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    Parker Owens
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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.

A to Z - 16. A Short Ride

No special warnings needed for this chapter.

Questions raised can be discussed in the A to Z story thread.

JUNE 23

I got up yesterday as the birds started up their singing in the half-light just before dawn. I stretched and tried to stand. It was hard not to stagger in the soft, yielding piles of leaves and weeds and grass clippings.

It was light enough to make my way to a little creek that meandered at the bottom of the short, sharp ravine I’d fallen down the night before. Before long, I’d followed the stream down to a bridge and from there to a road that led out of town.

I’d outrun and shaken off my pursuers. I was free. I had no idea if they were still looking for me or if they’d driven on. I figured I would avoid the main roads as usual and rely on my legs to outrun them again if they caught up with me. Even so, I looked over my shoulder at the smallest hint of the sound of a car or truck coming up behind me. If I recognized the sound of a big rig, I scrambled into the nearest underbrush for cover.

So I’m a coward. Even cowardice has its limits, though, and I finally got tired of the whole scurry-and-hide routine. I cringed the first time I forced myself to stay on the road to let a big rig pass me, but it roared by harmlessly.

I walked for half a day before I noticed that the hills were shorter and lower than before. Not that there weren’t plenty of hills. The road took plenty of sharp dips and rose abruptly after crossing every creek. But there weren’t any huge, long climbs up the flanks of mountains that had characterized my journey so far.

As I walked in the heavy summer heat and humidity, I looked for the mountains, for the next ridge to the west. There weren’t any. There were plenty of patches of woods and trees, meandering streams that sometimes ran under the road at tiny bridges, occasional farms, open meadows.

It was as if I had entered the land of eternal summer.

But if I had walked beyond the mountains, I had entered another area of small roads and tiny hamlets.

And then there was another huge irony. I had my twenty dollars, earned by the sale of my mouth and throat. My jaw still ached. However, I had no place to spend it. I must have walked nearly twenty miles that day I left the ravine, but I saw no stores, no filling stations, no place at all that I could buy some food.

I had passed through several little villages yesterday. Trim, neatly painted houses lining the main road, nice green lawns, all very quiet and lovely. But none had so much as a gas station – at least not on the road I was walking. I was only a little hungry last night because the meal at Merle's had been pretty filling.

It kept me from being too starving and lasted me into midmorning today, when I came to a crossroads and a convenience store. It was good to use a real restroom again – a private one, with nobody at another urinal – and to fill up my bottle with good, clean water. I took a long, long drink from my bottle, and refilled it again before exiting the bathroom.

I tried to clean up, but it wasn’t much use. I know I looked dirty and smelled funky, but it just shows how low I’ve come that I’m just getting used to it. I sure got a weird look from the girl at the register when I spent eight dollars on a small box of cereal, a pepperoni log and a couple of big, shiny apples. I hurried, and hoped she wouldn’t remember me.

On this, I knew I could survive for a few more days. Surviving on handfuls of cereal and mouthfuls of greasy meat isn’t great, but it’ll have to do. I’m getting plenty of exercise in, anyhow. If I wasn’t thin before I left home, I sure am now. I only hope I can find a bigger store the next time, when I try another town, where things aren’t so expensive.

This convenience store sat at an intersection, and I had no real notion of which way to go. The signs weren’t exactly helpful. I decided that I would go right this time, away from the sign that pointed towards “North Cardiff.” I’ve had enough of towns, I think. On the whole, I haven’t had very good luck with them.

As I had hoped, the road took me back into the countryside. The farms out here were smaller and more contained than in the big valleys between the mountains. There were lots of dairy farms along this way, and I stopped several times this afternoon to contemplate herds of big, black and white beasts in the fields. The cows stared right back at me, chewing uninterestedly.

It was good to sit and think about nothing but the clear, hot sky and the cows. They seemed perfectly content. They had nothing to do, and nothing to worry them. Nobody chasing them – no cops, no pissed-off truckers, no fag-bashing teens. They had plenty to eat and a place in the world. And even if they weren’t the smartest animals in the world, at least they had each other to rely on. They had the herd.

I, on the other hand, was alone. And incredibly stupid. By now, Dad wasn’t laughing at me anymore. Oh, somewhere in hell, he was howling with glee at me. With my luck, Dad had talked his way into heaven, and was giving God pointers on what would hurt me worst.

Of course, I didn’t need to hear Dad’s voice in the back of my head to know what an idiot I was. If he had taught me anything, it was that. I am stupid, stupid, stupid. Of course, there were other lessons, too: I am an almighty nuisance, a useless parasite. I am the cause of each and every problem. Somehow, even chained and bloody in the basement, I had caused his death. If he really was dead.

I shuddered to think that Dad might be alive somewhere. That it had all been a mistake. I got a little spooked, thinking I might see his truck come around the next bend, and I’d be treated to one of his best thrashings, while he swore and cussed and beat my stupidity into me.

But he didn’t have to be here for me to know this. I’d screwed up again. I cursed myself for being so stupid back in, what was it, Petersburg? Stupid for stopping at a restaurant. Stupid again for listening to Green Hat who called himself Roger. Stupid a third time for not running the first chance I got. Stupid for trusting someone because I thought he looked OK. Stupid for even thinking about whoring myself out for a meal.

I told all this to a really bored looking cow late in the afternoon, but she didn’t seem to care, much.

“I was such an idiot to go. I could have gotten along without his money, but no. What is it about me and trusting people?”

I was working myself up to a pretty good rant. I looked into the placid face of the cow as she chewed, flicking the flies off her ear.

“So, from now on – rule number one: trust absolutely nobody; rule number two – avoid towns, they’re bad news; rule three – don’t talk to anyone unless they’re giving you work.”

I shuddered as I ticked that one off on my fingers – I wasn’t saying what kind of work, was I?

A car passed behind me as I sat on the shoulder, looking at the cattle grazing peacefully. I didn’t look up until I saw it had stopped. Stupid again.

Shit. A cop. A State Trooper. He put on his flashers. I watched as he got out of his car and walked back towards me. There was no point in running. Where would I go? No, the best thing to do would be to play dumb and hope for the best. Hell, I wouldn’t have to play stupid – I am stupid.

I stood as he neared me. I had an idea. He looked at me, his eyes scanning me up and down, his face emotionless, giving nothing away. He had “P. Lockhart” etched into a nameplate pinned to his uniform over the breast pocket.

“Are you OK, son?”

“Yessir,” I answered quietly, nodding.

His nose wrinkled as the soft breeze wafted past me. He was standing downwind.

“You hiking?”

“Just resting before I walk home after work.” I nodded in the direction of the cows.

My smell might pass for having worked on a farm all day. The cows were a good prop. The trooper nodded as if to agree that this was an OK story.

I looked back at the grazing herd.

“Long day, huh?” he asked, making conversation.

“Yeah,” I offered back. I wasn’t going to give him much.

“You need a lift?”

“No, thanks. I don’t have very far to go.”

“It’s no problem. Let me help – I’ve had a long day, I bet you have, too.”

Oh, hell. I had to get one of the helpful ones. Was he looking for me? Suspecting me of something? Testing me out?

I groaned inwardly. There was nothing else I could do but humor the man. Try to appear normal.

“Well, if you’re sure it isn’t a burden to you, I’d be grateful. I’m beat.”

Trooper Lockhart smiled. It was a pleasant smile. I worked hard to remember rules one and three – trust nobody, especially someone who seems nice, and don’t talk to anyone – so I probably came off being an asshole. I was sorry about that.

We crossed the road, and I got into the cruiser. A couple of coffee cups were nested in a cup holder; I saw a notebook fastened to the dashboard with a clip. The radio chattered softly and intermittently.

“Where to? “ He asked.

“Not far,” I answered, “just up the road a piece.”

He started up the car, and we took off. It felt really, really strange to be riding in a car after all the walking I’d done. Weirder still to be in a police cruiser, knowing that I was wanted for murder in Carlsberg. Didn’t they know to look out for me? Have my description?

I tried to keep a calm face as my heart banged loudly against my ribcage.

“So, where do you work?” he asked pleasantly.

“Uhh, back there, at…" my mind worked furiously to remember the name of the last farm – if it even had a name – “uhhh, Wilson’s.”

That was an inspiration. How did I remember that?

Trooper Lockhart nodded.

“Still in school?” He probed again.

“Yeah. My exams are done, though.”

He nodded again.

“Where are we going again?” He asked.

I scrambled for an answer.

“About a half mile up, it’ll be on the left.”

“Gee, that’s not far at all,” he laughed. “I could have let you walk.”

I didn’t say anything, but I smiled at the joke.

After we’d gone what I judged was an appropriate distance, I saw an intersection coming up, with a couple of houses on the corner. One of them was on the left. Perfect.

“Right there,” I said, pointing.

He stopped the car, and I got out.

“Thanks a lot. It was nice meeting you,” I said as I got out.

“Nice meeting you, too. I didn’t catch your name.”

Shit. I didn’t want to offer any name. Now I had to. Something he could go check.

“Eric Anderson,” I smiled at him and closed the door before he could continue the conversation.

I waved as I crossed the highway in front of him, and I felt his eyes on the back of my neck as I walked up the driveway to my “house.” I stepped up onto the screened-in porch and went to the front door. I breathed a sigh of relief as I heard the cruiser move off down the highway.

“Yeah?”

A middle aged woman stood there in the doorway, looking at me crossly. I couldn’t blame her.

“Sorry to bother you ma’am,” I said, thinking quickly, “I’m just wondering if you need any yard work done.?”

That got a bitter laugh from her. She looked me up and down. Her face sat in judgment and found me wanting.

“Hell, no. My husband can do that if he ever gets his ass home on time. Git your ass out of here before I call the cops, you stinkin’ trailer trash piece of shit.”

Oh.

That was enough for me. I turned and left, free again. Instead of taking the main highway, I headed out on the little road that crossed it here. I guessed I was going west by the sun’s direction, and I figured I had maybe a couple of hours of daylight to walk in. Time to put as much distance between me and Trooper Lockhart as I could.

Craftingmom edited this story. She has my many thanks for her generous help and time.

A review of any sort of variety is always welcome.

Copyright © 2016 Parker Owens; 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.
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Chapter Comments

Eric sure had 'stupid' beaten into him. However, he shows us he is anything but stupid.
I wonder what it will take to undo all that brainwashing he got, or if it's even possible to shake it all. :/
He ran into a friendly trooper who should have been wiser, then into an unfriendly older lady. Oh well, more items to add to his list ...hehe.
At least he's over the mountains. Maybe he'll find something good in the warm valleys.
Good job Parker! Can't wait for more adventures!

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I can totally understand his lack of trust in people. I hope his father is rotting in hell for what he did to him. Stefan/Eric needs to find something good in his life soon. I look forward to seeing what the next chapter brings.

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On 10/28/2015 09:26 AM, Valkyrie said:

I can totally understand his lack of trust in people. I hope his father is rotting in hell for what he did to him. Stefan/Eric needs to find something good in his life soon. I look forward to seeing what the next chapter brings.

You are so good to keep reading. Eric's sad life so far isn't very pretty, and he needs help and care. Maybe next time... I appreciate your reviews, and look forward to them.

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On 10/28/2015 09:11 AM, skinnydragon said:

Eric sure had 'stupid' beaten into him. However, he shows us he is anything but stupid.

I wonder what it will take to undo all that brainwashing he got, or if it's even possible to shake it all. :/

He ran into a friendly trooper who should have been wiser, then into an unfriendly older lady. Oh well, more items to add to his list ...hehe.

At least he's over the mountains. Maybe he'll find something good in the warm valleys.

Good job Parker! Can't wait for more adventures!

Eric got himself hurt again, and he blames himself for it. How awful is that? I think it will take some safety and some kindness - in more than a few isolated doses - for him to trust a little more. And even then, Eric's stubborn wariness is unlikely to bend much. Thank you so much for keeping up the weary walk with Eric over the mountains. He needed our company. And you're right: maybe something better is waiting for him somewhere...

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Ha! Sometimes I just want to shake him! And I can only wonder about how blind people can be, whose job it should be to spot someone in need. Ugh.

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On 10/30/2015 05:50 PM, aditus said:

Ha! Sometimes I just want to shake him! And I can only wonder about how blind people can be, whose job it should be to spot someone in need. Ugh.

Our problem is that we see the police as benign, as they are. Eric sees them as a direct pathway back to Carlsberg, jail, or even worse, his Uncle Ray.

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Oh parents know not what they do, some of it is innocent but some, like calling your child stupid stays forever. The cop could have been more insistent but I think he knew it work.

 

Stephan needs a different kind of confidant. ..

 

tim

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On 11/02/2015 01:10 AM, Mikiesboy said:

Oh parents know not what they do, some of it is innocent but some, like calling your child stupid stays forever. The cop could have been more insistent but I think he knew it work.

 

Stephan needs a different kind of confidant. ..

 

tim

Trooper Lockhart may not really have had enough time to dig. Bet something will bother him about the encounter, though.

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How sad is it that Stefan/Eric knows no different than to judge himself by his father's standards. He is what his father says he is. It is so ingrained in him, but we see that he is different. We need him to see that too.
That trooper suspected something but Stefan was wily enough to throw him off. Who knows how he could have helped.
Good chapter...

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On 11/06/2015 01:20 PM, Defiance19 said:

How sad is it that Stefan/Eric knows no different than to judge himself by his father's standards. He is what his father says he is. It is so ingrained in him, but we see that he is different. We need him to see that too.

That trooper suspected something but Stefan was wily enough to throw him off. Who knows how he could have helped.

Good chapter...

Eric / Stefan I has got years of conditioning to throw off, plus the terror getting sent back to his Uncle Ray, or jail. Trust will come very slowly, I think. And he's getting good at being invisible.

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Cows. That reminds me of a 'sermon' I had to endure so I could eat dinner and sleep in a bunk at the rescue mission. The speaker was going on and on about Noah's Ark. He listed animal after animal that marched pair by pair into the Ark. Monkey and monkey. Ape with ape. Cow with cow. …wait a minute! 'Cow with cow'? Lesbian cattle? Where's the bull? Why not a steer? Cows are all female. (What an idiot!)

 

I like pointing out to people that I'm not a calf. I don't need to drink milk. Besides, udders are even more disgusting unappealing versions of breasts. Beef is tasty though!

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On 06/28/2016 12:09 PM, droughtquake said:

Cows. That reminds me of a 'sermon' I had to endure so I could eat dinner and sleep in a bunk at the rescue mission. The speaker was going on and on about Noah's Ark. He listed animal after animal that marched pair by pair into the Ark. Monkey and monkey. Ape with ape. Cow with cow. …wait a minute! 'Cow with cow'? Lesbian cattle? Where's the bull? Why not a steer? Cows are all female. (What an idiot!)

 

I like pointing out to people that I'm not a calf. I don't need to drink milk. Besides, udders are even more disgusting unappealing versions of breasts. Beef is tasty though!

Oh deer...um, dear. Cows with cows? Poor Eric simply talks to the cows, if only because he needs someone to talk to, to vent with. Even then, he got stuck taking a mercifully short but nerve racking ride...thanks for the thoughts.

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3 hours ago, Timothy M. said:

He's quick-witted when it counts, and his survival skills are finely honed by now.

Eric has dodged another arrow slung at him by fate. You’re right that he’s getting good at survival by this time. Thanks for commenting and reading!

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1 hour ago, chris191070 said:

Eric has become quick witted and he seems to have developed his survival skills.

Life on the road has honed Eric's instincts for survival. His long-nurtured skills at deflection and half-truth paid off here.

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