Blogging, working on the house a free short story from Rapid City

Posted by Geo April 12th 2017

 

It has been a busy week for me, and a week where I accomplished no writing at all. That seemed strange at first, but I got so much else done that I decided it wasn’t strange, just a temporary kind of new.

I worked all week on remodeling, smashed almost every finger and thumb that I have, wore myself out completely a few days in a row, and still felt grateful for it. It made me wish even harder to be living a life that models my books. I think that is why we find tales like that, a struggle to survive, impelling. It is a lifestyle we long for because it is completely different from what we have. No taxes, no $4.00 a gallon gasoline. No boss on your ass, and all the rest of it that would personalize it for each of us. That kind of life has pulled at me since someone bought it up to me at 18, and offered me a chance to live it.

I had an opportunity then to homestead in another country. It was serious. Isolated. Living completely off the land in a very wild place. No neighbors, cars, roads, telephones. Nothing at all. I was young. It sounded so great. My wife was pregnant and said no and that was that. She would not have a baby in the middle of nowhere. And that bought the realization that even if we stalled a few years, eventually she might have to have that baby in the middle of nowhere. It was a dead issue for her after that.

I understood it on two levels. First the reality of living that life or a life in the real world where my wife, child and family were. And just examining that on the surface made the decision for me. Second, even though the decision had been made, I was absolutely convinced that if I had gone I would have succeeded at it and loved it.

Because of that duality in me, I always pressed to learn as much as I could that would make me as self sufficient as possible, and I have. It allows me to write about things in my books with assurance. I can write it because I have done it. Learned it. Not because I read it in a book or Googled it. (Although Googling things is pretty damn impressive too, and I have used that a few times). My point is that for the past three weeks I have left the keyboard alone and turned back to working with my hands. And, as is usually the case with me, working alone too.

It’s been great, despite the broken finger, smashed truck and busted up thumb, blisters and dead tired, nothing-left-at-all, way I have felt most nights. That is my compromise for life. It’s like an uneasy truce I declared back there at 18. I have to have some of that sort of time.

It has seemed to work great most of the time. But, I found the same unhappiness, missing something that many of us find in life. Marriage, success, money, it doesn’t matter. There is, and always has been, something missing for me, and it took a great deal of life to finally forge an uneasy truce, compromise, cease war with myself.

It takes real effort to keep it working, moving. But it can be done. Part of it is what I write. I say I don’t know where it comes from but it’s obvious that it is strongly flavored by my desire to live that life I felt I should have lived.

Some people I know would leave this life to live that life in a heart beat. Others flat out say they would never do it. If given the opportunity I would go in a second, I say. And then I think of all the obligations I have. Things that I have said that I would see through, do, people I would be there for, and I know I could never do it.

What is my point? My point is that when I write about it. Or I take a few weeks off to really work hard with my hands, it’s just a s good. It can be, just as good. Or as good as having feet in both worlds can be. I think the writing is the grand escape. A good story should be able to take you away. I hope mine take you away. I hope you enjoy it so that when all the crap you have to deal with in the real world comes along you can deal with that easier because you took a little breather in your head.

I like feedback. People do write to me and tell me their opinions, I enjoy that, whether it is people I know or people I am hearing from for the first time.

It’s a little cooler here in New York. My work on the house is progressing nicely, a little slower than I would have wished, but still progressing. Next week is electrical work, insulation, security system and all the other stuff that has to go in before the sheetrock goes on the walls. I’m enjoying it, and in a few weeks it will be down to paint and carpet, finish work, and I will be back to being only a writer for the fall and winter. By the time that happens I will be grateful for it I’m sure.

There are just so many smashed fingers and tired limbs left for my future, I guess, and then I will be only writing. But I put a limit on that a few weeks back, kind of my own end of the world. If you check the main blog page you’ll find the clock running, counting down the hours until I pull the plug. It’s a long way a away, but it is nice to see it there running. Counting down the time to the third part of my life.

In the meantime I will publish everything I have written in all the series and then some. When I spent time last week going over the books and the outlines for the series, it amounts to 40 books for the Earth’s Survivors series. That probably seems very ambitious, maybe even unattainable, but if you stop to consider that I have already written 20 of the main books and another 9 of the side books that fit the puzzle it doesn’t seem so unattainable. Only 9 or so to go.

I hope you had a great week, where ever you are. Hello to my friends in the UK. I am glad I have friends there. My Mother’s parents were English and Irish. I have always felt that connection. My father on the other hand was African American and Native American so I have always felt that pull too and I am grateful to my friends here in the States and the UK that share that sort of heritage too.

I will leave you with a short story, the first short story from Rapid City…

Rapid City #1 By Wendell Sweet

BLOG EDITION

Copyright © 2013 by Wendell Sweet

If you would like to share this book with another person, please direct them to this blog entry. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

This short story is Copyright © 2013 Wendell Sweet. No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, electronic, print, scanner or any other means and, or distributed without the authors permission. Permission is granted to use short sections of text in reviews or critiques in standard or electronic print..

This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places or incidents depicted are products of the authors imagination. Any resemblance to actual living persons places, situations or events is purely coincidental.

DEDICATION

For Shell. Nothing else to say


RAPID CITY

The Town At Twilight

It was late when I came into Rapid city. Though the buildings had been thrown up as temporary shelters some twenty years past, they still held sway over the main street. But they seemed empty, abandoned in the twilight.

A faded, crudely lettered, wooden sign nailed to one side of the bat wings of Blood and Breakfast made the street official. Or as official as anything ever got in Rapid city.

My horse didn’t seem especial nervous as she made her way along. If you ride a horse, and everyone did now, gasoline was long gone unless you were a part of the Nation, you got used to their moods… Perceptions, and you paid attention or you might wind up dead. Horses were still free and Zombies couldn’t chase them down and eat them. Not that they didn’t get one occasional, they did. But it was rare.

My own horse watched the shadows slide from alleyway to alleyway between the old buildings. Her large, liquid brown eyes watching careful like. She was no fool, but she also didn’t appear to be alarmed to me.

The zombies weren’t out. They rarely came near the city in my own experience. At least not before full dark came on. So I didn’t concern myself with them. But I didn’t slide either. My eyes automatically slid from shadow to shadow in the buildings alleyways as I tied my reins to the rail out front, made the steps and headed up to the bat wings. I Heard a pigs squeal suddenly cut off and hoped there’d be some meat to be had with the usual eggs and biscuits.

Rapid city had been thrown together by some of the survivors who had come out of the North looking for a warmer place to live. You might as well say driven out and not just by the cold, but the zombies. Zombies didn’t mind cold. You could come across one naked as a jaybird, seeming frozen at the side of the road in the middle of the winter and think it would be no trouble. But the minute you turned your back they’d be up and on you. Once bitten there was no turning back. Oh in the early years there had been talk of some kind of a cure, but it had never come to anything. After awhile all those Government mouthpieces that kept talking cure got bit themselves and you just didn’t hear from them anymore. Not too long after that the whole government structure fell apart and for all intents and purposes, excepting those of us who could fight, the world belonged to the Zombies.

I had taken to gun-fighting. First: you had to be good with a gun so you could get them bastardly Zombies before they got you. Second: For some reason those that were left alive seemed to be hell bent on killing one another. A man couldn’t hardly turn his back on no one lest a bullet find him between the shoulder blades. And women? Well, short of whores of one kind or another, I had no truck with them. A woman, a real woman, was in short supply and worth killing over. Even if she was an ugly woman. I’d seen a four way gun battle over a one legged Whore down by Texas a few years back. And I’d heard about a thirty two man shoot out over a woman out on Alabama Island. And she was a slatty slip of a woman, but they said she could breed and that was that. I’d come across that one when it was over and they was counting the bodies. But these were things that were in the past. Years ago.

Back then things of that like seemed a waste to me. Here these Goddamned Zombies were killing us by the thousands, millions and these dumb son-of-a-bitches were killing each other. No sir. I’d rather take me a whore in some town when I need one. You can keep those so called proper women. And I will tell you; in my experience a whore can be a perfectly good woman. Love just the same as one of those sulky, pale things I seen out on Alabama Island a few times.

They say the plains is free of Zombies. That’s what they say. They say the Zombies is smarter, they stay around the cities where they can find food. And from what I’ve seen I’d have to agree. They seem to be evolving. But, didn’t we kind of know that was gonna happen? And do you know what the bitch is? There ain’t no goddamn way to win. You got to die, and when you do they got you. Pisses me off just to think about it.

The Blood And Breakfast

I made my way careful up the balance of the splintery steps, through the bat wings and into the Blood and Breakfast. The Blood and Breakfast only served two things. Whiskey and Breakfast. You could order just about anything you had a mind to at any time of day. And they might even listen to you, let you ramble on ’til you was done, but in the end they would tell you. You could order eggs and biscuits, meat if it was to be had. And you could have your whiskey in a bottle or a glass if you considered yourself fancy. But that was what there was and no more to be had. I put my head back to thinking as I looked around the interior.

I’d heard a lot of things about the plains. There was land. There was food to eat. And they say there’s men that has run off with whores and made them proper women out there. I heard it enough that I got to go. This will be my last stop in Rapid City and then I’m going. I’m tired of looking over my shoulder waiting for a damn Zombie to get me. Or another gunfighter. There’s a broken up BlackWay, what we used to call a road. Ain’t many seen it, but probably ain’t many been looking for it. Not only have I seen it I know where it goes. Like I said, a short stop here. Load up on supplies and I’m on my way.

The original settlement had not been laid out to serve other travelers but as a refuge for those escapees from the North. Even so within a few months all of the original settlers had been run off or killed by the Zombies. The ones that came later settled the city. After that Rapid city had become the main gateway to the southern states.

The name had come from the rapids in the nearby river. Well, the river had been near town. Things changed pretty quick back then. Dams a thousand miles away burst with no maintenance, rivers sprang up, died out. Nature did what nature wanted to do. Before the first coat of paint was drying on the church building, the river had spread out nearly a quarter mile wide and was no longer the fast moving body of water that it had once been.

These days it was more like an evil smelling swamp, with the actual river nearly a mile away. It was Hell in spring when the Mosquitoes hatched but the good side of that was the other residents of rapid city, the Zombies, didn’t like the Mosquitoes Something in their bite made them zombies drop like flies. Didn’t kill them outright but it knocked ’em down, gave them some kind of sickness, and a knocked down Zombie is one you can kill real easy. Most of the Zombies that found their way to Rapid City became residents of the swamp in just that way. Their bodies tossed unceremoniously to the alligators that had found the swamp a few years back. Alligators didn’t turn when they ate Zombie. They didn’t even seem to mind eating it. The residents, few as they were, breathed a little easier, and life went on.

The blood and breakfast was located in the old church building. The building had been gutted except the altar area which had been turned into a small dance floor for the whores and travelers. The ratio of whores to travelers was about 3 to 1, but the ratio of clean, disease free whores was about 1 to 5. You had to be real careful. If old Doc mulberry had rejected it, you should be smart enough not to check it out for yourself. If it could kill you you didn’t want it. But of course if the whores didn’t get you, the Zombies would. And some men liked to gamble.

The blood came anytime after the dinner meal. We’ll, after it had been served , not necessarily eaten and ended. It was kind of fluid so to speak, always had been. There was no violence while the serving was going on, and that was enforced by a shotgun wielding crew of about four employees who would show you some blood quick if you really needed it. In my experience it always turned out better to obey the rules and wait. No matter who you were. Even the gunfighters who visited knew the rules and obeyed them.

As I stood looking around I smelled coffee brewing too, probably thick as molasses and only black, but that was fine with me. I beat my hat against the doorpost, shook off as much dust as I was able to, caught the bartenders eyes, Smoky, was his name, and took the table his eyes had given me.

There was no fresh pork yet despite the screaming pig. But there was still bacon to be had, a better treat to my thinking. It seemed like the only meat I ever ate was venison or horse. And the zombies didn’t have it that way. They didn’t care what kind of meat they ate. But of course they preferred people. It just galled me that they was never having the problems with food that the rest of us had. I’d heard of a few places where the tables had been turned. Where hunting parties went out looking for Zombies. Shot them down. Bought them back to display them. But I also heard how them places went bad too. There was always one that stepped over the line and decided to eat what they shot. Don’t let that shock you. After all, isn’t it the same Goddamn thing the Zombies are doing to us? Sure it is. Except that old saying you are what you eat comes into play pretty damn quick. To me it made no sense. I couldn’t cypher how they had got to think to eat a Zombie. The things were dead. Stunk to high Heaven. And it only made sense that it would turn you. Just about every Goddamned thing you had to do with them frigging Zombies would turn you.

Like them idiots that thought you could mate with them. Breed the UN-dead right out of existence. That never turned out well neither. I guess men just thought strange thoughts sometimes when they set down to ponder this whole situation out and there wasn’t always someone there to talk sense into them. Anyway, I knew I was tired of horse and venison, and nowhere near ready to lunch on Zombie. But a little bacon would be a good treat. It’d been a few years since I had any, a little place down toward Texas where it had once met Mexico was the last time.

I took the bacon. A half dozen biscuits and as many eggs. When there’s fresh food you take it. Jerky and hard biscuits was the normal fare. Horse or Deer jerky. And once Turtle jerky. Jesus, that there was some bad stuff. I suppose you might get to thinking around the campfire late at night, belly rumbling, that a little Zombie might not be so bad after all.

I rolled a smoke and sat watching twilight paint the dirt street golden as the sun sank. I spoke to a boy leaning on the wall watching me and sent him to do for my horse. He was off the wall as soon as I flipped a gold piece at him and out the door. I heard him lead my horse away, feet clomping in the early evening stillness. I sometimes worried about my horse. A zombie will eat a horse if that Horse is tied up and can’t get away from it. I seen a Zombie horse or two in my time too. Yes. A horse could be turned. Jesus. It’s a rough sight to see.

The kid would make sure the horse was inside but not penned. She could go if she needed to. I’d find her later. Wouldn’t be the first time. In this world your horse was everything. I’d known men who loved the company of their horse mor’n other people. There was something I understood, but dinner was coming so I put the horse out of my mind. The evening was nearly here and I was safe inside. And I felt good.

The Gunfighter Profession

I am Robert Evans, a gunfighter. I wear stitched leather gloves with no fingers. There is a man in Alabama City that makes them special for me and a few others that be in the life of gun fighting. They protect my palms. They give a good grip. And they leave my fingers clear so they do not get tripped up when I need them. Those gloves have always made people look twice, and a lot of what I am about is psychological. A painted picture. I want to be feared. Sometimes I think I am no better than the Zombies when it comes to that. If you fear me you stay away from me. But there was the other side of that too. You kill what you fear. Yes you do.

I don’t fight overly much anymore. That sort of occupation is dying out I guess. There was a time when the world was crazy though and we found ourselves in a different kind of life. The cities fell. The cops failed to keep us safe. Governments were all talk, and then they were no more. The dead were everywhere.

That was our time. Gunfighters. Gold on the nail and we could make death happen. I carried two fully automatic 45 caliber pistols with custom extended clips. Made my own ammo. Still do. Knock a Zombie down at 100 yards. Walk into a crowd of Zombies and take them all out before one could touch me. And although I was not special I was no slouch. There were only a few in my league. Jimmy Jenkins… Lila West… A few others. We were sent for from all over to take care of Zombie outbreaks. But the sheer numbers overcame us. And the shock wore off and those that were still alive began to fight back. And we, gunfighters, became outcasts. Social misfits. Hated almost as much as the Zombies we had once been hired to kill. The people felt we had taken advantage of them. Lied to them. And some even suspected that we ourselves had something to do with those Zombies. Some sort of bond. Like maybe we had spawned them so we could profit from them. I never made no Zombie any more than I’d ever be willing to eat one. But back in the beginning? We was feared. I could not tell you how many Zombies I put in the ground for permanent. Thousands. High numbers of thousands.

Now nobody gives a shit about us. There were so few people that lived that it looks like it would probably take about ten thousand years before anybody would need to be fighting over anything. Maybe the Zombies will take over. Maybe the earth is no longer for the living. But there is land everywhere. Gold everywhere. The women live longer than the men. Life is just harder for a man. Die sooner, except when the zombies get you then you don’t even get to die. And even if the women that are left are mostly Whores there are enough for everyone. No need to kill over them anymore, despite those things that still go on. Really, there are just a few of us left and every time I come around somewhere it seems there is a half dozen less faces that I had been used to seeing. The Zombies get a few, and we still kill each other too. Makes no sense to me at all.

There was and is speculation about that. Are we dying out? I think we are. Looks pretty clear to me. How can you kill something that’s dead? You can’t. Is this God’s judgment? Maybe. Government fuck-up? That’s what I think. We will never know for a fact what did happen, but I know this, I believe we’re done. I wouldn’t say it if I was you though unless you’re prepared to meet your God. It’s just that way. We may be dying out. And we may know we’re dying out. And the Zombies may be on the verge of inheriting the earth, but we don’t want to hear it. Saying it will usually get you dead fast.

The Good Old Days

Dinner and Conversation

When I was younger it was cockroaches. People believed that someday a nuclear missile would take all of us out and the earth would be left to the cockroaches. That’s funny because even when we are gone the Zombies will go on and the cockroach population will be kept in check, because, as it turns out, Zombies love cockroaches. Eat those little fuckers just like Popcorn. Like a treat. And, it applies to nearly every goddamn bug there is. If you study Zombies for awhile, I killed them for a living for many years so I had to, you will see them do it. Just reach down and snatch a bug from the ground, or the floor, or the air and stuff it in their mouths. And they are fast. Gone are those early days when they were slow. No more. Only the mosquitoes are a different story. If we could have just found out what was in Mosquitoes we might have gotten someplace, but it’s too late for that now, truly it is.

I flicked my cigarette away as the food came. It’s been a good six months since I’ve eaten real meat. That had been on Alabama Island. The Nation. I was looking forward to the Bacon. Just seeing it on my plate made my mouth water.

The Nation is what has bought most of this country back under control. They control the communist whole, not just each and every little area but the whole of the continent. North, South, East and West. They’re there. I do trade with them. I could probably fall in with them and establish my own settlements, be myself again. Beef, Coffee, Sugar, Textiles, Electricity if you were in one of their settlements or one of their larger cities like Alabama Island you would think that nothing had ever happened.

But there were rumors about the nation. They were getting shaky, falling apart, and on my last trip to Alabama Island I saw that that might be true. If they were shaking it might take some time before they shook themselves apart. They were so big that I couldn’t really see it. The only thing that made me really examine it at all was that America was big… The biggest… And it fell apart.

I mulled life over as I began to put away my dinner and listened to the conversation around me.

Concerns about the weather. Too much sun. The farming, crops. The Nation. Concerns about the Zombies, was it over? Was it done? Talk about a gunfighter who had been tracked down in a small town down near the Texas border and killed. That one I had heard about. Vigilantes, something like that. Tracked him down. Betsy, one of the whores, had caught something bad. Bad enough that Doc Mulberry didn’t know what to do about it. A zombie that had been acting strange, coming around the Blood and Breakfast and going through the trash. Even in the daylight. If it was like that with zombies now I guess it didn’t really surprise me. They’ve come around like that before. Zombies were adaptable… Changing… We all knew it. And then the conversation moved on and I lost interest as I ate my dinner.

The Challenger

It took me a few seconds to realize that it was quiet. All the conversation had fallen off. The roar of the silence broke through to me. It’s odd like that, ain’t it? How the absence of sound can call you up out of your thinking sometimes, faster than actual noises can. This was bad though. Stupid of me. The old me would not never had been caught like that.

I looked up following the directions of the stares and heard the low clacking of new boot heels as they made the wooden steps that came into the saloon.

He was known to me, but that didn’t mean I was known to him. I had seen him fight more than once. Perhaps four times total if I recalled correctly. Gunfighters were so rare now as to draw attention. I drew my share of sideways glances and small murmurings as I said. And handling my own business was nothing new for me. I did it when I had to. My guns talked for me.

John Baxter, that was the gunfighters name, walked in and straight to the bar. I would have liked to have thought that he had not seen me but I knew he had. He was working way too hard to not look my way. He had used his peripheral vision to check me out same as I would’ve. And I was caught completely off guard. I had not heard him soon enough. Not his horse coming, nor whatever it had been that had tipped off the bar crowd and caused them to fall silent. The only edge that I had if there was trouble, and in my world there always was, was that he did not know I was unprepared. And even as I thought those thoughts I prepared myself. And as far as I was concerned we were back on even ground just that fast.

In those seconds I had freed up my pistols, changed my leg position and looked over the room completely. I ended by moving my body slightly to present a smaller target. Seconds spun out. John ordered a whiskey and kept his back to me. I considered shooting him dead right in the back. I’m not above it. Better dead, no matter whether you were right or wrong in the way you got it done.

The crowd was absolutely silent and drawn back away from us. Making room. They had seen a few gunfights in the Blood and Breakfast. Even so two gunfighters in the Blood and Breakfast at the same time had to be something unheard of in awhile. Most likely the whole town had been aware that something might be up, maybe from the second I come into town. Certainly before I knew.

I looked at my plate regretting that I’d saved the bacon for last as it now sat untouched on my plate along with the biscuits sopped in egg yolks. There were at least three flies having a feast. It pissed me off, but it would not keep me from eating it later. I told myself I should have shot him in the back just for the pure fact that he was making me miss my breakfast. And I would have to eat it cold later with fly shit that looked an awful lot like black pepper after we were done with our business. John turned slow from the bar. Dinner in the Blood and Breakfast was done being served.

“Come to kill you, Robert,” he said easy. His eyes were gray, hard and flat. A tight smile played at his small mouth. His lips were pursed. His hat sat upon the bar where he had thrown it.

“So I thought,” I said aloud. I moved not at all. My own blue eyes gave away nothing of my emotions. My hands did not shake.

Silence fell and held. Just the sliding and shuffling of the feet of the townsmen, the whores and the travelers alike sliding backwards from what they considered to be the fighting zone. I was thinking I had waited too long, that I should have shot him in the back, when a twitch of his shoulder told me he was going for his gun.

The noise was deafening. I emptied half a clip into him from under the table top. Half a modified clip was fifteen bullets. And the first four or five took the bottom edge of the table off as they flew at John.

The thing about a gunfight is that it slows down time some how. You ask any gunfighter and they will tell you that’s true. I watched as my first bullet plucked at his shirt front before his own gun had completely cleared leather. My second bullet blew his collarbone apart just a few inches from where it joined with his neck, but his gun was out and spitting fire. It was about then that two things happened.

The first was, I felt a sudden heaviness in my chest. I didn’t have time to puzzle that before one more bullet found its mark and I saw John become dead. This one midway in his chest. Showing only as a tiny hole but it was like the light went out of his eyes all at once. When those two things were done it finally registered in my thoughts that I had been shot too. Hit, not killed. I was pretty sure not dead or dying. To prove it I forced myself to move and I was able to move just fine.

The smoke hung like a curtain in the air. The smell of hot metal, gunpowder expired, hung in that same air.

Someone said… “They is both hit… Lookit!” Real low… Like a whisper.

In the Alley By The Door

John finally had the sense to fall down. His gun clattered to the floor just before John himself did.

Time slipped by. I wanted to see how bad I was hit. I had no real idea. I finally stood from the table and looked down at myself. A small neat hole just below my shoulder in my upper chest. Red blooming around it like a small, spring flower. I was hurt, but not bad. I had been shot worse.

“Get the Doc,” I said to some skinny, slat-sided whore crouching in the shadows. She looked scared to death or almost. She lit out, seeming glad to, and I walked over to John where he lay sprawled on the floor and put one more bullet right between his eyes. Best to do it soon. I’ve seen a body start turning before the life is really even done leaving it. Those bastard Zombies can’t wait… Or the Dead disease. Whatever it is that turns them. A little dog hiding under a nearby table yelped when I fired and scrambled, nails clicking on the wood floor, trying to secret itself better. I reached down and took John’s guns and personals, gold mostly, set them on the table, grabbed one booted foot and dragged him towards the back door.

I kicked the rear screen door open, dragged him bumping down the steps and rolled him over towards the trash cans. I’d done my part and now my chest was beginning to hurt. I felt like sitting down all at once. There was a little bubbling in the lung on that side. I could both feel and hear it. It was an odd thing. And I could feel the bullet in there, wedged tight, burning. I didn’t relish Doc. Mulberry operating but the alternative was unacceptable. And I had come through much worse. Much worse.

I was turned to go back in when the Zombie got me. He must have been crouched down by the garbage cans in the shadows and I hadn’t seen him. He had me by the wrist growling and snarling before I could shoot him. I got my gun up and put one through his head as fast as I could, hoping the ricochet didn’t take off my hand. He let go and laid down with one leg twitching and his back arched stiff for a second. Then he was dead for good, Amen.

I stood for a few seconds wondering what the hell had just happened. But, I knew what had just happened. I had lived through a goddamned gunfight at the old age of fifty two just to get bitten by a ever-lovin’ friggin’ Zombie. I stood a few seconds longer thinking of how unfair that was, remembering the conversation from inside while I had been eating. A Zombie had been coming around… Going through the trash… but then the craziness of the situation hit me and I had to laugh. And laughing was how old Doc Mulberry found me.

He looked from the Zombie to my wrist dripping blood on the dirt of the back alley.

“That from the fight or the Zombie,” he asked me.

“Zombie,” I answered . I tapped lightly at the bullet hole in my upper chest. He nodded.

“Ain’t that a bitch,” he said.

I laughed. “Ain’t it… Ain’t it just…”


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Snow day and a free short story from Billy Jingo

Wednesday! Posted by Geo 03-15-17

Well we made it to mid-week and we can see the finish from here so it will probably all be good from here on out…

If you live in New York and have somehow not looked out the windows in the past 48 hours go do it. Okay, pour yourself a drink, it’ll be okay. The storm did hammer us, but it left us alive. we got about two feet here but other places in the state got up to eight feet. No that is not a misprint there were places that got that much up north near the Tug Hill plateau, Lake Placed, far northern New York. In Rochester and Syracuse travel has been limited but the traffic is moving again and it looks like the worst of it is over.

So go to work. I know, or you could call in sick and shovel the driveway, at which point you really might be sick if your ticker is not too good and you might actually end up in the hospital in which case everyone will come and visit you, send flowers, talk about how the streets are a mess and you are better off here… And then the surgeon will come in and say…

“John, we’ve scheduled the chest-buster for 11:00 am.” He looks down at his wrist. “You have about three minutes to prepare.”

“Three minutes,” you ask, but no one answers. Instead Joan, and Bob, and Devon from accounting are asking their own questions. “What the hell is a chest buster?” and “He looks weak, probably won’t make it.”

And then, just as you are wondering what a chest buster is the nurses on the surgeons team rush in , kick the parking brake off on your bed and you are off. Rushing through the hallways headlong…

Sorry, I got carried away, but that is why I am a writer. That imagination that never shuts down. Anyway, you will probably be alright, just call in sick, go ahead…

So it is Wednesday and that means the weekend is on the way, so hang in there. I am working on editing and writing and just awestruck by all this snow when the ground was bare 48 hours ago. Crazy.

I will leave off and give you a short story to help you through the day.


This material is copyright protected under foreign and domestic law

This material is NOT edited for content.


Star Dancer

By Dell Sweet

Copyright 2016, all rights reserved


STAR DANCER

PROLOUGE

Universal Planet Time was part of the Space Travel Treaty signed into planetary law back in 2050 when regular cargo trips had begun between the moon bases and the first private colonies on Mars. Of course now there are dozens of colonies on Mars, Venus and Jupiter’s moons: Plus six major colony cities on the moon, and new colonies are being proposed daily to the space council.

Universal time meant that space ran on a different non-changing schedule from the Earth. Space time ran twenty-four hours, and business was always conducted seven days a week. There was no down time, only changing crews, flight coordinators, colony station personnel. Space was the biggest cash venture on Earth. It was what had pulled the global economy from the slump and severe depression at the beginning of the century, and it was still growing.

The technology had been ready for a very long time, there had simply been no economic stimulus to begin the push. Men and women with the money and the fortitude to put that push on and get the entire global community involved and interested: After that initial global push the speculators had poured onto the scene. Then the serious investors, then the corporations, and the industry had been born. And as the saying goes, nobody has looked back since.

ONE

Earth Date: 2096 – 08 -25 – 16:21:43

Moon Base 14: United Planet Technologies

Intra Flight Systems: Star Dancer

Michael Watson

I purchased Star Dancer right after college, and I’ve never looked back. I can remember my great-grandfather, gone now for more than forty years, talking about what he had, had for opportunities right out of high school. That would be laughable now. My parents had, had my life mapped out from the age of two. Life Mapping was a serious thing, I don’t know any that don’t have their lives mapped out now from birth.

School was not complete without college. You could not be licensed to work the counters of Planet Burger unless you had two years of college. My own career had taken four years of specialty college and geared trade school from the first grade on. When other first graders were learning about monetary systems and world level banking, I was learning about Star Drives and ION Propulsion units.

The grades, one through twelve, start at age three and last on average seven years. Some fall behind, some spring ahead, but by ten years of age most are ready and I was no exception. I began my specialized training, four years, four more years of global military service after that with an option for six more, which I declined, and I am pretty sure made my instructors very happy by doing so, and so at the old age of eighteen I signed a twenty year funding commitment for Star Dancer. At the time I was sure I would never dig myself out of thirty million credits of debt, but for the last two years I have been watching credits build in my accounts.

Today I was docking at UPT on Fourteen to pick up a four year re-supply for a prison colony at Mars-Twenty-Seven: Some kind of Tech drop for Colony One, and two panel pre-fab labs for IO’s base six.

Moon Base Fourteen is United Planet Technologies own base. There is not much else here; a small cafeteria, some lounges for through travelers, each progressively worse than the last: The best being Vic’s, and Vic’s was the only official bar, the other two were simply overlooked. That could happen at a base that was not really a base at all, but a company town.

I had, had the tour before, and short of taking on a small crew, and maybe a new navigator to replace the one I had been without for the last seventeen months, I would be here only long enough to fuel, be unloaded and then loaded and once I was re-supplied I’d be off: So there would be no downtime in the next twenty-four.

The crew was a transport crew. In other words, a company crew that would accompany me to all three of the offloads, do all the offloading and on loading. I would be coming back to Fourteen with a full load of finished products bound for Earth. They would pack it all, all I had to do was bring it back.

On my last stop, IO, I’d lose the crew. That would leave me alone for the return trip, unless of course I signed a navigator today. So far out of twenty possibles I had, had only five show up, and out of the five three turned me down. I turned the other two down. So if I was a betting man, and I am usually, I’d say the odds were that I would be riding this trip alone.

I eased my ship into dock. Some go with the auto-nav, but I have heard too many horror stories about out of phase computers, last second power surges and more to trust my ship to the machines. I do it myself. I have known how to do it since third grade in the flight sims. Microsoft had the best federally approved space flight sims, and my parents had made sure I got the best.

I gave my reverse thrusters a quick slap with my palm at three hundred feet out and watched my lock coupler drift home with nothing more than a small frame vibration when I went green on lock-in. I keyed my overhead.

“Central, I’m locked on 6B… Standing by for loading, over…”

“Green on my board, Dancer… Unlocking for loads… You have company standing by, Dancer.”

“Oh yeah?” That was a surprise.

“Uh… Lounge seven… Navigator?”

“Oh, okay, right… Send him right up, and thank you.”

“Uh, her.”

“Her?”

“Oh yeah… Pretty sure, unless I’m blind.” He chuckled.

“Huh… Supposed to be…” I punched the name up on my scheduling screen. “Pete Stanovich.”

“Uh huh… Short for Petra, no doubt… Petra Stanovich… See, you must have heard the Pete part and not the tra part.” He chuckled again.

“Someone screwed up… It’s entered as Pete in the com. Okay send her up then, and thanks.”

“Coming at you… Base out.”

I clicked off and sighed. This meant number twenty-one was most likely a wash too. Most women who interviewed for the job were not interested once they realized it was an intra-galaxy, or system cruiser, and one that was considered a dinosaur of a ship. About all I did have to offer was transferable credits for Federal space-work. I had what was called time for time credit. A perk because I had done my four in the service and never deactivated my six. That meant technically the feds could still pick me up for that six any time they wanted to. In exchange, it meant that I could offer my employees who were fresh out of military service time for time credit. A young navigator would have to be fresh out of military service, or within their benefit time window, thus making them eligible for the time. The time would count directly as military experience in advanced navigation. A big plus, but maybe not worth the two year minimum hitch on my ship.

Even so it was a good perk, and the past three navigators I had hired were immediately picked up for star ship service at the end of their contracts. It was both my ace in the hole and my queen of spades.

I unbuckled, thought about it, and then keyed my Com-Link

“Unlocked, central, and could you delay my visitor by twenty?”

“Be at least that… Problem?”

“No… That’ll work… Out.”

He keyed his Com-Link as an answer. I flicked the unlock switches for the cargo holds, electronically signed my security certificate to allow off loading and loading and headed for the showers and fresh clothes. I may as well make the best impression that I can, I reasoned.

Earth Date: 2096 – 08 – 25 16:27:14

Moon Base Fourteen: Visitor Lounge seven

United Planet Technologies:

Petra Stanovich

I could see the bar through the glass wall, I suppose that was the idea, but the last thing I needed before the interview was a drink.

This would be my fourth interview: Each interview had started good and then spiraled downward. I supposed my job broker was doing the best he could though. I had no experience. My parents had used all of their remaining influence to get me into the military after two years training school. I had worked out of field for the last two years, a bad mistake. You became obsolete fast as a navigator. I had been considering using my six on the back and going back into the military side of the feds. There would be plenty of navigators and pilot positions there. The out of field work had really put me in a bad position, and if I went to the Military side of the feds I could forget ever having a civilian career.

The only good thing about this particular position was that it was a time for time position. It would count as military time; restart my clock and qualify me for something better down the line.

Time for time did not take away from my on the back time, it added to my military experience instead: So my two years became four years, and two more became six. In that sense it was a good opportunity, but nothing else about this position looked good at all.

I had watched the Star Dancer dock: A twenty-eight year old Intra-Cruiser. Straight cargo. She was shaped like a giant box with rounded corners. The propulsion units, ION drives and living quarters sat atop the box, rounded, slightly flattened spheres looking as though they had been added as an afterthought. I had thought, ‘How many of these were left in service?’ … ‘Two?’ … ‘Three?’ … A quick check of my wrist pad showed me just how wrong I was. There were over ten thousand Intra-Class cruisers of this configuration in service right now. That was mind boggling. I had assumed that the heavy Star-Cruisers were what dominated the heavens, but I was wrong. The same link gave me the data for that configuration: Only slightly more than four thousand, and out of that number only one hundred twenty-eight were licensed as Star Cruisers, the rest were Galaxy-Cruisers, short run re-supply craft, and drone craft for quantum travel. The antiquated Intra-Cruisers far outnumbered the Galaxy-Cruisers of the official Federal fleets. Maybe the whole thing could be a plus, I thought.

I watched the huge, plastic outer wall. I saw loading was already taking place on the cruiser. Two hatches were open, and company workers in full radiation suits could be seen inside the cargo bays.

Rows of lights lit the space. It yawned open like a cavern, far into the interior of the ship; so far that I could not see the end of the space. All the approaching shuttles and even the workers all seemed to be moving in slow motion. Space did that. It seemed to take forever for something to actually happen: A shuttle to close the pace to a dock facility; a worker to push off and then maneuver with suit thrusters to their next work station.

On the other hand, I had stopped watching twice, chasing thoughts in my head, and when I had turned back so much had happened that I was surprised. More support shuttles towing cargo barges had shown up: Teams of workers riding on the open barges for their short trip to their work stations. The whole ship was crawling with workers: Inspectors, mechanics and repair persons. Seen from this perspective it made the Intra-Cruiser appear to be a very important ship after all. I shook my head. It was still thirty year old technology. If I was offered the job, and I hoped I was, I would stay no more than the required two years to get my career back on track… Nothing more, if I did stay longer the technology curve would pass me by. That was the last thing I needed. I would have absolutely nothing left to fall back on, and that was bad. That was how the prison colonies were populated.

The prison colonies had started with the undesirables: Murderers, rapists, predators that were deemed unfit for society: As the colonies grew they moved on down the criminal line to fill them. Multiple offenders, thieves, and other criminals. Finally, the prisons on Earth were emptied and all prisoners were re-located off Earth.

The real estate on Earth was suddenly deemed too expensive to use for housing them. Yes, correctional services was still a cash cow, but it was simply moved off planet. Earth’s citizens did not want their criminals living among them. The colonies on Mars, IO and Venus were perfect for penal colonies. All the first off Moon colonies had been founded by, and built by prisoners.

It had worked perfectly, and long before the massive death tolls and horrid conditions came to light, the Feds had perfected living condition requirements and buildings that could withstand life in those places. What was past, was past, those that write history shape history they say, and it had been that way, I knew.

The changes and colonies had come at the expense of some ninety-two thousand inmates and political prisoners. Earth’s citizens turned away their blind eyes, happy that those prisoners were not a blight upon the Earth itself, walking among them in some cases. Glad to risk lives that were not their own for progress.

It left a bad taste in my mouth, but my own position was not much better. Last year both of my parents were killed in a random terrorist attack on their building. It happened about twice a month somewhere in the world. There were so many factions opposed to the unified Federal Global Government.

Truth be told, I didn’t like it myself. It scared me in its impersonal approach to life and death, human rights. Two years before it had become a world class felony to be found homeless. Picked up and convicted, the offenders were deported off-world to one of the penal colonies. An unspecified sentence which was a black mark forever, and then usually an offer of half pay to work at some back water colony base, or new base construction project, with little or no law.

The new law affected me because I was not yet a viable worker, and the government had seized all of my parents property and assets for unpaid Life Taxes: Poor planning on their parts. I was, essentially, homeless, living on my two year service benefit. That benefit entitled me to free government housing, education and job placement: Meals, as well as a small monthly credit allowance, but it was not indefinite. It would continue for three years, four if I applied for the extension. Time was running out.

Of course, worse come to worse, I would re-enlist before I would allow myself to slip into an illegal existence and be shipped off to some penal colony. It was still far from a happy existence for me. Better if I got this job. I needed to get this job.

I turned my attention back to the infra-cruiser and saw that the first two shuttles had arrived in the first cargo hold and were off loading. If I were on that ship it would be my job to monitor that off-loading and re-loading as it occurred. I would be doing my pre-flight checks as I did it. I would probably be thinking about my first off-planet trip. I had never seen Mars, Venus or IO except in video clips.

My concentration was broken when I heard my name announced over the loud speaker system in the lounge; I got up, gathered my case and headed for converse four as instructed. It was easy enough to find. Ten minutes later I was strapped into a battered dock shuttle on my way to the Star Dancer.

Earth Date 2096-08-25 16:52:58

Star Dancer

Michael

I got a good look at Petra as I flagged her through the air-locks: All fresh air; your basic space bug, Earth bug delouser unit. People had, at one time, believed that space was sterile. A few serious contaminations early in the century had stopped that. Of course the process rendered you sterile. It was the same, male or female. The price you paid, so you banked your eggs or your sperm and didn’t give it any more thought. Space travel, constant radioactive exposure, caused all sorts of birth defects. It only made sense.

She was tall, blue-black hair, high cheekbones. Russian. The hair had to be died, but it suited her face, which was hard edged and a little angular. Something past pretty, but less than beautiful… Maybe, I decided.

I had read her information over twice as I had waited for transport. I had picked up the lounge seven video feed, so I knew who I was looking at, matching the details with what I read.

She was on thin ice. About a year left on her military benefits and she would be declared homeless, and probably insolvent shortly after that. Her only choices were military services or a foot in the door somewhere. I had no doubt she would use that as a stepping stone, but it would set up my operations with Star Dancer for the next two years, and I needed the stability back.

Top ten percent of her classes. Short on military experience, only a two year plan. Fluent in twelve languages, double the average. She had no political advantages, so she had no opportunities in the corporate world. She needed me, it seemed, as much as I needed her.

I buzzed her through the last lock. Flushed the air, and then keyed my Com-Link.

“I’ve sent the El for you. It’s a slow go traveling three hundred decks, but it’s programmed to bring you to the bridge. I’ll see you in about twenty minutes, Miss Stanovich.”

She turned her dark eyes to the camera. “Thank you.”

Star Dancer Bridge

17:13:22

Michael

“Full gravity?” Petra asked as she stepped from the El. I had met her at the elevator door and we were walking the curved and window ported outer hallway that ringed the central area.

“It’s magnetic, and yes it’s full-time… Doe it feel like Earth?”

“Very much so… I didn’t…” She colored.

I laughed. “Don’t worry about it. You won’t hurt my feelings. I know, fresh out of service you must have seen technology that makes this old bucket look its age.”

She smiled, but her face was still flushed.

“Really… I do understand, and don’t worry. The field is a perk. The feds installed it. They ship some gravity sensitive stuff, there’s a small cargo space directly above us, and really sensitive ‘Destroy if captured’ stuff in security safes on the main deck. So… We get gravity full time.” I smiled at her again and she smiled back. “It’s not perfect though. The mag field takes a little getting used to. It’s never bothered me though,” I finished abruptly, realizing I had just run on longer than I needed or intended.

“What does it do?” She asked.

“Space sickness… Upset stomach. Two of my navigators and one of the crew who came up here to exercise… It lasted a few days and then they got their space legs. “I laughed.

“Exercise equipment?”

“Another perk. I carry full crews out bound every trip, and I almost always come back with a dead head crew too. They’re supposed to use it, but they rarely do. They tend to socialize together on their own deck, two below this one. There’s a small inner-deck El that connects us. The exercise deck is up here: Treadmills, elliptical, stationary bikes… It’s nice.”

“But, shouldn’t they check in with you?” She seemed surprised.

I shook my head and shrugged. “Technically, I am their captain, in actuality they couldn’t care less. They’re company men and women. They take their orders from the company. As long as they don’t interfere with the running of my ship we operate independently. You’re accustomed to the chain of command…”

She nodded.

“Nothing like that here. We’re like neighboring countries, my own crew stays here, they stay there. I can’t recall a time when I have met more than two or three of a crew at any given time. Usually one or less.” I shrugged once again. “That’s the reality of intra cruising.”

She nodded and followed me onto the bridge.

The bridge on an Intra-Cruiser is a very small area. It is at the front of the pod with two huge viewing ports and one even larger viewing screen in between them. Contrary to popular belief, even my own until the fourth grade, there isn’t anything of great interest to see in space at any given time.

Most of the rooms wall space is taken up with smaller flat panel displays hooked into ship systems. There are three console units with chairs directly facing the view ports.

“You would be here with me most of the time.” I waved my hand to include the entire room. “Take your pick of seating, any can be configured the way you want it to be. Sit down, give a shot. It’s pretty straight forward.”

She sat, pulled the overhead monitor down and had the navigation screens up in just a few moments. She studied them for a few seconds. “Looks easy enough.”

“It is… Believe me, you’ll be bored most of the time.”

“When would I have to decide?”

I looked at one of the wall monitors and the time stamp that ran along the bottom. “You have about four hours from now. That will give me time to re-configure rations, get your licensing in order, passport, extra fuel supplies… Or, you could think it over this trip and I’ll be back in thirteen months, give or take… That’s my average return trip.”

“So… So, you’re offering me the job?” she asked. She was a little wide eyed.

“Absolutely… You’re qualified… Listen, let’s face it, you’re overqualified. I’d be damn lucky to get you. The only thing I’d ask of you is the standard two year contract.” She started to speak, but I held up my hands.

“You can’t hurt my feelings. Two years, as we both know, is the maximum benefit time for you, and it will give you the time to look around. It is an incredible world out there. You won’t believe all the contacts and people you’ll meet. It will give you some real time to breath… Think about what you really want to do. I’ve got some good contacts I could point you at.”

“You’d do that for me?”

“Absolutely… You do right by me and I’ll be happy to do right by you.”

“Okay.” She looked around the room. “My stuff is in a locker off Lounge 7.”

It took me a second. “Oh, you meant okay as in you’ll take it… The job?”

“She smiled. “Sorry. Guess I forgot to add yes I’ll take the job.”

“No, no, I’m a little slow.” I turned back to my monitor and pulled up the re-stocking charts. “Any particular wants or needs? We eat pretty well. The Fed contracts load us up with all kinds of stuff. Perks again, but they are well stocked here at Fourteen… Real coffee… Media… Whatever.” I continued through the screens and began to recalculate the fuel requirements.

Earth Date 2096-08-25 00:03:51

Moon Base fourteen

United Planet Technologies

Intra-Cruiser: Star Dancer

I ran down the lists as Petra pulled them up on her screens and checked them off. Flawless.

“It looks good, Michael.”

“It is good, Petra… Take it out.” I picked up my mug of coffee, the first real coffee I had, had in a while. It sure beat synthetics. I felt the vibration as she threw the dock lock switches and expertly palmed the thrusters. We did a slow, nearly perfect half turn, then she did a longer burn to put us into our ten mile safety limit before she could engage the ION engines.

I watched Moon Base Fourteen fall slowly behind us on the main monitor, and then continued watching as Petra went through the pre ION drive check lists. I had done it so long by myself that I felt almost guilty sitting back and letting her take care of it. Nevertheless, it felt good, and I was looking forward to the company.

“Ten plus zero zero one,” Petra said.

“Kick ’em,” I told her.

She grinned at me and then reached forward and engaged the ION drives.

I sat back and watched the red mileage numerals begin to move fast, then I turned my attention to my own checks. Cargo, decks, company crews. A few minutes later I was done and I sat back and watched as Petra finished her calculations and sent them to my screen to check and approve. She began to program her side navigation console.

Moon Base Fourteen was gone. The moon itself was a distant smear of dull gray next to the big blue ball. Sometimes there were things to look at in space.

I sat back and relaxed into my chair and thumbed by Log-Link.

“Intra-Cruiser Star Dancer, forty-five minutes and twenty-eight seconds out of Moon Base Fourteen. Present, Michael Watson, chief operating officer, Petra Stanovich, navigation officer. We have at present, twenty-eight UPT crew members, see contract FQHPX2879 for a crew manifest… Mars Prison Colony Twenty-Seven will be our first stop, a re-supply, see manifest 97715. Mars One tech drop, see Fed contract 771926f, our second stop. IO six, last drop, pre-fab building shipment under science contract 279916bx… Watson out.”

I picked up my mug and sipped at my coffee while Petra did her own log. I had a navigator for the next two years, after that maybe I would bite the bullet and spring for an Intra-Galaxy Cruiser. I thought about it. I just might do it. Maybe it was time for a change. Maybe I could even run it by Petra, see how it sounded to another set of ears. Maybe it would even interest her.

It made me feel good. I guess I had fallen into a rut over the past seventeen months. I was surprised how good the bridge felt with someone else on it. I sipped at my coffee and watched the Earth grow smaller as we picked up speed.


Take a look at the other short stories in Billy Jingo: Amazon | iTunes | NOOK | Smashwords


The Great Go-Cart Race a free short story from Dell Sweet

great-go-cart-race-lores

Posted by Dell on 11/24/16

Happy Thanksgiving!

I have done video game work all week and updating the websites so If you noticed one of my screw ups at 2:00 AM yes, that really was me making a mistake. For the most part I have done all right. I am integrating several websites into one. Rather than go here or there to pull books, you will, some day, be able to pull them from one place. Wow. Right now everyone sort of has their own system, but we all realize that if you can find them easier you will be able to actually read them. We are not total idiots. Notice I said total. I think we’re maybe 86%. We just get stuck in that tech mode on occasion.

What was this past week like? We’ll we gave away 600 plus US copies of the Dreamer’s Book. Geo and I were pleased about that. Now it is back to business as usual for a while.

What do I have for you tonight. I have a short story that I wrote several years ago. It contains two of my three favorite people, Bobby and Moon and you will have to meet Lois some other time, in my favorite town that exists only in my head, Glennville. This will, maybe, someday, be part of a larger story. 

The Great Go-Cart Race

Copyright (C) Wendell Sweet 1984 1994 1995 1996 – 2016


The Great Go-Cart Race

~1~

The summer of 1969 in Glennville New York had settled in full tilt. The July morning was cool and peaceful, but the afternoon promised nothing but sticky heat. Bobby Weston and Moon Calloway worked furiously on the go-cart they had been planning to race down Sinton Park hill, in the old garage behind Bobby’s house. Both boys had grown up in Glennville. Bobby on upper Fig, Moon on lower Fig. And even though they had gone to the same schools and grown up just a block apart, they had only recently become friends. The Go-cart was a project they had devoted the last two weeks to, and it looked as though today would finally see it finished.

By eleven thirty that morning they had the wheels on the go cart, and had dragged it up Sinton Park hill. An old piece of clothesline tied to each side of the two by four the wheels were nailed to served as the steering. One nail pounded through the center board and into the two by four allowed it to turn. It was the best go cart either of them had ever built, and it rolled just fine. The plan was for bobby to give Moon a ten minute head start down the hill. That way he should be at the intersection by the time Bobby got there, they figured, and able to make sure that Bobby got through it in one piece. Just exactly what Moon was supposed to do to stop a car, or Bobby-the go cart had no brakes, except Bobby’s Keds-he didn’t know. They hadn’t figured that part of it out.

“So, how am I supposed to stop a car?” Moon asked. He didn’t want to sound stupid. Most probably Bobby had it all figured out, but Moon couldn’t see it.

“Easy,” Bobby told him, “you don’t. You’d get freakin’ killed.”

“Well, I knew that,” Moon lied.

“See, you’ll be on your bike. You’ll be sittin’ up higher. You’ll see if there’s a car coming, I won’t, on account of how low to the ground I’ll be.”

“I knew that too.” Well, and then what? Moon asked himself.

“So easy. You just yell to me before I get to the intersection, and I cut off to the left and go into the sledding hill instead. You see that way I’ll be going up, instead of down, see?”

“Oh yeah!” Moon said, as it dawned on him. The sledding hill was there. Of course it wasn’t a sledding hill in the summer, but it was a hill, and he could see exactly how it would work. “I knew that too. I just wasn’t sure if that was what you were goin’ to do, or not,” Moon finished.

“Of course you did,” Bobby agreed.

Moon was just getting ready to bike back down to the bottom of the hill, when John Belcher showed up. John Belcher lived on West avenue, and his dad raced stock car out in Lafargville.

As a consequence, John Belcher had the coolest go-cart around. His dad had helped build it. Real tires-they even had air in them-with a real metal axle running from side to side to hold them. That was the best way to do it, Moon had said, when he’d first seen John’s go-cart. That way you didn’t have to worry about the tires falling off when the spikes pulled out, and the spikes always pulled out. It also had a real steering wheel, a real one. Moon had exclaimed over that. His dad, John had told him, had gotten it out of an old boat out at the junk yard.

“Hey,” John said, as he walked up, dragging his go-cart behind him. “Goin’ down?”

“Bobby is,” Moon said respectfully. You had to show a lot of respect to someone who owned a go-cart that cool. “I’m watchin’… At the bottom. So he don’t get killed, or nothin’,” Moon finished.

“Watch for me too?” John asked.

“Sure, man, a course I will. Bobby don’t care, do ya?”

“Uh uh,” Bobby said. “You gonna try for the whole thing?”

“Why, are you?”

“Yeah… Right through the intersection, and if I can all the way downtown. Probably won’t roll enough on the flat part to do that though, but at least through the intersection and as far past it as I can get.”

Sinton Park Hill began at the extreme western end of Glennville, and continued-though somewhat reduced-as State Street Hill all the way to the Public Square three miles from its start.

“Cool!” John said. Now it was his turn to sound respectful. “I dunno, man. If I do it and my dad finds out, he’ll kill me.”

“Well, who’s gonna tell him?” Moon asked. “I won’t, and neither will Bobby.”

“Yeah, but if someone see’s me…”

“Yeah… I’m gonna though,” Bobby said. He could see John was aching to do it.

“Okay… I’m gonna,” John said decidedly.

“Cool!” Moon exclaimed. “Really frickin’ cool!”

John grinned, as did Bobby. “Well,” Bobby said, “guess you better head down, Moony. Moon didn’t need to be told twice. He stood on the pedals, and fairly flew down the hill.

~2~

“Think he’s down the bottom yet?” Bobby asked John quietly. They were both sitting at the side of Sinton Park hill. Their sneakers wedged firmly against the black top to hold them. John had allowed ten minutes to tick off, keeping faithful track of the time with his Timex.

“Ought a be,” John said in a whisper, licking his lips.

“Scared?”

“Uh uh… Well, a little.”

“Me too… Ready?”

“For real?”

“For real,” Bobby said solemnly.

John didn’t answer, he simply pulled his feet from the pavement, turned and grinned at Bobby, and began to roll away. Bobby followed, both of them hugging the side of the road, as close to the curbing as possible.

It was a slow build up for the first few hundred feet. Sinton park hill didn’t begin to get really steep until you were better than half way down, it was gradual up until that point. Even so, within that first few hundred feet, Bobby realized that everything had changed. John was already a good fifty feet ahead of him, and pulling away fast enough that it was noticeable. They were not going to hit the bottom of the hill at even close to the same time. Moon would have to watch for both of them separately.

John made a sharp curve up ahead, and disappeared from view. Everything, Bobby knew, was sharp curves from here on out, and that would not change until they were well past the halfway point. And, this was much faster than he had thought it would be. Much faster.

He fought with the rope through the curve, but he could no longer keep to the side. He was going to need the entire road.

And if a car came? he asked himself.

He had thought of that, but he had thought he would be able to stay to the side. No time to think. Another curve just ahead, and he had only barely glimpsed John as he had flown around the curve. Just the back tires really. He probably wouldn’t see any more of him at all until they were down at the bottom.

The second curve was not as bad as the first had been. He didn’t try to fight this time, he simply let the go-cart drift as far as it wanted too. He came off the curve and dropped both sneakers to the pavement. Instant heat, and the left one flipped backwards nearly under the two by four that held the rear tires, before he was able to drag it back in.

“Jesus,” he moaned. It was lost in the fast rush of wind that surrounded him. Torn from his throat and flung backwards. He hadn’t even heard it. Another curve, and the Indian trail flashed by on his right.

The Indian trail was just that. An old Indian trail that cut down through the thick trees that surrounded Sinton park. He and Moon had carefully negotiated it several times. The Indian trail was just before the halfway point, he knew. There was a really sharp curve coming up, just before Lookout Point. You could see nearly all of Glennville from there.

He fought the curve. Harder this time. It felt as if he were going at least a million miles an hour. Two million maybe, he corrected himself. And the go-cart was beginning to do a lot more than drift. It was beginning to shake. And, his mind told him, you ain’t even at the fast part yet! Lookout Point flashed by, and he fought his way around the sharp curve, going nearly completely to the other side in order to do it…. Yes I am, he told himself.

The road opened up. A full quarter mile of steep hill lay before him, before the next curve. It would be a sharp one too, but not as bad as the one he’d just come around. John was nowhere to be seen ahead of him. Presumably at and around the next curve already. No cars yet, and hopefully there wouldn’t be any at all. It was Monday, Sinton Park saw most of its business on the weekends, if they’d tried this then…

The quarter mile was gone that quick. This curve, and one more, and the rest was all straight-away. He gritted his teeth, and flashed into the curve.

Halfway through, nearly at the extreme edge of the opposite side of the road, the first raindrop hit him. A small splat, or it would have been. The speed with which he was moving had made it sting. Splat, splat. The tires were nearly rubbing the curbing when he finally came out the other side of the curve and hit a small straight-away. And now fat drops were hitting the pavement.

He sped into the last curve, and this time the wheels didn’t skim the curbing, they seemed glued to it. Screaming in protest as he tore through the wide curve and made the other side. The rain came in a rush. Turning the hot pavement glossy black as it pelted down. He used the rope carefully to guide himself back towards the side of the road. Slipping as he went, but making it. His hands were clinched tightly, absolutely white from the force with which he held the rope.

Straight-away, slightly less than a mile, and far ahead, where the stone pillars marked the entrance to Sinton Park, he watched John fly through the intersection. Nothing… No car. Nothing. He made it. He could make out Moon sitting on his bike at the side of the road. Leaned up against one of the pillars. Moon turned towards him, and then quickly looked away. The hill was flashing by fast. Too fast. He’d never be able to cut into the sledding hill. Not in a million years, and especially not with the road wet like it was.

Halfway. Moon was turning back, waving his arms frantically. Bobby slammed his Keds into the slick surface of the road. Useless, and he dragged them back inside after only a split second. Nothing for it, nothing at all. The intersection was still empty, however, so maybe…

Moon scrambled away from his bike letting it fall, and sprinted for the middle of the road, but he was far too late. And even if he hadn’t been, Bobby told himself as he flashed by him, the go-cart probably would’ve run him over.

“Truck!” Moon screamed as Bobby flew past him. He stumbled, fell, picked himself up, and ran back towards the stone entrance post, watching the intersection as he went.

The truck, one of the lumber trucks from Jackson’s Lumber on Fig street, made the intersection in a gear grinding, agonizingly, slow shuffle, before Bobby did. Bobby laid flat, and skimmed under the front tires.

Moon stopped dead, the handlebars in one rain slicked hand, and his mouth flew open as he watched. The undercarriage was just above his head, and if he hadn’t laid down…

Moon watched, frozen, as Bobby shot out the other side as neatly as if he had planned it, the back tires missing him by mere inches, and suddenly Bobby was well on his way towards State street hill, and…

Moon grabbed the handle bars tighter, flipped the bike sideways and around, and pedaled off after him as fast as he could.

Bobby raised his head quickly. He had truly believed it was over. He’d been praying, in fact. He hadn’t expected to make it all. He fought his way to the side of the road, and watched as far ahead, John slipped over the top of State Street Hill, and headed towards Public Square.

There were cars here, and more than a few blew their horns as he slipped slowly by on the side of them. He dragged his feet. Pushing as hard as he could, but managing to slow down very little. The top of the hill came and went, and reluctantly he pulled his feet back once more, and hugged the curbing. The only problem would be from cars cutting off the side streets.

The rain began to slack off, as he started down the hill-a brief summer down pour, they had them all the time, but the road was still wet-at least he could see better. The rear of the go-cart suddenly began to shimmy. He risked a quick backwards glance. Very quick, but it was enough to show him that the rubber was shredding from the tire on the outside, and it was also beginning to wobble. The spikes were coming out, and if that happened…

He pushed it away, and began to concentrate on the side streets that seemed to be flashing by every couple of seconds. Oak, Elm, Sutter, Hamilton. Nothing and nothing, and thank God. The rubber went a few seconds later. He could hear the metal rim ringing as it bit the wet pavement. The hill began to flatten. State Street Hill was nowhere near as long as Sinton Park Hill, and thank God for that too. Finally, he slipped past Mechanic street, and the hill flattened out. He could see John ahead, coasting slowly to a stop nearly in front of the First Baptist Church that held a commanding presence of the Public Square. He watched as John finally stopped, got out, and looked back. Moon whizzed past, standing on the pedals, screaming as he went.

“We did it! We freakin’ did it!”

Bobby smiled, a small smile, but it spread to a wide grin. So wide that it felt as though his whole lower jaw was going to fall off. His stuck out his much abused Keds for the last time, and coasted to a stop behind John’s go-cart.

“Man, did’ya see it? When ya went under th’ truck, Holy cow, for real, did ya see it? I thought you were, like, dead, man, for real!” Moon said as he ran up, John along with him.

John looked pale, really pale, Bobby saw. He supposed he looked the same.

“Under a truck?” John asked. “A freaking truck? A real one?”

“For real. Scout’s honor,” Moon told him. “It almost ripped his head off. I saw it! For real! Next time I do it,” Moon declared as he finished.

“Next time?” John asked. He looked at Bobby.

“Uh uh,” Bobby said. “There ain’t ever gonna be a next time, Moony, right, John?”

“For real. Uh uh. No way. Not ever.”

Moon smiled. “Well, too bad, cause I woulda… For real.”

Bobby looked at John. “Did you know it would go so fast? How fast were we going, Moony?”

“No way,” John said softly.

“Probably… Forty, at least forty.” Moon said confidently.

“You think so?”

“Could be,” John agreed, “cause like the speed limit is thirty five, and we were passing cars, and that was on State Street Hill, not Sinton,” he opened his eyes wide as he finished.

“Hey, maybe fifty,” Moon assured them.

“Did it look scary to you?” Bobby asked.

“Scary? Uh… Yeah, it did. I thought you guys were dead, for real. I was pedalin’ as fast as I could, but it took a long time to catch you. Was it?”

Bobby looked at John. “Yeah,” they said, nearly at the same time.

“Really scary,” John added.

They all fell silent. John, Bobby noticed, seemed to be getting some color back in his face.

“Wanna go buy some Cokes?” Moon asked at last.

“Can’t,” John said, “no money.

“We’ll buy,” Moon said, smiling once more. He helped drag both go-carts up over the curbing, and turn them around. Moon rode his bike, as Bobby and John pulled the go-carts behind them.

They rehashed the entire ride as they walked towards Jacob’s Superette. Laughing, the terror already behind them.

Later that day when Bobby and Moon finally made it back to Fig street. They stuck the go-cart in the old garage behind Bobby’s house. They talked about it from time to time, even went in the garage and looked at it occasionally, but they never rode down Sinton Park Hill, or any other hill, with it again. It sat there until the fall of 1982 when Bobby himself dragged it out to the curb and left it with the weekly garbage.

………………………

I have a novel that features these characters written, but I am doubtful about publication, even so they remain some of my favorite characters. I hope you are spending time with family today and enjoying that time. See you soon, Dell…

End of Summer features these same kids. Click here

……………………………………….

Check out America The Dead and get the first book FREE…

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AMERICA THE DEAD Smash Series: Once you cross over you can not come back #ebook https://goo.gl/rplFXg


The Dam is a true story from my childhood

Posted 11-05-2016

This past week I left all of the work there still is to do on this house and kicked back and worked on video games. Sometimes I need a head break to just let stuff go. I had a blast. learned a lot more about the system I use and made progress on a game I have been working on for quite a while.. That gives me winter to catch up on writing projects and that should be fine.

What went on this week:

Monday night my cat kept me up all night long yowling. There was a female outside and when I let him out Tuesday morning, that was it. He never came back.

Tuesday I spilled a very small amount of coffee onto the keys of my laptop and messed it all up. How, you might ask, could I be so stupid as to spill coffee on my keyboard? I don’t know. Plain old stupidity… Half awake… A cup of coffee in my hands… All of the above. After determining that, yes, it was fried, I bit the bullet and headed to eBay where I found a replacement.

Wednesday I wrote code all day and into the next day (3:00 AM)

Thursday I did the same, and then tried to put together some computer parts I purchased. Failed. Realized I had bought a BTX form factor Motherboard (Advertised as an ATX), and even though it would not have fit the case I bought, I had not purchased the ATX case I thought I had, but a MATX case. Confused? So was I. After a gazillion hours trying to make it all fit I went online and looked for solutions. Ha Ha, I say that with the deepest sarcasm.

To fix the situation I needed to purchase a BTX form factor case, but I quickly found out a BTX case is hard to come by and more expensive than the whole combination I had bought. So, I looked for an MATX board to put the processor I had purchased on. But, a MATX board, at least the ones I found, would not hold as much memory, slots, etc. They were generally more expensive with less to offer.

Which begs the question, why? I have noticed that a lot of the last several years. Want to buy a dog? Well, a German Shepherd or a Malamute, both about the same size, will cost about the same price. But, a small dog, I won’t mention the breed, costs more than either of those dogs. Huh. Along those lines, as a dog, if a cat can kick your butt you’re probably too small.

Anyway, I finally decided to buy an ATX board and case. That worked except I was out more green. BTW, if you followed all of that you are probably as geeky as I am.

Friday I did some editing on Geo’s Smashword interview. Why is it that it is so easy to edit someone’s work, find all the mistakes and correct them, but not your own?

Saturday (So Far) site updates for SOTOFO and a few other sites. Writing, and eating Candy Corn. I have to admit it was great to get back to writing, but the Candy Corn was pretty good too. And, listing all of those computer parts I bought that I no longer need. Let’s see. I spent about $250.00 in parts that I didn’t use, and another $200.00 in parts to actually build the thing, plus the cost of another laptop (Used on eBay), a really good deal for $125.00, I would say this week the computers won. And the thing is, in this society, you can not do without them. I guess I’ll be happier on Monday when the laptop shows up, and in a week or so when I put my fast computer together and convince myself that I am not really an idiot at all, technology is just faster than it used to be… Did that make sense? No.

What did I learn this week?

#1. Cats are not very useful when it comes to making you feel good about yourself. I mean they take off chasing the lady cats and don’t even bother to come back. That is a direct hit to the old self esteem. Of course maybe he was kidnapped or eaten by a dog, or a Sasquatch. After all there have been a great many Sasquatch sightings lately on the National Geographic channel of all places. I hope he didn’t suffer. That is of course if he was eaten. If he did run off with a lady cat I hope she takes him for everything he has.

#2. Laptop computers really suck. I have spilled whole sixteen ounce Cokes on my desktop keyboard, no problem except the keys began to stick bad. Also, the laptop keyboard stayed screwed up, I had to plug in a USB keyboard to type with, until I bought the replacement laptop. Second, I looked up form factors with Google. Holy Crap. The odds of me getting the wrong parts are very high, especially since some of the people that sell them don’t have a fricken clue what they are selling. There are dozens of form factors. Let me geek this out for you. Form factor refers to a common build for a particular board, across different manufacturers. Same pin connections, width, length. Etc. The last time I built a machine I only knew of two form factors, ATX and MATX which is a smaller board, and then there were proprietary boards built by some manufacturers. Yeah. No longer. So now I think, spend the extra and have someone else build it to your specs. And, after I get through this fiasco I will do that the next time.

#3. Writing code is easier on the body than building a house is.

#4. I am no longer sure I should drink and keyboard. Coffee, Coke, it always ends up on the board before I am finished.

Other stuff:

The new Zombie Plagues Book at Smashwords

The New Earth’s Survivors Book at Amazon

Earth’s Survivors News: The first Earth’s Survivors book, Apocalypse will remain free the balance of this year. After that it will be reevaluated.

The Zombie Plagues: The first book in The Zombie Plagues series is also a free download.

Everything else is in line and going well. Well, except computers, Cats and coffee cups.

I will leave you with a true short story, The Dam, a story from my childhood growing up near the Black River and the many dam that harness its power…


THE DAM

Copyright Wendell Sweet 2010 All rights reserved

Blog Edition

This work is copyright protected. You may read it in it’s present form. You may not alter or transmit it by any means. If you would like to share this material with someone, please direct them to this URL. This is not a work of fiction. The people and circumstances really existed and I have faithfully reproduced the circumstances without excessive artistic license. I have changed names to protect innocent people.

Published by independAntwriters Publishing and Wendell Sweet


THE DAM

It was summer, the trees full and green, the temperatures in the upper seventies. And you could smell the river from where it ran behind the paper mills and factories crowded around it, just beyond the public square; A dead smell, waste from the paper plants.

I think it was John who said something first. “Fuck it,” or something like that,” I’ll be okay.”

“Yeah,” Pete asked?

“Yeah… I think so,” John agreed. His eyes locked on Pete’s, but they didn’t stay. They slipped away and began to wander along the riverbed, the sharp rocks that littered the tops of the cliffs and the distance to the water. I didn’t like it.

Gary just nodded. Gary was the oldest so we pretty much went along with the way he saw things.

“But it’s your Dad,” I said at last. I felt stupid. Defensive. But it really felt to me like he really wasn’t seeing things clearly. I didn’t trust how calm he was, or how he kept looking at the river banks and then down to the water maybe eighty feet are so below.

“I should know,” John said. But his eyes didn’t meet mine at all.

“He should know,” Gary agreed and that was that.

“That’s cool. Let’s go down to the river,” Pete suggested, changing the subject.

“I’m not climbing down there,” I said. I looked down the sheer rock drop off to the water. John was still looking too, and his eyes were glistening, wet, his lips moved slightly as if he was talking to himself. If he was I couldn’t hear. But then he spoke aloud.

“We could make it, I bet,” he said as though it was an afterthought to some other idea. I couldn’t quite see that idea, at least I told myself that later. But I felt some sort of way about it. As if it had feelings of it’s own attached to it.

“No, man,” Gary said. “Pete didn’t mean beginning here… Did you,” he asked?

“No… No, you know, out to Huntingtonville,” Pete said. He leaned forward on his bike, looked at john, followed his eyes down to the river and then back up. John looked at him.

“What!” John asked.

“Nothing, man,” Pete said. “We’ll ride out to Huntingtonville. To the dam. That’d be cool… Wouldn’t it?” You could see the flatness in John’s eye’s. It made Pete nervous. He looked at Gary.

“Yeah,” Gary said. He looked at me.

“Yeah,” I agreed. “That’d be cool.” I spun one pedal on my stingray, scuffed the dirt with the toe of one Ked and then I looked at John again. His eyes were still too shiny, but he shifted on his banana seat, scuffed the ground with one of his own Keds and then said, “Yeah,” kind of under his breath. Again like it was an afterthought to something else. He lifted his head from his close inspection of the ground, or the river, or the rocky banks, or something in some other world for all I knew, and it seemed more like the last to me, but he met all of our eyes with one sliding loop of his own eyes, and even managed to smile.

~

The bike ride out to Huntingtonville was about four miles. It was a beautiful day and we lazed our way along, avoiding the streets, riding beside the railroad tracks that just happened to run out there. The railroad tracks bisected Watertown. They were like our own private road to anywhere we wanted to go. Summer, fall or winter. It didn’t matter. You could hear the trains coming from a long way off. More than enough time to get out of the way.

We had stripped our shirts off earlier in the morning when we had been crossing the only area of the tracks that we felt were dangerous, a long section of track that was suspended over the Black river on a rail trestle. My heart had beat fast as we had walked tie to tie trying not to look down at the rapids far below. Now we were four skinny, jeans clad boys with our shirts tied around our waists riding our bikes along the sides of those same railroad tracks where they ran through our neighborhood, occasionally bumping over the ties as we went. Gary managed to ride on one of the rails for about 100 feet. No one managed anything better.

Huntingtonville was a small river community just outside of Watertown. It was like the section of town that was so poor it could not simply be across the tracks or on the other side of the river, it had to be removed to the outskirts of the city itself. It was where the poorest of the poor lived, the least desirable races. The blacks. The Indians. Whatever else good, upstanding white Americans felt threatened or insulted by. It was where my father had come from, being both black and Indian.

I didn’t look like my father. I looked like my mother. My mother was Irish and English. About as white as white could be. I guess I was passing. But I was too poor, too much of a dumb kid to even know that back then in 1969.

John’s father was the reason we were all so worried. A few days before we had been playing baseball in the gravel lot of the lumber company across the street from where we lived. The railroad tracks ran behind that lumber company. John was just catching his breath after having hit a home run when his mother called him in side. We all heard later from our own mothers that John’s father had been hurt somehow. Something to do with his head. A stroke. I really didn’t know what a stroke was at that time or understand everything that it meant. I only knew it was bad. It was later in life that I understood how bad. All of us probably. But we did understand that John’s father had nearly died, and would never be his old self again, if he even managed to pull through.

It was a few days after that now. The first time the four of us had gotten back together. We all felt at loose ends. It simply had made no sense for the three of us to try to do much of anything without John. We had tried but all we could think about or talk about was John’s father. Would he be okay? Would they move? That worried me the most. His sister was about the most beautiful girl in the entire world to me. So not only would John move, so would she.

He came back to us today not saying a word about it. And we were worried.

When we reached the dam the water was high. That could mean that either the dam had been running off the excess water, or was about to be. You just had to look at the river and decide.

“We could go to the other side and back,” John suggested.

The dam was about 20 or 30 feet high. Looming over a rock strewn riverbed that had very little water. It was deeper out towards the middle, probably, it looked like it was, but it was all dry river rock along the grassy banks. The top of the Dam stretched about 700 feet across the river.

“I don’t know,” Pete said. “the dam might be about to run. We could get stuck on the other side for awhile.”

No one was concerned about a little wet feet if the dam did suddenly start running as we were crossing it. It didn’t run that fast. And it had caught us before. It was no big deal. Pete’s concern was getting stuck on the little island where the damn ended for an hour or so. Once, john, and myself had been on that island and some kids, older kids, had decided to shoot at us with 22 caliber rifles. Scared us half to death. But that’s not the story I’m trying to tell you today. Maybe I’ll tell you that one some other time. Today I’m trying to tell you about John’s father. And how calm John seemed to be taking it.

John didn’t wait for anyone else to comment. He dumped his bike and started to climb up the side of the concrete abutment to reach the top of the dam and walk across to the island. There was nothing for us to do except fall in behind him. One by one we did.

It all went smoothly. The water began to top the dam, soaking our Keds with its yellow paper mill stink and scummy white foam, just about halfway across. But we all made it to the other side and the island with no trouble. Pete and I climbed down and walked away. To this day I have no idea what words passed between Gary and john, but the next thing I knew they were both climbing back up onto the top of the dam, where the water was flowing faster now. Faster than it had ever flowed when we had attempted to cross the dam. Pete nearly at the top of the concrete wall, Gary several feet behind him.

John didn’t hesitate. He hit the top, stepped into the yellow brown torrent of river water pouring over the falls and began to walk back out to the middle of the river. Gary yelled to him as Pete and I climbed back up to the top of the dam.

I don’t think I was trying to be a hero, but the other thought, the thought he had pulled back from earlier, had just clicked in my head. John was thinking about dying. About killing himself. I could see it on the picture of his face that I held in my head from earlier. I didn’t yell to him, I just stepped into the yellow foam and water, found the top of the dam and began walking.

Behind me and Pete and Gary went ballistic. “Joe, what the fuck are you doing!”

I heard it, but I didn’t hear it. I kept moving. I was scared. Petrified. Water tugged at my feet. There was maybe 6 inches now pouring over the dam and more coming, it seemed a long way down to the river. Sharp, up-tilted slabs of rock seemed to be reaching out for me. Secretly hoping that I would fall and shatter my life upon them.

John stopped in the middle of the dam and turned, looking off toward the rock and the river below. I could see the water swirling fast around his ankles. Rising higher as it went. John looked over at me, but he said nothing.

“John,” I said when I got close enough. He finally spoke.

“No,” was all he said. But tears began to spill from his eyes. Leaking from his cheeks and falling into the foam scummed yellow-brown water that flowed ever faster over his feet.

“Don’t,” I screamed. I knew he meant to do it, and I couldn’t think of anything else to say.

“Don’t move,” Gary said from behind me. I nearly went over the falls. I hadn’t known he was that close. I looked up and he was right next to me, working his way around me on the slippery surface of the dam. I looked back and Pete was still on the opposite side of the dam. He had climbed up and now he stood on the flat top. Transfixed. Watching us through his thick glasses. Gary had followed John and me across.

I stood still and Gary stepped around me. I have no idea how he did. I’ve thought about it, believe me. There shouldn’t have been enough room, but that was what he did. He stepped right around me and then walked the remaining 20 feet or so to John and grabbed his arm.

“If you jump you kill me too,” Gary said. I heard him perfectly clear above the roar of the dam. He said it like it was nothing. Like it is everything. But mostly he said it like he meant it.

It seemed like they argued and struggled forever, but it was probably less than a minute, maybe two. The waters were rising fast and the whole thing would soon be decided for us. If we didn’t get off the dam quickly we would be swept over by the force of the water.

They almost did go over. So did I. But the three of us got moving and headed back across to the land side where we had dropped our bikes. We climbed down from a dam and watched the water fill the river up. No one spoke.

Eventually john stopped crying. And the afterthought look, as though there some words or thoughts he couldn’t say passed. The dying time had passed.

We waited almost two hours for the river to stop running and then Pete came across…

We only talked about it one other time that summer, and then we never talked about it again. That day was also a beautiful summer day. Sun high in the sky. We were sitting on our bikes watching the dam run.

“I can’t believe you were gonna do it,” Pete said.

“I wasn’t,” John told him. “I only got scared when the water started flowing and froze on the dam… That’s all it was.”

Nobody spoke for a moment and then Gary said, “That’s how it was.”

“Yeah. That’s how it was,” I agreed…


I hope you enjoyed the short story. Check out the book here: True: True Stories from a small town 1

See you next week, Dell