Friday, 25 March 2011

A short detour

The lights of Palm Springs were a distant glow in the rear-view mirror, and dwindling by the minute.

I pressed the accelerator to the floor, the car rocked slightly as it barreled down the deserted road, the sun would be up in a couple of hours, and I wanted to cover as much distance as possible by then.

Just one short detour to make, then eastbound all the way.

Julia was staring out of the window, her head resting on the glass, in the reflection I could see her eyes following the overhead lights as they sped past.

I flicked on the CD player, the smooth voice of Glen Campbell flowed through the speakers...

“By the time I get to Phoenix, she'll be risin'...
She'll find the note I left hangin' on her door...
She'll laugh when she reads the part that says I'm leavin'...
'Cause I've left that girl so many times before...”

She would not be rising by the time I got to Phoenix, and if I had taken the time to write a note, and hung it on her door, I'm absolutely sure that her twinkly blue eyes would not be reading it, or her very sweet kissable mouth laughing at it. And there was no way I would ever write a part that says I'm leaving, I never had any wish to leave her.

“By the time I make Albuquerque, she'll be workin'...
She'll prob'ly stop at lunch and give me a call...
But she'll just hear that phone keep on ringin'...
Off the wall, that's all...”

By the time I make Albuquerque her shift will be almost over, I'm afraid the diner would just have to manage without her sparkling personality today, at least the other waitresses would get the benefit of any tips that would have come her way in recompense for sharing her workload. I'm sure her boss will be disappointed though, he had an extreme interest in her attendance each day.
Her dainty fingers will not be holding any phone handset today either, or her cute little ears listening to any ringing, off the wall or not.

“By the time I make Oklahoma, she'll be sleepin'...
She'll turn softly, and call my name out low...
And she'll cry just to think I'd really leave her...
Tho' time and time I tried to tell her so...
She just didn't know, I would really go..."

By the time I make Oklahoma she will certainly be sleeping.
As for turning softly and calling my name out low, I would be speaking to her about that soon.
I never gave her any reason to cry, I never once threatened to leave her, I couldn't leave her, I loved her, she always knew that.

The song came to an end as I took the exit ramp, a couple of miles later I turned onto a narrow track and then into an abandoned farmyard.

Julia struggled ferociously as I dragged her out of the passenger door, thrashing against the ropes around her wrists and ankles, trying to scream through the duct tape over her mouth.

Her eyes were shiny with fear and hate, sweat beaded on her brow, her hair, usually so perfect, a tousled mess.

By the time I had managed to get her over to the old well I was breathing heavily, you wouldn't believe the amount of strength that such a petite pretty little thing could have.

I held her against the low wall of the well, and pulled the .38 from my waistband...

“When you turn softly and call a name out low, it's not a good idea if it just happens to be your boss's name, you cheating bitch.”

I shot her straight between the eyes, threw her body over the wall, then made my way back to the car.

As I pulled out of the farmyard, and set off towards the freeway, the sweet tones of Olivia Newton John drifted from the speakers.

“Almost heaven... West Virginia...”

When I reached the main drag I floored the pedal again, I had a long journey ahead of me.

It was seventeen years since I'd walked those Blue Ridge Mountains, or seen my brother, boy was he in for a surprise, see you soon bro... I'm comin' home.

©2011 Stephen. J. Green.

Author's note:

Although the story "A short detour" is my own creation I give thanks and credit to Jimmy Webb, the original composer and performer of the song "By the time I get to Phoenix"

The version I am more familiar with, and the version I had in mind when writing this story was performed by Glen Campbell.

I extend my thanks and credit to both of these great artistes, for the lyrics, and for the inspiration.


  1. One of your best, Steve. I'm a big Jimmy Webb fan and I love the way you wound your story around the song, set us down one road... then surprised us completely with the turnaround. I actually gasped when reading this.

  2. aaah memories from my past. I love Glen Campbell. Less dramatic but couldn't he just break up with her. LOL!

  3. Nice paralleling between the lyrics and the story, Steve. That's more complex in narrative structure than your usual #fridayflashes - and I enjoyed it.

  4. As I was reading I was wondering how this would come together, but you pulled it off wonderfully. Great job.

  5. @Rol - thanks Rol, I haven't heard the song for years, until last week, it was playing on the radio at work, and the idea for the story popped into my head.

    @Gwen - Haha, yeah, he could have, but then this story would just have been about a guy sulking all the way from Palm Springs to West Virginia.

    @John - Thank you John, not having any form of literary education, I tend to rely quite heavily on an active imagination, misdirection, and a punch line for a lot of my stories.

    @Antiso - Thank you, I do like misdirection, but it is the reader who decides if it works or not.

  6. Isn't there a song about talking in your sleep? Apparently, Julia forgot about that stuff. A pity for her.

    I like the rhythm in the story, Steve, the ebb and flow between the song and the narrative. It gives this piece a mix bag of tranquility with a hint of something not quite right, and then you yank out the stop and give us the sickening reality just before he pulls the trigger. Well done.

  7. Well it looks like everyone has covered the things I also applaud. Great job weaving this wicked tale Steve!

  8. Good stuff! Compelling idea, but the way you framed it made it even better.

  9. I love stories mixed with music. Nice job.

  10. Wonderfully framed with the lyrics. You know something is coming. The wait is delicious.

  11. @Stephen - Yes Stephen, Crystal Gayle sang it way back in the late seventies. And as Julia discovered, when you have secrets, talking in your sleep can be very dangerous, especially when your man is likely to take revenge to an extreme level.

    @Harry - Thanks, it's not often you are beaten to the punchline.

    @Eric - Thank you, I tried to hold back the impact until the song had finished without giving too much away.

    @Tim - Thanks, I almost tagged a clip of the song onto the story, but I'm such a computer-numpty I decided not to in case I fluffed it.

    @Laurita - Thanks, as Stephen so nicely put,it has a hint of "something not quite right"

  12. Love the pacing and tone once they get to the farm. Cold, man.

  13. Wow, this is definitely one of your best pieces yet. And Glen Campbell! Man, I grew up on that stuff. Excellent flow.

  14. The first chunk of song lyrics and narration cutting to pulling the girl from the car was a nice shock, the song as he leaves, shows there's a soundtrack for everyone, I guess, even a psychopath ;) St.

  15. Fabulous. So creative how you weaved in the song lyrics. That's a difficult thing to do and pull it off effectively. You did!

  16. I agree with everyone else. The story wrapped around the lyrics works really well. Nice twist, too - brutal even.

  17. @Matt - Thanks, it seems to have had the impact I was aiming for.

    @Icy - Thank you, the story has been better recieved than I could have hoped for.

    @Stephen - Thanks, the Olivia Newton John song was tagged onto the end because I wanted his destination to be a good long drive away.

    @Gen - Thanks, the story more or less wrote itself, I did very little editing after the initial draft, my stories are so short that I usually have them virtually written in my head before I get to the keyboard.

    @Chuck - Thanks, yes, I think "Brutal" describes his actions quite well, I didn't drag out the farmyard scene, as I think it would have lessened the impact of his actions.

  18. A very clever story which I thoroughly enjoyed.
    Like others I thought you weaved the song lyrics and your storyline together very well.
    I thought the farmyard scene was just right - short, sharp and brutal .... and then the song goes on.

  19. Thanks Mike, just knowing that my stories are read, and enjoyed, keeps the incentive and the fun in it for me.

  20. I love this. It is a fantastic story. Just fantastic!


  21. Thanks Tim, I'm really made up with the enthusiastic comments this story has recieved.

  22. Fantastic piece of fiction, Steve. My mind was going in a totally different direction with this. I thought he was rescuing her, then bam! Awesome twist.

  23. Danielle, thank you, when I first posted it I did think the sudden, and almost casual violence may actually deter some readers.

  24. The music worked so well with setting the scene for this piece and building it up to the final outcome. Nice job!

  25. Hardcore! What worked for me was how this guy was so sensitive to the nuances and sweetness of these lyrics whilst at the same time being a Grade A ruthless bastard. Like a villain out of Cohen Brothers film maybe? The foreshadowing of the boss was artfully accomplished too.

  26. @Lara - Thanks, I think there are probably many songs that could be built around in a similar way.

    @Jason - thank you, being cheated on does have a habit of bringing out the ruthless side of people though, doesn't it?