SCARED – A Novel. Chapter 1.03 – Fly

Continuing the serialization of an original novel I’ve written entitled SCARED.
-DWD

I knew there was something I needed to do, but I didn’t want to acknowledge the fact. I drew again on the cigarette. The acrid taste was a delicious contrast to the sweetness of the wine. Maybe I should simply relax and “rub-a-Rott”. That seemed the most appealing alternative. Still, that
something gnawed at the back of my mind. I swallowed the remainder of the goblet’s contents and closed my eyes in appreciation. What was the old saying? … “If God created anything better, he kept it for himself”?
Giving Fred a final rub, I stood and crossed to refill my glass. As I took another sip, I paused. I had better made the call before I became incoherent. Dowsing the cigarette under the faucet, I reached for the phone, and then paused to light another. Okay. I didn’t want to call 911; this wasn’t an emergency. I grabbed the phone book and leafed until I found the number. Okay. I took another swallow of the calming liquid and then a deep draw on the cigarette before punching the number.
Okay. Get your act together!
I stood, leaning against the counter, waiting for an answer … yeah, that’s what I needed. An answer. Like the State Police were going to be able to supply it. Sure. Right.
“Troop three, Lieutenant Henderson, can I help you?”
“This is Steven Campbell. I live out on Route 42. I was coming home from Phillipsburg tonight … there was something in the road I thought I should report.”
A pause and then, “Yes?”
“Well, if you have a car out this way, you might want to check it out.”
“Okay, Mr. Campbell, what and where was this?”
I took another sip of the wine. “The road just beyond the campground … Evergreen Pond Campground. It’s right off 42.”
“I know where you mean.”
“Well, there’s something there … in the middle of the road. Some kind of animal.”
“A deer?”
“I don’t know. I had to swerve around it.” I paused and then lied. “One of my headlights is out so I didn’t get a real good look at it … but it was big.”
“We’ll check it out.”
“Uh … would you mid calling me back to let me know?” I forced a laugh. “I’m sorta interested.”
There was another pause. “Well … I’ll try.”
“Thanks.” I returned the phone to its receiver. Well, that was real swift. I sounded like an idiot. He probably thought I was some kind of UFO nut or something. Chances were better than good I’d never hear another thing about it … unless, of course, they actually found the fly. What then?
Taking another swallow of wine, I sat in one of the big wing chairs and stubbed my cigarette out in the ashtray. It was a fly. I had seen it. Big, ugly and repulsive, it had simply lay there with its disgusting, dirty feet stretched above it. I shuddered at the memory. What if I’d hit? That was too gross a thought to entertain. Then I saw the humor in it and chuckled. Man killed in collision with fly.
What a way to go.
Finishing my sedative, I rose and rinsed the goblet before placing it in the dishwasher. No need in sitting here any longer. No need to kid myself. The State Police weren’t going to call, and I certainly wasn’t going to call them. I didn’t want them to think me an absolute fool.
I bent to check the wood stove and found it burning low. Of course, there was no wood in the bin. Chris never went out to the wood pile at night unless it was absolutely necessary. She had stoked the fire with the last of the day’s supply. Picking up the canvas carrier, I headed toward the French
doors. Better now than having to restart the stove in the morning.
When I reached the doors, I stopped. The apprehension hit me hard. I didn’t want to go out again. It wasn’t the cold that was preventing me. It was the actual idea of being out in the night … in the dark … alone. I suddenly realized I was scared … not merely apprehensive, but down right
scared.

NEXT: SCARED continues.

SCARED – A Novel. Chapter 1.02 – Fly

Continuing the serialization of an original novel I’ve written entitled SCARED.
-DWD

Chapter 1 – Fly (continued)
I studied the corpse in shock and surprise. It was ugly … that mostly due to its size. It was as large as an ironing board … lying there in the middle of the road, its feet crossed and thrust toward the night sky … with what? I paused and actually chuckled as I thought of my brother, Peter. “With Xs on
its eyes,” he would have said. The legs and snout were actually furry … and disgusting. The eyes reflected iridescent blues and greens in the lights of the headlamps. Its wings lay as so much cellophane against the surface of the road. It didn’t look dead, but it didn’t move … thank God!

Suddenly, I felt sick. The size of it nauseated me. Turning to my left, I spewed forth all I had eaten in the last few hours: the Big Mac I had scarfed before rehearsal, the two beers during the evening, the shot of Sambucca which Will, my assistant director, had insisted upon before calling it “a night.”

When I turned back to the road, the apparition had not departed. It lay there, its multifaceted eyes unseeing, its legs awkward and crossed, it large, hairy body still. It would never buzz again. I gave a strangled laugh and threw up again in front of me. Some of the vomit splashed and clung to the
hairy body. Suddenly, I had the strongest urge to urinate, but I would not allow myself that freedom. I would be too vulnerable. What if it awakened?

In sudden panic, I turned and ran toward the car. Slamming the door, I locked it and reached over to do the same with the passenger side. The car’s warmth enveloped me, and the music tried its best to soothe my fears. It didn’t work.

I gunned the engine and swung the car to the right onto the shoulder. As I skirted the abomination, I closed my eyes. The Kingsmens’ lyric became garbled by my tortured mind. Louie, Loueye …oh, oh, … what a big black fly. Guiding the car back onto the roadway, I pressed the accelerator and shot ahead. When I looked in the mirror, I could see only blackness and the weak reflection of the tail lights.

A quarter mile brought me to the main road. Barely hesitating at the stop sign, I turned left and headed home. Another quarter mile, and the big white farmhouse reared out of the darkness. The outside light was on, but that was all I needed. I was home! Without slowing, I swung the big car
through the tall, white gates and stopped next to the side terrace. No way was I going to brave the darkness to reach the car park behind the house. The light from the kitchen spilled through the French doors onto the flagstone terrace. I allowed myself a minute to regroup and lit a cigarette as The Temptations crooned about their Earth angel. I closed my eyes and lay back against the seat. The smoke tasted good against my raw throat. I wished I had another shot of Sambucca.

What was I to do now? I couldn’t go back … I wouldn’t go back … not for a million bucks! I exhaled forcefully and filled the interior of the car with smoke. Crushing out the cigarette, I killed the engine and opened the door. I ran across the terrace, fumbled with my keys and finally opened the
door. Inside, it was warm. My eyes closed as I leaned back against the door savoring the warmth of the wood stove but most of all the feeling of security. I was home. Thank God!

With a sigh, I opened my eyes and looked around the room. Nothing had changed. That surprised me. My life had changed, but this room was still the same. The dried herbs still hung from the exposed beams, the ship models still sailed in search of a sea, and the Tiffany lamp still bathed the
whole in soft, jewel tones. Behind the eisenglass doors of the stove, the fire burned cheerfully, and our vicious Rottweiler, Fred, lounged sleepily on the sofa. Nothing had changed.

Divesting myself of my coat, I tossed it across one of the six bar stools no one ever used. I was right. The house was quiet. Both Chris and Marty were already in bed. Remembering the Sambucca, I crossed to the liquor cabinet. We didn’t have Sambucca, but there would be something equally relaxing. Drambuie, perhaps … but no, I didn’t feel like sipping. Grasping a wine goblet from the rack, I poured a full measure of port. With a smile, I savored its thick, warm sweetness. Yes, this would do the trick.

Sitting on the edge of the sofa, I rubbed Fred’s thick head and soft, velvet ears. He simply stretched and yawned. Nothing like a good guard dog. I extracted and lit another cigarette. Come morning, Chris would rail against the smell of stale smoke, but this was not a normal evening.

NEXT: SCARED continues.

SCARED – A Novel. Chapter 1.01 – Fly

This week begins the serialization of an original novel I’ve written entitled SCARED. I hope you enjoy it.
-DWD


Chapter 1 – Fly
Nationally, I have no idea when the fear actually started. For me, it started on the night of October 10, 1999. There was nothing unusual about this particular October except that I was facing my fortieth birthday, and I was not happy about it. Other than this, 1999 had shown us a typical fall season.
The leaves were exceptionally beautiful, and there was a pleasant chill in the air. The unusually violent thunderstorms of the summer were behind us, and, surprisingly, the remainder of the hurricane season promised to be a dud. It seemed as if Mother Nature had blown her wad over the last few years and had simply sat back to watch. No one was complaining. We had had enough of her vengeance to last us many years. Even the millennium doomsayers had fallen into silence since August. Life almost
seemed normal again.
On this particular night, the tenth of October, I was hurrying home. I was directing a show at our local theater which was fifteen miles away, and I was tired. The rehearsal had gone well, but I couldn’t wait to get home. It was late … almost eleven o’clock, and I knew that everyone at home was
probably already in bed. It was a Sunday night, and Chris, my wife, would have to be up early on Monday. Our son, Marty, also had classes the next morning. Still, feeling all of my forty years, I pushed my old convertible to the limit, the radio blaring sixties rock music.
The roads between the theater and our home are narrow, winding and forest shrouded. I loved the drive. The big, heavy convertible hugged the corners and ate up the straightaways. I actually began to feel young again.
As I rounded one of the sharp curves, I punched the accelerator and watched the speedometer jump to sixty. The big, V-8 roared as the Beach Boys sang about driving down the same old strip while looking for a place where the chicks were hip. I negotiated another curve with only minor
squealing of tires. Then another straight stretch. I really gunned her this time sending an airborne sea of leaves in my wake. The needle raced to eighty and then dropped suddenly as I braked for the next curve.
In the back of my mind, I heard Chris’s voice. “Be careful, Steve … there are a lot of deer through here.”
I took the next straight shot at meager sixty. The car’s bright lights flooded the road ahead.
Not a deer to be seen.
I braked again for the upcoming “S” curve. For an instant, the light illuminated the decimated cornfield and then swung back to the road. I slammed on the brakes and felt the big car begin to slide.
My first thought was, “My God, someone’s lost an ironing board!” The convertible slid to a stop.
For a moment I sat looking. Then, slowly, I opened the door and stepped out. The sound of the radio seeped into the cold, dark night as the Capris crooned about the moon and the girl on their arm.
I stood looking at the road in front of me. What appeared, at first, to be an ironing board laying on its back wasn’t an ironing board. The legs angling above the road surface were not those of an ironing board … but they were legs.
Cautiously, I took a step forward. Chris’s voice echoed in my mind. “Be careful, Steve. There are a lot of deer through here.” This wasn’t a deer.
I took another step, trying, in my mind, to make sense of what I was seeing.
Beside me, the big V-8 rumbled, anxious to be gone from this place. Inside the car, where it was warm, the radio continued, muted now by the open door and the sound of the motor … the white leather interior now pale green in the glow of the instrument panel.
I took two steps this time, skirting the edge of the headlights’ beam. I couldn’t block the light.
I couldn’t trust my own eyes. I had to see what lay on the road in front of me, and I had to see it clearly.
The strange object wasn’t an ironing board, though its legs, thrust above its huge body did remind me of that. I wasn’t a deer either … it was a enormous fly.

NEXT: SCARED continues.

Fact or Fiction

As a writer, I’ve always contended that most writers draw on their personal experiences and the people and places they know as fodder for their work. This may not be true of every writer, but it certainly applies to me. I’ve dabbled in creative non-fiction, but my forte lies with fiction … at least
most of the time. When I think back about the novels and short stories I’ve written, I realize that I have borrowed people, places, and situations from my past. Of course, being 72 years old gives me plenty from which to draw. I guess the question is, where to we draw the line?


I just finished reading a non-fiction piece entitled DEATH SENTENCE. It’s the story of a New Jersey man who murders his mother, wife, and three children, and then disappears for 18 years. The author, Joe Sharkey, has done exhaustive research of both the murder and the 18 years that followed. When I finished reading the book, I looked at my wife and said, “Truth is stranger than fiction.” Had I written this convoluted plot and character study in one of my novels, would any reader have been able to suspend their disbelief long enough to finish the book? I rather think not.

So where do we draw the line? That’s a hard question to answer. Working with our writers’ group, The Milton Workshop, gives me plenty of feedback on my writings. I usually limit my biweekly offerings to a single chapter, feeling that will give my fellow writers more than enough to digest and critique. I am never disappointed. They are a very insightful and thorough group. Their questions and comments about a piece are always thought provoking. They will effectively dissect and evaluate the characters and the plot line: Why would he/she say that? Would so and so really react that way? Is that comment true to character? Why would the character do those things? Do you really think that would or could happen? That’s a little hard to believe. And, of course, they go on from there.

When I apply these questions to what I’ve written, I have to take a step back and analyze them from a more objective position. Many times, I find myself in agreement with what has been said, but there are times when I do not. I guess that’s the bottom line … trying to determine what is true and
believable for the piece I’ve written. I have to ask myself, “How will the reader really feel about this? Will the reader accept the character or situation, or will they be forced to shake their head in disbelief, close the book and set it aside?” That’s the chance we, as writers, have to take. Sometimes, it’s a difficult determination, but it is one that has to be made in order to keep the reader turning the pages.

Five Minutes of Fame

My wife and I have been watching a Hulu series entitled The Path. It stars and is produced by Aaron Paul. Paul came to fame as the apprentice/ accomplice in the well known series, Breaking Bad. Since that time, he has starred in many films.

The Path is a story about several families living in a religious cult, which they refer to as a movement. A couple of weeks ago, the head of the cult singles out a young man for a special assignment.

“I need someone I can trust on the ground in Milton.”

The young man replies, “Where’s Milton?”

“Delaware” is the immediate answer.

In the next episode the leader visits the young man at his new post. The leader is wearing a light blue tee shirt with a dark blue silhouette of Delaware on the front. The name, Milton, is scrawled
across the front in bright white script. Of course, the setting is simply the inside of a building that could be anywhere. But hot damn, we’re suddenly famous.

Delaware often shows up in novels and TV shows but never, to my mind, does Milton. Once The X-Files set one of their scenes in Angola, Delaware. We thought that was pretty cool since, at the time, we lived right down the road from that resort. The show depicted a large motel/restaurant complex
illuminated by a mass of sodium street lamps. Of course, it bore no resemblance to any spot near Angola. Angola only boasts one restaurant and no motels.

Milton is equally obscure. The picturesque, quaint little town at the head of the Broadkill River is home to just over 3,000 inhabitants. We have no cults…or none that I know of. You can buy a tee shirt here, but it will tout Irish Eyes Pub, Po’boys Creole Restaurant, Dogfish Head Brewery, or the Milton Historical Society rather than the one from the series. Still, it’s a nice place to live and is close enough to the ocean beach resorts to be convenient without being subjected to the crowds that throng there every summer. No, Milton is not famous, but it was exciting experiencing the recognition if only for a few minutes on national television.

And I did kinda like the tee shirt.

Times: They Be A’changin

Today is my mother’s birthday. If she was still alive, she would now be 102. She held on for a long time, finally giving up three and a half months before her hundredth birthday. My father-in-law also lived well into his nineties, dying in the year 2000. So, what am I getting at?

All my life, I’ve heard people say, “Thank God, so-and-so didn’t live to see this.” That prayer of thanks still holds true today.

My mother was a self-styled socialite. She loved only the best of everything. Her clothes, her shoes, her jewelry all spoke to the importance she saw in these material items. Cooking was not her forte; good restaurants and the country club were. Although she lived with me and my wife for the
last ten years of her life, she was continually “on the go” well into her nineties. Restaurants, the casinos, and the bridge tables were her daily haunts. She was not a home-body. With our current pandemic, I can’t imagine trying to keep her quarantined. She was always strong willed, and I would have failed miserably at the task. Thank God, she didn’t live to see this.

My father-in-law was very politically active and a staunch supporter of the Republican party. He was proud to number several high-ranking Republicans in our state as associates and friends. He always voted a straight Republican ticket and even ran for office once or twice. Since my mother-in-law was often ill, he would drag my wife and me to various Republican fund raisers and political events. When my wife and I finally gave up our membership in the Republican party, we guarded that secret for the remainder of his life. Had he known, I’m almost sure he would have disinherited us. Of late, my wife and I have pondered just how he would have reacted to the current administration. My father-in-law was an intelligent man who never tolerated stupidity and weakness in anyone. We can’t help but wonder what he would be saying now. Needless to say, we thank God, he didn’t live to see this. I am seventy-two years of age and suffer from terminal cancer. The idea of death is something I’ve become very comfortable with. As bad as things are in our country, I can only hope and pray that things do not deteriorate further. I don’t want my children and grandchildren to have reason to echo, “Thank God, he didn’t live to see this.”