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The Sun Never Rises: Chapter Two

Thank You so Much

Your response to the first chapter prompted this one. I am always so encouraged when I read of the compassion and empathy so many of you have for your fellow man. You are my kind of people!

So let’s continue with my tale of the “little people,” the unseen, the unwashed, and in many cases, the forgotten. They comprise a growing number in our society and hopefully these stories will raise at least a little awareness.

The gray of the city

The gray of the city

The first chapter

  • The Sun Never Rises: Chapter One
    Will you join me for a practice novella? I can tell you it's not terribly pleasant but then hey, writing reflects reality, right, and there are times life just isn't pleasant.

Déjà Vu All over Again

Do you want to know the exact moment when hope begins to exit the scene of one’s life? It’s when you realize that, no matter what you do, life will never improve.

I’m there now!

Princess Kate and I have been doing the survival shuffle together now for a couple weeks. It’s all about protection on the streets. Two is a safer number than one, safer from the yard bulls, the pimps, the drug-soaked ex-jocks, the pipe-heads, the over-zealous cops, the frat kids on crystal meth, and the other street jockeys just looking to rise in stature by stealing a bed roll or an overcoat. Death rarely arrives with a whisper on the streets. It arrives with a full orchestra, each means of death its own sound, the shootings, stabbings, bludgeoning, pummeling, all hitting a distinct note of pain.

Like Three Dog Night once said, one is the loneliest number, and Kate and I are avoiding it with a passion. Nah, not that kind of passion. The libido is gone for now. There’s nothing sexy about living the streets. The stench, decay, filth, they all guarantee that sex will remain on the back burner, if you get my drift. Kate’s a good-lookin’ woman, or she could be with a little work, that flaming red hair a sight to see, but her and me, we just want to be safe for now. We’ve boiled it all down to being safe. Step two in the reclamation project will happen when we figure out what the hell it is.

The good thing about winter: murders decline when the temps fall and the snow hinders movement, making it inconvenient to go on a killing spree.

For the most part we’re left alone. I’m six-two, two-thirty, so I usually get the wide berth on the streets. It doesn’t hurt none to act a little crazy from time to time, mutter to yourself, occasionally scream at a parked car, that sort of thing goes far towards keeping the knives out of your back. It also doesn’t hurt being an ex-soldier, old enough to earn respect for my past service, but young enough I can still kick ass if needed.

So Kate’s pleased with the partnership and truth be told, I like having the company.

“You don’t talk like a street rat, Max,” she observed one day as we were walking down Central.

“We all had another life, Kate. You know that. I was educated in good schools, then again with Uncle Sam. A man doesn’t forget that shit with a change of scenery.”

“Where was home, soldier?”

“Seattle, Washington, Kate. Mom, Dad, and a little sister Jeannie. For all I know, they're al still alive. I haven't been in touch in ten years so I really don't know. When I finally said screw it to the Army, I got off the plane in New York, discharge papers in hand, and decided to just start walking. Pittsburgh’s where I ended up, but I aim to move on any time now. There’s a lot of road out there I haven’t seen yet.”

“Why take to the road?” she asks. “You had skills in the military, right?”

“I was special forces, Kate. I was a door-banger, a room-clearer, elite tactical squad. Not much call for that in a civilized world.”

She thought that over some.

“How about the police, something like those SWAT teams?”

“I’ve seen enough death. Don’t plan on looking for it ever again.”

No snow that day but five above was enough to keep us walking until we came on a convenience store. I had a few bucks in my pocket so I treated Kate to a coffee, hot, black for me, five packets of sugar for her. Small table by the window, seemed like the Waldorf to both of us until the young clerk came over and told us we couldn’t stay there. I could feel my blood pounding.

“We’re not hurting anyone. We paid our money, bought your product, now we’re sitting quietly at this table drinking that product. What’s the problem?”

He was barely out of diapers, barely twenty-one, still had pimples, scrawny neck hardly big enough to hold up that head, arms like pipe cleaners. Chances were excellent if I rolled up his sleeves I’d find tracks up and down those arms, his sniffling a sure tell of his after-hours activity.

Dwarfed by the city

Dwarfed by the city

Never Cause Trouble

He sniffled again, starting to look a bit nervous, things not going the way he hoped, my questioning him not in his script.

“The manager doesn’t want you people hanging around. Bad for business, you know? You need to take your coffees and hit the road before I call the cops.”

I started to stand up, my six-two making his five-eight look damned inadequate for his situation.

“Us kind of people, junior? How about you…..”

Kate’s hand grasped my arm. I looked at her. She shook her head.

“It’s not worth it, Max. You know how the cards are dealt, soldier. No way we win this game. Let’s head over to the Mission and find Jesus for a bowl of soup. Come on now, Max, it’s for the best.”

She was right. As much as it pissed me off, she was right. Mister pimple-ass would live another day.

Back out into the icebox.

That part of town was all pawn shops, bail bonds, and quick loans, one small store front after another, apartments on the second floor, an alleyway on each block, piss-stained, blood-stained, littered with all that’s wrong with the human race, a part of town the Chamber of Commerce will bulldoze down and pave over just as fast as the next levy can be passed. Pittsburgh is all about gentrification these days, out with the old, in with the new, getting rid of the visual proof that industrialization has a dark side. The city fathers like to say crime is down in Pittsburgh, but truth be told “reported crime” is down, and that’s a big difference in the reality of the situation. Take our current location for example.

This was the Hilltop Neighborhood, home to the ballers with their Guccis, the bustas with their Chucks, the crab bitches and the fly girls, fifty shades of dangerous crammed into a ten square block slice of heaven. Crime was a way of life in the Hilltop, but it was crime that didn’t exist in City Hall. Now you see it, now you don’t, no cops, no crime reports, no crime, simple as that. Plenty of victims but no crime. Go figure! Plenty of knife wounds, bullet wounds, head trauma and sexual assault, plenty of dead babies, mutilated crime bosses, and gutted stoolies, but no crime statistics to make it real.

If a tree falls in the forest but…..

We were one block from the Mission when a super fly stepped out in front of us.

“Yo, bitch, I’m thinking that fine ass needs to work with me. Say goodbye to gramps, Red, and let’s you and me make some presidents.”

Time to hit the road

Time to hit the road

Good Lunch

While Kate and I had some chicken noodle soup, super fly slept off his transgressions. I hate rudeness. Just because you live in the gutter doesn’t give you a reason to act gutter, get my drift? Kate was worried I hit him too hard, but I could tell she was relieved as well.

“Is it always going to be like this, Max?

The same question I’d been asking myself.

“Bad day to ask that, Princess. I’m all out of the commodity you’re looking for today. I know this for sure, though: if we don’t change something then the madness continues. I’ve been out here too long to remember, and I’m not sure how much longer I can live on Zoloft and no dreams. I’m fixin’ to leave this sewer, Kate, and you’re welcome to join me.”

“Where would we go, soldier boy? How would we get there?”

“Does it really matter?”

I watched as she tossed that question around underneath her crown. I watched as she thought back, to the beauty queen days, the days of hope, the days when she was looked upon as special, then the days of being raped, being rejected, discarded, ignored, and finally forgotten, just one more future statistic in the city ledger, one more body in an unmarked grave.

"What's in it for you, Max?"

"Not what you're thinking, Princess. I could use the company. Keeps the voices inside my head at bay."

"Some think I'm crazy, me with this crown on my head."

"Hell, Kate, they think we're all crazy."

She gave it some more thought.

“I guess none of it matters, Max. I’d be happy to join you. When do we leave?”

“Seems to me now’s as good a time as any. Let’s head southwest and see if we can find some sunshine and fewer people.”

A Great Adventure Ahead?

We’ll leave the couple as they take their first tentative steps into their future. Will you join me next week to find out where they’re headed? I hope so.

2016 William D. Holland (aka billybuc) #greatestunknownauthor

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