****Here is an excerpt from Segment one of my novel Five Days with the Stranger, a noir romance between a waitress and a man with a dark and dangerous past that dominates his present in ways she can’t begin to imagine….though perhaps she wants to. Sensual, earnest, and violent; this story seeks to explore the darker nature of human desire and how what alienates us can connect us.. It seeks to answer the question “Why do I seek that which will obliterate me?”. Currently I’m working on this story for Camp NaNoWriMo, and will finish this by the end of July****
There were certain jobs a lady grew to loathe when she worked at a diner with a boss more than happy to ask her to close up by herself in the middle of the night, and for Rene that was taking out the last round of garbage. Underneath a starless night’s sky peppered with the intermittent lights of Miami-Dade County, she hauled the large white bag out behind the dinner, as she had one too many times before. A grimace crossed her face as her shoulder lightly popped at the weight. She shouldn’t be so permissive. She missed practice because of this job, but the hours were overall flexible, or so she kept saying to herself.
With an irritated grunt and a scowl like a fat cat who’d never be satisfied, Rene imagined a new way to kick her boss, Uncle Rex, in the ass. The man adored her from the moment she smiled at him when she was four years old. He didn’t have kids, at least not any he knew about, but his best friend’s daughter was the next best thing. That didn’t say shit when it came to certain types of people. They loved you until they were sick with it, but they pushed you as far as they could push you because, in their minds, they earned the right. Some people were just that kind. Her father was exactly the same, except worse. That’s why Rex was even her uncle in the first place. Two jackasses naturally got along like brothers. At least she had a job even if it was one that made her arm sore and sapped up her time as though her life meant nothing at all. How many events had she missed in the last year? How many nights off became double shifts?
She bit her bottom lip. Yeah, Uncle Rex really was that kind. He gave her job when she’d needed it, but for every good deed he’d expect two more unquestioned deeds from everyone else. Rene sighed because at her core she knew she’d be stuck with that until she figured out where she was going. Right now, she couldn’t see past the trash.
She looked around the diner’s deserted parking lot, out a dozen yards or so to the shopping center and its parking lot next door. Four cars sat empty, probably belonging to the patrons of the dive bar. That place closed up at about 3am, and somehow it always had stragglers downing urine flavored liquor until the clock chimed. It was better the diner closed up before then because that meant she didn’t have to deal with the drunks…usually. Besides a few passing cars Rene was alone beneath a darkness that blended into the neon lights of buildings and traffic.
The whizzing cars passing by gave a semblance of comfort until she remembered most people never paid attention to the sidelines. She’d worked in that diner since she was sixteen and it taught her one thing, people preferred not to get involved. People wanted others to be interested in them. They’re only rarely interested in others. They’d tell you endlessly about themselves until you started to do the same to other people because you desperately wanted someone, anyone, to care. Damn if she didn’t hate working there. Damn if she couldn’t find a job with her business degree. Network. Network. Why did people think she never did? She just wasn’t any good at small talk, and people never said what it meant. “Flexible hours. Free food. Sometimes Uncle Rex puts our recipes on the menu.” That had to be enough. If only people really cared…
There were rare customers who legitimately took interest. Miss Candy always tipped a $100 when driving through town. She’d even tip an extra fifty if she heard Rene’s grades were good. Hawaiian-shirt Hal always asked about her music or her studies, and took the time to encourage her. Pete Balch came in on the regular since his wife passed and always invited Rene to spend a few minutes talking about her day. she could make a solid list of maybe ten out of the thousands she’d met. The latest addition was weird-guy Jack, who became handsome-guy Jack when he smiled.
He’d been coming in for three weeks now. Jack had been more than polite since the day he waltzed in with his grey t-shirt displaying, but not bragging, about his muscular body. Well, at least he was a change though a weird one. She couldn’t say why, but he never said much about himself and spoke like every word had been rehearsed in his head so that it sounded exactly like he needed it to sound. Not like he was exactly insincere, but like people were a trial. She couldn’t fault him for that, but then he’d sit…staring ,unblinking, in the back of the diner as though the mire of his mind swallowed him whole. Yeah, that was strange. Still Jack possessed an enigmatic strangeness that-
The sound of angry honking followed by indignant swerving tire screech tore her from her thoughts, and grounded her in her surroundings again. It seemed like her thoughts were getting louder lately. Maybe that was part of growing up, or maybe now her thoughts were just harder to ignore. But she knew one thing…most customers were likely to just be angry or irritated honkers. Maybe it was good she was alone. Then she glanced towards the empty parking lot and shivered.
No one to talk to or to see her, but that was how it usually was. That didn’t make it easier or more comfortable. No matter how often she took out the nightly trash instinctive paranoia that prickled the back of her mind.
She’d lived in Miami for most of her life. The smells of sea, and meat, and human excess were almost comforting during the day, but at night the city lights became ominous beacons of urban-suburban isolation. The sound of scurrying rats and stray pit bulls, who’d long come to associate her with “dropped” hamburger patties, became warning sirens to a stranger’s approach or a sudden change that meant she needed to haul ass back inside or to her car. But no brown strays wandered up to her and not a single rodent scurried. Not even roaches crunched under her feet. Tonight there was only the sound of her lifting the metal lid of the trashcan, and her huffing as she lifted the heavy bag and dropped it down with one mighty heave.
“Gimme your purse!” A voice like gravel scraping against chalkboard filled her ears.
She began to turn around, and her vision was consumed by the open mouth of a gun. Her instincts reacted first, and she froze before she even processed what that dull gleaming metal could be. She heard the click of the gun and suddenly it came to her. She gasped, and her mouth went dry. Her brain kept saying “Gun. Gun. Gun. Gun. Gun.”