Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Want To Play A Game?

It’s a rare thing, to constantly read a author’s work and then sit for days on end,  wishing you had thought of that yourself.  Wishing you had even the slightest bit of fortitude to even attempt to write it yourself.

It’s not such a rare thing, however, if you write with a group of authors like the members of Snutch.  And it happens quite a bit, with a particular writer, Kurt Dinan (pronounced Die-nan.  Just in case you weren’t sure.)  

His stories have this nasty habit of luring me in all nice-like, before turning on me like a rabid dog, chewing me up and spitting me out.  I could blame it on my own naivety, my insane desire to hide my eyes from the ugly truth of the world, fixating instead on the all that is good and wonderful and right. But that would be bullshit.  It’s him.  Kurt Dinan.  It’s his writing that does that, not my puppy-dog outlook on life. 
***Note***  Those of you that know me, might be thinking this very moment, Puppy dog outlook???  Who the F is she talking about???  But it’s true.  I may hide it well beneath my tough girl exterior, but it’s there all the same.  ***End Side Note***

And every time it happens, every time I’m socked in the face with an unconceivable twist of events, or a phenomenal phrase that turns his great story into a F-ing Fantastic story, I feel that pull of envy, that tinge of self-doubt that tells me I will never, EVER be as good as him.  Even now, after writing with him for five years and counting, he still manages to do it, and his story, The Darkness Game, is no exception.

It is a great honor to work with each and every one of the writer’s of Snutch Labs and when you read this excerpt below, you’ll get an idea of what I am talking about.

Breaking into the Keller’s was when I first felt the ripping. It was a tiny tear at first,
almost imperceptible, like a scratch at the back of my throat, but deeper down.
That Thursday I called in sick, from the dark of my closet nonetheless. When the Kellers pulled into the Pizza Tower lot a few minutes short of seven, Gibb and I pulled away from our spot in a dark area of the lot and drove toward their house.

“We’re not really doing this, are we?” Gibb said.

“Rule one,” I said. “Anything goes.”

The evening was cloudy and threatening rain. Gibb was so full of adrenaline he could
barely keep the car on the road. I had my shoes on the dash. I wore a Lycra red tank top and running shorts that bunched up against my hips. In case anything went wrong, I’d told Gibb we’d look like we were out for a run.

We parked a block from the Kellers at Orchard Hills Elementary. I got out, and on the
pretext of stretching my hamstrings, doubled over at the waist in front of Gibb so he’d follow. He ran beside me down the street, his hands covering his crotch.

“The key to the backdoor is under the planter on the deck. We’ll be in and out in five
minutes. Find something small,” I said.

Once we turned onto the Keller’s street, I scanned for anyone who might be outside. No one was. We passed the Keller’s house, then slowed, stepping onto the edge of the lawn and heading around the side. I’m pretty sure the moment I stepped off the sidewalk was when I felt the first rip happen.

The plan went off like I’d hoped – the key’s location, a five minute visit, no one home.
What surprised me was how easily I handled it. I’d half-expected myself to chicken out, maybe even having Gibb take me to church afterward so I could talk to Ray, our youth minister. But I didn’t feel bad about what I’d done. It was like I was traveling down a path that had been rough at first, but the farther I’d walked, the more assured my footing became.

We didn’t talk again until we were back on the road, well away from the house. Gibb
couldn’t stop checking the rearview mirror.

“What did you get?” I asked.

Gibb pulled a folded-up picture from the waist of his shorts. In the photo are Mr. and
Mrs. Keller, probably in their early twenties, all smiles as they emerge from the church door to a shower of rice.

“Why that?”

Gibb checked behind us again, then stared out the window at the passing streetlights in the dark.

“I was going to pick something dumb like a spoon or pencil, nothing that really counted.  But then I saw the wedding album and found this. Something about it pisses me off. Maybe it’s that they look so happy and are still together, going to family dinners with their kids at the stupid Pizza Tower every Thursday. So I took it.”

“God, that’s shitty, Gibb,” I said. I’d been swearing more and more, and finding I’d liked
it. “That picture is probably irreplaceable.”

There was no judgment. If anything, I was envious.

“Pull in there,” I said.

Gibb parked out of the glow of the lights in the lot behind the church my family attended. I crawled in the back seat, the satin of my running shorts brushing his cheek as I went.

“Come here,” I said.

Gibb climbed in back and I lifted my hips and nodded towards my shorts, which came off easily. Gibb was still so high from everything the next day that he never thought to ask what I’d stolen.

There's more.  Much more. And it only gets better.  If you've already ordered, well, you're halfway there.  If you haven't, go here.  Yeah, I know I'm pretty demanding.  But do it anyway. You'll have long forgotten my bossy attitude, once you turn that first page.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Excerpt from Tales From The Yellow Rose Diner and Fill Station

Thought I'd post a little taste of The Yellow Rose Diner, just to give you all a glimpse into the dark minds of
Snutch Labs.  Read yourself a little preview of my story, Knowing The Deal.  

I once saved a man’s life. He had three days to live before a shotgun blast would disintegrate most of his head. Without a second thought, without an ounce of hesitation, I saw how he was going to die and I stopped it.

I should have let him do it. I should have let him eat that motherfucking buckshot when I had the chance. Things would have turned out a whole lot different if I had.

One more night and a wakeup. That’s all that’s left of the three year sentence bestowed upon me by the great state of Missouri. Manslaughter’s what they called it, that’s what I copped to, but that’s a load of bullshit. It was murder, plain and simple, and if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing, except maybe make it a little less quick and a little more painful. But we rarely get second chances in life, so I just need to be satisfied with the outcome.  Or at least as satisfied as one can be in this situation, I guess. Bitter, I know, but considering the fucked-up outcome of a seemingly benign decision, I don’t begrudge myself a little cynicism.

Death. I’ve been seeing it since I was a child. My mother was the first. I was ten. I saw her blackened and charcoaled face three days before the fire that took her life broke out and consumed our entire house. She burned to death before I knew what I needed to do to save her.  That knowledge kept me up at night for the better part of my teenage life. Nowadays, the only thought that keeps up at night is Panda.

It’s in the flicker of their faces, shimmering back and forth between present and future, life and death. I see that, I know they’ve got some short time of their own and not in the good way. The closer it gets to that third day, the faster the shimmer. Sometimes it’s pretty easy to tell what the deal is. Like my mother. Pretty hard to screw that one up for sure. Some though, well, it’s not so black and white. Like Cissy Shumaker. She was the prettiest girl at St. Anne’s Catholic Montessori School and Orphanage, right up until the day she came to class, her face blue-white and bloated. Her golden locks were dripping and soggy. It didn’t take me long to figure out what I was seeing and I didn’t waste any time letting everyone know, including Cissy.

That was last time she sat next to me at lunch, because let’s be honest - predicting the mode of a person’s demise isn’t actually the smartest thing to do, and it doesn’t make you many friends.  Three days later she was dead, drowned in the lake behind the school. It only took a couple of schoolyard beatings to do the trick and after a few black eyes and
one broken nose, I got it through my thick skull that people were better off not knowing the deal.  I kept my mouth shut for twenty five years. Until Seth. He was my brother-in-law, my best friend. I didn’t think I had any other choice.

The breakfast buzzer interrupts my thoughts and I jump even though I’ve been expecting it for the last half hour. The letter in my hand is smudged and crinkled from weeks of reading and re-reading it. Panda. I sigh and fold it along its worn creases, slipping it between the pages of my pilfered copy of last year’s Times Magazine. The pages are as crinkled and worn as Panda’s letter, but it’s the cover I’m drawn to every time I pull it out. That little girl who looks nothing like my daughter yet reminds me of Panda every time I see it. Pulled from her mother, ripped from her mother. I hate that picture, and at the same time I can’t stop looking at it .

I close my eyes as the obnoxious alarm continues to drill a hole in the back of my head. I hate that buzzer, but come tomorrow, I won’t have to hear that son-of-a-bitch ever again. 

I shake the thought away as the buzzer stops and the sound of fifty cell doors sliding open on their tracks takes its place, along with two hundred of the finest state-issued slip-ons taxpayer’s money can buy. I catch a couple of quick glances my way and wonder what kind of shit I can expect before I hit the gates tomorrow.

Here’s the thing - In the last three years since I been here I’ve come to realize that knowing the deal can get you a lot. Let‘s face it, knowing the deal is the American way, is it not? Maybe not in the same way as my deal - I’ve never met anyone with my particular talent -but still, being in ‘the know,‘ no matter how mundane or how extraordinary, is what moves America. You add convicts in the mix and it becomes more than just a way of life. It becomes a necessity of life. And here at Patton State Penitentiary, they pay big for that. Particularly when knowing the deal can mean the difference between living and dying. So let’s just say that I capitalized on my little gift, because, after all, everyone needs insurance, right? Especially when you’re a skinny-ass white guy on a tiny island filled with Chesters, gansters and base-heads.

Problem is, creating a positive cash flow in the pen comes with a price and it’s been building interest every day since my little talent got found out. Steep interest. If it wasn’t for Carl Sherman, not a single soul here in Patton would have ever had a clue that Pax Riley wasn’t just another con paying his debt to society, because letting the cat out of the bag was what got me here in the first place, at least indirectly. After Seth, I had no intention of fucking with fate, or destiny, or whatever the hell you want to call it, ever again. Leaving the living and the dying up to the powers that be was just fine by me. But Carl Sherman was on a mission and I was the target, and sometimes the mouth starts working before the brain can shut it up. He came up to me, about a month after I’d arrived, probably thinking he’d start some shit and move up a couple of steps on the convict ladder.

“What up, Bitch?”

His breath smelled like a diseased cunt, but my back was against the cement wall and there was nowhere to go. I breathed through my mouth but the sensation of actually tasting his breath was worse.

I shrugged cool-like, even while my heart revved up its rpm’s. I thought of Panda, wondering if I was going to be dead before the first year of my sentence was up, and then figured it was pretty fucking likely, seeing as how the day was beginning to develop.

That’s when Carl’s face started doing the boogie, right in front of me. I watched it slide back and forth from the goatee-ed triangular shape to the misshapen balloon that wasn’t too far off in the future. It was the tiny brown speck sticking out of his cheek that clued me in on what was waiting for Carl in the next few days. All these gang-bangers, schitzos and psychopaths cosied up together in one small island resort, and that’s what drops a brother? A simple bee-sting?  Anaphylactic shock- ain’t that a bitch.

I watched as Carl clenched his fists, keeping them low against the side of his leg and I knew the motherfucker was about to grab my balls and squeeze like his life depended on it. That’s when I let him have it, gave him the deal right then and there.

“You allergic to bees, Carl?”

He had stopped cold then, his balled-up fists forgotten. I could read the question in his eyes crystal clear: How the hell would I know something like that? His jaw dropped and fifteen seconds went by before he puffed up his chest and leaned in closer. I stifled the urge to close my eyes against the close proximity of his shimmying face.

“No, greenie,” he whispered, “but watch out you don’t find yourself allergic to me,” and then he double tapped my sack. I counted myself lucky that I wasn’t doubled over in pain or lying curled up on the concrete.

Two days later Carl’s dead. Seems the bee didn’t waste too much time doing the deed, but unfortunately, the word was out. Pax Riley knows the deal. A high profile was never on my wish list, but I got one anyway. Yeah, knowing the deal had made me a pretty lucrative business here in the pen, but it also made me a rival in the convict world of business. Take
Vincent Ramsey for example, better known as the Ace of Spades. He’s the king pin in this wasted community of fucked-up souls, making his cash with drug deals on the inside and gang hits on the outside. Too bad I didn’t realize a third of my clients were ‘green-lighted’ from Ace.  They knew it though, why else bother coming to me?

All of that adds up to two strikes from the get-go: Not only am I cutting in on Ace’s big money, but every so often, I’m turning Ace‘s green lights into red lights. I got one thing going for me, though: Ace doesn’t know how it works. And what he don’t know, he can’t fuck with.  Other wise, I’d have been a goner long ago.

One more night and a wake up. Less than twenty four hours to go, and me and my stash of cash can say adios. Panda’s out there waiting for me, and I don’t plan on letting anything get in my way of getting gone.

Just a little amuse bouche, if you will.  :)  Hope you liked it. And if you did, and you haven't ordered your copy, you still can.  Head on down to The Yellow Rose Diner, you won't be disappointed.  Just make sure you bring company.  You know what they say:  there's safety in numbers.