Monday, January 18, 2010

Flash Fiction Extra: These Times

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story features Vince Mott, a character from Diana's Diary, which is part of my Will and Diana series. You can read more about Vince by following the tag at the bottom of the post.

Vince slammed back the rest of his drink, then put the glass and bottle of purported Canadian Club away. He didn’t bother locking his office as he left, since the members of his gang knew better than to touch his stuff. The last one to do it was living on the streets now, missing a few teeth and fingers, and bearing some interesting scars.

The easiest way to get to the site of tonight’s deal was via the motorcycle he had stolen a few weeks ago, but he didn’t want to call attention to himself, so he walked until he found a bicycle rickshaw driver looking for a fare. Vince gave an address, then sat back and pondered while the rickshaw bounced over the pitted roads of the city. He wished the government would tear up the old asphalt and lay down stones or something. Too many people still clung to the notion that the old days of prosperity would return if only new cheap sources of oil were found and the government would put down all the infighting.

And while they were dreaming, perhaps they’d like an Easter Bunny, too. Vince smiled to himself. Young realists like himself were the future of this town.

The driver dropped him off in front of a taqueria that Vince knew to be a front for a drug operation. He tipped the driver, waited a few minutes, then set off for the address he had committed to memory.

When he got to the bullet-scarred building, he circled it, noting all possible ways in and out, and any obstacles that could trip a guy up or obscure a lookout’s point of view. Then he bought a kebab of questionable meat from a nearby street vendor, sat on a shop step and watched his target for a few minutes. After he had determined the place wasn’t under surveillance, he gave the rest of the meat to a stray dog and found his way into the building, his Glock drawn and ready.

Although most of the windows were boarded up, enough dusty light filtered in that he could see the hulking shapes of old display cabinets, derelict computers and piles of rags. There was nothing here worth stealing, although that wouldn’t be true later tonight. After his eyes adjusted, Vince started making his way around the room, making note of obstacles and pitfalls, just as he had outside.

He was dragging a dead electrical line out of a traffic path when a small sound caught his attention. He pointed his Glock. “Get over here, hands up, motherfucker.”

A hunched shape separated itself from the shadows. “I don’t want no trouble.”

Vince assessed: white hair, wild matted beard, filthy clothes. Even from this distance the man reeked. “You’re going to have to find another place for tonight, grandpa.”

“But this is my shop.”

“The whole city is full of empty shops. Find another.” Vince dug in his pocket for some coins. “It’s for your own good.”

“You don’t understand. My father opened this place when the building was brand new.” The man waved a trembling hand. “The walls were clean and white then, with red trim. The counters held beautiful new things for sale – electronic gadgets I bet you’ve never in your life seen in operation.”

Vince shrugged. “It was all wasteful and ridiculous. Now take this money, buy yourself a meal and find another building to squat in for a few days.”

“No. I took this place over from my father when he died. It was hard to find new things to sell, but I learned how to repair old electronics. I would clean them up and make them work like new.” He pulled up a rickety chair and sat down. “Then I got drafted and sent to fight in the resource wars. I came home to civil war. I couldn’t re-open my business; I got gassed overseas and my hands shook too bad from nerve damage to repair anything. I had no home, and my family had scattered. I had this place, though. It’s still mine, and if you want me out of here, you’ll have to shoot me.”

Vince gazed at the man for a long time before speaking. “The old days,” he finally said, “before the wars and all that…was it really as good as they say?”

“It was a lot cleaner, and a person was mostly safe as long as he minded his own business. We had fancier toys, but life is hard no matter when you live it, son. It’s only in our own heads that some other time or place is better.”

Vince nodded and put his gun away. The coins he had dug out of his pocket were still in his hand and he laid them on a grimy counter. “There’s going to be a little business operation going on tonight. Someone else chose this spot and I can’t change it. Make yourself scarce, don’t interfere, and you’ll make out all right.”

“And what about you?”

“What do you mean?”

“Will you make out all right? You seem like the sort that goes looking for trouble.”

Vince laughed. “No, old man, trouble found me. I’m just trying to make the best of things. Like you say, it’s only in our imagination that there’s anyplace better.”


Americanising Desi said...

:) and you connected beautifully!

Good Ol' Days'

Lilibeth said...

I enjoyed this story. You kept me reading til the end.

Alice Audrey said...

I always wanted to try one of those bicycle rickshaws.

Dee Martin said...

you have got something going here - I'd love to see it expanded!

Thomma Lyn said...

Fabulous story. Great characterization of Vince and the old man, and good, chewy nuggets of wisdom, too.

Kwee Cats and Art said...

Ooooh, tell me Vince really exists somewhere, even if there is no better.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

I can't believe I missed this one somehow!