Sir Donald and the hobo.

At a writing workshop the other night we were asked to write a fairy tale that started with “once upon a time;” included a secret and a betrayal; and ended with either “they lived happily ever after” or “things only got worse from there.”

All in seven minutes.

Here’s my attempt:

Once upon a time there was a hobo who lived in an abandoned caboose parked next to the castle moat.

No one knew how long the hobo had lived in the caboose or how long the caboose had been parked beside the moat but generations of kings swore they had learned the secrets of the kingdom at the hobo’s knee.

One day the hobo was walking beside the moat, trailing a fishing pole into the water hoping to catch his dinner, when a knight drew alongside of him on a horse.

“You there. Is this King Carleton’s castle?”

The hobo pulled his line from the moat and examined his hook. “It is.”

“Run inside and tell the King that Sir Donald has arrived to woo his daughter.”

The hobo stood his ground.

“Move.” Sir Donald nudged the hobo with his foot.

“I can’t go inside the castle walls. If I do, the spell will be broken.”

The knight dismounted. “What spell?”

The hobo shook his head. “If I tell you, the spell will be broken.”

Sir Donald drew his sword. “And what happens to the spell if I kill you?”

“If you kill me, the spell will be broken.”

The knight stabbed him through the heart and the hobo slowly bled to death at Sir Donald’s feet.

Things just got worse from there.

Daniel and the Food Court Santa

“You’re very annoying,” Daniel thought as he walked past the Santa standing in the middle of the food court.

Daniel didn’t normally think bad things about people. He tended to be nice, even inwardly. But this Santa was particularly irritating.

First, his suit was green. Who had ever heard of a green Santa? Daniel thought he look more like the jolly green giant than a jolly old elf.

And his bell was huge. No jingle bells or hand bells for this guy. What he rang was a replica of the Liberty Bell and almost as large.

So Daniel allowed himself to be negative about the food court Santa. Every day, as he walked by to go the restroom he thought, “You’re very annoying.”

Today the Santa stopped ringing the bell as Daniel passed.

“What did you say?” Santa pointed at Daniel with his giant bell.

“Huh?” Daniel couldn’t imagine why Santa was calling him out. Had he spoken out loud?

“You just called me annoying.”

A little girl was putting her dollar bill in Santa’s kettle. She stopped and stared at Daniel, mouth open.

Daniel backed away from Santa and his bell. “No, I didn’t… I mean, I didn’t mean to…

Santa stepped towards him. “So you did call me annoying.

The little girl yelled out, “Santa’s going to beat him up!” Her mother scurried over and ushered the girl away.

Daniel’s eyes darted around, desperately searching for mall security. Certainly they would stop Santa from attacking him.

The Santa poked a finger at Daniel’s Payless name tag, making it jab into his chest. “What’s your problem? You one of those atheists or something?”

Santa said atheist with a short a. The mispronunciation made Daniel giggle.

Santa poked him again. “Now you’re laughing at me!”

Daniel couldn’t stop. He was being assaulted by a green Santa in the middle of the food court, and he was unable to contain his laughter.

Santa swung his bell around, aiming for Daniel’s head.

Daniel did what came naturally. He fell to the filthy floor and curled up in a ball.

“What the hell?” Santa peered down at him. “What are you doing?”

Children and their parents began gathering around the pair. A little boy nudged Daniel’s shoe with the toe of his sneaker. “Did Santa hit you?”

The circle erupted into chatter. “Santa hit that man.” “Mommy, does Santa hit people?” “I don’t like the mean Santa.” “I want to go home!”

The green Santa backed towards his kettle, ringing his bell.
“Ho, ho,ho.” He called out. “Merry Christmas, boys and girls! Santa has to head back to the North Pole. Be good! Ho, ho , ho!”

Daniel watched from the floor as Santa grabbed his kettle and ran for the door.

The little boy leaned over and peeled a straw wrapper off Daniel’s cheek. His breath smelled like peanut brittle. “The mean Santa’s gone. You can get up now, Mister.”

Daniel sat up and the crowd disbursed. The dollar girl pulled her mother over to him. “I think you’re on the naughty list,” she whispered.

Herther’s face turned red. “Leave the man alone, Cynthia.”

Daniel smiled at the girl. He stood and brushed off his khakis. “Will you ask him to take me off it? I’m really a very nice person.”

Cynthia chewed on her lip. She pointed to Daniel’s name tag. “Is that your name?”

He glanced down. “Yep. Daniel.”

She nodded. “I’ll write him when I get home.”

A Pink Cadillac and a Silver Airstream

Mary Ellen honked her car horn again and tried to swerve around the shiny silver Airstream.

The trailer crept along on the center line, blocking both lanes of the interstate. Swearing, Mary Ellen swung back into the lane and resigned herself to being late.

Her resolve lasted only a few miles. “Get the hell out of the way.” She gripped the steering wheel tighter and pulled up as close to the back of the camper as she dared. She honked again.

The face of an old man with jet black hair appeared in the window. He flipped her off and disappeared.

Mary Ellen let up on the gas and eased away from the back of the Airstream. Something about the man seemed so familiar. Did she know him?

She followed the trailer, a long line of cars behind them full of swearing drivers. Ignoring the honking in back of her, she pulled closer again, hoping for another glimpse of the old man.

Fifteen minutes later, he appeared again. This time eating a sandwich. He sneered at her through a mouthful of bread and let the curtain drop back in place.

Suddenly she knew why he looked so familiar. “He looks like Elvis Presley,” she muttered.

She honked her car horn again, trying to tempt him back, but the old man stayed hidden inside the Airstream.

As they passed a sign for a rest area, the trailer’s turn signal blinked. They were stopping.

Without thinking, Mary Ellen followed them off the interstate. The line of cars flew past them as they exited, drivers yelling at the trailer through open windows as the sped away.

The Airstream was being pulled by a pink Cadillac convertible, the top down. The car had been hidden from Mary Ellen’s view by the silver bullet it was towing until it pulled into a parking space, but she wasn’t surprised when she saw it.

She parked a couple of spaces away and waited for the driver and the old man to get out.

The Cadillac’s door opened. A stunning brunette climbed out and stretched.

The woman opened the door of the Airstream and stuck her head inside. A few minutes later she shut the door and headed towards the restrooms.

Mary Ellen grabbed her purse from the back seat of her Prius and followed the driver.

The girl, she couldn’t have been more than 19 or 20, stood at the mirror brushing her bangs across her forehead with her fingers. Mary Ellen smiled at her. “Cars are murder on the hair, aren’t they?” She took a brush out of her purse and pulled it through her ponytail.

The girl grinned back. “That old car I’m driving doesn’t have air conditioning. It’s either drive with the top down or die of the heat.”
Mary Ellen turned to the girl. “Are you driving that old Cadillac? That’s quite a car.”

“It’s my boyfriend’s. I keep telling him he should buy a new one, a hybrid or something, but he loves that old pink thing.”

“I’m Mary Ellen.” She held out her hand.

“Annie.” The girl shook her hand.

“Is your boyfriend traveling with you?”

Annie laughed. “Well, sort of. He’s in the camper. Says the car is too claustrophobic. Besides, he’s a musician so he sits back there and writes music or plays his guitar or whatever while I drive.”

Mary Ellen turned her gaze back to the mirror, trying to act casual. “Where are you heading?”

“Memphis. My boyfriend has a place down there.” Annie washed her hands. “It was nice meeting you,” she called over the hand dryer.

“Wait!” Mary Ellen ran to catch up to Annie. “I have to ask. Is your boyfriend Elvis?”

Annie looked confused. “Elvis?”

“You know, Elvis Presley. I know it sounds kind of silly, since Elvis is dead, but I thought I saw someone in the back window and he looked, well, like Elvis.” Mary Ellen trailed off, sounding crazy even to her own ears.

Annie leaned close to her and grabbed her arm. “You can’t tell anyone, ok? He doesn’t want people to know he’s still alive.” When Mary Ellen didn’t answer, Annie dug her fingers into her arm tighter. “Promise you won’t tell!”

She nodded. “No, I won’t say anything. I promise.”

Annie let go of her arm and hurried back to her car.

As the Cadillac flew out of the parking lot, the Airstream careening behind, she could hear Annie laughing wildly.

A young man appeared in the back window. His ran hand through his jet black hair, and flipped her off with a sneer.

Permisson.

He stood on his porch, hands in his pockets, watching his neighbors come and go. He waved and smiled at them while, inside, his wife muttered about her bread not rising properly and needing time to do her hair before the reunion.

She was like this every year. Nervous about making a good impression. Nervous about seeing her high school sweetheart again.

This was the sweetheart that got away, not only from her, but from the town, the state. The sweetheart that made something of himself and returned in triumph for an idyllic retirement with his lovely wife. The wife that passed away last January.

He studied his flower beds. The marigolds needed weeding. He wondered who was pitching in the game that afternoon.

He removed his hands from his pocket and went back inside.

“I’m not going.”

His wife turned from the oven, her face red and sweaty. “What?”

“To the reunion. You should go alone.”

She closed the oven door and started wiping flour off the counter with a sponge. “Of course you’re coming. Don’t be stupid.”

“I want you to go alone. Have a good time. Spend the night if you’d like. Then come home to me.” He paused until she stopped cleaning and looked at him. “Be sure to tell Jim I say hello.”

Their eyes locked.

“You mean…”

“Have fun and then come home to me.”

She ran her hand through her gray hair, making her bangs stand up straight. She nodded, once, before turning back to the counter.

He left in search of his gardening gloves and trowel.

A little fiction.

I attended a prompt workshop tonight. We wrote from two prompts and the first became a scene in my novel so I’m not going to share it.

But the second prompt (“I brought you flowers”) ended up being a little scene or flash fiction type piece so here it is.

Let me know what you think!

==

“I brought you flowers.”

The young man held the bouquet out in front of him. The daisies still had roots.

She took them carefully, trying not to spill dirt on her cream wool carpet, and hurried into the kitchen.

“Please take off your shoes.” She called as she dumped the daisies in the sink.

She glanced around. She didn’t want to put all that dirt into one of her crystal vases, but didn’t want to keep him waiting while she trimmed off the roots either.

A thump came from the living room. “Are you ok?”

“um… yeah…. I just… my shoe… everything’s ok.”

She decided to leave the flowers where they were.

When she returned to the living room, the young man was straightening her almost original Monet.

“I just hit it when I was taking off my shoe. Sorry.”

She beckoned him to join her on the couch, to leave the picture alone and unharmed.

He padded over. His sock had a hole in the heel and she had a sudden, maternal urge to darn it for him. She had never even darned a sock.

He perched next to her, his leg bouncing up and down, his eyes jumping around the room.

“So what brings you to the city?”

His eyes went to her face. “This. You.”

“Oh, I thought you were here for…”

“No.”

She touched his knee to still his leg.

He addressed his question to her hand. “Why did you give me up?”

One Thousand Words I Shouldn’t Be Posting

Daniel met Mike in the movie theater restroom after a late night showing of Quarantine.

He was admiring how thoroughly the guy at the next sink was washing his hands when the guy tuned to him and asked, “So, what did you think?”

He reached around Daniel for a paper towel.

Daniel rinsed his hands off under the hot water and grabbed a towel for himself.

“It was ok. I like the Spanish version better though.” He used the paper towel to turn off the faucet.

The guy’s face lit up. “Me too! Not many people saw that one.”

Daniel tossed his paper towel in the trashcan. “I like horror movies.”

“I’m Mike.” His new friend stuck out his hand. Since Daniel knew how clean it was, he accepted the handshake.

“Daniel.”

“A couple of us are going to Denny’s to talk about the movie. Want to come?”

Normally Daniel would have said no. He didn’t like new people and didn’t like talking. But he had been thinking about getting a Moon Over My Hammy anyway and it would be awkward to say no and then turn up at the restaurant. So he was kind of trapped.

In the lobby, Mike introduced him to three other men, all in their early to mid twenties and all wearing jeans and t-shirts. Daniel felt out of place in his khakis and stiff white button down shirt.

“This is Daniel. He’s coming with us.”

Two of the men nodded. The shortest one, sporting a flannel shirt over his Beam Me Up Scotty t-shirt, shrugged.

They walked to the parking lot and the four men piled into Mike’s jeep. “Come on. There’s room for all of us.” Mike gestured to the back seat.

Daniel looked skeptically at the cloth roof and narrow back seat, where the guy in the Scotty t-shirt and the one with t-shirt featuring Jack Nicholson’s face in that famous shot from The Shining already sat.

Daniel hated that image, especially Jack’s teeth.

“I’ll just meet you there.” He hurried across the lot to his Civic and buckled himself safely inside.

He could just go home, he realized as they pulled out of the parking lot. Lose Mike in traffic and never see him or any of them again.

But he knew he’d never be able to sleep with an unsatisfied craving for a Hammy, so he followed the jeep of young men to Denny’s.

He’d just eat and leave, he reasoned. He didn’t even have to talk.

The only booth available only fit four people, so Daniel squished up against the window with “Scotty” and a thin guy with glasses beside him.

His favorite waitress, Lola, distributed menus but she didn’t recognize Daniel until she came back to take their orders.

“Moons over My Hammy without Swiss cheese and an orange juice, please.”

Lola jerked her head up and stared at him. “Daniel?”

Her shock didn’t surprise him. He always came alone to the restaurant, every Sunday morning and whenever he thought Lola might be working. She’d never seen him sitting with other people before.

Daniel felt his face grow hot as the group stared at him. The thin guy pushed his glasses up on his nose.

It probably was surprising to them that Lola, a beautiful redhead with a smile that made his heart pound, knew his name.

“Hi Lola,” he said shyly and handed her his menu.

Lola recovered from her astonishment and took the rest of the table’s order. She looked back at him over her shoulder as she went to get their drinks.

Mike leaned across the table to him. “You know that hot waitress? Dude!” He raised his hand for a high five, which Daniel cautiously returned.

Mike went on to list all they ways he thought Lola was hot and how cool it was that Daniel actually knew her.

Daniel basked in Mike’s approval. By the time Lola returned with his orange juice, a coke, a lemonade and two chocolate shakes, he had the courage to meet her eye, and even smile just a little.

She winked at him as she left, earning him another high five from Mike.

After opening straws and sucking on shakes, Mike and his friends began discussing the film they had just seen, going through it scene by scene.

Scotty even had a notebook, where he had jotted down his thoughts while watching the movie.

When Daniel asked him how he could see to write in the dark theater, Scotty pulled out a pen from the pocket of his flannel shirt.

Scotty pointed it at him and clicked a button on the side. A light glowed from the tip of the pen, temporarily blinding Daniel.

“All the critics have them.” Scotty returned the pen to his pocket and went back to the discussion.

Daniel blinked, listening but not participating in the conversation, even when the red headed guy sitting next to Mike misidentified the actress who had played Mrs. Espinoza and no one corrected him.

Mike scooped the last of his shake out of the tin cup and waved the long spoon at Daniel. “We have a club.”

Lola arrived with their meals and they all paused to watch her shuffle the plates onto the placemats.

After she left, Mike shoved a French fry into his mouth and continued. “A bunch of us get together and talk about horror movies.”

Daniel nodded noncommittally and bit into his sandwich.

The rest of the meal passed quickly, the four men discussing other movies and debating the pros and cons of Zombie Strippers and the upcoming release of Twilight, which Mike called “an abomination.”

“Vampires are not supped to be hot teenagers, even in Washington.”

As they left, Mike called out to Daniel. “You should come to our next club meeting, Dan. It’s Monday night at 8. We meet in the basement of the First Church of Christ.”

Daniel gave him a wave and slid into his driver’s seat, relieved to be alone.

One Thousand Words – Sebastian and Charlene Head to Las Vegas

Sebastian and Charlene left for Las Vegas right after church on Sunday.

He told his congregation that he was taking Charlene on a spiritual retreat, not wanting them to get the wrong idea about their pastor driving off the Vegas with the two hundred pound black woman who worked at the Quiznos across the street.

Charlene had gotten a big kick over their “spiritual retreat” and throughout the three and a half our car ride she had told him Bible jokes from her youth

Sebastian had finally asked her to stop after she told him that you make holy water by boiling the hell out of regular water.

She spent the rest of the trip listening to Miley Cyrus and T-Pain on her iPod.

Sebastian knew what she was listening to because she told him the name of every song when it started and sang along with all the lyrics.

His heart started pounding a little faster as he exited the interstate and hit South Las Vegas Boulevard.

Charlene pulled her earbuds out of her ears as he pulled into the Bellagio.

“I thought we were going to check in at the hotel before gambling.” She looked warily at the valet who was attempting to open her door.

“We are.”

“Well we’re not staying here.” She crossed her arms and rested them on her chest. Sebastian had noticed that Charlene crossed her arms a lot, especially when she was being stubborn.

“I always stay at the Bellagio.”

“Listen Pastor, I’m sure this is a very nice place and all, but I when I agreed to pay for the gas and hotel for this trip, I didn’t know you drove a big ole, gas guzzling boat and or that you wanted to stay at the Ritz. I can’t afford it.”

Sebastian resented her calling his car a boat. The 1962 powder blue Cadillac Eldorado was big, he supposed, but it was the only thing he had ever bought with his poker winnings. So maybe it only got twelve miles to the gallon, he still loved it.

Sebastian smiled apologetically at the valet and shut his car door. “So where do you propose we stay?” he asked as he started the car.

“Just drive. I’ll tell you when I see one that looks good.”

They drove down The Strip until Charlene saw a Travelodge. “That one has a free continental breakfast. Pull in there!”

Sebastian made a u-turn and pulled in to the Travelodge’s parking lot. The gold and blue building was the ugliest thing he had ever seen.

Charlene ran into the office to register while he sat in the car. She returned waving a key.

“This place is nice. And it was only $29 a night. Pull around. Our room in is the back.”

Sebastian was halfway around the building when he realized that she had said room. Singular. And she only had one key in her hand.

“You did get us each a room, right?” He was afraid to hear the answer.

“Of course I didn’t. Why would I waste the money on another room when this one has two beds?”

Sebastian thought about the mountain of luggage in his trunk, all Charlene’s and wondered if there would be space for him in the room.

Once they had brought all the luggage in, argued about who got which drawers and how many hangers they would each use, Charlene announced she needed a few minutes to “get spruced up” before they went out to win her fortune.

Over the sounds of the shower, Sebastian could hear her singing that she couldn’t wait to “see him again.” He prayed that she wasn’t talking about him.

He lay down on the bed and stared at the popcorn ceiling.

Sebastian hadn’t been in Vegas since he had walked away from the table at the World Series of Poker. Part of him was worried he would be tempted to return to playing professionally, and part of him was afraid he’d run into an old friend or opponent and would be forced to explain why he had left so suddenly.

It wasn’t that he was ashamed of God and his church. He just didn’t think his old cronies would understand.

Charlene emerged from the bathroom in a cloud of perfume and hairspray. She had traded in her red tracksuit for a tight black skirt and a glittery bustier, which pushed her considerable breast up almost to her chin.

All he could manage was “wow.”

Charlene did a little spin and winked at him. “I know, right? Aren’t you going to change?”

Sebastian looked down at his jeans. You couldn’t even see where he had spilled coffee on his crotch during the drive. Why would he change? “Nah. I’m ready.”

It took Charlene another fifteen minutes to rifle through her luggage and find the perfect purse. Then she said she was ready too.

“Where are we going first?” she asked as she settled back into his Cadillac.

Sebastian hadn’t given much thought to the itinerary. He had been too busy worrying about being back on The Strip.

He mind ran through the casinos and where he might be the least likely to run into someone he knew.

“The Fitzgerald.”

“I’ve never heard of that one.”

“It’s a little further up on The Strip, but it has nice tables. It’s a good place to start.”

In fact, Sebastian never had much luck at The Fitzgerald. No one did. So the only people there would be tourists.

Charlene gazed out the window as they drove up the street. “You used to spend a lot of time here, huh?”

Sebastian nodded.

“Do you miss it?”

He knew what he should say. That God was more powerful than cards, that he was on the right path. But, Lord help him, he did miss it. He missed it with a passion.

He loved the ministry and his congregation, but the church had never given him the same rush he felt winning a tournament.