Friday, May 24, 2019

Don Travis: Splendid Desolation (Part Three of Four parts)

Don Travis: Splendid Desolation (Part Three of Four parts): dontravis.com blog post #338 Courtesy of Pixnio.com We last saw Vince staggering around on the desolate desert not much caring w...

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Splendid Desolation (Part Three of Four parts)


dontravis.com blog post #338

Courtesy of Pixnio.com
We last saw Vince staggering around on the desolate desert not much caring whether he lived or died. Will someone show up to save him? Read on.

*****
SPLENDID ISOLATION

I woke at first light wrapped in warm blankets and shaded by an awning of scrap canvas stretched between two boulders. Something soft and wet was pressed against my cracked lips. I sucked on it like a blind baby finding a tit.
“Not too much,” a voice cautioned. Focusing my eyes, I discovered a young man sitting cross-legged beside me holding a dripping cloth to my lips. Davy! He’d come back for me. “Take it slow,” the youngster cautioned.
Despite the words, I sucked the rag dry of the sweetest nectar known to man… water. I tried to sit up, but discovered I was too weak to even lift my head. “Where  am... I?” My voice sounded like a bullfrog with a whiskey problem.
The young man smiled, revealing teeth brighter than Sweetie’s. I realized he was not Davy; this youth had a little bulk to his frame, although he was as spectacularly handsome at that miserable little shit. Dark curls fell across a broad forehead as yet unmarked by life. Turquoise eyes, somewhere between blue and green, smiled along with a broad, sensual mouth.
“You’re safe. You just need to rest and gain some strength, and then we’ll get you to shelter.”
“How’d you find me?”
“That’s what I do,” the youth responded in a light baritone. “I find people in trouble out here. You’d be surprised how many there are.”
“Not if they’re as stupid as I am,” I grumbled, accepting more water from a canteen.
“Folks get insulated from the desert by air-conditioned cars and forget how dangerous it is.”
“Can you show me the way me back to civilization?”
“Sure. As soon as you get your strength back. Right now, I want you to eat some trail mix. We’ll try bacon and eggs later.”
Trail mix had always tasted like confetti, but the stuff this kid fed me was ambrosia. After that feast, I dropped back into a restless sleep. It wasn’t until afternoon that I felt strong enough to put a good, solid meal under my belt. Then I took notice of our surroundings. We were camped on a steep hill crowned by two large boulders. There was nothing but nothing for miles in every direction. I wondered how the dark-haired youngster managed to carry my dead weight up the slope of the hill.
Seeing I was awake, the boy abandoned chopping scraggly bits of wood with a hatchet to check on me. “Feeling better now?”
“Yeah. Think I’ll make it. When can we leave?”
“Not till tomorrow. You oughta be in better shape by then.”
“Why not now? Hell, we ought to make it by sundown.”
The boy looked at me with dawning comprehension. “I’m sorry, man. I don’t have a vehicle. You’ve gotta walk out.”
My heart sank. My dismay must have shown. The kid laid a hand on my arm. “Don’t worry. You’ll be better provisioned this time, and you’ll know where you’re going. By the way, my name’s Skye. Skye Hardesty.” The youth offered a strong hand that reminded me how weak I was. “I know you’re Vince because I looked in your billfold when I wasn’t sure what the situation was. Hope you don’t mind.”
I shook my head. “Sky? Like that up there,” I asked, pointing upward.
“Skye with an ‘e’. My brother got a normal name, Karl, but they tagged me Skye. Go figure.” The kid was not only good-looking; he was also likable. “By the way, your wallet’s empty. Just has a driver’s license and a couple of pictures.”
I swore aloud. “That thieving son of a bitch! I had five hundred and some credit cards. I’m gonna wring his scrawny neck!” That elicited a slew of questions, all of which I answered, laying out my story…minus the romp in the truck bed. Skye agreed there were some pretty bad people in this world.
It grew uncomfortable even under the protective awning in the hottest part of the afternoon, but my rescuer had chosen well. Our hillock caught whatever faint breeze the thermal heat stirred across the desert. Skye suddenly reappeared from wherever he’d been and hovered over me. The kid hadn’t even broken a sweat. Used to it, I guessed.
“I wanta clean you up some. We don’t have a lot of water, but I’ve got enough to sponge you off. It’ll keep you a little cooler, too. Okay?”
I licked lips that felt almost normal and nodded. “Sure. But I can do it.”
“If you’ll put up with me getting kinda personal, I’ll do it. I won’t waste as much water.”
So I sprawled atop my blanket wondering if I could control myself as the boy carefully removed my clothing. Couldn’t afford to scare the kid off…he was my ticket out of this jam. I watched as the young man wet a rag, rubbed it against a small scrap of soap, and set about washing me from head to foot with water from his seemingly bottomless canteen.
When he was finished, Skye sat cross-legged and looked me over carefully. Searching for spots he missed, I guessed. Any though of covering myself quickly died as the evaporating moisture cooled my sunburned flesh.
“You sure are a handsome man,” Skye ventured shyly after a moment.
“Never thought of myself like that.”
“Not pretty, but handsome.”
I laughed aloud. “But you are…pretty, I mean.”
The boy glanced away. He couldn’t have been more than eighteen…twenty, max, but he carried a maturity about him. It was probably his serious demeanor.
After a moment’s silence, he spoke again. “I’ve heard about that place. That Eagle Bar you mentioned.” Skye turned those sometimes blue, sometimes green eyes on me. “I hear it’s one of those bear places.”
I smiled. “Yep, a bona fide cave full of bears, most of them big and hairy.”
“Like you.”
“Like me,” I confirmed. But his close examination cut off my dissertation on the bear subculture of the United States.
Skye faltered. “They’re…they’re homosexuals, aren’t they?”
“Lots of us,” I said deliberately.
“The sex thing…that it’s pretty important, isn’t it? Sometimes sex gives people a clue to the kind of person they are.”
“Who are you, Sigmund Freud?” I laughed, intrigued by the trace of bitterness in his voice.
“No, just a guy with problems of his own.”
“What kind of problems do you have? You’re just a kid.”
“Sometimes that’s when they show up, when you’re a kid,” Skye answered. Then he turned those agate eyes on me again. “You’re a handsome man,” he repeated. Skye put a timid hand to my chest. “Sorry,” he said, jerking away quickly. “Just wanted to see what it felt like.”
That’s okay. I don’t mind. Like it, as a matter of fact.”
Skye leaned over and gently laid his head on my chest. After a while, I realized he was working up his courage.
“It’s okay, kid.”
Instantly, he embraced me with a hunger I’d rarely seen. The world sort of went crazy as we became wrapped up in one another. When it was over, we sat side by side without touching.
“Feel better now?” he asked. “I figured you needed it. I…I don’t do that with everybody.”
“Thanks, kid. You’re right. I needed it. And it was great. How about you? You need any help?”
Skye slowly shook his head. “Not right now.”
We fell silent as we looked out at the desert below the hill.
I shivered. “Such desolation.”
He leaned his shoulder against mine. “Splendid desolation.”
“If you say so.”
He looked at me and smiled. “I do. It is.”
I stretched out on the blanket and closed my eyes to avoid noticing again how handsome the kid was. The next thing I knew, I woke at sunset, still naked but covered by a blanket. Skye handed me a tin cup of stew, which I devoured hungrily.
“It’ll get cold now,” Skye commented, observing the unbelievable sunset to the west. “Beautiful, isn’t it. This is the greatest place in the world.”
“Bleakest, you mean,” I groused, little moved by nature’s garish spectacle.
“It’s the place I chose,” Skye mused. “I’ve never been sorry.”
“To each his own.”
The boy gave me a wry grin. “Yeah. But sometimes it takes a long time to learn that.”
“How’d you get to be so smart?”
“Lots of suffering.”
“Yeah, sure. You look like you suffered daily for all of what? Twenty years?”
“Things aren’t always the way they seem,” Skye turned enigmatic. “You’re stronger, I think. You’ll be on your way tomorrow. I’ll miss you.”
“You’re not going with me?” I asked in amazement.
“No, I still have things to do here.”
“Where the hell do you live?”
The boy motioned to the west with his chin, a touch of sadness hiding in the reflected hues of the dying sunset. “Over there, but there’s a gas station down on the highway that’s closer.” Skye pointed over his shoulder. “My brother, Karl, runs it. He’ll take care of you when you get there.”
“So come with me and see your brother. Is there bad blood between you or something?”
“Not any more.” Suddenly, the youth seemed to cheer up. “But I’ll stay with you tonight. We’ll be together for a while longer.”
I shivered suddenly and considered whether I should put on my clothes. The boy seemed to read my thoughts.
“I used some of the water to rinse out your things. They aren’t clean, but they’re not filthy like they were. Afraid they’re not quite dry. But I’ve got an extra blanket,” he said, going to the mysterious pack propped against the rocks that seemed to hold everything but the proverbial kitchen sink.
Skye built a comfortable fire from the pieces of cactus and desert wood he’d cut earlier in the day. Then as the fire warmed the immediate vicinity, we took to the blankets and shared another bout of love-making. I lay quiet, permitting him to set the agenda. He was competent, tender, but I sensed he was somewhat withdrawn, even as he led me through the most tremendous, the most stunning, the most satisfying intimate experience I’d ever had.

*****

The first time Vince met a twink in a bar, something was off about the kid. Like he took Vince out on the desert for a good time, zonked him with a knockout drug, and stole his pickup. Now he’s met another one, who saved him. But is all as it seems? Next week, we learn the truth.

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

My personal links: (Note the change in the Email address)

Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.travis.982
Twitter: @dontravis3

Buy links to Abaddon’s Locusts:


See you next week.

Don

New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.


Thursday, May 16, 2019

Don Travis: Splendid Desolation (Part Two of Four parts)

Don Travis: Splendid Desolation (Part Two of Four parts): dontravis.com blog post #337 Courtesy of Publicdomainpictures.com Last week we meet Vince Lozander, an ex-trucker meets Davy, a tw...

Splendid Desolation (Part Two of Four parts)


dontravis.com blog post #337

Courtesy of Publicdomainpictures.com
Last week we meet Vince Lozander, an ex-trucker meets Davy, a twink, in the Eagle Bar, a bear place near the Continental Divide in western New Mexico.. They strike up a conversation, and it soon becomes clear the younger man is looking to hitch a ride. Vince wants to know a little more about him before deciding whether to help out or not. They are still in the bar.Let’s see what gives.
*****
SPLENDID ISOLATION

I showed Davy the Blue Room with a blonde UNM grad student and a smooth-skinned Navajo on the stage. Davy’s eyes bugged at the tiny G-strings struggling to cover their privates. We found a couple of seats, and I watched him with interest as he took in the show.
“I thought bears liked big, hairy boys,” he said eventually, sounding like he had a catch in his throat. His eyes never wavered from the two male bodies on the stage.
I laughed aloud. “You guys dance better,” I responded, watching him closely.
His eyes flicked to me momentarily, and he swallowed hard. “You a bear? You don’t look like one. I mean,” he hastened to add, “you don’t have a beard, and you’re not fat, and… Aw, I’m not saying this right.”
“I’m big,” I said, playfully pumping my biceps for him. “And I’ve got a rug under my shirt. I’m a bear, all right. All the way.”
“I…” he faltered. “You may be big, but you’re not fat.”
“Two eighty. But I try to keep it all muscle.” I made a quick decision. Might as well introduce him to the rest of the Eagle. “Come on. Show you something.”
“Where we going?”
“You wanna see bears, I’m gonna show you bears.”
As we passed through the crimson door to the Eagle Bar’s real den of iniquity, the kid stopped like he was pole-axed. The Red Room is the action arena at the Continental Divide Eagle. Little private alcoves lined the fringes, and sturdy backless divans occupied the middle where men lounged like Romans at a feast. And it was a feast. Naked bodies undulated in a tangle of erotic pleasure.
I grabbed Davy by the arm and led him to one of the unoccupied alcoves. The kid followed along blindly, his head swiveling to take in the action at the other sofas. He finally sat down beside me as if in a daze, but he sure came alive when I touched him.
“Hey!” he exclaimed, brushing my hand away and looking around wildly.
It took a moment to realize he didn’t object to being handled; he just wasn’t comfortable doing it in public. Or maybe he was just being coy.
“I always heard bears don’t go for guys like me,” he said.
“Normally, I’d prefer the sergeant over there doing his buddy. But sometimes a little change is exciting.”
“Don’t you have someplace private we can go?”
“We can get a room, I guess.”
“How about your truck? You’re a trucker, aren’t you?”
“A week ago, I’d have said yes. But I sold my rig and bought a pickup.”
“Can we use it?” he asked, but I sensed disappointment.
The guy wanted to do it in the sleeping space of a semi. I wondered how long that had been a secret dream of his. The mental image of my six-four frame laid out in my pickup’s passenger compartment brought a chuckle.
“The truck bed, maybe, but no way in the cab. They’d have to use the Jaws of Life to pry us out.”
“That would be okay, wouldn’t it? The bed, I mean. You can spread out, and I’ll make it good for you. I promise, Vince.”
“Doing it in public in the Red Room of the Eagle Bar is one thing, kid. The back of a pickup in a public parking lot is something else.”
“We can drive out to some place private, can’t we? I really want to do you, Vince. I’ve never had a bear before.”
I motioned to the center of the room. “Let’s go out there. You can have a cheering section all your own.”
“I…I can’t. Not with everyone watching.”
“Lots more comfortable here in the alcove. Not so public.”
He glanced around doubtfully. “Uh-uh. Still too many prying eyes.”
I sighed and got to my feet. “Okay. Let’s go.”
“You won’t regret it, big guy.”
I’m not certain, but I think he flushed. Hard to tell in a room full of red lights.
###
I blinked hard and glanced up into a cloudless sky, wincing at the strength of the sun. Where the hell was I? This was pure desert. What in the world had happened? I struggled to sit up, surprised by the unexpected weakness I experienced. My trousers were down around my ankles; my shirt was open. I’d apparently had a hell of a time before something happened that left me lying half-naked in the desert sand.
I got uncertainly to my feet and pulled my clothing into place, struggling to remember. Bits and pieces came back slowly. My name was Vince Lozander. Thirty-five…no thirty-six. I’d had a birthday last month. From Arkansas. Now on my way to San Diego. Sold my rig and bought a pickup. My pickup! Where the hell was my Ram? I looked around wildly. I could see for miles. High desert country. Nothing. No highway, no buildings…no pickup!
“Son of a bitch!” I cursed, beginning to remember. I’d been at the Continental Divide Eagle Bar last night. Met somebody new…a damned twink! Davy something or the other. We’d gone to the pickup because he was too shy to get it on in the Red Room. Too shy my fuzzy ass! He’d set me up.
I vaguely recalled driving a couple of miles and pulling off I-40 into the evergreen forest that dotted the high continental divide country. Then we’d got in the bed of the pickup and had a romp on a couple of blankets. The kid had been as good as his word. And then…and then….
Damn! He’d pulled a bottle out of the backpack he’d grabbed at the door when we left the bar and offered me a drink. Thirsty from all the action, I’d taken a big slug, and that’s the last thing I remember.
Son of a bitch! I’d been carjacked! The fucker was a crook. A criminal. That’s why he’d looked so disappointed when I said I’d sold my rig. He was looking to heist a hundred thousand dollar container, not a twenty-five thousand dollar pickup! Brazen little bastard had screwed me… and not in a good way!
It smarted a little that a pipsqueak I outweighed by a hundred pounds had not only dared take me on; he’d also succeeded. He’d doped my ass, rolled me out of the bed of my Dodge, and abandoned me in the middle of the desert. I took another look around. I was probably still in New Mexico. The horizon didn’t have the look of the Arizona Sonoran Desert. Wasn’t the malpais or lava tube country around Grants either. The bastard likely headed back toward Albuquerque and then turned south off the Interstate at one of the exits. Shit! Just plain shit! Wait until I caught up with the little twink!
That thought hauled me up short. Hey, man, this might be serious. The desert is a deadly place. And here I was in the middle of this desolation without water, without a windbreaker for the cold night, without cover from the blistering sun. Had he left me to die or just tucked me away somewhere nearby to give himself a lead?
With a sigh, I closed my eyes and called upon the reserves that had served me over the last ten years of long-distance trucking…my inner strength. After a moment of intense concentration, I felt power flow back into my limbs. I was shrugging off the effects of the drug…whatever the hell it had been.
Then I looked around the immediate vicinity. There were tire tracks all over the place. What the hell had gone on? Then I understood. Davy had driven around tearing up the countryside to make it harder to follow his tracks back out.
Taking an oblique look at the sun, I calculated north, assuming that was the direction I-40 lay. Pissed but not yet worried, I struck out in that direction. By noon, my tongue was swollen, and what little saliva I could bring up was thick with mucus. I hadn’t encountered a living thing except an occasional buzzard wheeling about in the sky, a placid Gila monster, and a huge, ill-tempered rattlesnake. Was every creature in this God-forsaken place sinister?
The oppressive, ever-present, overwhelming heat soon chased all other concerns from my consciousness. My skin felt as if it were cracking. I recalled reading that certain desert succulents were sources of water, but when I stomped one likely-looking spiny plant to a pulp, the small amount of revolting moisture it held convinced me it wasn’t one of those.
Forgetting about snakes and other poisonous creatures, I propped my head against a stone at nightfall and fell to sleep instantly. I woke freezing to death and vainly tried to warm myself by igniting the few dried plants revealed by the moonlight. As I shivered against the cold and listened to the far-off, lonely cry of some creature with a voice…probably a coyote. It made more sense to travel by night to keep warm and rest by day in the shade of anything that cast a shadow.
Deliriously happy when the morning sun broke the eerie loneliness of the night, I was cursing the burning orb two hours later. Every scrap of rare shade was host to a bunch of creatures unhappy over sharing space. Lizards and snakes and scorpions make poor neighbors. Unable to sit still, I staggered off cross-country again, taking step after painful step until I finally collapsed. By the end of that second day, I was on my last legs. As I drifted off into unconsciousness in the freezing night air, the realization I might not see the sunrise didn’t bother me a bit.

*****

A twink in a bear bar. What could go wrong? Lots, apparently. We see the desolation, but when does it get to be “splendid?” Maybe next week.

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

My personal links: (Note the change in the Email address)

Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.travis.982
Twitter: @dontravis3

Buy links to Abaddon’s Locusts:


See you next week.

Don

New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Don Travis: Splendid Desolation (Part One of Four parts)

Don Travis: Splendid Desolation (Part One of Four parts): dontravis.com blog post #336 Courtesy of publicdomainpictures.net Thank you for putting up with my personal grief last week. You...

Splendid Desolation (Part One of Four parts)


dontravis.com blog post #336

Courtesy of publicdomainpictures.net
Thank you for putting up with my personal grief last week. Your indulgence helped me a great deal.

This week, I’d like to get back to some fiction. The following is a short story in four parts, each installment a bit long for a post, but once again I ask you to stay with me.

By the way, I return to the Eagle Bar on the Continental Divide for the first part of this story. You may recall that readers were introduced to the bear bar by BJ Vinson, the protagonist in my second book in the BJ Vinson mystery series, The Bisti Business.

*****
SPLENDID ISOLATION

I-40 West out of Albuquerque climbed to a bright blue sky for nine straight miles, and then more or less kept its head up all the way to the Continental Divide in western New Mexico. I’d trucked it so many times, I could handle it with my eyes closed, and over the last ten years might well have done just that once or twice. But now my bobtail was gone, and I was wrangling a brand new Dodge Ram extended cab three-quarter ton. Felt funny going cross-country without looking down from a rig on ordinary citizens in four-wheelers and pickups. Heck, now I was one of them guys.
I set my cruise control and thumbed my nose at all the plain wrappers and blue wrappers and county Mounties that used to give me goose bumps. There’s a little less tension when there’s not a load for the tin-toters and DT’s to check. I could drive twenty-four hours straight, and it wasn’t nobody’s business…unless I got foolish and wiped up the road with my new wheels. Took some getting used to. The first two days out, I automatically started checking my back door when I came up on ten hours of straight driving. I guess it comes down to once a trucker, always a trucker.
The other side of that’s true, too. Once a bear, always a bear. So the first roadside billboard for Chesty Westey’s Truck Stop advertising fuel, mechanics, clean rooms, hot showers, and anything else a tired trucker might crave revved my motor a little. The second, ten miles down the road, highlighted Tia Maria’s Homestyle Cooking, and everything they claimed about it was true. Pure ‘Grandma’ cooking, and it didn’t matter if your grandma was named Lucy or Amée or Sooky or Esther or Wu…old Marie Tuxburry whipped up meals like all of them.
The last sign was a garish plug for the Continental Divide Eagle Bar that sprawled beyond the arroyo behind the truck stop. The filling station and café and mini motel that came before were merely lures to the gigantic bear den where truckers and bikers and military men co-existed like bosom buddies, not the natural adversaries they were. What made the difference? The bar, of course. Or more accurately, the bears that hibernated there.
Nobody’s ever been able to adequately define a bear for me. For every hairy hulk, I can show you one without a pelt. For every beer belly, I can show you a waist thick with muscles. For every giant, I can locate a midget. It’s the attitude, I think. A good-buddy, live-and-let-live philosophy most of us possess. Now, sometimes, something can upset that formula, like too much alcohol or a roving cub…or even a woman now and then. But at Chesty Westey’s, the Peterbuilts nuzzle Hogs flanked by Jeeps as peaceably as their navigators get along behind its adobe walls.
After I’d washed up and topped off the gas tank at the truck stop, I pushed through the heavy front doors of the Eagle. The blue wall of smoke parted like the Red Sea as I crossed the threshold and then swirled to enfold me in the comfortable miasma of the den…men, alcohol, chicken fried steaks, and sex. I was home. In the momentary blindness of the deep gloom, the rumble of conversation, clink of glass, and throaty laughter of bar-maids rendered me deaf. Constant, shadowed, undulating motion made me think of a vast boiling cauldron.
As a veteran, I knew enough to detour to the left of the big double doors to pay court to the shapeless mass of black flesh decked out in cotton field-blue bib overalls that must have been cut out of a tent.
“Sweetie,” I addressed the Queen of Sheba who had managed the joint for as long as I had been coming here on cross-country hauls. I suspected most people figured this gargantuan hulk came by his name by virtue of his high-pitched voice and outrageous feminine mannerisms; I happened to know, it was a corruption of the dude’s last name, Sweetwater.
The shining ebony mound quivered, gave a loud gasp, and flashed an ivory smile that reminded me of a chipped keyboard. “Vince Lozander!” he shrieked. “As I live and breathe! Where have you been, you luscious mass of man muscle? Sit your bear ass down right here and bring Sweetie up to date!”
Sliding into a chair behind a ridiculously small table, I complied. “I threw in the towel, Sweetie. Sold the old bobtail. Got tired of dodging Mounties and alligators and the Transportation dicks.”
The black raisins that served as the man’s eyes glittered. “You send all them Transportation dicks you don’t want old Sweetie’s way. I take care of them for you.”
“Now, Sweetie, you know I mean dicks as in pricks…not as in dongs.”
The manager gave a shrill giggle. “All the same to me, honey. But what you gonna do with your cute ass if it ain’t riding the saddle?”
“Opening a produce store near San Diego. Been hauling the stuff for years, so now I’ll let it haul me all the way to retirement.”
“Gonna miss your pretty face in this old cave. You better haul ass back here now and then to keep up with your buds.”
“Sweetie, you’re the only person in the world who considers me pretty. Now bring me up to date on everybody.”
The man absently stroked his long, grey-flecked Methuselah beard as he gave me news on truckers he knew were important to me, people like Tree Trunk Martone, Hillbilly Dawson, and Pardo Folsom. Half an hour, a gallon of beer, and a bucket of sweat later—Sweetie would sweat at the North Pole—he finished his newscast.
“Anything new and interesting?”
Sweetie rolled his eyes and pursed his chocolate pudding lips, motioning across the cavernous expanse of the bar’s main room, merely one of the many in the meandering adobe building. “I’m trying to figure that one out. He don’t belong.”
My gaze fixed on a young man who, from this distance, appeared to be a twink…a creature ill-fitted to a bear den like this. “What’s his story?”
“Dunno. He wandered in around noon and been cadging drinks ever since. But he’s sly about it. At first he bought his own, but when he flashed an empty wallet, the guys started springing. These sweethearts can’t stand to see a man run dry…know what I mean?”
“Yeah.” And I did. This cave’s denizens didn’t go for leaches, but they were quick to help a guy down on his luck. Wondering what tale the kid was feeding them, I lumbered to my feet. “Gonna make the rounds now, Sweetie. Catch you later.”
“Behave,” he gave his customary benediction.
With a mug of fresh beer in hand, I circulated, talking to a few good-buddies and meeting new ones. Trading blue blazers with this bunch passed some pleasant time. Eventually, I confronted the young stranger Sweetie had pointed out. Up close, he was pretty, saved from being girlish by an intriguing Adam’s apple. He was definitely a fish out of water. A smoothie in a bear den was apt to be tossed out on his ear. The kid’s blond thatch wasn’t a military haircut, but he could have been an underclassman at UNM who wandered in from Albuquerque by mistake. On impulse, I stuck out my hand. He met my grip and tried to leverage it, but he was no match for my big mitt. He couldn’t have stood more than five-ten and weighed one-seventy or less. Downright puny. Of course, his body had more definition than anyone else in the joint, including the Air Force MPs from Kirtland and the grunts from Fort Huachuca over in Arizona. Maybe he aspired to be one of those male dancers they had in the Blue Room but was too shy to ask Sweetie for a job. For some screwy reason the bears I know like their men big and beefy, and probably with lots of hair, but they go nuts cheering slender-hipped boy dancers on weekends.
“Vince Lozander,” I offered.
“Davy,” he responded with a boyish grin. “Davy Winston.”
“What brings you to the Eagle?” I asked affably.
“Hitching, and I thought the truck stop looked interesting.”
“Bet you didn’t know it was a bear den. Must have been a shock when you came through the door.”
He laughed aloud, lighting up his good-looking face. “Especially when I ran into that big black gorilla guarding the door. Thought for a minute he wasn’t gonna let me in. Looked at my driver’s license real hard.”
“Sweetie manages the place, and he takes his job very seriously. You don’t have a glass in your hand. What’re you drinking?”
I bought a pitcher and led the kid through the main bar into one of the side rooms where the noise level was a decibel or two lower and the smoke cloud was a mite thinner. We found an unoccupied table and settled in. In a nutshell, Davy was thumbing his way to California to visit a college buddy. He’d left Texas after the car plant where he was working cut production. “Outsourced,” he announced with a nose wrinkled in disdain.
It was soon obvious he was fishing for a ride, but I wasn’t ready to commit. Now if he had another fifty pounds and a mat of fur, he’d already be in the cab of my pickup. Still, there was something about the good-looking fucker that intrigued…an air about him. There was a mystery here yet to be revealed.

*****

A twink in a bear bar. What could go wrong?

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

My personal links: (Note the change in the Email address)

Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.travis.982
Twitter: @dontravis3

Buy links to Abaddon’s Locusts:


See you next week.

Don

New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.


Thursday, May 2, 2019

To Bobbi


dontravis.com blog post #335
  
Bobbi
There were a lot page views and some comments on last week’s “Wally and Me” posting. Some people liked it while others felt it was a downer. Me? I just thought it was life.

This week, I ask your leave to say goodbye to treasured real life friend. Without further ado, I’ll let the post speak for me.

*****
TO BOBBI

I met Bobbi ten years ago in a writing class at the Bear Canyon Center, the very class that I now co-host at the North Domingo Multigenerational Center. I walked into the classroom—open to anyone then as now—and took a vacant seat beside a tall blonde. She was busy talking to someone but soon introduced herself as Bobbi. What an inauspicious beginning to such a firm and lasting friendship. She didn’t know it at the time, but I had recently lost my wife after a four-month battle with pneumonia. She must have sensed something, because she latched onto the emotionally depleted stranger and never let go… until Easter Sunday of this year. But that comes later.
Bobbi originally hailed from Gallup, New Mexico where she was a rebellious member of a prominent family. She left home at her earliest opportunity and became a United Airlines stewardess—I guess they’re called “hostesses” these days. She retired from United and for a time piloted (yes, she was also a pilot) transport aircraft into hostile areas as a contract carrier for the US Defense Department. So by the time I met her, she had virtually been all over the world.
When I talked of my trips to Hong Kong, she topped them with much more adventurous stories of the colony. When I told her about Macau, she’d been there and won more money than I had lost at the gaming tables. When I told about my years in the army in what was then West Germany, she’d been to every place I had visited and all over the rest of Europe, as well. She was brimming with great stories based on her travels, hence her participation in the writing class.
She did publish a few of the stories, but soon became swept up in other activities like the Albuquerque Police Department’s and the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Citizen’s Academies, and for good measure, the FBI’s equivalent course. She reveled in the firing range sessions and the ride-along nights. Her politics tended to waver now and then, but never her support for law enforcement. She volunteered every Thursday at APD’s crime lab on North Second Street.
And then there was the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Early October was taken up by volunteer work for the fiesta. She acted as a guide for puzzled tourists, ferried police and fiesta officials around the huge park, and even worked with Homeland Security to guard against bombers and other terrorists. I believe this was truly where her heart lay.
In the meantime, she took care of her family. Although she was married and divorced two times, she had no children. No human children, that is. But she did have a family of six dogs and three birds. The cockatoo squawked a lot, one canary sang at the drop of a hat, and the other took lots of baths. At one time, she also had a pet turtle that came to her when called. That one, I never met.
But her real children were the dogs, all of them rescue animals. Even though I became great friends with each one, I couldn’t begin to tell you what kind of dogs they were, except for describing them as small, happy, and yappy when someone showed up at the front door.
But they were not the only vagabonds she took in. A few years back, when I fell and injured my back, she saw me through the resulting operation and then took me into her home for close onto three months while I recovered.
Bobbi’s life had been plagued by health problems as well as adventures. Years before I met her, she had breast cancer, resulting in mastectomies. She had other infirmities as well but refused to allow them to get in the way of living. Not even when she was diagnosed with bone cancer a year and a half ago, something called JAX and MLS (if memory serves). She took the chemo and kept to her schedule, even when she was not feeling all that well. As the disease wore down her immune system, she was advised to avoid crowds. Although she took precautions, she continued to live her life as usual, including six days of volunteer work at last October’s Balloon Fiesta and her weekly volunteer day at the crime lab.
I went with Bobbi to most of her oncology visits and was there when they increased her chemo after her weekly blood tests began to escalate. I was with her last March when the doctor reviewed her latest blood chemistry and declared it as unsatisfactory but not alarming.
I generally phoned Bobbi after the 10:00 p.m. news and did so on Saturday the 20th. I started off by asking what kind of day she had. She might have put up a front with others, but she was usually frank with me. She told me she had a good day. No headache (she was subject to ferocious ones at times). She had worked in the yard and probably overdid it. Tired, but otherwise okay.
Easter Sunday, I decided not to call her because of the good report the previous evening. Around 11:15 that night, Rhonda, another close friend of Bobbi’s, called and asked if I had talked to Bobbi that day. She was worried because she hadn’t been able to reach Bobbi. After talking it over, Rhonda decided to call the county sheriff’s office and request a wellness visit. I told her to tell the dispatcher I would meet the deputies at the house to let them in with my key.
When I arrived, the house was dark, which was alarming. Her home has both a doorbell and a voice call button. I always used the call button. No response, except from the dogs, which were still in the living area, not back in the bedroom where they normally slept. I knew something was wrong, but I waited for the deputies before entering the house.
I did my best to keep the dogs in the living area while the deputies searched the house. They found Bobbi dead in a bathroom just off the kitchen area. I called Rhonda who said she was on her way from her home in Los Lunas, south of Albuquerque. OMI (Office of the Medical Inspector) arrived and asked us questions about her health and her doctors. Then the woman told us Bobby had been gone for at least twelve hours, but in her opinion, death had been quick.
Rhonda stayed to care for the dogs, but I remained only until OMI took her from the house. Then I left and said goodbye to a wonderful woman and fantastic friend as I wept while driving home. I arrived around 2:00 a.m. to spend a sleepless night thinking about life without Bobbi…poverty-stricken by her absence, yet rich with memories of her.


*****

Sort of strange that I made Bobby the narrator of the “Wally and Me” posts, and now I am saying goodbye to a flesh and blood Bobbi. Thank you for letting me express my feelings for this extraordinary woman who enriched my life.

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

My personal links: (Note the change in the Email address)

Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.travis.982
Twitter: @dontravis3

Buy links to Abaddon’s Locusts:


See you next week.

Don

New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Wally and Me (Part 2of 2 Parts)


   dontravis.com blog post #334

  
Courtesy of Pixels
Well, what did you think of last week’s post? Any guesses about this one? Part 1 ended with someone falling from the cliff at Webber’s Lake. Shall we see what happened?

*****
WALLY AND ME

        I paced my room for the next couple of days, unable to sleep or read or watch TV… anything. Calls stacked up on my cell phone, but I didn’t have the courage to answer them. All I could do was relive the moment a body fell from the cliff and my absolute premonition it was Wally. The deputy determined everyone had been drinking, and some of the boys were horsing around wrestling near the edge of the cliff to see who’d chicken out first.
          Wally had lost his footing and slipped over the edge unexpectedly, dropping straight down into the shallows. Broke his neck, the medics said. Each time I heard that diagnosis, a loud crack rang in my head and a pain played up and down my back. But mostly, I was empty. Mom had to force me to eat, and most of it wouldn’t stay down. When they talked about going to the viewing, my blood ran cold and I shrank inside myself. I refused to get in the car.
          In private, I cried like a baby, remembering the times we were babies and boys and adolescents. Thinking how good it felt to throw my arm around his shoulders, or better yet, when he laid an arm over mine and talked in my ear like nobody else in the world mattered as much as me.
          My mother spent a lot of time over at the Hamners, helping Wally’s mom through her grief, I guess. Dad suggested I go over, but I couldn’t. My muscles froze. My skin crawled. All I could do was shake my head.
          I got away with it until the funeral. My dad insisted I put on a suit and get in the car with them for the drive to the funeral home. The place was packed, but the Hamners had reserved seats for us near the family. I kept my eyes down as we walked the aisle to our place. Then I glanced up and caught sight of the coffin, which was nothing but a steel box where you’d be locked in the dark from now until eternity. My muscles gave way, dumping me onto the pew. I swallowed a sob.
          I thought the service would never end. Mrs. Hamner cried and Mr. Hamner kept taking off his glasses and wiping his eyes with a handkerchief. I sat dry-eyed. You have to feel something to cry, and I didn’t feel anything. The hymns almost got to me a couple of times, but only because they weren’t the ones Wally would have chosen. He’d want Elvis crooning “Hound Dog” over him, or Johnny Cash roaring about a “Ring of Fire.”
          When it was over, the ushers sent everybody to the front to take a final look at Wally. The family, which seemed to include us, were last, and there wasn’t any way I could get out of it with my dad’s hand on my back propelling me forward. But it wasn’t as bad as I’d thought it would be because it wasn’t Wally lying there in a suit and tie. He looked too peaceful. And Wally hadn't been peaceful. He was on edge, excited, alive! Every day in every way.
          Then we did it all over again at the cemetery, except the coffin was closed, so I didn’t have to look every which way to keep from staring at the Wally who wasn’t Wally. I remained staid and stolid until they started lowering him into the ground. Then I went to wait by the car where I marveled that the sun still shone and the clouds still billowed overhead and the breeze blew fresh on my face. I never noticed things like that unless Wally mentioned them, and he’d been lots more aware of our surroundings than I was. But all those things were still here even if Wally wasn’t. That’s when I said goodbye to him.
          Once the crowd broke up and we were back in our car, dad looked over his shoulder at me in the back seat of the Oldsmobile. “That wasn’t so bad, was it?”
          I shook my head.
          “I know you don’t appreciate it now, son, but you’ll always be grateful that you went to pay your respects at his laying away.”
          I nodded, my throat too dry to speak.
         My folks insisted I go next door with them to the Hamners’ after we got home. Everyone was gathering there to eat and talk and lend sympathy and support to Wally’s parents.
          I felt like someone slapped me on the back of the head when I saw Mrs. Hamner talking to the neighbors who lived on the other side like nothing had happened. Her eyes were red-rimmed, but otherwise she seemed normal. I spotted Wally’s dad talking to the pastor and smiling. Somebody laughed in a corner of the room, and a line of people waited to fill paper plates like it was the Fourth of July picnic all over again. Some of the football team, who’d been on the bluff that day, stood in another corner talking to girls.
          I reeled back against my father, my mind screaming. What was the matter with these people? They’re all acting like it’s a holiday. But it isn’t. It’s the day we buried Wally!
          A sob I couldn’t stop escaped me, catching Mrs. Hamner’s attention. The moment she started toward me, I bolted, almost knocking down the choir director on my way out the door. I made it to the front fender of the Oldsmobile parked in our driveway before the tears broke loose, blinding me. I hunched over the hot metal and let the sobs wrack my body like blows from a cat o’ nine tails.
          After a while, I heard footsteps. I swiped away enough tears to make out it wasn’t my mom. It was Mrs. Hamner. I backed away, murmuring, “No… no.”
           She folded me in her ample arms and pressed my head to her shoulder. “It’s all right, Bobby. It’s all right.”
          I fought her momentarily, but she pressed me back to her shoulder. “It’s my fault,” I whispered. “My fault.”
          “You get that wretched thought out of your head right now, Bobby Twillinger. It was no such thing.”
          “I-I thought you’d blame me because I didn’t go… go with him.”
          She held me at arm’s length and stared into my tear-devastated face. “Maybe you should blame me because I didn’t stop him from going. Or his dad.”
          “I-I—”
          “Do you know what made Wally who he was?”
          I closed my eyes and shook my head.
          “His spirit of adventure. His daring nature. His willingness to try things.”
          With a shudder, I nodded.
          “And do you know what kept him grounded. Kept him here with us as long as he was? You. He loved you like a brother, Bobby. Everyone thought he was a wild kid. In a way, he was. But do you know why he wasn’t out of control? Because he listened to you. Most of the time. And he was a better boy… man for it.”
          Clinging together for support, we bawled unashamedly while the sun Wally and I had shared and the blue sky we both admired beamed down on us as if nothing had happened. In the cosmos, perhaps nothing had. But in our reality, the world had fallen off its axis. Our task now was to put it back in place. Not an easy thing to do.


           The next day, Mr. Hamner came to the door and asked for me. When I appeared, he pressed something into my fist. I turned the key to the old Ford convertible I'd ridden in a thousand time over in my hand and stared up at him.
            "Wally would have wanted you to have it."
            I swallowed hard and thanked him before he turned and walked down the driveway. Something happened to my heart as I watched him go. I saw my dead friend as he would have been twenty years from now. A good man. Generous. Strong. Quiet, his wild days firmly behind him.
           I would drive that car until the wheels came off, until like the one-horse shay of lore and legend, it gave up the ghost. After all, it was the last tangible connection between Wally and me.


*****

Did you ever lose anyone when you were young? Not easy, is it? Sometimes we try to take the guilt for mishaps and even deaths upon ourselves when there’s no reason. I hope Bobby can put guilt aside and go on to live his life in full… remembering his childhood friend and enjoying the experiences they shared.

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

My personal links: (Not the change in the Email address)

Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.travis.982
Twitter: @dontravis3

Buy links to Abaddon’s Locusts:


See you next week.

Don

New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

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