FF - The Girl At The End Of The Bar

Fast Fiction is fiction written fast. The object is to get your brain thinking about a given subject without interference from “reason”. Go for the 30 minute time limit.

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FF - The Girl At The End Of The Bar

Postby JillStar » Thu Jul 15, 2004 2:47 pm

jillstar wrote: Fast Fiction is just that... fiction written fast. Please visit What is FAST FICTION for more information.

Look at the subject for today's Fast Fiction at the end of this post... once you have the slightest beginning to your story… begin to write. Don't stop to ponder the meaning behind your writing or try to "fix" it so it's perfect... just write.

If you want to include your Fast Fiction finished product on WordTrip, simply add it to this thread. We would love it!

REMINDER: Please keep your stories PG13 if posted on the site. If you want a critique after you are complete, please consider using your writing group for help in that area or send a PM to one of us.


... try to stick to the 30 minutes time limit... ready, set... WRITE!


SUBJECT: The Girl At The End Of The Bar


The best thing to do is write yours BEFORE reading anyone elses finished work posted below.
Last edited by JillStar on Mon Jul 19, 2004 2:02 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Zuggy » Thu Jul 15, 2004 4:54 pm

Here's a little something I whipped up. I hope you enjoy.

Constructive Meeting

Daniel sat at the bar looking around at the people conversing. He was on the hunt. His eyes looking for the right person when he spotted her, the girl at the end of the bar.

“Hey Sammy,” he called

The fifty-something bartender with a head of graying hair and slight beer belly walked to him, “What can I get ya Danny?”

“What’s the lady down there been drinking?”

“Blue Thunders. She’s on her 3rd right.”

“Send her a 4th and put it on my tab.”

Sammy walked over to the blender and started mixing ingredients. After a few minutes hey gave the beautiful woman a tall glass filled with blue and green swirls. Daniel was examining the moving portraits on the walls, a man in his thirty’s, on one side, a young lady in her early twenty’s on the other and another woman in her thirty’s between the two. Daniel was watching the two on the ends playing eye games while the woman in the middle looked at them both with an angry fire in her eyes when a woman with a musical voice said, “Do you think the lovers will get caught by his wife?”

Daniel turned his head toward the voice and saw the beautiful green-eyed redhead sitting next to him.

“They never get caught,” he said.

“My name is Julia,” the woman said.

“Daniel. Nice to meet you.”

The two sat there talking for hours, downing various kinds of drinks. Around midnight Julia said, “We can continue this conversation at my place. Here’s my address,” and she wrote it down on a napkin. “Meet me in an hour,” she said and vanished.

Daniel pulled a clicker out of his pocket and pushed it three times. After about five minutes a person who looked just like Daniel walked in the door and sat next to his twin.

“What have you got for me, my friend,” said the first Daniel

“Got a hit, wants to meet in an hour at her place. You better hurry it’s on the other side of the city,” the second one replied.

“You know what to do.”

The first Daniel reached into his ear and pulled out what looked like a red string and put it into the second Daniel’s ear. The string snaked from one Dan to the other until it was completely sucked up into the second Dan’s ear.

“Wow, this is a good hit. Maybe she’ll be the one,” said the second Daniel.

“I hope so for your sake,” replied the first. And with that the send Daniel disappeared like the woman.

“Hey Sammy,” Daniel said.

“What’s up Danny?”

“Is making drinks the only thing you do?”

“Yeah and give advice. Why?”

“I hate being a love construct. I do all the work and don’t get to enjoy any of it. Maybe I should try something new. Have you ever tried something different?”

“Yeah I have. I get tired of mixing drinks 24/7.”

“What’d you do? How did it go?”

“I tried architecture. I talked with some design constructs and they said it was a piece of cake, so I went to a local construction site and tried to build a simple net structure. I found I couldn’t do it at all. Why? Because it’s not in my programming. My human counterpart can go and play darts have fun with friends, but he never wanted me to do all that so he didn’t program it into me.”

“Have you ever seen what happens to a love construct after its human finds a permanent mate?”

“It’s what I see that makes me hate them most of all. Most love constructs, like yourself, just stick around forever. They can’t do anything because they’ve completed their task and haven’t been programmed to do anything better. Most don’t delete their constructs incase the marriage doesn’t work and they need a new wife or an affair.”

“Well, I’m bored and I’m going to see if I can get a virtual mate for myself. Sammy would you be so kind as to turn my view of all real people off, only constructs please.”

Sammy reached under the bar and half the people in the bar disappeared.
“Ya know,” Sammy said, “by going on your own like this your deviating from your programming, even if only slightly.”

“I know.”

“If it works let me know, maybe there’s hope for us evolving into more after all.”
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Postby JillStar » Thu Jul 15, 2004 5:10 pm

Hey Zuggy... that's a pretty cool Fast Fiction you've got there! About half way I found myself lost until I realized what was really going on. Nicely done.
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Postby Zuggy » Thu Jul 15, 2004 5:43 pm

I was going for that effect. Making it look like your typical bar meeting and then finding out it's something diffrent, although when I read over it seemed like it would take to long to realize, but I posted it as is anyway. When I do the fast fiction I made a deal with my self that the only changes I would make would be grammatical and I think that's the spirit of fast fiction anyway. I use it as an exercise to help stow my critical eye while my muse works
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Postby xcheck24 » Thu Jul 15, 2004 11:28 pm

The Easy Crime

Her glass with the pink drink stuck to the bar from all the sweat that dripped from the side. Pulling it from its place, she placed the cool glass against her chest to cool her.

The usual drunks gathered around her as she watched them from the end of the bar. She glanced at her watch as she placed the glass back on the bar as the ice clanked against its sides.

She wanted to tell everyone to leave the bar, but then the plan would never work. They needed the huge happy hour crowd in order for their plan to work. It was only now that there weren’t bouncers manning the front door. She knew the bartenders were the only ones that would break up the fight.

Her watch told her that only one more minute remained until the plan would roll into action as the bartender asked her if she wanted a refill. She declined the offer as she thumbed a chicken wing on the small dish in front of her.

She heard the voices shouting from the corner as the plan was put into motion. Her two accomplices began shouting louder before one threw the first punch. The entire bar looked at the far corner and rushed to watch what would happen. One of the two men grabbed a glass and smashed it against the other’s chest.

The two bartenders rushed to the corner to try to break up the fight, but the two men were both bigger than the two bartenders, one of whom was a small woman. The woman at the end of the bar jumped into action slinking behind the bar to the cash register that was left partially ajar. She knew they wouldn’t close it all the way having watched them for weeks from the end of the bar.

She palmed the wad of singles, fives, tens and twenties from the drawer and closed it into the same position she had found it as the fight raged on in the corner. Someone had broken a chair against the wall in the ruckus.

She slid the wad into her bra as she oozed back from the bar and glided to the front door. Knowing she had gotten away with the robbery, she scampered down the road as she heard sirens in the distance. She disappeared onto a city bus.
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Postby JillStar » Fri Jul 16, 2004 4:51 pm

Cool X... I could actually see that happening. :)
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Postby JillStar » Wed Aug 18, 2004 11:06 pm

The Girl at the End of the Bar

She sat there
at the end of the bar
luscious in looks
dripping with desire.
Approachable
unattainable
she sat waiting,
longing for attention.
Some went to her
some shied away
some were hopeful
some were not sure.
It seemed to me,
as I gazed upon her,
she cried inside
cried for love
cried for someone…
anyone…
to see past
what everyone saw.
The beauty that crept
upon her body
was not felt within her soul
she was lost
she was lonely
she was unfulfilled.
and I…
can do nothing
but hope for her
hope that one day
they will see her
for the person she wants to be.
She leaves alone tonight
they are all afraid of her
afraid she is to pretty
to dumb
to ignorant
to far beyond their reach
she is the girl at the end of the bar…

alone.
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Postby Debangel » Thu Aug 19, 2004 6:00 pm

She sat looking down at the glass that was still half full.

It wasn't fair that all of this mess had happened and even tho it was caused by her slipping back she didn't care. Toughing it out was a load of crap. Holding on when everything inside of you was screaming to give in, when every part of your body was convulsing with intense pain from the denial of what it wanted was just not in her.

She could not lay there one more night screaming in terror as beasts from the night would drag her thru unspeakable horrors that left her body weak and nauseated. No, she had decided and at that time the decision had seemed so right.

But now everything was topsy turvy, leaving her groping for some kind of reason for all the madness she found herself lost in. She knew there was no going back and getting lost in this half empty glass somehow gave her a perverted sense of peace.

Suddenly she felt something brush past her leaving her with this uneasy sense that everything prior to right now had vanished, taking with it the very essense of who she is.

As the bartender picked up the glass left half full he thought "Why did I set this glass down here?"
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Postby JillStar » Thu Aug 19, 2004 7:00 pm

I think it's interesting how all of our posts about the girl at the end of the bar are so different... yet still have a slight similarity in meaning.

Mine was actually inspired from a real moment in time when I sat in a bar and watched a girl as one guy sat near her and talked... then another... and then they both realized she wasn't what they were really looking for... she left alone, pitifully.
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Postby Quicksilver Wolf » Fri Nov 19, 2004 12:16 am

There she is, sitting at the other end of the bar, eyes darting around nervously, neck craning occasionally as if she’s looking for something, then being covered up as if she’s just cracking out the creaks in it. Then there's those occasions when her eyes, during their random wondering, meet mine, and I completely freeze.

She’s been sitting there at the same time, every day I’ve come here for a month. What’s up with her? She’s still all alone over there, yet it isn’t from not being attractive – which she clearly is. Why doesn’t she ever talk to anyone? Why does she order the same drink every single time?

Then again, why do I, for that matter?

All week, I’ve been feeling somewhat out of place. This is normally a pretty nice pub; good music, friends having drinks and just having a nice outing… except the usual drunks who come in from work on their way home. Although most days they behave themselves, not having TOO much to drink. But there is normally at least one fight every week…

And she… she just sits there, staring down at her drink while these fights are going on, as glasses and faces shatter, and bouncers tackle the fighters like footballers. Well, at least they’re doing their job.

But it amazes me that she doesn’t seem to notice the violence going on behind her, when it’s rowdy enough for everyone else to.

To hell with it, I say to myself. It’s time I ask her who she is.

I walk towards her, appearing calm in the face of a battlefield around us. I’m anything but.

I cover the last steps with a sudden sense of peace that I didn’t know I could feel approaching a woman as beautiful as her, and let out the first words that come to me.

“Hi, how’s it going?”
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Postby JillStar » Fri Nov 19, 2004 12:26 am

Hey Wolf... nice Fast Fiction!

I think I've actually seen this scene in a local bar near by. :)
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Postby Quicksilver Wolf » Fri Nov 19, 2004 3:53 am

Yeah? (there goes ANOTHER f#$%ing pop-up!) Actually, that's not that surprising...
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Postby Saphyre » Mon Sep 08, 2008 10:55 pm

She signaled for another round, and the bartender reluctantly got it for her. What was with this girl? For she could not be called a woman- not at her five-foot two-inches, clearly a teenager stature. I'd seen the bartender card her, and she'd produced a drivers' license and personal identification card that both claimed her twenty-two. Twenty-two my right gun.

But there was nothing to warrant blowing my cover or stopping the operation. She was a regular here, they said. She came in at eight. By ten she had switched from her pink, fizzing drink to water or milk. She closed the bar at two. Over and over again.

I sent the signal that all was clear and my partners entered the establishment. They had to look like a pair- our contacts were not dim enough to assume the agency would let us operate alone. Indeed, there were five of us on this meeting alone- two more at headquarters were minutely examining every feed and every camera angle to ensure we missed nothing. One signal and we'd all pull out.

The two agents to enter the room were going by Mike and Ben. These were not their real names. Spies did not have real names. Mike was in a red tie and black suit. Ben wore a yellow tie with his blue suit. These were the pre-chosen colors, arranged with our contacts. As they entered the room two men sitting at a booth near the center of the far wall waved them over. I sent a signal back to headquarters that this was right- I had picked these two as probable contacts from the moment I'd come in.

The four men talked briefly. My team gave them an envelope. They gave an envelope to my team. But it was too small to be the pictures and file we had been promised. Mike said so. They replied with something that surprised Ben, but not Mike. Mike said something more I didn't catch. Both our contacts stayed silent for a long moment, and then they passed over another envelope, this one the appropriate size.

My gaze fell over the bar once more. Was there anything missing that would account for my sudden dread? What had I missed?

At some point the girl at the end of the bar had disappeared. Her drink was still there, fizzing and sweating, and beside it was an envelope. A square envelope, about 3 inches by 3 inches. I gave a signal for the unknown, and then waited for my partners and the contacts to leave. I gave ample time for her to return from the ladies' room, if that was where she had gone. Then I got up and went to her seat and took the envelope.

Inside was a note, which I didn't find until I took it back to headquarters, x-rayed it, and then carefully opened it in the safety of a laboratory incase it was toxic.

"Dear Mr. Johnson:" it read.
"The next time you stake out a joint, wear a different suit every day. Change your tie two or three times throughout the day. Start earlier. You were far too obvious.
Enclosed you will find a flash drive. Load it.


No- I'm serious. The rest of the letter makes more sense once you see what's on this disk.


There is no virus on it, if that is what you fear. Just stick the thing in your computer.


Fine. Keep reading. You'll be confused.


Anyways, as you would know if you had followed my directions, the information you received tonight is false. Give up your search. I will reveal myself when I am ready. For now, for my sake and yours as well, leave my grave in peace.


You still think I'm joking about the flash-drive, don't you? Plug the thing in already!

The best operative you ever had, but probably will never have again,
~~~~Taylor Jordan Temple James."

On the disk were pictures of the two contacts which linked them two Al-Qaeda, shots of each agent involved in the operation, and one picture of the girl at the end of the bar standing on some beach while the sun set behind her, holding her signature Shirley Temple. On this last one was electronically imposed the loopy TJTJ. It was a perfect match to the handwriting of one Taylor Jordan Temple James, the best operative the OSS had ever had. Before they declared her legally dead and spent millions trying to find her...
Last edited by Saphyre on Sat Nov 29, 2008 5:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Writingmom » Tue Sep 30, 2008 8:12 am

Cool read, as always, Saphyre... 8)
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Queen at the End of the Bar

Postby timberline » Thu Jul 15, 2010 8:54 am

This was finally finished a few weeks ago. Now I'm polishing and sumitting it. Sorry I didn't do this as a half-hour exercise, but I never forgot the prompt. Thanks, Jill. You're the best.

Queen at the End of the Bar

After my long hot drive I needed a cold beer like a baby searching for his pacifier. That’s when I saw her at the end of the bar. Where else would you expect to find a Miss Universe in a farm town? Out picking pears and apples? She was probably the best-looking babe in this hick town overlooking the Columbia River, just whiling away the hours till Prince Charming swept her away to Portland.

“Stranger in town, huh?” she asked from her stool at the dusky back of the room.

“Passing through. On business.” I made my business her’s. “I’m looking for a guy named Jack Marley, a con man wanted for murder,” and I described him. Ralph, the bail bondsman in Salem, was going to pay me for bringing him back on a felony rap.

“Marley. That was his name?”

“You’ve seen him?”

She ignored my question. “We got a bed-and-breakfast with a view of the river on one side and the orchards and Cascades on the other. Café’s not bad either. Stay a few days.”

That was an interesting thought, and I wondered what her scenery looked like under the skimpy dress hanging like a flag of surrender. There were two things moving in this town. The blinking traffic light and her mouth—but, oh, what a pink, cupid’s bow of a mouth above a long, pale neck and two white shoulders under the spaghetti strap sundress. She was an invitation to a slow waltz, but business had to come first. Marley had used his credit card here the day before. I wasn’t far behind him.

Ralph, the bondsman, had told me about this part of the state. “Bring me back a box of pears, Johnnie,” he said. “After you collar Marley. Or apples. The apples oughta be ripe too. Area around the Dalles is the best fruit-growing country in the world.”

Marley was a killer. A grifter who’d worked downstate selling “ObamaCare” insurance to geezers, then knocking them off. I finished my beer, nodded to the queen, and ambled over to the café.
“Sure, I seen the guy,” the old waitress told me. “It was his sideburns and weird haircut that made me notice. You’ve heard of ‘clean cut’? Well, this guy wasn’t.”

“Not like the good citizens of Haven.” A guy in a ratty sports jacket butted into our conversation. “Everybody here’s a worker bee. Drones!” And he cackled so hard he almost fell off the counter stool. “’Cept me. I’m out to pasture, and that’s just the way I like it. Name’s Dr. Meriwether, but you can call me Bruce.” He reached over to grab my hand. “I am—was—dean of the U of Oregon science program till they canned me.”

“I’ll let you call me Johnnie if you tell me where to find the man with the bad haircut.”

“I got no time for people. Too many of ’em in the world anyhow. It’s the little fellers—the insects—I’m studying. Still working on the matter, for all the crap the university gave me.”

“Bugs?” Mosquitoes when I’m fishing? Flies in my soup?

“Look at all the fruits and vegetables this county produces.” He was almost shouting. “And it’s all because of the wasps and bees. Parasitoids are the most fascinating—like the family Braconidae. They benefit us humans by controlling pests. So sophisticated. Certain plants have compounds that interact with the saliva of caterpillars. Caterpillar spit mixes with the plant juice, emitting a fragrance that attracts the wasps. Wasp kills caterpillar and uses the carcass to lay her eggs. Cunning, eh? Mutualism between botany and the hymenopteran superfamilies.”
He laughed again, spilling his coffee on the counter.

I walked down the main street and back up the other side, passing six people—seven if you count the guy in overalls sleeping in front of the bank. Haven was a fly-speck town that didn’t even appear on my gas station map—a municipal litter box on the side of the two-lane blacktop.
No Marley, so I went back to the bar to think. The queen hadn’t moved.
“What’re you drinking?” I asked to be sociable. Marley could wait half an hour, then I could continue checking places like the bed-and-breakfast, maybe a motel on the highway. Meantime, she hadn’t answered my question about seeing Marley.

She smiled. “Mead,” and she nodded at the barman who’d been staring at the ceiling like he expected Jesus to appear.

“What the hell’s mead?”

“Fermented honey,…Honey.” The last noun referred to me.
Marley could wait till the morning. Stupid crooks don’t rise and shine early, so I asked the broad her name.

“Reina.”

“Spanish name. You from over the border?”

“Home grown,” she whispered and slid over to the stool next to mine.
This was a woman who’d make a priest forget his scripture. Not a bit of makeup, but she radiated sex like a nuclear reactor ready to blow. “Guess I’ll have one of those meads.”

“Ha, you met my daughter.” Dr. Bruce banged in the front door and ambled over to a stool five feet down the bar. “Reina and Johnnie. King and queen. What’re you king of, Johnnie?”

“I eliminate bad guys. It’s my job, my talent…and my hobby. I have a low tolerance for crooks and murderers.”

“Welllll,” he said drawing out the word like a piece of chewing gum. “That’s what we do around here. Not me, Reina.”

“Shut up, Dad.” Reina sounded pleasant, but there was venom in her voice.

“Nah, we can talk freely among friends.” Dr. Bruce reached behind the bar and grabbed a cold beer. The bartender might’ve been a cigar store Indian for all his animation. “We had bad guys. Once. Polluters.”

“Not now,” Reina said.

“Nope. They were dumping toxic waste in the swale back of town. Couple of our people sort of redirected the pipes to the managers’ own water faucets. They’re gone, but the damage was done.”

“You poisoned the polluters?” My interest was academic. No one was paying me to dig into that case.

“They were producing a class of chemicals called endocrine disruptors—stuff used in agriculture, industry, and consumer products. The chemicals leached into the water system where the estrogens in human urine passed through sewage and into the water. What happened here is the same as incidents in the Potomac. Smallmouth bass there are being transformed into some kind of intersex with female characteristics. And in Lake Apopka—down in Florida—frogs, salamanders and other amphibians sprouting extra legs. Male alligators developing stunted genitalia. Even stranger things happened here.”

The mead was getting to me as much as the heat in the bar, Reina’s unblinking stare and the goofy Doc rattling on. “Stranger things?”

“Reina was born with an abnormality.”

“Daddy!” Reina shouted. “Shut the f#$% up! C’mon, Johnnie.” She tugged at my arm. “Let’s take a walk. I’ll tell about whether I saw that guy Marley.”

I smelled Reina’s body, the perfume a woman secretes when her hormones offer a man salvation. I was startled when Doc said “abnormality”—the kind of shock you feel when a beautiful woman drives up in an ugly car.

“It’s all right, Reina. Johnnie here is a friend, and if he tells anyone—well, it’ll help keep our town nice and quiet. I mentioned parasitoid wasps over at the café. Reina was a victim of the endocrine disruptors—coincidental with a near-fatal bee sting. Now that she’s 18 and all grown up we have no need for a sheriff, policemen, law enforcement. Oh,” and he raised his hands in mock defense, “not to protect us from our fellow citizens. From outsiders, like Marley.”

“Johnnie,” she said, “let’s go!”

I shook my head. “Sorry, Doc. I’m not making the connection.”
“Welllll,” Dr. Bruce took a long pull at his beer bottle. “You ever hear the joke about the boy whose mother warned him never to have sex? That women had teeth down there to bite your pecker off?”

“The punch line,” I said. “With gums like that, who could have teeth?”
“Your man Marley came to town, stole some money with his con job, and then did the nasty to Reina—with my daughter, sitting there all innocent at the end of the bar minding her own business.”

Daddy!”

Dr. Bruce looked down at his bottle and then up at me. “Reina doesn’t have teeth down there. She has a stinger. I called it an ovipositor when I was teaching biology. ”

“She killed him?” The single glass of mead had completely addled my brain. Reina’s hand tightened on my arm and I felt my sex drive heading out the door like a shoplifter leaving a 7-Eleven.

“You don’t want to know what happened to Marley.” She pouted prettily, but didn’t hide her sense of pride.

“I think I do,” I insisted. The horror of what Dr. Bruce told me—and Reina’s stroking hand—sent the hairs on my arm upright.

“He’s…hanging around.” She reached into her bra and pulled out a credit card, flipping it on the bar. Marley’s name was on it.

Dr. Bruce laughed so hard beer came out his nose. “I think she’s going to try growing eggs in him, like those parasitoids.”

I never found Marley. Told Ralph he’d fallen in the Columbia and was probably 20 miles offshore now. And I never went back to Haven. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have nightmares of my visit. And of Reina. And I wake up in a cold sweat thinking of Marley lying in some barn with the apples.
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Queen at the End of the Bar

Postby timberline » Thu Jul 15, 2010 8:54 am

This was finally finished a few weeks ago. Now I'm polishing and sumitting it. Sorry I didn't do this as a half-hour exercise, but I never forgot the prompt. Thanks, Jill. You're the best.

Queen at the End of the Bar

After my long hot drive I needed a cold beer like a baby searching for his pacifier. That’s when I saw her at the end of the bar. Where else would you expect to find a Miss Universe in a farm town? Out picking pears and apples? She was probably the best-looking babe in this hick town overlooking the Columbia River, just whiling away the hours till Prince Charming swept her away to Portland.

“Stranger in town, huh?” she asked from her stool at the dusky back of the room.

“Passing through. On business.” I made my business her’s. “I’m looking for a guy named Jack Marley, a con man wanted for murder,” and I described him. Ralph, the bail bondsman in Salem, was going to pay me for bringing him back on a felony rap.

“Marley. That was his name?”

“You’ve seen him?”

She ignored my question. “We got a bed-and-breakfast with a view of the river on one side and the orchards and Cascades on the other. Café’s not bad either. Stay a few days.”

That was an interesting thought, and I wondered what her scenery looked like under the skimpy dress hanging like a flag of surrender. There were two things moving in this town. The blinking traffic light and her mouth—but, oh, what a pink, cupid’s bow of a mouth above a long, pale neck and two white shoulders under the spaghetti strap sundress. She was an invitation to a slow waltz, but business had to come first. Marley had used his credit card here the day before. I wasn’t far behind him.

Ralph, the bondsman, had told me about this part of the state. “Bring me back a box of pears, Johnnie,” he said. “After you collar Marley. Or apples. The apples oughta be ripe too. Area around the Dalles is the best fruit-growing country in the world.”

Marley was a killer. A grifter who’d worked downstate selling “ObamaCare” insurance to geezers, then knocking them off. I finished my beer, nodded to the queen, and ambled over to the café.

“Sure, I seen the guy,” the old waitress told me. “It was his sideburns and weird haircut that made me notice. You’ve heard of ‘clean cut’? Well, this guy wasn’t.”

“Not like the good citizens of Haven.” A guy in a ratty sports jacket butted into our conversation. “Everybody here’s a worker bee. Drones!” And he cackled so hard he almost fell off the counter stool. “’Cept me. I’m out to pasture, and that’s just the way I like it. Name’s Dr. Meriwether, but you can call me Bruce.” He reached over to grab my hand. “I am—was—dean of the U of Oregon science program till they canned me.”

“I’ll let you call me Johnnie if you tell me where to find the man with the bad haircut.”

“I got no time for people. Too many of ’em in the world anyhow. It’s the little fellers—the insects—I’m studying. Still working on the matter, for all the crap the university gave me.”

“Bugs?” Mosquitoes when I’m fishing? Flies in my soup?

“Look at all the fruits and vegetables this county produces.” He was almost shouting. “And it’s all because of the wasps and bees. Parasitoids are the most fascinating—like the family Braconidae. They benefit us humans by controlling pests. So sophisticated. Certain plants have compounds that interact with the saliva of caterpillars. Caterpillar spit mixes with the plant juice, emitting a fragrance that attracts the wasps. Wasp kills caterpillar and uses the carcass to lay her eggs. Cunning, eh? Mutualism between botany and the hymenopteran superfamilies.”
He laughed again, spilling his coffee on the counter.

I walked down the main street and back up the other side, passing six people—seven if you count the guy in overalls sleeping in front of the bank. Haven was a fly-speck town that didn’t even appear on my gas station map—a municipal litter box on the side of the two-lane blacktop.

No Marley, so I went back to the bar to think. The queen hadn’t moved.

“What’re you drinking?” I asked to be sociable. Marley could wait half an hour, then I could continue checking places like the bed-and-breakfast, maybe a motel on the highway. Meantime, she hadn’t answered my question about seeing Marley.

She smiled. “Mead,” and she nodded at the barman who’d been staring at the ceiling like he expected Jesus to appear.

“What the hell’s mead?”

“Fermented honey,…Honey.” The last noun referred to me.

Marley could wait till the morning. Stupid crooks don’t rise and shine early, so I asked the broad her name.

“Reina.”

“Spanish name. You from over the border?”

“Home grown,” she whispered and slid over to the stool next to mine.
This was a woman who’d make a priest forget his scripture. Not a bit of makeup, but she radiated sex like a nuclear reactor ready to blow. “Guess I’ll have one of those meads.”

“Ha, you met my daughter.” Dr. Bruce banged in the front door and ambled over to a stool five feet down the bar. “Reina and Johnnie. King and queen. What’re you king of, Johnnie?”

“I eliminate bad guys. It’s my job, my talent…and my hobby. I have a low tolerance for crooks and murderers.”

“Welllll,” he said drawing out the word like a piece of chewing gum. “That’s what we do around here. Not me, Reina.”

“Shut up, Dad.” Reina sounded pleasant, but there was venom in her voice.

“Nah, we can talk freely among friends.” Dr. Bruce reached behind the bar and grabbed a cold beer. The bartender might’ve been a cigar store Indian for all his animation. “We had bad guys. Once. Polluters.”

“Not now,” Reina said.

“Nope. They were dumping toxic waste in the swale back of town. Couple of our people sort of redirected the pipes to the managers’ own water faucets. They’re gone, but the damage was done.”

“You poisoned the polluters?” My interest was academic. No one was paying me to dig into that case.

“They were producing a class of chemicals called endocrine disruptors—stuff used in agriculture, industry, and consumer products. The chemicals leached into the water system where the estrogens in human urine passed through sewage and into the water. What happened here is the same as incidents in the Potomac. Smallmouth bass there are being transformed into some kind of intersex with female characteristics. And in Lake Apopka—down in Florida—frogs, salamanders and other amphibians sprouting extra legs. Male alligators developing stunted genitalia. Even stranger things happened here.”

The mead was getting to me as much as the heat in the bar, Reina’s unblinking stare and the goofy Doc rattling on. “Stranger things?”

“Reina was born with an abnormality.”

“Daddy!” Reina shouted. “Shut the f#$% up! C’mon, Johnnie.” She tugged at my arm. “Let’s take a walk. I’ll tell about whether I saw that guy Marley.”

I smelled Reina’s body, the perfume a woman secretes when her hormones offer a man salvation. I was startled when Doc said “abnormality”—the kind of shock you feel when a beautiful woman drives up in an ugly car.

“It’s all right, Reina. Johnnie here is a friend, and if he tells anyone—well, it’ll help keep our town nice and quiet. I mentioned parasitoid wasps over at the café. Reina was a victim of the endocrine disruptors—coincidental with a near-fatal bee sting. Now that she’s 18 and all grown up we have no need for a sheriff, policemen, law enforcement. Oh,” and he raised his hands in mock defense, “not to protect us from our fellow citizens. From outsiders, like Marley.”

“Johnnie,” she said, “let’s go!”

I shook my head. “Sorry, Doc. I’m not making the connection.”

“Welllll,” Dr. Bruce took a long pull at his beer bottle. “You ever hear the joke about the boy whose mother warned him never to have sex? That women had teeth down there to bite your pecker off?”

“The punch line,” I said. “With gums like that, who could have teeth?”

“Your man Marley came to town, stole some money with his con job, and then did the nasty to Reina—with my daughter, sitting there all innocent at the end of the bar minding her own business.”

Daddy!”

Dr. Bruce looked down at his bottle and then up at me. “Reina doesn’t have teeth down there. She has a stinger. I called it an ovipositor when I was teaching biology. ”

“She killed him?” The single glass of mead had completely addled my brain. Reina’s hand tightened on my arm and I felt my sex drive heading out the door like a shoplifter leaving a 7-Eleven.

“You don’t want to know what happened to Marley.” She pouted prettily, but didn’t hide her sense of pride.

“I think I do,” I insisted. The horror of what Dr. Bruce told me—and Reina’s stroking hand—sent the hairs on my arm upright.

“He’s…hanging around.” She reached into her bra and pulled out a credit card, flipping it on the bar. Marley’s name was on it.

Dr. Bruce laughed so hard beer came out his nose. “I think she’s going to try growing eggs in him, like those parasitoids.”

I never found Marley. Told Ralph he’d fallen in the Columbia and was probably 20 miles offshore now. And I never went back to Haven. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have nightmares of my visit. And of Reina. And I wake up in a cold sweat thinking of Marley lying in some barn with the apples.
 Cruising the Green of Second Avenue is available at Barnes & Noble and other online book sellers. More good stuff at http://allotropiclucubrations.blogspot.com
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JillStar
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Postby JillStar » Thu Jul 15, 2010 6:01 pm

:oops: Why thank you!!

Hoping to add a new FF tomorrow...

... people really liked this challenge; you just never know which one will grab a person's interest and start those wheels turning!
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timberline
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Postby timberline » Wed Aug 31, 2011 9:27 am

Whew, this finally sold, to Gumshoe Review, and should be up on/about Sept. 1 It's not that I didn't try submitting. Just that it was soundly rejected by half a dozen editors. Maybe the anatomical touches were a bit over the top for these sensitive times.

Post script 9/1/11: Story's up, at http://www.gumshoereview.com/php/Review-id.php?id=2915.
Last edited by timberline on Thu Sep 01, 2011 8:57 am, edited 1 time in total.
 Cruising the Green of Second Avenue is available at Barnes & Noble and other online book sellers. More good stuff at http://allotropiclucubrations.blogspot.com
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Postby JillStar » Wed Aug 31, 2011 11:11 pm

Sensitive times? Not sure about that... lol. I remember this prompt... even wrote something myself. Glad to see you're selling like a crazy man. :)
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