Authors: David C. Cassidy
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is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Names of real public persons, living or dead, and news headlines that include and/or reference the names of actual newspapers are used for fictive purposes only.
Copyright © 2012 by David C. Cassidy
All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. This work may not be copied or redistributed without the sole written consent of the author.
This life we all live—this reality of ours—is a work of fiction.
We make it up as we go.
There’s no road map. No life atlas. No stars to guide our soul.
So we take that first breath from the womb, that first suckle from our mother’s breast … that first step from our father’s guiding hand.
And we pray we don’t fall.
But we do.
Is it all real? Our eyes and our hearts assure us. It
~ what really happened
New York Times,
April 16, 1912
STRIKES BERG, THIRTY-TWO PERISH
Captain, Crew Of
Praised As Thousands Rescued
New York Times,
October 2, 1927
BABE FALLS SHORT OF 60
Ruth’s Last At-Bat Ends In Strikeout, 4–2 Loss For Yanks
Detroit Free Press,
May 4, 1930
MAN DROWNS WIFE, EIGHT CHILDREN, HANGS SELF
Battle Creek Teacher “
Such a nice, quiet man
Los Angeles Times,
July 14, 1937
AROUND THE WORLD! EARHART TRIUMPHANT
In California Amid Wild Reception
February 7, 1938
AUSTRALIAN WILDFIRES OUT OF CONTROL, 22 DEAD
Melbourne Hero Saves Twin Girls From Deadly Blaze
May 1, 1945
Third Reich Crumbles, Hitler Captured By Russians
Los Angeles Times,
August 20, 1945
U.S. DROPS THIRD A-BOMB
Kokura Destroyed As Japan Remains Defiant
October 14, 1946
HITLER EXECUTED, GOERING NEXT FOR NOOSE
I.M.T. Delivers Its Own ‘Final Solution’
San Francisco Chronicle,
February 3, 1951
14, VANISHES AFTER PERFORMANCE
Gerhardt Schenck Abducted At War Memorial Opera House
New York Times,
March 9, 1951
TIME GONE WRONG
What’s Happening In Newark?
New York Times,
June 16, 1954
GRISLY MASS GRAVE FOUND IN NEVADA DESERT
Monkeys, Dogs Burned, Buried With Torched Human Remains
February 4, 1959
FLIGHT OF TERROR ENDS IN MIRACLE
Buddy Holly Survives Crash In Iowa Field
August 20, 1960
FIERY COLLISION CLAIMS LIVERPOOL MUSICIANS
Four Brits Perish In Hamburg
Drunk Driver, Son Of
Survivor, In Coma
Now the cheating prick had drawn a knife.
Probably shouldn’t have kicked him in the balls,
the drifter thought. Especially since his large friend here had him tied up in the stranglehold of a full nelson. It hurt like hell, but it was nothing compared to that spike of static driving right through that splitting headache he had. It felt as if it were cutting into his brain like some impossible electric blade.
Hold him, Cal.
It wasn’t the fat man. One of Cal’s buddies had piped up. All of a sudden, the place was just crawling with rats.
The fat man met him squarely, still wincing from the throb in his jewels. The heady mix of bar smoke and brew had him swaying a little, and just when you thought he might rethink this madness, he returned the favor with one solid shot from his steel-toed boot. Pain rippled through the drifter’s groin and into his skull. Still, he’d endured far worse than these boys could dish out, and he wasn’t about to give them the satisfaction. He swallowed the agony. His lips slid into a cockeyed grin.
Outside the packed roadhouse—this stinking pisshole that stank like all the others—the thunderstorm raged. Somewhere down that cold and lonely road that had brought them here, lightning struck a power line, and the lights flickered.
“No more tricks,” the trucker told him, uncertain as the lamps. Clearly he
rethinking this; trying to get a grip on just what the hell had happened here tonight. Trying not to lose that grip.
An attractive redhead, sculpted nicely in a white top and a flirty black skirt, sat in a booth beside the coin-op pool table. All by her lonesome, the forty-something was ashen, her head down, a hand cupped to her abdomen. She’d been drinking heavily, and while it was possible her bouts of nausea were a result of overindulgence, the drifter knew better; how well he did. She’d fought the good fight twice in the last thirty minutes, first throwing up in the ladies’ room, only to go down in the second round, right here at the edge of her seat. A waitress was on her knees cleaning the mess. The fat man had slipped in it, his cue almost, but not quite, breaking his fall, and when he had hit the floor in that little spiral the way he had, looking like some overweight stripper round a pole, half the place had exploded in drunken laughter. His big butt was slick with vomit. He was ripe.
Sweat beaded the man’s forehead. One tiny bead broke rank and slipped along his sunburned skin. Skin that had, until tonight, been utterly pasty. His puzzled eyes—yellowed and bloodshot, like so many of the others now—lingered on the strange thin scars on the drifter’s temples. You could almost hear the wheels of confusion spinning in his head.
“Cut him,” someone said. It wasn’t Cal, but what did it matter.
The fat man hesitated. He didn’t want to do it, that much was clear. Some guys had it in them. This one didn’t. Returning serve on that swift kick to the nuts was one thing. Any one of these fine gents would have reacted that way. But this? This was lunacy. If Cal hadn’t egged him to pull it, the knife would still be tucked away in his back pocket. No, the poor bastard wasn’t thinking about cutting him. He was all messed up, wondering how things had gotten so crazy, so quickly. Wondering what was real anymore. What was
“Do it,” Cal said.
Despite the nelson driving his head down at an insufferable angle, the drifter could see Cal’s bulging forearms plainly enough. Sunburned. Like the fat man’s face; like the fat man’s hands. Like most of the others. He supposed he should have been thankful for dim lights and drink. Either no one noticed, or no one cared.
Still, he should have known better. The bitch of it was, he did.
The fat man looked to Cal and considered his play. Cal, a man of few grunts, drove him to the edge with another
It would take but a nudge to push him over.
The man drew closer. Close enough to suffer the fist of his stale beer-breath. He was breathing laboriously. Trembling. He looked like he might have a heart attack.
Slowly, most unwillingly, he brought the tip of the blade to the drifter’s chin.
The fat man swallowed. “… I want what’s mine, sir.”
That’s the way he talked. Respectfully. And here
was, shitting where the man ate. Still, he didn’t start this. He never did.
He eyed the name tag stitched on the man’s wrinkled brown jacket. Owner-operator of Most Truck For Your Buck,
was a regular one-rig shipping magnate from Willow Springs, a lovely place Ron’d called “the best of the best” of this fine state of Missouri. He had to admit, the guy had been a pretty good egg; he’d been an amiable lug, with an honest smile and an honest laugh. Been kind enough to pick him up in that miserable rain. Kind enough to buy him the first round. But the fact was, a good dozen brews in and getting squeezed by his hustle, he had wanted to level the cheating prick.
Oh, yes. He’d fallen into a deep hole, quickly—a little
quickly. He’d been a mark from the get-go, the guy sharking him at precisely the right moments. A cough here, some chatter there, just enough to distract him. And the guy was
One of the best he’d seen, and he’d played some pretty good players. So rather than take it up the ass any deeper, he’d clawed back to black and was up a good twenty or so. But now the guy was on to him. The man hadn’t a clue how he’d been hustled—well, he supposed the man had ideas, crazy ideas—but he knew he’d been screwed right back, right up the old poop shoot. Thing was,
wasn’t a cheat—until now, at least—but dammit, the guy had had it coming. You don’t cheat at poker, you don’t cheat at stick … an unwritten law among men.
He should have bolted when he’d had the chance. It had been right there in front of him, but he’d had too much, far too much, to see it, and coupled with his foolish and dangerous indiscretions, had no one to blame but himself. How many times had he Turned? Small wonder his head was pounding. He had to wonder how many had seen the mist.
And that damn static. What the hell was it? It was coming in fits now, like a circling pack of wild, growling dogs. It steered his mind into a spin, and he steeled against it. Dizzied, trying to keep it together, he held dead still against the tip of the knife.
His sluggish gaze wandered, piercing the smoky filth that filled the place. The thick foul sickened, but didn’t he crave a cigarette, suddenly. Still, after all these years. He didn’t really want one, of course, but what he wouldn’t do to ease the agony in his head.
He sought the barkeep in the slim hope of a hand. Polishing a tall glass, the man had regarded the goings-on with but a cursory glance, clearly more concerned with that looker at the end of the bar, chatting her up the way he was. In fact, save this intimate little gathering around him, most of this questionable clientele seemed entirely disinterested. Not good.
If only Dick the Bruiser would let up on the nelson. All he needed was a chance.
“Come on,” Cal said. “Bleed this cheatin’ bastard.”
Here we go,
the drifter thought.
Over the edge. Over a couple of sawbucks.
The fat man—to see that haggard, bewildered face, you really wouldn’t have believed he had it in him—slit him with a quick flick of the blade. It stung. Blood dribbled down his throat to his chest. The grip round his arms tightened, that throb in his neck crushing like a boatload of bricks coming down on him. If the Turn had given Cal a case of the body aches, he sure wasn’t showing it. The man was a bull.
He shook it off, still groggy. He looked up, past the knife, past the looker, to the glowing GUYS AND DOLLS sign that led to the restrooms. There was a jukebox on the way, a big rounded Wurlitzer, “Big Bad John” blaring out of its speakers for what must have been the tenth time tonight. Jimmy Dean had been all over the radio these days, would likely hit the top of the charts, and while the man had undoubtedly penned a great song, by this—the twenty-seventh of October, 1961, the biting wind howling hell’s breath beyond the gloom of this place—he had pretty well had his fill. And more than enough of this night.