Last Thursday, Chuck Wendig, author of IRREGULAR CREATURES, challenged readers of his blog, Terrible Minds, to write a short story based on the real news item about the finding of a cache of no-longer-in-production Scotch found under the floorboards of Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton’s hut.
Here is mine. It isn’t exactly Sunday-appropriate, but I wrote it Saturday night, so….
FOR A FEW BOTTLES MORE
Pilar Penguin lit a cigarette and blew a smoke ring into the frigid air.
This life, she thought. This life is no good. How long had it been since she had seen the sun? Well, six months, obviously, but it had been longer than that. She slept through the days now, weary and bleary from late nights at the cantina.
But what was she to do? Pehuen had put everything they had into the place. She either worked by his side or watched their lives come apart like a calving glacier.
She wiped the bar, flipping the cloth free at the edge so it didn’t freeze to the damp surface. Pehuen would be back soon, and then they would open the doors for the evening and the other penguins would trickle in by ones and twos. Pilar disapproved of guys coming in with their eggs tucked between their feet and their bodies, but Pehuen was right—either they let guys in carrying concealed or they had no customers at all for part of the year.
The door slammed open, and Pehuen slid in. His breath puffed out in steamy heaves that crystalized and fell.
“Pilar!” He staggered toward her, stumbling over his own feet.
“Calm down, mi marido.” She waddled sensuously toward him, offering him the cigarette still warm from her beak. “I am here, as always.”
“But the stock—the stock!” He pushed her aside and scuttled behind the bar, coming out with The Peacemaker—the shotgun they kept there to settle any brewing violence.
“What about the stock?”
“They are taking it! They—the ones from the north!”
“Yes!” Pehuen loaded the gun and crammed extra ammunition onto his feet. “I will kill them! It is I who found Shackleton’s Scotch beneath the floor of his hut—I! What makes them think they can come here and steal it from me?”
“But, Pehuen, there are so many of them!”
“There are also many pellets in my shotgun.” And he was gone.
Pilar lost herself in the numb bustle of the cantina: pouring drinks, laughing at jokes which had not been funny for decades, cleaning up messes, arbitrating arguments and negotiating prices for the cantina girls. She had to. The girls were suckers for eggs. All an hombre had to do was show them what he had between his belly and his toes and they would go into the back room with him for nothing. That was no way to run a business.
When Pehuen returned, only Pilar noted his entrance. The light had gone out of him. He was invisible to all but the eyes of love.
She stopped him before he could disappear into the back room.
“It’s gone, Pilar. All of it. It was gone before I got there. The Kiwis have taken it. When what we have in the storeroom is gone, there will be no more. My dream is dead.”
Pilar turned to the bartender. “Keep an eye on things for me, Pichi.”
He raised a flipper in acknowledgement.
She led Pehuen into the office and embraced him tenderly, pressing her beak to his until she felt a stirring of life, a slight draining of despair.
“We lived before you found the Scotch and opened the cantina. We will live, now that the Scotch is gone.”
“But what will we do?”
“We will sell the Scotch until it is vanished as Shakleton, himself. Then we will open a restaurant. You are still the best fisherman of them all. And I can sling a mean herring, if I do say so myself. We will live, Pehuen, we will live.”
She left him and went back to the bar, left him to recover his soul and rebuild his tomorrows.
Ah, this life! She lit a cigarette and thought about watching the sun come up. This life!
WRITING PROMPT: Pick a news item at random and write a story–or at least a story line–based on it.