Another weekly addition to the anthology of Chuck Wendig flash fiction writing challenges. This week we were to write a story about three photos taken randomly from Flickr. These are the ones I got.
Here’s what I wrote!
The first alarm I’d set went off. I snoozed my phone back to sleep. The second alarm I’d set went off five minutes later. I managed to snooze it as well without opening my eyes. The cycle of alarms went on like this for about thirty minutes. That’s usually the amount of time my brain takes to activate. I started to calculate how much time I had to waste in bed. I was on vacation, so I let the dance go on for a while past my normal limit.
My father banged on the door to my room once. He didn’t believe in the over expression of emotions but his displeasure communicated through that one act well enough. I buried my head in the cool sheets wrapped around me. I tried to ignore the nagging thought that I would miss breakfast if I didn’t get up right away. Once I felt the tug at my stomach, however, I gave up on the idea of more sleep. So I threw off the covers and stomped over to the window. The early morning sun blasted into my room after I opened the curtains. It drove the winter chill away from my bones and the cobwebs of sleep from my mind. Behind me, the third alarm I’d set went off.
When I came downstairs my father was in the kitchen poking at a cast iron skillet with a plastic spatula. Bacon sizzled within the skillet, the fat popping and snapping. I poured myself a cup of fresh coffee while my father carefully pulled finished strips out to set aside on a thick pad of paper towels.
“Need any help?” I asked before taking a sip of my coffee. He shook his head.
“Got to make the toast yourself though,” he said. I put my cup down and went to a cupboard to get a few slices of wheat bread to feed to the toaster.
My father was wearing his favorite hat while he continued to cook the bacon. Brown, cracked and wrinkled as he was, he called the old fedora his ‘driving hat’. He added a few fresh strips to the skillet.
“Today’s the day, isn’t it?” I asked as I set the bread on the journey to become toast. My father dropped the skillet down on the stove with a bang. A small fire flared up as some grease spilled but it went out quickly. The stench of scorched fat hung thick for a moment before my father reached up and turned on the vent. The fan hummed like a nest of overweight hornets.
“Yes that’s right,” he said. He adjusted the hat on his head making sure it was on tight. The toast popped up from the toaster so I grabbed a plate from next to the stove. I added some bacon to the toast and then went to sit at the counter with my coffee. My father soon finished cooking so he turned off the heat and set the skillet aside.
Instead of loading up a plate for himself, he went to the window across from the stove and stood staring out at the driveway. I looked at him as I crunched on my bacon and sipped my coffee. He stood there, with the yellow sunlight staining his face, for about two strips of bacon, half a piece of toast, and most of my coffee. He turned away as I got up for a refill. As I poured my second cup of joe my father got his breakfast. I wondered if his cough was getting better, it didn’t sound quite as ragged as before.
He took a seat next to mine, after moving the box packed with the dinner glasses first. He glanced at the newspaper headlines as he ate but flicked the pages back and forth not settling on any article for long.
“What time are you meeting the collector?” I asked.
“He told me around eleven,” my father said.
“Sure going to miss that old car,” I said around the last bite of my toast. My father grunted a noncommittal response.
“You want me to follow you so I can give you a ride back?”
He shook his head without taking his eyes off the paper.
“Your aunt said she’d give me a ride,” my father said, “We’ll probably stop for lunch in town.” I’d finished my breakfast so I stood up to take my plate over to the sink.
“I’ll try to get the garage finished before you get back then.”
“You’d better,” he said. He finished the last of his bacon then handed the plate over to me. My father set the paper aside, grabbed his keys from the counter, and headed out the door without another word.
While I was finishing the dishes I could hear the old engine roar to life, sputtering only a little in the cold air. I went to the window to watch my father pull his classic car out of the driveway for the last time.
So it’s been a few days since I quit drinking. I haven’t really had much trouble staying away from it though. Everyone’s been pretty supportive and that’s really helpful. Most are still in the “eggshell” phase I think, which is when friends of the alcoholic try to act very carefully around the recovering addict lest he shatter into a million pieces at the slightest gust of wind or whiff of booze. It’s sweet but unnecessary.
I have been staying up much later than I would normally, however. It’s not such as bad thing though as I’ve been trying to focus on where I want to go in the future. I’ve only got about two months on my current visa at the moment and a less than solid footing on my renewal chances. So things are a little nervous which is the best time to quit drinking, of course.
I’ve been trying to focus that energy that was usually suppressed by the warm fuzzy blanket of spiritous liquors on something productive. To whit I’ve got it into my head to try and learn from scratch how to use the various products that Adobe has to offer in the realm of creative computer wizardry. This is an expensive proposition, however, as even the most basic package they offer can cost over $1000 if you want to buy it outright. I think it would be a good investment in skills for the future despite requiring a level of investment higher than most developing nation’s average income several times over.
I mean I have the money, but it’s hard to complain about spending it without coming off as callous. I digress.
I’ve been dabbling with iMovie for a little while now. Nothing special but I’ve learned the system well enough that the actual creation of the movie takes very little time. It is a little limited in its ability to correct problem footage which is a shame because my camera is pretty crap. So you can see what I’m talking about, this is a movie I shot last month of a band I’ve talked about before briefly. Kazumi Struts:
Now the video quality was pretty junk, though a lot of that is my camera, but it looked pretty bad until I added the filter to make everything kind of dark. That seemed to help the focus for some reason. Also it is easier to make a smoother video. I guess that’s key, simple is best when it comes to iMovie.
This one I made in Adobe Premiere Elements. A much more robust, though still hamstrung program. It’s not exactly the full version which is probably well beyond my scope at the moment. Keep that in mind. I am in no way good at this stuff. But it gives me something to do instead of drink so I’ll take it.
This clip is a bit longer as I could make a few more clips look good enough to leave in. Some were so bad that I had to cut them. Given the video quality on display here you know that’s pretty bad.
Premiere felt like it could do more but was harder to wrap my head around. A lot of the adjustments to quality had to be left to the program itself. It could be that I just haven’t figured out how to do manual control of things like color saturation and sharpness but there was at least some option for it made obvious in iMovie. Also Premiere is a beast of a performance hog even in the limited form. It would lag on occasion, crashed once, and took over two hours to process and upload to youtube.
It’s obvious that Adobe has more room to grow I’m just worried my little macbook air won’t be able to handle anything more intense than a grainy iphone movie from the bottom of a well at midnight. So yes, expensive hobby I’ve decided to pick up.
I want to try out the polling feature of this blog space so I’ll pose this question:
I’ve also been on a bit of a workout kick with Fitocracy. Which is kind of fun.
So thing’s been pretty heavy around here recently. Back to our regular programing!
So I went out to Yokohama for New Year’s to see some fireworks. Now, I was expecting some fireworks on the same level as the last time I went to Yokohama. These were nothing quite the same but still pretty. Anyway here’s what I got.
Kinda lame wasn’t it? Yeah. I saw a video of the show down at the countdown party and to be fair it was pretty cool. A lot of the fireworks were small bursts in time with the music. It looked much cooler up close. Also, if you watched it all you might have heard me narf to myself about if a certain song was Nine Inch Nails or Led Zeppelin. Apparently it was the new cover version of a Led Zeppelin song done by Trent Reznor, frontman of NIN.
So my confusion was justified and I felt compelled to clear that up for some reason. Moving on.
After that we went from Yokohama to Tokyo to visit a shrine. For the uninitiated it is a Japanese custom for people to visit a Shinto shrine sometime in the first few days of the new year. You chuck some money into a bin, usually one of the lucky though near worthless 5 yen coins, clap your hands twice and make your wish/prayer for the new year. (I bet you can guess what mine was)
You can go anytime in the first three days or so, however, since most people are out and about that night, or just awake when they usually aren’t, many people go to shrines shortly after midnight. We went to Meiji Jingu, which is the shrine dedicated to the Meiji Emperor who ruled during the Meiji Reformation during the Meiji period. So pretty important dude. (Even though I misspelled his name throughout the entire video I made (>_<) )
Isn’t iMovie neat? So this shrine happens to be one of the most popular shrines to visit in the largest city in the country so…it’s crowded. We had to wait at least an hour and a half just for our one minute prayer ritual. But like climbing Mt. Fuji, a wise person does it once and only a fool does it twice. (Unless you’re into the exercise when it comes to Fuji, I know some people like that.) It was an experience let’s just say.
You can also buy all kinds of charms, knick knacks, fortunes, etc. after you make your prayer. I bought a Hamaya which literally means “demon-breaking arrow”. Which sounds pretty cool when you think about it.
Pretty wicked no? Apparently I’m supposed to return it to the shrine for burning next year or all it’s luck protection powers will be for nothing. I’d like to think that it stores up the bad luck and if you don’t burn that shit it’ll all come back to you at once. A whole year’s worth of bad luck? No thank you.
Anyway it was a fun time and certainly something I’m glad I got to experience. As far as starts to a new year, this one wasn’t so bad. Questions, comments? Leave them after the pictures and debut of my terrible movie. (^_^)
Warning: some NSFW language.
As promised yesterday, (I hope because this is the first time I’ll try delayed posting trick) here is the next piece of the story of Nick and Tom, Yokai detectives.
Nick and Tom arrived in Roppongi close to an hour after they got the call. By that time the body had been roped off and most of the reporters lost interest. Nick recognized one from a particularly seedy gossip magazine. Usually they dealt with celebrity sex scandals and corporate shenanigans but no newspaper or magazine could resist the scent of a murder story.
When most of the reputable outfits find out it was a sex worker from Roppongi they pack it in early. The people down here dying were a dime a dozen. Only upstanding citizens; housewives, office workers, high school students, and the like made for good stories that sold copies. So the big players left these stories to the gossip rags that were more interested in client lists rather than life stories. Nick made sure to bump hard into the reporter as he passed. The whip thin man started to curse Nick when Tom knocked him to the ground with a casual nudge. Tom bowed low and offered his apologies but not a hand up. The reporter made a stumbling excuse about how he must have tripped and waved Tom off with a smile. Tom might dress like a clown on LSD but he was still seven feet tall and three hundred pounds of scary blue muscle. Tom nodded at the reporter then turned to join Nick at the police cordon.
Nick was chatting with his friend that gave him the tip. The officer looked the same as most do, broad shoulders, buzz cut, neat and clean uniform, but this one had a smile in his eyes as well as his face. Most cops Nick knew would smile at someone but couldn’t hide the contempt or even outright condescension they felt.
“Nice one Tom,” Nick said. He jerked his thumb in the direction of the reporter, who was busy dusting off his pants. “Have you met my friend Shin before?” The cop bowed at Tom who returned the gesture.
“I think we met at the end-of-the-year party last year,” Tom said. Shin stopped to think for a moment, hand on his chin.
“That’s right!” he said, snapping his fingers, “That was one hell of a party. I can’t remember the last time I drank so much.”
“Do you know a lot of Oni, sir?” Tom said, “I figured we’d be hard to forget at a party.”
“Like I said,” Shin punched Nick on the arm, “I can’t remember when I drank so much or even how much I drank. But forgive me,” he bowed again, “it’s nice to see you again Tom.” Tom returned the bow and Shin responded. This set off a small feedback loop as both bowed several more times to each other before breaking out into laughter.
“So,” Nick said, “are we going to get to see the body anytime soon?” Shin looked at him, wiping a small tear of laughter from one eye.
“Did you remember to renew your license?” Shin asked. Nick started to say something, stopped, then turned to look at Tom. Tom gave a small nod.
“Of course!” Nick said. Shin laughed but let them through the cordon and into the crime scene anyway.
The stairs leading up were narrow to the point of claustrophobia. Tom hit his head on the low ceilings twice. It was his only choice though, he wouldn’t fit in the elevator. Nick had wanted to take the elevator and avoid the seven flights of stairs but Tom had threatened to quit if Nick left him to climb alone. When they reached the seventh floor the door by the stairs had no markings except for three chinese characters written in the complicated traditional style.
“What’s that say?” Nick asked. He was breathing heavily through his nose though it was clear he didn’t want to let on how winded he was.
“Seems they didn’t take clients of my size into consideration when they chose this place,” Tom said. He was hunched over, the ceiling too short for him to stand up straight. Shin laughed again.
“Sorry Tom,” he said. Then he pointed a thumb at the door. “As for this,” he said, “It’s gibberish. ‘Happy Luck Day’ or some such. Come on, let’s go in.”
The massage parlor was rather typical in Nick’s opinion. Soft leather couches lined the walls underneath long plate glass windows. There was what looked to be a reception desk, papers and notebooks scattered across the surface. An office phone with multiple lines sat on one corner, the receiver dangled off the side, resting on the floor. A large TV hung on the wall. It was showing a re-run of a popular variety show. The sound was off but Nick remembered the human interest piece about a five year old kid that took the bullet train all by himself. On the opposite wall, facing the door, a security camera looked down at them.
“Was that thing on?” Nick said, pointing at the camera.
“Yeah but the first run through didn’t show anything obvious around the time of death. The footage is back at headquarters by now,” Shin said.
“You’ll get me a copy?”
“I’ll see what I can do,” Shin then led them into the back of the parlor. Heavy curtains made of cheap fabric hung in large ovals. Some were open, revealing the flat massage beds covered in clean white towels. Nick had been in some less hygienic establishments before so this place was a step above the rest. Shin kept walking to the very rear of the massage area. There were two forensic workers standing off to the side comparing notes.
“About damn time,” one of them said when Nick and the others came over to the scene. The one who spoke looked like he was about to continue his complaint when Tom coughed. It was a deep rumbling noise that sounded like a spoon in a garbage disposal. The forensic workers went back to their notes. Shin smiled.
“Let’s finish this quickly, I’m already overstepping my authority letting you two in here,” he said.
“I appreciate it,” Nick said, clapping his friend on the shoulder. Nick turned to look at the body. It was already in a bag, resting on one of the tables. A softer pillow and heavier blankets than are typical for a customer were crumpled on the floor next to the bed.
“We think she was in here sleeping off her shift, waiting for the trains to start running,” Shin said. “Other than the bag, we found her pretty much just as she is now, flat on the bed, no signs of injury.” Nick unzipped the bag and looked at the corpse for a few moments. He zipped the bag up again.
“She’s human,” Nick said. Shin said nothing, his expression hard to read. “Why did you call me about this?”
“You didn’t recognize her?” Shin said.
“No,” Nick said. He stopped then, thinking. “Give me a light.” Shin handed Nick his flashlight. Nick unzipped the bag again and flicked on the light.
“Is she?” Nick asked.
“That fox we found the other day. She worked for this one,” Shin said. Nick said nothing as he continued to look at the corpse, trying to find a hint of familiarity in the features swollen by death. What he did notice, however, was the same yellow discoloration as his friend the fox had. It was harder to pick out on human flesh than white fox fur, but it was there.
“Did you get the results from the lab on what killed Lin, I mean, the fox?” Nick asked. Shin raised an eyebrow. Tom looked anywhere but the corpse. He had a weak stomach for death.
“Funny thing that,” Shin said, “Toxicology said she died of acute nicotine poisoning.” Nick sniffed the air. Out of the ordinary actions are just as contagious in yokai as they are in humans. Soon both Tom and Shin were sniffing the air and even the forensic guys started as well. Shin shrugged his shoulders.
“Smells like an overripe corpse to me,” he said. Nick looked at Tom.
“I can smell tobacco smoke though,” Tom said, “Even over that.” He waved a hand in the general direction of the corpse. Nick could smell it too. He had just given up cigarettes. Two months clean after seventeen years at a pack a day. People told him often that the sense of smell was the first thing to come back. Shin still smoked, however.
“I smell it too,” Nick said, “which is odd. They usually don’t let customers smoke in a place like this. At least, not in the rooms.” Nick saw the forensic team writing down new notes at a furious pace. They avoided his gaze when he caught their eye. Nick was used to it, the incompetence of your average crime scene investigator in this area of town.
“Might be something to follow up on.” Shin said, “If there’s nothing else you want to see, I’d like to get this body out of here and down to the morgue.”
“Of course,” Nick said, “I’ve seen enough for now. Hope you can get me that video though.”
“I’ll try,” Shin said with a small laugh, “but you’re going to owe me a beer or two if I come through on this.” Nick just smiled and followed Shin back to the exit. At the elevator Shin turned to Tom.
“Why don’t you head down ahead of us big guy,” he said, “I want to talk to Nick alone for a moment.” Tom sighed.
“More chatter about human females and their ample rear ends?” he asked.
“Exactly,” Nick said patting Tom on the arm, he couldn’t reach high enough to get his shoulder, “we’ll take the elevator and meet you down there.” Tom stomped off down the stairs muttering about “yokai discrimination”. After he disappeared around the corner of the stairwell Nick hit the elevator call button.
“So what did you want to talk to me about Shin?” he asked. Shin hesitated, unsure of how to begin.
“I know you and Lin were close,” he said. Nick shoved his hands in his pockets and began shifting his weight from foot to foot. His eyes locked onto the lights above the elevator signaling which floor it was on.
“And I know you had a falling out,” Shin said. Nick threw a sharp glance at Shin then went back to the elevator. He reached out and stabbed the call button a few more times.
“I’m not saying you’re a suspect,” Shin said.
“A suspect?” Nick said. His outburst echoed down the stairwell. The elevator arrived and Nick immediately stomped inside the car. Shin grabbed the door as Nick was pressing the button for the first floor.
“You’re not a suspect yet, Nick,” Shin said, standing in the doorway so it couldn’t close, “Yet being the key word. I’m just saying you should be careful.”
“Thanks,” Nick said. Shin’s shoulders slumped, hurt apparent on his face. Nick sighed deeply.
“No seriously,” he said, “Thank you. I know you’re trying to help.” Shin smiled. He stepped out of the way of the door.
“You still owe me a beer for the file I gave you,” he said as the elevator closed. Nick gave a thumbs up as the double doors slid shut.
Outside, Tom was waiting with his arms crossed.
“What took you?” he said to Nick as he entered the street.
“Slow elevator, should have taken the stairs,” Nick said. He paused to take a small flask from his coat. He opened it then took a long drink. He offered it to Tom who took it.
“Why does Shin help you out so much anyway?” Tom asked after he’d taken a swallow of the whiskey.
“I saved his life once,” Nick said. He had another long drink on the flask then put it away. “Come on,” he said, “let’s go talk to the kappa.”
“This should be fun,” Tom said.
It’s amazing how quickly Christmas went from everywhere to nowhere in the span of just a day. I don’t remember what it was like so much in America, perhaps I never really paid attention. It seemed like to me, in the fuzzy memories knocking around in my head that there was at least a day or two of “Christmas Hangover” in the general culture.
If I’m wrong be sure to let me know or else I’ll never learn. Anyway, over here it was quite stark. Christmas isn’t quite as ubiquitous as it is in the states (despite what conservative media would rather you think). Still, in one stint in a coffee shop I heard at least five different covers of John Lennon’s “Happy Christmas”. It’s Japan’s most over done Christmas song by far. The very next day, however, everything was gone like I’d shifted into a new dimension that had no such thing as Christmas while I slept. It was sudden is what I’m trying to say.
Of course now that Christmas has come and gone it’s swiftly approaching time for the next real big holiday in Japan. New Years. Did you know Christmas isn’t a national holiday in Japan? I know weird isn’t it…
The first three days of January are holidays though. If translated the titles of said days off are “First three days of the new year”. That’s hardcore. The new year is a time for reflection on regrets and hopes for the future. And that takes three days in Japan apparently. It’s a time to visit shrines (Shinto) or temples (Buddhist) and get your fortune told. Last year I think I got the “sorta lucky” general fortune. Hopefully this year will be a little better. I probably have to go to a better shrine though. (Some are luckier than others but those are usually packed)
Of course in America we have the tradition of making New Year’s Resolutions. Promises we make to ourselves that we typically cast aside after a few weeks to a few months. This too is tradition. Last year my resolution was to be better to myself. Open ended promises are better because they’re far easier to break without anyone noticing. I did quit smoking though so I guess we can call that a success. It’s been 4 months as of this writing.
So chalk it up as a victory, how can I build on that? I think when I made the resolution last year I was thinking only in a physical sense. This year I think I’ll continue the same idea (recycling completely/semi-failed resolutions is also tradition) but I’ll try to be better to myself mentally. This is a difficult task in such a soul sucking pit of concrete hell that is Tokyo (just kidding but not for real though). Hopefully I’ll be able to escape for a day or two in the new year, depending on if I can get a bullet train seat. I should probably check into that sooner rather than later.
Anyway, as a tangible goal, my resolution is to finish my book started in Nanowrimo season. And by finish I mean extend, edit, and release it into the wild. Either to publishers/editors/agents (will give it a shot but I think Japanese mythology based supernatural crime noire is rather niche’) or into the gaping suck-maw of the self-publish market place. I’ll need readers and maybe someone who can draw/computer-up a cover for it. So if you’re interested let me know.
Tune in tomorrow for Chapter 3 since feedback so far has been pretty positive. And I still need to practice using the delayed post feature to see what that’s about.
Stay Creative. V(^_^)
Edit: Me no good with mobile WordPress app. Rargh…
Remember when I said something about this crazy idea called NaNoWriMo. No? Really? Allow me to refresh should you be so inclined.
Did I win? Well if you mean write 50K words then no. If you mean getting in to the habit of writing everyday, however, then…still no. Writing more? Yes, a little. Fooling myself into thinking I could make this a career and claw my way out of the depths of English teaching? (Which really isn’t that bad to be honest, my schedule is sooooo slack.)
Well yes and no. I did learn this kind of thing [Writing] is a slow pot to boil and you have to heat it with book matches you picked up from a scummy bar on the bad side of town. And you have to do it one at at time. Forever. It’s enough to make a person go insane.
Anyway, how far did I get? Just over 25,000 words. Which is more than I’ve ever put down about anything. For comparison the novel I started last year for NaNoWriMo currently sits at about 9000 words. And I’m thinking of putting a bullet it its metaphorical head and sweep it away. No sir, I don’t like it.
But this one I like and think I could finish it. I just committed an ultimate sin by letting other entertainment take precedent over writing. This is because I wrote myself somewhere that just made my motivation go limp like over cooked spaghetti. Anyway, to boost my own ego somewhat (and provide a little meat to this pity party) I’ll attach the second ‘chapter’ to my novella down here at the bottom. You might remember the first part, if not here. Look at it!
Just a warning. I still haven’t edited any of this so it could be crap. Especially since it’s completely new. The first chapter was about a third old material. This one…is not. Well anyway, enjoy.
Yokai Blues: Chapter 2
Tom smacked the side of the printer with one giant blue fist. A small panel on the side of the printer said “Built Oni Tough!” Tom cracked it a few more times before it resumed spewing out paper. The hulking blue figure, dressed in the latest color vomit Harajuku calls fashion, nodded once at the offending computer equipment.
“That’ll teach you,” he said. Tom gave it another light thwack for good measure. When he turned back to his desk he saw Nick standing in the doorway, sipping a can of vending machine coffee. Tom looked back at the printer, then to Nick.
“How long were you standing there?” he asked.
“Since about three smacks ago,” Nick said. Tom turned back to the printer and narrowed his eyes at it. The bangs of his spiked, bleached-blond perm dipped low over his plucked eyebrows.
“It’ll get some more if it doesn’t behave,” he said.
“If you break it, it’ll come out of your paycheck. Not mine,” Nick said as he crossed the small office to his desk.
“Don’t worry,” Tom said, “This one’s got a year warranty against abuse by ogres.”
“And how long have we had it?” Nick said. He sat down in his chair with a small grunt. He reached down to open the lowest desk drawer. The sound of shuffling papers and cursing soon followed.
“About 11 months,” Tom said, still glaring at the printer as it calmly printed off reports like nothing had happened. He turned back to Nick.
“You finished that bottle last Friday, remember?” Tom said. Nick popped his head back over the top of his desk.
“Damnit, you’re right,” he said, standing up. Nick pointed a finger at Tom. “Just make sure when you do break it, it’s still within warranty unlike last time.” Tom started to say something but Nick cut him off.
“And no more about how you forgot it was a national holiday or whatever. You had the day off for a reason.” Nick scanned the room looking for more whiskey.
“Actually I was going to ask if you’d like me to go to the liquor store for you,” Tom grinned at Nick, showing off two rows of perfectly white, pointy teeth. “Because we’re out of whiskey.” Nick dropped back into his chair.
“Yes, please,” he said, waving Tom away, “You know where I keep the hooch money.” After Tom had shut the door, Nick pulled his hat over his eyes and leaned back to take a nap.
Nick stumbled awake when Tom came back to the office. He gave his head a vigorous shake to scatter the dreams of pencil thin metal claws. Tom pulled out several bottles of whiskey, a large one for general use and guests, two smaller ones of higher quality for Nick’s personal stash, and two cans of cold beer.
“To take the edge off the afternoon,” Tom said, gesturing to the beer. Nick glanced at his watch. It was already after three in the afternoon.
“How long were you gone?” Nick asked.
“Only about ten minutes,” Tom said, “You’re the one that staggered in here so late. What kept you?”
“Didn’t sleep well, woke up late,” Nick said. He grabbed one of the beers, cracked it, then took a few hearty swigs. A satisfied sigh, straight out of a commercial, escaped his lips. “Also,” he took another sip of beer, “I had to stop by the local police box to return something.”
“That file on the massage fox?” Tom said. He opened his beer. Nick looked at Tom, eyes sharp. He’d assumed both beers were for him. Tom either failed to notice or chose not to react so Nick let it go.
“That’s the one,” Nick set his beer down on the desk and began to twist it back and forth between his fingers. He tapped on the sides of the can a few times before taking another swallow of the crisp brew.
“She the one you were always talking about?” Tom said, “The one that’d let you sleep it off at her place for the minimum fee?” Nick nodded. He didn’t want to say anything at the moment so he just drank his beer to avoid it.
“Terrible way to go,” Tom said in that detached way most people talk about the dead they didn’t know.
“Yeah,” Nick said between sips of his beer. It was almost half empty by now. He would have to switch to whiskey soon. The sat there for awhile in silence, drinking. Outside several emergency vehicles drove by, sirens at full volume. Nick liked to try and guess which kind they were just by the sound; police, ambulance, or firetruck. He was never very good. Even after all of these years he had trouble telling the difference. The variations between them were more subtle than back home.
Tom finished his beer and crumpled it in one great hand. He took aim at the recycle bin from where he was standing like he was about to shoot a free-throw. Nick could almost hear the crowds cheering in Tom’s head from the serious look on his face. Tom let the can fly. Nick watched it arc perfectly and land two feet short of the bin. Nick laughed.
“Your form is great but you have to work on your range,” he said. Tom stomped over to the can. He picked it up then stomped back to Nick.
“Think you can do better?” he said, offering the can to Nick. Nick took it with an exaggerated bow. He leaned back in his chair and raised his arm. A casual flick of the wrist and a second later the can hit the bottom of the bin with a solid clunk. Nick raised both arms over his head, hands balled into victory fists, and looked at Tom. His face was deadpan, no expression except the light of success flashing behind his eyes. Tom shrugged his knotty shoulders then went back to his desk.
“Lucky shot,” he said over his shoulder. Nick put his arms down and picked up his beer. He finished it with a smile. Crushed the can between both hands then took aim again.
“1000 yen says you miss,” Tom said from his seat.
“You’re on,” Nick said. He took the time to calm his nerves. Every beer can that went from full to empty because of Nick ended up getting tossed at the recycle bucket. He usually made more than he missed but that was always at night after Tom had gone home.
“Either shoot or get off the bowl,” Tom said. He still had trouble with some English idioms. Nick flicked his wrist and let the can fly. This one too found its home in the bottom of the bin. Nick left his shooting arm in the air, slowly raised his other above his head, and then swiveled his chair around to face Tom. Nick’s face was the same expressionless mask. Tom looked like he had just tasted a sour milk and fermented soybean smoothie. Nick lowered one hand and made the time honored, hand over the money gesture. Tom walked over to Nick, muttering and cursing in Japanese as he pulled out his wallet. When Nick tried to take the bill Tom offered the big blue ogre clenched it in his fingers.
“You know I could snap your neck like a chicken,” Tom said.
“And you know that I spend all my train fare on booze so how about you let me enjoy my triumph?”
They stared at each other for a heartbeat before both started laughing. Tom let go of the money and Nick was quick to put it in his wallet before Tom changed his mind.
“So what’s with the interest in this fox?” Tom asked once he was back behind his desk. Nick reached for one of the smaller bottles of whiskey. He looked around but the only things on his desk were random papers of a long forgotten nature and wrappers from various quick and unhealthy food type products.
“I’ll tell you if you bring me a glass with some ice in it,” Nick said. Tom stopped typing on his comically large keyboard. Nick saw Tom roll his eyes but let it slide since the brute was getting him what he’d asked for. When Tom came back with a glass dotted with water spots and three weak looking ice cubes, Nick accepted it in an overly polite manner. Tom chuckled a little at Nick’s antics. Nick poured about two shots worth of whiskey into the glass and swirled it around to chill. He took a slow sip, savoring the burn on his lips and tongue. Nick sank back into his chair. It was then that he noticed Tom sitting on the edge of his desk, looking not unlike a child waiting to be read a bedtime story.
“So,” Tom said, “You and the fox? Did you…?” He made a rude gesture with his thumb and pinky. Nick tried not to rise to the bait but his denial didn’t sound honest enough for Tom. The Oni slapped his knee and laughed.
“I knew it!” he said. “You always had a thing for those types!”
“Need I remind you that whatever our relationship was, she’s dead now?” Nick said. He sipped his drink. Tom’s smile came crashing back to Earth and he apologized. Nick shook his head.
“No worries,” Nick said, “But yes, I did know her. So when I heard she was found stuffed into a trash can yesterday I called in a favor and borrowed the investigation file for the night.”
“Find anything interesting?” Tom asked.
“Strangest thing,” Nick said between sips of whiskey, “The report said that all of the physical damage done to her happened after death. Due to trying to fit her into the can.”
“Cause of death?” Tom said.
“Suffocation apparently. But no signs of strangulation. We won’t know more until the toxicology comes back.”
“All in all, it doesn’t sound that out of the ordinary,” Tom said.
“Well the kicker is,” Nick paused to refill his glass, “Her entire body, head to paw, was stained yellow. Like she’d been soaking in lemon juice or something.”
“It wasn’t paint?”
“Didn’t appear so. From the photos I saw the stain wasn’t covering her fur, it had seeped in right down to the root. The officers at the scene seemed to agree with me.” Tom crossed his arms in thought.
“That’s pretty strange,” he said. Then he pointed at Nick’s whiskey, “Think I can get a dose of that?”
“You’ll have to get your own glass,” Nick said, smiling. Tom lumbered off to the kitchen area once again, cursing under his breath. While Tom was in the kitchen the phone rang. Nick checked his watch, almost four o’clock. Technically he was still open. He swirled his glass again and decided to let it go to the machine.
“Answering machine’s broke, remember?” Tom yelled from the kitchen. Nick cursed and answered the phone. It was his friend from the station. Another stained fox had turned up in Roppongi. Nick thanked his friend and hung up.
“Skip the whiskey Tom,” Nick said, putting on his coat, “We’ve got another one.”
It’s been awhile since I’ve done a Chuck Wendig flash fiction challenge. This time was to come up with a title that has alliteration in it and then write out about 1000 words from that. I pulled “Jimmy’s Job” out of thin air while taking a shower. The story below took a little longer than that, but not by much. Enjoy and comment if it so pleases you.
Jim pressed down on his truck’s loose brakes and screeched it to a halt. He’d let the pads wear down well past the warning sliver of metal that scraped against his wheels like fingernails on chalkboard mixed with a touch of reverb. Jim had gotten used to the sound over the weeks. Money was tight these days and he had better things to spend a hundred dollars or so on than a new set of brakes. The old truck still stopped when he needed it and that was good enough for him.
Jim popped open the door and gave it a shove. The heavy steel door swung open, locking its hinge with a well made ‘clunk’. Dust and the stale smell of old foam padding rushed up through Jim’s nose as he climbed out of the seat into the hot summer sun. He slammed the door shut before moving around to the bed of the truck. His mud-flecked boots crunched over the dry patches of grass that clung to life amidst the rock-choked clay dust this field called soil.
In the back of his rusted yet dependable pick-up were all the tools and self respecting man of the South needed and kept. Two shovels both long and short handled, caked in dried mud and clay. A length of sturdy rope and a coil of wire. A battered toolbox. Two car batteries that were dead and one that still worked, probably. Last but not least, a plastic cooler full of beer. Jim grabbed the handle of the cooler and slid it towards him from the center of the truck bed. He popped open the top and fished around in the icy stew inside until he came up with a can of booze.
Jim walked over to the back of his truck and then leaned against the tailgate. He snapped the beer open. The foam boiled up from the mouth of the can as Jim stood there for a moment, looking out across the field. The rough land stretched out for at least a mile, in Jim’s estimation, before it was swallowed up by a pine forest at the edge of the property line.
Jim drank his beer as he listened to the cicadas kick up a strong whine against the breeze that blew in from God knows where. Once he finished he grabbed the long handled shovel from the back of his truck and set about digging the hole.
Jim was about half way done with the ditch and close to two beers further along when he saw the dust cloud rising up from the old access road that led into the field. He glanced at his watch, a beat up plastic digital number that wasn’t fancy but did the job of telling time pretty well. According to it, Jim’s appointment was two hours early.
He kept digging as the cloud drew closer, but Jim didn’t stress himself. Another pair of hands had almost arrived after all. After about two or three more bites at the rough dirt with his spade, Jim’s appointment rolled into the field on a pick-up with a slight bend to its axel. The front left corner lifted up and down as it came to a slow stop near the back of Jim’s truck. After it came to a rest in the hot dust and the crackle of the emergency brake split the air, the driver shoved open his door then stepped out.
The man was too fat for pleasant euphemisms and wore a pair of mud splattered overalls that strained against his bulk.
“Ain’t it finished yet?” the overalled man said, punctuating his displeasure with a healthy spit of tobacco juice.
“You’re early,” Jim said, not taking his eye off the widening pit or his shovel. “Cooler of beers in the back there.” Jim jerked his head in the direction of the cheap plastic container.
“You’re welcome to one if you like,” he said, “Might take me another hour or two to finish here. ‘Course there’s another shovel back there if you’re in a hurry.”
The heavy man waddled over to the edge of the pick-up bed and peered over.
“Reckon I’ll have a beer first then help you with the pit.”
Jim just nodded and wiped the sweat off his brow before turning back to the work.
An hour later the fat man and Jim had made a decent pit. Six feet deep as is standard.
“Help me out with him,” the fat man said, “Starting to turn in this heat.”
They swatted at the flies, thick as quarters they were, that swarmed around the burden sitting heavy in the back of the fat man’s truck.
“Where’d you find this one?” Jim asked.
“Down near the river,” the fat man said as he and Jim grabbed the dingy cloth that wrapped the bundle and slid it across the rusty truck bed.
The two men grabbed each end of the load and crab-walked it over to the lip of the pit they’d dug. On a three count they pitched it into the depths. Some of the canvas tarp came loose, exposing a patch of dark skin here, blood-matted hair there. The fat man spat a final disgrace on the bundle as it sank into the cool sandy clay at the bottom of the hole. The thick glob of nicotine laced phlegm splattered against the shroud.
The fat man in the overalls patted Jim on the back before returning to his rusty vehicle. As his client drove away down the dusty road, Jim went to his cooler to get the last beer. He stood there as he drank it, looking down into another unfortunate ending to a day’s work. When he was finished, he chucked the crumpled can into the pit and slowly set about filling it in once more.