Poetry Friday: The Word is PITCH
I'm doing a little Happy Friday Dance...one-a anna two-a anna three-a, turn and dip!....
The Poetry Friday Word is PITCH. Feel free to toss this versatile word into your blog post today, in whatever uniform fills up your fantasy league roster...poem, story, photo, version of "Who's On First", YouTube offering, banjo pickin' style....
I have one contribution, a piece of fiction, something that might be the start of a longer story. I've learned that my attention span is cruelly short when it comes to writing. I have dreams of writing "The Great American Novel", but I know it will never come to fruition because I'm easily bored with my characters, and the thought of manipulating them through 400 or 500 pages sends me into fits of panic and trepidation. I'm more a snapshot sorta gal. A feeling here, a pretty flower there, and I'm happy.
The piece below is fiction, inspired by one childhood memory...a local party store in the summer, me with a quarter to spend, and the man who worked there. I'll never finish it. But in my mind, it's already finished, with an O. Henry ending and a movie script in the works.
Have a good weekend, y'all!
“What is the skin of a Slim Jim made of, anyway?”
“Pig parts, probably. Intestines. Guts. The stuff they pitch.”
“Huh. Well. It’s good anyways.”
Cindy sat down beside me on the stone slab in front of Pete’s Party Palace. She had a hand-dipped chocolate cone in one hand, and licorice in the other. She always went for the sweet stuff. Me, I was more into salty. Pete had a barrel of peanuts in the shell, and for a nickel, you could reach your hand in there and pull out one big handful. I’d hand Pete a quarter and fill up my pockets, and then hold the bottom of my shirt out like a hammock and fill it up. Momma could always tell how hungry I’d be for dinner by the amount of peanut shell dust on my shirt.
I popped open a peanut and balanced the nuts on my bony knee. Then I took my Slim Jim and licked it, pressed the end onto a peanut, and stuck it in my mouth.
“What ya wanna do today?”, Cindy asked, stretching her legs out and then doing that ballet thing she did, pointing her toes, and pressing her heels together so her legs made a tan diamond.
“Dunno. Too hot,” I said, chewing my late-morning snack.
Momma was at work, and Bobby was at the Porter’s house. We knew Bobby would come home dirty and smelling like a dead animal, ‘cause the Porters had too many “mangy critters”, Momma said. But he liked being there more than he liked being with me, which suited me fine. Bobby was too young to be fun, and anyways, his papa wasn’t my papa, and Bobby went and ruined my life by being born and making my papa go away.
“I’m thirsty”. I shook the peanut shells off me and padded into the store, leaving Cindy to the rivers of chocolate running down her arm. Pete never charged for water. He never shooed us away neither, which was one reason we hung around his place. Well, that and the food.
“Pete?” I called out. I expected to see him in his cap and apron, with a glass of water waiting for me, like he always did when I bought 25 cents of peanuts. But there was no Pete. Not nowhere.
Pete was the sort of guy who stood guard, like a watchdog, whenever he was working. He was serious that way. He’d go an entire day without peeing, just so he could be ready for someone to buy a paper, or a pack of smokes, or condoms behind the counter.
There was one rule in Pete’s place…never go behind the counter. But seeing as that’s where the sink was, and as the peanut goo was sticking in my throat, and with Pete disappeared, I started getting anxious. “Pete! Peeeeete!”
Cindy wandered in. “Where’s Pete?”
I couldn’t talk. I pointed to my throat. The peanut dust had formed a tight ball deep down in there. I thought about getting a Coke out of the cooler and just telling Pete I’d pay him later, but that would feel like stealing. I was starting to not feel so good, like I couldn’t breathe, and I had to do something. Something. My eyes got all misty, and then I really couldn’t breathe, and then I just did it.
I just ran behind the counter, grabbed a paper cup, turned on the cold cold water, and drank, drank, drank, four little cups, until my throat finally relaxed and my lungs let air in.
“You better get outta there!” Cindy hissed at me. “Pete will be so pissed at you!”
“I know,” I hissed back. I turned to throw the cup away, and out the corner of my eye I saw a hole in the floor, underneath the cash register where Pete stood ground. I edged over to the opening, and as I got closer saw that it wasn’t a hole, but a door, with a brass handle and little carvings of animals on the lip.
“Git outta there!” Cindy was yelling at me now. She’d seen Pete mad once, and it scared her so much she’d peed her pants.
“No! Come here!” I waved my arm and pointed into the pitch blackness of the cellar, or whatever it was that the door opened onto.
Cindy tiptoed slowly up next to me. “What’s that?”, she whispered.
“I dunno. Maybe that’s where Pete went?”
We peered into the opening and stretched our arms down into it. It was cool and quiet, like Granny’s root cellar. There was no light below, no light for Pete to see by, even if he did go down there for jam, or hootch, or whatever he hid in it.
“Pete?” I tried to make my voice sound faraway, like I was calling Pete from the proper side of the counter. “Pete? Are you okay?”
A sound like ten tornados whooshed up from the floor, pushing out of the hole, rattling the door with the brass and animals, rising and rising until the floorboards started shaking and the glass candy jars threatened to explode. I heard a scream, and wasn’t sure if it was me or Cindy or both, our screams mixed with the wind and the sound pulled us. In a panic, we found our legs again and we ran, ran and ran, around the counter, out the door, and across the street, still screaming.
Me and Cindy stood in front of Al's Garage and hugged each other for a long time. So long I thought we’d stick together and become one person. When we finally pulled away and brushed away the tears, we looked across the street, into the store.
There, in the front window, stood Pete. At the cash register. Keeping guard over the dry goods. He turned and stared us through the glass. He smiled, but there was something in it…something knowing, something warning, something that shook Cindy and me so hard, we wet our pants a little, and ran, screaming, down the street, down to the cluster of lilac bushes, down where we could hide until we couldn’t see the smile any more.