Oasis

Waves of distortion hung low in the air as heat radiated up from the parched earth. A silhouette floated across as the soft crunching of footfalls broke the dead calm.  The man squinted his eyes beneath his wide brimmed hat in defense his late afternoon sun. His gaze finds the skeleton of a tree that draws him to it.

Crunch-crunch-crunch

Tucked in a bow, he finds a nest, poor and sloppily built. Inside of the nest sat three chicks, freshly molten from their baby fuzz.  Nude and hot, they look to the sky with open beaks.

The man reached into his bag and pulled out a bottle and straw. The man grimaces as he feels the weight of it.  Shaking the bottle, he heard the splash of remnants. Not much, but some. Dipping the straw into the bottle, he proceeded to quench their thirst, one by one.  Each chick was allowed three pulls all the water was gone.  The man looked up to see their mother sitting on a perch, staring down at him.  He noticed an insect caught in her beak.

Backing away, he nodded to the lady before putting away the bottle and straw. The bird flew to the nest as the man moved on.

Back in the saddle

A man lay down in a bed of earth. His body was covered in a dingy batter of dirt and sweat.  The summer heat of the sun slowly baked the batter to a dry crisp.

Away from him, a horse wandered around, rooting with its nose as it searched for a thatch of grass to munch on.

There was no thought in the man’s head. Just the shallow rising and falling of his chest.  Up, down.  Up, down. In and out. Breathe.

He groaned softly as he lifted his arm to block the sun from his face.

Sore.

An easy move made hard by the crash of the fall.

Cursing silently, he cajoled himself to sit up.

“Is it worth it?” He asked as he looked at the horse.  “Does it really matter?”

His back stiffened in protest as he shifted to his knees. The man slowly turned his head to see if there are any witnesses to his fall.  There was no one around.  Only the three rail fence separating him and the horse from the open fields. Past that, open prairie expanding into the horizon.  No one was there to impress; no one to disappoint. There was nothing to prove. The man exhales slowly.

The horse’s nicked as the man stood up. Every bone and muscle protested against him. He stretched to protest back.

Sighing at the thought, the man groaned as he bent to pick up his hat. Limping as he walked, he made his way to the horse. The horses ears twitched as she shifted away from him.

“Easy.” He soothed. “Let’s take this slow.”

The man slid his boot in the stirrup and climbed back into the saddle.

The Last Joy Ride – Part 1

A young boy bursts into the room, yelling with enthusiasm as he swipes at the wall.  “Come on! You’re gonna miss it!”

The wall glows bright blue before filling up with multiple rectangles, each showing a different channel.

“Hurry up!”  The boy whines as he waves his arm dramatically causing the channels to scroll up.

Seeing what he wants, the child pushes his hand forward and the rectangle fills the wall.

The boy squeals with delight as an image of a helmet slides into the center of a rotating tire.  “It’s on!  It’s on!”

An announcer speaks over the exciting background music.  “Tonight on ‘Road and Driver’, we bring to you the most historic road trip ever!  It is the last time a car shall be legally driven by a person across the United States!  So buckle up and stay tuned.”

A different announcer chimes in immediately. “Tonight’s episode of ‘Road and Driver’ is brought to you by ‘Cathose’; a new kind of car for a new kind of mind.”

The wall turns fades before glowing into a new scene.  A man and a woman are sitting next to each other on a couch. Latin and in their early thirties; they are crisp, clean, healthy, and radiant.  The couch is white and the accessories have just the right amount of color without taking attention away from the actors.  The scene had a feeling of warmth, safety, and security.

            “Imagine Seneca,” The man says as he smiles to the camera. “The last driven road trip.  It’s so exciting.”

            “Yes.”  She replies.  “I’m glad we’re watching it, but I’m even more glad we’re not driving it!”

            “You’re right.”  Her imaginary husband agrees.  “Driving is so dangerous now days.  I’m glad we have the new ‘Cathose’ to do it for us.”

            Seneca nods her head.  “The new ‘Cathose’ has all the safety and conveniences we need to get us where we want to go.”

            The fake husband leans in.  “Piece of mind.  It’s a new kind of mind.”

            “Oh look!”  Seneca declares, pointing at the camera.  “The show’s back on.”

            The man quickly adjusts his position and leans forward with feign interest.

The scene dissolves and is replaced by two men book-ending a map on a screen between them.  Canned applause fills the background and fades as the man on the left begins to speak.  “Thank you!  I am your host, Patrick ‘Sherman’ Phillips and this is my co-host, Brock Peter Williams.”

The canned applause rises as Brock bows and gestures slightly to the camera.

Sherman gives a serious look as he opens his monologue.  “Tonight is a poignant night for us here at Road and Driver. Tonight we witness the last time a car will be legally driven across the country by a person.”

Brock nods in solemn agreement. “Yes, yes.  It is a bitter-sweet time for us. A new era of transportation is upon us and we must say goodbye to a rite of passage and a way of life.”

Sherman claps his hands in a soft prayer and continues.  “And we are saying goodbye in a way only Road and Driver can do.  We have listened to you, our viewers and have teamed up your perfect driver with your perfect car.  Let’s take a look.”

The map on the screen gives way to show a man in his fifties standing next to a car.  The car is low and sleek and the man is surprisingly fit.

“Nathan!”  Brock cheers.  “How are you doing?”

The African-American smiles brightly.  “It’s been a blessing, Brock.  I have been humbled and honored by the people’s choice to be their ambassador on this last great trip across America.”

“What do you think of the car?”  Sherman asks.

“They picked a wonderful choice, Sherm.”  Nathan replies.  “The Chevrolet Corvette is the top of the line American sports car.  With its hybrid technology and mid-engine design, this Corvette is the smoothest, strongest, and most agile Corvette to date.  It’s America’s first sports car and carries with it the embodiment of driving passion.  There is no better car to take this trip with.”

“And what a trip it is.”  Brock interjects.  “This adventure loops the countryside.  Starting in Los Angeles, it moves upward through California, hitting Seattle before heading east, and visiting Sturgis, Minneapolis, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, New York, D.C., Charlotte, Miami, New Orleans, Dallas, Santa Fe, and Las Vegas before crossing the checkered flag in front of the Peterson Museum in Los Angeles.  A true lap of America.”

The camera cuts to Sherman.  “Now since we have been given only three hours to present this historic event.  Most of the trip has already been completed.  Nathan, where are you now?”

Nathan smiles and answers, “I am in wild Las Vegas and getting ready to throttle down to L.A..”

To which Sherman replies, “We will be bringing it to you live along with highlights of the journey taken.”

“Roll on!”  Nathan shouts as he jumps into the seat of the Corvette and hits the start button.

The hunt for Wolverines

Ice coated the lenses of my glasses as the wind buffeted my body, forcing me to lean into it like a reluctant lover.

It was only early October, but this was Sault Ste. Marie and winter was here.  I should’ve known it was coming when I saw utility workers attaching orange bicycle flags to the top of fire hydrants around campus.  The flags were six feet tall.  There was no way they needed to be that high.  Or so I thought.

I had walked around town dozens of times now. Being a student in a new area was exciting.   It was as far away from Detroit as I could think of at the time while still being in the state. There was familiarity in the bridge to Canada, the gas stations, Mc Donald’s, and I-75; and yet it was so different.  Smaller, quieter, cleaner. Geese waddled in the large field next to the school parking.  Rust from the slag in the cement gave the roads a reddish hue that matched the metal roofs of the college. It was almost exotic.

All of that escaped me as I trudged forward. The only thing that mattered was getting some boots.  Some good boots.  I was wearing my new winter coat and was amazed at how well it fought the weather.  It was made from a then new material called “thinsulite” and kept you warm without having all the bulk of traditional winter coats.  I could twist and move freely as I walked up the road without doing my best impression of the Michelin man. I loved it and I wanted boots that could match.

The wind was there when I started the journey.  Lake Superior State University (Lake State) sits on top of a hill and has two sides of it open to the river and a bay which brings an almost constant breeze.  (Sometimes, something more.)  It’s something you get used to.  What I didn’t expect was the sleet.  The wind drove the sleet forcefully down Ashmund street and into the opening of my hood.  My cheeks, already burning red from the winds and cold temps flared against the pelting.  Ice droplets the size of salt grains blasted against my skin while frosting my glasses and caking the front of my jeans.

I turned around and pulled out a bandana to wipe my lenses. Shoving it my pocket, I turned again to continue on. I made it about a block.  This started a curious dance.  Fight the wind and sleet for a block, turn and clean so I could see.  Walk, stop, turn, clean.  Walk, stop turn, clean. Somewhere along the way I gave up using the soaked and half frozen bandana to wipe my glasses and instead wrapped around my half frozen face to keep the stinging of the sleet down.  It took me twice as long, but I reached the store.

“What are you doing?  Dressing for Halloween?” Came the greeting from the store owner.

I smiled as I shook off my hood and pulled the bandana from my face.   I knew I looked ridiculous, especially to the natives, but didn’t care.  I didn’t see anyone else walking on the streets, native or not.  I proved my toughness, now I was going to get my reward.

Walking up and down the aisles, I unzipped my coat.  It was hot inside in comparison to the outside and I was beginning to sweat. Finding the boots, I looked at my choices. One had caught my eye.  It was a nice tan color with rubber  around the base of it and flowing over the toe area.  Being five inches tall, it reminded me of high-top basketball shoes. I searched for my size.  None were to be had.  I was disappointed.  They would’ve been perfect.  They were small but rugged, and they even had thinsulite in them.  Damn the luck!

Gazing to my right was another pair of boots.  Same brand, same features, but not as nice.  They were taller and had a dull, dark brown color instead of the bright yellow tan of the ones I really wanted.  Still they were well built and had a tongue that featured sewn in sides to keep the snow out.  They would work.

Throwing off my soaked sneakers, I pulled on the boots.  They seemed comfortable if heavy.  Tucking in my jean cuffs, I laced them and tied them tight.  With my sneakers in the box I paid the forty dollars plus tax, zipped up, and headed back to the dorm.  The three mile walk was easier with the wind at my back and new boots on my feet.  I almost enjoyed it.  That was, until I turned on Easterday Avenue and the wind changed to hit me square in the face.

Trick or treat

“What sort of costume is that?”  Lucy scowled under her green makeup.

Charlie stood motionless as Lucy stomped around, inspecting him.

“There’s no chains!”  She pointed.  “There’s no scars. No bones, no skull, no grey rotting flesh.”

Making another circle, Lucy continued her verbal assault.  “Where are the ragged edges? Where are the tatters and tears? All I see are all these holes.”

Raising her arms in disgust, Lucy proclaimed, “Charlie Brown you are the worst ghost ever!”

Charlie simmered silently under his holey sheet.

“Well?”  Lucy challenged.   “What do you have to say for yourself?”

Charlie Brown leaned squarely into her face.  “Boo.”

For the Trifecta Challenge where the word of the day is Boo:  (verb) to show dislike or disapproval of someone or something by shouting “Boo” slowly

Bar Fight

“Disgusting.” Tom said as looked his drink sweating on the bar.

“Oh no.”  Groaned Mike as he shook his head.  “Here we go.”

Tom gestured emphatically with his hands.  “Look at it!  It’s all wrong!  Warm, glowing body color; cherries, lime, or cinnamon at the top; and garnished with festive colors.  Festive!  What the hell sort of drink is that?”

Mike rested his pale palm on his grey head before answering.  “You’re not getting the point, Tom.  It’s not called a Zombie for the way it looks.  It’s called a Zombie because the way it makes you feel the next day!”

Tom just stared at the happy drink before him with contempt.  “It’s still not right.”

Mike threw up his hands and spin in his seat with exasperation.

At that moment a bloody bartender set two small glasses on the bar. Inside wiggled moist pink chunks covered in maraschino cherry juice.  “Jello shot?”

“Brains!”  Cried out Tom and Mike with joy.

Brought to you for the Trifecta Challenge where the word of the day is “Zombie”.

A conversation with the devil – part 2

 

Jack took a drag on his cigarette.  “A killer on the loose?  Haven’t heard of anything in the news.”

“You wouldn’t.”  The stranger said.  “It happened five years ago.”

“Five years?”  Jack cried in astonishment.  “They haven’t caught him yet.”

“Not even close.”  The man replied.

Amazed at the answer, Jack continued to voice his thoughts.  “What makes them think he’s still around?  That’s a long time to get away.”

The stranger’s smile sent a chill down Jack’s spine.  “Oh, he’s here alright.  Come spring time, tourist will call the police and tell them that their cabin was broken into over the winter.  Done smartly, too.  A jimmied lock here, a pried window frame there, all done neat and clean.  No bashed in doors.  No shattered glass.  Real professional.”

“Sounds like you admire him.”  Jack said, his mouth suddenly dry.

“Lots of folk around here do.”  The stranger boasted.  “The man’s a legend in these parts.”

“They admire a murderer?”

The stranger’s eyes flashed dark.  “They admire a man that pushes back when pushed.”

Jack fell silent and stared at the fire for a moment.  The glow had grown brighter under the night sky.

“You sure you don’t want any coffee?”  Jack asked.

“Nah.  I’ll take another smoke though.”  The man answered.

Jack tossed over the pack before reaching for enamel coated tin cup.  “What was your name again?”

“Joe.”  Came the man’s reply as he started to hand the pack back.  “Don’t think I caught yours either.”

“Just set them between us.”  Jack said as he poured the hot coffee into his mug.  “Jack.  My name’s Jack.”

“Nice to meet ya, Jack.”  Joe said as he took a deep drag on the fresh cigarette.  “Been a while since I talked to someone.”

“Nice to meet you too.”   Jack responded.  “It’s rare to find a straight talker nowdays.”

“Damn straight!”  Joe agreed.  “People chat like hens but have nothin’ to say.  God I hate them.”

Jack swallowed some coffee and shrugged his shoulders.  “City life. It’s bred into them.”

Joe spat on the ground.  “Yeah.  Damn lemmings.  And they think they’re better than everyone.”

“That why Rambo killed that guy?”

Joe’s eyes narrowed at the question.  “Yeah.  That’s what they say.  Someone snubbed him, so he snubbed that guy out in response.”

“A little over board, don’t you think?”  Jack asked, taking another drink of coffee.

“What do you mean?”

“Well,” Jack answered as he shifted on the ground.  “It sounds to me like it went a little far.  Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a little re-educatin’ when needed.  If someone deserves a punch in the nose, than they should get a punch in the nose.  But killin’ someone for a snub.  That ain’t necessary.”

“Seems to me it served its purpose.”  Joe challenged.

“Did it?”  Jack asked.

Joe’s body tensed and coiled.  “You questioning me?”

“Not at all.”  Jack declared.  “I’m just wondering if it was worth the price.”

“What price?”  Joe asked as he puffed heavily.

Jack answered, “His freedom.”

Jack watched as Joe’s body relaxed.  “Hah.  He’s free.  They haven’t been able to touch him for five years now.  He comes and goes as he pleases.  No one can stop him from doin’ what he wants.  That sounds free to me.”

“Does it?”  Jack pondered.  “Hiding out in the woods; Can’t get a job; Can’t go to the city; Can’t get a burger; And stuck in the same area, year after year.”

“Don’t care for any of that.”  Joe stated.  “Besides, maybe he likes the area.”

“I wouldn’t blame him if he did.”  Jack agreed.  “It’s a beautiful area.”

“So why would he leave?”  Joe asked, tossing the spent remains of his cigarette into the fire.

“Because, eventually the people will get tired of him.”  Jack said.  “More tourists will move in with their kids and dogs, and they’re gonna want to not have to worry about them runnin’ around playin’ and such.”

Jack drank the last of his coffee.  “Wanted killers and kids just don’t mix.”

Joe’s voice hissed like a steel blade being unsheathed.  “Maybe if he kills a few more, people be scared away instead.  Then nobody will mess with him.”

“That would just do the opposite.”  Jack said as he set down his cup.  “Killing the people that like him will turn the whole place against him.  They’ll be man hunts and crowds like never before.”

Joe leaned in a little.  “Well, maybe he’ll just kill you.  Just to shut you up.”

Jack shook his head.  “Nah.  He’s smarter than that.  He knows that this late in the year, any bear in the area would be hibernatin’.  There’s no big cats around here, and damn few dogs.  My not comin’ home would alert the sheriff’s department that something’s wrong.  My wife would call up right away.  They’d be searching all over for me.  Goin’ house to house.  Checkin’ all the cabins and such.  And it ain’t like the guy can hide out in the woods right now.  The trees are bare, makin’ it hard to hide, and the cold air demands a fire for survival.”

Joe sat still and let the words sink in deep.

“Besides,” Jack continued.  “As I said earlier.  I ain’t no threat.  Why risk everything over something so little as me.  He’s much smarter than that.”

“Yeah.”  Joe said, calculating.  “No threat.”

Jack looked directly at Joe.  “Yep.”

Joe looked back at the man for a moment and then said, “Well, I’m gonna go.  It’s late and unlike you, I got a bed callin’.  Been a good talk.”

Jack looked up at the man as he stood up.  “Yep.”

“Mind if I take these?”  Joe asked as he took the pack of cigarettes.

“Help yourself.”  Jack replied.

Joe stood straight and looked out into the countryside.  “A week, huh?  Well, be careful.  Rambo’s out there and he’ll be watchin’.”

Jack took a stick and started to poke at the waning fire.  “Thanks.  I will.”

END