Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Luke N. Goode Competition Winners! Matt O' Malley and Ron Slattery

Luke N. Goode 10"x8" is for sale for $220 on Etsy
Luke N. Goode by Ron Slattery
He died alone. What family he had... descended like vultures upon his house. They took everything of value. The rest was consigned to an estate sale company. The bones of his life were about to be picked clean.

I knew him as a good neighbor. Quiet, reserved. He carried dignity like an umbrella. It was just something he used when needed. Small deeds that impressed the working class folks on our street. He would give the kids a quarter. It always made them smile.

The day of the estate sale, we crossed the street to join the line of buyers. There were a lot of people in front of us. The company was letting them in 10 at a time. We waited on the sidewalk. Our number was 32.

While we waited, I had time to think about Mr. Good. To me, he always seemed above the neighborhood. Not a snooty attitude... but more of a man who has seen things that would be hard to describe to the working man. I heard rumors that he was once lived in New york and worked as actor.

As I stood on the sidewalk,. I felt like an patron waiting to see a Broadway play. We waited in line to see what was inside. Some came to seek treasure, others were people from the houses on the block. We all wanted to know more about Mr. Good.

Our number became important and we were allowed in the house. The antique dealers and savvy sharpies had stripped all the valuable items. The house looked ravaged. The hyenas had fed. The scraps were left for the rest of us.

In the bedroom... on a dresser... I found a small framed picture of him. It had a brass frame that looked like a matinee curtain. Inside was the man we knew as a neighbor. I brought the small item up to the card table at the check out. The estate sale people looked at me with boredom. I didn't even ask a price. I just held it up to face them. One sighed "How about a quarter". I dug in my pocket for the change.

I got outside and looked at the photo. There are times when the smallest of things mean the most to you. It might have been price ten dollars and I still think I would have bought it. It was part of my neighborhood. Our history.

It was a good buy. 

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Pandering by Matt O'Malley

Luke peeked around the sticky-yellowed window blind and through the portion of the window he had cleaned when he first moved into the room the previous week. Beyond the Elevated, he could see the setting sun cloaked in the orange smoky haze that tinged the sky and outlined the nearby tenement buildings, factories and more distant skyscrapers. Below the Elevated’s tracks, Luke had a clear view of the street and his target’s dark grime covered storefront windows and doorway.

On the sidewalk, a woman in a heavy overcoat pushed a covered baby carriage as a group of sailors sang together in drunken step.  A milk delivery truck was parked mid-street between a drab colored Hudson and black Packard, and just around the corner, Luke could just make out a buxom blonde in a short skirt and sweater. She was checking her watch.

Luke checked his watch then glanced at the Thompson machinegun and newspaper on the spring mattress. It was 5:40. He had to complete his business exactly at 5:54; that was when the Elevated would careen around the bend overhead, creating a concealing racket.

It was time go.

Luke let the window blind fall into place, picked up the folded month old Chicago Sun Times newspaper and stared at one of the columned articles. The story was about a gang’s accountant being assassinated and a witness who stepped forward, proudly proclaiming “I never forget a face”. The witness allowed a newspaper photographer to snap his photo. Luke absorbed the image.

“Sorry Mac” Luke mused, “Should’ve kept your mouth shut like the rest.”

Luke tossed the paper onto the bed, walked over to the round black and white rag rug in front of the small sink and looked into the oval mirror above. He had shaved this morning but decided he needed a little more cologne. He checked his eyebrows and with tweezers, removed a couple of renegade hairs. He then tucked in his shirt, dressed in his blue suit jacket, straightened his red tie and then cocked his thumb as he looked into the mirror, “Luke N Good”, he grinned, “Pow!”

Luke slung the Thompson over his shoulder, its strap allowed it to hang low to his side. He then dressed in his grey overcoat and a pair of gloves. One last check and he tipped his fedora to his reflection in the mirror.

Outside and Luke watched from the flophouse doorway as his twenty dollars went to work; the street corner blonde strolled along the sidewalk and escorted the Irish blue blooded sentry down the block and out of view of the target’s place of business.

Luke slid his hand though a slit in his overcoat that allowed him to steady his Thompson.  A breeze played with the exhaust from a manhole cover and newspapers bounded down the block as Luke crossed the street. He kept his gaze to the ground to conceal his face from any potential witnesses.

In his target’s doorway, Luke slowly turned the doorknob and tried to open the door as quietly as possible; door chimes however announced his entry. Luke quickly closed the door behind him and when he turned he found himself surrounded by a gallery of faces, mixed media portraits on white walls. The place was an art house of sorts.

Luke took only a fugitive glance at the faces on the walls; he was here on business. He tried to make a mental layout of the rooms to be seen to figure out where his target might be. He then stepped quietly, deeper into the main room, raising his Thompson and holding it in both hands as he went. Then something caught his eye. In an otherwise bare alcove to his left, and as if in a place of honor, Luke saw a familiar image. It was a portrait of Look N Good himself.

Luke’s mouth dropped open and he quickly side-stepped into the alcove, alternating his glances from his portrait and to the doorway that led to the next room. When he was a step away from the portrait, he took a long hard look at himself in paint and smirked. He then took a long look back at the doorway to the next room and listened, nothing.

He brought the side of his face within inches of the canvas. He could smell the paint.

Luke quickly glanced to the doorway to the next room, listened for a few moments, nothing. He then turned so he was now face to face with his portrait. He marveled at the brushstrokes how easily they seemed to give him the perfect eyebrows. He looked at the boutonnière in his portrait. Yes, Luke remembered, he was wearing a pink flower on his lapel the day he gunned down the accountant. He wanted to straighten out his collar in the painting but could only straighten his own.

A thought crept into the back of Luke’s mind that someone was behind him. He quickly turned around, grabbing his Thompson in a flurry of movements and pointed it towards the doorway that led to the next room.

Only the portraits on the opposing walls returned his stare.  Luke listened. He squinted his eyes and listened. Nothing.  He released a breath, turned towards the painting and again listened for sounds coming up behind him. When he had assured himself he was indeed still alone, Luke returned his thoughts and concentration to his portrait. 

Luke removed a glove and with his finger followed a brushstroke around his portrait’s eye.  He then traced a smile line down the side of his painted face. He removed his other glove. He had to have this painting. He reached up and put both hands on the frame and began to remove the picture from the wall.

Luke didn’t hear the cocking of the gun over the sound of the Elevated as it careened around the bend overhead, but he most certainly heard the phrase, “You catch more flies with honey.”
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Damn guys!  Why’d you all have to be so good?  I know that there are two drawings but I think I owe more than two of you drawings this week.  The two top picks this week are Ron Slattery and Matt O’Malley.  I’m also going to send a drawing to Stephen Rogers but it won’t be of Luke since I only have two drawings. 

Not that I think that “pandering” really gets anyone anywhere but I did think that Slattery and O’ Malley both were so in the spirit of the “Renovated Reputations” project that I’d like to take them out and buy them coffee and give them each a piece of pie.

Ron Slattery’s story charmed the hell out of me.  Ron really get’s what this project is about too and I think we have a lot in common.  He is the king of brevity and good humor and he and his blog are the inspiration for this project.  Visit Ron’s  blog at http://www.bighappyfunhouse.com/ .  Ron collects vintage vernacular photographs and publishes them to his blog with often one word titles that are absolutely perfect just like the story he posted. 

After I read the story I realized who Matt O’ Malley was “Pandering” to!  What a crack up!  I thought as I started reading the story that it was going to be a satisfying pulp fiction noir style story, it was, but it was also a funny reference to a very familiar series of painted portraits.   Thanks Matt (I think.)  I really loved it!

Jeepers creepers look at Luke’s peepers!  “LOOKIN' for LUKE N. GOOD” by Stephen Rogers the essence of flash fiction economical, clever and played with ideas and words.  I liked the reference to windows and curtains, subliminal reference to the frame on the painting.  Damn he’s good and he really nailed it.  His theme was also in the same mind as some of the other authors.

Some very cool themes for the stories this week!  The stories dealt with a wide range of characters each dealing with something that haunts them.  The themes for each story dealt with the realities of aging, regrets, and the fact that despite our age, we still have the same insecurities and desires as teenagers.  Remember Harvey Fierstein line in “Torchsong Trilogy?”   I think most of these characters are motivated by the same thing, “I just wanna be loved.”

"Indentations on a Familiar Wall"  by D.G. Brosky another wow!  Brosky’s story was very intelligent with a great ending.  Brosky sketch provides a scene that is very visual and provides a  complete vignette that encapsulates a life.  The imagery in his story reminded me of a painting I made once called “Drifters.”

Milk of Magnesium P.I. by Patrick Nelson a pretty sardonic, unpredictable look at the life of a senior citizen detective.   The story has a great conversational tone as if you’re sitting across from Luke at the Proud Rooster drinking a cup of dishwater coffee.  The story stops at a great point of departure and the really cool part of it is that it’s the story within the story.  The themes he approaches through his characters are age and the fact that we never quite get our shortcomings or our chips off our shoulders.

What a charming story!  I am very partial to “The Zabar Tales - Take Your Turn” by Gigi DeVault.  Obviously she hit on a gestalt that I love from a distance, a New York story.  In a short amount of prose DeVault constructed a clear coherent story complete with plot, setting, and a charming almost magic ending.  It’s almost a love story.  Take a chance on it I think you’ll like her odds.

“Good to Go” by Helen Chapman was perhaps the most complete and surprising story of the group.  I didn’t see it coming I was so wrapped up in the setting and the character development that I didn’t realize where Chapman was taking me. 

“Pelicans and Posies” by Royce A. Ratterman just simply was a great noir kind of story.  Yeah, as one of the anonymous comments pointed out it was reminiscent of the movie “Alcatraz” but I don’t even think it was an homage.  This story is its own entity and really evoked a wonderful feeling of noir in the San Francisco Bay Area.

“The pickup artist” by Wabbitbunny had a fun Dadaist sensibility.  The story permeated with a gentle rib nudging at the “Renovated Reputations” project by making reference to the earlier stories and characters on this blog and had a lot in common with the two winners.  Wabbitbunny, shoot me an e-mail and send me your address so I can send you lawyers guns and money (and a catalog.) 

Margaret Millmore story was a dark interesting truly pulp style story!  Great stuff!

Go to this link to read all the stories:
http://kenney-mencher.blogspot.com/2011/02/write-story-about-luke-n-goode-and-win.html      


Go to my homepage for more competitions:
http://www.kenney-mencher.com/