My writer’s group short story collection theme for next year is “The Supernatural That Walks Among Us.” I thought I’d give another go at a story I started years ago. It involves a Norse god and a young woman around whom the laws of physics like to go a little wonky. It was originally envisioned as a novel, but I’m going to try for a short story and cut out some of the extraneous elements.
This was another project started during my Great Books class, I think. Reading some of those old philosophers and learning even a little bit about quantum mechanics can pretty much throw your entire world view out of wack, and this was kinda the result.
This is the opening. It’ll probably need to be cut down for space and pacing, and maybe tweaked a bit to give it a more definite point of view. At any rate, it’s a start.The Weirdness Magnet
Jay’s Grill had squatted at Pockets, Arizona’s only intersection for as long as any of the small community’s two hundred and three citizens could remember. Only the gas station across the street had been in town longer. However, many in the town no longer considered the gas station, recently purchased by an international oil conglomerate, to be the same place in which they had worked during high school. The big corporation had fully renovated the gas station, firing the old man who had pumped there for decades, installed pay-at-the-pump credit card readers, and erected a huge, bright sign that could be seen for miles. The gas station, with its shiny new floor-to-ceiling windows and elaborate automated car wash stood in stark contrast to Jay’s chipped paint and faded checkerboard tiles. The former employees and owners of the old gas station now spent their days sitting on Jay’s cracked and threadbare barstools, glaring at the pretty eyesore across the empty highway.
Jay’s dusty façade had seen its share of visitors over the years. Pockets straddled an intersection of two major interstate highways leading in all directions to “nowhere you’d wanna go,” as a stalwart regular was fond of muttering when strangers asked for directions. A few black and white photos and Polaroid snapshots pinned to the wall behind the bar proudly displayed a variety of small-time country and western stars, a few football greats, and even the fastest man alive, Chuck Yeager, with whom Jay Sr. had served in World War II.
However, on this warm but pleasantly breezy day in November, Jay’s hosted a stranger the likes of which had never been seen in Pockets, Arizona. The stranger was the biggest man the town had ever seen; he filled the window booth, his knees bumping the table. His huge hands splayed across the table, as though he might crumple it with sheer might. He was also quite ugly, with a squarish, blunted face that looked like someone had smacked it with a frying pan. A heavy brow nearly obscured his eyes. Long black hair crashing in tangled waves over broad shoulders. Jay couldn’t determine whether the man had a neck. His clothes were well-worn, simple jeans and a baggy white t-shirt. Jay Jr., no small man himself, wondered at such a shirt as could look big and loose on someone so huge.
The stranger rumbled through Jay’s doorway around noon, took a seat, and requested in a deep but oddly soothing voice, only water. For six hours he sat, staring out a window that offered nothing but a view of the gas station. The least popular seat in the diner, the stranger had gotten no guff from the locals, only strange, questioning looks. The regulars came and went, casing inquisitive looks to Jay, who could only shrug, as ignorant as they. Occasionally, Jay hesitantly attempted small talk with the man, but received little response. As dusk approached, he tried again.
“So,” Derek said, feigning to wipe down a perfectly clean nearby table, “what brings you to Pockets? On your way to find work? I hear they’re opening a new plant in Tuscon.”
The stranger looked away from the window a moment to study Jay, then took a drink from his glass of water. The cup vanished in his calloused hand, and the stranger looked like some mime drinking imaginary drinks. “I’m here,” he finally said.
“Er,” Jay paused, uncertain as to what the stranger’s cryptic remark might mean. “Not much to do around here,” he said, “unless you like farming dust.”
“I am not here to farm,” the stranger said, apparently oblivious to the sarcasm. “I am meeting an old friend.” He scrutinized a passing car, then looked back at Jay. “And when he gets here, I must kill him.”