Roy was blocked. Crumpled bulbs of paper lay on the floor under the bath like giant confetti left over from a monster wedding. He had tried everything. Epiphanies on index cards, scribble scratched into serviettes, he even strung a string across his finger tied tightly to a Staedtler 3B pencil…
He woke, showered and pulled on a sharp starched shirt with double smile pockets then tucked it firmly into fresh pressed Wranglers. He eased, literally (wrote down ‘Not sure about literally’), into a pair of his favourite ‘Screwed Stewed and Tattooed’ brand Alligator-hide high-top cowboy boots.
He perched (wrote ‘sat better?’) in a chrome-plated cream pleated chair that only last week he had rescued from the road. He pulled open a drawer, reached (‘Change reached’) and preferred (‘preferred weird?’) a turquoise fountain pen with a gold and black nib. He scribbled frantically for a handful of time then replaced the pen, closed the desk, undressed and stretched on the sheets…
The next day Roy wrote recklessly fast free-wheeling the gold and black nib at high speed along the thin blue line. At 3:47am the words completely vanished. At 3:48am he mixed ‘Southern Comfort’ with a sweet old tune and got all hung up on a line that advised a person to,
‘Always tip your hat to a lady.’
Roy guessed he finally understood.
That was the only story of Roy’s last five attempts to survive. Some were ruthlessly murdered during infancy, others aborted while incubating, and some only lasted long enough to suck their first tooth.
‘Ya fall off the dadgummed horse, ya git right back on the sumbitch.’
That’s what ‘Rattlesnake Carl’ out at the ‘Flying-Double-B-Bar-J’ ranch had said to him one time.
Change the voice, Roy. You dumb shit. He wrote that down in upper case letters and then completely crossed the letters out in big bold x-strokes of the Staedtler 3B.
The Blue Flames. A Story by Rory Rickenbacker.
I remember when it kicked off. The three of us—me, Jimmy, and Earle Ray—buzzing high on residue rhythm. Jimmy off key at first then hitting smooth like a honey dripping Humperdinck. Later lots of loose talk snap electric, like the Stones was gonna come rollin’ down the driveway. Jimmy cool green Hawaiian shirt attired and Pork Pie slanted down to the left. Hard. Rakish. We had set the basement up good acoustics perfect. Installed a 1947 Kool Aire reefer to cool the libations. Jimmy caught the beer that Earle Ray slid across the table top.
‘Thing is,’ he said, he always began with ‘Thing is’, ‘Thing is, we got an offer.’
And that was when the whole crazy trip started and it was never the same again.
The Blue Parrot Saloon. A dive. A joint where a person can dissolve into midnight twilight at high noon. A joint with a single TV strung below two pastel lights hung above the bar. A joint with cigarette haze. Thick. Menacing. Like when you know somebody is close on your neck in a tight alley at twilight. You could almost taste the blood. You could smell the spit. Gritty crunch of busted teeth ivory under your boots.
Charlie Dell’s phone rang.
‘Charlie this Charlie?’
‘Yeah who the fuck’s?’
‘Awright. Hey Charlie it’s Jack from the bar you know, the Parrot.’
‘Let me guess the gigs fuckin’ gigs cancelled.’
‘It ain’t cancelled but I gotta nother suggestion if you guys think you can make it.’
‘What’s up is I got dis guy right came in yesterday wants a private blues da guy says, hasta be blues so I thought of you guys.
Charlie Dell said, ‘What’s it payin?’
‘I’ll pay ya what we agreed on for the other gig an’ if it’s good I’ll give ya Sunday night.
Charlie was answering when the phone went dead.
There wasn’t a song written that Earle Ray Lutrell could not pull apart and re-assemble so it swung smoother. He had the hands for it too. Big raw-rough-hewn hands carrying long sinewy tattooed fingers custom made to spider a guitar neck and cradle a harmonica close like a Friday night lover. To make that dirty velvet sound.
It ain’t how you blow it it’s how you make love to it there’s 10 holes and every one of them
The Blue Flames. A Story by Rory Rickenbacker survived the cut.
What you have to do now, Roy, is write a letter, critique this work. Imagine that you are an ‘Esteemed Critic’ and a story entitled The Blue Flames by a writer named Rory Rickenbacker has arrived on your desk. But first Google ‘How to be an esteemed critic’. Make copious and salient notes. Then objectively read the story with a fresh pair of eyes under the presumption that you are, indeed, an ‘Esteemed Critic’.
Dear Mr Rickenbacker,
The story The Blue Flames certainly contains a modicum of potential in that it is, indeed a story. However, it lacks structural substance. For example, why does the narrative end without concluding the final sentence? Writing such as that, Mr Rickenbacker, is effluvious and malodorous. One might even refer to it as obscene. Further the protagonist named Earle Ray Luttrell sounds to me suspiciously like an individual that would possibly reside in a mobile home somewhere south of the Mason Dixon line.
A person that chews tobacco and drives a pick-up truck. I might add (although I abhor speculation on every level) that more than likely, that is to say, an individual who would consume a large quantity of beer every night and frequent ramshackle establishments, with disparate names such as ‘Billy Bob’s Burgers and Beer’, ‘The Dew Drop Inn’, and ‘Alabama Sam’s Snake Pit Honey Hole.’
Mr Rickenbacker, allow me to be absolutely crystal clear on this point. Clichéd cardboard characters such as Earle Ray Luttrell are not only a literary abomination, they also un-authenticate and denigrate the more serious engaged authors. Under the usual circumstances I would not have set aside the time to address your story. However, it must be your lucky day as a meeting I scheduled for this morning has just been cancelled. A meeting, I might add, with a brilliant young up-coming writer who has just completed a brilliant work set in 19C England. All about a young couple who fall madly in love and then elope late one night in order to seek employment on a farm. Thus, as aforementioned, lucky old you Mr Rickenbacker, as this most unfortunate occurrence has provided me with an opportunity to put pen to paper.
(signed) Oliphant Sterling Washington III