Category Archives: Short Stories

The Sixth Man – Episode 44

th9UX4XNG1Shovels and Guns

After a night’s rest in a motel Wilson began a long drive on a two lane highway through never-ending flat farm country. He passed through small towns with hardly a breath of life remaining in them.

It was peaceful and bucolic. There were times has body and mind slumped into a tranquil state as if this is where he could find rest and solace. Thoughts wandered and escaped into the open blue skies above, some being captured by clouds, and perhaps in time as the rain descends those thoughts may come back to him someday and they will nurture old thoughts from the soil of despair.

The car lost power and coasted to a stop. Wilson looked at the gas gage. “Empty,” he said. “That’s what the little red light was trying to tell me.”

He got out, slung on his coat, and started to walk. He looked into the western sky. “Winter is coming,” he thought. “It’s not cold enough to snow. A cold rain is worse than a snow.”

He scanned the four horizons. No houses or structures of any sort were in sight. ‘Someone will come along soon,’ he thought, ‘I hope.’

He walked for an hour without a car driving by. He came upon a mailbox next to a dirt lane that led to the east. It was straight and lined with barbed wire and stick fence posts. It rose over a hump in the landscape and disappeared on the other side.

Wilson turned down the lane hoping he would find a farm house beyond the rise. ‘They’re farmers,’ he thought. ‘They’ll have gas. I’ll barrow a can or maybe they can give me a lift to the next town.’

He stood on the raise and followed the lane with his eyes. A half mile away rested a two-story white farm house, a barn, an equipment shed, and silo. As he got closer he saw a large red gas tank. “I’m in luck, now all I have to do is get the tank and my car together.”

Wilson walked to the back door of the house and knocked several times. He called out and no one answered. He walked to the barn and opened the door and looked inside. “Hello, hello, anybody here!” He heard only chirps and flutters of birds.

Wilson backed away from the door and turned around. He jolted. Ten paces away stood a man in his mid twenties holding a rifle on him. He was dressed in black. His hair was died black. He had black lipstick and eyeliner.

“I ran out of gas on the highway,” Wilson said calmly. “I just need to call someone or I can buy a can of gas from you.”

“I’m gonna kill ya, man,” he said. “Grab the shovel inside the door.”

“What am I going to do,” Wilson said, “Dig my own grave?”

“Yours and the grave of the other two,” he said.

“You killed two other people?” Wilson said.

He smiled. “I kind of hacked them up a little,” he said. “I’m a little tired from that so I’ll just give you a bullet to the head. So get the shovel and we’ll walk down to the creek bed.”

Wilson reached inside the door and grabbed. “You’re pretty stupid, slick,” Wilson said. “I have no incentive to do anything but stand here and let you shoot me. Dig yourself you freak.” Wilson tossed the shovel at him and dashed inside the barn.

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The Sixth Man – Episode 36

By Appointment Only

Wilson continued to stay in the motel. He contacted his family in Atlanta and only told them that he met people who remembered him and beginning to piece things together. He told them of his plans to go to Houston.

He dropped by Marti’s home on the day he planned to drive to Houston. Lynn was there also.

She hugged him and gave him a kiss on the cheek. “Be careful, keep in touch and… I love you, Dad.”

And I love you, my little girl,” Wilson said.

He stepped over to Marti. “We had a special love didn’t we?”

Yes,” Marti said. “We sure did.”

Wilson caressed her hand and kissed her on the cheek. Marti softly touched the spot he kissed.

You still love me, don’t you?” Marti said.

I’ll be safe,” Wilson said.

Wilson drove away. “How is this all going to be reconciled?” he said. “This is such a mess.”

At the end of two days of driving Wilson checked into a motel on the outskirts of Houston. He found the name of P. H. Haverston as a practicing psychologists. The next morning he called for an appointment.

We don’t have any openings untill early next week?” the receptionist said.

It’s very urgent,” Wilson said.

We can recommend another psychologists if it’s that urgent,” the receptionists said.

Dr. Harveston comes highly recommended,” Wilson said, “and I want to see no one but him.”

How would it be if we put you on a waiting list,” the receptionists said. “If someone cancels we will call you.”

If that’s the best you can do I guess that will be fine,” Wilson said. He gave her his cell phone number and waited for two days. He did not give her the name Wilson Gentry. He was suspicious of Haverston and thought the best approach would be to surprise him.

During that time he called Lynn and they talked for an hour. He called Atlanta and told his family of the progress.

It was eight in the morning and Wilson was about ready to go out for breakfast. He pulled his phone from his pants pocket. “Hello.”

Is this Mr. Arnold?”

Yes,” Wilson said.

This is Doctor Haverston’s office, we had a cancellation. Could you possibly be here in two hours?”

Yes,” Wilson said. “10 o’clock, right?”

Yes, Mr. Arnold.”

I’ll see you then,” Wilson said.

Could you arrive about 30 minutes early to fill out some paper work and answer a few questions about why you want to see Dr. Haverston?”

Yes,” Wilson said. “I’ll be there at 9:20.”

Wilson had a light breakfast and drove to Haverston’s office.

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The Sixth Man – Episode 35

e4981101-6b2a-41b5-a618-5bd5e33cc50a[1]First Things First

The next day Wilson came back to Marti’s home and knocked on the door. She invited him in. Lynn sat a the kitchen table.

“It’s a nice day,” Wilson said to Lynn. “Would you like to take a walk?”

Lynn looked at Marti.

“I think you should,” Marti said.

“It’s a cold day and I think it’s going to rain,” Lynn said.

“That’s a good day to talk,” Wilson said.

They walked from the home down a long street with mobile homes on both sides.

“I don’t know what to do about this,” Wilson said.

“You can just go,” Lynn said.

“I can’t,” Wilson said. “I owe you and your mom a lot.”

“We’re fine?” Lynn said. “I got a good job and Mom’s all set to retire. She’s got a lot put back.”

“That’s not what I mean,” Wilson said. “I didn’t sleep last night. I thought about you and your mom all night long. I ran out on you. I don’t remember it, but I did. Sure I could write a check, but nothing goes away, not for me anyway and I don’t think for you either.”

“I’m a little resentful Mom didn’t tell me the truth at least sometime before I started getting sympathy form everybody about my dead father in Sweden,” Lynn said.

“She did the best she could,” Wilson said. “Was it better for you to have a father killed in a car accident in Sweden or one who was a nut job and ran off? And who knows maybe your mom wanted to believe that also.”

“I was awake all night too,” Lynn said. “I don’t know where to begin to process this stuff. I sat there last night listening to you talk and trying to make you my father, trying to feel a bond and there was nothing.”

“There is something churning in my brain right now, Lynn,” Wilson said, “and I don’t know what it is. I don’t know whether it’s good or bad. It’s just something. Have you ever had that, Lynn, have you ever had that?”

“Yes,” Lynn said.

“Multiply that times a thousand,” Wilson said. “But out of this bubbling caldron in my head is one coherent thought. It speaks louder and more profound than a bolt of lightning; I love that woman back in that mobile home and the child she had. I can’t explain it no more than I can predict where the next bolt of lightning will strike. This is between me and you, because you need this, your mom doesn’t I’ve left her in pain and agony once and I won’t do it again. Don’t tell her how I feel about you or her.”

As they continued to walk Lynn placed her hand in Wilson’s and her face contorted with a sorrowful joy. She laid her head against his shoulder.

“I think I could walk forever,” Lynn said.

Wilson smiled. “Let’s walk on around the park and we’ll go to Mom’s”

“You’ll never know how badly I wanted to hear those words,” Lynn said.

They walked a talked for a while.

“When are you going to leave?” Lynn said.

“I have to find Haverston,” Wilson said. “And I got to know where everything fits. I have two other children that I know I love, but no matter how much I love them I’m putting you first.”

“I don’t want them to resent me,” Lynn said.

“Things will work out,” Wilson said. “I’ll stick around for a few more days, but I got to get to Houston and see Haverston.”

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The Sixth Man – Episode 34

A Surprise

Donnie pulled the bottle from the cabinet in the kitchen and poured another drink for everyone.

Was the psychologist’s name, Haverston?” Wilson said.

Yes,” Marti said. “Are you starting to remember something?”

No,” Wilson said. “I made an acquaintance with someone who works for the FBI and she gave me that name.”

Do you think he’s still around?” Marti said.

Yeah,” Wilson said. “He’s in Houston and that looks like my next stop.”

Do you want someone to go with you?” Marti said.

No,” Wilson said. “This is something I have to do alone, but thanks and even though it doesn’t feel like it I am married.”

I’m flattered you thought that was an invitation,” Marti said. “But I was thinking about one of the boys.”

Jumping to conclusions,” Wilson said, “Sorry and I’m sure the boys have got better things to do. This is my problem and my problem only. Now you said there was more.”

Yes,” Marti said, “and it’s not your problem alone. You got a wife and children in Atlanta. It is their problem.”

Why care about them?” Wilson said.

This is where the problem comes in,” Marti said. “Donnie could we trade seats so I can sit next to Lynn.”

They exchanged seats. Marti took the glass from Lynn’s hand and handed it to Donnie. She put her arms around Lynn. Lynn appeared puzzled.

What’s going on?” Wilson said suspiciously squinting one eye.

Marti pressed her lips and swallowed hard. She looked at Lynn in the eyes. “Wilson is your father.”

Lynn starred motionless at Marti.

You told me he was dead,” Lynn said. “You said he returned to Sweden and died in a car crash. And that he had no family.”

Wilson sat his glass on the table beside his chair.

Was I around when she was born?” Wilson said.

When you left I didn’t know I was pregnant,” Marti said.

How could I do that!” Wilson said.

You didn’t know,” Marti said.

Lynn, Marti,” Wilson said. “This sounds empty, but I’m going to make it up to you. I’m a wealthy man, at least the man known as Charles Arnold is wealthy.”

Are you sure?” Lynn said to Marti.

Absolutely,” Marti said.

Marti!” Wilson said. “There is a tree in a park in Pendleton, our initials are carved in it.”

Yes!” Marti said.

That’s all I remember,” Wilson said. “But it’s a good memory. Is that where…”

Yes,” Marti said beaming.

I don’t think we should be hearing this,” Butch said.

Wilson called Mrs. Bradford from Marti’s home and informed her of the events. He stayed at Marti’s and all five of them talked until Wilson left for his motel.

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The Sixth Man – Episode 33

viski-bokal-butylka-napitok[1]Get The Bottle

“He was killed in Vietnam,” Marti said, “and you had trouble dealing with it.”
“Did I try to drink it away?” Wilson said.
“No,” Marti said. “You tried to think it away. That’s all you thought about.”
“I don’t remember anything like that,” Wilson said, “and why would that have such a terrible effect on me?”
A tear trickled down Marti’s cheek. “Wilson, you were with him when he was killed.”
Matter-of-factly, Wilson shrugged. “I don’t remember.”
“It was troubling for you,” Marti said. “I was even afraid then that you might take your life over it.”
“There must be more to it,” Wilson said. “Is there/”
“Yes,” Marti said. “You were under investigation and being treated.”
Wilson sunk into his chair. “Tell me everything.”
“You were under the care of an Army psychologist,” Marti said.
“That’s an oxymoron,” Wilson said.
“Butch,” Marti said. “Get Wilson a drink – from the cabinet.”
Butch went into the kitchen, poured whisky into a glass, and handed it to Wilson.
“Thanks,” Wilson said and tossed a swig of whisky in his mouth.
“You better get me one too,” Marti said.
Butch retrieved four glasses of whiskey and handed them out. “I’m tired of running around like a waitress.”
The all sipped.
“Are you ready for this? Marti said.
Wilson slowly nodded and sipped. His eyes were clear and focused on Marti.
Marti became rigid. “You picked me up after work one night and we drove to my place. You told me you were about to be dishonorably discharged and the a psychologists had helped you come to grips with killing your best friend, Charles Arnold.”
“Why wasn’t I convicted?” Wilson said.
“What you said to the psychologist was privileged,” Marti said. “A couple of days later you dropped by and said you had been honorably discharged. You said you had some thinking to do and you would be back in a few days. That was the last I saw you until today.”
“Do you know the psychologist’s name?” Wilson said. “He might be able to help.”
“I don’t think so,” Marti said. “You hated his guts. While you were seeing him you said he had you confused about everything. You said you doubted every emotion and good thing that ever happened to you. You said he had made you think you were incapable of love or relationships.”
“Is that why I left, Marti?” Wilson said.
“I think so,” Marti said.
“And I adopted the name of my friend, Charles Arnold,” Wilson said. “That’s the name I’ve been using sense I left the Army.”
Wilson looked compassionately at Marti. “Were we in love?”
“Yes,” Marti said.
Wilson buried his face in his hands.
“Get the bottle, Donnie,” Marti said. “We aren’t done yet.”

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The Sixth Man – Episode 32

Close Friends

Marti forced a slight smile. “This is all an incredible coincidence. I got a call from the owner of the SNAFU yesterday. He was a bartender when I worked there 37 years ago. We got married a couple of years later. He eventually bought the place, but we divorced after ten years. He wanted me to watch the place for him while he went on a doctor’s appointment. I told him to give Lynn a call. Like what were the chances?”

What do you mean?” Wilson said.

You show up on the only day I have worked there in 15 years,” Lynn said.

Marti breathed deep through her nose. “It was 37 years ago. I was trying to work my way through nursing school. I got a job at the SNAFU. It was quite a place back then, soldiers throwing their money away giving dollar tips on a 50 cent beer for nothing more than a wink and a smile.”

Wilson leaned forward. “Was I one of those soldiers?”

Not one of those soldiers,” Marti said, “but a soldier.”

So you remember me?” Wilson said.

Marti nodded as if a painful admission.

Butch, Donnie, and Lynn looked as if they were about to spring to Marti’s rescue.

Sit back,” Marti said.

Were we friends?” Wilson said.

Yes,” Marti said.

Close friends?” Wilson said.

Very close,” Marti said.

Marti,” Wilson said. “Perhaps it is best I go. I’m opening a wound that I can’t possibly shut or heal.”

No,” Marti said. “You got lot bigger problems than I got. Believe me, painful memories are better than no memories at all.”

Would you like for one of your children to get you a drink?” Wilson said.

I am bone dry,” Marti said. “Butch get me a glass of water.”

Butch quickly went into the kitchen and got glass of water and returned. Marti sipped twice.

Are you okay, mom?” Donnie said.

Yes,” she said, “perhaps better than what you think.”

Would you like to wait awhile before going on?” Wilson said.

That is the way you were, Wilson,” Marti said, “Kind, gentle, and caring.”

How did we meet?” Wilson said.

You never came in with the regular crowd,” Marti said. “You were a loner and quiet. Finally one day I got you to talking.”

What did I talk about?” Marti said. “About a friend.”

Who was my friend?” Wilson said.

His name was Charles Arnold,” Marti said.

But that’s the name I lived by for almost 37 years,” Wilson said mysteriously.

Are you sure you want me to go further?” Marti said. “I’m afraid I will be the one to open the wound that can’t be closed or healed.”

Do you know anything about Charles Arnold?” Wilson said.

Like I said, he was your best friend,” Marti said.

What else?” Wilson said.

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The Sixth Man – Episode 31

Marti And Family

Wilson sent Les and his father away. They were reluctant to leave, but Wilson assured them they had nothing to worry about.

Wilson followed Marti, Lynn, Ronnie, and Butch to a mobile home park about a mile from the bar. Reason told Wilson it might be better to drive away and forget everything he’d heard the last fifteen minutes. But, there was the huge gap in his life and he thought that ever if he were able to glean one iota of information it would be worth it.

Marti unlocked the door to the mobile home and held the door open for everyone. Wilson was the last to walk in. Marti smiled politely and gestured towards a chair.

It was a pleasant looking home; neat and clean.

Butch, Donnie, and Lynn sat on a coach to Wilson’s right. Marti sat in a chair directly across from Wilson.

Butch was a muscular man with tattoos on his arm and seemed not to resist flexing them. Donnie was clean shaved and smaller of the two boys, but looked fit. Wilson looked at the door gauging a quick exit if needed.

Would anyone like something to drink?” Marti said.

Wilson shook his head and the three on the couch said nothing.

What is it you want?” Marti said.

Look,” Wilson said. “I’m not here to cause any sort of trouble for anyone. Ma’am,” he said looking at Marti, “if you have any idea who I am, please tell, me. If you have just a little information about me, a story, a friend, a place, anything; tell me and I’m out of here and you’ll never here from me again.”

Butch, Donnie, Lynn, and Marti all looked at each other. It was a family look; a hidden look that only they could interpret and know what each other was thinking.

Look,” Wilson said. “I know I was here around 37 years ago…’

Who have you been for 37 years?” Marti said.

Charles Peterson Arnold,” Wilson said. “I have a wife and two children in Atlanta who are strangers also. I don’t know them at all. A few months ago I found myself on a park bench in Des Moines. I didn’t know my name or how I got there. I’ve tracked my self back in time to this place and the name Wilson Gentry. I may have another name for all I know. I just want a little help. I’m lost, lost in my mind. It is the worst feeling in the world. At times I thought about ending my life.”

Everyone remained quiet.

Wilson pressed his lips and forced a cordial smile. “Thanks for your time.” He stood. He looked at Marti in the eyes. “Please, help me.”

Please sit,” Marti said.

No, Mom,” Butch said.

Yes,” Donnie said. “For all our sakes.”

Yes, Mom,” Lynn said. “I think you should give this man all the information he needs.”

Yeah, Mom,” Butch said. “Everybody’s right. I don’t want to see this fella wonder around or end his life because we didn’t give him the simple truth. I believe him, he means us no harm.”

Thanks,” Wilson said, sat and rubbed his thigh nervously.

Are you sure about this?’ Marti said.

The funny thing is I don’t know unless I know,” Wilson said. “A lot depends on you. I have to trust you and just judging by things so far, I trust you.”

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