In my writing, I try scenes with characters that may or may not end up in the book. It's a way to build backstory and develop character. And it's good practice when I hit a snag. Here's one that may or may not end up in Day of the Dead, the sequel to Bleeder featuring insurance agent Selena De La Cruz:
When the tire salesman saw her walk in, he squared his shoulders, straightened his polyester tie, and swaggered around the counter.
“Helloooo, little lady,” he crooned.
Selena, inspecting the American Racing rim display on the wall, pivoted to face him. She brushed aside her midnight hair.
“Oh, I see,” the man said, shading his eyes against the sharp April glare in the display windows. “Es-pahn-yohl, huh? Uno moh-men-toh, ok? We got a guy in the service bays who-”
“I speak English just fine.”
He raised an eyebrow. “All right, then. Great. So - what can I do for you?”
“I need two tires.”
He snapped his fingers. “We can do that.”
He sauntered behind the counter leaving a cloud of Brut in his wake. Selena waved it away. The man tapped the computer screen and it glowed to life. “I have some questions first, OK? Do you have an account with us?”
“No, I’m just passing through and-”
“No problem. We’ll get you set up. Your name, miss?”
Selena wagged a not-so-fast finger at him. “Let me see what you’ve got, first.”
“Fair enough,” the salesman said. “Next question: How fast do you drive?”
“I’ll bet you do,” he replied with a wink. “Come this way.”
He led her to the wall where various tires were mounted. He rapped a hairy knuckle on the third sample with the three-figure price tag and launched into a honeyed spiel. “Now this one, little lady, is a passenger touring series model with innovative roundness and a molecular carbon black and silica formula for safe handling in wet conditions like we get here in Illinois.” He pulled a shiny penny from his shirt pocket and stuck it in the treads. “And see these circumferential grooves? They channel water away for added safety. Best of all, they’re rated at ninety miles an hour.”
“Not good enough,” Selena said. “I need performance radials optimized for rolling resistance and high speed handling.”
"Heavy foot, huh?” he whispered.
He glanced at her neon lime Mui Mui high heels. “In those?” he asked.
His jaw dropped.
She leaned forward and eyed his plastic nametag. “Vinny, is it? Look, Vinny, I need two 75 series 225-75-fifteens to fit American Racing Torq Thrust rims, type M.”
“Geezuz, lady, you drive a dragster or something?”
She planted her palms on her hips. “‘69 Dodge Charger with a 6-point-one liter late-model Hemi and a single-plane intake manifold with four-barrel throttle body, 650 horse, a Gear Vendors overdrive unit, a Dana 60 Rear End and dual three-inch custom exhaust pipes I fabbed myself.”
He laughed. A real belly-wheezer. He pinched his eyes. Slapped his knee. “This is a joke, right? A Dana Rear End! Hoo-boy! Did Joey hire you to do this? Who are you?”
“My name is Selena, gringo tonto,” she said. “Do you have the tires or not?”
At home, when she blustered in the door fuming and told her brother Lorenzo, he guffawed so hard he dropped the videogame control.
“So did you buy the tires or what?” he asked when he caught his breath.
“Are you kidding?” she huffed, hands waving wildly. “From that idiota estúpido?”
Her mother leaned out the kitchen door. “Why did you say that to the man, mija? Ay! Do you want to give Mexican women a reputation?”
“Yes, for being strong.”“Mexican men do not like their women strong.”
“He wasn’t Mexican, Mami.”
Her mother shook a wooden spoon at her. “Listen to me, Selena: You must be like la Virgen de Guadalupe – quiet. Eyes lowered in respeto. How else will you ever find a husband?”
“What’s worse,” Lorenzo said with a snicker, “is this guy is gonna talk all day about a foxy Mexican chica named Selena Gringo Tonto.”
(all rights reserved)
Oh, and Happy Birthday to brand-new-Daddy Matthew.