Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Little St. Patrick's Day Flash Fiction

This is an extended piece from a Flash Fiction Challenge that was limited to 500 words, well as you can see the muses were kind and the story took on a life of its own far beyond the word count (A 500 word edit exists in the St. Patrick's Day edition of Mid-Week Blues-Buster Challenge at thetsuruokafiles.wordpress.com) I hope you enjoy this "Sainted" little tale inspired by a Pogues song.



                                   “A Pint, Wager, and a Song”

                                                          by

                                       James Patrick Lockett



        It was cold, the kind of cold that only a Dublin morn’ can oblige. The glass didn’t help any, either. It hit like broken shards of ice; spraying across his back and shoulder as he turned away. He shook the cold glass from his hair and checked his back the best he could – no blood, no foul. The whore hadn’t been as lucky. She lay on her back, across a bed of cardboard boxes, a narrow shard of glass embedded in her neck.

        She looked at him as he knelt over her. She tried to speak, her voice lost somewhere in the alley as he pulled the glass out. Blood flowed like an open tap. There was a lot he didn’t know – why he was in the alley; from where the plate of glass had been served; why he’d looked away and she’d looked up – none of which mattered at the moment. What he did know was that she was going to die here – in a cold, Dublin alley, under the echo of a drunken, distant harmonica riff. He slipped his finger into the wound, finding the tear – and like a boy with a summer hose, closed his finger into the opening diverting the spray away from her brain. It would be quicker that way. With bloodstained fingertips, he closed her eyelids.

        When he felt she was gone, he stood – only then appraising his situation – the alley was deserted, present company excluded, what had once been a window somewhere above him now crunched under his feet, present company excluded, and it was cold, present company . . .

       As a boy, things exploded all the time – lots of glass, along with brick, mortar and dust, lots of dust – it was always loud; not silently dropped from above. He felt glass move under the heel of his boot, as a boy the shopkeepers would sweep the glass into the gutter and the rain would clean what it didn’t wash away. He wondered if that would happen now.

        Five stories above, this chosen one was being observed – the one called Padraig knelt on point at the now open edge of the wall, balanced off of a serpent’s staff, looking down, as long green robes waved behind him conducting the wind. Across the alleyway on the roof’s edge, stood a pious lass, clothed in blue robes, equally lyrical to the wind. Saint to Saint. She stared down, across the alley floor, in disbelief.

       “That was not fair, snake chaser,” called the lass.  “Glass does not normally rain down on one.” No hard, fast rules, only a wager. Good over evil.

       “But it proves my point, Brigit,” the saint countered, emerald eyes seemed to glow against the white hair and beard. “And wins my bet, for he did not try to save her.”

       “He couldn’t save her. I doubt I could have saved her. You win nothing.”

                                                                 # # #

       The man – St. Patrick’s pawn in this wager - started back the way he’d been walking, this time checking doors along the alley as he went. The first three locked tight, the forth – a pub kitchen door opened easily - the volume of the band poured into the alley. He saw no one from the door, quickly slipped a leather jacket from the coat hook and just as quickly, made his retreat. Closing the door, the band returned to a muffled back beat that he remembered hearing before the glass; before he saw the girl – that’s right, he saw her walking toward him. He remembered now, she said something to him, but he couldn’t hear because of the band. That fahkin’ bahnd. Loud and drunker than the grieving souls they played for – loud, drum driven covers of Shane McGowan songs - having to play some songs twice to fill out the night’s set list. He slipped into the jacket and left the alley.

       Other than his hands, there was a pair of gloves and twenty-two Euros in the jacket’s pocket. Enough for a pint to take away the chill and train ticket to get him where he needed to be.

       “Stay with him, he’s every Irish hero ever written from the Ulster Cycle to Dun Cow to -"

       "Yeah, to your heroes,” Brigit interrupted. “Your beloved IRA, you think I didn’t catch on when you picked a lost boy named Frank Ryan?”

       “You caught nothing, girl.” Padraig said, dropping from the height to the alley below. Brigit settled beside him and sat at the feet of the girl.

       “Look around you,” he continued, “There’s a glass of punch below your feet and an angel – or in this case, a saint – at your head.” Nothing.

       “It’s from The Sick Bed of Cuchulainn – Ulster narrative? Pogues song? Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash?” Nothing.

       "You disappoint me,” he said. “That was clever.” He started walking away, down the alley to find Frank. Brigit of Kildare knelt over the still warm body, her fingers reclaiming the red toadflax that blossomed and pooled under the girl’s body. The blood returned, Brigit stood and hurried off to catch Padraig.

       As the dead girl took a new breath, Padraig stopped – his back to the alley. “That’s cheating,:” he said, not looking back.

       “No. Just squaring a wrong.”

       They walked – side by side – or, of one heart and one mind, as they had so often been described. There was a great friendship between these two, the protectors and patrons of Ireland, and yet the years had molded an almost sibling rivalry as well. Thus grew a Pascal wager of sorts - a Sainted game of good versus evil, with poor, unsuspecting mortals moved across a cloth each feast day of St. Patrick. They watched as the man – Frankie – sat down ahead of them on the steps of St. Audoen’s Church.

       Padraig stopped at a “jock” cart and bought a sausage wrapped in onions and bread. Juggling the staff he carried, he took a bite.

       “Ahem,” Brigit cleared her throat. “Did you give nothing up for Lent?”

       Though a full mouth, Padraig mumbled, “Ah, ’tis Le Fheile Padraig. My feast day, at least until dawn and all Lenten restrictions are lifted today. Not all of us can celebrate our feast day in early spring. Want a bite?”

       “I’d rather McDonald’s,” she said, rolling the ‘Mc’ with a thick brogue.

       "Suit you,” he said, stopping at steps to St. Audeon’s. Looking at Frank, all bundled up in stolen jacket.

       “Shall we have another go?”

       "No, look at him, looks beat seven shades to shit. Next year?”

       “Okay.”

       The man stood, released as if a cloud had been lifted and headed east toward Stephen’s Green. They watched him leave.

       “Fancy a pint?” he asked. “A bit of ol’ Sally MacLennane?”

       “No, I think I’ll call it. Thanks, it’s been. . .”

       “Yeah,” said Saint Patrick, “It has. I’ll have you next year, girl”

       “That’s what you said last year, and the year before that.”

       “Hey,” he added, nodding in Frank’s direction. “You hear the rattling death trains?”

       “What?”

       “Nothing. Another Pogues lyric, just seeing if you were keeping up.”

       “Erin go brach, Brother.”

       “Erin go brach, Sister.”

       Ireland Forever indeed. Always was, always will be. St. Patrick walked into his night, alone – a hint of mischief in his smile. Next year, he thought to himself, next year it’s pints with St. Valentine, he’ll get all the song references – and the wager won’t end in some alley.

                                                                # # #

       A man sat in the warmth of Stephen’s Green station. The train would come soon. His glove hindered his fingers from retrieving a piece of glass lodged in the heel of his boot. The same glove that hide the mysterious blood stains on his hands. The glass could wait. There was a girl waiting for the train as well, a scarf wrapped tight around her neck. They both stood, nodded to the other, as the train pulled to a stop. In separate cars, they were both heading south.

                                                               ~ * * * ~






Copyright 2014. JPL. All rights reserved. Used here by permission.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Flash Fiction Challenge

A friend of mine turned me on to a Flash Fiction Challenge - the Mid Week Blues-Buster @ thetsuruokafiles.wordpress.com.  The writing prompt was Santana's song "Put your lights On" and, well, here's what came of it.


 "Under the Neon Sign by the Stairs Up to te Bar Above Margarita’s"

                                           by

                         James Patrick Lockett

 

     "Hey buddy, spare a buck?”

       I  didn’t look up, just dug deep into the pocket where I used to keep my keys. The single dollar bill looked grey in the green light of the neon sign. It felt heavy like old cloth. I stuffed it back down and said “No.”

     “Oh com’on, all I need. . .”

       I looked up this time. My eyes met his and he stopped as if the reflection of green neon in my eyes spelled - Shut the Fuck Up – instead of s’atiragraM.

       "I said no.” My weight relaxed back into the wrought iron security door of the stairwell. Some bluesy guitar chord dangled from the bar room above Margarita’s and for a moment – only a moment – I felt the urge to swing back and forth on the gate, in time to the music. My fingers moved the gate three inches both directions. It creaked.

       “Hey,” I said, feeling the ink of my tattoo move up my arm, a grip warning me not to do what I was about to do. “What you need is to go home.”

       “Funny,” said the hobo, beggar, residentially challenged – whatever the PC word of the day was.

       “I’m serious.”

       “In case you hadn’t noticed, I ain’t essactly got a home.”

       “You did,” I said. “And you need to go there NOW.” I closed my eyes, fighting back against the darkness. “They’re there and they’re going to take her if you’re not there to stop them.”

       “What the hell you. . .”

       I couldn’t explain it if I wanted to. The tat that used to not be there, tightened it’s grip. None of it scared me anymore. It just happened . . .

       “Amy. Your daughter. She needs you. . . NOW!” Even in the green light, I could see his face go white. He was still running when he turned a corner and I lost sight of him. My arm felt better as I drew my hand from my pocket. My fingers rubbed back and forth across the heavy hundred dollar bill. Like I said, I can’t explain it. The song ended, I think it was Santana and I could hear the cue ball as it rolled down the felt tapping its target, the number six ball, I think. Or maybe, it was just the light.

       I closed my eyes and leaned against the gate.



Copyright 2014.  James Patrick Lockett.  All Rights Reserved.