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.
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.
“It’s what you done to everybody else.”
“You wrote that for me, Lucille, on our honeymoon,” he pleaded.
“That’s right. I wrote it. It’s mine,” she said.
“This ain’t like you,” he smiled.
She cocked the gun.
“This ain’t that hard to understand, Jimmy. I am leaving tonight,” her voice broke. “And I’m 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 Air” light, 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 Cactus’ with me.”
“I don’t need no two-timing man runnin’ my show.”
“Is that all I am to you, girl? Just a sugar daddy, a star-maker?” He shook his head. “I feel dirty.”
“I don’t 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 didn’t 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 don’t 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 ain’t 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 can’t 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 could’ve 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.”
“Don’t 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 Haley’s Comet.
“Don’t forget me, Lucille,” he said.
“Jimmy, I don’t 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, she’d sail back into his life.