Cakepan Manuscript – Chapter Four: Getaway Plan

This is a creative writing experiment, shamelessly stolen from the Chopin Manuscript: a serialized story where each author writes a different chapter. The members of this blog are each writing their own chapter, and we’re calling ours the “Cakepan Manuscript”.

You can start reading at Chapter One, which began with the premise: “An unemployed teacher, in a wine store, runs into a former student.” Each week we will post a new chapter until we reach the thrilling conclusion!

We hope you enjoy!

Chapter Four: Getaway Plan

Marilyn Monroe

Image by quicheisinsane via Flickr

Outside the corner bodega, Zack’s girlfriend, Ashlee, sat behind the wheel of a rusted blue Buick. “It’s taking too long,” she thought as she puffed on her cigarette. The car idled roughly, belching exhaust out of the tailpipe and obscuring her view of the traffic coming up the street. Ashlee wanted to shut the engine off, but with the ignition wires hanging from the side of the steering column, she wouldn’t have known how even if she’d tried.

She knew the second Zack came running out, she’d have to drive fast in order to dump this car before the cops started looking for them. Zack had been careful to steal a common-looking vehicle for the job, and he’d taken the extra precaution of knocking the chrome “LaSabre” emblems off the trunk and side panels, as well as attaching a new license plate he’d stolen from a car in the mall parking lot. Now if he would just hurry the hell up so they could get out of here.

Ashlee watched the front of store from the rearview mirror. She was parked just past the shop in a curb space next to the alleyway. From here, they could race down the street to the freeway entrance and be across town before the cops had even radioed in a vehicle description. She took one more drag off the cigarette before snuffing it against the dashboard and tossing the butt out the window.

As she kept an eye on the front door, Ashlee checked her disguise in the mirror. She had on a big pair of sunglasses and a Marilyn Monroe wig she’d worn to a Halloween party a few months before. Ashlee had originally thrown this bash as a going-away party for Zach, but like most of her boyfriend’s schemes, things hadn’t quite worked out as planned. First, Zack had been expelled from high school. Then when his Marine Corps recruiter found out that Zack had tried to forge his high school transcripts, Zack’s trip to boot camp was cancelled. Deep down, Ashlee was happy Zack wouldn’t be going off to fight in some Third World shithole. But after his final meeting with the recruiter, she’d noticed a look in Zack’s eyes—a look that unsettled Ashlee every time she remembered it. He’d had that same look after talking to Victor Tomasso, and she feared that somewhere beneath her blonde wig and her thick sunglasses simmered an equally unpredictable flame.

Suddenly, Ashlee’s thoughts were interrupted by the sight of some shoppers running out of the store and scattering in all directions. The front door slammed behind them, and she noticed Zack’s leather-jacketed arm reach up and turn the lock. “What the…?” thought Ashee. Then, from the corner of her eye, she saw a short Asian fellow poke his head around the front of the building before turning back and disappearing down the alleyway.

“Oh, crap…That’s Nyguen!” exclaimed Ashlee under her breath. Binh Nyguen, or “Benny” as he was known around the neighborhood, was the guy Tomasso wanted Zack to shake down. “Tell that sneaky little bastard to pay up,” Tomasso had ordered. “If he don’t, I’m gonna kick his dog-eatin’ ass all the way back to Saigon.”

Ashee could feel her heart pounding hard in her chest. She drummed her fingers against the steering wheel, craving another cigarette. She kept watching the mirrors, hoping that Zack would come running to the car so they could drive away. Then she saw one of the ladies Zack had chased out of the store dialing her cell phone. “Shit!” thought Ashlee. “Here come the cops.”

Just then, she felt a buzz against her left breast. She reached under her bra-strap and pulled out her cell phone. There was a text: “WATSUP SEXY?” It was Tiffany again. Ashlee was often late to school, but at 11:30 on a Thursday morning, it was natural that Tiffany would be wondering where she was. In fact, this was the fifth text Tiffany had sent in the past fifteen minutes; she could be very persistent that way.

“Not now, Tif,” thought Ashlee as she tucked the phone back into her bra. She noticed her hands were starting to tremble. She really wanted another cigarette, but she didn’t dare. Too much was happening. Instead, she checked her cell phone, which had started buzzing again. “R U OK ASH?” it read.

“I would be if you’d leave me the hell alone!” Ashlee mumbled.

Again, she stuffed the phone under her bra-strap and gripped the steering tightly, trying to stay calm. As she sat there waiting, the Buick’s worn-out engine began shaking and sputtering—so much so that Ashlee had to keep her foot pressed down on the gas just to keep the car running. Her mind kept repeating, “Goddamn it, Zack…Hurry up!”

Ashlee’s eyes darted back and forth between the rearview mirrors, searching for signs of trouble. Again her phone buzzed, startling her. “Damn it, Tif!” she barked, irritated by the distraction. She grabbed the phone from her bra and started to turn it off. Then in the rearview mirror, she saw something that made her stomach sink. Running up the street toward the store’s entrance was Benny Nyguen, followed closely behind by six young Vietnamese men carrying baseball bats, chains, and pieces of pipe. In Benny’s hand was a sawed-off double-barrel shotgun.

Ashlee’s phone buzzed once more, and as she looked down at the screen, she noticed that it was not a text from Tiffany this time. It was an incoming call from Victor Tomasso.

(continued in chapter five)

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Cakepan Manuscript – Chapter Two: Playing Games

This is a creative writing experiment, shamelessly stolen from the Chopin Manuscript: a serialized story where each author writes a different chapter. The members of this blog are each writing their own chapter, and we’re calling ours the “Cakepan Manuscript”.

You can start reading at Chapter One, which began with the premise: “An unemployed teacher, in a wine store, runs into a former student.” Each week we will post a new chapter until we reach the thrilling conclusion!

We hope you enjoy!

Chapter Two: Playing Games

Moravian Stars in the Strietzelmarkt in Dresden

Image via Wikipedia

“Mr. Holfinger?” the gunman asked. “From… from art class?”

My stomach quickly knotted into a boy scout’s clove hitch at the sound of his voice. So had hoped it wasn’t him. My mind kept racing.  I wanted to respond faster but the words just were not there.  Cooperation trumps combative was circling over and  over in my head.

Finally in a moment of rapid teeth chattering, the words escaped and I mumbled a response, “Zack, dude, wasn’t expecting to see you here.”

“Maybe I should have said something different,”  I thought as that sounded kinda ill placed for the situation.

“Don’t try and talk hip to me Mr. H as if I’m back in your stupid class,” he said in a stern yet desperate sounding voice I’d  never heard before.  “Shut up and don’t say another word to me or I will pack a round of bullets in here and light this  whole store up like Christmas.”

The surveyor belt was continuing to hum with grocery from the tall guy just behind me.  Baby wipes, chocolate chip cookies, and a pack of rib-eyes started to pile up by at the base of a case of Miller Light that had everything log jammed; stuck just before reaching the spot where the cashier would normally begin to scan the items.

Zack was wearing a grey leather jacket, unbuttoned without a shirt, exposing a Moravian star perfectly positioned in the middle of his chest surrounded by a tapestry of colors including a scroll banner with the word, ” hope,”  inscribed nicely above the start of his six pack.  The star was flowing geometrically with a perfect split between black and red cone shaped points that would catch the eye of any art teacher. It was centered precisely in his chest as if he had merged the Delphi glass and symmetry lessons together in a perfect combination.

He clutched the handle of the gun marrying his left and right hand so intimately that all you could see were fingers tightly closed without interruption. It hit me. That was the exact tattoo, motif, and leather jacket of Artem, the main character of Grand Crimezone.   Zack beat our butt in this game week after week; it was the most popular after school program for student retention. It also was the catalyst of my termination; my being here tonight.

I snapped back hearing an even more elevated tone,  “Miss, give me all the freaking cash out of the drawer now or your family will not see you this evening.”

The young lady was a wreck. Rarely has she been able to open the cash register without it being a point of sale. This was frowned upon by management and required a certain code. With tears in her eyes, she was praying she remembered the manager’s code.  She pressed 0, 9, 1, and the third digit was 2 but her shaking index finger landed in between the 2 and 3 and she quickly pressed the “no sale” button.

The register didn’t open.   It was a frozen moment in time with a deep red floral smell permeating from the Merlot.  Zack was furious and at the end of his patience.

 (continued in Chapter Three)

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Cakepan Manuscript – Chapter One: Broken Bottle

Our blog has been quiet of late, so we’ve decided to try something new. The Chopin Manuscript is a serialized story where each author writes a different chapter. We’re shamelessly stealing that idea for what we call the “Cakepan Manuscript”.

To help me write the first chapter of this impending masterpiece, the other members of my writing group gave me the premise “An unemployed teacher, in a wine store, runs into a former student.” Now each week one member will write another chapter and post it in the blog.

We hope you enjoy!

Chapter One: Broken Bottle

Wine Bottles

Image via Wikipedia

Dietrich rubbed the wine label with his thumb and frowned.

It was beautiful. A rich off-white paper, almost parchment, with the image of a medieval woodcut printed in deep maroon. The woodcut was fourteenth or fifteenth century if he had to guess, and showed a woodsman riding a mystical beast through a forest. The beast was part lion, part deer, and seemed unconcerned about the rider it carried. Matching the label color, the bottle glass was a deep maroon, helped in richness by the wine inside. The vineyard on the front was “Woodland”. A Merlot.

Or did he want a Syrah?

Dietrich sighed and picked up the next bottle on the shelf, trying to remember. The label on the Woodland Syrah label was identical to the Merlot except for the type of wine. Dietrich wondered where the woodcut was from. It looked original and not something cobbled together by a graphic designer for the label.

Flipping the bottle over, he saw the Syrah was even more expensive. He couldn’t afford both, not with what he spent on dinner. Setting the Syrah back on the shelf, he headed towards the front of the store with the Merlot cradled in his left arm. He knew he probably shouldn’t even buy the one bottle. Spending this much on dinner with a stranger would be silly even when he had a regular paycheck. Art teachers didn’t make much even by teacher standards. Now his income was scraps, and a new job was likely far away in time or geography. Possibly both.

Dietrich’s odd approach had cost him his job, and would make a new one tougher to get, but he was okay with that. He was fascinated by expression and creativity in all forms, whether a classical painting or a sculpture made of refuse. His bizarre projects infuriated the administration but delighted his students. More than once his class was the only one where a notoriously  “bad student” received an ‘A’. Not because he was an easy teacher, but because he actually got them curious and engaged. He heard some students attempted a Sit-In after he was fired.

Running his fingers from bottle to bottle on the shelf as he walked, Dietrich watched the labels go past. Bump, bump, bump. Every few steps the label changed but the bottles stayed the same. Or almost the same. Subtle differences, but each relied overwhelmingly on that small piece of paper to attract the eye and proclaim its individuality.

Dietrich turned at the end of the aisle and entered the checkout line behind a few people. Why had he agreed to this blind date? His brother could not have more incompatible taste in women, and he never understood Dietrich’s fascination with art, or why he would want to teach it to “smelly, stupid kids.” Dietrich would rather spend a year trapped with the smelliest and dumbest of his students than an hour with the bankers and fancy suits that filled his brother’s life. Yet in a staggering act of personal interest, Terrence had set him up with this woman, Kelly, and swore they would be a perfect fit. It would take his mind off things and get him back in the game, Terrence said. What game was that, Dietrich wondered.

The line shuffled forward as a customer finished paying.

Dietrich studied the bottle, turning it over in his hands. He wondered if winemakers were allowed to change the shape of the bottle at all. Sculpt it. Keep the same basic dimensions for packing but make the glass really flow with the label. Make a single presentation.

The line shuffled forward again.

He realized it was probably for an excuse to cook more than anything else. Cooking was an art, and an art form he was good at. Other things may escape him, but give him a canvas (or a pan) and tools (or ingredients) and he could work wonders. Maybe he should cancel with Kelly and just make dinner for himself. Then he could experiment more.

The line shuffled forward. Dietrich was at the front of the line. He placed the bottle on the stand and looked up at the cashier for the first time. She was a young girl, maybe twenty-two, with enormously green eyes. She smiled for a moment, about to speak, before she saw something over Dietrich’s shoulder and stumbled backwards in alarm.

Dietrich turned and saw a gunman rush in through the front doors, a pair of pantyhose over his face, his automatic pistol waving wildly. Dietrich backed into the cashier stand in alarm, knocking over his bottle of wine and sending it smashing to the floor.

“Empty out the registers! Now! Move it!” yelled the gunman in an oddly warbling voice. “Do it quick and nobody gets hurt!”

Dietrich blinked, confused. He knew that voice. He squinted at the face under the pantyhose.

“Zack?” he asked. “Zack Newberry?”

The gunman turned to him, the look of surprise clear even on his smooshed up features under the nylon.

“Mr. Holfinger?” the gunman asked. “From… from art class?”

(Continued in Chapter Two)

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