The Recluse…the finished product, unedited but complete…

Off the road, nestled behind pine and oak trees, was a small cabin. A wrought iron fence blocked the entrance to the drive. People would pass by and slow down to look. 

‘Maybe he’s out today,’ seemed to be the consensus of everyone in town. A sign hung from the gate, its message was clear: Trespassers will be shot, survivors will be shot again. 

No one dared to trespass. As is the case so often, stories were told of the hermit that lived in the cabin. 

‘He once ate the flesh of a kid. When the cops asked why he’d done it, he said, “me’s like tender meat.” Other tales circulated about the loner. Some tales were more fantastic than others, but they all centralized on the fact that he was a monster.

Annabelle Franks, Belle to her friends, stood by the gate with her friend Billy. She scratched her cheek and peered down the drive. 

“Let’s go down there and have a look, Billy.” Billy Thurston, 13, shook his head no. 

“Are you nuts, Belle? You know the stories about this recluse. He ate children to survive the war. The old folk say he returned from the war with a thirst for blood.”

Belle scrunched up her nose and spit on the ground. She nudged Billy with her elbow. 

“You know there ain’t no truth to that crap. The old folks just say that. They’re yanking your chain. Don’t nobody check on the poor fellow. What if he was hurt?”

Billy shrugged. It wasn’t his place to check on the hermit. Billy crossed his arms and shook his head.

“I ain’t going. It’s modern times. Pretty sure he’s got a phone.”

Belle watched Billy get puffed up. She liked to get him riled up. She spit on the ground and feigned indifference.

“Fine. Stay here scaredy cat. I’m going down there to check it out. I don’t need no bodyguard.”

“Good. Cause I ain’t going with you. Don’t get eaten.”

Annabelle jumped the fence and started down the drive. The driveway was brick, like they had back in the olden times. Shoots of grass came up through the brick. Moss covered some of it and made it slick. The yard was multi-level. Rows of flowers that hadn’t been weeded in a long while ran along the fence. Poison Ivy hung from some of the posts. 

Belle skipped along humming to herself. She heard a noise behind her, so she whipped around to confront whoever made the noise. It was Billy. 

“What are you doing, Billy. I thought you was frightened.”

Billy rubbed his arms like he had wandered through Antarctica naked. He glanced around. 

“You called me a scaredy cat. I’m not. I’m a thinker, and I don’t think this is a good idea.” 

Belle giggled, and punched Billy on the shoulder. Sweat drenched Billy’s brown hair. She was jealous of his thick mane. Belle was sandy-haired, and it was thin. Her hair would never stay in place for long. 

“Too late.”

Together, the pair made their way toward the cabin. Curtains hung in the window; they were pulled closed. Spider webs were visible on the porch. Angels stood in the flower beds, but they were in bad shape. Some had broken wings; others had cracked faces. 

“I hope that ain’t a sign,” Billy whispered. 

Belle hushed him and made her way onto the porch. Just as she went to knock on the door, it opened. Her eyes were the size of half dollars. Belle backed up, and Billy found it hard to swallow. 

“Can you kids not read,” a deep voice asked. 

Belle shook her head yes but had not found the words to answer. A short, bald man walked out on the porch. Billy gripped Belle’s hand and prepared to run. 

Belle freed her hand from Billy’s grasp and extended her hand. The man looked at her offered hand and then back at her.

“Howdy, neighbor. I’m Annabelle, and you are-“

“Not interested. Beat it kid. Don’t come back.”

Belle stood her ground and locked eyes with the hermit. The hermit did not back down either. Billy decided to intervene. 

“Sir, we didn’t mean to disturb you. We should be going.”

“Uh-huh. That’s a great idea.”

Billy took Belle by the hand and pulled her toward the gate. She swatted his hand, but he refused to let go. 

“Why,” she shouted, “did you drag me off the freaking porch, Billy?” She slapped at his hands and arms. Billy didn’t flinch. Once they were at the gate, he released her hand. 

“Because you’re a brainless idiot!”

“I am not!”

Belle crossed her arms and turned from Billy. She had made it to the porch and found the guy, but she did not get to talk to him. It incensed her further. 

“Everyone around here knows the man is a psycho, except for you. Belle, what would you have done if he decided you would make a great meal?”

Belle turned her nose up and refused to answer her friend. Billy shook his head in disgust. 

“I’d imagine Billy, if that had happened, I would no longer be here to give a crap.”


“But nothing. No one in this town has ever went to see this poor man. Ain’t nobody gave a rip. ‘Oh, he’s this or that.’ Don’t nobody know nothin’. Was there blood coming out of his mouth, Billy? Was he munching on a human leg and sucking the marrow out?”

“Don’t be dumb, Belle.”

Annabelle punched him dead in the chest. She reared back to hit him again, but he sidestepped the second blow.

“You don’t be dumb, Billy. Out here believin’ everything people tell you.”

Billy kicked dirt and crossed his arms. He went down there with her after he said he wasn’t going to. Heck, he had even saved her life from being cannibalized. Was she grateful? Heck, no.

“I should have left you on the porch,” he snapped. Belle picked up a rock and threw it at Billy.

“You dang right you should have. I’m a grown woman, Billy. I don’t need no man bossing me around.”

“You’re 13, Belle. I’m sorry, okay?”

“Age don’t mean nothin’, Billy. Womanhood is different from manhood. You’d know that if you weren’t so dumb.”

Billy went and sat down by the post. He leaned back against it and waited. Belle was furious. There wasn’t nothing to do but let her cool off. He pulled the brim of his hat down and closed his eyes. 

He could hear her muttering and kicking dirt. Billy dozed in the lazy sunshine. After a while it got silent, and he felt her drop to the ground beside him.

“We were so close, Billy.”

“Yeah. Sorry, I dragged you off the porch.”

“Yeah,” Belle sighed. “Sorry, I called you dumb.”

“It’s alright. I am dumb. I’m friends with you.”

Belle scrunched up her nose and giggled. Billy gave her a crooked grin. He stood to his feet and offered his hand to Belle. 

“Ready to head home?”

Belle took his hand and got to her feet. She detested parting from her friend and hated the idea of going home. 

“Yeah, but I wished I didn’t have to.”

“I know, but it won’t always be that way, Belle.”

“I know, Billy. Besides, I get to go to church tomorrow. You wanna come with me?”

Billy shook his head no. “I’ll pass, Belle. You go on and go. I’ll see you after church, okay?”


Davy Ford watched the children from afar. He walked through his house and pulled his drapes shut. He shut off the lights and made sure his doors were locked. Satisfied that his home was secure, he went down to the sub-basement and began to work on his latest project. 

 Stupid kids, Davy thought as he sat at his laptop. He opened his word processor and stared at the blank screen. His cursor flashed but never moved. 

All this time back, and my home has never been invaded. Leave it to two kids to breach it. Davy typed the title of his new piece of writing titled, Just Another Day in Hell. For a moment he considered adding ‘based on true events,’ but he didn’t. 

His phone buzzed and distracted him from the screen. He stared at the phone. It was a notice from the local church that his group would meet on Tuesday at 1500. 

Davy hated going to the meetings. However, his doctor thought it would do him some good to get out and meet new people. She’s wrong, Davy thought, but he had to go. She checked on his attendance and they spoke about it at his appointments.

The pastor of the church would sometimes sit in and tell her story. She had been a helicopter pilot in the National Guard. She had never walked the blood-soaked sands of the desert. Her closest encounter with danger had been on a search and rescue mission in the mountains during a wildfire. 

It was a good story, but it wasn’t war. 

Davy placed the phone down and focused on his screen. This story wasn’t going to write itself. 

While Davy tapped out words on his keyboard, Belle had walked home. Her momma, Wilma, had a nasty reputation. Wilma’s boyfriend Jocko had a nasty one too. Wilma watched Belle enter the yard. Her image of her daughter was hazy from the heroin she shot into her veins. 

“Hiya, dah-ling,” she muttered. Belle looked at her mom and shook her head. The needle was still stuck in Wilma’s vein. Belle pulled it out and leaned her mom’s head back against the chair. Wilma began to snore. 

Jocko walked out on the porch bare chested and smacked his lips. ‘A few more years and that fruit will be worth picking, just got to tough it out with her junkie momma until then.’

“You want a hit,” Jocko asked Belle. She shook her head no and went to move around him. He smacked her on the rump. “One day, you will want some, and then I’ll give you all you can handle.” He smiled at Belle, his yellow teeth flashing menacingly.

“No thanks,” she said as she went to her room. Cockroaches scattered when she flipped on the light. The hot night air was suffocating. Belle opened the window and turned on a lamp. She checked her bed for bugs and roaches. There were none on the bed. 

She opened up a book and leaned against the corner. Belle read until her eyes grew heavy. 

During the night she woke several times. Jocko and Wilma would laugh raucously about something they saw on television, or they would argue, and Jocko would slap Wilma around. 

At 0900, she slipped from the house and stood on the corner until the van from Mountain Top Faith Center arrived. She boarded the bus and stared from the window. Children’s laughter carried through the bus, and for once, Belle felt at home.

Davy stood in front of his window and peeked from the curtain. No one was near his gate, no one had crossed his perimeter. He sipped coffee from his steel to-go cup and kept watch. People drove by and always slowed down to look at the cabin.

“Keep moving,” he chided them in his mind. “Nothing to see here.” Satisfied that his home was secured, he sat in his recliner and flicked on the local news. 

It was all bad news. 

Wars were being fought, drugs were rampant within the city, prostitution and various other facets of perversion was being normalized. Davy shut off the television. 

“It wasn’t worth it,” he thought not for the first time. “All the blood and the guts, all the destruction, it was all for naught.”

Davy sat in the dark. He had never felt so alone as he did at this moment.

Billy waited at the bus stop for Belle. He wiped the sweat out of his eyes and saw the van coming down the road. Belle saw him from her seat in the bus and waved. Billy waved back. The bus stopped and the driver opened the door, Belle leaped out and almost tackled Billy. 

“Hey, Billy. We had awesome church!”

“Well, that’s good. You seem wound up; did you get converted?”

“No, I just feel…light. You know, like a feather.”

Billy laughed. “Light, huh. Bet you can’t beat me in a race to Old Man Washington’s place.”

“You’re on, Billy.”

They lined up side by side. Belle looked at Billy and told him to count to three. 

“One…two…two and a half…three!” 

Both took off like racehorses at the track, Billy and Belle were neck to neck. Belle reached out and pushed Billy, he stumbled and slowed down to regain his balance. Belle finished first and bent at the waist to catch her breath. Billy came up and punched her in the shoulder.

“You cheated,” he said. She shook her head no. Both of them were panting hard. 

“No, I did not. I took advantage of you being too focused. That’s not cheating, that is being smart.”

“Whatever,” Billy snapped.

“Suck it up, Billy. You lost to a girl.”

Billy and Belle walked to the shade of an old oak tree. They leaned against it and caught their breath. 

“What do you want to do now”, Belle asked. Billy shrugged. 

“Let’s go to the waterway. I have some money; we can get a Coke to share.”

“Sounds good.”

Together, the two friends walked off toward the store to grab a Coke and make memories. 

If only life remained simple instead of becoming a complicated, steaming heap of mess. 

Billy and Belle spent the remainder of the day at the waterway. They skipped stones and played in the water. Billy and Belle made their way home with the setting sun. Billy walked his friend to the front gate of her ramshackle home. 

The lights were off, and her mom’s car was gone from the driveway. Belle smiled at Billy. 

“I better get inside,” she said. Billy nodded. 

“Yeah, I have to get home myself.”

Belle leaned close and gave Billy a peck on the cheek. Billy’s heart raced; his face blushed a bright red. Belle giggled at his obvious discomfort. 

“Maybe tomorrow we could go back to see the hermit.”

“I don’t know about that, Belle. He acted like he wanted to be left alone.”

“We’ll talk about it tomorrow, okay?”

Billy nodded his head, but he was not in a hurry to revisit the cabin in the woods. He watched Belle walk into the house and waited until her room lamp clicked on. Then, he walked back to his house.

Davy watched the sun go down from his sub-basement window. He had spent the day pecking on the keyboard. For every word he chose, another five got deleted. Writing had become a source of frustration for him this afternoon.

He dug out a box filled with books of movies he collected throughout his multiple deployments. It mattered not where he deployed, someone was selling movies. Davy had thousands of movies that he bought from various markets. He flicked on his television and slid a movie into the PlayStation’s disc tray. 

The disc whirred and spun. It finally came on. He leaned back in his recliner and watched the film. The quality of the movie was shoddy at best, and Davy quickly lost interest in it. 

He went back to his computer and stared at the blank screen. ‘Come on, think of something to write…’

Davy pecked out a sentence and looked at what he had written. “The brown sand of the desert soaked up the blood like a sponge. Life had no value here. It was just another day in hell.

It wasn’t much but it was a start.

Mondays’ suck. Everybody said so. 

For Belle it sucked, for Wilma and Jocko too she suspected. Everyone hated when the weekend disappeared. Belle waited for the bus and saw Billy walking up. She smiled, and he smiled back. 

“Hey,” Billy said. 


“I hate Mondays.”

“Me too.”

They waited for the bus in silence. Neither Belle nor Billy were morning people. They needed at least another four hours of sleep, a hearty breakfast, and a power nap before they could start their day. Standing at a bus stop and waiting was cruel and unusual punishment in their minds. 

The bus pulled up and stopped. The brakes made a psssh sound. They boarded the bus and rode silently to the school.

For some reason Mondays dragged by. Maybe it had to do with it being the first workday of the week. Either way, the day passed slowly. 

At the first break of the day, Billy and Belle decided to sit outside on the steps and talk. Other kids hung out with their phones and friends. They all conversed in low tones, like they were discussing national secrets or what have you. 

Gavin Benson, the school bully, plopped down between Belle and Billy. He scrunched up his nose and sniffed Belle.

“Smell that boys? Smells like whore up in here,” he shouted. His pals gathered around and laughed. Belle said nothing, Billy did nothing. 

“Oh, that’s right, Belle. Your mom is a whore. Is she still shacked up with that drug dealer? Yeah, like mother, like daughter. You’re a whore by association.”

Billy stood up and the bullies crowded in closer. Gavin grinned. 

“That’s enough, Gavin. Leave us alone.”

Gavin laughed and shrugged. “Sure. No problem, Billy.” Billy nodded and Gavin punched him in the solar plexus. Billy doubled over, and Gavin grabbed him by the hair. 

“It’s over when I say it’s over. Now, there are two whores out here.” The bullies hooted and started up the steps. Belle knelt down by her friend. 

“You shouldn’t have said anything, Billy. My mom is….”

Billy coughed and shook his head. He put his hand on Belle’s shoulder. “You’re not your mother, Belle.”

Monday afternoon, Belle and Billy disembarked from the bus. Billy sat on the bench and waited for Belle to say something. She was quiet the whole day, especially since their encounter with Gavin.

Belle felt dirty. Hot tears stung her eyes. She blinked them away. Belle did not want Billy to see her cry. She didn’t want him to think of her as weak.

“I’m going to go home, Billy. We can try again tomorrow, if you want.”

“Yeah, I am going with you. We will do it tomorrow.”

They said goodbye. Belle turned to leave. Billy watched her go. He waited until she had vanished from his view, and he turned and walked toward the cabin.

Davy stood by the window and peeked out the curtain. He sipped his hot coffee and watched. A shadow leaped across the gate. Davy waited to see who dared trespass on his property. Apparently, all the readers had vanished from his hometown. Now, people ignored the sign and did what they wanted. 

The figure drew closer. It was the boy from the other day. He was alone. “And, I thought the kid had good sense…” Davy stepped back from the curtain and shoved a sidearm into his right jean pocket.

Billy stood in the driveway and looked at the broken angels in the flowerbeds. He stared at the cabin and sought to build up some courage. He needn’t waste any more time. The door opened, and the recluse stepped out onto the porch.

Billy’s breath caught in his throat when he saw the gun jutting out of the man’s pocket. He put his hands up.

“Please don’t shoot me, mister.” The man said nothing, he locked eyes with Billy. 

“Why are you here, boy?”

“I need to learn to fight,” Billy stammered. The words rushed out of his mouth. The man said nothing. “My friend was called a whore today. I need to stop it.”

“Is your friend a whore?”

“No, sir. She’s 13.”

A smile crossed the man’s mouth briefly and then vanished. His eyes were cold, reptilian even. 

“Where’s your dad, boy? Didn’t he teach you anything.”

“My dad died fighting in the war,” said Billy. “He was a hero. If he were here, he’d beat the brakes of those boys.”

“I don’t know anything about fighting, boy. I’m a man of peace.”

Billy shook his head. “A man of peace…yeah, right. All the old folks thought he was a maniac.”

“I don’t believe you,” Billy said. The man watched his every movement. Billy stepped toward the porch. “All the old folks think you’re a monster. Is that why you don’t leave your home?”

The man stepped off the porch and walked to where Billy stood. He stared deeply into Billy’s eyes. 

“Well, how about that? What do you think, boy? Am I a monster?”

Billy’s breath quaked as he answered the man. He was scared, but Belle needed protection. Billy needed to protect her.

“I don’t know, but I know you aren’t no man of peace.” The man smiled and patted Billy on the back. 

“Alright, then. I will show you a couple of things, then you leave and forget your way back here.”

“Deal,” said Billy. He hurried after the man, and they walked out to the barn. Inside the barn a heavy bag hung from a rafter.  Davy showed Billy how to throw a punch.

“Do not lose your cool when you are bullied. Remember this, the elbows are hard and sharp. The foot is fragile, so are his eggs. Punch, kick, elbow, whatever it takes to win. If you’re grabbed from behind, bring your foot down on top of his.”

“Yes, sir.” Billy punched the bag. Davy stopped him. “Don’t forget to move. Never move back in a straight line. Hit and move. Make him work. Okay?”


The sun dipped low behind the trees, and Davy nodded to Billy. 

“It’s time for you to go home.” Billy stuck out his hand, the man ignored it. They walked out of the barn.

“What do I call you, sir?” The man stared at him until Billy looked away.

“You don’t. Remember our deal.”

“Yes, sir.” Billy started down the drive. When he got to the gate, he turned around to wave goodbye, but the man had disappeared back into his house.

Davy watched Billy go down his driveway from the safety of his window. The boy’s statement about him being a monster had hit home. “The kid has guts,” he thought to himself. “He doesn’t have a lick of sense, but he has guts.”

He walked down to the sub-basement and sat down at his laptop. A small clock sat on his desk, it read 1800. Something about the boy had touched some part of him. He opened his word processor and began to type:

I didn’t join the military because I hated our enemies. I joined because I loved my country. After the attacks, we had to respond. Some folks joined because we endured our day in hell. Others sought revenge. Some went in for what they could get out of it. There was an assortment of reasons but none of it really mattered. 

When you experienced your first roadside bomb, your first kill, your first innocent bystander murdered because they were different, reasoning had nothing to say about it. All the reasoning in the world went out the window.

It was a time of chaos, a time of madness. Reality and war would never mix. It was just another day in hell.

Davy shut down his laptop and walked upstairs. He dropped onto the couch and turned on his television. Looney Tunes was on. He chuckled at the antics of Bugs Bunny and the Road Runner. 

Tomorrow he would go to his meeting and listen to the stories of other veterans. He would drink their coffee and eat a snack. He would smile to show that he was present in the room.

But in reality, it would be just another day in hell.

At 1445, Davy ambled into Mountain Top Faith Center. A gaggle of veterans were already seated. Some blew on their hot coffee; others were engaged in conversations that ranged from their favorite baseball teams to who was the worst politicians.

A few noticed him when he walked in. They nodded at him; Davy nodded back. He poured a cup of coffee and scooped up a dry donut, then made his way to the back row. 

The ringleader of the meeting was a young woman named Betty. She was a psychologist in town, and ‘had a burden for those who returned from war still struggling with the baggage.’ It was nice to hear that. As a member of the church, Betty had got permission from the pastor to start a meeting. 

It had been in place for over a year. Many of the veterans that came to it were the original group. They came because it was their safe space. Davy came because his doctor checked up on him. Betty came in and gave everyone her mega-watt smile. People smiled back at her. Davy sat in the back and concentrated on making minimum movement and effort. 

“Good evening, everyone. How are you all today?”

A chorus of answers came from the crowd. Davy watched. Betty pulled out her folder and cleared her throat. She began to call off names, those present responded with ‘here.’


“Here,” he said quietly. 

She looked up and found him in the back row. She gave him a small smile. One of the ‘original’ members snorted and said, ‘you need to sound off like you’ve got a pair, boy.’ Some of the older men chuckled at the bully’s remarks. Davy said nothing. 

Betty cleared her throat. 

“I heard him fine, Buster. Do I need to remind you that we are in a church?”

“No ma’am. I apologize for my vulgarity.”

Betty smiled; Buster smiled at her.

“Perhaps, you should apologize to Davy. That way the air is cleared.”

“Um,” Buster began. Davy stood to his feet and waved his hand to silence the man. Betty stared at Davy. 

“I don’t need his apology, ma’am. It’s all good.”

“I think it would be best, Davy.”

“Just let me apologize,” Buster started. Davy stood up and walked out of the class. As he neared the door, he heard Betty excuse herself from the group. 

Davy kept walking. Betty ran up and touched his shoulder. He turned to face her. Betty put both hands up. She was a beautiful woman. Her blond hair fell to her waist. Her eyes were a clear blue, and Davy thought she must have been the model God chose to represent womanhood. It was her intellect that Davy was drawn to. She was smart, well-spoken, humorous, and quick witted. 

“What more could a guy want,” he thought to himself. 

“Davy, let me explain.”

“I don’t need an explanation, Betty. I will come back to the next one.”

“Buster needs to apologize in front of the whole group…”

“I don’t need it. The group doesn’t need it. Buster is an idiot. He’s an idiot now, he’ll be one when I return next week.”

Betty shook her head in frustration. She could not understand why fighting men would battle to the death for their brothers and sisters in combat, but they were like a jackal on fresh blood when they weren’t fighting a war. 

“Okay, Davy. You win. I’ll mark you present, but I expect you here next week.”

“Yes ma’am.”

Davy walked out of the church and got in his truck. It was as he suspected. 

It was just another day in hell.

Billy and Belle were getting off the bus when Davy arrived home. Belle wanted to visit him again, but Billy wasn’t having it. 

“Let’s go see him, Billy. I know he has to be lonely.”

“No, Belle. I can’t go back there.”

“You are such a chicken.” Billy shook his head no. Belle danced around him clucking like a hen. 

“Stop it, Belle. I can’t go back. It’s not because I don’t want to go with you.”

Belle stopped the chicken dance and looked at Billy. His eyes were downcast.

“Well, if you want to go with me, why not say yes?”

“Because I told him I wouldn’t go back to his cabin.” Belle backed up and stared at Billy. She started to say something and then closed her mouth.

“Wait a sec. You told him you wouldn’t come back? When did you see him?”

Billy dropped on the bench; Belle scrunched up close to him. Billy shook his head.

“I saw him yesterday,” he muttered. Belle smiled and punched Billy on the shoulder.

“What’s he like? Why did you go? Why didn’t you take me?”

“You wanted to go home. After Gavin called you a, well, you know, I figured I needed to learn to fight. I went to see him. To see if he would teach me to fight.”

“Did he teach you?”

“Some. I was scared to death. He had a gun in his pocket.” Belle’s eyes were the size of half dollars. She smiled at Billy.

“I know how to fight, Billy. You didn’t have to…”

“I like you, Belle. I don’t want nothing to happen to you.”

Belle punched him on the shoulder. Billy punched her back. She giggled and stood to her feet.

“That’s sweet of you, Billy. You’re still going with me. I will explain it to him that you’re my bodyguard.”

“No. No, no, no. Bell, me and him made a deal. If he helped me, I would stay away from his cabin. He will kill me if I go back.”

Belle giggled. “He ain’t going to kill you, Billy. Murder is against the law.”

Billy sighed. Belle knew that she had won him over to her side. She winked at Billy.

“Belle, when has ever kept anyone from murdering anyone? He told me to remember our deal.”

Both friends departed from the bus stop and made their way home. Jocko and Wilma sat on the porch that was broken on one end. Their eyes appeared dead, but they followed her every moment. 

Jocko licked his lips. Belle ignored him.

“Hey, momma.”

“Hey sugar bear,” Wilma slurred. Belle hugged her mom and went inside.  Her mother’s addiction was nothing new. ‘If it wasn’t Jocko, she’d be shacked up with another loser.’

Belle didn’t hate her mother; she just did not understand what in her life made her so miserable. What did she have to bury under all the layers of drug abuse?

Jocko followed her upstairs. She shut the door in his face. Outside her door she could hear him panting. He knocked on the door.

“What, Jocko?”

“You know you looking fine, dontcha? You wanna get stoned, baby?”

“No. Go away.”

Jocko snickered. “Go away. Yeah, okay. One day you will be begging me for it.”

Belle waited for his footsteps to fade away. She crawled on her bed and hugged her bear Mr. George. Belle pulled the bear to her face and cried. 

“God, if you’re out there, I don’t want to be like my momma…”

At 0500, Belle slipped out of the house and went to the bus stop. Between the cockroaches and Jocko’s panting, Belle couldn’t sleep. Nothing was stirring. Nighttime in Mississippi is still for the most part. Stars twinkle, a breeze may or may not blow, and humans were on the move to work or what have you.

Sunrise was still an hour away, but a figure stepped from the shadows. As it drew near, Belle began to doubt the wisdom of leaving her house. ‘Maybe Jocko ain’t so bad.’

As the figure stepped into the amber glow of the streetlamp, she recognized the figure as the man from the cabin. She waved at him, he nodded in response.

“Morning,” Belle said cheerfully. He scowled at her.

“Morning,” said Davy. “Just my luck I’d run into this chatterbox. At least it’s not Buster.”

“What brings you out so early? Are you going to work?”

Davy stood by the streetlamp and rested. He had gotten out of shape, and today was the first day of him making an attempt at working his back into fighting condition.


“I’m Belle, and you are…”

Davy stared at Belle. She wasn’t tall, but she wasn’t short either. Her eyes were pale blue, and her teeth weren’t perfect, but she had a beautiful smile. Plus, she was nice.

“Look kid, why do you want to know who I am?”

“Because you look like you could use a friend.”

Davy scowled at her. Belle smiled back; she patted the bench. Davy sat down on the end and leaned back.

“I’m Davy,” he said without making eye contact. Belle smiled. 

“You look like a Davy. Did you fight in the war?”

Davy sighed and shook his head. Belle waited for him to respond. Davy stood. 

“Look kid,…” he started. Belle stopped him.

“It’s not kid, it’s Belle,” she interjected.

“Why are you out here,” Davy snapped. Belle shrugged and crossed her arms.

“Because my mom is a drug addict, and I don’t feel safe at home.” Davy shook his head. They sat in silence for several moments.

“I’m sorry, kid, eh, Belle. That’s rotten luck.”

“I ain’t scared of my momma. She has a disease. It’s her rotten boyfriend that scares me.”

“So, report him to the police.”

Belle scowled at Davy. She shrugged as to say why.

“They won’t do nothing. Everybody knows who Jocko is and what he does. Nobody stops him.”

“Well, not everybody knows Jocko. This is the first I am hearing about him.”

Belle laughed. She punched Davy on the shoulder. Davy stared at her until she quit laughing.

“So, did you fight in the war, Davy?”

“Yes, Belle. I fought in the stupid war.” Belle smiled and said, ‘I thought so.”

“Why don’t you work?”

Davy stared at her, and she scrunched up her nose at him. A small smile crept across his mouth, but he killed it quickly. He looked away from Belle and regained his composure.

“I am retired, and disabled,” Davy said. Belle stood to her feet and looked at Davy.

“You don’t look disabled.”

“Oh, well thanks. I will tell my doctor of your prognosis.”

She giggled. Davy sat on the bench until Billy appeared on the horizon. He nodded to Belle. 

“Here comes your friend.” Belle jumped to her feet and waved at Billy. Billy waved back.

“Hurry up,” she shouted. She turned to where Davy had been sitting, but he had disappeared when her back was turned. She sat down on the bench and waited for Billy. He walked up and sat beside her.

“What’s the freaking rush, Belle. We’ve got twenty minutes before the bus shows up.”

She gestured at the bench. Billy shook his head and shrugged.

“It’s a bench.”

“He was here, Billy.”

“Who was here?”

“The man from the cabin. His name’s Davy. He fought in the war.”

“He was here?”

“Yep. I talked to him.”

“Did he say he was going to kill me?”

“No, Billy. He didn’t say he was going to kill you.”

The bus topped the hill and they stood to their feet. Mrs. Dennis hated waiting for children to get on the bus. ‘Get a move on,” she’d yell if you didn’t move fast enough. She was a mean ole woman, but the school board kept her around for some reason.

The day progressed nicely. Both Belle and Billy encountered no trouble throughout the first part of the day. Their classes passed by quickly, Belle was recognized for her recent achievements. Her classmates applauded her.

At lunch, she and Billy sat in the corner of the room and whispered about Davy. 

“Did you tell him about Jocko,” Billy asked. Belle nodded; her eyes shined with excitement.

“I did. He didn’t know who he was.”

“Doesn’t surprise me, I don’t think he gets out much.”

“Yeah,” said Belle. “He seems kind of sad.”

Both were so engrossed in their conversation they never saw Gavin. He approached both from the side and tossed his lunch on Belle. 

“Oops, my bad lovebirds. I didn’t see you there.”

Belle looked at her clothes. Her white blouse was covered with chocolate gravy. Billy stood to his feet.

“Apologize, Gavin. Right now.”

“Or what, Billy? You gonna fight me?”

“Billy, it’s okay. I have another blouse in my locker,” Belle said.

“No,” Billy snarled. “This ends today.”

A circle formed around Billy and Gavin. Taunts of oooh, and get ‘em, sounded from the crowd. Gavin rushed in and bear hugged Billy. “The foot is fragile,” the man had told Billy. He picked up his right foot and smashed it down on Gavin’s foot as hard as he could.

Gavin released him with a howl. Billy reared back and punched Gavin in the nose. Blood rushed out, and Gavin’s eyes grew large at the sight of his blood. 

Billy wasn’t done. 

As Gavin stared at the blood on his hand, Billy kicked him in the crotch.

Gavin fell to the ground. Billy stood over him relishing his victory over the wannabe thug. 

“Don’t you ever come back here and mess with us again. You understand me, Gavin.”

“Yeah,” Gavin cried. “Please, don’t hit me no more.”

“Get, boy. Before I forget myself.”

Belle looked at Billy as he sat down. She had left when the fight started and changed her blouse. She caught the end of the fight when Billy had stood over Gavin and given him his opportunity to leave.

“You didn’t have to fight, Billy. I could have changed.”

“It was never going to end if I didn’t stand up to him, Belle.”

She nodded and grinned at him. “It was pretty sweet seeing you give him an out. Thanks for standing up for me.”

Billy shrugged and tried to downplay it. “It’s what friends are for.”

People came by and slapped Billy on the back, some shook his hand. Others just nodded. For the first time in his life, Billy felt like he belonged. 

His victory was all the sweeter because he had stood up for Belle when she needed a friend the most.

Davy returned home from his walk. He arrived home before too many people in town saw him. Davy showered and dressed into clean clothes. He made a cup of coffee and went down to the sub-basement. He powered on his laptop and opened his word processor. 

“War,” he began to type, “is a cruel mistress. I gave my life to her. To right the wrongs, and to defend the weak. It was my opportunity to be strong for someone else, but it didn’t turn out that way. 

In the end, I was weak. I was broken, and swallowed by the darkness that lurked in my own heart…”

There was too much truth in his statement. He shut down his computer and sipped his coffee. Tears welled up in his eyes, and for once, he did not hide them. 

Davy had gone to war with the noblest of intentions, but his intentions were useless. Innocent people on both sides were hurt. According to the news, the war had been shut down. Victory had been declared. The enemy had already recovered much of the territory that lives had been spent to take from them. 

It was pointless. 

The innocent always suffer…

Davy thought of Belle and her situation. How many times had he seen similar situations both here at home and in the killing fields? The sad truth of the matter was this: It could always be worse.

Wilma and Jocko watched as Belle walked home from school. Neither were riding a new high. Their eyes were clear, not a sign of haze was in both pair of eyes. Wilma’s eyes were sad, but Jocko looked dangerous. Like he had decided to take what he had been craving, Belle thought. 

“Hey, momma.”

“Hey sugar bear. How was school?”

“It was okay. I’m swamped with homework.”

“Listen, I need to talk to you, okay?”


Wilma licked her lips and looked away. She took a deep breath and forced a smile. Jocko sat by and watched. His eyes never wavered from Belle. 

“Jocko has asked me to marry him.”

“You said no, right?”

“Um, no. I said yes. It would do you good to have a father figure in the house.”

“What does HE know about being a father figure? Or a role model? He’s a drug dealer for God’s sake!”

“Shut your mouth, Belle,” Jocko growled at her. “Your mother has curbed her addiction. She’s an adult, no one forced her to make this decision.”

“An adult? My mother? Please, she is an addict. She goes where her need carries her.”

“That’s enough, Belle,” Wilma whispered quietly. Belle shook her head no and stormed upstairs. 

“It’ll be a cold day in the lake of fire before I call Jocko my dad.”

Wilma and Jocko watched as Belle stormed off. Jocko picked up the pipe and handed it to Wilma. She fired it up and sucked in the crack, she breathed it out slowly. ‘Things are going to be better with Jocko here full time. Belle needs a firm hand.”

“You remember our deal, Wilma.”

“I remember. You get Belle, and you keep me in stock with the good stuff.”

“That’s right. You get ‘the good stuff’ after I’ve wrecked your little girl. A deal’s a deal.”

“Go easy on her, Jocko.”

Jocko gripped Wilma by the face and pulled her close. She looked in his eyes, they were filled with madness. She looked away.

“I’m going to ruin your daughter, and you’re gonna watch me do it. Then, you’re going to live with the knowledge that you served her up to me. When it’s all said and done, you’re going to have to live with that fact.”

Wilma sobbed and threw down the pipe. Jocko laughed. Darkness encroached ever closer.

Davy sat in his sub-basement and wiped away his tears. ‘Those that are gone have no need for them, and they do me little good. What’s done is done.’ War had changed him. He felt as if he was nothing more than a damaged husk. A soulless, empty skeleton who had no purpose. 

He went in the kitchen and made some more coffee. His need for the stimulant was bordering on addiction. 

A knock sounded at the door. He turned and walked to the door. Through the peephole, he saw that the boy was back. Davy sighed. “Jesus, what do you have to do to get rid of this kid?”

“Um, Mr. Davy are you home?”

Davy rubbed his head and opened the door. Billy grinned at him; Davy stood there silently waiting for him to speak.

“Um, I wanted to let you know that I stood up to the bully. I won,” Billy said. 

“That’s great, kid. We had a deal, remember?”

“Yes sir. I am leaving now. Goodbye.”

Davy watched as Billy walked down his driveway. He smiled. “Good on you, kid. Always stand for something, even if it’s not popular. Stand for the weak; stand for those who can’t find the courage to defend themselves.”

Davy closed the door and locked it. Tom and Jerry played on his television. He shut it off. His coffee was done, so he spooned in some sugar and sat in his recliner. 

“Scratch that, kid. Don’t do nothing. Standing for something would only lead you to heartache. Stay in the shadows. Be a nobody. Live a life of quiet dignity and peace.”

War had destroyed Davy’s peace. It had destroyed everything he had held dear. Then, when it was all said and done, he was left alone. Unloved. An empty, soulless husk of no good to no one.

Remember that all new paragraphs, as well as dialogue, needs to be indented. These will also use the style called “Normal Indent.” 

Since your novel will have several chapters, ensure that you leave enough motivation at the end of each chapter for the reader to continue with the next.

[New Scene’s third paragraph.]



Jocko was growing impatient. He conned Wilma into marrying him by offering the best of his stock. Hidden behind the vulgar tattoos that adorned his flesh, and the dead eyes, he possessed a brilliant mind concerning his criminal enterprise. 

His product was shipped from somewhere in Latin America. He dealt with the head honcho, and only the head honcho. To avert suspicion, his incoming shipments were small. That’s not to say that he didn’t receive many packages. 

The drugs sailed across the ocean blue, was picked up at a semi-busy port and loaded onto turnip trucks, and then dropped off at warehouse that was privately owned by a third party. Jocko rarely made an appearance. His name was often associated with drug deals, but almost no proof could be found to link him to the sale of said drugs. 

He licked his lips when he thought of young Belle. “I can’t wait to ruin that tender flesh for every other man.”

Davy tossed and turned on the couch all night. He dreamt of sand and blood, guts and wounds, he listened to the cry of those who suffered until Death removed them from this mortal coil. He woke to this thought: If you make yourselves sheep, the wolves will feast.

In the dark, he sat on the couch. Predators didn’t always prey on the strong. Sometimes, they feasted on the weak. It was a vicious cycle, one that God had put into motion to maintain balance. He thought of Belle. “Poor girl is trapped between an addict and a sleazeball.” Maybe she would come by today, and they would have the chance to speak at length concerning her situation. 

“It’s time for me to quit feeling sorry for myself and be the man that I was forged into. The helpless need protecting.”


Wilma woke to Jocko standing at the foot of her bed staring at her. He munched on a carrot. She brushed the hair out of her face and tried to smile. Her black toothed smile did little to improve her ragged looks. At one time, she was a beautiful woman. Back when everything was right with the world.

Now, she was the horse that had been rode hard and put away wet.

“Morning,” she said. Wilma reached for Jocko, but he ignored her. He finished his carrot and continued to stare at her.

“Get out of bed and get in the shower. We’re getting married today. I’m wrecking Belle tonight, and you are going to watch.”

Wilma whimpered and a single tear ran down her cheek. “He doesn’t love you, idiot. You’ve served up your daughter to an animal, to feed a habit that you should have shaken years ago.”

“No, I won’t marry you.”

Jocko looked at Wilma and laughed. He raised his eyebrows and took a menacing step toward her.

“What’s that? I didn’t hear you?”

Wilma crawled out of bed and stood to her feet. If she was going to be beaten down or worse, by God, she would go out on her feet.

“I-am not-marrying-you. I will not serve up my daughter to an animal like yo-“

Jocko’s right hand crashed into her jaw. Rapid blows landed one after another, Wilma giggled. Her laughter drove Jocko’s blood rage higher. He soccer kicked her across the room and went to work on her ribs. 

“You’re a mangy dog, Wilma. You show your teeth, you get dealt with.” He kicked Wilma until she passed out. He stood over her panting, his breathes came in ragged gasps.

“You are a stupid broad. I don’t need you to get what I want. I’ll take it, by force if necessary.”

Jocko loaded Wilma into his van and drove her to the Urgent Care unit on the outskirts of Fredericksburg. He pulled into the parking lot and rolled her unconscious body into the parking lot and drove off. 

It was several moments before someone noticed the body of Wilma in the lot. Some of the staff rushed out and lifted her body into a wheelchair and rushed her in. 

“Dr. Savage, please report to Room 3, Doctor Savage to room 3.”

Dr. Bernadette Savage rushed through the halls to room 3. She immediately began to give orders and started inspecting the body. 

“Dear God in Heaven,” she said. 

“What is it,” one of the nurses asked as she laid the instruments out on the cart.

“We need to get this woman stabilized. Who brought her in?”

“No one. They found her in the parking lot.”

Bernadette pointed at Wilma’s face. The bruising was a sickly yellow and a deep shade of purple. 

“You see that? This woman was beaten senseless. We are going to need multiple MRIs to get a detailed picture of what we’re dealing with. Start the usual process, I will do a thorough examination of her. We’ll go from there.”

“Who did this to you,” Bernadette asked the unconscious woman. It didn’t matter what the woman had done, no one deserved to be treated the way Wilma had been. 

Jocko made his way to Belle’s school. He drove erratically through traffic, he honked the horn, whipped around those who blocked him from his goal. The blood rage from earlier still rushed through his veins. Finally, he arrived at Fredericksburg Middle School.  Jocko leapt from the vehicle and rushed inside.

An elderly woman sat in the office which was situated at the corner of the hallway. Mrs. Tina Elks, who had taught students for nigh thirty years watched as Jocko rushed in and looked around.

“Oh boy,” she thought, “here comes trouble.”

Jocko rushed in; Mrs. Elks waited for him to speak. 

“Hey old lady, I need to pick up Belle Franks.”

“And you are?”

“I’m going to be her dad. Her mom was attacked and is at the Urgent Care.”

“I see. It’s truly a sad world we live in now. Unfortunately, I can’t release Belle to you. However, I will make a note and give it to her teacher.”

“You don’t understand old woman, I need Belle.”

Mrs. Elks watched Jocko. He was all over the place scratching, wiping at his face, his eyes bugged out of his head. He kept licking his lips. All these symptoms were distracting, but what caught Mrs. Elks attention was his emphasis on the word need.

“Yeah, he is strung out on something. I’m not handing Belle over to this train wreck.”

Jocko approached the desk and slammed his hand down on the top. He leaned forward and snarled, “get my kid here now.” Mrs. Elks smiled at him. The door opened and the security guard walked in.

“Is there a problem here, Mrs. Elks?”

“I don’t know, officer. Is there a problem here, young man?”

Jocko threw his hands up and shrugged. The officer stood behind him and watched him.

“Nope, ain’t no problem. I’ll tell her mom that you guys wouldn’t do your jobs. No problem at all. Y’all deal with her when she gets better.”

He turned and pushed his way past the security guard. Both the guard and Mrs. Elks watched him go. Jocko slammed the door to his van. This was only a temporary setback. 

Nothing was going to keep him from his prize. Not this old woman, not the security guard, and not Wilma.

Belle was his.


Mrs. Elks explained the situation to the security guard once they were certain that Jocko had left the grounds.

“He came in here like a tornado, rip snorting about how Belle’s mom was attacked. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was the one that attacked her,” Mrs. Elks said. The security guard shook his head in disgust.

“Horrible. Do we know if there is any truth to it?”

“I don’t know. Do you think we should find out?”

“Yeah, let me make some calls and see what I can learn.”

The security guard, his name was Glen Wadsworth Fry, called the local medical centers and trauma unit. As a last resort he called the Urgent Care unit. After a moment, his call was transferred to Dr. Savage.

“This is Doctor Savage.”

“Hi, my name is Glen Fry. I’m a security guard at Fredericksburg Middle School. I’m calling on behalf of a student here.”

“Okay. I’m busy…”

“Yes, but I am looking for a woman that may be assaulted. Her name is Wilma Franks.”

Doctor Savage got quiet, and Glen heard her take a deep breath.

“She’s here.”

“Has she been assaulted, Doctor?”

“And then some.”

“What do you mean?”

“She is still unconscious. We had to put her into a coma to…look, she was severely beaten. To the point of death. I’m looking at a mess of broken bones.”

“Okay, thank you Doctor Savage.”

Glen Fry hung up the phone, Mrs. Elks waited for him to say something. He said nothing and sat down in an empty chair. 

“Well, Wadsworth? Did you find her or not?”

“Yeah. She’s at the Urgent Care.”

“Is she coming to get her daughter?”


“Why not?”

“Because she is in a coma. She was beaten to the point of death.”

“Oh, my word.”

“Who’s her next of kin?”

Mrs. Elks tapped a few keys and shook her head. The emergency contact information was blank.

“No one. The contact information is blank.”

“We need to speak to Belle then. She has to have someone to stay with.” Mrs. Elks nodded her head and whispered, “the poor girl.” Glen left the office and walked down the hallway to Belle’s class.  He knocked on the door. 

Mrs. Simmons walked to the door. Glen whispered a few words, and Mrs. Simmons nodded. She motioned to Belle and led her to the door. Glen told her to follow him, and together they walked to the office.

“Sit down, Belle. We need to talk to you.”

Belle climbed into the seat and waited. She knew Glen and Mrs. Elks, both of them looked very concerned.

“Baby,” Mrs. Elks said as she took Belle’s hands in hers, “we’ve got some bad news.”

“Jocko killed my mom, didn’t he?”

Mrs. Elks and Glen looked at each other. They looked back at Belle. Mrs. Elks shook her head no. 

“Sweetheart, where did that come from?”

“Jocko has been after me for some time now. He asked momma to marry him. I overheard him talking to her last night. He only did it to get at me.”

“Belle, your mom was attacked. She is at the Urgent Care. There is no one on your emergency contact information. Do you have somewhere to go?”

“Yes sir. I can go to Davy’s.”

“Who is Davy?”

“He is my friend. I’ll be safe with him.”

“Sweetie,” Mrs. Elks began, “we can’t let you stay with just anybody. We’ll put you in Child Services…”

“No, thank you.”

“It’s only temporary, Belle. “

“I’ll go to Davy’s. Or I can stay with Billy and his folks.”


“How’s my momma?”

“They had to put her in a coma to protect her. She’s going to be fine…”

“I think I’m going to be sick…”

 Glen took her by the arm and rushed to the bathroom. Belle walked in and went to the last stall. A small window let out into the ball court. She pushed the window out and slipped from the building. “Ain’t no way I’m going to Child Services.”

Davy sat on his porch and considered his revelation that a good man, is not a harmless man. In his ponderings, he noticed a multi-colored van across from his gate. “Now, who could that be?”  A good man always does the right thing. He stands tall when the world falls apart around him. Time and life had beaten Davy down, but at rock bottom, he found his purpose.

A motion by his gate caught his eye. Belle stood there waving at him, he waved back. She ran down the drive until she reached the porch.

“Davy,” she panted, “I need a place to stay.”

“Do what now? Why do you need to stay here?”

“Jocko beat my mother. She’s at the Urgent Care.”

“Okay. Look calm down. Start at the beginning and tell me what happened.”

“Yesterday, I went home from school. Momma and Jocko were waiting for me. They told me they were getting married. I ran upstairs and locked my door. My window is always open. I heard Jocko tell momma that he was going to wreck me, and he was going to make her watch.”

“Sweet Jesus. Where is Jocko now?”

“He’s across the street in the van. He’s going to hurt me Davy.”

“No, he isn’t. Go inside and start your homework. I’ll see what he has to say.”

Davy waited until she went inside. He heard the click of the lock being engaged. “Smart girl.” He walked to his truck and pulled out his Springfield Hellcat and shoved it into his pocket. Then, he started up the drive.

Jocko watched as Davy drew near. He rolled down the window and lifted his chin.

“Can I help you,” he sneered. Davy grinned a cold, humorless grin in return. 

“Yeah. What do you want?”

“I want that little girl that ran down your driveway. You go get her and bring her to me, and I won’t kill you.”

“Mmhmm. You think you’re a wolf. You’re not.”

“Yeah, I’m a wolf.”

“No. You can be a wolf, or you can be a sheep. You can’t be both. You’re going to have to pick a struggle.”

Jocko cradled the shotgun between his legs. The feel of the wooden stock gave him a sense of courage.

“Go get Belle, and don’t make me tell you twice.”

“Belle will not be leaving with you. Take this busted piece of junk, along with your habit, and don’t come back.”

Jocko screamed as he pulled the shotgun up to shoot Davy. By the time he got the shotgun out the window, Davy had stepped close. He grabbed the barrel of the shotgun and yanked Jocko half out the window. Davy pulled his sidearm and brought it down on Jocko’s neck. He crashed to the earth unconscious.

Davy’s neighbor, Jamie Windsor had called the police when the shotgun appeared. Sirens filled the air. Davy nodded to his neighbor and waited for the cops. He smiled when he realized that he had taken a stand for good. He had protected the weak and the defenseless. While he wasn’t ready to be called a good man, he was on his way to becoming a better one.


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