Bitter and Alone

Gabby stepped out into the hot, humid air of a mid-September afternoon in northern Florida. He tried to shade himself under the yellow awning that read, “Adult Superstore.” Travelers passed by a short distance from the front parking lot. Gabby paid no heed to the stares and glares he received from men and women he had no connection with that drove along the unassuming landscape. He stood there for a moment and tried to feel something, anything. Cicadas buzzed along the forest’s edge surrounding the old shop. The parking lot was full; it was a reminder to Gabby he was not alone in his dark world.

“Gabby, I thought I’d find you here.”

Gabby jumped and looked. There, just a few feet away was the preacher man. At least that how Gabby knew him. If the old evangelist had a name Gabby had no plan to find out what it was. The parson stood out in the blazing Florida sun under a wide brim, circular black hat. He had on a black short sleeve button-down shirt and a pair of thin black slacks. Peaking out of the bottom of his pants were a couple of dusty black cowboy boots.

At least he had the good sense to wear short sleeves this time, thought Gabby to himself. “What is it, Preacher Man?” asked Gabby.

The old preacher took a step towards Gabby and held Gabby’s shoulder in his large palm. He gave him a gentle squeeze as he spoke. “You know why I’m here. You have to let her go, Gabby, it’s been five years.”

Gabby jerked his shoulder back away from the parson. “What do you know? You ever have a wife die, been married, heck, have you ever dated, Preacher Man?”

The old preacher just slowly shook his head, and then spoke quietly. “No, but I know how it feels to be alone. I know that hollow feeling you are carrying. You have to let that go. Look around you, Gabby. This place isn’t who you are. What would Denise say if she found you coming out of one of these stores?”

Gabby’s lip curled into a snarl, “She’d not say a thing on account of being dead.”

The old preacher crossed his arms. “Okay,” the preacher pointed towards the sign on the awning and said, “Is it helping?”

Gabby kicked up some dust towards the preacher. “What kind of question is that? You know full well this ain’t helping. It leaves me feeling darker, more guilty. It meshes well with the dark hole death left me. Where’s your God now, now that I ain’t got the one person I ever loved? Why didn’t he step in and cure her of that cancer?”

The preacher dropped his arms, and his head drooped slightly. “Gabby, He’s with you. You’ve just forgotten how to look for Him, but I know He is looking out for you.”

Gabby waved away the thought and started walking towards his truck. “Leave me alone, Preacher Man. You still ain’t got no answers.”

Gabby slid into his rusty stepside pickup. The old door gave a loud creak as Gabby slammed in shut. He looked in his review mirror. The scraggly gray beard was a sad sight compared to the dark, thick beard he had as a young man. Denise loved that beard. A lot of women were put off by it, but she loved his thick, soft mane. Denise would bury her face in it and fall asleep. Gabby wondered what she would think if she could see him now. A tear ran down his cheek.

“Gabby, you have to let Denise go.”

Gabby jumped, and his arm flung up and tilted his review mirror. “How did you get there? I didn’t hear the door.”

Gabby looked past the preacher and saw the door was locked. “You planning on locking us in here together?”

The Preacher smiled. “I don’t need to do that. I just don’t want us disturbed. Listen to me, Gabby. I do understand what you’re feeling. I talk to thousands of people like you all the time. You have to let go of your grief and your hate.”

“Hate?” questioned Gabby, “I ain’t got any hate towards anybody. If you think I’m blaming Denise, you’re crazier than I am.”

Preacher Man nodded, “Hate, towards yourself. You think you should be the one that’s dead. You’re angry at God for not healing Denise’s cancer, and you’re angry at death for even existing.”

Gabby nodded, “Okay, now you’re speaking the truth. I have every right to be mad. Why would God let her die, and why does He send you to keep harassing me?”

The old preacher smiled from underneath his brim, “Oh, harassing you is my idea. I know you believe in heaven, so let me ask you a question. Do you think Denise is happier there, or here?”

Gabby shrugged, “I suppose there. Who’d want to live down here in all the sweat and hard work?”

Gabby could see Preacher Man’s sparkling blue eyes as the man of God pushed up his brim and continued, “Then why are you trying to keep her here?”

Gabby rested his hands on the steering wheel and thought for a moment. The dusty smell of the old pickup truck filled his nostrils. For the first time, he noticed a bald eagle perched atop an old southern oak tree. It almost seemed to be watching him through the windshield. Gabby kept observing the bird as he spoke, “I reckon I hadn’t thought of it that way. I don’t want to lose her. If I don’t hang on to the darkness, I might forget her beautiful smile. I might even forget what it felt like when she kissed me.”

Preacher Man just rested his hand on Gabby’s shoulder. “You won’t ever forget those things, Gabby. Trust me, I’ll be around to help you remember, but you need to forgive, let go, and move on. Denise wouldn’t want you living this way.”

Gabby looked through his windshield. The faded yellow awning had a tear in the “S” of “Superstore.” The blue front door was dirty, faded and dented in places. Gabby wondered how those details had slipped his notice before. A knock on the driver’s side window startled him, and he looked out to see Frank standing there. I guess Frank got done inside, thought Gabby. Gabby looked at Frank’s face and wondered how he had overlooked Frank’s dull, sad eyes before. Frank’s appearance would have made anyone think he was strung out on some drug, but the truth was Frank had never taken so much as an aspirin in his life. At least that is what he had told Gabby when they were inside the store about a month ago.

“You alright?” asked Frank through the closed window.

Gabby pointed over his shoulder, “I’m just talking to Preacher Man.”

“Who?” Frank appeared to search past Gabby, unable to see anyone.

Gabby looked over his shoulder, the old preacher had disappeared again, just like always. Never a sound or a footstep.

“You better roll down those windows, Gabe. You’ll suffocate in this heat.”

The hot tacky air and the sweat sticking his clothing alerted Gabby to his predicament. He quickly rolled down his window. Frank slapped the top of the truck door, gave a wave, and ambled to his car. Gabby sucked in the muggy air of the outdoors. He cranked up his old truck. “So long, Frank,” Gabby said out loud to himself, “I don’t think I’ll be seeing you here again.”


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Releasing October 30th.

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Rainy Days & Runaway Cows

So I posted on my blog, acliddle.blog, yesterday that was unable to walk due to rain and the migraine that came with it.

Today it is still raining and while I do not feel sick, I have lost my voice, and I am fatigued.

Rather than another missed post I thought I would tell a couple of stories about loose cows.

I am not sure how they got out but in both cases their escapes were precipitated by…well precipitation..rain, and storms. I am not sure if the cows became restless or what but there it is.

The first story: I was driving home from work, on the backroads through the country. Ahead of me I saw three cars in the on coming lane with their flashers on. Then I saw in my lane, heading towards me a what looked to be pregnant cow. I was able to get around her, for she was not to be detoured from her path. Further down the road I saw the possible pasture she had escaped from. Then I noticed in the ditch another cow who had decided to take a walk. This cow did not look pregnant.

The second story: Today I was riding with a friend; we were going into town for errands. We came around a curve, right before a small bridge and there meandering around, were six cows on the side of road. Not sure what pasture they came from. They were gone by the time we were headed back.

Ah Life in the Country.

Missing

Henry sat dumbfounded. The phone receiver swung down from his hand. His mouth gaped open, and the wrinkles hung off the jaws of his seventy-year-old shocked face.

“Hello, is anybody there?” came the voice of the young woman with whom he had been speaking.

Henry blinked and put the receiver back up to his ear. “Yes, Becky. Did you say you have no record of me working at Richmond Defense?”

Becky’s voice sounded empathetic, “That’s correct, sir. What years did you say you worked at the company?”

Henry put his forehead against his hand and shook his head slightly as he talked. “I worked there from nineteen-hundred-and-sixty to nineteen-eighty-two.”

“I’m afraid that’s quite impossible, sir.” Becky now sounded almost condescending. “The company wasn’t founded until nineteen-eighty-one.”

Henry clenched his left fist and threw himself against the back of his chair in frustration. “I know when the company was founded, young lady, I was one of the first ten people John hired.”

“John who?”

Henry stood up and his knees popped with the pain that shot up his leg. “John Richmond, the founder. How long have you been with the company? They don’t teach you about its founder anymore?”

Becky’s voice grew tense. “They teach us each and every thing about Richmond Defense. I don’t like your insinuation that I don’t know how to do my job.”

Henry began to pace, “Fine, then what do they teach you?”

Becky’s voice grew a little more pleasant. “The company was founded in nineteen-eighty-one by Garcia Richmond who named the company after his father, John. He, and two friends, Richard and Jerry, merged their three companies one year ago to combine the might of their specialties. Our specialty is small arms. Do I need to tell you what models of guns we make as well?” Becky’s voice became flat, “I assume you already know that information since you worked here.”

Henry was dumbfounded. He stood there alone in his home office looking out his window. Was he going senile? He had begun to forget the little things, like his grandkids birthdays. Henry looked down at his desk. There, laying under his computer monitor was a stack of pay statements from his 401K. He was not going senile, but he could not figure out why the company would change its history. At least now he knew why his check was a week late. Henry cleared his voice, “Young lady, Becky, I have a stack of 401K payment stubs in front of me. I am looking at my computer screen and the screenshots I’ve made of my withdrawals from the company. I’m indeed a former employee, and I’m not confused. I would like to know why I’m no longer in the company’s systems.”

Henry heard Becky exhale loudly into the phone. He smiled because he knew he had her. “Please hold,” was Becky’s only response, and then a click and old muzak filled his ear before he could respond.

Henry paced his room, stopped and spoke to the ceiling, “What can be taking so long?” He continued wearing out the floor in his home office. A moment later Becky’s voice returned.

“Henry, I’ve been talking to my manager. We do have you in our system. In fact, I am sending someone over there right now to hand-deliver the check. We apologize for the inconvenience.”

Henry was about to respond but the phone clicked, and the line was dead. He sat down in his chair. His old body ached from the stress he had put it through. She never even explained all those mistakes, thought Henry to himself. I still don’t know why I was missing, or why the company says I never worked there. A few moments later there was a knock at the door. Henry forced his sore, tired bones out of his chair to answer the door. He opened the door, and a man in a nurse’s uniform smiled and then stuck a needle into his neck. Henry winced, the room spun and turned black.

The rising sun met Henry’s eyes as they opened. His bed felt comfortable against his old body. The white linoleum appeared to be freshly mopped. Over next to the window his iPad and notebook sat neatly on his empty desk. Henry got up, stretched, and walked slowly to the shower. After his shower, there was a knock at his bedroom door. A young man dressed in a white nurses uniform stood before him. “How are you feeling this morning Mr. Smith?” asked the young nurse.

“Just fine,” responded Henry, and then he stopped and looked harder at the young man. “Do I know you? You seem familiar.”

“I’m Chuck, sir. Don’t you remember us talking about my son Lewis?”

Lewis, wasn’t Lewis who I worked with, thought Henry to himself. Yes, Lewis and I were testers together on the .50 caliber sniper rifle back in the early seventies. Henry replied, “I’m sorry, Chuck, the only Lewis I remember is my old testing partner.”

Chuck smiled, and then responded, “It’s okay, sir. This will help you to remember.”

A white cotton ball appeared from Chuck’s left hand. It felt cold and wet against Henry’s skin. Chuck’s right hand came up, and before Henry could move a Chuck sunk the needle end of a syringe into his small wrinkled arm. Henry felt dizzy, and Chuck helped him to his bed. “Just rest, sir. You’ll wake up in a couple of hours, and everything will be clear again.”

The bed felt comfortable against Henry’s body. It reminded him of home. “Home,” mumbled Henry as his world grew darker, “I want to go home.”


Check out my debut novel being released October 30th: https://gmacwriter.com/books/

 

Things done in a hurry

Do you take time to do the things you do or you do them in a hurry? While some people take time to do whatever they do, other people never do. They are not patient. They are impatient and do things in a hurry. The following story is about doing things in a hurry. It is worth reading:

Once upon a time, Lady Crow and Lady Sparrow lived on the same tree. Lady Sparrow was very hard working and patient; and loved taking time to do whatever she had to do so as to do it well.

Lady Crow was different. She was very lazy and impatient and did everything in a hurry.

When the time for them to lay eggs came, Lady Sparrow took time and built her nest carefully and made it very solid.

black crow bird
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Lady Crow did not see any sense in working so hard to build a nest. “I can build a nest in a very short time. Why trouble myself?” She asked herself. So saying, she went flying about and enjoying herself; after which she collected a few straws and rapidly made her nest. It was not a solid nest.

When the time came for both birds to lay their eggs, they did; and soon began hatching them.

Shortly after, a heavy storm came and easily blew off Lady Crow’s flimsy nest, but could not blow off the strong and solid nest of Lady Sparrow. Lady Sparrow’s nest and her fledglings were safe while Lady Crow lost everything.

What lesson do we get from this? Do you know a similar story you like to share?

In The Dark Wood

Cyrus walked with his head down. The familiar dusty trail had given way to mud, leaf litter, and ruts of the unexplored forest floor. The sun was disappearing. Cyrus kept trudging along the natural path. He was not concerned with getting back. He hoped he never saw home again. Mary had humiliated him in front of all of their friends. It was true that he lost his temper at work and given his boss a right cross to the jaw, but Frank had it coming. Who was that guy to think repeating a rumor about Mary and Lewis being together was a good idea? Frank was lucky he was still breathing.

Cyrus could not understand why Mary was so upset that he lost his job. Why would she want him working for that jerk? Well, he was confused until Lewis showed up an hour later at his doorstep. The epiphany of truth cut through his heart like a sword, a very dull and painful sword. Lewis’ smirked as he pushed Cyrus out of the way and made himself at home. To add insult to injury, a string of ten friends followed him inside. The cowards had wanted to make sure Cyrus avoided doing something stupid to Mary or Lewis.

There was not much Cyrus remembered after that, just walking. Mary’s voice hollered for him to come back, and Lewis laughed in a tone that ripped his heart apart with a feeling of despair and hatred he had never known. Cyrus finally stopped when the woods grew so thick the trail disappeared. Moonlight broke through the black sky, but Cyrus knew that it would do him no good to force his way through the branches and saplings in front of him. To his right, several limbs and twigs snapped, and there was a crunch in the leaf litter. Cyrus looked over and saw a figure dressed in white walking towards him.

As the phantom came into view, Cyrus realized it was no phantom at all. Olivia walked up and gave Cyrus a long, compassionate hug. Her dark skin formed a silhouette beneath the white sundress in the moonlight. Her short tightly curled black hair highlighted her strikingly beautiful face. Olivia’s large black eyes glistened as she stared into Cyrus. She seemed to reach in and soothe his very soul.

“How did you find me?” asked Cyrus.

“Where else would you go?” answered Olivia. “You need to be careful, the woods and the swamp aren’t like they were when we were kids. A few more yards and you’re in alligator country.”

Cyrus nodded, “I’m aware. I was trying to decide whether to push on or not.”

“Why would you want to do a fool thing like that?” asked Olivia.

Cyrus leaned against the tree that brushed against his shoulder. He crossed his arms and tried to pull the tension from his back as he remembered his day. “I thought you heard about what Mary and Lewis did to me. Not to mention, losing my job. I owe Frank a big apology.”

Olivia reached over and gently stroked Cyrus’ bicep. “Frank’ll forgive you.”

“Forgive me? He fired me,” said Cyrus.

Olivia nodded her head, “I know, but you both got heated. I have it on good authority he’s planning on taking you back tomorrow. He heard about the stunt Lewis and Mary pulled tonight. Frank’s good people, most people in town are. You’re going to be okay. I think it’s Mary and Lewis who need to worry about where they’ll be living.”

Olivia took a step forward and leaned toward Cyrus. Cyrus pushed himself off of the tree towards Olivia. Her cool dark lips felt soft against his pale warm cheeks. Lewis turned his head, their lips met, and the two embraced. Olivia’s breath smelled like jasmine. Cyrus closed his eyes and held her there for a while. He finally released her and exhaled. “I wish we could be together.”

Olivia’s voice had a sad undertone to its beautiful lilt. “I do too, but you know what trouble we caused as kids.”

Cyrus’ voice was tense, “What they did wasn’t right. You know, a lot of people blamed Lewis’ dad.”

Olivia tilted her head. “Speak of the devil. I believe Lewis is looking for you.”

Cyrus scowled, “How would he know to come here?”

A smile spread across Olivia’s face that ran a chill through Cyrus’ body. She pointed to their right from where she had approached him. “Go stand over there about five yards. There’re some trees you can hide behind.”

“What about you?” asked Cyrus.

Olivia’s voice spoke barely above a whisper, “It’s time to teach daddy’s boy some manners.”

Cyrus walked over where Oliva had pointed. The forest floor was wetter and a bit muddier. He could see Olivia’s sundress glowing in the moonlight. She glided past the saplings closer to the where the alligators nested. Cyrus was about to say something when Lewis’ voice broke the silence to his left.

“Where are you, boy? When I find you, I’m gonna do to you what my daddy did to your no account girlfriend. Mary is mine, and we’re gonna make this a quick and easy separation.”

To his right, a man’s voice responded, “You ain’t got the guts, come and get me.”

Cyrus heard the sound of footsteps moving quickly towards Olivia, and then saw Lewis’ silhouette in the moonlight. He was moving at a quick pace until he tripped on a rut while trying to make way through the saplings. “What’s the matter, don’t know the swamps?” The deep voice asked, and then a cackle sent a shutter through Cyrus. Lewis yelled, cursed, and climbed his way out of the wooded trap. “Where are you?” screamed Lewis, and he continued to move forward.

Cyrus could no longer hide. What if something happened to Oliva? He stepped from behind his hiding place and quickly made his way to the branches. Through the contour of the limbs and moonlight, he could see Lewis jerking his head left and right as he kept a deliberate pace forward, and then Lewis stopped and stood straight and still. The ghostly white moonlight caught Olivia’s dress, and she appeared to almost float in the darkness.

“What, do you think you can hide your old boyfriend!” screamed Lewis, and he dove at Olivia.

“No,” hollered Cyrus and he tried to reach through the limbs. To his horror, Lewis passed through Olivia and tripped over something in the dark. With a growl, and then a scream, Cyrus watched the giant mouth of an alligator open and then snap shut on Lewis’ skull. He covered his face and tried to block out the sound of bone collapsing against teeth. Cyrus focused on trying to breathe and not release the contents of his stomach. The smell of jasmine filled his nostrils again. Cyrus opened his eyes. His beautiful love stood before him.

“Did you have to do that?” asked Cyrus.

Olivia nodded, “There was a gun in his pocket. He would have killed you and then that would have been you, instead of Lewis over there.”

Cyrus sighed and dropped his head. He felt Olivia’s cold dark fingers lift his chin. Her lips sent a thrill of electricity through him. “I miss you so much.” bemoaned Cyrus.

“One day, my love. One day we will be together as God intended. He’s promised me. Now clean yourself up at the spot we used as kids, it’s still safe, and get yourself to town. Everything will be okay. Just do me one favor, stay away from women like Mary.”

Cyrus took Olivia’s hands into his own. “I can’t find a good woman. There isn’t any woman as good as you. I miss you so much. Maybe I should come and join you.”

Olivia’s eyes grew wide, and she shook her head, “Don’t you dare! Don’t you go pining away for me and do something stupid. You know exactly where to find me, and I’m always here for you. Find yourself a good woman, or live alone, but don’t go off and do something stupid.”

Cyrus nodded once and dropped his head. He could feel Oliva looking at him. He raised chin up and met her lips for a long kiss. His world filled with jasmine, a breeze shot through his body, and she was gone. With a sigh, and tears in his eyes, Cyrus made his way back to town.

Back to my roots

I was born in a village. Today, I am a city boy. I want to go back to the village. It will be hard for me to recognize my village, though. I have been away for many years and may not know the village any longer; and the village may not remember me also. It’s been a long time, indeed.

But, I am tired of the city. I don’t want the city any more. What I want now is the village. I want to go back to the village. I want to go back to my roots.

Who will take me to my village? Who will teach me how to live in the village? I won’t know how to live in the village, having lived in the city for such a long time.

I wonder if I will find my way in the village. This is worrisome. Will I find my way? That notwithstanding, I want to go back to the village; and live as best I can.

I want to go back to my roots.