Justice was served today…for George Floyd.
Justice was served today…for George Floyd.
WHICH MEANS…OR SO I HAVE READ…
Justice may be slow but it will come EVENTUALLY…
Here’s the deal…I am still at #140…still…STILL!!!!
Just casually wondering here…how long is EVENTUALLY?
Because I am only eating 1/2 of a Hershey bar now and have given up the BBQ potato chips entirely…
So. There should be some justice for all my sacrifice, right? I just knew you’d agree.
Have a nice day…
* Sextus Empiricus (3rd century Greek guy) Hey!! I don’t make this stuff up.
It was a chilly and bleak November day in Minnesota. Normally, I love bleak days but on this particular day I wasn’t especially happy with my life.
Too many people who should be nice to me…weren’t.
Too many people who should appreciate me…weren’t.
Too many people who should love me a lot…or even ‘just a little more’…don’t.
And the worst part about this was that I couldn’t understand why.
If I actually thought that the problem was with me, I would have done something…anything to change the situation. But it wasn’t me.
I had spent many hours soul searching and many hours asking questions…trying to know what it was that I was doing wrong…or not doing right. But no answers…so no solutions.
So I got into my car and took a little drive down to River’s Edge Falls, a wonderful little park in the heart of Minneapolis, to watch the icy, cold water race fiercely over the rocks and then crash down to the bottom.
It was always a soothing place for me to visit but unfortunately, I found I was coming here more often…needing more and more comfort.
The park was beautifully deserted. Good. Mondays are like that.
I could just lean against the ancient stone wall and watch the water crash down…over and over…the rhythm so relaxing and the deafening noise somehow comforting and calming.
I knew I would get my focus back…re-charge…decide the correct path and take it. I’d figure it out…I always did. I wasn’t born yesterday. I had some life skills.
“Hey there little lady, how would you like to come with me to those bushes over there and warm me up on this chilly day.”
The man’s voice was mean and angry. His words slurred. Could I feel a tiny prick of a knife in my back…? No matter.
As I slowly turned, I reached into my inside jacket pocket and pulled out my loaded Smith & Wesson .38 Special revolver that I always carried…because…why not?
And then I shot him through the heart. Twice.
No one heard the shots as I watched him fall to the ground…left hand still clutching a very sharp-looking steak knife.
“Fuck …you…” he croaked as the blood flowed quickly out of his heart and in seconds he was dead.
“Apparently not…” I said and I walked back to my car.
For complete story go to https://prettyprettygoodshortfiction.com/category/remember-me/
I THOUGHT IT WAS ALL OVER.
I THOUGHT THAT I COULD COME HOME…
I WAS WRONG. DEAD WRONG.
Fall in Minnesota. Summer was gone…finally. I hate summer. I always have. Too much sun. Too hot. Too many bugs. And now…unfortunately…too old to wear really cute sun tops…sigh..
November on the other hand, is the perfect month. The sun hardly ever shines and when it does, it’s weak and getting weaker…almost dying…I’m okay with that.
The wind is chilly but not piercing…not yet anyway. November here is just like November in Winnipeg, Canada. I love Canada.
I lived in Canada for many years…beginning in 1969…yes…that date is correct…and whatever you want to wonder about that…go right ahead.
It makes no difference to me. I am way beyond that. But here is something you don’t need to wonder about…because it is true.
The Vietnam war was a horrible and tragic mistake.
And…more than 58,000 young boys and men lost their lives because of that mistake…and one of them was my very best forever friend, Johnny Taylor.
I met Johnny at an outrageous Halloween party in 8th grade.
From that night on, he was my only true friend in so many ways and later became my forever friend and then…my ever so sweet and delightful lover.
Johnny didn’t die in Vietnam…oh, he was there all right. He was definitely there…for 365 long, brutal, killing days and nights. He was there for every single one of them.
And then…he came back home…to die of a heroin overdose…in my arms…in the back of a speeding ambulance with me screaming into his beautiful, unseeing brown eyes.
“YOU CAN’T DIE!! YOU CAN’T LEAVE ME!! YOU PROMISED YOU WOULD NEVER LEAVE ME AGAIN! YOU PROMISED!!!”
It was 1967. He was 19. I was 18.
8th Grade Halloween. I meet Johnny.
There comes a time in every childhood when you are told…you’re “too old to go ‘trick or treating’ this year.”
No more free candy from strangers. No more running wildly around the streets in the deepest of darkness…screaming and hollering to your friends…stuffing candy in your mouth as fast as you can…yes, yes you heard right…even while you are running…and hollering. It was…after all…1960.
All gone. Forever…just because you got one year older.
In 1960, our suburb of Bloomington, Minnesota was new but growing fast. There were acres of new housing developments with miles of streets that we could dash up and down…filling old pillow cases with candy and money and whatever else strangers were willing to give us. Home-made fudge was the best. Remember…1960.
There were no parents standing in the streets with glow lights or flashlights to guide us…or umbrellas to shield us from the rain. If it rained, we got wet and we lived. If we fell down…we got up. And…we came home.
But this year…5 days before October 31, my mother said…
“Riley. You’re too old to go trick or treating this year. All of us moms got together and we decided that now that you kids are in 8th grade…you’re just too old. No arguments (and here she held up her hand for emphasis)…we have all decided.”
Oh…we knew it was coming. We had heard the whispers and had actually paid attention when the moms had dropped little hints…so we knew.
And we were ready.
When I say “we” were ready…I meant of course…Karla Johansen was ready. She was my excellent friend and self-proclaimed leader of our little gang of seven.
She…even in 8th grade…was ready for everything and anything at all times…and all of us just basically said “how high” when she told us to jump.
Her mother was an oddity for this time in history. She worked full time…and was consumed constantly with guilt…even though she was an elementary school teacher and home almost as much as the other moms of our little group…who did not work outside the home.
But this was 1960. Most moms stayed home…whether they wanted to or not.
So…because of her mother’s on-going guilt…Karla had an edge…and she had learned early in her young life how to successfully use that power.
Two years ago, in fact, she had managed somehow to convince her parents to build an in-ground, Olympic-size swimming pool in their backyard, even though they went to their summer cabin every weekend from June thru September. Yeah…they had some money.
Karla loved her gang but not one of them had a summer cabin by the lake like she did. But now they spent every hot sunny day splashing in “Karla’s pool”. No one could ever accuse Karla of not being a great friend. She was a wonder.
Even as my mother was delivering the Halloween bad news to me, I knew Karla was also receiving it from her mom…and responding with anguish, sobs and fake tears. She had practiced how she would react in front of me and she was pretty damn good.
“NO TRICK OR TREATING!!!!!” I could almost hear her screaming and I lived blocks away.
What I couldn’t hear was her poor mom, Liz Johansen (we all loved her, she was such a sweetheart) telling Karla how sorry she was for this terrible disruption in her life.
“Is there anything I can do, Karla? Is there anything you want? Please stop crying dear…there must be something that would make you happy…”
“Well…mom…since you’re asking…maybe a little Halloween party? With orange and black crepe streamers? And maybe you could (here, she told me, she paused for a little sob) make those fantastic brownies that everyone likes? And remember that scavenger hunt we had on my 10th birthday? The kids really loved that…” said Karla.
All of that was…of course…bull shit.
What Karla really wanted was a boy/girl party with food and pop and loud music and dancing and red lights and games like Post Office, Spin the Bottle and Seven Minutes in Heaven…and maybe a little Truth or Dare (if everyone was feeling risky)…and strict orders: to “not come down the basement and embarrass me”.
THAT was the party Karla wanted…and of course…got.
But Karla was a smart 8th grader…so her initial request for a small party was charming and innocent and sure to be granted and…it was.
As she told me later, “Riley. It was a piece of cake. I could have won an Oscar!”
I immediately went home and told my mom and dad about Tommy Clark’s plans.
They called my uncle, Carl Andrews, a retired St. Paul homicide detective…and then..everything happened very fast.
Within twenty-four hours, Tommy, Sheila, Gerald and Mikey were all picked up for questioning by the St. Paul Police Department.
I, too, was questioned. Initially, I was being considered the “instigator” of this plot…since Tommy and his friends had all said it was my idea…but California police records showed quite a history of “trouble making events” for Tommy Clark and that lifted all suspicion from me.
But I did have to admit the “chaining” and “hunger strike” plans were my idea.
We then had to appear before a grand jury to see if there was enough evidence for a felony charge.
Unfortunately, the grand jury determined there was not enough conclusive evidence that a crime was actually going to be committed.
Instead, they determined it was more likely just some “bragging” by some college kids who had had too many beers to drink…
And that Riley Sanderson…who had also been drinking when she had heard of these “let’s blow up the tower” plans…had just misinterpreted the whole thing.
Since no charges were filed, our names were never released but everyone knew quickly who we were…and Tommy was a hero to the more militant side of the anti-war movement.
The University of Minnesota, however, looked at this incident differently and decided to use this as an example to other students at the University who may be planning acts of civil disobedience in protesting the Viet Nam war…
They placed a full-page ad in the Minnesota Daily…citing the University’s policy regarding protests and rallies and consequences for unlawful behavior.
We were all called into the Dean’s office and expelled without any recourse.
Tommy and his friends’ scholarships were rescinded…and everything went on our permanent record.
It didn’t matter to me. I was heading north as soon as possible. My parents would be joining me.
“Time for new beginnings…” my dad had said. “For all of us…”
But…just as I was leaving the building I realized that I had forgotten my gloves and walked back to get them.
Tommy, Sheila, Gerald and Mikey were all huddled together at a table quietly talking.
I could see that Sheila had been crying. I knew how close she had been to getting her law degree and how much she had looked forward to being a lawyer.
I grabbed my gloves and turned back to the door. Tommy spotted me.
“This isn’t over, ‘little girl’… far from it. You made a very big mistake.”
And…then he gave me that chillingly, cold smile that I would never forget.
I stepped back…I could not believe that Tommy Clark was standing less than three feet in front of me…smiling that disgusting smile of his.
My heart began to pound like a jack-hammer.
I had been wrong…all these years…I had been so wrong.
Not everyone was dead after all.
They say…that if you are ever confronted by a vicious animal, you should never run. They will instinctively think you are prey and chase you .
And when they catch you…and they will catch you…they will kill you.
Instead, shout as loudly as you can or grab a couple of rocks and bang them together.
Your chances are good the animal will be momentarily startled at least for a short time…giving you a chance to escape.
I had no rocks. My mouth was so dry I could hardly swallow…much less shout. And what exactly would I shout? So I stood and waited.
“You look good, Riley.”
I suddenly felt dizzy and I swayed just a little.
“I need to sit down…” I said and made an effort to walk back to where I had been sitting.
But Tommy took my elbow and steered me out the door of Larson’s.
“I think what you need is a drink, Riley. I know I could use one. There’s a friendly-looking little bar a couple of doors down.”
It had started to rain ever so slightly…and still holding tightly to my arm…he led me down the block.
Maybe Tommy had mellowed. It had been so many years. Maybe this was just a chance encounter.
Maybe his frightening smile was just a…smile. Maybe this was a dream and I would wake up.
And maybe pigs could fly…
Two doors down from Larson’s was the kind of neighborhood bar that seldom saw strangers…especially in the middle of a Tuesday afternoon.
Sure enough…when we walked in…the three men at the bar turned at the sound of the door opening…stopped talking and just looked at the two of us.
Tommy gave them a nod and then guided me to a booth way over in a corner by a window. It was stuffy in the bar and Tommy opened the window a little. The cool air felt good.
An older woman…perhaps in her sixties came right over and leaned against the side of the booth. I had a feeling she may have been the owner.
She gave us a cool smile…and I’m sure she was thinking…”Now…who the hell are you two?”
But she said pleasantly, “Nice rainy day, right?”
I returned her smile…and desperately tried to think of something I could say or do to get me out of this booth…and away from Tommy.
I had decided…pigs can’t fly.
“Where is the ladies’ room?” I asked.
She looked away from us and pointed to a neon sign on the other side of the bar…past a few tables.
I made a move to get up…but Tommy reached across and put a restraining hand on my arm…
“Riley, can you hold on for just a couple of minutes? Let’s order first. I’m starving.”
He gave the waitress a big smile and said, “We’ll need a second or two.”
He reached for the little menus propped up by the salt & pepper shakers. His jacket fell open a little.
That’s when I saw the holster…and the gun.
“Sure, blue eyes…I’ll be back.”
Tommy smiled at her again and then turned back…but there was no smile for me…he knew I had seen the gun.
“Oh, don’t be scared, Riley…I’m not going to kill you. The gun’s not for you. I always carry now…it’s legal in Minnesota, you know…or maybe you don’t. You’ve been gone for such a long time.”
But I do have a story to tell you and I want you to hear it. I want you to know how…” he paused, folded his hands together in front of him, took a deep breath…and then began again.
“I want you to completely understand the consequences of your foolish actions that night when you and your uncle decided to call the police.”
I made an effort to speak but before I could say anything…
“No…let me talk. I’ve waited a long time, Riley.” Tommy seemed very calm…not angry at all.
I relaxed a little.
“Fine. I’l listen to you, Tommy. But I read about Sheila and Gerald in the newspaper. I know what happened to them.”
“I read that about six months after we were all expelled from the University of Minnesota…they blew themselves up in an abandoned apartment building in New York City…along with four innocent teenagers who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
“…and Mikey…I can’t help it that his marriage failed…or should I say marriages…and that he felt that suicide was the solution to his problems.”
“That’s not on me.” I said, feeling more sure of myself now…
“I’ve even kept track of you…Tommy…but I thought you were dead.”
“I heard you went to California after the Kent State tragedy. But then I heard nothing more about you.” I said.
“You were so active in the protest movement…it was like you disappeared.”
“What happened…?” I asked.
Tommy didn’t answer but instead signaled the waitress over and ordered two whisky sours and two cheeseburgers with fries.
Apparently Tommy’s memory was still good. He ordered my favorite food and drink combination from our college days…and still today, as well.
The curtain was fluttering beside me and I was just about to close the window when the waitress quickly returned with our drinks.
Again…Tommy gave her a big smile…and I’m sure she was thinking…big tip. Well. Maybe…
“I’ll be back in a few…” the friendly waitress said.
I took a sip of my drink. Wow! It was strong…better go slow, I thought.
Tommy, however, drank almost half of his glass before putting it down.
Then he leaned to the side so he could look around me.
Instinctively, I turned to see what he was looking at…
A group of eight or nine young people had come into the bar…all laughing and talking and carrying prettily, wrapped boxes.
One of them was very, very pregnant. It was obviously a ‘farewell’ party for the beaming pregnant woman.
When I looked back at Tommy, he had the gun out and was attaching…what I knew from watching so many ‘cop’ programs on TV…a silencer.
My mouth flew open to cry out…but before I could even inhale enough oxygen to do so…Tommy very quietly said…
“If you say one word, Riley, I will kill everyone in this wretched hole in the wall bar…and first to go will be the cute, little pregnant woman.”
“Do. You. Understand?” He spoke each word so very carefully.
I could hardly breathe. But I nodded.
Tommy chuckled softly. “You really didn’t believe me when I said that I wasn’t going to kill you…did you, Riley?”
“Of course, I’m going to kill you.”
“I’ve waited fifty years to do this. Have you ever heard of that saying, ‘revenge is a dish best served cold’? Well, this ‘dish’ is almost frozen…and will be all the sweeter.”
“When Sheila and Gerald died…I was supposed to be with them. I was the explosives expert…but I was dead drunk in some crap apartment I was crashing at with some crap girl I had met at a bar.”
“Do you know why I was drunk, Riley? I had just received a letter…from the American Bar Association telling me that no state in this glorious country would grant me permission to practice law…due to ‘lack of good moral character'”.
“No moral character, Riley! Me…who had spent the best six years of his life working to prevent the deaths of thousands of young men in that stupid war.”
“And poor Mikey…he never got over the deaths of Sheila and Gerald.”
“He blamed himself for not being there…blamed me too…used to send me pathetic letters…trying to make himself feel better.”
“Finally, after five years of guilt that he couldn’t handle…he hung himself.”
“But what happened to me…you ask? I ended up in California and spent the next forty years working under a phony name, as a paralegal during the day.”
“They didn’t even check my fake references…they just wanted me cheap. And at night…I drank myself to sleep in front of the television set…waiting…”
“I always hoped I would see you again, Riley. After I “retired”, I moved back to Minnesota…kept an eye on little Alec and his lovely wife…and of course I bought this gun.”
“But you were always just a dream away…until your angry Letter to the Editor last month in the Minneapolis Star Tribune about the increase in suicide rates of veterans.”
“You shouldn’t have used your real name, Riley. That was very careless of you…very careless.”
Suddenly there was a change in Tommy…the calmness was gone…replaced by a quiet rage.
“Everything that happened to Sheila, Gerald, Mikey and me was your fault, Riley…you and your stupid, interfering uncle…but I got him.”
“Now…after years of waiting…I’m finally going to get you.”
My mouth fell open. “Uncle Carl was killed by…”
Before I could finish, Tommy interrupted me. He was almost gleeful in his telling.
“I enjoyed reading the cops’ investigation on his ‘ambush‘ murder…they thought it was some former ex-convict…perhaps seeking revenge. It was revenge all right…my revenge.”
“Bastard…” I whispered under my breath.
Tommy carefully lifted the gun off the table and pointed it at me. I looked right into his eyes and saw those hideously fake, blue eyes wince just as he pulled the trigger.
It was so quiet…I can understand why they called it a ‘silencer’.
But I felt nothing but a whisper of air that brushed by my head.
Tommy looked so surprised…and then his head fell to the table with a thud and one bright blue contact lens popped out.
Years of smoking, drinking and hate had finally caught up with Tommy Clark…or whatever name he went by now.
I reached over and checked for a pulse…I thought I could feel a soft, little beat…
I breathed slowly and waited a few more minutes. I took a couple sips of my drink.
I could hear our waitress still taking orders from the party group. She would be a while…everyone was laughing…having such a good time.
I shuddered…knowing that Tommy would have shot that pregnant woman with no regret.
I checked again for a pulse. This time I could feel nothing.
“Be sure, Riley.” I said to myself. “Be very sure.” And I waited just a little bit longer…and then I checked again.
Nothing. The life of Tommy Clark was over…probably a nice, clean coronary…no questions would be asked. Old people die all the time.
I reached for his gun lying on the table. The barrel had cooled enough to pick it up and I gently removed Tommy’s fingers from the handle.
I put the gun in my purse and looked down at Tommy.
“Well. You’re all dead now…aren’t you?” I said and then I smiled…just a little.
I turned to the window where the curtains were still swinging back and forth…letting in the cool air..
I could tell just by looking…they had probable not been cleaned for years.
I pulled a corner of the curtain to the side….
…and there was a neat, little hole right under the window sill…could be almost anything…could have been there for twenty years…or twenty seconds.
I let the curtain fall back into place…hiding that little hole as it fluttered in the breeze.
…and waved “slightly frantically” at our waitress…who was now heading to the kitchen.
I called out in my best “shaky, frightened old lady” voice…
“Can somebody help me, please? I think we have a problem here…”