Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Twenty.
Tonight’s story, Mulligan Smith and The Long Ride, Part 1 of 1
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Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – 400 to 600 words brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.
This evening we follow Mulligan Smith as he navigates the tangled streets of Capital City while attempting to deliver a passenger.
Flash Pulp 020 – Mulligan Smith and The Long Ride, Part 1 of 1
The Tercel was crowded at the best of times, a garage sale’s worth of randomness spread across the baby blue backseats. Smith and the girl had spent ten minutes in animated discussion at the brightly lit menu, but it was only once they’d reached the window itself that Mulligan realized the drink holders were already occupied by a pair of abandoned coffees.
As the highschool girl working the register watched on, passenger and driver both broke into a flurry of nervous activity – the PI craning to check the backseat’s cup holder, the woman attempting to roll down her window by hand in an effort to eject the old drinks. She was having difficulty however, and a giggle escaped her lips even as her frown deepened.
She switched hands, but she overcompensated, and another tug snapped the black and chrome crank at its base. The sound interrupted Mulligan, who’d been explaining that the window had long ceased to function properly.
His passenger started to cry then, dangling the wreckage from her calloused fingers.
Behind them the balding man in the white Buick SUV, aware only that his whopper was probably getting cold, hammered out two bleats of his horn.
The girl with the headset lifted the tray of drinks and thrust them into the car. Mulligan decided to simply leave the trash cups on the steel sill, accepted the large paper bag with rapidly blooming grease spots, and nosed the Tercel out of the drive-through lane, before halting between two yellow lines in the emptiest corner of the parking lot.
He reached out his arm, attempting to encircle the woman, but the gear shift began to dig into his hip. She didn’t seem to register his efforts anyhow, so he sank back, letting the engine idle.
The radio gurgled at a respectfully low tone.
As she regained her composure, her eyes wandered the dash. Mulligan, realizing he might finally be of some use, reached into the bag, pulling forth a sheaf of brown napkins.
The woman plucked the topmost from the pile, smearing tears and makeup into the blue and yellow logo.
As she snorted loudly, he gently pulled the crank from her hand, tossing it amongst the ruins on the rear bench. He also took a moment to rip the stapled receipt from the bag, partially tucking it under the pristine floor mat behind the passenger seat, surrounded by dozens of its cousins.
Her tears were easing, and she raised an eyebrow at him – even in her haste to enter the vehicle, she’d noticed the collection.
“For tax purposes. All my on-the-job receipts go in the pile, and once a year I clean out the car.”
She nodded, still dabbing at the corner of her eyes.
He reversed out of the lot then, drifting into the anonymity of late night traffic.
The woman spent the journey with her eyes fixed on her window, inspecting each passing car and pedestrian. The city slid by – offices, sidewalks, bus stops, apartment buildings, townhouses.
Eventually they found themselves maneuvering the twisted streets of a suburb.
The car finally came to a stop in front of a large two story house, its porch entrance set well back, a trim line of hedges providing privacy from the street. An array of stark white bulbs lit the grass like the noonday sun.
The woman stepped from the car, bending to gather her small cloth bag. She attempted to speak, but all that came out was “Thuk”.
Instead, she unthinkingly extended her right hand to Mulligan, who gently took it before she could realize and pull away.
After a long moment the heavy gray door that fronted the house swung open, a large woman with a precise haircut stepping out onto the porch and eying the pair as she lit a smoke.
Mulligan let go.
“They’re waiting for you. Beth is great,” he motioned towards the interloper. “It’ll be OK. Call me tomorrow and let me know how you’re settling in.”
His client stood, cradling her wrist. As she hobbled along the stone-paved path, the fresh cast reflected the yard’s harsh light.
Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm. The audio and text formats of Flash Pulp are released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.