Happy Thursday, y’all.
For full disclosure, this was going to be the intended post for Tuesday, but…well, stuff came up and kind of stole the show. But today’s a new day and truth be told I needed a little bit of time to outline today’s challenge.
“But Evan!” I hear you shout, “That’s cheeeeating! You’re only supposed to have thirty minutes!”
“Ah, gentle reader,” I would respond. “you’re absolutely right. So it’s a good thing all that time I could have spent really building it into a fully-formed thing only amounted to about five minutes of spit-balling onto some paper before starting this.”
All good? Cool.
We know how this goes. We have a prompt, thirty desperate minutes, the Law of the Honor System, and some kind of product at the end (featured below). This time, however, we’re going to do it a touch out of order. The prompt this time was a little unusual, and as such, I think it’s better to share what it was afterward.
You’ll see what I mean.
Starting timer in 3…
Las Vegas, 1982
“I do not like these costumes.” Bucky scratched at his armpit. He was dressed in the uniform of a hotel bellhop and pushing a cart covered in trays and glasses.
“They are not costumes,” replied his partner, Foxhole. He was dressed in a tuxedo that was a size and half too small for him. “They are uniforms.”
“Yes, but they are not our uniforms. And so they are costumes.”
“It doesn’t matter if you like them or not, we have them to help do our job. Besides, they were someone’s uniform. So fuck you.”
Bucky spared a hand from his cart-pushing to give his partner the finger. Agent Foxhole was ready to protest, but the two were forced to calm as a group of large, sunburned, American tourists came bumbling down the hallway in their pool attire.
The two Russians adopted the friendly smiles of normal, American hotel staff as the gaggle passed them by, smelling of sun screen and tequila burps. When they were once again alone, scowls retook their faces. “You know what?” Agent Bucky asked.
“American hot dogs. They are not all that bad.”
“But they make you shit like crazy.”
“You would know,” Bucky muttered under his breath.
“What was that?”
“Well, game face. And shut up, we are here.”
The two approached the door at the end of the long, long hallway. In front of it, was a behemoth of a man in a suit, with hair slicked back and sunglasses on indoors. As the two got close, his upper lip curled into a lopsided sneer.
“Hello,” Foxhole greeted. “We are here to deliver room service.” He smiled, showing all of his teeth.
“Ain’t nobody order room service. Get goin’.”
“Ah, you must be from Texas. Happy American ‘Lone Star State.’ Ha-ha! You are not one who ordered big steak here, under tray? We know you like things big in big Texas.” Foxhole nudged the giant’s tummy with a friendly elbow.
“Take your cart, take your trays, and take your steak, and get the fuck out of here before I shove it all up your ass. Boss didn’t call for no food.”
Agent Foxhole looked back to Agent Bucky and shrugged his shoulders, to which Bucky replied in the same. “We tried,” they said together.
Lightning fast, Foxhole kicked the big man’s knee to the sound of a loud crack, parried away the hand that reached for a stowed pistol, and pulled a blackjack out from between the tray’s napkins, whapping the juggernaut soundly over the head into the soft, sweet arms of unconsciousness.
“Oh, shit,” complained Foxhole.
“What is the matter?” Bucky inquired.
“I tore my pants.” The Russian agent indicated a long tear along the rear-end of his tuxedo’s slacks.
“Well, I mean, y’know,” Bucky stammered.
“You know how you got your codename, do you not?”
“How did you get yours?”
“Oh, they just put me into a name generator. ‘Bucky’ was good, bland American name. I think like big stag, with horns and mean antlers, but that’s just for me.”
“Why did I get ‘Foxhole’ then, according to you?”
“It was from time you cracked porcelain in toilets at The Farm. You leave big old crater.”
Agent Bucky began to snicker and laugh, but Foxhole slapped him upside the head. “You ready to be serious?”
Bucky nodded, only smiling.
Foxhole nodded and knocked on the door. No answer. He knocked again to the same response. He looked at his partner and again the two shared a moment of shoulder-shrugging. He replaced the blackjack on the tray and retrieved two silenced pistols, giving one to Bucky. They nodded together, and Foxhole slammed a heavy Russian foot against the door.
Back-to-back, the two whirled into the room and sprayed bullets at their targets, each firing quiet, whispered shots until their pistols were empty.
Then they noticed the people they were- um, the targets they were neutralizing were…
They were already dead.
The two stopped and looked at one another in confusion. They walked about the decadent Las Vegas penthouse that was, currently, littered with corpses. The followed the trail of bodies through the luxuriant space around to the master bedroom, which itself sported a bloodied doorknob. They opened the door and saw an man in a bathrobe, spread-eagle’d on the bed.
With a knife in his throat.
“Shit!” the two shouted. Foxhole threw down his bow-tie. “Second place is the worst.”
“Wait,” said Bucky. “Maybe…maybe they got kill, but did they get prize?”
Foxhole’s eyes lit up. “Maybe you are right. What was your half of code?”
Bucky cleared his throat. “‘Pull me to pieces, hear me crackle. Hungry for mushrooms, you’ll need my name.’ What was yours?”
“‘Not very tall, better avoid my tackle, but while I don’t play, without me there’s no game.’ What do you think it means?”
The Russians walked about the room, looking for clues as to what their riddle might reference. They searched between crystal decanters, liquor bottles, under the fabric of the card tables, inside the cushions of the furniture, everywhere.
“Oo!” exclaimed Bucky. “What about that?” He pointed a hairy finger between two lamps and underneath two hung portraits of the penthouse’s owner. Agent Foxhole followed the line of sight and saw a gleaming, golden statue of a hog.
They approached it together. Crackling bacon, mushroom-hunting pigs, the charge of a boar – everything checked out.
“What about needing for game?” Foxhole asked.
“Ah, dirty American passtime. Football. They refer to ball as ‘pig-skin’. Very silly.”
“What do you think is inside? CIA agent names? Launch codes?” Bucky heard two hissed stings and felt a shock in his back. He fell to the ground and saw Foxhole standing over him with a pistol.
“Sorry comrade. Extra-curricular assignments, and everything. You know how it goes.”
The Take: Hmm…well, that was…weird. Okay, so the prompt here was this: “A story out of the three words ‘Boar,’ ‘Penthouse,’ and ‘Blackjack.'” The very first thing to come to mind was a Vegas story, obviously, wherein it culminates in some sort of high-stakes hand of blackjack at a card table, right? The thing that really throws a super wrench into that, though, is the addition of ‘Boar.’ The thought process went, “What the shit would a pig be doing at a casino gaming table?” soon met “Well maybe there’s just a pig playing cards, shut up” soon became “Yeah, like Animal Farm meets Ocean’s Eleven.” Like, that’s kind of awesome, but too much for what we’re doing here.
So that got dialed back to some kind of 1980’s spy-thriller but it got goofy really quick. That was in part because I wrote the title on the fly in a panicked moment, but still felt a sort of loyalty to it. It wasn’t until the end that I suddenly realized how weird and contrived it sounded to actually have nuclear launch codes stashed that way, so that’s why it ended abruptly. But hey! We were within time (sort of, I had to pause once or twice because of distractions outside of my control – but that’s not what we’re focusing on here), so yay!
Anyway, y’all are great. This one was weird. See ya Tuesday.