One Trick Pony

For the last fifteen or so years I've been living with a bunch of dead guys at a motel in West Texas. Like the characters in my stories, I'd really like to move on, see the world, go places. But I'm just like them. Anchored by love, worn down by circumstances and fascinated by how much there really is underneath it all. So I keep writing their stories and tell myself that someday, when I've got this all out of my system, I'll write deep, meaningful literature about... something else. In the meantime, this is a place for the short attention spanned. I'm making a commitment to keep it small here. Flash fiction and scenes from the life inspired by, The Bella Vista Motel.

Thanks for reading.


Friday, May 28, 2010

Friday Flash: Not According to Plan

The house didn’t aim to impress.  Little more than a shack, its bleached slat wood walls slumped in the middle of a dusty plot of land, surrounded by scrub brush and broken fences.  A rusty pickup truck with a fresh scrape along the driver’s side was parked like a passed out drunk in the front yard.

A big black Packard pulled up next to the truck and sat, engine idling.  The two men inside observed the windows, watching for movement.  The house was dead still in the afternoon heat.  The windows remained blank, the faded curtains, lank.

Jake Anager shifted in the passenger seat impatiently, but knew better than to ask what they were waiting for.  He was a hulking, muscular young man, burdened with a heavy brow and a long jaw.  He glanced over at the man behind the wheel who watched the front of the house like it was a movie screen.  Mr. Bureau ran a finger over his pencil thin mustache and nodded to himself.  His cunning black eyes took in details Jake couldn’t hope to ascertain.  Always calculating, this one was.  Always figuring how best to go about his next treacherous trick.

Jake preferred a more direct approach.  Just beat ‘em till they give in or pass out or die and then get on with your day.  But Jake wasn’t in charge.  Mr. Bureau was in charge.  So they would sit in the driveway with the engine running long enough to make Cain good and nervous before they knocked on his door.  Mr. Bureau wasn't concerned about stealth.  He wanted Cain to know he was coming.  He wanted Cain to be thinking about how much he owed, how much trouble he'd caused and how much Mr. Bureau had a right to take out of his hide.

In Jake’s experience though, there wasn’t much of anything likely to make Cain nervous.

Growing up in Ozona, Jake had seen and heard tales of Cain Carter's exploits his whole life.  Cain was a drunk, sure.  He preferred to spend his time and money out on the flats drinking in that abandoned adobe mission the mexicans had taken over and turned into some kind of a saloon for their kind.  It wasn't a proper place for white men.  It was a way station for mexican criminals, which was why Sheriff Cobb liked to go out there and bust heads, clear the place out every so often.  And that crazy mescal drink the mexicans made out of cactus and who knew what all–– Jake had tried it once on a dare and damned if it didn't taste like vomit on fire––  was known to induce brain rot.

But Cain wasn't just some drunk.  He wasn't even just crazy.  He was deep down cunning and driven by a whole different set of wants and needs from your average man.  You hadn't seen single minded stubbornness until you came up at cross purposes to Cain.

Jake had learned well that Mr. Bureau didn't employ him to give unasked for advice, however, so he kept his mouth shut and waited.  If anybody else had of asked him to go take on Cain, he would have spit in the dirt and said, "No thanks."  But what Cain had pulled on Mr. Bureau was an inexcusable offense, a betrayal and an insult as far as Mr. Bureau was concerned.  And he had every intention of pulling the trigger himself, after he'd cut Cain down to size.

Jake figured the only reason he'd been brought along was to bear witness to Cain's humiliation at Mr. Bureau's hands.  He'd served that purpose before.  Mr. Bureau liked to have another pair of eyes to admire his handy work.  Jake had no doubt that Cain had written the ticket to his own execution earlier that day.

Mr. Bureau turned off the engine.  “Something’s not right here,” he said, as he opened his car door and stepped out.  Jake wondered briefly if that pretty girl was in there, and hoped she wasn't as he followed him up the brittle front porch steps. They both stood to the side as he knocked on the door curtly.  Nothing moved, inside or out.  Mr. Bureau knocked again, listening intently.

“Don’t feel like anybody’s here,” Jake started to say, but he was shushed as Mr. Bureau took hold of the doorknob and slowly opened the door.

They stood in the doorway looking inside with two different kinds of surprise on their faces.  Jake peered to make sure what he saw was correctly registering, and then recoiled from the stench that hit him in the face.  Mr. Bureau disregarded the smell and stepped inside far enough to get a good look at the blood stained bible splayed open on the floor.

He took in the details of the scene with amused shock, the splay legged body half sitting, half lying at the kitchen table, the broken fragments of something, maybe dishes or glass, and the copious amount of blood and muck spread out all over the table and oozing over its edges, still plenty wet, but not fresh.  He turned away abruptly and headed back out with the air of a man who'd been cheated out of some highly anticipated satisfaction.

He shut the door, pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and thoroughly wiped the doorknob free of fingerprints.  They got back in the car and drove off, Jake doing his best to continue keeping his mouth shut.  Two things he didn’t think were possible had happened that day.

Cain Carter had dared to double cross Mr. Bureau.  And someone else had managed to beat Cain Carter's brains right out.


  1. I am SUCH a fan of yours. The descriptions are gorgeous, from the truck in the front yard with a scrape, to the descriptions of the Mexican cantina in the desert (Dusk til Dawn anyone?) you had me hooked. We write from the same vein. It's so cool.

  2. Pamila, the grin on my face just grew bigger and bigger the deeper I read into your story. Not a humor induced grin but one of pure joy, like a kid who got the present he always wanted. You rock so hard! Someone really must start paying you to do this! $$$

  3. This is beautiful and strong and vivid. Brilliant.

  4. My flash is rusty guys, so glad this one pleased you. I'm really making an effort to get back in the swing. Thanks for hanging with me.

  5. NAILED it, girl. I love this brief description of Cain Carter (you're SO brilliant!)

    "he was deep down cunning and driven by a whole different set of wants and needs from your average man."

    The ending is perfect. I'm in one hundred percent agreement with Harry. You should be paid to write this. You are going to be at the very top of the best sellers list one day, girl.

  6. Pam... As you know I'm a fan of this blog and your tales have such a painterly vibe that just ooze atmosphere...

  7. Very cool story. The description in this is brilliant.

  8. A wonderfully descriptive piece. You do a great job of pulling the reader into the mind of the character and the scene. Great job!

  9. Dark and ominous, and so well done. Nice debut.

    Welcome to #FridayFlash.

  10. I knew when he was worried about the pretty girl that something was up. Well done! I really liked this, the descriptions, the characters, and especially the ending.

  11. Brilliant execution and set-up. The reader is immediately drawn into the world and the reality is firmly established. I felt the hot, dry air and the grit on the wind.

    Beautiful work.

  12. Fantastic! There are few stories that draw me in so quickly and so well I forget I'm sitting in my own home. This did that. Thank you.
    Welcome to #fridayflash!

  13. Wow! New eyeballs! With people attached, who said nice things. I love Friday Flash!

  14. "His cunning black eyes took in details Jake couldn’t hope to ascertain." -- So many details in this prominent Payne piece to ascertain, swallow, gulp and just plain savour. I felt Harry's grin after I smiled at the rusty pickup truck's scrape myself.

    Wasn't that 4 things though not expected to happen that day? The third being "Jake doing his best to keep his mouth shut" and the final (of course) ... YOU dear writer'woman extraordinaire, rollin' out them new eyeballs.

    Now pass around some cactus mescal. (yeah right, like we'd fall for that vomit-fire). ~ Absoluely*Kate (yet clapping)

  15. Lovely. What an invigorating, feel-good tale. I especially liked the part where the kitten was safe after all. You're a good writer considering you're still in high scho-- oh crap, wrong story, got my blogs mixed up. I'd better head on back to that poor kid's site and explain my comments about the blood and stench . . .


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