Monday, September 29, 2008

New Beginning 556

Mikey Sullivan unsnapped the rubber band and pushed the final stack of bills through the slot in the cashier's cage. This was well-worn currency, the paper ripped, faded, and soft as a ratty pair of jeans.

The cashier thumbed through the money. "All singles?"

"Girlfriend's a stripper." He grinned at the explanation, but the cashier had already ducked her head and begun counting rapid-fire, laying the bills into short piles. As she silently mouthed each ten count, Mikey caught tantalizing glimpses of the wet, inner part of her lower lip.

"I change her tips because she don't like bringing a bunch of crumpled little bills to the bank. Thinks it makes people stare at her." He worked a toothpick from one corner of his mouth to the other. "Which is funny, seeing as that's what she gets paid for, right?"

The cashier kept counting.

Mikey leaned into the counter. The bars of the cage blocked most of his view, but he was able to sneak a peek down the front of her turquoise blouse. He thought he saw a bit of lace down there.

"You know," he said slowly. "You could be."

"Could be what, sir?"

"A stripper."

Somewhere behind him bells rang, and a woman squealed in delight.

Mikey turned around and let his eyes wander across the huge room. He expected to see one of the slot machines flashing and churning out quarters, but what he saw was a middle-aged woman with a piece of paper, shrieking and jumping in the air.

"What's with the dame?" he asked, turning back to the cage.

The cashier stopped counting and looked up at Mikey, her professional demeanor hiding her distaste. "Kasino Kreep Keno," she said, glancing past him. "Apparently your stripper line just won her the ten grand jackpot."

Opening: Benwah.....Continuation: Anon.


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen Continuations:

"I won!" the woman squealed. "I won the pool! I told you it would only take him fifteen seconds to make a sleazy pass at her!"

Mikey turned around to find other bank employees grudgingly handing her money.

"Okay," the Bank Manager said, clearing his throat. "Now, who bet that his girlfriend is actually a stripper?" A couple of the younger employees sheepishly raised their hands. "Lisa?" the Manager said.

A woman in the corner shook her head. "She's a pudgy, balding dog groomer."

Mikey didn't know what to say. He turned back to the teller, who tugged her blouse closed. "Next," she said, handing him his deposit slip.


"Excuse me, sir."

He turned to the voice behind him, using his arm to block the cash window in case it was a scam, some ripoff attempt. "What?"

The speaker was tall, dark, and smarmy. Perfect fit for Vegas. He extended a card.

"You might give this card to your girlfriend. If she's only getting $1 tips, she needs a trainer."

Mikey eyed the card a moment, sounding out the big words carefully and still not comprehending. "John Stamos, Exotic ping pong trainer and numismatic coach? What the hell is that?"

"Haven't you ever been in the military, son?"


"Nah," she replied, "not until after the surgery." She swallowed, and winked at Mikey as he stared, transfixed, at her Adam's Apple.


The cashier glanced up at him. "And you know what you could be?"

"What?" He could just see the tip of her tongue.



A hand gripped his shoulder. "This idiot bothering you, sweetie?"

Mikey looked up into the face of a man nearly a foot and a half taller than he was. Dead black eyes met his own watery blue ones.

The cashier slid two twenties under the bar.

Mikey felt the thrust of a gun barrel into his kidney.

Somewhere in the distance, a server dropped a tray with a crash.


writtenwyrdd said...

So many good continuations, but the selected one is a howl.

Author, I really liked this opening. There's nothing I found to carp about technically. But it feels a bit cliched as an opening without knowing what sort of genre and anything further about the tale. For example, if you are writing noir crime, it feels like a neat fit, especially if you are going for a retro feel. Or it could be a spoof. but if it is something else this may be a bit over the top.

And, just as a thought, the fellow who is your pov character here is an absolute sleezeball. He doesn't endear me to him, to say the least. This may also be a problem for readers, depending on where this story is headed.

But I liked your writing and the style and would have read on.

Evil Editor said...

I'd just remove the rubber band. Snapping one is easy; unsnapping one I'm not so sure.

Just have him say "You could be a stripper." Gets rid of two lines that don't advance the plot.

I don't know exactly how many bills have to be in a stack before you decide you need to rubber band them and start a new stack, but I'm guessing at least a hundred. If I were handing a cashier five or six stacks of a hundred bills, I wouldn't remove the rubber bands before passing them in. I'd let her remove them one at a time.

Anonymous said...

Just a technical thought, which may not be correct in this instance. When businesses turn in cash, bills must be faced (lying in the same direction) and bundled. It used to be as follows, but I haven't been a cashier in many years.
$1 @ $25
$5 @ $100
$10 @ $100
$20 @ $100

Evil Editor said...

But of course a rubber band is not the bundling tool for such small numbers of bills. A paper wrapper or paper clip maybe.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Nice writing. Creepy asshole character. Sorry to say I would not read on, but that's because you did a great job with the creep.

I'd ditch the paper from the paper ripped. I got hung on that part trying to understand what you were talking about. I think if you say it's ripped, we know it's not coins.

Dave Fragments said...

This isn't a bank so deposit rules and customs don't apply. This must be a teller's cage at a casino.

A cheesy image comes to mind of a bunch of DNA laden (oh please don't ask) bills that were held between the lips and then taken, or slid into a g-string and then retrieved, counted out and presented to a teller by a sleezy boyfriend... IS that about right? And the boyfriend is on the make for the teller.

I'd talk less about the cashier counting the money and more about her ample bosom or her pouty lips. We all know what counting money looks like but that's not what caught Mikey's eyes (or libido). I'd give Mikey a few come-on words.

Aren't "thumbed through" and "thumbed" the same?
And Mikey "grinned at the explanation" well, it is his explanation, so he grins at his own charming wittiness. He thinks (warning - comment contains saccharin cliche's) he's the cats meow, or God's gift to women. Yeah, like he's miniature gherkins, unsweetened tiny dills.

All in all, a neato opening with some rather gritty characters.

Anonymous said...

Loved the opening and had a good sense of this character. Would definitely read more.

Anonymous said...

Hey Benwah, She Who Cites Betty Friedan here, know how I would feel about a character like Mikey, right?

Surprise-- I'm actually wondering if you meant for him to have a hint of potentially redemptive qualities. He takes the small bills for his girlfriend. Not exactly the gesture I'd find endearing, but in his world it seems slightly chivalrous. Saves her from embarrassment. He also doesn't hide the fact that he has a girlfriend from the cashier...

Unrelated (maybe) I like how you have him notice something small about her--the lip. It reads to me like he didn't intend to hit on her, but through the course of the mundane transaction realizes he's attracted to her.

Could be totally wrong on all of the above, but I didn't read him as a complete disaster for a POV character. Slimey, yes. Willing to cheat on his stripper girlfriend, got it. Low life, sure. But not All Bad.

So I am wondering is there more there than just total creep? Or am I reading more into him than you intended?

Robin B. said...

Hi Benwah,

I really enoyed this, and would read on. Your details are good.
"Down there" to describe how Mikey describes looking down the woman's blouse, and the name Mikey as well.
Good choice.

I like the snapping sound the rubber band gives me - it helps put me in the scene.

And that continuation - good stuff.

writtenwyrdd said...

After reading anon 12:32's comments, I have to add to my earlier comments. The reason I still liked sleazy Mikey is because he's not a flat character; there are those small hints that there's more to him than just hound dog behavior. Despite thinking he's a waste of skin, I was willing to stick with him a while.

Wes said...

Good writing!!!!!!!!!!

EB said...

Thanks for the comments.

Mikey's a minor thug who manages to bite off a bit more than he can chew. And, yes, this is a casino. This is his first appearance.

Dave, the reason he grins is that he's made up the part about a stripper. He's passing all these ones (he's the one stuck laundering the little bills), and feels compelled to offer an explanation. He's rather proud of his explanation in part because he certainly doesn't have a stripper girlfriend. In fact, he lives with his mother.

As for the rubber band around the money, he's changing stacks and stacks of the stuff that he's counted and bundled together. But it was also a way for me to give a bit more of a tactic (and aural) note to the opening line. Not something I'm wedded to.

For what it's worth, my opening from earlier in the week (the drunk in the ER) is a prologue that introduces the main character, Mikey's childhood friend. As a backstory, it may or may not make the final draft. The real story begins here.

Robin B. said...

Is it Monday night football or something?

I wanted to pester you, but you're not currently pesterable, it seems.
Oh well.

Wonderwood said...

Loved this opening, Benwah. Great stuff. Wonderful little details, well placed, and active details to give it some pace. I dig the toothpick rolling, I can see the guy. Great job.

Stacy said...

I dug this. I'd read on.

Evil Editor said...

It's halftime. But not for long.

EB said...

Er...that should read tactile, not tactic in my comment up there.

Dave Fragments said...

I find when I want a character to convey a meaning with a facial expression, I need to use a single word to indicate what that means.
Something like:

"Girlfriend's a stripper. I change her tips because she don't like bringing a bunch of crumpled little bills to the bank. Thinks it makes people stare at her." He grinned at the brilliance of his lie, working a toothpick from one corner of his mouth to the other. "Which is funny, seeing as that's what she gets paid for, right?"

I condensed his speech for the illustration. You don't have to do that. The original text is OK. I only added the lie part and you don;t have to make it sarcastic with "brilliance."

(in my mind the cashier says "and you're such a class act. She must be a lucky girl to have a boyfried as good as you." And he replies -That's the God's honest truth." not even realizing he's been put down. But that's a digression.)

What makes it sarcastic all by itself is that he's hitting on the cashier while talking about his non-existent girlfriend. Oh the brilliance of it all.

BTW, I like this opening better than the 483 BAC. This has more possibilities.

talpianna said...

Benwah, I figured all along that he was lying about the stripper girlfriend. I think I'd read on, just to see if I could spot his lies.

Anonymous said...

Quite enjoyable. I'd read another page or two to see if it developed in an interesting direction.

Scott from Oregon said...

I liked it.

Anonymous said...

I think this opening is terrific.