I’m bored. So I have decided to attempt to build another serial story on RMN. This time, however it will be different.
Rather than allow the story to be completely from my demented mind, I request audience participation… I.e. you, the readers. Thus the story line as well as characters will “evolve” in accordance with the collective demented minds of many.
Hence where the story will lead is unknown. It could be fun, or it could simply suck.
You readers are requested to submit your prose/ideas/suggestions as it proceeds.
Yes, I will retain minimal veto rights as the game continues, and your prose/suggestions may or may not be incorporated, and no particular acknowledgement will be explicitly stated.
You will have to tune in to each subsequent chapter to see whether your thoughts are included. If they are, I promise you will recognize your thoughts in the story. If not? Well please keep on "prosing"…
NO EMAIL IDENTIFICATION OF READERS WILL BE PUBLICALLY PUBLISHED.
I estimate that it will be a week or so between publishing each chapter, thus the next chapter will be due on Sunday, 12/22/19.
So, let’s start… Here’s chapter 1.
It’s Maybe Just Another Mile Or So… Chapter 1
The stifling August heat was already becoming unbearable for 17 year old Cindy O’Connor. She guessed that it was not much later than 10AM because the direct rays of sunlight had not yet directly penetrated into the small ravine in which she had momentarily paused for the slight refuge it offered. Knowing the precise time of day was not important anymore, anyway, she silently mused, as she adjusted the load she was carrying
No one actually talked about time anymore, nor really seemed to care, ever since it had happened. She walked toward home on the narrow dirt trail that began at the small spring fed lake in the woods she had just left behind her. She was carrying a cane fishing pole and two of her makeshift gear bags.
The bags held her fishing essentials, including a nice Rapala filet knife but most important of all, her morning’s wages … 4 hand sized bream and three small bass.
As she exited the woods, she glanced toward the large reservoir nearly a mile distant, where the sloping hills became mostly level ground.
The reservoir was the water supply for the small unincorporated burg of Glenville, NC. It was spring fed from many small streams in the hills that surrounded it. “Her” lake was only one of many, but it was remote enough that she had often skinny dipped in it’s cool water. But not today. In fact not for nearly a month.. It was not really that safe anymore. With that fleeting thought, she unconsciously fingered the butt of the Springfield XDS tucked securely in a concealment holster in her shorts. Ha, she mused… shorts!! Well, she thought, they are now but they began life as fashionable full length CK jeans, which she proudly wore to classes. She had made her two ’gear’ bags from their cut off legs and the bootlaces from the short but now useless ‘cool’ mid heel boots she had sometimes proudly worn to school.
Glancing again toward the formerly grass covered picnic area of the reservoir, she grimaced that the grassy area was now mostly bare and muddy, and filled with ruts where towns people had brought lawn carts, wheelbarrows and buckets to take water home. She was glad that they had a well, and that dad had installed a backup hand pump at the insistence of mom.
The area was fairly remote in this area of Appalachia, and it was dotted with many vacation homes populated with affluent city folks with expensive but at present mostly useless amenities. She had heard shouting from a few of them as food and water had become scarce in the past couple of weeks.
Mom!! I need you, she silently screamed. I am having to be the mom now to my gross and uncouth little brother, and chef for both him and dad… COME HOME.
Andy and Linda had located to the area when Cindy was only one year old. They moved up from Florida and had bought their remote 14 acre plot when Linda, an RN, accepted a job offer from a rural physician who had recently moved to Highlands, the closest ‘town’ with much ‘city stuff’ at all.
Andy, an electrician and carpenter, readily fit well to the remote area, what with all the ‘city folks’ needing their new digs constructed and wired. He soon became sought out as ‘the man’ for installing solar panels as well, and lately had to hire 2 apprentices. They were doing well… until..
Linda O’Connor had driven to Georgia for the funeral of an old high school friend who had been killed in an automobile accident just 3 days before ‘it’, and had taken her 5 year old sister Julie along. When it happened, Rusty and I became all frantic with worry for mom and Julie. Dad was of course, just Dad. The rock.
Finally, Dad sat us down. Kids, Mom is OK. She’s fine. That gal can take care of herself, believe me. She was probably on her way back home when it happened. She and Julie will be back home, safe and with more stuff than she left with. She has a great GOOD bag in her SUV. She is the reason we are fixed up as well as we are. Worrying will not help. Work helps. Get to it. That was nearly a month ago, er --I think it’s been a month…. She trudged on down the trail, sensing the comfort of the XDS. Linda had given it to her on her 15th birthday, and she and dad had trained her well. Mom had said -- Cindy, you are getting a bit too filled out to be wandering in the woods here with Premier alone. Cindy smiled at that thought, and glancing down she spotted some of the old tracks Premier had left in the trail. Premier was her best buddy, a now 9 year old quarter horse she had raised from a colt. Andy recently had to confiscate Premier and was training him to do some farm work, so she hoofed on home alone.
As the trail intersected the gravel driveway from the paved road that led to Cashiers, she turned toward home, and within a few paces, topped the rise. She whistled and as Andy and Rusty looked up, she pointed toward the house. Rusty waved, and Dad would have, except Premier, on hearing her familiar whistle had decided to try to drag Dad and the harrow he was lashed to through the fence. She smiled as Dad regained control of Premier before he did too much damage to the furrows. Uh oh, she thought… I’m going to hear about THAT later, she thought…
Cindy stopped at the hand pump, and filled a bucket with fresh water, leaned her fishing pole against the house, and climbed the two steps to the back door, which was the kitchen entrance. She washed her hands in a bit of the water, then put her fish in the bucket of cool water to wait for supper. Right now, we all need lunch, she thought. She had put a pot of beans on to soak last night, and she lit the burner on low under them. They and the fish were supper. Don’t know how much longer that propane tank will last, she mused. Dad is working the problem. She went into the former utility room that mom had urged dad to convert to a pantry, with shelves floor to ceiling. Cindy was always in awe of her mothers’ stash, but for the past few weeks, she had become almost reverent of mom’s wisdom. She selected 2 cans of commercial corned beef and one jar of Linda’s home canned new potatoes. She placed a large skillet on beside the simmering beans, splashed in a bit of olive oil and sliced a large onion into the pan. When the onion had sufficiently wilted, she dumped in the corned beef and potatoes, and turned the flame to low. I’ll go get them for lunch, she said to herself, and grab a couple of fresh tomatoes and some peppers on the way back from the garden.
Dad and Rusty had placed Premier back into his stall and were serving him lunch, just as she had reached the garden. Together, the three walked back the house-- all were hungry. As Dad and Rusty stopped at the pump to clean up, Cindy went in to slice the tomatoes and peppers. She gave the hash a good and final stir and turned off the burner, and as she retrieved three paper plates from mom’s huge stash and was just placing the hot pan on a trivet on the table, in they came, sniffing the air and grinning.
Precisely 27 days earlier, Linda and Julie O’Connor were standing beside the now filled in grave of Linda’s good buddy from high school, Courtney Wills, nee McVean. Her widower, Paul, and their 19 year old son, as well as another of Linda’s good school chums Carla, and her hubby, Ron Speaks were talking together in muted tones. Actually all of them except Paul had been really close as seniors in high school.
Carla and Ronnie were so into each other, they secretly married three months before graduation. No one, including their parents as well as Courtney and Linda actually knew for sure, though Carla did seem to gain weight during those last 3 months and spent little time with them. Carla had given Linda the slinky prom dress she had worked on for months for Linda to wear, finally telling Linda all the truth, and that she would not be going to the prom anyway.
The biggest news was that Ron and Carla’s Son, Ron jr was 23, had finished Engineering school at Tech and was just married three weeks ago. Carla had had a tough time with the baby, suffering a tough breech delivery with complications, and was never able to get pregnant again. They both were totally in love with 5 year old Julie O’Connor. With minimal arm twisting, Ron and Carla convinced Linda to follow them home and spend the night with them. It’s right on your way home, they argued. Besides, we three need to get refreshed on the last twenty three years since high school. And, we now have an extra bedroom, and we have a bunch of steaks in the freezer-- so face it, there’s no excuse.
Linda agreed. She considered that she had planned on hanging around the night after the funeral, but she would feel weird hanging around Paul whom she had never met before today, and especially with Courtney no longer around. After hugs and goodbyes. They walked to the parking area.
Linda did a double take as her eyes spotted Ron and Carla’s ride. Yes it is, said Ron proudly as they eyed the spiffy now 26 year old Red Dodge Charger that Ron’s Dad had given him when it was but three years old. That car had made Ron the envy of every kid in school. Actually, She and Courtney had got to ride in it occasionally. In the backseat, of course as Carla always got the front seat with Ron.
Ron had always been a car nut, and he was meticulous in his upkeep, It had been repainted twice, and the chrome kept polished. It looked like it had only recently left the showroom floor at the dealership. Ron chuckled at her look of amazement. I drove it today out of nostalgia and respect for Courtney, he said. They loaded up the vehicles, and Carla opted to ride with Linda, just to jaw and make sure Linda did not get lost, because there were a few winding secondary roads to negotiate. Ron headed out and Linda and Carla followed.
After an hour or so, and Linda being the coffee junkie she is, she asked Julie to please pass her a bottle of water. For her birthday 2 years ago, hubby had bought Linda a 3 kiss/2 long hug and one happy squeal gift. It was a single cup Breakstone k-cup coffee maker that plugged into a standard auto cigar lighter receptacle, and whose bottom was designed to sit firmly in her center console cup holder. The aroma of the brewing coffee got to Carla, quick.
Carla liked coffee also, and as the aroma wafted, Linda requested Julie to please hand up one of the mugs in the small cardboard box. Linda never went on a road trip without at least two spare mugs. Her personal one rested in the dash holder near her door, empty now, but not for long. The led soon lit. Carla got the first one, as Linda instructed her how to empty and refill. Soon the led blinked on again, and both ladies were soon in high spirits. “That’s the neatest thing” exclaimed Carla… Linda smiled, nodded and told her the story, except for the details of that third kiss and it’s long hug.
Carla and Linda discussed their families and details of their lives for the past 23 years, and they were inadvertently reviving the close friendship they shared long ago. Linda talked about how long it had been since she last saw Carla’s son, Ron jr. With that, Carla whipped out her cell and called him. They lived very close by to Carla, and had just returned from their honeymoon a few days ago. Ronnie readily agreed to come join their steak party and visit for the evening. Linda smiled. It was going to be an interesting evening, she quipped.
Little did anyone at all know exactly how ‘interesting’ it would turn out to be.
Carla and Ron’s house was a mile up a secondary road that wound through the woods just southeast of Toccoa. They turned on an unmarked gravel drive which ended in a cul-du-sac with three homes. The oldest home belonged to the owner of the original tract of some 117 surrounding acres, which was his farm back in the day. Mr Stuart was into his 80’s now, yet one would not put him much past 65 if they did not know otherwise. He still fooled around on his equipment often, and tended a garden of nearly an acre, keeping several families in the area in fresh produce. But, his ’farming’ income now a days was selling building lots from his acreage, and he had quite the waiting list of people wanting them. He was in no hurry. He carefully vetted the lucky one each year.
Only once did he sell two lots in a single year, and that was the year his wife of sixty years, Martha, had died following a lengthy illness. At his age he paid little tax on the capital gain income from a single yearly sale, even though property values had skyrocketed in this area for the past few years. He lived very comfortably for a year on the sale of just one. Damned government gets enough without screwing me, he quipped. He had willed the property on his death to his only child, Hank, who with his family occupied the third house in the cul-du-sac.
Lester Stuart waved a hello from his front porch as Ron drove up in the Charger, followed closely by Linda and Carla. Ronnie and his new bride had not yet arrived. Linda was impressed with the setup and seclusion, as well as Carla’s home. Julie let out a squeal of delight when she spotted the old cast iron and cedar planked child’s swing dangling from an oak tree in Les Stuart’s front yard. As Carla and Linda looked, He grinned and waved and said… help yourself, honey, that old swing is very lonesome these days. The three walked the few paces to the swing as Les came from his porch, followed by his constant shadow, Rastus, a 10 year old Redbone hound. After introductions, Julie climbed into the swing and Rastus appeared to have an instant crush on her. He backed off a few feet and lay down, watching her having fun and laughing. He stayed put even after Les had returned to his porch. Carla convinced Linda that Julie is perfectly safe and meticulously guarded, so.. they should go start the steaks...
************* TO BE CONTINUED *************