Bacon and Eggs, 1977 from Departures Or Arrivals
What are you working on now?
I just returned from a week long workshop I taught at The Clearing in Door County, WI called Mixing Genres. I'm working in a collection of compressed and short stories with the working title "Departures Or Arrivals". I am also working on a full length play called War Chronicles, three one act plays strung together, all vignettes of lives affected by war: "Interference, New Horrors and Once". And I have just finished a chapbook of twenty-six school kids called Another Brick in the Wall.
The man hit the road the same afternoon he was fired from the independent movie. He couldn’t remember his lines, and his improv lines were worse than the script. He didn’t have enough gas to get to Hollywood, so he stopped in Taos. He changed his name to Bart and hit the health food store thinking this was a place he would never be recognized.
He could get some of that healthy new yogurt, and add Brewer’s yeast and slivered almonds to it. He looked in his rear view mirror, the month’s worth of beard growth hid his multiple pock-marked scars on his cheeks. His prominent, crooked nose glared back, dangerous from scraps in city alleyways after clubs closed. He groaned, “God I need some sun!” As he pulled up in front of Sunshine Foods, he parked, not noticing two of his wheels propped onto the curb. The entire car sat like a rusted out carnival ride.
The owner of Sunrise, Carolee Caruthers was a former born-again gone bad. She moonlighted as a roulette dealer at Klegg’s Kastle, the Indian owned casino in Santa Fe on the weekends. She had an on-again, off-again clandestine affair with Sunil, the brother of the owner. He was the black sheep of the family, the bane of their entire existence.
Carolee paused while she was ringing the man up. “Hey, aren’t you that-” Bart created a faux look of surprise. “Name’s Bart. Bartleby Macmillan.” He was shocked at how easily the name just jumped from his lips.
“Oh, you look so much like that actor,” Carolee said. “But you’re way better looking.”
“Yeah,” Bart squirmed. “I get that all the time.”
“I can see why,” she agreed. “Milk in the bag?”
“Nah,” he said. “I’ll just carry it.”
Bart ran into Carolee later that week at Klegg’s. He wasn’t a gambler, per se. An occasional 2 dollar slot, sure. But the noise he found irritating, and his sinus’s reacted adversely to the multitude of smoky air he’d ingest.
“Come here often?” he asked.
She narrowed her eyes. “So, a gambler then? Figured as much.” Carolee thought that all of life was a gamble, not just one evening at Klegg’s.
“Nah,” Bart moved closer. She looked better in this light, more forgiving. “What about you?”
“Just finished my shift,” Carolee said, nodding toward the roulette table.
Bart admired her work ethics, a trait he didn’t share.
“So tell me Bart,” she cajoled, “What’s a guy like you doing in a one-horse town like Taos?”
He shrugged. “Ran out of gas.” He surveyed the busy room. “Fresh meat?”
“Gross,” she said. “More like low self-esteem.”
Bart laughed and Carolee bared her fangs. “What’re you doing after?”
This was the beginning of an end. Well, Bart’s end. He got cast in another indy, this time the production was assembling in Guadalajara, with Robert Rodriguez directing. “I’m off,” he said, popping carob-covered almonds.
She said, “I wish you’d buy those before you-”
“Yeah. Whatever. You’re all about the money.”
“One of us has to be. Look, Bart, you’re an okay guy. Not great in bed. Not bad, but not great. A little selfish.”
Bart nearly choked. “Seriously?”
“Just kidding.” Carolee slapped his face playfully. “But why do you have to go?”
“Job. It’s only six or eight months at the most. Maybe even less.”
“And it’s in Mexico?” She crossed her arms. “Are you a drug runner?”
Bart laughed. “I don’t even take vitamins.”
“That’s not entirely true.” After he’d moved into Carolee’s house, he’d nearly drained her supplement supply.
On the morning he left, he decided to tell her. “Carolee, that first time we met…I lied.”
“I know, Bart. I know way more than you think.”
“Really? Okay then, what did I lie about?” He dipped his vegetarian bacon into his egg yolk and took a big bite.
“Well, for one thing, I know who you are.”
Bart was pissed. He’d thought he’d done a remarkable job at being Bart, this other dipshit. “And when were you going to tell me?”
“I’m telling you right now. You’re a fraud.”
“Up yours,” Bart said.
“Juvenile, and erroneous. You don’t have the last word in this script actor man. Off on another acting adventure.” She was pushing him toward the front door.
“Wait! Wait!” Bart pushed back. “I want to come back! After Mexico.”
“Have your people get in touch with my people.” Carolee joked. “We’ll do lunch.”
Robert Vaughan’s writing has appeared in hundreds of print and online journals. He is a Pushcart Prize nominee. His story, “Ten Notes to the Guy Studying Jujitsu” was a finalist for the Gertrude Stein Award 2013. His story “The Rooms We Rented” was a finalist for the Gertrude Stein Award 2014. He is senior flash fiction editor at JMWW and Lost in Thought magazines. His chapbooks are Microtones (Cervena Barva) and Diptychs + Triptychs (Deadly Chaps). His first full- length book is Addicts and Basements (Civil Coping Mechanisms).