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Out on the town

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Beside herself with excitement, Teresa’s group stopped at Willie’s for tacos before going to their hotel on her first trip to the state capital for work. 

“I’d like an ice cold beer,” she drawled. “Listen, y’all … this is my first rodeo. All we have for drive-through in Delmar is Windy’s and McDugal’s. Know what I mean?”

A bit chagrinned at her naivete, Teresa’s co-workers stared at their menus, embarrassed. She was all smiles, though.

“Don’t judge! My husband greased up the bars some to let me out for this little jaunt. Otherwise keeps me at home all the time.” 

100-word Challenge: listen

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photo credit: Dennis Sylvester Hurd via Flickr

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Get Her Freak On

a porch swing

Tiny red and blue dots vibrated inside Joleen’s eyelids and fixated her in a false somnambulant stupor. Her consciousness stopped at the intersection of wakefulness and sleep when the screen door’s slap brought her bolt upright.

“What the hell are you doing?” Jed asked.

“Catching some z’s before tonight’s party.” She blocked an offending sun ray with a skinny arm gone tingly from its perch across the porch swing’s back. She gave him that suspicious sidelong glance often given people like him who can’t read without their lips moving.

“Don’t worry,” she assured. “”I’ll be ready to lap-dance soon enough.”

 

100 word challenge:  skinny

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photo: pinterest.co.uk

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An Inopportune Accident

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Rain fell for days on end. Its pallor hung like a sopping blanket left on porch rails in perpetuity.                                                                                              

She knocked tentatively on the door, both fearing someone might answer and still hoping they would. Tires on wet pavement caused the slide and bad news to deliver to a potential dog owner. 

A curtain pulled sideways as someone inside held as much dreaded curiosity as she did near to bursting. The hand proffered a glimpse at his visitor and wiped hungry slobber slipping downward.

Canine not on the menu, he’d order up roadkill regardless. The driver looked even more appetizing.

100 word challenge: order 100-word-challenge

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Of the Great White North

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Merv moved south from a meager beginning outside Lake Huron. He’d grown crestfallen from eating nothing more than corn in Farmville, Iowa, after an upbringing of butter tarts.

She who rescued him named the stone figure after a pervert destined for prison. His legacy followed suit, a life, albeit a still one, in the Midwest much like incarceration?

Only the path through Chicago, a few drinks and a smoke along the way, quelled his sentence, a future with a pipe smoker and frog sidekick. He’d rather live with a spotted blue skink. It would be better company than elfin kind.
100-word challenge: lizard

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Restitution

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Leaves had yet to turn when the deer blind went up long before rifle season. Preparing kept him from dwelling on grief.

Mother’s passing months prior stayed his mind only on loss. “Concentrate on good times,” people advised. They said, “She’s in a better place.” All that tripe made not a damn bit of difference.

Hunting provided the only mental respite. Readying his stand, cleaning his rifle, and sighting in the scope all saved him from himself. Redirected with thought of the kill.

Looking skyward, he mumbled, “Figure it’s one fer one, Lord. You take one, and I take one, too.”

 

100 Word Challenge – save

Photo: US Fish & Wildlife Service via Flickr

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Real-life Cameo

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I thought I saw Stan Lee driving down a back road in a red Honda late this afternoon. Same burly silver mustache and translucent skin, a ball cap bill hovering over eyeglasses left over from the ’70s. He’d probably be driving an Accord, though, over of a standard, factory-straight Civic. So a person never knows. It could have been him.

Doing a double-take, I threw it in reverse and whipped around to follow him. Wouldn’t Pete just have a conniption when he found out I trailed the dude? But Pete wasn’t there to win me over with reasoned logic, and I had nowhere else to be anyway.

Heat rose up from the pavement ahead, but I could still see the Honda’s brake lights at a stop sign maybe a half-mile up the road. Snapping a pic as evidence might shut Pete up over the deal, him always calling me a liar. He would never believe me unless I got an autograph from his hero of super heroes, the thought of which coaxed my pressure on the gas to catch up. I couldn’t let him turn off without me seeing where the car went.

I leaned back toward the rear seat, swerved a bit as I did, and grappled to reach something for him to sign – a magazine, brochure, even a fast food receipt. Anything for his signature. Among all the crap there, not a comic to be found. What I’d give for just one Spider-Man, no matter how ratty.

The library would charge me a fortune for the novel I found nestled in the floorboard – the only paper my fingertips could purchase. Payment for a book meant nothing compared to Pete eating crow.

My junker started to shake at hitting 60 but shimmied to a halt behind the Honda’s dented rear quarter panel at a four-way stop. “Huh,” I thought, “you’d think he had enough money to get that fixed.”

With no time for such random speculation, I had to make a move. A fine line of sweat formed on my top lip. “People say he’s a nice guy, playing a part in all his superhero movies. Surely he’d give me a signature.” No others cars within sight, I stomped on it and bolted to the left, pulled up alongside, one hand on my steering wheel and the other rolling down the passenger window.

The decrepit driver’s body convulsed in surprise at the sudden move, perhaps frightened he was about to get jacked. He shoved the cap backward on his head to reveal a liver-spot-covered face definitely not that of Pete’s favorite comic author. The startled old guy’s mouth hung agape, and sucked my gaze into the maw.

Our heads shook in simultaneous violent disbelief. He gesticulated wildly and yelled, “First the swerving, and now this! Whadda you want?”

After a beat, I waved in apology and sped past the Honda. Getting on down the road meant I didn’t have to witness how long it took him to recover from surprise. Pete wouldn’t hear about the caper after all.

Two Word Tuesday prompt – conniption

Image via Nicholas A. Tonelli on Flickr

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A Mother’s Love

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They stoked up quite a kerfuffle right there in front of the principal’s secretary and several other parents. Angel’s thin frame shook in anger, cheekbones stabbing out through skin stretched over her hollowed-out face. She stood opposite her mother, Lilly’s grandmother, in a showdown just before the girl’s Kindergarten graduation was scheduled to begin. Two grown adults, mother and daughter, set to throw down.

Angel having been awake for 24 hours didn’t help her mental state. Her latest boyfriend kept her up the night before to sample his latest batch, which helped kindle the paranoia of her mother’s determination to get her six-year old taken away by Child Protective Services. She may not take the best care of Lilly, but she wouldn’t stand for anyone’s public criticism.

Lilly lived with her grandma, or the girl would’ve fended for herself the entire school year. Her momma might actually love her, too, but she loved her drugs of choice as much or more.

“What’s going on out here?” Mrs. Phillips rushed into the hallway at all the yelling to find the pair about to square off.

“I’ll be damned if that woman’s allowed in here to watch my baby’s program,” Angel said. “Can’t you see to it she’s kicked outta this school?” Her nose hovered so menacingly close to her mother’s that the rot from Angel’s teeth seemed the only thing keeping them apart.

The principal’s eyebrows arched, incredulous at the younger woman’s assumption. “Not if she’s Lilly’s legal guardian, Angel,” she replied. “And this altercation cannot happen here. You’re both going to need to settle down if you want to stay.” She glanced back and forth between the pair in search of any reaction to the contrary and noticed only a difference in weight and wrinkled skin between the two. Same bleached hair, same defensive demeanor. Angel might become a split image of her mother in a few years, if she lived to experience it.

Fortunately choosing seats on opposite sides the center aisle, the ceremony began without students or other audience members being any the wiser. “The show must go on, as they say,” Mrs. Phillips told her secretary. Unless someone moved out of the district before August, she’d have to deal with this kith and kin again all too soon in the new school year.

Thirteen children wearing miniature blue caps and gowns lined the wooden risers on the stage, and their families beamed up at them from folding chairs across the gymnasium floor. Cherubic Lilly grinned down from her row, and she raised a hand to wave at her grandma.

Our Write Side prompt: kerfuffle (one of my favorite words)

Photo: glasseyejack via Flickr

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Keeping House

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Patrice wouldn’t exactly call herself the domestic type, but James recognized that when he married her. Practically everyone who knew her realized the woman didn’t care to be a perfect housekeeper and cook.

That just wasn’t her thing, and she couldn’t understand how anyone could possibly be content to just care for her husband and kids. So many other activities tugged at her mind and begged, “Come this way. Do this instead.” Having a restless soul meant she agonized at staying still, and household duties dulled the senses, as far as Patrice was concerned.

On one occasion a man asked her, “Do you work outside the home?” She had to stifle a laugh before answering him. “Shit, as if working inside that place isn’t enough? And taking care of everything at the hardware store is just a trip to the carnival,” she mused. “Isn’t that a humdinger? I’ve got two full-time gigs going.”

True, their home had the trappings of a lower-middle class lifestyle – a front screen door with holes, manual garage door that didn’t open if it rained, and a taped-up window pane here and there —  but the man’s expression turned so sour when Patrice answered in such a surly manner. To her, having a job meant a steady check to manage the co-pays and balance left of what insurance didn’t cover from the doctors.

“Humpf, maybe he thinks you married the Queen of England, James. She just wanted to live in the country ghetto,” she muttered. Her husband shook his head but said nothing in return. He knew better with that mood showing. “It’s not like standing behind that counter listening to good ol’ boys grouse about nonsensical shit for eight hours straight isn’t bad enough.” Three extra-strength pain relievers didn’t even touch the headache she’d nursed all day.

Regardless of its center sinkhole, the mattress felt pretty soft when her head hit the pillow around 6 o’clock. Other nights it was as early as 5:30. Finding her with a washcloth drying across her forehead, a book splayed on the bed beside her, and eyes closed, James might leave a warm cup of broth on the night table. Many times, he just sat and rubbed her back before he left a glass of water there in case she woke up thirsty in the night.

Patrice contended somebody didn’t have to keep a meticulous house to be a whole woman. Theirs wasn’t actually a sty, maybe just more “lived-in” than others who hired a weekly cleaner. Having her in-laws look down their noses at her about it didn’t set well either. So what if dust crusted a few ceiling fan blades and little cat-hair tumbleweeds wound in behind the t.v. cabinet?

Priorities changed, and the couple no longer joined everyone for holiday dinners and birthdays. “I don’t appreciate their condescension, James. They think you’re Ethan Frome or something, I swear!” He felt for her and did as much as possible to ease her worry and suffering. Daily life became a shared effort in their home, as it should be anywhere, in Patrice’s opinion. Why shouldn’t everyone play a part?

Family members weren’t as vocal about Patrice’s taciturn inclination once she went into hospice care.

“She woulda liked to see you and the kids a little more while she was living. ‘Specially since she thought so much of little Annie.” James rubbed the brown curls on his niece’s head.

“At least the day turned out nice for her service, though” he said leaving the graveside. Gravel crunched under his dress shoes and covered the siblings’ awkward silence on their way to separate cars. His sister’s furrowed brow hinted at remorse. He thought to himself, “Wouldn’t Patrice have snickered at that?”

James drove home in dread of a floor that needed swept and dirty dishes that awaited him there. Those things and a pile of unpaid bills on the table in an otherwise empty kitchen.

Our Write Side – Two Word Tuesday

(photo courtesy Old White Truck)

 

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Relics

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“That man brought the log cabin all the way from Missouri, piece by piece, to rebuild the whole damn thing,” he told us, “right here in Arkansas.” The antique store where we shopped had ceiling struts with notched out places connecting beam to beam above our heads. The building was the real deal, and we looked up, gawking at its craftsmanship. Even the musty smell permeating the place lent to the authenticity.

“Do you know where it came from in Missouri?” He looked at me funny when I asked him. He exhaled to make a point, maybe perturbed at the interruption.

“Well, I don’t know. But, as I was saying, this guy had it rebuilt here and used it as an antique store. Built this one and the station next door. His wife sold antiques, but her stuff was too overpriced for people around these parts. Nobody would buy anything.”

We glanced over the bric-a-brac displayed on surrounding walls. The new proprietor’s wares encompassing these rooms were labeled “mid-century vintage” but hinted more at “old crap” instead. Dingy taffeta of a stained ivory wedding gown hung loosely on an androgynous mannequin next to my friend. Cracked Naugahyde covered the luggage pieces aligning the floor’s baseboard. The spout of an old Raggedy Ann and Andy watering can pointed me in the face, as I turned back to the storyteller. He seemed to revel in our rapt attention.

Our narrator rubbed his carefully-manicured Fu Manchu. Regardless of its resemblance to long, white Brillo pads on either side of the man’s face, he massaged the hair he must’ve spent considerable time working into its desired shape. All I could imagine was how scratchy it would feel, although I’d never deign to touch it. Maybe it was popular in that region.

“That ol’ fella got sick of not making any money. One day he finally taped his wife’s hands together and tied cement blocks around her. ‘Sgonna go down and throw her in the river.” He paused for dramatic effect and flipped his gaze between the two of us to gauge our reaction. We gave each other the side-eye when he quit looking.

My friend shook her head and said, “Must’ve gone off his nut.” The conclusion was obvious enough but perhaps not to him. He just shrugged, disappointed at our lack of bedazzlement, and continued.

“She didn’t fight back, nor nothin.’ She’s a little bitty thing.” He pursed his lips up and reclined his cane-back chair against the wall behind him. “Some other guy happened along and caught him in the act, though.”

The raconteur then pointed to his crotch, which gave me a jolt at what might come next, and weaved his fingers around in a figure-eight motion. “He tied those cinder blocks all around her waist. Six of ‘em! ‘Sgonna go down and throw her in the river.”

We nodded quickly, still gawking around the walls at such a strange assortment of objects, if not in bullshit disbelief. He went on. “So this fella called the law, and they came and hauled him away.”

He circled his index finger around his lap again and used the short break in his diatribe to draw attention to the action. “‘Sgonna go down and throw her in the river!” We got it.

Both of us finally looked at him straight on and emphatically wagged our heads and up down. “That’s nuts,” I finally conceded. “I hope that dude does a long time.”

We left the building, and my friend whispered, “It must’ve been a slow day for business. I don’t know if he just wanted somebody to talk to or what.” She nudged me toward the car. “Come on. We need to get some gas.”

Once inside the convenience store, my friend proceeded to pay the cashier who looked so bored he could sleep standing up behind the counter. Maybe we were the only customers all day.

He yawned and pushed some register buttons. “Ya’ll come from shopping next door?” My friend handed him the money and replied, “Yeah. Odd place.”

“Huh. Surprised he’s open back up already. Just got outta the pen for tryin’ to kill his wife.” He shook his head. “Kinda funny, huh?”

We didn’t hear the last of what the guy said. We were already out the door and halfway to the car.

 

Image: Rebecca Matthews via Flicker

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Hindsight

Pabst

Somebody warned me to watch out for that guy. Said he was no good, had done some time before. Then another girl who went to high school with Trevor said she heard he got off from those charges, but neither one told what he supposedly did in the first place. His smile made me want to believe it was nothing.

He looked like a decent enough guy, kinda cute in a baggy sweater and clean blue jeans with no holes. Almost looked sorta preppy for a burner kind of dude. That short, spiky blonde hair with sleepy blue eyes that peered up from the pool table really got me. Looks can be deceiving, though.

“That one’s starin’ at you, girl.” My friend brought it to my attention. I set my mug down on the bar top and glanced to where she threw her head to point.

The group shooting pool shoulda been a warning in itself. None of them had a job and probably had to scrape together the dollar it cost to play their game. His partner might have even just got out of jail himself.

After we talked awhile, he asked if I wanted to take a little ride. I don’t know why I went out there. Shoulda known better. Maybe it was simple boredom.

“You and your friends oughta watch out who you talk to at that place,” he warned as we pulled out of the parking lot. The shiny white teeth that showed when he grinned surprised the hell outta me considering the string of chew he spit out the window.

“Like you?” I asked. Shrugging his shoulders, he tried to wink at me but just looked goofy instead of cute. He turned his attention to the steering wheel and swerved back into the right lane. Maybe we both had more to drink than I realized.

He said, “So, Candy, what’s a pretty little thing like you doin’ at a dive like The Bottoms Up bar?”

“It’s Brandy,” I corrected him. That was the second time he got my name wrong after I’d already told him once inside and again when we walked to his truck.

“Yeah, right. Like brandy the drink, not Candy the … cane. You know, at Christmastime.” He laughed a little and scrunched his face up weird, maybe trying to be sexy but failing miserably. I just nodded and watched the headlights stake out the route in front of us.

We passed the east side city limits sign en route to his little country house. A turn onto gravel and then several lefts and rights followed before we finally arrived. I didn’t remember having been that far out in the boonies before.

I looked toward the horizon when we got there and parked in the driveway, trying to get a sense of the direction back to town and hoping not to need to know. A rickety step gave under our weight as we stepped onto the porch, and the screen door creaked so loud I thought it might fall off the hinges as he opened it.

“It ain’t much, but it’s mine,” Trevor said. He crossed the threshold into a dimly lit living room with dirty hardwood floors. Scuff marks made me think a Great Dane or similar monstrosity might charge out of a backroom. “Make yourself at home.”

He got me a PBR and about drank his own in one swallow after we sat down on a sagging couch. The tweed fabric scratched the back of my legs as he wrapped his arms around my shoulders to pull me toward him. I noticed lines of chewing tobacco between the straight, white teeth of the mouth moving forward to engulf my own. After a long, saliva-filled kiss that I hoped was clear instead of Copenhagen brown, he got up and half-stumbled backward toward a hallway.

“Gotta take a piss,” he said. “Be right back.” He tried the pathetic wink again. I hate when people do that. Reminds me of Uncle Thurman who wore plaid pants and sold used cars at a lot over in Summitville when I was a kid.

Considering my bad choices that evening, I figured lots worse could happen besides a slobber-crusted kiss. After a swallow of beer to wash away tobacco taste lingering in my mouth, I opened the door as carefully as possible to not give myself away as I slipped into the darkness. Damp grass soaked my Keds when I sprinted across the yard and onto the lane. A half moon overhead spilled just enough light to show me the way.

I heard that door creak open and Travis holler behind me, “Hey, Candy! Where’d ya go?” Not daring to look back, I trudged on down the road with gravel crunching under my wet shoes.

Cutting across farmers’ fields to shortcut meant risking an electric fence in the pitch-black path or meeting a guard dog along the way, so I resigned myself to the road. I’d get back to town eventually if I just followed the telephone lines. It would just take a long damn time.

Hoping I was far enough away to not be heard, I mumbled, “How the hell do I get myself into this stuff? I need to find some other shit to do.”

If I didn’t laugh, I woulda cried. Maybe I’d get home by the time the sun came up.

***

Two Word Tuesday prompt at Our Write Side – boredom

Image: Brian Wilkins via Flickr

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