ADVENTURE THE 18TH: THERE WAS A FARMER...
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For those unfamiliar with the posting structure of a blog: postings appear in the order they are made by their author, not necessarily in the order that would most benefit an ongoing series such as the one you are about to read. Since the purpose of this blog is to be an ongoing thriller, simply removing the previous chapter to alleviate confusion is not an option – since no one coming to the series after the first chapter had been removed would be able to follow the story line.
Therefore, if you scroll down or visit the archives in future months, you will be able to read this continuing drama in the manner and order it was intended to be read. For this reason and purpose each subsequent adventure in the ‘Eddie Mars’ serial will be marked by a number. If you follow these numbers marked at the top of each chapter in their numeric order - eg ‘Adventure the 1st’ - you will be able to follow this continuing saga.
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ADVENTURE THE 18th:
There Was A Farmer…
I made my solitary trek across the muddy terrain. Only the sound of hiss and fumes from the ailing locomotive echoed in my ears, more distant with each step. But Ma’ Nature was doing enough yowling for the both of us. Her winter blast bit like the lash of a thousand icy knives etching deep into my chest and eyeballs. Mico’s limp body kept my flank warm; enough of a shield and motivation to keep me moving.
I had no clear vision for what would come next in our journey. I never looked back to see how far I’d gone or take stock if anyone was following us. I sort of figured on the storm and nightfall as part of our camouflage and disappearing act. Every once in a while I’d hear a grunt or a moan over my shoulder, distinct signs that life was still coursing through Mico’s veins.
“Won’t be long now, Angel.”
But even I didn’t believe it. That damn farm house was farther off than it appeared – like a mirage in the desert that you read about morons chasing after or see in the movies set somewhere in the blistering Sahara. It taunted me with the promise of a gaggle of bikini-clad fair young maidens perched on a berg, eating hot fudge sundaes that could never melt. But for every ten paces I advanced, the house and all of its warmth and salvation seemed to step back from my reach by about fifty.
I suddenly feel homesick for that long summer I once spent in Kansas when I was sixteen. My old man thought it’d do me some good to go live with his for a couple of months; learn the value of hard work, keep the juvey officer off my case and his back. How I hated it then, a million miles from no place with none of the comforts that could get a guy like me into some wild trouble. But gramps wasn’t a tyrant – at least, not like the deadbeat I called dad. He was a vital feisty son of a bitch with plenty of heart and the spirit of adventure shot up in his veins. Crazy old guy, when I think of him now. But he never asked for something he hadn’t already done about a thousand times before himself and I learned to respect him for that. Each night, on the veranda he spun me a bunch of stories, mostly about the war, but they were fascinating. It was a total package really; in the setting sun, with the cool lazy breeze of twilight rustling the corn and finally coming between the cotton knit pullover and sweat that had glued it to my back…it was almost tolerable to forget about the fast city and its loose living…almost.
Funny, my mind wandering like that – so far from home and with miles to go. For a change of pace I start clinging to the dream that Mico and I’ll make it. That’s funny too. Funny and deadly in my line of work. It was a lonely little myth – a bedtime story for the kiddies or adults who hadn’t grown up enough to be jaded and admit, if to no one but themselves, that the happy ending tacked on to every piece of fiction was just a big fat lie to sell pulp copy or tickets at the local Bijou.
I started a little internal dialogue to pass the time.
‘No kidding, Mars. You’re one in a million. The good-time sucker whose spurs are always getting caught in the stirrups of that white charger you bolt around the countryside on, rescuing fair young dead weight from a fate worse than. Where the hell is your brain? Somewhere south of your equator? What? She couldn’t a’ been that good. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, buddy…so does abstinence. You’ve done without. Do it again. Now.’
But I couldn’t shake the idea that this one, lying like a sack of potatoes slung over my left side, was the spud worth peeling.
‘You want trouble. You got it. What the hell are you going to do when you get there? No ride. No plans. No brain thinking past immediate gratification of getting to that light in the distance. Then what?’
“Shut up,” I told myself aloud, “…and keep going.”
At last, wind scorched and thoroughly bedraggled, I felt the icy wrought iron hitching post, with its politically incorrect black stable boy holding out his brass ring for my waiting fist. I leaned up against it for a moment, all my weight resting on something other than these two wobbly legs. It felt good. Too good, in fact. I could’a stayed there until the icicles ran down my underarms.
The once elegant farmhouse glowed like a mooring beacon from Shangri-La. A yellowish porch light burned dim over the front door and warm echoes of lamps on the inside flooded from the sills on either side of the front door. I wanted to throw open my arms, drop Mico on the nearest couch and shout for gramps, “Hey pop, Eddy’s home.” But there was no one like gramps left in this world anymore. No one who could take a bastard like me and make him care about the simple people and places he vividly recollected on that veranda so long ago.
Gramps’ other weakness was poetry – kid’s stuff, or so I thought, until he read me some Alfred Lord Tennyson in front of the fire. Alfie used to say that the world was a beautiful place and well worth the fight. Gramps must’a died believing the laureate, but actually only the second half is true. Standing bloody and beaten in front of this bastion from some forgotten memory now, I can see that gramps’ is the only fella who could’a been happy here.
I quelled my initial desperation for the comforts only a city boy couldn’t live without, sucked up my worldly gumption and proceeded to tiptoe around back. The storm was getting worse. We’d hold up here – Mico and I – at least for the night if I could help it. Besides, Mico’s condition required some immediate attention, and with a little luck and a refresher from my days as a medic, I was certain I could handle the onset of infection.
I circled around back. There was less light there and a definite advantage to having my tracks swept clean under the trailing gusts. There was also a barn – someplace to dump the Mrs. until I regrouped for my next plan of action.
Unhooking the barn latch, I came across a fairly savvy heated layout inside. It was a dairy hold and with most of the comforts of home installed. A couple of Bossie’s looking all cozy and comfortable gave me a nod of approval and a curious once over.
“That’s nothing,” I waxed for the four-legged set, tapping Mico on the butt, “Got any cream? I brought the sugar. Oh…but I’m not nearly as sweet in the morning so keep the mooing down.”
I laid Mico on a fresh pile of straw and wiped the scar of snow paste from the left side of her head. She looked a mess and I realized I needed to work some magic fast. The barn was a minor paradise – for a cow. I found some forceps and cutters in a veterinarian’s handbag hanging off a nearby stall post. One of the cows looked about ready to drop her calf. Bad for Bossie. Good for me.
I could use some of those instruments to dig the bullet from Mico’s stomach. But there didn’t seem to be anything that I could turn into bandages. No. Farmer Clyde must have his specialties locked safely inside the main house. I’d have to go in and get them.
. . .
The porch in the rear was about what I expected, covered in drifts that hadn’t been touched since the first fall and with only the slimmest of paths cleared to the back door. A tired old shovel was resting against the wall, but its scoop was about ten inches deep in the white and not so fluffy. As I made my way up those creaky steps I was cautiously aware of how impractical my choice of footwear had been for this occasion. No traction at all.
I approached the kitchen window with my hands cupped for a visor and damn near walked right into Farmer Clyde, lazily stirring his cup of java on the counter facing outside. He didn’t see me – probably because he couldn’t perceive of anyone making that journey to his place on foot. That was to my advantage. So was his trusting soul that didn’t believe in locking doors. I waited until Clyde took his cup into the next room – then slipped in the back way to steal a few things for my homemade operation.
. . .
Inside, the place felt like a hundred and ten – probably because I was wet and tired of carrying the weight for two most of the way through knee deep slush. From the front room the sound of late night television alerted to Clyde’s whereabouts. He’d be going to bed soon and maybe then I could hotwire that truck of his parked in the drive. Right now, I had more pressing matters to attend to.
A quick sweep of the kitchen cupboards didn’t leave me hopeful. Nothing. No scissors. No twine or bandages. They must all be in the bathroom. Looking down the hall, I spotted my next target – the can. I began to cautiously creep towards it.
But I suddenly realized I was leaving a trail of fresh wet puddles behind me – a dead give away I’d been there. A spool of paper towels on the kitchen counter gave me some hope and I hastily grabbed for a wad. Laying the strips three deep under each shoe, I stepped onto my cotton carpet and did a Sonja Henie across the tiles, then onto the hardwood in the hall. Every once in a while the boards beneath my wet shoes would creak loudly and I’d become paralyzed for what seemed an eternity, replaying the scenario of how to attack, but not hurt, Clyde when he discovered an intruder in his home. But the old bugger didn’t stir and I was glad of it. Maybe he was deaf…but that was probably hoping for too much.
I didn’t dare put any lights on in the bathroom. Besides, with the door half open there was enough streaming from the hall to see what I needed. Inside the built-in wall medicine cabinet I found scissors, a bottle of peroxide, some rubbing alcohol, a tensor bandage and a ball of strong twine to sew up the wound. I was so engrossed in stuffing my pockets that I didn’t hear Clyde approaching from behind. Not until I suddenly realized he was just beyond the door. I had painted myself into a corner. His coffee must have kicked in.
Thinking fast, I removed the loose wet paper towels from my feet and climbed into Clyde’s tub, one of those antique jobs hopped up on four lion’s head pedestals. I drew the heavy shower curtain and sucked in a long hard breath of anticipation. That thin strip of plastic was all that separated the two of us a moment later when the bathroom door suddenly opened and the room was flooded with fluorescent light.
Odd, how out’a all the visits I’ve made to public restrooms in my lifetime I’ve never been consciously aware of the obtuse sounds another human being makes while forcing compacted excrement from his bowels. But now, so close to the source - I was acutely in touch with those less than flattering churns and the stench that life gives out to relieve itself. Clyde was laying some definitive cable on the other side.
He seemed to go on like a whiny chime. Just when I thought he’d given his last hum or puff, he’d ejaculate another climax of low sustained grunts and a few meager splashes into that porcelain bowl with a smell that belied the fact his internal plumbing was at least sixty years old. I could see his shadow, like the great thinker’s, hunched in contemplation on the crapper. What the hell was he thinking about?
‘Come on, Clyde’, I thought as I stood there in the tub, ‘Get it over with and go back to your regularly scheduled programming.’
The purge and flush that immediately followed was a welcomed finale. I watched through the curtain as Clyde’s silhouette disembarked the throne and left the room without even so much as washing up. Glad I wasn’t his house guest for dinner. But as the room fell silent from the after hiss of swirling toilet waters I suddenly realized that Clyde hadn’t turned off the lights. He was coming back…to take his shower.
With only moments to spare, I peeled back the curtain, tossed my soggy towels in the garbage pail under the sink and bolted into the hall. I could hear the T.V. getting turned off in the front room and made it around the corner and back into the kitchen, out’a sight, just moments before Clyde reappeared with bathrobe and slippers in hand.
But the light was on in the kitchen too. A greasy cast iron skillet lay just out of arm’s reach. If Clyde decided he needed a midnight snack I’d have to let him have it.
‘Come on, grandpa, go lather up.'
He took my cue. I heard the door to the bathroom swing open and the first few spurts of water and air burst forth from the shower head. I’d enough of the sights and sounds of rural America to last me a while. It was back to the barn with my pockets stuffed full of makeshift medical supplies for tension-builder number two: Mico’s operation.
THE END...not for long. Eddie Mars will return in his next adventure;
MY SO CALLED SMALL TOWN GIRL on October 10, 2006.
@Nick Zegarac 2006 (all rights reserved).