Friday, October 15, 2010

Downtown (Pensacola) Inspiration

Downtowns in most American cities have had their share of ups and downs, especially downs, in the past half century or so. Pensacola's is no exception. Attempts to revitalize it and bring new life with a Maritime Park have helped lure some new business, but there is some unfinished business along Pensacola's bayfront area that many people would rather forget about or ignore (read about the progress being made here). Having lunch there one day with my husband shortly after we had moved back to Northwest Florida from Southern Illinois, I became curious about how things were moving along and noted something unpleasant that clued me in to the current state of that unfinished business. The wind was blowing briskly from the north that day in late winter, but it was sunny, the wind was blocked by the building, most of it anyway, and we decided to have lunch outside on the patio overlooking the water. The food and service were excellent, but there was something else about the experience not so redolent of excellence (no fault of the restaurant) that inspired me to write this story in early March 2009 to share with other members attending a Panhandle Writers' Group meeting. The joke in the story fell flat because I had left out some key information about the source of the inspiration, and no one else present at the meeting had ever been to the restaurant or at least had not eaten outside on the patio. It was embarrassing to have to explain the premise for the story because no one got it, but at least I've learned to not leave so many gaps in a story. I hope you enjoy it but please keep in mind that it's a tongue-in-cheek piece of fiction and don't let it keep you away from downtown Pensacola. Remember that progress is afoot there, and steps are being taken to ensure that this kind of thing never really happens...

Catching my breath proved to be a monumental mistake. Twenty feet stood between me and freedom. Twenty feet, I tell you, to my car! Why did I run out of breath when faced with this formidable enemy, the one I had heard whispered was, on certain days, capable of bringing even Rambo types to their knees? I was a Marine and had survived intense combat situations, but my sense of smell was so keen it compromised every ounce of strength and endurance I could muster.
“Sir, wait, you forgot your sunglasses! Here they are. Please!”
I wouldn’t wait, but I had to clench my teeth and hiss something appropriate in staccato fashion.
“Take them! They’re yours. I’ve got another pair in the car. Don’t worry. Really!”
So I took that breath as the words escaped and I did not. Escape. Now I’m even more captive, lying in a bed that moves up and down, covered with a white sheet from head to toe. I see a figure through the sheet, someone adjusting the height of the bed by way of some sort of foot pedal. I hear a motor whine beneath me, lying supine on the table that moves.
“Whatcha suppose put this poor slob out of commission?” There is laughter. “Too many martinis on an empty stomach?”
I can see the figure move his hand to my midsection and hear him thump my firm abs. I’m really proud of them, you know. Work out at least three times a week and run five miles a day, every day. Never let up since basic training, and that was 25 years ago.
I realize there are two people in the room with me, and the one being spoken to moves in so close that I can smell greasy French fries through the sheet. It reminds me that I am really hungry but not able to convey that feeling to anyone right now. My muscles will not obey me. I can’t move even my little toe. Greasy-French-fry-breath-person lifts the sheet away from my face and stares. He moves his head a little, and the light behind his head blinds me for a moment.
“Good Lord! Would you look at the expression on this guy? I’ve never seen anything like it before! At least not since ‘Nam! Nostrils flared, teeth bared, look of fear in those eyes. Are you taking notes? Why isn’t this mike fixed yet so I can dictate? I’m gonna have nightmares over this one!”
I am being poked and prodded with something; that much I can feel. A radio nearby plays a familiar song, something from the 60s. What is it? My mind races to remember. I hear:
“Just listen to the rhythm of a gentle bossa novaaa,
You’ll be dancing with ‘em too
Before the night is over…
Happy againnn…”
French-fry guy is humming along, breathing that food odor in my face, doing something to my midsection now. I feel a warm sensation as if something is being poured over me.
“Whoa, this guy isn’t…. Wait a minute. Ohhh…my…God!”
“He ain’t….” I hear the other dude muttering as he moves in to watch French-fry guy lose his cool and drop whatever tool he has been using on me to the floor. I hear it clink on what sounds like tile, maybe linoleum. No…definitely tile. And I think the tool is metallic from the sound of it.
“What happened? Where’s the sign-in sheet with T-O-D? And who signed him in anyway? That’s what I’d like to know. What fool would not check….”
Now things begin to swim before my eyes. The light overhead becomes two, then four, then six….They move in time with the music.
“The lights are much brighter therrre….
You can forget all your troubles,
Forget all your caaares—
So go—
 Where all the lights are bright!
Waiting for you tonight!
You’re gonna be alright now….”
Petula Clark! I know now! Wait! What is that….
As the light fades to black, I remember everything. The smell from across the street in downtown Pensacola that teased its way through the door each time someone entered or left the building. That smell would soon be gone or at least transported farther north when the county’s new sewage treatment plant finally came on line. Progress came too late for me. My enemy--the olfactory lobes in my brain working overtime--the only thing that could ever deck this proud Marine, had knocked me out as I left the Crab Trap. It overpowered my other senses, twisted my features, brought me down, and transported me to this place. This is the place where the guys in white coats take things apart. Usually, though, they wait until you are—DEAD!


tina said...

You are such a good writer it is great you have another outlet for all of your writing. Let's hope you get a book deal soon!

Tomz said...

hey, nice thrilling story u have there..I suspect that the scenes f RL Stevenson's Treasure Island flashed through my mind while reading it..

As I understood, the protagonist f ur story is a man (the first person singular narrative). I wonder what could it be called, if a woman writer writes supposing herself to be a male..?I hope u have some answer here..

Julie said...

Oh fun to read a short gripping story! You had me from the first word to the end!!! I'm going to read your post on the 14th now...

Britta said...

That was very interesting reading! Wait for more.

Rose said...

Yikes! Everyone's worst fear--almost, or maybe worse, than being buried alive. Gripping story, W2W, with a twist at the end that I certainly didn't expect. I can see why you didn't care for that restaurant:) Looking forward to reading more of your pieces here.

RGB said...

I'm literally sitting at the edge of my seat, wondering what next! You're good at this :)

walk2write said...

Tina, first I have to write a book, something I talk about doing but never have accomplished. I want to write a novel with illustrations and also want to provide the drawings or paintings, which is something I have no training in--yet. Thanks for the vote of confidence!

Tomz, I'm not sure of the technical term for what you're talking about or if there is one. In fiction, anything is possible if you can imagine it. It's fun to step outside of the ordinary, expected role once in a while and get inside someone else's head. I just have to remember to leave a trail of breadcrumbs so I can find my way back.

Hi, Julie! I'm glad you could visit and happy that you enjoyed the story.

Britta, the posting will probably alternate between here and the other site. Sort of a ping-pong game of writing, I guess. I wonder which side will win?

Rose, I'm so glad you liked it. As for the restaurant, I actually do enjoy going there, but we sit inside now when the wind is from the north:) The poo plant (wastewater treatment facility to be politically correct about it) is being moved from the area so the restaurant shouldn't have to fear any more crackpots like me writing silly stories. I'm wondering how the actual transfer will occur and if there will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new poo plant. Maybe my next story is already taking shape...

RGB, I was hesitant to step into the murky water of fiction, but knowing that you liked it makes me less afraid to try it again. I noticed on the blog feeds that you posted the next installment in your latest story, and I'll be over soon to read it.

Sandy said...

Love it and love the name of the blog! You are an excellent writer. You know I lived in Pcola for two years and everytime I think of it, I am always reminded of the Irish Pub downtown, McGuires I think. I loved that place!

walk2write said...

Thanks, Sandy! I found your new blog and love it too. I'll be adding a blog list to this site eventually and maybe some other features. McGuires is the best, I have to admit. The Crab Trap is relatively new, and it has the advantage of overlooking the water, but it will have to work mighty hard to beat McGuires' reputation. The Crab Trap will soon be free of that odor from across the street and its other, not as well known name. Yippee!

Sandy said...

Yes The Crab Trap wasn't there when we lived there, but it looks like a great place too. Glad the smell will be gone!
Yes you can delete the Carolina Moon site and I will be just using the other one. At least that's my game plan for the time being lol. One never knows what are minds are going to tell us next ;)

troutbirder said...

Hey W2W good luck with your new blog. I smell success here. Seriously if anybody can do can.

Anonymous said...

Just had lunch at the Crab Trap the other day. Won't be long now until the "reclamation facility" is history!

walk2write said...

Sandy, thanks for letting me know about the CM site. If you decide to take it up again just let me know, and I'll add the link to my list.

TB, you're very kind and funny too ("smell success"). You know, you ought to try your hand at writing dog stories, maybe with Baron as the leading "man." Both of you already have quite a following on your blog.

Beth, that's why I decided it's now or never for this story to make its debut. It would be a shame for such an important part of Pensacola's history to be forgotten or flushed away completely, so to speak:)

Sarah Laurence said...

Keep writing! If you are planning on publishing this some day you should remove the post. I like all the sensory details.

walk2write said...

Sarah, I'm glad you liked the story. I don't think I would ever want to publish the story since it's a piece with local (Pensacola) interest, and I certainly don't want to make any enemies there. Besides, once the wastewater treatment facility is completed, the impetus for the story will soon become a distant memory.

X-EN-Tric said...

She know my every fantasies... and the so called "apparent fascination with Britney"...
But, I was unlucky (as always)... But I am okay... She deserves better... being tall, getting good job, earn well, being fair and good looking, cracking jokes, being committed or honest, talking sweet... None of them are the parameter for true love. I have them all... but, I was too late... :)

walk2write said...

XET, I'm sorry your proposal was not accepted. It could be that your lady love is holding out for someone she can dominate. If so, you're very lucky to have dodged the bullet.

Anonymous said...

Eeewww, autopsied while still alive! You remind me of some other rather ghoulish writer - Poe was his last name. ;)

walk2write said...

Hehehe! I still get a kick out of reading his work, especially around Halloween time. He stole my heart with that Telltale one.