Thanks for the Advice

Thanks for the Advice

A Story by Isaiah Moorehead

A conversation between two men at a bar starts off with photography advice but takes a huge, unexpected turn.

Thanks for the Advice

Another restless sleep cut short. Frustration and stress keep hitting their stunts whenever James tries to lay down for the night. Warm milk, rhythmic sounds, and fluffed pillows don’t seem to work because he constantly finds himself awake thinking about another day wasted in Noveliss Park. It seems that for the life of him he just can not get the perfect shot of the elk migration. The park is flooded this time of year with these majestic animals and every nature photographer wants to get their photo in the National Geographic magazine. James figured if he went to a small and less popular park, he’d be the only nature photographer over there and he’d get the most amazing shots and angles. However, his shots haven’t been coming out as good as they usually do. He’s been in this business for 12 years and he’s never had this much difficulty getting good pictures.   
He checks the clock on his nightstand: “11:45 pm” James lets out a moan and gets out of bed. He throws on his slides, jeans, a t-shirt and a jacket before walking out of his motel door. I could use a drink right now, he thought, it’s been a long day. There’s a bar directly across the street called “Refill” and decides to get a cold one from there. Springtime in Height Valley, California is almost the perfect and most comfortable weather, even at midnight. His short walk comes to an end and James enters the slightly empty bar. The cool air from the AC hits his face as he enters and the smell of beer and alcohol hug his nostrils. There is only one man sitting at the bar, so James sits two stools away from the man, who is clearly on his 3rd or 4th drink. He looked about 40 or 50 with black and white hair and a slight hunchback. He wore green cargo pants and a brown long sleeve shirt. He had a scraggly beard and his face looked very rough.
“Hey, Hourglass, my cup is empty again! You mind filling it up, sweetheart?” Said the man at the bar talking to the bartender. The bartender was a pale short woman with red hair and sparkling blue eyes. She couldn’t have been older than 35. By the look on her face, she obviously couldn’t wait for this man to leave. James tried not to stare at the man as he sang loud and offbeat to the Blink 182 song that was playing on the jukebox. Just then, the man noticed James out of the corner of his eye.
“Please, please, please don’t talk to me or sit next to me,” James said silently to himself.
“Well, well, well! What do we have here? Someone finally joined me at the bar tonight!” Said the drunk man, slurring some words and stumbling off of his stool onto his feet. He began to walk over to James and sat down right next to him. “Mind if I join you, bud? Names Victor. But I’m known around here as Vicko.” 
Throwing on his nicest yet fakest smile, James responds with “I’m James, nice to meet you.” Just in the first few seconds of meeting Victor, James could tell there was something off about him. Besides the fact of his sloppy demeanor due to the dark liquor in his system, he seemed to like being annoying and intrusive was already his personality. The bartender approached James and asked what he’d like. He said a glass of Jack Daniel’s whiskey.   
“What’s a guy as clean cut and sharp as you doing here at this time of night? This time of night is only for us losers. Am I right everybody!?” Yelled Victor to the 3 other people in the bar, all ignoring him. 
“Just can’t get sleep, man. Thought I could use a few drinks to help me crash.”
“Well, j-just don’t get too much to drink. Nothing I hate more than a --*burp* than a drunk.”
“You got it, man,” said James, holding his breath from the reeking smell of Victor’s burp. “Thanks for the advice.” 
“Oh don’t mention it. So, you’re not from around here, huh?” Slurred Victor. “I come to this bar pretty often and I remember seeing you the other day leaving out of your motel room across the street. You were carrying one of those newfangled cameras. Going sightseeing?”
“No sir, I am not, haha. I’m actually from the Sacramento, right smack in the city,” said James as the bartender gave him his drink and walked to the back kitchen, clearly avoiding Victor. “I’m just out here enjoying the wildlife at Noveliss Park, that’s all.” 
“I don’t blame you. The animals here are amazing and so-- Oh I used to love this song!  Sweeeeet Caroline. Good times never seemed so good!” Sang Victor, causing James’s eardrums to throb. “This used to be my favorite song. That Neil Diamond guy is just great. What a voice! Too bad I can’t stand this song anymore.”
“You can’t stand it anymore? How come?” Asked James.
Why James? He thought, why to entertain this man any further with questions you don’t even care to know the answer to.
“Well, I’m glad you asked, Jimmy! Can I call you Jimmy? Jimmy sounds better, ” exclaimed Victor with a pleased look, happy that he finally can share his divorce story. “You see, my ex-wife’s name was Caroline. Dumb broad! And well… let’s just say we didn’t see eye to eye and now she done gone and left me. About 6 months ago. Er, uh or was it 5?” Victor gave his beard a good scratch. As Victor was in deep thought, James’s phone rang. “Go ahead and take that, bud. I won’t mind.”
“Uh, ok thanks,” Said James. Calling his cell was his friend Ernesto. 
“Sorry about the late call, bro. Had to wait till the kids fell asleep. But how are the pictures coming along? Getting any good shots? I heard the migration is spectacular this year,” said Ernesto.
“No, man. No good shots at all. My angles are off, my positioning is bad. I had a beautiful shot earlier but the target just wouldn’t stop moving. It’s frustrating, bro.”
“Damn, I understand. Elks can be a jittery creature. But don’t forget the deadline for Nat Geo is in 4 days, you have plenty of time, don’t stress yourself.”
“I hear you, man. I’m at the bar right now getting a drink to clear my head. Tomorrow’s a new day.”
“Exactly. Make the best of it. I’ll call you again soon.”
“Alright, bro. Bye,” and James ended the call. Next, to him, Victor was downing another glass. 
Victor then looked directly at James, “I couldn’t help but overhear your phone call, pal. What exactly do you do?” he asked, looking very interested. 
“Oh, I do wildlife photography. I’ve been doing it for about 12 years now.”
“12 years? Geez, Louise! That’s a long time. You must be pretty good.”
“I’m alright. I have a website, All of my work is up there if you wanna check it out.”
“Great. Because I might--*burp* might need some tips.”
“Oh really? I had no idea we shared the same hobby. What do you want to learn?”
“The whole 9, bud. I need tips to take the perfect shot! So, I'll take whatever you got in that big ole noggin,” said Victor as he gently knocked on James’s forehead. 
Just let it slide, James. Just let it slide.
The more whiskey he drank, the more he didn’t mind Victor and his shenanigans. Even though he was far from being as drunk as him, he was probably barely tipsy. But he loved to share his photography knowledge with whoever would listen. 
“Ok, you might wanna write this down, man. You’re hammered and there’s no way you’ll remember this tomorrow.” He handed James a napkin and a pen from the counter. “So, one tip that helps a lot when you’re setting up is the angle. High ground is usually better, that way you can have a good amount of trees and forest in your foreground.” James watched as Victor scribbled away on the wide napkin. “Next I would say is the distance. This is where zoom lenses come into play. A good enough distance so you don’t startle your target, but also where you’re visible to them with the naked eye. Make sure the animal is the focal point in the frame.”
“How far away would you say is good enough, Mr. Expert?”
“Hmm, maybe around 40 yards.”
“40...yards…” Victor was rapidly writing his chicken scratch on the napkin, grinning more and more with each tip. He grabbed another napkin and continued his notes. James wondered what pictures Victor was looking to take, but decided not to ask.
“Now, the most important tip of all is to be steady and still. I know many people who use tripods to keep their camera balanced. Holding your breath helps as well, that way your shots won’t come out blurry and will be clear as day. I hoped that helps, man.” 
“Hold...breath...tripod...Yup, got it all down. Thanks, bud. This should do the trick so I can--*burp* get the perfect shot,” said  Victor, stuffing the napkin loosely in his back pocket and taking out some cash to pay for his drinks. He placed the money on the counter, stood up, patted James on the back and popped a piece of green peppermint gum into his mouth right before adding a wink. 
“Don’t mention it. Get home safe,” but as James was saying bye, Victor was already halfway out the door, stumbling with each step,  walking towards a taxi across the street. James then paid for his drink as well and took the short walk back to his motel. “Tomorrow’s a new day,” he said to himself as he entered his room. James took off his clothes, laid down and looked at the clock: “1:00 am.” Finally, he thought, time for a good night sleep, and then proceeded to knock out for 8 hours. 
He woke up the next day feeling amazing and well rested. He stretched and took his camera off the charger, then turned the television on. It was on channel 4 and the anchorwoman was reporting the breaking news:

“Last night around 1:30 am, 51-year-old Caroline Burley was shot and killed while in her home here in Height Valley, California. She was entering her bedroom after using the bathroom when a bullet entered through her window, striking her in the head. The bullet, police say, came from a sniper rifle about 40 yards away from her bedroom window which faces the woods. Right now the leading suspect is her ex-husband, Victor Burley, who was seen on surveillance video yesterday, purchasing an M-14 sniper rifle at around 10:00 pm. Victor, who is also ex-military, is known for his violent and unpredictable behavior. In the spot where the shooter stood, napkins were recovered with notes written on it on how to execute the shot. If you see this man anywhere, (Old mugshot of Victor on the screen), do not approach him, he is armed and dangerous. Please call 9-1-1 immediately.  More details later on. 

James sat frozen, staring at the TV screen. His jaw was on the floor and his heart raced. He couldn’t believe what he just heard. I gotta leave town, he thought. He calmly turned the TV off and packed all of his belongings until his motel room was empty. He opened the front door, walked outside and shut the door with trembling hands. As he turned to lock it, he was shocked to see a napkin stuck to the door with green peppermint gum. On the napkin, read the words: Thanks for the advice. 

© 2018 Isaiah Moorehead

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Added on August 11, 2018
Last Updated on August 11, 2018


Isaiah Moorehead
Isaiah Moorehead


Hi, I'm Isaiah. I love to read suspense books and write short suspense stories. Please feel free to tell me what you think about them. I'm hoping to get more publicity and gain a larger audience. more..