Hard Times Require Beer (and a Favorite Uncle. Oh, and a Porterhouse)

Elliott’s favorite place is on his aunt and uncle’s back porch leaning against the house in an old kitchen chair with his feet up on the railing. Summertime finds him with an iced tea or a beer. Winter is a hot mug of coffee, or at Christmas, with his aunt’s holiday hot toddy. Elliott could sit like this all day watching the world drift downstream along the fork of the river at the edge of the property.

But on this summer’s day Elliott was leaned forward, elbows on his knees. He slowly peeled the label off of a bottle of beer, wadding up the remnants between his fingers and then poking them down the bottle’s neck. He thoughtfully placed the bottle with the other empties, then reached for another in the cooler under the chair. He took a long draw off of it before going to work removing its label.

“Hard times are easy to find, aren’t they?” Elliott’s uncle’s voice came from just behind the screened door.   

Elliott reached into the cooler and offered his uncle one. The man took the beer and sat on the stairs on the edge of the porch, looking back at his nephew.

“You need to get a new No Trespassing sign,” Elliott said, pointing out toward the river.

His uncle glanced out across the property and shrugged. “Folks can pretty much guess what it says.”

“It’s not like a new sign’s ‘gonna set you back.”

“Don’t see the need, son. But thanks for your concern.”

Elliott finished his beer, jammed to the bits of label down the bottle, set it down with the empties, pulled out another one and got to working on that label.

“Look, kid, it’s a bum deal, but a case of beer isn’t going to make you anything but a drunk, sad-sack S-O-B, more than you already are.”

“Yeah? Well, could be worse,” Elliott grumbled. “Could be out with my guys making a night of it. Been a while since we were out looking to score.”

“OK. I’ll give you that,” his uncle conceded.

Elliott stopped fiddling with the bottle and looked up at his uncle. “Look, I’m a grown man, I know life’s not about scoring, and it’s not always going to turn out to be like some huge winning lottery ticket. I just wish,” he shook his head. “Whatever. Forget it.”

“No, I get it,” his uncle replied. “And don’t go mistaking my big mouth for God’s only truth. I just been around the block a few times more, is all.”

“I appreciate you bein’ here for me.” Elliott smiled as he took a moment to focus his thoughts. “I mean, if we’re talkin’ truths here, me and her? We were chalk and cheese. Take this place,” Elliott leaned his chair back into his customary position, “I love it here!” He sighed as he opened his arms wide. “How can you not love every bit of this?”

“I agree, I agree, of course” his uncle said. “But, you only brought her around that one time. She didn’t take to the place?”

“Who knows. I mean, she said it was pretty out here, but, yeah, I guess not. Anytime I suggested we come out here? She’d make a face and then say we should go shopping at the mall, or see a movie, or go out to dinner, or hang out at the casino, or whatever.”

Two gun shots echoed through the valley, setting a flock of startled crows aloft.

“Mick and Geraldine’s got their grandkids for the summer. Teaching them how to shoot,” Elliott’s uncle explained. Elliott nodded.

“So, how ‘bout I take you and Aunt Mary out for a bite?” Elliott said as he gave his uncle a slap on the back. “Your choice!”

Elliott’s uncle smiled. “Oh, well then, I could do with a porterhouse from River Bend Grill. With one of their whiskey sours Mary likes? You’re on!”

———-

I like to accumulate prompts and then have a go (as the Brits say). Mostly, I like to force myself to just “get with the program” and write, something, anything!
The Un-OLWG prompts used are: big door prize; a simple kitchen chair; hard times are easy to find; gut shot; chalk and cheese; while the world drifts downstream; no trespassing; mistake my big talk for truth; who am I kidding; shamelessly speak the truth

The New Blog Propellant Prompt #9

I used to maintain a writing prompt blog called The Blog Propellent. It was a lot of fun and I am enjoying getting back into generating writing prompts.

Write a post: Fiction, poetry, even a true story based on the following prompt. When you are done, include the URL address of this post in your post. Simple! All those who read this will see a link to your post in the comments, and all those who read your post will have a link this one. Why do this? Because it is fun to share!

The prompt:

I found a greeting card series that made me, truly, laugh out loud (as in, heads turned and stared, laughed out loud). It inspired a prompt post!

The cards start with a basic greeting: Happy Birthday to… ; Thank You for… ; Congratulations on…
Under the ellipse are multiple choice checkboxes. And, when I say multiple choice, I mean something in the area of 30-40 choices.

Select at least 3 (or as many as you wish) of the following choices to incorporate into your story that begins, Once upon a time…

  • swarm of bees
  • fresh cadaver
  • act of kindness
  • grasping landlord
  • shady fortune teller
  • unsolicited death threat
  • tolerated ex
  • surrealist poetry
  • deranged manservant
  • rude awakening
  • distant acquaintance
  • molds and fungi
  • enchanting colleague
  • one weakness
  • peculiar friend
  • matching accessories
  • faithful canine
  • gilded lily
  • chef to the stars
  • ancient book collection
  • necromancer


Happy Memorial Day!

PNW Coronavirus Chronicle #7: Do Whatcha Wanna

It’s a long list of back-logged prompts this time, both mine and UnOLWG’s:
I don’t want to; a town with no future; elegant or crude; a white gown; it’s “coo-pon”; are my seams straight?; community pool; cocktails; groovy; kick up your heels; a barroom in New Orleans; every week


Well, I’m fully vaccinated. It is not a fail-safe, I know, but I can’t stop feelin’ groovy, like strutting in a Mardi Gras parade behind a 2nd Line band blasting out “Do Whatcha Wanna”.

Parades aren’t allowed yet, so I instead celebrated with my first trip to the hair salon in 19 months. Kissed those long locks buh-bye and sent them on their way to being a wig for someone in need. The next treat was a meal inside a restaurant. Then, it will be a weekend road trip to see a dear friend and her new home. Every week, it is going to be something I haven’t done in the past 14 months.

I live on the other side of town from where the mass-vaccination site is set up, and I hadn’t been through downtown since the initial shelter-in-place order. At that time, it was every bit like driving through a ghost town. All that was missing was grass growing out of the cracks in sidewalks and trash drifting in the breeze. The shockingly eerie scene ignited the news media’s wild imagination, declaring the pandemic a harbinger of The End of City Life.

But driving through the city this time, regardless the continued restrictions, the downtown looked every bit back to normal. Crowds were out and about, traffic jams stifled every arterial, and lots of large “We’re Open!” signs plastered on storefronts. Though the past year unarguably demonstrates that an alternate universe is doable, people are nevertheless clamoring to get things back the way they were.

Take our condo complex’s pool. Last year we were not allowed to use it. I think it was overkill, but the county health department declared all community pools, public or private, closed. Whatever. Our residents didn’t care. They brought their beers and pitchers of Long Island Ice Tea to the patio to enjoy some appropriately distanced company in the summer’s sun. Hey, all it said was that the pool was closed. It didn’t say anything about sitting on the patio. An elegant solution to an absurd situation, if you ask me.

While the pandemic continues to lord over us, I expect we’ll continue to evaluate the pros and cons of conducting our lives “in-person” vs. “distanced”. At work, we occasionally discuss (in-person more and more these days) what “hybrid” presentations would look like for our programs. It’s funny to have to classify events, or give them terms. Imagine having to categorize a common event as, say, a wedding, as “in-person” or “hybrid” or “virtual”. It makes the assumption that events are always “in-person” feel strangely old-fashioned, like silk stockings with back seams.

Anyway, I don’t want to keep waxing philosophic. Suffice it to say that I will keep it smart and respect that the COVID-19 don’t care what any of us wants. I will, however, continue to climb out of the shell of 2020 to do whatever things we can get away with doing. Don’t need no coupons to incentivize me!

The New Blog Propellant Prompt #8

I used to maintain a writing prompt blog called The Blog Propellent. It was a lot of fun and these days, fun is what we need to keep going until the day we are all vaccinated!

Write a post: Fiction, poetry, even a true story based on the following prompt. When you are done, include the URL address of this post in your post. Simple! All those who read this post will have a link to your post, and all those who read your post will have a link this one. More readers = more followers (so they say). Regardless, it is fun to share.

This week’s prompt:

In your WordPress Reader, have you noticed at the top they post three suggested topics to explore? The suggestions are usually a weird combination, but always entertaining.

My suggestions today are: CocktailsCommunity PoolGroovy. Write a post inspired by these suggestions. I left in the links just in case you want to explore blog posts on those topics.


Happy May Day!

The Old Man and the Enchantress

As Alice stood at the kitchen sink filling a glass of water, she looked out the window to see her husband Ed dozing in the chaise lounge in the yard; his “picnic recliner,” as he liked to call it.  The spring sun was high and warm, thoroughly melting away the spring morning frost.  Alice smiled wryly to herself. Ed’s nap was going to last only as long as she let him think she hadn’t caught him goofing off again.

Cutting the arcadian scene came an explosion of cawing and flapping wing chaos.

“LITTLE!” Ed yelled as he sat up, “I swear to God! You damn bird!”

He ran to the coop in a fury. Alice’s wry smile changed to a giggle as she watched the drama unfold. She opened the kitchen window and called out. “Ed! Those two chickens at it again?”

In a casual trot from the direction of the coop came a small hen and her partner-in-crime rooster. Alice walked out to the yard and headed toward the birds.

“You GIT! SHOO!” she scolded. The two birds stood stock still and then began pecking at the ground, as if they were just out for an pleasant afternoon walk, minding their own business.

“I said, SHOO!” Alice scolded again, this time charging the birds. They fluttered a bit. The rooster took a short flight , but the hen stood her ground, head cocked to one side.

Ed strode across the yard with another bird in his arms. “What is it with those two? I swear to God! Look what they did this time.” Ed held out the bird in his arms. It had blood oozing from its breast. Alice and Ed looked at the rooster and the hen. The pair of them had settled onto Ed’s chaise lounge, as if they found themselves a new, comfy nest.

“Damn birds,” Ed grumbled.

***

Pretty sure this goes under the column of “Feel free to seize the prompts, twist them, form them, play with them as you will“, and is inspired by characters I find so fun: A Golden Comet

Tears of a Clown

Daniel drove the DeSoto with its broken headlamp lid onto the fairgrounds toward the rodeo stadium as the young man at the gate instructed. The slow roll across the grounds of all the other devoted owners of classic cars who could no longer keep their precious automobiles looked every bit the funeral procession. Daniel let his observation linger, allowing time to take it in, rather than tossing it off.

That night, three months ago, lost in the country after the fight with Susan, Daniel sat for a long time in the DeSoto. The hum of cicadas filled his ears and the occasional firefly dancing by caught his attention. Other than turning the car around and heading back the way he came, he hadn’t a clue what to do next. In those still, dark minutes he finally calmed down long enough to realize everything he’d ever wanted, everything he’d frantically pursued, even everything he achieved amounted to only desperate, foolish clap trap.

“You watch all that mopin’,” Daniel remembered his grandmother saying, “or you’ll burn down the house with all that moonin’ about.” She did not tolerate whining or complaint. “Rise above it!” she would holler. “I’ll have none of your sad-sack today, mister.”

A tough, angry woman, but Daniel and his siblings owed their grandmother their lives. So Daniel looked forward, never lingering a moment too long on the negative, just like his grandmother insisted. Or, at least, that is what he thought she wanted. Daniel had been running from his grandmother’s disdain his whole life, only to find himself exactly nowhere in the middle of nothing. It was not Susan’s fault he lost his temper. That night was a long time coming.  

So, here he was, at the auto show, ready to start again, but this time without pretense.  He had quit his job as a sales director and took a couple of part-time jobs washing dishes at night and delivering various products and supplies during the day. He sublet his place to a friend and moved into a hostel for traveling businessmen to save on expenses. Now it was time to unload the final burden of his past. The DeSoto was an expensive toy; a misguided attempt at showing the world he was the positive person, the fun-loving guy, the can-do cheerful chap. Today, if he were lucky, he’d get a good deal on the car, which would be enough to pay for the first quarter of architecture courses offered at City College.

Daniel chuckled to himself when he pictured the frown on his grandmother’s face.

***

This week’s UnOLWG prompts are: Tears in a sandbox; whimpering and complaining; It might burn down your house…and TNKerr’s preamble story about Daniel and his DeSoto.

The Blog Propellant Redux #15

I used to maintain a writing prompt blog called The Blog Propellent. It was a lot of fun and these days, fun is what we need! Every so often, I repost former TBP prompts.

Write a post! Fiction, poetry, even a true story based on the following prompt. When you are done, include the URL address of this post in your post. Simple! All those who read this post will have a link to your post, and all those who read your post will have a link this one. More readers = more followers (so they say). Regardless, it is fun to share. Anytime! Respond now, or come back to this prompt when it suits. “The door is always open.”

The Prompt: This is a re-work of a previous prompt. 1) Write of the most beautiful place you have ever seen, then 2) Place one of your favorite characters in this setting. The character can be one of your own, from another author’s story, or maybe someone you know, and then lastly, 3) Surprise the reader with something unexpected.

***

Happy Easter!

The Brick and Mortar Bar and Grill

The Brick and Mortar Bar and Grill was, at long last, at capacity after the long wait for COVID19 to finally be classified as a seasonal flu. Husband and wife owners Craig and Allie were among the fortunate few restaurateurs in Cedar Falls that managed to stay in business all the while.

Marianne walked into the place a couple of weeks after the all-clear. It was a strange feeling walking in alone. She was very aware of the empty space around her body. She took a moment to let her eyes adjust to the gloom before spotting Craig behind the bar. She made her way to an empty stool and waited for him to see her.

“Holy crap!” Craig finally exclaimed. “Long time, cuz!”

Craig reached an arm over the bar and Marianne rose to meet his familial embrace.

“Can I just say, I’m not used to seeing you behind the bar.”

“Yeah, well,” Craig shrugged. “It’s still gonna take some time, ya know, to rebuild. Don’t have the capital for a full staff yet.”

“Well then, Mr. Barkeep, I’ll have a martini. Vodka. And, don’t forget, I’m a big tipper, so top shelf.” Marianne winked and smiled.

Craig shook his head. “Don’t give me that. You don’t know one shelf from the other, let alone one drink from the other. Just to prove, you want olives or lemon twist?”

Marianne stalled. Her cousin had caught her out. “Olives? I didn’t have lunch. But, do you have green? I hate black olives.”

Craig laughed. “Right-o. Green olives it is.”

He mixed Marianne’s drink in a shaker, poured it into a large glass, and with a flair for the dramatic, brought out a jar of green olives with pimentos. As Craig handed Marianne her cocktail, Allie walked up to the bar with a full tray of empty glasses and dirty plates.

“I need four of the usual, two shots, and a…”, Allie paused as she pulled out her writing tab from her apron pocket, “A grapefruit vodka, tall, on ice with fuzzy water, whatever that is. For six.”

Craig peered into the restaurant at table six. “Four Buds, two JDs and a tall Greyhound with seltzer,” he repeated.

As Allie cleared her tray in the into the wash bin, Marianne impatiently waited for Allie to see her. “Hey,” Marianne finally said.

Allie looked up.  “Oh! My God! Mary!”

The women hugged, pulled apart to take each other in, and then hugged again.

“Boy, you guys are really back to basics, with Craig running the bar and you waiting tables. Jesus!”

“Oh, you just watch out or I’ll put you to work washing dishes,” Allie replied.

Marianne took a sip of her cocktail and studied Allie as she finished clearing her tray and loading up again with drinks and plates from the kitchen window. The woman looked beat. Craig looked happy, but Marianne could tell her cousin’s smile was forced.

“OK, sure. Why not? I’m game.”

Craig and Allie exchanged looks.

“Seriously, we could use the help,” Craig said.

“Grab me an apron and put me to work.”

*******************************

The three friends sat around the front table nursing their beers. The clock over the bar ticked past 3AM. Oscar the cook waved goodbye from the pass through and everyone bid him a good night.

The last of the guests was asleep with his head on his table in the back. Craig routinely looked at the man and checked his watch.

“Did you call?” Allie asked. Craig nodded. Allie looked at the man, which made Marianne look at him as well.

“Who is he?” Marianne asked.

“He rolled in with the pandemic,” Allie replied. “Nice guy, but definitely a heavy drinker. He’s got a son in the area who we can call if he’s too far gone. He should be here soon.”

The friends turned their attention back to one another.

“I’m just going to say it,” Allie said. “It’s damn weird without Max here.

Marianne smiled to herself and nodded. “It was weird walking in here tonight without him.”

“How you holding up?” Craig asked as he gave Marianne a squeeze on her arm.

Marianne threw back her head and shook it, fighting back the sudden onslaught of tears. She pulled herself back together with an audible sigh.

“Ya know, this is just what I needed. A tough night washing a ton-load of dishes,” Marianne paused. “There was no room in my head for anything but the task at hand.”

“You made Oscar’s night, that’s for sure.”

“How the hell does he manage all that?”

Craig and Allie shook their heads.

“Well, we thank you for pitching in.”

“I told you, I’m a big tipper.”

The three chuckled, then Allie said, “Ya know, we couldn’t pay you much. In fact, we’d only be able to split tips with you, but if you need to get out of the house a couple nights a week…”

Craig looked at his wife a little appalled, but then noticed Marianne seemed to be considering the offer. Just then the bell on the front door rang and a young man stepped in. Craig got up and nodded in the direction of the man in the back.

“Sorry ’bout this Craig. Hi Allie,” the young man said. “In fact, I’ve been meaning to ask ya’ll, next time? Call me right when he gets here. We’re trying to help him get clean.”

Craig nodded and shook the young man’s hand. The friends watched as the young man wrestled his father awake and assist him as he stumbled out of the restaurant into the dusk of early morning light.

The New Blog Propellant Prompt #7

I used to maintain a writing prompt blog called The Blog Propellent. It was a lot of fun and these days, fun is what we need to keep going until the day we are all vaccinated! I have re-posted several prompts from TBP, but I enjoy coming up with new ones.

Write a post: Fiction, poetry, even a true story based on the following prompt. When you are done, include the URL address of this post in your post. Simple! All those who read this post will have a link to your post, and all those who read your post will have a link this one. More readers = more followers (so they say). Regardless, it is fun to share.

This week’s prompt:

Let’s speculate, shall we? Two beings with intersected consciousness.

This prompt has particular request: Because this is a prompt about speculation, try avoiding a story about a married couple, lovers, ex-lovers, friendship, or familial relations, etc. Need some ideas? Explore mythology as a place to start. Ask yourself, are they the same entity, or not? Is this a new discovery, or are they falling apart? Did they come by this state naturally, or was it imposed? Is their connection liked, or disliked? Is it threatening their status quo, or is it a dream beyond their known universe?


Happy St. Pat’s!