Brotherly Love

17 comments

Hey, World!

28 comments

River, Keep on Flowing

26 comments

Altar of Remembrance

14 comments

BUY MY BOOKS

BUY MY BOOKS

Guess it could be considered foolhardy to look too far into the future when you’re old in age but young in heart. Whether it is or it isn’t, if you’re breathing and still have a working mind, use every millimeter of it. AND, go BIG in your thinking and planning. It’s just as easy to think BIG as it is to think small.

So, here’s what I’m thinking…

Get all your friends together, ALL of you, and insist, by cajoling, by insisting, by threatening loss of friendship, by any means available to you, except, of course, mind-altering drugs, weaponry of any kind, or, poisons of any kind.

Now that you’ve got all of your friends together, ALL of you, brain-whip them into buying BR Chitwood’s books, either paperback or e-book.

‘WHY’? You Ask!

Because it’s simply the right thing to do! They will see how a most worthy author writes excellent books, nay, quintessential books, literary quality (though lacking leather covers!), and for the price that one might pay for apple pie al a mode or a small pack of lung-oxidizing cigarettes…that is, if anyone smokes these days – it’s been thirty-five years since I gave them up. And, I had just bought a pack…crushed them with one hand. But, back to ‘breathing and working minds’ and ‘buying my books’!

‘BUT, WHY’? You ask again. So, being the right thing to do is not enough! Then, gracious! Think of book stores, of those unseen electronic elves that magically form the words onto a screen attached to a ‘mis-nomered’ tablet and/or laptop…did you know that a “‘killer whale’ is a ‘misnomer’ for what is one of the gentlest marine creatures known to man?” Actually, that is a very good description of my books (NOT, the ‘marine creature’ thingy!) AND a good reason for you, ALL your friends and all your neighbors to BUY my books. Hope I didn’t make you think of going to Sea-World…that’s much more expensive than buying my books.

Now, go back and read the first line of this missive! I believe you folks to be good and honest people, so I ask you, did I not convince you to buy my books?

It’s not easy to make a fool of oneself, but for the sake of my books I’ll do that in the very next blog post I write but, for now, think of these good reasons I’ve given you here to buy my books.

‘Dimwittingly’ yours!

BR Chitwood – September 11, 2018

Please see synopses of all my books at:

https://billyraychitwood.com

Please follow my Blog at:

https://brchitwood.com

Please follow me on Twitter:

https://twitter.com/brchitwood

Hammer’s Holy Grail

Hammer’s Holy Grail

by BR Chitwood

-Coming July – 2018- 

 

“Hammer’s Holy Grail” is a relatively short read of 36,000-+ words. It will be published without launch, without fanfare (except for this blog post!) later this month! The book is about a kid who has an emotional family situation – angry father, his critical Appalachian uncertainty, gifted with football talent and a beautiful girlfriend he’s known since junior high.

Wesley Walton is a sophomore at Garden View University in Knoxville, Tennessee, has a great passing arm and faces a great future. The pro-football scouts are already looking at the kid with a golden arm.

Wesley meets a man named ‘Hammer’ who is both a decorated veteran and a person of great wisdom and with a unique hobby. Wes and Hammer become immediate friends.

The short tale follows Wesley’s football season as well as his parental love and woes. The book is not a ‘thriller’ or destined to be a classic by any means, but the pages do carry some interesting moments, and I believe it to be well-written… In any event, it will be an inexpensive read and one I hope the book buyer will like, PLUS, I’m giving you the first chapter free of charge in this post. Feel free in letting me know what you think.

So, no launch, no parades and graffiti, just my usual ‘do nothing’ marketing campaign with a hope some of you will buy the book, give me some ‘reviews’, and ‘PUSH’ it forward.

Here’s the first chapter (working on the cover):

HAMMER’S HOLY GRAIL

Chapter One

The darkness and fog are palpable viscid sweat things crawling all over my flesh! A gentle wind stir comes and my skin does shiver dances. I swallow and it’s like I’m somewhere between passing out and regaining my breath.

My eyes cannot be trusted. I rub my eyes and they project things that are not really there. My mind questions the logic that brought me to that decision. My concentration is drawn to these vague flashing images that keep popping up in spaces to the front, sides, and back of me… I figure it’s the mind doing its reckoning! I’m likely trying too hard to see and my brain is trying to accommodate me.

Okay, I admit it. I’m a big boy, scared. I mean, there is no way this world can be this dark and foggy.

“Why?” Someone might ask, “are you so stupid to be standing where you’re standing?”

The reason is really simple, but I’m going to make it complicated for you…not out of a warped and evil sense, but because this is a story I need to tell and it has some crazy turns and twists. Call it a weird psychological need if you want! That’s as good a description as any, but, please understand, I have not lost all my marbles. Then, again, maybe my bio here is not so unusual a tale after all. Maybe you readers have experienced some of the same events in your life – only, framed differently.

So, this little journey on which I’m taking you, please stay with me. An Epic? Probably not, but it might have some stuff that’ll stay with you for a while after I’m finished with the narrative – up to the point when I run out of words.

***

When I was a little boy, my crippled cousin had to have the light on during his dark bedtime hours. Now, I didn’t tease him about that but if I just mentioned it he chased me up one country road and down another. If I didn’t have a pretty good lead he’d catch me. Then, we would end up wrestling until one of us said ‘Uncle’ – usually me! We were best pals and I loved my club-footed cousin-buddy, but he would get madder than a frigging copperhead on LSD if anyone brought up sleeping with lights on.

That’s not part of this rather complicated story, at least, not in a major way. This darkness and fog just makes me think of JB – JB Hill, that’s his name. He’s the son of my Dad’s sister, Norma Hill.

I don’t want you to think JB is so crippled everyone has to be sorry for him. He turns out later on to be a top scratch golfer. He’s gone now, died too darned early in his life because of some darned rare breathing illness. His sisters and brother were with him when he left us. His wife should have been there with him, but, earlier, JB caught her screwing the next-door neighbor, and my cousin beat the shit out of the neighbor and threw all her clothes – and her – out of the house. Sure, he was club-footed but he was no chicken yellow-belly. Nobody gave him any crap, that’s for sure.

Well, again, that’s not part of the complicated story either – but I won’t lead you on any further.

It all starts with my sister, Sarah Lou. She’s sixteen going on twenty-four, if you get my drift, built like a brick shit-house, big boobs, long silky brown hair, great figure, pretty, and she reckons she’s the ‘cat’s meow’. It seems she knows early on she wants to taste some parts of life she is no way ready to taste.

I’m convinced Sarah Lou is the genuine product of her – and, my – dad. No question about it! He gets madder than hell and beats up on her and my Mom. Well, he did when he was coming around more

Dad has this fiery temper, and it’s his way or the highway, so to speak. This is when he’s visiting us. He and Mom are divorced, and Dad seems to have these demons inside him that make for crazy flip-outs at any moment. I’ve noticed his behavior changes when Mom mentions her side of the family – they don’t like Dad and he doesn’t like them. Of course, that gut-searing corn whiskey could have something to do with it. He likes his hooch! He’s also tall, good-looking in a George Clooney kind of way (sort of!) and has a thing for the ladies. How can I know that? Well, that’s a whole different story, and it’s doubtful I’ll ever tell it!

Well, anyhow, the genes running loose through Sarah Lou must be near-identical to Dad’s.

Moving the story along, Sarah Lou turns sixteen and elopes with an army corporal, runs off to another state when the corporal gets transferred. Mom is heart-sick and scared because she knows she’s got to tell Dad the news. And, me, well, I’m scared right along with her. You see, it’s just Mom and me since Sarah Lou eloped, and I sure have sleepless nights worrying about my dear sweet mother. She works so hard to make ends meet, has no time for socializing and being with her friends. It’s part of her nature to worry and fret about things. Did I fail to mention? My Mom is a beautiful lady, big brown eyes that sparkle and brown hair to go with them. She looks like a famous old-time movie star by the name of Claudette Colbert, famous actress during that golden era of Hollywood. Mom and I are fans of ‘old movies’.

Through some rough times, Mom has done her best to shelter my sister and me from all those emotional ills of divorce and the economic crises that rise from working sometimes two jobs. She has done well by Sarah Lou and me despite the troubles she’s had to bear. Dad’s visits end up most of the time in bad arguments and fights. As a young kid, I saw him too often physically abuse Mom and, somehow, I still love the man.

Enough ugly truth for a few sentences. Suffice it, Mom worked hard and got me through high school where I played quarterback for the football team and got a scholarship to Garden View University. Garden View is part of the greater metro area of Knoxville, Tennessee, and the university sets on a lovely and lush campus of about one hundred acres. It is a university that dates back to the 1940s and has academic achievement awards that any higher institution would covet.

Well, as implied above, here is more ugly truth.

Mom and I, my now older club-footed cousin, JB, and Lulu, his big sister on my Dad’s side of the family, go to the Hooper Hotel in Knoxville where my Dad is living to tell him about Sarah Lou’s elopement.

In Dad’s hotel room, my Cousin and his sister take the two chairs in the room and I sit under a window on an old radiator…you know, those ugly heavy metal gray vertically-elongated rods connected all in a row as one unit. Now, the heat isn’t on during this visit, but those units are particularly awful and uncomfortable to sit on. And, you’re right, those heating units were not built to be sat on. I just keep changing my sitting ‘this way and that’, dictated by my butt cheeks.

Now, Dad knows right away that something is up, and, he knows it isn’t good news – guess our sad faces and body language give us away.

When Dad hears the news about Sarah Lou, he stomps around the room in a fury, the anger and prelude to eruption showing on his face. Abruptly, he stops in front of Mom who is sitting on the bed. My sweet hard-working, lovely Mom sits there very still with her hands clasped on her lap with a blanched and pitiful look on her face, puffy from crying and the awful dread of telling Dad news of Sarah Lou’s rash elopement.

My ‘tainted-gene’ Dad hovers over Mom, his face distorted with fury like a dragon breathing fire, gritting his teeth, and says, “Damn you, Maureen.”

Suddenly, he gives Mom a hard looping open-hand slap to the face with so much force it knocks her over. My immediate fear is that he’s knocked something loose in her brain or upper body…and he’s getting ready to do more hitting.

I’m petrified and watching it all from this hotel room radiator and l reckon something snaps inside me. I’ve watched this kind of madness too many times before as a young kid. I’m a lot bigger now and I rush him and tackle him onto the bed, crying and mumbling something stupid, like, ‘I’ve seen you do that to my Mom too many times’. I’ll never forget – he’s got this look on his face like a slight smile and surprise all at the same time.

Multiple times I hit him with my fists, lost in my own anger, my tears dropping down on his face. Mom moves from the bed and stands crying in the corner of the hotel room.

Soon, Dad is not moving. I must have connected with a vulnerable spot on his head. It’s like he just turns his head over to the side and goes to sleep.

Seconds pass and I realize what has happened. I’ve attacked my own father and knocked him out. His pulse is okay, and I feel a bit better. After several anxious minutes of trying to revive him, I tell our little group that Dad will be crazy mad when he comes around so we likely should leave.

We hustle out of Dad’s room and loudly close the door. I feel bad leaving him unconscious on the bed, but more afraid of what he might do when he comes out of it and we’re still there.

Mom cries all the way down in the elevator, and we go unnoticed out a side entrance of the lobby.

I drive my Cousin and his sister home, and, except for the sound of the car engine, no one makes a sound. Tears flow down our faces, and the only sounds in the car are from our sniffing. We all hug and kiss each other when they get out of the car at their place.

Next, I drive Mom to her folks’ place some forty miles away.

We give Grandma and Grandpa all the news about our fateful visit with Dad, and they’re madder than hornets in a whirl-wind. ‘Is he dead?’ ‘Is he alive?’ They want to know. I ask Mom to promise me she’ll stay with the grandparents until she hears from me. There’s no way Dad, assuming I didn’t kill him, would want to go around Grandpa because of a fight they had some years back. Grandpa gave Dad quite a whipping.

After a few more tears are shed, I take off. Mom pleads with me to stay but she can’t talk me out of leaving. I’m worried about my dad and want to go back to the Hooper Hotel and check on him.

Beneath my tousled blond hair, my head inside is churning with thoughts as I drive back to the hotel. The closer I get, the more I become anxious and fearful of what I’ll find.

There’s this grim need to know about my Dad, whether he’s okay or dead. I’m a sturdy 6’2” young man now, 185 pounds, playing quarterback as a Sophomore at Garden View University. It’s difficult to calculate how hard I hit my Dad – I feel like a part of me was holding back.

There is just no way to forget what I did in that hotel room. Now, after a few hours, I’m making a return visit to the Hooper Hotel. I need to know, one way or another, about my Dad. Is he alive? Is he dead? Despite losing it and hitting him, I still love my Dad. Guess I should hate him, but I don’t. Seeing Mom so fearful and frozen in place I denied my own fear and went after my Dad.

I park Mom’s car fifty feet down the street from the Hooper Hotel and walk to the side entrance into the lobby.

The elevator is on the lobby level as if waiting for me. On Dad’s floor, the elevator comes to a stop, doors open, and my heart jumps into my mouth as I reflexively take a step forward!

My Dad is standing in front of me, his eyes blinking like he is trying to clear his head.

“You coming off of the elevator, young fellow?” Dad asks in an impatient and impersonal tone.

He wrinkles his brow as he notices the apparent surprise on my face. “You all right, boy?”

“Dad, it’s me!”

He did a fast look behind him like I was talking to someone else.

Dad blinks some more. “You’re mixed up, boy, I don’t have a son. Now, stay in the elevator or get out. I fell and cracked my head…have to get it taken care of.”

“But, Dad, I hit you when you hurt Mom. You slapped her so hard I was worried for her. I must have given you a concussion. I just couldn’t stand by and watch you hurt her. Please let me help you!”

Dad grabs my arm and pulls me out of the elevator onto the hallway carpeting. “Told you, boy, I’ve got no son.” He goes into the elevator, pushes the lobby button on the control panel and is gone.

I can’t say how long I stand rooted to that spot in front of the elevator. I’m aware enough to know that there are other people entering and exiting the elevator while I’m standing there. I’m dumbfounded by Dad’s reaction – He seemed so sure about what he was saying.

Finally, worried sick, I take the stairs down seven floors and walk out the hotel’s side lobby entrance. My befuddled mind is on automatic pilot and leads me down the street to Mom’s car. At least, I know he’s alive. Guess that’s something of a relief.

When I pull away from the curb, confused and frightened, I drive around aimlessly, turning left here, turning right there, lost in cascading thoughts, my mind reviewing over and over the events of the day.

I drive for miles not mindful of where I’m going. Tears flow until my eyes get all misty and puffy from rubbing them with my shirt sleeve. My brain tells me to pull off the road.

I’m somewhere out in the ‘boonies’. There is an old rutted country farm road, and I turn onto the dirt and gravel, drive a quarter mile and notice that, suddenly, I can’t see. I’m in an ultra-thick cloud bank of fog, suddenly frightened by the swift change in weather and mad at myself for being so self-absorbed I let this happen.

Yes, I know! I know! How does one get so locked onto something in his mind that he doesn’t know where he is? It’s crazy, but it happened!

At this point I’m crawling along, the car barely moving, trying to see, wiping the built-up vapor off the inside windshield, hoping for better vision. After a few moments, I see the futility in my feeble efforts, utter a not-so-nice but appropriate word for the ugly foggy dilemma.

I carefully edge to what I hope is the outer side of the country road, get out of the car, touch the hood metal, holding on to the only reality given to me at the moment.

Standing there, leaning on the car’s hood, my Dad’s face flashes in front of me in the darkness and fog, along with snakes, dinosaurs, crocodiles, and other beasts of the world. I cannot see my hand when I hold it out in front of me. There is a most vivid sense of desperation.

With Dad’s face, there comes to my mind some bad recalls of life with my Dad in it, not long after the ugly divorce. I push those bad thoughts away and force myself to think of the good moments.

Much of those times were rough, but there were tender moments as well – farther back in youth, when Dad bought me the little boy’s gray suit with a gray hat, and he called me his little business man. He took many pictures of me with a cigarette dangling from my six-year old lips, pictures on train-rides, car-rides while on the way to visit his parents, my grandparents, his nearly-blind grandmother, my great-grandmother. They lived north of Knoxville some sixty miles, near the Kentucky border.

On one visit he drove us off the main US highway into the hills of High Cliff, TN. We stopped not too far from the turnoff in an area of open fields and meadows. The bucolic scene presented to my young mind cows grazing in the meadows among huge oak trees, and there was this lonely looking clapboard house setting alone on this small knoll. Dad’s sweet old grandmother sat on an old rickety wooden porch that had an excellent chance of falling plank by plank to the ground below. She had a lovely weathered and leathery face, was almost blind and sat in an old wooden rocking chair. She looked so frail behind the horn-rimmed spectacles she wore.

She was so beautiful sitting in that home-made rocking chair on that wood-warped porch, like a picture in sepia tone, like a scene in an old-time movie. She sat there with a corn cob pipe in the corner of her mouth. She was in her nineties, and Dad had to get within inches of her face before she knew we were there. She squinted and finally recognized Dad.

She formed a sweet smile on her face, hugged him with shaky thin arms coming out of the gingham dress sleeves. “That you, Thomas? Lawdy, mercy me! you are a sight for these sore eyes.” She had a thin, squeaky voice that seemed a whisper. She used up a lot of breath as she talked and maintained that sweet smile.

She then peripherally noticed me, made over me as well, and I felt an awesome sense of history – the events, all the things she had seen in her long lifetime, things I would one day study. In the remembrance, it was all so nostalgic, dream-like, and, looking back, it somehow had a time-travel feel for me, so quiet, serene, like pages of history flipping backward. Those time-worn wrinkles on her bony arms and face, the faded gingham dress, her gray-hair in a bun on the back of her head, and the slow steady motion of her rocking chair as her eyes fixed on the parts of her life that were important to her. Her time was almost used up, but she would keep rocking on that graying rough-plank porch, smoking her corn cob pipe, looking out over the blurry land playing back misty memories.

Funny, how wonderfully that memory is so vivid in my mind, so fresh and firmly planted. A country song by Alan Jackson playing on the car radio is all I need to complete my ensemble of fuzzy thoughts and tears. Guess that might say something about my southern genes.

A few happy times flashed by, those times when we played at being a family, without the tempestuous flares of raw emotions: the Saturday movie matinees; Mom and Dad smiling happily when my sister and I danced to the radio; when I attempted to write a poem; the endless questions I asked of them both – the insatiable curiosity that stayed steady on a little boy’s mind.

I love them both so much, and, now, my father has no son.

The tears do not stop until my mind reminds me of where I am, in the middle of proverbial nowhere with only those scary image-flashes coming at me from too much eye concentration, and those conjured up memories that are both keepers and throwaways.

So, the world can be dark and foggy, and, maybe, reasons for standing in the darkness and fog are not so simple.

Standing at the front of the car, measuring each stride, I take a few steps, pivot, return to the car, do the same strides on each side of the car. Feeling secure enough that the car was far enough off the road, I climb into the back seat, and lock the doors.

Assuming a fetus position on the backseat, I try desperately not to think any more about past events, the present, and the future. I can wait out the darkness and the fog.

Tomorrow will come, and the sun will replace the dismal darkness and fog with thoughts of hope.

I love my Mom and Dad.

Maybe I still have both to love.

-END OF CHAPTER ONE-

Let me know what you think! My best wishes to all.

Billy Ray Chitwood – July 7, 2018

Please preview my books at:

https://billyraychitwood.com

Please follow me on Twitter: @brchitwood

 

 

Could It Happen?

[Preface: the two men in this fictional story, Eddie and Presley, are retired dock workers from New York City, retired to ‘The Valley of the Sun’ in the Phoenix area of Arizona – only because I say it’s so. The story is intended to amuse and to present in my not-so-unique amateurish way some Micro-Biological research that is actually taking place around the Globe. Not in my lifetime, or, perhaps, even yours, will there be the science and technology to cure major diseases with ‘type-specific auto-bots’ roaming through the veins of the sick and dying, supplying clean new cells, destroying the deadly cells, creating in many ways an unknown protracted life-span! But, it’s coming! Of course, that will be up to the ‘powers that be’ at the time and the mind-set of the populace. I simply hope you enjoy what I make out of the story. (The Author)]

Could It Happen?

-Short Story by BR Chitwood-

The doorbell shook him from his near-comatose condition. Eddie, with some effort, raised himself from the recliner. He was a big rugged man, over six feet tall with not a lot of flab on his frame – a bit reminiscent of John Wayne in his sharp and angular no-nonsense face and frame.

The doorbell rang again, this time with more urgency.

“Hang on! Dammit! I’m coming!” he yelled, grabbed a quick sip from his near-empty highball glass as the doorbell rang yet again.

Not a patient man, he limped through the family room to the entry door and angrily yanked it open, peeved with the insistent ringing.

Before Eddie could speak, the man outside spoke: “Eddie, I must talk to you, you might think I’m nuts!”

With an exaggerated frown, Eddie responded, “Hell! I’m already thinking you’re nuts. Who are you and what do you want? It’s 9:30 in the PM. You better not be selling anything!”

The man outside was momentarily stunned, gaped at Eddie for some seconds. “Eddie, it’s me, Presley.”

Eddie said a few nasty curse words to the man calling himself ‘Presley’ and slammed the door in his face!

The man screamed through the big ribbed door, “Eddie, it’s me, dammit! I can explain everything. Please! Open the door! I really need to tell you what happened! Eddie, open the door!”

“Hey, you A-hole, get away from my front door or I’m calling the cops if I don’t beat the crap out of you first! You got just thirty seconds before I decide which one of those options I’m going to use.”

“I’m not leaving, Eddie, you’re the only one I can talk to! Please, just hear me out!”

Eddie screamed, “Okay, you dumb sick jerk! You hit the right nerve!” Eddie stomped to the front entry, opened the door in a rush, and threw a haymaker at the man.

The man went down and lay crumbled for several seconds on the flagstone entry platform.

When the man didn’t move, Eddie hovered over the limp body, ready to continue his assault. He rubbed his right fist and felt the first brain wave of concern. Maybe he hit the man too hard!

As the seconds ticked by, Eddie felt stronger waves of guilt. His drinking and his temper grew after the loss of his wife to a drunk driver, and his fuse for anger got shorter with each passing day.

Now, Eddie was concerned, and, just when he was about to reach down and check the man’s pulse, there was movement.

The man tentatively and with some difficulty lifted his arm, rolled to face Eddie, and spoke: “Eddie, for God’s sake, it’s me, Presley, and I can explain. Think of Cora, your wife, my sister. I was your ‘best man’ at the wedding. Think of the weekends we spent in Palm Springs, the golf we played – your ‘hole-in-one’ at the Arizona Country Club.”

“Stop,” Eddie interrupted. “Who the hell are you to know these things?”

“If you let me up, I’ll explain it all, Eddie, and, believe me, it’s incredible!”

There was something in the man’s voice! It did have a familiar sound! My God! His voice sounded like Presley Berman!

Eddie became more attentive to the man on the ground. “Okay, okay! You have a ‘mouse’ on your left cheek. Did I break your jaw?”

Eddie helped the man to his feet and inside the house.

“Nah, the jaw’s okay. It moves alright! Damn, Eddie, we’ve never fought before. The anger is eating you up.” The tanned good-looking man, taller than Eddie but slightly smaller, rubbed his cheek, his blond hair mussed from the hay-maker punch. “I can’t believe you hit me so hard, Man! That not only hurts my jaw but my feelings as well.”

“Here, sit here.” Eddie seated the man on the sofa across from his recliner and allowed that the man slightly resembled his friend of a lifetime, but, no way him. “Damn, I can’t believe I’m doing this! How the hell is it you know so much about my wife, Palm Springs, and my golf game? And, this better be really good!”

“How long has it been since you saw me last, Eddie? No, I’ll answer my own question since you doubt me. It’s been exactly six weeks to the day since I left on a trip. In fact, I told you I was going, but didn’t tell you where, and you got pissed off at me for making it such a big secret. Well, the fact is, the lovely lady I went with swore me to secrecy.”

“What lovely lady?” Eddie wanted to know.

“You don’t need her name, Eddie. It’s what she knew you want to know about. She’s a most unusual and beautiful lady I met at my ‘La-LA Club’, you know – ‘Life and Love Abound’.”

Eddie shakes his head, his blue eyes squinting toward the ceiling. “Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard of the clip joint. Just get to the point of all this crap!”

“It’s not ‘Crap’, Eddie, you’ll see. Anyhow, I’ll call my lady friend, Amber – can’t give you her real name! Had to sign some papers – but that’s another story! So, Amber and I, we go to Spain, first to Barcelona, then to a beautiful and quaint village along the Costa Brava. I love its name – Castanéa.”

“Come on, Man, don’t give every single detail. Get on with it!” Eddie rose, went to the bar, poured himself another drink from the bottle of bourbon, and returned to his chair.

“Eddie, could I pour myself one of those? I sure could use it, with my jaw and all.”

“Jeez! Okay, get yourself a highball glass. You can find…”

“I know where you keep the highball glasses. C’mon, Eddie! Remember, we’ve done a lot of booze here in your beautiful home.”

Eddie shakes his head in silent negation.

With drink in hand, the man who calls himself Presley continues with his story.

“So, this small village of Castanéa does a ‘trip’ on me, taking me to places in my mind I’ve never been, like, you know, nostalgic stuff. So, Amber introduces me to this lovely lady who works for a Scientist, and we become buddies, you know, really close, so to speak. Her name is Melodie – really pretty lady! she works for some young ‘Swami-like’ guy who is probably the most intelligent person I’ve ever met in my life. He looks a lot like that movie star that starred in ‘Doctor Zhivago’. I mean, I was truly mesmerized by this guy, call him Alfredo, and the three of us do lots of things together, boating, nightclubs and local theater stuff.”

“Whoa! What happened to Amber? The gal who went with you?”

“I knew you would ask me that. Short answer, she hooked up with another guy. My guess is, she used me for the flight to Barcelona. Yeah, I know what you got in your mind, Eddie, and you’re right! Okay! I’m a sucker! but, she claimed the trip was all for me. I now know what she meant, because we talked about some things that will come up here, uh, in my recitation.”

“Whoa! why would I think anything about you! I don’t know you, dip-shit! You have ten minutes! If you can’t be finished in ten minutes, I’m throwing you out! You got that?”

“Okay, I got you! What amazes me, Eddie, is this: everyone I’m meeting in this small coastal town is carefree and happy! It’s like they’ve found paradise in this little village along the Costa Brava.”

Eddie has little patience, vacillating between anger and the absurdity of his evening. “You ready for another bust to the chops, Pal? Get on with it! Get to the crux of the matter! If there is one!”

The man calling himself Presley sighs deeply. “I’m just trying to give you some lead-up to this life-changing event, Eddie. Please, listen, and try to trust me. Okay, how old are we, Eddie?”

“Yeah, right! Okay, I’ll play just to get you out of here! I’m sixty-five, and, you are not, but my good friend, Presley, is sixty-four. Now, what?”

“You remember when our courts at one time sentenced to death the really bad guys, the fiends who murdered, raped our children, killed a cabbie for a few bucks, and good people who never saw them coming?”

“Yeah, we gassed them!”

“Well, before gas, there was the ‘Electric Chair’, remember?”

“No, completely slipped my mind! Of course, I remember, nitwit!”

“Sorry if I insult your intelligence, buddy! So, Alfredo and I become really tight, good pals, like you and me. Ah, c’mon, Eddie, don’t raise your eyebrows and give me the finger! You will see what I’m telling you is pure unadulterated truth. Okay, pal? Yeah, that’s right, shake your head, drink your drink but listen good to this, please!

“One night, the Science guy and I are sitting, having highballs in his place by the sea – beautiful place, Eddie. Ah, man, you should see this place. It was…”

“Hey, I’m having one more drink and I’m getting really tired of your chatter. So, whoever you are, pal, get it said and get out of here! Your ten minutes are almost up.”

On unsteady legs, Eddie went to the bar, brought the bourbon bottle to his easy chair, sat, and poured another drink. With his eyes blinking now with more frequency, he said, “Okay, Pal, finish your tale. I’m going to bed after this drink. Get it done!”

“Okay, okay, but you got to hear me good, Eddie. You have to listen because this is important, what I’m going tell you! This is not phony-baloney here!”

“Yeah, yeah! Talk and be finished, man! I’m listening, but you’re bloviating!”

“Okay? Right, okay, I’ll get on with it… (‘Bloviating’ – good word, Eddie!) Okay, here’s the story, and I swear to you, Eddy, this is a true story…

“Melodie had to go into Barcelona for a TV marketing ‘shoot’. After she left, Alfredo and I, we got into this big philosophical and science discussion, weird, real brainy stuff! (And, believe it or not, I’m getting what he’s telling me, just not the big science words he’s spewing.) His words were mesmerizing, and they stayed with me. We were in a discussion about ‘Life and Death’, about the villainous nature of some people, the evil among us, you know, and we end up talking about the really bad criminals who were executed in the electric chair. He even knew their names and their crimes – I didn’t recognize the names he gave. I mean, this guy is some kind of smart!

“Suddenly, well, almost, suddenly, Alfredo takes me to an upstairs laboratory-looking room, the walls are all glass and looking out on the moon-splashed Mediterranean Sea. Man, it was so beautiful! Pure Rapture, Eddie! I’m looking around the room and I see this chair and pull up short. ‘Whoa! What? Is that an ‘electric chair, Alfredo’? I asked.

“His eyes take on an honest to goodness God glow, and the moon hits his face at the same time, causing me to think this guy is not human. He had this almost angelic, magical glow on his face. I mean, it was all so eerie and baffling to me.

“So, he then tells me this story connected to that big ‘Electric Chair’ and my mind and body get all jitters and shivers, with some unpleasant thoughts mixed in. In short, Alfredo’s field is ‘Science’ and he explains to me why and what he has created.

“He says to me, and you know me, Eddie, I got that good memory thing, that telepathic whatever. He says to me:”

~*~

The thought, Presley, germinated in this very room on such a lovely night as we have this evening. If that ‘Chair’ could at one time take a life, why could it not give life and reduce the aging process of a person? Scientifically, we knew that the high electrical charge from this wired Electric Chair would destroy all biological life carriers within the human body. My mind was eager to determine if, by different and special wiring not yet invented, could that chair be used to add new cells to the body, to recreate youth in an older person who wished to prolong her/his living?

I studied for months, in fact, for over three years, read books by scientists most people would not know, or, would consider daft. I became addicted, sleeping only when exhaustion set in. I worked daily with mice and formula after formula, trying to find corollaries, ratios, the degrees of parity from mice and other animals to men. I used all forms of matter, elements of the earth in different formulae, reducing each experiment down to electrical impulses. As I progressed, I must say, there were times when it seemed I was going mad, injected by my own poisonous mind fluids. But, I kept the experiment on track, sleeping two, three hours each night. I ate sparsely but enough to keep me going, took breaks, went out on the terrace to breathe the sea’s salt air coming in on the breezes. Combined, as it were, with my obsessive behavior and relevance of the study, the days, weeks, months, were gone so swiftly.

Imagine my joy one morning when I stepped into this room and found a frisky, youthful ‘Meeko’ (my dear near-death Great Dane) returned to his youthful coat, shedding his fur of age for the scat-about fur of youth.’

Alfredo stopped when I looked across the room at the beautiful dog curled up in the corner and was about to ask a question.

Yes, Presley, the same Meeko you saw when we first met. That moment of discovery was many years ago, and you’ve seen for yourself how active and spry my best friend can be.’

‘I can, for sure, Alfredo. Meeko was like a puppy, and so beautiful. At this point, I asked Alfredo a question: how was it he could determine the age he was going to be if the experiment worked? He responded with these words, or, close enough.’

That is an excellent question, Presley. That was part of my 3-year-plus study. With the animals and elements from Physics, I needed to experiment for some time to what degrees certain modules were used in the project. In the final analysis the tests performed gave me data I felt I could rely on in terms of how far from where I was age-wise to where I wanted to be. That part of the science was the part that frightened me so much, but it was my decision to use myself as the test host before going any further. The quantum factor of all my testing proved accurate…

Let me just say, I cannot give you in these few minutes what it took me over three years to grasp. Should I or should I not be interfering with God’s mortal plans? Was I to be the creator of one more Frankenstein Monster?

I finally concluded it could very well be God’s will for me to find this grand semblance of immortality. In fact, as we speak, labs around the world are filled with scientists working in the field of Microrobotics. Think of it, tiny mobile robots less than one millimeter in size one day on a journey through our veins carrying new cells, remedies for cancer, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, cardio-vascular problems, obesity, and other medical problems.

It was Melodie, my old and trusted house maid who found me one morning in that chair with my head resting on my right shoulder, sleeping. Her problem in seeing me there? She did not recognize me, because I had my youth returned to me. I was energized, could have run a 10-k marathon. It took a while for me to convince her of my breakthrough, and she soon after demanded to sit in the Chair.

In fact, Melodie rather robustly insisted she be next in the chair, and so she was – the beautiful girl with whom you are now in love.

With all of what I’ve told you here tonight, I have done the science, mathematics, and time calculations to formulate a simple tablet that can be used in lieu of the Chair, only to be taken once every six months. That is, after the three to be taken initially. The first three pills start the process, and, depending on body chemical factors, can take from twenty-four hours to a week for the transformation. To ensure our secret, I must inject a micro-chip into your left bicep.”

At this point I stopped Alfredo. “Tell me about the micro-chip. What is its purpose?”

‘You must know, Presley, what we are doing is not standard operating procedure and goes against Man’s Law. What began as a Science Project in my mind became a life’s work, and I had concerns about what I might discover. Yet, my mind was keyed up and it became NOT just a project but a Holy Grail. Because I’ve reached this point of no return, I must somehow protect myself and the people who join this grand plan. So, I worked diligently to find a way where we all might be safe, protected, if you will, from legal concerns.

‘The micro-chip is that safety shield. If someone in our elite group becomes too enthusiastic about our project and thinks about doing an open forum on ‘The Chair Project’, the micro- chip can identify that the project is about to be compromised and signals an electronic board for which I am the only one privy to it. (Don’t ask how this chip can distinguish words that will allow it to know the project is in jeopardy…I cannot take all the hours, perhaps days and weeks to explain this to you – you must accept my assurance that this is true!) With that signal, I know there is someone of our group who is compromising the project. I then proceed to activate the chip which is designed to block that memory part of the brain. It does not harm the person but voids his knowledge of this project. The person simply maintains his youth and who he has become without other knowledge blocking his way forward! 

I had to know more on this procedure and asked, “That sounds like an impossibility to me, Alfredo. How can you pinpoint a specific area of the brain?”

‘Again, my friend, Presley, you must take my word for this. It is a most difficult process to explain and would take serious time away from us. You must trust me! No one will be hurt by this micro-chip, but safety of the group, including me, is paramount and must not be put in danger. All you need do is put yourself in my place, Presley. Consider the consequences of my actions. The person who does the Science, years of scientific study, who has a charter group to whom he charges not a penny, offers an opportunity such as this. It goes without saying, you are the person who controls your decision-making. I’ve become fond of you, but this is your decision to make. Go on with your life as it is, or, take the ‘youth pills’. Your choice!’

‘Oh, I’m in! no question about it! I trust you, Alfredo, and I thank you for this wonderful opportunity.’  

Good! So, we gamble with our older lives to find another chance at youth. Hopefully, we will not make so many mistakes in our youth this time around.

Until now, Melodie and I are not the only recipients of the Chair’s gift of youth. I chose carefully those with whom I shared this gift of new life, only those few humble, once feeble people in our village who no longer have families to cherish and with whom to commune. It is a secret shared by only a few people who are well aware they must not share any details of their new lives. It took much time to devise a plan to ensure that the secret would never be revealed. That plan is the harm-less micro-chip, and it’s good that I will not bore you with all those tedious details.

Why have I shared so much with you? The woman who came with you from the United States, Amber, she is one of us who shares the secret of the ‘Chair’. She informed us of your fervent wish to be young again – she cares for you very much, but in a more Platonic way than you might once have wished. So, she did not abandon you but meant only to give you the wish-secret she shared with us some months ago. The man you believe she traded you for is but a friend himself. What does that matter, now? You love Melodie, and Melodie loves you.

Now, I must be certain that you’re ready to take the next step. You must allow that micro-chip to be injected into your left bicep, and, you must sign our documents before going back to the US.

You have mentioned you have only one good friend there in Arizona whom you believe will want to join you after you’ve had the good fortune and time to have him believe you. You understand, once he is told of your secret, he can take an accelerated dosage of pills – exactly, three. The pills should take effect within twenty-four hours, or, no longer than seven days. Because of some variables in each person’s DNA it should take no longer than a week. If that does not occur during a week’s period after taking the maximum dosage, you must return with him to Castonéa for the ‘Chair’ treatment.

Also, on the negative side, you must manage to inject a micro-chip into his left bicep. You know the chip will not harm him once it is activated, that is, only if his determination is to bring our ‘Chair Project’ public. Of course, you must explain all of this to your friend. I suggest you find a way of least resistance. You must figure what that way of ‘least resistance’ will be.

‘I have fought the moral battles of my mind, Presley, and, for me and the others, this discovery is okay. It must also be okay for you and your friend. You know him well and you will know what to do.

~*~

“We’ve talked about being young again on many occasions, Eddie, and, now we can be. That’s the story of my past six weeks. I’ve left nothing out. I’ve even added Alfredo’s concerns. What do you think?

“Eddie!

“Eddie!”

Presley was so wrapped up in his story, he had lost track of Eddie.

Eddie was in his recliner, head resting on the back’s soft leather. He was passed out!

“Ah, Crap! Now, I’m gonna have to go through it all again!” Presley thought for few seconds. “Ah, but, wait!” he muttered to himself. “He would do it for me! this is the ‘way of least resistance’, as Alfredo phrased it.”

Presley went to Eddie’s side table, picked up his highball glass half-full of bourbon, and dropped in three ‘Youth Pills’! From a small plastic case he extracted a syringe and injected Eddie with the micro-chip into his left bicep. With the chip and the accelerated dose, and, when he takes those last few sips, he will within twenty-four hours find out for himself. Hopefully, it won’t take a week. He will be young again.

Presley knew Eddie for sure could never leave a half-full glass of ‘Makers Mark’ Bourbon.

Presley checked Eddie’s phone, copied the number he lost on the trip to Spain.

He would check in with Eddie tomorrow, late afternoon! Presley did not expect him to rise from slumber for at least twelve to twenty-four hours.

Probably better this way: ‘Showing, Not, Telling’!

©Short Story by Billy Ray Chitwood

April 28, 2018

~~~~~

(Note: the author to determine later whether or not to have a second part to this short story!)

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Requiem to a Boarding House Cook

Maude Inez Balsinger
– My Mom –

Requiem To A Boarding House Cook

 

Don’t guess too many boarding houses even exist anymore, but let me tell you: the best food I’ve ever eaten was in a boarding house setting.

The cook? My dear, beloved, departed mother. In one of my books, I mention that she is up there with angel ‘Clarence’ ringing a bell when some earthly creature does something good — you will all remember ‘Clarence:’ he visits us each year at Christmas time in a re-run of the movie, “It’s A Wonderful Life.”

It might seem strange to sing the praises of a boarding house cook in a post, but the mind can carry you to some memory stations that leave a faint, sometime tearful, wisp of nostalgia.

The sleeping room in Mrs. Lester’s Boarding House my Mom and I shared was just across from the big kitchen, and, as a small eight-year old kid, I sat in one of the two rocking chairs in that room listening on the radio to a broadcast of a baseball game or football game, and the smells from that kitchen at dinner time would get me really hungry.

Just before Mom served the boarders at the long large dining table in front of the house, she would bring a heaping plate of food to me in that bedroom across the hall. Didn’t matter what it was, meatloaf, pot roast, pork chops, corn bread, biscuits, mashed potatoes with gravy or home fries, it was always the most enjoyable food I would ever remember eating. And Mom would always smile, give me a kiss on the cheek, and say something like: “You’re the best little boy in the world…”

My Mom was a boarding house cook during some of the most troubled times in our economic history…during the great depression era in Appalachia. East Tennessee would be more precise. Knoxville, Tennessee would be most precise. Mom and Dad were divorced, and my sister was living fifty miles away with my maternal grandparents because of the bad times. Mom worked long hours seven days a week and she always made the time for me, made the time to make me feel like all was really right with the world. Even in my little pea-brain I knew all was not right in our world, that there were things happening in our lives that were beyond my scope of understanding. But Mom tried and she did make me feel loved and very much wanted in her life.

So, when that big plate of food was all consumed and wiped clean with the last bit of biscuit or cornbread, the ballgame ended, I would become wistful about my Mom’s boarding house existence, feeling that she really did not have much of a life. I would sit in that room, stuffed with good southern cooking, Mom doing dinner clean-up duties, and I would try to write a poem…try to write a poem that would convey the love I felt for my Mom, try to say in words on paper what my tiny voice could not say.

My Mom always encouraged me to follow my heart, to sing my songs, to write my verses, and it was there in those days during World War Two when I first took pencil to paper. Yes, the words were the mutterings of a young unsettled mind, but they meant something to me then.

Today, perhaps my mind is still unsettled, still searching for some ultimate truths, and that is okay. The words still mean something to me. Whatever my writing comes to be, somewhere in those sentences and paragraphs, in those characters and plots, there will be parts of me, and, actually, they are pretty easy to find. I am not a very large mystery in the scheme of things.

My Mom gave me the great gift of writing, the wonderful gift of expressing myself with words. It doesn’t matter so much that the words will or will not ring so many bells down here.

It does matter that Mom and ‘Clarence’ might occasionally ring their bells for me.

Billy Ray Chitwood – 9/25/17 and 8/06/12

 

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“Darkness and Fog” – Short Story/Flash Fiction

August 28, 2016 and September 25, 2017 Revised

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man-fog

“Darkness and Fog”

 A Short Story/Flash Fiction –

The darkness and fog are palpable like a viscid sweat crawling all over the body, and my eyes cannot be trusted. Keen concentration is not all it’s made out to be. These dumb-ass images keep popping up all over the space in front, sides, and back of me…and, okay, I admit it – I’m a big boy scared. ‘There’s no moon in the sky – stormy weather’ (ring a bell?). I mean, there is no way this world can be this dark and foggy.

“Why,” Someone might ask, “are you so stupid to be standing where you’re standing?”

The reason is really simple but I’m going to make it as complicated for you as I can.

When I was a little boy, my crippled cousin had to have the light on during his bedtime dark hours. Now, I didn’t tease him about that but if I just mentioned it he chased me up one country road and another. If I didn’t have a pretty good lead he’d catch me. Then, we would end up wrestling until one of us said ‘Uncle’ – usually me! We were best pals and I loved my club-footed cousin-buddy, but he got madder than a frigging copperhead on LSD if anyone brought up sleeping with lights on.

That’s really not part of the complicated story, at least, not in a major way. This darkness and fog just made me think of him. He turned out to be a scratch golfer. He’s gone now, died too early in his life. His damned cheating wife was screwing the next-door neighbor, and my cousin beat the daylights out of the crooked-nose jerk and threw all her clothes – and her – out of the house. He was club footed but he was no yellow-belly. Nobody gave him any crap, that’s for sure. Then, bless him, he got some sort of breathing problem and it killed him.

Well, again, that’s not part of the complicated story either…and it makes me sad thinking about it.

I won’t lead you on any further.

It all starts with my sister, Sarah Lou. She’s fourteen going on twenty-four, if you get my drift, built like a brick s…-house, big boobs, long silky brown hair, great figure, really pretty, and she reckons she’s the ‘cat’s meow’. It seems she knows early on she wants to taste some parts of life she is no way ready to taste.

I’m convinced Sarah Lou is the genuine product of something genetically disfavored, sort of like my Dad. He gets madder than hell and beats up on her…and, Mom. Bless her heart! Well, I’m thinking I have more of my Mom in me. At least, I hope so, because she is all giving and loving. When Mom goes to heaven, ole ‘Clarence’ will be ringing loudly his bells.

Dad has this fiery temper, and it’s his way or the highway, so to speak. This is when he’s visiting us. He and Mom are divorced, and Dad seems to have these demons inside him that make for crazy flip-outs at any moment. I’ve noticed his behavior changes when Mom mentions her side of the family – they don’t like him and he doesn’t like them. Of course, the corn whiskey could have something to do with it. He likes his hooch! He’s also tall, good-looking, and has a thing for the ladies. How can I know that? Well, that’s a whole different story.

Well, anyhow, the genes running through Sarah Lou must be identical to Dad’s.

Moving the story along, Sarah Lou turns sixteen and elopes with an army corporal, runs off to another state when the corporal gets transferred. Mom is heart-sick and scared because she has to tell Dad the news.

Mom and I, my now older club-footed cousin and his big sister (on my Dad’s side of the family) go to the hotel where my Dad is now living to tell him about Sarah Lou’s elopement. Cuz and his sister come along to hopefully soften my Dad’s temper.

In his hotel room, my cousin and his sister take the two chairs in the room. Mom sits on the bed all timid and nervous… I can see her trying to swallow her fear, but it’s etched there on her face. I sit, timid and nervous myself under a window on a radiator…you know, those ugly, vertical heavy metal rods all linked in a row as one unit. Now, the heat isn’t on during this visit, but those units are a might uncomfortable to sit on. I just keep alternating my butt cheeks and somehow manage.

My Dad is just walking around the room. Now, Dad knows right away that something is up, and, he knows it isn’t good news – guess our faces and body language give us away. So, he’s nervous, too, but not in a sane way…it’s like, he’s the tiger sitting on a boulder about to pounce on an unsuspecting prey.

“Okay,” he says, “what’s the bad news? I can see it on all your faces.” He leans against the wall near me.

My stomach is turning as I’m looking at Mom while she haltingly tells Dad about Sarah Lou and the elopement.

I’m stealing peeks at Dad and can see a storm rising inside of him.

Mom finishes and is near tears, her face red with a thin layer of fret-sweat.

When Dad hears the news about Sarah Lou, he stomps around the room in a fury, shaking his head, temples pounding, mumbling curse words, and, abruptly stops in front of Mom and eyes her menacingly for several seconds. My sweet hard-working, lovely Mom sits there very still with her hands clasped on her lap with a now blanched and pitiful look on her face. My tears are about to come and I can almost feel her anxious and trembling body preparing itself for Dad’s assault.

My tainted-gene Dad gives Mom a hard looping open-hand slap to the face, so damned hard it knocks her over. My immediate fear is that he’s knocked something loose in her brain or upper body…and he’s getting ready to do more hitting.

I’m petrified watching it all from this hotel room radiator and l reckon something snaps inside me. I’ve watched this kind of madness too many times as a younger kid. Now, I’m a lot bigger. I rush him and tackle him onto the bed, crying and mumbling something stupid, like, ‘I’ve seen you do that to my Mom too many times’. I’ll never forget – he’s got this look on his face like a slight smile and surprise all at the same time.

With a blind rage, I start pounding Dad with my fists.  Pretty soon, he’s not moving. I must have connected with a vulnerable spot on his head. He just turns his head over to the side and goes to sleep. I sit there staring down at Dad, becoming a bit worried that I’ve done something bad. Yet, so far as I can see, he’s breathing with a normal rhythm. I gently slap his face a few times, but he doesn’t stir. I inspect his head, notice no swollen places and no blood.

After a couple of minutes pass, I rise from the bed and tell our little group we likely should leave before he comes out of it. He could really go bonkers then. So, we hustle out of Dad’s room and loudly close the door.

Mom cries all the way down the elevator, and we go unnoticed out a side entrance in the lobby. I drive my cousin and his sister home, and, except for the sound of the car engine, no one makes a sound. Only tears flow down our faces. We all hug and kiss each other.

Next, I drive Mom to her folks’ place some forty miles away.

We give Grandma and Grandpa all the news about our visit with Dad, and they’re madder than hornets in a wild wind, ‘Is he dead?’ ‘Is he alive?’ I make Mom promise me that she’ll stay with the grandparents until she hears from me. There’s no way Dad, assuming I didn’t hurt him too badly, would go around Grandpa because the latter gave Dad a whipping some months back.

After a few more tears are shed and the grand-folks can’t talk me out of leaving, I’m on my way back to the hotel to check on Dad… I know! Who should be caring about a guy who is abusive to his wife and daughter? Well, he’s my Dad, for better or worse! Me, I did not suffer so much his physical abuse. There are the lingering emotional scabs that come off as time passes and memories haunt in the dark of night. The real damage, emotionally, psychologically, and life-changing are for my dear Mom and Sister.

My blond head is churning with thoughts as I drive back to the hotel. The closer I get, the more tense I become. There’s this need to know about my Dad, whether he’s okay or hurt badly. I’m a sturdy young man now, 185 pounds, playing quarterback as a freshman at Garden View University. It’s difficult to calculate how hard I hit Dad with my fists – I feel like a part of me was actually holding back. But, then, I was lost in the moment.

There is no way to forget what happened, and just go back to my grandparent’s house. I have to know, one way or the other about my Dad. Did I hurt him more than first I thought? Is he alive? Is he dead?

I park Mom’s car down the street from the hotel and walk to the side entrance of the lobby.

The elevator is on the lobby level as if waiting for me. On Dad’s floor, the elevator doors open and my heart jumps into my mouth!

My Dad is standing in front of me, his eyes blinking like he is trying to clear his head.

“You coming out, young fellow?” Dad asks in an impatient and impersonal tone.

He notices the apparent surprise on my face. “You alright, boy?”

“Dad, it’s me!”

He did a fast look behind him like I was talking to someone else.

Dad blinks some more. “You’re mixed up, boy, I don’t have a son. Now, stay in the elevator or get out. I fell and cracked my head…have to get it taken care of.”

“But, Dad, I hit you on the head because you hurt Mom. Let me help you!”

Dad grabs my arm and pulls me out of the elevator onto the hallway carpeting. “Told you, boy, I’ve got no son.” He enters the elevator, pushes the lobby button and is gone.

I can’t say how long I stand rooted to that spot in front of the elevator. I am aware enough to know that other people enter and exit the elevator while I’m standing there.

Finally, I take the stairs down seven floors and walk out the side lobby entrance. My befuddled mind is on automatic pilot and leads me down the street to the car.

When I pull away from the curb, confused and frightened, I drive aimlessly, turning here, turning there, my mind going over and over the events of the day.

I drive for miles not mindful of where I’m going. Tears flow until my eyes get all watery. Finally, my brain tells me to pull off the road.

I’m out in the ‘boonies’ somewhere. There is an old rutted country road, and I turn onto the dirt and gravel, drive a quarter mile and notice that suddenly I can’t see.

The weather changes suddenly and I take the time to think, ‘What the hell am I doing? Out here in nowhere land?’ The reality of the situation makes me ease to the right off the old road, feeling my way as the darkness and fog come together – seemingly all at once.

I get out of the car, touching the metal, holding on to the only reality given me at the moment.

My Dad’s face is flashing at me in the darkness and fog…along with snakes, dinosaurs, crocodiles, and other beasts of the world.

There come some recalls of life with my Dad in them, not long after the divorce.

Much of those times are rough, but there are tender moments as well – farther back in youth, when he buys me a little boy’s grey suit with a bibbed hat, takes pictures of me with a cigarette dangling from my lips. There are bus, car, and train rides to visit his parents and grandmother…my grandparents and my great grandmother.

His grandmother is almost blind and sits on an old wooden porch in a rocking chair, frail and beautiful like a picture in sepia tone, with a corn cob pipe in the corner of her mouth. She is in her nineties, and Dad has to get within inches of her face before she recognizes him and gets a sweet smile on her face and hugs him. She makes over me as well, and I feel a sense of history – the events, all the things she has seen in her lifetime. Her time is almost up, but she is going to keep rocking and smoking her corn cob pipe for a while yet.

A few happy times flash by, those times when we play at being a family, without the tempestuous flares of raw emotions: the Saturday movie matinees; Mom and Dad smiling happily when my sister and I dance, when I attempt to write a poem; the endless questions I asked of them both – the insatiable curiosity of a little boy’s mind.

I love them both so much, and, now, my father has no son.

The tears do not stop until the mind reminds me of where I am, in the middle of proverbial nowhere with only the scary flashes coming from too much eye concentration and the memories that are both keepers and throwaways.

So, the world can be dark and foggy, and, maybe, reasons for standing in the darkness and fog are not so simple.

With measured steps I walk a few paces, can see no end to the darkness and fog, pivot, return to the car, get in the back seat, and lock the doors.

Assuming a fetus position on the backseat, I try desperately not to think anymore. I can wait out the darkness and the fog.

Tomorrow will come, and the sun will replace the dismal thoughts with hope.

I love my Mom and Dad.

Perhaps I still have both of them.

Billy Ray Chitwood – 9/25/17

*

Hope you enjoyed this short story and/or flash fiction – whichever your preference.

This is the beginning of a book with a working title, “Darkness and Fog.”

Well, fancy that!

Will you read the book when I launch it in late 2017 or early 2018?

I’ve authored fourteen books and invite you to my website to preview them. There are mysteries, suspense, romance, thrillers, memoirs, time travel, and other genres from which to choose. They have new covers and some of the novels are inspired by true events.

Hope you will read some of my offerings and leave reviews on Amazon. As we are wont to say, reviews are the lifeblood of authors:

https://www.billyraychitwood.com – (Website) AND

https://www.brchitwood.com (Blogsite)

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Proud member of #RRBC #ASMSG – #IAN – #AHA

Proud recipient of eleven Blog Award Nominations.

 

Life and Choices

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Life and Choices

Which end of the rainbow holds the magic that will transform our lives? That proverbial ‘Pot of Gold’?

How far do we have to travel to find the elusive ends of those rainbows? It looks as though the ends are within our reach.

‘Okay, enough of the philosophical gibberish! We are a new generation and don’t grab hold too easily these metaphorical nuances. What’s your point’?

‘You are the point! Your generation is the point’!

Of ‘The Greatest Generation’, I’m a part, that pristine era that encompassed World War 2 and its aftermath. We helped to finally absolve a lingering malaise of ‘The Lost Generation’, the era following World War 1. We in my generation held no exclusive trademark on ‘sense and sensibility’. We had some blunders and gaps along the way.

However, for the most part, there was the pride and remembrance of those who gave their lives in the great war to preserve our freedom and liberty. Our military heroes paid the ultimate price.

Allow me to be plain in my words here…

I live now in ‘Twilight’, writing my fiction and observing the nature of the world around me, chaos and insanity across the waters as countries vie for power and dominance, as new forms of immorality charge closer to our shores in barbaric numbers. I watch our young people stray farther and farther away from the principles in our political bible called the ‘United States Constitution’, that document codified so clearly by our ‘founding fathers’… ‘United States Constitution’ and ‘Founding Fathers’, now seemingly phrases that edge slowly away from our consciousness.

I watch some of our young people caught up in a frenzied delusion imprinted on their brains by monied power groups, misdirected media, and political groups…tearing down statues that have historical meaning for so many, trying to sanitize and erase from memory life and death struggles in our storied past.

I watch a brash, plain-speaking billionaire business man elected president of our nation, a neophyte politician, a man with a wide-spanning agenda to cure some economic and security ills in our country. His platform speaks to immigration reform, job creation, foreign policy shifts, infra-structure clean-up, tax-reform, repeal and replacement of a most disastrous health program, better and more viable educational options, et al.

Despite the allure, charm, and eloquence of Barack Obama, he made, in my opinion, so many terrible foreign policy decisions, domestic miscues, and mysterious spending of tax payers’ dollars that it might be a while before we figure it all out. A few already have but can’t get any real traction from a biased media. Actually, it was my initial thought that Obama might be good for America. No racial thing! No bias! No hate! Just the way I see it…

The new President Trump starts enthusiastically and quickly in his new job, surrounding himself for the most part with a cadre of intelligent and qualified people. He issues ‘Executive Orders’ to negate many of the previous president’s directives. He makes successful trips to troubled parts of the world and elicits support for his foreign policies. He takes a strong position on North Korea’s missile launches and unveiled threats against our nation. The fixation by the media on ‘Russian Election Collusion’ truly becomes tiring and a thorn in President Trump’s side as he tries for comity with our adversary.  

His efforts find great support from his politically conservative and independent base, but the liberal leaning media and distressed democrats challenge him at every turn. His tweets on Twitter draw ire, and he is reviled by the so-called establishment groups in Washington, DC and by some in his own party.

‘So, what’s the point of all this?’

For the first time in my long life, the feelings for me are visceral. Watching the riots at Berkeley, the destruction of property there and other states, the professorial leanings toward guided liberal thinking of their students, I feel Democracy in my country shifting from its long freedom and liberty roots to a more open and socialistic society. I’m not an avid student of history but have studied enough to know that Communism and Socialism have never worked. When Large Corporations, Big Money, and the Power Elites make decisions for the working classes, it’s the beginning of the end. When freedom-loving people are duped by the liberal revolutionists of our times, beware the ‘Ides of March’.

You might very well differ in your thinking, and that is the American way. We can debate issues and come to different conclusions without hating each other.

I started life in Appalachia and poverty, and that buys me a ticket nowhere…still haven’t made any ‘best seller lists’ with my books. I’m no longer in poverty, but neither am I rich and/or an envied one-percenter…just want my kids, grandkids, and great grandkids to have their freedom and liberty.

‘Tha-tha-tha- that’s all, folks’!

Billy Ray Chitwood – August 22, 2017

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Bill Sun Room Aug 9 2017

About Me

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About Me:

I’m a young man in an old man’s body, trying to catch up to myself, trying to find pieces of me I left back in a disconnected youth and the early years of manhood. I’m a stereotype of many in my generation who can play the ‘blame game’, yell ‘foul’, and ‘let’s start over’. But, we are what we are, the sum of all the scary kid-emotions we experienced, the gin mills and piano bars that became our sandbox of pleasure – lotus eaters of the best (or, worse!) kind, the love affairs that did not quite settle us down, the sad poetry and songs written in bars and motels along the way… A Dreamer! A Wanderlust! The world needs such fools as we to write our books, our poetry, our songs, to offset the madness that plagues the soul.

I’ve written fourteen books, over three hundred blog posts in search of those pieces left somewhere in many parts of the globe. You can preview my books above on the menu of ‘books’. If you wish to read more of my blog posts, go to my official blog site at:

https://thefinalcurtain1.wordpress.com

Most important among the searching, I found Julie Anne – she’s there in the picture with me.

♥​

BOOKS OF MYSTERY – SUSPENSE – ACTION ​- CRIME – THRILLER – ROMANCE – MEMOIRS
FICTION (SOME INSPIRED BY TRUE EVENTS!) – NON-FICTION – QUALITY READING
****

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who Am I?

Photo art by Henk van de Goor (Unsplash)

 

Who Am I?

A mere presence of blood, bone and flesh,

Collecting restless moments of time and

Memories in a swirl of delusion and desire…

A damaged derelict recording with all the

Misspent nights of neon lights and wonder,

In Bacchus search of some nebulous Nirvana.

A casual fool of vacuous vector shaping images

Fraught with a dilettante’s dribble and dash

For a delectable dalliance in Delilah’s domain.

Who Am I?

A Mockery to the wise and worldly. A clown

Dressed in gaudy colors, shouting his foolery

To all who would listen in the Devil’s Den.

Who Am I?

Surely by now you must know me!

Who Am I?

Come, sweet damsel,

 join me in a drink,

 and I shall tell you all!

 

-Billy Ray Chitwood – August 12, 2019-

 

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Believe

©Believe

Believe in the miracles inside you,

Have faith in the God who shapes your dreams,

Walk tall, to yourself be true.

 

Abide obstacles strewn along your way,

The nagging naysayers of folly,

In confidence walk each day.

 

Should not your wishes find

Fulfillment at the journey’s end,

Look skyward with peace of mind.

 

You have given in honest measure

That most noble part of your tender soul

And, in reward, heaven’s treasure.

 

So, believe in wonders yet to be,

Passing through life’s many gates

On your way to eternity.

 

©Believe

 

©Billy Ray Chitwood – August 6, 2019

 

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The Aberrant Knight

Photo Art by: Thomas Kinto – Unsplash

 

The Aberrant Knight

 

There’s ‘a man’ I met in a book where his dream and thought became one, a place in his fertile mind where a noble nomadic fool chases imagined windmills in the night, whose mind is inured to reality, who wishes to bring peace to himself, to the tired and weary peasants who labor in their masters’ causes.

 

‘He’ listened while walking the long tedious furrows of their labors and heard their soft voices humming, some singing in soulful whispers ballads of meager yesterdays or the bright tomorrows that never came. They were silent men and women who could not put the finesse, the literacy in their constant thoughts, but they bled when their skin were torn and their bodies ached from the long days in the shallow pits. Their dreams were not so unlike those who had means for fulfilling their wistful longings of the mind and of the soul, those whose fates were more clearly wise and defined.

 

‘The man’ I met in a book took me along for his evening rides, he on the back of his simple donkey, me in the adorned and flashy saddle of my great golden steed.

 

‘The gentle man’ would finally die a sorrowful and most lonely death, leaving a piece of his heart with me…

 

I have chased those windmills ‘the man’ left inside my mind. I have walked the furrowed land, heard the soft humming and singing in the pits and I fear my fate will differ little from that man who would be the patrician knight of us all.

 

Billy Ray Chitwood – August 2, 2019

 

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Summer Dreaming

 

Summer Dreaming

 

Sweet Silence surrounds me,

Save for my melodic humming

Of ‘The Wayward Wind’,

Soft, sonorous, and spacious…

Wafting, wending westward

On white cloud puffs

Of far distant dreams,

In flight and gentle frenzy

Toward more tomorrows…

 

Tis but a simple hum,

A Vagabond’s season-song

Of mythical mysteries,

Misty yearning yesterdays

Flowing, fleeting across

Lazy landscapes filled

With wistful wonder,

Sweet sorrow and regret,

A paean with gossamer wings.

 

Life takes its meanings

From fools’ frets and quests.

Minions find their way

To this poetic plateau

For the Romantic,

The jive of Jesters,

The sad throng of

Nomad Ninnies

Some will call Poets.

 

Billy Ray Chitwood – July 30, 2019

 

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Loco en La Cabeza

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Loco en La Cabeza

(Crazy in The Head)

 

The night became a whispering madness, a maelstrom that just might take me down its tube to hell and damnation while giving me pre-glimpses of the fire and brimstone awaiting my arrival…

 

I begin this post with a sparse attention-getter!

Well, my fevered-mind lives for these little de-facto moments, but, then, that’s what I do: I embellish. I’m an author of fictional crimes that are given birth from real true-life episodes from the underbelly of human existence. Are the books of Grade-A quality? Likely not, when one looks at the sales figures. Nonetheless, that is what I do and so enjoy doing, writing, putting my embellishing style on the words and phrases, hoping to create an appropriate atmosphere for the scenes I’m writing.

It is difficult to detach oneself from his writing and his wiring. My wiring has so many complicated turns and twist I’ve spent a wary and cautionary lifetime trying to figure me out…still, trying, for that matter. If I have learned anything in this lifetime it is this: if one has no heavy baggage, like, criminal and evil activities, it is quite okay to be who the hell you reckon yourself to be, that is, only if who you are not wreaking havoc on others…

Are you sufficiently pissed at me by now? Am I not making any sense to you, or, certainly, not enough to hold your interest?

Good!

Good, if you’re sticking around to see where I’m going with this post. Hopefully, you’re in for a treat, he writes with some degree of uncertainty himself of where the hell he’s going with this post.

I can at least promise you this, we will, all two of us, be joyful at the conclusion.

Okay, where was I?

Oh, my writing and my wiring, or, in better order, my wiring and my writing!

It is my theory that anyone who presumes to be a writer, should be able to take any phrase uttered by anyone (CAUTION! duplicate word in the same sentence!) and write a comprehensive and intelligent post from that phrase.

In one of my earlier posts, I mentioned the aforementioned tip as good practice for would-be writers, giving practice to narrative stretching. It works for me – but, then, if no one likes it, maybe it does not work. But, someone (me) does like it, so that’s enough.

Writing is one of the most popular hobbies and occupations in which one can become interested…you can kill a lot of your ‘live-in demons’ with writing. Published or not published, writing is a rewarding and self-satisfying habit to get into – imagine all the diaries being kept across the world, how titillating some of those entries just might be.

About my wiring, I’ve come to accept my vagabond ways, my need to cross more mountains, my emotional edginess and wariness, those conflicting, wonderful moments of happiness and joy, my wonderful kids, my wife (okay, wives!), and the enduring heap of words I’ve piled up in my lifetime… You folks out there reading this wholesome post should be reading my books. I’ve tried to follow Ernest Hemingway’s and Andrew Joyce’s advice, write drunk, edit, sober! (Truth be known, some of my better stuff was written while a bit tipsy! That is, until my own writing began to serve as the ‘high’!)

Don’t be surprised to see the first paragraph of this post in a book I might publish in the future. I shall certainly be surprised if you are surprised and remember that opening paragraph and this rather ‘run-on’ post. But, come on now, folks, it is writing, and I am showing and telling my blog audience important tidbits.

Come on, you can give me that!

Always, my best wishes.

 

Billy Ray Chitwood – July 24, 2019

 

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(Thrillers -Mysteries-Romance Novels-Memoirs)

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Learning

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https://booklaunch.io/billyraychitwood/59553847c4cab27328cf4aaa

 Learning?

 Today, Brandon is a PhD, teaching at a mid-west University. My son, Brandon, ‘A Phud!’ Really!

The older mind, mine, hearkens back to his baby-days when he was playing with his plastic toys in front of a television screen. A commercial would come on interrupting a drama series we might be watching, and Brandon would stop his playing and look at the TV screen…we finally realized it was sound, voice, and color-flash differentials that caught his attention, but he kept his eyes glued to the set until regular programming continued.

Like many parents we were sure that Brandon was a precocious child and were thrilled that he picked up quickly small tidbits of learning.

Late afternoons, when I arrived home from my marketing office, Brandon and I went to the master bedroom. From the bedside table, I took a pack of playing cards and a book – usually, a novel I was reading. I would daily toss playing cards on the bed and ask my son what number he saw. It was ‘fun learning’ for him, and, soon, I would grab the novel and point to a ‘letter’ at the beginning of a chapter – you know, many novel formats are such that the first letter of the new chapter is a larger type than the ensuing text.

So, slowly, through the days, Brandon learned his letters and his numbers. He began to read early and found great enjoyment in the process, proudly giving me a capsule description of what he was reading. It was obviously such a delight to see your child still in the baby range, reading.

Then, there came a separation through no cause of his or mine. I went to Los Angeles for one week on a business trip, and, upon my return there was no wife and no Brandon.

What had escaped my notice through the months was my wife’s lack of interest in doing things, like, I would suggest we drive to the park for the day. She seemed lethargic to a point where she did not wish to go, to do… She just wanted to stay at home.

Her parents knew what I did not know, that the wife had a mental condition, a phobia for being in crowds, a psychological condition that rendered her not attentive and seemingly uncaring. I did not help her situation as I was so professionally busy and time spent at home was usually with Brandon…with only light conversation with his mother, my wife.

So, while in Los Angeles, she left me, returned to Phoenix, AZ where we had lived prior to my transfer to California, and her mother checked her in to the hospital for psychological evaluation and treatment… She left me a letter which I still have to this day, her ‘why and wherefore’ of deserting me. For her, it was her only way, departing without confrontation, without the obvious ‘hurt’ I would feel for her and Brandon leaving…

Long story short, she got better, left the hospital, but we never got back together. My mother lived in Phoenix at the time and cared for Brandon while his mother was in the hospital, and there I would visit Brandon during free space at work in California.

Brandon’s mother died too young and would not live to see his attainment of a PhD. When they moved to Minnesota where her life began, there were years I heard nothing from Brandon, knew little about his life, except helping with a monthly check for child support.

There is an inscrutable, lamentable disassociation we’ve had over the years…we talk only occasionally, when he calls, or, when I call him. It is perhaps a sad situation, but neither of us suffer too much from the absence. Our love is there. It’s somehow ‘parked’ in a place we each never want to meet. My pride at his accomplishment is there, and, somehow, we both know of our love for each other. That has to be enough.

Of my other three children, Scott and Shelley are my pride and joy, and we do communicate on a regular basis. Steven Ray died while in a Las Vegas nursing home.

So, I’ve written much of this in two memoirs, and won’t be writing another. There is some burning wish to make people aware of my personal life when there is no damned reason to do so. I figure it must be further effort to cleanse somehow my soul.

Why did I write this?

Damned if I know!

 

Billy Ray Chitwood – July 18, 2019

 

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Dream

Dream

Photo art by Aaron Andrew Ang – Unsplash

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Dream

To dream is to escape!

To escape is to free yourself!

To free yourself is to disappear!

To disappear to visit your Soul!

To visit your Soul is to create!

To create is to dazzle your senses!

To dazzle your senses is to be bold!

To be bold is to be new with yourself!

To be new with yourself is to view life on your terms!

To view life on your terms is to give the world a piece of you!

To give the world a piece of you is to go beyond imposed limits!

To go beyond imposed limits is to find a magical you!

To find a magical you is to give expression…

To the magical you!

In a chosen Art!

Go beyond imposed limits!

Show a piece of you!

On your terms!

Being bold with the new you!

Dazzling even yourself!

Creating what you find beautiful!

Calming your soul with your creations!

Disappearing in that new, free, world of Creation!

Escaping the world’s mock-up and foolery!

In those dreams to which you have escaped!

A marvelous revelation that comes for your salvation!

To Dream is to live and escape the surly bonds!

There, high above the clouds of reality and Man-made truth!

B R Chitwood – July 14, 2019

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(Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Romance, Memoir, Fantasy)

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Dream

Photo art by Aaron Andrew Ang – Unsplash

 

Dream

 

To dream is to escape!

To escape is to free yourself!

To free yourself is to disappear!

To disappear to visit your Soul!

To visit your Soul is to create!

To create is to dazzle your senses!

To dazzle your senses is to be bold!

To be bold is to be new with yourself!

To be new with yourself is to view life on your terms!

To view life on your terms is to give the world a piece of you!

To give the world a piece of you is to go beyond imposed limits!

To go beyond imposed limits is to find a magical you!

To find a magical you is to give expression…

To the magical you!

In a chosen Art!

Go beyond imposed limits!

Show a piece of you!

On your terms!

Being bold with the new you!

Dazzling even yourself!

Creating what you find beautiful!

Calming your soul with your creations!

Disappearing in that new, free, world of Creation!

Escaping the world’s mock-up and foolery!

In those dreams to which you have escaped!

A marvelous revelation that comes for your salvation!

To Dream is to live and escape the surly bonds!

There, high above the clouds of reality and Man-made truth!

 

B R Chitwood – July 14, 2019

 

Please preview my books:

(Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Romance, Memoir, Fantasy)

https://billyraychitwood.com

 

Please follow my Blog:

https://brchitwood.com

 

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:)

The Chameleons

The Chameleons

 

©The Chameleons

 By

 Billy Ray Chitwood

Beware, the chameleons!

They’re everywhere…

Classified as ‘highly specialized clade of Old World’ lizards’ adept at changing colors to blend into different environments, but I’m writing here about the human ‘chameleons’, that deceptive and manipulative breed of seemingly common folks who can play and often prey on our good, honest, and innocent Homo sapiens.

Take the case of Jeffrey Bullock and Catherine Santos…

Now, it is true that Jeffrey is a handsome man with a Grecian face punctured and set with blue eyes and an automatic upper and lower lip that can be in turn persuaded to change with the course of a conversation. Those blue eyes and remarkable lips can turn a conversation into a thing of academic beauty, with his alternating simulations of eyebrows, eye intensity – or, lackthereof – in sync and on pitch with every word conveyed by and to him. He is without question a master in the art of listening and speaking. Jeffrey is also a pleasingly muscular six-feet height, his smooth ‘copper-tone’ complexion virtually glows in any light, and his body-fat repellence completes his ridiculously excellent physique.

It is likewise true that Catherine is a beautiful lady, her long auburn tresses with a lovely flow below her shoulders, her eyes as green as the verdant rolling hills of ‘The Emerald Isle’. Her body is a molding befitting a Goddess, and she too has that copper-tone skin so devastatingly delicate that surely makes her apparitional and beyond any earthly description. Her voice is like a box of music that issues forth a softness of melodious and mellifluous sounds to hold captive any male suitor or enviable and doting female. Catherine stands tall and glorious at her five feet, eight inches, making all shorter men want to kill themselves, the taller men, salivating and ignominiously servile.

These two would-be Mythical-like Grecian Deities ostensibly meet on the first afternoon of their ten-day luxury cruise in the Caribbean Islands, she, apparently finishing a ‘jog’, coming to the pool deck bar for a thirst quencher of vodka-tonic, accidentally stumbling, spilling her newly acquired libation in front of our aforementioned Adonis who is enjoined in conversation with another pretty young lady much too young and naïve for any kind of Adonis bonding.

In a believable, gallant display of nonchalance and brevity with the young lady, Jeffrey stands from his kneeling position and apologizes vigorously to the modestly attentive Catherine who turns and returns to the bar for another vodka-tonic. Following, insisting on his buying her drink for his knee-bending chatter with the young lady, Catherine shakes her head negatively, and speaks with a near timorous response. “No, I can pay for my own drinks. It was a simple accident. No harm done. Thank you for offering.”

Her drink order fulfilled, she brushes past Jeffrey and finds a seat in the middle of chatty sunbathers.

The sunbathers are a steady hum of noise and many eyes are following Catherine’s moves, either, openly without deception, or, with. In truth, no one can reasonably fault the onlookers. Catherine Santos is a rare beauty among so many who could be counted among the simply, beautiful. She sits alone for some moments, staring at the enormous cobalt sea that stretches as far as the eyes can see. Only the most daring of handsome men would seek an entrée to Catherine Santos…only Catherine would know the loneliness that came with her incredible loveliness.

Then, there is one qualifier that makes a fool of many men, perhaps, in more ways than one. That Qualifier is alcohol – drinking alcohol, that is. A most reasonable sequitur from that conclusion is an imbiber with too much juice running through his veins will find enough courage from a ‘high’ on booze to enter that world of beauty and glamour. Three such inebriates approached Catherine Santos there by the pool, the last of the three causing quite a stir and an embarrassing security escort back to his cabin and his sober wife. The first two sobered fast, left Catherine’s presence meekly and was soon gone from the pool area – either, losing a buddy bet, or, embarrassed by all the snickers in the crowded pool area.

Though her drink was only half-finished, Jeffrey brought another drink to her table and requested a brief chat. To the crowd, Catherine showed a nod of ‘no’ and a solemn but pleasant enough dismissal. Yet, he lingered briefly with something said that made her smile. Then, he left.

Later, sumptuous dinners were served in a cozy, softly lit gourmet restaurant that only served those passengers who had purchased that cruise option. The wealthier cruisers preferred the more intimate personal service given at The Golden Interval in lieu of the big dining rooms with hundreds of people vying for serviceRomantic violin music played slow, delicately even strokes just beneath the conversations in the lovely adorned Crimson and Gold room.

Among the diners was Catherine Santos. She sat alone at a small table, conspicuous in her attempt not to be so, dressed in a lovely rose-colored sarong, her beauty accentuated even further by the simple hint of roses. Also, there seated some few tables away was an attractive couple in their forties, smiling, being amused by none other than the charming Jeffrey Bullock. The couple had been poolside earlier in the day to witness the farcical Jesters in their sophomoric attempt to woo Catherine.

Jeffrey finally noticed Catherine and stopped abruptly in his monologue. “Please excuse me, Reggie and Deb, would you mind my inviting a lone soul to join us – that is, unless she would prefer being alone?” The couple smiled and nodded an approval.

Jeffrey rose and went to Catherine’s table, but was back in very short order and announced to his two recently met friends, “The lady prefers to dine alone and I’m reluctant to admit my embarrassment.”

“Don’t be embarrassed, Jeffrey,” was the quick and cheery reply from Deborah Weeden, wife of Reginald, aka, Reggie.

“It’s her misfortune, my boy. We enjoy your company. In fact, after dinner, we hope you can attend with us the ‘Special Art Auction’ on Deck Seven’. There are to be some recent original oils by Evan Sloan Glasgow in various nouveau and original ‘scene-sets’ and some Landscapes, Seascapes by Luther Blankenship. We would really enjoy having you with us at the auction…”

“Unfortunately, I was not invited. I understand the auction is by ‘Invitation Only’, though I thank you so much for the thought.”

“Bosh! Jeffrey, we’re inviting you. We can bring anyone we wish. You will come with us. I shall pull ‘age-rank’ on you, young man and treat you as we might our own son… Now, one more Gibson before dinner. The food is quite marvelous here, Jeffrey, as you might already know, and the Cabernet will add to the overall enjoyment of our meal.”

Deborah added to Reggie’s command, “We are so glad we met you, Jeffrey, in the gaming room earlier. By the stack of chips in front of you, it appeared you did quite well for yourself. For some inscrutable reason, I love gambling on these cruises…something about the sea, I suppose. But, then, that’s part of the fun of ‘Cruising’, gambling, meeting new people. I know Reggie and I have continued friendships with those we’ve met on our many cruises…”

So, the three talked through their dinner, nodded to Catherine as she had to pass their table in exiting the Golden Interval. She smiled sweetly to Deborah and Reginald but barely acknowledged Jeffrey.

One hour later, the trio exited the glass elevator on Deck Seven and entered the ‘Private Invitation Only Art Auction’. Seating was arranged by name of attendees and the comfortable chairs were given numbers to match the guest roster. Some thirty-one people were in attendance for the auction and these were without doubt the wealthiest of all passengers on board.

The big surprise for the dinner trio was the presence of Catherine Santos at the auction. She was seated just behind the three new friends. With a quick phone call, Jeffrey’s name was added to the attendance list and seating next to his two new friends was arranged.

There was a buzz of anticipation in the small crowd, and the noise outside the auction room was audible but not disconcerting. Deck Seven was given to Art Auctions, a Library, Fast Foods of various sorts, and, for the runners, a jogging oval set apart from the strollers.

As a result of the ‘Art Auction’, the Weeden couple winning bids bought them a rare and beautiful Luther Blankenship Seascape extraordinaire, a Glasgow ‘Still-life’, and a magnificent Glasgow ‘Lake House’ oil painting, leaving the attendees agog with the colors represented in the painting. Jeffrey Bullock was impressed with the artist-minded couple with whom he had spent the evening. Jeffrey bid a few times but dropped out when the bidding became too formidable.

As fate would have it, the same was true of Catherine Santos. She seemed to desperately want the Glasgow ‘Lake House’ oil but was outbid by an elderly lady in the back row of seats, who was herself, ultimately outbid by Deborah Weeden.

At the end of the auction, Reggie turned to Catherine Santos and asked her to join them in their huge and high-end expensive suite. Catherine surprised the group with an affirmative response.

The opulent suite had a garden area along with its four plush rooms and a large outer deck for night-time sea-gazing. Both Catherine Santos and Jeffrey Bullock commented on the suite’s beauty without too many lavish-laced phrases. It was not lost on the hosts the carefully worded praise of their suite. It was indeed a formidable penthouse of the Sea, and the group enjoyed their time together. Before the consumption levels reached near the foolish folly level, Catherine was the first to leave with gracious utterings and sleepy eyes. Ten minutes later, Jeffrey left the suite, with a ‘glow’ and gratitude for a fine evening.

Before the partings from the suite, the group promised to meet next evening for dinner at the Golden Interval.

 *

“So, what do you think? Is it a ‘Go’ or a ‘No Go’?”

“Of course, it’s a ‘Go’. Why else are we here?”

“Just asking…there are times when you feel uncomfortable. Just making sure you’re good with the ‘mark’.”

“I’m good with the ‘mark’. Did you see something I didn’t see?”

“No, not really, just that I can smell a ‘con’ a mile off, just…”

“Just, ‘what’?”

“Well, the guy is talking some ‘investment scheme’ which is a ‘scam’ but he thinks I’m a big hitter with millions. I’ve got him thinking the investment scheme sounds good and something I might be interested in. I’m playing along like it’s a possibility, plus I told him I was in a winning zone at the casino tables. He thinks I’m going for the investment scheme, if not during the cruise, then, at a later date.”

“So, what’s the problem?”

“You are my problem. I love you, and I don’t want you getting hurt in all of this. Do I think the guy is dangerous, like, a killer? No, but I need to feel that out just a bit more before committing to the scam. I’ll sleep on it, but Im 90% sure at this point. She’s making a big hit in the casino, and I mean BIG. I stood behind her, and, in just those few minutes, she pulled in more than three hundred grand plus. Those winnings will be wired from the ship into an already huge account. She loves gambling on Cruise ships. Don’t ask me, why, because I don’t have a clue. People are funny in their gambling habits. I do know she wins on the sea and she keeps coming back. We get paid off when the ship wires the money to her bank.”

“We can’t do it if you’ve got the ‘feeling’. We agreed at the beginning – if we are not 100% sure about a ‘mark’ or something seems weird, we don’t go on.”

“Yeah, I know. Let me sleep on it. If the feeling is still there in the morning, we pull it off the table. And, yeah, I know, this might be the biggest ‘hit’ we’ve ever made…and, the last. We’ve got to get serious about our future.”

“Why won’t you tell me how you got the wiring transaction numbers on this mark, and, how does it work?”

“Because my source knows nothing about you, and I intend to keep it that way. You don’t need to know the operation. It would make you much more vulnerable. I can tell you it’s a simple system that cannot be traced back. We get the money wired into our proxy account and no one knows us and how we did it. It’s a new untraceable electronic wiring program. I couldn’t tell you even if I knew how it works… By the way, I believe our new-buddy thinks I’m either gay or a misogynist.”

“And?”

“And, what?”

“Are you one of those things?”

“What…! I’m going to give you a good spanking, lady! Stop giggling and tell me you don’t harbor thoughts like that.”

“Well, I’ve been told…” There was playful chase in the limited space. “Stop tickling me, you brute! You know I’m kidding… Stop tickling…”

“Gonna behave?”

“Yes, master!” There was one more tickle and the playful activity was finished. “Seriously, Sweetheart, make me a promise: can this be our last gig?”

“Yes, most definitely. It’s time we began enjoying the fruits of our labors…”

More playful activity came, but this time it was sensitive, soft, beautiful.*

*

Four ports of call and ten lazy, lovely sunny days on the briny, the cruise ended in Miami, Florida. In that time Jeffrey and Catherine had become seemingly very close. In the eyes of new friends, Reginald and Deborah Weeden, the sparkle and spontaneity that their Cruise play pals gave off indicated as much

The Cruise Ship’s speakers announced disembarking instructions while both Jeffrey and Reggie left the ladies and luggage in The Garden Suite to visit the Chief Purser for the settling of their bills.

On the pier, there were hugs and jolly goodbyes with promises to get again together for another cruise, or, simply to visit each other. There seemed a most sincere bonding of the group, and each couple looked back in their strides to wave.

*

“Nice couple, really. It seems…”

“Yes, very nice…don’t go there. ‘Sorry’ is a miserable place to visit. Just remember, they were after what we have. We just beat them to the punch.”

The door slammed making her jump with fright. He called her name and she relaxed.

When he walked into the living-room she knew there had to be bad news.

“What’s wrong?”

“We have no money, that’s what’s wrong!“What! Don’t do this…it’s not funny!”

“You’re telling me, ‘it’s not funny’? Jeez, you don’t see me laughing, do you? WE HAVE NO MONEY! Zilch! Zero! Account empty!”

“But you wired the money aboard ship. How can that be?”

“How the hell do I know? So? ‘How can that be’, you ask? There is no money in our account! That’s how it can be! There is no money, period. No ship casino money…no millions we had in the account. NO MONEY!

“Maybe, it’s just not in yet! Oh, you mean, the money we had in the account is gone, too? Oh, my God!”

“Jeez, you’re dense! Wired money is NOW-money? Yes, the account money and the casino winnings, all gone! Why…”

There was an insistent ringing of the front doorbell.

“I’ll get it,” he said.

She followed him to the door.

He yanked the door open!

“Nice place you have here, Mr. and Mrs. Weeden. You two are under arrest! Put your hands behind your back. You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to an attorney…You…” 

*

“You’re serious? You want to get married?” Catherine – real name, Sherrie Malcomb, asked in disbelief.

“Yeah, I’m serious,” answered Jeffrey, real name, Gibson ‘Gibby’ Tierney, “Why would you think I’m not serious? You know how I feel about you, and you say you love me, so let’s do it. We have a major chunk of money now for a huge honeymoon – not too gaudy and/or too showy to call attention to us…”

“Wait, no one knows it was us, do they? You said. ‘anonymous’ made it known to the police.”

“That’s right! Someone ‘Deborah’ and ‘Reggie’ fleeced on their previous cruise. Not to worry, it’s our pay for getting the job done. Don’t you just love a ‘double-con’?!” The two lovable ‘con artists’ enjoy a chuckle and embrace. “So, do I go to my knees to propose, or, are you gonna save me from bruising my knees?”

“You’re not much of a Candlelight and Wine guy, are you?” Sherrie smiled, as they embraced – sealing the deal.

“I’m saving that for our first night in The Garden Suite, my love…”

TaleEnd!

Billy Ray Chitwood – July 11, 2019

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