Sample chapters

AUGUST 1974

The weather is unseasonably cool for the second week of August, but not so that I need to wear my letter-man jacket. I slip it off and toss it atop the suitcase of my quickly packed worldly possessions. Quietly, I sit on the concrete picnic table, under a canopy of large oak trees, in the municipal park, across the street from my former high school. An occasional breeze carries the scent of rain as it rustles the brittle, sun-scorched leaves above. I draw my legs up against my chest while resting my chin on my knee caps and hug my calves in my arms. I gaze at the old stately stucco building across the street. Hard to imagine, in just a couple of short weeks, classes will resume again. The aged salmon pink building stands in contrast against the backdrop of a gloomy cloudy sky. The dwindling evening light makes the weathered building look spooky, with its dark windows and no visible signs of life. The flagpole at the base of the stone steps which lead into the building entrance is naked without a flag, the metal clips on the rope clink against the hollow steel as they sway freely in the gentle breeze.

FUCK, Shane Aaron Davison, what the hell happened to you? You're eighteen years old, sittin' on a cement picnic table with everything you own stuffed in a suitcase, with no place to call home. Just hours ago, you'd been on top of the world, you had a family, a roof over your head, a bedroom of your own, and a dream for the future. How did you end up like this? Damn if I know. Somehow, everything went to shit. Honestly, I can't help but feel my life may have taken a turn for the worse on one particular day, three years ago...

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

The year was 1971. America had entered the second decade of the Vietnam War. TV cigarette ads were banned. Apollo 14 astronauts Shepard and Mitchell walked on the moon. ABC aired 'Dark Shadows' soap opera for the final time. The voting age was lowered from 21 to 18. Greenpeace formally came into existence.

The whole danged country was in the midst of change, yet the small North Central Oklahoma town where I'd been born and raised was stuck in Smallsville mentality, refusing to adjust. The local powers-that-be were content with the status quo, happy as clams as long as no one fuckin' rocked the boat.

Main Street ran the whole length of our town. I could walk the entire length in less than an hour, I had long legs so maybe I walked pretty fast. I never walked, just to walk. I always had somewhere to go, I'm kinda single-minded like that. I knew where I needed to be, and my feet just start moving. I don't dilly dally around, no sirree. If something caught my eye, I filed it away in the ol' noggin for another time, ya know, sorta like a to-do sometime list when I hadn't nothin' better to do. Usually, I forget about those things 'cause I always had someplace to go or something to do.

Anywho, Main Street was the longest east-west street. The western end had a lotta older homes - mostly retired people lived there. I reckoned that part of town was built up first. The old people most likely raised their kids there, then kicked them out after they graduated high school. By then, they were too dang tired - after raising all them kids - to even think about moving, so they just stayed living in those houses.

The middle section of Main Street is what was called the "business district", four city blocks of banks and stores, with traffic lights at all four intersections. When I was real real little, I remember when there were only stop signs, but the downtown store owners got real uppity and put in those traffic lights, not so very long ago. Those four blocks have been called "downtown" for as long as I can remember. There was an H.S. Kress five and dime store. Ah, the mouth-waterin' smell of hot buttered popcorn always drew me to the store. There was this big popcorn machine right by the door. When I was really young, Momma and me would go to the store. She shopped for adult stuff upstairs, and I'd run downstairs. I'd hear Momma's voice "Don't run on the stairs." It was always too late, I was already downstairs. First, I'd stop at the candy counter. There was this nice lady who always gave me samples, then I'd go to the pet section. The parakeets were fun to watch, then I'd check out the hamsters, but I hardly ever saw any of 'em, they were almost always sound asleep under shredded newspapers. Then I'd look at the fish aquariums, but they were usually icky, with lots of green slimy stuff growing on the inside. I'd get all sad when I saw those dead fish floatin' on top the water. Then I'd go to the toy department to check out the new toys. I think the bestest toy I ever got from there was a 4-inch rubber Troll doll with bright orange hair. Daddy said "dolls are for girls" and Momma's response was "let him be, it's what he wanted."

There was a C.R. Anthony's, a couple of shoe stores. When I was knee high to a grasshopper, Momma took me to the Red Goose store for shoes. There were, I think, two ladies dress stores and two men's clothing shops. The biggest store in town was this department and catalog store. Momma said "they was too expensive" so we ordered stuff from another chain store catalog. There was a fire house, a fancy funeral parlor. People said the funeral place was haunted, so I never went inside. There was a soft-custard ice cream place, you could drive right up to the window and order. My favorite was a triple swirl vanilla ice cream cone. On the corner was a feed store. It always smelled like manure, so I always held my breath when I passed by. At Easter-time, I liked to look in the window at the cute colored baby chickens. Across the street was a barber shop. I used to go there, but when I got older I wanted my hair to grow long. Momma said I could grow my hair out, so long as it didn't curl. My hair tended to get wavy, so I slept with one of Momma's old nylon stockings on my head to keep my hair straight. I learned that trick from my grandpa, but he wore grandma's nylon to keep his bald head warm at night. And there was a beauty shop. Momma wouldn't go there no more on account she said they burnt her hair once.

On the fourth block of downtown was the Public Library and across the street were the City Offices and the Courthouse. Beyond that block was a bunch of modern, bigger family style houses, more expensive than those on the west end. Then Main Street dead-ended at a shopping center with a TG&Y store and a couple of high highfalutin ladies shops, a drug store with a real soda counter,.

and a grocery store named Martin's Market, along with some other pricey shops crammed between the bigger stores. Momma and Daddy used to take me to that shopping center at Christmas time to see Santa. I'd visit him in this red trailer house, but now that I'm all grown, I don't believe in Santa Claus anymore, that's kid's stuff.

At the dead end of Main Street, it intersected with the main north/south street, it was actually a highway, but someone gave the stretch of highway that runs through town an honest to goodness street name, but once ya leave town, the street goes back to being a highway again, go figure. As I see it, if it's a highway, name it a highway name; if it's a street - then it should have a street name, why make it all complicated, right? Just leave the damn name alone and make it easy for everyone. I'm pretty sure there's someone whose job it is to make up street names, and one day that person probably didn't have anything to do, so he decided to make up a name for that part of the highway that ran through town. That's the government at work - if they don't have work to keep them busy, they'll make work for themselves. Daddy once said "the government has to find ways to spend tax dollars or that money will burn a hole clean through someone's pocket". Daddy wasn't a big fan of the government, which I thought was kinda funny since he worked for the Post Office.

Monday morning, August 23, there wasn't a single cloud in the sky, it was like most late summer days in Oklahoma. The temperature was toasty, but still bearable, I felt the sticky humidity in the air and I knew it would be hotter than blue-blazes by afternoon. I walked up the sidewalk which led to the three-story high school building, an impressive 1920s Spanish architectural relic. I was familiar with the school grounds. I'd been there numerous times for plays and concerts and such in the old auditorium, and citywide orchestra rehearsals in the huge band room in another building.

That was my first day as a high school sophomore. It had taken all of fifteen years and six months of my life to get to that milestone. In three more years I'd head off to college. I hadn't decided exactly where I'd go but, there would still be plenty of time to decide on that. I'd enrolled in high school college-prep courses, so, basically, the next three years curriculum was already decided for me. That first year, I had algebra (I'd always hated math), American Literature, debate (not exactly my cup of tea, but I'd earn a credit requirement) and orchestra. By the way, did I mention I played the violin? I started playing when I was in the third grade, and I was first chair in the Junior High School Orchestra. I also had American History and Physical Education (another of my lesser favorite classes, but it was a required class.) I'd only had to take one semester 'cause the next semester, instead of PE, I'd take Drivers Ed. I had to wait till the second semester to take Drivers Ed on account my sixteenth birthday fell too late for me to take the class during the first semester.

That morning, I felt pretty optimistic. Ya know? Sure, I'd had like a bazillion butterflies bangin' around inside my stomach, who wouldn't be a little anxious about starting a new school year in an unfamiliar school? That year. I had a plan, I was gonna re-invent myself into being popular and well-known. All my life, I'd been that guy who sat in the back of the class, ya know? That guy, who just blended in and wasn't noticed? I was tired of being a "nobody", I wanted to be a "somebody". I was excited 'bout carrying out my plan, I'd already had one accomplishment under my belt. Last school year, during the final week of classes, I'd been invited to join the prestigious high school speech and drama club, I didn't even have to try out, the faculty adviser invited me herself.

My spirits and optimism were high as I started my first day of high school. I figured when I entered the building, students would be milling in the halls, I'd recognize maybe a few faces, but most would be nameless and unfamiliar to me. Over the years, I'd learned to scratch off anyone from my potential friend's list, if they'd treated me badly or had called me names. I'm not one who particularly likes confrontation, I'd found it was a lot easier to just ignore those ass-holes. Invariably they'd usually just go away so long as I didn't pay them no mind. So, I was down to counting my list of friends on one hand, and ya know? I still had fingers to spare, kinda sucked, right?

Our town wasn't what you'd call a "bustling metropolis", but it wasn't exactly a wide-spot alongside the highway to nowhere. I've already told you 'bout our downtown, but I sorta left out the part about our two junior high schools. One was located on the east side of town (literally on the other side of the railroad tracks, honest injun, I'm not foolin' ya). The railroad tracks actually divided the two school districts. I graduated from the newer and smaller junior high on the west side of the tracks. There was only one senior high school in our town, the only high school for miles around, and it's named the Henry Starr Senior High School. Now, tell me, who'd in their right mind names a public school after the likes of a half-breed Indian Territory outlaw? Supposedly he'd robbed twenty-one banks - that's more than the James-Younger Gang and the Doolin-Dalton Gangs put together.

The whole goldurned town was obsessed with glorifying criminals. Take, for example, the Cimarron Cafe on the southernmost outskirts of town, the only decent sit down kinda place to eat for miles. That place was a shrine to none other than the infamous Bonnie and Clyde. The walls are literally plastered with framed photographs and newspaper clippings of the notorious couple. Yes, before they'd been gunned down, they sometimes had hung out at the Cimarron, pictures on the walls to prove it, too. No matter where you went in town, some outlaw's name was plastered on the front of a building or on a street sign. I have my suspicions about any town that prides itself on conservative christian values while praising legendary outlaws, go figure.

They (whoever "they" are), say that the high school years are the best years of one's life. The time when one makes lasting friendships and cherished memories that stay with one forever. Hey, I know it sounds lame, but what if "they" were right? Maybe that first day of high school would be the beginning of the change I'd wanted to happen in my life?

I reached for the doorknob...

 

* * * * DISCLAIMER * * * *

Language and terms used in this work of fiction may not be suitable for all ages. If you are an individual subject to sensitive literature, be warned.

The above provided complementary chapters are offered on an "as is" basis. This sample read was taken directly from the UNEDITED first draft. The final published chapters may not appear as herein written, due to future edits and rewrites before the full manuscript goes to printing.

This is a work of literary fiction loosely inspired by actual events. Some written events, locales, businesses, individuals, and dialogue may coincide with actual events, locales, businesses, individuals, and dialogue. In order to maintain anonymity in some instances the names of events, locales, businesses, individuals, and dialogue have been changed or modified to protect the privacy of actual individuals, living or dead. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner to enhance the storyline.

This is a period work of southern coming-of-age fiction told from the perspective of an eighteen-year-old male, set between the years of 1971 - 1974, along with memory flashbacks from the 1950s and 60s. In keeping with the true integrity of the southern genre; regional terms, words and common slang of the specified time period have been used in the telling of this tale and should not be construed as politically incorrect, derogatory, demeaning, or to belittle or insult persons in any fashion by today's social standards.

Copyright © 2018 Dale Thele

SYNOPSIS

A zealous authoritarian high school administrator exploits his position in an attempt to break Shane Davison's teen spirit, unaware of the Pandora's box he has unintentionally opened. The administrator's unrestrained actions set into motion a chain of events which he did not foresee


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CHAPTER TWO

When I took hold of the doorknob, it was like an electric shock ran from my hand straight into my head. Images flashed as if in fast forward, instead, the images went in reverse. The vivid images were of the first events in my life. The first image was of an exceptionally pleasant crystal clear


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CHAPTER THREE

I tugged on the age-worn, scared brass doorknob and the door opened. I paused after crossing the threshold, the heavy door closed behind me. I waited - I wasn't struck by a fiery bolt of lightning. Nothing. The sky didn't fall. I wasn't sucked into a black hole. Maybe this was


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