One Drink

“Just one drink.” Mae sat in the back, her head resting on the seat in front of her. In the front seat, Beth and Harvey argued about parking. Familiar neon light through the car windows turned everything cold. “It’s just one drink,” Mae whispered into the Pontiac’s upholstery.

“Mae?” Beth twisted and her russet curls bounced next to her cheeks. “You ready? Harvey is making us walk.”

“Valet’s a whole dollar, jeez Beth, what do you want from me?” Harvey asked as the girls unfolded themselves from the other side of the car. Down the way, the Saffron Lounge was alight in blue and gold light. People in their sveltest dresses and shirts milled about the entrance.

“A beau who isn’t a cheapskate.” Beth laughed and pulled Mae into a trot, their pumps clacking against the street. Mae let herself be cajoled into the run, into the smile spreading over her lips. It was just one drink, one drink at her favorite spot.

The Saffron was a magical place. Mae had been the one to discover its vodka collins and the music no other club dared to play. The small dancefloor forced couples close together.  Mae had brought the others. It’d been perfect, but now the low blue lighting made her sweat through her dress. Mae’s fingers tightened around the drink Harvey had bought for her.

“Mae?” Beth snaked her head into Mae’s vision. “What is up with you? Your beau’s back and you haven’t even noticed.”

What? Mae’s lips parted with the silent question. Her eyes darted around while Beth laughed at her. “Come on, maybe he’ll get us drinks again. That’ll show Harv,” Beth said.

Mae set her heels to the floor. “I just wanted one drink. Beth no, he’s a–”

“What? You cut out with him last time. Even blew us off to ball around.” Beth hung onto her smile, leaving it pasted on. Mae thought it looked a touch cruel in the cool light.

“I said one drink, then we go,” Mae said. Her voice reached over the music. So did the low laugh behind her.  He never smiled when he laughed.

Mae spun, her drink sloshing over her hands. Thick dark hair waved lightly around his tanned brow as he looked down at her, pressing another full drink into her hands. “Come on, have another drink, stay awhile.”

Beth rolled her eyes and turned away, as if she’d known all along.

Mae gritted her teeth and tried to shake her head, but she didn’t. She lifted the drink to her lips. “One more drink I guess.”

This weeks Music Challenge comes from Raw Rambles, she challenged me to write something to or inspired by Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds’ Holy Mountain. See what she did with the song here. 

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Straight Shot Lines

Straight shot lines in the sand, this was her highway.  Heat pressed against the closed car windows, it radiated against her arm propped up on the steering wheel. She twisted her elbow towards the air vent for respite.

This was a nice car. Air that worked, leather seats she’d have to peel herself painfully from when she stopped for gas. She’d tossed her sandals on the floor instead of the seat to preserve the upholstery. This ride was nicer than a lot of cars she’d driven down the cooked black pavement. She flicked a nail against the paneling above the console. The strike made a deep true sound and she smiled with teeth.

Only campers and semis in the rearview so she settled back against the seat. Another hour until state line.  Maybe three more and she’d say goodbye to this bit of luxury, trading it in for a sun-peeled sedan and a large stack of bills.

She checked her phone in the passenger’s seat and set the radio on scan. With the stations frantically searching for something between the static, she set eyes on her highway and pressed a barefoot to the gas pedal.

This week’s Music Challenge was brought to you by L.A. Witches’ Drive Your Car. I challenged Raw Rambles to write something to or inspired by this song, see what she did here. 

Hollimass

The first snow stuck with a vengeance. It pilled over the doors and covered the streets, turning to ice under angry boots. The bustle of the trade hold eased, then stilled entirely until the empty stalls groaned under the snow’s weight.

Surewood settled, taking a rare rest as its lucky inhabitants nestled down indoors and its unlucky ones left for greener climes across the mountains. The first snow became the second and then the third, and Surewood passed its time watching the grey days turn to calm lavender skied nights.  On the fourth snow, small bundles of pricked, waxy, leaves set with red berries appeared.

They did not grow. They were set on above window sills and over door frames, offerings in some ancient custom or to a forgotten god, tied in lines with coarse string. No one seemed to know where they’d come from, or who was responsible for green bundles.

The guards stationed before the hardholder’s door frowned at the jolly display above the threshold and wondered if they would be punished. The gate at Concord was looped with the stuff, and the sacred grove’s priestess set her hands on her hips in puzzlement. The mechanic’s workshop was untouched, save for the window which had been verdantly lined. The mechanic shrugged at the strangeness of the world and went back to his work.

In Eden, many pondered at the greenery lining the bar and still others asked the bartender about it. The bartender only smiled and went about his work, ignoring the proprietor’s grousing that plants belonged outside.

In the radio station, no one looked oddly at the holly twined around the rickety staircase and arranged with care over the soundboard. The radio host gave no clue about it, except for the peculiar batch of songs played on air once a year, exactly when snow fell over Surewood.

Tis the Season, so I challenged Raw Rambles with the below song as part of our Music Challenge series. She wrote something to or inspired by Calexico’s rendition of Green Grows the Holly, as did I

Pine Needles and Grocery Bags

“Dad?” Nora shoved the kitchen door with her hip, peering into the room in search of help. It was empty and clean. Nora sighed and shuffled in, her arms hugging brown grocery bags. She leaned them down on the counter island and lept after an escaped onion.

Produce secured, Nora looked around and frowned at the empty sink. So no one had made anything. She left the groceries sitting with quick steps and followed the sounds of deep vocals and piano. The music swelled from the living room. Nora stepped in without announcing herself. Their tree was set up in the corner, electrically aglow.  Pine needles sprinkled the carpet.

Her father was alone in the armchair, their tree skirt crumpled at his feet. The Christmas box was open and Nora could see old cards. scattered within. The woman singing over the stereo mourned in a deep trill. “Hey dad, you found the skirt. Good.” Nora turned the corners of her mouth up.

“In the box with the rest of this stuff.” Her father waived the photo in his hand at her. An old Christmas card, one he’d insisted on despite his wife and teenage son’s rolled eyes. Nora had been ten. Too young for the indignity to smart. “She hated letting anyone else take the picture. Hated posed pictures,” He said, voice rough.

“Yup.” Nora supplied before he could continue and bent to pick up the tree skirt. “Glad we insisted though, so we have it. You hungry?”

“What time is it?” He was looking at the picture again, holding the edges carefully so his fingers did not touch anyones’ face.

“Seven. Dinner time.” Nora turned and switched off the dirge. Only the low thrum of electric lights took its space and Nora winced at the silence.

“–She liked that song.” Her father barely flicked his eyes up, still locked to the photo.

“That doesn’t sound like her.” Nora swallowed around the stutter in her throat. She set a hand on her father’s shoulder and squeezed. “It sounds like you. It sounds like Liam. But mom didn’t like sentimentality. Come on, I’m cooking.”

He didn’t respond and she almost plucked the photo away. Nora would have liked to rip it up, she savored what it would feel like to have the glossy print tear between her fingers. Instead, she kept her itching fingers at her sides until he looked at her. She smiled, forcing every ounce of warmth she had left through her teeth. “Come on. Don’t make me cook alone.”

Her father didn’t move at first, and the pressure grew in the back of Nora’s throat. He straightened his arms and pulled himself up.  Once standing, he kissed her on top of the head. “Shouldn’t you be worrying about school? Instead of me.”

“Its winter break dad,” Nora said. She led the way back to the kitchen and did not see her father’s face fall.  The grocery bags still sagged from their own weight on the counter. Nora started to unpack.

He cleared his throat. “Any word from Liam?”

When she shook her head, he only nodded.

Raw Rambles apparently likes depressing Christmas music, and she challenged me to write to it. Above is my piece, here is hers. 

A Noose, A Knife

They dragged him, a man on each arm, through the morning’s grey fog. His boots kicked up peat, driving deep furrows into the marshy soil. Brown eyes rolled in his head, darting frantically above the old rag silencing his tongue.

His captors, strong-armed men from the quarry, kept their gaze on the path ahead. The moorlands were treacherous past harvest, when the rains grew heavy and incessant. Their task was grim. They pulled the condemned up the last rise. At its top, the affected and responsible waited with a ready noose.

The widow’s face was set like the craggy stone of the moors. Her surviving son hid stern and pale behind her shoulder. He looked away from the struggling man, but his mother did not. Next to the widow, the vicar sniffed from the cold and hunched his torso over a leather bound bible. The Lord of the lands they gathered upon, wrapped warmly in a fine winter coat, held the rope.

The condemned man did not pause his struggle, even as the Lord set the rope over his head. It burned red into his neck, bright in the rain’s dim downpour. The man kicked at them and swore beneath his gag, but the quarry workers hauled him up without difficulty and the widow, vicar, and Lord watched his boots kick in the empty air. Only the boy looked away.

When the body stilled one no one moved to cut the remains down. Dark times called for dark warnings. They left him swinging beneath the tree branch.

No one bothered to turn a parting glance they shuffled down the rise. The rain fell harder now, and even if one of the condemning parties had looked back, the storm obscured any view of the gallows and its makeshift justice.

Had someone turned, they might have caught a flash of a knife’s blade in the gloom. Or perhaps, if they had strained, the snap of a cut rope or the thump of a body’s fall would have reached their ears. But the workers, the widow, the vicar, and the Lord were intent on escaping the growing storm.

Tis the season, so I chose CocoRosie’s Gallows for this weeks Music Challenge. Raw Rambles and I had to write something to or inspired by the below song. See her’s here.

An Eternity Of One’s Own

They promised her a beautiful eternity if she could smooth the edges from her tongue and cool the molten roll of her hips. As the air-conditioned pews and jewel-toned glass eased others to their knees, she wobbled on newly tanned legs. With less than two decades to her name, a life felt like an eternity itself to spend with careful steps and swallowed words. She went elsewhere.

The next to tempt her with forever whispered from the pages of the greats. Laid out on the green between looming university edifices, her thumb traced the immortalized thoughts of the dead. Unlike the humble eternity of her adolescence, the dry pages promised prestige, her name gracing their covers and the most brilliant tongues for years to come. But in so doing, she’d consign herself to shelves.  Locked away until contemporaries leeched her eternity for their own. She was not interested in an everlasting prison of footnotes.

She rejected the eternities in hallowed service or ivory towers and followed a path carved by the slights of early adulthood and hollow-eyed men. They pressed bottles sloshing gasoline into her fingers and set fires in her chest that she turned towards the thick-necked businessmen who stole her rent to build bombs. Her eternity would be a legacy, a deserved scar on the cheek of the oppressor. But the fight is long and history is often forgetful. Any eternity gained, would be enjoyed, yet again, only by others. She slunk quietly away from their rallies and basement plots.

With little direction, except the pursuit of a proper eternity, she wandered down stained sidewalks and deep into the neon belly that exists in all great concentrations of people. There she found others searching for their own everlasting nights. The music beat timelessly on, one song always evolving into another. Arched feet, arched back, she never had to leave the floor as the pills and powders locked her exhaustion and worry deeper than she could reach. She finally found eternity, nestled within an oblivion that was entirely her own.

I charged Raw Rambles to write something to or inspired by Grimes’ Belly of the Beat, for our Music Challenge series. Check out her piece here.

Flash Fiction: She Soared

She soared, barging out the front door and taking the building’s stoop with a single leap. Her yellow high-tops hit the sidewalk so hard the ache echoed up into her ankles. Above her, two stories up, a bare-chested man leaned out the window to holler down, “Baby, don’t be like that.”

She raised her chin to the sky and the rumpled man ruining her view of the blue expanse and the downtown towers. The people sharing her sidewalk turned their attention towards the brewing storm on the pavement. She basked in it, knowing he’d bake. Words coiled on her tongue.

She bit them back. She’d save her sinning for someone who’d appreciate it, use it to warm a bed they wouldn’t bring another into. Silently, she snapped her heels behind her and started walking, the bounce of her steps sending her sundress swishing around her hips. The afternoon wind lifted her hair, sunning the back of her neck.

She swished away and he called after her, “Baby– .” The bystanders waited a moment longer to see if they’d get their show. They never did. The block ended, she turned, and they never saw her again.

Music Challenge time again, Raw Rambles asked me to write something to or inspired by Lake Street Drive’s Saving All My Sinning. This is what I wrote, see her’s here.