Comes the Dawn

Comes the Dawn!

(For John Howell – Re-coup-knee-repl.)

The long night was over: no more voices whispering in the darker shadows of the bedroom; no more misshapen forms parading slowly past the end of the bed, blood pouring in ghastly lava-flows; no more screaming from my beloved wife, not knowing why, but screaming from seeing my white-blanched face, my red, tear-streaked cheeks, and my uncontrollable shaking.

The doctor gave me a mild pre-warning, but I will never forgive myself for the agony I put my good wife Jackie   through that first night home from a knee-replacement surgery.

Dr. Driscoll told me that the pain medicine and its delivery system did not necessarily go well with the current pill regimen I was on. “Some medications collide with pain pills, Jeremy, so hallucinations are not out of the question. There is no way to predict the nature of the hallucinations, but I’ve heard some grotesque tales from patients in the past. You must take your medications, so it’s ‘pain or pain-pill’.”

The pain last night was excruciating, so I opted for the ‘pain-pill’, figuring the hallucinations could not be too much worse than the pain. Well, it was a ‘toss-up’! Still, that phantasmagorical experience was a ride down one of Hell’s terrifying roller coasters.

Okay, my pain threshold is weak to cry-babyish! AND, I’m about to take another pain-pill as I’m writing this because the pain is eating me alive – again! And, it’s daytime.

This time, I’m recording both video and sound. Yes, I know! Jackie saw nothing last night, only my writhing body and screams. Let’s just say, I’ve got to do this for myself. If nothing else, I’ll have some history to look back on so I can do a bad imitation of one silly laughing hyena. I’ve sent Jackie and our golden retrievers to the park. Jackie doesn’t want to go, leaving me alone, but I win the argument for her going. Looking at the clock, it is now one-thirty in the afternoon – at least, I made it with the pain for a few hours.

Okay, I’m getting really drowsy as the pain has subsided and sleep is inevitable. I’m closing my eyes now, letting Hypnos have his way with me.

I’m sleeping! I know I’m sleeping, but I also know I’ve got my eyes open watching the thin wispy cirrus clouds go lazily by outside my bedroom window. The pale blue sky is so beautiful, and I’m conscious of the most serene and dominating ether feeling in my body and mind with just a smidgen of numbness in the knee replacement area. In this most languid moment I surrender to the wondrous drowsy feeling and allow sleep to come.

“Oh, God! What is that? No, no! Get away, I’m sleeping and you’re not real. GO! GET AWAY FROM ME! Oh, my God! Help me! Someone, please, help me! The recorder is on! The world will know about you! No! Please, no! Not in bed with me! No! No! My God! It’s opening its long ugly brown jaws! It’s going to eat me! No! No! No!”

Jackie found me asleep on the floor by the bed, softly snoring. There was a huge gash on my right bicep, and the carpet was soaked in my blood. Jackie immediately called 911!

EMTs arrived! Carted me off to hospital emergency as I still slept, unaware this drama was taking place.

I awoke in a hospital bed, confused and unmercifully rude to the nurses and intern servicing me, angry at the alligator-thing that attacked me, angry at my good doctor for performing the knee replacement surgery, angry with Jackie for leaving me alone.

YES, YES, I KNOW! I insisted that she go to the park with our most beautiful Goldens.

GOOD THING! Perhaps! Who knows what the alligator would have done to Jackie and the pets?!

YES, there was an alligator! Believe me! There was an alligator! AND, I have it on audio and video!

Jackie thought she had closed the door when she left for the park, and, perhaps she did… Our Florida home is on the waterway that feeds into the sea.

However, it was Jackie’s re-entry into our lovely home that spooked the alligator enough that it very quickly exited!

All’s well that ends well!

Today, six months later, I’m running a 5K Marathon!

~*~

Flash Fiction by BR Chitwood – August 16, 2018

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Miles From Afghanistan

Miles from Afghanistan!

“Pardon me, aren’t you staying on Route 40?”

“Does it look like I’m staying on Route 40?”

“No, sir! But you said you were staying on Route 40 all the way to Flagstaff when you picked me up.”

“Did I say that? The devil must have made me say that!”

“But, sir, I need to get to Flagstaff. Please stop here. I’ll make it back to Route 40 on my own.”

“You just undid your seat buckle! Buckle-up for safety, they say. Have you heard them say that, Ronnie?”

“No, sir, and my name isn’t Ronnie. It’s Bishop.  Please stop the car, sir, and let me out.”

“Lawrence Ronald Smith? That your name?”

“Please, sir, stop the car, let me out. Now, sir, please!”

“Um! Not, Smith? Not, Ronnie? So, you’re one of those ‘Bishops’? One of those religious leaders?”

“Is it my uniform, sir? You don’t like the military? Just let me out of your car, sir. You’ll never see me again.”

“You’re sweating, kid! I’ve got the air on! Why are you sweating, young sir?”

“Please, Mister, stop the car and let me out! Now, Sir!”

“Marines give orders! Right? You giving me an order, Sergeant Bishop? That right?”

“No, I’m giving you this, you miserable SOB!”

“Ouch! That’s a pretty good right hand you got there, Sergeant Bishop… Now, you’ve done it! Don’t you know, Sergeant a car loses its power steering when the keys are turned off while driving, that is, if you’re driving one of those oldies that don’t have the modern gear. Aah!

“You okay, Sergeant? My right hand’s likely not as good as your right hand, right, Sarge Bishop. Sarge Bishop! Oh, you’re taking a nap. Got all tired out on me, huh? ‘Whistle me up a memory’ – you don’t mind my singing, do you Sarge? Guess not, you’re still napping on me. ‘Whistle me up a memory, whistle me back where I want to be – to Tombstone Territory’!

“Okay, this looks like a real good spot! Ah, you’re coming around! Guess maybe my karate chop put you napping longer than I expected…wow, you’re a big guy, heavy, heavy! Okay, I got you leaning against the tree. You a bit more comfortable now, right, Sarge? You’re blinking your eyes, that’s good! You got your wits back, Sarge? I need to talk to you. Now, you can see you’re free to go, but here’s the thing…you got these trees all around you and you gotta figure which way you want to go…”

“Come on, Mister! Don’t play these games with me. Just let me go! I’ve done nothing to you and …”

“Whoa! Hold on there! You gave me a darn good blast back there in the car, so, yeah, you did something to me. Now, listen, Sarge, I’m going to tell you something I’ve never told nobody! The marines treated me real awful-like back in the day, put me in their version of a prison stockade, and it just wasn’t a very nice place. Some of those fellas had been in there for a while, and they got their jollies in nasty and peculiar ways, if you know what I mean… Whoa, now, Sarge, don’t be trying to get up ‘til I tell you the rules…”

“The Marines might have done bad things to you but I didn’t…can’t you see that? Can’t you just let me go? I’ll just forget all of this! Can you do that for me, Mister?  You don’t have to use that rifle you’ve got there! You can’t just shoot me. Please, Mister, I got a new family! Give me a chance!”

“Well, now, that was a right nice way of putting your words, Sarge, and, doggone it, I’m gonna let you go. For real! Shucks, you’re right, you got a family started and all. You just get on up from that ground you’re on, and take off! Don’t shake your head because I’ve got the gun. I mean it, Sarge, just take off…only one thing, you have to go that direction, straight away into the woods. You can almost see a pathway the way those trees are laid out. The only thing is, if I see you trying to get off that line right there my rifle’s pointing at, I’ll have to shoot you…am I making my point clear enough?”

“Why can’t you just let me get back on the road?”

“Cause that’s the rules of the game, Sarge! I won’t start looking for you ‘til you’re out of sight.”

 “Looking for me? What? You’re going to hunt me like an animal? This is a sporting event for you? You are one sick sonofabitch! Why don’t you fight me like a man? You have all the advantage! You afraid I can take you, Mister? Is that it? Because you hit me with a karate chop in your car, you figure that makes you the better man. Hell, you’re a damned coward, afraid to fight! I can see why the corps blasted your ass, Mister. You wouldn’t make a pimple on a good Marine’s ass! You’re yellow! You’re…Ow!”

“Get up, boy! I’ve got some more of this gun butt for you! You’re trying my patience, and I’m about to get so mad I may have to kill you after all. Come on! Get up! Get up, Sarge, now! Okay, you feel the rifle barrel on your fore-head, Sarge. You want me to pull the trig..ugh…”

The leaves fell from the trees as the marine tackled the man with the rifle, straddled him and pummeled him with left and right fist blows until the blood made him nauseous. The marine rolled off the man, stood above the lifeles body and heaved off to the side.

The marine leaned against the tree staring down at the man with the gun, his breath coming in short gasps. He swallowed hard, weaving, retching again, tried to bring his right hand to the gash on the side of his forehead as the pain registered in his brain from the broken fingers. He swooned, almost fell and went to the ground on his knees, squealing as his left hand reached for the ground as balance. The left hand was also broken, thankfully not as severe as the right.

When some semblance of normal breathing returned he checked for a pulse of the psychotic man on the ground. The marine gasped again.

The man was dead!

Then, tears came to mix with the grit and sweat of the past frenzied moments. Thoughts cascaded in his mind.

 He had taken another life! Another life he could add to those he had taken in Afghanistan!

After the crying, the soul-searching, the marine known as Bishop managed to painfully and slowly remove the car keys from the dead man’s pocket, got in the car and drove to the nearest roadside stop to make a phone call to the authorities.

The authorities had an extensive rap sheet on the dead man, and no charges were brought against Bishop. The authorities could forgive him but he could not forgive himself.

Bishop awoke on many nights from terrible dreams of a man with a mutilated face, gashed, with blood flowing profusely from the gaping maw! On those occasions, he would rise tearfully from the bed, put on jogging shorts, and run far into the night.

A short tale from:

BR Chitwood – August 8, 2018

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A Meeting at Chasen’s

A Meeting at Chasen’s 

I Wonder!

(And, Song! ‘I Wonder’)

She was with a group of ladies leaving Chasen’s, a popular dinner-stop for the Hollywood elite. The ladies were all busily atwitter with conversation and giggles, all lovely to look at, all most elegantly and splendidly representative of the classy sets that came to dine and be seen in the sumptuous five-star dining palace.

Having had a busy day clearing up some dull and uninteresting legal business, my attorney buddies and I were also leaving this hallmark of dining. When my eyes stopped quickly on this beautiful creature, the impulse was strong, nay, urgent, it seemed, to dash the few yards that separated us and meet this winsome damsel in no stress whatsoever. Her long flowing folds of blond curls danced upon her shoulders, her eyes sparkled and the beige dress she wore clung proprietarily to her body in maddening precision.

I broke from my friends, and their surprised eyes followed me to my destination.

Touching softly her upper arm, I spoke: “This is a bit awkward, I admit, but please allow me but a few seconds of your time.” The three other ladies in the group grinned and raised their brows at my un-bridled whimsy. “This is not a common action for me, but I’m dazzled by your beauty and simply had to meet you…pardon me, I’m Johnson Jacobs, JJ, if you will, and may I have the name that goes with your aforementioned beauty?”

There were glances among the ladies, and I noticed a playful cognition, a slight downward bow of head to urge onward my lovely prey. They were being entertained by my free-wheeling interruption of their chatter.

“I’m Lesley Bidwell, and I’m in shock!”

“Well, you’re most lovely in that place! Oh, please don’t mind me. In my world, I find myself not so timid when it comes to meeting a rare and lovely jewel such as you…and, please forgive me, ladies, you’re all so lovely, but this one matches those lovely dreams that possess me in the lonely nights. I’m quick to notice, Lesley, there is no wedding ring on your finger. Is there the slightest possibility my brash behavior can result in a future dinner date, or, perhaps a simple meeting for cocktails?”

Lesley looked to each of her smiling lady friends for support and received again those raised eyebrows and gentle nods. After some seconds, Lesley spoke: “We just came for dinner and were heading for the Marina del Rey lounge for after-dinner drinks.” She looked again at her friends and got the nods. “We can meet there and have a nightcap.”

My buddies went on their way, and I went to the Marina del Rey lounge and met Lesley. It was all that a ‘romantic’ could ask for – low lighting, and softly filtered ballads from the adjoining lounge. It was a night to remember, one more page for the memory vault.

~*~

We shared some wonderful moments together and were indeed serious for a time. Our love affair was to last nearly a year. Close but no cigars, as they say! I’m sure my friends thought that my wandering eye, my unstable soul always alert to new conquests, was the real cause for our parting. Perhaps it was to some extent, but more than that, Lesley was seriously tied to her brokerage work, and more often than not, it conflicted with an amorous get-away up or down the Pacific coast highway.

We were both divorced and looking for ‘White Buffaloes’ – me, more so than she. Lesley had great acumen, took her brokerage position much more seriously at times than I wished. Me? I owned a going business, built earlier with years of hard work, and now sufficiently staffed with people I trusted, leaving me the time to seriously search for my soul-mate, to search and shape that important part of my life. I was unwilling to let business interfere too frequently with my quest. It did not matter that people might think me an adolescent, a ‘lotus-eater’, a Don Quixote off on a silly quest atop his steed. No, I needed love! I needed that special person with whom to grow old.

Actually, my poetry at the time depicted a lonely guy with an unsteady beat to his heart, a harried mind scrambled by an unreasonable past.

So, it was! And, so it is!

Lesley became a friend, never married.

My mind does its aimless wandering at times. I often find myself remembering old ‘loves’ and how their lives turned out. There is one point of clarity if it is needed: there was never NOT love in any of my relationships…I can hear Willie and Julio singing now – ‘To all the girls I loved before…’

So, deserving or not, I got lucky! There came into my life a lovely raven-haired, down-to-earth lady who treasures family and pets. We have children and grandchildren. She tells me quite often that I’m her ‘favorite pet’. I have a feeling she’s telling me some arcane truth about myself… I wonder!

‘I wonder’!

I see trees

With Green leaves in Winter!

I see the moon

Where the sun should stand…

There’s a lake

Where there should be a meadow,

A forest where there should be sand!

And, with all this,

I wonder,

Can life be merely a dream?

A dream that can build

A love that is real,

A love to last,

Eternally?

I hear a song

With soft words of silence.

I hear a lark

When there is no bird.

I hear a horn

When there should be no music,

A sound

that should not be heard!

And, with all this,

I wonder,

Can life be merely a dream?

A dream that can build

A love that is real,

 A love to last,

Eternally?

(Song ‘I Wonder’ ©Billy Ray Chitwood)

Post by Billy Ray Chitwood – August 3, 2018

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Soul’s Surrender

Soul’s Surrender

The damp air assumed the color of periwinkle on my sweaty arms as the moon came from the cumulus like an angry despot, a wisp of cloud appearing like a mustache on its solemn surface. The gently rising hill upon which my steps carried me was covered with freshly mown grass that gave off a delicious smell of watermelon. I stopped at the top of the hill and breathed deeply the olfactory delight, the big house now in view, some three hundred yards down this hill and up another, big centuries-old maple trees dotting its perimeter.

For a moment, the lights in the big house seemed to twinkle for me, perchance a welcome home endearment, but, then, my errand of mercy had only taken me three hours although it seemed much longer. The car would not start. The cell phone would not work. I didn’t want to walk along the highway at night, so, to the rolling hills. We were alarmed and nervous about our cat, Joey. We were afraid we might be losing him as he seemed unable to move about without falling and regurgitating.

The vet was one mile away, and I decided to carry Joey to the vet’s office. Someone was at their small hospital facility at all times. Joey was of petite build and not heavy in his carrier. Laura, the nice lady vet, gave Joey a quick check and decided it was best to leave him there for a day or two to allow for thorough testing and treatment. She indicated his ‘vitals’ were showing satisfactory readings, but she wanted to be certain it was nothing more than a bad morsel Joey decided to ingest.

If the light from the moon was not deceiving me and my old failing eyes could be trusted, Heather was there on the porch waving me on. Waving back, I smiled, and tears slowly passed through the whiskery wrinkles on my cheeks and dropped to mix with the ground dew. It was rather common these days to shed tears in my desperate moments when harsh realities hit and confounded the order and sequences of living. I slowed my pace to give the tears their time to flow before I reached Heather, conjuring up thoughts that were mundane and easy to indulge and toss away.

There was something unrevealed to Heather which, as fate would have it, coincided with Joey’s sudden ailment. Perhaps the lovable cat sensed the secret. My days of doubting ‘cat lore’ and labeling mysteries of the world’s tomfoolery were long gone. Our family doctor gave me his diagnosis of my frequent headaches after EEG test-runs and consultation with a neurologist specialist. It was an inoperable tumor, now the size of a large marble but growing in size steadily. Was there a chance the tumor might just dissolve, just miraculously melt into nothing and its residue get lost in the nerve messages sent via neuronal activities? Doctor Spaulding’s only response to my queries was: “Miracles happen in the Medical field all the time, Jimmy, but take the medication I’ve prescribed to slow the tumor’s growth and we’ll keep a watchful eye. Other scans and tests were subsequently performed and diagnosed. The rendering was the same. The doctor said Heather should know, but I swore him to secrecy. This was my fight alone, and she was not to be part.

The nearer to the porch I walked, Heather’s beautiful smile and the love that shone in her eyes made me quake inside and the tears came again. I managed a smile to go with the tears but she saw the distress behind my quivering lips and ran down the steps to meet me.

“Oh, we lost Joey, Jimmy?” She wrapped her arms around me and was sure Joey was gone.

“No, no, sweetheart, Doc Laura is just keeping him over for some tests. Joey’s tough! He’ll be up and around in no time.”

As I talked she pulled back and eyed me carefully.

“Why are you crying, Jimmy? Tell me, please!”

“Ah, come on, I just saw you there and the moment got to me.  That’s all, honey, really. I’ve been gone for three hours and I missed you. Can’t I miss my wife?”

“Of course, you can – and, better, for that matter!” She smiled again, grabbed my arm and led me up the porch steps and into the house.

I was suddenly and unaccountably happy and unafraid of dying. Heather was with me! That was all that truly mattered to me. After all, dying is part of our living, a moment in time each of us must face. So, I pushed aside those moments of anxiety and weakness. I regaled in thoughts of all those moments yet left to me with Heather.

Flash Fiction by Billy Ray Chitwood – July 30, 2018

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Sinful Desperation

Sinful Desperation

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Sinful Desperation

Flash Fiction by Billy Ray Chitwood-

“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.”

He stared at the ceiling as he reclined on the big bed, his naked body stretched straight, seeking relief from his back pain.

“It’s been years, my son, since your last confession. I hear desperation in your voice. Is the Church your last bastion of hope?”

A mournful smile of contrition and watery eyes looked upward to the ceiling. He would play both parts of this little satire from his soul, not mocking the billions of people who habitually practiced their faith in a Deity, rather, an awkward attempt at an anodyne for his pain.

“Yes, Father, on all accounts…” a back spasm interrupted his soliloquy and he sought another position on the bed. He was too tightly wound and needed to move his limbs in some exercises the cute young lady in physical therapy had insisted he practice each day.

Finally, he found some relief and continued with his conversation with the ‘Holy Father’ there in the center of his ceiling. “Yes, Father, many years, and, in conflicting ways, a lifetime ago, yet, now, here, as the filmstrip of my earthly adventure unveils itself to me, my weekly spiritual visits to your Church seems not so far away.”

The man was almost ready to hear a reply. Not to be, he continued.

“So, on to my confession, Father, one, I fear will take more than a few ‘Hail Marys’ and a heavy penitence to absolve.” The man closed his eyes and his face took on a grimace.

“I confess to one of Man’s oldest of the seven sins, Pride. All my life I’ve taken umbrage with people who sully me, sometimes, in simple remarks that attempt to jest and tease. Perhaps that sin comes from a youthful disconnect with family and a poor quality of life. This sin has cost me friends and love connections. It is also truth to say it is the least of my sins.

“I confess to an earlier life rife with excessive sensual pleasures, Lust/Debauchery of the wicked and most wild, orgy-filled, salacious kind. I sought out and experimented with life’s underworld of Bacchus-plus drug madness. There were moments of intense euphoria, gratification, and immoral depravity.

“And, when the days and nights of playing Nero’s mad fiddle ended, there were tears, self-recrimination, times for soul-wrenching and no resolutions: preparation-time, it could be said, for the next ‘big toot’.

“I confess, Father, to periods of Envy, of Sloth, of Gluttony, and of Greed.

“There remains one more sin, Father, that of Wrath. I have saved it for the final portion of my confession because there was a prelude of most, if not all, the seven virtues before its denouement… a period in my life of happiness so fulfilling, so real, that it seemed my life had found its right and true moral compass.

“Having run the gamut of my ‘fiddling’ days, I sought to find a more righteous purpose in my life. A friend of mine who had been lost in the same forest of shame as I invited me to go to church with him on a beautiful Sunday morning in June. After smiling stupidly at the idea, I decided to go…to see how the ‘moral half’ lived.

“Are you still with me, Father? Have I lost you in my recount of decadence?”

The man could almost see the Father’s smile. “How could I not? What with such an interesting life you present to me?”

“You, Father, speak with a forked tongue. You must know it’s the fires of hell I’m destined for!

“Whatever, at the beautiful church with my friend, I met Maureen, a woman of remarkable beauty I felt destiny had placed in my path. We both felt a Karmic bonding and began a long relationship which ended in marriage.

“Our love was pure and, by any standard, storybook. We danced in the moonlight and worked every day at our jobs, saved our money and became wealthy, mostly by her artistic talent and her huge following. We were together all the moments we were not working or at a painting exhibition.

“We had a baby boy who died in his sixth month of an undiagnosed tumor.

“Maureen and I were devastated by Brian’s death, but, for her, there was an emptiness she could not fill. She began drinking. She stopped painting, and fate pulled her from me into the arms of another man. She was still trying to fill the void left by Brian.

“We began to argue, our spats becoming an ugly, yet another obtrusion to our love.

“Last night, Maureen arrived home after midnight, clearly in the mood for another spat. I pleaded with her to go to bed. She became infuriated with me and began slapping me. The slaps made me angry, and I tried to wrap my arms around her to carry her off to bed. She stomped my foot with the heel of her shoe and pushed me backward. I began to fall and grabbed her wrist instinctively to secure my footing. Then, she, too, began to fall, and I let go so she could get her footing. Her head banged loudly into the granite counter in our bar area and she went down onto the carpet, blood spreading out in a profuse flow from the gash. Maureen died last night, Father.”

The man could almost hear the sorrow in the Father’s voice, see the pain on his face through a small imagined window in a small imagined confessional.

On the bed, as tears flowed from the man’s eyes, he saw a pale shadowy figure, an apparition, Maureen, her arms extended toward him, her sad tearful eyes and still beautiful face beckoning to him.

The man’s face was covered in tears, his voice gagging and pitiful gasps, as he thrust the butcher knife upward into his heart.

The bedroom was silent in its darkness as the two wraiths walked across the room to eternity.

Flash Fiction by Billy Ray Chitwood  (Rpt)

June 26,2018

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Love’s Ironic Twist

(From the author’s book: SATAN’S SONG – A Bailey Crane Mystery Bk. 2)

– NEW Re-Launch The Month of June –

The unmistakable alluring aroma of coffee came to me at 8:30 AM that Saturday morning. It was one of the most satisfying smells in the universe.

I sneakily left the bed and went to the bathroom, silently closed the door, brushed my teeth, scraped the tongue, and shaved. Emerged from the bathroom in an old ASU football jersey, faded jeans, and white canvas shoes, went to confront Pam.

She was sitting on the patio, dressed also in jeans and one of my old striped dress shirts. Poured myself a cup of coffee and went out to join her. A closed book was on her lap, and the newspaper on the wrought iron table. Her legs were resting on one of the other chairs and she had a wistful little girl look on her face as she stared at the bougainvillea bushes on the western end of the patio. She was really deep within herself and that grapefruit-size knot returned to my stomach.

Mood swings were part of my reality. For Pam, they were more rare. When either of us was in a mood, we stayed out of each other’s way until it passed. This time, it was necessary for me to intrude into her space.

“Wanna talk?” My voice was soft and meek. Closed the french door behind me, placed my coffee on the table next to the newspaper and sat down.

She looked at me with that cute enigmatic smile that was her trademark. Was it just me or were her eyes misty from crying?

“Hi, how was your trip to San Diego?” Like there was no last night, no scratching record to remove, and no Pam at home with me.

“Trip was fine. Where were you?” No small talk. This was on a definite ‘need to know’ basis.

“Out. With friends. Had some drinks.” Pam looked at herempty cup on the table. “I’ve gotta get another cup of coffee.”

Jumping out of my chair, “I’ll get your coffee. Sit.”

I returned, sat her coffee in front of her, and asked: “Pam, no smoke and mirrors, please. My gut’s in a knot. Why is my gut in a knot, Pam? Why do I wake up at 3:00 AM on the sofa and find my wife in a bed she wasn’t in hours earlier?” I sat erect in my chair, feet firmly on the ground, my arms on the chair supports. Needed a cigarette in times like this.

Pam did a little head bow, hesitated, picked up her coffee and took a sip. “Didn’t want to wake you and have a scene. You were obviously loaded. You seemed to be sleeping peacefully. Even started your classical tape over for you.”

“Gee, thanks!” snidely rendered, “Okay, loaded on the sofa. Sleeping peacefully. Now awake and sober, so tell me about last night.”

“Told you, Bailey. Drinks with my friends, Am I not allowed? Is clearance needed?” She was emoting the damned issue.

“Come on, Pam. Dispense with the rationalizing crap. You know you’re allowed and you know damned well I would want to know. And what’s with the ‘clearance’ bullshit? You know that’s not true. You’re married to a cop, dammit! Don’t lay this stuff on me.”

“Okay, okay! Larry was in the group, and I knew you would be pissed about it.” She looked down at the table.

“Larry Clarkson?” The knot got bigger, and I got angry. “Your ex-lover! Oh, and you thought I’d be pissed? Right? Me, pissed?” The jolt had the adrenaline doing crazy things to me. It was difficult to think, to formulate a response.

“Yes, pissed!” she yelled. “Look at you, you’re …”

“I’m what? I’m sure not pissed. I’m fucking outraged! How could you do that? How could you be with him?” I got up and stomped around the patio. Picked up the newspaper and slammed it back on the table. “How, Pam? How?”

“Bailey, you don’t own me! I have a life. I have a right to see people. My friends. You do your thing. You don’t ask my permission.”

“Bullshit! You always know where I am. And you damned well know I wouldn’t be with an ex-lover. You’re doing a puppet show, Pam. I can see it. I can see it all. The way you’re talking, reacting. It’s bullshit. You know what you did last night, and I know what you did. You got laid by an ex-lover. You got …”

“Bailey, stop it! Stop it now!” She was angry and she was scared, but not of me. I could not and would not hurt her. She was scared for us.

“Okay, Pam, I’ll stop it. But look me in the eyes, straight on, and tell me. Tell me you did not fuck Larry Clarkson last night.” My hands went gently to her shoulders, turning her to face me.

“Tell me you did not, Pam!”

Her tear-filled eyes finally lifted to meet mine, and I could see the awful truth without her uttering it. Oh, her love for me was there, too, and her shame for having hurt me. I could see a little girl lost, abused and frightened, wary yet bold, confused and unable to lock in totally, wanting to but unable to lock in totally to something so rich and promising as the love we felt for each other. I could see my own image in her eyes, tears welling and falling down my cheeks. An enormous hurt consumed me and, in that moment, some atavistic awareness clutched my heart as though this hurt passed well beyond and back from now and on into the yesterdays of tomorrow.

I released her shoulders and dropped my hands. She began to speak, “Bailey, I …”

“No, Pam,” my voice betrayed me, choked, “don’t say any-thing just now … It’s okay … You’re allowed.”

I stood and left the patio. In the bathroom, I turned both faucets on full force to drown the noise of the great heaving sobs, the rending of my soul. Even there, in that painful place of the heart, could grown-up men cry?

Married three and a half years, gloriously happy years for the most part, always on a honeymoon, it seemed.

Our pasts had caught up with us. The raw ugliness of her youth had merged with the senseless bible-belt guilt of my own. Perhaps all along our fate had been inevitable, sealed in the quiet desperation of our search to find one another, seeking to match souls not ready for matching … There was something dark and deep in the lower part of our consciousness that knew all along that we could never be that wondrous storybook love of our dreams.

Here on the surface of flesh reality, away from the deeper unknowable truths of soul, it was true that too much ego and pride can cripple the mind of man. My endowment had been an over-generous amount in those areas, yet I could still fancy myself as having compassion and humility in just as great quantity. Ah, abstract bullshit! I was suffocating on my own self-pity, feeling a lethargy of spirit never known in my adult life until now. Compassion and Humility was at war with ego and pride.

‘A dandy little pitiable pit you seem to be digging for yourself,’ my alter guy kept telling me the next couple of days, over and over until it became rote, feeling perhaps that the repetition of some sane reality-based statement might shorten the excavation period. It worked and it didn’t work.

Pam was near obsequious in her efforts to please me and somehow erase the one event that a man has the most difficult time erasing. This was merely the perception, not her intent. She was truly sorry and in pain herself. There were no screaming and yelling scenes after the truth had been revealed. There were no revenge and get even inferences or thoughts. We even slept in the same bed. Alone. There was just a stifling and onerous apathy. It occurred to me that I should be angrier, more the damaged party. But it simply hurt, more devastatingly than the searing stab of a knife or the stinging bite of a gun-shot. And it hurt to watch Pam go through her own agony, her soulful regret at having caused me pain. Our love was still there, just parked at a spot inaccessible to us.

It was everything I’ve said but it was embarrassingly more: it was the slow peeling away of my being, the fabric of what I conceived myself to be. It was low time, slow time, and second-guessing time. Pam and I walked on proverbial egg shells covering mounds of quick-sand, imitating some inane, inadequate, secondary semblance of life.

Ego and Pride, evil twin brothers in man’s march through life!

Billy Ray Chitwood – May 31, 2018

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From Italy – With Love

From Italy With Love

I thought it was all over!

There were two problems. My single engine plane coughed, sputtered, and acted like it was out of gas – but the tank was filled just twenty minutes before at the air park in Genoa. The other problem was lack of control – without success, I tried to control the Aileron, that hinged surface in the trailing edge of an airplane wing which is used to control lateral balance…think of a seesaw, keeping it horizontally straight without either end dipping down.

Bottom line: big problem with the plane’s engine out and my inability to glide the plane accurately to a spot for landing.

I got lucky!

See the trees at the bottom of the picture above? Somehow, I managed to land the plane some ten feet to the right of those trees, with the right wing an inch or two from the sand and the nose about to plow into the ground. An abrupt action with the right wing somehow caused the plane to straighten its line and touched down roughly but then slowly moved to a stop with the friction of the sand.

No bruises, no cuts, no radio transmission, and no real damage…just some rattled nerves.

Actually, I sat there behind the stick for some seconds and felt pretty good – hey, I had a story to tell my film buddies back in Santa Monica. We were still young, chasing the ladies, and telling each other our tall stories. Because I looked a bit like Steve McQueen, my buddies gave me the nickname, ‘Cool Mac 2’.

I pulled the leather flight jacket from my near 200 pound, 6 foot frame, flung it over my right shoulder, grabbed my clothes bag from the cockpit, and started walking toward the buildings in the picture’s foreground. Only a few feet into my walk I saw an old jalopy heading toward me. My walk only lasted some three hundred yards before the jalopy stopped and a man and woman threw some Italian at me. Some I understood but the gist I did not.

The woman was beautiful, and the guy, well, he was handsome enough, I guess, but he was much older than the lady…for some obscure reason, I was wishing the duo was daughter and father.

Sorry, I speak very little Italian. Do you speak English?”

Jes, we speak some Engleesh, but you just crash yur plane! Are you hokay?” Such a lovely voice to go with the face and body.

Yes, I’m fine. I got lucky. But I could use a phone and some assistance in reaching people who can help me. Would you…”

The older man stopped me in mid-sentence, “Get in the car. We will take you to our home where there is phone and food.” His white whiskered face showed kindness and blended in with his white wavy hair. He instantly reminded me of Maurice Chevalier…you know, the French actor who sang ‘Thank Heaven for Leetle Gurls, for leetle gurls get bigger every day’.

Rosina was the lady’s name, and Pauli was the gentleman’s name. I immediately liked them and found them most cordial and friendly. It was particularly tough for me me to avoid glancing at Rosina. Her long dark hair went to the middle of her back, framed a beautifully tanned exotic face, and her bluish green eyes sparkled with flirty coyness. She was wearing a slightly loose tan dress, but, had it been tightly fitting, my heart might have leaped through my shirt. I had worked with some lovely ladies in films, and this Rosina beauty did not take a backseat to any of them.

Pauli asked me what I was doing flying a plane in Italy.

Well, Pauli, my girlfriend and I broke things off, and I was between jobs, never been to Italy and have always wanted to come and see it in person. I’ve been in love with your country ever since Clint Eastwood made those ‘Spaghetti Westerns’, well, actually, all my life. This was a good time for me to come… Oh, my name is Faron Brady. Flying is a hobby, and I just thought I would see some of your beautiful country…didn’t get much accomplished, I’m afraid.”

We talked, got well acquainted, and I felt we established a great bond. Pauli knew who to call to handle the plane and the rental company in Cortona.

When Pauli and Rosina found out I had no lodging in Cortona for the night, they insisted I be their guest, spend a few days, and tell them all about America. I had an idea Pauli was perhaps playing matchmaker for Rosina – without her necessarily knowing it.

After Rosina left the conversation to refresh herself before dinner, Pauli showed me to my bedroom. He announced wine and hors d’oeuvres would be served before dinner and that Madame Rosaria would be preparing dinner for serving at 7:00 PM… Madame Rosaria had been Pauli’s mistress and house manager since his wife died ten years prior. Out shopping, I would meet her later.

Suddenly, I was very tired. I took off my shoes and fell across the bed.

The nap came quickly, and I don’t know how long I slept. When I awoke, Rosina was standing in the doorway with the most seductive smile ever put on me. I raised to an elbow.

Is it near 5:00 PM?” I asked, trying very hard to return the seduction.

Jes, you must freshen up and have some wine, the best Italian cheese, and hors d’oeuvres. We await you, Signore Faron.” She turned and left the doorway ‘in a most delightful way’.

Freshened, I joined my hosts in the living room. Madame Rosaria was a lovely lady as well and not a lot older than Rosina. It was a little scary! Both seemed to be putting the moves on me. Now, of course, this was likely an Italian ‘thing’ and not meant to be interpreted in a romantic fashion. Certainly, Pauli was not at all concerned by the actions of the ladies.

We drank, we ate, we laughed, we traded cultural distinctions and idiosyncrasies. It was one of the best evenings I could remember ever having.

In the end, Pauli and Rosaria went to bed, leaving Rosina and me alone in the living room, slightly tipsy and now fully engaged in our sensual maneuvers.

Believe it or not, I don’t remember how I ended up in bed alone. I could remember being sure earlier that being in bed together was a foregone conclusion. A lesson was learned: our cultural distinctions were definitely there and frustrating as hell.

Three days later, Rosina and I decided to be married in Cortona, honeymoon on the Amalfi Coast, then return to California.

Hey, I’m still stunned by the turn of events, BUT I must add, I am one happy ‘Cool Mac 2’… Steve McQueen, we miss you, buddy!

I cannot imagine anything in my life from this point on topping my Italian visit… I do indeed love that country – and, Rosina.

©Billy Ray Chitwood – March 14, 2018

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The Clock and the Car

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The Clock and the Car

-Some Scintillating Dialogue-

(Dedicated to John Howell – My Dialogue Hero!)

***

“What’s with the clock and hammer, Henry?”

“You don’t want to know, Helen!”

“You’re angry! Why are you angry? Stop walking, Henry! Talk to me! Your face is flushed!”

“I told you, you don’t want to know! Move! Out of my way!”

“My God! Henry, you’re going to crush the clock with the hammer? Henry, stop and talk to me!”

Back door slams!

 Guess he’s on one of his rampages! Why bother when he’s in these moods? He has to put his fire out! That’s the way He’s made, God help him!

I’m glad we have a few acres here – wouldn’t want neighbors hearing his pounding and yelling out there! Time for my ear plugs, Social Media and the reading room upstairs.

Poor Henry! In thirty minutes, or less, he will be all loving and sweet again, asking forgiveness for his fiery temper! I love him so much, and it is kind of a comical break to the day… He’s so darned predictable. I’m surprised he hasn’t hammered his laptop…he’s threatened often enough! Oh, well, Henry got his genes at a ‘pawn shop’ back room!

He’s so sweet most of the time! It’s that blasted meltdown he inherited from his father (he owned the pawn shop!). Papa Gregory died of an abdominal aneurism! Henry gets his regular medical tests for those ‘meanies’, but his doctor tells him each check-up all his systems are ‘go’!

It’s been about thirty minutes, and this book is just not wrapping me all up in its narrative. Henry has got me spoiled! He’s an author who can really paint several portraits in a book – he’s written fourteen, working on fifteen. If his anger with the laptop doesn’t kill him first!

Guess I better check on him! It’s really quiet all of a sudden! “Henry! Henry!” (Gotta get that stair-step creak nailed down!) “Henry, are you down here?”

Darn, forgot to take my earplugs out!

“Henry, why are you sitting all alone here in the living room?”

“Cause my mistress didn’t show up for our afternoon play-party! Why you asking? I’m relaxing, having a Willet on the rocks…it’s not Maker’s Mark but it gets the job done! Thought you were gone to the store?”

“And, why would you think that, Henry? Told you earlier I wasn’t going to the store until tomorrow.”

“Well, where did you go?”

“I’ve been upstairs in the library, reading, you old fool! Did you get over your anger spell with that clock?”

“Well, yeah, and I’m sorry about that…Time is just flying by! I look at the darned clock and it’s almost 5PM – it seems it ought to be still AM… don’t like clocks not even a little bit! But, hang on a doggone minute, Helen!”

Henry is finishing off his Willett on the rocks in one gulp and getting out of the LazyBoy in a big hurry!

“Now, where’re you going, Henry?”

“Just a minute, Helen!”

He’s going toward the front door!

“Henry, stop! Where are you going?”

He’s looking out the side window at the front door!

“Henry, will you please tell me what you’re doing?”

“Where’s the car, Helen?”

“In the driveway, Henry!”

“Sorry, hissy Helen. There is no car in our driveway!”

“Oh, My God, Henry! The car’s been stolen?!”

“I’m fixing myself another Willett on the rocks, sweet lady, while you talk to the police!”

“What are you mumbling under your breath, Henry? I can hear you here in the living room!”

“Take your best guess, sweetheart! Just keep dialing the phone…the police department, not, 911!”

“The phone is ringing, Henry, at the police department. Come, sit next to me on the love seat while I’m waiting for them to answer.”

“Afraid I might spill some of my Willett on you, Helen. ‘Ain’t’ going to lose a drop of this valuable stuff! You just get our car back!”

Billy Ray Chitwood – February 28, 2018

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Flowers and Fate

Flowers and Fate

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Flowers and Fate

(Flash Fiction Inspired by Truth)

“Red or yellow roses, Sir?” the older lady in the flower shop asked.

The young man in his early thirties smiled and raised his brow. “Now, how did you know it was to be roses, Millie?” He knew her from a name tag.

“It’s the body language, young man. Your step, your face, the happy gleam in your eyes.”

“Really! I’m that obvious?”

“You’re that obvious,” she teasingly grinned, “plus I’ve had this shop too many years not to know when love walks through the door.”

He put his hands on the counter and gently asked, “And, do you know how many roses I’ll be sending FTD today?”

“You’re a two-dozen fellow, I’m betting.” She pursed her lips.

“And, does my step, my face, and the happy gleam in my eyes tell you which color I’ll pick?”

“Red, of course! You’re obviously in love and you want the red roses to convey your love for the young lady.” She tilted her head slightly in a positive gesture.

“Why would I not choose yellow roses?” the man asked, amused by the conversation.

“Yellow roses would be fine, but you wish to make a deeper statement. Red gets the point of love across rather profoundly. They say, ‘I love you’. Yellow roses convey happiness and joy in more of a friendship fashion… My goodness, listen to me, giving you information you likely already know.”

“No, you’ve actually tagged me perfectly, and I thank you. It will be two dozen red roses, and I trust you will pick out twenty-four of your very best.”

“It will be my pleasure, plus an extra red rose to accentuate the strong statement. I shall make it a very special arrangement for you. You will wish a card sent with the roses…”

His name was Farris Stanley Ballanger. The flowers were going to Johnnie Ballanger, his wife. On a short business trip to help out one of his service station managers, he would be home tomorrow and wanted Johnnie to receive the flowers before his arrival.

Stan spent some time in thought at the counter as to the words he would put on the card. Smiling, finally satisfied with his choice of words, he placed the card in the accompanying envelope, wrote ‘Dear Sweet Johnnie’ on the front, and handed it to Millie.

Stan paid for the flowers and chatted a few moments more with Millie.

As Stan was about to leave the store, he asked: “Do you mind if I hug you, Millie? You are such a great person.”

Millie obliged, and Stan left the store.

Later around midnight as Stan closed and locked his service station, he was robbed at gunpoint, prodded to the ‘Men’s Room’ and shot to death at close range. His body was not found until daybreak when the service station attendants arrived for work.

Stan’s roses arrived the next morning before news of the robbery and homicide reached Johnnie. Her heart filled with love overflowing as she read what Stan had written on the card:

Love and Time Eternal

It matters not the hours, the days, the years, the lifetime we spend together!

What matters is all the love we have gathered in our hearts

That will last eternally…

Forever, Stanley

– Flash fiction by Billy Ray Chitwood – February 14, 2018 (REVISIT) –

In Memory of my Uncle Stanley Balsinger who lives forever in my heart! (Brutally Murdered as he closed his place of business many years ago!) – We played ‘catch’ on the lawn back in the day!)

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