Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Coldwater Hotel & Casino

Merritt, BC
 Archie paced as the women took Colleen into the plush, private, domain of men in the back of the casino. She had been in the kitchen when her water broke and helped onto the freshly felted table in the billiards room by Sarah and one of the upstairs girls, Jill. The Doc had been losing at roulette anyway. He called Sarah, Leah and Jill, to help him. The girls, Leah and Sarah, brought towels and a bucket of hot water through the sliding oak door of the men's realm that they had been prohibited from entering before. Leah set the bucket down next to where the Doc was mopping Colleen’s brow and expertly placed the towels next to Doc's left arm.

Sarah scowled at ten year old Leah. She'd caught her taking a Cuban from the humidor to whiff it. Leah found the smell of cigar smoke that lingered in the room pleasant to her and savored the aroma of rich tobacco leaves wrapped tightly in a ten-inch stick as thick as the Doc’s cane.

Sarah was the eldest and, at twelve years of age, had the air of authority that was undeniably one that helped Colleen hold the family together. One disapproving nod from Sarah automatically had the cigar back into the humidor from Leah’s hand without a word of protest.

Sarah’s full attention was on her mother after putting a sheet over her body for modesty’s sake. Colleen didn’t care a whit for modesty then and neither did Jill, who nervously tried for eye contact from the Doc. The poor girl had no idea what to do next. Sarah nodded towards the sheets over Colleen's feet and, with a knowing smile, ordered, "Take your end, Jill, and fold it to her hips."

Relieved. Jill followed Sarah's lead throughout the rest of the ordeal.

Colleen could care for only one thing and wasn’t showing anything but a determined grimace with each wave of contractions that had taken control of her body. She had done this five times before but it was always new to her. The first time she’d done this with Sarah’s birth, Colleen was fifteen... a month before her sixteenth birthday in the year 1894. That was the first. Two years later she gave birth to a son, Clyde. Four years after that she had Dwayne; ten years later, an accident, Leah; and five years later another accident, Calvin. That was eleven years before this one and Colleen had accepted the fact that, as long as she was with Archie, her belly would be filling up with one accident after another until she died of toxic shock in labor like she almost did twice before.

Sarah took over mopping Colleen’s brow while Doc moved down to the other end of the table. She told Leah, “This one going to be a girl.”

“Rrrrgh....guhhh!” Colleen pushed.

“How do you know that?” Leah asked.

“Because Mom said so. She promised.” Sarah protested.

“It don’t happen that way.” Leah was quick to point out, “God puts a thing on ‘em no matter what is promised.”

“No he doesn’t!”

“God like’s boys better than girls. I saw a picture of him in one of Dad’s books up there.”

“Rrrrgggghhhhh.... uhhhhhh!”

“Push,” the Doc comforted, adding, “The head is breaching... you’re almost there.”

“RRRRRRGGGGGHHHHH!”

Sarah counted on her fingers, asserting with authority, “It’s mathematic.”

“What do you mean, mathematic?” Leah challenged.

One, two... two girls and three boys. Gotta even it out. God likes odd numbers. Threes sevens, twenty-one... Three girls and three boys, huh Mom.”

“RRRRRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHHUH!!!!”

“Waaaah.... waaaah..... whaaaaa!”

Leah looked intensely at the babe’s crotch when Doc held the crying baby up and laid it on Colleen’s heaving chest. The sound of crying muffled as its tiny lips wrapped themselves around the nipple in the midst of the soft cushion of her breast.

 Disappointment washed over Sarah’s face because she was where she could see the babe’s little package from behind.

“Is it Max or Maxine, Sarah?” Leah was eager to know. “I can’t see... I think I saw... Can you see from there? Did God put one on it?”

Sarah said nothing to Leah but, with a stern face she stomped a foot, “But Mom. You promised!”

“Yes! Yes! It’s Max, ain’t it!” Leah shouted gleefully, “I told you so.”

Archie burst into the door when he heard the babe’s cry. He stopped in his tracks and glared at the Doc, “What were you thinking, you fucking quack!”

Doc looked up from washing his hands not knowing what got Archie;s goat, “Look, I got no control over it... a buck or doe.”

“No, you idiot. It’s the felt! You ruined the felt! I just had it put on,” without thinking of what he was doing, Archie put a hand in the amniotic mess that had spread over his cherished fresh green felt at his end of the table. He pulled his hand back like he’d put it on a hot grill. “Throw me a god-damned towel!”

Colleen’s eyes were shut and she had shut off her hearing too. A mother can do that after two or three kids.

“Get her the fuck off that table!” Archie turned to leave and, on the way out to the big room shouted, “Now! Bring her up to her bed!”

Jill shrank back in terror at Archie's demands.

"Leah, take Max. C'mon Mom." Sarah motioned for Jill's help, "It's okay, Jill. The hard part's over."

The hotel was a three story one. The first floor was the lobby that opened to a larger room with a roulette wheel a half dozen blackjack and poker tables. The second floor had several rooms for patrons of the hotel and for Jill and the other upstairs girls. The girls came with the deed to the hotel that Archie had won at the poker table and he saw no reason to let these most profitable assets go in spite of Colleen's objections.

Leah protested, "He's too heavy for me. You take him Jill."

Jill was happy to be trusted to carry the baby and to have something to do. Holding Max she felt his weight, "He must weigh ten pounds!" Then she cooed, "Yes, you are a big boy, big Max."

The name stuck, Big Max would live up to this moniker magnificently.

Archie and Colleen’s suite took up the entire third floor. It had a sitting room, a master bedroom and three other small bedrooms for the children. Leah and Sarah had one bed. Dwayne and Calvin in another and Clyde had a room to himself. Now, with Max on the scene Clyde was going to have to make room for one of his other brothers.




Monday, February 9, 2015

Adrienne: The Chaos of Desire

Adrienne: The Chaos of Desire, is a historical novel in two parts. Books I and II: The lives of a Basque child, Iniga, the Maquis, Alesandro Otxoa along with the journalist Marcel Fournier, come together against the slaughter of General Ochoa’s Moroccan shock troops during the Asturias miners’ strike of '34 and into the oppression of Franco’s regime in the 1970’s. In Book II: Marcel’s daughter, Adrienne Fournier is at war with the world at the end of the millennium in the ruins of a squandered inheritance.


Adrienne picks up where Couper’s second novel, The Book of Job Revisited, leaves off. Book I: The Maquisard, speaks of an era of chaos that began with the Asturias miners’ strike of 1934 and relationships born of Revolution, the Spanish Civil War, World War II, and the Franco Regime of post-war Spain. The violence, intrigue, and betrayal of the era gave birth to the next generation. Book II: The Tyranny of Chaos, continues the story of post-war prosperity and a generation split between the values of their parents and dissipation of drug addiction and nihilism featured in the marriage between the addict, Adrienne Fournier, and Nick Baker, a borderline psychopath. Adrienne courageously struggles with abuse and alcoholism. Kidnapped by a Tijuana drug trafficker, her former lover Max McGee and his fellow cab driver, Jimbo, become involved in a climatic rescue along with her husband, Nick, and godfather, Alesandro.

Friday, December 19, 2014

1934: Asturias Miners' Strike

A group of villagers were huddled at the side of the tracks leading into a mining town nestled between steep hills. A woman patted a young girl on the head and slipped the girl behind her skirts as the Guardia Civil ordered the group to line up. The girl scurried away and down into the arroyo behind. The woman raised her fist in the air as a distraction and a last gesture of defiance with a shout, “Viva la Revolucion!”
A man joined her with raised fist, as did the others in the group. “Viva la…”
The girl scurried away down into the arroyo before some of the bodies, neighbors she had known since she was born, fell after a loud volley of Mausers. Then came a horrible silence except for a restrained moan, a few pops and cracks of pistols. She watched from her hiding place under a boulder as the refrain from an old lullaby passed softly from her lips: “Los pollitos dicen los pollitos dicen pío, pío, pío cuando tienen hambre tienen frío.” Tears clouded her vision. It would be the last time she afforded tears to wash her face for over thirty years.
In English the whole verse is: “The little chicks say, ‘pio, pio, pio,’ when they are hungry... when they are cold. The hen looks for the corn... gives them food, and gives them shelter. Under her wings sleeping chicks huddle together to hasten another day!”
Sleeping… hung-over… soothed by the lullaby rhythm of steel wheels on steel tracks… chunk-cat-clack…chunk-cat-clack… chunk-chunk… Then noise: a whistle… awake… another town… steam hissed… exploded from pistons, escalated by the chatter and clamoring of another group of volunteers boarding. Alesandro peered through half-shut lids to watch the eager new ones standing in the aisle, falling against each other whenever the train jerked to a start. He’d been crammed into a seat on the wooden bench of the car, shoulder to shoulder, with young men… young or younger than he. Their voices were, from the start in Madrid, loud and boisterous… songs of the revolution… “A Las Barricades!” Bravado smothered fear and anticipation, driven by the cheers of crowds alongside the tracks. Red and black flags on “la locomotora del destino” chugged their cars away from the station and from the safety of homes and chalkboards of classrooms. After this disruption of not-thought, his attention turned to the changing Castilian landscape that passed his window… images flashed by. The train wound its way towards Asturias; another country on the far side of Spain. Some aboard were CNT labor unionists, veterans of street fighting, but most were volunteers: metropolitan boys with pink hands. The propaganda posters depict men; masculine men with chiseled chins and muscled forearms, fists thrust skyward over the barricades... men, not boys… boys who hoped to be greeted with cheers and welcomed by the calloused hands of miners holding firm at the barricades of Gijón and Oviedo, they would be heroes; heroes alright, dead heroes.
The train that left Madrid was loaded up with untrained young and eager faces armed by little more than the enthusiasm and the naivety of youth. Only a few had seen blood from more than a scratch before and were unprepared for what awaited them in the mining towns in and above Oviedo or Gijón on the Biscay coast. From Madrid they crossed north through the heartland of Castile-Leon and into a region of rugged mountains. Towns and stations that prominently posted the red and black flags of the Revolucion flashed by Alesandro’s window like in a dream. The rails were controlled by the anarchist labor union, the CNT, most sympathetic to the cause. But, this was an irony of a civil war full of ironies that, in cooperation with the new Republic in Madrid, the same union trains, controlled by the same union, would fill its cars with experienced and hardened Moroccan troops. Regular Army troops of Colonel Yague and General Ochoa, steamed towards Basque Country under orders of the Generals of the Republic in Madrid, Francisco Franco and Manuel Goded. Sent to quell the miners’ general strike that had crippled most of the country.
Next to Alesandro snored the fledgling journalist; his brother by adoption and Euskara blood.  Euskara blood knows no nation but the Basque Country of the coastline and mountains along the Bay of Biscay and the Pyrenees Range of Southern France and Northern Spain.  Their bond, however, was stronger than the fraternity of blood. Alesandro Otxoa was orphaned at five years of age by the pistoleros of the Guardia Civil. Alesandro Otxoa had been embraced and given a home near Biarritz by Marcel’s half-Basque father out of loyalty to the Otxoa family. It happened during the general strikes at La Canadiense in 1919. One of his earliest memory was that of a door being kicked in… of his father’s shouting… his mother’s cursing… screams… both taken out the door… the sound of clap-crack pistol retorts… their bodies lifeless on the street.
Alesandro took his secondary level education at the Lycée Militaire and thus had an inkling of military experience: little more experience than to know how to load and shoot a rifle, to march in drills, and to study rudimentary military history on his own in the school’s library. Therefore he felt responsible for, and protective of, Marcel, whose military ambitions were next to nil and who wasn’t supposed to be on this train in the first place.
The storm clouds forming in the atmosphere over the Second Republic of Spain were dark with foreboding: a civil war of which the life of Alesandro (Gotson) Otxoa would be entangled, from his first taste of combat in this one week in October of 1934, until his imprisonment in Carabanchel in the mid nineteen-fifties.
Alesandro was determined, and obligated by his heritage, to leave the comfort and safety of Bayonne at twenty years of age to join the CNT of the anarchist movement rising up in Barcelona. There in Madrid, as soon as he heard the news of the strike, he tried to bid farewell to Marcel over wine in a café alongside of other boys eager to become men.
“You aren’t going without me,” Marcel protested.
“There is too much going on here, Marcel. The people need your voice. Someone has to keep an eye on the political wrangling of Euro…” Alesandro rattled off his argument staccato knowing his words were falling on deaf ears.
“I won’t have it Alesandro, the hottest story in all of Spain is in Asturias.”
Taking a sip, holding the bottle to his lips without mocking, he said sincerely, “You’re an academic, Marcel. How well would you… would you be able to kill a man?”
“Ha, I can. Just as well as anyone. Hell, we are all amateurs!” he argued.
The brothers got drunk… so very drunk that Alesandro barely remembered agreeing to board the train singing what would be the anthem of the revolution, “La Rhumba La Carmella,” and chanting “¡Unidad, Proletaria Hermanos!” with the others. His stomach sick, he came to and swore to himself that he’d never get drunk again. It was an oath that he kept except for an occasional toast or to wash down stale bread. Alesandro knew from the time he awoke aboard that train he was going to keep his vigilance guardedly; for, one afternoon, his guard was down and his drunkenness nearly cost the life of his little brother.
The miners were waiting behind the barricades by the time Alesandro and Marcel had gotten through to the hills above Oviedo.  An eagle’s aerie of a mining town nestled on the side of a precipice at the end of a snaking narrow track was fortified with makeshift catapults ready to launch crates loaded with sticks of dynamite from behind the barricades against the rails leading up to it. The steep slopes to the sides and behind left no room to be flanked or room for retreat. The engine stopped at the first barricade and backed down the three cars that were left of the train. The brothers reported for duty in an old barracks, an outpost of the Guardia Civil garrison from Oviedo. The miners had overrun it the day before with hardly a fight. The representative, from behind a desk that was made up of a plank over empty ammo boxes, wore a beret with red U.H.P. letters on the front.
Marcel stepped up first. The old gruff miner looked him over. “Ever fire a rifle?”
“I’m a journalist. I came to cover the story,” Marcel admitted.
“You’ll need to cover the story with one of these, kazetari... er, periodista.” The miner pointed to a stack of old Spanish Mausers for a second miner to pass over the desk.
Alesandro’s union papers he’d obtained before leaving Bayonne, and a certificate from a military prep school, wasn’t enough to impress the old union miner.
“A cadet from the école militaire,”
Those weren’t enough to impress the old miner. But he spied the pistol tucked in Alesandro’s belt.
“The Regulars use a Campo-Giro. How did you get that one?”
“My inheritance after…”
“Otxoa? I know of an Otxoa. An organizer, Eder Otxoa, from twenty years ago. Otxoa and Izar.”
“My father and mother.”
“Ah ha, 1919.” The miner’s face softened, “Yes, I was in Barcelona during the General Strike. You should be proud.”
Alesandro stood silent.
“Give this man a new rifle,” he called out to the second minor.
“You have command of the first rampart, comrade. They send bodies up here from
Oviedo with no experience and no ammo or guns,” he snarled. “All we have is what we seized from this outpost.”
“I haven’t seen combat either,” Alesandro confessed.
“Oh? Okay.” The miner shook his head and continued, “More than most. If you have your father’s cajones…”
“I didn’t see any artillery except for one field howitzer.” Alesandro returned to the subject.
“We do have plenty of dynamite. When that’s gone, we’re gone. When someone falls, take what you can… his rifle and ammo belt. Retreat to the second barricade, if you can, when it gets impossible to hold ‘em off.  Light these sticks underneath yours first. Have you used dynamite before?”
 “No, but is looks easy enough.”
“There are a lot of dead miners that thought so too. Get someone to brief you.”
By token of being given a command, issued this rifle, the dynamite, and blasting caps in his pack, Alesandro’s unofficial rank was that of an officer. He was no an officer, albeit, with little authority in the anarchist U.H.P. (the Union of the Brotherhood of the Proletariat). Despite the recognition granted his education, Alesandro knew his experience of warfare was little more than that of drilling on the quadrant… marching in ranks and carrying a rifle.
“It doesn’t look good.” Alesandro said to Marcel. He regretted more that he’d allowed his brother to tag along.
At the barricade, Alesandro and Marcel befriended a courier some simply called huérfana by the others. Or, it would be better said that she befriended them. She could see right away that Marcel would need instruction.
Marcel blushed, holding his antique pre-WWI Spanish Mauser. Embarrassment and confusion in his eyes betrayed his false machismo as he fumbled with the bolt of his rifle, having no idea how to even load or shoot it.
Unaware of her abilities and, thinking of her as only a child, Marcel made the mistake of showing patronizing pity for the orphan when first met her. She had brought him wine with stale bread and he warned her, “Be careful, Huérfana, don’t go poking your pretty little head over the ramparts.”
“You be careful!” she snapped. “You don’t even know how to handle that rifle…. Do you?”
“I know how well enough.” He lied.
“I can show you around in case you get scared and need to hide.” She parried.
“How old are you Huérfana?” Alesandro challenged.
“My name isn’t Huérfana,” she glowered, “It is Iniga and I’m thirteen.”
“Ten, really?” he countered, as she looked no older than that.
“Twelve and a half then.” She admitted, trying to stand taller.
Alesandro liked her attitude, “Iniga? That’s Euskara, eh?”
“Yes, it is Basque and it means desire!” before skittering away she stopped and turned, stomped her feet, threw back her head, snapped her fingers flamenco style, and proudly proclaimed, “I am Gitano too!”
They laughed at her Chaplinesque image in canvas trousers stomping her bare feet and making dust instead of the percussion of the clacking of heels.
The girl was always busy running back and forth with the latest news, sometimes extra food, and even ammo.
“I gave you my name,” she demanded, “What are yours?”
“My name is Alesandro, and this is my brother Marcel. I am also huérfano.” He looked over to Marcel to confirm the truth of what he said because her eyes gave them both the scrutiny of a prosecutor.
“Marcel? That’s French.” She sneered, still looking at them with suspicion, “and Alesandro, that isn’t Euskara,” she scowled impishly.
“Yes it is, Alesandro Otxoa…” and elbowing Marcel, he added, “Marcel Fournier is going to be a famous periodista from Bayonne.” He offered her a crusty piece of the bread she’d given him.
“A kazetari, eh. I’ve never heard of him, but, Otxoa? Ah, my father spoke of an Otxoa from Barcelona he knew when he was young.”
“Eder Otxoa?” asked Marcel.
“Yes, that’s the name. I think so.” Her expression was awestruck, her eyebrows pinched as she became serious, “But we are orphans… we have no name but one we choose.” Her expression changed from that serious tone to expectantly cheerful. “I am an orphan and my name is only one.”
“We are orphans not bastardos,” Alesandro pulled a crust of bread out of his coat pocket, “we have names to live up to. What is your family name, Iniga?”
“My family is gone, I will live up to my own name!”
Alesandro objected, “But it was your mother and father that gave you your fire.”
She countered, “But they tried to reason with murderers,” she set her face. “When I saw my mother and father fall to the ground, I knew I was alone.”
“Here, watch closely, periodista,” Iniga pulled the bolt back, put a spiral wire brush on the end of a cleaning rod in the barrel and handed it back to Marcel. He followed her instruction and proceeded to brush the rust from the barrel. She inspected it several times before she handed him a swab on the rod to oil it.  Only then did she give him a few rudimentary lessons on aiming and pulling the trigger after which she took the gun back and loaded five cartridges from a scarf bulging from her belt filled with several rounds.
Iniga was a dynamo that never stopped running off on errands. She’d be away ten minutes or an hour and always came back with news of something useful like bread with sausages. Before scurrying off again she instructed, “Look, if you hear the buzzing de abejas near your ears, that isn’t the zumbido of bees… keep your head down ‘til you see others on the line firing. Whatever you do, don’t be the first to lift your head… even just to peek.”
A woman next to them had been enjoying the lesson. After Iniga left she lit a cigarette and waved her hand towards the track bed ahead, “Iniga was orphaned the day this strike began.  Her father was a respected organizer of the miners and was shot there with his Romani wife as they were announcing the fall of the garrison at Oviedo to the miners there.”
“She witnessed this?” Marcel asked. He didn’t doubt Iniga’s word but his journalist instincts motivated him to draw facts from multiple sources.
The woman continued, “Iniga slipped away behind her mother into the arroyo. The whole town was forced to witness the execution.... The execution that began the uprising here.
“You were forced to watch?”
“We evicted the Guardia Civil,” proudly answered, “We took action from there. The Guardia Civil retreated to their barracks, afraid to face the people and hoping to be rescued by their Generals in Madrid.”
“How did you have weapons to oppose them?”
“Ha, we had nothing we didn’t take from them. We were armed with axes, shovels, a few hand guns and old rifles. Men arose from the mine shafts and the women who been widowed and children orphaned joined in too.”

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Last Chapter: Adrienne

Adrienne follows this. Found on
Amazon
Chapter 20: An A.A. Meeting

   Adrienne sat in the back of the room hoping she wouldn’t be called on to share. She listened to a woman in the front row going on about how bad she had it as a child; how she always felt different; how she held secrets of infidelity and abuse; how she had to work a Fifth Step with her sponsor; how she had to do everything she was told; how she was told she had to put her shoes under her bed to make sure she prayed and asked Jesus to keep her sober today; how she had to call three people every day; how she had to dress like a lady; and how she had to be taken to several meetings a week by her sponsor. This went on past the allotted three minutes and dragged on for at least ten before she came to the end of her spiel, saying, “I found God in Jesus Christ and I have to go to church. It works because I’ve been clean and sober for six months and you have to do as I have done if you want to stay sober. Oh, yeh, and find Jesus too  .”

   Everyone clapped.

   The woman was saying crap that disgusted Adrienne. This woman was an adult and spoke like a child with an abdication of personal responsibility and obedience that was submerged in a smothering submission. God, she thought, there must be a better way to do this shit. All the while she thought of the others. Irene was on suspended leave with pay until the investigation of Detective Ryan’s and Richards’ deaths were unraveled. Nick was dead and his dad, Harry, too. Max was in Cottage Hospital Intensive Care cuffed to his bed with a police guard for over a week and he might not make it. He had been unarmed when Miguel put two rounds in his back. If he does recover, he will probably have murder charges slapped on him. Yuri bled out before the police arrived from Nick’s reflexive wild spray of the MAC-Eleven. He’d been fatally wounded, a Spetsnaz special forces style head shot, while she hid under the stairs of the wine cellar. Harry’s body had been found on West Mountain Drive next to Ryan’s car. Ballistics had his fatal wounds coming from the ravine where Max had been found with a Tec-Nine nearby. Richards’ car was gone and there was no sign of Miguel. Richards’ car was found a few miles away on Camino Cielo near San Marco Pass as though it had been forced off the road. Three days later Miguel’s body was found near Red Rock with injuries consistent with falling several hundred feet from nowhere. Alesandro had gotten out of the country and, though she’d only met Jimbo once, she was glad he got out of town before anyone knew of him or the Bell Ranger. Teresa had been found pounding on the door to the stairs trying to get Irene out of the death trap of the burning building. These were secrets she would never tell a sponsor or anyone else. She would have to be tortured to tell of these things and, after all this, torture would be easy for her. Still, she knew she belonged in that meeting room.
  Teresa was sitting next to Adrienne and clasping her hand lest she bolted out the door. It was a sisterly affection they had for each other since they were rescued by the police. That Teresa was in A.A. surprised Adrienne. They felt an immediate kinship with each other. They had both suffered rape, incest, and addiction. Both were from other countries. Teresa had immigrated to the USA before the uprising of Solidarity in Poland but kept her Polish citizenship. Though she usually dressed hippy-frumpy with reddish yellow hair in a tangled birds’ nest, her translucent skin, delicate nose, and gentle eyes, radiated a beauty of simplicity that Adrienne admired. She could see why Irene loved her so.

  Teresa was called on next. She spoke softly at first, “I haven’t any idea about this emphasis on following direction from sponsors.” There was plenty of fidgeting around the room as she continued more forcefully, “I mean, my sponsor... no, not my sponsor! I don’t own a sponsor and a sponsor doesn’t own me. But I’ve worked the Steps. I can’t think of a time any sponsor I’d ever listen to could have told me how to dress or what meetings to go to. She has never mentioned God at all except to say that the purpose of the Big Book is to open the door for us so that we can find a power greater than ourselves sufficient for us to recover from alcoholism. I go to therapy for anything beyond that. That is all I have to say. I have no advice for anyone else. This is what has worked for me and I have had the pleasure of doing these things the last five years.”
No one applauded.


The End

Friday, October 24, 2014

Published on Amazon

Take a look at it. I'd appreciate comments. It does have adult content but nowhere is it lurid.
This is my second novel in a series of historical fictions. The next one is soon to be finished titled Adrienne.
http://www.amazon.com/Book-Job-Revisited-Taxi-Romance-ebook/dp/B00NY2JQYC





My first novel, A Time Ago and Then, of this series was originally published on smashwords.com but is now available on Amazon. The two novels are connected but stand on their own:
 http://www.amazon.com/Time-Ago-Then-McGee-Book-ebook/dp/B00NY5F8Q4/

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

On to Asturias

Sleeping… hung-over… soothed by the lullaby rhythm of steel wheels on steel tracks… chunk-cat-clack…chunk-cat-clack… chunk-chunk… Then noise: a whistle… awake… another town… steam hissed… exploded from pistons, escalated by the chatter and clamoring of another group of volunteers boarding. Alesandro peered through half-shut lids to watch the eager new ones standing in the aisle, falling against each other whenever the train jerked to a start. He’d been crammed into a seat on the wooden bench of the car, shoulder to shoulder, with young men… young or younger than he. Their voices were, from the start in Madrid, loud and boisterous… songs of the revolution… “A Las Barricades!” Bravado smothered fear and anticipation, driven by the cheers of crowds alongside the tracks. Red and black flags on “la locomotora del destino” chugged their cars away from the station and from the safety of homes and chalkboards of classrooms.
After this disruption of not-thought, his attention turned to the changing Castilian landscape that passed his window… images flashed by. The train wound its way towards Asturias; another country on the far side of Spain. Some aboard were CNT labor unionists, veterans of street fighting, but most were volunteers: metropolitan boys with pink hands. The propaganda posters depict men; masculine men with chiseled chins and muscled forearms, fists thrust skyward over the barricades... men, not boys… boys who hoped to be greeted with cheers and welcomed by the calloused hands of miners holding firm at the barricades of Gijón and Oviedo, they would be heroes; heroes alright, dead heroes.

The train that left Madrid was loaded up with untrained young and eager faces armed by little more than the enthusiasm and the naivety of youth. Only a few had seen blood from more than a scratch before and were unprepared for what awaited them in the mining towns in and above Oviedo or Gijón on the Biscay coast. From Madrid they crossed north through the heartland of Castile-Leon and into a region of rugged mountains. Towns and stations that prominently posted the red and black flags of the Revolucion flashed by Alesandro’s window like in a dream. The rails were controlled by the anarchist labor union, the CNT, most sympathetic to the cause. But, this was an irony of a civil war full of ironies that, in cooperation with the new Republic in Madrid, the same union trains, controlled by the same union, would fill its cars with experienced and hardened Moroccan troops. Regular Army troops of Colonel Yague and General Ochoa, steamed towards Basque Country under orders of the Generals of the Republic in Madrid, Francisco Franco and Manuel Goded. Sent to quell the miners’ general strike that had crippled most of the country. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Shake My Cage


Chapter 9: Mad Max

Shake my cage and free me from it.
There he was again, in County jail. Max’s life was looking like an old country song, “I’m in the Jailhouse Now.” He tried to decipher the confusion… thoughts ran wild… “Pardon me, Hank Williams, but I don’t want to be in one of your songs at this moment, eh?” He thought he’d broken that cycle when he got sober but here he was, thinking “Surely, I ought to be able to get out on O.R. first thing in the morning… no outstanding warrants or fines… living pretty clean too…what does all this have to do with a cosmic plan?”
A newly familiar calm came over him as he sat on the bunk once all the noise of the concrete and steel settled down after lights-out. Max was at peace and it felt as though a hand was on his shoulder. He turned to look but no one was there. So he sat with his back to the wall of the cell… Hell, he was given a private cell, isolation they call it, and he waited there while his mind leafed through old catechism stories… thinking again, “Would an angel appear before me, shake my cage, and unlock it?” The gentle hand on his shoulder assured him and he fell into a deep sleep.
            The next morning Max still had the feeling of that hand and everything became clear... all this shit. He didn’t know how it would turn out or what motives and powers were behind it but he knew for sure that he was to play an important part in some sort of cosmic drama. It was a cosmic drama that made perfectly clear what his next step would be. He hadn’t known such clarity since that day in the hooch with Kuka a decade before.
He slept and every night a dream, or vision, of a Kachina Jaguar... sometimes with Kuka’s face... danced around him singing a chant... “you are back in the tall grass”. About a week later that he was awakened at three in the morning, “McGee, roll it up, you’re goin’ home.”
“What… Someone bailed me out?”
“I don’t know… just roll it up!”
Three in the morning: What the hell? He didn’t like the feel of it. “Was I out? I could get a ride home from another cab driver, but shit,” he noticed that Richards was parked at the far end of the parking lot. Just for the hell of it he walked over to the squad car. When Richards opened his window, Max asked, “Don’t suppose you could give me a ride into town… eh?”
“I don’t think so. You know you’ve been snitched out by your junkie friends.” Richards rolled up his window and pulled away.
The cab finally arrived; his sponsor, Jim, behind the wheel. They’d been on the road for a good five minutes before Jim asked, “So, what did that cunt do to get you in jail this time, Max?”
At that moment he had a newfound distaste for the “C” word… especially when applied to Adrienne. He glared, “Drop the ‘C’ word, Jim.”
“Yeh, yeh, okay,” Jim grinned, pleased at this change in attitude. “It was on the front page of the News Suppress… but I wanted to hear your side.”
“I can’t believe it Jim, but, back there in my cell, a calm came over me and I felt a hand…” he gave Jim all the details.
“The Hand of Gawd, eh?”
“Something like that. I told you about Kuka. She came to me in dreams.”
“Awe, c’mon, Max. Don’t go psychedelic on me.”
“No, Jim, it is just that I now know there is a cosmic dance going down here and I’m in the middle of it.”
“The center of the universe, eh.” Jim scowled, “You know where that bullshit takes you.”
“Yeh, maybe you’re right...” Max admitted, “But there was this peace and clarity in knowing.”
 “Most of us didn’t think you did it and you still have your shift on the roster at the cab company.” Jim assured him, changing a subject that gave him the creeps.
“I have to check and see if the city hasn’t pulled my license,” Max would’ve been surprised if they hadn’t.
“I’m sure you can still dispatch if they did… you got everyone in the office behind you.” Jim had one eye on his rearview mirror, “A cop is tailing us.”
Sure enough, Richards was following the cab, making no attempt to make his presence unknown all the way back into town. He even parked at the end of the cul-de-sac just past Max’s place.
“Did the company bail me out?
Jim hesitated before he answered, “Naw… Sue is too tight with the cash to do that,”
“Well then, have you heard anything about Adrienne’s condition?” Max wondered if Adrienne might’ve…
“Say, you ain’t still in love with that bitch, are you?” Jim asked as Max opened the door.
Max sat back down a few minutes as though he was going to say something before Jim continued, “Y’know, maybe you’re right. You got some karma with that chick. She comes all the way to Santa Barbara… across an ocean and the whole damned continent to hook up with you. It is cosmic… it is what it is, damned karma.”
Max tried to sleep but couldn’t nod out while thinking of Adrienne… of Ryan; of Richards out there, and wondering what those damned S.O.B.’s were up to. The clarity he’d experienced in the jail cell clouded up once more.

Adrienne didn’t bail Max out. All charges against him had been dropped. The DA saw no chance for a conviction once she became able to communicate through her own lawyer. She’d also lifted the restraining order on Max. No one was charged with her beating either. It was very unusual for charges of spousal abuse or assault against any woman to be dismissed so easily. The State usually pursues charges even if the victim doesn’t want to. Max was curious about this lapse and suspected it to be a covert corruption of the justice system. He seriously wanted to know but he decided it was best to leave it be.

It was his powerlessness over it all that bugged him the most. He was damned if he was going to do nothing about her beating. Hadn’t he just spent a week in jail without an apology or a howdy-do from the law? But, he already knew that the justice system rarely, if ever, apologizes for its mistakes. Once they sink their teeth into you, no matter whether you are guilty as charged or as innocent as the baby Jesus, an ambitious prosecutor will comb the books to hit you with anything to get a conviction… unless you have connections and Max thought that he didn’t have any.