The Three Stooges, Disorder in the Court, 1936, public domain
by Kristin Nador/@KristinNador
Writers are a serious lot. We are serious about our craft. We are serious when we write and serious when we can’t. We are serious about getting published and oh so serious when we get rejected. Yes, you are a writer and you love writing. You love talking about writing. You love having written even more. When is the last time you had FUN writing?
I had a great writing session yesterday thanks to a post on The Write Practice. Joe Bunting and crew do a great job of encouraging writers to practice with a variety of suggestions and prompts. Joe also encourages readers to share their practice and give feedback to others in the blog comments. Yesterday’s practice was all about clichés.
Check out Cliches: Not In My Backyard
The goal: write for 15 minutes using as many clichés as possible. I like clichés. They remind me of those noir detective movies from the 40’s. I discovered a treasure trove of clichés, euphemisms and figures of speech on ClicheSite.com. After scrolling through pages and pages of clichés, I wrote a list of my favorites and the challenge was on.
An afternoon’s challenge became the following short story. Can you find all the clichés?
Better The Devil You Know Than The Devil You Don’t
I stood inside the entrance to Max’s Bar, shaking out my trenchcoat. It was a dark and stormy night and the rain was coming down in buckets; it was a real toad strangler. I needed a drink before my appointment. Take it from me, playing both sides of the fence takes its toll.
“What’ll it be?” Max said when I bellied up to the bar.
“Double scotch, neat.”
Quick as a whistle, Max poured the scotch and slid the glass straight as a nail to stop in front of me. I wanted to get hammered, but I knew the score. I needed my wits about me for this appointment.
“Here’s mud in your eye.”
Down the hatch went the Scotch and Max nodded. It was good to the last drop.
I thought about Betsy. She was the best thing since sliced bread, as pure as the driven snow, with a heart of gold. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. But Pops always said you can’t have your cake and eat it, too. I burned that bridge, and now I was drowning my sorrows and watching the clock, waiting for my appointment to arrive.
The joint was hot enough to fry an egg in, so I loosened my tie, and scoped the place. I was caught off guard.
She was a dead ringer for Jean Harlow, with blue eyes as cold as ice. My mouth dropped, and she gave me a wink. Quick as a New York minute she stood beside me, grinning from ear to ear. A gold digger from the wrong side of the tracks, to be sure, but I could go head over heels for her regardless. Pops never said nothing about not having the icing on the cake.
“Fancy meeting you here,” she purred in my ear. She was fine as wine. Knock your socks off gorgeous.
“What’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?”
“I’m Sheila. Out sowing your wild oats? I’d love to join you.”
She wiggled up onto the bar stool. She was a little rough around the edges, nothing to sneeze at, but I’d be out of the frying pan and into the fire with this one.
“I’m waiting for someone.”
I turned on my stool to face the door. My heart would turn on a dime and she’d have me under her thumb. I needed to shut this dog and pony show down before I got too worked up.
“Wake up on the wrong side of the bed, honey? I can turn that frown upside down. Your place or mine?”
“Listen, you’re a good egg, but… I’m waiting for someone.”
“Zip your lip.” She hopped off her stool, grabbed my face with red talons, and planted her lips on mine. “What you see is what you get. You can take that to the bank.”
I cut to the chase. “Not interested.”
“What am I, chopped liver?” Sheila stomped off in a flurry of cheap perfume and fake feathers.
Just then the door opened and a gust of rain blew across the tables. Max grumbled. “Hey, were you born in a barn? Shut the door!” My appointment had arrived.
The handwriting was on the wall. Big Gus wasn’t coming, but he sent three of his goons in his place.
One was a mountain of a man, and looked a little long in the tooth to still be in the business, with a face only a mother could love. The other two walked in joined at the hip. Tall, wiry and dressed to the nines, they were two peas in a pod.
“Long time no see”, the big one said.
I had a memory like an elephant but I didn’t recognize him.
“You’re a marked man, Franconi. You couldn’t leave well enough alone. You had to make a mountain out of a molehill. If you hadn’t made a federal case out of it, you’d have been free as a bird. You could have just chewed the fat with Big Gus, let him call the shots, and you would have gotten off dirt cheap.”
I reached inside my coat, but the two tall ones had circled the wagons and got the drop on me.
“Just a cotton-pickin’ minute here!” Max hollered as he reached under the bar for his shotgun. The big one beat him to the punch and blew him away. Patrons scattered everywhere, and one young guy still wet behind the ears lost his lunch.
“Listen, we might have gotten off on the wrong foot,” I said. “It’s true. I didn’t want to listen to Big Gus. But Big Gus is a money-grubber, plain and simple. It’s no skin off my nose if you want to take orders from him, but the long arm of the law isn’t far behind. You’re in over your head, fellas. I wouldn’t want to be in your place for all the tea in China. Big Gus is small potatoes. I can sweeten the pot and up the ante.”
“Wake up and smell the coffee, Franconi. Your ship has sailed. You made your bed, now you gotta lie in it.”
He scratched his head. He was ugly as sin.
“You can’t just pull a rabbit out of your hat and make us think you have something for us worth turning the tables on Big Gus. You can talk until you’re blue in the face, but I’ve been around the block. I was busting heads for Big Gus before you were a gleam in your daddy’s eye. If you’re not a team player, you don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of moving up in this business. You’re a bad seed, Franconi.”
I was going to have to wing it, but I had an ace up my sleeve.
“Here, I have the plan right here. I’ll lay my cards on the table, and if you three join me, we can swim with the sharks. Survival of the fittest, you know, and Big Gus will thank his lucky stars we don’t share with the competition.”
I stared at him, stone-faced, while I reached into my coat pocket.
“Share with the competition? What’s that got to do with the price of eggs?”
He may have been strong as an ox, but he was dumber than a box of rocks.
“You’re going to get your just desserts,” the big one said.
“Hit the deck!” yelled one of the tall ones.
Two shots rang out at the drop of a hat. The matching suits fell like trees.
“Eat lead!” screamed the big one.
Before I could react, Sheila ran towards him, guns blazing. He went down in a blaze of glory.
You could have knocked me over with a feather.
“That was gutsy as all get out. I thought I was a goner.”
“It ain’t over until the fat lady sings.”
She stood over the bodies, two revolvers in hand and ice water in her veins.
“State of the art in personal protection. You ain’t seen nothing yet.”
“You’re a peach. I don’t know how I can ever thank you.”
“You’ll think of something, sweetie.”
I felt like a kid in a candy store.
There are eight million stories in the naked city. This was mine.
I encourage you to head over to Joe’s blog and try out a practice.
Joe Bunting’s The Write Practice
Question: How many clichés are in the story? Share your guess in the comments.
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