Saturday, September 3, 2011
An old short story
Sitting here thinking of the world on the other side of the jail house window, it never occurred to me how telling a scary story to a couple of snot nosed kids would lead me here…
I took a few days off from work and headed for a special place sixty miles north of ’Frisco on the coast. Some salt air, screeching gulls, sand between my toes, a quick getaway from my claustrophobic one bedroom apartment the city. Get my psyche’ recharged. De-stress and maybe work on a story with no legs. The story, a fisherman swept overboard, lost at sea and found six months later in a bathroom wrapped in kelp. I thought location would lead to inspiration, never considered prison.
Walking along the wet sand of the Pacific coast, waiting for inspiration and a recharge. Bothersome unleashed dogs running wild--unattended brats, all playing and having a grand time and disrupting mine. After a bit I headed over the mountainous dunes to my meager campsite. I pitched my tent tight against the dunes--below the sea breeze, near a picnic table with a fire pit.
The first night--wonderful, a gentle campfire, a flask of thirty year old scotch, just me, the sand, muffled surf and stars.
About twenty-five yards away a mom, dad and two kids camped in an old faded red and white cab-over camper, sitting on an even older booger green colored pickup. I noticed them at a glance. I go camping for my own selfish reasons and one can assume others do likewise, not a crime.
Around noon on the second day the kids next door got bored and strayed from their campsite. My turn to get a visit from the brother and sister team.
“Whatcha doing?” The little girl demanded as she walked right to my picnic table and flopped down, her younger brother poking a stick around in my fire pit.
My writing journal open with pen in hand--writing. Not wanting to acknowledge the intrusion. Inspiration looming.
“Writing what?” Asked the freckle faced nose miner.
“A ghost story.”
“Oh those kinda stories don’t scare me. I watch those chop ’em up movies all the time… can’t scare me.”
“Really?” A unexpected challenge, I liked her style.
“Yup… betcha can’t scare me.”
“Betcha I can.”
Fiddling with a small sliver poking out of the picnic table top, those small young eyes looking from under her eye lids, “Go ahead--try.”
I thought for a minute, maybe three minutes. “Did you see those signs posted looking for the two lost kids?”
“My mom and dad showed them to us and told us to be very careful.”
“Good advice good parents.”
“I know.” Such a brat.
“They found those two kids this morning.”
“Yes they did.”
“Right here in the campground.”
Her breathing tightened, her little red hair covered head snapped around to see exact spot the kids were found.
“They found them dead--been dead awhile.”
“Where did they find them?”
“You see those blue plastic toilets over there?”
She took another look. “Yep.”
“They found them down inside with the poop and stuff.”
“No way. They wouldn’t fit down that hole.”
“That’s where they found them. Have you been up there and used the potty?”
“Yep. I didn’t see no kids.”
“Then you remember how bad it smells in there.”
“Yep it smells really bad.”
“That’s why it smells so bad. Those kids had been down in there for a few days… rotting, with people going potty on them all the time. Rotten bodies really really stink!”
“Your story doesn’t scare me at all.” Looking over her shoulder at the blue plastic toilets and then to her brother. “Come on Tommy we have to go eat lunch.”
“So I didn’t scare you?”
“Nah. Bye” She grabbed little Tommy by the arm and ran to their camper where her parents laid out lunch on their picnic table.
The rest of the day uneventful and pleasant. Another walk along the cold slip sliding Pacific ocean. A refill of my flask. More inspired writing and another peaceful relaxing campfire. I crawled into my tent around three a.m. I happened to notice all of the lights in the camper still on, nothing to me, I hit the sleeping bag.
I told the cops it was 8:30 am when my stomach rumbled to life and out the tent I came, time for some bacon and eggs. I noticed the camper next door with the hood open on his color challenged pickup. His eyes met mine and he made a beeline for me.
“Hey!” His voice going up and octave with each step.
I wanted him closer.
“Good morning.” Not ready for anybody’s attitude.
“What the hell did you tell my daughter yesterday?” Squaring off towards me.
“What?” A thirty year old scotch fog dulled my response.
“What the hell did you tell my daughter? She was up all night… she left all the damn lights on in the camper and drained the batteries!”
“Do you need a jump start?”
“No! I need you to tell me what the hell you told her!”
“You’re a sick son of a bitch.”
“And your point is?”
“You should stay away from kids!” Pointing a finger in my face.
“Let me make a note of that--okay.”
He cussed a blue streak as he turned and walked away, no biggie, he wasn’t the first person I pissed off and certain not to be the last.
The dead batteries twisted him off something awful. He walked the half a mile the ranger station to call for a tow truck and complained to the ranger about my chop ‘em up story I was challenged to tell.
A sharp dressed park ranger complete with a cute Smokey the Bear hat pulled into my campsite.
“Good morning Mr. Ranger.” My inner fog lifting.
“Good morning. Seems these folks next to you have a complaint about some inappropriate behavior with you and their daughter.”
I explained the entire situation all over again, he seemed amused. He agreed I put the brat in her place, but advised me to avoid such storytelling in the future. Not a problem Mr. Ranger man.
The tow truck arrived, jump started the Job family RV and off they went complete with a coughing and sputtering engine.
Wanting to work off the bacon and eggs I hit the beach. One more night and back to the apartment and the job, part time animal control officer for San Francisco county.
My muse hit me on the beach and hurried my pace to my journal. As I crested the dunes, a mob of law enforcement officers surrounding the blue plastic toilets on the hill across from my campsite. Yellow crime tape fluttering in the breeze blowing in off the azure waters of the Pacific.
The cops found the two missing brats in the bottom of the blue plastic toilets.
My defense throughout the trial regardless of my current occupation--I was incapable of hurting the tiniest of God’s creatures. I sit here now, inspiration in full bloom, no crappy apartment, no more euthanizing strays, talking to my new friends, a fly on the wall, whispering to a couple of ants on the cold concrete floor. A cockroach was a buddy of mine for the first few months, but he moved on… I would never hurt any of these little critters. I even told the judge, “I wouldn’t even hurt a fly. “
But boys and girls, let me tell you that’s another story.