My Fresh Hell
Life in Scribbletown.

Cherry Pie

2006-07-19

We've been transferring documents, my husband and I, from our old computer (with Windows 95 on it - I know!) to my laptop. A lot of old stories, versions of novels past, invoices for free-lance jobs. Then, the old computer's getting a re-install in hopes of keeping its sorry ass alive a little longer. Why, I do not know. We've had it since before Dusty was born.

But, I just transfered and saved a busload of old stories and I've decided to post a few here while I take a little break and collect my thoughts.

Your thoughts would be appreciated as well (even if they say, 'This sucks. Who told you you could write?'. Most of these stories aren't really stories but unfinished, unpolished attempts at something. This following story is a second version of another story that I may post next just for comparison's sake.

I've been accused in the past of writing stories that can't be called stories because nothing happens. No changes occur in the protagonist. Actually, though, in my mind, changes do occur or, in this story, the change has already occured and what we're seeing is the aftermath. Or, the main character has a choice and chooses not to change. Maybe. I don't know. What do YOU think?


Cherry Pie


The girl walked into the restaurant and sat at the counter. She was dusty from the road and kept adjusting the blue velvet hat that perched on her head. Jeans and a sleevless gray top. Sneakers. That was what he noticed and he handed her a cup of coffee and took her order for a club sandwich with chips and pickle wedge on the side. A car sped off in the distance.

What else about her? No wedding ring, hair needed cutting, fading bruises around the upper arms, under the right eye. The usual.

“What brings you to Truckee?” It’s the same question he always asks, never expects an answer too different than, ‘On my way to Reno. I feel lucky today.’ She didn’t look too much like the talky type. You can tell after years of being in the business. The ones that like to talk are already telling you their life story before they properly sit down. She seemed like the others: the ones going through something bad that don’t want to talk about it except they end up doing just that, or the ones that are so scary you don’t want to know what they’re up to. He guessed boyfriend trouble. Might have to dig up the shelter number. He was no fool—he could smell abuse a million miles away. She stank of it.

“What brings you here?” He assembled her food, dug up a fistful of chips from the ten-gallon drum, fished up a pickle wedge from the jar.

“Shit. Fucking ex-boyfriend just dumped me here—middle of nowhere—‘cause…I don’t know why. He didn’t like what he was hearing, I guess.”

“What was he hearing?” You gotta play tough with the tough.

“A recitation of all the ways he sucks. He can punch me all he wants. Don’t change facts.” She bent down over the sandwich he brought her. She was hungry, this one. Best to let her eat, loiter near, ask again in a minute or two. He changed the channel on the wall-mounted television from sports to Oprah. Black women were crying, Oprah was hugging. Same sad story.

“Where are we anyway?” She’d finished one triangle of sandwich, laid aside the toothpick, looked up at him for the first time.

“Truckee,” liked he’d already mentioned, “Nothing here worth your trouble. You need a car, I can get you one. Need a place to stay, that too. Say the word.”

“Thanks. Might take you up on that.” She looked around the place. What did she see? He tried to see his restaurant through her eyes. Windows wrapped around three walls of the place, booths under them, clean and tidy. The whole shebang up on stilts.

“What was this place, an observation deck?”

“No, I built it like this. Thought it’d stick out, attract customers.”

“Does it?”

“No.”

“Huh. You oughta move closer to Reno. Make some money.”

“I like it out here. You meet more interesting people than you do closer in.”

“You gonna hit on me?” She asked but didn’t seem really worried.

“No. You want some pie when you’re done? Made an apple and a cherry earlier.”

“Earlier today or earlier this week?”

“Today.”

“Sure.”

She didn’t specify which kind but he thought she was more a cherry than an apple. When she pushed her empty lunch plate close to him, he answered back by sliding a slice of cherry at her.

“Thanks.”

“What next?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, when you’re done eating, what’re you going to do? You got clothes? Money, even?”

“You’ll get paid, if that’s what’s worrying you.”

“I’m not worried. Just concerned.”

“Don’t be. Listen. I put up with that asshole’s bullshit for three years. Stupid? Nobody’s stupider than me—except his ex-wife who went one better and had his kid. Brings him out here, gets a job in Reno as a waitress in one of the hotels. So Asshole thinks, hey I got some money I stole from a friend and a car that ain’t mine. Why don’t I take my girlfriend and go visit my crappy son all the fuck the way across the country. Friends won’t call the police on me or nothing. Girlfriend’ll have the time of her life sleeping in bug-infested motels, eating fast food, dodging the cops, listening to rednecks get drunk and beat the crap out of each other at each and every hotel. Might even give her a slap or two for good measure. Might run out of money three fourths of the way there and then expect the girlfriend to use her wiles to scare up some fast cash. And who’s the fool? You’re looking at her. That asshole’s not normal. Priorities all screwed up. He’s not normal, the ex-wife’s not normal—she actually wants to see him. Their kid sure as hell ain’t normal. God, him I feel sorry for. So, I got some money—if you’ll take ill gotten gains—but no clothes, no place to sleep, a crappy pair of shoes. But do I care? Not really. I got rid of him. He’s history. So here I sit in a fire tower of a restaurant looking out at naked mountains and big-ass birds ready to swoop down and scalp me if I’m not careful. Am I worried? Concerned? Not in the least. You’re my fucking savior.”

“At your service,” he says to her.

The confessional type. He runs into them once in awhile. Makes life worth living to hear a story sadder than his. Makes him glad to be alive. So he’ll give her the shelter number once he finds it and she’ll go on her merry way and he’ll sit up in his restaurant, high above the ground and wait for the next pathetic case to find its way up here. Normal, did she say? Nothing and nobody’s normal. Goes without saying. So he won’t. He just won’t.

“Piece of pie for the road?”

“Gimme apple. I’m not big on cherry.”

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8:10 p.m. ::
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