Short Story Of the Day (flash fiction) – Sherman’s March by Bill Chance

“If I owned Texas and Hell, I would rent out Texas and live in Hell”
General Philip Henry Sheridan
 

Deep Ellum Brewing Company’s Lineup

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#92) Almost There! What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.


Sherman’s March

 

The bar was called “Sherman’s March” – which gave an idea of the sort of attitude the place was trying to establish in the quiet Southern college town. Sherman was, of course, the Yankee General that had come through the countryside with the new idea of total war, scorching the earth, digging up the vital railroads, melting the rails in bonfires made from the ties, and bending the softened bars around the trees to insure nobody would ever make us of the infrastructure again. He left misery, starvation and the utter destruction of a way of life. That’s who and what the bar was named after.

The clientèle wasn’t students. “Sherman’s March” and the even rougher “Jackson’s” across the street were hangouts for the locals, the townies, the young people that grew up in the town and were denied the fun and future given to the college students drawn to the town from across the nation by the warm climate, low tuition, and even lower admission standards. The college had the word “state” in it and three different directions, every one except north, in its name. Despite the modest credentials the local kids still viewed its students as privileged invaders.

The bar was within easy walking distance of his apartment and his roommate, Frank, a dedicated Architecture student had come to love the place. They never missed a visit on Tuesday nights, which was quarter longneck night. Beer was thrown out in the distinctive glass bottles, four for a dollar, which even then, when a dollar was worth a lot more than it is now, was really cheap. The place was dark, full of heavy wooden urethaned homemade rough furniture. The jukebox was filled with outlaw country music – nothing Nashville – Willie Nelson, Jerry Jeff Walker, that sort of thing. There was always a bouncer at the door and it was always the same man – Woody couldn’t believe how many hours the guy worked. He was massive, tall and huge, with a constant blank look on his face. One very warm night he wore shorts to work and Woody noticed the telltale crisscross of surgical scars on both knees that indicated a football career cut short early because of injury.

The attitude in the place was always on the grim side and could go very bad very fast. Woody had never seen any black customers, but one night he wound back through the narrow space past the jukebox and pool table to use the bathroom. When he pulled the door open he saw two black guys in there wailing on each other, swinging as hard as they could in the cramped space, beating each other senseless. It looked like a bad omen, so Woody shut the door quickly, walked back through the bar and went home.

Quarter longneck nights were especially dangerous. The place would be filled with men who, like Woody and Frank, were mostly interested in a cheap drunk. It was not a time and place for intelligent conversation, but Frank, especially, had his fill of that the rest of the week, Quarter Longneck night was a welcome escape from his ambition and ability. Woody came along for the ride – and the cheap drunk.

Woody and Frank quickly developed a sense for when trouble was about to break out at Sherman’s March. The first indication was a lack of women. On some nights the bar would fill with men and without the attraction and moderating influence of at least a few females the testosterone would flow across the bar like a wave and it wouldn’t be long before the fists would fly. With no women in the place there wasn’t anything to do other than fight. Frank and Woody weren’t proud, whenever the first whiff of trouble started, they were out the door.

On that last night, though, their instincts were too slow. It was getting late and Woody had put away two dollars’ worth of beer and was hunched over the jukebox with another quarter in his hand. He couldn’t seem to make up his mind and something in the atmosphere made the hair on the back of his neck stand up. A quick survey of the place and he realized the place was packed but no women. He started to push his way back to grab Frank and get out when a blur caused him to duck and a heavy glass schooner, half-full and spewing beer as it spun, wobbled by and crashed into a table of guys in cowboy hats.

The place immediately erupted. The pool table was between Woody and the door and he knew to stay away from there – he could already see wooden pool cues swinging. He looked past the table and the bar toward the front door, trying to scout an escape route and could see the bouncer energetically grabbing anyone within reach and heaving them out the front door. They looked like rag dolls flying out. One did try and fight back – a particularly large fellow – and for a second he and the bouncer swayed back and forth before the guys feet left the ground and he was thrown. The struggle threw the bouncer off though and instead of cleanly going out the door he struck the glass window next to the frame and it quickly shattered, the guy going on out, sprawling cut up onto the sidewalk.

The sound of smashing glass and the sight of flowing blood increased the level of violent insanity within the rioting bar. An animal-like scream rose and the pool cues started swinging faster and harder, the glass pitchers, schooners, and bottles flew like missiles, and punches began falling all around. Woody knew that a bloody victim out on the sidewalk would draw the cops quickly and he decided to hunker down next to the pinball machine and try to ride everything out. He had his back to the wall, into the little corner and was begining to think he’d get out in one piece when someone tapped him on one shoulder.

Woody turned to see a rough-looking guy standing there wobbly on a pair of crutches. For a split second he thought the guy must need help and started to open his mouth to ask something when the guy hauled back and punched Woody right square in the face. The force of the impact threw Woody back completely over the pinball table until he fell off onto the concrete floor on the other side. He could feel the blood pouring from his nose.

He wobbled to his feet and started stumbling through the crowd. Woody could feel blows and pushes, but knew he had to keep moving. As he came close to the front door somebody slid sideways into him and he fell into the jagged broken glass of the shattered window. Woody felt a cold slice and a sharp shard cut his cheek. A strong hand grabbed the back of his shirt and moved him on out, onto the bloodied sidewalk.

The police were already there and a brace of ambulances were screaming in. There was a triage set up and Woody was taken quickly, in handcuffs to the city hospital where his face was sewn up in the emergency room. In the years to come, he was told that a better doctor could have minimized the scar across his face, but it was too late.

Short Story Of the Day – Empty Bottles (flash fiction) by Bill Chance

“Work is the curse of the drinking classes.”
― Oscar Wilde

The end of a game of giant Jenga – Community Beer Company, Dallas, Texas


 

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#64) More than half way there! What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.

 


 

Empty Bottles

 

Amber was drunk again when Darien came home from work. Darien was tired, he was always tired. Sick and tired. Darien worked late every night now. The sad truth is that he was afraid to come home. He was working later and later week by week on purpose.

While Darien was at the law office Amber would sleep until noon. She would watch television until three and then head down to the Rusty Duck – a dark bar full of unemployed plumbers and valet parking attendants getting a buzz on before work. He knew this is what Amber did all day because that’s what she told him.

Darien wasn’t sure when it had all gone bad but he knew it didn’t take very long. It felt like it had happened overnight.

Today there was a galvanized bucket with 3 inches of ice melt water in it on the floor in the living room and empty Budweiser bottles scattered around the couch.

“You have to give me a ride down to the Rusty Duck” Amber said “I left the Suburban there.”

“How did you get home?”

“Oh, Terry and some of the boys gave me a ride.”

“I see they stayed a while. I see you all had a nice little party while I was at work.”

“Now if you’re going to be working until after dark we’ll have the party without you. What do you expect me to do? Now don’t you go leaving me home all alone like you been doing.”

“Somebody has to make a buck around this place. You’re sure not bringing anything home.”

“Oh keep it up buddy and I’ll be bringing plenty home. Just you watch.”


The next time, Amber wasn’t even home when Darien came back from work. She had been there – the Suburban was parked crookedly in front of the house. The backyard was scattered with beer bottles, though they had remembered to take their bucket with them this time.

Darien didn’t know what to do. He grabbed a trash bag, turned the porch lights on, and walked around the back yard picking up bottles.

He could not figure out how it had come to this.

A memory came back, against his will. There was a time when they both were young. When he first met Amber he always had a book with him. He read constantly, voraciously, always had, all his life. He carried the current dog-eared paperback the way most people carried a wallet. He didn’t think twice about it and couldn’t imagine anyone else even noticing.

One evening, when Amber showed up, she had a book with her. She carried it awkwardly, like she didn’t know exactly what to do with the thing. Darien took a look at the thing – it was a cheap junk paperback thriller, with a lurid cover featuring a woman in a torn dress and a man firing a pistol from a speeding sports car.

“Oh, you don’t want to read this,” Darren said to Amber. “Tomorrow, I’ll bring you a real book.”

The next day he dug around in the old suitcase he always brought with him, his portable library. After some consideration, he dug out a slim volume – “The Awakening,” by Kate Chopin, and brought it down to the pool. It was the only paperback he had that he figured she would be able to get through. He handed it to Amber down at the pool that evening. She looked at it with suspicion, but took it anyway.

Darien realized that he had never, not in his long, awkward, desperate courtship of Amber, or in their years of marriage, asked her if she had ever read it. He knew she still had the book, she kept the same copy in her makeup drawer, but he never felt like he could talk about it. He had never seen her read another book.

He had finished gathering the bottles, so he sat down in a wooden chair in the back corner of the yard, and began to weep. He knew Amber would come home, eventually, but what was he to do then?

He was startled by the sudden loud rhythmic croaking of a single frog, somewhere in the groundcover under the tree by the fence. He looked, but couldn’t figure out where the frog was at. The sound was constant and seemed to come from several directions at once.

Listening to the lonely sound, Darien realized that he would do nothing – that there was nothing he could do. He was being mistreated terribly, but he needed this. He needed this. He had fallen that evening years ago when Amber had driven up on her little motorcycle and the cavern had become deeper and the walls steeper every day since then.

He abandoned the call of the solitary frog and went back into the house. He dialed his office and left a message that he would not be in to work the next day. He unlocked the front door and then stretched out on the sofa, trying to get a little restless sleep, waiting there for Amber to come home.

Sunday Snippet – Alphasmart by Bill Chance

“She’s not my wife,” the man said, “She’s my aunt, and she likes you.”

—–Bill Chance, random file from my Alphasmart Neo

Map Bag

My Not-A-Purse. What is strange is that I found this image floating around on the internet – I don’t know where it originally came from. But if you look, there is an Alphasmart Neo sticking up in the bag. I can’t believe other people out there have Neos in their bags, exactly like mine.

Over the decades I have been on a quest for the perfect, distraction-free, portable writing machine.

I have experimented with netbooks, phones with bluetooth keyboards and tablets with wired keyboards (which actually works well – but not in the sun).

My Toshiba Netbook – rode my bike to a coffee shop.

Bluetooth Keyboard and my phone.

My android tablet and portable keyboard, I stopped my bike ride on the Bridge Park over the Trinity River to get some writing done.

My favorite (but long obsolete) solution, however, has always been the Alphasmart. It’s a portable keyboard, powered by double A batteries (which last years) with a tiny four line display. You type text into it and it keeps the text. To export, you USB the thing to your regular computer, hit SEND, and it retypes your text back into whatever program you want. Amazing and simple.

I used an Alphasmart 3000 for a couple years. I wasn’t happy with it – the keyboard was clunky and hard to type fast on. I replaced it with an upgraded version that had an excellent keyboard – the  Neo – which was really good. I still have it – I lost one key somewhere, but it isn’t an important one. I need to dig that thing out and start carrying it again.

The medium used to generate words (handwriting, Alphasmart, tablet, phone laptop, desktop, digital or tape recorder, manual typewriter, Dragon naturally speaking) has a huge influence on how I write. I think I’m going to dig out the Alphasmart Neo and carry it again. Since you can only see four short lines (a tiny bit of text) at any one time, it helps to kill off your internal editor – you just move on. It does tend to produce small bits of jarring snippets of text, however. These, hopefully, can be expanded and re-used later.

I found some files on my computer from many years ago labled “AS1, AS2, AS3…” and so one. These were collections of stuff I had written on the Alphasmart Neo up to a decade ago.

Here’s one:

I was about to leave a run-down roadhouse in Bumfucker, Arkansas, when I offered two bottles of Budweiser to a local couple I had just met.

“One for you and one for your wife.”

“She’s not my wife,” the man said, “She’s my aunt, and she likes you.”

Later I was lying on a noisy mattress in the back of her trailer, thinking, there are other people in this room. But they were only cats.

I’m actually sort of excited about bringing my Alphasmart Neo back from the dead. If you want one – they are readily available used for 35 bucks or so from Ebay.

Afternoon at the Brewery

“Never underestimate how much assistance, how much satisfaction, how much comfort, how much soul and transcendence there might be in a well-made taco and a cold bottle of beer.”
― Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume

Four Corners Brewery, Dallas, Texas

Four Corners

A Pink Floyd Reference

Lime and limpid green, a second scene
A fight between the blue you once knew
Floating down, the sound resounds
Around the icy waters underground
Jupiter and Saturn, Oberon, Miranda and Titania
Neptune, Titan, stars can frighten

—-Pink Floyd, Astronomy Domine, from The Piper at the Gates of Dawn

 

One of the order boards, Braindead Brewing Company, Deep Elllum, Dallas, Texas

Nick and I took the DART train towards downtown with our bikes. He got off before me and went for a longer ride – but we met up at Braindead Brewing in Deep Ellum for a late lunch and a beer. Braindead has a lot of taps with their own unique brews displayed on the wall. I ordered a number 14 from a very young-looking waiter.

“That’s a Pink Floyd reference,” he said, with pride.

“I’m old,” I said, gesturing at my gray hair, “I know that album,” (although I was only ten when the album was released… Actually I think I heard it on re-release in the 70’s).

“I’m just showing off that I know what it is,” the waiter replied.

And I was suitably impressed.

And the beer – a strong dark Scotch ale, brewed with coffee, was good… worthy of classic early Pink Floyd – with Syd Barrett.

 

 

 

Cold, Cold And Hop-Bitter

“Oh, this beer here is cold, cold and hop-bitter, no point coming up for air, gulp, till it’s all–hahhhh.”
Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow

Taps on the wall, and a bear. Braindead Brewing Company, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

Bike Porn – Tribe

“A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.”
Seth Godin, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us

Nice Tribe Urban Bike parked outside Braindead Brewing, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

That’s one way to store your cleated bike shoes while you go in for a beer.