The Sixth Man – Episode 7

thCXTGKHD0An Amish Meal

Steve stood in a short line at the bus station with a duffel bag in hand waiting to buy a ticket to Indianapolis.

Bus rides are lonely, monotonous, trying, and smelly. The stench from human perspiration is somehow multiplied by a bus ride. Steve found an empty seat with no one next to him and prayed no one got on the bus to fill it. A couple of weeks earlier he could hardly stand himself. Now he was showered and clean shaven.

There are oddities about every bus ride; people who seem to have no destination except for as far as a ticket will allow them. He wondered how many were like him; looking for that one clue or spark that ignites the memories.

After an hour ride the bus pulled into a small gas station in the middle of corn fields. A young Amish man boarded and made his way back the aisle and sat next to Steve.
Steve toyed with the idea of telling the young man he was a devil worshipper hoping to drive him to another seat.

Steve turned away as the bus slowly moved onto the highway and left the gas station behind. “Amish don’t us deodorant,” Steve thought, “but on the other hand I may have turned toward my own stench.” Steve ducked his head toward his armpits and took a deep breath through his nose. “It’s the Amish guy,” he thought.

“Could I interest you in a sandwich?” the young man said.

Steve turned to him and he was holding a sandwich out toward him

“I’m fine,” Steve said. “I’ll have something at the next stop.”

“My mother made too much,” he said. “And I just want to be neighborly.”

“My name is Steve,” Steve said. He grabbed the sandwich and reached to shake the young man’s hand.

“Jacob Graber,” he said and shook Steve’s hand. “I’m heading to Elkhart, Indiana. I’m getting married,” Jacob said. “Well, what I’m really doing is bringing my wife-to-be back to Iowa and there we’ll get married.”

“Congratulations,” Steve said.

“Go ahead and eat,” Jacob said. “I don’t think it improper the eat and speak at the same time.”

Steve smiled and bit into the sandwich.

“It’s a beef roast,” Jacob said. “Nobody makes it as good as my mother.”

“So will your mother teach your wife to prepare beef this good?” Steve said.

“It will take time,” Jacob said.

“I don’t think you’re ready for marriage,” Steve said.

“Why?” Jacob grinned.

“You will have to tell your wife her roasts are just as good as your mother’s if you want to have a good marriage.”

Jacob smiled. “That’s funny, my mother gave the same advice.”

“That’s two independent sources from different genders and backgrounds,” Steve said. “So you better heed the advice.”

“Where are you going?” Jacob said.

“Indianapolis,” Steve said.

“Family?” Jacob said.

“I don’t know,” Steve said.

“That’s an odd remark,” Jacob said.

“Yeah,” Steve said, “it is odd. I don’t want to freak you out, but I don’t really know who I am. Yeah that’s right all I know at the present is that I call myself Steve Joseph. I was in Des Moines, Iowa for a while, but Indianapolis seems to jog something in me. So that’s where I’m going.”

“Have you done drugs?” Jacob said.

“I don’t know.” Steve said. “There is nothing to indicate that at all.”

Jacob removed an envelope from his pocket. He wrote his name and address on it and handed it to Steve. “When you find out who you are write me.”

“You’re a good man, Jacob,” Steve said. “Thanks for the sandwich.”

 

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The Sixth Man – Episode 6

a_pub_in_toronto[1]An Irish Goodbye

It was around 10 o’clock when Mick unlocked the back door. Steve waited for him at the bar.

“Top o’ the monrin’ to ya, Steve?” Mick said hanging his coat on a hook on the wall behind the bar. “I can smell the coffee.” Mick poured a cup for both and sat at the bar next to Steve. “Bar looks grand.”

“Thanks,” Steve said and sipped the coffee.

Mick sipped. “Good coffee.”

“Mick,” Steve said. “If I take off for a while will I have a place if I return?”

“This bar has been in the family for 50 years,” Steve said. “Nobody has occupied that room but you. I’ll hold it another 50 years.”

“Thanks,” Steve said.

“So is it to Indianapolis?” Mick said.

“Yeah,” Steve said. “Something’s there, someplace, I don’t know what, but it can’t be found from here.”

“You got the money for bus fare?” Mick said.
“Yeah,” Steve said. “I wanted to fly my private jet, but it’s being used by one of the Rockefellers this weekend. I hate loaning out to them. They never take care of things. Just because they’re rich doesn’t mean they’re neat.”

Mick chuckled. “All the time I’ve known you that’s the first joke you cracked.”

“How do you know it’s a joke,” Steve said. “I don’t.”

“When are you leaving?” Mick smiled.

“My things are packed,” Steve said. “I wanted to have a coffee with you before I left.”

“I’m glad you did that,” Mick said. He reached in his shirt pocket an removed a wad of money. He handed Steve two 100 dollar bills. “Will this help?”

“Keep it,” Steve said, “you got family.”

“You may have family too,” Mick said. “And if this can help you find yourself and them, all the better.”

Steve stashed the bills in his pocket. “I’ll pay you back.”

“It’s not a loan,” Mick said. “It’s a gift or if you like an early Christmas bonus.”

“If I don’t find what I’m looking for I’ll be back,” Steve said.

“Do you know what you’re looking for?” Mick said.

“An old high school yearbook with a guy who looks like the younger version of me,” Steve said. “Just maybe the moment I get off the bus someone will recognize me. And again maybe I’ll just find a nice Irish pub that needs a bar swab.”

Steve took one long drink from the cup of coffee. He stood and grabbed hold of the satchel at his feet. He shook Mick’s hand

Mick smiled and said. “May your days be many and your troubles be few. May all of God’s blessings descend upon you. May peace be within you and your heart be strong. May you find what you’re seeking where ever you roam.”

“I don’t think anyone has ever said anything more poetic and kind to me,” Steve said. “And if they did I couldn’t remember it anyway.”

 

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The Sixth Man – Episode 5

thS9V2F9N8Nap Town

Steve now had a home.

A broom leaned against the wall in the corner. He grabbed it and swiped away the cobwebs. He swept the pitted cement floor and pushed the dirt outside the room. He scraped it up with an old newspaper he found laying in top of a case of empty bottles. Instinctively he found the trash can and dumped the dirt.

“How did I know where that was?” Steve said. “Well, it’s a start.”

He walked up the stairs and opened the door into the bar. It was mid afternoon and the place was open, but empty.

He walked to the bar. Mick was dusting liquor bottles on the back bar.

Mick turned.

“Can you show me the ropes?” Steve said.

“Sure,” Mick smiled and for the next fifteen minutes he showed Steve what needed to be done and where things were kept.

“There is something familiar about all this,” Steve said. “But it’s not from here and it’s not from a month ago. It’s from a long, long time ago.”

“Maybe it’s from another job you had,” Mick said.

“Or maybe just from last month after all,” Steve said. “Are you sure I never said anything about my past?”

“Come to think of it,” Mick said. “One night you were sitting at the bar. You were eating a bowl of chili. And this guy says something about Indianapolis, you know the races, and you stopped eating and said to the guy, ‘You from Nap?” The guy said, no. But don’t you think that’s funny that you’d call it Nap, like you were from there all your life. It’s like something only the locals would say. I’ve never heard anybody around here call it that.”

“Nap,” Steve said, “Nap, it means nothing.”

“I don’t know,” Mick said. “It’s the only thing I could think of.”

Steve sat at the bar and cracked open a peanut from a bowl on the bar. “Did it come out natural?”

“Sure,” Mick said. “You responded to the guy like he might be an old friend. But you didn’t know each other, because when your eyes met you went blank.”

Steve tossed a peanut into his mouth. “I’m certain my name is not Steve Josephs. I got it that from a bus ticket that had St. Josephs on it. I just made the ST into Steve. That’s how I got here from St. Josephs, by bus. That leaves me to wonder if I came to St. Josephs from Indianapolis?”

“Or you could have been in a half dozen places in between,” Mick said. “Or you just overheard somebody say Nap. It may mean nothing.”

For two weeks Steve did his chores at Mick’s Bar. He worked a couple of days for Hank. He asked around the tire store if the term Nap meant anything to them. It meant nothing to any of them.

 

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The Sixth Man – Episode 4

th6E3XH28MThe Room

Steve was so lost in thought he walked past Mick’s Bar. He was two blocks away before he realized it. He walked back and found the back of the bar. A stairway led to the basement. He tried the key to the door and it opened.

It was dark. There was a heavy odor of beer and cardboard. He felt along the side of the door and found a light switch. He flicked the light on. Beer cases were stacked neatly along a brick wall. It was an old basement, but clean.

He walked down an aisle of beer cases. At the end of the aisle to his right a stairs led up and to his left was a crudely made door. Above it was a card board sign that read, “Steve’s Office.”

Steve opened the door and walked in. The room was lit by the light from a small street view window. In the room was a cot and a small chest of drawers. The cot was neatly made with olive drab army blankets. Cobwebs were between the open joist of the floor above.

He sat on the bed, leaned forward, and opened the drawers. In the top drawer was a three under shorts, two pairs of white socks, and three tee-shirts. He opened the second drawer. There was a pair of well-worn kaki pants, and a black sweatshirt. He opened the bottom drawer laid a worn and tattered black satchel.

He pulled the satchel from the drawer and sat it on the floor. He opened it. Nothing was on the inside. He unzipped a side pocket. He found a bus ticket – St. Josephs, MO to Des Moines, IA.

St. Josephs,” he muttered. “Steve is not my name. St. is short fore Steve. I made it up. I’m not even Steve.”

There was a knock at the door and it slowly opened. A thin man with red curly hair slowly slipped in.

Steve,” he said concerned. “Where the heck you been. I was about ready to throw your stuff out?”

Are you Mick?” Steve said.

Of course I’m Mick,” Mick said. “What’s going on?”

I have no recollection of being here ever,” Steve said.

Than how did you show up here?” Mick said.

This morning I woke up on a park bench,” Steve said. “I walked toward the sound of a pneumatic wrench.”

Yeah,” Mick said. “TireRamma, you work there on an as needed basis.”

I showed a guy named Hank a key that I found in my pocket and he told me it was probably to the basement door to this place,” Steve said.

You look okay,” Mick said. “You could use some cleaning up and a shave.”

Now tell me what you know about me,” Steve said.

Mick sat next to Steve. “You came in here about three months ago and asked if you could earn few bucks mopping the floor. We got to talkin’. I read people. You seemed okay to me. You said you were a little down on your luck. I told you if you kept the place clean you could have this room for free and you could have leftovers from the kitchen.”

And I told you my name was Steve Joseph?” Steve said.

That’s the name you gave me,” Mick said.

Did I tell you were I was from or anything about myself?” Steve said.

You didn’t talk much,” Mick said. “I’d give you a story or two hoping to swap with you, but you never offered up anything. But you’re a darn good worker. This place hadn’t ever been so clean. I thought about upping prices.”

Steve buried his face in his hands.

Steve,” Mick said. “What can I do for you?”

Is this my things?” Steve said.

Yeah,” Mick said.

Steve began to empty the drawers and stuff the clothing into the satchel.

What are you doing?” Mick said.

I’m fired ain’t I?” Steve said.

No,” Mick said. “I figured you got jailed and I wouldn’t see you again. You’re not fired.”

But the thing is,” Steve said. “I’m certain Steve is not my name either.”

Well that’s a heck of a thing,” Mick said. “That’s even more of a reason to stick around. What are you going to do wander around Des Moines and ask people if they know you. You should stay here.”

Maybe you’re right,” Steve said.

I was about to give you an old TV for down here,” Mick said. “Kind of make it more like home.”

I feel as if you’ve been very good to me,” Steve said.

So let’s get your things back in the drawer and try to figure some things out,” Mick said.

It’s just like staring at a blank wall,” Steve said. “But the problem is that there is nothing on the other side. I don’t know who I am now and I know I’m not Steve Joseph.”

Stay on here for a while and we’ll try to get you some help,” Mick said.

What if I’m wanted for a crime?” Steve said. “Sending me back to jail would be unbearable. The prison I’m in now is bad enough.”

Let’s keep this between me and you for now,” Mick said. “Maybe things will start to click for you before long.”

Mick stood. “Does that sound good to you?”

Yeah,” Steve said. “It’s not like I got someplace to go.”

Mick opened the door and turned to Steve. “I’ll check in on you later.”

Mick,” Steve said. “When do I mop your place?”

You usually get up, start at five in the morning, restock the coolers and then clean and mop.” Mick said. “Come up in a little while and I’ll show you where everything is again.”

Steve nodded and Mick left the room.

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The Sixth Man – Episode 3

thQL3ILGZEThe Key

He walked in an open bay door. It seemed natural rather than using the door to the showroom.

A man was removing a tire from a car. The man turned around and looked at him. “Steve, the boss has been looking for you.”

Thanks,” he said and played along, though not having a real clue as to where he was. “Where’s the boss?”

The man motioned with his head to a door that read Office.

He walked to the door, opened it, and entered.

A burly man with “Hank” etched on his blue work shirt looked up from behind the desk. “Steve, where the heck have you been for the last week?”

Can I sit down?”

Sure,” Hank said. “Make yourself at home.”

He sat in the chair in front of Hank’s desk.

You look troubled,” Hank said. “Ya look like you’ve been on a bender. I didn‘t think you were the drinking type. Did you fall off the wagon?”

I don’t think I’m a drinker either,” he said. “But think it’s worse than that.”

Hank leaned forward. “Ya wanna tell me what’s going on.”

I don’t know who I am,” he said.

What!” Hank said.

I walked by this place and heard someone removing a tire. It sounded familiar, so I came in.”

You’re kidding me,” Hank said.

No, I wish I were.”

You look like you’ve been through it,” Hank said.

Where do I live?” he said and pulled the key from his pocket to show Hank. “It looks like a house key.”

You don’t know where you live.” Hank appeared incredulous.

He waited for Hank to offer a clue or sympathy, but none was offered. “Honestly, Hank, I have no idea what is going on. At least tell me my name.”

Steve Joseph,” Hank said and shook is head as if not believing Steve.

I must have really made things tough for you, Hank,” Steve said, “and I’m sorry, but I just don’t have any idea what’s going on.”

You drunks and druggies are all alike,” Hank said. “Ya work until you get money for your habit and disappear.” Hank ignored Steve and read through some paperwork on his desk.

Steve paused, he stood, turned, and left.

He was nearly outside a bay door. “Hey!” Steve turned. It was Hank standing at the office door. “Didn’t you come to get this?” Steve held a brown envelope above his head.

I don’t know what it is,” Steve said.

Steve stood at the bay door as Hank walked toward him.

Hank handed him the envelope. “It’s your pay,” Hank said.

You keep it,” Steve said. “It will make up for any problems I caused.” Steve turned away.

Wait,” Hank said.

Steve turned to him.

You really don’t know what’s going on do you?” Hank said moving closer to Steve and squinting.

No clue,” Steve said.

Hank held the envelope out to Steve. “You earned it, take it.”

I don’t remember doing a thing for it,” Steve said.

Well I do,” Hank said. “What can I do to help you?”

Tell me where I live,” Steve said.

The basement of Mick’s Bar,” Hank said. “I think this is the key to the basement door. It‘s five blocks east.”

Why do I live in the basement of a bar?” Steve said.

You told be you mop up the place and stock the coolers for room and board,” Hank said.

Steve tucked the envelope in his coat pocket.

Hank shook his hand.

By the way what did I do here to earn the money?” Steve said.

One day you came in off the streets and asked if you could change tires for us,” Hank said. “I told you I couldn’t hire you, but I said if whenever you come by and you see cars lined up just come in and I’ll put you to work. We’ve been running specials for a month and been swamped. You changed tires like you were working on a pit crew. Ya did good work.”

Steve tried to smile. “Thanks for the job, Hank.” He turned and walked toward the street.

If you ever need a job…” Hank said, but Steve did not turn around. He walked east. As he walked he clutched the key tight in his hand.

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The Sixth Man – Episode 2

thBUV6CNZOThe Sound

He walked onward only looking at the sidewalk below his feet and only looking up to see if he had the light to cross the street. He was completely bewildered and no place to go and no name by which to introduce himself. “Hello,” he said, “My name is…” And his mind – a wasteland.

His walk became strange and instinctive, as if his feet knew where they were heading, but his brain did not. It was like finishing a sentence with an obvious word and not knowing what led to that word. He pondered that deep in his mind plying for answers, visions, places, people, and clues to who he is and to where he belongs. It was like pressing and squeezing the nectar from fruit. To taste the sweet nectar of remembrance seemed to be hidden just beyond his grasp.

He approached a corner and turned left and headed down another street. He studied each business and strolled by and nothing appeared familiar. No one seemed to notice him and give him a greeting of familiarity.

How long must I follow this street? Where does it lead?” he thought.

At the next corner he stopped. He didn’t know whether he should turn left, right, or continue the course. His feet and brain were both lost now. Neither knew what to do. He pressed his fingers against his forehead in some vain effort to squeeze an intellectual spark, but it seemed as if he only shoved it further into the dark recesses of his mind.

Think of something else,” he said. “I need a name.”

He turned to his right, crossed the street and continued walking, now, in a different direction.

He was lost in his thoughts; trying to come up with a name.

Bill is a good name,” he said, “but it’s common. I don’t know if it’s common because I don’t know any Bills. In fact, I don’t know anyone. I think John would be good, but no for the same reasons.”

He crossed the street. He read the street sign. “Walnut Street,” he muttered. “Maybe Walt would be a good name?” He smiled. “Or maybe, Nut. That would be a good name and descriptive.”

He walked further. “Joe’s Bar,” he read from sign that hung over the sidewalk from a tavern. “That would be a good name. Perhaps I should go inside and ask Joe if I could barrow his name until I find mine. Barr, with two Rs, that’s familiar. Maybe my name is Joe Barr. That’s it! I’m using that name. Joe can take me to court over that one. He’ll have no case, I’m using two Rs.”

He walked and pondered. “It seems like insanity runs in the Barr family. I’m changing names.”

He walked onward as if drawn by some strange force which he was more than willing to surrender for there was nothing else to cling.

There was a sound, a distant sound – a familiar sound. It became louder with each step. It was rhythmic and good. He moved hypnotically toward the sound not knowing why it tugged him.

It was the sound of a pneumatic wrench removing lug nuts. He walked hypnotically toward it not bothering to stop for cars. They stopped and honked at him. He walked toward a garage with four bays, “Big Al’s TireRama.”

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The Sixth Man – Episode 1

thS2BNC4Q6Thirty-Seven Years

 

It was such a strange thing; he woke up on a bench in a park in Des Moines, Iowa. It was a warm day and he shielded the sun from his eyes with his hand.

Where am I?” he thought. “Who am I?” he said quietly.

He sniffed, a terrible odor. “That’s me,” he said.

He stood and stretched. He walked about 25 yards to the entrance of the park. There was a street, not many cars – strange looking cars.

What is going on?” he said. “Is this another country?”

He followed the street for a mile walking into the downtown business district. He read the street signs. They were unfamiliar. In fact everything looked strange. He was unable to identify the makes of any car. They looked strange and very modern.

He walked further careful not to panic, but inside feeling quite anxious.

A man in a suit stood at the entrance of a building. He checked his watch as if waiting for someone to arrive and they were late.

He approached the man. “Do you mind if I look at the newspaper for just a second?”

The man looked at him condescendingly and handed over the newspaper. The man said. “I’ve read all I want to read. Take it, it’s yours.”

Thanks,” he said and walked around the corner away from the view of the man. He looked at the date. “That’s 37 years from now – I think. I thought this was 1972, but that‘s all I know.” He looked intently at every think around him. “Thank god, it looks like the hippies didn’t take over.”

What is going on,” he muttered. “Where was I yesterday and who am I now?” He swallowed hard and closed his eyes hoping to open them and return to normal.

He hurried back to the park. There was a woman changing trash bags in the refuse cans.

Ma’am,” he said, “are you here everyday?”

Yes,” she said, “it’s my job.”

Have you seen me before?” he said.

I’ve seen you around,” she said.

Do you know who I am?” he said.

No,” she said, “don’t you?”

Thanks, Ma’am,” he said and walked away as if about to stumble.

If ya wanna know who you are ask the cops,” she hollered.

He hurried out of the park fearing the police.

I must be a criminal,” he thought.

Where do I live?” he said.

He walked aimlessly for two hours hoping to see something familiar. Nothing looked familiar. He stopped at a parked car and looked into a side view mirror. “Is that me?” he said. “I don’t even look like anybody I know. In fact, I can’t think of one person I know. My god, what is going on?”

I’m hungry,” he thought. “That should trigger something. I should instinctively go to where I can find my food.” Nothing came to mind.

He reached in his pocket. It was the first time he recognized what he was wearing. He wore an old and soiled army field jacket, a tee-shirt, and ragged jeans. The shoes on his feet were cheap and well-worn running shoes. He pulled a crumbled five dollar bill from the pocket of the jacket.

He walked back two blocks to a diner he had passed a few minutes earlier. He bought a coffee and a hamburger. He ate it amid stares from people seemingly disturbed by his unkempt appearance.

Walking the streets again he fished through his pockets and found a key in his pants pocket. It was a door key. “I must live someplace,” he thought, “but where?”

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