A few years ago, I wrote a couple of longer short stories then my usual 1500 words or less versions. They’ve been languishing away in a document folder as I’ve had no success finding a publisher, plus I’m really lazy when it comes to the “non-fun” part of writing, finding an audience that will pay me. So I’m just gonna “publish” them here. Feedback, comments, literary critique is of course welcome.
Colt 45 and a People Magazine
Her mother’s walker was the cause of Cammie’s painful predicament. Margaret had been given an ancient walker by a well meaning friend. Cammie took an instant dislike to the device. Margaret wouldn’t part with the thing. It was dented so badly on one leg that the metal was almost pinched together. The dented leg caused the whole contraption to lean at a slight angle. Cammie had purchased a new walker and took the old one to the curb to be picked up by the trash service. The next morning, her mother was using the walker. How Margaret had managed to retrieve it, Margaret wasn’t telling. She liked the thing for reasons Cammie simply couldn’t understand. Several times Cammie tried to get rid of the walker, even taking it to the county landfill only to discover it had once again found its way back home. How Margaret kept retrieving the thing was a mystery Cammie couldn’t pry from her mother or any of her mother’s friends. The walker was one of the few things Cammie and her mother disagreed on.
Cammie lived at home with her mother. Cammie’s mom, Margaret had suffered a stroke when Cammie was a senior in high school. A former middle school Phys ed teacher and marathon enthusiast, her mother’s world was mostly reduced to forays through the house using the rickety walker. Once Margaret had gotten home from the hospital and had started physical therapy, Cammie’s father packed up and moved to Atlanta with the administrative assistant from First Prime Realty. He announced that as Margaret could no longer be a real wife to him, he was moving on. Cammie was devastated by her father’s abandonment. She wanted to rail at him for what he had done, while at the same time beg him to come back. That her father refused to return her calls or respond to any emails or letters did not help Cammie much. He had abandoned her as well his wife, and the loss was keen.
Cammie couldn’t help but hear the gossip about her family. The conversation usually stopped when she drew near and those speaking animatedly before she approached stood awkwardly or tried to change the subject. She knew what they were saying about her spending prom night at home with her mother instead of on a date, speculations about why her dad really left. Rumors meant for her not to hear, but heard by her anyway
Margaret said little about her husband’s leaving for several months, instead insisting on getting herself as self-sufficient as possible. She tried to get Cammie to go to the university on the softball scholarship Cammie had been awarded.
“Follow your dreams, darlin’.” Margaret told her daughter. “I’ll manage just fine.” Cammie had considered doing just that, for about five minutes. She couldn’t get past the guilt she knew she’d feel for leaving her mother at such a time. Instead she turned down the scholarship and commuted to the community college in Kingston for her Criminal Justice degree.
One day Cammie came home from class to find several boxes packed. Inside contained what little remained of her father’s presence. “Take this stuff wherever you wish, preferably the landfill.” her mother told Cammie.
“You sure about this mom?”
“Quite. Your father isn’t coming back, and I am not going to waste another moment dwelling on what was. Life goes on, and so do we.”
Cammie was surprised that her mother was willing to throw away over 20 years of memories, but took the boxes to the curb for pick-up. She kept for herself only the small photo album of her parent’s wedding which she kept hidden in the back of her closet. After that day Cammie also stopped trying to contact her father. It hurt deeply, to do so, but she realized that her mother was right. Nothing she could do or say would change what had happened.
The two and a half years it took Cammie to get her associate’s degree were well spent. Margaret slowly improved, moving out of a short term care facility to home, from a wheelchair to a walker. The progression was agonizingly slow but continual. Mother and daughter grew even closer, as they adjusted, healed and began anew. Margaret would never teach another gym class or run in a marathon. Her life had been altered so unfairly, in Cammie’s eyes, but the daughter couldn’t help but admire her mother’s unflagging spirit and positive determination.
Cammie had come home from work the night before, to see her mother sprawled on the living room floor, walker a few feet away. “Mom!” Cammie cried as she rushed to her mother’s side. “ Are you ok? Are you hurt?”
“No. I just feel foolish, and want to strangle that damned cat of yours.”
Cammie looked over at Sahara. The big tabby was perched graciously on the back of the living room sofa. He looked back Cammie then chose that moment to clean his hindquarters.
Being properly dismissed by her cat, Cammie turned to her mother. “What did he do this time?”
“He tripped me, that’s what he did!”
“Tripped you? How? With that walker you almost have four legs, ok three and a half. And what were you doing up anyway? How long have you been like this?” Cammie looked all over her mother for signs of injury.
“You can stop poking at me” Margaret said, grabbing Cammie’s hand. “I’m fine, darlin’.“
“Quite sure. I’ve only been here about 30 minutes. I was in dire need of a Dr. Pepper, so I was on my way to the kitchen.”
Cammie looked at the cat who had finished with his back end and had moved on to his whiskers. “What does that have to do with Sahara?”
“Sir Eatsalot over there must have thought I was going to give him a treat, so he bowled me over trying to beat me into the kitchen.”
Cammie looked sternly at her cat. Her cat looked back at her with a “what did I do?” expression. Sighing, she turned to Margaret. “Ok Mom, if you aren’t hurt, let’s get you up. And tomorrow I’m tossing that piece of crap out.”
“You mean the cat right?” Margaret retorted.
Cammie laughed at that. “You know exactly what I mean.”
Cammie went to the closet and put the new walker she had purchased within reach. Then she reached around under her mother’s arms, and pulled to get the older woman up. That’s when it happened. She felt a pop in her right shoulder and then sudden nearly blinding pain. She nearly dropped her mother, but managed somehow to help her up and under the support of the walker. Cammie then sat as quickly as she could into the nearest chair, her face ashen.
Cammie? Are you ok sweetie?
“I’m fine Mom, just pulled something a bit. You gain a pound or two?”
Margaret snorted. “I’d like to know where?” Margaret despite slow pace of life the stroke had fated her still retained the slim athletic form she had maintained all her life. Margaret was an older version of her daughter with the same green eyes, brown curls, and quirky sense of humor. The only visible remnants of the stroke that nearly killed Margaret were the much restricted mobility, an occasional stutter and her half-cocked smile. Margaret, having competed in marathons all over the South East, had been training for her first go at the Boston Marathon when the stroke had cut that aspiration short. Cammie intended to run that marathon herself in a year, even if she had to crawl the distance on her hands on knees. She’d been training in secret since graduation from Tri-tech.
Cammie went to the kitchen to start dinner and to raid the cabinet for some Aspirin. Reaching to open the cabinet door almost caused Cammie to collapse to the floor from the injured shoulder, but she managed to pull herself together. Sahara who had followed his mistress into the kitchen, hopped up onto the counter and rubbed his body against her hand.
“Keep my secret from Mom won’t you? She asked her cat. Sahara responded by licking her hand. They had a pact.
Cammie put her car into park, wincing at the small movement. Her shoulder pain was not going away anytime soon. She was going to have to find the time to get it looked at, lack of health insurance or not. She didn’t know if she could wait it out another three weeks when the insurance at her job kicked in. If only she’d hurt it on the job, she thought, not that she wanted to being adverse to pain. If she had then paying for whatever treatments she needed would be at least covered by the city budget. But that wasn’t the case. She had to injure it at home.
Reaching for her purse, on the passenger’s seat of her ancient Honda Civic, the shoulder protested the movement, sending pain down to her fingertips.
“Dammit!” She reached insider her purse for the aspirin bottle, and shook it. Empty.
“Great, just great.” Cammie told the reflection in her rear view mirror. “How am I going to get through this?”
Her reflection didn’t have any advice, but revealed vivid green eyes surrounded by a slightly unruly crop of brown curls. Her eyes looked bruised with fatigue. She’d gotten little sleep the night before, thanks to the aggravated shoulder and a just completed a 12 hour shift. It should have only been 10, but she’d been asked to help maintain a security presence at the Middle School Basketball quarter finals. She’d stood by the main entrance trying to look stern and menacing just in case any trouble started up. Any trouble at such events was usually the result of the concession stand running out of paper cups. That had happened on her first detail there, and had “loaned” $20 so the Booster’s club could get more cups. She now kept a few extra such supplies in the trunk of her car, just in case.
It was all part of the package of being the “new guy” at a small town’s police department. The new staff members got all the most boring assignments not that a lot ever happened in Monroeville, population 4300. There were the occasional cases of vandalism, domestic disturbances, routine traffic stops, and the rare big drug bust. The last such bust had occurred when Cammie getting ready to start her Junior year of high school. Mark “Doogie” Johnson, who had been three years ahead of her, operated one of largest meth lab the state had discovered. His getting caught was the subject of local gossip for months following his trial and sentencing.
Her taking the job naturally started the gossip about her anew. Cammie tried to ignore it, knowing that it too was all part of the package of taking a job not traditionally held by women. This time however the tone was more hateful and Cammie wasn’t sure why. One afternoon Margaret told her the possible reason.
“They are probably jealous sweetie.” Margaret told her over coffee.
“Jealous? Of me?” Cammie looked into her cup. “Why?”
“Maybe because of your courage.”
“That’s funny mom. I’m hardly courageous. You do remember the spider incident right?”
Margaret chuckled into her cup. “Yes dear I do, but that was a big spider.”
Cammie went to the coffeepot, got the carafe and topped off both their cups. They both sat for a quiet moment. Margaret said. “This is probably my fault.”
“Yours? Come on Mom. What could you have done to start yet another round of Monroeville gossip?”
“If the source of gossip is who I think it is, the crime was in letting the wrong guy take me to the prom back in high school.”
Cammie stared at her mother for a moment with a confused look on her face. “You went to the prom with dad.”
“Ok, let me clarify this,” Margeret took a sip. “Who is the biggest gossip on this side of town?”
“Angie Johnson.” Cammie answered. “She’s Doogie’s mom, that guy from high school who had the meth lab over on Stevenson street.”
“Yep. And Angie wanted your dad in the worst way. She’s never forgiven me for stealing him away.”
“Mom,” Said Cammie standing up. “That’s ridiculous.” She took her cup and put it in the sink. “That was years ago, and has nothing to do with today or with me.” She took her jacket from the back of the chair.
“You are everything her son would never be, darlin’ girl.” Margaret sighed and reached for her walker. “But you are right, it was a long time ago. Next week someone else will be the topic of conversation.”
Cammie helped her mother stand, then kissed her cheek before turning to leave. She appreciated her mother’s praise but was certain that Margaret was wrong as to the reason for the gossip.
She’d managed to wrangle through a shift of paperwork and filing before heading to the middle school. It was a task the rest of the staff seemed to continue to delegate to her, as the “newbie” on the force. It at least allowed her to keep the newly injured shoulder mostly immobile and unnoticed by the rest of her co-workers. Being the first and only woman on the small force, Cammie didn’t want to ruin her chances at succeeding at her job. She’d just have to put up with the strained shoulder. Right now she just wanted to get through her probationary period with no mishaps. She’d take the grunt work for now, boring or not, as she knew she was paying her dues. Her turn to prove her training would come soon enough.
Cammie got out of the car and crossed around to the gas pumps. It was then that she saw the sign. “Please pay inside.” Shaking her head, she crossed the parking lot and walked into the convenience store, being careful to open the store’s door with her left hand.
“Hello Miss Cammie.” Said Pavil the store’s proprietor. “Your mother called.”
Pavil and his family had purchased the store, which was close to Cammie’s house several years ago. The entire family helped run the store and another like it on the opposite end of town. When word had gotten out about Margaret’s stroke and her husband’s abandonment, the entire Asthana family had adopted the ailing woman and her daughter. They had been very helpful during those initial months of healing and rehabilitation. Rahni, Pavil’s wife, still visited often, usually bringing some new Indian delicacy and neighborhood gossip. Despite the difference in culture and age, the two women became great friends. Cammie and Margaret were grateful for the friendship and the influx of Indian food that seemed to show up at least once a week, delivered by a “passing” member of the Asthana family..
“What did Mom want? Cammie asked Pavil, already knowing the answer, then added. “Has Maya had her baby yet?”
“No, we are still waiting. That son of mine keeps running his bride to the hospital every time Maya looks uncomfortable.” He smiled with the pride. “He’s a good boy, my Sinja.”
“Yes he is.” Cammie glanced over at the health aids in the near aisle. Her shoulder throbbed in anticipation.
“Your mom wanted the new People magazine,” Pavil said. “We just got it in. You know where to look.” Cammie did. Her mom loved that magazine.
“Don’t forget my new People.” Margaret told Cammie as Cammie left the house that morning. That she’d also call Pavil was a routine Cammie was used to.
She walked to the stack of boxes by the restrooms near the back of the small store. Squatting down she lifted the lid of a few boxes before finding the ones with the newly arrived magazines. Next to the boxes of magazines were a couple of crates of cheap bottled beer that came in 45oz sizes. Colt 45, one label read. She picked one of the bottles up out of curiosity. She’d tried one when she was in college and wondered how anyone with working taste buds could drink more than a sip. The memory of the flavor still made her shudder. She started to put the bottle back in the box when she heard,
“You Apu! Open the register! Come on old man make it quick!”
“My name is Pavil young man, and if you will just give me a moment…”
The sound of a gunshot echoed through the store.
Cammie froze, horrified at what she was hearing. She tried to get her thoughts together. She was too far from an exit, and her cellphone was on the passenger seat of her car. She couldn’t see anything so she crawled towards the nearest aisle to peek around its edge. To her relief she saw Pavil still standing, apparently unharmed, as a younger man, his back to her, stood holding a gun at the store owner. The cigarette display behind the Pavil was a mess. There was a sizable hole in the Lucite door behind where packs of cigarettes lay, some of which appeared to be pulverized.. Pavil saw Cammie and his glance got the robber’s attention. He turned and saw Cammie huddled, half hidden behind the Little Debbie display. As he turned his attention to Cammie, gun trailing his sight, recognition hit them both.
“Doogie?” Cammie said weakly as she stood, still half hidden behind the display. She then remembered hearing about a prisoner escape during a transfer near Orangeburg earlier that week, but had not paid attention to who the escapee was. “You’re out of jail.”
“Still little Miss Honor student I see.” Doogie said with a smirk. Turning slightly, he yelled, “Hurry up with the cash old man, I got important things to do.”
“Doogie, you need to turn yourself in.” Said Cammie, her voice only slightly wavering.
“Oh yeah. that’s right.” Doogie said, pointing the gun back to Pavil as he reached over the counter and grabbe d the grocery sack of money out of the shop owner’s hand. “You’re a cop. Still single, still living at home with your poor sick mommy. Even your dad had the sense to get out of this crap hole of a town.” Doogie took another step towards her. “Guess you ain’t so smart after all.”
“Leave her alone!” Cammie heard Pavil say as her mind reeled. Everything Doogie had just said, she’d been hearing herself for weeks. Coming from him the words were especially painful. She realized that her mother had been right, that Doogie’s mother had said these things about her and had then handed her son weapons intended to demoralize. They were working. She wanted to crawl away, unseen, unnoticed but she stayed where she was. She saw no other choice. There was no time.
“No Pavil!” Cammie thought, as she watched Doogie turn his attention back to the store owner.
“Make me” Doogie pushed the gun close, too close to the terrified man’s face.
Cammie, heart pounding, took a step around the snack display. “Doogie, you need to stop right now!” She cried while holding her left hand out entreatingly. It still held a copy of the magazine, glossy image of Matt Damon smiling up towards the ceiling.
Doogie saw the magazine in her left hand and the bottle of beer which was still clutched in her right. “Hey! Colt 45. Man, I haven’t had that since I went to the slammer. Gimme.” He said with a leer, shifting the aim of the gun from Pavil to Cammie again.
Before she realized quite what was happening, the 42 ounce bottle of inexpensive malt liquor flew out of Cammie’s right hand as she threw the glass container with the speed and precision once used to get a runner out heading from third base to home. Doogie saw the bottle incoming, tried to catch it but didn’t have quite enough time to react. It caught him square between the eyes, knocking him out cold. Cammie fell to the ground with a cry, her shoulder an agony.
Several days later Cammie lay on her couch half dozing through a sitcom. She was propped up on pillows, full of chicken curry, and feeling the results of the pain meds prescribed to her following her shoulder surgery. Through that fuzzy sleep inducing haze, she saw her boss Sheriff Eldridge walk into the room.
“Crap, I’m so fired.” Cammie thought, as she tried to look alert and cop-like. She then realized she was wearing bright orange pajamas with fuchsia flamingos perched throughout the flannel fabric, Vibrant green, glittered toe socks graced her feet.
“Well rookie,” Her boss said as he sat on the wing chair opposite her, raising a quizzical eyebrow at her attire. “We normally don’t let the newbies catch bad guys around here until they’ve been with us at least a couple of years, and then we usually have to take turns. You stole Crimshaw’s turn.”
“Tell Crimshaw he can have my next two turns,” Cammie said.
“I’ll tell him just that.” The sheriff stood. “I wanted to inform you that the state is footing your medical bills. Your catching their escaped prisoner, despite your unorthodox way of subduing him, saved them a lot of man hours.” He turned his hat in his hands. “There’ll be an investigation, especially since you broke Mr. Johnson’s nose, but you’ve got a solid witness in the store owner. Answer the questions, be honest, but…”
“But what sir?”
“You may want to not mention your high school softball career or the three state championships you helped win.
“No anecdotes about my softball skills, got it.”
Sherriff Eldridge bit back a smile. ”You get better fast rookie. I don’t want to pull Atkinson out of retirement.”
“Sir, he’s 87 and has been in a nursing home for six months!”
Sheriff Eldridge laughed at her outraged expression. “Then no lifting, toting or picking up fallen parents until the doctor says so.”
Cammie stared at her boss. How did he know? She wondered if her mother had told her boss’s wife. Tammy Eldridge and her mother had grown up together.
Ah life in a small town, she thought, where your secrets are everyone’s business. She’d ask her mother later about who she’d blabbed to, but for now her brain was telling her to nap. Turning her attention back to her boss she asked. “So I’m not fired?”
No.” The sheriff tried to ignore the cat who was winding his way around his legs. “But I plan on seeing that the only injury you sustain for the first three months you get back are paper cuts. Until you get some more experience and training under your belt, that is.”
Cammie, sighed in relief, unable to hide her smile. “Yay, more filing.” She said with sleepy sarcasm. She closed her eyes a moment as she fought the drug that urged her to sleep, then opened them again. “Sir?”
“Can you take that excuse for a walker that my mom keeps insisting on using and make it permanently disappear?”
“Done.” he said as he watched his employee drift off to sleep.
Sahara jumped up onto the couch next to Cammie, walked onto her lap where he sat staring at the Sheriff for a moment. Deciding things were in order, he then curled up on Cammie’s lap making sure his head was under his mistress’s free hand before beginning to purr loudly as the sheriff left the room.