Friday, December 16, 2011

A Flash Fiction Friday piece...

There's a wonderful site: http://www.flashfictionfriday.com/about/ that posts writing prompts. These are the folks who turned out The Lost Children Anthology that I was privileged to be part of. You will see a link for where to purchase that to the right of the blog. 


Anyway, they posted a prompt this week that spoke to me. I've had a couple of days where I've been so busy running errands and shopping, I've had no time to write. Tonight on Facebook I saw that a new prompt had been posted and decided I wanted to do something for that. The prompt is here: http://www.flashfictionfriday.com/2011/12/16/f3-cycle-60-tom-waits-for-no-man/ and my story is below.


~Nancy



I Hope That I Don’t Fall In Love With You

It was Friday, before Christmas. I walked in from the rain, shaking it off my coat before I tossed it over one of the hooks by the door. The Last Stop was the name of the place, a little watering hole-in-the-wall before a long stretch of dry towns. Incongruously plunked down in a middle American bedroom community called Exeter, it stood out like a purple mashed thumb on a hard working hand.

I was coming from a book signing in some former mill city trying to reinvent itself, driving a rent-a-buggy on the road to nowhere, when I stumbled across it. It didn’t appear too promising, with nothing but a YES, WE’RE OPEN sign and garish blinking Christmas lights around smudged windows. There were a few cars in the lot. I was hungry and thirsty, and they had cheap bar food.

I don’t turn heads. Writers don’t have to be glamorous, we spend most our time behind a keyboard anyway. Only the books have to shine. I travel alone a lot, so I don’t want to attract attention. When I’m on the road, just jeans and a tee shirt mostly. Granny boots with block heels give me an edge on height. I keep my hair up in a pony tail, out of my face, and I wear big glasses because it makes me look like a librarian or Sunday School teacher. I know what I am—a burnt out, near-sighted, self-published hack with somewhat of a following.

I shoved my way through the loungers on the battered padded stools. “What can I get you Miss?” the guy behind the bar said as my soles crunched on peanuts. Bunch of older dudes around me, balding and midlife crises hanging over their belts. If the one on the left patted my fanny again, I was going to smack him.

“A cold Becks and a plate of hot wings,” I said, tossed down some cash, and went to find myself a seat at one of the tables. Green bottle, red sauce. The comforts and joys of the season.

A perky blonde in red leggings and a candy cane striped sweater brought my stuff over. She smiled and said she hoped I enjoyed it. I just nodded. I don’t like talking to people when I’m not behind a book and pen.

Three more stops and I could go home. Three more friggin' stops…

Two independent book stores and a mall with a big media outlet. That’s what they call them now, the chains. They sell all kinds of stuff in there, and most of them have a café. Glitzy and chic, well dressed people carrying tablets and six dollar coffees. And me, the humble mystery writer, sneaking in the back way so as not to be noticed before I had to walk out there, read an excerpt, answer some questions, and look like I enjoy this. It gets tiresome. Smiling and scrawling platitudes to people I will never know. Gotta hawk my wares if I want the sales though.

I relish the quiet anonymity afterward.

Just my luck, amateur night. A couple of middle age ladies did a duet on The Sound Of Silence. Simon and Garfunkel they weren’t, but being able to sign along with the song made it interesting. While several more tuneless renditions of country oldies droned on, I pulled out my pad and pen and jotted notes for a story based on a singer who was murdered backstage and the only witness was a deaf mute fan who disappears mysteriously.

I was considering titling it ‘Killing Me Softly’, when some guy with a guitar and a battered fedora strode up. Must have been a local, and well known, because there were cat calls and whistles, though everyone was gathering around.

He plopped onto a stool and strummed; then opened a vein. With a voice like a gravel pit, he sang about small town life and the harsh unforgiving city lights. Girls that done him wrong, things that didn’t belong, and being alone at the end of the day with nothing but a bottle and cigarette for company. I let my food get cold but I had another beer, and gave him my full attention, because as harsh as this guy’s growl was at times, it was the most honest damn bunch of songs I had heard in ages. And he had bottomless blue eyes I wanted to get lost in.

“Who is that?” I asked the guy across from me. He glanced over like I was some alien species. Which I guess I was.

“That’s Old Tom. Nobody knows who he is; he just comes on in and puts on a show one Friday a month.”

“Guess I was lucky to be here for it,” I said, not realizing the song had stopped and my voice was a bit too loud.

“No, you was drawn to me by cruel fate,” Old Tom said, taking a drag from his cigarette and crushing it out on the floor. “I got a song about that too.” He got to his feet, and setting the guitar down, shuffled over to an old piano, launching into something about being too shy to talk to a girl in a bar.

I fell in love with him that moment. We were kindred souls. Except he was too busy being a singer, and my mind was wrapped up in creating stories about who he was, where he was from, and what kind of experiences compel a man to walk into a bar with a guitar and a hatful of songs one Friday a month.

You know how time gets away when you’re busy. Old Tom sang his set, tipped his hat, winked at me, then strode out into the night. I tried to follow, but the fog swallowed him and I was alone once more.

Never saw him again. But I got a damn good book out of it. So maybe that was fate's Christmas gift to me.

11 comments:

Thomas Pluck said...

Nice one, Nancy... I was touched by its sadness, two kindred spirits that had to be alone

Nancy said...

Thanks Thomas. I won't say I'm the biggest Tom Waits fan in the world, but I always have liked that song, and it speaks of missed opportunities. We've all had them, and we all get wrapped up in what we do. Doesn't take much to get my mind spinning.

Ingrid Hardy said...

Oh I REALLY enjoyed this! I don't know, but the flavor that came across to me made me expect you to toss on your knee-length coat, light up a cigarette and go solve a really nasty crime...

Nancy said...

You know the timing is oddly perfect on this one too Ingrid. Tommy Hancock had challenged me a while back to write a PI story. He said, break the mold and do something besides fantasy Nancy, and actually tossed me a paragraph. I initially blew him off (we're friends, I can get away with that) but the gears started turning. Well, The Keener Eye series will be debuting in Pro Se Presents sometime next year. LOL So I guess I had gumshoes and writing mysteries on the brain when this challenge came up and started talking to me. You just never know...

MRMacrum said...

Very nice. You hit the mood and feel of a local bar so well.

cmstewartwrite said...

A story true to Mr. Waits. And it seems Mr. Waits- true to himself- missed out . .

Nancy said...

Thank you both, MRM & CMS! Been a long time since I've sat in a bar, but I used to love the quaint little neighborhood places with the open mic nights. When I was brave enough, I might get up and sing something... And yeah, missing out... that's kind of the spirit of the song coming through. You sit there all night, trying to work up the nerve, and then *POOF* they disappear. Couldn't help putting a writer in it, we tend to get sll wrapped up in the craft.

Thanks for the comments, much appreciated!
~Nancy

pencilandpaper said...

Hey! I love the title. And my favorite line: "Green bottle, red sauce. The comforts and joys of the season." (Though, I'm not a fan of Becks. I'm drinking the local swill tonight--Abita [NOLA]) Love the feel of the piece. Totally agree Ingrid about the Raymond Chandler feel. I want her to follow him into the fog, consequences be damned.

Nancy said...

You know Sarah sometimes you can just picture a scene. I wanted that 'noir' feeling but with just the edge of hope and not total despair. I'm not a big Becks fan either but the bottles are green and it's easier to spell than Heineken. It's always been high end stuff here, so it kind of gives you the feeling that she's celebrating something to spring for one of those.

I'd like to think she followed him too! At least just to talk...

Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw said...

"...it stood out like a purple mashed thumb on a hard working hand." Great line... I love that!

Bleak desperation... a great mood piece... this is a wonderful story, Nancy! I'm a sucker for sad tales with kindred spirits.

Very nicely done!

Nancy said...

Thank you Veronica! I have been been reading everyone's tales and they are so awfully good. I wish I had more time to respond, but I am up to my eyeballs in editing and writing right now and they days just fly by.