Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Blue Bayou

This week's sentence was taken from Bruce Chatwin's 'The Songlines':

At the bar, a big man with a purple birthmark on his neck was methodically swilling Scotches through his rotted teeth, and talking to the police patrolman whom we had met the day before at Burnt Flat.

Blue Bayou


Taking a booth by the window, I eased my ass into the pink bucket seat, flicked open the wipe-clean menu and checked the room.

Chrome and plastic; neon beer lights; sizzle and clatter through the kitchen hatch; the short-order cook preparing to load the arteries of the half-dozen early-bird diners dotting the joint and coughing smoke into their newspapers.

Mackinson nodded in time with the ancient jukebox and smiled.
"Roy Orbison. Nice."

At the bar, a big man with a purple birthmark on his neck was methodically swilling Scotches through his rotted teeth, and talking to the police patrolman whom we had met the day before at Burnt Flat.

"Scotch for breakfast. That's gonna kill him."
I had to chuckle.
"Jeez, Mac. Keep it down."

The waitress glided over: pink gingham, name-tag: 'ARLENE', good legs.
She oozed class - of a sort I liked - from her mousy roots to her plastic boots.
Sepia-stained teeth and fingertips clashed with ‘Harem Nites’ lips and the kind of pink, sparkly nails and turquoise eyeshadow that little girls used.

She popped her gum and slapped her mouth at us a couple of times.
"Ready to order?"
I smiled. A regular trailer park princess. I wanted her so bad.

Mackinson friendly: "Two coffees, honey; two OJ, two specials; eggs over easy.
Do you have a payphone I can use?"

"End of the bar." she tilted her head and a sudden wave of bottle-blonde ponytail cascaded onto her shoulder. The blinds painted her in stripes of sunrise and I winced, watching her wiggle back across the room and wishing I'd come here under different circumstances.

"Mac." I glanced upward and he stopped scratching his head, heeding my warning. These wigs were getting itchy. I suppressed a grin; he looked kinda distinguished with grey hair, glasses and moustache.

“I’ll call him.”
As he rose I shook open the Post to distract myself from the ache of Arlene.
Jeez! Gas just hit 64¢ a gallon! One of these days we're gonna have to do something about those fuckin' Arabs.

On the phone to Bartleby, Mackinson watched the fat cop waddle out into the car park and mount his patrol bike. It was quite a balancing act.
When the engine noise receded he gave me the nod.

I got up and stretched. Mackinson was easing his pistol from his belt and checking the room for backup. I walked over to the big man at the bar. He glanced up and saw me.
Too late.
As he stiffened in shock I shot him twice in the face then once behind the ear when he fell.

"Done." Mackinson hung up the phone on Bartleby, yanked the wire from the wall and we sauntered out while the other diners were still struggling to get under their tables.

I took a last glance back at Arlene where she crouched, weeping behind the bar.
Shame.
We drove away with Mackinson humming Blue Bayou; Arlene's cheap perfume mingled with cordite on my breath.

11 comments:

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt said...

So your secret desire is a trailer-park princess serving greasy eggs and fantasy. Hee hee! I love it. And I love the 64 cent gas. That's MY fantasy!

I really see this murder, dear Dive. And I want to know more, of course. Why did you shoot him? Er...that is, why did the narrator shoot him?

dive said...

Ah, the fair Arlene and her irresistibly trashy charms.
Hee hee, Katherine!
I got the gas price from a 1989 headline and thought I'd slip in a hint about the future oil wars in Iraq.

As for the murder, I blame it all on Bartleby. He's returned from the earlier story and ordered this hit.

I must say I totally enjoyed writing pulp-novel style and I can foresee Bartleby, Mackinson (who I like a lot more than the narrator; it's nice to see a happy hitman) and maybe even Arlene again in future stories.

The only problem I had writing this was singing Blue Bayou for days afterward!

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt said...

Oh duh. I forgot your Bartleby story was part of this.

I was singing Blue Bayou to my kids one day. Why do these stupid songs stay in my head? I still know all the words to Copa Cabana. Yeesh!

dive said...

Blue Bayou is a bona fide classic. Not too sure about Copacabana though. Hee hee!

Vanda said...

1989? I was getting an early 1950's vibe, sun-drenched, dusty Americana. Sort of Dashiel Hammet.

dive said...

Ah, thank you, Vanda. It's good to get feedback. I must confess this type of pulp trashy writing lends itself to postwar America but as Bartleby (and possibly Mackinson) have already appeared in a story set in modern New York I thought it best to bring things up to date a little.

Scout said...

"The blinds painted her in stripes of sunrise" — brilliant line. I really love your writing, Dive. I know this isn't a competition, but I still think you win. I think the poor Arlene dodged a couple of bullets that day—yep, I like puns, too. hee hee

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt said...

Yep. Dive wins for sure!!

dive said...

Robyn and Katherine:
Aww gee shucks, you guys. I'm all shy now. And totally undeserving in such esteemed company.

Glad you spotted that line though, Robyn; I was rather pleased with it.

MmeBenaut said...

Fabulous! A real page-turner this one, Dive. I love your descriptions of Arlene. Your cynicism is rather appealing!!

dive said...

Mme: She may be trashy but I have a soft spot for Arlene. She may reappear in the future.