Besides the Chuck Wendig prompts I do each week I also try to complete the prompt from The First Line each quarter. The First Line is a journal that publishes four times a year and, each quarter, provides a prompt in the form of a sentence that is to be used as the first line in your story. There are no restrictions on genre or form, but every story in each issue opens with the same first line.
I have been making sporadic submissions to TFL for several years now and have never succeeded in being published. This is my submission for the current issue, which I sent in back in February. Submissions for the next issue are due on May 1. I don’t consider this to be among my best work, but it was fun. I wasn’t surprised when it wasn’t picked up, but I’m happy to share it here. I hope you all like it. Please to enjoy “The King Ed-Rock”.
THE KING ED-ROCK
Eddie tended to drift into whatever jobs were available that would pay the rent. Two weeks ago he had worn a reflective vest and a hard hat and held a stop sign for a road construction crew. Today, though, he was doing what he liked best, what he was good at, what he did as often as he could. He was standing on the curb outside Pink’s Pawn spinning a large, neon green cardboard arrow in circles while wearing headphones and dancing and rapping along at the top of his lungs to the Beastie Boys.
He put on a good show. Mr. Pink had given him the arrow. One side said “SALE TODAY!” in garish orange letters that caught the attention of drivers whizzing by on Redmond Avenue. The other side said GUNS! AMMO! GOLD! in the same orange tint. Mr. Pink said he’d tried to write GOLD in gold lettering but it didn’t look as good against the green on the arrow, so it was all orange instead.
Eddie didn’t really care what color the letters were, or the arrow for that matter. He just knew he was getting paid $100 to stand on the curb and listen to Licensed to Ill and Paul’s Boutique and all the rest for 8 hours. Hard to beat that. Plus, as he always did, Mr. Pink told Eddie that if he got enough people to come in, he’d bring him back a sandwich when he went down the street to Vini’s Deli for lunch.
Hell yeah, thought Eddie. Nothing like a hot meatball sub with melted provolone and shredded mozza and some banana peppers on the side in one of those little plastic cups. That’s what I’m talking about. He put all his heart into it, pumping his arms in time to the music, moving the arrow up, down, and around his body. He knew all the moves. All the stores around here knew him and knew he was the best.
He had an arrow of his own at home that he had bought off Amazon for $69.99 that he practiced with. He’d paid an extra $5 to have his name printed on both sides of the arrow so he could practice keeping the text facing the right way up. He took pride in what he did.
He had even taken extra care when turning that stop sign a couple of weeks back. His mother had always told him, “No sense doing the job if you’re not going to do it right.” He’d been attentive when he held that stop sign, never letting the traffic back up too far before changing the direction of the flow. He’d even waved at the little kids and dogs in the cars as they went by.
He loved little kids and dogs.
He waved at them here, too, if he wasn’t in the middle of a routine when they came by. He knew of at least one customer who told Mr. Pink that she had stopped and come in because the nice man with the sign had waved at her little doggie. Mr. Pink had told him so. So he kept doing it. It worked, after all. Anything for a hot meatball sub from Vini’s.
Every now and then a car came by full of hyped-up high school kids. He didn’t like high school kids as much as he did little kids. High school kids would yell at him, trying to distract him, making fun of him, hoping he would drop his arrow. He especially hated it when it was jocks in the car. He hated it even more when they had their girls with them. They always felt like they had to impress their girls, see, and that usually meant they were going to throw something at him.
The only time he had ever dropped his arrow was when a car full of jocks stopped at the red light while he was working for Travis Tax Service over on Jenkins and 6th. He’d been in the middle of “Shake Your Rump” and had just started spinning the arrow counterclockwise. The jock in the back seat had shouted at him. Nothing specific, just a loud “AAAAAHHHHH” to try and break his concentration. Typical jock bullshit. When that didn’t work, the one in the front seat had thrown an entire cup of soda at him. It was a large cup from Burger King. Eddie thought it had Sprite in it. It had hit the arrow and exploded, drenching him and knocking the arrow out of his hands. It had even knocked one of his earbuds loose.
The light had turned green and the jocks pulled off, roaring and shouting. He thought one of them had a thrown a middle finger at him as they drove away. The car behind them had pulled into the parking lot and the guy got out and gave Eddie a towel to dry off with. “Are you okay?” he had asked. A nice guy.
Eddie had shrugged as he dried his hands. Then he had picked up the arrow and dried it off as well. “Just regular jock bullshit,” he had said. “Thanks for the towel.”
Since then, he’d changed where he stood. He always made sure to be away from any red lights and far enough from the road so that no one could reach him. He hated that. He loved being right next to the road and feeling the wind as the cars went by. The rushing air made it more challenging to hold onto the arrow.
Being that close to the road made him an easy target though, and he hadn’t liked the way being hit with a cup of Sprite had felt. There had been a girl in the back seat next to the jock who had yelled at him, and he thought he had seen an apology on her face as they drove off. Maybe not, though. It was hard to say. His eyes had been full of Sprite at the time, after all.
He kept going, all morning. Spinning. Dancing. Rapping. Ill Communication. Check Your Head. His favorite part of any Beastie Boys song was when one of the Beasties mentioned Adam Horovitz by the name of “the King Ad-Rock.” Whenever that happened, Eddie would change the words as he rapped along, substituting his own Beastie name, “The King Ed-Rock.”
As he always did, he stopped performing when “Pass the Mic” came on and stood there with his head bowed and his arrow down by his side, respectfully lowered. That was his favorite MCA track and after MCA had died it just didn’t seem proper to do tricks to it any more. As the last beat faded, he tapped his heart with his right fist, kissed his first two fingertips, and held them up to the sky, pointing at MCA in heaven. “Rest in peace, Adam Yauch,” he whispered. “Rest in peace, MCA!” And of course, “Gratitude” was the next song, which had always struck him as being just so right and appropriate. He went into it with all the gratitude he could muster for the music and all the inspiration he had taken from it over the years.
He didn’t know how many people Mr. Pink wanted him into bring to the shop, but he always gave it everything he had and he always got his meatball sub for lunch as a reward for his hard work. It was the reason he liked working for Mr. Pink more than anyone else on that side of town. The man knew how to take care of the people he was paying.
Eddie sat in the grass beside the road, eating his sandwich, sipping from a bottle of water, head bobbing and watching the traffic go by on Redmond. He felt bad when cars went by while he was sitting and eating because they couldn’t see him do his thing. He always propped the arrow up by the sign so they could see it as they drive by, but it wasn’t the same. He hurried to finish his lunch, then went inside and threw his trash away.
He came back out, picked up his arrow and waited for the next track to begin. Hello Nasty. “Three MCs and One DJ.” That’s a good one, he thought, and he started the arrow whirling around his head in figure-eights as Mix Master Mike went to work on the turntables.
Four more hours to go.
Four more days until he could pay the rent for the month.