Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Winner of the Flash Fiction Challenge: Patrick Nelson

Owen D. Bank by Patrick Nelson

I tell you one thing; no man is gonna turn down a chance to be with that woman right there if it presents itself. I don't care who you are or what your situation is. You better check your pulse if she doesn't stir something in you when she looks your way and smiles. Well, that's just what happened. 

I'm a realist. I know when a woman glances at a man on the street and gives him a little half grin, nine times out of ten she's really thinking about the laundry she still has to pick up or "I really hope he doesn't talk to me". Y'know? look, I'm not the kind that tells all his friends "she wants my shit real bad" or "I'm gonna get some of that". . . Well when she walked  right up to me and said "Hey handsome, what's your tune?" I almost fell right out. "you speaking to me Ma'am?" I stuttered like a fool. "Who else is standing here but you, slick? And who are you calling  'ma'am'?" she came back. Yeah, love at first sight , I tell you. At first I thought she might be a pro, but there was something about her that made me forget that notion.

Once I caught up to my mouth, I shot back "I just been waitin’ for you, little lady." Real Romeo shit there. 

"Is that so? well, the funny thing is I had no Idea that I was even going to speak to you at all until I was two steps in front of you" she said.

Still a little shaken, I wondered aloud "Yeah, what can I do for you? It isn't every day a beautiful woman like you steps right up to a man like me and says 'boo' let alone act like I might have something she might want to discuss. . ."

"Look, I'm gonna cut to the chase. I need a handsome young man like you to make my husband jealous"

"Whoa, you're just gonna have to pull that train back into the station, lady! What the hell are you talking about?"  I heard myself say. 

"It's not like you think. It's very innocent and no one's gonna get hurt. I just want you to pretend like there's something going on between us so my husband will finally pay some attention to me."

"Oh, no you don't!" I told her, "I heard about this kinky shit and you two are gonna just have to get off with some other dude." Yet a certain sweaty part of me was flashing past the idea of it in my head.

Kind of irritated, she shot back "It's not like that and you're just a little sick for even thinking what I think you're thinking. No, my husband and I live a couple of blocks away from here. We just moved in to town for his new job and for the last two weeks, he has been so busy with his work that he hasn't even paid any attention to me. I just want him to see me talking to you and get some of his brain working on me again. . . I don't know anybody here, but then again, neither does he. I can make it worth your while. . ." She explained this part while holding her purse in front of her and lightly grinding the tip of one shoe on the cement. A little innocent .

"Wow. That is some definite crazy lady shit you just laid out for me, you know that? Of course you do. You're the crazy lady who just walked up to a complete stranger and got even stranger. This shit has jail cell written all over it." I wasn't sure if I should walk away from her right then - or run. Still that other voice just started to whisper shit to me: "C'mon man! What could it hurt? This way you could at least spend a little more time near her. With her." 
Riiiight.

"You just seemed like a decent guy from the look of you and I thought you would help. Please? He's normally such a good husband, but when he gets into his work, he just kind of 'goes away' a little. I love him and realize he needs to concentrate but I'm still right there next to him. . ." she said. "I'll pay you and you don't have to do anything really. Just stand on the street outside our apartment and talk to me. We just stand and talk until he takes a break and looks out at us and sees us together" she said.

"This is just too weird. You realize how nuts you sound? Let me get this straight: you want me to just stand in front of your place and chat with you so your husband sees us, comes running downstairs and tries to kill me? Right?" I said.

"No! It's not like that! -He's not like that! This IS sounding crazy, isn't it?" She was backing away a little. I didn’t want her to. She added "Maybe you're right and this was just too nuts, but I'm so afraid and I don't know what else to do. We haven't been married for very long and I have no one else to talk to. I don’t know what to do."

OK, here were my options starting to become solid in the fog: Be a dog or be a man. Take advantage of the lonely woman or be a friend to the helpless little girl. Tip her into my arms with guilt; "you just figured you'd make your husband really jealous and it wouldn't be less effective if you chose a black man." Or tip her back to her husband with reason; "you need to get your ass off the street and back up to that apartment and talk that shit out. . ." 

Decisions, decisions. . .
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I chose Patrick Nelson’s story because it satisfied all the things that I look for in a story.  Nelson’s story had a strong story arc but still left me wanting to know what the next event was that would happen.  I also felt like his story felt genuine to me.  His Owen D. Bank was exactly like some of the cool black men that I often see myself envying.  Owen was a real person and Nelson’s story felt a bit like a chapter out of a Walter Mosley story of the “Black Betty” variety.  I wished I was half as cool.
There was a lot to like in all these stories, which all had a power that reflected the gentleman in the painting.  It was really great the way that Pheyos’ story related to the one he had written earlier about Bob Frapples.  It had a strong sense of plot and was in some ways very similar to Notta Viking’s and Shervin Sahba’s.  Each had a sense of history, strong dialog, nostalgia and pathos.  Sahba’s in particular had a powerful, sense of place, with his reference to Canal Street, street people and lost dreams.

Jordan Robinson and Luz del Sol share in that they specifically dealt with lost dreams and some hopes.  I saw the possibility of a better tomorrow much in the same tone as Langston Hugh’s “Raisin in the Sun.”  The characters sentiments, that feel almost like grudges about dreams lost, were expressed effectively through internal dialog.  I knew I was in for a treat when I read Luz del Sol’s great opening line, “Mama never was my mother.”

Thank you all for writing such wonderful stories!

You can read them all on the earlier post: