Monday January 23rd, 2012

The exercise:

Write something to do with: the grifter.

Bonus points if you include one of my favorite comic book characters.

Today I learned a valuable lesson: loading up a wheelbarrow with firewood (even though it may be two-thirds of your usual amount) and then pushing it through a snowy orchard is a fine way to set yourself up for a heart attack.

I think I'll just wait until it melts away before trying to get a decent amount of wood down here.


The cards lay face down on the table, two in front of each man, and the dealer waited for the bets to be placed. Dusty ran a finger along the edge of each of his cards but kept his gaze on his opponent, whose eyes remained hidden behind dark sunglasses.

"It's been a long night," Dusty said and the observers seated around the players nodded as one. Pushing all his chips onto the middle of the table without looking at his hand he asked with a slight smile, "What say we bring it to an end?"

"Player one is all in," the dealer announced, turning to Dusty's opponent without a change in his neutral expression. "Player two?"

"Yeah, why not?" the man said, turning to the men and women gathered around the game with a laugh. "It's only money, right?"

Dusty allowed his smile to grow wider as the room filled with nervous laughter, certain that the night would belong to him. How could it not? He'd promised the dealer fifty percent of the winnings.

Unfortunately for Dusty, his opponent had guaranteed sixty.


Greg said...

Yeah, snow really makes it hard to push things! I'm impressed you made it all the way back without unloading any of it though. Still, think of all the money you're saving on gym memberships by doing this!
Hmm, not come across the Grifter before in comics, so that little bio was interesting. I like the way you depict the eternal problem of honour among thieves though! I think the weariness carries over well, and I really liked the nervous laughter.

The Grifter
"Mr. Cole?"
He turned back from resetting the bottles into their pyramid and his eyes ran across the sparse crowd in front of the counter. There was a blond woman he didn't remember being their when the kid had thrown the ball and knocked the bottles down. Probably her speaking, but that wasn't his problem right now. How had the kid managed to get the bottles to fall? They each had a little iron ball in, and a magnetic collar to help keep them together.
"Mr. Cole?"
Yep, definitely the woman. He ignored her, no-one else was paying her any attention either. The kid was smirking like he knew something.
"Excuse me! Mr. Cole!" Much more forceful now, and she was trying to catch and hold his gaze.
"Sorry, miss, my name's Boxy," he said, yet another lie rolling easily from his tongue. The kid was holding out another dollar already.
"That's a shame," said the woman. "I need to tell Mr. Cole that Andrew Johnson's not dead. Do you know where I might find him?"
"Andrew Johnson or Mr. Cole?" he said, handing the kid a ball that was too light to throw far.
She stared at him while the kid wound up and threw the ball, and the pyramid of bottles crashed to ground once more.
"Which might you know?" she asked back.

morganna said...

Bearded and dirty, he hops the trains from town to town.

Cathryn Leigh said...

@Marc – thank you for the definition I’d never heard term grifter before (and apparently neither has Microsoft Word 2007). I haven’t heard of your comic book hero though either, so sadly I can’t make you happy on that account. :}

@Greg – I like your man’s ability to remain calm, despite the boy’s ability to beat his game, and the woman’s line of questioning. I wonder if they don’t have something to do with each other...

@Morganna – simple and short, good job.

And now time to return to my Sci-Fi Universe (I ought to name it) but not my NaNo characters. :}

The Grifter

“We don’t serve no Spacers in here,” the barman grumbled as the man slid into his seat.
The man snorted. “Just give me a shot of your best Vidal.”
“Got the credits to pay for it?” The barman pulled down a bottle from the top shelf, coughing in its dust cloud.
The man slapped a credit stick on the table as his eyes scanned the bar. “That’ll cover the first shot.”
The crowd was thin, being an odd time of the day, not quite the middle of the morning shift. His eyes flicked to the two men playing cards at a table by the door. Turning back to the bar he downed the shot in one go. He smiled as the barman’s eyes widened.
“Go on,” the man egged, “pour me another.”
“You ain’t got the funds.” The barman kept a tight hold on the bottle.
“I got enough funds for three shots.” The man slapped another credit stick on the table.
“You’re gambling with your life.” The barman didn’t budge.
“So are you,” the man smiled, as the bar man jerked back from the shock of his weapon, hidden below the bar. “That’s the low setting, now pour.”

For those who are wondering: Vidal is a potentially lethal gin that I created, complete with geeky scientific explanation on what makes the cost of it go up along with its lethal potential. :}

David said...

@marc - i love a good con
@greg - while I fear carnies, there is something incredibly sad in them. There's so much more to this
@morganna - as it was said - short, sweet, and perfect
@cathrynleigh - I love that you have so many worlds to play in - nice stuff.

The following is NOT a true story

I stared at myself onscreen, naked and puffing like a runaway steam train. The man had asked me if I liked porn. I answered yes, of course, I’m a guy. It had been while I filled my tank at the Shell Station. The one on Madison Street, right off exit 27. A small man of some Hispanic origin, he hissed the question at me, adding an s to the word porn.

Five dollars and one dvd exchange later and I sat there watching my vigorous actions on TV, not ready for prime time or any time. Behind my head was the dresser, and there was our wedding photo. The pictures of the children were kindly left offscreen. I racked my brain trying to figure out the logistics.

My co-star came into view. Those smoldering brown eyes held me that day, made me do, well, I could see what they made me do. The impish brunette had always been a worthy teammate, but there was something lacking in her expression that I noticed during the playback, a mask of indifference that I did not remember from that day.

I watched the other mementos of my bedroom come into focus. The crystal alarm clock I received on our third anniversary and the quilt that my grandmother made after our son was born. I wondered who the little Hispanic man was, although at this point it did not matter. I heard the door open and did not need to turn around to see my beautiful blond wife standing behind me. To my relief, the brunette onscreen finally smiled. I knew she wasn’t faking it.

Krystin Scott said...


The alley behind Walberg's is dimly lit and cluttered with shipping crates, empty pallets, and over-flowing dumpsters. Loose crumbled bits of paper, empty soda pop bottles, a solitary shoe, and partially empty fast food containers lay scattered about intermittently.

GAMBIT runs into view from the right. He stops near the source of the light, so his face is visible. He quizzically scans the alley. All is quiet.

(Soft but Determined)
I’m comin’ Mon Ami

STORM hair cackling, her eyes rolled back into her head, floats down from above. Her arms are spread out to the side but her body maintains an upright position.

Where’d it go?

We’ll have to find a way to get inside.

Pick a card, any card.

What is it with you and those cards, Cajun?

GABMIT throws two Cards fueled by kinetic engery. An explosion occurs which blows a large hole in the back of the building. The shadows of a crowd of people can be seen through the smoke and rubble running toward the front exit.

Stormy, It looks like we've got ourselves a full house.

Sister Christian said...

The Grifter

You said your name was Cole Cash. You told me I was your type. We went out and listened to the band. Then we stayed up all hours playing chess and talking, building our own little city in the sky. Those conversations were continuations of dreams that spoke to us through the blackout of those sleeping hours in-between.

My heart has never been for hire - when I fall, I fall hard. And I fell for you pretty much at the introductions. It was like being beamed up in the UFO of love, to a place where there were no playground rules. Our souls? They were twins. I let you order the crème brûlée, and I paid attention to you when you talked. I asked you what you wanted, and then I gave it to you. Willingly. Gladly.

Which was totally out of character for me, because I had always been a loner. Until that first day, when the butler showed you in. You were dashing, alluring, with your good looks and your sad eyes, the scent of small town blues hanging on your shoulders, and you looking like a kid who hadn't done his homework and was about ready to blame tech support. Your presence was like water to me, you barrelled into my world with such force and unintended fury, it was a revolution and there was no going back, no unfavourable comparisons to those dry minutes, hours, days that I had survived before you came.

But now, suddenly, my life is Hell.

Because I found your comic book collection. The one you spent my money on. The one that cost a bomb on eBay, that was going for a song, and you just needed a spot to tide you over until your next paycheque. Which was coming any day now, long past due.

Tonight you're out playing a high stakes poker game with my money. Just to tide you over.

And these comics are telling me that this whole time you've been playing a high stakes crap shoot with my heart.

You lying, cheating, son-of-a-gun! How the heck did I miss the big old sign you were waving in my stupid gullible face?! Cole Cash? My cold hard arse!

Anonymous said...

NOTICE: This is not commentary, this is fiction. I have no opinion about this character beyond and acknowledgement that I was aware that he and the 'WildCATS' existed.

“Seriously?” Said Bobby, his expression a veritable landscape of disbelief and derision. “Grifter?” He continued. “The guy is just an asshole! My Mom would call him a sociopath.”

Tyler looked pugnacious, his lower lip projecting and his shoulders hunched.

“Like you even know what that means.”

“Yahuh...I do. She said it was someone who didn't give a damned how much they might hurt someone as long as they got what they wanted. She said it was like that creepy old Newt Gingrinch guy.”

Tyler shook his head.

“So you've been listening to her tutouring again and trying to sound smart. By the way, it's 'Gingrich. Besides, Grifter is wicked.”

Bobby looked down at the stack of comics and pulled another face.

“The WildC.A.T.S. are pretty cool but Grifter is just some dood who shoots guns and stuff, not to mention that he wears a bag over his head. I don't get it. He's not even funny like Deadpool.”

It was obvious that Tyler did not agree but something about his body language suggested he didn't want to argue.

“Hey we like different characters for different reasons. At least we can agree,” he jerked his head at the pile, “they don't suck like Marvel.”

Krystin Scott said...

@Sister Christian. Don't know how you managed it, but I think you managed to include every prompt we've had for the last 3-4 weeks. If I didn't spend so much time here at DWP I never would have noticed, they were all perfectly placed.


"Welcome to DWP the blog where everything's made up and the POINTS don't matter."


Iron Bess said...

Mrs Jackson Pettrie Hubble Jonas Black Bartle McVie Stanton raised one thin eyebrow at her daughter Marnie and shook her head ever so slightly. The motion wasn't lost on Marnie. "You can shake your head all you want to mom but I'm still not going."

Her mother carefully schooled her expression into one of hurt and betrayal then said in a pouty little girl voice. "But Marniekins, you have to come to the wedding. I NEED you there. You know how nervous I get at weddings."

Marnie flipped open her suitcase then walked over to her closet and started throwing random items towards it. "Mom you can quit that fake whiny voice, that shit doesn't work with me all it does is piss me off. And I don't know how many times I told you this summer but I'm done with it. I'm out. I'm done with being your pigeon. I'm done with you. With the whole god dammed thing."

"Ah come on baby doll, just one more time then I will be set for life and I will never ask you to do this again."

The suitcase was stuffed to the limit as Marnie tried getting the zipper to close. Reaching in she dragged some clothes out and threw them onto the ground then jumped on it trying to get it closed. "You know most parents raise their kids with morals. Don't steal, don't cheat, don't marry old dudes and then kill them for their money."

Her mother's face went white. "I've never killed anyone in my life," she hissed. "I will have you know that every one of my husbands died from natural causes. I just happen to have a bad streak of luck with them."

Marnie snorted. "Yeah well what do you expect when you marry ninety five year old geezers and then make them try and have sex with you." Marnie dragged the suitcase through the door and pushed it down the stairs. She could here her mother behind her and wondered which tactic she would use to try and make her do what she wanted.

"Okay, you win," her mom said while watching Marnie heave the massive case into the trunk of her car. "If you help me with this last wedding I will tell you who your real father is."

Whirling around Marnie grabbed her mother by the shoulders and threw her against the car. "Listen to me closely mom. I. Am. Not. Going. To. Help. You. You are nothing but a grifter and I know you aren't above using your only kid to get what you want, even if it means I end up being shit on by the world. Go ahead and Newt but I am going to get out of here before the press has a field day with this."

Iron Bess said...

Crap, it was suppose to read "Go ahead and marry Newt..."

Anonymous said...

Soooo, I first glanced at the prompt very early this morning on my way to read the rest of the comments on yesterday's and all I saw(or thought I saw) was "comic book" and I was certain I saw hero somewhere there. I started forming an idea during work. So imagine my surprise when I find the actual prompt is a word that(like others) I have to look up. Try as I might, I can't shake the other idea I started on so I'm just gonna have to go with that(in the little bit of time I have left of today). It still inspired me! Just in a totally bass-ackwards way. ; )

(Also, loved everything else I read so far! Have to finish them up tomorrow. Very creative, Sister Christian! And, Iron Bess, that was HILARIOUS!)

Once upon a time, on a short stretch of dusty road, a small orange seed was launched from the mouth of a woman hastily consuming her breakfast on the way to work. Landing in the corner lot of a new housing development, it nestled cheerfully into the freshly turned soil. In neighboring lots, families moved in and landscaped their yards, adding new trees and plants and holding large gatherings. No one ever moved into the house that was built in front of the tiny orange tree and it felt rather lonely at times. By the time the first flowers showed in it's branches, the people had started to leave the area, slowly at first and then very, very quickly. The tree could feel the chaos and uncertainty coming in from the East, reverberating through its leaves. At the time, there had been no way to tell what was happening to the world except that it was big and unstoppable. For a time, the taste of the soil shifted constantly and the air was hazy at best. Then, suddenly, the noise ended, peace returned and soon the land had completely overtaken what had once been built by man. The orange tree grew very large, sharing it's fruit year after year with many different creatures. And now it was now, here they were.
Macbeth knew all of this. And more. He knew because he laid under the tree countless times throughout his childhood and, one Thursday in May, it told him. He was young enough at the time that his parents wrote it off as an alternate form of an imaginary friend and because they were SUCH free thinkers, part of the newly formed Neo-hippie movement, they simply could not extinguish such obvious displays of creativity or concurrence with nature. Later, when his understanding of society grew larger than the commune he lived in till he was 11, he stopped telling others what he heard.
For a time, in an attempt to claim his real identity away from parents who would name him Macbeth(did they even know what happened in that story!?), he stopped listening and moved to a larger settlement, picking portions of existence based on how foreign they were to him. The details of that year are for another time but at the end, he returned to the tree.
The cool grass beneath him, the rough trunk supporting his back, he felt it flood his mind and embrace him like the old friend he was and knew he was home. He had seen plenty of images of heroes from comic books centuries ago and the abilities they had. So many pieces of puzzle lay in front of him but he was now convinced that this was a power of sorts and somehow he would find a way to use it for the good of all.

Marc said...

Greg - yeah, the farm workout is the best one I've come across yet.

That kid is up to something! Great little scene.

Morganna - short and spot on.

Elor - very vivid scene. Intrigued by this drink of yours...

David - haha, thanks for clarifying that it wasn't true right off the bat :D

Love that he found relief in the smile at the end, really says a lot about the character.

Krystin - I think that might be the first script style response to any of my prompts. Sweet!

And you managed to include one of my favorite X-men! Double sweet!

Sister Christian - that was all kinds of impressive. Great job :)

GZ - appreciate the clarification at the start :)

I think you managed to capture what two boys arguing about comic book characters would actually sound like. And that last line made me smile :)

Krystin (again) - sounds like it's time for a game of scenes from a hat!

Iron Bess - reading it for the second time, that lengthy name right at the start hit home. I almost skipped over it the first time :P

Two nicely developed characters, really puts the reader in the scene with them.

H.N. - no worries, I happen to be a big fan of bass ackwards :D

Glad you stayed with that one, as I'd hate to have missed out on it. The bit about the name cracked me up :)