Friday, September 21, 2012

Dying Echoes of Who We Were




 Chapter One


The old man stepped off the wooden boardwalk that ran above the dunes ringing the gravel parking lot and onto the soft white sand of the beach making up the south end of Pawleys Island, South Carolina. Despite the early morning darkness and the fact sunrise was still over an hour away he instinctively knew he was completely alone. The solitude and isolation suited his needs. The old man had come home one last time to indulge the cruel ironies that made up his adult life.

Without any ceremony, he sat down in the sand and closed his eyes soaking up the sensations that surrounded him. While much had changed in him, his home town of Georgetown, and this small island over the decades, the sound of the surf, the smell of the salty air, and the softness of the sand connected him to memories that had plagued him remorselessly since he learned cancer was eating alive.

"Why did I come back here?" He asked himself aloud. Some part of the old man's mind agreed with the question. There was nothing and no one to greet him as he drove down Front Street in the car he rented back in Charleston after getting off the plane. His parents had died decades earlier and if he still had any high school friends living in Georgetown it was a certainty they would not recognize him. Still, he felt some deep need to return to the place that had set him on his lonely path through life.

"You know why you came to this spot you coward," he said to himself paradoxically several seconds later. Still a part of the old man refused to acknowledge the truth even to himself. With just weeks left to live, his last desire was to see the only woman he ever truly loved. The reason why he denied himself that fact had less to do with the years that had taken or scattered everyone he knew and cared about but the circumstances in which they parted. Somehow the old man drew enough courage and began to walk down the beach towards the house here everything went wrong.‎

***‎

The young couple had spent the night making love in the dunes on the other side of the creek separating Pawleys from the mainland. With daybreak approaching their time together was coming to an end, one would soon be a student at Clemson University while the other was heading off to Fort Bragg a few days later with the ultimate destination being Vietnam. In the darkness they walked in silence through the sand holding hands both happy and sad at the same time.‎

Even with the idea of going to war, and possibly dying in a faraway jungle Andrew Wallace felt true joy for the first time in his life. He pulled his girlfriend Emily Howard close wrapping his right arm around her waist. In turn, she rested her head on his shoulder.‎

"My father will have to accept you in the family now Andy," She said happily. "In his eyes you have soiled me sir and he will demand you do the right thing."‎

"He better," Andrew said in a menacing tone that surprised ever him. "I will soon be fighting for my country in Vietnam and working to become an army officer. That's got to make me something more in your banker father’s eyes than just the son of a poor mill worker."‎

"My father is an idiot at times,” Emily said noticing the anger in Andrew’s voice. “When we see him today I will tell him we will be married when you return from Vietnam even if he disowns me like he threatened.” ‎

The two lovers then lapsed into silence as they continued walking back towards the beach house they had shared for the last week. It belonged to one of Emily’s uncles and she and her siblings had free use of the place since he had moved to Atlanta. With Emily’s family caught up in their own affairs, it had proven to be a safe sanctuary for the two during the week.

Ensnared in their own emotions and thoughts the couple did not notice the different set of lights on in the house until they walked into the living room. There to greet them was Emily’s older brother and his best friend, neither sympathetic to the feelings Andrew and Emily felt for each other.

“Well look at this Roger,” Clark Howard said to his friend sitting at the table in the adjoining kitchen, “seems like we caught little sister and her white trash boyfriend by surprise. Father will be terribly disappointed in you Emily,” he said in a condescending tone, “he had such high hopes to marry you off to that Thompson boy from Charleston.”

Caught by surprise their mere presence and Clark's words of ridicule Andrew hated the wave of intimidation that sweep through his mind. All during high school Clark had lead a life of privilege because his father owned the largest bank in three counties. Given the nature of social climbing in a small southern town that reason alone made him one of the biggest fish in a small pond insuring in an automatic popularity. But add his large size, sense of privilege, and innate cruelty and the result was a borderline sociopathic bully all too eager to verbally or physically strike someone down. More than a few times during high school Clark's attention had focused on Andrew and the small collection of friends he hung out with while a student.

Deep down inside Andrew felt things had changed, after finishing basic and advanced infantry training he knew himself to be far more than some scared kid willing to accept abuse at the hands of a bully. Unconsciously at first, he edged away from Emily and towards the table next the couch holding a heavy stone coffee mug and another item of special importance in this situation. During those crucial seconds as Clark continued with his diatribe, Andrew watched Roger standing in the doorway that connected the kitchen with the hallway leading towards the bedrooms. Always the reliable sidekick, Roger's attention was focused exclusively on his powerful benefactor while Clark continued his string of threats and insults at Andrew and Emily who by this time was nearly paralyzed with fear of her older brother.

When Andrew finally reached the coffee mug Roger did not see him quickly pick it up and throw it at him. However, Roger did feel the impact of the mug as it hit dead center on his face, after that he collapsed and would not awaken until after surgery to fix his nose and jaw. Clark on the other hand did see Andrew come at him but not before he grabbed the other item off the table, a silver switchblade knife that he had purchased while at small store just outside of Fort Benning. After years of dishing out abuse to victims unable to fight back, Clark was unprepared for the onslaught of blows Andrew laid on him. Within a minute, the large man was on the floor with several broken and bruised ribs but the worst was yet to come.

Overcome with rage Andrew sat on top of Clark's chest enjoying the agony he was inflicting by bouncing on the man's body. At the same time, Andrew had opened the switchblade and positioned the end of the stainless steel blade a hair's breadth away from Clark's right eye.

"Please give me an excuse to blind you. I have so wanted to try out a few tricks my drill sergeants taught me and you are the perfect person to practice on," Andrew whispered. Clark could not respond verbally, abject fear was a new and novel thing for him, so much that he felt the crotch of his pants becoming soaked with a warm liquid.

Emily, who was still standing at the entrance to the living room, had watched the proceeding events in stunned silence until she saw the look of utter rage on Andrew's face. The creature sitting on her brother's chest about to cut one of his eyes out was not the kind and loving man she wanted to marry. Confused and scared Emily let out scream that shook Andrew out of his insane stupor.

Seeing his opportunity, Clark, even with his injuries, attempted to counter attack but Andrew was already on a hair trigger and instinctively jerked the knife into his eye then down his face leaving a long and bloody gash all the way to the jaw.

Seeing the fear on Emily's face and Clark writhe in pain from what he had done Andrew climbed off the injured man in time to see his girlfriend run out the door screaming for the police. After that, everything became a confusing blur for Andrew to the point his mind shut down.

Chapter Two

Within a few hours of the incident, Andrew found himself alone occupying a small cell in the county jail. Still dealing with the shock of what he did and how Emily ran off calling for the police Andrew spent the next two days feeling utterly lost with the realization his life was now ruined. Not only had Emily abandoned him but in two more days he would be AWOL and eventually declared a deserter. Making matters worse, during a visit by his parents the day before he learned that the county judge had denied him bail.

Laying on the small bunk in his cell, Andrew found himself contemplating suicide. Even that final solution to his problems was denied to him because he had nothing assist him to that end. Just when Andrew thought he might go insane with despair a strange and unexpected avenue of escape opened up to him.

The clang of heavy keys and the sound of the iron bars that made up his cell being slide open pulled Andrew out of his misery. Standing before him was the county sheriff Woodrow Carter holding his army duffel bag. The sheriff stepped into the cell curiously leaving the door open looking at Andrew with a mixture of sympathy and puzzlement.

“I just want you to know the remains of Clark Howard’s right eye had to be removed and he will in all likelihood be sporting one hell of a scar for the rest of his life.” The sheriff said as he dropped Andrew’s duffel bag to the floor.

“Sheriff Carter,” Andrew began, “not that it will do me any good but I want to say I am sorry to Clark and the Howard family. I do not know what came over me back in their beach house. I realize I will have to pay for my crimes.”

Pulling what amounted to a small stool from underneath Andrew’s bunk the sheriff plopped himself down on it and looked back at him. “Screw Clark and his damned family,” he said. “I never liked any of them. What I will tell you is that Clark Howard senior has been on the phone pulling all sorts of strings to make sure you spend the rest of your life in that hellhole called the Central Correctional Institute up in Columbia.”

“So when can I expect to be sent up there?” Andrew asked resigning himself to something worse than death.

“Well that’s the rub,” the sheriff said chuckling, “by all rights you should spend several years  in prison to pay for your crime but there is the small matter of you being a trained soldier about to go fight in a war while Clark Howard junior somehow skated right through the draft board on a college deferment. The fact that he flunked out of Clemson last year and that his rich daddy sits on that panel surely cannot be connected. But because of that strange circumstance I’m about to make you a deal you cannot refuse.”

Despite it all Andrew leaned forward beginning to see the barest glimmer of hope. Sheriff Carter stared off into space for a moment, as if he had second thoughts, and then took a deep breath. “Right now I have one deputy at the bus station holding the bus bound for Wilmington, North Carolina with a direct connection going to Fort Bragg arriving in time for you not to become AWOL. Another deputy is outside this jail in his car waiting for you to get inside so he can drive you to the bus station. The one condition in all this is that you can never return to Georgetown, not even to see your folks. If you do and are caught, I will be forced to arrest you. The Howard family has very long memories and plenty of powerful friends.”

“What about Emily? Andrew asked. “She and I are in love.”

“Listen son!” Carter said frustrated, “She is the one who ran screaming down Pawleys Island about some crazy man killing her brother. I can’t say what her feelings about you are or were but I am offering you a chance for a life. You have to choose now!” 

There was no other option, twenty minutes later Andrew is on the bus wearing his army class A uniform heading north on U.S. Highway Seventeen. As Andrew’s hometown disappeared behind him he held the silver switchblade tightly in his right hand swearing to God never to return. 

(Author's note: This half-assed attempt at "decent" fiction actually has an ending. Will post chapter three and four no later than Monday.) 

12 comments:

Windsmoke. said...

I reckon Andrew got off very lightly indeed, sadly he lost the love of his life in the process. I'll be back to read chapters 3 & 4.

Akelamalu said...

Great writing Beach, I'm looking forward to reading the rest. :)

Mike Williams said...

Hi, Reminiscing on the beach is something I have been known to do. looking at those changing points in one's life. You use that well as a jumping off point into a classical plot line similar to the Montagues and Capulets. Don't worry Shakespeare borrowed that plot from earlier works. It's sort of timeless because it tells the story so well of disparate families and young lovers. You have continued that tradition and I am looking forward to where you take it from here. Good writing as usual.

Mr. Charleston said...

Moving mighty quickly BB. More like a screenplay than a novel. But a fun read none the less.

Life As I Know It Now said...

But never to see his family again! I guess that's better than prison.

Randal Graves said...

Chicks, man.

Red Nomad OZ said...

Well, I hope you mean Monday, AUSTRALIAN time because that's in less than 2 hours!!!

Riveting!!

Beach Bum said...

Windsmoke and Akelamalu: Running into issues with the last two chapters. May take a couple of more days.

Mike: Thanks, just me once again wanting to write something that does not involve aliens or doomsday.

Mr. Charleston: The funny thing is this was suppose to be a much shorter version of an original story that about seven pages.

Life AS We Know It: I edited out the sheriff telling him if his parents wanted to see him they could go to him. Might need to put that back in.

Randal: Ain't that the God's honest truth.

Red: Running into some trouble, may be a little longer.

Pixel Peeper said...

I like your alien and doomsday stories, but I love the stories of lost loves or "what ifs."

Looking forward to the conclusion.

goatman said...

A sandy peninsula of sand seven miles long into the blue green waters of the gulf parallel to Florida made for days of sunny walking contemplation, with the fuzzy white noise background inherent in water falling upon itself.
Don't remember any maiming or killing though!

lime said...

rather tragic choices all the way around. life can changes in the blink of a plucked out eye.

Rose L said...

i think it is pretty good. A few tweaks and it will be ready to go!