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.
“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.
“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!”
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