Editor’s Note: Many years ago, when I first stumbled out of the cave and learned to make fire, a friend presented me with a writing challenge: Concoct a story based solely on three random words that she would select. The following is the result of that effort, updated a wee bit for this post.
The Three Words: dolomite, ubiquitous, howling
And here we go…
The limousine barreled down the dirt road, creating a plume of dust that billowed for at least a quarter mile as the gleaming black vehicle approached near lift-off velocity. A lone cow, wandering in a vast nearby field, briefly studied this odd force of nature, then she quickly became bored and went back to nudging the ground in search of her cell phone.
Ensconced in the plush back seat of the limo, Suellen quickly checked her itinerary, adjusted a jeweled bangle that had rudely slid half an inch out of place on her tanned arm, applied fresh lip color, reviewed the results in her compact, clicked the thing shut with satisfaction, and then kicked at the partition between her and the driver using one of her high-end stiletto cowboy boots. “Hey!”
Hugo lowered the glass in the partition. “You rang?”
“Are you sure we’re going the right way? There hasn’t been anything the least bit interesting for miles. I’m really quite bored. And can you do something about this dust? Why is it so dusty?”
Hugo professionally suppressed an exasperated sigh. “Madame, I’m quite confident of our direction. After all, you requested that I drive out here three times last week to make sure I knew the way. And this is West Texas, Madame. There’s nothing one can do about the dust. It’s just simply there. And, as you also directed, I had the titanium filtration system installed, so hopefully, very little dust is actually making it in to the car.”
Suellen snorted. “Well, that fancy-ass thing is not working, I can see a speck of dust RIGHT HERE on the seat beside me. It’s insulting.”
“Well, Madame, then that must be one very courageous and strong little speck of dust, having fought his way past the best defensive-technology that inherited money can buy. Perhaps we should show some respect for the little fellow. Make friends with it and give him a name. Shall we?”
Suellen slumped back in the seat. “Roll up the window, Hugo. You know I only keep you in service because your name sounds continental. And don’t try to amuse with your folksy stories about the little people.”
“Yes, Madame. I temporarily lost my mind and forgot that you refuse to laugh because you might get wrinkles. I shall refrain.” Hugo started to raise the window, but Suellen stopped him with another kick. “Wait! Have you confirmed that my assistant will be there? What’s his name this week? Boyd?’
“It’s Todd. You let Boyd go because his cuff links were not to your liking. You know, Madame, you wouldn’t have so many names to learn if you didn’t randomly fire assistants based on couture alone.”
“That is my business, Hugo. Besides, if a person can’t properly dress themselves in the morning, what good are they to me? To civilization in general? Anyway, is Toad going to be there? He has all that annoying paperwork where people have to sign things.”
Hugo suppressed another sigh. “Yes, Madame. Todd will be there. With the paperwork. However, he may be a few minutes late.” Hugo automatically paused, allowing time for Suellen to mutter, rip something up, and hurl it to the floorboard. “As you’ll recall, Madame, you decided two hours ago that you wanted fresh sushi with your afternoon beverage.”
“There’s nothing wrong with that. What does sushi have to do with Tad being late? This is BORING me, is he going to be there or not?”
“Yes, Madame,” repeated Hugo. “He will be there shortly. Due to your whimsical culinary desires and the scarcity of both fresh sushi and regularly-scheduled air transportation in this part of the state, he will be parachuting from a crop-dusting plane roughly 10 minutes after our arrival in the lovely town of Beaver Flats.”
“Beaver Flats? What a horrid name! I thought we were going to Magnolia Crossing. Are people lying to me again? You know how that irritates me.” Something else thumped on the floorboard.
“No, Madame. Magnolia Crossing is the name of the hotel which you wish to purchase. And it is located in the tiny burgh of Beaver Flats. I’m sure this will all be very clear, very soon, as it appears that we have arrived.
The limousine crested a dusty hill, and there before them was a lovely valley with what, at first glance, appeared to be a charming little village, assuming that “charming” can mean “brown and weathered”. At least there were cows. Bovines always add a certain mystique to the proceedings.
Hugo sped directly to the center of town, which took approximately 13 seconds, much less than he had anticipated, and he therefore slammed on the brakes, spewing gravel and dust as he fish-tailed into a parking lot, the car rocking alarmingly before settling. Suellen waited rather patiently for the chalky dust to clear, and then said, rather calmly, “Hugo?”
“From this point, going forward, is it understand that ANY time we arrive ANY where in this vehicle, you are to ensure that we do so on solid pavement. Is that understood?”
“I detest imprecise actions. Sliding around in nasty gravel does not say ‘powerful business woman in complete control’. Instead, it says ‘hillbillies drunk on beer at a barn dance’. I want strategic, planned, non-dusty arrivals.”
“Madame, I just didn’t realize that-”
“Solid pavement, Hugo. Now open my door. We’re 23 seconds behind schedule.”
Hugo squelched another sigh, turned off the car, quickly spritzed himself with whatever cologne Suellen had slipped into his jacket pocket this morning, (she always did, he never questioned, he just knew that he better smell like whatever it was for the remainder of that day), checked the mirror to ensure that there were no errant stands of hair that would draw her ire, then leaped out of the car to open her door.
Legs appeared out of the back door, followed by a sleek figure sporting couture that must have been sewn onto her body while she yelled at someone or fired the pastry chef. Then Suellen’s head popped into view, glowing with purchased youth.
They were standing in front of an astonishingly large structure for such a small town. Granted, any multi-story building would dwarf the surrounding humble structures and various shacks. But the Magnolia Crossing Hotel was really quite stunning. The amazing architectural detail was superb, almost surreal. Someone had clearly spent some money at some point. But why?
“Well, then,” said Suellen. “Perhaps this won’t be so mind-numbing after all.”
They marched through the ornate entrance doors, crossed the plush lobby covered in exquisite tile, and clattered to a halt in front of the check-in desk, where they found two identical-twin females beaming at them.
“Hi!” said the twin on the left. “My name is Dolomite!” Then the carbon copy on the right squeaked out “And my name is Vegemite! Welcome to Magnolia Crossing!” Then they beamed some more, in an odd, synchronized, guest-services way.
Suellen had no choice but to pause, gazing at them with her Gucci sunglasses and letting the encounter sink in. I mean really, how often did something like this happen? Then she recovered. “Are you serious? Those are your names? Who messed up where?”
Dolomite, the beamer on the left, cheerfully explained: “Our parents were miners in Australia. They really liked mining and eating sandwiches. Really, really liked it. A lot.” Then she beamed some more.
“Good God,” said Suellen, rummaging in her exquisite designer messenger bag. “I hope you sued them.” She then fished out her itinerary and flopped it on the counter. “I’m here to meet with the owner of the hotel. Someone named ‘Fire Boyd Cufflinks‘. Oh wait. My mistake.” She ripped off a post-it note and threw it on the ground. “Someone named Humberto Montana. I assume you can figure out who this person is?”
“Of course we can,” squealed Dolomite. “That’s our daddy!” Then she unleashed an even brighter beaming smile that could blind those with vitamin deficiencies.
Suellen took a deep breath. “So you’re telling me, with all of those teeth that you have, that I’m about to enter into business negotiations with a man who named his children after excavated ore and a sandwich spread made from yeast extract?”
“Yes, you ARE!” gushed Vegemite. “Aren’t you EXCITED!”
Just then, there was a low, dull roar as some type of aircraft buzzed the town, followed by a thump and a yelp as something landed on the roof of the building.
Hugo leaned in and mumbled in Suellen’s ear. “That would be the sushi.”
Suellen snatched up her itinerary and shoved it back into her messenger bag. “Okay, then. Things are not working out quite as I envisioned, and that makes me slightly insane. This is what we’ll do. Dolomite, could you please go fetch your twisted daddy from the commune or wherever he is. Veggie, would you mind rushing upstairs and helping my assistant, Ted, get untangled from his parachute, and make sure the sushi is not harmed in any way. Hugo-”
“I’m already on it, Madame. I just sent the emergency text to your pharmacist.”
“Thank you. Now. I am going to go over here and sit in this surprisingly well-designed chair and wait for things to become easier to deal with.” Suellen marched to said chair, plopped down in it with the style and grace that can only be learned by sipping cocktails with Donatella Versace, and waited.
Seven minutes later, an expedited package arrived from Suellen’s pharmacist. A swig of Evian, a throwback of the head, and things improved greatly.
Twelve minutes later, Todd the Assistant staggered into the lobby, clutching a freezer-pack, the still-attached parachute billowing out behind him. He paused to catch his breath, while a still-beaming Vegemite raced in after him. “Miss Suellen, I tried explaining to him that he should take the parachute off before running down all those stairs but he wouldn’t listen! Some boys are just stupid.”
Suellen just smiled, because the chemicals had hit the bloodstream. “It’s okay, Veggie. Take the sushi from him and make sure it’s properly prepared. I’ll be needing that very soon.”
Vegemite frowned, a rare moment for her. “He brought sushi? That doesn’t make any sense.” She snatched up the freezer-pack and ripped it open. “Oh, Miss Suellen, you don’t want this. We have a much better selection in our sushi bar. It’s delivered fresh every thirty minutes.”
Suellen, Hugo and Todd all spontaneously responded with a collective and resounding gasp. (To be fair, part of that cacophony included a wee bit of flatulence. It had been a long day and self-control was wearing thin.) Then Todd began to cry because, really, what else could he do at this point? After all, he had just jumped from a plane clutching raw fish, a near-death experience that had apparently been completely unnecessary. Somewhere along the line he had listened to the wrong guidance counselor.
Just then, Dolomite clattered into the scene. Beaming, of course. “Daddy will be with you shortly. He’s in a meeting with the Sultan of Brunei and they are discussing oil rights. Daddy will probably win, he usually does, so it shouldn’t be long.” She then pulled some red licorice from under the front desk counter and began smacking away quite loudly.
Suellen took another deep breath to help the meds properly circulate, then pronounced: “Okay. It appears that we may have misjudged a few things coming into this purchasing opportunity, and we have to readjust. Of course, I’m blaming Thad for this oversight, he’s responsible for the details.”
Todd wiped away a fish-smelling tear. “But Suellen, I was just hired three days ago. How could I have-”
Suellen cut him off with the wave of a manicured hand. “Do you think the President of the United States could get away with saying such a thing? Of course not. And I expect my employees to adhere to the same guidelines. Do you understand me?”
Todd quietly whimpered and bowed his head.
“Now,” said Suellen, adjusting herself in the exquisite chair so that her exquisite couture looked exquisite, “I need to talk to these twin things, Dolo and Veggie. I understandably assumed that this was a hick town full of idiots. There’s a remote possibility that I was mistaken. Tell me, bookend siblings, just how much do you know about my expectations with the purchase of this establishment?”
Dolomite: “Surely you understand that we’re not at liberty to discuss proprietary information.”
Suellen: “How do you know a word like that?”
Vegemite: “We know lots of things, Miss Suellen. Like the websites that Todd likes to visit on a drunken Saturday night.”
Suellen: “Who the hell is Todd?”
Todd: “Do we really need to go there? I’m still strapped in a parachute that I didn’t need to be in. Can I get any kind of validation here?”
Hugo: “Todd, don’t even try. You’re in a universe you can’t begin to comprehend. Just keep your mouth shut and hope there’s another paycheck.”
Dolomite: “And, Miss Suellen, there’s the matter of how often you have to visit the gynecologist for that little problem that won’t go away.”
Suellen: “How dare you! That’s confidential information. How could you possibly know that?”
Vegemite: “Let’s just say that your doctor is about as indiscreet as YOU are when you’ve had ten Harvey Wallbangers at the Flamingo Bar.”
Suellen choked on her Evian.
“And furthermore,” explained Dolomite, “we know exactly why you are here. Did you think the dust of West Texas somehow clogged our brains to the point of imbecility? Did you think that the name of your company, ‘Ubiquitous’, didn’t give us a clue? We’ve both studied Freud at the Sorbonne in Paris. You have an ego that makes Jupiter look like a crouton.”
Dolomite tag-teamed her sister by slapping her in the back of the head with the red licorice whip. (This seems a rather crude plot development, but it makes more sense once you realize that aggressive licorice-wielding was a critical means of communication in the mines of Australia.) Vegemite stepped forward. “We know that you don’t care about this town. All you want is to purchase the largest building in this whole part of the state so you can have a distribution center for Ubiquitous, your evil little import business where snooty salespeople sell over-priced crap that some fisherman found on a beach.”
Then she recovered. “Look, you horrid little matching munchkins, do you not understand the amount of wealth that I can pour into this skanky place of dirt and boredom?”
Dolomite smiled. “Did you not hear me when I said mere minutes ago that the Sultan of Brunei was talking to our Daddy? There is so much more going on here than you realize.”
Suellen stood, brave and strong. “Then tell me. What is going on?”
Just then, there was a cheerful ding as an elevator arrived in the lobby. The doors slid back.
“Daddy!” exclaimed Dolomite and Vegemite.
“Daddy?” asked a very surprised Suellen. Then she dropped to her knees in a rare moment of total confusion. “Daddy! Are you going to do this to me AGAIN?”
Dolomite and Vegemite looked from Daddy, to Suellen, to Daddy, to Suellen, to each other, to Daddy, to Suellen, to Todd, to the parachute, to the sushi, to Hugo.
The howling wail that erupted from the throats of the three apparent sisters broke windows for miles around and startled cows across the county. The bovines were not pleased with this sound. The milk was clumpy in the morning.
Hugo, sweat dripping, uncontrollably spritzed himself with the most current man spray. It was going to be a long night.
To be continued?
(Originally published in “The Sound and the Fury” on 09/01/2009. Revised and updated with extra flair for this post.)
(Accompanying image is of The Beach Hotel in Galveston, TX, destroyed by fire in 1898. Credits and further info found here.)