Sunday, January 9, 2011

AW Musical Chairs Blogfest

Welcome to the AbsoluteWrite musical chairs blogfest, in which participants will be writing in genres outside their norm. The listing of participants is below. Posting will take place on or around the date indicated. Let the games begin.
I normally write Urban Fantasy. My choices were Childrens or Contemporary Literature. Since I'm not in the business of disturbing children, I chose contemporary.
Dexter Michaels peered out the drafty window at the figures assembled on the platform, wearing winter wool like death shrouds. He… He…

Darren shoved his tattered notebook across the flimsy table. The train lurched to a stop and the notebook slipped a crucial centimeter and fell to the floor. Eleven-thirty on a Friday night and he was riding Amtrak, trying to find inspiration. He pulled a crumpled pack of Camels from his pocket and lit up, tossing the pack and lighter onto the table before rising from his seat, walking to the end of the car and out into the stale cold of the gangway.
His new book needed more drama. Murder was out, had been a cliché since the Oriental Express. Sex, maybe, with some mysterious woman. Darren ran his finger along a jagged metal seam. She’d be wearing a backless dress. Her skin would flush and chafe against the cold metal as Dexter held her up and...
Darren flicked the butt of his cigarette to the floor and ground it out. A goddamn figment of his imagination had gotten more tail than Darren in the last four months.
He staggered back toward his seat as the train pulled away from the Haverhill platform, and then froze. Someone had taken his seat, was, in fact, smoking one of his cigarettes.
Darren waited. The train picked up speed, snaking along the line. The conductor didn’t show. Fine. He pushed his shoulders back and set his narrow jaw.
“Hey man…”
She jerked, glancing at him and then quickly away, a curtain of layered blond hair covering her face.
Darren’s chest constricted. “Lily?’
She raised the lipstick-stained cigarette to her mouth. The first time he’d seen her, she’d worn a short cocktail dress. He’d been amazed at how soft her skin was. Now she was bundled in a calf-length trench, her ankles crossed and tucked beneath the seat.
“Darren,” she murmured. “Of course.”
His lips drew back from his teeth in an eager smile. He dropped into the seat beside her. She winced, one hand pulling the collar of her black coat closed around her throat as she turned toward the window. Darren exhaled, a gusty sigh.
“I guess I shouldn’t be surprised to see you here, since you got the Downeaster in the divorce.”
She flicked ash onto the wood-paneled table. Not in the mood, then.
“How did you know I’d be here, Lil?” He leaned toward her, inhaled the perfume of her shampoo and the sharp, clear remnants of winter night, and then drew back when the scents coated his tongue with the taste of copper.
“I didn’t.”
The train squealed as they rounded a corner. Darren slumped.
Shouldn’t you be at a fundraiser or some charity event, out with him?”
She laughed softly. “There’s nothing more I’m going to do with him.”
“What, you finally saw around all that green? Finally saw the animal on the inside? You know, the papers don’t call him ‘the Shark from Southie’ for nothing.”
The cigarette slid from her fingers to the floor. It rolled back and forth, rocking to a silent lullaby until Darren stepped on it. She could be so stubborn. He’d liked that about her, her refusal to give up their affair after Darren had seen her husband’s driver following them.
Her strength had lent him the balls to stand up to Mr. Circling Shark himself when he came knocking one night, a thousand dollar suit and mirrored shoes in a stinking walk-up. Yeah, Darren had said, thunder in his chest, maybe I know her. Maybe I know her real well. The Shark hadn’t touched him, had just stood there, all that money and coiled violence looking like he was going to puke. Darren smiled at the memory.
“I’ve missed you,” he said. He looked down at his hands, absently noting the train slowing again. Goddamn milk run. “I started reading the society pages, hoping to find an event you were scheduled to attend. Not that I felt like going out much. I guess you didn’t either.” She slid another cigarette out of the pack, fumbled with the lighter until Darren took it from her and lit her cigarette. Her hands were shaking, and unadorned.
“Did you leave him?” Darren asked, grabbing her wrist. Her hand went limp. “Did you finally leave that bastard?”
“What if I did?” She turned toward him, one green eye visible, black mascara a stuttered smudge beneath it. “Would that matter to you?”
Darren stifled a smile. Jesus, he couldn’t have imagined better drama.
“I love you, Lily.” He lowered his voice. “You know all I ever wanted was to be with you. Even after you changed your number, I still called. Hoping – I don’t know – hoping you’d somehow be there. You could have called me.”
“And you could have not told him,” she said, her head swinging back to the window as they pulled into Exeter. A drop of red dotted the table in front of her. Darren frowned at it, then looked up at the musical glare of police lights.
“What the hell’s going…”
She turned toward him. Her lips were busted up, dribbling blood down her chin. One eye was swollen almost shut. “Tell them I was with you tonight. Please.”
“Who’s he?” Detective Lynch asked, peering through the window into Interview Two.
“Old flame,” Officer Trask said, pouring cold coffee into a Styrofoam cup. “He’s a writer, was out looking for inspiration.” They laughed.
“He wants inspiration, he should try one of them stripper joints in Providence, not the goddamn Downeaster. He try to give Mrs. Byrne an alibi?”
Naw. Second I told him Shark Byrne got himself dead, the kid went white as an old dog turd. Offered up a cigarette butt in case we needed DNA evidence, when we got the wife in custody.”
Lynch snorted. “This is the first time I’ve seen her, and I’m tempted to alibi her. Cut his romantic, inspired ass loose.”


  1. Am I the only one who pictures this in black and white?
    Nice noir touch.

  2. Yes, it was like a black and white movie. Very visual. Darn wimpy writer wouldn't give his sweetie an alibi! Bet he writes a book about her now.

  3. Read more like a mystery/crime drama, but I liked the ending. He maybe a fool in love, but he ain't stupid.

  4. Sissy writers. Always making the wrong choices and leaving everyone else hanging out to dry.

    I like to imagine he's getting roughed up in an interrogation room after the story ends.

  5. These are great, mixed responses. I actually had to scale back on the noir...something about a train at night just begs for it.

    Thank you all for stopping by!

  6. I thought love was meant to make you stupid? ;o) I too loved the noir touch.

  7. I liked this, and yeah, I totally picture this in black and white. :-)

  8. I'm glad you posted in a different week from me, cause wow, that was really well written. All your turns of phrases were most impressive--mascara stuttering under her eyes, stale cold of the gangway. Gulp. I bow to your skill.

  9. Thanks, all! Love makes all kinds of people all kinds of things. Not entirely certain that what this guy was feeling was actually love.

    Aww, Claire! *blushes, then preens, then blushes*

  10. This is magnificent. and I can totally see where the Dashiell Hammett influence is percolating under the surface. One thing that really appealed to me is the notion of the writer as hero (which is rather overplayed, but always interesting to see dealt with), as we essentially get two stories for the price of one. The coupling of the fictional character's romantic life and the very real dangers romance has brought to Darren complement one another, and its' one of the major noir themes.

    It's so interesting to watch all these genres get a twist from people who don't regularly play in these sandboxes. I have been impressed with every inclusion so far, and the quality has remained such that people might want to consider stepping into other genres more often.

  11. Thanks, bigwords! I'm more a Raymond Chandler girl, myself :) but yeah - I listed that way both for comfort and to keep myself interested.