NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge

Again this year I’m participating in the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge. They assign you a group number, a genre, a location and an “object”. This year, my assigned elements are a cactus, a recording studio and romantic comedy, (for genre). This is my take on it.

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Cactus and Love

The moon sat low over the Tennessee River, cicadas electric in their chorus. The Muscle Shoals Recording studio was empty, except for two tangled souls on the second floor.

Give it here, Jimmy.  She raised her chin, put both hands on the gun.

“What did I ever do to you, Sugar,he asked.

“Its what you done to everybody else.”

You wrote that for me, Lucille, on our honeymoon,he pleaded.

Thats right. I wrote it. Its mine,she said.

This aint like you,he smiled.

She cocked the gun.

“This aint that hard to understand, Jimmy. I am leaving tonight,her voice broke. And Im taking my music with me.

“Darlin’,” he reached for her with his handcuffed hands.

She aimed the gun at his forehead. Backlit by the On Airlight, she somehow seemed angelic to him.

I am real sorry that you decided to have a wife and a girlfriend. But I am moving on. And I am taking, Love is a Prickly Cactuswith me.

“Lucille….”

“I dont need no two-timing man runninmy show.

Is that all I am to you, girl? Just a sugar daddy, a star-maker?” He shook his head. I feel dirty.

I dont need your help no more,she wiped at her eyes with the back of her sleeve.

After all I done for you?

You can’t live a lie forever, Jimmy.

“It didnt mean nothing…” he said.

She put both hands on the gun.

He swallowed. “What was it about me, back when you still loved me and all, that made you want to write me a song? What did you ever see in me, Lucy?

Who knows,she dug one hand into her purse, found a cigarette, stuck it between her lips. Her hands trembled.

He hung his head. I dont blame you.

Then give me the music, Jimmy. I got a plane to catch.

To where?he looked up, eyes searched hers. She turned away.

Nashville,she said.

Outside the neon sign glowed like a full moon. An owl hooted and the pines stirred.

Why Nashville? Muscle Shoals is the best recording studio in the…,” he started.

She stole a glance at him and turned back around.

They offered you a contract?he asked.

Dammit, Jimmy. Just give it to me. It aint gonna work no more between us. You made sure of that. No amount of money or promises will fix it,she said.

“The very first time I saw you,he said,  “you was standing up on that stage, guitar in hand. I said to myself, Jimmy you are in love.He smiled, remembering. The state of Texas has never been so well represented.He whistled.

“Too bad you threw it all away, Jimmy Earl.

I cant lose you, Lucille. You are everything to me.

“Not no more,she said, her mouth twisted in sadness.

They sat in silence. The one a.m. train rolled past, calling into the night.

Remember the first time we saw that cactus?he asked.

Her eyes met his. A slow grin crept across her face as the memory played.

Yeah,she said. She sat cross-legged on the carpet now. You said it was an omen.

He nodded. Some things are once-in-a-lifetime.

Yeah,she agreed.

She lay the gun down on the shag carpet beside her. I always wondered why you took me to the desert on our first date? I mean of all the places we couldve gone, fancy restaurants and clubs, an all. And there you were in that old Ford pickup, driving twenty miles out of town to the middle of nowhere.

Dont you remember?he said, resting his hands in his lap. The way the sun set in the desert. The way the cactuses stood tall, waiting for the moon? And how we saw that meteor sail across that black July sky? Remember? Remember the wish we made?

Yeah,she whispered.

That was a once-in-a-lifetime comet,he said. I got my wish.

She looked at him, tears ran down her eyes.

I gotta go, Jimmy,she whispered.

I know, baby. Undo these cuffs and I will get you your music,he said.

She unlocked the cuffs. He stood up, walked to a desk and opened a drawer. He handed her an envelope. Inside is her sheet music and a newspaper clipping from 1986 about Haleys Comet.

Dont forget me, Lucille,he said.

Jimmy, I dont think I could if I tried,she said and walked out the door.

Her footsteps crunched across the gravel parking lot. His heart was heavy. But just before she was too far away, he heard her singing the familiar melody…

“My love is a dark summer sky and a wish, My love will return one day, sure as there are stars in the night.”

And he knew that one day, shed sail back into his life. 

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2015 Kurt Vonnegut Short Story Challenge

This story won the Kurt Vonnegut Bracket in the Iron Writer, Spring Equinox Challenge. The challenge was to write a 500 word story using the following elements, Artemis, A Dilettante,  Jello Wrestling, and A Moon Rock. I hope you enjoy reading it.

Tangerine, Tangerine

gast_station_night-1In the blue wash of fluorescent light, she changed out of jeans and into a gold lame’ body suit. White silk wings sprung from the back of her costume. Even in the grey din of the Chevron restroom, she looked other-worldly.

Her purse was clinched between her front teeth while she dressed. No part of her clothing touched the filthy concrete floor. It was after all, mostly white..

Meanwhile, a man waiting on a gas pump watched her emerge from the restroom. Long blonde hair swung back and forth as she used her hips and elbows to open the door.”Artemis” was stitched across her chest. Feathery wings caught the wind, fluttered. She strutted across the cracked asphalt parking lot, stacked platform heels causing her knees to bend a little, invoking the appearance of a giant bumble bee.

The man, fascinated, stepped out of his car, ran his hands through his hair and made his way toward the freaky, waspish woman, now at the back of the parking lot.

“Excuse me,” he said. She was digging for something in the front floorboard of a conversion van.

“Ma’am?” he knocked on the window.

She slid backward and stood up, dusting off her knees and thighs.

“Yeah?” she said, hands on hips.

“I’m Jack,” he said.

She crossed her arms and said, “Artemis.”

“You live in this van or something?” he asked.

Piggly Wiggly bags were seat-belted like passengers into the back seats. Tupperware, Nilla Wafer boxes and Mountain Dew bottles poked out of their tops.

She slammed the door.

“Sometimes,” she said. Mascara was smudged under her blood-shot eyes.

He nodded.“I love a good road trip, too.”

Dogs barked inside the van.

“I’m on a cross-country Jello Wrestle-a-thon,” she said. She wiped at her face with her sleeve and looked away.

“Oh, yeah?” he said.

“Yeah,” she raised her chin. Her wings flattened as she leaned back against the van.

“I’m a professional Jello Wrestler, hence the outfit,” she checked his expression.”But I’ve lost my good-luck charm.”

“Really? Wow.” He let his eyes wash over her.”Pro, huh? I would’ve definitely taken you as a dilettante.”

She smiled.

“What exactly are you looking for?” he asked, glancing into the van.

“Moon rock,” she said,”about this big.” She held up her hands, made a circle about the size of an orange.

“You lose it in there?” he thumbed toward the van, where the dogs had worked themselves into a frenzy.

She smiled.

“You volunteering to go in after it?”

“Maybe,” he said.

“Because the last guy never made it out,” she warned.

He nodded, considered the challenge.

“Is there a particular flavor?” he asked.

“Flavor?”

“You know, for the jello wrestling,” he rolled up his sleeves, prepared to go in.

“Oh.Tangerine. Sometimes there are marshmallows.”

As he crawled over the front seat, she called, “Watch out. They bite.”

He wasn’t sure if she was mad or just a world-class heart breaker.

But there was only one way to find out.

Tangerine, Tangerine

I was her love, she was my queen…*

 

* “Tangerine”, from the album, Led Zeppelin III, c. 1970

For more information on the Iron Writer Challenges, please visit www.theironwriter.com

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Bettie’s Shoes are Tight

bridgeBettie’s Shoes are Tight

Every day after lunch, we file past Guard Bettie, adjusting mouse brown hair, painting puckered lips with a twisted tube of “Orange Fire” Revlon, smiling with her new teeth. Guard Roy waits at the window, arms crossed, recounting a grocery list in his mind.

Bettie stands and scans our bleak, medicated eyes. Most are cast down, watching our own feet shuffle across grey linoleum.

Not mine, Bettie. Mine were watching you.

It’s exactly 36 steps from the cold, green, concrete lunchroom to the guard post, the entrance to the Psych Ward. Two minutes past five, every day, Roy goes on break, fifty-two echoing steps in the other direction.

Opportunity pleads, “Take hold of Bettie and her wrinkled smile”.

Bettie thinks nothing of me, again. I am just another dull jumpsuit moving in a single file line. So, today, I did not eat my roll. And I asked for another. They line the elastic waist of my pants. We file past the bulletproof security window, then to our rooms.

“Step, step, step, step, step, step…,”Roy’s shoes yell. “Now’s your chance,”

The second roll fits into Bettie’s mouth like the last part of a puzzle.

Bettie shoes are tight on my desperate feet, her pants a little short.

At the opposite end of Queensboro Bridge, a golden-orange Haldol melts into the night.

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