Friday, July 27, 2012

Charlie Cole rides again...

              This is just a little didy I wrote the other day.  I like to look at it as though I'm sketching with words.  It's too long to be flash fiction and not long enough to be just about anything else.  Think of it as a writer sketching as an artist might while sitting idly drinking a coffee at the local Starbucks.  This is me preacticing the craft I suppose and I liked it enough to post it up for all of ya all to read.  Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing. 
                My name is Charlie Cole and I have no idea how I got into this miss.
                I’d been forced to make planet fall a few days earlier, a bad power transfer coil caused by a hastily made FTL jump due to an unusual interest in my cargo by a pair of Confederate Corvettes.  I was able to drop jump but only barely and I think I lost a filling on the ride in-system.  The only system available was sector 62549 by Confederate terms, the ass end of nowhere by my terms.  Luckily, or maybe not, there were two settlements on the smallest planet of the system.  They were the prototypical Rim worlds; backwards and decidedly low tech.  It was one of the charms of the Rim, at least to folks like me.  It was, however, in my current state of disrepair, a significant inconvenience. 
                That had been two days ago.  My cargo, hot as it was, still sat in the hold waiting for delivery to, a by now, very upset man by the name of Clarice Star.  Mr. Star was not a man you wanted upset with you.  It just wasn’t good for business, or your continued existence.  Of course neither  were the three guns I had pointed at my back.
                “Now gentlemen, I believe what we have here is a little disagreement.  Are guns really necessary?”
                “They are when you cheat us of our money and our women”
                So there it was, a pickle of a situation contrived of boredom, my skill at cards and the desire of the local women to try something different.  It wasn’t my fault.  Honestly.  I finished my shot of what the locals liked to call Scotch and raised my hands in the air.  I turned slowly, very slowly.
                The three men facing me were the local country bumpkins.  One’s shotgun still had its safety on and the other two were so nervous the barrels of their guns were bobbing in time with their rapid pulse.  They wore what every man seemed to wear in this backwater town; brown and lots of it.  Brown homespun pants, or coveralls in the instance of two of these fine upstanding young men, and brown button down shirts.  Two wore hats, I knew to cover their bald spots, and the other wore his hair long and stringy.  They were not the finest representatives of the male species or of proper hygiene.
                I leaned back a little on the bar and propped my elbows there.  “Now boys how have I cheated you out of your money?”
                “You’s gots to have cards up your sleeves.  No ones that lucky” their leader said.
                “Now Porkins,” he bristled at that and tightened his grip on the shotgun but I continued, “It seems to me that I might not be as lucky as you are just plain bad at cards.”
                Probably not the right thing to say, the safety on the shotgun clicked off.
                “Boy, I have a mind to put a hole in you right here and now” he said.
                I nodded.  “I reckon you might but I’m curious, which girls have I taken from you?”
                The boy, well I suppose out here he was a man but he’d seen all of probably fifteen winters, known as Tommy grimaced.  I waited and noticed the bar patrons had moved back and created a semi-circle around us, I caught the eye of a particularly stunning young woman. She smiled demurely and I winked.  Tommy noticed and nearly growled.
                “Ella and she’s mine” Tommy said as he looked at the woman I had just winked at.  He stepped forward and brought the barrel of his gun to my forehead.  A little spittle appeared at the corner of his thin lips when he said, “You stay away from her.”
                “Doesn’t Ella get any say in this?”
                In response he pushed the barrel of the gun harder into my skull.  We were so close I could count the stands of peach fuzz beginning to stand out on his chin.  How cute, this boy was turning into a man in front of my very eyes.
                The revolver had only two shots in it and he’d have to pull the trigger three times before the first one fired.  I smiled.  He growled.  I’ll give the boy credit, what he lacked in brain speed he more than made up for in physical speed.  He whipped the barrel of the pistol around to cold cock me and he nearly got me with all that young energy of his. I stepped forward and closed the little distance between us and rammed an open hand up into his jaw just above his throat.  It actually lifted him up on his toes a moment before he came crashing down to his knees with a squeal of pain.  On his way down I grabbed his wrist and twisted it wickedly to the side.  He screamed as a tendon popped and dropped the gun.  I released him and caught the pistol by the barrel before it hit the ground.
                I looked up as Porkins raised the shotgun to his shoulder.  I unlocked the revolvers cylinder and let the bullets fall to the wooden floor.  I raised my hands in mock surrender, the pistol now hanging on a finger by the trigger guard.
                “Whoa now gentleman, I’m not trying to start trouble.  Just came in here to enjoy a drink before I check to see if my shipment arrived on that last transport.  No need for trouble.”
                Tommy cradled his injured wrist and scrambled back towards Porkins and the other boy.
                At that moment the doors to the saloon swung open.  Stark sunlight lit up the dark wooden interior for a moment, illuminating the stains on the floor and the overall ragged condition of all the furniture.  A tall rangy man wearing a black wide brimmed hat strolled in.  He was not what you called a dangerous looking fellow but more than made up for it with narrow eyes that would’ve looked far more suitable on some bird-of-prey than on a man built like him.  The crowd parted for him.
                He glanced at me and frowned like I was the boy always getting into trouble.  He looked at Porkins. 
                “Son, put down that scatter-gun.  If you shoot him with that it’ll take Winslow a week to clean up the mess.”
                “We wouldn’t wanna be causing Winslow trouble” I agreed.
                The Sheriff fixed me with that stare and I closed my mouth.  He held out a hand and I tossed him the gun.
                “What’s this all about Sam?”
                The third man, who had been almost hiding behind the bulk of Porkins, stepped forward.  He puffed himself up and hooked thumbs into the suspenders of his coveralls.  I stifled a laugh but couldn’t keep the smile off my face.  I noticed Ella in her slim form fitting dress smiling as well and winked at her.  Probably shouldn’t have done that.
                Porkins stepped forward, ignoring the Sheriff, and cocked back the hammers on the double barrel gut buster.  “You stop that cowboy, you aint beddin any of these here girls ‘specially Ella-May.  You just leave them alone.”
                I glanced at the Sheriff who grimaced and then stepped between me and the barrel of the gun.  With one finger he reached up and pointed the gun away from us.  I sighed a bit.  There was a hushed silence in the room, everyone waiting for the Sheriff to declare his judgment.
                “Porkins put the gun away” he said.
                “But he tried to rape poor Ella” Porkins said.
                The Sheriff glanced at me and I shook my head.  He looked over at Ella who looked away, a red cast to her cheeks, blonde bangs slipping down to cover her eyes.  The Sheriff sighed, grabbed the barrel of the shotgun and twisted.  Porkins released it and let the Sheriff have it.
                “Porkins,” the Sheriff said with a sigh, “go home son.”
                Porkins looked at Tommy and then at Winslow and then at the floor.  He shuffled his bulk towards the door and then stopped, looked at me and said, “Don’t let me catch you with any of these here girls Cole or the Sheriff won’t be able to help you next time.”
                I decided it was best to keep my mouth shut.  The Sheriff seemed relieved at my newly found discretion.  He turned back to Tommy and Sam.  “I’ll need your guns for the night boys.  You can pick them up from my office in the morning.”
                Sullenly they handed over their weapons and then they too shuffled towards the door.  Luckily for us all they had no parting words.  Keeping my mouth shut once had been pure will power, a second time would’ve been impossible.  The Sheriff turned towards the crowd and with a glance broke them up, he turned back to me.
                “Too much to hope you might be leaving tonight?”
                “What’s on that transport?
                “Not what you need,” he glanced at my pistol hung low on my left hip, “Any chance you’d be giving that up.”
                I shook my head.  “Buy you a drink?”
                He nodded wearily and stepped up to the bar.  The bartender served us a mug of beer.
                “You always this much of a pain in the ass Cole?”
                “Sheriff, I’m actually trying to behave myself.”
                The Sheriff chuckled and downed his beer.

Saturday, July 21, 2012


                They say that change is good and I agree but it’s also a bit scary.  No, I take that back it’s seriously scary but it’s also invigorating.  It can give us a new perspective on the same ol’ life.  It can stretch our safety zone and mold us into a new, and hopefully, better person.  Last week I spoke of standing on the precipice and looking out over the possibilities.  Today, I am still on that precipice but I have a more focused view of one particular area and a strong desire to head in that direction. 

                So, as some of you know, I tried for a promotion but fell just a tad short.  I didn’t fall short because of anything I did or didn’t do.  It was a good decision by management because the person who did get the promotion has been doing the work of said position on an interim basis for around a year.  It would have been highly unfair to promote me over her and would’ve probably caused all kinds of unhappy feelings with the staff.  It would’ve been a difficult position to come into and be successful with those kind of ill feelings.   I did, however, get a very nice consolation prize in a transfer that I requested about a month ago.  Not only did I get the transfer but the area manager was so impressed with my interview that he came to me and asked if I was interested and I will essentially get my own little area within the district.  It’s pretty much everything I asked for and wanted.  I’ve heard nothing but good things about my new supervisor and am looking forward to getting to work with her.

                So in a month or two (we need to fill my position and another in my current location before I can move) I will be working out of an entirely new area.  There are down sides but what job doesn’t have a few of those?  There will be a longer drive and more gas and no raise.  I’ll be working up at around 5500 feet so there will be snow in the winter and the drive will be a bit treacherous.  I will need to spend some money on garments that can be worn under the uniform to stay warm and there will be a host of duties that others have done for me (because it’s their job) that I will now have to complete.  It’ll mean I’m going to find myself in some pretty uncomfortable positions but I’ve found that those positions really mold you into a new person and then really breaks the mold.  It is a supremely uncomfortable position to be in…standing there not knowing exactly what to do with a bunch of people standing around expecting you to know what to do and then to do it…but I have found over the last six years that I like it…or at least respond in a positive manner most times. 

                Of course there will also be really awesome things as well, a longer drive, working in the snow, new gear, new things to learn and new people to meet.  It’ll be sort of like hitting the reset button and that is a very nice and fun thing to get to do every now and again.

                So this summer dawned with some stress and some changes that the family had to endure and work through.  It was a bit bumpy but we managed and have come through it stronger.  As summer ends we’ll be going through more changes and we’ll be stronger for it.  I think my work hours in the winter might be a bit more reasonable and while I’ll still have to work weekends I might be able to enjoy the holidays a bit more and I may actually get to be home in the evenings on a more regular basis which will be worth the drive and the gas all by itself.  I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my wife for her support and encouragement in this and all of the endeavors I’ve pursued over the years.  She takes the brunt of these kinds of things and she does so with a smile, most of the time, because she knows it’s what I want.  So here’s to new adventures and expanding the mind!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

I've got this...

                I find it fascinating when we teeter on the precipice of something new.  It’s a heady mix of exhilaration and fear that brings life into pinpoint focus.  It is almost intoxicating.  There is so much wonder and curiosity.  Can I do it?  Will they let me?  Will I fail?  All of these questions and more darting around and chasing each other’s tails through your mind.  It’s these moments that really make us live our lives.  That moment before soaring success or crushing defeat that lifts a person above themselves and shows them a third alternative that is filled with endless possibilities. 

                So I suppose most of my faithful readers are wondering what is making me wax poetic about the possibilities of our futures.  Let me keep you in the dark no longer.  Tomorrow I interview for a promotion.  It’s a promotion I think I deserve (but then who doesn’t think that when they’re in line for one), it’s a promotion that I’ve been spending the past three years really preparing for and the last six years desiring.  I’ve taken some bumps along the way and I’ve made some mistakes all of which have made me stronger and wiser (what bumps and mistakes don’t).  As I woke this morning starting my prep for the big event tomorrow at 9:45 am PST I’ve begun shaping answers to phantom questions.  Readying myself to put voice to the hidden (or not so hidden if you happen to be married or related to me) confidence that resides, like a small ball of flame, at the core of who I am. 

                Right this minute as I type this, failure is not an option.  I know it’s a possibility but it’s not an option I’m willing to think about because this is something I want.  Nay, this is something I honestly need.  New places, new people, new experiences….the thought of these alone are enough to overwhelm and make me giddy like a young me on Christmas morning walking into the living room and finding the Millennium Falcon toy  waiting for me.  I’m ready for this and I think the District I work for needs me to be in this position.  They just don’t know it yet….but they will by 10:30am tomorrow morning.  I’ve got this!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

We're too Old to Play...FlashFic #4

           It was a wet day but then it was Oregon, it always rained.  The hour was late but it hardly mattered to Paul.  He’d just finished his shift at the mill and the tavern called to him.  He strode down the damp street, his shift at the saw-mill finished for the day.  The smell of sawdust comforted him as did the scent of the pine forest around him.  He loved it here.  He loved the weather, the woods, the people, this was home and he was happy.  He smiled at passer-byes and even winked at one woman who smiled demurely back at him.

            “Evening Paul” she’d said.

            He was thrilled she knew his name.  She was a beauty.  Blonde hair framed a narrow face and wide eyes.  They’d been friends when they were kids.  She out grew him but he always felt a familiar stirring when he saw her.  As she passed his smile dimmed to a frown at the childhood memory she stirred. 

It was late evening then, the two of them alone in the forest, her eyes meeting his and the stinging words, “We too old to play together anymore Paul.”

His step slowed, but the tavern loomed large and a frosty glass of beer called his name.  He opened the door and stepped into the warm, welcoming bar.  A huge cheer met him as he entered.  Paul smiled and spread his arms wide.  He sauntered through the throng of well-wishers and stepped up to the bar.  The bartender slid a tall frosty glass of Paul’s favorite brew to him.  Paul eyed it with greed and offered a faded five dollar bill to the man.

            “Oh no, not today Paul, not after what you did.”

            Paul nodded his thanks and turned to the other patrons.  With a huge smile Paul downed the contents of the tall mug in one fell swoop.  The others cheered.  Here Paul felt at home.  At one with those around him, it was a feeling he’d missed as a child hoping from one foster home to another. 

            A man stepped forward.  “We’re all mighty grateful for getting us those raises.”

            “Everyone deserved them Ed.”

            There was a cheer and the night rushed onward.

            It was late.  It was dark.  It was raining.  Paul staggered down the sidewalk towards his small apartment, his head a haze of too much drink and merriment.  Despite this he saw in his mind’s eye, as he staggered down the street, the blonde came to mind.  Ella-Jane’s mean spirited words stung his gut and he was thirteen all over again.  Fresh anger lit a dying ember inside his heart.  He growled low and weaved down a street not his own. 

            After wandering for what seemed like hours Paul stopped and stood in front of a small cottage.  He eyes were down cast, his hands clenched at his side.  He’d show her they could still play.  He stalked now, the drunkenness nearly forgotten, a dark anger propelling him forward.  He barely broke stride as he kicked the door in and ducked his head to enter the small one bedroom home of Ella-Jane.  Paul found her in that room, groggy from sleep, eyes wide with fear as he towered over her.  With make-up removed she was not as pretty as he remembered, her hair not quite as blonde.  He grinned at her.  She held the sheets up near her chin.  Her lips moved but no sound came from them.  Fear gripped her. 

            With a massive hand Paul yanked Ella-Jane from her bed by her hair and pulled her through the house.  She squealed in pain and gripped his wrist trying to ease the pressure.

            “Paul!  Paul!”

            He didn’t hear her, he only heard, “We’re too old to play anymore Paul.”

            He took her through the door.  He felt her try to walk but she tripped over her nightgown, she tried to scream but no one heard her.  While dragging her around the house they passed a pile of wood.  A well-worn long handled axe leaned against the stack.  He grabbed it without breaking stride.  The forest embraced them.  He felt her hair between his fingers and the smooth worn handle of the axe in the other.  As he walked he began muttering, “We’re not too old, we’re not too old.”  The thick wet forest swallowed them quickly.  Ella-Jane screamed but he knew no one could hear her. 

            Then they stopped.

            Paul dropped Ella-Jane.  She sobbed, her legs scratched, her hair disheveled and torn.  She looked up at the towering beast of a man and muttered, “Why?”

            “We’re not too old, we’re not too old” he repeated.

            There was a growl a few feet away, a giant of a wolf sauntered from the forest, black fur slick with rain.  It was the largest Wolf Ella-Jane had ever seen.  She screamed again until her voice broke.  She looked up as he towered over her, the axe held in both hands, a grin splitting his features, his eyes narrowed, dark hair plastered to his head. 

            There was a flash of lightening, Paul stepped forward, axe raised high.  It came down with blinding speed with a thick slap in a stump Ella-Jane didn’t even realize she was leaning against.  She squealed and tried to get away but slipped in the mud.  Paul knelt next to her.

            “Don’t worry dearest, I won’t kill you.  We’re too old to play.”

            “We were kids Paul, I didn’t mean…”

            He held a finger to his lips, shook his head.

            He stood, turned and marched into the forest once more.  The wolf licked his hand as he passed. He stopped and ran a massive hand through the wolf’s fur.  Ella-Jane sighed, thought herself safe.  Her pulse slowed.  She struggled to her feet.  She glanced up as Paul disappeared into the forest.

            His voice a distant whisper, “She’s all yours Blue”

            The wolf, yellow eyes gleaming in the flash of lightning, growled, slobbered and jumped.  She screamed but no one heard her.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Tommy and Me...

               Me and Tommy, we went aways back.  He hadn’t been like the regular boys even back then. It wasn’t Tommy who lay dead at my feet, the smell of death strong in the cramped low rent tenement but it was Tommy’s handiwork.  No doubt about it.  Good ol’ Chuck hadn’t deserved to go the way he’d been done in but then he’d not given Tommy much of an option.  We were all from the same neighborhood growing up.  Dad’s in prison, Moms worked too much and we sort of ended up just taking care of each other, not a gang really but maybe a brotherhood. 

                We were fifteen and drunk on a hot mid-summers day.  The heat was thick and wet and I remember the electricity had gone out.  Our little brothers played in the water popped from a fire hydrant.  We were too cool for that and bored and beginning to feel the after effects of being to young, drinking too much and being too hot.  We’d decided we needed more drink before the last twelve pack we’d pilfered from Chuck’s moms kitchen wore off.  Tommy’s mom had an old revolver we borrowed.  The three of us, we went marching down a few blocks and were punching each other in the arms, getting the guts up to do this thing.  A block away from our prey Chuck bowed out.  Looking back I think that moment is what made us the adults we’d become.  Tommy called him names, sent him to the sidewalk with a right hook to end all right hooks.  I stood by and watched.  Stunned.  Amazed and if I’m honest with myself now, scared of Tommy as he stood over a broken and bloody boy we once called friend.  Tommy looked at me with that demanding look like ‘what’re you gonna do now?’ I remember shrugging and laughing because I didn’t know what else to do.  Tommy and I went kept the quest alive.

                I had nerves and I was scared, aint too proud to admit it.  Tommy didn’t care, wasn’t scared, had no nerves.  He was on a quest, wrapped up in the moment, I guess.  We grabbed the beer, made a bee line to the door.  The clerk yelled at us.  It stopped Tommy in his tracks.  With the rusty pistol in hand, Tommy stepped up to the clerk and shoved the barrel into his mouth.  I can’t quite recall what the clerk looked like now but I remember the blood and teeth that lie in a puddle on the counter and the choked sobs of the clerk as he choked on the barrel of the gun.  Tommy opened the register drawer, and grabbed as much cash as he could fist.  He smiled at the clerk; pistol whipped him, and then shot him in the knee.  I think Tommy just wanted to see what it felt like to shoot someone.

                Then we ran.

                I drank my share of the beer as fast as I could mostly so I could forget what had just happened.  Tommy languished in it like it was his victory drink. 

The celebration hadn’t lasted long.  The NYPD did their job and picked a bunch of us up the next morning.  Tommy was an imposing figure, the Clerk picked him out with little hesitation.  Tommy did five years but remained a stand-up guy and left me out of it.  I moved on.  He didn’t.  When he got out, he kept a low profile, growing some dope here and there, selling it to the neighbors.

                The body of Chuck was at my feet and I knelt down to look at him more closely.  Chuck had never really recovered from the embarrassment of ‘chickening out’.  He turned to oxycotin to soothe his injured pride.  He started selling it, he owed money, borrowed from the wrong guy and then promised to rat that guy out.  I’d been paid twenty large to come down here, rough him up a bit, and get what was owed to the people who owned me.   

Chucky’s face was a mess but it was the gunshot to his chest that had done him in. I knew who did it as soon as I saw all of Chucky’s front teeth missing and the gun shot to his left knee. 

                The thought of Tommy with a gun and angry at me for hunting him down didn’t sit right with me.  I really didn’t want to go up against him.  He’d know now that my bosses wanted him.  He’d be dangerous, driven into a corner.  I thought about dropping it, getting out of town, but my bosses had a long reach and the thought of Tommy coming for me would haunt all the shadows.  It cleared things right up. 

                If Tommy had one weakness it was his Mom.  She’d had six kids but Tommy was the one she loved the most.  The one she still called her baby.  Tommy’s father had been her one and first true love.  He’d died in a mine accident when Tommy had been four.  Maybe if he’d stayed alive Tommy would’ve turned out different, maybe not.  I went to her place, it was the same place she’d lived when we were kids but then a lot of the old neighborhood was like that.  Her flat was old and worn, just like her.  She hadn’t wanted to rat out her baby but a few slaps and the flash of a gun had her calling him. 
                He showed up an hour later.  He walked in with that Tommy smirk on his face.  He had a pistol in his fist.  I had a cut down twelve gauge pointed at his chest.  He smiled, there was no mirth there.  He told me he didn’t think I was so chicken-shit that I’d use his mom to get to him.  It was in that lazy drawl he liked.  I told him I didn’t think I was so chicken-shit to use a twelve gauge on him.