Category: Short Story

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, lack, thereof – 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 service. Romantic 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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©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, lack, thereof – 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 service. Romantic 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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The House on Guthrie Place

The House on Guthrie Place

[All Dialogue]

“Hi, Sweetheart. Did you see the house?”

“Yes. It was immaculately beautiful, but I was frightened, Barry!”

“Why were you frightened, Edie?”

“It was the realtor’s eyes, I think, for the most part. They were menacing in their hungry stares, with an almost reddish-glow. It was enough to make me shiver with fear.”

“Where were you in the house? Which room in the house?”

“In the master bedroom. He was showing me how to work the on/off gas switch at the fireplace. It was a beautiful room, an awesome home with a rich and wonderful elegance. He bent down to reach the switch, and I bent over to see the spot and accidently brushed his side. When we stood up I had the strange notion he was going to grab me, and I took a step back toward the entry door to the master bedroom. That was the moment his eyes seemed to penetrate me, eyed me with a bold and scary stare.”

“What did you do then?”

“Well, I wasn’t positive my mind was recording the scene as I felt it so I tried to act normal, whatever that means, you know, I said: ‘Okay, can we see the kitchen and the patio area?’ and hurriedly took leave of the master bedroom.”

“And, did he show you the kitchen and patio area?”

“Yes, and as he opened the patio’s sliding glass-doors, he made body contact with me, and, I believe it was his intent to do so.”

“I rushed toward the hallway that leads to the front entrance and mumbled some silly gibberish, like, ‘Well, thank you for showing me the house. It’s very nice. I’ll bring my husband by to see it’.”

“Is that it, then, you just left? Where was the real estate agent when you left?”

“He followed me outside, acted befuddled, and yelled: ‘Are you alright, Mrs. Branson’?”

“I yelled back, ‘Yes, just running late, thank you’, and he had the last yell, ’you have my card, Mrs. Branson. Call me when you and your husband want to preview the house.’ Then, I zipped away from the curb fast, wanting to put distance between me and Nolan Wentz – just in case he planned on following me.”

“Are you sure in your own mind, Edie, that you’re not over-reacting to this encounter?”

“Well, not completely, no, and I would hate myself for the thoughts I had in that lovely house if I’m over-reacting… Call it whatever you will, Barry, but I felt my skin crawl with a ‘danger alert’, I’m convinced of that. His eyes were the ‘danger alert’, along with the touching in the master bedroom and at the patio sliding doors. With all of that, Barry, I loved the house, and you would, too. I know you would. We’ve been looking for exactly this house. I know you would love it. Are you thinking I’m embellishing all of this?”

“No, I don’t think that at all…just running the event in my mind. This could be very important, but it’s surely not enough to alert the police. Let me see his business card.”

“I put it in my purse… here, here it is.”

“Hmm, his name is Nolan Wentz…sounds vaguely familiar.”

“Do you know him?”

“No, I don’t know him. I’ve seen the name somewhere, likely in my travels.”

“What are you doing? Are you calling him?”

“Yes. I want to see the house, number one, because I want to get us out of this high-rise apartment, and, I want to check out this guy.”

“Are you sure, Barry? I do love the house, but do I have to go with you? I don’t want to see that guy again.”

 “Yes, I want you along, just in case we’re both of a mind to buy the place. I told you six months ago when we met and fell in love we would buy our dream house, and I intend to keep my word. The money is not an issue, and, if this is the house of your dreams and mine, we will buy it… shh, the phone is ringing.”

“Is Mr. Wentz in, please?”

“May I say who’s calling?”

“Barry Branson…he had a showing with my wife earlier and I would like to see the house.”

“Thank you, sir. Just a moment, please.”

“This is Nolan, how can I help you, Mr. Branson?”

“Hi, Nolan, call me, Barry, please. You showed my wife a house on Guthrie Place. She likes it very much so we would like to preview it again. When can you be available to show the house?”

“My time is easy, Barry. I can be at the Guthrie Place estate this afternoon or tomorrow afternoon. I have appointments in the morning.”

“Good. We’re easy, too, so can we meet at 3:00 PM this afternoon at the Guthrie Place residence?”

“I’ll be happy to meet you there at 3:00 PM, Barry. Your wife, I believe, has the gate code for Guthrie Place?”

“Yes, she has it, Nolan, so we’ll see you there at 3:00 PM. Good-bye.”

“Okay, Edie, you heard, we’re set for 3:00 PM. I know you’re nervous about seeing the guy, but I’ll be with you. Hey, it just could be our dream home.”

*

“The area is fantastic, Edie, so much greenery, flowers, trees, and the waterfall at the gate is a great selling point. The homes are all custom-built and so lovely.”

“Wait until you see the home, Barry. It’s fantastic. I just hope I’m wrong about Nolan Wentz.”

“Me, too, sweetheart. Hell, I feel at home already…”

“Okay, this is it, Barry, there, where the two tall palm trees stand. The Homeowners Association allows curb parking for possible buyers of property. Just park here.”

“Hey, I like our new house number, 711 Guthrie Drive. That’s a great number on the green felt of a Las Vegas casino crap table. Sounds somehow ‘right’ just saying it. I know, I know. We have a dual-purpose here. ‘Scope out Nolan Wentz and like the house’.

“Ah, the birds are tweeting, welcoming us to our new home, Edie…love the flagstone walkway treatment and drive-way. Hmm, I see Mr. Wentz at the front door waiting for us. Good-looking dude. How nice, big smile and all. Hope you’re wrong about the man, Edie.”

“Hi, folks, come on in. Welcome to your new home…sorry if I’m being presumptuous, Mr. and Mrs. Branson. Just trying for levity. How are you, Mrs. Branson? You left so fast earlier today, you had me worried.”

“Just running late to meet Barry for lunch.”

“Well, why don’t I put away my sales pitch and you two make the rounds inside and out. I’ll be right here in the parlor if you need to ask questions about anything, anything at all…”

“What lovely furnishings! Edie never mentioned…”

“Oh, she didn’t know, but all the furniture stays. It’s ‘turn-key’ and that includes all the kitchen goodies, china, silverware, plates, the whole enchilada, as they say… An unfortunate divorce and neither one wants to come near the house again. Crazy, huh? You, Barry, I’m betting, will fall in love with the exercise room and large steam shower – it will seat at least six people, that is, if there’s a need for that many…but, you two go ahead and make yourselves at home. Each residence in Guthrie Place sets on one-half acre and most of the homes have pools and spas, out-door kitchens, and very lovely landscaping…yell if you need a question answered…”

“Nolan’s a good-looking guy, Edie. He doesn’t look like the kind of guy who would come onto a client…not that I think you were mis-representing anything…just saying.”

“You know, I agree, Barry. It all had to be just me! Gawd! It’s like I’m previewing this beautiful residence for the first time. I just love it…”

*

“Nolan, we…oops, sorry, didn’t see the cell phone…”

“I’m off now… So, what do you think of 711 Guthrie Place?”

“We think you need to get our offer written up and to the sellers ASAP. We want a fast closing, and it’s a cash deal.”

“Oh, be quiet, my heart. It’s thumping wildly. Are you talking a full-price offer?”

“Yes, no, haggling! Everything stays as it is – all things we see here stays here. Understood?”

“Understood, for sure. That is exactly the way the sellers wanted it…sorry if my handshake is a bit moist, Barry and Edie. This is quite a day for me. You just put me in the sales-leader position at the agency. Thank you so very much. I will require a fairly high sum down. Is that a problem?”

“No, that’s no problem. Give me a figure and I’ll write a check. To whom do I make the check out?”

“Langley Escrow Service…you understand I’m sure the mortgage company must do a search for any liens and so forth. It’s routine to check your bank for the rather high deposit amount. There must be a ‘close of escrow’ as well, so it will all take a few days. Is that a problem for you?”

“No, no problem.”

“Again, thank you so much. I’ll be sending you copies of paperwork as we go through this procedure. Mailing stuff can take a few days, or, if you like, I can drop the paper off to you. Mailing it will take up to a week, maybe longer, with real estate transactions running sometimes a bit slow.”

“Mail is fine. No need for the legwork…”

*

“Why did you make the check so big, Barry?”

“Well, they’re going to get the full amount anyhow… 1.5 million! This way, maybe we get into our new home a bit quicker.”

“True, but half the amount, $750,000? Ah, you know what you’re doing. I love you, big guy. It is such a beautiful house. Hopefully, by the time you get back from your 10-day trip to Cincinnati, all the paperwork will be done, and we’ll move in with just our suit-cases. To be honest, I’ll miss our luxury high-rise condo, but all that room at our new place…so much fun in the anticipation. ”

“If the close comes faster and they want the rest of the money, you write the check. Okay?”

“Sure, if you want me to. God! The pen in my hand will shake, writing a check that big. I love you, Barry, and thank you for our beautiful new home.”

*

“Hey, Edie, I’m home. Edie. You here, Edie? Hmm, she knew when I was getting home. Probably, shopping…”

*

“Yeah, operator, how do I get information? I can’t seem to get it on my phone…”

“Hang on, sir. I’ll connect you to ‘information’.”

“Information…can I help you?”

“Yeah, can you find the number for Langley Escrow Service?”

“Just a moment, sir…”

“How are you spelling that name, sir?”

“Langley…L-A-N-G-L-E-Y, Escrow Service, unless there is no ‘e’ at the end of Langley.”

“Just a moment, sir.”

“Sir, are you there?”

“Yeah, I’m here…what’s the number?”

“I’m sorry, sir, I find no number for Langley, L-A-N-G-L-E-Y, Escrow Service listed.”

“No, no, there’s got to be a listing for Langley Escrow Service. I just bought a house that went through Langley Escrow Service.”

“I’m sorry, Sir. I do not have a listing for that company.”

“You must have. C’mon, check again…”

“Just a moment, sir…”

“Sir?”

“Yes.”

“There is no Langley Escrow Service listed in our city, sir. I’m terribly sorry for your inconvenience.”

“My inconvenience! My inconvenience! That company has my money. You have to have it listed.”

“I’m so sorry, sir. Would you like to speak to my on-duty supervisor?”

“Yes. Yes, let me speak to your supervisor. My God, when the phone company can’t help you, what the hell…”

“Hello, Sir, I’m the Supervisor on duty, and I’m so sorry to make you wait. The operator stated the problem, sir, and she told you correctly. We do not have a listing for Langley Escrow Service.”

“Oh, my God! Oh, my God!”

“I’m sorry, Sir.”

*

“Can I help you, Sir? You look like you could use some help.”

“I need to talk to one of your detectives…

“What’s the problem, Sir?”

“I’ve been swindled out of one million five hundred thousand dollars.”

“Geez. That is a problem… When did this swindle happen?

“Two weeks ago.”

“Two weeks ago, huh?”

“That’s what I said. I didn’t stutter. I’m hurting here! Get me a detective.”

“Hey, don’t get snappy with me, Pal…(hmm, if this guy has just lost one and a half million dollars, I’m Queen Elizabeth without the sex-change…) Hold on a minute, Sir. I’ll get a detective.

©Short Story by Billy Ray Chitwood – March 5, 2019

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Broker in the Pit

Broker in the Pit

The darkness is overpowering, consuming me with its lava flow of sheer blackness, denying my mind sanity, sequence of thoughts, and viable options for escaping this suffocating imprisonment.

What lunacy brought me to this space of horror? (It can occupy my time to explain this vacuity.)

A combination of anomalous events brought me here.

Where is here? When and Why?

The ‘who’ is I, of course, all alone in this dark dungeon of nothingness…my name’s Freddie Cheever.

I’m a jogger. It is my way to stay healthy and trim. Every morsel of food I eat must be assessed for its calorie count and nutritional value. I’m the obsessive jerk people talk about, the guy who takes each aspect of life to its outer limit, weighing on the mind-scale the logical and reasonable factors.

Okay, I had an appointment cancel on me…no reason, just a rude denial of our pre-set meet. I’m a broker, so I’m guessing the lady whose husband just died and left her with all the ‘e-pluribus-unum’ heard rumors about me that were launched by a competitor three years ago. (I’m blessed with fairly good looks and like women – but in very gentleman ways.) Guess one could call me a ‘womanizer’, because, in my opinion, a beautiful woman (in my ‘beholding eyes’) is truly a work of art.

But I digress…

So, I used that aforementioned appointment time with Ms. Snooty to jog. I had no other appointments on my calendar, so I shortened my day, went to my bachelor pad, decked out, drove out in the country to find new terrain for my jogging, found it, parked my Benz, and jogged.

I was into my second mile when I came to a big swath of leaves, and, as I ran through said leaves, I started free-falling downward akimbo and heard above me a slamming sound. Luckily, I landed on my feet – more or less – and badly sprained my left ankle. Whatever the slamming sound it left me in that pitch-blackness that started this narrative. My fall I judged to be some ten feet, but it was the slamming noise that really got my attention, not so much the fall itself.

This was by my reckoning an animal-trap of some kind, and, it was my hope, not a human-trap laid out by some very weird dude or dudes.

Though alone, I was mortified and damned scared. On hands and knees, I crawled the small space, judged the rounded pit’s circumference to be maybe ten feet or more. Its floor was all filled with the falling leaves and likely gave my fall some small advantage. Below the leaves there was just hardness, and all I received from my effort scratching at the surface was a broken finger-nail.

Along the walls of the pit was the same hardness. My guess was that it was either concrete or bitumen. The pit was likely used as a silo of some kind.

That’s when the utter black of the darkness hit me in a mind-chamber that caused me to inwardly flash, like a spasm passed through me.

Did I yell? No, my pit was so serene! Of course, I yelled until my throat pained me to swallow. It seemed that, with that acknowledgement, I was swallowing more often than I could ever remember swallowing.

Okay, I’m there for, guessing here, some three hours. My angst was deep like the hole I was in. I lay on my right-side for a while, then the left-side, on and on.

I did a lot of praying, not that I expected much relief from a Deity I had ignored badly over the years. Still, I prayed, supplicated, pled with tears my eyes seldom used for any reason – well, maybe a really sad movie could bring tears…if I were alone, NOT on a date, NOT in a movie house.

Then, the miracle!

Thought I heard a motor purring above me. Then, no purring of motor. When I felt almost on the verge of ‘flipping out’ a scraping sound came to my ears from above, then a small stretch of sunlight that got bigger and bigger. A gravelly voice came from above – a farmer’s voice, not my Deity’s voice.

“Who’s down there?” the voice sounded almost angry and impatient.

I tried to yell up to my hero, but my voice faltered. Finally, I found a squeaky refrain somewhere in the sore throat and softly sang out, “I’m down here! I fell while jogging.”

“I ought to leave you down there! This is private land, boy!”

I squeaked, “I’m so sorry, sir. It won’t happen again, I promise.”

“Okay, boy, grab the rope, loop it around your middle and I’ll pull you up.”

Did as I was told, and ‘thank you, my divine Deity. You did hear me after all’.

The farmer became my friend – and my client. Tom Simpson’s his name. I’ll never forget what he said to me when I hobbled with him to my car. He bore most of my weight on that short walk.

Tom said to me: “Freddie Cheever, huh? Well, son I have to tell you, you are one lucky fella! I usually don’t come this route. Just decided the last minute to check out this quarter of land. I saw the leaves all messed up, and they stopped at the silo pit.”

Funny how fate works at times. Maybe I’ll start going to church on Sundays.

For sure, I’m going to be seeing Tom Simpson fairly often…he’s a broker’s dream – big spread of land that feeds a lot of people, plus a dairy that yields lots of milk. That ‘e pluribus unum’ I wrote about just a bit ago? Well, good old Tom’s got enough to fill that darned pit I was in.

Billy Ray Chitwood – February 25, 2019

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Misty Lee and the Miracle on Ames Street

Misty Lee and the Miracle on Ames Street

– A Short Story –

Misty Lee Weaver closed the oven lid on a Pot Roast dinner, smiled with satisfaction as the warm aroma reached her nostrils. Soft violin music came from the ‘great room’ speakers, and she suddenly thought of Alex and their lives together after only five months of marriage.

The smile widened. Her eyes closed as the memories came to her from their honeymoon in Cabo, the suite at the Hilton, the magnificent views from their large deck of the cobalt Sea of Cortez and the frothy surf gently, rhythmically lapping the beach below their stately quarters. In her mind she could see them on the winding path down to the sea, laughing, pausing to kiss and momentarily aroused by the touching of their bodies – almost returning to the suite to once again couple in the joy of their love.

Misty sat at the kitchen bar, still smiling, still lost in the thoughts of early months of marriage, when she felt a slight twitch to her body, just enough to take her away from her thoughts…

What was that?  She thought aloud. She stood, looked around the large room, thinking perhaps a painting had fallen from a wall. Nothing out of place. Just one of those foundation-settling moments, she thought, remembering Alex mentioning that at another time in their brief residence on Ames Street.

Back in the kitchen Misty retrieved a large bowl from a cabinet and began to gather the fresh lettuce and other ingredients for a salad. She relaxed again. It was only 3:15 and Alex would not be home until 6:00 or later. Being the Chief Executive Officer of Spartan Software Inc left his arrival-time home sometimes at odds with home plans. However, he convinced her that his arrival home would be no later than 6:00 or 6:30 max. She smiled again as she chopped her salad mixings into chewable bites, the way Alex preferred.

She washed two Idaho potatoes for baking, wrapped them in aluminum foil and placed them in the large fridge until baking time. She checked again her Pot Roast, modified the heating, and was ready to relax on the patio for some Arizona sun. She would still have time for a shower before putting final touches on dinner.

Misty climbed the stairs to the huge master bedroom and changed into her bikini. She looked briefly into the big ornate mirror that covered one complete wall of the sitting area in the suite. Well, Misty, you’re still a ‘babe’ as Alex referred to you admiringly that very first night of the honeymoon. It was good they waited until their wedding night…the build-up to that night was torture for both of them, but they did not give in to their sexual desires.

She put some lotion on her body, wrapped her long, lovely blond hair into a ‘bun’ and went out into the backyard oasis, complete with flower gardens, large boulders, lush green grass, a meandering pool, and a fulgent Sun. The Weaver property sat on two and a half acres, as did all the homes in this luxurious and high-end neighborhood.

Just as Misty reclined into a soft beach chair, she felt again that twitch to her body. If not a twitch, it felt like she might be losing her balance. Am I pregnant? Is the twitch I’m feeling about my being PG? Oh, my God! It’s too soon to have babies. Besides, I’m taking the pill. So what the hell is it, Misty Lee?

A lovely cardinal flew close by her chair as if to say ‘hello’ and that brought her mind back to the nice thoughts of Alex getting home, having cocktails out here near the rose garden, then a bottle of red wine with dinner. After the cardinal flew away a humming bird flew up and lingered for a while. She thought it was the same humming bird that was her regular visitor when she came to the pool and garden areas.

The humming bird flew off, leaving Misty to think about life’s connections to all living things. Her lips formed another smile with the thoughts, and, as she settled again in the recliner, the ‘twitch’ came, this time not so subtle as before, this time she could not dismiss her thoughts so easily.

Misty brought her chair upright and stared at the pool. There was a crack in the house-side of the pool that was of significant width. That crack was not there before. That crack was not there when I came out a few moments ago. What is going on? Earth-quake?

Now she was really focused and alarmed. She went back into the house, and, over her bikini, put on soft blue boutique jeans and beige top-wear. As she descended the stairsteps she again felt the twitch, the shudder, that sudden feeling akin to vertigo. Her concern was reaching a fever-pitch. She was nearing hysteria. She needed contact with the outside world.

She picked up the telephone in the downstairs hall-way and punched the digit that would automatically connect her to Alex. The phone gave up no sound. It was as though her ear was picking up the sound of pure silence, dark, deep, and foreboding. She felt a suffocating tightness to her breathing and fought for air.

Misty dropped the phone on the hall table and willed her feet toward the front door. She needed to be outside where there was space. She took two steps when another head-swimming sensation made her fall to the polished wood entry floor.

On hands and knees struggling for air she crawled to the large heavy door. She had to get outside to fresh air. The air-condition equipment was off as well as the phone, and her fear was giving way to a suffocating anxiety. She knew she was close to passing out if she did not make it outside.

The door. The heavy extra-large door was obtrusive and unwieldy. She could not reach the lock-switch and door handle from her knees. She tried to stand and fell again to the floor as she heard a thunderous roar from somewhere in the house behind her.

Oh, my dear God! Please help me!

From some hidden reservoir tears came, falling from her cheeks onto the lovely beige and mauve entrance rug. She tried desperately to rise from her knees and finally managed to grab at the ornate door fixture and pulled herself to an awkward stance as another roar erupted behind her.

In a final desperate tug at the heavy door, it opened with just enough space for her to squeeze through to the outside mat and flagstone. Somewhere in a far-away recess of her mind, cymbals clashed with loud clarity and a great rumbling. Then, a total heaviness clung to her entire body accompanied by darkness and finally nothingness.

*

The entire house had crumbled into a shallow pit, a massive pile of brick, concrete, stucco, wood, and broken, scarred, and twisted household furnishings.

Just the Weaver house! No other houses in the city’s most exclusive gated community was sacrificed to the horrible devastation. The air was filled with the clinging dust, bits and pieces of what was left of the furnishings.

The fire trucks arrived.

The police arrived.

The EMTs arrived.

The News reporters arrived, wanting, getting a huge scoop.

All entities to arrive were caught in the end-of-day traffic of workers going home. Freeways east and west, north and south, were always busy at this time of the day, and this enclave was fed by all of those road-arteries.

Neighbors gawked and were petrified at the site, with underlying concerns for their own dwellings. The sounds from the Weaver house collapse were heard in a five-mile radius and had people thinking thoughts of bombings, of riots, of the evening news finally unfolding into reality in an ugly way.

The neighbor nearest to the Weavers, Jeffrey James, was the first to talk to the police and fire department personnel. Mr. James had little to share, was alerted by the loudness and shocked by the visible remains of his neighbors’ dwelling… ‘Yes, they were friends with the Weavers, but they had no idea of any trouble with their property. It just went sinking into the earth. Crazy!

Mr. James was asked by both a policeman and the fire chief: “Was anyone at home? Is someone under all of that?”

“I’m afraid Mrs. Weaver was home. At least, I said ‘hi’ to her when I walked the dog around 1:00 PM. My God, I hope I’m wrong. She was…is a very lovely lady – and a good neighbor. They both are. My wife, Lily, and I enjoy their company with some regularity…”

Talking to his fire crew, Chief Andrew Appleton announced: “Okay, people, we have a couple of hours, maybe more, of good daylight. Let’s use our best efforts in finding Mrs. Weaver. Take particular care in moving the obstacles on that pile, ladies and gents. We could very likely have a lady underneath. There could also be ‘space spots’ and some wedging spots, so it’s worth repeating, BE CAREFUL! Yell out when you find the…when you find Ms. Weaver. We need to have an ambulance standing by. Be quick in case she’s still alive, but be extra careful. Also, I don’t believe that hole can be too deep. However, at this point we have no way of knowing for sure.”

Andrew paused, looked over at the small group of neighbors.

“Do any of you know if someone contacted Alex Weaver?”

Jeffrey James spoke, “I called him as soon as I heard the noise, Chief. He’s on his way, but he’s likely jammed up in the freeway traffic.”

When all the words from the gathered were spoken, sounds of quiet activity came from the rubble.

Ten minutes later, there came a soft rumbling at the site.

A fireman yelled out from the pit. “It’s okay, I just disturbed a wedge-spot. The pile only dropped a few inches. No problem.”

The only sounds over the next thirty minutes came from the fire crew removing debris.

A white BMW came racing to the site, Alex Weaver’s face a mask of distress as he hurriedly slammed his car door and walked to the small group supervising the clearing of debris.

Alex didn’t speak. He only gazed in amazement and agony at what was once his home. Soon, tears fell slowly down his cheek. The two men and one woman in the gathered debris site all looked at Alex Weaver, about to say something, but stopped. Instead, Lance Cahill, the Chandler, AZ Police Chief, wrapped an arm around Alex and whispered, “I’m so sorry, Alex.”

Police Chief Lance Cahill was also Alex Weaver’s friend and high school buddy from years back. They were on the Chandler High School’s football team and both vied for Misty Lee Sproul, a most lovely majorette in the marching band. The vying for Misty Lee’s hand was a serious ‘contest’, but there would never be a jealousy in the two men’s relationship.

Alex, tried to speak, choked up and could only take deep breaths of air. He closed his eyes and slowly nodded to this friend.

A lady fireman yelled out, “We’ve found her!”

“Stay back, please!” Jeffrey James yelled to the small crowd, allowing only Alex and Lance to advance to the site edge.

“I’ve got a pulse,” the lady fireman smiled as she spoke the words. “She was protected by space yielded by the big entry door that was resting on a big chunk of furniture between her and other debris. It looks like the entire house miraculously disintegrated over that door and Ms. Weaver was somehow clinging or pinned to the door. She’s ‘out’ but there doesn’t appear to be any broken bones, even, cuts and bruises on her body. Wow, Chief! This is truly a miracle.”

A loud cheer went up from the neighbors and all those present at the pit.

Alex fell to his knees, sighed deeply, quickly recovered, and wanted to go to his wife but was held back by his friend. “Please, Alex, let the medics do their work. They know what they’re doing.”

When Misty Lee was lifted safely from the big pit of debris, the EMTs began their examination, passing along their information to a doctor at the Chandler Hospital. After thoroughly checking Misty for cuts, breaks, breathing anomalies, Alex and Lance were given a ‘thumbs up’ while Misty was placed into the ambulance.

Alex followed Lance and his sirens in the BMW to the hospital unimpeded by traffic.

The family doctor, Dr. Victor Dawkins, arrived at the hospital before the ambulance and worked with the intern to stabilize Misty Lee. When she finally came out of her brief coma, the shock became secondary to another problem. There appeared to be what the intern and Dr. Dawkins described as some form of temporary amnesia.

Misty Lee was awake but was completely unaware of what happened before or after her house collapsed all around her.

Alex was now jubilant to know that his beloved wife was alive and breathing but had an obvious concern over her amnesia.

The ensuing days brought various medical tests and specialist consultations. Eschewing work save for phone connections, Alex was there with Misty as she endured her frustration and her elation when bits of memory returned.

Through some unconscious assimilation of mind quakes Misty was able to put Alex together again, to understand how and why she came to love him. His attentiveness and devotion to her was constantly there before her, and, without a total recall of all events in her life, she was able to fall in love with Alex all over again.

Finally, all of Misty’s memories were back. She could vividly remember the day on Ames Street when the house crumbled around her but it brought no angst, no emotional wreckage. Her life returned pleasant+ly to the halcyon days of jogging, shopping, and lazily sun bathing by a pool.

A new home came available on Ames Street, and Alex purchased it. The house was smaller, less grand than the one that collapsed from an underground water anomaly. The new home was indeed elegant, but smaller, less pretentious to public viewing than the other, though that was never necessarily a qualifier for Alex. He was an intelligent man made from his own unique qualities of hard work, a charitable man who carried inside a compassion for those who had less than he and Misty.

Eventually, the lives of Misty Lee and Alex Weaver would re-establish its peaceful, romantic essence. For anyone who knew the Weavers, the couple was the paragon of love and married bliss. And, so, it truly was.

Then came some issues at work that kept Alex at his office late into the night. He was trying to hold his company together, traveling more to visit old clients he did wish to lose. Alex did not know for sure, but he thought someone in the company was trying to sabotage him.

*

It was two years to the date that the Weaver home collapsed on Ames Street when Misty Lee slipped, fell at the new pool, and hit her head on the hard tile surface. She lost consciousness for several minutes. Disoriented and frightened when she came around, not sure what happened and where she was, she saw blood drops on the tile surface.

Misty looked all around, trying to find knowledge of this place she found herself. Her soft blue-green eyes released tears that fell softly down her cheeks. She sat on a stuffed recliner, tried to get her bearings, nervous, scared by her disorientation. She took deep breaths and felt around her lovely blond hair to assess further damage to her head until she finally remembered her fall.

She went into the house. In the powder room she saw the damage done to her head, a small cut at the brow of the left eye. She cotton-swabbed the area with alcohol, dabbed it with iodine, and applied a band-aid. She carefully showered, dressed in jeans and a denim blouse, and felt better. The cut was not so serious, though it might leave a small scar. She was fine. Nothing to worry about.

When Alex arrived home around ten o’clock that evening, she was overjoyed to see him. She rushed to him, kissed and embraced him.

“Hey, what’s with the band-aid?”

“Fell at the pool, nothing serious… You’re late again. Is everything okay at work?”

“Ah, Misty, it seems to get more complicated with each new day, but I don’t want to worry you about business at the moment. Let’s have a drink.”

They talked for a while, had cocktails, and watched an old John Wayne movie.

Later, preparing for bed, Alex said, “I’ve got to go to Los Angeles tomorrow for a few days. I’m trying to get this madness at work straightened out. I’d take you with me, but there would be no time for us to be together. You know, meetings during the day, group business dinners, you know the routine. Sorry, Misty Lee.”

“It’s okay, but I’ll miss you. Hope you get all this worked out so we can get our lives back.”

“It will happen, Misty. You feeling okay after that fall at the pool?”

“Yes, I’m fine. I’m a Klutz. What can I say?”

“You’re not a Klutz. Just, be careful. I don’t want to lose you. I love you, Misty Lee.”

“I know. I love you, too, my dear sweet Alex.”

*

Misty Lee returned home from shopping and lunch with her long-time friend, Alicia, around 3:20 PM. After putting her bounty in the Master Suite closet, she retrieved her latest Nelson DeMille novel and went to the Sunroom. It was a beautiful day, but she didn’t wish to lounge at the pool. She preferred her reading at this particular time of the day, and the Sunroom was her favorite spot in the house.

Pausing momentarily in a ‘meaty part’ of the novel, she sighed…such a good writer, she thought. At the same time her thought came there was an insistent chiming of the front door. Stop with the ringing. I’m coming already…

When she reached the front door, opened it, she found no one on the portico.

On the mat below the big door there was large Manila envelope. A bit wary but recognizing her gated and safe habitat, she picked up the envelope and carried it to the Sunroom. The envelope had some heft and on the front was printed in neat lettering her name: For: Misty Lee Weaver. There were no stamps, so someone left the envelope and dashed away – either on foot or in a car… She had taken very little time getting to the front door.

Ah, a mystery to solve, she idly thought.

Back in the Sunroom she put the envelope on the coffee table next to her stuffed chair and stared at it for some minutes. With a mild whispered rebuff to herself – Ah, open the darned thing! – she quickly grabbed the envelope and ripped it open, spilling its contents onto her lap.

There was an 8×10 sheet of paper wrapped around a black video tape. She looked at the dainty, neat writing on the sheet of paper.

Mrs. Misty Lee Weaver

You will no doubt be interested in the

Content of this video tape.

Sorry but you needed to know!

Unwelcomed thoughts crowded her mind, wild imaginings crossed and re-crossed, numbing her with a reluctant fear. She could not, would not, like what was on the video tape. Enough books, movies, the personal note itself, had left that indelible impression with her.

So, what do I do? Throw it out? View it and be sorry that I did? The person who left this at the door is for sure a diabolical jerk. Yes, throw it out.

She picked up the video tape, carried it to the garbage chute, and hesitated for long seconds. She had no enemies that she knew of. Surely, the person leaving the tape most definitely felt it important that I know its contents…even if ‘sorry’ that I had to view it.

Darn, life has so many devilish ways to hit people where it really hurts, and this tape is going to hurt. It is not good news someone left at our door, and whoever left it knows my curiosity will get the best of me. Darn it, they’re right…whoever ‘they’ are.

Misty Lee went to the theater room, placed the tape into the DVR equipment, hit the play button, and listened and watched.

What she heard and what she saw made her retch. The tape was both shocking and morally wicked. With tears blinding her way, she went stumbling to the master bedroom suite. Misty looked vacuously out the bedroom window but did not see the sun-splashed pool nor the green of the grass and the long row of hedge, nor the lovely flower garden that always gave joy to her senses. 

Misty retched several times, then dry-heaved until she thought she might pass out. A great sweeping, suffocating, anxiety attack hit her. She could not stop the ferocious ‘tiger’ stalking her, coming unimpeded to consume her. There was no longer caring for her safety and well-being. Inside her lovely body she felt the tiger’s approach and sought only relief from the chaotic numbness in her body. She could not go on. 

With the crying and the retching, she took a sleeping pill…

The tiger still came. One sleeping pill did not work, so she took another…

Then, another…

Then, another…

When the pill bottle was empty, Misty Lee smiled, closed her eyes, and died in the placid fumes of her Nirvana.

©Billy Ray Chitwood – February 20, 2019

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Chance Meeting at the Mall

Chance Meeting at the Mall

It began when I saw her in the upper-level of the Brighton Mall. She placed her paper bag of purchases on the floor next to her cushioned seat. Avoiding her was not an option as the sitting area was in my path to the escalator.

Of course, you would know, she was beautiful as she sat and shook her head to resettle her long lovely raven curls. She was dressed in lovely colors of Ivory and Lavender, a dress sheer and clinging – like, my eyes at that moment.

My mind did its calculations…do I just stop, sit in the chair next to her, begin a conversation. What do I say as an opener? Her left hand was gloved so, married or not, I was ‘flying in the blind’. It was one of those fateful moments in life where one must decide to act or not to act, with the haunting of the latter lingering forever in the mind… I decided to act.

I sat in the chair next to her. There were other chairs in the grouping, but other shoppers were passing, chatting, and I wanted to be close so as not having to increase the decibel level of my voice.

Please, allow me to pause and explain…

First, my name is Lawrence Wallenby, just, Larry, will do, and I’m a trim six-footer who stays in shape by jogging and exercising – which once, in starting out, was a chore, but, now, something I look forward to. I’m told by some of my staff at the Agency that I bear the looks of actor Matthew McConaughey. That’s good, I think, because I like his acting.

I am not a ‘stalker’ who frequents shopping malls for women to meet and harass. I am a responsible male person who owns his own small advertising enterprise, growing by leaps and bounds, I might add. I am a man who some months ago lost his wife to a drunk driver in a head-on collision. Both were killed, and I had my days, weeks, and months to damn the fiddlers of fate who perform these acts so people can grieve and crawl into themselves and become inoperably viable. So, time did not, would not heal the wound of losing Diana, but, at least, it would have the courtesy to allow the ‘devastation’ period to pass – to the point of having needs to fulfill.

May I apologize if this preceding acknowledgement is not enough a prelude to what I’m about to narrate for you. Suffice, Diana is still in a precious vault of my heart, but I’ve come to realize that life does indeed go on and old needs come rushing back in need of fulfilling.

The handsome lady with the raven hair, soft blue eyes, and most luscious lips glanced up at me with an awkward, almost, smile, and then went quickly back to a piece of paper on her lap – presumably, a ‘shopping list’.

“Holiday shopping can be a real ‘bear’, don’t you think?” Without giving her a chance to answer, I pressed forward. “Of course, you do. You’re sitting here, resting, so, obviously, shopping ergo is a ‘bear’ or your choice of animal. I know you are wondering who the ‘nut’ is sitting next to you, and I implore you not to get up and leave with my muttering hanging in the air. Really, I’m not so great at this, but I do honestly and sincerely believe you are the most beautiful lady I’ve seen in my lifetime. Is it okay that we might meet? Please.”

“Wow, you should take a breath between syllables. You’ll pass out, I’m thinking. Sure, why not? We’re in a public arena here, people passing by, and you don’t seem to be carrying weapons of any kind. So, sure, let’s ‘meet’. I’m Diana Bixley.”

“No, no, you can’t be… I mean, your first name – pick another first name!”

“I’m sorry. Now, you’re confusing me. I thought your little rushed ‘pick-up’ line was cute, but…are you some kind of nut?”

“Oh, no, no. I’m so sorry to blunder like this. Your first name, Diana, is a beautiful name, and you should keep it. Of course, she should and will keep it, you idiot. Again, sorry, but I lost my wife to a drunk driver about a year ago, and her name was Diana.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry.”

“No, no, don’t be. I’ve gone through the periods of loss and find that I still wish to go on, but I’ve been with no one for that period of time and very likely don’t know how to act properly. May I start again? My name is Larry Wallenby, and, when I saw you, my heart did little ‘flip-flops’ and I had to meet you. Please, is that okay? I mean, that I had to meet you?”

“Relax, Larry, I’m happy to meet you, and I’m sorry about your wife.”

She offered her hand which I swiftly but softly clutched for some two or three seconds before releasing.

“Are you encumbered?” Too fast, too fast, you dummy.

“I beg your pardon.”

“I’m sorry, again, Diana, but I’m such a ‘Klutz’ at this. Are you married, going steady with anyone?”

“You’re fast, Larry, but I suppose that comes from your loss and grief period. I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but, no, I’m not married, not going steady with anyone.”

My heart-beat got faster. Now, don’t screw this up, Larry. Take a shot, but slow down the process. You got the answer you wanted. There’s a chance, so don’t screw it up.

“Do you have children, Diana?”

“No, I’m not too big on kids. They annoy me, mostly. I’m sure I did my annoyance bit as a kid. You have kids, Larry?”

“No, no kids. No animals of any kind, although I love Golden Retrievers. You like animals?”

“Not so much. Better than kids, but the ‘clean-up’ and routines would drive me nuts. Your business keep you busy, Larry?”

“As much as I allow it to keep me busy. I’ve got some good people working at the ad agency that keep the load off me. What do you do, Diana?”

“I’m an actress and model, Larry. I’ve done nothing memorable in film that you would remember seeing. Most of my action is in modeling and ‘specialty films’.”

“You enjoy what you do, Diana?”

“Very much so, Larry. You?”

“Yeah. I was drawn to advertising at a young age for some reason, likely because my Dad had a ‘Billboard’ business. I was fascinated enough by it to take all the courses relative to advertising while in the university environment. The business has been good for me. The people who work with me free me up to pursue other interests, like traveling to exotic places. Do you travel a lot in your business, Diana?”

“Too much, actually. I don’t like airport waits and all the security crap one has to go through anymore… I notice you have no packages, Larry. Are you not shopping? Did you just come to the mall to meet me?”

“Well, while that’s a nice thought, I did plan to pick up some items for my sister and my staff, but now it’s not so important. I can put it off ‘til another day. That is, if I can talk you into cocktails and dinner.”

“That sounds wonderful, Larry. And, what would your plans be after our dinner?”

Hey, she’s playing right into my hand. How can I get so lucky? Hell, I’ll lay it out for her.

“Well, to be honest, Diana, I thought we could go to my place, have nightcaps, listen to some romantic music, turn the lights down low, and see where it all would lead us.”

“Larry, you scoundrel! You do work fast. However, I’m afraid I would spoil your plans.”

“I doubt that, Diana. You’re so beautiful, and I’m sure we would get along just fine.”

Oh, she’s getting up, reaching for her shopping bags.

“Thank you, Larry, for the dinner and romance offer, but I will pass and just say, ‘nice meeting you’.”

“But, Diana, I thought…”

“You thought, what, Larry?”

“I thought we were bonding nicely…”

“By bonding, you mean you thought I would jump in the sack with you, correct?”

“Well, I’m sorry, but I thought we were heading toward something really romantic and beautiful.”

“Really?” She stood and for a moment hovered over me.

I stood and faced her.

“Was it something I said, Diana?”

“No, it was something I did not say, Larry…”

“And, what was it you did not say, Diana?”

“Well, if I say it, no longer will it be not said, Larry.”

She started to walk away.

“Diana, please, tell me what was not said.”

She looked back at me, and, with a slight raise of brow and grin, said, “I like to go to bed with women, Larry…nice meeting you.

Damn, it ended where it started!

Flash Fiction by Billy Ray Chitwood – January 21, 2019

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The Flat Head of a Nail

The Flat Head of a Nail

-Some Silly Machinations-

One hellava title, huh, The Flat Head of a Nail?

So, what?

Just waiting for you to ask, thanks!

Science and Technology people are really messing us up ‘byte time’ if you get my drift. When Sputnik went up in November,1957, our knowledge was re-doubling every five years. In 1900, geez, knowledge was doubling, like, every century. What’s next? Now, these genius-minds have so many bytes at work that they could make our entire Universe seem really cloudy…whatever bytes might look like in the universe.

I think.

No, no, no, not, think! ‘Cogito ergo sum’ for me, or, as it was originally stated in French, ‘je pense, donc je suis’…that’s just a dab of ‘showing off’ – I don’t speak French, but, when I was younger and courting the girls, I would carry a few short phrases in French and/or Spanish with me on dates, you know, to put some icing on the proverbial cake.

Hey, I’m barely able to understand that I cogito or sum.‘I think; therefore, I am’! Most of us will remember that bit of Latin from our classroom educations.

‘I think therefore, I am, WHAT?

Really, what am I?

Don’t give me the ‘blood, bone, and flesh’ answer! I mean, we’re in an age now where knowledge is re-doubling every thirty minutes. Computers gave birth to bytes, and now, today, we’ve gone from byte to kilobyte to megabyte to gigabyte to terabyte…all the way to Domegemegrottebyte – that damned word in bytes has eleven 000’s following in a row the numeral, 1.

Did you know that one kilobyte represents the size of a short story like ‘flash fiction’!

Did you know that a short novel is one megabyte?

Well, hell, I don’t know what to do with that information other than sling it at you! Now, some of you are thinking right now what you would like to do with that information, but, please, remember to be gentle with this messenger.

Now, don’t get angry at me and stop reading! This stuff these genius guys of Science and Technology are feeding us every day! Be mad at them. They made me do this post!

On second thought, get angry, because I’m angry… I make a dumb mistake, go to google for help and they feed me this stuff – well, actually, I made a mistake with my Ichabod Crane fingers on the laptop keys.

What I was trying to do was get to Amazon and correct another dumb mistake. My new book, Dominique, just launched (you knew that was coming, didn’t you?) and, like an idiot I put the Kindle Edition on ‘Pre-Order’ until January 20, 2019…when what I really wanted to do was allow folks to buy the novel on Kindle for 99 Cents until January 20, 2019. Some way or another, I got lost in this ‘Knowledge Re-Doubling and Byte’ stuff and got my head zipping around like it was on a tilt-a-whirl stick. Truth is, I don’t know how to get Amazon to change course… Dominique is still 99 Cents on Amazon Kindle, but, as I understand it, readers won’t get the book delivered to them until January 20.

My bad!

Anyhow, “Dominique” is about one megabyte, or, 1 000 000 000 bytes… Ah, sorry, the book is about two-hundred pages in length. Whew! And, yes, this is a ‘plug’ for Dominique! But, gee whiz, a person’s gotta market somehow or ‘tuther’. You will make me really proud if you buy the kindle store out, or, shucks, it’s okay if you want the paperback…go ahead and buy it. It won’t make me mad, I promise.

I’m guessing I should explain the title of this blog post, and, I know some of you are thinking it defies explanation…but I gotta try.

‘The Flat Head of a Nail’?

Well, that mistake of landing on that ‘Knowledge Re-Doubling’ and the ‘Byte’ pages just kind of blew me away, and I began thinking about sizes – you know, planets, universes, cities, towns, people – and I wondered, like, if that flat head of the nail was, now don’t laugh at me, well, if that flat head of the nail was, maybe, populated with people, cities, towns, and maybe had its own world and universe…

Okay, I can’t write when you all are laughing so hard at me, so I’ll stop now…

Except, I just don’t want to take away from my one-megabyte book entitled, Dominique. It deserves to be read, folks. I promise you this: Dominique will be your finest one-megabyte read in a long time. In fact, I’m pretty close to guaranteeing that last little 100 bytes I just gave you.

As far as the flat head on that nail, you might want to read up on Rene Descartes and Emanuel Kant – those philosophers spent some time on trying to figure things out… Then, you can explain it all to me. One day, I’ll do some imagining and maybe come up with a tall tale about it all.

Now, don’t desert me, good folks! My next post won’t try to make sense out of what the sci & tech boys and girls are serving up to us.

Oh, just for fun and your edification, check out this link for me. It’s waiting for you to take a look!

https://booklaunch.io/billyraychitwood/5c363eb290e02adf7ae252c8

interstellar madhouse (3)

Billy Ray Chitwood – January 18, 2019

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SIMPLY SILLY

Simply Silly

Sweet Sarah Sat Silently, Softly Singing Simple Songs, Sharing Syllables Synchronized So Sea Shells Steadily Splashed Soothingly Shorebound, Silencing Sounds Shouted Shrilly, Squashed Surely Since Sarah Sat Safely Spaced-out Smoking Silly-weed! 

Silly Say Shitwood

AKA

https://billyraychitwood.com

The Cargo

The Cargo 

The man stopped, turned, shook his head, scanned the horizon 180 degrees, pivoted, and continued walking.

After twenty paces Adrian Jacobs stopped again, repeated his scanning of the horizon. In a low voice, he spoke to himself, “What is it? What’s this crawling, gnawing feeling matching each step I take? Did I forget something? Leave something behind? What the hell’s eating at me? Dammit! I’ve been here   before! Something is wrong! Am I being forewarned? What? Is my mind playing with me?”

The escarpment was just ahead! He dreaded the trek down the steep incline, but he would not want to climb back up the damned thing! He almost lost it on the way up, thought he was going to pass out, die, have a stroke, just not ever again! Next time, a helicopter!

There was a boulder on his left. He would sit for a while, clear his mind, re-think it all. He was bone weary after the past few hours. He had to be sure! Too damned many moving pieces! He had to sort them all out, make sure he was not missing something!

He sat on the boulder, took a deep breath, and looked at the valley down below. Lights were beginning to twinkle in this early stage of twilight, dusk not far away. He needed to get started down the slope before darkness came. Weather didn’t appear to be a problem, but he needed to be at least halfway down the slope before he used the flashlight.

“Okay,” he spoke again, quietly to himself, “let’s go over the inventory…” He closed his eyes, projected in his mind the steps he took since leaving the car parked and hidden down below. What? He looked at his watch – nearly five hours so far.

“Car in garage. Nobody saw cargo loaded in trunk of car! Check, 100% sure!”

“Nothing left inside Allie’s patio home to implicate her or him! Check! 100% sure!”

“Car not followed! Check! 100% sure!”

“No one saw him on the up-slope. Check! Toughest part! Heavy-load, with a few stumbles! 99% sure!”

“Cargo buried deep in secluded spot Allie picked out at the far-end of Molar Peak! Check! 100% sure!”

“Information not shared with anyone! Check! 100% sure!

Adrian smiled… “What the hell am I worried about? It’s clean! Like a whistle, it’s clean! This time next week Allie and I will be on the white-sand beach in Aruba, sunning and splashing in those incredible powder-blue waves! I’ve been paid well! Wonder where Allie got the money? Not to worry! Said she would explain later!”

Adrian lifted his sore, well-worn body from the boulder, endured a sharp, involuntary pain in his solar plexus area, stretched, winced, and began his hike down the slope. He scattered loose gravel with each step, and the over-amplified sound filled the early night air, eerie in its hollowness. As the daylight still allowed he kept a wary eye out for rattlesnakes. This was the time of day when they came out from under a mesquite bush or rock to forage for food.

He hated snakes! But this little trip was worth the effort! He sang softly some tunes he knew, hoping to keep the snakes away.

Adrian stopped. Darkness was coming fast upon him…faster than he imagined. Vision was becoming a problem. He would need the flashlight and he had not yet reached the half-way point. He did not want the light to reach curious campers who might be nearby. Considering the time of day and inevitability of darkness he would have to use the flashlight. He did not want someone noticing a light and mistaking it for an SOS signal.

As darkness came the flashlight beam seemed brighter and more encompassing in its breadth of coverage, but he knew he had no choice but to use it. Otherwise, his footing and his balance would surely fail him. He also knew there were a few scattered cabins nearby that would possibly have the tenants sitting on their decks watching the night unfold and peering into the sky. Some, indeed, might have telescopes for their amateur star-gazing. No matter, the flashlight must be on for him to safely make his way down the steep slope. He simply had no choice, and the odds would certainly be in his favor. The cargo took longer to haul up that slope than he thought.

On he slowly moved down the slope, slipping, stumbling at times, the gravel sounds reaching decibels very loud to his ears So focused on his decline and the noise element, he paused at times, switching off the flashlight, standing still and waiting for the gravel rush to stop, listening intently for other possible sounds.

Hearing no sounds, seeing faint lights too far off to matter, he continued down the slope.

Amid his step-crunches and the gravel-rush, his mind began to play tricks on him. He heard or thought he heard hissing noises in the brush nearby. He stood motionless, perspiration blurring his blinking eyes, concentrating on the perceived noises around him. He heard only the slight stir of a zephyr floating by or a distant caw of a bird.

He took a tentative step down the slope and felt a sharp sting in his left calf.

He let escape a loud unwanted yelp! The yelp blended with unmistakable sounds of rattlers. Then, there came another   sharp sting on the right calf.

“Ow! Oh, my God!” His mind began to remind him of all the stories he heard from people or read in Arizona newspapers about rattlesnake bites, how fast they entered the nervous system and rendered one immobile. He felt another stab of pain to his left ankle. He started to dash down the slope but fell and tumbled head-long into the brush and gravel in front of him. A cholla shrub sent cactus needles into his arms and face. Some fifty yards down through cholla, sagebrush, and gravel his body slammed into the thicker thorns of a saguaro cactus. 

Barely conscious he felt the bloat of his calves and ankles, the blood on his upper torso and face from the thorny saguaro. He lay on his back looking up into the starry skies and felt his life draining from his body. “Oh, God!” He softly murmured, “not like this, please!”

He tried to move, but some parts of his body were broken. He lay there, short gasps emitting from a mouth now with tongue swollen and his energy gone. His mind caressed the final irony of his life. For once, he was to become someone, wealthy, free to be noble of gesture for worthy causes. He was to have Allie, someone beautiful to love and show off to the world.

In his dying throes he managed a weak smile and a mild ‘Ahh’ of capitulation to a God he once knew as a child. In a barely audible breath he muttered, “You are there after all!”

***

The next day, an Arizona newspaper’s first page lead head-line read: PAYROLL ROBBERY OF MAJOR INDUSTRY. In the smaller type below the headline, the copy read: ‘… No leads in the case.’

Two months later, on the society page, an Arizona newspaper announced the news of an ‘Allie McBride’ wedding, the bride a wealthy young lady of little history, the groom, an also rich and powerful politician in the state.

Six months later, on page five of an Arizona newspaper, a small headline spoke of a man’s bones being found on the steep eastern slope of ‘Molar Peak’. The DNA from the body’s remains gave no clue as to the identity of the man.

©The Cargo – A Short Story by BR Chitwood – August 27, 2018

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A Night With the Swells

A Night with the Swells

A Short Story by BR Chitwood

I’m not a party-animal! Well, more accurately, my first reaction to a party invitation is, ‘I don’t want to go’! I’m basically a more private person and don’t like the first hour or so among so many people I don’t know. Now, with a few drinks, I can open the can to all my scintillating party skills that will ‘wow’ anyone within my auditory range. That is my self-appraisal! Others might not agree.

Really!

The special element for this party is the bar. Charlie got that right. This spacious barroom-library is stunning, with its Mahogany lower walls, golden touches, sconces and a beautiful wall of books. Charlie Pollard is my gad-about pal who seems to be connected with all the ‘swells’, and it doesn’t go to his head. Charlie is ‘real’, a guy you can depend on in the trenches. He’s in PR and darn good at his job.

A movie mogul-dude named Bryce Cummings is throwing this party for a new actress who recently won a coveted award for her ‘supporting role’ in a major motion picture. Mr. Cummings owns this magnificent bar and the whole luscious domain with its spiral staircases and carpeting so deep you could almost breast-stroke through it. Cummings is connected with the movie industry. This palatial Pacific Palisades pad (seems heresy to call it ‘pad’), and this spacious bar-room-library is absolutely stunning, with its Mahogany lower walls, golden touches, sconces and a beautiful wall of books…oops! I already said that! But, then, it is impressive enough to say it twice!

The friendly bartender is nice enough to keep my highball glass filled with his delicious version of a Manhattan. Of course, I’m the only one at the bar except for young waiters at the ‘service station’ filling their trays with drinks for the wandering mass of people discovering the beauty of style and substance this mansion displays. Every bachelor should have a bar like this in his home. If this bar would fit in my pad I would just crawl onto one of the soft auburn sofas that dots the aforementioned walls and never leave the huge room. Of course, this bar wouldn’t fit in my pad, and, hey, I live in Marina del Rey next to Santa Monica which isn’t at all shabby. But this place! It speaks of the kind of wealth most of us will never know.

Don’t get me wrong! The funny thing is, many people have this built-in expectation that these ‘swells’ are rude and snobbish, opinionated, and pretentious. And, some really are. The majority, however, are real and know where their roots are. They were not ignoring me. In fact, some engaged me in short conversations, inviting me to join them in their wandering. I suspect they were feeling sorry for me because I sat musingly at this rapturous bar.

With my strange humor, I told anyone who came near to rescue my lonely soul that I was merely building some ‘party power’ before unleashing myself on the crowd. In other words, I was building a ‘glow’ that would get me through the evening and to a point where I could be polite and gracious in taking my leave, unless, of course, someone or some event caught and held my rapt attention. Of the one-hundred plus stags and lovely couples roaming the rooms, all nice and beautiful people, I was just not in a sufficient mood to mix. Plus, I fell immediately in love with this luxe barroom.

Gibby, the bartender, for all I knew, was an actor making some extra money at this bash. He was in-deed an excellent mixologist to go with whatever his main occupation…perhaps, a bartender! Would that not be unique? Okay, get over yourself, Sam!!

Samuel Bellows is my name, and I’m a would-be author, sometimes subbing as a humorist! There is nothing particularly abstract and/or unique about me except for a bald spot on the back of my close-cropped black hair. Inside that small bald spot is an almost perfect near-imperceptibly milk-chocolate outline of the USA. The ladies for some obscure reason love that birthright!

Speaking of ladies, there is a fetching lass taking a soft-leather seat next to me.

“Hi, mind if I join you?” her perfectly aligned white teeth gleaming in the soft lights of the bar, her elegantly light blue evening wear disclosing some tantalizing cleavage. (Sorry, men do not stare but do otherwise notice parts of women’s anatomies! It isn’t an art! It’s only a fact! Personally, I cannot see having it any other way!)

“Oh, please do!” I offered, beginning to lift my body from the low-seated comfortable chair.

“Please, stay seated!” she purred – well, indeed, it did sound like a purr. “These high-heels are killing me, and I had to sit! Do you mind?”

“Not at all, Ms…”

“Megan, please, no ‘Ms’! I’m far-distanced from that used-up nomenclature.”

“I think I’m in love!” I said, with a slight bend of head and twinkling eye. “I’m Sam. Samuel Bellows, trying to be a ‘Samuel Clemons’.”

“Oh, an author!?” she smiled so sweetly with her order of a Daiquri.

“It sounds so real when you say it!” I gave an extra blink of eye.

“Now, don’t tell me you’re one of those tortured artists?” she offered her hand and I took it and most gently shook it.

“Oh, no! That bus left town without me! I do op-ed articles and an occasional novel.”

“Are you good at what you write, Sam?” She sipped while eyeing me.

“Here we are, having a conversation about writing, and we’ve just met, but, yes, I’m very good at what I write. Thank God I have me on my side. I’ve had good reviews which outweigh the bad ones…I like you, Megan! Immediately, I like you! Does that sound phony somehow?”

“No, Sam, it does not sound phony. If you’re at all interested, I like you, too! That’s a bit strange for me!”

“Liking me is strange?” I cooed.

She laughed, and I loved her laugh. “My goodness, Sam, you’re really good at repartee. No, I’m feeling strange, liking you so suddenly, I mean!”

“Is that a good thing? I hope.” I really did, hope!

“It must be, Sam. It’s been a year since my divorce, and you are the first man I’ve encountered that has a certain way I like. I came to this gala with a dear couple I adore, who want me to be doing more with my spare time, you know, like, dating and so forth, and so forth!”

“Okay, I’m going near the ‘so forth and so forth’, but I can say in all honesty that I’m delighted with your analysis of me…” I paused to gaze into her dazzling hazel eyes. “Was it a tough ordeal, Megan, your divorce, I mean?”

She took a quick sip of her daquiri, and answered. “Not really, Sam. We met at our jobs, both in the advertising business, just got comfortable with each other and allowed that to eventually push us into a marriage neither of us was really ready for. He was, is, a nice person, and it was all so very dull and amicable, our divorce…not nasty, at all! We’re still good friends. How about you? Married?”

“Yes, not now, but, once! A college romance, still too young and not enough sense to know we should not marry. She was a nice young lady, and I have no idea where she is today. I’m thirty-three and at times feel like sixty-three. My op-ed job has in some ways made me cynical, Megan, too uneasy, too wary of people and their duplicity. I don’t like being that way, but the world seems to be going the direction of some robotic reordering and a ‘me, too’ mentality. I’m by no means a hermit, but there are times when that deserted island sounds pretty doggone good to me… Wow! Listen to me! What did you put in my drink, Megan?”

We both laughed and our eyes stayed for some extra moments in their stare.

Something in that ‘stare’ told me we were on the very same wavelength, that we had broken through a barrier that ofttimes took months or years to pass through.

We sat, had a few drinks, and totally enjoyed our time. More than that, we knew there was some sense of destiny in our meeting.

A couple of hours passed before her friends found us in that marvelous bar, laughing and doing our schtick!

After introductions, the couple had no doubt how their question was going to be answered…

“We’re leaving, Megan. Are you staying a while?”

Megan and I looked at each other. I gave her a small nod with a silly smile thrown in.

“Sam will be taking me home, Cynthia. Thanks for bringing me with you tonight. Love you and Mel!”

Megan’s friends left.

We stayed for one more drink in that now most sacred and beautiful bar-room-library.

We now have a reasonable facsimile of that bar in our own home in Chestertown, Maryland.

You know, it’s true, ‘Love is Lovelier the Second Time Around’!

Short Story by BR Chitwood – August 18, 2018

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