Back in the days when I used to be a section leader in Compuserve’s Writers form, it was sometimes challenging to come up with two new exercise guidelines every month, so eventually we came up with the idea of having “summer shorts” on a weekly schedule during July. You may ask how needing to come up with 25-30 new topics in a month was easier than coming up with only two. Well, since these shorts were supposed to be fun and no more than 500 words each, we used a story generator we’d filled with randomly gathered characters, settings, and scenarios. Not surprisingly, there was a lot of silliness, but there were also a lot of sweet, poignant and even scary stories to come out of those sometimes bizarre combinations.

With that in mind, I thought I’d share this bit of fun I wrote back in 1995, that came about because of this topic: Write a 500 word comic story set in a deserted truck stop where an aging rock star pays the price of the previous night’s debaucheries with a juice vendor.

NOTE– Since the story was written twenty years ago, I will admit to making a few small revisions to fix typos and the odd redundancy, because I really have improved over the years of practice. The bulk of the story is as it was originally written.


Johnny Come Lately

Johnny Toad woke up with his head pounding and his mouth tasting like chalk. The realization hit him that he was lying spread-eagle on his stomach, clinging to something smooth and shiny about three feet above the ground. As he lifted his head to see where he was, Johnny found himself lying on top of a juice vending machine that had toppled over onto its side. And he was stark naked. Worse than that, he could feel his privates resting snugly in the slot that dispensed the juice. His aching head slammed back down on the machine. What the hell had happened?

He remembered stopping at the gas station late last night, only to find it locked up tight. The deserted stretch of road ahead gave no promise of other rest stops, so he decided to wait until morning when the station opened to fill up the empty gas tank rather than taking the chance of being stranded out in nowhere-land.

He still had two days before he had to meet the rest of his band in Lubbock. Pulling out his guitar, he sat on the hood of the red Chevy, grinding out all the old hits he and the band churned out night after night. “Toad and The Warts” had a string of hits back in the late 70s, and that’s all that anyone wanted to hear anymore. Everyone wanted to walk down memory lane. Everyone except Johnny.

He remembered getting the bottle of Stoli from the trunk and he remembered using all his loose change to get cranberry juice from the vending machine. After that, everything got hazy. There was a fight with the machine when it wouldn’t take his dollar bill. When it finally accepted his crumpled dollar, it stiffed him on his drink and he flew into a rage. He stepped back a few paces, then tackled the machine like a line backer, tumbling over along with it. After that, everything was a blank. Where the hell were his clothes? And how did he get naked in the first place?

“Mister, you’re under arrest,” a voice boomed from behind him.

“Damn,” Johnny swore under his breath. “Officer, I can explain..”

“No need to explain. Being found drunk, naked, apparently fornicatin’ with a juice machine, is reason enough to lock you up in these parts. Not to mention, vandalizing private property. Looks to me like you’re old enough to know better.”

“But officer, you don’t understand. I was waiting for the station to open…I’ve gotta get to Lubbock. Me and my band have got a gig tomorrow..”

“Guess you’ll have to use your phone call to tell ’em you’re not gonna make it,” said the burly police officer. “Hey Virgil, bring me a blanket to cover this guy, will ya? Oh yeah, and by the looks of it, we’ll need some WD-40 to get him loose from this machine too.”

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    1. Yea, that Toad character you got right. Live where I have for years and these characters are out here. No it ain’t Texas but not much better. You do silly-short pretty well!

      1. Thanks so much, Michael! I’m glad you enjoyed it. As I said, it’s an old piece, but it still makes me smile when I read it, so I thought I’d share.