straight down the line

Six Slingers And A Singer

I asked Twitter for a recommendation for my final writing assignment this week.  They suggested the Seven Character Story Treatment. I get to make my own little gang of rapscallions! Huzzah!

Donnie Rawlen

Ken Morris–In relationship with Patsy Limmick
Jonny Reme–Smooth-talking ladies man.
Franklin Porter–Jonny’s wingman, muscle.

Patsy Limmick–Femme fatale, in relationship with Ken Morris
Rita Smith–Morals-first cabaret singer
Sidney Greenworth–Donnie Rawlen’s crush, possible future wife.

Alright. So I’ve got characters. Now I need a story. Should it involve crime? Should my characters be good or good-for-nothing? Donnie won’t be a main character. I don’t want him to seem like he’s a powerful character. I’d liken him to Cincinnatus in terms of his leadership. If he needs a position of power, he will take it, but he will also willingly part with that power afterward.

I think I’ll make this a pilot, only introducing the problems the septet may face in the future. It will let me create an atmosphere, and I can have the characters meet, some for the first time. I’ll have to make at least two of the characters in a relationship with each other–possibility for romance is a must (Patsy and Ken).

One of the guys should be a sleeze ball (Jonny Reme), with a female counterpart holding morals in high regard, albeit holding a risque job, maybe a cabaret singer (Rita Smith)? She could be my femme fatale. No. Too cliche. It’s gotta be Patsy.

None of my characters need much of a backstory–that could be introduced in flashbacks. Donnie has a backstory, though. But when in his chronology should this story take place? Before he meets his wife? That could be good. He had to do something between his father’s death and his marriage. Maybe he could return to this group after his family is torn from him by fate’s hand? Yeah, that’ll work. Cindy can be his future wife. So then, I have the expected romance between Ken and Patsy, and the hopeful, developing romance between Donnie and Sidney.

And style, I’ll have to make it an inner monologue with a focus on dialogue, that’s how I like my noir, it gives the audience some extra information, and could help distract from events. I want Donnie to be the lens, though. The audience should get to know my character’s mind.

So, here it goes:

I got the call at 6 o’clock. ‘Be at The Lowdown at 8,’ was all Jonny said. I had plans now.

5 minutes before 8. I pay the taxi, and his Plymouth sputters off. It sounds like it’s proppelling itself with exploding popcorn. “Puh! Puht! Tk-tk-tk-tk!”

I see a burgundy trenchcoat. Jonny’s already here. He’s with Franklin, talking to a few women in line for the club. It’s not a long line, and The Lowdown’s rarely this busy. I wonder what’s going on tonight.

Jonny turns his head to blow his smoke away from the dames when I catch his eye. Good. I tip my hat, and get moving.

“Donnie! You made it!”
“Course I did. Now, why’d you bring me down here?”
“Slow down, my man! You’re gonna love it!”
“Love what?” God. Love it? Love it? I hate clubs. Too many eyes on you. It’s like people go out just to wonder why people go out. Except for Jonny. Jonny’s always at the club.
“Her.” He motions toward the cone speaker.

“~Annd then you’ll laugh, and I’ll wink~”

I recognize Rita Smith’s voice immediately.

“Jonny, you know I don’t like clubs.”
“Calm down, man! This’ll be different.” Different? How different?
Franklin realizes Jonny’s left his side and strides over. I can’t blame him for not coming by sooner.

I try to hail a taxi, but Jonny pulls my arm down.
“Hey man, you have to come inside. I want you to meet someone.”
“Not tonight. I’ve almost wrapped a story on how the car’s gonna be the invention of the century. Just needs some polish.” I didn’t have an article.
“Not this time, Donnie.” Dammit. He’s got me.

So we walk in under the dim neon arrow. Jonny tips his hat to his friend, the doorman. Jonny leads us to a booth behind the pianist playing on stage.

“Jonny. I’ve got a record of Rita Smith. We could’ve listened to that.”
“Nonsense, Donnie. You can’t meet a record.”

“~When the night fills me up~”

I was staring. We need better artists in the States. I pack my pipe, and start it.

“Ah, here they are!” Two women and a man sauntered up to our table flashing their pearly whites.

“Jonny! Is that you!” Oh great, one of Jonny’s one-nighter’s recognizes him.
“How ya been, Patsy! I see I’m finally meeting San Francisco’s luckiest man, Ken!”
“Jonny,” Ken responds with a tip of his hat, as the three newcomers slide in.
“Oh my, and who are these gentlemen?” the one named Patsy asked.
“Donnie Rawlen. Pleasure.”
“Porter. I’ve got a first name, but we can stick to Porter, for now.”

They talk for a while, I don’t know how long. I catch bits and pieces. Apparently Ken and Patsy are in something bad. I catch the other woman’s eye and she looks
away. So I focus on Rita on stage.

“~Moonlit shadows dancing endlessly~
~Falling fast, into the sea~”

She glances back at me.

“Donnie, we gotta go.”
Franklin slides out first, and ushers us toward the exit between our booth and the stage. I help the nameless woman out of her side.

“Hold it right there, slick!” Slick? I’m not slick. He can’t be talking to me. I keep moving, when I’m pushed from my back. I turn around to a pinstripe-laden slick- haired Italian. Great. Just great.

“We have a problem, Don?” Franklin asks me. Why’s he asking me? I don’t have a problem. Wait! I do. This guy!

“This joker calls me slick, then shoves me, Porter.”
“Now you’re gonna let the girl come with me, you twos.” the Italian interjected.

“~Beneath the stars, until they fade~”

Franklin grabs the man by his suit coat with his left, and suckers him with his right. He’s out. Cold.

“Hey, Jonny! We gotta go!”
“Now you get the picture.” He’s already halfway out the door when a few more pinstripes walk in the door.

Rita notices on stage, and slams the piano shut. The lights shoot on as she bounds toward our exit. Franklin files the six of us through, pulling a nearby chair with him for the door.

We’re standing in a back alley. There’s a few Studebaker‘s parked out front. Shit.

“Sidney, Rita! This way,” Patsy screams to the other women as a pair of headlights races toward us from the other end of the alley. Ken was already in his car, pulling up, fast.

Trouble always follows Jonny.

The one named Patsy reaches down and lifts her dress, pulling out a snub-nose. She hops in passenger as we all pile into Ken’s car. Patsy keeps her eye on the exit Franklin placed the chair behind.

“Take 3rd to Powell, Kenny!” Jonny’s in his element.”And Donnie, take this. You’re gonna need it.” He hands me a Tommy he’s pulled from under the driver seat.

Rita rips a Model 10 from her bosom and looks at me, while I stare back, dumbfounded that Rita Smith, San Francisco’s sweetheart, had a gun. “Jonny, you told me he wasn’t green.”

“See, Donnie-boy! I told you you’d meet her!” Just like he said promised, this was definitely different.

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