I Found A Knife

A Story site from EldonHughes

Chapter Ten --
Oh Goody, A Quest...

Spit it out, son.”

We’d been driving north for about an hour.  I spent the first half hour being pissed.  I felt like I was being lead around by the nose, with no idea what the destination was.  I spent the next half hour watching the sunset, and trying to ask the right questions that would get me the answers I needed, without adding to the grip on my nose.

I thought carefully before asking, “Singer said you are the only one he trusts.”

Max nodded.  “Yeah, I guess that’s so.   Not certain why.”

I don’t understand,” I said.

I’ve known Boone all my life.  I can remember sitting in the bleachers watching him play basketball his senior year.  I was the youngest in my family. .. Seven kids, two of  ‘em boys.  My older brother was on the team with him.”

I remember a picture of them from the library,” I said.  “I was thinking back at the house that I wouldn’t have known Mr. Singer from that old photo.  Everybody in it was so young and strong looking.”

Nobody in it was 90 yet.”

True enough,” I nodded.  “Do you know the picture I’m talking about?  Which one was your brother?”

Max nodded.  “The tallest one.  The one in the middle, back, with the curly hair.”

Max turned the lights on and pointed the car into a long hairpin curve before continuing.  “The one that didn’t come back from the war.”

I’m sorry?” I asked.

After graduation five of them joined the Army together.  Well, three of ‘em joined, after the other two got drafted.  Which is funny because the two that got drafted were the two that didn’t make it out of boot camp.  One of them, Archie Wallace, failed a physical screening in camp.  They found cancer in his lungs.  Eighteen years old.  He died before he was 20.  Danny Austin broke both his legs falling off a wall on the obstacle course.  They discharged him and sent him home even before the casts came off.  The other three; Boone, my brother Mark, and Harry Nolan, graduated from boot camp together, and rode a train with a bunch of other soldiers to San Francisco.  Last week of August, '45, they boarded a troop ship bound for Guam.  Halfway there they got the word that the Japanese had surrendered.    They got to Guam, the boat refueled, then turned around and sailed back to the states two weeks later. I guess about half the soldiers stayed and went on to somewhere in Japan for what they called, 'clean up operations.'  Our boys rode the boat back to the states. They were discharged in just over a year.  Harry never came back to the Hollow.  Boone came home to a hero’s welcome.”  Max gave a short bark of laughter.  “Hero.  For taking a boat ride.”

What happened to Mark?” I asked.

  Max took another one of those quick looks at me, his eyes bright in the fading sunlight.  “The soldiers during the crossing were assigned to whatever menial, “keep busy” job the officers could find for them, cleaning, painting, cooking, hauling out the trash…. Trash was just tossed over the fantail in those days.  They’d pile bags on the ass end of the ship, against the fence chains, the rails they called ‘em, then rip holes in the bags to let the air out, or weight ‘em down, and throw them overboard.  One of Mark’s letters, from the trip to Guam said that, one afternoon they tossed all the trash overboard without letting the air out.  Then the ship made a tight circle and some of the troops lined the rail and used the floating bags for target practice.  Can you imagine?  A couple hundred guys blowing the hell out of a bunch of trash?”

Something had gone flat in Max’s voice.  I watched him as he went on.

On the trip back they did the weapons practice drill again.  The war was over, but I guess the Army wanted them to stay sharp in case another one broke out on the ride home. 

"The lieutenant who told us about it said that it was just after dawn.  The trash got piled and tossed overboard, the soldiers lined up as the ship came around and they opened fire.  Somewhere in the first few seconds people started screaming ‘cease fire’, but it was too late.  No one knows how he wound up going overboard, or how he managed to survive the fall.  I’ve seen a troop ship like that.  It’s like falling off a five story building.  But there he was, holding on to a couple trash bags, trying to stay afloat.  Nobody saw him.  Light wasn't cleaar enough to make him out until he started waving.  But they were already firing.”

Dear God,” I said softly.  “How could that happen?”

Yeah,” Max said.  “That’s what I asked, too, about a hundred times.  God hasn’t gotten back to me yet.”

We rode on in silence.  I didn’t know what to say, and had forgotten whatever it was I wanted to ask.

After a bit, Max continued.  “I guess, when Mark died, Boone decided to kind of adopt me.  Make me his charge, or something.  He watched over me while I was in school.  Korea was over just before I graduated high school.  I went to college and got a waiver from the draft.  Became a pharmacist.  I came back to town and went to work in the drug store.  A few years later the bank, meaning Boone, gave me the loan to buy the old druggist out.  I ran the place right up until a few years ago, when that big box store came in and bought me out.” 

Max laughed, suddenly  “It was almost the shortest loan deal ol’ Boone ever made,” he said.

What do you mean?”

I damn near died the night after we signed the paperwork.  It was ‘club night’ for Boone and the boys.  Boone said that, seein’ as how it was a special occasion, me being a new business owner and all, I ought to come up and have a drink with them.  It was ‘Hawaiian Night’  or ‘Polynesian Night’ or some such.  Doesn’t matter.  Only part that matters is that they were having these fruit drinks.  Rum, and juice and little paper umbrellas served by cute little girls in grass skirts.  Turns out the juice was pineapple. 

"Did you know that something like 2% of the people in the world are allergic to pineapple?  And, point damn near nothing percent of those 2% are so allergic that just one swallow can send them into anaphylactic shock?    Marsh, my young friend, you are riding with a rare old bird indeed.  You’d think I’d have known, wouldn’t you?  I mean, paying attention to allergies was part of my job.  But I didn’t.  My parents were probably allergic to it, but I doubt they would have known it.  Hell, I don’t think we ever had pineapple in the Hollow until after World War II. 

Boy howdy, I tell you.  My throat closed up, my skin got all red and blotchy and I fell right over on the floor.  They said I dropped like a headshot buck. The boys got me to the hospital right quick, Boone riding in the back seat beside me, massaging my throat and thumping my chest, trying to keep me breathing.  I've never been so scared, before or since.  Anyway, maybe that’s why he figures he can trust me.  He’s always known that I’ve always known he saved my life that night.  Guess he figures that puts me in his ‘balance still outstanding’ column.”

Those big whitewall tires crunched and ground on the gravel as we stopped in front of the Morning Glory Café.  I got out and reached across the seat to shake his hand.

Just one more question tonight, Max,” I said.  “Why do you think I can find this Riley?”

I don’t. But you can find her child.”

I can?”

Sure,” he said.  He looked up at me and smiled.  “You already have.  You just don’t know it.  Keep doing what you’re doing.  You’ll figure out where to look.”

He let out the clutch and rolled away in that beautiful old Auburn.  Me?  I went home and tore up my basement.

Up Next:  1956, For the Last Time

 

 


 

Book One of the Poison and Wine series by C.H. Valentino and Eldon Hughes.

    There's a battle underway in New Orleans. It's a game being played between the voodoo Barons Samedi and LaCroix.

    Danni Toussaint has a nail in her chest, the mark of her debt to The Baron Samedi. To repay him, she steals souls.

   Michael Belew works for the Sisters of New Orleans. Nuns in the 9th Ward are missing, and he suspects voodoo is the cause.  He's desperate.

    He drafts Danni to help find them. Now they are pawns in the Baron's game.

There is no winning the game. There's only survival. But even that could cost Michael his soul.

Available NOW at:
Kobo
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
iBooks

 

 Other Available Tales

--"Willie & Frank"

~~~~

I Found a Knife

More stories on the web:

CHValentino

Strange Horizons

Yours, Mine, Ours

Shadow Unit

Software for Starving Authors --

Tech4Writers.net

Sites of (Writing) interest--

Absolutewrite

AuthorScoop

KillerNashville