Sacred Threads and Marigolds (2 of 4)

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Click to read Part 1 of 4

In a nutshell, Part 1 sees our narrator, Skinner, witness the killing of a young girl by a street preacher who’s also a serial killer. To end the madness, Skinner follows the preacher with a plan to torture and kill him like he does his victims, but he ends up being led by the preacher to a confrontation in an abandoned apartment building. Here’s a lead-in followed by Part 2 of 4:

…“So, Skinner, our paths converge,” he yelled.

“What, not raping and killing today, ‘preacher’?” I yelled back.

“That’s your form of entertainment, not mine.”

“You lie! I saw what you did.”

“Of course you saw. You were the one doing it.”

“Deceiver!” I screamed at him. “You filthy, False Prophet, behold me, the New Jesus come to kill you and rule the New Day.”

The preacher roared with amusement. Nothing could be said or heard above it and I was forced to wait, to listen to what sounded like three or more tracks of the preacher’s laughter playing in my head at once.

“Fool!” the preacher thundered. “Compared to the False Prophet, your New Jesus construct is a pantywaist. The False Prophet is so deeply rooted in your mind that to kill him would be to kill yourself.”

I couldn’t think with the preacher circling round and round me with his sticky words, trying to bind me in a cocoon of confusion. I grasped at the first voice I heard in my head and blurted out, “I will subdue you then, cast you to the dungeon and reign supreme.”

“It makes no difference if I go from clocktower to dungeon,” the preacher countered. “You know I can get at you from wherever I am.”

“No you can’t.”

“Watch me.”

“I am the New Jesus, I will prevail,” I yelled.

“Come down and pick up this thread,” the preacher countered.

“What?”

“You heard me. Do it.”

“I don’t need it,” I said.

“You need to hide the evidence.”

“It isn’t mine.”

“You know it is.”

“No! I didn’t do anything.”

“You did, and they know about it.”

“You’re trying to trick me.”

“They know about you.”

“No.”

“They know what you did.”

“No, you did it.”

“They’re coming for you, you know that.”

“You killed them all,” I shouted.

“That’s a lie, and they’ll know if you lie.”

Suddenly it rose up in me like locusts out of the Abyss: the preacher was one of them!

“They’re coming to get you,” the preacher said. “And what are you going do about it?”

I wanted to escape my skin, to fly up the stairs, to find a way out, a fire escape, skylight, anything…

“I know what you’re thinking,” the preacher said.

Tapeworms were moving downward inside my legs.

“Are you just going stand there like an idiot and do nothing?

I looked down at my feet. The worms were spilling out my shoes.

“You must pick up this thread and run. Destroy it before they find you with it,” the preacher bellowed.

I half ran, half tripped down the stairs and snatched up the gilt thread. It screamed to be put down but I couldn’t and it burned in my hand until I jammed in into the pocket with the marigolds.

“Good,” the preacher said. “Now go.” And he stepped into the shadows.

I froze. I couldn’t go downstairs, not with him lurking there. He’d jump me, take me to the dungeon where he kills his victims… And then I felt a sick heat from above. Sweating and cringing, I leaned into the stairwell and looked up and there he was, several flights high, looking down at me.

He bellowed, “Go in peace,” then laughed hysterically, the echo of the highest notes stabbing down through the tunnel of stairs at me.

I nearly fell the rest of the way down the stairs but when my feet hit solid ground I dug in, just blasted through the door and ran for my life, down the first alley, then over and down entire blocks, zig-zagging willy-nilly like that until I ran out of breath in the back lot of a 7-11.

I bent over, hands on my knees, heaving for air.

“You can’t afford to stop, they’ll catch up with you,” I heard the preacher say.

My body jerked upright like the reflexive movement of a dead person. I spun around. The preacher was nowhere.

“It’s too late, Skinner, I’m in the clocktower.”

“Damn you,” I screamed at him and I ran for the 7-11 dumpster, fumbling inside my jacket for the marigolds and thread. They were burning my hand as I lifted the dumpster lid.

“No! Not there, you idiot,” the preacher shouted.

I lost my grip on the lid and it slammed back down. I froze, shaking like a jackhammer. As if I were being electrocuted, I couldn’t let go of the marigolds and thread and they were melting the skin of my hand. When it stopped, I just threw the whole smoldering mess down on the ground and I ran willy-nilly again.

“You worthless idiot,” the preacher yelled at me. “You’ve just condemned yourself.”

I could feel what was left of my power swirling round, picking up speed like water toward a drain.

“You’ve done it now,” the preacher said. “You hear those sirens? They’re headed this way.”

I gritted my teeth and tried to summon some power. I thought of the Trinity River. How could I have forgotten the blessed Trinity? I could wash the preacher’s vileness from me there, get another bottle from Elmer’s and drink him clean away…

“The police are getting out of their cruisers, coming for you, and it’s all your fault,” the preacher said.

I could hear yelling. I changed course for the river.

“You should have used your mind to stop them,” the preacher said.

I was flattened to the ground by a massive force.

“Stop them! You have to take control,” the preacher yelled.

I fought like a rabid dog, snapping at flying limbs and biting at faces that got too close and I spat and kicked through the yelling and pinning and the steel grips until everything went black.

To be continued in Part Three of Four…

 

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Sacred Threads and Marigolds (1 of 4)

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Green note, 10/10/14 : A glut of work like a gaggle of geese, organized chaos, sixty days and sixty nights, and what is there left to do but pretend everything is as it should be?  This story was composed in slashes of time to the tune of nearly 4000 words and is now chopped into four pieces so I can hang with the cool FF crowd again for a time.  Part One of Four follows:

I watched the preacher kill in the dull yellow light of an alley. A young girl, it was, in her teens, looked like. I got there too late. I watched him put a marigold in her mouth and walk away down the street. The mist that rose up from the pavement after the rain hid his feet like the picture I have in my mind of Jesus walking on the Sea of Galilee.

When the preacher faded away, I went to the girl. She was all mangled but I felt her neck for a pulse anyway. It was a crazy thing to do. As if I couldn’t help myself, to touch her still-warm skin, to look into her vacant eyes for an account of her life, to smell death on the marigold stitched in place by gold thread.

I rose, saddened. This was not the first time the preacher had killed a young girl and I’m largely to blame, having that knowledge and turning a blind eye, denying it again and again. But denials hide nothing in the end. The truth lies in the catacombs of the mind and the constant drip, drip, drip of it will eat a person alive.

I hurried away, down to the Trinity, and I washed off any associative sins in the rush of its Gulf-bound water. Dirty and wise, the Trinity, and I lay on the bank to dry, glad of her gurgling council. I dozed off for a time and awoke with a clear vision: the preacher would have to die.

I had no energy to leave the river but I needed a drink, so I walked up to Elmer’s on Riverfront for a fifth of whiskey and back down to the river. I sat on the bank and drank from the bottle until the shaking stopped and I could see every detail of the killing plan.

Tomorrow, after the preacher had finished evangelizing, I’d track him down, drag him to the dungeon and torture and kill him like he does his young girls. I would be the New Jesus and kill the False Prophet.

I poured the rest of the whiskey from the bottle into my flask, and I went into the Great Trinity Forest to imbibe the night and its sounds and prepare myself for the task.

The next afternoon I watched the preacher from my usual vantage point. He strode to the corner of North Lamar and San Jacinto wearing his game show face as a mask, swinging his iniquitous hands as if they were clean.

His hat and suit looked respectable, but they were sheep’s clothing. The gray, fresco fabric belied his falsehood, and pride and violence strained at the top button of his single-breasted jacket.

He planted himself in view of the movie house up the street and commenced to preaching a changed life. “Listen to me, peoples of the Earth, I am the New Prophet and I bring to you a chance to redeem the rest of the days of your lives!”

You are the ultimate deceiver, I thought, and I squinted at the unforgiving southern sun, praying for something as true as rain.

All that came was a stream of people from the 1p.m. matinee, the preacher’s daily bread. He beseeched them, “Brother, let me show you the saving light. Sister, do you want more out of life?”

A small crowd gathered quickly, same as yesterday and all the days before that, for this was a city ripe with desire for the infusion of a higher power it could bend to its will.

The preacher plied his crowd, began working them up to desperation for healing like a lynch mob for makeshift justice.

“Your sins are blocks to receiving good things, Brothers and Sisters. God can’t give if you can’t receive. If you’ve confessed your sins and are still blocked, I can unblock you, that’s the gift of the Spirit that I was given.”

When the crowd was at the height of holy frustration, he bellowed, “Now, I can only take one of y’all. It’s all I got in me, one healing per day. Who’s it gonna be?”

The crowd surged forward, a pool of menace suddenly, and amidst the pushing, I could see it was trying to purge itself of a young man in a business suit. He popped out before the preacher bawling for the Midas touch.

The preacher circled round and round him, incantating, and when he’d lulled the young man into complaisance, he clapped his huge hands once behind his head, like a gunshot, and the man dropped to the ground convulsing and blithering.

I waited for the rest of the routine to unfold, for the preacher to act spent, the man to rise anew, the benediction to be spoken, the money to be collected, and the preacher to go off for coffee and fellowship with an admiring young girl.

This time he went off by himself, a suspect deviation. He must be reading my mind, I thought. He knew I would follow him, that I plan to kill him. Fear scraped down the inside of me, left me pallid.

I watched the distance grow between me and the preacher. I guzzled some whiskey, wiped my shaky mouth. And in that perilous moment, I saw clearly that the preacher had merely parried with his best guess. It was an invitation to take this to the higher realm of mind power, a game the New Jesus would win.

I hightailed it after him down North Lamar and saw the gray tails of his suit jacket disappear onto Elm Street. I ran to take the turn myself just in time to see him jag left down North Market, then right on Main, left on Houston, and when I saw him cut onto Jackson Street I knew he was taking me to the dungeon.

I stopped just shy of the corner of Houston and Jackson and took a swig off my flask. So be it, I thought, and I sprang around the corner, saw the preacher disappear through a hole in the boarded-up door of the abandoned apartments where he takes his victims.

Seven seconds later I was through the hole and into the familiar, foul-smelling square space with rows of vandalized mailboxes and an open well staircase directly ahead. I could hear the preacher’s steps on the second flight of stairs.

I started up the first flight and midway heard something soft and rustling drop onto a landing above. I climbed until I saw it, a handful of marigolds secured with waxed STAIRWELLaban_320x_spiral-square-interior-staircasetissue paper and mossing twine.

I listened for the preacher. He was still climbing. I stashed the marigolds in my pocket and hurried on.

When I got to the second floor landing something hard dropped onto the landing just above me. It rolled and came to a stop.

I kept climbing and saw that it was a wooden spool of gilt thread. The False Prophet deserves thread as black as the pit of hell, I thought, not this. I stepped over it and at once became aware of silence.

I paused. Still no sound. I braced myself and pushed upward into the eerie quiet.

When I’d got to the fourth floor landing, I stopped again to listen: not a sound.

I leaned into the stairwell and looked up through the tunnel of stairs. Nothing.

And then it hit me. Sweat flooded my pores and froze on my skin, and I slowly turned to look down through the stairs and there he was, standing in the lobby in the center of the stairwell pointing a gun at me.

The adrenaline rush was incredible. I was thrown outside myself, watched in slow motion as I leapt back from the handrail, pressed my back to the stairwell wall, and slid down it like thick oil.

I lay pooled on the floor thinking I was alive, although I had no real idea how I was, but I was aware of an urgency to re-enter slow motion, to go back and alter fate.

“You left the thread untouched,” the preacher bellowed.

A rush of nausea swept through me. I felt clammy and on the verge of shitting or vomiting, I didn’t know which.

“Do you hear it?” the preacher hollered, “Your marigolds are crying for their sacred thread.”

A sick sweat came on fast and my and stomach heaved what little was in it out onto the landing. Strings of slime hung from my lips and I prayed to God to take this cup of suffering from me.

“Come to the rail where I can see you,” the preacher yelled.

I dragged the sleeve of my jacket across my lips and struggled to unscrew the lid from my flask. I took a desperate, long drink and tried to get myself together. Am I not the New Jesus come to kill this False Prophet?

“Show yourself,” the preacher shouted.

I got my knees under me and crawled to the handrail, pulled myself up. The preacher still had the gun trained on me. I trembled, waiting for the gunshot blackout, or worse, the burning wounding and bleeding-out of life.

“So, Skinner, our paths converge,” he yelled.

“What, not raping and killing today, ‘preacher’?” I yelled back.

“That’s your form of entertainment, not mine.”

“You lie! I saw what you did,” I said.

“Of course you saw. You were the one doing it.”

“Deceiver!” I screamed at him. “You filthy False Prophet, behold me, the New Jesus come to kill you and rule the New Day.”

The preacher roared with amusement. Nothing could be said or heard above it and I was forced to wait, to listen to what sounded like three or more tracks of the preacher’s laughter playing in my head at once.

“Fool!” the preacher thundered. “Compared to the False Prophet, your New Jesus construct is a pantywaist. The False Prophet is so deeply rooted in your mind that to kill him would be to kill yourself.”

I couldn’t think with the preacher circling round and round me with his sticky words, trying to bind me in a cocoon of confusion. I grasped at the first voice I heard in my head and blurted out, “I will subdue you then, cast you to the dungeon and reign supreme.”

“It makes no difference if I go from clocktower to dungeon,” the preacher countered. “You know I can get at you from wherever I am.”

“No you can’t.”

“Watch me.”

Click to read Part Two of Four →

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Wild West BS

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Image credit goes to Santa Fe Ghost and History Tours

Green note: this here’s for SS2 and FF. It’s one of the silliest things you’ll ever read. Its trifling existence is predicated on the avoidance of pressing on with a writing project involving an idea so good that I’ve become scared of it. Makes perfect sense…

 

It all went down at Persy’s Place. The regulars had been enjoying their usual late Saturday breakfasts and lunches that blended and didn’t end until happy hour. And at Persy’s, happy hour was set at 5pm and folks didn’t tamper with it, unless there was some dire need to start it up a tad early, but it was never late.

This particular Saturday, at 2:43pm, in the middle of some’s breakfasts and others’ lunches, a short man in a black fedora and trench coat busted in through the side door on the blaring rays of a hot Eldorado day. Everyone stopped chewing and watched the man.

The first thing he did was to set down a giant black briefcase that’d been tiring his right arm. Then he leaned back against the door, his chest heaving for lack of air and his eyes looking this way and that until they adjusted to the atmospheric light of Persy’s.

When his eyes found the bar, he yanked his briefcase up off the floor and made a beeline for the bartender, slapped some money down and ordered a shot of whiskey. Folks gasped and a buzz commenced.

The bartender stopped his glass-polishing and regarded the stranger. “Mighty early, ain’t it, mister?”

“Not today, it’s not,” the man said, “And please be quick about it.”

“See here now, happy hour technically don’t start ‘til 5.”

“Listen, sir, I’ll be on my way soon as I get that shot.”

“You ain’t no alcoholic is ya?”

“Look, I need the fortitude, I think I’m being followed, I picked up the wrong briefcase and—”

“Save it, brother, I gotcha covered,” the bartender said. He poured the man his shot and pushed it toward him, winked and said real low, “Sometimes I sneak me a little pick-me-up, too.”

No sooner than the man had downed his shot, the front door blasted open and the patrons sprang back in their seats as six, black-masked marauders rushed in. Their capes fluttering back behind them made them look like crows landing in a corn field.

The man dropped his shot glass and reached for the briefcase. One of the marauders shot the man’s hand and he snatched it to his chest and held it there, blood oozing onto his white shirt.

The patrons held their breath as the gears turned in the man’s head, torn as he was on risking his other hand trying to pick up the case and run with it or just plain running for his life. He chose the latter and ran for the side door with half the marauders after him.

The other half lunged for the briefcase and ended up shooting the lock off it, and there it was, the gleaming consignment of gold they’d been hired to collect for Narsis, master of the dark country.

Amidst the marauders’ cries of triumph came a round of gunshots from outside. The patrons jumped, some screamed, certain that the shots signaled the demise of the poor fedora man, and the swift return of the absent marauders confirmed it in their minds.

Two of the marauders quickly secured the case for travel and in the doing, a handful of the patrons were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the shining bars of gold. They oohed and ahhed as all six marauders made for the door in the same manner as they’d arrived, their capes flapping like skyward-sweeping crows mocking the landlocked with their caws.

Just as they’d reached the door it exploded inward knocking the first two marauders back and mowing down the others like Dominoes, and four gigantic Texas Rangers swept into Persy’s dressed in white hats, boots, dusters, and gloves.

The patrons watched the Rangers tear the marauders to pieces like great white gryphons and regain the treasure of gold that rightfully belonged to Eiron, king of the domain of light.

Three of the Rangers heaved two marauder bodies each around their thick necks and their commander took up the black briefcase. Then they marched in step toward the front door apologizing to the patrons who nodded impatiently.

Just as the patrons started to take stock of all that had happened, the front door was flung open again, and the white Rangers, now mostly red with marauder blood, backed into Persy’s as if they were on slow re-wind.

Some of the still-curious folks waited to see what was driving the Rangers back, but most of them were looking for a chance to leave uneventfully. Their food was an hour cold, it was too early for happy hour, and the predominant thought was to get out and redeem the Saturday.

The third Ranger was all in and the back of the commander could now be seen, then his arms, one of which still had the briefcase full of gold dangling from it. When he’d backed all the way in, the snarling chops of an enormous orange tiger came into view, its fangs dripping with drool. The patrons that had stood to leave, sat back down.

The tiger advanced low to the floor on monstrous paws, the great bones of its shoulders shifting stealthily, slowly, slowly until it sprang for the commander’s neck. The other three Rangers instantly ditched the dead marauders from their shoulders and went for their guns but couldn’t get a clear shot into the spinning ball of white flailing and orange mauling.

Once there was no life left in the commander, the tiger, desiring to take his kill to a secluded spot, dragged the commander’s body this way and that in frustration.

The bartender hollered from behind the bar, “Someone open a door for crissakes!”

“I got it,” Joe Beasley said since he was nearest the side door. He jumped up, propped the door open and hurried back to his table.

The tiger went toward the light with his kill and the three remaining Rangers, all in shock, picked up the dead marauders and the briefcase and followed after the tiger like zombies, mumbling apologies.

Joe got up, shut the door and just stood there wondering what to do.

“Well,” the bartender said, “It ain’t but 4:08pm, but I reckon an early happy hour is warranted.” He looked about the room, at the state of the patrons and hollered, “All drinks half-price!”

Anyone who was planning to leave shrugged, figured the day was shot anyway, and bellied up to the bar.

The bartender yelled, “Someone bolt the doors!” and flew into action.

“I got it,” Joe said.

Fin

 

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It could have gone like this

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Image credit: Found this conquistador here during a search for more  of Steve Epting’s work, but the artist wasn’t identified.  So Steve, if this one’s yours and you happen to see it, please don’t sue me.

Green note:  Got a killer concept in the works, but no time to see it through for this round of #fridayflash.  Most bothersome. So for now, to keep the blogging muscle supple, here are some additional thoughts on “Bunny,” the Spanish busboy, in the form of an alternate ending.

 

It went like this in Mucha Bravado:

I swear I’ve never been unfaithful to you, Charles, and I will not admit to an offense I didn’t commit.”

“That’s it!” Bunny said. He rushed to the couple’s table, said to Doe-eyes, “I know you!”

Doe-eyes looked appalled. Charles sat erect, prepared to defend.

“Just who do you think you are?” she said.

Bunny winked at her. “You don’t remember our Spanish Fantasy?”

“How dare you invade our privacy with your ridiculous—”

“I dare no more than you,” Bunny said. “I believe it was a ‘well hung conquistador type’ you asked for when you called the escort service, and naturally they sent me.”

“Do something, Charles!” Doe-eyes snapped.

Charles stood up, got eye-to-eye with Bunny. “You’re way out of line, sir. Leave us now or I’ll get you fired.”

“No, seriously, I know her! She’s Amora, got a blue butterfly tattoo on her left hip!”

Charles turned to Doe-eyes, raised an eyebrow. “Amora?”

She flushed bright red.

“Finally, that vulgar tattoo has paid for itself as a handy identifier,” Charles said.

“No!” Doe-eyes cried. “It was a lucky guess!”

Charles snatched the papers from the table. “My attorney will be in touch,” he said and walked out.

But it could have gone on like this:

As soon as the restaurant door closed on Charles’ heel, Bunny turned to Doe-eyes, “So, you wanna go out tonight?”

Doe-eyes sat stiff at the table feigning poise. “Get away from me, you swine,” she said low through gritted teeth.

Bunny laughed softly. He looked at her, bemused. “This, from a whore?”

Diners glanced over during pauses in their own conversations, intrigued and intent on the outcome.

“Swine, whores, and whore-chasers,” Bunny mused. “Timeworn.”

Doe-eyes shot him a killing glance.

Bunny grinned. “But I like it,” he said. “Who we gonna get to play the Whore-chaser?”

Doe-eyes huffed, reached to the floor for her purse. When she straightened, Bunny was leaning over the table writing his cell phone number on her napkin. His skin smelled like the air after an electrical storm. She recoiled.

“Chill, mi cosita,” Bunny said.

“What are you doing!” she hissed.

Bunny shoved the napkin toward her. “Call me. I will give you another unforgettable evening. After that you gotta call the escort service…unless you treat me real nice.” He winked and turned on his chic heel to finish bussing table three.

“Beast!” Doe-eyes said under her breath. She made eye contact with her waiter, signaled for the check. He came immediately with it and was met with her credit card.

“Thank you, Madam,” he said. “I’ll be right back with the receipt.”

While she waited, Doe-eyes fixed a demure smile on her face to belie her unease about future uncertainties. Her eyes kept wandering toward Bunny.

His muscles fired under smooth, olive skin as he worked the dining room with skill and confidence as if leading a lady in dance.

One silken lock of hair had slipped from his ponytail and Doe-eyes remembered how elegant his hair had been all loosed, how she’d worn it like a chiffon gown for a night.

The waiter set the receipt folder on the table. A shock of irritation jolted Doe-eyes.

“Thank you, Mrs. Winston,” he said. She forced a smile. He bowed and left.

Mrs. Winston signed the receipt, transcribed Bunny’s cell number from the napkin onto her copy of the receipt and put it in her purse. Then she rose, picked up the napkin and dropped it into her water glass.

Bunny watched her walk out the door as the black ink bled and swirled like the smoke from a kindling fire.

Fin

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Mucha Bravado

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Image credit goes to awesome artist, Steve Epting. He’s also an illustrator and he currently works for Marvel Comics.

Green note: La vida loca’s not for me: flying here, being there, mostly incommunicado, barely making deadlines. Worked on this story in bits, still working on it…maybe…

 

“Bunny! Get your ass out here!”

Bunny jumped, nearly dumped the cocaine piled high in his pinky nail. He lifted it to his right nostril and sucked the powder into his head.

Bunny!

“Jesus, Hanford, can’t you give a guy a moment’s peace in the john?”

“Not when there’s tables need bussing! Tables seven and nine need bussing now! Eight’s coming up, then three and eleven, and we got a line out the door!”

“Alright, alright, just a minute!” Bunny hollered back. He snorted one last nail full of coke, capped the vial and jammed it back in his sock.

“Boy, you better quit jerkin’ off and get on out here or your ass will be in the unemployment line!”

Bunny checked his nose in the mirror and pulled his sleek black hair into a ponytail. He unlocked the door, gave it a violent outward shove and came skittering out.

Hanford jumped back, could move fast for a paunchy little man.

“But I just started workin’ here, boss man!”

“Hell’s fire, boy, you’re one hopped-up son of a gun! Hence the name ‘Bunny’ eh?”

“That’s not it, boss,” Bunny said. “It’s on account of my gift to women, if you catch my drift.”

“It sure ain’t on account of your brains, working a busboy job.”

“Are you kidding? I got an IQ of 145.”

“Sure you do,” Hanford said. “Now get on out there!”

“Seriously, boss!”

Hanford lunged at Bunny. “Git!

Bunny ran away laughing, grabbed a bus tub on his way past the kitchen and strode into the dining area.

He headed for table seven and began clearing it. A plate slipped out of his hand and he grabbed it just in time to buffer the noise of it hitting the other plates in the tub.

Bunny shot a glance at the couple at table five to see if he’d disturbed them, but there was such intensity there, a tension that seemed unlikely to be broken even by a stack of dishes crashing.

The man’s face looked haggard but his hands were on fire. The index finger of one hand repeatedly jabbed at the paperwork in the middle of the table while the other gesticulated angrily. And his voice, though low, was fierce, spitting, barely under control.

The woman sat quietly, her shoulders sloped and her hands lay limp in her lap, as if she had no energy to do anything more with them, ever. Only her lovely, watery eyes gave expression to her soundlessness.

Bunny rushed his full tub back to the kitchen, grabbed an empty on his way back to the dining room and began working table nine. He couldn’t keep his eyes off the doe-eyed woman, kept stealing pieces of her in glances. She looked so perfect and sepia-soft, so delicate of frame and mind. Bunny’s heart cried for her. He wanted that heartless dirtbag of a man to hurt as much as she did.

Bunny felt anger heat his head. He ran another full tub to the kitchen and came back to table eight where he could get a closer look at the goings-on. He loaded the tub as quietly as he could, collected bits of the dirtbag’s cutting words.

The papers turned out to be a first draft of a divorce petition, and Bunny watched Dirtbag keep pushing them toward his doe-eyed wife, insisting that she read them, add input. She wouldn’t touch them, and Dirtbag looked like he was fixing to blow a gasket.

Bunny ran his tub back and returned to table three, ready to nail the guy to the wall if he started any trouble. But Dirtbag had crumpled. He was now a hunched mass, elbows on the table, head in hands, fingers threaded through salt-and-pepper hair.

Doe-eyes sat forward and took up her water glass in a delicate hand. Bunny watched the sensuous way she brought the glass to her sweet, full lips, watched them receive the glass’ edge and melt against it. He’d seen that before, just like that.

Bunny went through a catalog of actresses in his mind, trying to place her moves. He watched her set her glass down softly. Then she reached her hand toward Dirtbag and touched his arm. Bunny braced himself.

Dirtbag lifted his tired head, looked at her, quizzical.

“I’ll have nothing to do with this paperwork because I’ve done nothing wrong,” Doe-eyes said.

Bunny’s heightened, vibrating senses all funneled into her soft, sad voice. He’d heard it before. He went back to his mental catalog of actresses. Dirtbag said nothing. Doe-eyes spoke to him again.

“I swear I’ve never been unfaithful to you, Charles, and I will not admit to an offense I didn’t commit.”

“That’s it!” Bunny said aloud. He rushed to the couple’s table, said to Doe-eyes, “I know you!”

Doe-eyes looked appalled. Charles sat erect, prepared to defend.

“Just who do you think you are?” she said.

Bunny winked at her. “You don’t remember our Spanish Fantasy?”

“How dare you invade our privacy with your ridiculous—”

“I dare no more than you,” Bunny said. “I believe it was a ‘well hung conquistador type’ you asked for when you called the escort service, and naturally they sent me.”

“Do something, Charles!” Doe-eyes snapped.

Charles stood up, got eye-to-eye with Bunny. “You’re way out of line, sir. Leave us now or I’ll get you fired.”

“No, seriously, I know her! She’s Amora, got a blue butterfly tattoo on her left hip!”

Charles turned to Doe-eyes, raised an eyebrow. “Amora?”

She flushed bright red.

“Finally, that vulgar tattoo has paid for itself as a handy identifier,” Charles said.

“No!” Doe-eyes cried. “It was a lucky guess!”

Charles snatched the papers from the table. “My attorney will be in touch,” he said and walked out.

Fin

FridayFlash
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Winter Mind

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Moonlit trees image taken by Tim Massaro – http://www.flickr.com/photos/76606165@N00/8494342760

Green note: I have the mean tag team, Travel and Time, to curse, for leaving me with only this puddle of prose.

 

I woke to slow-coming remembrances of the last 27 days-worth of hard luck.

On a third quest to restore the peace of a bygone day, my cavalry had been captured and I’d been traded for the life of another. I was dropped into a dungeon, starved and kept awake with the jabs of a spear, had to lick the damp stone walls for moisture to live on. When the Marshal’s men rescued me and delivered me unto the Lesser Brothers, there was little left of me. My body was skin and bones, my mind full of holes.

Just last night the moon had lit up the whole nighttime world, as far as I could see anyway. The moon shone down on the trees, casting their shadows out in front of them. The deciduous trees’ shadows were particularly stunning. Perfect representations of their bare branches extended from the bases of their trunks so that they looked like roots inked onto a glistening, stark-white canvas. And I had it all to myself.

As the others slept, I went outside into the freezing air and took pictures. They came out black, but that was no matter, for it was merely an exercise in entreating Hope to return. It would not, but the beauteous scene pierced my soul, and from the fresh wound came a blood of sorts that needed to be let: the question of Help’s origin.

Only a certain amount of help can come from one’s brothers. They did the right thing, could not have known what shape I’d be in, but they cannot restore my health.

Help from a higher power is uncertain, shows itself on occasion in hindsight, but comes with no guarantee of present or future services.

If Help must come from within, but there are no remaining or known resources on which to draw, what is one to do?

Both existence and the quality of it are too uncertain for my taste. Randomness seems to rule, to keep Destiny and Fate back like buffoons attempting to crash a posh dinner party.

I suppose I shall remain outside then, and wait for Mercy, as Time runs down slow like black oil over snow.
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FridayFlash


Be my guest: Richard Godwin’s “Pick-up”

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Truck stop image credit goes to The Huffington Post

Green note: What do you do when you’re busier than a racoon in tall corn? You call on a pal for a guest post, is what: Richard Godwin is a kickass crime, horror, and kitchen sink author and this here is a shortened-up version of one of my early favorites of his. Thank you for obliging, Richard : )

 

PICK-UP by Richard Godwin

Beyond the stained window the hissing scar of the highway looked deserted. Patty felt she was in the wrong town with no visa. The diner was empty apart from the guy in the corner. He’d been eyeing her all night. Patty was used to eyes on her, sometimes they felt like insects crawling across her deadened skin.

‘I don’t suppose you have a light?’ he said, walking over to her.

‘Sure,’ Patty said, flicking her Zippo, hiding the stain, snuffing it out. ‘Spare a cigarette?’

‘Oh yeah.’

The waitress bristled past, all swish of starched uniform and the click of over chewed gum. She looked at them out of the corner of her eye, a slight curl of her lip.

Patty stepped outside into the mix of ice cold and diesel fumes. After the initial silence, they started the smokers’ chat. Weather, journeys, directions, bitching about this and that, and then he said it. Just like that. No interlude, no build up. As if he was ordering a pizza. ‘Last night I killed a man.’

He took a deep drag and blew it skywards then turned and looking her right in the eyes, said, ‘A guy got smart. He was nobody, really. I shot him. Twice.’

‘That right?’

Silence. And just two burning cigarette ends in the cold and the smog. A truck whizzed by.

‘Why you telling me this?’ she said.

‘Cause there’s one thing I always feel like doing after I kill someone.’

‘No shit?’

‘Yeah. An’ that’s fuck a sweet young thing like you. You looked good to me in there sitting over that coffee. Thought you was gonna hit that waitress. First I thought maybe you was a dike, seeing how you kept looking at her, but I figured what would you want with a used up old whore like that? Then I saw those little gloves you’re wearing and I knew for sure you ain’t no dike. Those hands are made for one thing, sweetheart, and that’s whipping up its head in my pants. That coffee must have been colder than a frigid ass. ’Nother smoke?’

He held up the cigarette packet.

‘Thanks. Though, I ain’t gonna sleep with you.’

‘No. I ain’t askin’ you to sleep with me, honey.’

‘Just so’s we understand that.’

‘How old are you anyway, out here alone on the highway?’

‘Twenty-six.’

‘That right? There’s a bad dude out there, in case you ain’t heard, he’s been chopping women up. Much badder’n old Jim. I don’t kill ladies, just fuck them.’

‘I can look after myself.’

‘Maybe you need me to look after you.’

‘What are you gonna be, my sugar daddy?’

‘Heard one woman got her throat opened up real bad. Out here, alone, just her thumb in the air and only her poontang to pay. They call him the maniac trucker, although I hear this guy drives a pick up.’

‘Thank you for the smoke,’ she said, walking back in.

Inside, the waitress stared at her from behind the counter, hands on her hips. Just another anonymous judge. Patty watched her stare fade. The waitress went out back. Patty felt weak and as she tried to remember the last time she’d eaten, and Jim walked in, laughing, almost dancing across the diner to where she sat.

‘Come on, darling, we can do it in the john,’ he said.

The smell of pizza drifted across the air.

‘How much you got?’

‘I knew you were a pick up. I reckon you’re worth a hundred.’

‘Hundred and fifty.’

‘Done.’

He peeled a stack of tens out of his wallet and laid them in her palm.

‘I’ll see you in the john,’ she said.

After a few minutes Jim made his way there.

She was standing at the back, past the urinals, outside the only clean cubicle.

Jim walked in and put a broom handle against the door.

‘Well, hallelujah baby.’

‘Come on,’ she said, walking into the cubicle, pulling down her jeans.

‘You’re safe with me.’

‘I know.’

‘How do you know?’

‘I can always tell, now come on get it while it’s hot.’

‘You’re as sweet as cherry pie, ain’t you?’

His zip made a harsh sound in the empty john. She saw endless miles of road as his skin made contact. She thought she heard someone trying the door as he entered her. She looked over Jim’s shoulder at a fly crawling across the graffiti. She felt the cold wall against her buttocks as he stopped.

He winked and ran his finger across her cheek.

‘Told you I ain’t the maniac trucker.’

Then he looked down at her right forearm and shook his head. There was a jagged scar running through the tattooed word “Mom”.

After he left she heard a pick up drive off as she checked herself in the mirror.

She was thinking about food when the door swung open and the waitress walked in.

‘I knew it,’ she said. ‘I saw him leave, I’m calling the po-lice.’

‘Why you such a bitch?’

‘You just made a big mistake, you ho.’

‘You don’t get to call me no hooker, you’re just a fucking waitress.’

She was trying to leave when Patty grabbed her hair. She spun round and struck Patty hard across the face.

‘I wish that killer would pick you,’ the waitress said.

Patty smiled.

‘Oh yeah?’

She had one fist clenched in the waitress’s uniform as she pulled her switchblade from her pocket and opened up her throat. The blade was still moving in the air as the waitress spurted blood on the wall, staggering round with her eyes popping. And Patty watched her fall, one hand on the floor, reaching for something she never found.

She stepped over the body and out of the diner and hailed a passing truck.

Jim went back the next day and heard the waitress had been killed by the maniac trucker.

Every time he took a piss there, he thought of the hot little tattooed thing he’d screwed, as the steam rose from the urinal like a mist.

Fin

 

RGformal_240x_MissA-guest-post photo RGformal_240x_MissA-Guest-Post.jpgRichard Godwin is the author of critically acclaimed novels Apostle Rising, Mr. Glamour, and One Lost Summer.

Richard was born in London and obtained a BA and MA in English and American Literature from King’s College London, where he also lectured.

You can find out more about him at his website www.richardgodwin.net, where you can also read his Chin Wags At The Slaughterhouse, his popular and unusual interviews with other authors.


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