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The Chameleon: A Short Story, Chapter Two

Shauna's preferred genre is fiction. She particularly enjoys rising to a challenge posed by fellow artists.

Introduction

Bill Holland posted a short story called The Chameleon: A Short Story. He intrigued us, then left us hanging and asked his readers to write the end of the story. I left a cursory attempt by way of the comment section. However, Bill wasn’t satisfied with that. He wanted more from me. So, here it is.

Max was right; it was time for this story to end.

Max was right; it was time for this story to end.

Max was right. It was time for this story to end. Despite the fact that we’ve been best friends for most of our lives, this stand-off was inevitable.

How Max and I Met

It was 1968 and St. Mark’s was the fourth school I’d attended in my eleven years on this earth. My family moved often when I was growing up, so friends were few, and far between. I was somewhat of a rebel from the outset. Imagine yourself being uprooted – and often - just when you find kids who accept you. It’s tough. You learn to separate yourself while yearning to be a part of something - anything.

They say a child’s psyche and personality is formed by the time they reach age five. That’s kinda scary, ‘cuz my life was a friggin’ roller coaster long before then.

Call it military life. Call it what you want. It fucks with the children who are brought up in that lifestyle.

But you don’t want to hear about that, right? “Thank you for your service, Sir!”

What about my service? Is anyone aware of what I and all other military brats go through? Does anyone care?

Yeah, I know, “Woe is me”. You have no friggin’ clue. Don’t judge. Just listen.

Anyway, we’d moved to Colorado that summer. Hoping parochial school would tame my spirit, my parents enrolled me in St. Mark’s Catholic School. The education was great but the nuns were less than friendly. They were downright mean, to be honest, especially if you posed questions during religion class. Do that and you got your hair pulled and/or your knuckles pounded with a wooden ruler. That is until Father Murphy came into the class to check on things and say hello. Then Sister Philomena was all smiles.

Groovy, Hunky Dory, right?

Not.

Max and I were the kids in the back of the room who would secretly spew spit balls over the ceiling where “Sister Bitch”, as we called her, conducted class. We’d also sneak upside down thumb tacks on her chair before class started so she’d get a bite in the ass. We never ‘fessed up to either deed, but she and all of our classmates knew who the culprits were. We were actually revered by our cohorts because no one else had the balls to stand up to Sister Bitch.

A bond was formed.

Not surprisingly, Max and I had many stints in jail then and following that year, but that’s another story for another time.

An Original Song About Catholic School

Time Goes By

As often happened in my life as a military brat, the time came when I once again was forced to leave my friends and start all over again.

Jeez, when does this shit stop?

Max was the only friend I’d made in my entire life who I really bonded with. Not saying it was right, but it was what it was.

We remained friends throughout our school years and into early adulthood. We always stayed connected even if only over the phone.

Then the outreach ceased. Not sure if it was on his part or mine.

But bonds are bonds, right? Blood isn’t always that bond. Sometimes it’s mindset.

That’s what we shared: mindset. Right or wrong, that’s what we had in common.

Hindsight

Catholic school offers two life lessons: 1) an excellent academic education, and 2) the opportunity for open minds to question those who seem more tunnel visioned.

I was of the second mindset but had an academic prowess. The nuns hated that. And me. I got my hair pulled often and my knuckles cracked with their angry rulers almost daily.

Life sucks sometimes and too often that “sucks” sticks.

Sex, booze, naked parties and lots of drugs.

Sex, booze, naked parties and lots of drugs.

Adulthood

I’d left home when I was barely old enough to do so. I was on a rampage to claim myself as a sole human without the guidance or interference, as I perceived it, of my parents.

To say there was an abundance of older women more than willing to show a young Catholic boy the ways of the world is an understatement, to say the least. I had the time of my life learning how to be a grown up.Sex, booze, naked parties and lots of drugs.

The latter is what got me into trouble.

This is What Our Protagonist Should Have Been Looking For

Alphi

Alphi gave me a place to stay and took me under his wing. He was friends with one of the women I hooked up with and thought I might be a good candidate for his apprenticeship program. He was an IBM programmer at the time and a retired Marine, so I was more than willing to become his protégé.

Little did I know he had a second line of business.

Alphi’s main income was through the sale of drugs. Heroin, cocaine, crystal meth, beauties, Christmas Trees. You name it. He had it.

I don’t know if I mentioned it, but I’m nothing much to look at. I wouldn’t say I turned women off, but I’m no pretty boy. The fact that I didn’t stand out in a crowd is exactly the trait Alphi was most interested in. I could blend in any situation, conduct a little business, then discreetly back away into bustling crowds or disappear into the landscape without ever being detected.

After a couple of years of being Alphi’s delivery guy, he decided I was ready for my own customers. Of course, Alphi would get a cut of anything I sold, but I was okay with that. Call it Multi-Level Marketing at its best. He turned a few of his customers over to me, then word of mouth helped my client base grow.

And so did my yen for coke.

When you snort more than you sell, that becomes a problem. You see, the “product” had always been fronted to me. Call it a loan. Here-kid-take-this-and-bring-back-the-green kind of loan.

I couldn’t pay for the goods, simply put. And in the world of drug dealing, that ain’t no good, especially if you want to live to see another day.

My ass was grass and I needed to do something about it before something was done about me.

So, I killed myself, as I mentioned earlier. Alphi was no longer a problem, but I had to get the hell away from Colorado where I was well-known by this time.


I went back to St. Mark's Cathedral with my tail between my legs.

I went back to St. Mark's Cathedral with my tail between my legs.

The Meet-Up

It had been years since I’d contacted Max, but I was compelled to do so now. Had I known that Max was Alphi’s supplier and my dear transvestite schoolmate had put a contract out on my head, I would have done things differently.

But, I didn’t. Instead, I put myself right in the path I was trying to avoid but didn’t know it until I went back to St. Mark’s Cathedral with my tail between my legs and my heart in my throat.

Why the hell did I think God would save me now? Was I feeling guilty and vying for redemption before I left on the uncertain journey of running for my life? Of running from my life?

Bless me Father, for I have sinned. It’s been twenty years since my last confession.

I heard Max’s voice as I felt the cold steel barrel of a gun being pressed to my flesh.

“I knew I’d find you here. The boy can leave the church but the alter can never leave the boy. It’s time for this to end, my friend.”

I felt the comfort of my old combat knife sheathed against my thigh and struggled not to shit my pants right then and there in front of God.

I heard the hammer cock. Just as I turned, with knife in hand, the lights went out. I lunged forward, making contact with flesh while the church walls rang with gunfire.

Breaking News

We interrupt this program to bring you breaking news.

We interrupt this program to bring you breaking news.

Aftermath

“We interrupt this program to bring you breaking news. This afternoon, what appears to be a double murder occurred inside St. Mark’s Cathedral. Two males were found dead; one of a gunshot wound, the other of a fatal knife wound. One victim has been positively identified as Maurice “Max” Pignataro. The gunshot victim was found with a driver's license under the name of Alphi Petrocelli. However, upon closer examination by the M.E. who was onsite, it was discovered that a facial prosthetic concealed the identity of a homeless man known in the community as “Pitiful Pete”. So who and where is Alphi Petrocelli? Police are referring to this crime as “The Case of the Chameleon Murders”. Anyone with information about this incident is urged to call 800-555-5555.”

© 2021 Shauna L Bowling

Comments

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on September 02, 2021:

No problem.

manatita44 from london on September 02, 2021:

Sorry Shauna.

My apologies

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on September 02, 2021:

Thank you, Brenda. I've accomplished what I set out to do if you didn't anticipate the ending. That's what I aim for when writing fiction.

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on September 01, 2021:

Oh wow...i didn't see that ending coming.

Both of them dead.

Good write.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on September 01, 2021:

Manatita, I think you're commenting on the wrong post. This second chapter was written by me, not Bill.

manatita44 from london on September 01, 2021:

Thanks Bill. Fascinating and interesting end. That guy caught you quite quickly though. Next time get the money in advance, so after the killing, you're free to run. Forget the church!

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on August 31, 2021:

MizB, you've made my day. I knew I needed to continue this story so it would seem both chapters were written by one author. It didn't take a whole lot of effort. Bill and I both enjoy reading and writing fiction, although he's much more seasoned. I'm curious - where did you find my voice versus Bill's?

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on August 30, 2021:

Shauna, I'm awestruck! Your story is great, especially with the backstory, but you know what I find to be so great? You wrote it in Bill's voice. That, my dear, is a difficult feat. When working on my MA, I took a class in which we were given assignments to write in famous author's voices. So I know it isn't easy to do. Toward the end, it was slipping back into your voice just a little, but not much. Great ending, too. I am really impressed.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on August 30, 2021:

Wow, Box. What an awesome comment! Movie vignette, huh? Yes, I remember those cartoons at the Saturday matinee all too well.

I'm so glad you enjoyed by tag-along to Bill's story. The question remains: where is our protagonist? Did he get away with murder? Thrice?

greg cain from Moscow, Idaho, USA on August 30, 2021:

Sha Sha - I love how you added even more flesh to the bones of the protagonist by including references to his life as a military brat. The details you included—which could only come from one who him/herself was a brat!—gave huge authenticity to him. As a flawed but redeemable character, he was made even more likeable than in the first chapter written by Bill. I love loved the ending, the neat little tie-up of the whole package. Putting this whole story together with Bill’s would make a nice little video vignette to show before a feature film...kind of like how they used to show a short cartoon before the main feature when you went to the movies on base as a kid.

Great stuff, Sha Sha! You should let the muse come out and play more often.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on August 30, 2021:

Thanks for reading, Maria. This is my first article/story since December 2020. Perhaps my muse will stick around for a while!

MariaMontgomery from Coastal Alabama, USA on August 29, 2021:

Wow, Shauna! That was a compelling story. Keep writing.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on August 29, 2021:

Wow, I don't think I can receive a higher compliment than that, Vidya! I'm blown away!

VIDYA D SAGAR on August 29, 2021:

Great ending to Bill's story Shauna. Kept me engaged throughout. I agree with John, your style of writing matches with Bill's. You both should collaborate. I loved how you ended it, with a surprise twist.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on August 29, 2021:

Chitrangada, thank you so much for your amazing comment. I was afraid I'd become too rusty at story-telling. Fiction is my favorite genre and Bill is an extremely intense fiction writer. He's a hard act to follow, but he fired me up, so I had to have a go at it.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on August 29, 2021:

Bill, I'm thrilled with your reaction to this chapter. I can't thank you enough for flat out telling me I needed to provide more suspense to the cursory ending I posted in the comments section of your beginning chapter. The story had me spellbound and your push had my muse chomping at the bit.

Thanks again, my friend. True friends don't let friends settle. You are a true friend!

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on August 29, 2021:

Hello Shauna!

What a wonderful continuation of Bill's story. I found it to be engaging, and well narrated. Some of the dialogues are, as we hear them in real life, which is praiseworthy.

The reference to the military children is so true and relatable.

You are such a good story teller, as can be felt by the flow of words. Thank you for sharing this wonderful story.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on August 29, 2021:

Thank you for your kind comment, Peggy.

Military kids have an advantage and a disadvantage at the same time. On one hand they're very adaptable. On the other, they tend to keep a wall up to an extent. Definitely a self-preservation tactic.

I'm afraid there won't be anymore on this story. At least, not from me. If Bill or someone else chooses to pick up where I left off, that would be cool. I purposely ended the story in a way that it could either be the end or have the reader asking what happens next. We'll see!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on August 29, 2021:

Great backstory! Seriously! The story before the story, answering many of the questions my story left unanswered. The ending, probably should go that way, if we're being realistic. Both of them should probably die. It's fitting that they do, and your realistic telling of their death, and the events leading up to them, is perfect.

Welcome back, my friend. Don't stay away for so long next time.

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on August 29, 2021:

What a joy to find your story today. You've really captured my attention in this chapter and your writing style of realistic dialogue and intriguing situations is addictive. (Sorry for the pun.)

I can relate to the situation with military dependents (like me) who struggled to build lasting relationships only to find their families relocated once again. I've wondered what it would be like to look up some of my old buddies from way back. Your character has truly developed some interesting self-preservation tactics. Can't wait to find how things turn out. Great work. Keep them coming.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on August 28, 2021:

Pamela, you swell my creative heart. I've been out of the game for so long I was afraid I'd lost my talent. My muse is a bit rusty, but she's still alive.

You don't know how much I appreciate your comment. Thank you from the bottom of my muse's blanket!

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on August 28, 2021:

Shauna, I wish you had time bro write more often as this is a great ending to Bll's story. You are a talented author!

I love some of the sentences, such as: "I snort more than you sell." This is a great ending to Bill's story. I am Sio glad you wrote this article as it kept me hooked with every worded. I agree with John's sentiments, as this is a great ending to Bill's story/

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on August 28, 2021:

John, your comment makes my muse smile with pride. I hope Bill feels the same.

To be honest, I suspected you'd be the first to comment. You're always on top of things!

I felt the need to twist the ending a bit from what I'd posted in my comments to Bill's original. I asked him to delete my ending once he asked me to write a second chapter, but it's still there. I didn't want a spoiler alert to deter people from reading my final product.

Your feedback is hugely appreciated, my friend!

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on August 28, 2021:

Shauna, you did an incredible job with this story. You also closely kept to Bill's style of writing so it was a seamless transition. You could easily collaborate on a book. I loved every word.

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