From: Wendy S. Russo
On February 10, 2013, we say goodbye to the dragon and welcome the snake, a symbol of wisdom and cunning, but also delusion and deception.
This hop is open to writers…published or not…and here is your assignment.
Find within your work a passage that embodies the spirit of the snake as defined above. You are encouraged to include a giveaway, but it’s not required. Snakes would find you foolish, but I won’t.
A suitably snake-like present is on offer to one poster between now and next Sunday.
And now, my excerpt:
From 'Seven for the Devil' in my short story collection A Series of Ordinary Adventures. Having visited the graves of his former bandmates, injured double bass player Michael is trying to make his way home by hitching, after discovering his pushbike with two flat tyres:
A car was slowing. Michael jumped up from the verge, where he had been resting alongside his bike. Perhaps the driver had seen only him. Could he bear to ditch the bike, and hope it would still be there when he’d managed to convince a mate with a van to bring him back for it? He took a step into the road and stuck out his thumb.
The window on the positively ancient rust-red Volvo rolled down as the car came to a halt. Michael ducked his head to look inside.
“Where you headed, son?” The driver grinned, showing a mouth full of crooked teeth, gaps, and one gold upper incisor. He wore a battered brown suit, and an even more battered brown hat, reminding Michael very much of his late grandfather.
Michael heaved a sigh of relief, and then told him. Old black dudes were far less likely to be maniacs, serial killers, or run-of-themill thugs than young or middle-aged white guys.
“That’s right on my route.” The old guy leaned across to open the door, releasing a waft of damp-tinged mothballs. “Hop in.”
“I’ve got a bike with me.” Michael gave it a longing glance, and sent up a prayer to the gods of lost wheels.
“It can go on the roof rack.” There was a click, and the hatchback popped open. “You’ll find bungees in there.”
Getting the bike onto the roof without adding any new scratches to the car was another struggle for Michael’s damaged arm, but no way was he asking his saviour for any more help.
At last, it was safely battened down, his satchel and trenchcoat were on the Volvo’s back seat, and he was fastening his seatbelt as the car set off again.
“Nice day for it.” The old dude slipped the car smoothly into top gear. “Or maybe not, in your case.”
“How d’you mean?” Michael had been dozing off in the warmth of the car, idly wondering who’d be down the pub that evening, and whether it was worth him dressing up a bit. Never too early to remind people of who he was...
“You’re Mikey Phantom, aren’t you?”
Not that he expected any old, with emphasis on the old, stranger to recognise him out here in the sticks.
“I follow all the local bands,” the old dude said. “Just in case I can ever be of any kind of assistance to them.”
“You’re a promoter?” It didn’t seem to fit with the guy’s look, and at his age, surely he’d be promoting less edgy bands than Cynical Waste had been?
“Not exactly -- although I do have contacts.”
“You play.” Michael glanced at the dude’s hands, hoping they weren’t horribly arthritic or otherwise incapable of handling a guitar. His companion did look like he ought to be lurking on the edge of some Southern Delta in the States rather than driving up the main trunk road through Norfolk.
“Occasionally. Mostly I provide support to those more talented in that area than myself.”
“What kind of support?”
“Whatever’s needed. Now, you. What do you want?”
My old band back. “I don’t know right now. I won’t know until I start gigging again.”
“You need help finding gigs?”
Michael shook his head. “I’m still with my old booking agent, and I’ve got places that will set me up with unpaid work to get started.”
“You want to be in a band again? Or are you striking out on your own? It’s a risky business out there, especially in these troubled times.”
“I don’t think I could play with new people. I was with the guys pretty much ever since I dropped out of the school orchestra.” That had been a disaster, too. Only one other string player besides Michael with any ability whatsoever, and a music teacher whose enthusiasm plummeted after their first rehearsal in the former gym with its hastily boarded-up windows.
“How about your old band? Hypothetically, which would you rather have, a glittering solo career, or the chance to see them all shine again?”
“You mean, would I want to promote a retrospective album rather than my own career?”
“I mean, would you want your old band back, as they were?”
“Well, obviously I miss them.” He phrased his answer carefully, not wanting to fall into any kind of trap. The guy was unlikely to be an undercover journalist, but the last thing Michael wanted was to have his words plastered all over the music press rubbishing his previous
career. “They were my friends, and we’d have made it big one day if it hadn’t been for the accident.”
“So you do want them back? What would you sacrifice?”
“What kind of question is that?” They were at the outskirts of Diss, and he hadn’t said exactly where he lived. He could ask to be dropped off, and push his bike the rest of the way. “I’d rather be part of the band still, more than anything else. But I can’t have that, so
I’m going to do the best I can to make it on my own.”
“What if I told you that you could have the one thing you really wanted?” The car slowed and they were heading off the roundabout and into Diss itself. “Only one thing, mind. You can’t have things as they were and the chance of a solo career later, should the band not work out.”
The conversation was turning freakier by the moment. “You can drop me off here. No need to go any further out of your way.”
“It’s hardly out of my way.” They were turning into the side street where Michael lived in his tiny flat over the newsagent’s shop. Seriously creepy, when no one would be driving that way by chance. “Not even an extra mile on my journey. We’re there anyway.”
Michael had his seatbelt unclipped and was scrambling out of the car even before it had completely stopped. No way was he asking how the old man knew the exact spot to pull up by the kerb. He released his bike from the roof rack, throwing the bungees onto the back seat and then dragging his coat and bag off it.
“You’ll think about it though, won’t you?” The old man leered at him. “Just think about what you want most in the world. Fame for yourself, or for your friends? Either can be arranged.”
“Thanks for the lift.” Michael pushed the car door shut with his knee, almost afraid something bad might happen should he touch it with his bare skin.
The window rolled down, and the old man leaned across the passenger seat to speak to him one last time as he backed away. “Any time. I’ll see you around.”
Michael turned and fled, oblivious to the bumping as his bike bounced along on the rims of its wheels.
To read what others have been posting, follow the links:
Sue Anne Bowling
Stephan E. Train
Wendy S. Russo