Lawyer Jay Rhodes hopes to gain a few easy cases. Instead, he finds himself pulled into the ruthless world of the drug economy.
The pickup came to a slow stop beside the Rio Grande on the abandoned river road. Crickets and tree frogs, quieted by the tires crunching over the gravel at its slow approach, resumed their chirping. Ten miles to the north, the lights of Laredo reflected softly off the thin clouds hanging low in the night sky. The slender driver checked the rearview mirror to be sure no one had followed, then shut off the lights and killed the engine. He wiped the loose hairs of his ponytail away from his face. Not likely anyone would see him here on this lonely road hidden by mesquite and scrub cedars; nobody but teenage lovers ever used it at night. Still, the muscles under his jeans and sweaty T-shirt were tensed and ready to spring. He wasn’t scared, exactly, just careful. He had enough experience in small-time drug dealing to know he had to be careful.
Satisfied that he was alone, he got out, eased the door shut, and crept through the fifty yards of brush leading to the muddy edge of the river. He peered over the black water, first to the left, then the right. Only brush and shadows cast by the half-moon were visible along the opposite bank.
He whistled once, softly, a long, descending note with an abrupt upswing at the end. A similar whistle answered. A flashlight flickered from the far side. A dark hulk began moving toward him. Muffled voices and the occasional splash of a swimmer’s foot sounded over the water as the Mexicans made their slow way across, pushing a bundle lashed to the top of an inflated inner tube.
The driver suppressed his anxiety. He had paid ten grand for the load but had no way to be sure he was getting what he paid for. If the load was short, of poor quality, or contained only weeds and rags instead of marijuana, there wasn’t a damn thing he could do about it. His on-again, off-again operation, even including the present deal, was too small to provide the kind of leverage the big boys had. That’s why he was sometimes cheated. Still, it was more lucrative than selling donuts for his brother who owned the Shipley’s franchise. He’d already put a sizable stash together, a clavo as his Mexican friends called it, of over fifty thousand dollars. Add the few dollars he made selling information to the DEA, the three-fifty an hour he earned at Shipley’s, and soon he’d be able to join his sister in Dallas. Maybe even get back with his ex-wife.
Panting, the Mexicans stood near shore a moment, then dragged their watertight bundle through the mud to dry ground.
“Veinticuatro kilos,” said one. Twenty-four kilos. The best. “Pura Lima limón, directamente de Oaxaca.”
He didn’t dare open the bundle. If it was a dummy load and he discovered the scam right in front of them, no telling what the ignorant wetbacks might do. Better just pay the dumb fuckers and get the hell out of there.
He handed them each a hundred-dollar bill.
The Mexicans huddled so close together they nearly bumped heads. They turned the bills over under the flashlight beam, rubbed them between their fingers, snapped them. One even sniffed his. Ignorant shits.
The load was worth thirty grand once it reached this side of the river. He figured it was supposed to have gone to some petty dealer in Houston. He didn’t know which one, only that it was much too small a load to belong to one of the few shadowy figures whose reputations were enough to make even the breath of men braver than he turn quick and shallow. He knew who those few were and wouldn’t touch their shit for all the weed in Texas. The rest were nothing but punks. That’s why he concluded he could pay the Mexican supplier ten grand to divert this load to him and another two hundred to the peons to swim it across; he wouldn’t have to concern himself with how the supplier would explain the loss to whomever it was supposed to go. The road from the Mexican growing fields to US dealers was full of thieves and double-crossers, and every dealer knew he’d lose an occasional load. Punishment was swift and brutal if the wrong man got burned, but usually a lost load, especially one this small, wasn’t worth the hassle of killing a man.
So, screw it. If this bundle was the real thing, he stood to make twenty grand, and if that meant a one-in-a-million chance of trouble, well, hell, he could live with odds like that.
Still, it paid to be cautious.
Satisfied, the swimmers switched off the flashlight. “We got two kilos more of skunk,” one of them said. “For a hundred dollars more we bring it over too, okay?”
Skunk, a particularly potent variety of marijuana, so called because of its strong odor, was highly prized in some circles, and the price just quoted was awfully cheap. But he already had a buyer for this stuff and didn’t want to complicate his deal. “Another time. Right now this is all I can use.”
The Mexicans stuffed the bills into their jeans and eased back into the black water to return as silently as crocodiles to the darkness on the other side.
The ponytailed driver hefted the load onto his back and struggled up the brushy bank to his pickup. Panting and sweating, he set the bundle on the ground at the tailgate. The air hung heavy, damp, and still. Mosquitoes whined around his ears and ankles, biting wherever bare skin showed. Stinking mud from the riverbank squished inside his sneakers.
He felt along the top of the tailgate for the latch handle, found it, and lowered it.
“Qué pasa, amigo?” A match flared to light a cigarette at the front of the pickup.
The driver’s teeth clenched in terror. A pinch of urine escaped through his urethra. “Who is it?”
Three men, one extraordinarily large and fat, approached him. All had flashlights.
“Qué tiene? A presen’ for me?” The fat man lifted the bundle effortlessly onto the bed of the pickup. The raspy, high-pitched voice was familiar.
The driver was frantic with fear. “Ruben? Mr. Garza? Sure—hey, no problem. It’s yours anyway. I was just going to bring it to you. I—I figured the only way to find out who was stealing your shit was to—to get in on the bottom, so to speak, you know? I was going to deliver it myself, but I had to do it this way to learn who’s been stealing your shit.”
Ignoring his lies, the three men shoved and pulled the terrified man back to the river. There they twisted baling wire around his wrists behind his back, cutting painfully into his flesh. He didn’t dare resist.
“Amigo, there’s only just one way to save yourself,” the fat man said, towering over him, holding him by the back of his shirt.
“Name it—anything—you know I’ll do anything you want. Just tell me what it is.”
“Make me believe you not the one stealing from me.”
“Steal? From you? No way! I’d never do that! God, Mr. Garza, why would you think I’d do a thing like that?”
The fat man stank of sweat and beer. “Convince me.”
“How? How can I do that? Just tell me how…”
One of the others handed the fat man a twelve-inch filleting knife. He pressed the point against the prisoner’s neck below the ear.
“Wait!” the victim squealed in terror, the point piercing his skin. “I know who’s been messing with you. Lemme go and I’ll tell you who’s been screwing up your deals.”
“A bargain, eh? You nothing but gar bait and you wan’ to make a bargain? You got huevos, my frien’.” He loosened his grip. “Dígame.”
“You let me go?” he asked, standing ankle deep in mud.
“You tell the truth, you go free.” He jerked the cuffed man’s collar. “If not, I have to kill you.”
“Whitely—Chief Whitely in Rexsberg. He’s the one you want—he’s the one selling you out!”
“What you know about Whitely?”
“The load you just sent to St. Louis—the DEA knows about it. They plan to follow it to St. Louis and bust the buyers. Then they’re coming after you.”
“How you know that?”
“I—I work at Shipley’s and sometimes the agents say things they don’t think I can hear. Where you think me and my brother learn all the stuff I tell you? We got to get it somewhere, don’t we?”
“Whitely. How you know Whitely tol’ them?”
“Who else could it be? Nobody else knows, except for me and the drivers, and I only know ‘cuz I helped load it, and I ain’t about to squeal on you—you know that. We been together too long. You’re the last man in the world I would fuck with!”
“You know what I think? I think if the Man knows about St. Louis, you and your brother are the ones what tol’ him. You thought you could sell a little information to the Man, then squeal on Whitely.”
“Ah Jesus, Jesus, you gotta believe me!” he sobbed. “We’d never do that to you. Never!”
“I catch you stealing my shit and you think you can throw me off. Not very smart, my frien’.” He took hold of his victim’s ponytail. He pulled his head back and with a slow but deliberate move shoved the knife through his neck, ripping down and forward, then quickly stepped back from the gushing blood.
The doomed man’s head lolled crazily. He fell to his knees, gurgling and choking. For a moment he tried to regain his feet, but could only lunge headlong into the mud. The three men watched as he jerked and convulsed, then they quickly retreated up the bank while the dying man’s heart pumped blood in spurts to spread black on the bank in the colorless light of the moon.
Billy Joe Groten is the son of a tenant farmer new to the small West Texas farming community of Caprock. Sally Courtney is the daughter of a migrant worker who stops to earn a day’s wages shocking a field of hay grazer, but ends up staying, hoping to sink roots.
Billy and Sally are seventeen years old and classmates at Caprock High. As outliers, they try their best to find entrance to the school’s social scene, but succeed only in finding each other.
Their shotgun marriage has an idyllic beginning, but the mysterious pregnancy and death of the most popular girl in school soon begins to haunt their lives. The excerpt below describes the last conscious moments of that girl.
The novel portrays not only the resolution of the mystery surrounding the girl’s death, but the couple’s battle to climb out of poverty and prejudice.
The theme of the story is that pluck and perseverance alone aren’t always enough to succeed. Sometimes fate plays a hidden but essential part.
Walking along a deserted West Texas country road five miles from home on a cold Halloween night, alone, wasn’t a stunt seventeen year-old Shirley Parsons would undertake if she had a choice. The moonlight had turned the familiar fields and pastures surrounding her into an alien fantasyland, scary and threatening, and she didn’t like it one little bit.
As grown up as she was, she was still afraid of the dark, and as bright as the moon was, it wasn’t bright enough to eliminate the vestigial fear that gremlins and goblins might, just might, be lurking about, ready to pounce. Her good sense insisted it wasn’t so, but she couldn’t entirely shake the thought that if such creatures really did exist, this night would be the perfect time, and this abandoned stretch of road would be the perfect place for them to show up.
The road was wide open and straight as a plumb line, cutting through the middle of farmland stretching to the horizon in every direction. Barbwire fences and bar-ditches choked with dry weeds and grass bordered the road on both sides, and that’s where the real-world night creatures would be skulking, the badgers and rats and snakes, and maybe, if luck was against her, skunks.
She wasn’t particularly afraid of such animals in daylight. As long as she could see them, she could keep her distance and knew they would keep theirs. But she wasn’t sure what rules governed the night. Better stick to the middle of the road and not take chances.
The moonlight should have made walking easy, but her new loafers rubbed blisters on her heel and the tip of her little toe, and the temperature was too low for her light cotton dress and jacket to keep her comfortable. The jacket helped as long as she kept moving, but when she stopped, the chill quickly found its way through to her skin.
She adjusted her gait, thinking it might lessen the pain of the blisters. It did, a little.
She pulled the jacket tighter around her shoulders and limped on.
Thirty miles to the north, on the far side of the Comanche River wastelands, lay the city of Henderson, whose lights set the bottom of the night sky aglow. Individual lights from the refinery and smelter were visible if you looked closely enough, and every few seconds the airport beacon flashed along the horizon as clear in the distance as heat lightning in summer.
The town of Caprock was five miles straight ahead, to the east. It was too small to have refineries or smelters. The only hint the town was there at all was the radio tower winking its lonely red eye a half mile south of town. It belonged to KNEX, whose motto “The Voice of the Cotton Pickers” had been adopted twelve years before, when the high school football team of that name won its first and only district championship.
From where she was walking, the turnoff to River Breaks Road was two miles farther toward Caprock. To get to her father’s 2000-acre farm, she would have to turn there and walk another mile north. A total of three miles to get home if Ollie Thompson didn’t come to his senses. A little less if she cut across the fields.
Set your limits, her mother had taught her. Let your date know right off that the price of a movie and a hamburger doesn’t include taking liberties. Take control and never lose it, she said.
Take control? Ha! Tonight, putting a full nelson on an alligator would have been easier.
The temperature was still dropping.
Jeez, but her blisters hurt!
Forty-five minutes had passed since she slammed Ollie’s pickup door to stomp off toward home on foot and he sped off in his pickup. He hadn’t returned yet, but she expected him to. He wouldn’t let her walk all the way home. He just had to cool off a little.
Still, he had been awfully pissed off. Maybe he really wasn’t coming back. Huh! Even if he did, she’d never go anywhere with him again.
She wished she had let Billy take her home from the Halloween party like she promised him she would. She could handle Billy.
What if Ollie didn’t show up?
Three more miles with blistered feet—but it was Friday night, so there was a good chance somebody would come along pretty soon. The Albrechts, a young couple living ten miles from Caprock, often drove into town for the second feature at the Olympic Theater on Friday nights. Rio Bravo was showing and she happened to know they were both John Wayne fans. They’d be glad to give her a ride home.
Five minutes later she had to take off her shoe. She wondered how far she could walk before her bobby sock wore through. Maybe she could tear a sleeve off her jacket and wrap it around her foot if she had to, but if she were reduced to that extreme and her daddy found out, he’d turn Ollie into a sack of tankage before the sun came up. Maybe even get the sheriff involved. It had to be against the law to strand an innocent girl along an abandoned road this late at night. If it wasn’t, it sure ought to be.
A pair of headlights approached from behind. As it slowed, she turned to face it, continuing to walk backwards. Squinting, she waved one hand tentatively and shaded her eyes with the other. She wanted to be sure it was Ollie before striking the pose she had been planning on, the one letting him know how despicable he was and how miserable and helpless she was.
The vehicle slowed, then stopped, trapping her full in the glare of blinding headlights. Darn that Ollie, nobody else would blind her like this on purpose. He was doing it just to be mean…
She was right about it being movie night for the Albrechts, but was off in the timing of their return. When they finally did arrive, they found not a pretty young girl hobbling along on a sore foot looking for a ride, but a bruised and broken body needing far more help than they could provide.
An aging drug lord needs an ally with a particular skillset to help him win an ongoing war with competing cartels to supply America’s illicit narcotics market. One of his minions finds a prospect, a high school senior who’s smart, follows orders, has no fear of the Man, and proves himself by tackling a job no other man would dare undertake. What forces compel a young man to embrace a world where torture and murder are commonplace, where love and loyalty are considered the marks of weakness?
Ruben Garza’s ranch,
the morning after his barn burns,
late December, 1984
The December cold front blasting across the brush country of South Texas leached the heat from Ruben Garza’s battered hulk faster than his metabolism could replace it. Sprawled in the sand between prickly pear and hedgehog cactus, he hadn’t moved since midnight. Too much whiskey, a severe beating, and seven hours of freezing wind had produced a stupor so deep one might have thought him dead.
With the first gray light of dawn, his cheek began to twitch. He blinked and turned his head. The first sensation he felt was of cactus needles poking his thigh, then came the stings of fire ants on his back and arms. Sand had worked its way under his pants and shirt, and his throat was so raw he could hardly swallow. His stomach churned with nausea. His head swirled with pain and vertigo. Over it all blew the icy wind.
Goddamn booze...freezing goddamn wind and muscles beat to pulp wasn’t enough. Hadda have a hangover too. Must be the booze what dried out his throat…
With difficulty he sat up, rolled to his hands and knees, then eased himself to a kneeling position. He maneuvered one foot under him, and, almost losing his balance, pulled himself upright. He stopped to let a wave of nausea pass. His back, his neck and shoulders, his head, his whole body throbbed with pain.
An ordinary man might have moaned at such agony, but Ruben Garza was no ordinary man. A grunt was as much concession to misery as he would allow himself.
The nausea diminished. The memory of the night’s events began to filter back into his consciousness: the goddamn lawyer was what done it, that pussy what couldn’t whip a rabbit, that goddamn lawyer what yanked the rifle out of his hands to beat him with it like a wetback chopping wood. Mierda, he musta been drunk to let a pansy lawyer like that take his rifle from him.
Chingar…! It hurt so bad, and the cold...the goddamn cold...an’ so fuckin’ fat an’ hungover...fat an’ cold an’ hungover…got to move; get over by the barn where it’s warm…
The barn! Almost forgot the barn; no wonder his throat was so sore. It wasn’t just the booze, it was breathing the stinking smoke from all them grass bales his smart nephew set on fire. He trap’ ‘em all in there, all them big shots from Mexico and Guatemala and Columbia…lock’ ‘em in the barn, poured gas on the bales and set ‘em on fire…
He turned his massive torso toward the Quonset barn. Its steel ribs were buckling like wax under a heat lamp.
A genius, his nephew…trapping and killing all them foreign pendejos what thought they was gonna take over his business, and doing it so fast and so easy; no drawn out battles, no months or years wasted hunting down one, then another, picking ‘em off one by one and maybe getting picked off his own self; his nephew outsmarted ‘em all an’ almos’ outsmarted him too, but he fooled ‘em; fat ol’ Uncle Ruben was smarter than any of ‘em. Now every one of the pendejos was inside the barn, cooked black as jackrabbits caught in a grass fire.
The thought would have given him pleasure if the wind wasn’t so cold and his bruises didn’t hurt so much.
He was on his feet now, but barely. He turned his face into the wind toward the barn, intending to take cover on the lee side. Ought to be plenty warm there.
His first step shot a jolt through his back and hip painful as a hammer blow. He stopped, cringed, and gingerly took another step.
Another thought rose to the surface of his newly awakened brain: the lawyer...by now every cop in ten counties was on the way to his barn…have to get his fat ass into the brush...hide...hope they don’t got no goddamn dogs...like devils, them dogs; nobody can hide from dogs…no time to get warm…
He limped to the brush surrounding his collapsing barn, then around the near corner of the clearing toward the far side where he would be able to see the barn, and at the same time have access to a shallow arroyo leading across the brush to a shell-topped road a mile north.
He made it to the arroyo just as a caravan of SWAT vehicles showed up at the barn.
No matter. Them damn culos with the shotguns an’ fancy-ass assault rifles would be too busy with what they were gonna find in the barn to start looking for him.
Head north is what he had to do. Make it to the road, then maybe a fren’ would find him. He had lots of fren’s.
Nearly blinded by agony, he stumbled northward. Twenny years since he walked more’n a block, and whatever these Mexican boots was good for, walking wasn't it. A hunnerd yards and already blisters were burning his heels.
The wind wasn’t so strong in the arroyo as it was on top, but it was still cutting. His freezing ears were torture; his hands and face were so numb he didn’t feel the pricks and scrapes of the mesquite thorns he plunged through.
Like a gored ox he suffered in silence, without expression, without self-pity, without fear, and, other than having gotten so drunk that that sissy, fancy-pants lawyer could take away his rifle and beat him with it, without regrets.
He not only had lots of friends, he also had lots of money. More money than even his closest confederates knew he had. Buckets of it. Barrels of it, stashed in places no one but he knew where.
His money was the carrots. If he was free wielding his stick, he was just as free dishing out the carrots. Do him a favor and first thing you know you had a pocket full of cash. He could dump a hundred, even two or three hundred dollars on some lucky flunky in exchange for a name or address he could have gotten for a beer, or maybe a joint. Sneak a big enough load of powder across el rio for him could net you five, even ten grand, easy. Ten grand for four hours work. There was an army of unskilled men, even some women, willing to do that deal, and not all were wetbacks. Grocery clerks, filling station workers, janitors, farm hands, well diggers, mechanics, lots of honest peoples looking for an extra payday. In the old days when all he dealt in was marijuana, it wasn’t so easy to find mules. But now that everybody liked this new stuff so much, this white powder, people were falling all over themselves to get a piece of the action.
The carrot and the stick. Enough of either could make most people do most things; enough of both could make anybody do anything.
If he could make it to the road and luck was with him, he’d hitch a ride to his sister Maria’s place. Maria took in orphans and abused kids who had no place else to go. Ruben didn’t pay much attention to her except to give her a little money now and then. Not much. Just enough to keep her singing his praises to family members who were uneasy at what he did for his money.
Two hours it took him to shuffle the mile to the fence bordering the road, two, three steps at a time, hanging on to one thorny branch after another as waves of torment passed.
He arrived at the fence bleeding, panting, insensate to everything but pain, cold, and thirst. He lacked the strength to climb through the loose barbwire. Swaying, he leaned against a post. Carrying his bulk a mile through the brush had produced sweat in spite of the cold, and now, because he wasn’t moving, the wind instantly cut through his shirt. It chilled his sweat to near freezing. He couldn’t sit, he couldn’t walk, and in another moment he wouldn’t be standing. He began to swoon.
Ok folks, it’s time to kick back and read about two Texas women. Both love the Lord, and both endure somewhat similar occurrences. From birth their journeys are totally different with one struggling with evil from as far back as she can remember, and with the other growing up in a protective, happy, and loving family. Indeed, two different upbringings when both discover that evil is much closer than either one ever anticipated. The story involves romance, love, fear, hate, jealousy, deceitfulness, violence, and commitment all wrapped up into one story. As the Author, I will leave you with an important warning to consider and think about, and that is to know your own surroundings and know how to keep yourself safe. Now, enjoy the read! BUY NOW
On the eve of January 6, 1972, a full moon reveals tall palms swaying and whipping in the cold wind as a partially packed Greyhound Bus rolls into the Corpus Christi bus terminal, located downtown at Starr and Chaparral Street. After a long trip from a small town in West Texas the bus driver maneuvers his way through the terminal and searches for a convenient parking spot, and while doing so he announces there will be a twenty minute layover before leaving for Brownsville, Texas, the final destination of the evening.
Some folks are startled and some are awakened by the screeching loud noise that comes from the overhead intercom, and after a long ride from Little Wicked, Texas it seems a now stiff and cranky bus driver has the microphone way too close to his mouth. Again, he repeats his stern warning before opening the door. So, with the intercom cutting in and out his deep smoky voice indicates that he is a man of his word and means what he says.
Bus Driver Says,
Heed the warning folks I’m on a tight schedule, and I’ll be leaving with or without you, “Twenty Minutes!”
Moans erupt throughout the cabin as a few unhappy passengers complain amongst themselves about the short layover. When the roar of the engine goes silent a handful of folks going on to Brownsville jump to their feet, exit the bus as fast as they can. Some run for the restrooms, and some grab a quick snack. Also wasting no time, is that somewhat cranky little bus driver as he flees from the bus and takes his place near the front exit, thanking all patriots for traveling Greyhound Trailways. Sure, that’s part of his job but he also has a nasty little habit. Once out in the open air he pulls from his shirt pocket a long-awaited cigarette and quickly lights it up, savoring, inhaling, and exhaling every little puff of nicotine. Well, it seems the cranky little bus driver just isn’t in need of a smoke, but he also likes to stretch his bones when he makes his scheduled stops.
As the cigarette dangles from his lips and in between puffs he bends over touches his toes, then makes several twist and turns, and once he believes that everyone is off the bus that’s getting off he attempts to return to his seat. Well, not so fast. He doesn’t get far and before he can make his way back to his seat, Lord and behold, there standing on the steps right in front of his eyes are two of the most beautiful legs he has ever seen.
Those beautiful legs belong to a woman named Charmaine Rene Davis, in her early thirties, an introvert, somewhat shy, homely and not much of a looker from the shoulders up. But the towering five-foot-eight blonde does have one thing going for her... a body that most women wished they had and a body that some men lust for in a woman. As Charmaine attempts to make her way down the steps the now creepy little bus driver can’t seem to pass up an opportunity to put the moves on this homely looking wildflower with the most beautiful legs he’s ever seen. So, he doesn’t hesitate, quickly he initiates his moves and gives it his best.
As the children cheered their brightly colored neon pigs to the finish line and eternal glory, David Banister kept glancing over his shoulder at his son, Nicky, waving a green flag and yelling as loudly as the rest of them. Would Mr. Green Jeans win the race and bring victory to Team Green? The Rec Center full of Vacation Bible School kids would soon find out. David, on the other hand, might miss the photo finish. Mrs. Simmons, the VBS instructor, motioned him off to the side. This couldn’t be good. A sweet, older woman who had become involved in VBS when her grandchildren moved a thousand miles away was the leader of Team Green. She wouldn’t miss the finish of the race except to tell him there had been a problem. Had Nicky done something to get himself into trouble? Only five years old, he had never been left alone without either mom or dad around. Had something scared him? David’s wife, Emily, had argued that Nicky was still too young. “I have some exciting news for you,” Mrs. Simmons said as she pulled him back from the cheering crowd. She didn’t sound all that excited, though. She held out her hands to reveal a folded piece of paper in the shape of a barn in her palm. The theme of VBS that summer was “God’s Farm.” He reached out for the origami barn. Excitement radiated from it. “Today, during share time, Nicky said that he was born again! We have been talking about letting Jesus into our hearts all week and what that means, but today, being the last day and all, we asked the children if they wanted Jesus in their hearts too. Nicky was one of the few that raised his hand.” Mrs. Simmons lowered her head in seeming disappointment. “We had hoped more would take this step, but we couldn’t be more excited for Nicky.” David opened the folded paper barn to see Nicky’s name at the top. It was just a template with blanks where the child’s name would go and another for the date. Near the bottom was a series of boxes that were checked off. And finally, on the bottom where the paper animals would enter the paper barn for the night was a place where Mrs. Simmons had signed her name, complete with a little smiley face. David smiled slightly and put the note in his breast pocket. “That’s great news. I cannot wait to go home and tell Emily. What is the next step? What do we need to do?” “Yes, share this great news with your wife, and then you should schedule a time to speak to the pastor. He will want to talk to Nicky about his decision.” “Okay. I sure will,” David said as he watched the finish of the race. The Green Team had a slight lead, and he wanted to watch them finish. He was tired and wanted to scoop up Nicky and beat the crowd out of the parking lot before it became a scene from “Mad Max.” “Oh, Mr. Banister, there is something else.” Even though she was the coach for Green Team, she wasn’t watching the race. There was a twinge to her voice, a hint of concern hidden somewhere in the back of her throat. This was the part when the sweet, gentle Mrs. Simmons would politely share that his son Nicky was the VBS bully, or was being bullied, or was not being asked back next year because she didn’t feel that he was “ready” to be in the classroom yet. His mind jumped the rail and headed into the worst of possibilities in his own personal House of Horrors. David hated this. He automatically went to the worst-case scenarios instead of waiting to hear what was said. He had done his fair share of praying about it and asking God to give him faith that things were going to work out. David took a deep breath and turned back to Mrs. Simmons politely. “There was something that Nicky told the class during ‘share time’ that bothered me and made the rest of the class laugh.” Mrs. Simmons’s expression grew more serious. “Nicky claimed that he was once a farmer. He shared with everyone in class that a long time ago, he was a farmer, but he wasn’t one anymore. When asked what he meant by ‘a long time ago,’ he said it was before he was born again.” Despite the hooting and hollering around him, David felt a crypt-like silence. He knew that Nicky had a fantastic imagination. He had seen his son in the backyard hundreds of times playing by himself. Sometimes he would be with his Matchbox cars in what David could only imagine was a child-like version of five o’clock traffic; sometimes, it would be with the plastic green army men from the Dollar Store. It was not too surprising that there might have been a time or two when Nicky had pretended that the backyard dirt pile was a farm. So why would Mrs. Simmons be so worried about a five-year-old pretending that he was a farmer? “I can tell by your face that you are not quite getting it. Nicky didn’t say that he was a farmer, like working the land and raising animals. One of the other children said that her grandpa was a farmer and that she loved going out to the country during the summer to spend time with him and Grandma Jo. Nicky got really upset with that little girl and was insistent that that was NOT what he meant. He never really explained himself, but I was able to calm him down.” What was Mrs. Simmons trying to say? What did Nicky mean? Was he pretending to be a farmer and had never even been to a real farm? “I’m not sure I follow.” “I am not too sure I follow either. Nicky said that he was born again, but then he followed it up with this insistence on being a farmer a long time ago.” She paused for what seemed like forever. “And then he told the class a crazy story about flying in planes and being with his best friend, Hugo. He said he had flown a plane in France, and that is where he lost his friend. But then he turned around and said that he still talked to him. It was confusing and disruptive to the class and to the parent volunteers. To tell you the truth, Mr. Banister, I don’t know what to think.” She looked and sounded as if a weight had been lifted. She sighed deeply, and her shoulders caved. Now the burden was no longer hers, and Nicky’s father would have to deal with it. “Thank you for telling me all of this. You are doing a wonderful job here. It takes a special calling to be a VBS teacher. I appreciate all you have done with Nicky. My wife and I will talk to the pastor as soon as I can.” He patted his pocket with the barnyard note. “I can’t wait to share this with Emily. We will also be discussing what you just shared. I am sure that it is nothing more than just his imagination running wild, but he still needs to learn the difference between imaginary and real.” The cheers and yelling had wound down. Green Team had won, but neither he nor Mrs. Simmons got much joy from the victory. The familiar song, “Digging Up Disciples for God,” brought the week-long chaos and festivities to a close. The halls and the parking lots were full of parents bracing themselves against the stampede of kids singing, running, and waving arts and crafts. So much for David beating the crowd. “Thank you, Mr. Banister. Nicky is a wonderful and bright little boy. I do apologize for saying that his story was crazy. That is not what I meant at all. It was just some of the things he said were upsetting. The details….” Her voice trailed off as she sank deep into her own thoughts. “Thank you, Mrs. Simmons.” Nicky was making a beeline to him. In his hands were coloring pages, popsicle-stick art, and half a dozen little cut-out animals. Around Nicky’s neck was a necklace made of “corn;” on his chest was a first-place sticker in the shape of a pig. *** David turned down the radio on the drive home so that he could talk to Nicky. The only sounds from the front were the steady humming of the tires and the gentle blowing of the car’s air-conditioning. The back of the car was a different story. “And that is when Mr. Green Jeans ran even faster! The pastor said that the louder we yelled, the faster our pig would run. He was right! That’s how I got this sticker.” Nicky pulled out the top of his striped shirt to show his dad in the rear-view mirror. “Everyone thought he was gonna lose, but not me.” David smiled and listened to Nicky tell the story of how the pigs were a little scared at first to come out and race, but through cheers and shouting from the VBS crowd, they gathered all their piggy courage and won. Nicky then told him all about the farm songs that they had sung during the week and did his best to share all the movements that went with it. David chuckled as Nicky tried to do the moves while restrained in his car seat. The whole time Nicky recapped the weekly events, the information that Mrs. Simmons had shared scratched at the back of David’s mind like a spider trying to get through the terrarium glass. The thoughts itched when he tried to remember the details. What bothered him the most was the fear in her voice and the relief when she was able to set it all free. “But they didn’t believe me,” Nicky said. The phrase kicked David’s attention back to his son. “What was that? What did they not believe?” “I told the kids in my group that I was born again, but they didn’t believe me. Even when I told them my name and all about flying in the plane. They just laughed.” Nicky’s voice faded to sadness. “Well, I believe you, and I can’t wait until we get home so we can tell your mom all about it.” When they reached the house, Nicky unbuckled himself and scrambled to gather his papers. David, on the other hand, scrambled to think of what he was going to tell Emily. He was the one who had pushed for VBS. Would she be mad? On the one hand, he was excited to tell her about how Nicky had learned about Jesus; on the other hand, he would have to tell her about Nicky’s imagination and how the class had reacted to him. As David lagged behind, Nicky raced inside, kicking off his shoes and yelling up the stairs for his mother. David decided to wait until Nicky was in bed to talk to Emily.
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This experimental novel blends diary-like entries, poetry, and innovative use of Texas slang. BUY NOW
I tug down a warm Korean beer and listen to the Vietnamese band as the girls in their G-strings bump and grind out another tune. I can see white phosphorus flares in the night a mile out to the North of the perimeter. Some infantry unit engaged in sniper fire while we try to enjoy the U.S.O. show as best we can.
These must be bravest women in the world to come here and do what they do to entertain the troops. They either have tremendous hopes for a career when this is over, or the pay is just good enough. Oh well, they always end up with the Officers anyway. Maybe if I can get enough beer down, I will sleep through anything that might come tonight.
A guy sitting next to me introduces himself. Riley Gilbreath is his name. From back up east somewhere. Nice guy.
On my way back to my hooch, I watch the fire fight. I can see Puff out there spitting down his red fire. I lift the mosquito net and roll into my cot. An M-14 chamber locking makes me instinctively roll to the floor. The first burst rips the roof of the hooch, and I can hear water draining from the shower barrels. One clip, then another. I crawl toward the bunker. The muzzle flashes light the air just enough.
It’s White, my Indian friend from New Mexico, drunk as a skunk and letting off steam! I crawl around on the ground, hoping he’ll go shoot off somewhere else. The N.C.O.'s trying to talk him out of his rifle. I don't know what got caught in his craw. The rest of us are scared, but we’re all laughing because it’s so crazy.
Finally, when the ammunition runs out, I grab him, and the others take his rifle. White begins to cry because he had just received his Dear John letter today. A lot of guys got them.
We hide him from the Officers, who are too scared to come out until the commotion is over. Maybe everything will be alright in the morning. I think we all want to cry, but most of us have forgotten how.
We have trucks to load with crushed rock and 1,500 lbs. of dynamite to detonate in the morning.
FOREVER ALONE blends diary-like entries, poetry, and innovative use of Texas slang. The character's odyssey takes him from the Vietnam War to West Texas to Mexico to an unexpected reunion with a fellow soldier. The author, Mike Mercer, is largely self-taught, and has been writing every day for years. BUY NOW
Afternoon Wednesday June 18, 2003
By M. Mercer
“Think the first time I entered The Blue Tequila Cantina was six years ago. Mexican natives call it Cantina Azul. They say a Gringo named Tom opened this bar in 1987 and still lives within even though he passed on in 1996. It must be true as sometimes I get messages from Tom relating to something is going to happen or when someone is coming. Sometimes I know the name of who is coming. Easy says, I spook her when I forecast someone, or something, is coming round the corner. Kinda surprises me too, but then I’ve not had a normal lifetime. Spent more time sitting at this end of the bar than any one place in my sixty- three years. Easy has been here three and a half and we have seen it all, fun, terror, blessing, and wonderful memories.
Some things you need to know: Easy is not the bartenders name, but she is quite easy on the eyes, not sure of her real name, or where she is from. My place at the end of the bar is my long-standing, pin in hand, writing comfort zone. Somedays, I go home and write sober and coherent. Leigh, yes Leigh, the one stable strong good woman in my life I do not deserve, watches over me as the angel she is.
The Blue Tequila Cantina serves as a meeting place for expats from over the world. Some seeking, love, some seeking companionship, some enjoying a cheap lifestyle, oh and some escaping their past. All toll, a good bunch of people, using up the end of life as we know it. Brave people, taking a chance on something different. The locals carry us high, we appreciate all the services they provide. Many frequent the bar and most local closing on property sales are finalized in the Cantina Azul. Oh yes, this is the local NASCAR TV headquarters. All Mexicans drive to fast, when you ask them why, they say we are in training for NASCAR.
And just like that, it happened again today. Normally, folks frequenting the bar don’t ask questions of each other as we all have something we don’t want to talk about. So, we find out about each other by what they say, not by prying.”
Extending his hand, he says, “My name is Sid, may I sit the bar with you?”
“Sure Sid, my name is Jerry, we’ve been expecting you.” I replied.
“How do you know me. I have never been here before?” A surprised, Sid remarks.
“A few days ago, a gust of wind blew a crumpled piece of paper in the door. I knew it was for me, when I spread the paper out it had Sid printed on it.”
“Ah, I don’t believe it for a minute!” Sid said.
“Easy, come, aqui,” I call.
Easy approaches and says, “yo is Sid esta so?”
Not believing what he is experiencing Sid says, “I need a beer!”
“Easy bring Sid a Tecate, make that dos since Sid is buying.
Sid in here ‘yo’ means, hi, you, me, a cheer, an explanation point, and always say ‘yo’ when you answer the phone. Just how it is,” I advised. “What you need Sid maybe we can help?” As Easy fishes deep in the cooler for the Tecate.
“I been walking this streets a couple of months checking out the area. Kinda thinking I might move to Ajajic. I’m too young to retire and though I might try buying this bar.”
“I laughed out loud, Easy chimed in with a beautiful smile. In fact, I laughed so hard and long I broke into a violent coughing spell, ending with sweat and wheezing.”
Meanwhile Sid sipped his beer and waits for things to settle down, “you OK Jerry?”
“Think so, but I think Tom is tellin’ me to warn you off.”
“Who is Tom, and why should I be concerned with Tom?”
“Tom owns the bar Sid, what makes it concerning is he has been dead since 1996. Easy runs the place, opens, and closes the Cantina, and sometime in the night the till is collected, money and directions left to pay various vendors. More than 3 years ago, before Easy, the guy running the bar tried to sell it to a newcomer. Both ended up missing and the police closed the bar.
It was hard on me as this was, as this is, my away from home, home. Couple of months later I dropped by, behold Easy had the door open for business. I ask her what happened she put finger to lips and then waved it at me. I knew to just drop it, and be happy. So be careful about trying to buy the Cantina.”
Sid sips Tecate and orders dos mas for him and the new acquaintance at the bar. Sid worries this guy is a con and decides to play along to see if he can swing a deal. Jerry seems a nice guy, but this is Mexico where tomorrow may mean the next day or even next month. All is not known much less guaranteed.
“Well Jerry if I can’t buy the bar maybe you can direct me to someone selling houses as I am in the market?”
“That I can help with. You want a mansion or a shack? You want to pay cash or easy terms? You plan to look at a lot of houses are a few, Sid?”
“You tellin’ me I have all those choices.”
“Yes, but they narrow quickly, Charley the gringo has been here for years and knows all the locations and has handled many closings here in the Cantina. Ramon digs deep and finds casas that need a quick sale. Anita can find homes with the best kitchens, house keepers, and gardeners. So, there is a lot to choose from and you need to think about it. I am still not privy to just why I knew you were coming, but I will figure it out?”
“Jerry, tell you what, if one of them drops by send them over to the Posada and have them ask for Sid.”
“Sure, thing Sid, one of them will fix you up.”
“So, you think Ajajic is a good place to live and retire? Give me the inside as you evidently have been around a while.”
“Lots of great food, fine music if you like local gringo and Mexican entertainers. You won’t find many unfriendly folks and some maybe too friendly. Friends come easy here and are not pushy. Most of us party often and in the daytime. Nights are not lit well, and trouble is easier to find. Good times in the Mexican sun is a good way to spend your days.”
Judy Bloomquist is a Kinesiology lecturer at Texas A&M-Kingsville. Her book, The Misfits Become a Pack
is based on her love of rescue animals. She and her family have a true love for animals. They have been known to stop the car on the highway to rescue a turtle in the road. Buy THE MISFITS BECOME A PACK, an illustrated children's novel
I am Molly the Weiner dog, I was the first member of the current pack and am also the oldest. I have long hair with a really long body that almost scrapes the ground. I am kind of funny looking but I am a fierce leader. I want to tell you the story of how I became the leader of a very special pack. I used to live on a farm where puppies were made. There were always dogs everywhere running and barking and playing. It was a great place to live. One day a lady came our farm looking for something. The farmer suggested that she sit down in a chair in the yard and just look around a while at all the puppies. It was a fun place and she seemed to enjoy all my puppy friends being puppies. I decided to get a closer look at the lady so I snuck under her chair. I think I scared the lady because she suddenly looked down at me with big eyes and a huge smile. I think she liked me. She said I was the cutest little Weiner dog she had ever seen. She was just sitting there looking at me as if to say, “Do you want to come home with me? I told the lady, I’m your girl”. I think the lady must speak “bark” because she called the farmer over and said, “I’ll take this one!”. She put me in a car and drove me to her house and that was the start of my new pack.
She gave me the name Molly but the humans often called me “Mol Mol”. When I arrived at my new house, I didn’t know what to expect. A fluffy old chihuahua approached me with a look of attack, but the dog was so old and weak she forgot what she was growling at and went to lay down. My humans called her “Quince” and spoiled her and loved her very much. A couple days later I went out to the back yard and found my humans digging a big hole in the dirt. When they were done digging, they put a bundle wrapped in a blanket in the hole and began to weep. I heard one human say “goodbye”.
I was confused until I went in the house looking for Quince and she was nowhere to be found. I realized that it was her in the hole that the humans were crying over. I also realized that it was my turn to lead this pack and protect my new humans. I wanted to prove my loyalty. I was very protective of my new house and family. I barked at all unfamiliar noises to show them that I was in charge and protecting them. Just to prove my fearlessness, one day I nipped at our neighbor’s heels because she came into our house without warning. I had to prove to them this was my house now. My human in charge (I call The Lady) scolded me and apologized to our neighbor.
But I think she was secretly proud of me for taking a stand. At least I think that’s what the treat was for that she snuck to me under the table…
Ralph Coker started as an engineer and worked his way up through the ranks to become a refinery plant manager. After retiring, he coached small business owners and managers, working with over 600 clients. He knows what works and what doesn't work.
This is a no-nonsense guide to success in business. It includes 115 short articles that address a variety of business situations. It is designed for the busy entrepreneur who want to "cut to the chase." The book is available now. BUY NOW.
Read CHAPTER ONE
We must learn 10 lessons to success in business. I'll use examples from business to illustrate how the 10 lessons apply. First, to succeed in business, diligently complete the little detail tasks. Large successes consist of many little tasks completed successfully.
Second, to succeed in business, find a team to help you. You need the help of friends, work colleagues, advisors, mentors, family members, your boss and sometimes the goodwill of strangers. None of us have the knowledge, skills and abilities to succeed alone in a very complex world.
Third, success in business depends on the size of your heart not the size of your brain or personality. You have to want success more than anything in the world and be willing to sacrifice through physical, mental and emotional hardships to reach it. Success is a marathon not a sprint. Persistence and endurance will always win over brilliance.
Fourth, to succeed in business and life, we have to learn that life is not always fair. Despite our most diligent efforts we fail sometimes for reasons that are not our fault. Others harm us and are not punished. We fail to get the job of our dreams or that promotion we deserve. We can't stop the world and get off. We have to keep moving forward.
Fifth, to succeed in business learn to survive failure and through failure to become stronger and better prepared to succeed next time. We all fail, it's just a question of how many times we fail. If the failure is our fault, we have to analyze why we failed and resolve not to repeat it. Failure is very painful to our egos. We have to learn to accept failure, forgive ourselves, get over it and move on with our lives. Above all don't become obsessed with fear of failure and not take on challenges.
Sixth, to succeed in business we have to take risks. Not foolish risks. Carefully calculated risks where the potential reward is always worth the potential consequences of failure. In my career I found that business success was about 50 percent chance, 40 percent knowledge, skill and dedication and 10 percent innovation meaning finding a better way to do things. However, you have to be in the game for chance to make you a winner. You can't be safe on the sidelines.
Seventh, to succeed in business you must have the courage to defend yourself from the sharks in this world that want to do you harm.
Eighth, to succeed in business you must be able to remain calm and perform your best under the worst conditions. That means when there's great uncertainty, confusion, distractions and fear. In business that could be a recession, key employee injury or death.
Ninth, to succeed in business you have to have hope. When that worst condition happens, you need your best brains, knowledge, skills and judgment but only hope will get you through it. Otherwise you will give up and fail. Tenth, to succeed in business never give up. I had a very successful manager reporting to me at one time who overcame every obstacle with such determination and persistence that he just ground the obstacles to dust. I too found persistence beat brilliance every time.
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Louise Knolle's Pettigrove's memoir, BRIGHT FIELDS, tells the story of her childhood on Knolle Jersey Farms, the world's largest Jersey herd. She draws on photos, letters, and stories to bring the past to life. This excerpt is about Mollie, the first wife of Wallis Wade, owner of the Wade Ranch in Sandia.
One of the barriers Wallis and Mollie encountered in their relationship was the Nueces River between them. It often flooded, and crossing it would’ve been impossible on horseback or with a horse and buggy. A ferry had been there since 1877, but it didn’t run in bad weather. In September 1891, Mollie wrote, “So [I] guess you have had plenty of rain. We heard the river was up until today, so Joe and I would not start over to see you all: seems as if fate were against me getting over there.” After six months, Wallis was beginning to grow tired of the difficulties in seeing her, and he saw her apparent hesitation as another barrier. When he stopped answering her letters, Mollie began to worry about losing him. She sent a letter, saying: I’ve concluded to write and ask if you have forgotten my existence. Thought probably some other girl is ahead of me. And should [I] not wonder if there was? There being so many more attractive than poor little me. I do not wonder at your withdrawing your affections for you have certainly been sufficiently tried. 11 Their correspondence resumed. Mollie began to understand she was in love with Wallis when, at the conclusion of an argument between them, she’d noticed he was crying. “I did not realize how it would hurt you until you cried. I felt I knew you better than ever before.” When Mollie realized how much she cared for him, she began to write more openly. On Christmas Eve, Mollie wrote, “I feel somehow as if you had found another girl. It ought not to make any difference with me, but I really do feel jealous. I sometimes think I care for you more than I thought I did.” In January of 1892, Mollie had finally made up her mind to marry Wallis. She wrote, “If you have not forgotten what I promised the evening we went riding, come tomorrow week ‘on Sunday’, and I will tell you something, unless you have learned to care for some other girl, then of course I can’t.” By February 9th, Mollie had given Wallis her answer, and she wrote to assure him: Now Wallis I have given you my promise, and don’t you think for a moment I will break it.” Then she turns to practical matters. “You spoke of having the marriage earlier than June! I can’t promise to yet but may consent for it to be the latter part of April. . . . I have not yet mentioned anything to Mama or Papa or anyone. Will soon tell Mama. Mollie’s letters also tell of visits to friends and family, visits which often stretched into weeks. And now that Mollie was engaged, she became the object of teasing. “I think I will go home Tuesday or Wednesday. I have been having a very good time here … They tried to tease me a little about you but were not at all successful.” In a letter written in March, Mollie explained about some comments from friends and relatives who had tried to influence her: Wallis you do not blame me for answering you the way I did! Did you? I just tell you I did not know you enough to know my own mind, and I had a good deal to work against too: you have been told things on me and so have I on you. But I would not believe until I found out for myself. As to your talking, I have found out that the more I know you, the more you talk, true, you do not talk as much as most young men; but I am not afraid of your not talking enough. What you don’t talk, I will make up for you. Molly wasn’t swayed by the gossip, and by March 19, she was counting the days until their marriage. “The time isn’t two months off now last Friday.” But the biggest barrier of all, Mollie’s health, soon became the couple’s overriding concern. Her first mention of measles occurs in late March. “I guess next Sunday I 12 will have the measles, for Davis has broken out with them today.” She’d been right and soon was sick herself. Mollie was optimistic about her recovery even when she was very ill. On April 19th, she wrote, “This is the first day I have sat up in 5 days. If it were not for the fevers, I think I would have been well by now.” In the April 19th letter, she tells him, “I am so weak, more so than when I was sick with fever last summer. I guess you begin to think what you heard about me being an invalid is about so. Sure has been that way for the last three weeks.” The last letter from Mollie was written on April 26, 1892. She was getting ready to go back to the doctor and was expecting a quick and full recovery. It seems though that Wallis was quite worried. He’d asked Mollie if she believed in prayer, and she’d answered, “Indeed I do. Would be a poor Methodist if I did not and was taught from a child to kneel down and say my prayers every night.” It seems that Mollie and Wallis did marry late in May at her parents’ home in Mathis. There’s another letter that was saved in the packet with Mollie’s letters. It’s from Mollie’s mother. She’s writing after the wedding and expressing worry and concern: \ Dear daughter, I am sorry that you are having fevers again. Be sure and tell Dr how you have been and felt all along since you had the measles. If I come, I will be at the train. You and Wallis come Saturday if the river is low enough. Mollie’s poor health continued, and she died only months after the wedding. Wallis buried her in the Wade Cemetery on the Ranch where he would later be placed next to her. His second wife, Lou Ella, would be buried on his other side. Mollie’s tombstone says simply: Mollie Madray Wade 1868-1892 Today, that tombstone, half-covered by cactus, and the 15 love letters written in a clear flourishing hand are all I know that’s left of Mollie Madray