Now the sweet smell was gone. She sat listening. No sounds. She waited still before peeking out through the leaves. The black snout bared its fangs inches from her nose. Then the dog stuck out its tongue and licked her face.
The Coin Castle King
All the discarded neon from the hotels, motels, clubs, and casinos of Las Vegas ended up in the boneyard. Once shiny and bright, signs now waited here to die. Tucked behind a sign company, the boneyard only took visitors by appointment. It made a kitschy place to meet.
Todd preferred this spot to any other place in Las Vegas. It wrapped up all of the glitter, glamour, and glitz into one place where secrets came to be forgotten.
Wallace and Cindy found Todd standing beneath the Coin Castle King. The massive statue offered anyone a coin. For years, the king stood on Fremont Street until Todd decided to build his office and turned the casino below into a slots parlor. Nothing in Vegas lasts; the Coin Castle King stood rusting in the boneyard.
Two men approached Wallace and Cindy. A bigger man with a mustache outstretched his hand. He pulled Wallace closer as they shook hands. The big bodyguard whispered in Wallace’s ear. The man stepped back and waited. Wallace took out his revolver and handed the gun to the man.
“We’re just here to talk,” Wallace said. He regretted parting with the gun, but it made no sense to start a fight.
The smaller bodyguard smoothed his hands over Cindy’s leather pants. He found no weapons. Wallace never gave Cindy a gun, a pocketknife, or anything that could be used as a weapon. She even left the rim fire pistol behind.
She stood behind Wallace and peaked at Todd. A flood of emotions ripped through her and she lunged at him. Todd took a step back and let his bodyguards stop her.
“Look girl, my fight was never with you,” Todd said. “Me and your dad had a disagreement, but you never came up.”
He covered the bread in jelly and brought the crust up to his lips for a bite.
He saw the flock rush away from the center of the meadow and make a stand against the far rocks. Xabier saw the black and two white sheep fell on the ground bleating like they were dying. He rose off the ground grabbing his staff and using it like an oar to bounce across the field to the fallen sheep. He dropped to the ground in a dead run to the center of the herd. He touched the neck of the nearest animal and brought up a hand covered in blood.
Another animal fell to the ground and the herd ran away from the danger. Xabier thought he saw a ripple of light and a blue flash right before the ewe fell. Her lamb spun away as another blue flash zipped from a ripple of light.
Something was out there hunting the sheep!
“Atzera,” he shouted, but the threat seemed to move closer to the herd. He saw another ripple and, for an instant, he thought he saw a face. Another animal fell and he concluded he needed to move the herd.
He whistled long and hard. The sheep scrambled away from the rock fall and ran toward the barn.
“Laster exekutatu. Run, my lovelies.”
He flew up the length of his staff and bounced up to the herd. He paddled forward over and over until he reached the barn door, opening it quickly to let the sheep spill in. Safe inside, the animals stood in their breathing masks against the far wall of the barn. A collective bleating sound could be heard as ewes searched for their lambs. Xabier looked through a portal to the meadow below. He saw a distinct ripple pattern moving the dead sheep off the field until five animals bordered the far side of the meadow.
He then saw the dead sheep vanish from the meadow as if they were erased. He had been warned about the hunters, but never thought he would encounter them.
“This video on stem cells.”
“It says we can convert fat cells into stem cells and rebuild our bodies.”
“You sound like you already knew this.”
“No. But it all makes sense now.”
“The plan for world domination. It all started in the 50s with Americans eating too much.”
“Okay. I still don’t follow.”
“Fatten up the populace until they can’t walk and then rebuild them into lean fighting machines.”
“I hardly think Uncle Rick will be turned into a fighting machine.”
“Just look at him. Paunchy, big ol belly. He’s perfect for fat cell conversion.”
“Yeah, but still. He lacks motivation.”
“That’s the genius behind this plan. They can suck out Uncle Rick’s fat cells when he’s sleeping and when he wakes up he’ll be a marine!”
“World domination huh?”
“Yep. Just another reason for the world to hate us.”
Small frame, calloused hands, a full head of sandy-brown hair, he looked very much like a boy, although he celebrated his 20th birthday three Earth-months ago. He lost track of the time on this planet where the sun hung in sky for roughly 37 Earth days. Xabier escaped indentured servitude in the Kleroaren army by signing on as a sheepherder on this planet. Neither the nobles nor the clergy appealed to his solitary habits and rural ambitions, so he ran as fast as he could to the spaceport outside Barcelona. Nineteen months of hibernation, passage along Femmes Soliton, and then he arrived. Xabier was left alone with a coat, a knapsack, a blanket, a staff, and some sheep to herd on the outskirts of the galaxy.
The atmosphere felt dense as he floated to the barn sitting in the center of the Slydal Plain. The sheep numbered 99 and 1 huddled in a stable fashioned from a rusting freighter. The herd had trampled bracken across the metal floor, which the sheepherder had cut earlier when the sun sat only inches from its current position. He wished for nightfall if only to see the stars of the Pyrenees Constellation.
While close to a perfect mixture, the shepherd and sheep still needed a filter to achieve a good mix of breathable air. He retrieved a bag of filters from the tack and proceeded to fit them around black noses. “Egun ona Maite.” Xabier pulled the filter straps tight against the animal’s neck then placed a weight belt on her haunches. “Egun ona Ander.” He wished each animal a good day until the wooly faces stood in a corner anticipating the rush to the pasture.
Xabier slipped a weight belt around him, picked up a staff, and opened the gate. Bright, white light rushed into the barn and the sheep bounced back into the shadows. “Nire maitaleak. Run, my lovelies.” The sheep leaped from the barn spilling out on the bright green pastureland, their front feet floating off the ground, anchored to the soil with only their hindquarter weight belts. Soon they settled down, their heads bobbing off the ground with each taste of the grass, as if they were bottom heavy drinking birds bouncing into a glass.
He took flying leaps over to a rock slab where he rested watching the sheep graze nestled between towering cliffs and rock outfalls in the high-mountain valley. Nymphs and prairie gnats bounced in his hair, he smelled lavender rose, and heard the sound of locust hum interrupted now and then by the bleating of sheep. The shepherd believed this valley felt most like the home he imagined on Earth.
Cindy slept in a grey REO Speedwagon shirt on the overstuffed couch in Wallace’s office. A gauze bandage covered the hole in her arm and she crammed her bare toes into the cushion for comfort. The day had been a whole lot of trouble.
Wallace gave her the t-shirt and some jeans from a bag his daughter stashed under his desk. Laying on the couch, Wallace realized how much Cindy reminded him of his girl. She no longer seemed tough; she seemed more like a small child. He thought this over as he studied the Hacienda Horse & Rider sign on Las Vegas Boulevard. At this end of town, the sign seemed out of place far from the neon of the Strip.
He picked up the phone and waited for it to connect. He watched tourists walk past his window as he waited. The conversation went right to the point.
“The girl is here,” Wallace said.
He listened to the voice in the receiver.
“We’ll meet you at the boneyard at 7.”
The line went dead. Wallace watched Cindy sleep. He rocked back the chair and closed his eyes.
A few hours went by and the afternoon sun lit up Wallace’s face. He opened his eyes and spotted Cindy watching him. He placed a hand on his forehead and yawned. His nap failed to refresh him. Cindy tapped an impatient toe on the linoleum.
“So, now what?” Cindy asked. Wallace run his hands through his hair. He was unsure how to proceed.
“Todd will talk with you tonight. But he has his suspicions.”
Wallace wondered too what Cindy planned to do when she met with Todd. Unless she planned to choke him, murder was out of the question. Earlier he placed her bloodstained dress in his trash and he had not found a gun or a knife. Whatever revenge she planned ruled out a gunfight.
“What do you plan to do?” Wallace asked.
“He murdered my daddy and I plan to make up for it.” Cindy suddenly seemed aware of her lack of resources. The stub nose now seemed inadequate. She never wanted to fire it anyway. Still, shooting him was an option.
“I thought you could lend me a gun.”
“Oh, hell no,” Wallace said. “I am not going to help you shoot him. I will help you talk, but nothing more.”
Cindy considered using some charm then dumped the idea. Wallace was now a friend and she did not want to spoil it.
“Besides, I promised no guns, no knifes, no nothing,” Wallace said. “We’re just going to hear his side of the story.”
Cindy stamped her foot down hard and the lights on the Hacienda sign rolled around. Wallace watched the lights slowly dim and decided it was an odd coincidence. Cindy crossed her arms and stood beside his chair. She placed a hand on his shoulder.
“I made a promise to my dad,” Cindy said. “I can’t just let it go.
Wallace nodded in agreement. If Todd had killed her dad, she had a right to even up the score. Nevertheless, the years had taught him there are many nuances to consider. He wanted to hear Todd’s story.
“Let’s just go talk,” Wallace said. He still checked the Beretta in his holster to be safe. One thing being a deputy had taught him; it is better to come ready for a fight then to walk into an ambush.
Cindy hugged his neck and smiled. She was going to get revenge. All they had to do was meet up with Todd Loudin.
He Like a Good Steak
Todd Loudin owned a lot of places and people in Sin City. The people owed him favors; the places owed him nothing. The people usually ended up hurt; the places were infamous.
He liked a good steak and no place proved better than the Golden Steer. Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack ate here, the King of Rock and Roll held court, and Natalie Wood bought her own velvet touch. Todd like to do business in a leather booth next to the restaurant’s decorative bottles of Bordeaux.
The dinner crowd waltzed in around five, so Todd always started around two. He always ate a petite filet mignon, medium rare with a gorgeous crust, and an extra-dry martini with his head right below Marilyn Monroe’s smile. Sometimes he ate alone or with an occasional partner. Usually it was pleasure. Sometimes it was all business. Today Johnny May and Freddie Mite joined him. The first man was an imposing bodyguard on payroll. The second man was a private investigator with news about the robbery at the Glitter Gulch.
“They cleaned out the till. Got away with maybe a thousand,” Johnny said. “Luckily, Charlie had moved most of the night’s take into the safe.”
“Took a bullet too,” Freddy said. “They’ve got him over at Valley. Looks like he’s going to live.”
“The club is a mess. We’re looking at least ten grand just to make it right,” Johnny said. “Bullet holes everywhere. Plus, a scorched spot on the floor where Bill burned up.”
“He always made a statement,” Todd snickered. “How did that happen anyway?”
“A bullet tore through the fish tank, the lights fell from the ceiling, and old Bill was on the floor,” Freddie said. “He burned up in the fire. The firemen put him out, but half his face is gone.”
“Either that or a lot of makeup.”
Like my favorite, Structuring Your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story, by K.M. Weiland, this book provides an outline of what must go into a novel to make the reader want to finish the story. Except this is a scientific look at the process. Soloponte takes Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey canon (I recommend The Power of Myth) and breaks it down further into what needs to happen as the hero journeys from the reactive (ordinary world) to proactive (adventure world) stages of the novel.
Soloponte says that a good novel contains 3 phases:
- Something happens
- Someone does something about it
- Either things change for the good or bad
He then goes on the show the 195 things that have to take place in each of these phases to grab the audience and hold them until the end.
At this point, it gets rather complicated because you can’t see where all of these stages have to land, other than a rough idea of the progression of the plot. So, you have to keep going back and finding out where you’ve been and what you’re missing. I suggest an overlay of the plot stages over Weiland’s model just to keep track of it all (I may work on something to be downloaded later from my Writing Tools page).
Overall, the book is great and revealing as to what goes into a story with many fine examples examined and torn apart by Soloponte. The author says at least 80 percent of the plot stages he has identified will be found in a great novel. Of course, the creative mind may alter the placement of the plot stages, but Soloponte says the plot stags can be found in the most successful novels.
I recommend this book as an excellent resource into what science finds makes a great story. Of course, we are writers and creative license is something we will always take with us.
This is a short story about a group of people at a settlement conference: a sort of preliminary attempt to close out a lawsuit before a trial. Most of the settlement’s are managed by previous judges, so they know what will fly in front of a jury, and what won’t fly.
I tend to gravitate towards out of body experiences, paranormal, and strange phenomena. I suppose it is part of my belief we all are part of a collective experience and we certainly don’t have an answer for all of the mysteries of the world. I also think our imaginations fuel our passions and experience. So, in this story, I have no problem with a guy believing his daydream is reality.
Original Story: A Moment of Pure Truth
The emergency room at the county hospital seemed a bit too busy for a Tuesday morning. Tucked in every corner sat screaming babies with frantic mothers, homeless suffering from the heat, foreigners nursing hangovers, and Cindy with a gunshot in her arm.
She sat in the middle of a bed pushed into the hallway with her legs dangling over the edge. A gauze pad with a red circle of blood covered her arm. This part of the adventure she could have done without.
“All I found was cranberry juice,” Wallace said. He snuck up on Cindy as if she might hit him.
“Thanks.” Cindy refused to look at him. She put the bottle on her head and let the cold penetrate her headache. Wallace placed a towel on her neck.
Wallace felt sick. The shootout left a man dead, a hurt friend, and most of all, the end of a good place to stop for breakfast. Moreover, this girl almost died. So close to the age of his youngest daughter. What a mess.
“It will be just a moment more,” a nurse said. “Can I get you anything?”
Cindy opened the bottle and took a sip.
“Just let me go.”
“In due time, dear,” said the nurse.