#FridayFlash: Shy Cowboy

This is another exercise in character study; this time, I’m attempting to portray awkwardness and embarrassment, shyness and nerves. Please feel free to let me know how you like it, what works, what doesn’t, etc. Thanks for the read!

UPDATED: I’ve made some changes based on the feedback on 18 Dec 2009. I hope this is an improvement over the previous piece.

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He scrutinized his image in the rearview mirror and turned his head from side to side. His hat spat his hair out in tufts, and stubble crept over his cheeks, chapped lips and jaw. He sighed. It would have to do.

The pickup’s door screamed when he opened it. The wind knifed through threadbare denim as he seated his tired hat lower and zipped his jacket. He stuffed his hands in his pockets, sniffed, and headed for the general store’s entrance.

The wooden building seemed as brittle as the winter. His heels thumped a hollow cadence as he went up the stairs and crossed the porch. The bell over the door jangled as he stepped into the warmth. The figure behind the counter fluttered his heart and made his knees quiver.

She turned and beamed. “Hi, Jake!”

He thought he’d faint for a moment, then recomposed himself. “Hey there, Ellie. How’re you?” The moment he said it he felt phony. A blush burned his cheeks.

“I’m good!” She moved to the end of the counter. “Not used to seeing you in so much. It’s nice.”

Another burn in his cheeks. “Oh, well … you know. I keep needin’ stuff, so … um ….”

He felt stupid. He never knew how to talk to her. He’d been watching her, pining for her, for more than a year. She always made him feel special, even when the store was crowded. He couldn’t figure out what to say, how to say it, and he felt like a schoolboy with his first crush. He hoped he didn’t resort to pulling her hair.

She giggled. “Yeah, I guess we all keep needing things.” She leaned over the counter on her elbows and he panicked. He thought he might see down the collar of the T-shirt she wore, but the neck stayed closed. He didn’t realize he’d looked away until he glanced at her again.

“So, I … I … was just out an’ around, an’ thought maybe I’d stop and pick up a few … things.” He cleared his throat and ripped the hat from his head. He’d forgotten his manners and gritted his teeth in self-loathing.

“Oh, well it’s always nice to see you. I guess you know where everything is.” She winked at him and started to turn away.

“Y-yeah, yeah, but … um ….”

She perked a brow and turned back. “Need some help?” She smiled again and he froze, a rabbit in a coyote’s gaze.

He dropped his eyes and his stomach fluttered. “I-I … I wanted to … I think I wanted to ask you … Ellie ….” He swallowed but the lump wedged in his throat.

She leaned on the counter, her face curious and open. “Yes?”

He squeezed his fists to marshal his courage before he remembered his hat in his hands. He relaxed and stared at the crumpled brim and tried to find words, testosterone, and his voice. He smoothed the softened felt.

“Jake? Are you all right? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

“Oh, yeah! Yeah, I’m … I’m good! Really!” He spoke too loud and too quick and it sounded forced to him. He inwardly cursed his clumsiness and drew a long breath. “Ellie, look … I’m shitty – sorry, I mean I’m bad – bad at this. I know you got things to do and all, but I wanted to ask you somethin’ and I ….”

She tipped her head and offered a small grin. “It’s okay, go ahead. I’m listening.”

“But … I don’t want you thinkin’ I come in here today just for stuff … I ain’t … I mean, I’m dumb an’ all, but not so I can’t remember supplies more’n a day ahead, y’know?”

She smiled and nodded. “I know that.”

He stared at his shoes. “I sorta … sorta come in to talk to you today.”

“Oh?” She kept her voice even. He couldn’t think straight enough to figure out what that meant.

“So, I was thinkin’ … maybe, if you ain’t opposed ….” Again the lump choked him. He clenched his jaw and eyes shut, then popped them open before he looked her in the eye. “I wondered if you’d–”

The bell jangled and he jumped. His hands stung with adrenaline from the start and he bit his tongue. Bill Wahler and five or six ranchers from up Wildwood way tromped into the store, slapping their arms and rubbing their hands together.

“Woo! Cold out there!” Bill called, and tipped his hat back. “Hey, Jake! How you been, cowboy?” Wahler patted Jake on the back. “Ain’t see ya in a while.”

Jake forced a smile. “Hey Bill, good to see you, sir. Ray, Davey, how you boys doin’?”

The ranchers huddled around him while Bill stepped to the counter. He pulled off his hat and swept his silver hair back. “Miss Ellie, how’s the sweetest thing in the county this fine day?”

Jake heard her laughter tinkle as she spoke with the flirty old man. He chatted another ten minutes or so with the ranchers, walked silently out of the store, climbed into his truck, and made the long, cold ride home.

 

 

All original content © 2009 J. Dane Tyler
ALL rights reserved.

The Catacombs

She hurried along moist alleys in the morning mist, gray stones covered with beaded water and lichen, footfalls stealthy on the cobbled walks.  Her hands clutched the tiny, yellowed paper to her chest, hidden in her palm.  She stopped to take a furtive glance behind her, but the dense cloud shrouded the alley’s mouth.  A quick glimpse of the writings before she tucked it safe beside her bosom in the once-elegant, now-ragged bodice.  She hitched the worn, tattered cape farther onto her shoulders and ducked her damp locks beneath the hood.

Click here for more of this story

Connection

She looked at me from across the crowds, and our eyes locked. A connection was made between us in that instant, and the moment seemed to last forever.

She walked stiff-backed and unpolished through the train station, head held high, wrapped in an unpatterned blue kerchief that concealed most of her dirty-blond locks. They slicked down her back, silk and gossamer on the dark fabric, light shimmering, playing and chasing away as she moved under the fluorescent fixtures in the ceiling. Her hands sat gentle and idle in her lap as she strode. Her cheeks had been pinched almost to bruising and the purple-tinged pink of them stood sharp on her creamy, pale flesh. No make-up adorned her face, a tired face. A young woman, too young to be so tired. I can see the lines that will form on her face, beginning their ascent to the surface of her perfect, smooth skin. Lines around her mouth, between her eyebrows, next to her nostrils, under her eyes.  Fatigue lines, of hard living and struggle, threatening to rise to the fore, age and wear not yet finding their way to the present, made known in a life not quite. Not quite happy, not quite content, not quite easy, not quite blessed. She wears the worry of the future on her visage and only some see it. She’s plain and simple and humble, only black and dark blue clothing, squeaking, heavy black work shoes, well-worn, hands callused and heart too, from too much hard labor and no end of it in sight.

Continue reading

Thing, Pt. 2 (Writing Exercise)

Someone on my deviantART watch list asked me to continue this vignette, though for the life of me I didn’t know why.

So I did.

Still under 125 words, and this time I’m pretty sure there are NO ADJECTIVES OR ADVERBS.  I did, in fact, find one of each in the last version, which I’ve edited.

So, if you find one of those nasty li’l buggers, let me know, would you?  I’m serious, here.

Thanks!  Have a great holiday weekend!

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“Man, it’s … .” Paulie leaned in, and brushed back his bangs. “You know what it …?”

“No,” I said and shook my head. “No, I don’t.”

“Hunh.”

The breeze teased the field into undulating waves. I heard gravel crunch and turned to see Paulie scouring the ground. He trotted back grinning, a twig in his hand. It went from his hips to the ground. He stood over me a minute, then stuffed it in my hand.

“Here,” he grinned. “Poke it. See what happens.”

“What the — no way! You poke it!” I dropped the stick, scrabbled to my feet, and backpedaled.

“You chicken?”

“Yeah! You poke it!”

He snorted, the grin plastered on his lips. “Fine, I will.”

All Original Content Copyright J. Dane Tyler, 2008
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 

What Happened? (Opening)

I’m standing here because I don’t know what happened last night.

It’s something we do every Friday night. We all get together, we pile into someone’s car with as much alcohol as we can drink, we draw straws for the designated driver with whoever did it the last time counted out so they don’t get stuck twice in a row, and we go find someplace deserted, quiet and dark to drink, joke, be friends and if we’re lucky — and there’s a girl or two involved — get laid.

Click here if the suspense is killing you

Event at Twilight (Writing Exercise)

Continuing on with the writing exercises, here is another attempt to use no adverbs or adjectives.  The style of this one is very, very different than the other two, but maintains that maxim of not using modifying words EXCEPT nouns or verbs.

If you feel like trying something like this, give it a shot!  You can post here in my comments, or on your own blog and let me know about your post!  I’d love to see your work.  :)

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Buzzing, whining, annoying. Swatting, missing, distracted. Stinging, pinching, shouting, frustration and anger. Slapping, chasing, lost in the dark.

Swirling, dizzying … staggering … hand on forehead … confusion … .

Falling … panting … gasping … vision blurring … .

Numb … cold, shivering … darkness … fading, fading … .

Nothingness.

 

 

ALL Original Content Copyright 2008 J. Dane Tyler
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Thing (Writing Exercise)

Another attempt at the 125-words-or-fewer, no-adjectives-or-adverbs exercise.  This one cruises in at about 122 words (close!), but it has a twist.  See if you can find the tricky item in this piece!  And of course, all are welcome to play along!

The “prompt” for this one was: Two kids find something strange.  Decribe the scene with 125 words or fewer and no adjectives or adverbs allowed.  I found this one easier.

I might do a few more of these as time goes on.  At least I’m writing again!!  :D

God bless, all!
-JDT-

PS – Updated the text, but didn’t change the twist/caveat Benjamin Rogers caught below. -jdt-

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“Where’d it come from?” Paulie stood, eyes riveted to it, ragweed locks rustling on the breeze. He squinted at me in the brightness.

“How should I know?” I said. I stared at it, just like Paulie.

“You … you think it’s … can we touch it?”

“I ain’t gonna touch it. Are you?”

“Heck no! You crazy?”

My jeans crumpled behind my knees when I bent with hands poised to move if it … did something. Anything.

“Is it … what is it?”

“Paulie, I don’t know, man.” He was getting on my nerves. “How can I know, dude??”

“I’m just askin’,” he muttered, but he didn’t care. We stared at it, and he rested his hands on his knees.

 

All original content Copyright J. Dane Tyler, 2008
ALL RIGHTS reserved

Sharkey, Chapter 5

If you like this piece, you can find the rest of it here.  Enjoy!

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I don’t know how long I held onto Maris before I pulled away. She’s so beautiful, and I can’t stare right at her for too long. It’s like staring at the sun. I’m sure I’ll go blind if I do, and I always drop my eyes after just a few seconds.

Maris’ hands stayed on me, though. They traced down my shoulders and arms as I stepped back. It gave me this tingling, shivery sort of feeling that raised goosebumps all over. I hoped she didn’t notice.

“I-I’m … I’m sorry,” I muttered, sniffling and trying not to see if everyone in the place stared at me. “It’s been a … well, I’m sort of … I think I …”

“Johnny,” she said, and her voice soothed my angst to silence, “it’s okay. It’s all right to hurt.”

My mom had to click here to keep reading

Sharkey, Chapter 4

If you like this piece, you can find the rest of it here.  Enjoy!

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“Hi, Johnny.”

I felt more than heard the voice. Oh, I know it well. That voice haunts many a dream, many a lonely seaward night, many a land bound tossing and turning and sweating in my tangled, empty bunk at the house.

Oh yeah. That voice cuts through everything and gets down to my core, right into my soul. My head vanishes into a foggy haze the instant that melodic set of pipes tickles my eardrums. I feel my eyes glaze over. I feel my body start floating.

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Say "Cheese" – Part 5


Here’s Part 1.

Tollin stared at her patient, tipping her head in confusion.

“Why didn’t the teacher want to see the camera again?”

Mel drew a sigh.  “You remember I said some of the people who lost their souls in this thing are already buried … that it was too late for them?”

“Yes, I remember.”

“And you remember I told you when Charlie gave it to the photography old guy there was either one or thirteen pictures left, right?  ‘Cause the film has either 24 or 36 exposures and it was on 23.  Right?”

Click here, O Faithful Reader, for more!