Bobby B – Better By The Minute

Bobby used an oar to pole the Stinger aground at the Ramah mud ramp. He stepped out, dragged it up a little further, offered Bernie a hand down. She took it, dropped on her butt next to where he’d dropped on his back.

“Now what?”

“I hadn’t gotten this far.” He turned his head in the direction of a door slam, squinted when the power beam from a night fishing light landed on his face.

“About time you brought my damn boat back.”

He picked the tall black woman out of the late dusk and the photo flash eye burn, mostly by voice. “Annabelle?”

“The one and only. What took you so long?”

“Y’all didn’t give me enough gas to get hardly anywhere.”

“That’s a show boat, baby. Not much of a tank. Expected you to take the straight shot down Standard to Atchafalaya, hook up with Junior and come home through the back door. He calls, tells me you have some fool ‘wander around the bayou to Big Muddy plan’. In my polyester paint job show boat.”

She motioned with the beam to a man standing by a dually pickup that had an empty, polished chrome trailer hooked to it, waved the light around and pointed at the Stinger. She opened the back door of a seriously lifted crew cab Tundra, held it while Bobby tossed the shotgun, the briefcase and the cooler inside. Bernie climbed in first and saw their suitcases.

“Boudreaux?” There was panic in her voice. “She’s got our bags. And a .45 under her jacket!” She pulled the pink Ruger, fumbled it on the floor of the backseat. “Ohhh…Shit, Boudreaux! The FBI…Everybody…They’re all…We’re being erased.” Annabelle caught Bernie mid-flight from the truck, bench pressed her back in the door.

“Little girl, the only thing about to be ‘erased’ is my patience.” She held Bernie in place with one hand, pointed at Bobby. “Since last evening when our boy called? I’ve had people who should be building boats scattered out all over hell and gone trying to stay ahead of you two, and cleaning up after.” She winked at Bobby, pushed Bernie back in the truck. “Days like this ‘erased’ is the best idea I’ve heard in a month of Sundays. When I told this boy Annabelle Monette was how crazy got done? I had no idea how much work he could make out of that.”

“Down bayou is always this way?”

“With him? Hell yes, one kind of way another. Go around and get in the damn truck, Boudreaux.” She slammed the door behind Bernie, got a glimpse of the worried boat loader taking CYA pictures of the Stinger showboat before he loaded it. “Erased don’t even start to cover it.”

Bobby tossed the scotch plaid throw Annabelle used for a seat cover into the back. Bernie curled up under it and was asleep before they hit the interstate.

“How far did you have to row?”

“Too far. Kinda heavy for a Stinger.”

“Loaded. All that leather look and faux wood finish, chillin’ console, rumble fishing seats.” She peeked over her shoulder at Bernie. “I didn’t know, about you, and her. I booked two rooms. If you need that changed…”

“Two rooms. We’re not…” Bobby hesitated. “We’re friends. She made working out there tolerable. And we’ll be business partners when Creighton gets that lined out. Business partners like you and me, anyway. ‘Great idea, Bobby, you’re the man. We got work to do, so don’t let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya’.”

“Had a visit from Mr. Creighton DeHavilland. Esquire.”

“Yeah? Hittin’ you up to invest?”

“Nothing of the kind. He asked, considering my manufacturing history and assorted other ass kissing, could I add a ‘small industrial furniture plant’ on Swamp Vue’s ‘upholstery department’ to build custom restaurant seating. I told him the Salvation Army did our upholstery. Didn’t even slow him down. He said that was marvelous, and a conscientious write off to boot. I agreed. We’re on standby to contract with them and have it ready to go if that Monterrey Mick character surfaces again.”

“A lot of people are hanging dreams on Mick.” He thumbed toward the back seat. “That one in particular. I’m hopin’ for her sake he’s not dead in a ditch or busted somewhere.”

“So you are worried about her?”

“She has that need, like Momma had. Won’t be another pretty bayou girl who can’t seem to get to her destiny, whatever it is. She’s smart, pretty, got a chip on her shoulder a mile wide, a temper, and a pocket size machine gun in her purse. She’s the whole recipe for mess herself up casserole. Yeah, I’m worried about her.”

“I caught her with my bare hands and she’s made out of dynamite and electricity with a figure that might well do a man harm. I wouldn’t worry too much. Unless you’re not certain about that room arrangement and looking for an excuse.”

“Jesus, Annabelle. It’s been a long day that started out being dumped by the FBI and shot at by strangers. I’m not sure about much of anything. Except those two rooms. I told you –”

“I heard, baby.” She laughed, softly. “Smart and pretty and a big chip are tolerable. The temper and machine gun are the two to stay out ahead of.”

***

“Been a long day and getting longer by the minute, Macon.” Agent Hyland pulled his gum out, stuck it in a wrapper he’d saved, flipped it at the dumpster behind a run-down 24/7 Jack in the Box, slipped his thin leather driving glove back on.  Still don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.”

“You do, or you wouldn’t have met me.”

“You eat a lot of Crack in the Box? Too much of it can turn your brain inside out.”

“Fuck the chat. I got the call for a shooting at Mud Point Trailer Park on Whiskey Bay this morning. You show up ahead of me and about two feet behind the Troopers, jam the investigation, scatter my people and leave me with a compromised crime scene, no facts and a ‘go get ‘em, scout’ routine. Faucheaux let it drop the kid and hot pants had two million in a briefcase, headed for Liz Vernier. Liz Vernier’s business is my business. I want in.”

“How much of me and the money have you communicated to Vernier?”

“None. I told you. I want in.”

Hyland’s eyes turned hard and he put a gloved hand on Macon’s shoulder. “Between Liz Vernier, your boss and me is the hardest place you’ll find yourself, son. They need deniability, you’re expendable. Fucking with me is a once and done.” He stared Macon into a Mexican standoff. “So far four people angling for a piece of that money are dead. If they stay on schedule the other two who know about it will be dead by tomorrow afternoon. Maybe I decide I can’t trust the hot rod guru and he’ll go with them. You come to the table with nothing but your hand out, you’re another likely. Greed breeds carnage, Macon. Step off while you can.”

“Faucheaux knows, too. He –”

“Faucheux knows squat. He’s an opportunist who saw a way out from under a shitty truck and took it.”

I’m an opportunist. I’ll put Liz Vernier in the middle of it, however you want. She goes down with Bobby and the rest of them. All your witnesses are dead, we get some media show with her dirty money and walk with a bonus.”

“The money isn’t dirty. And the kid is my diamond in an ever-expanding shit pile of ‘God smells like money’ assholes. I may not like Liz Vernier, but unlike you? She’s far more valuable alive than dead. Did you hear that?”

“I heard. But it’s not right. I thought…The two agents in Lafayette. My two couldn’t have –”

“No, they couldn’t. Mine had orders to fold if confronted. I needed to see air around all the players.” He shook lightly with silent laughter. “I told Bobby I was out of it to force his hand. Never expected him and a two-bit actress to run the gauntlet in a Cobra pickup waving a sawed-off elephant gun, just to keep their word.”

“Neither did we. Tell. Me. About. The money.”

Hyland stepped into Macon, slipped a medium bag of rock into Macon’s suit coat pocket, whispered. “You still don’t get it. If I told you, I would have to kill you.” He backed out of Macon’s space. “My operation requires the money be delivered directly into Vernier’s hands, by Bobby. Without interference or being tainted by any reference to the agency. Last time. Forget whatever you think is going down, forget the money and me and Liz Vernier and get out. Can you do that?” He searched Macon’s face with his eyes. “Thought not.”

A black Town Car appeared behind Hyland. “Sorry, Macon.” He dropped into the back seat. “This wasn’t your night.” The electric window shhhhsed closed in Macon’s face.

“Yeah? Well…” He watched Hyland’s car slip away, flipped it off. “Fuck you, too.” He walked to his car, yanked the door open.

Hyland tapped his driver on the shoulder. “LBI Agent Macon Jarrett has disenfranchised himself. He doesn’t need time to make contact.”

The driver touched the side of his watch. “Done. Disenfranchised?”

“His word. We need to look it up. See if it’s proper usage before we add it to the ‘sanction’ thesaurus.”

***

The patrol cop waved her flashlight over the kid glued to his spot in a puddle of vomit in the Jack in the box parking lot, his right hand frozen to a wheeled trash can.

“You haven’t touched anything? You puked, called 911 from the cell you gave me, haven’t moved?”

“No ma’am.”

“Tell me again?”

“I come out with the trash and seen him, like that, whatever used to be his head ‘sploded out all over, an, an,” he barfed into the trash can, wiped his mouth on the back of his hand. “I called 911. You an me, here we are.”

“Think hard. You didn’t see anybody, hear anything?”

“I done thought plenty hard already. If I’d heard shootin’ I’d a never came outside. Nothin’. Nobody. Nothin’.”

“You can let go of the can.” She handed him his phone back. “Have a seat on the sidewalk for me.” She walked back to Macon’s black Dodge where he sat, one leg in, one out, slammed awkwardly up against the door post. The left side of his head gone. She shined her light across the interior of the car to the hole at the very top of the passenger side window, followed the angle with her eyes to Macon’s head, out into the lot and back to the hole. A tour of Afghanistan told her it was a distance shot. Infra-red scope maybe, to read the target at night. Whatever was left of the bullet would be in the brain goo field and useless. The shooter’s location, if they could find it, would reveal nothing. She collected the badge, wallet, phone and decent sized bag of crack she’d retrieved from the body and set on top of Macon’s car, put them in a gallon Ziploc evidence bag, walked over and sat by the kid. She pulled off her latex gloves, pointed at the shattered security camera.

“How long has it been like that?”

“Since three or four times ago that we was robbed.”

“Getting better by the minute.” She heard the sirens screaming, shook her head. Two patrol cars, an unmarked car and a crime lab van screeched into the parking lot. An ambulance lumbered in behind them.

She stood, patted his arm with the back of her hand. “Go inside, clean yourself up. Tell whoever’s in charge to shut it down, make a pot of coffee. A long night just kicked into overdrive.”

“Nobody to tell, ma’am. I’m all by my lonesome, eleven to four.”

She scanned the lot swarming with uniforms and suits and crackling radios, all headed her direction.

“Lucky you.”

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Bobby B – Don’t Draft Much At All

“Wet T-shirt contest?”

“Not so’s you’d know.” Bobby forearmed the sweat out of his eyes. dropped the rope he’d been trying to pull the Swamp Vue Stinger up onto the hard-packed mud bar between the north end of Standard Channel and Little Tensas bayou.  He measured the weathered man in worn camo cargos, thigh waders and a long-sleeved work shirt. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Bernie reach behind her back and go full vigilant. “We for sure didn’t advertise.”

“Most folks, even the city types, they leave a boat in the water, walk the dog with a leash.” Waders took a deep drag on his cigarette, stole a glance at Bernie through the smoke. His sloping shoulders drooped further when he exhaled. “You don’t appear to be natives.”

“Houma.” Bobby waited for the smoke to clear, tilted his head toward Bernie. “She’s Port Barre.”

“Ma’am.” Waders lifted a black Yamaha cap, smiled with a touch of leer. “All the good lookin’ women Port Barre way keep pistols in their shorts?”

Bobby left that one to Bernie who didn’t speak. Or move.

“Remind me to stay south of the highway I get much west of where I am.” Waders returned Bobby and Bern’s measuring eye, with less tension. “Scanner was eat up a while back with po-lice talkin’ about a couple of missin’ kids they’d like to find.” He ground his cigarette butt out on an exposed tree root. “First, they’re lookin’ for ‘em in some little hot rod, then the FBI and the State come on sayin’ they’re not lookin’ for ‘em no more, nobody’s looking for any kids, never were.” He waved loosely to the south, spit out into the water. “Down bayou over to Whiskey Bay they got theirselves three dead road ragers. And an ex-cop I’ve been knowin’ most of my life ‘cept for his time in Nawlens tellin’ a story about how some bad men thumped him an stole his truck.” He spit again. “That there’s a full on bullshit storm.” He shifted his gaze between the two sweat soaked members of his captive audience. “Wanna know what I think?”

Bernie weighed that, laser eyes locked. “We have any choice?”

“You could go ahead on an shoot me, Port Barre.” He waited a few beats, scratched the back of his thigh. “Them kids? I think you two are them two. The same two them foot soldier lawmen got told by the big boys they don’t want no more. Y’all traded the little hot rod for a hot rod swamp skimmer to get away from the dead road ragers. Who might be your fault.” He gauged them for impact. “Faucheaux saw a way out from under that damn Ford needs lifters every five-thousand miles. And somebody somewhere told you there was a way into Little Tensas up bayou hereabouts. You planned on slidin’ through, doin’ Tensas in that little yella boat all the way to the big river, but you’re done at Ramah.” He kept his eyes on them while bent side to side and rummaged around in his cargo pockets. “Looks all the hell to me like y’all got business in the Big Red Stick somebody, or a shit load of somebodys, don’t want done.”

“So far you’re telling a good bedtime sto –”

“Forget it, Bernie.” Bobby wadded up his soaked t-shirt and threw it in the Stinger. “That’s almost the story. We got shot at on the bridge, dumped the car south of the barge loaders, hooked it over to the Standard side where a friend of mine left me this boat. He seemed to have left us a piece of shit for a map sayin’ there was a shallow here fishermen used to get from the channel into the Tensas. And some shrimp salad my neighbor’s momma made sittin’ on a block of dry ice in a cooler. Shrimp salad still ain’t thawed, couldn’t find the shallow. You’re lookin’ at where we’re at.” He picked up the rope. “We need to get on to Baton Rouge. You gonna stand there and talk or you gonna help?”

“I ain’t pullin’ shit for no rope, Houma.” He chuckled low under his breath, lit another cigarette from the mishapen Marlboro Red pack he’d pulled from his cargos and used it as a pointer. “You ease back in the water. ‘Bout twenty yards to your left, cut under that Cypress ‘pears to be fallin’ over. Not sayin’ you’re done with the rope but ain’t neither of you any kinda fat and that lipsticked up whore of a skimmer don’t look to draft much at all.” He turned, waved his cigarette hand above his shoulder. “Take care, Houma. You, too, Port Barre. Keep that pistol handy. Ba-tone can be a damned unfriendly place.” He swept the thick marshy brush away with his right hand and disappeared. They heard an old school two-cycle ATV wind up and head east.

Bobby squat lifted the front of the Stinger, shoved it back into the water. Bernie relaxed, walked toward the boat with the pink Ruger in hand, caught his look.

“Don’t laugh. Where I’m from that banjo song from Deliverance hit number one and stayed a while.” She pulled her soaked tank top over her head, threw it on top of Bobby’s shirt. “Nothing to get excited about, it’s an exer-bra. Keeps things in check under a tank.”

“I know that. I thought bikini models would have, well, more –”

“Boudreaux? I have a gun in my hand and you need to stay alive long enough to get us out of here.”

***

“You’re an overpaid, apparently incompetent errand and messenger boy, not a fucking house cat.” Liz Vernier swatted Blue Suit’s feet off the coffee table in her office, bent over the table, hands on her knees. “What happened?”

“The kid and the babeage weren’t –” He could feel her eyes setting his chest on fire, saw a flash where his head was rolling around her office like a bowling ball, and decided out of self-preservation not to look down the front of her silk blouse. “The two subjects in question acquired arms and transportation that we were, um, unaware of them having access to. The two scrotes we hired to disenfranchise them failed. One of them is dead, the other one…We don’t know. Yet.”

“No. The two ‘scrotes’ you hired.” She lifted his chin with her index finger. “You are the one who fucked up by hiring low life idiots to do a simple job. Bobby should have been ‘disenfranchised’ within hours of stepping off the plane in Lafayette. Instead they gave him almost three days to smell something and get his shit together? He lives here. Has friends here. Has a girl he still texts and tries to call twice a day even though I make sure it all goes to the Twilight Zone. For Christ’s sake Macon, he owns a fucking boat company. You missed all that and hired a pair of Salvation Army rejects to pull off an easily explainable ‘accidental disenfranchising’?” She caught herself. “Where did you come up with that word?”

“I was told offing and whacked and drilled were impolite, overused terms for murder. And your office has to be wired.”

“They are, and it is.” She sat, crossed her legs, fingered the hem of her skirt, stared at him and waited.

“There were other unforeseen circumstances. People in the picture we didn’t expect.”

“All I heard was that Bobby and this Bernadette person were coming home to raise money for a restaurant and chartered in to Lafayette to avoid an overnight in Houston. Now I’m hearing the FBI is involved and persons unknown were found dead floating in Whiskey Bay. Explain?”

“When we showed on scene the FBI said there was no story and already had the go kart on crack the kid came up with out of there. What they left us is three cars and three bodies. Two cars belong to a pair of dead brothers out of Houston and a fucked up stolen Monte Carlo out of Alexandria is currently hanging on our dead knife thrower.”

Your dead knife thrower. Faucheaux’s name came up. He’s an accidental tourist or a participant?”

“Whiskey Bay all went down a quarter mile from that swamp-rat hooker infested trailer park of his. He popped our man, I had to give him a pass.”

Your man. There’s something missing. The FBI shouldn’t give a rat’s ass about Bobby, or who Faucheaux rents his fishing trailers to. Who were the other people?”

“We don’t know. Faucheaux let it drop Bobby and the babe, uh, Bernadette, were coming here. To keep an appointment.”

“I don’t have an appointment with Bobby. Or the actress, or the FBI. Goddammit.” She pressed the heels of her hands on her temples, tilted her head over the back of the Victorian couch. “Shit. Shit, shit, shit. I am surrounded with incompetence.”

He waited for her say something else. When she didn’t he stood, wiggled his suit coat back into position. She sensed the motion.

“Find the other half of your two-fer and clean that up. ASAP. Then think of something, Macon. Something that doesn’t involve brain dead ex-cons with knives.” She rubbed her temples, shook her head, continued talking to the ceiling. “When is he coming?”

“Bobby? Tomorrow. Maybe day after. We don’t know exactly where he is.”

“Perfect. We wait until he pops up like a fucking Jack in the Box. Too bad we can’t ‘disenfranchise’ him when he hits the parking lot.”

“Yes ma’am, it is.” Macon strolled through the female staff in reception, smiled, punched the elevator button, adjusted his tie in the polished door. “House cat my ass.”

 

Looney Lunes #134

Who Says?

I read a great article from an editor about how to feel about editing. It was good. She used “literally,” which isn’t a crime, and she used it correctly but it usually falls into my expendable word pile. And she “essentially” says to ignore what you don’t want to hear. I agree, to an extent. That article is from Literary Architect

I also watched a Lifetime movie. Talk about fondue…I digress.

What I want to know is, with all the rules and formulas out there, what is “right”? Said only? The other day I read “said is dead”. Unlike the heart of Rock n Roll I believe it. Check this out – randomly Googled scene builders and breakers dialogue tags –

articulated ejaculated narrated phonated recounted related sounded told uttered verbalized vocalized voiced accounted alleged assumed conjectured considered deemed estimated gossiped held reckoned regarded reported rumored supposed thought aloud announced communicated expressed mentioned equivocated sung sang spoke pronounced broadcast / ed disclosed divulged noted prevaricate / ed asseverate / ed (Thank you, Elmore Leonard) acknowledged argued claimed came back defended disputed mewled explained parried pleaded rebutted refuted rejoined remarked retorted refused returned sassed barked squealed screamed shouted retaliated enunciated pronounced mouthed off professed swore exclaimed sighed whispered chimed in stated spat drooled murmured

If you suffer from stilted dialogue, or fear dialogue you can write the most trite shit ever uttered, add one of those evocative tags and find an adverb to support it. Or –

 

 

 

 

 

Rodney whipped a nickel plated nine out of his shoulder holster, and with no mercy in his eyes he leveled it at Martin’s nose. “You say ‘show don’t tell’ one more time, Imma kill you, motherfucker.”

He professed, sternly.

ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR

Land Run – Say Hey, Neighbor – Part 3

Flash rolled into the abandoned lumberyard and up the ramp into a fifty-three-foot trailer that had bags of gluten and corn free organic dog food painted on the sides. He pulled the battery and ratcheted the Mercedes down like a professional calf roper and jumped off the back of the trailer as the driver started to reload pallets of dog food. Flash stood in the swirling gravel dust churned up by the forklift and gave minimal load directions. It took them under six minutes from the time he’d driven through the gates to locking the trailer.

The driver smacked his gloves together, tossed them in the cab. “GPS?”

“History before I started it.”

“Dead, set and locked down?”

“Come on, Colin. I didn’t start yesterday.”

“No, but you took your sweet time.” Colin leaned on the cab with one hand, unlocked the “Fire Extinguisher Inside” box with the other. He pulled the fire extinguisher, slammed the box door. “Trouble?”

“Met a girl.”

Colin turned his head, popped a grin, elbowed him in the shoulder

“Not like that. A girl girl.

“Worst kind of trouble.”

“She’s not a banger…She’s…different.”

“What I said.”

They split up, climbed into their respective sides of the cab. Flash dropped his leather bag on the console, took the fire extinguisher handoff. Colin lurched the rig through the deserted lumberyard’s gates while Flash unscrewed the bottom of the extinguisher, stuck his hand inside and fished out two waxed paper bundles.

“One-sixty.” Colin hit the ignition on a vape, blew the smoke sideways out the window.  “How many non-target free-styles you pull today?”

“Six?”

“Don’t be cute, you’re a freaking one man white car crime wave in this town. Scanner’s lit up with hot cars. The Lexus I know was you belonged to a city councilman’s wife and they have everybody with a badge that can drive out looking for it. You’re finished here.”

“How am I supposed to —”

“Uber. I’ll drop you someplace civilized.” He chuckled, hit the vape again. “Six? Jeez, Flash. You shopping for a keeper?”

“Not really…” He zoned a few extra seconds, could still taste onion rings through the dust. “But I might have found one.”

***

Harli and Maddie, from their vantage point in the rented black Camaro three parking spaces away, watched Cheryl the real estate agent slam Kevin’s motel room door, climb into a metallic red Lincoln SUV and chirp the tires getting out of the Super 8 lot. Harli thought the Lincoln would be a cool car for Flash to steal. She pushed on her temples with the heels of her hands, God. What was she thinking?

“This isn’t going to work, Maddie. You know that, right?”

“Of course it will work. You could have gone horny college girl, done the Flash til he was stupid and walked out of his room with the cash. Would have saved us some trouble.”

“I don’t do that. Weaponized sex is like so Twentieth Century and reality TV and so not me. Besides, I think he’s one of those weird Unicorn kind of guys who can see that kind of thing coming, and I…Well…”

“You don’t want him to think that about you because you’re not one of me. Got it. Ten minutes. Do you need to pee again? Questions?”

“Do you think the police will get the video from Target of us buying all these black clothes?”

“No one will call the police, Harli. The money is payment for an insurance fraud stolen car. Relax.”

“Will Flash hate me forever for this?”

“Flash will get over it. Anyway, you’re robbing Kevin, not Flash.”

“Black lipstick?”

“What do you suggest for a black ski mask, Harli? Pink? Red?”

“The masks cover our mouths. Our eyes will give us away.”

“Not with these. Party City. White-out vampire contacts.” She tilted the rear view, popped the contacts in, flashed Harli a buck toothed smile. “How you rike me now, Grasshoppuh?”

Harli rolled her eyes. “Talk about Twentieth Century…”

***

At straight up 9 pm Flash carried a Red Dragon branded paper bag from his room to Kevin’s, knocked on the door, raised his voice to delivery driver level. “Red Dragon.”

Kevin opened the door, reached out and dragged Flash into the room, stuck his head back out to look around and Harli cracked him on the head with Maddie’s Browning. Hard, but not too hard.

Shit..OW! The fuck?” Kevin clutched the top of his head with both hands, staggered back into the room, fell on the bed.“Whaaa…Who? Awwwww…Dammit. OW! He pulled his hands down, looked at his fingers. “Holy mother of fuck! I’m bleeding!” Harli raised the gun again and Kevin dove under the pillow. “Take it, whatever you want, but don’t hit me again…Don’t fucking shoot me, either, you crazy bitch. God dammit, OW!”  He rolled onto his stomach buried his head further under the pillow. Awww…Bitch! My fucking head.”

Maddie pushed her way past Harli and Flash, lifted the pillow and stuffed a dirty washcloth in Kevin’s mouth. She had trouble at first with her gloves and the cable ties stuffed in the side of her boot but got organized, pulled his hands together and zip tied them. She motioned to Harli to pull his feet up and in a few more awkward moves they had Kevin cable tied and thrashing on the bed like a prize winning fish in the bottom of a bass boat. In white Jockeys.

“Kung Pao chicken’s getting cold, ladies. Gotta run.” Flash bowed, took a back step toward the door and Harli stuck the Browning in his ribs.

“Yo, yo, yo, sisters of spandex darkness. Guns scare me and I’m wearing my last clean pair of underwear.” Maddie pointed to the desk next to the TV, Flash set the Red Dragon bag down. Maddie motioned for him to open it and when he stepped back she counted fifteen ten-thousand dollar bands. She spun Flash around, rubbed him down fore and aft in the pocket range and came up with the missing ten grand.

“Hey, come on. The rub was quality but it wasn’t worth ten grand. Finders fee, okay?”

Maddie dropped the money in the bag, spun him again, pushed him and Harli out the door. She followed them with the dragon bag and continued to push until they were all in the Camaro. She pulled off her ski mask, shook out her hair, Harli did the same.

Flash didn’t seem surprised to see them. “Which one of you is Bonnie and which one is Clyde?”

“Cute, junior. She tells me you’re a Berkley boy. Can you prove it?

“Is there a latent hippie blood test?”

“Cassie’s Place is what?”

“Since 1964 it’s been a continuous ‘meaning of life’ talk-a-thon coffee bar, upstairs behind Grant’s Market. Cute, smart girls who don’t buy razors or hair brushes until they graduate, guys in stupid round Amish looking hats and designer chuka boots, all flying low on over-priced caffeine wishing they weren’t virgins.”

“Ding! The money for the car is between you and Harli. We’re going to drop you at Lowe’s across the street. Walk back over and unhook Kevin. Act scared like we kidnapped you and threw you out.”

“And then?”

“Then hook up with us in 723 at the Marriott. We’ll order pizza, have some fun.”

“Only if Harli stays in that black leotard. I thought I was falling in love with Bonnie or Clyde, whichever one she is. Was?”

“Shut up.” Harli managed an on the edge of disgusted frown. “Liberal Arts guys fall in love every other week.”

“What about Global Economists? When do they fall in love?”

“They don’t,” Maddie interjected. “Not on my watch. Harli, can we take his lofty bullshit horniness to Lowe’s, please? Before the smell of youth in heat overwhelms me?”

***

Harli stopped the Camaro by the pro door cart corral, Maddie leaned forward, pulled the seat back with her. “Adios, junior. If it takes too long to smooth Kev out, save the walk to the Marriott, we girls need our beauty rest. He might be pissed, don’t let him kick your ass.”

“The last ass he kicked was his mother’s, on the way into planet Earth.” He squatted down, hung on to the open door. “Harli with an I, next time you rob someone, put a clip in the gun. It’s more convincing that way.”

Maddie’s eyes got huge. She raised her eyebrows and they got even bigger. “Sweety?”

“I didn’t want it to go off and shoot him on accident.” Her smile sneaked out again, with a blush building behind it.

“That’s comforting. I think.” He stood, stayed bent into the car. “Order pizza, ladies. Easy on the bell peppers.”

Harli had turned her head, trying to kill the blush, and mumbled at her window. “I don’t eat bell peppers. On pizza, anyway.”

“All that and a black leotard. I knew I felt something tug at my heart.”

“That wasn’t your heart, and you were doing the tugging.” Maddie pushed him away from the door. “You. Beat it. By that I mean leave. Harli? Drive.”

La Soirée Dansante

Band guys got a pass on the Women’s room, if it was empty, the men’s was loaded and they posted a guard. Jackson qualified on all counts and hit the women’s room at The Regent. He stood in front of the mirrored wall, took in the marble, gold tone fixtures, the leather and velvet chairs in the ‘parlor’. The fine art prints, framed quotes from famous women written in calligraphy. It was what he thought the hotels must have been like when he heard old recordings of bands from the Forties.

“From the ballroom of the fabulous Regent, high atop Oilman’s Bank Tower rising like Xanadu above the waving wheat and Oil derricks of Oklahoma we bring you…” It folded right there because he’d forgotten what band name Glenn said they were using for the best New Year’s 1975 gig around. But the women’s room was posh. He’d heard the phrase “tart’s palace” used to describe one, probably equally as posh, in the –

“Jackson?” His drummer watchdog tapped on the door, rhythmically and not too quietly. “Whip it out, get it on and get over it, bro. Women are dancing in the aisles out here.”

Jackson finished tucking his shirt tail in, checked his zipper twice, shrugged into his tux jacket, made sure he’d flushed and complied with the unwritten seat down rule. He reached for the polished brass handle and stopped for another calligraphy quote attached to the inside of the women’s room door.

There are only two things in life that should be hard. One of them is Jolly Ranchers. All else troublesome is merely difficult. – Amanda Morisé

***

Three songs into the third set Glenn said the slow acoustic version of “Wonderful World” was up, by special request, so everyone in the band but Robbie the bass player got a free break song. Jackson stepped off the riser thinking he’d shunted all the “Do you wanna dance” requests by now. Alix asked this time, her French accent caressing her words.

“You would dance with me, when again there is music?”

“Sorry, can’t. I’m working.” He tried a sidestep.

“As am I.” She smiled, took his hand and he was out into the dance floor with her like his feet and hers were on the same wavelength. She set herself in front of him, right in front of him, caught his eyes with the sparkle in hers. “There is the problem, of you and girls?”

“I like girls just fine, but —”

“I am the girl most as you should like them, I think. So we dance, no?”

When he heard the intro, he took Alix’s right hand with his left, put his right hand on her hip, and pulled her left and back.

Don’t know much bi-ol-o-gee-ee…

“The old-fashioned way? I am such the ugly goose? The old foggy?”

“Duck. And fogey. Old fogey. No, you’re not. I don’t dance much, slow dance even less, that’s all. I’ll box step, you add what you want. I’ll try not to let you fall.”

“For such there are reasons? Medical? Mental?”

“When I was eleven or twelve, my parents sent me to this place on Friday nights. Something Soirée.”

Soirée. So bad for you, the party?” He moved her around in a big square, not too awkwardly. It didn’t hurt that she seemed to read his mind when he needed to turn her, and her waist was made for his hand.

“Our parents sent us, boys and girls. It was a fake party, a party class. They played records, taught us how to ask a girl to dance. How to bow, how to curtsy.”

“Ahh! As was I taught!” She took a half step back, curtsied fluidly in perfect time with the music, and stepped back into his hands. “A curtsy most professional was obtained by you, after such instruction?”

“No, I….”

“In fairness the gentleman must demonstrate as well, no?”

“I…” Damn…He waited for the downbeat, let go of her and folded into his well-rehearsed Cary Grant stage bow, caught her left hand on his way up, brushed it with his lips and raised it. She spun out and back into place like they’d never been apart.

“Delightful!” She leaned in closer. “More was learned, I think, in la soirée?

“They taught us to be ‘polite and considerate,’ not to run like a herd of cows to the couple of girls back then who already had boobs. I had to learn the ‘important social graces’.”

“Most important I think, not to run at girls with breasts. You learned this well, to snuck up on the breasts?”

“Sneak up. Yeah, but after that, we were about halfway through their program and I asked my dad if I could stop going. He asked me why, I told him it was boring. My mother had beaten all of that manners stuff into me already, so I got the polite rules.  He said, ‘Your mother won’t like it, but I’ll sell it for you’. So I missed the second half, the dance lessons.”

“So boring for you, oui? To ask most politely of the girls without breasts a dance, more instruction of the curtsy?”

Don’t know much about the French I took…

“No, the real problem was, well, around then if I even got too close to a girl, held her hand, danced with her, just being that close, I got…Excited. Couldn’t control it.”

“Excited? You had the freak down and break out?”

“Freak out, break down. No, I got a banana in my pants, okay? Out of nowhere, there it was. I had on loose dress slacks, it was embarrassing. So I always slow dance this way, just in case.”

“Oh, my love…” Alix laughed, almost tripped. Jackson caught her, and they were in a full-on dip. He could smell her perfume, felt her breath on his neck before he pulled her up. “Only in dancing you become excited, or the closeness les femmes?”

“The closeness anywhere, I guess. That summer my mom bought me this way off swimsuit. It was tight, some kind of knit stuff, with orange stripes. It looked like it was painted on, you know, ‘look everybody, here’s my biz!’ It was worse because we’d go to the pool, there were girls in bikinis and the same excited thing would happen. I spent the whole summer in the water, turning into a prune. I got a tan from the shoulders up.”

“The most excited prune, no? With the banana of pants for swimming?” She fell out again. “Would you not ask your mother for the pants of swimming more forgiving in such ways?” She was laughing harder, people were staring at the band guy dancing with the “French Morisé” in big baggy I Dream of Jeannie silk pants.

“Alix, how do you tell your mom, ‘When I walk past a girl I get a chub, I need some jams to hide it’?”

Thank God the song was over. Alix was still laughing when she kissed him on the cheek and thanked him for the dance. Break out and freak down ho-lee shit for real. It was a good thing his underwear was tight because Amanda’s partner was made out of female electricity. He’d only grazed her hip when she’d tripped and that was all it took.

***

“The boy…Your petit amour…” Alix was having trouble talking through her laughter. “My champagne?”

Amanda handed Alix her glass. “Why did you ask him to dance? I told the girls to leave him alone, with the exception of Beverly in that two-extra-cheeks-to-powder skirt.”

“Ah, my love, for one so youngHe sees the woman, not the skirt. Yet he dances with me as his mother, no? This, I think, is the boy who visits you, on the day of your phone call most disruptive. Work I must do and Amanda, always most severe, at once she is the giggles and laughs of the schoolgirl? I decide I must see your petit amour, oui? To hear myself as he speaks most cleverly to you.”

“Was that it, the dancing giant’s story? He told you that?”

“No, my love, he told to me stories of a young boy awakened. Of the instruction in
la soirée dansante, and the pool for swimming where he was most troubled by that which is hard and unforgiving.”

Amanda folded her arms, studied her champagne glass. “Life is hard and unforgiving, Alix.”

“As is that which is not the Jolly Rancher, my love.”

 

The dance and two song lines are courtesy of “What a Wonderful World” by Sam Cooke

In the Strongest of Terms

The real world has left Bobby B in the swamp between Lafayette and Baton Rouge with $2 million. So, in the meantime – In my Fairy Tale, the Minstrel Prince and Bookworm Feminist Princess share a pair of Lesbian Fairy Godmothers. One of them is a rich, impatient, no nonsense French lawyer named Alixandrie, who was introduced here

***

Jackson held the door of his apartment for Alix, kicked the pizza box out of her way and picked up the green plastic trash bag Dash should have taken outside.

“Should your mother and Amanda discover how you live, my custody of your welfare would be questioned. My love, the word…encombrement most extreme.”

“Clutter?”

Oui! Your French, it improves! You know of the clothes? How which is to who?”

“I’m the one who doesn’t wear nylon underwear. The jeans are pretty easy to tell, and all the socks go in one basket.”

“A commune of chaussettes?”

“Socks. I know that one. Will you knock it off with the French?”

“My love, the shock. Most severe. I may assist you, perhaps Saturday? I require from you only the protective gloves. As well for the odor, something, yes? In return as now my kitchen becomes beautifully new by your skill?”

“Alix, you can’t come help me clean, and you don’t owe me anything for installing your new appliances. This place? Dash is leaving after Christmas. I’ll make some changes after that happens. I’ll clean it up, you can help me pick some furniture.”

“Oh petite amour how you may survive?  Vous vivez de cette façon et l’étude?”

“Come on Alix, more than one?”

“Ah, forgive me petit amour. I have said you live as such and study? C’est impossible.”

“It’s college, Alix. American college, not Deanna’s postcard college.”

“Your voice, the tone of it, how do you say, ‘It sells you out?’ The weight of your worry, my love. Release it. She, I believe, is well.” Alix let the weight of compassion in her comment hang for a moment above the piles of laundry, the pizza boxes, beer and Sprite cans, hoped Deanna’s recent fear and relief hadn’t entered her own voice. “As you ask of me I speak with her when she telephones. We are as thieves that whisper in the night. Amanda, should she discover us, may, as you say, ‘take the big shit.’”

“I didn’t mean for Deanna to be a —”

“Shhh. Certain troubles of women must be shared only with another woman. Even a girl as the Little Jewel has such times. As you, she becomes mine. She belongs to all of Morisé, but time is required to soften and heal damaged hearts. Written on time, the tales of our hearts, no?” She picked up and immediately dropped a pair of jeans, went to the sink and ran water over her fingers. “Kennedy, la petite ballerine who speaks with me in French the times we are together? You have spoken? She has danced Tchaikovsky well, cracked the nuts of Baltimore?”

“She stole the shows, got rave reviews, said to tell you ‘Joyeux Noël.’  The night before she left she got past her big metaphysical facade and told me about what really hurt and after she unloaded she said she felt ‘beautiful’ again. Just before she fell asleep on the couch.”

“Your charms, my love, known well are they not to become tiresome? In your favor, a woman who may unfold her dreams and pain without fear becomes beautiful always.  As also unfolds the towel that does not offend the nose?”

“Second drawer down, on your right. No, your right”

She dried her hands, made a face and tossed the towel into the middle of the room with the scattered dirty laundry. “You will see your mother at Christmas? She worries.”

“No, she’ll be dealing with little brother and his ‘might marry this one, might be pregnant’ girlfriend and that’s too much. You’re the only one who knows what’s really going on out here. What do you tell her that she worries?”

“I fear to describe to her the truth. No, I tell her always of your concern for her and your father. Of your success. Not of the vulgar music, the diet of pizza and fizzy sugar drinks, the most unsuitable petite danseuse who with you destructs my furniture, not of this,” she looked around the apartment, “this…house for the dog.”

“Your coffee table was my fault, don’t blame it on Logan. We were practicing for that stupid dance class, I got my feet tangled up with hers and we fell. You got a new coffee table for my birthday.”

“Pfffft! I have heard in words of your own how you become with la femme in the closeness of ‘dance.’ Destined to become the two of you in a dance most horizontal, no? ‘Dance’ as such furniture becomes destructed escapes even me. And I am French.” She waved her hand in a wide arc at the apartment again. “This…No, no more. It becomes…Intolerable, oui? Come. I desire spicy food and the Mexican biere rouge. No lime. Tonight I discover in it a green pepper most divine I think. We go where you know of the angry men who debate with us what we eat.”

She stepped over the pizza box that kept sliding back in the doorway, kicked it backwards with her heel, turned, looked up and put her finger on his nose. “Saturday, my love. I arrive and make uses of myself. Or before it shall be clean. You are advised. In the strongest of terms.”

Land Run – Say Hey, Neighbor – Part 1

This is an excerpt from a project that will never see the light of day titled ‘Land Run.’ It contains more of my 20 something kids in the midst of grown up weirdness. For me this is like posting a sketch, not a polished bit of anything, but I’m going to cut more of these loose after the close of Bobby B Book One. From ‘Land Run’, here’s Harli and Flash.

Harli and Maddie followed the house shooter into the bar at Chili’s an exit away from his motel. The hospital complex they’d passed had brought upper middle class burbs, slab shopping centers and a mile long run of hotels and motels on the north side loop, along with the requisite franchise food places. Cookie cutter America. They could have been anywhere from Miami to Seattle.

Kevin sat at a bistro-height table by himself, listlessly drug a straw around a tall glass of Coke. He kept his sunglasses on because his eyes would tell everyone about his afternoon of some big green bud from NorCal and four baseball games on different screens in a topless bar. He prided himself on being able to clear the cover charge, pick up an unfinished drink from a table on his way in, wave off waitresses and look at boobs for two hours, three bucks, total.

His shadows hadn’t bothered to follow him into the topless bar. No stateside topless bar held a candle to Bumpers and they agreed that they’d just bitch about the sticky floor and vinyl booths, so they sat at the back of the parking lot in the rented Camry. Harli learned, during the parking lot wait and debate about everything from politics to economics to sex for hire, that Maddie had gotten a gun from somewhere. A no nonsense Browning nine with a spare clip. All Maddie had said when asked was “just in case.”

***

The Chili’s wait wasn’t going much better than the topless bar wait except they were inside. Forty minutes in, a twenty something guy who needed a haircut pulled up a stool by Cali Kevin and ordered something clear and carbonated with two lime wedges. The shaggy guy and Kevin hardly spoke, stirred their drinks in unison. The young guy let his eyes roam the restaurant, landing, and briefly staying, on most of the women.

Maddie elbowed Harli. “Wake up, sweety. Real estate agent on final approach, far end of the bar. Aaaaaaaand, there goes our California wonder boy to meet her. They’re mine. The anti-hipster is yours.”

Harli took a deep breath, pulled out the stool vacated by Cali Kev. “Hi. Harli. With an I.”

“Flash. With an F. Before you ask? I don’t come here often.”

“Don’t be a jerk. I don’t like this, either.”

He tilted the Collins glass and drained the last of whatever was in it. “Make it easy on yourself?”

“Straight?” She wished she had one of those hair-toss moves actresses always had at times like this. “You and the old school stoner? S’up with him?”

“A job. An easy job. Buy me another Sprite?”

“You’re the one with a job. I’m working for my dad this summer.”

“I never met my dad. What’s yours do?”

“He owns an erotic resort in Mexico.” She’d learned to say that quickly with no facial giveaways. “Don’t look at me like that.”

“So.” The waitress picked up his glass and asked ‘another?’ with her eyebrows, he shook his head in a lazy ‘no’. “You’re in the mix with video Kev and the real estate agent. And the lawyer and his about to be ex-wife. Everybody’s screwing everybody on that deal.”

“I said, don’t look at me like that.” She tried a serious don’t-mess-with-me look that fell short. “I’m not screwing anybody. And how do you know about all that?”

“I do confidant and Kev likes to talk when he’s baked, which is 24/7. I hate to break up our party, Harli with an I, but I have to go steal a car.”

“No way.”

“’Big way’, Nineties girl. How am I supposed to pay for college, Harli with an I? Minimum wage and two hours sleep?”

“Stop it with the I thing.”

“Wanna come? No weapons, broken glass or alarms. Nice car. ”

She gave it a split second. “When in Rome, right?” She slid off her stool when he stepped off his.

“Okay, Harli with an I, first —”

She stuck her finger in his upper arm. “I told you.”

“I’m listening, alright?” He rubbed his arm where she’d finger stabbed him.

Now you are. I’ve never stolen a car. What’s next?”

“I feel like a Lexus SUV. The two spray tanners with stiff hair and tennis skirts that just hit the bar? Stop and say something like ‘didn’t I see you at somebody’s wedding’.”

***

He walked up to the new, white Lexus SUV hybrid like he owned it, unlocked both doors. Harli stood on the passenger side, frozen to the parking lot. He quick stepped around the Lexus, opened the door for her, slipped her a pair of flesh tone gloves.

“These are?”

“Old people gloves. Not compression, but for cold extremity issues. They’re pretty comfortable and aren’t obvious like vinyl.”

“No, I mean why?”

“Fingerprints. This ride belongs to the lady who wasn’t at your cousin’s wedding. I read her key through her purse when she turned around. Shut the door.”

Harli’s shoulders were up around her ears, hands clasped between her legs. She glanced nervously at him, and then all around the parking lot. “How did you get here if you have to, um, steal a car to leave?”

“The white Civic, three cars down. They’re probably missing it by now, may be hot. That’s why we needed a new one.”

“You don’t have a car?”

“I’m not local.”

“You steal a freaking car every time you need to go somewhere?”

He grinned, fastened his seat belt. “You say that like it’s unheard of, or a bad thing. Buckle up. That is a law we can live with.”

“Right.” She relaxed her shoulders and hooked up. “Do you always steal white cars?”

“I work in themes. The target today is a white Benz AMG SLS, so I started with a white Mustang. Bad choice. It had the little turbo four-banger and an automatic. What a dog. Like this thing, too sluggish. But these Lexi hybrids are real ass-kissers and I’m on a date. Get in my backpack and pull out two hats, they have cameras where we’re going.”

She reached into the backpack he’d set on the console. “They had cameras at Chili’s, date man.”

“Off-line. The hostess and the manager were on it when we left.” He checked the backup camera, eased out of the parking space. “They’ll call rent-a-nerd, he’ll charge them a hundred dollars for a four-dollar power supply on top of a sixty-dollar service call.”

Harli pulled out two San Francisco 49ers ball caps and a wall-wart power supply attached to a neatly wrapped cord.

“The hundred dollar power supply looks like this one?”

Just like that one.”

Harli’s phone signaled her with Maddie’s text tone. She pulled her phone out, thumbed a few rounds back and forth.

Flash waited until she was finished before he dropped the Lexus into drive. “We’re good?”

She raised up off the seat and stuffed her phone in her back pocket, blew out a long sigh and looked out at the Chili’s where she’d gone in a twenty-three-year-old good girl and come out a car thief.

“Yeah, we’re good.” She turned back to him with a big eyed, freaked look, grabbed his forearm and shook it. “Please tell me I didn’t just flush my life.”