He watched in terror, as homes exploded violently. His ears registered the loud noise. Almost forgetting to breathe he held his breath as he heard the exploding houses, eating everything in its path. Huge flames covered the neighboring houses. Thick smoke blanketed the air and scattering of terrible debit covered the street he standing on. The lack of noise not even moans or whimper could be heard. As he watched in horror as family homes exploded violently into balls of fire he was more than determined to go home. Thick smoke blanketed the air and scattering of terrible debit covered the street he standing on. The lack of noise not even moans or whimper could be heard. He flinched and within a few minutes he heard the crack of rifle shots. And then he heard the rattle of an M 16. He grunted as live fire burst around him. “Incoming. Get down.” Someone shouted. The walls exploded in an instant. The walls had crumbled. He drove to the hard packed ground head first; the roars of the 50 caliber machineguns were loud as the men in the humvees covered him. It didn’t keep the bullets out. The popping of bullets became almost rhythmic. Someone aimed at him outside while an assault weapon as bullets danced around him. Standing as bullets whizzes by, he stared for a moment stepping over a dead man at the door. He looked down to the dead man. His hands twitched for just a moment, he couldn’t help but to stare at the carnage. There were bodies inside wrecked abandon cars and on the cold concrete street pavement. He nodded and stared, nothing but death stared back at him. Gritting his teeth together and then slid towards a gapping hole made by a tank. And then he grunted and listened for any sounds. No one spoke he had no idea what might come next. He shook his head as sweat and dust ran down his face and then sighed. A young mother looked at him for just a minute, she was gaunt and pale… her eyes seem to be too big for her head. Her cheeks were washed by trails of tears. Her beautiful dark hair was no longer clean instead now it was matted and soiled hanging limp from her head. But even so she smiled at him. With a tender touch a smiling Army nurse looked at him and gently touched his bleeding ears. And then he stared up at the golden sun he saw the benevolent eye of the Father above. He watched and listened, hearing the chirping music of the nearby crickets but deep inside he felt restless and fearful. It was a gnawing, subtle that came from within. He heard the voice of a wounded comrade which sounded like a soft hum as he began to pray.
Lost in thought he remembered the day when it all started.
He was no conquering hero, just from the army he was aboard the shiny clean Greyhound bus with a discharge in hand. He hoped that someone would meet him at the depressing smoke filled bus station. After spending two years in the desert heat and sand he was ready to face whatever came his way. Finally after a long trip from the oil rich desert country where he had been a guest of the U.S. Army he arrived back to the windy empty plains of the Midwest. He felt peaceful and at ease as he traveled on the not busy blacktop highway and took in unforgettable scenes as they unfolded before him, the hypnotic sound of the tires of the bus seems to sing to him.
To top it off, he realized he had a bad case of homesickness and his muscles ached and his bones felt as if they were filled with lead. The sooner he was back home all the better.
His home town looked about the same to him, made of empty store fronts and pickups going here and there. Dust below down Main Street. He sighed with relief on this uneventful bus trip to home while experiencing the sights and smells of cow manure, and chickens dung, and pigs being transported by truck or pickup to local market. He could smell the dust of the dry highway surface and the air from the neighboring farms. Setting in his seat he captured a sight on the roadside scene of dogs, big dogs, little dogs, boy dogs earnestly wanting to fornicate with girl dogs, and dogs of all sorts, all trying to vie for a scrap of food thrown out by a two legged passerby. He then witnessed a scene between two hungry dogs as they skirmishes both wanting the same scrap of discarded food.
From the advantage point of his window he observed women bent over washing their family’s clothes. The further as we drove on he caught with his eye old men walking slowly along the road side with their canes to the local pool hall. As the bus kept driving on the highway he saw the sight of scenic rites as people cooled off from the heat of the day. Satisfied it was perfect day, a day to remember. Sweating, he wiped his sleepy eyes and the drool from his mouth.
With a toot the greyhound pulled into the dusty empty bus station. Stretching his legs, he stood up walked to the quiet smoke filled bus station. Pausing for a minute, he shook hands with his friendly and helpful busdriver.
There were no bands, no family, and no girlfriend to greet him. The only person inside was an old black guy Homer sweeping the dusty floor who tried to keep the place clean and keep out the town’s bums out. He knew his dad was probably at work at Honest John’s Used Cars, trying his best to sell used Japanese or Korean cars, while his mom fixed and hair dressed middle age women as they gossiped about their neighbors. He then wondered were his girlfriend Earth Angel was.
He figured he hadn’t eaten a bite all day. Since there was no Mc Donald’s here in town, he stopped at his favorite hang out for bite. In a minute or two after arriving in front of the local fast food restaurant and once inside and he made a carry out order to take with him at the service counter. He knew he should of probably should have stayed and eaten inside however he was worn out and besides my butt was dragging. As soon as he could he ate the silence of his rented room he quickly eat his fast food hamburger with fries before they got too cold. After eating and throwing away his garbage, and then he stretch out on his bed and right away fall into an exhausting sleep.
He washed down everything with a cold bottle of mineral water. Good sense is the reason he drinks only bottled mineral water since he found that tap water has an unpleasant affect on his stomach.
The hot afternoon sun begins to set to the barren wind swept mountains to the west.
With a much needed rest and his stomach full. He stands with his hands in his denim jacket’s pockets. For a moment or two he looked out the windows to street below. The town looked deserted and empty. And then, he contemplates what to do. He questions himself, should he stay or move on to better pastures.
Without any hesitation, he begins walking from the hotel room he had rented to Honest John’s to see his dad. As he walked on the hot pavement he sensed someone was watching him. He could feel it on the back of his neck. A prickly sensation ran his spine. He then looked over his shoulder to see the town’s newest resident a humpback dwarf following him, trailed by his dozen or so howling dogs. The howling dogs stopped at a single light pole, lifting the hind legs leaving their mark. At the one and only barber shop he stopped and began swearing loudly at his unruly dogs. He was suspicious looking as ever moreover besides being dirty he noticed both of his hands are covered with warts. A group of choice words burst came from the dwarf. His face had turned purple; his eyes seemed to bug out as he spoke. And then he saw bits of red – brick from an old bank building and discarded garbage on the sidewalk before him.
As the dust below down the street he happened to notice a skinny old man singing to himself squatting on the curb of the sidewalk. He is wearing an old ragged t-shirt, green gym shorts and rubber flip-flops talking to him self while drinking a cold bottle of beer. The old guy was sweating as he fanned himself with a farmer’s straw hat. Just then two pickups raced down the quiet main street as idol farmers stared. Watching the roaring pickups pass the muscles in his neck grew tense, and then relaxed. For a moment he had a flash back to a war he fought in. Ernie then wiped the sweat from his eyes. He listens for a moment to quietly from the noises coming from the silent street.
The toothless old man seemed to look at him with hate filled eyes.
With a sigh, at times he was filled overwhelming despair as he walked back his home. At other times he was clear headed without any despair.
Once he in his twenty five year past, he had been once afraid of heights, snakes, normalcy, mediocrity, the initial silence of an empty house, poorly lit streets, professional failure, artificial intelligence, letting his father down, being paralyzed, hospitals, doctors, the cancer that killed his grandmother, dying for a stupid reason.
He knew he was getting closer and closer to his birthday and he was happy to be able move faster than anyone he knew at that same age. Suddenly he heard a bark from a dog.
And then there was a brisk and chilling wind that blew across the empty town and bits of trash blowing with wind. Dark dust clouds loomed overhead. Thunder could be heard a distance away as lighting danced in sky. No birds could be heard and no insects chirped while vultures feasted. Smoke hung over the empty town. A relived Ernie let out a sigh as he smelled the smoke and felt chilling wind. Life was particularly hash, as the empty town waited.
He sighed once again in frustration. And then he heard footsteps approaching but there were no one.
Just when he thinks he can’t take it anymore, an attack of black flies show up, the swarm disappeared as quickly as they had shown up.
There is a crackle of static electricity as the sky opened up. Shortly he felt first one rain drop on his face then another and then another and soon the sky above the town with the crackle of lighting and the sound thunder.
Dark thoughts came to him as sweat pour off him as he choked down his memories. He could still hear the distance cries or pain of those victims as the brutal bombs fall. He remembered so well as he burn into his mind; thinking back to the mad scramble of the freeway survivors searching for a piece of bread in the ruins to fill their empty stomachs… after the explosions had stopped many more died from were from starvation and disease. A song from the wolves was coming from the base of the stony range of high hills just to his left. He could only nod.
Moonlight streaked across the night sky. The young man stared into the night sky, his eyes fixed on the white and blue that twinkled stars from far above. And then he knew the answer and said silently, “Thank you Father.”
In the solitude of his dimly light room he closed his eyes for a while and start to ‘day dream.’ Before long he opened his tired eyes and walk to the open window to survey the street scene of everyday life unfold on the street from his room’s second story window. Where he is staying isn’t like the big fancy hotels in the downtown of any part of a big city or like the elaborate resort hotels near the ocean. But what the heck, the room is clean and free of cock roaches and affordable to fit his budget. Why? First he can’t afford their racy prices and secondly he wanted peace and quiet. He is busted and broke with no steady income, there was anything to show from the fruits of his labor. He tried his best to understand the trials and tribulations of these past two years. Catching his breath, while sweating in his room he prey to God and asked that the horrors of the war fade from his memory.
Suddenly out of the blue there was loud knock on the door. Standing straight up he went to the door, and there smiling was his long lost girl friend. Tears flowed down her cheeks, “I’m sorry honey.” The Earth Angel, who promised to be faithful while he fought in a war of not of his choosing, had not been faithful but instead she became pregnant by a local nail pounder carpenter. Now she was married while her young husband sat in bar somewhere, wondering what the hell had happened. His ex-girlfriend spend the next thirty minutes in an melodrama telling how lonesome she had been during his time fighting people who wanted to kill him. Her skin was pure white and she worn rim horn glasses. Now it was a different story. It was her decision now she had to live it. She tried her best to act like an innocent by stander. Sometimes life never changes, s.o.s. or same old shit. With a friendly hug they shook fare well hands, my Earth Angel and me he thought with a quiet laugh. So long, good bye, he thinks as she closes the door quietly behind her. As soon as the door was shut, he farts with a loud roar. Earth Angel was like a fart in the wind, now you see her and now you don’t see her.
A few minutes later there is another knock on the door to his room. This time it was his dad in his well pressed leisure suit and his over weight mom both with her big smiles. Both were tired and worn out, just struggling to get by. The first words from his old man was to question about the joys of his recent time about his time in the oil rich desert country, while his mom nodded her head and made a sour face. The time moved slowly, soon they both became uncomfortable. His father was a drunk who would whip him or his mother for anything he could think of, and a lot of things he just couldn’t think of, that was his old man. The whippings stopped at the age of fifteen. When he wasn’t drunk he was as fruity as fruit cake. His dad was Italian but he hadn’t been raised as an Italian and he wanted him to get regular job since he had got out of the army. His parent lived in a turn of the century three story house that his mom inherited from her grandmother. It was a quiet house in a quiet neighborhood. His mom worked locally as a hairdresser fixing rich ladies hair to make them look young again.
Nervously he ran his hand over his head thinking what else to say and smiled then.
His parents told him not to smoke, drink, chew, or run with those who did. But he chose to do all four. As a solider he was not supposed admit fear but he knew fear.
Without any hesitation, he explained he planned to move to California soon, where were there opportunities for a vet like himself. But for now, everything was up in the air. His dad patting him on his back to reassure him everything was okay. By now the sky had darkened and became pit black as night fell. Tomorrow comes early.
Sweat rolled into his eyes, with one motion he removes his filthy clothes and tosses them into the corner of the room. Heading the shower to take a bath and wash away all the grime and muck from traveling. No sooner when he then step back into his room just then there a knock the door. I open the door to find the delivery boy smiling with his still warm pizza. I opened up the delivery box and immediately wolfed down half of the still warm pizza. Right now it was the start of football season but there was no other sport except basketball.
For a few moments he forgot all about his nightmares and troubling burdens, soon he’s asleep in bed only to wake up around 1 AM in the early hours of the still night. All the while he felt forlorn and confused yet not alone.
Darkness wrapped itself like a funeral shroud, he knew shouldn’t stayed here but somehow he did. Maybe he was curious. Maybe he should have stayed in the army. Were his thoughts as he lay in bed. Eyes were watching him, they seem to glow in the dark. He grunted and lit his cigar.
He shook his head it was still there, his spirit smoldering within him, he was not afraid at that particular moment knowing that this dark miserable night as forbidden as it was, stubbornly he was ready to meet tomorrow’s dawn. He’d start a new life and just disappear, a life waiting for him.