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.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Keep The Devil Close

When the old Ford finally gave out, the elderly preacher slowly eased it over onto the roadside. He'd been driving tight-lipped, his eyes locked onto the far horizon ahead, his hands gripping the steering wheel with the same force of will he used when laying on hands to drive out illness from one of his congregation back home. A few miles from San Angelo, Texas where they'd stopped in for lunch, the car had suddenly begun to grumble and groan. It stuttered and threatened to quit with unsettling loss of speed, then picked up where it left off and drove normally for a while before it made good on the threat.

His wife stared straight ahead with her hands folded tightly in her lap and her lower lip tucked up nearly under her nose. She tsked, gave a long sigh, resettled her lips into a mere grimace and turned to give him one of those silent looks that was part acknowledging glare and part demand for action.

The small child in the back stood up on the seat and looked curiously at her grandma and grandpa in the rear view mirror. She had half a bottle of orange Ne Hi in her hand and it sloshed and fizzed softly against the glass. The still, hot air settled down on them like a blanket. He glanced at the child in the mirror and smiled briefly before he grabbed his hat off of the seat beside him and stepped out of the car into the blazing sunlight.

He propped open the hood, relieved that his wife and grand daughter could no longer see his face and peered down at the engine. He knew almost nothing of engines and their ways. He sighed and wiped the sweat off of his forehead with the back of his hand.

He closed his eyes and prayed aloud, "Lord, if it be your will, send us assistance so that we may be on our way." Before he had a chance to mutter, "Amen," he heard the familiar chuckle from behind his left shoulder.

"How long has it been since he answered you?" asked the sardonic voice he knew so well. He finished the prayer with a firm, "Amen," and ignored the figure that stood behind him, mimicking his pose and also peering into the engine.

Sweat ran down the preacher's face from beneath his hat, dripping off the edge of his set jaw. The engine looked like a black painting of hell to him, the arms and legs of demons and suffering souls entwined on torture racks, bound, impaled, charred and writhing in the suffocating heat.

"What have you done to it?" he asked the figure without looking back.

"Why is it always my fault when something goes wrong?" came the rhetorical reply.

"Will?" his wife called out impatiently from the front seat.

He walked around her side of the car and looked in at her through the open window. Her light cotton dress was dark with sweat under her arms and spreading out from beneath her bosom. Her white hair was lying in limp, wet waves against her scalp. The coral red lipstick she wouldn't be caught dead without was feathering up into the wrinkles above her lip like bleeding cracks. He smiled at her reassuringly. She did not smile back.

He looked up the road in the direction they had been driving. The sun was high, it was just past one. He knew the next town on the map was Ozona, but he didn't know how far away it was. He felt like San Angelo was closer.

"I'm going to walk back and get help. Just stay in the car. Everything will be fine," he said. His wife nodded her head, but said nothing.

The child leaned out of the backseat window, looking up at him sideways, her light blue eyes screwed up against the blinding sun. He stepped over to her and put his hand on top of her small head, pale cornsilk hair doing nothing to protect the glowing pink scalp. Her head felt like a sun warmed peach from a roadside fruit stand.

"Stay out of the sun, baby girl. Mind Grammy and stay still," he told her, pushing her head back inside gently.

She flopped down against the seat, scowled up at him as only a four year old could and said, "I'm not a baby."

"I'll be back soon," he said and began to walk down the road.

He didn't look back at the car, where he knew the child would be watching through the rear window. He didn't look over his shoulder where he could hear the footsteps behind him. The land ran as far as he could see in irregular patches of scrub brush, low disorienting hills and loose rock. The road ahead disappeared into shimmering waves of light. He walked at a steady pace. It seemed like he was going nowhere.

After a while, he began to recite the lord's prayer under his breath, as much to block out the sound of the footsteps as anything else. The figure behind him began to whistle, maddeningly. Within a moment, he recognized the hymn, There's An Old, Old Road... He laughed despite himself and shook his head.

"That's right, Brother. Keep your sense of humor," the voice behind him said. "Nothing to worry about. I've got it all under control."

He stopped walking. "I didn't ask for your help. The lord will provide," he said, his eyes fixing on the farthest point he could see at the road's end.

"The lord will look the other way while carrion birds pick your bones. I take care of business," the voice said.

A tiny car hovered above the road in the heat waves like a magic trick, still far away but driving toward him. He began walking again, a smile coming to his lips. He hummed along with his whistling companion until the car got close enough for him to flag it down.

A big gaudy black Packard pulled over and a fancy young redhead wearing sunglasses looked out at him. "Sir, are you in some kind of trouble?" she asked, pushing her sunglasses down on her nose and assessing him with concerned grey eyes. He took hold of the side of her car to steady himself, his vision beginning to swim and sparkle.

"Car broke down, my wife and grand daughter are waiting up the road there," he pointed off weakly as everything started to spin and his knees gave way.

He heard the young woman exclaim, "Oh, my!" as she opened the door, got out and took a firm hold of his arm. She opened the back door and guided him to the seat. "You just sit right down there, I've got some water in a canteen, just a minute."

He sat back against the seat fighting nausea while she retrieved the canteen and handed it over to him.

"Just take a little sip," she cautioned. "Oh, my, it's a good thing I came along. You look fit to have a sun stroke."

He squinted at her, rolling the metallic tasting warm water around on his tongue and smiling faintly at her youthful candor.

She made sure he was all tucked in, shut the door and started the car up again. "Just take it easy," she said, pulling back onto the road. "We'll get your wife and grand daughter, and you can all come back with me. My husband and I run a little motel just a few miles up the road. We'll get you all cooled off and then see about your car."

He closed his eyes and ignored his companion's satisfied chuckle in the seat beside him. Despite what he had told his wife, he knew that things were not going to be fine.


  1. Well ... it IS help, anyway ... right?


    Pamila? Right?

    (Great one. Really loved it.)

  2. This had a glorious tension told in the black-and-white style that I love, Pamila...

  3. I make it a point never to take disembodied advice without a second opinion.

    Eerie, Pam. I got a big kick out of it.

  4. Nicely chilly. Cracking writing, as always.

  5. loved the image of the engine being something like out of a Breughal painting. I think they're going to be just fine, that this is an angel of mercy rather than an angel of death who has picked him up in the car. And normally I'm a pessimist. I'm right aren't I? What's that? What are you whispering in my ear inner voice? Oh curse your venomous outlook! Sorry about that...

    marc nash

  6. Excellent story - also thought the image of the engine was first-rate. Great pace from beginning to end and vivid descriptions that had me all over this story (from the back seat of the old Ford through every step he took under the blazing hot sun).

  7. Yes, absolutely brilliant and riveting imagery. Help is where you find it, right?

    Excellent and creepy as only stranded-in-the-desert stories can be. Loved this one.

  8. Really loved this! You've got a way with descriptive "Her head felt like a sun warmed peach from a roadside fruit stand." Just lovely writing. Is there going to be a sequel? I bet you could do a lot with that woman and her little motel. ;-)

  9. I agree with Shannon, your knack for detail is tremendous. Loved the warmed peach, the lipstick feathering up, the engine and really, every last bit. You are on fire Pamila. Someone really must start paying you to do this!

  10. You use physicality brilliantly to offset the otherworldliness of your writing. This just builds and builds and catches the sense of desolation perfectly.

  11. Fantastic detail, especially the bit about the engine looking like a black painting of hell. You held the mood all the way through. I kept hoping, although I knew there was none. Excellent job.

  12. This here is a right plump piece’a fruit, Ms. Pamila! Seamless, silky, flawless imagery. What a perfect vision! No, I have no questions. Not one glorious detail is any other way but what it should be. The pacing is wunderbar! ‘…not going to be fine.’ I’ve only read your every word since your alien abduction, and this is the hottest thing… I feel like I should be paying to read it!

  13. Really good feel to this and terrific use of senses. I would hear, see and feel (and now I feel all wet and icky!) everything.

    I love the preacher's companion and your picturing of the preacher's wife is excellent.

    No good can come of this at all.

    Well done.

  14. I too like the description of the engine, of everything. I love how you set the scene and the time period with your astute imagery Pamila. Great tension throughout.

  15. Excellent story. That last line was downright chilling, even in the heat of the desert.

  16. Your writing here, and in the series, shows how much you love the story. Wonderful, just wonderful!

  17. As usual, Pamila, the story is excellently written, reeks of atmosphere and leaves you wanting more. A fine job.

  18. This had me riveted the entire time. Great story. One of the best I've read by you. :)

  19. Excellent work, Pamila. Tension and detail, atmosphere just right - what more could we ask?

  20. I'm so glad this story is being well received. Thanks for the encouragement. I'll confess I was a feeling a little desperate not to miss another week's Friday Flash and sort of pulled this one out of the air. Good thing they show up when I need them.

  21. Another great story... but I want to know what happens next!
    Kari @ The Best Place By The Fire

  22. Sunlight can be just as eerie as night!
    The interaction with the devil-type entity was great, espcially the detail of him laughing despite himself.

  23. The scene is drawn out beautifully and the taunting voice is perfect. Thank you for this.

  24. I just have to wonder what the Devil has in store for our Preacher and his family.

  25. Oh my! I will never look at the engine of my '38 Ford in the same way, after reading this description. Pamila, your powers of description are AWESOME! And this story is RIVETING! Kudos!

  26. The best ones are always pulled from thin air, I think Pamila. And this one is outstanding. The desperation, the fear, the preacher's laughter at his "companion's" choice in music, all of it is graphic and dusty and real. As others have said, your descriptions are blazing. The little girl's head, the lipstick, the bottle of pop - all totally opposite to the big black car and the racy redhead.
    Good one, for sure!

  27. REally loved this, not sure if i'll look at an engine the same way again. It was like I was there. Beautifully written.

  28. Oh I love this one. Fantastic descriptions, and that voice is just the right side of chilling!

  29. Another beautifully told tale, Pamila. I especially love the demonic description of the engine. Your prose always sucks me in. A fantastically creepy story.

  30. The innocense of the little child, to a freak car breakdown and what one knows will be their ultimate undoing... is simply chilling. Becuase this is what happens in rael life. A set of events laeding us to a spider web, where something big and ugly awiats. Love it as always!


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