NVDT #79 – Pepper Jack Cheese


Prompt – Do you get story ideas that you know you’ll never write?

Constantly. Scenes, stories, this thing clicks with that visual, what were they talking about, who were they, what was going on and I’ll shell the scene into some characters and, well, they start talking and this happens. The following is a live jam, forgive the slop.

“Either a you morons seen my brother?”

Austin kept his eyes on the insulated half-gallon YETI tumbler he was filling with Coke. “Since when?”

“Since recent, retard.”

“You gonna drop that baby on us right here, Cheryl?”

“Austin, you know that’s not an approved refill cup.” Her eyes shifted to his carbon copy sidekick. “Donnie, you got somethin’ clever needs sayin’?”

“Nope.” He grinned, elbowed Austin’s shoulder. “I tell you what.”

Austin snort laughed, snapped the top on the YETI. “Harper ain’t been around much.” He tilted his cup at the very pregnant girl in a bright yellow and orange over-sized Love’s Travel Stop uniform shirt. “They give you that gold name tag so’s you can give workin’ men shit about their refill cups?”

“Well,” she kicked her hip up against the stainless drink counter she’d been leaning on flat handed, palmed her stomach. “He’s around enough to call me at 11:34 in the P M askin’ questions about cheese.”

“Prob’ly had the munchies, right Donnie? After a long afternoon?”

“I tell you what,” Donnie giggled, elbowed Austin again. Austin got a toothy smile and elbowed back.

“Just what is it with you two ‘tellin’ me what’ an gigglin’ like my twelve-year-old nieces?” She folded her arms, raised an eyebrow.

“Harper hadn’t been good for shit ‘least once a week, sometimes twice since he met ol’ I tell you what. Ain’t that right, Donnie?”

“I tell you what.” They both laughed.

“So tell me what,” Cheryl drummed her fingers on her crossed arms. “Or I confiscate both your illegal refills.”

“Damn, girl. You know what these things cost?”

“I do. And I know what they’re costin’ me in profit-per-square override for lettin’ y’all use ‘em.”

“Listen to you bein’ all Miz manager on us. It’s not like we’re thieves or nothin’.”

“Austin Babcock, it is exactly like you’re thieves or somethin’. I’m gonna count to three. One…”

“Tell her, Austin. Or I will. I love Harper like my bro, but this damn cup cost me a hunnerd bucks.”


“Harper’s got him a girl.”

“Or maybe a voodoo priestess,” Donnie said.

“Yeah, maybe. Whatever, he ends up pretty stupid after bein’ around her. He don’t answer the phone, he don’t show to go pour cement with us on whatever day it is. All he says is ‘I tell you what.’”

“She got a name?”

“I told you, I tell you what.”

“Two and a half…”

“Honest Cheryl, that’s all Harp’ll say about it. ‘I tell you what.’ Says it all different kinds of ways, too, don’t he?” Austin checked his sidekick for backup.

“He does.”

“So where’s he keepin’ her?”

“Marie over to the Microtel said she saw him slidin’ out the side door one afternoon. Since then, nobody sees him on the ‘I tell you what days.’”

“Marie knows. She’s got cameras over there.”

“Only when she remembers to turn ‘em on.”

“Now why would she forget to do that?”

“The casino hookers like that place. It’s clean and half the price of the Hilton. She keeps the cameras off mostly as a courtesy to her clientele.”


“He ain’t lyin’. Not that we know personal about the casino hookers or nothin’. But we asked her after the first time she’d seen Harp do the side door slide if she’d seen him again and she said ‘no.’”

“So my brother’s got himself all tangled up in a casino whore. Jesus.” She came off the counter, hands behind her back, stretched. “No wonder he’s callin’ me at all hours with stupid questions.”

“We didn’t say that…” Austin set his cup down, reached for Cheryl’s shoulders in case she tipped over.

“I’m pregnant, not crippled.” She glared, let it go, patted Austin’s shoulder. “Thanks for the thought. No whore? You sure?”

“Not Harper’s style. An how he is when he comes away from wherever she’s at? Ain’t none of us ever seen enough money to come away from a whore make you feel that way.”

“I will tell you what,” Donnie grinned, hit his YETI, left the elbow bump alone.

“Alright,” she twisted side to side, elbows out, “you two go on. He’ll tell me when he gets to it, I guess. But if you see him, tell him to take his fool food questions down to the IGA from now on. I need my sleep.”

“Don’t expect Harp to do much tradin’ down to the IGA these days. He’ll drive up halfway to the city just for bean dip to save off goin’ there.”

Cheryl stopped her waddle to the front counter, turned, furrowed her brows.

“Laney Carpenter.”

“Austin, puh-leeze. That was what, three, four years ago? Besides, Laney’s a married woman now.”

“Not so’s you could tell. Least not when Harper goes in there. He says it ain’t worth it, her married to that gun crazy long-haul trucker don’t ever wash his clothes or shower while he’s gone. Even heard he cuts off the top of a milk carton, so he has a place to shit so he don’t have to pull —”

“A pregnant woman can projectile vomit for no reason.”

“Right.” He hustled to put an aisle between himself and possible lost breakfast spray. “Anyways, Harp ain’t tradin’ at the IGA, not talkin’ cheese particular since the deli slicin’ is Laney’s little piece of IGA paradise.”

“You tell him what I said about callin’ all hours,” Cheryl barked from behind the register. “And for the record I don’t have the faintest how to tell if the green spots on pepper jack cheese are peppers or mold.” She stood on tiptoe, finger-tips on the counter, hollered “Unless they’re fuzzy!”

Curious what other hoppers use? Check it out here

Published by

Phil Huston


27 thoughts on “NVDT #79 – Pepper Jack Cheese”

    1. There were a few. Comes out that way. I have to go back in and add shit if I want it. But we kinda know who they are without much window dressing. Three people in a truck stop. The truth is if I try to “write”, editing all the ensuing crap becomes a nightmare. Adverbs and said and asked and pouted and moaned are bound up in action tags and body language. He said, languidly, as if without purpose. Look at all that extra word count!

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Notes? That was just me on the no tags thing. They aren’t illegal, I’ve just taught myself not to hear them. I know they’re in there, and probably some should come out, but keeping up with the good stuff without thinking like a “writer” is my job. I discovered,finding my way through all the writing advice, that the more I tried to be a writer, the more I sounded like an idiot trying to write. I have jungles of that shit to rewrite or dump. I always do best when I listen and get me out the way. There’s a great word, aflatus. It’s Greek or something for “divinely inspired” or of the muse. I love it because it’s in there with flatulence. Like aflatulent. Where’d you get that idea? It was an aflatulent. As divine as a fart. Which is what they are, I think, all creativity – inspired (maybe) brain farts.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Don’t sweat them. Forget them. 99% of the time we and the readers know all that. Jim says something to Jill. Jill says something back. Responded, replied, all that is redundant. If it gets to the point we don’t know who’s talking the oldest trick in the book is to put the name in dialogue. “I’m tryin to forget you’re just an ignorant slut.” “Fuck you, JIM.” and we’re right back on track. If it starts to read too fast go to action/body language or set decoration. “Look, Jim,” she found it remarkable how much the ice maker sounded like a respirator, “I don’t have time for this right now.” Anything besides a deep breath and an Alatorre hair toss.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I like when there are only two characters talking and you can just alternate lines. Most of the time when we are talking in real life, we are just saying, so said, even if it is “overused” it’s just life right? I can’t remember that last time I remarked, verbalized – or expounded…

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Me, either, and I defer to Hammett for well handled ensemble scenes. But I suppose I can see a windbag character pontificating. As a clinician I probably expounded on the Fletcher Munson curve and the smiley face eq. Spend enough time in Artist Relations and I can see snarked as an option, but generally I avoid all of them. Particularly anything following punctuation that is self explanatory. Asked, exclaimed. The worst for me is when even the best will use said after a question.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Said after a question. Hate it. And I don’t believe I used a single ‘exclaimed’ in my WIP. But now I have to go back and check!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The first thing I thought of when I read the prompt is those 3am ideas that come up suddenly. There’s stories we won’t get to write because of time or they’re beyond our scope or they’re just fancies, but the 3am ones must NEVER see the light of day. With them it’s not a question of will you get to write them, it’s a case of you MUST NOT write them.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Aw, c’mon. Those are the really deep psychotic ones where you and Jim Rockford drive a car into your doctor’s living room while chasing people you knew in college with a machine gun, or where you’re going all kung fu on an innocent neighbor who caught you burying the body of your 8th grade math teacher who has your high school sweetheart’s brother’s face… where the room is on fire and no matter how hard you try to get away it follows you through an endless, empty shopping mall that contains a million sets of short stairs with hot handrails and no doors… no food court except the pretzel place is open and the black girl smiles like nothing is wrong except for some reason she has your cell phone…

        Liked by 1 person

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