The last several weeks I have been buried in the home stretch of finishing the first draft of my novel. The other night I found myself resting my brain—clicking around on Twitter. I came across a writing prompt posted by Jason Cantrell. The prompt itself was enough to get my writing wheels turning, but the story behind it was just too cool to pass up.
Jason found a slip of paper in a used book he was reading for one of his classes with the following words scribbled on it: Have a stranger come to the bar-tell her he loves her-asks her to go to Chicago with him the next weekend-she doesn’t go. There was no way that note was left there by chance. Was it for Jason to tackle? Maybe. Perhaps it was there to inspire a bunch of us to take off down a rabbit trail, take a break from our WIPs and flex some underutilized muscles. Thank you, Jason, for sharing this nugget of inspiration. Not only did it spark an idea for a short story, I came up with a new element for my blog: Quick Fix Stories. Quick Fixes will give me a place to address those random plot bunnies that turn up in my head. Working on this short story greased the wheels of my imagination for my novel as well. Sometimes stepping away for a bit is the best thing we can do for our work.
All right, Jason, this one is for you.
Tequila twang hit the back of my throat. I fought the urge to grimace and twitch, grabbed my glass of orange juice and took a slug. Ahh, much better. The tequila warmed all the way down, the juice softened the blow. I indicated to the bar tender I needed another round.
A short, but built man took the stool beside mine. He had clipped military style hair and a close fitting gray t-shirt. The bartender brought him a beer from the tap. He took a sip then looked over at me and my fresh glasses of tequila and orange juice.
“Interesting combo,” he said. Then his eyes slid over my fitted white halter dress. He didn’t know the tie was cutting into my neck. I’d cinched it down tight in a desperate attempt to keep the girls corralled. I never knew when I’d have to launch into sudden, quick action.
“It works,” I replied. I had no desire to get into a conversation with this guy. I had a job to finish tonight. Technically, I was still on the clock. It was one of those “let him sweat” breaks. I checked the time on my phone. There was no doubt in my mind Mr. Mendezo was sweating right now. Smiling to myself, I tipped back my second shot.
Military Hair ordered a tequila and orange juice for himself, one for me too. What the hell. My job bordered on legal, why not drive a little tipsy while I’m at it.
We clinked shot glasses. I sipped my orange juice and watched him experience the combo for the first time. He smacked his lips. “Pretty damn good. Thanks for the tip.”
“Thanks for the drink,” I said.
“I’ve seen you in here before. I just haven’t been brave enough to approach you,” said Military Hair.
I noticed the white tan line where a wedding ring should be. Wise choice.
He ran a hand over his buzz cut. His biceps bulged. Two years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to help myself. I would have touched those muscles. Now, they just irritated me.
“Can I order you another round?”
“No. I have to get back to work.”
His eyes bugged a little. “You get to drink on the job?”
“I work for myself.”
He nodded. “Look, I can’t let you go before I ask you something.”
“Shoot.” I was pretty sure I knew what was coming. This wasn’t my first rodeo. In fact, these moments were what kept my rent paid.
“I have a conference in Chicago next weekend. I’m a personal trainer. We have conferences regularly. Keep up on what’s new in the industry, you know.” That explained the muscles. “Anyway, I would love it if you came with me.”
“Is that so?” I lifted a brow. I wonder how many conferences he’d been to this year. Had his wife attended even one of them?
He blushed a bit, reached out to touch my hip. “Yeah.”
My phone dinged signalling a new text message. I glanced at it. Mrs. Mendoza was ready for her delivery.
“I’ll think about it,” I said. “Do you have a card?”
Eagerly, he pulled out his wallet while I paid for my earlier drinks. He slipped a card for well known meat head gym into my hand. “Call me.”
“Oh, I will,” I said turning so his hand grazed my butt. I gave my hips an extra little twitch as I left the bar.
My car was silent when I reached it. I pounded on the trunk and was greeted with a startled thud. No doubt Mr. Mendoza’s head. My parents had been surprised when I sold my sporty little Mazda for this grandma style Buick. It was deep red in honor of my former ride, but it’s huge trunk served my needs.
Mr. Mendoza and I headed out of town to the meeting place. Mrs. Mendoza would be waiting down by the river about twenty miles from town. Her father owned a large onion farm, many of the fields along the river. The Buick bumped down the skinny access road. A gorgeous Hispanic woman perched on a large rock. She’d followed my instructions to the letter. Her curves poured into a black outfit Cat Woman would envy. Her long, dark hair had been curled and was tumbling down past her breasts. We grinned at each other and hugged in greeting.
I popped my trunk. Mr. Mendoza lay bound and gagged, staring at me with terrified eyes. That look was nothing compared to what passed over his face when Mrs. Mendoza stepped into his view.
“Hola, mi marido,” Mrs. Mendoza purred.
Together, we wrestled him from the trunk, flopped him into a pile of leaves near the river bank. Sheer panic crossed that man’s face. He wasn’t my problem anymore. Mrs. Mendoza handed me an envelope. I peeked inside to glimpse the cash then stuffed it into my cleavage.
“He’s all yours,” I said. “Have fun.” I hustled to the Buick. I never stuck around to see what happened after I made my delivery. I returned the cheating bastards to their wives and they did whatever they deemed necessary.
My mind wandered to Military Hair. I began thinking about how to track down his wife. The set-up was already there. It was too easy.
My phone launched into “O.P.P.” by Naughty by Nature. I grabbed it from the cup holder. “This is Jenna.”
The caller was sobbing. They always were. She’d walked into the house to find her husband serving up her best friend on the kitchen table. The kids saw it too. I have a special package for that violation. Could we set something up for next Friday? Of course.
Guess I won’t make it to Chicago after all. Military Hair was off the hook. For now.