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Featured Story, Week of February 18: "Smooth Bits" and "Bark"

Each week we feature a story written by one or two of our group members at one of our meetings. For this week's featured stories, the group each chose an individual prompt from a book of journal prompts and then applied the question to a character instead of themselves. We had 20 minutes to write.

Smooth Bits

By Bryan Mahoney

(Prompt: Think of a colloquialism that represents the informal language of a particular place and use it as dialogue.)

I could hear that he was speaking English, insofar as I understood each word. The heavy Southern drawl wasn’t the issue; it was the way he put the words together. The sentences themselves didn’t make sense, and the bloody rag in my left hand turned darker with each moment’s misunderstanding.

“Say that again but slower,” I said, wiping the flop-sweat from my face with my good hand.

“Buzzy drinks ain’t a half ham apiece,” he said. To his credit he did say it slower. It just wasn’t the answer I needed at that time.

“How is that helpful?” I blurted. “Do you have Band-Aids? I cut myself on your gas pump.”

I spoke louder and slower, the way we Americans do as if that will magically connect the vocabulary to a non-native speaker. But this guy didn’t look like he’d ever left this hick county. So much for America’s Heartland.

He doffed his dirty baseball cap and sighed.

“Can’t eat two pieces of bread when your feet are cold,” he said. He disappeared into the garage, leaving me at the counter to look over the extensive collection of cigarettes above my head. A clock on the wall read 11:30 but I knew it was well past three.

“A broken clock’s right twice a day,” I said as the attendant returned. He gave me two white rags.

“Ah,” he said with an air of recognition. “Been gittin’ these flowers up in the DJ booth and the jukebox ain’t broken.”

“Sure,” I replied, pressing my sliced palm into a rag. The cut went across like the way barbarians make a blood pact in the movies. It stung like a bitch, and I said so out loud.

“Git ’er done,” the attendant said.

“Fuckin’ A,” I said.

We stood there a moment longer, silent, one of us watching his life spill away in a dusty town in central Nowhere, the other bleeding profusely over his counter.

“Say, you sell beer here?” I asked. My mind fast-forwarded a few hours to a motel room in Texas, reviewing the next half of my journey and reflecting on how close to death I came at a gas station.

He rubbed his chin trying to translate, then pointed behind me. The cooler held a few bottles of soda and water.

“Diggin’ up seashells makes a dog-faced boy hungry,” he said.

“Indeed,” I replied.

The gush was now a trickle. With my good hand I rooted in my pocket for a twenty.

“Keep the change,” I said. I took the clean rag with me and walked out to my car.

“Smooth bits,” he said as I left.

The Camaro door was still open. I stepped over my own blood trail and entered the driver’s side. My brother focused on his phone, and spoke without looking up.

“What happened to you?” he asked.

“Smooth bits,” I said and put the car in drive.


Our second featured story, "Bark" by Maureen Fonken can be found here, at her blog "Author at Play." Her prompt was to write about the effect of a repetitive noise.

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