The Iron Writer Challenge #71
2014 Summer Solstice Challenge #6
Like a Steel Trap
D. L. Mackenzie
Jimmy sat back, his arms crossed. “You were wearing an ugly plaid shirt that night, and jeans, and your right leg was still wet because your moron buddy Rick punched a hole in one of your irrigation boots as a prank.”
Phil squinted at Jimmy and sipped his bourbon. “Yeah, I guess I remember that.”
Jimmy continued. “You had seven bourbons here in the bar and walked over to the craps tables around 8:30. You lost $450, accused the stickman of passing you fixed dice, and you were eighty-sixed by ten o’clock.”
Phil frowned. “How can you—Jeez, Jimmy, that was years ago. You got like, what do they call it… photographic memory?”
“Hyperthymestic. It means I remember everything, Phil. Every sight, sound, smell… even thoughts. I remember it all with perfect clarity.” Jimmy scoffed and gulped the last of his Tom Collins. “Gift from the gods, right?”
“Yeah, you ought to be sitting behind a deep stack in the no-limit room, right?”
Jimmy shook his head wordlessly, intently eying Phil, who tittered nervously and took another drink.
“Anyway, why you telling me this, Jimmy?”
Jimmy tapped on a pack of matches next to his cigarettes. “You told me three years ago you’d never heard of the Palomino Motel, but last night you give me a pack of matches from that very place.”
“It’s just an old… you know, I kinda collect ‘em everywhere I…” Phil finished his bourbon in a gulp and motioned to the bartender.
Jimmy’s face grew expressionless. “Funny thing, there’s a phone number written inside that pack. Elena’s cell phone.”
Phil blanched. “No kidding? Well, I—I guess she must have, uh—”
“I knew it was you all along, too, but you were pretty damned cagey. Three years, and you never slipped up once.”
“Jimmy, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Jimmy leaned back in his chair and gazed up at the ceiling. “Mnemosyne, Goddess of Memory. Great sense of humor she has… or maybe it’s irony. See, I even remember things I want to forget. I can’t just… drink from the river Lethe and put it all behind me. I remember. I can still smell the bourbon on Elena that night, and your cheap goddamn cologne. I can still hear her crying, begging for forgiveness. I can even see the precise patterns of her blood on the walls. I’d put a bullet in my own head just to stop those memories, but I don’t have the guts.”
Phil shook his head, his eyes wide. “Jimmy, you said Elena left you—”
“I lied, Phil. I didn’t want to go to prison. But I do now. No trial, no appeals, just… straight to death row and one last… intravenous cocktail.”
The waitress brought two more drinks and Jimmy opened his wallet, emptying it. “This is for you, sweetheart. You’ve been great. Hey, you know my buddy Phil, right? He slept with my wife and I killed her.” He pulled a small pistol from his jacket and aimed it squarely at Phil. “Better take a break, sweetheart, ‘cause you don’t want to see what happens next. You’ll never forget it.”
He was finally getting to use the vacation time that he had been racking up at the local cable company. That two grand that had been burning a hole in his desk drawer… normally a cautious man, he had been letting sit there for far too long now. Now, he had changed; and it was time he blew it off at that casino. In addition to possible wealth, he hoped to find some feminine company.
Carson was on top of the world.
He looked in his hotel mirror and adjusted his polo shirt. Running his fingers over the salt and pepper stubble, he grabbed his wallet and walked downstairs to the tables, regretted that there wasn’t time for a shave.
Drunk men stumbled from table to table, flirting with every prostitute they stumbled into. Carson felt a bit uneasy, but tried to relax, knowing that here, he wouldn’t be judged too harshly. One woman at the bar caught his eye. Almost six feet tall, with tight black pants and a green silk vest, her flaming red hair made her stand out from the rest of the crowd.
What the hell. Carson squared his shoulders and walked up to her.
“Hey. Can I buy you a drink?”
She raised an eyebrow at him, a second before raising a half full cosmopolitan, “I got one, thanks.”
“So what is your name?” His voice cracked audibly.
She cracked a smile, “Ruby.”
“That’s a pretty name,” he cleared his throat, “Say, Ruby. I’m about to hit the tables. Would you like to join me?”
“I have a better idea,”
She took out a pair of dice from her pockets. “If I roll a pair of ones, you come back to my place. Anything else, we hit the tables. Deal?”
Carson shrugged. Either way, he won.
She blew seductively on the dice. Carson’s eyes on her, she let them go. Both clicked and clacked down the bar, surprisingly, they both landed with the single dot up.
“Looks like we are heading to my place,” she purred.
Carson smiled and in his mind, he began to applaud himself. As she stood up, he noticed a tattoo on her left bicep. It looked like an odd looking woman, with hair the same shade as Ruby’s.
“Nice tat. Who is that?”
She looked at the tattoo for a moment, and then her eyes met his, “Minerva. Roman goddess who punished sinners.”
Impressed, Carson decided to look her up once he got home. The two of them walked three blocks to a small white house. Inside, she led him to the basement and he jogged down the stairs. Turning on the lights, he spun around, and jumped back in shock.
An apron and pair of irrigation boots sat in a corner, next to a drain. The concrete floor was stained by faded streaks of red.
A large stone table stood in the middle of the small room. The words For Minerva were etched into the center of that table, with a ceremonial knife neatly set over the letters.
He turned around to see a bat swinging at his head.
Betting the Skies
Tiffany Michelle Brown
Evelyn wasn’t used to waking up next to her husband, but rather a warm cotton imprint of where he’d been. He was generally out in the fields by now. Instead, Harrison sat perched on their bed, staring through the bedroom window at the dry, expansive land behind their home.
Evelyn stretched and crawled over to Harrison, roping her arms around his midsection. It was then that she realized Harrison’s gaze was turned upward. He was staring at the sky at a sight that was—for both of them—akin to a scene from a science fiction novel. Evelyn had nearly forgotten what rainclouds looked like.
“Perhaps…” Evelyn whispered to her husband, motioning to his dusty, unworn irrigation boots in the corner.
“Perhaps,” Harrison said.
Atlas stared across the marble table at his opponent, trying to discern Zeus’s mood and thus, his next movement in the game—but holy Eros did he have a strong poker face. With a countenance like stone, Zeus took a sip of his mead punch and drew a Tarot card.
For 360 days, the two gods had sat at this table, rolling dice, drawing cards, and betting the skies. Zeus always won, his victory embellished with the flick of a wrist and a sardonic smile. But today was different. Atlas had won enough hands to achieve rainclouds.
Hera fluttered by, but even her sensuous hips draped in silk couldn’t pull Zeus’s eyes from the game. The god picked up the copper cup, shook the dice, and let them splatter across the marble. He laid a card on the table and sat back in his chair, proud as punch.
Twenty-seven and the Emperor, Atlas thought. Crap.
He drew Justice and sighed, adding it to the motley crew in his hand. He rolled fourteen and, accepting defeat, sacrificed his weakest card, The Heirophant.
Atlas took a sip of wine and chartreuse while Zeus’s laughter boomed through the clouds, grazing and separating them like ghostly fingertips. A patch of sunlight settled on Atlas’s wrist and he cringed.
“Poor Atlas,” Zeus mocked. “It never seems to be your day.”
“It will be,” Atlas countered.
The next round would be the last. Atlas needed to pull a magnificent card to edge Zeus out.
Zeus played the Wheel of Fortune, and rolled fifteen, a weak hand. Zeus’s brows knitted together and Atlas could smell disappointment.
Hope bubbled in Atlas’s belly. If he drew a great card and rolled something in the 20s…
He reached for the deck. He shook the dice and let them fall. And then a smile crept to his lips.
“What are you doing?” Evelyn asked between fits of laughter.
“What does it look like?” Harrison said, his eyes smiling. “I’m going to work.”
Evelyn watched her husband leave their bedroom wearing nothing but his irrigation boots and freckled skin. She grinned, shook her head, and then lay back in bed.
She listened to the rain patter against the roof and then whispered, “Thank God.”
The Fall of the Old World
The Well of Urd was nigh-empty, save for some bustling wenches, their breasts laid bare – it was springtime, after all – trying to look busy and avoid the severe glare of the Well’s master. A few sullen patrons sat at scattered tables, not looking at the exclusive group in the corner. In a private room adjacent to the common room were three Weavers, whom everyone else at the Well labored to forget, but failed.
Loki, raised a single finger, signaling that he – and his brothers – demanded their thirsts be quenched. “Why have you brought us here, Allfather?”
One-eyed Odin stroked his beard and studied his adopted son, slender and mischevious, and always hiding behind his infuriating smirk. When Odin spoke he did it slowly, deliberately.
“We’re here so we can drink, brother,” Thor boomed. He slammed a fist as big as a man’s head on the table, beckoning for a drink as effectively as Loki’s single raised finger. The serving wenches responded to each with equal deftness. Thor, too, spoke slowly, but without the thoughtful deliberation of his father. Loki and Odin both spared him a patient smile. “Baldur, what are you doing?”
Mousy, thoughtful Baldur finished pouring the contents of one mug into another. “I am mixing two drinks, brother. I call it a cocktail.”
“Cock. Tail. I like the way you think. I shall have one of those!” Thor giggled like a girl experiencing her first man.
Odin motioned for silence. Without question, he was granted it. “My sons, I have gathered you to discuss troubling news. A heathen God is rising in the Eastern Sands. A God called Christian.”
“You are the Allfather,” Thor boomed. “Why are you concerned about this puny God?”
“The heathen God has declared war on the peoples in the Eastern Sands, and of Europe. He has achieved great victories, and may conquer all of the lands of Midgard, if we are not careful.” Odin’s face drew downward. Clearly, this heathen troubled him deeply. Only Baldur, the favored, had seen him this way before.
“Perhaps we can use this Christian to our advantage?” Loki said, and took a calculated sip of his mead.
Odin placed the weighted die to his left, rubbing it gently with his thumb. “Half-son, your enthusiasm for the hunt is great, but I fear no amount of cunning will slay the heathen.”
All bustle in the Well of Urd stopped as three voices erupted into cackling laughter from the private chamber. A collective shudder ran through patron, god, and worker alike.
Thor stood, knocking his chair back to clatter on the floor. “If my brother’s trickery won’t quell the beast, then I shall don my boots, and take up my hammer, and destroy this Christian where he stands!”
Odin placed the balanced die on the table and spun it on a corner. He watched it spin, frowning.
Thor stomped from the Well of Urd, ignoring the cackling of the Weavers and the words of his brother, Bauldur, who said, “Perhaps we should not resist the heathen, that may be the path of our destruction.”
As it was said, so it was.