Chapter 3

You can find Chapter 1 here and Chapter 2 here of this novel in progress.  Enjoy!

WEST

 

            On a normal afternoon, she would listen to a podcast or audio book. The path of the jog looped miles out of town, across a section of woods ending at a beach with rocks shaped by pounding waves. She would stand on these rocks, often taking her shoes off to cool down, and think about the future.

The past was too painful.

She’d close her eyes and hear gunfire.  They had tried to fight, the university as a whole, standing on the grounds of academic and intellectual freedom.  She was one of the new breed at the time, fresh doctorate in hand, leading students through the finer points of Romantic poetry, not much older than they were. For a month they met as faculty in a lecture hall at midnight.

A flurry of activity followed, publications, protests, the rallying cries of youth.  Her department chair, a veteran professor, warned what was coming.  He said it would only go so far until they came to quiet the noise.

One Thursday morning in March, a caravan of vehicles entered campus. Troops arrived and locked everything down.  Faculty and students were removed and any resistance met with deadly force.

She opened her eyes as a seagull cried overhead. The breeze from the forest carried a smell she would always associate with the Pacific coast, though it was not called that any longer.  They were part of the West, the union between two outside forces that somehow had become real.

Her phone vibrated in the pocket of her green sweatshirt, the old University of Oregon O blazing on the chest in fluorescent yellow. She tapped the answer button on her ear piece.

“Where are you?”

His voice carried the smoke of sleep.

“The same place I go every morning.”

“I told you it’s not safe.” He yawned.

She imagined him stretching, the body of the athlete she had met as an undergraduate remained tight under his t shirt. His temples had grayed slightly but he still existed as the coiled ball of energy from his youth.

“You don’t need to worry about me.” She cringed as a stone cut her foot, bent down and picked up the offender, throwing it into the surf that shown the purple of morning.

“I live to worry about you.”

“I’ll be home soon.” She walked to where her shoes waited on the sand, sitting next to them. She checked the display on her cell phone.  They were nearing two minutes, the unofficial limit where tracking would kick in from the network. “Keep breakfast warm for me.”

“Will do.  Love you.”

“Love you too.” She laced her shoes, wished the ocean goodbye, and started back down the trail.

road-sun-rays-path

The white Suburban SUV appeared within a mile.

She was mentally preparing that afternoon’s lecture, hypnotized in the road rhythm, when the streak of color passed in her peripheral vision. She turned her head as it made a U turn and accelerated back.  There were two options and with nothing around but trees, one was clear. She pulled up and stepped to the curb.  It parked behind her.

“You know, running out here alone is dangerous.”

He wore his usual suit, pulling the jacket closed and buttoning it.

“I’m used to it.”  Her voice cracked, even though she tried to stop it.

“How do you get more beautiful every morning?” He stood in front of her and brushed a strand of brown hair off her forehead. She saw him as he was that morning in March, the soldier breaking into her classroom.  An hour later, under individual interrogations, they had made a connection.  In a week they were having coffee after his shift ended.

They had started sleeping together after a night of drunken confessions.  She had felt like a ship, unmoored and tossed in the storm of this new reality. He was a vortex of trust and danger, the enemy and the only one open as all others pulled away.

It felt good to play both sides. It became an addiction.

She supplied information and was allowed back at her old job.  Things improved. She was promoted to a supervisory position within the English department.  Curriculum came from the new government to be delivered without deviation.  Education was still important as long as the line was kept. She taught the importance of following the wisdom of the past.

The flame of rebellion remained, though deep inside.

It took a night at the Joe’s Coffee to change things.  The café, located in the old Student Union, was no more than a handful of tables and tea light candles. Faculty gathered at the end of every week and that night she had sat in the corner of the room flipping through an illegal copy of Heart of Darkness. The sound of a guitar came from a darkened stage.

Conversation stopped.

“Where are you?”

She shook her head and blinked, not able to tell if the question came from her ear piece or the man standing in front of her, two points in the universe on this empty forest road at dawn.

“Sorry.”

“We’ve received word of something coming in a week or so. Listening devices picked up conversations around a gathering, all centered on a freshman.  This young man, named John, will be transferred into your class tomorrow morning. You will find what we need to know.”

“Okay,” she looked at her shoes.  He loved when she played to his power.

“Don’t worry my dear.  Your freedom will come soon.  Your service to the cause is valuable.” He kissed her on the lips, a fleeting touch, and walked back to the vehicle.  It sped past as she stretched her calves, cued up a song on her phone, and started at a faster pace towards home.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1

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.

 

SOUTH

                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.

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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?”

Three steps.

“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?”

“Yes sir.”

“What’s your name?”

“Dalton.”

“Dalton Davis take note.  Today you could have lost your father for a year. We take our jobs seriously.  Understand?”

Dalton nodded.

“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.