(here Vanna White from another lifetime spins the wheel of misfortune)
Have you not yet entered our contest Once Upon a Time? Win fame, fortune and the adulation of all your favorite genders by sending in the prologue to your work in progress. Here is that magic portal of possibilities!
Don Maker, who entered the first of our forty or fifty contests years ago to get published in The Coffeeshop Chronicles for his efforts has now come back with a damsel-in-distress tale and inspired heroics!
by Don Maker
Frank Lerner tripped on the doorsill and sprawled onto the ground outside the bar. He landed flat on his butt, jarring his spine. His mouth gaped open as his head snapped back. A million tiny spotlights blazed against a black curtain. Embarrassed at his clumsiness, Frank’s mouth twisted to the side as he sucked in the cool, fresh air. Too bad the beautiful nights of the Arizona summer could not make up for the days, which sucked the life from your body while it seared your skin. No wonder so many people hated the desert. Yet, no matter where he went or what he tried, he kept returning to this small, god-forsaken town. He found that ironic, even though he knew the reason. He shook his head to straighten out his jumbled thoughts, then pushed himself to his feet.
Frank fumbled with the pack of cigarettes in his pocket and fished one out. I drink too much. He lit the cigarette and stared at the match, breathing lightly through his open mouth, until the flame was close to his fingers. I smoke too much. He took a deep drag, held the fumes in his lungs, then released them in a pale cloud.
This is a waste of life. I have no one. I belong no where. I have to figure out a way to change it.
Frank moved one halting step at a time over the uneven tarmac as he turned to make his way back to the dive he was renting down the street. He reached the corner of the bar when a man’s voice came from the alley.
“You whore!” the voice yelled. “Heroine whore!”
Frank turned toward the voice. Thirty feet away, a man loomed above a much smaller figure sitting on the ground. The man was bent over, elbows resting on his knees. Like a rattler striking, he pulled his right arm back and gave the figure on the ground a violent smack across the face. A sharp cry of pain was followed by the sobbing of a woman.
“What the hell you think you’re doing?” the man yelled again.
Without thinking, Frank stepped towards the couple. The man raised his arm to strike the woman again.
“Stop!” Frank ordered.
He moved closer as the man straightened up and looked at him. In the bright moonlight, Frank saw a disdainful look on the man’s face. He seemed to have been drinking as well, but perhaps not as much. Frank automatically straightened his shoulders and raised his head as he approached.
“What the hell you want?” the man snarled. “This is none’a your business.”
“I’ll let the lady decide that. Leave her alone.”
The man laughed, a deep sound like the guttural snarl of a bear and the barking of a large dog at the same time. His sneer bared a few dark teeth.
“This ain’t no lady. This here’s a snow queen, a white horse bitch.” He whirled and smacked the woman across the face again. The movement was so sudden she’d had no time to raise her hands to protect herself. “Ain’t you, bitch!” he shouted.
All his current self-disgust, all his frustration at all the perceived injustices in the world, and all the anger of his drunken rage, focused on this one man. Frank stepped to within a few feet, his fists balled and his arms tensed.
“I told you t’leave her alone!”
The man slowly straightened up again. He stood a few inches taller than Frank, and probably weighed in the mid two-hundreds, but he looked soft, flabby. Frank tried to stop his slight swaying. The man’s sneer returned, more contemptuous than before.
“Why, you stupid little shit—”
Frank hit him with all his strength. The blow lifted the man into the air. On the other side of the alley ran a low sidewalk. The back of man’s head caught the curb right on its crown. He lay there stunned, jerkily trying to move his hand to reach the back of his injured head. Frank stood over him for a moment, his fists still clenched and ready for the fight, but the man just lay there moaning.
Frank turned toward the woman. She was silent, staring with wide eyes at the two men. He reached down to take the woman’s hand.
“C’mon, lady. I’ll take you home.”
“Get away from me!” she screamed. “You hit my husband, you bastard!”
The woman scrambled over to hold the man’s head in her lap. She stroked his hair and cooed softly at him. She held her hand up and stared at it, then looked back at Frank. Her hand was covered with blood. “You animal!” she screamed. “You hurt him!”
Stunned, Frank stood still for a moment as the woman comforted her husband. Then he slowly shook his head. The world was obviously far too complicated for him to figure it out. He turned, staggered, caught his balance, and then stumbled away.