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The Fast Shuffle...Chapter Two

by twister 

Posted: 03 September 2004
Word Count: 3443
Summary: A US-set crime/comedy novel in the vein of Carl Hiaasen and Elmore Leonard.

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Content Warning
This piece and/or subsequent comments may contain strong language.

“Oh yeah Daisy Duke, come over here to Poppa. I’ll treat you right sugar.”
Hot water streamed over our bodies under the shower as I brought her close. She still looked every inch the cutie I’d imagined on the “Dukes of Hazard”. Her lean, slender frame, topped off by the mop of curly hair and that dynamite smile, reserved for me and me alone.
“Hey, what the fuck!” I yelled as a cascade of steaming piss drenched my body from the heavens above and ruined yet another dream involving my beloved Daisy.
With my ass stuck in the broken slats of a dilapidated sunlounger, wearing nothing but a pair of Target pyjama bottoms, I was finding it hard to avoid the aim of the Mexican kid above on the balcony. He wasn’t about to stop either. He had his Johnson out and was having a blast, wazzing all over me below.
“Give it a rest you little prick!” I barked as I tried to extricate myself from the sunlounger.
Not for the first time, I’d managed to sleepwalk from my room at the trashy Wallace Avenue art deco motel I’d been frequenting down to the tiny kidney shaped pool in the courtyard beneath.
Zonked out and stuck in a sunlounger, cooing sweet nothings to an imaginary broad with a semi on, I must have looked one hell of an attractive proposition to the little peckerwood. Deprived of anything approaching entertainment in the one room he shared with his crackhead mother, it was a natural progression in his sick mind to unburden his bladder over me to liven up the morning.
As soon as I scrambled to my feet, he’d darted back to his room faster than the time it took his mother to turn a twenty-dollar trick on the vibrating waterbed inside that had seen more action than a Hollywood-casting couch.
I now had two options.
One was to dive in the pool and rid myself of the foul stench of piss now emanating from every pore. The bloated dead cat floating at one end put paid to that.
Number two it was then, but to be frank the shower in my bathroom was pushing it close. I’d already disturbed the family of cockroaches shacked up in there once this week and I doubt whether they’d welcome another visit from the landlord.
Needs must though and I trudged up the stairs, anxious to avoid the multitude of stares boring into me from behind several windows in the garish pink complex.
We’d all become well acquainted over the last few months since I’d taken up residence. Especially the time I climbed mid-slumber on to the roof and gunned down a whole platoon of faceless soldiers with an imaginary semi-automatic.
Julius, the friendly old black dude a few doors down, had saved my bacon that time. Unable to sleep well since his beloved wife Velma passed away, Julius had taken to smoking his trusty apple grain pipe on the balcony in an effort to while away the hours.
He’d heard me cursing the enemy and having fought in Korea and ‘Nam, figured I deserved a helping hand, even though the nearest I’d come to Asia was the local Thai restaurant “Bangkok Banana” on the corner of Sunset and Echo Park.
I treated my main man Julius to a six-pack of Bud for his troubles, which seemed to go down well because he’d been keeping an eye out for me ever since until this morning that is when he’d gone AWOL, most probably a weekend visit to one of his daughters in Torrance.
Standing in front of my door I discovered the number six had slipped down to form a nine, which when coupled with another six, gave my neighbours a cheap laugh as they walked past each day.
Mario, the super, who went by the amazingly imaginative moniker “Super Mario”, was such a tight piece of work I’d given up on ever getting it fixed. I seldom looked forward to our all too frequent meetings
His chubby, sandpapered face and pig eyes were a far from welcome sight on any day of the week, let alone one that involved an aggravated pissing.
Still I was locked out and, unless I’d suddenly transformed into David Blaine overnight, was not going to be able to get into my room without his help.
I traipsed down the balcony and leaned over the rails at the end.
“Hey Mario, I need a hand up here,” I shouted as the Brazilian telenovela on the TV in his office drowned out my tired cries.
After a few more attempts, his balding pate, covered in a potentially toxic combination of sweat, gel and grease, moved into view below.
“What is it this time Jones? The peach of a chick that’s two-timing the dickhead lawyer is about to confess to him,” he said, his eyes shielded from the sun as he looked up with a hand adorned by more jewellery than BA Baracus in his prime. Jewellery I’m pretty damn sure the LAPD would be interested in locating.
From the look on Mario’s face as he relented and climbed the stairs in his dirty string vest, you would have been forgiven for thinking that he’d ascended Mount Everest with a fifty-pound pack strapped to his back. The sheer look of exhaustion when he finally reached my door left me thinking Mario had struck exercise clean off his list of hobbies.
“You’re a nice guy Jones, but if you make me climb those God damn stairs one more time I’ll fucking kill you.”
“What would I do without you Mario?” I said, even though my mind said different.
“Jones, what the fuck is that smell?”
“Five dollars on sale down at Walmart Mario, if you want some. Esmeralda’s bound to go wild for it.” Esmeralda being Mario’s browbeaten wife of fifteen years.
He shook his head in disgust and fiddled around with the array of keys on his elasticated chain, before finding the correct one and sliding it in. The door swung open though before he even had a chance to turn the key.
“Whoops,” I mumbled as he glanced up at me with a pained expression.
Mario pivoted round slowly on his heels and made back down to the stairs, my faux pas failing to provoke even a mild curse. Before I slid inside though, Mario peered over his knotted shoulder and fixed his gaze on me.
“You coming to the pool party later?”
I’d clean forgotten about it, but it seemed like he’d gone to a lot of effort these past few days so I nodded an affirmative.
“I tell you what. You bring the Bud and I’ll bring the chlorine, you can’t say fairer than that.”
“Always gotta be the comedian.”
Mario broke into what might be described in some quarters as a wry smile and inched down the stairs.
I’d had two deadbolts fitted after my last nightly excursion to the roof, however I’d even managed to unlock those last night on my travels. I couldn’t figure on getting any more shuteye the rest of the day, so I left the locks and headed for the shower.
I passed by the cheap plywood table in the lounge and found to my surprise that there was a message waiting on the answering machine. I hadn’t exactly been inundated with a flood of messages in the past few weeks, so I approached the machine with a degree of excited anticipation.
Thanks to a local shock jock on the radio, who’d announced my home number to the crazed masses after my air ball against the Lakers, I’d been ex-directory for most of the year. There’s only so many curse words and fatal threats one man can take before a weird mixture of paranoia and boredom sets in.
I wish I’d never pressed play on the damn machine though, because the excruciating monotone of Vladimir’s clipped Russian voice was the last thing that I wanted to hear.
“I hear from Oroiti that all is not well in the kingdom of Ray. This disappoints me Jimmy. He gave me his word. What reflects badly on Ray reflects worse on you.”
There was a heavy pause.
“Tell Ray that he has two days to come up with my money. Nastrovina.”
Cue the dial tone and a long sigh from yours truly.
I wondered if Vladimir had ever introduced any sort of intonation into his voice throughout the course of his strange existence. I don’t know, just for kicks maybe.
Vladimir suffered from a bad case of asthma, brought on by his early years in the Siberian coalmines. “Vlad the Inhaler” was an amusing nickname that did the rounds behind his back. Ray and me used to crack up over it, but we never dared say it to his face.
Despite the fact that he was one skinny hombre, Vladimir possessed the type of wiry strength that could snap a neck in two at the drop of a hat.
Scrap that, the drop of a pin.
His ice-cold blue eyes left you in no doubt that this was one dude you best kept on your good side.
After a quick dip under the rickety shower with my six-legged tenants watching from the floor, I slapped on some aftershave and combed my hair back into something approaching a respectable look. I'd never been one for the latest fashions either so I threw on one of my animal-themed Gambian short-sleeved shirts, a navy blue herd of stampeding elephants, a pair of beige shorts, some sandals and headed for the door.
With Vlad's threats ringing in my ears like a bad case of tinnitus, I grabbed my helmet off the couch and headed out. I ventured down the stairs to the dusty forecourt where my pride and joy sat idly.
To the untrained eye, which thankfully included the culturally redundant residents of my seedy abode, the 1970 Triumph Bonneville motorbike with yellow trim looked way past its sell-by date and ready for a one-way ticket to the junkyard. What they didn't know was that the hunk of metal sat before them day in day out used to belong to none other than Steve McQueen.
Movie star, icon and renowned petrol head, McQueen looked cool, talked cool and breathed cool.
Back in the day in New Orleans when I hit my teens with a vengeance, some kids at my school idolised John Travolta, some Harrison Ford and most of them Magic Johnson. There was only ever one guy for me though and he didn't strut his stuff in skin-tight pants on the dance floor, toss out wisecracks while piloting a spaceship or light up the basketball floor every night like a fricking magician.
No my idol tried jumping mammoth World War Two barbed-wire fences on a rigged Triumph in a vain attempt to escape the Nazis in "The Great Escape".
When "The Cooler King" passed away after just fifty years on this planet in Mexico on the 7th of November in 1980, following an operation to remove a cancerous growth in his right lung, my world collapsed around me. I wept like never before and spent days locked in my room watching his films over and over and over.
My Mom, God bless her, couldn't console me while my itinerant father was too busy running a card school at the back of a local bar during one of his trips home to give a crap.
It was left to my butch big sister Jolene to bring me to my senses with a series of sharp, yelp-inducing punches to my arms and a verbal reminder to stop "acting like a little pussy."
It came as no surprise a few years later to find my older sibling had come out of the closet to join forces with a Gothic lesbian chanteuse who simply went by the name Pain.
McQueen’s passing though up to the great motorcade in the sky merely strengthened my resolve to build a memorabilia collection to rival the biggest geek around. What started as a hobby, turned into an obsession, and outside of chasing skirt and shooting hoops it was my sole source of recreation.
My obsession, some said unhealthy while I said way fucking cool, culminated in a frenzied motorbike auction back when I’d just signed for the $4.5 million mid-level exception with the Trailblazers.
Flush with cash, the 1970 Triumph Bonneville came on to the open market after its previous owner perished on another one of his classic collection in the famous Gumball Rally. His high-speed attempt to pass a fellow rich eccentric in a souped-up Lamborghini on a Lithuanian country road had ended with his bike mangled in the bushes and his inert body propped up in a tree.
Pitted at the auction against a dashing former Superbike champion, now wildly successful property developer, I went head-to-head in my own inimitable style.
Whenever he raised, I immediately raised two-fold until he backed off at double the reserve price of $50,000. Cue the most elaborate celebrations ever seen at the prim and proper auction house and my swift rejection for daring to plant a kiss on the ruby-red lips of the staid auctioneer.
With the mid-morning heat baking the tarmac I took a moment to gaze at the beautiful amalgamation of chrome, metal and leather that rested on the kickstand before me. Satisfied it looked just as stunning as ever, I slid my black helmet on and hooked my right leg over the worn saddle. Head to the skies, I crossed my chest like a good Catholic even though the nearest I’d come to religion in my adult life was a steamy flirtation with a lapsed nun outside of Houston.
One flick of the kickstand, a turn of the key and my baby roared to life like it had just rolled off the factory line. I swung it round to face the road, opened the throttle and exited on to Wallace.
I made the short trip to "Fancy That" in record time, the Saturday morning roads clear except for an extravagant procession of hearses carrying yet another corpse from LA's exalted showbiz royalty to their resting place.
When I pulled on to the sparse patch of grass out back at the store I sensed something in the air. Instinctively I craned down to smell my armpits, but for once I'd liberally applied some deodorant in case I had the fortune to run into Maxine.
Suddenly I heard the sound of shuffling feet behind me. I climbed gingerly off the bike and slowly turned round. When the gun aiming directly at my crotch came into view I feared the worst. Fortunately it was in the hands of a slip of a black kid, who at best was pushing fifteen, more likely thirteen, and I audibly exhaled.
"Put your hands up!” he shouted in a high-pitched voice that Gary Coleman used to such lasting effect in “Different Strokes”.
This kid had balls I give him that much, nevertheless I wasn't about to be harassed by another minor for the second time in a day.
"Give me the gun kiddo," I said with a trace of relief in my voice.
"Put your motherfucking hands up punk,” he repeated with an elaborate waggle of the firearm that harked back to any number of cop shows off TV.
Now moving inextricably towards a state of overwhelming annoyance, I uttered, "Look son, I ain't got time for your shit. Run on back to Mommy and leave me the hell alone before I open up a can of whoop-ass on you."
This kind of threw him. He was obviously used to immediate abeyance from the petrified Korean storeowners he usually held up. A solitary bead of sweat inched down from his hairline and into his right eye.
He tried to blink away the salty drop, however couldn't help but raise his right hand to wipe it away. That was when I saw the side of the weapon and realised it was an imitation water pistol.
"Basic mistake kiddo, I'm not as stupid as your regular prey. Go on shoot if you want, it’s getting awfully hot and I could do with some light relief."
He looked at the gun with a quizzical expression, then back up at me.
"How did you guess?"
"The thing is kiddo the sun has a funny way of reflecting off metal, something that if you'd done your homework instead of sniffing glue, you'd know does not occur on plastic."
"Shit! You were going to be my Mona Lisa, my Notorious B I G!"
"I've got news for you son, if you'd taken the time to watch the news this past year or cased me properly you'd know I haven't got a pot to piss in."
"That's not what Tyree said to me the other day."
"Tyree Stevenson?"
He nodded a shameful affirmative.
"What are you listening to advice from that dumbass for? He couldn't tie his shoelaces without an instruction manual."
"He said you'd made it big in the NBA. Had money to burn."
"Well tell Tyree from me, I'd be more than happy to lend him my Monopoly set cuz that's the height of my hidden fortune."
"What about the bike?"
"This piece of crap? You'd fetch about ten bucks at the scrap yard if you're lucky."
I didn't fancy parting with my only true vice just yet if word got around of the history behind the machine. I took out a few dollar notes from my shorts pocket and handed it to the kid.
"What's your name?"
"Dwayne, do yourself a favour and use that money to go and get a burger or something. I'm burning up here."
"OK Mr Jones."
"Mr Jones now eh? Now that's what I call respect."
Despite the failed mini-mugging I felt sorry for the kid, who most likely would have a future that needed rose-tinted spectacles to appear anywhere near optimistic.
Just after he began to trudge off, his shoulders hunched in disappointment, I called out the only bit of advice I could muster in the circumstances.
"Hey Dwayne. Next time aim it higher and try not to flinch."
He spun round, nodded then continued down the dirt track, his burgeoning life of crime having met a surmountable albeit embarrassing obstacle. I doubt whether the LAPD would be calling me in for urgent youth counselling, but everyone needs hope even if it isn't all funfairs and candyfloss.
I unlocked the back door and poked my head furtively inside the darkened interior of the den. I retracted it as soon as I caught a whiff of the rank smell hanging like poison in the musty air.
Had Ray finally met his maker?
Images of a prostrate Ray slumped in the La-Z-Boy, blood oozing from the folds in his ample stomach, or nailed against the wall crucifixion style came to mind.
Vladimir though wasn't one of these crime lords that had a specific way of killing people who crossed, double-crossed or sometimes stupidly triple-crossed him. No meticulous arranging of the body in a symbolic yet pretentious manner. No fancy calling card or white carnation left at the scene to boast of the perpetrator either.
No Vlad, or one of his henchmen such as Oro, simply shot the shit out of you and left the scene in less time than it took to say “Perestroika”.
Clinical, quick and boy was it effective.
With my Homer Simpson handkerchief clamped tight over my nose, I conducted a search of the den, hidden room and store out front without finding anything remotely suspicious. If Ray was dead, the Grim Reaper had chosen to yank out his hell bound soul somewhere else in the city's environs.
I locked up the back door and slid an empty beer crate against the stucco wall. Sure enough when I looked in the extractor fan, I located the origin of the odious smell.
Somehow, don't ask me how, a rat had got itself lodged in the fan and taken the A-train to Sayonara Central as a result. I've never been a fan of dead animals ever since Jolene hid an expired toad in my bed as a prank back when we used to share a room in the two-down, no-up house on Tupelo Street, so I left it wedged in the crimson blades.
Ray could deal with it.
Police sirens a few blocks down snapped me out of my sickened state and I leapt off the crate on to my bike and over to Ray's place.

Copyright, Matthew Ogborn 2003

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Comments by other Members

Friday at 20:59 on 03 September 2004  Report this post
Hi Matt,

Excellent chapter. Love the way it starts. I did think it was a dream, but nice surprise to find out he’s outside in the sun, with the kid on the balcony, nice twist. I could see the whole motel set-up, well described.

We get to know Jimmy more in this chapter, where he lives, his neighbours and his ‘financial’ situation. A big come down from where he was a year ago. It flows well.

Good mix of character and plot with call from Vladimir and Ray not at the store.

Only one little criticism “Mario’s dirty vest, grease etc” – sounded like a stereotype. I know it’s LA but still it made me stop and think.

Great stuff, looking forward to chapter three.

All the best,

twister at 22:28 on 03 September 2004  Report this post
Howdy Dawn

Have to be honest and say I'm bowled over by the praise. I'm glad you enjoyed it so much. I'm trying not to stray too near stereotypes, but I'm finding it extremely hard.

The Los Angeles stereotypes we see on film and TV are pretty much what strolls the streets in the City of Angels based on my experiences there. I'm trying to give all my characters a distinctive, fresh edge and maybe I need to revisit Mario from what you say.

It will be easier to create characters that seem fresher when the story moves down in to Texas and New Orleans which haven't been ransacked as much by us creative types.

I'll whack up Chapter Three in the next few days and look forward to more feedback. Let me know what you want me to have a look at next.



syorkslad26 at 00:13 on 04 September 2004  Report this post
<I was finding it hard to avoid the aim of the Mexican kid above on the balcony. He wasn’t about to stop either. He had his Johnson out and was having a blast, wazzing all over me below>

<his eyes shielded from the sun as he looked up with a hand adorned by more jewellery than BA Baracus in his prime>

Once again you've pulled it off. You've created some more great lines that made me want to carry on reading. Loved the description of his sister and her subsequent exit from the closet. A gothic lesbian called PAIN, that made me chuckle. Take it you're a big fan of Steve McQueen aswell? I had the image of L'il Dice from the film "City of God" when reading the part of Dwayne, the kid with the gun; all guts, and potentially very dangerous. And I liked the fact that he'd been dreaming about finding Ray all along; leaves it open for the next chapter.

And I agree with Dawn, I think you fleshed your character out a lot more in this chapter.

Overall a good read and I enjoyed it yet again. Can't wait for chapter 3.



Got an apology to make, re-read that last bit and all I can say in my defence is that I'm knackered and it's late, lol. He is dead, and he isn't dreaming it, I get that now... maybe my brain will kick into gear some time soon. Still I enjoyed it, and look forward to reading the rest.


twister at 15:14 on 04 September 2004  Report this post
Afternoon Anthony

I might have to employ you and Dawn as my personal compliment givers. You know, keep you both on a retainer so you can pick me up when I'm down that sort of thing.

On a more serious note, I'm really happy the book is still working for you into Chapter Two. Out of all the shorts, film scripts, TV scripts, articles etc I've written, this has been the most enjoyable by a country mile because it reflects my personality the most.

I am not writing for someone or the market, I am writing for myself. If other people are on the same wavelength as me then this is a massive added bonus.

Film and TV scripts are so restrictive in terms of creating backstory, describing settings and reeling off sharp, edgy dialogue that it is a joy to be able to incorporate them into a novel.

I'll post up Chapter Three tomorrow, Writewords rules permitting, and feel free to peruse that also. What script/story would you like me to take a look at next?



eyeball at 21:49 on 13 September 2004  Report this post
Hi Matt,

Enjoyed this. Very visual, I can see it all happening. The section with him at home does seem to go on a long time without much happening, but it does get his home circumstances across well and is very readable. I don’t know anything about LA, but I was fully convinced by your detail.

‘excited anticipation.’ The excited seemed a word too many to me.

Love ~ Vlad the Inhaler

~ McQueen’s passing though up to the great motorcade

Wasn’t sure if ‘though’ was a typo for McQueen’s passing through? If it’s ‘though’, it needs a comma each side.

Is the kid with the gun going to feature later, or is he just background?


twister at 09:50 on 14 September 2004  Report this post
Morning Sharon. Yet again you have come up trumps.

Glad you like the LA detail, the last thing I wanted was to come off like a Limey trying to stumble his way through with a mish mash of shoddy colloquialisms and mid-Atlantic drivel.

Going to try and trim down some descriptions like 'excited anticipation' because as you pointed out I have a tendency to load up too much on descriptions. Need to be careful to keep pace snappy.

McQueen was a typo and the kid with the gun is stand alone. I wanted to show how Jimmy deals with kids early on, because a 16-year-old kid called Leo plays a major part down the line in the story.



scottwil at 04:07 on 15 September 2004  Report this post
Hi Matt, this is another good chapter, edgy and fast paced. I think the opening scene is very well handled. There's still a bit of overwriting around the dialogue for me though.
And lines like: 'his burgeoning life of crime having met a surmountable albeit embarrassing obstacle.' are a bit redundant given that we already know that the kid has failed.

This line: 'He was obviously used to immediate abeyance' kind of makes sense, but did you mean: 'instant obedience'?

Loved Vlad the Inhaler.


nudgy at 11:43 on 15 September 2004  Report this post

Another snappy, wise-cracking, LA mode Hiaasen-like chapter. Respect!
This was a lot more entertaining for me than the previous chap. it seems more personal somehow and more real. I don't know why.
I agree with the 'Vlad the Inhaler' - pure wit! and was gonna pick up on the 'abeyance' but Sion beat me to it.
I gotta say I didn't like the number 9 dropping down on the door to make a 6, it just seemed really cheesy and cliched.Just my op!
Anyway, a cracker 2nd chap which steamrolls along.

Fair play man


twister at 23:37 on 15 September 2004  Report this post
Cheers guys for the feedback. Glad you mentioned the 69 bit Dave, I've been thinking of axeing that during my rewriting the last few days. Too obvious and as you say cheesy.

Based on my use of the word 'abeyance' it means people giving in but I can see how it can be miscontstrued in this instance.

As for "Vlad The Inhaler", I get a big kick out of that finding the target. One of those names that I lucked upon but suits his character well.


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