Everyone knew if you went to Jimmy Chives’ joint on Friday you had to play a game. There were always twenty-seven cards. Twenty-seven because each player received a stack of nine and nine times out of ten the same three players showed up. The stack of nine fell into three categories. Antagonist, desire, and weakness. The idea was simple. Jimmy suggested a theme and you wrote about it. After everybody left, Jimmy would take the most popular answer and use it to write a story.
Tonight’s theme concerned revenge. Tonight it was about a long-haul trucker and a cop that didn’t make it.
‘If a person served a prison sentence for a crime they didn’t actually commit, would they feel justified in seeking revenge upon release?’
Jimmy didn’t answer his question. He just gave his friends the title to go ahead with: The Demise of a Truck Driver.
There were three sides to Milltown. One side had a trailer park, a liquor store, and a laundromat. That was Jimmy’s side. Old town Milltown lay in the middle. And the other side was what all the fuss was about.
When Detective Russo knocked on the door of Milltown Memories and proprietor Derby Waterford failed to appear, the officer dialled his cell phone.
Derby was at a table across the street outside Elmore’s Café. When he saw his telephone light up he realised there was a cop already standing outside his door.
Detective Russo watched as a Cadillac was forced to brake hard in order to allow Derby the right-of-way.
Detective Russo said, ‘Pedestrian versus Cadillac.’
‘They always stop,’ Derby said.
The officer caught Derby looking twice. ‘What’s wrong? You expecting someone older or is it because I’m…’
‘You’re the detective,’ Derby said.
‘Where was the note when you found it?’
Derby explained that they were always jammed between the wiper and the windshield.
‘Same paper, same hand?’
‘Yep,’ Derby said. ‘Same.’
‘Do you have it on you?’ Russo said.
‘Threw it away.’
‘How about the others?’
‘Same,’ Derby said.
The interior of Jimmy’s trailer was papered with notices involving rejection. Sitting at the window end of the chipped formica table, Jimmy’s friend peeled a strip of chrome from the rusted edge and looked at the ceiling.
‘Outta room for fuck-off letters,’ the friend said, eyeing the rejection slips.
Jimmy took four glasses to the sink, pumped the handle, rinsed them with his fingers and poured another round. Straight, no ice. ‘Writin’ a new one that rocks,’ he said. ‘Fact is, I’m sending it to the New Yorker soon as it’s done.’
The friend picked up a card, wrote something and then looked at Jimmy.
‘Like the fifty fuckin’ others,’ the friend said.
Jimmy reached behind him with his right arm and removed a newspaper from a half-door cupboard and spread the paper on the table. The story was a feature in the Milltown Chronicle regarding a typewriter and some short stories. The article stated that Derby Waterford claimed to have purchased the items at a yard sale and the vendor had described how they were discovered in the loft at the time the family moved in. The last part of the feature was a detailed description of items currently for sale at Milltown Memories and that all stock carried a discount of up to twenty per cent for the next month.
The friend said, ‘Buy the motherfuckers, maybe you can find one to copy.’
‘Waterford won’t sell,’ Jimmy said. ‘I enquired about the price.’ They were no longer for sale and when Jimmy mentioned the Chronicle, Waterford said,
‘Yeah, before I knew about the original owner.’
On a corner one block west from Derby’s shop stood a bar named the Rusty Rudder. The last outpost, or first eyesore, of the town, depending on which side of the tracks coloured your view. Directly opposite, on the other side of a freeway, a row of aligned, identical and manicured dwellings reflected beige-pink, or pink-beige, dependent on the sun.
Ajax was the only person in the Rudder the morning Jimmy ordered a beer and a shot. Jimmy cleared his throat and looked at a stainless steel trough positioned behind the foot rail. He put his beer down and walked toward the rest rooms, then stopped, turned around and sat down again. And spat.
‘Everything’s fuckin’ changing,’ Jimmy said.
‘Nother?’ Ajax said.
‘An’ a shot. When’s the lease up?’
‘Soon,’ Ajax said. ‘Better hope the Mafia come through.’
Ajax took a half pint bottle out from a drawer under the bar, took a hit and pointed towards the freeway.
In an attempt to preserve Old town Milltown, Derby Waterford presided over a local cohort named the Milltown Mafia. It had already been a big week for the Mafia due to overwhelming support for a petition regarding an injunction.
At another Friday session, Jimmy related to the card crew an acquaintance’s reaction regarding Waterford’s change of mind. The individual was of the opinion that Milltown Memories was way over-stocked, that Derby was fully engrossed with the Mafia and probably couldn’t fucking type anyway. The person also noted how every Saturday, shine or rain, Waterford always parked his two-tone 1953 Ford Mercury coupe behind his store and by 4.30 was usually alone. And if someone happened to swing on the bumper causing an alarm to sound, Derby would get his fat ass outside pronto. And all anyone who might just be standing near the front door would have to do, was walk in and walk out.
When Jimmy described how a typewriter might present well on camera, the answer was Jimmy didn’t need a machine, he needed a solid story. And besides, if he couldn’t even acquire a few sheets of paper how the hell did he expect to become any kind of a writer. The card-crew compadre who proposed Jimmy purchase the items enquired as to how fast Waterford had actually gotten his sorry ass outside. Jimmy replied he had no clue because the genius whose idea it was backed out as soon as they realised Jimmy was serious. A question arose as to how long after that Derby might have noticed he was short a few stories.
‘There’s so much cool shit in there,’ Jimmy said. ‘You seen that beat forty-eight Rock Ola jukebox in the window? The son of a bitch wants ten grand for it.’
For over a week Jimmy had carried the outline for ‘The Demise of a Truck Driver’ folded inside his wallet, waiting to go over it with a writing associate. On one particularly promising morning, Ajax sent word that Jimmy’s contact was drinking in the Rusty Rudder. The outline Jimmy wrote closely followed the plot of a story he had appropriated from Waterford.
The Demise of a Truck Driver. (Outline by J. Chives.)
As it transpired, by the time Jimmy arrived at the bar his contact had departed so he spent the day drinking beer and making a few bucks shooting pool. He was still there at closing time and it wasn’t until early afternoon the next day he discovered the zippered compartment open in his wallet and the outline missing.
Recently, at another Friday card game, a participant related how they had just read a current bestseller about a truck driver who goes to prison for being an accomplice in the murder of a law officer, receives a lengthy prison sentence, and within twenty-four hours of release is fatally wounded during an armed robbery while on his way to extract revenge by shooting his former employer. Detective Russo told a colleague that ballistics obtained from the bullet holes sprayed into the red upper half of the driver’s door indicated the weapon had been fired by a person standing approximately ten feet away from Derby Waterford after he slid behind the wheel of his two-tone Mercury coupe for the final time.
And Jimmy Chives never wrote another word.
Peter Nash is an Honours student studying creative writing at Griffith University. This is his third story for TEXT.
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Vol 22 No 1 April 2018
General Editor: Nigel Krauth. Editors: Julienne van Loon & Ross Watkins
Creative works editor: Anthony Lawrence