Which merits your vote?

Chances Are
1 (8.3%)
Mobile Crickets
4 (33.3%)
Back In the Game
7 (58.3%)

Total Members Voted: 9

Voting closed: January 15, 2014, 07:05:40 AM

Author Topic: Winner: Voting for Short Story Challenge  (Read 3897 times)

Offline 510bhan

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 63305
  • So many jobs to do . . .
Winner: Voting for Short Story Challenge
« on: January 08, 2014, 07:05:41 AM »
TA DA -- the winner is Kowboy with Back in the Game.

Thanks for your participation and your votes. Keep MWC writing alive and make sure you take part in the next contest.

Three stories for your enjoyment -- because of the space in the reply boxes the stories will be posted in separate boxes, please read right through.

EDIT -- sorry 2 stories, one has been withdrawn.

« Last Edit: January 15, 2014, 10:15:48 AM by 510bhan »

Offline 510bhan

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 63305
  • So many jobs to do . . .
Re: Voting for Short Story Challenge
« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2014, 07:06:28 AM »

‘If you don’t keep up with the times now, Gran, how will you manage in the future?’

‘Matthew, I’m seventy-five. Remember?’

‘So? Didn’t stop you learning how to use that mobile phone Dad gave you, did it?’

True, Kath had mastered that at her son’s insistence. At her age, you tend not to think too far ahead, but her son was thinking ahead. So, to satisfy him, Kath had learned how to operate a mobile phone in preparation for when she became less mobile herself. Shame she kept forgetting where she left it, and it was so ridiculously small she needed glasses to find it.

‘Right, Gran, it’s all set up now.’ Matthew pressed a button and a screen flickered into life. ‘You’ll get the hang of it in no time.’

Watching Matthew demonstrate how “easy” it all was, Kath was ready to give up before even trying. And she would have admitted defeat if Matthew hadn’t said how his school mates thought it really cool that he was giving his old computer to his switched-on gran.

‘It’ll cheer you up,’ he said. ‘After that disappointment about your Josie and all.’

Ah, bless. Kath hadn’t realised young Matthew had tuned into the fact that she’d been feeling low lately about her sister’s visit from America being cancelled. What with Josie’s fall, which had somehow led to her going into residential care, neither of them could work out how they’d see each other again. Even if Kath could raise the fare to California, she could hardly stay with Josie in an old people’s home, could she?

‘Are you watching, Gran?’

‘Yes, love.’ Shoving a tissue back up her cardy sleeve, Kath leaned forward and tried to concentrate.

Now she’s sitting at the computer, fascinated by the fact that she can pass a thing called a cursor over a set of words, pick up the highlighted words and move them to another position in her page of text. And she’s actually doing it. She’s just picking up part of a sentence when, drat, the mobile phone rings in the other room. Except it doesn’t actually ring, as such. It sounds more like a cacophony of rioting crickets in pain, and it makes Kath jump so she drops the words she’s just picked up.

After removing her reading glasses and grabbing her walking around ones, she rushes into the lounge and reaches for the magnifying glass which is tied to the phone by a bit of string. Without her reading glasses, she needs this to locate the tiny button that activates the “lift receiver” function, but by the time she untangles the string, the crickets have stopped rioting.

If her reading glasses weren’t reclining on a mouse pad in another room, she’d be able to see the number of the last received call.  Sure, the magnifying glass does serve to show the caller’s number, but the digits on the miniature screen taper alarmingly from huge and distorted on one side to tiny and unreadable at the other side.

Kath’s stress level is rising and she wants to slam a receiver down in annoyance. But you can’t do that with these new-fangled things, can you? And brandishing a magnifying glass to locate a tiny button to press to terminate a call somehow doesn’t afford the same degree of satisfaction. So Kath throws the phone onto the settee, and a series of blippy-brip-type squeals tells her that the attached magnifying glass has bounced on a few rubber buttons.

She stomps back to the computer, swaps walking around glasses for reading glasses and casts her eyes over the screen, trying to find where she dropped the clump of words. Aha – there they are. Her carefully thought out article is now saying: The consumer has cause to question if this is worse the delightful aroma of freshly brewed coffee or better than the alternative on offer.

Kath swipes the cursor over the delightful aroma of freshly brewed coffee
and pauses as a thought occurs to her. Could the bouncing magnifying glass have dialled a number? Except there were only four or five blippy-brips, and no telephone numbers are that short. She can’t be connected to a call that’s costing her an arm and a leg while she sits here juggling with words.

Kath depresses the mouse button and lifts the highlighted words. They’re poised in transit, on their way to a sense-making location, when another thought slams into her brain: What if the magnifying glass hit the redial button? She could have been connected to the last dialed number for the past seven or eight minutes. She lets go of the mouse, and the delightful aroma of freshly brewed coffee drops into another unintelligible situation as she tries to remember who she last called.

Uh-oh – Josie! She’d called her on the mobile last week, just to check if it could really reach her sister in America.

No time to swap glasses, but according to her reading ones, the step-up bit between the split-level lounge and dining room isn’t exactly where it used to be. A quick trip and Kath finds herself plunging towards the floor, taking a pile of magazines off the coffee table en route. Her glasses are twisted round the side of her head, one of the arms carrying out an ear wax excavation job, and her left wrist is sending frantic pain signals to her brain. All of which is threatening to swamp her hitherto urgent desire to check if she’s running up a bill for a long term transatlantic call at peak rates.

Kath is about to curl up into a foetal position on the carpet with her head buried beneath a pile of National Geographic when a chorus of hyperactive crickets erupts into full voice again.

Raising a zinging head, Kath focuses on the settee, where a shaft of sunlight through the window flashes on a magnifying glass. Using her good arm, she drags herself to the settee and reaches for the magnifying glass. Then gropes for the phone, which she hopes is still on the other end of a bit of string, and stabs a finger in the general direction of where the lift receiver button was last seen through appropriate optical lenses.

Bull’s eye!

‘Can I speak to Dave please?’ a breathy voice lilts into Kath’s ear.

Who the devil’s Dave? Kath’s pain-befuddled brain wonders.

‘Who the devil’s Dave?’ she asks, and assumes it’s pain making her voice sound sharp.

‘He’s supposed to have mended my blender last week.’ Breathy Voice sounds slightly indignant. ‘I really, really want to know if it’s ready, only I’ve got thirty-eight vol-au-vents to make by Thursday.’

Dave’s Electrical Repairs! Kath might have guessed. His number is far too close to hers for comfort. All it requires is for some moron to dial a 3 and a 7 instead of a 7 and a 3 and Kath gets to hear from neurotic housewives who can’t possibly exist another day without their ceramic hostess tray or whatever. How can they be so stupid as to trust a cowboy outfit with nothing more than a mobile phone number?

Mind you, thirty eight vol-au-vents by Thursday is a bit serious.

‘Sorry,’ says Kath. ‘I’m afraid I can’t help, I…’

‘Well you flaming well should be able to!’ Forget breathy and lilting; this voice suddenly relocates to Billingsgate. ‘Just because you’re nothing but a cowboy outfit with a mobile phone number, you needn’t think I’m stupid!’

‘Excuse me, Madam…’  Kath takes a deep breath and rests her aching wrist on a cool magnifying glass. ‘I’ve got one thing to say to you, and this is not a recorded message. The consumer has cause to question if this is worse the delightful aroma of freshly brewed coffee or better than the…’

She’s in full swing when a noise, not unlike that of a dolphin with hiccups, informs her that her phone battery is flat. Then the discovery that her work got lost when she tripped over the cable and unplugged the computer is the last straw. With tears making their way through wrinkles, she admits defeat. What on earth had made her think she could learn to use a computer at her age?

She’s about to phone her grandson and tell him to take the thing away when her sister’s letter arrives:
Dear Kath,
I just got me a computer too. Get on-line, why don’t you, then we can have fun exchanging emails. Sometimes, when I can’t sleep at night, I feel like talking to you…

That was it then, wasn’t it? Who knew if the sisters would ever see each other again, but if Josie could handle a computer at eighty, how could Kath give in to being too old to end her sentences with dot com?

Offline 510bhan

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 63305
  • So many jobs to do . . .
Re: Voting for Short Story Challenge
« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2014, 07:07:11 AM »
3. Back In the Game

“Why are you helping us?”  He asked.

“’Cause I’m bettin’ your boss is gonna be really grateful.” I said and with that we transferred the last of the 20 100-lb. bales of marijuana from their overturned pick-up to my minivan. I could barely get the door shut.

It was around midnight on Florida route 301 when I watched their truck slide off the rain-slicked highway at a curve and teeter on two wheels before finally coming to rest on its side, seemingly in slow motion. The tarp that was covering the weed is flapping like a skirt in the wind; the loose bales are peeking back at the truck through the grass.

The only other folks traveling this road at this hour are underworked sheriff’s deputies and seniors with cellphones to call the underworked deputies. Looks like these guys lucked out when a former dealer is first on the scene.

I told the big guy to drive, handed him the keys and handed the skinny one my pistol.

“Put your prints on the slide, then give me a whack on the forehead with the butt. Not too hard. You guys are taking me hostage.” He did as he was told and when the stars in my eyes cleared, I climbed in between them. If we get caught, I’m gonna look the part.

“My shop is about 5 miles ahead. Let’s go.” I said.

It’s quiet at Sarasota Industrial Park at this hour; there isn’t really a night shift for the auto detailers and pool maintenance shops with which I share a wall on each side. I unlock and lift the overhead door and we back my van in as far as it will go, but we’ll have to settle for pulling the door down over the hood.  The plan is to stash the dope in my loft, go back for the truck, reload, and send these guys on their way maybe a bale or two lighter.

As we’re half unloaded, the flash of yellow lights outside the door panics Fatty and Skinny. Skinny grabs the pistol, but I shake my head.

“Security guard.” I said and dodged under the door.

Old Bob is already off his golf cart and on his way in.

“Late-nighter ‘eh Joe?” he asks.

“No rest for the wicked.” I reply and he smiles.

“Well let me give you a hand.” He says with his hands going for the bottom of the door. “It’s kinda slow around here tonight.”

Stepping between him and the door I said, “Bob, I appreciate it, but the boys inside and I have got this covered.  If you hurt your back again helping me, Nora would kill me. And you know I’d rather slide down a 50 foot razorblade into a bottle of alcohol than to have your wife pissed at me.”

“Damnit. True enough though. Maybe something lighter in the daytime? He asks hopefully.

“Sure thing old man. I’ll keep you in mind.” I said.

“What’d ya do to yer head?” he asks.

“You might say I ran into something.” I said. He climbed back on his golf cart and waved as he left.

*                                                                 *                                                             *

“Ace, I need a tow.” I said into the phone.

“Yeah, well I need a blowjob, so that makes two of us who ain’t gettin’ what we want tonight then doesn’t it?” he said laughing. “It’s the middle of the fuckin’ night.”

The pause in the conversation was deafening.

“Maybe I could send Jimmy.” He said.

“Fuck Jimmy. I’ve got a thousand dollars cash that says you’ll get your sorry ass out of bed and give me a tow in the middle of the night.” I said.

“You went too high too soon Dickhead. Now I know you’re desperate. Fifteen hundred.  What’s the address?” he said.

“Meet me at the RaceTrac gas station at exit 15 off 301 in a half an hour. “ I said.

*                                                                 *                                                              *

Pedro Louis Garcia, aka “Skinny” wasn’t even an American citizen. What the hell is wrong with dope dealers these days? Christ, we used to have back-up vehicles following for when shit like this happened. They can’t even staff their trucks with citizens? The illegals are even taking the illegal jobs. Fortunately Fatty had a valid license and citizenship so he was the safest bet to ride with Ace to pick up the truck. That is if the cops hadn’t gotten to it yet.

Splitting up our team also had the advantage of having to perfectly coordinate our stories.  Good cops will question passengers separately. If the stories don’t match substantially, they’ve got a good hint someone’s lying. Lying leads to probable cause, probable cause leads to a dog, and a dog can damn well sniff out where two tons of marijuana were just several hours ago, even in a rainstorm. Dog or no dog, they’ve still got no pot. I worry too much sometimes.

When I dropped off Fatty at the gas station, I told him and Ace that Fatty had walked the several miles back to the exit where he was just lucky enough to run into Ace who was out on a late-night run.  I stuffed all the cash I had into Ace’s hand and told him I’d get him the rest in the morning. He just smiled.

Pedro Louis Garcia and I drove back to the shop to wait for Fatty who arrived in a little over an hour. Other than a scruffy grass stain, the truck appeared no worse for the wear. I gave them a shop key, told them to put it under the mat and turn off the lights when they leave, and I left.

Even though I only had a decaf, I was still a little shaky when I arrived the following morning.  The key was under the mat, the lights were off, but there in the loft were 3 100-lb. bales of boo with a note of gratitude and a phone number if I ever wanted back in the game. I made a single phone call and wholesaled the pot for $200,000.00. It was gone and I had the cash by noon.

I bought the house next door, and then flew to Indiana to pick up my niece and her kids. I assured her that I was absolutely certain her abusive boyfriend would never lay a hand on her or the kids again. Has Uncle Joe ever lied to you Honey?

Offline 510bhan

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 63305
  • So many jobs to do . . .
Re: Winner: Voting for Short Story Challenge
« Reply #3 on: January 15, 2014, 10:17:59 AM »
Well done Kowboy!

Offline Laura H

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 34448
Re: Winner: Voting for Short Story Challenge
« Reply #4 on: January 15, 2014, 02:17:33 PM »
Congrats, Kowboy  :D
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” ― Maya Angelou

“Don't be like the rest of them, darling.” ― Eudora Welty

Offline Gyppo

  • Esteemed Contributor
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 72244
  • I've been writing ever since I realised I could.
Re: Winner: Voting for Short Story Challenge
« Reply #5 on: January 15, 2014, 02:25:34 PM »
Nice tale, Kowboy.  A worthy winner.

I really liked the other one as well, some excellent and convincing characterisation of the gran (Kath).
My website is currently having a holiday, but will return like the $6,000,000 man.  Bigger, stronger, etc.

In the meantime, why not take pity on a starving author and visit my book sales page at http://stores.lulu.com/gyppo1

Offline bri h

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 18523
Re: Winner: Voting for Short Story Challenge
« Reply #6 on: January 15, 2014, 02:30:31 PM »
Well done Kowboy. Bri
Fare thee well Skip. We're all 'Keening' now. xbx

Offline 2par

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4740
Re: Winner: Voting for Short Story Challenge
« Reply #7 on: January 15, 2014, 03:31:48 PM »
Congratulations, Kowboy.
I also enjoyed the other story as well.


  • Guest
Re: Winner: Voting for Short Story Challenge
« Reply #8 on: January 16, 2014, 11:53:28 PM »
Congratulations, Kowboy.

Offline Kowboy

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1676
Re: Winner: Voting for Short Story Challenge
« Reply #9 on: January 17, 2014, 06:33:22 AM »
Thanks everyone. I hadn't written anything in a while so it was time.

Pale Writer

  • Guest
Re: Winner: Voting for Short Story Challenge
« Reply #10 on: January 17, 2014, 07:08:18 AM »
Congratulations, Kowboy - great to see you writing again.

Offline heidi52

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 13213
Re: Winner: Voting for Short Story Challenge
« Reply #11 on: January 17, 2014, 09:51:47 AM »
Congratulations Kowboy. I enjoyed your story.