Monday, August 10, 2009

Blow, by E. Flanigan

Here we are: Month Two. This month's prompt was a two-word phrase: love hesitates. Bonus points for people who used the prompt in the story.

I got six stories this month, put the titles in a hat and had my 4-year-old pick a name at random. Up first is (drumroll please) E. Flanigan.



E. Flanigan

The hatchet was heavier than she expected.

Jo wasn't the handy type, and tools and their uses were elusive to her — how things are put together, how they work. But hatchets were different. They were all about deconstruction and undoing, and Jo liked that.

Whoever had left the hatchet in the hall closet (the landlord? the fire chief?) had positioned it next to a small red fire extinguisher. If Jo had ever noticed it there before, she didn't remember. But now that Lars was gone, she could see what was left in his place.

She got dressed and headed in to work. It was the off-season and the casino was at half-capacity, but the HR department was still trucking along with new hires. Dealers. Floor managers. Cashiers. Each needed a snip of hair sent to the lab for drug testing.

Jo meticulously matched the ID numbers on the lab reports to the names of the new hires. The results were given in picograms of drugs per milligram of hair for amphetamines, cocaine, opiates, marijuana.

This one parties a little. This one parties a lot. This one was high when he came in for the test.

Jo wasn't sure how it happened, but like a fly to shit she ended up back in Lars's rejected personnel file.

Trying to get him a job had been a colossal waste of time. He had outdone himself that day — the numbers were off the charts.

By now Jo already knew the score, but she felt compelled to look again. Eight thousand pg/mg of cocaine.

"Asshole," she murmured. But she didn't mean it.

That night, she knocked back a few beers sitting on a plastic chair on the patio. Hadn't he said she was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen? Hadn't he bought her lacy underwear, and played his guitar for her, and given her a ring?

She watched cars pass by on the highway and thought about promises made and promises broken.

She thought about Lars's face when she'd walked in on them. He hadn't bothered with apologies, hadn't even bothered to push the girl's head away from his lap.

"Fuck it," was all he'd said.

She drank a few more beers, and by the time she was in the car, she knew where she was headed. It wasn't the first time she'd been down this road.

The car was all over the place. Jo was losing focus on the white lines she was aiming for. She kept trying to remember the thing they say at weddings. "Love is patient. Love is kind."

She added a few of her own. Love is sober. Love keeps it in his pants. Love doesn't screw you over.

She turned the radio up. Love wrecks things.

Jo barely noticed the hatchet sitting on the seat next to her. She didn't remember bringing it.

She stumbled up to the door of Lars's new place and peeked in the front window. She saw nothing. Just black.

She went back to the car for the hatchet and sidled up with it held like a tennis racket, ready to swing. She tried to focus on what was in front of her.

At first Jo thought she couldn't do it, but then she imagined Lars inside, on top of that girl. The image fueled her, and she pumped her fists around the handle and tensed her shoulders.

She tried to swing the hatchet, but flinched and paused. She was afraid of breaking something between her and Lars for good.

"What's there to break?" she asked no one in particular.

Jo wished she could turn the hatchet on herself instead. "Love is patient, love is kind," she told herself. "Love is patient, love is kind."

She stood, frozen in the moment. Love hesitates. Love uses her head. Love holds its damn horses.

Her arms were getting tired, but she thought of Lars, butt cheeks tensed and ready to thrust.

She pulled the hatchet back and threw all of her weight behind it. She wished it was his head.


Erica Orloff said...

Another good one by EF!!!

And . . . . have to say . . . more violent than the one I turned in (not posted yet), but yes, folks, there are similarities. I am loving spotting the similarities in stories.

I think my favorite (!!!!) part of this . . . favorite . . . was the "love" statements. Because it felt real and raw and very much like a person's thought processes. One critique I often give to other writers is I don't buy the inner dialogue they have. It somehow takes away from story. But here, it feels VERY real and very well-done.

Bravo again.

Melanie Avila said...

I like that the hesitation in this piece is whether or not to destroy what's left of their love, if there IS any left.

Well done. I definitely felt the anguish and anger.

E. Flanigan said...

Thanks for the feedback .... I had trouble figuring out how to get "hesitates" in the present tense into the story and how to make it organic — as opposed to sticking out like a sore thumb! It was definitely challenging ....

LurkerMonkey said...

Bwaa haa haa! (evil laugh). Yeah, working in the present-tense phrase "love hesitates" was definitely annoying. It's interesting to see how everybody did it.

One thing I liked about this story was Lars himself. For a character that never really appears (and only gets two words), it's pretty clear who this guy is. Obviously, the story is about Jo, but it's a nice trick to create a an authentic character quickly with just a few observations and words.

Natasha Fondren said...

Totally frickin' awesome, EF! Every detail is perfect and perfectly needed. It's great how we get both what Jo does for a living and the kind of person Lars is in one fell swoop.

I love her "Love" statements, too.

Jude Hardin said...

Hi E. Flanigan:

Good use of the prompt. I think you conveyed the emotion well enough, and got the point across (although I'm not quite sure what happened at the end), but I think the piece could have used more imagery. Lots of telling here and very little showing. Easily fixed if you just paint some pictures at a few key places.

Also, hatchets are small, the size of a hammer, and I'm not sure how you would hold one like a tennis racquet. Is the tool supposed to be an axe, maybe?

E. Flanigan said...

Maybe it should have been a tomahawk!! Then she could have scalped him ....

Anonymous said...

I liked it. I had immediate sympathy for her and she came across very real. Also, I'm sure you can hold a hatchet two-handed, you just won't get the swing you would with a bat or tennis racket. :)