The Iron Writer Challenge #203 – 2017 Summer Solstice Challenge #9

The Iron Writer Challenge #203

2017 Summer Solstice Challenge #9

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

(Authors names will be posted to their stories next Thursday, after the voting is concluded.)

The Elements:

Moonshine

A State Fair

Nursing a broken heart

Starlight

 

A Song to Soothe the Soul

As the radio wailed, he took a swig from his longneck, his eyes on some distant spot only he could see.

When you can’t find the light
That got you through the cloudy days
When the stars ain’t shinin’ bright
You feel like you’ve lost your way

When the candlelight of home
Burns so very far away
Well, you got to let your soul shine
Just like my daddy used to say

He used to say soulshine
It’s better than sunshine
It’s better than moonshine
Damn sure better than rain…

“That’s Soulshine.  You know who wrote that?”

“I always thought it was Greg Allman.”

“Close.  Warren Hayes.  He played guitar with the Allman Brothers.

“Man, I sure felt like I had no more soulshine when she dropped me.  Guess she thought Mama knew best.  I was so glad to get that gig at the state fair in Perry with that group out of Muscle Shoals that I broke my own rule about working in one-horse towns where the sidewalks close at dusk.  The band had just finished its last set and we were breaking down the stage, and there she was.  Big old blue eyes, cute little figure.  By that time any hope of finding a beer was gone ‘cause everything was closed, so I thought, what the hell.  Nothing better to do. ‘Excuse me, do you work here?’ she asked, her eyes all shiny like watching us break down that stage was the most exciting thing in the whole world.  If all you’ve seen is Perry, Georgia, I guess it was.

“So, after the gig ended, I figured I’d stay a few days.  Six weeks later I’m still there.  I’d pick her up from work.  Went to church with her.  She even got me to lay off the booze for a while.  I’d gone from being a roadie to being a toadie.  When I think of the money I blew trying to win her that teddy bear.  And then we watched those little bitty six-year-olds showing off their baby lambs.  Okay, I’ll admit that those kids were something else.  So cool and composed.  Maybe that’s what growing up on a farm does for you.  Hell, you know I normally don’t go in for that kind of small-town B. S.  Very Andy-effing-Griffith, without Opie and Aunt Bea.

“In the whole time we were together, all I got for my trouble was lots of smiles and a few kisses at her door before her mama chased me away with those laser eyes that could kill.  After all my good behavior, her mama still hated me.  Knew I was bad news.  She could see me coming a mile away.

“I am one big, certifiable Class A dope, but maybe that life has some appeal.  Does love make us that stupid, or are we just trying to live in a Father Knows Best rerun?  From now on I’ll invoke the mantra of the four F’s like when I was in high school—find ‘em, feel ‘em…you know the rest.

“Thanks for listening, man.  Maybe I’ll catch you in Nashville.  I just got hired on with Vince Gill.”

Moonshine Dreams

It is once again time for the state fair in Toad Lick, Kentucky. The locals look forward to this every summer. It’s a week-long event that is part of the Founders’ Day celebration. Along with the normal carnival rides, there are different events all week long. They have the pie judging contest, the watermelon seed spitting contest, demolition derby, a sister cousin beauty pageant, and many other events, but tonight is the awaited moonshine tasting event. Billy Joe Bob is proud of his entry. He proudly calls it Starlight. Of course, it’s about 180 proof so he thinks he has a very good chance of winning.

Poor Billy Joe Bob just has to win tonight. You see he is nursing a broken heart. He received a note the other day from his girlfriend, breaking off their relationship. She wrote:

Dear Billy Joe Bob, 

I can’t be your girl no more because I loves Cooter Floyd Delmont. You are really nice an’ all but Cooter has his own pick-up truck and a brandy new trailer. I still like you some and we sure can still be cousins, but that be it.

Love,

Cousin Claudine Jo Clifton

So you see why that winning tonight is so important to him. He figures if he wins tonight then Claudine Jo will come back to him and he won’t have to wait for family gatherings to see her. Winning the best moonshine is very prestigious in Toad Lick.  As a matter of fact, the winner last year was voted in as mayor and trailer inspector, so good things do happen to the winners.

It was time for the moonshine tasting and Billy Joe Bob is as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. His is the last one to be tasted and he didn’t like the looks on the judges’ faces as they sampled the jars before his. They were seemingly very impressed with what they tasted before they moved down to his jars. The three men soon approached the young man and each tasted his shine. He heaved a sigh of relief when the judges seemed to enjoy it. A few minutes later, the judges returned to the table and took a drink from two other contestants and from Billy Joe Bob.

The judges huddled up and made their decision. Billy Joe Bob shouted for joy when they placed the blue ribbon on the jar they tasted from. Billy Joe Bob was even more excited when Claudine Jo Clifton, smiled proudly, showing all four of her teeth and rushed up on the stage, hugged him. She told him she was sorry for leaving him and asked if he would take her back. The judges then asked him to be the grand marshal in the Founders’ Day parade and Billy Joe Bob beamed with pride. He won the best moonshine contest, was asked to be grand marshal in the parade and got his cousin girlfriend back. All is right in Toad Lick tonight.

Saved by the Belle

Even the moonshine wouldn’t numb the pain from his bleeding heart. “Alcohol fixes everything,” they said. But not this time. Neither could the beautiful lights nor the jovial energy that flowed at the State Fair, bring him out of the dark hole that love, rather the lack of it, had dumped him into. 

Thousands of stars above, reminded Adrian of the tears he had cried, over the recent loss of his relationship. The starlight too, proved useless in brightening up his mood.

“Why did they have to drag me out of my room? I was perfectly fine wallowing in my misery. Nobody at college even noticed I was gone,” he shouted to nobody in particular.

“Maybe they just felt guilty for leaving you behind?” 

He jumped, almost dropping the blade that he was holding. It had become his accessory over the last week as thoughts of suicide played on his mind with every aching second that passed. 

The unexpected reply caught him off-guard and he squinted as his eyes adjusted to see the person it came from.

“It’s not nice to eavesdrop, you know,” he said, still unable to grasp a clear view. 

“Well, you’re the one shouting, I wouldn’t like unanswered questions, so I was obviously doing you a favor!” She said. “By the way, what’s eating you?” 

Wow, she’s blunt. Maybe if I ignore her she’ll go away.

He stared on in silence. 

“I’m Belle, just so you know. I too, was dragged here. I’d rather be home with my nose in a book instead of this over-the-top celebration. It’s so commercialised, these fairs. And everybody just goes wild over it. There are more important things to spend money on, but hey, what to I know?” she said, brushing her hair back in exasperation.

She was a beautiful girl around his age, he noted still brooding in silence. She sat beside him seemingly oblivious to the absence of his speech while she rambled on, making up for the loss of conversation from his side. She was clearly not taking the hint. 

“Go away, please. It was hard enough finding this secluded spot away from all the “happy people” and now you’re intruding on my isolation.” 

“Excuse me? You’re the intruder. I was here first!” She said, bemused. 

Standing to go, he halted in surprise as she grabbed his hand. Using him as a lever, she stood. “Wait,” she said as their eyes met. 

A heavy sigh escaped him as she scribbled something onto a page from the notebook she had used as a seat, earlier on. 

“Here.” She placed the paper in his hands. “Sometimes all we need is a stranger to listen.” And with that, she had disappeared into the night. 

That was the night, ten years ago, Belle had saved him. Deep down, he knew that she knew it too. They became good friends since he took that leap of faith and called her. 

Happily married for five years, they sometimes still laugh nervously about their initial meeting, lucky to have found each other on the night, that life would have been lost.

Chattahoochee Moon 

“So where are we on the heartbreak thingy now, Lizabel?” asked Emory, gently rocking their cart.

Elizabeth snuggled closer to him, looked out over the bright fair lights, grateful beyond everything for this magical best friend of hers, and reached for the flask Emory had smuggled in. “Much better now, thanks to you and your Chattahoochee moonshine. A little more and I’ll have totally forgotten it, along with my name.”

“Hey that’s my best Moon Hooch, created just for you in honor of the occasion!”

“Well, it and you are working your magic as usual, rescuing me from myself and my genius life choices.”

“Oh, come Lizabel, other than nursing this broken heart over an idiot not worth your time, you know how great you are and how great your life is; you just need to recommit to your creative muse and forget about good looking, charming, sociopaths. Cause if there is one out there, you will find him and make him yours.”

Elizabeth nodded her agreement and reached again for the flask. She looked up at the stars and then at Emory. “Thank you. For always being here for me. And making the best moon hooch ever. And for being so super damn fabulous.” 

Emory gently extricated the flask from her grasp. “Easy now, you still have to walk out of here when we get ground side again, cause I’m so not carrying you.” 

“How long are we going to be up here anyway? Not that I’m complaining; being on top of the Ferris Wheel with you is a pretty great place to be, but surely we’ve been up here a while longer than normal?” 

Emory smirked. “I slipped the guy running it a twenty to leave us up here as long as he could. What do you want to do next?” 

Elizabeth pondered seriously and as they began to slowly move back towards terra firma started giggling. “Let’s go get Mamie and go skinny-dip in the Chattahoochee in the starlight!” 

Emory shook his head, grabbed her hand, hauled her back down to earth and suggested they walk around the fair some more. 

And as they did, Elizabeth suddenly stopped cold. “Oh, my God!” 

Emory looked around frantically thinking perhaps the Idiot had suddenly appeared, but saw nothing. He looked at Elizabeth, baffled.

“Look!” she said, pointing rapturously.

And Emory looked up to see the largest purple spotted dinosaur in the history of the world, dangling over their heads. Oh, Emory, I HAVE to have him. My broken heart will be utterly cured, and I’ll have him for company when you go back to North Carolina. His name is Franklin. Please can you win him?” 

Emory sighed the most put upon sigh ever, looked at her lovely, hopeful face and said, “Of course, honey.” 

After ten unsuccessful tries, Emory went over to the carny operating the rigged game to buy more chances. And pretty soon, Emory, Elizabeth and Franklin were on their way home, Franklin having to ride with his head poking out of the sunroof. Best two hundred dollar bribe ever, thought Emory.

The Iron Writer Challenge #202 –  2017 Summer Solstice Challenge #8

The Iron Writer Challenge #202

2017 Summer Solstice Challenge #8 

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

(Authors names will be posted to their stories next Thursday, after the voting is concluded.)

The Elements:

A sunrise

A revelation

A fairy tale

Will you make me so happy for the rest of my life? 

Sunshine on My Face

She clambered out of the window, dropped to the ground, winced at the noise, and waited.   

Silence.   

She ducked low, tiptoed to the car, and eased the door handle.   Locked.   She bit her lip and went towards the van.    A branch crunched underfoot.   She froze.  After a moment, she slipped to the driver’s side.   The keys must be in the house.    

Nothing for it.  

She wasn’t dressed for this kind of terrain.   She hunched into her shirt, shivered against the icy wind, and started down the driveway, listening, listening.     As soon as she rounded the curve, she moved into a run.   

She fell, and fell again, and slowed to a walk.   Breaking a leg wouldn’t help.    But the line of orange in the distance meant she didn’t have much time.  She got to the road, turned right and began jogging down the mountain, trying to follow the asphalt, but staying close to the ditches, just in case.  It helped that a pink glow cast eerie shadows over the landscape.

The whole mountain was silent.  The only sounds were her footsteps, her panting, and the rocks that skidded beneath her.    

A crossroad.   Which way?  

It was almost sunrise, one of the most spectacular she’d seen in her life.  A white fog on the low areas, a distant peak, and an orb of gold that bathed her face.     It looked like the background for an animated fairy tale: so perfect, so bright.   She couldn’t tear her eyes away from the colors.  The air was fresh and crisp with a faint whiff of pine.  

It came to her, like a revelation: she loved her life.   She loved life.  Even with the bumps and the hiccups and the bills.    

How could she have missed that?    How could she have taken it all for granted?  She felt a rush of gratitude for this moment, for this life, for this day, for the chance to breathe one more time.  

A truck was coming from the right.  Either her only hope or the worst thing she could do.    She couldn’t decide, then stuck out her thumb.   

It stopped.  The driver leaned over, “You’re a long way from home.”  His eyes were searching.   

“I was on a date that went bad.  I’m trying to get to Springfield.”    

“I can take you to the first exit off the interstate.”  

Just before she clambered in, she stuck her hands deep in her pockets, pulled out a folded paper, hesitated, and dumped the white powder in the dirt.  She did it low, where he couldn’t see.     

His radio was on.   It took her a moment to recognize the tune, “Will you make me so happy for the rest of my life?”

Shard the Beast

The sun was rising over Coldwater. With his feet dangling in the water from the pier, Shard looked at his reflection. It looked back at him. It was a hideous beast that peered from the rippling water. There was no wonder that others feared him, or if they knew him, just made fun of him. 

Shard feared nothing.

Times were hard. Every available man was drafted to the war cause, and every resource was put towards the effort to keep the invaders out. Shard knew these people. He grew up sleeping his nights in the loft of Mr. Walter’s barn, but he felt the call to war just as any other. So, when Shard volunteered to wear the uniform, he felt there was no reason to be turned down.

Shard was wrong.

“We don’t need pigs in our infantry” the commander said to him.

And so, Shard farmed. And he chopped wood. And he put iron shoes on the hooves of horses. And nothing may have ever changed from that, except word had travelled that a girl had gone missing. The battlegrounds were pushed to the east, and her home was caught in the middle. Her father had sent his friend Walter word in desperation.

Walter knew of no able body to spare other than Shard. Walter raised Shard from a boy. Walter kept him fed and in the loft of his own barn. With years of farm labor, Walter made a man out of this beast. Now it was time for Shard to return the favor.

“I need to ask a favor” Walter spoke, but Shard could see nothing except for the blinding light of the morning sun.

Shard said nothing, but held a hand up to his forehead in an attempt to see more clearly.

“I need you to find a missing girl” Walter said.

“Yeah?” Shard asked.

“In the middle Andalusia” Walter explained.

“A girl? In the middle of a battlefield? To make me happy for the rest of my life?” Shard let go a belly laugh. “Why me?”

“Because I trust you.”

“And?” Shard pursued.

“And because there is no one else to send”, Walter replied.

“How could I find her?”

“The last anyone heard, she was at Blackheart Farms. You remember John we used to trade bulls with?” Walter asked.

“Yeah?”

“Looks just like him” Walter replied. “Well, except she’s a girl. Name’s Becky.”

“Why would I do this? No one ever trusted me.”

“John is offering a reward- a big one, a cabin and a piece of land at his farm if she is found safe. Besides, Shard, I’ve watched you become a man, like my own son.”

“Sons, don’t sleep in lofts. Sons help defend the land.”

“You can’t fight in the war son. Your blood is northern.”

“What nonsense is this?”

“You look like northerners because you are from the north- an instrument of war ever since you were brought here.”

“I am…” Shard voice trailed off across the water.

“You are one of the beasts we battle.”

A breeze blew ripples across the water leaving reflections distorted, but the anger distinctly clear.

A Fairy Tale Life

The morning sun shone through the bedroom window, warming Alexis’s face. Her lips curled up into a smile as she heard birds chirping outside. She slowly opened her eyes and stretched. She yawned as she sat up in bed and looked out of the window and stretched her arms out again. She slipped her feet into the slippers by the bed and walked out into the kitchen. The aroma of fresh-brewed coffee wafted by her nose. She was glad she set the timer on the machine the night before so now she only has to pour the delicious black liquid into a cup and go out on the deck. She sat down at the patio table and just marveled at the beautiful colors that the morning sun has painted the sky.

This is her idea of a fairy tale. No princes, no princesses, no evil queens, no magic potions. This is her ideal fairy tale. Writing novels and living in a cabin on a hill surrounded by nothing but forest and a big, beautiful lake a few yards from her place. The morning sun danced off the water in the lake creating little white sparkles that seemed to twinkle like the stars in the night sky. Alexis purchased this cabin after the sale of her first novel and wrote her second successful novel here. This is her happiness; her happily ever after.

Like in all fairy tales though, she does have a conundrum. Alexis hasn’t written anything for her next novel yet and her deadline is fast approaching. She has read magazines, watched television shows, and movies to try and get some inspiration but nothing has struck her as gold yet. After breakfast, she went into her living room, sat down on her couch and turned the television on. A talk show was on and they showed a special proposal a man made to his fiancée and he said to her, “Will you make me so happy for the rest of my life?” This revelation struck the woman because she was not expecting this. She was a part of the show under another pretense.

She said yes and the audience applauded. The couple hugged and then cried on each other’s shoulders. This moved Alexis and she suddenly had the inspiration she needed for her next novel. It would be a romance novel and it would have a surprise proposal in it. She poured herself another cup of coffee and sat down with her laptop and began typing away. This is the happy ending to her very own fairytale. This is what makes her happy; and it will for the rest of her life.

Revelation

I sat there with her lying in my lap on the edge of the forest, watching the upper limb break the horizon.

On that night, with the drinks, the laughs, the fooling around and the amphetamines shared around the camp fire, forever warming our carefree hearts, I had a revelation. My mind, one moment wiped out with fun and wasted from the party came clear the next instant, and all seemed so elementary, so simple. Life became one flowing luminous spiral through the trap of time and I saw all. The uncaring, screaming creature that held the universe together was one with me, and we soured through a multitude of neutrons and protons in the dark matter soup.

Gone were my worries of not being able to get the rent together for next week, or fix the bike that seized up from lack of oil and funds, or stop the boys from smashing my kneecaps in due to not making the next payment on my amplifier. Gone were my troubles of dropping out of college, working in a supermarket stacking shelves and failing to keep up with the financial needs and desires of my last girlfriend.

But this girl, this girl… I felt the morning orange sun touch my face as it grew in sight, warming my cold skin and drying the cold dew which lay there. The sun stirred my heart, as she did. I could feel she was awake, eyes open.

“That’s nice,” she said. I stooped my head and kissed her on the cheek, feeling my lips caress her cool face.

“Yeah, baby, it is.”

“It feels like a fairy tale, like it’s not real somehow.” Her arms wrapped around my legs and she hugged them.

“None of it is. All we have is each other and nothing else.”

She sighed and we watched the movement of the sun, bringing fire to the earth and waking life once more. The shadows of the land, asleep in trees and hedges, stretched tall and long, running from their tormentor until they were finally caught and scurried back from whence they came. The fields of wheat and barley swayed this way and that as they grabbed what rays they could to escape the blanket of sleep.

“What will we do when we get back?” she asked. Her question meant nothing to me. There was nothing to go back to.

“Whatever we need to do,” I said, the words emanating from my mouth sounding strong and pure for once in my life. I knew what was to be done. And she felt it, lifting her head and meeting mine, kissing me. One look in her eyes told me all I wanted. She was the one. 

“Will you make me happy for the rest of my life?” she asked, smiling and resting her head on my shoulder.

“Well baby, I’ll give it a shot, but if I can’t, I’ll die trying.” I kissed her as the final slither of sun ripped from the horizon.

Growth

The seed squiggled under the moist warm loam. A sharp stab from bitter chill air stilled its movements. The heat generated from decaying foliage blanketed the seed, pulled at the seed’s outer wall, entreating entry. The seed pushed deeper into the soft soil. This foreplay between the soil and seed was their intimate copulation ritual which they performed for days.

Then one day, the seed’s wall began to crack under the gentle passionate pressure. The fissure was tiny at first, but it was large enough to allow penetration by the nourishing peat’s breathe. The tiny plant inside the seed cowered in fear, as the strong musky scent kissed it, inviting physical contact.

The plant grew bolder and pushed against its walls, breaking the opening wider.. The earth whispered encouragement and enticed it by carrying life giving gases as it caressed the yellow-white flesh of its lover. An appendage stretched out of the shell, twisting slowly, brushing against the wispy fibers of lost life asking to return. Small hairs suckled at the threads, pulling the rest of itself down. The plant’s tip finds the dirt, its tip presses against it. Finally, they have found each other, that instant of touch sealing their fates, forever intertwining them. 

The hairs branch out, growing, finding small tunnels, pushing into soft soil, penetrating deep. The root pushes deep into the ground, sending arm after arm out to hug the earth in order to draw into itself all which it needs. The soil gives all it has, it doesn’t mind, knowing the plant will return it in time. The plant digs deeper into the soil, the soil grabs hold of the plant, one taking, one waiting to take. 

The plant reaches for more. It needs more. The earth knows it cannot give what the plant needs. It is too yellow, too weak. It has to find energy. The plant points its head towards the ground, refusing to seek out what it needs elsewhere. The soil consumes the loam faster, sending its friends out. The soil cannot help it more. 

The plant’s body thinned, its coloring darkened, its flesh flaked. The earth sent a final burst of warmth. The plant lifted its head. Something strange pricked at its top. A new warmth, but also a coolness. A jolt of energy surged from the spot on its head towards its body and into its roots. The plant found the strength to stand straight. As it did, its head was bathed in a light.  It raised its head opened up, showing full petals to a round red orb on the horizon. The plant knew now this was what it needed. The hunger it had flowed away, its body changed color as it grew stiffer. It opened its many arms in thankfulness to its savior. Its head followed the orb as it moved from red to orange to yellow to white and back again. 

The plant’s roots tickled the earth in gratitude while it gazed upon the orb with a look which asked: Will you make me happy for the rest of my life?

 

The Iron Writer Challenge #201 – 2017 Summer Solstice Challenge #7

The Iron Writer Challenge #201

 2017 Summer Solstice Challenge #7

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

(Authors names will be posted to their stories next Thursday, after the voting is concluded.)

The Elements:

Do Not Go Gently Into that Goodnight

Doing a puzzle

A saxophone

The basement

Night Moves

Steve Scott

Living in Brooklyn can have its advantages. You could say that you would never be bored. For entertainment I have a ten story movie screen wall of the next building where the residents are either exhibitionists or blithely unaware they are exposing their daily drama to the world. It is better than one of those sports bars with twenty-seven different TVs blaring out at the same time. For example: Fourth floor and five windows to the left — a nightly “slug-fest” between Mr. and Mrs. Curmudgeon. Fifth floor and a few windows to the right — a shapely and more than amply endowed young woman who seems to like undressing very close to the window. I do not reject this odd practice and it is part of my evening enjoyment. Ninth floor, somewhere in the middle, the Boots Randolph (or Charlie Parker) wannabe who practices his alto sax nightly with excessive vigor. Exercises from Exercices Journaliers D’Apres Terschack Tous Saxophones. I can barely hear him but enough to know that although his technique is flawless, he is always a quarter tone flat. “Push in damn it, push in!” (the mouthpiece) I shout.

When my interest in this nightly show wanes, I turn to my puzzles: jig saw puzzles. I am a sucker for them. The harder, the better, like the 1,000 piece monsters you can find at K-Mart. So I usually have a million mili-pieces spread out over two card tables. My latest one is a tranquil fly fishing scene in Montana – cool river colors with a majestic back-drop of snow-capped mountains. So far it has been sitting there for nine month undone because the last piece is missing, the head of the fly fisherman and the central focus of the whole damn puzzle. The puzzle represents all the unfinished business and frustrations in my life. Add to that, Mr. Sax and my stupid cat Morris. The TV cat Morris is much smarter.

On edge lately, but having comforting dreams where I dispatch someone into the NetherWorld with barely a twinge. This may be a Freudian release of some description but is quite satisfying to me and I do not feel in the least bit guilty.

Tonight, after cleaning the cat box and cat house, what should I find but the missing puzzle piece of the fisherman’s head. Oh Joy! Morris had purloined it in the dead of night and hidden the treasure like a Magpie’s propensity to steal and covert shiny baubles. I am thinking: why do I need Morris? Why do I need my puzzles? Why do I need the torment of the off-key musician? I begin to conjure thoughts most pleasurable.

Although I have never considered myself a candidate as a serial killer, the idea holds a certain allure. I could execute the musician, stuff the cat into the saxophone and bury the lot in my basement. At that point, I would totally ignore the admonishments of poet Dylan Thomas and WOULD go gently into that good night, without a rage, and whistling a happy tune!

The Safe House

Elaine Johnson

Nothing about this was what she expected.  Not that she’d ever thought much about the Witness Protection System or even considered that being in the wrong place at the wrong time might thrust her into it.  She’d seen the crime, and knew she wouldn’t be able to live with herself the rest of her life if she just let it go, but what could she possibly know that might justify Witness Protection of all things?  

However, if the FBI insisted that this was necessary, she was not going to go gently into that good night.   She was determined to survive.  If she could.   

But a lot of it didn’t make sense.    

For one thing, the trip violated every safety precaution she so carefully insisted on at home.   Shortly after getting into the car with what were pretty much strangers with badges, they stopped and demanded that she transfer into the back of a windowless, cargo van that was missing not just seat belts, but also seats.  

What if they had an accident?  What use was she as a witness if she died in a car crash?   As she swayed on a folded blanket all alone on the steel surface, she thought about writing her congressman, but finally decided to let it go.   After all, what choice did she have?   If the Mafia was targeting her; if fleeing might save the lives of her family, what else could she do?  

 Hannah didn’t know what a Safe House would look like, but she didn’t expect a rundown two story next to a burned structure across from a weed-infested lot near hookers loitering on the corner.    The two agents hustled her inside as fast as possible.   She stood in the landing, studied a hole in the door, and wondered if it was what it looked like.   

Another agent was inside, sitting at a desk against the far wall, working on a puzzle, listening to a saxophone from the radio.   She’d seen him somewhere, but where?   

She hesitated, “Is there a Ladies Room?” 

It wasn’t such a bizarre question.   The place had a have a bathroom, didn’t it?   

After a moment, Agent Smith said, “Second door on the right.”   They all seemed so tense.   He went on hastily, “Not that one.  That’s the basement.”

She took a long time, her stomach in knots, a ping going up and down her spine, louder and louder.  She swiped her face and tried to think past the image of her husband reading the goodbye note, past the thought of them in trouble because of her, past the thought of why she was here.   

That ping going up her spine.  It always was a warning.   What?   

She was about to open the door when it hit her.  That new agent.  He was Dave Erickson.     He was serving 30 years to life.   She’d followed his escape avidly: it was right in her county.