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, June 25, 2010

Friday Flash: Not A Virgin

Romeo turned off the truck's engine in the driveway of the big white house on 9th Street in San Angelo.  He stole a glance at Slappy and tried not to grimace.  Ah, Christ, he thought, he's got a hell of a shiner coming up.  He felt guilty for losing his temper and hitting the boy, then felt resentful that he'd been driven to it by his stupid mouth.  They had fought three times that day, if he didn't count the endless bickering.  The kid would just start to behave himself and show the faint beginnings of a likable personality, then without warning he would bust out with some totally irritating behavior that would incite Romeo's anger.  The more he tried to be easygoing and not take the bait, the more the kid needled him.  

He hoped the truce they'd finally struck would last.  The thought of living out in the middle of nowhere with a teenager whose daily goal was to create conflict just made him feel tired.  Then he noticed something that brought him a small measure of satisfaction–– the kid was scared.  He was all big eyes and restless hands as he peered out the window at the small, neat sign over the porch that read: Shy Violet Ladies' Boarding House.

He pulled the truck around the back and shut off the engine, grinning at Slappy, his guilt evaporated.  "Here we are, lambchop.  Your first honest to God whorehouse."

Slappy scowled at him, "I told you, it's not my first time.  I been to plenty of cathouses back home."

"So you've said,"  Romeo nodded, grinning wider.

Slappy waited in the truck while Romeo went up and made enquiries.  He spoke to a willowy black-haired woman in a pair of pink sun shorts and a white halter top for a moment, then motioned over his shoulder for Slappy to come on up.  The woman pinched Slappy's cheek when he walked past her and said, "We don't mind the young ones here, we like 'em tender..." and she laughed at Slappy's furious expression.  She led them to an over-fluffed sitting room done up in too many shades of purple and left them to wait.

Madame Violet swept into the room a short time later, resplendent in a pale blue summer gown that left far less to the imagination than Romeo would have preferred.  She wore high white shoes and her platinum blonde hair was piled up on top of her head, bringing her height to somewhere around seven feet, Romeo guessed.  When she walked toward them beneath the ceiling fan, he winced, imagining the possibilities.  He'd never taken such a deep and instant disliking to anyone.  After he'd left that first time, he thought he'd get over it, but he hadn't.  He wondered if she'd ever worked the carnival circuit...

"Evenin', gentlemen, y'all here for the early bird special?  It's barely past supper time," she drawled.

She smiled through blazing pink lipstick and fluttered frightening creature-like artificial eyelashes.  One of them would have been big enough to serve as a mustache for Slappy.

"Good evening, Madame Violet.  As a matter of fact, we are here for the early bird special, this early bird right here," Romeo said, as he squeezed Slappy's shoulder and gave him a playful shake.

He turned to give Slappy a smile and saw that he had gone from scared to terror-struck.  He stared up at Madame Violet with huge eyes in a pale face and was breathing shallowly through his mouth.

Oh, little brother, time to pay you back for the last couple of days, Romeo thought wickedly.

"I'd like to throw a little coming-out party for my young friend here, and I just know that you are the best choice to introduce him to manhood.  Would you be kind enough to take on his education yourself?"  He winked at her and was gratified to see a gleam of fun in her eyes instead of offense.

"This adorable little morsel?" Before either one of them knew what she was about, she swooped Slappy up in her arms and rolled him into her lap like a toddler as she sat down on the lavender damask settee next to Romeo.

"Why, I'd be delighted to be the first to open his box of bonbons," she gushed lasciviously as she planted a big wet smooch on his cheek, leaving a lipstick print bigger than his ear.  Slappy was panting through a grimace of pure panic.

Oh, sweet Christ, I hope he doesn't piss himself in her lap, Romeo thought, barely able to keep a straight face.  "You are so kind, Madame Violet."

"Aww, it's not kindness." She ran a huge bejeweled hand up Slappy's leg, fondled his crotch, and whispered loudly into his ear, "It's lust for virgins... they're my favorite dish."

Slappy leaped straight up into the air, vaulting out of her lap. "It's not my first time!" he squealed, backing away until he ran up against the wall next to a potted palm.  "I, I wouldn't want to disappoint you under false pretexts, I'm practically a whore myself," he blabbered.

Madame Violet turned to Romeo in mock shock, "Not a virgin?" She stood up and in two giant strides was looming over him again.  She petted his newly shorn head.  The cavern in the middle of her large, thrusting bosom threatened to swallow his face.

"Well, I am truly disappointed, young man."

She reached down and swiftly grabbed hold of his package, lifting him up against the wall until he was eye level with her.  He let out a strangled groan as his balls compressed against her hand.

"I could have shown you what these toys were made for..." she growled, "but I just don't have any interest in used goods."  She slapped his cheek playfully and let go, allowing him to slide down the wall.  He looked like he was going to faint.

"I am so sorry, Madame Violet, my mistake.  I must have misunderstood.  Could you take him to the viewing room and show him someone appropriate for his level of experience?"  Romeo said, trying to hold back a laugh and failing.

"Indeed I can, there are any number of sweet, willing ladies awaiting your pleasure, young man, follow me." She smiled an evil smile at Romeo and stepped out into the hallway.  At that moment, he almost liked her for playing along.

Slappy glanced back at Romeo, still shellshocked and uncertain as he stepped away from the wall.  When he met Romeo's eye, Romeo burst into laughter.  Slappy hesitated as understanding dawned.  He narrowed his eyes and nodded, "That's two I owe you," he hissed as he turned to follow Madame Violet.  Romeo rolled over onto the settee and howled with laughter.    

Friday Flash: (Bonus) Where's Dolly?

"I'll pay extra for that," Romeo said, grinning as Violet came back into the room. "Thanks for playing along."

"Oh, not at all.  I do enjoy virgins, just not that kind," she said inscrutably.  Romeo did not want to know what kind she meant.

She chuckled, "I had you figured wrong, I thought you were a stick in the mud last time you came here."

He shook his head adamantly, "Oh you had me figured just right.  I am a stick in the mud, I just owed that kid some grief.  You know, of course, that he is most definitely a virgin?"

"Never fear, he'll be in capable cherry pickin' hands with Laurabelle – that is, if he doesn't lose his load gawkin' at her through the mirror.  She puts on a nice little show."
She draped herself delicately over a mauve velvet chair, pulled a lacy fan out of her pocket and began to fan her face lightly, smiling at him.  "And what can I do for you this evening?"

Romeo shrugged.  "I'd be happy to see Dolly again."
She tsked, and shook her head.  "I'm sorry to disappoint you, she's no longer under my employ."  She went on fanning herself, her face completely neutral.

Romeo was disappointed.  "Huh.  That's too bad, she was okay.  She quit?"

Madame Violet shrugged, "These girls are all flighty, it's just their nature.  If they were solid and steady, they'd have husbands and tidy little houses on the other side of town."

Romeo watched her eyes with a growing feeling of unease, he wasn't sure why, but he felt like she was lying.

"Do you know where she went?"

She closed her fan slowly and rose to her feet without concern.  "One day she was here, the next day she was gone, and everything she owned along with her.  As well as a few things she didn't own, I might add."

She sauntered toward the hallway. "I'll just go set your little friend up with Laurabelle, and then you can take a peek at the other girls.  I'm sure you can find one to make do with, seeing as your tastes are so straightforward."
Her words had their intended effect, and Romeo was left feeling embarrassment at the idea that he'd been... what?  Tattled on?  Exposed?  He found himself suddenly angry with Dolly, he'd assumed he could trust that he wouldn't be talked about.  The whole thing left a bad taste in his mouth, and he decided to tell Violet to forget it when she came back.  He'd just wait for Slappy and drive them back to the motel.  He was no longer in the mood.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Friday Flash: Dolly's Day Off

Charles could tell she was a whore right away.  Nice girls didn’t respond that quick, even if they were wild.  He’d never actually been to a real whore himself, but he’d read about them and considered himself quite the sophisticate.  It wasn’t the first time he'd managed to lure a girl into the manikin storage room at Sweeger’s department store, however.  Charles had happily discovered that sometimes the sight of a good-looking young man arranging the limbs and adjusting the clothing of the female manikins turned a gal on.  It was a sweet little extra benefit of the job.  But to get hold of a pro, for free?  This was his lucky day.

While adjusting the garters on a blonde, So Moderne II manikin in the Young Miss department, he felt someone watching him and glanced over at a sweet little brunette browsing through blouses.  She was staring at him boldly over the top of the blouse rack, and she looked like a very fun girl.  He pulled the manikin’s skirt up higher and ran his hand up the leg to smooth the stocking.  The brunette smiled like a bad child and moved over past the end of the blouse rack where he could see her and hiked up her own skirt mimicking his gesture.  He smoothed the manikin's sweater over its hard-molded breasts with a sly grin.  She gave her own breasts a cute little squeeze and winked at him.  He gave her "the eye," a look he'd perfected in the mirror at the onset of puberty and ran his fingers across the manikin’s crotch in an unmistakable gesture.  It was a risky move, but it paid off.

“You sure know your way around women’s undergarments, young man…” she said sweetly.

“Well, I get lots of practice… in my line of work, miss,” he answered, flashing his most irresistible smile.

In the back of the storage room, she was kissing him with an enthusiasm that he found very encouraging.  She undid his pants with one hand and deftly navigated.  He grinned.  “You sure know your way around men’s undergarments, young lady…” he said.  They giggled.

She glanced around at the manikins in pieces on shelves and standing in rows, naked.  They seemed to watch the couple with dull interest.  “I’ve never had such an audience.  It makes me feel like showin’ off,” she purred in his ear.

Sudden voices outside the storeroom door sent them both into an unwilling imitation of the manikins around them.  Their eyes met and laughter threatened, but the moment passed and he held her tight, whispering in her ear, “Should I go on calling you miss, or you gonna tell me your name?”

“It’s Dolly,” she whispered back.

He laughed.  “You’re joking, right?”

She laughed too, shaking her head.  “It is, I swear!”

“Well, darlin’ that is just too much… I finally got my living doll.”

"Well, what's your name?" She asked.

"It's Charles."  He grinned, "Well, I go by Charles, but my first name is John."

She collapsed against him in stifled laughter, then looked up at him shaking her head. "I do believe we were made for each other," she whispered softly.

He tried to move the lipstick smeared around her mouth back onto her lips with a playful finger.  “My shift was almost over.  I don’t think anybody would notice if I disappeared,” he whispered beneath raised eyebrows.

“You got someplace we can go, sugar?” she asked hopefully.

He frowned.  “I live in a young men’s Christian boarding house.  We got a old lady in a rocker with a Bible and a fist full o' knittin' needles on the front porch, and a old man with a Bible and a shotgun on the back porch.”  He shook his head firmly.

She bit her lip and considered a minute.  “Well, I live in a similar situation.  But today is everybody’s day off.  We might get away with it if you promise to be quiet…”

His awe at being smuggled into an honest-to-God whorehouse was considerable.  But as they'd managed to procure and consume two bottles of beer in between Sweeger’s department store and Dolly’s room at the Shy Violet, he had an immediate need.  “Where’s your little boy’s room, darlin’?  I gotta pee me a river…” he whispered.

She pointed to a door hung with a rainbow of feather boas from the dressing table, where she stood removing her dangly earrings.  He stared in mock amazement, “We do not have private baths in our rooms at the Young Men’s Christian boardinghouse.”

She smirked.  “Don’t keep me waitin’ too long, sugar.”

He stumbled over a tiny satin footstool on his way across the room and they both laughed like children.

He opened the door, still giggling, turning his face away from the cloying boas, then jumped back screaming, “Holy Jesus Christ Almighty!”

Dolly whirled around from her dressing table and crossed the room, crashing into him as he flew away from the bathroom doorway.  She whispered urgently, “Don’t scream like that, you’ll get us…” and then stopped short staring into the bathroom.

The girl was hanging; knees hooked over the shower curtain rod, trussed up like a pig in a slaughterhouse.  Her throat had been gashed to drain her blood.  Her lower belly had been sliced open and the slack bloody folds of flesh looked disarranged.  Her face was purple.  The bathroom was awash in red.

Dolly’s voice could only come out on exhale, gasping gibberish until she managed to say the girl’s name.  “Hillary… that’s my… that’s Hillary!”

Charles sat down on the floor involuntarily and began scrambling backwards like a crab toward the door.  Dolly ran over him and grabbed for the air in front of the doorknob.  “I gotta get Violet, she’ll know what to do, Vie!  Mama Vie!  Help!” she wailed and grabbed hold of the knob.

The door flew open forcefully, throwing her back on the floor next to Charles.  Six foot, six inches, 280 pounds of coiffed, bejeweled, and silk-clad madam filled the doorway.

Mama Violet took one look through the bathroom doorway, one look at Dolly, one look at Charles.  Without a word she pulled a small pearl-handled revolver out of the folds of her gown and expertly shot first Charles, then Dolly clean in the middle of their foreheads.

“Son of a fucking bitch!” she hissed, as she crossed the room and stepped out into the hall to a phone.  She dialed a number, seething while it rang.

The number answered.  She did not say hello.  She growled into the receiver, “Never, never, are they to be done in my house!  He is out of control and I will not have it!”

She paced, listening to half a sentence.  “There are seven girls due back in the next three hours from their day off.  You get someone here to help me clean up this mess right now!  I’ve got three... problems to dispose of and that carny cock waste cost me one of my top earners, in addition to the green girl!”  Sweat ran down the sides of her cheeks, leaving white streaks through her rouge as she listened to a response that didn’t placate her nearly enough.

“You’re damn right you’ll pay for her too, and much more besides!”  She slammed down the phone and stepped back into the room, blowing out her breath in bursts like a steam engine while she stomped around furiously.

Dolly and Charles lay tangled on the floor together, staring up with the same dull interest as the manikins had, and just as dead.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Friday Flash: No Such Thing As A Sweet Easy Deal

I couldn't figure how or why at the time, but I sure could see that things had taken a turn for the fucked. One day I was a guy climbing the ladder like a pro.  A sweet, easy deal came along from Mr. G, and I grabbed it. How hard could it be to drive a few guys from New York to Los Angeles and keep an eye on them? Then next thing I knew, there I was, in some fleabag hotel in downtown LA, with one guy tied to the bed, one guy off on the lam, and one guy doing a pretty good job of squeezing off my air supply.

I was starting to see those little flittery lights, like minuscule fireflies swarming right in front of my eyes.  I knew if I didn't get Cheddar to let up soon, I'd be in the soup without a ladle.  But Cheddar's hands were strong as hell, once a guy went snowman on you, it was trouble with a capital T, unless you could get enough dope into him, and fast.

I could hear Milky shouting something from the bed where I'd tied him down, but my ears might as well have been filled with jello, all I could make out clearly was my own banging heart.  That Milky, he'd been shouting ever since he woke me up, first pounding on my door, then pleading with me to help him. "Something's wrong, Marty, I took double my dose, but I'm still fading, I think something's wrong with the pills!"

I pulled him in the room and shut the door quick.  I tried to get him to shut the hell up, but he was frantic. He grabbed me by the shoulders with hands that were stronger than they had any right to be and squeezed."You gotta help me, Marty. Don't cut off my head, Marty, I'm not gonna eat you, just don't cut off my head!"

Jesus H., I thought, I sure named this one right, milk toast little coward.  Then I turned on the light.  He looked pale all right, but it was the eyes that told me he wasn't kidding.  Cloudy white film spreading out from the pupils, just like Mr. G's instruction pamphlet said.  He was in stage one withdrawal.

He looked around the room wildly, grabbed one of my ties off the back of a chair and laid down on the bed with his arms up over his head like it was standard procedure, and grabbed the iron bed frame. "Tie me down and give me a shot, I won't try nothing, I promise, just get me a shot, quick!"

I tried to talk him out of being tied up, told him I could see he was still in control and it was good he came to me for help before it got too bad, but he was set on the idea, so I tied his hands and got busy making him an emergency dose out of the watcher case.  Snowflake wasn't meant to be mainlined, it was supposed to be taken in pill form, but every watcher was given a small doctor's kit with syringes and concentrated serum to be used in emergency situations.

He kept on babbling while I got his dose ready, said he'd gone to Ray's room to see if he was having trouble too, but Ray had cleared out.  "Cleared out?" I said, setting the full syringe down and picking up the rubber strap to tie off his arm with.  "What do you mean, cleared out?"

"I mean he's gone, him and his stuff too," he said.

"What about Cheddar?" I said, but I needn't have asked, because that's when Cheddar busted in the door and wrapped his hands around my throat.  He was worse off than Milky, he was stage two.

I'd managed to get two fingers up between my sweaty neck and Cheddar's hands, and I pulled out with all my might making it possible to breath just a little and try to talk the guy down.

"Cheddar, stop it, listen to me!  I got what you need over there on the table!  If you take it outta me raw, it won't do you any good!  Let me help you!" I managed to choke the words out, but I couldn't figure if the guy understood, Cheddar's eyes had gone chalk white, the pupils tiny black dots with no sign of human emotions in them.

The little bit of blood that made it back to my brain allowed me to make out what Milky was yelling, "Move him over here, get him down on the bed!"

It didn't make no sense, him being tied up and all, but I did it anyway, heaving my body sideways and catching Cheddar off balance enough that he went down with me.  He was still squeezing my neck though, and now he was on top of me.  I was fucked.

Next thing I knew, Milky had his legs around Cheddar's head in a scissor lock and I felt the grip on my neck come loose.  Cheddar thrashed and I got out from under him and over to the syringe, weasel fast.  Milky was using the bed frame for leverage and had Cheddar fixed tight.  I don't know how I got that needle in a vein, but I did, and drove the shot home.

The effect wasn't immediate, but Milky held on while I fixed another syringe for him.  As soon as Cheddar's body started to relax, I took care of Milky.  "High school wrestling team," he said, with a dreamy, wistful expression as I untied his hands, "I don't get to use those moves enough anymore..." Then his eyes rolled back and he crashed.

I left the two of them to sleep it off and did some investigating, still coughing from Cheddar's choke hold.  Ray was gone all right, and my car with him, but what was worse was that he'd emptied out Cheddar and Milky's Snowflake capsules and filled them with powdered sugar.  It didn't make no sense, he was fully sponsored, he didn't have to steal.

When I realized how bad it was, the sweat started pouring out of me like rain. Something had gone awful wrong with Ray, he was out on the loose and even with the extra Snowflake from the guys, he'd run out at some point and become a dangerous monster.

I had no choice.  I was gonna have to call Mr. G.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Friday Flash: Act Tough

1941. Crockett County, Texas.

The neon Bella Vista Motel sign had no competition from the moon the night Madge arrived.  It blinked and twinkled in the dark night sky, like the only pretty girl at a party.

Just moments before Madge walked cautiously within view of the motel, the "No" in the No Vacancy sign in the window sizzled and fritzed out.  "Vacancy" glowed brighter, pulsing with energy.

Madge knew the Bella Vista wasn’t an ordinary motel.  The absence of speculation and gossip among the folks in town about what might go on out there, proved that something above average probably went on out there.  People didn’t talk about the gangster motel outside of town with about the same intensity that they didn’t talk about the Klan meetings at the courthouse inside of town.  Everybody just knew what they knew.

What Madge thought she knew about it, was that it was often vacant for months at a time, according to the caretaker.  At least that’s what he'd complained about endlessly when he used to come in for breakfast at the Good Pie.  Madge hadn’t liked Mack.  But after giving him the cold shoulder for the first few months, she'd allowed grudging but polite conversation; then a kind of sympathetic, but wary friendliness.  The guy was just such a sad sack, so painfully lonely, it seemed almost charitable to give in to small talk when she refilled his coffee cup.

She grew to think of him as harmless enough, just not well brought up or very bright.  He held his knife and fork in his fists like a baby, and he never took his hat off when he came inside.  Between his strange New York accent and the way he mumbled sideways into his shoulder while glancing around erratically, she could barely understand what he said half the time.  He'd made it clear that he was interested in more than small talk, however, but she'd made it clear that she’d have none of it.
She felt confident that she could hold him off if he let her stay at the motel for a day or so while the bruises on her face healed up.  Not looking her best might be to her advantage in the short term, and she was prepared to act pretty tough, like Barbara Stanwyck, if she had a need to.
The biggest gamble with going all the way out there was whether Mack was still in charge of the place or not.  She hadn’t seen him for at least six months.  He'd been coming to breakfast pretty regular, maybe two, three times a week.  They’d come in to open the diner and Mack would be parked out front, sleeping in his car like some kind of nut.  He told her he suffered from insomnia.  He said it like it was a horrible condition he could only find relief from in one of the Good Pie’s parking spaces.  He also told her he wasn't supposed to go to town and definitely shouldn’t have been talking to her.
Maybe he got caught and was staying away to keep from getting in more trouble, she reasoned.  Anyway, she wasn’t rich on options.  She'd set out thinking she'd hitch a ride, but not a single car had come by.  It was either try to get a room and hide out, or steal a car and start driving.  She didn’t really know how to drive that well and she was too damn tired and hurt to try.  Where the hell would she even steal a car from, anyway?  The only other option was to walk all the way to San Angelo.  She decided to take her chances with the motel.
By the time she made it out there, she was feeling pretty bad again.  The suitcase pulled on her arms like it was full of concrete.  Despite her flat sensible heels, her feet were aching all the way up to her knees.  Her head was pounding.
Through the lobby window, she could see a black-haired man standing behind the front desk, talking on the phone.  It was definitely not Mack.  Her will flagged.  She tipped her face up and took a few deep breaths to try and head off the tears before they could start rolling out.

And there was the pretty neon sign.  It made her think of Hollywood somehow, and how long she'd worked and saved to get started on her adventure.  California, warm and sunny, but green and close to water.  Hollywood was right next to the ocean, all the stars had beach houses.  And big beautiful spanish mansions with those red-tiled roofs.  The tears retreated.
“You’ve just got to toughen up,” she said in the quiet, private voice she used when she was talking to herself.  “You can get there if you use your head, but you can’t cry every time things get hard.  What do you think it’s going to be like when you get to Hollywood?  You think think they're gonna say, 'Why, hello Miss Carter, thank you so much for coming, please accept a seat right here in the lap of luxury.'”

Her gaze fell on the vacancy sign in the window and then back to the man behind the desk.  He'd been leaning on the counter with his head down when she first walked up, but now he stood up straight and was pacing back and forth as he spoke on the phone.  She could see that he was much younger than Mack had been.  And pretty damn good-looking, too.  The motel didn’t look that bad, in fact, it looked just fine.

She made up her mind.  Pulling her hat down just right and forcing her posture back up she challenged herself fiercely, “You want to be an actress?  Well damn it, go act like a lady who expects to rent a room from that guy.  And to hell with Barbara Stanwyck, you act like Madge Carter.”