Thursday, May 19, 2022

Dilby, a Short, Short Story

 dontravis.com blog post #550

Image courtesy of en.bideax.info



Thanks to Don Morgan for last week’s guest post. Good luck with your novel, Miasma, Don.

 

This week, a short story that’s too long for flash fiction and too short for a genuine short story. Hope you like it.

 

****

DILBY

It promised to be a lazy Sunday afternoon with high, thin clouds cutting the worst of the sun’s heat, until I changed from church duds to overalls and hauled out the toolbox to tackle my ’59 Ford Galaxie coupe. Needed a minor tune-up, and now was as good as ever. Except, I wish I hadn’t eaten that extra piece of fried chicken from dinner. Or maybe it was the second gob of peach cobbler. But whatever it was, it sure made leaning over the fender to reach the engine compartment uncomfortable.

I’d probably been at it for an hour before I glanced up to see a young fella staggering down the street, his left arm hanging straight down in an unnatural sort of way. Hurt, he was. That was plain.

“Pa,” I yelled as I swiped my hands on a rag, “Come runnin’!”

“What is it?” my dad said, barreling out the front door in a rush.

I nodded to where the stranger stood at the gate. He was younger’n me, and I’m nineteen. His white shirt was smeared with blood, as was his hair.

“You need help, young fellow?” my dad called. Folks considered him a standoffish kinda guy, but I knew that wasn’t the case. If somebody needed help, he’d break his back to lend a hand, and it looked like this fella needed help.

“Wreck,” the kid said in a voice that didn’t have any wind behind it.

I stood at my old man’s side. “What’s the matter with him?”

“Probably in shock.” My dad lifted his voice. “What’s your name, son?”

“Dilby.” Just a cold echo of a word.

“You hurt? You need help?”

The kid looked back down the road. “My mother… sister. Deer ran in front. Car crashed. Turned over. They need help.”

“Where?”

Dilby nodded south down the road. “Where the bridge crosses the stream.”

My dad nodded at me. “Collin’s Branch.” He yelled over his shoulder. “Mama, call the sheriff and tell him there’s a bad wreck at Collin’s Branch where it crosses the highway. Need ambulance.”

He turned back to the figure swaying before our gate. “Son… Dilby, you need help. Come on and let us fix you up.”

The youth backed into the highway and turned south. “Mother. Sister. Need help.”

“So do you, son. Come let….”

He gave up as Dilby staggered on down the road. “We gotta catch him. We’ll use your car—”

“It’s all torn apart. We’ll have to use yours.”

“Damnation,” he grunted. “Go get the biggest pry bar you can find in the garage. If that car rolled, might have to pry them out. I gotta put air in the back tire before I can move the truck.”

I rummaged around in the barn and came up with two sizeable levers, one for each of us. Also grabbed the first aid kit we keep out there, although it was only good for treating cuts and bruises, not car wrecks. Still….

Eventually, we maneuvered around my Ford in the driveway and turned out onto the highway.

“Damn!” Dad exclaimed. “Where’d the kid go?”

“Dunno. Maybe he took off running.”

“If he did, he won’t get far. Keep an eye on the barrow ditch in case he fell. He looked to be on his last legs to me.”

“Yeah,” I agreed.

But as the bridge approached, there was no sign of Dilby. As soon as we saw the deep gouges in the earth where the car had left the highway, we forgot about finding the kid and baled out to go help the two he’d said were trapped in the car.

The blue Dodge four-door we found at the bottom of the creek bank, resting halfway in the water, had rolled at least twice and came to rest right-side-up. The roof was crushed in, so it was obvious we’d need the pry bars we’d brought. I reached the wrecked car first.

“A woman, Dad. I don’t know if she’s alive or—” I about jumped outa my skin when she groaned and moved.”

“Check the other side for the girl,” Dad said, putting the bigger of the two levers to the crumpled door.

I went around the front of the car and waded cold creek water to reach the passenger’s side. Sure enough, there was a girl passed out in the seat with a bloody gash on her forehead. Thank goodness she’d been strapped in by a seat belt. Lucky they all were, I guess. Else they’d have been toast.

I felt the girl’s wrist and found a strong pulse, so Dad had me help him wrestle with the car door. We’d just gotten it open when I heard sirens.

“My son… my girl?’ a weak voice asked. It took me a second to figure out it was the woman speaking. “Are… are they all right?”

“Daughter’s unconscious, but Daryl… that’s my boy… he says she has a strong pulse.”

“My son?”

“He’s the one who came got us. She’s around somewhere. Now you just lay back and try to relax. We don’t dare move you until the medics get here, and they’re pulling up now.”

We acknowledged the sheriff when he half slid down the incline. Thirty seconds later, the place was swarming with deputies and paramedics. We backed away to let them do their thing, watching as they used boards to slide the woman and the girl out of the car. From the talk going back and forth among the medics and the deputies, we gathered the injuries were nothing to sneeze at but not life threatening.

The sheriff stopped beside us to watch as they were loaded into an ambulance.

“Lucky you guys chanced on them. You know what happened?”

“Deer ran across the road,” I said.

Sheriff Denton glanced back up the road toward our house at the edge of town. “You see it from there?”

“Naw,” Dad said. “We wouldn’t a known nothing about it if the kid hadn’t come asking for help.”

“Kid? What kid?”

“Dilby,” he said his name was,” I volunteered. “He was the son. Kid about seventeen-eighteen.”

“He came to your house and knocked on your door?

“No. I was in the driveway working on my car when I saw him staggering up the road. I called my dad, and he had Mom call you while we got in the truck and drove down to where Dilby said it happened.”

“He told you a deer ran across the road?”

I nodded. “Yeah, why?”

“And he rode back with you to the wreck?”

“No,” my dad said. “Funny thing, we tried to get him to come in and let us treat his wounds, but he ran off to his mom and sister.”

“Wilbur,” the sheriff said to my dad. “Come here.”

He led us a short distance upstream to where two EMTs hovered over something. My gut fell away when they stood. That kid… Dilby… lay on the creek bank.

“That’s him! That’s Dilby,” I gasped. “He’s the kid who came and told us his mom and sister were hurt.”

Sam Jenkins, one of the two EMTs, turned and looked me square in the eye. “This kid didn’t walk anywhere. He was dead the minute he got thrown from the car. Neck’s broken. One knee’s shattered. Arm’s broken. I’m willing to be he’s the only one in the car who wasn’t wearing a seat belt. And he paid for it.”

I watched the blood drain out of my father’s face. I’m not sure what he saw looking at me, but without a word from either of us, we walked straight to Dad’s truck, crawled in, and drove home. I expected to have nightmares that night.

But I didn’t. I merely saw Dilby standing in front of the house nodding his thanks.

*****

 I must have been in a kooky frame of mind when I wrote this. Nonetheless, I hope you got a modicum of pleasure from reading it.

 Until next week.

 Stay safe and stay strong.

 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, May 12, 2022

MIASMA, a Guest Post by Donald T. Morgan

dontravis.com blog post #549

 Image courtesy of Clipart Library

 


Several readers have asked me the status of Donald T. Morgan’s upcoming book, MIASMA. He tells me the book is complete now, and he’s beginning to look for a publisher. That prompted a discussion of another Guest Post. From previous guest posts, you may recall this is the story of a 10-year-old Black girl growing up in 1940’s Jim Crow Oklahoma. It deals with how an unexpected friendship between the girl and an elderly white man who lives on the hill on the way to downtown Horseshoe Bend begins to change the girl’s life. Miasma loves to sing, and he’s drawn to her voice as she walks past on the way to the post office every few days.

 The following picks up the book at the beginning of Chapter 4. Mista Ace (as she calls Horace Parsley) has located the Bantu forbear of Miasma’s in genealogy records and explained to her that he was brought as a slave by his Cherokee owner over the Trail of Tears when Andrew Jackson expelled the Five Civilized Tribes from east of the Mississippi River. Miasma has just related what she learned to her mother, Willa.

****

MIASMA, a Novel

By Donald T Morgan

 “Why for you askin’ all these questions?”

“Mista Ace knows lots about things back then. He figures grandpa’s name was Bakari, not Baker. Says he likely took his master’s name when he got free.”

“Mista Ace, huh? That White man sure taken a lotta interest in a little Colored girl. I asked Bessie about him, and she says he’s harmless. Still, y’all be careful ’round him now. Hear?”

“Yes’um.”

It got quiet in the house, making Miasma think her mother was cogitating on something. A small twister outside the window stirred up dirt and leaves in the yard. Dust devil they called it. Old Miz Carpole down the street claimed it was witches stirring up trouble. Course, some a the kids figured she was one.

Her mama cupped Miasma’s chin. “That Bakari… Josiah Elder weren’t your grandfather. He was a coupla grandpas before that.”

“If he was named Elder, how come we’re Elderberrys?”

“Dunno, child. Somebody got it mixed up. But Dunbar’s grandma’s name was Berry. Hilda Berry. She was a Chickasaw lady.” She glanced at the photograph on the side table. “But your daddy’s name was Elderberry, sure enough.”

Miasma screwed up her nose. “Chickasaw, I thought we was Cherokee.”

“That old slave, he married up with a Cherokee woman right enough, but your daddy’s grandma was Chickasaw. Guess y’all got two kinda Indians in you. Now go wash up for dinner. Miz Willis give me her leftovers from yesterday. We got us some fried chicken and brown gravy tonight.”

Miasma’s stomach growled in anticipation as she scurried down to the privy before washing up. Things couldn’t be better. Fried chicken tonight and next Sunday she was gonna sing her first solo in church. Maybe she shoulda mentioned that to Mista Ace.

****

But it was a long way until Sunday. Her mother decided on some spring housecleaning, and put Miasma to work. They hauled their mattresses outside for a good sunning, but had to rush them back indoors when a rain squall blew in. Every pot and pan had to be dragged out and washed, even if they’d just been washed the day before. They even scrubbed down the walls, losing some more ugly wallpaper when they done it.

Right in the middle of all this work, a ripple of excitement swept Horseshoe Bend, including Colored Town, as a scary, remote war came home to everybody. All the radio stations talked about a big invasion of something they called the beaches of Normandy. That was something Miasma would have to look up in the Geographic as soon as she got a chance. As she and her mother cleaned, they listened to the radio. Names they’d only heard of before became real people as William L. Shirer and Eric Sevareid and Howard K. Smith reported on a desperate battle halfway around the world

Miasma knew Tizzie was worried because her daddy had been over in England where the invasion set out from. Then came stories about Omaha Beach, a horrible place where American soldiers took a beating and got killed left and right. After a while, Miasma tried to blot out the deep somber voices of the invisible men on the radio and concentrate on giving the place the best cleaning it ever had, helped along by a song or two. Tizzie came around a couple of times—sometimes bubbly and sometimes in tears over not knowing what was happening to her daddy—but no matter her mood, she scooted right back down the street when she found the cleaning was still going on.

Toward the end of the week, everything they owned had been cleaned, dried, and ironed. And Miasma figured she’d done more’n her share because Mama had gone to work at Miz Willis’s every one of those days.

Friday, Miasma headed for the post office where everybody was talking about the invasion, some claiming it was foolishness to attack the invincible Germans on their own ground, others figuring this was the beginning of the end for those dirty Nazis. As she crossed Main Street, it seemed like the town was a little quieter than usual.

On the return trip—with the mail in her satchel—she spied Mista Ace on his front porch and walked up to the fence without him calling her over.

“Good afternoon, Miasma, what a pleasant surprise. I wondered what happened. I’ve missed your singing.”

“Me and Mama been housecleaning.” She shook the book bag he’d given her. “Whole week’s worth of mail.”

“Now, Miasma—” he started.

“I know. It’s Mama and me… uh, I.”

“We’re all victims of habit. How about a deal? When you’re in your environment, you speak that language. When you’re talking to me, speak my language. Does that make sense?”

“You mean talk like White folks?”

He looked startled. “Well, yes, I guess I do. Does that bother you?”

“No, sir. You’re saying when I’m with you, I talk like my teacher wants me to. When I’m home, I talk like everybody else.”

“Exactly. Do we have a deal?”

“I suppose. But it seems kinda one-sided. Where do you go to talk different?”

He laughed. “You’ve got me there. It is lopsided, like most things in this world.”

“Anyway,” she said. “I wanted to tell you I’m singing a solo in church on Sunday, in case you wanna listen.”

“I’ll surely do that, although usually all I hear is the entire choir. But I’ll put an ear to the wind.”

“Can I ask you something?”

Yes, you may ask me anything you want.”

“This big invasion they’re talking about. You know, on the radio?”

“You mean the D-Day Invasion?”

“Yes, sir, that’s the one I mean.”

“What about it, child?”

“I hear some folks say it’s a good thing, and I hear others say it’s foolishness.”

He bit his lower lip for a moment. “I think it’s the beginning of the end of the war in Europe. There’s lots of fighting with lots of blood yet to come, but I think we can see the writing on the wall. That’s just my opinion, mind you.”

“Yessir, but I set great store by what you think. The end. You mean like next week?”

“Oh no. We have to fight our way clear across Europe over rivers and mountains. But I don’t believe they can throw us back into the sea. We’ve got a foothold and won’t be dislodged.” He looked thoughtful for a moment. “Can you imagine the suffering of the people in those countries?”

“You mean the French people?”

“I mean everyone in Europe.”

“Even the Germans?” she asked.

“Yes, even the Germans.”

Miasma blinked. “But they’re the bad people.”

“Some of them are. A lot of them are. But most are folks like you and me who only want to be left alone to live their lives. They’ve just simply followed the wrong leaders.”

Miasma walked on down the hill toward home deep in thought. That was the first time she’d ever thought of German mamas and papas over there making do the best they could while their men were off fighting. Besides that, they had all those bombs falling down on their heads.

*****

 Interesting, we are seeing the little girl’s interests grow in scope as Misa Ace expands her horizon beyond the here and now. Good luck with the book, Don.

 Until next week.

 Stay safe and stay strong.

 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, May 5, 2022

Clouds, a Repost

 dontravis.com blog post #548

 Image courtesy of Wikimedia commons

 


I ran into my bud Mark Wildyr the other day, and we somehow ended up discussing our webs sites. We both post on the same day (and time), at 6:00 a.m. on Thursdays, although while I post each week, he plays lazy and posts only on the first and third Thursdays. But the point of this is that he confessed to reposting this Thursday, as had I. He also indicated the story he chose to repost was darker than usual.

 

Low and behold, I’m reposting this week as well, and I think you’ll agree this one is also dark. Is it a case of “great minds run….” Or is it that we’re two goof balls out of the same package?

****

            CLOUDS

 It came in a cloud a year ago this past January, although I could not tell if it was a billow of vapor or a clouding of my mind. Whatever the manner of arrival, It remained to bedevil me. I cast back into my long-lost youth to discern the origins but found nothing. My parents, uncomplicated farm folk, had demonstrated no awareness. Nor did my sister, now a respected professor of Medieval French literature at a major university.

Seeking to understand brought its own form of headache. I shivered as if cold, which I was not. Fever touched my brow, but I did not suffer the ague. My hands trembled without aid of tremens. The me I knew, became the increasingly stranger me I did not want to know as the mists—now darkish gray—descended, unbidden, unwanted. I fought through a darkness tantalizingly sprinkled with shards of light to what I knew lay at the center. The vision It brought.

The haze grew thinner, the light stronger as I struggled through the masking mist toward a scene as yet unmanifested. I loathed these revealings, all too often harbingers of disaster.

As the roiling strands of vapor parted, my head pounded as I saw my neighbor Ben sprawled awkwardly across the floor in his own kitchen, his body and clothing smeared like a scarlet-rich palette had exploded. I drew a breath. This was not an oily hue but mortal blood. One sightless blue eye was broken, as if cleft by the meat cleaver lying on the floor, handle and blade smudged with drying gore. A pungent, unpleasant odor invaded my reverie.

Horrified, I shrank back into the protecting folds of dirty fog, but they pressed me forward to kneel beside my friend and fruitlessly seek signs of life. Yielding to my fondness for the young man, I cradled his lifeless body to my breast and muttered incantations of sorrow. He gave offense by ignoring me, although the rational me recognized it as no fault of his own.

I eased his inert frame—alive and vital and handsome only hours ago—back onto the linoleum and gained my feet to take out my phone and dial 9-1-1, providing my name and address to the dispassionate voice on the other end of the line—a phrase no longer appropriate as there was no “line” in this age of unfathomable electronics.

Done here, I gathered my now welcome cloud around me and returned to my corporeal self back across the street.

Seconds later—or perhaps minutes or hours later—the mournful alarm of sirens shredded the neighborhood calm as I huddled in my easy chair, an unread a book in my hands. Reading was not appropriate while my young friend lay butchered nearby. But perhaps my horrible dream would not prove reality, as was sometimes the case.

Exhausted, I did not peek through the curtains as my neighbors most certainly did, seeking titillation from the swarm of police in this staid and sedate neighborhood. Ah, but my mind wanders. Be still and wait.

I have no idea how long before the knock, but I started like a mouse belled by a cat when it came. My legs managed to hold my suddenly heavy bulk as I shuffled to the door for affirmation of my fears.

“Mr. Fisk?” a blunt faced man standing on my porch asked. I nodded mutely as his piercing eyes raked me. “Good morning, sir. I’m Detective Charles Grant.” He flashed a shield in my face.

“Come in, Detective,” I invited, backing away from the door.

He seemed cautious, but accepted my invitation, although he paused until I turned away and returned to my favorite recliner. Another man followed him into the room. The second man was younger and much more attractive, putting me in mind of Ben. “Did… did you find him?” I asked.

“Yes, sir. We found him. Dead in his kitchen.”

“Murdered,” I mumbled… a question sans question.

“Exactly. Hacked with a meat cleaver. Probably his own.”

“Poor Ben. He was a nice man.”

“What was your relationship with him?”

“Neighbor. Friend.”

“Is that all?” the second, unnamed man asked, his mellow baritone catching my ear.

I smiled at him. “He moved in about two years ago, and we became neighbors. Shout hello across the street. Meet in the middle of the pavement to share our day.”

“Nothing more than that?” Detective Grant’s voice was an intrusion. I preferred dealing with the other man.

“What else could there be?”

“Before we get into that, how did you know he was murdered?”

“I saw him.”

“Him who? The murderer?”

“No, I saw Ben lying on the floor.”

“Let me get this straight. You saw him on the floor of his kitchen?”

“Not exactly. You see, I have these visions.”

Grant’s eyebrows reached for the moon. “You saw a vision of him being killed?”

I shook my head, eyes locked onto those thick, dark eyebrows. Would they dance like that again? “Yes, I occasionally see things.”

“Before they happen?” the younger policeman asked.

“Sadly, no. All my reveries come after the event.”

“Did you go over to your neighbor’s house after your… vision?”

I shook my head. “No.”

The police detective’s sudden glare raised the hair on my arms. “Then why are you covered in blood? Most likely his blood.”

My chin dropped in astonishment as I held my hands before me. Red-streaked. Bloody! “I-I don’t know.”

“Are those bloody fingerprints on the meat cleaver gonna turn out to be yours?”

“How… how could they be?”

His voice dropped into a snarl. “You left them when you hacked your neighbor to death. Get up and turn around.”

I expected the younger policeman, the nicer one, to speak up, but he didn’t.

“You’re under arrest for the murder of Benjamin Pitman. You have the right—”

“Why would I do that?”

“I checked the record. He lodged a complaint about you. You propositioned him, but when he refused, you wouldn’t let it go. He got a restraining order against you.”

“For all the good that did,” the formerly nice officer said.

As Detective Grant fixed the manacles around my wrists, the cloud lifted, vanishing as quickly as it arrived. And I saw things as they were.

It had a name now.

Madness.

 *****

I'll ask the same question I asked two years ago. Does writing about madness make me mad? You tell me. 

Until next week.

 Stay safe and stay strong.

 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.


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