“Inspired” by a True Story

Many, many years ago, in a mythical time known as 1998, I sat at the family computer, typing up a story.  I was drawing inspiration from my new passion of the moment:  R.L. Stein‘s Fear Street books.  Okay, I was ripping off a Fear Street book…Switched, to be precise.  Our computer was located in the family living room because we hadn’t had internet access very long, and my mom had just seen The Net and was super vigilant about my internet and computer usage.  I’m typing away, and Mom comes up behind me and starts to read over my shoulder about my main character whose mother is deceased and whose lawyer father was super strict.  (Think Clueless.  I had no original ideas.)  My mom was offended.  She’s not dead!

This was the first time I realized that just because I’m writing short stories, not everybody realizes that I’m writing fiction.  When I started writing my Huntington-based zombie apocalypse novel for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November 2012, I was shocked by the number of friends that asked if they were in it.  “It’s FICTION!” I wanted to scream.  It’s a common misconception though, I think.  I mean, ideas have to come from somewhere, right?  At least that how I imagine the other side of that argument would go.

On the other side of the coin, I have encountered many works that claim to be “based on” or “inspired by” a true story.  Generally, when something is based on a true story, most of the details are accurate.  For instance, most of the story in We Are Marshall is true.  There was a plane crash in 1971 that killed a large number of the team and staff of the Marshall University football team.  Jack Lengyel was hired on as the new coach.  The team faced extreme challenges.  Now, that whole bit about the grieving father and the fiancee waitress…that part’s all Hollywood, but most of the movie’s story-line is correct.

“Inspired by” a true story can be very different.  The 2008 movie The Strangers claimed to be “inspired by true events.”  I personally thought the movie was incredibly boring and could have gone by the alternative title of “Liv Tyler Crawls Around While A Guy in a Mask Stands Behind Her Menacingly.”  I guess that’s a bit of a mouthful.  I was discussing the film with a friend, and she said “But it’s inspired by a true story!  Doesn’t that make it so much spookier?!”  Okay folks, here is the “true story” behind The Strangers: The Cabin 28 (aka Keddie) Murders.  Four people were found murdered in a cabin they were renting, and the case has never been solved.  Like not even a little bit.  It appeared to possibly be a home invasion, but even that is speculation.  That’s the whole premise.  The Strangers’ director also stated that some of the inspiration came from his childhood when a stranger came to his home asking for someone. Later, he found out that empty homes in the neighborhood had been robbed.

str_fs_hp_041608.qxd:Layout 1

I want to argue that if The Strangers can be called “inspired by true events” based on those grounds, than just about everything I write can be “Inspired by a true story.”  But what exactly am I getting at?  Today’s micro-flash fiction story was inspired by true events.  Those events are as follows:  I was in a sales meeting once.  I found it aggravating.  I had a thirty-three word micro-flash fiction prompt for that night’s Wicked Wordsmiths of the West meeting that I hadn’t written yet, and suddenly I knew what I wanted to write about.  I proceeded to jazz it up and turn it into something completely fictional.

But what does my mom and the Fear Street rip off have to do with this?  I have held this story back until now because I was afraid that my employer would read the blog and not understand that it’s simply fiction.  That’s all it is.  FICTION.  I have since started a new job, and I feel pretty confident that I have written a large introduction to reinforce that THIS IS FICTION.  THIS DID NOT REMOTELY HAPPEN OR ALMOST HAPPEN.  All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

 

The Sales Production Meeting

“Just two sales.  Could you do that this week?” her manager asked.

She felt her jaw clench as her restraint fell away.  She jammed the scissors deep into her manager’s neck.

Meeting adjourned.

black-handled-scissors

The Last Waffle House

I started writing stories at the age of 12. If you’ve read my Throwback Thursday post, you have read my first story ever, Mischief in the Band Room.  After that experience, I wrote a long and rambling epic trilogy in which I completely ripped off Stephen King’s Carrie.  I would write during class, study hall, at home, and then every day at lunch, my friends and I would get together and pass our works around.  I wrote a metric ton of stories in that time.  However, those stories have all been lost over time.  It’s probably for the best (trust me on this), but it created a problem when the most recent prompt for my writing group was to take an old character and revamp it.  (I couldn’t revamp my trilogy.  We had a 1000 word limit, and I’m afraid of Stephen King’s lawyers filing a copyright lawsuit.)

I realize this may make me a bit of a freak, but I always kept the graded writings I turned in for school.  I have a black binder leftover from high school (covered in gel penned Beatle lyrics) that I have saved everything in.  Obviously, this was my first resource for the prompt.  The original graded copy of Mischief in the Band Room is in there along with What Happened to Julie Byers? which is a “mystery” about my high school marching band in a hotel when our drum major Julie Byers is murdered.  (Julie Byers is a real person.  She was our drum major.  Every character in that story is an actual person, and I didn’t even bother to change names around.  I apologize, everybody from Cadiz High School’s marching band circa 1997-1998.  That story will never see the light of day.)  There were three or four narrative essays from a high school English class, and then I rediscovered Good Gary and the Waffle House.

My Black Notebook of Teenage Angst, Beatle Lyrics, and Graded Assignments

My Black Notebook of Teenage Angst, Beatle Lyrics, and Graded Assignments

In my eleventh grade year of high school, I was getting to the point where my schedule finally had some room for fun electives.  I took TV 1 that year where I learned to operate the equipment to make the televised school news program the next year in TV 2, but I also took a Mythology class.  I have very vague memories of the class.  None of my friends were in there with me.  I remember watching the Star Wars trilogy and Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and I remember one writing assignment.  We were to write a short story in which we featured an archetypal hero, and I was pumped!  I wrote a four page tale, single spaced in 12 point Times New Roman, about Good Gary from the swamps of Louisiana (think: Adam Sandler in The Waterboy) who, after his mother dies, finds himself in South Carolina when an evil entity is buying up all of the Waffle Houses, turning them into gyms.  I showed up to class to turn my story in and witnessed my classmates turning in handwritten, double-spaced, single page stories.  I was a little embarrassed, but the embarrassment was fleeting when I got my paper back and read my teacher’s comments at the top of the page.

"Terrific!  You have a real talent for writing; I hope you'll continue."

“Terrific! You have a real talent for writing; I hope you’ll continue.”

This was a big deal because 1.) Cool, she liked it, and 2.) it was the first time I remember an adult (that wasn’t my dad) encouraging my writing.  This was a REAL adult; she was a TEACHER, and she wasn’t even an English teacher.  I thought this made her “objective.”

All of this made Good Gary and the Waffle House my best choice for this prompt.  Right off the top, I cut out all of the archetypal hero stuff because most of sixteen year old Nikki’s knowledge on the subject came from basic Greek mythology and Star Wars.  For Good Gary’s unusual circumstances of birth, he was delivered in the swamp by a crocodile, and he never knew his father.  It turns out, in true Star Wars fashion, that the villain is actually Good Gary’s father.  To prove it, the villain drinks a gallon of syrup after which he’s not crazy anymore because he was just hypoglycemic and needed to raise his blood sugar.  Hypoglycemia and fatherhood aside, my villain didn’t change at all.  I polished up his dialogue a bit, but he’s pretty much the same.  As I was rewriting, Good Gary’s leading lady Ethel Mae became Ellie Mae, and she abruptly took the spotlight away from Gary.  Now that I had a heroine instead of a hero, I felt a title change was in order.  Good Gary and the Waffle House became The Last Waffle House, and I present it to you now…

 

The Last Waffle House

By Nikki Gladwell

Once upon a time, in a mystical land known as the Deep South, there was an eating establishment called the Waffle House.  It was the most popular restaurant in all the land.  In fact, it seemed almost as though there was a Waffle House at every highway exit or at least in every town in the Deep South.  Until one day, that is, when the Waffle Houses began to disappear, and one by one, gyms were built in their place.  Eventually, there was only one left in a town called Buzzard in that state called South Carolina.  This is where our story begins.

Ellie Mae Baker stood behind the counter of the Buzzard, South Carolina Waffle House, serving waffles and orange juice and black coffee to the morning regulars as an old dusty fan spun on the ceiling above with squeaky regularity.  She looked at the clock on the wall behind her.  6:54am.  The railroad crew would be arriving in six minutes.  Time to start another pot of coffee, Ellie thought.

Six minutes, right on schedule, the crew of the CSX signal crew walked through the glass double doors of the Waffle House.  Ellie looked up as she wiped down the yellow and orange flecked Formica counter top, and her gaze met the cheerful grin of Gary, her fiance.  Gary took his seat at the corner booth with his co-workers Jed, Eric, and AJ. as Ellie tossed the washrag in her hand into a soapy bucket of water on the floor near the cash register.  She washed her hands and then picked up the pot of fresh coffee and four clean coffee mugs which she then took to the corner booth.

“Mornin’, fellas,” Ellie said, pouring the coffee and blowing a few stray strands of curly blond hair out of her face.

“Mornin’, Ellie Mae” the men grumbled, except for Gary who simply winked at her.

“What are we having to-” Ellie was interrupted when the glass double doors swung open, clanging loudly.  In from the glaring sunrise strode a tall, thin gentleman, wearing tennis shoes and running shorts paired with a tuxedo shirt and jacket with a bow tie.  The muscled man tipped his top hat while brandishing a cane.

“Good morning, gluttons!” he exclaimed cheerfully.

“Mr. Healthy!” Ellie gasped.  “What are you doing here?  My father was serious about calling the authorities the next time you showed your health fanatic face around here.  We are NOT selling this Waffle House.  Especially not to you.  Now get out of here or I’ll call the cops.”

“Silence!” Mr. Healthy banged the tip of his cane on the linoleum floor.  “I am well aware that your father does not wish to sell his precious Waffle House, but he must face the fact that times are changing.  The health food revolution is upon us.  Growing fat and sluggish from years of high caloric food intake is a thing of the past.  Come, join us in the modern day, Ellie, or I shall take this Waffle House by force.”

“Never.  The Waffle House isn’t for sale.” Ellie crossed her arms and stared defiantly at Mr. Healthy as Gary and his three co-workers slid out from their booth and stood behind Ellie, ominously showing their support of her.

Mr. Healthy chuckled a sinister chuckle.  “You have been warned.  I will return.  Good day!”  Mr. Healthy spun around and walked out in the bright sun light from whence he had come.

Gary laid a calloused hand on Ellie’s shoulder.  “So, that’s him, huh?” The men filed back into their booth.  “That’s the guy buying all the Waffle Houses?”

Ellie nodded.  “That’s Mr. Healthy.  He’s bought every Waffle House but this one and turned them all into gyms.  He’s insane.”

“So that’s what happened to the Waffle Houses?” Eric asked before taking a long sip of black coffee.

“It’s not happening here.  We’re not going to let him,” Gary turned toward Ellie.  “We’re going start coming in earlier and staying until our shift starts.”

AJ chimed in, “We’ll come by after too.  That way, if he tries anything, you won’t be here alone.”

Ellie looked at each of her friends and her fiance sitting in the booth before her.  “Oh, I’m not worried about Mr. Healthy.  Did you see him?  Have you seen me?” She ran her hand down her side, indicating her curves with a wink.  “I could squish him if I sat on him.  He ain’t nothing to worry about.  Now, ya’ll having the usual?”

 

Days went by.  Every morning, Ellie and her employees served waffles and bacon and coffee with nervous sideways glances, waiting for Mr. Healthy to appear with a vicious band of tan and muscled health fanatics and take the restaurant by force.  A week went by, and Ellie had begun to forget Mr. Healthy’s warning when the vegetables hit the window.  Gary and his crew sat in their corner booth, chatting and laughing with Ellie when the first tomato hit the window, dead center above their table on the other side of the pane.  A mighty splat!  Red goo and tomato seeds slid down the window, when two, three, four more tomatoes hit the window.  Frozen peas began hitting the window like hail.  Just then, the double glass doors swung open, and in sauntered Mr. Healthy with a burlap bag slung over his shoulder and an army of goons behind him hurling a plethora of vegetables in all directions.  Tomatoes, beans, and kale.  Avocados, potatoes, and cucumbers.  The early morning Waffle House regulars ducked under the tables for cover.

Ellie Mae put two manicured fingers to her mouth and whistled loud before yelling, “Now, stop it!  Everyone just stop where you are!”  Everyone froze.  Ellie walked over to Mr. Healthy and stood as tall as she could, daring him with her stare to defy her.  “Just what do you think you’re doing?”

Mr. Healthy flashed his perfectly straight, blindingly white smile.  “My dear, you were warned.”

Ellie snapped her fingers.  “Lisa!” The waitress appeared at her side with a plate heaped up high with three fluffy, fresh and steaming waffles, topped with a rapidly melting glob of butter.  Ellie snapped again, “Mary!” A different waitress appeared at Ellie’s other side with a tray piled with hot and crispy bacon, juicy pork slices, and spicy linked sausage.  Ellie snapped one last time.  “Todd!”  The waiter walked up behind Ellie with a platter of hash browns decked out with diced onions and topped with cheese.  Ellie motioned to Gary and his crew in the corner booth, and the men rose to their feet, picked up a nearby table and carried it over, sitting it down between Ellie and Mr. Healthy.  The wait staff came around Ellie one by one and sat the tempting plates on the table.  Ellie smirked at Mr. Healthy, “Doesn’t that smell delicious?  You look like it’s been a while since you’ve had a nice hearty meal to stick to your bones.”

Mr. Healthy glared back at Ellie, and his eye began to twitch.  Suddenly, he lurched forward, grabbing handfuls of waffles and bacon, hash browns and sausage, shoving the food hungrily into his mouth.  Butter and syrup ran down the tuxedo sleeves to his elbows.  Grease from the bacon and sausage dripped off his chin.  He ate and ate until Ellie began to wonder if he would lick the plates.  Eventually the plates were clean, and Mr. Healthy sunk to the floor in despair.

 

Within the hour, Gary’s CSX crew were overseeing Mr. Healthy’s pack of goons as they cleaned up their vegetable mess.  Some men swept the floor with big long handled brooms.  Others followed behind with the mop. Outside, they hosed off the windows, and then scraped the excess water off with a squeegee.  Inside, Ellie sat at the table with Mr. Healthy and Gary, sipping coffee.

“You’ve proven to be quite the foe, Ms. Baker.  You certainly put me in my place,” Mr. Healthy conceded.

“Don’t mess with a southern girl,” Ellie laughed.

“What am I going to do with all of these Waffle House gyms?  Your food is delightful, but I’ve worked so hard to maintain this image!” Mr. Healthy moaned.

Gary cleared his throat.  “You could convert some of the buildings back into Waffle Houses, and keep the rest as gyms.  They say a balanced diet is best…some Waffle Houses, some gyms…best of both worlds?”

“And we certainly didn’t need quite so many Waffle Houses,” Ellie pointed out.

So it was decided.  Mr. Healthy kept some of the gyms, but gave some of the buildings to Ellie and Gary to be converted back into Waffle Houses.  Ellie and Gary were married, and together they managed a kingdom of Waffle Houses that they passed down to their children for many generations to come.  And they lived happily ever after.

The End.

Those Shoes are not Apocalypse Friendly, Francine

So, posting twice a week hasn’t really worked out for me, but I’m back!  A while back, my writing group used  The Titles Have Been Chosen flash fiction challenge from Chuck Wendig’s blog terribleminds.com as our monthly writing prompt.  I did not write this prompt in time to participate in the challenge on Mr. Wendig’s blog, but here it is for you now.

Those Shoes are Not Apocalypse Friendly, Francine

by Nikki Gladwell

Artie Jacobson sat behind the steering wheel of his newly commandeered black Hummer with the engine idling at the curb on Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills, California.  At least it had been Beverly Hills, California.  Artie looked out of the darkly tinted window to his left.  The rotting corpse of a National Guard soldier sniffed around the edges of the window pane and then tentatively licked a spot of gray brain matter that stuck to the glass, a leftover from an encounter earlier in the day.  This had been Beverly Hills once, Artie thought grimly.

Tapping the steering wheel impatiently with his thumbs, Artie stretched his neck out to the right, looking to see if he could still spy Francine.  Scanning the Jimmy Choo boutique through the glass store front, Artie finally zeroed in on his wife’s platinum blond hair at the back of the store.  He glanced down at his phone.  Still no service.  He’d never get her attention now.

Artie smiled to himself and shook his head.  This was so like Francine.  He thought back to the day six years ago when he, Artie Jacobson, CPA working at the accounting department for the Warner Brothers studio met waitress and aspiring actress Francine.  She was all elbows and knees back then as a flat chested brunette.  She was going to be a movie star.  A dye job, a boob job, and ten pounds later, Francine with her doting husband at her side had been set to be this town’s next big thing until this happened.  The news reports, before they stopped, had not been able to nail down exactly what happened, but whatever it was changed everything.  People died in alarmingly vast numbers, and then the dead were convinced to get up and walk, feasting on human flesh every stumbling step of the way.

Artie shifted his weight around in the drivers seat.  If he could just get Francine back in the Hummer, then they could head toward Brentwood where Artie knew of a bomb shelter installed in the backyard of his department’s head manager.  Artie felt an uncomfortable twinge of guilt twist in his gut.  The bomb shelter would be deserted and waiting for them because Artie had killed the manager for his Hummer as they tried to escape the hordes of flesh eating dead that had infiltrated the office this morning.  Artie rubbed his thumbs over the horn symbol emblazoned on the leather steering wheel.  He tried to tell himself it was survival of the fittest, that this manager died so Francine could live.  His actions still weren’t sitting well in his conscience.

Staring longingly at the horn symbol, Artie knew he didn’t dare blow the horn to get Francine’s attention.  Everyone of those grotesque walking freaking shows within ear shot would descend on Rodeo Drive like feeding time at the zoo. Artie would be fine in the Hummer in that event; he could just drive over the crowd and off into the sunset.  Francine, however, still trying to find the perfect peep toe pump inside the boutique would be lost forever.

 ***

Inside the Jimmy Choo boutique, Francine Jacobson loaded up her bags carefully.  She counted her items, checking each one off of her mental inventory list with smug satisfaction.  When all of this blew over, she just knew that she, Francine Jacobson would be the most beautiful and trendy survivor to come out of Beverly Hills.  Francine paused, surveyed her loot, and chose a pair of silver rhinestone platformed peep toe pumps.  Stepping into the divinely sparkling shoes, Francine smiled her approval at her reflection.  From here to the car and from the car to the bomb shelter, Francine knew she’d get along fine in these beautiful shoes.  Picking up her bags again, she left her Old Navy $1 flip flops in the middle of store and headed for the door.

With four shopping bags of shoes in her left hand and three shopping bags of shoes in her right, Francine sauntered out onto the street, feeling like a million dollars.  Artie motioned for her to hurry as he threw open the passenger side door of the Hummer.  Taking one look at her, he sighed “Those shoes are not apocalypse friendly, Francine!”

Just then, what had once been a man shambled out from behind the Hummer toward Francine, his jaw hanging slack, his clothes ripped and caked with dirt and blood.  Before Artie could call out to Francine, the ghoul lunged for her.  In an instant,Francine dropped her shopping bags and grabbed the shoe off of her right foot.  Wrapping her hand around the arch, Francine brought the platformed sole down on the dead man’s temple with all the force she had.  Again and again, Francine beat the man with her shoe until he laid motionless on the pavement, his face and head mashed into an unrecognizable mess.

Artie stared at his wife in astonishment.  Francine stepped back into her shoe as blood and bone and brains slid down into a puddle around her foot on the pavement.  She carefully picked up her seven shopping bags which she then handed to Artie inside the Hummer.  With a wink, Francine asked, “What were you saying about my shoes, honey?”

photo (1)

Throwback Thursday

     This was a bad week to run out of ready-made blog posts.  First, my birthday extravaganza took me out of town over the weekend, only to return to a week of office work by day and Vacation Bible School by night.  Therefore, I reached into the depths and brought out something ready-made and cringe-worthy and downright awful…the first short story I ever wrote.
     The year was 1998.  My favorite television shows were Friends and Daria while my favorite bands were Hanson, No Doubt, and Matchbox 20.  My favorite fingernail polish went back and forth between a dark hunter green and a bright electric blue.  I was thirteen years old in Mrs. Erbacher’s eighth grade English class when the light bulb switched on. I realized that stories are written by people with pens and paper, and that was something I could do anytime I wanted.  I don’t know where I thought stories came from before that class.  I read a lot and had always read a lot, but the thought that I could write something of my own for other people to read was completely new and mind-blowing to me.
     For the next several years at school, when I was finished with my busy work and waiting for the next assignment, I would pop out a short story.  I had notebooks upon notebooks upon 3 ½ inch disks of short stories, long stories, half-finished stories, and one long, rambling saga about a young girl with telekinesis that completely rips off Stephen King’s Carrie.  (Side note:  years later, I read Stephen King’s On Writing where he talks about how his earliest stories were rip-offs of the writers he admired at the time.  At least I’m in good company.)
     Thirteen year old Nikki would have never fathomed that she would one day be 51,744 words into a zombie novel while planning her next novel as the member of a writing group (especially one as cool as the Wicked Wordsmiths of the West) with a public blog for the all of the internet to see.  This short story that you are about to read is rough around the edges…and in the middle…and everywhere else, but it was the beginning of something that means a lot to me, and that’s why I share it today.  So, without further ado, I present my first short story ever: Mischief in the Band Room.
Image
(Please note the Salem from Sabrina the Teenage Witch Giga Pet and the NanoPuppy hanging from my belt loop!) 

     Hey, what’s up?  I’m Olds, a trumpet for the Cadiz High School Marching Band.  No, I’m not a trumpet player, but a real live trumpet.  I’m serious!  I belong to eighth grader Nikki Gladwell.
     It’s a decent life being a trumpet.  I live in the band room with the other instruments.  During the fall marching season, Nikki comes around just about every day except Sundays, but she only comes on week days during concert season.  I even get to go home with Nikki over the summer!
     Yeah, I figure that I have it pretty easy.  The band’s director, Mr. Jay Woods, is a great and talented man.  Beyond his talent though, there is a kind man who is admired as a father figure to many of the kids in the band.
     Like most trumpets, I find it difficult to stay out of trouble sometimes.  I can remember one time when…
     “Okay, people!  Let’s regroup at 52,” Mr. Woods tapped on his metal podium with the pen he used to conduct with.
     “I can’t take much more of this!” I grumbled.  Selmer, a trumpet owned by seventh grader Stephanie, blared a nasty note just to let me know that she heard me.  Selmer was a tattle tale, and if she did what I thought she would, I was going to get it from Kristen’s intimidating trumpet, Bach the self-proclaimed leader of the trumpet section.  I know I wasn’t supposed to talk when Nikki, or any human for that matter, was around even though it’s virtually impossible for them to hear us.
     You know when your horn mysteriously gets out of tune, plays a different note than you wanted it to, or the valves suddenly start sticking really bad when there’s no valve oil around?  We do that on purpose.
     Anyway, Mr. Woods was ready to start Alexander’s Ragtime Band again  I really hated this song.  Besides, I was really tired!  I considered making my valves stick since it was easily done, and I knew Nikki had run out of valve oil a week before.  I hated to do it to the kid, but I just couldn’t handle it anymore!
     Later that day, after school, I had a little chat with my fellow trumpets.  We decided to tease the low brass for a little excitement.  I yelled across the room to a trombone belonging to Nikki’s friend Rachel.  The stupid thing began to chase me!  We ran through the instrument closet, past Mr. Woods’ office, and took a couple of laps around the band room itself before dashing into the uniform closet.  Before you could say “Allegro,” that blasted trombone ran out of the closet and slammed the door with me still inside!
     I tried and tried to get out, but soon realized that the door was locked.  Looking out the vent in the door, I called out to a pair of cymbals left behind by Brandon Brown.  Nikki had never been fond of Brandon, but at that moment, I adored him!  Anyway, they tried to help, but that weren’t strong or tall enough to unlock the door.  Soon, a large ensemble of brass instruments had gathered around while one of the tubas tried to break through the door, but it was no use.  I ended up spending the whole night in that dark, stupid, and spooky uniform closet!
     The next morning, a couple of band moms came to my closet prison, looking for extra pairs of white gloves.  Instead, they found me!  The band moms gave me to Mr Woods who made sure I got back to Nikki who was very confused to learn that her trumpet had been found in the uniform closet.  I was so happy to be back with Nikki that I didn’t mess with my valves or anything for a whole week!  (Believe me, it’s a hard habit to break!)

Paved Meat: A Roadkill Romance

Before I get to today’s short story, I would like to point out that today marks two full weeks that my blog has been in existence.  In that time, I have swindled 59 Facebook likes out of you (Please click HERE if you’d like to become number 60!), and this blog has been viewed 200 times!  Thank you each and everyone of you for your support.  I did not think anybody except for maybe my dad would read this.  Maybe my aunts or grandma, but I did not anticipate this volume of support!  So, again, thank you.

This post marks the last of my reserves, and starting with the next post, I will be writing specifically for the blog.  I have been scouring the internet for writing prompts, have a few ideas of my own, and plan on posting about twice a week.

Last month for our Wicked Wordsmiths of the West’s writing prompt, we used The Titles Have Been Chosen flash fiction challenge from Chuck Wendig’s blog terribleminds.com.  I did not finish (or begin if I’m being honest) in time to participate in the challenge on Mr. Wendig’s blog, but here it is in all its glory (or something like it), my flash fiction story Paved Meat: A Roadkill Romance.

possum2

Paved Meat: A Roadkill Romance

The moonlight reflected off of Griselda’s silver fur as she looked back over her shoulder to meet Rodolfo’s gaze. The two opossums had just finished a delightful round of appetizers at the dumpster behind the Wendy’s, and now they were off to a moonlit dinner on the side of West Virginia Route 2. Fresh groundhog, how romantic!

Griselda and Rodolfo stopped upon arriving at their dinner. The crickets chirped a melodious love song in the field behind them as Rodolfo tenderly nuzzled Griselda’s pink nose. He motioned for his beautiful date to dig in, so she did. Rodolfo thought to himself that he would always remember the cute little noise she made when she ate.

Just then, bright blinding twin lights beamed down on the lovers from the west. Tires screeched as Griselda cried out “Rodolfo!” and then everything went black.

***

Hours later, dawn was breaking as the state road maintenance truck pulled over to the shoulder of West Virginia Route 2. Two men climbed out of the cab of the truck, pulling on large gloves as they approached the roadkill.

“Whadda we got here? A pile up!”

“Is that two ‘possums and a groundhog? Looks like they had a party going on!”

“Those ‘possums look like they’re staring at each other.” The older man grimaced. “It’s…gross. Jimmy, hand me that shovel…”

Talullah: An Exercise in Character Development

My writing group, the Wicked Wordsmiths of the West, decided to try an exercise in character development.  We each took a turn at the white board, and the rest of the group gave us traits, abilities, likes, and dislikes of a character that we were to then write a short story about.  Luckily, I went pretty early before everyone got warmed up and crazy.

photo (1)

I was to write about Talullah: a four foot five vampire hunter with hair that sticks straight up, one blue eye and one green eye that was a transplant from her companion, a magical flying walrus.  Her weapon of choice is blow darts, and she has perfect night vision which becomes stronger when she’s breakdancing.  Oh yeah… and she’s disgusted by blood.  Yes, I do believe I got lucky in this exercise.  There were other writers that had much, much worse.

When we met a month later, we read our stories out loud and gave each other Olympic style scores on a scale of one to ten.  When all was said and done, I came out on top!  Silly little thing that it might be, I was really honored.  I even won prizes!

Winner's swag

Winner’s swag

And now, I present to you…

Talullah

My alarm clock went off with a shriek, harsh and premature. I sat up and rubbed my eyes groggily. 6:15am. Time to get to work.

After a brief shower, I stood before the full length mirror in my bathroom, scanning my four foot five frame. I squirted some pomegranate scented pomade into my hands which I then rubbed together briskly before running them through my black hair. I cautiously make sure every hair stuck straight up in the air, just like the coif of my idol, Grace Jones. She was one tough dame, and starting again today, so was I.

I turned my head to the left and checked my profile with my one blue eye. Satisfied, I turned my head to the right and checked my profile with my one green eye, the eye transplanted from my good friend Sammy after the incident. Both the blue and the green eye were looking back at me in the mirror with sorrow. The incident. I shook my head. I didn’t have time to think about that today.

I heard Sammy’s voice coming through my bedroom window. I walked into the room to see him floating outside waiting for me. Sammy the flying walrus and I had worked together for a long time in this messy business. “Are you ready to kill some vampires, Talullah?” he asked with a smirk. “Your hair looks fine. Let’s go!” I nodded and climbed out of the window and unto Sammy’s back. I felt his muscles tighten beneath me as we sailed forward.

“You remembered the blow darts, didn’t you?” he inquired.

I glanced down instinctively at the pouch on my hip. “I won’t forget the blow darts again. I dipped them in a fresh coat of garlic oil and everything.”

“Good. We can’t afford another….incident….”

 ***

Four hours later, Sammy and I had laid waste to three vampires with my special blow darts. I was leaning against the beige painted wall of the basement apartment our last conquest had occupied, and my stomach churned. “The blood,” I thought. “I can’t take the blood anymore.” I closed my eyes and cleared my mind as best I could. I breathed in deeply, the dank smell of moldy carpet and dust filling my nostrils. I exhaled slowly between parted fuschia lips and noticed Sammy was watching me.

“Ready? They’re waiting.”

“Sammy, I don’t want to go all the way down there. Not after the last time. I can’t face everyone again.”

Sammy rolled his one green eye. He adjusted his eye patch. “The other hunters are our family, Lulu. You didn’t do anything wrong.”

“I’m not ready for their pity.”

“You can’t avoid them forever. Let’s go. We’ll see everybody, cut a rug…it’ll be great, doll! I promise.”

In fact, I knew I couldn’t stay away forever, but was I ready to face them all yet? Sammy pranced impatiently, insisting upon on immediate departure. “Fine,” I huffed.

 ***

Under the city streets, the bass pumped while the vampire hunters popped and locked. Trepidation hissed in my ears as I followed Sammy through the crowded underground break-dancing hall. The other vampire hunters cleared the path when they saw us. They didn’t expect to see me back to business so soon. Sammy lead me to the dance floor and yelled “Hit it!” to the DJ.

“BUST IT!” Young MC started to jam. Sammy launched into a back flip. Without more than a moment’s hesitation, I grabbed my ankle with my right hand and put my left hand around to the back of my neck. The running man they called it…my signature warm up move. I reached down and planted one hand firmly on the ground and kicked my legs in the air and spun around.

As we danced, the stench grew stronger. Just past the onlooking crowd, I spotted movement with my transplanted eye. The familiar tingle ran up my spine. Sammy could tell by the look on my face. He shook his fat walrus head and grinned, “Break-dancing always has made your powers stronger.”

“Sammy, hit the lights!” I exclaimed, dropping to a crouch as one hand grabbed the pouch concealing my special blow darts. I scanned the room with the perfect night vision my transplanted eye afforded me. Then they came, slinking out of the shadows, pouncing on unsuspecting vampire hunters, and sinking white gleaming fangs into unsuspecting necks.

I raised the blow gun to my pursed lips and shot one garlic oil dipped dart through the air and into the neck of one…two…three…and four vampires who burst into flames and fell as ash to the floor. Then I saw him, tall and dark, seeping out of the crowd toward me.

“Lulu…” he stood before me, his red eyes dancing and twitching with nervous energy.

“Dominick,” my voice caught in my throat. Of all of the vampire hunter break-dancing joints, in all the towns, in all the world, he walked into mine.

“Your eye is healing well. I guess I didn’t fair as well.”

Before I could stop myself, I reached up and touched the scar tissue around my transplanted eye. I swallowed hard as the memories flooded my mind. My vampire hunting partner Dominick…as a team, we were unstoppable. We fell in love. Then one night, things went bad. We were ambushed. I woke up in a puddle of blood, Sammy towering over me, my Dominick and my eye gone.

Dominick chuckled, snapping me out of my thoughts. “Why don’t you join me?” he beckoned. I started to protest. “JOIN ME!” he screeched as he lunged at me. I reloaded the blow gun and puffed. The blow dart cut through the air and pierced through Dominick’s chest. “Talullah!” he exhaled as flames consumed him, and then nothing remained of Dominick except for the pile of ashes at my feet.

The lights came back on. The janitorial crew appeared and began to clean up the wreckage. Sammy laid one heavy flipper on my shoulder. “Are you okay, Lulu?”

I stared down at the ashes. “Yes. Believe it or not, I am.” I looked around. The DJ returned to his perch at the booth. “Hit it!” I told him.

“Don’t just stand there. Bust a move!” Young MC instructed, and we did.

 

Different Than The Other Guys

Let’s get started!  The first short story I’ve chosen for you was written as a prompt from my writing group, the Wicked Wordsmiths of the West.  We pulled slips of paper out of plastic sandwich baggies to determine our genre, at least one noun and one adjective that had to be used somewhere in the story.  There was a Draw Two slip, and I happened to pull it twice!  Therefore, my genre was Romance-Science Fiction, utilizing the noun “alien” and the adjectives “ancient” and “cheap.”

Enjoy!  And feel free to comment below!

 

Different From The Other Guys

It was January when Claire Mitchell found herself sitting at the coffee shop around the corner from the office where she worked as a receptionist. Today she was waiting for her friend Haley. It seemed as though she was always waiting for Haley.

Today was the day for Simon Jones introduce himself to Claire. He sat by himself near the entrance of the coffee shop with his untouched copy of Naked Lunch on the table before him along with his black coffee. According to his research, the most suave and debonair men drank black coffee. Today was the day to meet Claire because today she had finally noticed him. After weeks of making sure to arrive at exactly the same time she did so that he could open the door for her and after days of polite nods when he let her cut in line in front of him, Simon had finally caught her attention. Claire glanced in Simon’s direction for at least the seven hundred and eighty sixth time in the last half hour. Simon had been counting. He was nervous; after all, he had never done anything like this before.

Claire looked at the entrance again for what seemed like the eight hundredth time, expecting this to be the time she’d see Haley saunter in, already thirty minutes late. Claire’s eyes trailed away from the door and locked into Simon’s gaze. Instinctively, she smiled and looked down at her chai latte. When she looked up, Simon was standing in front of her. “Is this seat taken?” he asked.

 

By early February, Simon and Claire were dating. Simon was so shy and timid, the strong and silent type, Claire thought. She was patient with him, waiting for him to hold her hand until one day, she took a deep breath and reached for his hand while they were sitting in a cheap diner. Simon smiled and squeezed her hand. That evening on her doorstep, Simon stood next to Claire with his hands in his pockets, looking down at her. Claire looked up at Simon, waiting for him to kiss her. Finally, Simon blurted out, “I’m sorry. I haven’t kissed a girl in a long time.” Claire assured him that it was okay, so Simon bent toward her and planted a soft kiss on her lips.

On Valentine’s Day morning, Claire found Simon on her doorstep, bright and early with a bouquet of yellow roses. He took her to breakfast at the coffee shop where they met. After they ate, Simon took Claire back to his house where they sat on his bedroom floor looking through his record collection, listening to the Velvet Underground, and kissing. Claire told her friends later that it was the best Valentine’s Day she had ever experienced. “He’s different from any other guy I’ve ever dated!” she gushed.

 

The relationship between Claire and Simon blossomed over the next several months, but not everything was perfect. Often they would be together, and a distant vacant look would wash over Simon’s face. Claire would speak to him, but it was as if he was millions of miles away. As the shiny newness of their fledging relationship began to wear off, Claire began to question some of her boyfriend’s behaviors. Simon had a large collection of video games, movies, records, and books. Not long after Valentine’s day, while snuggled up next to Simon on the bed in his room, Claire began to ask about the different books that lined the shelves that made up one wall of Simon’s bedroom. Simon explained to Claire that his favorite author was William S. Burroughs and indicated the shelf that held most of Burroughs works. After a few questions, Claire realized that Simon had read few to none of these favorite books.

Days later, Claire flipped through the binder in which Simon kept all of his DVDs, looking for something to watch. Simon began to tell Claire about his favorite David Cronenberg films, some of which Claire was familiar with and all of which were in the binder in front of her. The more Simon talked, the more Claire realized that Simon had seen about as many of his movies as he had read of his books which amounted to very few. Simon ended the conversation and went to take a shower, leaving Claire to herself in his living room to watch whatever film she felt like. Claire went over to Simon’s desk in the corner of the room and switched on the computer screen, intending to check her Facebook page. The screen came on, and Claire found herself looking at the Wikipedia article for David Cronenberg. Reading the article, Claire realized that Simon had more or less just recited the entry to her verbatim. Claire turned the computer screen back off and returned to the couch to ponder while Simon finished up in the shower.

 

Later that evening, while finishing dinner at Simon’s favorite Chinese restaurant, Claire couldn’t stop thinking about the Wikipedia article. Simon had that far away look on his face again. Claire watched him and waited. Minutes later, Simon’s eyes snapped back to the time and place at hand as he met Claire’s gaze. “I’m sorry. What did you say?” Simon asked when he saw her troubled stare.

“I didn’t say anything, Simon. Neither did you. It’s like you’ve been on screen saver for the past…” she looked at her watch “seven minutes. What is going on?”

Simon readied his courage. He knew since that first day in the coffee shop that this conversation would be coming. “I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that, Claire. Are you ready to go? We can talk in the car.”

In the car, they rode in silence until Simon turned on the blinker to turn onto his street. Finally Claire spoke, “Sometimes you drift off, and you get this look on your face like you’ve checked out. And all those books and movies? Why have them if you’re not going to read them? Why pretend like you have? I’d still like you either way!” Claire shook her head. “I found the Wikipedia article on David Cronenberg open on your desktop. Is it really so hard to talk to me that you have to look stuff up? On Wikipedia? What is that, Simon?”

“I’m a robot, Claire,” Simon said. He pulled his car into his parking spot in front of the apartment building and looked over at Claire.

Claire’s brow furrowed. “…you’re a what?”

“I’m a robot, Claire. I was sent to this planet by an ancient race of aliens from the galaxy your scientific establishment calls M82 or the Cigar Galaxy because it’s shaped like a cigar. I’ve been sent here on a mission to gather information like the books and movies in an attempt to understand how you humans operate. When I get that look you mentioned, I’m transmitting the data I’ve gathered back to their laboratory. I’ve waited so long to tell you. Please don’t be mad.”

Claire stared at Simon, her mouth hanging slack. She had been told a lot of lies by a lot of guys over the years, but this was a first. “A robot?” she snorted. Claire burst into uncontrollable laughter, tears streaking down her cheeks.

“Why are you laughing?” Simon asked. “I am a robot.”

Claire stopped laughing. “You are not a robot, Simon.” She sighed, unbuckled her seatbelt, and got out of the car.

“I am!” Simon insisted. He jumped out of the car and began to follow Claire up the stairs to his apartment on the second floor. “My creators picked you as my girlfriend based on your Facebook posts. They thought someone like you could help me assimilate.”

“Simon, please stop. You’re starting to scare me.”

“No, really, listen to me!” Simon grabbed Claire’s arm somewhat roughly.

“Let go! You’re hurting me!” Claire shoved Simon away from her. Simon teetered for a moment, and then, losing his balance, fell down the flight of stairs and hit the pavement with a thump. Nuts and bolts shot out in all directions as smoke seeped out of Simon’s nose and from behind his ears. Claire screamed and ran down the stairs two at a time to crouch at Simon’s side. Simon’s eyes scanned from the left to right, left to right, left to right before unfocusing and rolling back into his head to reveal the serial number 87913070 on his left eye and “Property of M82” on the right.

A cold numbing terror started in Claire’s chest and spread up to her shoulders and down her arms. Claire got up and ran to her car, speeding home with hot tears stinging in her eyes. Simon really wasn’t like any guy she had dated before. Simon was a robot.

Upon reaching her house, Claire stumbled to her room. Shaking, she pulled out her laptop and deleted her Facebook account.

photo (1)