America The Dead – W. G. Sweet


 

His shirt stank, stuck to him with sweat. His boots were melted in places. The leather looked sandblasted and ratty. He took two of the pills, washed it down with water. Next big town, he told himself, he would get clothes… #UNDEAD #Dystopian https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/america-the-dead-survivor-stories-one/id1436765995?mt=11


“Grow up, John, as for those two?” He looked over at Madison and Cammy. “Don’t mess with them anymore… I understand your thoughts might have gotten messed up… It’s tough times like this that can do that, but they are their own, not your own.” #action https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/america-the-dead-survivor-stories-two/id1156649961?mt=11


He had gone up to the roof twice during the day and looked over the city.

It appeared to be dead. There was a precinct only two blocks away, deserted, doors hanging open. Looters were carrying away cheap computer systems and who knew what else… #Survive https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/america-the-dead-survivor-stories-three/id1156638728?mt=11


Kohlson turned to him. “Go on in, do CPR if you want. They don’t pay me enough to do it. I don’t know what that stuff is. Look at the way the Doc suits up. Clayton Hunter will be in rigor before anyone gets there, besides… It’s Airborn, dude…” #Horror https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/america-the-dead-survivor-stories-four/id1156637747?mt=11


We came across a dead man laying by the road. I could have sworn he moved, so I hurried to him, but I got closer and I could see he was long dead. We stood a moment and then left. Later when we came back he was gone, and I thought, was he dead? Was he? … https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/america-the-dead-survivor-stories-five/id1157353753?mt=11





 

Plastic Wrap, Dishwashers and other irritants…

Plastic Wrap, Dishwashers and other irritants…

Plastic wrap is one of those inventions that didn’t quite make it all the way to where it claims to have made it. Yes, on the TV you will see overpaid, starved models whip that stuff off the roll and cover just about anything: A bowl of leftovers, a piece of cake or grandpa sleeping in a chair. In Fried Green Tomatoes whats-her-name covered herself in it and answered the door. Heck, you see movies where the bad guys run it over the victims mouth and that’s it for them. In real life none of that is going to work, I know, I have tried most of it, except grandpa and the movie stuff, and the wife stuff. Okay, I have only tried the food applications, and none of them worked.

I have stood for ten minutes waiting to get enough off the roll in one piece to cover that piece of cake only to have it come undone and fall to the floor on the way to the fridge. And It was work to get it of the roll. The serrated edge? Junk, doesn’t work at all. It comes off torn, at an angler, the tube lifts out of the box and you find yourself holding the plastic wrap roll and nothing else. I hate the stuff. Somebody needs to fix it or send it to the Chinese.

Dishwashers belong in that same group. A product that falls short of the hype and promises. Every day I find myself washing breakfast/lunch and dinner dishes, rinsing them and then putting them in the dishwasher. What? Do I really do that? Yes I do and in fact you are told to pre-wash the dishes and depending on what that means to you, you might as well have a towel so you can then dry them and put them away instead of putting them in the dishwasher to essentially let them get sprayed with hot water and soap so they can then go through a sixteen hour wash cycle (I say that because I don’t care when I started the damn dishwasher, it is on and burning me whenever I am in the shower)then they can sit overnight and dry, ha ha ha. In the morning you take them out and rewash the ones you didn’t prewash well enough when you put them in, only now that stuff is heated on. Or you could wait until you have company and let them spot the bad ones for you.

Electric cars are not where they should be. They are supposed to go in the garage, plug in to charge up, and drive a long time. Instead they last a few hundred miles. If they get hit hard enough they become an instant bio hazard or worse, you do. And when they run out of juice you are not getting some gas and a jump to get you going again. Short out the batteries and you have a steel framed car that will fry you in a few seconds.

Irritants:

Items on eBay marked: “I really don’t know if the item works so I’m selling it as is” Ha, let me translate that. It should read:  “I looked at the item and realized it was junk, so I said to my wife/husband, Honey? Let’s try to sell this on eBay.”

People who look at guitars and say “What’s that thingy do?”

People who look at computers and say “What’s that thingy do?”

Tinfoil: For some reason no matter how often I have reached into the oven and burned myself on tinfoil I immediately convince myself it didn’t happen. That must be the case because every time I am cooking something with foil I reach in there and grab it like it just has to be cool and then I burn the crap oiut of myself.

That is my Wednesday, hope your Wednesday is better, 🙂

 

Home. A brief explanation of me

Home:
I was watching TV a little while ago and remembered an incident from my twenties. Racing down a farm road in the middle of winter; icy surface; snowbanks higher than the cars, and me and my buddy chasing each other and barely keeping control of those cars, glancing off the snowbanks, laughing crazily. Sounds irresponsible, I know, but it’s a real memory from my life, irresponsible or not.

When I was nine my parents moved back to northern NY, a place I did not remember and did not like at all. The kids thought I had a southern accent from living in the south, of course I didn’t, they just didn’t realize that all of them had accents instead from living in New Yak.
I got my sister and I dragged into the principle’s office at ten years old (Me) nine (My sister) when I volunteered in class that we were mixed race and had Native American blood, something that you weren’t supposed to acknowledge in those days (1966 – 1967). Good thing I didn’t find out until later in life that we also had African American blood too.

Mom and dad came to school and tempers flared, but we were allowed to stay in school. I apologized to my sister for being dumb and saying it, but when I told my dad he told me not to worry about it. He did ask me why I said it, and I told him it was because no one ever told me it was a bad thing. He said it wasn’t.

Dad was in and out of our lives, and if you notice many of the people on this page, my friends, call each other brother or sister, it is because we are. Many of us suspected, but none of really knew for sure about each other until just a few years ago.

I am the oldest, but not by much. Turns out I have a brother nearly as old, and of course my sister a little more than a year younger, and then the rest of us are scattered over at least fifteen years.

Embarrassing? Not really. I don’t think it bothers most of us anymore, believe me, even those of us who have done well have paid some dues growing up mixed race and fatherless, projects, trailer parks, and worse places. But one thing I have learned from all of us is the love that is there, and the ability to care about one another. It means a great deal to me.

Some of us had guidance, some of us didn’t. Some went to work, some went to the streets. Most of us have traveled everywhere trying to find home; that place that feels right.

I used to hate FaceBook. I have had an account for years and never used it. Hated it. Too intrusive. I just didn’t want anything to do with it, but if not for Facebook I would not have the relationships I have now with family and friends. I hate to give credit to Facebook, but it is true. All of us were able to do a better job getting to know one another because of this social app.

At 13 I was living in the mountains with an aunt and uncle. I mean real mountains, a kind of life that has forever stayed with me and is the base to the Earth’s Survivors series.

At 14 I was living on the streets in Western NY, Rochester: I mean in abandoned buildings and wherever else.

At 16 in was in the service.

At 20 I was married living here in the Northern part of New York and hated it, so I went back to Rochester which had always seemed like home and spent years working and living there.

I say all of that to say that for all my youthful wanderlust, that took me all over north america, Mexico, Canada, south, west, north, I wound up right back here, writing the same story that I was trying to write when I was a kid living here and had a dream about being a writer. I only read that story to my sister Connie * when we were kids huddled over the heat registers one cold, winter morning in the house we grew up in on Olive street.

Funny, I have been everywhere, done things that would scare and maybe scar other people and I am back where I started and finally content to be here, to die here eventually, when God is ready to have me. And I am just a few miles away from where I was born, where I grew up, the river my brother David and I fished is right behind this house. God has a plan for your life. I don’t know what it is or where it will take you, but I can tell you that family and friends are sometimes all that really matters besides keeping your relationship with God; so you should hold them close to your heart always.

A picture of me with my mom and dad in 1957…

The FB conversation is below…

Home:I was watching TV a little while ago and remembered an incident from my twenties. Racing down a farm road in the…

Posted by Geo Dell on Sunday, September 2, 2018

 

Geo Dell So, this is Conversations With My Fathers. If you want to read it, by all means, have at it, but it is not pretty at all. Sometimes I think that the writing process was cathartic and the profit, for me, was there, and so why let anyone else read it. Other times I think maybe someone will read it and skip some of the mistakes I made, it’s possible, and so for that reason it is worth it. In AA, and I have spent literally thousands of hours in AA meetings, we share to help other addicts. We forgo any embarrassment we may have from our actions and we just do it, because sometimes, as addicts, we are the only one who can say something to another addict that they will understand, accept, acknowledge as the truth. This is not really payback for those thousands of hours of testimony, stories, encouragement, failures and triumphs that I listened to. It is more like an obligation to the fellow addict that I don’t want to see go the same way, take the same path…

https://www.dropbox.com/s/gr6t15r4cc5vtps/Conversations%20with%20my%20fathers.epub?dl=0

Geo Dell It is there. If you read it understand it is stark. Bad language, sex, situations; rough to read? I don’t know. It made me upset to read through the journals it came from. There is a lot of bad stuff in it, and even more in ten years of journals and work that I extracted it from. So read it if you want to, but don’t feel obligated because it is hard core. The great thing about Andrea is that she is a writer too, a better one than I am, and so she was able to be objective where I wasn’t. She also gave tons of her personal time to read and suggest, but she never pushed. In the end I decided what went in and what didn’t. The book should really be free, but Amazon doesn’t do free, so occasionally I give it away hoping an addict will read it. I think what I will do is re-release it through Smashwords so that it will be free at Smashwords, iTunes, NOOK, KOBO and a dozen or so other places. The reasoning is that it shouldn’t be a for profit book. It was never intended to be. That is why the copyright notice is worded the way it is; stating it is free for any non-profit purpose as long as the copyright notice is intact. My sister Kathy * read it, my cousin Jane * read it, she is a film maker, and I think that is it as far as family or anyone that knows me. In any case it is at the link above, completely free…

Here is the first True short stories from my life that are less explicit and probably a little more palatable… Some of this may appear in Conversations With My Fathers…



True: True Stories From A Small Town

By Dell Sweet

Original Material Copyright © 1976 – 1984 – 2009 – 2016 by Wendell G. Sweet

* * * * *

PUBLISHED BY: Dell Sweet & independAntwriters

All rights reserved, domestic and foreign

This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Cover and Interior Artwork Copyright 2016 Wendell G. Sweet

No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, electronic, print, scanner or any other means and, or distributed without the author’s permission.

This is not a work of fiction. I have changed a few names simply because I do not want to expose them to the critical view of the public. As with anything a person experiences in life, this is colored by the emotions I experienced during what was going on.

This Collection of Short Stories is Copyright © 2010 – 2016 Wendell G. Sweet.

Permission is granted to use short sections of text in reviews or critiques in standard or electronic print.

FOREWORD

I am writing this revision because a few people asked me to write more true short stories. I have them, dozens of them, but I am not always eager to find them and type them into the word processor. That is not because I begrudge you reading them. I don’t. I hope you enjoy them. It is because I read them and I find myself right back in time to that day, place, event I am writing about, and some of it is rough to read. I wrote it out to write it out of me. Try that, it works well. But I don’t always want to read them myself.

Sometimes they are an embarrassment to me. They show my ignorance, at least in that place and time. Sometimes they speak to my circumstances of the moment, and leave me open, unprotected. At least that is the way I sometimes feel when I read them. What ever they show they also show my humanity. I am who I am. If you read something I wrote and it stops you from making the same mistake, or helps you to understand yourself or the world better, good.

I suppose I bared my soul in true 2, at least so far. And when I publish A-Minor that will say all the rest of it. All the things I have mentioned in my other writings. I will have written out all the poison for good. I don’t write it out for you to absorb it. I write it out to help me, you, someone I have probably never met and will never meet.

So here is the first revision. There is drug use. Sexual promiscuity. Death and more. I don’t approve of it despite how I may have felt back then. I am living proof that if you live that way you pay for it eventually. And I did. So this is not me approving of my behaviors back then. Not at all. It is me writing out the poison inside of me…

Dell Sweet

03-30-14

TRUE: True stories from a small town #1

Copyright © 2010 & 2016 Dell Sweet

All rights reserved


TABLE OF CONTENTS

Foreword

One: The Body

Two: The Dam

Three: The Fair

Four: The Trip

Five: Last Ride

About The Author


THE BODY

The morning was just under way. My Father drove the old pick-up truck slowly along the roadway. I think it was a 1960 Ford, something like that.

Fishermen: other vehicles; the road was crowded even this early. Galveston Bay was like a live thing. The saltiness of the ocean was in it. In the air, slipping up my nose as I stood on the seat top, balanced against the vinyl back as my Father drove.

The man’s body was at the edge of the water. My Father said, “Don’t look at that.” But of course he was too late. I’d already looked. I’d looked with my four year old child’s eyes that see much more than they are supposed to see. And, I saw much. Things that didn’t make sense to me.

Why is that man in the water?”

Why doesn’t he blow his nose to get some of that slimy stuff off himself?”

Why are those men standing away from him? Why are they looking at him? Why does he look so funny?” But I didn’t say any of those things.

Okay, Daddy. I won’t.”

I did though. I watched as my Father left the truck, with me standing on the seat so I could see over the dashboard, and walked to the men who stood starring at the man in the water.

Later in life I found out that my Father had worked in the Air Force as a Medical Corps man, picking up the bodies of dead service men… Retrieving the dead. At the time it meant nothing of course. Later in life though, it explained why my Father seemed so comfortable handling the man’s body, helping to place the body on a stretcher. While the other men seemed upset… Ghostly… White… Angry even.

But I was only four years old. I watched and wondered my child thoughts. Who he was. Why he was. I had not seen enough dead people to even realise that that was what he was.. I didn’t realise that the man had been dead until later in life.

At the time I realised something was wrong. Out of place. I may even have thought dead, but I didn’t understand dead. I only understood my Father, My Mother. My Baby sister who was not yet old enough to go for rides with my Father and stand on the seat and look out at the world. This man in the water, lifted out and placed on the stretcher that my Father helped to carry, was a mystery to me.

My father came back to the truck. “You didn’t look did you?”

No, Daddy.”

Good.”

He pushed the clutch in, the radio came on with a soft rush of country music. He shifted into first, pulled out behind the ambulance and we drove away into my memories.


THE DAM

It was summer, the trees full and green, the temperatures in the upper seventies. And you could smell the river from where it ran behind the paper mills and factories crowded around it, just beyond the public square; A dead smell, waste from the paper plants.

I think it was John who said something first. “Fuck it,” or something like that,” I’ll be okay.”

“Yeah,” Pete asked?

“Yeah… I think so,” John agreed. His eyes locked on Pete’s, but they didn’t stay. They slipped away and began to wander along the riverbed, the sharp rocks that littered the tops of the cliffs and the distance to the water. I didn’t like it.

Gary just nodded. Gary was the oldest so we pretty much went along with the way he saw things.

“But it’s your Dad,” I said at last. I felt stupid. Defensive. But it really felt to me like he really wasn’t seeing things clearly. I didn’t trust how calm he was, or how he kept looking at the river banks and then down to the water maybe eighty feet are so below.

“I should know,” John said. But his eyes didn’t meet mine at all.

“He should know,” Gary agreed and that was that.

“That’s cool. Let’s go down to the river,” Pete suggested, changing the subject.

“I’m not climbing down there,” I said. I looked down the sheer rock drop off to the water. John was still looking too, and his eyes were glistening, wet, his lips moved slightly as if he was talking to himself. If he was I couldn’t hear. But then he spoke aloud.

“We could make it, I bet,” he said as though it was an afterthought to some other idea. I couldn’t quite see that idea, at least I told myself that later. But I felt some sort of way about it. As if it had feelings of it’s own attached to it.

“No, man,” Gary said. “Pete didn’t mean beginning here… Did you,” he asked?

“No… No, you know, out to Huntingtonville,” Pete said. He leaned forward on his bike, looked at john, followed his eyes down to the river and then back up. John looked at him.

“What!” John asked.

“Nothing, man,” Pete said. “We’ll ride out to Huntingtonville. To the dam. That’d be cool… Wouldn’t it?” You could see the flatness in John’s eye’s. It made Pete nervous. He looked at Gary.

“Yeah,” Gary said. He looked at me.

“Yeah,” I agreed. “That’d be cool.” I spun one pedal on my stingray, scuffed the dirt with the toe of one Ked and then I looked at John again. His eyes were still too shiny, but he shifted on his banana seat, scuffed the ground with one of his own Keds and then said, “Yeah,” kind of under his breath. Again like it was an afterthought to something else. He lifted his head from his close inspection of the ground, or the river, or the rocky banks, or something in some other world for all I knew, and it seemed more like the last to me, but he met all of our eyes with one sliding loop of his own eyes, and even managed to smile.

~

The bike ride out to Huntingtonville was about four miles. It was a beautiful day and we lazed our way along, avoiding the streets, riding beside the railroad tracks that just happened to run out there. The railroad tracks bisected Watertown. They were like our own private road to anywhere we wanted to go. Summer, fall or winter. It didn’t matter. You could hear the trains coming from a long way off. More than enough time to get out of the way.

We had stripped our shirts off earlier in the morning when we had been crossing the only area of the tracks that we felt were dangerous, a long section of track that was suspended over the Black river on a rail trestle. My heart had beat fast as we had walked tie to tie trying not to look down at the rapids far below. Now we were four skinny, jeans clad boys with our shirts tied around our waists riding our bikes along the sides of those same railroad tracks where they ran through our neighborhood, occasionally bumping over the ties as we went. Gary managed to ride on one of the rails for about 100 feet. No one managed anything better.

Huntingtonville was a small river community just outside of Watertown. It was like the section of town that was so poor it could not simply be across the tracks or on the other side of the river, it had to be removed to the outskirts of the city itself. It was where the poorest of the poor lived, the least desirable races. The blacks. The Indians. Whatever else good, upstanding white Americans felt threatened or insulted by. It was where my father had come from, being both black and Indian.

I didn’t look like my father. I looked like my mother. My mother was Irish and English. About as white as white could be. I guess I was passing. But I was too poor, too much of a dumb kid to even know that back then in 1969.

John’s father was the reason we were all so worried. A few days before we had been playing baseball in the gravel lot of the lumber company across the street from where we lived. The railroad tracks ran behind that lumber company. John was just catching his breath after having hit a home run when his mother called him in side. We all heard later from our own mothers that John’s father had been hurt somehow. Something to do with his head. A stroke. I really didn’t know what a stroke was at that time or understand everything that it meant. I only knew it was bad. It was later in life that I understood how bad. All of us probably. But we did understand that John’s father had nearly died, and would never be his old self again, if he even managed to pull through.

It was a few days after that now. The first time the four of us had gotten back together. We all felt at loose ends. It simply had made no sense for the three of us to try to do much of anything without John. We had tried but all we could think about or talk about was John’s father. Would he be okay? Would they move? That worried me the most. His sister was about the most beautiful girl in the entire world to me. So not only would John move, so would she.

He came back to us today not saying a word about it. And we were worried.

When we reached the dam the water was high. That could mean that either the dam had been running off the excess water, or was about to be. You just had to look at the river and decide.

“We could go to the other side and back,” John suggested.

The dam was about 20 or 30 feet high. Looming over a rock strewn riverbed that had very little water. It was deeper out towards the middle, probably, it looked like it was, but it was all dry river rock along the grassy banks. The top of the Dam stretched about 700 feet across the river.

“I don’t know,” Pete said. “the dam might be about to run. We could get stuck on the other side for awhile.”

No one was concerned about a little wet feet if the dam did suddenly start running as we were crossing it. It didn’t run that fast. And it had caught us before. It was no big deal. Pete’s concern was getting stuck on the little island where the damn ended for an hour or so. Once, john, and myself had been on that island and some kids, older kids, had decided to shoot at us with 22 caliber rifles. Scared us half to death. But that’s not the story I’m trying to tell you today. Maybe I’ll tell you that one some other time. Today I’m trying to tell you about John’s father. And how calm John seemed to be taking it.

John didn’t wait for anyone else to comment. He dumped his bike and started to climb up the side of the concrete abutment to reach the top of the dam and walk across to the island. There was nothing for us to do except fall in behind him. One by one we did.

It all went smoothly. The water began to top the dam, soaking our Keds with its yellow paper mill stink and scummy white foam, just about halfway across. But we all made it to the other side and the island with no trouble. Pete and I climbed down and walked away. To this day I have no idea what words passed between Gary and john, but the next thing I knew they were both climbing back up onto the top of the dam, where the water was flowing faster now. Faster than it had ever flowed when we had attempted to cross the dam. Pete nearly at the top of the concrete wall, Gary several feet behind him.

John didn’t hesitate. He hit the top, stepped into the yellow brown torrent of river water pouring over the falls and began to walk back out to the middle of the river. Gary yelled to him as Pete and I climbed back up to the top of the dam.

I don’t think I was trying to be a hero, but the other thought, the thought he had pulled back from earlier, had just clicked in my head. John was thinking about dying. About killing himself. I could see it on the picture of his face that I held in my head from earlier. I didn’t yell to him, I just stepped into the yellow foam and water, found the top of the dam and began walking.

Behind me and Pete and Gary went ballistic. “Joe, what the fuck are you doing!”

I heard it, but I didn’t hear it. I kept moving. I was scared. Petrified. Water tugged at my feet. There was maybe 6 inches now pouring over the dam and more coming, it seemed a long way down to the river. Sharp, up-tilted slabs of rock seemed to be reaching out for me. Secretly hoping that I would fall and shatter my life upon them.

John stopped in the middle of the dam and turned, looking off toward the rock and the river below. I could see the water swirling fast around his ankles. Rising higher as it went. John looked over at me, but he said nothing.

“John,” I said when I got close enough. He finally spoke.

“No,” was all he said. But tears began to spill from his eyes. Leaking from his cheeks and falling into the foam scummed yellow-brown water that flowed ever faster over his feet.

“Don’t,” I screamed. I knew he meant to do it, and I couldn’t think of anything else to say.

“Don’t move,” Gary said from behind me. I nearly went over the falls. I hadn’t known he was that close. I looked up and he was right next to me, working his way around me on the slippery surface of the dam. I looked back and Pete was still on the opposite side of the dam. He had climbed up and now he stood on the flat top. Transfixed. Watching us through his thick glasses. Gary had followed John and me across.

I stood still and Gary stepped around me. I have no idea how he did. I’ve thought about it, believe me. There shouldn’t have been enough room, but that was what he did. He stepped right around me and then walked the remaining 20 feet or so to John and grabbed his arm.

“If you jump you kill me too,” Gary said. I heard him perfectly clear above the roar of the dam. He said it like it was nothing. Like it is everything. But mostly he said it like he meant it.

It seemed like they argued and struggled forever, but it was probably less than a minute, maybe two. The waters were rising fast and the whole thing would soon be decided for us. If we didn’t get off the dam quickly we would be swept over by the force of the water.

They almost did go over. So did I. But the three of us got moving and headed back across to the land side where we had dropped our bikes. We climbed down from a dam and watched the water fill the river up. No one spoke.

Eventually john stopped crying. And the afterthought look, as though there some words or thoughts he couldn’t say passed. The dying time had passed.

We waited almost two hours for the river to stop running and then Pete came across…

We only talked about it one other time that summer, and then we never talked about it again. That day was also a beautiful summer day. Sun high in the sky. We were sitting on our bikes watching the dam run.

“I can’t believe you were gonna do it,” Pete said.

“I wasn’t,” John told him. “I only got scared when the water started flowing and froze on the dam… That’s all it was.”

Nobody spoke for a moment and then Gary said, “That’s how it was.”

“Yeah. That’s how it was,” I agreed…


THE FAIR

It was June, maybe it was even July. I truthfully couldn’t tell you, any more than I could tell you what happened the rest of that year. It’s a blank in my mind. June or July is only a point of light in my mind because I heard about it, not because I lived it. But because I was told about it. That is, all but the one part of it. The absolute memory that I’m sure of from that day. But the details… The rest of the year… I have no clue.

It was June or July. My brother was supposed to go to the fair with his friend Star, but he had instead taken off with my sister. I never did know why, and I’ve never been curious enough to find out either.

It was June or July. I was in the front yard lining up some Matchbox cars, running them around the base of one of the huge Elm trees that grew in our front yard. The sidewalk ran right between them to the front steps. The trees took up what yard there was. I have been back to that house later in life. The trees are gone. Cut down because of Dutch Elm disease. And the yard seems to be huge. It seems to go on forever. But back then the Elms owned that yard on either side of the sidewalk and my brother and I had a perfect place to make roads and run our matchbox cars around. And there I was running my little cars around when I spotted Star from far off. I thought maybe he would pass by. After all he was my brothers friend more than mine, but he stopped.

Hey,” Star said.

Hey,” I allowed. I’m pretty sure I didn’t look up from the cars, at least not at first.

Where’s Dave,” he asked?

Fair,” I answered.

He told me he’d go with me,” Star said.

Huh,” I answered. “Maybe he forgot ’cause he left with my sister… Awhile ago… Like” I tried to think of how long ago it had been but I was unable to come up with it. “Like… I don’t know. Awhile I guess.”

I hadn’t gone because I didn’t like the Fair. The year before I had gone, ridden the roundup, and puked as soon as soon as I got off it. I had been sick all night too. I hated being sick, specifically being sick enough to puke, more than anything in the world. No way did I want to go through that again.

You gonna go,” Star asked?

Uh uh,” I answered. I pushed the Batmobile back in line next to a green metallic tow truck..

I got two bucks,” Star said.

I looked up, “Well, I ain’t got only fifty cents,” I answered. That was the other reason I hadn’t gone. The Batmobile had called to me from the toy car rack at Woolworth… Batmobile? Fair? Batmobile? Fair…

That’ll get you a couple of rides,” Star broke in. “I’ll buy you a Coke.”

I looked at him. “Okay,” I agreed instantly. My rock solid reasons I had against going had flown out the window at the promise of a Coke. “But first I gotta take care of my cars.”

I have no idea what happened to that shiny black Batmobile with the amazing bubbled windshield. I never saw it again.

~

The County Fair grounds were on the other side off the city. A long walk.

The Tracks, our name for any of the many sets of railroad tracks that bisected the city of Watertown, would take us most of the way their. We walked them balancing on the rails as we went. When we came to the Coffeen street crossing we left the tracks and walked the side of the street to the outskirts of the city and the Fair grounds. I was thinking Double Ferris Wheel. No puking, just sight seeing. You could see almost all of Watertown from the top. And if you were actually lucky enough to get stopped at the top for a few moments, and I had been, you could actually pick out landmarks. I recalled that from the year before. Before the Roundup and the puking.

After that I would get the Coke Star had promised. Then I could stop at Majors Market on the way back and buy a second Coke with my other quarter. I had the whole afternoon mapped out and it seemed like a good plan to me.

The fair grounds were crowded. I saw my sister once, but she seemed to be avoiding me so I didn’t press it. We were less than a year apart and it was never really clear to me whether we hated each other or liked each other on any particular week. I saw a girl from school, Debbie something. One of my friends had referred to her as a Carpenters delight… A flat Board that had never been nailed. I didn’t really get the joke, I was always a little slow back then, but I did think she was cute. She smiled at me and I smiled back thinking I had no chance at all, wondered briefly about the board and nail remark, and then turned my attention back to the Fair Grounds.

I went with Star to the ticket booth, paid my quarter, and we headed to the midway.

I gotta try the Double Ferris Wheel,” I said.

I was thinking about The Roundup,” Star said.

No way,” I disagreed. “Puked last year.” I was only too glad to tell him the story.. He ended up agreeing with me on the Double Ferris Wheel ride.

I guess I do remember some of that day. Sitting here writing it all out brings a lot of it back. Maybe it was after that day that I have trouble with. Even as I write this my next clear memory is about a year later. I know I do remember all of the next immediate events, but I mean the feel of that day. I remember the feel of that day too. The smells of Cotton Candy… Buttered Popcorn… Cooking Sausage and Hotdogs… The crowds and the noise… Not long ago I smelled Popcorn and it took me right back to that day. All the way back. For a split second I was standing on that Midway once again… The crowd was moving around me. I was Happy… It was high summer. Watertown was a beautiful place to live.

That is why I think my memories are real, not just things suggested by people who were there. And, of course, afterwards, I remember all of that clearly. There was no one else there but me to see it, feel it, hear it. And all these years later it is just as real as it was then…

The Double Ferris Wheel was really the coolest ride I had ever seen. I was in front of Star as we wound our way through the line. I could see the guy running the ride. One of those typical Carney guys. I had cousins who were Carneys. I knew the look. And this guy was old school Carney. Dark, greasy hair. Cigarette plastered in one side of his mouth. Arms bulging. Crude tattoos covered his exposed chest and arms. Dark, almost inky, Gypsy eyes. He held the long steel handle that controlled the ride in one hand. The cigarette was unfiltered; Camel or Pall Mall, pumping up and down as his lips moved. His smile was cocky. His eyes bloodshot. He was none too steady on his feet. Bumping the handle occasionally. Rocking the steel cages that held the seat buckets as he bought them around for loading and unloading. Letting kids on and off.

The long line wound it’s way down. I gave up my ticket and stepped forward and that was the end of my summer. It ended up being the last carefree childhood thing I ever did. It’s more than forty years later now and I can say that as a fact. The rest of the real world part of that day came from Star’s testimony at the trial years later when the ride operator was sued.

The guy took my ticket. I stepped forward to get in. The cigarette jumped as he took a deep pull, jiggled the handle, lined up the wheel, and my leg swung into the open seat bucket. That was when it all went wrong. He did one of those unsteady joggles on his feet, bumped into the lever with one thigh, and kicked the ride into full operation.

For some reason, I couldn’t tell you why, I hung on instead of letting go when the bucket lurched forward and rapidly climbed up into the sky. Maybe it was simple instinct, fear. Whatever it was it probably seemed to me to be the smart thing to do until I hit one of the struts about thirty feet up and got knocked off the bucket and down to the ground. I ended up under the buckets which kept coming around and hitting me because the ride operator was too drunk to turn the ride off. Too drunk. Forgot, Froze. Whatever it was I was stuck until another Carney ran over and shut down the ride.

No body knows what was up with him. At the trial he claimed that I had ran through the line and jumped at the ride like some crazy kid. It wasn’t a good story. The jury didn’t buy it. And it didn’t explain why he was drunk or why he didn’t shut the ride down. The jury came back with a ten thousand dollar judgment. A great deal of money for back then. But that is secondary to this story and didn’t happen for a few years. What this story is about is what the next few weeks were like for me.

I put my feet into the seat bucket and the whole wheel seemed to lurch. The next clear memory was absolute darkness and God speaking to me. Comforting me. Not hurried. Not sounding Godlike, just sounding like an ordinary, reasonable man who for some reason had nothing better to do than talk to me. A little kid.

God was behind me. I never did see him, but I still knew it was him.

When my sight came back to me I was far above the Fair Grounds watching the ambulance weave it’s way through the crowds as it made it’s way to me. The next thing I knew I was inside… The siren warbling, and I was on my way to the hospital. God continued to talk to me and comfort me as I looked down at my broken little boys body

I don’t know what they knew then, but I had a laundry list of injuries. Broken neck, broken vertebrae in my thoracic spine. Broken vertebrae in my lumbar spine. Broken left scapula and joint damage to the shoulder. My upper back had been hit so hard that the muscles that attached from my shoulder blades to my spine had been torn free. I don’t know if I was still breathing or not. I stopped at some point in there. But it really didn’t concern me.

I watched as I was unloaded and rolled down the hallway of the emergency room. My mother ran beside the gurney, crying. The nurses cut the clothes from my body as they ran. I was filthy. Either the filth or the nudity embarrassed my mother, but the nurses did their work as they rushed my body along that hallway. And although I could feel their thoughts, hear their words, it did not affect me.

The next few weeks went by fast. God never once left me. Talking to me. Answering my endless questions. And I did have endless questions but he had endless answers. Everything… All the knowledge of the entire world… Universe… Universes, was mine.

She tricked me this way: The nurse was young. Pretty. Even to me, a little kid. She took my hand and began to talk to me. She had no idea I was busy talking to God, so I forgave her, at first anyhow.

But then she began to call my name. Call me Honey. Tell me to wake up, and it began to bother me.. I couldn’t concentrate on God if she didn’t leave me alone. I wanted to tell her to shut up! Stop! And so I imagined my mouth opening to say the words and that was it. I was back in my body. Stuck in my body. God was gone. The pain was everywhere. Huge. Unyielding. I was stuck. And, worse, everything God had told me was gone. It was like it was some sort of top secret knowledge. Top secret God knowledge that could not exist outside of death. You could know all of it if you intended to be dead, but none of it if you intended to live.

I hadn’t intended to live, I remember thinking that. Who in their right mind would leave the company of God to come back to this world? Not me. But, She had tricked me. Tricked me, and I had fallen for it…


THE TRIP

I was about thirteen when this took place. By that time I was already alcohol dependent, had tried and liked Speed, a drug that would twice come close to killing me before I was twenty one, had pretty much dropped out of school even though I was legally there and on the rolls, and I flirted with the idea of suicide on a daily basis…

I don’t really know him at all,” Dick said.

Neither do I,” I admitted. “But, everyone says he’s the guy, so I called him and asked him.

Yeah,” dick asked?

Yeah,” I said. “He’s going to meet us down at the Olympic.” The Olympic was an old run down theater on the edge of downtown.

When,” he asked?

Now, I guess.” The truth was I hadn’t asked. I had been too nervous. We were up in my bedroom. Dick was my most recent friend. John Gary and Pete, my early childhood friends had fallen by the wayside.

John moved away after his father nearly died. One day the whole family just moved out of state.

Gary was older and had finally found older friends. Pete just drifted away. I got into drugs and alcohol, skipping school and working towards that first prison bid I had in me.

As I said, at thirteen I had more than a passing acquaintance with alcohol and speed. I did both whenever I could get them. I drank every day, or at least the days when I didn’t drink were rare. I was already at a a point where I didn’t really get all that drunk anymore, no matter how much I drank. And I was just a few weeks away from a serious accident at the county fair that would come very close to taking my life. Ahead of me, although I didn’t yet know it, was recovery from that accident, suicide attempts, life on the streets and near death there more than once too. But today I was trying to find my way in the drug world. Today was acid. I had two joints in my pocket and Dick and I each had a couple of bucks. Two dollars was the price of a hit of what they called blotter acid back then.

Neither of us had ever done acid before. Never had seen it. Never sold it, and we did sell pot so we could smoke some, or at least Dick did. I couldn’t smoke pot. It made me sick every time. So I used my money to buy Boone’s Farm Apple wine, or Strawberry Hill, Colt Forty Five Malt Liquor, cigarettes, diet pills (AKA Speed), and all the other stuff we shouldn’t have been doing. We knew, in short, nothing at all about acid, except you tripped. Whatever that was. It was supposed to be intense.

We left the house and headed toward downtown and the Olympic Theater.

For most of my childhood the Olympic theater showed adult movies all week long, and then cartoons and kids movies on the weekend. At one time it had been a grand theater. But that time was a long way behind it.

I saw it later in my life, a few years later really, and it was boarded up, ceilings fallen, and then I moved away for the first time and when I came back it was gone.

That place had always bothered me back then though. I would pass it on the weekends and the little kids would be lined up to go in and sit where the perverts had been sitting the day before doing God knew what. It made no sense to me. And, the perverts didn’t really go away on the weekends. They hung around. I know. I saw one there one time that I had encountered as a younger child. One that had abused me.

Despite that parents sent their kids to the Olympic Theater all weekend long. Probably to get them out of their hair. Have a little down time. Who knows. It was a small town. It was supposed to be safe. And I suppose it was for most kids, but I never liked it. I never felt at ease with it.

So the little kids went to the Olympic all weekend long, just like we were doing, and the pervs were not the only thing out front. Drugs were sold right there at the sides of the doors nearly all of the time. That was where we were going to pick up our purchase.

There was always a crowd, and it was easy to disappear in that crowd. Of course the pervs watched you, sometimes even propositioned you, but I didn’t know anything about that world yet, and wouldn’t for a few years until I ended up on the streets. Ironically when I sold pot, I too always had the buyer meet me in front of the Olympic. Funny how I could feel the one way yet justify that in my mind.

We walked the eight blocks to the Olympic. It was early fall, cool but not cold yet. The leaves were turning, but they were still on the trees. There was a wind. More like a breeze on steroids, but you could smell winter on that air.

Smell it. It was like that. Just like any kind of flower reminded me of death, that particular fall air reminded me of winter. And really, winter and death were always the same thing to me. It evoked depression in me. Summer was over… Dead… Gone away at the least. Gone for at least a year. And a year was almost a lifetime at that age, so it may have well have been dead. At least it seemed that way to me then.

I saw Jeff standing in front of the Olympic. A leather jacket. Jeans. He practically screamed tough guy. We idolized him and imitated that look ourselves. It wasn’t more than a handful of years that he had left to live. He didn’t know it. We didn’t know it. He was going to be on the bad end of a drug deal in the near future. Get stuck with the time and then get stabbed to death shortly after that in prison over a bad drug deal there.

It’s funny, thinking about it now, where blocks of time, five years, ten years, seem to slip by so fast. What he had left to live was next to nothing, but back then, if we had known, we would have thought it was forever.

Right then, at that time, he was about to enrich out lives. Acid was the big time experience. And he was the way to score it.

I walked up like I belonged there. “Hey,” I said.

Hey,” Jeff threw back. He looked at Dick and Dick nodded. “Hold this for me for a second, would you,” He asked? He handed me a small slip of paper.

Sure,” I said. I took the paper.

So…” He looked at each of us. “You got the money?”

Sure,” I agreed. I pulled the two dollars from my pocket and passed it to him as we pretended to shake hands. The he shook hands with Dick too. Some old Grandpa was checking me and Dick out, I threw him a finger. He looked away with disgust written across his face. I turned back to Jeff.

Cool,” He said. “Well, I’ll see you. Let me know if…You know.”

Uh huh,” I agreed. I watched his back as he walked off into the downtown district.

What the fuck!” Dick said.

I looked at him. “What,” I asked?

Where is it,” Dick asked?

I figured he gave it to you,” I said, surprised that he apparently hadn’t.

I can’t believe he screwed us,” Dick said. “I thought he gave you something.”

He did,” I said, remembering the small slip of paper he had given me. I opened it in my palm. A cartoon Micky Mouse printed on a small strip of thin, white paper. Nothing Else.

It’s just a cartoon… A cartoon… It’s nothing,” I said after looking at Mickey for a few minutes. “He didn’t pass you nothing either, I guess,” I finished.

Great,” Dick said. He shook his head.

Well, we got the joints,” I said.

Yeah, except they make you sick almost every time.”

We were both dejected. We had maybe another two bucks between us. We could try again, but who could we call? If Jeff had stuck it to us, wouldn’t the next guy too?

Well, we could stop by the doughnut shop. Buy some day old doughnuts and coffee. Then go get some wine, you get high, I’ll buzz off the wine, we’ll eat the doughnuts later and the coffee will keep us up.” It actually seemed like a pretty good alternate plan to me. I had been more than a little nervous about the acid. I had heard about bad trips. Maybe this was for the best. We walked away back up State Street.

I was still holding the slip of paper in my hand. It amazes me that I didn’t crumple it up and throw it away. But, something about it bugged me. We walked about a block in silence before it came to me.

Hey,” I said. I came to a complete stop on the sidewalk. “Remember how some of those guys the other day were talking about blotter acid? How it was just a spot of color on a piece of paper? And those other guys were talking about Goofy and Minnie Mouse… Donald Duck? … “

Cartoon heads made out of acid… Like in the ink or something.”

Dick had continued to walk a few steps after I stopped, so he was stopped slightly ahead of me… Standing… Listening… Looking back at me.

Huh,” he said and nodded his head.

So… Maybe this is it,” I said looking at Mickey’s small head on the piece of paper.

So how do we get it off,” he asked?

I shook my head. “We’ll eat the paper,” I said finally. Before we could think about it I ripped it in half and handed Dick half of Micky’s head. I shrugged, put my piece in my mouth and swallowed it. Dick did the same.

We stood in the shadows of an alleyway there watching the traffic pass us by.

Nothing,” I said.

Me either,” He agreed.

I don’t know, Man,” I said.

Yeah. Maybe he did get us… If so, we won’t buy no more pot through him,” Dick said. The guy we bought our pot from bought it from Jeff. Just about all the drugs in our little town came through Jeff who had a cousin in Syracuse that got them from somebody else. Who knew how many times they changed hands on the way to us. We didn’t.

Yeah,” I agreed. “Plan b?

Yeah, plan B,” He agreed.

We made our way to the doughnut shop just a few blocks further along and decided to modify our plan.

The doughnut shop was a cop hangout and the way we dressed, and our long hair, always pissed the cops off.

So we decided to buy doughnuts and a coffee to go, but to have a coffee there too. Just to sit there and piss the cops off. We were kids, I don’t know how else to explain how something like that seemed like entertainment to us. It was like we liked to tease them. A, ‘I know you hate us, but you can’t get us.’ or, as Dick used to say, ‘A big fuck you right at them.’ I have since come to have a great deal of respect for law enforcement. I didn’t in my youth though. It was good guys and bad guys. And in my screwed up thinking I was the good guy.

There were three or four cops in there when we arrived, spread out along the curving counter top, eating doughnuts, drinking coffee and reading newspapers. It really was like another office for them back in those days And, I have never been able to figure this out, but they didn’t talk to each other. They didn’t sit side by side and shoot the shit as we used to say, as they ate, drank, read. No. They staked out little territories of their own. A little something on this side of them so someone wouldn’t sit there, a little something on the other side. It was weird to me as a kid, because I figured they all hung out, joked, and talked about catching the bad guys. Maybe they did, but they never did there.

It may be cliche in some cities when they talk about the cops hanging out at the doughnut shop. And really, now, it would be more than a little hard to do, there are no places like that, and they have an office right there in the car. Go through the drive through, pull out back and eat. But then, in my town, cliche or not the cops ate and hung out at the doughnut shop. No matter what time of day or night, if you had a problem just run down to the doughnut shop and get a cop. There would be one there.

We went in, picked out a bag of day old doughnuts, got our coffees, and sat down at the counter to drink. Like I said, we did that mostly to piss the cops off. It was their place. We looked like bad kids. Hell, we were bad kids. No way did they want us in their place.

We weren’t looking for trouble exactly, we just didn’t want the establishment, read that as any kind of authority, to rule our young lives.

We were sitting for less than five minutes when the acid hit us. It hit us both at the same time. We turned and looked at each other. Then, also, at the exact same time, we both became convinced that the cops were on to us. They knew without a doubt that we were tripping. In fact one cop kept looking at us non-stop. The paranoia was just starting.

We left, which was probably a good thing, and headed for my house. The hallucinations grew worse as we went. The tree limbs above us turned into leaf covered hands reaching down to snatch us from the street and eat us. And the worst, freakiest part of it is that we both had the same hallucinations at the same time. There was no calming influence from the non hallucinating party.

To make it even worse our girlfriends, two sisters, discovered us at some point on the walk home and knew something was wrong with us. I was alternating between laughing hysterically and crying. My girlfriends face kept turning into a pig face each time she tried to kiss me or came too close. Eventually they left us alone and we got ourselves under some sort of control and decided to go to my house and lay low until the high became more manageable.

My mother was cooking dinner and listening to Walter Cronkite do the evening news as she did. She would pop into the living room doorway from the kitchen every few moments to see Walters face.

Hi, Boys,” she said.

Hey, Mom.” I was amazed how normal I sounded.

We sat down and tried to watch TV, but it quickly became apparent that Walter somehow knew we were high.

He kept looking at us. Winking, saying things only we could hear. Smirking at us. He knew alright.

We left the living room, went up to my bedroom and ended up listening to the Black Sabbath Debut album and the Stones. Good music to trip by. It seemed as though the bands were playing in our heads.

I tried to lay down but the knotty pine bunk beds drove me crazy. The knots kept turning into eyes. Staring me down. I couldn’t look away, they followed me.

Time passed. Somewhere around five in the morning we began to come down. We drank the coffee and buzzed a little again on the caffeine, we left the house, met up with some older kids. Traded one of the joints for a bottle of Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill, then made our way downtown to Peanut Park where Dick got high on the other joint while I drank the wine and watched the sunrise…


LAST RIDE

It was early in my shift. I owned my own taxi so I could pretty much pick which 12 hour shift I wanted to drive. I drove nights so that I could be home with my son during the day while my wife worked. I’d told myself for most of the last year that I should stop driving taxi, settle down to a real job and be more responsible. But then a Conrail contract came along and then the opportunity to work with another driver who handled the Airport contract, and suddenly I was making more money than I could have reasonably expected from what I would have considered a straight job.

The hours were long, but there was something that attracted me to the night work. I always had been attracted to night work. Like my internal clock was Set to PM. It just seemed to work and after a few failed attempts to work day shift work, I gave it up and went to work full time nights.

I was never bored. The nights kept me awake and interested. They supplied their own entertainment.

Conrail crews, regulars that called only for me, the assorted funny drunks late at night when the bars were closing. Soldiers on their way back to the nearby base, and a dancer at a small club just off down town that had been calling for me personally for the last few weeks. Using my cab as a dressing room on the way back to her hotel. It was always something different.

Days, the few times I’d driven days, couldn’t compare. Sure, there was violence too but it rarely came my way and never turned into a big deal when it did. At six foot two, two hundred and twenty pounds most trouble looked elsewhere when it came to me.

It was Friday night, one of my big money nights, about 7:00 P.M. and my favourite dispatcher Smitty had just come on. He sent me on a call out State street that would terminate down town. Once I was down town I could easily pick up a GI heading back to the base for a nice fat fare and usually a pretty good tip. My mind was on that.

My mind was also on that dancer who would be calling sometime after two AM and who had made it clear that I was more than welcome to come up to her room. It was tempting, I’ll admit it, and each time she called she tempted me more. I figured it was just a matter of time before I went with her.

I really didn’t see the lady when she got into my car, but when it took her three times to get out the name of the bar down town that she wanted to go to I paid attention. Drunk. It was early too. Sometimes drunks were OK, but most times they weren’t. This one kept slumping over, slurring her words, nearly dropping her cigarette. I owed the bank a pile of money on the car and didn’t need burn holes in my back seat.

I dropped the flag on the meter, pulled away from the curbing and eased into traffic. Traffic was heavy at that time and I pissed off more than a few other drivers as I forced my way into the traffic flow.

I had just settled into the traffic flow when a glance into the rear view mirror told me my passenger had fallen over. I couldn’t see the cigarette but I could still smell it. I made the same drivers even angrier as I swept out of the traffic flow and angled up onto the side walk at the edge of the street. I got as far out of the traffic flow as I could get so I could get out to see what was up with the woman in the back seat.

I was thinking drunk at the time, but the thought that it could be something more serious crept into my head as I made the curb, bumped over it, set my four way flashers and climbed out and went around to the back door.

She was slumped over into the wheel well, the cigarette smoldering next to her pooled, black hair. In her hair, I realized as the smell of burning hair came to me. I snatched the cigarette and threw it out the open door, then shook her shoulder to try and bring her around. But it was obvious to me, just that fast, that the whole situation had changed. She wasn’t breathing.

I reached in, caught her under the arms, and then suddenly someone else was there with me.

He was a short, thin man wearing a worried look up on his face. Dark eyes set deeply in their sockets. His hair hung limply across his forehead. He squeezed past me and looked down at the woman. He pushed her eyelids up quickly, one by one, and then held his fingers to her lips. He frowned deeply and flipped the hair away from his forehead.

“Paramedic”, he told me as he took her other arm and helped me pull her from the back seat.

We laid her out on the sloping front lawn of the insurance company I had stopped in front of and he put his head to her chest.

He lifted his head, shaking it as he did. “Call an ambulance,” he said tersely.

I could feel the shift in his demeanor He wasn’t letting me know he could handle the situation, like when he had told me he was a paramedic, he was handling it. I got on the radio and made the call.

The ambulance got there pretty fast. I stood back out of the way and let them work on her, raising my eyes to the backed up traffic on occasion. The paramedic had torn open her shirt. Her nudity seemed so out of place on the city side walk. Watching the traffic took the unreal quality of it away from me. I watched the ambulance pull away, eased my car down off the curb and back into the sluggish traffic and went back to work.

I got the story on her about midnight once things slowed down and I stopped into the cab stand to talk to the dispatcher for a short while. His daughter knew someone, who knew someone, who knew someone at the hospital. The woman had taken an overdose. Some kind of pills. It was going to be touch and go. He also had a friend in the police department too. She did it because of a boyfriend who had cheated on her. It seemed so out of proportion to me. I went back to work but I asked him to let me know when he heard more.

2:30 AM:

The night had passed me by. The business of the evening hours catching me up for a time and taking me away from the earlier events. I was sitting down town in my cab watching the traffic roll by me. It was a beautifully warm early morning for Northern New York. I had my window down letting the smell of the city soak into me, when I got the call to pick up my dancer with the club gig.

“And, Joe,” Smitty told me over the static filled radio, ” your lady friend didn’t make it.”

It was just a few blocks to the club. I left the window down enjoying the feeling of the air flowing past my face.

The radio played Steely Dan’s Do It Again and I kind of half heard it as I checked out the back seat to see if the ghost from the woman earlier might suddenly pop up there.

The dancer got in and smiled at me. I smiled back but I was thinking about the other woman, the woman who was now dead, sitting in that same place a few hours before. The dancer began to change clothes as I drove to her hotel.

“You know,” she said, catching my eyes in the mirror. “I should charge you a cover. You’re seeing more than those GI’S in the club.” She shifted slightly, her breasts rising and falling in the rear view mirror. We both laughed. It was a game that was not a game. She said it to me every time. But, my laugh was hollow. Despite her beauty I was still hung up on someone being alive in my back seat just a few hours before and dead now. Probably being wheeled down to the morgue were my friend Pete worked. I made myself look away and concentrate on the driving. She finished dressing as I stopped at her hotel’s front entrance.

“You could come up… If you wanted to,” she said. She said it lightly, but her eyes held serious promise.

“I’d like to… But I better not,” I said.

She smiled but I could tell I had hurt her feelings. It was a real offer, but I couldn’t really explain how I felt. Why I couldn’t. Not just because I was married, that was already troubled, but because of something that happened earlier.

I drove slowly away after she got out of the cab and wound up back down town for the next few hours sitting in the parking lot of an abandoned building thinking… ‘I was only concerned about her cigarette burning the seats.’

I smoked while I sat, dropping my own cigarettes out the window and onto the pavement. A short while later Smitty called me with a Conrail trip.

I started the cab and drove out to Massey yard to pick up my crew. The dancer never called me again…


ABOUT DELL SWEET

Wendell (Dell) Sweet wrote his first fiction at age seventeen. He drove taxi and worked as a carpenter for most of his life. He began working on the internet in 1989 primarily in HTML, graphics and website optimizations. He spent time on the streets as a drug addicted teen as well as time in prison. He was Honorably discharged from the service in 1974.

He is a Musician who writes his own music as well as lyrics. He is an Artist accomplished in Graphite, Pen, and Digital media. He has written more than twenty books for the Earth’s Survivors series, many of which are unpublished, and several dozen short stories.

All music, lyrics, artwork or additional written materials attributed to characters in the novels, unless otherwise noted, are Copyright © 2009 – 2016 Wendell Sweet.

Dell Sweet’s Amazon Page: https://amazon.com/author/wendellsweet

Earth’s Survivors The Nation

Earth’s Survivors: The Nation

Book 3, Earth’s Survivors – Earth’s Survivors

Dell Sweet

This book can be downloaded and read in iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.

Description

The survivors are on the road looking for a place to begin again…
Mike awoke before dawn. He lay quietly, feeling the heat from Candace’s body where it pressed up against his, and thinking about what the future might be.
The first thing he had thought was that whatever had happened to the world would be made right. That somewhere there was someone still in charge, and eventually that person would get everything back on track. The world would be fun again. Television, phones, electricity, the Internet, the mortgage on his house, all of it. That turned out to be a pipe dream. The whole idea had dissipated quickly. Even so, when they had finally started out, he had held out some hope, and they hadn’t come far, but Jeff and his people had, and it was the same everywhere. There was no man sitting in an office somewhere waiting to get everything back in shape, and if there was, he would have to be a complete idiot, because he’d be waiting an awfully long time.
The dead woman Jeff had told him about bothered him a great deal. He had remembered a day he had gone out, after things had fallen apart. He had heard airplanes in the night. In the morning, there was some sort of blue liquid they had sprayed all over the city. He had wondered about that. Why? What was it? And the bodies in the market… Had it been dogs? Had it been dogs that had been… eating them? There was no nice way to look at it, or put it.
If Jeff was crazy… But he wasn’t. He seemed as sane as any of them did. No. He couldn’t write it off to crazy or not crazy. He obviously believed what he saw. He had to mark it down to… To what? He asked himself. To…
Candace stirred and pressed closer to him, and then settled back down. Gray light began to creep into the room. He could see the outline of her body.
The movement, the light seeping into the room, sent his thoughts along an entirely different line.
For the last two days he had found himself thinking in an entirely new direction. All the old s**t is gone, and that’s okay. He didn’t care at all if he never saw electricity again. In fact, he’d rather not have it, and even if there was a way to fix it all, he didn’t want to go back. He was positive, in fact, that they couldn’t go back, none of them, was positive he wouldn’t be able to live that way again, when less than a month ago his entire life, his entire focus, was wrapped up in the old way. Hadn’t he been watching the countdown show for the end of the world? Reality TV every night? The big party for the end of the world? And really, that had simply been a joke.
Nobody, at least most people, didn’t believe the world was going anywhere. It was just another thing to occupy the head. Even the terminology, World Ending, was b******t. The world did not end. We think so highly of ourselves that we believe that the end of society means the end of the world, and I guess it did for us… some of us. But the end of the world? No. The world will go on and on when we are nothing at all but dust upon the ground.
Now it really was gone, and not only didn’t he miss it, he didn’t want it to come back. He didn’t want to chase across half of what had been the United States looking for some semblance of the old world. His mind was at rest; he was happy. He allowed one hand to stroke the length of Candace’s body. Very happy, he decided. Candace stirred again. One of her own hands came down his side, across his abdomen, searching.

…More



Connected Crime Series


   Connected: Short Hauls…

A collection of seven crime stories… They had been drinking one night when Robby had come out with the murder bit. Jeff had been talking about other men he had met in prison, before he had met Robbie…

Get It: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/connected-short-hauls/id1388817659?mt=11

 



Connected: Dello Green…  Smith, who now resided in the trunk of the Dodge, had met Jimmy on a back road of the local base. Jimmy was now at the dump, because late afternoon was a perfect time to dispose of a body…

Get It: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/connected-dello-green/id1160394883?mt=11


Connected: Sanger Road… Pulled from his mundane life, Carl finds a world where anything is possible if you are willing to risk everything…

Get It: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/connected-sanger-road/id1159120378?mt=11



 

Earth’s Survivors Apocalypse, now free at Amazon for the Kindle

Earth’s Survivors Apocalypse Kindle Edition

Earth’s Survivors Apocalypse follows survivors of a worldwide catastrophe.

A meteorite that was supposed to miss the earth completely, hits and becomes the cap to a series of events that destroy the world as we know it. Police, fire, politicians, military, governments: All gone. Hopes, dreams, tomorrows: All buried in a desperate struggle to survive.
From L.A. To Manhattan the cities, governments have toppled and lawlessness is the rule. The dead lay in the streets while gangs fight for control of what is left. Small groups band together for safety and begin to leave the ravaged cities behind in search of a future that can once again hold promise…

It was the most tired I had ever been. I laid my head down and I was gone for a little while…
The sun is down all the way here. I went back upstairs. Nothing on the horizon. That time of evening when the sun is down and the moon has yet to rise. Very dark. Can’t see anything in any direction. Thought they must be all sleeping in the barn, but I heard some movements out near where I… Never mind what I did there, I’ll get to that soon enough, I guess. I only heard it once, but I know damn well it’s one of them… Some of them…
I don’t believe the whiskey is going to make it to daylight, but I have a feeling I’m not going to make it to daylight either… Feeling funny now, not myself… I’ll try to get this done…
It was the 15th when I came awake in that truck. Hot, but desert heat…
September 15th
It was late afternoon when Johnny awoke. Somewhere in the day Lana had wound up beside him. He lay still, unwilling to let her go, his hand was curled protectively around her. Lana moved and he felt the sleep leave her body. One moment soft and willing, the next a live wire.
“You didn’t cop a feel did you?” Lana asked in a mumbled half sleepy voice.
“Lana, can’t you ever just say something like, good morning?”
She twisted her head around and smiled. The secret smile she rarely ever gave out. “Good late afternoon,” she said and the smile slipped away. There was still something there, but it wasn’t that secret, vulnerable glimpse into her heart that it was usually. She stretched, yawned, and her feet came up against the door. “Next vehicle we get is an SUV so we have some place to sleep too.”
“I don’t know, I kind of liked this,” Johnny said before he could shut his mouth down.
Lana laughed and it was the unguarded Lana once more. “As long as you know what the deal is.” She twisted her head once more, and then her entire body so she was looking directly into his eyes.
“I… I know the deal,” Johnny said. The press of her body was maddening.
“We really don’t need to talk it out?”
Johnny shook his head and looked away. “I’m a little too old for you, Lana. I know.”
Her eyes became sad. “Let me just say these few things.” She took a deep breath and then began to speak. “I am attracted to you. I considered sleeping with you before you became my friend, before I knew it couldn’t work between us. I even considered it after… Maybe ten minutes ago too, but it would cost me a friend because it wouldn’t mean to me what it would mean to you. It has nothing to do with age or anything else.” She held his eyes as if willing him to understand.
“It’s like you see me as this fragile little princess, and I am so far from that, Johnny. So far. I can’t see why you try to see me that way.” She laughed. “It’s a thing men do. Like… Like that is love, you see? Instead of love just being about all the other stuff… The things I admire about you, you about me. The things in common, the things that we share, the parts of you and me that are real that end up in the mix… But no, I’m a princess, unattainable beauty, something to worship, and it has nothing to do with what I really am at all. I have lived that way, tried to live up to that. It’s not possible… The man I need is out there, I hope. Just someone that looks at me as me.” She watched his eyes…



Get Apocalypse Free!

https://www.amazon.com/Earths-Survivors-Apocalypse-Dell-Sweet-ebook/dp/B00YDAXFLE



Geo Dell’s The Nation Chronicles Fan Fiction: Death

Geo Dell’s The Nation Chronicles Fan Fiction: Death Kindle Edition

“Let’s close him up,” Ed Adams said. He stepped on a switch set into the floor, paused and then spoke again. “Lower the air temperature in here. We intend to keep him a few hours while we attend to other parts of the autopsy…”

https://www.amazon.com/Geo-Dells-Nation-Chronicles-Fiction-ebook/dp/B0745LRWPR


He tried to scream, but he could pull no air into his lungs. He felt his nails digging at the slippery satin, catching on the wood just below the surface and breaking, snapping off as the panic took over completely and he tried even harder to fight his way out of the casket…

https://www.amazon.com/Geo-Dells-Nation-Chronicles-Fiction-ebook/dp/B074632SGC



 

A look at the book I am working on now, Fig Street

FIG STREET

Fig Street is Copyright © Wendell Sweet 2018.

All rights foreign and domestic reserved in their entirety.

Cover Art © Copyright 2018 Wendell Sweet

Some text copyright 1984, 2010, 2014, 2015 W. G. Sweet

This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your bookseller and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

 

LEGAL

This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places or incidents depicted are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual living persons places, situations or events is purely coincidental.

This novel is Copyright © 2018 Wendell G. Sweet. Dell Sweet, W. G. Sweet and Geo Dell are publishing constructs owned by Wendell G. Sweet. No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, electronic, print, scanner or any other means and, or distributed without the author’s permission.

Permission is granted to use short sections of text in reviews or critiques in standard or electronic print.


ONE

June: Jimmy Chang’s

“So, listen, it’s like this. When I die… No… It has nothing to do with when I die. Okay, when the people in my life who have screwed me over die? They will have to pay for what they did to me,” Bobby Weston said.

“Oh. Oh, okay. I got it. The eventual retribution deal. In other words, okay, screw me over right now, but when I die you are so done,” John said.

“Okay. Yes, but not totally. I won’t get them back, God will do it for me.”

Johnny chuckled. “So God, the God, will personally pay these low rent bastards back for you… Sweet. Very sweet.”

Bobby nodded. “And it’s all biblical too. I mean completely. God says he’ll take care of it. Don’t worry about it. I got you.”

“I would like to hear God say I got you somewhere, because to be honest I have never heard him say it here. It seems kind of like a scam though that you got to wait until you’re dead to hear it. I mean what the hell is that? Who can say if that’s the deal, whether it’s real or not? I mean that is kind of a perfect con job. That’s like… That’s like those bank account scams. You know, the guy approaches you and says: “Hey! I got a million dollars in this account, but those bastards won’t let me have it. Talking about some sort of transfer fee. That’s messed up too because I don’t have no transfer fee. I mean, that’s messed up isn’t it? I can’t get the money… My own goddamned money, it’s my money, without paying this transfer fee.”

“Jesus Christ, you make me wanna give you the money, Johnny.”

“Exactly, and that is the scam. You give me my money for the transfer fee. We set it all up legal too, and bam. I got you. I’m gone. Your money’s gone. It’s a wrap, and you never see that money back or whatever I promised extra to you to get you to do it. So… So this thing is the same. You’re dead, how do you know?”

The crowd in the bar was quiet. It was early yet, the noisy younger crowd wasn’t in yet.

Jimmy Chang’s was a neighborhood bar. You wouldn’t think so in East Glennville which seemed predominantly white, but the Asians had been here far longer than some of the prominent white families. Jimmy Chang’s grandfather had come for the railroad work out west back in the 1800’s. When the work died out he had brought his family north and settled in Glennville. There were three branches of the family now: Jimmy, who ran the bar the old man had built first and saw through the dry years of prohibition. His sister Alice who ran Chang’s which was about the closest thing that Glennville had to a Coat and Tie restaurant. And Jimmy’s uncle Billy who owned a truck stop just outside of the city. The truck stop was known across the U.S. by truckers who had spread the word. Bobby had eaten there more than once. It was better food than any of the other nearby diners, and more of it too.

Bobby smiled, ignoring the pain in his side. It had been there a few days now. Maybe a little too much jogging, that stitch in your side that didn’t want to go away. Maybe he had pulled or sprained something: Who could tell. He’d had it before, or something like it, and it had passed. This would too. “Listen, Johnny… It won’t be like that for me because I’ll be right there… I’ll know… I’ll see it.”

“No… No… I mean, like… You are alive now… I’m alive now. Two seconds from now I drop dead, how do you know what I see or don’t see? How can you know even? I mean you have to die to collect, that’s pretty suspect to me, man. No die. No know,” Johnny shrugged his shoulders.

Bobby nodded. “I know. I see. But I…”

“… Been dead before… I know…” He shook his head. “It’s about the only thing that makes me believe.”

“Me dying?”

“Yep. I mean, I believe you. I don’t think you made it up. I’ve known you all of your life. I believe it.”

“Me too,” Bobby agreed. They both laughed.

Johnny hadn’t moved to Glennville and become friends with Bobby until his early teens, but he had heard the story. Back in the fourth grade Bobby had gone fishing alone. He had crossed the Black while the dam wasn’t running, and crossed over to Saints Island to fish. He had been to that island before as a younger kid with his dad. It was an easy cross, but Bobby hadn’t known anything about the dam and the levels of water in the Black. How they could change in a matter of a minute or two. When he had started back across the top of the dam  to cross the Black to get back to the main road he had slipped and gone under. A fisherman had just happened to see his head as he went under. He had managed to snag Bobby and get him to shore, but he had stopped breathing, his lungs full of water.

Bobby had been in the hospital for a month in a coma. Then one day he had awakened. The same old Bobby: Like nothing had ever happened. Except he swore that he had not been dead that whole time, or gone away from his body even when he had been dead on the river bank. He claimed to remember every part of it; all of it, right down to the fisherman’s thoughts as he had hauled Bobby out. “This kids a goner,” he had thought. “Ain’t no hope for him at all.”

Still he had gone to work, picking up his arms, flushing out his lungs, pounding his back, compressing his chest to empty the lungs. If you lived near the river things happened more often than people thought that they did. A truck had stopped on the road above the river and a power company employee had scrambled down the bank to the river. He had taken over and begun CPR; the training was required. He had never used it until then.

He had even turned Bobby upside down and wailed his back hard enough to leave bruises. He had been as surprised as anyone else had been later when Bobby had coughed, sputtered, and then began to breathe once more. Between the two of them they had laid him out on the seat of the power company truck and the man had driven him the three miles to the Glennville Community hospital.

Johnny had never forgotten Bobby relating that experience to him. He had tried to tell his parents but they had dismissed it. Johnny hadn’t. Over the years the story had never changed and Johnny had come to believe it.

He sighed and looked around the bar. The day was growing old, already a few of the younger crowd had wandered in. Looking to nail down a stool or a booth for the evening.

“Coming in earlier and earlier every day, huh?” Bobby said.

“Exactly what I was thinking… Pretty soon it won’t be our place anymore at all.” Johnny sighed again.

“Hey, let’s go to Billy’s. They got those tables right outside. The night is nice. Shit, summer will be gone before we know it. I’ll buy steaks, what do you say?” Bobby asked.

“I say that sounds goddamn good to me, that’s what I say,” Johnny agreed. He threw a ten on the bar and then followed Bobby out of the bar.

July: Jimmy Chang’s

The bar was beginning to fill up. A young guy with a shaved head and a couple pounds of metal in his face slid in next to Bobby and eyeballed him hard. Bobby turned away. He looked over at Johnny and Johnny raised his eyebrows in a What the hell gesture.

Bobby had swung by Johnny’s work place at the Ford dealership and picked him up after work. Johnny’s car was in the shop. He could have gotten a rental right through the dealership, cheaply too, but that went against Johnny’s principle of paying for something he could get for free. A ride from Bobby was free. Always had been since they had been in high school driving clunkers that would have been better off in the junkyard. Johnny had always joked that somehow Bobby always seemed to get the better junker. It broke down less, ran better, was more reliable. He didn’t know how that could be, but it had always worked out that way.

“Time moves on. It all becomes relative,” Bobby said picking up a conversation on politics that Bobby himself had started. The kid’s cologne drifted across to him. Something from back in high school. Patchouli maybe, heavy and cloying. He picked up his beer and took a deep drink. His usual smile was not in evidence.

“Yeah…” Johnny cleared his throat and took a sip of his own drink. “I just hate those bastards. Relative or not, and I ain’t saying it isn’t relative to the way we vote, live, whatever, but the politicians seem to stay the same. No good, broke down lying bastards that would gladly swipe a lollipop from a little kid and then sell it back to them in the guise of some public work project. And!” He smiled widely. “Make the kid think he had gotten something in the deal.”

That bought a ghost of a smile to Bobby’s lips. “Hey, let’s take this out back,” Bobby suddenly suggested.

“Uh… Sure,“ Johnny agreed. “You gonna pound my ass or what? Sorry I called the politicians all broke down bastards, I know Ruth’s brother Don is one.” Ruth was Bobby’s wife of twenty five years.

Bobby laughed. “No ass pounding, just need a little fresh air.” He shot a hard look at the young guy who looked away and nursed his flavored vodka. “Besides, Donnie is the worst of the worst.” He laughed and Johnny joined in. He caught Jimmy’s eye and motioned toward the back door; Jimmy nodded. He didn’t like his bottles walking out. He owed the deposit on them. And he was one tight bastard, but he knew that Bobby would be bringing his bottle back.

They stepped out into the bright moonlight of early evening. The air was cooler. For the last several days it had been super hot. Global warming they said, global holy shit it’s hot, he thought.

“So what’s up with you? … You putting your garage addition on this year,” Johnny asked, fishing for the subject that had bought them outside.

“Oh yeah. Yeah it’s going up. Got the loan. It’s in the bank account. Hired Jeremy Jefferson. Starts in two weeks.”

“Shit. I’m hanging out over there every night after it’s done.”

“Me too,” Bobby agreed. They both laughed again. Bobby sighed heavily. “Cancer, man, the big C.” He sipped at his beer. “All through me… Nothing to do for it.”

Johnny was struck silent. “I don’t even know what to say,” he said at last.

“Well there’s nothing to say,” Bobby agreed.

“But you’re still gonna build that addition?”

“Yeah… Hell yeah… I’ve waited for that forever. Besides. I’ve known men that had a few months left to live that far outlived that.”

“That what they said? A few months.”

“At the outside,” Bobby said quietly.”

The silence spun out. A small group of bats left the tall chimney which was all that remained of an old plant across the tracks and flew across the moon.

“Damn Indiana Brown Bats,” Johnny said.

“Yep. Had to tear the factory down, but they couldn’t touch the stack. Had to fix it up instead… Preserve it… Christ they’ll be sticking money into that stack for the next several centuries to keep it up. Can’t let it fall it’s their natural home now.”

“Yeah… I was shocked when the EPA decided to do that.” The bats flew off and the silence returned.

“So… What you gonna do… I mean really… What are you going to do? What can I do?” Johnny turned to Bobby.

“Really nothing… Come on over and hang out. Watch the garage go up. I’m positive I’ll beat this shit. I don’t really even feel bad… Sick.”

“Sounds like you don’t believe it,” Johnny said.

“You know what? That’s right. This ain’t like being dead… I don’t feel it. I feel like it isn’t real. Just a phase in my life someone got wrong is all…” He made eye contact and winked. “Did you know that once Donnie tried to talk me into some land deal? Swamp land!”

“Yeah… I remember you telling me. Real swamp land too,” Johnny laughed.

“Bastard sold it all and him and his partners made a few million on the down low. Who would think you could sell swampland? Not me.”

Their laughter rose up into the moonlit summer sky. Bobby tipped his beer bottle, drained it, looked at Johnny, “Another?”

“Yeah… One more,” Johnny agreed and laughed.

October: Bobby’s House

Johnny Miller stood at the edge of the sidewalk and stared at the half finished garage. His German Shepherd Tank beside him. Ruth, Bobby’s wife, had stopped the construction as soon as he had died. The garage had sat there unfinished all through the balance of the summer and into early fall. He had heard the new owners intended to finish it before winter. He thought about that. Bobby Johnson was barely cold in his grave and some other guy was going to finish his garage and sit down and have himself a beer. A beer Johnny and Bobby had planned to have once it was done and never had. Never had, had the time for. Two weeks after their night at Jimmy Chang’s when Bobby had told him about his cancer; he had dropped dead of a massive heart attack. Forty three. Healthy. Worked out twice a week. Jogged. Bang: Out of the blue. And Ruth had already sold the house and been gone for three weeks. Gone for three weeks. Back to her people in Minnesota. Jesus please us.

Tank’s nails clicked on the pavement and Johnny looked back at the sidewalk from the garage. The German Shepherd wagged his bushy tail and cocked his head. Johnny smiled. So the big C hadn’t taken him. How was that for ironic? He wondered briefly about the life after death conversation they had, had. Well, he decided now, if there was some kind of life after death Bobby was right there. He lifted his head and looked around. Maybe even watching him right now. He wondered about that for a few moments and then the big dog whined, breaking into his thoughts.

“Yeah… Let’s go, Tank. Let’s finish this walk, buddy.”

Tank needed no further urging, eagerly examining both sides of the walk as he began padding down the sidewalk once more, tugging lightly at his leash. Tank crossed the short expanse of leaf strewn berm, stopped suddenly causing Johnny to plow into him, and then took off into the street dragging Johnny with him. The end of the nylon leash burned his palm as it Tank yanked it from him and broke into a gallop. Johnny lunged off the berm and into the roadway trying to catch it, but he was too late. Tank was already across the street as he straightened, chasing after whatever had caught his attention.

He began to straighten from the crouch he had found himself in when the entire world suddenly burst into bright light.

November

Sisters of Mercy Hospital: Room 357

Becky Miller smoothed the sheets that covered Johnny, careful not to disturb all the wires and tubes that were a part of who Johnny was now. Her brother spoke from the doorway behind her and she turned and gave him a strained smile.

“Sorry,” Dell Anders said. “I thought I would offer to sit for a while… Let you get a break… Some sleep.” He moved from the doorway and hugged her to his chest. He felt her chest hitch, once, twice and then she began to sob. He eased her over to the chairs and sat her down, pulled another close and held her as she cried…

Bobby Weston

…Johnny was walking the tracks that split the neighborhood behind Fig Street: It was night… Silent and he was not alone, a young boy walked beside him. Talking quietly as Johnny listened: leading him forward; guiding him through the darkness…

“…It’s me, Bobby,” the dream boy told Johnny Miller.

Johnny stared at the kid as they walked the tracks. He had noticed something was familiar but he hadn’t been able to place what that was. He looked down at himself. He was the same. An old man following along as a little kid walked the tracks, balancing on the rails. He stopped, lost for a second.

“You okay?” Bobby asked as he stopped and turned back to face him.

“Yeah… I think, but why are you in my dream? I didn’t know you then… This place… Did I?” Johnny asked.

“Yes and no. We share certain things.” He walked back and looked up at Johnny; his face serious.

“Will you come with me?” Bobby asked urgently.

This is the strangest dream I’ve ever had, Johnny thought. He stared around at the dark trees; the cold moonlight glinting off the steel rails. The young boy faced Johnny where he stood in the road.

“It’s no dream, Johnny, no dream at all, honestly. You can’t think of it as a dream either. If you do it’ll kill you, man. For real, I swear… Will you come?” Bobby asked again. His bright blue eyes seemed to glow as they locked on Johnny’s own.

“Where?” Johnny asked. The sound of his own voice startled him. It had changed. Become a child’s voice. A voice locked on the edge of change. A voice in between man and boy. He glanced down at his body and was not surprised to see that it had also changed. What he saw was a child’s body. And not just any child, but the same child he himself had been so many years before. The same wash faded jeans, with the same patched knees. He clearly remembered those jeans. Clearly remembered his mother carefully mending the knees. The same scuffed high top sneakers, with the same knotted laces. He raised his eyes and stared back at the small boy.

Bobby moved closer, seeming to float above the surface of the road. “Now. We need to go now. There isn’t much time,” Bobby told him.

The darkness split apart, and gray rock walls sprung up where the trees had been. In the distance Johnny could hear the laughter of children echoing against the cold stone walls. The laughter turned to screams. Shrill, panicked and growing closer, the low bass growl of a wolf mixed in with the screaming. Johnny started to move towards the sound.

“No! Bobby told him. “You’ll die. Not yet. We have to be first, see? We ain’t yet. It’s too early, man. Too early. you’ll die if you try to stop it now.”

“But?” Johnny asked aloud in his child’s voice.

“Home, man,” Bobby told him. “Home first, then here, after.”

The rock walls suddenly faded, replaced by a night darkened and quiet street. Houses lined one side of the street, a huge gravel lot filled the other side. Beyond the edge of the gravel lot long rows of leaning, crumbled buildings stood outlined in pale moonlight. The remnants of a chain-link fence ran partway down the street, still enclosing the buildings in places, overgrown and fallen in others. Johnny turned toward the houses and began to walk

“Here. Right here,” Bobby told him as they walked towards one particular house.

Johnny skirted the dirt front yard of the run-down old house behind Bobby. Peeling gray paint clung to the weathered clapboard, glass from the shattered windows lay glittering in the darkness. The few that remained were filthy yellowed panes set in crumbling frames, impossible to see through. Flecks of gray littered the hard-packed dirt yard. He rounded the side of the house and stopped. A long rope dangled from a broken second floor window. “Here?” Johnny asked.

“Here,” Bobby agreed. He began to climb the rope to the window that stood open above it. He paused part way up and stared back at Johnny where he stood watching. “Climb it, man. That’s my room up there.”

The rope was not nearly as hard to climb as Johnny had thought it would be. He made his way quickly to the top, and eased over the sill into the small room. The room was dark and quiet. He made his way to a narrow cot in one corner and sat down next to Bobby. “And?” he whispered.

“Morning. We gotta wait for morning. Then we can start. Then we can do something, see?”

“No,” Johnny whispered, “I don’t see… Start what? Do What?”

“We all gotta meet,” Bobby told him. “It’s hard to explain. You see, I was here. I lived here, and there are two other kids here. They live close by. We gotta do something important, see? And we need you. We need your help, man, get it?

“No,” Johnny replied honestly, “I don’t.”

“You will. Go to sleep, man. In the morning we’ll start. In the morning. It’ll be different this time. It will.”

Johnny laid down on the narrow cot and closed his eyes.

Sleeping in a dream, he thought. A dream about sleeping. Weird.

“Not a dream,” Bobby reminded him as he spiraled away into darkness. “Not a dream.” …


Fig Street from Dell Sweet, due this Fall from Smashwords, Amazon, Nook, Kobo and iBooks…



 

A look at Zero Zero from Dell Sweet


ZERO ZERO

By DELL SWEET

Published With Amazon Digital

Copyright 2014 Dell Sweet

Copyright 1976, 1983, 1987, 2009, 2014 independAntwriters Publishing & Dell Sweet. Copyright renewed 2015, Dell Sweet. All rights reserved

This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your bookseller and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Much Thanks to: M. Laughlin, C. Maxon, G. Dell, C.J.


FOREWORD:

Somewhere in everything that I have written over the last seven or eight years, resides the story of this book. I spent a few hours trying, but I could not find it. There are times where I irritate myself and this was one of them: Because although I could have easily rewritten the information I spent the better part of an hour looking for it; as if somehow that made more sense. Of course it didn’t turn up. Things that were close to explaining it turned up, but not the text I remember writing. So I will write the story once more.

In 1976 I was a young man and I wanted to be a writer. I wrote a short story about this closed up series of caves where bad things happened. I didn’t know what bad things happened there, only that they were bad; probably very bad. I had some vague ideas, Russians, Dead people, Military types. All the things that used to scare me back then. I struggled for what was probably a few months and managed a short story that had very little to do with the caves and more to do with some post apocalypse cave man who was affected by radiation deformities, part of which made him want to kill and eat other people. That short story was sixteen pages long, handwritten, and everyone who read it thought maybe it was a joke of some kind and maybe I should consider doing something else instead of writing.

So I put it away and life took a giant step forward to 1983. I found myself working at home and had a lot of extra time on my hands. I happened across the manuscript as I liked to think of it, all sixteen yellowed and dog eared pages, and began to re-write it. It held my attention for a while and then life took another step forward to 1987. Still working at home, only now involved in the world wide web, as we called it. A thing most people thought would go nowhere at all. I got back into writing and fell into that story. This time it actually went where I wanted it to go, where I thought it should go all those years before. I wrote it and then wrote a sequel, and then a few dozen short stories and then life took another giant step.

When things shook out again it was 2010 and I was in a position to once again write. I thought about that first book, and the sequel, and the short stories, all lost now, gone to who knew where. Thinking didn’t bring them back but it did get me writing again. The first thing I did was re-write that book. It came out nothing like that long before first book had: It had taken a few twists and turns in the writing; in trying to remember what the other book had been about so many years before, and colored by all the things that had happened during that passage of time.

In any event I liked it, so I wrote another part and added it to it, and then another, and pretty soon there were twenty books written from that long ago first book. A series really. Then I wrote another book, and  another, and one day I woke up and realized that I was not still hoping to be a writer, I was a writer.

Sometimes I would think about that first book and regret losing it, but I would also remind myself that if I had not lost it I would have never written all of the other books that I had written, or at least not the way they were written,. Maybe they would have been better, maybe worse. Who can tell when you think about changing circumstances. I moved on, literally forgot about those books and stories, and then one day my son called me and told me he had found those files in a digital format. All of them. He doesn’t know if we can get them or not, or if they will be readable if we are able to get them. He only knows we have a shot at getting them.

To make a long story short we did get them, and everything except for the second book was easy to get and download to my own computer. The second book was not easy at all. I ended up using a program that downloads the file no matter what condition it is in. It simply fills the corrupted sections with zeros. Amazing. I got about 95% of the second book that way. Small sentences missing here and there, a few words or a paragraph there, but easily reconstructed.

I marveled over the technology that allowed me to pluck that book out of time, nearly twenty years of it, and then took a walk back through time and read that first book and those short stories from way back then. There were some that I did not even remember writing until I began to read them and then the story flooded back into my head. It was great.

The thing was life was busy and I had a lot of work laid out in front of me. It took awhile to get back to that first book. I debated over whether to do anything with it except read it and then let it sit. But after I read it I decided that in very many ways I liked it as much as the books I had written to replace it. In some ways even more.

That is this book you are about to read. Started when I was a kid just out of the service with a young wife and son, finished when I am at the other end of that spectrum. Kind of funny. Maybe it puts end to what I began. I don’t know. I do know I liked the book then, I thought the story just flowed from me and I really felt a part of it, and that has always been the hallmark of good writing to me, being right in the story. Falling into it. Starting to care about the characters and their circumstances.

So here it is forty years late: The road to publishing this book was a hard one, but I hope that you like it as much as I have enjoyed watching it come together.

Dell Sweet

July-24th 2014


This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places or incidents depicted are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual living persons places, situations or events is purely coincidental.

This novel is Copyright © 1976 – 2014 Wendell Sweet & independAntwriters Publishing. Dell Sweet is a publishing name for Wendell Sweet. All other copyright notices are herein encompassed. All national and foreign rights are reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, electronic, print, scanner or any other means and, or distributed without the author’s permission.

Permission is granted to use short sections of text in reviews or critiques in standard or electronic print.


ZERO ZERO


Preamble

June 15th

Ira Pratt stared at the squared board lost in thought. If he moved to the right, he would surely lose two checkers. Maybe, he thought, as many as four. Moving to the left would not help either. There was actually only one semi-safe move to make, and that was straight ahead. But even that move could put a hurtin’ on his few remaining checkers, he thought. Nothing to do for it though, but move it, and see what happened.

He stared into the thoughtful eyes of the older man across the table, trying to read them. No good, he was a master at hiding his thoughts. His face was calm and carefully composed, not so much as a smile played at the corners of his mouth.

Ira gave in and decisively moved one checker forward and then leaned back into his chair, waiting to see what the older man would do.

“Well, I see you have left me little choice, Ira,” the older man said. He picked up one of his own checkers and carefully slid it forward as he finished speaking.

“That was what I was hoping you’d do,” Ira said grinning as he jumped two of the older man’s checkers.

“No doubt about it, Ira, you’re just too good for me,” the older man replied. He smiled widely, and pleasantly, and then changed the subject. “How about we take a short break, Ira, maybe go for a walk. You must get tired of beating me all the time?”

“Well,” Ira replied, “I kind ‘a get the idea you let me beat you some times, but sure, I wouldn’t mind a break at all.”

“I would never let you beat me, Ira. It is a good thing we don’t play poker though. I might gamble the entire kingdom away trying to beat you,” the older man replied laughing. “Besides I have my reasons for wanting to take a break right now. I see it like this, if you and I take a break, maybe once we return your concentration will not be so keen, and then maybe I will win one of these games for a change.” He rose from the small table as he finished speaking. “Ready, Ira?”

“Yep.”

Ira closed his eyes. He could have kept them open, and a few times he had, but the trip was unnerving enough without adding the visual aspects to it. Not that there was anything to see except darkness for the split second they would be traveling, he thought. Still…

He opened his eyes. They had actually only been shut for less than a second, but in that space of time they had traveled a considerable distance, or at least seemed to have. The small table that had been before him was gone, replaced by a lush green valley. A calm blue river flowed across the valley floor far below. He followed it with his eyes as it wound away in the distance.

“It’s beautiful,” Ira exclaimed, “but will it still be…?” He let the question trail away.

“Yes it will, as will several others, Ira. But it need not be this place, there are so many to choose from,” the older man informed him. “Come.”

Ira blinked, and when he opened his eyes they were standing in a high mountain meadow. Wild flowers covered the meadow, and a large, summer-fat herd of deer grazed peacefully among them. A large buck raised its heavily antlered head and stared at the two men, but perceiving no threat went back to grazing the field.

“This is also beautiful,” Ira said quietly.

“It only matters where, Ira. There are so many. There were even more, and there will be again.”

“I’ll have to tell Cora about this place, and the other,” Ira replied, still watching the deer graze.

“You should, Ira. In fact, there will be many things to tell her. Things she will need to know, Ira.”

“Tonight?”

“Yes. The time is short.”

“I was afraid of that,” Ira said slowly.

“There is no reason to be afraid, Ira.”

“I know that. I guess I mean afraid, as in I wish it didn’t have to happen.”

“I knew what you meant, Ira, but it is necessary. As much as I would wish that it was not, it is.”

Ira nodded his head slowly. “I know.”

The two men stood in silence for several minutes, watching the deer in the field. It seemed so peaceful to Ira, a good place to be, a good place to live, and that made it harder to accept that most of it would soon be gone. The older man spoke, breaking the silence that had fallen between them.

“Would you like to look at some others, Ira?”

“I believe I would at that. I think I’d like to look at as much as I kin before it’s gone, I guess. Does that sound wrong?”

“No, Ira, it does not, I too wish to look… Ready?”

Ira nodded but did not close his eyes. Darkness enveloped him, and a sense of speed. The absence of light was complete; he could only sense the presence of the older man beside him as the traveled through the dark void.

– 2 –

Far below the small city of Watertown New York, Richard Pierce sat working before an elaborate computer terminal. He had just initiated the program that managed the small nuclear power plant hidden deep below him in the rock. A small handset beside the computer station chimed, and he picked it up and listened. He did not speak at first, but as he listened a smile spread across his face. “Very good,” he said happily, when the caller was finished, “keep me advised.” He set the small handset back into its cradle and turned his attention back to the screen in front of him. The plant had powered up just as it was supposed to, no problems whatsoever, and that made Richard Pierce extremely happy. Two more days tops, he thought, and then maybe I’ll get out of this dump.

He supposed he should feel honored that he was even here. It was after all one of the biggest projects in the country, albeit top secret, but he could not help the way he felt. He was close to a mile underground, totally cut off from everything and everyone, and he hated it. If he had a choice, which he had not, he would never have come at all. But he had written the software that handled the power plant, as well as several other sections of the underground city, and that made it his baby. There were a couple of small bugs, mainly due to the fact that no one had been allowed to know what the entire program was supposed to do. The way the rewrites were going however, it looked as though he would not be stuck here anywhere near as long as he had originally thought, and that was something to think about. He had begun to feel that he would never leave this rock bound prison, and wouldn’t that be a real bitch.

– 3 –

At a large gravel pit on the outskirts of Watertown, Gary Jones carefully maneuvered the wide mouth of the loader bucket over the dump box of the truck, and pulled back on the lever closest to him to release the load. Ain’t this something, he thought as he slowly topped off the dump box, barely 10 AM and we’ve already sent out twenty seven truckloads of gravel to the base.

Six men out sick, and another forty truckloads to deliver before five tonight. What in hell are they doing with all this gravel? He wondered. It was a question he had asked many times before, and still had not gotten an answer to. Uncle Sam paid well though, and on time to boot, so he guessed he probably shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. He signaled the driver, and he pulled away with a whoosh of air as he released the brakes. Another dump truck lumbered up to take his place, and he pushed the questions out of his mind as he began filling the box.

– 4 –

In Seattle Washington, Harvey Pearlson sat at his wide mahogany desk and talked quietly into the phone.

The extravagantly appointed office was located on the top floor of one of Seattle’s most highly regarded newspapers. Pearlson had worked his way up from the bottom, after starting as a carrier in 1955, sixteen floors below.

“No,” Pearlson said quietly, “I don’t want to know. I just thought that maybe it could be handled in some other way.” He listened for a few minutes nodding his head as he did.

“Yes, yes I see, but?” He rubbed his eyes as he listened. “No, I don’t,” he said emphatically, “I happen to like him a great deal, and if you give me the time…” The voice on the other end of the line cut him off, and he once again listened quietly.

“I see,” he said, once the voice had finished speaking. “No, I do understand. I won’t. Do you think I’m that stupid? Give me a little credit here, will you. You wouldn’t even be aware of it if I hadn’t called you in the first place, for Christ’s sake.” He listened for a few seconds longer, then hung up the phone.

There was no reasoning with Weekes, he told himself, and he was going to do what he was going to do. For Frank’s sake, he wished he had never called him at all. Too late now though, he told himself, far too late. After all, he had done his best to swing Frank away from the story, but Frank Morgan was not a man who could be easily swayed, and, he told himself, unless he wanted to find himself in the same circumstances, he had better just shut up and let it go. He reached over and thumbed the intercom button.

“Cindy?”

“Yes Sir?”

“I’m going to be out the rest of the day, Cindy, and if Frank Morgan comes looking for me before he leaves, you don’t know where I am, correct?”

“Yes Sir.”

“Anything important comes up you can reach me on my mobile, Cindy.”

“Yes Sir, Mister Pearlson.”

Harvey Pearlson picked up his briefcase and left the office. Whatever Weekes had in mind, he wanted nothing to do with it, and he didn’t want to be available for any sort of questions that might arise either. It was unfortunate enough that he had started the whole ball rolling;he had no intention of sticking around to see where it ended up stopping. No, he told himself, the lake was the best place to be. The only place to be, and he intended to stay there until the whole thing blew over just as he had been told to.

He took his private elevator down to the garage area, walked across to his Lincoln, and drove out of the parking garage, turning right on Beechwood. He passed a hooker standing at the corner of the building, and thought just how badly Beechwood Avenue had gotten as of late. He would have to speak to the security people when he got back from the lake. Putting up with the hookers that had taken over the avenue at night was one thing, but broad daylight? Standing right in front of the frigging building? No, something would have to be done, and if the security people couldn’t take care of it, maybe he’d speak to Weekes. After all, he owed him one now, didn’t he? He pushed the thought away, signaled, and pulled out onto the loop. In an hour he’d be at the lake, and then he could forget about the whole mess, for today at least. He eased the car up to sixty, and leaned back into the leather upholstery to enjoy the drive.

– 5 –

April 11th 1952

Ira Pratt drove the old tractor carefully down the side of the slippery hill. It had been raining for close to three days, and it didn’t look as though it was going to let up right quick, he thought.

The rain was causing all sorts of problems, and not just for him, he knew, but for the cows as well. The biggest problem was the creek, and the only way the creek wasn’t going to be a problem was to unplug the thing.

He sat on the tractor as it slipped and slid its way down the hill through the gray sheets of rain. Ira let out a sigh of relief once it reached the bottom. For a second there, he had been sure both he and the old tractor would end up in the creek, but God was smiling on him today.

He slipped the worn gearbox into neutral, and sat looking at the rush of muddy-brown water. The creek was a good four feet above the point of flooding, and he wasn’t sure it was a smart move to try to put the tractor in that. The tractor was sure footed, but so was a goat, and he’d seen more than one goat end up on its ass. But there wasn’t anything else for it. If he didn’t move the trees that were clogging the creek, and flooding it out and over the banks, then he might as well just sit back and watch a couple more cows drown.

Ira knew cows, pretty much anyhow, and every one that he and Cora owned were just as stupid as any other cow he’d ever seen. The cows didn’t understand flooding, they didn’t understand how the water could weaken the banks, and so the big dummies just walked on down to the creek, just like any other day, and got swept away when the bank crumbled under their weight. Three days of rain and four dead cows, and though cows were stupid, they weren’t cheap.

Ira sat in the pouring rain and stared at the creek. Normally, the creek was no more than eighteen inches deep at the most. Course normal wasn’t what it was today, he thought, and wishin’ it was wouldn’t make it so. It was his own damn fault, he reminded himself.  Two of the trees that were clogging it had been there last summer, and hadn’t he promised Cora he’d take ’em out before fall? He had, but he hadn’t, and so here he was in the pouring rain fixin’ to half kill himself to get ’em out.

Looked like the best way, Ira thought, might be to try and snag the biggest one right from the bank. He squinted as he shielded his eyes to peer through the rain. One thing was for sure, sittin’ on the tractor and thinkin’ about it, wasn’t gonna get it. Reluctantly, Ira climbed down off the tractor and edged closer to the bank. The rain was coming down hard, but the section he stood upon seemed solid enough. “Probably what the cows thought,” he muttered as he moved closer.

He walked back to the tractor, unwound a long section of chain from behind the seat, and walked back to the creek. The top of the bigger tree was sticking a good three feet over the bank, and he was glad that it was. He could see that the water was rising faster, and moving along quicker, and he had no wish to get any closer to it than he had to. Quickly, but carefully, he wound the chain around the tree and pegged the links with an old bolt to hold them. Looks good, and solid as well, he thought as he slipped the other end of the chain over the bucket. He genuinely didn’t want to try and turn the tractor around. In fact, he thought, as muddy as the ground was, he’d be damn lucky just to get it back up and away from the creek when he finished.

He gave an experimental tug at the chain, and then climbed back up on the tractor. Carefully, without grinding the gears any more than he surely had to, shifted into reverse. He played the clutch out slowly and brought up the slack in the chain.

“Well God?” He asked, looking skyward, “You keepin’ a watch down here? I could sure use a hand about now, Lord. Amen,” Ira finished.

He let the clutch out a little further, playing the gas pedal as he did, and let the tractor go to work. The oversized tires spun, caught, and the tractor began to slowly back up the steep bank, pulling the tree out of the muddy water as it did. Ira released the breath he had been holding, and just as he did the chain snapped in two. Ira barely had time to register what had happened, when the old tractor flipped, crushing him beneath it.


One


 ALEA IACTA EST


ONE

June 15th: Seattle Washington

~1~

The wind kicked up along Beechwood Avenue in Seattle’s red light district. A paper bag went rolling along the cracked sidewalk: Skipping over Willie LeFray’s feet where he stood watching the traffic… thinking. One trick… The right trick… Somebody with money and he could call the night good. Just enough to get a good high… Or enough to get enough shit to get a good high tonight and maybe a good high tomorrow when it all wore off and the jingle jangles set in? … Maybe, he decided. Maybe. Willie stood watching the cars as the paper bag bounded over his feet and tumbled along the avenue.

– 2 –

For Franklin W. Morgan, just Frank to his friends, June 15Th, had been a particularly hard day.

As he sat at the small, scarred, wooden table at Mikes Pub on Sixth Avenue, nursing a shot of gin, his thoughts turned inward, mulling over the same problem he had been mentally chewing for the last several weeks. It always came back, no matter how far away he pushed it.  It slipped right back to the front and began to hammer away at him. But today was much worse. It had seemed endless as it dragged on, and he had been able to concentrate on next to nothing. He had avoided the office, and Pearlson, no sense compounding things when he was so close to the truth by chancing a confrontation with Pearlson.

Pearlson was… Pearlson was, a piece of shit, he thought. However, at the moment it wasn’t just Pearlson that had him so keyed up and anxious, it was leaving, and, he supposed, that was just as it should be.

The thing that had made it difficult to get through was the pressure and anxiety he always felt when he was on the trail of a promising story. That and the stress associated with the story.

It was not so much the stress his job placed on him; he had always dealt with that quite well. He knew what it was, and what it had been for several weeks now. All of those late night calls to his sources in New York. No sleep, virtually working around the clock; sifting through the information this source or another provided; sorting out the truth from imagination, and getting to the facts, or as close as he could get to them. That, coupled with the fact that he had been the only one, save Jimmy, who believed it, and now Jimmy was apparently missing so he could add the disappearance of a good friend to the growing list of worries that kept him up at night. This was turning into a three ring circus damn fast, and he didn’t like. He didn’t like it at all.

He was sure now, or as sure as anyone could be. But, who the hell would believe him? Not his editor, that was for sure. He would not soon forget the day two weeks ago, when he had approached the subject with him either. It had been partly his own fault, Frank realized. He had not been as prepared as he should have been. He had also possessed no hard facts, he reminded himself, and he had speculated far too heavily for Pearlson’s taste. Even so, he was just as convinced as he had been then. No. More so now, he amended.

Two additional weeks of digging into it, with Jimmy’s help, had produced a wealth of information, and it was no longer just conjecture as the old man Pearlson had said, but a steadily growing stack of cold hard facts.

Pearlson had still laughed, and told him he should try writing fiction for a living. But there had been something else lurking just behind that laugh, hadn’t there? Perhaps a hint of nervousness maybe?

Pearlson had also suggested that just maybe Frank needed a vacation, and, things being the way they were Frank had taken him up on the last suggestion.

Screw him, Frank thought as he sat at the table and drained the last of his drink… Just screw him.

That was what had made his days so long and his nights so sleepless, he reasoned. Churning around in his head was all of that knowledge… Along with fear, fear of what that knowledge may mean.

But did he actually know anything? He asked himself, and could he actually prove what he did know? Yes, Dammit… And just as suddenly, probably not. He couldn’t prove all of it yet, at least not entirely, he admitted.

Not for much longer though, he told himself, the proof part of it was about to change. He had made plans to go to New York. Directly to the source, so to speak, and find out just exactly what was going on. No conjecture, no guessing, no screwing around at all. If Pearlson wanted facts, Frank would get them one way or the other, he had decided. And the suggestion to take a vacation couldn’t have been a better cover for him to go under, he reasoned.

No, he decided, it wouldn’t be much longer at all. Two weeks in upstate New York and he would know for sure. Frank saw no way that Pearlson could kill the story then. Not faced with cold hard facts.

But Pearlson could be an idiot, what if he still rejected the truth even after the facts were presented, he asked himself. Well, if he did, Frank reasoned, that would open up a whole new set of problems. Maybe Pearlson was involved somehow… Maybe not, but the whole thing had smelled of a cover up from the start, and if Pearlson cut the story loose, if he still placed no faith in it, then there had to be a reason, and maybe… And maybe shit! If it turned out that way, then maybe it would be time to move on.

He rose slowly from his chair and fighting his way through the crowded table area, made his way to the bar.

“Another Gin, Mike,” he said, once he had gotten the old man’s attention. “On second thought hold the ice , just straight up.” He stared miserably at the jukebox in the corner that blared incessantly, and silently urged it to fall silent as he waited for the drink. His thoughts, still clouded, turned back to the problem he was constantly turning over in his mind, when a glance at his wristwatch reminded him of how late it actually was.

He turned his attention back to the bartender. “Shit! Mike, I’ve got to go see the kid’s and I am already late,” he threw a twenty on the bar, “that should cover the tab.”

“What about this?” Mike asked, holding up the shot glass.

“You drink it, Mike, I truly am late. I’ve gotta go,” Frank replied as he started to turn towards the front door.

“Hey?” Mike called in a questioning manner. Frank turned back to the bar.

“Get some sleep, Frank,” Mike said, “your eyes look like two piss holes in the snow.”

“Yes mother,” Frank joked, “I will.”

Frank smiled to himself. They always played this game, and had been at it for the twenty years that Frank had been coming into Mike’s. Mike seemed to think it was his duty to mother him, even more so since Jane had died.

“See you in a couple of weeks or so, Mike,” Frank called as he stepped out the door. He glanced at his watch once again as he did. I’ll never make it, he thought, no way.

He resigned himself to the fact that he would more than likely be late, and not for the first time this week. He had already been late three times, picking up Patty and Tim from the sitter.

Cora Pratt, the sitter, could pitch a real fit when she wanted to, he thought. “Well I’ll deal with her when I get there,” he mumbled to himself. Besides, he thought, tonight I don’t have to pick them up, just say good-bye for two weeks.

The heat assaulted him as he stepped out of the air conditioned comfort of the bar, and he winced.

Twenty seven years of living in Seattle had not changed a thing for him. He felt about the city as he always had. It was too hot in the summer, what there was of it, and too damn cold and windy in the winter, and it wasn’t home. He still thought about it as a place he was only visiting. He never had gotten used to it, and, he knew, he never would.

Frank worked the handle upward slowly, pulling the driver side door of the company car open carefully. He had to as this one stuck if you were forceful, and then he would end up crawling over the damn passenger seat to reach the driver’s side. It seemed to him that he had once had this car when it was new. It was hard to tell though as it was a pool car, and the younger generation of reporters in the press pool beat the hell out of all the cars.

“Too many hot-rod kid’s driving the piss out of them,” he said aloud as he keyed the motor and pulled the Plymouth Voyager out into the traffic. He headed out of the city, towards the suburbs and Cora Pratt…



 

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