Short Story Of the Day (flash fiction) – Booty Hates Crackheads by Bill Chance

“He’s Gandalf on crack and an IV of Red Bull, with a big leather coat and a .44 revolver in his pocket.”
Jim Butcher
 

Shrimp boat, Bolivar Peninsula, 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 (#78) Three fourths 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.


Booty Hates Crackheads

BUY SHRIMP HERE – I NEED THE MONEY

Woody Vogler read the sign as he turned the bicycle onto the gravel and sand side road that ran down to the bay side of the island. The headset squeaked a bit and Woody knew he’d need to take it apart, clean, and re-lube the thing. He liked the ancient bicycle to look bad, so nobody thought about stealing it, but run like a top. Up to now, Woody would ride to the end of the road and buy shrimp from the docks, but never saw a reason to do more work than he had to, plus the guy needed the money, so he turned off and leaned the bike against the graying four by eight sheet of old plywood that was propped up for a sign. The lettering was done with cheap white house paint put on with a brush – the letters were crude, but “At least the guy didn’t use spray paint,” Woody muttered as he walked around the clapboard house up on stilts to the little gray wood dock along the canal in back.

As he approached the dock a scruffy multicolored mutt of a dog came skittering up from the canal, growling low to the ground. The hair on the dog’s back was spiked as it pushed its belly low as it could, the snarl growing to a mean bark.
“Aw shut up Booty! It’s not a crackhead!”
An old man materialized from between the piles of rusty equipment and old trash cluttering up the dock. The dog immediately calmed down and turned, ignoring Woody, moving back to the canal.
“He hates crackheads, you know.”
“Really.”
“Yeah, watch this. Booty! Here comes some crackheads!”
The dog darted past Woody towards the road, barking like crazy.
“Booty! Kidding!”
On cue the dog quieted again, and turned back to the canal without a glance.
“Yeah the crackheads come up the road, this very road. They work on the shrimp boats. They get off the boats down there and walk up the road. Old Booty hates ’em. He can smell a crackhead a mile way…. Shrimp?”
“Two pounds.”
“Head’s on?”
“Naw.”
The old man began shoveling shrimp from a big white foam cooler into a stainless steel bowl suspended from a spring scale. Once he had the weight, he began picking them one by one and snipping the heads off into the water over the side of the dock. When the shrimp heads hit the water, it would boil as critters from below the surface fought over the meal. Booty stood on the bank on point, staring at whatever was gobbling the heads.

While the old man was working the shrimp Woody glanced around. The small square house was old peeling paint and ratty shingles, stilts starting to lean, the stairs missing a runner or two, the sandy lot littered with junk. Pretty standard for the bay side of the peninsula. The road ended a quarter of a mile at a big dock where a dozen Vietnamese shrimpers were pulled up. The crews were out cleaning their nets and stowing them for the day. There was a big reefer truck down there spewing blue smoke, picking the day’s catch up for wholesale. Woody turned to the water that ran by the old man’s shack. The canal that ran back up from the Intercoastal Waterway parallel to the road was getting silted up – an ancient decrepit shrimp boat, nets in terrible tatters leaned over, stuck in a mud bank down from the dock a few feet. The boat would never sail again but somebody had recently carefully repainted the name on the gunwale, “Mary Lou.”

“Here’s your shrimp.”

The old man spun a flimsy Wal-Mart shopping bag and knotted the top tight against the shrimp and handed it to Woody. After peeling some bills off a small roll in his pocket, Woody placed the bag in a wire basket on the bike’s handlebars and with a silent nod started off back home. He rode back to the main paved highway that ran down the length of the peninsula from the Galveston ferry. He rode facing traffic along the gravel shoulder, the old bike’s big heavy balloon tires smoothly negotiating the uneven surface without problem. It wasn’t fast, but Woody wasn’t in a hurry.

A Smell Of Ozone Blows Up

A smell of ozone blows up from the Dodgem cars out of the gray steel girderwork along the promenade, along with smells of shellfish on the barrows, and of salt sea. The pebbled beach is crowded with families: shoeless fathers in lounge suits and high white collars, mothers in blouses and skirts startled out of war-long camphor sleep, kids running all over in sunsuits, nappies, rompers, short pants, knee socks, Eton hats. There are ice cream, sweets, Cokes, cockles, oysters and shrimps with salt and sauce. The pinball machines writhe under the handling of fanatical servicemen and their girls, throwing body-english, cursing, groaning as the bright balls drum down the wood obstacle courses through ka-chungs, flashing lights, thudding flippers. The donkeys hee-haw and shit, the children walk in it and their parents scream. Men sag in striped canvas chairs talking business, sports, sex, but most usually politics.

—-Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow

Crystal Beach, Texas

The Hubris of Men

“This is the story of Isaac and his time in America, the last turning of the centuries, when the hubris of men led them to believe they could disregard even nature itself.”
― Erik Larson, Isaac’s Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History

Oblique Strategy: Children -speaking -singing

When our kids were young we used to come over Thanksgiving, or over New Year, or both – to rent a beach house at Crystal Beach on the Bolivar Peninsula, just east of Galveston, Texas. In the off season you could rent an old rickety beach house for almost nothing. It was great with high maintenance kids like ours- there were only two directions they could go on the beach and nothing they could destroy. It was the best of times.

We had to stop going because in 2008 Hurricane Ike wiped the low sandy Bolivar Peninsula clean.

Now, ten years later, a lot of the beach houses have been rebuilt. Their stilts are noticeably higher now, heavier and more numerous. So we rented one for New Year’s – Lee came from New Orleans and Nick from North of Houston.

It’s great to be back, the only problem is the weather is awful – cold, rainy, and very windy.

Lee walking in the surf at Crystal Beach. I checked my old blog entries – this was December 29, 2002. Fifteen years ago, almost to the day.

Lee walking in roughly the same spot, fifteen years later. There was no sun and it was very cold and windy. Same ocean, though.