Saturday, January 15, 2011

Off-the-Cuff Contest Entry #1

This isn't the exact photo prompt from yesterday's 15 For 15 Contest (read contest explanation here), but it's close enough.  In the original, the trees have no leaves, taken in wintertime.  The following is my entry, written (per the contest rules) in only 15 minutes.  The goal is not to have a polished, typo-free piece.  There are plenty of places I would have liked to tighten up, but didn't have the time.  So, here it is, raw, by-the-seat-of-my-pants writing. :D

Marcus dragged on the cigarette pinched between his index finger and thumb. Numbing cold seeped through his britches from the park bench, despite its position in full sun, but he didn't mind. He'd rather sit here all day than return to work. When you rinse four star restaurant slop off fine China all day, you face your 'have-not' reality every minute of every hour. It wore him down. His fifteen minute break was more valuable to him than the restaurant's finest bottle of wine.

He blew a plume of smoke downwind and his eyes fell on the man making his way up the path. Marcus narrowed his eyes. The man's utilitarian clothing appeared too big for his frame and hung on his body like a sack. His bald head was dropped back and he stared straight up at the sky as he walked. As he neared Marcus's bench, the toe of his black rubber shoe hit a rock and he stumbled.

"Eh. Watch where you're going, dumb ass," Marcus said.

The man leveled his gaze. He was younger than Marcus had first thought. His drawn skin and stubbled chin suggested mid-forties, but now Marcus decided he couldn't be older than thirty.

"Yeah. Thanks," the man said. "It's just the sky is so blue. And those trees, well, they're things of beauty."

Marcus looked up. The trees looked dead to him. Leafless. Cold. "Whatever, man," he said, looking across the park to the restaurant. By his watch, he had five more minutes before he had to get back.

"Mind if I sit down?"

Marcus saw the man still stood there. He motioned his indifference.

"I just got out of the slammer," the man said, sitting.

An eyebrow shot up. He had Marcus's attention. "You were in prison?"

"Yeah, ten years, man."

"What'd you do?"

"I was convicted of attempted murder. But it was bullshit. Someone tried to whack my wife. They pinned it on me."

Marcus raised his chin. "No kidding. That sucks, man."

The man chuckled, but there was no humor in the sound. "Shit. Ten years is a long time to not see trees. I can't stop looking at them."

"You served your whole sentence?"

"Nope. Turns out my wife's boyfriend did it. Thank God for all that fancy DNA testing they can do now. Found out a week ago, and today I'm free. Just like that."

"Your wife's boyfriend...?" Marcus asked while checking his watch. He had to get back. "That's some story. Glad you're out. I gotta get back to work." He offered his hand as he stood to leave.

The man shook it. Marcus took a few steps then turned to look over his shoulder.

"What's the first thing you're going to do, now that you're a free man?" Marcus asked.

The man smiled a churlish grin, cold as the trees. "First thing I'm gonna do is kill my wife."