Saturday, May 3, 2014

Drink isn't Drink

Because I'm a goose and panicked that I wouldn't fulfill my word, I wrote up my own Chatterbox piece between bouts of wheel-barrowing mulch thither and yon today. My shoulders don't thank me for the work, but I had plenty of time for thinking so it all worked out. This piece belongs with Mob Ink. Enjoy!


“May I have a glass of water?” It came out more Oliver Twistian than Fizz had hoped. He’d try again: “I can’t possibly continue with the story till I’ve had a drink.”
Camel gave Spinks a nod. Spinks slank (slinked? Fizz had never been certain of the past tense) to a rusty latch in the wall and turned it. A piece of sheet-rock fell back, revealing a cache as deep and wide as the proverbial fountain flowing. Inside the cache were rows upon rows of flat, amber-shot bottles.
“Brandy.” Spinks took a bottle and brought it to Fizz with a very graceless have at the bow of maitre d'.
“From the waist, not the knees,” Fizz directed. He took the proffered bottle and turned it in the dim light of the warehouse. The muted warmth it gave off was admirable in a world that seemed to be nothing but sheet metal and concrete blocks. “Brandy? Under the ban?”
Spinks rolled his shoulders and eyed the flask. “We’re a mob, loony. Less a’ the stuff the country gets, more of it we gets.”
Camel moved one long leg over the other.
“You got any business sense?” Spinks snapped.
Fizz thought of a recent conversation involving Marvin and something about premiums and interest. “Afraid not. Numbers were never my game.”
Camel grunted. “Yeah, but stories is and till you’s started talking, we ain’t gonna let you off our guns.”
Oh, the guns. He’d almost grown used to having conversations with a Colt .45. So much so, he’d failed to notice Camel and Spinks both wore trench coats--and you could count on one thing for sure: if a man wears a trench coat, it’s never for rain.
Conscious of a tickle in his throat, Fizz tossed the brandy to Spinks with a shrug. He hadn’t seen anything stiffer than apple juice, let alone tasted it, in a solid year, but now was not the time to get bubbly and lose his bearings. Perfectly nonchalant. Fizz took pride in the accomplishment of that toss and shrug, for nonchalance often seemed to go with numbers and The Charleston on his list of Things I Am Less Than Good At.
“I can’t tell a story till I’ve had a drink.”
“Then have some and stop yippin’.”
“Water,” Fizz said in an equally impatient tone.
“Water?” Spinks laughed a choppy, disbelieving laugh and elbowed Camel who, till then, had not seemed to find anything interesting.
“Oh yeah,” Camel said, “Water? Ha heh ha.”
Up this awkward moment, Fizz had assumed the humorless-sidekick gag to be a product of  the below-average imagination of filmmakers in Hollywood. Evidently, it was not.
When Spinks was done making fun of his prisoner’s demand, he settled into a naily glare. “You come up to Eddie Harold Howard--to us--and splash our work all over the newsstands with your book and trow yourself on Big Eddie’s good graces and refuse a glass a’ his gold?”
“Don’t you have any water?”
Spinks pocketed one hand and the flask together then ambled to the cache and latched the door with his free hand. He brought out his other hand but the flask remained hidden. Somehow, Fizz got the idea Spinks saw a lot less of the gold he was so hot over than he’d like his storyteller to know.
“You don’t have water, do you?”
Camel looked up to check with Spinks then bit off his thumbnail in a contemplative fashion more suited to a student of Plato than a gangster with a .45.
“Well, no,” he said. “We can’t have it lookin’ like this is an unabandoned abandoned warehouse, can we? We can’t just go grinnin’ up to d’Lord High Mayor and ask him to send us a water-bill, now can we? gotta keep it abandoned so no one knows anyone lives here, see?”
Put in that way, Fizz had to agree that life as a mobster was on par with exploring the Sahara Desert, as far as the peril of dying of thirst went. It could have been delirium brought on by excessive dehydration, but Fizz seemed to have a vision of himself stopping gang-violence and repealing Prohibition all at once by marching to the Mayor of Chicago himself. It would be a simple conversation: he would explain that the reason gangs smuggled liquor at all was because they were too humble to ask for water.
“Give them water, Mr. Mayor, and the demand for liquor supply would go right down. Then you’d need no Prohibition laws because people would drink responsibly--or not at all! Because, dear Mr. Mayor, when you’ve had a nice glass of water, do you yearn for a glass of sherry? Oh, you do? Well, the American Citizen would likely not, and if he did ... well. Yes, Mr. Mayor, no need to shove. I was just on the point of seeing myself out.”
Oh, the gangs had it very rough indeed. But he guessed it was not written in his script to sort it all out.
“Hurry up with da story!” Spinks shouted. One wing of his trench coat flapped eagerly.
Fizz settled his back against the cinder-blocks and thought about licking moisture off the bricks. "As a point of interest, Mr. Spinks, I'm still thirsty."


Elisabeth Grace Foley said...

Slunk! :)

This is fun. Loved the bits about the humorless-sidekick gag and being 'too humble to ask for water.'

Incidentally, have you ever seen the movie Lady For a Day? This made me of think of it, since it features a gangster with a wisecracking sidekick and an exceedingly dumb one. Some great lines in that script too!

daysease said...

OOOh... Nice snippet. LOVE that image. Dark, brooding, dramatic. Perfect for a story scene.

Rachel Heffington said...

Daysease, thanks a million for all the sweet comments. As is obvious, I've been out of the country so do forgive me for not replying sooner! Mirriam Neal is a peach; I am glad to know her friends. ^.^