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With “Honkytonk Woman” playing on the jukebox, she was in a better mood than usual. Living a rough life like Lenay’s could turn a person sour. Her boyfriend reckoned she could use some special treatment now and then, so their agreeing on dinner at Millie’s Bar and Grill pleased her. The lights dimmed early and peanut shells littered the scuffed wood flooring, but she didn’t mind.

Hearing her kind of music seemed to make their choice the right one. Cheap-ass Raleigh even springing for the bill surprised her.

Millie made a tasty bowl of clam chowder, even if Lenay’s meal ended with having to see an old lady at the next table use a strategically-placed index fingernail to dig a last morsel from her cavernous back molar to savor it. Maybe missing that final bit of food would ruin the woman’s dining experience, but seeing the act added little but disgust to a fellow diner’s appetite.

Lenay’s soup roiled in her stomach. She wouldn’t be pejorative of another customer, though, especially some elderly stranger. No matter how disgusting the person’s actions seemed to her. She’d witnessed plenty of poor manners, including those of her brothers and boyfriend. Denture digging paled in comparison to snot rockets.

Raleigh, watching the woman use her crude toothpick, couldn’t help but comment. At his jaw’s first movement to speak, Lenay grabbed his wrist to stop him. “Just ignore it, Raleigh. Please don’t say anything.” Him being his usual ruffian self, he stayed true to form with an insult.

First, he rubbed a hand across two days’ scruff clustered on his chin and neck, then pushed back from the table. Rubberless feet of the chair legs scraped loudly across the floor and produced a screech that drowned all background noise and brought everyone’s attention. “You know that’s nasty, right?” All heads turned to see where the question was pointed.

He eyeballed the offending party and asked her, “Are you saving it for later? This joint might be a shit hole, but you don’t have to act like a pig in it.”

The septuagenarian stared at him blankly, his rude comment lost on her. She plunked her drink glass on the Formica tabletop with a flat thud, sucked on a final dollop between her teeth, and responded, “Huh?”

Lenay’s face burned as crimson as the tin Coca-Cola ad on the wall. She simply wanted a quiet night out, an open-faced beef sandwich and some good tunes being all it took to please her. Maybe a little Game Show Network when they got home. She didn’t ask for much.

A minute’s awkward silence filled the room before Raleigh finally stood. He audibly cleared his throat, hacked up a wad of phlegm, and spat it onto the floor beside him. “Come on, hon. Let’s get out of here.”

Lenay sheepishly followed him out the door.

(photo: Jill E. via Flickr)

“Our Write Side” writing prompt – pejorative

http://ourwriteside.com/that-wasnt-very-nice/

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Hindsight

Pabst

Somebody warned me to watch out for that guy. Said he was no good, had done some time before. Then another girl who went to high school with Trevor said she heard he got off from those charges, but neither one told what he supposedly did in the first place. His smile made me want to believe it was nothing.

He looked like a decent enough guy, kinda cute in a baggy sweater and clean blue jeans with no holes. Almost looked sorta preppy for a burner kind of dude. That short, spiky blonde hair with sleepy blue eyes that peered up from the pool table really got me. Looks can be deceiving, though.

“That one’s starin’ at you, girl.” My friend brought it to my attention. I set my mug down on the bar top and glanced to where she threw her head to point.

The group shooting pool shoulda been a warning in itself. None of them had a job and probably had to scrape together the dollar it cost to play their game. His partner might have even just got out of jail himself.

After we talked awhile, he asked if I wanted to take a little ride. I don’t know why I went out there. Shoulda known better. Maybe it was simple boredom.

“You and your friends oughta watch out who you talk to at that place,” he warned as we pulled out of the parking lot. The shiny white teeth that showed when he grinned surprised the hell outta me considering the string of chew he spit out the window.

“Like you?” I asked. Shrugging his shoulders, he tried to wink at me but just looked goofy instead of cute. He turned his attention to the steering wheel and swerved back into the right lane. Maybe we both had more to drink than I realized.

He said, “So, Candy, what’s a pretty little thing like you doin’ at a dive like The Bottoms Up bar?”

“It’s Brandy,” I corrected him. That was the second time he got my name wrong after I’d already told him once inside and again when we walked to his truck.

“Yeah, right. Like brandy the drink, not Candy the … cane. You know, at Christmastime.” He laughed a little and scrunched his face up weird, maybe trying to be sexy but failing miserably. I just nodded and watched the headlights stake out the route in front of us.

We passed the east side city limits sign en route to his little country house. A turn onto gravel and then several lefts and rights followed before we finally arrived. I didn’t remember having been that far out in the boonies before.

I looked toward the horizon when we got there and parked in the driveway, trying to get a sense of the direction back to town and hoping not to need to know. A rickety step gave under our weight as we stepped onto the porch, and the screen door creaked so loud I thought it might fall off the hinges as he opened it.

“It ain’t much, but it’s mine,” Trevor said. He crossed the threshold into a dimly lit living room with dirty hardwood floors. Scuff marks made me think a Great Dane or similar monstrosity might charge out of a backroom. “Make yourself at home.”

He got me a PBR and about drank his own in one swallow after we sat down on a sagging couch. The tweed fabric scratched the back of my legs as he wrapped his arms around my shoulders to pull me toward him. I noticed lines of chewing tobacco between the straight, white teeth of the mouth moving forward to engulf my own. After a long, saliva-filled kiss that I hoped was clear instead of Copenhagen brown, he got up and half-stumbled backward toward a hallway.

“Gotta take a piss,” he said. “Be right back.” He tried the pathetic wink again. I hate when people do that. Reminds me of Uncle Thurman who wore plaid pants and sold used cars at a lot over in Summitville when I was a kid.

Considering my bad choices that evening, I figured lots worse could happen besides a slobber-crusted kiss. After a swallow of beer to wash away tobacco taste lingering in my mouth, I opened the door as carefully as possible to not give myself away as I slipped into the darkness. Damp grass soaked my Keds when I sprinted across the yard and onto the lane. A half moon overhead spilled just enough light to show me the way.

I heard that door creak open and Travis holler behind me, “Hey, Candy! Where’d ya go?” Not daring to look back, I trudged on down the road with gravel crunching under my wet shoes.

Cutting across farmers’ fields to shortcut meant risking an electric fence in the pitch-black path or meeting a guard dog along the way, so I resigned myself to the road. I’d get back to town eventually if I just followed the telephone lines. It would just take a long damn time.

Hoping I was far enough away to not be heard, I mumbled, “How the hell do I get myself into this stuff? I need to find some other shit to do.”

If I didn’t laugh, I woulda cried. Maybe I’d get home by the time the sun came up.

***

Two Word Tuesday prompt at Our Write Side – boredom

Image: Brian Wilkins via Flickr

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On a Mission

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via Joseph on Flickr

The clash of pool balls smacking together greeted Eve as she opened the heavy door. She knew which direction to go when she heard the familiar sound. The room was dim with the limited illumination from glass-hooded lights above the tables, so it was hard to see through the thick haze of cigarette smoke that hovered all the way up to the ceiling. Eve stood just over four feet tall, short for her 12 years, so the gray cloud lingered right above her hairline. Bud Light placards and Nascar signs lined the dingy walls adorned with deer head trophies there so long the hair looked mangy and antlers colorless and whittled away with age.

She stomped slush off her feet and scanned the room for the man she searched for so many times before. Eve hoped to spot him from just inside the door so she’d escape before she had to talk to any of the smelly old men further within this pit they made their sanctum. Familiar grizzled faces at the bar turned to see who’d entered, but none were any more welcoming than her dad’s would have been. J.T. was nowhere to be seen, so she resigned herself to approach Rick where he stood behind the bar serving cheap drafts to the regulars.

Passing Mr. Clemons on the way meant she must tolerate having her shaggy brown hair tousled by his thin, knuckly fingers. He stopped his game, squinted in her direction, and inquired, “S’at you, Evey? You is growin’ like a weed, girl!” Old Clem, as they called him, feigned swinging the pool cue at her rear end, but he was harmless enough. It was better to have Clem tease her than some of the other greasy geezers there.

As she got closer to Rick, she sensed his displeasure at her being back inside his establishment. He shook his head exaggeratedly and chomped on a cigar in the corner of his mouth as he wiped down the stained Formica top of the bar. Eve looked between the two slumped figures permanently affixed to bar stools in front of Rick, and stopped short of climbing onto the seat in between them. It was obvious neither one was J.T., and she was here for only one reason … to find her dad.

Eve knew the phone number of every bar in town and had dialed them all numerous times in the past before her grandma forbid her from doing so. Granny had gushed, “How does it look for a young lady to be calling all the taverns huntin’ down her daddy?” Now Eve just waited until she fell asleep before taking off on foot.

The State granted her grandmother guardianship when J.T. disappeared for one day too many and Eve overslept and missed the school bus. The principal’s office threatened to call Child Protective Services if Eve’s education was neglected any further, so she wound up living with Granny and being well taken care of, if not a little too much so.

Rick, whose stern eyes lurked below one long eyebrow stamped across his forehead, intimidated Eve. He stood menacingly by the beer taps, a green pine tree air freshener hanging from the ceiling behind his head. It didn’t help much, though, as the foul air in the bar still reeked of stale booze that had longed soaked into the wooden floors and used to make Eve feel like she could vomit. She grew used to the smell from many long afternoons spent spinning on the red stool tops while her father inflicted his “gift of gab” on fellow bar flies. Their days together ended when Rick bought the bar and prohibited children from coming in any more. A bar was no place for kids as far as he was concerned.

But her purpose was serious enough to allay any fear of Rick and make her stand up to him. The man scowled at her and said, “Eve, why’d you walk all the way down here in the cold? J.T. ain’t been in today.”

The waifish girl peered down at the water puddling on the floor, snow melting off her old scuffed shoes and culminating in a wide pool. It seemed she asked her laces more than she addressed Rick in asking, “Not at all?” She was obviously disappointed, as this was the last bar in all three in town where he could park his ass and beg some credit.

Her dad hadn’t been to Granny’s since before school let out for Thanksgiving, so she wasn’t able to give him her Christmas wish list yet. She was old enough to know Santa Clause only existed in the minds of little kids, but she got presents from her grandmother and sometimes even a cheap little something or other from her dad as well. He might be a no-account, but J.T. was sentimental around the holidays and usually good for an inexpensive trinket from the Dollar Store.

A loud burst of beer-soaked laughter erupted from the pool table behind her, and Eve jumped at the sound. She turned to see Clem’s opponent take some crumpled bills from the edge of the green felt with one hand and clap the aged man on his back with the other. Mr. Clemons seemed none too pleased to lose the game and grimaced at the man’s touch.

It seemed no one was having any luck at Rick’s.

Eve pulled a folded note from her coat pocket, surmising its delivery was as likely here as anywhere else, and tossed it meekly onto the bar. She queried, “Would you give him this when you see him?” The bartender nodded hesitantly and replied, “Sure thing, kid.”

Clem put aside his own grumblings to pat the back of Eve’s head a last time as she slowly passed on the way back outside, her gaze still downcast. Rick waited until the child was gone before opening the paper to help him decide whether he should have one of the boys go hunt up that no-good daddy of hers. Bad credit or not, J.T. was the girl’s father.

There were two stark lines scrawled on the page, “Granny is sick. Please come home.”

*This post was prompted by pine at Studio 30+s30p

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