American Captive

Elevate form over function to get at less easily articulable truths.

American Captive

Postby Berkley Babes » Tue Jan 07, 2020 6:27 pm

INTRO

The first time I see Vickers, he runs from the woods to the food truck to steal a hotdog.
I thought I had a safe job. I don’t.
I’m a security guard at the Clear Lake Condo Estate.
The night watchman.
I pray for construction workers to leave, so I can sit alone at a construction site.
The second time I spot Vickers, he sprints back to the food truck for mustard.
I watch him do this from a trailer window.
Dump trucks rumble down the dirt road, so my view is made almost impossible by the flying trail of dust.
Vickers uses the dust as cover to enter a condo.
Gary Lee Vickers.
Serial killer.
He’s on record for the most murders committed by a single slayer.
Total victim count: Over two thousand.
His victims: perverts, rapists, sex offenders.
His motive: righteous indignation.
Some call him a vigilante. A dark hero.
Others say he crossed a line when he started killing lawyers who defended child abusers. Killing judges for short prison terms. Killing cops who didn’t stop the sex traffic soon enough.
Eventually Vickers was caught.
And eventually he got locked in a cell on death row.
But a few months ago he escaped, by sneaking into a laundry bin that was loaded onto the back of a bread truck.
The national newspapers claim that he hides in Mexico. Only I know he squats here, sleeping in the attics of unfinished condos.
The condos, some completed, some half-built, circle a lake.
From what I hear, this is the second time the condo project got the green light. Before me, before I got hired, the condos were burned down by eco-terrorists. The new condos are now built in a wooded area once kept reserved for natural wildlife. Protesters were ignored. Then they were suspected of setting the blaze.
I thought my job was to stop another fire. Then I realized my guard post is less than that, not important. I work until midnight. But after I clock out, no other guard replaces me. This obvious fact, how it leaves the property open to arson, has always struck me as odd. For awhile, I wondered why my boss gave me such a hollow job. But I’ve also never argued against it, getting paid for nothing. I didn’t apply to work here in an effort to stop anything.
In truth, when I’m not working, where I live, my apartment complex is a suburban ghetto. There, I wake up to gunshots at night. Here, I come for the peace and the quiet. Here, I plan to enjoy the solitude, the silence, maybe even the boredom.
I got those simple wishes at first. Then Vickers arrived.
One half of the construction site is far from finished, while the other side has finally become ready to rent.
Today, the first new condo owners got permission to move in.
Long before the moving company vans showed up, Vickers slept here. Long before these well dressed people carried fragile boxes inside, Vickers made this home.
These new neighbors now live among the most wanted criminal in the country. I think to alert them about it, warn them. But I don’t.
As a security guard who wears the trustworthy badge of an authority blue uniform, I’m expected to report when a killer is so close. But I won’t. I keep the sighting of Vickers a secret.
Because my boss is a criminal, too.
Frank Benzino.
His business, as a building developer, is just a front. It hides the money that can’t be explained by the rest of his illegal operations.
And the people moving into these condos work for my boss.
After some debate, I reason they all deserve each other. They might look like nice people, just carrying boxes up those glow-white walkways, but they’re not. At best, they’re crooked accountants who bribe crooked mayors for land deals.
Even if I did report Vickers, the newspaper journalists would swarm just as fast as the federal agents. After I took credit for the arrest, I’d be just as tempted to stand in front of a camera crew, tell the world how corrupt my boss is.
Sure, Gary Lee Vickers kills people. But my boss, Frank Benzino, is no different. He’d give hitmen orders for my death. I also have cocaine in the pocket of my army store issued uniform, so I don’t make that emergency call.
I avoid the draw of swift heat.
My job is easy. Too easy. Yes, I work near a convicted killer. And, yes, I work unknowingly for a mafia boss. But I’m still alive. I remind myself of this often. I convince myself the risk is minor.
Under my boots, on solid land, I feel a constant unease.
Where I live, I have a bullet hole in my bedroom wall.
Here, at work, everything looks nice. Here, the seeds have been planted for green grass. Thin blades have sprouted, not yet full. Today, as I whistle during my first security round, twirling my ring of keys, I’m careful to trample none of it.
My nose twitches for cocaine blow.
Between a rock and a hard place, between the devil and the deep blue sea, I stick.
I stick around because I’m on a mission. A secret mission called, Operation Prominent Bone. My code name is, Valiant Hound.


Enjoying it so far? The rest can be found in blog form here . . .

(Link deleted, pending permission, rest of post approved.)
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Re: American Captive

Postby Fixed Cross » Tue Jan 07, 2020 9:51 pm

I recommend you dont post ads for your blogs or for other text sources here, but rather use this site seriously, as the intended platform for your work.

People have gathered vast libraries of writing here a lot of which is quite good.
The strong do what they can, the weak accept what they must.
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Re: American Captive

Postby Meno_ » Wed Jan 08, 2020 12:43 am

Fixed Cross wrote:I recommend you dont post ads for your blogs or for other text sources here, but rather use this site seriously, as the intended platform for your work.

People have gathered vast libraries of writing here a lot of which is quite good.




And here is one of them.


A woman, actually a young high school freshman at the time, meets a boy, nerdy but cute. Comes from the right side of tracks that vanish into some fixed point.
They both come pretty much from the same point. They live opposite, on the same street.
So she is fashionista, that is what everyone will remember her by.

Then they get out while staying at home, they don't go to college. They get married, have a beautiful child boy named Ariel.

The grandpa helps to raise him, as he starts school, the father is always sleeping, he has a job selling drugs. He buys from his uncle uncle Said.

The girl is artistic , gets an interior designer job with a firm flipping homes.

Cut forward.


She is dead of overdosing on Oxy, Speed, and heroin. Her current fiancee comes knocking on grandpa's door.

Something is wrong with her she can't be awoken.


CPR does not helpgiven by grandma , a registered nurse. Grandpa is inconsolable drunk and police asks grandma if they should book him for being drunk.Grandma declines offer.


So his wife, died because he noticed her fiance there. She took the drugs , he brought it, while the little boy was in his car. The next day she died and the boy was gone, as his mother to the morgue.

All inuendoes such as, she was a kind soul, insecure, Asian, he, Islamic, bound to it's laws, present an interiority akin to Romeo and Juliet.
But it is a negative, a negative , grandpa should have known.

But he was born here, was grandma's refrain, to somehow offer some relief from indemnity.

There was no sign, only of appearent futility on their faces reflecting the sad antimony between maternal and paternal cultural clashes.

The presumption of fowl play directs grandpa to a more terrible thought, if carried to an indisputable conclusion, the little boy may end up motherless and fatherless.

But grandpa promised when the two clashed, to bind souls, and never let go.

Exact names of characters and details have not been expressed for era on of protection of both families.


The grandpa has since, inaudible been reciting this mantra: The other grandpa is offering some splice and attrition, but not anytime soon to see the boy, he is worried by some false claims.


Ek Ong Kaar Sat Gur Prasaad, Sat Gur Prasaad, Ek Ong Kar.
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Re: American Captive

Postby Berkley Babes » Wed Jan 08, 2020 10:17 am

Not very welcome sounding, anyway, hi Meno
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Re: American Captive

Postby Meno_ » Wed Jan 08, 2020 5:02 pm

Cut back.

She is charmingnshe is child. She plays in light , plays with light.
Grandpa is like Moses a grandma , grandma Moses likes to play. With brushed aside inner castles in the air turned upside down like doll play dollis crying she knows real well the castle is right side up she and gramps are up side down on how possible?

$cream cry no help gods do listen are listeningntjey habe always but like children, stubborn create our self homonsapine structure created the artifact well, yes, and became another one of those silent ones like Katie Tonya said long time ago in mist of some oriental garb, a code as into her very heat she preaching with eight arms.

She went then down way down in all tjenworlds at once, and created herself from clay, and god granted her the man escort her only to destroy her again.

The blue shroud of his face still, the time whispers aglow the domains shrink miniatures emanating fragrance and stench, and the child will be a man, not unduly like her. Strong and wise and in love in perpetuam.
Dint worry happiness , always there through a crack madly winking there there you see, on just missed it but the. child knows.
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Re: American Captive

Postby MagsJ » Wed Jan 08, 2020 8:07 pm

Cool story BB.. I’m interested in hearing the rest.
The possibility of anything we can imagine existing is endless and infinite.. - MagsJ

I haven't got the time to spend the time reading something that is telling me nothing, as I will never be able to get back that time, and I may need it for something at some point in time.. Wait, What! - MagsJ


Nobilis Est Ira Leonis | Om Surya Devaay namah | Manus justa nardus
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Re: American Captive

Postby Meno_ » Wed Jan 08, 2020 9:04 pm

Berkley Babes wrote:Not very welcome sounding, anyway, hi Meno




Berkeley Babes,


Hello and welcome.
It never has been my wish to associate style, with content to the degree that one washes the other.

A new beginning is an aesthetic principle to abide by, and the sense of illusion that prescribes the observance of a fresh start , needs to minimize an affective sense from the effect.

I took a writing class some way back that prescibed total honesty through real experience.

Therefore, welcome again
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Re: American Captive

Postby Berkley Babes » Thu Jan 09, 2020 6:25 pm

1

To spy with a watchful eye, I scan hard, but pretend to look with a soft gaze.
I get on guard, ready to do my security detail.
I’m quick to notice anything out of place, so the moment I lose my mind, I simply mark it down on the nightly report as missing.
With a criminal record, I still got this security job, by telling lies at the interview.
My hair has a military shape, tightly clipped above the ears.
My badge and my boots have a polish and a shine.
But I’m no cop.
I feel more like the kind of creep who stands in the dark, pisses on the territory of the tree, then, under the chorus of crickets, carefully steps around the crunching leaves, sneaking up to the condos to steal the family jewels.
I work late afternoons into the night.
It’s a construction site for new condos that have sprung up around the base of a lake.
Working as a guard, I get paid to observe anything out of place, so when I see the toy gun, I instantly understand I’m the target of a prank.
The construction workers, the ones who pulled the prank, they just stand there laughing at me—the young man in uniform. They have just made a joke on my manhood. The squirt gun is meant to mock my authority, what little I have.
I get more than mad. There must be a flash of fury in the whites of my eyes. My hands ball themselves into a fist. My fingernails dig against my palm. My knuckles turn stark white. I go on seething this way, beyond my own tipping point. My nostrils are fierce enough to flare open, like I might blow my angry top. I can feel I’m about to summon up something black and vicious. I grit my teeth together. I spit on the ground, spit as poisonous as venom or as volcanic as molten lava. A sudden nastiness strikes me at the small of my back and it surges up the full length of my backbone, sending chills and hot flashes to my neck. My mood is like the mighty incisor on a mangy mutt or a mongrel cat, sharp to the bite.
I stand there in such a superior way, it looks like I’m about to give orders that are strict and made to punish. I do not move. At any moment, I could snap. I point them all out by a show of guilt, accuse everyone. I drag my thumb across my neck, in a cut-throat motion.
Then I stay still.
From hands on hips, to how I spread each leg, it all says something supreme.
A toy gun, I think. Like I’m some toy soldier.
The construction site is busy with men at work and the gray sky does nothing but darken their bronze back muscles. They watch over my way, sneaking looks at me during their man labor. I take note of anyone who tries to hide what a grin would tell. My eyes are shifty enough to scan them down from a distance.
Set between knowing who to blame and how to start a fight, my ideas become racy and ferocious.
The lowly security guard, I stand there on the trailer steps. I want to know who stole my clipboard, but more importantly, how dare they replace it with a squirt gun.
Suddenly I wish all the workers had one neck so I could strangle them with one grip.
I notice a group of workers standing in a circle, laughing in private. I decide they are the most likely suspects.
I hold the toy gun above my head and I shout over to them, “Whose joke is this?” Then I say, in rising tones, “All along the watch tower. I get it. Funny. Not very.”
The entire group of men turn to face me but none of them claim the dirty deed. Their total silence manages to leave me even more disgruntled. I have this vision in mind of a tiger being poked in its cage. So I throw the gun to the ground. My foot stomp breaks it into pieces.
I stand there counting the ways I will lose my job if I act on the pure adrenaline that courses through my body. I walk into the trailer office to think over my reaction.
I get a full cup from the water cooler. I sip at it with a shaky hand. A small amount of water spills over the brim, which makes a smudge on the blueprint sketch before me. I try a breathing exercise. It fails. My heart can be heard thumping in my ears.
The newspaper on the chair has the front page headline that reads: VICKERS STILL ON THE LOOSE.
I start to read the caption under the color photo but I can’t focus. I know the story article anyway. About how the serial killer escaped prison. How everyone thinks he crossed the border to get face surgery in Mexico.
The courage to once again confront those brute men is swelling and building up in my chest. I walk back out, my legs feeling weak beneath my weight.
The condo complex is very active since it happens to be a project with impending deadlines.
I make a march between the condos still in development. The construction process is swarming all about me. I step around the giant digging machines, while making eye contact with the men who operate them. Carpenters hit hammer to nail as their craftsmanship echoes throughout. From painter to plumber, every man has a tool for which I can find an easy killing method. The same tools that put food on their family table, I can also use for something violent. I’m paralyzed in pure fantasy. For a moment, I picture myself, in uniform, circled by a group of men wearing hard hats, as I fight them, one by one, with a power drill.
“Hey! Rent-a-swine!” one of the roofers calls down. “Hey! Rent-a-pig!”
The roofers are putting up shingles, but they stop to heckle me from above. Shirts off, they are all bare-chested and wearing red bandanas.
“Hell of a cute costume they gave ya,” one of them shouts.
“Officer Dickweed,” yells another. And they all laugh.
I make a serious effort to bite down hard on my tongue, furious and far beyond my cracking point.
The sign at the front gate announces The Clear Lake Condo Estate. The emblem shows two swans swimming together, real graceful like. Another sign, posted higher, states the construction site is controlled by a local corporation: E.B. Kingman Builders and Developers. Those letters stand out, big and bold, and there is no question who the property belongs to. But the way they came to acquire it, that’s a foul matter. Rumor is, the mayor took money in a city hall bribe. Favors for corrupt favors.
The land itself is enclosed, situated at the base of the lake, between a large wooded area and a stretch of highway.
Giant mounds of broken soil.
Tall heaps of sand.
Deep dirt valleys.
There’s a completed condo section where the grass grows so rich and so green, it gives the neighborhood a niceness. A real niceness. It happens to be a remote area, far from the city square, a good distance away from any other neighborhood. This isolated island feeling, which promotes peaceful living, is the main selling point.
The site today is very much alive with moving machines.
Dump trucks.
Compact tractors.
Cement mixers.
Backhoe loaders.
I do my best to skirt around the hazardous areas, especially when the giant claw of an excavator swings down across my foot path.
I start on a highly motivated walk toward the lake front, thinking the shimmering water might ease my stress. Halfway along the road, however, I come across a pudgy man with a walkie-talkie, close enough to barely hear him say, “I got the big dildo marching up to me now.”
Almost by instinct, I turn around to see the site manager, Bob Rogers, laughing behind me. He, too, has a walkie-talkie.
It’s here that I realize I’m the dildo joke.
Once again, I clamp my teeth down on my tongue, as I walk past the fat man, my face feeling flush, full of blood.
I continue to step along the road as it curves around the lake in the shape of a horseshoe. There are hundreds of men hard at work. I observe action.
A man using an electric saw on planks of wood.
Another man bulldozes.
Men put up vinyl siding.
Men piece together underground pipe.
Electricians spool wire.
I walk past a tall man strutting in the opposite direction with a big smirk on his face. We brush shoulders. He asks me, “That badge make you a tough guy?”
Sensing the hostility, I say, “Yeah, I’m official.”
“Official asshole, more like it.”
Too totally stunned to respond, I mumble a series of curse words under my breath, out of earshot. I keep walking, holding back from a fit of hardcore rage. Finally, I reach the end of the road where I stand in the center of some old weedy pavement.
I look over the lake, asking myself what the hell that was all about—the laughter and the ridicule.
The lake has a real calming effect on me.
So I pull a small glass pipe out of my pocket. I pack it with some crack cocaine. Then I smoke the damn thing, slowly. There is a rising feeling in my body. I’m lifted to a higher, more inspired plane of thought.
Standing at the water’s edge, I can see how fresh and how clean the lake is.
I watch a flock of white birds, flying in V-formation, touch and actually skim the surface of the lake. I marvel at this with another intake of cocaine smoke.
I decide before I walk back that if any of the workers taunt me again, I will punch their mouths loose.
No, I tell myself, I cannot afford another outburst.
As the lowly security guard, I will simply make my rounds this late afternoon. I figure the most excellent revenge will have me setting fire to the condos, watching them burn into the evening. Then I will wait for the workers to show at dawn with lunch boxes and looks of shock. When questioned why I ignored the emergency, I will say that I tried to put the fire out, to really extinguish those flames, but the toy water gun they gave me would only squirt so far.
Just then, a mail truck drives at a reckless speed to the end of the road, where I still roam in a daze. I quickly pocket my drug pipe.
A mailman slides the door open to jump out. His face is slick with tears, so I ask about the apparent problem.
He says his name is Gerald Jerome, a mail carrier for over twenty years. He tells me he just lost his job.
“Goddamn technology. Goddamn internet. Goddamn email,” he keeps repeating. “Cost me my goddamn livelihood.”
He opens the back door of the mail truck, saying, “Help me with this, will ya?”
I see a small canoe lying across his empty sorting boxes.
Before I can decline, he’s pulling the canoe out, handing me one end of it. I find myself automatically carrying it with him down the slope, towards the lake.
“You know, I used to deliver mail here,” he says.
“Nobody lives here, yet,” I inform him.
“No, before the condos. There used to be one house here, on a farm. I delivered the eviction letter.”
“Oh, yeah?” I say, feeling my feet lose traction on the slope.
“Yeah, they didn’t want to sell. That is, not until the day the wrecking ball came. Nobody wants be crushed.”
“Really?” I say. “Huh. Never knew that.”
“What a big stink that was. Wouldn’t be surprised if the farm family is responsible for burning the condos down, you know, the first time.”
“I was told eco-terrorists were to blame for that.”
The mailman laughs a sick laugh. “Yeah, that’s what the reporters report, anyway. They’re building this place on an ancient burial ground. So bad karma, arson or no arson, if you ask me. Wouldn’t be surprised if Indian ghosts set the blaze.”
We reach the base of the lake, set the canoe down. I’m about warn him not to feel so bad over his lost job, about to list all the rotten jobs I quit before this one, but I see a rope in the canoe, tied for a noose.
The mailman pushes the canoe onto the lake. Stepping in the water, still wearing his shoes, he boards the small boat. With a paddle, he stabs the land to shove off.
“Just be glad you still have a job,” he tells me. “Thanks for the lift. Thanks for the extra pair of hands.”
I remain distracted by the thought of his suicide noose plans, as I watch him stroke across the lake. He drifts toward the forest on the opposite shore.
Absent minded over whether I should alert anyone, I’m already climbing up the slope, walking again between the condos.
Only, as it now seems, all the workers have gone home. The entire place is free, just how I like it. The time card I punched, that was an hour ago, but the job I applied for, my actual shift, it starts now.
Back at the trailer office, however, I suddenly see Bob Rogers, the site manager.
My relief must wait a minute longer.
As Bob skips down the trailer steps, I watch him curl the newspaper under his armpit.
Bob sees me eye the paper, so he says, “You hear they still haven’t caught that Vickers?”
“No,” I lie. “Just noticed the section for sports is missing.”
“Yup. Murdering madman still on the run,” he says, somewhat friendly, like his peers aren’t around to pressure his cruel side.
I don’t answer, offering only a cold shrug.
So he stiffens up to say, “Hey, don’t sit around all night.”
“Got it.”
“You know, do something.”
“Sure thing.”
I watch him jump into his truck and go.
Then I head over to the portable toilet to find those missing pages of sport scores. Here, the rebel in me sits, wondering what kind of firecracker might be powerful enough wreck flat a portable toilet.
For the rest of the night, it will be just me, the lake, those empty condos, and the slayer known as, Gary Lee Vickers.
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Re: American Captive

Postby Berkley Babes » Fri Jan 10, 2020 4:33 am

2

I’m employed by Ace Security.
The man who hired me is a retired cop who once ran the secret service for President Nixon.
But the real person I have to answer to, the big boss man, he’s a building developer.
Frank Benzino.
I knew almost nothing about his local reputation when I applied for this job, except that he was super wealthy.
To be honest, I’ve never met my boss, not until now. Now he takes a tour of his property.
I am still on duty, appearing to be extra vigilant during his visit.
This big and bulky man walks with his hands clenched behind his back. He’s followed by a group of mostly men, some bodyguards, some lawyers, and a female realtor who points out progress made to the completed condos.
Frank Benzino wears a black suit with a power red tie. His hair is thick and black and cut close to the head. This man has squared shoulders and the kind of hefty build that makes me think he might have run tight-end passing routes for a college football team, just barreling his way into the end zone, boom.
I go straight up to him, extend my hand in a greeting.
“Hello,” I say, but he ignores my hand. “I’m Mike Miller.”
“I know who you are,” he returns, in a British accent. “And I’m hearing a great many things about you.”
So I say, “Oh, really, sir?”
“Yes, those nightly reports you write up are just bursting with detail. Welcome aboard Kingman Corp.”
The group of men try to usher Benzino along, but not before I can lower my voice to tell him, “Sir, something I’ve noticed. No other guard shows up after my shift is done. There’s nobody to cover the graveyard shift. That leaves the construction site vulnerable from midnight to morning and I—”
“You’re doing a mighty fine job here,” he says. “Keep up the quality work.”
“But sir,” I say again, “I just think during the peak hours of criminal activity, you might want another guard to—”
He slaps me hard on the back, shockingly hard, so hard I have to bend over to suck wind.
He says, “Just make sure nobody steals enough material to make a rather large tree house, if you know what I mean.”
He cocks his head back to let out an almost sinister laugh, flashing his fang tooth. He takes my hand into his big leathery palm, shaking it up and down. Then he’s gone, led into a limo with tinted windows, driven away from the site, the gravel under those wheels crunching.
And so, after the workers load up trucks with the tools of their trade, they take to the weekend by leaving early.
The construction site is empty and I’m alone. I start to make my daily rounds in the most dedicated fashion, patrolling the road up and down, craning my neck and peering at every inch of the site.
I protect this place, make all things safe and secure.
I walk upright, with more of a march. I straighten my back, keeping my neck stiff. Inside I feel foolish, without any real purpose. But still, I stand firm, in uniform, legs spread, hands on hips, ready to observe and record, against all villains and robbers, against all criminals and crooks.
I have some questions in mind, some pressing concerns, but I go back to the trailer thinking only of adding a long list of details to my nightly report. One observation I will not include is how Frank Benzino balled his meaty hand into a fist when questioned about a replacement guard. My boss had then messaged his temples with two fingers when there was a hint of shady business dealings, that is another thing that will not enter the record. How the pads of his cheeks turned boiling red when I mentioned another guard to keep a constant lookout, it was something I saw but would omit from the account that night.
Instead, I have to falsify the document. I write down fake license plate numbers of fake cars that almost never come here, except when driving lost. I write down phony times that give some indication of when I do my fake stroll around the ground, keeping a sharp watch for any shadowy movement, lending my ear to any type of odd noise. I have to look important, worthy of the paid position. For the sake of appearances, I have to show that I’m on my post as a valuable asset to the Kingman Corporation. A job without a purpose can afford this kind of dishonest record keeping.
So, night after night, I fill the report with lengthy descriptions of sneaky activity.
Some nights, I hear creaking in the attics of condos. I always guess it’s Gary Lee Vickers.
On my way back outside, I notice something that chills me to the bone. The sign across the side of the trailer that reads: Kingman Builders and Developers, has been spray painted over with a single menacing word: SANE!
The word has a bright orange color, almost luminous, tagged in such a way, it suggests a drug induced frenzy of some kind. The word is large and looming, screaming for attention. This is proof that people, mainly teenagers, come here long after my security shift is over. With nobody on duty, there’s no stopping them. There’s no guarding against them.
Intruders.
Trespassers.
Gate Crashers.
At midnight, strangers have free reign over this off-road area, to car park by the lake, to commit any act of lust, to exchange illegal goods for illegal services, to shoot off rounds of their guns, to get incredible kicks from their drug of chance, and to dance around big bonfires, while chanting.
As the only guard, I set out to do the job with a fat key-ring jingling against my waist. My flashlight is on full beam.
I go from condo to condo closing the windows tight, latching them, then pulling the front doors shut, locking them.
In some of the bare rooms, there’s the smell of fresh paint, and by inhaling it, I have the beginnings of a small headache.
Everywhere there’s evidence the condos have been trespassed or slept in by a vagrant. From sandy shoe prints on the brand new carpet, to a crushed beer can on the counter, to a bikini bottom left on the bathroom floor, it all speaks of forced entry. These are the forgotten items of some invasion that jumps out to my trained eye.
On the second floor of a completed condo, I come upon a wall that someone has kicked a hole in. This vandal had also used spray paint to send out a protest, a rally cry aimed at the construction of condos so close to a habitat for natural wildlife. Again, the letters that stretch over the entire face of the wall are large and looming. The bright orange letters, written in a scrawl, they say nothing else, but SANE!
I’m aware of the acronym. I know it represents a nationwide organization for eco-terrorism.
Stand Against Networked Environments.
When I get over to the final condo, the last one to lock up, I stand for a long time looking out the sliding glass doors, looking at the lake below, how the moon reflects up from the water.
I then speak out, my breath showing a cloud on the long pane, telling myself, “This land to keep. Hand on hips I will stand. This land to keep. Even more to secure. This land to keep. This soil made safe. This land to protect as property of my own.”
I walk across the hardwood floor, along the brown carpet in the hallway, where I finally come to bathroom tile. There, looking at myself in the mirror, I pause for a moment to admire the strength of my jaw line, my steely blue eyes, the high set of my cheekbones. My cleft chin. And then, just before I can decide to what degree my uniform makes me look like a real cop, I bend down low to sniff a fat line of cocaine from the counter sink.
Once I make my way back to the trailer, I sit down and stare at the calendar, one which features scenes from a construction site. There’s a different swimsuit girl posing on a different heavy duty machine for each month.
I begin to wonder what type of rich man I’m working for, why after only a month, I’d been given a significant pay raise for no reason. I just want to know my role here, what function I serve.
As I continue to do a job with no purpose, I find myself inventing one. Then creating meaning to go along with that purpose. I catch myself in these moments and marvel at how fantastic my thought process has become. Sometimes, I’m jolted back to a plain job description that never matches up. After that I’m clawing back from the leftover void, clinging to any cause that will justify my existence on the payroll.
My cell phone rings. It’s my dealer, who calls to tell me about some top quality drugs for sale. I arrange to meet him at the construction site. When he arrives, we break up bags of weed on the surface of the blueprint drawings. His name is Tino. Talking at a faster than normal rate, he warns me that one of the plastic bags is laced with another potent substance. Before he can tell me what chemical was used, he loses track of the laced one. Like Russian roulette, I still buy a bag from him. He sparks up a blunt, passes it to me. I take the smoke deep into my lungs. It hits me harder than usual, so hard that when I ask him what the weed was mixed with, I can swear he says it’s a new digital drug called Electronic LSD. Then he says something like, “I got it from God, who also happens to be a computer programmer.” I close my eyes in disbelief and when I open them, Tino has already vanished from the trailer. My digital trip continues.
Looking over at the clock, my eyes begin to water and my vision begins to blur. The numbers on the clock have started to change from twelve digits, once an indication of the hour mark, to a Satanic circle of twelve letters.
It spells out: W-E-C-O-N-T-R-O-L-Y-O-U.
It’s a time card clock, so I punch out, randomly, even though I have no idea when my shift should end.
I decide on impulse to go swimming in the lake. I remember there’s a rope swing that’s tied to a giant oak tree. So I strip down to my boxers, then I grab the top notch on the rope and swing high above the lake. Letting go, I yell out before I hit the water, “Getting paid!”
When my head emerges for air, I think I can still hear my voice echoing across the other side.
After I reach the shore, I get dressed again in uniform. I go back to the trailer and I pull the lever on the punch card clock, to register my working status as still valid.
Then I go sleep, or maybe fall into an unconscious state, I can’t remember which, but I awake with a sudden uneasy feeling in my stomach.
In no condition to drive, I call a friend, Norman Long, or maybe it’s Charlie Moon, and I ramble something into the phone about a ride home. Someone picks me up from work, but as soon as we’re driving out of the construction site, two cars go speeding past us, inbound.
My head hangs out the passenger window, watching those two cars escape my justice, drool running from my mouth. It’s the spray paint vandals, no doubt, and there’s nothing I can do to implement swift punishment. I’m sure to return the next day, damage done. My real purpose, there’s none.
Dipping my head back inside, still dizzy, I hear somebody in the backseat call me a narc. Then they whisper into my ear, “Who watches the watchman?”
I want say Gary Lee Vickers, that he does the watching, but my tongue won’t work. I can only drone for sound.
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Re: American Captive

Postby Berkley Babes » Fri Jan 10, 2020 4:36 am

3

The Rockaway Apartments are centered by a huge boulder rock, to which the name so smartly markets.
In the middle of Massachusetts, where the Boston accent begins to fade, two rivals towns are becoming more of a twin city.
Painesville and Central Heights.
A river divides them.
The river separates hill from valley and it snakes along the property at Rockaway.
The river is polluted. I learned that last summer when I floated down the thing for fun, and the scab on my ankle turned a greenish yellow.
There is a method and movement of transportation, besides dirty water, that traps Rockaway in a box.
Opposite that river, a small airport has two asphalt landing strips that criss-cross. At the Rockaway front exit, where the main road joins a major highway, a yellow caution light prepares all drivers to accelerate full on like a German car commercial. Nearby tracks are traveled on by freight trains and street corner men.
I live here, at Rockaway.
Rockaway is home to people of low income. There are 21 buildings in total. Each building has the same hallway stench, a mix between foreign food and the steam that comes from the laundry room on the basement floor. And each apartment is just crawling with the carpet beetle. In letters written by the exterminator, these insects are referred to as “persisting” and “problematic”. The tenants, meanwhile, use swear words to curse the critters.
I still live with my mother. Mainly because she has lung cancer and doesn’t have long to survive.
We still argue.
Today, I get into verbal fight with my dying mother.
I have to appear in court to face criminal charges.
I give her some guilt. I blame her for my wretched life and all that is hellish. I can feel it float to my throat, a mouthful of material vomit. She holds nothing back. She says my birth was not a blessing. She says I entered this world on accident, by mistake. She claims she blacked-out in a biker bar. She only remembers playing pinball, not the sex.
The fear is now inside me. Should I leave the planet in a likewise manner, say a stray bullet, then my life would be without any real purpose. Sure, the name on the gravestone would belong to Mike Miller, but that tiny dash between the date of my birth and the date of my death would be a granite gray nothing.
I can sense the old idea creep in again: I live near an airport that does not operate from the controls of a tower. The airport has no fucking control tower. Taking off and landing is an all day assault. Every day, flight instructors take their pilots-in-training up and up. Some of these planes are experimental, meaning they are built by hobby mechanics.
Those planes circle and retrace. They gain momentum. Then they swoop dive across my bedroom window. Mechanical buzzards. I can sense them stalk me. Some people like to think those engines just hum along with hum of grace, and they do, but they also rip the belly of the sky right open, about to swallow me and my innocence.
The fear stays inside me. In my need for escape, I feel myself at the very core begin to fry and sizzle. I still need to live here—despite the inner tension that gnaws at me and grinds against my being—I still pay the rent. Airplanes be damned, I pay medical bills for my mother. I can’t leave her or her black lung cough.
This morning, I don’t care enough about the eggs to eat them. From the bathroom my mother tells me to enjoy the meal, saying it has a quality and warmth that goes missing in prison food. She’s yelling over the hair dryer about prisoners who get so mad in prison kitchens that they poop in the soup. Yelling about how the other inmates have to wait until the following day for their supper.
So I say, “A court appointed attorney will speak for me. His statements, not mine, will satisfy the court by turning into black type for the record. So settle down, Ma. I’m not going to jail any time soon.”
She comes out of the bathroom to question me as to what the judge might think of my wrinkled pants.
“He’ll think I’m the worst kind of criminal,” I say.
“Yeah, well, that reflects on me,” she says.
“A night crawler,” I add. “He’ll judge how I prowl the night.”
“Enough,” she says. “Take those pants off.”
I snap the belt buckle loose, pull down my pants, then kick them at the ceiling with a flip kick. At twenty-two years of age, I still like to see her painted face turn under a grimace and bent brow.
“You need to wear a tie,” she says, coughing. “Where’s the one from the last court date?”
“The knot keeps slipping.”
“Then you need to ask someone in the building. You should go now, while the iron warms up.”
This dampens my spirit, visibly—I feel my face dropping at the cheeks, pouting at the lips.
I go without a protest. I button my shirt in the building hallway.
I arrive to a red door with gold lettering. I decide to knock on apartment—3G
Eventually, a voice behind the door says, “Are you the Germans?”
I answer, “No, just your neighbor. Just hoping to fix my tie. My mother doesn’t know how. And, um, nobody ever taught me.”
The door is only beginning to open when the old man introduces himself as Carl Busby. The ring of sauce around his mouth requires that I watch for the words, but the old man motions me inside with just a finger.
Books in a stack in a near-corner have spilled across the rug, creating a tight walkway. Thick layers of cigar smoke draw rings around the room, and as I make my way down the winding path, I let my knees buckle, to avoid the thickest layer.
At this point Carl goes for the tie. I’m yanked by the collar close enough to hear the old man mumbling about a tricky loophole.
Rather than examine the age of the man’s face, I turn my sights to the apartment. I wonder why the clocks on the walls each tell a different time. My eyes fall upon a black and white photo in a frame. Taken during the Great Depression, the photo still shows a family standing very straight with their cheeks and their clothes sharing an equal amount of dirt. Also shown, is a boy pulling the insides of his penniless pockets out, while giving the camera the kind of sidelong smile that belongs to the circus.
I now look the old man over for comparison. Carl Busby has such a feeble neck. The crown of his head is bald. The rest of his hair goes around much like a monk’s circular fringe. He has sideburns of uneven length. His eyes are fixed wide, and instead of looking at me, they dart through me, and beyond.
Yes—the smile, the picture, the poor boy—it must be Busby.
“Got a date?” he questions me. “Going out with some young, early rising, gal?”
“Not exactly,” I reply.
“The way you’re dressed, you look like you’re planning something special,” the old man says. “Are you getting yourself involved in something special?”
I want to lie by telling him I’m going to a funeral, but I surrender to his all-knowing eyeballs. I say, “They’re making me go see the judge, but it’s nothing especially special.”
“Oh,” the old man guesses. “Throwing rocks and firebombs, eh?”
“No, no,” I answer. “I got into a bar brawl, and when the police got there, I guess I fought it out with them too. I don’t remember much. It was a dark, drunk night.”
What we both hear next cannot be any colder or more detached—a computer voice. It speaks out: “A weather observation for Painesville . . . taken at zero, nine, two, zero . . . reporting . . . winds calm . . . visibility ten statute miles . . . sky clear.”
I then hear a pilot radio that he thinks and feels like he wants to land.
This animates Carl Busby. He gives details fast.
Carl says the airport never built a control tower, so he bought a scanner at a yard sale to listen to those crazy pilots communicate their even crazier flight patterns.
The old man tells me he has a scrapbook somewhere in his apartment of all the newspaper articles related to local planes crashing in the area. He warns me of this fact: the airport we share a backyard with has recorded eight fatal air disasters in the past six years.
I don’t know what to make of this.
So I blurt out that my friend, Norman, teases me and taunts me, mocks me for having a similar problem.
“Norman thinks I’m a bastard because my father abandoned me,” I say. “Like the airport is symbolic, like it represents some big loss. My friend said the reason I hate the noise pollution of airplane engines is because my father was never around to teach me about engines or tools. One time, Norman acted like an airplane. He spread his arms out real wide, like this, and started coming at me, making engine noises with his mouth. So I tackled him to the ground. He told me he bit his tongue pretty hard, but I never saw any blood. I mean, what kind of airport in this country doesn’t command things from a control tower? Any other airport would be shut down after that many crashes.”
Carl Busby begins to nod at me with that stupid, toothless, gummy grin. He starts again by saying, from ground level, the shape of the plane reminds him a flying crucifix. He rambles on, only to mention the lofty concept of pain and suffering. Then it comes, the big reveal: those planes spy on all the twin city residents, watching everybody from a great height, watching every single person, including the paid night watchman—Mike Miller.
The hallway echoes with, “ . . . gonna be late for the courthouse.”
So I pull away, hoping my pair of pants will be warm and ready to wear.
Busby senses the urgency. He tugs the knot on the tie, saying, “Welcome back to the real world. From monks and bells to the nanosecond. Now, rise up, boy, rise!”
I don’t know what he means, but I say I’ll remember it, and rush out.
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Re: American Captive

Postby Berkley Babes » Fri Jan 10, 2020 4:40 am

4

So here I am, back at the construction site.
Thanks to a pay raise, this is my first day driving a monster truck around the Clear Lake Condo Estate. I call it my security mobile. I bought a big, black monster truck that runs on four fat wheels. The engine sounds of cruel intention and worldly domination. It even came with a skull painted in flames on the hood.
Many of the hammer-and-nail, hard working fuckers have stopped what they’re doing, to admire the size of my mean machine. They look stuck between general motor head curiosity and outright jealousy.
The security guard is now at command of the wheel, riding high.
I park the monster truck beside the trailer and I drop down the step ladder to ground level.
I march around the site collecting the keys from the door knobs of completed condos. I walk over to a row of empty buildings and start to pull the garage doors down, but locking nothing, just giving the whole place a blocked-out barricade look. This activity is done in view of the construction workers, in plain sight, just to prove that I have some sense of duty. I set traffic cones across the road to prevent the idea of public touring. I close all the bulkhead doors to the basement, as a way to highlight my role in the fortifying process. I shut doors that have no lock, even when a windy gust can blow them open again. But still, I place value on the security measures, the act itself. I pretend to work. I do not lock, I perform. Everybody recognizes my effort to close the place up, seal the place off. By portraying a busy body and some useful hands, I accomplish something on a very small scale, while at the same time knowing it looks big to the resentful eyes of the others. My job’s a joke, and yet, I still got a second generous raise at the end of the last pay cycle. Without know why I got the increase, I did not dispute it.
Right now, standing at the front exit, hands on hips, eyes shifting under the brim of my badge cap, I watch a worker approach. This guy holds a hacksaw. The green John Deere hat on his head has orange letters, which match the color of his beard. I once heard a co-worker of his call him Butch, but it’s a name he’s slow to react to. I always guess he’s running from the law, under a false name, working under the tax table. He’s also the same guy who hurls insults at me every time I’m nearby. The closer our proximity, the more hostile he becomes. I get the impression he holds serious disdain for any type of authority figure, anyone who wears a badge or reminds him of a life spent looking over his shoulder.
The worker prompts me, goads me, saying, “Don’t work too hard, buddy.”
These rude remarks usually miss any sign of wit, but Butch fires them off, all the same. I just stand there and stare as he continues to strut by. I keep eye contact, until the last moment he looks away. My total lack of a response can be seen as a challenge.
So Butch feels the need to repeat, “Don’t work too hard, buddy. Nobody out here wants to see you pull a muscle, you know, strain yourself.”
I shout over to him in reply, “Would you like me to jog in place?”
“What was that, buddy?”
“Nothing, old pal. Don’t mind me, while I run over there and lift a really heavy bag full of back breaking purpose. You can watch me do it, if you want.”
The worker just lets his face contort, tilting his head to the side like a dumb dog, waving the hacksaw to show a threat. He raises the hacksaw even higher in warning when I tell him he’ll be hacking himself silly for the rest of his stupid green hat life.
I walk away, between the condos. The other workers think I can’t hear them laughing behind my back. I know their opinion of the guard position will never change, so I let it slide. The lowly security guard will always represent a series of jokes to them. Besides, I sometimes piss in their toolboxes. Sometimes I throw those same toolboxes into the lake, watching them sink, only to then crack open a beer that I raise in a toast to salute the act of my revenge.
I go into hiding on the top floor of an empty condo. With my binoculars, I watch the workers get together in a circle. A tall man hands out a case of beer to the thirsty. They hold the cans right above their beer belly guts, each taking a turn to speak in comical jest. They pull physical pranks on each other, like slapping each other with a paint brush. They point out faulty things. They all make fun of the guy who has to drive his mother’s old car to work because his is in the shop for repairs. They certainly are a clever bunch. They sip from their beer, mounting a strong defense to snappy one liners, waiting for the right moment to attack, seizing on another man’s weak spot. Vulgar language is the standard, or else it’s weak vocabulary. They huddle close together to laugh with unhealthy hearts at obscene adult humor, most of it pornographic. They talk about fishing rods and boxing and race cars and army boots and the right way to lather yourself up with deer urine to attract the biggest buck. Finally, they end on a joint sour note, about the women they have unrespectable affairs with.
I move over to the other side of the condo, just to look at the lake. I know what I intend to do next will take my mind off this pointless job. I will touch upon euphoria and put myself in the sphere of ecstasy. I pull out some crack cocaine, and I smoke past my tolerance level. Another smooth pipe rip and my high gives me a huge head rush. I confirm the feeling out loud by saying, “Elevation, baby!” At the present time, I’m loving life so much, there comes a point where I think I might swell up with happy ideas, then explode.
By the time I switch to the front side of the condo, just about all the workers have taken to their trucks, gone home. The site is now under the control of the guard, with keys to roam the grounds as I please. This is how I envisioned the job when I first applied—the silence and the solitude.
So I walk outside, down the dirt road, whistling in the sunlight, while the green and yellow foliage falls from the tree tops. I’m tempted to skip along, I’m that high, that damn happy.
And just when I think I’m alone, a scrawny dog, skin and bones, does a small trot across my footpath, into the woods. A greyhound. The dog has his nose to ground, in hunt of food, but I wonder where the abandoned pooch will get some, since the land is closed off, secluded. Nobody lives within a few miles. Which means no food scraps for the street hound.
The daylight is no more. It has ceased to be. Darkness has fallen and I can still hear the hungry dog whimpering from the woods. In some kind hearted way, I feel obligated to feed the animal.
So I start up my monster truck and I drive away from the construction site, down the highway. I take the exit for the Twin City Plaza and a restaurant called The China Bang Express. I park at the entrance, but I leave the truck running, while I go inside.
The take-out line is short, but the wait period is long.
There’s a rock group playing on the bar side of the restaurant, a cover band called, Pink Lips Hot Sticks. I find the whole instrumental array to be loud and somewhat sweaty. The guitarist bangs out a solo riff, while the drummer misses a beat, just causing the cymbal to clash.
Men sitting on barstools, in a row, all begin to cast an evil eye at me, as if I’m some cop ready to stamp out the festivities.
Women, mostly of a middle age, flock together to flaunt their pocketbook purses and their hair sprayed hair, their fake eyelashes and their silver loop earrings. They all sip on cocktails while I wait for the dog food. The lady with the hip-hugging jeans winks at me, maybe wanting some man-in-uniform role play, inspecting me for handcuffs.
The band takes an offstage break, but a funk song plays next.
These women catch me in their sights, guessing I have all the energy of a young sex machine. They mentally undress me with their ex-ray eyes. They wave me onto the dance floor. A man from the DJ booth has just announced a cash prize to the best dancer, so I figure why not.
I have danced on the tops of tables at many a social gathering. The movement of my body appeals to most women, but it wins hate from a greater number of men. I always ready myself with a fresh step. I have enough ability to switch from the Latin line dance to the Irish jig in a matter of seconds.
There are two kinds of people in the world: those who dance, and those who shake and nod without a rhythmic clue. The latter keep a critical eye. And so, just as I am king of the dance floor, I’m also known as the guy who might steal a longtime lover.
I win the dance contest. The DJ points me out, as none other than “the man in blue”. He rewards me with a hundred dollar bill.
People make a path in the crowd for me to walk through, many of them patting me on the back.
The bartender calls me over and he sets a drink in front, a White Russian, indicating the four English gentlemen in the corner have sent it over.
I look with some trouble into the dark corner where I finally see four men, all wearing trench coats. The taller, older man in the middle looks to me like a well-connected underground mafia boss.
He raises his glass to me.
I would have declined their best wishes but the White Russian is my favorite mixed drink. Besides, I think I deserve a celebratory swig or two. I put my lips to it, and sip it slowly, cautiously, since it hits my throat with a sting. My immediate guess, it’s poison.
Then the bartender passes me a napkin. On it, the men have written a note in lipstick. It says, “Who watches the watchman?”
I choke, in a coughing fit. I proceed to run out of the lounge area, grabbing my food bag, without paying for it, rounding the corner, out the double doors.
Soon I’m in my monster truck, speeding down the highway. My forehead sweats for good reason, from worry about what kind of liquid has just entered my bloodstream. My eyesight is fine, so I start to relax, but only slightly.
Back at the Clear Lake Condo Estate, I try to locate the dog, but it seems the closer I get to his barking, the more he scampers away, tail between his legs. His dreadful howling goes on for two hours straight, during which time I ponder the lonely feelings and the boredom associated with this kind of job.
I finally leave the meat in the path I saw the dog take last. I wait a good distance away, until the barking stops.
Returning to the site, I find nothing has changed. Nothing has been altered. Objects did not move. Every detail stayed the same, like I never left my post. I’ve been gone for an hour. Nobody missed me. I was not needed in any capacity. Yet, the paycheck still comes in the name of Mike Miller.
With my flashlight on, I re-enter the woods. When my eyes adjust, I find is the food gone, but the dog is dead, just a few feet away. The greyhound lay there sideways, paws crossed together, dead from starvation. So I stand upright, under the moonlight, looking at the skinny beast, privately mourning.
I wonder if Gary Lee Vickers got to the meat first.
Oddly enough, I know that on lonely nights, in the middle of my boredom, I will be reminded of that sick dog howl. I will be tortured by his ghostly growl.
And lurking always, that murderer.
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Re: American Captive

Postby Berkley Babes » Fri Jan 10, 2020 4:41 am

5

Rockaway.
So here I am, in my Rockaway apartment, listening to the kids on the third floor. They have no toys, so for them, fun consists of running room to room, slamming doors, flooding the bathtub with water until it seeps through the ceiling.
First, there is knocking on my apartment door. Then pounding.
The voice calling from the building hallway tells me I can’t avoid the real world forever. I have to come back to the real world sometime.
I finally unlatch the bolts and chains on my door.
Ely Noble stands there, with a basketball on his hip.
His round figure and fat body is a welcome sight. His black face brightens for a smile. Then he pumps the ball at me, pretending to aim for my face. This causes me to wince and duck like an idiot.
Outside, we don’t talk much, yet, because that hot new Brazilian girl, Esmeralda, walks the sidewalk just ahead of us. The seductive stride of her hips has us both mesmerized, until she turns to buzz entry into the next building.
Finally, I say, “Did you hear about the plane crash?”
“Yeah, yeah, we all know how right you are.”
So I say, “But you still don’t care?”
“Yo, that shit happened far away,” he says, bouncing the ball.
“The wings clipped the roof of Building 6,” I say.
“Come on, let’s go hoop it up. Or you scared I might dunk all over your shit?”
So I reply, “Bitch, you can’t get up, you can’t jump.”
Noble pumps the ball, pretending to pass it really hard at my head, but this time I strip him of it, start bouncing it myself.
We both walk on, finally meeting Agusto Rodrigo.
Agusto stands by a dumpster, his back turned. We sneak up on him, attack him from behind. Agusto spins out of our grasp, swinging, until he knows it’s just us, his friends. He smiles his gap tooth smile.
Then, at random, an empty soda can hits me on the back of the head. It came from inside the dumpster. I look over the edge of the dumpster lid to see Pablo Rodrigo picking through some smelly trash bags. Flies swarm around his face but he doesn’t care to swat them away. Next to the dumpster I notice a bag of soda cans the Rodrigos have collected to return for beer money.
We all walk together down the main complex street.
And Pablo is saying, “My uncle Hector, his arm look nasty, mang. He got scars, so many scars. From the metal plates in his arm. From when he stuck his arm in the press machine at work, and it got all crushed and shit.”
Pablo points to his forearm, to show where is uncle needed surgery.
“They make my uncle Hector go to the settlement for the check. For months and months, they make him go. For years. But they never give us no check, yet.”
Then his brother, Agusto, adds, “We even call lawyers from the TV. Slip and fall, yo.”
Pablo tells me his uncle injured his arm on purpose, so he could file a lawsuit, for the entire family to move back to Puerto Rico, in style. Pablo makes it very clear that his uncle is the hero in their family.
I want to know what kind of job his uncle had, so I say, “What did you uncle do?”
And Pablo says, “He just bleed on the factory floor.”
I don’t correct what I meant by my original question.
We walk on.
Then it starts, the hazing.
“Whiteboy got on shoes from the bowling alley,” Noble says, about me. “Blue and red. “Half cracker ass, half corny-as-hell.”
The Rodrigos make sounds that take the insult to a higher level, and Noble carries on: “Belt buckle so damn big, bitch look like a pilgrim.”
So I say, “What tribe did you come from, with those two nostrils always flaring wide open when you chew, huh, fat boy?”
The Rodrigos holler out: “Ohhhhh Shit!”
As the one white person living here, the one minority, I’m expected to take lowest position on the race totem pole. I’m expected to laugh it off and say nothing. But I’m also expected to defend myself, or get booted from the group, no respect. It’s a line I sometimes have to cross. But I can’t complain. After all, these friends of mine, they get crushed by the white majority when they leave Rockaway. I’m the just whipping boy when they come home. I know this. So I’m required to let Ely have the last word.
“Honky motherfucka, your nose so narrow, sound like a dog whistle.”
Everyone, including me, laughs.
So Noble continues, “Whiteboy be whistling out the thang, call every dog on the block. Toot. Toot.”
Still more laughter.
Then his puts a tight arm around me to smile and say, “You know I’m just playing, whiteboy.”
“Let go,” I say, with a straight face. “I’m whistling to a pack of hounds right now. You squeeze me too tight, dogs won’t come, make me sound like a flute.”
But the conversation ends quick. The front door to Building 10 swings open so hard it nearly breaks off its hinges. Standing there, with a wet pony tail and a grizzly beard, is Max, the squat Columbian. His fist has a baseball bat. The boxing gloves that tie around his neck hang at chest level. And, somewhere in his pockets, Max is sure to carry a switchblade.
We huddle on the steps until the Rockaway squad car pulls to the curb. The security guard tells us not to “congregate” in front of buildings.
Max stares the guard down. Max, who just moved to Rockaway, hails from inner city projects of New York. Rockaway is just a small version of that, suburban projects, but he can’t shake his former hostility. Max wants to test the guard, because he plans to form a gang here, lead it.
The guard finally peels off.
Then Max tells us, “Nobody say to me shit. Come on, we go to the park.”
Together, moving as a pack, we enter the park.
Many already there play a game of basketball: Latino, Black, Asian, young versus old, shirt versus skin.
Next to the main office, near the pool, Rick Van Pelt is outside with his wife, Marla, who yells at a team of landscapers, screaming not to mow the lawn or trim the bushes. Instead, she shouts for them to pick up pieces of trash, broken beer bottles, wet condoms, and hypodermic needles.
Max has us all sit down at a picnic table.
He eyes me with suspicion, because I’m white.
He says, “I never see you.”
Pablo talks for me, to vouch for me. “He’s cool.”
His brother, Agusto, says, “He’s not like the other gringos.”
Max takes the switchblade from his pocket. He places his hand on the table top, then he starts to stab the spaces in between his fingers. Fast, then faster.
The Rodrigos ask about my job, since I work all the time, since we don’t party much anymore. They know I’m a security guard, but Max doesn’t, so I strain to say I smoke drugs on the job.
Max listens to us all talk, while he carves his name into the picnic table bench.
“It’s weird,” I explain. “I go there, work, and it’s all nice, then I come home, and I hear gunshots. It’s seems, I don’t know, fake happy there. But for a few hours at night, I get some peace and quiet.”
Max says, “Whatchu mean, fake?”
I try to compare the Clear Lake Condo Estate to the Rockaway Apartments. Like West Egg, a rich contrast to a poor Valley of the Ashes. That reference makes no sense to him, so I quickly say something about video games instead, how we lose track of time, then jolt back to reality.
Just as I mention video games, he says, “You know, in my country, I don’t have shit. Here, I have a video games.”
I start to snicker a little, thinking I’m making progress with him, but he tells me, if I want any part of his gang, I need to get jumped in. Boxing, he tells me, is the only way I can join.
Max brings us to the far end of the park, near the sand dunes, to stage a boxing match. He says it won’t be fair for him to box, since he’s a semi-professional fighter, so he’ll referee, instead.
Serving as a boxing ring, the golf putting turf is squared on each side by a fence that has started to rot—the golf hole is brimming with rainwater.
Max insists I fight everyone, three rounds each. He grabs me by the arms. Pablo puts the gloves on my hands, lacing them up. The other set of gloves goes to Agusto Rodrigo.
One of the basketball players calls a timeout, and they all come shuffling over from the court.
Before Agusto can remove the chain from his next neck, Max declares the ding ding, and I go at my opponent with my gloves laced tight.
I conjure up thoughts of the construction workers at my job. How much I hate them, it motivates me.
In true windmill fashion, I land punches against the scrawny Puerto Rican, so constantly quick, it looks like I’m taking practice on a speed bag.
In the back of my mind, I see the full grass around the Clear Lake Condos, full green. Then I see the weedy lots of Rockaway, all dirt. Then I see red, the color of fury.
Agusto gets a bloody nose early in the fight, but Max lets it pour down for three full rounds. We hammer each other, trading jabs at the noisy center of the mad mob. Agusto finally quits, walks away, admitting his vision is a blur.
I have to suck air. My eyes follow the passing gloves. I’m happy with the win, but the next guy is fresh to fight
Gloves on, Pablo Rodrigo looks juiced up to honor his brother.
“Ready to get your face broke?” he calls across to me.
I think of the pristine lake at work and the fake nice. I think of the polluted river here, and the gritty real. Now I can feel the heat of my lungs exit the surface of my chest.
I rush forward, applying the same speedy punch technique as before, striking the head and face. Pablo is much taller, has a longer reach, but his legwork comes from a clumsy stance. I have plans for an uppercut. Pablo reels back, in reverse, until the heel of his right foot gets wedged inside the golf hole. I swing at his chin. I connect with enough leverage to stop and watch as Pablo goes crashing through the wooden fence.
The crowd loves the slow motion stumble of it all. Their laughter puts an immediate end to the fight. Max waves it off.
And they start chanting for Ely Noble to fight next.
Noble says, “Bring that shit on, nigga.”
In the back of my tired mind, I see fresh paint on condo walls and the steam-clean carpets. Fury. I hear the constructions workers I hate in my ear. Fury. Then I smell Rockaway hallways, those piss yellow stains. Fury. I see flashing cop car lights outside my bedroom window. Cop car sirens. Fury.
In the first round with Noble, a hellish fatigue makes my arms go weak. I have to grit my teeth when hit on the head. I take a hooking roundhouse to the temple. Noble uses a solid hook so many times, I can feel the brain inside my skull shake, shake into this idea: the planes fly over my roof, they shake my mother’s knick-knack decorations off the wall.
Noble puts a heavy lean on my body, the rival body. Under the weight, desperate and afraid, I take aim at his gut. I deliver my right glove, a wicked shot. Max tries to step between us, as a shield, but Noble is still on the attack. He looks to pound away, trapping me in the corner, then lifting his knee into my groin.
A gasp from the crowd, then silence.
I let go a grunt, dropping and rolling to the turf.
At this very moment, I notice Jordan Shamshack, standing in the tennis court, seeing her sideways. She has a smile. I’m too dizzy with pain to care about the embarrassing way I cradle myself. Her sun-dress makes me curious, her satin under-slip. She straddles the sagging tennis court net, to beckon me.
Then, like a hologram, the girl I had loved throughout my youth, starts to fade out and flicker. Her image, gone.
I mumble, “How real is real?”
Then someone above me says, “As real as a motherfucka, that’s how real.”
Meanwhile, news spreads through the park that someone just robbed a liquor store. Police have chased the gunman into Rockaway, and now have weapons drawn.
This information has high entertainment value, so the crowd of onlookers and bystanders go running in the direction of the next spectacle, leaving me flat on my backside.
A plane swoops by low to the ground, about to land. The plane is close enough for me to see a male pilot wearing an eye patch. He’s flipping me the middle finger.
I don’t know if I’ve done enough to join the gang.
I stagger home.
My work shift starts in twenty minutes.
In the bathroom mirror, I button my security guard uniform, looking at my black eye and the cut above it.
Today, on purpose, I forget to put the badge on my breast pocket, leave it on the sink.
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Re: American Captive

Postby Berkley Babes » Fri Jan 10, 2020 4:44 am

6

Every single day, I go to war with the construction workers.
Usually, I go into my hiding and spying routine until they vacate the site. Then I venture into extreme isolation for the rest of the night. Maybe I should ask for a night off, avoid the risk of a mental downfall.
Exit the trailer.
I start by making my rounds, my daily stroll, my protective peek.
All the workers are rushing to complete some final task before the upcoming deadlines, before the sun goes down.
Machines kick up dust in the breeze, the same breeze that causes the lake to ripple. The leaves from the trees, red and yellow, drop from high above, twirling downward, giving the neighborhood a niceness. A real niceness.
I soon discover the whole place has emptied of those brute bastards. The entire site is mine. Slowly, and by degrees, I feel relaxed enough to enjoy the ecstasy pill I popped a short time ago.
Construction at a halt, the site is so still and so stationary, it brings about the kind of calmness that welcomes one to a library.
The sky is hazy, but the sun still manages to poke through the clouds, causing the lake to shimmer in some areas, sparkle in others. A light breeze dances upon the crisp air. There are so many nice aspects of this neighborhood, especially when compared to the run down projects where I live. The purity of this place has something to be savored. For Mike Miller, this is the setting of my solace, my personal refuge. Once the workers go home, any racing thought I have is subdued. The tranquil atmosphere, I soak it up. The oxygen is a very addictive remedy for a very unsettled soul. I come here for the cure. A rogue nation in the Middle East could launch all their missiles with joint killer coordination, and still, the condos around the Clear Lake Estate would go un-fazed, untouched. In some special gift shop, this is life inside a snow globe, unshaken.
When I round the corner, I see a car enter the site. It’s a red Porsche 911. A bald man steps out to address me with that ever popular British accent. I recognize him instantly as one of the men who bought me a poisoned drink at the Chinese restaurant a few nights ago. Enough time has passed. I’m breathing and still alive, so I feel the need to give him the benefit of any doubt I hold. Besides, the ecstasy I’ve swallowed has me feeling loose and limber.
“Darron Thomas,” he says. “Vice President of Marketing.”
“Mike Miller,” I return. “The security guard for the night.”
“Great,” the Englishman says. “Great to have you here.”
Pause. Awkward silence. Then we both shake hands.
And so I say, “I have some of your business cards, you know, to hand out to prospective buyers. Or just curious people who sometimes drive through. By meeting you, I can finally put a face to the name in gold lettering.”
He says, “Oh, you do! Splendid! That’s fantastic! Spreading the word about this place, that’s just fantastic.”
Pause. Awkward silence.
Then Darron says, “Hey, so, have you been inside the condos yet, have you seen them?”
I confess that I have, that I lock them every night.
But he ignores me by saying, “Oh, they’re beautiful. You really should see them, they’re honest to God beautiful.”
Thinking he wants encouragement, I act along, saying, “Beautiful, you say? I imagine they would be.”
“Come along,” he says. “I’ll show you. My appointment seems to running late. I could use the practice before they arrive.”
“Sure thing,” I say, trying to sound as lively as possible. Secretly, I wonder if Darron Thomas can tell I’m floating on the drug.
We walk into Unit Number 10. The front door opens easily enough by key slot, but he presses his fingerprint on a knob scanner instead. There is tile at the front hall but it soon turns into a spacious wood floor.
Darron Thomas begins to talk about the condo at an orgy pitch. He tells me the marble countertops are just fabulous. He talks about the stainless steel appliances, how they give a modern shine. He spends five full minutes talking about the gold faucets in the bathroom. Then he tells me about the plush carpet in the master bedroom. Darron Thomas rubs his hands together when he shows me the fireplace, implying a coziness. He brings me into the basement and he starts to talk about the possibilities of furnishing such a large living space. A pool table, he suggests, more than once. Then he leads me upstairs and onto the deck. He begins to tell me in sex terms what a luxury it is to have such an angled view of the lake. I’m nodding the whole time, saying, “Wow, now this, this is really nice.” I’m raising my eyebrows every time we enter a new room.
Darron Thomas feeds off my fake positive energy, patting me on the back. As the only working guard here, I realize how people perceive a man of upright standing when he’s dressed in a uniform of goodness.
Darron Thomas says it’s wholly magnificent to have someone of my caliber guarding the site.
I smile, giving the Englishman a handshake and a thank you. The compliment more than makes up for the spiked drink of death. Then I adjust my badge cap, tug on my belt.
As we walk toward the front door, Darron Thomas goes to grab me by the shoulder. He says, “How could I forget? You’re gonna love this. Come right this way.”
We both stand at the center of the dining room, underneath the chandelier, and Darron Thomas whispers cunningly into my ear.
“Right now?” I ask.
Biting down on his ring finger, almost drooling in anticipation, Darron Thomas nods yes.
“Okay,” I say. “Dining room light. On.”
The chandelier lights up at my spoken command.
Darron Thomas cackles to say, “You see that? The whole condominium is computerized, voice activated. All the lights and appliances can receive verbal instruction.”
“Hard to believe,” I say, now impressed. “Especially when I’ve been switching them manually this entire time.”
“Well, believe it, because it’s true,” he finishes. “Dining room light. Dim. Dining room light. Off.”
When the chandelier fades to black and we both stand in the dark room, it has all the feel of a high school crowd that makes flirty wooing sounds when pep rally lights go out.
After hearing his colorful list of details, I’m tempted to tell him what Gary Lee Vickers looks like. How his face is twisted and disfigured. How, when I saw the killer run to the food truck to steal a burger, his eye was drooping with an uneven sag. How his lips are crooked and burned. How his nose is missing, so that only two black holes remain. But I hold back from any description of this.
We walk back outside, exchanging fake, high spirited pleasantries. Darron says he would rather wait for his clients in the car. He’d rather listen to a motivational speaker, while repeating his Zen-like mantra of sell, sell, sell.
I tell him it’s understandable and I walk myself over to the trailer office. I’m so glad to be done with him.
Just then, a car enters the site, driving at a turtle pace. I stand in the trailer, looking at the passengers point fingers at the spot of their interest.
They are completely unaware of the security guard, who is, at present, recording their license plate number onto a small notepad.
The inquisitive bunch then elect to stop the car near an empty, unfinished condo. Stepping out, they inspect the construction site on foot. There are three of them: an incredibly sexy blonde in a skirt and two adults, which I assume to be mother and father.
These people wander into a unit by way of an open garage, and much to my horror—because I’m so drugged up—I suppose my job is to now confront these intruders.
Reluctantly, I walk over to the condo. I stand in the garage, able to witness the family climbing the rickety steps to the second floor.
“Security,” I call out.
“Oh, my,” the mother says, flabbergasted. “I thought you were the police for a moment there.”
She blushes from guilt.
“No. Just security. Just making my rounds.”
The father issues an exaggerated breath, a fake sigh of relief.
Mother and daughter peek a head over and around the father. Then, feeling the need to explain their untimely invasion, he says, “We have an appointment with Mr. Thomas at six. This is the condo we’re buying for our daughter.”
“Very good,” I say. Finally, the family relaxes their facial expressions.
The father almost trips over an extension cord as he comes closer to handshake.
He says, “Whoa, there, almost took a dive. My name is Dick.”
“Mike Miller. Nice to meet you.”
Mother and daughter follow his lead by introducing themselves.
The mother is Peggy. The daughter gives me her small, soft hand, speaking with a Southern drawl, “Hi, I’m Kerry Bettencourt.”
She looks like she might be older than me, late twenties, so I say hello to her in what I think is a deep, manly voice.
“You look familiar,” she says. “Mom, doesn’t he look familiar?”
“Yes,” Peggy says. “He does. You know who he looks like, he looks like that soldier in that war movie. I forget his name.”
And the daughter, overjoyed in her exclamation, says, “Yes, that’s exactly who he looks like! The resemblance! Wow!” Then she slaps her thighs, saying, “Oh, but what movie was he in? His name? Tip of my tongue, oh, I forget.”
I’m thinking, damn, the Bettencourt blonde wants to have sex with me already, but I say, “This soldier, I like him already.” The family gets a good laugh out of that, except for Dick, the father, with his protective arms crossed.
We eventually lose things to talk about. Darron Thomas cannot save us soon enough.
“The condos are lovely to look at,” Peggy says. “I can just imagine when the inside is finished, how lovely that will be.”
“Yes,” I say. “This place definitely exudes a loveliness. I’ve been inside the finished condos, and let me tell you, they radiate with all things lovely.”
Hearing myself, I want to puke on my boots, but Peggy lights up when given the description. She says, “Oh, Kerry, I’m so happy for you. You’re gonna be so happy here.”
And turning to me, she says, “This will be her first time living alone, away from home.”
So I say, “I’m sure you must be sad to see her go.”
“We are. We are. But it’s time. She needs her independence. Such a proud moment. I’m absolutely ecstatic, if you really must know the truth.”
I’m unsure of what to say to the mother at this point, but it no longer matters, because the Englishman, Darron Thomas, finally pulls up in his Porsche. He’s smiling at everyone through his front windshield. All in one motion he springs out from his leather seat, only to unleash the ultra-positive greeting, “Could we ask for a more dazzling day?”
Darron Thomas shakes hands with the family, one by one.
“I see you’ve met our security guard,” he says.
So Peggy goes on to ask, “Now, Darron, will there be a guard here when all the condos are done and the whole thing is finished?”
Out of the corner of my eye, I see Dick pinch his wife on the elbow, making her flinch.
“Ah, no,” Darron answers, in a hesitant way. “Mike Miller, our night watch, is here on temporary assignment. You could even call it an experiment.”
I nod in harmony, but have no idea what he’s talking about.
“Okay,” the Englishman changes gears, “let me do the honors and show you folks around.”
“I enjoyed meeting you,” the Southern belle, Kerry Bettencourt says, curling her lip in a seductive smile. “You’ll probably be seeing more of me, before I move in.”
I tip my cap to her as she walks away, watching those gorgeous hind legs taking slender flexing steps. She wears black high heel pumps, black nylons, and a gray skirt. Her ass is switching from side to side and I’m just mad with desire, that yearning instinct.
Feeling compelled, I go back to the trailer office with the plan to get devious with myself. Keeping my uniform on, I almost want pull my manhood out from my zipper opening. I watch with a longing sensation as Darron Thomas gives the group a tour, focusing completely on Kerry Bettencourt, her sexual underpinnings. Those legs are wild. That ass is tight with exercise. I want to pleasure myself. I’m about to, but the lust in my mind is suddenly thwarted by a girl I miss more.
Jordan Shamshack.
Fixing my eyes on his glossy bald head, I look at Darron Thomas lead his potential buyers down the dirt road. The Englishman points for a long time at the lake, as if that’s the ultimate reason to move here.
Marketing a powerful point.
Selling this scenic setting.
After some time, they all come strolling back, shaking hands, jumping into their cars, waving, making an exit.
No doubt, I look forward to seeing Kerry Bettencourt again, in the near future.
But I’m forced to reflect: What did Darron Thomas mean by calling my job an experiment? I wonder out loud: “What does that guy think I am, a lab rat? In a maze? Searching for the cheese? Guided by a sniff? With nothing but a dead end hunch?”
So I write his license plate number down, from memory, onto my notepad. I even mark an asterisk next to it.
The site is totally clear again, under my control, and a tremendous relief washes over me. I walk on.
On my way back, I think I see the ghost of that scrawny dead dog hobbling across the street, his nose to ground, still looking for those long forgotten scraps. I rub my eyes and he disappears, but I can still hear him begging from the woods.
For a moment, I think I catch Vickers watching me from a window.
The job is taking a toll on my mind, but only gradually, not like some sudden insane snap. How the job affects my mental faculties, it has an insidious grip on my thought process, but it’s hardly detectable.
For the rest of the evening, I stay busy. I hop up into the seat of my monster truck, only to then race up and down the road at such a high rate of speed I almost crash headlong into a ditch. I do a few donut spins at the bottom of a sandpit, burning my rubber tires on the newly laid pavement.
My downward spiral into madness is a smooth one.
For the first time, I feel an urge to confront the killer who lives where I work.
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Re: American Captive

Postby Berkley Babes » Fri Jan 10, 2020 4:46 am

7

Tonight, I wait for Kerry Bettencourt, the girl who took a tour of the condos.
After her late work hours, she comes to the construction site. She often wants to check on any progress, any slight addition made to her condo.
There are no lights in her condo yet, so she needs me to escort her inside, every step of the way with a flashlight. Many times, she shows a blush, seems to flirt with me. She’ll comment on how well I wear the uniform, how it suits my muscular build and sharp facial features, how I look the part of a young authority figure.
I’m even beginning to think this girl has a small crush on me.
But I make no obvious advance. If I mistake her feelings for me, she’ll be moving into her condo soon, and I’d be working here every night. Nothing would be more awkward than a mixed signal and a constant closeness.
With Kerry Bettencourt, I’m a real prince, kind and caring, full of charm, the very beating heart of loving sweetness.
We feel easy with each other. Our conversation seems to take on a natural flow. She has no need for a predator. She needs a man who will provide and protect.
Even from Vickers, I’d defend her.
I get overly excited waiting for her tonight.
I look up to see that Kerry has just entered the site. She drives her green Volkswagen Beetle down the dirt road, slowly, as if cautious. She pulls up to park next to the trailer office.
With my binoculars, I watch even closer as she leaves the car, walks up the trailer steps. When she finds the trailer empty, she stands there for a puzzled moment, most definitely wondering where the guard is. I see her then walk over to her condo, so I fire up the monster truck and make my move at just the right time.
“Well, hello there,” she says, real perky like, standing on her toes.
I climb down the step ladder to ground level, my back still turned away from her.
She says, “I didn’t think you were here tonight?”
“Oh, I’m here all right. I’m here every night.”
“Every night?”
“Every single night,” I say. “Right here.”
We stand about ten feet from each other, inching closer as we continue to talk. Her short blond hair makes her face look so pretty, so put together. Her face has such a radiance.
And Kerry Bettencourt says, “Everybody needs a night off, once in a while, don’t they?”
“Not me, Not with all the money I make. You know, overtime.”
“But, once in a while, don’t you need to get out, have a good time?”
“Don’t get me wrong, I still like to have fun.”
Two nights ago, I had went to a strip club with Norman Long and Charlie Moon, but I can hardly use this as an example.
So, instead, I ask her what type of wild adventures she has taken a part in. Recently.
“I used to go out dancing.”
“Clubs?”
“No,” she answers, rather snobbishly. “Swing Dancing.”
“Oh,” I say. I want to tell her I can really get my groove going, too, but it seems like such an odd thing for a guy to say.
And Kerry continues, “But I don’t go out much. Not now. Not lately. Lately, I’ve been trying to save for my big move here.”
“Gotta have the funds,” I say.
“Yup, gotta have the funds,” she is pleased to repeat.
I volunteer by waving my hand at her condo, saying, “Shall we?”
“Yes,” she smiles. “I think we shall.”
She draws up close to me, shoulder to shoulder, as we walk together through the dark garage. I click on my flashlight to direct us forward. I like the fact that she has to obey my lead. This girl is slightly older than me, so I try to show the maturity of a man that might be worthy of a young lady like herself.
“Oh, wow,” she says, “They finally put sliding glass doors in.”
“Yes,” I say. “Your condo is coming right along.”
“I can’t believe how fast—oh, wow, they finished the kitchen countertops, too. How awesome is that?”
“Yes,” I say. “You’ll be living here before you know it.”
“I can’t wait,” she says. Her smile glows, extra bright in the darkness.
She moves across the bare living room floorboards, opens the sliding glass doors, and steps halfway onto her screened-in porch.
I stand there, pointing the flashlight in whatever direction she looks. She comes back in, shutting the glass door behind her. She looks at the windows, the wall, the floor, anywhere the light beam goes.
While she inspects the locks on the windows, she starts a sneezing fit, saying, “Oh, my, the dust.”
I see a pink piece of paper fall from either her hand when she covered her mouth or from her pea coat pocket. She steps on it unknowingly and it sticks to her heel as she paces back and forth. Without any real reason, I don’t alert her to the pink paper.
I try to think of something clever or funny to say, but only pornographic things come to mind.
She says, “I hope I’ll be able to move in before Christmas.”
I tell her, “I’ve seen the project plans, and your condo should be finished by then.”
By the way she smiles at me, visibly, I can see just how much she loves the update.
I stand near the bottom of the stairs and she moves closer, by my side. I point the flashlight in aimless directions, providing her with a vision, although limited. I shine it on the fireplace and say, “I’m sure you’ll spend many winter nights in front of a fire, feeling warm and cozy.”
“Nice,” she says. “It would be even nicer if I had someone to spend it with,” and she laughs at her own insecurity, perhaps revealing too much of her needy personality.
I choose to save her, by changing the subject.
“So, have you got enough furniture to fill this place, or what?”
“Oh, yes, I just looked at a living room set the other day that I think might go really perfect with this place. I love how it all matches. I’m thinking I could put the big couch right here, along the kitchen wall, and put the other smaller couch at an angle, right there, or maybe I could, hmm . . . ”
So I say, “Or maybe you could put the small couch along that wall, and swing the other couch around so that your guests can face each other.”
I can tell by how she taps her foot and thinks aloud that she doesn’t approve of my advice, that women are better at interior design, arranging rooms. So I make no other suggestion. I just let her imagination run wild with the possibilities of furniture calculation.
“Can we check the upstairs?” she asks me. “Do you mind?”
“No, I don’t mind. Let’s go on up.”
I let her climb first, quick to follow, making sure to shine the flashlight on each step she takes. The naked staircase squeaks as we ascend to the second floor. Kerry Bettencourt wears a short skirt, and the flashlight hits the black nylon stockings on her thigh. Her slim calf muscles brand the word “sex” on my brain, and I’m growing more aroused with each step she takes in those red high heels. Her ass is so fine, directly in my blatant sightline.
But just then, at the last step, she loses her balance, begins to trip forward, then falls backwards, into my steady arms. My lips brush the arc of her neck.
She’s relieved I caught her. She laughs nervously at the body contact, lingering loosely in my arms.
“You all right?” I ask her.
“I can’t believe I did that,” she says, standing up straight, pulling at her skirt. “I’m such a clumsy one.”
“Don’t worry about it,” I say. “I needed a good excuse to be a hero.”
We both laugh a little at what has just occurred, trying to pass over and ignore the closeness we felt, for that brief moment. The both of us, we arrive to the second floor, safely. I take the lead once more, showing her a path around the bucket of tools, down the hallway. We walk into the darkest room of the condo, the bathroom. I shine the light first on the sink mirror, then on the Jacuzzi tub.
I don’t mention my terror of thinking the shadow in the corner is Gary Lee Vickers.
Kerry says, “Looks like an awfully big tub for little old me.”
“No problem,” I say. “I’m sure you can find another person to fit in there. Wink. Wink.”
“Naughty boy,” she says to me, placing a hand on my chest, tapping it. “Naughty, naughty boy.”
Then something crunches underneath her heel. I point the flashlight down at the cracked tile.
She says, “I didn’t break that, did I? I hope they’ll fix it. Do you think they will?”
“Oh, sure,” I say. “They fix everything.”
Further down the hallway, we enter the master bedroom. The moon beams through the wide windows, so I click my flashlight off. At the center of the room, Kerry Bettencourt does a little ballerina twirl, saying, “Soon I will sleep here. Soon this will be all mine.”
“All yours,” is all I can think to say. “You’re gonna love it here.”
She says, “Can you shine your light on the carpet, so I can see the color.”
I click it on, saying, “It looks maroon, like burgundy wine.”
“I picked it out myself,” she says. “Do you like it?”
“Very tasteful,” I say. “You have very good taste.”
“Thank you. I love the dark texture. I made sure it would match the bedspread, the curtains, and the lampshades.”
“You little planner you. You’ve executed the perfect color scheme décor.”
And Kerry Bettencourt laughs the cutest little laugh, snorting once, then covering her mouth with her hand like a schoolgirl.
She says, “And, oh my gosh. Should see how big my new bed is. I really hope it doesn’t take up the whole room.”
I can’t help but picture us both, a month from now, in this very room, fully naked in a giant bed, with the moon gleaming down on our bodies, as I enter her with my warm, throbbing manhood. Romantic stuff, by the lake.
I ask, “So what do you like to do outside of work, other than dancing?”
Kerry obviously likes the fact that I’ve taken an interest in her personal life, because her body movements get bouncy, her personality, bubbly.
She answers, “Well, every Monday, Tuesday, and Friday, I teach gymnastics to a bunch of girls in middle school.”
“Really? So . . . you must be one of those flexible types.”
I can’t help but picture us both, in the very near future, stripped naked in bed, under a huge burgundy bedcover, while she performs a double back somersault, landing with the splits on my manhood.
“Flexible,” she replies. “I guess you could say that. I’ve been at it so many years.”
“Cool,” I say. “Exercise is a great thing. I hear it increases the endorphins, making one happier. I should know, I lift weights.”
By making an effort to impress her, the last comment makes me sound desperate, and I hope she doesn’t notice, but, more than likely, she has. The truth is, this beautiful girl could do anything to me, turn me to dust.
We go back downstairs, this time with me in front, flashlight on, her trailing behind, with a hand on my shoulder. Outside the condo, we walk over to her car.
Kerry says, “I hope you don’t mind me showing up all the time, not announced.”
“It’s fine, really,” I say. “I’m getting used to your little visits. Look forward to them actually.”
The girl pauses before saying, “Ya know, there’s something good about you, Mike. I could sense that from the first time I met you. The trust in your eyes . . .”
I’m thinking she wants love and affection the same way I fiend a drug fix. I sense the opportunity to ask her to go out dancing—I know I’ll possess her then, once she sees my sidestep, my chest heave, my arms pump, my hips swivel and rotate. But I hold back from asking her on a date, just barely. I can’t be wrong about her. A mixed signal. A constant closeness. The guard. The neighbor. Not a good thing.
“So,” she says, “did you ever, um, go to college?”
“Yeah, college. UNH, but I dropped out. Too much partying, not enough studying.”
“Oh,” she sounds disappointed. “University of New Hampshire?”
“Right.”
“What a pretty campus.”
“Yeah, the grass in the quads is great.”
“Think you’ll ever go back to school?”
“Well, I’m planning on going back eventually. Probably as a business major.”
I’m not totally lying to her, but I recognize the girl to be a high quality, first class female. I must appear to be a man on the move, a man with a master plan, husband material, on the upswing of life, a few years away from owning my own house, a swimming pool, a few acres of land, a garage for her car and mine—the American dream in action.
She goes on to ask, “Wait, did you know a Kevin Davies who went there?”
“Nope, big school, lots of people.”
There’s a long pause. I shuffle the gravel with my boot.
So then I sputter out, “Let me guess you having dinner, then going to bed?”
“Yeah,” she says. “A weeknight. I have to be to work in the morning?”
“That’s understandable. Where do you work?”
“I think we had this conversation already.”
“Oh, that’s right. You told me. An insurance company. In Boston. Forgetful me. Sorry.”
“That’s okay . . . because, well, ah, I wasn’t telling you the truth.”
“You don’t work in the insurance industry?”
“No, Mike. Actually, I work for the Department of Defense. I’m telling you because you’re easy to trust, those eyes, they’re like puppy dog eyes.”
“The government?”
Kerry Bettencourt nods her head slowly, putting a hush finger to her mouth.
“I can’t really get into the specifics of what I do. Top secret.”
To which I say, “Wow. What do you do during the terror attack when the country is on high alert and—”
She interrupts me, saying, “What do you want to do when you graduate, after you get a business degree?”
“Oh, school . . . I, um, want to be a Technical Expert.”
It was my turn to tell a tale. I don’t even know what a Technical Expert is, if there is such a profession. I think, an astronaut, maybe I should have told her an astronaut.
“A Technical Expert!” She sounds fully electrified, standing on her toes.
So I give her more stories of my path to greatness, so she can envision herself as my wife.
“Yeah, I can fix any and all tech related problems. I troubleshoot.”
“Really? Oh, my. A handy man.”
“That’s me—Mr. Magic Hands, also good to massage with.”
Kerry Bettencourt smiles to say, “Oh, stop,” and “Confidence, I like it.”
The conversation ends on a high note. After we bid each other farewell, she gets into her car, puts her seat belt on, waves to me, switches gears, then, driving away, she waves a second time.
Once she’s gone, I quickly make my way back into her condo, up the stairs, and into her master bedroom. I lay down on the carpet, which has a lush feel to it, the color of burgundy wine, and I undress fully under the pale bars of moonbeam. I begin to pleasure myself with Kerry Bettencourt in mind, a flash replay of her legs going up those stairs. I picture those legs spread open like the gymnast she is, heels in the air, tight ass clenching, while she receives my thrust. My manhood is so big tonight it seems like the moon has it under its gravitational pull. When I finish with a flurry, I wipe myself clean on the rug, so that it barely stains, leaves no mark, because that’s the decent thing to do.
Jordan Shamshack, I’m sorry, but you rejected me and I’ve missed you for too long.
On my way back downstairs, with my flashlight casting across the floorboards, I happen to turn my head twice in a double take. I spot what I remember was the pink paper Kerry had dropped. Curiosity sure gets the best of me, so I pick it up, read it with the flashlight beam.
Written as a list, this is what follows:
The Agenda: Enter the Virtuplex---Instructions 1) Give him compliments—tell him how funny, intelligent, handsome he is. 2) Somehow create body contact. 3) If he asks you on a date, suggest the Airplane Air Show. Report all findings back to Building Base One: ASAP!
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Re: American Captive

Postby Berkley Babes » Fri Jan 10, 2020 4:48 am

8

It’s one of those nights where I’m not dealing with too much, so I leave work for two hours to play in a tackle football game with total strangers. I still get paid at double my normal rate, working overtime, while scoring touchdowns.
When I return, it’s dusk, and I swear I see two full moons rising, one in the eastern part of the sky, one in the west. I make it a point to not over analyze this. Instead I order a pizza to be delivered to one of the new condos.
I wait for the food in Unit 16. When the pizza boy comes, I open the door wearing a robe, like I’m the homeowner.
I take the pizza into the bathroom and I undress. I want to bump some cocaine, but first, I let the Jacuzzi jet bath fill with water.
Then I lay out the lines on the marble sink, using my library card to separate the fine white powder. The card proves too flimsy, so I use my expired college ID card, instead. I sniff at it. I rail at it. A rush of blood to the head, then I’m feeling incredibly light. Cracking open a beer, I ease myself into the water. Earlier I had stumbled upon the case of beer in an unfinished condo, apparently left behind by a construction worker. Now they are mine.
I drink one after another, pounding them down, until ten cans have been tossed on the floor in the corner. If the pizza gets too greasy, I clean my hands by splashing them wet. I let the water jets slow to a bubble, because the steam is rising hot, fogging the mirrors. Beer after cold beer, I continue to build on my buzz.
Enjoying myself, but wanting to share the fun, I decide to push buttons on my phone. I’m eager to get a hold of two of my fiendish cohorts, Norman Long and Charlie Moon, wondering if they’d like to session some weed late night at the construction site. But my smoking partners are not around to answer the ring, so I leave a message.
With my skull feeling some serious tingles, I dunk my head under the water. What I decide to do next is pleasure myself.
I fantasize about Jordan Shamshack, a girl from youth who would flirt, but no more. I picture her nude, riding a horse, wearing the kind of heel pumps that lace around the ankle.
She has long brown hair with streaks of blonde that tail off at her lower back. Her eyes hypnotize, exotic under her purple lashes. Her hips swivel like a serpentine river, with origins of the Amazon. She has such soft skin, with freckles on the her cute button nose. Not only that, but Jordan Shamshack has very kissable lips.
She never received a high school diploma, but she could always use her supernatural common sense to know a person and their secret motive, to know a place and its mystic center.
I even pleasure myself to her one imperfection. She has a metal filling in her back tooth that picks up a mixed radio signal, one station playing rock, the other playing a classical form of jazz.
I’m about to reach my peak, my climax, when I begin to wonder if I will ever stop loving the girl who rejected me so long ago. I wonder if I’ll see her soon. Side-tracked, I regain a fresh image of Kerry Bettencourt, her long shapely legs, as I go at myself with an even greater touch, pulling at my manhood in long, smooth strokes, finally able to finish with a grunt.
Just then, I hear somebody come through the front door.
For a moment I pray it isn’t Vickers. Then, for some reason, I pray that it is.
Hearing the voice of a female, I recognize that voice immediately as Jane Fontane, a realtor for Kingman Corporation.
It’s more than odd, her working during this late hour. She’s laughing her high pitched laugh as she walks in, speaking in her raspy, but equally sexy voice, saying things like, “Fabulous, darling. Simply fabulous.”
Now, in a panic, I jump out from the tub, naked and still slick.
I’m in clear violation of the job description. All in one motion, I try to gather my clothes, drain the tub, open the window, collect the evidence, especially those noisy beer cans, and hide.
This goes on while Miss Fontane gives a tour, trying to seduce her prospective buyers into loving the lakeside estate.
“As you would expect, the kitchen comes complete with marble countertops. Imported from China. The island, here, just fabulous for serving guests. These cabinets are made from cherry wood, which will darken with age. The panel design, so intricate a pattern, it was hand crafted. The sink is what you would call skylark polish chrome. Plenty big, as you see. Your freezer. Your fridge. All stainless steel. This range has an eight-burner cooktop with enough power to make any meal. And when dinner is done, the dishwasher runs a power scrub, rinse and hold. To the dining area, shall we?”
I’m still struggling with my wet pant legs. My mind’s drugged up heavy. The bathroom is very slow to air out.
Miss Fontane continues by saying, “The floor we stand on is made of Mannington wood. Polished to an exact finish. And the chandelier above us comes with clear gemstones, in honor of our lake. The Clear Lake. How cute. Over here, through the French double doors, we have the fireplace for nights when you want to feel cozy and warm together. You’ll notice the living room expands, two sliding doors await us on the other end. I’d like to say this to everyone who resides her, but this unit as the very best view of the lake. To look and behold, is to admire the beauty of such waters.”
I can now hear them step out to the balcony. Their voices begin to fade. The tub will not drain fast enough. When the tour party comes back inside, they make for the master bedroom and Miss Jane Fontane begins to rave about the wall paper, the purple border, the pink trim. She makes a bold statement about the color of the carpet, how it reminds her of rich burgundy wine.
I can sense them moving down the hallway, steps away from the bathroom door that I hide behind. The tub gurgles dry.
“That room there is so small you might think it’s a room for a baby, but it’s not. It’s a computer room, a room for the future. All the outlets you’ll ever need.”
They enter the bathroom. All I can see are the leopard print shoes that Jane Fontane wears.
I cling to my clothes and the bag of beer cans, while this woman makes a verbal account of every tile in the floor. When that stops short, the couple, who sound somewhat old, say they have seen enough to buy. They give a compliment to the way the realtor had addressed them with such elegance. They say her voice is enchanting.
“My mother used to give tours at the science museum,” says Jane. “As a little girl, I remember tagging along with those who followed her to each exhibit. She had a distinct voice that would carry over the crowd, speaking to them as though the ancient artifacts were part of her own private collection. The passion she had for vocal showmanship, it had the most profound effect on me. So each time I tour, I must describe in a new and different way.”
I’m drunk and high and wet, standing behind that door, about to piss my pants and puke up the pizza.
The tour ends not long after and Miss Fontane walks the couple out to sign some paperwork. They say goodbye with the highest regards.
I think it’s safe to step out from my hiding spot, getting fully dressed.
But now, from the hall, I hear those same leopard print shoes walk back inside. My mind’s in no condition to meet this woman, so I duck sideways into a closet.
I put my eye to the door crack. I can see her just fine, in full.
She paces the bare living room floor with mechanical movement. Close enough, I can hear her chanting to herself as she takes on the voice of an evil robot. Apparently, she’s talking this way on purpose. It sounds nothing short of strange. Miss Jane Fontane again describes the layout, but this time, she gives her version of a guided tour for a home of the future.
“Voice activated light fixtures. Dim high. Dim low. Floorboard sensors for every footstep. Heat by self-adjusting dial. The bathtub water stands at the selected temp: one, zero, one, point, one, zero, one. Easy freezer orders all the food. Easy oven knows the choice, cooks the food ahead of hunger. Bort, too funny. Zorb, too much. The bedroom laser scans the irises of eyeballs. Sells you what you want. The cyber sex. Your every wish. Your every sexual desire. The man of your perfect design. So put on the cyber suit. Dream machine to monitor the pattern of sleep. Never. Leave. Home. Ever. Visual intercom interface on every wall. Faster and more efficient. The Clear Lake is frozen. Repeat. The Clear Lake is frozen. Zoom, zoom, zoom, avoid the boom. The future is now. Human beings, more like human becomings. No limit to the identity you pick. Be anyone or anything to anyone or anything. A promise of paradise, a timeless future state, it never comes. Survival of the fittest. No, survival of the best informed. Yes. Consuming at a rate, Earth cannot recycle or replenish. The need for speed. Time saving devices. We only grow more impatient. All appointments booked in advance. No longer spontaneous. Road rage stress test. Faster. Simulation work locations. Faster. Digital drugs. Electronic LSD. No worship for a god, only praise for the computer programmer. The universal blur. And here are the headlines. Your head. My lines. Comes complete with caption. Fill you with the fragment. Chop talk. Cold speak. Words all flowing like flowers until they find a faster and more efficient way. Emotions run low. Pleasure is lost. The tone of technology. No expression on the face, just a blunt sagging effect. The computer mood matches that of human. Flip side. Flip side. The reverse is true. So empty out and become numb. Techno trend. Super cool gadgets. Easy as a push of a button. Frail creatures who specialize in nothing but pushing buttons. The way sink taps erased the walk to the water well. The original sin. Penalty is a painful baby birth. Long hard days of toil in the soil, no more. Progress is a revolt, a storming rebellion. The all elusive advance. Revolutions made by monkey machine men. The great momentum. The inevitable. Let us hope the artificial apple is edible. So long, space shot.”
I cannot contain myself any longer. I laugh, quickly covering my hand to my mouth, which sounds like a sneeze.
I see the woman turn suddenly, bending at the knees. She cranes her neck, while taking a slow, suspecting creep toward the closet.
When she’s a few feet away, I know I’ve been found, so I jump out, urgent in my outcry, “There you are! Gotcha now!”
Miss Jane Fontane leaps back in fright.
“What . . . ?” she stammers. “What are you doing in there?”
Not too sure of myself, I say I’m on a spy mission to recover valuable stolen data, but I can see in her face that I’m losing the advantage, so I say, “My job. I’m doing my job. What were you doing?”
She says, “Well, I was . . . ah, I wanted to celebrate the sale.”
“Who watches the watchman?”
“What?”
“Who?” I say. “Who watches the watchman?”
“I . . . I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Answer me. Or it all goes in the nightly report.”
After an uncomfortable pause between the both of us, she finally breaks the silence with, “I’m late for a business meeting.”
She makes the excuse to leave. So I let her scurry out the door.
When she looks back once, I pretend to jot something down on my notepad.
She never asked me why my hair was wet and I never asked her why she had been talking in a robot voice. This was our unspoken agreement that something bizarre had just occurred. We were both tongue tied from embarrassment.
Alone once more, I hold my position as the young man in uniform. I cannot believe for one second I’m getting paid for this. More importantly, I wonder how I might ever explain the events that just transpired to another human. Never has the experience of alienation from others been a gap this wide.
If I ever get the courage to talk to Vickers, I think, maybe I’ll tell him about it.
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Re: American Captive

Postby Berkley Babes » Fri Jan 10, 2020 4:50 am

9

I’m alone at the construction site. It gets to be just after dusk when I spy the headlights of a car coming down the road, toward the trailer office. So I grab my cap, give a quick polish to the badge on my chest, dash outside. I click the button on my flashlight, but the batteries are dead.
The car approaches slowly, headlights turned to high beam. It has no reason to be here. I stare at those headlights, now walking toward the car in question.
In a sudden moment, the driver happens to notice me, spinning the car around to speed off. I try to read the license plate, but the headlights have blinded my vision, making my brain ache. My eyes begin to cloud over white.
During this time, I come to realize that lights, all lights, are the sign of something bad. In a place as dark as this, lights mean that somebody has just invaded my privacy, someone has just intruded upon my precious time, and therefore, they must be considered an enemy of sorts. Likewise, to do this job, by writing down all those who enter onto my notepad, I must hide on the enemy, so that I may observe and record from the shadows.
The driver of the car is gone, his or her identity to be unknown. This is becoming more of the case. Cars with no permission to enter the construction area just circle the site, late at night, when it’s clear they’re not looking to buy a condo.
I’m alone again, so after a few hours, I call Tino, my dealer, to stir things up.
I tell him I want to buy every drug he can get his hands on.
He questions my funds for such a transaction, and I tell him about the money in my bank account. He knows now that I’m serious.
I tell him to write this list down: some weed, some ecstasy, some mushrooms, some cocaine, both crack and soft blow, acid, crystal meth, heroin with the needle works included, and if he’s heard of salvia divinorum, some of that, too.
I’m not too specific about the quantity, but I do emphasize the quality, telling him I want it all to be delivered in a suitcase. Then we hang up.
Tino does not show up to the construction site until the next night, driving a new car I’ve never seen him in before. Flipping the trunk open, he unzips the luggage, only to reveal everything I had asked him for. He points out the individual drugs by name, while stating the price. I pat my pockets, then I produce a wad of cash. The exchange is quick.
Tino lingers around far too long, counting the money, pacing around, somewhat silent, not saying much, then he looks me in the eye.
He says, “How do you like working for my uncle?”
“Your uncle?” I ask. “Your uncle is Frank Benzino?”
“Something like that, yes.”
I’m shocked, dropping the suitcase on its wheels.
“But he has an accent from England,” I say, “and you’re Italian.”
“Believe me, we are family.”
I want to know the exact nature of their relationship, so I ask him, “But what about the last names, how do the last names—”
“He’s my uncle. Look, I’ve told you too much. I just thought you should know who you’re dealing with.”
“Told me too much? You’ve barely told me enough.”
Instead of soothing my mind, Tino says no more, getting into his car, slamming the door shut. I’m hoping he will unroll the window so I can question him further, but he speeds away.
I’m left stumbling with words and phrases, saying something similar to, “But . . . but . . . my boss . . . these drugs . . . me, you, him.”
It’s nearing midnight, almost time to punch out, but before I can end my shift, I notice a set of red brake lights, parked on the other side of the construction site. I decide to pursue this person, approaching him in the dark, without the help of my dead flashlight.
A short man wearing a flannel shirt, blue jeans, and boots, steps out from his truck to enter one of the condos. I watch the man as he loads three heavy rolls of carpets onto the back of his truck. I now feel the need to confront the thief.
The name on the truck reads: Bernardo Flooring—Carpet and Tile.
When I get close, I see the short man has big ears, big roaming eyes, and curly unkempt hair. The man does not know I’m behind him, so when I speak out, I manage to frighten him, causing him to spin around on his heels.
“Jesus, boy,” he says. “You scared the living shit outta me.”
I say, “Just doing my job.”
Holding his chest, he says, “Jesus, boy, you got my heart going miles a minute. Don’t nobody ever told you not to sneak up on peoples like that? Shit.”
So I say, “What are you doing with these carpets?”
“I got a heart condition,” he says. “A bad heart, and it can’t take being spooked like that.”
I’m forced to ask, “What are you doing here? Do you work here?”
“Yeah, I works here,” the man says with hollow aggression.
“Okay, but what are you doing here so late?”
Pointing to the truck bed, he says, “I’m just here, um, ah, picking up them carpets.”
He’s out of breath from carrying the heavy rolls himself. I detect a strong New Jersey accent in his speech, but he says he’s from Florida, which I don’t believe. Saying his name is Dirk.
“These carpets are supposed to stay here,” I say. “I’m not supposed to let anyone leave with material.”
“Listen,” he says. “My name is Dirk, and I works here. Them carpets is just extras. Nobody will knows they gone.”
“So you are stealing them, that’s what I thought.”
“Listen, I got this little job on the side, to makes a little money, and if you could just keeps this yourself, just keeps it quiet.”
As he’s talking, he opens up the door to his truck, reaching across the bucket seat. Finally, after a lengthy search, he pulls out a paper item.
“It’s for a strip club,” he tells me. “Here, takes it. Nine lap dances, then you get the tenth one for free.”
Wanting a better deal, I ask him, “What else you got?”
He sticks his fingers into his flannel pocket, fishing around. He pulls out five rolled joints.
“You smokes weed?” Dirk is brazen enough to ask.
“Never,” I say, firmly. Then, after a moment, I grab the rolled up weed, smell it, like a fiend.
“Keeps it,” Dirk says, jumping into the front seat of his truck. “Just don’t tells nobody I was here.”
I have second thoughts, informing him, “I could lose my job over this.”
Dirk is looking at me through his long side-view mirror, while putting the truck in gear.
He says, “Won’t nobody knows I was here. Won’t nobody knows them carpets is gone.”
Once he makes his exit, I start to question my decision making skills. I’ve just been part of a bribe, and I’m still under the influence of the racy feelings that go along with it.
I run into an empty condo, up to the second floor. This condo is far from finished. Here, I maintain my vantage point from high above the site. I light the joints and smoke all five in quick succession. I’ve been attacked from every angle tonight and I vow never to be taken by surprise again. I’d rather hide on people and watch them from a distance, with a final say in the matter, like a master spy who rendezvous at the secret location of his choice.
There are no lights in this condo. There are not many walls either, just slim beams of wood that outline each room. The beams are marked with red pencil, measurements and math equations. The windows are just open squares, without panes of glass, allowing a windy draft. The attic is visible, because there is no ceiling. The floorboards are bare, except for piles of sawdust. I will never forget the smell of these wood shavings for as long as I live. The tub and the shower are the centerpiece of the second floor, in a bathroom that doesn’t exist. I can trace the electric lines as they go from room to room, floor to floor, wrapped around the beams of wood. Everything is naked and raw, especially the weak staircase that creaks when walked on.
Everything will eventually have a cover, I think.
A criminal in a cop outfit.
A clean cut kid with a bad boy record.
A part to play. A reversible role.
This is the double-sided, dual nature of me.
A wolf, on the sly, wearing wool.
A wolf, licking lips, covered in sheep clothing.
A wolf, baring teeth, moving into the herd.
A wolf, just a plain, old, nasty wolf.
A living, breathing contradiction.
A walking, talking cliché.
Enough, I think. Gary Lee Vickers lurks around here, so I consider myself good by comparison
I take out my phone, dial the apartment number shared by Norman Long and Charlie Moon, but they don’t pick up. So I leave a rambling message on their answering machine.
“Hey, guys, if you’re there, pick up . . . well, listen to this anyway. You know Tino? Tino, the guy that hooks us up? Yeah, well, he’s the nephew to my boss. They’re related! My drug dealer and my boss. Not a good combination. I mean, I don’t know . . . what does my boss know about me. He could know everything . . . that I’m a drug fiend. That I’m a convicted criminal, with a rap sheet. Which brings me to my next question, why would a wealthy man, a guy known as a champion builder of nice neighborhoods, knowingly hire a criminal. Unless . . . unless he’s part of the criminal underworld himself. Or, by having a criminal work as a guard, he figures I won’t notice anything suspicious. I mean, even if I do notice something, I won’t have the character to call him on it, right? Hey, do you remember in high school when Angel Fernandez, that Puerto Rican kid, went up to Tino downtown and pulled a knife on him? Stole his money? Well, do you remember how Tino’s dad sent a group of henchmen, all British, to confront Angel. To threaten the shit outta him? Remember Angel? Angel with the gold tooth? Well, those English goons, they all made the Puerto Rican kid give back the money. Then they made him kiss their shoes, one by one. Remember that? Remember that story back in the day? So, there you have it. You take what I told you about Benzino, put it together with this shit, and now you’ve got this whole new shit. Figure it out? Do the math? Carry the one?”
I’m not even through yet when the phone on the other end picks up, and some old woman answers with a sleepy voice.
“Hello? Hello? Who are you looking for?”
“Whoa. Wait. Who have I just called?”
“This is the Draxler residence. Who are you looking for?”
I hear a manly voice, probably her husband, in the background, confused.
So I hang up. Not using speed dial, I had called the wrong number.
I feel naked, afraid, like I just walked in on someone telling an inside joke about me.
The terror of my confession has me running up the hill towards the highway. There, at the overpass bridge, I toss my phone into the truck bed of passing truck.
On the way back to my post, I see the tent that Vickers sometimes sleeps in. He isn’t in it, but there are newspaper clippings about his escape pinned inside. That’s how I know it’s his tent. His little shrine. That dark museum of his mind.
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Re: American Captive

Postby Berkley Babes » Fri Jan 10, 2020 4:51 am

10

Building Base One is the downtown headquarters for Frank Benzino and Associates.
Lawyers.
Accountants.
City Planners.
The squat brick building has fierce-looking lions with wings as corner gargoyles. There are cameras on the building side.
Two huge satellite dishes on the rooftop.
All is fair, and it’s sunny on the sidewalks, and the birds are chirping. A church bell rings throughout the city square.
Walking from my monster truck to the back of Building Base One, I curse the bead of sweat that rolls down my cheek, down my neck.
I’m in full uniform when I enter the air-conditioned lobby.
After striking the gold elevator button with a finger, I decide not to wait for the elevator. Instead, I climb the stairs. There are cameras mounted on every level. When I finally get to the seventh floor, the topmost floor, I’m welcomed by a wave-like hallway carpet.
Taking a deep breath before knocking, I open the door to the office waiting room.
Almost at once, I see a fat secretary sitting behind her desk. She eats chocolate cake with a fork in one hand, typing with her other free hand. A chunk of black cake flies from her mouth when she says, “If you’re here for your paycheck, take a seat over there.”
I do as I’m told. I take a seat, but I don’t know whether I should pick up a magazine, slowly flip the pages to show some patience or not.
This is another one of my weekly office appointments to retrieve my paycheck.
If today is anything like the last time, then there is much to fear.
The tension I experience during even the shortest visit here is enough to cause me a nameless dread, an unspeakable apprehension.
I sit across from a large fish tank in the wall, and when I look through the water with a steady eye, I can see into some back room. I remember doing that exact thing last Friday.
On the opposite side of the wall, just beyond the fish, I had witnessed a man tied to a chair, blindfolded, under an interrogation lamp. Even through the blur of tank water, I had noticed the man was bloodied at the nose, like he’d been smacked around. Once the murky water had settled and the image of this man had registered with me as real, I had let out a little gasp.
The secretary had looked up last Friday, asking what my problem was.
“I just saw the bigger fish eat the smaller fish,” I had told her.
“Happens all the time,” she had simply replied.
But sitting here again, on the following Friday, there are only hungry fish. The chair beyond the tank is gone.
Still, now, there is a rumbling noise inside the nervous pit of my stomach.
I look around the office space. I notice there are several plaques on the wall that inscribe the name of Frank Benzino. Those wall awards all give special thanks to his bighearted money donations.
There, the Businessman of the Year Award.
And there, a photo of him wearing a suit with a shovel in hand at a digging ceremony for the groundbreaking of a new land project.
Next to that, the photo of him blessing a ship by smashing a champagne bottle on the hull.
Then, in horror, I observe the framed pictures of Painesville and Central Heights, the entire urban landscape. These pictures are shot from a bombardier’s point of view. Aerial shots. I can’t help but think of the planes that circle my home every day. The pictures expose every inch of the two adjoining cities. The way each road is open to examination, it makes the metropolis look like a frozen ant farm. This man, Benzino, has the most prominent role in the construction of both cities, and when he mulls over these pictures, at some late office hour, he must feel a power similar to an almighty God.
Just now, Frank Benzino walks out from the corner conference room.
He turns sideways, as if he might go back, but in a forceful change of pace, he continues forward, in my direction. He brushes a hand through his thick black hair, walking past his secretary, looking like he might be distracted by some new business proposal.
He speaks in his English accent, “Ellen, if Harvey calls, tell him I’m not in, I’m in a meeting, I’m buying horses, whatever.”
And his secretary perks up, saying, “I’ve got you covered, Sir.”
“And Ellen . . .?”
“Yes?”
“Don’t eat all the cake,” he says. “Save me some cake.”
“Will do,” the secretary says, sounding less of cheer, and more like a wounded animal.
At this time, Frank Benzino looks ready to leave the office. His fat secretary, Ellen, stands up from her desk and she turns around to unhook his long black cashmere coat from the rack. She holds the coat open so that her boss can slide his arms into it. As he belts himself tight, she brushes the invisible lint from his shoulders. Since it’s mid-summer, I wonder if he’s about to private jet somewhere cold.
On his way out, Frank Benzino flashes his fang tooth smile, winking at me, but not coming close to shaking my hand. Instead, slapping me hard on the back, shockingly hard, saying, “Good job, Mike, you’re doing a good job. Employee of the month.”
The blow knocks all speech out of me, so much so, I don’t even think to give Benzino the recent news of all the eco-terrorism that has menaced the Clear Lake Condo Estate.
And just like that, the big boss makes his exit of the office.
I sit back down with a newspaper, pretending to skim articles, trying to forget that brief, but painful encounter.
I don’t want to look at the aerial shots of my city either, because even the smallest glance sends shivering waves of paranoia into my neck.
The secretary, Ellen, switches from the file cabinet to the keyboard of her computer. Her eyes fix on the screen, scrolling up and down, working on what I guess is an online crossword puzzle, until finally she talks with a forthright air about her.
“Your name has been circulating the office, more so now, than ever.”
And I quickly counter, “How so? Am I up for promotion?
She asks me, “Is popular the same as infamous?”
I don’t know if she’s asking me a crossword puzzle question or referring to me. I tell her I think infamous is being popular for all the wrong reasons.
She says, “Your name has come up, quite frequently. There has been much discussion about you.”
“All good things,” I say. “I hope you’re hearing all good things.”
But the fat secretary is bold and defiant and she refuses to answer me right away. She slices into her cake, takes a bite, then, with a napkin, she wipes the frosting from her lip.
With her mouth full, she says, “Good or bad, we just don’t know.”
Some silence passes between us. The hazy dialogue seems to be over. I begin to rack my brains over the possible meanings of her last comment. Ellen, that stubborn beast of a large woman, withholds whatever she knows or has heard.
Then she says, “Fourteen across. Looking for a 5-letter word that means—Terminated—Made Obsolete.”
“Fired?”
She ponders for a moment. Then she says, “Yes—exactly. That word fits.”
“Do you think I could have my check now? I’m in a rush.”
“Sure, sure, one moment. Just waiting on Phil to come up from accounting. Help me out, thirty-three down, looking for a 9-letter word for—Tattletale—Squealer.”
I few words come to my mind. I count them on my fingers. I get the impression this crossword puzzle had a secret meaning, somehow in relation to me.
“Informant?” I try.
She said, “Good guess, wow, you’re good at these.”
And then, as if she’s toying with me, she says, “Did you have a little fun, oh, say, a couple weekends ago?”
I roll my eyes to show that I’m thinking hard, searching through the memories of my illegal escapades. I’m reminded of the bar brawl and the night I was arrested for punching a police officer. I try to mask any visible sign of panic. I cling to the desperate hope that she hasn’t read my name in the police log in the local newspaper.
“Fun,” I say. “Yes—I think I had some fun. Why do you ask?”
“Oh,” she says, in a high positive pitch. “No reason.”
Leaving the conversation open to all kinds of interpretation, she just lets me sit there and stew and wonder. I try hard to decode and decipher just how much information they have about my criminal background, a real worry.
“Here we go. Twenty-two across. To rub out is slang for what?”
By now I’m too impatient to care about her stupid crossword puzzle, so I shrug my shoulders, telling her, “I don’t know.”
She says, “It could be choked, killed, stabbed, shot. Not enough letters. Too many letters. It could be anything. Boy, this one’s hard to figure out.”
Then the secretary raises a white envelope, saying, “Well, will you look at this? Right here. Mike Miller. Your paycheck. On my desk. This whole time.”
I want thank her for wasting my time, but I stand up without a word of appreciation.
She says, “Now. Let’s see. Those papers you brought with you, are those security sheets for the past week?’
“Yes, they are,” I say, handing them over. “Hope you don’t mind my messy handwriting.”
“No, that’s fine,” she says. “I’ll make sure Officer Swain takes a good hard look at these. But I need to ask you, are you still willing to work this Sunday?”
“I work every night. Why would this Sunday be any different?”
“Because the big airplane show, at the airport. Everyone in the twin city is going. Almost everyone. Thought you might not want to miss out, since Kingman Corp is sponsoring the event. Many of our employees are invited to attend. Free admission.”
“No, I must work. The condos around the Clear Lake need me.”
“Very good,” she remarks. “But before you go, on your way out, grab the character cake or the personality pie that has your name on it.”
She points to a pastry filled table at the opposite end of the office.
“What?” Confused, I ask her, “Personality pies?”
“Mr. Benzino treats every day like a holiday. At random, he buys a gift for workers who work for him. You know, to show his gratitude for their long standing loyalty. Last year he bought everyone calculator watches. This year he happened to match each employee with a cake or a pie, depending on their character or personality. Quite a creative idea, if you ask me.”
Suddenly, the phone on her desk rings. Before she even answers it, she says, “Excuse me, I need to take this privately. I need you out. Away from the office. Go.”
I walk over to the table where boxes of these cakes and pies are stacked. I quickly find my name on a box. Then, much to my relief, I exit that awful office.
The idea of returning to Building Base One, at the end of every work week, is enough to scare me senseless.
Once outside, I cross the parking lot. I climb up into the seat of my monster truck. Putting the key in the ignition, I stop short of turning the engine on. I’m just too curious, I have to open the box. Inside, a freshly baked apple pie has a note of poetry that reads, “To Mike Miller. Here is an apple pie, because you strike me as an all-American kind of guy. You seem to be a true patriot, normal and nice, just like an apple pie slice.” Then it was signed by Frank Benzino.
Coming from a man whom I suspected of foul play, this seems like an innocent act of goodwill. For a moment, I convince myself that I must’ve judged him unfairly.
Maybe his construction company wasn’t a front for anything sinister at all. Maybe he just likes providing shelter.
I start to blame myself for having any urge of exposing him, for wanting to ruin his reputation. My eyes almost get wet with tears. His kindness has moved me in such a touching way. I have the approval of my boss.
But just now I hear the grinding roar of an airplane engine as it sails right over the top of Building Base One. Pressing my face closer to the windshield, I look up to see the plane as it makes a wild dip across the parking lot. Then it soars again, upwards into the sky.
Attached to the back of the plane, trailing behind it, flapping, is the kind of banner used in aerial advertising. My eyes become dry the moment I read the words that stream by. The red banner says, “SHUT YOUR PIE HOLE!”
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Re: American Captive

Postby Berkley Babes » Fri Jan 10, 2020 4:52 am

11

As I turn my monster truck into the Clear Lake Condo Estate, I notice the dirt road is now paved. There’s a red street sign erected on the corner, dubbed with a new name.
New Farm Road.
Street lamps line the street. Cameras have been mounted on the telephone poles.
I walk into the trailer office to see Bob Rogers, the site manager, sitting at the computer workstation.
Low and discreet, he whispers into the phone, “Hey, X, I got to go. Someone just walked in.”
I pull the lever on the punch card clock.
So Bob says to me, “Lend an ear long?”
“I just walked in,” I say. “I heard nothing.”
“Nothing? You must’ve heard something.”
“I think I heard something about pumpkins,” I lie. “Where to buy pumpkins at the best price.”
“So you heard nothing? Nothing at all?”
“Nothing I would ever repeat.”
“Good. Listen carefully. What you see and hear at this site, it stays between us. It doesn’t leave Kingman Corp. So let’s not make a big story out of this.”
“Sure thing. No problem.”
“It’s just a matter of forgetting things and letting things you notice slip by.”
Trying to convince Bob of my secrecy, I say, “I understand completely. I’m with you one hundred percent. I’m on your side. This conversation never took place.”
Bob starts tapping keys on the keyboard. He says, “So, you wanna be a cop someday?”
When I hear myself huff out loud, saying, “No way,” I swallow with regret. My answer doesn’t sound right for someone in uniform, wearing a badge. Bob spins around with a screwed look on his face.
So I stammer, “I mean, I don’t like criminals. I don’t want to be that close to criminals.”
Bob turns to face the computer screen again.
I ask him, “Did you happen to see all cameras hooked up everywhere on the site?”
“How could I miss it?”
Then he tells me that Frank Benzino will not risk losing his property to those condo burning terrorists again. Then Bob Rogers tells me, “Go do your rounds or something.”
Outside, there are dump trucks moving up and down the road, hauling dirt and gravel. In the midst of all this man labor and mechanical movement, I find my usual stance, hands on hips, to be useless.
A man drives by me on a forklift, and he taunts me by blowing a kiss.
The man shouts, “We should trade jobs.”
I shout back, “Why?”
“Maybe then,” the man says, turning off the engine. “Maybe then, you’d see how work, hard work, gives meaning to real men.”
“No way,” I say. “I’m too pretty. I wouldn’t want to get my uniform dirty.”
The foreman laughs, saying, “Don’t work too hard out here. Believe me, nobody wants to see you strain something tender.”
“Heard that one before.”
“Probably because it’s true,” he says. “We all care.”
“Look at me,” I say. “I’m labor intense. I’m over exerting.”
The foreman just shakes his head as he enters the portable toilet to relieve himself. I walk away.
There are heavy duty machines moving in all directions, reshaping the landscape. I avoid the Excavator, the giant swinging claw. I clear a path for the dump trucks, as they rumble down the road. I must watch out for the Blacktop Roller that goes forward, backs up. I move to the side to let a bulldozer plow ahead. I jump from level ground, over the deep trenches and the pipeline that lay below.
I enter a condo to hide.
On high alert, I very deftly tip-toe down the hallway and out the front door.
Once I’m outside, I walk to the opposite end of the site. I notice white moving vans, all parked near the completed condos. Some men in white overalls carry furniture and lamps, some brown boxes, and a Persian Rug. There’s a couple standing on their front walkway, arm in arm. The walkway has such a fresh white glow, it gives the neighborhood a niceness. A real niceness.
I stand still, watching the young couple, who are, in turn, watching the movers handle their personal belongings, real fragile like.
I’m filled with the notion that I will have to adjust to the presence of people at night. I will have to deal with the influx of cars that will come home to stay or show up to visit. For some odd reason, I view this as a nightly invasion of my privacy.
This nice couple look upon my stance, perhaps wondering to what extent a guard is needed. I feel it necessary to explain my presence.
In uniform, I don’t want to seem too daunting. Going for a stroll, instead of marching, I go toward the couple, lifting my hand to wave.
The husband salutes me with two fingers to the brow, saying, “What a set up. Comes included with a lake and a bobby.”
“Yes, a security guard. You might see me make a round or two. My name is Mike Miller.”
“Hi,” the wife squeals, tugging her man closer. “We’re the Mulrooneys.”
This couple clearly share an accent from England.
I make the remark, “I’m sure you can’t get enough of your new place.”
“Absolute Eden,” the wife comes back. “It’s quite lavish, you know. Our curtains match the color of the foliage that surrounds the lake. So does our bedspread.”
“You little interior decorator you, “ I mock praise the woman and she blushes.
“To be certain,” the husband says. “Good times will be had here. Jolly good.”
Then, to confirm the positive, I add, “Your view of the lake is far superior to the rest, better than anyone else.”
The couple turn to each other, smile, and squeezed lovingly at the hip.
“Hurray to that,” the husband says. “Now, Mike, do you come across much criminal behavior, anything we should know about?”
“Not with me on guard. I see everyone who enters the site.”
“Oh,” the wife says, delighted. “It’s such a safe feeling to know that you’ll be watching over the neighborhood. There’s something very comforting in that idea. I feel so, oh, I don’t know, protected. We’ll sleep better, more soundly, knowing you’re out there. Won’t we, darling?”
Yes, night after night, I will be right outside their doorstep, once they go to sleep, crawling around like a creepazoid, lurching in the shadows, like a prowler. I have pleasured myself before in their garage. I still have the keys to their condo, copied. The influence of a nearby Gary Lee Vickers is growing inside me.
“I hope you enjoy your new home together,” I say, inching away.
“Indeed, we will,” the couple say in unison. The husband raises his thumb in support. “Cheers.”
Once I move past another moving company van, I come across a man smoking a cigar on his front lawn, a patch sprinkled with seed and showing thin blades of green grass.
“Hello” I say, by way of introduction. “Mike Miller, the guard for the night.”
“McDonald,” the man says. “Call me, Mac.”
This short stubby man walks over to me with the cigar clenched in his teeth, his hands free to shake. From the beginning, his English accent is evident.
The man is blunt when he says, “So, what do we need a guard for, anyway? They paying you to twiddle your thumbs?”
I think hard about my reasons for being on site, my actual existence, running through all the theories I’ve concocted over the past year that justify my job, provide a purpose.
“Well, for one, I monitor the main road. And I lock all the condos so that no wandering bums take shelter there, with zero tolerance for any vagrants or nomadic folk—my own personal policy. And I keep a keen eye on all the dump trucks, building supplies, heavy equipment, and all the tools the workers leave behind. Basically, I’m here to preserve the peace. And I just, you know, make sure the main road is monitored.”
“Sounds like a job for a simpleton. You must be lazy in some regard. Ever come across a tough cookie?”
“Excuse me?”
“Some tough cookies? Anyone with an attitude? Anyone looking to raid the place?”
“No, nothing like that. But you’d be surprised. This one time, a drunk guy drove in here asking if he could take some slabs of granite for the stone wall he was building in his backyard.”
“No shite. He asked if he could steal the rocks?”
“It sure sounded that way. He said it was an innocent question, but that it hurt real bad to ask. So I took down his plate number.”
“You never know with some people . . . you know?”
“And I’ve seen my fair share of cars ride through that clearly did not belong here.”
“Oh, really? What happens then?”
“They see the badge and flashlight and they scamper away.”
The man puffs wildly on his cigar, blows shapeless clouds into my face.
I say, “Did I mention that I’ve had the pleasure of locking each condo, and your view of the lake is quite possibly the most excellent?”
“You really think so?”
“Hands down. No contest. You’re the lucky one.”
“Wow, I guess I am. Say, what time do you knock off?”
“Knock off?”
“Yeah—what time are you done with this laborious ordeal?”
I say, “Around midnight, or whenever my partner comes to take over the next shift.” I have perfected this lie, used it many times.
“Sounds like an easy job. I must be in the wrong business.”
“And what business is that?”
“Can’t really go into it. The space agency wouldn’t approve.”
“Oh,” I pause. “NASA?”
“Well, it’s been a chipper chat,” the man says. “But I really should go inside. Make sure those handlers aren’t scratching the hardwood floor.”
“It’s all very understandable,” I say. “Hey, we all have our concerns.”
“Take it easy. I know you will.”
I give him a wide plastic grin. I lock my hands together to show that my thumbs are twiddling at all points of the day.
So then I move forward. The couple I come upon next is much older than the first, married into some gray haired year. They stand inside their garage, testing the remote door opener. This old couple then walks to the end of their driveway to meet me, the young man in uniform.
“So handsome,” the woman says to me. “The first time I saw you on tour, I told my husband, that boy’s handsome. I said, I know handsome, and that boy qualifies.”
I thank her and tell them both my name.
She says, “I’m Dot. And this is my husband, Harris.”
I recognize the English accent once more, and I have to question myself as to whether I woke up in the same country I went to bed in last night. These people must have a strong British connection to Benzino, with top priority to the condos, first rights.
I want to move the conversation along, so I say, “Is your new condo everything you expected?”
Dot raises her hands to the sky as if summonsed by the Lord, and says, “It’s more than we expected.”
I say, “I know I like it. It became my second home.”
And Harris says, “It’s better than the bloody hotel we had to stay in, after we sold our house.”
“Now, Harris,” Dot tries to tame him, reel him in.
So I say, “If I’m not mistaken, your condo is the one with the big window in the roof, right?”
And Dot says, “Yes, that’s us. The skylight. We plan to look at the stars while we snuggle in bed.”
These people see a young man in uniform, the very pillar of safety and security that this neighborhood needs and relies upon. I have pleasured myself before on their deck.
Then Dot says, “And because we love champagne so much, they put a glass cabinet in the wall, custom crafted to store all our crystal flutes and fine China dishware.”
These people see a young man, who, in the line of duty, has trained himself to act with respect, responsibility, strength, and dependable action. These people see a clean young cadet whose job it is to uphold the basic laws and regulate the small time rules.
What they don’t know is, last week I got drunk, broke into my old boarding school, The Academy On The Hill, stormed into where Headmaster Hans Bellamy has an office, flung his family pictures against the wall, tipped the desk over, tossed the potted plants across the room, stole a few records from the file cabinet, burned the rest, smashed the photocopier with an axe, pissed on the computer keyboard, sprayed the fire extinguisher until it ran empty, threw a chair through the trophy case window.
Then Dot says, “They even built us a liquor bar in the basement, made of all glass. The layout is divine. The track lighting above the fireplace makes for the most agreeable atmosphere. We just love it.”
All these people see is a shiny badge, some polished boots, a long flashlight, and a face that is clean shaven to the point of being leader like. I finally begin to understand the inner monologue of a bad cop, how it must poke at him, jab him with guilty reminders that distort his sense of self. Even as the lowly security guard, I’m plagued by the very idea of a squeaky clean identity, mixed with mud.
Dot says the bathroom tile is “impeccable, to the finest point”. She uses the word, “enchanting,” to describe the guest bedroom. She says the voice activated chandelier is a, “marvelous feature”. She says the foyer is, “cathedral in design”. Her favorite things, she tells me, are the French double doors and the rare wooden banister on the second floor. She calls the balcony a mezzanine. The she uses the phrase, “ultimate breath-taker,” to depict their view of the lake, which in her opinion, is much better than her new neighbors. I agree.
Then Harris says, “The Clear Lake is the precise portrait of peace and tranquility, calm and quiet, of harmonic stillness, silence and serenity.
“Yes,” I say. “It’s a picture of a thousand and one words.”
Then Dot places a hand on my forearm, squeezing it, saying, “Well, you just missed tea time, but I can still whip you up a cup, if you’d like to come inside.”
I decline, saying, “I should probably finish my rounds, my daily rounds.”
“Oh,” the woman says, clearly disappointed. “Maybe next time then.”
“Next time,” I say, as politely as possible. “We’ll talk over tea about the state of worldly affairs, next time.”
As quickly as I can, I begin to break away from the elderly couple, tired of the positive spin I had to put on my speech.
The next empty condo I can find, I enter it.
I go up to the second floor of a bare bedroom and stare out the windows.
I must let all my senses dull, decompress.
I’m just not accustomed to so much conversation here. For months this has been a place where I forget the sound of my voice. Those nights when I pleasured myself, nobody was around to find that offensive.
But now, I think I see movement in the window of a condo directly across from me. So I take out my binoculars for a better look.
It’s Vickers.
He’s eyeing the new neighbors, who have just eliminated possible attics for him to sleep in. If this place was a spider web, he’d be that spider.
Today, as these new faces unpack moving company vans, Vickers stalks them from that window, with the fixed stare of a predatory nature. I can’t tell if he senses a threat or wants to seize opportunity.
Those neighbors carry furniture into their newly built condos. But none of them realize a bad man is currently squatting their neighborhood.
I don’t feel good about myself either.
I should have reported Vickers months ago.
I should have reported my Boss to someone, too, or just quit.
It strikes me, that for much longer than any of this, I’ve never thought I was good enough to wear the badge. Have never thought I was worthy of a single blade of grass here. In my defense, I seek to blame my childhood, being raised in the Rockaway Apartments. I start to wonder if my brain will split the good surface from the bad core.
Vickers spots me.
He puts a finger over his lips, and lifts his shoulders.
His body language is a question, will I keep quiet?
I think to put a finger over my lips, to mirror him, or maybe tap the watch on my wrist, to warn that someday all these condos will taken, so he better scout another place to live soon.
Instead, I act like I don’t see him, let my eyes gloss over, like I’m dreaming in that window pane, lost in thought.
I wonder if Vickers knows about the cameras that now watch the site, if he’s smart enough to slink only through backyards.
Then I don’t care.
I feel like a robotic sentry gun, who sees everyone as guilty. I’m one error in computer code away from attacking them all.
I’m about to laser them all dead, then self-destruct.
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Re: American Captive

Postby Berkley Babes » Fri Jan 10, 2020 4:53 am

12

Tonight a couple makes a visit to their unfinished condo. They enter the dark dwelling. The woman falls down an empty shaft that does not have stairs, yet.
So her boyfriend calls an ambulance.
I suddenly see my job under a new light.
Insurance coverage.
I finally gain insight about why only one security guard works here.
Waiting for the ambulance, as I’m telling the worried man the construction site is a work in progress, with tons of things to trip over, he starts yelling about a lawsuit.
So it hits me again. Insurance coverage.
The ambulance leaves.
I fire up my monster truck and I make for the exit, onto the highway, driving downtown to the public library before it closes at eight.
Once there, I do a quick scan of the computer database for any books about insurance policies. I find a whole list of matches, to be located on the top floor. I practically borrow every book on those shelves, before going back to work.
During my drive back to the construction site, a heavy fog hangs low on the highway. I almost drift into the guardrail.
I get back to the trailer office.
Inside, I read from the insurance books.
I take a short break outside, near a newly built condo foundation, nothing overhead, just four concrete walls. There, below ground level, I smoke crack to better aid my detective skills. My mind begins to race and flutter with a bunch of what-if-scenarios.
I go back to the trailer, refresh my cup from the water cooler, dive straight into those books. One small law book grabs my attention. It explains in one section about permits, what makes a builder liable in case of an injury. It tells how adding a security guard will lower the rate on the insurance policy.
In effect, I learn that my boss, Frank Benzino, created the security post as a way to cut corners money-wise. Just having me on the payroll, protects him legally.
Bingo. Bulls-eye score. Jackpot.
I’m not here to prevent eco-terrorists from another arson spree.
I’m just another coupon in a rich man’s wallet.
Suddenly I get a dark vibe, then a spike of suspicion.
I look all around the trailer for any trace of the crooked underhand.
So I peer into the industrial lights which hang above.
I go through the files in the desk draws, finding only the bill of sales for shipments supplied and delivered.
I measure every inch of the trailer with scrutiny, pacing back and forth, probing the place.
Cameras could be in the lights.
Cameras could be in the computer speakers.
Tiny cameras, the size of pin, could be planted anywhere.
Are the drugs making me paranoid? Is my imagination at work?
I think to myself, I need to calm down.
I step outside and the fog is the thickest I’ve ever seen fog. The main road is one heavy wet cloud. I can’t see my outstretched hand before me.
I walk to the side of the trailer where the utility box connects the phone line. I unscrew the bolts on the box, peeking inside with my flashlight. There are two open lines in the trailer, one for the phone and one for the fax. But when I open the utility box I see a third port that blinks. My first immediate thought, the phones are tapped.
At this very moment, just when I’ve uncovered something sinister, the headlights of a squad car emerge from the haze. The window unrolls and Officer Swain dips his head into the mist.
“Officer Swain, what a surprise to see you,” I say.
My heart drops and skips a beat. I’ve never been so nervous to talk to anyone in my life. His timing catches me off guard. His sudden appearance has a startling effect that ripples through my body.
“Surprise,” the retired cop says. “I thought I might surprise you.”
I say, “A bad night to be driving. Where are you coming from in this fog?”
“Where am I coming from?” he repeats, like the question is meddlesome, like I’m prying into his business. There’s a tense, awkward silence that’s hard to ignore. I swallow a guilty gulp.
The cop says, “I was at the race track. Losing all my money.”
“Oh,” I say, try to console him. “You win some, you lose some.”
“You lose some is damn right,” Swain says. “I’m out five grand.”
I say nothing in return, put a restriction on my tongue, because I don’t believe him about being at the race track.
Then Officer Swain says, “So how are things holding up around here? Good?”
“Yes,” I say. “Good.”
“Goody good,” he says. “That’s what I like to hear.”
Then, to fill the silence between us, I say, “Working every night, I’ve come to find out something about myself.”
“Oh, yeah? What’s that?”
“That I’m very good at observing and recording.”
The cop forces a short laugh, saying, “I knew you would be, that’s why I hired you.”
Then he turns on me, saying, “What have you observed lately? What have you observed tonight?”
Frightfully, I wonder if he refers to the tapped phones in the trailer.
I say, “As you can see, this fog, it limits my full range of vision.”
“Fog,” he says. “So then, how are you staying busy, in meantime.”
“A book. I brought a book. I hope you don’t mind. Slow night.”
“You know, there are certain organizations that monitor the books you take from the library.”
“Oh, really?” I say, petrified. “I wasn’t aware of that.”
Nervous, I try to lighten the mood with a joke: “Well, it looks like I’ll have to return all my books on bomb making materials, you know, before they track me down.”
The cop doesn’t laugh, tells me he doesn’t enjoy comedy.
Then he says, “Mike, let me tell you something else. What you see at this site is to be shared by only us. No need to publicize anything.”
“Completely,” I say, nodding. “I understand.”
“Just keep doing what you’re doing with the security sheets and you’ll be fine. Those security sheets are very detail oriented. That’s what I like.”
“Okay, sir. I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing with the security sheets. Eyes open at all times.”
“As this place livens up, so should the details.”
“True. That is very true.”
“And you saw nothing out of the ordinary tonight?”
“Nope, just the fog.”
“Goody good,” says Swain. “You’ll do fine with us.”
“Yeah, because I’m always wondering if I’m doing a good job here, providing enough detail—”
But the cop makes a motion, as if he were zipping his lips, sealing his mouth. Then he rolls up the car window. Without saying goodbye, he disappears into the gray.
I actually forgot to tell Officer Swain about the old woman who fell into the basement. I was too nervous to remember. Also, I still refuse to snitch on Vickers.
What remains tonight are the foggy notions of my employer that continue to spring my active mind.
For the rest of the night, I sit under those industrial lights, sitting at the computer workstation, using the internet.
I seek to break down the catchphrase that Carl Busby uses so often. It was something the eccentric old man said to me when I first met him.
“From monks and bells to the nanosecond. Now rise up, boy, rise!”
So I enter those specific words into a search engine: monks, bells, nanoseconds.
On a website about religion, I learn how the Romans were the first ones to develop the concept of the hour as a measurement of time. The Benedictine monks were the first ones to actually utilize it. Like clockwork, they would ring bells every hour to represent a new task, whether it be eating, sleeping, praying, or sweeping the steps. The townspeople who lived in the area surrounding the monastery were quick to adopt the clock device, finding it to be a more effective way of meeting people, traveling, scheduling work times and wages. Thus, a clock tower was built in the center of town for folks to base their lives around every tick. Culture was born.
On a website about computer programming, I discover that a nanosecond is a billionth of a second, faster than a finger snap or the blink of an eye. A nanosecond is the segment of time used in programming a computer. An electric pulse is the amount of time a computer takes to make a decision. A nanosecond is so fast it falls under the level of human perception, so decisions based on this time frame cannot be detected. Human senses can’t even conceive of how quick this is, nevermind weigh those decisions.
I now understand the catch phrase a little more. It’s about the progression from clocks (those monks and their bells) to computers (those decisions made in nanoseconds). From the industrial age to the information age.
The night becomes so quiet. The fog starts to lift.
I feel I hold something against my boss.
I wonder if it’s because he’s rich, and I’m not.
I wonder if it’s because his lie reflects my lie. How his criminal empire makes me examine my own crimes.
I can stand on my head for eight hours a night, just to save my already rich boss more money at tax season.
Right now, I think I hear what might be footsteps on the trailer roof.
I go out to investigate.
I see nobody up there, unless they are sprawled flat.
I wonder if it’s Vickers, fiddling with the tapped telephone wires, up there monkey wrenching.
In a faint ghost whisper, one that whooshes into my ear, I can almost hear Call Busby telling me, “From monks and bells to the nanosecond, now rise up, boy, rise!”
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Re: American Captive

Postby Berkley Babes » Fri Jan 10, 2020 4:54 am

13

In my Rockaway apartment, I sleep until crows start to fight and caw over dumpster scraps. A car alarm blares a relentless horn. The reggeaton music someone blasts out a building window begins to skip. These are the sounds of my everyday reality at home, noise I escape while at work.
I hear the Rockaway gang knocking on my door, then banging. They keep banging, but I can’t face that world—too real. They keep knocking, calling my name, but I don’t answer.
In the bathroom of my apartment, I shave my face smooth. My cheeks are tight pads. Dunking my head in the sink water, submerged, I think about the condos, the polish given to the hardwood floors, then I come up for air.
I think about the outer shell, how appearance really does matter, and to keep all surfaces clean.
I want to vomit in eager anticipation of another work shift.
Two hours early, I go to work, just to cure the seasick lag of my vision.
I’m at the construction site, sitting inside the trailer office, with the blueprints before me. I admire the precise angles of those details.
The sun now sets, as I get drunk on a case of beer. The horizon is an orange haze with a patch of purple. Then it turns neon green and hot pink.
I look out the trailer window when I hear a car streak by, too fast for me to record the license plate. So I grab my trusty flashlight, stepping out.
I’m sure I saw a couple in the car that coasted by, but I have to get closer to be sure about the true number in that ride.
They roll further down the road to the opposite end of the site.
They park with their headlights off, brake lights still blazing.
I walk over to the car, without putting my flashlight on, because I’m curious about what the couple intend.
I sneak up.
I get within a short distance, enough to peer inside. The moon reflects off the lake, which allows me to see movement in the back seat. This couple has come here to have sex.
This has become more of the case lately, as young people use the off-road area to do drugs.
I wonder if this is another opportunity to present myself as a real cop, take their drugs into my possession, maybe steal a look at their naked bodies.
I stand beside the car, like a shadowy figure. I watch as the car rocks up and down on the axle shocks. I can see the girl get into a riding position, her ass cheeks clenching. Totally aroused, I almost want to rap the window to ask if I can join in. Instead, I just lurch there, adjusting my crotch. The guy switches positions, gets on top, and the whole car squeaks. I get annoyed with my lack of participation, so I shine my flashlight on them.
The couple, they both scramble to put their clothes back on, saying, “We thought it was safe to come here, sorry, officer, sorry.”
So I say, “Tell me, I fought the law and the law won. Then I might let you off easy.”
“I fought the law and the law won.”
“Again. Louder.”
“I fought the law and the law won.”
“Good. Now get the hell out, go.”
The guy climbs into the front seat, driving the half naked girl out of the construction site. I think I might have embarrassed them, or, better yet, ruined the sexual mood.
Before I can even get back to the trailer, I see a different car enter the far end of the estate. Again, I must investigate. My sacred sitting process cannot withstand this interruption.
What I spy when I walk upon the scene, I see a young man on the ready path to destruction. He sticks a green rubber hose into the tail pipe of his car. Then he runs the opposite end of the hose into the car window, driver side. This young man gets back into the car, making a hasty retreat.
On guard, I approach with a fair amount of stealth. I knock on the car window, but the young man doesn’t hear me. Techno music plays at ear hurting decibels. I knock again, harder. This time I startle the guy with my overbearing presence. The young man, however, refuses to unroll the window right away. He just sits back, dazed, defeated.
I make an aggressive gesture, shining the flashlight in his face, and the guy finally rolls down the window, saying, “Fuck it. I knew it. A cop.”
“No,” I state. “Just a security guard,” which forces the guy to lower the music.
“A what?” the guy inquires. “A retard?”
“A security guard. Just a security guard.”
“A security guard,” the young guy is slow to repeat, “Well, then, fuck off. Leave me alone. Can’t you see I’m trying to die here.”
“I can see that now. But you can’t do it here.”
The guy puts the window back up, allowing only the hose in with gas, the carbon monoxide. He turns the music on again, even louder.
I walk around the car hood, open the unlocked door, passenger side, then jump into his shotgun seat.
The young man says, “What the fuck do you think you’re doing?”
“Gonna die right along with ya,” I say. “That is, if you don’t mind.”
“I do mind. My final moments. I want to be left alone. Damn it, why is it so hard to find a place to die. Alone. Do you hear me? I want to be alone.”
The car fills with gas.
I say, “I have a wide range of reasons for wanting to die, what are yours?”
“Just get the fuck outta here,” the guy says, pushing on my shoulder.
“No,” I say, refusing to budge. “I won’t. We should get to know each other before we both die. Establish a quick connection before we land in hell. Never been there before, but the flames on the brochure look nice.”
I work the guy into some kind of sick chuckle, which he then concludes with a cough.
“Look,” I say. “You can’t be doing this. Young guy, like you. Come on, already. Turn the car off. Remove that hose.”
The young guy sits back, thinks for a moment. Then, to my relief, he shoves the hose out the window, onto the ground.
“There,” he says. “You satisfied? Not gonna kill us both. Just gonna go somewhere else, to kill myself in private. Without all the cameras. Is that o-fucking-kay with you and your phony badge?”
“Cameras?” I ask him.
He says. “Like you don’t work for Benzino, too.”
“You work for Benzino?” I rush to ask.
“Over at Wellington Place, the other building project, yeah, I work for him. ”
The Clear Lake here makes everything, even suicidal tendencies, appear serene.
I start to ask him about our boss, but he says, “Once you work for Kingman Corporation, you’re in it for life. There’s no escape. There’s no running away. He’ll hire someone to find you.”
The song on the stereo sends vibrations through the car speakers, playing again, on repeat. It’s the electronica band, TekHead. It’s the Clear Lake movie soundtrack.
The young guy says. “There’s no escape, no way out. Benzino has us by the balls.”
I allow some silence to show agreement. I delay for a careful moment, then I ask, “How long have you had the job, over at the Wellington project?
“My girlfriend, Kate, used to babysit for Kingman. She got me the job. Kate went missing over a year ago.”
I gasp in mock surprise, saying, “Missing? Like gone, for good?”
“One week she’s telling me that Kingman leaves money lying around the house, saying maybe he might not notice if she stole a stack. The next week her family is filing a missing person’s report.”
“Missing,” I say. “Her whereabouts, how weird.”
“Yeah,” the young guy says in a sulking sad tone.
Then he says, “I feel like I’ve lost control of my work situation. Sometimes I dig into my face with sharp objects, because it feels like my boss is commanding me to do that. Like those cockroach videos on the internet, the ones that show a cockroach with a motor strapped on its back. Scientists make those bugs walk a wavy line. A total loss of self-control.”
I find myself repeating: “Control.”
And the young guys says, “Yeah, my face cutting. My boss. It’s all about control.”
I recline back and sigh, trying to think of any personal problems I might have, to better share his viewpoint.
“I have some control issues myself,” I start to tell him. “I live next to an airport that doesn’t have a control tower. I got all these planes flying around my apartment, all day long. I have this fear that one of them is gonna nose dive right into me, chop me up in the propeller blades and—”
“You call that a problem?” he says, on hostile edge. “I have a serious problem, something that affects my social life, and you’re telling me you’re afraid of some stupid airplanes?”
“Ah, yeah,” I say, aware of how ridiculous I must sound.
“Those aren’t realistic problems,” the young guy says, now counseling me. “All in your head, man.”
He closes his eyes.
So I close mine too. All I can see in my mind are planes taking off and landing at the same time. All I can picture are planes colliding on the runway.
Clenching his fists around the steering wheel, the guys says, “I just wish I could stop tearing at my face.”
Then the guy vomits once in his own lap, twice out the car window, each one a violent uprising.
“Overdose on sleeping pills,” he explains with his first full breath, wiping the drool from his chin.
“No big deal,” I say. “I thought we were getting too sentimental, anyway.”
We sit in the car for what seems like an eternity, five hours, without saying much, listening to the TekHead album.
I want him to promise me that he’ll go home, sleep off this idea of suicide. But it doesn’t happen that way, not tonight. Before I’m about to doze off, he grabs a gun from the glove compartment box. I snap fully awake with him pointing it at me.
He says, “This is my great escape. You tell Frank Benzino, you tell that control freak I’m going where his eyes can’t see. You tell him to suck steel.”
Then, wrapping his mouth around the long barrel, the guy pulls the trigger. Blood pours out his nose like a fire hose. Blood hits the front and back windshield, spraying the car with chunky brain matter. Blood, however, misses my uniform, save for a few specks.
I leap out from the car, about to have a major reaction, but consider myself only rattled, slightly unsettled.
More importantly, I realize I can’t be associated with this type of incident.
Shifting the handbrake off, I give the car a push and I let it roll down the hill, over the embankment, into the lake.
I watch the evidence sink.
The Clear Lake, once a perfect body of water, is now forever tainted with bloody muck.
Back at the trailer, I continue a heavy regiment of beer drinking, to settle my nerves.
In this condition, the beer hits a sad spot on my brain. My eyes try to form tears, but can’t. Working alone has made me numb. I care less than I know I should.
Two hours later, Kerry Bettencourt pays me a visit, but I have trouble responding to her with anything more than cold distant eyes. My mouth stays closed, set in stone, except for a quivering chin that corresponds to nothing.
I don’t tell her about what happened tonight, how I witnessed a fatal gunshot wound to the head.
There’s nothing romantic about her visit, not even when she surprises me with plate of turkey and potatoes. I forgot I was working on a holiday. She gives the food to me, kisses me on the cheek, just to lift my spirits.
Before she leaves the trailer, she says, “I feel so bad for you. Working every night like this. I’m moving here next week. If I cook us dinner, will you come over while I unpack?”
I say I will.
I hear my answer echo, long after she’s gone.
My security shift is over, but I still hang around, neglecting my scheduled time to punch out.
What a night of confession, of useless talking, of letting the tongue go loose, of feeling burned out, drained, sapped to the core, weak and weary, of stinking regret for every last word me and that dead man uttered. Especially the word control.
I’m still affected by the suicide a week later when the Bettencourt girl moves in. I’m also still grappling with a series of plane crashes that have just taken place near Rockaway.
Kerry Bettencourt invites me over for soup at eight.
I remain parked in my monster truck at the opposite end of construction site, smoking crack.
I never show up for soup.
Her porch light goes dark.
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Re: American Captive

Postby Berkley Babes » Fri Jan 10, 2020 4:56 am

14

Rockaway.
The Air Show is definitely underway, in progress, going on at this very moment.
I wake up to it, when a fighter jet starts the show with a sonic boom.
As danger continues to swirl with turbulence above my building, I jump out of bed. I dress fast, without thinking, without matching my socks.
This morning I catch my mother’s boyfriend, John Penrose, looking at the newspaper. Strange thing is, John can’t read. So he’s probably just looking at the comics.
I’m eating cereal at the breakfast table, across from John, when I notice the headline on the front page: Plane Crash Kills Six. There’s a full color photo of the plane standing upside down, tail end in the air, crushed against a small white house. The plane hit the house on the opposite side of the airport, near Rockaway. Neighbors gave their eye witness accounts to the report. They said they watched a plane struggle to stay in flight, heard the engine choke out, saw it come spiral spinning down. The newspaper article ends with irony. A family member of the dead pilot is quoted as saying, “… the pilot was very down to earth”.
The phone rings.
It’s Carl Busby.
He says, “Come quick!”
“Where?” I ask.
“The sand dunes. Come now!”
“It happened again,” I say.
“Hurry!”
I say, “All this time, I’ve been telling everyone in Rockaway planes keep crashing, that another plane will crash. Our neighbors just ignore it.”
“I know all about it,” Carl says. “But there’s more. So come now. Run, boy, run. Now speed, boy, speed. Now gun it. Now rush. Now go and get swift. Make a bolt for it. Dash on. Dart out. Keep chase. Sprint. Fling yourself into a gallop. Flash forward. Push the tempo. Just whisk yourself here and —”
I cut him off, saying, “Whoa, whoa, fucking, whoa. I’m coming. I’m coming. Be right there.”
“Right,” Carl says. “And bring eggs.”
“Eggs?”
But the old man hangs up.
Running into the living room, I stop just short of my mother. She sits legs crossed in the rocking chair, smoking a cigarette with a long dangled ash. Everything about her looks shot of nerves. Even her hair is frazzled to a split end.
John Penrose, her boyfriend, lay stretched on the couch, watching cartoons, eating ice cream from the box.
My mother, Janice Miller, says this is the loudest day she’s ever known to experience. She tells me she’d prefer the steady sound of a vacuum cleaner or a blender, anything to cancel out the sound of those airplane engines. She has cotton balls wedged inside her ear canals. This disturbs me, so I run straight for the door. I fumble with the locks and chains.
My mother stands up to pester me, traying her cigarette ash. “Where are you going?” she wants to know. “What are you doing with my eggs?”
I run out the door with my mother yelling after me that I forgot to take out the trash.
The Air Show is in full swing.
All along the sidewalks there are clusters of people who keep their heads cocked to the sky, shading their eyes, looking up at the remnants of engine exhaust that makes whites stripes and patterns against the blue.
One plane takes off from the airport, while another comes in for a landing, almost colliding.
As I pass a black elderly couple, I stop to quiz them.
I say, “Excuse me. Did you know planes have been crashing around this airport at an alarming rate?”
Constantly smiling, still looking up, the old woman says, “I just like the planes.”
The old husband says, “How about those old war planes, huh? Aren’t they something?
So I say, “Crashing planes, crashing all the time. Nobody holds the airport accountable. Pilots are dying.”
The old woman, still smiling and sky watching, says, “The planes just look nice.”
I remembered right then that I must still meet with Busby, so I run, carrying two dozen eggs.
The river next to the apartment complex is called Meadow Brook, but local cab drivers call it Ghetto-Brook. I cross a shallow part of the river without taking my shoes and socks off. I come to a fence that states no trespassing, threatens a fine, signed by a judge.
Jumping over the fence into the sand dunes, I’m quick to spot Carl Busby. He’s waving frantically at the planes, luring them in, then throwing eggs at them when they dip in close. He calls the pilot a “scum-sucker”.
I join the old man at the bottom of the pit.
The carnival music, plus the planes, plus the crowd, force us to shout back and forth.
Busby says, “This mission calls for timing, and you, young sir, are late.”
“Sorry,” I say, “I tried to sleep through this whole horrible thing. The noise of all the planes at once, it shocks the nerves.”
Busby says, “Hear those sounds? Those are the rumbling sounds of the belly of the beast.”
I say, “Another plane crashed. Hit a house this time.”
Busby says, “I know. That’s why I took refuge in the sand dunes this weekend. Less of a target.”
I say, “But why the eggs?”
I point at the carton dozen he requested I bring.
Busby says, “Oh, I suppose you’d rather throw rocks, instead, is that it?”
“No, no, nevermind. I just want the unpleasant event to end. Another plane crashes and this is how they celebrate.”
“I know, and let me tell you, it really boggles the mind,” says Busby.
Then he says, “I think now is the time for you to quit your job. Get out while you can. While you’re still intact.”
I say, “Quit? What? Why? I need to pay rent, medical bills for my mother.”
Busby says, “I used to work for Edison. So I know the danger he poses to you.”
I say, “Edison?”
Carl Busby, the eccentric old man answers with, “Edison. Full name, Edison Bard Kingman. Your boss. E.B. Kingman. Kingman Corporation. Ring a bell? He’s your other boss.”
Kids on four-wheelers and motor bikes race around the sandpit, fishtailing dust.
Planes do tricks, flips, spins, dropping with gravity. Thousands in airport attendance can be heard as an uproar, clapping. It sounds of disorder, confusion, commotion, an upheaval of sorts, mayhem all around, madness at every corner. My mind’s in a frenzy. The times are turbulent.
I say, “You know my boss? God, everyone knows my boss.”
And Carl Busby says, “Correction. He happens to know everyone. And all this random plane crashing, it isn’t so random. Kingman knows a little something about that, too.”
He takes an egg from one of my cartons, ready to chuck it.
He says, “The plane crashes have all been planned, intended, the entire sequence of them.”
“You mean to say, on purpose?
“Yes, in a carefully orchestrated attempt to kill off certain rival businessmen, who fly in for meetings, negotiations.”
“Killed? By who?”
“By the man who has 51 percent part ownership in airport operations. By the only local man capable of such a thing. Kingman.”
“How come nobody ever notices these businessmen are being murdered?”
“Because the airport remains open to the public. Sometimes the planes flown by your regular citizen are sabotaged, too. This way, with so many plane crashes, it appears like an unlucky fluke. The National Transportation Safety Board is usually paid off by Kingman, so the investigations are poorly handled.”
“Wow,” I say, stunned.
Carl Busby continues, “Only the tip of the dirty iceberg, my friend. There’s more.”
“More?”
“Kingman has contracts with the government to build spy planes that circle Painesville and Central Heights. These planes are loaded with such high-tech equipment, they can see through houses and listen to conversations at ground level. There are several of these contracts throughout the United States. More than you might imagine.”
Carl Busby goes on explaining all the various ways our privacy gets invaded, how our actions are caught on cameras, how our most intimate discussions get logged onto digital recorders that sort, analyze, and locate key words.
I listen to him, wondering whether any of this is true or not. Upon closer inspection, I look the old man over to see that he wears a weightlifting belt around his waist. Busby also has what looks like a pigeon feather tucked into his fishing cap. When I ask about his belt, he says he carries the weight of the universe on his shoulders. When I mention the pigeon feather, Busby tells me it’s meant to be a symbol of personal freedom. The string necklace around his neck displays several shark teeth. Eccentric as he is, the spy tech stuff he rambles on about sounds logical.
I ask about his days working with Frank Benzino.
“Experiment gone haywire,” says Busby. “I was his chief scientist. Inventor, if you will. Cutting edge mathematics and such. We had a falling out. Curious business, I tell you. Curious indeed. If I told you how curious, it would boggle your mind. Now I’m a janitor and part-time beekeeper. Which reminds me, we should go ice-fishing some time.”
Planes fill the sky. Some planes loop back to barrel in, while other planes air duel, dodging each other at the final second. Planes of all types perform upside down antics. The noise is incredible.
Busby says, “But we must not let them see us talking.”
“Who?” I say.
Busby: “The ones conducting this air raid, of course. The ones who watch the watchmen.”
I say, “I don’t see what you mean by that.”
Busby says, “It doesn’t matter what you see. Only what he sees.”
Again I ask, “Who are you talking about? Kingman?”
Busby says, “Yes! Who else? The voyeur himself. Kingman.”
I say, “Prove it.”
Busby says, “You want proof? Here, take this. Go see for yourself.”
He hands me a business card that prints the address of the Kingman Mansion, where my boss lives.
“We better split up. From monks and bells to the nanosecond, now, rise up, boy, rise!”
He turns a shoulder to me, headed for the shade of his tarp bunker, muttering under his breath for me to “pick a side.”
So I jog away, up the massive side of that sand dune hill.
Out of breath, I look back when I get to the top.
The old man waves from his campsite, then he starts to stir what looks like a campfire pot of screwball stew.
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Re: American Captive

Postby Berkley Babes » Fri Jan 10, 2020 4:57 am

15

It’s my shocking return to work, on another night at the Clear Lake Condo Estate. The batteries in my flashlight are running low, but my uniform is ironed and pressed, with my badge and my boots, gleaming and glossy.
I punch in promptly. On my first official round, I walk down New Farm Road, past two well dressed women, both from England, who happen to meet at the mailbox.
One neighbor says to the other, “We love our new home, don’t you?”
The second neighbor concurs, saying, “Yes, yes. This place has what my husband likes to call, real storybook charm.”
In a fly by greeting, I say hello to both women.
The second lady makes the remark: “What a beautiful day we’re having.”
“Oh, yes,” says the other. “We won’t get too many more of these.”
I give them both a wide plastic grin, saying, “We’ll just have to enjoy every last warm weather moment.”
The women look at me at the same time, with a quick neck snap. Their eyes have a full red glow, like they‘re overheating robots. Then those eyes cool. Eyes retaining their natural color.
The neighbors endorse my warm weather idea with smiles of their own. They take their mail, make plans to swap cooking recipes, then walk in different directions.
I do my job by marching from condo to condo, locking those windows and those doors that are open for unknown reasons. I tell all the lights and appliances to shut off.
The dark of the night has been coming much sooner with the changing season, much to my delight.
I call Norman to see if he wants to get high. Charlie Moon is in New York, promoting his new band called, The Nightly Report. So Norman shows up to the construction site, alone.
The first day I ever met Norman Long, I had expressed my knowledge of a family living in Maine with the same last name. I then told Norman his resemblance to them was striking. I finished by saying that, if I remembered correctly, the family made for a terrific bowling squad, one in which the members each shared identical form and delivery.
In a cool way, Norman Long had stated he was of no relation to the family, and that he had a poor habit of rolling the ball into the gutter.
His last name is however, an indication of his size. He is tall, with long arms and legs, and a noticeably thin waist. He towers over those near him. His lengthy appearance not only suggests that his ancestors passed the name through entire generations, but that they passed it through their reproductive genes, as well.
Now Norman rolls the blunt. I wait for it in fiendish anticipation. We get lifted, laughing at certain things, but forgetting soon after what was funny.
Then, just at that moment, a car with tinted windows pulls up on my driver-side door. It idles there for a second, then gives a horn toot. I tell Norman to duck, hide. The other car slides its window down, so I follow their lead by unrolling mine, too.
And I’m asking, “Can I help you?” with weed smoke fogging my front windshield, billowing in the back seat.
An English lady sits in the car, passenger side, and she says, “Me and my husband are going away on vacation. We thought you should be advised.”
“Oh, you are?” I feign friendly interest.
“Yes,” she says. “Aspen for two weeks. We made reservations at a ski lodge. We should’ve been there by now, drinking hot chocolate, but a storm caused some delays, airline delays.”
“Well, have a great time,” I say, flustered with some paranoid subplot.
“Nothing could be more absolute,” she says.
Then her American husband leans over from the steering wheel to say, “We just thought you could keep an extra lookout, you know, while we take to the slopes.”
“Sure thing,” I say. “No problem. You can count on me.”
“Super,” the wealthy man says, as he drives away, bound for the airport.
I press the control panel for my power windows.
Norman Long wants to know, “Do you still have the keys to their condo?”
And I say, “You can stop ducking, they’re gone.”
“Can you get inside their condo?” my friend asks again.
“Let me guess, a party?”
Norman says, “We can tell people it’s you birthday.”
“Well, . . . ” I say, mulling over the proposition. “The condo walls are soundproof.”
Norman goes on saying, “We can tell everyone you own a condo.”
So I say, “My birthday. My condo. And if anyone asks, I work as a Technical Expert. I have a job as an expert in all things technical. Overseas.”
And Norman Long says, “No doubt.”
“They can’t fire me,” I whisper to myself. “I know enough, maybe too much. They know I’m a criminal, because they’re criminals themselves. My lie reflects their bigger lie. Their power grab connects to my cover up.”
And Norman says, “Settle down with that shit. Let’s party!”
We open our cell phones and dial the appropriate numbers, giving people directions through the next town, Central Heights.
Then we drive over to Norman’s apartment, change clothes and switch gear. I tell him about the suitcase of drugs I have in the trunk, how I plan to distribute the entire thing to anyone willing to dabble. We make one last stop to buy a keg of beer before heading back to the Clear Lake.
The party tonight is comprised mainly of hot shot, high school heroes, just graduated from college. The men are born into a tradition of family affluence. The girls are so pretty they’re pristine, allowing them to be very selective about who pays for the dinner date.
In Rockaway, I’m a street-wise thug. At The Academy On The Hill, I was part of the book smart elite. I could never fully commit to one side. Living with the dirtball derelicts, schooling with the asshole rich, I balanced both roles like a tightrope walker who dares to perform without a safety net. To fall to one side, was to drop to a sure popularity death.
From the upper-class, I received a cold shoulder and the snobbish lift of the chin. For the lower-class, I got a black eye and the stomping of a boot.
The party tonight starts at ten.
As always, Nick Showalter, the baseball pitching ace, comes with Matt Fraggatoni, the star quarterback. Conrad Tyler, the poet, walks through the door with a pen gripped in his teeth and a contemplative thumb on his chin. Chadwick Merriweather III, chess champion, comes with Oliver Wendell Pean, the math wizard. Mark Rubenstein shows up with his older brother, Paul Rubenstein, founders of the yacht club. Dominic Manzini, the foreign exchange student from Italy, now living in America permanently, comes alone and stands in the corner all night long. Rick Disnicky, the card shark, brings some Las Vegas poker chips for some high stakes gambling. Next to turn up is a tall black kid named Sylvan Watts, who played basketball on scholarship. Under no invitation comes Kevin Paradise and Johnny Kinklater, notorious for their party crashing, house trashing. I still sell them a cup. Next to show is a popular fat guy named, Peabody, who everyone calls Pudge. Jeff Webber, the soccer standout, is the designated driver for three drunken wastrels: Warren Castle, fencing team, Leonard Drisdale, his sparring partner, and Alan Bloomquist, the tennis title holder. Chase Livingston, the cox on the crew team, is also present, but disappears soon after without a word. Tom Goodwin, the inventor, comes to the party late with some kind of motor-powered contraption on wheels that has no specific use. At one point, members of the rugby team storm the party and try to steal the keg.
For the females, the first to arrive is Jen Coakley, the captain of the cheerleading squad. Next comes Lena Lovelace, the prom queen who was once voted Miss Massachusetts. Sara Flannigan, the drama major, arrives with Kelly Decosta, the president of student council, who, aside from English, speaks three different languages: French, Spanish, and Latin. Then comes Brooke Burns, the chorus girl, with her close friend, Dawn LaFosse, who has an ear for scandal and a mouth for gossip. Erica Everdale is here with her lipstick lesbian lover, Angelina Scott; both girls escaping to a second floor bedroom, I catch onto their secret. McKenzie McCormack, the Olympic swimmer, comes from practice wearing a bathing suit and some eye goggles, her hair still wet. And, finally, Cat Washington, the young field hockey coach, comes with Mary Ann Carbone, the blow job vixen.
The whole condo is minimalist in design. I keep telling everyone not to touch the porcelain elephant collection. Brooke Burns gets on the piano, bangs away at the keys. Jen Coakley and Lena Lovelace insist that Matt Fraggatoni and Nick Showalter join them in the Jacuzzi. I tell everyone they can be as loud as they want, just not to spill anything on the needlepoint pillows. Again and again, I tell Warren Castle not to use the tapestry as a cape or the silk lampshade as a crown. I let everyone know it’s my birthday, that I’m a Technical Expert, making money in the multiple figures. I shout that I play the stock market every day, using insider trader tips. The painting above the fireplace, I say I brought it back from Prague. The leather couches, I got them from Italy. The pottery, I picked them up in Paris. The plants, I say, are imported from Singapore. These old friends are royally impressed. Someone keeps pinching my ass. People keep pouring me shots, to celebrate my birth. Kevin Paradise and Johnny Kinklater organize the “Hot Ass” contest, in which every girl finds a partner to walk seductively up the stairs with, in front of male judges. Angelina Scott and Erica Everdale win the contest by locking lips and kissing on the top step. Rick Disnicky lights up a cigar at the card table, bluffing almost every pot into his possession. Alan Bloomquist pukes off the back porch. In the basement, I keep telling Leonard Drisdale not to play swords with the pool sticks. Every time I pass Conrad Tyler he’s reciting his poetry to a new girl. Chadwick Merriweather is having a deep discussion with Oliver Wendell Pean about string theory, talking about how the wings of a butterfly in Asia can affect the wind patterns of North America. Sylvan Watts tells me more than once that he’s about to order a stripper for my birthday, but that I should pay for it. I get stuck in the breakfast nook with Dawn LaFosse and she will not stop blabbing about some pre-law student she met in Chicago, telling me his preference for having red ants shoved into his penis hole during sex.
Thinking it’s time to open the suitcase full of drugs, I do, telling everybody to have at it. They scramble for the substance of their choice like the suitcase is a broken open piñata.
Over the entire din of the party, I vent a primal scream, “I told you not to touch my porcelain elephant collection. Condo lights. Off.”
The place goes dark and my former classmates are frantic to find themselves. Nobody moves. This is how to tame a crowd. I knock someone over as I barge my way to the front door. This is how to throw the world into chaos, stand back and watch people beg for a more predictable pattern. I leave them all lights out, like a computer hacker who attacks the electricity grid of city block substation.
In a small fraction of time, I run to the trailer office and write down false, bogus information on the security sheets.
I suddenly notice the computer at the workstation desk turn on, automatically. Video, live streaming footage of the condo party I just left, plays in slow motion. There must be cameras installed in the eyeball light fixtures. The condo party is still dark, but my old classmates huddle around the burning fireplace, while Nick Showalter strums his acoustic guitar.
Just then I see my Rockaway friends show up at the door. Ely Noble. The Rodrigo brothers, Pablo and Agusto. And Max, the gang leader. I forgot I invited them too. They don’t know my former classmates. It’s clear on the video, since I’m not still attending party, my Rockaway friends are being refused at the door. Max pulls a gun.
I can’t watch the rest.
I finger my breast pocket. I pull out the business card that Carl Busby gave me, the one with the Kingman mansion address.
The urge to go visit Kingman now is strong. It’s only thing that will help me ignore the racial clash at the condo, which looks like it’s about to escalate with guns and knives.
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Re: American Captive

Postby Berkley Babes » Fri Jan 10, 2020 4:57 am

16

I get dressed in a full ninja costume that I wore two Halloweens ago. I look like I’m on a mission, that an important operation calls my name.
I fire up the monster truck, driving out of the estate, speeding down the highway, taking the exit ramp, up the winding hillside. My eyes start to slowly shut on themselves, as I try to read the address of the Kingman Mansion. The only thing that keeps me from a drug-induced coma is the powerfully bright spotlight atop the mansion hill. This intense light reminds me of the lighthouse at the airport, how the blue and white strobes hit the back wall of my bedroom, flashing my full body shadow.
The road climbs the hill for a long stretch, so long I think I might be lost, but when the road levels out, that spotlight once again becomes my beacon, guiding post.
The gates at his mansion property are wide open, so I don’t get to ram my monster truck through them, like I’d planned. I blow past the entrance, much too fast for the surveillance system to catch my plate number.
The driveway is equally as long. The drugs I took at the party are making me see strands of red-and-blue molecules, the double helix, floating above the dashboard. My front windshield looks to be breathing, in and out. I wonder right then if this trip to see my big boss is a true and valid experience. The only thing that grants me the belief that I’m actually on his land is the pheasant in the driveway that waddles to the roadside. I let the brightly colored bird stray off into the woods, then I give the truck gas.
Once I have the mansion in sight, I park my truck, approaching on foot. The structure is mammoth in scale, almost like a medium-sized sky scraper the way it’s made of all glass. The credibility of this trip is secured once again by the fact that there are four baby deer on his front lawn, lead by their mother.
By way of a pond stocked with fish, on acres of land loaded with game, E.B. Kingman must have gone fishing and hunting in his own backyard.
I have always felt like I was being spied on by my boss, and this was my attempt to return the favor.
In my ninja suit, I mount the porch stairs, level after level, deck after deck, until I find a good window for peering. To no surprise of my own, the second room I look in is something of a control room, with about two dozen camera screens, all of them running with various images of people and places.
Next to all the animal heads (elephant, tiger, bear, and boar) that stick out of the wall, a giant projector screen hangs from the ceiling. It shows chefs standing behind the cooking line in a fancy restaurant. There are numbers in the corner of the screen, statistics that rapidly change.
When I turn my attention to the oversized padded armchair which takes its position in front of the wide screens, I see someone extend their arm, pointing a remote control box. It must be Kingman. I’m familiar with the ring on his beefy knuckle.
The giant screen cycles through the various hallway camera angles of some hotel, then to a casino, then to a car dealership. The giant screen switches back to a restaurant cooking line, zooming in on the only man not wearing a chef hat. By no mistake whatsoever, the cook drops the duck he’s carving onto the kitchen floor, steps on it, then puts it back on the plate. He sprinkles the dirty meat with seasoning, pressing the order-up bell. A waitress soon has it on her serving tray.
Kingman obviously sees this as a gross violation of the food industry, because he shoots his arm out, pointing the remote control box at the screen, which then flashes the red letters: TERMINATE. The screen stays on long enough for me to see about ten black suits storm into the kitchen and physically remove the health hazard cook. Kingman raises the remote control box again. The giant screen goes black.
I then hear the security intercom inside, using a computer voice, relaying the following information: “Mr. Kingman. There is an un-announced guest on the grounds. Heat sensors have located the presence of a person in the back of the Villa.”
E.B. Kingman uses the remote control box to send out a blaring signal, one which pierces my eardrums. All the screens on the wall say, INTRUDER ALERT.
I’m unsure of what to do, so instead of running down the stairs, confused, I run up them, until I can go no higher. I find a door on the top level and test the knob for a lock. It opens. Slowly, and with some amount of caution, I enter the mansion.
The only thing in this very small room is a fireman’s pole that goes down through a hole in the floor. There’s not a single door in this tiny room. So either I retrace my steps, or I slide down the brass pole, letting it lead me anywhere it wants to, inside the mansion. I take to the pole like the true ninja that I am. The ear-splitting alarm outside is still high pitched.
Sure enough I come to rest in the control room, the pole screeching a little before I land with a thump. E.B. Kingman turns around to see me in my ninja costume, my face covered by a hood and a black mask. We stare at each other for a prolonged moment. He picks up the phone, calling for security.
I run across the room, grabbing the remote control box from the armchair. Hurrying out the door, through a music studio, through a two-lane bowling alley, through a movie theater, down some wide stairs, through an empty basketball court. I can’t find my way out.
Finally I see a doggy-door type flap that I dive under, and I glide down a running water tunnel. The big boss man chases me. I can still hear his voice echo down the tunnel. He’s saying, “Security. He’s headed for the pool. Release the dogs from the—”
Before I can hear any more I slide through a waterfall, which dumps me into the deep end of his swimming pool. I pump my arm and legs as fast as I can to get to the surface, then I swim frantically to the ledge to pull myself out. My ninja suit is soaked and my shoes squeak as I bolt for the stucco Villa wall, which I must climb, jump over.
I’m running full speed to my truck, my heart racing, the siren wailing, the dogs barking not too far behind. I get to my truck, boost up the step ladder. A Doberman Pincher comes very close to nipping my heel. I turn the truck around, with dogs circling at my tires. Then I speed off. The gates of the mansion estate begin to shut, so I press the gas pedal to the floor. I narrowly make it through.
And I’m driving down the hillside so fast I almost clip the posted sign that warns, Danger: Falling Rock. In a reckless turn of the corner I’m suddenly on two wheels, careening off the cliff, launching the truck sky born, landing at the bottom of the rock quarry, in a fiery ball of wreckage.
Game over?
As I roll out of bed the next day, I try to piece together my dream, but everything seems like jet lag, and I have to be at work within the hour. Last night had to be real. I was so drugged up I must’ve blacked-out.
When I stumble from my bedroom I see the remote control box lying on my kitchen table. I’m astonished by the object itself. The remote control box has a silver nameplate bolted to the top. It’s called: The Eden Absolute 925.
Game over?
Or did I get another playable man on a new video game quest?
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Re: American Captive

Postby Berkley Babes » Fri Jan 10, 2020 4:59 am

17

Within the hour, the construction workers are gone.
The new neighbors stay huddled inside their condos.
Night falls.
I stand under the street light that hovers over the trailer office. Then I call the apartment that both Norman and Charlie share. I tell them about the cameras at the Condo Estate.
“Look it up,” I say. “The web address is how-to-make-your-dream-home-a-reality . . . dot com.”
I can hear Charlie typing in the background, then I hear them both laughing.
Norman says, “We can see you, dude.”
I flip them the middle finger. I unbuckle my pants to bare my ass for the camera.
I invite them to come smoke some weed with me at the lake. Twenty minutes later they roll into the construction site. They flash their headlights for a spy signal.
Norman Long and Charlie Moon climb up into the front seat of my monster truck. We waste no time, we go right to it, the weed smoking.
Charlie’s in a hyper mood because his electronica band has just signed to a major distribution label. Even after this success, I still think he has the face of a baby or an infantile angel. He puts his demo in the CD player without even asking. He’s the lead singer of a band called, The Nightly Report. His music has overtaken TekHead as the movie soundtrack to my time spent at the Clear Lake Condo Estate.
Norman starts laughing.
I ask, “What, man?”
“Every time I see you wearing that uniform, you look like a narc. I detect the presence of a strong marijuana odor.”
And Charlie laughs, too.
So I say, “Yeah, but your car looks like a shitbox. What now? What next?”
Pause. Inhale. Pause. Exhale.
“By the way,” Norman wants to know, “when are you gonna take a night off from this place? I mean, we barely hang out anymore.”
I say, “You don’t understand. I’m addicted to this place.”
“Don’t you get bored? I mean, how can you just sit here, every single night? Is this really the story of your life? You’re like a non-functioning part of society. Don’t you want something to happen? Doesn’t something need to happen?”
I say. “I have a stockpile of patience. Trust me, things happen. Unexplainable things happen.”
I want to admit the serial killer, Gary Lee Vickers, is here too. That he spices the place up. But I keep that secret to myself.
And Charlie says, “Working here every fucking night cannot be healthy, dude.”
I turn to my friends to ask the next question: “You guys ever hear of a man named Kingman?”
Charlie says, “Nah, dude. Smoke that.”
“Norm, what about you?”
And Norman Long says, “I can’t hear you. The speakers, too loud.”
“Dude, you’re just letting it burn. Smoke that.”
I lower the music volume, asking again about Kingman.
Norman is hesitant, saying, “I know an E.B. Kingman.”
I test him, saying, “Big English guy? Has a lot of money?”
“Tons of money, yeah, that’s him,” Norman says. “I never actually met him, but I guess I painted for him last summer. All my boss told me about Kingman was that he built over half of Painesville and Central Heights put together. That, and when my boss put a dent in his trunk, this guy, Kingman, bought him a brand new truck. That’s all I was told. That’s all I know.”
E.B. Kingman is a generous man, that’s the only clue to his character. I tell Norman and Charlie about the construction workers. Fuckers, I call them. Beer swilling bastards, I call them. I tell my friends how all the lights and appliances are computerized, voice activated, to which they marvel. Then we talk some more about the newly installed cameras.
I pass the blunt.
“You guys,” I start suddenly. “I need to tell you something, quick. This place is safe to talk unless they hid a microphone in my truck. But I think I’m being watched. I’ve become something I never wanted to be, something I despise. Entertainment for some shifty eyes. Being watched all the time. I feel like someone is trying to figure me out, study my behavior, identify with my character, while waiting for that all important mental breakdown. Watching, there might be a cheering section, a cult-like following. Watching, there might be a league of women who want to watch me burn. And, well, fellas, I don’t deserve that kind of attention.”
A number of times, Norman gives me a leery corner-of-the-eye-look.
I know the manner in which those eyes question me, so I say, “Had a feeling you would doubt what I’m claiming. But you haven’t been here each night like I have. You haven’t discovered the politics of this lakeside estate. Fact, eyes are on me. Fact.”
Charlie says, “Usually, I would just say you smoke way too much crack but—”
I make wild speculations, saying, “Maybe a bunch of rich guys got tired of watching scripted actors, so now I’ve become some kind of amusement to them. Maybe I’m being watched by scientists in white lab coats, I don’t know.”
Both Norman and Charlie say they have to go play video games, getting out of the truck, still skeptical of my story.
Before they can shut the truck door, I say, “Don’t forget the fact that most people who live here come from England for some reason, but work for the American government. Department of Defense, NSA, you name it, the FBI, the CIA. They all ride around with these official license plates, which indicates to me, the secret is out.”
They start walking to their getaway car. I follow them on foot.
Hollering behind them, I say, “You need to understand this in a temporal context. Temporal, meaning time.”
I start calling out the chapter titles that I wrote with blue marker on my forearm.
I yell out to them as they gain distance from me, “The new nanosecond culture. You hear me? Fellas? You hear me? This is it! The new nanosecond culture.”
They both turn their heads over their shoulders once, but keep walking.
I can’t resist the tech agenda that spills from my mouthpiece.
So I shout the rest of my forearm list. “Clocks that make us run. Time Zones. Dividing our time pie. Calendars and clout. Schedules and clocks. More clocks. Time schedules. Factory discipline. Programs and computers. The efficient society. Will you two just stop running away for nanosecond?”
They don’t stop, getting closer to their getaway car.
I use all my voice to scream out: “The politics of paradise, goddamn you both. Some timeless state that never shows up. The image of progress. The medical savior model. Trans-humanism. Big joke that is. Good luck forever replacing rusted parts. Oh, and then, our big vision of simulated worlds. All you’ll get is a deeper division between the upper class and lower class. Time pyramids and time ghettos. Hey, Charlie, which side are you on, the time ghetto? Hey, Norman, will you tell computers what to do, or will you get told what to do by the computers? It was all clockwork, but now it’s all information, but you don’t care. All you care for is industrial money when information has taken its place in value. You know how I know? You know how I know?”
By now Norman has unlocked his car door. Charlie waits to get in. I finally catch up, stand next the car window. Norman keys the ignition.
And I’m asking through the car glass, “You know how I know? I read a book about it. All this time here alone, I read a book. But the book went out of print. Because nobody cares. So I stole it from the library. If you can quit video games for day, I’ll let you borrow it. If you can quit leveling up your rank . . . ”
Abruptly, right then, Norman floors the gas pedal. My friends drive away.
I walk over to the trailer office. Inside, I stare at the blank lines on security sheet, stoned, wondering what to write, until finally I scribble, “I saw what you saw.” Then, on second thought, I cross it out with almost all my pen ink. I decide I don’t want to use the tone of an accuser, so I rip the paper into small pieces. Then I begin a fresh sheet.
I punch out at midnight. Once again, the heavy duty machines go without a guard. Once more, the building supplies are left for the taking. Another night. Another shift. Sense, it doesn’t make any. Purpose, there is none. I feel empty, drained.
My voice is now hoarse with a ranting ache.
I suspect this to be the last time I see Charlie Moon or Norman Long, friends since childhood, gone.
They abandoned me for becoming too weird with future fears.
Every time I call them now, they answer but they don’t talk. I just hear video game sounds in the background, the ping and the pong, the tally of digital coins, their fingers mashing controller buttons, before they hang up.
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Re: American Captive

Postby Berkley Babes » Fri Jan 10, 2020 5:00 am

18

The carpet-layer.
His name is Randy. Tall and lanky. He has shoulder length hair. His trucker cap brims down low over his eyes. His nose is long and big, crooked, maybe broken before.
Whether he’s from Alabama or Tennessee, I only half-listen, but he says he drove up to the Northeast to make a higher wage. Once he gets some money saved he’s going back to his wife and kids, down in the lower-earning South.
He works a few nights a week, after daylight, once it’s dark, so no other workers get in his way.
I stand in the corner while he crawls around on his knee pads. I watch him slam his knee into a carpet knee-kicker, used for wedging the carpet in tight, where the wall meets the floor.
The condo is visibly wavy with 100 degree heat, since there are portable industrial heaters in the basement, speeding up the drywall process, melting my face.
Many of his verbal expressions contain a reference to farm animals, starting most sentences with, “Faster than a hen on a hot tin roof . . . ”
A boombox in the kitchen plays radio, low volume, a classic hard rock station, which fills the void of our sometimes long, quiet pauses.
“You got a girl of your own?” he wants to know, without looking at me.
I tell him about my true desire for Jordan Shamshack, how she still rejects me.
In the shifty waves of rising heat, to the sound of his constant knee slams, I tell him I’ve been trying to get arrested for a girl.
“Trying?” he says, disbelieving. “To get arrested? Trying?”
Jordan still has a boyfriend from years ago, I say, Brock Tisdale. But he’s currently doing prison time. I tell the carpet layer that Jordan lets a jealous me read the prison letters, detailing how when Brock gets released, he’ll dig up the bank robbery loot he buried somewhere, travel the world with her. In each letter, written with spelling errors, Brock signs off with the promise to be her partner in crime for life.
All along, I tell Randy, I’ve been trying to get arrested for a beautiful girl. Over the past few years, I been trying to break the law, get arrested, in the slim hope Jordan will see my worthy wild side, and I will somehow become her new bad boy interest. I add one more thing. The judges always let me off easy because I wear a tie to court, look clean cut, presentable.
“Well, that’s not the smartest thing I’ve ever heard someone do,” Randy says, still not looking at me. “No girl is worth getting in that much trouble for. Let me guess, she has you wanting to get a tattoo and ride a Harley?”
I think about my monster truck. Then I change the subject. I tell him some of my radical views on technology, the extreme threats now posed to our world society.
“It’s just a phase you’re going through,” he says, ramming his knee. “Your rebel twenties. That time in life when all your friends start getting political. It will pass. You might lose some of those friends. But It’ll pass.”
“What will?”
“That whole rant and rail and rave against the system phase. It will pass. You can’t get off the grid. Nobody can. We’re all connected. And that’s not a bad thing.”
“I don’t know if it will pass,” I say. “I protest pretty strongly.”
“Trust me,” he says, knee pounding. “It’ll pass. You’ll calm down with age. Me, I was a hell raiser back in my day. Whooping and a’hollerin. Now I’m a family man.”
I wonder what Randy will think of Carl Busby, so I say, “I know this guy. Carl Busby. He’s like this guy who was a millionaire, but he gave away all his money. Just gave it away. Then he got into a car wreck. The airbag didn’t deploy. Now he’s got some brain damage. And the nerve endings in his face got destroyed, so all he does is smile, even when he’s talking deadly serious. His knee got messed up, too. Real bad. So he stopped driving forever. Slowed his life right down to a hobble. You might see him downtown sometime, walking with a limp. That eccentric downtown limp. He’ll play dumb and tell you about his pet rock or his clay horses or the sunshine on his precious little neck, but really—”
“Why are you telling me any of this?” Randy asks.
I can hear the frustration in his question, that Randy isn’t catching my drift, feeling my buzz, so I don’t continue on that track.
Instead, like a turning point in my fine young rebel thoughts, I say, “Short story even shorter, I’m a neo-luddite.”
Randy says, “I don’t know what that is. But you’re wasting your time.”
I change the subject again. I tell him I think Frank Benzino is a English mobster with dark ties to the Italian Mafia.
Randy finally looks at me, lifting his cap brim. His forehead is plastered with sweat.
Looking at me stern, with bloodshot eyes, he tells me, “Don’t say that.”
“Why not?”
“Do you tell other people you think that?”
“No. Just you.”
“Good,” he says, clicking his box-cutter. He climbs over a carpet roll, mounting it, bucking a little, like he’s riding a horse. Once more, he turns away from me.
Without any eye contact, he says, “Play your cards right, Kingman will send you to college. Anywhere you want to go in the state. That includes Harvard. Heck, he bought me super bowl tickets.”
I change the subject yet again. I tell him about Rockaway, where I live. I tell him I grew up there during the whole Rodney King trial. The LA riots. How racial tensions were high where I lived, not just on the West Coast. How I had to deal with racism for being the one cracker-ass, honky, gringo, whiteboy.
Making tape-measurements, Randy says, “Everybody thinks they have a unique background. One time I had this guy complaining to me that his parents got divorced. I told him my father killed my mother while I lay in my baby crib, with a shotgun. That was the first sound I remember in life. A shotgun blast. And this guy responds to that by repeating how the divorce really affected him, how he had to move out from his childhood home and leave a dog behind.”
If Randy had been looking at me, he would see my eyes go wide with horror.
I want to tell him about Gary Lee Vickers. How I alone know where the psycho sleeps. Right here. But I worry Randy won’t be able to keep that secret. After all, reward money for convict capture has just been announced by federal law enforcement at a press conference. So my mouth starts to open, but then it screws shut.
Randy makes light of every issue I have, and I hate him for it, but I also admire his straight talk.
He tells me he has some weed in his jacket pocket. If I break up the weed, he says he’ll roll us a joint. I’ve been sober for three full days. That’s the funny thing about drug addiction. When I want drugs, everything about it is a terrible hassle. But when I want to quit drugs, people offer it to me for free.
I crumble the weed up, small, green, and pungent. Randy takes a work break to smoke with me.
We go outside, away from the heavy dry wall heat.
I suppose because I catch him looking at the stars, I ask him if he believes in God.
“Yes and no,” he says. “Not the Bible version anyway. I don’t really talk about it. Talking about it is a breach of my actual faith. I’m more interested in aliens. Sometimes I wonder if aliens a long time ago had sex with monkeys.”
I had never considered that type of evolution before, so it enters my mind like a whirlwind. The idea cools my blood. I can hear the rip roaring furnaces in the basement, once toasty, drop a degree, then return with a whoosh to its original octave.
Randy’s the first person I’ve had a real conversation with for over a month.
He cracks open a beer bottle, then he grabs the neck of the bottle with just two fingers, tipping it back, sipping. He says, “Ah! Now that’s called a Tennessee side-swig.”
We go back inside. He reminds me to wipe my muddy boots before I step on his freshly installed carpet. Then he asks me if I want to try the knee kicker.
I do.
I bend down on all four of my rubbery limbs. Thinking of Busby and his bum leg, I make my knee jam hard, hammer-pound the cushion of the kicker tool.
It’s the first real work I’ve done in a year.
I start to sweat, dizzy with heat, breathing in a fresh pocket of floor level air.
It feels great. Like I just became his fourth-level apprentice.
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