It's Blatant Self-Promotion Time!
I'm very pleased to announce the next standalone Maynard Soloman short story, "Maynard Soloman Fixes Social Security and Eats a Pony." After two previous installments, I finally feel like this series has hit its rhythm.
Once again, Trestle Press is offering this short story as an ebook for 99 cents. As the legendary Ron Popeil would say, wait. There's more.
In addition to the story, you'll also get a lesson in cursing from the ol' badger himself, Maynard. He'll show you what words to use when - in his own special way.
To read on a computer or other e-reader, click here to get it from Smashwords.
Now enjoy this free preview!
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What in the hell is it with people in lines at gas stations?
There's always some puddin' ass with a gal-damn glacier chained around his ankle holdin' everyone up. See, he can't decide how to piss his money away: smokes or lottery tickets. Either is a losing bet. Not that I don't gamble on the occasional cow plop. But that's for a good cause - the least of which is the cow's. People clap while the pre-burger meat pole walks around and plops a wet load of climate change onto square B24. Anyone ever clap for your crap? Didn't think so.
This guy in line, the only time you'd hear a clap is when his steaming black lungs fall like two overripe smokehouse hams onto the floor. He can't decide if he wants one box of cigs now or if he should chance the lottery tickets for a carton later.
Meanwhile, the rest of the world is put on hold. Including me. I just want to pay for my gas. My medical bills came due last week, which means I'm low on money today. I'm out of checks to kite, so I only put five bucks in the Winnebago. It's a good thing I'm in Bumfuck Nowhere, Utah, right now. The gas station is at the edge of a mesa. Five dollars' worth of fumes will float me down to the bottom. I know of a little motel there. Stayed there once back with my wife...
Stop it. No one wants to hear your namby-pamby sob story, Maynard. You're a tough guy now that she's gone.
I will clue you in on a little secret, though. At my age, when I tell people my wife is "gone," people think she's dead. That's not quite true. See, what happened is...
Wait a minute. My private investigator senses are tingling. That guy holding up the line. He asked about lottery tickets. I'm in Utah. Utah doesn't have a lottery. Hell, I haven’t even seen a proper groggery in miles. So what in the hell is this fruit bat still doing at the cash register?
I take a quick gander out at the parking lot. I see the 'bago, which is looking more like an art snob's lawn sculpture than a RV these days. I spot three other cars, each with Utah plates. Then I see a pony picking at grass out by the road. I'm unsure of the laws here, but the pony does not have a license plate.
Something is off. I walk to the register. The guy at the front of the line shoots me a look. It says, "Don't come over here." I look down and see he's wearing spurs. The ape is shaped like a butter churn. Thin as a stick up top, squishy and wide toward the bottom.
Things feel tense. Across the counter, a gal shrinks like a cheese curd in the sun behind the cash register. Scared. I've got to approach this delicate situation with the graceful charm of a diplomat.
"What in the hell is taking so gal-damn long?" I say. "I've got five bucks on pump two I need to pay."
The ape with the spurs looks me up and down. He talks low and slow with just a trace of a Southern accent. Like good barbecue. "Get back in line, old man," the ape says.
Oh, boy, here we go. I stick a finger in the ape's grimy face. "Now see here, you wannabe cowboy mudsill. The only shit I take from butter churns like you is the kind I put on toast. I eat it with chipped beef for breakfast. Shit on a Shingle. Which is kind of what your face looks like, you festering pile of latrine dip. Now get your quirly gear and pull in your horns," I say.
The ape laughs. He turns to the gal and says, "I’m happy to be on my way. I just need this nice lady to change out my $100 bill."
The gal shakes her head. "We don't take bills higher than $50. It's policy," she says.
The ape slicks his hair back and wipes the grease on his jeans. He slams his hand down on the $100 bill. Hard. He tries not to wince, but I spot a quiver in his eyelid. The gas station goes quiet. "Look, bitch, this is simple. Open the register. I want five 20s. Got it? Do it nice and slow," he says.
"I told you before. We don't take $100 bills," the gal says.
"I told you before. Open. The. Register," the ape says.
"And I told you both before. Hurry this the hell up," I say.
Some people have no gal-damn decency. Still, I can sense one of them is a yellow belly. Probably the gal. She's lying about the policy. That's customer service for you these days.
The gal sighs and hits a button. A shelf of sorted bills kicks into her stomach.
Just like that, the ape reaches over and grabs a grizzled paw of cash. He's damn fast when his knuckles aren't draggin' on the ground. Then he turns and snatches the fiver from my hand. "What the...?" I start to say. But he's already gone, out the door and running toward the pony.
But wait. The $100 bill. It's still on the counter. The gal and I look at it, then each other.
"How much did that sink clog lift from the register?" I say.
The gal does a silent tally. "Forty-seven bucks," she says.
Mother of Lucifer, what a gem of a human being. They didn't just break the mold with this idiot. They imploded the factory and executed the workers. It's shit-for-brains criminals like this who inspired me to go private after my forced retirement.
"Ma'am, I happen to be a private investigator. My business, Maynard Soloman Investigation Services, just spent five dollars at one of your pumps. I'd be happy to take you on as a client. I’ll correct this grave injustice," I say.
The gal shakes her head. "Actually, the crime made us money. I don't care where he goes on that pony," she says.
"But your policy. You can't take $100 bills. You'd get in trouble. You need to hire me to get that money back," I say. I tap a finger on the $100 bill. "For all you know, this could be a fake."
The gal takes out a marker. She makes a small line on the bill. It turns yellow. Damn, I was hoping it would be black.
"Nope, this one is real. That guy screwed himself. Thanks for the offer, though," the gal says.
Blast, I really need this job. Or rather, I really need to fill up the 'bago.
"It's the principle of the matter. Don't you see? His brain is infected. He won't stop trying to knock off gas stations. He's like a dog with rabies. He's got to be put down, 'cause his brain is too far gone. Understand?" I say.
The gal mulls this over. "I suppose you're right. Just don't tell my manager," she says.
I snap my fingers. "Now we're talkin'. I'll fetch this punk and bring back your money in no time. I'll just need to fill up the Winnebago first."
"What for? He's still trying to get on his pony," the gal says. She points outside. I see the ass end of a butter churn bobbing up and down next to the pony.
"Ma'am, there's no telling where he and that pony could go. The pursuit could take days," I say. “Remember, this is the principle of the matter. You don’t want to be known as a pushover.”
"Fine, go fill it up," she says.
Hot damn, a full tank of gas. I don't wait for her to change her mind. I keep my head down and spring over to the pump. Next to the ringing and chugging of the pump, it’s easy to act like I don’t hear the ape by the pony. But I can't ignore the gal yelling at me from inside. "He's. Right. There," she hollers. I point at the pump and give the thumbs up. She waves her hands in disgust.
Running a business like mine is all about integrity. There are expenses involved. Working for anything less than top hide devalues my services. I'm the best. You need to understand that. Not everyone can be forced into retirement after decades as an investigator with the Obscenities Division.
At about $95 worth of gas, the ape manages to get on his pony. At $125, he's made it out of the parking lot. As the pump races past $200, he's out of sight. Perfect.
I hang the nozzle up and climb into the 'bago. I fire up the engine and feel it digesting. It purrs like a sleepy cat. Time to work off that meal. Time to kick some ass.
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To read on a computer or other e-reader, click here to get it from Smashwords.