Band of Black (part 3)

 

 

Band of Black:

(Part 3)

by Thadd Presley

In the Yellow cab on the way to Nick’s house on Park Place, I asked the driver to take me through downtown. He looked in his rear view mirror at me with a puzzled look. I didn’t know what the look meant.

“Which downtown?  You want the pretty part or the ugly part of town?”

“Oh, I see, yes. I want to see the places everyone parties.”

“Gotcha.”

He took me through the Old City and up Neyland Drive describing some of the landmarks, local heroes like Pat Summit and Phillip Fulmer. The first thing I noticed was how old Victorian-style mansions sat next to small country style farmhouse and right across the road a hacienda. As we got closer to the University the size of the houses got bigger. Immaculate neighborhood with tree in the lawns and forests along the roads.  The driver explained to me that the fraternity houses were spread through the community. I told him this particular house I was looking for was Psi Omicron Zeta. He knew exactly where it was.

I didn’t like being forgotten at the airport, but a feeling passed over to me, at that moment in the cab, watching the houses pass by the window, that I was in for a really good time. Possibly being forgotten had given me the opportunity to learn something about Knoxville and realize that the rest of my life was just beginning. Although the future was taking on an unknown quality, it was exactly what I wanted.

The April air was warmer in Tennessee than in Wales, so I had the window down and spring was in the air.

I was anxious to see Nick again and also to meet his friends, but there was one aspect of this visit that I’ve tried not to focus on to much. Her name was Sara.

My first reason for being in America was to sit in with the band and there was no doubt I could pull it off given the chance to learn the music. From what I’d seen just from the cab ride over, I reckoned there would be a copious amount of drugs and women provided.

Atleast, it was the usual unspoken musician’s deal, no matter what country. But, that wasn’t the only reason. Just as important as seeing my friend and playing in his band, I was finally going to see Sara in the flesh.

If it wouldn’t have been for her and the possibility of meeting her, I probably wouldn’t have come to America at all. You see, I secretly wanted to play for her and I couldn’t wait to get the chance
I’d corresponded with her through Facebook a few times and talked with her during a couple phone calls I’d had with Nick. She was a very smart woman and I liked her immediately. Even though, she told me she loved my English accent, I never told her how I felt about her and that I wanted to know her better.

I’d instantly fell in love with her smile and her sweet giggle.
She told me once, while we waited for Nick to get the phone, that she would love to date a man who could play a piano. My heart melted in my chest and I thanked God, my mother, and Mrs. Wilkerson for making me practice for two hours every other day and thirty minutes a night for six years.

I almost told Sara that very night that I had a surprise for her. But, I didn’t want to give myself away.

Maybe, I would be her dream guy.

I felt we were soul mates.

Band of Black (part 2)

Band of Black  (part 2)

by Thadd Presley

Nick was my best best friend. We grew up together in a small Wales village. He moved to Knoxville, Tennessee last year on an educational exchange program just after he started his first semester in Bangor University. He wrote me once he got settled in America and told me all about the fraternity house he’d been staying in and the friends he’d made. He even told me about the new band he’d started and seemed to be boasting about all his good fortune.

I took the letter all wrong and it made me mad. The more I thought about it, the more offended I became. His new band, his amazing luck, his friends this and that. It was more than I could take. Living in a mansion filled with half naked girls and I’m still at home giving guitar lessons to twelve year old boys.

I was mad to the point my hands trembled. Tears were in my eyes.

I’d lost my friend and my band mate to this great fortunate turn of events.

These emotion quickly turned when I got near the end of the letter and he finally got around to inviting me to America. Saying in his letter that: We would join forces again and it would be like the old days.
America! I was going to America. I couldn’t believe it. The ticket would be waiting at the airport. Tears were in my eyes.

The switch of emotion from rage to elation was too much for me and for the first time in my life I had to sit down before falling over. I was so over come with sensation my legs were actually weak.
I only wished Nick could see me. What a picture it would make. His oldest friend collapsed in a chair laughing and crying at the same time. If only he could see me now.

After a moment, I put the letter to the side and just sat in the chair. My imagination took me to America. Floating before my eyes was a new city, a new stage, a new crowd of people. It was overwhelming at the least.

What would the University of Tennessee be like? Did they have a good football team?  It would be American football of course. But, the local bars downtown might be the same and the crowd inside would be wanting to hear music.

Would it be anything like London’s music scene? I couldn’t imagine a club like Heaven being in Knoxville, but there might be a place like Barfly and Nick.

No matter, though, because I was going to find out for myself and Nick said his band was doing well.

So, I was going to America. I’ll play bass with Nick on the drums and everything will be just as it was before.

Before Nick left for Bangor, our band had quite a reputation in London. We were practically local punk celebrities. Many times after playing a show, I find our names spray painted on the sidewalk and walls outside the venue. The clubs didn’t seem to mind.

The letter from Nick arrived in my post in January, but it wasn’t until April that I actually leave for America.

In my heart, I was still jealous. I couldn’t imagine, after all the time Nick and I had spent together, after all the music played together, and all the time sitting in my dad’s garage, listening to records, playing until our fingers bled, that he could replace me. I remember many mornings, sun barely poking above the sea to find us arguing over fingering patterns, push each other to stretch our minds and incorporate more than fifths, but to play seconds, ninths, and flattened eleventh chords. It hurt my feelings that he was happily jamming with other people. There’s a ritual to music, it was sacred and magical, and for him to practice our sacred witchcraft with others was almost unforgivable.

In the same thoughts, I couldn’t help but wonder what was his new band like or if the would like me?

These questions would continue to haunt my days and nights until the day I met them in person. And there was also the point of them knew that I was coming and all the questions being reversed upon them. Were they wondering the same about me.

Although that was a distraction, it didn’t make waiting any easier.

In a sense I was scared of them.  All I could imagine were cowboys and Hooters girls with attitudes much larger than they needed to be.

So, needless to say, I was reluctant and nervous to meet them. I worried about it and dreamed about how terrible it would go everyday. I was worked up into a frenzy.

On the day I was to board the plane, I hesitated.

I questioned my responsibilities.

I had been working in a London studio four days a week laying down bass tracks for various groups. It was the best playing gig I’d had all year and it was a steady gig.

I could see myself staying. I was so close to not going.

That morning I went into to work.

The entire place was surprised to see me. They knew I was going to America, so question came from every direction.

Nine A.M. came and a band called The Stevenage Three came through the door.

They took their time setting up and I noticed the guitarist had a rare guitar. For a moment, I watched him and I could feel the magic on coming off of him. I went into the studio and began to set up my gear, which only took a second.

My back was to him and he hit a note, then played a riff, then the music filled the room. It was true magic. The notes set me on fire. They made me want to be in front of an audience again. The keyboard joined in, driving the music up another dimension.

I realized in that moment that I need my own band. I would soon get bored with the studio schedule and be on the street alone. I needed to move on for my own good. I had to have a band again.

A rolling stone gathers no mass and all that, I told myself.

In truth, I think I wanted to see my best friend more than anything.

So, I laid two tracks for the band and at lunch I quit.

The studio head, who I’d only met three times before, Emmett Barrett, came down stairs and shook my hand. “You’ll be back, my boy. And I want you to come back. Do it when you’re ready and bring your band with you. We’ll cut a track that tops the charts. Now, take this.” In is hand he had an envelope. “Go get some lunch, then go see America.”

With his blessing, I went home to pack. I didn’t look in the envelope until I got home.     Inside was five hundred Euros and a letter of introduction to a studio in Nashville.

The next morning, I was 35,000 feet in the air on my way to Tyson McGee airport where Nick would meet me at the gate.

I couldn’t wait to see him again.

Band of Black: part 1

A Band in Black

by

Thadd Presley

When I came to the United States for a week, Nick was supposed to be waiting for me at the airport.  I crossed the Atlantic Ocean by myself. A metal head from Sweden was my row companion. He had a good mind and we spoke on everything from music to world events, but I was relieved to hear the captain inform us the flight was just about to end. I watched as the mountains passed below us. They were more rolling hills than mountains. Once you’ve seen the Alps, you’ll understand what I mean.
As Knoxville came into view below me, a display of lighted streets and buildings broke broke over the mountains. Again, it wasn’t London or Paris, but after the all darkness it was beautiful.
The musician, whose name was Heinrick, exited the plane directly behind me and once we were on the tarmac, asked if I would like a CD of his band to which I said yes and thank you. He rummaged through a small carry on backpack and handed me a CD and a wristband. I thanked him, but he waved his hand and thanked me back, saying it was his first time in America that his band was about to officially begin their North American tour. I thanked him for the gifts again, silently wishing I had something to give him. After all, I was in a band as well.

Black was a London based rock group I’d started with my friend Nick. We just hadn’t played together since he left for school in the States. My short vacation to see him was going to change all of that.
I made it through customs with only a limited sexual encounter with a large black lady. Her hand actually touched my package and moved it to the side while she left into my pocket. And it wasn’t just a passing brush. She actually moved it over. I thought for a minute there would be more to it, but by then it was over.  As I stood around the pick up area for my two bags, I reflected on the security nod I received in London and realized I could have brought anything onto the plane with me. But, the game would have ended in Knoxville. The search was so thorough, my ink pen was taken from my jacket pocket and screwed apart, the contents emptied on a tray.
“You weren’t supposed to have this on the plane,” she said and it seemed like a warning. As if I knew better and did it anyway. I held back the urge to make an excuse.

No attempt was made to put my pen back together. The tray was pushed to the side for me to deal with how I wanted.

It was two hours later, when I realized I’d have to make my own way to The University of Tennessee and find the fraternity house. I walked up to a cab sitting in front of the terminal, cursing Nick for forgetting about me, and began my journey down Interstate 40.

Count ’em Out

Count’em Out

by Thad Presley

“Get up,” the drill Sergeant ordered, cocking his head at the man on the ground. When he didn’t move, he turned his attention to the platoon. “We have a dead man laying here and all you can do is stand there. You,” he pointed to the Private on the first line, “what did you see?”

“I don’t know Sergeant.” Then, “Nothing Sergeant.”

“You don’t know?”  Like a bolt of lightening, it happened. The drill sergeant hit private Gerard in the stomach with the butt of his M16-A2 service rifle. “Now, what do you know about that?”

The recruit fell to his knees out of breath and looked up at The Ape from the ground and shook his head, “Nothing Sergeant. I didn’t see a thing.”

“And you,” The Ape shouted, looking at the other recruits. “Did any of you see how this forgetful puke lost his weapon and then got killed?”

A thunderclap of voices lifted into the air, “No, Sergeant.”

“And what about Private Gerardo, here? Does anyone know what killed him?”

Again the voices thundered, “No, Sergeant.”

Sergeant Perry was called “The Great Eight Ape” because of rumors he’d received a Section Eight and then got it over ruled by some big wigs way high up in command. The next year, he returned as an instructor a Ft. Lost in the Woods. Rumors going around said he’d been found eating an Iraqi soldier during the First Iraq War.

Everyone hoped it wasn’t true, but the rumors persisted. All the recruits called him The Ape and although he was an extremely hard instructor many of the men were honored to be under his guidance. It made for great war stories if nothing else.

It was the fifth week of Basic and the platoon was in the middle of Bivouac training where they were learning how to live without luxuries and to keep a camp in working order.

Missouri was known for it’s great expanse of woods, hence the name. The day before was spent on the “old firing range,” which was not supposed to be used but The Ape didn’t care. He usually just trained the men how he saw fit.

During the evening of the night before, the platoon displayed their weapon cleaning skills and made small bets, which involved betting their rations and duties to see who was the fastest. Pvt. Ensign bragged that he could clean his weapon blindfolded and was taken upon the bet by Pvt Greene.

Greene bet Ensign that he couldn’t disassemble, clean, and reassemble his M16 blindfolded. Of course, Ensign took the challenge and bet if he did it blindfolded, then Greene would have to take his Fire Watch for the next week. They both agreed and shook hands.

Everyone watched as Ensign began.

The evenings had become the most exciting time for the men. The drill instructors were starting to lighten up on the recruits. With the dropouts already sent home, the mood was serious but laid back. Ten minutes later, Ensign took off his blindfold and held his clean M16 out to Greene to be inspected. Just as he’d said, he’d taken apart every piece, just as he’d learned the second week in training, and cleaned it.

The day had been fun for everyone and all was well until the next morning when Pvt. Ensign realized his weapon was missing.

The Ape had not taken kindly to the missing rifle and out of frustration began to punish the recruit with exercise. Little did the sergeant know, it was all just a gag orchestrated to make Pvt. Ensign look bad.

After his performance the night before, the platoon got together for a little fun and retribution. No one thought it was a big deal. Practical jokes were played all the time by the men. Two recruits devised a plan to steal Pvt. Ensigns M16 and hide it near the latrine.

It was Corporal Smith and PFC Greene who snagged the weapon. It wasn’t meant to hurt anyone, they just wanted to get back at Ensign for showing off, but things escalated faster than they anticipated and before anyone could say anything. The Ape had swung on Pvt. Ensign.

When Ensign ducked the punch and then a few guys in the platoon laughed, the Ape started to walk away, but turned abruptly and hit him in the stomach with the butt of his rifle. He then quickly brought it up catching him square under the chin. Pvt Ensign fell to the ground and didn’t move.

Everyone knew two other sergeants would show up within the hour to take over the platoon, but that seemed like a million years away.

As Pvt. Ensign laid on the ground, The Ape began to tear into Pvt Gerardo who stood beside him in line.

Growing irritated by the concern on Gerardo’s face, and at Ensign for daring to challenge his authority in front of his men, The Ape raised his weapon and placed the cold steel of the barrel in the center of Gerardo’s forehead. “Do you have a God, son?”

At first, Gerardo couldn’t speak and once he gathered his courage in the face of death, he opened his mouth and the words were interrupted by a stream of puke that erupted from his throat. “Holy mother of Crow, look at this dumb fuck puke on my boots.”

He grabbed the private by the collar and pulled him close.

The private instinctively pulled away from the Sergeant. “You know what you have to do now, don’t you. You’ve got maggot detail.”

Private Gerard knew exactly what the sergeant was going to make him to do and he would have done anything to get the sergeant off his back. But, licking puke off his boots was too far. He couldn’t do it.

“You’re a chicken shit, no brain, puke-eater and it’s time you do something for my Army.”

A wave of anger filled him.

Why won’t anyone help me? One of him and sixty of us, he thought.

No one moved.

Ensign was knocked out. And they did nothing. Reality set in. He wasn’t going to lick the Sergeant’s books.

I’m going to be killed, he thought.

“Do it, puke-eater.”

Gerardo once again gathered his courage. “I have a God, Sergeant.”

“You do? Great. So do I.”

“But,” Gerard was shaking so bad he felt his chin quivering. He had to focus to keep his teeth from clashing together. “I try to do what my God desires of me.”

“Oh, for Crow’s sake, don’t give me that crazy religious nut shit. I can just see it now: Private Jesus Freak sent home on a medical discharge. You trying to act crazy with me, Private? You want to clean my Army up and make us PC and lovely?”

“No, sergeant.”

“I think you do. I think you have a big plan on how you can make my Army a better place. Well, I’ll give you a chance to show me what your worth. You want a nice, pretty, clean Army? Well, you can start by licking Uncle Sam’s boots clean.” The sergeant looked at the other soldiers. “What do you think men?” No one moved a muscle. They didn’t want the man in their face. “If he cleans up the mess he deposited on Uncle Sam’s beautiful pair of boots, maybe we can let him live.”

The private looked down at the boots.

“That’s right maggot. Get to work and you can live to fuck up another day.”

“You won’t shoot me.”

The Ape’s voice lowered to a grumble. “What’s wrong with your ears, Private. Let me tell you in another way. Do it now!”

Private Gerardo held back tears. He fought desperately to hold a straight face. But, it wasn’t going to last long. His emotions were under too much stress. The only way to get this over with was to do it. Just lick the puke up. After all, it was his own. He could do this. He was a soldier. Slowly, he got down on his knees and started to bend over the right boot.

Then, The Ape kicked him in the chest, rattling his head. It hurt so bad that Gerardo thought it broke his sternum. “Do whatever you got to do, private, but get to licking, right now. Them boots better be in parade condition by my count to ten.” He looked at the platoon, “Count ’em Out.”

Slowly the dry tongue of private Gerardo came out of his mouth and stretched toward the black, polished shoe of his sergeant. “One…” The men began in unison,  anticipating the first lick. The Ape, held up his hand and stopped them.

“Come on puke-for-brains, get in there. I want to see you licking that boot the way Jody’s licking your girlfriend’s twat. Clean that Crow-loving boot.”

Then, in a desperate attempt to get out of the situation, he started licking the boot.

“One,” the men counted.

Gerardo just did it, fast, not thinking.

“Two, Three…”

The cooling puke entered his mouth and he swallowed it.

Luckily it was mostly tasteless with a bitter after taste that only barely burned. “You disgust me.” The sergeant yelled, taking a step back and look down on the private as if he was seeing an alien slug for the first time.

“Get on your puke eating feet.” The sergeant was just getting on a good roll. “We have a real, honest to God, puke-eater here. Not in all my time, not in all the holy time of the immaculate Army have we ever had a puke eater in these hallowed ranks.”

The sergeant walked back and forth in front of the men who were still lined up at parade rest. They had been formed up for nearly an hour now and they were all looking for the jeep that would herald the arrival of the two relief sergeants.

“As you all know, we don’t have much time and I need to know what is happening to this world. Terrorists, sympathizers, sleeper-cells, God knows what all. I could say a lot more, but I do not use derogatory names. Because most people are good people. Most people are not puke eating, shit for brains.”

The platoon of sixty men waited to see what the sergeant would do next.

“Let me ask you this. Do you men want a puke-eater watching your back when the chips are down? Do you want him walking the perimeter when you know all he thinks about it slurping puke?”

The men give a sloppy, “No sergeant.”

“You know that this maggot, first thing, is going to run to CO and rat on us. Rat on you!!” The Sergeant let this sink into the heads of the men. “That’s right, he’s not going to tell on me. No, cause he can’t hurt me. He’s going to say ‘THEY let him do it. They made me eat puke.’ Well, lt me ask you this. Can anyone make YOU eat puke?”

There was another, “No, Sergeant,” and this time it had grown in strength.

“Hell, no, they can’t. There ain’t a man in this world that could make ME eat puke. I’d rather die than be a puke eating maggot. But, you were witness to this. You watched as this maggot licked puke and swallowed it. I tell you now, he’ll say to Captain Barrett. Through his sobs, he’ll tell them and swear that YOU let it happen. Both of these numb skulls aren’t worth the time it’s going to take to bury them and yet here we stand wasting the whole day on them. Private Dumbass Number One got himself killed by threatening and then attacking a killing machine known on this base and around the world as Section Eight. That’s right, I know all about my little nickname. But, Private Puke Eater here didn’t learn anything from his battle buddy’s stupid mistakes. He wanted to dance in the mine field. He will now be dealt with in an expedited manner.” The sergeant wait a beat and began again, this time addressing the men eye to eye, one at a time. “But, it’s not ME who will suffer. To be honest, I wouldn’t mind a vacation. It’s YOUR asses that are on the line. Do you want a puke eater lying to the powers that be about your character? Do you want im protecting your six out there when the shit hits the fan?”

“No, sergeant.”

“Then, who wants to do something about it?”

Silence.

“Are you all puke eaters?”

“I’ll do it.” Corporal Hicks, from Knoxville, who the Sergeant called Hicksville, stepped backwards, looked left then right, and ran to the end of his rank and around to the Ape.

“At least we got one set of balls between the fifty-eight recruits standing here.”

“About to be fifty-seven, sergeant,” Hicks said.

A smile formed on The Ape’s face. “Then, get to it, soldier.”

Hick’s wasted no time in attending to his duty. “Turn around, Gerardo.”

“No, shoot him in the gut Private. I want to hear him call for his mommy.”

“Sergeant, this puke eater does not deserve to be shot in the front. He is a coward and should be killed as one.”

“God Damn it, Hicksville, I do the thinking around here. Now do it the way I want you or step back in line.”

“Yes, Sergeant.”

Corporal Hicks shouldered his M16-A2. Then, he lowered the weapon. “I can’t do it, not with him looking at me.”

“Then get back in rank, maggot lover.”

The Corporal Hicks turned and started back into line, but he had a change of heart. “Sergeant, I want to do it. I have to do it.”

“Well, get here and do it this time. We’ve got a day to build and it’s getting late.”

At that moment, a shot rang out and Section Eight the Great Ape dropped to his knees.

The platoon looked at Hicksville as he lowered his weapon. Blood bubbled from The Ape’s mouth, but he still spoke a few last words. “This Army is going to maggots and puke eaters and…” then he slumped and died.

A hush went over the men. It was like the flame in their souls went out. Gerardo dropped to his knees and put his head on the ground. He couldn’t believe he was alive.

Hick’s took the lead. “Everyone get ready and pack up the gear. Gerardo stay with me.”

At this, the men, gave a weak, “Huaa!!”

Hicks called a medic and then put in a call to the MPs so they could come out and process the scene. He spoke to Gerardo after he hung up. “I want you to tell them exactly what happened here.” Gerardo started to talk, but Hicks held up his hand. “Don’t worry about me. I have a God too. I spend most of my time in this Army ignoring my morals, but I couldn’t ignore them today.”

“Thank you.”

“Yeah.”

Minutes later, the two relief sergeant’s pulled up in a jeep along with the driver. They unloaded and began asking questions.

Dear Michael

Dearest Michael,

I hope this letter reaches you. I have so much to be thankful for and everyday is a blessing. But, honestly, I am afraid I’ll not see you again.

I sewed up a deep wound today and this is how it went:

“Please hold still,” I told the patient nervously, knowing that he did not understand what I said. “If you keep moving this will not heal…”

“He does not care to heal.” The words came from an elder who stood behind me, watching me closely. The man wore a mask, as did the young man I operated on, and so far, he has been the only one to speak to me in English. “He only wants to fight once more before he dies.” The man on the table jumped as the needle pressed into his skin, jerking the needle from my hand. “To die on this table will endanger his life in Paradise, to have you touch him has made him unclean, that is why he cannot die. If he dies here he will certainly go to hell.”

“I’m doing the best I can,” I told the man, holding the needle close to ripped flesh, “but if he keeps moving he will certainly die here.”

At this point the man on the table passed out. Maybe from fear of eternal damnation, maybe from the loss of blood. His leader must have thought he died because he hit me with in the stomach with the butt of his rifle. I fell to the floor. Suddenly, angry words came from outside the room.

I hate to be telling you this, but I have to tell someone.

I am now directly in the middle of a holy war, although nothing about it seems holy. I knew where I was going to be before I came here, but I did not tell you the truth. I apologize for that. I told you I would be living in Jerusalem, but that is not where I went. Instead I went to a small town near the Syrian border because they needed doctors.

I am still at the school house, just like I said in my last letter. Remember, I told you about the children who were learning English and Bible scripture? That was true, but the children are no longer here. Only a small, rubble-filled building remains. The entire village has been abandoned.

Before the militants came, we had transformed school room into triage and another into a small operating theater. Doctors from the area came regularly to learn new procedure. As a result, many people were receiving medicine. Only now, it all seems pointless. All of our work has been reduced to smoking remains.

Don’t be mad, I’m so sorry.

We heard the explosions getting closer days ago.  We decided we would all go back to Jerusalem. I wanted to leave so bad and come home to you and the kids, but it all happened so quickly. Before we had a chance to pack, men arrived and began giving us orders. It seemed they only wanted medical attention, when we were taken hostage.

We are now trapped and the leader — I can’t spell his name — killed Steven and Matthew. He cut their heads off while they were still alive. I started crying because they were the only men with us and they beat me.

Now there’s only three women in our group and we are all Christian. It seems our captors have no conscience about what they do to us.  One minute they do not want to look at us, then their hands are all over us doing terrible things. Patricia has been wounded and won’t stop bleeding. I have tried all I can. I’m afraid she will die soon. I am the only surgeon left and I think I will be kept alive, but I do not know how long.

I’m sure this will be my last letter to you, my love. I don’t want you to worry. By the time you get this letter I will either be saved or dead. I need you to know that I am not afraid to die. I feel that I am doing God’s work even when I sew together the enemy’s wounds. I can feel mother’s presence all the time.

Please, give the children my love and tell them that I am with the angels. Tell them I am with grandma. Will you do that?

For now, I just am trying to think of my mother and how we used to stay up late and sew quilts for the homeless. Momma always told me I had the hands of a surgeon. When I graduated and began work at the hospital, she told me I could change the world with God’s guidance. Even now, I believe that is true.

Please dearest Michael, do not mourn me for too long. Your love is so strong and it has been my greatest strength here. Promise me that you will show another your wonderful love.

Yours forever and ever,

The Breakup

  “The Break Up”
by Thadd Presley

She called me from a pay phone downtown and told me it was over. She didn’t cry and she didn’t explain. She just said that it was over and she realized she no longer loved me . When I pleaded with her to tell me what was going on and how this could have happened, she blamed it on the summer and my part-time job at the mall. She said if I would have only been around more she would have never met Brad. Brad who, I asked. His name was like being doused in freezing water; out of no where, it stopped me in my tracks. How could she do this? How could she be with someone else so quickly? When I asked her if she had cheated on me, she hung up. I listened to the phone beep for three full minutes before it stopped. I continued to hold it to my ear for a minute longer. Then, I threw it against the wall.
During our argument, I kept my voice low. My father used to like Sally, but since he learned we were dating he didn’t want her around the house and wouldn’t let us be together, which is why I took the job at the mall. It gave me a reason to be out of the house and a place we could meet and see each other.
I knew my dad was downstairs. I imagined him sitting in his reclining chair, drinking scotch, when I was on the phone. Then he heard the crash of the telephone and I didn’t have to imagine anymore.
I knew he was on his way because the chair makes a certain sound when it is closed to fast, like a spring being tightened too much. It wasn’t fifteen seconds before I heard his thuds coming up the stairs. There wasn’t any chance he was going to my brothers room, although Jimmy’s room was across the hallway from mine. My dad never thudded to Jimmy’s room. It was only towards me that my father thudded.
Bang, Bang!! went my bedroom door and then it opened quickly enough to send a gust of air across my small roll-top desk. Two pages of algebra notes were caught up and swooped onto the floor. My dad’s eyes were bloodshot and he wasn’t in a good mood. He hadn’t gone into work for the last three days and he’d spent most of the time in the living room watching television. Now, that my mother was gone for good, he could drink at home. He used to go to the bar, three blocks away.

He surveyed my room for a moment, looking for something out of place. When I didn’t say what the noise was, he spoke: “Why are you crying?”
“I’m not,” I said and cringed.
“Don’t lie to me.” He rubbed his hands together. “Just don’t give me a reason tonight, I’m not in the mood.”
“I’m not giving you a reason.”

It wasn’t the first time my dad hit me, but it hurt worse than ever before. He never hit me hard enough to hurt, it was more of a warning, but the damage was always there. Killing very slowly my heart and spirit.

When I sat still and didn’t respond, he stepped forward. “You want that I do it again?” He asked this in a tone that I knew was going to get worse the longer I didn’t cooperate. But I got a surprise. His face changed, his hands went down. When he realized I was genuinely upset, his voice softened.
“Why are you crying? Tell me.”
“I’m crying because Sally broke up with me and pretty much admitted she has been dating someone else.” A wave of sadness filled me, tears ran from my eyes, not in drops but gushed. I coughed and gagged on the emotions that came out. I’d never cried so hard in my life, not even when mom left. I was having a break down.
Then dad started laughing.
“Is that all?” He said, turning toward the hall. “Hey Jimmy, come here. Hurry.”

I looked at him in disbelief. How could he be laughing at me? He knew how hard this relationship had been. How much I’d sacrificed to be with her. He had to know how hard it was going to be for me because of how much I loved Sally.
He knew…

My brother poked his head into my room. “Jimmy, look here,” my dad beamed with happiness, “we got some great news today and I want the whole house to hear it.”
Jimmy had heard from his bedroom and all the commotion, but he was too nervous to comment, so my father did it all for him.
“That’s right, Jimmy,” my dad continued, “Sally done called and broke the relationship off.” He put his hands up, “Thank God!! Am I right?”
This made me so mad that, for a moment, I didn’t care what happened to me. I stood up knowing I was going to punch my dad, but Jimmy saved the day.

He looked at me and noticed the small spot of blood at the corner of my mouth. “You mean, you’re not going to hit Joselyn anymore?”
“That‘s right son.”
“So, it’s true,” he asked me. “Sally really broke up with you and you’re not going to be a lesbian anymore?”
I started to say something, but my dad interrupted. “That’s right Jimmy, your sister’s not a dike anymore and we can all go back to the way it was.”
This brought such a big smile to my younger brother and I couldn’t do anything that would take that smile away. He’s suffered right along with me.
“Dad’s right. Sally broke up with me and it’s over. Cool, huh?”

He jumped for joy. My dad stood up and gave me a hug. Then he kissed my forehead. “Damn, this is such a good night.” I smelled the scotch on his breath and for the first time in my life I wondered if it would help me forget Sally ever existed. “I gotta call Fred. He’s been having the same problem with his daughter.”
I quickly glanced at the corner and saw the broken phone beside my tattered Teddy bear.
“Would you call from downstairs, so I can get ready for bed? I just want to sleep for now.”
“Sure, anything you want, darling, anything you want.” my dad said as he was leading my brother our of my room. “Anything you want…”

Easter, Bloody Easter

Easter, Bloody Easter

by Thadd Presley

“That’s exactly what she told me,” Anita said, handing the sheriff her ID. “I just don’t know what else to do. She said she would kill me if I so much as came down here.”

The sheriff held up his hand to get the attention of an officer.

“And we both know she can.” She was scared and it showed.  “You have to help me.”

“So she told you not to come here and you came anyway?” The sheriff was surprised. Anita shook her head and then, realizing that she was saying no, she nodded.

“Yes, I had to. She has my brother in her basement.”

“But, she said she would kill you.”

“Yes, I know. Please help me.”

“OK.” Fear was visible in the sheriff’s eyes. “Just stay right here.” He waved again for an officer. “I have to make a phone call and get this straightened out.” The sheriff rose from the chair and walked towards her from behind his desk. “Just to be sure. You’re mother has your brother locked in the basement and she is going to kill you because you came down here and told the police?”

“God, yes. What is wrong with you?” Anita was starting to get frustrated. She had already spent thirty minutes explaining to the police that her mother had gone crazy and was torturing her brother.

“Nothing is wrong with me, Anita. I have to get the facts straight. Don’t you see that it’s hard for me to believe a story like this. You’re mother is one of our town leaders and my boss’ wife.”

“Yes, call my dad. Please! I know he’s out of town, but he will tell you that she has been acting funny lately.”

“That’s exactly what I’m doing.”

The sheriff was almost out of the door when Anita screamed.

He turned around and saw blood pouring from her eye. “Dear God,” he exclaimed and ran to her. “What did you do?”

Anita couldn’t answer him, although she tried. Her mouth just wouldn’t say the words.

“Sheriff Coffee,” a deputy called, then he saw the blood. “What’s happening to her?”

“God only knows, Stephen. Get in here and hold her still.”

Stephen entered the small office and couldn’t believe what he was seeing. The young girl was sitting in the expensive leather chair with her head lolling from left to right. A thin stream of blood was spurting out from the corner of her eye with every heart beat.
“What is she trying to say,” the sheriff asked. It was obvious to both men that her mouth was moving and words were slowly being formed, but it was in slow motion. Much to slow for them to understand.
“Here.” Stephen pushed a blank piece of paper on the sheriff’s desk.
“Try to write on this, Anita.”

There was no time to think. The sheriff barely had his hand out of the way when Anita used her bloody finger to draw on the paper. She moved her hand back and forth and up and down, lubricated by the blood on her hand.

“What is that?” the Sheriff asked.

“Good Lord. It’s not one of those pentagram things is it?” Stephen looked at the dark red scribble and put his hand on the desk, trying to settled his spinning head. But, it did no good. He was suddenly overwhelmed by dizziness, puke rushed up his throat and sprayed out of his mouth and nose. The sheriff didn’t have time to flinch before the hot, grey, half digested oatmeal landed on his shirt and fell, stinking, on his trousers.

“Damn it, Stephen, pay attention,” he said. But, it was too late. The deputy had passed out and was sliding slowly across the desk, into the floor.
“Anita, please, look at me.” The Sheriff straightened her up as he said it, wanting to get the situation under control. But as Anita continued to draw on the paper with her own blood, the sheriff realized that she had drawn a stick figure. What was she pointing at it, trying to tell him something. He felt as if he was running out of time. “Someone get in here.”

“If you tell anyone, I’ll kill you,” a voice said. He whirled around. 

“Anita?” But he realized it wasn’t her voice. There was no one else in the room with them.

“If you tell, I will kill you.” He knew the sound was in his head. As suddenly as he realized it, a pain shot through his temple down to his right hand. He instinctively knelt down and held his head in his left hand.

“Who’s there?”

“No,” Anita said, forcefully. “He won’t tell.”

“Who’s doing this?” The sheriff demanded.

The voice was louder. “I have you all right here with me.”

The pain in the sheriff’s temple grew and warm liquid flowed onto his lips and down his chin. He reached for his gun and saw that his shirt sleeve was red. He realized it was blood. Before he lost consciousness, he knew what she was trying to draw and he almost had time to laugh.

Why didn’t she listen to her mother? What could he have done to help her? The police are no match for a voodoo doll.