Rhonda was worried. They were en route to the front and getting ready to jump right into the middle of a shitstorm. She wasn’t worried for herself, she was worried about Billy. He was new, and this was his first firefight. She stood and unhooked her strap to walk to the back of the plane where Billy sat staring at his feet.
Rhonda nudged Dogbone over so she could sit between him and Billie.
“You scared?” she asked.
“A little bit.”
“You’ll do fine. You’re well trained and we’re jumping with a new moon. They won’t see us coming. They won’t know we’re there, till we light em up. It should be over pretty quick.”
“OK, Sarge,” Billy said, “I’m OK.”
“We’re good to go then,” she said and tagged his shoulder with her fist before she moved back to her place at the front of the line.
When the red light came on she glanced back. Billy seemed OK as he shuffled forward with the rest of them. When the door was pulled open she touched her Ka-Bar for luck.
The buzzer sounded and when the jumpmaster hollered “GO” Rhonda stepped into the inky void, hurtling downward, she said a short prayer for Billy.
Todd’s eyes popped open and he sat upright in the bed. It was four am on a Saturday morning. He knew it was four am. He didn’t even need to look at the clock.
He reached for the spiral bound notebook that he kept on the bedside table and pulled the gel pen that he loved to write with, from the binding. Opening to a blank page he rearranged the thoughts that were swirling in his head. His mind had been churning all night. He had enough stories running around in there that he just knew he would be able spend the entire day writing them down.
He had an idea involving teenage superheroes who banded together to fight evil forces and saved the world on a weekly, if not daily, basis. One of them could be a young girl, he might name her Sequester, her super power might be that she could burst into flames and fly around the world in mere seconds. Her older brother would also be part of the cadre. He would be named Bob and have the ability to disappear, to vanish and become invisible. Together with their friends, they would all be amazing and call themselves “Thunder Teens”.
He had an idea for a story about a beautiful woman – a siren who liked to sit naked on the rocks at the edge of the reef. She would wave and sing to passing ships luring the lustful sailors, with her empty promises, to certain death on the rocks; where their ships would be broken and their bodies torn apart on the sharp corals. Maybe she would have a couple of pet dolphins to help her with her nefarious scheme.
He had an idea about dogs and cats, who wore clothes, drove cars, held down jobs and kept humans as pets. Every evening they would give their pets a bowl of cold food, maybe macaroni and cheese, or maybe oatmeal or something else which had been specially and scientifically formulated to provide them with energy and help to build strong bodies. Meanwhile the dogs and cats feasted on meats, grains, and other nutritious delicacies spooned onto porcelain dishes straight from a can. They would eat too much, drink too much, and forego exercise. Slowly they would descend into the throes of mass hysteria and mental illness before becoming extinct. Fish would then become the dominant species on earth and they would invent bicycles.
He wanted to write about the new checker at the market.
He wanted to explore the dark side of secret and forbidden love.
He wanted to invent new words and write them in his notebook after carefully considering the proper spelling.
He wanted to write the great American novel.
First though, he wanted a cup of coffee so he sat his notebook down on his pillow and climbed out of bed. He straightened his twisted pajama pants and padded down the hall to the kitchen. The dark green can of ‘Café La Llave’ sat on the shelf and he prepared a pot; watched the dark liquid drip from the filter into the clear glass decanter and when it was done – he poured himself a cup. Mmmm.
Back in the bedroom he was surprised to see his notebook had moved from its customary place on the nightstand. He carefully put it back where it belonged and picked up the TV remote. Pillows propped against the headboard, he slipped between the sheets and pointed the controls at his new 96” flat screen TV. He could watch a few hours of home makeover shows, or the shopping channel before he had to get out of bed for anything other than more coffee.
“Damn,” he thought to himself, “today has the makings of another boring day. Why can’t I ever think of something exciting to do?”
Thanks, April! I got a couple of them in. Can I pretend that telephone is a TV remote?
DelMonte’s spurs jingled, and dust billowed from his boots, as he pushed through the swinging door. He paused and surveyed the room, looking for any possible threat and when he was satisfied he made his way to the bar. He fumbled a bit with his duster as he pushed it back to ensure easy access to the ivory handled six-shooter he wore strapped to his leg. There was supposed to be a button back here somewhere that would keep it back and out of the way. That would keep his gun handle clear. When he finally found it he worked it through the button hole, shook his shoulders to ensure that it held and touched his piece, for luck.
The bartender hovered near, eager to attend but not too close. You never knew what would set off a man like DelMonte, gunslingers can be a touchy lot. He cleared his throat.
“What’ll it be Mr. DelMonte?” he asked.
“How do you know my name, Barkeep?” DelMonte asked, his hand resting at his side, poised to unleash lead if need be.
The bartender hooked his thumb over his shoulder indicating the poster that was tacked over the bar.
Wanted, Dead or Alive, it read, and DelMonte saw his picture smiling back at him. “What’s the bounty up to?” he asked the bartender.
“Twenty-five hunnerd dollars.”
DelMonte scowled and nodded his head. All he said was, “Whiskey. Make it a double.”
The bartender slid away, a man in his element, to fetch the drink.
An older show girl sidled up next to DelMonte and put her hand on his shoulder. “How ya doin’, Butch?” she asked him. She smiled and her tobacco stained teeth peeked out from beneath her painted red lips
He glared at her, “Damnit, Mom, what’re you doing in Idaho?” he growled in a whisper, “And, don’t call me Butch. My name is DelMonte.”
“What’s wrong with Butch?” she pouted, “I gave you that name. I like that name.”
“Not tough enough.” He said. “Listen, Mom, you gotta leave me alone or folks will figure out we’re related. I can’t afford for my enemies to know that there is anyone I care about. They’ll come after you.”
“Well, I love you too, I guess.” She stared at him for a moment. Waiting to see if he would respond, “I have to get ready, DelMonte. I go on in a few minutes.” She said to him and turned; heading backstage.
“It’s just not that simple.” He muttered to himself and slammed the palm of his hand down on the bar.
The bartender jumped at the loud report and grabbed a bottle and glass. He scurried down and set them in front of DelMonte, “On the house, sir.” His voice quavered a bit. The last thing he wanted was an angry gunslinger in his place.
Butch DelMonte reached for the bottle and pulled the cork with his teeth, staring at the bartender, watching him back slowly away. He smiled and his tobacco stained teeth peeked out from beneath his mustache.
39 minutes but I was interrupted by a phone call. Still probably a bit more than 25 though. Sorry.
“Steven’s parents have invited me to go camping in Yosemite with them!”
That was all the boy said then he stopped talking to simply stare at me expectantly. I stared back.
Finally he broke, “So, can I go?”
I cleared my throat and tried to look authoritative, “Maybe, you should ask your mother.”
“So whaddya say Mom? Can I invite Andi, Darla, and Liz for a sleepover on Friday?”
“Maybe that’s not such a good idea, Dennis.”
“Maybe I don’t want a new vacuum cleaner for Christmas. Maybe I want something else. Maybe I want something for me. A massage or a day at the spa, or maybe something pretty? Do you ever think about things like that? Maybe you should.” She tossed a pillow and a thin blanket down the stairs before she stalked back into the bedroom.
I shrugged, picked up the bedding and shuffled towards the couch. Maybe she was right.
“So Mel, I gotta ask. Is this effort going to be enough to push the team to the top of the standings?”
“Maybe so. It depends on how the Eels do against the Buffalo in tonight’s game.”
“Did you remember to mail that letter for me?”
“Sure I did… Maybe… uhm, no… sorry”
She leaned over and gave me a kiss, “I’m so excited about today,” she said. “I can hardly wait.”
I looked at her blankly and struggled with myself.
“You doremember what today is, don’t you?”
She could be so stern.
There was a telegram waiting for him when he reached his hotel in Montpernasse, he had been gone for three days. It was from her and it began:
First, I want you to know that I will always treasure the time we spent together [STOP] Your crooked smile and the way you moved on the dance floor [STOP]
I’ll never forget that time, we parachuted into the rain forest to hunt Pokemons [STOP] I don’t blame you though, who would have been able to anticipate the lack of Wi-Fi in the jungle [STOP] Even though we had both hoped for a Pikachu head to mount and hang over the fireplace [STOP] Without cell phone coverage it just wasn’t meant to be [STOP] In my entire life I’ve never been anywhere else without Wi-Fi [STOP]
This business trip you are on now though is cruel [STOP] You should never have left me alone for this long [STOP] I held out for almost an entire day but I have needs [STOP] I met Connor [STOP] I did not intend to meet a new man and fall in love [STOP] It just happened [STOP] You can have the house in Pleasanton and I will keep the condo in the high rise in the city [STOP]
I never want to see you again [STOP] I’ll always keep a warm spot in my heart for you [STOP] And thank you for giving me the opportunity to write a DEAR JOHN letter [STOP]