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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Comes the Dawn

Comes the Dawn!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All’s well that ends well!

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

~*~

Flash Fiction by BR Chitwood – August 16, 2018

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Miles From Afghanistan

Miles from Afghanistan!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Lawrence Ronald Smith? That your name?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The man was dead!

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

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

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

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

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

A short tale from:

BR Chitwood – August 8, 2018

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A Meeting at Chasen’s

A Meeting at Chasen’s 

I Wonder!

(And, Song! ‘I Wonder’)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~*~

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

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

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

So, it was! And, so it is!

Lesley became a friend, never married.

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

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

‘I wonder’!

I see trees

With Green leaves in Winter!

I see the moon

Where the sun should stand…

There’s a lake

Where there should be a meadow,

A forest where there should be sand!

And, with all this,

I wonder,

Can life be merely a dream?

A dream that can build

A love that is real,

A love to last,

Eternally?

I hear a song

With soft words of silence.

I hear a lark

When there is no bird.

I hear a horn

When there should be no music,

A sound

that should not be heard!

And, with all this,

I wonder,

Can life be merely a dream?

A dream that can build

A love that is real,

 A love to last,

Eternally?

(Song ‘I Wonder’ ©Billy Ray Chitwood)

Post by Billy Ray Chitwood – August 3, 2018

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Could It Happen?

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

Could It Happen?

-Short Story by BR Chitwood-

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

The doorbell rang again, this time with more urgency.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What lovely lady?” Eddie wanted to know.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eddie shakes his head in silent negation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah, we gassed them!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~*~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~*~

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

“Eddie!

“Eddie!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©Short Story by Billy Ray Chitwood

April 28, 2018

~~~~~

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

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Martin and Sybil

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Martin and Sybil

-Short Fiction by Billy Ray Chitwood

When the thought came to me I cannot say. The thought came and stayed, growing steadily through the minutes, hours, and days. It seized an uncommon, unpredictable control of my mind, macabre, mad thoughts pounding incessantly, relentlessly, a drum beat so wildly cacophonous I began to doubt my sanity…

Sybil was everything in my world, her devotion and love the building blocks of my future, our love destined for the scripts of poetry, pretty phrases, and romance novels.

It was a summer day on the white sandy shore in La Jolla, California. I sat on an unfolded beach seat reading once again my favorite book of soulful poetry by ex-priest, James Kavanaugh, a shattering compilation of soul-rending and searching. It was, and, is, a book that is both compliant and kindred to my own soul. The book’s passages reminded me of my own childhood and young adult life. the words and phrases touching the soft spots of pain and remembrance.

It was but a spray of sand that brought the exhilarating discovery of Sybil in a tantalizing yellow bikini, her tanned body of curves and voluptuousness arousing the gonads and the heart’s pitter-pat. But it was her face, framed by a delicious spill of golden hair, blue eyes and an elegant face that spoke supremely of angelic purity.

Something passed between us, that thrill of something discovered that just might be the defining moment of one’s life, a magical spate of emotions that come but once in a lifetime.

We stared at each other for some seconds before I found my voice. From some source within of clumsy mutterings, my first words to her were: “Are you with someone?”

She smiled and did a funny thing with her eyes and answered: “Well, no, I’ve just come from a modeling shoot. Are you suggesting I join you?”

“Look, you’ve staggered my senses here. You must know you’re beautiful… I just sense, uh, something passing through us, and that’s just not an ordinary event with me. But, yes, I am suggesting you join me. Will you consider it?”

She placed her hands on her titillating hips, gave me a coquettish smile: “Well, may we start with names? My name is Sybil. Yours?”

“Martin Hoover.’

So, began our relationship, built with the finest intentions and promises two people in love can make to each other.

We enjoyed being together with as little time apart as possible. We were in love, akin to some of the greatest loves of all time. Our adoration for each other bordered on rapture. I’m convinced no other love ever possessed more idyllic space in time.

We married three months after our La Jolla beach meeting, and life was storybook from every angle. Other than time at my Business Consulting and Sybil’s modeling, we were at all times together. We wanted a family but not immediately. We were enjoying life too much, our dinners at great restaurants, occasional evening visits with mutual friends, beach time, and some golf.

It was at a golf course that the first sense of trouble arrived. Sybil and I were put with two men to round out a foursome. That was fine with Sybil and me. We liked meeting new people.

These new people we could have done without very nicely, at least, one who called himself, Bryce Cowling. The one fellow, a John Gibbon, was a nice guy who had apparently been paired up with Cowling to satisfy the tee-times and crowds of golfers.

Bryce Cowling spent most of his golf-time looking at Sybil, an inane smile on his lips. He was a rude and brazen individual, showed no golf etiquette. He was always close to Sybil, making insulting non-sequiturs. Sybil gave no encouragement to the brash bastard and moved away from him when he came her way.

My run-in with him came on the thirteenth hole when I overheard Cowling utter an insult to me and to Sybil – her insult a sex-related quip. I grabbed him and shoved him away from Sybil, and he gave me a mean gritted-teeth stare and a menacing smile.

It was my good fortune to go thirty-eight years before meeting a crude and rude playboy type like Bryce Cowling. I told him this and to stay away from Sybil.

Fate can at times be cruel!

Cowling developed a fixation on Sybil, tracked her down at a modeling shoot and began stalking her.

Not only was the guy ugly and mean, he had a ‘rap sheet’ with the San Diego PD that included felony arrests for rape and assault.

It became my habit of taking time away from my work, driving Sybil to her ‘shoots’, but that was not doable on November 8, 2005 because of a consulting conflict.

When she went missing, I was frantic! I called the San Diego PD and was told forty-eight hours needed to pass before they could do anything.

The police found Sybil’s ravaged body seven days later in the hills above La Jolla near our home, near the beach where we met and fell in love.

My anguish became anger and rage. The SDPD questioned Bryce Cowling and cleared him of the homicide of Sybil. The PD said his alibi checked out.

Cowling’s alibi checked out for them, maybe, but not for me. My life became null and void without Sybil. There was nothing that would countervail my rage. Daily, nightly I tracked Bryce Cowling and finally gained unnoticed entry into his San Diego condo.

 He was with a woman who, unlike Sylvia, gave herself to dancing, laughing, telling of her sex-capades, copulating with this man I hated so much.

I watched from my hidden spot until I retched, but the retching did not rid me of my anger. With my hunting knife slicing and stabbing, I killed them both while they were sexually rapt. I would not know how many stabs, how many slashes I put upon their bodies. I can only say my rage was spent.

A neighbor in an adjoining condo heard the screams and called 911.

The police came.

I was arrested.

Now, I hear footsteps outside my cell.

It is time for my execution. I’ve been here for years and I am ready for my sentence to be carried out.

There are no regrets for what I did. That is perhaps the saddest part. That and the not knowing whether I shall see my beloved Sybil in the next dimension.

Anger and Hate are beastly emotions, but I somehow cannot regret the mutilations of those l savaged…

Even, when the real killers were apprehended later!?

What does that make me?

Short Fiction © by Billy Ray Chitwood

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Leonid and Sasha

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Leonid and Sasha

 (Flash Fiction/Short Story by Billy Ray Chitwood)

Sasha begged him not to go. “You belong here with me, Leonid. The battle is within you, not with North Korea. What of us?” She tugged at his tattered coat.

He smiled benignly, “You’re a lovely and silly girl. You do not understand the reality of our time. To stay would be to defy my beliefs, my convictions, and, yes, my anger and hatred.”

“You would die for these beliefs and convictions, this anger and hatred?”

“We all must die, Sasha.”

“You brought me here to be left alone in a strange country?”

 “Hong Kong is not a strange country, foolish one. You know many of our people. Go to them when your money runs out. Stay with them. Should something go wrong, I will return for you.”

 “Please, Leonid, you go to die and you know it. You’ve told me of your plans. You go on a suicide mission. I’ve begged before and I beg of you, now, please stay!”

 At the door of the small efficiency apartment, Leonid paused with his hand on the door knob. His dark eyes and handsome face held a strange and wistful look. He removed his hand from the door knob, returned to Sasha where she stood by the tiny dining table.

 “You are so beautiful, my blue-eyed wonder.” He embraced and gave her a long passionate kiss.

 He then quickly twisted her head until he heard the snap. The lips were still in a half-smile as her head dangled and fell to his right shoulder, her blue eyes large and vacant in their death stare. In a whisper, he spoke, to the face he had loved, “Better you go this way, my dear Sasha, than to linger in life’s pain. You cannot know but I did love you.”

 Leonid gently lowered her body onto a soiled stuffed chair just a few feet from the dining table, gazed upon her splayed form for some seconds, then slowly left the apartment. Tears welled but he willed them away, a final and essential part of his being had snapped and was forever lost to him.

*****

Night, reluctant to shed its vagueness, was slowly showing its lightened eastern clouds as the sun gave way to earth’s perpetual orbital pattern. Leonid walked in the shadows along streets leading to the Kumsusan Memorial Palace. It was still quiet in this city known in its translation as ‘Flat Land’. In his backpack he carried explosives with timer mechanisms that he would plant at key buildings. The explosive carefully strapped to his body he would save for the KMP.

His thoughts were well focused on his morning’s mission but he could not deny the flashing memories that brought him to this point in time…

His father, mother, and brother had been ruthlessly killed here in Pyongyang in 2012 by a squad of government gangsters of the ‘People’s Republic of Korea.’ His family was shown no mercy as they were chopped to death by machetes, labeled spies against the state. Four hours later his older brother and sister were pulled from their lodgings, beaten, and then chopped to death. The government squad had no ears to listen to his family’s protests of innocence, their legitimate reason for being in the ‘Flat Land,’ their labored cries of mercy.

Pyongyang’s government never wavered from their ill-gotten information about his family. Never mind that his mother had pleasantly refused to cater a special luncheon for the squad and their friends, the sole event and motive that brought the hatred and the killings. Never mind that his sister would be raped before she was chopped. The killings were all justified, each query quashed and forgotten by the government.

His marriage to Sasha prior to the family murders made home life an hourly ebb and flow of emotions. When sleep would come there were the hellish nightmares, waking, screaming the names of his dead family, his body slick with sweat and tears, Sasha clinging to him, sobbing, trying desperately to slay the night-dragons that possessed him.

Then came the job loss and it was as though the people of Hong Kong could see the rage in his eyes, the stench of hatred from his body. He became a man avoided and feared. Sasha tried to get him help, would set an appointment for him to see someone who might be able to help him, but he would not arrive at the set time. Sasha was the only person in the large city who could give him moments of relative calm, but then those times of surcease became fewer and fewer.

He would not bathe nor shave, only when Sasha would run his bath and physically pull and push him to the tub and wash and rinse him. For those few precious moments Sasha could almost sense some warmth come to him…but it never lasted long. The strange hatred that occupied him never resulted in personal damage to her. She did the talking, asking questions of him, and he bluntly answered the questions – until the fateful day he killed her! It was only some modicum of revenge that would fulfill what was left of his putrid life…

 

As he walked in the shadowy stillness, a voice came to him from an alleyway just a few feet away: “Leonid, I must talk to you. Come walk with me in the alley.”

Leonid stopped, momentarily startled…no one knew his name, knew that he was here in Pyongyang. “Who speaks my name?” He braced himself against a building corner near the alley, moving his hand near a detonator that would vaporize him and much of the immediate area.

“A friend, Leonid. Please come these few steps and talk to me. There is no harm intended. We will talk, and you can do then what you will.” The voice had a calm and soft cadence, and Leonid knew that the man spoke the truth.

Leonid walked a few feet into the alley until he saw a man’s form. What struck him were the man’s eyes. They glowed in the semi-darkness, matched the tenor of the stranger’s voice. Oddly, Leonid was not afraid of the stranger and walked some fifty feet further down the alley, stopping when the stranger sat on a wooden crate. The stranger bid Leonid to sit on another wooden crate nearby.

“How is it that you know me and what do you want?” Leonid asked.

“I’m just a man who knows the pain you carry within you and the mission that you are on.”

“How could you possibly know such things?”

“I have been with you all the way from Hong Kong, Leonid, mourning with you the loss of your beloved Sasha.”

“I killed her! With these ugly knotted hands, I killed her. How can you know this? Tell me who you are and why you are here, or, I will…”

“Leonid, just a few questions I have and you can be on your way.” The stranger’s voice was mesmerizing, measured in softness and tone. “Why is it, Leonid, that we are here on this spinning orb we call earth?”

There was rapture in the stranger’s voice that commanded a response. “We are here to live in delusion and to die and be no more.”

The stranger’s eyes seemed to glow more brightly and the long beard he wore was a pellucid whiteness that seemed somehow unearthly.

The stranger spoke, “So, why is it that the moon falls from the sky, the sun does not bring us daylight, and birth has no precise process to follow?”

Still taken by the stranger’s soothing voice, but a bit nonplussed, Leonid responded. “But you know that is not so. What is your motive here?”

The stranger seemed not to hear the question. “Why is there no evil and good in the world?”

“Stop confounding me with your Socratic silliness. Of course, there is evil and there is good in the world.”

“And why do you think that is so?”

“God only knows.”

“You speak His name as though you know him, Leonid. Do you know God?”

“There is no God!”

“Yet, you say He knows about evil and good.”

“Look, your aura wraps me in some kind of spell and I seem compelled to listen to your words. Please tell me what it is you wish me to know.”

“One last question, your response, and I will say my final words to you. “Did you truly love Sasha?”

“Of course, with all my heart I loved her, but my heart and soul are heavy with grief and hatred.”

“Like the hatred of Jesus’ enemies as they crucified Him on the cross? Like the hatred of the Americans for the Japanese during World War Two? Like the psychotic hatred of serial killers?”

“Yes, yes! How else can I answer such questions?”

“You can answer such questions by having Faith that there is more to come beyond this life, by believing that evil only spreads when good people are paralyzed by anger, fear, and hatred. To Love is to have Faith. To have Faith is to have Love. These noble elements of living decide our ultimate destinies. People have choices to make all their earthly lives. They will not always make the right choices, but Faith and Love will make all the wrong choices bearable and inconsequential when the last grain of sand is gathered.”

As more light came to the alley Leonid thought that he understood what the stranger was saying to him. He wanted to say something but no words would come.

The stranger lifted himself from the crate and stood in front of Leonid. “May I touch your head, Leonid, so that it might bless you?”

With tears now flowing, Leonid merely moved his head downward. The stranger touched his head. Leonid sensed warmth on his head and a coursing flutter through his body.

Then, the hand left his head.

When Leonid raised his head, the stranger was gone and daylight streamed throughout the alley.

Leonid was suddenly wearier than ever before in his life. He slid down the wall of a building and fell asleep.

*****

When Leonid awoke, his head was on his own pillow. He was gazing at the adjoining pillow into the wondrous blue eyes of his beloved Sasha, a sweet smile upon her face.

“You look different somehow, my love. Do you still intend to carry out your vendetta against North Korea? Please say that you will not.” She wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled her face to his chest.

He blinked several times, feeling a wondrous presence streaming through his body He first smiled broadly, then giggled deliriously.

A pout showed on Sasha’s face. “Why do you laugh at me, Leonid.

“No, no! my precious love, I don’t laugh at you. I’m so happy, and, one day I will tell you, why!” He hesitated and wrapped Sasha in his arms.

“There will be no vendetta, not ever…”

Leonid tightly wound himself around Sasha and gave her a long and tender kiss.

“I’m torn,” he said, “making love to you, or, bacon and eggs?”He paused only briefly, “Oh, to hell with the bacon and eggs.”

Billy Ray Chitwood – Flash Fiction

(First written in June, 2013 – here with minor changes.)

Please visit my Website and preview my books, some reviews, and a bit about me:

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Rhttps://twitter.com/brchitwood

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