Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Next morning reflections.

So I like TUSKERS.

It flowed out of me and that can't be bad.

But the inevitable happens when I start to edit.  I start to see the flaws.  It's the turning on of the critical part of the brain.

Yesterday, I was overcome with First Draft Infatuation, as well as Finished Book Euphoria.

Last night it was, "Oh."

What usually happens with second drafts is that I try to fill out and develop the story.  I think it could probably use more description, for instance. 

But it's a good solid framework.

Of course, some of the things I like about it may not work.

Basically I introduce each character, give them some background, and then have them come up against the killer pigs.

Then I try to weave all the characters together. 

It's the spending time on the background of each character that is new, plus the extra dialogue.  I think I wrote fantasy when I started writing because I wasn't sure about dialogue, and I wasn't sure if I had experienced enough real life to write about it.

Killer pigs may not sound like real life, but in some ways its not about the pigs.

Led to the Slaughter isn't about werewolves.
The Vampire Evolution series isn't about vampires.
The Dead Spend No Gold isn't about Bigfoot.

It's about the people.

It was a wonderful experience to write a book so fast, a miracle, but it isn't the healthiest way to live I don't think...

Still, it's like a gift, and I don't feel like I should turn it down when it comes.


Tuskers. Chapter 12


Chapter 12


Jenny whimpered at the sound of the crash downstairs, and I almost joined her in whimpering.  But despite the equality of our marriage (hell, she had earned most of our income over the years, but I’d never felt less the man for it) I was feeling something old-fashioned rising in me, giving me courage I didn’t think I had -- the need to protect my woman.
“Don’t go out there,” Jenny said, as I approached the bedroom door.
“Where’s the big flashlight,” I asked.
“I left it on the deck,” she said.  “Are the lights out too?”  She said with a steadily rising voice, as if this was the most terrifying thought of all.
I flipped the bedroom light on once or twice to reassure her.  “I was thinking of it more as a weapon.”
“Can’t we just wait until morning?”
“There might still be something I can do to keep them out,” I said, desperately thinking about all the doors and window of the house and wondering which of them were vulnerable and why.  “If we get stuck in here, we’re going be really trapped.  No food, no nothing.”
I cracked the door open an inch and listened.  I couldn’t hear anything from downstairs.  No matter how smart or weird the pigs were acting, I didn’t think they could manage to be stealthy.
“I don’t think any have gotten inside yet,” I whispered.  I slipped out the door before Jenny could answer.  I tiptoed to the hall door and got the big flashlight, which was perched precariously on the railing.
I closed the door quietly and went down the hallway.  I was aware of the pain in my foot, but it was distant, less important now.  My adrenaline was pumping so much, I suspected that the pain was being masked. I’d probably pay for it later, but for now I was just glad to have my mobility back.
I went down the stairs, stopping at every step and listening.
I reached the bottom just as another loud crash echoed through the house and seemed to shake it.  I was three steps up the stairs before I stopped myself.  I turned around and went back down.  Despite the loudness, it was clear to me now the noise was coming from outside.
I reached the kitchen, but something told me not to turn the light on.  I could hear the sound of movement outside the glass sliding doors to the patio.  I went closer.
Then I turned on my flashlight and turned the beam onto the patio.
It was hard to make sense of it at first.  The javelinas were moving around so fast, I couldn’t count them.  The outside table was upside down, like a turtle, and all the lawn chairs were knocked on their sides.  The “Hunter Hacienda” sign was hanging from one hook, and since it was eight feet up, I couldn’t figure out how, until I saw one of the bigger pigs spear a chair cushion with its tusk and send it flying into the air.
Then all movement stopped, as if the pigs were playing “Freeze.”  They turned their snouts in my directions.  I started counting them, mindlessly, and reached twenty-five, which wasn’t even half of them, when they started moving again.  They moved aside, to either side of the patio, leaving a path down the middle.
Razorback sauntered down the middle, seemingly in no hurry.  He reached the glass door and stared up at me, and I realized that he could somehow see me behind the beam.  I put the beam directly into his eyes.  At the same moment I realized I was thinking of it as a “he” instead of an “it,” because there was no denying the intelligence in his eyes.  The other pigs might all by mindless brutes, but he was a thinking creature.  And all his thoughts seemed were turned to chaos and malevolence. 
He turned away abruptly when the light hit his eyes, and trotted to the back of the patio.  The other pigs tracked his retreat with their eyes.  Even through the glass I could hear Razorback’s urgent grunting.  One of the pigs stepped forward, and then slowly turned toward the glass door.
I was backing away even before the pig started running. 
I nearly tripped on the rug my wife kept in front of the sink as the head of the javelina smashed into the door.  There was a loud crack, and the light of the flashlight shimmered off the forming crack, like a lightning bolt in the night sky. 
I turned and ran, but as I passed the pantry, I stopped and put the light on the rows of food.  What would be most useful?  What would last the longest?  I grabbed a big jar of peanut butter.
Then there was another crash behind me, and all thought of planning went out my head, and I just grabbed everything I could carry.  I turned and ran up the stairs, dropping cans and boxes of food behind me.  I reached the bedroom door and slammed it behind me.
I stood with my back to, rasping my breath, my heart pounding so hard I thought it would burst.  I listened, waiting for the sound pursuit.  But it was completely silent.  Even the noise from outside was gone.
Jenny hadn’t said a word when I came crashing into the room, nor did she say anything when I crawled into bed next to her.  She just reached out with trembling hands, and took me in her arms.
Against all expectation, I went to sleep.


Tuskers. Chapter 11


Chapter 11


Pederson was on his fourth trip back from town, loaded with lumber.  He’d cleaned out the hardware of shotgun shells.  On his third trip, there had been five other people in line.  All he had to do was say the word, “Javelinas?” out loud and the conversation had taken off.
They were all having trouble with aggressive bands of pigs.  He knew all the names of the people in line, though he doubted they knew who he was.  He’d made it his business to know who his neighbors were.
“My cat went missing,” Harvey Johansson said.  “I keep her inside most of the time, and she’s a scaredy cat.  It would take some doing to catch her off guard.  But…these skunk pigs, they’re getting way too aggressive.  And sneaky.”
“I think we need to clean them out,” said Jerry Olsen.  “Cut their numbers down.”
Fred Carter spoke up.  “I came around the corner of my house to change hoses and ran smack dab into one.  I swear it growled at me.  Pigs don’t growl, do they?”
The conversation inspired them all.  The entire shelf of ammunition was completely wiped out.
“Maybe we should leave some for others,” Anthony Lawrence said, doubtfully.
“Don’t worry,” the clerk said cheerfully.  “We have a whole warehouse full.”
But Pederson noticed on his fourth trip, the shelves were still empty.  He stared at the high-end bow and arrow set for a long time, and then reluctantly turned away.  He suspected he didn’t have time to learn even the rudiments of bow hunting.
Though how hard could it be? He asked himself.
He turned around and snagged it and took it to the counter.  The box was dusty.  The huge price tag meant that most people in this town could never afford it.  It was a showpiece.
The same clerk was there, no longer looking so cheerful.  He eyed the huge price of the bow and looked at Pederson doubtfully, but when he was handed a Black Card, he ran it through and it passed.
“What’s going on, Mr. Pederson?  Everyone is acting crazy.  I can’t raise anyone at the warehouse.  My boss hasn’t come in today.  Is there something I should know?”
“What’s your name, son?  Where you from?”
“Mark,” he said.  “Mark McCallister.  I’m from Idaho.”
“Idaho, good.  Did you live in the country?  Know how to handle a gun?”
“Yes, sir.  Everyone knows how to handle a gun where I come from.”
“Good,” Pederson said.  “Buy one of your fine wares, and take it home with a box of ammunition.  Don’t bother to come to work tomorrow.   Where are you living now, Mark?”
“In town, over the old Sweeny grocery store.”
“You should be safe.”
“What do you mean safe?  What the hell is going on?”
“Just stay indoors.  If you see any javelinas, get inside quick.”
Pederson left him there with his mouth open.  He didn’t know the clerk, which meant he was newly arrived in town.  The young man might not even know what a javelina was. 
But Pederson needed to get back to the farm.  When he was driving into town, he’d seen a huge pack of the javelinas coming down the road.  By the time he’d reached the turn in the road where they had been, they’d vanished into the underbrush.  The sight had disturbed him.  Before this week, he’d never seen more than twenty javelinas together.
He was headed out to the door of the hardware store when he saw Bart Hoskins, the head of the local United Way drive.  He was a banker and one of the few people in town who knew about Pederson’s wealth.  He was rotund man, originally from L.A., but who pretended to be one of the old-timers because he’d arrived a couple of years before most of the other Snowbirds.
The banker winked at Pederson, like he always did.  Pederson had made it clear that if word ever got out about his money, that the largesse he bestowed on the United Way would come to an end.  Even then, he sometimes wondered if Bart’s love of notoriety would overcome his better nature.
“Lyle, good to see you!” 
The big man looked askance at the bow and arrow.  Hoskins was against all guns, all hunting, and anything else that might pare back the wildlife.  If he had his way, all the animal species would be allowed to overpopulate and starve to death.
“Let me ask you something,” Pederson said, on the spur of the moment.  He never could resist pulling Hoskin’s chains.  “Have you been having trouble with the javelinas?”
A cloud passed over the banker’s face, and Pederson knew he’d hit a sore spot.
“Well, they were here before us.  Besides, I don’t believe in wasting water on lawns and gardens, so I got nothing to complain about.” 
There something in his voice.
“But?”
“They killed my cat!”
“Have you thought of getting a gun?”
“What?” the banker tried to act surprised, but Pederson saw the look of guilt in the man’s face.  The man had bought a gun.  Pederson would bet anything on it.
“They have as much right to existence on this land as we do,” Bart said, stubbornly.   “Maybe more so.”
“Yeah, keep telling yourself that.  Meanwhile, be careful, Bart.  You hear?”
The banker nodded his head, and they exchanged a look -- man to man.
They passed each other without another word.
Pederson had more wood in the back of his pickup than he probably needed, but he had more money than he could ever spend.  The passenger seat and the compartment behind the front were filled with groceries.  For the first time in his life, Pederson had bought bottled water.  He’d tried to think of everything.
He shoved the bow and arrow on top of the rest.
It was probably all for nothing.  They’d call the state troopers in, or the National Guard.  A few more attacks and no one would be able to deny it.
But…there was that nagging feeling.  He’d had it the week before the stock market crashed.  He’d called his broker and told him -- no, ordered him, because he could tell the broker was going to lollygag -- to sell everything. 
The broker had called back a week later to thank him, because Pederson had been so adamant that the broker had sold a portion of his own portfolio.
The one thing Pederson had learned from his years in Silicon Valley -- trust your own instincts, even when everyone else disagreed with you, maybe especially when everyone disagreed with you.
He was probably traveling a little too fast on his way home.  He knew every turn in the road, every bump.  But what he didn’t expect was a javelina standing in the middle of the road.
If he’d had even one more second to think about, he would have run over the animal.  But his natural impulse took over and he swerved to miss the pig.  His right front tire went off the right side of the road, and seemed to want to jerk the pickup off the cliff.  He corrected.  He’d planned for this moment for years.  Most people overcorrected, sending them careening to the other side of the road, either smashing head on into coming traffic, or continuing down the other side, usually flipping the car.
So he tried to moderate his correction, but it was no use.  The momentums still sent him across the road.  Fortunately, the road was rarely traveled, so it was the bank on the other side that came barreling toward him.  He braced himself for impact.
The last thing he remembered was the air bag coming toward his head, as if in slow motion.  He was impossible he could have seen it, but he had a vision of the wood flying thrown the air over the pickup, impaling themselves on the sandy bank.
And then, darkness.


Tuskers. Chapter 10


Remember, rough draft, be kind.

Chapter 10


 “What’s happening?” Jenny said.  “I don’t understand!  What’s happening!”
The smoke from the Silverstein house was expanding into a mushroom cloud.
“Let’s get inside,” I said.  I got up and walked down the roof, for some reason no longer scared of falling off.  I was numb.  I jumped over the rail and then turned and helped my wife.
I was still favoring my right leg, but the pain didn’t seem as bad.  Mostly, I was just scared.  All my plans…going into town, getting a gun, blasting the javelinas away, law or no law.
But trained police officers had apparently just been taken down in seconds.
That wave I’d seen.  That wasn’t the original five pigs. Or even the dozen or so more I’d seen later.  That had appeared to be hundreds of them, hundreds of pigs on the rampage.  I’d need a machine gun, a flamethrower, a tank!
We had reached the kitchen when we heard to car pull up in front.
“Peter…” Jenny breathed in, and a cry of alarm came when she breathed out.  She ran for the door.
“Don’t open it!” I shouted.  There was steak knife lying on the counter.  I grabbed it and followed her.
She opened the door, for a moment I thought everything would be all right.  Peter was getting out of his SUV.  He had a small trailer on the back with a motorcycle, and I remembered something about his kids being active in motocross.
I saw something darting for my wife’s legs and without thinking, I dove.  I drove the knife into the side of the javelina, its tusks just inches from Jenny’s thighs.
“What the fuck?” I heard Peter say.  He was halfway up the walkway, looking at us in shock. 
Fortunately, there was only one ‘guard’ at the doorway.  (And even in the heat of the moment, I knew that it was planted there, on orders from Razorback, as crazy as that sounded.)
Peter was a good-looking guy.  Tall, dark and swarthy, just the kind of guy that Jenny would always say was handsome when she saw them on TV.  I wasn’t that dark, and not much swarthy, so I always wondered about that.  I was average height, gray thinning hair and beard.  Even when I was younger, my hair was a light brown.
Yet, I knew at that moment that there was nothing to be jealous about. 
“Run!” I shouted, but he just stood there with his mouth open.
“Peter!” Jenny screamed.  “Get inside!”
He started moving, but it was too late.  There must have been twenty of them, swarming from either end of the SUV.  But the one that got him was a smaller one that came from under the car.  It shot forward, and its tusks cut into the tendons at the back of Peter’s ankles, and he fell as if his legs had been cut off.
He tried to rise, but the other pigs reached him, and one of them went for his throat, and Peter tried to scream, but nothing came out.  Blood spurted from both sides of his neck, and his head seemed to almost flop forward.  Then it detached and rolled down the walkway.
Jenny was screaming, and I had to pull her back so that I could slam the door.  The pigs were so busy feeding, it was as if they didn’t even know we were there.

***

“I thought they could hurt us,” Jenny said.  “I never thought they could kill us.”
We were sitting at the kitchen table with drinks in our hands.  I’d poured us both a stiff one, pure vodka to the top of the glass, and Jenny was choking it down.  Her shaking hand was becoming steadier as her words became slurred.
I remembered stories of medieval kings or knights being gored to death by wild boars, and it had always seemed an ignominious way to die.  Now I realized there was nothing funny about it.
But I’d never heard of pigs swarming like this.  It was almost as if they were being directed, with tactical planning. 
Which was nuts.
“We’ll just stay inside until it blows over,” I said.  “We can’t be the only ones.”
She nodded.  I knew I get no more arguments from her about staying inside. 
It got dark, and it was eerily silent.  We turned on the TV for a few moments, but the blaring cheerfulness was so incongruous to our situation, that we quickly switched it off.
“We’ve got water, and a full pantry.  We’ll just stick it out,” I said, suspecting I was starting to repeat myself.  I always did get verbose when drunk.
Maybe not a good idea to get incapacitated, I thought.  I put down the glass with a full inch of vodka still on the bottom, proud of my restraint.
“Let’s go upstairs,” I said.  She nodded and we stood up from the table and took each other’s hand, and walked up to our room together.  She spent extra time in the bathroom, and I could hear her crying, but decided she probably wanted to be alone to let it out.  That she’d put up a brave front when she was with me.
After she came out, I went in.  After I did my business, I happened to look in the mirror.  I was shocked by who stared out at me.  A thousand yard stare, is what I saw.  Shell shock.  My cheeks were gaunt, even though I hadn’t skipped a meal, there were dark shadows under my eyes. 
I slid open the drawer and pulled out my pill bottle.  I sometimes took half an alprazolam to sleep.  I thought about taking a couple, then closed the drawer again.
I went back to the bedroom.  The lights were out.  Jenny wasn’t moving, but I knew she wasn’t asleep.
The pigs are most active at night, came the thought.
As if in answer, I heard a crash from downstairs


Monday, July 28, 2014

Tuskers. Chapter 9

Third chapter posted today.  Look for the other ones.

As always, rough first draft. (be kind.)

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Chapter 9


“9-1-1…what is your emergency?”
“This is Barbara Weiss, 302 Bradford Court.  I was just attacked by three javelinas.”
There was silence on the other end.  Barbara had expected the operator to scoff, or at least sound skeptical.  She could hear whispering in the background and when the operator came back on, she sounded business like.
“We are advising people to stay indoors.”
Barbara hesitated at that.  Was there more than one incident?
“No problem.  I took care of it.”
“How did you do that, ma’am?”
“I blew their brains out.”
“Ma’am, it is illegal to fire your gun within the city limits.”
“Don’t tell your grandmother how to suck eggs,” Barbara said, without thinking.  It was her standard phrase whenever one of her young officers tried to act like knew more than she did.
“Pardon?”
“Never mind.  Listen, I was a sheriff for over twenty years, and a deputy for ten years before that, and there isn’t a law in this country that doesn’t allow for self-defense.”
“I understand, Ma’am.  We’ll be sending an officer out as soon as possible to take a report.  In the meantime, we suggest that you stay indoors.”
“Will do,” Barbara started to say.
“And sheriff…” the operator broke in.  “Keep your weapon at hand.”
Barbara hung up slowly.  Something was going on.  She recognized the tone in the 9-1-1 operator’s voice.  The operator wasn’t allowed to say anything, but she’d managed to convey a lot with her choice of words.
Barbara went to the living room window and opened the curtains.  There, standing in what seemed to be rows, were at least fifty of the javelinas, looking back at her.
She closed the curtains, unnerved. She went to her pantry and pulled out the box of bullets and counted them.  She once figured it was more than enough for a lifetime, even for the occasional target practice.  But she’d just witnessed fifty pigs looking at her as if she was dinner. 
She took the box to the kitchen table and started reloading her empty clip.  She was going to have to restrain her training and fire only as much as she needed.  She’d killed her attackers with three bullets and then wasted the last twelve bullets in her clip making them deader than dead.   
Then she got up and went to her closet and put on her sensible clothes.  They felt comfortable and right. 
No more dresses.  No more high heels. 
The shirt had epaulets, because that had felt right when she purchased them.  If she had a couple of patches on them, they could’ve passed for a uniform.  She put on her old boots, and cinched her belt tight.  She clipped her holster on. 
That’s more like it.  No more pretending she was a lady.  Oh, she was a woman, all right.  These men she had ‘dated’ had no idea what they were missing.
But she could take care of herself.
She pulled out her cellphone and punched daughter’s number.  As usual, it was busy.  Sarah made dolls and unexpectedly had become quite the tycoon on the internet.  When her daughter had first married Jonathan Perkins and decided to become a housewife, Barbara hadn’t approved.  All that higher education, going to waste.  But she knew better than to say anything.
She needn't have worried.  Sarah was busier at home with her doll empire than she ever would have been working for a corporation.  And richer, too.  He daughter had maids and home teachers and everything she needed.  Barbara had even seen an article on her in the USA Today.
The problem with such success was that Sarah could rarely get away.  Even when Barbara visited, Sarah had little time for her despite her best efforts.  There was always some emergency or another. 
The other problem was that the phone was always busy.  Oh, Barbara could stay on the phone, until Sarah answered.  And her daughter would do her best to be pleasant, but there would be a stressful edge to her voice, implying she needed to get back to work.
The dutiful daughter would call back later, when she saw the missed call.  But the same thing would happen, and sometimes Barbara wouldn’t even answer.
She stared at Jeremy’s number for several minutes.  Then she took a deep breath and pushed the number.
“Hello?” it was a little girl’s voice.
“Hi, Emily!  This is your grandmother…
“Who?”
Barbara felt her heart sink, but she pushed on.
“Your grandmother…”
“Grandma Martha?”
“No, sweetie.  This is your Grandma Barbara.”
“Dad!”
“Emily, how are you?  Did you get the iPhone I sent?”
“Dad wouldn’t let me keep it,” came the little voice. 
“Oh.”
“Dad!  It’s Grandma Barbara!”
“Emily…” Barbara said, trying desperately to think of something to say to engage the little girl.  She knew so little.  Her son almost seemed to want to keep information away from her.
“Hello?  Mom?”
Barbara braced herself.  Conversations with her son always seemed awkward.  He’d become a defense attorney, mostly for death penalty cases.  He’d been raised a liberal, but he’d gone far beyond that.  Barbara had made the mistake of playing Devil’s Advocate to what she considered his extreme views, and as a result, Jeremy actually thought she was a conservative.  What else could a sheriff in the Wild West be?  Jeremy had left Prineville for college and never come back, except for short, begrudging visits.
“Is something wrong?” his deep voice demanded.
“No, Jeremy.  I just want to hear your voice.  I was so glad to speak to Emily.”
“Yeah…Listen, Mom.  Can I call you back tonight?  I’m in the middle of something.”
“Of course, Jeremy.  Call me back when you can. I’m always here.”
They hung up and she kicked herself.  ‘I’m always here.’  How pathetic. 
She went to the front of the house, drawing her Glock.  She threw open the door.  There were half a dozen of the javelinas rooting around the bare dirt and rocks.  She started blasting, catching three of the pigs by surprise and killing them.  Two of the others were winged as they ran, and the third got away completely.  As she pulled the clip and put in the other one with a practiced motion, the unharmed javelina turned and gave her a look that almost stopped her from finishing the motion.
It was a warning look.  You’ve messed with the wrong pig, the look said
She laughed, finished inserting the clip and raised her Glock.  But the pig had disappeared around the house.  She thought about pursuing, but decided not to without backup.  (You have no backup, came the thought.)
Instead, she went back to the living room and opened the curtains.  The pigs were gone. 
She pulled the armchair around to face the window and sat down to wait.



Tuskers. Chapter 8

Rough first draft. (be kind.)

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Chapter 8


As it happened, both Jenny and I climbed out onto the roof.   We had a small deck at the end of the second level hallway, which we never used but had seemed like a nice feature when we bought the house.  Unfortunately, the deck seemed to be in the path of some kind of natural wind tunnel so it was unpleasant to sit there for long.
But the railing was low, and we could get onto the roof from there.  We climbed up to the peak of the roof on all fours, and sat gingerly, trying to gain our balance, and looked to the east.
We couldn’t see anything but smoke now.  Not a sign of the Silverstein house.  From here we could also see Pederson’s old barn, and without the smoke we probably could have seen the Underwood’s.  We’d never met the latter couple, who were usually traveling around Europe and who kept to themselves when they were home.
“Barry…” My wife’s voice was low and worried.
“We’ll be OK,” I said, but then realized she was looking at something on the ground.  Just a few yards from the house there was a big hole in the side yard.  Split wires were visible from where we sat.
“Well, now we know why we couldn’t call out,” I said.
She nodded her head toward the spiral of smoke.  “Do you suppose?”
“Yeah, Carl had gas lines.  He was bragging about how much money he was saving last winter.  I thought he was kind of nuts, since it only gets cold around her for such a short time.”
“But wouldn’t gas lines be metal, or something?”
“Something pretty hard, I’d have to believe.  But, babe.  Did you see the damage to the outside of our front door?”
  When I’d been making my -- what had seemed to me -- slow motion escape from the pigs at the front steps, I’d seen heavy grooves in the paneling of our door.  The marks had appeared to be at least an inch deep. 
“That smoke is going to bring emergency vehicles,” Jenny said.  “Even if no one else  calls them.”
We stared at the smoke, contemplating it.  Then both of us seemed to have the same idea.
“We should…
“…signal them.”
We slid carefully down the roof on our butts, once scoot at a time, and climbed over the railing.
“I’ll check the kitchen,” she said, and hurried off. 
I limped to my den.  On the bookshelf near the door, I kept a flashlight tucked in the corner.  I reached for it, paused for a second to pray to whatever deity would listen, and flipped the switch.
There was light, but it was dim.  I shook the light, and it brightened for a moment, and then went even dimmer.
Shit.
Jenny was clambering up the stairs.  “Found it!” she said, excitedly.  She had the big light that we took camping.  It was supposed to be heavy duty.
“Do we have any extra batteries?” I asked worriedly.
“This ought to be strong enough,” she said. 
“It’s still pretty bright out.  I hope they can see us.”  By this time, we were hearing sirens, which were rapidly approaching.  I tried to distinguish between the alarms, wondering if there were any policemen coming.  Policemen with guns.
We climbed back on the roof.  We could see the red emergency vehicles rushing down the long road to the Silverstein’s.  Looked to be a two-alarm fire.  But then, two fire trucks was all the township owned.  I thought I saw the cherry top of a cop car, too.
“Do we have anything that will make noise?” I asked.
“I think I have an old coaching whistle from when our niece, Sherry, was in soccer.  I volunteered a couple of times.  I think it’s in the junk drawer.  Want me to get it?”
“Let’s try signaling with the flashlight first.”
“When do we do it?
The sirens had stopped, but the lights were still flashing.  Overhead, the pall of smoke was getting darker, as the water from the firemen’s hoses began hitting the flames.
“Let’s wait a few minutes.  They’re going to be too busy to be looking anywhere else.”
We sat close together, and I put my arm around her as I was getting more and more secure on our precarious perch.  It suddenly occurred to me that I was having fun…well, maybe not fun, but it was all very exciting.
I don’t normally look for excitement.  I’ve always said that if you try to do everything to eliminate risk, trouble will still find you.  So why go looking for it?
But this seemed to have awakened me out of a torpor I didn’t even know I was in.  The situation was dangerous, my head told me.  It was exciting, said my heart.  And my soul didn’t really believe that we’d be hurt, either Jenny or me.  We’d come out of it, we always did.
The smoke was really getting thick.  When Jenny coughed, I took my arm from her shoulders.  “I’m thinking maybe we should try now.”
Jenny didn’t immediately respond. 
“Are you sure?” she finally said.  “I mean, I don’t see any of the pigs around.  Maybe we can get to the car and just drive away.  We’ll look pretty silly when we tell them we’re trapped by…by javelinas.”
“Yeah, well let them deal with the beasts.  I don’t mind looking silly.”
She laughed.  “OK.  You’re right.  Who cares?”
She lowered the head of the light and turned it on.  “What’s the S.O.S. again?”
That brought me up short.  “Three short. Three long. Three short….I think.”
She started to flash.
“Wait!” I said, suddenly panicking.  “Maybe it’s three long, three short, three long.”
She started chuckling, but didn’t stop what she was doing.  “I think they’ll get the message either way.”
It seemed like she was doing it for hours, though it was probably only a few minutes.  I checked my watch.  It was a quarter to four o’clock.  If nothing else, we should probably save some of the battery life for when it got dark.  There would probably still be firemen around.
Of course, dark is when the javelinas really got active.
“My fingers are getting tired,” Jenny said.
“Let me do it for a while,” I said, but at the same moment, we heard the blare of a sirens.  Whoop, whoop, whoop!  Beep, beep, beep!  Whoop, whoop, whoop!
“I think they’ve got it,” I shouted.  I dared to stand up, there at the steepest part of the roof, and waved my arms and hooted at the top of my voice.  A vast relief went through me, and I realized then that I’d been more worried and frightened than I was willing to admit.
Whoop! Whoop!.....blaaaarch…blarrk, bl…
I sat down abruptly.  I could see what looked like a dark wave washing over the emergency vehicles.  I couldn’t make sense of it.  And then I heard the gunshots.  Just three or four loud cracks before they abruptly stopped.
And then, drifting from the Silverstein house, I heard screams.



Tuskers. Chapter 7


Rough first draft (be kind.)

Chapter 7


Hooking up the trailer with the motocross bike to his SUV just reminded Peter Gandry how much financial trouble he was in.  He owed money on the car, the bike, hell, even the trailer.
But the bike was the only thing that kept his fourteen year old son interested in hanging out with him, so he would do just about anything to keep it from being repossessed.  That would be too humiliating, and the last straw with Josiah, who already blamed him for the divorce.
He had two more meetings today, and then he could head for Phoenix to spend a few days with his son.  Besides, hauling the motorcycle around would look wholesome to the clients, like he was an outdoorsy kind of guy, and a good father.
Morales was waiting for him in Lucille’s Diner, at the back table, already eating his breakfast.  Peter decided to overlook the insult since he couldn’t afford breakfast anyway.   He was getting that desperate.  The last sale he’d made had been to the dyke sheriff from Oregon.  He was just thankful he hadn’t had to fuck her.
“Just coffee,” he said to Mary, the waitress.  He gave the cute girl his best smile.
He knew his most valuable sales attribute was his full head of black hair, his dark brown eyes and long eyelashes, his long lanky, cowboy body.  He covered his one weakness, a slightly receding chin, with a dark beard, cut long in the all the right places.
None of his charm worked on Morales, who was a hard case.  The Mex (he used to think Spic, but it had got him in big trouble with his Chamber of Commerce buddies when he’d let it slip into a joke once) drove a beat up old pickup and lived in a beat up old house, so Peter figured he needed the money.  But despite owning acres of prime land, he wouldn’t sell a single acre, no matter how much Peter offered.
He had a Hail Mary, last ditch plan.  He’d noticed how Morales eyes strayed and followed the shapely bodies of tall blondes.  In fact, he’d seen the Mex nearly drool at the sight of Jenny Hunter, one of the newcomers to town.  It so happened that the woman had inquired about a position in the Gandry Real Estate Company, and he nearly had her aboard.  (Now he wouldn’t mind fucking Jenny, even if she was twenty years older than him).
Her first job would be to work on Morales.
The money he was offering wasn’t his, sadly.  Bart Hoskins, the banker, had extended him credit for this one project only, and was keeping an eye on him so that he couldn’t divert it or siphon it off for his bills.
“I have thought of your offer,” Morales said, with a thick accent.  “I will sell you one acre of land.  One acre, to see what you do.”
The Mex shoved the map with the plots marked on it, and pointed to a piece of land very close to the river.  Peter started getting excited.  He figured it was probably a piece of shit property, but it was the first time Morales had made the slightest concession.
If he couldn’t swing Morales into selling a few dozen acres in the next several months, Peter was sunk.  Morales was one of two original landowners in the valley who still had big enough chunks of desirable land to create a subdivision.
Peter pulled out his checkbook with a flourish and wrote out the check right then and there.  Get Morales spending a little money, give him a taste of the good life, and all things were possible.
He stood up.  “You won’t regret it, Flaco,” he said.  “Can we meet again in a week?”
Morales nodded his head, “Sure, sure.”
“Good!  I’ll see you same time, same channel!”  He turned and walked out of the diner, conveniently forgetting to pay for his coffee.

***

Flaco finished his meal, feeling a little badly for the real estate agent.  He had no intention of selling the man any of his useful land.  The plot he’d just sold was one of those awkward pieces of land that was so angled and bordered by roads and natural features that it wasn’t really useful for anything.
He pocketed the check and waved at Mary. His credit was good all over town.  He may not look like he had much money, but he always paid his bills.
He also felt a little chagrined at his phony accent.  When he’d first met Peter Gandry, he’d used the accent as a joke, (his daughter thought it was hilarious), and then when the real estate agent had bought into it, he’d felt as though he needed to keep it up.
Truth was, he probably spoke better English than Gandry.  It killed Flaco that the people of this valley treated him like an immigrant when his family had lived here long before any of the Northerners had showed up.
He walked out to the car and saw a javelina under the shade of the tree.  When he was growing up, he rarely saw the skunk pigs.  When he did see one, they were usually running away.  This one was particularly big and bold.  Flaco was whistling as he unlocked his pickup, but when he looked into the eyes of the creature, he stopped mid-tune.
The yellow eyes seemed to be measuring him, as if wondering if he could take him down. 
Flaco crossed himself and got in the car quickly.  He was pulling out of the parking lot, when a pack of the javelinas blocked his way.  He honked, but they didn’t move.  He was ready to get out of the care and shoo them away.  Then one of them turned and looked at him.  Again, it was a shock.  Intelligence and malevolence radiated out of those eyes.  Was it the same pig?
He looked in the rear view mirror, and realized that the first pig was now just a couple yards behind the car.  If he had gotten out of the car, he could have been blind sighted.
He honked again, and then edge forward until the javelinas slowly, contemptuously, moved out the way.
  He drove home, deep in thought.  At the one stoplight in town, he pulled out the check.  It was free cash, and he wanted to do something frivolous with it.
He walked into his house, looking around first.  The pigs had scared him that much.
His daughter, Alicia, lived with him, along with his five your old grandson, Felix.  His son-in-law was in Afghanistan. 
“Pack your bags, daughter,” he said.  “I’m taking you to Hawaii.”
“What?” she laughed.  “It’s the middle of the school week.” 
Alicia taught third grade at the local school.
He waved her comment off as if it was no concern.  “You’ve just got the flu.  We’ll be back in a week.  Come on, you haven’t been on a vacation since Enrique left.  My treat.”
“You really mean it?  Felix too?”
“No, we’ll leave Felix here,” he said with a straight face.  Of course I mean it!  We’re leaving first thing in the morning.”
He went to his office and closed the door.
He crossed himself again as he thought of the javelinas.  Those creatures hadn’t been normal.  They were possessed or something. 
Flaco thought something bad was about to happen to this town, and he wanted to be gone when it happened.  
Besides, he’d always wanted to try surfing.

***

Peter Gandry had one more meeting before picking up Jenny Hunter at 5:00.  As he drove down the street in front of Lucille’s Diner, he saw a group of javelinas crossing the road.
He speeded up and swerved, and caught one of them on the flank, sending it flying into the air.  He looked in the rearview mirror to see it land on its head, unmoving.  Then he took a survey of his surroundings to make sure no one saw what he did.
He hated the damn pigs.  They were going to be the death of the community someday, if word got out to the snowbirds about how destructive they were. 
Bart Hoskins was waiting for him at Earps, the more upscale restaurant at the base of the refurbished hotel in town.  The hotel was in trouble, he knew, but he’d been forced out of that deal early, which had turned out to be a lucky thing for him.  Fuck them.
Bart had also already ordered, and Peter felt the same weird mix of resentment and relief.
“How’s it going with Morales?” the banker said, without preamble.
“Great!  I bought an acre from him.”  He produced the check record and showed the banker the plot on the map.
“Useless,” Bart said, bluntly. “I know that plot.”
“Yeah, but the money softens up Morales for the next one.  Trust me, I know how it works.  I’ve got another plan in the works, too.”  He was thinking about the tall, sexy-for-all-her-age-blonde, Jenny Hunter. 
Bart just grunted.
“How’s it going with Pederson?” Peter asked, changing the subject.  Pederson was the other local landowner in the valley who had viable swathes of land.
“You can forget about that,” Bart said, waving his fork.  Dismissing it.
“Why?  The old guy must have huge property taxes, and he barely farms it.”
Bart put down his fork and knife and examined him.  “Well…I’m not supposed to say anything, and if you repeat this, I’ll deny it but…Lyle Pederson could buy and sell you and me twice over and not even blink.”
“Oh,” Peter said, deflated.  So it was down to the Mex, Flaco Morales, who showed no real enthusiasm of letting go of anything.
“Look, Peter.  I’ve been patient with your debts, because I know you’re trying hard.  But really, you’ve got to get Morales onboard in the next couple of weeks or I’m going to have to close you down.”
By habit, Peter almost wound up a spiel, and then he fell silent.  He was just too tired.  He wasn’t going to make it, he could see that now.  It was all going to shit. 
His five o’clock meeting with Jenny Hunter was his last chance.
He slipped out of the restaurant before the bill arrived.