#1
It had been two weeks since his interview for Lutrell Bail Bonds and dad's stimulus checks were not enough to provide for us. Disheartened and defeated, he sat in his chair from morning to night drinking beer and watching the television. He didn't bother with the news anymore. His days were filled with the escapades of the Cartwright boys of Gunsmoke and Private Pyle's military incompetence. We hadn't heard from Terry in weeks and we only hoped that we was having fun in California.
On a rainy Saturday dad was paid a visit from Calvin Gilcher, an old friend of his from high school who lived downtown. He had not visited us in the months leading to the cap and seige. Anyone spotted with a book was sure to be a liability down the road and with the job rate at a stand still no one could afford to be associated with us. Dad had not spoken to Calvin in a year and a half and was met with a queer uneasiness at his arrival. Calvin was a union delegate for the steel factory downtown - A large company that pumped half of the town's revenue. They took a seat in the kitchen. Dad shooed me away but I hid behind the doorway and eavesdropped on their conversation.
"How's your boy been?" asked Calvin.
"He's been out in California for the last couple months. Some sort of work experience program for teenagers. It was an opportunity to get him out of here and away from all this nonsense. Work experience. It'll get him work."
"But not here, right?"
Dad swallowed his words.
"...That's right."
"And your daughter?"
"Ain't been to school in months. Can't send her. Won't."
Calvin adjusted in his seat and opened his briefcase. He lay a thick stack of papers onto the table. Tax forms, W4's, other papers. He pushed them to my father.
"Derl, I've heard about your hard times and I've heard about the neighborhood and all of that. Things ain't getting better. I can get you work. I can get you soild work down at AV if you're able and willin' to."
Dad sat up in his seat.
"Lord knows I'm willing, Calvin, but I couldn't just up and walk in there and hoist steel in my hands."
"I guess it raises a moral dilemma, Derl, but with proper paperwork I could get you and you into AV Steel as a foreman. That's salary, Derl. You could uproot your family in Northridge and out of this. If you're willing to change information about your family. A new identity, just for the remainder of how long they keep trying to stick it in. New name, new birthplace, past occupations, for all of you."
Dad leaned back in his chair.
"Calvin, you're asking me to give up our family's name and identity? That's a bit to mull over now. I don't know. How are you able to even do this? The risk is too high."
"It's pretty fool-proof. You'd be amazed at how many books are workin' on the floor at AV right now with a little alteration. It ain't gotta be permanent. I've known you for almost 20 years, Derl. I wanna see your family through and out of this. You ain't gonna get work anywhere for Lord knows how long. A foreman position, Derl. There's a good buck in that rack. I want you to at least consider it."
Dad nodded his head.
Calvin left the papers on the table and rose from his seat. Him and dad shook hands and he headed for the door. I tried to scramble away from the doorway but he saw me.
"Hey there, Caitlyn. My, you're gettin' big."
He rubbed his hand over my hair and tussled it.
He left through the front door and forgot to close it.

At three in the morning the phone rang. I paid no attention to it. It rang for minutes, over and over. I heard my mother stumble out of bed and down the hallway to the kitchen. I tried to dose off back to sleep and back to a dream I was having where I was dressed up nice for a ball on a giant ocean liner. My mother's voice grew louder as she spoke through the phone. It became concerned and frantic. I threw my feet over the side of my bed and walked into the kitchen.
"Terry! I need you to calm down, baby, please! Calm down and take a deep breath!"
I sat down at the table. The voice on the other end was loud and audible, but a frightened tone that I had never heard from my brother before. It was inhuman.
"They've all left! They've all left and the ones that are here, I don't know where they are! I don't know, I don't know! They shoved them in my hands and m-made me go out and and and, they made us! The cars were set up, they were, they were rigged! They were rigged!"
My father stormed into the kitchen, dressed already, wearing a white t-shirt and a pair of ragged jeans. He was putting his boots on standing up. He knew what was happening.
"Give me the phone, mother," he said to her.
She handed it to him.
"Terry, where are you? Tell me where you are?"
"I'm in the desert somewhere, I-I don't know, I'm at a retirement home, I w-walked in and they let me use the phone, but I can still hear the cars! They're driving around, t-they're trying to find all of us, I don't know."
"Terry, what's the name of the building?"
"They're still driving! They're still shooting, I can hear -"
"Terry, what's the name of the goddamn building!"
"S-shady Knolls? S-shady Knolls."
"You're going to stay there, you hear me? I want you to stay there and we're driving out there to get you, you understand? We'll be there in a day. I want you to stay there. Do not go anywhere, you understand me?"
"Y-yes sir, yeah."
Dad hung the phone up and grabbed me and mom both by the hands, almost pulling us on the floor. He threw me in my room and informed me to get dressed. Him and mom disappeared into their room and slammed the door.
The sun had not come out yet. Dad had loaded the car with two Styrofoam coolers of bottled water and lunch meat. We left the house at 4:47 in the morning. Mother tried to hold on to his hand but he shook it from her grasp. Both hands planted firmly on the wheel, neck tension cemented forever.
Poor advice.
Last edited by stellar_legs at Apr 13, 2011,
#2
14 hours into the trip we were in the middle of nowhere. I wanted to say were were driving through Idaho but I wasn't sure, and I didn't want to ask dad for fear of a barrage of curses or a backhand to my mouth. I was on the verge of tears the entire time. I wanted to be home. I wanted to run around Jocelyn's pool with her. I wanted to be able to walk into the library again but the library was thew first place that was destroyed. What made me the sickest was after almost two years of this ordeal I was kept completely in the dark still about why every ounce of my innocence and self-reliance had been sacrificed for a state of perpetual fear that was above me. Something I did not understand at all. I was a book. We were all books and I didn't know what that meant and no one would tell me for years until I had to study, 10 years later, this nightmarish darkness that engulfed us for so long and destroyed so much. We were driving through cornfields. Miles and miles of corn. I had heard from neighbors that the masked men hid in places like cornfields and the woods waiting to spring on books. Vile was building up to the top of my esophagus. I couldn't do this anymore. I had to speak.
"Why do they call us books, dad?"
He looked back at me through the rear-view.
"There isn't anything wrong with being a book, now."
That wasn't what I asked.
"There are some things that people associate with other people you know? You like to read don't you?"
I nodded.
"Well, so do I. So does your mother. There isn't anything wrong with that, is there? Books are full of nice things. Great stories, a lot of information and knowledge. People think of books when they think of us. That's a pretty nice thing, don't you think?"
I leaned back in my seat and nodded again.
"Some people are associated with other things. And sometimes...people just can't agree on anything and never will."
I laid down in the seat.
Several hours passed and when I woke up we were still driving past cornfields. But the road had changed. There was no pavement. The pavement had been replaced with a narrow dirt road. Mom and dad were holding hands tight. I could see the intensity of the grip that dad had on her hand. The car was creeping by at a snail's pace. I crawled around the back seat, looking out every window. The night advanced seven shades of dark. There was static in the air. You could hear it. My left ear began to bleed again.
"Dad?"
He was sweating. He stopped the car in the middle of the road.
"Dad?"
He reached for the glove box and opened. As he did a blinding flash of white light shone through the car blinding us. My father had pulled out the gun he kept glove box. The lights dimmed and a large truck with people on the hood, roof and bed sat in front of us. They were screaming at us. Dad put the car in reverse and drove backwards down the road.
"They saw the fucking plates!"
My mother was hunched in the seat crying as dad flew backwards at what appeared to be the speed of light. The truck chased after us head on. I looked out the back window and another truck had driven out of the corn and boxed us in.
"Dad!"
We swerved into the corn and drove through the thicket, trampling the stalks underneath the tires, unable to see where we were going. We were driving so fast everything slowed down. I wanted to jump out of the car and disappear into the corn. I saw white. I could see sound. Everything was significant and I could feel death seeping into my pours. We came to an abrupt stop. Dad had driven the car into a dugout. His head smashed into the steering wheel. He lept from the car brandishing the gun wildly. He fired several shots into the air.
"Come on, you motherfuckers! I'm sick of this, I won't do this anymore, goddamnit! Come and get me! Come and get me!"
He emptied the gun into the sky as if he were trying to shoot God out of it. It was silent. He stood there for what seemed to be hours, staring into the cleared path we made in the corn. The trucks were gone. He dropped the gun in the dirt and fell to his knees. He put his face into the soil and began to cry. An inconsolable, shrill sound that I had never heard a man emit in my life. I ran out of the car and threw my arms around him. He cried harder and I cried harder. Mother came up behind us and we lay in the dirt sobbing.

Nine hours later we had reached the Valley. We drove through miles of scorched Earth. Trees were black and still smoking. There was nothing. I had wanted to see a Joshua tree up close, but I couldn't tell what the charred remains of foliage used to be. They were all thin and black like insect antennae. It stretched on like this. A wasteland. Houses still stood and people were outside cleaning the remains of neighbors and automobiles. I wasn't scared of what would happened to us. It had obviously blown through already.
We reached the Shady Shoals retirement home and dad made me and mom stay in the car. The sight was a tranquil disillusionment from everything around. It remained unscathed. The tenants paced about the fresh green pastures and rocked on the front porch. It looked like a Southern plantation. It stayed in my mind forever as the most beautiful sight I had ever seen. I saw a lady in white greet my dad at the door and they walked inside.
"He's asleep in room 24."
"What happened here?" my father asked.
"It's really hard to account for yet. We're waiting for a news broadcast as soon as they go live again. Stations have been off for days. Words getting around about Randall Dunn. It's being said he was an operative from the administration. He'd been working on the grassroots organization for years. I remember hearing about it way before everything had happened, but with different names. I can't remember the names..."
My father wiped his face.
"Surely you saw something?"
She shrugged.
"The only thing I saw before we barricaded was a lot of young kids in a lot of cars. Screaming, yelling. All that mess out there - Children did it. I wish I knew why. I hope we find out."
They walked into the room. Terry was sprawled out across a bed, sleeping like an angel.
"I'll get him from here, thank you, ma'am."
She smiled politely and headed back down the hallway.
My father scooped Terry up in his arms. He didn't wake up.
the entire day long trip, Terry would wake up once. He wouldn't say anything. He would just sniffle and sob for several minutes then fall back asleep.

A week after we got home father signed the papers that Calvin had brought to him. He would walk around the house for the weeks leading up to our move in a daze, distant and impenetrable. Mom returned to her duties with forced smile and gusto. I believe she was just happy to have her baby back, or maybe it was something more sincere than coping. I couldn't read either of them.
For a week Terry didn't leave his room. He stared out the window. He barely spoke and I could never get anything out of him about the Dunn-Roerig Initiative or what it was that the hundreds of kids out in the San Fernando desert did for 6 months. he only spoke of it once.
"As soon as I got off the bus I knew it would end in fire," he said. "But it was anticipatory. We were happy. We were moving towards the flames. We were out in the dark and we saw a fire in the distance, and we knew someone was waiting for us. It was a signal."
Two weeks later we were in the car headed for our new home in Northridge as new people. Gil and Diane Tenner and their two children Hank and Aubrey. That was who we were for however long we were to be them. We left our neighborhood and drove off. A fire in the distance, signaling us home. A flame that was sure to die out with the rest.
Poor advice.
Last edited by stellar_legs at Apr 13, 2011,
#6
the escapades of the Cartwright boys of Gunsmoke
the cartwrights are bonanza. the cartwright boys and gunsmoke is maybe what you meant

great job conveying the urgancy of the phone call

but the library was thew first place ---- the instead of thew

no one would tell me for years until I had to study, 10 years later, this nightmarish darkness that engulfed us for so long and destroyed so much.
maybe move 10 years later between until and I had to study. putting the studying next to the nightmarish darkness helps the focus.

hiding in cornfields waiting to spring on books seems odd. cornfields don't sound like a highly traveled place. I would believe they camped out there for other reasons but it's a bit weird to wait in a cornfield for someone. maybe that's just a rumor from the neighbors though.

Vile was building up to the top of my esophagus-- do you mean bile or is vile a noun in some form? if it's an archaic spelling or some bull shit like that, it feels a little too out of place for this.

As he did a blinding flash of white light shone through the car blinding us.
redundant

My father had pulled out the gun he kept glove box.
kept 'in' the glove box?
earlier didn't you say the narrator had never seen a gun in her home? wouldn't it be more of shock to see one now? or why would the home be seperated from the car when she said that. it sounded like guns were unfamiliar but here, it is not.

We swerved into the corn and drove through the thicket--His head smashed into the steering wheel.
so between backing away from the truck and smashing the head he had to turn around and be driving forward right? that's why his head would go forward when he crashed? or was he still going backwards and it bounced forwards? this would be a noteably different experience. So would turning around and shifting gears in the cornfield while being chased. You should clarify this a bit more.

any reason they would stop chasing them? id like to know if so and i don't think there's enough information to figure it out on our own. i think the trail would be easy to follow and chase so they would have had to have decided to stop chasing.

ok the father crying comes back. good.

It stayed in my mind forever as the most beautiful sight I had ever seen. --could be reworded a bit. It has stayed in my mind forever as the most beautiful sight I have ever seen. Maybe. It just seems weird to jump the narration to being from after consciousness or something as it is now.

I saw a lady in white greet my dad at the door and they walked inside.--unless i'm forgetting something, is this the only time the psychic distance shifts from the girl? It's not a problem i guess. just the only time we aren't sure how the narrator knows something since the rest is all direct experience

Terry would wake up once. He wouldn't say anything. He would just sniffle and sob for several minutes then fall back asleep.
not sure if the tense shift helps. it just ties it to the current moment in the retirement home but we don't have any return to that moment to warrant that. I would keep the first sentence as is then change the second two to past tense.

so we connect the whole book identity with her writing this. that's nice.

good work, randy. this was well done. you are a great story teller.
Anatomy Anatomy
Whale Blue Review

Park that car
Drop that phone
Sleep on the floor
Dream about me
Last edited by jiminizzle at May 18, 2011,