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Authors: Mary Wallace

Unburying Hope

BOOK: Unburying Hope
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Unburying Hope

A Novel


Mary Wallace


Follow Mary
Wallace on Twitter:


Road Angel Media

San Rafael,


Unburying Hope
a work of fiction.
characters, places and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination
or are used fictitiously.
resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely


Also available as a Road Angel Media paperback Original:


Copyright 2013 by Mary Wallace

Road Angel Media
Fiction / Romance /


All rights reserved.


in the United States by Road Angel Media,

Box 151431, San Rafael, California 94915-1431.


For my three
beloved children,

may the four-man
wolf pack run free


For my
amazing sister, Eileen Chatoff

who provides
the relationship equivalent of Spanx… keeping me presentable

with hardy
and hidden support

Chapter One


The shrill screaming in the night, he
remembered that most clearly.
felt it in the prickly cold that raced along his skin like an electric
The empty percussion of
blast waves signaled that high velocity, incendiary projectiles were now racing
skyward, invisible in the darkness.

Tonight, suddenly, an orange blaze of light
shaped incongruously like a chrysanthemum exploded above him.

His neck hurt, turned upwards to watch the
death of the lights more than the explosion itself.
Because the end of it, the fallout of the combustion, was
the real 4
of July to him, not the thirty minutes of breathtaking
show that made the crowds on the street stare, made the old lady next to him in
her bathrobe grab his elbow in her birdlike fingers.

At home, there were always oblivious children.
They stared at the sky in rapt joy,
totally unaware that these explosions could end in any other form but a gentle

His ears were his early warning
They sent ragged
messages to his nerve endings that in a moment his world might end.
And again.
ears heard the small pop, the release of powders and chemicals from their
holding tubes out on the pontoon on the Detroit River.
He’d carried chemicals like that in
Knew quite a bit about how
to maneuver them to terrify the enemy.
Carried some still, in his backpack.
In metal containers where they could not interact without
his specific intent.
It was hard
to leave behind your expertise, what had saved you, there was an inexplicable,
emotional attachment, he knew.
uncle had kept his dead son’s broken down motorcycle parts in his trunk for a
decade, until he could come to grips with his loss after the kid’s
It was like that.
If he had his materials, then some deep
part of him felt safe.

He heard the pop again, felt it light up
another current through his skin cells.

It was always the same.
Blood vacated his brain, reversed from
his toes and fingers, ran tornado-like into his gut where an immense primal
reflex took over and puke started up his esophagus because it was all he could
do to stay in place.

In the late night darkness of a partial
summertime power outage, Detroit’s mountainous steel and glass buildings in the
riverside financial district look much like Afghanistan’s rugged northeast, he
Jagged reflections of grey
and silver loom like the faraway glacier remnants that he had once guessed
reached as high as 20,000 feet.
July’s oppressive heat strangled the few winds that came off the Detroit
River, but he can’t shake a two-dimensional sense that he is walking not in a
decaying city but again in a foreign war zone.

He’d been arrested on these streets as a kid,
for typical teen hoodlum stuff.
Hanging out in the park after dark with a couple of 40-ounce beers,
smoking weed in an abandoned house.
A judge offered to suspend his sentence if he’d join up in the military,
in a convoluted attempt to get a boy off the streets and push the job of making
a man out of a boy onto the tried and true shoulders of the armed forces.

He had found himself in the mountains of an
ancient land, in a place he’d never imagined or seen in books.
He had all his gear on and patrolled
with 12 other guys.
The sounds in
the dark of night from those years still haunt him, the silence and then the
explosive bursts.

These days, the popping sounds are

You’d think the smell of cherries cooking in a
neighbor’s pan, a delivery dropped onto the welcome mat outside his front door
would be a signal he might have gotten used to, telling him that he was home,
that the nighttime explosions weren’t the fragment grenades that had kept him
awake during his tours of duty.
basket of fresh smelling lemons with branches and leaves still connected, a
Tupperware from another neighbor filled with two BLTs wrapped in a striped
cotton napkin.
A note thanking him
for his military service, sometimes.
You’d think these things, delivered early on the 4
of July
last year and again this year would have prepared him for the nighttimes, would
have released some of his pain.

But there is that long, anticipatory
After the pop.
Before the first explosion in the sky,
the first 3D star, the first rotating circles, the first chrysanthemum.
That is the darkest moment.

Will buildings implode and crumble to expose
Will the soldier next to him
have his head blown off?
Will the
shrapnel puncture his own chest, his lungs, his spine?
These questions would come every 4
of July.

So he slips away from the crowds, he finds
himself in darkened back streets.
But the sky still lights up, there is still that terrible random popping
that he can’t shut out.

He walks and walks and the explosions are
muffled by the shouts in neighborhoods as each set of fireworks goes off.
Waves of spectators seem energized by
something that causes destruction in other parts of the world.
The shooting of rockets in the dark of
night is not something to watch with a smile on your face, unless you are a
crazy bastard, he thinks.

He finds himself more and more alone as he
walks into the abandoned parts of his home city, thru what look like a movie
They call it ‘ruin porn’,
he’d seen TV segments on it, the New York Times Sunday Magazine did a full
color spread on buildings that were once fantastic showplaces, now standing
empty and decrepit, ignored by everyone that drives by.
Their existence in a barely bustling
city matches the disconnect in his own head.
Half of him is here, half of him is lost in his past, wandering
through the souks and mountains, unable to replant himself home.

He walks to an empty old theater.
There’s still an air about it, you can
feel the ghostly throngs of well dressed patrons who used to push through these
doors to see big shows, so many years ago that he can remember only seeing up
to the counter of the ticket booth.
There are churches like this around Detroit, libraries, office buildings,
even homes, abandoned and ignored.
Dust gets kicked up during outside storms, but nothing moves

He needs to go into places like this at night
when his brain feels broken.
memories come in a safer way here, he can find a quiet forgiveness for the war,
the foreignness of both the mountains of Afghanistan and the deserts of Iraq.

People watch a TV documentary to see the
silent underwater burial ground where the Titanic sits.
An entire lifestyle has vanished, eaten
away by the ocean’s salinity.

His Detroit is not honored by a mythic
interest in the disappeared.
places, like the theater he slips into now, are preserved by apathy, by turning
a blind eye to these orphaned shrines to the past.
The only activity in them that he’s seen is drug
Which pisses him off.
He didn’t fight for his country to come
home to find these places closed up and forgotten, used only by druggies.

He lets himself in to the lobby thru a
windowpane that turns sideways at his touch.
He knows ways to get into his favorite old places.
With the bombing sounds of the
fireworks, he comes here now to rest in the darkness, to sleep for a night in
the velvet theater seats like when he was a kid, but this time there is no
singing on stage, his mother isn’t poking him to not miss the show.

He feels something.
The air is charged.

Someone else is here.

Stealth is his friend, he presses his back
against the wall that used to be flocked with raised velvet and he sidles
quietly down a walkway towards the stage.

It’s those idiots again.
The fucking Meth dealer and his punk
ass associate.
They’ve set up a
flashlight to illuminate their workspace on the stage.

He’d kill them in an instant, for all the
fucking damage they do in his city but they are small time perps.
They’re not worth the federal prison
term, although with his military training, he thinks he could do it in a way to
get away with it.

But it’s not just the dealer.
The dealer is covering a large
box with his back, reaching furtively into his vest.

Those dumb bastards.
They’ve got their guns out.

He can’t see whom they are threatening.
The other half of the stage is covered
by the old curtain still barely hanging from the few steel hooks left in the
sliding track on the ceiling.

He’s going to do it, damn it.
He’s set off hundreds of stun grenades,
non-lethal explosives that temporarily disorient his enemy’s senses.
For five to ten seconds, all the light
sensitive cells in the eyes activate from the flash, blinding them, and the
loud blast knocks the fluid in the inner ear about, so that the enemy loses his
vision, his sense of hearing and his balance, with no permanent injury.
He didn’t want to ever kill anyone
again, but he wants to scare the shit out of these guys.

Goddamn losers, shouting at each other.
It’s always about money.
They feel no remorse about the crap
they put out onto the streets, the seizures and death they cause.
He’d done the dance himself with
methamphetamines after his last deployment.
It had almost fried the few brain cells not wounded by PTSD,
his Veterans Administration doctor told him.
Being home was horrific enough, so getting off meth had only
intensified the tremors, the nightmares that were already part of his daily
He had gone to funerals for
former platoon members, due to drugs or suicide, stateside.
Doing some drugs had been no big deal
to him.
Until he saw what a
lethargic, doped up, broken-down place Detroit was when he returned home.
That pissed him off.
He didn’t want to be part of the reason
things were falling apart.
He wanted
the impossible.
To be part of
things falling back together.

He puts the chemicals into separate plastic
pop bottles he’d found thrown on the ground outside the front door of his place
the other day.
He has a
metal-oxidant mix of magnesium and an oxidizer, ammonium perchlorate.
With his Swiss army knife, he pricks a
large hole in the top of each bottle and tapes them together top to top, one
long connected jumble of plastic whose powders and fumes would reach each other
in seconds.

Oh goddamn.
They fucking shot and killed a guy.

He creeps towards the stage, lobs the bottles
near the curtain and ducks his head for the sounds.
Somehow, it’s not scary when you set the bomb off.
It’s just scary when it’s flying in the
sky over your head and you have no idea where it came from or when and where
it’s going to land.

He creeps backwards and grabs his backpack
just as the sound bomb goes off.

All hell breaks loose.
He’d thought it was just three of them,
two against one.
But he sees there
were two others hidden who now come out, shooting each other like crazy.
Friendly fire, the stupid
The explosion disorients
them, and he knows some part of their brain is not yet able to question why the
building isn’t collapsing, why there isn’t structural damage around them.

After a staccato thunder of crumpling bodies,
it was quiet.

He checked around on stage, all five were
dead, all five had their guns still gripped in their hands.
The dealer was draped over two large
moving boxes filled with rectangular shaped baggies stuffed with white
Not coke.
these baggies, the addiction would be quick.
You can’t fight it off when the shit is so easy to
It sickened him to think
of all this lethal shit on the black market.
Detroit was dying from the inside, with this stuff ruining

BOOK: Unburying Hope
9.16Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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