I am having the best time with NaNo, mainly because everything counts, so that even when I overdose on banter, I still get the word count. I can’t tell you how long it’s been since I just rattled off dialogue. I’m at 20K on Liz now, and I’m fairly sure that 18K of it is people talking. That’s not good (it’s ACTION that tells character) but when you’re a dialogue junkie . . . bliss.
So since I promised you more NaNo Liz, here’s unedited banter. It goes on for days. Bring a lunch. Yes, I know it’s too long, and it’s unfocused, and it gets really tiring and you start to skim, and about half of it will have to go when I rewrite. I don’t care. It’s NaNo. I can do anything I want. Have I mentioned I love NaNo?
I left my mother surveying her bears and went out to drink with Molly. I took my mother’s Caddy again—the thing was a horse but it was a comfy horse—and picked Moll up by honking outside her house, waving when her mother, my mom’s insane sister, came to the door.
“You get in here and say hi,” my aunt Annmarie yelled.
“Later,” Molly called, breezing past her. “We have beer to drink and men to ruin.”
“She’s kidding!” Aunt Annmarie yelled to the neighbors.
“No, she’s not,” I said to nobody as Molly slid into the front seat. “Where to?”
“Funny,” Molly said, and I drove to the only decent bar in town, Hasselhoff’s.
Hasselhoff’s is a very old German bar—since 1912 it says on the mirror behind the bar—on the main drag of Birney, a storefront with no windows, dark as hell inside, with a bar that stretches half the length of the place and booths along the opposite side. There are pool tables and party tables in the back, but we snagged a booth on the side and Molly got beers.
Then she sat down across from me, slid my beer to me, and said, “Damn, I’ve missed you.”
“So catch me up.”
“Well, I have come to terms with the fact that I will never be the next pop singing sensation,” Moll said. “I’m good with that. I like my life, and the road companies keep me from getting bored. Although if I never have to sing Les Mis again, it’ll be a good day. You’d think that sucker would be done by now. Other than that, things are okay.”
“I’m thirty-three,” she said. “I’m starting to wonder if I want to do this forever.”
“Can you do it forever?” I was working through my beer at a pretty good clip, and when I realized that wasn’t the most tactful thing to say, I slowed down.
“Yeah,” Molly said. “I’m a character actress. We work forever. Plus, the voice. I’m employable. But the road gets old. That’s why I come home. I was thinking of buying a house here, but my mom keeps telling me she’s not long for this world, so I may just wait and inherit hers.”
I blinked. “How long does she have?”
“Probably another forty years. It’s gonna take a stake through the heart to put that woman down. How’s Maribeth?”
“We’re organizing her bears.”
“And Annmarie is suddenly looking pretty good,” Moll said. “So whose life story are you working on now?”
“Anemone,” I said and told her all about the wonder that was Anemone Patterson as we finished our beers.
When I was done and I’d gotten the next two beers, she said, “I have to meet Anemone. She beats anything I’ve been doing,” so I said, “What have you been doing?” and she told me about her last five road companies.
One and a half beers later, in the middle of a rant about Oklahoma! —“Jesus, that show is older than music”—she looked up and said, “Vince!”
It was the cop from that morning. He was in a T-shirt and jeans and therefore off-duty but he still had “cop” written all over him. No, really, it was on his T-shirt, a plain olive green, short-sleeved cotton job with “COP” printed in black block letters on the chest.
I wanted that T-shirt.
“What are you staring at, Trouble?” he said.
“I want your T-shirt.”
“Let’s talk about that.”
Molly looked from him to me.
“Nice to see you, Moll.” Vince said to her. “Go away.”
“Excuse me?” I said.
“I’ll get us some music,” Molly said, and walked over to the juke box.
Vince slid into her seat across from me.
I smiled at him. “That was subtle.”
He frowned. “Subtle wastes time.”
“So you’re just assuming I want you sitting there.”
“I helped you with your bear.”
“You gave me a ticket.”
“I took it back.”
“You gave me a ticket.”
“You played that card.”
“Okay.” I toasted him with my much-diminished third beer. “Thank you for all your help.” I drank some and then said, “So what did you do today besides terrify Birney.”
“I protected and served,” he said, but I was distracted by the juke box: Molly had put on Hootie’s “I Hope That I Don’t Fall In Love With You.”
“Clown,” I called across the floor, and she laughed and went to talk to some guy who was really happy to see her. Which was pretty much all guys, really.
“She’s something,” Vince said, almost smiling. “So you’re cousins?”
I nodded. “And best friends. Since birth.”
“But she stayed and you left.” He drank some of his beer.
“No, we both left. She just comes back between gigs. I stay on the road.”
“You’re a singer, too?”
“No. I’m a writer.”
He leaned back. “And you can’t do that in Birney?”
“I’m a ghost writer. I go where the work is.”
He nodded. “Interesting.”
“No, it isn’t. This is really terrible banter. I had you pegged for a snarkier pick up.”
“You don’t know I’m trying to pick you up.”
“You booted Molly.”
He nodded. “Okay, you got me. So what works on you?”
I put my empty beer mug down. “You want me to give you tips on seducing me?”
“Let me get you another beer.”
“I can buy my own.”
“Nope.” He stood up.
“Hey, it’s the twenty-first century, I pay for half the beers.”
“Nope. I budget for getting hot women drunk.”
I’m not hot. “I’m not drunk.”
“The night’s young.” He walked away toward the bar.
He really did have a nice ass.
Molly slid in across from me. “O. Em. Gee.”
“Sorry, that’s Violet for ‘Oh, my God.’ You and Vince?”
“Of course not. He gave me a speeding ticket. Which, now that I come to think of it, means he should be buying the beers, so good for him.”
“You’re in for a good time.”
“What? No. I’m leaving Sunday.”
“That’s . . .” Molly scrunched up her face as she calculated. “Six nights. Go for it.”
She leaned forward. “He’s really good.”
I raised my eyebrows.
“Well, of course I tried him out. I was home and bored and there he was.” She took a sip of her beer. “Great ass and very easily seduced.”
“No man in his right mind would say no to you. Why did you dump him?”
“I didn’t. We played for about a week, and then he said, ‘Moll, you’re a great woman, but you talk too much.’ And since I didn’t have any plans to go silent, we shook on it and went our separate ways.”
“He walked away because you talked too much?”
“I got on his nerves. He’s a quiet guy.” She stood up. “Go for it. He’s a lot of fun.” Vince came up behind her with three beers, and she took one. “Thank you. I’m going over there now.”
She walked away as he slid back into the booth and pushed my mug over to me.
“You slept with Molly?”
He stopped with his beer halfway to his mouth. “Why do women talk about that stuff?”
“It’s the only way we find out anything. Guys don’t talk to us.”
“Yeah. Because we have some sense.” He drank his beer.
“It’s like buying on Amazon. It’s good to get the reviews.”
He choked on that one.
“Molly’s my best friend. She’s going to tell me everything.”
He wiped his mouth. “She didn’t have time to tell you everything.”
“I’m not leaving until Sunday.”
“So how many stars did I get?”
“Like I’d tell you. I can’t believe you’re not still with her.”
“She dumped me.” He shrugged. “Happens a lot.”
“No, she didn’t. You told her she talked too much.”
He closed his eyes. “No, I did not.”
I picked up my beer. “Well, then what was it?”
“None of your business.”
I smiled at him. “She gave you five stars.”
“Now we’re getting someplace. Drink up.”
“My mother wants me home by midnight.”
He looked at his watch. “We hurry, we can make it.”
“I’m beginning to doubt the five stars.”
“Did she actually say five stars?”
“No. That was the drift. She didn’t say anything about hurrying.”
He faked exasperation. “I was trying to be accommodating.”
“We can go slow, but we’d have to leave now.”
God help me, I thought about it.
My hesitation must have surprised him, too. He shifted gears. “No, seriously, the car’s outside. Combat parked. I’ll get a paper cup for your beer.”
“What kind of girl do you think I am?”
“I’ve been thinking about that. I figure you’re a biter, maybe a scratcher.”
“Probably want to be on top, but that’s good. And if you’re one of those feminists who’s responsible for your own orgasm, I might let you stay the night.”
“I’m overwhelmed,” I said.
“Not yet, but come with me and you will be.”
He wasn’t exactly smiling, it was more like there was a smile playing around his mouth, like heat lightning.
“Vince?” Molly said, and we both looked up. “Really sorry, but you might have a situation there.” She jerked her head toward the back of the bar. “Paul Maxson.”
“Great,” Vince said, the lightning disappearing back into his normal grim.
He slid out of the booth and pointed a finger at me. “Don’t move.” Then he looked at Molly. “Don’t drink my beer.” Then he was gone.
Molly took his place. “So what do you think?”
“I think I’m leaving,” I said, craning my neck to watch him walk away. “Who’s Paul Maxson?”
“The guy Lavender dumped to marry Waylon. He took it badly.”
“So Waylon’s back there.”
“Really.” I frowned at her. “Why aren’t you throwing me at him? I thought that was your big plan.”
“It was, that’s why I wanted to come here, but he’s drunk on his ass. Not a good time for you to see him again. Although,” she added fairly, “he’s still pretty to look at when he’s drunk. The charm is what takes the big hit.”
“And you got Vince because you were afraid that Waylon would fight back drunk?”
“Waylon can’t stand up. But Willie can and he’ll fight for his big brother. Paul and Willie are pretty evenly matched which means no fast take down. Lotta damage. This is the only good bar in town. We have to protect it.”
“Oh, Willie’d be fine.” Molly drained her beer. “Those guys live for that stuff. Not much else to do in Birney except fight and screw. It’s why I leave.”
“But you always come back.”
“Well, yeah. It’s Birney.”
“That’s why I stay away.”
Vince showed up again and jerked his thumb at Molly. “Beat it. I was getting somewhere with her.”
“He went someplace else. You do that, too.”
Molly grinned at me and slid out of the booth and wandered to the back of the bar where she was greeted with cheers.
Vince sat down across from me. “Where were we? Oh, right. I’ll give you the T-shirt if you leave with me now.”
“I’m not going home with you tonight.”
He looked at his watch. “Yeah, no time. How about tomorrow night?”
“Is that an invitation to dinner?” I said, batting my eyes.
“I have to feed you, too?”
“Not here. I could bring a candy bar.”
“I’m worth more than a candy bar.”
“I don’t know that yet.”
“So your argument is that you won’t take me to dinner until you know I’m worth it?”
“Well, no,” he said, deadly serious. “Once I’ve got you, there’s no reason to spend money on food.”
“Your charm. It’s . . . original.”
“I don’t need no stinkin’ charm. I’ve got a uniform and a gun.”
“So does the security guy at the plant.”
“Yes, but he doesn’t have my moves.”
“But I don’t know that,” I pointed out, deadly serious, too, or at least as serious as I could fake. “So I would need a gesture of good faith in order to take that chance.”
“That would be dinner.”
He leaned back in the booth. “I could do Frisch’s.”
“I might neck for that. That and the T-shirt.”
“Neck?” he said, and flashed a smile before he got it under control. “What are you, fourteen?”
“I’m a Good Girl.”
“You are not. Let’s get serious here. There’s an Olive Garden up the highway. That should get me into your pants.”
“Hands only. And then only if I get those little doughnuts for dessert.”
“Dessert, too,” he said, gloom in his voice.
“And the T-shirt.”
“That only gets me to third base?”
“You want the full Lizzie, you take me to Carlo and Johnny’s.”
He looked legitimately shocked. “That’s a week’s pay.”
“Take it from your Getting-Hot-Women-Drunk fund.”
“I’ll have to think about this.”
“I understand.” I slid out of the booth. “You take your time. I’m not leaving till Sunday.” Then I bent over so he could see down my T-shirt. “Thanks for the beer,” I whispered and kissed him.
You know, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Leave him stunned with lust in a booth at Hasselhoff’s and then walk out of there fancy free with him gasping at my allure.
But he kissed me back, and it was good, chemistry smacking me between the eyes and then lower, while his tongue snuck into my mouth, and his hand slid under my T-shirt, and then I grabbed his wrist and pulled back.
“Hey,” I said.
“We should talk about this,” he said, and I will give myself some credit because he looked as blindsided as I was.
“Oh, no.” I backed up a step. “No, no.”
He stood up and then there was a yell from the back of the bar and he looked back and swore.
“Go protect and serve,” I said and escaped out the front door before I could change my mind.
Molly followed me out a minute later. “What happened?”
“With Vince?” She grinned. “I’m sorry I missed that.”
“I barely escaped with my virtue.”
“Well, he’s got six nights to get it,” Molly said. “What are his chances?”
“Excellent,” I said and went to find my mother’s Caddy while Molly followed behind me laughing her ass off.