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


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.”
“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?”
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.

As For the Peasant So For the Pilot

“The machine which at first blush seems a means of isolating man from the great problems of nature, actually plunges him more deeply into them. As for the peasant so for the pilot, dawn and twilight become events of consequence. His essential problems are set him by the mountain, the sea, the wind. Alone before the vast tribunal of the tempestuous sky, the pilot defends his mails and debates on terms of equality with those three elemental divinities.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Wind, Sand and Stars


Galveston, Texas

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

Rather Be Exact

“Only I have no luck any more. But who knows? Maybe today. Every day is a new day. It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready.”
― Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

Galveston, Texas

The Emptiness Below Us

“Anyone whose goal is ‘something higher’ must expect someday to suffer vertigo. What is vertigo? Fear of falling? No, Vertigo is something other than fear of falling. It is the voice of the emptiness below us which tempts and lures us, it is the desire to fall, against which, terrified, we defend ourselves.”
― Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Crystal Beach, Bolivar Peninsula, Texas

Now, here is is, the first day of a spanking new year. And I have these goals for 2018 – I’ve worked hard on these… and the main three are:

  • Read 100 books
  • Write 50 Short Stories
  • Ride 3000 miles on my bike.

Since this is only the beginning, I didn’t want to get behind right at the start. So I cheated on the reading a hundred books – and jumped the gun by starting two weeks early. I’m up to six so far… which is good. I’ve already written one short story – so I’m OK there.

But I am stuck in a beach house with no bicycle and freezing cold… incredible wind… what we used to call a blue norther. I had planned on a little flexibility on my goal – knowing that I get sick over the winter and need other means to keep up with my goal.

At home, I have two exercise bikes – so I decided that riding one of those is worth ten miles for each hour riding. That way I can keep up if I’m forced inside.

At the beach house I thought about it and decided that, in a pinch, I can walk to make up the goal. Only in emergency situations, like now – the first day. After some thought and internet research, I decided on a three mile walk, at a brisk pace, would equal ten miles of riding. I walk at about three miles per hour, so that’s about an hour – which corresponds with riding or stationary. Also, that’s in addition to whatever I walk on a normal basis – the usual strutting around doesn’t count.

So at the end of the day, I layered on as much as I could (the temperature was below freezing and the wind was… really strong. I walked out to the beach and watched the kids fire off the last of their fireworks, then headed out down the beach. There is a little creek that emerges from the dunes and blocks off the rest of the beach from where we were and I knew that to that creek and back would get me to the three miles I needed.

I started out into the wind, pulling my hood closed so I was looking out a tiny circle at the water on the right and the dunes on the left. The moon was full, so there was plenty of light. It was very cold. But I started walking.

And it put me into the thought of all the other times over my life that I had walked on the beach, especially at night. From Panama to Nicaragua, to South Padre Island over spring break (That was a long drive from Lawrence, Kansas) to this very beach over the years with my kids growing larger and larger.

There is a rhythm of walking on the beach, in the wet sand between the surf and the loose part (in Texas it is generally allowed to drive on the beach, so, especially at night, you want to stay close to the surf), as the time and the miles go by all those old memories become telescoped in to the present day, the experience of being and moving along a border between two worlds.

It was a lot easier to walk back with the wind behind me. So now I have the equivalent of ten miles of bike riding on the first day of January. Still on track – so good, so far.

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.