The Shooting


Heavy moisture saturated the bitter north wind that sullen afternoon in December. It was 1940, and this was my first year in public school. I left the rural school building, crossed federal highway 67, and made my way past the Old Union Baptist Church.  Mama had long since ceased meeting me at the highway crossing. After all, I was six, and it interfered with one of her naps.  I hurried down the dirt road as the wind bit through my thin trousers. It didn’t take long to get there, since only a short distance seperated our small white house from the church.

As I approached, I noticed a strange car in the drive. John L., my foster-sister’s wayward husband, laughed and talked to the occupants of the car.  Then his wife, Ellie, came charging out of the house, waving Johnny’s old .38 pistol.  As usual, she cursed a blue streak.  She pointed the gun toward the car and pulled the trigger several times.  Dull, thumping sounds insued.

The driver the car backed it toward the dirt road and then, with wheels spinning, hurtled toward the highway intersection.  I managed to move out of the way as the car roared past. I could hear people yelling.

Ellie, her fit of anger depleted, dropped the gun, fell to the ground, and sobbed. Johnny picked up the weapon and stared at it.  Then, he tossed it back on the ground, got in his car, and charged off leaving a trail of exhaust.  Ellie struggled to her feet and began calling for her mama.

I didn’t know what to do.  I couldn’t go back to school, and I couldn’t face the insanity inside the house.  I needed some time to process this new situation.  There had been lots of shouting and threats before, but never been any shooting, and it was scary.

Due to the thick clouds, and general gloom, the road past our house was exceptionally dark that day, but for some reason, the tunnel of elms didn’t look so bad.  That road had always frightened me.  Never able to explore past the rise before, I made my choice, fastened my aviator cap under my chin, and dropped the glasses over my eyes.  I walked past the house and tossed my book satchel into the yard.  Then, I hurried into the quickening breath of the north wind.

Much to my surprise, the road past the rise was pretty much the same as the rest.  I felt no yearning to return home, so I kept on moving.  As dusk approached, the darkness increased along with the cold.  My light coat was not getting it done, so when I came upon a creek with a large culvert, I decided to get out of the wind. I sat down and did my best to ward off the freezing air.  I became drowsy and soon slipped off to sleep.

The sounds woke me.  Hounds bayed and people shouted. Then, I discovered that I was freezing cold.  My teeth chattered.  Soon, something wet touched my face in the form of the long tongue of a hound dog.  Within a minute, strong hands lifted me from the culvert and wrapped me in blankets.  I don’t recall much about the trip back home, but I do remember feeling the warmth of the feather bed overcome the discomfort of the cold.

We never saw John L. again, which was better for everyone, especially John L.

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Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary


Noon approached. The summer sun glared on the sandy Georgia road as patches of red clay fought their way to the surface. Loblolly pines hovered without motion. A thin woman plodded up a slight incline holding the hand of a small boy. Following close behind, an older boy and a young female of similar size pushed their wasted bodies between the deep ruts. None wore shoes.

The woman’s name was Mary. She wore a colorless, threadbare cotton dress that fell to her calves and possessed a long, dark-complexioned face emphasizing her Native American heritage. She could claim a pure Creek birthright or pass as a half-breed if it suited her purposes. Having never known her father, she was not certain herself.

The smallest child was John. He wore long wool pants with the cuffs turned up. Cord suspenders preventing them from falling. His shirtless, nut brown back derived from his mother’s heritage and the blistering sun.

John’s older brother, Jim, trailed close behind. Fair of skin, his ruddy countenance bore a perpetual frown, reflecting his displeasure with his lot in life. Appearing to be less than nine, he was eleven. He already had years in the fields and was his family’s most consistent and industrious worker. He wore ragged pants held up by a cord around his waist as well. His shirt had only one sleeve.

Cynthia’s face was perfectly symmetrical. She wore the only hat in the group to protect her fair skin from blisters. She had already passed puberty of sorts, but due to the lack of sustaining food and the enduring hard labor, her body maintained the profile of a boy. Her large, blue eyes peered at the world with unemotional indifference.

*****

Leaving her with a brood of children and little means to feed and shelter them, Mary’s elderly husband, Joel, died of natural causes. One must own land or have access to the use of soil in order to grow food during this interlude following the Civil War. Following the passing of Joel during the War Between the States, carpetbaggers achieved what Sherman’s foraging soldiers could not. They presented her with papers and ordered her to take her children and leave. As a result of losing their home, Jim lost his smile and Cynthia her hope.

*****

John spoke, “Mama.”

Mary ignored him, knowing what he was going to say.

“Mama. I’s hongry.”

Mary continued to walk.

John looked up into her eyes. He was the baby and at least for the present, his mother’s favorite. “Mama. I can’t walk no more.”

Mary never broke stride. “You hush your mouth, boy. We is all hongry, but we got to find work. You hush your mouth. If you can’t walk, we’ll tote you.”

John continued to pick up one foot and then the other.

As the desperate band trudged up a rise, a dog run house came into view set just off the road. It showed few signs of care, and backed up to cotton fields choked with weeds.

A large man named Fred sat on the porch with his feet resting on the banister. His gut strained against the leather strap he used to hold up his filthy trousers. He wore a tan-colored, unbuttoned shirt. When the approaching family arrived within shouting distance, he hollered, “You trash jest git on down the road. I ain’t got no time for the likes of you.”

Just as he knew they would, they strolled off the road and onto his property. He snarled, “Didn’t I tell you to git on out of here. Go on now.”

Mary led her family up to the house. She, momentarily, met his gaze then looked down. “My young-uns need a sip of cool well water. We looking for work, and I see that you got some cotton what needs choppin.”

“Them young-uns of your’n can’t chop no cotton. They too skinny. Couldn’t work fifteen minutes.”

Jim blurted out, “I can work. I can work all day.”

The big man raised a crock jug of corn whisky and took a generous swallow. He put his feet down and reviewed his options. “I’ll tell you what. You all work until sundown, and you can drink all the well water you want.”

Seeing that the negotiations were underway, Mary said, “Nawser. My chillin ain’t et for two days. We can’t rightly work that long without some cold corn bread and maybe a bowl of butterbeans. Then we could work.”

“Well I guess you would. Why don’t you ask for some chitlins to go with your pone and butter beans?” He scratched his un-kept beard and then his crotch. He spoke to Mary. “You got a husband, or you jest a whore?”

“I’m a widderwoman,” she countered.

Fred rose from his chair. “You young-uns go on down to the barn and find some hoes. I just might put you to work.”

Mary spoke, “My young-uns ain’t et since day before yestiddy. Could they have a few bites of corn pone and a sip of water?”

Fred kicked his chair and glared at the family. Then he disappeared into the gloom of the house. Soon he returned with half a pan of corn bread and handed it to Mary. “Now you get them young-uns filled up with pone and water and git ‘em out in the field.”

Mary broke off a piece of bread and handed it to John. He carefully took it with a shaking hand and bit off a small portion into his dry mouth. She then proceeded to divide the remainder of the bread between Jim and Cynthia. Jim’s eyes widened. “Mama, you ain’t got none.”

“Don’t you never mind. I’ll get some,” Mary said.

The children went around to the side of the house and drew a bucket of water from the well. When they had slacked their thirst, they devoured the bread. Mary drank deeply and then looked back at Fred.

Fred pressed his argument. “Y’all go on down and start choppin that cotton. Then you send that girl back up here. I got a whole pot of Crowder peas with some ham hock you can eat when you get done workin.”

Mary gazed into his eyes and said, “Nawsir. Cynthy ain’t part of no bargain.”

Fred stomped around. “I’s got to have me a woman. You want them vittels, you got to put out.”

Mary looked at the sweating male in front of her, and then she gazed back at her suffering brood. “How do I know you won’t just run us off after we do the work.”

“Well I guess you jest have to take my word on it,” drawled Fred.

“Yesser. Well, you let my chillin eat now, and we will do the work.” She hesitated for a moment then continued, “I’ll see that you get a woman.”

“Well Goddamn,” Fred snarled. He fidgeted for a minute then motioned the children back to the house. “I’ll bring them peas and some spoons out here. They is a bite of cornbread left. You might as well get your strength up too; cause you going to need it.”

After Fred found the food in his grimy kitchen and brought it outside, Mary and the children ate as much as they could, not knowing when they would eat again. When finished, Mary spoke to the children, “Y’all go on down to the barn. Git them hoes and start choppin that cotton. I’ll be on down terrectly.”

Jim started toward the barn, and then he turned back. “Mama, John can’t hoe no cotton.”

John barked, “I can to hoe. I can hoe as good as you can. Mama, when are you comin?”

“In a minute, boy. You just go on and do the best you can. Maybe you can rest in the barn til I get there.”

The children had made their way toward the barn. Fred looked at Mary and smiled, showing the black stumps of his teeth. He gestured for her to follow and trudged up the steps to the house. Mary rubbed her full stomach and moved toward the steps, shoulders slumping. Then she stopped. After a moment’s hesitation, she moved briskly around the house and called out to her children. Waving them back, she led them to the road.

Fred, half dressed, charged out of his house. “Where the hell do you think you going?”

Mary and her children continued walking down the road at a brisk pace.

“You git back here and chop that cotton. We made a bargain,” Fred screamed.

Mary said in moderate voice, “I spect I lied.”

Cynthia’s eyes lit up for an instant.

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Panty Raid


 

During the ETSTC school year of 1955-56, several East coast universities staged and executed campus events known as panty raids.  The college severely segregated male and female students during those times, and one group had virtually no access to the other’s domiciles.  Those daring young men gained entrance to the female dorms and ran helter, skelter, throughout the buildings in search of ladies undergarments.  In many cases they were successful.  Those episodes made national news, horrified the country, and prompted two inhabitants of the Tejas Social Club House to create an evening of fun that stood the test of time fifty-six years later.  Here’s what happened.

After wearing out my welcome at ET during the fall of 1954, I retreated to the peace and quiet of the Kilgore Junior College campus for the spring semester.  Even a studious person such as myself soon met most of the students in this junior college including several Rangerettes and even a couple of guys.  One was a navy vet named Bud Smith.   Ironically, he had shared time in the shore patrol with a former Artema named Joe Terrell who was my brother-in-law at the time. At 5′ 5″, Bud must have struck terror into the hearts of wayward sailors while performing his duty.

After an uneventful spring at KJC, I went back for another crack at ET.  As it turned out, several members of the Rangerettes followed me there along with Bud Smith.  I liked Bud and it was only natural that I would invite him to join the Tejas Club of which I was already a member.  Bud joined and pledged the fall of 1955.  We ended up being roommates at the Tejas House near the campus.

I had never lived in such a public place before, and it was not always easy to get to sleep especially in light of the fact that a group of rowdy Delta County boys were in the next room.  That bunch included “El Presidente” Damon McDonald and his erstwhile roomy, Billy Van “Rip” Templeton.  At any rate, Bud and I were attempting to talk ourselves to sleep one fateful night during late winter or early spring.  Our thoughts and conversation moved to a discussion of those guys in the Northeast who staged the panty raids.  To be brutally honest, we were both a bit jealous of their notoriety.  It is impossible to remember who made the statement “We could do that.”  However, history proves that one of us did.

At first we were not completely serious.  Then we started discussing logistics and got serious in a hurry.  We decided that we would contact the leadership of the other men’s social clubs and get their take on the idea.  They were a bit more conservative than the Tejas and most Tejas were a bit more conservative than Bud and me, so it was likely that they would turn up their collective noses at the plan, and we could get on with our lives.

I recall that I spoke with Richard Stevenson, the Artema President.  To my great surprise he thought it was a grand idea and agreed to have reps at the planned meeting behind the stadium that night.  The Cavaliers, Friars, Ogimas, and Paragons also readily jumped on the band wagon and a nice sized crowd gathered behind the stadium to get their instructions.

Bud Smith got up in the bed of a pickup and laid out the big night. The plan was simplicity itself.  Binnion Hall closed and was locked down at 10:30 under the watchful eye of Mrs. Gant, the queen of population control.  However, a close and personal friend of yours truly, a Kalir with a winsome spirit named Alice Kaiser, agreed to unlock the Northwest door at 11 p.m. sharp and the troops would enter the building and pillage at will.  We were all to wear a raincoat and a woman’s stocking over our heads.  We made no plans for after the event except to agree that if caught, we would all deny any knowledge or participation.  Yeah right!

The evening arrived.  We gathered in several groups behind Binnion Hall and waited for the zero minute.  At the stroke of 11:00, I tried the door.  To my great surprise, the door was actually unlocked and clubbers started pouring through spreading out and gaining every floor.   Of course, the girls all knew we were coming

At this point, it became personal.  For the next five minutes, every participant gained memories that will last a lifetime.  We made mental pictures.  Mine include charging up to the second floor and looking for a friendly face.  I found one, took the offered panties, and headed for the exit.  However, I glanced down the hall and saw Clyde “Red” Carroll, complete with stocking over his face, walking along chatting with the dorm mother, Mrs. Gant.

The dorm filled and cleared in short order with our mission accomplished.  We retired to various venues of celebration and recounted our experiences.  We had our fun and now the only thing was to prevent expulsion.

Dean of Men, Doe Rollins, went to work early the next day.  He began to call in social club members and offer them a deal.  Give him names and stay in school.   It didn’t take long before a Paragon spilled his guts, and we were all set for a trip to the Dean’s office.  When my time came, I looked into his kindly face and stated, “What panty raid.”  He countered with a letter to my father stating that there had been a panty raid, I had feigned innocence, but was considered a prime suspect.

It was a great night.  All the social clubs worked in harmony and no harm was done.  Kent Biffle wrote up the event years later ‘s in his DMN column, and it is presently the talk of the Tejas.  Like the First LAST DINNER DANCE, the panty raid was organized and executed by Tejas.  There were many players in that drama.  A few on the side of right and justice and many on the dark side of honesty.

President Gee, Dean Rollins, and Mrs. Gant impressed us on many occasions.  For one night, we impressed them, albeit in a negative fashion.  Bud Smith passed at an early age but will remain a legend in the hearts and minds of these men and women for his part in the Great Binnion Hall Panty Raid.

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Sand and Speed


When the young lady in question walked into a room, she drew the attention of its inhabitants like a magnet draws iron filings. A person just had no choice.  I know I didn’t.  Conversations ceased.  Appreciative devotees, both male and female, soaked up her ambience. Her deep brown eyes, dark luminous hair, full lips, and superbly boned face left no doubt in the eyes of any beholder that she was exquisitely lovely.

She lived in Omaha, which was only four miles west of my hometown of Naples.  Ours were small towns in Northeast Texas.  The two towns might as well have been in other galaxies.  A fierce rivalry existed between the two, especially within the schools.

Students in both communities attended school in condemned relics.  Considering that the depression died hard in these parts and that the World War II boom was winding down, we were lucky to have schools at all.  Then God gave progress a nudge by sending a tornado to the Omaha High School in the spring of 1949 and damaging it beyond repair.  He also influenced an area oil and cattle baron to experience a fit of charity and provide half the funds for a new school.  The school board named it the Paul H. Pewitt School in honor of its benefactor.

Students from both warring camps found themselves together in the fall of 1949 with little time to prepare.  Since the Omaha school suffered terminal damage, all secondary students attended the old Naples High School during that first year.  Countless strange students walked the halls, and the excitement level skyrocketed.  Meanwhile, about two miles west of Naples and two miles east of Omaha, the new school grew into existence.

Girls were the primary theme of conversation in my crowd and the young lady quickly became a major topic.  Since I was a nobody and a minor player in the consolidation process, early reaction on my part to this marvel of genetic fruition was just one of awe.  It was later that our lives became forever intertwined.

I entered a maturation process during those early days of the Pewitt School.  I grew quickly my sophomore year and went from a short skinny kid burdened by health problems to an athletic competitor.  Those rites of passage moved me toward the queen but the timing was still inappropriate.  I started dating during those months, but it was with other, less stately creatures.  Also, my prowling friends and I became fixtures at the neighboring towns of Mt. Pleasant and Daingerfield following the theory that the grass in always greener and the girls more compliant in the next town.  Our goals were limited.  We figured that 999 out of 1,000 we were going to strike out but that we would score eventually.  The odds proved prophetic.

It’s hard to remember when I first got the idea of dating the queen.  I didn’t have any classes with her.  She grew up with most of the Omaha boys, and she enjoyed platonic relationships with some of them.  She was also one of the girls that the older guys dated.

During the summer of 1951, I finally got up the courage to ask the young lady for a date.  Please understand that not only was I dealing with the fears and challenges of this new psychological era in my life, but I was dealing with reality factors as well.  I was from a poor foster home, and the family transportation was a 1939 Chevrolet that was on its last legs.  This was not a rolled and pleated rod with twin pipes.  This was a 12-year-old monster with faded maroon paint, badly damaged fenders, and a top speed of 70 mph.  The fact that I could do a spinning 180 while leaving the school-parking place was without relevance.  It was to gain a place in automotive immortality during the coming months.

Youthful infatuation will always be more mental than real.  That’s the way Mother Nature planned it.  I was completely enchanted with the young woman and due partially to my new campus status as a jock, we became an item.  The relationship consisted of brief encounters between classes in the hall and going to movies.  I hardly noticed that our time together was uninterrupted by conversation. We had no formal arrangement and did not date that often. Money for dates was a factor, and for some reason, I began to spend more time chasing around with my friends and less time with the young woman without realizing it. However, one fateful night in the spring of 1952, I decided to drive by her house just for something to occupy my time and see if her light was on. .

The queen lived on a farm south of Omaha.  I knew the way but not the quality of the roads, and I always drove the “Bomb” to the limits of her capability.  During the trip to her house, I rounded a turn on a sandy farm road at a high rate of speed and the unthinkable transpired.  The car slid off the road and proceeded to tip over on its side.  After the inertia of the machine responded to the force of gravity, everything settled into a period of silence except for the motor noise.  I was sitting on the ground since the right window was open.  I glanced up and viewed a portion of the galaxy that is traditional on a warm and cloudless summer night.  It occurred to me that some action on my part was necessary if I was to resolve this situation, so I turned off the motor, climbed out of the left window, jumped to the ground, and reviewed the state of affairs.  It didn’t take a genius to conclude that I had no choice but to trudge back to Omaha and seek help.  I prayed that the young lady would not be out that night.  My prayers went unanswered.

I don’t know how far it was to town but about halfway there, who should pass but the young lady and a date.  I tried to be as inconspicuous as a person can be walking down a dark, lonely country road in the middle of nowhere on a dark night.  They didn’t even slow down, and I thanked God for that.  After a considerable period of trudging and filling the air with castigation, I finally made it to town.  Much to my surprise and good fortune, several of the Omaha boys were hanging around the main street.  Since all Omaha boys were wealthy and had nice cars, so it was just a matter of devouring a massive portion of crow and requesting help in getting my car on the move. They were amenable to the task, drove me back to the scene of the catastrophe, and easily pulled the car over.  After thanking them, I I drove off in a cloud of outrage and total disconcertion.

The damage to the car was slight, but I didn’t want to explain the new wrinkles to my family.  To grasp how I achieved this major hoodwink, one must picture the state of the car and how we stored it.  We parked the car in a barn behind our house.  This barn was not designed to be a garage.  It was a barn. The car barely fit in the space with only inches to spare on each side.  For years, the principal driver of the car, my foster sister Ellie, changed the appearance of the car each time she placed it in the barn.  She would take a running start at the barn opening, smash into one side, maybe the other, and come to rest when the front of the car smacked the end of the barn.  The fenders were constantly crumpled.  I can only remember once, that the old car had straightened and repainted fenders, and that only lasted until Ellie parked it a few times.  Of course, the remainder of the car went unpainted.  You get the picture.

I parked the car in the barn and waited for a new day.  When it arrived, Mama and Ellie drove to Mt. Pleasant to shop and look.  When they returned, I quickly pointed out that the right side of the car showed new blemishes.  After evaluating the damage, they

concluded that someone had struck the car while parked.  I agreed with their conclusion.

My future with the young woman was impaired from that point.  We dated a few more times over the next year, but the bloom was off the roses.  We went our separate ways.  She married the guy from that fateful night, and I went off to college.

I always visit with the young lady at class reunions.  No matter how we age, I will always remember the emotions that transpired when we were protected from the realities of life by our youth and inexperience.  For a brief moment in our long lives, we shared precious moments.  All too soon, those feelings dissolved into the mist of passing time as such emotions are prone to do.

concluded that someone had struck the car while parked in Mt. Pleasant.  I agreed with their conclusion.

My future with the young woman was impaired from that point.  We dated a few more times over the next year, but the bloom was off the roses.  We went our separate ways.  She married the guy from that fateful night, and I went off to college.

I always visit with the young lady at class reunions.  No matter how we age, I will always remember the emotions that transpired when we were protected from the realities of life by our youth and inexperience.  For a brief moment in our long lives, we shared precious moments.  All too soon, those feelings dissolved into the mist of passing time as such emotions are prone to do.

Non-Fiction

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The Great Doorbell Caper


It was about eleven on a Sunday evening.  I was enjoying the computer when the doorbell rang.  I rose from my roll top desk, trudged to the front door, and turned on the outside light.  I opened the door and found the door stoop empty.  Hmmm, I thought, as I peered around the front yard and saw no one.  Slightly bewildered, I closed the door and resumed my place at action central.

Just as I was about to improve on Einstein’s Theory of Relativity or read another email joke, I forget which, the doorbell interrupted my intense concentration. Somewhat irritated, I rose; walked back to the door with a quickened pace, flipped on the porch light, and opened the walnut-stained door.  By this time, I was prepared to share my thoughts with the person on the other side, but there was no one there.

Then, I recalled that my grandchildren had just visited.  Because of their presence, neighborhood youngsters had trooped in and out of our house all weekend.  It is possible, I thought, that some of the neighborhood kids believed that the twin girls were still at our house, and they were just being kids.  Not to worry, I thought.  I left the outside light on to discourage them and went back to work.

After five minutes or so, the doorbell rang. I hurried to the door but saw no one through the peephole. Partly from irritation and partly for fun, I hid behind a drape and peeked out for about ten minutes, hoping to catch the little rascals and scare the daylights out of them.  However, no one showed, so I gave up and went back to my desk.

Not more than three minutes passed, and the doorbell rang once again.  I just sat there ignoring it.  It rang again. At this point, my patience and general good nature departed.  I was angry as a hornet. I could visualize the doorbell ringing for the duration of the night, so I decided to call the cops.

The dispatcher listened to my complaint and promised to send a patrol officer to my domicile in short order.  I went back to my computer, and after about fifteen minutes, my doorbell rang. I went to the door and found a patrol officer there. He was a nice young man, who sympathized with my plight. We agreed that neighborhood kids were the likely perpetrators, so he promised to hide out, catch them, and give them a lecture. “Wonderful,” I said.

By this time, it was past my bedtime, so I signed off and went to bed, determined not to answer another doorbell for that entire night. Apparently, the mystery doorbell ringer went to sleep as well since we were not disturbed.

The next day, I sat down at my computer, and after a few minutes, the doorbell rang. I went to answer and found no one there. “Please, not in the middle of the day,” I whispered to myself.  After questioning my sanity for a few seconds, I went back to my computer and started to work.  The doorbell rang again. Then, from the far reaches of my shriveled brain, a light flickered, went out, and then flared to radiance.

This was before pop-up advertisement inhibitors.  I used a cable provider, and one of the ads that popped up on a regular basis was about the prices of homes in the Metroplex. When I touched the ad with my cursor to delete it, a doorbell would ring.  The sound came through my speakers and sounded exactly like my own doorbell.  That explained why my wife Nancy could never hear my mystery doorbell.

Oops, I thought. I wonder how much hard time I will get for filing a false police report. How will I survive in Huntsville Prison without ever taking a shower?

Non-Fiction

 

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The Run


Texas is famous for oil wells, rodeos, wide open spaces, and high school football among other things. The latter, a game of deception, dominance, and deftness first captured the hearts and minds of Texans around the turn of the century. I knew little of the sport until after World War II when sports magazines introduced us local yokels to the game. I read articles about Johnny Lujak of Notre Dame, Choo Choo Justice of North Carolina, Smackover Scott of Arkansas, and our own homegrown version of the super football player, Doak Walker of SMU. In fact, the Doaker was the first college level player I ever saw perform. It was a game at the Cotton Bowl between SMU and Rice during FFA day at the state fair. The year was 1948, but that is another story.

Football is a diverse sport. Players with many different physical characteristics and skills are required to make up a team. The differences between an offensive tackle and a wide receiver are so vast that it makes one wonder if they play the same pastime. Quarterbacks, receivers, and runners are the skill players and must be able to manage the ball with consistency. Quarterbacks primarily handle and throw the ball. Kicking is a key factor in the outcome of many games as well. For the linemen, football is a game of brute strength, manipulation, and creativity. The best players force their opponents to commit to courses that will result in failure. Football is far more akin to chess than most people realize.

Speed, strength, and quickness are in constant use by all players. The latter is used to put one in position to make a play, but unadorned swiftness may be the most precious commodity on a football field. Speed, then properly applied, cancels out all the other skills. Some football skills require years to develop and some players develop them to amazing levels. A defender may be smarter, stronger, and more talented but he still must catch the offensive player to apply any of these advantages, and that is often impossible.

My senior year had not gone as well as I had hoped. After earning the starting running back position, I had several good games to my credit before the injury bug moved into my locker. First, there was a bursitis in my heel that caused me to lose a game. Then came a hip pointer. It was excruciatingly painful for about ten days. Then I suffered a severely sprained ankle. That caused me to miss most of the last couple of games. While I was rehabilitating with some efficiency, I was still not 100%.

I had hoped for a great season and a football scholarship to a small university, but by the time the Daingerfield game rolled around, I realized that the scholarship was probably not going to happen. The coach was not my biggest fan after the injuries and missed time. He viewed them as minor and my attitude that of a quitter. I was not to set foot on the field during the first half of the Daingerfield game. My replacement got the carries and I got splinters. What he didn’t get was yards.

Daingerfield had a good team. They had size and speed but no great runner. Their quarterback, Richard Woods, was the most gifted athlete on the team. When he barked out the signals which were “ready, set,” it sounded like “hada sue” so we called him “Hada Sue.” Some members of our team responded to a special brand of humor.

We were doing better than expected so both teams were undefeated at the time of the annual game. Daingerfield was expected to win but not by much. Their town was only twelve miles from our school, so we knew most of their players and liked them for the most part. However, the rivalry was intense. Since their school was considerably larger than ours, we had not beaten Daingerfield since the war.

The first half produced a defensive standoff. It was three downs and kick, three downs and kick. Finally, Hada Sue found a receiver behind our safety and in an instant, the score was 7-0 in favor of Daingerfield. However, near the end of the first half, our diminutive fullback, Bobby Presley, caught what was perceived by the officials as a fumble on the dead run and scored. I clearly saw the play and the ball hit the ground and bounced into his arms. It was in reality little more than an incomplete forward pass and a loss of down for

Daingerfield, but who were we to argue with the officials. We missed the extra point, so when the half ended, the score was Daingerfield 7 and Pewitt 6. The coach was beginning to worry.

As we were moving back toward the field while the band was marching, the assistant coach took me aside. He was my basketball coach and I was his captain, so we got on pretty good at the time. He explained that the football coach didn’t think I wanted to play. He said that in order for me to play, I needed to tell the head coach I wanted to play. This struck me as being odd, since I was all suited out to play football and had attended all the practices, but I went along with the diversion. I sought out the head coach and suggested that maybe he could put me in the game. He agreed to do so and immediately put me in the receiving position for the opening kickoff. After we lined up, I was standing on about the 10-yard line of the south goal waiting for the whistle to begin the second half.

Every fan was standing as the whistle finally sounded and the Daingerfield team advanced toward the ball. It was a huge kick–a high floater sailing with the north wind, but I could see that it was coming to me. I took a few steps back with my eyes fastened on the ball and made the catch.

The crowd noise reached a crest, but strangely enough, football players don’t hear much other than the slap of pads and the grunt of effort. While no game is faster than football, this play unreeled in slow motion through the individual combat, and maximum effort on the part of both teams.

The plan called for the run to be up the middle. After I took my first few steps in that direction, I could see no real avenue to the goal line. Like most running backs, I used my vision and instincts to best take advantage of the efforts of my teammates and the mistakes of my opponents. Almost immediately a tackler detached himself from that mass of humanity and moved in my direction. Just as suddenly a player with a uniform of blue and grey blind sided him out of the picture. So far, so good, but I still had about eighty yards to go.

Immediately, a second tackler challenged me on about the thirty-yard line. He looked a bit heavy, so I slammed my left foot into the turf and leaned right. He instantly responded and moved to his left. That was a mistake. I planted my right foot and slid opposite of his motion. All he could do was reach out with a powerful arm and try to knock me off balance. He almost succeeded, but I managed to spin completely around and left him clutching air. Sixty yards to go.

The defensive scheme for covering a kickoff is like a funnel. Tacklers usually cover the breadth of the field and gradually move inward toward the ball. Battles went on all around me. Tacklers were striving to annihilate me, and my blockers were just as determined to protect the ball.

Only seconds had passed since the whistle, but it seemed an eternity. The third and last tackler I was to face was the safety. He waited at the fifty-yard line. I knew this kid. He was smart and very fast. I would not be able to juke him and would need to get past him if I was to score. To accomplish such a feat seemed unrealistic at the time and conditions looked bleak.

Running backs have this instinct thing. The good ones are able to see any player within their vision, but they do not focus on any one player. They see the field as a game board. I sensed a friend coming up on the outside. A glance told me that it was my best buddy, Donald Dawson, who was a tall lanky end. He was a deadly blocker. I was running ahead of him and the rest of the players were coming up fast. I had little choice but to slam on the brakes and allow him to take a shot at the safety.

He knifed past me and hurled his 6′ 4″ frame at the opposing tackler. Just when the safety thought all of him was past, the legs came along and turned him a complete flip. I dug in and headed for a shallow corridor between more fighting players.

The opportunity was there. I planted my right foot, charged hard left, and ran for daylight. I could not see behind me, but that was not a concern. Nobody would catch me from behind. For some reason the crowd noise begin to break through my consciousness. Something very special was happening, and I had long since shifted into overdrive. It was just a matter of doing what I did best, and that was pick my feet up and put them down faster than anyone else on the field.

Even though the entire run had taken less than fifteen seconds, the last five yards appeared to last a month. Finally, I covered the last few of the ninety-five yards and drifted into the end zone. The ref raised his hands signifying a touchdown.

In those days there was no spiking the ball or celebrations of any kind. The prevailing philosophy was to act like you had been in the end zone before, and that it was no big deal. I handed the ball to the ref, turned, and observed the roaring crowd. I watched my teammates running full tilt toward me. I saw the dejection on the faces of the Daingerfield players. That picture was to last the remainder of the game and for me a lifetime.

During the late 80’s my high school team reached the state quarter finals, and I decided to go to the game. During the halftime, while visiting with some of my teammates, I met a former player who graduated several years after me. He was a retired Dallas police officer and an interesting man. He said to me as we were starting back up into the stands to watch the second half, “I saw the run.”

“What run?” I asked.

“The run against Daingerfield,” he replied, and then he went on to describe it almost yard by yard as seen through the eyes of a young boy who loved the game of football. He brought it all back. So even though the run amounted to nothing in the annals of Pewitt football lore, it meant something to that young boy, and it meant something to me.

Non-Fiction

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The Beast


 

Ted drove the white van slowly past the city manhole cover on Oak Avenue, turned in, and parked. He checked his watch, got out of the vehicle, and surveyed the area. He opened the back door of the van and removed a portable water pump, two large orange cones, and a heavy-duty battery powered flashlight. He placed the cones about ten feet to either side of the manhole in view of passing motorists. He did not want a text-messaging driver to make a mistake at his expense.

After checking the quality of his preparations, he stretched the kinks out of his powerful muscles and set to work. Ted fitted a key into the cover and wrestled the weighty disk to the street. After exerting himself, he stood breathing heavily for a few minutes, and then lit a cigarette.

He grasped his head with both hands and stood completely still. The beast raged. Ted suffered in silence.

Donning his yellow hard hat, he carefully climbed down the metal ladder to the bottom of the sewer system. He shined his light on the water pipes running the length of the tunnel. A small drip from a joint kept the floor wet during the driest of times. Ted made no effort to repair or further inspect the workings of the pipes. Not his deal.

He checked his cheap Wal-Mart watch. It was 10:35 a.m. He could hear schoolchildren on the elementary playground just beyond the tall, chainlinked fence where he worked.

He waited a few more minutes and then climbed the ladder to the street. A city police cruiser passed slowly. Ted’s pulse quickened slightly. He waved and smiled at the officer who returned the courtesy then drove on down the street. Relaxing somewhat, Ted placed the light in the back of the van, took another cigarette from his shirt pocket, and lit up. Then, he turned to watch the children at play. They appeared to be about ten-years-old. Probably fifth-graders, Ted mused.

A bunch of boys played dodge ball, hurling what appeared to be a soccer ball at each other with all of their strength. They reflected a lot of pent-up energy that required expulsion before the next classroom session.

A cluster of female teachers gathered in a tight group near the entrance to the building. They glanced at the students on occasion before returning to their in-depth discussions. Heavy topics included questions such as: the value of in-school suspension, motivating low IQ students, how to leave early on Friday, and avoiding unwanted sex from a randy husband or boyfriend.

Behind the fence from Ted, two elfin girls jumped rope. One was a dark-haired angel. The other had reddish hair and prominent freckles. They jumped until they missed, then collapsed in laughter. Finally, Freckles noticed Ted.

“What are you doing?” She queried.

Ted smiled and answered. “I’m working on the city water pipes. What are you doing?”

Freckles giggled. “You know what I’m doing. You’re teasing me.”

Grinning, Ted said, “You may be right. You girls are pretty good with that jump-rope.”

Angel volunteered, “We’re the school champions.”

Ted ground out his cigarette with his boot. “Wow! You are good. I’ll have to tell Pegs about meeting a couple of jump-rope champions.”

Freckles quickly asked, “Who is Pegs?”

“Pegs is my daughter. She’s nine.”

Freckles, her curiosity roused even further, asked, “Does she go to school here? I don’t know any Pegs or Peggy in the fourth grade.”

Ted looked at his watch once more. “No, she doesn’t go to school here. She goes to private school, but she is in the fourth grade.”

Angel smiled her prettiest and asked, “Do you have any gum?”

Ted chuckled. “Sorry. I don’t have any gum.”

Freckles continued on her path to knowledge about this nice man. “Where do you live?”

Ted picked up a plastic cone. “I live over on Chinaberry.” He opened the door to the van and placed it inside.

Freckles said, “I live on Birch.”

Ted stopped his activities and asked, “I’ll bet you ride the bus to school.”

Angel offered, “I ride the bus.”

Freckles said, “I don’t, except on bad days. I ride my bicycle.”

Ted grinned. “That must be a lot of fun. Do you ever have adventures on the way to school?”

Freckles, warming to the subject, said, “Just boys calling me names.”

A shrill whistle sounded, signaling the end of recess. The students responded by lining up behind their teachers. The two girls started in that direction. Freckles just couldn’t resist the temptation. She turned toward Ted and asked, “What’s your name?”

Ted casually answered, “Justin. My name is Justin. What’s yours?”

Freckles smiled and said, “Amber. One of these days, I’m going to be on TV.”

“I’ll bet you will and maybe soon,” declared Ted as he ambled back toward the truck. The beast raged in silence.

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The Old Biker


 

The Old Biker drifted, drifted.  The dripping bottles and tubes faded, returned, and then departed once more.

For a time, he headed northwest on a wind-swept highway toward Amarillo.  The aged K bike ran smoothly beneath his wrinkled hands.  A cloudless sky fused with the endless horizon broken only by a distant graveyard surrounded by nothing. The tombstones spoke of the brief existence of those who laughed, screamed, and then passed. He drifted to the green hills of Western Tennessee, to the lonely trips north from Memphis to ride past Alex Haley’s house.

The Old Biker always rode in solitude. He had few friends, and the precious Old Woman could not join him.  She was terrified of the wind, the danger, but she understood his need to ride when the ancient Beemer beckoned and compelled him to go.

The Old Biker drifted, drifted, in and out, near and far. He touched the tear on the Corbin saddle that he had never got around to mending. It was a souvenir from some long ago vandal overcome by the need to share his misery.

Drifting, drifting, the Old Biker and the Old Beemer moved through the mountains south of Taos, through the swamps of Louisiana, north on the Cal-Can to Alaska, and then back to the reality of the bottles, the tubes, and the flickering in his sunken chest.

The fluttering was different this time, more persistent.  The Old Biker became alert.  He had prepared himself for this moment.  He turned his head toward the wrinkled face of the Old Woman who dozed in the hospital chair.  He watched as her image ebbed into shadow.  A spot of light summoned him, and it gently expanded into a world of cobalt blue.  He felt serenity.  Phantoms from his past touched him and merged with him.  Peace permeated the Old Biker.

The blue world formed the patterns of misty, tree-lined hills. The shimmering road moved and flowed. Then he saw the Beemer.  It was lustrous and fresh. He knew that he was youthful and strong as well.  He swung his leather-covered leg over the saddle, and the K bike moved away. Once more, he felt the thrill unlike any other, except that the excitement was magnified a thousand fold.

He rode, and the Beemer lived within itself. Then, he saw the Old Woman in the distance,  standing on the prairie. He drew near, stopped the Beemer, and brushed her smooth cheek with his unlined hand and said, “You came so soon. It seemed only seconds.”

“Years have passed,” she said and took his hand in hers as she climbed onto her place without anxiety.

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Disputed Ground


A drop of sweat dripped from my nose, as the big gelding picked his way over the rough terrain. My name is Babb, and I am a Texas Ranger. This is rattlesnake country and Skip, my big sorrel, can see them before I can. It is also Comanche territory, and that’s the reason I am here in this God-forsaken patch north of Bitter Creek.

A group of young, wild Indian boys got their britches in a bunch and burned out a couple of homesteaders just for the hell of it. They killed, scalped, and then they burned, taking any metalware and livestock as booty. Captain Purdy sent me up here to see what I could find out.

Skip has good ears. Without warning, he wheeled and faced in the direction from which we had just come. I picked out the shapes of three riders nestled in the gorge. Even their ponies remained motionless. It didn’t take Daniel Boone to figure out they were Comanche.

I didn’t figure they were here to barter, and besides, they didn’t have anything I wanted. I looked around for cover and saw nothing. I patted Skip on the neck and, slowly, eased out of the saddle, pulling my Winchester as I dropped to the ground. I could see that they had concluded their discussions since one moved to the East, and another moved to the West. They intended to come at me from three sides. These things happen in a hurry.

In addition to my Colt .44 pistol, I had a sawed-off scattergun in a buckskin sheath fastened to my saddle. I drew it out, stuck it under my belt, and tapped Skip on the front leg with the barrel of my rifle. I tugged down gently on the reins. He dropped to his knees, and then he fell on his side showing no sign of alarm. This was not our first gunfight.

Since no bullets came in my direction, I figured either these boys didn’t have guns, or they had pissed away all of their ammunition hunting or playing around. Either way, they had plenty of arrows and the means to deliver them.

Each rider poised in three positions about a hundred yards away. They began moving sideways in my direction. All of a sudden, they disappeared. Each brave hung onto their mounts on the side away from me and used their ponies as shields. That told me that I would need to do something I sorely hated to do, and that was to shoot horses.

When a rider galloped to about fifty yards away, I cut down his mount. The pony screamed. I would worry about the rider later. I swung on another attacker just as his arrow slammed into my chest. Not a good thing, I thought. All I could do was to keep fighting as long as I held out. If the arrow touched my heart, I was dead. It wouldn’t take long for me to find out. If it were a lung shot, it would take a little longer.

Another arrow plunged into the hard surface of the saddle. I fired both barrels of the scattergun and saw another horse go down. The rider stayed down. That left one.

These boys were very quick and very good. I felt an arrow flash by my face. That was from the first rider. He was getting near. The other rider was all over me. He rode straight for Skip, and his pony hurtled over striking me with his shoulder. Pure reflex allowed me to block his war club with my empty scattergun. It flew from my hands, and I hit the sandy ground.

By the time the brave wheeled his horse and started back for the kill, I leaped to my knees, drew my .44 and gut-shot him. He flew from the saddle. I had just enough time to snap off another round at the fast-charging final member of the party. It caught him in the chest and knocked him down. That left two wounded, but determined Comanche warriors bent on taking my scalp.

By this time, Skip had enough. He rose and headed away from the noise. One brave held his stomach, dazed, but searched for something to use against his mortal enemy. I couldn’t allow him to succeed, so I shot him in the face. I had just enough time to wheel and take out the final attacker with a shot to the chest. He fell, looked up in bewilderment, and then collapsed.

I glanced around for any other rambunctious attackers, but saw nothing. Looking down at the arrow protruding from my chest, I surmised that it had gone all the way through; leaving only about three inches on the front side. Even if I gained enough strength to cut off the feathered end, I couldn’t very well pull it out of my back without help, and my energy level was slipping fast.

I whistled for Skip, but even though he trotted toward me, he decided not to come any closer. He had never liked the smell of blood.

Oh hell, I thought. I am not in any shape to run after a skittish horse, but I don’t really have much of a choice. I struggled to my feet and began staggering toward Skip. Gaining some control of his own anxieties, he moved slowly in my direction. If I can get that ball of twine out of my saddlebag, I can make a loop for the arrowhead then tie it to the saddle horn. I can walk away and pull out the arrow. Then, I can die in peace.

The best laid plans of rabbits and rangers sometimes go awry. I was about halfway to Skip when I heard the first war whoop. I turned toward the sound and saw a large band of Comanche coming my way. I didn’t figure to fight my way out of this one, considering my arrow, my physical state, and my nearly empty weapons. Nope! This might be a good day to die.

The party of Indians stopped moving in my direction. Why? I wondered. Then, I heard what must be a cruel joke played by God. It sounded like a bugle. By George, it is a bugle. The cavalry is coming.

Earl Stubbs

Fiction

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Salad Nights


One early spring afternoon in 1957, I lounged at the Student Union Building with a couple of campus leaders. Two of us were presidents of East Texas State College social clubs. The other was the newly elected president of the ET student body, so as a group, we packed some campus political weight. This detail made the events of the next two days even more bizarre.

The newly elected student body president was in a celebratory mode, so he uttered the magic word beer. We considered the idea for at least thirty seconds before voting unanimously to make the trip to Red Coleman’s on the outskirts of Big D.

In those days, there was no running down to the local beer store and grabbing a six-pack or three. There were two places to obtain beer from Commerce. One was Oklahoma. The other was Dallas. The Dallas trip was a tad longer but the payoff was better. In Dallas, we bought Texas beer that was more potent than Oklahoma beer. Nobody bought six-packs. Everyone bought cases. After all, the going rate was $2.50.

Obtaining permission from my wife, Nancy, was not a problem. Our firstborn was incubating, and she likely could do without making dinner. It didn’t hurt that one of our threesome was her brother and my brother-in-law. We jumped into my black/white 1950 Ford Fairlane with custom interior and hit the road. The fact that my car was well known on campus was another factor that did not register during our decision making processes.

Driving and drinking was the order of the day. Only the unlucky or stupid attracted enough attention on the way back from Dallas to get into trouble. We had almost made it out of Red’s parking lot before we popped three cans. We sipped our way back to Commerce and began to cruise the area and visit friends. Our condition did not endear us to many of them. At about 1:00 a.m., we cruised the downtown area for the six hundred and forty-second time. We noticed a fellow student delivering produce to the grocery stores. The student body president thought it would be just delightful to grab a case or two of produce. The logical thinker in the group queried, “What on earth will we do with produce?”

One of the reasons for the election of our friend was that he was, by nature, very positive and persuasive. Within a minute or two, he sold us on the idea, and we furtively avoided the poor guy working his way through college delivering food during the wee hours of the morning, and grabbed a case of cabbage and one of lettuce. Then we joyously fled the scene and drove to my passenger’s clubhouse. Of course, everyone was asleep. Refusing to abandon the moment, the student body president dumped both cases of produce into the bed of a sleeping club brother. Again, he did not use the best of judgment. The victim happened to be a former fleet light heavyweight champion while in the USN. Fortunately, after he gathered his wits and saw the perpetrators, a grin appeared on his face. After all, we were both from Naples, and I had known him for most of my life.

After that final escapade, we had just about milked the event for all it was worth. We drifted home and grabbed whatever sleep was left before first class the next day. Or was it the second class?

The next day began uneventfully. I went to class, had lunch, and drove downtown for a haircut. My barber cut the best flattop found anywhere. When he finished, I strolled out to my fine black/white Ford only to find the local law-enforcement officer waiting with a smile on his face. He asked me if I owned the car. I admitted such. Then he went on to explain that a robbery had occurred the previous evening, and that a witness saw my two traveling companions and me in the area. He suggested that I collect my friends and meet with him and the produce company owner at the police station. Uh oh, I thought.

True to my word, I located my fellow gang members, and we spent what little time we had left attempting to figure out a way to beat this rap. Let’s face facts. Two social club presidents and a student body president did not need this kind of heat. After a quick discussion, about the only plan we could come up with was that we would play it by ear. What we didn’t know was whether the rat had actually seen us taking the produce.

When we arrived, the police officer and the Big Cheese from the produce company were waiting. The officer explained that the monetary value of the stolen goods was $15. The BC just wanted his money back.

I saw an opportunity. I needed to know if we were actually seen making the heist, and I didn’t believe that we were. I explained to the two men that I had parked my car at a social clubhouse for much of the night in question. Normally, in such a crime-free city, we left the keys in the car. I explained that it was not unusual for one of our friends to borrow a car to run errands or even go on a date, since we had so few available cars. We could not account for the whereabouts of the car for much of the night. By this time, the BC was nodding his head.

I looked the man in the eyes and said, “Sir, we apologize for any inconvenience you may have suffered. We will cover any losses you incurred immediately. Rather than drag this thing out, we three will assume the guilt for our club brothers. We will also collect the money from the responsible parties, so we will be out nothing. If we must spend time in jail, then so be it. My only request is that I serve my time on weekends, since I graduate this semester and I don’t need to miss any classes.”

By this time, the big cheese was nodding vigorously, and a solitary tear ran down his face. “Son,” he said a quiver in his voice. “If you need any money before you get out of school, you just let me know.”

Grinning from ear to ear, the police officer informed us that there would be no jail time or any other punishment under the circumstances. He suggested that we must be fine young men to be willing to shoulder the blame for our friends.

We shelled out the $15, shook hands all around, and headed back to the clubhouse where a few cans of ice-cold beer remained. Schlitz, I believe.

Earl Stubbs

Nonfiction

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For Whom the Beans Told


Garza is my name. Chico Garza.  Big D is my house.  I rolled straight out of Special Ed, played four years of tight end for the TCU Horned Frogs, and parlayed my contacts into a sweet gig as a parking lot attendant on Deep Elum.  This proves people who excel in athletics don’t necessarily have other talents.

I digress!  The parking lot is my day job…my cover if you will.  I am not sure if the owner of the lot knows I work there, since he doesn’t pay me very often.  In fact, never.  I pad my bank account from work as a private investigator.  I don’t actually get much PI work, but I’m available.

People notice me.  I stand six feet, five inches tall and weigh in at two forty-five.  I maintain a slim, forty-eight inch waist.  The punks fade away when Chico rolls down the street.

I live with my Mom, off and on, when business is not so good.  This time, I have lived with her for, well, circa, eight years.  We live on Gaston, where Mom runs a boarding house for down and out hookers.  This works out well for everyone, except when one or two get in my bed and want me to do stuff.  I don’t really understand what they want to do, so I just kick them out of bed and go back to sleep.  They have their own beds.

It’s right after lunch, and I am finishing my second large bowl of pinto beans spiced with liberal portions of Jalapeno peppers.  My Mom is not exactly a gourmet cook, so we have a lot of spicy beans.  I say spicy.  This stuff will take the paint off a new pickup truck.  My mouth hasn’t had any skin in it since I moved back home, and my gut must look like five miles of bad road, but I keep getting off the subject.

I head out the door with Mom right behind me with her pot of beans.  I have to get away from those beans.  I’m already passing enough gas to fuel the Greyhound Bus line. I jump in my VW beetle, and the battery has one more start left in it.  I can just feel it.  This is going to be my day.

I cruised down Elm Street looking for some action.  I parked in front of the Toucan Bar, get out, and go in.  They know me there.  I waved to a few people, walked up to the bar, and slapped down a single.  Gorilla Mike, the owner/barkeep, nods, placed a coaster in front of me, and tops it off with a glass of tap water, no ice.  Then, he snaps up the single and continues to dry glasses.  “Hey!”  I exclaim.  “You didn’t get my order?”

Gorilla Mike didn’t look up, but continued drying glasses.  “When you pay me something on your tab, I might consider letting you order.”  He continued his work for a minute, produced a studied look on his face, and yelled at his assistant.  “Hey Stump.  Did you take out the garbage?  It smells like something died in here.”

I took a solid swig of my drink and let my hard eyes roam the room.  They settled on a punk.  O’Neal Smith and I went back a ways, and our history was not a good one.  He towered about five feet, ten inches and weighed around one-fifty.  He would have to be stupid to take me on, but stupid is as stupid does.  He swaggered over to where I leaned against the bar.  “You owe me five bucks,” he snarled.

“I don’t owe you anything.  We never said the bet was for real money,” I retorted.

“Garza, we played poker for four hours with four other guys.  How can you say it was not for real money?  Did you see any monopoly money on the table?  I loaned you the five bucks, and I want my money back.”  He got a puzzled look on his face.  “Did you crap in your pants?”

I stood straight up, towering over the punk.  I gestured for him to come on if he wanted a piece of me.  Matters became a little fuzzy after that, but I quickly regain my feet.  When I was able to focus on the door, I made my way out onto the street.  My hawk-like eyesight and razor-sharp mind soon returned, and I spotted an old acquaintance working the gutter with a broom.  “Cobra,” I shouted.  “Zup?”

Nathan Tinkle, which was his real name, didn’t respond to my overture.  He kept on sweeping.  I figured that he hadn’t heard me, so I strolled over and slapped him on the back.  “Hey Cobra,” I asked.  “Aren’t you still with the cops?”

The Cobra kept sweeping and then he said, “For Christ sakes Garza.  I’m undercover here.  Would you just move on?”

“Sure,” I responded.  “I know just what you mean.  I was on the job for awhile.”

“On the job,” he groaned. “You didn’t make it halfway through rookie training.  Are you kidding me?”

I answered, “Hey man.  I learned a lot in two weeks. I learned things I use everyday in my PI work.”

Another punk was hanging out in front of a neighboring bar.  He yelled, “Hey Garza.  Why are you talking to the cop?’

The Cobra flung his broom to the ground, put his hands in the air, and screamed at me.  “Garza, you idiot.  I’ve been setting up this sting for two months, and you just blew it all to hell.”  He spoke briefly on the wire mike that ran down his jaw.  Within minutes, a patrol car drove up, and he got in.  “I’ll get you for this Garza.”

The punk next door yelled, “Hey Cobra.  We made you the first day.”

I decided maybe I needed to move on, and then a large black Mercedes pulled up.  The back window rolled down, and my old friend, Jorge Vargas, showed his face.  Vargas played for SMU, when I was at TCU.  The important thing was that after football, we went in different directions.  He muscled his way up to being the kingpin of the drug trade in Dallas.  I don’t like that stuff.  He is always trying to get me to take something or shoot up with something, but that’s not going to happen.  My Mom doesn’t like drugs.

Jorge gazed at me for a moment, and then he said, “Chico.  How’s my man?”

“I’m cool. How’s it with you, Jorge?”

“The truth is,” he growled, “I have a problem you could help me fix.”

I was beginning to get nervous.  “I’m not selling any drugs, Jorge.  You know I don’t do that stuff.  I run a straight operation.”

“What operation?  You haven’t made a buck since you stopped shining shoes.”  He retorted.  “I need you to find a girl for me.  This is personal.”  He turned to one of his associates and asked, “What is that I smell?”

I can usually find people.  I have my own technique for doing so.  I look them up in the phone book.  Works most of the time.  If this is personal, it might not be illegal.  Maybe Jorge and I could do some business, and I could make some honest cash.  “Who are you looking for?”  I asked.

“Her name is Anita.  She hangs out at the St. Benjamin Church over on Columbia.”  Vargas said.

“What do you want me to do if I find her?”

“Tell her I will make things right with her old man.”

This was getting thorny.  “Why don’t you tell her yourself?”

Jorge looked embarrassed.  “It’s too complicated.  I don’t fit in around churches very well, what with my business and all.”

“How about a little advance?”  I was testing the waters.

Jorge pulled a twenty from somewhere and tossed it on the sidewalk.  I snapped it up and said, “We can do business.”

I knew where the church was located.  I drove over, parked the Bug, and went in.  A middle-aged priest was filling the holy water container from a garden hose.  I asked him, “How’s it going Father?”

“Cool, my son.  Care to make a little donation to the families of the poor?”

“Thanks Padre, I gave at the office.  I am looking for the father of a girl named Anita.”

He turned off the water and countered, “You are looking at him.”

He was confused, so I explained,   “I mean her biological father.  Not her holy father.”

The priest seemed a bit put out.  “I am her biological father.  What’s it to you?”

“Well, you know, I thought….”

The Padre looked anxious.  “Hey, one little sin, okay?  I do most of the other stuff.  I just happen to like women.  Maybe a bit more than I should.  Anyway, Anita is my kid.  You can find her inside with the rest of the nuns.”

I could feel the quicksand closing around me.  “You mean she’s a nun?  Then what is Jorge Vargas doing sending me to see her?”

The Padre looked nonplussed.  “Vargas is a shit.  He takes advantage and then refused to do what’s right.”

“What is right?  Do you want him to marry her?”

“Marry her.  Hell no.  She’s a nun.  I want him to give a little drug money to the church.  We need a new wing.”

I was getting more confused by the minute.  “Maybe I had better talk to Anita.  How will I know her?”

“Easy.  She is the pregnant one.”

“But I thought you said….never mind.”

I went inside the church, approached a group of nuns, and asked to speak with Anita.  She introduced herself as Sister Benevolent, and asked what I wanted.  “I have a message from Vargas.”

“Yeah, well I already got Vargas’ message,” she said as she patted her protruding abdomen.

“This one is different.  He said he would make things right with your old man.  Whatever, that means.”

Her face lit up with a smile.  “Fantastic.  Hey girls, we will get our new wing.  We can start a basketball team.  Maybe do some basket weaving. We can give dancing lessons to adults.  Add a little beer, and who knows.”

The other sisters reflected her good cheer.  They high-fived and danced little jigs.  Anita turned back to me and said, “You tell Jorge, he’s got a deal.  I will meet him at the usual place, and we can work out the details.  I’ll tell Pops all about it during confession.”

There was nothing left for me to do.  I left the church, found Jorge and told him the deal.  He gave me another twenty.  I had more money in my pocket than had been there in years.   I might even spring for a Big Mac.  Life is good.

Earl Stubbs

Fiction

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Omega


Enjoying the peaceful interlude between slumber and wakefulness, I drifted from the warmth of sleep back and forth to the edge of reality. Having exhausted the moment, I opened my consciousness to determine whether the back of my beloved Lhasa Apso, Mulan, was jammed against my own. It was not. A two hundred pound man must be careful of a ten-pound canine. I forced open my eyes. A blurred glance showed me that Nancy had exited the bed as well. She went to sleep before I did and rose earlier for that reason.

Swinging my feet to the floor, I stepped into my Birkenstock sandals. Then, as was my pattern, I stumbled the short distance to my side of the dressing area. I squirted toothpaste directly from the tube to my mouth and brushed. After applying deodorant, I opened the medicine cabinet and sorted out my morning’s meds, which was no easy task. Subsequent to choking down the handful of pills and capsules, my search for wearing attire commenced. The only rule was that the clothing had to be either brown based or blue. Since it was summer, I chose shorts and a suitable cotton pullover. Having completed my morning ritual, I responded to a growling stomach and strolled to the kitchen.

Neither Mulan nor Nancy was in sight. Indifferent to social schedules, mine and everyone else’s, I made no effort to reason out the location of my family members. After all, I am not a morning person, and if I became overly curious, I could call Nancy on the cell phone. For all I knew, Mulan could still be under the bed fast asleep.

Coffee was in the warmer, so I knew Nancy had left early. Peeking between the blinds, I observed a bright day with an unusual blue cast. The leaves of the two large oak trees in front lay still.

Filling a bowl with cereal, unsalted peanuts, and strawberries. I fetched the milk. I poured some in the bottom of my favorite mug and some in the bowl of bran flakes. Leaving the coffee undisturbed, I sat at the table and took a welcomed mouthful of my breakfast mixture. The taste was flat, but as a creature of habit, I continued to crunch.

The sports section lay in its usual place, so I scanned the front page for tidbits of trivia. The paper shocked me. It was not the Dallas Morning News at all, but the Dallas Times Herald, a paper that had not existed for decades. The story on the front page was about the game between SMU and Notre Dame in which the diminutive Johnny Champion made life miserable for the Heisman Award winning giant, Leon Hart.  My favorite sports writer of all time, Blackie Sherrod, wrote the article. I decided this must be a promotional gimmick.

The cereal only lasted a column or two. Having consumed my breakfast fare, I poured coffee. I believe that coffee should be hot. If one can drink it, it is not hot enough. One must blow and sip to imbibe coffee correctly. Never trusting the coffee warmer, I zapped the mug thirty seconds in the microwave to bring the temperature up to standard. Then I returned to the paper and finished it just in time to take the last sip. Perfect!

After putting the breakfast dishes in the washer, I went out on the patio to commune with my birds. I have two large birdhouses on fifteen-foot poles in my backyard. Sparrows, starlings, and squirrels share them. Yes, squirrels. Several generations of neighborhood bushy tails gnawed out holes in the birdhouses and used the rooms as homes while rearing their young. Since I like most animals on face value, except for opossums, the birds and squirrels get no grief from me. I do not feed them, nor do I bother them. On this particular morning, no animals were in evidence.

As I scanned Nancy’s garden, I noticed that the blossoms from all of the numerous flowering plants, including two magnolia trees, lay on the ground. Even the rose bushes sat bare. Perhaps Nancy saw her adored plants in such a state and journeyed to the garden center to inquire about the problem.

For the sake of privacy, a tall cedar fence surrounds our back yard. No one can see in, but neither can we see out. To get a better view of the neighborhood, I decided to try the front yard. I walked through the house and out the front door only to find the entire neighborhood deathly still. I could not even hear the usual traffic noise from Jupiter Road, a busy thoroughfare a couple of blocks away. Moving across the yard to a better vantage point, I saw that the normally busy six-lane street lay deserted.

Having no explanation and little interest, I started back toward the front door only to notice that the customary light blue sky had turned cerulean. Even as I watched, the heavens brightened, then discolored. I became increasingly alert when I determined that the bright morning sun was not in the East at all, but shone from the North. The dark shade beneath the heavily foliaged trees gradually diminished then vanished altogether. Logic told me that I should be terrified, but I was not. Mind-altering events unfolded in front of me, yet my emotions accepted those perversions of the physical world with little angst.

The bizarre landscape pulsed. Summer colors brightened and then faded. Neighborhood homes grew faint and then disappeared altogether. The rising sun was back in the East. The sky was orange but not intrusive. A colorful mist obscured the remaining landscape as a melodious refrain from my childhood intruded on my thoughts. We shall gather at the river, the beautiful, beautiful river….

A form slowly emerged from the vapor. It was a diminutive woman with a captivating smile dominating her countenance. She was a young adult, dressed in what appeared to be a deerskin dress. She approached without anxiety and took my hand. Wrapping  her arms around me, she gave me a loving hug, looked intensely into my eyes, and began to speak. At first, her words were guttural and impossible to follow, but soon they evolved into perfectly understandable patterns of speech.

“I am Opa. I am your guardian, but we are all here.”

Somehow, I knew that a powerful bond connected Opa and me, but I knew not what. “How do I know you, Opa?”

“We are those who came before. From the alpha to the omega, you know us all. You are the omega. You are the last.”

“I am the last of what? What happened to my world?” I asked. I still felt no anxiety. Glancing over Opa’s shoulder, I noticed others emerging from the mist. I recognized the warm eyes of a young woman who walked with a limp and could have only been my mother. They continued to come and gather by the hundreds, dressed in the attire of their time or not at all. I knew them all, yet none of them. I felt varying degrees of emotions as my eyes settled on individuals. Some clustered apart from the rest, and when I watched them, I sensed something akin to hatred. They did not all love me.

As they appeared, their shapes began to change. Stooped beings covered with hair, then fur, joined the throng. They diminished in size and their tails lengthened. A waterline formed and small living things crawled out, others surfaced briefly, and then, a bright spot glowed from the depths. I instantly knew that it was the original organic molecule, serendipitously formed, that evolved into the human race. It was the ancestor. It was the beginning, and I was the end. The alpha and the omega. It was then and only then, did I realize that I no longer lived.

What next?

The panorama of my ancestors continued to cavort in and out of the water. No semblance of earth or sky remained, only the misty world surrounding me. Then the voices, thoughts, and urges of my new world began to seep into my consciousness, leaving no room for the old ones…my own. After taking a final glance at my hands, I found them missing. Our energy, the essence of me and mine, gradually blended into a new clarity. We felt an omnipresence join the absolute glory of our cumulative being. Never had we felt such paradise. Time, life, existence became extraneous, but for some reason I couldn’t fathom, I knew when Mulan got there.

Earl Stubbs

Fiction

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A Stitch in Time


The screen gradually came into view. I appeared to have more difficulty coming out of the deep sleep than when my voyage first began which is understandable. After all, when one slumbers for six months at a stretch, waking up is hard to do. Pardon my feeble attempt at humor.

This adventure began soon after my eighty-second birthday during the year 2077. I had only recently heard my death sentence from the state doctor. She discovered advanced cancer invading my major organs, and I didn’t qualify for much in the way of medical intervention due to my advanced age. The state withheld the anti-cancer drug from all citizens except powerful politicians of a Hispanic background. After all, population control was a major issue. My future consisted of about a year of counseling, preparation, and state hospice care. State Medical would keep me as comfortable as possible, which meant things could get ugly toward the end.

A few days later, I noticed an announcement from NASA on TV. They were seeking volunteers to go on a one-way trip into deep space. The purpose of the program was to test drug-induced comas for the purpose of lengthening life and slowing the growth of terminal disease. At the same time, the space traveler would manage important scientific experiments pertaining to DNA alteration mechanisms.

Having nothing to lose and no family left, I contacted the local office of NASA and requested an interview. As it turned out, I was a prime candidate. I had a terminal disease that did not affect my cognitive skills, the long sleeps would increase my life span significantly, and the spaceship would pass the communication barrier before I expired. Considering my condition and prospects, acceptance into the program excited me.

NASA did not tarry. Within a few days after I signed on the dotted line, technicians completed my indoctrination.

NASA technicians loaded the container aboard a special cargo plane that deposited me at Cape Canaveral within hours. Conditions called for the scientists to immobilize my body. I would not mind due to the tranquilizer and stimulant mix injected by the onboard computer. I could expect a pleasant trip.

When the day of lift-off began in Houston, I mounted the chair/bed that would be my home forever. Those in charge hooked me up to IV lines that would prevent any discomfort, manage my health needs, and induce the space sleep when needed. Food and water came in and left my body the same way. Diagnostic implements constantly monitored my body and medication entered the flow as needed.

Techs remained with me in the command capsule as we rumbled toward the launch pad. The capsule was unsealed at the time, so I enjoyed the sounds and smells of my surroundings. I could see nothing but the monitor that would be my eye into the universe. The only parts of my body that I could move were my eyes, mouth, and fingertips. There were buttons under each of the latter that controlled my environment. I could bring up movies, books, music, and background noise, as I desired. The index finger on my right hand controlled a roller-ball for managing the monitor screen.

A final pat on the helmet by the last tech leaving the cabin signified the completion of preparations for lift-off. After what seemed an eternity, the roar of the rockets accompanied by a slight shaking of the cabin, indicated that my time on Mother Earth was over. After about five minutes, I felt the booster rocket break off and a renewed surge of power. Another ten minutes passed and the rocket engine burned out. Silence reigned.

I spent the next hour or so going through a checklist with Houston. We tested all of the commands under my fingertips along with the communication apparatus. We did not test the left pinkie button. That was my own personal termination switch in case my life in space became unbearable. The remainder of the buttons and combinations of switches flashed on the screen. I tested them, and they proved reliable. Houston informed me that I would enjoy my new life, interrupted only by naps and regular sleep, until time for my first space sleep arrived in about a week.

I had never felt better. There was no hint of pain or discomfort of any kind. Cameras focused on earth as it receded into the distance. Other views on my monitor were of deep space and the purity of starlight. I spent some time mentally examining the reality of space. My cocoon hurtled through the void at an incredible rate of speed but nowhere near the speed of light. Humans were not ready for travel between star systems. NASA was only laying the groundwork.

I lived in a world without air of any kind. Space contained nothing but debris that ranged in size from dust particles to asteroids the size of Texas. I was not likely to encounter the latter. The temperature of space is absolute zero. That means no measurable heat exists even though all stars emit heat into the universe. Our sun heats my ship to a small degree, but that will soon dissipate. Since there was nothing on which sound waves could travel in space, it was silent.

The monitor showed a regular and reverse clock. The former confirmed a twenty-four day, the current month, day of the month, and the year. The latter informs me how long I have been in space. Doing check lists, watching movies, reading my favorite authors, and monitoring my progress took almost thirty hours before I felt any semblance of fatigue.

I chose to experience one of my long, deep sleeps. Houston personnel made some investigations and agreed to a shortened version, which would last for a week. The distance from earth when I woke from an extended sleep period would preclude voice communication. After a warning from Houston, the occurrence was more or less like general anesthesia in that I never realized when I went to sleep.

I woke a bit confused, but soon regained my mental facilities. My first order of business was to check my clocks, and they reflected the time passed during my initial extended, albeit shortened sleep.

Houston personnel requested that I respond, and I did. Voice communication was not as crisp and perfect as before. In fact, there were occasional fade-outs, but the journey consumed quite a number of miles in a week of traveling at over five times the speed of sound. Physically and mentally, I soon settled into my routine. Until the next sleep period, I learned to take short naps when fatigued.

All too soon, the big day arrived. Knowing full well that when I woke up, I could no longer communicate with earth, I prepared for the first six-month deep sleep. I had a last, albeit choppy conversation with my Houston techs with whom I had developed a relationship. Finally, I said goodbye.

I was somewhat morose when I woke this time, but some writing on the monitor with my finger-ball enabled me to move past the loneliness. I kept busy. Time and distance passed swiftly. The clock showed that I approached a year in space. My tumor reflected little growth, and the monitor indicated an improvement in my overall health.

One sleep period soon merged with another. Almost three years passed before my body began to fail. I could see the deterioration of my major systems almost on a daily basis. I came to terms with my demise. I would not likely survive the next deep sleep. That was not a bad way to go, and I was content.

***************

Bob Harper approached the mammoth experimentation facility at the NASA center in Houston. He entered, made his way to his department, and spotted Dane Bethea removing his coveralls in preparation to go home. Both were techs in the Project Wormhole division of the NASA facility, so their visit was a daily occurrence. Harper offered his hand to his old friend and asked, “Hey Bubba. Did you have an exciting graveyard shift?”

Bethea began tying his street shoes and responded, “It was one thrill after another. Not taking a nap while watching those monitors is a personal source of pride for me. That and lots of good coffee.”

“Don’t remind me,” said Harper.

Bethea stretched and relaxed while Harper prepared for his shift. “Say, do you remember number 533? I sort of liked that old guy. Anyway, he checked out last night about 3 a.m.”

“You don’t say,” said Harper. “How long did he last?”

“Just under six-months. Do you think any of the test people figure out that those six-month sleeps are only about four or five hours and that they have not really left mother earth?”

“I don’t think so. They never say anything that would lead us to believe that they did. Faking the trip to the Cape and the lift off is a very expensive but highly convincing operation.” Harper finished dressing for work and said, “Well, I guess I had better go unhook old Earl and send him over for dissection. He wrote some good stuff last week that might be interesting. See you tomorrow.”

“Yeah. See you Bobby.”

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Another Day


It is hard to say what actually woke me up. My body lice feasted with gusto, accompanied by the endless itch. Concrete Pressed relentlessly against the aching joints of my thin body. The bitter cold defeated my efforts to ward it off . Whatever the cause, my intermittent, miserable slumber ended when Bobby Joe began the day with his ubiquitous tirade.

Bobby Joe: Hey, Bitch. Get off your lazy ass and get me some breakfast. If you lay around here too long, the shelter will run out of food. Get up! Get up!

The only thing that forces Bobby Joe to stop bitching is if I load up with those mind-numbing drugs, and I haven’t had any for a week or so. BJ is having a field day.

Bobby Joe: I am starving my ass off. I’m cold and I hurt. Get the bodily functions out of the way and get on down to the shelter. Who knows? We might score some wine to settle my nerves.

Ouida Ann: Bobby Joe, Jack is doing the best he can. It’s not his fault that people won’t let him work, just because he talks to us on occasion. You should be glad that he would ever speak to you considering the way you treat him.

Bobby Joe: We shall gather at the river, the beautiful, beautiful river…Come on Ouida Ann, you cretin, sing us a hymn and preach us a sermon. You haven’t saved us for at least ten minutes.

Ouida Ann: I’ll pray for you Bobby Joe.

I struggled to my feet and shuffled down Ross Avenue. A small group of my people huddled around a roaring fire that leaped out of a fifty-gallon drum. I needed to warm myself, but I knew I couldn’t stay long. Chicago Pete was there. He would not pass up an opportunity to start trouble.

Chicago Pete was huge with a long, straggly beard. When he saw me, he spoke with mockery. “Mr. Genius Man…the big time engineer from Texas Instruments. Has anybody kicked your ass today, Genius Man? You just might be in luck. I might do it for you. How many people are in your pocket today?”

Adolph: Take out your knife and cut him. You don’t have to put up with this shit. Cut the man. Come on. Cut the man.

Ouida Ann: Don’t listen to him Jack. Turn the other cheek. Jesus loves you.

Bobby Joe: Don’t waste your breath Adolph. Our boy is yellow from one end to the other.

Having gained only a modicum of heat from the sidewalk furnace, I walked around Chicago Pete by a wide margin and moved toward the shelter about two blocks away. As I approached a busy intersection, Officer Cantrell came up to meet me.

“How goes it, Jack? I see Chicago Pete is up to no good, as usual.”

Having no way to avoid the conversation, I answered, “Chicago Pete is okay. He harbors a lot of anger.”

Officer Cantrell gazed into my eyes. “Jack. Have you taken any medication lately? Your eyes look terrible.”

It was the same old song and dance. “I guess…I ran out.”

“Jack, you know the voices come back if you don’t take your medication. You could get off the street if you would just give it a chance. Who knows? You might go back out to TI and make some more guidance systems.”

I shifted my backpack and looked down the street toward the shelter. “That’s the trouble, Officer. I made too many machines that killed too many babies.”

Adolph: Stick the pig, Jack. He would never see it coming.

Ouida Ann: This young man has always been kind to you, Jack. He is a good Christian boy. I can tell.

Bobby Joe: Yeah! He is about as Christian as a crusader…Or maybe a member of the Spanish inquisition.

Officer Cantrell laid a hand on my shoulder. “The only thing I ask is that you take the medicine for a couple of weeks, and then we can talk again. I might be able to find something for you to do. Last night was cold. I can’t believe that you would choose to live like this if you had other options.”

“I’ll see if Sister Mary has any pills. The problem is that even though the voices stop, I am still unable to function. Besides, I like some of my internal friends.” Having fulfilled my obligation to treat Officer Cantrell with respect, I moved on down the street.

Even though the sun still hid behind the towering buildings, the food line at the shelter was long but moving well. I knew most of the street people. Some were old timers, who had traversed the canyons of downtown Dallas for twenty years and more. Most had untreated mental illness like me. Some were just mentally slow and could not make their way in the heartless grind of every day life. Almost all were without the support of a family or a society who really cared. God knows, my wife bailed out early and took my beautiful children from me. Compared to that, not having a roof over my head didn’t seem so bad at the time. In fact, it doesn’t seem so bad now. Chase would be about…I can’t recall just how old he would be.

We lose track of time in this life without weeks or months or years. I lost my last apartment about five or six years ago, but it only seems like the blink of an eye since I was grilling steaks in my backyard in the Park Cities. Truthfully, I don’t really recall when it was. I wish I cared.

Bobby Joe: Jack. Will you get your ass up to the front of the line? After all, you are a highly educated engineer from MIT. You have connections. Tell these Bible Thumpers who you are.

Ouida Ann: Now Jack. Play fair. Wait your turn. That’s what the Bible tells us to do.

Adolph: Hey, dude. After we eat, why don’t we rob a bank? All you have to do is pass the teller a note telling her you have a nuclear weapon in your pocket. They will give you all of the money in the bank. Then we can buy some Mexicans and hurt them. Awe man! Would that be fun or what?

After making my way to the serving line, I took the tray and found a seat. I welcomed the high carb breakfast. One can develop a taste for syrup. I would never eat such food, when I had a choice. For some crazy reason, pardon the play on words, no matter what I eat these days, I remain in the peak of health. Now don’t ask me why I bother to care about living. I really don’t. It’s just that we get in a pattern and keep on trucking. They corral me for lab work every six months or so, and even though I’m fifty…I think I’m fifty…I still ace all of the blood tests. I guess that comes from being thin.

Sister Mary came around and sat next to me. She said, “Hi Jack. Ouida Ann, I hope you are hanging in there against your evil opponents.”

Bobby Joe: How does a penguin know what is evil? You have never done anything. Have you ever smoked a joint? I thought not. All you do is mess with other people’s lives.

After Bobby Joe finished, I said, “Good morning Sister Mary. How are collections?”

“Jack. Being sarcastic is not your style. Are you mowing any lawns these days?”

Sister referred to my stint of entering the labor pool for lawn mowing. A supervisor picked me for his crew every day until the medication ran out. He didn’t like me talking to my people on the job. He stopped choosing me. “No. I haven’t mowed any lawns lately.”

Sister Mary said most sincerely, “I suspect you haven’t taken any meds recently either. Am I right?” She reaches in her pocket and withdraws a small packet. “You are so lucky that I am a physician’s assistant. I just happen to have a weeks supply right here. Now, I don’t have any desire to waste them, so if you are unable or unwilling to take them every day, please don’t bother. Can you do that?”

Bobby Joe: Don’t listen to that bitch. Forget those drugs. They just mess you up.

Ouida Ann: Jack, if you take the medications, I will not be able to protect you and lead you to the throne of God.

Adolph: Take out your knife and cut the bitch. Simple.

“Sure Sister. Give me the meds. I’ll take them. I promise.”

Earl Stubbs

Fiction

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