For the summer, I’ve decided to post some creative works on the blog as a change of pace. Here is Chapter 1 for a novel in progress. Let me know what you think and I hope you enjoy it! Follow and stay tuned as the story continues and more chapters are posted.
The sun was no different. When the old men gathered at the diner, they talked of years past, of summers and flowers that bloomed sending perfumed air across the entire neighborhood. They spoke of family reunions and sharing stories, times when that kind of thing still happened.
This afternoon the men gathered at the baseball field.
The grass was browned and crisp, weeds punching through the dirt infield. The teams were not even and the men were amazed that the kids had enough will to show up. They shared two bats and three gloves. The ball was scuffed and the laces loosened with every hit.
Still, they played.
The field backed to a high school building that was no more than bricks and broken glass. Pock marks from automatic weapons scarred the standing walls. Mortar shells reflected the sunlight as they emerged with the erosion of wind.
The building blocked the sound of the approaching Security Transport Vehicle.
Wilbur Robbins, a fine hunter in another life, looked towards the school when he felt the vibration through his boots. The metal bleachers were excellent conductors.
“We have company,” he said. The four other men turned to his comment.
Ray Davis leaned on the fence to watch his boy Dalton pitch. He lowered his head and spit on the grass, rubbing it in as puffs of dirt emerged from his efforts. As the youngest in the crowd, not counting the kids, he’d be responsible for what was happening. He pulled his Colt from the holster and quickly checked the magazine.
The gun was a gift from the war in Afghanistan. It came with a new leg and a new mind where shadows shifted into enemy soldiers and backfiring cars became incoming rounds. He had emerged from the war a different man. Silence was addicting.
Dalton had been the hand to pull him out of the fire.
He was an accident, a miracle really. The hospital was under truce from the antiquated UN regulations. Sandy started in labor at midnight. He had loaded her in their truck and shot across fields and highways in the midst of a driving thunderstorm. Hail pinged off the hood. The windshield cracked. He slowed at a checkpoint and, when the soldier saw Sandy screaming in the passenger’s seat, he was waved through.
The parking lot of the hospital had no empty spots so he pulled the truck to the curb. A young nurse noticed his waving and ran out to meet him. In a minute, they had a gurney out in the rain, loading Sandy on it and rolling back inside.
Five hours later, he held the little boy in his hands. The storm passed and he stood by the hospital window. A moon emerged. Helicopters on patrol crossed the moon and cast shadows onto his face as the boy slept in his arms.
These thoughts faded as the STV stopped behind them. Two men, by the sound of it, wearing regulation armor and holding automatic weapons. The kids had stopped playing and turned to watch. The old men were silent.
“Keep your hands visible.” The order came from over his shoulder. The gun felt heavy on his hip. “You people are gathering outside the approved time.”
The footsteps crunched closer on the dirt. Five more paces and they would be at this back.
“Where’s your identification?”
“You hear me? Identify yourself.”
“Staff Sergeant Ray Davis.”
One laughed. The other joined in.
“You are yesterday’s news, hoss. Scraps of paper in the wind. No more need for war.”
He felt breath on the back of his neck. In a moment, they would confiscate his gun and haul him off.
“That’s right, we are peace now.” The exhale carried the scent of coffee and tobacco. It reminded him of the past. They were playing off each other, this pair, probably spouting the same routine with every search and seizure.
The bleachers shifted. Ray lifted his head to the sun and grasped warmth for a moment. He looked at Dalton.
“Go home kids. You know you shouldn’t be here.”
They scattered. Dalton stood on the mound. He dropped his glove and it hit the dirt.
Revolutions start with the striking of a match, with a leader rising up at the right time in the right place.
His friend Jensen would get drunk at night and howl at the moon, spouting off his impromptu history lessons enough that he’d gotten the nickname the Professor, until an IED relieved him of his tenure. He left behind a different world.
“Hand over your gun.”
“I have a permit.”
Dalton took a step closer. Ray shook his head slowly, enough that he could be sure the message was clear. They had spoken about this, about an emergency. All the drills and the years had passed. At least he would see what the boy learned.
“You know you can’t carry in public. Those permits don’t mean shit anymore. Hand it over.”
Ray slowly moved to the holster. He felt the familiar imprint of a barrel in the back of his neck. The smell of gun oil hung thick in the air. One of the old men coughed.
“Don’t get pretty.”
He raised his hands. The guy pulled the gun out of the holster. He spun to see their faces, only finding a pair of his reflections back in tinted sunglasses. Their uniforms were black, the three wave symbol reflecting the sunlight in silver bars on their chests.
“Two violations from what I can see. First, gathering in public without a permit. Second, this is the weekend. You rest on the weekend, get it? That means nothing like this little fiasco.”
He did the math. If they decided to take him in, it would be months. Two strikes in one shot.
“Judge not, right fellas?”
They laughed. Dalton was by his shoulder now. He could feel it. His boy carried a presence beyond his years. He took up space like some men do, without saying a word.
“This your boy?”
“What’s your name?”
“Dalton Davis take note. Today you could have lost your father for a year. We take our jobs seriously. Understand?”
“Good. Then you’ll also understand that we can’t leave without some kind of punishment. It would be, how should I say it, unbalanced.”
The gunshot caused a flock of crows to starlings to emerge from the line of trees in the distance. Ray felt a pain like fire shoot from his only good knee straight up to gather behind his forehead. His foot gave way and he fell to the ground.
“This is your warning boys. We know all. This is our territory. We better not see you out here again. Son, go get your old man some help. He’ll need it.”
Dalton watched the STV leave the field.
One of the old men said something about the hospital. He walked to his truck as fast as his legs could move in the heat.
Ray bit down on his hand to try to redirect the pain. His jeans felt wet where the blood came through the denim and started to spread across the dust. A siren sounded in the distance.