Or at least “see you later.” I’m going to take a hiatus from the weekly flash fiction stories I’ve been posting for a couple of years now. Creating over a hundred stories has left me muttering and stumbling like a zombie, and nobody wants to see that.
Besides, I’ve got a book to finish. The redoubtable Mrs. Entwhistle and her friend, Maxine, are taking a road trip on Route 66. You wouldn’t believe what’s been happening to them. Below is a sneak preview of this work in progress.
I’ll post more flash fiction when inspiration strikes. Meanwhile, I’ve gathered some of my stories in a book called Snapshots, available on Amazon.
I’ll miss our Sunday morning get-togethers, but we’ll talk soon.
Mrs. Entwhistle Takes a Road Trip
(Excerpt from Work in Progress)
(In Chapter Three, Mrs. Entwhistle and Maxine are driving on Route 66, having just visited the Catoosa Blue Whale in Tulsa. They’re heading for the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo when Mrs. E. experiences an urgent call of nature.)
“Max, I’ve got to have a pit stop,” Mrs. Entwhistle declared as they approached a ramshackle building set just off the road. The lopsided sign announced it was the Pigsticker Bar and Grill. Actually, the sign said Bar and Gr because some of the letters had fallen off. It wasn’t good to think about who was sticking what pigs, but Mrs. Entwhistle was desperate.
“This place looks sketchy, but they’ll at least have a bathroom. You can get a cup of tea. Well, maybe it’ll have to be coffee; it doesn’t really look like a tea-drinking place.”
Maxine surveyed the dilapidated building doubtfully. The lights had just come on in the parking lot, sparking on the gleaming chrome of a dozen motorcycles.
“I don’t know,” she began, but Mrs. Entwhistle had already pulled in, cut the engine and climbed out of the car.
“I can’t wait, Max, go ahead on in,” she said, hustling off with unusual speed to the outside door marked Cowgirls. “It’s all those Twinkies,” she called back over her shoulder.
Maxine followed more sedately. When she entered the Pigsticker, every head in the small, smoky room turned toward her. She stopped, hand on her heart. She’d never seen so many long-haired males in one place. There were man-buns, pony-tails, beaded head-bands and flowing locks unchecked on leather-clad shoulders. Everyone but her had elaborate whiskers.
“Oh,” Maxine said in a very small voice.
One of the men got up and came toward her. “Come on in, honey, don’t be scared of us,” he said, gesturing to an empty stool at the bar. “Sit yourself down and have a drink.”
He sounded so friendly that Maxine felt reassured.
“Oh, well, maybe just for a minute. My friend will be here soon.” She seated herself on the stool and tucked her feet on the brass rail.
“Now what’d you like to drink, honey?”
“Why, I guess iced tea?”
There were fond chuckles and a few comments: “Just like my grandma.” “Ain’t she sweet?” The atmosphere was positively sticky with sentiment. Maxine felt an obligation to return all that warmth. She sat up straight and smiled.
“You are all so nice!” she said. “Actually, I’ll have a beer.”
After that, time seemed to slow down and speed up at strange intervals. Maxine wondered where Mrs. Entwhistle had gotten to and what was taking so long, but her new friends kept motioning the bartender to refill her glass. They told her about their hawgs, which she learned were motorcycles, and about the road trip they were on, a trip they took every year. They loved their families, they said, but it was great to get out on the road again. Maxine nodded and asked questions when she could and drank her beer. Beers. When they started singing, she sang, too.
It was into this convivial scene that Mrs. Entwhistle finally entered. Her face was noticeably green and she clutched her stomach with one hand. But her physical ailments were forgotten at the sight of Maxine, singing and swaying with a lot of large, scruffy-looking men. Arms entwined, they harmonized on Hotel California and Maxine seemed to know all the words. Mrs. Entwhistle was reminded that Maxine was a dark horse and even after all their years of friendship, she could still surprise.
“Ahem,” she tried. No response.
“Oh, hi, Cora.” Maxine finally noticed her. “Come meet my new friends.”
“Yeah, Cora, come on over here. Have yourself a beer, or do you want something stronger?”
Mrs. Entwhistle wanted nothing at all, not with the way her stomach was acting. But it seemed churlish to refuse, so she perched on the stool vacated for her next to Maxine and asked the bartender for a Shirley Temple. The crowd erupted in cheers and Mrs. Entwhistle’s back was patted rather too enthusiastically.
“I swear, they’re just like my mama,” one of the men said, and shed a few tears in his drink. “Put a little vodka in that Shirley Temple,” he whispered to the bartender. “It’ll do her good. Bless her heart.”
Soon Mrs. Entwhistle found herself swaying and singing, too. They ran through Dixie, When Irish Eyes are Smiling, Thank God I’m a Country Boy, and then she lost track. When she looked at her watch, she couldn’t believe the time.
“Maxine! We’ve got to leave right now. We’ll never find a place to spend the night if we don’t get going.”
“Wha?” Maxine seemed to be having trouble focusing her eyes. “Ish it late?”
“It’s very late.” Mrs. Entwhistle launched herself from the tall bar stool, but the floor had developed an alarming tilt since she’d first sat down. A strong hand caught her arm and held her upright.
“I don’t think you ladies will want to be driving,” the owner of the hand said.
“We have to, we need to find a place to stop for the night.”
“Now, don’t you worry about that. You ever sleep in your car before? You ain’t in no shape to drive, neither one of you. We got blankets in our saddlebags, we’ll get you all set up.”
The ladies were helped to their car and the seats were lowered. Smelly blankets were tucked around them and the windows cracked a few inches.
“There now, you ladies just have you a good sleep. We’ll be here all night and we’ll look out for you.”
Mrs. Entwhistle’s eyes seemed happy to follow this suggestion. As she drifted off to sleep, the lead sentence of her next Pantograph article wrote itself in her mind:
Today we saw a blue whale and took up with a motorcycle gang.