Children of the Maelstrom: Chapter 2

Spirits Ascend

Bursting as it was with people from all over the world, Mexico City International Airport did its best to slow Daisuke’s progress. The Japanese sarariman hurried to make the last plane to Brazil, a trip that had begun in Taiwan and was full of long flights and one very long layover. Moving as fast as his tired body and the crowd permitted, he glanced out the airport windows at the dark skies, fearful they might further delay his trip. Fellow travelers battled him and each other in an attempt to reach the next stage of their individual journeys.

Stopping without warning, he closed his eyes, and when he opened them, he was no longer Daisuke. His consciousness had been invaded and overwritten by an alien force. He became a dormant passenger as the entity known as Tvrkialk took command of his body. The ancient being stretched the man’s arms in triumph. How beautiful and strange were the sensations of physical form! Although, for a moment, the memories and emotions of the host body were nauseating; Tvrkialk sat down on an empty bench until the sickening feelings passed. The being dropped the man’s briefcase onto the floor and watched the crowd with keen interest.

After several minutes, a man wearing an official identification lanyard and a jumpsuit uniform stopped pushing his broom to sit on the bench next to Tvrkialk. Without looking at the custodian, Tvrkialk said in an alien language, “Greetings, P’strth. The approaching storm—is it your doing?”

P’strth said, “No, but can you feel the chaos rising to the surface? It searches for recipients worthy of its power.”

They spoke a language lacking in structure and familiar sound. Guttural almost to the point of being animalistic, their words would have been unrecognizable to anyone in the airport, had they heard it spoken. Subtleties and emotions, even personal histories filled their conversation. The language was full of so much information and nuance that it would have been impossible for mortals to follow, much less comprehend. In their true form, they could communicate more effectively, but in the flesh prisons, their vocal cords strained with each word. “You are enjoying this,” said the spirit through the Japanese businessman. “Why are you here? Of all the places in the world, why this place?”

P’strth, through the body of the custodian, made no expression, nor did it look at Tvrkialk when it replied. “I suspect I am here for the same reason as you. I detected two mana recipients.”

Throngs of people moved past the two, without noticing their strange conversation. “I had hoped I would be alone.” Tvrkialk chuckled. The laugh was awkward, dry and gravelly, as if by one who had not spoken in a long time. “It is so unlikely to find two in the same city, much less the same location.”

Tvrkialk moved to the edge of the bench. “What do you think of that one?” Within the crowd, a young woman hurried by. Her fellow humans did not take notice of her, however, to the strange pair, she might as well have had a light shining upon her. They did not notice her youthful skin, her curly black hair, or her curvy waistline, nor did they have any concept of her ancestral origins. They did, however, see her soul as a near-blinding vivid multicolor glow that indicated she was already a bearer of the link.

P’strth squinted at the girl as she disappeared into the crowd. “It has a versatile aura. Beyond that, I see a capacity—a powerful mana. For the group I am assembling, it would not fit well. You may have the creature,” adding, “It has a glaring weakness, as well.”

“Yes, I noticed that,” Tvrkialk said. “I can work with it. You have seen the other female?”

P’strth said, without emotion, “Yes. It has a susceptibility making her perfect for my intentions.” P’strth’s disgust and confusion at the concept of gender were palpable to Tvrkialk, who had always found the sexual specifics of physical beings to be delightfully peculiar.

P’strth’s words conveyed a subtle warning, a reminder how much was at stake. “I worry about your intentions, my old friend.” They both laughed. “Remember, the bearers of the maelstrom must endure a great burden.” An elderly man turned to them upon hearing the strange sounds they made, then immediately hurried away.  

Tvrkialk stood. The words “Then it is decided?” communicated an understanding, but also a joy at the uncertainty of the situation. They had vital parts to play, but there was no reason they couldn’t have fun while protecting the fragile fabric of reality. They were spawns of chaos after all, and thus they tended toward mischief.

“Yes, I do not care.” P’strth surrendered any claim on the woman with a wave of the janitor’s hand. “Good fortune to us all.” The presence that possessed the worker left him. Freed, he looked around, confused. He was sitting on the bench next to an Asian man in a suit who turned to him and smiled a wide smile. The janitor stood, looked away from the odd man, and resumed sweeping.

Tvrkialk, still in the body of Daisuke, left the briefcase behind and began following the black-haired girl. The mana entities felt it was important to shepherd the humans, to guide them to reach their destinies, for the unrestrained energy only knew chaos and violence, and would naturally lead its bearer to the same.

“Yes. She will do fine.”

Time Travel is 2020

 

Part One

“ABC news is predicting, with 38% of the polls reporting, that Ronald D. Crampton of the Control Alt Delete party is the winner of the 2020 election.”

That was the last thing that Jim remembered. He had been in a coma since that fateful evening. He didn’t remember drinking all night in the campus’s media room with a hundred other Boonie supporters, hoping against hope that, like the 2000 elections, the news had called the results too early.

Stan Boonie was as close as a messiah to him and the majority of students attending the Vermont liberal arts college—emphasis on the liberal—that Stan Boonie had attended. He had promised to tax the rich, make healthcare and college education free for everyone who made less than six figures. He even promised to refund money previously spent on healthcare and college. Companies would have to provide six weeks paid vacation for starting employees, a twenty-five-hour work week, thirty paid sick days, and six months paid maternity and paternity, and grand paternity leave. The man was scandal free: he had been married to his wife for sixty-two years and he no longer had sex with his own wife, let alone anyone else’s. Creating a democratic-socialist utopia was the eighty-year-old career politician’s only desire.

Jim wouldn’t remember drunkenly staggering back to his dorm, climbing to the roof and jumping four stories to the paved part of the quad below. Sixteen other Boonieites would also commit suicide that night rather than live in a Crampton-led nation.

Jim was the only one who survived.

Years later, he stirred in his hospital bed, letting out a little moan. The nurse at the foot of his bed, checking off items on her clipboard did not look up. She was accustomed to his little mewlings and movements.

“What year is it?”

The nurse dropped the clipboard. Jim was sitting up in his bed, monitors and food intake tubes attached to his arm and stomach respectively. She struggled with the desire to shout for a doctor or to run from the room to summon an expert, but there she stood. He repeated the question.

She said, “It is November 7, 2036.” He fell back on the bed. The nurse looked to the door but made no movement for fear of breaking the moment like a soap bubble. “Who is President?” he asked staring at the ceiling.

She swallowed hard. She rubbed her itchy eye and took a deep breath.

“Who is the President?”

She exhaled. “President Crampton.” She watched his pale face turn whiter. “He is about to be elected for his sixth consecutive term. Pollsters expect he will be re-elected with 99% of the vote.”

Space Pussy

Space Pussy

The electric hum of the overhead lights had once induced headaches, but after a year, the steady drone had a hypnotic effect on the nineteen-year-old High School dropout. The bright lights illuminated everything in the convenience store; so bright that the recently expired Oreos no longer cast shadows.

Xander was beyond bored. His wasn’t sure when his boredom had achieved epic level, but he was sure it was around the tenth hour of his twelve-hour shift at the Gulp-N-Pump. The convenience store /slash/ gas station was open twenty-four hours, but Xander had yet to understand why. He could count the number of customers he had after midnight on his dick. The counter was the only thing keeping his fatigued legs from giving out. He struggled with the urge to close his eyes for a little nap. The moment he closed his eyes would be the exact second that Old Man Ferguson would walk in and fire his lazy ass.

There was plenty that he could be doing to keep busy. The milk case needed purging of out of date gallons, many of the tight aisles of snack cakes required dusting, and as much as he wanted to unplug the video game Klingons from Beyond Uranus—Ferguson wouldn’t let him. It ate every fourth quarter, but the boss didn’t care. “If someone get really pissed, refund their quarter,” he instructed Xander. Despite all the things he should be doing, he couldn’t find the motivation to do anything.

As his heavy lids drooped, a flash of light demanded his attention. The glass wall that gave a perfect view of the twelve gas pumps lit up with white light. The sudden illumination was so bright that everything disappeared. Thinking that the pumps had exploded, Xander ducked behind the wooden counter. When his vision returned, he popped up to inspect the damage, but to his disappointment there was none. The pumps were unexploded, as was the glass of the window wall.

He walked over and pressed his hands against the window. He peered into the darkness beyond the electric lights of the gas station hoping to spot the cause of the brief display.The forest beyond the road was dark, but Xander thought he saw a faint pink glow emanating from the woods, but his eyes might have been playing tricks on him. He looked from the forest to the stars hoping, praying, for something to save him from the mind-numbing boredom of the Gulp-N-Pump.

The chime above the door rang announcing a customer had arrived. Xander woke from his prayers, turning to get a look at the late-night customer. Whoever it was, they didn’t have a car.

What he saw caused his dry lips and throat to begin to salivate, his palms to begin to sweat, and his sudden throbbing erection to threaten to explode from his Wranglers. She was sex forced into a plastic costume that was two sizes too small. She was a tube of toothpaste squeezed at the middle, threatening to burst at the top and bottom. Long black boots stretched to the mid point of her thighs, at which point her furry flesh took over for a few inches before reverting to the pleather shorts that barely covered her legs. All that ended in a perfect upside-down V. And if her body wasn’t hot enough to turn on the sprinkler system, her face was positively divine. Her round eyes had no lashes and instead of white eyes with blue, green or brown circles around black pupils, she had yellowish green eyes surrounding oblong pupils of pure black. Her nose was pert and came to a delicate point. Her mouth had no lips, but it was beautiful nonetheless. To complete the catlike features, she had four white whiskers extending from the sides of her mouth. “Out of this world,” he mumbled.

She spun to face him, her body in mid crouch caught between fight and flight. Her fingers spread out, he could see each of her delicate digits ended in razor sharp claws. “Hey, pretty mama. I ain’t gonna hurt you,” he said in calming tones with his palms extended.

She said something to him; it was harsh and sudden and like no language he had ever heard. She said is again, and began to back out of the door. “No, wait!” he said, louder than he intended. “Please don’t go.”

She waited there in the open doorway, her whiskers quivering, her body tense. Her pointed ears changed position and she tilted her head listening. Half turning away from him, she sniffed the air. Xander took the opportunity to gaze adoringly at her plump, yet firm, haunches. Her taut legs went from slender ankles and calves to powerful thighs to rounded buttocks that reminded him of two perfect Snowballs with tight cellophane wrapping.

Without warning the cat lady spun and ran straight at him! She put one hand on his shoulder and put her face close to his. She said something that sounded like a question. He jumped back when he saw she was holding a small gun. “Hey lady, I don’t want no trouble,” he said with his palms out in surrender. “No trouble. Me Xander,” he said touching himself deliberately. “Xander.”

She held the gun out to him, trying to put it in his hands. He tried to refuse, but she pleaded with enough desperation to rekindle his pulsing boner. When he took the weapon from her she pointed to the counter, saying what sounded like, “Dib shew! Dib shew!”

Crouching behind the point of sale display, Xander looked at the tiny pistol. It was made of black plastic and the trigger had no guard. He waited there, holding it in two hands, afraid to accidentally touch it and set it off. At this point, a slight breeze might cause it to explode.

The cat lady said, “Bee shin fooz.” Without moving, he said, “I’m ready.”

The door chime rang and several sets of heavy boots clomped into the store. He could hear the intruders breathing, the sound was loud and mechanical like a scuba tank or a generator. An electronic voice said, “Bezhaw neew enz, Spece Pziey!”

“Zander, felt!” she shouted. Without contemplating what he was doing, he sprung to his feet and began firing at the figures in black armor. Three blasts of green energy slammed into them, in turn, dropping them where they stood.

The cat woman shrieked with joy, jumping into the air and clapping. “Gud nirf, Zander!”

Aghast, Xander walked around the counter and examined his handy work. Each of the black-garbed aliens had red insignias on their shoulders that looked, to Xander, like military markings. “Shit, did I just shoot some space cops?”

His doubts faded and his manhood enlarged as the cat lady pressed herself against his side in a warm embrace. He turned and said, “What do I call you?” She grabbed his hand and began to urge him toward the door. “Xander,” he said pointing at himself with the still-hot laser pistol. “Xander…” he pointed the gun at her. “And you are?”

She put her other hand on her breast as she pulled him through the door. “Me neyet, Spece Pziey!”

“Space Pussy?” he said, as she pulled him toward the forest. She nodded enthusiastically. “That’s perfect.”

 

Space Pussy
Based on the song Space Pussy performed by the Amazing Cherubs

She was a little cat from another place/ She had a fine feelin’ and a feline face/ I never felt so out of place/ Since she came down from outer space/ Space Pussy! Space Pussy!/ Puss in boots- space girl- in cahoots with another world/ I was so knocked on my face/ When she came down from outer space/ From the other side of the sun/ Brought up to get down/ In orbit from dusk ’til dawn/ Space pussy- you’re the one!/ Space Pussy! Space Pussy!

Just Can’t Seem to Win

What follows are excerpts from my senior thesis that I read before a small group of colleagues, friends, and family at Goddard College in Plainfield VT. The words in bold are intended to inform the audience of some of the back story and connect the dots between scenes, because I only had 45 minutes therefore I couldn’t read everything. For the record, the following story is an amalgam of truth and fiction. Some of it happened, but not in the way I’m telling it. Some of it happened exactly the way I tell it, and some of it is entirely fictionalized.

 

In 1981, my oldest brother, Domenic, was murdered by our sister’s husband. I was only nine and didn’t really know him, but I was fascinated by the way he was revered by his friends and family. This is a story that I have wanted to write since I learned such a thing was possible.

I took the personal stories of my brother (Dean in the story), my sister (Diana) and my mother (Lynn), mixed in court records, newspaper clippings and personal reflections. I stirred the mixture by connecting the dots, an imagining here, a bit of psychology there until I had the beginnings of a complete story. There were people who didn’t want this story to be told. The research, they believed, would be like disturbing a grave after thirty years. Others had their own recollections of the young man who was idolized by so many. The three family members who read the final draft of my senior thesis said I had gotten it wrong. My mother said it didn’t ring true. My brother said I was sensationalizing a family tragedy and that he wanted no part of this project.

Chapter 3-Diana

August 1975

Domenic had done his best to look parental when he got ready that morning. He pulled his long wavy hair into a ponytail, tucked his flannel shirt into his paint-spackled jeans; Even his work boots were laced and tied. He had employment and a place to live. He felt as if he were doing everything right.

Billerica Elementary looked the same as he remembered it when he went there. The small building was covered in fake red bricks, a stick-on facade that gave the illusion of craftsmanship. Diana rushed forward and pushed on the door’s silver bar, but the doors held fast. Only with her brother’s help did they yield. The hall beyond was quiet. Their footsteps echoed despite their attempt to be silent.

Soon they had reached the principal’s office. “How can I help you?” asked the secretary, a thin woman who wore a brown scarf and a heavy scowl. A metal sign on the desk proclaimed her name was Ms. Tibble.

“I’m here to register my sister for school. Fourth grade,” Domenic said with a smile that showed just a hint of his crooked teeth. He gripped Diana’s hand a little tighter.

“I see,” said Ms. Tibble. “Do you have an appointment?”

“No. Sorry. I didn’t think I needed one.”

“Wait here, please,” she said motioning to a row of metal chairs with plastic cushions. She went into the office marked “Principal”. The two sat down; the plastic cushions made matching fart sounds. They both snickered into their hands.

Dommy crossed his legs as they waited. Diana had seen her mother and her older sister Darlene sit like that, but never a man. How funny it was that a man as rough and tumble as Dommy could sit so ladylike! His hand went to the cigarette behind his ear. He removed it from its perch and hid it in his shirt pocket.

The secretary returned and escorted them to meet the principal. The plaque on the door read Mrs. Regina Sibayan. In the wood-panelled office, a well-fed woman in a purple blazer sat behind a large desk. Her glance up from the appointment blotter ended in a smile that was even bigger than the desk. After some introductions, Mrs. Sibayan said, “Tell me, Mr. D’Alesio, where are your parents? Why are you here registering Diana instead of them?” The questions were like the preparatory punches from a boxer–they sized up and primed the defender for a beating. Her eyes moved from the little girl to her brother and back again as she waited for his reply.

Domenic’s patience was wearing thin. He had no experience with bureaucracy and rarely in his life had smiling and making nice been encouraged. He wasn’t foolish, however. He did his best to be diplomatic. He said, “I have temporary custody.”

“Indeed,” she scoffed. “How old are you? You look barely old enough to be out of school, or have custody of anyone–much less a ten-year-old girl. Do you have any paperwork–from a judge?”

He patted himself down hoping that somehow he did have the necessary paperwork. He shrugged after his search yielded no documents.

“Do you have any identification? A driver’s license, perhaps?”

His reply was a glare and a clenched jaw.

The purple-clad Principal leaned over her desk, her breasts forced against it so hard they seemed like they might burst from the sides of her suit jacket. Diana bit her tongue to contain her laughter as she watched the blazer do its best to contain the lady’s breasts. The Principal said, “Young man, who told you that you had custody?”

Domenic looked at his sister with a questioning blank expression. “Mrs. Reynolds, the caseworker,” she said.

The Principal sat up straight and shook her head with a frown, “I’m sorry. Without the court-ordered paperwork indicating custody, you can’t register her for school. If you can locate it before the first week has ended, I can allow her to start classes. Or call Mrs. Reynolds and have her call me. Otherwise, one of her legal parents will have to call or come in.”

Domenic leaned his head back in frustration looking directly at the white drop-ceiling filled with tiny holes. As his eyes unfocused the hundreds of dots merged into a single black pool that dominated his vision. Why had Reynolds said he could take Diana and not given him the paperwork? He didn’t know why they were making this so difficult. All he wanted was to take care of her until–well–until he figured something else out. Forever, if he had to. He could do it. He had a job and a place to live. How hard could it be? The welfare check helped. What the hell was he going to do with her every day? She needed to be in school. He and Danny had a job with Fasciano painting; Fasciano even rented a place to them and took the rent directly out of their paychecks.

His eyes begged the woman as he said, “There’s nothing I can do?’

“Not without legal documents. What is your address and phone number?” She held a pen against a pad of notepaper ready to transcribe his response. Her smile faded as she waited.

He stood up. Without a word, he hustled Diana from the office.

“Fuck!” Domenic shouted when the double doors at the entrance of the school closed behind them. Outside, there was no one to hear his curse.

“Fuck,” Diana mumbled as she kicked a small rock. No one heard her swear as it skittered across the parking lot. She liked hearing people curse, but she never did it. ‘Fuck’ was an all-purpose word used to strengthen a sentence, and she felt powerful when she said it–just like her brother. But his strength was gone. Defeated, the walk back was slower–more of a death march than the triumphant walk home they had anticipated. There was no hurry to be anywhere at any time. The two shuffled along.

The rail vibrated warning them of oncoming danger. They stepped off the track. The train rumbled along back from its destination. This time it was full of coal; the mounds poked out of the tops of the cars slowing its return. The train too, laden with its heavy burden, seemed less anxious to reach its place of origin. Black smoke came out of a stack in short bursts.

Domenic stopped to pull out a joint–a curly little deformed thing. He lit it and inhaled before offering it to her. She looked at the marijuana cigarette and at him without comprehension. “Want a hit?” he said. She shook her head. He shrugged and let out a blast of smoke. They resumed their silent walk. Diana was angry at herself. She wanted to be like her brother, but she was too frightened to try the drug. She was afraid it would burn her mouth and throat the way she had seen others choke and sputter after taking a hit. She didn’t want to look like an idiot in front of the greatest man she knew. On their solemn return, she decided she would learn to swear properly–loudly and with conviction.

She make an oath that she wouldn’t let anyone hear her swear or see her smoke until she had some practice.

 

My family was upset about what I had written. I wondered how my perception of the events could be so different from theirs. After all, I recorded the interview so there could be no confusion on my part. I didn’t ask them to elaborate, I felt if they had more to say they would. They never did.

I worked hard to make everyone shades of grey rather than strictly good and evil. Even the man who murdered our brother in a fit of revenge was once a trusted member of our family. Their father, not mine, a man who they hated for his strict, often cruel, behavior is shown as a man who loved his oldest son. I changed most of the names, but anyone who lived it knew who is whom. I characterize Dean as a young man who felt guilt for his inability to save his brother. Though the reader, and no one who knew first hand what happened, would blame him, maybe he felt I was blaming him. Lynn, the mother character, could be judged harshly. Her children live as adults, separate from her, from their father. Their reflections on that time are clouded, they no doubt feel that they were no longer kids. I see them as children living the lives of adults and attempt to show that cloudy distinction.

 

In this next story, Diana has just arrived after hitchhiking thirty miles from where she lives with her mother to her brother’s place in Billerica. She did this often. She was fourteen.

 

From behind the heavy wooden door, she could hear the notes of an acoustic guitar as it searched for a song. She smiled as she imagined her brother strumming away, with his long wavy brown hair and his intense look as he concentrated on the music. Before knocking, she paused to listen. The strings played the slow, sad notes of a song on which Domenic had been working the last time she had been there, two weeks before. Along with the music came the pungent, tangy scent of stale pot that lingered in the wood of the door. The smell permeated her nose until she could taste it.

Without knocking, she turned the knob. A single candle lit the kitchen. A large window behind the table allowed in some illumination from the single pole of the parking lot, but the kitchen was mostly dark. The lights silhouetted her brother as he sat looking ghostly at him with an acoustic guitar cradled in his hands. He looked up, and a scowl replaced his look of concentration. He shouted without raising his voice: “Diana, what the fuck!?”

She flicked the switch next to the door, and the room came alive with light. The door offered a click as she closed it. She gave her older brother a sheepish half-smile while batting her eyes. “Hey, Dommy,” she said. Her attempt at looking cute was an obvious tactic, but more often than not it worked.

He squinted against the light from above. “I told you not to come here alone,” he said as he placed his guitar against the table. “I don’t want you hangin’ around here anymore,” he said with all the sternness he could muster to his baby sister, which was far less than she had seen him aim at others. He crossed the small kitchen with a few steps, his untied boots making hollow clumping sounds that seemed angry to Diana. He enveloped her in a hug that lifted her from the puke-green linoleum. “It’s not safe,” he whispered into her ear through her long brown hair. “I should call Ma to pick you up,” he said, placing her down.

“Can’t. She’s workin’. Plus, she doesn’t have a phone.”

Dommy took the cigarette from behind his ear as he sat down at the table. Diana sat opposite him and watched him light his Marlboro. He took a deep drag and let out a wisp of smoke through his lips.

Placing the cigarette in the ashtray, he picked up the guitar. “Do you know why she took Jan to live in New Hampshire?” He asked about their kid brother, barely eight years old.

She shook her head, even though she knew all too well.

He looked unblinking into her brown eyes and said, “Because she didn’t want him to turn out like us.”

“I love it here,” she said sweeping loose ashes off the table with one hand and into the other.  She dumped the contents into the ashtray. She stood and looked around for a trash bucket. Finding none, she brought the tray into the bathroom, flushing it down the toilet.

When she returned, he said, “I love it too. But it fuckin’ sucks. Don’t you get it? Every night there’s police cars. They don’t even come half the time when they’re called. When they do, they take their sweet-ass time. Something’s always happening. People are always yelling and screaming. They buy and sell drugs in the parking lot next to where I live. I’m not just talkin’ pot; I mean real shit. Heroin. Coke.” He took another drag. After letting the smoke out of the side of his mouth, aiming it away from her, he said, “Not that anyone here can afford to do drugs. There’re no jobs. People hang out all fuckin’ day. This place is a shit hole. It’s only a matter of time before someone gets killed.”

Diana’s face was blank. She said, “What if Jenny got pregnant? Would you leave The North?”

“Don’t call it that. And yeah. I wouldn’t want to raise my kid here. There ain’t nothin’ for anyone in Billerica.”

“What are you gonna do?”

“I don’t know yet, but I gotta get out of here.”

“Would you want a boy?” she said smiling.

“Why are you on me about this?” he said. “I don’t know how to raise a girl. I already proved that when I took care of you.” They shared a smile. “I don’t know how to raise a boy, either. I guess I’d just do everything the opposite of what our father did.”

Her lips snapped down covering her teeth. She looked at the table searching for more ashes. “Are you and Jenny gonna get married?”

A cough struck Dommy’s throat, and it was a few moments before he could speak again. When he caught his breath, he said, “I don’t have a way to bring you home, and I shouldn’t let you stay here…but I have to. Maybe in the morning Ricky can bring you home.”

She felt as if everything was changing. Her few friends were getting older. Some were having children of their own. Even her boyfriend lived in Billerica. She wanted to absorb every moment before they were gone forever. Most of all she wanted to be with her brother. Just being around him made her feel important. He was the center of their friends and family, of the whole town. She felt like the little sister of a rock star. She was Dommy’s little sister which made people smile and said “hi.” Sometimes they asked if she needed anything. People treated her better–with respect.

Dommy began to play his guitar. He played the same song he was playing when she arrived, but this time he added lyrics.

 

Shoulda known better

And it took me all day to figure out a reason why

Why my pretty little baby girl had to say goodbye

My precious little baby girl had to go away

Shoulda known better

Than to ever let her get away

Than to ever ever ever ever ever ever

Let her get away

Oh Lord, I just can’t seem to win

In this next scene we see the difficult life that Lynn lives. A single mother living with her two youngest, she is forced to take in a border. This scene shows the flexible nature of the family friend Ricky, a man whose size and violence has benefits if he was on you side.

Chapter 5-Lynn

July 1974

“Jeep, you have to go.”

Lynn stood tall as she commanded the man who rented a room in her house. Renting to him was likely a violation of her lease–if she had one. He was short but lean and muscular with blonde hair. Manual labor and hard drinking had given him a firm, yet aged, physique.

“Now,” she said.

Jeep scoffed, “I’m not going anywhere, Lynn. I’m paid up through the end of the week,” he said before opening the refrigerator.

“Diana told me what happened,” she said.

Diana was only eight, with long brown hair like her mother. She shared a room with her one-year-old brother, but he was not a reliable witness.

Jeep took a long swig of beer. He wiped the foam from his lips with the back of his hand. Smirking, he said, “I don’t know what you’re accusing me of, but I’m not going anywhere.” He chugged the remaining liquid and placed the empty beer can on the table.

Lynn ran her fingers through the thin brown wires that extended from her scalp. She had just turned forty and right on schedule her hair had started to dry and gray. In frustration, she grabbed a thick handful and pulled. It wasn’t hard or sudden enough to rip any out, but the pain gave her some sense of satisfaction. It helped her focus.

“I don’t want you getting any ideas. I have a reputation…” Jeep said.

Diana appeared in the kitchen. Like a specter, the little girl did not move. Faced with the confrontation before her, she was frozen in time. Her mother and the tenant faced each other in silence while Diana lingered.

The front door swung open, slicing the room in half with the sudden force. The crash of it hitting the wall caused Diana to jump. Barely squeezing through the doorway was a lumbering behemoth. Ricky stomped into the room. The menace of the man did not come from his height, but his girth. Ricky wasn’t fat, but he was big–enormous! When he moved, he did so with the unstoppable force of a Mack truck. His arms had mass and strength from lifting weights often. His neck was thick, so thick one could barely see where it ended and his cement block of a head began. No one in their right mind would look sideways at the brute, let alone challenge him.

“Diana, go upstairs and see Jan,” said Lynn. The girl didn’t move. Her eyes were frozen open. Though she was scared, her face flirted with a smile. The violence had an electric effect on her. It hurt, but the sensation was exciting.

Behind Ricky, looking insignificant, was Domenic wearing a Paddy cap and blue coveralls. The door remained open. The empty beer can fell to the floor. No one noticed the can. All eyes were drawn to Ricky.

“Ma, you okay?” said Domenic. She nodded and mumbled, “I want Jeep to leave. He…Diana…”

Domenic licked his lips and clenched his fists.

“I didn’t do anything.” Jeep had a surge of strength spawned by a panic that gave his words false courage. “And I’m paid through the end of the week.”

His bravado couldn’t equal Ricky’s gravity. Diana smiled in anticipation of the confrontation. Surging forward, Ricky’s meaty hand latched onto Jeep’s scalp. Lynn gasped as his gargantuan paw wrapped around the man’s skull. He hoisted him out of his seat, banging him into the hanging light above the table. He pushed his beefy red face close enough that the younger man could smell his breath. It stank of cigarettes. The lamp swung back and forth casting shadows that ran wild through the kitchen. “Ten minutes. Pack your shit. You’re gone. Call the cops and you’re dead.”

Dommy was smiling as Ricky let his victim go. Jeep passed Diana, who wore her smirk like armor. Lynn poured tea. They sat down and drank, the hot beverage burning their mouths. They listened to her former tenant bang items and stomp around upstairs as he packed up his life.

“Thanks for coming so quickly.” She hugged Dommy as Ricky sunk into Jeep’s chair. It groaned in protest of his bulk, but it held. Ricky looked at his watch and said with a smile, “Hey, Lynn. Ya got anything to eat?”

Ricky gave Jeep ten minutes. He was gone in five.

Dommy and Ricky did construction. This story takes place during a job in Maine.

 

Chapter 9-Domenic

September 1981                                                 

I spent all day doing nothing–riding in a truck–and somehow they got dirty again, Domenic thought as he glared at his fingertips. The intermittent lights of the city shone through the windows, flashing on his dirty hands.

He rode in the front seat while Ricky drove; Dommy didn’t have a license, but that didn’t stop him from sometimes sharing the responsibility of driving. In the back of the van, hunched in the cargo area were Domenic’s brother Danny, Danny’s friend Dave, and little RJ. The five were returning to their motel after having dinner at Captain Jack’s Lobster Shack, one of the many seafood restaurants in Saco, Maine.

Danny squatted on his haunches, balancing himself as Ricky made sharp turns and rapid stops and starts. “Good meal, huh Dommy? I love fish-n-chips, but they never give you enough tartar sauce,” he said.

Domenic stopped looking at his hands and nodded. “I thought the waitress was hot,” he said smiling at Danny. “RJ, did you get enough to eat?” he asked the boy who had his back to the wall of the van. Ricky Junior mumbled his response. “Yeah, it was good.”

“He fuckin’ better have! The kid’s plate cost me ten bucks,” Ricky said without a smile. Domenic looked at Ricky and thought, Yeah, he eats like his old man. He remembered his own father and what a struggle it had been to get quality food. Years and years of plain spaghetti and PB&J, while his father, and a woman who wasn’t his mother, ate Chinese food and other take-out meals. He and the other kids didn’t starve, but they were second-class compared to the two adults–or her fuckin’ kids. He didn’t care. He ate their leftovers. Fuck them.

“Hey, pass me a joint,” said Ricky with a nod of his head in the direction of the glove compartment.

Within the glove box, a zip-lock baggie contained a half-dozen rolled joints and some loose seeds and stems. He gave a joint to Ricky and returned the bag. As Ricky lit the marijuana cigarette with the in-dash lighter, Domenic said, “Hey, maybe you should wait ‘til we get back to the motel.” Domenic knew that Ricky already had four beers at the restaurant; he was a big guy, but why risk it?

Ricky stopped at a red light by jamming his foot on the brake. Domenic heard someone tumble to the floor of the cargo area. With the joint sticking out of his mouth, Ricky turned to Domenic and said, “Shut up Dommy. When you drive, you can not smoke a joint.” His face was red like a peeled tomato, and Domenic knew better than to push him when he was like this.

A horn blared behind them. Both men looked up to see a green light. The car honked again. Domenic watched Ricky’s anger change targets from him to the driver of the car behind them. Shit, Domenic thought as Ricky looked furiously into the side mirror. Ricky’s hand went to the door handle. Domenic knew what was about to happen. He had heard from Dean of the incident in which Ricky had savagely beaten an old man who had cut him off. He also knew the brute had ripped Diana’s boyfriend from his car by the kid’s hair. Dommy wasn’t afraid of him, but he was afraid of what the man could do.

“Go!”

Domenic’s shout brought the big man out of his rage long enough for him to forget the car and jump on the gas. The van roared through the intersection. Ricky took a hit off his joint, turned to Domenic and said, “Don’t fuckin’ yell at me.”

Domenic said, “You were about to go after that guy.”

Ricky glanced into the rear view mirror. “Fuck,” he said.

The blue and white lights halted their conversation. Ricky kept driving. He leaned over Dommy, reaching into the glove box. He withdrew the transparent bag of marijuana, turned to the cargo area and put it in Dave’s hand. “Hide this,” he said. Without objection, Dave stuffed the bag into his pants.

“Pull over,” Domenic said.

“I am. Fuck you!” Ricky steered the van off the road. He extinguished the lit join on his tongue before swallowing it.

The blue lights kept flashing. The five waited. A slim officer walked around the vehicle. Domenic could see him in the side mirror looking for anything out of the ordinary, a reason he could write a ticket. The cop took his time checking the windows; he scrutinized the bumper, the license plates, and the inspection sticker before coming to a stop slightly behind the driver’s side window. “License and registration,” he said. Ricky had them ready. He handed them off and started to roll up the window, but the cop put out his gloved hand. Ricky stopped turning the handle. The cop sniffed the air. “Do you know why I pulled you over tonight?”

“Nope.”

“You took some time at the green light back there. Have you been drinking?”

“I had one at the restaurant.”

Dumbass! You always lie and say you haven’t had a drop, Dommy thought.

“Please step out of the vehicle.”

Another cruiser pulled in behind them. A second officer joined them. They put Ricky through a standard DWI investigation–walk a straight line, hands on your nose. Four beers and a joint barely registered with the giant. “Stand over here,” the second cop directed Ricky to the side.

A third squad car arrived. The pigs were ready for trouble.

“I detected the scent of marijuana. We will need to search the vehicle,” said the first cop to Ricky. “Is there anything you’d like to tell me before we look? Will I find any weapons or illegal paraphernalia? Best to tell me now. I don’t like surprises.”

“No,” said Ricky with a glance at Dave.

The cops searched the van and questioned the men, but not the minors–Dave and RJ. Domenic had experience talking to cops; he looked them in the eye and answered their questions with confidence. No, he hadn’t been drinking (he didn’t drink). No, he hadn’t smoked any weed this evening (he hadn’t). No, he had not seen anyone smoke pot in the van tonight.

“Please lift your shirt,” the second cop said to Dave. The sixteen-year-old did as he was told. In his waistband was the baggie full of joints. The cop slammed him against the van and cuffed him. Domenic glared at Ricky with sharp eyes. He pulled the man aside and said through clenched teeth, “You’re gonna let him take the rap for you?!”

Ricky put his paw on Domenic’s shoulder and pulled him close, “Keep your fuckin’ mouth shut, Dommy,” he said in a whisper. “You were gonna smoke some, too. He’s a minor. They won’t do anything to him.”

Domenic knocked Ricky’s hand away and pushed him halfway into the road. Both men began to shove one another. Despite Ricky’s size, Domenic’s passion and agility allowed him to hold his own against the larger man.

“You better break that up, or they’re both going to jail,” the third cop said to Danny. Only a year younger than Domenic, Danny was no less brave. He inserted himself between the two. “Knock it off!” he shouted.  The two fighters were still huffing and puffing when they turned away from each other.

Minutes later, the blue lights faded into the night as the cop cars brought Dave back to the station. “What happened?” said little RJ to his father. Ricky stomped his way back to the van. The remaining three were barely inside before he stomped on the gas and roared into the night.  

Domenic beats Ricky. Badly. In front of the big man’s son. This does not sit well with him. He gets his brother Ron and a shotgun and go to Domenic’s apartment to get the power back.                                                        

October 17, 1981

Every night for two weeks before he fell asleep, Dean lay in his bed dreading this moment. The roar of a shotgun blast preceded screams and shouts. He remained in his bed, denying what he knew was happening. He wished he were wrong. He wished Dommy had listened to him. He wished he had done something else to help, but he didn’t know what.

He wished he were dreaming.

Time leaped forward. Dean was outside Dommy’s adjacent apartment without any concept of having traversed the distance. He watched a man with a shotgun, a man he knew, but could not place, entering his brother’s home. Glass from the window lie in pieces on the green linoleum of the kitchen floor. The splintered wooden window frame now wrapped around an empty hole. The spot where he had days earlier warned his brother was shattered. There would be no way to bring back the place where he and his big brother had smoked pot, played cards, sung songs, and strummed guitar. It was gone forever.

Through the hole, he saw Domenic barreling down the stairs. His brother was not fleeing the danger–he was racing straight into it!

Around the corner, at the doorway, Dean watched Domenic attack the man with unmatched ferocity. He now recognized the man as Ron, Ricky’s younger brother. He was built like a tank! Domenic beat Ron with a baseball bat that he wielded like a samurai sword, knocking aside the shotgun and smashing his opponent in the shoulder and head with broad swipes. After the assault, his victim was still conscious, but dazed. Blood was splashed over his head and body. It ran in rivers of red.

Dean was struck by the scene of violence before him. He had seen fights before–on tv, from his father, between his brothers, and on the streets. Those battles were just skirmishes compared to the ferocity of the hostility before him. He knew his brother could get angry, but he had never seen him fight for his life.  

Time, which had raced earlier, now slowed to a crawl. The sheer savagery of his brother overtook him and froze him in place. Ron slipped on his blood as he tried to backpedal out the door. The shotgun, still steaming from its blast, lay on the ground next to Ron. “Dean! Get the gun!” Dommy’s frantic command hit the teenage boy like a flamethrower and unfroze him. As he lunged for the weapon, he was knocked into the air, propelled across the kitchen by the errant arm of Ricky charging into the room. Dean flew through the air. before he crashed through the kitchen table, Ricky picked up the gun and aimed it at Domenic. Time caught up to Dean; in an instant, he was groaning and struggling to get out of the ruins of the wooden table.

Domenic stopped. “Get on your knees,” said Ricky. Without objection, he dropped down  placing his knuckles flat against the linoleum. Air rushed into his nose and came out his mouth in angry blasts. Ricky smiled a crooked toothy grin. He raised the gun so that it pointed at the plastic crucifix above the stove. The shotgun erupted spraying fragments in a controlled stream; Domenic did not flinch as the blast sprayed over his head. Jesus and the crucifix disintegrated against the destructive force of the gun’s pellets.

“Ricky, c’mon, man,” Dean said as he stood up from the wreckage of the table. Still dazed from the impact, he found the strength to say, “You guys can talk it out. It doesn’t have to be like this.”

Ricky pulled the gun away from Domenic and aimed it at the teenager. He said, “Mind your own fuckin’ business, Dean.”

In the instant Ricky changed targets Domenic attacked. He covered a half-dozen steps in a single leap. The gun clattered to the floor as he unleashed an onslaught of punches against Ricky. The big man didn’t have an instant to mount a counterattack. All he could do was try to fend off the hail of strikes. Desperate to get some distance from the relentless assault, he stumbled from the kitchen into the hallway and out into the parking lot. Domenic did not allow him a moment of reprieve. He pursued the fleeing man into the night.

Alone in the kitchen, Dean and Ron stared dumbly at each other. Both were dizzy and confused. Ron said, “I just…I just want to go home.” He wasn’t crying, but tears threatened to mix with the blood on his face. Dean picked up the shotgun from the blood-stained lime-green linoleum. He looked into the battered eyes of the man who came to his brother’s home with a deadly weapon. Dean stared at the gun. It seemed like an alien item in his hands. He aimed it at Ron’s head and rested his finger on the still-warm trigger. His eyes burrowed deep into Ron’s. He saw only a frightened man, his face twisted in fear and confusion, perhaps one who would follow his brother anywhere. “I just wanna go home,” the man said again. Dean saw himself in those eyes. He understood him.

He made a mistake he would regret the rest of his life.  

He handed the gun back.

Ricky gets the gun from his brother and kills Domenic, but for purposes of the presentation I skip over the details of the murder. The men are caught and the next scene is the end of a short trial.

July 1, 1982   

“Dean, you’ll never guess what happened!” Diana said, running from the courthouse. Dean sat on the steps smoking a cigarette. Diana was a young mother, but she was still a kid. Even after the judge had just told her that she was not to repeat what happened in court, she immediately opened her big mouth.

“Diana, shut up,” Dean said, as he looked around for witnesses to her contempt.  

They were called back. The jury had reached a verdict.                     

After they shuffled inside, the judge asked if the jury had reached a decision. This was it! Dean squeezed his little sister’s hands. Finally, there would be justice. They could move on with their lives.

“On the charge of manslaughter the jury finds Richard Sullivan guilty .”

There was a noticeable gasp from the crowd that prompted a gavel banging from the judge. He could hear a woman sobbing. He knew it was Darlene. He has heard her cry before, but never with so much sorrow. He doubted she cried this much when she found out her brother was dead.

“We the jury find Ronald Sullivan not guilty.”

‘Not guilty?’

The crowd murmured their thoughts to one another. The judge ordered Ron to be immediately released, following some paperwork. He ordered Ricky remanded to custody.

Dean stared at nothing, his face aghast, drained of color. Diana’s eyes opened wide. Her face thrust toward Dean’s. She said, “Manslaugter and innocent? That’s it? They killed Dommy. It’s over?” She squeezed his hand with all the might she could muster. “We can have a retrial or something, right?” Her eyes made demands of his. They burrowed into him.

Dean placed his other hand across hers. He didn’t look at her as he said, “Nope. That’s it. Ron goes home. Ricky will get sentenced later. Probably spend a few years in jail.” He started to stand, but she held. She said, “Ricky gets a few years in jail and Ron gets to go home? Fuck!” The familiar, yet unpracticed, word came out before she could stop herself, a swear Domenic would never hear.

 

Hunting Star Fucker

“Bounty hunters, we don’t need their scum,” I heard one of the Imperial Commanders mutter to a subordinate, from my vantage point above the control trench. Scum? I gave a thought to dropping down to his level and asking for a clarification on the insult, but I was out-gunned in the way a flashlight is against a black hole and opted for discretion. The other bounty hunters and I were the most dangerous trackers in the galaxy, and we had raced to the Imperial Star Destroyer for a once-in-a-lifetime job. I didn’t want to screw it up before I even started.

I was a million parsecs and a million years from home. Yeah, I guess the story of how I travelled in time and space is a good one, but that’s not the one I’m gonna tell you today. Remind me some other time?

I had adapted to life on the edge of the universe and made a nice career for myself as a hunter, specifically one that hunts people for money. I use the term with a sarcastic tone, because the pricks I pursue are often almost as bad as the ones that pay me. Speaking of people, I wasn’t alone. My hunting buddy was a little brown furry beast who, in the right costume, could pass for a child’s stuffed toy. He is from a tiny forested moon planet populated by thousands of the primitive critters whose only use in the universe is target practice. That, and maybe stitched together a nice throw rug. T’raxx was an exception;  a cruel creature with no love of the Empire, he has a skill at urban and wilderness tracking that makes him very valuable. He’s my partner and my best friend.

We stood alongside the other bounty hunters awaiting orders aboard the Imperial Star Destroyer, but it wasn’t a team effort by any stretch of the imagination; we all sought the reward offered by the Empire. It was every man for himself- not to say that the others were human, or even males. Some, like EYE GEE 88, weren’t even living creatures. I still owe him for poaching a job from me on Tapper 12, a few months ago. He looked at me with red eyes and a smug expression that pissed me off. How does a robot look smug? I don’t know, I just knew he was gloating. I bet he’d make a nice coat rack.

T’raxx nudged me and I realized the boss had been speaking and I missed the pep talk. I tuned in as he was warning a particularly-effective rival against disintegrations. I chuckled to myself. What the green-helmeted dummy didn’t know was that when he beat me to the last target, I simply sniped him from a distance with a Lucarian disruptor rifle. I was distracted again, almost instantly, as I admired the intimidating fashion choice of the my employer. I made a decision to get myself a cape as soon as possible. Black. Definitely black.

T’raxx snickered with glee, his eyes wide and crazy with anticipation of the hunt. I, on the other hand, was more interested in the two-hundred thousand galactic credits being offered for the prey, some farm boy from a dust planet full of sand farmers that I never heard of. T’raxx asked me the same question I was thinking. I replied, “I don’t know what the kid did to cheese off the Empire, buddy. And I don’t care. Sounds like easy money.”

Once the boss in the cape was finished talking, we scrambled for our ship. The bay doors of the battle-scarred, refitted Tribellian ferry opened and the access stairs lowered. At the top of the stairs waited the former sex droid, now translator and communication specialist, 6D9 4U2. The droid was old, but very useful. I dashed up the stairs and barked orders at the purple cylindrical robot. “Start searching communication chatter in the area. We’re looking for a kid named Sky Fucker.” T’razz gave a correction that sounded more like a dog trying to bark “I love you” than actual words and I corrected myself, “Right. What he said. Walker not Fucker.”

As we prepared for take-off, our other robot, a red painted, humanoid, piloting-assistant ‘bot entered the cockpit. “Sirs, I have some bad news. I’m afraid damage from our last firefight has left us without the ability to attain lightspeed.”

I didn’t believe him for a second. “Sit down and prepare for launch, JK. And no more comedy,” I said as I sat down. JK-PO was very useful, especially when preparing mathematical coordinates, even if his attempts at humor often made me think of turning him into an expensive coffee maker.

What we didn’t know at the time is we were being followed. EYE GEE 88, rather than do his (Its? I always think of the piece-of-shit robot as a guy) own work, he had dropped a tracking device onto the floor that T’razz had stepped on. As if racing against a half dozen of the best bounty hunters in the universe wasn’t enough, we were being followed by the most dangerous robot ever created. And he still owed me money.

Untitled

My workday has ended, but that was the easy part.

Sensitive to the rumble of the engine and the crunch of the tires, I pull into my driveway. The sudden void of noise as it turns off sounds like an alarm klaxon. I white-knuckle clutch the steering wheel at three and nine positions and I realize I have been holding my breath. I hold it for a moment and exhale slowly, stingily, as if I were trying to conserve air. I am trying to slow down time.

The car door swings wide and I step out onto the driveway. After popping the trunk, I move around and grab the three paper bags of groceries in both arms and awkwardly close it. As the lid swings closed, my eyes latch onto the tire iron. It is a solid piece of metal. Strong and useful, capable of removing a troublesome dead tire from a vehicle before securing a fresh new one.

I imagine its heft in my hand as the trunk closes. With one brown bag securely wedged in between the other two, I make the slow methodical march to the front door. I notice the front lawn is looking a little thick and decide I should mow it tonight.

That should take up at least an hour.

I stand and stare at the front door, feeling like a prisoner who is returning to prison after a weekend furlough, but in reality I have been at work for eight hours. Before I can summon the strength to open it, the door swings wide followed by an excited screech of “Ricky!” I look down at Sam with her arms spread open; her five-year old face which is full of life and warmth welcomes me home. Happiness shoots out of her zapping into me like a ray gun. In a flash, I am reenergized.

“How was your day, Sam?” I ask as I slip past her with my arms full of supplies. I notice she is still wearing the same PJs I put on her last night. She has been in them for twenty-two hours.

“No hug?” she asks/demands with a pout and her arms now on her hips. If she’s trying to look like Shirley Temple, she’s doing a great job. “Let me put down the bags,” I say hurrying to the kitchen.

“She doesn’t like Sam. Call her Samantha. That’s her name.” I notice her there on the couch. My computer is on her lap and the television is blaring some nonsensical reality show that features angry women screaming profanities at each other. I say nothing as I pass in front of the desperate wives fighting on my big screen.

I can feel her presence as I pass by without a sound. There is a storm radiating from her, but it is not a rainstorm. A wet typhoon, though destructive, at least adds precipitation to the land. Despite the devastation it brings, the rain will bring life. Her destruction is empty and hateful.

Sam follows me into the kitchen, her little feet, covered in her footie pajamas, patter frantically behind me. I make room on the counter; dishes linger from breakfast, and dinner the night before. I should throw them in the trash and start fresh with the disposable kind.

Once the bags are down, I spin and crouch, finally giving the beautiful, pajama-wearing girl a hug. She squeezes me with all her might and whispers in my ear, “I like Sam, but call me Samantha, so mommy doesn’t hear.” I make a mental note to give her a bath after dinner.

I scoop her up so she is sitting in the bend in my arm. My other arm acts like a mechanical crane as I provide its buzzing and whirring sound effects. She giggles with joy as it hovers over each bag before diving in to search its contents. My crane-arm dives and returns with a forty- count box of heavy flow, spring-scented tampons. She shrieks in pretend horror and the robot arm drops the box to the floor. It resumes its search and returns with a box of the gummy fruit snacks she loves. A chirp of delight emanates from her as the crane deposits the treats in her hands with an electronic hum. I put her down; she sits cross-legged on the floor as she begins to tear open the box.

Over the chatter of too-loud commercials I hear, “Who’s Rebecca?” I freeze in my tracks. The sound of her voice makes my sphincter clench in surprise as if a hungry lion had strolled into the kitchen. I struggle to think about Rebecca as I thaw. I burst free of my paralysis and call to her, “Why are you using my computer?” as I put away groceries.

“I thought it was mine.” A lie. “Who’s Rebecca?”

I stand in the doorway to the kitchen and stare blankly at her. “Rebecca Reynolds? She was someone I dated right after my divorce.” I return to the kitchen. “It was three years ago.”

“Why am I just hearing about this now?” she says as she slams my laptop closed. I know she was searching through my e-mails. This is the kind of thing she does all day while I work. She searches through old paperwork and photos, and now she has hacked into my computer and email in order to find evidence of my unfaithfulness, instead of looking for a job of her own. Instead of cleaning the house. Instead of changing her daughter. Evidently she thinks this is her job.

“I don’t know, honey. It isn’t a big deal.” I throw in a “honey”, but It is as useful as an umbrella in a tornado.

“Do you still see her?” She is stomping at me with clenched fists and a red face. Then I notice the empty bottle of scotch on the table behind her.

I look through her and reply, “She works for Pathways, but in a different department. I rarely see her.”

“Don’t fuckin’ lie to me!” Fire explodes in my right eye as her fist connects with the unprepared socket. I stumble back in surprise and pain. I should have expected an attack; this isn’t the first time she has quote unquote ‘lost her temper’.

“Never, ever hit a woman,” my dad used to tell me. Society also aggressively objects to such behavior, saying, “There is never a reason to hit a woman.” If she were a man in a bar, one would expect me to fight back. Despite my father’s words, every iota of my being is demanding retaliation. It’s funny, the same man who taught me how to deliver a devastating uppercut that would drop her to the floor is also the man who would demand restraint. My vision clears before my head does and I see Sam; the box of fruit snacks crashes to the floor and she rushes over and places the flats of her hands against her mother’s pelvis, pushing with all her might.

With a tearful face, Sam says, “Mommy, stop it.” The raw emotion of the scene hits me harder than a fist ever could.

Her mother turns and crashes back into her place on the couch as I cover my bruised eye with my hand. I pull frozen peas from the freezer and place it against my injured eye. “Don’t make a big deal out of it. I barely smacked you,” she says. Her denial is experienced.

I remember another man’s words. A few months ago, I had an Instant Message discussion with my older brother who lives two states away. I thought he was joking when he offered his help. He had typed, ‘A problem gone isn’t a problem.’

I think of the tire iron. How heavy and powerful it would feel in my hands. I don’t enjoy the thought, but I imagine its weight crashing into her skull, splitting it open. I smile at Sam who is looking at me with too much worry for a five-year old. “Can I have one?” I reach out to her and she places a package of gummy sharks in my hand.

I should call him.

Pain of Love Part Three- III

ImageThe boy moved with skill and ease through the maze of streets and buildings that surrounded Ashemark. He felt different after a meal, a bath, and now a purpose. The one-eyed northerner had sent him out to find a woman named Summer. The way he described her, one might think she was the most beautiful woman the gThe boy moved with skill and ease through the maze of streets and buildings that surrounded Ashemark. He felt different after a meal, a bath, and now a purpose. The one-eyed northerner had sent him out to find a woman named Summer. The way he described her, one might think she was the most beautiful woman the gods had ever sent to Westeros. The boy wondered what she could possibly see in the weathered and scarred ruffian that had employed the seven-year old boy. He ran his fingers through his shampooed black hair and considered Grayne. I like him. Haven’t had a decent bite to eat since I came out of me mum’s belly, he thought. Ugly as the winter is cold, but he done all-right by me.

  He didn’t know the name of his master, but old ‘one-eye’ (as he called him, in his head) had given him an area of the city to look for her. He had been told to ask questions, but to keep a low profile. He knew a few back alleys where he could find other street people to ask about the beautiful Summer. His wife? If she was as beautiful as he heard, she wouldn’t be too hard to find.

  If she was so beautiful, why would he leave her?

  It was deep into the afternoon, the sun was setting and the street-child grew hungry. He was able to purchase a half-loaf of bread and some fruit juice with which to wash it down. His clean clothes, and combed and washed hair had made it more difficult to get the information he needed from the dirtier types in the city, but he never would have been allowed to buy bread looking the way he had yesterday.

  The sun was setting as he reached the end of his quest; a small flower shop set right against the castle wall. The boy was naturally uneasy this close to the garrison and the Lord and all them royal mucky mucks.

  He made his way in the front door. The smell of flowers were a chorus of smells to his nose, causing the boy to sneeze as soon as he entered. He heard light footsteps, and suddenly the woman his new master had described was before him. The boy looked up at her and instantly knew it was the Summer he sought. Everything was as he described, from her curly red hair to her plump red lips. He was dizzy, perhaps from the intoxicating flowers, from the long walk or from her beauty. He was unsure why, but his head certainly reeled. He struggled with a response to her genuine warm smile and her question of, “How can I help you, little man?”

His mouth hung open as he struggled with the words. He knew he had succeeded at finding Summer and was already planning on what to say to his one-eyed northern master. He knew the man would be happy and that made the boy happy. He tried to say something, but the beautiful Summer kept smiling and that just made him dizzier. “Can I help you?”, she asked, but not to him.

The smell of roses and chrysanthemums vanished, replaced by leather, steel and body odor. The boy hid behind a large vase filled with flowers that was as tall as he was and risked a glance at the three armed and armored men that entered the humble shop. Their armor was patchwork leather poorly sewn together, and their blades were not castle-forged steel, but they were obviously dangerous, especially to the unarmed woman. Two of the men strode into the shop and secured the back door as the third stood menacingly. The boy moved to the opposite side of the giant pot, preventing him from seeing Summer, but making it harder to be seen by the men. His heart raced and he felt bile rising in his stomach. I have to protect her. For One-Eye’s sake.

“Nice shop you have here, Summer.” the boy heard the third man say.

“I am here by the grace of his lordship,” she said threatening them with her powerful patron. “There are many guards in the area who will be here in a flash, if I scream.”

“Then I will have to silence you,” the boy heard the man’s reply, and then a struggle. When he heard her muffled scream, he leapt out from behind the massive vase and rushed up Summer’s side. He latched on to the man around his waist and bit down on one of his arms that was struggling to keep Summer from screaming. The man cried out despite himself and thrashed outward against the boy, flinging him with a crash of glass and steel into a display of vases and flowers.

Free of the melee with the man, Summer began to scream. Her shriek threatened to alert the entire Westerlands, until the ruffian silenced her with a punch to her gut that brutally forced the air out of her lungs. As she was bent over from the punch, the ruffian followed with a two-fisted haymaker to the back of her neck. The boy heard a sickening crunch and then the sound of her collapsing to the floor like wet meat.

Bloody but still alive, the boy struggled to his feet, preparing to battle the three hooligans and save his master’s woman. With a shout, he lunged at Summer’s abuser, but the boy was scooped up from behind by one of the thug’s partners, before he could soundly thrash him. He was held in the air, kicking and screaming in an attempt free himself and save the woman.

The boy stopped thrashing when the man who downed Summer grabbed him by his clean black hair and holding his head still, promptly slit his throat.