I’m doing something crazy this week.
I follow two bloggers who post flash fiction challenges: Chuck Wendig and Dan Alatorre. If one of their challenges strikes me as interesting, I’ll write it.
This week, they both sounded interesting. So I’m combining them into what I hope won’t turn into a jumbled flash fiction monstrosity.
These were the prompts:
Chuck – hit “shuffle” or “random” on Pandora or your music player. The title of the first song is your title. Take inspiration from the lyrics. I got “I Bet My Life” by Imagine Dragons.
Dan – hit this movie plot generator and use what pops to write your story. I got this (with spelling and grammar issues intact): He was an unlucky transvestite priest, who had a a phobia of newts and an ability to read minds. She was a wonderous pub landlady who sought the answer to the ultimate question and needed to feel loved. Together they travelled to Mars. Fighting agnostics and looking for love in the wrong places.
Okay, so I probably won’t use all of that stuff from the movie prompt. Because wow. But we’ll see what happens.
I Bet My Life
I step out of the car and adjust my tailored suit pants. I don’t care what that shop owner said – they just aren’t the same. But I’m here for Crystal, and she gets the final say. Panties and skirts don’t work in her world, at least not on me.
This dude gonna pay me or what? The cabbie’s thought invades my head. I can usually block the uninviteds, but I’m distracted. Unfocused.
I pay the cabbie and he drives off, leaving behind a final thought. Pussy.
I stare at the front of the pub I haven’t seen in ten years. Crystal couldn’t handle a few things about me. One, I was technically a priest. Two, I enjoyed the feel on satin on my skin. And three, neither of those things jived with her image of the guy she’d fall in love with. So I did what any reasonable guy would do: I moved to Europe.
A bell jingles as I enter the place. It’s dark – unreasonably so, considering what time of day it is. I glance outside before I close the door, to make sure the daylight wasn’t my imagination.
Guy must be lost.
Her familiar voice enters my mind. I’m not surprised she doesn’t recognize me. I’m fifty pounds lighter and I cut my hair short. I close the door and approach the bar. She’s organizing bottles against the back wall, but she makes eye contact with me in the mirror. “What’ll ya have?”
“How about a trip to Mars?” I sit on the first stool, at the corner of the bar.
She scowls and turns around. She hesitates before speaking, as if weighing her response. “What do you know about that?”
Mars is really Mars Landing, the gay bar down the street. Back in the day, she and I would crash the place. I thought I could save the lost. She thought she could get my cross-dressing ass laid. At first, I couldn’t convince her that wearing panties didn’t make me gay. Once she saw I turned down every guy, though, and I realized people didn’t go to bars to get preached to, we started going to Mars for fun and nothing more.
“Used to spend time there with a real interesting girl.” I scan the bottles behind her. “Scotch on the rocks.”
She reaches for the bottle, then freezes and stares at me. “My God.” It is you.
I nod. I never told her I could read her thoughts. Most girls wouldn’t take kindly to that information.
She looks past me. “What’s wrong with you? Thinking you can just come back here?” She waves the towel she’s holding, causing her blonde curls to bounce. It took me so long to forget you.
I suppress a grin.
“What’s a priest doing in a bar, anyway? There’s no one to save here.” She holds her arm out to the nearly empty space. “Things haven’t been so good.”
“I don’t do that anymore.”
“And the other?” She raises her eyebrows.
“Don’t do that anymore either.” At least not since this morning, when I traded my favorite Victoria Secrets for plain boxers.
“So why are you here?” She walks to me and leans over the bar. Her ample bosom almost reaches it.
“I told you. I want to go to Mars. For old times’ sake.”
She throws her arms up and turns around, reaching for a bottle. “What’s the point, Gary?”
“I came to remember.”
She huffs, then pours Scotch into a short glass, apparently forgetting the ice. “Ain’t nothing worth remembering here.” She slides the glass in front of me.
“I doubt that.” I sip the amber liquid. “So what do you say? Will you go to Mars with me?”
She wipes the counter. “Not until you tell me why you came back. I never thought I’d see you again.” Gave up on that years ago.
“Me neither.” Another sip. “Truth is, I’m dying.”
She stops cleaning, leans on the bar with one hand, and puts the other hand on her hip. “Dying?”
I nod. “Cancer. Got my liver.”
“Probably shouldn’t be drinking, then.”
“Doesn’t matter. It’s too far gone.”
“That’s what the Euro docs say, right?” She leans over the counter again. “I mean, maybe there’s more can be done here-”
“It’s no use, Crystal. They’d say hopeful things, but I could hear the truth.” I swirl my drink. “They say dying is easier if you’re around people you love.”
Love? “The hell are you talking about?”
“I shouldn’t have left you.” I swallow the lump in my throat. “I did it because I couldn’t love you, according to the church. I could hide the other stuff from them, but not that. I didn’t plan to come running back here.” I bring the glass to my lips with a shaking hand and nearly spill before setting it back down. “But the truth is I did love you. I’ve always loved you. And I’m betting whatever’s left of my life on the hope that you’ll let me back into yours.”
Holy shit. A smile creeps across her face. “Did you practice that speech?”
I laugh. “A little. It was a long flight.”
She glances at a clock over hanging over the bar. “We’ll have to hang out here a while. Mars doesn’t open til later.” Is this really happening?
I nod as I swallow the remainder of my drink. “Yeah. It’s really happening.”