Wednesday, February 23, 2011

LOST ALONG THE WAY

After months away, well, I just missed being here. Some good things have happened since I've been here, such as a few acceptences, even a token payment or two. One of my favorite blog posts garnered an honorable mention spot in the Silverthought Online Sparkly Vampire Jamboree Contest (just follow the link and scroll down if you want to read the story). That one earned more than token! But before you think my head is swollen, it's all been tempered by many rejections. Even ones pertaining to writing (snicker). 

Time to write flash again. For #fridayflash (if they let me back in--Peggy who? they are asking), here is:

LOST ALONG THE WAY

Eddie drummed invisible fingers against the marble. He remembered when the bar was oak, when whiskey and cigarettes and stale beer perfumed the air, when the burly Hap poured the spirits. To be stuck for eternity with fruity ales and pastel liquids "hand-crafted" by Alana and Zachary and Sergio killed him. Of course, nothing could kill the already dead. Fifty years of purgatory, and counting.

"If you hate it here so much, go to the goddamn light." Benny removed the match from his mouth and flicked its sulfur head with his thumbnail. "Here you go, your way out."

"You're an ass."

Eddie hit the match out of Benny's fingers, knocking it into a martini glass. After the barely audible sizzle, the match disappeared from the liquid, reappearing between Benny's shit-eating grin. Eddie hit that too.

"A ghost of your former self. Didn't feel a thing." Benny laughed.

Celebrating a sale, they had stopped at this hole-in-the-wall for a quick scotch. Three hours later, Hap the bartender poured one more for the road. Eddie couldn't remember who bought the cigars. Last living memory Eddie possessed was slumping to the floor, and Benny laughing. The first memory after that was of smoldering on the floor and Benny laughing. Benny had been sending smoke rings out of all his orifices. They've been arguing ever since about who started the fire. Benny's flame-joke wore on Eddie's nerves. If he had nerves. Or skin. Or muscles.

Before Eddie could summon the psychic energy to really wallop his friend, he heard new bartender Alana ask, "Is something burning?" She sniffed as she squinted at the martini glass, a ripple dispersing on the liquid surface.

"Hey! She saw something," Eddie said, nudging Benny. Eddie hoped so. For what felt like the first time since getting stuck in Hap's Bar/Stanley's Place/The Silver Lining/Antonio's/Park and Fortieth and now Trini'tinies, he started paying attention to time passing. Eddie found himself looking forward to week-ends, when the beautiful Alana with the pert figure and the long legs and the crooked smile and the mole under her left nipple—he only looked through her tee shirt once—worked until last call.

Benny winked at Eddied then glided through the bar. "Think she'll feel this?" He began a slow bump and grind against Alana.

"Now why you gotta go and get dirty with her? Oh, I get it, because I like her." Eddie noticed two pert spots on Alana's tee. Goose flesh had also popped along her arms, pale follicles semi-transparent in the diffused lighting. What he wouldn't give to stroke those hairs down smooth.

"Zachary, Sergio, check the thermostat. It's chilly in here." She hugged herself as she walked away from Buddy's spot. "Too bright too. Where's the dimmer?"

Benny stared. He looked pale, as if he'd seen, well, himself. "D-Did she say it's chilly?"

Eddie nodded. He heard Sergio's lisp, telling Alana about "cold thpots" and how he "thuspecths this place is haunted. It has a hith-story, you know."

"She can sense us." Eddie almost felt his heartbeat. He glided through the bar, through Benny, through Sergio to be near Alana.

Benny glided to catch up. "Should we do something?"

"Like what?"

"Like. Like...."

Benny cupped his mouth. "HEY CHICKIE-POO, WE'RE HERE!"

"Not that." Eddie concentrated and stroked Alana's bare arm. The fine hairs sprang to attention again. She hugged herself as she squinted at Sergio, then at Eddie's spot, then at the rest of the room.

"You're going to scare her," Benny said. "Remember the medium?"

Almost in unison, Sergio said, "We had a medium here once. A fire burnt this place to the ground. Two men died."

Benny snickered. "He has it half right. One man and one pussy died in the fire."

"What's your problem?"

"I want to leave. Can't drink the booze, can't touch the women, can't even get a decent laugh from you. As long as we're stuck here, we are stuck."

Eddie stared at his friend. The match was bopping up and down from between Benny's lips, a sure sign that he was thinking. "Go to the light," Eddie said. "I'm not stopping you."

"Yes. You are."

"How?"

Benny glided to the plate glass windows. Eddie followed. Streetlights beamed down on smokers, their cigarettes dots of light inside oncoming headlights. Eddie couldn't believe it; he had sensed every thought, every nuance, every inkling Benny had ever since they'd died—how did he not know Benny couldn't find the light?

Eddie felt Benny's gaze. "You can't find it either," Benny said.

"I thought you knew. I thought all your light-comments were cruel jokes. I-I-I thought you liked it here."

Benny shook his head. "We died together, I guess we have to leave together. But you always find a reason." Benny pointed at Alana. She shaded her eyes. "So, we stay."

Eddie wanted to ask another question, but was afraid of the answer.

"No one gets lost on the way to hell. Let's go, Eddie. Find our heaven."

"So, where's that infamous beam of light?"

Benny moved the match from one side of his mouth to the other. Eddie stared. "Why do you still have that?"

Eddie plucked the match from between Benny's lips. Both souls studied the red-tipped sliver of wood. Eddie flicked the head. Flame burst, a wisp of smoke rose.

Alana's head whipped around. "Sergio, LOOK!" She pointed at Eddie and Benny. "I see them!" Her face glowed. Light bathed her body, except for two man-shaped shadows. Eddie and Benny stared at the match, trying to figure out how such a small flame created such an effect.

"Guys! Behind you." She pointed at the window.

Eddie and Benny whipped around. The match-flame leaned toward a passageway of pure brilliance. Eddie grinned, then chortled, then joined Benny in a belly laugh as they floated into the light. 

17 comments:

Cathy Webster (Olliffe) said...

And what a comeback, Peg! Right there, the reason we've been missing you so much. Tight, descriptive writing; imaginative ideas; writing with soul. I missed you and I'm so glad to see you back!

FARfetched said...

Lovely story. And even if it wasn't I'd never diss a story with a nipple in it. :-D

PJ said...

Peggy - wonderful story, full of creativity. I loved it and I hope the light took them north and not south ;-) welcome back, Peg :-)

Linda said...

CHICKIE-POO! Great to have you back and back with style and power! Great story. Peace...

John Wiswell said...

Obviously I'm glad to have you back, Peggy. Congratulations on getting paid and getting busy, but welcome back just the same.

The story obviously has its amusing lines. Their pushing/pulling relationship plays out well and I'm glad to see them go out on a belly laugh. If you want critical feedback, one thing to look for on second passes (but not to trouble yourself with in initial composition) is the use of stock filler lines. "Benny laughed," "Eddie said, nudging Benny," "Benny winked," - things you've read a thousand times and that don't add much. They can distract from the stronger narrative writing that surrounds the peripheries of the dialogue, like the unique notion of the flame-joke.

Harry said...

Likeable characters and funny, unique takes on the whole after-life thing.

"No one gets lost on the way to hell. Let's go, Eddie. Find our heaven." :)

Well done and Welcome back!

Deanna Schrayer said...

Oh! Now we know where the sulfer smell comes from in a haunted place!

Superbly original and creative, not mention fun, piece Peg. So great to have you back!

Mike Robertson said...

Hey Peg, what Cathy said. Great story, as per your usual. "Guys! Behind you." ... loved that! Beautiful work.

Jay Thurston said...

"No one gets lost on the way to hell." Loved that line.

The influence the characters have between the spectral and the real is well-portrayed. Your flash tales have been missed.

Congratulations on your acceptances! And, sorry to hear about the rejections.

Eric J. Krause said...

Excellent story! These two were fun characters to follow. Glad to have you back! You never disappoint!

Bukowski's Basement said...

Welcome back, Peg!! What can I say? You've been missed... great dialogue here...

Adam B said...

A clever story and I loved thinking about the history of these two blokes. Great friendship they share.
Adam B @revhappiness

Aaron said...

The banter between these two was great. I liked the feel of the piece all around. Nice work!

Angela Perry said...

I love a good ghost story, and this is a good ghost story. Well done! I liked how it took both of them to find the light, how they had the ability all the time if they learned to work together.

Alan W. Davidson said...

Welcome back, Peggy! Fantastic ghost story. Eddie and Benny were colourful characters. That was a clever reveal of the passageway at the end. Nicely told.

AidanF said...

Love the craft here with Bennie & Eddie being mostly annoyed with each other and then the revelation when Benny discovers Eddie can't find the way to move on.

Rachel Blackbirdsong said...

So glad you're back and what a comeback. Figures I'm going to be taking a break myself for a bit, but I'm going to do my best to keep up with your wonderful work.