One More Weblog in the Blogosphere -- Why?

One More Weblog in the Blogosphere -- Why?

My name is Steven Doyle (although I usually write under the pen name Manuel Royal). For a while, in the late summer of 2011, I got paid to write a fiction column for an online newspaper, the Smyrna-Vinings Patch (owned by AOL).

Essentially it was a loosely-plotted serialized novel, in the great tradition of Charles Dickens and Armistead Maupin (but without the use of talent), set in the area of Vinings, Georgia (just outside Atlanta), where I live.

The column was called "Welcome to Smyrnings" (the name being a combination of the towns of Smyrna and Vinings). It lasted nine brief weeks; eighteen installments. At least half a dozen people I know about read it at some point.

Then I parted ways with AOL. I thought that was it for the column, which seemed a shame, since I'd done some of my better work there (admittedly, it's a low bar). Unfortunately, since AOL owns every word published on its sites, I can't do anything with the 35,000 words of column on the Patch.

However, someone close to me requested more installments (or episodes, or what-have-you) for special occasions; she liked the characters. My ego couldn't resist such a request. So, I've done a few, and as I do more, I'll put them here, starting with Episode 019.

A note on the title: SPLAND of the SPLOST would make sense if one had read, in the old column on the Patch, Episode 12: SPLAND of the SPLOST. It's not terribly significant to the overall story (except insomuch as it reflects the occasionally-used theme of little adventures happening in mundane circumstances).

Anyway -- if you happen to be one of my six loyal readers, and you'd be interested in seeing further misadventures of my hapless characters, please start with 019: Week End. (The blog software automatically puts the most recent post at the top, but you can click on any post in the archive.)

Or start wherever you'd like. It's a free blogosphere, for Pete's sake. Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, February 4, 2013

022: Say It's Your Birthday

Damn it was hot.  Almost like Mexico, not as hot as Mexico, but more wet in the air than Mexico.  Air-wet?  Humid.

Paulo was brushing down Fosdick, Tricia's horse, in the Lexington Mounted Patrol Unit stables on West Sixth.  He wasn't supposed to be in there, but he was, and he was having a good talk with Fosdick.

"July 6, damn, six months, Man, you know?  I never made it six months before.  And it's her birthday too, that's like a sign."

He'd met Tricia last year when he was on community service, picking up trash in the park, then on New Year's Eve she'd almost arrested him for borrowing Fosdick and taking him through the drive-through at a Rally's.

Paulo moved around to Fosdick's front end, gave him another apple and started braiding ribbons and flowers into his mane.  The horse was 17 hands high at the neck, and Paulo was only 16 and a half hands high, so he got a stool.

Paulo sang "Sylvia's Mother" to himself and told Fosdick, not for the first time, about how amor had taken root and blossomed between himself and Mounted Officer Tricia Steeple.

Thanks to a phone call to Paulo's cousin Wishes in Georgia (and sweet-talking from Wishes' friend Aardvark), Officer Steeple had decided arresting Paulo wasn't worth having to report she let her horse get stolen by a skinny Brazilian on community service.

"God damn, Fosdick, did you see her eyes that night?  So fierce."  Paulo was behind Fosdick, braiding his tail, and he leaned to the side so the horse could hear him.  "Like my mother.  But twice as many eyes."

Tricia hadn't busted him that night, but she'd cuffed him for a while and made him sit down while she told him what they used to do to horse thieves in Kentucky.  It didn't sound nice, but it wasn't as bad as the stories his mother told him about the gangs and militias in São Paulo.

"That's where she was going to have me, but she snuck into América do norte  with me in her belly instead."  He hummed a while.  "Sylvia's mother says -- you know, horse, I can't think whether it's the city I'm named after or if it's my father.  Maybe he was Paulo."  Funny; he'd never really asked his mamãe.

Paulo's nose had itched while he was sitting there on the curb cuffed and all, so he'd brought his cuffed wrists from behind him, over his head to the front so he could scratch.  "Oh, that impressed her, my friend, you know it did.  She unsnapped her holster and all like that, but you and I know she was secretly pleased and impressed.  Tricia can bench-press me, but she can't do that."

He pretended Fosdick could answer back, like that horse on tv, Mister Ed.  "But you know that Mister Ed, he was a Palomino, not a fine Perceron like you."  He deepened his voice and answered for Fosdick: "Fuck that Palomino asshole!"

Tricia had left him at the Rally's that night, ignoring his "Happy New Year!"  But each day for the rest of the week, he'd found a way to pop up in her presence, wherever she was on patrol.  Finally, on January 6, he caught her off-duty and she let him buy her a drink while she talked to him about stalking.  He counted that as their first date.

"She is a bourbon drinker, like a real Kentucky woman.  You know, all her police buddies were in that bar?  They stood around me like tall trees with mustaches and pistols."

The day after that she accepted the lunch he brought her while she was on patrol, and she smiled at the little bouquet he'd put in the box.  So that made it an official courtship, he figured.

Since then, as far as Paulo could see, life only got better.  He got off community service (again), and she went out for a real dinner with him.  (Technically he stole some copper wiring to sell to pay for that, but no one was using it, so no harm.)

Then he finished nine months at the pancake restaurant, Flat Top Flapjacks, and got a bump in pay so he had a little money.  It was the longest he'd ever had a job, and usually that made him itchy and he'd be moving on, but no, this time he stayed.  "I was stuck in the flypaper of love, Fosdick.  You know what I mean."

He stopped sleeping in his car or up in trees in the park, and got a rented room.  He brought Tricia a breakfast of French toast rolled into like a burrito she could eat on horseback, and asked her to come to a housewarming.  "Ha!  She asked what address, then she said, they don't have housewarmings in that neighborhood, they have meth labs!  Funny."

Somehow he never got back to the room that night, but instead saw her apartment for the first time.  "Which, if we're being honest between you and me, was very much nicer.  Ah, such a night!"  Paulo was polishing Fosdick's hooves.  "She said sleep on the couch and we'll find you a better place tomorrow.  Oh yes.  Ha!  I did not sleep on the couch.  You hear me, horse?"

"Ay, Paulo, you are so sexy."

"It is true."  By the end of the night, he'd seen Officer Steeple in nothing but her boots, something he'd thought about the first time he saw her ride by, when he was picking up trash in the park for community service.

He'd slept every night since in or about Tricia's bed, except that one week she put him out because he'd left a little weed in the fridge in a catnip bag.  He'd forgotten to get a cat first, but by the time she let him back in he'd acquired one.  "Free cat.  Skinny then, but now he's fat."

Soon after moving in, he asked her what was her birthday.  She wouldn't say, but next time when he was borrowing a few bucks from Tricia's wallet, he looked at her police ID.  "6/7/1985.  July 6!  Our first date anniversary of six months, and also my Tricia's birthday.  So she gets a surprise.  Settle down, you giant horse, I'm almost done, Man."

Paulo tied flower garlands around Fosdick's four hooves and stood back to take a look.  He had Fosdick say, "I am a pretty pretty princess!"

"Yes you are!  Now we wait for your splendid mistress."  Paulo pulled out his phone to see what time it was.  Almost nine.  What was keeping Tricia?  Did he get her shift wrong?

The phone burst out with the theme from that old tv show, Police Woman.  He answered.  "Tricia!  Good morning, my love!"

"My love, hell!  Your GPS says you're in the police stables.  What the fuck are you doing in the police stables, Con?"

She sounded half-curious and half-angry, and he loved that because it made her accent thicker when she was mad.  That happened a lot.

"Waiting for you, my darling!  Did you like the card?"

"Yeah, I guess, it was one of the nicer obscene cards I've ever woken up to, but what the hell, Paulo?  You ignore my birthday, then a month later you give me a card?"

"But today, my love, is your birthday!"

"Hell it is, and I don't do birthdays.  Jesus, I'm almost there.  Don't move a goddamn foot from where you are."  The sound of hard braking on gravel, then a slamming car door.  "Why aren't you flipping pancakes, anyway?"

"Took the day off to do things for you."  Paulo was a little hurt.  "I thought it was sad you had to work on your birthday, so I came to make a surprise for you."

"It's not my fucking birthday!"  Ah, there she was, stomping in, mad and damn hot looking, honey-color hair tied up, wearing her Mounted Patrol tee shirt but otherwise not in uniform.  She came straight up and stopped face-to-face with Paulo, overtopping him by two inches.

He smiled up at her.  "My darling, you're confused.  Today is six slash seven; Happy Birthday!"  He stretched up and kissed her.

She pushed him out at arm's length.  "Today ain't 6/7, dumbass.  6/7 was June the seventh, a month ago when I turned 28.  Today is 7/6, for fuck's sake.  What is wrong with you -- Oh Jesus God, what did you do to my horse?"  She was staring at Fosdick.

Paulo laughed and danced in a circle.  "He is pretty for you!  So your patrol is a little festive, okay?"

She inspected Fosdick from end to end, shaking her head.  She held up his tail, braided with ribbons and flowers.  "I could arrest your ass right now."

Paulo stroked Fosdick's neck.  Why are you not in uniform?"

She shrugged.  "Took the day off."

"For your birthday?  Wait!  I remember; it is not your birthday.  I'm a dumbass."

"No, it's okay."  She looked almost not-mad.  "Just, last month -- I knew you looked at my ID, you know."

"How'd you know that?"

"I know every goddamn move you make, troublemaker."


"Come on, let's walk this pretty horse."  She slipped on her mirrored sunglasses led Fosdick out to the fenced pasture, Paulo on the other side of the horse, skipping a little to keep up.

"So, last month -- you know, years ago I just stopped having birthdays because I never had a good one.  Not one."

"I say that's a travesty!"

"Yeah, so last month, when nothing happened, I figured, what the hell, who needs it?  If you expect to be surprised, what's the point?  It's only a surprise if it doesn't happen, so who needs it?"

"I'm so sorry, my love.  I didn't know, because I am stupid."

A grizzled stablehand walking by said, "Horse looks like a purty little princess!"

Paulo smiled with pride.  Tricia snorted.  "Then this morning, there's a card, and you decorated my horse like a Gay Pride parade float, and I don't know what to think about that."

Paulo flung his arms up.  "Surprise!  Surpresa!"

Tricia smacked Fosdick lightly on the rump and let him trot off.  She watched his bedecked tail bounce behind him.  "Gonna have to take all that stuff off him before my next patrol."

Paulo hung his head.  "I overstepped, maybe?  I did, right?"

"You think?"  She stood with her back to him, arms crossed, watching her horse a long time.  Paulo counted to three hundred.

Finally she turned her mirrorshades on Paulo, and grabbed his hair and rattled his head a little, then pulled him close.  "Hell, I guess this must be what a good surprise feels like."

"There are more surprises!"

"No shit?"

"All day.  Six surprises."

"That's a lot."

"Plus, underwear!  Beautiful underwear hand-made by my cousin's cracker friend down in Georgia."

"Well, let's get to it, we're burnin' daylight."  She made a quick call to arrange for Fosdick to be brought in after an hour, then they headed for her car.

Paulo skipped ahead so he could look back at her.  "Hey!  If it's not your birthday, why did you take the day off?  Very fortunate!"

"Oh, that."  Paulo thought she was blushing.  "Just something stupid.  It was six months ago, okay, that you just stepped in amongst all those six-foot, four-inch cops in the bar and wouldn't shut up yapping until I let you buy me a drink."

"You don't say!"

"Here."  She pulled a card out of her back pocket.  "I looked up the Brazilian."

He read it.  "Aniversário Feliz!"

"That's right, ain't it?  Paulo?  You crying?"

"Maybe, yes, you never cry, so I have to.  Aniversário means anniversary, and also it means birthday."

Tricia paused before getting into her car.  "You know what?"

"No, what?"

"From now on, this is my birthday.  I mean, if we're still hanging out."

Paulo smiled.  "Ha!  You mean, as long as we are lovers."

"If we're still together."


She puffed air through her pursed lips, sounding a little like Fosdick.  "Okay, let's go."

"Hey!  Hey!"  Paulo waved his hand in the air.  "Let me drive!  You could give me oral pleasure!"

"Get in the car!"  She slammed her door shut.  "You know I've got a gun, right?"  She looked at Paulo, and finally laughed.  "Goddamn, Boy, you make me laugh."