Tag Archives: Chapter Three

The Blink, Chapter Three

2 Jun

The Blink

Chapter Three

By L. Stewart Marsden

 

They were bound to a pole that rested on their shoulders, hands crossed and lashed with leather thongs above the pole. Sequoia walked behind Adams. The men walked along either side and at the front and rear of the processional. They carried their spears at the ready. None spoke.

They followed a feint trail through the woods. Where the pathway was too narrow, the side guards waited, and caught up when it widened.

Adams wished for the urge to blink, and even tried to make it occur by will, but nothing happened.

I suppose this is what is to be, he thought to himself.

The group crossed the creek several times, wading through the water. Adams wondered if his moccasins would begin to tighten on his feet and wear blisters on his heels. He figured that was the least of his worries, and then realized he wasn’t worried for some reason.

The lead warrior suddenly made a loud whoop sound, which was moments later echoed deeper in the woods by another voice. The trail broadened, and spilled into a large clearing. At the center of the clearing was a large fire, crackling with nearly transparent flames in the noontime sun.

About the clearing were huts built of wooden pole frames and covered with various animal skins.

Old men and women and children were busy about the camp in various industry, from weaving to cleaning skins to preparing fish to eat. Large bulbous bags hung from tree limbs, and dripped water slowly. They did not appear to Adams to be skins, but perhaps the bladders of large animals. Perhaps deer or even bear.

The tribe came alive with talk and noise when the group entered the clearing. Many drew near and spat derisively at Sequoia. Some threw small stones and sticks at her. The guards made no effort to stop the assaults, but pulled the two to the edge of the clearing, and tied the cross stick horizontally to a birch, making sure the two captives were secure and unable to escape.

Their chatter was initially merely jabber to Adams. He tried to blink once more, and as if wax had fallen from his ears, he was able to hear and comprehend.

“The witch!”

“And her coyote!”

“Sequoia will see her end tonight. It is a full moon.”

“Do not say her name! You will incur the wrath of the night demons!”

“Look how pale her dog is!”

The two were poked and prodded by those who timidly approached and quickly reached out, as if expecting either Sequoia or Adams to suddenly free themselves from their binding and leap out.

Chatter rose and fell as more of the tribe entered the clearing from the woods and the lodges. Soon no distinction could be made of the chorus of voices, which quickly grew louder.

A tall man entered the clearing from one of the lodges. He wore a tall headdress fashioned of a broad leather band across his forehead with plumage from several different fowls. Across the man’s chest were scars that appeared to be part of some design — straight lines running diagonally and parallel from each pectoral muscle across to his chest to his abdomen from either side.

The man strode with purpose to where Sequoia and Adams were tied. His expression was not anger, but stern. His looked at Sequoia and she bowed her head. There was a strange mixture in his eyes, as of disappointment as well as love. That turned to curiosity when he looked at Adams, and stepped towards him.

“You are very pale,” he uttered in a low, gravely voice. “Where is your tribe?”

“I have no tribe — at least not in this place or time.”

The man looked closely into Adams’ eyes, as if to peer into his soul.

“Are you a Wanderer?”

Somehow Adams knew exactly what he meant. “Yes. You have seen other wanderers?”

“I have heard of them. My father and his father and their fathers were aware of wanderers. You are the first I have seen.”

“What will you do with me?”

“You will see tonight.”

“And Sequoia?”

“Her fate is yet to be known.”

“You will kill her?”

“That depends.”

“On what?”

“On if you are truly a wanderer, or something else.”

“What something else?”

“Ah, I think you know.” He turned away and motioned to the crowd to disperse. Two of the men with spears crouched down to either side of the bound prisoners.

The tall man motioned to one of the children to give Sequoia and Adams something to drink, and one of the water bladders was brought for them to drink from.

The water was cool, and tasted slightly of offal. Adams guessed it was an acquired taste, and resisted an immediate urge to vomit. He knew he needed water, however different the taste.

The pole supporting Sequoia and Adams had been tied to the birch at a height that he was flat footed, but because she was much shorter, dangled a few inches above the ground, her weight on her tied wrists.

“Are you okay?” he asked in a whisper.

She groaned in reply, “What is ‘okay?'”

“It means are you well?” He realized how saying something and getting someone to understand what you mean is a challenge. Especially in this particular situation.

“I am not well. The leather cuts into my wrists. But I can tolerate this. I have known worse pain.”

“What are they going to do to you tonight?”

“As the Wise Man said, that depends on you.”

“How?”

“You will be tested.”

“For what?”

“To see if you are a Wanderer, or something else.”

“How will they test me?”

“We should not talk of this any longer. You need to rest your mind and your spirit. That will be the best way to prepare for what is to come.”

“But what is to come?”

“You will see.”

 

§ § §

Zoid Man: Chapter Three

8 Dec

Zoid Man

Chapter Three

Copyright © 2015

 

The students and faculty at Frankton Middle were abuzz the next day.

“Did ya hear? Someone got shot last night!”

“I heard a bunch of gangs got into it at the triangle.”

“Me, too! A shootout! Guns blazing! Gang members getting’ killed! Three or four, I heard.”

Jack and Benny listened and kept their mouths shut. Both rolled their eyes and shook their heads as each new update rifled through the school.

At lunch, mock gun fights broke out among the boys, who feigned getting hit, and collapsed “dead” on the tables, peaking to see if any of the girls showed any concern over their demise.

“What’re we gonna do, Jack?” Benny had cracked open his tin lunch box and began to twist open his thermos of tomato soup.

“Here’s what we’re not going to do: we’re not going to panic! You heard the stories, nobody got it right. Nobody’s dead. You and me — plus our mystery friend — are the only ones who know the truth.”

“Okay. So what’re we gonna do?” Benny dipped the corner of his egg salad sandwich into his soup, which he had poured into the thermos cap.

“We hafta find out who that was in the triangle last night.”

“Did you recognize him?”

Assuming it was a him, no, I couldn’t tell who it was. I think he’s around our age, though. He wasn’t really big, and he took off fast. He wasn’t a grownup.”

“So the question remains … how do you plan to find out who he was?”

Jack tried to think. The noise of the students in the cafeteria was louder than normal, given all of the speculation of last night’s gunfire. Then he remembered the match being struck.

“Cigarette! That’s it! Our mystery guy struck a match and lit a cigarette!”

“That’s how you’re going to find out who it is?”

“Look … superheroes got to work with clues, and the cigarette is a clue! He lit it on the street and took a few puffs. Then, when he heard you, I remember he put it out in the street. Dropped it and squished it out with his foot.”

“He didn’t hear me —”

“— And then he started to head our way across the triangle. I’ll bet you a buck the cigarette is still there, and after school we need to look for it.”

“I still don’t see.”

“It tells us what brand he smokes. Or what brand his parents smoke, anyway. Either way, it’s a clue. And it’s better than anything else we got.”

“So we find the cigarette … what then?”

“There’s only a few guys smoke at Frankton.”

“Greasers.”

“Right.”

“But they’re really tough guys, Jack!’

“The tougher they are . . .”

“— Yeah, the harder we fall!”

“For a superhero you sure are whimpy! Maybe that should be your sidekick name! Zoid Man and Whimpy!”

“Ah, shutup!”

* * *

After school the duo met at the park and began to walk the area Jack saw the mysterious figure light the cigarette. They were into the search several minutes when Benny saw the crumped end of a filtered cigarette in the edge of the grass near the curb.

“Got it!” He lifted his trophy up, pinched between his thumb and finger. Jack hurried to his side and took the butt to inspect it.

“Great. He’s a Tareyton smoker.” His tone was sarcastic.

“What’s wrong with smoking Tareytons?”

“They fight.”

“What? I don’t get it!”

“That’s their ad. Tareyton smokers would rather fight than switch.”

“Oh. Well, that doesn’t make our guy a fighter just ‘cuz he smokes them.”

“Maybe not. But he probably thinks he’s a fighter.”

“Everybody thinks they’re a fighter.”

“I don’t. I know I’m a fighter!” and he hit Benny hard on the shoulder for emphasis. “Cassius Clay has nothin’ on me. Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee!” He hit Benny again on “sting.”

“Ow! STOP IT!”

“Okay, Whimpy!”

“So we have one cigarette. How’s this going to lead to our guy?”

“Let’s assume he didn’t buy it. Probably he stole it from his parents. Maybe went into his mom’s purse and slipped one out. Or took a pocketful from a cigarette case.”

“Okay.”

“Then we gotta check out the neighborhood first. See what brands parents smoke, or what brand they leave out for guests. If we find anyone that uses Tareytons, they go on the suspect list.”

“Well, I guess that leaves me out. My mom puts out Kents.”

“Dumbhead!” And hit Benny one more time for good measure.

The boys began their first leg of searching out the source to no avail. They checked with friends as to whether their parents smoked, or what cigarettes they kept out for visitors. It seemed a bit odd to Jack that as a whole, parents would warn kids not to smoke, and then smoke themselves, or have ornate boxes of loose cigarettes all over the house.

“You’ll stunt your growth!” they would warn. Well, if that’s the case, why do all the doctors smoke? Didn’t make sense.

Jack didn’t smoke because he hated his gag and coughing responses. It was similar when his father first let him taste a beer. Ugh! What was with that? And his older brother only smoked when he was around girls. Never in front of the parents. He smoked Marlboros on account so many movie and TV stars smoked them. That was the one thing Jack didn’t admire about Jason — he caved to social pressure. He had read about social pressure in an article Jutsie Sloop gave him at school one day.

“Here. You need to read this!” And handed him a folded copy of Teen magazine, which he slipped quickly under his shirt.

Later he read nearly all the other articles in the magazine before dutifully looking at the prescribed piece. The article, written by some famous female psychologist, warned girls of the dangers of wanting to be like everyone else. Jack scoffed at the advice because he knew he wasn’t likely to fall into that trap. AND he wasn’t a girl, anyway.

It took Jack and Benny the better part of two weeks to satisfy themselves that the Tareyton cigarette did not tie into anyone they knew very well.

“What now?”

“Well, I’ve been thinking we could check out the smokers at the school.”

“You kidding? What — we just walk up and ask ‘Do you smoke Tareytons and are you the guy in the triangle the night of the gunshot?’”

“No. We play it cooler than that. We go to the Dog House at lunch and ask for cigarettes from the guys.”

“Jeesh, Jack! Now I know you’re mental! May as well go up and ask a greaser to smash us in the face!”

“Do you have a better idea? Look, Benny, superheroes are super for a reason. We’re smarter than everyone else, for one thing, and we’re not afraid to do what needs to be done. Am I right?”

Benny couldn’t argue with superhuman logic. To do so would merely start Jack on a Whimpey rant.

“But Jack, the break-ins have stopped since that night. Maybe the gunshot scared the bejesus out of the guy and he’s seen the wisdom of stopping his evil ways!”

Jack put his arm condescendingly around Benny’s shoulder.

“Benny — this guy is smart. He’s only waiting for the coast to clear. Let things die down. Kids are still talking about it. I don’t believe he’s gonna change his ways that quickly. Zoid Man and Whimpy still have our work cut out for us.”

“Bernard.”

“What?”

“You called me Whimpy. My superhero name is Bernard.”

“Right.”

The Saga of a Rescued Dog: Chapter Three

22 May

 

 

 

The Saga of a Rescued Dog

Chapter Three: The Hoosegow

by L. Stewart Marsden

 

Previously:

I moved in quickly, but stealthily, wary of any other animal, or that some kind of trap had been set.

Nobody and no thing. Just slices and slices of bacon stacked up high.

Oh! I dove in with unabandonment. And the taste! The aromas! The crunch of the pan-fried meat! I was inundated in ecstasy — euphoric — totally out of my mind with bliss!

As I wolfed huge bites of bacon down, at the corner of one eye I spied the mister approaching slowly, carefully from around the building with that rod with the wire loop at the end of it.

And you know what?

I did not care one iota.

____________________________

While bacon is indeed an incredible culinary experience, it is not without its consequences. The first being the euphoric state of mind that renders you incapable of normal reactions.

So when the mister slipped the wire loop over my head, I did not budge from engorging myself on the diminished pile of bacon strips.

And when he slowly tightened the noose, I was not distracted from licking the morsels and bacon grease from the metal bowl.

And when he gently tugged me away and into the animal shelter, I followed willingly. Maybe a growl and a snarly look at the first tug. But because the bacon was all gone, there really was nothing for us to fight over.

We walked into the waiting area and around the counter to a second door in the back of the room. That door led to the animal compound.

The compound was a long room situated perpendicular to the front of the building. A concrete aisle ran down the center of the room, and on either side were caged spaces with doors — five to a side. Nearly all the spaces were occupied by a dog, and all were barking their little heads off when the mister and I entered.

We walked down the aisle and stopped midway at the door of an empty cage. The mister opened the cage and walked in with me, then crouched down carefully.

There, there, little buddy. This is your new home for a while. And these are your companions.

I sat and wagged my tail a bit to show the mister I wasn’t going to be a threat. He slowly reached his big hand out, which I sniffed, then licked. There was bacon smell and taste on his hands.

Here’s some water, and here’s the bowl where you’ll be fed — once the bacon works through.

That’s the other thing about bacon — and dogs. It’s a consequence of eating bacon at all — but especially of eating a whole bowlful in the matter of a few minutes. If you understand what I’m saying.

So, for the next day and a half, my stomach and my bowels gave me  and the mister  a fit. But he was understanding, and happy to have his little misters clean both my cage and me following the aftermath.

My cage was a cubicle — not too small, but definitely a downsizing from the space I was used to. It was simple. Concrete wall at the back with a rectangular space left open that led to a small fenced-in yard where I could go if I chose.

The cages were also separated by cinderblock walls that went up a few feet — high enough to keep animals in adjoining cages from physical touch.

The floor of the cubicle was concrete, and cool to my underbelly when I stretched out on my belly or side. There were a lot of flies.

Paddle fans suspended from the ceiling along the aisle moved the air about, and kept a wafting breeze that would tickle the hairs on my nose, causing me to sneeze abruptly from time-to-time.

Inside the compound were the mixtures of smells: the other dogs, the wall of small cages where small animals were kept. Like cats. Yuck. And the smell of PineSol and other cleansers.

My yard was mostly dirt, with a walked out trench along the fenced closures. Some grass and dandelions grew along where the fence touched the ground. There was a line of trees a few feet behind the yards that threw late day shade over the yards on that side of the aisle. I was lucky that mine was on the west side, and didn’t get the harsh splash and heat from the morning sun.

For those first days I recuperated from my orgiastic meal. I wasn’t too aware of my surroundings so much, and not at all of my fellow companions. I only vaguely sensed them as I went in and out of nausea — hearing them talk, like dull background clatter, or getting a brief whiff from time-to-time.

Why I was where I was had faded to a dim memory, which I dipped into from time to time during my dreams.

Mister Master. His large, angry face grown incredibly large — spewing curses and harrumping his fat body like an irate gorilla.

The kicks and the lashes and the hours on end chained to the elm tree in the back yard.

The dry, rusty water bowl, neglected for days.

My own feces, piling up in the small grassy lawn — which was always tall and unkept. Flies swirling in packs, alighting on my head and ears.

Bzzzzzzzzzz. Bzzzzzzzzz.

The echoing conversation between Mister Master and the mister of the animal shelter.

Thirty days.

Euthanasia.

The vague sound of the mister, leading other misters and misses down the aisle and back, who looked in on the various animals, asking echoey questions. Stopping at my cage and asking What’s wrong with him?

Thirty days.

Euthanasia. If you don’t want your pet euthanized, better not leave him here.

Nobody will take him. May as well euthanize him now.

It’s the law.

What’s wrong with him?

BAD DOG!

I awoke, startled, hungry and afraid. It was night, and I stood on wobbly legs and slowly stepped out into the yard.

The moon was waning — yet bright enough in the sky to illumine the tall oaks that bordered the compound. I lay down in the cooling dirt and shook my head to clear the cobwebs. The conversation resurfaced slowly.

Euthanasia?

Thirty days?

What day was it?

 

Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 22 May, 2014