Friday, March 23, 2012

Flash Fiction Challenge 1: Fire of the Gods

I took the Penmonkey challenge.
Your story will be titled: “The Fire of the Gods.” 1,000 words or less.
Here goes nothin'...

  Fire of the Gods
I hustle down the bar with my rag, wiping up the errant spills and shifting drinks. Sweat trickles down my spine as I go, humming the bluesy jam on the jukebox, pissed at myself for not getting someone in to fix the a/c before the weather turned.
“Yo! Barlady!” I hear the cry from the far end of the bar, a gravelly voice that reminds me of another time. I put the rag in my back pocket, blowing my bangs out of my eyes as I look across the room. The light from the door makes it hard to see who’s sitting at the end. But softer now, I hear “Fire of the Gods, please?”
My eyes narrow as I walk down the length of the bar, goosebumps breaking out along my arms despite the heat. What did the wind blow in, now?
“Mags. Looking good, girl,” he says quietly as I approach him. “Nice shirt,” he says as he points to my faded old Ramones shirt. Correction: his faded old Ramones shirt.
“Thanks, Dex. You don’t look so bad yourself.” I reach out and flick a finger across his stubble-covered chin, and we both laugh as we eye one another. The years have put a few more pounds on him. There are streaks of gray in his hair but his stormy green eyes remain unchanged. He’s got a few tattoos on his forearms and a scar across the back of his left hand and he still has paint under his ragged fingernails.
He’s studying me as I look at him. How much have I changed in his eyes? My hair is longer. I’ve gained a few tattoos and scars myself.
“Where’s my tequila? I do believe I ordered a shot, dear barlady” He asks me, a smile curving his lips, making the corners of his eyes crinkle and erasing the 20-years-later Dex before me.
I grab the rag out of my pocket a flick it at him. “Simmer down, you always were impatient. Dumbass.”
He laughed, surprise registering on his face. “Come on, Shitbrick. Where’s my drink!” He slapped the bar as I reached down to grab two shot glasses and a dusty bottle of tequila.
His eyes widened as he looked down, his laughter forgotten. “Mags. Is that…”
“Yes,” I replied quietly as I filled the glasses. “It’s mom’s bottle.” I finished pouring and gently set the bottle back down. I lifted my glass and nodded toward the one at the bar. “Pick it up, brother. This one’s for mom.”
“To mom,” he says, raising his shot to eye level before slowing tipping it back. He sets it on the bar before taking my hands. “How the hell have you been, Maggie?”
I give his hands a squeeze before pulling them back, unsure about how I’m feeling. “Good. I’ve been good, Dexter. I’m running the bar now,” I gesture around me to indicate the room around us, where we spent so many hours together as kids. When your parents own your small town’s only tavern, you spend a lot of family time within those darkened walls.
Dexter carefully unscrews the top of the tequila bottle, loading a second round. I know what’s coming and I pull up my stool and sit at the bar, clenching and unclenching my hands to work through the nervous energy.
“What have you been doing for 10 years, Maggie?”
“Well when mom… died… I took over working here. I knew the business well enough, it made sense.” I get up and grab my rag, wiping the bar again and refilling the drinks of my two regular Tuesday afternoon customers.
“When I signed the bar over, I thought you were going to sell it. I never thought you would stay here. I always thought you would come find me.”
“I was so young, Dex,” I replied wistfully as I returned to my chair and poured us each another shot. “This was the only life I knew, this was where I didn’t have to think too hard. I couldn’t leave it. I couldn’t run away.”
“It wasn’t running away. Do you really think I ran away?” Dexter’s eyes were soft and pleading. He started to chew on his thumbnail and I smiled.
“Old habits die hard, eh?” I asked as I gestured to his nailbiting. “You remember when mom would pop your hand with the rag to get you to stop that?” I twirl the rag around my finger and make to snap at him.
“Yeah, she was the only one who could get me to stop,” he smiled.
“And she was miserable when you left. But she knew you had to go.”
“D’you think? Was she really okay?”
“Is that what kept you away? Were you afraid that you disappointed her?”
“That’s always been my fear, Mags. I couldn’t bear to see mom upset. Or you.”
“You need to go in the back room. Look on the wall. You’ll get your answer.”
Dexter gave me one last look and jumped out of his stool. I matched his pace down to the end of the bar and ducked under the gate. He gave me a pensive look back as he neared the darkened back room of our family business, and I reached over to turn on the lights as he crossed the threshold.
He gasped slightly as he looked up, and his eyes formed tears when he saw the far wall, the one over the booth that was our territory. The wall was filled with framed stories of Dexter, clippings from his shows, from his reviews, from the paintings that had sold over the years.
He turned and looked at me, a confused look in his eyes. “How? Why?”
“Mom followed your every move. You made the news, she found the clippings. She started this board right away, with your graduation notice. And I’ve kept it going. We haven’t forgotten you Dexter. You’ll always have a home here.”

2 comments:

  1. I LOVE it, Mari! I could never have come up with something like this :)

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  2. Thank you!! :)
    I need to try new stuff, so this was an exercise to stretch a bit. I hope to do more... sometime... someday...

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