Thursday, April 29, 2010

A PUMA IN SEARCH OF HER CUB (flash fiction)

* This is an older piece that I've reworked significantly for a couple of reasons. First, it had so much spammy comments that I figured I'd be better off just re-posting. More importantly, though, a fellow writer (he knows who he is) gave me a stupendous piece of advice earlier. Here's me trying to follow it.


Rebecca was having that kind of day. When one of the stock room boys referred to her as a 'puma,' she didn't know whether to be insulted at assumption of her age or complemented by his attraction.

She rolled her eyes and shot him a quick smile from behind her register. Rebecca couldn't be pissed at him. And plus, she saw this college kid more than her own boyfriend, Scott. The mall was closing and she asked him if he needed a ride home, but he told her that he was meeting friends at Smitty's Roadhouse.

Rebecca was bummed. She could've used the company and dreaded that dark 45-mile drive home. Mile post after mile post, it just gave her that much more to think about. Especially the mall job. She took that shitty night job in town specifically because Scott didn't know what the fuck he was doing and after all, someone had to pay the cable and buy the Puppy Chow. Right about now that cute stock boy was looking better and better -- especially as those shopping mall lights twinkled in her rear view.

Needing to get her life out of her head, Rebecca turned on the radio, which, by the way only tuned into three local stations. One was a Jesus freak station and the others were static-ridden AM country or the equally static-fueled FM pop. Needing to get her Duran Duran on, she chose the latter.

The closer she got into Harlan, the station became clearer and she thought it was odd that the deejay kept rambling on about some messy explosion. Her first thought was, uh-oh...

Sure enough, that night it exploded and the air was filled with that pungent smell of bleach, acid, ammonia and rotten eggs. Meth - the kind of stench you remember a lifetime later after you die - permeated throughout hills.

As as she drove up County Road 51, she saw remnants of their rented cold water shack blasted all over the front yard and oddly, she felt a liberating sense of relief. She didn't have to worry about Scott anymore.

As Rebecca scooped up her suitcase and threw whatever in it, she took a moment to decide if this was enough to make her leave Appalachia once and for all. Once she gave her statement to the sheriff, Rebecca knew it was.

She got into her car and drove to the nearest gas station, filled up and got directions to Smitty's Roadhouse. A weight had been lifted.

I hope he's still there, was all she kept thinking.


  1. Bleak, yet hopeful and redemptive. That's not easy to pull off. I liked this one.

  2. I remember this one from a 6S challenge and have a story that goes with it. This one is solid and bluesy, like you were have a whiskey or 2? Nice chops here.

  3. You have a good memory, Michael... I posted the initial 6S Challenge and called it "The Suitcase Girl." In any case, I gave the piece a whole backstory and hopefully freshed it out a bit more. Good eye...

  4. I like this. Michael's word 'bluesy' fits it well and it ends on an upnote. Well written!

  5. This reminds me of a movie with Jennifer Aniston, The Good Girl. She hooks up with a younger coworker and leaves her boring life with hubby. In your story, I think you could expand even more and show us her relationship with Scott, why she is willing to put up with this lifestyle and support it financially. If she loved him she would be so nonchalant about losing him and yet she doesn't seem afraid of him either so I'm not sure why she hasn't just left long ago. Also, did Scott die and why aren't the cops on her too...she lived there...and what was going on is definitely illegal.

    I just had trouble understanding her situation and I think a few more scenes, dialog, and room would give you time to make this shine, but it is an interesting story and you could do a lot with it.

    You use the term Puma and most people just say Cougar...I know the animal is the same thing practically, but the term itself is more widely known as Cougar...If a guy called me a puma..I'm not sure I'd know he was being flirty....cougar...oh yeah...not that I'm a cougar you see...oh no, uh huh....nope.

  6. Hey Paula... thanks for the feedback.

    The term "puma" is slang for a younger cougar... I guess it's not that widely used ;)


  7. Anthony - Puma's, Cougar's, that young kid missed out on a treat! Great story, man. You certainly do write great falsh fiction. Loved it.

  8. learn something new everyday :)


    I'll have to listen for it

  9. Great stuff, Ant. Love trailer park meth labs, and your heroine has that class above trash that makes her plucky. Solid stuff. Peace...

  10. I didn't know about "pumas" either. I guess I just assumed you went from prowling girl to cougar with age.

    Glad I've never smelled meth. Was already glad for it, but this helps.

    Also glad she had a weight lifted. Interesting piece, Anthony.

  11. "Puma"? "Cougar"? It's so much easier for us guys- we just turn into "Dirty Old Men"!

    Great story, a prelude and an ending all at once.

  12. I like the feel of this piece, but when you use a real-world place I wonder if the details are accurate. Is there a mall 45 miles from Harlan? In what town? Is there a CR-51 there? I haven't been out that way in a number of years, but I'm not finding those features on my map.

  13. So that is what that smell is, Meth lab, huh? You would think in White Trash America, I could put a name on that. Either kuddos for me, or I should really pick up the local paper.

    We only have 3 stations too ;-)I am so glad your puma had an out, lucky girl!

    Great writing

  14. @Tim ...

    << Is there a mall 45 miles from Harlan? >>

    Well, Tim not exactly sure but I'm pretending there is for the sake of my piece.

    << In what town? >>

    Dunno... It's unnamed in my piece.

    << Is there a CR-51 there? I haven't been out that way in a number of years, but I'm not finding those features on my map. >>

    As far as I know, Tim, there is Route 51 in Kentucky... Maybe I should change it to that instead of a County Road. For the most part, tho, I was taking some creative liberties...

  15. Anthony, if there isn't any of the above in the place where your story is set, does it matter? It's fiction. The woman and the kid probably don't exist so maybe you shouldn't have written about them either. :-)
    A great story.

  16. I thought you did it perfectly, Anthony. You gave enough details without clogging up the scenery. And I find her hopeless, rather than hopeful, that she'd tie herself up with a mall rat rather than find her own way ... but she rings so true. I know women like this.
    Love the way you write.

  17. Love the piece, especially the finish. Had to laugh at Puma - cougar is getting overused!

  18. Hurrah for her, no-good Scott is blown up in a bleachy explosion! I suppose, for you, that's as happy as endings get ;)


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