Monday, December 13, 2021

You Set the Scene

 Listening to You Set The Scene, Love

Timer was set at 30 minutes. That's all I give to this. Then go back to writing, open some rough chapters and see what else they need or identify fat that needs trimming. 

Here's my WIP laid out, old skool.

I'm terrible with keeping track of ideas that I just don't have time to fill out completely. If I'm in the groove with something, I need to stay on task. Otherwise, all is lost. ADHD has great benefits but terrible deficits.

Tonight's Main Course is the opening of Book Three of Powerball and man, I introduce a lot of characters. A friend wondered if there were too many but I can't imagine writing it any other way. 

Due to some comments by agents and editors (who were very complimentary of my work, it just didn't "fit what we're currently looking for."), I broke my 16000k+ chapters into sub-chapters, so it's broken down like, Book One--Chapter 1/Chapter 2/Chapter 3; Book Two--Chapter 4/5/6 and so on. Because those have a theme based on the songs I titled the Books after. 

And that last sentence was written under the influence.

Book 3, Chapter 9, excerpt 1:


“Could it be any fucking colder? Jesus!”

Thump. Thump.


Thump thump, thump thump, thump thump.

“So is that all you’re going to do? Pound on the fucking steering wheel? Shit, it’s cold. Fuck.”

To twenty-three, Flynn thought, count it out. Thump. Thump. Thump and so on. Then turn the key. What the fuck, there was nothing else he knew to do. He’d thrown open the hood and checked cables and connections but was no mechanic, had no idea why the car had died. Count to twenty-three and then turn the key—that was his best idea.

Black walls of lodgepole pine narrowed the night sky’s light into a narrow rill. Allison stared out the filthy passenger-side window, as if to see whether some crazed psychopath was camped out in the trees, just waiting for fresh meat to appear on the highway. Her hand rattled inside her purse as she desperately searched for pills.

Thump, thump, thump. To twenty three.

“So what are we going to do?” Head down in her bag, Allison sought Xanax her doctor-father had prescribed her. “Start walking? Start a fire? Fuck… I know I had some more… you didn’t eat them, did you?”

“You know I don’t like pills.” Engine steam had long since disappeared, nearly twenty minutes since the car shuddered and shut down, the engine quiet but for a soft hiss.  When he first opened the hood, water seemed to come from everywhere. Twenty-three and maybe the motor would cool down enough to get them to the next town.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

“God, would you stop that? You’re giving me a headache!”

Flynn’s feet softly tapped out one-two, three-four, a surreptitious dance he did while resting his head on the steering wheel, his count to twenty-three at least shutting out Allison’s pill-popping chatter. After hitting his last beat, lights suddenly rimmed the rearview mirror with an eerie corona, the growl of a motor growing louder with approach. Jumping out of the car, Flynn stood in the middle of the road, raising a flaming lighter in the air as though showing love for a band’s performance. He hit the lighter again and again and again, again counting to twenty-three.

Looking back toward the lights, Allison’s terror returned along with thoughts of crazed mountain people with hatchets and chainsaws, cages for enslaved women and hooks for human flesh. Headlights slowed, the dancing lighter apparently having gotten someone’s attention. “This is fucking groovy,” Allison growled as she popped another pill. “Thanks for bringing me along for this fiasco.”

A truck, old and beat up, fat tires and slightly raised, pulled off the road in front of the car, the smell of freshly-burned weed evident in passing. After it groaned to a stop in the gravel, two guys got out, their long hair and baggy clothes silhouetted in the headlights.

“I dunno, it just died.” Not knowing what else to say to these guys, Flynn threw out his arms. “On our way back to Colorado Springs after a show in Chi-Chi.”

“We’re on our way back from Chi-Chi. Hee-hee! Wee-wee! Wheeeeee! Saw Shakedown, brotha’, best damn Dead-cover band ever! Sweet! Schwing!” The speaker was the shorter one, by almost a foot. Constantly moving as if being shocked by some remote research assistant, animated in a way that, along with his slight stature, made him weirdly imp-like.

“Whee! Whee! Whee!” he pig-squealed. A corresponding scream erupted from inside the car along with feet pounding against the glove box.

 “I can see the first problem you have is a woman on board,” the taller one muttered, then moved to the exposed engine and hit it with the beam of his flashlight. An older Native American man revealed in his lantern’s glow, frilled buckskin adorned with beads and stones, chest draped with several necklaces, feathers poked into a thick mane of long, black hair.

“A woman! The hobbits brings us a woman!” The short one pranced to the passenger side and pressed his face against the window, “Baby, baby, baby! I’m in love! Schwing!”

More screaming in the car along with things being thrown at the window.

“So you guys were at Shakedown?” The Indian guy bounced the flashlight’s beam over the motor, not seeming to search for anything in particular. “You guys get high?”

“Yeah, but we’ve been out for days. Touring the mountain scene. Smokin other people’s buds since Friday.”

“Oh, we’re good, brother. Just seeing if you wanted to smoke some.”

“Yeah, we’d love that. I’m Flynn, by the way. Allison’s the one having a meltdown in the car. I mean, she’s totally pissed about this whole trip. Weed would definitely calm things down a bit.”

“That’s cool. I’m Leo. That’s Toothless Don scaring your girlfriend. I suggest we smoke a bowl and try to figure something out. I don’t know why you’re car’s dead.” Waving the flashlight in the air, he called, “Don! Get over here and have a look. I can’t see anything.”

Toothless Don waved bye-bye to Allison while kicking a heel up behind him like a fountain’s flirtatious Cupid, then was up in the hood with knees resting on the grill. “Whaddya think, Leo? Whaddya thing? Think thing? Ding! Ding! Ding! It’s a motor. Japanese, I thing! Nuthin’s on fire! Schwing! Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink! Bet it’s a water pump froze up! Betcha betcha betcha!”

“What the fuck was that?” Allison was shaking when Flynn opened her door, her hands hiding her face, rippling fingers like battling tarantulas. “Are these guys... okay? I thought you were getting raped out there!”

“Yeah, yeah, they were at the same show we were at. They’re cool, I think they’re going to help. Chill, babe. The other guy asked if we wanted to get high.”

“Um… YEAH!” Allison swung her door open, and wrapping her coat tightly around her breasts, shuffled eagerly to her new friends.

The hood clattered with the sound of Toothless Don’s head hitting it. “Baby doll! Schwing! Made you come with my mechanical prowess! Oh yeahhhhhhh,” his voice dropping several octaves into a guttural growl.

“Hey guys!” Allison greeted them as fellow travelers, Deadheads, stoners—family. “Heard there’s herbage out here! I’m Allison!”

Leo filled a bowl from a pouch attached to one of his necklaces while the group huddled on the side of US 144. “The bad news? We don’t know what’s wrong with your car,” Leo said as the piece circulated. “It’s late and no solution until at least morning. The good news is, we have a friend who’s a genius with cars. Better news is, we have some friends who have room for you to crash, if you want, until your car’s fixed. They’re partying, but if you’re up for it, that’s an option.”

“That sounds awesome! And we can pay,” Allison added, “for the room and everything! We don’t want to take advantage.”

“What about the car?” Still making payments on his junker, Flynn was pissed that it was dead where it sat, wasn’t thrilled that it would be momentarily abandoned on some back-country highway. Mostly, he was annoyed that Allison had just obligated funds he might need to pay for repairs.

“Come with us,” Leo slammed the hood closed and started walking to the truck. “Our mechanic friend will tow it then tell you what’s wrong.”

“Kris-Kris. Gris-Gris. Cree-Cree. Whee! Girl fix anything, everything! A genius, a motherfuckin genius. You’ll see!” thrusting his pelvis Allison’s way, Don added, “Schwing!” then a bouncing, “Boing-oing-oing!”

The four of them packed into the cab of the truck, Don in the middle, Allison on Flynn’s lap. “Welcome to Pogo Springs,” Leo said as he dropped his rig into gear and dripped a sly grin, “you may be surprised by what you find. Be careful with our sacred waters.”

Not far from where they’d left the car, the road spilled through a cleft in the mountain, twisting along water that had torn open a canyon. Boulders the size of buildings declared where the mountain still had more of itself to give to the creek.

“So, we’re headed to the 3-D Ranch by way of Kris-Kris. She’s going to tow your car and give us a shortcut to town,” Leo said as he maneuvered his truck past walls of tree and rock. “Toothless Don is one of the three Ds.”

“That’s my story and I’m stickin to it.” Don opened his mouth with a dumb-guy gape, revealing nubs like miniature rotted apples hanging from his gums.

“The other Don—The Don we call him—he and his brother Dave make it 3-D. They’re identical twins but you can recognize the difference. The Don had chemo last year and his hair never came back. He’s the extrovert of the two. Dave is really quiet, in his head a lot. It’s Emma’s birthday. You can’t miss who she is. There’s homebrewed beer and shrooms and more pot like the stuff you just smoked. Hippies. Freaks. Deadheads. Our tribe.”

Just beyond the “Pogo Springs 3” sign, Leo turned the truck across double lines onto a dirt road that ran parallel to the highway for several hundred yards, then skirted away into mountain shadows. Rattling bones on washboard ruts, the truck followed a serpentine path down into a vale where a split gate blocked their path. In the chaotic chiaroscuro of headlights, Flynn and Allison could see the shadows of a two-story house rimmed by banks of dark machinery and wrecked cars, row after row of banged up metal rusting in the dark. Leo jumped out and went to the gate, started yipping and howling like a coyote, pushing his body up from where he gripped the wrought-iron bars. An apparition materialized on the other side of the gate—tall, dark-skinned, long hair hiding a face, wearing an Einstürzende Neubauten t-shirt, black denim legs stuffed into the petals of unlaced work boots. The mysterious figure unlatched the lock and opened the gates.

“Kris-Kris!” Don erupted and shot out of the truck, leaping across the gate to attach himself to the apparition’s neck. Kris hugged him back with a tap-tap-tap distance and then pushed him back toward the gate, as if handing off a baby with a shitty diaper. All the while, Leo gestured with a helicopter spin of his hands, signing as though some prison gang switchboard, shouting over the chugging rumble of the motor. In an instant, Don was back at the truck, on Allison’s side, tapping on the window, a lecherous grin revealing his five teeth. “Keys, please! Tease me! Squeeze-ee! We needs keys! Squeeze keys to me or ya ain’t gettin nuttin!”

“For God sake, give him your keys,” Allison hissed. “He wants to help.”

“I’m trying, but you’re still on my lap.”

Allison jumped over onto the rest of the seat, “Then let me move my fat ass off you.”

“Geez. It’s not so much that you’re bulky but awkward.”

Bulky and awkward pretty much defined the remainder of Flynn and Allison’s weekend.

Kris-Kris led them through the junkyard to unlock another gate, one just beyond a stone bridge and opening up to a narrow street lined with ramshackle cabins daring the rocks above them to fall. From there, Leo took his truck down into where the town coalesced and nudged itself into something to be regarded. Within two turns and three minutes, they arrived at their destination—a split-level house with a worn 1970s chic and a patchwork fence of planks and pieces of plywood. Dark spots in a dusting of snow showed where footprints had earlier forged their way to the porch.

Toothless Don spun through the door and began buzzing around, bumping off partiers and furniture like a disoriented bee. “Leo!” someone called out as the others entered, their addition to the party initially announced by stomps on the porch.

The Don stood just inside the door to greet them, one hand wrapped around a pint glass, the other sweeping inwards. “Welcome to our shire! Greetings, fair friends! M’lady! M’lord!”

“Allison and Flynn, roadkill from up the pass.” Leo was looking farther back into the house, where the kitchen and action were. “On their way back from Shakedown. Naturally, interested in beer and shroomage.”

The living room was empty of people except for some dude who looked a lot like a young Robert Plant and was zoning into a poster brought to life by a black-light’s glow. Threadbare and broken furniture surrounded a floor undulating with warps and bumps. In one corner, a stereo’s flickering indicator lights blinked from within a cavern of stacked albums, boxes of tapes, and racks of CDs. Rush was playing, and the smell of marijuana smoke gave the place a kind of “I’m home!” groove. Just past the door, a side room was lit in red to reveal walls lined with shelves holding thousands of comic books, each issue sheathed in plastic.

“So, Chez 3-D,” The Don continued. “Bedrooms and bathrooms this way and that,” fingers slicing air like a flight attendant explaining exits, “…aaaaaand, onto where the people are…” motioning them to the kitchen. Two black Labs jumped up from the floor to greet the newcomers, looking to be petted and scratched. “Samson and Delilah. She’s the littler one. And these people are… Ra-Ra. Casper. LA Tina. Our birthday girl, Emma. Whisper and Carlos on lead and rhythm, Gooch on the counter and, my brother Dave on bong.”

Dave took a pull, cleared the tube with a lift of the pin and waved, giving the go-ahead with his exhale for everyone to resume as they were, as if they’d been something else during the lead-up to his introduction. The girls greeted their guests with vigorous hippie hugs while the guys stayed put to flash peace signs, How-dos and S’ups. With Robert Plant-dude as an initial hint, it was apparent that everyone in 3-D had ingested psilocybin at some point prior, in varying amounts, each elevated into their own unique level of trip—some melting and stirring in the scene, others engaged in lively conversation.

“You’ll want this to wash down the boomers,” The Don said as he opened a side door off the kitchen to where a pony keg chilled on a porch.

“Beer brewed here!” Toothless Don was dancing around Indian Leo while flashing his Jack-o-lantern smile. “Here, beer! 3-D homebrew! Dee’s true hoodoo! Whoo-hoo!”

“Leave the door open! It’s hot in here,” LA Tina whined from the kitchen as The Don filled two pint glasses with beer the color and consistency of robust coffee.

As Flynn watched the glasses fill, he scanned the room, eyes landing on Emma’s statuesque beauty. Not daring to allow his gaze to linger, he slowly checked out the rest of the crowd. “Cool people! I think we’re gonna have fun.” Tilting his chin down and dropping his volume to a near whisper, “That chick, LA Tina or Latina? Is she a he? Cuz she looks like a dude dressed like a chick.”

 “Latina! El lay! Olé! Schwing!” Toothless Don smirked at Flynn and blew him a kiss.

“Both.” Indian Leo sipped his beer and examined Flynn past the rim of his glass. “Latina or LA Tina, she don’t care. Two-spirits, Ick we ka-ka zo. She’s a she who got nuts anna dick. You’re not her type. She goes for cowboys, construction workers… manly types.”

Realizing he’d stepped into something he didn’t know how to scrape off his heels, Flynn stuttered, “She’s, uh… not why I was asking, dude. Got no problem with that but no… I mean, I came here with Allison and she’s…”

“Ali ma gal lee! Schwing! Whoo-hoo! She one hot twat, whatcha got! Got sweet honeypot!” Toothless Don erupted as though his crotch would shoot through the room like a bottle rocket. His babble trailed off as he spun from the porch and back into the kitchen, women screeching and squealing as he fondled and pinched his way through.

Back with beers, Flynn was greeted by Allison’s stoned grin and emotional ambiguity.

“Help yourself,” Whisper offered them a mini skirt-sized bag holding close to five pounds of mushrooms. “Grab some.”

Walk me out in the morning dew, my honey,” Emma belted from the belly, stomping on whatever was on the stereo.

The perfection of Emma’s voice and facial features multiplied attraction for Flynn as she unloaded the breadth of her voice. Trying not to be creepy, he turned his attention from her to The Don, who was idly juggling at least a half-dozen shot glasses.

“I know you probably hear it a lot but you really look like…” Flynn toasted The Don as he snagged a handful of shrooms.

“Frank Zappa,” The Don deadpanned, ending his juggling act by catching every shot glass into a tidy tower. “Only all the time. But that’s cool. I love Frank, the Mothers. Too bad cancer took him. Nice, right?”

Hoping Don was asking about beer and not cancer, Flynn flushed his dose with a hasty slug of stout. “Good. Great. I mean, you brew this?” Clearing his pint to wash down the telluric tang of the mushrooms, he funny-faced his way back into the moment. “It’s really delicious. The beer.”


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