Tag: #Fiction

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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Soul’s Surrender

Soul’s Surrender

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As I talked she pulled back and eyed me carefully.

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

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

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

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

Flash Fiction by Billy Ray Chitwood – July 30, 2018

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Hammer’s Holy Grail

Hammer’s Holy Grail

by BR Chitwood

-Coming July – 2018- 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

HAMMER’S HOLY GRAIL

Chapter One

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Dad, it’s me!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love my Mom and Dad.

Maybe I still have both to love.

-END OF CHAPTER ONE-

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

Billy Ray Chitwood – July 7, 2018

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