Write a story about Tina Bopper and Win one of the Drawings on the Right

Write a story about Tina Bopper and Win one of the Drawings on the Right
The contest closes Monday May 24th, 2011

Beau Toques' Beauty Contest
oil on linen canvas
with Buttons and a Bow Tie 48"x60"

Tina Bopper

Tina Bopper

Click on pictures to enlarge
The story you write should be a "Flash Fiction" which is a complete story in one thousand or fewer words.  Please post the story in the comment section, you will have to provide your name and an email address in order to be qualified to win or you can e-mail me at with your info.  There is a problem with how many characters can post (only about 4,000) so if you cannot post it.  E-mail it to me at

Entries for this contest may be used in a future show.  

Renovated Reputations is the result of an internet blogging project in which paintings and assemblages based on vintage and antique vernacular photography are the inspiration for short fiction.

The impetus for this project is based in a solo show of paintings in I am having at ArtHaus Gallery in San Francisco in April through June 25th 2011. 

The show is called
Renovated Reputations: Paintings and Fiction inspired by Vintage Portrait Photographs.
at ArtHaus 411 Brannan Street  San Francisco, CA  94107

Download the draft of Tabloid Newspaper catalog as a PDF.
Here's a link to the free newspaper style catalog as a pdf:

Here's a link to the book:
(This is about 5MB so if you are using firefox it may stall.  You can right click and save or use explorer.)

This came in by e-mail:

A Love Story by D Bellenghi


"Hey, Mister you can't be in here," the young man shouted as he hurried inside into the fading light. "This building is closed. Torn down on Monday. I'm just waiting on a guy who's picking up the last of this stuff." Joe stood in the gloom looking at the bits and pieces of a life that no longer existed.

    "Relax, kid. I just came in to look at the old place one more time. The only thing I'm taking outa here is memories." the old man said as he looked around. On the floor was a torn down yellowed poster of a woman from the time the building had been a strip club. The old man walked over and picked up what was left of the poster.   

    "Boy, she sure was somethin," he said more to himself than the young man. "There was a real woman."

    "Oh,yeah," the younger man said taking the poster to study. "and what made this Tina Bopper so special" he asked reading off the poster in disbelief.

    "Well, for one thing, she was a beauty queen. You know, one of them girls always winning those contest." he stopped to take a sip from the pint bottle in his hip pocket. "She was a beautiful girl. Could have been an actress. That's what she wanted. When she looked at you, it was like a spotlight had been turned on you. When she talked to you, she made you feel like the only other person in the whole world."

    "Sounds like you thought she was something special."

    "She was all of that, I can tell you. When this place first opened, it was a hot new club. A place where things happened. A place to see and be seen. It was one the first club where people lined up clear around the block to get in. I was one of the bartenders in those days and I got to see it all. Tina was in here every night. She loved the attention the men gave her. She was always the life of the party. She burned the candle at both ends. She had fun no matter the cost."

    "So, you knew her real well?" the young man asked hoping to get to some "good stuff" in the story.

    "We were just pals. You know, I wasn't bad to look at in those days, myself. The ladies liked me. Not like now." he gestured moving his hand across his body as if to point out the state he was now in. " That's the way she wanted it." he said with a sigh to himself. "She would say, “Joe I don't need another guy who loves me, I need a friend. That's what she always said."   

    "What happened to her?"

    "She wanted to be an actress. She went out there to Hollywood. She gave it a good shot. She stayed out there a couple of years. Nothin ever came of it. Then one day I looked up and there she was.  Same as always, bigger than life and just as beautiful. I told her them big movie moguls was crazy! Tina just smiled and said she was over all that stuff about being a star. All she wanted was a job. Course, by then the club had changed hands and it was a strip joint. Not run down or nothin just .... Well, it took about two weeks before she came back in." The older man paused, pulled out the bottle and took another sip before continuing. "Tina said she couldn’t handle a regular job and asked if I could get her a job dancing. She needed a theatrical job. Something that fit her talents.  So I got the boss to try her out. She had danced in all them beauty contests so it was easy for her. She just lit up when she hit the stage, even if it was a strip stage. That's when she changed her name to Bopper. There wasn't a guy in the place that didn't have eyes for her. She was the life of the party again. She packed this place every night."

    "Tina was doing real good, you know. She was making lots of money and the guys were fallin all over themselves to be with her. She was still so beautiful....." his voice trailed off and Joe was watching the past that only he could see.

    The younger man, eager to hear the rest of the story asked, "What happened man. Don't keep me hangin."

    "Everythin was going great.  One night, this guy comes in. Big shot. He's throwing money around. He's blown away by Tina. He starts coming in every night doin everything he can to win her over. Expensive gifts and a lot of promises. Tina didn't care at first. She had heard it all before. Gradually, he wore her down, and she started to believe him. He wants her to go away with him. I guess, you know, she figured why not. What was she leaving behind. She had a shot at a real life."

    "So, man is that the last time you saw her?"   

    "Yep, that was the last time...." Joe’s voice trailed off again as he fell back into memories. Off in the darkness a tired door hinge squeaked and a door banged close.

    "That's probably my guy." the kid said as he hurried away. Joe stood gazing around him at the shabby ruins of where he had spent so much of his life. And for what? Was he like this building.....

    Out of the darkness came the sound of footsteps  coming closer and then a voice like honey, "Hey, Joe, how about buying me a cup of coffee." Joe squinted to see but couldn't. No matter, he would know that voice anywhere. It took his breath away. "Sure, anything for a friend."   


This came in by e-mail:
Under fingernails

            Tina Bopper woke up with a start when her husband's cold foot pushed up against the calf of her leg. It was two in the morning and very dark. The crack between the curtains admitted the only slice of light in the room, ghostly, unrelenting streetlight. Anxious and fidgety, she got out of bed to get a drink of water in the bathroom. With her left hand she rubbed soothingly against her abdomen, and slowly lifted the glass to her lips with her right. After taking a sip and putting the glass down on the edge of the sink (with an abrupt bang that surprised her), she looked in the mirror and scratched her left nostril gently, back and forth with her index finger. Then her left cheek started to itch too, so she scratched it with her middle finger. Then it was the top of her head that itched. Then her belly, then the inside of her thigh, and soon she was itchy all over; and scratching with impunity because no one was watching. The more she itched, the more she scratched, and the more she scratched the more some other part of her body would start to itch. She looked with disgust at the dead skin and oil that had accumulated under her fingernails.  She made a conscious decision to stop scratching, because she reasoned that scratching only led to more itching, which was true, but the act of deciding to stop scratching was even worse. And then she couldn't hold back any longer, and scratched furiously.

            She stripped, and went in the shower. With the frenzy of trying to get blood off her hands, she scrubbed her body hard with a loofah frothy with soap. The hot water stopped the itching, and she was relieved, and the relief lasted even after she got out of the shower and put her pajamas back on. Her skin felt aglow, like it was radiating heat. Now she looked again at the mirror, and saw her long wet hair framing her reddened face. There were still faint scratch marks.

        Relieved, she shut the light in the bathroom, and went back to bed beside her husband, who was snoring quietly. She soon fell asleep, and dreamed vividly of taking a walk to the grocery store to buy him Pop-Tarts. The dream broke; Tina was woken again by her husband's other cold foot that suddenly smacked against her. She sighed self-pityingly, like a burnt-out woman in the twilight of her life (though she was only forty), but this time didn't get out of bed.  There was no way she was getting back to sleep; if it wasn't her husband's cold foot keeping her awake, it would now be the anticipation of that cold foot keeping her awake. Suddenly she remembered that she had forgotten to take out the garbage today, and that she would have to wait till next week. That rotting squishy cabbage and salmonella-infested raw chicken in her house. Those horrible smells. That phallic lump of a body beside her, making ugly noise, snoring and farting. Wake up. Wake up you son-of-a-bitch! But he was fast asleep. Her eyes were burning and sending fingers of pain into her head. Repeatedly, she looked at the red numbers of the alarm clock. Five minutes had passed, now four minutes, now six minutes. She had never felt lonelier in her life. With horror, she noticed that her shoulder was starting to itch, then her foot, then her breasts. Her body was covered with ants. They were everywhere, running around like the most devoted peons. The queen was sitting in her belly button churning out an ever-growing mound of eggs.  Worker ants were dutifully harvesting her skin cells and feeding the oily flakes to the fat, healthy larvae. Scout ants were investigating her genitals, getting tangled in her pubic hair. Tina panicked, ripped off her pajamas, and started scratching for dear life. The ants got annoyed and stung her fingers; still she scratched at the ants and squeezed them to death, and they stung her more and more, until finally she couldn't fight any longer; she gave up. She lay there next to her husband, heaving, exhausted, with her own blood and dark ant gore mixed underneath her fingernails; meanwhile the ants took control of her body. They crawled down her spine, past her tailbone and anus, and went all the way around between her legs to enter her vagina, and excavate her uterus; they carried out scraps of endometrium to feed the larvae.  Others entered her ears and found her brain. They slipped between the sulci of her cerebral cortex, probing with antennae, and cutting the synapses that caused her to fight. She began to accept their presence. And that's how Tina Bopper was tamed and colonized by ants.

            When Tina woke up in the morning, her husband had already left for work. She went to the bathroom and took a long shower. She cleaned under her fingernails by scratching into a bar of Ivory soap, then flicking the gunk out. Leaving the shower, she looked in the mirror. She put on red lipstick and mascara, got dressed, and left the house. She left a note for her husband. It said she was never coming back. The only thing she took with her, besides the clothes she was wearing and her purse stuffed with crumpled money, was a thirty-three-and-a-third record single of "I want to Hold Your hand" / "I Saw Her Standing There," still in its original sleeve, which she had bought long ago when she was twelve.

This came in by e-mail:

WHAT EDDY SAID by Dee Turbon

Eddy said I should. He said I had the eyes for it, and the cheekbones. He said he could teach me how to walk wavy and he knew a dressmaker who could make the most of the curves I had. Really, I should, Eddy said.

I laughed, and maybe I blushed. He was always saying stuff like that, Eddy was. He said I should be in films when I growed up. Or a model, I should be, or a dancer in a show.

‘With hair like yours, Tina, and your skin so smooth, you turn men’s heads in the street.’

‘Course I knew that already. Get whistles sometimes, and smiles always. But that don’t mean nothing. Lots of girls get that.

‘I swear the judges will just love you.’

Eddy loves me, says it some days, and I reckon that’s why he said what he did. Old enough to be my dad, Eddy is, almost, though he don’t look it, and he treats me nice, like a gentleman. He pays for everything when we’re together and he buys me things – dresses sometimes and jewellery and shoes, anything I want. He’s got a room above Marty’s Bar and he takes me there Friday nights. I tell my parents I’m at Lucy’s and I take my homework with me so it looks like I might be.

Eddy carries my books for me, from the car to his place, and I think that’s sort of cute, you know. And we go quiet up the back stairs to his room, so no one sees. He says it’s so my reputation is protected, but I knows he’s worried about his wife. He lets me smoke and we dance to new records he’s listening to, and he holds me close enough he can whisper in my ear, and that’s when he said he thought I should.

Afterwards, lying curled into him, lying naked on the bed in his room and watching the ceiling fan turning the air into something cooler than it is, I asked Eddy if he’d meant what he’d said.

‘Listen, baby, you’re a sure fire winner. I’d lay money on it and I will.’

I hated it when he called me ‘baby’. I ain't no child. Old enough to be smoking and dancing and the stuff we’d just done, and now Eddy was saying I should be in a beauty pageant, and there was a bra I could wear that would make my small tits sit up and look more than they are, that’s what he said. I never want him to think of me as a child, so I agreed to it. I told him I’d think about it at least, and Eddy said he’d set things up for me.

The next week I was trying dresses on, and swimming costumes, there in a room above Marty’s bar, and there was a lady who cut my hair and did my make-up and she said I looked real pretty, sounding like my mom when she said it, and she showed me how to line the bra cups with tissue careful so it didn’t show. And there was another guy there, and he was whispering to Eddy and nodding his head and laughing, and I didn’t like him looking at me, the way that he did, and Eddy kept filling his glass more than is proper, bourbon they were drinking, and the man was red-faced and grinning like the cat what’s got the cream, and there was the promise of money in a plain envelope if it all turned out the way Eddy wanted it, that’s what Eddy said, and Eddy winked at me then, and suddenly it didn’t feel right, not the stuffed bra or the man grinning or what Eddy said – not any of it.

I tried to tell Eddie later, when it was just him and me and the ceiling fan turning. I tried telling him how I felt, but he just said I was not to worry and that it would all be just fine and didn’t he always look out for me?

‘This is your passport to a better place,’ he said. ‘Out of here,’ he said, and he waved his hand in the air taking in the whole room. ‘And all the young men’ll be lining up to take you out, you see if they don't, and all your tomorrows’ll be bigger and brighter after this. And there’ll be a day, not so far away, when you won’t even know an old man called Eddy, won’t admit that you do, and that’ll be just fine, too.’ That’s what he said, and there was something in his voice, something sad and hidden, something that really did make me think that he was looking out for me.  

This came in by e-mail:

By Wesley

All of them were beautiful, and none of them were.

He placed his soft, wrinkled skin on their shoulders, long worn fingers on clear, tan arms. They tried not to flinch at the coldness of his hands. They do not look at him.

So many hairstyles, so many faces, so many dresses, bright as flowers, did not make the cut. Bangs, blonde, laughing, smiling, they were not enough. Their faces faded, wilting behind buttons that were nice, but not number one. There was nothing wrong with them. All of them were beautiful, but none of them were.


  1. The Beauty Within

    “I got the shaft and boy does it suck.” She looked at me with very manic eyes; they wouldn’t stay still and her pupils were tiny black pinpoints. I don’t know who she was, but she kept ranting about ‘the whole thing being rigged and they got what’s coming to them.”
    It sounded like the script from some old radio soap opera: “I didn’t do it, but I wish I had.”
    I was riding in the back of the ambulance with her in case she had anything to add to the story. The other detectives and I had cobbled together what we could and it wasn’t much: we had three victims and a whole lot of sick people. Someone had released a noxious gas on stage at the beauty contest and the two finalists and the judge were at ground zero when the crude dispersion device went off. The “bomb” was a bouquet of roses that contained two vials of liquid that, when introduced to each other, create a deadly gas that only lasts five minutes but can kill you in two if you get a big whiff of it. This woman was extremely agitated and she had to be strapped down but she couldn’t be sedated as the EMTs had a pretty good idea but did not know for sure what the chemicals were that were used in the incident. She had been a contestant in the contest, but had been voted out in the preceding round so she and a bunch of the other ‘losers’ for want of a better word, were commiserating in the wings.
    “Those cheats got what they deserved. I hate ‘em all! They ruined my life. I can’t go back on the circuit after a defeat like this!”
    She was delusional and probably dangerous, but whoever did this had done it premeditatedly and wouldn’t have been dumb enough to be nearby when this happened, plus it was tossed from within the audience. Other detectives were doing what I thought was the more productive chore of interviewing the members of the audience. My gut told me Lucy in the skies here was just an angry innocent bystander no matter how hopping mad she was on the way to the hospital. To be honest, I kind of agreed with her--about the results, not the killing of the people. The other two dead finalists were nowhere near as good looking as the wild eyed and sputtering lunatic in the gurney before me. As a matter of fact, if we had met under different under different circumstances...
    “Hey you male chauvinist pig, just because I'm drugged and strapped down, doesn’t give you the right to drool all over me. Is that what you’re into? What? You want to ask me out you freak? I don’t care if you think I should have won, you weren’t one of the judges. Just because I wouldn’t sleep with him, the lousy son of a bitch cashes me out in the last round. Yeah, we should have done it too but we didn’t. We were all talking about how we all refused that creep Mr. Toque’s promises of winning if we did the big nasty with him. You’re right about the audience being important. It wasn’t any one of us so you should ask them all.”
    Okay, she was starting to freak me out.
    “You? How do you think I feel?” she exclaimed with flailing arms.
    I thought: ‘can you read my thoughts?”
    She looked up at me with no sign of lunacy and said: “yeah, asshole. Like a book. Just the stuff on the surface, though. The rest is like a ghost image on the TV. I can’t focus on that.”
    I said in my head: “is it just me can you read other’s thoughts?”
    “I’m in everybody’s head sunshine! Not just me, All the girls can read minds. You want some more proof, sherlock? The driver of this ambulance is worried that you are going to search him and find that bag of dope under his seat. The other EMT is waiting for you to leave us so he can try to cop a feel. By the way, no such luck, sweetheart! I will break your arm off and shove it up your ass!”
    Wow was all I could muster.
    “Yeah, you dumbass! ‘wow’ Is right!”
    I did have a great idea, though. Maybe she could help me out with this investigation.
    “Well, then have them turn this band-aid box around and let’s go!” she said in a borderline hysterical tone.
    Oy vey.
    “Yeah. Oy vey is right, putz.”

  2. Thank you all for writing such great stories! Some gave me the willies, some may me sad and others turned the rock over so I could see the crawly things scamper away from the light. I’m awarding the drawings to Patrick Nelson and D Bellinghi’s story but I have another study of Tina that I’m going to have to send to Dee Turbon as well. Here’s why:

    I got one of those chills when I got to the end of "A Love Story" by D Bellenghi. I knew Bellenghi was setting me up for something but I still had that little chill run up my back; tighten my scalp and a lump formed in my throat. Bellenghi's story had a great sense of setting. I could see dust motes travelling through a shaft of dirty sunlight and smell the musty odor of old building. A sort of counterpoint and almost a continuation of "A Love Story" was "WHAT EDDY SAID" by Dee Turbon.

    Dee's story seemed almost like an earlier chapter from Tina's point of view. The two were companion pieces. Like Bellenghi's story there was a strong visual and tactile element in the story. I liked the touches of description like complexions and ceiling fans. There was a kind of pathos and bittersweet optimism to the ending that really appealed to me.

    I never know whether something is a metaphor or an allegory but I feel like "Under fingernails" by Philip Greenspoon was a bit of both. Sheesh! I wanna take a shower. Some of the imagery was hard to take but I think I understood Greenspoon's take on Tina's turmoil. I think a lot of people can really empathize with his take on Tina's life and her new beginning.

    Nothing could be truer then the flash bulb piece by Wesley in which the realities of Tina's world were laid bare. It had a lot of punch for such a short piece. Wesley's piece almost read like the thoughts of one of the characters in Patrick Nelson's "The Beauty Within."

    Nelson's story is by far one of the most original and compelling stories I've read in a long time and I would really like to see where it goes after this. It read like the beginning of a funny noir pulp style novel that I can't wait to tear through all in one night.