Friday Fictioneers #6- The Bartender

image

Friday Fictioneers is a weekly flash fiction challenge to create a 100 word story based on a photo prompt and then receive as well as share feedback with writers from around the world. Approx 100 submissions are entered every week.

Word count: 100

That’s my wife. Her name is Linda.

We settled in Camarillo soon after my failed attempt to take Hollywood by storm. She encouraged me to continue to develop my passion for painting, if for no other reason, to help retain my sanity through all the auditions and rejections. My claim to fame is I was anonymous businessman #3 standing in a lunch line for one of those Grisham movies.

She was a dancer and taught some privately but, when we felt the timing was right, we scraped every penny and took a loan out for this restaurant.

So…how’s that Sangria?

I prefer the memory to the photograph…(Part Five)

“I didn’t know you could play the guitar!?” Jasmine was genuinely impressed by the fact that I could not only strum a few open chords…but I could play complete songs. And had just enough blood in my alcohol level to convince myself to sing. (You read that right).

Jasmine was smoking hot. Everybody knew it too. Especially her boyfriend Mike who was so possessive he didn’t even allow discussion of his girlfriend among his friends.

Even Jennifer told me if Jasmine wasn’t so unassuming about her petite athletic build with long wavy hair and olive complexion (which by the way was the perfect canvas for her striking blue-green eyes…) she would absolutely hate her. What made Jasmine even hotter was that she was always positive and upbeat without being superficial. But as easy as she was on the eyes, the first few days we hung out together (I hadn’t even met Jennifer yet) I didn’t dare flirt or even get caught staring at her by her boyfriend Mike. Mike (aka “The Wall”) was being courted by several SEC universities  prior to his senior year for his aggressive skill as defensive tackle. Word travels fast when a college bowl game is at stake and he even had a few out of state recruiters foaming at the mouth in anticipation of snagging him for the benefit of their Alma mater as well as their own collegiate careers. That’s how I met Mike…well to be exact…I met his right shoulder pad, helmet and mechanical bull like torso in almost that order. I was the rookie lucky enough to fill in on a scrimmage game while training during our 10th grade summer. I took a “routine tackle” from Mike that resulted in a sprained ankle and torn ligament. He told me he felt bad about it later but then for the rest of my high school days someone always reminded me of the hard hit I took that summer day like it was one of those harrowing ESPN injury loops featured in slow motion.

Surviving the injury came with several months of rehab preceded by solitary confinement for what seemed like an eternity. I decided to make use of the time alone to legitimately learn how to play my Dad’s prized Gibson Les Paul six string guitar. It had a tobacco sunburst finish and anyone that held it was destined for rock stardom. Well…not exactly. The other punishment (in addition to the solitary confinement) was that my Dad is a closet musicologist and he insisted that I learn “real music” like the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Rolling Stones, etc. and I did…until I got better and realized I had a knack for learning guitar riffs by ear.

Unbeknownst to him I also learned some Pink Floyd, Hendrix and Nirvana, Foo Fighters, etc. By the end of that summer I knew at least 4 bars of every major rock song ever written. That’s right…I was lonely but talented!

Little did I know then that on our senior trip one of the roommates would leave their cheap acoustic guitar on the couch and that I would know enough to keep a few of us drunkenly singing some rock classics and that the smoking hot Jasmine would would grab my tan summer leg while making more song requests. Which was great except that Mike kept drinking and observing from the corner of the room…with a quiet intensity.

I had no idea she had a thing for musicians but I had a stronger urge for survival so (sing along if you want) I finished up with:

Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here”: <lyrics omitted due to potential copyright infringement> (Oh God…speaking of pain…Mike’s ears are literally getting red)

Foo Fighter’s “Everlong”:  <lyrics omitted due to potential copyright infringement> (Crap…a frigging body cast if he has anything to do with it)

“Whew. I think I’ll take a smoke break everybody.” I pretended to wiped sweat fro my brow and address the roomates as if we were in a 200,000 seat arena. Jasmine had her hand squeezing my knee again “But, you don’t really smoke do you?”

“There’s a first time for everything.” I walked out of the condo bracing for impact but from the deck heard someone else pick up the guitar and strum a little which meant Mike now had a new target. I was safe.

In retrospect, I probably could have made my Dad proud and ended the last set of the evening with The Beatles’ “Help!” which I would’ve needed a lot of if Mike had decided to act on his jealous rage tendencies.

The final post to signify the end of my blog…

(cue Adele’s “Someone Like You”)

This won’t be my last post mind you. Geez…what’s with the pouty lips?!?! 🙂

(needle scrape)

At least I hope not…I just started blogging this month and have much to learn and find it all exciting. However, in my time here have already come across several very popular bloggers with now defunct blogs. For example, shout out to Maddie at  breezybooksblog.wordpress.com for pointing out thechowderhead.com who is/was very entertaining and it made me wonder…

Should a blogger post a farewell statement? Should they explain why they’re no longer posting or just “exit…stage left” into obscurity? Would you feel cheated if one of your favorites didn’t explain the abandonment?

Thoughts? Please share in the comments.

As for me I have no book to sell, website to promote, or even a game plan for the blog (such a loser!)…I’m just here to hopefully engage you dear reader and learn, observe, and live vicariously. Which I suppose is what we’re all doing to some extent.

When it is time for me to end this blog (no it’s not RELISH it’s PERISH the thought!) I think I may simply put in the title:

“Goodbye cruel circus…I’m off to join the world”

Kindness acts of random…

I sincerely want to thank you all for continuing to read, commenting and following. You’re awesome!

Every time I’m quizzically looking at the WP Dashboard trying to understand all the features (and noticing there are still no viewers from Estonia…?)  and I see the comment notification light up…my heart pitter patters faster than Governor Rob Ford’s whilst annihilating an 8-ball (allegedly).

Speaking of random (heads up for the segue!) I’ve noticed an acquaintance of mine has started pronouncing the word “especially” as “exspecially”.

That mispronunciation  makes my ears perk up and everything they say after that just sort of gets suspended in a figurative Jell-O mold as I contemplate the etymology of the word “exspecially”.

Professor Graham R. Knottsee: “This pronunciation was first introduced when, as a child, the subject was so taken with Mary Poppins’ “Supercalifragilisticexspialidocious” that she began interjecting random fragments of the word into her everyday conversation. In addtion to exspecially, we also have observed the subject saying things such as ‘That shipment of fine china is fragilistic and should be treated as such.’ The shock therapy, although effective, has not completely removed all of the subject’s grammatical shortcomings as detailed in my previous treatise reviewed during last week’s lecture.”

Along those lines…I really try to be thorough when reviewing my posts prior to publishing but I still go back and reread weeks later and…cringe…there’s a misspelling or a better way to phrase a thought.

The fnnuy tihng aubot mssiplliengs is taht as lnog as the frist and lsat ltteers of wrods whit 3+ carteharcs are crrocet…msot can slitl raed tehm.

Do you ever hear things being mispronounced by others? Do you correct the (possibly innocent) person responsible for the mispronunciation? Ignore it and move on? Report them to the authorities and hope they get some TSA worthy interrogation?

Please share in the comments!

Hi stranger. Let’s go for a ride in my car. Don’t be scared…I have candy…

I knew that title would get your attention. Let’s talk commutes. Got one? I have a 2 hour daily round trip commute. I know this is not the longest nor the shortest commute I’ve ever heard of some unfortunate souls enduring but thats 10 hours a week or something like 400 – 500 hours a year. Sick/Holiday/Vacation days assumed in that rough estimate. Vacation…now there’s a concept. Sigh.

Commuting is a humbling, thrilling, sometimes hilarious event. I can be compelled to love or hate people just by visually assessing their cars/clothes/mannerisms in a matter of seconds. It’s profiling at it’s best. I look around and there’s a hot soccer mom in a Chevy Tahoe in one lane, a priest in a Ford Taurus in another lane getting pressured by a young gun revving his Camaro SS, an OCD maniac who can’t stop tapping the brake pedal to save his life in his Hyundai Elantra directly in front of me!

Then there’s the far left HOV lane intended for multiple occupants in vehicles purportedly to lessen the traffic congestion. However, the ratio is probably 5 to 1 of the people who AREN’T actually abiding by the law and have exactly 1 occupant (I may or may not be guilty). Sometimes local law enforcement will make it a habit to ticket the offenders but guess what…by the time they slow the offenders down and move them across several lanes to the shoulder of the road they’ve significantly slowed the progress of the rest of the commuters. It’s a cluster.

But then I imagine we all probably pretend it’s the old west and the outlaws within us ruled the highways. That way I would be perfectly justified to just bide my time and wait until the asshole on the Ducati sped into the lane to my left and then I’d fling my driver’s door open and send him flying. Then I’d be free to open fire on the HOV lane offenders who were definitely NOT HOV positive.

Honking reloading

Ahh but you know it’s all just about finding common ground in the human experience of all attempting to get along I suppose. Some definitely make it much easier like letting those in front of them merge onto the interstate without a hassle. Others will waste their breath screaming at the top of their lungs at the other driver in the same situation and would rather swap paint and potentially their commute for eternal rest  just to prove they have “the right of way!!!!”. (I may or may not be guilty).

The left lane liberals, the right lane righteous, the middle lane moderates, the rogue independents on the Ducatis.  I guess we all fit in one or more of those groups given the hour, day or week we’re having regardless of mode of transportation.

The bumper stickers keep me amused. The most perplexing and humorous so far has been (I mean who would even think to make this a bumper sticker?):

fat people

Have you got any favorites? Please share.

I prefer the memory to the photograph…(Part Four)

“You can’t be serious!” Jennifer said slack jawed. She was petrified of heights.

I was totally serious though. “That’s what playing truth or dare with me will get you” I mouthed back at her like she’d done to me earlier that day. I was going to make Jennifer ride every thrill ride at the beach amusement park that day or die trying. “Yeah there’s only been a thousand documented fatalities this year where someone didn’t measure properly to compensate for the elasticity of bungee cord” Shannon said like a news reporter to get a little further under her Virginian bff’s skin. Shannon rocked. She was like the little sister I never had and would occasionally come to my defense with Jen…on her terms only of course. “Yeah and if that doesn’t kill you…the human slingshot will!” Heather mocked and pointed to the guillotine looking platform with a large harness that, once secured to a body or bodies, could propel them over 300 feet straight into the air at upwards of 100 mph. Heather, however,  had the subtlety of a freight train. She was as direct and brutally honest a human being I’d ever met. I respected her though because she was the same with everyone. She’d tell a crass and embarrassingly awkward joke to her mother, a stranger in the market or the Pope if prompted. Meanwhile, Jennifer became a little more reserved as the discussion continued.

But in all fairness…they all pushed the issue. Case in point…the three of them were teary eyed laughing when Jen dared me to wear a fluorescent yellow Borat style mankini that we saw in one of the roadside surf shops. The dare also required me to run one full block on the strip (interesting term) in midday on a busy Sunday with them closely following with their cellphones videoing the whole incident…from all angles! This would have been extremely embarrassing had I not also opted to buy the latex rubber horse head mask they had on display at the other end of the store. None of them noticed me sneak it to the cashier at check out. That made casually jogging passed hundreds of onlookers for two city blocks (yeah I added another block for good measure) in the full horse head mankini ensemble a little more enjoyable as I maintained some amount of anonymity. They were losing their breath laughing while following behind me to document the event like it was an episode of Jack Ass. I did get pinched in the buttocks at some point too and just prayed to God it was either Jen  or one of the other two having fun with me. Nonetheless, I did it.

What was the truth I was avoiding you ask? Jen was going to ask THE question. I just knew it. In front of her friends who would’ve really enjoyed watching me squirm as I would have stumbled for an answer. I mean of course I did. But I hadn’t said it. Neither had she. I think we were both a little afraid of how attracted we were to each other. But I was trying to play it a little cool too because our bond must’ve been obvious even to a casual observer. I was more wrapped than the ends of her hair being twirled in her fingers whenever she was preoccupied with her thoughts.

I didn’t know you could be addicted to someone. Her scent, her breath, the taste of her lips, the slightest hint of a lisp she had when pronouncing certain words. The way she looked at me and said so much without speaking a word.

I was never more alive than in even the shortest of moments spent with her.

I prefer the memory to the photograph…(Part Three)

“This is bullshit man! You knew I was into her!” Dave yelled at me. And for the first time since we’d met in grade school I thought he may actually take a swing at me.

Things began to unravel between Dave and I when Jennifer’s best friend Shannon let me in on a secret…Jennifer didn’t have a boyfriend waiting for her back home in Virginia. Ahem..let me rephrase…JENNIFER HOLCOMB DIDN’T HAVE A FRIGGING BOYFRIEND!!!!!”. Possibly the best news announcement since perhaps, i don’t know, the end of apartheid, landing on the moon and the conclusion of any major war you can think of all rolled into one AP news ticker. I tried not to let it show but Shannon read me faster than any National Enquirer headline. “Oh…my…God..you DO like her?!?.” And there it was. The potential best friend approval or disapproval. A dilemma that has prevented many budding relationships from ever getting off the ground for males and females since cave drawings were modern graffiti.

Shannon’s next statements would permanently seal my fate with Jennifer and prove once and for all if I ever had a chance with her. If things went badly then she and her friends might laugh the whole thing off and begin whispering every time I entered the room. I couldn’t stand the thought of spending the rest of our summer vacation awkwardly trying to avoid each other or trying to work past the sting of rejection. It all hinged on this moment with Shannon. Who immediately balled her right hand into a fist and planted it in my arm as hard as she could. (Which for the record was pretty hard but I didn’t dare let on.) “What the hell was that for?” I really wasn’t sure. “Jennifer has been asking me for three days now ‘What have I got to do to get him to like me?'” I think my heart my have momentarily lept into my throat and everything Shannon did and said kind of went into one of those slow motion movie sequences. I took a breath and cleared my throat then laughed a little pretending that she didn’t just possibly bruise my arm. “What about her boyfriend back home in Virginia?” I asked. The guy I had never met but was sure I would bludgeon him to death (…figuratively of course…) if I could have Jennifer to myself for just 24 hours even.

“Boys are so stupid!” was all Shannon said and turned to walk back toward their beach blankets with more wine coolers and water for she and Jennifer but I blocked her path with my body like an NBA defensive player vying for rookie of the year until I got more details. “Shannon…what are you doing? What are you going to tell her?” I was simultaneously worried and elated. “What do you think genius? I’m going to tell her that you’re an idiot and that she can do better” she said through a partially crooked smile. That prompted me to put my arms on to her tan lined sun baked shoulders. “Shannon there’s a real problem here…I think Dave likes her too.” The fact was I knew Dave liked her. She was the only girl he’d met that really didn’t fall for his charm or GQ modelesque looks and it was killing him at first but, then again, once anyone got to really know Jennifer would understand how easy it was easy for anyone to fall. Shannon replied “She told me he tried to kiss her not long after we all started hanging out together but Jen just walked away. She’s told everybody she has a boyfriend back home since we got to Myrtle Beach but the reality is the guy she was dating cheated on her so she came here to avoid him and now she is scared to death of getting hurt again”. I can only imagine what the look on my face  must’ve been as Shannon continued. “So genius if she asks me anything I’m not going to lie to her. She’s already been lied to enough.”

I walked back to the beach with Shannon and Jennifer was flashing a heartbreaking smiling at both of us as we got closer. I reached my hand out for hers “Jennifer…let’s take a walk.” She took my hand and brushed off some of the luckiest grains of sand that ever got to attach themselves to a human body. I finally confessed to Jennifer how I felt and asked her out on our first official date. That night was one of the best. We ate and danced at the 21 and over club thanks to a fake id and a bouncer that didn’t really seem to care. We walked on the beach until  Jennifer got chilled that night and we both exchanged the sweetest, longest kisses I’d ever tasted. God I loved her scent.

Unbeknownst to me Dave, witnessed all of this and waited for me to come back to the condo. He’d been drinking and went ballistic when we returned together. I had no idea it would be the last words between us.

I prefer the memory to the photograph (Part Two)

Jennifer Holcomb became my obsession that summer.

I think for a while I hid it fairly well but I was captivated. In no time I memorized the angles of her face and the slightest dimples that appeared when she was amused enough to display her toothpaste commercial worthy smile…especially cool when it was prompted by something I said. I probably counted a million times the slightest amount of freckles on the top of her shoulders which were typically hidden by the flow of her soft brown hair that was naturally highlighted by a summer spent under the Carolina sun. My favorite look was when she was preoccupied with some menial task and she brushed one side of the length over then tucked it behind her left ear. That move alone got my heart racing. I casually found out she had a boyfriend back home…not what I wanted to hear at all. And though it made sense that she was taken, all I could think was if she were mine I’d want every chance possible to be near her or at least a nightly phone call to tell her I love her and just to hear her sweet lyrical voice. She was a perfect combination of beauty and cool too. She was just as comfortable in her skin whether peeling labels from beer bottles with some of us guys or discussing the latest gossip with her best girlfriends who by the way all enjoyed taking shots at the egos of the guys surrounding them for sport…I wasn’t spared either . But then there were the occasional opportunities I had for real conversation with her when we took walks along the beach or the occasional meals at Shelle’s Grille which became our version of home cooked food when we got burned out on peanut butter sandwiches and soft drinks. The typical diet that our vibrant and athletic teenage bodies could endure.

Jennifer was as refreshing as the moist seaside breeze and as comforting as the consistency of the waves of the Atlantic. She was an only child and later I discovered her most striking physical features were inherited from her mother. Her parents were far from rich but she definitely did not go without. She was the first girl I’d met that owned a Sahara edition Jeep Wrangler which was white with a tan canvas soft top and a slight lift which became our main means of transportation and was always on the verge of exceeding maximum occupancy. The stereo sucked however but that didn’t matter because the sights and sounds of the Harleys growling, low riders bouncing and the blare of mounted speakers around the pavilion were more than enough entertainment. I also remember how good it felt watching her from the passenger seat and occasionally our arms would brush against each other or she would laugh and grab my arm when I pretended to be the announcer on the nonexistent radio and commented about the people crowding the sidewalks as we slowly rolled by them on the main strip which now looked like more like we were in a parade of some sort.

When no one else was watching I took a picture or two with my cell phone camera. I also saved a few more incriminating photos of some of our glassy eyed red cheeked partying moments too but those are stored away for safe keeping and will only resurface should the occasion arise I ever need to blackmail anyone. 🙂

Silent Partner

Doodle head

You never speak a word yet are able to explain one of life’s biggest lessons: unconditional love.

You never take me for granted and when I need you…always oblige. I keep you in my side view mirrors. Watching you smile with your face in the wind. All those sights and smells may be sensory overload but you are incapable of not relishing every moment. I still think with relative certainty that everytime the wind presses against your jowels and ears that you must pretend to fly.

There’s an old Ojibway folktale that explains the bond between dog and man was created due to a great earthquake seperating the first man and woman on earth.  And while all the other animals may have scattered fearfully in all directions, only the dog lept across the chasm to stand side by side with the man. The leap of faith I took was bringing you home from the pet drive where we found you emaciated and in need of veterinary help. We fed you and cared for you and ,of course, we spoiled you. By the time you regained your strength our bond was permanent. You also sought me out for an occasional nap on the sofa at the end of a long day as well as made certain I was comforted when recovering from illness.

Never to be apart again for very long, when we do reunite the response is always the same…heart melting. When the time comes to travel together, you bound down the stairs and in to the back seat of the car. No doubt you wonder where we’re headed on these long trips and a few of the ones we regularly repeat you memorized the sites, sounds and smells and even the rhythm of the wheels. You have to think it is crazy to spend so much time trapped in such a confined space instead of stretching your legs in a wide open field of tall grass with the trajectory of a tennis ball in your peripheral view like it is a career making hail mary pass to a freshman receiver. You always run until you can run no more.

Not to say you are mute. Far from it.

Like that night a trespasser tested the front door handle and latch of our house from the outside…it was your call to arms that prepared us. Whenever the neighbors’ children need entertainment you are eagerly the center of attention and use your playful bark to excite and tease them. Conversely, whenever you hear your master’s voice on a long distance call home your whimpering responses are enough to warm the iciest of cold and calloused hearts. You also employ this technique whenever there are savory table scraps to be had. No one can resist the temptation to scratch your head and spoil you…even the ones who think no one else is looking.

Silent Partner? Yes and no I suppose. But you never take a back seat in our hearts and minds.

New Year’s Resolution Revelation

You know who we’re talking about…

That person you talk to who isn’t physically there but never leaves. Not one of your constant disembodied, internal voices but that human being you can remember they’re scent and  at times  they feel close enough to touch.

You know who we’re talking about. It’s the person who let you down or the person you wish had stayed longer or even the person you wish you had never encountered. I see you standing in front of the mirror lost in the necessity of your daily routines pausing momentarily to reflect and rehearse in your mind the events that, honestly, could happen tomorrow leading you directly to an inescapable confrontation with that person.

You know who we’re talking about. Did the thought of them make you lose your breath? Did your body get tense? What story would the other person’s face tell? Would they be sullen? Startled? Indifferent? Regardless, would your cheeks go flush? Would your heart rate increase? Would you speak first or wait for them to address you or just divert your eyes and pretend not to see them?

You know who we’re talking about. How often do you think they’ve considered the same scenario? Or are they forever aloof, disrespectful, or even mocking in your version of them? Do you think they’ve remained bitter, missed the good times you shared or altogether forgotten the events that resulted to the end of your relationship?  Or even wonder what might have been?

You know who we’re talking about. You say their name with an involuntary need to explain to them what you really meant to say all those days, months, and years ago.  How different would your tone of voice be? Would the pitch be higher, lower? The volume : louder, softer?

You know who we’re talking about. Did they even hear what you said or just filtered the words from your mouth that they wanted to hear. Did they even give you a chance to explain? Did you threaten you’d leave them knowing you’d regret it the moment the cab arrived but you did it anyway? Did you beg them to stay and promise to change yourself and fix all that had been broken knowing there was little to no chance it would work? Did they take more than they gave? Did you?

You’re not even certain you’ll ever completely reconcile all those  memories. Whose responsibility is it at this point? Would you mourn their loss? Would you empathize with their pain? Do you play back every memory like movies on a flickering tape movie reel? How many nights did they keep you awake? How mornings did they wake you up? How many times do seemingly unrelated events transport you to the precise moment and time of the greatest scenes of your rise and fall? Could it all have been resolved in one long distance phone call? Or a handwritten letter?

You know who we’re talking about…shouldn’t they?