AwesomeDude 10th Anniversary
Ten story starts, listed here in the hopes they might get a writer’s imagination churning, arouse his muse from slumber and coax him to sit down at his keyboard and…
Feel free to pick any one and complete the story any which way you want.
“Come with me,” he said in a hard, flat voice that brooked no rebellion.
I did as I was told. We walked down a long corridor. Doors lined the walls on both sides. The only noise was the sound of his thick leather boots slapping the cold concrete. My bare feet made no noise at all.
He stopped halfway down the hall, inserted one of the many keys on a ring he took from his belt and unlocked the door. “Inside,” he said.
I stepped into the room. It was very small with a single cot attached to one wall. The cot was a slab of metal with chains angling down from the wall to hold up its extended corners. A thin pad was all the mattress there was. Other than the cot, there was a metal toilet without a seat and a metal sink with one faucet. There was no window, but a light fixture of some sort was imbedded high in the wall. A translucent panel allowed a dim light into the room.
“Now remove all your clothes,” the man said. His eyes were blank. The billy club that had been hanging from his belt was now in his hand.
High above, a single hawk glided on the air currents, circling in wide patterns. When it crossed the sun, the boy would lose it for a moment, and he’d raise his hand to shield his eyes from the glare, seeking out the raptor. He was small and almost hidden in the tall grass, and he wondered how the hawk could see prey that was even smaller and camouflaged by the vegetation as well.
The boy saw the hawk fold its wings and begin its stoop, gaining incredible speed as it plummeted. As he watched, the bird disappeared at a shallow angle into grass, and then, almost noiselessly, exploded back out and up, a small hare in its talons.
The boy whistled, and the bird slowed its ascension, then circled back, descended and in a flutter of wings landed on the boy’s gauntleted arm, dropping the hare in the process.
The boy slipped the hood over the hawk’s eyes, then fished a liver treat out of his pocket and fed his pet, talking softly to it and smoothing its feathers as he did.
The hawk was concentrating on the treat and the boy.
While it had been working the air currents high above it had seen three men, spread out and creeping through the grass, coming closer and closer, angled so as to converge on the boy from three directions. As hawks have no interest in the ways of men, it had ignored them. The boy was entirely unaware of what was happening, knowing nothing of the men or their presence.
The boy heard a rustling noise and turned.
“You want to play? You any good?”
The kid asking me was older than the others by at least a year. The biggest kid on the court. But he hadn’t been taking advantage of his size. In fact, he’d been passing up his own shots and throwing the ball to the littler kids on his team, giving them all a chance to participate.
“I can play a little,” I said nonchalantly, acting disinterested. It was false. I did want to play. I wanted to play quite badly.
“Don’t matter how,” the big kid said. He had the ball cradled under his arm. He was sweaty and his shorts looked like they should have been retired months ago. Whoever had sewn them up hadn’t cared much what the patches looked like. I didn’t look down at my new Nike’s, or my Brand 40 shorts and shirt.
The other kids were standing around on the court, looking like they were used to this, waiting for the game to begin again.
“OK,” I said, not showing my emotions at the chance I was being given. I’d learned that the enthusiasm I’d had at eight that had easily made me lots of friends then wasn’t a selling point at 13.
“What’s your name?” the big kid asked.
“Leslie,” I said, hoping there’d be no reaction. There sometimes was. I said it rather aggressively.
“I’m Stu,” the big kid said, either not noticing my attitude or ignoring it. “Here.” He handed me the ball. “Let’s see you drive in and make a layup.”
I hid my grin. I also thought it best to hide my ability till I knew more about this guy, this game, these kids. So I dribbled the ball a little awkwardly toward the closest basket, stumbled a little going up with the shot, and clanged the ball against the bottom of the rim.
“Oops!” I said and looked at the ground.
“OK,” said Stu. He didn’t have a smile on his face like the other kids. “You can be on my team, Les.”
The babble from the half-drunk crowd was loud enough that he couldn’t hear what the woman was saying.
“I beg your pardon?” he said, speaking louder than he usually did.
“I said, do you want to get out of here, go somewhere quieter?”
He nodded, not because he wanted to go anywhere with her but because he wanted to get out of the noise and the heat. She smiled and touched his hip, a smile and touch that told him what she was after, and they pushed through the club crowd out through the door where more people were waiting to enter.
She took his arm, moved closer so she was rubbing against him. “Do you have a place we could go?” she asked, her voice pitched low and sounding husky.
Now what, he wondered? He really wanted nothing more to do with this woman. She’d somehow got him to buy her drink, and now was making moves on him, and all he’d been doing was looking for a cute guy to have some drinks with, maybe some fun later.
“Uh, not really,” he said. “I mean, of course I have a room. But we can’t go there.”
“Why not? I’m not that expensive. I’ll even give you a feel for nothing. Here, slip your hand in here.” She pulled her skirt away from her stomach, creating a gap. They were under a streetlight, and he could see no evidence that she was wearing any underwear beneath the skirt.
Feeling very much like just peeling her hand off his arm and running, but also not wanting to offend—he’d always been taught politeness and civility—he wasn’t sure exactly what to do. To avoid slipping his hand into a place it had never been and he never intended it to be, he raised his eyes instead of looking into that distasteful darkness. He glanced around him, as if seeking a place, any place to be other than this.
They were on a street with several clubs, a few liquor stores, and other types of retail establishments that were all closed at this time of night. There weren’t many pedestrians as most club customers took cabs. There weren’t even many cars parked along the street, this being an area of the city where leaving a car parked on the street overnight was simply asking for it to be missing in the morning, but surprisingly he saw there were three parked across the way, and they were spaced out evenly so there was room enough for two more cars between each of them, a rather deliberate alignment which somehow caught his attention. They were all nondescript dark vehicles, and, for some reason, there appeared to be men in the front seat of each. Uh oh, he thought. He could see the face of the man in the driver’s seat in each car turned toward him and the woman.
“Hey,” she said, and opened the gap in her skirt wider.
Sweat dripped from Darrell’s forehead onto the grass. Bent over as he was, his back parallel to the ground, the grass was the only place the sweat from his face could go. The sweat from his body had soaked his tee shirt. He wished he could take it off, but rules were to be followed or he’d be out of a job.
Darrell snipped the grass around the flower bed with his hand clippers till the entire border had been tended, then rocked back onto his feet. The buzz of the mower his boss was riding had been a constant for the past hour. The lawn was huge, and was only about half mowed at this point.
He stood up and moved so he was in the shade of one of the huge elm trees that helped make the estate appear so majestic from the street. He took several deep breaths, enjoying being on his feet again.
He had to clip around the pool deck next. He started off in that direction, thinking how much easier it would be if he could use a weed whacker instead of the clippers, but his boss had been adamant on the subject. The owner wanted all edging done by hand, with no clippings scattered anywhere.
It was a very hot day and there was no shade at all around the pool deck. He got back on his hands and knees and set to work.
It had been an hour and he was mostly done when he noticed the purring of the mower was gone. He looked up and saw the boss coming in his direction. He stopped and stood up to meet him, happy to be off his knees for a moment.
“Looks good,” his boss said in greeting. “Hey, I’ve got to run to the nursery for more bags of redwood bark. We didn’t bring enough. I’ll be gone about half an hour. Just keep going, or take a break if you need one. No one’s here, Darrell, so if you want to relax for a minute or two, go ahead.”
The boss left, and when Darrell saw the truck pull out of sight, the first thing he did was peel off his tee shirt. There was little breeze, but what there was felt wonderful on his sweaty skin.
He looked back at what clipping was left to finish, and in doing so, couldn’t help but see the bright blue water in the pool. He felt a sudden light-headedness, and realized he’d been sweating heavily all morning and had forgotten to drink anything.
Darrell looked again at the pool, and then at the small cooler he’d brought that held several bottles of water.
Our S-class submarine, a nuke named HMS Predator, was running fast and deep, cutting through the vast, empty wastes of the area south of the Tasman Sea. The on-watch crew was busy, each man quietly performing his duties, as professional a bunch as any commander could want. The live feed from the Sound Room was on the speaker in the captain's cabin but I was sure he couldn’t have been giving it his full attention. Not that there was much point. The chance of the sonar arrays detecting anything at 25 knots was almost zero. We were on an intercept course rapidly closing with a target that new intel suggested might be an enemy auxiliary tanker. If it was, it had no good reason to be where it was, or to be traveling unescorted unless it was trying to maintain the lowest possible visibility.
For days the whole of our task force had been trying to locate an enemy carrier before it could launch another strike against the allied convoy carrying one vector of our invasion force. If we were in luck that oil tanker, apparently alone and unprotected, might just lead us to that damned elusive carrier. The task force was being augmented with what few submarines were available, including ours. We were having to make do as best we could, madly trying to neutralize the air threat the carrier posed as well as destroy any enemy surface combatants heading towards the exclusion zone.
The navigator was taking charge on the plot and had just updated the captain, confirming that we could expect to make contact with the oiler in two hours exactly. In one hour, we would need to slow down and return to periscope depth, hope the sonar regained contact on the expected bearing, and then grab the latest intelligence signals from the satellite. Our orders were to follow the oiler rather than engage it, but while doing that, the carrier might appear at any moment and we would have to be ready to fire almost instantly.
The commander was sitting alone in his tiny, darkened cabin. This should be an easy mission, but if successful it would end in combat, the real thing after days and nights of fruitless searching. The commander always changed just before an engagement. His adrenaline began building, and his nerves began jangling. We’d seen him like this, then seen him during engagement. Two different men. He used the time building to engagement to settle himself, ready himself for the cool head he’d need in battle, and that was what he was in the process of doing.
He had a routine he followed at times like this. He believed in routine. He’d had a very successful career; always been promoted first shot, given command at the earliest opportunity, and never had he been deterred from succeeding at any task he'd been given.
Though a success as a sub commander, he was also despised by many of us in his crew. We knew him to be a vengeful tyrant with a quick temper. He would become petty and harsh, arrogant and cruel at a moment’s notice. He delighted in humiliating his officers in front of the crew, and what he did to some of those crewmen might have had him up on charges if anyone subordinate to him had the courage to complain. ‘Might’ was the operative word because the Admiralty wasn’t known to favor subordinates who complained about the behavior of their senior officers.
And this was wartime. Commanders could get away with most anything during wartime as long as they won their battles.
We knew the captain would be focused now on the initial element of his routine, and so would be oblivious to the squawks from Sound Room. I’d known it, we’d known it as soon as he’d entered his space and closed his privacy curtain.
In battle he appeared calm but powerful, in control and centered, when he ordered his submarine, his crew, his command team, to action stations ready to launch a salvo of warshot torpedoes. To reach that state of composure, that control, he always did what he was about to do now. It was his routine. We heard him on his intercom unit, speaking to his new second in command. “Mac, I want to see Sub-Lieutenant Fogarty immediately. Get someone to find him. If he’s off duty with his head down, wake him. Tell him to report to me ASAP.”
The new executive officer hesitated. We could see he was shaken. There was a slight pause, and then he said, “Aye aye, sir,” sounding wary. He was; it was obvious looking at him. The man gripped his handset hard, tightening his lips. New to the ship, he hadn’t observed the captain in battle action, but had overheard the sub-officers discussing what the commander did to prepare himself for action. This was a submarine; everyone onboard knew what everyone else was like, including the captain; many knew what he had done before in this situation. But the fear they felt of the man and their position with respect to his precluded making futile complaints except to each other.
The executive officer, Leonard MacHutchinson, was a newly promoted lieutenant commander. He was carefully feeling his way but could hardly disguise his dislike of the captain and his disapproval of the way he’d seen the man treat his men. The lt. cdr. seemed appalled by what he’d overheard about how the captain acted just before engaging the enemy. However, he knew it would be foolish, if not suicidal, to challenge his authority without exceptional justification.
I could see him thinking, and it took no stretch of the imagination to understand the man’s considerations had turned to S/Lt. Fogarty. Especially if the rumors were true about why the captain might want to see the young man…
Fogarty was supposedly 21 but looked about 17. He was also innocent as many young officers were, but more so than most. Unquestionably he was still wet behind the ears, and that was putting it mildly. The lad was naïve, shy, as eager to please as a puppy, incredibly keen to learn, and, shamefully cute to boot. Like most young officers in their first-ever submarine job he probably had hero-worshipped the captain when he was new on board. Could he still? It seemed unlikely.
The commander was only 36 but looked 10 years older, an imposing, hairy beast of a man, loud, unsubtle, forceful and crude in everything he did. An alpha male bully if ever there was and entirely unremorseful about it.
“Damn!” MacHutchinson breathed deeply, picked up the phone and dialed the torpedo compartment watch keeper, certainly to pass on the summons to Fogarty. As I watched, he hesitated, and then his sweeping eyes met mine.
“The flowers that bloom in the spring,
Have nothing to do with the case.
I've got to take under my wing,
A most unattractive old thing,
With a caricature of a face,
With a caricature of a face.
And that's what I mean when I say, or I sing,
"Oh, bother the flowers that bloom in the spring."
Tra la la la la,
Tra la la la la,
"Oh, bother the flowers of spring."
“No, no, no, no!” Jacques looked almost apoplectic. “How many times have I told you? You must prance! You can’t just stand there and sing! Bounce around the stage. Flip your head so your hair dances, too. Show your comic spirit. Come alive!”
“But…” I tried to say in defense, and as usual he cut me off, wanting to have none of it.
“You have to do it as I say!” He stamped his foot. “I’m the director. I decide these things. You’re just an actor. An actor, by god! Now, let’s try it again. And do it right this time!”
Timothy shot me a look. Because of me he was going to have to sing his part again. I ignored him. I was in my own funk, and didn’t need to borrow any of his. Why couldn’t Jacques see that prancing around like an idiot worked for some of the roles some of the time, but not always for Ko-Ko, and certainly not during this song! Think molten lead, for crying out loud!
Shirley was unhappy with me, too. “Just do as he asks, Tom, please? I’ve got to get home or William will eviscerate me.”
I turned to Paul. “And what about you?”
He was giving me a look, too, but his was much different. He’d been giving me variations of it since rehearsals had begun. Now, what he was telling me with his eyes was more evident than usual. I was at a loss to understand how a boy of 21 could have learned such practical wiles.
In the second week of rehearsals, he’d asked if he could share my dressing room with me. He said it was just too crowded in the one he was in and he had no privacy at all. Though wanting to decline, I didn’t quite know how to say no, and he moved in with alacrity.
Since then, the innuendoes had been nonstop, and now they were getting bolder. He was also becoming far less modest, and yesterday he’d been naked when I’d come into the room and not very swift in covering up. Deliberately so, I’d thought. I’d had to admit, though, with a body like his, I wouldn’t have been shy about showing it off, either. It had flown in the face of his reason for joining me in my dressing room, however.
He hadn’t answered, so I asked again. “Paul?”
He simpered, then gave me a wink. “Whatever works for you, Tom. Whatever.”
Dealing with a toddler can be enervating. Terry was two and a half. He’d decided when he was one and a half that there was no reason at all for him to wait six more months before he could become terrible. He had, and by now he was very good at the Terrible-Twos aspect of his maturation. He was strong-willed, stubborn as a Missiouri mule with a sore hip and a bad limp, and knew his own mind. His mind was usually set on the opposite of whatever it was I wanted him to do. If he was testing his limits, he was testing mine as well.
“Terry, you need to eat some of this. It’s lunchtime now, and when it isn’t lunchtime any longer, you won’t get any more food until dinner time. So now is when you have to eat. OK?”
It’s a mistake, asking small children if something is OK. I knew that. I simply forgot now and then in the heat of the battle.
“NO!” he said. That was his favorite word, and he practiced it all the time.
I sighed. Don came through the door just then. Terry saw him and screamed delightedly, “Daddy!” and raised his arms, his method since he was 7 months old to tell us he was going to be picked up. Not simply wanted to be picked up, but that he was going to be. Or else. That’s what I mean by writing it like that.
“Is he being stubborn?” Don asked me while walking over and giving Terry a kiss on the forehead.
Terry didn’t want a kiss. He wanted to be picked up so he could wheedle Don into doing his bidding, whatever that was at the moment. What it probably was was to be carried around and have complete control of his carrier. What it wasn’t was eating his lunch.
“Is he breathing?” I retorted. As each day progressed, so did the extent of my sarcasm. Being a house-daddy did tend to wear on one’s nerves.
Don didn’t pick Terry up, which was decidedly not what Terry wanted. He started to let Don know that, but Don ignored him. Instead, he came over and gave me a kiss, mine being on my lips—Hah! See that, kiddo?—and said, “I’ve got some news. You know that foster kid we saw a few weeks ago at that open house?”
“The teenager? Michael?”
Slowly, inevitably, the roller coaster car climbed the first hill. Higher and higher it rose, the wheels and tracks making their squeaky, rattling clamor, seeming to heighten the tension the passengers were feeling. Cam watched as the booths on the ground and other rides and amusement park fun seekers all grew smaller and smaller, and as treetops gradually appeared below them.
Bruce, sitting next to Cam, was fidgeting. He was tugging at the safety bar in front of him, squirming in his seat, and his face had lost its color. He hadn’t wanted to go on this ride. Cam had had to drag him into the car, the one in the very front. Bruce had told him he was afraid of heights. He’d told him he didn’t like fast rides. He’d told him he never rode the roller coaster, not even the ones designed for kiddies. Cam had ignored the protests, knowing how much fun they’d have.
The top of the hill was now in view. Everything below looked very small indeed. It had been a still day at ground level, but up here there was a wind. The sun seemed dimmer, too, and Cam noticed a cloud had passed in front of it, giving a suddenly ominous cast to everything in sight.
The train of cars paused at the very top. The front car with Cam and Bruce in it was actually just over the crest, and both boys could see what was ahead of them. It appeared to be not just a steep descent, but a precipice. At their angle, they couldn’t see tracks, just emptiness.
Bruce shook the safety bar harder, and began to yell. “NO! NO! Let me out! I have to get out! NO!”
And then the car began its plunge. It was so sudden, and so fast, both boys felt themselves lifting off their seat, their thighs hitting the safety bar. The bar Bruce had been wiggling and tugging at for the past few minutes.
It suddenly came loose from the lock that was holding it. The bar, spring loaded jumped up, and Bruce felt himself rising with it, floating, lifting out of the car as it dropped precipitously out from under him, down the steep grade.
“Beer here! Ice cold beer!”
“Get your peanuts, peanuts, peeeeeanuts. Bag of peanuts. Get your peanuts.”
“Hot dogs! Can’t enjoy the game without a hot dog. Hot dogs here.”
Rusty adjusted the straps of the vendor’s tray cutting into his shoulders. Carrying his tray of chips, Cracker Jacks, popcorn and various souvenirs became backbreaking misery by the end of the game. He was already getting sore and this was only the fifth inning.
Some vendors cheated and set their trays or boxes or whatever they carried down on the cement courses behind the seats. There they had to compete with the concession stands, but there were usually long lines at those and in any case the vendors were in the shade.
Rusty hitched his load higher, took the weight in his hands and arms to let his shoulders recover momentarily, then continued down the long steps, rows and rows of seats filled with noisy fans on both sides.
“Cracker Jacks, popcorn, chips, souvenirs; Cracker Jacks, popcorn, chips, souvenirs,” he called out. He’d learned to do this in a penetrating voice, which had been a struggle for him. He badly needed the money, and when a friend had told him the ball park was hiring, the thought of working and watching games he could never have afforded to attend was exciting. But the reality was much different.
He’d always been a little shy, yet here he was, trying to catch the eye of all these strangers. He’d never liked being a spectacle, and here he was, trying to attract business with a voice he’d almost never raised in a crowd before.
“Cracker Jacks, chips, popcorn, souv—”
“Hey, popcorn boy! Over here. Three boxes of Cracker Jacks. And one of those Royals hats.”
Rusty stopped and crouched at the end of the row as he’d been taught. Don’t block people’s view, he’d been told. A few seats over, were three teens, a little older than he was. The one who’d called out, who was closest to him, appeared to be the oldest. He was shirtless, and a thin layer of sweat glistened on his muscular chest. He had an air of self-confident arrogance about him. Rusty didn’t like his looks—the challenge on his face, in his eyes. He’d had too much experience with this sort of kid at school.
Rusty took the Cracker Jack boxes and the hat from his tray and handed them to the man on the end of the aisle to be passed down the row. When the teens had them, the one who’d spoken passed a folded bill back to Rusty.
“Uh, sorry, sir,” Rusty called over to the kid. “The hat is $12, and each box of Cracker Jacks is $2. That’s $18. You gave me a ten, so I need eight more dollars, please.”
The crack of a ball hitting a bat, immediately followed by the crowd roaring, didn’t register for Rusty. Instead, he was focused on the kid’s nasty smile.
“I gave you a twenty,” the kid sneered. “You owe me two bucks.”
A whimsical look at ten life scenarios all featuring ‘ten’, running the course progressively from sad to happy:
Turning ten times jealous when your boyfriend calls to say he has to stay out late helping his lab partner finish a project in the physics lab and you know the lab closed two hours ago. Then he comes in at 2 AM smelling of sex and saying sorry, he’s too tired to talk and you’d just want to be pissy anyway, and goes to bed.
Your opponent turning up the 10 of diamonds to complete his royal flush with all your money, including your cab fare, lying in the pot, your spade flush no longer a triumph but now a simple disappointment.
Turning up at your tax appointment 10 minutes after the hour and seeing the IRS agent tapping his foot and busily crossing off deductions you’d planned on explaining to him. You tell him it was unavoidable because your car has been in the shop for a month, and he looks through your receipts and pulls one out showing an $89 gasoline purchase last week with your license number on it, which you were claiming as a deduction.
Just turning ten and finding your entire cub scout troop is waiting to honor you, each with a mandatory ten spanks. You run and manage to escape, but the troop leader convinces you to come back, saying he won’t let them do that, there are too many of them. Then he betrays you by grabbing and holding you when you get near him. After the entire troop has spanked you, some of them as hard as they can, long after you’ve stopped screaming and struggling while all the boys have laughed, the troop leader lets go of you and you collapse on the ground. He tells you to get up. You don’t want to, and anyway, you can’t.
It’s just turned ten o’clock at night and your date is an hour and a half late. The $100 theater tickets you bought for your first anniversary gift are sitting on the table with the bottle of champagne that stopped sweating an hour ago. Your phone is on, but hasn’t rung.
Turning the last page of Chapter Ten in a great novella, seeing the words ‘The End’, and wanting another ten chapters.
Going ten miles per hour over the speed limit and then seeing a cop car in your rear view mirror. You slow down without using the brake pedal. He slows too and stays just the same distance behind you. You put on your turn signal and pull into the right lane. He follows suit. You say, “Shit!” and wonder if you should pull to the curb, but that seems too obvious. You wish you hadn’t just bought that pot, but you did, and you can’t throw it out the window; you know they’re looking for that. It’s just sitting there on the seat next to you. Then his light rack goes on, and he switches on the siren, and you curse again as you’re pulling over, thinking about what your dad will say, and he hits the gas and goes around you like a bat out of hell, and he smiles and waves as he goes by.
Seeing a cute boy bagging your groceries as you’re handing the checkout girl a ten dollar bill. He glances at your purchase— a three-pack of condoms—blushes, quickly stuffs the package in a bag, then looks up at you, all five feet four inches of you, grins while his eyes open a little wider, and says in your ear, “Magnum extra large?” You blush too, and say, “Did you see the size of my feet? I wear size 15 triple E shoes.” And without missing a beat he says, “I get off work in a half hour.” And then you’re both blushing and you fumble the change the old lady cashier, glowering, hands you.
Buying 10 lottery tickets and having one of them hit.
Looking forward to another ten years of AwesomeDude stories, administered by far and away the best site owner on the net!