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The Man Who Could Not See the Moon

December 7, 2017

Short stories have been a huge part of my reading life throughout the years. Their importance sprung upon me with my first reading of “R is for Rocket” by Ray Bradbury. What a magical story! I read the incredible words on the pages of that collection of short stories and marveled at how they moved me.

The following story is from the original Rogues Gallery Writers’ collection of short stories titled “Writing is Easy.” This story is indeed an “internalized” story within the mind and heart of the protagonist. There are no other characters in play – only the moon and memories. And emotions. Let me know what you think.

At the end of each story in the book, each of us wrote a paragraph about what inspired us to write the story, then we answered three questions about the story to help the reader connect more with the writing. For the full collection of stories, you may order a copy of the book from me or online at this link: Writing is Easy

The Man Who Could Not See the Moon

Straining to see the evening star, he rocked peacefully on the porch and sighed.  Green grass waved to and fro, tickled by warm kisses from a spring breeze.  Separated from this Earth by the green carpet of the horizon, the deep, brilliant blue sky began to reveal its possessions.  Venus rose prominently, lording over the stars its ability to show up first, jealous of no one save Earth’s nearest neighbor, the moon.

He remembered her, her Greek beauty evident even on her worst days.  Her jet-black hair had known many incarnations: curled into cute swirls, allowing her a soft and gentle appearance (a lie), piled atop her head in a tight bun, bestowing a stately—even queenly—quality (a falsehood by all measure) but mostly allowed to fall straight, stretching to her mid-back in thin, smooth, black licorice strands that bespoke a no-nonsense woman (truth indeed).

He met Sylvia when she was young; at twenty she was vibrant and brazen—one of those women who could ooze sexuality without the slightest of effort.  She strode olive-skinned legs; timeless, ageless, without blemish or imperfection, they embodied any man’s dream of silken skin and tantalizing muscle.  In keeping with her down-to-earth nature, she dressed in a style that was both revealing and plain.

Sighing once again at the mere thought of midriff tops and short-shorts, he panned his sight across the graying heavens for that sliver that had grown recently to half a pie, knowing all the while it would not yet be visible.  There was a sense of serenity in this search, with the warm breeze lightly brushing his white beard and the smell of flowers wafting about under his nose.  Nothing was left of the turmoil surrounding his life, infesting it at times with loathing, and often deteriorating his view of her.  Now, in his solitude, there was peace.  Calm.  Possibly, this evening would be the one that would show him the moon.

He could have married her at that young age, but he was young as well, foregoing the plunge for a bout of perceived unworthiness.  He had no right to consider himself within the context of such beauty.  Who was he, anyway?  Truly no one of consequence.

He wandered about in his head and to his parks, writing on any paper he could find.  He strove to capture all that roiled within, all that vexed and plagued him, and all that allured and pleased him.  No woman such as she would bore herself with him, or so he thought.  He saw all the idealistic concepts and currents of his day, reveled in the complexities and virtual hopelessness of love, and cried onto white paper the red tears of loneliness, yet he could not see her love for him.  He did not realize that underneath the model’s curves, nestled in the lovely high cheekbones, and behind the piercing dark eyes a little girl longed to be loved.  Yes, she could have been his, but it would take years for him to realize it.

He rose from his padded wooden rocker and strode through the screen door to the refrigerator.  Plinking four crescents of ice into the depths of a glass, he drew a generous amount of lemonade from the tap on the dispenser.  As he swirled the liquid around and around, he watched the half-moons clink against the rim and reflected on how they would melt away just as she.

His reality had been that he finally married Sylvia ten years later.  She was a constant in his life: constantly critical, constantly negative, constantly busy, constantly stunning.  Periodically throughout their life together, he glimpsed the little girl – playful, free, longing for love and peace in her life.  The stretches of time between these observances were devastating, and they wore his patience thin.  The woman clashed with his ideals, his dreams, and his whimsical notions of life and how it should be led.  Over the decades, white-hot anger would boil behind the crumbling dam of his patience; it caused him to wonder that he never lashed out.  Oh, he lashed out, but only verbally.  Only?  Oh, how his world darkened whenever he walked inside that house.

With a nearly visible start, he quickly turned on his heel and returned to the porch, taking up residence in his soft, welcoming chair.  The night sky was winning its battle with the day; stars began to wake up on the horizon.  The green of the meadow was fading to gray, and would soon be steeped in lazy blackness.  He sensed that the object of his attention was overhead, but he waited patiently.  Soon enough, it would slip below the wooden canopy over the porch.  Soon enough, he would relax—not strain—to see it again.

She was always busy, running hither and yon, completing tasks, not completing tasks.  More often late than on time, she was distracted by thousands of agendas, projects and family fires.  She teased him with glimpses of the little girl, showing her just often enough to make him believe she was there.   The little beauty lived within the beauty—he was convinced of it!  Throughout their life together, he arduously attended the premise of the incredible treasure within his Helen of Troy.  He worked so very hard to be patient, and to bide his time until the little one came out to play.

Struggling with the constant criticism and accusatory questions that left him in damned-if-I-do, damned-if-I-don’t situations, he persevered through the cold indifference that mauled his inner self-worth.  All this was done in the hope that she would come full circle to a child-like love of life, and recognize the amazing thrill of viewing this world as something huge, complex, teeming with adventure, and worthy of attention to its minutiae as well as its grandeur.

He attempted to convince her of the need to look, smell, listen, and learn.  Frustrated, at times he cursed her for her aloof indifference.  Angrily, he would strike back at her snide, backbiting remarks and questions, realizing that, all the while, the little girl was slipping away.

Darkness now revealed the faint tinges of the Milky Way, its slow spiral a spectacle even at this late day in his life.  Stars filled the void with camaraderie, a cheerful, collective voice, even though muted by incredible distance.  Luna’s light gave pale life to the grasses and flowers and revealed a more perfect world than daylight could ever show, devoid of blemish.  Mysteries were born, and the soul was soothed by the rhythms of the night sounds as soft as the quiet landing of snowflakes on top of snowflakes.

But this was no time of shivering cold days.  It was spring!  There was no need for shelter, no need for brief forays into the bitter night, although some of those nights could make one forget the cold.  No, now was a time of renewal, an ancient time handed down gracefully through the ages despite men’s attempts to destroy all that is good.  Spring.  Warmth.  Nurture.  Life.

He had tried many means of turning her from her path of indifference to all that he held sacred.  They took dance lessons; he sought to dance her into positivity by whirling her through waltzes and tangos, foxtrots and rumbas. They floated mere millimeters above the floor into another world where exquisite music and synchronized movement jelled with perfect harmony.  At times his efforts seemed to work, for float they did.  The little girl would then be lured from hiding only to retreat as quickly as she’d appeared: a phantom, a wisp, and a hope.

He would take her off alone, to woo her and strike boldly to her heart, yet he seldom found the mark.  They would meld in bed, their passion furious and full of flavor, sating his need for the her playful person within, who held the power and presence and knowledge of the woman.  As time passed, the need for that girl would return.  He devoted his life to his wife and their offspring, and gave of himself all that was humanly possible.  At times he was contrite of his selfishness – or critical of his self-indulgence.

He gave her nothing that detracted from her natural beauty.  The gifts were accents which drew attention to that which was apparent and needed no explanation.  The hats she wore at his request lent her a graceful appearance.  Her dresses – always demure – shrouded her beauty in mystery and focused her stunning looks into perfection.  He had an eye for these things.  He wished to please her in any way so he could reach into her heart, grasp the child’s hand, and bring her forth into their lives. She never complied.

The first peek of white curvature appeared under the rigid line of the darkened roof that covered the three steps to the porch.  He ignored it and glanced lazily instead at the fading Milky Way.  The light of the galaxy was being overwhelmed by the light reflected from an object that could generate none of its own.

“Isn’t that life?” he thought.  “We strive so very hard to make something that is our own, yet we only truly reflect that which has been taught to us and passed on through knowledge and experience.  Oh, to be a star, to be someone of peculiar importance, to shine a singular and original light upon this world.”

This longing cried out from his soul.  Ah, a dreamer still!  There were times in his life that he had been dismayed by his propensity to dream, to fight for ideals, and to believe in his fanciful views of life.  But these traits were hard-wired into him, and once he realized that, he gladly gave in to creativity, enjoyment, and ignorance of that which plagued most men—day-to-day life.

Death left Sylvia’s beauty untouched.  He learned over the years that love did not change, it only beckoned without demand, and that little girls flourish when least expected.  He had asked much of her: wife, mother, lover, friend, slave, free-bird, and soul mate.  But the most demanding of all was his constant calling out to a waif—the child in her heart—to reveal herself.

The girl flirted, revealed only enough to keep him looking, but not so much as to lose her charm.  She played hide-and-seek with him over the decades.  Cruelly, she kept her distance and betrayed all that should have been between them.

A tear trickled and tickled his cheek.  He slowly turned his gaze to the half-moon now fully exposed below the line of the porch roof.  He endeavored to see it as a ball in the sky – not the flat, white surface he inevitably saw.  Years and years ago, she had laughed derisively—mockingly—at his wonderment during an eclipse.  He had seen the moon as a spherical object in the sky for the first time that night, and he was amazed.

For some reason, the moon had always manifested itself to him as a flat crescent, or an even flatter white pancake, two-dimensional and of little consequence.  He had, infrequently, been able to drink in the sphere as a three dimensional, thrilling sight.   Now, he focused nightly on reliving that experience – to see the moon in its regal splendor, devoid of its own light but ruling the night sky despite its barren lands.

Wiping his eyes, he relaxed for another chance to glimpse the night’s grand beauty. He strove to see the truth, the cold lifeless truth of the moon as well as Sylvia. He refused regret of the years wasted with attempts to lure the playful, loving child within out into life just as he refused sadness at how long it took for him to see the moon is it truly exists. All he desired now was the essence of the beauty of truth. He could embrace that…

 

Story’s Inspiration:

 

The Man Who Could Not See the Moon was conceived one morning around 3:00am.  I was driving up State Route A1A along the Florida coast when I looked up at the moon and saw it as a three dimensional sphere for the first time in my life.  Prior to that moment, the moon had always looked to me like a flat crescent or pancake.  I was amazed and pulled my van over just to stare.  I wrote down the title on a piece of paper, and then I drove home and went to bed.  The next morning, I wrote the story in two hours.

 

Q&A:

  1. Do you write your stories that quickly on a typical writing session?

In two hours?  Sometimes.  My writing times depend more on how long it takes me to get into the groove of writing.  Not necessarily the ‘muse’ chick because if you wait on her you may never write again.  Once I get rolling though, I can knock out a first draft in a couple hours.

  1. This story is a very internalized piece of writing. Are you concerned about whether it will hold the reader?

Ouch!  Actually, yes.  If I were to pick one story in this anthology I’d like to work significant hours on, this would be the one.  I believe there is quite a bit more I could do with this to make it much stronger.  My attempt to reach an ‘internal dialog’ with my main character will definitely make or break this story with the reader.  I’m sure there are those who will not care for it.  I’ve had enough feedback from others I respect that like it to put it out for consumption.

  1. Everything a writer writes tends to contain aspects of the writer in the story. What portion or portions of this story ring true to who you are?

As mentioned in the inspiration paragraph, I literally had never in my life seen the moon as a three dimensional orb.  I pulled over in my van and dumbfounded is all I can come up with.  I had no idea I would end up writing about my wife (who is still alive, of course).  There are some accuracies between the couple in this story and my wife and me.

 

Intruders

March 10, 2012

This is the latest installment of The Cold Bite of Autumn, my serial fiction story. To get caught up, look to the right and find The Cold Bite of Autumn in my “Category” cloud, click on it, and read all the previous posts. Once you get caught up, jump on in! 

Cheryl’s ears caught the faint echo of motors on the breezes that tripped lightly through the trees. She selected a mammoth rock-shaded alcove, shrugged off her backpack and sat. Back to the mountain wall she listened for the mechanical intrusion. Twenty minutes later, the distinct ‘whap-whap-whap’ of helicopter blades made themselves more apparent.

Even though the tree cover should be enough to keep her location unknown, she pulled all her belongings further into the alcove. Another half hour passed before the searchers whisked by. Since they took so long to come by, surveillance drones most likely did not spot her earlier in the day.

The sophisticated equipment on board these aircraft would surely locate her and Daniel unless they kept their wits and their ears on high alert. That is if Daniel even got out of the cabin. Most likely he left shortly after she did. No telling about that man.

She munched on a peanut bar for energy while she waited for the air posse to run along. While she could wait out the ignorant government folk, she knew Daniel would most likely be on her trail and tail before long. The thought of pairing up with Daniel tickled the back of her brain.

Cheryl shrugged the thought off. No more blood on my conscience. The tranquil sounds of the forest returned. She slung her gear back on her shoulders and took off down the steepest rock face she could find. Once they analyzed their ‘search data’, the government boys would be convinced no one would attempt to climb down the more exposed and dangerous route.

The men who would know what she would do all died in the car crash. Unless the government had stepped out of character and hired a ‘real’ thinker, she could rest in the fact they would not look for her there. What she lost in ground cover she made up for in reducing altitude. Some of the trek wound its way easy through the forest. Other times she bloodied her hands on weather-grizzled rock-faces.

Sometimes the mountain forced a more traditional route. Rope would not help anyway. All something like rope would do would be to call attention to her location. The less these folk knew of that, the better her chances. Once they put boots on the ground, if she could not gain the mountain base, both her and Daniel faced unpleasant ends.

Discovery

March 3, 2012

This is the latest installment of The Cold Bite of Autumn, my serial fiction story. To get caught up, look to the right and find The Cold Bite of Autumn in my “Category” cloud, click on it, and read all the previous posts. Once you get caught up, jump on in! This story will be updated every Saturday morning at 9:00am EST.

“Damn. What a fucking idiot.”

Daniel worked with purpose as he placed supplies in his backpack. He laid out three weapons, his 357, a scoped sniper rifle, and a hunting knife. He shut everything down and cut the power at the main box. The electricity bill would surely tip off various people who wanted Cheryl as well as himself. Her running probably saved them from a nasty shootout, at least temporarily.

He laced up his boots, jerking on the strings with each new lace level. He then strolled to the table, secured the knife and pistol, slipped the rifle into its sleeve on the backpack, and loaded the backpack to his shoulders. At the door, he allowed himself a moment to visually sweep the room for anything out of place.

She had to have at least a six hour head start. Daniel hoped she would not be as adept at hiding her trail as he in following one. These mountains offered loads of seclusion as well as the opportunity to avoid detection. A sharp person could live up here for years and never see another human if they so chose.

He spent nearly a half hour checking footprints, broken twigs on the ground, and any other sign that might tell him which way she hiked. Once satisfied he had chosen the most likely evidence to follow, he set out at a jog. Daniel’s eyes surveyed everything in his path, and noted any minor detail that lent credence to his choice of paths. An hour into his jog he heard the distant thrum of military helicopters.

Company had arrived at last. Now he had to watch his back as well as where he was headed…

On the Run…

February 25, 2012

This is the latest installment of The Cold Bite of Autumn, my serial fiction story. To get caught up, look to the right and find The Cold Bite of Autumn in my “Category” cloud, click on it, and read all the previous posts. Once you get caught up, jump on in! This story will be updated every Saturday morning at 9:00am EST.

She glanced over the puff of blankets that separated them. Daniel snored softly, oblivious to her gaze. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. Sex complicates everything. She mulled over the passions of the night. He liked to put the woman first in lovemaking. This did not surprise her, but his intensity did. She welcomed the brief moment where she realized she could still feel something for a man. Too bad the moment had to be so fleeting.

She slipped her feet to the arctic floor and danced a manic tiptoe Viennese Waltz to her clothes and hiking boots. Dressed in minutes, she slipped on her down jacket, pulled a loaded backpack from under the kitchen counter, then carried the boots and herself out the front door with its newly oiled hinges.

Once on the porch, the boots on and laced in moments, she stood and looked back at the cabin. The brief, wistful look served as goodbye. Damn, I hate feeling. She pulled out breakfast from her backpack before slipping it to her back. A couple biscuits and some beef jerky followed by twenty ounces of water. She ate while she jogged the familiar path she spent weeks mapping out in her mind. Yesterday she took some provisions two hours from the cabin.

Daniel never attempted to keep her prisoner. She knew she could stay with him without any danger to herself. The issue came in the danger to him. She also decided she should nail the bastards she knew to be traitors. No sense in allowing them to continue operating free of obstruction.

Suicide missions fed some basic need within her. Is it death? Am I that curious about dying that I have to invite its possibility into my life? Trees and rocks drifted by as the pace of her jog downhill picked up. Nothing like healthy muscles and fresh air. For the second time in weeks the notion she could get used to living up here crept into her mind.

They’ll be showing up on his doorstep any day. Hopefully he will have the good sense to leave. He would be executed immediately upon being discovered in her company. She could not abide any more blood on her hands – at least, innocent blood…

Mind Wheels

February 24, 2012
tags: ,

This story is one of many to come. My goal in 2012 is to write a minimum of two short stories a month. With last month’s post of “These Dying Days” and this post, I now have January covered. Tonight I will work on the first February story, leaving me a week to get totally caught up. In fact, I believe I will work at writing a weekly short fiction piece. I will commit to Fiction Fridays. Please feel free to comment…

Her words slapped him like windshield wipers on high.

“You have to stop calling me so much. I get sick of trying to juggle everything. I don’t need you making life more complicated. You also need to check with me first on things like this.”

Nick stood in the doorway, face taut and eyes welling up. Each word felt like a glass shard that pierced his chest.

“What do you want me to say? Nothing you’ve said is true. You know its not true.” Nick averted his eyes.

“Just because I didn’t say no doesn’t mean I wanted to participate you know.”

“No, I don’t know. How would I? If you don’t tell me, then how the hell am I supposed to know?”

“Don’t be twisting things around on me, Nick. You always do that.” Vicky slipped her feet off the bed onto the oak wood floor. The ends of her blond hair, soft as silk and straight as uncooked spaghetti, came to rest on her breasts just above her nipples.

“What are you doing now?”

“Getting dressed. What does it look like to you?”

“C’mon, Vick. Why do you have to get like this?”

She pulled a sports bra over her head and plumped up her breasts with both hands. “Look, I wasn’t the one who manipulated this sordid meeting. All I am to you is a piece of meat. You use me, then I wait a couple weeks to hear from you.”

“How can you say that? Vicky, you’re the one who’s married. You’re the one who can’t get away for weeks at a time. You’re the one who won’t answer my calls.” Nick straightened a bit taller and puffed out his chest. “I’ve done everything I can short of making a major scene.”

“Oh, yeah, you like that don’t you.” She pulled a tight turquoise sweater over her head and smoothed it down her body. Her curves stood out tantalizingly apparent. The combination of the sweater combined with skin-hugging leggings dragged his eyes up and down her torso. She sat back on the bed and laced the leather straps of her high heels around her ankles up to the bottom of the leggings. “You get to play the martyr because you have little control over when you get to screw around.”

“Well, I don’t have any control, do I? I just have to sit around and wait. That gets old, you know?” He glanced around the bedroom. He eyed her keys on the nightstand and inched his way that direction while she primped in the dresser mirror.

“You want to know what gets old? Listening to you complain after I put out like this.” She pulled out a pink lipstick tube and touched up her lips.

He slipped the keys into the pocket of his pants hanging on the bedpost with a slow deliberate motion. “Is there something wrong with me wanting you to stay?” He inched his way back to his previous position beside the door.

Vicky spun around and searched all the flat surfaces in the room. “You just going to stand there naked all night? Help me find my keys.” She knelt to the floor, on hands and knees, to look under the bed.

“Look, if you’ll just hang out fifteen more minutes, I’m sure we’ll both be better off in the long run.” He bent over, plucked his boxers off the floor, turned them right-side-out and put them on. “After all, you don’t have to be home for another hour by your own admission.”

Her head popped up from the other side of the bed. “Look, Nick. While the sex is good and all, you’re not quite the conversationalist I prefer.”

“Ouch. I thought you liked me.” His chin crept closer to his chest. His vacant stare led directly to the air conditioner return vent on the floor.

Vicky stood, fell face first onto the bed, then propped herself up on her elbows, hands under chin. “Aw, Nick. Why do this? You’re a great lover. We’ve talked about this. I’m not going to leave Caleb.”

Nick shifted his weight from his left foot to the right and back again. “You know I love you, Vicky. I want you to stay. He doesn’t even treat you right. You said so yourself. What does he have that I don’t?”

“Money.”

“Ok, so he’s rich.”

“Our children.”

“You’d get custody and you know it.”

“Partial custody. I don’t love you Nick. I never said I love you.” She stood up, walked out the door, down the hall to the kitchen and turned on the light. “Where did I leave my keys?”

Nick followed, snuggled up behind her and cupped her breasts. As he nibbled her left ear he whispered, “One more go. C’mon Vick.”

She whirled around, kissed him and pushed away. “What’s going on here, Nick. I see the wheels spinning behind those blue eyes. You’ve got something planned, don’t you. You hid my keys.”

Nick glanced away, a sheepish look on his face. “You got me. She’s coming over any minute.”

“Now I get it. Now, where’s my keys?”

“She’s really sexy.” He shot a look back her way.

Vicky let out a deep sigh. “Nick, I think you and your internal mind-wheels misjudged the situation. I may be open to a lot of things in bed, but another woman…we never discussed anything like that. I’m not interested.” Her right hand jut out his direction and she placed her left on her hip. “My keys. Now.”

Nick let an exasperated breath out, then took a sullen stroll back to the bedroom. He reached into his pants pocket and withdrew the keys with a metallic tinkle. “I had hoped…”

“I get it Nick. At least the two of you can have some fun.” She strode up to him, kissed his cheek and walked to the front door.

The doorbell rang. “That’ll be her. Would you let her in as you leave?”

“Sure, Nick. She better be foxy,” she finished with a wink his way.

She opened the door.

“Vicky?”

“Caleb! I can explain…”

A Jog in the Woods

February 18, 2012

Cheryl Autumn at the cabin

This is the latest installment of The Cold Bite of Autumn, my serial fiction story. To get caught up, look to the right and find The Cold Bite of Autumn in my “Category” cloud, click on it, and read all the previous posts. Once you get caught up, jump on in! This story will be updated every Saturday morning at 9:00am EST. (my apologies. Some quirk of my late-night eyeballs scheduled this post a day late…so it is getting up about 12 hours late once I caught the error…)

The chilled air caught his lungs and sent an ice-wind sword down his throat. He paused and followed the vapor trail of his breath to the moon. Stars speckled through the trees. As picturesque as this night loomed, he knew she would stay out until he slipped under the covers in about a half hour.

They fell into a rhythm of small talk and grunts since she revealed information about the wreck. Her mistake of revealing such facts, while not entirely enlightening to him, caused her to guard her tongue as per her training. He didn’t blame her. In fact, she appeared to grow more attractive each day.

The fact she treated herself as ‘one of the boys’ when dressing didn’t help much either. Lately he went outside to collect firewood when she dressed. While he loved the curves, he knew he couldn’t handle the road…

“So, where are you off to this evening?”

Her voice startled him. “Just checking out the stars and going for a jog.” He shuffled his feet and worked hard not to look her in the face.

“A jog sounds nice.” She maneuvered in front of him to where he could no longer look away. “How about some company?”

“You ready to go?”

“Ready as I’ll ever be.”

A hint of resignation tailed off in her voice. I better watch what I say or we’ll come to blows again.

He hit his normal trail at a good pace with her on his heels. Before long, she settled in beside him.

“What brought this on?”

“You know we can’t go on like this. Either we split up or you keep playing boy scout for me until I’m fully healed. I already told you things that could get you killed.”

“I can take care of myself.”

“Yeah, you’re not too bad.” He glanced her direction and caught an impish, wry smile. The moon lit her eyes like two soft candles adorning her face. He focused back on the path ahead.

“You’re acting pretty…loose this evening.”

“Hmm. I haven’t been called ‘loose’ for quite a while, although there was a time…”

He came to an abrupt stop. She slowed to a stop, turned and faced him.

“What’s going on here. For weeks you don’t give me much more than a good morning grunt, and now you’re all talkative and ready to be friends.”

“What’s wrong with that,” she cooed with a girlish tease.

“Women. You’re all trouble. Your moods change with the wind, and even then, they may be false.” She continued to stand with her right hand on her waist. “What do you want from me?”

“I’m sure you can come up with a better question.”

“Ok, what’s up with you?”

She unzipped her jacket, shrugged it off her shoulders and let it fall to the ground. Her fingers started on the top button of one of his flannel shirts she liked to borrow. “Maybe I’m horny.”

“What…?”

“Race you back to the cabin.” She bolted, leaving the flannel shirt in her wake. “Can’t come in unless you’re naked,” came from over her shoulder as he fumbled with his jacket and stumbled over his feet.

Back at the Cabin (con’t)

February 11, 2012

“So, does that statement mean you ally yourself with the US?”

“Why should you believe me even if I said yes?”

“That was my next question. You like to stay well ahead of the game.”

“Now that’s where I draw the line.” She stood up and slammed her fork down for emphasis. “Too many people think what I do is a game. This is no game. Ping pong is a game. Monopoly is a game. Cops and robbers is a game. Drug addiction is even a game. I kill human beings. I kill their parents, their sisters, their brothers, their husbands and their wives.” She turned away from him. “I kill their children.”

He looked her over. Her shoulders showed resignation, yet the rest of her body, from her flexed arms to muscle-tightened legs screamed attack. Better to just listen at this point ol’ boy…

“I never asked you to save me. I’ll never thank you either. I was supposed to die with those men. Just my luck I get rescued by a boy scout.” She turned back to face him and sat.

“Why don’t you just go out in a blaze of glory and take as many bad guys with you as you can?”

“I’ve thought of that. What if I failed, like the car crash? The people who want me will get any information out of me they want. They know it, I know it.”

“So blow your brains out.”

“For some reason I can’t seem to do that. Something stops me every time. I don’t know why. There’s a sense of wrongness in it all. The car crash was a random moment where I thought I could solve all my problems with this world in one tragic act. Two of those men were very dear friends.”

“The third?”

“My ‘husband’ and a traitor. He sold out.”

“You’ve lead a hell of a life.”

“Look, don’t sympathize with me. You don’t know. I might kill your aunt, your sister, your best friend or even you some day.” She pushed her chair from the table, stood and walked to the door. “Isn’t it time we get out of Walden Woods?”

Michael Ray King

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