Write a story about Jairo and Win the Drawing on the Right
The contest closes Monday April 4th, 2011
The story you write should be a "Flash Fiction" which is a complete story in one thousand or fewer words. Please post the story in the comment section, you will have to provide your name and an email address in order to be qualified to win or you can e-mail me at email@example.com with your info. There is a problem with how many characters can post (only about 4,000) so if you cannot post it. E-mail it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Renovated Reputations is the result of an internet blogging project in which paintings and assemblages based on vintage and antique vernacular photography are the inspiration for short fiction.
The catalog and monograph are a collaborative efforts between myself, a twenty or so authors such as professor Mark Brosamer, mystery writer Matt O'Malley, pulp author Steven D. Rogers of PulpFest fame, Dreamworks animator/cartoonist Brian Newlin, columnist Gigi De Vault and others.
The impetus for this project is based in a solo show of paintings in I am having at ArtHaus Gallery in San Francisco in April 2011.
The show is called
Renovated Reputations: Paintings and Fiction inspired by Vintage Portrait Photographs.
Show up or else!
ArtHaus 411 Brannan Street San Francisco, CA 94107
Opening Reception Friday April 8th 2011 6PM to 8 PM
Show runs through June 25th 2011
Download the draft of Tabloid Newspaper catalog as a PDF.
Here's a link to the free newspaper style catalog as a pdf:
Here's a link to the book:
(This is about 5MB so if you are using firefox it may stall. You can right click and save or use explorer.)
We're going to have a photobooth for the show for participants to play with and vintage costumes. Of course I'll send the authors free copies of the catalogs. _______________________________________________
This came in by e-mail:
By Patrick Nelson
This has never happened before. I have never had a car come in with a dead guy in it. Never. Jeez. What do I do? Do I go ahead and fix the car? The thing is, this is Don Approvesco's car. The Don Approvesco. Oh man! I am in big trouble. Why am I in trouble you may ask? Even if I didn't kill this guy (which I definitely didn't) I saw this guy, or at least what used to be him. If I go to the cops, I will be as dead as this guy in the trunk here. Heck, they may even fit me in here with him and take me out to the same landfill for Pete's sake. I gotta think fast. Why do I always look in the trunk? There's no working parts in there, anyway.
We've been working on the Don's fleet for years, since before we moved way down to South San Francisco. I have actually been the head mechanic for these Rolls Royces of his for about a year. We're the only ones in town who work on the Rolls'. Tango motors around the corner has the other contract for the local mob boss, Don Musso. I guess we would have him too if he drove rolls, but too many Dons spoils the something-or-other. Really one is dangerous enough to handle.
I met Don Approvesco once. Real scary guy. I'd even delivered a car back to the estate in North Beach. The men at the gate had searched the underside of the car and one patted me down while the other searched inside the car. The Don came out to look at the finished body work I did. I walked up and gave him the keys then he took my hand in both of his and locked them together. He had this way of looking deep in your eyes one then the other. Like he was searching and searing his gaze into each till he found what he was looking for. Creepy bastard, but don't tell him I said that. In my case I guess he found what he was looking for because he grew a tidy smirk on his dark, pitted Sicilian face. His dark eyes became mirthful slits and his salt and pepper mustache arched up slightly on one end. He said in a deep, gravelly voice with a touch of an Italian accent "nice work, my friend. I may call you my friend?" I nodded and he continued "Good. I can tell you are a good man, but I must keep an eye on you. Not that I don't trust you. After all, you yourself said we are friends. No, I think I must keep an eye on you for you are a smart one."
Wow. All that from a handshake and a really scary staring match. I couldn't do it right then, but later I had to check my underwear. "Um, thanks. I guess I'd better get back to the shop..." That was all I could come up with without risking a heart attack. He released my hand from his grip and waved me off erratically and turned and went inside. His men who stood on either side of the massive wooden front doors and nodded in the direction of the walled gate. Ezra hadn't come in the truck to pick me up yet, but I wasn't waiting. I slipped through the wrought iron gate and tried not to run down the street.
Ah, the old days. The body? Still here. I looked around, but nobody else was nearby. I bent closer to look at the guy. I titled my head and peered at him. He was about my age, 35 or so, with sandy blond hair which was groomed neatly except where a big bloody dent was on the top of his head. His nails where pristine. I always noticed peoples nails because mine where so messy and dirty that I had a sort of thing about them. I felt self conscious about mine. He had no shoes or socks. Funny, there isn't much blood. I always assumed when I saw my first dead-guy-in-the-trunk, he would be awash in blood. Due to the fact that he was resembling a pretzel, it was hard to guess his height. Maybe six feet. He looked about a buck and three quarters heavy. He had on a nice suit; off the rack but altered. How do I know suits? Let’s just say, when I’m not covered in axle grease from head to toe, I clean up real good.
So our Mister personality here did alright but not anymore. I picked up a lug wrench and lifted the jacket’s right lapel. A long brown wallet fell onto his chest and dropped to the trunk floor. I picked it up and opened it. Harold Fromunda. Now that's a name. I thought it was a joke. A few checks in his checkbook, no cash.
I realized I was wasting precious time and since I didn't know him I didn't feel bad about what I was going to do to him. I wiped the wallet off and tossed it on top of him. I slowly closed the trunk until it clicked and I wiped down everything I had touched on or in the car. Now, Tino, the one they called Tiny (yup, you guessed it, he was huge) had handed me the key earlier. He knew it was me that was going to be working on the car. Damn. No way to work my way around that. To buy myself some time, I raised the car up on the hydraulic and left it up there while I went to smoke a cigarette. I don’t smoke, but its appeal now became a little clearer as it was too early for a drink.
The plan I had flashed upon in my mind earlier was now becoming frighteningly clear, but it had to be timed just right or I could be in some real hot water. What was happening to me? I was not finding this as panic inducing as I thought it would be. I mean, my heart still felt like someone was pulling it up through my throat, but I had stopped sweating like a pig at a weenie roast.
First, I took a quick walk around the corner to check Tango motors to see if they happened to have one of Don Musso's cars. I couldn't be sure till I looked at the registration on the steering column, but it looked like one of the Cadillacs he had just bought from Tango's. They did sales and service both. I couldn't check until later after they closed so nobody would see me but that wouldn't delay my next bit of legwork. I walked back to the shop stopping on the way to drop some change in the phone and make a call.
"Tango motors. We service what we sell, all the others can go to Hello, how may I help you?" a comedian said over the phone in a forced non-New York accent.
"Yeah, b-b-buddy" I said with a stutter to disguise my voice. I didn't know anybody at their shop, but why take chances? "I am interested in that C-C-Caddy on your left lot. Is it for s-s-sale?"
"The green one? Um... No siree" he hesitated. His native accent was starting to seep in. "It's in for service."
I almost said "perfect" over the phone, but injected "goshd-d-darnit! Does it run ok? I might make an offer." I inquired and crossed my fingers.
The man on the other line replied "not right this moment that's why its in the left lot, repairs. But I am pretty sure the guy who owns it will refuse the offer."
"Oh, darn. She's a ba-ba-ba-beaut" I said and added a goodbye then I hung up. Why the stutter? No idea. It seemed like a good idea at the time and I was under a little pressure. That worked out good so far. I finished making my way back to the shop just as Jimmy Victor, Victory Repair Shop owner was just lowering the Don's car. He had a furrowed brow and seemed mildly irritated. Victor was a short, stocky, balding man in his sixties. He wore a black pinstriped suit that was too small and spotted with grease. Even though he no longer worked on the cars, he still had grease in his blood and under his nails.
"What's with the Don's car, Jairo? Is she done? Why's it still on the stilts?" he rapid-fired to me.
"Whoa, not done yet!" I said as I rushed up and took the lift controls from him gently. "got a few things to do still. Hey boss, why don't you cut out? Its gettin’ on five. I'll lock up when I'm done here. Everybody else has cut out..."
He scratched at a spot on his damp skull and pondered the lift. I had a twinge of panic. Did he suspect something was up? Had the body started to smell?
"Ah, well. All right then. Just make sure you finish the Don's car before you go. I made him a promise." He gave a short wave and headed out the door.
The next step was to finish the repairs. From what I could tell it needed a new belt and some tuning up -oh, and to lose about one hundred and seventy five pounds. The only loose thread was Tiny. If he was as stupid as he looked, I might get lucky and he would forget about the body in the trunk long enough for me to get this repair done and my plan finished. Come on luck, stay with me!
Later after I finished the repairs, it had grown dark enough for me to move on to the next step. I grabbed the keys to the tow truck and drove it over past the Tango lot. Twice. It appeared that everyone had gone home but just to be safe, I parked across the street and called from the phone box in the line of site of the front office. I could hear the dial tone in the hand piece as well as the slightly delayed ringing from the phone in the office. No answer. Bingo. I got in the truck and pulled into the left lot. The green Caddy was still in the same spot. I thought about the keys, but decided I wouldn't need them for what I was pulling off as long as the doors where open. I backed the truck up to the mob car and lowered the lift bar. I got out and checked the Caddy's doors. Bingo and open sesame. After checking the registration to make sure it belongd to Don Russo, I hooked the chains up to the back of the Caddy. I looked around to make sure nobody was noticing me. No traffic, no pedestrians wondering why a Victory Repairs truck was towing a car from the lot of Tango motors and most of all nobody running out of the office screaming bloody murder. I finished the hook up and lift. I popped the car into neutral. Ten minutes later I was backing the caddy into the bay next to the rolls. I unhooked the truck, pulled it out of the garage and lowered the door. Now the sticky stage.
I pushed the engine block crane, which was on casters, up behind the rolls. Putting on a pair of grease gloves, I popped the trunk on the Rolls and ran the chains from the crane's frame to under the body of my buddy Harry. We were getting to know each other so well. I pulled them the rest of the way through and hooked the ends back on the crane. Slowly I lifted the body out of the trunk and pushed the block crane over to the Caddy. I popped the trunk. Now this was a trunk to put a body in. Heck, you could put a few in there... yeah, maybe mine. That sent a chill down my spine as I lowered my friend in.
"Work smarter, not harder" I muttered in a self-satisfied manner. I unhooked him and pushed the crane away. Closing the trunk, I lifted the garage door and backed the truck up to re-hook it to the Caddy. Now I stopped to take the time to wipe my prints off the entire car. Everything I may have touched. Yeah, I was turning into a criminal mastermind!
Twenty minutes later, I was back at Victory breathing a sigh of relief. Now the only thing left was to clean out the trunk in the Rolls. I got a small bucket with some warm water and a wheel rim scrubber. I poured a little bleach in the bucket and leaned over the open trunk.
Holy kamoley! Harold's wallet! I allowed myself the luxury of a flash of panic. It sat there on the floor of the trunk scaring the life out of me. After a second or two, I put back on one of the grease gloves and scooped up the wallet. I peered out the office door and seeing no one, I went around the back and ran like a crazy bastard down the alley all three blocks till I came up behind Tango's. I was sweaty, out of breath and had a sharp pain I my side. I crept into the lot and snuck up behind the caddy. I opened the door with my gloved hand and popped the trunk once again. My heart was racing as I dropped it in and quickly slammed the lid. After a short stroll of a few minutes (more like stroll then run then stroll, run) I was back I front of the Rolls' trunk cleaning up the small amount of blood there. What a day.
I pulled the car past the guards at the gate much the same way I had the first time I visited Don Approvesco's estate: they had done their check under the car and gave me the general stink eye. I drove up the gravel drive and parked it in the curved area near the front door. I got out and stretched. The irony of the fact that the estate looked out onto Alcatraz didn't escape me. Escape, that made me giggle like an idiot. I was really nervous. Maybe he wanted to keep an eye on the future. It could be mine too if this didn't work out. No, I wouldn't get that far, the Don would probably just gut me like a fish and toss me out back as chum. The story is he worked his way up from the nearby fishing boat to his current position in life.
I really didn't want to be here. I put up quite a fight with the boss about this delivery but I didn't want to argue too firmly or it would look suspicious. The whole discussion closed when he told me that the Don wanted me personally to deliver said vehicle. Cue dramatic music.
I guess the Don had read this morning's paper. The headline read: "Local Don gets grisly body work done. Dead man found in Don Russo's Cadillac at local garage." The meat of the article went on to inform us that the Don's car held the remains of one Harold Fromunda, a well-known local hoodlum who had been arrested for various charges in the past but most recently was charged with trafficking heroine. The victim, it was intimated, was on the payroll of the owner of the car, Don Angelino Russo. An anonymous tip was phoned in to authorities late last night stating: "you all should take a look under Russo's hood at tango motors. Something stinks." That was all the informant said. Police suspect the murdered man must have run afoul of the big boss, was killed and stowed in the trunk. What baffled the investigators and apparently the reporter too was; why leave it in the trunk for someone to discover?
That was a good question. Only in my case, why Don Approvesco would make such a blunder. The answer came bounding out of the house like an angry, uncoordinated bull. Tino. He was a little over six feet tall, and had the look of a ring-weary wrestler stuffed into a suit three sizes too small. Cartoonish and buffoonish came to mind with a dash of murderous for flavor. The guards had just finished patting down my privates for bombs, knives, machine guns or whatever when Tino came barreling up to me. I felt like a damsel tied to the tracks with an onrushing train trying to squeal to a halt. He put his sausage like finger in my face and bellowed
"Keys. Now!" Even his breath was strong and ugly.
"All you had to do was say the magic word." I quipped bravely.
Where did this courage to do the insane and dangerous thing come from? I dangled them and he snatched them. He lumbered to the rear of the car and opened the trunk. He bent to look inside. I heard the tools and tire being moved around in efforts to, what? Find the body that might be hidden under the mat or spare? Maybe in his mind, he could imagine it had turned invisible, hell I don't know.
He circled back around the bumper and back to me as he pulled up his jacket sleeves. “OK, wiseguy! Were’d you put that bum?” He grabbed my shirt with one hand and made like he was going to put my lights put out.
From the doorway to the house, I heard the familiar raspy voice of the Don. “Tino, I am sure our visitor has no idea what you are talking about. And that is no way to treat a friend of mine...” The Don’s gaze lingered on mine a moment longer. “Tino, mi nipotino. Why don’t you go out back and play with the rabbits? Be a good nephew...”
Tino...Nipotino. Now it was starting to congeal in my mind like clotting blood. It was all coming together in a sticky mass: Tino was Don Approvesco’s nephew. That is why the rather big mistake of forgetting about a dead body did not result in Tino being stuffed into a trunk too. Well, that and the need for a trunk bigger than an elephant’s.
Tino gave me one last shake like I was a rag doll and turned to go into the house.
“I apologize for the rough treatment from my nephew” the Don walked toward me with his hands outstretched like I was a long lost friend. “He sometimes doesn’t know his own strength. Now, let us have a look at your handiwork, my friend.”
There it was again: friend. He shook my hand hard and steered me towards the trunk.
"You do not know what my nephew speaks of, do you?" The Don asked with his hands in his pants pockets. He rose up and down on the balls of his feet as he waited for an answer. He leaned a little towards the trunk and absentmindedly surveyed the interior. I felt a little ping of panic on my sonar, but not as bad as the first time we met.
"Look, Don Approvesco, I am not quite sure what to say in this situation, but honesty has served me well in the past." I started strong. Let's just hope I finished that way (and with no extra holes). "I was presented with a problem which your nephew, no disrespect intended, dropped in my lap. After assessing the situation, I created a solution that I believed was beneficial to both you and I. Believe me, I have never been in this situation and I hope I do not find myself in such again." Whew. Let's see if the next few minutes of my life aren't a blur of screaming, running, bullets and blood.
"Oh, my friend, I wouldn't be so fast to count yourself out" he replied as he stroked his chin and peered at me. "As for Tino, he is my sister's son. What can I do? He's family. I had hoped he would have grown up to have a brain to match his brawn, but alas... My nephew brought you more than one problem. One you knew about and one you discovered upon further inspection of the car. It seems to me that you handled it, without being asked, in a way that a man who fixes things would do."
I started to breath and I could feel my gut start to unclench. "While I appreciate the compliment, I must add that I was a little sloppy about it." I said.
"How so?" he asked.
"Well, if I had been thinking, I would have disposed of the problem completely and you would not have been the wiser." I dared to confide.
"Oh, I would have been the wiser. I have had enough dealings with the police detectives to have some of their skills rub off on me" he said. "Let's just hope this automotive problem doesn't cause further complications for me as that would not be good for you either. But, in all I am quite satisfied with your work. I am particularly fond of the creative touch you put on your... how can I put this? Parts disposal method? I enjoyed the irony." He stepped away from the trunk, closed the lid and wiped his hands together. "Did you hear about the unfortunate situation my business adversary Don Russo has found himself? Yes, it was very interesting to me, also. For many reasons. This young man had approached me for a position in my organization a few years ago." He turned and slowly walked in the direction of the house and motioned me to follow him. I didn't like where this was going but I had no choice other than to ride it out. "This fellow approached me about a new business opportunity opening in my own territory" he looked intently at me before he said more: "heroine."
He was eyeing me like an old lady in the market testing melons for ripeness. He was not going to thump me on the head, but it was a close call. He continued: "when I explained to him that we did not deal in that poison, I was informed that he went to work for Angelino and it was very lucrative for both. I do not begrudge Angelino this bad business decision. We have a truce of a sort after all. I do, however, have a problem with anything being sold in my territory. Understand?"
I raised my hands and started to plead with him about all of this unsolicited information but I was stopped abruptly. "I told you when we first met that you where smart" he said. "Don't make a fool of me now. I tell you these things because you are smart and you no doubt have figured out the nature of my business. I am just making these things clear between you and me." He stopped and reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a white letter sized envelope and handed it to me. "For services rendered. The car repairs are on account with Mister Victor. This, however, is for you. It is only money and I owe you something more than that. I hope to be doing more business with you in the future." He handed it to me and something told me if I didn't take it I would not be fixing anything ever again.
The Don broke away from me and started up the steps to his house. Somehow I knew this was where I got off. Before he crossed the threshold, he asked “you always look in the trunk?”
“Not anymore” I relied. With that, he said something to one of the guards by the door and disappeared. The guard came up to me and told me that he would give me a ride back to the garage. Great. A promotion. As I walked to the car I contemplated the envelope. It was heavier than I thought it would be.
This came in by e-mail:
By Royce A Ratterman
“A full service, son,” demanded the stranger emphatically to the ace mechanic pumping gas into his treasured vintage Ford sedan. “No skimping on anything. I expect the best of everything.”
The handsomely uniformed young man simply nodded in agreement to the elderly fellow before opening the hood to check the vehicle’s vital fluids and mechanical stability.
“What’s your name, boy” questioned the man out of his window loudly, “I always like to know who’s working on my vehicle, you know.”
“Jairo, sir, simply Jairo,” came the reply from under the hood.
“What kind of a name is that, son?”
Jairo secured the hood of the vehicle and stepped to the driver’s side window, “It is found most often among Spanish cultures, sir. From Hebrew origin, I believe. It can mean ‘God enlightens’ or what my father meant for it to mean . . . ‘A son to brighten my life’.”
“That’s nice, young man, real nice. How’s everything look under the hood?”
“Just fine, sir. Everything is in order.”
“What’s your specialty, young man?” asked the stranger with way too many questions.
“Yes, I mean the types of vehicles you prefer to work on and have a kind of knack for, you know.”
Jairo replied to the curious man sitting behind the vehicle’s steering wheel, “Fords, sir. I am the area mechanic assigned to their driver’s final full service.”
“There’s a lot of Fords here in South SF these days,” replied the man. “You’ve got a lifetime of work ahead of you, son.”
Jairo tipped his black-billed blue service station uniform hat to the man, collected the payment for services rendered, then bid the stranger farewell, “Have a great day sir. I know you will.”
After the stranger drove away from 215 South Maple Avenue in his vintage Ford sedan he was never heard from again.
~ ~ ~
“Paint . . . you do touchup painting, boy?” asked the gray-haired man in the 1941 Ford after he pulled the vehicle with the scraped fender into the gas station’s lot.
Jairo promptly replied, “The best in town, sir. The best in town.”
“Got time today for a touchup?”
“No time like the present, I say,” answered Jairo. “Pull the car in over there.”
“Heavenly,” exclaimed the man as he quickly drove his damaged vehicle into the garage area the attendant had pointed out to him. He never returned home.
~ ~ ~
On another chilly weekday morning a black and white unit pulled into the lot for gas and a full service check. It seemed that the police station’s regular mechanic was out sick and the officers needed to assure that their vehicle was ‘street ready’ before commencing their shift. The two cops received the best service of their lives from Jairo that day. But after they failed to respond to radio calls and did not return to their headquarters, an all out investigation was implemented to search for the two law enforcement officers and their Ford police unit. Headlines days later read, “Tragic Patrol Accident - Local Police Officers Killed.”
~ ~ ~
A top-notch mechanic for as long as he could remember, Jairo always did his best to please his customers and honor his trade.
The old service station had a central entry door accompanied by large windows to each side. Two pumps adorned the tiny entry sidewalk along the two large front windows. Faded white walls augmented with dingy rose trim were the exterior’s decor. A lonely place with an abandoned look.
~ ~ ~
One hot South San Francisco afternoon a tearful young woman entered the service station lot in her beautifully manicured Model-A. She asked the attendant, “Can I get a full service?” to which he replied, “It will be quite some time, ma’am.”
“Busy, huh?” commented the woman.
“Is everything alright, ma’am? You look a bit distressed. Can I help in any way?” questioned Jairo.
“Oh, it’s this letter,” she replied, holding up an official looking white envelope, “I guess telling a stranger is easier than telling my family and friends. I’m afraid to open it.”
“Sometimes it’s best to face life head on and live it to its fullest.”
Looking up at Jairo with her tearful eyes she replied, “Well, mister, last week I got some really terrible bad news from my doctor. Odds are not good for me, you see. My doctor took some tests and the results are in this envelope. That’s why I’m afraid to open it.”
Jairo encouragingly replied, “Ah, ma’am, there are folks down in Vegas right now winning huge jackpots with worse odds than you have. Open it. You’ll ease you mind and heart, miss, trust me. Anyway, no doctor would send bad news in a letter, would they now.”
The woman placed the envelope on the seat next to her and stared at it for a while. Tears flowed as she slowly tore the envelope open. Sighs of relief echoed as she read the good news. “It’s not my time yet.”
When she looked up to thank the attendant she noticed that the station was abandoned. Only cracked asphalt, broken front windows and a missing front entry door remained. The woman exited her Ford and questioned an employee of a neighboring establishment regarding the service station. He simply responded, “Ma’am, that station’s been closed for years. Ain’t been nobody there since I can remember.”
Looking in her rearview mirror as she drove away, the woman caught a glimpse of the same uniformed man standing in the abandoned station behind her. She gently waved her hand . . . the man did the same.
~ ~ ~
“Welcome sir!” greeted Jairo to a teenager in a ’32 Ford Deuce Coupe hotrod, “Full service?”
“Yeah, yeah. Hey, is your boss around, mister?”
Jairo smiled and replied, “You’ll be meeting him very soon, son. Very soon!”