We often superimpose a mental grid over things we photograph to help with composition. This week, let’s go literal.
We often superimpose a mental grid over things we photograph to help with composition. This week, let’s go literal.
“I been hoppin’ trains for ‘least 20 years.” Doc said; his voice coarse from living rough. “Before that I was a healer and an educator, teaching anatomy to rich kids.”
“This life’s better.”
I scribbled furiously in my notebook.
“Yes, ma’am, good afternoon. Are you the manager? I asked the guy who answered the phone if I could speak with the manager.”
“Oh great, thanks for taking my call Ms Coe.”
“Sure, I can call you Christine, or even Chris, if you prefer.”
“OK, Christine it is. Christine, my name’s William Clutterbuck; and I just moved to town a couple of weeks ago. This seems like a great town.”
“That’s right, about two weeks ago. I’ve spent the last several days getting my house organized and setting up my workshop.”
“Me? I moved here from Fort Lauderdale. Yeah, I know, most folks move south. I guess I just do shit backwards. Oh, damn. I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to say shit. It just slipped out. It must be because you’re so easy to talk to. Crap, please don’t take that wrong, that’s not a pickup line. I wouldn’t do that. Not on the phone, anyway. I mean, we’ve never even met. I just said crap, didn’t I? I’m so sorry. I haven’t been interacting with real people for the last year or so. I’ve been living in a crappy studio apartment waiting for my divorce to get finalized. Then I had to find a place I could afford and that’s why I’m here. My wife and the pool boy got the house so I couldn’t stay in Florida. Shit, they got pretty much everything else too. Sorry about my language, please don’t hang up.”
“My workshop? Well mostly I’m a woodworker but I’ve been known to do a bit of welding too. I like the way that steel and wood look together so sometimes I like to mix my media, so to speak.”
“Yeah, that’s it exactly. I’m looking for a retail outlet where I can sell some of my pieces. I’m willing to sell them to you directly, or place them with you on a consignment basis. I’m not sure how you work with shit like this.”
“Yeah, I just realized, I did it again. Sorry.”
“Uhm, what I have right now are a bunch of bird sculptures, but not just any birds though, these are hummingbirds. And, wait – these are not just hummingbirds either. I cut the pieces out of ‘one-by’ lumber, paint ‘em up real colourful, and bolt them together so that they move. They’re really incredible the wings whirl around and everything. I used to sell the shit out of them at the senior communities in Florida. Hell, one old lady at Leisure World, used to swear that if they weren’t so big she would think they were real hummingbirds. I did it again, didn’t I? Please ignore my language. I promise to work on it.”
“That’s right. The wings spin around in the wind. You must have heard of my work, huh?”
“Whirligigs? That’s brilliant! I wish I’d thought of that. Would you mind if I called them Whirligigs. That’s genius.”
“Well, damn, I thought I was onto something. I thought I was on the cutting edge of innovation. I’m kinda disappointed to hear that. Do you sell them at your place?”
“You do huh? Crap. You know what though? I’m really good at this shit. If you tell me what will sell at your place, I guarantee I can make it. Maybe we should get together. You know, have a meeting or do lunch, or coffee or something. Are you free this afternoon?”
“I can come by your store tomorrow then. When is a good time for you?”
“Sure, I can be there at 6 am.”
“Fifteen minutes will be great – all the time I’ll need. I can bring some of my hummingbird whirligigs to show you. Hey, I can bring some donuts too. Do you like maple bars? My ex-wife hated maple bars so that’s really all I buy these days. Kinda my way of stickin’ it back at her. Ya know?”
“OK, I promise not to talk about her at all tomorrow. I’m over all that shit anyway, oops sorry. I’ll just show you my birds and listen to your ideas, while we eat donuts.”
“Right, see you tomorrow.
“Oh wait, do you take cream or sugar in your coffee? I’ll bring coffee too. I can hardly wait.”
Linda sat at the bar alone, sipping her beer. She had been sure that things would go differently tonight. She had come to the club optimistic at about nine o’clock; by nine thirty there were three guys buying her drinks and competing for her attention.
After careful consideration, she had chosen Mark. Clearly the best looking man in the bar. She liked the way his western shirt hung from his shoulders. She liked the way his hand tooled leather belt rode on his hips, and the way his boot cut jeans fit his backside. She liked the way his hair curled over his ears and the little hook shaped scar above his eye. She loved the way that he talked.
He spoke and dressed confidently. He told stories like Hemmingway wrote, sucking her into his narrative. She was smitten. He was persuasive and kept buying drinks. The other men eventually drifted away to try their luck with other girls and by ten thirty, Linda had let Mark talk her into to accompanying him outside, into the cold of the parking lot.
She wasn’t proud of what happened out there. She felt used – taken advantage of. They weren’t gone long before they came back into the warmth of the bar and found their beers sitting right where they had left them with only a puddle of condensation around the base of the glass to signify that they had been unattended at all.
Linda sat on her barstool and Mark reached over to grab a couple of napkins. He wiped the damp off the wooden bar top and they smiled at one another. She had still been optimistic then. It was about ten minutes before eleven.
Mark pulled on his beer and set it back down on the bar, “I’ll be right back, Linda. Don’t go anywhere.” he said as he stood and hitched up his jeans. He walked towards the back of the bar and under the sign that read ‘Restrooms’. Somehow she knew even then. She hoped that she was wrong.
At eleven twenty her beer was gone and Ted, the bartender, came by to see if she wanted another.
“I’m done Ted,” she said, “I need to settle up with you.”
“You OK?” he asked, and she nodded but didn’t smile.
“I’m good, Ted. Can you call me a cab?”
When the taxi came she slid into the back seat and gave the driver her address, thankful that it was only a short ride home.
Large, crowded, noisy restaurant with large round tables
We are a party of eight
Lazy Susan’s working overtime
Richard uses his Kuàizi to pick up a red skinned roasted peanut
He raises it and makes sure I see before he slips it into his mouth and chews.
Ahh, a challenge
I do the same and he nods, ever so slightly, in approval.
Richard then picks up two peanuts, raising the bar.
I watch and do the same. Again I receive his tacit approval.
Mr. Hsu smiles and skillfully manipulates his Kuàizi to raise three red skinned roasted peanuts, nestled side by side between the chopsticks. He shows them to me, eats them, sets his utensils down, leans back in his chair, crosses his arms, and watches to see what I will do.
Raising my hands in surrender, I laugh we shake hands, and by the time lunch is over, Richard Hsu and I are fast friends.
A really short story, no doubt inspired by the photo provided with the prompt. Check it out and see if it inspires you too!
From her small balcony, the witch watched the world go by. Bridgid McGillicutty had lived in this house near the shore with her familiar, a black bird named Ramiro, since it was built.
For the most part she was content to watch the parade on C Street while Ramiro fetched her herbal teas and hasenpfeffer, on command. Ramiro though craved something more. He could be a randy bastard and he loved to chat up the young girls on their way to the beach. Sometimes this could cause problems.
“Mistress,” he had said just that morning, as he introduced his latest bikini clad acquisition, “this is Mandy. She followed me home and I intend to keep her. She’s quiet, doesn’t eat much, and she’ll stay in my room. You’ll find her very non-interruptive.”
“Absolutely not,” Bridgid said, “turn her out immediately or you’ll find yourself in my cauldron.”
The pair turned and walked dejectedly back downstairs; Ramiro muttering away under his breath.
The pirate, Rum Balls Carl, was known to weave colorful strips of canvas into his beard before a battle at sea. It made him more fierce.
There was a fifty dollar bill tucked between the pages of her book.
She waited at the edge of the highway where the drive came; waited for the Greyhound, refusing to look back at the house.
Her mother would be angry when they discovered she was gone, “Get your head out of the clouds, girl.” Mama always admonished.
Her father would be proud, “Don’t be afraid to chase your dreams.” Papa always told her.
The brakes hissed as the bus ground to a stop.
She walked towards the back and took a seat as the coach lumbered back onto the road.
Serge entered the stark white classroom and placed his sketch pad and bag on the instructor’s desk at the front of the room. The room was perfect – no distractions. No windows, very little variation in colour or texture. This would give his students the ability to concentrate on their designs. No distractions.
He looked at the long whiteboard and wrote his name at the top, in the center. He stepped away and studied what he had written then went back to the board and penned his motto below his name. The board now read:
Serge had been hired to teach footwear design at the Overland Park School of Fashion & Couture. He would have to teach these farm kids how to design a shoe; specifically a woman’s shoe. Serge knew that for the most part men cared not a whit about shoes unless a woman was wearing them. Men could strap boxes on their feet and be happy, but a woman… well a woman always appreciated beautiful footwear.
There was no chair behind his desk, so Serge took one from the third row of student seating. He moved it behind his desk and took a seat to wait. Leaning back and propping his feet on the desk he admired his own shoes – blue suede wing tips of his own design. They carried the classic lines of a wing tip with a subtle hint of rebellion. He loved these shoes and as he contemplated ways that he might improve on even these perfect kicks he must have dozed off.
Waking to the sound of someone clearing their throat he started, and looked around. It looked like his class had arrived.
A short girl with a dirty blonde hair was leaning in on him; she pushed her glasses back up on her nose and snorted.
“Ha, I think he’s awake now” she said and everyone turned back towards their chosen seats.
Serge rubbed his face and ran his fingers through his hair, “What time is it?” he asked.
“It’s a quarter after,” said the dirty haired girl, who seemed to be the appointed spokesperson for the entire class, “you’re late.”
“No, I’ve been here.”
“Physically maybe; but consciously you’re late. Did you design those?” she asked, pointing at his wingtips.
“Uhm, yeah, I did.”
“Cooool,” droned a tragically hip young man sitting in the front row.
“Let’s get started, shall we?” Serge began. “My name is Mr. Chaussure and this is Women’s Footwear 101. I intend to spend today bragging about my own accomplishments and finding out a bit about each of you and what kinds of footwear inspire you.” A young man in the back slowly raised his hand, he wore a fedora low over his eyes. Serge pointed at him.
“Yes, Mr… I’m sorry I don’t know your name yet.” Serge said.
“Montes,” he said, “Guillermo Montes.” He kept going without a breath, “I think we should just move straight to talking about us, Teach. We all know who you are.”
“Do you now, Mr. Montes? Who am I?”
“You’re the dude who designed the espadrilles that Miss July was wearing in the magazine last summer.”
“Did everyone here know that?” Serge asked. Heads nodded around the classroom and a murmur of affirmative sounds provided a thumping bass track.
“OK then, enough about me. I expect each of you to come to class tomorrow with a sketch pad and a drawing implement of your choice. Pages must be 9×12. Not 8×10 or 10×14. 9×12 only, anything else will not be considered. I don’t care if you want to work with pencil, ink, charcoal, pastel or crayon but you will work on a 9×12 sheet.
“Now, let’s start with you Mr. Montes. What do you see on a woman’s foot that you find inspirational?”
“Boots, dude. But they gotta go higher than her knee.”
“And you?” Serge interrupted and pointed at the dirty haired girl.
“Pumps,” she said, “I’m a sucker for pumps. My name’s Karen, by the way.”
Serge, pointed at each of them in turn and heard.
“Linda, anything with an open toe.”
“Jeff, running shoes.”
“Tiffany, probably galoshes, but rubber shoes of any type bear consideration.”
Everyone was talking at once. Serge held up his hand and announced that he was letting class out early today. “Bring your sketches tomorrow,” he said. “Remember only 9×12’s. See you then and I promise to be awake.”
As her mount shifted uneasily under her, she grasped the brim of her old felt Stetson, gazed upwards and remembered Jean Pierre.
He had been a fur trapper, a rough man who should have stayed in France, a man who was not afraid to die. Indeed he had told her as much right before they locked eyes and she slid her blade between his ribs. Belle had held him as his life slipped away and his soul departed. There was something uniquely intimate about killing a man that way.
“Peace be upon you Jean Pierre I grant you freedom from this tortured life.” She had intoned as he breathed his last and collapsed on the rough hewn floorboards above the saloon.
She wiped her blade clean on his chaps, dressed, snuck down the back stairs and took his horse.
Her bruised ribs ached as she rode west, always west. She had to put some distance between herself and Laramie.