Category Archives: MWBB

Choosing the Act We Act

We fortunately had an extra day in the Mid Week Blues Buster, and I needed it to get an idea going. Still, here I am squeaking by at the very last minute. This specific song was difficult for me to find a story to go with, being primarily electric guitar exercises. The lyrics helped me out, fortunately.

The song we had to play with this week was The Act We Act by Sugar.

“Pardon me, but do you happen to have the time?”

The voice shocked me out of my inner thoughts and back to the bus stop where I waited and brooded. With a thick accent meant to sound British, and failing utterly, the speaker asked again.
I looked around to see who had intruded into the solace of the thoughts. It wasn’t the young guy with the thick glasses and expanded ears, shaking his head to some electric guitar scream that escaped his expensive headphones. The only other person at the bus stop was a derelict from the streets, standing just a few feet away. Dirty grey hair held in place by a faded bowler hat, and the suit jacket was a poor combination with the sweat pants below, held in place by a twisted section of orange extension cord. Tough skin wrinkled around grey blue eyes, as he smiled when he noticed me look up.

“Man, I don’t have anything extra. Sorry.” I said out of habit, starting to fall back into my reverie.

“Good sir, that’s simply unnecessary. I merely query about the time.” Unfettered, he pressed on.
Glancing down, an oft repeated glance at my phone revealed the time. “It’s 6:17. Why, are you late for something?” As soon as the angry words came out, I felt guilty. The problems in my life weren’t his fault, nor were his problems my responsibility either. His only sin, as far as I was aware, was disrupting the silent anonymous rhythm of the bus stop. The unspeaking passersby so close in the city.

“Not yet, not yet, but I thank you for your concern. Merely rolling with the tides, as they say. As you can likely surmise, I seem to have misplaced my timepiece.”
Driven by guilt or curiosity, I took another look at him. His clothes were in tatters, but he didn’t carry himself with an air of subservience or disgrace. Rather, as he stood slightly apart, straight shoulders and head held high, he more seemed to be surveying his domain. He noticed my attention, and took a step closer to speak directly to me. “Hours could slip by while you watch, with the thoughts cluttering your mind.”

“Sorry, it’s just…you don’t…I don’t know, you just don’t make sense.” I blushed at the explanation.

“Ah, yes, not what you expect once you raise the curtain? No, my young friend, this is a temporary condition.” He waved his hand along his body, indicating his colorful ensemble. “The act we act is what is reflective of that which is under the skin. One or two poor choices may have led me to this residential misadventure, yet especially in adversity, our carriage and bearing will carry us through.”

The bus pulled up to the curb as he finished, and I rose to step toward it. I noticed myself standing up straighter, and that simple act made the worries on my mind seem smaller and less oppressive.

The homeless man didn’t make any move to cross to the bus. “Is this yours, too?” I asked.

“No, mine is still coming, but I have enjoyed seeing the worlds collide this evening.” He bowed slightly and stepped back from the curb, waving the bus driver on.

“Well, good luck to you, and good night.”

As I sat on the bus, I looked around at the people already seated. Most were engrossed in their own thoughts or devices, yet none had the spirit or seeming energy of the homeless man. Most were the same that shared the bus every other work night, and most likely would continue the routine for many months or years to come. I thought of the differences, both on the inside and the outside, and couldn’t stop thinking about the difference it made.

“The act we act”, I muttered to myself, thinking that it might be time to consider my act, and see where my fortunes could take me.

Candy of Hope

I was able to pull my thoughts together enough in time to play along with the Mid Week Blues Buster, even with everything going on!  If there’s one thing that I can agree with the song this week, it’s that life is crazy.

However, it can also be wonderful.  The other weekend, I was at a local writing convention, and though there have been some bumps and bruises, I have certain missed writing and have dearly missed the people that writing brings me closer to.  I’ll be putting more effort to it, and in letting it see the light of the internet as well.  After that, well, just have to see how things go.

This week’s song is Candy by Iggy Pop.

Candy of Hope

Susan looked up from her approved breakfast meal, optimized for health, and sighed. The mush had all the nutrients the body needed, precisely measured for her genome constellation and age bracket, but without anything that any focus group could find to cause her or anyone else harm. Or that could cause taste, for that matter. Sculpting it with a compostable spoon, she couldn’t even build anything recognizable before the structure collapsed in on itself to a featureless void. Darkly, she thought that it was oddly fitting for how the big city had changed in…geez, has it been twenty years?

She finished her scheduled meal, so that her networked blood sugar device wouldn’t register a drop and send alerts out. When she finished, she threw the container into the trash, but even that failed to satisfy her. The engineered corn starch collapsed almost silently, designed with the safest energy dispersal model possible. She paused and looked out the window, reminiscing, until her earpiece buzzed to remind her that a scheduled alarm to leave for work that would be activating shortly.

She couldn’t tell which was bleaker: the winter sky above, or the colorless vista of the modern city, where any color or texture that could be considered offensive had been banned. Even the self driving vehicles passing on the street failed to break the monotony. Since cars became self driving, and in order to keep them safe driving, they had become a city utility instead of a possession. However, that meant they all looked the same, blending in with the eco-crete in what some had called stress reducing.

Susan had long ago learned to fake it and just smile along, but not too widely. Faced with another day, with a hole in her heart where life used to be, she couldn’t help but look to the bottom of the cabinet. “Just one little bit, before work, she thought.” Her indiscretions were becoming more frequent, but she just needed what it gave her.

In frustration, a long time ago, she had kicked at the bottom of the panel. To her surprise, the front facing of it had popped off, and she found she could attach it again with only a little force. The stark edge looked so foreign, being an unrounded corner, and without the slightest bit of cushioning. Her treasure fit inside the “false bottom”, and the clandestine hiding place felt so exhilarating!

Before her earpiece could chime, she knelt down and pressed at the front, popping it free. Inside a gap in the frame sat a self sealing plastic box. She punched in the security code and lifted the lid. Color! As it always did, just seeing a cacophony of hue made her smile. Foil wrapped, the contents reflecting the light like a thousand miniature rainbows. Next, the smell reached her nose, with a decadent richness of earth and joy. Her fingers precisely plucked out a single small piece of the precious contraband. Susan unwrapped the treasure, careful not damage the dark nub inside. Heated by her fingers, the fats and oils felt smooth and almost alive. Slipping it into her mouth, the taste reminded her of days long ago, of haunting dreams that nobody else could see.

Startled out of her bliss by the daily alarm, she precisely placed the wrapper back into the plastic container, sealing it with a hiss. Replacing the box into the cabinet, and the front casing, she wrestled with a familiar conflict. Her contraband made her feel happy, made her feel love for a few brief moments, what could be seditious about it?

“After all, it’s just one piece of candy.”

A Trying First Day – #MWBB

The song for this week’s Mid Week Blues Buster was a very popular one some years ago, even familiar to me. When I tried to work with it’s main theme, there wasn’t anything interesting and new coming up. Once I opened it up a bit in my head, it seemed to find a hook into themes that have been going on of painful changes and new beginnings, and let a short bundle of words out. No matter how exciting the opportunity ahead, sometimes it’s ok to stop and mourn for the moments and circumstances being left behind.

The song is by Macy Gray, and called I Try.

A Trying First Day

Finally reaching the seclusion of my car, my stoic smile crumbles as sobs wrack my shoulders. Teardrops fall down my cheeks, and my world crumbles around me. As I stare down at a picture of you, there is no doubt that even as you are far away, I am a prisoner of your love. I wipe the tears away and try to find some way past the fears that threaten to overwhelm me. A brief comfort comes in the fact that fate has brought us together, but if forced to make a confession, it would certainly be a false front.

Just a few moments ago, we were together, and I choked on the farewell as you ambled away toward your destination. I turned before you could have seen me break down, but looking over my shoulder, you were looking forward to your next adventure. Each step back toward the car was an internal struggle about whether to turn and run back to you, or to let the changes happen. The issue became so intense that I nearly toppled into a rhododendron bush. The purple blossoms dancing in the wind were unsupportive, and eventually I made it to the car.

Having to content myself with the smell of one of your shirts from the backseat, there is no denying that this is not a good look. The streaked tearstains feel like someone has been finger painting, and my nose feels full and red. Trying to pull myself together, I force myself to put your picture down on the seat, out of sight. This is only the first of many things that must be done today, and it simply will not do to let the world know just how vulnerable that I am without you near.

Just as the wispy beginnings of control start to reform, the yellow school bus passes directly ahead. Your blonde curls perform the lively dance of an animated conversation with a new friend, already moving forward on the very first day of school.

Mermaid’s Kiss – MWBB

The song this week for the Mid Week Blues Buster was a bit difficult to find a story to pair with. Then, I remembered how seductive the sea can be, as well as the power of some of the denizens there. Maybe it’s the first hints of fall, or the vibe of the equinox that is nearly upon us, but the ebbs and flows of life have definitely been on my mind lately, and it all seems to have come together at the very last minute.

The song in question this week was PJ Harvey’s song: Long Snake Moan

Mermaid’s Kiss

Through the comfortable green of her watery world, Kerthala saw many things passing her favorite rocks, carried by the currents. Some deeper into the darkness were terrifying to behold, such as gentle behemoths frolicking in joy that could crush an unwary merfolk with an exuberant shift of a fin. Others, along the tops of the waves, solid wooden forms carrying men, always scuttling about like a colony of crabs. Some of those men, though, would be still, looking deep into the water. Those were her favorite.

One afternoon, as the bright sun was darkened by a large ship, she saw one such man hanging low off the side, almost within reach of the waves themselves. He was busily working away on some task or another, scraping at the side of the vessel. Her tail twitched involuntarily, almost a moan of delight from her lower extremities. With only a slight effort, she followed along with the ship, watching for the right moment.

Matching her timing with one of the larger waves, she flexed her sinewy tail, rocketing just above whitecaps, clutching the doomed sailor in her muscular arms. Together, they splashed back into the water, disappearing with an iridescent flourish as her damp scales caught the afternoon sunlight. In but a moment, the rickety bench clattered emptily against the hull, with only a stocking cap floating briefly on the water to mark his passage.

The sailor tried to swim for the surface, but he was too far out of his element. The mermaid, delighted with the sport, allowed him to make some progress before dragging him back down and away from the precious air. In a voice that would have been melodic if not for the distortion of being underwater, she began the incantations. “Dunk you under the salt water. Bring to me all your love and power. As once over, so lost to under, as you die of pleasure from my spell.”

With his lungs burning for release, she pulls him to her, wrapping him tightly in her arms and tail. Their lips meet as his lungs succumb to the fight, breathing out his last breath, laden with his life’s power and his very spirit.
As the seawater rushes into his lungs to smother the spark of life, the mermaid releases his limp body to drift into the darkness and feed the creatures below as his soul has fed her. Worn with ecstatic bliss, she meanders back through the waves to her favorite sunning rocks, and waits for another shadow to pass across the sun.

Garden of Love – MWBB

There’ve been a lot of happenings lately that have me pondering relationships and affections that people feel toward each other. Different paths that people take, how long they stay together, when to go their separate ways, and so on. So, when this week the Mid Week Blues Buster popped back up with a song about a crowded bed, it definitely made a connection. I’m not sure it was the best connection, mind you, as some things definitely aren’t supposed to last forever.

Here’s the song that we were playing with: This Bed is Getting Crowded

Garden of Love

Janice paused digging in the flower bed long enough to wipe a bead of summer sweat away from her eyes. The best time for working in the garden during the summer was the early morning, just as the sun started to chase the stars away. The buds were just beginning to open up for the day like slow moving fireworks, filling the yard with bursts of yellow, red, and violet.

As she finished turning the rich dark soil over, she knelt down and patted the newly transplanted flowers. “This bed is getting crowded. We need to make some more room, but I just can’t help it. It feels like love to me.”

The petunias slowly settled into their new home, enjoying a steady flow of nutrients from the nourishing earth. Looking around the garden, her eyes rested on several gatherings of different flowers. Some tall, some bushier, but all grouped neatly into little spaces with benches scattered throughout. She had to have places to sit and be with her thoughts. Each set of flowers connected her to another person in her life.

“Travis, let’s get you some more water this morning. You’re drooping a little this week.”

As she went around and tended to each group of plants, it was like she was talking with each of her loved ones. Intimate touches trimmed away any brown spots or wilting, leaving the plants in each place the envy of the entire neighborhood. Visitors would come by and ask how she got them all to grow so well, and she told each of them that the secret was to “feed them love every day, and they’ll never go away.”

A man came down from the porch, sleep still in his eyes. As he wrapped his arms around her waist, he kissed her neck. “I thought I’d find you out here.”

“You know me so well. Yes, out with my other loves. I think it’s just about time for more, too. What are your favorites?”

“I like wildflowers the best, like the little paintbrush ones.”

Janice looked thoughtfully over the rest of the flowers, trying to find just the right spot. She raised the shovel and pointed. “Do you like it there”

“It’s nice, but let’s go somewhere quiet today. Somewhere away, and I’ll be your lover in the dawn, in the midnight.”

Janice frowned at that, at the thought of leaving her garden. Her loves were there, but Bruce was already trying to leave. Yes, even though the bed is getting crowded, she would have to make some more room very soon.

Once she had him set up in his very own spot with his favorite flowers, he’d never leave her.

Watching from Between – MWBB

This place has been quiet for too long, once again. Tonight, though, is May Day, a holiday celebrated by many peoples around the world by many names. A powerful day indeed, one of many where the curtains between worlds thin just a little for those who look. It goes along very well with a recent Mid Week Blues Buster selection.

This was a week or so back, and the song was Left of Center by Suzanne Vega: Left of Center

“What are you looking at?” the stranger asked Marjorie.

“Nothing much.” she answered automatically, standing just off of the Strip. The passerby just shrugged and kept walking. She wasn’t used to even running into anyone out on the fringes like this. It was so much easier to not have to deal with anyone else.

Looking around as she wandered across the outskirts of the town, she could see the most unusual world. A world filled with strange people, some as large and solid as mountains, and others small enough that they should fit in her hand. As she watched, they went through their lives, just as they had been doing ever since she was a little girl. “Looking left of center” is what she called it, and nobody else ever seemed to see what she saw.

The stranger that passed had no idea that just beside the path there was a pair of individuals the size of children. Dressed in the finest of Persian silks, they were tiny swirls of soft purple and orange, they sharply contrasted with the tiny winged man in a business suit they were talking with. At first, it seemed like they were mugging him, but the gruff voices were filled with words of deference. When they traded a single golden coin for several dew drops, the colorful pair looked around furtively. The ecstatic joy in their faces when they tasted the dew on their fingers made her feel awkwardly voyeuristic. The winged one looked right at her, and she realized they knew she was watching, and they simply didn’t care.

The tiny figure flitted by, over the shoulder of the first passerby, trailing a rainbow of dust. The stranger sneezed without ever seeing why, making Marjorie grin. Before much longer, several other people came and went on the sidewalk, an unusual crowd on the edge of town. They simply walked past without acknowledging her, or even seeming to notice that she was there. Sometimes she couldn’t tell which set of people were the ones that she could talk to and touch, causing more than one person to think she was completely out of touch.

She followed the winged business man down the around the corner, just another unnoticed figure moving through the night. By the time she stepped off the avenue, though, he was long gone into the night. Still, she wondered about him, and why the others.

The night was young, though, as she continued wandering through the hidden edges of the city, peeking in on the colorful world that went on just “left of center” from the regular world.

Going Home to Friends – MWBB

It’s been some time since an update, but there is still writing being done. Recently, there was a fun holiday. St Patrick’s day was a theme for the Mid Week Blues Buster last week, and the song of the week was specially chosen to go with it.

The song of the week was from the Pogues, called Sally MacLennane

“Kiss me, baby, I’m Irish!”

For the 3rd time, Johnny tried to stand up straight as the waitress brought another trio of green beer towers. She just rolled her eyes playfully right back at him. “The only thing Irish in you is the whiskey, bless your heart.”

Any further flirting from him was cut off as the Irish punk band in kilts and mohawks started another set. An electric guitar screams out the notes of a series of classic Celtic drinking songs, with the flying fingers of a bagpiper keeping a toe tapping harmony. The yearly parade had ended just down the block, and people from the street were pouring in with faces painted and all manner of green accessories. Before long, the bar was a throng of celebration, with a din rivaling that of the band on stage.

Within a tiny island of stillness, one older man sits on a stool at the bar, with hair the color of snow and a sweater that had seen too many winters, looking at a stack of old pictures. With each picture, he raises one glass of dark beer and takes a drink. Another glass sits next to his, filled to the top, like it’s waiting for someone to sit down and drink. Every time the bartender passes by, they trade a few words about whoever is in the current picture. Some of the yellowed photos cause a loud guffaw at a shared memory, but more than one causes the two men to make the Sign of the Cross across their chests, and for just a moment they pause and forget the pressing mass of patrons.

Such a sight was soon noticed by the trio of college students at the nearby table. Johnny wobbled through the crowd over to lean on the bar, over the shoulder of the white-haired man. “You gotta drink that beer before it gets warm, you know!”

Softly, blue eyes turn to face the young man with bouncing shamrock antennae. “Lad, tha’ beer there is for another. Used to live in this neighborhood, too, a long time ago. We used to drink right at this very bar, and talk about women and the world.” Even though the bar is painfully loud, the old man’s voice is strong to the youth leaning close.

“What’s with the pictures?”

“These are people from long ago. Some go back as far as when Charlie here was barely tall enough to reach the top of the bar. Right, Charlie?” The bartender nodded and smiled wistfully as he passed by with 4 pitchers of beer precariously held in practiced hands.

“In fact, young man, I’m going out to see them again, just as soon as I finish this drink. Can I buy you and your friends another round of…whatever those things are?”

“Sure, Gramps. If you’re buying us drinks, you’re my new best friend!” Johnny weaves back through the crowd to collect his friends. When the 3 make their way back to the bar to thank their new friend, the old man has slipped away into the crowd. At the bar, though, 3 emerald towers are waiting, surrounding the stack of pictures. Unsteady, Johnny sloshes his beer all over the pictures. “Guess he went to go see his friends.”

The topmost picture, now stained a sickly green from the beer, shows only white marble stones, carved precisely and all in orderly lines, filling an entire field.

Magical Border Music – MWBB

As so many people around the US are experiencing another chilling dance with Winter, this week’s Mid Week Blues Buster took me to somewhere warm and comfortable. The song had an extra challenge to it, with no actual lyrics, but it was still a very nice song to write for.

Here’s a link to the song: Rodrigo y Gabriela

Rodrigo y Gabriela

She sat there as we all waited for the train, her smoldering eyes burning into my soul, then moving on to leave impressions on the hearts of the next body in the throng. She seems to have packed very little, just a long bag leaned against her legs heavily. She notices me staring, and then smiles at me. Nothing gentle hidden in that smile, but not unkind either. Her eyes are fierce and calm, with answers to the questions floating among the stars kept safe and secret beneath thick lashes.

Around the corner, a train engine’s rhythm starts to echo, a wave of sound that carries through the crowd and disturbing the stillness of waiting. Anticipation lights up the faces of dozens of travelers, as their vacations or loved ones become one step closer. The woman grabs her bag, and stands. Grasping the hand of a nearby man as they pass, she stands in line for the front of the passenger car. He weaves into the crowd headed for the back of the same car.

As we dutifully crawl on, the woman slides gracefully into the very front seat. A few rows back, I manage to find a seat where I can keep looking at her and her smooth dark skin showing around a black shawl. With a lurch, the train starts to pull out of the station. The air starts moving through the railcar, no longer stiflingly warm, and along the way picks up a hint of morning desert blooms, mixing with the various smells of people mixing. The scents are sweet and sour, and constantly changing.

Shortly after, the woman fiddles with her bag, pulling out something large and dark, shining in the sunlight slanting in the window. Above the noises of the train, a melancholy song rises up, notes pulled from the strings of a guitar. No words come with it, but the notes are carefully placed to speak of joy, loss, and desperation straight to the heart. The crowd goes silent, engrossed in the hypnotic song. In my mind, the song takes me to a villa in the springtime, lanterns burning and dancers twirling, before meeting my fondest love under the moonlight.

So wrapped up in the entrancement am I, that the stranger has to nudge me twice to get my attention. Looking over, I see a pistol pointed straight at me, over a simple bag half filled with wallets and jewelry. Never speaking, he places the bag right in front of me, waiting for me to make my offering. I almost don’t mind placing my wallet inside, just so he’ll leave and I can return to the music. He continues to the last few passengers before reaching the woman, and she stands. As the train slows to take a turn into the canyon of our destination, she takes her guitar and steps gracefully off of the train. He follows immediately, and silence descends on the railcar just as we pull into the station.

Police are waiting for us at the station, and roughly take us off the train, disrupting the spell of tranquility over the crowd. Angry voices rise to fill the silence as officers ask questions and passengers demand answers. When the officers come to get my description of the robbers, I try to remember any little detail. Think of anything that will help. The only features remaining, though, are those dark mesmerizing eyes and the song that she wove as we trundled down the tracks. From the frustration of the police, everyone seems to be similarly forgetful. Some officers even accuse us of collaborating, but someday they’ll see. They’ll finally meet her, and become lost in those eyes as well, a lifetime lived the too short a time they are together.

Runaway – MWBB

There has been a lot of interesting things on the writing front as the New Year opens up, which unfortunately has kept me from doing as much Flash Fiction as I’d prefer. In the long term, this will be very, very good, but it’s left less time for the regular postings. There’s been a chance to do the Mid Week Blues Buster a couple times, though. The prompts are good, and fortunately, we have most of the week to do it.

The last week’s prompt was a song called Runaway.

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals

Finally, things were quiet and it seemed like my retirement was going to keep this time. No more did my bedroom look like an armed bunker, but I had actually managed to start up a collection of gnomes. Stupid things with big hats just made me happy, but not as happy as Thomas did. That would have been a life to stay in. Then these 2 “muggers” in the parking lot came after me. Muggers don’t have Yarygin heavy pistols or body armor. Now, looking down the barrel of a gun, instincts that been slumbering are waking up.

“Give me your purse and your phone.” One says over the top of his gun.

“Seriously? You can’t come up with a better act than this? I’m a little offended.” I say. I would put my hands on my hips, but they’re full of groceries and a cake.

“Fine. It makes no difference. Head or chest?” he shrugs, ignoring my posturing.

“Isn’t this a little public?” I ask, shifting my weight just a bit to free up a foot.

“That’ll be someone else’s problem, as long as you’ve been neutralized.” he says in a calm confident voice. It’s easy to be confident when you outnumber and outgun your enemy. Just the way I like people to see me.

Nodding, I pivot to the side, forcing him to shoot wide, while shoving the cake into the face of the other mugger, blinding him. Twirling, I catch the gun in the talkative one’s hand with the handles of the plastic bags, tangling him up and pulling his gun toward the ground. A quick chop to his throat and he crumples, and another to the chocolate villain and I’m all free and clear.

Efficiently, I toss their bodies into the trunk of my car, the groceries in the back seat, and drive out of town, finally breaking into tears about 30 minutes later.

Now, I don’t even know the face that looks back in the rear view mirror, tearstained with ruined makeup. Don’t get me wrong, but under the fake eyelashes, dye, and colored contacts, there’s still that little girl who wanted to join the Peace Corps to see the world so long ago. She never would have believed that she’d get sick of moving from place to place. Back then, though, she didn’t have as many scars.

So now, the back seat is full of groceries, the trunk with a pair of bodies, and me once again on the run.

Thomas will probably think that I’m just a runaway, though, and will never know how much he means to me. The flowers, the cards, the time spent and the innocent openness. He never needed to know about my past, and was just content to be part of my life.

That’s all gone now, and I’m back on the run. It’s not the first time, and until I get answers about who wants me dead, it probably won’t be the last. This time at least, I’ve got ice cream, and that’s a good start.

Fool’s Gold – MWBB

I’m pleased to be able to post another one of the longer Mid Week Blues Buster flash fiction pieces that I’ve done. The song and the video took me to an Old West scene, with the dry brown brush fitting well with all the plants here being dead for the winter. It’s also a holiday season this week, with Yule and Christmas and several other holidays. I hope everyone has a great season as we enter the darkest days of the year, and that all the gold in your life brings you to a better end than the poor fellow in this story.

I often forget to post the link to the song that prompts each week, but this week it’s The Ballad of Cable

Calexico Band

The harsh light of the sun in my eyes split into a rainbow as it passed through a bead of sweat just before the drop dripped into the dirt. Lying there, unable to move, I watched the crimson flow of my life spread into the street, sending a scorpion skittering away from the new obstacle. In those moments, while a Mexican band still plays in the cantina, it’s painfully clear that this trip to town was a very bad idea.

I live way out in the hills, far from people, working a small gold mine. It’s not a huge claim, but it provides much more than a simple man like me needs. Every now and again, the coyotes convince me to bag up some of the gold and bring it to town for food and supplies. It never goes well. People keep trying to find out where my claim is, some subtle, and some not so subtle. Circling town to come in from a different direction each time gets to be tedious, as does the false goodwill. In truth, I vastly prefer the snakes that I have in the wilderness. At least they’re honest with their intentions.

This trip, though, I saw her on the street. As our eyes met, I knew she was going to be trouble, and also that I’d be along for the ride, no matter where it went. The fire in her eyes broke through the stone of my heart and took the breath from my lungs, and when she smiled at me, it was as if lightning had struck. Her black dress swirled provocatively as she turned to go into one of the stores, looking back at me and twirling her parasol.

Instead of hustling out of town as normal, I stirred up a zephyr of whispers when I went to the inn for a room and a bath. Actually two baths, as there was so much sand and dirt that the first bath quickly became more mud than water. When I went into the cantina later, people stared, not recognizing the clean and shaven stranger. Soon enough, recognition set in, and the normal routine started.

She walked in a little later, striding straight to me without ever looking to the side. She grabbed me by the shirt as she drew close and kissed me deeply. The crowd stopped right in their tracks, they were so surprised. Her fingers traced down my arm and she gently pulled me up and out of my seat, leading me toward the door. My mind whirling from the whisky and the woman, I followed without a thought. Once outside on the street, she led me into the alley where she turned and ran her hands up and down me. My surprise by this point had worn off, and I eagerly returned her affections. After a kiss to my neck, she leaned up and whispered in my ear
“Cable…tell me where your claim is.”

I wasn’t sure I heard her right. “Hmm?” I mumbled, still lost in bliss.

“Tell me where your claim is, please. See, I need a good strike.”

Just like that, the dream ended as abruptly as a swim in an icy river. “Lady, that was downright rude.” I turned to walk away and made it a few steps before I heard a familiar click.

I turned around, and there she was, pointing my own gun at me, cocked and ready. Just to check, as things were happening faster than my mind was following, I gently felt my holster. It was indeed as hollow as the pit in my stomach.

“Last chance. Tell me where your claim is.” Her voice was no longer sultry, becoming as hard as iron.

My number was up, her eyes were clear as the blue sky. I just shook my head, sadly. The alley thundered with the pistol shot, and the bullet passed through my chest, a burning pain just before my legs became too weak to hold me up.

I should have stayed out of town.