Tuesday, June 07, 2011

I enter the Do Some Damage "Noir at the Beach House" challenge!

Over at Do Some Damage, Steve Weddle, last seen in these parts asking fellow Noircon attendees to sign his bat, challenges readers to write crime stories with a summer-vacation theme. Here's my entry. How about yours?
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Down the Shore

by Peter Rozovsky

Sally took the Lavender Room and left the Leather ‘n’ Spice Suite for me. I thanked her for that much; a guy’s got a reputation to keep.

Sally was all right. Sure, she’d cooed over the scented candles and chintz-covered throw pillows. But she drew the line at the teddy bears – five on the overstuffed settee in the parlor, seven tumbling over each other on a second-floor notions table, and one that scared the hell out of her when it fell on her head from the top shelf of an ivory-inlaid cabinet in the breakfast nook.
That’s why I suspected her when I found a bear with its guts ripped out the next morning. She just looked at me funny as we headed out for an iced coffee before hitting the beach.
*
Two more teddy bears disappeared that evening, though one turned up under the porch swing soaking in a puddle of spilled mint tea. The glass pitcher that had held the tea lay on its side, next to a knocked-over white rattan table.

Diane shook her head as she mopped up the mess, muttering that some guests lack the simple good manners to come forward when they have an accident. But no one can stay grumpy for long and still run a successful bed and breakfast. “I’m no escapee or anything,” she said, laughing. She slapped the puddle with her mop. “I won’t rip their heads off.”
*
“Let me do your neck,” Sally said.
*
I winced as we sat in the Mexican coffee shop reading our newspapers the next morning. “Did you see— Damn!” I threw the paper down and rubbed my left forearm hard. “Itching. We stayed out too long yesterday. Pass the Gold Bond, will you?”

A skinny guy with a faded green baseball cap and a laughing gull tattooed on his left temple stared at the little white clouds as I slapped the powder over my arms.
*
I recognized the tattoo when I saw it again late that night. Its owner lay face down on the bed and breakfast’s porch, his hands cuffed behind him and a police sergeant kneeling none too gently on his back.

“It was the bears,” the sergeant’s boss said. “This guy’s been a small-time heister for years. He heard a load of heroin was coming down the Shore in one of them teddies, and somehow he got it into his head that this was the town.” He nudged the perp thoughtfully in the ribs with his boot. “It gets pretty shitty for a guy like him in the winters here, and this was his chance to get away. I don’t know what we can charge him with; B&E and cruelty to animals, maybe.” He bent down and hauled the skinny perp up by the arm pits. “Come on, Grizzly Adams. We don’t have much of a downtown, but we’re taking you there.”
*
If the dope was in Cape Friendly, the skinny guy never found it. Maybe he’d be no worse off than he was before. But maybe whoever had paid for the heroin would make an example of him. Either way, I didn’t envy the skinny guy with the laughing-gull tattoo.

They’d taken him away when Sally came down the stairs. Her mouth made a silent O. “What happened? What is all—” She waved her arm out over the guts of a dozen toy bears.

"It’s nothing, baby, just the stuffing that dreams are made of. Now, let’s go to bed. Your suite or mine?”
© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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32 Comments:

Anonymous kathy d. said...

Upper case "S" in Shore? That could have fooled me.

Good short story, packs a punch.

June 07, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks. This is my first-ever completed bit of fiction, something I can be embarrassed about in days to some.

Upper-case S in "the Shore" is Philadelphia-area shorthand for the Jersey Shore, which is itself shorthand for the Southern New Jersey shore.

Of course, none of the details of the story is based on the Shore. I just called the story that for versimillitude.

June 07, 2011  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Well, it's an example of tight, terse writing, ala the Dashiell Hammett style. Is that what you were aiming for?

You could bounce a quarter off the page!

June 07, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Wow, that's quite a compliment to have Hammett invoked in a comment on my first piece of fiction. A thousand thanks!

I did not have Hammett in mind, despite the "stuffing that dreams are made of" line, but I was trying for terseness. I like that style, and, if nothing else, it imposes discipline on a writer -- good for a rookie like me.

June 07, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's even good writing blog posts. Terseness appreciated.

June 07, 2011  
Blogger Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Great effort Peter, would never have know it was you first. Clever as Hell and a very entertaining read. Hope you plan on writing more in the future!

June 07, 2011  
Anonymous solo said...

Good stuff, Peter, or perhaps I shold say good stuffing.

June 07, 2011  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

Yes, and "none" is used with correct verbform. :)

June 07, 2011  
Anonymous solo said...

on my first piece of fiction

Who are you kidding, Peter? Some of us have read The Baltimore Drive-by, you know, as in:

Honorée dimmed the lights in her office and removed her shoes. She lowered herself onto the floor and into the lotus position, popping a Valium along the way.

"I accept," she said, moving her hands into the dhyana, or thumbs-up, mudra.

You've got some form, Peter, and don't think we don't know it.

June 07, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks, Sean. I think I'm the first to put my entry up for this challenge. I'll look forward to yours and to the others.

As for writing more, I have the title for a possible follow-up already.

June 07, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Anonymous said...
It's even good writing blog posts. Terseness appreciated.


Yup.

Thanks.

June 07, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I.J., I feel about correct verb forms the way Jeeves felt about ties. There is no time when they don't matter.

June 07, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Well, solo, I did call this "my first-ever completed bit of fiction." I do gaze wistfully at "The Baltimore Drive-By" from time to time, but I began it with no end in sight, so never reached one.

This flash-fiction form imposes discipline on the writer to a good end. It's a nice feeling to finish something. Maybe I could cannibalize some of the individual episodes in "Tbe Baltimore ... " and make stories out of them.

It's good to have form! Thanks.

June 07, 2011  
Blogger Loren Eaton said...

I liked this, Peter. Nicely done.

Although I felt slightly bad for the bears.

June 07, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

You may be new to the fiction game, but the 'stuffing that dreams are made of' is trademark Rozovsky.

Nice one. You're setting a high bar.

June 07, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

A bear's life is no day at the beach. Loren.

June 07, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks, Seana. That's high praise indeed coming from someone who suggested that today we'd probably call Holden Caulfield an at-risk youth.

June 07, 2011  
Blogger Paul D. Brazill said...

Very well done!

June 07, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Much obliged! I hope to keep this up and earn a place beside you and your fellow fictionists.

June 07, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Anonymous solo said... on my first piece of fiction

Who are you kidding, Peter? Some of us have read The Baltimore Drive-by, you know, as in:


Jeepers! You could have chosen a better excerpt, such as:

"I set my briefcase on the concrete floor beside the yellow Porsche, and I extracted my tools: a bag of sugar, my old metal pica ruler, and three pounds of hamburger meat."

June 07, 2011  
Blogger Dana King said...

"The stuffing that dreams are made of."

Perfect ending for a quick, tight, piece. I didn't see the end coming, then it had the perfect balance of surprise plus inevitability. Sweet.

June 08, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Now, surprise plus inevitability is something to strive for. Thanks!

June 08, 2011  
Blogger John McFetridge said...

"The stuffing that dreams are made of," is good, but, "B&E and cruelty to animals, maybe" is better.

Looking forward to the next one.

June 08, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Many thanks! I wonder if the popularity of flash fiction is due to the discipline it imposes; one has to finish something.

Meanwhile, I'd like to keep track of flash-fiction challenges in crime writing. Do you know of any?

June 08, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

This is slightly longer than flash fiction but Paul Brazill gave a headsup on Pulp Modern taking submissions...

June 08, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Many thanks. I know I'll have to move beyond flashing one day, and this could be a start.

June 08, 2011  
Blogger Charlie Wade said...

Peter

Good stuff.This ones got everything, teddy bears, smack and chintz covered throw pillows.

And thanks for your comment on mine, really appreciate it.

Charlie

June 13, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

You're welcome, and thanks for reading mine.

What was it that Chekov said? Show a teddy bear in the first scene, and someone had better use that teddy bear by the end of the play?

June 15, 2011  
Blogger david james keaton said...

yes! or was it "hang a loaded teddy bear over the fireplace it better go off before the marshmallows burn?" fun story man

June 16, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yep, my Chekov was off. Thanks for the correction and for the compliment.

June 16, 2011  
Blogger Katherine Tomlinson said...

Cruelty to animals...great line. Fun story. More please.

June 16, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

No live animals were harmed in the writing of my story. I loved my teddy bears when I was little, and I remember them fondly now. But one can't let sentimentality ruin a good story.

Thanks for the encouragement. I've liked what I've read of the other entries in the challenge so far, and I look forward to a flood of stories over the next few days.

June 17, 2011  

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