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Authors: Nathaniel Woodland

Blue Stew (Second Edition)

BOOK: Blue Stew (Second Edition)
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Blue Stew




By Nathaniel Woodland

 

 

 

Copyright © 2012 Nathaniel Woodland

 

All rights reserved.

 

ISBN-10: 1466451637

ISBN-13: 978-1466451636

 

3.7.12

Contents

 

Chapter 1 – Blue Perspective

Chapter 2 – One Headlight

Chapter 3 – Fire on the Hill

Chapter 4 – Hanging and Banging

Chapter 5 – Deserted Clues

Chapter 6 – The Three-Scarred-Man

Chapter 7 – The Light in the Night

Chapter 8 – The Paper Scrap

Chapter 9 – Blue Stew

Chapter 10 – A New Outlook

Chapter 11 – Housekeeping

Chapter 12 – Victim Number Two

Chapter 13 – Winter’s Embrace

Chapter 14 – Final Words

Chapter 15 – Loose Ends

 

Chapter 1 – Blue Perspective

 

 

P
arked along the fringes of an abandoned hayfield, Franklin Gross sat alone in his Jeep. To friends and family, that was and would remain his name. To everyone else, after that night, he would come to be known as Victim Number One.

Rain was falling in slow sheets over the field, pattering on the soft-top above Frank’s head like the drumming of tiny fingers. The sun had fought through the gathering clouds all day before conceding the weather to the night, retreating below a horizon of autumn-tinted trees. Sideways torrents had begun whipping up soon after, their ferocity broken only by short lulls, which was all that the current lazy rainfall would prove to be.

In the off-white glow of the Jeep’s overhead light, Frank stared at the two-hundred dollars, fanned out between his thumb and forefingers. It is undeniable: anyone can remind themselves that the value of paper money is imaginary, and pretend that this awareness makes them as insightful as they want. However, to look at a handful of twenties and
honestly
see nothing but green-stained paper is something unique.

That’s all that Frank—his narrow eyes glossing over with wonder—now saw.

He would never be able to say when it happened, or what triggered it, but sometime after he had splayed the cash greedily before him, a lifelong perspective crumbled in his grasp and sifted away through his helpless fingers. The money now held as much worth as the napkins on his passenger-side floor.

He began folding the money, frowning, trying to comprehend the significance he had seen in it minutes ago—the value that’d made him drive all the way out there in the first place. He squeezed along a crease: maybe if he formed the cash to be hard enough, he could
do
something with it . . .
cut
something with it . . .

After a final emphatic pinch on the hardest corner of the folded twenties, Frank took the point and pressed it into his left forearm. His narrow eyes widened. He pressed again, much harder, and let out a slow breath. The folded green paper sank into his flabby arm, shifting his muscles and tendons. He kept pressing, eyes popping, eager for a sign of laceration.

No blood was drawn before his fully-exerted right arm began to tremble, and then Frank’s face lit up madly, and he laughed. He didn’t stop until he started to sense the pressure on the twenties letting up, to his profound dissatisfaction. The muscles in his pressing arm were fatiguing.

He was not strong enough. He needed to try something else. Looking about his Jeep, he saw only trash from fast food restaurants, bags of stale snacks, and the Styrofoam coffee cup that he’d emptied minutes ago. Nothing hard or heavy or sharp enough.

He opened the Jeep’s door and stepped out into the stormy night, into a fresh mud puddle. Unconcerned about the cold water seeping through his boots and surrounding his toes, he waited an impatient second while his vision adjusted to the nearly imperceptible lighting outside.

Dark shapes began to grow to his right, on the far side of the Jeep: a line of trees cutting off whatever infinitesimal moonlight and starlight seeped through the heavy clouds and rain.

Looking down, just as he’d begun to twist his foot loose from the mud, Frank faltered: another dark shape had appeared.

There was someone there. Someone lingering, motionless, at the edge of the small, faint pool of light cast by the Jeep’s interior light. It was a man—Frank squinted through darkness and rain to see—a man with long hair that had formed to his head and down his neck, soaked. Along the man’s left cheek were the shadows of three deep scars.

He was holding a large hunting knife.

Frank looked at the knife. No fear sharpened his gaze. If anything, there was resentment.

The man with the three scars looked at the folded twenties still between Frank’s fingers.

“I’m sorry,” he spoke, but the note of raw excitement in his voice betrayed the apology. “Even though we couldn’t get any work done in this weather, this
still
was not a fair deal for you and your time, was it?”

So he understands, thought Frank, relieved. That’s
just
what he had been thinking.

“No. No not really.”

“You know, I envy you. And, come one glorious day, I will follow after you. But, for now, I propose a
new
deal: the money for the knife.”

Frank’s skepticism was plain to see. Hadn’t he thought that the
original
arrangement had been too good to be true, but then, a forty minute drive later, what did he have to show for
that
? Ten small pieces of flimsy paper, nothing more. And now this man was offering to take back the flimsy papers in exchange for a large, solid hunting knife? Why?

“Because I wouldn’t want to wrong an
enlightened
man,” explained the three-scarred-man, oddly in tune with Frank’s patterns of thought. He held out the knife.

Like a timid dog being offered a treat, Frank approached slowly and made the swap in one fast motion, handing off the folded cash and snatching away the knife. He retreated back against his Jeep and stared at the blade, greedily, much as he had—for some unclear reason—done when this same man had handed him the two-hundred dollars, some time ago.

After a moment, the scarred-man prodded, “You’re starting to see the truth of what surrounds you, Mister Gross. You
know
what to do. Give it a try.”

Frank looked up at the man, and then back down at the knife.

He ran a fingertip along the blade with moderate pressure, and the skin cut easily, and the blood poured freely.

It was then that another—much larger—lifelong perspective fluttered away, as though it’d only ever been a sketch on a thin sheet of fabric. Like how he’d looked down at the paper money and sensed its weight and significance strip away, Frank looked down at his hands, his arms, his legs, his whole large body, and he saw, effectively, nothing.

His life had amounted to nothing. His life could only
ever
amount to nothing, for he was nothing more than tumbleweed, rolling through an infinite desert. His eyes, his ears, his limbs, his organs, his brain . . . his whole body was the sum of a pointless assortment of particles that, by chance, had collided and balled together over millions of years. If his body had one
true
use, it had been to obscure the reality of the world with arbitrary lies . . . but now that one use had evaporated, somehow.

Frank saw the only thing to do, come to this point.

How to go about it was less certain. Sure, he could just stab himself into oblivion, and that would be fine and good . . . but it didn’t seem apt. Frank wanted to
crush
the lies that had defined his existence, not pokes holes in them.

His night-vision had continued to improve. With wild enthusiasm he looked around, seeking inspiration, and immediately he saw his Jeep. He touched the metal hood. It was a heavy piece of machinery. Earlier that day it had been his life’s pride and joy—the modest pinnacle of his achievements—but now it held potential value of a much different kind.

An idea came to Frank, a vision, half-baked out of delirious excitement. He tossed the knife through the door that had remained open, onto the Jeep’s passenger seat (it would’ve been a shame to discard such worthy a tool into a puddle, even if he now believed he had no use for it). He then started to slog through the mud, towards the tall row of perfect black which signified the beginning of the forest.

Filled with awe, his eyes danced about as he walked. He saw the dark forms of the four cars owned by the four other men who’d come that night to receive useless cash from the three-scarred-man. Frank wondered where they were. He would’ve liked to share with them his enlightenment, but even then he was too selfish to consider anything that might delay his plan.

He would’ve been happy to learn that the four other men were already on his same—
unique
—level, anyway.

Frank came to a stone wall that drew the faded line between trees and grass. He jerked up the nearest, largest slate rock from the stone wall. His eyes rolled into the back of his head as the rock strained his back and shoulders beautifully, cutting up his palms. In some ways he wished his Jeep was farther away as he staggered back towards it, his upper-body stressed near to its breaking point, the large rock digging deep into his midsection.

He rounded on the driver-side door, and then, with a gasp, threw the muddy rock onto the floor, near the pedals. He climbed in after it. With muddy, bloody hands, he put his keys into the ignition and twisted. The Jeep rumbled to life. He held down the brake and put the car into drive.

That was when Frank hesitated, only then beginning to comprehend the complexity of the challenge he had created for himself. He slid the seat all the way back and squeezed himself down onto the floor with the rock, taking his foot off the brake pedal and swapping it for a hand.

He would have to do this fast. His head went light as he visualized himself running out in front of the moving Jeep and being popped like a puss-filled bug by its big off-roading tires.

With one hand on the brake, he put the other on the rock. He couldn’t stand to think about it any longer. He grabbed the rock with both hands and pulled it onto the gas pedal.

The engine screamed and the Jeep lurched. Frank smashed his head on the bottom of the steering wheel, flailed his feet around desperately, and almost fell out of the car, but old reflexes made him grab onto the wheel and hook a knee onto the floor.

BOOK: Blue Stew (Second Edition)
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