Stones


Dawn reached through the sky as though it had ripped its way across a league of fetid grey – a lonesome stagnant pond which had stood for years waiting something, some speck of color.

Carl’s eyes seized the stones as soon as the sun waned upon them, his hands loosed thanks as they grabbed the hardened chunks of earth.

“Here!” he spat. “The stones are here.”

His father turned from a damp inlay of soil, his legs making the small mud puddles which held his feet swish a bit.

“Quick, boy,” he said. “Before any of them wake.” He moved quickly past the icy statues, their frozen positions stuck in the twisted and lifeless clutching motions from the night before. They had just barely survived. He fell to his knees by his son and helped him grab at the stones.

They tossed the rocks from the small hole and discarded them with small thuds into the wet dark earth.

Sweat showered each of them, sweat and languor. Neither had slept. They remained awake through the cold and the fear. His father had told him to stay moving. He didn’t know how, but he did it. He clawed at the rocks. Not another night, he thought.

“Here!”

His father pulled out from down behind the rocks a dust-covered pouch. Carl’s tears were lost upon the mud of his chest. “Open it,” he said.

The sun fell upon a wider patch of ground. The sky was clear. And below smiles as his father pulled open the cloth of the pouch, there was a twitch from somewhere lost amid the tall still bodies.

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ss – Draft Six and counting


 

How many f&$king drafts is this short story going to take(interrobang). Seriously, I’ve been at this story all damn day, and my stomach is running low on tolerance for the chocolate snacks, even if they are the small-morsel types. When I’m done, I’m done. Speaking of done, however, the good news is that I’m almost done. I’m right there and I can almost feel the final edit.

There’s only so much time in a day and I’m reminded of that as it’s running past midnight and I’m here at the keyboard. When your life is over, that’s it. That’s all you get. No refunds, no collecting $200 when you Pass Go; nothing. So, whether writing’s your thing or it’s something else, make it work; make your life worth doing your passion.

The story’s about a little girl who lives in her own world despite the numbing effects those around her feel as they live in theirs. She is challenged when trying to follow the sweetness of her own concept of life while she feels an overwhelming resistance to taste the bitterness of others’ displeasure. Can you blame her? It’s come a long way; and we’re still moving. It’s midnight; onward I press.

How’s your writing coming?

 

Tourmaline – Part II


There was a tickling sensation which grabbed her then – a lovely gripping coolness which sprayed giddy chills across every pore of her. She smiled, wanting almost to cry at the same time. The flooring felt soft and her toes curled to feel what it was made of – it seemed a mass of miniature cushioned fingers, each welcoming the weight and feel of her feet. Her legs moved through the coolness, her nose catching the weightless blips of spray as the water from the fountain’s center fell into the pool. It was dangerous here, an easy place to fall and not wake up. But she was here for a purpose.

Quickstepping to the center of the fountain, her toes digging into the fingered flooring beneath, she ducked into the cascade, her body covered by the raging water. Once inside, she grabbed onto the center column, from the feel, made entirely of marble. As grip-less as it was, she managed to pull herself up the high column, one step at a time, steadily going up the pillar. She was happy for the raging sound – up this close, she felt it was just herself and the water. This close she could near nothing but the water’s raging speed as it welcomed her to be a part of it.

Yet, she knew they were there on the outside and she knew that they were coming for her. The raging water as peaceful and comforting as it may have been, was not going to simply keep them out. Steadily, one step at a time, she climbed. As there were branches which came out of the center shaft of the pillar of the fountain, so there were also some handholds, areas for her fingers, at least for some time.

Some of the water came in droplets which seemed to pepper her cheeks as she climbed and there was the other water falls of the water which came at all times, cascades of it, endless pours as she climbed. Several times after areas of solid footing, she would have to turn her head to catch her breath. It was on one those times that she happened to notice two things. First, how high above the ground she had climbed (and not even made it have way up the spire). Second, that there was a darker cloud of insidiousness which was rolling toward her. Sand dogs. Another deep breathe, and she turned her attention back to her climb.

Once out of an area of high water, she looked up again, The sky was blue, just as she had remembered when she was running up to the fountain – out of breath and with pained heels digging into the sand. Beyond the highest point of the spire a small glow found her eyes.

“Cruan!” She muttered to herself. It is in the light of Cruan that you’ll need to make the pull. She had never meant to count how many time Alaster’s voice had come to her. It was almost as if he had never died.

It was a giddiness that she felt which helped her jump up to the next step of the the long central pillar. She could see the next handhold clearly. In the cool water of the falls she left her footing with a smile. Whether she wore that same smile on her face was something no one would ever have been able to say.

And it was when she felt herself leave, that she slipped.

It was her footing, or the water, or the thought of almost making it all the way to her goal, to the place where Alaster and the team had placed all of their training and faith. Even in the small seconds that passed that told her she was going up, she felt herself falling.

On the descent, she had somehow made herself face downward – if not to see them coming, to see where she would fall and die.. One of her first thoughts was more of a wonder than anything else. Will it be in the water? The water was there below her, certainly, but her body wasn’t entirely over it.

She yelled, and did nothing. There were too many thoughts in her to do anything else. Eve the thought of berating herself for the pride of the jump was lost in the sea of the other thoughts. No clawing; no cursing at herself, no saying good-byes. Last time. I won’t reboot after this. None. Nothing. Of anything. All that was there and all that came from her at that time was as cream. It was all that she could think of – all of her thoughts combined into this one sound. Not even one for help or anger. It was simply the only thing that her body knew how to do.

Before she hit, her eyes took in the black mass that was the army of Sand Dogs, the hunters – those who had been sent after her – her the traitor, the runaway. She couldn’t be upset with them; they had been given their orders and it was something she could understand. No. She wasn’t upset with them.

She closed her eyes before she landed.

All she felt was the force of the ground, half mixed with the ledge of the fountain’s water basin, crack into her.

“Take her!” The voice of the rider from somewhere in the back, commanded the high energy of the esurient animals.

Pain fled through her system; it would have been easy to say that it was something she was used to. She had been through a series of varying degrees of pain in her lives. Death was always easier. Somehow, in as many times as she had done this, it just wasn’t anything she was used to. The ground rippled through her and the voice in her wanted to scream just as she had done when she was several tens of feet in the air several seconds ago. But, it wasn’t there – on the outside at least.

The current of the pain staggered its way through her limbs and rattled ;her bones and it rippled through the small several cubic meters of ground that she covered in her fall.

“Decode!” His yell came to her then and there and it was as though he was coming closer. She was surprised she could hear his yelling commands over the wild beasts as they came upon her. It was just as she had expected after slipping form the top, well nearly the top of the spire. She was right there, and after all of her lives, this was how it was going to end.

The dogs individually were unsightly. Vermin which had no qualities of civility. Their coats were disheveled and matted for the most part. They subsisted on carrion or smaller creatures in the sand. Their snouts were malformed almost all of the time, and with their lips hanging down only halfway to the bottom of their chins. Their gross teeth were always exposed and no part of them where white; the color of them had decayed with their diet of feeding on the dead and the exposure to the air and the sand. She remembered at one point wondering why the grains of sand never whitened their or at least made them softer. These were the thoughts she had they came upon her.

Like an untamed virus, they came on her to feed.

“Decode and dismember!” The voice of the hunter was softer now, somewhere off in the distance. She could feel their warmth, and their snouts rubbed upon her with a coolness. It was the entirety of the pack at once. All of them, seemingly came to feed on her. It seemed unlikely that it would be all of them; there were thousands. Only the first who got there would be able to take her. If there was any of there left over within a few seconds, it wouldn’t be much.

Pain. Her back groaned and, with her own cognizance, she realized that she could feel nothing from her legs down. Her eyes only caught colors here.

The dogs’ snouts were more now; they growled and shredded the clothing from her body. It wasn’t much to work with, however. Her body never had enough meat to give.

Her blouse, the white snap-on, and her shorts were ripped from her person. The snouts of the animals continued to sniff her and the sounds became to get softer a bit and there were more growling from the three around her body. Pain.

She prepared as best she could for the pain. This would be the last time.

She watched the clothes leave her body as she let go. She saw something odd as they left her vision, there was a spot there – in the shorts. A green lovely circular spot.

Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.

“Tourmaline,” she smiled. There was no pain, and her questions were answered. There was no pain because there would be no pain. The drug. Left in her back pocket had shattered upon the drop.

Her eyes fluttered and watched as the dogs walked away. They walked away slowly against the yells of confusion and discontent of their master.

“Get the code, NOW!” he yelled. “Rip it from her! No! No! What are you doing?”

Constance turned her head (no pain) and saw him in the background. She saw him there way off in the distance. He was there in black with dust swirling around him. His image swirled and rolled with the hazy distance as his limbs jerked wildly. The dogs were growing farther and farther away from her. They steadily walked from her, panting. They had run so far and with so much energy that they seemed to feel they had all met their objective. It was though they had crossed the finish line, had their fill of whatever treat, and decided to head back. They had dropped her clothing just feet from her. No longer interested

In the distance, the dog master had given up yelling his whips and his orders. He decided to run toward her.

No pain.

Her neck had not hurt when she turned it. The drug. Tourmaline.

Constance smiled and lifted her head before pushing herself up on one elbow. She looked in the distance after a quick rub of her eyes. She felt her breast softly dip down and rub against her upper stomach . The man was coming toward her wildly and with a knife drawn. The blade flashing with each cycle it completed in his hand. Her nakedness felt good then. There was a sun in the sky – a large golden globe, and a cool wind found her cheeks.

She lifted herself to her feet and for the first time again heard the water. She turned back to see what she could still see, where she should have been buried had she not stuck the vial in her pocket. The water fell as though a tipped flower vase from the heavens, emptying upon the dry land in endless drips, showers and hails. She stood there looking at the pool at first, the stem which she tried to climb. She noticed where she was when she fell. Almost made it. She needed to finish her task.

There was blood of course. Her soft skin on the back side had been cushioned by the hard sand and punctured by the titanium vile. How can titanium break? She was glad it did.

“AAAhhh!” The man was behind her, but everything happened slowly form that point. Everything was slow; time was all hears. She was becoming more powerful; she felt it. It was inconsequential to watch the man or to worry. Facing away from him, she could almost see him.

She focused on the water. His hand was raised above him, the knife high pointing down. There was a glint upon the blade that no human eyes would ever notice. It was a shame as it was very pretty. It came down, but only fell half way before the man was taking down by jaws by the thousands. His own pack. Their growls were just as heightened and powered as they had been when digging into her the first time.

There was a clank at her feet and she looked down seeing the knife, just as it was supposed to be – for her taking.

“Thank you,” she said and walked again into the pool in front of her as the echoes of his screams were lost in the raging of the waterfalls. She stepped in the water and focused on her steps. On the water, on the cushioned flooring of the pool. This was the whole of the last vial of Tourmaline. In her mind she knew the dogs were behind her, all of them. Sand dogs. She did not have to look at them or for them. They were quiet now, the ones in the front, eight of them or so, were stained with the neck blood of the man they had before then obeyed. She walked on the floor; she twirled. The knife in her hand gleamed with more of a magic than it had seen ever, more than they had seen in years.

When she was ready, she returned to the spire and climbed. The army of sand dogs sat and watched.

Up through the raging of the water she climbed. This time taking her time. The coolness of the water, the splashes, the dumps, the sprinkles, the sprays, all of it, the entire ocean of the water of her childhood fairy tales; she wanted all of it. Yet, she did not dither here. The drug was in her inner self. She was the last one to use it. She was the last one to have snapped the vial.

Open the vile over the Cruan, and bring then the green to feed the land.

 “Yes, Alaster,” she said, water filling her mouth, her pores, her face and all of her. Her hair was the wettest it had been. She shook her hair and answered. “I will do as you say, just as you have taught me. This is the last of it, you know.” She climbed farther upward and as she climbed, she rotated her body around the spire of the fountain in the middle of the desert. A quick glance at the army of those below. They had all sat eager for something. For her to return?

The water pouring of the fountain lessened as she got higher and as she gained more ground. This was the time. At the end of the spire, she found two perfectly wide and flat points for her to stand upon.

The Cruan. Its surface… just the surface had filled her head with all manner of childhood stories and questions. She pulled herself to a standing position.

“I’m here, Alaster,” she said.

For a moment – the only moment she would have here, she took a breath and straightened to look up and about the land.

The desert. She began from the backs of the sand dogs and followed it back. In the distance far off, beyond far, she saw the thick grey walls of the Institution. The ominous place where they told her that her parents didn’t want her, where they told her the existence she led was nothing – that she was nothing.

That was enough. Again she looked around once more before getting back to the task.

She held her wrist over the top of the spire, the Cruan. Before she began to cut, she looked around the top of the pillar for the halo, the glow. Nothing. No, it’s here. Of course it’s here.

She held her free wrist above the top of the Cruan and cut with the blade. Blood, dark and thick, moved as though it had just been awoken form a long slumber. It dripped down the last mote of skin and fell through the air to the top of the pillar. One drop, then two, then fifteen, a stream of blood.

The structure began to shake and a pulse of light lit the entire structure. Once. Again two, three times.

Constance cut herself again twice more, the tears in her eyes were blurring her vision.

The blood ran from her in heavy streams and the top of the pillar was covered. Her footing began to weaken and she saw chunks of the pillar fall away from the main and into the water below. What was standing in its place was a patch of light burning more brightly than the sun in the sky. Patches and patches they fell from it, more and more and quicker and quicker. They fell. As her footing gave way and the placeholders for her feet fell into the water below, Constance jumped to the hold on to the top of the spire.

The heat shook and seared her. Her eyes, her skin, her spirit burned from within. The structure shook more and more violently and from within the voice came to her.

AAhh, I thank you. Here is were it begins. Here and now.

Constance did not scream with the pillar of the fountain exploded outward in a far-reaching burst of white light.

It rocketed across the sand dogs, the desert whole and for leagues afterward in every direction. Every mote of life of every plane where the light touched was burned and changed from whatever it’s color was to a n easy meditative sort of brown. And then there was quiet and the light died down, easing itself from its reach into the sky, in competition with the sun, and it pulled back from its tracts along the desert.

The sun dogs were quietly decimated below; they went without disagreement. It was her they were following; her, the keeper of the drug.

When the light slowly pulled all of its reaching fingers from all places anid reverted into itself, it crumbled.

There was no water, no fountain, no life. Nothing remained. Nothing yet.

 

Somewhere else, somewhere behind the veil which separates this world from the next a long-white haired man looked at the spot where the Tower had lain. His eyes, blue and silver, surveyed the image. He nodded and recovered his tea and saucer from the table at his front.

“Good,” Alaster said. “You’ve done well, child.” He lifted the cup to take a sip. China, it was called somewhere else. She had heard it before. “Green will be restored and the good civilizations will be back here in a few millennia. That’s sadly what happens when you incur an Ice-Age in the middle of history – especially one they’re not ready for.”

“I just want to keep going,” Constance said.

“What do you mean?” Alaster said, his loose white robe folding with predictable movements as he walked She was used to his walk.

“I mean I want to be somewhere else. Another planet, another time. Something.”

He set his teat down and gave her a pat on the knee. “Well, I for one, am very happy to have you back, I’ll have you know.”

She smiled. “Thanks, Alaster.”

“You were always good at listening.” He smiled back. “Now cheer up. I happen do have a new destination for you. But first, supper. We’ll speak after that. Oh, and Constance.”

Her eyebrows rose. “Mmm?”

“May I suggest that we not involve ourselves in drugs on this next run?”

“I wasn’t supposed to be brought back in the first place; seems like drugs are working out perfectly for me.”

He nodded. “Your point, although taken, is irrelevant. You drugging yourself accidentally doesn’t really count. Yes, the drug gave you another life, but ~”

“Nope,” she said, “no ‘buts’. I’m here, and if drugs keep me alive, I will do it. Now, supper please.”

Alaster nodded and continued forward. “As stubborn as your mother. Come, come.” He moved through the doors and let it slam behind him.

Constance stared at the screen for a few more seconds. The brown hold where the fountain stood, the fountain she had climbed. She turned the screen off and followed the man. Tourmaline in her blood.

July Goings


Here’s the deal – I haven’t written anything here in FOREVER. It’s no one’s fault but my own; that I know, and there’s no excuse I’m going to post here that would make any difference. If you’re looking for excuses, there is an endless ocean out there from which one can cull. They come in all shapes and sizes, and they are all customizable in every degree.

I know I owe you the rest of the “Tourmaline” story. That’s a given. And here forth I’m not going to make any promises to you, but more to myself. The next installment of “Tourmaline” will be released before Wednesday night (July 5th).

Q: What is the consequence if you don’t make good on this “promise”?

A: Yep – you gotta have consequences; that’s a given. So, if I do not fulfill this promise, then no chocolate and no games for a week. I think that’s pretty good. And for me that’s some motivation.

In other news, Jer and I are moving along on the Wheel of Time. We’re on Book V. You can follow along here.

All moving along as planned. Again, Wednesday. You’ll see the next “Tourmaline” installment before that.

-lp

Tourmaline (a serial story)


 

Dear Reader,

Happy Sunday…night. I hope your weekend glistened as mine did. I wanted to bring a story to the space, but I wanted to do it in parts. The following story is called “Tourmaline,” and it comes from of the Chucky Challenges from Mr. Wendig’s space. I guess, that being what it is, it could be called a collaborative effort.

Nah.

Sorry, Chuck. This one’s mine.

-lp

—-

 

Tourmaline

By L.P. Stribling

Part I

 

Constance ran toward the quarry with the last vial of the drug clutched in the prison of her palm. The dirt and rock, dry under her sneaker soles, kicked up after her feet rushed down the hard-packed plane. The day was mild, very little wind. The sun was out looking over her from the center of a healthy spring sky, and she knew that if she were to stop and look behind her, she wouldn’t see anything. It would seem that she were alone. But all illusions were easy here. And dangerous.

 

There are no breaks here.  Not in this world.  Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.

Alaster’s word’s ricocheted in her head amid a steady rising pace of breath and the thrum of her sneaker soles on the hard-packed dirt became the metronome which somehow kept her alive. Yeah, well, look what happened to him. Even the best of us fall. The sad voice of reason always appeared at the most inopportune of moments. Try as she might, there was no exorcising herself of him. He was along for the ride. She gave a shout then, a noise to bring her out of possible decline into the hole of his reality.

When the beat of her steps slowed, the closer she was to death. Ten minutes ago, things were explosive. Ten minutes ago she wouldn’t have been able to hear it. Not with the gunfire.

She topped the next hill and saw the easy ochre glow, the pulse in the distance. It could only be the fountain. She stumbled a bit in the sharp slip of her footing. Her feet swerved off course awkwardly for a couple of steps, but she caught herself when her vialed fist touched the rough ground and rebalanced her.

Fuck! She thought. Don’t slip up now.

The shouts behind her seemed to push the thumps of her foot pounds to the side and found their way to her ears. Instances of voiced guttural cringing – armies of it. They were gaining, the fiends and the sand dogs. How many of them were there this time? This would be the last time, the end. She would die for eternity. No rebirth. She smiled at the thought and dug into the packed dirt, jolting herself for the glow of the fountain. There was a mild shake of her head then. Inside she laughed despite the voice of her body that it needed rest.

How funny is it that when I die this time I won’t be born again?

Under the thump of her feet now, she gave the world a glinted minor smile and quickened her pace.

The fountain closed in and gave itself to her with more detail. It was taller than she imagined. She could see the central spire calling to her in its coruscating outer shell. Like barrels of sand had been sugared with diamond powder and spread on the outer wall of this tower, the structure demanded that she approach it.

The growls of the dogs behind her had no doubt caught her. Her grind was slowing, and as her pace began to lessen, she could not help but hear the monster growls over the dogs. Even with her head focused, she could hear them. There were masses of them. More than she had ever seen or known before. She was on her 309th life. Each of those had not truly been deaths, of course, but resets. And each time brought more of them. They worked for Him, the central man. All of his commands were treated without question and executed. When she had finally learned of her own bounty – an executive order to eliminate her code, she ran, and they followed.

Cocksuckers, she heaved as her feet brought her form into the bastion which was the fountain’s umbrage.

The waters of the round pool sung in quiet laps as they meandered among themselves. Just what she had been told of what it would look like – it was all of that and more. It held a central tower encompassed in the smaller replicated fingers of itself – all of them a stunning mild amber. The natural pores of the stone blistered the skin of the structure with a beautiful sizzling texture. The outside of the structure glowed, pulsing in richness from a medium light to an almost sunlight golden, which lit up the sky around it.

Constance heaved, her body doubling over from the exertion. She had run long and far enough. She would be out of time soon enough. Now was not the time to catch her breath. What did her breath matter at this point? The sounds of her pursuiers were still there and they would be upon her soon. They would be there to eliminate her., and this time , again with a smile she touhgout about it., this time they would succeed – in a sense.

“But not they way they think they will,” she said to herself. “Good, I love you.” Her hands loosened and the vial rocked in her hand, steady and sweat painted. She could feel even then her heartbeat thankful for the encasement of the titanium vial. No matter how hard she squeezed, at least that area was secure. Through the greying small circle of transparent glass, the green fluid lulled back at her.

A bark echoed across the arid ground and her ears brought her eyes back to the hill in the distance – the same hill she had just left and darted here. A million other voices streamlined across the ground and their forms en masse bubbled over the bumpy horizon.

“Nope,” she said to herself. “Not today.” She plopped the vial in her pocket and knelt to pull off her shoes. With a quick toss, she disposed them and took a mental breath before stepping over the beautiful fountain barrier and into the cool crystal water.

Art or Craft – which matters?


It’s rounding on ten o’clock at night and I just saw this:

23. Storytelling Is The Art, Writing Is The Craft
Writing matters. It has rules. It can be artful or utilitarian, it can be languid or merciless. But it’s just the vehicle. We keep coming back to the authors we love — Atwood to Gaiman, King to Morrison — not merely because of the quality of their prose but because their stories are engaging. It’s the stories that matter. The art lives in the story. It’s the hardest and most essential part — you can write beautifully, but if the story there doesn’t sing, fuck you. The opposite is also (usually) true: the writing can be execrable, but as long as the story grips us by the nipples, we’ll buy the ticket and take the ride — and we’ll beg you for more when we’re done.

Chuck, you’re right.

Damn.

I talked about this with my brother several weeks back. We both came to writing in our lives, but for different reasons. I came to writing because I am in love with language. He came to writing because of story. We both write, but for disparate areas of focus. In this regard, I must confess that I disdain the fact that people with ugly prose still get the girls because their stories are the hit of the parade.

Don’t get me wrong; it makes sense. If Harry Potter just opened up by talking about a guy named Harry who wore glasses and was almost a teenager and wasn’t sure what to do with his life or who his friends were and was mediocre when it came to school, but he was okay at it and……

… If that were the case, that book would end up in someone’s fire or toilet paper stand. There has to be progression. Yes, I get that. You have to have something happen. In fact, it’s best if you have a whole shit ton of things happen, each one throwing the reader off, but still making sense. And on and on et cetera..

Yeah, I get it. I just think there should be something said for good writing as well. Not that it can only be good writing, because again, if your “good-writing” about nothing, then you’re giving you’re giving your keyboard a hand job, and yes, you write, but what’s the point? I’m talking about writing a good story AND you know how to write good prose. There has been a sizable handful of books which I have put down (against the raging applause of the masses on how good the story is) because I just couldn’t take the writing anymore. My go-to story is always Sanderson’s Mistborn. I got 400 pages into that book and I had given a liberal dose of grammar and good prose passes (subjective, yes, but aren’t all books subjective when they’re in individual hands?). I had to put it down.

The masters out there are masters of both. They know how to use their craft and make (as Gaiman says) good art.

I agree with you, Chuck. I don’t think it’s right necessarily, but c’est la vie. The point is, write. Writers write. As much as my readerly self doesn’t like shit prose, my writerly self lauds the fact that at least they made it to the shelf of readership. What does that say about the masses and literature? I don’t know. No, it’s not England in the 1800s anymore and this is not the literate society Simon Winchester mentioned in the beginning of The Meaning of Everything.

They want story. You’re a writer. Give them a goddamn story. Even if it’s not the story they want. Your job is to make a story. Write like a cracked-out booknana-lovin’ monkey, and give them a fucking story.

-lp

Balls


by

L.P. Stribling

    “Okay, now do you believe me? She had me by the balls, Frank. And I mean that quite literally. Balls. All of my balls in all of her decrepit granny paws.” Bart took another chomp of his double-bacon cheeseburger and chewed while he spoke, symmetric specks of grease glistened on either side of his mouth under the neon pulse of the late-night Burger Bobby joint. The blue bill of his Pepsi hat seemed to bob upon his forehead as his animations grew. Frank sat across from him smoking, his eyes half closed, blinking mildly to keep out the easy wisps from a fresh pack of Kools.

    “Seriously. I don’t have to tell you now because you know, and I don’t want to keep talking because it’s a waste of my breath and a waste of your time, but no shit, that’s the girl.  That’s the fucking girl!” His eyes bulged at Frank as he rapped his index finger several times firmly on the cheap plastic of their table. They were the only customers in the Burger Bobby at 3:00 a.m. According to Bart, it was the best time to go. Best lighting, best place for conversation, best food (if you knew what to order), and the best place to talk about why you should not listen to anything a devil grandma waitress tells you about going home to meet her daughter.

    “Okay, again, and I know this doesn’t really make a difference, but I was drunk. Frank, don’t you roll your fucking eyes at me. I know you’re judging me right now and that’s bullshit because you’re not giving this a chance.” He waived the last quarter of his double-bacon concoction stringently at his best friend as he promulgated his most recent date. “I was shit-faced so hard that I probably couldn’t have walked, seen straight, or pissed in a mega urinal without hitting the floor, but goddammit, Frank, what happened that night is not some made up bullshit drunk story. She fucking!…” he shot a glance at the register to watch the woman there look up at him and quieted. “She could have castrated me with her nails, Frank. FOOMP! Gone!” he made a sharp slice through the air; a tomato flew from his burger and partly stuck to the plastic of his tray.

    “Go head,” he leaned in to Frank who shifted his lips to exhale a misty white into the quiet air of the burger joint. “Go ahead and look at the girl, Frank, and tell me that your balls don’t want to duck and hide inside pelvis when you look at her. Look! …”

    Frank made to turn.   

    “Wait! Wai – wait, wait! Not now,” Bart said.

….

    “Okay now, look, now!” Bart said with an obvious air of trying to be inconspicuous.

    Frank turned to look.

    The woman in the slender tan Burger Bobby uniform was old. There was no getting around that. Really old. She was Egypt old, I-opened-the-first-Piggly-Wiggly old. She was Jesus-was-my-pen-pal old. Her curly hair was white from where they were sitting, but it seemed so in an unkempt manner. Some of the curls shadowed her face, others seemed to twist with others, ending up in knots. Even as she counted money in the register, Frank could catch a quiet glimpse at her eyes, and the salient hollows behind them.

    “Yeah! Picture that, my friend,” he said popping the last bite into his grease-ringed lips.  “Picture her at around this time in a dark room with her sarcophagus breath dusting your drunk ass, and she starts playing with your happy trail with her plastic nails, which, by the way, if you listen carefully enough, are also screaming to be away from her. Picture that girl right there with her hair all fucked up, wispy, and haggard and shit, and her wiry tarantula meat claw nails around your testes. Fact!”

    Frank turned back around to face Bart and shrugged before taking another sip off his current Kool. “Don’t look that bad,” he muttered.

    Bart’s mouth eased open in disbelief. Then he let out a giggle despite himself. “I cannot believe you just said that. Do you – No,” he said and but his hands up in surrender. “Nope, I give up. You know why? Because you’re being an asshole, and you know that kind of behavior, or whatever, bothers me.” He his same table-stabbing finger was in Frank’s face now; Frank smirked.

    “What’s the big deal, it’s not like your balls had any other plans that night.”

    “No other plans!? You serious right now? Frank, I was going to go back and bang her daughter silly! I was going to be a king that night Frank, a rex, the goddamn Pussy Prince of Peoria. But -“

    “She has a daughter?”

    “No!” Bart said, and again lowered his voice as well as his hat brim to his eyes while he slid down in the booth. He turned back to a whisper. “No! But I thought she did and, AGAIN…” he said the world emphatically, stretching his lips to their full extent. “I. WAS. DRUNK!”

    Frank nodded, took a drag, and nodded to Bart’s empty plate. “You done?”

    Bart sighed and looked at the same. “Yeah,” he said.

    “Let’s go.”

    The two walked up to the register, Frank held the bill in his hands.   

    “That be all for you,” said the woman. Her voice was a whisper of someone plotting on escaping their coffin. Bart turned and casually walked out of the Burger Bobby. A small bell chimed when he pushed the door open into the cool black morning. when Frank stopped at the register,

    At the register, the woman handed Frank his change and thanked him. Frank nodded and turned toward the exit.

    “Excuse me, son?” Frank heard the woman’s voice from behind him.

    “Yes?”

    “Should your friend want the same treatment as from the other night, you tell him I’ll take half off.”

    Frank cocked his head in response. He imagined it was much like his dog, Jasper, when he heard the microwave sound. “I’m sorry? Half off?”

    The woman nodded. “Yep,” she rasped. “And I’ll do whatever he wants. What ever.”

    Frank left without responding.

    Bart was leaning against the car, an old beat up Ford, when Frank walked out. He adjusted his Pepsi cap before straightening. “Weird shit, right?” He said.

    Frank didn’t really know how to answer at first. He walked to the driver side door and unlocked the passenger seat from his seat. “Yeah,” he said. “Yeah, weird shit. Get in.”

    The engine cranked over and grabbed the car. Frank put it in reverse, backed out, and strapped his seatbelt on. They pulled out of the Burger Bobby and their headlights blasted the night.