August 18, 2006

Great Literature--UPDATED

As the handy Kitchen Hand rightly guessed in the comments from the last post of yesterday, we're gonna have us some Story Time today!

Now, here's the deal--you have to write it. Yes, I know you're used to coming to Possumblog and having a giant smorgasbord laid out for you to choose from, requiring only that you grab a plate and partake. Yes, I also realize it's never been one of those spreads that's really full of nice food--there's a lot more Vienna sausage and saltines on the table than there is caviar. But hey, caviar is what we call catfish bait around here, so big whoop, am I right!? Sure.

We have done this here at Possumblog one time in the past, and I would link to it if I could find it in the vast dusty archives. But I couldn't. Anyway, to explain--I will start you all out with an opening paragraph of a story and YOU, noble readers, will continue the story in the comments section.

To make it a bit easier for you, remember to click on the link that has the time stamp on it to go to the comments section. The OTHER thing that actually says "Comments" won't ever remember your log-in information, and it only shows the comments and not the full post.

The only rules are to keep an eye on your more earthy language--asterisks are encouraged; the story can take any turn or twist you want, whether dramatic or comedic; and each comment does need to have enough continuity to be readable.

UPDATE: You can write as little or as much as you want. But everyone has to leave something, or else this thing will just stay up here all day being all boring and non-fun.

Here we go:

Dewayne Stratton put on a cap and a light jacket. He looked himself over in the mirror, and for the life of him couldn't remember why he ever thought this would be a good idea. He patted his pants pocket, and decided it would be better if he left his lighter and cigarettes on the dresser. He jumped when the telephone on the nightstand rang. It was one of the old style phones, with the big red "message waiting" gumball lights above the dial, and a set of bells inside that could wake the dead. Almost. He picked up the grimy receiver and held it up to his ear.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at August 18, 2006 09:05 AM


“It’s Leroy. I’m parked across the street.”

“On my way.”

Dewayne eased out the door, sliding the “do no disturb” sign on the doorknob as he went. Across the no-tell motel parking lot he saw Leroy’s rust-and-primer colored truck idling quietly at the curb. Say what you want about the outside; Leroy always kept his vehicles in top notch running order. The weak light from a quarter moon gave the truck a ghostly, almost camouflaged appearance, suitable for their evening plans.

“Git in quick – we’re late.”

Dewayne slid into the passenger seat and Leroy put the truck in gear, heading toward the outskirts of town.

Posted by: Diane at August 18, 2006 10:42 AM

"Did you bring it?" Leroy asked when they had gone barely half a mile.

Dewayne just grunted at the stupidity of the question.

Leroy persisted. "They're not going to let us in if you don't have it. I've been waiting for this for a long time, and I don't want you screwing it up. Show it to me."

Dewayne just sighed, and pulled the jar of gefilte fish out of his jacket pocket. "Satisfied?" he asked.

Posted by: skinnydan at August 18, 2006 11:29 AM

"Okay. I just had to be sure, because you remember what happened last time."

Posted by: Kathy at August 18, 2006 11:55 AM

Dewayne frowned. "Hey, it wasn't MY fault! They said the fish came in a jar. Piggly Wiggly didn't HAVE no fish in a jar. I stuffed some fried catfish into an empty Blue Plate mayonnaise jar, and even put in a couple of hush puppies. There just ain't no pleasing some people. Durn yankees."

Posted by: Kathy at August 18, 2006 01:30 PM

A sullen silence descended on the cab.

“This durn-fool exercise is going to get me thrown out of the Klan,” Dewayne thought, gazing out the window at the harvest-ready corn fields waving in the moonlight. Not that being drummed out was that big a loss; even though his family had been torch-carrying members for almost a century, Earlene had been after him to drop out now that he was a manager at the auto-parts store.

“Now that you’re on a management track, you can’t be flitting around in those sheets no more,” Earlene had yammered at him. “You need to learn some of that there tolerance if you’re going to sell more used distributor caps.”

How bringing fish in a jar to a Friday night dinner would make him feel less like a fish out of water he didn’t know; Earlene had insisted he bring some sort of gift to the hostess.

Dewayne reached for his smokes, sighing as he realized he had left them behind. It was going to be one long night.

Posted by: Diane at August 18, 2006 01:54 PM

They continued in silence. The rumble of the truck's engine and the droning of cicadas combined with the passing wheat to make it seem as though time was slowing down. Dewayne found himself being lulled to drowsiness.

The truck topped a hill and suddenly Leroy yelped, "Got-dangit!" Leroy slung the wheel hard left as he stamped the brake. For all that he doted on the engine, the tires were another matter. The truck began a skidding spin into the wheat.

Dewayne's whole body banged into the passenger door -- hard. His head rapped the glass sharply enough to daze him. He only had the briefest glimpse of the old Chevy, its trunk open, an old woman with one hand on the lid, they'd just missed. Her eyes -- wide saucers of amazement -- tracked them as they slid past.

The truck lurched to a stop just a foot into the wheat. "You OK?" Leroy asked softly. Dewayne began to pat himself to be sure.

"Fine, I think. Uh-oh...." He felt moisture in his pants. 'Oh that's just great,' he thought. His hand was on its way to investigate when the sharp sting of broken glass from the ruined jar of gefilte fish in his jacket pocket, stopped it.

"Hoo-ee, son! You stank." Leroy chuckled, oblivious to the cold stare Dewayne fixed on him.

Dewayne's patience was really wearing thin.

Posted by: mike hollihan at August 18, 2006 02:52 PM

"Are you boys okay?" The voice was distant, and at first Dewayne thought he might have gone deaf, until he realized the window was rolled up. He flinched when he looked up and saw a tiny wrinkled face close to the glass.

He reached for the door handle and opened the door, and the squat woman peered in and asked again, "Are you boys okay?"

"Yes, ma'am, I guess, but I had a jar in my pocket and it broke and--"

"Whew! You don't smell good, son!"

"Yes, ma'am, but could you back up a bit so I could get out and--"

Leroy could no longer contain himself, "HEY! You trying to get yourself killed out here!? Why'd you stop there and not put your flashers on?"

The woman scrunched up her face in mock contrition and said, "I am SO sorry, Leroy, I just must have lost my mind!"

"Yeah, you must have--hey, how did you know my name was Leroy?"

"Well, because. You're Leroy, and this here's Dewayne. And I was sent here to stop you."

Dewayne and Leroy looked at each other with that squinty eyed look one gives when something is more odd than usual, and then they both noticed the old woman fumbling with something inside her purse.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at August 18, 2006 03:28 PM

Oh Lord, look out Leroy, it's old Mizz Johnson and she's got herself a peach switch!

Posted by: Larry Anderson at August 18, 2006 04:53 PM

Oh man, Leroy. You remember her peaches? She had the the best peaches in all the county.

Posted by: Janis at August 18, 2006 11:20 PM

The smell should have alerted them. But it didn't. It had to fight with the fake gefilte fish and it lost, badly.

No smoke warned them. Leroy had not killed the engine and the fire had caught immediately - from the sparking exhaust? The flames burned cleanly, licking greedily at the fabric of the old truck, fed by the parched wheat. Or corn. Whatever. It was corn a mile back. Whatever it was now, it sure burned.

Maybe the men's reactions were slowed by the crash. Maybe they were mesmerised by the strange woman who knew their names. They failed to exit the truck before the gas-tank, lazily capped with an oily rag, exploded.

The old woman staggered and reeled and ran, away from the flames that engulfed the truck. As she did, she cast a look backwards that was part fear and part something else, something that had no business being on the face of an innocent old woman.

Posted by: kitchen hand at August 18, 2006 11:35 PM

Fortunately, the truck was running on fumes, Leroy having intended to stop at Chet's gas station later. Leroy was forgetful like that, which explained why he'd lost the gas cap. The tank 'whumpfed' tiredly and then sat there, satisfied to have done its duty.

But the wheat (It was wheat; the corn was back down the road, Dewayne saw.) caught fire and, dry after weeks of August heat, the fire spread like ants looking for the picnic basket.

"Miz Johnson," Leroy hollered, "You might want to move your Chevy right quick."

She stared at the growing fire, the peach switch forgotten in her hand. Dewayne darted past her and slid into the driver's seat, reaching for the key he hoped she'd left there.

It wasn't there. He craned his neck around. "Miz Johnson, I need your keys. Miz Johnson!" She didn't seem to hear him, her eyes locked on the willowy, crackling flames.

Giving up, he leaned down under the dash to snatch at the wires, figuring he could hot-start the car faster than he could rouse Miz Johnson.

As he lay sidways under the dash, his scalp started to itch. Sensing something, he flicked his eyes over to the other side of the floor.

'What's a possum doing there?'

Posted by: mike hollihan at August 19, 2006 12:54 PM