Vicki Hendricks, Fur People: A Lost Scene
Since I have always written noir and erotica, when I decided to write a mainstream novel—or one that will fall into the animal lit genre when that category is invented—it was difficult to stop writing noir. Fur People consists of several intertwining love stories, centered on a young female animal hoarder trying to save her brood. It’s quirky with a touch of fantasy, overall a “feel good” story. Animal hoarding does, of course, lend itself to noir, but I wanted to do something different. I had to concentrate on limiting my subconscious to what I had consciously decided, and it took several tries. The characters just didn’t want to behave. I had to delete parts of sex scenes, control the use of guns, and cut out the incest! Seriously, I had lots of excess. Here is part of my former opening, a noir scene that had no business being in the novel. I miss it, so this is my chance to share. The lesson here is that you’ll waste a lot of time if you can’t discipline yourself. Or maybe the lesson is that I should stick to noir.
Across the bar, Lloyd, a leathery-skinned patron, slumped on his elbow over a Bakelite ashtray, a butt clamped between his lips. With eyes blank and head cocked to the ceiling, he seemed to look for answers in the yellow soot from smokers over the past thirty years. Sunny turned from her cleaning, picked up Lloyd’s beer bottle from the back edge of the bar, and dropped it into the bin. She cracked another Bud, set it in front of him, and took the four dollars left there, pocketing two quarters change that she knew to be her tip. She dumped the ashtray and set it back. The corner of Lloyd’s mouth moved. He exhaled toward the ceiling.
She resisted the urge to thump his wrinkled pate. “You in there, Lloyd?”
He sat up, stretched his back, and rolled the tip of his cigarette in the notch of the ashtray. “Come over here and give me a kiss, if you want to find out.”
Sunny was sorry she had jolted him to life, thinking about his teeth first and then his breath, not that she would ever consider kissing him. She rolled her eyes and turned back toward the mirror to begin wiping the sticky bottles and ledges.
“I could get your whole ass into one of my hands.” He held out his workman’s paw and curled the fingers toward her buttocks. She saw it in the mirror, but pretended not to.
“You know how many times you said that to me? It’s disrespectful.”
“Well, it ain’t getting any bigger. As a matter of fact, I think it’s getting smaller. How ‘bout I buy you a burger?”
She finished wiping down the vodkas and started on the rums.
“Come over here so I can check.”
She didn’t look up. “Cut it out, Lloyd.”
“C’mon, Sunny. I’ll let you ride my horse.” He chuckled.
She had almost fallen for that line when she first started working at Trotters, wanting to believe he had a thoroughbred over at the track that she could visit, but his buddies were spurting beer out their noses, trying to keep from laughing.
Note the noir features: sexual innuendo, dark atmosphere, a sleazy character, a lie, and a “victim,” who in my style of noir would come out on top. All of this happened naturally before I realized it was not heading in the direction I wanted. Not only was this scene too noir for the novel, but it took place at a job that she is leaving forever to move back to her hometown in central Florida. Poor Lloyd. There is no place for him to turn up again and no reason for this scene to exist.
Vicki Hendricks is the author of Miami Purity, Iguana Love, Voluntary Madness, Sky Blues, and Cruel Poetry, nominated for an Edgar Award in 2008. Her short stories appear in collections including Murder for Revenge, Best American Erotica 2000, Miami Noir, and Hell of a Woman: An Anthology of Female Noir. A collection of her stories will be published as Florida Gothic in 2010 by Kitsune Books of Tallahassee. In progress is Fur People, a love story about animal hoarding and craziness that takes place in the woods of central Florida. Hendricks lives in Hollywood, Florida, and teaches writing at Broward College. Her plots and settings reflect interests in adventure sports, such as skydiving and SCUBA, and knowledge of the Florida environment.