A Sick Twist of Fate…A short story…

Tim Williams looked out his library window and stared at his vehicle under the open carport. His mind is aflutter with unfinished thoughts. Facing east, he waits for the sun to rise. “It’s Saturday. I may get my allotted two hours with her today.”  Starry Wilkinson, a woman of exquisite strength and beauty, is the woman referenced by his thought. Her grayish mane, bluish-grey eyes, and natural beauty are second place to her wit, intelligence, and kindness. To boot, Starry is a journalist who worked as an anchor at the local television station. She spent her weekends volunteering at the hospital in the children’s wing. Tim is madly in love with Starry. “Can you believe it’s been eight years since I began pursuing this woman? That must be some kind of record!” As with all things, the beginning started off hot and heavy. It took Tim two weeks to pop the question. Yes, Tim is slow. Still, after one failed relationship after another, Tim knew he had met the woman of his dreams. His eagerness coupled with her suspicious nature had led to a more restrained approach to their friendship. “Days have turned into weeks, weeks into months, months into years and I am still holding on. Hope springs eternal. Is this friendship/relationship going to be as futile as the war I fought in? Will there be a payout at the end?” Tim mentally shrugs his shoulders and waters his cactus on the windowsill. “I guess we will find out.”

A shadow crossed the window, and Tim looked up. A red hawk, perched precariously upon his carport roof, gazed into the window. Tim watched the hawk. Annoyed by his appearance in the window or Tim’s sudden movement, the hawk flew off. “I don’t blame him. What I see in the mirror frightens me too.” Tim’s free hand wiped at his bald head and he looked at his watch. “Crap. I need to get started cleaning. I want Starry to enjoy her visit with me tonight. She will like what I’ve done with the library.”

Tim began in the kitchen. He tossed empty Gatorade containers into the 42-gallon trash bag. “It has taken me time to make peace with whom I was during war, but Starry never doubted me. She is a godsend. Still, after eight years and minimum change in my status, I am growing tired.” Frustration settled into Tim’s mind. “What am I doing? Am I wasting my time? What if there is no future where we end up together?”

Time has passed with the quickness of molasses dripped from an overturned quart jar. Instead of drawing closer, Starry and Tim saw less of each other. The void in Tim’s heart grew with each day without her. Starry became a social butterfly. Blessed to live in a small town, she became the director for every social event within the city limits. Slowly, the chasm between the two seemed insurmountable to Tim. “From sunup to sundown, Starry is busy. I would call, but I’m sure she is working, and I don’t want to be a bother.” Instead, Tim tried to find other things to do to occupy his time. Finally, he hit upon an idea while he stacked lumber in his shop. “We could do a day trip today. I could make a picnic basket, we could ride to the lake and watch the waves come in. It’s not expensive and a bit redneck-ish but it’d be fun.” Tim walked back into the house and packed a basket. Spiral ham, tomatoes, a loaf of homemade bread, mayo, mustard and a few other ingredients filled the basket. When he completed the preparations for lunch, he took the basket and a clean blanket out to his truck. He picked up his phone and punched in Starry’s number.

“Hello?”

“Hey,” Tim said. A goofy grin crossed his face. “What are you doing?”

“Sleeping. Do you need something?”

“No, I stacked lumber in my shop and thought I’d see if you felt up to a day trip to Lake Homer. I made a basket and packed everything in my truck. All that’s missing is you.”

“We can,” Starry answered grumpily. The grin faded from his face.

“No, it’s okay. Get some rest.”

“Tim, wait. I don’t want you to be mad. We can go, I worked late last night and have to go back tonight. Let me get dressed.”

“Starry, it’s okay. I knew you had to work. It’s no big thing, okay? Get some rest. We can do it some other time.”

“Are you sure? Please don’t be mad at me.”

“I’m not. Sweet dreams.” He quietly punched the red button and tossed the phone on his workbench. “I guess I will unload the truck.” Tim took the basket in hand and walked into his cabin. He placed the food into the fridge and walked back to the truck.

Tim took out the revolver in the center console and checked to make sure he had loaded it. He closed the door and leaned against the porch. “This loneliness is too much. War took so much from me. Some of my friends never returned home, the ones who returned came back with serious issues. I am alone. It’s just me and the darkness. He flipped the gun around and stared into the barrel. The black frame reminded him of the loneliness in his heart and a tear rolled down his cheek. “There is nothing left for me here. I don’t want to be alone anymore.” 

The revolver is cold against his temple. He thinks of his friends lost in combat action, of the innocents who died because of the war. He closed his eyes. Tim’s loneliness dissipated in the hammer’s sound hitting the firing pin and the smell of burned gunpowder.

Tempest…

A while ago, I sat out to write a story about a dysfunctional family, who went on a trip via sailboat. Of course, it got laid to the side so I could focus on other things. Roughly two days ago, I found the thumb drive it was saved on. So, I am in the midst of changing it, hopefully sharpening the dialogue and correcting bits and pieces of it. I hope to present it in the upcoming writer’s contest and work it into a published work for NANOWRIMO.

Thanks for reading.

Freeman

P.S. Tempest will be published here for all to read. I wouldn’t leave my visitors to Freeman’s Front Porch Musings out. 😉

Reptilian…A short story…

The silence is menacing in the all-white room. I look around, white paint hides the blemishes of past paintings. It’s suffocating in here. A lone ceiling fan, the paddles made from fake wood, stirs the same air around the room. My nostrils tingle. The overpowering smell of bleach is intrusive. I sit in an aluminum chair and count the outlines of concrete brick. I make it to forty when the door swings open and a bald man, wearing squared off glasses, walks into the room. He sits behind an all-metal desk and flicks on the lamp.

“How are you today, Wiley?” His beady, green eyes bore into me, like a hawk watching a field mouse from high on his perch of pine. I look at the floor and shrug.

“I feel lost.” His green eyes never waver. The lens on his glasses are smudged. He pulls them off and wipes at them with a grey handkerchief. 

“Explain.”

“I don’t know how to Dr. Walker. I am stuck somewhere between apathy and righteous rage.” Sweat beads on my forehead, a sense of foreboding creeps in. “Crap. I’ve shared too much.” Dr. Walker puts his glasses on. His thin lips form a singular, hard line. 

“What has you in such a tizzy this morning? Is it family issues? Are you having trouble sleeping?”He stares at me, intently trying to gauge my responses by my facial expressions. I stand and walk to a potted plant in the corner of the squared room. 

“It’s nothing.”

“Then why are you stuck between apathy and righteous rage? Something has triggered this visit.” I touch the plant. It’s plastic. “Like the people who run this country. There is nothing real anymore.” I can feel his beady, green eyes on my back and the knowledge of it makes my insides quiver. 

“I don’t know where I fit in. It was a mistake to come here.” He motions to the chair and beckons for me to sit. I don’t move. Me and the fake plant occupy the corner. 

“There is nothing wrong with feeling like an outcast. All people experience it. War has made you leery of human interaction. It’s normal to feel out of place after seeing what you’ve seen.”

I sit on the floor. Me and the potted plant is rooted to the foundation. My face itches, I rub it. The long hairs of my beard hurt. I stare at the empty walls. “At least they aren’t on fire like the homes and businesses of the recent riots.” Down the hall a scream rings out. Instinctively, I flinch.

“Are you upset about the recent riots?” My neck itches, I rub it. I interlace my fingers. Sweat drips into my eyes, and I begin to rock.

“Where did we go wrong? Was it the lowering of the standards of conduct in a polite society? Did it have to do with interfering with the discipline practices of the family?” I mutter and rock. 

“I can’t hear you,” Walker says. He walks over and sits on the floor next to me. “I am here to help you. You can trust me.” I stop rocking. The presence of Walker is infringing upon my peace. “Go away,” I mutter. “He thinks you’re crazy.” I scoot across the floor and put my back to the wall. My chin hidden behind my knees; I stare at Walker like a mongoose stares at a snake. “He has beady eyes. Reptilian! He is a reptile.” As I rock, I watch. Finally, Walker stands to his feet and looks at his watch. “Would you like to schedule another appointment?”

I watch as the reptilian, human caricature sits behind the metal desk and pulls out an appointment book. “He is one of them.” I shake my head, sweat is flung from my hair.

“No. No appointments. I have to go.” I leap to my feet and rush from the room. “Don’t look at anybody. Nothing is real. Everyone is cold-blooded. Reptilian!” Hurriedly, I rush out of the intrusive environment. I gasp for a breath of clean air. The warm sunshine lights on my shoulder. People mill about me, I look around. I am trapped on a planet full of snakes, where nothing is real. 

In the quiet of my mind, I hear a snap. 

A sporting conversation…A short story…

“Uncle, are you excited for the return of college football?”

I peer over my glasses at my nephew. Scowling, I try to think up a reasonable answer without the hateful sarcasm which drips into my soul.

“Nah. I am done with sports.”

“Why? You love sports. Basketball, football, baseball, you love all of it. Why would you quit watching now?”

Apparently, I am not going to be able to avoid this conversation, no matter how hard I try. I place my coffee down and turn away from my computer.

“What is my incentive for watching sports? So, I can watch multimillionaires tell me who to vote for? Or hear them virtue signal about ‘social issues’ they ‘care about?’ No thanks.”

“They aren’t all like that, unc. Some of the athletes actually love our country.”

“Mmmhmm. Then they are ostracized for taking a stand against the system and sent to re-education camp.”

“You don’t understand, uncle. They are just expressing their First Amendment right.”

“Yes, I understand that. Here’s a question: Instead of taking a stance against the country that has provided them every opportunity to amass unimaginable wealth, why don’t they spend their time giving back to the impoverished communities they virtue signal about?”

Some do, uncle.”

“I agree that some do. Yet, every day more and more come out in support of Communist regimes who violate human rights with such ferocity it is mind numbing.”

“Uh-”

“Then to top it all off they want to consider themselves ‘social justice influencers.’ Some of these ‘influencers’ didn’t even finish high school. Yet, somehow they know what is best for all of us.”

“Uh-”

“Anymore questions about why I quit watching sports?”

“Um, no I don’t think so.”

“Good. Remember this, nephew. I swore an oath to defend this country against ALL enemies, both foreign and domestic. I don’t support organizations that are anti-American.”

“Okay. I think I’ll go home now.”

“Roll Tide.”

I watch as my nephew walks out to his vehicle. “There goes the single largest voting demographic in America. Whoever wins the youth will shape the future of the world.”

Bad intentions…A short story…

Is there an easy way?

Often you hear people say you can do it the easy way or the hard way. Retrospectively, I look back at some of my choices, and I only see the hard way.Maybe something is missing in the translation or perhaps, I am pre-programmed to only choose the hard way.

As I write a post for my blog, a vehicle tears down my driveway. Mirthlessly, I smile. “They’ll need a front end alignment when they bottom out at the base of the hill.” I listen for the bang of the vehicle slamming into the ground. It doesn’t take long. 

BANG!

“Someone’s unhappy now.” The driver slams on the brakes and the car slides to a stop. SLAM! Heavy footsteps rush across my porch, and I slide my sidearm out of the drawer. My front door is assaulted with heavy blows. 

“Yeah?”

“Mr. Freeman? My name is Denise, I am with the Sheriff’s Department. I need to speak with you concerning a recent post you shared on your social media site.”

“Sure. I’ll be right out. Have a seat on the front porch.”

“This won’t take long, sir. Could you open the door?”

“Sure.”

Quietly, I sneak out my backdoor and slip around the side of my house. Four deputies are in breach position, and all are armed. I pull my sidearm out and step into view. 

“Good morning.”

They all turn and I bring my sidearm up. 

“You guys planning on tearing up my house?”

Denise puts her hands up and the other three keep their rifles trained on me.

“We don’t want no trouble….”

“Says the lady with three shooters. Exactly what post do you and your overlords have a problem with?”

“We don’t want to kill you.”

“Well, that’s comforting news.”

Denise gestures to the black clad figures at her side and they lower their weapons. I lower mine in response to their willingness to compromise. 

“May we speak to you, Mr. Freeman?”

“Sure. You stay there, and I’ll stand here. Whatcha got?”

“You have shared numerous posts accusing the government of traitorous behavior. None of which has been proven. It is suspected that you may have terrorist ties. Are you a member of any such organization?”

“Lady, I live in the woods for a reason. I write a little, and rarely go into town. The woods provides me with what I need to live off of. I don’t do meetings or people very well.”

“I see, but there is still the posts that you’ve shared…”

“I mean no disrespect toward you or your team, Denise. However, if a few posts concerning the overreach of the government warrants a four man team to breach my cabin, then maybe the posts are accurate.”

“I could detain you and bring you in.”

“Yes, you could. I would suggest that we talk like civilized people and you say your piece.”

“Okay. Your government asks that you stop posting unverified accusations concerning their intentions.”

“Too easy.”

“Failure to comply will result in detention.”

I smile but all I see is red. Denise motions to her team members and they amble off my porch.

“Tell me something, Denise. Do you end all conversations with an implied threat?”

“Generally, we don’t have a conversation.”

“Okay. Well, y’all have a nice day.”

Denise forces a smile and I watch as the black SUV drives down my driveway. I wait to see if they return, but after a moment the roar of their modified exhaust dies out in the distance. 

“All that for speaking my mind? Bad intentions indeed.”

High Heat…A short story…

“Mississippi in the summer time is unbearable.”

Mary Jane Richter sits on the back porch and muses about the humidity which threatens to siphon the oxygen out of her system. A life-long native of the aforementioned state, she is acclimated to the bi-level threat of suffocating heat and smothering humidity. “I sure am thankful for the heat though, it keeps people from noticing my tears.” Mary Jane uses an old hanky to wipe the sweat and tears from her face.

“What’s the point in showering, when you just gonna be soaked after five minutes on the porch?”

Her hazel eyes watch as a worn out Chevy Cheyenne pulls up in her driveway. Jimmy Wayne Richter, Mary Jane’s twin brother, steps out and staggers toward the porch.

“It sure is a hot one lil bit. It’s hotter than Satan’s rump out here.” Mary Jane nods her head. “Yep. Whatcha doing here, Jimmy?” Jimmy Wayne, or JW, as he is known to those who might feel some tinge of regret at his passing, shrugs.

“Can’t I come see my baby sister?” JW’s black teeth glint in a mirthful smile. Mary Jane forces a smile back. “Sure, but weren’t you just in Parchment for a triple homicide? Or did I dream that whole nightmare about my brother being given three consecutive life sentences?”

“I got out early for good behavior,” Jimmy Wayne chuckles. “I can’t stay long, sister. Places to be an all that.” Mary Jayne runs her fingers through her black hair. Her hair is now streaked with gray, soon it would all be gray.

“Yeah, I understand. What do you want, JW?”

“Dad’s ole shotty still shoot?”

“Yes.”

“I need it and as many shotgun shells as you got.”

“It’s hanging on the rack over Ma and Pa’s bed.” JW walks into the house and the screen door slams shut. From the back porch Mary Jane can hear JW rummaging through the drawers looking for shotgun shells. Heavy footsteps announce JW’s presence at the screen door. “Eight shells? Is that it, MJ?”

“If that’s all you see, that’s all there is, JW. If I had known you would be breaking out of prison, I would have bought some.” JW nods and cradles the shotgun in the small of his arm.

“By God, I hate to ‘grab and run’ sister but the law will be this way in a minute.”

“Yep. Good luck, JW.”

“Love ya, MJ.”

“Love ya, too.”

JW crosses the yard and reaches for the driver door, when a shot rings out. The high caliber round slams into JW’s chest and punches him to the ground. Mary Jane pushes herself from the rocker and walks out to where her brother lies.

“Ugh-”

“Shh, Jimmy. Just listen. Did you really think after you got my children Denise an Lil’ Ricky involved in your scheming and dirty living, I would let it go? You killed my children, then you stop by here for help?”

“Ugh-”

“Stop trying to talk. I’ll spell it out for you. The Sheriff called me and told me you broke out. He asked if I would take care of you. You know, give the taxpayers a break an all that. I told him not to worry about it. So, you’re gonna die here, JW.”

“Ugh-”

Clamping a sweaty palm over her brother’s mouth, Mary Jane Richter smothers JW to death in the shade of a towering white oak. As JW convulses, MJ leans back against the tree. Her sweaty shirt sticks to her body and she watches as her youngest son walks out of the tree line with the 30-06 used to wound JW.

“Well, JW wasn’t wrong. It’s hotter than Satan’s rump out here.”

Tater Salad, Jesus and family…A short story…

“It’s a hundred today, Sue Anne if it’s ten. Even the cows are tired.”

Sandy-haired Sue Anne leaned on the cattle gate and gnawed on the blade of grass stuck between her teeth. Her blue eyes are shaded by her LSU hat. Sweat dribbles down her neck, and she swats at a mosquito who is trying to get a free meal.

“Yeah. Look at ‘em lazy cows, hiding out there in that shade. Maaaa, you lazy bums.”

Johnny Cruz, sat on his bike and spat on everything. Johnny’s hero is The Outlaw Josey Wales. Johnny is the product of Sue Anne’s aunt’s wild lifestyle. 

At one of the church’s ‘dinner on-the-grounds’ Sue Anne’s momma Beth, got into it with her sister Twila, concerning this unplanned addition to the family. 

“There ya go, Twila! Look at you all knocked up. You got no idea who the donor is do you?”

Twila balled her tiny hands into fists and her dark eyes showed the rage building in her heart. 

“We at the house of God. You gonna throw my mistakes in my face when the Lord will forgive me?”

“Getcha preggers stomach from over the tater salad you crazy broad.” Don’t nobody mess with the potato salad. Pregnant or not, we Mississippians will fight to the death over our comfort food. Of course, this is all water under the bridge. Sue Anne is 14, and Cousin Johnny is 13.

Sue Anne’s daddy has gone on to be with the Lord. He died at 38. He was a railroad worker. One hot day he passed out on the tracks and a train did him in.

After the company called Beth and gave her the news, she carried on something fierce. Wailing and thrashing, overturning tables, Sue Anne thought her momma was having a coronary. The old folks at church call it a conniption fit, but the preacher calls it a sin.

“Oooh Lord, you have put too much on me to bear!” Johnny and Twila sat on their porch and listened to Beth as she moaned for several minutes before Twila spoke.

“Well, she either got saved all over again, or somethin’ bad happened.” Twila slipped on her flip-flops and headed down the long, winding dirt driveway. Johnny pedaled his bike next to his mother.

They found Beth out in the yard, nary tear stained her cheeks. Instead, she clutched a stack of papers close to her chest. She waved them at Twila.

“That stupid redneck finally did something right. He took out a 400,000 dollar life insurance policy to provide for me and Sue Anne.” Sue Anne watched as her momma giddily pranced into the house. Looking at Twila and Johnny, Sue Anne shrugged. “Daddy always said momma’s religion only went so far. Her hypocrisy though went straight through to the bone.”

“You need anything,” asked Twila. She pulled off her flip-flop and swept the bottom of her foot off. Sue Anne shook her head no. 

“Nah. It’ll be alright. Momma may have a stroke or somethin’ if she gets more good news.”

“Well, y’all holler if you need anything.”

“Aunt Twila, do you think momma loved daddy?”

“Child, does it matter? You’re daddy is cold and in the ground.”

Sue Anne reaches down and plucks a blade of grass and began gnawing on it.

“Naw, I don’t reckon it matters anymore. Promise to shoot me if I act like momma, won’t ya?” Johnny punched his cousin on the shoulder.

“It’s the least I could do, after all, that’s the whole point of family.”

Friends…A short story…

Territory Days in Colorado Springs is a great time. Throngs of people take to the streets to participate in various events such as: live music, Native American dancing, craft vendors, beer gardens and Old West traditions to include learning to pan for gold. It’s my favorite event of the year. 

My name is Shame Williams. As a retired soldier I spend most of my days playing video games and reading Western stories. Most of the time, I sit in my recliner and play games though. However, when Territory Days roll around, I head down to Old Colorado City and spend the day participating in various events. My buddy, Barnacle Tim introduced me to this event. To add to the cool factor, Barnacle is a gold miner. He spends hours upon hours out in the wilderness searching for a vein of gold. Barnacle Tim, or BT as I call him, is 5’10, 175, and in his later 40s. He possesses the air of a man who spent his life in a library, his spectacles give him the appearance of a wise old timer, but his youthful smile makes him seem much younger. BT served in the Army, same as I , and we both grew up in the same geographical quadrant of the United States. 

Yawning, I stretch my arms overhead and reach for the sky. My phone buzzes on the uranium glass coffee table that my television sits on. I lean forward and cup my phone in my right hand. The digital clock reads 0700.

“Hello?” I look at the name written on the screen. It’s BT. “Why is he calling me so early this morning?”

“Hey bud, you know what today is, right?”

“Yeah. It’s Thursday, the weekend is almost upon us.”

“Yeah, but today is Territory Days. You want to run downtown and see what is going on?”

“Sure. What time do you want to leave?”

“Now. Or are you just waking up?”

“Actually, I have been asleep for maybe an hour. I got caught up in dungeon-running in Elder Scrolls Online last night. Went to bed about 0600. Give me a moment to get a shower and wake up. I will be by to pick you up.”

“Okay.”

My one bedroom apartment is small and the bathroom is even smaller. The toilet is next to the sink, and half of a step separates the toilet from the bathtub and shower combo. I shower quickly and throw on a Deadpool t-shirt and a pair of Levi’s. A pair of Under Armour half socks and black Addidas running shoes complete my outfit. “If it comes to comfort or class, I choose comfort.” Twenty-five minutes after BT’s phone call, I walk out to my teal green van and drive to his apartment on the corner of Murray and Platte. BT is waiting for me on the street corner. I pull up and he leaps into the passenger seat.

“Wow, you really must of jumped in and out of the shower. Are you good to drive?”

“Yeah. Where do you think we should park?”

“There should be plenty of parking down around the center of town. It won’t be too far of a walk to any of the events. Personally, I want to do the gold mining panning. It should be fun and educational.”

“Yeah. I’m probably going to hang out between the food vendors and Indian dancing…”

BT laughs and shakes his head. Throughout the time I’ve known him, he has often asked me to accompany him to various outings to search for gold. 

“You have no interest in mining do you, bud?” My lips pull back into a crooked grin. I look in the mirror. Laugh and worry lines stretch across my face, and I chuckle. “God, I am getting old.” I punch my buddy in the shoulder. 

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, bud. I think that climbing the mountains and walking creeks are a good time. I just never have caught ‘gold fever’ to the extent I want to look for an untapped vein.”

Old Colorado City is already teeming with crowds of people when we arrive. After driving through the pulsating throngs of people, we find a free parking space a couple of blocks past a Mexican restaurant, we often frequent when on this side of town. 

We walk back toward the town center. Tables of rocks, arrowheads, and turquoise jewelry are on display. I stop and look at the quartz and mica. Various rocks of different shapes and sizes glint in the bright sunlight. As a collector of arrowheads, I paw a few and finally select the ones I want to purchase. Barnacle taps me on the shoulder and nods at a beautiful Native woman who is dancing.

“Brother, look at her. Isn’t she beautiful?”

“Pretty as a picture, man.”

“Um, I’m going to walk over here and check this out.”

I chuckle and nod. BT falls into the same boat as I do when it comes to love. Both of us are divorced. Unlike myself, BT still believes in the power of love and long-term relationships. I believe love is a headache. 

A white-haired and bearded fellow takes my money and hands me my change back. His bluish-gray eyes show laughter as I pocket my change. 

“I take it your friend has never watched the Natives dance.” I smile and the old man smiles back. I shrug my shoulders and chuckle.

“He has lived in the Springs longer than I have, so I assume he isn’t virginal when it comes to the dances. Still, I can’t give you a straight answer because I don’t know for certain.”

“Her name is Tia Two-Eagles. She is my granddaughter.”

“Oh, neither me nor my friend meant any disrespect toward your family, sir.”

“It’s okay. She is used to being ogled by white men and Native men alike.”

“That’s not okay, sir. Why does she put up with people leering at her?”

He gestures around to the crowd of people pushing to get a closer look at the dancers. Then he motions to the table where I stand. I am the sole customer at his booth.

“Territory Days is one of the biggest events that my family works. Tia dances, my wife and I find arrowheads and make jewelry. Between the three of us, it takes all of us to make enough to cover our cost for the booths and gas to get us here. She puts up with it, because the more people drink, the more money they spend.”

“I understand-”

“How? How do you understand what I just said? Have you struggled to put food on the table? Do you spend your days trying to figure out how to maximize your funds, so that your child doesn’t do without the basic necessities?”

I look at the old man. His eyes are not unfriendly, instead, they show a tiredness which reaches deep in a man’s soul and forces him to resign to his fate. He extends his hand toward me and I grasp it in return. 

“My name is Hank Two-Eagles.”

“My name is Shame Williams, Hank. It’s my pleasure to meet you.” He smiles and nods his head. His bushy beard trembles with the motion.

“Likewise, Shame. “

“To answer your question, Hank, I do know what it is to worry that my daughters won’t have the necessary things in life. I get paid once a month, and I know what it is like to sacrifice my wants for needs. Our cultures are no different in that regard.”

BT walks over to where Hank and I are chatting. Silently, BT listens until a pause occurs in our conversation.

“You ready to walk on and check out other vendors, bud?”

“Sure. I just got caught up chatting with Hank here. You done watching the dancers?”

“Yeah. The pretty girl took a break. She will be back in a little bit.”

Hank smiles and I wave good-bye to my newest friend. BT and I walk on toward the next set of events together.

“Man, that woman sure is pretty. I wonder if she is single?”

“Her name is Tia Two-Eagles. Hank is her grandfather. They come here to help offset the cost of living here in Colorado. Hank and his wife hunt for arrowheads and make jewelry, Tia performs.”

“Oh. Are you interested in her, bud?” BT’s eyes darken and he looks away. “Surely, he doesn’t think I am trying to cut in between him and this dancing girl. He should know better.”

“No. I just got all that from her grandfather. I’m not searching for love. When that ship comes in, I’ll probably be at the airport.”

BT and I laugh and walk up to the gold panning event. BT moves close to the front, instantly entranced by the going-ons of the instructor. As I stand toward the back, a lithe shadow pulls up beside me. Too many years in the Army has made me wary of people being to close to me. I turn and recognize Tia from the dance. Dark hair, smoldering dark eyes, and luscious, full lips paint a picture of perfection in the shadows of Cheyenne mountain range. 

“Hello. You must be Shame. My grandfather spoke highly of you.”

My words catch in my throat, I shift from one foot to the other while I search for something witty to say in return. Finally, I smile and extend my hand.

“Yes, I’m Shame Williams. You must be Tia. Your grandfather is very proud of you it seems.”

She smiles, my God what a smile. Her white teeth glisten like snow on the mountains in January. Her laugh is musical, and I instantly wonder if maybe love has come calling.

She smiles and butterflies flutter in my heart. I feel like I am fifteen. We chat idly as the prospector goes over panning techniques. Tia touches my shoulder and playfully gestures toward the front row where BT had walked to.

My friend glares at me, and we lock eyes. I grin weakly at him and shrug. BT turns and walks away. Tia looks at me, a puzzled grin crosses her full lips.

“Is everything okay, Shame?”

I force a grin and nod. “Yeah. I think. My friend has a crush on you. He thinks you’re the most beautiful woman in the world.” She smiles, and I want to kiss her. “Down boy. Go find your friend.”

“Excuse me, Tia. I need to go find my friend and explain this misunderstanding to him.”

“Sure, I understand,” Tia smiles as she hands me her business card. “I think you and I could have a delightful conversation. Feel free to call me, or even better, look me up.” She winks at me and sashays away.

The sun has reached its apex as I wander through the throngs of people looking for BT. Unable to find him, I pull out my phone and text him. “I’m headed for the van. No need to rush, I am just tired of walking around.”

My phone chimes. “Fine. I’m already here.”

BT sits on a bench near the van. As I walk up, he crosses his arms and leans back against the bench. 

“You alright, brother?”

“Yeah.”

I stare at my friend of nearly a decade. We have hit the highs and the lows during our friendship. We have always found a way to get through the toughest times. Why does it seem like we may not make it through this one?

“Look man, I didn’t know Tia was going to show up at the prospector’s event. It took me completely by surprise.”

“Whatever.”

I stop and look at BT. Veins taut in his neck, his arms still crossed, he glares at me. Frustrated, I glare back. 

“You know man, if you want to talk to her, go talk to her. Don’t let me stand in the way of you finding true love.”

“Screw you, guy. I’m not a backstabber like you, ‘my friend.’ I don’t sneak attack people when they aren’t expecting it.”

My frustration morphs into anger. Balling my hand into a fist, I slam it into the grill of my van. My vision goes red. BT’s eyes widen as I step toward him. My friend puts his hands up to signal his desire to avoid being punched. 

“I didn’t mean it like that, bud-”

“Yeah, you did. Every word you let out of your bitter heart, you meant it. I think you should find another way home.”

“Come on, man. I overloaded my mouth, it happens to the best of us.”

“Yeah, you did.”

BT looks at me and shakes his head in frustration.

“Look, I’m sorry. She is a beautiful woman, I kinda lost my mind.”

“No doubt. I’ve never been accused of stealing someone’s woman. She approached me, not the other way around. When have I ever pursued a woman in all the time you’ve known me?”

“You haven’t. Again, I’m sorry. She seems to like you, so you should pursue her.”

“No. I’m done with women. I won’t deny that I felt a connection with her, but I have no desire to pursue anything in the romantic realm. I just want to die alone. Let’s go home.”

BT and I load in the van, and I slowly make my way back to my friend’s apartment. The butterflies I felt in the presence of Tia Two-Eagles is now gone. After dropping BT off at his apartment, I drive home. As I make my way up to my third floor apartment, I have an epiphany. “My game console will never come between me and my friend. Love is far too complicated for a simple guy. I’ll stick with the games, they’re safer.”

Questions and a few thoughts about a balanced life…A Walk in Darkness…

Why are any of us here? Is it to just go through the motions, pretending that we are living? Are we to worry about every aspect of our life? If our life is for living, what consists of living? Is working all we are meant to do? To strive for the next step on the corporate ladder? Is happiness a new car every five years? Does it come from owning a big house? Will a family fill the void? Or is it deeper than all the materialistic possessions we accumulate though our lifetime?

My personal belief is that a combination of balance is required to achieve happiness. As an example, I like to purchase a new firearm every time the urge strikes me. Vehicles are another obsession of mine. One day, I will own a ‘74 Power Wagon with a 440. One day. However, possessions alone leaves the spiritual man empty. In the Army, I strove to achieve ‘The Total Soldier’ concept. The easiest way to explain it is this: I attempted to attain excellence in every aspect of soldiering. This included: physical fitness, marksmanship, driving, appearance, knowledge, and competence in my MOS tasking. Also included was every additional duty that I was assigned, on top of caring for 22 soldiers. 

This same concept applies to life. Excellence is difficult to achieve.

Spiritual, mental, and emotional well-being are important for a well-rounded life. If one part is out of alignment it throws the entire picture out of whack. Joy comes from achieving balance in all three realms.

All too often we focus on one part and all the other parts to collapse. It’s what led me down into the darkness. I didn’t want to deal with what collapsed, so I focused on my career.  My spiritual tank had run slam out of fuel, my mental well-being was ignored and in the end-it almost killed me. 

So, if I were to hand out a free piece of advice it would simply be this: Don’t ignore your spiritual and mental well-being. Instead, keeping a balance of all three will improve your health, and you will reap the benefits of a well-rounded life. 

I mean, who doesn’t want to be a successful individual in any realm? To achieve happiness, and be grounded, calm, and have peace is priceless. Sure, you will still have bad days, but they won’t destroy you. If they do, tomorrow is a brand new day to try again.

The beginning of A Walk in Darkness…A short story…

I have written many stories, all exaggerated, about my walk in darkness. Yet, for all my writing, I never have written of how it started. Cue my struggles with alcoholism and drug addiction. It is a simple thing to blame it on my addiction or my change at the hands of war fighting. There are multiple reasons that led to my darkness. My struggle with addiction are only symptoms of my disease.

Like many folks, my descent into darkness happened quickly. It started with me leaving Ft. Hood and moving to Germany. At Ft. Hood, Texas field exercises were about two weeks long. Home was 10-15 minutes away at any given time.

In Germany, field exercises were 90 days and took place in various parts of Europe. I spent more time in the field than I did with my family. More time with my soldiers than with my children. I gave my devotion to the Army and my career, instead of to the woman to whom I swore undying love and loyalty.

As I write these words tonight, my issue is made manifest to me. I had my priorities in the wrong order. My ex-wife once told me, “you’re a great provider but a horrible husband and father.” The more things fell apart, the more I focused on my career. Then, I deployed to Iraq for fifteen months. The stress of war, the stress of drowning in the abysmal failure of my marriage, it was too much to bear. To top it all of, I began to have migraine headaches.

When I returned home to Germany, things became even worse. Minor problems caused me to erupt. All too often, I lashed out at my family. They weren’t the problem, they were just available targets for my rage. 

Tonight, as I tear the scabs off my heart, I wonder what would have happened if I had sought help earlier. Nothing matters now, what is done is done. There is no life in the past. I know this, but still I need to purge this out of my system. The story of A Walk in Darkness, is my story to tell. It is the story of a man with messed up priorities, who loses his way. It’s not a special story, but it is mine. 

My time in Germany morphed me into a hardhearted, calloused, unemotional caricature of the man I once was. To protect myself, I shut down all avenues to my heart. My sole focus rested on the advancement of my career. Moving to Colorado was the final nail into the coffin of my marriage.

At the end of my career and retirement from the Army in Colorado, my last unit was squared away. It didn’t start out that way. At the beginning of my time in Colorado, it was a gigantic Charlie Foxtrot. The structure of the unit was in disarray. The leadership had long given up on righting the ship, and I was one of the only ones who gave a rip about being an example for the lower enlisted to emulate. Hundreds upon thousands of hours was given to the unit, and none was given to correcting the issues in my marriage.

From the first day at the unit until the last, stress was my constant companion. Instead of communicating, I shut down and drowned my problems in Irish whiskey. To alleviate the pain of my failures on all fronts, I popped pills. My self-medication combined with stress, along with numerous traumatic brain injuries (TBI) led me to having a seizure. Then, I had 90 more in seven months. My walk in darkness had already begun, it just became more apparent when I lost everything.

I have been writing this story for a long time. Now that the beginning is on paper, maybe the rest of the story will flow out of my heart and A Walk in Darkness will finally be able to be told.