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, October 1, 2010

All Those Windows, All Those Doors

Slappy watched Romeo drive off down the road in the piece of shit farmer pick-up truck that belonged to the motel. The dust from the road floated up into the air in the truck's wake and hung there like dirty cigarette smoke. Standing at the edge of the road by himself with a peeved expression, he looked every bit the bored teenage boy he was. He sighed heavily, jammed his hands in his pockets and turned back to the driveway where the three big mutts that also belonged to the motel stood watching him.

Slappy regarded them. "So, away he goes and it's up to us to hold down the fort, eh guys?"

The dogs abruptly sat down and began to pant, tongues lolling.

"Some gang I got here," Slappy said, shaking his head and walking back up the driveway.

The motel courtyard was half shadowed from the late afternoon sun, the pool, still and glassy but for small clusters of dead leaves floating on the surface. He walked over to the edge at the deep end and stood looking down through the cool aqua water at the pale empty bottom.

"Think I'll have a swim," he said. His voice sounded loud and shrill, echoing around the empty courtyard weirdly.

Those leaves needed to be skimmed off. He didn't like the idea of a bunch of dead leaves sticking to him.

He headed back toward the rear of the courtyard where a utility room held cleaning supplies and tools to get the leaf skimmer.

Glancing around at the doors and windows of the motel, he had a brief sensation of unease. He'd never been alone at the motel before. Romeo had taken him along whenever he went to San Angelo for supplies, but he'd had to go into Ozona for some reason and said Slappy shouldn't be in any hurry to meet Sheriff Cobb.

He'd expected to be treated like a juvenile delinquent, but so far Romeo seemed to think he was only good for menial chores. Whenever Slappy asked when they were going to do something interesting like pull a gas station heist, Romeo would just stare at him in that, "You've got to be kidding," way he had. But he knew that Romeo just didn't trust him to behave yet.

"Ah, so what?" he said to himself in a much quieter voice, "what do I care if I never see Ozona?"

He looked back at the dogs, sacked out in the shade of the driveway next to the lobby door. They seemed far away, and the utility room seemed farther as he walked past all those windows, all those doors. Except for his room, number 7, right next to the lobby, the rooms were unocupied. The windows were closed, blinds drawn to keep the sun out.

The air was heavy and static like it had been on his first morning there when he'd woken to find that he'd brought along more than his suitcases and radio.

He'd come out of his room at dawn to find that the courtyard was still, but not quiet. The sound of wind moving through trees was everywhere, though the lone tree back in the corner was as peaceful as a photograph.

Confusion and a sense that he was dreaming with his eyes open had given way to heart pounding recognition as small familiar sounds he'd heard every day for most of his life came through clearly – the soft creaking squeak of leather straps rubbing against each other and the high, almost imperceptible oily whine of metal wheels rolling.

He'd turned around slowly and looked up the walkway. A low, boxy shape was moving toward him, the light glinting off of steel spokes as the wheels turned, wild black hair softly swaying around her face as she sat forward, leaning into the straps...there, and then gone.

That had been almost a week ago, and the memory of it felt more like a dream with each passing day.

The utility room was cool and dark, and despite their best efforts to clean it out, still smelled like mildewed laundry. He grabbed the skimmer and stepped back out into the walkway just in time to see a guy's foot disappear into one of the rooms down the row and hear a door slam.

He dropped the skimmer and hurried down to the room, never taking his eyes off the doorway. It was room number 9. He stared at the door, listening for movement inside. He could hear birds, those weird insects that made the humming sounds, but not anything to give away that a guy was inside room number 9.

He glanced over at the dogs and saw that they were still asleep in the driveway. There was no way the dogs would have let anybody get by them. He knew that. But he still felt obligated to make sure that room was empty.

He put his hand on the doorknob, remembering that Romeo kept them all locked. The doorknob turned easily and the door pushed open. He leaned in, his hand still holding onto the knob.

He saw the gun barrel pointed right at his forehead before he saw the grinning face of the man behind it. “That’s a good way to get your face blown off, kid,” the man said, and laughing, he pulled the trigger.

The explosion started in the gun. It always starts in the gun, but with the gun right in his face, he got to see it, the small flash of fire that sent the bullet hurtling out. The impact was immediate, but he experienced it in a series of stuttered images, like photos taken in rapid succession.

The bullet thunked against the wall of his skull. The sound was like being inside of a base drum just as it is struck, sound waves radiated outward, blowing out his eardrums.

His skull shattered inwards like busted glass as the bullet pushed through.

His thoughts and feelings and everything he knew or thought he knew, his memories, his desires, all awareness as the person, Salvatorre Allamonte, AKA Slappy, were dragged back through the meat of his brain, caught on the point of the bullet like fish on a hook.

The bullet exited the back of his skull, taking a good sized portion of pureed brain with it, and for a moment, he was flying, back and up and out over the walkway, light as a bird, wet as a fish, still here, I’m still here, I’m...

He hit the concrete walkway and found himself sitting on his ass outside room number 9. His heart was pounding so hard, his face was throbbing and his fingers were hot. His ears were filled with a high pitched ringing. He was breathing like a steam engine.

The door to room number 9 was halfway open, the slice of dim interior showing nothing.

He looked up and down the row of rooms, all those windows, all those doors, all closed and blank except for this open doorway, this broken mindway.

He stood up and turned his back on room number 9, though it set his teeth on edge with fear to do it, and walked back over to the deep end of the pool. He stripped off his clothes and dove into the water all the way down to the pale empty bottom. He touched the rough white bottom with both hands before he shot back up to the surface.

He swam laps back and forth, never minding the dead leaves until he couldn’t do it anymore, got out and laid on his stomach against the warm concrete. He was still panting, his heart still pounding, every muscle burning.

He wished he was back home with Oma, pushing her around in her wheelchair, hearing her beautiful laughter.

He could see the dogs lying in the driveway, just as they had been. Even though they weren’t right by him, it was comforting to know they were all laying on the same solid ground.


  1. WOW< I need a bigger font for that wow! Crazy good Pamila! The description of the shot and it's resulting impact was beyond compare. I was reading it, loving it, and at the same time thinking, 'Oh no, Slappy we hardly knew you.' Crafty and Cool as they come, this story just gets better. Somebody really must start paying you to do this! $$$

  2. Darn it! Harry said exactly what I wanted to say. Your description of the shot was amazing! I especially liked "...caught on the point of the bullet like fish on a hook." As did Harry, I thought for sure that poor Slappy was done for. I'm still not sure just what happened. Most people wouldn't be able to swim that well after having their brains blown out, but of course, Slappy is not an ordinary guy!

  3. Oh man ... Is Slappy a goner? I've never been shot (thank goodness), but now I know what it must feel like, Pamila!

  4. Your good writing delivered me well to the doorstep of room number nine, and *BLAM* I was reading bullet-speed to find out WTF... Shot by a freaking ghost... Oh geezus... Damn straight Slappy needed a dunk in the dead, wet leaves.
    Masterfully told tale, Pamila!

  5. Another fabulous tale, like Madam Z I loved the line "...caught on the point of the bullet like fish on a hook."

  6. I was anxious for Slappy there for a second. What a great tale. I felt that bullet in slow motion. Superb writing.

    I <3 the Bella Vista!

  7. I kept thinking, no, she's not going to do this, and sure enough... but what a description. I'd want to get out of there, too, if that were me. Not sure a dunk in the pool would suffice.

  8. Poor Slappy. I love him so much, but he really gets some hard luck story lines.

  9. You haven't lost anything. You just took a break and came back stronger. Great write!

  10. More brilliance, Pamila! Fantastic descriptors for the gunshot, the sound of cicadas screaming in the heat, the panting dogs ... a vivid painting for the mind's eye. And the power and pace you put in rocks the reader onto their heels with the suddenness of the gunshot and those details.


  11. You bring a surreal quality to the violence that evokes a sense of trauma. Powerful and highly descriptive.

  12. Pamila, that was stunning. Pure and simple. You said on twitter that you thought it was one of the best things you'd done in a while (or something like that) so I thought I'd check it out, and wow - not only is it some of your best work it's some of the best work I've read in a while.

  13. Amazing! The descriptions of Slappy's reaction to getting shot and the flashes you wrote are pure genius.

    I hope the pool water was cold. He'd need something to cool him off after that experience.

  14. As Harry and Madame Z first noted about the shooting...amazing and beyond compare for its desciption, Pamila. Am I correct in thinking this turned into a ghost story?

  15. This is most definitely a ghost story. He is one haunted kid.

  16. Those are such vivid descriptions, but then your writing is always so visceral. Very interested to see what else haunts him.

  17. Great story. I too loved the "fish on the hook" line. :)

  18. Whoa. Loved the description of the bullet thunking inside his skull, and the dead leaves on the water. These are the little details that make your work stand out.

  19. Loads of great lines and strong images. And a hell of a story, too!

  20. Powerful description of what it's like to be shot. That sent chills! Well done yet again.

  21. Well I'm late, sorry about that, but am glad I didn't miss this altogether. I was so into this that my dog sneezing made me jump sky high. Great, spooky stuff Pamila.

  22. Better late then never. Thanks to all for stopping by and leaving comments.

  23. The feel of the bullet going through the brain was terrific. Great description.

  24. Love this and the whole dead guys in a West Texas Motel concept (seeing as how I'm from SE New Mexico, commonly known as Little Texas back home). I followed the link from Naomi Johnson's blog to this story. Glad I made it, though late to the party!

  25. Welcome Jane. The party is neverending, but it's moved to my new blog,
    Glad you liked the story and thanks to Naomi Johnson.


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