Thursday, May 5, 2016
Break Week - Scene from Horsepower
The serial story hit a speed bump, so here’s something from my WIP. Roy and Dale—yeah, I went there—are about to have a night of drunken revelry when Dale puts the kibosh on things by turning into a horse. It’s now the morning after …
# # #
Sounds. Snores. Traffic. Morning. Roy’s head moved steadily up and down on the mattress, or whatever the warm, hairy thing was he was pillowed on. His top half was nice and toasty. The chill started at his thighs and spread downward from there.
He pried his eyelids open and owlishly blinked his surroundings into focus. The world began at a grease stain on the floor and gradually widened into the garage bay. The chill came from the concrete his legs were sprawled on. His moving mattress turned out to be Dale, also lying on the floor, still dead to the world and still a horse. He smelled like Budweiser. A snort-snore wheezed through his nostrils at irregular intervals.
Then the hangover hit, a throb in his head like a Harley’s engine, followed by a churning gut. When his attempt to stand dumped him back on the concrete, Roy crawled over to one of the benches and levered himself up from there. He squinted against the harsh sunlight streaming into the showroom. One ray glinted off a Honda’s fender and stabbed him in the eyes. Roy swore. Dale slept on.
He rubbed his forehead. Coffee. Coffee would solve everything.
Forewarned by the glare in the showroom, Roy shut his eyes and averted his face before he yanked up the bay door. Sunlight hit his skin, and an unexpected, unfamiliar voice pounded his ears. “Morning, son. Don’t you look like shit on a stick.”
Roy cracked an eye open. His gaze hit the other man’s grin first, then dropped to the badge pinned to his shirt.
Fuck. Now the goddamned cops show up.
“Looks like you had yourself a helluva night last night.” The cop roamed his own gaze over the front of the building. “Maybe you thought it’d be a laugh to call in a nuisance report? Waste our time?"
“It’s not a nuisance call. I got vandalized. We scrubbed off the dirty words so we wouldn’t offend the ladies. But I got pictures.” Roy dug for his phone. God-damn, that sun was bright. He squinted longingly at the diner across the street, and its promise of strong, hot coffee. "Dammit. I think I left my phone in the office.”
“I think you’re just trying to make trouble,” the cop said. “You think playing the ex-Army card lets you get away with shit? Not in this town.” Homo hung unspoken in the air.
“Look, let me go in and get my—”
From within the shadowy depths of the garage bay came a snort, a staccato series of belches, and the scrape of hooves trying to find purchase on concrete. The cop stared over Roy’s shoulder. His eyes got huge. “Holy shit! Is that a horse?”
Goddammit, Roy thought. Of course he’d wake up now. None of this was doing his headache a lick of good. He longed for Tylenol and coffee. “Never mind him. I’m going in to get my phone.” And to get out of the sun, which wasn’t helping either.
“Why’s there a horse in your garage?”
“He’s not mine. I’m just watching him for a friend. Do you want to take my statement or not?”
Meanwhile Dale had finally managed to find all four of his feet. He tottered past Roy and the cop on legs as shaky as a newborn foal’s and lurched to a stop on the sidewalk. The noise he made at the sun wasn’t human or horsey, but it sure as hell sounded disgusted.
“You can’t keep a horse in the city,” the cop said.
“I’m not keeping him anywhere. He goes wherever he wants. Now, about the vandalism. The place was fine when I left around 12:30, but when I got back around four—”
Suddenly Dale urped. He sprang toward a trash barrel, just in time to ralph up a bellyful of Bud. Both he and Roy wrinkled their respective snouts against the stink. Already the few people on the street had stopped to stare.
“That’s it.” The cop pulled out his ticket book. “I’m writing you up.”
“For what? Reporting legitimate vandalism?”
“Falsely reporting,” the cop corrected. “Also public drunkenness, harboring livestock within town limits, causing a disturbance—”
At the word “livestock” Dale’s head swung around. He bore down on the cop with flattened ears, bared teeth and horrendous breath. His threat was marred by another belch. He swung back to the trash barrel and yarked up another spurt.
The cop’s hand flashed to his sidearm. “Control your animal or I’ll have to shoot him.”
“He’s not a—”
“For goodness’ sake.” Suellen appeared on the run. She skidded to a halt between Roy and the cop. “What’s going on here, officer?”
“Not your business, ma’am. Please—” He got a better look at her features. His own went white, and his hand left his gun in a hurry. “Dr. Evanista.”
“Officer …” She peered at his nameplate. “Simmons. Are you in the habit of drawing on people who call to report a crime?”
“Man’s keeping a horse in his garage here. The animal got unruly.”
“Nonsense. He’s perfectly harmless.” Suellen went to Dale and caught him by the forelock. Her eyes narrowed and her nose wrinkled as the smell hit her. Dale muttered a drunken apology.
“He’s feeling better,” Roy said quickly. “I kept him warm and in the dark, just like you asked me to.”
She never batted an eye, God bless her. “I appreciate your help. There just wasn’t room at the hospital. Now.” She turned on the cop with flashing eyes. “What’s going on?”
The cop swallowed. “We got a report—”
“Last night. You got a report last night. I know. I was here when this young man called it in. And you’re only responding now? Had a lot of crime last night, did you? Drug busts and armed standoffs, I suppose?”
The cop reddened. “Vandalism’s not exactly a priority, ma’am. Especially for—” He bit off the end of his sentence.
Suellen’s voice went Antarctic. “For what, Officer Simmons?”
“For false reports,” he recovered. “There’s no sign of vandalism here.”
“There most certainly was, Officer Simmons. I was here. I saw it.” She shook her head. “I dread telling George about this. Standards have certainly fallen since my brother retired. Were you working when George Evanista was Chief?”
The cop had gone a sickly shade of yellow. Roy hadn’t known a man’s face could change color so often in such short order.
Suellen turned to Roy with a maternal smile. “I’m going to give my statement. Why don’t you go get yourself a cup of coffee? You look like you could do with one.”
“Thanks.” He shot a glance at Dale. “You want coffee?”
Dale bobbed his head, but quickly stopped. He swayed on his feet and moaned.
Roy headed across the street for the diner. Behind him he heard Suellen’s clear, powerful voice ripping Officer Simmons a new one. Dale’s hooves clopped heavily on the sidewalk.
He had his hand on the diner door when the cop cried out, “Jesus Christ! My car!”
“Oh, that’s nothing,” Suellen said. “Certainly not as awful as spray paint. A trip through the car wash should rinse that right off.”