Monday, February 28, 2011

Scarry Night Challenge

Here's my entry in Patti's latest challenge. Find the links at     

I stood outside the tiny mom and pop coffee shop counting my change. Althought I was still pretty new at this, I’d worn out my welcome at the bigger chains. Maybe if I had almost enough they might let me have a cup. The hand lettered sign in the window announced a small for seventy five cents. Forty five…fifty…fifty one…two…three. Worth a try.
            The bottle-blonde at the counter watched me plop coins on the polished wood.
            “Fifty two, fifty three…” I made a show of rummaging through my pockets. “Not quite there. I could fill the cup three quarters.”
            “We don’t do that.” The waitress pushed the coins back, pointing a neon green nail toward the sign on the till. “No purchase. No table. Your kind aren’t welcome here.”
            I slumped back. Is this who I am now?
            “I’ve got it.” The strong male voice hovered near my ear. Several bills slapped the counter. “A large for the lady and the usual for me.”
            Lady. I turned to smile my thanks and couldn’t restrain the gasp when I saw the scar. It slashed from his eye, across his cheek, mouth and chin. It wasn’t new, but it hadn’t healed well, jagged, puckered, grayish-pink. With those eyes he must have been good-looking once.
            I blushed, forcing myself to look away. “Thanks.”
            With a nod, I grabbed my cup and hid in a corner table, forgoing my customary cream and sugar.
            Sipping at the bitter stuff, I did not allow myself to glance up when I heard him leave a few minutes later. As an engine roared to life, I peered through the smudged window at the police car backing away. The man wore the blue uniform and shiny badge of his breed, but I’d only seen the scar.
            I showed up at the coffee shop the same time the following morning to buy him a cup. Although I wasn’t fond of cops, the guilt over my reaction to his scar had gnawed at me all night as I’d huddled in my cot at the warming center. A big guy in a camo jacket gave me a trash bag of soda cans I turned in for nickels. Maybe I could treat him today. To show him I wasn’t that kind of person.
            The cold air pricked my skin, but I waited outside until he arrived.
            “Oh, hi.” I tried a casual act but my heart pounded like giants stomped in my chest. “Can I return the favor…from yesterday?”
            He stared at me, clearly searching his memory. “Yeah. Yesterday. I mean it was a gift, no returns needed.”
            “I’d really like to-”
            About to refuse again, he paused. Maybe he saw the last vestiges of pride in my eyes. “Okay.” He pulled open the door and gestured me through.
            The same waitress scowled. “Got a dime for a thimbleful today?”
            “A large for me and the usual for him.” I felt just a little like my old self as I laid out three crisp ones.
            “Five seventy five.” Little round eyes drowning in mascera slid up and down. “You’re short.”
            I sucked in air to chase away the invading dizziness.
            “I got it.” He topped my ones with a five. “Keep the change.”
            “Sorry.” I readied to bolt.
            His big fingers wrapped around my wrist. “Wait. Your coffee.”
            A wave of shame washed over me, but I held my ground as the police car parked in the same spot. I canned all day yesterday so I could do this. I couldn’t chicken out now. Someone lent me a dress and I’d found a scarf to belt it so it didn’t hang. I snatched a look in the coffee shop window. I’d once been called beautiful and that was in the bones, so it couldn’t all be gone. And skinny was in, wasn’t it?
            I grinned as he strode up. “I can treat you today. I have the money.”
            He returned the smile with one side of his mouth, the other side stretched into a grimace of sorts.  “You don’t need to do this.”
            “But you bought me coffee and I want to buy coffee for you.” I displayed the money in my hand.
            “This isn’t a date, you know.” His voice roughened.
            It had probably been ages since a woman had shown interest in him. I knew he didn’t mean to be hard. I gazed into his blue-blue eyes. “I really don’t mind the scars.”
            “What?” He stared at me as if I’d sprouted Medusa snakes. “Are you feeling sorry for me?”
            I watched my fingers pull at the scarf, afraid to affirm or deny. Pity could be part of what I felt, but there was more.
            “Try to be nice-” He grabbed my wrist, fingers not gentle as they were the day before. I saw a glimmer of who I had become in his eyes.
Bills scattered in the wind, coins clattered on the sidewalk. I gathered that precious pride about me and walked away.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Writing Challenge with Patti

A new writing challenge at 
Tell a tale in 800 words including the line "I really don't mind the scars" in the body of the work. Post by Feb 28. Sounds like a winner.

And what a scar!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Edgar Awards- Robert L. Fish Memorial Award Goes to Evan Lewis

A big congrats and huzzah to Evan Lewis just announced as winner of the Robert L Fish Memorial for best first story. Catch Evan's blog
Long live Skyler Hobbs!

Criminal Fairy Tales

I finished reading all the great stories over at  Much fun and top-notch writing. Check them out. Thanks to John Kenyon for the idea and hosting.


Here are the stories:
The Flying Trunk” by Jack Bates
Coal Black” by Eric Beetner
Sing a Song of Sixpence” by Nigel Bird
Henry, Gina and the Gingerbread House“by Kaye George
Mary” by Eric Gumeny
Han and Greta” by Blu Gilliand
 “Divided We Stand” by Sean Patrick Reardon
Taking Back” by Sandra Seamans
Candy House” by R.L. Kelstrom
Joseph and Justine” by Patti Abbott
King Flounder: A Monlogue” by Loren Eaton
Life is a Fairy Tale” by BV Larson
You Dirty Rats” by Absolutely*Kate and Harry B, Sanderford
How I Came Into My Inheritance” by Seana Graham
Skyler Hobbs and the Magic Solution“  by Evan Lewis
Interview with the Pram Driver” by B. Nagel

Monday, January 17, 2011

Keith Richards Garden Gnome

Don't you either hate or love those gnarly little garden gnomes? But whatever your preference they're absolutely no good at scaring off crows. So I made one in the image of Keith Richards. If he can't scare crows, I don't know who can!

Here's a really scary close-up

Friday, January 14, 2011

Fairy Tale Challenge

Here's my entry in in the Things I'd Rather Be Doing challenge. To see other stories check out 

Candy House

              It looks like her from here. I shove past the crowd and duck under the crime tape, wheezing through the giant clog in my throat.
              “Back behind the line, old man.” The cop slaps his baton across my chest.
              “I think I know her.”
              He raises a brow, but grabs my arm. “Okay, Chief. Have a look-see.”
              The CSIs, or whatever they’re called in Portland, swarm around her, poking and pinching, little bags and cameras in their free hands. I force myself to look. The body lies in damp bark dust, the shadow of a jungle gym criss-crossing over it. The hair’s the same, faded red, the brow’s heavy, the cheekbones high.  But Pigeon’d be nearly fifty now and this dead girl would need a fake ID to get in a legit tavern.
              “So?” The cop’s in my face, rattling my arm.
              I shake my head and barrel through the throng. My mission mac and cheese gushes out, right under the legs of that big metal elephant. Wiping my mouth on my sleeve, I stagger to the nearest bench, collapsing, head in hands.
              It’s been so long. The image of her floats in my brain, more fairy tale than reality.
I empty my pockets and slide back on the creaking vinyl bench. The coins and ones plop on the diner table next to the meager pile she just dumped out of her My Little Pony purse. “That’s it, Pigeon.”
              She scoots the money into matching groups with a trembling forefinger. “This won’t even buy half a rock.”
              Or feed us or pay for a cheap room. I don’t say this out loud. She doesn’t need to hear that the shape she’s in. My fingers feel too much bone when I rub her back.
              “Don’t.” She twitches out of reach, scratching at a sore on her arm. It’ll abscess if she doesn’t leave it alone. Another trip to the emergency room. Maybe we can find a doctor who doesn’t know us and score good pharmaceuticals.
              She echoes my thoughts. “We need to get some stuff. Anything.”
              “Maybe we can call in a favor.”
              She falls into a laugh which deteriorates into coughing and on to choking. I lift the white mug to her lips. She gulps and sputters. “Like anybody owes us.”
              “Yeah, even Bruno won’t front us.” I wave the coffee cup at the tired waitress. She ignores me. She knows she’ll be lucky to get paid for the bill let alone a tip.
              Pigeon raises her plucked to nothing brows, sure sign she’s getting an idea. A bad idea. “Bruno’s in Seattle, bailing out his whore.”
              “Raf.” She sags into me. “Baby, I’m hurting. Real bad.”
              I look down. Her face is thin and drawn. She looks more like an old woman than the kid she is. I feel the shivers running through her and I know it’s going to get worse. And worse. “He still live in the same place?”
              The bus cruises over the bridge with me, my girl, a kid shrouded in his sweatshirt, and a hard-eyed old lady. After I paid the surprised waitress, we had barely enough for the fare. Pigeon’s teeth chatter like we’re heading into the Arctic Circle. She moans when I pull her closer, but she doesn’t push me away this time.
              I half carry her off at our stop. The old lady scowls her judgment. Pigeon’s still with it enough to flip her the bird in return.
              We back-track a block and enter the no-man’s land by the tracks that straddle Powell, Division and 12th. A few houses nest among warehouses, vacant lots and closed businesses. Everything’s pretty dark, scant light provided by a half moon buried beneath a layer of Northwest clouds. The moisture in the air bores into my bones, but good news. No rain.
              She’s babbling and shivering. No help. I’m on my own.
              The tiny house leans against a larger cinderblock and sheet metal building. Both look deserted. I know it’s the place because I remember the ornate Victorian trimming, gingerbread. That’s what they call it. It might have been appealing once, before the paint peeled and the wood cracked.
              I prop Pigeon up on the sloping back porch and listen for silence before checking the windows. Breaking and entering is not really my forte. A small window on the side is open a few inches. I’m in luck, if I can fit through it. I’m big even when I’m skinny. It slides up a little, tight, but I squeeze through. And fall into a bathtub, still wet with who knows what.
              I shake like a dog and feel my way to the back door. The deadlock pops free and I pull Pigeon inside. We’re in the kitchen. I smell food scraps and rancid meat. Pigeon slaps into a wall a few times until I settle her onto a chair. It creaks with each jerk she makes. “Stay put.” I brush a kiss over her hair.
              “Okay.” She maybe says.
              With the little glow from my lighter, I search for Bruno’s goodies. He makes his patrons wait in the front room. The storing, cutting and cooking goes on elsewhere. The kitchen yields nada. All those cupboards and drawers hide nothing but plates, cups, cans, bread crumbs, and a few stray chicken bones. The bathroom provides only dirt and sticky bits I hope are candy.
              I push open a door into what’s likely a bedroom. There’s a dresser by the bare window, and I think, a bed in the corner. My lighter’s flickering, so I turn it off and explore the drawers by hand. One gives up a few baggies that sound off with the crunch of old dry weed. I pocket them and kick around for the bed. The mattress is topped by a damp blanket. I flip the whole works off, click my lighter and behold the mother lode.
              Bags of snowy powder, vials of crystal shards, neat stacks of cold hard cash. I stuff the pockets of my jeans and jacket. Some creaks and a muffled moan emanate from the kitchen. “Pigeon hold on. You’re gonna be one very happy woman.”
              When I run out of pockets, I cram what I can under my T-shirt and tuck the worn cotton into my belt. I click the lighter again for one last glance at all the sweet things remaining on the springs, but I got all the rock. “Let’s get out of here.”
              Brightness flows out of the kitchen doorway. My stomach clenches, the sour rises up my throat. My feet anchor to the floor. I force them to shuffle forward.
              “Hey, Chief.” Bruno grins at me, gold tooth and steel pistol reflecting the fluorescent light. “Is that my product under your shirt or are you just glad to see me?” He laughs, harsh, sharp, jamming the gun into Pigeon’s neck. One of his henchmen fills in the back door. Others must be close by, Bruno travels in a pack.
              “Hey, Bruno.” I stand there seeking words to talk our way out of this, but the only thing that percolates in my brain is the thought I only used alcohol before I met her. Booze, hooch, rotgut, firewater, all safe as babies.
              I don’t need an invitation. I clear my pockets and shirt of all the treats. Pigeon watches the mound grow on the table, desire rising in eyes that were dead seconds before.
              Bruno snorts through his long nose and follows my every move like he’s counting the bills, bags and vials. “Where’s the rest?”
              “In the bedroom. I didn’t take it all.”
              “Well isn’t that kind-hearted of you, leaving a bit for me.” He yanks Pigeon to her feet. “Show me.”
              He shadows me to the bedroom, his goon in his wake, and flips on the light to scan the remains littering the box springs. “Seems all here. If not, Kemosabe, you’re easy to find.”
              I must have let a hopeful look glide over my face because he laughs again before gesturing me back into the kitchen.
              He sits, balancing Pigeon on his knee.  His scrawny whiskers brush her neck, the gun now caresses the side of her breast. “You aren’t treating her right. She used to be such a pretty thing. Now she’s all skin and bones.”
              I clear my throat.     
              “I’m talking. You’re listening.” Bruno pushes the barrel in hard enough to make Pigeon sob. “I hate blood on my floor so I’m thinking kindly of making a deal. I’ll keep her, fatten her up, put her on the streets where she belongs. You can go.”
               “You can’t--”
              “I see the gun in my hand, so I believe I may do whatever I wish. You should be grateful to have your lives.” He nods his narrow head and the goon steps toward me.
              “Pigeon, baby.” When she doesn’t respond, I raise my voice. “Baby.”
              Bruno slips a vial into her hand. She stares at it like it’s the love of her life.
              Goon grabs my arm. I’m big. He’s bigger, double my weight, all muscle. He drags me through the door. I shout back over my shoulder. “I’ll be back for you.”
              I raise my head and watch the last of the cop cars leave the scene. The girl, who is not Pigeon, is taking that final ride to the morgue.
The little crack house burned down a few days after I left. I don’t know if Bruno was there.  I heard he relocated his business to Seattle. Somebody said they saw Pigeon in Tacoma, god knows why, but I hope it’s true.  Me? I spent a good twenty-five years gazing into the bottom of a bottle before I finally climbed out.

Friday, January 7, 2011

New writing challenge coming

My critique partner keeps finding writing challenges! And I love them. Here's one from John Kenyon on Things I'd Rather Be Doing.  You take a fairy tale and make the thing even darker by turning it into a crime story. Poof, like magic. Princes into frogs. Last date is Jan 14. I'll post mine here the first of next week.