Thursday, September 26, 2013

FLASH FICTION: Skyler Hobbs and the Troublesome Taste

This one is in response to Patti Abbott's challenge: a story based on the headline "Michigan Man's Tastes Gets Him into Trouble."

       "You lied to me," Skyler Hobbs said. While saying it, he dipped a clam strip into a cup of cocktail sauce and bit off the tip.
       "I exaggerated," I said. I picked up my bottle of Rogue Wolf-Eel Ale and tried to avoid his eyes.
       "You said there was a client in this quaint coastal village who wished to procure my services. I trusted you, Watson, and you betrayed me."
       I shook my head. "Wilder,” I said, “not Watson. And I told you there was someone in Newport who needed your help. I didn't claim to know who that person was or what kind of trouble they were in."
       Hobbs pouted.
       "Look," I said, "you needed a vacation. That brouhaha with your brother* really got your panties in a bunch. This was the only way I could get you to the beach."
       My friend Skyler Hobbs, you see, is the worst of workaholics. He believes he's the honest-to-god reincarnation of Sherlock Holmes, and isn't happy unless he's proving it to someone. Especially me, who he thinks was heaven-sent to be his Watson.
       So there we were on the Oregon Coast, and instead of enjoying the beach and breathing the salty air, all he wanted to do was eat. And the first place that caught his eye was this greasy diner called the Clam Strip Café. The low-hanging fishnets and plastic starfish were cheesy, and the place stank of overcooked broccoli and undercooked oysters, but the skirts of the waitresses’ sailor suits were so short I didn't mind.
       One of those waitresses, whose brown curls bounced nicely on the shoulders of her white blouse, shuffled toward the next booth with a tray of glasses. The glasses held water and ice, but just barely. The tray shook so violently the contents threatened to jump out onto the floor.
       The booth was occupied by a fat guy with an obscene smirk and a babe with a chest too big for her tank top. The smirker pushed a Detroit Tigers baseball cap back on his forehead and wheezed, "Perhaps you should set that tray down, sugar, so we don't get wet. Not that I mind a wet crotch."
       This second statement appeared to be aimed at his date, but the waitress took it personally. Her nose twisted in disgust.
       "Oh?” she said. “Then you'll enjoy this." She snatched a glass from the tray and dumped the ice water into the fat guy’s lap.
       He did a great impression of a squealing pig.
       His date surged up, squalling, "What's your problem? He wasn't talking to you."
       "The problem," the waitress said, "is you shouldn't let your man out of his cave. He's not civilized." She wheeled away, but found herself in the grip of a pot-bellied man with slicked back hair.
       "Dinner's on the house," the new arrival told the couple, then herded the wayward waitress back behind the bar, where a heated discussion commenced.
       "Nice floor show," I said to Hobbs, but he seemed not to hear. His attention was focused on the waitress and her pot-bellied manager. I knew that look. Hobbs was an excellent lip-reader, and was eavesdropping with his eyes.
       When the conversation ended, the waitress retreated into the kitchen, while Pot Belly swaggered back across the room.        
       "I deduce," Hobbs whispered, "that our nautical young server has experienced difficulties with that blowhard in the past."
       Pot Belly slid into the aggrieved couple’s booth. "Sorry about that," he told them. "Must be that time of the month, know what I mean?"
       Wet Crotch emitted a nasty chortle. The girl giggled, making her mammaries dance.
       A disturbing gleam formed in my friend's eye, a gleam I intended to nip in the bud.
       "Look, Hobbs,” I said quietly. “We’re on vacation, remember? This guy's a tasteless jerk, but last time I checked, bad taste wasn't against the law.”
       “But such excessively bad taste,” he said, “can get a person into trouble.”
        “And it probably will. But keep your reincarnated nose out of this, or you'll land us both in the hoosegow."
       Hobbs feigned innocence. "Why, Doctor," he said. "You wound me."
       "Not yet," I said, gripping my fork. "But don't tempt me."
       Still laughing, Pot Belly left the booth, and another waitress – a platinum blonde built like a Barbie doll - arrived with the couple’s complimentary dinner.
       Both plucked clam strips from the plate, and the Barbie doll departed.
       After a moment, Wet Crotch's wheezy voice said, "Damn. What I wouldn't give for a piece of that."
       His date dropped her clam strip. "What did you say?"
       "I didn't say nothin'," Wet Crotch said. "I’m eating. Why ain't you?"
       The girl eyed him narrowly, but picked up another strip.
       "On second thought," the wheezy voice said, "maybe you shouldn't eat that. You're turnin' into a real blubberbutt."
       Bits of half-chewed seafood flew from the fat guy's mouth. 
       His date’s face was the color of cocktail sauce. She grabbed a glass of water and thrust the contents into his lap, followed by the plate of food.
       "You want a wet crotch? You got it! And you can keep it!"
       And while he sat there looking bewildered, she stormed out of the joint.
       Wet Crotch broke the silence with a stream of unprintable words, lumbered to his feet and staggered toward the men's room.
       "See," I told Hobbs, "he got his just deserts, and you didn't have to lift a hand."
       "No," he said with a smug smile. "I didn't."
       I knew that smile, and didn't like it.
       "Come clean, Hobbs. What did you do?"
       He chose a particularly fat clam strip, made it vanish, and chewed with gusto.
       "One of these days, Watson, I must tell you of my studies into the fine art of ventriloquism."

© 2013 by Evan Lewis

*See “Skyler Hobbs and the Smarter Brother” in an upcoming issue of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.

With the kind permission of author Christine Finlayson, this tale takes place within a scene from her new mystery, Tip of a Bone. The water-dumping waitress is her heroine Maya Rivers, and the pot-bellied guy is Maya's weasely boss Willy. I refer you to the novel for Maya's side of the story.

Links to more stories in today's challenge at pattinase.

More Skyler Hobbs Flash Fiction HERE.

            Trade paperback         eBook


sandra seamans said...

Reading Skyler Hobbs stories is always a treat, Evan. Nicely done!

Christine said...

Ugh, that guy in the Clam Strip is even worse than I remembered. Glad Skyler Hobbs took care of him. Thanks for another fun Hobbs & Doctor J story. It's always a pleasure to read these!

pattinase (abbott) said...

Skyler Hobbs never lets you down-in charm, humor, and cleverness. Thanks, Evan.

Angie said...

This is hysterical! Thanks, Dave.

Loren Eaton said...

Evan, I truly hope that one day we will get a collection of all the Skyler Hobbs stories in one place. I'd love to read them end to end.

Evan Lewis said...

Thanks for the kind words, folks. Hobbs is much appreciative!

Richard Prosch said...

Doggone nice work, Evan! I didn't see that one coming!

Rick Robinson said...


Patti is right, good old Skyler never lets you down. I also agree with Loren Eaton, I'd love to be able to hold a collection, ink-on-paper, and read the stories through.

Evan Lewis said...

Ink-on-paper, eh? Damn, at a thousand words apiece I'll have to write at least another 50 of these suckers to fill a book. I'd better get busy.

Adventuresfantastic said...

So fire up the keyboard. At the rate of one a day, you can have a book done in a couple of months. :)

Ann Littlewood said...

Too funny! I love the riff on Tip of A Bone.

Kelly Robinson said...

I had to look it up, but now I know that Eel Ale is a thing.

Evan Lewis said...

I have a Wolf Eel Ale sweatshirt, a souvenir of the Rogue Brewery. If you google the image, you'll see it's a pretty cool logo.

Christine said...

Rogue not only has Wolf Eel Ale, but Dead Guy Ale, Yellow Snow IPA, Dad's Little Helper (!), and many other creatively named beers.