A free short story for stopping by…
PUBLISHED BY: Wendell Sweet
Cover and Interior Art Copyright 2013 Dell Sweet
Copyright © 2013 by WENDELL SWEET
The Earth’s Survivors Book One excerpt
Copyright 2010 – 2019 Dell Sweet
Used with permission.
This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this story with another person, please point them to this web page. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
Bear… Are you out there?
All those guys who listened to my stories when they were just stories written to pass our time. That was a big deal.
This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places or incidents depicted are products of the authors imagination. Any resemblance to actual living persons places, situations or events is purely coincidental.
This novel is Copyright © 2010 – 2013 WENDELL SWEET. No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, electronic, print, scanner or any other means and, or distributed without the authors permission.
Permission is granted to use short sections of text in reviews or critiques in standard or electronic print.
I buried the Mexican just after sundown. I can’t say much about the sort of man he was in life, but I can say he was a strong man in death.
The Moon has led my way and I’m on my way across the desert into Mexico of all places. What did they say, hide in plain sight? There I’m going to be. Probably already passed the border, and once I’m across the border I’ll find a small town to buy gasoline enough so I can reach South America.
I’ve played the events of yesterday over and over in my head as I’ve driven. It still makes no sense to me at all. They say shit happens, we’ll sometimes it does, and I tell myself that’s exactly what happened here. Some shit decided to happen and I just happened to be there.
It was early. I had nothing better to do so I took a walk downtown just to take a look at the buildings. Thinking, as I walked, how just a few short years ago I had spent almost all of my time down there. Chasing a high. Drunk or both. And sometimes a third thing: Taking a little comfort with the ladies. It all came back to me as I walked the streets.
About three years of my life had been spent like that. From the day Lilly told me goodbye, until the day I woke up in the alley that runs down the back of West Broad, behind the Chinese restaurant. The back of my head had been lumped up with something or by someone.
Some one, I decided as I began to blink the cobwebs away and felt carefully with my fingers. A lump only, no blood. Probably a closed fist…
Two feet away from me was a dead rat. A big dead rat, and a few even larger rats were breakfasting on him. And, suddenly, just like that, I was done. That gave me a clear message about the world. And I heard it.
Of course that didn’t mean I got off Scot free. There were many little things I’d done during my long, long slide. And it took time to fix those things. Rehab, jail for some bad checks I couldn’t remember. Bad teeth, health, ideas, depression, suicide, and finally a night where I felt strong enough to take a walk through the worst of my nightmares and see if I was truly over the drugs, the life, the weaknesses that had led me there in the first place.
So that’s how I came to be there yesterday evening. Getting my feet wet. Seeing how strong I was… Or wasn’t. And it turns out I was strong enough for the temptation of the streets but not over the bad habits I had picked up there. And that’s what got me… I cannot believe it was only yesterday when all this started.
I walked by the mouth of the alley twice. Both times I saw the old Ford sitting there in the deep shadows. Heard the soft murmur of its engine running. Some guy and some girl, I thought, or some guy with some guy, or boy who knows what. It was downtown. Shit like that happened all the time. But, I thought after the second time, this guy must be trying to set a record. He’d been there for 15 minutes by my watch, not that it was my business. All the same, fifteen minutes is a long time for a trick. Or to shoot up. Fifteen minutes could bring a cop. In the street world it was just too long for almost anything. In fifteen minutes you could get your thing on, your drug of choice, and be a half mile away and forgot all about that last little space of time. So why was this guy still there?
And that was the street part of me that was not gone. The street part of me that was still looking for trouble. And I found it.
The third time by, which was just a few minutes later, I was too curious. My evening had bought me some excitement. The drugs, I could see the flow all over the avenue. Easy to see if you knew what to look for. The ladies were calling too. I knew what that was about. I didn’t look at them like they were whores, or something less than human. It was a line I couldn’t draw, had confused many times, so I came back fast to see what this was. That Ford was calling.
I had stopped at the mouth of the alley. Same Ford. An old one. Like a classic. Nice shape to. Maybe somewhere in the sixties, but I wasn’t good with cars like that. I only knew old, classic, nice looking.
Nobody around. Of course that didn’t mean there was no one in the car. I hesitated for only a second, and then walked quietly down the alley, staying in the shadows as I went.
I found the Mexican slumped over behind the wheel. Blood dripping down the side of his head. A gun on the seat beside him. Another guy was slumped over into the floorboards on the passenger side. That one was dead for sure. A large, bloodless hole on one side of his chest. A larger hole behind that shoulder I saw when I reached over to move him. And why are you still here? A little voice in my head whispered. Why are you touching him? What are you doing? But I pushed those warning voices away and continued to look.
There was blood and gore all over the seat on that side. The coppery stench of blood was thick and nauseating. Something else mixed in with it, tugging at my brain. Blood and… Fear? Something. That was when the Mexican spoke in all that silence and nearly made me jump out of my skin.
“Don’t call the cops!” and… “No Policia.” His head came away from wheel. He shook it and drops of blood went flying. I felt it hit my face. But I was still too stunned to move.
“Hey! … You hear me, Blanquito? Habla English? … No Policia?” He muttered under his breath “Dios Christos,” he focused his eyes on me once more. “What’s the matter with you?”
“I thought you were dead,” I managed. I should’ve run. I chose to talk.
“Yeah… I get that a lot. But I ain’t dead.” He picked up the gun from the seat and before I knew it was in my face. “Come around the side, Blanquito. Get Lopez out of the car.” He waved the pistol and I moved.
Lopez pretty much helped himself out of the car. When I opened the door he spilled out into the alley, leaving the mess on the seat and a large smear of blood on the seat back and the door panel as he went.
“Good… Good,” the Mexican said. “Now getting in the fuckin’ car… No… No… This side. Come back around to this side. I can’t drive no car, Blanquito… Dios!” He waved the gun once more and I moved. Racing around the hood of the car to the door.
The Mexican did a fair job of getting himself over into the passenger seat. I was glad it was him sitting in Lopez’s blood and not me, although I had been about to sit in it.
I slid into the driver’s seat.
“You got some kind of car… Truck… Something like that?” The Mexican asked.
I didn’t have a vehicle, but my grandfather had had a truck. It was sitting in the garage in back of my house. That house had also been my grandfather’s. They were the only two things, the house and the truck, that had survived those three years on the streets.
“Sort of?” He looked around “Get this car moving. That’s the first thing… You got a place?… Close by? How does anybody sort of own a fuckin’ car anyway?”
“Yeah, I got a place” I said. I was afraid to answer, but more afraid of not answering fast enough.
“Let’s get there, Amigo.” He slumped back against the seat. I shifted into drive, worried I might drive over Lopez as I went, and drove us out of the alley.
The house was dark. I had thought to leave a light on but I had forgotten. I drove this Ford right into the garage, pulled the garage door back down, and helped the Mexican out. He looked over at my grandfather’s truck.
“That your sort of truck? Looks fine to me, Man. Doesn’t it run?”
The thing is it did run. I had been working on it here and there. I like to tinker with things. And I had a lot of spare time to fill when I quit drugging so I had turned it to the truck.
It was an old truck. But I had in the back of my mind to fix it up and drive it. So I had started with an oil change, then installed a new headlight on the driver’s side, that sort of stuff, when I had time.
I nodded. “No plates though.”
The Mexican nodded. “Don’t worry about that… Got gas in it?”
“Some… Enough to get you away.”
“Ha, Amigo.” He laughed and then clutched the side of his head where the blood still drizzled and spilled down the side of his face, spat some blood from his mouth, and looked back at me. “Us,” he said. “Us.”
I saw an amazing thing as he spoke. The Mexican had a small blue hole just above the stream of blood. A hole from a bullet. In his head. The blood just pulsed out of it as I watched. I wondered how he could possibly even be alive.
We switched the plates to the truck and left the Ford sitting in the garage. I unloaded four big suitcases from the trunk of the Ford into the bed of the pickup truck. The Mexican had me stretch a tarp over the bed of the pickup and tie it off, and we were on the road. Heading for the Mexican border.
On The Road
I drove as he gave me directions.
We stopped just before dawn at a gas station in the middle of a small desert border town. The Mexican directed me past the dimly lit islands and over toward the side of the station, and the shadowy side lot.
There was a big hound sleeping in an open bay doorway on one side of the garage. On the other side a thin man with long, greasy-black hair was turning wrenches on an old Plymouth. He glanced up, nodded, and I nodded back as we pulled around the side of the station and parked in the shadows.
There were payphones bolted to the side wall, just past the Men’s room door. I had thought that payphones were a thing of the past. But I had also thought gas stations were a thing of the past too come to think of it.
I helped the Mexican to the phone. He ran about $6.00 worth of change into the phone and then he just stood there, leaned against the wall, panting hard, for what seemed like ten minutes.
Finally he began to speak in a stream of Spanish so heavily accented and fast that I could make no sense of anything he said. Not even the gist of it, and I was usually pretty good when it came to Spanish.
He sprayed blood from his mouth as he talked. And he leaked blood from the bullet wound in his lower chest all over the wall he was leaning against.
The conversation wound down. I could tell because he spoke less and less. He finally went on a long coughing spasm, spat a few more quick streams of Spanish into the phone and then just dropped the handset. He came staggering off the wall and back to the truck. I rushed to help him back in.
He was breathing hard. “We got to kill some time. Find a place.”
I nodded. I was tempted to clean off the wall, pick up the handset and put it back on the phone. Someone might see that. But instead I wheeled out of the parking lot and found a small campground just outside of the town.
The place was deserted so I drove down into the dirt parking area and parked by what was advertised as a lake but looked more like a swampy pond. The roof line of a rusted Chevy rose just above the foul smelling the water. It was near dawn. The sun a red line on the horizon. I wore no watch, but the Mexican kept track of time on his.
The Mexican was bad off, coughing and spitting blood out of the window every few minutes. But he said nothing. Never complained.
We sat and watched the sunrise in silence. Listened as the birds woke in the trees and began to call back and forth to each other. Finally he looked at his wrist one last time, just as morning was coming on full, and told me to drive back to the gas station.
Along The Border
I had thought the place would be crowded with cops, but I was wrong. The hound dog still slept in the open garage bay doorway, and the thin man with the greasy-black hair was still wrenching on the Plymouth. The hanging phone handset, the blood, now dried to a maroon smear on the handset and the wall was still there. Untouched.
“Hang that fuckin’ phone up,” the Mexican said. I got out and hung up the phone and it immediately rang in my hand.
“Well answer the thing… Dios,” the Mexican spat. He went into a coughing spasm. I picked up the phone, and an unintelligible string of Spanish launched itself into my ear. I held it away. “For you,” I said.
He groaned and levered himself from the truck, stumbled, and then made his way to the pay phone. He took the gun with him. He spoke calmly into the phone for a short time. No rushed spate of Spanish this time, but a low murmur that I could not make any more sense of than I had the rushed torrent. After a time he took the headset from his ear, pressed it against his chest and spoke to me in a near whisper.
“Take this fuckin’ gun, Amigo.” He handed me the gun that was all splattered with gore and he pulled a second one, equally messy, from his coat pocket. “Watch our backs, Blanquito” he told me.
I suppose I could have shot the Mexican and gone free, but I never had the time to do it. I didn’t even have the time to think about doing it until later on.
As I stood there I heard the suck of rubber against the asphalt, the way it will when the road is really hot. And the morning was hot, the road hotter, the way it will get sometimes in the desert.
The car slowed and pulled into the station. I saw none of that but only perceived it from what my ears told me. A short conversation in Spanish between someone in the car and probably the thin man with the greasy-black hair wrenching on the Plymouth, and I knew that someone would be coming around the side of the gas station in a matter of seconds.
The Mexican heard the same things. He hung up the phone and put one finger to his lips, lurched his way back over to the truck and leaned against the front of the grill for support. His gun pointed over the hood. Not knowing what else to do I slipped back behind the passenger door and followed suit.
“We should be good… Don’t just start killing… But you be ready, ’cause you never know, Muchacho.”
Three of them came around the corner. Two men I hadn’t seen, and the greasy-haired thin man. He stopped short when he saw the guns aimed at him.
“Dios Mio,” he stuttered.
“Vamos,” the Mexican said. The greasy-haired thin man slipped backwards and then disappeared around the corner. The other two, hard eyed older men, stood their ground. No weapons in their hands. Silence held for what seemed a long while.
“Well, you got it,” one of the oldsters asked. It came with such a thick accent that I had to take the time to figure out what he’d said… “Chew gat et?”
The conversation switched to a quick spate of Spanish then. That went back and forth between the two men and the Mexican for a few minutes and then silence came back so hard I could hear a bird calling in the distance. The sound of a big rig on the highway, and that was a few miles away. One of the oldsters nodded, turned, and walked away. He came back around the corner of the building a few minutes later with two large duffel bags and tossed them on the ground between us. They slid a couple of feet towards us and then stopped in front of the truck.
“Get them bags, Amigo,” the Mexican told me.
I looked at him like he was crazy. But of course he was crazy, and there was nothing I could do except come around the hood, a pistol in one hand, eyes on those two older men.
I stopped by the hood when I suddenly realized that I had a problem. I could not pick up both duffel bags without putting the gun away. I debated briefly, stuffed the gun into the waistband of my pants and picked up the bags.
“In the cab,” the Mexican said. I levered the door of the cab open and set them inside. “Strip off that tarp.”
The tarp came off and the two men came forward and lifted out the suitcases. The Mexican and the two others stared at each other for a few moments, then the oldsters walked away. I watched them turn the corner and they were gone.
I started to get back into the truck when the Mexican wagged his head and put one finger to his lips. I pulled my gun back out, scared to death. It was maybe a second after I got the gun back in my hand that the two came back around the corner ready to take us out.
I shot first. Unintended. Pure reaction. The gun was in my hand and happened to be pointed in that direction and I fired out of reflex. One of the oldsters heads exploded. Something tugged at my collar, and then the Mexican dropped the other guy. A second… Less than a second and it was over. The silence didn’t come again, this time there were sounds in the silence. The hound dog up and baying. Excited voices in Spanish somewhere close by.
“Now we go,” the Mexican said. “Now we go, Amigo.”
I needed no coaching. I was in the truck and backing out of the gas station fast. The rear tires hopping and screeching on the pavement. A black Caddy sat on the tarmac, just past the pumps, engine idling. The doors hung open.
“Stop!… Stop!” The Mexican yelled. “Get them bags back!”
I stalled the truck stopping without pushing the clutch in, ran to the Caddy and got the bags along with two others from the back seat. I threw them all into the back of the truck and I had started back to the driver side when the Mexican shot.
I didn’t think I just hit the ground and I didn’t come back up until the Mexican began cursing at me to get back in the truck. I looked back at the gas station when I did. The man with the greasy-black hair lay sprawled in the open stall. A shot gun off to one side. The hound dog stood stiffly, head in the air, howling. Blood ran from the man’s body toward a floor drain. Voices raised in Spanish, loud, somewhere close by. And the Mexican yelling at me. I threw myself into the cab, got the truck started and got out of there fast. And here I am now running across the desert heading to Mexico.
The rest of the time has been fast driving. I kept expecting the cops at any moment, but they never showed up. I didn’t even know the Mexican had been shot again until later on when I realized he was coughing up less blood and sounded as though we were drowning instead. I could not even say when it was that he died, but sometime late afternoon if I had to guess. He had not spoken in some time and when I looked over at him his lips had turned blue.
When I pulled him out to bury him in a little dry wash off the highway I saw a new hole in the upper part of his chest. Right through the shirt and into the lung on that side, I guessed. Two lung shots, and a head shot, and he had still been going. I couldn’t see how he lived so I wasn’t surprised that he had died.
He died well. As well as can be expected considering it’s dead after all. He didn’t cry or beg, or curse. He just died. Slipped away.
After I buried the Mexican I checked the suitcases and duffel bags. After all, they were mine now. And I wanted to know what everybody was in such a hurry to die for.
The duffel bags were no surprise. They were stuffed full of money and guns. They were big duffel bags. They held a lot. An awful lot.
Two of the suitcases were surprises. I thought drugs, what else do people get killed for? But, no.
Of the others, one held more money, clothes and passports. I.D. That sort of stuff. All with the Mexican’s picture. Then the other two suitcases that shocked me. One contained the body of a dead dog. Shot full of holes and stuffed in there.
The other held the head and hands of someone I was sure was wishing he had them back. The last two suitcases did contain drugs. More than I’d ever seen in one place before.
I took out the money and added it to the duffel bags. I buried the Cocaine and the dog along with the Mexican. I had no idea what the suitcases were all about. I still don’t. And I don’t want to know. I do know there was a fortune in Cocaine and I did not want to tempt myself with it.
Later I got the truck cleaned up at one of
those self car washes on the other side of the border, turned off the highway
with a full tank of gas a few miles up the road from there, and I’m running in
the moonlight. I’ve got a map of South America.
I hope to find a road before I run out of gas. I figure I’ll work my way
down into South America as far as I can go. I don’t know where I’ll go from
there, there hasn’t been time to think about where…
PREVIEW Earth’s Survivors Book Two:
Used with permission.
~ March 1st~
The traffic leaving the parking lot had slowed to a trickle. The lot nearly empty. The live shows were over. The bands packed up and gone. The dancers gone before or at the same time. The club was empty except Jimmy, the club boss, Don the main door security and me.
“Why are you still here, Candy,” Jimmy asked as he came up to the bar. He was on his way back from the parking lot. It was a short trip across the parking lot to the bank night deposit on the lot next door.
“I had an idea that Harry would be by tonight… He wanted to talk to me,” I shrugged. Harry was a Bookie, at least on the surface. Off the surface, or maybe it would be truer to say under the surface, Harry controlled most of the organized crime north of Syracuse. Jimmy… Jimmy managed the club, among other things, but the best description for Jimmy was to say Jimmy solved problems for Harry.
“Wants to talk you into staying here… That’s about all,” Jimmy said.
I turned away and pretended to check my face in the mirrored wall behind the bar. I wanted to Dance. I had suggested to Harry, through Jimmy, that maybe it was time for me to move on if there wasn’t any hope of me dancing. “Anyway. I ended up tending bar. So…”
“So it’s not dancing,” he dug one hand into his pocket and pulled out a thick wad of bills. He peeled two hundreds from the roll and pushed them into my hand, folding his hand over my own and closing it when I started to protest.
But,” I started.
“But nothing. We did a lot in bar sales. You and I both know it was because of you…” he smiled, let go of my hand and stepped back. “It was me not Harry,” he said.
I fixed my eyes on him. I knew what he might be about to say but I wanted to be sure.
He sighed. “It was me that put the stop to your dancing… You’re too goddamn good for dancing, Candy. And once you start?” He barked a short, derisive laugh. “The law thing? … Right out the window… what’s a cop make anyway… In this town… maybe thirty or forty a year?” He settled onto one of the stools that lined the bar, tossed his hat onto the bar top and patted the stool next to him. He continued talking.
“So, thirty, maybe forty, and what’s a dancer make? I can tell you there are dancers here who make better than one fifty a year… And that’s what I pay them, that’s not the side stuff or tips.” He moved one large hand, fished around behind the bar and came up with a bottle of chilled Vodka from the rack that held it just below eye level. He squinted at the label. “Cherry Surprise,” he questioned in a voice low enough to maybe be just for himself. “This shit any good, Candy?”
“It’s not bad,” I told him. I leaned over the bar and snagged two clean glasses when he asked me, setting them on the bar top.. He poured us both about three shots worth. “Jesus, Jimmy.”
He laughed. “Which is why I don’t make drinks.. It’d break me.” He sipped at his glass, made a face, but sipped again. I took a small sip of my own drink and settled back onto the bar stool.
“So I said to myself… Smart… Beautiful… Talented… And you have that something about you that makes men look the second time. You know?” He took another small sip. “Man sees a woman walking down the street, or across a crowded dance floor, beautiful or not he looks. That look might be short or it might be long. Depends on the woman. Then he looks away… Does he look back? Not usually. But with you he does. There are women men look at that second time… For whatever reason, and you’re one of them. I looked a second time, and then I really looked, for a third time. And I’ve seen a lot. That tattoo makes men and women look again.” His eyes fell on the tattoo that started on the back of my left hand, ran up my arm, across my breasts and then snaked back down over my belly and beyond. I knew it was provocative, that was the rebellious part of me. I had no better explanation for why I had sat, lain, through five months of weekly ink work to get it done.
Jimmy rubbed one huge open palm across the stubble of his cheeks. “Jesus do I need a shave…” He took a large drink from his glass. “It wasn’t the tattoo. It caught my eye, but that wasn’t what made me look that third time. Candy, I took a third look because I saw a young woman that doesn’t need to have anything to do with this world. You’re too goddamn smart, talented for this. So I said no. I let you dance a few times but I didn’t want you to fall into it. I made the decision that you should tend bar instead of dance.” He tossed off the glass.
“I see that,” I told him. Although I didn’t completely see it. He was reading a lot about what he thought, what he saw, into who I really was.
“Yeah? I don’t think so, Candy. And that’s a reason right there. Candy… Like a treat… When did it become okay for anyone to call you that? Because I remember a few months back when you started hanging around… It was Candace and pity the dumb bastard who didn’t understand that. Now it’s Candy to any Tom, Dick or Harry that comes along.” He saw the hurt look in my eyes. Reached below the bar, snagged the bottle, topped off his glass, I shook my head, covered the top of my glass with my hand and smiled. He continued.
“I’m not trying to hurt you only keep you on track. I’m giving you the keys. You drive. All I’m saying is set your ground rules. Make them rigid. Don’t let anyone… Me… Harry… These boys that work here… Customers… Don’t let anyone cross those lines… You see, Candy?”
“Yeah? Then why not call me on calling you Candy? I’ve done it since we sat down… Why not start there?”
“Well… I mean, you’re the boss, Jimmy.”
“Which is why you start there. I don’t allow anyone to talk anyway to anyone that doesn’t want that… Let me explain that… You got girls that work the streets. You don’t see it so much here, it’s a small city, but it happens. I spent a few years on the streets in Rochester, bigger place, as a kid. Happens all the time there.” He sipped at his drink. I took a sip of my own drink and raised my brows at what he had said.
“Yeah? Don’t believe it? It’s true. I fought my way up. I have respect because I earned it…” He waved one hand. “Don’t let me get off track…” He smiled and took another sip from his glass. “So, I’ve seen girls on the streets… Whores… It is what it is. Would you hear me say that to them? Maybe you would… Maybe you wouldn’t… If a woman sees herself as a whore… If that’s all it is… What it is… Then who am I to say different… Do you see? It’s a living, or it’s a life… There is a difference. Now back to you. You want to dance. Some of these girls,” he waved one meaty hand at the empty stage area, “work the other side… Some of them do that for me, some do it on their own… Some don’t,” he sighed. “Either way you would not see me treat them any other way than what they want to be treated. I mean that if you believe you are a whore and that is what you see then that is what you show the world, and that is how the world sees you… Treats you,” he settled his eyes on me.
I nodded. I didn’t trust my voice. I had been down this road on my own. What did it say about me? That it only mattered that I made it? That money mattered more than anything else? Would I be swayed by the money? Was I even being honest with myself about my motivations? I really didn’t know. I knew what I told myself on a daily basis… That I wanted to follow my Father into law enforcement but was it whimsical like so many other things in my life that I never followed through on?
“You are not just a dancer… There is a part of you that is… A part of you that likes the way a man looks at you… Likes the money… But, there is another part that is the private you… The real you. You need to keep those distinctions.” He rubbed at his eyes, tossed off the rest of his drink and rose from the bar stool. “Let me drop you home, Candy,” he asked?
I stood, leaving my mostly full drink sitting on the bar top. “I have my car,” I told him.
“It’s late… Creeps around maybe.”
“Jimmy. Every creep in my neighborhood knows I work here… For you. Guys stopped talking to me, let alone the creeps.” I laughed but it wasn’t really all that funny. It had scared me when I realized who Jimmy was. Who Jimmy worked for. In effect, who I worked for… Another questionable thing? Probably.
Jimmy nodded. “Smart creeps. The southern Tier’s a big place. Easy to lose yourself with or without a little help.” He looked at his watch and then fixed his eyes on me once more. “So you keep your perspective. Set your limits. Draw your lines,” he spoke as he shrugged into his coat, retrieved his hat from the bar top and planted it on his head, “Don’t let nobody cross those lines… You start next week… Let’s say the eleventh?”
“Take the balance of the time off… By the time the eleventh comes around you should be ready for a whole new world. A whole new life.” He stood looking down at me for a second. “The big talk I guess. For what it’s worth I don’t say those things often, Candy.”
I nodded. “I believe that… And, Jimmy?”
He looked down at me. He knew what was coming. He expected it and that was the only reason I was going to say it. I knew better than to correct Jimmy V. There were a lot of woods up here. They did go on forever and they probably did hold a lot of lost people. I may be slow but I’m far from stupid.
“Please don’t call me Candy,” I told him.
He smiled. “Don’t be so goddamn nice about it… Don’t call me Candy,” he rasped, a dangerous edge to his voice. “Look ’em right in the eye… Don’t call me Candy… Put a little attitude in your look.. A little I can fuckin’ snap at any minute, attitude… Let me see that.”
I put my best street face on. The one I had used growing up on the streets in Syracuse. I knew that I can snap at any minute look. I’d used it many times. “Don’t call me Candy,” I told him in a voice that was not my own. My street voice, “Just don’t do it.”
“Goddamn right, Doll,” Jimmy told me. “Goddamn right… Scared me a little there… That’s that street wise part of you.” He took my head in both massive hands, bent and kissed the top of my head, “I will see you on the eleventh,” he told me.
I nodded. I let the Doll remark go.
I followed Jimmy out the back door past Don who nodded at me and winked. Don was an asshole. Always hitting on us when Jimmy wasn’t around. But Jimmy was his uncle. I was employing my best selective perception when I smiled at him. I wondered if I would ever get used to him. Probably not, I decided, but maybe that would be a good thing. Of course it didn’t matter. I never saw Don again. Or jimmy. Or anyone else from that life.
I said goodbye to Jimmy V. Crossed the parking lot for the last time and drove myself home. I parked my rusted out Toyota behind my Grandparents house and twenty four hours later my world, everybody’s world, was completely changed…
Candace ~ March 2nd
This is not a diary. I have never kept a diary. They say never say never, but I doubt I will. I have never been this scared. The whole world is messed up. Is it ending? I don’t know but it seems like it’s ending here. Earthquakes, explosions. I’ve seen no Police, Fire or emergency people all day. It’s nearly night. I think that’s a bad sign. I have the Nine Millimeter that used to be my Fathers. I’ve got extra ammo too. I’m staying inside.
Candace ~ March 3rd
I lost this yesterday, my little notebook. I left it by the window so I could see to write, but I swear it wasn’t there when I went to get it, then I found it later on by the window. There are no Police, no Firemen, phones, electric, the real world is falling apart. Two days and nothing that I thought I knew is still here. Do you see? The whole world has changed.
I got my guitar out and played it today. I played for almost three hours. I played my stuff. I played some blues. Usually blues will bring me out of blues, but it didn’t work. It sounded so loud. So out of place. So… I don’t know. I just stopped and put it away.
Candace ~ March 4th
I’m going out. I have to see. If I don’t come back. Well… What good is writing this?
Candace ~ March 5th
The whole city has fallen apart. I spent most of yesterday trying to see how bad this is. I finally realized it’s bad beyond my being able to fix it. It’s bad as in there is no authority. It’s bad as in there is no Jimmy V. I hear gunshots at night. Screams. There are still tremors. If I had to guess I would say it’s the end of the civilized world. Unless things are better somewhere else I have to believe that. Power, structure, it’s all gone. I mean it’s really all gone. This city is torn up too. There are huge areas that are ruined. Gulleys, ravines, missing streets, damaged bridges. The damage costs have to be in the billions… And that’s just here. There’s me and my little notebook I’m writing in and my nine millimeter. I’ve got nothing else for company right now.
I’ve got water, some peanuts and crackers. How long can this go on? What then?
Candace ~ March 6th
I’ve decided to leave. I can’t stay here. There was a tremor last night, and not one of the really bad ones, but even so I was sure the house would come down on me. It didn’t. Maybe that’s a sign. I told myself though, scared or not, I have to go. I have to. I can’t stay here. Maybe tomorrow.
Candace ~ March 7th
The streets are a mess. I’ve spent too much of the last week hiding inside my apartment. Most of my friends, and that’s a joke, I didn’t have anyone I could call a friend, most of my acquaintances believed my grandparents were alive and that I lived here with them. They weren’t. I didn’t. I kind of let that belief grow, fostered it, I guess. I planted the seed by saying it was my Nana Pans’ apartment. You can see the Asian in me, so it made sense to them that she was my Nana. But I look more like I’m a Native American than African American and Japanese. It’s just the way the blood mixed as my father used to say. But Native American or Asian they could see in my face. This neighborhood is predominantly Asian. Mostly older people too. There were two older Asian women that lived in the building. They probably believed one of those women was my Nana and I didn’t correct them.
I can’t tell you why I did that. I guess I wanted that separation. I didn’t want them, anyone to get to know me well. My plan had been to dance, earn enough money for school, Criminal Justice, go back to Syracuse. Pretend none of this part of my life had ever happened. Some plan. It seemed workable. I wondered over what Jimmy V. had said to me. Did he see something in me that I didn’t, or was he just generalizing?.. It doesn’t matter now I suppose.
My Grandmother passed away two years ago. The apartment she had lived in was just a part of the building she owned. Nana Pan, my mother’s mother, had rented the rest of the building out. The man who had lived with her was not my Grandfather, he had died before I was born, but her brother who had come ten years before from Japan. They spoke little English. People outside of the neighborhood often thought they were man and wife. She didn’t bother correcting them my mother had told me. Nana Pan thought that most Americans were superficial and really didn’t care, so what was the use in explaining anything to them? Maybe that’s where I got my deceptiveness from.
I had left the house as it was. Collected rents through an agency. For all anyone knew I was just another tenant. Jimmy V. had known. He had mentioned it to me. But Jimmy knew everything there was to know about everyone. That was part of his business. It probably kept him alive.
So I stayed and waited. I believed someone would show up and tell me what to do. No one did. I saw a few people wander by yesterday… Probably looking for other people, but I stayed inside. I don’t know why. What all my reasons were. A lot of fear I think.
There have been earthquakes. The house is damaged. I went outside today and really looked at it. I should have gotten out of it the other night when I knew it was bad, it’s just dumb luck it hasn’t fallen in on me and killed me.
It doesn’t matter now. I met a few others today and I’m leaving with them. I don’t know if I’ll stay with them. I really don’t know what to expect from life anymore.
I’m taking this and my gun with me. Writing this made me feel alive. I don’t know how better to say it.
I’ll write more here I think, I just don’t know when or where I’ll be.
He came awake in the darkness, but awake wasn’t precisely the term. Alive was precisely the term. He knew alive was precisely the term because he could remember dying. He remembered that his heart had stopped in his chest. He had remembered wishing that it would start again. That bright moment or two of panic, and then he remembered beginning not to care. It didn’t matter. Nothing mattered. And he had drifted away.
Now he had drifted back. But, drifted was not exactly right. He had slammed back into himself where he lay on the cold subbasement floor where he had been murdered by a roving gang of thieves. And he knew those things were true because he remembered them. And he knew they were true because he was dead. He was still dead. His heart was not beating in his chest. His blood was cold and jelled in his veins.
He lay and watched the shadows deepen in the corners of the basement ceiling for a short time longer and then tried to move.
His body did not want to move at first. It felt as though it weighed a ton. Two tons, but with a little more effort it came away. He sat and then crawled to his knees.
the corner a huge rat stopped on his way to somewhere to sniff at him. Decided
he was probably food and came to eat him. He had actually sat for a second
while the rat first sniffed and then began to gnaw at one fingernail. Then he
had quickly snatched the rat up with his other hand, snapped its back in his
fist and then shoved him warm and squirming into his mouth. A few minutes later
he stood on shaky legs and walked off into the gloom of the basement. Looking
for the stairs and the way up to the streets.
Wendell Sweet is the author of several series as well as, nonfiction works and short stories. He lives in upstate New York. You can find his books On Google, Amazon, Apple, Nook, Kobo, Smashwords, Walmart and many other eBook or paperback book sellers…
All music, lyrics, artwork or additional written materials attributed to characters in these novels or on the website, unless otherwise noted, are Copyright Wendell Sweet