Free Fiction Thursday – For a Few Lattes More

Happy Thursday, everyone!

Middle of October already.  Boy, how did it get to be so late in the year?  I don’t know about you, but it gets harder and harder for me to get up in the morning when it’s still dark outside.  I’d rather stay in bed, snuggly comfy under the covers.  Nope, I’m not a morning person at all, and I’m not alone judging by the long line at the Starbucks drive-thru.  The baristas are certainly busy this time of year.

This week’s free fiction Thursday story features a Starbucks barista who encounters a whole different kind of customer — a guy who looks like he rode straight out of one of the old Clint Eastwood spaghetti Westerns.  I hope you enjoy “For A Few Lattes More.”

 

For a Few Lattes More

Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright 2011 Annie Reed

The cowboy parked his horse in the handicap spot in front of Starbucks.

Terri almost dropped the Halloween coffee mug she’d just tagged with a second red clearance sticker.   Ten minutes to closing.  Of course.  The strangest people always came in right before closing.

“You see that?” she asked Leon, who was sweeping the floor on the other side of the clearance display.

Leon craned his neck around a shelf full of travel mugs decorated with glow in the dark ghosts and goblins to look out the plate glass storefront.  “Huh,” he said.  “That’s a new one.”

Terri watched as the cowboy in the battered hat and leather duster got off his horse and wrapped the reins around the freebie community newspaper stand in front of the handicap spot.  The cowboy was tall and thin and wore his hat low over his face.  Thanks to the overhead lights in the strip mall parking lot, he was little more than a silhouette and totally out of place.  Who in his right mind rode a horse in the middle of town?

“He’s really going to leave his horse right there,” Terri said.

“I’m not cleaning up after it,” Leon said.  “No way.  Cleaning the bathrooms is bad enough.”

He had a point.  Picking up horse poo wasn’t in either of their job descriptions.

Terri and Leon saw a lot in the way of weird walk through the doors of this particular Starbucks.  Three blocks from the casinos, liquor stores, tattoo parlors and pawn shops of downtown Reno and a block away from the biggest dorm on the University of Nevada campus, it wasn’t all that unusual to see frat pledges in penguin suits chilling in line next to black leather wearing bikers.  Terri got propositioned by the frat boys on a weekly basis.  The bikers went straight to offering Terri a free peek at tattoos on body parts she didn’t want to think about, much less see.  And that was on a slow night.  Throw in a holiday, like Halloween or New Year’s Eve or the anniversary of Elvis’s death, and anything at all might walk through the door.

Like a cowboy straight out of one of the spaghetti westerns her dad used to watch when Terri was a kid.

“Just wait,” Leon said.  “He’ll want a latte.”

(read the rest of the story here)

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Free Fiction Thursday – Rolo the Great

Good morning, everyone!  Happy Thursday!

This week’s Free Fiction Thursday story is a brand new addition to the stories set in Moretown Bay, the Pacific Northwest town my detectives Diz and Dee call home.  “Rolo the Great” is not a Diz and Dee mystery, though.  It’s a romantic fantasy about a courtly street peddler who finally finds his one true love.  Only one problem: she’s trapped in the belly of a brass pig.

I hope you enjoy “Rolo the Great.”

Rolo the Great

Annie Reed

Copyright © 2012 Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Cover and layout Copyright © 2012 Thunder Valley Press

Cover art © 2012 Annie Reed

Rolo the Great owned the corner of Sussix and Wales.  Or at least, that’s what he called it.

In reality, Rolo’s home turf was a six-foot wide strip of concrete sidewalk on the southwest corner of Fourth Street and Madison Boulevard, just a mere two blocks from the tourist trap that was the fishermen’s and farmers market in Moretown Bay.  Rain or shine, Rolo could be found on the corner hawking his wares, which this month happened to be spiral wires enchanted to sparkle in all the colors of the rainbow, with little trinkets of gold or silver jewelry or a small feather hanging off the ends.  Given his courtly manner, not to mention more than his fair share of charm and wit and a smidgen of rugged good looks, Rolo was able to eke out a living by charming the ladies, tourists and local alike.  The spirals he sold were hair charms, which he was more than happy to show each lady how to wear, provided they bent down low enough for Rolo to reach their heads.

Rolo was only four foot tall, you see.

He wasn’t properly a dwarf or a halfling, and he was too tall to be a gnome.  Whenever a potential customer was crude enough to ask him if he was an elf, he would happily brush back his unruly brown curls to show them his perfectly human-shaped ears, which meant he was also neither fairy nor nymph nor leprechaun.  He was simply a somewhat short person who thought he was the King of England.  In a past life, of course.

So it all made a certain kind of sense when he fell in love with a princess.

An enchanted princess.

Of course.

You might think by now that I’m the headwaiter in the local looney bin, which in a way might be true.  I’m the assistant manager at Sessions, a sort of combination coffee shop/pastry shop/open mike night lounge (yes, such things really do exist), which means my customers range from the merely under-caffeinated office worker to the extremely over-caffeinated and severely depressed wannabe grunge rocker.  Sessions is located—you guessed it—on the corner of Fourth and Madison.  Since I’ve been at Sessions long enough to work my way up the non-corporate ladder from mere coffee brewer to coffee brewer with an official title, I’ve gotten to know all the regulars, including Rolo the Great.

“Matthew!” Rolo called out to me one night as he barreled in through the open front door.  “I have met the most extraordinary woman.”

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – Soulmate From Hell

Happy Thursday, everyone!

This week I’m trying to play catch-up after a weekend spent battling the cold from hell, so I thought what better story to post this week than “Soulmate From Hell,” a quirky little tale about a minion, a perky blonde, and a wish gone wrong — or did it? Enjoy!

 

Soulmate from Hell

Annie Reed

Copyright © 2012 Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Cover and layout Copyright © 2012 Thunder Valley Press

Cover art Copyright © Dmitry Pshek/Dreamstime.com

“My name’s Paulette, and I want a soulmate.”

Reba raised a hairy eyebrow at the video of the young woman displayed on the heat-resistant monitor on her desk.

Why didn’t anyone just want a date anymore?  Paulette was cute, in a vapid blonde sort of way.  She had a dimple in her chin, pouty lips, and a nose that was a little too pert to be natural, which probably meant that other portions of her anatomy, out of camera range, would be a little too pert to be natural, too.  Men seemed to go for those things.  So why couldn’t Paulette be satisfied with a date?

Why had she requested a soulmate?

Reba sighed and flexed her wings.  She really needed more of the moisturizer her shift supervisor had recommended, but she’d have to put in another four hundred sixty-six hours processing soulmate requests before she’d have the credits to buy anything other than a mid-shift snack.  The thin skin between the spines of her wings dried out in the heat, as if that was anything new.  If one more minion in the Be Careful What You Wish For division cracked a joke about how the heat down here wasn’t really all that bad because it was a dry heat, Reba was going to smack said minion straight to Level 42.

Nobody wanted to go to Level 42.  Not even Reba.

Level 42 was home to things no self-respecting minion of Hell ever talked about, much less contemplated, and minions of Hell contemplated a lot considering that the mind-numbing tasks most minions performed didn’t take a lot in the way of brain power.

Reba punched a button on the soulmate machine that stood off to one side of her desk.  The ancient thing resembled a lottery tumbler only on a much more massive and corroded scale.  Instead of ping pong balls with numbers stenciled on them, the tumbler held tiny spheres filled with softly glowing souls.  The souls came in all colors of the rainbow, from softest pink and palest blue, to darkest black and deep, bloody crimson.

She wasn’t quite sure why certain requests for a soulmate were funneled downstairs instead of up.  The only one who knew was the Boss, and Reba, good little functionary that she was, never asked the Boss any questions.  She just kept her massive, short-horned head down and did what she was told.  She’d long since stopped wondering if never questioning the way things worked in life was the thing that landed her this particular job in the afterlife.  After all, it could have been worse.  She could have been assigned to Level 42.

What Reba did know was that whenever certain requests for soulmates showed up on her monitor in the form of a video or email or diary entry (how quaint), Reba pressed the button on the ancient machine, which sent the massive tumbler rolling with a screeching groan.  The spheres full of souls churned around inside until the machine spit one out.  Reba took note of the results, entered them in a database that had no beginning (and probably would never have an end), and then sent the soul on its way.  Done and done, until the next request came through.

Next to her, the machine screeched and groaned, its rusted gears rasping against each other as the souls tumbled round inside.  The thing smelled like it needed a good oiling, not that anyone from maintenance bothered with… well, maintenance.  Reba tried not to reach around behind her back to scratch her wings while she waited.  Her arms were long enough, but her talons were sharp.  Last time she scratched her wings, she ended up in therapy for self-mutilation.  While  mutilation itself was a time-honored tradition in Hell, it was the “self” part that the Boss frowned on.  Afterwards, Reba had vowed never to end up in therapy again.  Trolls did not make good mental health counselors.

She was just about ready to do a major no-no – make a personal call at work to order that moisturizer, credits or no credits – when the machine quit its screeching and groaning, and spit out a sphere.

An empty one.

(Read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – For A Few Lattes More

Hey, we’re back on Thursday this week!  How’s everybody doing?  Ready for a free story?

This week’s story is FOR A FEW LATTES MORE, which first appeared in the anthology THE TROUBLE WITH HEROES (Daw, 2009), and which will be appearing shortly in my newest collection, EIGHT FROM THE SILVER STATE.  Enjoy!

For a Few Lattes More

Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright 2011 Annie Reed

  

The cowboy parked his horse in the handicap spot in front of Starbucks.

Terri almost dropped the Halloween coffee mug she’d just tagged with a second red clearance sticker.   Ten minutes to closing.  Of course.  The strangest people always came in right before closing.

“You see that?” she asked Leon, who was sweeping the floor on the other side of the clearance display.

Leon craned his neck around a shelf full of travel mugs decorated with glow in the dark ghosts and goblins to look out the plate glass storefront.  “Huh,” he said.  “That’s a new one.”

Terri watched as the cowboy in the battered hat and leather duster got off his horse and wrapped the reins around the freebie community newspaper stand in front of the handicap spot.  The cowboy was tall and thin and wore his hat low over his face.  Thanks to the overhead lights in the strip mall parking lot, he was little more than a silhouette and totally out of place.  Who in his right mind rode a horse in the middle of town?

“He’s really going to leave his horse right there,” Terri said.

“I’m not cleaning up after it,” Leon said.  “No way.  Cleaning the bathrooms is bad enough.”

He had a point.  Picking up horse poo wasn’t in either of their job descriptions.

Terri and Leon saw a lot in the way of weird walk through the doors of this particular Starbucks.  Three blocks from the casinos, liquor stores, tattoo parlors and pawn shops of downtown Reno and a block away from the biggest dorm on the University of Nevada campus, it wasn’t all that unusual to see frat pledges in penguin suits chilling in line next to black leather wearing bikers.  Terri got propositioned by the frat boys on a weekly basis.  The bikers went straight to offering Terri a free peek at tattoos on body parts she didn’t want to think about, much less see.  And that was on a slow night.  Throw in a holiday, like Halloween or New Year’s Eve or the anniversary of Elvis’s death, and anything at all might walk through the door.

(read the rest of the story here)

New free story – For A Few Lattes More

Happy Thursday from snowy, icy northern Nevada!  Hope everyone who’s dealing with wintery weather stays safe and warm.  Didn’t the groundhog predict an early spring?  I’m ready for it, that’s for sure.

Today’s free fiction Thursday story is one I wrote for the anthology THE TROUBLE WITH HEROES.  The particular hero in this story is based on the no-name, mysterious cowboy of spaghetti Western fame — with a twist.

For a Few Lattes More
Annie Reed
Published by Thunder Valley Press
Copyright 2011 by Annie Reed

The cowboy parked his horse in the handicap spot in front of Starbucks.

Terri almost dropped the Halloween coffee mug she’d just tagged with a second red clearance sticker. Ten minutes to closing. Of course. The strangest people always came in right before closing.

“You see that?” she asked Leon, who was sweeping the floor on the other side of the clearance display.

Leon craned his neck around a shelf full of travel mugs decorated with glow in the dark ghosts and goblins to look out the plate glass storefront. “Huh,” he said. “That’s a new one.”

Terri watched as the cowboy in the battered hat and leather duster got off his horse and wrapped the reins around the freebie community newspaper stand in front of the handicap spot. The cowboy was tall and thin and wore his hat low over his face. Thanks to the overhead lights in the strip mall parking lot, he was little more than a silhouette and totally out of place. Who in his right mind rode a horse in the middle of town?

“He’s really going to leave his horse right there,” Terri said.

“I’m not cleaning up after it,” Leon said. “No way. Cleaning the bathrooms is bad enough.”

He had a point. Picking up horse poo wasn’t in either of their job descriptions.

Terri and Leon saw a lot in the way of weird walk through the doors of this particular Starbucks. Three blocks from the casinos, liquor stores, tattoo parlors and pawn shops of downtown Reno and a block away from the biggest dorm on the University of Nevada campus, it wasn’t all that unusual to see frat pledges in penguin suits chilling in line next to black leather wearing bikers. Terri got propositioned by the frat boys on a weekly basis. The bikers went straight to offering Terri a free peek at tattoos on body parts she didn’t want to think about, much less see. And that was on a slow night. Throw in a holiday, like Halloween or New Year’s Eve or the anniversary of Elvis’s death, and anything at all might walk through the door.

Like a cowboy straight out of one of the spaghetti westerns her dad used to watch when Terri was a kid.

“Just wait,” Leon said. “He’ll want a latte.”

Terri shook her head. “Coffee, black.”

“Quarter?” Leon asked. A quarter was their standard bet. They went as high as fifty cents when they were feeling lucky and flush.

“A dollar,” Terri said.

Leon grinned. “You’re on.” He put the broom away and wiped off the nozzle on the steamer. Terri logged back on to the register as the cowboy opened the door.

His boot heels clicked on the tile floor, and his spurs made jangling noises in time to his strides. He had something that looked like a small cigar shoved in one corner of his mouth. The tip glowed beneath the ash as he sucked in a breath. If the lit cigar wasn’t bad enough — the front door clearly had a no smoking sign in not only English but the universal You Can’t Do That symbol of a circle with a slash — more than just a whiff of the barnyard surrounded the cowboy like a toxic cloud.

When she was little, Terri used to crush over the cowboys her dad watched on television. They all seemed so ruggedly handsome. Independent. Heroic. Whenever there was a damsel in distress — or an entire town in need of someone who could kick some serious ass — the lone cowboy would ride in and save the day. Clint Eastwood was her favorite. Back then, Terri never thought about what these guys must actually smell like. She was pretty sure she could have lived without knowing.

“I’m sorry, but you can’t smoke in here,” Terri told the cowboy when he stopped in front of her register.

Piercing blue eyes peered at her from beneath a dirty hat. “Coffee,” he said around the cigar still clenched between his teeth. “Black.”

(read the rest of the story here.)