Monday, April 25, 2011

Colorful Characters and Purple Flip Flops

Purple Flip Flop

At 5:10, Chuck Grossman sauntered into the La Grange Market for his four-hour shift.
The owner, Billi Jones, barked at Chuck, “You’re ten minutes late again!”
“Sorry, Billi. I got stuck in traffic.” He snickered.
Billi shook her head. “You don’t start showin’ up on time, I’m gonna fire your ass.”
Be doin’ me a favor, Chuck thought.
Billi collected her things and went home for dinner. She would return when the store closed at 9:00 to collect what little cash there would be in the drawer and to lock up.
Chuck helped himself to an Orange Crush from the fountain and a bag of peanuts, settled in behind the counter. He glanced at the list of things Billi wanted him to do, set it aside and turned on the TV. He watched a baseball game for a few minutes, got bored and flipped through the channels.
When he got to a local channel, he set the clicker down and stared at the screen: the hot chick from yesterday, the best looking chick he ever saw in La Grange, or anywhere else for that matter, had her face plastered across the TV.
He turned the volume up: she was wanted for murder and was considered armed and dangerous. A phone number flashed across the screen, but disappeared before Chuck thought to write it down.
“Holy shit.” The bell on the front door jangled, startling him; it was rare for him to get more than two or three customers on a Thursday night. He turned and saw Wizzy, a local whose last name he didn’t know, and whose first name probably wasn’t Wizzy.
“Hey Wizzy.” Wizzy nodded, shuffled to the beer cooler and pulled out two quarts of malt liquor. He wore a pair of bright purple flip-flops, two sizes too big. Wizzy flip-flopped the beer to the counter.
“You’ll never believe what just happened,” Chuck said, wanting to share his news with someone. Nothing had ever happened to Chuck.
“You won the lottery,” Wizzy said as he put the bottles on the counter and reached into his grubby jeans to dig out a few dollars.
“I wish. You’d never see me again, that’s for sure.” Chuck took Wizzy’s crumpled money and gave him fifty-two cents change.
“Be too soon for me.” Wizzy licked his dry lips and waited for Chuck to bag his booze.
“Check this out.” Chuck turned and pointed to the TV, which now was showing a drug commercial. “A hot chick came in here yesterday…”
“Bullshit. They ain’t no hot chicks in La Grange. You gonna bag my beer?”
“No kidding, Wizzy. She came in yesterday and bought some ice cream and a Coke. And she flirted with me.”
“Bullshit. Come on, Chucky. I’m thirsty.”
Chuck bagged the bottles. “I just saw her on TV. She’s wanted for murder.”
“Bullshit.” Wizzy grabbed his bag and shuffled to the door, stopped and said, “Is there a reward fer turnin’ her in?”
“They didn’t say.”
“No sense callin’ the sheriff then.” Wizzy flip-flopped out into the heat.
Chuck grinned and picked up the phone. He had never called the sheriff before.

Chapter 4, THE MIGHTY T 


THE MIGHTY T has a lot of violence in it—bad guys like John Lightfoot do bad things: People die. Stuff gets blown up. There’s a lot of suffering in the book because he’s a violent man hellbent on getting what he wants. 

You don’t want a whole book of that, though. You gotta have a break from the intensity. Literary types have a word for this, I’m sure, but I just call it “Gimme something to smile about now and then.”

Wizzy is a color-character, with his malt liquor and purple flip flops. NEW purple flip flips. They contrast nicely with his grubby clothes and the rundown town he lives in, La Grange. His role was to get Chuck to think to call the sheriff after he saw Mindy’s picture on the news. (Mindy’s a psychopathic member of Lightfoot’s gang.) Chuck wouldn’t have done it on his own.

Chuck’s call is the cops’s first break in the case. They’ll get some good fingerprints off a steel garage the gang used to build and hide their truck bombs in. And, because the gang destroyed their shack with an incendiary bomb, the bomb tie-in will help the cops get Homeland Security to cough up what they know.

Chuck gets interviewed by the cops, so he gets a few more lines, but Wizzy has served his purpose and gets only a mention when he’s seen standing with a group of gawkers. Wizzy gets to finish his booze, though. I wouldn’t do that to him.