Monday, September 19, 2011

Match game at the Lucky Strike.

It's not like I haven't been thinking about these ladies lately.

I've actually done a bit of thinking about why I haven't done an update for over a week.

I think it stems from some kind of interpersonal rebellion. I don't really have to do this; it's a complete elective. I can do whatever I want with the blog. That's what I love about it.

But then I remember how nice it felt; the undistracted sense of space I created during the Free Time and Cents and Sensibility projects, and the residual dusting of calm that followed each. 

Like writing every day, I've missed that easy, disciplined sense of calm I'd created.

I don't have long until summer is officially over. And there was a time, not very long ago, that I wrote every single day. These gals are frightfully close to the coast, which is their destination, although I have no idea what will happen when they get there.

Maybe the not knowing is what's keeping me away from creating a conclusion.

Maisie dug through her ample D Cups until she found the collection of bills. Stella was shocked and a bit overwhelmed, not only by having been cornered into a bowling alley bathroom by ex-Carrie Wilder's malevolent ex-husband, but for the sheer volume of money Maisie was producing from her bosom.

"Maisie," Stella said, with a somewhat judgmental, skeptical tone. "That's one hell of a lot more money than we found in that envelope."

Maisie had reached her limit of being treated like she was a dim-witted novelty. She was done being tolerated. She wanted some respect, because she had a plan.

She peeled ten damp $100 bills from her stash of cash.

"Give this to Bob," Maisie instructed. "Tell him we're paying him for helping us fix the tire. You can tell him the money's in honor of Carrie's memory, too. You might throw something into the conversation about how we know what he did in Reno, and we promise not to tell a soul. Wink at the same time, maybe. I've seen my share of Bob and his kind in my lifetime."

She looked into the bathroom mirror, fluffed her hair and dabbed a bit of road weariness from her eyes. "I think that should do the trick."

Money can't buy happiness. Maisie knew that. But she'd lived long enough to know that money can buy freedom.

Stella was speechless as Maisie sauntered from the sink and its unforgiving mirror to the door of the women's room of the Lucky Strike.

"He'll believe you," she said, relying more on intuition than pure knowledge. "I'll meet you at the buffet."

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Spokane city limits: Spared at the Lucky Strike.

I wrote this update on the ladies kind of quickly, and haven't gone over it with my editor hat on, so enjoy some stream of consciousness storytelling.

They're so close to the coast, I can almost smell the sea...

"Great story, Maisie," Stella said as she buckled her seat belt. "You were Carrie Wilder's babysitter."

"How in the hell was I supposed to know Bob was married to Carrie, God rest her soul?" Maisie had thought her explanation was flawless. She'd never been good at math, but she knew right away that the odds that their random good Samaritan, such as he was, had a connection to the randomly chosen Carrie Wilder were astronomical.

As astronomical as the odds that Maisie would have a wad of bills nesting between her breasts, which had been acquired quite honestly by playing a game of chance.

Even more uncharacteristic was the fact that Maisie hadn't told Stella a word about how she'd come into the seed money that had been financing their past few days of funeral-hopping.

It was time to come clean.

So as the Dart followed Bob's Impala down I-90 toward Spokane, Maisie spilled the beans.

She told Stella all about her winning streak in Bozeman. She dug into her cleavage and retrieved the bills as evidence, waving her soggy stash like a fan.

For a moment, Maisie thought that shedding light on her secret would act as a form of absolution. But Stella would have none of it.

"He's onto us, Maisie," Stella's knuckles whitened under her paper-thin skin as she gripped the wheel at 10 and 2. She was driving close behind Bob, so she didn't notice there were many more bills than they'd happened across back in Burlington.

So much for full disclosure, Maisie thought. She tucked the wad of bills back into their hiding place.

"We have to go to Carrie's funeral now, or our cover's completely blown." Stella seemed to be thinking out loud. "He knows what we drive, he probably has our license plate number, we have to spend time in Spokane to get this damned tired fixed, and I'm sure he'd track us down."

"Stella," Maisie said in an uncharacteristically calm, measured, rational tone. "It's not like we're bank robbers. It's not like we're malicious. I think what we're doing is very respectful. And you have to admit - there's nothing like funeral food."

Stella could tell that Bob was watching the Dart in his rear view mirror.

Against her better judgment, Stella drove through Spokane behind the Impala, until Bob drove into the parking lot of the Lucky Strike Bowling Alley and Lounge. The letters that spelled out the event of the evening, Carrie Wilder's last big party, were somewhat askew, and some of the words were misspelled.

"It's a meat and potatoes crowd, I'm thinking." Maisie grumbled in chorus with her stomach.

"No tofu on the premises," Stella said. "But plenty of bikers. Welcome to Harleytown."

Bob unraveled himself from the Impala and wandered with intention straight to the Dart.

"Welcome to the dark side, ladies," he said, blowing smoke from lips that were curled into a grin that was raveled with both sincerity and an odd mania.

"Well, who could have predicted this from Carrie!" Maisie said while generating an obviously false sense of familiarity. "I always knew she'd be popular."

"Cut the act, grandma," Bob said. "You ain't foolin' nobody. Not even me."

"Oh, Bob," Stella had to think faster than Maisie, faster than the Dart would need to fly as soon as there was an obvious exit strategy.

"Let us have a moment with Carrie, and then we'll go, Bob." Stella remembered the wad of cash tucked nicely between Maisie's ample bosom. "We do have a contribution to give, if you know what I mean."

Bob wasn't born yesterday. The ladies owed him a little something for fixing their tire, he thought, and part of him wanted to think they were on the up and up.

It was a very small part.

"Well why didn't you say so?" Bob was suddenly more affable, less defensive.

He must have been a dream to live with, Maisie thought.

"God rest your soul, Carrie Wilder." She wasn't sure if she said it or thought it.

"May I welcome you both to the Lucky Strike - Carrie's home away from home," Bob said with a flourish.

They stridently walked into the Lucky Strike, not anticipating its darkness or the resonant sound of pins falling.

They headed straight for the ladies room.

"Dig deep, Maisie," Stella said before either of them could reach a stall. "Hand Bob a few of the bills you have tucked in your bra and we'll be good to go."

So much for pursuing the simple pastime of sampling the funeral cuisine of the northwest.

As Maisie searched through her simple but complicated makeshift wallet, she realized that tonight, they'd have to pay for dinner.

The wad of cash could prove to be what spared them.

But Bob was waiting right outside the door, so all bets were off until they found their way out of the Lucky Strike.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Art of War. Friends and enemies make interesting bedfellows on the road to Spokane.

It seems it's becoming increasingly difficult to move these ladies along. I keep finding interesting characters that require so much more time than I'm currently allowing this summer fiction project.

Because, despite this freaking HOT Labor Day, fall is right around the corner.

I can hardly wait.

I've mentioned before that I'd like to wrap up this summer fiction project. Because I'd like to get back to writing about topical stuff.

But I love what I've started here, and I can keep it going with an audience of one. And like the season, I'll move on.

This project has come to represent my summer. And this summer has been like a good friend who visits and goes away before you want them to. It's been like an abrupt end to a new romance. It's seemed like a reluctant goodbye.

Like anything that has no discernible end point, this summer fiction is hard to shake.

Who says it has to?

We're so close to the coast. This Feast may be digested by the time we have our first frost.

"How's about you ladies follow me," Bob said as he sauntered to the Impala. "I know exactly where we're going."

"We wanted to get freshened up, so how's about we meet you there, Bob?" Stella was feeling a bit ambivalent about the Carrie Wilder memorial.

"Ain't no skin off my nose."

Bob was curling himself into the Impala when he paused, then squinted at the women.

"So how's it that you know Carrie? I was married to her for a whole long time, and I never heard her mention no Stella or Maisie."

Timing is important. And there was a pause, long enough to be noticed, between Bob's question and Maisie's answer.

"We're on our way to the coast. We bought a Spokane Review to pass the time in the car, and I noticed Carrie's name," Maisie said it all a bit too quickly. "Carrie's passing came as quite a shock. I recognized the name right away."

Maisie thought Bob looked to be close in age to her children, who lived on the coast. She quickly came up with a story.

First, she manufactured a tear. "I was Carrie's babysitter way back in the day. She was such a precious child."

Bob snickered as he lit a Marlboro. "You must not have known Carrie."

This was disconcerting, because both Maisie and Stella caught wind that Bob was a bit more intuitive than they may have first thought.

Sometimes the best response is no response.

And other times, nothing is the last thing you want to say.

Bob noticed the missed beat, and he could sense that something wasn't quite right. He might be dumb, he thought as he revved the engine, but he wasn't stupid.

And he knew Carrie.

She lived up to her name, straight out of the gate.

Keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer. Bob understood the Art of War.

"Follow me," Bob said.

It seemed almost like an order.

Neither Stella nor Maisie felt they had a choice.