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    CarlHoliday
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

2020- Spring - Full Moon Entry

Moon Dogs - 1. Chapter 1 Moon Dogs

Did I ever tell you I hate nights when the moon is full?

I stand at the bus stop half a block down from the grocery dry goods warehouse where I work. My job title is stock picker. I drive a forklift all through the warehouse to wherever the little voice in my earphones tells me to go. If the item I need to put in the cardboard box on the plastic pallet is at floor level, I’m okay with that. If it isn’t, then I have to stand on the pallet while it rises to the shelf where the item is stored. The top shelf is thirty-six feet above the floor. Did I ever tell you I am acrophobic? Eh, a job is a job, and if you’re a trained forklift operator, you go where the money is. I earn most of my money thirty-six feet in the air from four to midnight with two fifteen minute breaks and a half hour lunch.

So, here I am standing far back from the four-lane highway because there aren’t any sidewalks out in this area of the city. There’s only five feet of loose crushed rock and dust between me and cars, pickups, box trucks, 18-wheelers, and express busses speeding by at around fifty miles per hour. The speed limit is forty, but who goes the speed limit these days and, since this a commercial area, there are very few police cars or motorcycles running radar. Out here people have to get to places, and at this hour it’s the end of swing shift and the start of graveyard shift. People are hurrying home, hurrying to work, hurrying to make a delivery, or hurrying to deliver at their appointment time. It’s the 18-wheelers that are the worst. The road to the entrance of my company’s warehouses is right here at the corner where I wait for my bus, which is now about fifteen minutes late. Most of the semi drivers have enough experience to slow down enough to take the corner correctly, but there are always trainees who haven’t quite picked up all the steps necessary to drive a semi-tractor pulling a fifty-three foot trailer. On more than one occasion I’ve had to jump back against the chain-link fence behind me when those idiots cut the corner and throw rocks all over the place. It is only by God’s grace that the power poles are on the other side of the highway.

Finally, I see the bus up the road at the stop before mine. It’ll be picking up three Mexican men who drive forklifts at the same company as mine, but they work in the frozen food warehouse next to mine. They make more money than I do because they have to be willing to wear cold weather gear so they don’t get frostbite or worse, freeze to death doing their job. The State L&I Department really frowns on companies that force their forklift operators to spend too much time in below freezing temperatures.

I see a semi cut in front of the bus half a block away. I can see he’s coming at me too fast, and if his trailer is stacked to the ceiling there is a real chance velocity, mass, and a high center of gravity are going to ruin his day. I silently hope he’s hauling cold cereal because that is a light load; even a full load of potato chips is light. Then he drives right by me and I see his brake lights come on. He turns two blocks down into the yard of a furniture warehouse.

“Hey! Are you waiting for me?”

I turn my attention to the bus waiting with its front wheel on the shoulder and quickly get up the steps. I show the monthly pass the company gives me and the driver pulls back out onto the highway. As usual, the bus is practically full, but most of us are regulars and I make my way down the aisle to my usual seat.

“Hey, Bob. How goes it?” Denny says.

“Eh, just the usual,” I say.

That is the usual extent of our conversation because Denny reads a novel on the way to his stop, while I generally read non-fiction, memoirs, or historical fiction. After a mile the bus turns left, and after going under the interstate, it turns left onto the on-ramp heading north to the other end of the city. I notice the lack of the usual Spanish chatter from the seats in the back of the bus. I turn and see only one of the Mexicans. He stares back at me and then gets up from his seat. He walks up to my seat.

“Hola, my name is Rene,” he says without a hint of an accent.

“I’m Bob,” I say. “If you don’t mind me asking, where’re your friends?”

“Immigration came tonight. Rodrigo and Carlos had the same Social Security card. I guess it is a common one sold to illegals.”

“Shit! That’s a shame,” I say and then think, why didn’t the company payroll department notice the discrepancy? “Do they have families?”

“No, they live together in a one bedroom apartment out in Victory Heights.”

“Are you okay?”

“Si! I have a green card and a family. I’ve noticed you get off a stop before mine.”

“Oh, are you renting a house?”

“No, we, uh, Sophia is my wife, are buying one over on Lemontree.”

“I live on Lemontree,” I say.

“Yes, I know. I’ve seen you out mowing your lawn when we go to church on Sunday,” Rene says. “You are not a Christian?”

“Umm, no, it’s inconvenient for Chris and me, not that we haven’t tried.”

“Chris is your wife?”

“Uh, no, he’s my husband.”

“Oh,” Rene says and then returns to his seat.

“So much for compassion,” Denny says.

“Yeah, well, it happens so much I should be used to it, but it still gives me a sour stomach,” I say.

“Tums?”

“Oh! Very funny.”

“What are you and Chris doing for the Fourth?”

“Uh, probably what we usually do. Stay home and watch the fireworks on TV.”

“Would you like to come over to our house?” Denny asks. “We have a little barbecue, play volleyball, throw horseshoes, and usually watch a movie in the family room. Then we go out on the deck and watch the fireworks.”

“You can see them from your house?” I ask. “Where do you live?”

“Oakmont Hills.”

“Hey, sure, but I’ll have to ask Chris if he’s okay with it. We’ve been burned a few times by homophobic bastards when invited to supposed friends’ houses for dinner or barbecues. He’s a bit gun-shy now.”

“Hey, I promise there won’t be any of that. In fact, my sister will be there with her wife, and Jen’s brother usually comes with his husband. Plus, all of the kids are safe, too.”

“Okay, I’ll certainly pass that on to Chris,” I say.

“I’ll let Jen know so she can be sure to have extra for you and Chris,” Denny says.

“Plus, Katie and Jamie.”

“You have kids? You’ve never spoken of them before.”

“Sorry, but I’m still trying to get used to it; and, well, it hardly ever comes up. Katie is still a foster, but we adopted Jamie two months ago.”

“How old?”

“Katie is seven and Jamie is ten.”

“Two girls, that’s nice,” Denny says.

“Uh, no, Katie is a girl and Jamie is a boy,” I say.

“Oh, like The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters.”

“Well, yeah, sort of, but Jamie spells his name J-A-M-I-E.”

“Oh, okay, I didn’t know it could be spelled that way.”

“Well, there is Jamie Foxx and Jamie Lee Curtis,” I say.

“Oh, I didn’t know they spelled it that way,” Denny says. “Uh, is Jamie Black?”

“Would it make a difference?”

“No, no, I was just asking.”

“Well, no he isn’t. Jamie’s parents were from Chile.”

“Were?”

“It’s a long, long story and we’re very lucky to have him in our family.”

The bus turns off the interstate and stops at the stoplight. It will take at least a couple miles before we reach my stop. The good thing, other than those two unfortunate illegals, no one should signal for a stop. It will be clear sailing up Peachtree Boulevard, except for the four stoplights that always seem to be red or turn yellow when we’re half a block away. If we’re close, the bus driver will go on through because, like 18-wheelers, mass and velocity overrules anyone driving through the gap. I open my book where I marked it when Rene started talking and scan the pages to see where I stopped reading. As bad luck would have it, I was in the middle of a long two page paragraph. I know I don’t have time to finish the paragraph, so I leave the bookmark and close the book. I open my book bag, slip the book in, and zip the bag shut. I open the front pocket, take out a can of pepper spray, and put in my coat pocket. I see Denny put his book away, too, although his stop is at least five miles past my stop.

“Bob, be sure to ask Chris if he’s okay with the Fourth,” Denny says. “I know Jen will be looking forward to meeting him and your kids.”

“Yeah, I’ll do that,” I say, as I know full well that Chris will be asleep because he has to get up at five to shower and shave before it’s time to get the kids up for school. It’s June already, but the school district extended the school year because of the two snow storms we had. They could’ve stopped the half school days for the rest of the year, but the teachers’ contract stipulates in-service time on those half days. Though, I know from what the kids tell me, most of their teachers leave early if they don’t have a meeting.

The bell rings, and I see a man get out of a seat near the front and stand in the aisle. The woman next to him slides out and goes down the aisle. The man reclaims his seat. Oh, well, it’s only one stop. The bus doesn’t immediately pull away from the curb after the woman gets out because an aid car flies by with siren blaring and lights flashing. Still, we wait and I hear another siren approaching. Two police cars fly by in front of two fire trucks and a fire chief’s SUV. We finally pull out and go a block to wait for a red light. I look ahead, but don’t see a glow in the sky that would indicate a house or apartment building fire. Then there’s another siren behind us and another aid car flies by. After a while, the light turns green and the bus starts across the intersection, but suddenly stops, throwing all the passengers forward in their seats. Another fire truck, a ladder truck this time, comes down Fiftieth Street with its siren whooping and lights flashing. After checking his mirrors, the bus driver slowly backs out of the intersection giving the ladder truck full use of the street and boulevard. The truck blares its horn at a speeding Corvette from the other direction of Fiftieth that speeds through the intersection followed by two police cars, lights flashing and sirens screaming. Finally, the truck makes the turn and heads up the boulevard. I look again to see a glow in the sky and just ahead, maybe no more than six blocks, a bright cloud of fire erupts on the other side of Peachtree Boulevard and a loud boom quickly follows that causes the bus to shudder. The bus goes through the intersection and pulls to the curb. I see the driver pick up his handset and put it up to his head. Obviously, there will be a detour, but where? All the side streets in either direction are only two lane affairs with cars, pickups, and SUVs parked along the side, leaving at most only a lane and a half. Only fools who don’t live in this neighborhood will attempt to drive down those streets at this time of night.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I’m sorry, but I’m only going to proceed to the next stop where I will wait for the boulevard to be cleared of emergency vehicles,” the driver says over the intercom. “If anyone is close to their stop, you may get off there.”

“Damn, that leaves me out,” Denny says. “So, how close will you be?”

“Well, the next stop is at Fifty-third, that leaves me only eight blocks to my usual stop, but that’s a block farther than my street,” I say. “So, yeah, I’ll be getting off.”

“Well, see you tomorrow night.”

“Yeah, tomorrow night.”

After I get off of the bus, another fiery explosion rocks the neighborhood. I’m still too far away to see exactly what’s burning, but it’s either the Texaco station, Mother Vic’s restaurant, or, heaven forbid, the Peachtree Condominium that’s twelve stories high. That could explain the ladder truck. I hope my regular stop isn’t too close to the fire so I won’t have to go onto the side streets too soon.

You see, along the boulevard there are some very nice houses, some of which go way back to the late nineteenth century. Those are the ones with the broad covered porches and turrets on one corner. They’re on big lots with the garage back on the alley. On the other side of the alley, past a line of the garages, are smaller lots with Craftsman-style homes fronting Appletree Avenue. Across Appletree there are more Craftsman-style homes, though some have been replaced with houses of a more modern style. All the Craftsman homes have garages along the alley, but a lot of the modern homes had garages designed into the structure and have driveways taking up some of the front yard. Across that alley are garages for houses from a later time and built with red brick in a two-story Tudor-style with steeply pitched gable roofs, but all lack the traditional half-timbering, after all this is the Pacific Northwest and we’re not as pretentious as Californians. Then across Cherrytree Avenue is another row of the same type of houses, except they have garages beside the houses or built into the structure because there is no alley behind these houses. Behind those houses begin five avenues bordered by three to four bedroom, one bath houses directly out of the Levittown catalog. They stretch from Fifty-fourth Street due north to Seventy-third Street. The only difference here, though, are three smaller three bedroom, one bath houses with one car garages on small lots along the streets, thereby increasing the total amount of houses available to young home buyers.

Brund Bergman General Contractors, Inc., the developer of that neighborhood, did not continue with avenues named after fruit trees, but named each avenue after an author. From west to east they are Byron, Tennyson, Scott, Michener, and, of course, Hemingway. The next avenue is Lemontree, where I live at the corner of Sixtieth in one of those Tudor-style homes. You’d expect Sixtieth to be a busy thoroughfare, because the land where our Levittown, which is actually named Bergman Estates, was built on the site of a former state hospital where tuberculosis patients were treated and developmentally disabled people were housed until 1956. Initially, the state wanted to give the land to the city to put in a park, but the developer offered a sizeable sum that was too tempting for the state government. Considering the amount paid for the land that the state had already cleared, the cost of fairly cheap construction methods, and the amount young purchasers paid for those houses, the developer and his company were estimated by the Times-Post to have made a profit of over a million dollars. (In 1987, a woman named Todi Schneider wrote a book titled, Thirty-nine Inches on Center, about the houses in Bergman Estates. To her deathbed, she always insisted it wasn’t meant to be an exposé, but it certainly sold well in North Park. There was a rumor that Brund Bergman’s family tried to sue for libel, but according to the Times-Post, the suit was thrown out by the judge within the first hour of the trial.)

Bergman also received sizeable assistance from the city, which put in the sewer and water lines, paved the streets, and put in curbs and sidewalks. Plus, the city electric department put in the power poles with street lights at each corner and one halfway along each block. The telephone company came in and attached their lines to the power poles through a financial agreement with the electric department. Eventually in the ’70s, a cable TV company hung their lines from the power poles, too.

At Fifty-ninth there are two police cars with flashing lights blocking further traffic from proceeding up Peachtree Boulevard. I can see the flashing lights of fire department vehicles up at Sixtieth, but I see that it isn’t the gas station or the restaurant. Fire is coming out of the condominium starting about halfway up the structure. Both policemen are out of their cars, and I wonder if I can walk up to Sixtieth, so I ask, “Excuse me, but can I walk up to Sixtieth?”

“No, it’s still too dangerous to be up there,” one of the policemen says.

“What happened?”

“Two tweakers had next door units in Peachtree Condominium, where they were cooking meth. I guess they made a mistake in tonight’s process.”

“Shit!”

“Yeah, and there are significant injuries in the surrounding units,” the policeman says.

“Well, thanks anyway,” I say and turn to go down Fifty-ninth.

My regular stop is at Sixty-first and it’s an easy walk back to Sixtieth. Then it’s a straight walk over to Lemontree. Unfortunately, most of the small houses in Bergman Estates along the numbered streets are rentals and most of those rentals have pit bulls and similar breeds, some of which are outside and not restrained in any manner. It’s not like I don’t like dogs, because we have a Beagle named Suzie. You see, it’s because when I was in first grade I was severely bitten by a male Doberman pinscher. I was walking home from school with my best friend Ronny along our usual route when that dog ran out from behind a house that we didn’t know had a dog.

Ronny said, “Run! Or, it’ll get us.”

Well, now I know that was the worst thing we could’ve done. Both of us immediately turned into prey, and that dog chose me to be its victim. I ran as fast as I could, but I was only six, and that dog ran a lot faster than me. He knocked me down and started biting me all over my legs, arms, and then my face. A man from a neighboring house ran over with a rake and started beating the dog with the handle. The dog finally left me and ran back to his house. An ambulance came and took me to a hospital where I stayed for nearly a month because of all the surgeries I had. Of course, most of the scars have faded with time, though they couldn’t do anything about that missing testicle. I didn’t even realize the dog bit me down there, but it nearly tore off my penis, too. If its teeth had gone in just a eighth of an inch to the left, I would’ve grown up a very embarrassed boy.

Tonight, with the full moon, the meanest dogs won’t have to worry about the lack of street lights in their section of the blocks, not that dogs need the extra light with their good night vision. That’s why I have the pepper spray. I walk at a steady pace, not too fast, not too slow. I know the worst of the dogs will come out to the edge of the lawns and bark incessantly. This is okay, because I can handle barking. If they put one paw on the sidewalk, they’ll get a face full of pepper spray. I always hope that will be enough, but, if necessary, they’ll get a mouthful of book bag instead of my body. Plus, they’ll get another shot of pepper spray. That is usually sufficient for even the worst dogs, although on occasion I’ve had to hold my book bag with a dog attached to it shaking it angrily while I call 911 for assistance from the police. Surprisingly, I hardly ever have to wait more than a few minutes.

I walk from Peachtree Boulevard to Byron, across which the rentals start. I continue at my purposeful, steady pace, but, although I hear dogs barking, I don’t see any dogs running out to threaten me. I’m sweating so much my clothes are sticking to me and, yet, as I continue along the street and the barking fills the night, I’m surprised that not one dog has come out from behind any of the houses.

Finally, I reach Lemontree, which I cross to walk one block up to my house. I look up at the bright, full moon and wonder what changed with the dogs tonight. It will be something to ponder in the days ahead. When I finally reach my house, I see the lights are on in the children’s bedrooms and in the living room. I hurry a bit to the front door and see that it is partially open in the jamb. I push it open, and Jamie has his arms around my waist.

“Daddy Bob, you made it home,” Jamie cries into my stomach.

“Of course! You know I don’t work overtime unless I have to, and I would’ve called,” I say.

“No! The explosions, didn’t you see them?”

“Yes, I did, but I was on the bus.”

“Did you see what exploded?” Chris asks, walking into the foyer with Katie in tow.

“Not really, but I spoke with a policeman stopping traffic at Fifty-ninth and Peachtree Boulevard. He said some people in two units at the condominium had been cooking meth. He said something must have gone wrong because the first explosion took out the first unit, and the next took out the second. I guess a lot of the people in surrounding units have injuries.”

“There’s a lot of old people living in that building,” Chris says.

“Yeah, I hope they’re okay,” I say.

“Did any dogs try to bite you on Fifty-ninth?” Jamie asks.

“No, and none of them ran out to challenge me,” I say. “I’m totally stumped.”

“A friend of mine at work who lives in the Estates told me everyone had a notice pasted on their doors saying that numerous children in the Estates and on adjoining streets have been bitten by roaming dogs,” Chris says. “He said that if home owners do not restrain their dogs, the city will come in and start impounding loose dogs.”

“What about the ones that have already attacked children?” I ask.

“They were euthanized after being quarantined for rabies and evaluated for biting behavior.”

“Good, and I guess that explains why I didn’t have any trouble coming home. I’m glad the city finally did something about those dogs, but, you know, they’ve been a problem ever since I’ve been riding the bus to and from work.”

“You wouldn’t have had a problem if you would’ve let me drive that night you were so soused coming back from Tom and Steve’s party.”

“Yeah, but I thought I wasn’t that drunk. I’ve driven okay after drinking a lot more than at that party. You know that.”

“Actually, Bob, all those times I had white knuckles every time you ran a red light, faded over the yellow line, and then there was that time you sideswiped that Buick on Christmas Eve five years ago and kept on driving. You could’ve gotten in a whole lot of trouble that time if the cops were able to trace your car before you had your car repaired. Even then, I was surprised Jake didn’t report you. Surely, he received notice from the police they were looking for a red 2004 Mustang.”

“Daddy Bob, are you a bad man?” Katie asks.

“No, Katie, Daddy Bob isn’t a bad man,” Chris says. “At least not anymore. That’s why there is no alcohol in the house.”

“Daddy Bob has to go to AA,” Jamie says.

“Hey, why aren’t you kids in bed?” I ask.

“The explosions scared me,” Katie says. “I cried and Daddy Chris came and then Jamie came and we all come downstairs and Daddy Chris made hot chocolate for me and Jamie and we’re all better now.”

“Well, that was very good of Daddy Chris, but don’t you think it’s time you went back to bed, so you can wake up in the morning for school?”

“But, we’re watching ‘Snow Girl and Dwars,’” Katie says.

“That’s ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,’” Jamie says.

I look at Chris, but he only shrugs his shoulders. I smile and say, “Okay, you can finish your movie and, maybe, Daddy Chris will let you sleep in tomorrow. It won’t hurt if you two miss one day of school.”

Chris gives that look of his when I go a little easy on the kids, but I know he’ll be okay with it if I write the excuse notes. We all go into the living room and Chris starts the movie. He sits on the sofa and Katie snuggles up against him. She’ll probably drop off before the movie ends, but Jamie won’t because lately he seems not to need a full night’s sleep. I keep telling Chris we need to take him to the pediatrician, but Chris says Jamie is just going through a growth spurt and that’s the only thing wrong. I go upstairs, take a shower, and put on my pajamas and robe before going back downstairs. When I get down to the living room, Katie is starting to nod off. It’s kind of funny watching her drop off for a few seconds and then jerk her head up. She tries to watch the movie with droopy eyes before falling asleep, again.

I sit on my recliner, Jamie comes over, and snuggles down beside me, forcing me to move away to give him more room. Last year, he would’ve been in my lap, while laying back on my stomach and chest. I often draped my left arm across his body and he’d quickly drop off to sleep. But, now, he’s getting to be a big boy and thinks that big boys don’t sit in a parent’s lap. Next year, he’ll probably be too big to share the recliner. Then as he quickly ages into his teen years, he’ll probably be distancing himself from both Chris and me. Yet, he’s always been closer to me, so I suppose there is some hope he’ll maintain some degree of closeness with me.

I look at my family and feel the warmth of love for all three, each in their own way. Plus, I feel just a little bit lucky to have made it safely home this night of the full moon. Though, of course, it wasn’t such a lucky night for the residents of Peachtree Condominium.

The End

 

Thank you to Sharon for editing and Valkyrie for final proofread.
Copyright © 2020 CarlHoliday; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

2020- Spring - Full Moon Entry
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Just an ordinary guy trying to make his life work and doing his best for his husband and kids. One of the everyday heroes, with issues and quirks, but fundamentally decent.

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23 hours ago, Timothy M. said:

Just an ordinary guy trying to make his life work and doing his best for his husband and kids. One of the everyday heroes, with issues and quirks, but fundamentally decent.

Thank you for your comment.

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21 hours ago, Headstall said:

Nice slice of life of a man and his family. There was a sweetness to it. Thanks, Carl. 

Thank you for your comment.

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20 hours ago, Mikiesboy said:

Thanks for this interesting and sweet story. I enjoyed it.

Thank you for your comment

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That ending was worthy of Norman Rockwell and the amount of detail add to the impression of one of his illustrations. I enjoyed it.

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Carl, I know I'm late to this party, but I want to thank you for this sweet story, I just wish there was more of it. You had me scared for a brief time, since I thought Bob was going to discover the fire was his house going up in flames and I was worried about his hubby and the kids.  I was also disappointed in Rene, although that's the attitude of many Catholics.  However, I was encouraged that Denny invited Bob and Chris to his house for the Fourth of July outing and his sister has a wife and her brother-in-law has a husband.  It was nice that Bob and Chris had two kids, even though their daughter was still a foster child. 

I would have liked to find out how the Fourth of July went, and I'd also like to find out what happened to Jamie's parents.  I know, I'm one of those demanding readers that always wants more.  Anyways, I still enjoyed the story.  

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