Friday, May 21, 2010


Click for some mood music

He was tired.

He'd been travelling too long without a decent bed. Just after lunch, he crossed the California-Nevada line and as he saw it, was headed towards Las Vegas.

He hitched a ride with an Indian native to the state. He asked the Indian what tribe he was from and the Indian welcomed the opportunity to speak of his land and people. As they drove past the Hoover Dam, the Indian told him that the state was thriving and that all the new gaming halls, kept everyone busy and employed.

Getting day work was all he worried about for the time being.

They drove.


By midday, the Indian had dropped him downtown in Las Vegas and he hit the first dice joint he saw - the El Cortez. The Indian told him that the place was built around seven years ago for $245,000 and was "The Bee's knees..."

He spent the better part of the afternoon courting Lady Luck, and after realizing he was up about what was worth a carton of cigarettes, he found the casino's coffee shop to get his first meal of the day.

Her name was Joy and she was the hostess at the El Cortez Coffee Shop. He asked her for a quiet table away from the counter and as she seated him, poured him some coffee. Black.

""You look like you can use some high-test," she said with the slightest hint of an accent.

He tried to place it but couldn't and asked,

"Where are you from? That's an awfully sweet voice you have."

She explained that her family was part of the early spice trade in St. Croix and her island accent was a mish-mash of every country that flew it's flag on the tiny caribbean isle.

"You can hear everything from French to Spanish to Dutch," she explained.

"It's gorgeous," he said.

She smiled. "Thank you..."

"-- Jack," he said. "I'm Jack..."


He rented a room in the Red Light district of town, not far from Freemont and was pretty excited that Joy actually agreed to grab a bottle after her shift and join him.

Granted, the room looked like Louella Parsons' armpit but he was tired and needed something with springs to sleep on. He poured some of the Canadian Club into a mug left behind on the room's dirty sink and offered it.

Kicking off her heels, she scoffed. "I'll drink from the bottle, thanks."

"My kinda girl..." he said swigging the mug before handing over the bottle.

He turned on the radio. Tinny speakers bled the horn of Charlie Parker. Jack shut his eyes and it seemed for a moment, he needed the music more than the whiskey.

Bird spoke to him and he plucked his notebook from the satchel, scribbling something furiously.

Joy arched her eyebrow and then cocked her head, unsure now, of why she was even there.

"I'll be one second, darlin. Just gotta get this down...."

"Well, If you're gonna write, I'm gonna read," she said pulling a small hardcover from her purse.

That peaked his interest. He walked over to her and inspected the spine which read: 'The Naked and the Dead.'

"What's a cupcake like you doin' readin' a war novel?"

"Norman Mailer is a genius," she said snatching back the book.

He giggled condescendingly. "He's a horse's ass is what he is. He was a fuckin' cook. What combat did he see? Anyone who reads a newspaper could've written that."

"Oh, and I suppose you're a writer," Joy snapped, a little more than half-insulted.

"Damn straight, sweetie..." he winked.

"So what do you write about?" she asked swigging a little more hooch.

"I write about real stuff. Me. My friends," he answered. "... And women."

"So what's this great book going to be called?"

He shrugged. "I'm thinking of calling it something like 'On the Highway."

"Were you on many highways?"

He bent over to tie one of his shoes. The lace was about to snap. "More than I can remember, darlin'."

"I like 'On the Road,' better," she said. "Snappier..."

He wasn't sure what to make of her suggestion and kept repeating to himself and then got lost in an approving knod. Then he wrote it down.

He took one last swig from the bottle and kissed her forehead. "I can't hang with a chick who reads Mailer. No offense."


After he left, Joy just stared at the door for what seemed to be something like a half hour. Did that bastard really leave? She thought of leaving herself but the room, shitty as it may be, was paid for. So she decided to finish the Canadian Club and pondered her mystery man.

Some writer, she kept thinking.

"'On the Road' ... Who would ever read that?"

About the artist: If you recognize the style of the amazing painting above it's because it's by Rudy Nappi, the talented illustrator who painted a plethora of Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys book covers. Read more about him HERE.

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  1. Fun take on inspiration for a legend.

    Now, who was Joy, really? ;)

  2. Don't think I could hang with a chick who read Mailer either...

    We honoured Bukowski at our live reading yesterday. He got lots of props. Not least from me as my novel is as told by a female barfly.


    marc nash

  3. JK would be proud by this inspired work, probably happened just like that. Nice bluesy 50s feel here ant.

  4. Kerouac seems to popping up all over the place for me this week. Again, this one has your smooth, bluesy feel. Fun bit of speculation.

  5. Much to love here, Anthony. Your story is fabulous, the mood music perfect and the painting gorgeous. The cherry on top is the information about Rudy Nappi. I was a HUGE fan of Nancy Drew when I was a girl and didn't know anything about the man who painted the covers. This was SO interesting. Thanks for the whole package. A lot of work and worth every minute.

  6. Who indeed. :)

    This is a great huge snapshot of a lot of travel, well balanced with the one guy's perspective.

    I know who he is, but really, apart from the in joke ending it's a good story without knowing.

  7. Another playful bit of historical fiction. Not only are you talented but you're scary smart.

  8. Nice period feel to this and I can imagine it happening just like that.

  9. i love the blend of this. how she's reading Mailer and has no angle on Kerouac. great stuff...keep em comin.

  10. I'd leave too if some chick was reading Mailer. He is a horse's ass. Great little flash. Jack would have gotten a kick out of it.

  11. Anthony, top piece as usual. Read it with the music on and it just adds to the atmosphere. Love the first picture as well. My wife used to greet me when I got home from work looking like that and then we had kids. Go figure!!!

  12. Thanks Ant, not just for this, but for giving me a taste for the whole beat generation thing with this blog. You're introducing me to a whole world beyond my ken and country.

  13. Love it. And what a fine host you are to provide us with the perfect music.

    JK is smiling somewhere, saying, "I didn't think I told anybody about that..."

    You get it right every time.

  14. Yeah, the mood music was the perfect accompaniment to reading the story.

    On the Highway really wouldn't have had the same panache. :)

    Great story.

  15. Loved this -- the music, the theme, the subject. Comparing the room to Louella Parson's armpit -- priceless. Peace...

  16. "He spent the better part of the afternoon courting Lady Luck," ... "Tinny speakers bled the horn of Charlie Parker." ... and my absolute fave ~ "What's a cupcake like you doin' readin' a war novel?"

    SUPER LINES ANT ... greater yet in how they're set in story swing. You're bringin' on tone, mood, and us into the room ... the paid-for room. Pour that Canadian C - this tale needs another swig.

    Best o'best though? Flashin' right in the comment lines ... I was lovin' the Nancy Drew reminiscent feel along with Cathy Olliffe and you confirmed it for us. Al Bruno calls you 'scary smart' and now you've got Barry learning beat genre instead of "Chasing the Wind", plus the big reveal on why David Barber has kids. Man ... you're some revealing time and how-it-coulda-been writer.

    ~ Absolutely*Kate

  17. I've never read any Mailer, I feel I should just so that I can join in the collective distaste here!

    I think the chick was pretty cool despite reading Mailer though :)

    I'll echo what Barry said, this was a fun trip into a different time and place for me

  18. Anthony, I want to echo Barry's comments. Being an Aussie, I don't know much about the periods or places you mention, but I sure as hell am learning fast!
    Thanks for a great read, you do this so very well!

  19. "You can hear everything from French to Spanish to Dutch," she explained.

    "It's gorgeous," he said.

    She smiled. "Thank you..."

    "-- Jack," he said. "I'm Jack..."

    Had me grinning pretty wide.

    Peggy, who was Joy? Why obviously, she's CS Lewis's wife.

  20. John's comment reminded me that I was drawn to the fact that her *sweet* voice, hailed from lands of the *spice trade*.

    Damn, Mr V. You innuendo swell.
    ~ Absolutely*Kate

  21. "Louella Parsons' armpit..." Man oh man. You sure can come up with the snappy lines. Gotta say, I'd have taken the gal, Mailer or not. Love the link to Rudy Nappi's work as well. So many uncelebrated artists turned out book covers that sold the story from the dime store racks.

  22. I loved hearing Bird in the background, but then again, I'm a sax player. You captured a great scene and I adore the pic you put with this. Nice slice of flash there, Ant. I like the grainy jazzy vibe of your work.

  23. Thanks everyone for reading... This one was pretty fun to write. Coulda happened, right?? ;)

  24. A guy's gotta have his priorities straight. Absolutely coulda happened this way.

    As usual, your class, writing voice, and time period flair absolutely won me over. The saxy music put me in the mood ;p. Great work.

    The same artist as Nancy Drew and The Hardy boys? How cool is that. LOVED the art.

  25. Loved the line that he needed music more than whiskey. Great atmosphere and humor!



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