I crushed another empty beer can against my forehead and snagged another handful of stale Cheetos when I realized I was getting pretty drunk. Across the room, the clock on the VCR told me that it was 1:37. The little red light was illuminated next to the time so that indicated AM. It was 0137 and I was drunk, eating stale Cheetos and rearranging house plants.
Before she moved out Clarissa had written directions for proper care of the plants. Each had a little card with directions saying things like “needs a lot of sun,” “needs only a modicum of water,” to wait, wha…what the hell…? This one says never water! It says to keep in a dark room! I can’t believe this… all the plants are all going to die now. I should chuck em out the window. She better never come back, ‘cause if she does I’ll probably have to send her away again. I wish she hadn’t left. I would’ve done anything for her; well anything except apologize to her dad, or get a regular job. I’m an artist, for cryin’ out loud!
She is something. I wonder how long’s it gonna be before she comes crawling back. Before she realizes that she never had it so good. When she calls she’ll most likely be crying and asking me to take her back… and then… and then I’ll tell her no. I’ll tell her I got three or four women over right now, but I may be able to make some time for her next week.
What am I saying? I wish she hadn’t left. I promise to try harder. I promise to get at least a part-time job. Hell, I’ll even tell her dad that I’m sorry. She won’t pick up when I call her though. None of her friends knows where she is. I’m getting worried.
I used your prompts verbatim, then I looked up V.E.R.B.A.T.I.M. I’m so confused!
Big Nick Dixon was nursing a dirty martini, trying to give off a strong ‘LEAVE ME ALONE’ vibe when the older couple approached him at the bar. She was probably in her late sixties, maybe her very late sixties, with a blue wash on her hair, a heavy polyester dress suit, and sensible shoes. He appeared to be a few years older than she. He wore Bermuda shorts that accented his saggy knees, one of those tropical shirts, and a straw fedora. Neither of them looked like they had been missing any meals but they looked happy and they were holding hands. They looked like a couple of tourists on vacation at the beach from Nebraska or somewhere like Nebraska.
“Scuse me, young fella,” the old guy said, “these seats taken?”
Nick shrugged and the couple sat down.
“Thanks, sonny,” the old man continued, “we’re both getting a little hard of hearing and don’t want to sit too close to the jukebox, in case some fool starts playing it. Know what I mean? Know what I mean?”
“See, Saul,” the blue-haired woman said, “he does look a lot like Pick. A younger Pick for sure but he looks a lot like Pick. Don’tcha think?”
The old man scrunched his eyes and looked at Nick, “Maybe so, Lenore; maybe a bit around the eyes. The hairline’s the same though. No doubt about that.” He put his hand on Nick’s shoulder, “Son, you wouldn’t happen to be Big Dick Nixon would ya? Nephew of Pick Dixon from Kansas City Missoura?”
This got Nick’s attention and he growled at the old man, “First of all, my name is Big Nick Dixon, not Big Dick Nixon. I don’t know if you think you’re being funny, but I fail to see the humour. Second of all, I have an uncle in Kansas City, but his name’s Edwin Dixon. I don’t know anybody named Pick.”
Lenore slapped the back of her hand on Saul’s shoulder, “Edwin,” she laughed out loud, “damn; don’t that beat all. No wonder he went by Pick. Can you imagine being named Edwin for your whole life? Shit… Edwin, Ha.”
When the bartender came over to get the old couple’s order Lenore was giggling to herself, her large girth shaking like a bowl of Jell-O; every so often she would say, “Edwin” again and laugh a little harder.
Saul ordered a gin and tonic for Lenore and a Jack, neat for himself. As the bartender went to fetch the drinks, Saul turned his attention back to Big Nick. “OK,” he said, “You are obviously Pick’s nephew. He told us we might find you here, and look, here you are.” The barman came by and set napkins and drinks in front of Saul and Lenore.
Nick turned and squared up with Saul, they were both big men, “What the hell do you want old man?”
“I want you,” Saul said, “or at least I want to hire you. Your uncle told us that you’re a pretty good thief, a cat burglar… know what I mean?”
“Stop right there,” Nick interjected, “I never steal cats. I’m a second story guy. I didn’t never take no cats. Wait, you know my Uncle Edwin?”
Lenore waved her hand and sipped her drink, “Relax, Dick.” she said, “It’s the same thing. It’s the same thing, and yes, we knew your Uncle Edwin.”
“What do you mean you knew Uncle Edwin?”
Unfortunately, Pick passed on last week – had a heart attack at the ponies in Greenwood County.” She paused for a minute and then added, “That’s in Kansas ya know.” She paused again and asked, “What do the girls call you? Do they call you ‘Big Dick’ or just ‘Dick’?”
My prompt was: A misunderstood burglar receives shocking news.
Stan stayed in his seat on the 737 until the “Fasten Seat Belt” sign went off. Then he stood, reached up and grabbed his carry-on from the overhead bin. He waited patiently as his fellow passengers moved slowly toward the exit and he fell in line right behind them. Puerto Vallarta, at last – he and Violet had been planning this holiday forever; at least it seemed like it had been forever, and now they were finally here.
Violet waved at him from the cockpit, “I’ll meet you in the terminal, Stan,” she called smiling as she collected her bag of charts and shrugged on her flight jacket. He paused and watched as she tucked her flight cap under her arm. She was in her element, ever the professional. A tap on his shoulder brought him back to reality and the guy behind him raised his chin in the international sign for ‘keep it moving, buddy’.
“Sorry,” Stan mumbled under his breath as he headed on down the jetway.
Stan found his way to the luggage carousel and waited for his bags. He savoured the heat and humidity that enfolded him in these tropical latitudes. His mind wandered. He thought about Violet and how lucky he was to have found her. He loved the way that her long blonde tresses framed her face and the wisps that would find their way clear even when she had her hair pinned up beneath her flight cap; always so confident, so self assured. When Violet set her mind on something she would have. That was what had happened to him. He had first seen her at the Four Seasons, near the airport in Minneapolis. He had gone east to visit his sister, Kathleen and her husband, Kent. They had dropped him at the hotel the night before his scheduled morning departure. Violet was in the restaurant. She had bought his dinner, and they had ended the evening tangled up together with the sheets in her hotel room. She was his pilot on the flight back to Coeur d’Alene and they exchanged phone numbers.
Stan chased Violet. Violet pursued Stanley. She was aggressive, she was a huntress. Violet would send flowers to Stanley almost daily and soon she had him hooked. She asked him to marry her on Valentine’s Day at The Hindquarter Steak House in Fort Worth.
He said yes and they were wed in early March and moved to her place just outside of Dallas.
The first incident happened on Memorial Day that same year but it was his fault.
He understood that.
She had explained it to him and he understood. He accepted it, and it really hadn’t been that bad. He had to take less than a week off work, that first time, for the swelling to go down. She, over the rest of the year, taught him the finer points of using makeup to cover the bruises and abrasions.
She always apologized.
He never gave her any other options.
She loved him.
He loved her.
He would do anything for her.
That first Saturday in Mexico they went hiking in the jungle – part of a group. Stan and Violet lagged behind a bit, holding hands, enjoying the scenery, enjoying one another. They must not have heard the guide when he admonished all of them to stay well back from the cliff face. They must not have heard that the edge was unstable.
Morgan Reginald Hollingsworth III was nervous. He had butterflies in his stomach. His mother had told him it was normal and if the lights were set right he wouldn’t even see the audience. It would be just like when he practiced in his room or in the garage. “Nuttin’ to worry about, Reggie,” she said, “easy peasy,” she assured him, “piece o’ cake! Now go break a leg!”
She put her hand in the middle of his back and shoved him out onto the stage and into the spotlights. He stumbled forward and squinted out at the crowd. Mom had been wrong. He could see everyone in the audience, in great detail. He could see his Aunt Fiona’s mustache and the large mole Uncle Alfonso wore so proudly in the middle of his chin.
Nervously Reggie tried to smile and wave at the crowd. He opened his mouth to begin his well rehearsed line of patter but nothing came out. He screwed up his face and tried again with the same results.
Why had I agreed to this? He asked himself. What had I been thinking?
He tried to picture everyone in the crowd naked, he had heard that this technique worked to lessen stage fright, but then his eyes fell on his cousin, Elsie and her fraternal twin Edgar. Just the thought of those two naked was enough to make him a bit nauseated. Looking down at his feet he studied the worn oak boards of the stage.
His grandfather had performed on this stage; Harry Houdini had performed on this stage. Blackstone had trod these boards. Even Claudio and Evangeline had gotten their big break here. He took a deep breath and reached up his coat sleeve to pull out his wand. This was the part of his act where he would always say “Abra Cadabra” but he found that his voice was still missing so he simply pointed his wand at the audience, waved the tip ever so slightly, and a shower of stars flew out over the entire theatre.
Oohs and aahs echoed towards the stage from the seats.
“Catch one if you can,” Reggie said, “Catch one and put it in your pocket. You never know when you’re going to need a light.”
He smiled and watched the audience reach upwards, as one, to capture the tiny lights and secrete them into their pockets and handbags. He glanced to the side of the stage and watched his mother pluck one of the stars from above her head. She placed it gently on the palm of her hand, held it up to her mouth and blew it, like a kiss, towards her son, Morgan Reginald Hollingsworth III, tonight’s headliner.
“Lucinda watched as a fly made its way to the top of the large picture window. Once at the top, it descended, flying, hitting the glass a million times a second, bashing its small body against the unforgiving barrier between it and freedom.” She named him Magellan.
When the fly reached the bottom of the glass he would make his way back to the top, move over a bit and do it all again. She determined that he must be following a grid pattern, looking for a way back outdoors. Lucinda waited for him to reach Grandma’s collection of Hummel figurines that she kept on the window sill. Poor Magellan would have to detour around them.
She watched Magellan search, and listened to her grandma in the kitchen preparing another lunch of chicken and dumplings. Grandma boiled the chicken for hours in a stock pot with spices that turned the chicken green. When she pulled the chicken apart she boiled the dumplings in the same pot, in the same water. The dumplings turned green as well. Lucinda, concerned about the green food, always waited for someone else to take a bite first. If they survived, then Lucinda would eat too, and hope for the best.
Magellan made his way back to the top of the glass and Lucinda returned her attention to the tenacious fly. He was tiring. She picked up one of Grandma’s throw pillows and held it to her face, waiting to see what would happen to Magellan. The pillow smelled like Grandma. Finally Magellan hit the glass one last time and fell to the window sill where his body rolled beneath one of the Hummels. She realized that Magellan had had a different goal in mind all along. He had achieved it. “Beneath the statue, at last.”
I shook my head as she shook my hand. I must have gotten a puzzled or confused look on my face.
“What seems to be the problem, Mr. Jensen?” she asked.
“Oh, there’s no problem,” I replied, “It’s just that you seem very familiar to me somehow. Are you sure this is the first time we’ve met?”
“I’m certain,” she responded, “Perhaps we knew one another in a previous life!” She smiled, then she laughed and her entourage laughed along with her. She was younger than I had expected and decidedly more beautiful.
I led them into the conference room where my team was gathered around the table waiting. This meeting could be the one that finally put Peter Jensen Advertising on the map.
Introductions were made all around, business cards were exchanged. I studied her card.
I knew everything there was to know about Ana Petroff. I had studied a long time for this meeting. She looked younger than the photos I had seen and I commented on it.
“You may have been looking at photos of my mother, we share the same name. I’m quite protective of my privacy so I’m pretty careful to keep my photos off the internet but my parents have not been so lucky. I’ve been told that I look a lot like her.” Her accent was quite slight, yet very musical. I thought I could listen to her speak forever.
Her father, I knew, had been Sasha Petroff, a popular Russian Cosmonaut. Always in the public eye as he traveled the world marketing and “ambassadoring” for the Soviet Space Program.
Then it hit me, like a ton of bricks. She was that girl from the West View.
The West View is a luxury apartment complex, situated directly across the river from my house. For years I had been spying on the residents of West View with the telescope I kept set up in my bedroom window.
Ana Petroff had moved into the West View about six months ago and had captivated my attention since I first noticed her. She had floor to ceiling bedroom windows that offered a spectacular river view. She liked to stand naked in her window to bathe in the morning sunlight, and watch the river traffic. I knew because I liked to stand in my window and watch her through my telescope.
I grinned and thought I suddenly know a whole lot more about Ana Petroff than I did just seconds ago.
What a perv, I am! I thought to myself. Then immediately, I thought, how much that sounded like something my mother would say. Something she would say right before she sent me to my room and grounded me for life. My smile broadened.
“Well, let’s get started, shall we?” I suggested, “There’s coffee and pastries on the sideboard. Please help yourselves.”
Step away from the keyboard. Your 25 minutes are up. – No editing other than to place the quotes around “ambassadoring”. I’m pretty sure I just made that word up.
Rhonda was worried. They were en route to the front and getting ready to jump right into the middle of a shitstorm. She wasn’t worried for herself, she was worried about Billy. He was new, and this was his first firefight. She stood and unhooked her strap to walk to the back of the plane where Billy sat staring at his feet.
Rhonda nudged Dogbone over so she could sit between him and Billie.
“You scared?” she asked.
“A little bit.”
“You’ll do fine. You’re well trained and we’re jumping with a new moon. They won’t see us coming. They won’t know we’re there, till we light em up. It should be over pretty quick.”
“OK, Sarge,” Billy said, “I’m OK.”
“We’re good to go then,” she said and tagged his shoulder with her fist before she moved back to her place at the front of the line.
When the red light came on she glanced back. Billy seemed OK as he shuffled forward with the rest of them. When the door was pulled open she touched her Ka-Bar for luck.
The buzzer sounded and when the jumpmaster hollered “GO” Rhonda stepped into the inky void, hurtling downward, she said a short prayer for Billy.
Todd’s eyes popped open and he sat upright in the bed. It was four am on a Saturday morning. He knew it was four am. He didn’t even need to look at the clock.
He reached for the spiral bound notebook that he kept on the bedside table and pulled the gel pen that he loved to write with, from the binding. Opening to a blank page he rearranged the thoughts that were swirling in his head. His mind had been churning all night. He had enough stories running around in there that he just knew he would be able spend the entire day writing them down.
He had an idea involving teenage superheroes who banded together to fight evil forces and saved the world on a weekly, if not daily, basis. One of them could be a young girl, he might name her Sequester, her super power might be that she could burst into flames and fly around the world in mere seconds. Her older brother would also be part of the cadre. He would be named Bob and have the ability to disappear, to vanish and become invisible. Together with their friends, they would all be amazing and call themselves “Thunder Teens”.
He had an idea for a story about a beautiful woman – a siren who liked to sit naked on the rocks at the edge of the reef. She would wave and sing to passing ships luring the lustful sailors, with her empty promises, to certain death on the rocks; where their ships would be broken and their bodies torn apart on the sharp corals. Maybe she would have a couple of pet dolphins to help her with her nefarious scheme.
He had an idea about dogs and cats, who wore clothes, drove cars, held down jobs and kept humans as pets. Every evening they would give their pets a bowl of cold food, maybe macaroni and cheese, or maybe oatmeal or something else which had been specially and scientifically formulated to provide them with energy and help to build strong bodies. Meanwhile the dogs and cats feasted on meats, grains, and other nutritious delicacies spooned onto porcelain dishes straight from a can. They would eat too much, drink too much, and forego exercise. Slowly they would descend into the throes of mass hysteria and mental illness before becoming extinct. Fish would then become the dominant species on earth and they would invent bicycles.
He wanted to write about the new checker at the market.
He wanted to explore the dark side of secret and forbidden love.
He wanted to invent new words and write them in his notebook after carefully considering the proper spelling.
He wanted to write the great American novel.
First though, he wanted a cup of coffee so he sat his notebook down on his pillow and climbed out of bed. He straightened his twisted pajama pants and padded down the hall to the kitchen. The dark green can of ‘Café La Llave’ sat on the shelf and he prepared a pot; watched the dark liquid drip from the filter into the clear glass decanter and when it was done – he poured himself a cup. Mmmm.
Back in the bedroom he was surprised to see his notebook had moved from its customary place on the nightstand. He carefully put it back where it belonged and picked up the TV remote. Pillows propped against the headboard, he slipped between the sheets and pointed the controls at his new 96” flat screen TV. He could watch a few hours of home makeover shows, or the shopping channel before he had to get out of bed for anything other than more coffee.
“Damn,” he thought to himself, “today has the makings of another boring day. Why can’t I ever think of something exciting to do?”
Thanks, April! I got a couple of them in. Can I pretend that telephone is a TV remote?