Thursday, April 8, 2021

The Death of a Son

 dontravis.com blog post #492

 


 





The following says it all, so lets get right to it.

 



****

THE DEATH OF A SON

Goodbye, Clai

 This is the most difficult writing I have ever done, and it has taken me four different tries over better than two months to accomplish it.

Had you asked me, I would have said I handle the deaths of those close to me pretty well. I grieve—as we all do—then assign the event its proper place in my life. I call up occasional recollections of those gone and enjoy the remembrances—or suffer through them—and then move on. In that manner, those I have lost who were dear to me become “escapes” from the daily rigors of life, people to be treasured and enjoyed, and who sometimes show up in part or in whole in my short stories and novels. That was the case with my wife, parents and grandparents, brother, other relatives, and cherished friends. Not so with the man in the photo above. This one was much harder to face.

On January 22, 2021, the elder of my two sons Clai, died in Christus St. Michael’s Hospital in Texarkana, Texas of “sepsis.” The lady beside him is my mother.

I don’t want this to be the typical “obituary” type of piece. Rather, I prefer to use this time to pay honor to a man many would consider a failure. In the sense that he died without an estate, living on disability in a low-income housing unit without spouse or issue, perhaps he was. His immediate family was a little dog named Buddy who loved him as devotedly as he was loved. But there was another side to Clai.

First, a little background. Ours was the typical dysfunctional family, and I use those two words deliberately—as I’ve grown to believe that when you really take a hard look at them, the dysfunctional family is the norm, not the extreme. I bear a significant share of the blame for that situation in our little clan. I came out of a time and culture where the man worked, and the wife bore children and saw to their upbringing. So I became a workaholic, believing that providing for them was a sufficient contribution. Thus, I wasn’t around enough to understand my wife—now gone for 12 years—was having problems of her own. Willful blindness or deliberate? I honestly don’t know.

Clai arrived in this world on May 14, 1960 in Denver, Colorado to face an uncertain future after a twelve-hour battle to see the light of day. His health was frail in early childhood. He had an operation before he was six months old. Let’s face it because of this he grew up a coddled mama’s boy. That ended shortly after he graduated from Menaul High School in Albuquerque. He had an increasingly contentious relationship with his mother, and consequently with his family. The one constant in his life was his grandmother—my mother—in far off Texarkana, Texas. By now Clai was a mechanic by profession—and a good one, I’m told—but his problems, social, emotional, and physical, mounted. He became an alcoholic, developed learning and social problems, He was always the guy standing on the outside, looking in. And then a chronic back problem—only partially corrected by an operation—and a diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder (what we used to call Multiple Personality Disorder) rendered him disabled. He could do a job for a short period but couldn’t hold a job.

One day, he called us from Texarkana, Texas to let us know he’d moved there—no warning, no planning. He simply pulled up stakes and left to get away from his mother, or so he claimed. The only place he knew to run was to the woman who always seemed to be there for him (at least in a long-distance relationship), his grandmother. She remained his rock until her passing just shy of the age of 97 not long after the photo above was taken.

By the way, I also think he considered his name a disability all its own. The spelling of his name with an i instead of a y was taken from his mother maiden name of Claiborne. He complained he always had to deny he was “Clair.”

Now let me share why I consider this as an honor to his memory. When he died, Clai had his medallion from Alcohol Anonymous for 23 years sober. He had been a sponsor for many years in the program. Living on fewer than $950.00 a month isn’t easy, but Clai learned to budget and managed to do so—after kicking a lifetime habit of lusting after every car he ever saw. Despite his back problems, he kept his 2000 Ford Focus running. Even on his tight budget, Clai was always willing to give someone a ride, and in doing so, developed a few good friends. He repaired his relationship with me and taught me a lot about vitamins and supplements. He was increasingly successful at keeping his six or so other personalities at bay for longer periods of time. Addressing a growing weight problem, he battled his way back down to 180 pounds, until the sepsis added 40 pounds of fluid in his last weeks. He dealt with two heart operations essentially alone. No matter how ill he was, he always made sure Buddy was taken care of. An agnostic for years—acknowledging only the AA’s “higher power”—Clai became a believer. In recent years, he often said he’d have to “pray over that.”

To many, this might not appear to be much of a life, but to me, it seems as if my son overcame immense adversity to end up a decent man. I commend you, Clai. I miss you. I love you. Know that when the weather turns warmer, your brother and I are going to the Jemez Mountains to spread your ashes near our old summer cabin  where you and Grant played and dodged half-wild cattle and waded in the Ria Jemez… where you grew up. Not sure how close, because after all these years, neither of us can remember exactly how to get there. But at least you’ll rest among God’s splendor.

God bless and goodbye, my son.

****

There’s nothing more to say, except I weep for you, Clai.

Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say… so say it!

A link to The Cutie-Pie Murders:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/ambxgy7e5ndmimk/CutiePieMurders%5BThe%5D.zip?dl=0

My personal links:

Email: don.travis@aol.com.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.travis.982

Twitter: @dontravis3

See you next Thursday.

 

Don

New Posts every Thursday morning at 6:00 a.m. US Mountain time.


Thursday, April 1, 2021

A Deeper Look at The Cutie-Pie Murders

 

dontravis.com blog post #491

 

Can you tell I’m moderately excited at the upcoming release of my 7th  B. J. Vinson mystery book? You probably can, because I want to take another look at it this week. Remember guys and gals, it comes out next month. You can preorder it now, if you wish.

 For this week’s look at the novel, I’ve chosen a scene from Chapter 8. By using old-fashioned shoe leather, BJ and Paul have located the place where BJ’s client’s son was murdered, a new apartment complex on Central east of the University New Mexico. They go to interview the apartment manager, a young UNM student they’ve discovered is the nephew of one of the owners of the four story building. The Barkley Pierson mentioned is the murdered youth’s lover. The others…. Well, you’ll just have to buy the book to find out.

 ****

THE CUTIE-PIE MURDERS

 Quinton James looked no more like an apartment manager and no less like a college boy than the last time I saw him. He shook hands, first with me and then with Paul. We took seats opposite his desk in a nice office. I scanned the beige-and-burgundy walls. Commercial reproductions of paintings. Nothing personal. Quint probably didn’t spend much time here.

I tried to view him as I imagined the cutie-pie killer would see him. Early twenties, slender but with definition, cute… but not cutie-pie. No ring, no photo of girlfriend or wife and kids evident. He pinged on my gaydar. The blip grew stronger when he smiled at Paul.

I directed his attention back to me. “Quint, what can you tell us about the former tenants in 4201?”

“There’s only been one,” he said without referring to any records. “Fellow by the name of Burton Neville. He was one of Park House’s first tenants.”

“What was his occupation?”

“Engineer of some kind at Sandia Labs.”

“When did he leave?”

He fingered the keyboard of his computer a moment before answering. “Tuesday, September 13, of last year.”

“About six months ago,” Paul said.

“Right. Broke his lease, paid the penalty, and moved out.”

“Why?”

Quint repeated what Willow and Wally had told us about a new job in California, but it wasn’t wasted effort. It was corroboration. After Quint ran down, I questioned him about some of the other tenants of the building, but he needed to refer to his records to answer those queries, confirming—at least for me—that he took more interest in tenants who might have been gay.

“Have you heard from Neville since he left?”

Quint shook his head. “No. Although I should have. He has some money coming back on his deposit and was going to call with a forwarding address when he was settled.”

“Has anyone called for a reference, like another apartment complex in California or a Realtor?”

“Nobody. I’m still holding a check for him.”

“What can you tell us about some of the roommates Neville entertained while he was here?”

Quint averted his eyes. “No roommates. He was the only one on the lease.”

A silence built until he buckled. “You must mean his guests. He had a few overnights.”

“Lady friends?”

Quint’s cheeks reddened enough to notice. “Boys… uh, men.”

“Some of them stayed for quite some time, I understand.”

“You can have guests for up to two weeks.”

I opened the folio I’d brought and spread five photos on the desk in front of him, the killer’s four recent victims and the copycat, Pat Aragon. “Were any of these his guests?”

I’d provided snaps of the men while they were alive and attractive. Quint took his time studying them. So far as I could tell, he devoted the same amount of interest and attention to each before looking up and shaking his head.

“I don’t recall ever seeing any of them.”

I tapped Zapata’s photo. “This is the man who died in 4201. Sure you’ve never seen him before? With Neville or in the lobby or on the street?”

He shook his head again, his eyes back on the photos.

“None of them were Neville’s guests?” Paul asked again.

“No. At least I didn’t see them.”

“Ever seen them with Willow or Wally?”

His flush was different this time, signaling anger, but he swallowed it. “Nope. Like I said, I’ve never seen any of these men. Anywhere, anytime, with anybody.”

“Do you know if a young man named Jules spent any time in Neville’s apartment?” I asked.

“No. But like I told you, I never saw any of Mr. Neville’s guests.”

Paul looked quizzical. “Then how do you know there were any?”

His mouth firmed. He was having trouble holding on to his calm. “Just talk. I heard people mention he had guests.”

Paul pushed the issue. “People. Willow and Wally, I imagine.”

Quint’s complexion turned a deeper scarlet. “Among others. Look, I’ve told you all I know. I’ve got work to do, okay?”

“One more thing before we go,” I said, handing over Barkley Pierson’s photo. “How about this man? Have you seen him in the building?”

As Quint studied the image his face crumbled into a frown. “Yeah. I’ve seen this guy.”

****

Wow! Have they discovered something? Could Matt Zapata’s fellow student and lover he his killer?

 

Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say… so say it!

 Here's a link to pre-order The Cutie-Pie Murders:

 https://www.dropbox.com/s/ambxgy7e5ndmimk/CutiePieMurders%5BThe%5D.zip?dl=0

 My personal links:

 Email: don.travis@aol.com.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.travis.982

Twitter: @dontravis3

 See you next Thursday.

 Don

 New Posts every Thursday morning at 6:00 a.m. US Mountain time.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

The Cutie-Pie Murders, Another Look

dontravis.com blog post #490

 

Can you believe it? April is right around the corner, meaning two things: A quarter of this new year (which commenced only yesterday—or so it seems—has raced past. It also means that The Cutie-Pie Murders will be released by Dreamspinner. Looking forward to the event. In preparing this post, I ran across a note one of Dreamspinner’s editors sent me after reviewing the book Thought it was interesting, so I’ve included it below:

 I really enjoyed this story, for its own sake and as an addition to the series! These mysteries remain some of my all-time favorite procedurals, and this story delivered just as satisfactory a mystery and resolution as the others, which can be hard to do in a longer running series. I’ve loved how the relationship between BJ and Paul has remained strong and faithful—it adds to the satisfaction of seeing them work together as a team as well as balancing the evil of humanity (the murders/crimes) with the goodness, so I loved that there was plenty of that this time. I’ve also loved throughout the series (and seeing in this one also) how BJ works with the police; again, it balances the darkness being investigated to see the good/helpful dynamic between BJ and the others. In addition, I really appreciated how this mystery was more about obtaining proof after identifying the murderer, rather than the twist/surprise, since it made for a refreshing change of the usual mystery formula… the tension of the strong suspicion made for some good tension escalation as they worked to prevent him from killing.  All nicely done!

Not a bad compliment. Thanks, AZ.

 Today, I want to give you another look at the upcoming novel. The following scene comes early in Chapter 3. BJ returns home after making arrangements with APD Detectives to keep an appointment with an individual who’s sent an invitation for a meet to the murdered call boy, Matt Zapata. The scene is designed to give you a look at BJ’s and Paul’s domestic relationship and Paul’s rising interest in the new case. Enjoy.

 ****

THE CUTIE-PIE MURDERS

 Our plans complete, I headed home, salivating over Paul’s announcement this morning he intended to fix a pot of his delicious green chili stew for our dinner. The love of my life was home and still seated before his computer in our shared home office, but the savory aroma of the promised repast hung heavy in the air.

He rose to give me a smile and a hug after I plopped my attaché case on my desk. “Hungry?” he asked.

“In more ways than one.” My first glimpse of him after a day’s absence always rocked me on my heels, reminding me how fortunate I was to have such a handsome and hunky mate to share my life. His lopsided grin went straight to my heart. His right eyebrow rose slightly.

“We’ll take your appetites in order.”

I showered and changed to casual clothes while he finished an article on the Albuquerque Isotopes baseball team. Paul was a freelance journalist, and his articles on last year’s Voxlightner Scandal case had been well received, giving his career a boost. Although I made no financial demands on him, he insisted on carrying his share of the household expenses. What he couldn’t contribute in dollars, he supplemented with sweat labor. The red-brick, cross-gabled house I’d inherited from my folks at 5229 Post Oak Drive in northwest Albuquerque hadn’t looked so spiffy—inside and out—since my mom took care of the interior and my dad puttered around the outside.

I emerged from the bedroom as Paul hit a key and gave a satisfied “Done.” I took that to mean he’d emailed his article to the target magazine.

We ate at the kitchenette table where, as usual, Paul’s tasty, piquant stew slaked one craving while his bronzed arms and admirable pecs excited another.

He brought me back to the moment by asking about the Zapata murder.

“The case has a name now. Matt was the third young man killed and discarded naked in some public place. The police are calling them the cutie-pie murders.”

“Cutie-pie? Who came up with such a lame name? Nobody’s used ‘cutie-pie’ in ages.”

I went for my attaché case and brought back three photographs.

“Wow!” he said after looking at them. “They are hotties. Cutie-pie fits, I guess. Any leads to who killed them?”

“Someone who’s not afraid to leave clues. All three of the victims were covered in semen. Their own and someone else’s. And the someone else doesn’t happen to have sperm in his semen.”

“So no DNA, huh? But if the vic’s own cum was on him, he must have been a willing partner.”

“Not a valid assumption,” I said. “Sexual excitement can be stimulated even when you don’t particularly want to participate. But at this point, there’s no reason to assume the three victims didn’t voluntarily participate.”

“Any connection between the three dead guys?”

“Matt and Hubbard were both students at UNM.”

“Hubbard?”

“The black youngster. But they were in different disciplines, so there’s no apparent connection. I suspect the fact they were both students is coincidental since Greene, the other one, was a street kid.”

“Were they call boys like we believe Matt was?”

I shook my head. “As I say, Dustin Greene lived on the streets—literally. Last known address was a downtown alley. It wouldn’t surprise me if he occasionally covered his meals offering himself to some guy. I’m willing to bet Hubbard wasn’t.”

“Do you think Hubbard was gay?”

“No indication of it.”

“So Matt was the only gay guy in the bunch.”

“And I think he was more of a bi. Or maybe a pansexual.”

“Since they had cum on them, it probably wasn’t robbery,” Paul said.

“Given the semen and the fact they were found naked, this was likely purely sexual. But I think it’s a psychological thing.” I described the circumstances surrounding all three deaths.

“Some looney doesn’t like pretty boys,” Paul suggested.

“Then why become sexually active with them?”

He shrugged. “Maybe he wants it, but when he gets it, he’s disgusted by what he’s done. We’ve both known guys like that.”

“True. But they’re usually disgusted with themselves.”

Paul wagged his head from side to side. “For the most part. But sometimes they take it out on their partners.”

****

I suspect Paul’s last suggestion rings true for many of us. Let me know what you think of the scene.

Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say… so say it!

Here's a link to The Cutie-Pie Murders:

 https://www.dropbox.com/s/ambxgy7e5ndmimk/CutiePieMurders%5BThe%5D.zip?dl=0

 My personal links:

 Email: don.travis@aol.com.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.travis.982

Twitter: @dontravis3

 See you next Thursday.

 

Don

 New Posts every Thursday morning at 6:00 a.m. US Mountain time.


Thursday, March 18, 2021

Ludicrous Jones

 dontravis.com blog post #489

Photo Courtesy of Ludicrous Stock Vector (Royalty Free), shutterstock.com:


Thanks to Don Morgan for the guest post of his novel The Eagle’s Claw. I hope my readers appreciated the glimpse he gave us.

 

Perhaps I’m back in the saddle since I was able to create a brand-new piece of flash fiction for this week. Hope you enjoy it.

 

****

LUDICROUS JONES

Ludicrous P. Jones. How’s that for a name? Well, it’s my cross to bear. As soon as I’m emancipated, I’ll change it legally, but I just turned eighteen, so I’ve got three more years to carry the load.

My parents deny it, but I think they were drunk or high on something when it came time to christen their son and heir. They’re kinda retro hippies, and that might be the explanation for the nonsensical name. Mostly, I go by Lud or Luddy—as in “Lood” or “Loody.” That wasn’t so bad when I was a little kid, in fact, Luddy was sort of cute. But once I hit adolescence it just wasn’t manly enough. Lud wasn’t so bad, except it’s too close to “lewd,” which is what I saw in the expressions on all adults who heard it for the first time. I tried to assign myself a nickname, but somehow Rod or Bart or Brick just didn’t stick.

I thought about using my middle name, except it’s just an initial. My driver’s license actually reads Ludicrous P. (only) Jones. So if I use P as a name, people—especially the guys—hesitate between the initial and the last name so that it sorta comes out as an order: “Pee, Jones.”

And last year, I asked my track coach something, and he unthinkingly responded, “Don’t be ludicrous, Jones.” For the rest of the term, that became the stock answer when someone asked a dumbass question. “Don’t be Ludicrous Jones. “Embarrassing.

When first asked about the source of the name, I joked that when my parents first took a gander at their naked newborn, they were shocked at the size of the equipment he carried. And, I claimed, since that hadn’t changed as time went by, the name was still appropriate. Of course, the guys in gym class knew that wasn’t true, but the story hung on and became a school legend. I’d gotten used to surreptitious glances “down there,” even got over being embarrassed by them.

My teachers handled things in their own way. In shop and gym, I was “Jones.” Most of the rest of the teachers either called me “You there,” or “What do you say, Mr. Jones?’ or sometimes Lud or Luddy. One resorted to calling me by my initials, but LP, which brought a rose blush to her cheeks when someone wisecracked “Long Playing.”  Apparently, she equated that with carnal stamina and thereafter adopted the gym teacher’s moniker for me of “Jones”

At any rate, I blamed my name for everything that came later.

The first thing that happened was Bessie Sue Quigley talked me out of my pants to satisfy her curiosity. While she expressed a bit of disappointment, she later said she’d confirm the LP appellation if I wanted her to. I insisted we had to try it a few more times before she could be sure. After two months of Bessie’s auditions, we both moved on to other things.

The next thing that happened was a new guy transferred in and apparently heard the original thesis about my name. Luis—that was his moniker—made no bones about studying my crotch. Once when I caught him at it, he met my gaze and arched an eyebrow. Because I didn’t know how to handle that, I just nodded and rushed on to my next class.

That same afternoon as I closed my locker and prepared to go home, Luis suddenly appeared at my elbow.

“When and where?” he asked.

“When and where what?”

He seemed taken aback. “You nodded, so I assumed you accepted my invitation.”

“What invitation? I was beginning to sound like an idiot. In this matter, I probably was.

“I let my eyebrow ask a question?”

“Wh—”

“Are you really that naïve?”

“Apparently so.”

“You have a rep, you know.”

“I know what they say my name means, if that’s what you’re saying.”

“Definitely.”

“So what’s your question?” I asked.

“I wanna see for myself.”

“Uh….”

Luis laughed, and I noticed how handsome he was. I’d never considered it before, but as he stood chuckling over my reaction, I fixed on that. A guy’s looks had never mattered before but, somehow, now it did. What was going on?

“Well, I gotta go to the bathroom before I head out.”

Luis shook his head, sending curly, black locks flying. “Nah. Too public. I gotta get a good look before I render judgment.”

“J-judgment? What’s going on?”

He shrugged. “Simple. I wanna see for myself if what they say about you’s for real.”

Flummoxed, I blurted the first thing that came to mind. “Under the bleachers at the football field.”

He nodded. “When?”

“How about now… I guess.”

“Gotta stow my books. Meet you there in five minutes.”

I felt like a fish caught on a hook. “Sure. Okay.”

And that’s how Luis talked me out of my pants.

 

****

Can you use your imagination to complete the story? Be interesting to see how you think it came out. Drop me a line.

 

My mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say… so say it!

 Now a link to The Cutie-Pie Murders:

 https://www.dropbox.com/s/ambxgy7e5ndmimk/CutiePieMurders%5BThe%5D.zip?dl=0

 My personal links:

 Email: don.travis@aol.com.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.travis.982

Twitter: @dontravis3

 See you next Thursday.

 

Don

 New Posts every Thursday morning at 6:00 a.m. US Mountain time.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

The Eagle’s Claw, A Guest Post

dontravis.com blog post #487


Sorry I’m overindulging in reposts and guest posts, but I’m having a little trouble coping with the death of my older son on January 22 of this year from sepsis. He died in a Texarkana, Texas hospital, and all I could do was tell him goodbye as a nurse held a phone to his ear. She said he was nonresponsive, but I like to believe he heard me.

At any rate, Don Morgan came to my rescue. Here’s a repost of Donald T. Morgan’s The Eagle’s Claw which appeared on July 15, 2015. I hope you like it. Personally, I think it’s great.

****

THE EAGLE’S CLAW

By Don Travis


 PROLOGUE

 

The Edge of Mountain Apache Reservation, Southern New Mexico, June 1946

Sleep brought a restless dream. Rather, it was the stitching together of a memory by the boy’s subconscious from scraps collected and then forgotten over the years. There was a man in the dream, a tall Indah with brown hair and sad, gray eyes. A small, tawny woman with long, black hair and a beautiful smile was in it, as well. The izdan, well past school age, yearned to be able to read and write. The man, who taught at the Indian school, helped her learn. They were together often. They talked and laughed and grew toward one another.

They left the reservation and were married in the white man’s way. The woman often returned to her mother’s wickiup, but the schoolteacher never came. This was good because a man gazing upon his mother-in-law risked blindness. The young wife blossomed with health and happiness and child. Strength and pride replaced the longing in the man’s eyes.

One day, more Indah brought a rodeo to the reservation. The Tinneh loved a rodeo. It was great fun to watch the gaunt, pale men flop around on bucking horses. Some of the People rode, too. The crowd cheered whenever a cowboy rolled in the dust, no matter he was white or tribesman.

Then a hush fell over the stands. A magnificent roan pranced into the arena. A devil horse with fire-eyes and a black mane writhing like a nest of serpents. Its great hooves struck sparks from the earth.

No one could ride him, hooted the rodeo hands. No one ever had. No one ever would. They offered the bribe of money to any who succeeded. The Apache men stirred restlessly, but advised by diyithe shamans among them—they refused the challenge even though the prize was hefty.

One man stepped forward. The white man with gray eyes. A teacher didn’t make much money, and he had a family on the way. He would claim the reward.

Death stalked the arena. Evil corrupted the air. The cowboys’ flesh turned green from it. The roan danced in savage glee. The smell of horse sweat and manure and hot dogs and dust hung heavy over the crowd. Invisible owls screeched. Whippoorwills cried, and coyotes cackled.

From the uneasy safety of his dream, the boy watched the man mount the haughty horse. The chute gate flew open. The roan shot out, bucking and whirling in a frenzy. The Indah rode him! He rode the wicked beast.

Enraged by the humiliation, the roan flung himself against the fence. The man was hurt. His fingers loosened. The animal twisted savagely, and the rider fell. The demon horse wheeled.

The woman with the beautiful smile ran into the arena, waving her arms to turn the frothy beast away. The horse charged on, driven insane by talons of monster owls buried in his withers.

The man was dead. The dreamer thought the woman was, too, but she moved. Her body strained in birth even as she died.

And he knew he had seen himself born.

 

CHAPTER 1

After foraging what seemed half the reservation, Román came up with only six empties: three strawberry, two Grapette, and a Coke with a chip in it. If only someone would pay for the beer bottles littering the ground, he’d be full of food and candy all the time. Booze wasn’t allowed on the reservation, but that didn’t stop the bootleggers. He picked up a long-necked beer bottle and put an eye to the amber mouth. Pretty. He shoved his tongue into the opening and sucked noisily. It was as dry as Barranca Seca in June. He tossed the bottle aside.

The store in White Pine wasn’t open yet, so he played in the mud puddle beneath a faucet for a quarter of an hour before it occurred to him to wash his face and hands. When the place finally opened, he swapped the empties for a full bottle of strawberry. Like he figured, the man refused to pay for the nicked Coke bottle.

He collected his scrawny pony and rode deep into Dead Scout Canyon where the mare could graze while he nursed his drink. It was no longer cold, but he didn’t mind. Warm soda pop made him burp, and he liked to burp. The bubbly water filled an empty belly better than anything. And red strawberry was the best of all. A man would never be hungry if he could buy four bottles a day.

For no reason other than his thoughts were so bent, he belched loudly, once in each cardinal direction, beginning in the east as all things begin and proceeding as the hands of a white man’s clock move. The ritual complete, he drained the bottle and dropped it on a rock.

The noise flushed a woolly spider from beneath the flat stone. Román nudged the creature with his toe. It scooted sideways on eight hairy legs and then froze. Cane-Woman said that if you killed a spider, its relatives would try to kill you. And his grandmother knew about such things. He hesitated, his foot suspended above the tiny animal. Abruptly, he dropped his heel.

“The white man at the Agency did it. The one with fuzzy hair that’s falling out on top,” he lied to the dead spider and all its kin. For emphasis, he nodded in the direction of the Indian Affairs Office in the settlement. There. That should fool the spiders. They weren’t very smart.

When he began moving again, he sensed he was not alone in the canyon. The hair on the back of his neck and the faint clink of stone from the deep shadows told him so. In that moment, he felt a kinship with ancestors who lived when danger covered the earth like a blanket. He decided to stay…even though the image of a huge Grandfather Spider bent on revenge crawled across his mind.

After tying the mare to a piñon, he headed for an outcrop where he could hide. Maybe the presence was other than natural. For years, he’d listened to tales of the Mana, the Great-Power-Flooding-the-Universe, and of the ga’an, the Mountain Spirits of his grandmother’s winter stories. Everybody said Cane-Woman knew Eagle, and that he gave her great power, although Román wasn’t exactly sure how that worked. But things might not be the same anymore. Was this world the same as when the Old Way prevailed? He frowned as he recognized the words of Miss Marshall, his last year’s teacher. Did his mind belong to the Indah woman now?

The mare whinnied and danced at the end of her reins. Whatever shared the canyon was near. His eyes raked the tufa above him. He saw nothing that didn’t belong. Ashamed of cowering behind rocks, he rose and poked his head over the boulder. Below him, he saw his “presence.” No supernatural shared the canyon with him. It was only Clarence Wolf sneaking up on his pony. He didn’t like Clarence very much. A year older and almost twice Román’s size, Clare-Ass wasn’t just a dumbo. He was a bully, to boot.

Feeling cheated his interloper was merely human—and an inferior one, at that—he scooped up a handful of stones and ran down the hill raining missiles upon his enemy. The bigger youngster retreated before the barrage to a more sheltered place. They settled down to throwing rocks at one another with only sporadic accuracy until the morning failed and his stomach began growling again. The sport gone from the half-serious game, he reclaimed the mare and wandered off, leaving his enemy to hurl obscenities at his back.

Abandoning the high canyon to his foe, Román ranged down from the Capuchas onto the edge of the desert. The noise in his gut grew stronger. Chewing a wad of sap from a wounded piñon provided a little relief. He eyed a colony of prairie dogs, but they were such wary little creatures he didn’t even unwind the slingshot tied around his waist.

He rode the mare down the steep side of Split Nose Gulch and came up out of the gully hungrier than ever. He reined in and listened. Had he heard something? No, it was just his head playing tricks on him. His head must be hungry, too.

Then from far away, so faint the wind must have whispered in his ear, he heard a voice. He scouted and found nothing. Perhaps the ga’an toyed with him. Or was it the One-Great-God-Who-Was-Three they talked about at the settlement church? Weird. Three was such a strange number. He preferred four. Four was good and natural. Four was the ritual number of his people.

There it was again. Closer now. A cry for help. He skirted a clump of juniper and cut the trail of a horse. Curiosity set him to following the tracks. The hoof prints made straight for Blind Man’s Arroyo, an enormous ditch snaking down the foothills that carried the spring runoff to the distant river. He dismounted, stepped to the brink, and peered over the edge.

****

You can only get the book through Amazon Kindle, but I believe it’s a tome worth reading. I say “tome” because it is longer than the usual novel. Thanks, Don, for letting me post the piece again.

 Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say… so say it!

 Now a link to The Cutie-Pie Murders:

 https://www.dropbox.com/s/ambxgy7e5ndmimk/CutiePieMurders%5BThe%5D.zip?dl=0

 My personal links:

 Email: don.travis@aol.com.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.travis.982

Twitter: @dontravis3

 See you next Thursday.

 

Don

 New Posts every Thursday morning at 6:00 a.m. US Mountain time.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

He Only Came Alive… ( A Repost)

 

dontravis.com blog post #487

 Photo Courtesy of depositphotos.com


The short story that follows is a repost from February 20, 2014, some seven years ago. I wonder how many remember it? Shout out if you do.

****

                        HE ONLY CAME ALIVE …

         “He only came alive when she was in the room.”

That line was the only part of a long-forgotten book that stuck with me. But stuck, it had. Every once in awhile it would pop unbidden into my head, usually when I was bored and in need of distraction.

Like now in Professor Stood’s American Lit class. That’s Stood with O’s as in too, not as in wood. If the old windbag had the brains to spell it S-t-u-u-d, he wouldn’t have to correct everyone all the time. At the moment he was discussing the minimalist quality of Earnest Hemmingway’s writings. That was definitely boring. The only thing of Papa’s I liked was For Whom the Bell Tolls. The rest were just so many black ink marks sullying pristine paper. A Farewell to Arms fit particularly well into the latter category, so far as I was concerned.

So naturally, my eyes were playing the endless game of “Is-She-the-One?” I regarded Sara Tillingham across the room, her sharp chin resting in the palm of one hand, eyes (brown, I believe) fixed on the rotund instructor. She’d be wearing something that smelled of roses. Attractive but studious. Imagining her future conjured only images of ivy-covered buildings and classrooms. A teacher. No, a professor. A tenured professor regaling her students in a high, thin voice. Her spare time would be spent penning romances under a nom de plume.

Sorry, but I couldn’t imagine her illuminating my life.

Winsome Williams, two rows behind Sara, was something else. Her aroma would be lavender. Definitely lavender. I shifted in my seat for a better look. From her appearance, you wouldn’t think she came from money, but I knew she did. Blonde, blue-eyed, pert, pug-nosed, and so packed with curves they verged on the vulgar, she was expensive trashy … by design. No classrooms in her future. More likely bedrooms. The picture of an expensive madam with a low, silky voice leapt to mind. Would she brighten my life?

Nah.

Beth Hughes, just a row over and two seats ahead of me. Compact, wiry, a strong alto with lots of vibrato. A tennis phenom at the U, she always smelled of Wind Song … sometimes woody, sometimes floral. Pretty in a jock sort of way. It wasn’t hard to visualize her future: US Open, Wimbledon. Endless tennis courts… clay, grass, concrete. Keeping up with her would be demanding, and probably exciting at times.

Too much of a competitor.

Everyone made ready to leave when Stood dismissed the class. I rose, stretched, and turned to grab my backpack hanging over the desk chair.

“Well, did you pick one?”

I glanced up to see Ricardo Alban grinning at me.

“Saw you checking out the gals during the lecture.”

The smoldering, sloe-eyed stare of the tall young man with a throaty baritone, a hint of Brut… the Essence of Man… always clinging to him made me pause. As I took in the smooth olive skin and wavy black hair, my stomach dropped. My blood sang.

“Wanna grab a beer at the Student Union?” His left eyebrow arched. “Or I have a couple of beers in the fridge at my room.”

“R-room… uh, beer,” I stuttered.

Maybe I’d have to alter that sentence from the long-forgotten book ever so slightly.

****

Can self-awareness really come in a flash like that? There’s no question in my mind our protagonist knew exactly what Ricardo was suggesting, yet he didn’t hesitate a second. Does this remind you of an incident in your own life? If so, let me know.

 Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say… so say it!

 Now a link to The Cutie-Pie Murders:

 https://www.dropbox.com/s/ambxgy7e5ndmimk/CutiePieMurders%5BThe%5D.zip?dl=0

 My personal links:

 Email: don.travis@aol.com.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.travis.982

Twitter: @dontravis3

 

See you next Thursday.

 Don

 New Posts every Thursday morning at 6:00 a.m. US Mountain time.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Sty Wardlow, A short-short story

 dontravis.com blog post #486

Photo courtesy of the spruceeats.com 


Last week, I mentioned that my son Clai’s ashes were to be delivered Wednesday of that week. I was out when they tried to deliver the package so I had to go to the post office to claim it. I thought I was mentally prepared, and handled it all right… until I walked from the car to my apartment and realized I was carrying my adult son in my arms just as I did when he was an infant. Have to admit, that got to me some. But enough of that.

 Hope you enjoyed a look at The Cutie-Pie Murders last week Am anxious for the novel to be out. But today, I want to give you another short story. In some quarters “Sty Wardlow” would be considered flash fiction, although it runs more than the 500 words some people use as a measure. At any rate, I hope you enjoy the tale.

 ****

STY WARDLOW

Sty Wardlow—birth name, Stanley, and actual nickname, Pig Sty—was usually as neat as a pin and as clean as a recently laundered T-shirt. He didn’t come by his nickname from slovenly habits; he earned it because of where his mind dwelt. Or so his peers claimed. Only eighteen, he was sex obsessed. He’d never had any, but he rarely thought about anything else. He looked at a banana and saw a penis. A grapefruit and observed a ripe breast. A…. well, you get the idea.

So he was floored one day when he spotted an unfamiliar face moving down the hall between classes amid a flood of other students. Tall for a girl, but it was the most beautiful face he’d ever seen. Way better than Libby Sneldon, Drake High’s football queen, prom queen, and everything else that had a queen. Wonder if the new chick had a figure like Libby’s. Sty hadn’t been able to see anything through the crowd of moving, chattering students except that beautiful face and a head of black, black hair. Neither short nor long. He earned irritated mutters when he came to a stop and turned around to watch that magnificent mane of hair disappear around the corner. His body reacted in a way that made him think of a banana.

Sty got the shock of his life when he reported for tennis that afternoon. He spotted the same face atop a slender but muscled male form. He tried to keep from staring as he shook hands with the new guy in school named Ransom Wellerby. The guy had a prominent Adam’s apple, so he was definitely a dude.

“Call me Ran,” the stranger said. His shake was firm. Not crushing and not a dishrag… just right.

He’d bet anything they called this guy Handsome Ransom at his last school. Smart. Cut it down to “Ran” straight off the bat.

“You wanna hit the court for a set of singles?” the new boy asked in a voice that registered somewhere between a baritone and a bass.

“Why not?” Sty answered, deepening his voice somewhat.

Maybe he was distracted or maybe Ran was a better player than he was, but whatever the cause, the new kid whipped him four ways to Sunday… six games straight.

“Okay, I surrender,” Sty said, after Ran put away the final shot of the set. “You’re better than I am.”

“Not really,” Ran said.

“What do you mean?”

“I’ve seen that look before.”

“Explain.”

“I’m an air force brat. We’ve moved around a lot. First time somebody sees me, they get discombobulated. Doesn’t take long for that to wear off.”

“Discombobulated by what?” Sty asked.

“They look at my face and figure I ought to be a girl. We get on the court, and they find out I’m not. Am I right?”

“No… yes. Well, maybe. I gotta admit you’re one good-looking dude. I could probably squint my eyes and see you as a chick.”

“Except I’m not.” Ran halted on their way to the boy’s locker. “Sty. What is that? Short for Stuyvesant? I heard your name was Wardlow.”

“It is. Sty’s a nickname.”

“For what?”

“Long story.”

“I got time. This was my last class.”

“Okay,” Sty said, his ears flaming. “It’s short for Pig Sty.”

Ran’s chocolate brown eyes scanned his frame. “Look clean enough to me. A little sweaty, but who isn’t after six hard-fought games of tennis.”

“It… It’s not my appearance. It’s well…. It’s just that I think about sex a lot, so the girls started calling me Pig Sty. It stuck. Hell, even my folks call me Sty now, even though they don’t know exactly why.”

Ran laughed, sending chills up Sty’s back. The image of a banana popped into his head.

“That’s rich,” Ran said, moving on toward the locker room. He shot Sty a hooded look. “Sex, huh? Who doesn’t think about it? But I guess it’s the doing of it that counts, right?”

Sty figured his ears would have lighted the darkest corner of the blackest closet. “Yeah. Right.”

“You ever done it?”

“Uh….” His whole face burned.

“You haven’t have you?”

“Guess not.”

“Guess not? Don’t you know?”

“Well, of course I know. And the answer is no.”

Ran halted and looked straight into Sty’s eyes. “You’re one good-looking dude too. Wanna try it?”

****

Apparently the new boy at Drake High doesn’t fool around. Well, it looks as though he “fools around” okay, and he does it on an accelerated basis. Any thoughts on whether Sty took him up on his offer or not. I have my own ideas about it… but wouldn’t want them influencing your own.

 Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say… so say it!

 Now a link to The Cutie-Pie Murders:

 https://www.dropbox.com/s/ambxgy7e5ndmimk/CutiePieMurders%5BThe%5D.zip?dl=0

 My personal links:

 Email: don.travis@aol.com.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.travis.982

Twitter: @dontravis3

 See you next Thursday.

 

Don

 New Posts every Thursday morning at 6:00 a.m. US Mountain time.

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