Back to the World
by James Shaffer
Table of Contents|
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10,
11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18,
19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25
Johnnie Rae Piper is born in a tarpaper house outside Amarillo, in the Texas Panhandle, in 1950. His mom raises and home-schools Johnnie while his father, Tom, is off fighting in the Korean War. When Tom comes home, he’s changed: he has drinking and gambling addictions.
In 1969, an unlucky number in the draft lottery sends Johnnie to Vietnam. When he returns home, a year and half later, he finds he has exchanged one set of problems for another. A local loan shark is putting the muscle on Tom, and the criminal organization is widespread. Johnnie tries to help his father, with the aid of three cowgirls: Darlene, Jamie Sue and Kelly Jo. All of them are in for a wild ride.
It was dark when Eddie and Bryan finally arrived at the house with the phone. A powdering of dust covered their boots and pants. Ed hated unpaved county roads. He pounded his hat on the side of his leg. A cloud of dust went right up Ed’s nose. He sneezed. Bryan wore no hat.
Standing outside the front door of the house, Ed wiped the sweat and dust from his face with a hankie then blew his nose in it, clearing out the grit and grime from the long, dusty walk. He was ready.
Bryan stood off to one side as Ed pounded on the door. After a few seconds, the door opened halfway. A short, middle-aged man stood in the space. Through the opening, Ed could see a woman standing at the back of the hallway leading from the door, arms folded across her aproned bodice. Peeking around from behind the woman was the face of a little girl, if long blond hair was any indication. Ed spotted a phone over the man’s shoulder. It sat on a small hall table.
“Evening. Need to use your phone. Car broke down. We walked a long way on this godforsaken road.” Ed pushed the door all the way open with his shoulder and marched right in past the man before he could protest. It was Ed’s nature. He wasn’t used to asking permission.
The man, taken back, followed Ed with his eyes. As Ed took one step past him, the man spoke. “Wait just a minute, who do?”
Bryan stepped into the doorway from around the corner and tapped the man on the shoulder. Startled, the man jerked around to face Bryan. He stared up at Bryan. Bryan stared back. “Sure. Ph-ph-one’s right there.” He pointed at the hall phone but kept his eyes on Bryan.
Ed picked up the phone and started dialing. He put the phone next to his ear and turned to the woman. “Got anything cold to drink? We’re mighty thirsty. A beer’d be good. Just make sure it’s cold.”
The woman looked toward the man. He turned to her and nodded toward the kitchen. She gave Ed a sour look and pushed the little girl ahead of her into the kitchen. Ed’s party answered.
“Harry? Ed. Hold on.” Ed looked at Bryan and gestured toward the kitchen.
Bryan grabbed the man’s arm as he kicked the door closed behind him. He shoved the man toward the door where the woman had disappeared with the little girl.
“Harry. We got jumped at Tom Piper’s place.” He waited for Harry’s reply. “Well, Tom would’ve taken the beatin’ he deserved, but his smartass son, Johnnie, is back from the war. Put his soldier-boy moves on us. Knocked us out, tied us up and stole my car. Worse, he’s got our money. It was in the trunk.
“First thing tomorrow morning, I want you to get two guys to go west on the main highways. Check every wide spot in the road. Tell ’em to go all the way into New Mexico, if they have to. Then take two others and tell ’em to head east. I’m sure he headed west ’cause there’s nothing east till Elk City. That’s 125 miles of nothin’, but we gotta check.
“Tell ’em to keep their eyes peeled for my black Caddie. I’m sure they’ve ditched it by now. I think they split up. That’d be the smart move. Somehow I think the boy took the Caddie. If the boy took the car, then Tom took other transport. Send a guy to the Amarillo bus station too. Tell’m to ask around. Tom Piper’s face is messed up where Bryan hit him with the blackjack. He shouldn’t be hard to spot.”
At a sound, Ed turned toward the kitchen. The man hurried out followed by the woman carrying a tray of cold beers. The little girl wedged herself between them. They headed for the living room.
Bryan came out behind them carrying a shotgun. Bryan nodded at Ed. Ed smiled. “Harry. Send a car to pick us up. We’re about four or five miles west of the Piper place on the county road, first house south of the road. OK. Let’s get these bastards before the trail turns cold.” With that Ed hung up.
He joined the party in the living room. Ed grabbed a beer. It was cold. He sat in a comfortable armchair and took a long, welcome draft from the can, almost draining it.
Bryan sat in the other armchair opposite holding a beer. He’d lined up the three occupants on the sofa. The beer tray sat on a coffee table between the sofa and armchairs. The shotgun was across Bryan’s lap. He spoke to Ed. “I went into the kitchen and she was just takin’ this shotgun down off the top of the cupboard. It ain’t loaded.”
Ed looked at the man and woman. “Ain’t safe to have a loaded gun in the house when you have young’uns running about, is it?” He smiled at the little girl. “Appreciate the use of your phone. And the beer.” He lifted the can; then he spoke to Bryan. “Give ’em a twenty for their generosity.”
Bryan peeled off a twenty from his money clip and tossed it on the coffee table. “See? We ain’t bad people once you get to know us.” Ed gave them a toothy grin. “Now, let’s play happy families till our ride gets here.”
Copyright © 2015 by James Shaffer