The Iron Writer Challenge #192
2017 Spring Equinox Challenge #13
500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements
Richard Russell, Elaine Johnson, Josh Flores, Emma Crowley
Any verse from the song Nightmoves, by Bob Seger, or scene in the video.
The Moon King
A pair of well-worn cowboy boots
A friendship that breaks up
Outside, the autumn wind flowed through the trees with the force of a mighty river. Caught in its relentless momentum, brittle leaves relinquished their hold and were hauled away as gleanings after the harvest. Inside, Ben Chalmers lay on his bed at home and watched nature proceed through a cycle long since set in motion. The bright, warm colors of fall had faded to gray-blues of winter; the once-lush abundance of summer had dwindled to a stark simplicity of hibernation.
Ben averted his eyes from the scene unfolding outside. His room was bare and simple, yet tidy. On the dresser sat his old brown wallet, key ring, and a small ceramic dish of loose change. Hanging on a wooden peg behind the door, his faded winter coat with patched elbows and mended rips from snagged briers waited patiently. Atop the coat, a sun-scalded baseball cap stained with the sweat of his brow held the dirt from his hand on the visor’s right side. On the floor sat a pair of worn cowboy boots; shiny, pristine shafts at the top, scuffed and dull uppers separating stiffly from cracked, tread-less outsoles at the bottom.
Turning his head to the nightstand, his alarm clock with worn buttons sat faithfully beneath a dusty reading lamp. Ben looked at the photo of his late wife, Clara, and sighed.
Hours passed; Ben lay still as the sun sank slowly on the horizon, the light in his bedroom slowly dimming. Several more hours passed; gradually the moon encroached upon the darkness and took command of the scene outside. Higher and higher it rose until his bedroom was flooded with a cold, bluish glow. He felt a presence in the room – it was the emissary of the Moon King; she had been expected.
“Well, here we are at last, old friend,” she smirked.
“You are not my friend,” Ben replied.
“You thought it would go on forever, didn’t you?” she teased as she circled the room hungrily.
Ben fixed his gaze straight ahead.
She proceeded to harangue, “It’s all for nothing. All your hopes and dreams …It all comes down to nothing. All the work you did, the choices you made, all the happiness and sorrow, joy, sadness, anger, and love … all for nothing!”
Ben stared ahead as his mind reeled under doubts that assaulted him, then asserted, “That’s not true!”
Leaning in close to his ear, she whispered menacingly, “He’s coming!”
A chill ran through Ben’s worn-out body; she leaned back and smiled triumphantly.
In seconds, another presence was in the room. Its desperate, bony fingers crept over Ben and clasped him firmly. Just as the hard, cold fingers were about to rip Ben from his bed and whisk him away to a darker, place, a brilliant light flooded the room; a mighty voice calmly claimed, “He’s Mine!”
In terror, the bony fingers released their grasp and fled away.
The warm, powerful voice called out, “Ben Chalmers.”
At that, Ben rose from his bed and the two entered eternity together as friends.
Never Forget, Never Forgive
The lyrics were just a little too loud in the half-empty room as I leaned against the bar and surveyed the crowd. He wasn’t there, not that I expected to see his well-worn cowboy boots across the wooden floor, but still. This is where he came every night after pulling his shift.
We might have been friends since grade school, but no more. Not after this. The volume on the jukebox seemed to increase:
“We weren’t searching for some pie in the sky summit
We were just young and restless and bored”
That about summed it up. Friends don’t do friends the way he did me. A friendship that spanned decades could wilt on the vine with two short words. There are some things you never come back from. I thought I’d known this guy. I thought he’d had my back, starting from the days when the other kids stole my milk money. The truth cut like a knife.
I shrugged. I just wanted to drink a few beers, play some pool, listen to the band, and support my sister, the lead singer. This was her lucky break, or so she insisted.
Sis touched me on the shoulder. “Now don’t go making any trouble tonight. Promise?”
I couldn’t believe my bum luck when the door opened; he saw me, started, then grinned and came over.
“I didn’t think we’d see you here anymore.”
Why punch him out? You argue to resolve differences. You fight it out if you’re trying to keep a friendship. I nodded, my eyes flickering between him and the boxing match on Channel 6, high on the wall. He waited, then waved to a friend and left just as the surround sound cut off mid-note.
Sis was adjusting the mike, making it screech a little as she scanned the crowd. She noted him and brightened, then picked up her guitar with a nod to him.
How was she to guess? From Little League on, we’d played together, cared together. Nobody would suspect it of him. No one. Not her, not me, none in our family, no one in our community, not a single of the old men with trembling hands and just one hope. I pulled a long swallow. It would destroy folks if they knew, sure as if he’d pulled a trigger. I‘d never reveal his treachery. I’d carry the bitter truth to my grave.
His words burned in my brain. Two words that, even if he took them back, would always be there, like a snake whose venom burns deep. Two words that nobody who lives by the river that winds through Georgia could say – not in good times, not in bad times, not when the home team faced the New England Patriots. It didn’t matter that he was drunk and mad at his girlfriend, second cousin to the starting quarterback’s high school sweetheart. There’s no way to forget, no way to forgive. You just can’t make this state your home and ever yell, especially on Super Bowl Sunday:
My Moon King
Six months ago I might have thrown an arm across the passenger seat as my car jerked to a stop, but today it doesn’t phase me when the boots clatter to the floor, thrown by their own momentum. I can feel a smile tugging at the corners of my lips as I reach over to pull the parking brake, gazing down at the well-worn leather now speckled with dust and grime from the floor of the car. The stiff leather now creases as the cowboy boots lay in a messy heap. Crumpled, broken, abandoned; if I could turn the mess of emotions inside of me into an object, the result would look a lot like the scene in front of me.
I grab the boots by the tops, so that the spurs knock together as I lift them. I can’t help how the jingle of metal against metal makes my heart lift, the perfect accompaniment to any song. Even during their very first ride on my inexperienced feet, somehow the jingle of spurs made my jerky steps sound as graceful as a ballet dance. Perhaps that was why he let me wear them, he didn’t need any tool other than his own two feet to show off his grace and talent.
My fingers trace over the letters stitched into the worn leather, something they had done hundreds of times before. ‘The Moon King’. The boots had belonged to his father, the one who had founded the square dancing club where our hands first met; he had been the original master, the original Moon King. I remember how he had smiled at me when he first saw the boots on my feet instead of his son’s; the same kind expression will fall on the boots’ next wearer, whoever that may be.
I hope it isn’t her.
I finally drag myself from the car, being none too gentle with the shoes as I carry them up to his front porch. I reach up to brush my hair back behind an ear, but my fingers freeze as I see him through the front window, one arm draped over her shoulders. Her blonde hair showers over her shoulders, something mine could never do. Not that it was a competition, it never was. I think our favorite song, Night Moves, said it best, we weren’t in love, oh no, far from it. We were just young and restless and bored. She is his girlfriend, I am his best friend.
Was his best friend.
He stopped coming to dance practice when he took her hand. The music left his eyes, and all I can see in them now is her. His body has lost its grace, he trips and tumbles over his own two feet to impress her. He didn’t even ask for his shoes back.
I drop the cowboy boots on the step and wander back to the car with my hands shoved deep in my pockets. As I back out of the driveway, I pause for one last glance at the boots.
Even if nothing changes, I hope they remind him of who he once was. My Moon King.
Nothing like good time-worn leather to keep a person safe and warm. Especially handy in the chilly summer-to-autumn nights of Chicago. The wind doesn’t bother me much on such evenings, but the near-frozen ground does. As I walk to my car from the drive-in concession bathroom, the crunch of gravel and dirt shoots up shards of vibrations. If it wasn’t for these leather boots, my feet would be freezing and legs would be shivering.
All of the drive-in movie theaters have gone out of business. The one I am in is no different. There is no movie playing, me and my car are its only occupants. Only one reason to be here: Memory.
This drive-in is my go to . I would drive myself, alone, in my van, to spend a few hours, but only to see the movies of one actor, even if he only played a minor role . He was my first love. My only love. He will never know .
Images of Popeye, Garp, Genie, and the Moon King flash across the grey-white concave wall lit by the full moon. He always made me laugh, even when we were kids in school. We were best of friends until his family moved to Detroit in 1963, when we were twelve.
We used to sneak into this theater late Friday or Saturday nights to catch a movie. We would sit on the grass. He would sometimes break into imitation of a character in the movie. Laughter was second nature to him. Making it come out from me made him happy. I loved him for it. I wish I could have told him.
“I think, therefore you is.” Oh, how I wish this was so. My favorite line from his Baron Munchausen role as King of the Moon. He is in front of me. He is smiling in that way of his, just before he is about to go crazy. I think. Therefore you… no… he isn’t. At least not physically.
The big screen, chipped and graffitied but majestic, stands watch over the lot, over me standing next to my van The speaker posts stand in neat rows, sentinel guardians of imaginations and millions of secret rendezvous in back seats.
I started humming a song from 1962 as I climbed into my van. Funny, I know the tune, no lyrics, no title, and no artist, still it is catchy.
The engine purrs as it seeks to warm me up. The stars and moon perform a slow waltz which somehow my mind can see. Strange how the night moves, with autumn closing in.
Moving to the back seat, a brown web of crocheted yarn envelops me. The warmth it brings, like the touch of another’s skin, my body welcomes. The dvd player comes to life. I imagine the small screen projecting onto the big screen outside. The movie comes on. I let myself go into the world which the movie tells me is true. I wait for what dreams may come.