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Unexpected Character, 2023 Creative Writing Prompt


Jim Bob frowned. The cloud of dust was growing, and closer at that. He sucked his teeth. Visitors, at least in this county of West Virginia, meant only salesmen, the bank, or family. All of whom wanted money. Jim Bob wiped his hand on his pocket rag, smearing black oil further into the cracks in his hands.


He leaned on his good knee and got up. Shuffling to the open barn door, he cursed; he’d been sitting a little longer than he remembered. He looked around the area, noting if there was anything left out that needed covering. He decided to intercept the unwanted guest at the gate. He shuffled, faster, cursing again that he’d left the gate open.


He crossed his giant arms as the Audi slowed and turned in front of him, a car as silent as the golden afternoon light.



A lithe gray man slinked out of the car. He held Jim Bob’s glare as he leaned against the car and mirrored his posture.


“You must be JB Presley,” he lilted.


Jim Bob stared the monochromatic man down. Pallor skin, silver wavy hair, gray suit, lighter gray shirt, contrasted with a shocking pop of red as his pocket square. Reminded Jim Bob of the gray fox he’d hunted last week. Shock of red in the same area.


Jim Bob Presley didn’t respond.


“You are few to words,” he shot a toothy smile and gracefully aired a business card.




Jim Bob’s frown would have frightened children. (And it had, in the past.)


The salesman approached the monolith and tapped his card into the strained front pocket of Jim Bob’s overalls.


Jim Bob spat tobacco. Not at the man. But abruptly and closely enough to signify the conversation was over.


Unaffected, the Gray Suit returned to his car, casually and elegantly, as if he were parting ways after a friendly lunch.


“I’ll hear from you soon,” he concluded. The door hummed shut.


Jim Bob, arms still crossed, watched the car leave his property. When he was sure the salesman wasn’t having second thoughts on acquiescing so quickly, he made his way back to the barn. The trip was easier on return, and he cursed at himself to remember to move around more, dammit.


He paused at the doorway. Golden hour was through. As good a time as any to call it a day.

Jim Bob walked to the six foot canvas and bid goodnight to the Madonna. He pulled the brushes out of the paint thinner, dried them with clean rags, sealed the lids on the jars of paint, organized his station. All with a reverence and delicacy as if he were trying not to wake the blessed infant.


He quietly made his way back to the door, shaking each leg out as they groaned from standing too long. Damn legs. He turned to the Mother Mary and nodded goodnight.

He didn’t like the monochrome. He would add more color to Her tomorrow.


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