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 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.”


  1. I <3 Madge. I want to be like her when I grow up. This was beautiful and I'm glad to be able to read it. I know your novel is amazing. I can feel it in my bones.

  2. Love the closing line...

    << And to hell with Barbara Stanwyck, you act like Madge Carter.” >>

    There is a wonderful vibe in these pieces...

  3. 1. Carrie's already like Madge.

    2. Ant loved the closer, and I was super-hooked and grinnin'like -- well that sign with the opener:

    << 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.>>

    I smiled when the "NO" went out and I yessed my way all the way from the fantastic counter countering at The Good Pie (whatta lip-smackin' name!) ... and I felt Madge make her decisions, talk to her inner-self and leave the Stanwyck behind. Gal's got gumption and this story comes together at The Bella Vista no matter when you check in.

    "Brava" (exhaled softly), from your fine fan who's gonna be in the front row when this novel hits da Big Screen -- Tinsel Town -- bright lights on shady characters. Yeah, dat's da ticket Ms Payne.

    ~ Absolutely*Kate

  4. I am not like Madge. But I could be...Ooooh.

  5. I just meant -- you used to work at The Good Pie and all ... and you talk to yourself too, right? .-)

  6. Carrie, trust me, you don't really want to be like Madge in the long run. Remember, I am a horror writer after all... You're better off being Carrie, she's one hot shit writer with a style all her own.
    Kate and Anthony, we really should open a bar in the past together.

  7. Do you know how funny that sounded? -- "Open a bar in the past together" ?

    Do you know how absolutely much FUN that sounds?!

    (I'm in ... next time I go past)

  8. This is great. I know there's horror coming, I feel the impending Sword of Damocles over poor ol' Madge's head, but the beauty of the moment won't let me worry about it now.

    Bruises on the face and aches in the legs and bags in hand ... never a good combo at any motel, let alone the Bella Vista.

    I'm looking forward to seeing more of it, wandering around in the halls and peering in the doors left ajar, watching the buzzing neon blink and hum, and seeing those characters roll in and sign the registry.

    Very well done. :)

  9. There is a good open-ended situation for the main character to get herself into trouble and out of it...maybe?
    I like the carefree, rough voice. Best of luck in the publishing world, Pamila. I too am in search of a publisher for my novel, Unearthing Jev.

  10. There are some really good details in here, Pam. "He held his knife and fork in his fists like a baby" is my favorite.

  11. I wanna open a bar in the past too! Or at least go to it. I'll bring somebody. He knows his booze.

  12. You'd be a grand saloon slinger Carrie. You know someone who knows his booze? Gosh, wonders never cease in past, present or bar'rooms to be.

  13. Heh. Carrie and Kate are my Bella Vista bar flies.
    Thanks for the comments, Jdanetaylor, Erin and John.
    Erin, I'm "reading" your story, *wink. I love it.

  14. I do love the details found in your fiction like the one John Wiswell pointed out. This is such a great story Pamila. Someone really must start paying you to do this! $$$

  15. Great story. I even pictured it in black and white like a great old noir movie.

    Must have more, and soon.

  16. Pamila, I agree with Harry (and he's a man who knows!!) Such wonderful prose should be rewarded. A superb read and the open ending is just perfect...

  17. Gosh darn it! I've read the story three times, trying to figure out which ones are my favorite lines (Ant, Kate and John quoted three of them), but I can't narrow it down! I'd be quoting half the story here. You are sooooooo good, Pamila.

    So, who do you think should play the part of Madge in the movie?

  18. Madge feels just a little to self-confident. Hope she can deal with what she's getting herself into. Welcome to #fridayflash

  19. Aha, your debut was last week; and I followed jmstrother's link which was to the blog, not a specific article...

  20. Casting couch aside ... I nominate MADAM Z to play the part of Madge ... I do ask for a seat in the 2nd row to hear the first and third row mutterers at this movie's debut.

    (I also hear Har is buyin' drinks for the hoopla celebration of Pamila Payne, TinselTown dame after)

  21. I'm very worried about madge - not sure where she's been or where she's going but it doesn't seem good! This has a very nice feel to it - well done!

  22. I love all you new people. Thanks for reading and commenting.


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