Monday, 10 October 2011


I started this one here, but didn't finish it. To recap: Based off this picture, write something. 

Now that this one is finished, I can move onto the next one. Progress, and baby steps towards getting in the habit of completing things.


"Same again, thanks sweetheart" I say, waggling my empty coffee cup at the dame in the waitress uniform. She sighed, and came back with a fresh cup of joe. I'd had two already, and a third would mean no sleep for a week, but when you're on a stakeout, you gotta look the part. I slurped off a mouthful and then surreptitiously turfed the rest out in the potted plant. With a generous pour from my hip flask, I refilled the cup with the good stuff... just enough to counteract the caffeine high. In this line of work, you need steady hands. It's not so bad, being a private dick. Sure the hours are longer than back when I was on the force, but I'm my own boss. I don't have to answer to no-one no more.

I notice a twitch at the curtain to the room the mark is in, and like a shot I'm engrossed in the funny pages... head down, just a regular schmoe having a break. This dive of a flop-house is more up market than his usual haunts, so business must be on the up and up. I am sure the boys in blue would be interested in that, but they’d just scare off the big fish. In the reflection of the glass, I see him heading out the door, so I throw down a five spot to keep the waitress sweet on me tomorrow and hoof it after him. I've got a knack at being a subtle tail, after the time I put in down in the Bronx, but a New Orleans Jazz band could be banging and blaring away for all the care he's paying. Can't say as I blame him, as its bucketing down and the wind is making sure that your birthday suit gets soaked.

Down to the wharf, and into a little hole-in-the-wall bar... not his usual stomping ground, so maybe he is working tonight after all. I give the area the once over then head on in. I order a beer and a bourbon, and hunker down at a table with my back to him, but close enough so I can hear what he's saying, and fish out my deck of cards and get all engrossed in a game of solitaire. Our chum is getting nowhere fast with the skirt behind the bar, and I think the evening may be a complete washout. Then bold as brass, in waltzes one of Harvey's boys. So I'm back to earning my keep, as even if these hours ain't billable to my current client knowing what Harvey is up to is always bankable.

Next morning, bright eyed and bushy tailed, I'm warmly greeted by the dame in the diner. I take a stool where I can see the hotel out the front window, and order the blue plate special. I think I'm gonna haveta linger over coffee yet again, but once more there's the twitch to the curtain, so I shovel the last of the eggs and hash into my gob, and wolf it down. Telling her to keep the change, I'm out the door and after him like a flea on a dog. After last night's conversation, I definitely don't want to lose him so I stay as close as I can, doing my best not to be too conspicuous dodging the puddles. We go by Shanks' Pony over towards Brooklyn and in my head I'm already counting the notes, crinkling that filthy lucre in my fingers and trying to decide if I should pay my overdue rent or splurge.

He darts down an alley furtive all of a sudden, and I worried I’ve blown it. I turn my collar up and keep on walking, only glancing out the corner of my eye. Its not as bad as I thought, he’s just taking a leak on some trashcans. And there was me, thinking I was losing my edge! I lean against a nearby bus stop sign and get busy fixing a smoke. Before long our fine upstanding pillar of the community heads on out, doing up his fly.

We head east, and I for one am getting sick of all this leg work, but there ain’t nothing I can do but grin and bear it. Finally we get to the joint he’s interested in, and I walk on by. I come back a few minutes later and give some scratch to a couple of winos loitering nearby to get the lowdown on the building. The coherent bits of our conversation stink of Harvey all over, so I make myself scarce as he’ll have eyes all over the place.

Sooner than I thought I see him schleping past again so I down my drink and shadow him, all discreet. I figure I can knock off early today, as all he did is buy some hooch and head back to his two-bit flea-pit motel. Back in the office I start going through some paperwork with a few fingers of scotch as lubrication, when who comes knocking but O’Casey. Still drunk as a skunk since they took his badge off him. A damn shame about that kid, There but for the grace o God and all that jazz. I give him some simple shoe leather stuff outa sympathy, but I make sure it ain’t nothing that needs subtlety.

Later still the door bangs open, I holler we’re closed, but it’s the client I’m working for. I wasn’t expecting to see him for a while. Says he’s come to an arrangement and my services are no longer required. I start to protest but he wordlessly dumps a pile of cash on my desk, much more than what I would have racked up even with padding my expense account. It seems fishy to me, but who am I to argue with a big pile of dough? I bow to the logic that the customer is always right, and wave him out as I begin to count it. I only said I wouldn’t report to him, not that I’d lay off my lead. Tomorrow’s gonna be a busy day.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Blue Lagoon

This flash fiction piece was based off Chuck Wendig’s Cocktail prompt. I only got a wee way into it and then it fell through the cracks. It was set way back in April. I wasn’t planning on making it a thousand words, but shorter. I think it might be just a vignette (which at first I thought isn’t so bad) but I remembered a book that I bought that was just vignettes and how shitted off with it I was... nothing happened, nothing went anywhere. Rereading the prompt he says don’t just do a vignette, and we only had 500 words after all. So back under the hood I go (I write the intro after I finish the story. Back in a sec)... OK Done. All better now. No longer an icky vignette. 

As I was saying, the idea was to name your story after a cocktail and give the recipe afterwards. This prompt was set ages ago, so why am I dredging this old one up now? Exhibit A please, last line:

(From the inestimable Mr. Wendig, go buy his shit)

Nano is coming. I want to enter. Last year I didn’t finish, and this year I will. So I have to get in the habit of finishing. So I’m having a go at a lot of little quick writing things (which I also intend to continue with through November and beyond, as they're only little) so I get in the habit of finishing stuff, and giving it the once over rather than just chucking it up there. And I also intend to finish the shit I already started before nano. Sure, there’s still more planning I’d like to do, but I’ve got a good amount so far so I won’t just be pantsing all the way.

Blue Lagoon

Days here felt endless, but that’s not a bad thing when life is so pleasant. It did mean they tended to run together and get a bit sameish, but that was OK. Whoever said you can have too much of a good thing was our of their mind Zeke thought. How could you complain to waking up to the gentle susurration of waves lapping the sands? That never got old.

Relaxation, peace, bliss.

Zeke stretched, looking around his house. Sure, it was small, but it was a prime piece of beachfront property. He ambled outside and was greeted by the first rays of the morning sun, glinting on the breakers on the reef that protected his cove. He wandered down to the high tide mark, looking for anything new or interesting that had washed up during the night. Meandering past the occasional strand of seaweed he kept his eyes peeled but there was nothing extraordinary - there never was.

To cheer himself up, Zeke decided to go for his morning swim, and daintily dipped a toe into the water. The slight chill to it was pleasantly refreshing and he revelled in the feel of it. Always he was amazed at the varieties of colourful little fish that swam about. Sometimes they were together in a school, then they would suddenly spread out haphazardly, like a rainbow’s reflection in a mirror shattered by a hammer.

Later in the day after a nap, Zeke headed to his favourite rocky promontory, to fish. It was rare that he would catch one, but he didn’t care. To him it was more a time of introspection and thought somewhere out of the direct rays of the sun.

Sighing contentedly, watching the moon rise amidst twinkling stars Zeke the hermit crab drifted off to sleep next to his favourite rock pool.
I named it after a Blue Lagoon, but it could just as easily be a Blue Hawaii. They look immensely similar, and taste nearly the same. The lagoon has something carbonated making it lighter on the palate, and the Hawaii has coconut milk making it creamier, but the main point is they both have vodka and blue curacao. The last is the most important ingredient in my mind, because if you drink enough it turns your tongue blue, and your shit lawn green in the morning. So when you wake up hungover and look in the mirror and the can, you think you’re dying - until you remember what you were drinking.

Recipe for Blue Lagoon
Recipe for a Blue Hawaiian (and the picture is also lifted from here)

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Who is a hero?

Jeff brought this topic up one day at after work beers, fishing around for who people would say. Some famous names were thrown in the ring, as well as some personal ones (a grandfather in the first world war, for example). I can’t remember what I suggested at the time, but I’m going with an unsung and under-appreciated hero: The Henchmen.

Heroes: The Henchmen

Sure, the “hero” of the story is important, but you can’t be the chosen one without a challenge. Admittedly, hordes of incompetent and faceless minions rarely seem to pose a threat, but like you and me, henchmen are just doing a thankless task, trying to make ends meet.

I’m not talking here about anyone who has a speaking part... unless its along the lines of “Two more tankards of ale, wench!” I mean the ones who may not even be named - in the book or the closing credits of the movie. This guy is no Jackie Chan, he’s played by the extra, in many different guises:

Ruffian with a mustache. Guard holding a pike. Soldier responding to the alarm by running down the hallway. Sentry at the main gate. Patron in the bar in the duke’s livery so your lovable rogue can steal the keys. Faceless grunt who takes an arrow to the chest as you storm the castle.

That guy. All those guys. They’re not the face of evil, they’re just bulking up the enemy numbers, being part of the body count. You could probably get by with only hiring three different guys and giving them a selection of false noses and different coloured helmets and you’re done. Their time in the story is short, but it speaks to all of us... Our work day week isn’t demonic, its more of a ground-down-grey. We’re not black-hearted, we’re just doing our thing, as ordered. Nuremburg all over again, but with our hopes and dreams going to the gas chamber.

But if we identify with these fellows - who don’t even get a second paragraph - why don’t we mind that they come to such a gristly end? I’ll tell you. Just like we see ourselves in them, we see our colleagues too. That guard who gets stabbed while the hero is escaping the dungeon? Jones in accounting. The one who cops the frying pan swung by the plucky kid sister? Obviously it’s Sue under all that chainmail. The Henchman is you. The Henchman is me. Henchmen are the true Everyman. Not the chosen one. Not a prince whose true lineage is kept hidden. Not an orphan who spent years training is secrecy with some wizened old master. Who can identify with that? Henchmen reflect our struggles, our humanity. In every skull shaped fortress, through miles of endless corridors, doing pointless and degrading drudge work, Henchmen hold the true mirror up to ourselves. We don’t like what we see and that makes their job even more thankless.

When there’s someone to be silently garroted then stripped so their livery can be humourosly worn by someone three sizes larger... Henchmen are there.

If there’s a fist to be clenched in salute before stamping off to hours of guard duty in front of a barred portcullis... Henchmen are there.

Should a messenger be needed to tell the dread lord that the princess has been rescued... Henchmen are there (at least until the decapitation scene which shows the inhumanity of said dread lord).

A lax watch needed to be kept so that shackles can be slipped... Henchmen are there.

Henchmen are the true heroes. The pay is lousy, they often die horribly, and they get no respect. But still, they do their job. Next time some joker in a furred loincloth with a dirty great sword makes a rampart out of underlings, spare a thought for their families. Not so heroic on the part of the main character, is it?

Picture shamelessly pinched from Shoeboxblog