It's been forever and a day. I'm in with The Stranger Song.
|# ¿ Jan 8, 2018 07:22|
|# ¿ Feb 2, 2023 11:47|
From IRC just now:
That's funny, Take This Waltz would have been my second choice, too.
|# ¿ Jan 8, 2018 07:34|
So be it.
|# ¿ Jan 8, 2018 13:27|
A Choice 1,190 words
A snapping twig was all the warning they had. Jack Wilhock looked out over the fire just as the first rifle shot split the night. Amos’s head snapped back, and then Jack’s brother lay sprawled in the dirt. Gus and Andy rose and drew their pistols, firing blind into the dark beyond the camp. Jack did the only thing he could think to do. He grabbed his share and ran into the dark with the roar of gunfire behind him.
Three days later, Jack wished he’d grabbed the drat canteen instead. His tongue filled his mouth. Each convulsive attempt to swallow what spit he had seared his throat. He staggered aimlessly through dry scrub, his eyes fixed on the ground three feet ahead.
The world blinked, and everything was sideways. He could see the gnarled roots of the plants around him. Each breath sucked in dust. Jack pushed himself onto his back.
“Well, Amos,” he croaked, “you did tell me to stay in Kansas City.” He wheezed a single laugh and the world filled up with black.
He woke in a cave. Above him, a man with a face like an peach pit drew back a ladle dripping with water. Jack tried to reach for it, but his arm barely responded.
“Hold on, son,” the man said. “Cain’t rush this.”
“Please.” Jack’s voice was gravel.
The man shook his head.
“Too much ‘n you’ll puke on m’floor.” He barked a laugh. “Name’s Wyatt Avery.”
Jack paused, hoping his hesitation would be mistaken for another symptom of his state.
Jack wasn’t sure how many days passed. He fell into a rhythm of sleeping, waking to find Wyatt puttering around the cave, drinking and eating what he could, and falling back into a deep slumber. Then he woke to find the old man gone.
Next to his mattress, he found a cup of water and his clothes, laundered and folded. Jack’s eyes went wide, and he shambled out of bed, head turning back and forth, until his eyes spotted his sack of money. It slouched next to the cave wall at the foot of his bed.
He dressed, drank the water, and found a dish of cornbread. While he ate, he opened the sack. The cash looked undisturbed. He thought about hiding it, but if the old man were going to rob him, he’d of done it. Hell, all he’d had to do was take the sack and leave Jack where he’d found him. Jack rewound the string and tied it off, then sat and waited for the old man to return.
Wyatt ducked into the cave four hours later with two scrawny hares tucked in his belt. He grunted when he saw Jack, then tossed him the hares.
“Good to see you up. Feelin’ up to cleanin’ our dinner?”
“I think I can manage.”
“There’s a knife on the table, there.” Wyatt pulled a sack of onions from a cupboard and began chopping.
Once the hares were cleaned, Wyatt added them to the stew kettle and set it on a hook over the fire outside the cave. Then he gestured for Jack to follow him and scrabbled up the bank next to the mouth of the cave.
Up top were a few rows of vegetables.
“How the hell did you get these to grow up here?” Jack gestured to plains around them, filled with scrub brush and little else.
Wyatt just winked.
“Can you tell a weed from an onion?”
Jack nodded. Wyatt jutted his chin toward the far end of the garden.
“Then get to it, son.”
The western horizon was a streak of red and orange when they sat down by the fire to eat. They worked their spoons in silence until Wyatt plopped his down in the bowl.
“So, when you plannin’ on telling me your real name?”
Jack froze with his spoon halfway to his mouth. Wyatt snorted a laugh.
“Son, you been laid up a week and a half. You think today’s the first day I checked my traps? Met a man four days ago, told me Marshall Taylor and a gang of local boys put down the Wilhock gang. ‘Cept Amos’s younger brother got away. From what he said, happened ‘bout three days east of where I found you.”
Jack set down his bowl and looked the old man in the eye.
“That doesn’t mean-”
“Plus you talk in your sleep,” Wyatt said, grinning. “Should I call you Jack? Or do you want to keep goin’ with Herschel?”
Jack staggered to his feet, reaching for his pistol and realizing he’d left it behind at the same time. He stood there, pawing at his hip, with his eyes going wide.
“Christ, kid,” Wyatt said, rolling his eyes, “take it easy. I was planning on turning you in or robbing you, I’d of done it by now.” He gestured to the log Jack had been sitting on. “Come on, your stews gettin’ cold.”
“Why should I trust you?”
“Other n’ the fact you’re still alive and not in irons?” Wyatt shrugged. “Why you think I live out here? You ain’t the only one done things the law would have objection to.”
Jack frowned, but he sat.
“I shouldn’t have run. I should have stayed with my brother.”
“Be just as dead as him, you had.”
“He tried to save me. Back in Kansas City. He told me to stay. He was always looking out for me. Watched my back. He knew what he was planning to do out here. He knew how it could end. He tried to...” Jack’s eyes burned. He squeezed them shut and pinched the bridge of his nose, hard.
“Your brother knew a lot of things, son. He didn’t give you no choice.” The old man held up a hand. “Said the words, don’t get me wrong, but he knew your answer fore he asked the question. Only thing he was trying to save was his conscience.”
“The gently caress do you know about my brother, old man?”
“Can’t say I ever met Amos Wilhock, but I met a few dozen like him. Hell, I was one a good forty years back.” Wyatt paused. His eyes lost focus as he stared into the fire. “‘Cept it was my little brother took the bullet when it came. Gave him the same choice, back home. Knew how he’d choose.
“I told myself, after, he knew what he’d signed up for. Helped for a while. Except you can only lie to yourself so long. Now, well, I just wish I’d never gave him the choice.”
They sat listening to the wood pop in the fire. Neither of them ate. Jack watched the old man. The old man watched the flames.
Wyatt stirred as if waking up.
“You should stay here at least three more weeks, then head north. Cold, but safer than trying to get through to Mexico. Or you could stay here, so long as you help out. I don’t get much the way of visitors. Your choice, son.”
With that, he rose and went back to the cave. After a while, Jack followed.
|# ¿ Jan 15, 2018 02:19|
Guiness13 v. Antivehicular brawl
Prompt: The worst heist by the smartest criminals
Egress 743 words
You don’t hit the private vault of the Salvatore Family without being careful. You gently caress up, cops are the least of your worries. But after working for Vincent Salvatore for ten years, watching him let my friends get shot or arrested if it meant a better profit, I was willing to take the risk.
“There’s no guard,” I said, “just a clerk that has access. We get in, have him open the vault, tie him up, get anything small enough to carry, and get out.”
Don rolled his eyes.
“Yeah, Tim. You only been over it fifty times.” He got out of the car and crossed the street. I followed, jogging to catch up.
We walked in past the office front and hit the stairwell. Downstairs was a long hall. In a small room to the right was a desk and an oversized metal door. The clerk looked up with a raised eyebrow. I pulled my gun.
“Open it up or die. Your choice.”
“You do know who owns this vault, don’t you?”
“I’m not an idiot. Last chance.”
He smirked, but got up and put in the code. A heavy grinding came from the door and it swung open an inch or two.
Don tied the guy to his chair while I pulled it open. One side of the vault was lined with drawers. The other held larger objects, paintings, sculptures. The only thing on the far wall was an air vent.
I rushed to the first row of drawers and yanked one open. Dozens of little velvet sacks lined it. I opened one. Diamonds. I scooped the bags into my duffle. Don hustled to the far end and started emptying a drawer down there. So far, so good.
Then the door swung shut, gave a mechanical clank, and the electric buzz of maglocks kicked in. Dim emergency lights flicked on.
“Don? How well did you tie that guy up?”
“Zip-tied his hands together and taped him to the chair.” His breath was coming in ragged gasps. “Tim, what the gently caress?”
“What about his feet?”
“Oh gently caress, Tim. Oh gently caress me. We’re dead.”
I scanned the vault. My eyes locked on the air vent. It was about seven feet off the ground.
“Look for a box, or maybe a sturdy statue.” I pointed to the larger items across the room.
“What?” Don paced the row of drawers, running his hands through his hair as he went.
“You want to wait for them to open the door? We need to see if we can get that vent cover open, see where it goes.”
Two minutes later, we’d dragged the bust of a woman over below the vent. It had a wide base, and her shoulders were about level. I hopped up while Don held it steady. The vent was flush with the wall with eight screws holding it in place.
“Got a dime?” I said. Don handed me one, and I began fighting the screws loose. With the last one gone, the cover popped out a bit. I flung it at the vault door.
The vent itself looked like a tight fit, but doable. We’d have to leave the bags, though.
“Don, get the tickets, but leave the receipt for the plane tickets. We want them watching the airport as long as possible.” I dropped down and stuffed as many little velvet bags into pockets as I felt I could, considering the squeeze. Don tucked the bus tickets - bought with fake ids - and the plane tickets - bought with the real thing - in his jacket. Then I climbed back up the statue, put my arms as far into the vent as I could, and wriggled my way in. I heard Don do the same as soon as he had room.
After twenty feet of pitch dark, I saw a vent in the floor up ahead. I climbed on top of it, braced my back against the roof, and pushed. It tore away from the ductwork with a screech and clattered to ground. I followed head first, half-falling from the sudden loss of support. Don dropped down after me. We were both streaked black.
The hall was empty. Ahead, I heard someone shout, “Get it the gently caress open!” I pulled my gun, motioned for Don to do the same.
“Remember, we get through this, get to the bus station. Don’t get followed.” I took a deep breath. “Let’s get out of here.”
Simple enough, right?
|# ¿ Jan 18, 2018 16:44|
Thanks for the crit!
|# ¿ Jan 19, 2018 13:43|
|# ¿ Jul 31, 2018 02:31|
Strength: Your vampire can prepare foods that are preternaturally intoxicating.
Weakness: Your vampire is deathly weak to anything fermented.
Best Served Cold 1015 words
There was a time I loved working in the kitchen. You know, before I was a vampire. I still owned my restaurant, a high-class Italian place on the riverfront, but I haven’t come in much in the last two decades. For one thing, it gets hard to claim you just age well when you’re pushing sixty and still look identical to pictures of you in your forties. For another, I have to be careful about food. A thoughtless moment in the kitchen will leave a patron staggering like they’d downed a fifth of liquor. With a little concentration, their mind will be mine.
Tonight, though, I was hunched over the cutting board with the knife blurring in my hand. My brow creased. This had to be perfect. If it wasn’t, I wasn’t going to live to get another shot.
Everything ready, I set the sauce to simmer while I waited for Celeste to arrive. She was the one that made me this way. Made a neat job of it, too. I’d started drinking when my mom died, two days after the restaurant opened. Hadn’t stopped for anything other than work since. Celeste followed me one night, and I when I woke up without a hangover I knew something was wrong. The woman lying next to me, head propped up on a hand and grinning, confirmed it.
I stepped into my office and ran a finger down the only picture on the walls. Me and mom, both covered in aprons, bent over a counter, hard at work. You can’t see either of our faces well, but the corner of her mouth is pulled up into a smile.
A quick glance at the clock and I was back in the kitchen plating noodles and sauce. I made a dish for myself, too. No one ever suspected their food when I was eating the same thing. I haven’t figured out why, but I’ll take what I can get. I stepped into the dining room with a plate in each hand to find Celeste sitting at a table in the center of the room with two full wine-glasses.
“Henry, I’m so glad you could make it in today.” She rose and pecked me on the cheek as I set the plates down. “I’ve missed your sauce.”
I shrugged. “I just hope it’s up to your standards. The reviews have been slipping, lately.”
“Only because you’ve been here for decades. Now sit down! Let’s eat.”
She picked up her glass, gesturing for me to do the same. I could feel the heat of the blood inside. It couldn’t have been more than a few minutes old. My heart skipped a beat, then roared back at double time. We clinked glasses and raised them to our lips.
I didn’t feel the burning in my throat until I’d downed half the glass. I snarled and threw it across the room.
“Wine? How much?” The pain spread down into my chest. I could taste blood. Not the mortal blood from the glass, but my own, seeping in from between my teeth.
Celeste grinned. “Enough to do the job. Not so much you’d smell it.” She ran her tongue over the point of a fang.
I coughed, and something solid hit the back of my teeth. I spat it out. A hunk of tissue landed on the table, deep red blooming on the pale cloth.
“Why?” My voice sounded wet. I needed to keep her talking, and to seem completely uninterested in her eating what I’d put in front of her. I also needed her to take a drat bite, and soon.
“You won’t let go of the past. I told you that could kill you. You could do this anywhere, but you hold on to this restaurant, this life, like it means something.” She clicked her tongue. “A true shame. I really loved your sauce.”
I nodded to the plate. “Better enjoy it while you can. It’s getting cold.”
I didn’t notice my knees giving out. I just heard a thud and saw I was on the floor. gently caress. Revenge is such a pain in the rear end.
Lying next to the table, I saw Celeste spinning her fork among the noodles. Saw her scoop them up to her mouth. Saw her bite down, and her brow knit in confusion.
“Sit still.” I pushed up to my hands and knees. “Don’t move a muscle.”
Her eyes went wide, but she stayed seated. Frozen in place. I staggered through the kitchen door and grasped the counter. I pocketed the mallet and wooden spike. I turned and lurched back into the dining room.
Celeste started screaming when I pulled them from my apron. Her jaw didn’t move, but a harsh, high pitched hum came with every heave of her lungs.
I hammered the spike home with one blow.
My hold on her shattered with it. She leapt to her feet and hurled me across the room. I felt my arm snap when I hit the wall. She crossed the room in an instant, hauled me up by my neck. Blood poured out from around the spike. I hoped it hurt at least as much as my throat.
“How could you? I saved you! You’d have been dead in five years if it wasn’t for me.” A thick wheeze had entered her voice.
“Saved me?” I barked a laugh, blowing a mist of blood into her face. “I was only living for one thing, and you took away any chance I had to enjoy it. Did you never think I might have wanted to die?”
Her lips drew back until the color was squeezed from them. I couldn’t tell if it was a snarl or panic. Then she coughed, and blood ran down her chin. Her grip loosened, and we both crashed to the floor facing each other.
Celeste’s breath came in hissing gasps, now. Her eyes kept flicking back and forth, like she was looking for a way out. When she spoke, her voice was a whisper.
“Was it worth it?”
I didn’t answer.
|# ¿ Aug 6, 2018 01:25|
Great crits! I really appreciate it.
|# ¿ Aug 9, 2018 02:32|
Hmmm, I'm abnormally busy this week and already juggling two projects. Of course I'm in!
|# ¿ Aug 13, 2018 14:46|
Memories of Alice Preston
People left the gravesite in small clumps, twos and threes, while Jack waited. He felt like he’d failed. His mother had been adamant. Cremation, no viewing, no burial. Except his father had overruled him. Refused to listen.
When he stood by himself, he turned to find one other man standing with him. A black man in his mid-thirties, biting his lip.
“You Jack Preston?” he said. Jack nodded, didn’t say anything. “Name’s Roger Wilcox. Alice was my doctoral advisor. I didn’t want to go back to your father’s house, but I wanted to tell you how sorry I am. She was an amazing woman.”
Jack nodded again. He glanced at his car, parked down the hill.
“Look, I don’t really want to go to my dad’s, either. Want to grab a cup of coffee?”
The waitress had seated them, brought coffee, left menus, and told them to take as much time as they needed, all with a sad smile on her face. Two men in suits, not ten minutes from the cemetery, it didn’t take much to figure out.
Jack stared at his coffee. Watched the steam curl and vanish into cooler air.
“It was a nice service,” Roger said, voice flat, taking a sip and twirling what remained in the mug.
Jack laughed. “She would have hated it. Hated anything that just took up space.”
Roger nodded. “Your dad’s idea, then?”
“You and Alice must have been close, for you to come out today.”
A slight pause, then Roger said, “Yes. She was always quick to point out the flaws in my research. Made me a better scientist. And I’m pretty sure she pulled strings at UCLA, helped get me a job out there after I graduated.”
Jack blinked. “You came all the way from California?”
“Her guidance, it meant a lot--”
“Yeah, but to fly short notice from California to New York, in the middle of the school year? Did you guys have an affair?”
The way Roger’s eyes widened, just a moment, before he laughed. It said everything Jack needed to know.
“No.” He shook his head, as if the physical action would make the word count. “You didn’t just tell me that. Not today.”
“I didn’t tell you anything,” Roger said, hands up, palms out.
Jack melted into the booth, staring at nothing. He grabbed the mug, started to down the contents. Realized it was coffee when the heat flared on his tongue. He sputtered. A tan mist coated the table, staining the napkins. Roger came around, put a hand on his back, handed Jack a tissue.
Jack took it with a frown, then reached up and felt the tears on his cheeks.
“You trying to burn yourself?” Roger said, sitting back down.
“Guess I was hoping for booze.” Jack gave a mirthless bark at his own joke. “I’m right, aren’t I?”
Roger went still. He nodded.
“While it lasted, I guess. After I graduated, I mentioned I’d had interest from three schools. NYU, Columbia, and UCLA. She only put in a good word at one of them.” Roger smiled, but it looked tight on his face.
“Huh.” Jack took a sip of coffee. “She really cared about you.”
“You know that, how?”
“When I was younger, she fostered cats. Never adopted them. I asked her once why we couldn’t keep one. She told me that, eventually, anything you love will start to tire you. Better to give it up while it still means something.”
“That’s pretty hosed up.”
“Yeah, I guess it is.” Jack drummed on the table. “I always wondered what that meant about her and dad. I mean, they were married for forty-two years. Never could bring myself to ask though.” He glanced up at Roger. “Guess I have an idea, now.”
Roger laughed, then immediately looked shocked. “Jesus, I’m sorry. That took me off guard.”
Jack grinned. “Don’t worry. Besides,” he said, starting to laugh himself, “now I know why you didn’t want to go back to his house.”
They sat there, laughing, ignoring the looks coming from the other diners, until they both slipped into a dull silence. Each cradled their mugs, thanked the waitress when she refilled them. Didn’t say anything.
“I always wondered how she felt about me,” Jack said.
“She was your mom. How could you not know?”
“My sister, she went into cellular biology. She’s finishing her doctorate this year. Mom was always talking about her research, how well it was going, where her papers were being published.” Jack took a long drag on the coffee, tepid again. “I went into ceramics. I’m making a living at it, which is no small feat. And I don’t remember hearing her talk about my work. Ever. Even when she came to one of my shows, all she said was, ‘It’s very well done, Jack.’ Went right back to talking to someone about her research.”
Jack eyed his mug. “We should have gone to a bar.”
Roger reached out and put a hand over Jack’s wrist. “She cared about you. She was proud of you.”
“How do you know?” Jack frowned, felt anger flare in his chest. But didn’t yank back his arm.
“I spent a lot of time in your mother’s office.” Roger held up his other hand when he saw Jack’s face. “Sorry, but I did. Right by the door, she had a small table with a sculpture on it. A few more on her bookshelf, behind the desk. I don’t think anyone -- student, professor, dean, hell, the president of the university -- no one walked in without being told they were your work.” Suddenly, Roger spoke in a perfect imitation of Alice’s voice, an octave lower. “Richard, have you seen my son’s work? Right there, by the door. Calls it Fallen Ulysses, but it’s based on a friend of his who served in Afghanistan. Four tours, can you believe it? Re-upped his contract, and him with a three year-old at home.”
Roger grinned and squeezed Jack’s arm. “I heard the story for all three so many times, they’re still rolling around in my head. I could curate the world’s smallest museum.”
Jack laughed. “That’s a really good impression. Jesus.” He swiped at his eyes, tried to ignore the burning sensation. Kept blinking until he saw Roger’s face clearly.
“I only heard her talk about my work in a really positive way once.” Roger leaned back in his booth, staring out the window. “I dropped in on her and heard her on the phone, talking about my dissertation. I stopped outside the door. Whenever she was face-to-face with me, she was encouraging, but always critical. Pointing out the flaws, telling me where my methodology could be better. Now she was going on like it was the best thing she’d ever seen. For a minute, I couldn’t believe she was talking about my work. Thought there must be another Roger Wilcox in the program. What I was hearing didn’t reconcile with what I’d already heard.”
Roger met Jack’s eyes. “She ever praise your sister’s work to her face?”
Jack pursed his lips and thought back. “No, not that I remember.”
Roger nodded. “I bet, if you talked to your sister, she’d be feeling the same way you were. I think Alice was bad at telling people what she really thought of their work. Or maybe complimenting it.”
A harsh buzz erupted from Jack’s pocket. He fished out his cell to see his father’s face. He dumped it back into his pocket.
“Time to go?” Roger said.
“Yeah. They’ll just keep calling until I answer.”
“Maybe it won’t be so bad.”
Jack laughed. “Maybe. Although we only stopped fighting about the service because it was time to leave this morning.”
Roger winced, let out a small chuckle. “Yeah, so maybe not.”
“What about you?”
“I’ve got a couple hours before I have to be at the airport. I’ll find something to do.”
They stood, paid the bill, walked out into the parking lot.
|# ¿ Aug 20, 2018 01:52|
|# ¿ Feb 2, 2023 11:47|
Thanks for the crits!
|# ¿ Aug 21, 2018 04:09|