[I finished the first draft of a new short story. I needed one to go with my new book cover design. I have always had a problem when I buy a book, especially a short story collection, and nothing in the book is reflected in the cover art. It doesn’t have to be exact, but at least evocative. So I decided that my collection was missing an urban fantasy romance story that took place mostly on a bus. I’m also enamored with Marilyn Monroe as shot by Milton Greene; as a result, guess who my protagonist looks like, at least a little. Life’s philosophy – you can be weird, provided you are consistent.
With no further ado, here’s the start of the story. (This is about 500 of 5,900 words.) I think I will include this and one further story in the paperback version only, as a bonus. You know, “Now! Includes Bonus Material!” Hmm, I might need to make the last story a little erotic. Be warned – this is a 1st draft. First drafts generally are full of suck. Some may recognize a phrase in the 1st sentence. I wrote it in a poem, and liked it so much I reused it here. Almost no one sees my poems unless I slip them in books. Sigh.]
The hazy air hung like funky dust, barely whispering enough of a breeze to clear the topmost layer of grit from the sidewalks. Lingering smog choked color from the night landscape, with sulfur street lamps adding a sepia tinge. The buses were late, and a small crowd of impatient city dwellers gathered in a mewling flock, pacing in tight circles or grumbling their frustration into cell phones. There was a sheltered bench, but it was July, and only one lone soul with tired feet braved the small oven the enclosed space had become. It was a common flock for public transport: an elderly couple headed home after dinner in Chinatown’s restaurant row, hotel staffers departing after too many hours spent for too little pay, and a half-dozen of the scores of young professionals the nation’s capital city attracted. All were headed uptown on the 70 line, along once-prosperous Georgia Avenue and into southern Maryland.
Bobbi ignored them all.
At some distance, a clutch of four young men in saggy pants and oversized shirts stood watching the young blonde. Their slouched affect would have reminded her of lurking buzzards, had she noticed them. They were hangers-on and a hundred years prior would have been called gadabouts, good-for-naughts. The latest incarnation of centuries-old tradition they were: young males with no purpose, looking for a bit of harmful fun. The nearby Gallery Place Metro entrance was their normal domain to await young honeys fresh from the suburbs with cash to spend and no fine, young man to spend it with. The pickings were slim this night, and so they had shifted to here, the bus stop, which was akin to fishing off the pier because the big tuna weren’t biting. None of the four said a word, but neither did they take their eyes off the tow-headed woman.
Bobbi sat curbside, away from the rest of the flittering flock, with her taut buns on the sidewalk and sandaled feet in the street despite near misses by the occasional truck or kamikaze taxi. She was lovely, with pale skin and short curls that teased her shoulders. Her attire was simple – a lime peasant skirt and matching top, over which she wore a waist-length maroon blazer despite the oppressive air. It was never too hot for her. Bobbi was a nickname she chose for herself, a shortened form of a name Americans always mispronounced. For most of her life, spent on the Scottish Highlands, residents referred to their aloof, blond neighbor simply as “She.” The moniker appealed to her, but was less acceptable in the urban sprawl of the eastern United States. Here, she needed a strong, American name. One can only become a number in the great U.S. when one has a name.
She neither spoke nor moved, quietly sitting with her chin held up by one palm, looking down the street as though she’d lost a life’s love thereabouts. Without warning, she blinked, stood, and stepped back onto the sidewalk, brushing urban grime off her skirt, just as the bus swept around the corner with a nimble grace that belied its size.
“You want me to get that for you?” asked the shortest of her four admirers, his eyes fixed firmly on her bottom. He was stocky and of a height midway between a prince and a Leprechaun, with dark, greasy hair and a complexion akin to dirty olive oil. He stepped toward her, hand extended, as if to brush the dirt from her derriere.
She said nothing and did not turn, but merely stepped aside, avoiding his touch. His compatriots laughed, whether at his boldness or her avoidance it wasn’t clear. He, however, did not smile. The crowd boarded the bus, led by Bobbi, who took a seat in the center, near a brown-haired man in his early thirties. She watched him closely, willing him to turn his attention from the window. Her focus was fixed enough that she barely noticed the other passengers filing onto the bus, followed by the quartet of young men, who were led by the still scowling oily Leprechaun.
“Where we going, Tony?” asked an Ichabod Cranian rail of a man wearing a skull-emblazoned t-shirt that fit him like a shroud.
Tony, the group’s height-challenged leader, said nothing, walking to the back of the bus. Bobbi glanced in his direction as he passed, prompted by his reaching out and grazing her hair. The other three followed suit, and Bobbi slid over to the window seat, out of reach of her fawning public. They rumbled along their northbound route, past the renewed Shaw neighborhood, towards the older environs of D.C.’s Petworth area. There they were met by a traffic jam, spawned by a suburbanite’s managing to flip his minivan onto a Georgia Avenue sidewalk.
[Methinks these boys are going to be trouble. – Bill]