Short Story 11 of …


blog post
The 11th in this series of those not accepted by journals for publication is a fabrication. This story also has its first line from The First Line Literary Journal. It is based on the opening in my novel Iniquities of the Fathers: A story of illusions and deceptions which is based on some of my early life experiences and feelings.


Out of the Dark


The inside was dark. It wasn’t just the long-abandoned lignite mine the boys called the cave; twelve-year-old Levi’s inside was dark – his mind, emotions, and life outlook. He knew that everything he would use for his plan to eliminate his darkness was stashed in the cave.

The night before he put his plan into motion, with light from a white-gas fueled lantern, Levi sat in the new outhouse over the old pit to write a note to his widowed mother. What he wanted to say wouldn’t move from his mind to paper. He crumpled his attempt to apologize and ask forgiveness for setting fire to the old outhouse and his other recent temper tantrums, mis-deeds, and nearly continuous morose demeanor. He made several more attempts but also threw them into the pit. He struggled with a letter to his long-time pen pal, so she would know about his nightmares, and that his frustration and confusion about his father and life in general had not yet stopped. It went into the pit.

Guilt, a degree of fear of what he planned to do, and acid stomach continually interrupted Levi’s sleep. Two hours before dawn he was fully awake and while all in the house slept, Levi carried his every-days from the bedroom he shared with two boy cousins and dressed barefoot in the kitchen. His grandmother’s and Aunt’s bedroom doors were closed, but his mother’s bedroom door was ajar meaning she wasn’t yet home from her 10-hour night shift in the hotel laundry.

He looked in the direction of where he knew his brother slept. Goodbye little brother. Ma won’t miss me ‘til she awakes at lunch or later. The others won’t even care. Not that I give a splatter of green apple poop about them either. Well, maybe you’ll miss me. Hope your life gets better than mine has been.

Levi eased out the back door and, without socks, put on his laced half-way-up high-top hand-me-down Keds. He took the white-gas lantern from the back porch, went to the outhouse, and wrote to his pen pal. What he wrote and put in the envelope he had addressed and stamped the night before was much shorter than he intended. Feeling rushed and not wanting to change his mind, he felt like it made his intention clear.

Dear Lillie,

Sorry this is so short. This is my last letter. Thanks for listening to me on paper all these years.

Levi

He carried the extinguished lantern he planned to use for finding his way in the cave as he jogged along the graveled, full moon illuminated, rail bed to the Great Northern railroad station. Levi dropped the letter in the mail slot next to the back door. As he hurried to the mine to get his backpack and small duffel bag he’d hidden the night before, Levi mentally refined his next act, based on how a villain in a Hardy Boys story set a distraction, so he could temporarily draw attention away from himself.

Levi set the lantern on a flat rock out of view from the mouth of the cave. He knew exactly where the older boys had hidden the Old Crow whiskey swiped from one of their fathers; he took a swig. It had been two years since he felt the internal warmth he’d experienced when sneaking what was left in the bottom of his father’s bottles. The .22 revolver one of the teenagers had stolen from his father to shoot flickertails, wrapped in an oily chamois, was stuffed into a small crevice next to the Old Crow.

He crumpled the cover and several pages of one of the magazines that had embarrassed him and his same age cousin the first time they saw them. Carefully crumpling the cover and pages, he placed them next to an exposed, crumbling vein of lignite, then placed a candle on the crumpled paper. Levi used his Case two-blade jack-knife to remove the lead from five of the rounds he took from the pistol cylinder and sprinkled the powder at the base of the candle. He surrounded his improvised fire-starting timer with small chips of coal, lit the candle with his mother’s Zippo cigarette lighter, emptied the lantern fuel in a trail and around the mouth of the cave, and left.

Dry pre-dawn wind cooled the tension-caused sweat on Levi’s face and arms as he crossed the road at the top of the cut where his nightmares had been couched. The pistol rubbed his hip inside his beltless jeans and the whiskey bottle bounced in his rucksack as he picked up his pace to cross the open space where his mind had put the terrifying steam roller of his nightmare. Won’t have that dream again.

Levi stood next to the dawn-lit, rusting iron gate of the cemetery and contemplated what he already knew would be next in his plan. He took a mouth full of Old Crow, swished it around, and swallowed. He didn’t gag or cough while he waited for the anticipated warmth to drift through him.

Grandma was probably right when she quoted, “For I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the sons to the third and fourth generation of those that hate me, and showing mercy to thousands of those that love Me and keep My commandments.”

I haven’t done much lately for God to love me! Faking sick to skip church, telling lies and doing this is far from keeping commandments. Levi took another drink and waited for the warming and numbness he expected to come over him before finally writing a note to his mother and commencing his plan.

Dear Ma,

Don’t worry about me. I won’t end up doing like Dad no matter what. I’ll be just fine.

Levi

He didn’t feel dizzy from the Old Crow – just internally warm. The rusting hinges on the gate squeaked, and a disturbed rabbit bounced across the rutted driveway. He found his father’s footstone at the outer edge of the graveyard, far away from the family headstone. He put the last long rifle round into the pistol cylinder and checked to be sure the firing pin would hit that single round.

He squeezed the trigger.

***

Levi never planned to join his father in the cemetery. The bullet hit the name on the marker and screamed a cowboy-movie ricochet into the distance. He only intended to put his past, his illusions, his shame, his guilt, and his nightmares on his father’s footstone. His jaw relaxed and his breathing slowed to normal. Done and done!

His duffel he earned as a prize for selling Cloverline Salve was packed with a change of clothing and the lunch he’d put in a sack the night before. He cut the stiches from his rucksack liner and removed the $100 he’d taken from his father’s stash in Mexico and the $20 he’d taken from the stashed money in Vanport, Oregon.

One at a time, Levi dropped the pistol, what was left of the whisky, and his recently prescribed 600mg lithium salts tablets into the pit of the three-hole outhouse near the eroding precipice where his illusions had been manifested as nightmares. While emptying his bowel over what he dropped, he re-read the note to his mother and put it inside his empty rucksack.

Levi hung the rucksack on a gate pike and jogged down the road cut in the bank that separated the cemetery and cave. Fire hasn’t started yet – I’ll be safely away. He walked the railroad tracks to a siding where empty grain cars were waiting to be picked up. Levi found a car with a partly open door and climbed through. With his mind clear of the past, he was asleep within seconds. The jerk of the line of grain cars being coupled to an engine woke him just as the town siren sounded for volunteer firefighters.

Levi had a chuckle causing thought: Bet the mine burns for a week and the bully boys won’t be able to tell about losing the gun, dirty magazines, and whisky. Then, even with the rattling of the train, he slept twelve hours more soundly than he had in the two years since his father’s death by law enforcement action.

-end-


As my octogenarianism continues, my mind wanders as I wonder.
Or could it be that my mind wonders as I wander?