiri

      Thank you, Reema. I imagine these characters every time I see one of those lonely hearts scammers pretending to be a rugged military man. Heartbreaking and enraging at the same time.


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