Curse of the Golden Doubloon (781 words) & Thoughts on Writing the Red Herring

Curse of the Golden Doubloon

Jo tossed her floppy captains hat onto the couch and sank down with a sigh.  

Most nights she didn’t mind her job all that much but Talk Like a Pirate day taxed her tolerance. Being an attractive blonde bartender meant two things, good tips, and bad pick-up lines. Really bad. If one more drunken college kid had asked to pillage her treasure chest or plunder her bounties, she’d have seriously thought about quitting. Screw the tip money. 

Jo’s African Grey parrot, Scully, scuttled along the back of the couch and nibbled playfully at her hoop earrings.  

“Well Scully, I’m damn glad that’s over.” She lounged back against the cushions and let her eyes drift close. 

“Raawkkk! Companies coming!” shrieked Scully. Sure enough the doorbell sounded. Scully was always right.

Jo groaned as she rose, her feet were totally done.  She pulled the wadded up phone numbers and business cards out of her pocket and dumped them in the garbage can on her way to the door. Something heavy was stuck deep inside and she pulled it out. It was a lovely golden coin, judging by the weight of it, she almost wondered if it were the real deal. Some tip. She crossed the foyer and dropped the coin into the change bowl then glanced up at the video monitor. No one was there. Carefully unlatching and opening the door she peeked around before she spied a package on the mat. It was a large thickly padded envelope and it was in far from pristine condition. It looked like something that should’ve been delivered to a previous owner. A long since dead owner. She picked it up and wandered her way back to the couch and Scully. 

“Raawkkk! Cracker?” 

Jo laughed and scratched him under his beak. “I’ll get you something in a second Scully,” she placed the envelope on the table. It smelt musty. Sully hopped onto the table and began to peck energetically at it so Jo ripped it open and dumped it out. 

A folded piece of canvas landed on the table with a soft thud and a cracker rolled to a stop. Scully snatched it up and Jo laughed again. She should have figured out what was inside, Scully was always right. Carefully she spread the canvas out and peered at it. It looked like some kind of treasure map and had several faint images painted onto the fabric.

She started at the top left and studied the first image. It took a minute, but slowly it dawned on her. The image was of her childhood home back in Oregon. The home no one she knew these days would’ve known existed. A prickle ran down her spine. Quickly she scanned the rest of the pictures. It was like seeing her life drawn onto paper, her old schools, apartment, jobs, friends, family, until finally it ended with a picture of her front door. The one she’d opened mere seconds ago, back when her life had seemed to make sense. 

Sweat beaded across her brow and she struggled to swallow around the clenched mass in her throat. In the far right of the map lay one last image. It was a bit fuzzy and so she rubbed her fingers over it. It seemed to shimmer before her eyes and then suddenly the picture was clear. It was a painting of her sitting on her couch. She wore a big red X across her chest and a bird lay dead on the cushion next to her. 

Unable to stop herself Jo took a shaky breath and glanced down at the sofa cushion. Scully lay there, dead. His half-eaten cracker sat next to him, laughing at her. Jo shrieked in horror and cupped her hands to her mouth. 

Across the room, a grey fog rose up from the floor and caused her screams to freeze in her lungs. Slowly an image appeared and walked out of the mist toward her. Instantly she recognized the creepy old pirate who’d been staring at her all night. 

His lips moved and sound came out, but in a way that reminded her of bad dubbing, “I see that ye have stolen one o’ my pieces of eight, and I aims to claim it back fer me own.” He motioned toward her hands. 

Jo glanced in disbelief at the gold coin that now lay in her open palm. She looked back up in time to see the last image she would ever see, the rise and fall of his cutlasses right before they lashed a bloody X across her chest. 

                                                                                                     YE BE NEXT…


Tammy’s Tip of the Week

This week I tried to learn more about something I know very little about. I chose, ‘Writing the Red Herring’. A red herring is something that pretends to be a clue, but in fact, isn’t one at all. Generally, herrings are used in mystery writing in an attempt to throw the reader off the trail. We want the reader to think something has weight or value when in fact it doesn’t at all. However, the red herring cannot be the white elephant in the room either . It must still have some actual purpose within the context of the story. It’s a very tricky concept to grasp let alone achieve in writing. In the story above I tried to practice the simplest form of writing a red herring; repetition.  Did you catch it? Too obvious? I used the way Jo said, ‘Scully was always right’. Did it work, Win/fail?

Well whatever the case, this brings me to the point of my rambling tip. Choose something you’re not familiar with, would never normally do or use, and then practice it. Go on, try it! You might like it. Pantzer? Try writing plot cards. Romance writer? Try adding some gore. Can’t stand cats? Try writing from their POV. Whatever it is, whatever you chose, go forth and learn!

Peace and plotmares. 🙂

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36 Responses to Curse of the Golden Doubloon (781 words) & Thoughts on Writing the Red Herring

  1. Anne Michaud says:

    Purrfect for Halloween, Tammy! Love how you shrugged at conventions and killed the bird. Well, birds;)

  2. Loved your flash, Tams…seems very appropriate for this month!
    Poor Scully 😦

    As for your tip of the week, sound advice as always…very scary to do sometimes…but good advice nonetheless.

  3. This story will come to mind the next time I think of a pirate. 😀

  4. I gave a gasp of horror when the poor bird died. Meanie 😛 But well done, really loved it!

    I’m attempting to write a science-fiction novel, the thought of which terrifies me, but with your encouragement and motivation, I’m now determined to do it!

  5. Great little tale Tams, really enjoyed reading this, good work, and as usual, decent tip 🙂 Keep up the fine work.

  6. Casi says:

    Love the short story. I’m rarely pleased with death endings, but who knows, perhaps death is only the beginning.

  7. I always enjoy your flash, even when you kill poor, helpless animals… 😉

  8. diannewaye says:

    Perfect pirate tale for Halloween. The writing tip is a great one. And I’m going to empty my pockets out before I leave the bar now, thanks to you, lest me be next to receive that golden doubloon…

  9. Marianne Su says:

    Great tip, Tammy. Taking yourself out of your comfort zone is good advice. BTW, love the picture of you 🙂 Trick or Treat.

  10. sallyawolf says:

    I love this piece wonderful stuff I voted for it!
    I write detective stories so I know all about the trouble of adding a red haring I did a funny twist in Case 3 by actually making the red herring a red herring lol!

  11. Great story! Sad, but awesome 🙂 Poor bird. Thanks for the tip too 🙂 I’m actually doing some plotting before NaNo. Unusual for me, but it needed to be done this time around 🙂

  12. Love the story…and the death of the bird..he was a squawker anyway! LOL But really, I enjoyed reading it because it was out of your element and then the lesson you gave us from it. Very well done! And one I’ll remember! Thank you teacher! Purfectly executed! 🙂

  13. T. James says:

    Enjoyed the story, then everybody died, including the bird. I was sad. 😦

    Thanks for the tip, your definition is really clear. Like you, I’ve never used a red-herring before… I find they start to stink when I forget and leave them under the sofa…

  14. Poor Scully 😦 Great story for Halloween though 🙂

  15. John Wiswell says:

    Dude, come on! Bad enough she has to put up with pigs on Pirates day. She has to get murdered, too? As though bar tending wasn’t a trying enough occupation regardless of gender. I actually frowned with sympathy in the middle of the second paragraph. That poor lady. May she rest… in pieces!

  16. I enjoyed this story, you packed a lot in. I admit, the ending took me by surprise. Nicely done.

  17. Heidi/Akeyla says:

    Everytime I see a girl dressed like a pirate I’m going to think of this story now. Great Writing. I liked the info about the Red Herring, I’ve seen them in stories but didn’t know they had a name. I once told a whole class of people that I hated crime stories and then wrote one, it was pretty good too. I agree with challenging yourself to get out of the comfort zone. It always leads to new discoveries and quite a bit of fun too.

  18. Fran says:

    have at ye! very good work Tams, you suckered me in good and proper. Swords!

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