Thursday, 21 January 2010

Grise (#FridayFlash)

He cocked index and middle finger together like a pistol and pressed them against the side of the tumbler, measuring out the gargle of whisky he poured into it. He tapped the same cub scout salute to lever the brim of his hat up from over his eyes. The clock face emerged into his purview. Midnight plus one. The Broad was a no-show. Again.

He cupped a barely shaking hand (the whisky was faithfully adhering to its task tonight), over his lighter. The recalcitrant flint being reluctant to yield its Promethean secret. Like every ugly critter in this town. The coruscating flame threw more light than the overhead naked bulb ever did. But then it died, leaving a small orange diadem at the tip of his cigarette, hovering in the gloom like a firefly.

How many missed appointments did that make it now, three? Four? Not very good recall for a so-called seamus. He was supposed to keep on top of the facts. His jagged laugh serrated the smoke plume as it wound upwards to do battle with the lightbulb. Draping its cloying veil around the blue lamp, the darkness thickened imperceptibly. Watts struck back and burned its angry wake through the dissipating murk. 'Know just how it feels' mused the Private Eye.

This felt little different to a stakeout, other than he was using a glass rather than swigging straight from the bottle as he did when in the car. He still employed the empties to relieve himself though, seeing as his rent didn't cover the use of a commode. What exactly was under surveillance right here right now? The wreckage of his life. A forlorn cactus his office's ambience had managed to suck dry even into death, stood in a saucer marked by the dirt outlines of extinct water trails. Then there was a bonzai tree, like a little old gnarled homunculus permanently holding him under scrutiny. Both had initially been provided by his receptionist in an attempt to personalise the office. To suggest a human being resided within. But she had eventually beaten her path of retreat from the film of dust that leached out all colour. Leaving these two ugly memorials behind. Now they more resembled miniaturised victims of medieval torture implements; the iron maiden and the back-breaking rack. He had plenty of heresies to recant, but no Confessor to hear him out.

Of course, there was no reason to believe that his missing client case had been a frail. What had he got to go on? Nothing much. Just a mark in a diary. A single barred gate in the cross country run of life's ledger. It's not as though any contract had been signed. He wasn't on any retainer. He just put his card out there, his half-baked self-promotion with a wrong digit in the address, but he had run out of money to have them reprinted. The telephone number was correct though. They could still reach him by that.

He drained the glass and cub scouted his hat back down over his eyes. There was always the possibility of tomorrow. Some new client to walk through the door and misdirect him about their misconceived affairs. The world was full of Broads, Frails and Stiffs. Law of averages says one of them must roll up to a halt at his door.

Yeah right.

Room 1201 was up on the thirteenth floor. Nose bleed territory. Where the elevator to such high altitudes was perpetually out of commission. The clock still read one minute past twelve.

19 comments:

Skycycler said...

Smokin narrative! I (boy scout) salute you. 12:01?

dijeratic said...

Oh brilliant - word-spanking neo-noir gumshoe giddiness - this was a hoot and a pleasure to read. I found myself reading it out loud, enjoying the rhythm of the text. Most graceful and gorgeous wordplay gives me goose flesh.

Glorious,
DJ

Deanna Schrayer said...

What they said - I love your use of language. You are such a great word-weaver. Fantastic read!

Marisa Birns said...

Hard-boiled PI narrative with its bleak setting and inclusion of masterful descriptive language makes this story a very good one!

Michael Solender said...

you have the noir beat and cadence down cold.. good phrasing and word choices

Chance said...

Gripping read, I loved the detail with the business cards .

Good stuff

mazzz in Leeds said...

Nicely done, particularly liked the cigarette smoke /lighbulb paragraph

I'd so love a ciggie right now...grr.

CJ Hodges MacFarlane said...

I love noir. This tiny slice of the PI's life is excellent.

shannon said...

I giggled through this because I actually had a dead cactus and a dead bonzai tree in my dining room forever, so I could picture this perfectly. You've definitely got the noir voice & style down pat! Great piece :-)

livloveslit said...

Is this the opening of a longer piece? It's so rich and you construct a strong character and sense of place. I'd love to read more! Thanks for sharing. ~ Olivia

AJ Campos said...

Wow, that was intense. I need a drink. Great job.

Karen from Mentor said...

I loved the voice of this.

And I may be WAY off base, but the last lines made me think that he was in his own personal hell, time frozen in that moment when the client doesn't show... a perpetual 12:01.

Great job!

Karen :0)

Anne Tyler Lord said...

I stopped by to read your great stories and to get my weekly vocabulary lesson. I LOVE your use of language! Your descriptions are killer!

"The coruscating flame threw more light than the overhead naked bulb ever did. But then it died, leaving a small orange diadem at the tip of his cigarette, hovering in the gloom like a firefly."

That is constructed so beautifully and it all captured the noir mood perfectly!

Melissa said...

There is so much here that one could read this five times and still be able to glean more connections of meaning, more from your masterful play with words. I knew I was in for a treat from the first paragraph where his index finger and middle finger are compared both to a cocked gun and a boy scout salute...very, very nice piece.

Sulci Collective said...

Huge big thanks to all who stopped by to read and left comments.

Marc x

Laura Eno said...

That last paragraph took me from noir to horror. Well done!

Linda said...

Excellent prose here. Very noir, edgy noir. 'Gargled'? Perfect. Peace, Linda

Lou said...

This is crazy good. My brain was kicking out imagery and my senses were brought to life out of their Sunday morning coma. I think the bonsai tree is genius. Hard-boiled genius.

Anonymous said...

Super Duper Wow.
Penny