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 Author Thread: The Desolate Highway - A rather long short story...
 Automatic Slim
Joined: 4/29/2009
Msg: 7 (view)
The Desolate Highway - A rather long short story...
Posted: 11/3/2012 3:18:00 PM
Chapter 7 - Dog Days

I got the highway in my left hand
My suitcase in my right
This livin' on the 2-lane's gettin’ old
I've given up the sunshine
For artificial light
Surely time's gonna have to take its toll

- Hot Rod Steve & Dr. Watson “Makin’ a Livin’ (Killin’ Me)”

Red Dog came awake slowly, by stages. The pounding in his head was immense and his stomach was turning cartwheels. He groaned and rolled over onto his back, fighting off the urge to vomit. He closed his eyes against the light that was jabbing ice picks into his brain and wondered what in the hell he was thinking of yesterday. This was no way to get off the radar – getting drunk and trashing peoples’ houses. He’d have to get himself under control if he wanted to remain free.

He rolled over onto his side and pushed up off the floor and onto the sofa, taking shallow breaths as his stomach churned again. It was looking like a losing battle for The Dog this time. He uttered a weak “****….” and, leaning over the side of the sofa, threw up on the bones of a splintered end table.

After a few minutes he felt good enough to stand up and stagger his way into the kitchen. Kicking through the debris of his drunken demolition, Red Dog began rummaging through the cupboards and refrigerator, placing an odd collection of items on the counter: eggs, a mostly empty bottle of Worcestershire sauce, a jar of dill pickles, a container of Morton salt, two cans of V-8, a bottle of Tabasco sauce and a jar of sauerkraut. He cracked two eggs into a blender, added the V-8, half the juice from the dill pickle jar, about the same amount of juice from the jar of sauerkraut, the remaining contents of the Worcestershire bottle and a good helping of salt and the entire bottle of Tabasco and hit the power button.

Nothing happened.

He jabbed at the buttons on the machine another half dozen times before realizing there was still no electricity.

"****in' balls." he muttered under his breath. He started pulling drawers out and dropping them onto the kitchen floor. Finally one of them had what he wanted - a wire whisk. He rummaged through the cupboards again until he located a 2 quart pitcher, into which he dumped the contents of the blender and proceeded to whip it into some semblance of a hangover remedy with the whisk.

He poured a tall glass of this bizarre concoction and drained half of it in one gulp while staring out the window at the perfectly landscaped and manicured back yard. He grimaced at the taste, chugged the rest of the glass and poured himself another. For some inexplicable reason the sight of the perfectly tended yard irritated him. There was too much order out there; too much symmetry. He walked out to the dining room and started collecting his gear.

Monday. he thought, Gawd I hate Mondays.

Upstairs, The Dog ransacked the closets of the three bedrooms. ****in’ suits n ties. Metro sexual crap. Rummaging through the drawers wasn’t much better, except for the Lady of the House’s unmentionables. He picked up a handful of brightly colored thong panties and rubbed them over his face, breathing deeply. Ah! Too bad the whore ain’t home. We coulda had us some good times.

He dropped the underwear to the floor and, seeing that the people who lived here weren’t in the least outdoors types, he decided to look elsewhere for his needs. His first stop was a Sam’s Club out on 6/50, where he stocked up on food, beer, scotch, and little luxuries like toilet paper and soap. He also snagged half a dozen 5 gallon gas cans and some cargo netting. Next was the Shell station down the street where he filled the explorer’s tank and the extra gas cans with his hand pump. He strapped the gas cans to the luggage rack with the cargo netting and headed south on US 50 across the river and over to Orchard Mesa where he found a few pawn shops.

He had to trash the security doors and smash the glass doors to gain entry, but that was no problem. He picked up a Mossberg 590 and a Colt AR-15, along with a Beretta M9 and a Sig Sauer P229. Down the road a bit further he saw an outdoor shop and stocked up on 9mm, .357 and 12 gauge ammunition, along with a couple of sub-zero sleeping bags, a tent, boots, gloves, heavy jackets and winter pants and cooking gear. With his vehicle loaded up to capacity and beyond, Red Dog figured he was as ready as he could be for the desert winter. He headed south on 50 to the 141 junction and rolled on down the two-lane toward Gateway.

The longer he drove without seeing a single living thing, the more The Dog’s unease grew. After leaving the skeleton of Naturita behind him, he decided on a change of plans. He had been thinking about his revelation the night before, if you can consider a bright sunny day to be night, that is. While this wasn’t exactly the most traveled highway in the country – one of the main reasons The Dog had chosen this route to begin with – it was just plain eerie not to even see a bird or a cow. His logic, fuzzy during the best of times, was that, while it seemed that the world had been completely emptied of life, if he was here, others would be here.

It was just a matter of finding them.

He seemed to recall seeing a couple of cars heading east after the flashing lights incident, which seemed to have been the point at which all life had been erased from the planet. Maybe he would hold off on the desert hide-out scenario and instead, go looking for whoever was leftover. Instead of turning right onto US 491 (he had liked this highway better when it was US 666 – the Devil’s Highway), he made a left and started back south and east. He rolled into Cortez 20 minutes later only to find it just as empty as everywhere else.

Parked in the middle of Main St., Red Dog made himself a ham sandwich which he washed down with a lukewarm beer. After lunch he decided to test out his armaments. He walked down the street with the Mossberg, pumping shot into storefronts, cars parked along the curbs, street signs, and benches. While the destruction was somewhat satisfying, he felt a need for something more. He walked back and got the AR-15 and sprayed 9 mm slugs into the front of a Nissan SUV until the clip was emptied and the SUV was “deceased” so to speak. Killing buildings and cars wasn’t as satisfying as he had thought it might be. The racket hadn’t brought any looky-loos or law enforcement and seemed pretty anti-climactic. Red Dog loaded back up and headed east on 160 to Durango.

Another deserted town, another empty highway, Durango was just as disappointing as Cortez had been. After shooting out storefronts and restaurant windows on Main Avenue, 8th Street and 2nd Avenue, Red Dog found himself outside the Durango Police Department. He grinned as he reloaded both the Mossberg and the AR.

“I’m turnin’ myself in!” he shouted as he walked up the sidewalk. “Don’t shoot, I’m unarmed!” and so saying, he pumped two rounds from the Mossberg through the double glass doors. He walked through the building, methodically destroying computer monitors, vending machines, coffee makers and water dispensers. He spotted a line of 8 x 10 framed photographs of cops along one wall, some kind of “Pig Hall of Fame” he supposed, and shot half a dozen rounds from the AR through each of them, shattering glass and obliterating faces with glee.

“Where are the ****in’ donuts?” he shouted as he strode down the hallway. “I’m hungry for some god-damn donuts!” He stopped in front of a door emblazoned with a plaque that read ‘Henry Goldstein – Chief of Police’ and reloaded. With both weapons at the ready he kicked the door in shouting “I surrender!” and began shooting at everything in the room. “God-damn kike **stard didn’t even have the decency to be here when I come to visit.” he growled as the chief’s desk chair disintegrated under his barrage of gunfire.

Down another hall, he found the lock-up facility, empty of course, and the keys to the cell doors. "Call me Moses." he said to the emptiness. "Let my people go!" He walked down the row of cells, unlocking each one and blasting the cots and the stainless steel toilets with the Mossberg before moving on to the next. "I hate criminals anyway. Useless ****s."

Back out on the street, Red Dog decided it was time to blow this popsicle stand. It was just another dead end. He filled up his gas tank and headed south on US-550 toward Farmington, New Mexico.
 Automatic Slim
Joined: 4/29/2009
Msg: 6 (view)
The Desolate Highway - A rather long short story...
Posted: 10/3/2012 9:56:11 PM
Chapter 6. Battlegrounds

Hear me holler down the mountainside
I’m near the sky blinking at the evil eye
Hear me holler at the city’s grind
It stole my soul, just about lost my mind

- Steppenwolf “Foggy Mental Breakdown”

Michael sat on the couch bored out of his mind. There was no TV to watch, no PS3, no computer. He decided that life without electricity was paramount to cruel and inhuman punishment. Sandra was lost to the world in one of her “Twilight” books and his mom was in her bedroom doing who knows what. He heaved a heavy sigh and stared out the window at the empty street. He had tried to amuse himself earlier with his guitar, but without electricity the little Fender Squier Strat sounded tinny and unsatisfying to his ears.

He looked at his watch for about the millionth time that evening. It showed 10/21/2012 9:07 PM on the digital readout. He sighed again.

Sandra looked up from her book. “Why don’t you find a book to read or something?”

“What? Like your fluffy vampires? No thanks!” He turned to stare out the window again.

“Well maybe you could sigh a little quieter then because it’s really kinda annoying.”

Michael looked at his sister, an angry retort forming behind his lips, but for some odd reason he didn’t feel like baiting her into an argument right now. Any other time it would have been the natural thing to do, but he just didn’t seem to be in the mood for it. He got up and went up stairs to his room without a word.

Sandra watched him go with a raised eyebrow. She had expected some smart-ass remark about her mental shortcomings or emotional instability but there had been nothing. Not even a derogatory comment about her favorite books. She half shrugged and went back to reading about Bella and Edward and their impending “little stranger”.

Michael plumped down on his bed and stared up at the ceiling. This had to have been the longest day ever. He missed his dad; missed the off the wall things they had talked about together. Sure, dad’s stuff about what was wrong with the country and the world and all had started getting really out there, like out in the neighborhood of Pluto, right around the time mom dropped him like a hot rock, but it was never dull. I bet he’d have plenty of theories on what was going on right now. Most likely government conspiracies or divine wrath or something creepy like that.

He got up and went to the window, which overlooked the backyard. His eyes were drawn to the tree house his father had built for him when he was eight. That had been his favorite hangout for two years, and his best friends Ricky Jackson and Don Thatcher had thought he had the coolest dad in town. Mike knew better. Sure his dad was cool, but there towards the end he had been losing his cool on a more and more frequent basis.

Paranoia. His mind tossed the word out there before he could block it off. Yeah, dad went and got himself a bad case of the heebie jeebies and lit out for the territories.

It was as good an explanation as any. His eyes raised up to the nearly cloudless sky. Why does it have to be so bright? I’ll never get to sleep. This whole thing just plain sucks the big one.

He checked his watch again. 9:16 PM. He closed the drapes with another sigh and started to undress for bed. It was a little better, a little darker and he was starting to feel a bit tired. Maybe he’d sleep after all.

Unfortunately, about ten minutes after he’d crawled into bed, and just as he was finally starting to nod off, Sandy and his mom started in on one of their classic yelling matches. Michael didn’t have to wonder what it was about: they were always about the same thing. Even if they seemed to be about something else on the surface they were always about dad. He wondered if Sandy had slept through the last three years dad was still around. How could she not have seen the craziness that had crept into their father’s eyes and mind?

The shouting lasted almost five minutes and ended, as usual, with Sandy storming up the stairs to her room and slamming the door.

Ten minutes, he thought to himself. Then the soft knock at the door, followed by apologies and tears and all sorts of blubbering on both their parts. Frickin’ wonderful.

Sandra stood with her back pressed against the door, willing herself not to cry. Not this time! Not ever again!

Everything had been just fine until her mother had laid out the plan for tomorrow. Tom was going to come and stay here at the house for a while and Sandra was supposed to make sure the downstairs guest room was clean and ready for occupation.

So, now that dad’s gone she can get this Tom guy to move in and take his place? This is bullshit!

She threw her paperback copy of “Breaking Dawn” across the room, where it hit the wall and fell to the floor with a thump. Bullshit!

She wanted her family back the way it was before… before mom ruined everything! Why does she have to be such a hard-nosed, always right, Grade-A, number one ****? No wonder dad left. I oughtta leave too. Just pick up and go … somewhere. I wish I knew where dad was; I could go there.

Yeah, abducted by the aliens he used to rant about, her mind shot back at her.

Shut up! There were no aliens! No rants! They made all that up to make him look bad, so just shut up!

Yeah, Sandy, they made it all up. That’s why dad bought all those guns and quit his job and started hangin’ out with the psycho-baby killer types, right?

There weren’t any psycho-baby killers. That’s just more bullshit too. Mom made ‘em out to be bad guys, but they were just guys dad hung out with and mom was jealous of them getting more of dad’s time than she got. That’s all it was! That’s all! The rest was just … bullshit!

She shuddered and crossed her arms below her breasts in a self hug. She knew it was all true. The conspiracy theorists and alien abduction whackos, the end of the world alarmists and the load-up-on-guns-and-ammo-and-hole-up-in-the-mountains nut jobs. All true. She knew, but she couldn’t allow herself to believe. This was her daddy! The man who used to toss her up in the air and catch her, the man who used to blow raspberries on her belly, making her giggle until she almost peed her pants, the man who could fix anything from a broken tricycle to a bloody scraped knee. She wouldn’t listen to anything bad about him or allow anyone to sully his memory.

He was her hero.

She walked across the room and picked up her book, straightening bent pages. She found her place and inserted the bookmark before setting the book on her night stand. Sitting on the edge of her bed, she set her jaw in determination. She wasn’t going to let her mother come in here and smooth things over like she always did. There wasn’t going to be any give and take tonight. No shared tears.

Tonight was going to be different.

Twenty minutes later, after her mom had left the room quietly, after they had talked and cried and laughed a little together, after they had made things better between them – not perfect, and not “right”, but better, Sandra lay under the covers thinking about alien abductions and government conspiracies; survivalist groups and weird religious cults.

For the first time she let herself consider mental illness as well. Maybe her mom was right; maybe dad was sick and needed help. Maybe mom had tried to coax him into seeking out that help. Maybe she was pointing fingers in the wrong direction after all.

She blew her nose for the twentieth time, rolled over onto her side, and two minutes later her light snores were the only sound in the room.

Angie quietly closed her daughter’s bedroom door, walked quietly down the hall to Michael’s room and softly knocked on his door.

“Yeah,” she heard him say through the door, “come on in mom.”

Leaving the door slightly ajar behind her, she walked to the side of the bed and sat down, studying her son’s eyes in the gloom of the darkened room.

“Sounded like you and Sandy had another nice little chat.” He knew better than to rub salt into the wounds, but for whatever reason, he just couldn’t resist.

“Mind your business young man. That’s between your sister and I and is no concern of yours.”

“Yeah, okay. Sorry. It’s just getting to be such a regular thing with you guys … “

Angie reached out and touched his cheek lightly. “I know, and I’m sorry you have to be kind of in the middle of it.” She drew in a deep breath. “Sandra’s just … “

“In denial. That’s pretty obvious.”

“Yeah, it is, isn’t it? And it’s not healthy for her to go on with the notion that your father never did anything wrong, was perfect in every way and didn’t have some pretty severe psychological issues.”

“He had the heebie-jeebies. Even I know what that means: paranoia.” Michael raised one hand and extended the index finger, making circles at his temple.

“Michael Dean White! That’s not nice at all!”

“No, but it’s true.”

Angie sighed, looking at her troubling, yet sometimes brilliantly intuitive son. “Yes, but that doesn’t mean you get to be disrespectful about it.” She stood up, leaned over and kissed his cheek. “Goodnight Michael.”

“’Night mom.”

Back downstairs, Angie checked the front and back doors, making sure the locks were set. The house was deathly still without the hum of the fridge, the whir of the furnace or the faint sounds of traffic from Monaco Parkway and I-25. She went down the hall to her bedroom, flipping the light switch on out of habit and then flipping it back off when nothing happened. She walked around to the far side of her bed, sat down and opened the top drawer of the nightstand. The Kel-Tec .32 gleamed dully in the dimness of the drawer. She sat looking at it for a few moments, then reached in and picked it up. She released the clip, set it on the nightstand and pulled back the slide to check that the magazine was empty.

Earlier that evening she had spent almost an hour reacquainting herself with the pistol, but now she felt drawn to it again in the stillness of the house. She released the slide and lowered the hammer, then slid the clip back into the base of the handgrip, double checking the safety. She got up and went into the bathroom, set the Kel-Tec on the counter and proceeded to perform her nightly ablutions. Every so often she would glance at the pistol lying on the counter. Occasionally she would reach out and touch it lightly, as if to reassure herself it was really there.

Having a handgun in the house hadn’t seemed all that important to her last year, or last month, or even last week. Right now, though, she was glad it was there. Maybe it was just the stillness she felt weighing down on her, or the absence of thousands, no … millions of people. There was a sense of foreboding that she couldn’t seem to shake off. After rinsing her toothbrush and the sink, with more than a few glances at the .32 during the process, she picked up the Kel-Tec once again and walked back to her bed, closed the drawer of the nightstand and placed the gun on top.

As troublesome as her children could be at times she would stop at nothing to protect them from harm. It was that age-old mother instinct.

God help anyone who comes between this she-bear and her cubs! She thought to herself as she closed the drapes and began undressing for bed, still stealing occasional glances at the gun lying on the nightstand. That includes you, Mr. Tom Cooper. Just sayin’.
 Automatic Slim
Joined: 4/29/2009
Msg: 58 (view)
Interracial Dating-Just Curious
Posted: 10/3/2012 5:54:26 AM
I don't see anything at all "wrong" with interracial marriage or interracial dating. Follow your heart and be with whomever you choose to be with.
 Automatic Slim
Joined: 4/29/2009
Msg: 5 (view)
The Desolate Highway - A rather long short story...
Posted: 10/1/2012 8:16:33 PM
Chapter 5. Dark thoughts on a bright sunny evening

Woman, grab your children, run and hide
Don’t let it catch up with you
You’ve got to fight it to stay alive
And if it gets you, man you’re through
It smells so rotten and rank
Well everybody calls it the squank

- ZZ Top “Squank”

After breaking into his house via the third window from the back on the west side, which had a broken latch, Tom went out to the garage with his motorcycle keys. He had just ridden it the Thursday before and knew the battery was in good shape. He inserted the key into the ignition and turned it to the On position. The headlamp remained dark and lifeless. He walked around to the left side, bumped the shifter into neutral. The green neutral light refused to light up. Without much hope, he pressed the starter switch. Nothing. He switched off the ignition and removed the key.

He walked down the stairs to the basement and through the door to the utility room. Kneeling in front of the water heater, he checked the pilot light. It was out. So was the pilot on the furnace. Back upstairs he opened the fireplace doors, twisted the gas feed to the ‘Light’ position, lit his lighter, held it in front of the pilot burner and pushed the knob in. Gas flowed from the tube and the pilot lit up. He held the knob in for the 30 seconds required to heat the thermocouple and then released it. The pilot remained lit. He twisted the knob all the way to the left and the flow of gas increased and burst into flame under the fake logs.

Tom sat back and watched the flames for a few minutes and then turned the knob back to the off position. He sighed and shook his head as he got up and went to the fridge, expecting to find steadily warming food, drinks and condiments. Instead everything was still perfectly cold as if the power was still on. The only thing missing was the little fridge light. The few items in the freezer were still frozen solid, just like at Angie’s. Tom scratched his head in puzzlement, pulled a Fat Tire off the refrigerator shelf and popped its top.

Walking over to the kitchen sink, he set the beer down on the counter and turned on the hot water. After a few moments the water flowing over his fingers turned from cool to hot. He turned the faucet off, picked up his beer and walked down the hallway to his bedroom. He opened the top drawer of his night stand and lifted out a Springfield Arms 1911 handgun, released the clip to check the loads and then slid the clip back into place.

Out in the back yard, he downed the rest of his beer and set the bottle near the back fence. He walked a dozen paces away, turned, chambered a round, thumbed the safety off, aimed and fired. The pistol bucked in his hand and the bottle shattered. The echoes of the report died away to silence. Tom nodded in satisfaction and went back inside to get another beer.

He picked up one of his acoustic guitars on the way back out the back door, sat down in one of his deck chairs and, after a nice long pull off the bottle, started plunking around on the guitar. At first he wasn’t really playing any song, just moving through some chords and noodling a few scales. After a few minutes his random noodling morphed into an old Deep Purple tune called “Lazy.”

He worked his way through a few old Stones and Eagles tunes as he worked his way through his beer. He didn’t sing any of them. His mind was too busy with trying to puzzle out the situation. He always seemed to think clearer while playing. Right now he was thinking about how they were going to get themselves back to “normal” time, as well as the dangers that might lurk out there in this unknown fissure that they had found themselves in.

The phenomenon happened once. Does that mean it can happen again? What are the chances of it happening? Is there a temporal limitation on where it can happen? How do we go about finding it again? Go back through the canyon? Is it a matter of both place and time? Could it be possible that the aperture or portal or whatever it was is still there? That it hasn’t really stopped happening and if we were to drive back through it, we can get back to real time?

His hands smoothly transitioned from one song to the next, going from ZZ Top’s ‘Fool For Your Stockings’ to ‘Down to the Waterline’ by Dire Straits.

Dire Straits. I hope it doesn’t come to that, but things aren’t really what they seem to be now. Water, for instance. Up close it seems to flow in its normal fashion, but the rivers and streams and small waterfalls all had that queer shimmering, shutter-stop photography effect. There’s no power, but refrigerated and frozen things all seem to be keeping their temperature like the power’s still on. The battery in the bike is dead, just like the cop car and the jeep. All the pilot lights are out, but the gas still flows and burns if you relight it. Bullets still fire, which is probably a big plus.

Tom got up, set the guitar down next to his chair and went back into the house. In the kitchen, he rummaged through the junk drawer and got a fresh 9 volt Duracell. Back in the basement, he picked up the small battery powered practice amp off of the right side PA speaker cabinet and flipped the power on. The power lamp remained dark. He opened the back of the little Mini Marshall, pulled out the battery and replaced it with the fresh one from the kitchen drawer. The lamp remained dark when he switched it back on again. He set the amp back on the speaker cabinet.

Okay, electricity doesn’t seem to be functional here, except in the vehicles we were in at the time. There’s something wrong with this picture. Electricity flows, like water, along the path of least resistance. If water still flows, and natural gas still flows, why doesn’t electricity flow? Water and gas are pressurized. Batteries, in a sense, are pressurized electricity. The AC lines, I can understand not working: that requires generators and such to create the electricity and the electrical ‘pressure’ needed for it to flow, but why not batteries?

He was standing in the middle of his living room, staring at a large piece of iron ore on his mantelpiece. This chunk of rock had a vein of quartz running through it, and in the center of the quartz, splitting it in half, was a thin vein of gold. Tom had found it in the long-disused incinerator in the back yard of his previous house, along with some semi-petrified squirrels, a carburetor off of a mid 70’s Ford of one flavor or other, and a whole lot of dead and decaying leaves.

When she was younger, his daughter had loved sticking magnets to this rock and experimenting with the magnetic forces. There had been three magnets stuck to it for the last four years. Two of the magnets were now lying on either side of the rock on the mantel. The third was lying on the carpet in the angle between the fireplace, the coffee table, and the couch.

Tom walked over and picked them up. He held them over the chunk of iron. There was no pull of magnetic force. He held the magnets toward each other, expecting either the time honored attraction or opposition that magnets inevitably display toward one another. There was nothing. Tom tapped the erstwhile magnets together a few times and then set them back on the mantel shelf.

There’s something very, very wrong here. Something … he shook his head for what seemed like the millionth time that long day. He couldn’t quite put his finger on the problem. He was also too tired to continue puzzling it out. He went down the hall to his bedroom, undressed and crawled under the covers. His waterbed mattress also seemed to be retaining a steady temperature, even without electrical power to keep the heater pad under the mattress working. His battery powered alarm clock, however, said it was 11:26 and the second hand was motionless. Glancing at his wristwatch as he took it off, he noted that it was 9:48 PM.

He thought he would drop off to sleep as soon as his head hit the pillow, but instead he lay awake for more than an hour, his mind turning around and around the puzzle of electricity and magnetism verses water and natural gas. After awhile his thoughts turned toward Angie. She was a pretty lady, and seemed to be level-headed and not prone to hysterics and overly dramatic scene creating. Things his ex had been pretty good at. No, Angie had seemed pretty calm through the whole thing. A touch frightened, but so was he. Who the hell wouldn’t be?

The kids had been pretty cool headed about everything too. No outbursts or tears or complaining.

Well, Mike and his football and boredom, but the kid was 11. He was bound to complain about being bored. It really hadn’t seemed all that much like complaining, now that he looked back on it. More like a very familiar little game between him and Angie. Sandy had gone on being your average 13 year old, picking on her brother and concerning herself with her music more than anything else. She was going to have her mother’s looks. Was already well on her way, really.

Poor Angie! he thought with a grin. She better get herself a shotgun and some rock salt real soon.

Tom’s own daughter Lisa was 15 now, and while she’d had a few boyfriends, there was never anyone steady, and those boyfriends had really been more like boys who were friends instead of the intimate variety. Lisa seemed more interested in cars and motorcycles and handguns than boys. It was just that boys and cars and motorcycles and handguns all seemed to go together. The other girls at her school weren’t into those things. They were into boys and make-up and clothes and boys and volleyball and gymnastics and boys.

I guess that makes me the lucky one, Tom mused.

His mind drifted back to the problems at hand and the anomaly of electricity and magnetism. After another ten minutes of troubled thought and still no closer to an answer, he finally dropped off to sleep.
 automatic slim
Joined: 4/29/2009
Msg: 4 (view)
The Desolate Highway - A rather long short story...
Posted: 9/29/2012 7:24:07 PM
Chapter 4. Grand Junction, CO - 6:57 PM

Yeah, ah huh, you better duck and run
Get under cover 'cause a change is come
Storm warnings and it looks like rain
Be nothin' left after the hurricane
Out there's a jungle, it ain't no lie
Look at the people, they got terror in their eyes
Bad wind is comin' and it can't be denied
They're runnin' with the dogs and afraid to die

- Buddy Guy "Change In The Weather"

Red Dog was over his initial unease at the emptiness he had found on the highway and in the towns he passed through. In fact, he was pretty happy with the circumstances. If there weren't any people that meant there wasn't anyone chasing after him, no cops, no MPs, no FBI or Federal Marshalls. Nobody.

After pulling into the Amoco station in Rifle and finding it just as empty and devoid of power as the Tomahawk station in Glenwood, as empty as the highway had been, the Dog had taken stock of the situation and decided further investigation was in order. If his suspicions were correct, he was the only person around; the only game in town as it were. He had checked out a few other business establishments, hotels, restaurants. All empty. He'd found an O'Reilly Auto Parts store and helped himself to a barrel pump, a 100 foot spool of 3/4" rubber hose and a couple of hose clamps. Then he had gone back to the gas station, lifted the covers from the underground tank fill ports and fed one end of the hose down into it. When he felt he had enough hose in the tank he cut it with his belt knife, attached the end to the barrel pump and cinched it down with a hose clamp. He cut another 3 foot piece off the remaining hose, attached one end to the outlet port on the pump and pushed the other end into the Explorer's gas tank. After about ten minutes of steady cranking on the pump handle he had a full tank of gas and an open road ahead of him.

When he had rolled into Grand Junction an hour later his first stop was the nearest liquor store on Horizon Drive. He grabbed a case of Budweiser and a 5th of Jim Beam. Now he was in some rich schmuck's house enjoying a steak he had grilled on the rich schmuck's Weber kettle and getting pleasantly schnockered.

He was rethinking his desert getaway vacation now that the heat seemed to not only be off, but completely erased from existence. The world was his oyster. Anything he wanted was his for the taking. There would be no consequences, no investigations, no punishments, no backwater judges or their pimply faced nephews, no courts martial and no Leavenworth. It was open season and he was looking forward to a lot of fun.

His thoughts took him back to his childhood, to the days when his silly Baptist mother would haul him to church to hear how God had set up a place full of fire and brimstone, unspeakable tortures and endless torment where you would be placed, screaming in eternal agony if you turned away from Him. But He loves you. That part had been the Dog's favorite. Tough love. That God guy had a pretty good plan there.

There was another part of the old bible lessons that he had admired as an adolescent: the part about the Beast. Ol' number 666 was one bad-ass son of a ****. God was going to take all the good little sheep off the Earth and let ol' 666 have his way with the world. That was going to be some heavy duty action there. Action the Dog could sink his teeth into.

Whoa now! Hold up there Pilgrim. Ain't everybody gone now? The Dog turned that thought over in his mind. It seemed a bit backwards though. Wasn't there supposed to be just a small number of the 'righteous' gettin' the one way flight tickets to Paradise and a whole lot of mean, ugly, nasty people left standin' in the concourse after the last spiritual space shuttle left the jet port?

Well, that really didn't matter. People have been getting all this stuff wrong for thousands of years. Take that nut job who predicted the rapture was gonna happen last April 21st, for instance. What a ****in' joke! Then he changed his tune when nothin' happened as the whole world watched nothin' happen, moved the date back to October 21st. He pretty much dropped off the face of the planet when nothin' happened then either.

Isn't today the 21st? his mind threw back at him. Maybe the crazy mother****er was right. He just got the year wrong. Now all that's left is a dead world with a crazy sun that won't move and gadgets that won't work.

Red Dog rose unsteadily to his feet and staggered around the lavish living room. "That's gotta be it!" he exclaimed to no one. "These are the End Times and The Beast is gonna take the reins and whip this world into shape!"

He stumbled against an intricately carved mahogany end table, sending a fancy ceramic table lamp crashing to the polished oak floor. He kicked the table out of his way and swept a row of porcelain nick-nacs off of a shelf, watching them shatter as they struck the floor.

"Yeah, baby! It's Grinch-time in Whoville!" he shouted to the empty room.

He staggered through the house, shoving furniture out of his way, throwing expensive looking dood-dads at expensive looking what-nots, tearing expensive looking paintings from their expensive looking frames, reveling in wanton destruction for destruction's sake. He grabbed the poker from the ornate fireplace tool set, hefted it, liking it's weight and balance. Room by room he charged through the ground floor of the two story home like a bull in a china shop, swinging the poker at anything, everything that looked breakable.

Suddenly he stopped, poker raised for a blow at the gold-trimmed bathroom mirror, looking at his reflection.

What if I'm the Beast? he thought at his reflection. What if I'm meant to take over this miserable excuse for a world and mold it into my own creation? Wouldn't that be a pisser? 'I made it Ma! Top of the world!' James Cagney eat your heart out!

As he wandered back down the hallway a sense of elation swept through him at the stunning revelation. Yes, this was his destiny, his raison d'etre.

He tripped over the up-ended coffee table in the den and fell to the plush carpet between the sofa and the fireplace, his thoughts fading out with his consciousness.
 automatic slim
Joined: 4/29/2009
Msg: 10 (view)
Beginngs of a true story for you to critique & Thank you!
Posted: 9/29/2012 7:20:53 PM
I enjoyed your story (so far) and would like to see how it ends. I hope you post more.
 automatic slim
Joined: 4/29/2009
Msg: 103 (view)
So why don't you play an instrument? (or do you?)
Posted: 9/24/2012 8:00:03 PM
Started with trumpet and cornet in grade school. Mom tried to teach us all some piano, but that didn't take hold for me. Picked up a guitar when I was 11, about a half a billion years ago, then the bass guitar, then drums for awhile. Played all three in various bands at one time or other, although the drumming job I prefer to leave to others. I can hold a beat, but I never gave it enough attention to become proficient at the fills. After a few years on the road from town to town, bar to bar, music became a job and I began to lose interest in it. These days I mostly play guitar and bass. Still get together with a few preferred groups to jam and/or play the occasional gig. Keeps it fun and fresh instead of being work.
 automatic slim
Joined: 4/29/2009
Msg: 3 (view)
The Desolate Highway - A rather long short story...
Posted: 9/24/2012 7:27:52 PM
Chapter 3. I-70 Eastbound – 3:17 PM?

Time, time, time is on my side, yes it is

- The Rolling Stones "Time Is On My Side"

Time Enough At Last had been the name of that Twilight Zone episode, with good old Burgess Meredith as the hen pecked banker who wasn’t allowed to read. Burgess, the Penguin from the old Batman TV series. Burgess, the dirty old man in Grumpy Old Men who only seems able to think about beer, bacon and sex. Burgess with those thick glasses and an insatiable hunger for books, and when the nuclear holocaust occurs while he’s eating his lunch in the underground bank vault, he finds himself alone in the resulting desolation with a whole library of books all to himself. Up until he breaks his glasses that is. Yeah, Tom thought to himself, Time enough at last.

What seems to be happening here is also related to time isn’t it? Somehow time has come to a standstill, but the four of us are apparently unaffected by … by whatever has stopped time. No, that’s not quite right. Time hasn’t stopped: the people and the vehicles on the highways would still be there, they’d just be motionless, right? Maybe I should’ve read that Stephen Hawking book after all. Or maybe more H.G. Wells. But, no, those wouldn’t be applicable either. Hawking’s book was more along the lines of history of the universe or galaxy or something and Wells wrote about travelling back and forth through time.

Time never came to a standstill in those exalted tomes.

This is more like being outside of time. Like somebody folded time and we fell into the crease and got stuck here. Everyone else has gone on ahead of us and we’re stuck in this moment … maybe forever. Or, if not forever, just until Stephen King’s Langoliers show up to clean up the mess of the past. Those are some creepy-crawlies I never want to meet.

Yeah, okay. So how do we get out of this fold or crease or whatever it is?

As much as Tom had mulled these thoughts over in his head for the past two hours, no answer seemed to present itself. He checked the mirror, saw Angie’s Subaru still right behind him, and signaled with his blinker to take the Genesee exit. He pulled into the parking lot of a little strip mall just off the freeway and parked in front of the Buffalo Moon Coffee Shop and Deli. Angie parked the Legacy next to his truck. Standing on the sidewalk in front of the deli, Tom scanned the little mall, the parking lot, and the road. He didn’t expect to see anything different than they had seen back in Gypsum or Eagle or along the highway for the past couple hours.

“Anybody hungry?” he asked with a wink. “I have a feeling that dinner’s on the house today.”

Inside, Tom and Angie fixed up cold sandwiches for themselves and the kids. Nobody seemed to feel much like talking about the strangeness of their situation and they ate in silence. When everyone was done eating Tom broke the silence.

“Well, we’re almost home. Something tells me nothing’s gonna be any different in town than it was back there.”

“What do we do if you’re right? What are the options? How do we figure out what the hell happened?” Angie asked while putting her useless cell phone back in her purse for the 100th time. She had tried it periodically all the way from Eagle. No service.

“As far as I can tell, our first option is to get home and get some rest. It’s been a long day, and I have a feeling that the ‘day’ part is gonna last a lot longer. Where do you live? I’m out in Aurora – Havana and Mississippi-ish.”

“We’re down near 225 and 25 south of Hampden.”

“Alright, let’s hit your place first. If everything looks quiet there I’ll head over to my place. We can all get a good night’s sleep … well, I doubt we’ll be seeing much ‘night’ for awhile, but you know what I mean.”

“You mean the sun’s just going to stay where it is forever?” Sandra asked. “Nothing’s ever going to change?”

“We don’t know that hon,” Angie replied. “I guess it’s one of the things we have to find out.”

“Right!” Tom said. "And ‘tomorrow’ we can meet up for a supply gathering expedition. You know the Wal-Mart out east on Hampden, over by Kennedy Golf Course?”

Angie nodded. “I hate Wal-Mart…”

“Yeah, so do I, but they’ll have everything we need, and it’s all on special.”

They cleared their mess from the table and headed back outside.

Coming down the Mt. Vernon Canyon into the Denver Metro area, nothing seemed to have changed at all. The city looked like a husk, an empty shell, lying at the base of the mountains, waiting to be swept away by time.

That’s a good one! Tom thought. How can time sweep it away when there’s no time to do the sweepin’?

The eerie emptiness of I-70, followed by US 6 and I-25 was enough to spook anyone. Tom followed Angie’s Subaru to the Hampden Ave. exit, then a short way east on Hampden to Monaco Parkway. A few blocks down they took a left into a nice residential neighborhood and soon pulled up in front of a well kept 2 story house. Angie was shaking her head and wore a rueful smile as she got out of the Legacy and turned to Tom.

“I kept hitting the button on the garage door opener and couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t opening.”

Tom grinned. “Old rabbits are hard to bake.” Angie looked at him quizzically. He shrugged. “Just an old joke from my misspent youth in a bar band. I hope ya got your house keys with you. Doing things the easy way is kinda not an option today.”

Angie fumbled with her key ring and held up the front door key for his inspection.

“Lucky you,“ he grumbled. “I have to break into mine. I haven’t carried house keys with me in years. Good thing I know the easy way in, I guess!”

Inside the house, Angie and Sandra opened the drapes to let the sunlight in. Michael tried the TV in the futile hope that it would actually turn on and broadcast the Steelers game.

“Can I get you something to drink?” Angie asked Tom from the kitchen. "We’ve got beer, juice, milk … “ her voice trailed off. “Oh crap! I forgot the power’s been off most of the day.”

She opened the fridge anyway and test-felt the side of the milk carton. To her surprise it was still cold.

“I don’t mind warm beer too much,” Tom said from the doorway. “but if it’s flat, forget it!”

Angie picked up two of the bottles of Trippel Ale, let out a “Huh!” and handed one to Tom. He raised his brows as he felt the coldness of the bottle. Angie pulled a drawer open and retrieved a bottle opener. She opened her own, then handed the opener to Tom.

Tom took a long pull off the beer and let out a contented sigh. “Perfect! Like the power hasn’t been off at all.” He paused. “But that can’t be right. It’s been at least, what? Four hours?” He opened the freezer and picked up a package of something wrapped in white freezer paper. “Still frozen solid. They must really put some good insulation in this model,” he said as he put the package back and closed the door.

He walked over to the sink and turned on the cold water valve. Water flowed obligingly from the spigot. He turned it off and turned on the hot water. After a few seconds hot water flowed from the spigot as well.

“Yeah, okay. Water is gravity fed so it’s going to flow no matter what and you probably have a gas water heater.” Something tickled the back of Tom’s mind as he made that last statement, but he couldn’t quite catch the thought. Angie led the way out to the back patio where they sat and drank their beers in silence for a few minutes.

Sandra and Michael were upstairs unpacking their travel bags, giving Tom and Angie a few minutes to themselves. They both sat looking out at the unchanging day, sipping their beers. Finally Tom stirred, disengaging from his fruitless thoughts, and looked across the table at Angie.

"You have a handgun? A little 'homeland security' here in the land of the free?"

"Do you think I'll need one as empty as this place is?"

"Well, by my thinkin', with this place as empty as it is, as you say, this is probably the best time to have a little insurance. If we're here, others could be here and not everyone who might chance by are likely to be decent, law abidin' folks. I like to think most people are decent, but ya just never know. Ya know?"

Angie studied Tom's face for a few moments. "I suppose you're right. I have a Kel-Tec .32 in the nightstand. Dennis, my ex, taught me how to use it but it's been a long time since I've shot it."

".32 huh? Better than nothin' I guess. Maybe tomorrow we can set up our own private shootin' range and get ya a little practice in. The kids too. That .32 should be about right for Mike or Sandy. We can do some target shootin' after hittin' Wally-World in the morning. 10 o’clock work for you?"

"10's fine. I'm sure I can get my two sloths moving by then."

Mike came out and slumped into one of the empty chairs. "I'm bored!"

"Go clean your room then." Angie replied, almost automatically.

"I'm not that bored."

Tom took the last swallow of his beer and stood up, eyes wandering across the back yard and the houses behind and to the sides. "Well, I suppose I should head for the hacienda and call it a night. Check that .32 of yours, load it up if it ain't already. Keep it handy. Best to be prepared for the unlikely than surprised by it. Oh and Mike?"


"Go clean your room." Tom grinned at the boy. Mike rolled his eyes and heaved an exaggerated sigh. "Okay, take care of your mom and your sister then. Keep 'em safe. That's your job as the man of the house, ya know."

"I'll keep mom safe. Sandy can fend for herself."

"I heard that you little creep!" Sandra's voice came out through the open door.

Angie put her beer down on the table, rose from her seat and followed Tom and Mike into the house. Sandra was in the kitchen getting a glass of juice from the fridge. Glancing over her shoulder she said "How does this stuff stay cold with the power off?"

"It's one of life's little mysteries." Tom replied. "You all take care of yourselves and each other. I'll see you over at Wal-Mart in the morning."

Angie followed him out to the truck. "I'd feel a lot better if there was a phone that worked. You know, just in case."

"Well ma'am, if you was to allow it, I could pack together a few things tonight and bring 'em with me tomorrow. Perhaps you might have a guest room or even a somewhat comfortable couch?"

"There's a spare room. I'd ... " she glanced away down the street, then met his eyes again. "I'd really appreciate the company."

"Consider it done. Go and get those little hellions to bed and get yourself some rest. I'll see ya tomorrow." He gave her an easy smile as he climbed into the truck.

"Tomorrow." She said and walked back up the driveway. She resisted the urge to turn and wave, to watch his truck until it was out of sight. With a deep breath she walked back into the house and closed the door behind her.
 Automatic Slim
Joined: 4/29/2009
Msg: 182 (view)
Six word memoirs. Write one...I DARE you.
Posted: 9/22/2012 10:06:55 PM
Two wheels, winding roads, livin' free
 Automatic Slim
Joined: 4/29/2009
Msg: 2 (view)
The Desolate Highway - A rather long short story...
Posted: 9/21/2012 5:41:24 AM
Chapter 2. I-70 Westbound – October 21st 2012 – 11:26 AM

You gotta be crazy
Gotta have a real need
Gotta sleep on your toes
And when you're on the street
You've got to be able
To pick out the easy meat
With your eyes closed

- Pink Floyd "Dogs"

Gordon “Red Dog” Peck thought it was some kind of police or military trap set for him when the canyon began to flash. He resisted the urge to floor the gas pedal and to hell with the consequences. Mellow down easy Dog, he thought to himself. Just like the Reverend Billy G. says: mellow down easy before you blow your top.

Red Dog was on the run. Circumstances always had a way of favoring him, it seemed. Like that little fender bender last week that he was able to take advantage of. MP types were a stupid breed, according to The Dog. These two had been no exceptions to that rule. Hell, they didn’t even wear their seatbelts on the highway.

It had been a simple thing, really: Bum a smoke from one of the dimwits up front, hot box it until the cherry was a good inch and a half long and glowing hot, then drop it through the mesh and down the other dimwit’s shirt. To say that the driver had been distracted by the sudden searing hot pain was an understatement. When the car had met up with the bridge abutment, both of the dimwits got a good taste of windshield. Kicking out the mesh between the front and back seats hadn’t been quite that easy, but he had gotten it done. Slitting their throats had been a favor to them, really. Saved them a lot of paperwork in the future, not to mention doctor bills.

That had been outside of Leavenworth, KS three days and as many stolen cars ago. Now he was headed west. In these great United States there was only one region where a guy could go to get lost to the combined military and police forces of the country: The great southwest desert. The Dog had spent some time down in the southwest before being involuntarily volunteered for service. The choice back then had been join up and spend a few years fighting the enemies of the nation or spend a few years stuck in a piss-ant burg’s county jail saying yes sir and no sir to some backwater judge’s pimply nephew with a badge and a gun, all because the little slut had run home to mommy and daddy and blabbed. Even though his own father had been the wealthiest man in the county, he couldn’t fix this little problem, so The Dog had opted for saying yes sir and no sir to a burly Marine drill sergeant instead.

Sergeant Meyers hadn’t had any pimples.

Now he was motoring through the canyon towards Glenwood Springs, where he would have to stop for gas and maybe a brewski or two before hittin’ the old dusty again. The cash he had found on the two dead MP types hadn’t been all that much and he was probably going to have to do some midnight discount shopping tonight. Grand Junction was the last town of any size before Utah. After that, there would be small chance of looting anything of much substance or value.

The Dog exited at West Glenwood and pulled up next to one of the pumps at the Tomahawk station. He went inside to lay a twenty in the cashier’s hand to activate the pump, expecting to have to stand in line judging from the number of cars in the lot. Much to his surprise there wasn’t a line at all. In fact there wasn’t a cashier either.

“Well ain’t this just ****in’ dandy?” he muttered under his breath as he approached the counter. He leaned over the counter and scanned the cashier’s area, then slowly turned full circle, taking in all the details of his surroundings. The lights were out, the screens of the two computerized register stations were dark, no sound of the HVAC units pumping warmed air through the vents overhead. Looking out through the glass walls at the front of the store, he watched the street for a full two minutes. Not a single thing, car, human or otherwise, passed by.

No sense wastin’ opportunities, he thought. He walked back out to the old dark green Ford Explorer he was currently in possession of and opened up the rear door. The owner of the vehicle, some schmuck over on the other side of the mountains from here, was apparently some sort of construction worker judging by the variety of hand and power tools in the cargo area of the explorer. The Dog rummaged through the assortment of tools until he found a flat bar. Tucking it into his waistband and under his jacket, he again scanned the street and the interstate beyond.

Still no movement, so he went back inside the Tomahawk, walked around the counter and pried the cash drawer open with the bar. Still watching the street, he emptied the trays of their contents and moved on to the other register, emptying it in the same manner.

“Candy from a baby,” he muttered to himself. Now the problem of filling up his gas tank came to mind. It wouldn’t do to hang around here much longer and he still had a little under a quarter of a tank. Enough to make it to Rifle anyway. Climbing back behind the wheel of the Explorer he considered the emptiness of the town and the freeway, then shrugged. Just makes things that much easier, he thought. No need to punch a gift horse in the mouth or whatever the sayin’ is.

As he drove on westward along the empty highway The Dog reflected back on what had brought him to his current status as a fugitive and his plans for the immediate future. It all came down to women. They were such uncooperative creatures, at first anyway. Usually by the time he was through with them they had cooperated nicely, and would never need to worry about cooperating again. It had been a lot easier after being deployed to Afghanistan. There wasn’t a whole lot of police investigation into disappearing women over there. Not like back at Parris Island, and later at Fort Huachuca. There had been a few close calls there. One or two investigations that got a little too close for his comfort.

Afghanistan had been a real dream come true. Like a kid in a candy store.

Rape wasn’t really the goal in his little extra-curricular adventures. It was the terror that exuded from his selected prey, coupled with the sense of power, his complete control over their fates, that attracted and excited him. A predator needed to possess superior strength, skill, and intellect over his prey and, in particular, over his adversaries. He had all that and so much more. The totality of devotion to his chosen pursuits, his wealth of experience and lack on the part of local authorities of any kind of analytical skills or even determination to find the missing were all in his favor. It had been a glorious year and a half for Red Dog Peck. Until that little puke Benton had stuck his nose in where it didn’t belong.

That was okay, though. Benton had gotten his due during a brief but intense firefight while the squad had been out on patrol one afternoon. So what if the bullet that ended up in Sergeant George Benton’s brain pan hadn’t exactly been from enemy fire? Who was going to notice something like that during the confusion of battle?

The trouble was that somebody had noticed. He had taken care of Georgie-Boy just a little too late and the ground work for the suspicions had already been laid. The other guys in his squad had surreptitiously gone to the loot – Lieutenant Jackson – with their little tales and suspicions. Yeah, well, they could all rot in hell for all The Dog cared. There wasn’t enough evidence to link him to the girls and women that had gone missing over the past 18 months, but the bullet from Benton’s noggin had been enough to doom The Dog to a lifetime of incarcerated misery.

Fortune, however, had continued to smile upon him. Now it was just a matter of losing himself out in the desert. It had worked for the Wild Bunch. In fact, the old Robber’s Roost area was exactly where The Dog meant to hole up. There were so many lonely, nearly inaccessible canyons out there it would take the authorities years to search them all, and if they had no idea where he was going to begin with … well, a well laid plan was even better than a well laid woman by his thinking.

Right now it was a matter of gassing up in Rifle, collecting supplies in Grand Junction, and then out into the great unknown, off the boards and off the maps and under the radar. The Dog’s current plan was to head south on Colorado Highway 141 to Dove Creek, jump onto US 491 over to Monticello, Utah, and then head out Utah Highway 95. There were hundreds of square miles of uninhabited desert out there to the north of Lake Powell where a guy could get lost. Perhaps he’d wind his way out towards The Maze or hang south of the Colorado River in the Grabens.

He could make himself to home in some ancient cliff dwelling or cave. He knew of several possible sites, and with winter coming on the possibility of the occasional hiker or desert rat finding him were pretty slim. Who knows: by spring maybe he could get back to his pleasurable pursuits. In the meantime he would rest up, take it easy – mellow down easy – and make up a few plans for the future. Life was going to be good again. The Dog always ended up on top!
 Automatic Slim
Joined: 4/29/2009
Msg: 5 (view)
Trying to determine if a women was interested
Posted: 9/11/2012 6:23:10 PM

There's no such thing as 100% certainty when it comes to women, so don't even try for it.

Just call.
 Automatic Slim
Joined: 4/29/2009
Msg: 6 (view)
Lonely in the dark...
Posted: 9/11/2012 12:07:40 PM
I think too many people allow themselves to get stuck in the past with all of the "what-ifs" and "could have beens" that go along with it. IMO, if people would simply live their lives looking forward instead of backward, without all the anxiety and regret, they would be much happier. Don't stress about meeting that "special someone" because more often than not those meetings happen in unforeseen and unexpected ways/places. Live life on your own terms and enjoy each moment as it comes.
 automatic slim
Joined: 4/29/2009
Msg: 26 (view)
How did you choose your screen name?
Posted: 9/11/2012 7:52:15 AM
I was listening to an old blues song (Wang Dang Doodle) and there it was.
 Automatic Slim
Joined: 4/29/2009
Msg: 35 (view)
Your most hated sports rival team.
Posted: 9/11/2012 7:42:34 AM
I don't exactly hate any sports teams, but I do enjoy seeing the following teams take a beating on occasion:
 Automatic Slim
Joined: 4/29/2009
Msg: 1 (view)
The Desolate Highway - A rather long short story...
Posted: 9/11/2012 6:08:21 AM
Breaking News - October 21st, 2012

Denver (AP) - In a bizarre sequence of events today, several businesses in the Denver-Metro area have reported mysterious thefts and break-ins. It seems that at precisely 11:26 this morning several items simply vanished from store shelves at numerous locations around southeast Denver. According to patrons and store employees alike, one moment these items were there and the next moment they were gone. Surveillance videos at the Wal-Mart SuperCenter located at 9400 E. Hampden Ave. show fruits, vegetables, meats and other food items vanishing from shelves with no one around them. One of these videos shows a box of Honey Nut Cheerios vanishing as a woman reaches to pick it up from the shelf. Denver Police are having the videos checked for tampering.

In other parts of Colorado, even stranger things have been reported, including windows shattering spontaneously and merchandise vanishing at local businesses in Grand Junction, Rifle, Delta, Durango, Walsenburg and Colorado Springs. All of these events occurred at the same time: 11:26 AM. Local police investigating the mysterious events say they have no leads at this time and the investigations are ongoing.

Farmington (AP) - In what is usually a quiet agricultural and mining community, what may become one of the world's greatest mysteries has befallen the citizens of this small city in northwestern New Mexico. 6 blocks of Farmington's downtown area between Main St. and W. Broadway Ave. from Behrend Ave. east to Commercial Ave. burned to the ground in the blink of an eye. According to several eye witnesses this all happened without any fire or smoke. One moment the buildings were there, the next moment they were charred rubble. The event occurred at 11:26 AM today, apparently the same time as other strange events were occurring in Durango, CO, 50 miles north of Farmington, as well as other towns and cities in Colorado.

Businesses damaged in the fluke fire include a diner, a martial arts center, a book store, several small clothing and footwear shops, the Farmington Chamber of Commerce and the Wells Fargo Farmington Branch office, among others. Fortunately most of these locations are closed on Sunday. However, patrons and employees of TJ's Diner on E. Main St. suddenly found themselves standing, or sitting, in piles of ash and rubble. According to Sherry Compton, a waitress at TJ's, there was no sense of heat, as from a blaze. She was joking with one of the patrons one moment, the next moment the patron was sitting on the ashes in front of her.

Aurora (AP) - Police in Aurora, CO were summoned to the Medical Center of Aurora this morning to investigate the strange and sudden appearance of a dead body. 2 EMT s were on their way toward the Emergency Room exit doors when the glass in the doors suddenly shattered and a body materialized from nowhere in the middle of the hallway floor. Freddie Martinez, one of the EMT s, said that the doors "didn't shatter. The glass just wasn't in them anymore. Me and Mike were headed back out after dropping off a patient. We were both looking right at the doors when it happened. They were fine, then the glass was all over the floor and the sidewalk outside, and this body that wasn't there was just there. It was like some weird, deadly magic trick." This is yet another in a string of seemingly unexplainable occurrences that have taken place around the state at exactly the same time - 11:26 AM.

Chapter 1. I-70 Eastbound - October 21st 2012 – 9:30 AM

I gotta drive
How my wheels touch the road
Drive, drive, drive
How my wheels touch the road
I got to keep movin'
To satisfy my restless soul

-Pat Coast "I Gotta Drive"

With the CD turned up and the speedometer needle sitting on 80, Tom was feeling good, even after an 8 beer evening the night before. Filling up with good food has that effect I suppose. He lit up a Winston and rolled the window down a little. Outside, the temperature was about 47 degrees as he passed to the north of the Grand Mesa and into Debeque Canyon. The miles rolled by as his thoughts rolled by, smoothly and without much incident. Traffic was light and the ever present road construction crews were off watching the Sunday pre-game shows. Driving was a pleasant pain. Tom’s neck, as always, began to ache a little and his right hip, always a complainer even on really good days, was beginning to talk back a little.

Road trips were a way of life for Tom Cooper. Short ones, long ones, in between ones, it didn’t matter. The highway stretched out in front of him and he was nearly always compelled to follow it. He didn’t know where the wander lust sprang from, nor did he waste time in analyzing it. It just was. As kids, he and his siblings had spent many hours on many road trips to various summer camping destinations in California, as well as longer trips to Oregon, Idaho, Utah and other western states to visit their wide spread extended family. Perhaps that was the source of this need to drive. Or to ride, as Tom was also an avid motorcycle rider with well over 200,000 miles under his wheels.

This stretch of I-70 was quite familiar. He had first traveled it on a Kawasaki 440 LTD back in May of 1982, taking his then roommate Jimmy Harrison over to Boulder to pick up an ounce of cocaine for western slope distribution. That had been a very cold ride over the mountains with lingering patches of snow in the higher elevations; a quick there and back again adventure that spanned most of a single day. Debeque Canyon, and most of Glenwood Canyon as well, had been two-lane blacktop back then. It would be more than a decade before the four lane interstate would be completed.

The day began to warm up as he came out of the east side of Debeque Canyon and motored on through Parachute where, in 1983, he and his brother Dan had very nearly died when the rear tire of his motorcycle blew out. Dan was on the back and they had just come down from Rangely the long way because Douglas Pass, the more direct route between Rangely and Grand Junction, had fallen off the mountainside again. They had cruised along Piceance Creek road, with all its twists and turns, at 70 MPH, rode down the gap into Rifle and onto the interstate with no problems at all. Just before the exit for Parachute, the valve stem on the rear tire parted ways with the rim, and the air inside rapidly parted ways with the tire and the bike began to part ways with the highway. Luckily there was plenty of empty Interstate blacktop, along with an on ramp, and Tom had used about every inch of it getting the bike stopped as the rear end of the bike flopped left-right-left-right. The front tire was less than 3 inches from the guardrail when they finally came to a stop. Now every time Tom passed through Parachute he thought of that day and the words Dan had shouted in his ear as he was downshifting, braking, and maintaining some small degree of control over the wayward bike: “If you wreck this ****in’ thing and kill us I’ll never speak to you again as long as I live!”

Well, they were both still alive. They were still talking to each other and they still played music together whenever they got a chance. Music had been their way of life back in the mid 80’s, traveling from town to town, bar to bar, making $50 - $80 a night and sleeping off the alcohol in seedy motels and “Star Suites” provided by the bar owners. Now it was more of a pastime than a way of life. Tom was a computer geek in Denver and Dan was a harbor maintenance guru at Lake Powell. Their band really didn’t have a name, at least not a regular one. They tended to change the name every time they played a gig. There was Bluz Frog, Mad Max & The Black Flamingoes, Wing Nut & The Feather Dusters, Captain Caveman & The Neanderthals, and Paddy O’Poindexter & The Pocket Protectors just to name a few. The music was good and the crowds were always appreciative. And life went on.

All those old memories, like old friends, stopped in for a short visit and left Tom with a smile. He was in Glenwood canyon now, approaching the city of Glenwood Springs. He reduced speed to a moderate 60, only 10 over the limit in the eastern segment of the canyon, and passed through the 1st of the tunnels. The sun was hidden behind the canyon walls and the day darkened a bit in here. The road wound along like a serpent beside the Colorado River. Tom passed a big double trailer Fed-Ex Ground truck just before the 2nd tunnel, then a woman with a couple of teenagers in a blue Subaru Legacy wagon. Suddenly the sky darkened almost completely. Tom hit the headlight switch at almost the same time the driver of the Legacy hit hers. It didn’t do any good because all of a sudden it was so bright that everything was washed from sight. Then it was total dark again, except for the headlights. Tom slowed down to 35, trying to get his eyes adjusted, and the day was flashing bright again, then dark once more. The Legacy was slowed down in the right lane as well, Tom could just barely see the headlights with his pupils dancing between fully dilated and fully contracted.

As suddenly as the weird flash/dark/flash had started, it stopped and the canyon began to take on its normal shaded cast. Tom shook his head, let out a nervous chuckle, and accelerated back up to 50. The Subaru was about ¼ mile back and and dropping further behind. The Fed-Ex truck must be back around the last bend, Tom thought, because there was no sign of it in the mirror. Driving on through the canyon, Tom mused upon how nice it was to drive along this highway with so little traffic. The westbound lanes were empty now. The light traffic seemed to have lightened up even more. Probably lots of motorists stopped in the breakdown lane rubbing their eyes and wondering what the hell had just happened.

But there weren’t any cars or trucks in the breakdown lanes on either side of I-70. The only car in sight was the Subaru, which he could glimpse occasionally in the mirror since the driver still had her headlights on. 5 miles further on Tom began to feel a little uneasy. There had still been no oncoming traffic in the westbound lanes and since he was idling along at 50, which was the speed limit, he should have been seeing more of the cars he had passed earlier catching up to him. Nobody ever drove 50 in Glenwood Canyon. Even the Subaru seemed to be dropping back farther and farther.

Maybe they closed the road and forgot to tell us about it, he thought.

Yeah, or maybe that weird flash thing was really alien invaders and the whole world’s just been wiped out, said the darker side of his imagination. It was meant to be a humorous thought, but the further he drove the less humorous the thought seemed. Not a single car passed in either direction. That was just too damn weird. Finally, coming out of the canyon, Tom spotted a Colorado State Patrol cruiser and a Jeep Cherokee pulled over.

Well, he thought, so much for the Space Invaders theory! He shook his head at his own quasi-paranoia. He glanced at the two vehicles on the shoulder as he passed them. No one was in the Trooper car. No Trooper standing alongside the Jeep either. No driver in the Jeep. Tom braked, pulled off the highway, stopped the truck, then backed up towards the Jeep and the police cruiser. He threw the shifter into Park and killed the engine. For a few seconds he just sat and looked at the two vehicles in the mirror. Nothing moved.

Tom got out and walked slowly back to the Jeep. The engine was off and the window was rolled down. He looked through the driver side window. Aside from the usual road debris that collects in cars; candy wrappers, potato chip bags, fast food wrappers and paper cups, the Jeep was empty. He walked around to the passenger side. There was no sign of anyone over there either. He stood in front of the patrol car looking through the windshield at the emptiness inside as he ran his fingers through his short brown hair.

“This is too weird.” he said under his breath as he scanned the highway back the way he had come for hazards such as a Fed-Ex Ground double trailer truck or a Subaru Legacy. Nothing yet. He walked to the driver side door of the patrol car and opened it. The dispatch radio was dark and silent. Nothing really seemed to be out of the ordinary. Well, unless you considered the fact that there was no trooper and no irate motorist getting a ticket for doing 70 in a 50 that is.

There wasn't even a breeze to blow through the dying grass of the shoulder and median. Tom walked all the way around the patrol car and as he was passing behind it he saw the Subaru finally coming out of the mouth of the canyon. He stepped out into the right-hand lane and waved his arms. The driver of the Subaru drifted to the left lane and Tom was almost sure she wasn’t going to stop, but then she pulled off in front of his truck. Tom walked up to her window as she was rolling it down.

“Hi. Ummm this is probably gonna sound pretty weird, but have you noticed any other traffic on the road since the little light show back in the canyon there? I only ask because I can’t remember ever driving this road when it’s this empty before.”

The woman shook her head slowly, her long blonde hair bunching up in the cleft between shoulder and neck. She brushed it back into place with a long practiced gesture and said “No, I haven’t seen anyone. I even slowed way down to see if the truck would catch up but it never did. Have they seen anyone?” she hooked her thumb back towards the Jeep and the cruiser.

“Well if they have, they’re not talkin' about it. There’s no one in either o’ them cars.”

“No one...?” Her eyes widened in surprise. He shook his head.

“Mom!” the young boy called from the back seat. “We gotta be home by 2:15! The Steelers are gonna kick butt on the Bungles and I don’t wanna miss it!”

“Hush Michael, I think we have something a little more important than a stupid football game here.”

“More important!? There’s nothin’ more important than football!”

“Boys!” she shook her head and a brief smile painted her lips then faded out. “Where do you think they went? The cop and the other one?”

“I dunno, but I got an idea. I’m gonna try the cop’s radio. See if there’s anyone on the other end.”

“Mind if I tag along?” she gestured back toward the abandoned cars.

“The more the merrier.” Tom said and gave her a small smile. “Ya might wanna have the kids stay in here for now. To be safe. Might be traffic after all and they oughtta be in the car in case that truck blows by at 80.” he grinned, but his eyes said he wasn’t just afraid of speeding trucks.

They walked back to the patrol car and Tom opened the driver’s door. He climbed in and turned the key to ACC. Nothing happened. No dash lights, no lights on the radio, nothing. He turned the key all the way but the starter motor didn’t turn over. Not even the click of a solenoid.

“What now?” the Legacy driver asked. “I mean, what does that mean? The battery’s dead?”

Tom shrugged, turned the key back to off and got out of the car. They walked to the Jeep and Tom got in and tried the ignition. Again he was met with silence.

“Maybe both their cars died and they all hitched a ride back to town.” the lady mused.

“I don’t think so, but weirder things have happened.” Tom replied. “I have another idea. Let’s go back to your car.” He looked up at her with his troubled thoughts reflecting through his green eyes. “Were you listening to the radio at all?”

“No, Sandra had one of her CDs in. I don’t really listen to radio much anyway.”

“Let’s go listen to some now. Just for grins.”

She got in her car, popped the CD out, pressed FM1 and then Scan. The numbers on the front panel began moving upward, then started over from the bottom and worked their way up again.

“Try AM” Tom said.

She pressed the AM button and then Scan again. The numbers counted their way up the dial and started over.

“Maybe we’re in one of those places where radio reception just sucks.” Tom said, “I really doubt it though. I’ve driven this road a hundred times at least. I’ve listened to radio, cassettes, CDs, you name it. AM, FM, it all usually comes in pretty clear when you’re not in the canyon or in a tunnel. How’s your CB? Give it a try.”

She laughed a little. “I didn’t even think about the CB. I never use it. My ex put it in for when he was traveling.” She turned it on and adjusted the squelch. She thumbed the mic and did a fair “Breaker one-nine, does anyone have a copy? Come back.”

Silence and static were the only reply. She tried a few of the other channels with the same results.

“What’s up with the radio mom?” the girl in the passenger seat asked.

“It’s broke, obviously! Butthead!” said the boy in the back seat.

“Oh just cram it fart breath!”

“Sandra! Michael! Do you want me to haul you out of this car and beat you in front of a complete stranger? ‘Cause it’s gonna happen in about 3 seconds.” their mother said, then “Sorry, they’re at that age...”

“Yeah, it’s a love/hate relationship huh? They love to hate each other?” Tom grinned. “Name’s Tom Cooper, from Denver.”

“Angie White, also from Denver. These two heathens are Sandra and Michael. My pride and joy.”

Sandra smiled from the passenger seat, saying “I’m joy.” She hooked her thumb at her little brother. “He’s pride, obviously.”

Michael thumped her on the back of the head which earned him “The Look” from Angie.

Turning back to Tom, she rolled her eyes and grinned, brushing a wisp of hair from her face. “Any other ideas?”

“Cell phone? I don’t use ‘em myself, but if you have one…”

Angie reached into her purse, rummaged for a few moments, and brought out a sleek looking Droid phone. She powered it on. The service indicators at the top of the screen showed no service. She opened her contacts list and scrolled down, selected a number and hit the Call button.

“We must be in a dead zone.” She said as she lowered the silent phone from her ear. “So, what now?”

“Head on into the next town and see what’s what, I guess. Gypsum’s just a few miles up. Closer than goin' back to Glenwood. I really don’t want to go back through that canyon for some odd reason anyway. I think maybe we should stick together, so if you’d follow me...?”

Angie nodded.

“Ok. Back in a flash.”

Tom walked back to the cruiser, took the keys from the ignition and walked around to open up the trunk. He pulled out the cop's highway kit and tossed it into the passenger seat of the cruiser while he fumbled with the bracket release for the shotgun. Once he had wrestled that free and collected some extra shells he carried these items over to his truck and put them in the back seat. Angie watched in the mirror. Tom gave her a thumbs-up and said “Just in case. I mean, ya never know, right?” she nodded and returned the thumbs up.

They had been stopped on the side of the highway for about 20 minutes. Not a single car or truck had gone by. Not even the big Fed-Ex Ground hauler they had passed just before ... whatever it was ... had happened.

They pulled into the Stop N' Save in Gypsum a few minutes later. Tom walked back to where Angie and the kids waited in the Legacy.

“Wait here for a sec, ok? I wanna look around.”


“I’m hungry! Can we get some donuts or something?” Michael said from the back seat.

“In a minute, maybe.” Angie nodded to Tom, who walked up to the door of the little convenience store and went inside. It was empty. Well, not exactly empty. It was full of what all convenience stores are full of: Oil, windshield washer fluid, junk food, soda-pop, milk, three-two beer. What it was empty of was people. There were 4 cars in the parking lot besides theirs, yet no one was in the store. Tom walked back to the bathrooms and made a quick check of both the men’s and the ladies’. Both empty. He walked back out the door and waved to Angie to come on in.

When Angie and the kids got inside Tom suggested the kids go pick out what they wanted to eat. He then led Angie to the checkout counter. He went around to the clerk’s side and picked up the phone. There was no dial tone, so he set it back down.

“What the hell is going on Tom? Where are all the people?”

“I have no idea. All I know is where they aren’t. They aren’t here and they aren’t on the Interstate. Other than that...” He shrugged. “Let’s get some food and water and get out of here. I have a bad feeling.”

“What feeling? What do you think is happening?”

Tom shook his head. “Let’s have a look around."

They walked around the little town of Gypsum for an hour or so and saw and heard nothing. There were no signs of people anywhere. No birds, no dogs barking, no cats stuck in trees. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zero. They stopped at a few houses and knocked on doors. When that failed to result in any kind of response Tom opened a few of the unlocked doors they found They wandered around inside strangers' homes looking at strangers' belongings, which no one seemed at all comfortable doing. Angie thought she would almost welcome a good "talking to" by some offended dweller of one of the homes they explored just for some sense of normalcy.

But there was no one. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zero.

Back outside of a nice little two story home on Estes Lane, Tom stopped to look up at the sun. By his internal clock it felt like 1:00 P.M. but the sun hung up in the almost painful blueness of the sky near the zenith, telling him it was barely noon. There was still no breeze and the cloud haze to the west was still just that: a cloud haze to the west that didn't seem to be moving anywhere. He didn't mention this to the others, but suggested driving on to Eagle, which was a somewhat larger town and not too far up the road.

They piled back into their vehicles and headed east again.

In the Eagle Holiday Inn Express Angie tried the phones while Tom flipped light switches and pressed buttons on the remote control for the big screen lobby TV. Nothing. Sandra was looking at local attraction brochures while Michael wandered the lobby aimlessly looking at everything and nothing. Tom walked over to where Angie was staring across the lobby and out through the double doors.


She shook her head and put the handset back on its cradle. "Not even a ghost fart." She looked back out the double doors. "Sorry, but this is getting a bit, well, freaky. You know?"

"Yeah, I know. Come outside with me a minute."

Sandra fell into step behind Tom and her mother, followed by Michael, who looked none too pleased to be delayed in getting home to watch the Steelers "kick butt all over those pansy Bengals" as he put it. Tom led the way out into the parking lot and stopped by the Legacy. He studied the sky for a few moments and then asked Michael what time it was.

Michael checked his watch and answered in a dull voice "12:53."

Tom pointed up at the sky. "What time would you say it is by looking at the sun up there Mike? Mind if I call ya Mike?"

"Naw. That's cool. Only mom calls me Michael anymore anyway. Usually when she's pissed about somethin' I did." He looked up at the sun. Angie and Sandra followed suit. Angie glanced at Tom, a puzzled look on her face. Tom shook his head slightly and said "Mike? What time does the sun tell you it is?"

"Huh!" Mike looked puzzled. "I'd say it's about 11:00, 11:30 maybe but that ain't right! My watch is right. I been checkin’ it and it's runnin’ like it's s'posed to. It ain't broke!"

"What does that mean?" Sandra asked in a subdued voice. "My watch says it's almost 1:00 too. But the sun's all wrong."

"Have you noticed those clouds?" Tom pointed back west over the Bookcliffs where the winter storm should have been overtaking them. The clouds were still just a darker grey smudge on the horizon, hardly threatening at this distance. "You ever just sit and watch clouds on a lazy Saturday Sandra? Just lay in the sun by the pool or in the back yard and watch the clouds drift across the sky? I've done it tons of times. Can you tell me if there's anything wrong with those clouds back there?"

Sandra stood silently, watching the western horizon. Angie studied the clouds too. Michael kicked at some loose gravel and muttered something about how unfair this was when the Steelers were about to play a huge game and he was going to miss the whole thing. Sandra looked at Tom nervously.

"They're not moving are they?"

"Nope. I watched them a little bit back in Gypsum too. Those clouds haven't moved at all since then."

Angie's eyes dropped to the river on the other side of the interstate, then shifted over to Tom. "But what does that mean? The sun and the clouds don't just stop moving! What the hell is this Tom? You sound like you know something. Want to share with the rest of us?"

"I don't know anything at all. Sorry, but I really don't. I guess if I was more of a Sci-Fi buff I could come up with some explanations but..." His voice trailed off into silence as he shrugged his shoulders.

Angie's eyes once again scanned the part of the river she could see. Something didn't seem right over there. Something was wrong with the way the sun was reflecting off the water. "Tom?" she almost whispered.

Tom turned toward her, registered the questioning look in her eyes and turned to follow her gaze.

"Tom ... the river ... what ... ?"

Everyone was now staring across at the river. There was definitely something eerie about the way the reflection of the sun flickered on the surface of the water. There were places where the water flowed over and around rocks in small rapids, but the water didn't actually seem to be flowing. There was movement there, but it was all wrong. It was like looking at one of those old image shifting cards they used to have. The ones that, if you held it at one angle it showed one image, but if you shifted the angle of view, the image shifted as well. It was like the water was from one of those cards and the angle of view was being shifted back and forth rapidly. It was hard to look at for long and Tom looked away uneasily.

Angie met his gaze, her mouth creased in a puzzled frown. "What the hell?"

"I've never seen anything like that before. It's like it's flickering back and forth instead of flowing. I ... " he fell silent.

"Ok," Sandra began, "There are no people in the towns or on the highway, the river's like the freakiest thing on Earth and the sun's froze. What next? We just keep going from town to town and look for people or what?"

"Screw that! We'll miss the whole dang game!" Michael looked defiant.

"Michael's right in a way. I don't think there's much point of stopping in at every podunk burg between here and Denver. What say we motor on back to the teeming metropolis and see what awaits us there?" Tom looked at Angie.

She nodded. "What else is there?"

"Nothing." Tom tilted his head and smiled ruefully. "Literally, nothing."

They climbed back into their vehicles. Tom took one last look at the river, shivered and looked away, shifted into reverse and pulled out of the parking space. Angie followed Tom's pick-up onto the freeway. Her thoughts were jumbled and incoherent at first, trying to assimilate the facts of the non-moving sky, the absence of people, animals, even a breeze. None of it made any kind of sense. There was no electricity in the towns, and the cop car wouldn’t start. There was static on their car radios and on the CB. There was no dial tone on any phone she had tried and no cell service.

She wished Dennis were here. Dennis would have an explanation. He was always good at thinking things through and making sense of the nonsensical. God! She missed him. If only she hadn't made his life so miserable, maybe he wouldn't have left and life could be the way it used to be. It wasn't that she was a total ****, really, at least she didn't think so. There were things that Dennis just didn't care about the way she did, and things that Dennis had started to care about more than his family - weird things like alien invasions and government cover-ups and doomsday scenarios - and it thoroughly frustrated her. That sense of frustration had eventually turned into some real serious fights over the past two years until she finally got fed up and filed for divorce.

Yeah, she mused silently, I instigated more than a few of those fights. I was wrong dammit! What was I supposed to do? Let him drift along to no purpose? Waste his life away with his conspiracy theories and his weirdo survivalist friends and drag us all with him? Uh-uh baby. Not happenin' no way, no how!

Sandra was fiddling with the radio, manual scanning the AM and FM channels one by one. There was very little static, and a whole lot of nothing else. Occasionally she'd give her mother a troubled glance. She knew her mom was thinking about dad again. She could see it all over her face. Well, she thought, serves you right for drivin dad away. You can be a real **** sometimes mom! Her mom glanced at her and she felt a wave of guilt wash over her, as if her mom knew exactly what she was thinking. I hate how you do that! she said silently to herself. God that gives me the willies!

In the back seat, Michael sat glumly watching the mountains slowly pass by. Freakin' Bungles are toast. I wish I was home watchin' the damn game instead of cooped up in this rat-fart, squirrel-mobile. What the hell is with mom and that Tom dude anyway? Actin like the damn world is comin' to an end or some shit. Gaddam morons. Big Ben's probably got the Bungles weepin' for mercy by now. It'll be over before we get home at this freakin' rate!

Tom drove smoothly in the right hand lane of I-70 East, occasionally glancing in the rear-view to make sure Angie was still within a reasonable distance behind. Tom only had one real fear in life, and that was to be totally and completely alone. He remembered watching some Twilight Zone or Night Gallery episode a long time ago, something with good ol' Rod Serling doing the introductions and summarizations of anyway, where there's some guy who ends up being the last person on Earth and he goes mad or something. "To hell with that noise!" he said aloud to no one, cranked up the music on the CD player and checked the rear-view again. Danny Joe Brown was exhorting people to watch out for the creeper because it was gonna be a cold dark night, Lord! When the creeper come along.
 automatic slim
Joined: 4/29/2009
Msg: 37 (view)
why do girls lead guys on?
Posted: 9/10/2012 8:50:19 PM
If you feel something for a woman, you have to express it. One of two things will happen: 1) She'll have the same type of feelings for you and the two of you can take things further and see where it leads. 2) She won't feel the same way and you will either go your separate ways or be in the friend zone.

It's not life-ending or Earth shattering. It's life.

The one thing you don't do is hide your feelings for someone for six years before finally manning up and telling her how you feel. That's deception on your part, and not her leading you on. How was she supposed to know how you felt if you never told her?

As far as the guy always being to blame: Sounds like self pity to me. Men and women each carry their own burden of guilt when it comes to relationships and why/how they end. Women sure aren't going to be attracted to a guy who is mired in the self pity zone.
Joined: 4/29/2009
Msg: 9 (view)
TV Shows your Match
Posted: 8/1/2009 3:48:41 PM
People still actually watch TV?
Joined: 4/29/2009
Msg: 3 (view)
How Long
Posted: 7/12/2009 11:13:01 AM
Dating, I'd say no less than 2 years.

LTR.... maybe never!
Joined: 4/29/2009
Msg: 19 (view)
What kind of man/woman do you think you attract?
Posted: 7/12/2009 11:11:39 AM
I'll let ya know what type I attract as soon as I attract one.

You might wanna make yerself comfy. This could take a looooooooong time!
Joined: 4/29/2009
Msg: 51 (view)
Daily Beer Drinking
Posted: 7/11/2009 12:58:37 PM
Having spent the bulk of my 20s in a whiskey induced haze, these days 2 or 3 beers a week is about all I'll drink. Unless there's a big shindig/jam session, in which case I'll have my week's allotment in one night.

As far as dating goes, if she sucks down 2 or 3 glasses of wine with lunch, she's history.
Joined: 4/29/2009
Msg: 527 (view)
Men over 45 and facial hair
Posted: 7/7/2009 2:36:31 PM
Way back in the early 80's when I was roughneckin' over on the other side of the hill I got in the habit of shaving in the summer and letting it grow out in the winter. Much cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter that way. Working outdoors in a high plains desert year round, you tend to take the temps into consideration. Of course, the beard/moustache had to be kept trimmed so the oxygen masks would work properly.

I got out of that line of work in 84, but I still shave in the summer and let grow in the winter. The only difference is that now I shave the entire cranium instead of just the facial hairs.
Joined: 4/29/2009
Msg: 2 (view)
Posted: 6/15/2009 2:37:08 PM
They are fairly entertaining aren't they? It seems to me like everyone is looking for something they'll never find: perfection (as in their perfect idea of the perfect mate). Hell, I'd be happy with a reply, even if it was a rejection letter.
Joined: 4/29/2009
Msg: 26 (view)
Chinese Guitars
Posted: 5/29/2009 6:18:41 AM
A) If it's made in China by Chang and Sons LTD and says Made in USA by Gibson it's fake, counterfeit, scam crap. That's crap.

B) By buying fake counterfeit crap you perpetuate the making and distributing of fake, counterfeit crap.

But by all means, go right ahead on with that.

B) there is practically nothing in the industrialized world which some part of was not manufactured in china.

And it probably says Made in USA on it....

We could get all up in a philosophical debate about counterfeiting, but I won't change your mind and you won't change mine.
Joined: 4/29/2009
Msg: 4 (view)
Becoming Musicians later in life
Posted: 5/28/2009 1:44:48 PM

I couldn't sit and play the same three songs for that long.

I think I'm going the other direction now. I used to know hundreds of songs. I'm lucky to remember three these days.
Joined: 4/29/2009
Msg: 23 (view)
Chinese Guitars
Posted: 5/28/2009 1:24:03 PM
Be careful with that. I believe that just buying one of those counterfeit axes is considered a felony. It's definitely a felony if you sell one and do not disclose that it IS a counterfeit to the buyer.

Personally, I try to avoid anything made in China. Our economy sucks enough as it is right now.
Joined: 4/29/2009
Msg: 24 (view)
How do you know you're really ready to get involved again ?
Posted: 5/28/2009 1:04:01 PM
I'm not altogether convinced that there is such a thing as "knowing you're ready" to get involved. I got divorced 10 years ago. I still don't really "know", but I'm finally willing to give it a shot if I find the right lady.
Joined: 4/29/2009
Msg: 8 (view)
First Impressions
Posted: 5/28/2009 10:58:03 AM
Some guys just don't care about appearances. I've always been a "jeans n shirt" kinda guy. The last time I wore a suit was somewhere around 1998 for a funeral.

With that said, I would never show up for a date in dirty or tattered clothes, although I may have a wrinkle or two. My shirt might have a few wrinkles as well.
Joined: 4/29/2009
Msg: 52 (view)
What kind of guitar strings do you use?
Posted: 5/15/2009 4:17:06 PM
Depends on the guitar and what it's gonna be used for. Most of the (11) axes are setup with GHS 11's right now and the 2 basses have elixirs. The 2 acoustics are running GHS phosphor Bronzes.
Joined: 4/29/2009
Msg: 5 (view)
Chinese Guitars
Posted: 5/15/2009 3:59:31 PM
their opinion was that this thing was as good as any gibson at guitar center.

That ain't sayin much! d;-)

I can't stand Guitar Center.

I've seen some very nicely made guitars that came from China. They're not branded as Gibson or Fender and not claiming to be "Made in USA" and are billed as exactly what they are instead of being sold as counterfeit Gibsons and Fenders that you can turn around and try sell on fleabay or craigslist to some unsuspecting schmuck for 4 times what you paid for it.

That's the part I hate.
Joined: 4/29/2009
Msg: 3 (view)
Chinese Guitars
Posted: 5/15/2009 1:17:24 PM
So the Chinese "Gibson" says "Made in USA", which makes it a counterfeit and highly illegal. I see these things all the time on fleabay where people are trying to sell them as actual Gibson guitars at Gibson prices. Most of them are pure crap, made with uncured or badly cured wood and subpar hardware and electronics that may look just like Gibson's, but will fail ya when ya least expect it.

Give it 2 years tops before it starts to completely disintegrate.

I'll buy and play the real thing. I hate cheaters and fakes.
Joined: 4/29/2009
Msg: 2 (view)
Speeding in Pennsylvania
Posted: 5/15/2009 12:21:41 PM
The big-city Philadelphia lawyer was visiting family in Texas when he was pulled over by the local law. Being a much superior human specimen, the lawyer decides to have a little fun at the cop's expense. He rolls down his window as the cop walks up to his shiny Mercedes and asks "What seems to be the problem officer?"

"You failed to stop at the stop sign back there." replies the policemen as he pulls out his ticket book.

"Well," says the lawyer, "I slowed way down and when I saw there was no traffic coming I decided it wouldn't hurt anyone if I didn't stop."

"That don't matter none. The law is: you gotta stop at the stop signs."

"I'll tell you what" the lawyer says, "you show me an acceptable differentiation between 'stop' and 'slow down' and you can write me up the ticket and I'll gladly pay it. However, if you fail to prove your point I drive away with no ticket."

"Very well, sir." answers the cop. "Please step out of your vehicle."

The big city lawyer gets out of his fancy car, whereupon the cop proceeds to beat the holy crap out of him with his night stick. After awhile he asks "So, would you like for me to stop, or just slow down?"
Joined: 4/29/2009
Msg: 157 (view)
How long would you wait to have sex?
Posted: 5/15/2009 10:36:31 AM
I've waited 10 years already. Another couple weeks won't hurt.
Joined: 4/29/2009
Msg: 4 (view)
Posted: 5/8/2009 3:03:11 PM
My experience has been: if they aren't interested, they don't message back. (So far this has worked 100%)
Joined: 4/29/2009
Msg: 6 (view)
I hope 4 some feed back
Posted: 5/8/2009 10:46:49 AM
There may actually be a guy or two who would go for you based on your profile.

Nah! Probably not!

What you say you want is, to me at least, completely unrealistic.

You want someone to do everything for you, cook, clean, pay the bills, etc. while you surf the net and be "social".

You want someone who you can make babies with and little else.

You never go anywhere or do anything.

You want personal fulfillment without putting forth any effort.

You like all kinds of music except for a bunch of kinds of music which you don't like.

You want a guy who will follow you around and obey your every whim.

So what you really want is a human pet. One who has been pretty much emasculated but still has the ways and means to procreate.

As I said on the "Ask a Guy" forum: good luck with that.
Joined: 4/29/2009
Msg: 2 (view)
why are guys hot & cold?
Posted: 5/8/2009 10:25:24 AM
Maybe he's bipolar?
Joined: 4/29/2009
Msg: 9 (view)
Response Time
Posted: 5/7/2009 1:43:22 PM
What's an email??
Joined: 4/29/2009
Msg: 9 (view)
What do you really think of my profile be honest I can take it!!
Posted: 5/6/2009 5:35:14 PM
Heh. Good luck with that one.
Joined: 4/29/2009
Msg: 76 (view)
Younger children as dealbreakers
Posted: 5/4/2009 4:45:31 PM
Well, this thread sure explaina a lot. I guess I'll have to wait another 8 years (on top of the previous 9) before trying to get a date. d;-)
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