They followed the buffalo and their babies along the trail heading into the woods. Bill Cody raised his Sharps Model 1874 and sighted down on the big bull with the two cows ambling in front. Their three calves playfully scampered back and forth.
Bill knew that he would have to kill the bull first and it had to be a clean kill. A wounded bison was trouble; and trouble was the last thing Bill needed. He was out here with only Daniel, and they were more than half a day’s ride from civilization. Lowering his rifle and shaking his head, he telescoped his brass spyglass out to watch the calves.
They were cute little things, the way that they played together. He put away the Sharps rifle and mounted up. He signaled Daniel to do the same.
Those stories about Buffalo Bill, the great hunter – were just that. They were stories.
“Magnificent beasts, truly magnificent; are they not Daniel?”
ODP and my attempt at a 10 minute free write inspired by the phrase:
An expired library card
“That’ll be 67 dollars and 32 cents,” the checker said.
“This better be a damn good steak.” I replied.
He crossed his arms and stared at me. Mute, stoic, unblinking, daring me to pay. I pulled my wallet out of my pocket.
It was a really nice wallet. Hand stitched and tooled with a picture of a rose and a dagger that had inspired the tattoo on the back of my hand. I looked inside at the cash compartment and saw a five spot, three ones and some pocket lint that had collected over the years. I looked at my cards. Visa, MasterCard, American Express – none of those guys would have anything to do with me anymore, I didn’t have those cards.
I found a Diners Card and handed that to the checker. He ran it through his swipe reader and punched some numbers on the machine. We waited. We waited some more, till finally the printer started clacking and spewing out one of those skinny pieces of paper that they always want you to sign.
When it stopped chattering the checker tore it from the roll and began to read it. He frowned and put my Diners Card in his shirt pocket.
“Sorry sir, the card has been declined – insufficient funds. They’ve asked me to retain the offending piece of plastic and return it to them at my earliest convenience. Would you like to read the note?” He proffered the curled up strip of paper.
I shook my head and dug a little deeper into the wallet.
“Aha,” I exclaimed, “an old Pima County Library Card. I grew up in Tucson, you know,” I added.
My logic for telling him that was that if I gave up a little personal information he might see me as more human and perhaps be more compassionate. “Do you think that’ll work in your machine?”
“Perhaps it will,” he said as he took my old library card. “I see this is really ‘old school’ it doesn’t even have a mag stripe; lucky for you that library cards never expire. I’ll put the numbers in by hand,” and he proceeded to do so on his cash register keypad.
Pretty soon the printer began disgorging another tome and I assumed he was going to take away this card too, but he put the paper in front of me and pointed to the bottom where I was supposed to sign, then he handed me back my red and yellow library card. I picked up my groceries and headed for the door with an old Peggy Lee song playing in my head.
‘You Don’t Know’ was sounding like the scratchy B side of an old 45 and I was feeling good until the voice of the checker broke through Peggy’s blue stylings. “Sir,” he said, “I got another message from the printer, It says that steak is due back in two weeks.”
OK – I confess. I wrote furiously for ten minutes but then went back and added punctuation and corrected my spelling after time had expired. Please don’t think less of me.
Liz sat on the steps and watched the people around her.
They didn’t get too close but then again, they couldn’t.
The doctor’s didn’t have a name for it.
There was no cure.
It was a hereditary condition.
Her uncle Marvin had it too.
Hers was bad, with the isolation and lack of human contact.
She had never been hugged – she was unemployable.
But at least she had been able to go to school.
In fact her condition had dictated private, uncrowded schools.
She was very well educated.
Uncle Marvin had it worse though.
His was more obvious
And, he had to put up with the snow!
I watched my receivers scanning the high frequency bands, looking for contacts. Ready to identify whatever I picked up. The MC relayed all conversation in control to my speaker in the ESM shack. I heard, “This is Lt. Hawkins, I have the deck and the Conn. Down scope,” I heard the OD operate the valve actuator ring, in the overhead, and the number 2 scope slipped smoothly and silently into the well. I smiled, one facet of my job was to ensure all the masts and antenna operated flawlessly. “Make your depth 120 feet, 3 degree down bubble.”
“Make my depth 120 feet, three degree down, aye.” Echoed the diving officer; he repeated the order to the helmsman and planesman, who immediately complied by pressing forward on their yokes. I did not hear them implement the shallow dive but I felt the slight change in the pitch of the boat.
It doesn’t take long to dive to 120 feet from periscope depth, even if you are only holding a 3 degree bubble, and soon the diving officer was singing out, “depth is 120 feet sir.”
The Chief of the Watch finished pumping variable ballast and the planesman maintained an even trim at 120 feet.
“Ahead one third,” Hawkins said.
The helmsman reached over with his left hand and selected Ahead One Third on the Engine Order Telegraph. Almost immediately the speed change was acknowledged and I heard the EOT ding in reply.
“Right 15 degrees rudder, come to 275.” Lt. Hawkins ordered. He wanted to hear what, if anything was behind him despite the fact that there had been no visuals.
“Right 15 degrees rudder, aye” the helmsman echoed and before long added, “steady on course 275.”
“Conn, Sonar – it’s quiet out tonight. No contacts excepting biologic activity at 160.”
“Very well. Diving officer, make your depth 400 feet, 15 degrees down.”
The diving officer acknowledged the order and the helmsman and planesman again pressed forward on their controls.
Fifteen degrees is a noticeable pitch and everyone standing on the boat was soon leaning noticeably closer to the deck plates aft of where they stood. We listened to the hull creak and pop, but we held that angle for only a few short minutes before I felt the boat level off and heard the dive say, “depth 400 feet.”
“Very well,” said the OD, “ahead flank.”
“Ahead flank, aye.” The EOT dinged twice.
“Sonar, Radio, ESM; Conn – Plan a high speed run to station at Whiskey Two where we will drop a little deeper, rig for quiet, and hope to make contact with enemy shipping.”
I recognized his voice when Bugman said, “Conn; Sonar aye”
Uncle Jerry replied, “Conn; Radio aye”
“Conn; ESM aye,” I said. I looked at my watch. It would take about four hours to get to Whiskey Two I had some downtime. I flicked the latch that locked the door and leaned back against the bulkhead. I should be able to get in a half hour nap before I was needed in Control. Ahead flank at a depth of 400 feet usually provided a gentle rocking motion, perfect for napping, if nothing else was going on. I intended to take advantage of it.
Wow, the prompt today is awesome. “Sarcastic Dog” right?
That’s funny right?
Dogs can’t be sarcastic… they don’t even have thumbs. Right?
Lemme tell you a story about Rhoda, the dog.
My wife and I were married in 1974. She came with a dog. You guys know the drill right? “Love me, love my dog?”
The dog’s name was Rhoda and she was a black lab mix.
If I came home from work and hugged my wife the dog would get in between us. Separate us. Try to keep us apart. She would say things like, “Stay away from her till you’ve got something to offer. You’ve been at work all day. Why are we still poor?”
Eventually though, I won her over and she began to pick on Edna, my wife.
One night Edna and I were going out to a big soiree that my boss was having – real fancy do, right. When Edna was ready to go she came out to the living room, where Rhoda was sitting on the couch (as bad dogs are wont to do). Rhoda looked at Edna, then looked at me, then looked back at Edna, turned to me and said, “Well that’s a real waste of makeup.”
Then she snickered. Yeah, she snickered. Bad dog, right?
Sometimes it wasn’t so much what she said as how she said it.
Like the time I forgot my anniversary and Edna cried.
“Good boy,” Rhoda said to me, “who’s a good boy then?”
Then there was the time I came back from a business trip. Two weeks on the road and when I got home I leaned down to scratch Rhoda between the ears, “Hey girl,” I asked, “did you miss me?”
“I felt so miserable without you,” she answered, “it was almost like having you here.”
That afternoon, I took Rhoda to visit some friends who owned a farm in Riverside County.
I left her there and drove home without her. As I backed the car down the drive I heard Rhoda, barking. She was saying, “Oh, this is just great. This is just what I need. Bring Milk Bones when you come back!”
I never saw her again but I’m sure that Rhoda’s in hell now because she was a bad dog and bad dogs go to hell. Right?
“So, what’s your sign?” the man asked her as he signaled for another drink.
The barman walked in front of the mirror that read ‘Three Little Pigs’ down to where Marie was trapped. “Will that be another gin and Kool-Aid?” he asked the guy.
“Yeah,” the guy said, “but can I get lemon-lime flavor this time instead of red, and maybe another glass of wine for the lovely lady?”
“We only got red Kool-Aid.”
“OK, that’ll be fine.”
Kenny, the bartender, looked at Marie and raised his eyebrows, as if to say ‘are you really going to let this clown buy you a drink?’
“Oh, oh – no thanks,” Marie said politely to the man, “I’ve got to go; big card game tonight; can’t be late.”
“Ahhh,” said the man, “I thought you looked a little like a poker player. I’m a poker player too. If you got room at the table, I’d be interested.” He looked at her expectantly, waiting for some sign of encouragement. She was a hottie and she had actually spoken politely to him; actually said something besides ‘get lost, ass-wipe.’ Good looking girls called him ass-wipe all the time. He wasn’t sure exactly why – he didn’t think it was a term of endearment.
“Sorry, Dick,” she said.
“That’s Richard,” he interjected.
“Oh, sorry Richard but the game’s full. Anyway, we play table stakes and the stakes are usually pretty high. Maybe next time, OK? Bring your money!”
“OK, see you around then,” Richard said hopefully as she finished her wine and set a ten spot on the bar. She knocked on the wooden surface and when Kenny turned his head she pointed at the tenner, stood, nodded and headed for the door.
Fifteen minutes later Marie was standing in her bedroom looking in the closet. She started changing her clothes. Over her bra and panties she pulled a wifebeater, and board shorts. On top of that Jeans and a t-shirt which she quickly covered with a blue plaid flannel shirt and sweatpants, two pair of socks and her big clodhopper boots finished off her change of attire.
She headed for the living room, but came back and grabbed a ball cap that she tugged down low over her eyes. This time, she paused to look in the mirror by the door. She snapped her fingers and pointed at her reflection. I’m gonna win tonight, she thought then she strutted out to the living room.
Marie poured herself a glass of red wine and took a seat on the couch. She picked up a new deck of cards, shuffled and dealt a hand of solitaire.
Marie played solitaire; not poker, as that loser in the bar had assumed. But Marie didn’t just play solitaire. Oh no, Marie played strip solitaire, a game she had learned from her first real boyfriend, Eddie Mercer. Eddie loved to watch her play. She wasn’t sure why, because she very seldom won. She figured Eddie must’ve really sucked at the game because he always told her how good she was at it.
Tonight though, well tonight felt different, tonight felt good. She was layered up and she was going to win. She thought about how good it would feel to pull a shirt back over her head or tug a sock back on her foot.
Didn’t work out that way though.
After about half an hour and two glasses of wine, Marie moved to the floor. Her cap was gone, lost in the first hand. Her boots and socks were tossed cavalierly next to the coffee table with her sweatpants neatly folded and stacked on top of them.
An hour after that, Marie took stock of her situation. She was pretty drunk and in dire straits; but had enough to play one more hand. She wished Eddie was here – he’d be cheering her on. The cards weren’t looking good and she knew she wasn’t going to win tonight. Finally she turned the ace of spades and stood up to remove her panties.
“Shit,” she said out loud, kicking her knickers across the room. “This game is tough to win.”