Aunt Alice’s necklace. The tree’s shadow. Road construction. Hand to the forehead. Index. Leather recliner. Holes in the page. Root beer spilled on the carpet.
Bob and Amy grimaced as they bounced on the seats of their really old, if not worn out, GMC Jimmy. The vehicle was an inheritance from his mother’s sister, Aunt Alice, when she passed away some 20 years ago. When Bob inherited the truck, it was only four years old and paid for. It was that truck in which he eloped with Amy, the truck which took Amy to the hospital for the birth of their daughter, and the truck he used on a daily basis to drive to work and back to home. It clearly had seen better days. So had their financial situation. Work for Bob was now scarce, and the funds for the many repairs it needed was scarcer.
But today was Saturday and they were out for a fun ride across the country property of Amy’s brother who hunted deer there in the fall. His brother, Rick, had been trying to improve the hunting trails with a tractor and box blade but the results were less than sufficient. The truck’s suspension barely kept the vehicle from bottoming out as Bob guided the truck down the hunting trail across an occasional fallen tree and around the rocks which protruded from the ground. Amy held dearly to the overhead hand grip with her right hand, and with her left hand she clutched her half-full can of root beer. She felt quite acrobatic trying to contain the beverage in the can while keeping her seat.
“Slow down a bit, Bob,” Amy implored. Bob just stared ahead with his eyes watching the road, trying to separate rocks from shadows, shadows from holes in the ruts.
“Dang it,” he exclaimed as the right front tire bottomed in a hole in the trail. The Jimmy nosed to the right and downward which sent Alice plummeting off the seat and onto the floorboard. As her butt impacted the floorboard her left hand was flung upward which sent the remnants of the root beer cascading across the windshield, dashboard, and onto the truck’s well worn carpet.
“You OK, Amy?” Bob asked.
“Yep,” replied Amy, “Bruised my ego a bit, that’s all.” She struggled to get up while the truck was still, the root beer which had soaked the truck carped was now soaking into the seat of her shorts. Amy began laughing at her predicament as she still clutched the empty soda can.
“Hey, Bob, can you come around to my door, open it and help me out, I can’t find any way to pull myself up,” she asked.
Bob killed the ignition, got out and came around to Amy’s side of the truck. “Dang it, dang it, dang it,” he began screaming.
Amy looked at Bob with a bit of anxiety. Rarely did he get mad about trivial things, and this was certainly trivial. “Calm down Bob,” Amy implored, “Its only soda and my shorts will wash out ok.”
“It’s not that, Amy.” Bob replied with a tone of anxiety. “The right front suspension snapped when I hit that hole, we’re stuck here. Hell, we’re stuck with a broken truck we can’t afford to fix. Our only vehicle is now useless.”
Bob opened Amy’s door and grabbed her under her arms and gently withdrew her from the truck. As Amy slid across the wet carpet she grabbed at a rag she saw wedged under the seat. “Ah, something to clean up with,” she muttered. Bob helped Amy stand up to get her footing on the rough ground. Amy looked again at the rag she had dislodged, “Hey Bob, this isn’t just some rag, it is a silk scarf.” She noticed a stitched monogram at a corner, AH. “Bob, what was your Aunt’s name anyway?” she asked.
“Alice Haverty,” Bob replied.
“Well this scarf must have been your Aunt’s.” Amy began to unfold the wadded material and as she did, she felt a lump in it just before something fell to the ground from it. “What the…” Amy began to speak. She kneeled to the ground and picked up the fallen item. Its golden color was immediately apparent and the sparkle which glimmered in the noon sun was instantly recognizable. “Bob!” she yelled “look at this.”
Amy untied the bit of yellow ribbon which surrounded the object. From her hand dangled some twenty inches of gold chain necklace, and attached was a mounting with the largest diamond Amy had ever seen.
Bob grinned then laughed as he looked skyward. “Aunt Alice told me before she died that this truck was a gem and that I should not get rid of it until I had explored every inch of it. She didn’t make any sense when she said that, but now I understand.” Bob took the necklace from Amy’s hand and started to put it around her neck.
“No, Bob, no. I can never wear this. It’s much too valuable.”
Bob began to argue but Amy cut him off short. “Bob, don’t you see, we can now get the truck fixed. Heck we might even be able to buy a new truck!”
Bob stood motionless and silent. His lips formed a smile, and he kissed Amy on the cheek and drew her to him. “Yes,” he said, “I think we can do that. This diamond pales in comparison to the gem I married twenty years ago, anyway.”
I printed out the word selections, trimmed them to slips, and drew three of them:
Root beer spilled on the carpet
Aunt Alice’s necklace
His brother = her brother,
the truck carped = the truck carpet
If there were any trees on this barren, wind-scoured island, trust me, I’d be hiding in their shadows instead of where I am now. Yeah, there’s a “tree” the GIs planted back in ’43, down by the derelict Officer’s Club, but it’s not much more than a half-dead shrub and couldn’t hide even one of the zillions of rats running around here.
I never should have come out here. I never would have if I’d known about him. No one said a word. Maybe no one else has seen him.
This place isn’t off limits, not like the south end of the island where they say there’s unexploded ordnance. I walked all over out there and didn’t find anything but baby sea gulls.
A little ways from here, over beyond the road by the construction site, I found a belt of .50 cal machine gun cartridges. The fabric was rotted away but the metal clips that held the ammo were still there. And they supposedly searched that area. No wonder they never saw him. He can hide; ammo can’t. Dangerous, unstable after four decades exposed to the unrelenting rains and winds, it just lies there, waiting for some idiot to pick it up. Like me.
That’s what I was doing when I saw him. I was down in the foxhole, examining the belt of ammo that was no longer a belt, just a bunch of lethal, weathered cartridges longer that my index finger and some little clips.
My truck was parked down in a swale, so I guess he didn’t see it. Anyway, I saw him first. I thought he was a bear but there aren’t any bears here on Amchitka Island, just rats. Lots of rats.
I got my binoculars and looked again. All I could make out were two round brown things with a thin strip of white separating them. The light wasn’t good with the rain and all, so I kept staring, trying to get some perspective. Then he stood up and I still didn’t believe what I was looking at.
He was a deep brown color, shaggy black hair down to his shoulders. I’d been looking at his butt. The strip of white was the thong that cleaves a man’s butt cheeks, part of the Japanese fundoshi, the traditional men’s underwear. God, those went out after World War II and the Japanese men started wearing briefs. He was carrying something in his hand, something like a sword, long and slightly curved.
He turned towards me.
I ducked down in the foxhole. Had he sensed me watching him? From 300 yards away? I raised up, carefully separating the long grass on the edge of the foxhole so I could see him without raising my head high enough for him to see me.
There was something about him that didn’t look quite right, something abnormal for a human. If he was what I think he was, he’d be almost 70 years old. So how come his hair is still black?
But that wasn’t what was wrong with this picture. There was something about his eyes. They looked like they were on fire.
I sneaked out of the foxhole and slipped over the cliff by the ocean, then made my way to a small drainage where I’d be below the horizon and could get inland without being seen. I was hoping to get to the construction site. Some place safe.
I made as far as the lake. That’s when I glanced back and saw him coming over the rise about a quarter mile away—in between me and the dirt gang and safety. That’s why I’m hid out under this muddy bank along the lake shore, water dripping down my neck, mud all over me, disguising the color of my skin.
There he is. Across the lake. Over on the concrete plug. What the heck is he doing? He looks like he’s doing yoga on top of that plug. Like he owns it. There’s a bronze plaque there, too. I’ve stood on it, read it and took a photo of it. Then I stepped away when I realized that underneath that plug was a 6000 foot cavern.
My eyes slip to his right, to a dark hole under the far bank. I watch as he walks in that direction and crawls into the hole, carefully pulling the grasses closed like a door.
Now it makes sense. That’s why no one’s ever seen him before. He lives here—here at Cannikin lake, a lake formed when this area subsided after the world’s largest underground nuclear blast. Cannikin. Three megatons. 1971.
And that strange man across the lake? A Japanese warrior from WWII, hid out all these years after the Imperial Forces invaded US soil during the war.
I heard about those warriors who hid in the South Pacific. They never gave up. They continued fighting, long after the war ended. He’s been trapped here since the Army Air Corps took back the islands the Japanese invaded.
And now I’m trapped, too.
Dang it. Post haste strikes again. That last word, “fundoshi”, isn’t meant to be there.
The decor was opulent the wenches were nubile and beautiful and King Arthur was a magnificent host. The First Annual Round Table Awards Banquet had moved to the point in the program to present the award for “Most Improved Surf in the Realm.” The King rose from his throne and called Boy Roderick to the podium.
“My lad, His Highness said, You are indeed the most improved surf in my kingdom. You have served Knight Sagramore with loyalty and efficiency. His chain male has never looked brighter and his sword is sharp enough to rival a Ginsu Knife. We are also very appreciative that you see to it that Sagramore bathes once a month. For your outstanding service to the Kingdom, I give to you this Faux Gold Goblet with your name etched on the side and a bottle of Camelot’s Finest A&W Root Beer.” (This was only fitting as Roderick was only 14 years old)
Boy Roderick could hardly believe his good fortune, especially after being voted most likely to be in the wrong place at the wrong time during a joust. Roderick proudly took the goblet and filled it with the delicious A&W Root Beer.
King Arthur raised his glass and recited a toast in Roderick’s honor. The Boy took a large gulp of the beverage and almost immediately, he was standing in a puddle of Root Beer all over the carpet. Within seconds, the King hit his hand to his forehead and announced to the gathering that unfortunately “The Paige Has Holes in Him.” Roderick looked like a Medieval Lawn Sprinkler. Evidently, Paige Roderick had indeed taken more than a few blows from the jousting stick.
(hand to the forehead: Oh, good grief!)
Ann, thanks for the project! I attempted a second story and it is now at 2600 words. I am submitting it to the current Writers Digest pop fiction contest in the crime category. Thanks again, if it places I will pass on the results, Jeff
Just hit the 4000 word limit! Yippie.
Here’s a link to my blog where I posted photos of Amchitka Island that complement my story above. One note–the island was the forward US operating site. The Japanese never occupied Amchitka, only Attu and Kiska. An interesting aside: Amchitka is due north of New Zealand and due west of Queen Charlotte Sound. Yes, Alaska’s a big state.
Sorry, forgot to insert the link: http://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=5029159028015312900#editor/target=post;postID=6977194653878816356
Michael Johnson first realized that he was different from the other boys when his Aunt Alice loaned him her striking pearl necklace to complete his Genie costume when he was 8 years old. He felt warm all over as he played gingerly with the smooth pearls around his small neck.
Aunt Alice knew Michael liked her necklace, but really didn’t know why. So when she died, she left that piece of precious jewelry to her favorite nephew.
Michael, now in his 60’s secretly fingered the pearls worn under his dress shirt with his index finger. It always had a calming effect at the hectic staff meetings he was required to chair each week.
As CEO of one of America’s largest insurance companies, Michael was required to be a model of corporate dress code, to set an example for his underlings. Everyone at First National Insurance knew him to be an impeccable dresser.
The only time he was able to express his “real self” was during his annual two-week vacation to his private villa on the island of Aruba. His closet there was filled with expensive gowns from Dior to Versace. In the Aruba house, he felt completely free to dress as he pleased with no fear of discovery.
The fire started somewhere near the kitchen around 4 am. Michael awoke to the screeching smoke alarm’s piercing scream. He fought his way down the hall outside his bedroom, the security bars on the windows blocking his exit from the bedroom to the outside. Dropping to the floor, Michael finally made his way to the cavernous foyer, and staying below the billowing smoke, found the front door, and crawled outside. Incongruously, there was a driving tropical rain falling outside, and Michael clambered for cover under the huge Banyon tree that bordered the front of his property. Drenched, he curled up among the huge root system, and crying softly, fell into a deep sleep.
Jill Baker, nee McCarthy, was on her honeymoon in Aruba. She and her new husband had been able to afford a wonderful wedding and a week on this beautiful island, thanks to her five-year salary bonus from First National. It was quite a large bonus for a receptionist, but that was one of the perks of working for this company, good pay for longevity.
“Oh my God, it’s Mister Johnson !” said Jill to her husband, as she noticed a drenched man dressed in a lacy pink negligee stepping out of the shadow of the huge tree, fingering a large strand of pearls around his neck. “What the hell?”
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by Ann Linquist
Available in paperback or on Kindle