The Woman in Red

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

The Woman in Red

(A certain blogger inspired this post, and she knows who she is.  And how she inspired it.)  😉

…how else can an intoxicated drop-dead-lady-in-red gorgeous girl survive being single?” –s1ngal

Chaz called himself a man about town.  If there was a new restaurant to visit, Chaz had been there.  Chaz somehow managed to adopt the newest hairstyle and the fanciest shoes before they appeared in the stores.  The man outclassed fashion week and had a history of being the go-to source for trends.  All at once he was the Alpha Consumer, Mr. Joe Cool, and a walking style magazine.  Put simply, Chaz had seen it all.

The metrosexual’s innate ability to out-do the fashion gurus had started in college and had served him well into his mid-twenties.  Chaz had no way of knowing that tonight would be the night that would finally catch him off guard.

Well-dressed in a slick blue shirt, black pants, matching belt and watch, and shoes with a fine polish to them; Chaz entered into The Bar.  (Any bar that needed a creative name simply wasn’t hip.  If one was going to a drinking establishment, there was no place quite as swanky in town as The Bar.)  He walked with a stride that was confident and familiar.  He nodded to the patrons and a waved to the wait staff.  This was Chaz’s scene.  He had a long history in this locale.  He exchanged handshakes and ticket swaps with the men, and phone numbers and pick-up lines with the ladies.  Chaz was in his element.  He was in control.  Mr. Smooth was ready for anything.

Then he saw her.

From across the room, the woman in red was clearly attractive.  A brunette of her caliber would have stood out in any room, certainly with the gown that she was wearing.   And it was quite the red dress.  There was no need for sleeves when the attention lavished upon her was guaranteed to keep her warm.  The dress wasn’t so much skintight as it was strategically cut.  All of her curves and charms seemed to be perfectly highlighted.  Chaz was not a shy man.  He made his way through the crowd to find out her name.

Natalie smiled wickedly and ran her fingers along Chaz’s chest.  Betty made a point of nudging her hips into Chaz’s as she walked by with a tray full of drinks.  Brad and Tad slapped their pal on the back and cheered out his name.  Normally, Chaz would have stayed and welcomed the heaps of adoration that his clan lavished upon him; especially where Natalie was concerned.  Still, Chaz didn’t know this woman in red.  He couldn’t stand feeling out of the loop.  If there was this crowd of five guys gathered around her, she must have that special quality to her.  Chaz was determined to find out what he wasn’t privy to.

If it were any other man, a set of five glaring faces would have met him as he approached.  However, Chaz had that gift about him.  He wasn’t cruel.  He was charming and everybody liked him.  Guys wanted to watch football at his parties and women found him intriguing and handsome.  When Chaz walked up to this unknown woman in red, the other five backed off out of respect.  They had a notion of how the conversation would go.

“Hey there”, Chaz began.

“Hello”, the woman replied.

“I don’t mean to bother you, but I just couldn’t help it.”

“Oh?  And why is that”, the woman asked.

“I have this trait.  It’s a shame really.  I see an attractive gal and I just can’t let her walk away until she knows how amazing I think she is.”

“How long does that usually take?”  The woman raised an eyebrow of curiosity as she played with the two olives in her drink.

“With you; I think we’d be here a while.”

“That seems like such a pity for you”, the woman replied.  “I mean, you’re clearly popular.  All your friends look pretty eager to hang out with you.”

Pic from Blogspot. (One of the few PG red dress pics out there.)

“Maybe, but they can wait.”  Chaz normally meant that as a line, but the closer he got to this woman, the truer it became.   There was an undefinable quality to her.  Sure, she was gorgeous.  But at the same time, there was an air about her that he couldn’t put his finger on.  He tried to recognize a unique perfume or a look that completely captivated him, but that wasn’t it.

“I’d really just like to talk to you tonight”, Chaz admitted.

“A classy fellow like you could at least offer a gal another drink.”

“Would you like a beer?”

The woman in red grinned.  “Actually, I’m drinking martinis tonight.”

Chaz looked at the olives in her glass once more and shook his head.  “Of course you are.  I don’t know why I jumped to the beer conclusion.”

“I think I might be able to venture a guess”, the woman teased.

“Oh, could you?”

“Perhaps”, she said as she ordered herself another beverage.

Sensing their sensei’s need for space, the crowd around the two started to disperse.  There was no planning to it.  Somehow they all shared the knowledge that Chaz need a little extra space to operate this evening.  The closer wasn’t quite on his game.

His words were failing him, so Chaz went the action route.  Without fully knowing why, he reached up to her long wavy hair and ran his fingers through the colored strands.  He had never seen hair quite like hers before.  It was clearly brown, but there was something extra in it.  The hair was obviously recently conditioned, but another color seemed to be hiding beneath. It was soft, but in an ethereal way.

“I’m Chaz.  I have to ask, what is your name?”

“Molly”, she replied with a smug grin.

“Molly, what is it about you”, Chaz inquired.  “Why can’t I tear myself away from you?”

“I think there are many positive points to me.  I’m not easily scared, I swim like you wouldn’t believe, and I can do the crossword puzzle without any help.  Up to Thursday that is; a girl has her limits.”

“Oh, I think you’re the whole package”, Chaz agreed.  “But there’s something else, isn’t there?”

“I’ll tell you, but you’ll have to come in closer.”

“How close”, he prompted.

“Pretty close”, Molly replied as they leaned in.  Their faces were only an inch or two apart.  Molly ran her fingers along his pants leg as she stared him confidently in the eye.  “Do you want to know my secret?”

“Of course”, Chaz admitted.

“Earlier tonight, I showered in beer.”

For once in his life, Chaz had no clever response.  He didn’t know if the woman was joking or not.  Clearly she was confident.  She definitely exuded an approachable sexiness.  But was she crazy?

Molly laughed.  “It’s true.  I’ve been told that beer makes an excellent conditioner and a few gal pals told me it would lighten my hair.  I figured I would try it out.  It turns out the after-scent is like nothing else I’ve come across.”

Chaz felt a grin coming.  He felt like a fool, but he rather enjoyed it for once.  “You’re telling me, that all of these folks can’t do without you because you washed your hair in beer?”

“Well, it was the highest quality beer that money can buy, I assure you”, she assured him.

“Naturally”, Chaz laughed.

“So are you going to kiss me or what?”

“Huh?”  It was clear now.  This woman was operating on a whole other level.  Chaz didn’t know what act she would follow up with.

“Look, Chaz.  There’s more to me than just hair.  If you can’t keep up, I’m going to have to ask you to move along.  I’ve got boys to tease and dancing to do.  If you can’t match me stride for stride while sitting, how are you ever going to get me sweating on the dance floor?”

The man who had formerly been the coolest, most in-control person in the bar sat there dumbfounded.  Perhaps the beer scent had numbed his response time.  Maybe Molly was just too much woman for him.  Whatever the case may have been, Molly gave up.

“I’ll see you around, Charles.  Look me up when you’re ready for a challenge.”

With that, Molly got up, kissed Chaz on the cheek, and strode out onto the dance floor.  Chaz watched her move and laugh.  He didn’t know woman like her existed in the world.  Good golly, Miss Molly”, Chaz thought as he recalled the song lyric.

Chaz knew there was only one way to describe the woman in red with the beer-scented hair.  Molly was, perhaps more than any other female before her, absolutely intoxicating.

Death in the Super Family

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

Death in the Super Family

A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” -Christopher Reeve

“What did you do?!”

The window that had formerly sat in the door to Forgotten Acquaintances shattered.  The shout that had emanated from the muscular and mask-clad character echoed off the walls threatening to knock the numerous pictures off the wall.  The people in the photographs were unspoken legends.  They had paved the way over the past century for the current generation.  Stories were still swapped about the narrow victory they had almost grasped or the hero that they had narrowly escaped from.  Forgotten Acquaintances had a reputation, a feeling that no other bar in town could match.  Only this bar could lay claim to hosting the cleverest and most infamous villains that Prosper City had to offer.

There were civilians in attendance, but one didn’t need to be a criminal mastermind to recognize the hulking figure of The Do-Gooder.   His white uniform; decorated by a blue utility belt and cape, with white domino mask to match; had been spread over countless broadcasts and newspapers over the years.  Fittingly enough, the fair-haired hero often spoke of fighting fair as well.  He was adored by young children throughout the city and even parents smiled when he flew by.  Any other person with the abilities of flight and super-strength would have frightened a populace within days.  But there was something about The Do-Gooder.  He wouldn’t punch super-villains below the belt, he operated in daylight, and he even took time to attend school assemblies.  It was his squeaky-clean reputation that made his outburst in the bar that much more unsettling.

All in attendance had the urge to whisper, however they could only cower and stay out of the way of his rampage.  The Do-Gooder had the ability to float, yet his legs took powerful steps and almost smashed through the floor.  A thin man with a moustache to match sat at the bar.  He felt the beer in his hands slosh out of the cup just enough to be noticeable.  He set down his beer, gulped down the nervousness that was building in him, and tried to maintain some composure.  Ned Neener could tell that the hero had come here for him.

“Well, Mr. Do-doo”, he tried to joke.  “What brings you to the bowels of the underworld?  Come to slum a little?”

“What did you do, Neener-Neener?”  The Do-Gooder’s voice had become eerily calm.  There was a focus behind his voice that was frightening.  It was clear the conversation was not going to end until the hero got the answers he wanted.  “What did you do to her?”

Neener sighed.  “I’ve told you before, I changed my alias.  For one thing, that childhood taunt wasn’t me.  Who wants to be robbed by a guy that goes by a playground jeer?  Just because I’m born with an appropriate name doesn’t mean I have to be saddled with it for the rest of my life, am I right?”

Neener’s attempt to diffuse the situation with humor only seemed to make The Do-Gooder angrier.  A table stood in the path between The Do-Gooder and Neener.  The occupants had abandoned it and ducked over the bar as soon as they had seen that they were in the route of possible destruction.  Without looking, and with no effort whatsoever, The Do-Gooder grabbed the table with one hand, ripped it free of the bolts that had previously held it to the ground, and threw it across the room.  There were no obstacles between The Do-Gooder and Neener now as the massive bulk of white menacingly loomed right over his nemesis.

“Fine”, The Do-Gooder said through clenched jaw.  “What did you do to her, Ne’er-Do-Well?”

“You’re going to have to be more specific”, the thief said as his voice started to audibly crack.  “There are a lot of ladies who hang out with me.  I’m a dangerous guy.  I attract lots of women’s attention; lots and lots.  Don’t I, fellas?”

Needer looked around the bar but could find no one to take his side.  All of his former drinking companions had either fled in terror or were choosing to remain silent.  Whatever Needer had done to get himself on the wrong side of The Do-Gooder, the man was on his own.  It was his fight to win or lose.  The bar was full of disreputable types.  They had been henchmen and thugs, so they all knew a “Super-Brawl” when they saw one.  There was a saying in the underground of Prosper City.  “You can deal with another guy’s B.S., but don’t ever get near another guy’s S-B.”

“You know who I’m talking about Needer”, The Do-Gooder snarled through gritted teeth.  “You killed the woman I love.”

“Killed?!”  Gone was the act of composure and posturing that Needer had employed up until that moment.  “Are you nuts?  I don’t kill!”

Grief At Cemetery by Petr Kratochvil

“You told me, the last time I put you away, that’d you make me pay.  You swore you’d take away everything you hold dear to me.”  The Do-Gooder’s rage came out in the form of a massive arm gripping Needer by the neck.  “I don’t know how you did it…”

“Wait”, Needer gasped.  “You’re making a mistake.  That isn’t my style and you know it.”

The Do-Gooder paused, a flash of doubt appeared across his masked face.  The grip around Needer’s neck softened.

“Look”, Ne’er-Do-Well said as he tried to pull the hero’s hands off of his neck.  “I steal from people.  That’s it.  I want a little more bankroll in my wallet.  But I don’t kill people!  Who do you think I am, Hangman?  C’mon, that guy belongs in whatever lunatic joint can hold him.  I’m greedy, nothing more.  Sure, we have our games back and forth.  I tease you, you catch me, but we don’t actually hurt anybody.”

“Last time… your threat”, The Do-Gooder stammered as he took his hands off of Needer.

“I was toying with you.  I meant I was going to steal your Do-Gooder Go-Cart and sell it for parts.  I already got a fence lined up; ask around.  I embarrass guys like you; I don’t off ‘em.  Really, it’s business between you and me.  I may not like being roughed up or tossed in the clink; but that doesn’t mean I’ve turned into a killer.  How would I sleep at night if I got all dark like that?  How’s a guy supposed to enjoy his own private island with blood on his hands?”

“So, you didn’t give Martha cancer?”  The whispered tone that had crept into The Do-Gooder’s throat showed how unsure he really was.

“Who’s Martha?”

“She was…” The Do-Gooder hesitated.  He knew what kind of place he was in and he knew that he had already revealed too much.  “She was someone close to me.”

“Oh man.  Look D-G, I’m sorry to hear that.  I really am”, Needer said.  “I wouldn’t give anyone cancer, though.  Life’s hard enough without that stuff.  Besides, I don’t really have access to anything medical or radioactive, y’know?  I think you might be giving me a little too much credit.  I’m a schemer, sure.  Only not on the level you’re talking about.  I’ll spend hours cooking up stuff in my secret laboratory.  You gotta remember though, I’m a gadget kinda guy.  The extend-o-arms that reach across a building?  The nanites with miniature hammers that chip away at a building overnight?  Those’re my kind of devices.  And they’re all non-lethal.”

“That’s it?  I didn’t bring this on her?  You’re serious?”

“Aw, man”, Needer looked at The Do-Gooder’s face and felt sorry for the large man.  All the powers he had, his never-ending feeling of justice; both had failed the hero in this fight.  “Look, why don’t you let me buy you a beer?  I mean, you can’t just go around tearing things up and scaring people like you are.  Do you realize you almost pulverized those two guys in the corner when you threw that table?”

“I wasn’t… I mean I didn’t…”

“I know, I know”, Needer said as he tried to console the man.  “Listen.  I’m going to tell you something.  This is between you and me and the room.  You ever mention this to anybody else and we’ll all flatly deny it.  You hear me?  This all sinking in, Do-Gooder?”

The man clad in white nodded solemnly.

“Okay.”  Needer took a deep breath.  He surveyed the room, made eye-contact with those left in attendance, and then turned back to The Do-Gooder.  “The truth is, we all respect you.  We want you to be better than this.”

“Hold on”, The Do-Gooder said.  “I’m confused.  You want me around?”

“I don’t want you around me”, Ne’er-Do-Well said quickly.  “But yeah, we like having you in Prosper City.”

“That doesn’t make any sense at all.”

“Sure it does”, Needer replied.  “If the dam breaks and our town might get flooded, you’re our best bet.  Whenever Hangman or somebody like him comes to cause trouble, we want you on the scene.  And if I’m being completely honest, my kid looks up to you.  Other heroes; like the ones with all the guns and facial piercings?  They scare the living daylights out of him.  He’s got you on a t-shirt.”

“Really?”

“Yeah”, Needer said with a touch of annoyance.  “I haven’t really told him about the whole Ne’er-Do-Well thing.  He thinks I’m an account representative for a textile company.”  Needer closed his eyes and shook his head from side to side.  “If that little guy knew how many heists I’ve pulled to get him what he wanted…”

“So, you want me to catch you?”

“No!”  Needer looked The Do-Gooder square in the face and commanded his full attention.  “I want to be left alone to do my thing.  All these fellas do.  However, there are times when life gets a little too dangerous around here.  There are days when the city needs a hero to believe in.  And for Prosper City, that fellow is you.  Right boys?”

The Do-Gooder turned his attention to the rest of the room.  They had been a captive audience to the entire conversation, but none of them had dared to leave their hiding spots.  They remained unsure as to how to proceed.  Yet, as The Do-Gooder turned to look at them one-by-one, they all nodded their affirmation of Needer’s statement.  “You’re A-O-K”, one man replied.

“All right, all right”, Needer said.  “There’s no need to butter the guy up.   He’s still gonna arrest you and wrap a light pole around your gut the next time he sees ya.”

Needer sized up his supposed enemy.  Normally there was an immense strength about the man’s stature, but today his shoulders were unmistakably drooping.  The fight that had raged so strongly when The Do-Gooder had burst in the door had now drained out of him.  He was, to put it mildly, in a sad state.

“What do you say I buy you a beer and you tell me all about her?”

“I’m surrounded by troublemakers.  I should be stopping crime or arresting most of you.”

“Yeah yeah”, Needer replied as he waved off the idea.  “You can catch us tomorrow.  Take a day to mourn the woman you love.  Everybody needs a day off, am I right?”

“I guess”, The Do-Gooder replied as a pitcher was slid towards him.

“Good.  Besides, you’re not in any condition to take on the newest invention I got cooked up for ya.  I tell ya D-G, this one’s really a pip.  I’m gonna make my fortune off of this one.”

“Needer…”

“Sorry”, he replied with a sheepish grin.  “It’s not the right time.  Pull up a seat and tell me all about her.”

That night, the police would comment on how quiet it was in the city.  It was almost as if the criminals had occupied themselves with something other than heists and devious plots.  Unbeknownst to the police the city’s less-desirables were sitting around a man and helping him deal with his sorrows.  Crime continued to be a problem in the days that ensued, but not onr that somber evening.

The Magic and Marvel of Monsters

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

The Magic and Marvel of Monsters

The monster was the best friend I ever had.” -Boris Karloff

Melvin the Magnificent was tired of being on the road.  His RV was beginning to smell too much like the rabbit cages he had stashed underneath his folding bed, and the highway’s rest stop signs were getting further and further apart.  The wilderness of New Hampshire was certainly nice to look at in the day, but the darkness blotted out all of the natural wonder and filled Melvin’s windshield with somber blackness.

He pulled off the interstate and parked in the nearest lot that was big enough to house his vehicle without being an inconvenience.  Melvin turned off the ignition, undid his seatbelt, and secured the brake.  Opening the door as wide as he could, Melvin stepped out the driver’s side and stretched his tired limbs.  He pulled his arms over his head and reached up for the clear sky that was lit almost entirely by the countless stars above.  Melvin made his living off of the notion that there was more in the world than one could see with the human eye.  Standing alone in the dark, hearing the leaves rustle, he suddenly felt quite exposed.

Melvin pulled the rabbit’s foot keychain and ignition key from the steering column, fetched his hat and cape, and locked the RV’s door.  He adjusted his twirled moustache in the rear-view mirror and made sure his cape and top hat were sitting “just so” on him.  He had an appearance to maintain.  It was bad enough that he left his cane in the back of the vehicle, but he doubted that anyone in the establishment would mind.  Once again he heard something in the bushes; a rustling.  Melvin tucked the key away in his pocket and walked briskly towards the closest building.

The only business that was open was the neighborhood pub.  As Melvin walked past the ten cars in the parking lot, the glow from the neon signs began to light up his white tuxedo shirt and red bow-tie.  He reached for the door handle, gave it a tug, and took in the scenery.  The building must have been at least a hundred years old, with patrons to match.  The wood floors were stained and splintering, the exposed beams gave off an impressive air of stability, and the codgers sitting around the bar were hunched on their stools.  A few good ol’ boys looked towards Melvin, but most were content to share their hunting stories or talk about their sainted wife hat had passed twenty or more years ago.  Melvin immediately felt out of place in his show attire and doffed his hat as he ordered a beer.

The bartender gave Melvin a look.  To his credit the man seemed to have dismissed any judgments about the performer by the time he handed Melvin the beer.  The bartender acted in a manner that said, “You don’t cause a stir, I won’t give a dang.”

Melvin thanked him for the beer and lifted the glass container to his mouth.  The air in the RV had been hot and dry, even with the air conditioner on.  The combination of the cold beer, the rickety fans above that wobbled with each circling of the wood blades, and the absent sun in the evening sky all made for a rather pleasant change in temperature.  Melvin couldn’t see himself getting up and leaving this well-worn leather seat for anything.  He had bellied up to the bar and planned to camp out there until he was sure the bedroom part of his RV had cooled off.

One of the locals, an elderly man who had impossibly white teeth, elbowed Melvin.

“Say there, fancy man.  What brings you to our quiet little town?”

“Oh, I’m passing through.  Gave a performance today, got to give another one tomorrow.”  Melvin smiled at the codger, glad to have some company that didn’t come from his RV’s stereo.

“What are ya?”  The stranger asked as his bushy white eyebrows rose up in curiousity.  “Some sort of pianist or something?”

“Oh, nothing as accomplished as that”, Melvin replied.  “I’m a magician.”

“Really?”  The man laughed and slapped his knee.  “Well, I’ll be.  What, you come in here to saw one of us in half?  Take Bernard.  His ol’ wife would be thrilled if you cut some of those pounds of off the big lug.”

“Jerry, you just keep to yours and I’ll keep to mine”, hollered a voice from across the room.  Melvin could only assume that Bernard didn’t appreciate his spare-tire being fodder for public conversation.

“Sorry friend”, Melvin said only half apologetically.  “I left my good saw in the RV.  Besides, I hear there’s a law in New Hampshire against drinking and sawing.  Certainly not when it’s after curfew.”

“Hee hee!”  Jerry wiggled back and forth on his bar stool, expertly keeping it from tipping over despite his glee.  “No drinking and sawing.  I like that.  Roger!  Get this city fella another beer on me.”

“You planning on paying for your beer first?”  Roger looked at Jerry with the wisdom that comes from being short-changed one too many times.

“Aaaah”, Jerry replied.  “You just hush up there.  Ain’t I your wife’s uncle?  I always pay back my kinfolk.  Besides”, Jerry said with a pointed look as he held his beer close to his lips.  “Didn’t I front you some money to buy this place not that long ago?”

Melvin had been too busy watching Roger’s embarrassed expression to see the smug look on Jerry’s face, but that didn’t stop anyone in the room from hearing it in the old man’s voice.

“Now Jerry Franford, you hear this…”

The rest of Roger’s angry retort was lost, for at that the moment the door slammed open.  The force of the blow and the jostling of the wall was enough to knock out the light bulb closest to the entry.  Melvin had to squint in the darkness, but he could see someone entering the pub.

The footsteps on the hard wood floor were like nothing Melvin had ever heard before.  They were like wet flippers or clusters of seaweed being slapped about on a ship’s deck.  As the footsteps came closer and the dark figure entered into the light, Melvin started to ask if the someone he had seen wasn’t actually a something.

Standing before Melvin was a creature with claws, green skin, and massively large eyes.  It looked like some sort of cross between an alien from the movies and a komodo dragon from a zoo.  It stood about five feet tall, had three fingers on each hand, and instead of feet it had some freakish combination of flippers and talons.  The webbing between the toes collected small pools of water, even with the heat outside.  Melvin felt his gaze intensify with fright as they started to challenge the size of the creature’s eyes.  He now knew what he had heard rustling in the bushes outside.

Melvin looked around the pub, hoping one of these men that had been so gung-ho about discussing fishing and hunting had happened to bring a shotgun, or at least a net, inside with them.  To his amazement, every other guest seemed to be going back to their drinks and conversations.

“Is there something I can help you with?”  Roger finished drying off a glass and then tossed the towel over his shoulder as he looked the creature in the eye.  The creature only gurgled.  “Did you want a drink or something?”

The creature pointed to the chalkboard on the back wall.  Roger and Melvin looked at it.  There, fashioned in several colors of chalk, was a cute drawing of apple pie, complete with a dollop of ice cream and a glass of milk beside it.  Underneath, in cheery slanted letters, the words advertised, “Greatest Pie for Ten Counties”.

“Pie”, Roger said.  “You want a slice of pie?”

The creature gurgled again and nodded his head.  His arms waved up and down like a drummer, emphasizing the point.

“Well I don’t mean to cause a fuss”, Roger said.  “But I don’t see any pockets on you.  Ya got some sort of payment?  We don’t give out food for free.”

Melvin was shocked at Roger’s unimpressed manner.  The magician had seen many things on stage.  Nothing had ever compared to this.  If he had been sitting further away, Melvin might have believed that it was a midget in some sort of elaborate costume.  From as close up as he was, even with the low lights, Melvin could tell this was no manmade costume.

The creature thrust his right arm at Roger.  For the first time, it unclenched its three fingers and revealed the contents that lay in the palm of its hand.  Three pieces of gold, looking even older than the hearty establishment, were dropped onto the bar.

Roger looked at the gold with a curious eye.  “I don’t know”, he said cautiously.  “These might be hard to cash in.  Hey Jerry, your brother worked in a bank.  He ever mention anything like these?”

Jerry put down his drink and looked for the first time at the creature.  He sized the thing up, raised his bottle in recognition, and pointed his finger at the coins.  “Hey there, mind if I take a look at those?”

The creature pushed a coin toward Jerry with the back of its hand.  Jerry leaned closer, holding the coin right up to his face.  “Picked a lousy day to leave my specs in the kitchen”, he muttered to himself.

Melvin sat there, his mouth open at the apparent normalcy of the situation.  He couldn’t believe the creature in front of him and he was shocked that no one was as stunned as he was.  The other men weren’t even stammering.

“Well Roger”, Jerry replied slowly.  “I’d say these are genuine.  If you don’t want ‘em, I’ll take ‘em.”

“Oh no”, Roger said, snatching the coin out of Jerry’s hand.  “If the coin is worth something, I’ll never get it from you.  I’ll trust this thing”, he said, pointing at the creature, “Before I trust you.  No offense”, he said to the animal.

The creature just gurgled once more and sat down on the bar stool in between Melvin and Jerry.  It pushed the other two coins towards Roger, who took them and added all three coins to his back pocket.  The creature pointed at the chalkboard once more with his hand, then gargled loudly.

“All right, all right”, Roger said.  “I’ll get you some pie.  Gimme a sec.”

Melvin couldn’t help but staring.  He wondered if the creature’s green texture was some sort of scaly substance or if it was mold-covered skin.  How could the creature retain moisture so well in this heat?  Before he knew what he was doing, the magician reached out his pointer finger and poked the creature in the arm.

The animal snarled.  He turned to Melvin angrily and raised his arm as his sharp claws extended from his fingers.  Melvin quickly retrieved his hand and shirked back in terror.  He hoped it wasn’t the last motion he would ever make.

“Now what’d you do that for?”  Jerry leaned back on his bar stool so that he could look past the creature to Melvin.  “The fella wasn’t doing nobody any harm; why did you have to go and get him all agitated.”

Melvin searched for the words to defend his curious nature, but no words fell out of his open mouth.”

Roger walked up with an irritated look on his face and pie in his hand.  “Here ya go”, he said to the creature.  “You can eat it at the table over there if you’d like.”

The creature’s eyes turned from Melvin and fell on the pie.  It stuck out its forked-tongue and licked its lips hungrily.  The creature pulled the plate close to him, stood up, and lumbered to the table.

“I’m gonna have to ask you to respect our other customers”, Roger said to Melvin.  “You seem nice enough; just keep your hands to yourself.”

“That… that thing”, Melvin stuttered.  “Have you seen it before?”

“Nah”, Jerry chimed in.  “It’s probably one of those Chupacabras. Legend has it that they live ‘round here.”

“That… I… you’ve never seen one?”

“We have now”, Roger said plainly.

“And you’re not at all surprised?”  Melvin couldn’t make sense of this pub in his brain.  Why weren’t these folks as shocked as he was?

“We’d never seen a magician before today”, Jerry replied.  “Here ya are.  Fella seems pleasant enough, why ask questions?  I ain’t never seen Bernard sober before, but I’d like to believe it can happen.”

“I told you”, the voice from across the room yelled again.  “You hush up and mind yer own dang business!”

With that, Jerry went back to drinking his beer and Roger went back to drying off his dishes.  Melvin the Magician shook his head in wonderment and took a sip of his beer.  He was witness to a curiosity that was guaranteed to sell tickets and it was a spectacle that he could never replicate.

A Shot (and a Song) for Bravery

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told.  Some will be fun, some will not.  Some will be great, some will be less so.  Some stories are true, some are merely possible.  This is one of them.

A Shot (and a Song) for Bravery

Hannah stepped on the stage, her legs quivering.  Her three-inch heels weren’t helping matters, but they were the only shoes she felt had enough attitude to go with her new leather pants.  She rubbed her biceps wishing that the tank top she was wearing would provide her with more warmth.  Or confidence; she felt a little dose of courage would be pretty helpful right about now.

Taking a swig of her third beer for the night, Hannah felt a little more relaxed.  She knew this wasn’t the greatest plan in the world, but she had always wanted to sing karaoke.  She had gone with her friends to several bars and they all went up on stage.  Alice would sing her favorite song (which changed weekly); her voice powerfully blasting over the crowds and wowing all those in attendance.  Grace had a more captivating style of singing.  She would start off slow.  Sometimes they crowds in the bar wouldn’t even know she was singing.  Eventually, the same thing would always happen.  Grace’s voice would slowly and subtly take over the room.  She would project her soul through her voice.  Ballads were her style and every tine, without fail, all the party-goers had fallen silent under her spell.  Hannah didn’t sing like either of her gal pals.

Hannah was the quiet one of their partying trio.  She always had something to say, she always was up for hitting the clubs on the weekends, and she always had a good time with her two friends.  But she was not the performer.  A born introvert, Hannah had spent most of her high school years wondering what it would like to be in drama club while preferring the safety of her swimming and volleyball teams.  No one expected her to talk or show off in sports; she could just blend into the team and help out the other athletes.  Performing required putting herself out there, letting people see what she was capable of.  Hannah usually just leaned on the bar, nursed her beer (real beer; no diet for her), and clapped along while Alice and Grace had their fun.  Still, Hannah had always wanted to try it.  Everybody else was having so much fun that she kept wishing she had the guts to try it.

Tonight was the night.  She was turning thirty in a few months and she wanted to cross a few things off her list before she left her twenties behind her.  Hannah had clocked out of work a bit early so that she could have time to go to the gym before her big stage debut.  She hoped that the water and exercise would calm her down, maybe get some of the nervousness out of her system.  By the time she had walked home, Hannah could feel the urge to talk herself out of it.  She didn’t completely succeed and she ate a light dinner just in case her nerves took over her stomach.  I’m going to do this, she told herself.

She kept her mouth shut the whole night.  She hugged Grace and Alice who both teased and whistled at the tight pants that were a far cry from her normal skirt or jeans attire.  Grace, normally the tallest by an inch or two, stood on tip-toe and looked Hannah in the eye.

“What are you up to?”

“I’m feelin’ a little frisky tonight, okay?”

“Well, it’s about time”, Alice replied.  “C’mon, Brett’s here.”

Brett and the three women often ended up at the same bar.  At first it had been a surprise occasion, but more and more often he had somehow known where to find them.  Hannah suspected that Alice had some hand in that.  She seemed a little too attached to her phone until Brett showed up and then she turned it off for the night.  Each night that they saw him, Grace, in her own quiet way, would comment to Brett on how nice Hannah looked, or how interesting Hannah had been at their last outing.  Brett always smiled, took up his cue, and stood as close to Hannah as he could without standing too close.  Hannah was flattered by the attention, but brushed it off whenever possible.  She liked Brett; from his strong chin to his easy-going nature.  He was a pretty solid dancer too.  Hannah liked to think there was something between them, yet she wasn’t one to force it.  She was looking pretty good tonight, she thought.  Her shoulder-length blonde hair that she normally brushed straight had been crimped to give her a touch of edge.  She had thought about leaving her glasses at home and sporting contacts, but she felt her small frames provided a nice contrast to the rest of her wild-child attire.  Also, she took comfort in having some accessory that was familiar to her.

As the night wore on, Hannah tried to drown her trepidation.  Events were occurring just as they typically did.  Alice teased and flirted, then hopped up on stage.  She had gotten a rather poor work review earlier that day and so she responded by belting out “Mr. Know It All.”  The club, as usual, ate it up.  Women cheered and men made waving gestures in the air.  By the end, half the crowd had sung along with the chorus.  Alice hopped off the stage, gave a few strangers high-fives, and went back to her friends.  Hannah was always intimated by Alice’s “take it or leave it” style and she finished off her first beer a little quicker than normal.

It was Grace’s turn.  She took the side route to the stage, weaving through the crowd and hugging the wall just enough to make her stroll easier.  As soon as a few drunken fraternity guys fell off the stage after sloshing their way through, “We’re Bringing Sexy Back”, Grace walked quietly up the three steps.  She leaned over to the karaoke emcee, conversed for a bit and stepped up confidently to the microphone.  As usual, no one really noticed anyone was signing for a bit.  The first few notes of “City” came cooing quietly over the noisy crowd.  Eventually, the entire group found themselves hanging on every note.  Grace had a capacity for strong singing, but unlike Alice, she saved it.  Hers was not a competition of who could rev the audience up most.  She simply wanted to tell a story and have people respond to it in some way.  That is exactly what happened.  For the four or five minutes she took to sing her sorrow, the club was right there with her.  She finished, offer a simple, “thanks” for their attention, and walked contentedly back to the bar.

Hannah, wanting to be jealous of Grace’s talent but knowing that she never could be, finished up the last bit of her second beer.  Whatever drops that had been trying to hold on to the bottom of the glass container soon found their way sliding down her throat.  Hannah’s thirst was taken care of, but her nerves will still talking enough to block out what little braveness she had.  Hannah pushed the empty bottle aside and patted Grace on the back.  Her friend smiled and started hugging Alice.  Hannah, not wanting to get off her bar stool, turned to the right and saw Brett sitting there with his grin beaming.

“You doin’ okay there, Hannah?  He laughed with a twinge of curiosity in his voice.

“Oh, I’ll be alright”, she responded.  “I think I need more social lubricant, though.”

“Trying to drink your courage for the night?”

“Yeah, I’m preparing myself for something stupid.”

“’Stupid’ as in dangerous, or ‘stupid’ as in embarrassing?”

“Oh, don’t worry.  It’s definitely embarrassing.  I’m not nearly drunk enough to do anything dangerous.”

“Fair enough”, Brett commented.  He grin slowly removed itself from his expression and Hannah felt like he was trying to read her.  She could almost see the gears in his head turning.

“What?”

“I’ll make you a deal”, Brett offered.  “I’ll buy you a third beer, I’ll root for you in whatever scheme you’re up to, and I’ll be here if you fall flat on your face.”

“But…” she prompted, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

“But I’ll only do it if this is the last drink you have tonight.  You’re tossing ‘em back rather capriciously tonight.  I just want you to be careful.”

“Capricious”, she said, impressed.  “Good word usage for a guy buying beer.”

“I have a thesaurus and I’m not afraid to use it”, he said as his grin returned.  “Also, you said that word without slurring, so maybe you deserve one last drink.  Do we have a deal?  Three will suffice?”

“I appreciate you caring, Brett.  You’re a nice guy”, Hannah said while leaning towards him.  She put her fingers on his bicep and immediately became overly aware of what she was doing.  As Brett reached to put his hand on top of hers, she pulled away and sat up straight.  “One last drink.  Then I’ll go do what I’ve got to do and you can decide if you still want to chat with me.”

Brett laughed and gestured to the bartender.  Hannah took a few swings from her beer, took a deep breath, and marched to the front of the club.

So there she was; standing before a crowd of people.  Alice had seen her friend and guessed what she was up to.  She ran ahead, looked Hannah in the eyes, and gave her an “are you doing what I think you’re doing?” look.   Hannah smiled, shrugged, and closed the last few feet between her and her goal.  Alice squealed, jumped up onto the stage, and caught the eye of the emcee.

“Tonight”, Alice shouted.  “For the very first time on this or any other stage, we give you Hannah Fontane!”  The crowd, excited to be in on whatever their favorite singer liked, cheered back enthusiastically.  “And”, Alice continued.  “For her first performance she’ll be singing…”, Alice winked at Hannah and then turned to the emcee, “I Want You to Want Me!”

Subtle, Hannah thought as she caught Brett’s eye.  He could barely contain his grin and shook his head in disbelief.  He raised his beer bottle in salute to her and she held her bottle up in return.  The rest of the crowd mistook the gesture as being for them, and the whole bar cheered as they hoisted their glasses and bottles into the air.  They were, to put it lightly, a crowd that was feeling no pain.

The familiar tune blared from the speakers, starting with a drum beat and then followed by guitars.  Hannah took one final drink from her bottle and handed it to Alice.  Her friend grabbed it like it was an award and hurried off stage to watch.  Hannah grabbed the microphone, pulled the mic stand close, and let loose.

Afterwards, and in the retellings of the event over the years, many different descriptive words would be used to describe Hannah’s foray into musical performing.  Some of the phrases that told of the night were positive, just not the ones that pertained to Hannah’s singing.  Everyone agreed that Hannah gave it her all.  Physically, she was rocking the roof off.  She was enjoying herself and liked the way the leather pants felt.  She felt desirable, fun, and maybe even a little sexy.  She clung to the mic and never let it go.  She sang with all her gusto.  She even gyrated during the chorus.  (She figured if there were not words to sing to, she’d have to let her hips do the talking)  However, in their own polite way, no one would claim that they wanted to hear this woman sing ever again.  If anyone was to ask the people assembled that no who would be a terrific back-up dancer, Hannah’s name would have quickly come up.  The singing was a much different matter.

The biggest problem was that Hannah simply didn’t know how to sing.  She had always suspected that to be the truth.  One look on the folks around her only confirmed that fact.  However she was determined to finish what she had started.  She had hoped to sing well.  She had wanted to please the audience.  Even if she didn’t, she was still going to accomplish this long put-off goal that she had.  She didn’t stop when she fumbled a few words in the second verse.  She was not deterred when she forgot the words to three lines of the song.  The crowd, being the kind folks that they were, helped her out by singing along.  Taking up the cue, she jumped back into singing with them.  By the end of the song, the whole adventure had turned into one massive sing-a-long.  One would have had to concentrate to hear Hannah’s voice over the multitude and everyone was having too much fun to work that hard.  The song played its last notes, the crowd clapped voraciously, and Hannah took a long slow bow.  Then she took another one.  Alice ran up to her, hugged her, and she forced Hannah to take one final bow with her.  The club had enjoyed the performance and they continued “woo”-ing and applauding.  Grace met them in the middle of the room and the three friends hugged and laughed over Hannah’s adventure.  They walked back to their spot, the crowd parting for them after they patted Hannah on the back.  Hannah, exhausted, sat next to Brett.  For once, her smile was bigger than his was.

“That was quite the performance”, Brett commented.

“It must have been that third beer.”

“I doubt that”, he said with a wink.  “I think you had it in you this whole time.”

“Well now it’s all taken care of.”

“What?  Don’t tell me you’re not going to sing and dance anymore?”

“Well, I do love to dance”, she admitted.

“And I’m quite a fan of watching you dance”, Brett offered.

“Ha!  I’ll bet you are.  But I think we all know singing isn’t for me.”

“Not even a duet?  I mean, we could go up there and…”

“No!”

“You sure?”  Brett motioned to the dozens of folks around them.  “The crowd seemed to like you just fine.”

“The ‘crowd’ was being kind.  I just wanted to try it.  And now I have.”

“So no more singing?  Not even for me?”

“Sorry Brett”, she said with a shrug.  “There isn’t enough alcohol in this place to get me singing again.”

“We could always test that theory”, he teased.

“Ha.  Cute, but no.  Three beers are plenty for me.”

“A guy could try.”

“A guy could”, she admitted.  “However we both know you’re not that kind of guy.”

“True.”  Brett paused.  “Am I allowed to be the guy that asks you to dance?”

Hannah smiled.  “I’d be mad if you didn’t.”

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