About The Author
D. R. Prescott has written a novel, a collection of short stories, a nonfiction book, a collection of essays, planetarium show/display scripts, two family histories, technical articles and business plans as well as written for and edited several newsletters.
Awards and published work include Writers' Journal, Long Story Short, Taj Mahal Review literary journal, The Orange County Register, Writer's Digest, and Writing.com and four books among other challenges.
As a former aerospace executive and planetarium program director, Prescott currently writes and explores life in Orange, California.
"Sentience can be annoying."-DRP Abt. 1990
Since 2008, Prescott has been a regular contributor of
essays and short stories to
The Taj Mahal Review Literary Journal
Alpha Centauri and Beyond Radio Interview of Prescott
Available today in most eBook formats from these fine people:
Go to your Apple iBook App on your iPad or iPod Touch or iPhone.
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O R D E R T O D A Y !
by D. R. Prescott
Able Tidball snorted as he walked. He only wanted some peace of mind. His eighty-something brain was about to explode. First, Charity took ill; then, hospital and doctor bills; she left him anyway; now, his checks were gone, ‘no more checks ever,’ they said.
Wheezing, he made his way down Fifth Street to Market. At the corner, he passed a crumbling "five and dime" where nothing in the window was a nickel or a dime. By the time he had reached City Hall, his chest heaved. He caught his breath then climbed the steps to the once elegant threshold, grumbling. "Government men! Fancy parlors! Bah!"
Inside, Able trudged along the hallway to the right of the oak-paneled vestibule. Things had not changed very much. Where was the Social Security office? He vaguely remembered and shuffled on letting his gut guide him.
He hated government buildings, rat's mazes purposefully designed to confuse and confound. Able's chronic aches and pains faded as the letters on one of the doors struck a resonant pattern. Reading was something that Able missed growing up and living in the hills before Charity took sick. Reaching for the doorknob, his hands shook. He twisted it. It resisted and slipped through his bony, tobacco-stained fingers. Locked? How could that be?
A white, cardboard sign taped to the door had bold, hand printed words. Able knew enough that the sign meant the place was closed. He began to bang on the door with his veined, withered fists yelling, “No check!”
"Nobody there, Mister."
"I said, ‘Nobody’s there.’”
Able turned. A tall, beautiful girl stood next to him. She laid a hand delicately on her tiny waist and smiled.
"The Social Security office has been closed up for good. See the sign?"
"Can't be. No check."
"The supervisor locked up and left a few minutes ago. I saw him."
"Whadda I do now? No check."
"I really don't know. I just work in the police department… down the hall."
"Dun't know! Ya dun't know! Gettin' sick and tired of hearin' that! Nobody knows nothin’ no more!" Able turned and stomped away as fast as he could across the vestibule toward the front door. Hitting the door with all the force his one hundred-forty pound frame could muster, the door swung open, hitting a cushioned stopper. He fumed; the government even made his fiery exit mediocre. He grabbed the door and tried slamming it, discovering that slamming a door equipped with a hydraulic door closure is a thing a thinking person just should not attempt. He cursed and stumbled down the steps, grabbing the handrail, steadying himself. He looked back. The door closed ever so slowly, mocking him for his stupidity.
Lost in thought, Able scuffled down Market Street. As he turned onto Fifth Street, a few flakes of snow darted here and there. He liked that. An answer was lurking somewhere between his eyes and the back of his skull. Mama told him that there was always some kind of answer. Obviously, he had seen the last of the Government checks. The Government was in big trouble. It was not his fault. He had only twenty-eight cents left. His room rent was overdue. He had no plan. There were few options without his little Social Security check.
He almost passed the familiar brownstone relic, his home since Charity had died. He had crossed two intersections without remembering them. The badly battered door of the shabby building creaked open to the hallway leading to his room. He avoided slamming it; contemplation replaced anger.
Shadows played listlessly upon the drabness; yet, it was a comfortable, quiet sort of dreariness. Unbuttoning his topcoat, he fished for the key in his shiny, baggy trousers. Inside his tiny room, the daylight from the solitary window did little to upgrade the room's appearance. A rumpled, swayback bed, a Spartan table and chair, and a rickety dresser rose from dusty-colored carpet. The stained wallpaper soaked up light, starving the room of color. The closet’s archway, draped in the fragments of what was once a lively patterned curtain, triggered his memory.
Able shed his topcoat on the way to the closet. Drawing back the curtain, he had an idea, an interim plan for some quick money until he figured out what else to do. He pulled out the oddly shaped package, wrapped in newspaper, and carried it over to his unkempt bed. He opened the package, revealing a Smith and Wesson thirty-eight.
He had found it years ago in a trashcan behind the Roxy Theater; he had no particular reason to keep it then. It had only three rounds left in the chamber. Yet, having the pistol comforted him, even though he knew they were illegal these days. He unloaded it.
Able looked out of his window that kept a constant vigil on Fifth Street with its mosaic of decaying store facades, relics of better times. Over half of the buildings were vacant, standing as if corpses propped in line awaiting burial. In the shadows, languid pieces of humanity wallowed in drunken stupors avoiding each other as they pestered people for handouts. They came and went in an endless stream of misery since the economy tanked.
It had snowed. The town looked cleaner with fresh snow, nice. He scratched his nose. It was time to put his plan to work.
Back home, in the hills, the weapon would fetch a good price. Here, he had no idea. He had pawned a number of things during the hell years when Charity needed curing. All of that was useless; no matter how much he paid or did, she still died. He remembered the argument with Delaney over five dollars for his pocket watch. He grinned. That was a good barter.
Delaney's Pawn Shoppe was wedged between Marten’s Dry Cleaners and an abandoned ice cream parlor. At Delaney's door, he pushed it open to a rush of warm, musty air. He looked around for Delaney. An unfamiliar boy stood behind the counter.
"Hey, old timer, help you?" The pimpled-faced boy asked.
"Dead. About three months now. I'm his grandson. Me and pop are running things now."
Able walked over to the counter, reached in his coat pocket and pulled out the revolver.
"Jesus!" The boy's eyes widened as he stepped back. Able realized that the gun was pointing directly at the boy and lowered it. "Jus' want to sell it."
"Whew! Scared hell out of me for a sec, been some strange characters around here recently." The boy said nervously. "Can’t buy it."
"Why?" Able asked.
"Jus’ a gun. Somebody might want it."
"Hang on a sec, Pops, I'll be right back."
The young man disappeared to the shop's back room. Able heard a muffled conversation. The boy reappeared and announced. "Well, Pops, maybe we can do a little business with your hot gun. Hang around for a while and I have a guy coming who is real interested." The boy winked.
"Ain’t hot! Just a gun!" Able snapped back.
"Yeah, right Pops. Just hang on. Don't go gettin' steamed. Just trying to help."
"Just a couple minutes." The lad appeared edgy.
Able poked and prodded display things while the clerk busied himself behind the counter. The door burst open, two police officers entered and took him to jail.
"Tidball, your lawyer is here to see you again."
Able pulled on his coat as the officer unlocked his cell.
"Yuk. This place stinks. Hurry up, Tidball, I haven't got all day."
Able looked at the officer. "I do."
The officer escorted Able to the same interrogation room as a few days before. Time seemed to become transparent in jail. Able was unsure what day it was.
"Good morning, Mr. Tidball. Please be seated." The young man in a pinstriped suit towered over Able. "The last time we talked, you told me you had found the revolver behind the Roxy years ago. That right?"
"Yep." Able said as he sat down in the sturdy oak chair. The table was made of oak. He used to love to whittle. Wood had character; plastic things did not feel right.
"Are you aware that your pistol killed a man?"
Able was silent. The public defender looked at him intensely.
"Mr. Tidball, possessing a handgun is one thing but murder… that's another. Do you understand that?"
"You're damn lucky they don't have the death penalty anymore. Mr. Tidball, I have to prove you found the gun after the shooting. Did anyone see you find it?"
"Did you tell anyone about it?"
"Did you know a man named Harrison Benson?"
The attorney pulled down his vest that had crept up exposing a missing button on his wrinkled white shirt. He turned away rubbing the back of his neck.
Able jumped at the ferocity of the boyish voice.
"Mr. Tidball." The young attorney obviously was controlling his anger. "Did you ever work in the Clove Arms Apartment Complex?"
"When did you work there?"
"Six... nah... maybe seven years ago. Odd jobs. Hep with spences. That was 'fore Charity went ta rest."
"Did you ever meet Harrison Benson while you were employed there?"
"Not that I recollect. This Benson. Who's he?"
"He lived there. Was shot and killed during a break-in robbery."
"Dun’t look good. Right, bub?"
"No kidding! Look Mr. Tidball, I'm your attorney. You can tell me anything. Do you understand that?"
"Shot with my gun, right?"
"Yes, Mr. Tidball, the very same revolver."
Able turned away for a moment. He ran his fingers delicately across the scuffed, oak tabletop. He turned toward his lawyer; the boy had a chiseled intensity on his face.
"Mr. Tidball. Do you know what the prosecutor's going to say? He'll say 'You found the gun behind the Roxy. You needed money. You went to the Clove Arms, robbed, and killed Harrison Benson. Couple that with being caught at Delaney's, well… there's motive… opportunity, and physical evidence!"
"Yep." Able had already figured that much out for himself. He was in trouble--big trouble. He knew he was innocent but… But maybe, just maybe, this might work out.
"Yep! Is that all you can say! Man, you're facing life in prison! Mr. Tidball, I'm going to ask you one more time. Did you shoot Harrison Benson?"
He would have food, a bed and, maybe, a cigarette now and then. Sure, he was going to miss his penknife. Well, maybe he could carve soap with his fingernail as he had as a kid. Able rubbed his chin and said. "Mista, gotta cigarette?"
The man slammed his fist on the table. "Damn! Can't smoke in here! Answer me!"
Able took a deep breath and said, "Yep."
"Yep. Tell ‘em, I did it."
The pinstriped suit seemed to deflate. The robust vigorous youth aged right before Able's eyes.
"Damn! Are you telling me that you did it?"
"Ya hard hearin', sonny? I ain’t sayin’ I didn’t."
"You’ll be locked away for the rest of your life!"
"Yep. You told me that already." Able said.
"Christ, what's the use?" The attorney stuffed a file folder into his briefcase and called to the officer waiting outside. "I'm finished with Mr. Tidball. He's all yours."
On the way back to his cell, they passed the doorway where Able had entered a few nights before. A familiar, buxom girl chatted with a young officer. She looked at Able with a quizzical expression. Able winked at her. She smiled.
Able began to whistle a tortured rendition of "Down in the Valley" as he walked down the hallway. No check. No problem. As Mama always said, ‘Make the best of what ya got in this mean, old world.’
“Yep.” Able muttered.
“What did you say?” The officer asked.
“Nothin’ important.” Able said. It was time for his nap, then lunch, another nap, then dinner, not so bad. Mama was right.
© Copyright 2009 D. R. Prescott (donprescott at Writing.Com).
All rights reserved.
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