DISCLAIMER: In this A to Z Challenge, some of the stories are true. All are fiction.
Well, they blew up the chicken man in Philly last night And they blew up his house, too. Down on the boardwalk they’re ready for a fight Gonna see what them racket boys can do. Now there’s trouble busin’ in from outta state And the d.a. can’t get no relief.Gonna be a rumble on the promenade And the gamblin’ commissioner’s hangin’ on by the skin of his teeth.
– Bruce Springsteen, 1982
I love songs written in minor keys with great lyrics the way I do a well-written book or poem. There are precious few great song writers. The first moment I heard Bruce Springsteen sing “Atlantic City” , I knew I had discovered another to join the ranks of my favorite song spinners.
I saw a story explode inside my imagination the first time I heard this song. I have no idea who this “chicken man” was or what he did to have his house blown up. It didn’t matter. Masterful words executed to minor chords illustrated a world I had never seen before, and made it real to me. I felt that invisible line of winners and losers, and that fear that I would forever be caught on the wrong side of that line. This was a song I could use to stir soul into the characters I would later create in my own writing.
A was a plentiful letter for this particular theme. I choose Atlantic City because of that dark underbelly of society that it so well highlights. All those compromises so many are forced to make in order to simply survive.
Now I’ve been looking for a job but it’s hard to find
Down here it’s just winners and losers and don’t get caught on the wrong side of that line
Well I’m tired of coming out on this losing end
So honey last night I met this guy and I’m gonna do a little favor for him
While the specific story of the song did not much come into play, the mood it conveyed and the above verse inspired the character of Quinn Mandoras in my upcoming book, Idylls & Grimoires. Here is a little snippet, probably the only one I will offer prior to contract signed in blood and splattered about the publisher so enjoy it. Or not.
DISCLAIMER: This is an early edit so yeah, it won’t be the same when you fish this off the discount rack in Walmart a few years from now.
Day 19 of the Cleansing Rain
Outside the Gates, Pig’s Spit
1 Hour Later
Plagues were nothing new in Pig’s Spit. Quinn Mandoras much preferred the endless days of rain to the boils and blood sickness of last summer or the frogs the year before that or those swarming flesh-eating locusts ten years back. Quinn shuddered at the memory. He crept back toward the road, being cautious as to not attract any attention as he watched guards escort the strange archivist up toward Phaedra’s Spire.
Quinn supposed that was the last he would see of Husk Grayvesone. He sighed at the man’s ill-fortune. He checked to see the book and card were secure in his jacket. He considered for a moment selling the card in King Springs, a right fortune he could get for it. So many thought these cards magical. Quinn did not believe in the cards and he did not believe this book tucked in his jacket was an Idyll. Still, Liam could have a full deck, a worthy deck that might get him out of Pig’s Spit.
Old Sawyers Tuch claimed Dalmeade Archivists to be supreme tricksters much like the Bone Masters who appeared in unlikely spots with their unpleasant prophecies, a spot of misfortune mixed with a few drops of blood for a card that might bring riches. Sawyers Tuch understood nothing.
Quinn wondered if the archivist truly knew his older brother? Cyril had made a trade once with a Bone Master, blood for a card. Screams echoed from years past and for a second, Quinn considered throwing both book and card in the mud. There would be a price for this. Still, his family near starved for the taxes and extortion Quinn suffered. There would be no honest living for him. Husk only wanted Quinn to go to a place he already must go. That seemed worth it, worth being able to improve his family’s lot.
Idylls & Grimoires was a splendid game to be sure. Quinn’s son would be thrilled by the new card, and if Quinn could get this strange book to the tavern, his son would enjoy a tournament worthy deck. That would make the errand worth it.
Liam was a clever boy. With the right deck, played at the right place, who knows how Liam might improve his fortunes? Quinn missed his son’s smile, and this might bring it back. The boy had been so melancholy this last year, ever since those damn boils left his son’s face disfigured.
Quinn shuffled his way into the crowds fleeing Pig’s Spit, blending in with their misery, keeping his head down. He wondered if he could find some little prize for his daughter. Cyd never required anything more than a good story and a kiss on her little forehead to make her smile, but she was so little, her innocence still well intact.
Quinn decided as a prize for his precious daughter, he would spend time at her bedside tonight and tell her the tale of The Toad and the Cowardly Knight. Cyd loved that tale and the way he did the different voices for her, croaking like a toad, speaking like a princess, putting on the accent of a well-born knight. How it made her giggle, and that was one of his favorite sounds in all of the world.
Quinn found himself up to his ankles in gathering pools of water and mud at the point where the little road converged into two paths, one spiraling in shining cobblestone toward the Royal Gateway into King’s Spring proper, and the other an unpaved path too steep and narrow for wagons or horses. Quinn began his climb toward hearth and home. How he cursed this steep incline so often after a long day’s work, but today, perhaps it would spare his family if the rain persisted and the flood waters continued to rise. Thunder rolled and boomed, and Quinn thought, yes, one of those hundred year floods was coming, and so he climbed.