Count ’em Out

This is a story in my short story  collection “Thadd’s Twelve” available on Amazon for only $1.99.  You don’t actually have to have a Kindle device. You can enjoy all the books you want right on your computer by downloading the free Kindle Cloud Reader.

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.”

Everyone called Sergeant Perry “The Great Eight Ape” because of rumors that he’d received a section Eight and then got it over ruled only to return as an instructor. The rumors going around said he’d actually been found eating an Iraqi soldier during his days in the First Iraq War.

Everyone knew it wasn’t true, but the rumors persisted. All the recruits called him The Ape and although he was a hard and strange man 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 the 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 and the fort they were located was often referred to as Fort Lost in the Woods. 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 and made men out of them in his own fashion. 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 better. Pvt. Ensign bet 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 without looking. 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 argue with the recruit. When Ensign smarted off, accusing someone of hiding it, the Ape took a swing. 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.

This happened first thing right after everyone had lined up.

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, 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.”

Gerardo knew what the sergeant was going to do and he braced himself for what was to come.

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

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.

A wave of anger filled him. Why won’t anyone help me, he thought. “One of him and sixty of us,” he thought.

No one moved. They just stood there while Ensign was knocked out. And now, they do 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 see it now: Private Jesus Freak sent home on a medical discharge. “You trying to act crazy with me, Private? You want to clean this Army up and make us all PC and lovely, right?”

“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.”

“What’s wrong with your ears, Private. Let me tell you in another way. Do it now.”

Private Gerardo held back tears welling up in his eyes. 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 Jerry’s licking your girlfriend’s twat. Clean that Crow-loving boot. You’ve only got five seconds.”

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 now getting on a 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 and standing 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. I want 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.

“What should we do? Do you want him 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 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 made me eat puke.’ Well, do you believe that? 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. But, 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 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 on the mine field that just took a life. He will now be dealt with in the same 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 protecting your six out there when the shit hits the fan?”

“No, sergeant.”

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

Silence.

“Are you puke eaters?”

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

“Good, at least we got one set of balls between the fifty-eight men standing here.”

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

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

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

“No, shoot him in the gut Private.”

“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 to do it 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 mind. “Sergeant, I want to do it. I have to do it.”

“Well, get back 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.

“Everyone get ready to go back. I want Gerardo to follow 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 this time.”

“Thank you.”

“Yeah.”

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

Unite

In 2012 I became the bass player for the band Minor Nine. We never got famous, but we made an album in 2013 and had a blast playing shows. For almost three years I practice Saturday and Sunday and played almost 200 shows. During our time together I learned a lot about music and a lot about getting shows.

It hard to keep a band together. Everyone has a role to play as a member of the band, as well as a life they much continue to live at home. The two lives are often at odds, leaving hard choices to be made weekly.

We did however create amazing music. We had a diverse group of musicians. Even though there was only 4 of us, the age range when we started was 13, 28, 34, and 60.  We all had different backgrounds and somehow it worked magically. With a set list of 30 originals we set out across Tennessee and played show after show meeting really cool bands and even cooler people. One show we played with Swedish metal band Avatar is my claim to rock and roll fame.

I quit the band for many reasons. I suppose the biggest reason being the band falling apart from the inside. I had better things to do than watch it crash, so I took my gear and went home. Simple as that.

I created a few videos for the music we created.  The one that follows is “Unite.”  The words came from a poem I wrote years ago and the music and voice is Rex Green. He and I have a special ability to create music. I don’t think I’ll ever meet another person like him and I’m sorry we aren’t working together all the time.

At one time, it was amazing how we were climbing in the scene. Now, I’m not talking about fame and fortune. I’m only talking about the little music scene in Knoxville, Tennessee.Yeah, I know it’s not Long Beach, but it was our patch of the scrap yard and I enjoyed it.

The music in the video was created by Rob Ruddick, Matt Fahey, Rex Green and Thadd Presley.  I hope you enjoy.

 

 

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,

A Ghazal and a fun Haiku Chain

I often write poetry as a way to relax. This is a few poems I found that I’d written in 2008, back before I wrote Poetry Principia. They still make me smile and I hope they will you as well.  I know that Haiku are usually about nature. These are not, though they do reflect my nature.

The last poem is a ghazal.   I put an explanation of a Ghazal below from poets.org for those who are interested in poetry.

“The ghazal is composed of a minimum of five couplets that are structurally, thematically, and emotionally autonomous. Each line of the poem must be of the same length, though meter is not imposed in English. The first couplet introduces a scheme, made up of a rhyme followed by a refrain. Subsequent couplets pick up the same scheme in the second line only, repeating the refrain and rhyming the second line with both lines of the first stanza. The final couplet usually includes the poet’s signature, referring to the author in the first or third person, and frequently including the poet’s own name or a derivation of its meaning.

Traditionally invoking melancholy, love, longing, and metaphysical questions, ghazals are often sung by Iranian, Indian, and Pakistani musicians.”

  excerpt:  https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/text/poetic-form-ghazal


Fun Haiku

The Implant

the lines move faster
if you get the chip implant
you can get cash back


Therapeutic Reading

I’m going to read
sit back and relax to words
yeah that’s the ticket


Smart Cops

It was broadcast live
America’s Most Wanted
suspect got away


Cascading Cellulite

She sat before me
with her second set of thighs
cascading downwards

Birthday 2009

A new Lovecraft book
H.P. for my birthday rocks
and a movie too


She called me Stupid

I was called stupid
I ask dumb questions sometimes
if I need to know

Writing Caused This

A blog can hurt me
a comment can make me fly
writing incites both

Divorce

You’re my one and only
well, besides those few women
But, they mean nothing.


The Ghazal

“The Night I Write”

Sitting near the window, under the moon, In the light I write
Harvesting thoughts that form from dreams, during the night I write

It has been my pleasure to write about my life, an undertaking of soul
As it happens, my lines bright design illuminates the night I write

Dark characters do die too soon to be born alive once again to sin
and hide in the shadow and in the dens to survive the night I write

The village where I create my men and the wives they so love
comes ever so close to disaster within the darkness of the night I write

The men cry, “Thad, thou hast done ill and evil to us mere men.
”I have learned they deplore all the sins and despise the night I write.

Two Books from my past: “Sins and Tragedies” and “The Edward Ballaster Project”

Books come and books go, but the people you work with stick around in your head and sometimes you want to turn back time and work with them again. There are three who come to mind very quickly. I worked with them both on Sins and Tragedies and The Dark Fiction Spotlight. The three writers are Stacy Bolli, Stephen W. Roberts and JD Stone. This was the first anthology I was part of and it went together without a hitch.

I worked on a project that included many writers. There is a list of the names at the end of everyone who worked on “The Edward Balister Project.”  Take a moment to look them up and see what they are into now. I know I’m going to.

Here is the review of “Sins and Tragedies.”

Sins and Tragedies Reviewed by Charlotte Emma Gledson – Author of ‘The Lonely Tree and Other Twisted Tales of Torment’.

Sins and Tragedies will take you on a tragic voyage into the deep and twisted minds of four talented authors. This is a collaborative anthology composed by the staff members of The Dark Fiction Spotlight, bringing the reader twelve tales of trauma, terror, tragedy and torment.

Stephen W. Roberts, Thadd Presley, Stacy Bolli and JD Stone, showcase their talents by weaving morbid tales with bizarre and curious scenarios that will tantalize the reader, yet leave them unnerved.

Stephen W. Robert’s contribution to this collection feature, ‘A Voice Within’, ‘Rose’s Roses’ and ‘Clutch My Heart, Nevermore’. Each story is written with menacing grace, pain and trauma flowing naturally within every sentence. Stephen W. Roberts is a heartfelt and beautiful writer who targets your inner emotion with his pungent tales of dark personal horror and tragedy. ‘Clutch My Heart, Nevermore’ is a poignant account of a suicidal father, and ‘A Voice Within’ deals with a fatal car crash that takes the life of a young couple. Stephen writes with a graphic poetical approach, trickling the reader with empathy for each character that leaves a lingering shudder of intense sadness.

JD Stone pens, ‘Glass Atrophy’, ‘Phantom Weight’ and ‘Cursed Blessing’, all three written with vibrant horrific vocabulary leading the reader to experience the very essence of the story. With ‘Glass Atrophy’, one can be part of the sights and smells of an exotic yet squalid region of India, and then indulge in the graphic horror that soon unfolds. ‘Cursed Blessing’ tells of a rock band sharing a very dark bloody secret. JD Stone is a writer with a natural skill of the narrative, stained with a chilling brutality that will leave horror fans satisfied.

Stacy Bolli stories comprise of, ‘Momma’s Boy’, ‘Toilet Troubles’ and ‘Music Of The Swamp’. I respect the way Stacy is unafraid to venture into new territory for a female writer. ‘Toilet Troubles’ will leave you squirming and itching but also with an evil smirk on your face. ‘Momma’s Boy’ is a tale of a vampire hybrid that soon unearths his darkened past. With an ability to menace with her descriptive prose, she is a fine example of a skilful female writer within today’s horror genre. Stacy Bolli writes with conviction, wit and an understanding of the darkness that dwells within us all.

Thadd Presley’s, ‘The Treatment’, ‘Shallow Grave’ and ‘Halloween’ are vivid accounts on the depravity of human nature. Thadd writes with a passion and rawness that can be unsettling, perfect for the current horror genre. In ‘The Treatment’ the taboo subject of paedophilia is written with sensitivity, yet bringing home the true horror of child predators. With ‘Halloween’, domestic violence is portrayed at its very worse. A beguiling writer, Thadd leaves the reader wanting more, yet you are left reeling from his explicit and dynamic stories.

Reviewed by Charlotte Emma Gledson – Author of ‘The Lonely Tree and Other Twisted Tales of Torment’.

Transplant

Transplant

by Thadd Presley

She has no patience. Neither do I for that matter. Except that Love is something for which we all must wait. First, waiting all those long years to grow up, then waiting for that special someone to fall in love with, and if we are adults by this time, we wait respectfully for the divorce to be final, so life can begin. Some of us — some of them, I mean — don’t wait for anything. They uproot and trek to the love they’ve found and try settling, for some it works wonders.  Others, though, have a hard time of it. Like a patient suffering through a nightmarish fever dream, they cast about and say the wildest things, while their body rejects a much needed organ transplant. They can’t seem to hold onto anything in this new life. Everything they touch disappears, absolves itself back into the dream-foam from which they’ve constructed their life. Nothing satisfies these people. Things felt, tasted, and wanted only satisfies to the extent of reminding them that they are not happy. All this happens while the real world ebbs and flows around them, many wonderful things go unnoticed and people they know and have met don’t know what to do or how to help. Many are left wondering what the problem really stems from.  To the outside world, there is no pattern to latch onto: one day everything is good, the next day everything is bad. The ones who care the most often get upset by seeing a friend in such misery, but they go absolutely unnoticed by the one they deem most important. Yeah, some transplants just don’t take. But, she has no patience. Neither do I, for that matter.

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…”

Thadd’s Twelve

“Thadd’s Twelve” was published in February 2015, as a mix of short stories and poetry. I have posted some of the stories on this blog to give an idea of what is inside the book. “Lies We Tell So Well” and “Shallow Grave” are two of the stories in the book.  Below you will find links to other stories and poems I’ve posted.  I will update it as I add more to the blog.

This is a list of the stories and accompanying poetry.

 

My Written Frankenstein (poem)
Thrills at the Notell Motel (short story)
It’s Not to Late (poem)
You Deserve to be Bullied (short story)
Sweepstake Eyes (poetry)
The Lies We Tell (short story)
Gigantic Planet (poetry)
Bohemian Inn (poetry)
Freegonism (short story)
One Alone (poem)
Beat Down (short story)
She’s Such a Doll (poem)
Easter, Bloody Easter (short story)
Worm in a Box (poem)
War Against Weather (poem)
Lonesome Lake (short story)
War is not the Olympics (poem)
Count’em Out (short story)
Dark Eyes ((poem)
Shallow Grave (short story)
The Thing in the Sky (poem)
You’d Better Learn (short story)
It’s in our Nature to Talk to Snakes (poem)
For the Love of Money (short story)
Gremlin’s Image (poem)
Jack’s Apartment (story story)

and a final surprise

Lies We Tell So Well

The Lies We Tell

by Thadd Presley

It was the best company party in the history of PhyllisCorps; possibly the best party of any computer company in the last decade, on par with the likes of Microsoft and Google. The richest of the tech world came to celebrate with the geniuses in our ranks. It was the annual Employee Appreciation Party and it was bigger than it had ever been. We’d done our jobs to the best of our ability and the company was letting us blow off some steam and some money. We had finally put PhyllisCorps on the map and the world had begun to take notice. We were acknowledging profits we’d never knew existed.
The company was doing so well, that they flew us from Phoenix to Knoxville and rented luxury cars for us to explore the city. The entire weekend was paid for and we deserved it.
Words can’t express how wonderful the weekend turned out and all the amazing places Knoxville had to visit. It was so well planned that we all felt like celebrities.
As I drove up the mountain, toward North Carolina, I couldn’t believe the scenery. I had seen pictures of our chalets and the cabins were going to be amazing. We’d heard rumors about the party that was going to take place, but as I caught my first glimpses of Gatlinburg and The Smokey Mountains I couldn’t believe my eyes. The unbelievable beauty of Tennessee took my breath even as I was on the plane, but I caught a second wind of unexpected amazement on the road. There’s something about the air here, I thought — I could breathe better, see farther, even my skin felt softer — but it was much more than that; the view, the altitude, and even the local folks were great.
I stopped at an overlook and spending 20 minutes talking to other travelers as they stood and wondered at the spectacular beauty of the land before us. It took fifteen minutes more of standing alone just breathing the sweet fragrant air before I could get back in the car and drive away. As I looked toward the horizon and watched the millions and millions of trees sway in the breeze, I wondered why I ever lived in the desert. Why didn’t I move here permanently? The world was mesmerizing from that point of view; even to a logically-thinking computer-geek like myself, intelligent design made more sense from Tennessee and I realized how hostile and ugly the desert happened to be.
I told my wife, Adrian, when we got back into the car that we were coming back as soon as we could. She nodded and mumbled something about the cabin in Gatlinburg and how close it was to Harrah’s Casino.
I didn’t bother to tell her that this place was too serene for gambling, that gambling was for people in the desert where there was nothing else to do, that gambling away money in a place like this would be idiotic when there was so many things to see and so much here that money couldn’t buy.
It dawned on me, as I made my way up and through the switchback curves, that my wife didn’t understand this place at all and I would be moving back alone. There was just no way to open her eyes. She had grown accustomed to brown and dead, when I was just learning about flowing water and green mountains filled with life.
We finally arrived and the mansion sat atop a peak right in the middle of the Blue Ridge Mountains. A huge banner in the yard read, “Congrats on a A Great Year.” I could see the feeling of optimism on the faces of everyone standing out front.

* * * * *

When the announcement was first made, I didn’t want to go to Tennessee. I had some work on a freelance job I’d been working nights trying to finish. I thought Adrian would enjoy a vacation instead of going to another stuffy company party. But, after talking to her about it, she talked me into going. And for once, she was right.
If we would have stayed home, I would have never met the most incredible woman. She was a pleasure to talk with, to walk with, and to look at; her ways invaded my life and made me a believer in love at first sight.
I miss her very much and often wonder why I didn’t leave with her that night. I became attached to her quickly and have thought of her everyday since the night of the party.
My wife wakes me at night and swears I say her name in my sleep. She says it bothers her and claims I was unfaithful. But, her accusation is simply not true. I never even kissed Helen or held her hand. But, I didn’t have to kiss her to fall in love with her. She emitted love like the sun does light.
She was pure.
Two nights ago, my wife woke me for the umpteenth time, and I did something I rarely do: I got angry. She began accusing me of having an affair. She screamed at me, saying that my work had suffered, our relationship was ending, and it was all because of Helen and that party. I was fully awake by the time she accused me of loving her, and part of what she said was true. My work was suffering and our relationship was ending, but it wasn’t because of Helen. Adrian blamed my actions for everything happening to us, but the truth wasn’t as simple as that. My wife was ruining our relationship by holding onto feelings she had over a dead woman, and all because I occasionally spoke her name in my sleep.
So, I did what any reasonable man would do when faced with a no-win situation. I got out of bed and walked to the bedroom door. It was my intention to walk away and let her go back to sleep. I would finish the night in the spare bedroom so I would not disturb her sleep.
“Who did she think she was anyway?” She asked as I opened the bedroom door. Lately her voice had scraped my very soul raw and I didn’t know how much more I could take before walking out forever. Her voice used to make me smile and feel good, but lately it had become very irritating and every word had me imagining the freedom in signing divorce papers. But I knew a divorce was never going to happen. I loved her and we were just having a rough patch. I loved her too much to simply leave her alone to the world. If I didn’t love her, I would have never came home from Tennessee.
I suppose she had a reason to be upset at me because I went to Helen’s funeral when I told her I wasn’t going. But, there was just no way I could not go. She was the most amazing woman I’d ever met and she deserved to be mourned by everyone who had known her.
I tried to tell myself that my mourning had everything to do with respect and nothing to do with infatuation, but that was a lie. I went to the funeral because I wished that I would have gotten the chance to love Helen and really get to know her. I would have stayed in Tennessee and gotten a divorce if I’d known her life was going to be so short.
“I know you had more to do with her than your telling me,” Adrian yelled. “I know you better than you think.”
I was standing in the hallway, turning the corner toward the stairs when she said it. I’d started toward the kitchen to start coffee and it hit me that she was right. I knew that she had to know how I felt toward her. A wife knows her husband better than he knows himself.
Sleep was finished for the night, I knew that as well.
“Admit it,” she screamed from directly behind me, startling me, her voice grating every nerve in my body. I could feel the hate shooting out from her body into mine and it made me go sour inside.
I wanted to scream back at her. I wanted to tell her that she was just being mean. But what could I really say to make her understand the way I felt? I’d tried to come up with something to say to her until everything sounded empty even to myself. So I took a breath and I gave her back the hate she was giving me.
“For God’s sake, can you shut the fuck up?”
She watched me as I seethed and I saw that she’d been wanting me to get mad. She wanted this the whole time. She wanted to fight. I didn’t understand why, but I had finally given her what she wanted. “No I can’t. Not when you won’t tell me the truth.”
“I am telling you the…”
“I’ll never shut up. I’ll never forgive you.” Her eyes were full of tears now and it shocked me. “How can we begin to make this better when you won’t help me.”
“I don’t know what you want me to say.”
“Just tell me what you two did. Tell me why you’re so smitten by her. What does she have that I don’t?”
“Nothing.”
“If you don’t tell me that you two had something going on, even long distance, I’ll go insane. Do you know that?”
So, I took a chance. I lied to her. I figured if the truth wasn’t going to get us through this than maybe a lie is exactly what we needed.
“OK. We did. I mean, I did. Who cares now anyway?” Tears were in my eyes, hot tears that burned with the knowledge of time lost of tarnishing her memory. “She’s dead now and I’m stuck with you…” I was going to say more, but she slapped me.
She had never slapped me. In twenty years, we’d never touched each other in anger. “I knew you did. You didn’t even have to tell me. I knew it all along.”
“You don’t know anything.”
“I knew that, damn you. I knew it and you know I knew it. Finally, you have spoken the truth about that whore.”
But it wasn’t the truth and I regretted saying it. It would bother me for my entire life. If Helen haunted me now, I could only imagine what dreams might come of the lie.
In my frustration, my words had ruined Helen’s reputation. There was no going back now, no winning and no way out.
Adrian was in front of me now. I was now following her as she leading me toward the kitchen. She was in control. Her sobs were louder than they should have been, I knew how she cried . It infuriated me to know that I would never be able to take those words back and she would use them against me until the day I died. She would call Helen names and I’d have to hold my tongue because I was the one who damned her. I hated myself already for lying.
I regretted the entire day, the company party, my marriage — I regretted my entire life –and I’d only been awake for eighteen minutes.
Adrian was going toward the child-proofed drawer, not that we had ever had children; she was going for the pistol hidden in the back of the drawer.
I never thought to stop her
— didn’t want to stop her –
She was out of control and I wanted nothing more than to just let her go; let her kill me if she wanted to.
Then at that moment, I thought she might kill herself and I didn’t care if she did. I’d kill myself afterward, if she didn’t have the decency to shoot me first.
I started to open my mouth, to tell her that I was ready to die, but it was at this moment she brought the pistol out of the drawer and I was suddenly afraid.
“I know more than you think, you bastard. I knew the two of you had something going on and I know you were planning to move to Tennessee so you two could be closer. I knew you were going to leave me.” Tears rolled down her face and I suddenly had a vision of how crazy this could get.
“Now, don’t do anything you’ll regret. You don’t know what you’re talking about…”
She smiled. “I won’t regret shooting you. I killed your sweetheart, didn’t I? I don’t regret that.”
The short silence that followed brought what she’d said into blinding clarity.
“That’s right,” she taunted. “I caused her brakes to go out and that’s why she crashed.”
“Why would you say that? She had an accident.”
“No, no. She had no brakes, that’s true, but it wasn’t an accident.”
I didn’t believe what Adrian was saying. I knew there was no way she could have done it. She didn’t know anything about cars. She was just using Helen’s accident to hurt me. She would say anything at this point to hurt me, but that didn’t stop me from hated her for saying it. “You’re a hateful bitch you know that?”
“Maybe, but I’m not lying.” She smiled. “You stopped loving me the moment you met her.” Her tears had stopped. A smile still showed on her lips. “I saw it in your eyes that first night you saw her. I heard it in your voice when you spoke about her. A woman knows these things.”
I couldn’t speak.
“That’s right. I knew it and I put a stop to it.”
“Stop saying that. You couldn’t have…”
The smile grew wider and it made her look ten years younger. “I killed her.” The gun came up. “And now I’m going to kill you.” Her lips were red and full of blood, her entire face was flush with anger. “You hit me and chased me and I had to kill you…” The gun pointed at my chest.
“No, Adrian, you don’t understand…”
“Stop saying that.” She was raising her voice. She would be screaming soon. “Never say that to me again. You’re the one who doesn’ t understand. You’re the one who doesn’t know anything.” She lowered the gun an inch. “But, I’m not going to kill you before I explain it to you. It wouldn’t be right to let you die not knowing how much I love you.” The gun jerked toward the living room. “Go sit down.” Another jerk of the gun. “Go sit in your favorite chair and I’ll tell you everything.” She was smiling still, but I could see the hurt in her face. “You’ll want to hear this. You might even be proud of me for taking an interest in your work.”
“Adrian, you…” I stopped myself. I almost said “you don’t understand” again. “We didn’t do anything.”
“I will fucking shoot you in the chest when this is over. But, you will hear me out first. You’re the one who’s a liar and doesn’t understand what love is.”
“Don’t understand what? What do you want me to understand?”
“I want you to know how I killed Helen and how you helped me do it. Why I killed her isn’t the point anymore because you know why.”
I sat down slowly, no longer thinking of myself but what Adrian had in her mind and why she thought she killed Helen.
“It was Barnaby Jack who gave me the idea.” Adrian began. “When we were in Las Vegas and you sent me to record his conference. Remember?”
I thought of trying again to tell Adrian I lied, that Susan and I never did anything. But, the name Barnaby Jack brought me back. It was three months after the company party. I knew then that she had done something and I knew how she’d done it.
Our eyes connected for the first time in over two years. “Yes,” Adrian said. “you see now don’t you?”
I nodded my head, although I didn’t know exactly.
“Tell me, so I know you know.”

 * * * * *

It was the Spring after the employee party. I was sent to cover Barnaby Jack’s Hacker convention, but I drank too much and couldn’t go. I wanted to meet the man and many of the other guests, but I would have puked on them. So, I gave Adrian my pass and sent her to record his talk.
At the conference, he detailed and performed how to hack a car with a cell phone. With a simple code anyone could disable the cars alarm system, jack with the fuel/oxygen ratio, and many other things. With a couple numbers anyone could disable the brakes of a luxury car. It was a simple, just the facts, demonstration of a wireless hack, something anyone with cell phone abilities could do. Adrian had learned more than she needed to know from it.
It was the next year, at the Employee Party, that Susan left early and had an accident on her way home. It was written up as an accident, no one thought otherwise. But, I now knew she was murdered by my wife.
“So, now what?” I asked. “You going to kill me? You have to, you know that right? If you don’t kill me, I’ll turn you in.”
Then she started crying. “I did it because I love you. I didn’t want you to leave me.”
“I wasn’t going to leave you. You should have trusted me.”
“Trusted you,” she screamed, asked, and accused at the same time.
The pistol came up and I had only two regrets. I wished that I hadn’t come back from Tennessee to this barren wasteland called Phoenix, and I wished I hadn’t lied and tarnished Helen’s good name.

Easter, Bloody Easter

Easter, Bloody Easter

by Thadd Presley

“That’s exactly what she told me,” Anita said as she handed the sheriff her ID. “I don’t know what else to do. She said she would kill me if I so much as came down here. And we both know she will. You have to help me.”
“She told you not to come 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 the basement.”
“But, she said she would kill you.”
“I know. Please help me.”
“OK, OK. Just sit right there. 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 head.”
Stephen 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 spurt of blood shot from the side of her eyeball 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.
“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’s bloody finger began to draw words onto the paper. It moved 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 and 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.” 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 trying to tell him. He was running out of time. “Someone get in here.”
“If you tell anyone, I’ll kill you,” a voice said.
He whirled around in search of the woman who spoke,but there was no one there. The sound was in his head. Suddenly, a pain shot through his temple and his right hand instinctively went to his head.   “Who’s there?”
“No mom,” Anita said. “He won’t tell.”
“Who’s doing this?” The sheriff demanded.
“If you tell, I’ll kill you.” The voice was louder. “I have you all right here with me.”
The pain in the sheriff’s temple grew and warmth flowed from his nose. He reached for his gun and saw that his shirt sleeve was red. He realized then that his nose wasn’t running. It was bleeding. As he lost consciousness, he suddenly realized what it was she was trying to draw. He almost laughed. What could he have done to help her anyway. The police are no match for a voodoo doll.

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