Thursday, November 26, 2009

Flash Fiction Extra: Turkey Day

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This Three Word Wednesday story features Vince Mott, one of the characters from My New-Found Land. You can read more about Vince by following the tag at the bottom of the post.

Vince looked at the dead bird in distaste. “This is some interesting contraband.”

“The stuff you asked me to get was hidden inside. The turkey is still pretty fresh—doesn’t stink yet or anything.” Ozone gave a little shrug. “I thought we could eat it.”

A few of the other gang members sat on the dusty concrete floor. Speedball had been obsessively disassembling and putting back together his guns for the past half hour, and was too jumped up on cocaine to care about food. But Fausto looked up from polishing a stolen watch with a dirty bandana, and fixed Ozone with a level look. “I'd kill my own mother for a decent meal right about now, but how do plan on cooking it, genius?”

“Roast it on a spit?”

Vince didn’t like building a fire inside the abandoned building his gang called home, but sometimes he would risk it if the weather was cold enough. Unnecessary cooking was a different matter, though. “I don’t know if the ventilation is good enough for anything like that.” He looked around. “Someone get Gitana.”

Ozone found her sleeping off a hangover in the next room, and he brought her in, sleepy and sullen. She perked up when she saw Vince and shoved her corkscrew curls off her face.

Vince tried to ignore her soulful look. Gitana was all right, but she wanted him to be exclusive and that just wasn’t going to happen. “We’ve got his turkey and we’re not sure the best way to go about cooking it.”

A scowl crept over her face. “You think just because I’m a girl, I can cook or something?”

“No, I think because you say you used to live on a farm, you can cook. Or something.”

“I suggested roasting it on a spit,” Ozone said.

Gitana shook her head. “Too hard to get it right. It would probably end up burnt on the outside and raw on the inside.”

“My sister has a hot plate, when the electricity is working,” Vince offered.

“And we’d do what, fry it?” Gitana squatted next to the turkey and poked it. “The most obvious thing would be to bake it an oven.”

Vince rolled his eyes. “I'll send someone right out to steal one.”

“We can make one.” Gitana picked the bird up and examined it thoughtfully. “All you need is bricks and mortar. Or mud. But a hole in the ground would work, too.” She stood up and wiped her hands on her pants. “Dig a hole, line it with rocks, and build a big fire. When the fire dies down, put the turkey in and cover with more heated rocks and some dirt. Wait a few hours, and you’ve got turkey dinner.”

“Sounds like a lot of work.” Vince jingled a few coins in his pocket as he pondered. “Panz√≥n owes us a favor," he told Ozone. "Take it to his place and tell him to cook it for us. Remind him what we did to the guy who stole his delivery cart, and tell him this is how he can pay us back.”

Ozone stuffed the bird in a canvas bag.

“And tell him to bake us a few potatoes or yams, too. Whatever he’s got,” Vince added. “And we want some bread. Day-old is fine.” He rummaged in his pocket and took out a coin. “What the hell, get one of those pies he makes, too.” He handed Ozone the coin. “He’ll want to be paid for that, I’m sure.”

Ozone frowned in confusion. “Sure thing, boss, but what’s the occasion?”

“Pretty fancy dinner for just every day,” Gitana agreed.

Vince looked away, suddenly embarrassed. “Don’t need a reason to celebrate,” he said. “Life’s not easy, but we always find a way. Sometimes a guy just wants to give thanks for what he’s got.”

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Flash Fiction Interlude: God's Work

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This Three Word Wednesday story features Vince Mott, one of the characters from My New-Found Land. You can read more about Vince by following the tag at the bottom of the post.

“Looks like this is it, boss.”

Vince gazed up at the war-scarred building in dismay. “Can’t be. No fucking way.” He looked around, but saw no other likely buildings. “Maybe it’s on the next block.”

“I’ve been counting since the last place with a sign,” Ozone said. He gave a little shrug.

A few feet away, Speedball darted glances up and down the street as he fondled his Kalashnikov. Seeing nothing to hold his interest, he took aim at a pigeon on the bell tower. “So it’s a church. Big deal.”

“It is a big deal. And don’t go shooting the damn birds, okay?”

Speedball lowered his weapon. “Just because you’re superstitious doesn’t mean I am.”

“I’m not superstitious. I don’t even believe in God, you motherfucker. It’s just—” Vince glanced at the carved wooden doors, pock-marked with gunfire, and the stained glass windows, shattered in some places but still suggestive of peace and beauty. “It’s not cool to do the kind of work we do at a church. That’s all. Now go check that this place is clear.”

While Speedball walked the perimeter, weapon at the ready, Ozone lingered, trying to be philosophical. “It’s not like anyone uses this church any more. I bet they haven’t had a holy communion, or whatever they used to do here, since the Resource Wars. The whole neighborhood’s a wasteland.”

“Exactly. Those bastards could’ve picked anyplace to do this, so why here?”

“That’s Quix for you. No respect for the past.”

Vince rubbed the blue tattoo running in a stripe across his left cheek. “Tell the others it’s okay to bring the cart.”

After Ozone left, Vince did a quick check of the premises. Not that he didn’t trust Speedball – the guy was loyal, in spite of being about as sane as a rabid raccoon. The problem was that he couldn’t stay away from the substances that gave him his code name, and a drug runner with an addiction was always bad news.

It was hard to find good help in a post-apocalyptic city.

Satisfied that the place was secure, except for the pigeons Speedball was aiming at again, Vince found a spot at the front of the church where he could lean in phony nonchalance against a pole. Once again, he cursed Quix for setting the rendezvous at a church. The choice of location had been no accident; Quix never missed an opportunity to gain a psychological edge. But what did he want?

Ten minutes later, Quix arrived, lean and sallow, with locks of oily red hair poking out from beneath the brim of his leather hat. He was flanked by bodyguards, but Vince knew from experience that they were mostly for show. The mean-looking girl with the Glock on her hip and knot of tangled curls hanging down her back wasn’t a fighter at all, except in bed. Vince hadn’t particularly minded losing her to a rival, since there were prettier girls who could show a guy a good time and still go out on assignment and pick off a few enemies.

Vince walked casually in Quix’s direction. Speedball hurried to join him, and Vince was pleased to see a look of fear flit across Quix’s face. Having a loose cannon like Speedball on one’s team had its advantages.

Quix adopted a casual expression. “Glad you could make it. Nice weather we’re having.”

“No bullshit, you motherfucker.” Vince rested a hand on his .45. “You know I don’t cut deals in churches. It’s obscene.”

“Oh, come on – we’re doing God’s work. We’re offering escape and peace of mind in troubled times.”

“Yeah, whatever. It’s all business to me. What’ve you got, where’s it going, and what’s my cut?”

Quix glanced at Speedball, then at his own guards. He turned his eyes back to Vince and gave a little jerk of his chin. “Let’s go inside and talk like civilized folks.”

“I’m not civilized, and I know for damn sure you’re not.” Nevertheless, Vince led the way to the church steps and paused with his hand on one of the brass door handles. The heavy oak door was ornately carved with boats and apple trees, lions and lambs. He didn’t know what even half of it meant. Those old church stories were things grandparents and people in the villages remembered. Urban youth had other priorities.

But believer or no, the scenes unsettled him, and as Vince pulled open the door to the yawning dusty space within, he made a little promise to himself. He would take some of the profit off this deal and give it to his sister, who worked as a nurse in the wreckage of downtown. He would tell her to donate it to the fund for indigent patients. And maybe the god of this small church, who surely didn’t appreciate his house being abused this way, would be appeased.