Monday, December 13, 2010

A Twist Of Noir 637 - Christopher Grant

GRETA FOR THE HOLIDAYS - CHRISTOPHER GRANT

The most wonderful time of the year?

Fuck that.

Greta hated this time of the year.

False promises and people lying to each other’s faces.

Merry Christmas? There was no such thing.

When Greta was ten and Trish, her sister, was four, Trish’s father got lucky and Christmas fell on a weekend. A court-appointed weekend, meaning there was nothing Carol, Greta and Trish’s mother, could do about it. Nothing except pack up her little princess and hand her over to Bill. As soon as the golden child was out the door, Carol turned on Greta, slapped her across the face and grabbed herself a bottle of some rotgut or another. She called up one of her usual lays.

A half hour later, he showed up at the door.

“Get that, Greta,” Carol called from the bedroom. Greta knew what would happen if she didn’t and let him in.

His name was Cal and he was one of the nicer ones.

Occasionally, the nicer ones would leave extra cash and a Christmas present or two would show up the next morning on top of the kitchen table, in lieu of a tree. Carol didn’t believe in having a tree, real or otherwise. Takes up too much space, was her excuse.

The entire weekend would be filled with the sounds and smells of sex, drinking, weed and vomiting, all coming from behind the bedroom door. Greta was left to fend for herself during that forty-eight hour period.

*

The door is white. There's a tree in the picture window, decorated and all lit up. The guy’s name is Eric Washington.

Eric Washington has a wife, has two kids, a boy and a girl.

Eric Washington was on the verge of losing it all. His business and his house and probably his wife and kids.

Until Charlie stepped in. Ever-helpful Charlie. All of Eric Washington’s problems were solved. As long as he paid the right amount at the right time.

Eric Washington is into Charlie for a cool hundred thousand.

Eric Washington is ten weeks late on his payment.

*

When she was twelve and Trish was six, Trish got to see her father for Christmas again. Even though it wasn’t a court-appointed weekend. Trish talked about how it was going to be so great and that Greta wouldn't have any presents. It was typical Trish. All she needed to do was stick her tongue out.

That’s what did it.

Greta grabbed her sister’s wrist and bent it backward. She figured the little princess wouldn’t be able to enjoy Christmas with a broken wrist.

The beating she took from Carol, sick as it sounds, was worth it. Greta finally had her mother’s full and undivided attention.

*

“Break his fingers,” Charlie said. “Both hands.”

Greta watches Eric Washington and his kids and his wife through her car window.

It’s Christmas Eve and they’re exchanging presents. They are smiling and kissing and hugging and the kids are playing with the toys they’ve unwrapped.

“Fuck it,” Greta says and gets out of the car.

*

Ten years ago, when Carol was diagnosed with cirrhosis, Trish called and sobbed about how Mom didn’t have a whole lot of time left. She told Greta that they needed a donor and Trish had been tested and wasn’t compatible. She wanted Greta to come in and get tested. So they could hack a piece of her liver off and give it to Carol? Greta told Trish that she wouldn’t piss on Carol if she were on fire and hung up.

When she read Carol’s obit a few months later, Greta allowed herself to finally take that deep breath of true freedom.

*

Greta returns to the car and pulls out her cell phone.

“It’s done,” she tells Charlie. “And so am I.”

She hangs up, takes a deep breath and drives away.

BIO: Check out all of my fiction in the CRIMES COMMITTED BY YOURS TRULY section of this very website.

19 comments:

Michael Solender said...

Ranks right up there with It's a Wonderful Life in sentiment - Nasty Ass sentiment is for sucks!. A new Christmas classic. Warm like a Hot Toddy, this one left me with a special holiday glow.

Naomi Johnson said...

Wha-at? Greta isn't really quitting, is she?

Maybe I'm a bad person, but like Greta I think that some people aren't worth trying to save. I guess that's the attitude that'll keep me out of heaven.

Ron Earl Phillips said...

I'm going to have to read some of those "CRIMES COMMITTED BY YOURS TRULY" stories.

You made a lot of story you had to tell. Greta is a tough as nails gal. Need to read more.

AJ Hayes said...

Aw, Greta. You may be done with Charlie but you know, deep down, you gotta come back. What would we do without you? Why did the opening scene from The Brady Bunch just flash through my head? Maybe I just had a visit from the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come. Maybe old Skullface is whispering about next Yuletide and a tale called "A Very Greta Christmas?" We can only hope. Cool beans Mr. Grant. Very cool beans, indeed.

Christopher Grant said...

I've been feeling like Greta's wanted to break out of the box that she allowed herself to be placed in for a while now.

There are a handful of people, Keith Rawson and Col Bury, to name but two, that I've talked this over with for quite some time and I thought it was going to go a bit differently than this.

In one of my stories over at TKNC, Col even made a comment that he hoped Greta didn't get hurt and I told him that he was close to being on the nose.

I never used to understand when writers would talk about characters coming up to them and saying, "Tell my story" or not allowing them to do whatever they wished to do with them.

With Greta, I understand that.

Originally, there was supposed to be a part two to Greta Pays A Visit at TKNC. The guy that she was supposed to collect from was going to attack her, which would have been completely out of character for him (which was the whole idea) and Greta getting stabbed was supposed to be her underestimating this guy.

At which point she would have started having doubts and she would have quit.

But that story never came off right, it never felt right.

And this story, as I told Michael Solender, took five different (and I mean different) drafts. In one of them, Greta was going to write out a New Years Resolution list and number three was "Find A New Job".

But that didn't feel right, either. And, besides, the word count was waaay over 637.

So this is what happened and Greta basically threw it right into my lap. I'm not going to sit and cry about it, she said. I'm just going to pick up the phone, say I'm finished with you, Charlie, and drive.

And that's what she did.

Is she gone forever? From Charlie, maybe. Time will tell with that.

But this is Greta's second lease on life now and I know exactly where she is when she stops the car.

Charles Gramlich said...

No sentimental christmas pablum here.

Chris Rhatigan said...

Thanks for another sizzling installment of Greta AND for the fascinating story behind the story. Can't wait to find out where that car stops...

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Well done Chris. Can't wait to backtrack and find out what happened previously.

pattinase (abbott) said...

It must be nice to have a continuing character you can go back to and find out how they are doing, what they are doing. A Greta.
Some people get pretty Christmases but not our crew. Great writing, Christopher.

M. C. Funk said...

Outstanding, Christopher. I loved the flat, functional delivery of the prose, keeping the story moving fast and mean. This was flash at its best in terms of format.

As for the content, it sounds like the holidays to me. The story rang very true.

This was tawdry perfection - a parasite my imagination will be pleased to host.

R.S. Bohn said...

I haven't read any of your Greta stories before, so I appreciate that you told us everything we need to know about her in these limited amount of words. That's the way to write a character, and not make them another anonymous human stand-in. And in that space, unfortunately, I grew to really love her (who doesn't love a hard-as-nails bitch?) and then you say it's the end?

I think not. I see an opening here. I think there's more for her. Guess we wait and see, huh?

M. C. Funk said...

In case my initial draft of this comment got lost, here it is again:

Outstanding. The prose delivery was flat and functional - all it had to be and nothing more. It kept things mean and fast, making the story only more effective.

It rang true, too. Greta's family is familiar indeed.

Perfect job forming the kind of story that gets stuck in.

Paul D. Brazill said...

That's my kind of Xmas story. Great to have Greta back and learn more about her.

chad rohrbacher said...

Merry Christmas MoFo's. Enjoyed this piece quite a bit -- and, more importantly, looking forward to reading more of her.

Jane said...

My kinda Christmas. I must look for more of your Greta stories. I also love the structure of the story, getting to see how Greta becomes who she is.

Joyce said...

Great story and especially enjoyed knowing more about how all this came to be. I agree with all here. Need to find out where Greta goes from there. Will she be free? Will she be...? We really do need to know.

Christopher Grant said...

For those that are looking to read more Greta, check out the CRIMES COMMITTED BY YOURS TRULY section of the site.

If you've not read about her from the beginning, start with GRETA followed by GRETA AT THE TRACK, GRETA PAYS A VISIT and FAMILY.

FAMILY sets up the whole Trish/Greta dynamic.

Richard Godwin said...

Clinical,precise, measured, physical, totally in control of your medium. What else would we expect from the editor of ATON?

Anonymous said...

A nice circular story. Lotta "get what's coming to you."
And I love a story with a wicked woman balancing the scales.
Kelly