Towing Wyoming

Towing Wyoming

Chapter 1: Don’t Forget Your Name v.2.0

At first the nickname bugged the hell out of the John. It wasn’t until he’d watched Robin Hood several times with Ben that he figured it was alright. It means you’re big, kind, and smart, Ben said, not small. And even then, the boy only allowed one person to call him Little John, and that was the man that had made up the nickname. Ben was the boy’s uncle, technically, but he was really a friend. And of all the adults in the boy’s life, Ben was the sole one that held John’s respect.

Ben ran a towing business. He mostly operated along the desolate stretch of highways between Casper in the middle of Wyoming and the Colorado border. Relying almost solely on calls from a national car insurance company he had been lucky enough to partner with, Ben made a fairly substantial living off the fickleness of the modern automobile. As with a lot of Wyoming natives, he had never strayed far from home. He received his worldly education by joining the army and working in West Germany during the 80’s. But when that chapter in his life had closed, he returned to the place he knew best: the rolling hills, mountains and mesas of Wyoming. It was the place he knew best and you didn’t have to be around him for long to realize that his love for the land ran deep and true in his blood.

Wyoming is an interesting place. Both big and small. Suffocating and free. Almost the biggest state in the US, if you consider land, but without a doubt the smallest, if you consider people. If you don’t mind standing on top of the hill on Highway 287, just after you pass by the wind turbines, and feeling all alone, well, you just might like Wyoming. And the boy, John, did enjoy being that alone, from time to time. On each side of the hill the road snakes down, stretching into a thin black thread, and on either side rolling hills coast effortlessly into the fantastic array of mesas and mountains in the distance, dulled from the atmospheric properties of the air that was cleaner than the haze made you think. A meager barbed wire fence ran the length of the road, but other than that, no evidence of human presence existed. And if you stood there on the top of that hill, taking a pee while Ben checked the oil, and yelled, really yelled, at the top of your lungs, not a darn soul would hear you. Even if you wanted them to. It would be a horrid place to get bit by a rattler. John wondered if Ben really had to check the oil right then, or if he just enjoyed being there in the desolate freedom you can only find on Highway 287 in southern Wyoming. The oil probably could have waited for Saratoga.

This was a Thursday evening much like any other. John had been staying with Ben, which he did on most weekdays, and his uncle had gotten a call: a stranded vehicle needing a tow to Casper. While Ben didn’t mind the quiet rides alone, which he did often while John was at school and on the weekends, he had asked John to come along, which was common when the boy was at his home. Each job usually took four to five hours and the two partners were pros at long stretches on the road. Mostly they were quiet, just enjoying each other’s company and the soft strumming of some old country great’s guitar and the gravelly crooning about the hard life of the open West crackling through the old speakers in Ben’s well-used tow truck.

The law in Wyoming only required children to be in car seats until they reached their ninth birthday, but Ben still required John to use one, even though he was well into his ninth year. Back in January, when his ninth birthday had been approaching, John had been excited to finally leave the babyish car seat behind. But the birthday had come and gone and Ben still made him strap into the restraints that came down over his shoulders, around his waist, and up between his legs. They had had a fight about it. Arguments were not uncommon between the two, but this one had been particularly fierce. Listen Little John, Ben had said, you don’t have to come with me. I ain’t forcin’ you. But as long as you are a little guy like you are, you’re sittin’ in the damn seat. But I’m nine! John had yelled. But you ain’t big enough, Ben replied. Don’t get me wrong, you’re strong and you sure as hell smarter than most, Ben said, but I want you weighing more than a feather and taller than a cricket before you use the regular belt. You know the rules (and here Ben quoted the weight and height limits recommended for children before they use regular seat belts that he knew by heart), and until you’re that big, you’re using that car seat. No one else does, John protested. Don’t care. Ben wasn’t budging.

Ben had his reasons. And John knew that. And that is why John eventually gave up and stopped threatening to never come back to Ben’s house. And continued to pull the straps over his small shoulders, the belt around his waist, and the strap between his legs that always seemed to hug a little too tight, especially when he needed to pee, and fasten them all right over his belly button. The seat was comfortable, John had to admit that. Probably more comfortable than the frayed knit cover of the real seat that made your skin itch if your leg scraped against it. And he used the car seat even though he was nearly nine and a half because he knew Ben wasn’t trying to make him feel small, wasn’t trying to demean him. Ben had his reasons.

Ben finished checking the oil, which, not surprisingly, was just fine, and John finished peeing and thinking about how no one would hear him if he yelled, and they climbed back into the rig. Ben started the old, powerful engine and waited patiently for John to finish fastening the car seat. He never moved before John was completely ready. When the last strap clicked into place, Ben pulled the truck back onto the road. John stretched his arms and body, straining against the tightening straps as he arched his back.

“Whew,” John said over the soft hum of the radio and engine, “Gettin’ tired.”

“Yep,” Ben said.

John settled into the car seat that seemed to literally hold him, almost like the lap of his dad used to when he was smaller. He laid his head back against the soft cushions. “Might just take a nap.”

“Ok,” Ben replied. “I might wake you when we get home,” he said with a wink.

John smiled and closed his eyes.

The slowing of the truck woke John, and as he rubbed his eyes he saw that they were pulling in front of Ben’s favorite bar, the Rustic. It was one of the few bars that composed the “strip” of Saratoga.

With a population of 1,726, there wasn’t a whole lot going on in Saratoga, Wyoming. There was one main street, which was also the highway to get into town. Off of the main street there were a handful of side streets which were home to a scattering of homes and trailers. There were a couple of convenience stores tied to gas stations, but if you wanted groceries at a reasonable price, you had to drive 100 miles to the nearest Wal-Mart. It was a town small enough that Ben joked (only kinda joked) that everyone knew each other and everyone had slept with everybody else. But it was clean, and the people were nice, and Ben liked it. John liked it a whole lot better than his actual home, except that his friend didn’t live in Saratoga.

There was the nice hotel where all the rich people coming into the North Platte area to hunt stayed at, with the nice restaurant and bar on the ground floor. But Ben didn’t much like that bar, though he enjoyed a steady friendship with the bartender. The traveling outsiders didn’t interest him.

The Rustic was a much better fit. The sign out front was fitting for the name, faded and only just clinging onto the paint which spoke of a more vibrant past. But times were tough and money was scarce, and the owner didn’t care about the condition of his sign. Plus, if he painted it, he might attract some new clients, which he wasn’t eager to do. The regulars were enough to get by. All the new, younger folks just smoked crystal anyways and those types were more trouble than their money was worth.

Ignoring the lack of double swinging wooden doors, the Rustic might as well have been a bar out of an old western. Right inside of the front door, the counter stretches out for a good thirty feet and along it sit fifteen or so wrinkled old-timers, smoking cigarettes and drinking beer. Beyond that, through the haze of countless cigarettes, sits a pool table and a small stage for live acts that travel through from time to time. All the old-timers turn and nod at Ben and John as they walk in. In a larger town, John probably wouldn’t be allowed into such an establishment, but in Saratoga, no one cared.

“How you two doing this evening,” Shirley the bartender asked in the typical Saratoga drawl. Not hurried, slightly southern, soft.

“Oh, you know,” Ben replied in similar drawl, “Getting by.”

They two took their usual seats at the end of the bar closest to the door, where it started to curve into the wall. They never sat closest to the wall, though. That was Pat’s seat; seating arrangements that had been in place for decades had to be respected. Ben easily slid onto the stool. John did his usual acrobatics, placing one foot on the metal bar that served as a foot rest, one hand on the padded edge of the counter, then a hop and push and a quick turn and he was in place, his feet dangling far above the carpeted floor.

“Soda for Little John and I’ll have a draw of Bud,” Ben said to Shirley, who nodded and with a sweet smile at John, turned to fill the order. John smiled back. He felt at home.

Later that night, when John was crawling under the covers in his comfortable bed Ben kept for him, he wished for two things. First of all, that all the soda he drank wouldn’t decide to come out in the middle of the night. He had peed a couple of times since getting home, but he could never be sure. And second, that life could always be as stable as it was with Ben. Just school, tow rides, and the Rustic. Everyone nice, no fighting, no drugs. Weekdays were the best. Weekends were tough. Unlike most of his classmates, John dreaded Friday afternoons, except that he would get to see Simon for a few days. But other than that, weekends were awful.

Ben leaned into the room and turned out the lights.

“Can I just stay here with you this weekend, Ben?” John asked softly.

“Nope.”

“Just this weekend?”

“Nope. Just like last weekend and the weekend next. You’ll go home to your parents.”

“Why?”

“'Cause family’s family, and I don’t want you to forget your name,” Ben said.

“I won’t.”

“Don’t be so sure. Now you get some sleep, you hear? School tomorrow.”

“Like I forgot…” John muttered.

Ben grumbled a reply and shut the door.

Re: Towing Wyoming

Chapter 2: For Home and Country v.2.0

Simon Hósa both loved and hated his name. Depended on the company. Around his people, family, and friends, Hósa was a name full of pride, history, and respect. But in the supermarket in Riverton, to the whites, it meant the opposite.

Simon was dangerously close to skipping as he happily made his way down the road near his home on the Wind River Reservation. Right now, life was good. Tomorrow he turned ten and his grandpa had just promised him the best birthday present he had ever been given. Considering that every year his grandpa had given Simon a present worthy of a thousand thank-yous and never desired any gratitude, the fact that his grandpa had brought it up, clearly pleased, made Simon positively giddy with curiosity as to what the next day would bring. Thus the nearly-skipping. Being nearly ten, however, skipping was certainly frowned upon and Simon was trying his best to hold himself back. But he only had one more day left as a nine-year-old boy and he wanted to enjoy it. Heck, why not. Simon gave up the nearly and out-right skipped, right on down the road. A puff of dust rose each time his sneakers scuffed the dirt and gravel. He felt down right idiotic and he knew if any of his friends saw him, there would be hell to pay. But to hell with that. Skipping felt good. And lately, there hadn’t been a whole lot to feel good about, so Simon was going to enjoy it while he could.

Simon skipped with his hands shoved deep into the pockets of his jeans. Dusty and dirty, both the jeans and the boy. Simon wasn’t wearing a shirt and despite the late hour the sun beat down mercilessly on his bronze arms and shoulders. His hair was dark brown. Not long, but not short. It hung stringy and mussed just over Simon’s ears and halfway down his forehead.

On either side of the road ran a line of barbed wire fence. Beyond the sharp teeth of the fence, rolling hills stretched for miles, covered with wild grasslands. Dry and brown and light green. Then, past the hills, rising up into the shimmering heat were mountains. But not much snow on these mountains. Just pure brown, little bits of dirty white here and there toward the top. Like dried lava, the mountains rose up in thick rivulets of earth, rolling and twisting into towering guardians of the rangeland where the road ran straight and Simon skipped.

The sun was nearing the mountains on the horizon and shinning brilliantly. Dusk was approaching and the sun seemed to be trying it’s best to leave its impression on anything east of the Grand Tetons, lest its light be forgotten during the dark, chilly night quickly approaching. And an impression it was making in Simon’s eyes in the form of a dozen or so little sun-spots that wouldn’t go away every time Simon closed his eyes. He blinked and skipped and blinked and skipped and watched the sun spots dance around. It was mesmerizing. The road Simon was skipping down was as straight as the arrow that rested above the fireplace at his grandpa’s house and seemed to be pointing right at the sun. Simon felt like, if he kept on skipping, he’d skip right into the bright ball threatening to dip below the jagged peaks.

Fingering the small bit of change in his pocket, Simon pondered the possibility of a licorice stick as he neared the single room, ramshackle gas station not too far from his house. It would take nearly all of the ten pennies and two dimes he had in his jean pocket. And his mother would surely be angry about the possibility of a ruined dinner. Well, if dinner had to be ruined, Simon decided, so be it. It was hours from his birthday and he wanted licorice.

Simon stopped skipping, veered off the road past the single rusty gas pump, and up to the door of the gas station. He paused outside the screen door, which halfheartedly attempted to keep flies out, and picked up a soda can carelessly discarded right next to a garbage bin. After carefully placing the dented and dusty can in the garbage, the boy opened up the screen door and stepped into the stuffy and hot, but homey, confines of the gas station.

“Hi Rudolph,” Simon said.

“Howdy,” the man behind the counter replied gruffly.

Rudolph like the reindeer, with a nose almost as red, though for different reasons. Rudolph was a grizzly man, but kind, mostly. A prickly beard stuck out from his jaw like a bad costume. His face was wrinkled and dirty glasses hung precariously on the tip of his nose. The frayed ends of his dirty white and greasy hair just reached his shoulders and the two straps of the overalls he wore day in and day out. Rudolph didn’t bother to wear an undershirt and sweat glistened and dripped from his arm pits. It was disgusting, but Rudolph didn’t seem to mind. Simon had never seen him outside of the gas station.

“You should get a recycling bin,” Simon said.

“You know, you can take that can into town and git five cents for it.” Rudolph’s voice was gravely, dulled and deepened by the cigarette which constantly stayed lit within reach of his yellow, nicotine-stained fingers.

“You know I don’t go into town if I can help it,” Simon replied, reaching for a licorice stick in a grimy display case.

Rudolph’s hand shot out and held the lid down. “You paying for that?”

Simon looked up, his blue-green eyes twinkling. “Wasn’t plannin’ on it.”

“Well, then, you can’t have no licorice. I ain’t the goddamned social securities office. You and that family of yours is going to have to get charity from someone else.”

“Is a stick of licorice charity?” Simon asked, taking a step back from the counter and shoving his hands back in the pocket of his dirty jeans. Hanging out with his older brother and his friends had given Simon an edgy wit beyond his age.

“S’pose it is,” Rudolph replied. He took drag of his cigarette and let the smoke drift lazily from his mouth and through his nostrils. The smoke seemed to just hang suspended in the air, like it was too tired from the heat to even rise. “You should wear a shirt.”

Looking over his upper body, Simon just shrugged. “Can’t get burnt.”

“Don’t mean you can’t get the skin cancer.”

“Well, if I wear a shirt, you going to get a recycling bin?”

“Not planning on it.”

“Then I ain’t planning on wearing a shirt anytime soon. Besides,” Simon stopped and looked up at Rudolph, “We movin’ soon. Gotta enjoy the sun while I can. Mom says it don’t shine so much where we going.”

The hard, sun beaten face behind the counter softened and the hand was removed from the lid of the licorice. “Movin’, huh?”

“Yep.” Simon’s eyes were on the tile floor, suddenly heavy with thought. Ants crawled about in the dust. A crumpled gum wrapper was nudged up against the counter. Simon bent down and picked up the wrapper and set it on the counter. “Can you throw that away for me?”

“Where y’all going?” Rudolph asked as he swept the wrapper with his hand onto the floor on his side of the counter.

Simon was clearly annoyed by Rudolph brushing the litter aside. “Dunno. By the ocean, I guess,” he mumbled as he shuffled around the counter to where Rudolph sat on an unstable stool. The man just watched, amused. The boy quickly spotted the wrapper, bent and picked it up and placed it in the dust bin which was next to Rudolph. It smelled of banana peels and stale cigarette smoke. Behind the counter where Rudolph sat was even more cluttered than the front of the store. Opened magazines and empty styrofoam coffee cups, everything covered in a thin film of dust and cigarette ash.

“Sure it’s sunny. They got beaches for a reason, don’t they?”

“Up north, the ocean ain’t so warm,” Simon mumbled.

“Yeah, the sun don’t come out very often up there, so I hear,” Rudolph mused as Simon returned to the opposite side of the counter. “When you leavin?”

Simon shrugged his shoulders, bare and boney, dusty and brown.

“Does it have to do with your brother?”

Anger glinted in Simon’s eyes for just a moment, but all he said was, “Dunno.”

“You know he should be careful. You should tell him that.”

Simon turned and swung open the screen door. The door was too dry to even squeak. He had just stepped back out into the afternoon glare when Rudolph called for him.

“Simon.”

Simon stopped.

“Here, have a licorice, boy.” Rudolph was leaning over the counter, a stick of red candy in his hand.

Simon took the licorice, wishing Rudolph’s dirty, nicotine stained hands hadn’t touched it. “Thanks,” he said softly, digging into his pockets and counting out the 25 cents. He handed it to Rudolph who took the money with a nod.

“You come in and say goodbye 'fore you leave, ok?”

“Yeah,” Simon replied and stepped out into the sun and the evening heat, his eyes squinting, his forehead wrinkling up in discomfort. He stuck the licorice in his mouth. The wires that connected Rudolph’s shop to the world cast a shadow along the cement near the rusty gas pump and Simon walked it like a tight rope back to the road. Wooden telephone poles stood at methodical intervals along the side of the two-lane highway. Like sentries closely watching the few vagabonds that traveled the road into Riverton, Wyoming; their crisp shadows just angled against the road, betraying that the arrow’s aim was slightly off.

Simon didn’t feel like skipping anymore and the licorice, while tasty, wasn’t livening the funk the trip into Rudolph’s dirty shop had beset on his birthday’s-eve spirits. Moving wasn’t his favorite subject and he hadn’t meant to bring it up. It wasn’t a new topic of discussion in the Hósa household, but recently it was appearing to be more and more of a real possibility. His mother’s last threat had seemed real enough. The reservation just wasn’t a home for them anymore, said Simon’s mom. Simon saw it as a lack of loyalty, a lack of guts, a lack of fight, and it angered him.

Home for Simon was a single story green house. The paint on the outside wooden siding was chipped and peeling, the windows single pane and cheap. The neighbors on either side of the house were two double wide trailers. A few other houses and trailers comprised the small neighborhood. The roads unpaved, the lawns just weeds and dust.

Simon finished the licorice stick just as he was walking up the dirt trail through the weeds to the front door. He heard the loud revving of a truck and recognized his older brother’s black pick-up as it slid around the corner and skidded to a stop in front of the house. In the driver’s seat was Simon’s brother, Zachariah: broad shouldered and black hair long and braided strait down his back. Loaded in the passenger seat and in the bed of the truck were the rest of the gang, numbering four: they all looked identical to Zachariah, all Arapaho, all big, and all, it seemed to Simon, scary as hell.

“What’s up, lil’ bro?” Zachariah said as he hopped out of the truck. It was easy to do given the fact that there was no driver’s side door. It had been knocked off in some late-night incident, the details of which were still hazy to Simon.

Simon licked a finger sticky from the licorice, and mumbled, “Hey.”

As Zachariah strode by, the rest of his friends closely in tow, he pushed the side of Simon’s head. Both rough and loving, the gesture a perfect representation of the relationship Simon shared with his brother.

Half-brother, actually. They shared the same mother, but the similarities stopped there. They didn’t look a bit alike. Zachariah, who insisted he be called his full name, was big for his age of nineteen. He was often confused for a man at least ten year older. Strong. He had played a lineman for the football team in high school. His skin was dark, both his parents pure Arapaho. And he was fiercely, fiercely Indian. Violently so. If his long braided hair left any question, the tattoos that covered his upper body, literally leaving very little of his arms uncovered, fixed that. Symbols from the tribe, words, slogans, names: stubborn pride injected permanently in his skin.

Simon liked to think he shared the same pride, but he knew at times it faltered. Deep in his heart, he blamed his father. His white father. His father who had made Simon’s skin lighter than Zachariah’s. His eyes blue-green. Not as pure. And in that one night where his father had loved Simon’s mother then disappeared in the morning, he had destined Simon to a life of confusion, questions, and instability. And not just because his father wasn’t there to clear the confusion, answer the questions, and fight the insecurity. Simon was reminded of his lost father every day when he felt fake and lost and in-between, both Arapaho and white, especially when the community in which he lived was so divided you couldn’t be both.

And then, to make matters worse, he lacked every indication of his brother’s size. Zachariah towered over Simon, just as most of the other nine and ten-year-olds in his class. The girls were the worst. They were bigger than the boys, of course, at the age of ten, and they loved to tease Simon about his size. It was a little better when John went to school with Simon, at least then they could stick together. But John was only home on the weekends now. So it seemed that everywhere Simon turned, he couldn’t find solace in his person. And in a way, he understood his brother’s anger better than Zachariah did himself. Being caught in the middle and not being able to do a damn thing about it brings a special perspective.

Zachariah and company left the door open for Simon, but he didn’t feel up to wading through the living room with all its clutter and tattered furniture now filled with five tough guys staring at an old television through the haze of marijuana smoke. No, he’d use his secret way.

It wasn’t that secret. Just through his window. He left the screen off so he could climb in and out without bothering his mom, or his brother when he was home. Simon waded through the weeds that left prickly seeds in his socks to the base of his bedroom window. He hopped up and climbed in and rolled onto his bed which was just next to the window against the wall.

Lying on his back and staring at the cracks in the ceiling, Simon let the anger that had started to simmer at Rudolph’s boil over. His damn heritage, his prideful heritage, his damn brother. Sometimes he wondered if it was better to just run away. But Simon knew he was the glue that held this house together. If he was gone, his mom wouldn’t last a minute. Simon felt trapped by it all.

Better peace at home than personal freedom.

Of course, that is not what his brother, Zachariah, would say.

Re: Towing Wyoming

This is very good quality work, and the story is intriguing. Looking forward to more!

Re: Towing Wyoming

Thanks Casper! I appreciate you taking time to comment. It gets disheartening not seeing any response. I appreciate you taking the time.


Chapter 3:
Weeds and Barking Dogs
v.2.0

“Were you dry last night?” Ben asked when John shuffled into the kitchen half awake and rubbing his eyes early Friday morning.

Little John was in his usual morning attire. Socks, white briefs, and a t-shirt. As far as Ben could tell, his underpants looked dry, but it wasn’t beyond John to change in the middle of the night, move a blanket to the floor and sleep there, and forget to tell Ben that he’d wet the bed. A few times it had been days before Ben found the soiled bed and by then the sheets were rancid and sour. So, now he checked every morning whether or not John’s underpants were dry.

The nights in Saratoga could be bitingly cold and Ben wondered how John could survive the night in just his briefs, t-shirt, and socks; but night after night, John wore the same outfit to bed. Of course, when John was in residence, Ben kept the cast iron wood stove burning and his doublewide wasn’t big enough to need too much heat.

The trailer was modest, but comfortable. The walls were covered with dark wood veneer and adorned with pictures and paintings, various objects indicative of the culture of Wyoming, and Ben’s collection of hats, most of them given to him by various thankful customers. No TV, no computer, just a set of speakers and a receiver that could play records and cassette tapes. At the convincing of Little John, Ben had finally given in and purchased a used cd player that could plug into the speakers. Most of the music that John liked made Ben cringe, however, so if Ben was in a mood, the cd player rarely got used. There weren’t many photographs of people on the wall. If you were a stranger visiting the trailer, you’d hardly know Ben had family. There was one picture of Little John posing with a bat and a ball for his little league baseball picture pinned to the fridge by a rusty magnet. A picture of a frail looking woman in a colorful sun dress. And, in the corner above the cacti plant, a picture of a young woman and a small girl.

Just like every other morning if he wasn’t on a tow job, Ben, in jeans and a long-sleeve shirt, sat at the small round kitchen table sipping black coffee and passively reading a bible. Ben never went to church and never talked about God, but every morning he read that bible. It was well-used and worn, the cover halfway ripped off. The act was such a fixture of their mornings that Little John had never bothered to ask why Ben read the book. It was just something that happened; just another part of Saratoga that was predictable and stable.

“Yep,” John mumbled as he took a seat opposite Ben at the table.

“Dry as the desert, huh?” Ben said absently, his eyes moving slowly across the page.

“Yep.”

“Good.”

And that was about it. Not much was ever said between the two. But it was like there wasn’t a need for it. It scared the hell out of Ben the way John could read his mind sometimes.

“Cold this morning,” John said, shivering as he poured a glass of orange juice from the plastic pitcher which sat on the table.

“Fire went out, like usual, and it’s getting to be late September. 'Course it’s cold.” Ben paused for a moment and looked over at John who was swinging his bare legs as he sipped his juice. “You could always wear those pajamas I bought for ya.”

“Don’t like 'em.”

“Well, come this winter, you might have to or you’ll freeze to death. Supposed to be a cold winter. Don’t want to wake up one morning and find you stiff as a board and gray as the sky, froze clear through. And if you wet the bed, there’d be little icicles hanging off ya…”

John glared at Ben, trying to be angry, but not before a giggle escaped.

Ben winked at John and reached across the table and ruffled his hair. “Wouldn’t that be a disaster…” Ben took a sip of coffee. “I want you takin’ your dirty clothes home with you this weekend. Tell your mom to wash 'em.”

“What if she don’t?”

“Bring 'em back, I suppose. I can put a load in on Monday. I know it ain’t your fault, but that mother of yours, my wonderful sister, should do your laundry at least some of the time.”

School went by too quick for John and in no time at all, John was leaving the building, just down the road from Ben’s, that housed kids from kindergarten through fourth grade. He had just begun fourth grade at the school in Saratoga and he had to admit it was pretty nice. A lot nicer than his school back in Riverton.

Ben was at his usual Friday afternoon spot, the truck idling in the parking lot. Most days after school, John just walked the short distance back to Ben’s house. But Fridays, they had to make the long two-and-a-half-hour drive back to Riverton. And John hated that drive. He also hated getting into the truck. So far, the kids in his class didn’t have much reason to make fun of him, except for his size. They didn’t know his parents, or the unfortunate accidents he’d experienced previous years. To the fourth graders in Saratoga, he was just the new, short kid who was pretty quiet but smart as hell. So John hated getting in the truck 'cause he didn’t want the kids to see the car seat Ben made him sit in. The first couple of Fridays, John climbed in and scooted to the middle seat next to the child restraint, pretending it wasn’t his. But Ben had just sat there staring blankly out the window, refusing to move until John was buckled in where he was supposed to be. It seemed so far either his classmates hadn’t noticed or didn’t care. And this Friday, he decided he wasn’t up for a fight and after slamming the truck door shut, he climbed into the car seat. The strap between his legs seemed a bit tighter today. There was a padded section on it that was supposed to make it more comfortable on his groin, but today the strap was bunching up his jeans and holding in close. It was making him feel like a little kid and he hated it. But from time to time, the closeness and security felt nice. This afternoon was one of those times. John was feeling melancholy and the thought of going home made him want to cry. So he just stared out the window as Ben pulled onto the main road, and he nodded when Ben asked if he had made sure to pee before he got in the truck.

Despite the fact that he had been staying a few nights a week with his Uncle Ben for quite some time, and staying during the whole school week for four weeks now, he hadn’t quite adjusted to the shock of living in two homes. Especially when they were so starkly different. Life, in a way, almost seemed easier when John just lived in Riverton. There wasn’t the solace of Saratoga to make Riverton seem so dark and dirty. But now he had Ben taking care of him, and John knew life didn’t have to be like it was with his parents in Riverton; there was the option of having better. And that made going back every Friday that much worse.

Kairy didn’t agree with the child car seat. The baby seat, she called it. How come you make him sit in that thing like a baby? She’d yell at Ben when the truck pulled up each Friday to the single-story house in Riverton, Wyoming. Ben would just shake his head. Hey sis, he’d say. How you holding up? Kairy would walk up to the window of the truck. She was frail looking and thin, but her hair was always combed strait. You make him wear diapers too? She’d ask loudly. John would cringe, quickly letting the latch go on the car seat, untangling his arms from the shoulder straps, opening the car door and hopping down to the dusty yard. Hopefully his buddies that lived nearby weren’t listening to his crazy mom. Though he knew from how they made fun of him that they were. He’d nod to Ben, who’d nod back. They didn’t need to say goodbye. Then John would disappear as quickly as he could into the faded, chipped yellow house.

Kneeling on the deflated couch in the living room and sticking his head just over the edge of the windowsill, John would watch his mom and Ben. He could just see Ben and his mom exchange a peck on the cheek. Ben never treated John’s mom bad, never openly judged her, and for that, Little John was thankful. Ben always managed to make Kairy smile before their conversation was over. John would have liked to stick around the truck and listen to what Ben said to organically bring on the temporary happiness, but if he was there, the conversation would inevitably revolve around him. And John hated being talked about. It made him feel small, and guilty, and he didn’t like either feeling. So he watched from the window.

After a few minutes, Ben would plant another gentle kiss on his sister’s cheek, wink up at John, then pull back around the corner and be gone. John would feel lonely watching his uncle drive away. His mom would walk swiftly up the path beaten through the weeds back to the house. Always in a hurry, and for what? John wondered.

And this Friday was no different, except this time Ben tossed a bag of John’s dirty clothes out into the yard. Kairy left it and walked to the house.

“You wet the bed this week?” his mom asked as she let the screen door, whose spring was broken, slam shut against the wooden frame of the doorway. The screen bounced a few times, finally settling a few inches short of the frame. Just enough to let any bug that wanted enter into the house.

John shrugged.

“You did, didn’t you?”

“No, I didn’t,” John muttered, rotating around on the couch from his perch at the window and sitting on the well-worn cushion.

“Bet you did,” his mom said, wandering into the kitchen. John could hear the fridge door open and close.

“He make you wear diapers?” Kairy asked, leaning her head into the living room. John could see she had grabbed a beer. The organic happiness from Ben had already worn off. Time for the chemicals.

“No,” John mumbled, reaching for the remote and turning on the TV. Of course there was nothing on the basic channels the bent prongs of the antenna picked up.

“I’m thinking about making you wear diapers when you are at home now. Gonna talk to your father about it. You’re ruining the mattress recently,” Kairy called from the kitchen. John could hear her open the bottle, the distinctive click and hiss. John wished she would talk quieter. Sound traveled well in this neighborhood.

“It’s not happening as much,” John said quietly. “Getting better,” he added as he switched the channel from a pontificating preacher to an infomercial with bad reception.

“Yeah right. Gonna talk to your father about it.”

“Thanks Kairy,” John said softly.

His mom appeared in the doorway, glaring at John. “You know I don’t like you calling me that. I’m your mom, so call me mom.”

John wanted to respond with a stinging retort. Something that would hurt. Something that would make his mom realize just how much she hurt him. But wisely he kept his mouth shut. Another weekend, John thought. Only two more days… Maybe Simon was home. Be good to get away for a while.

The walk to Simon’s wasn’t far. Took about twenty minutes at a fairly good walking pace. The roads in this part of Riverton weren’t paved. Gravel was poured down once a year and compacted by heavy rollers driven by the National Guard. The once-a-year maintenance meant the roads were in constant decay, except for a few weeks after the Guard moved through. During the dry and windy summer season, which was just coming to a close, dust was a constant walking companion and each step was marked by the weeds which wiggled their way through the rock to celebrate the pale yet resilient life of Riverton. John walked the route he knew well enough to do it blindfolded, his arms swinging at his sides and his eyes taking in the neighborhood he called home.

Mostly there were single story frame houses and doublewides. A few yards had fences. Those that did had an angry dog held just at bay by the often rickety excuse for canine restraint. As John walked passed, the dogs would howl and bark, angry at what? Simon had no idea. But they were very, very angry. This, like the weeds in the road, was indicative of Riverton. Pale, resilient, and angry. Green grass and gardens were for the banks and the restaurant. The houses in this part of town were content with weeds. Peeling paint was the norm. It was, most certainly, home.

Other parts of Riverton weren’t so bad. Nicer homes. Sprinkler systems. Maybe a basketball hoop with a new net on it. But that was not home. And the few times John had been in those neighborhoods, the open, free feeling he had on Highway 287 when Ben changed the oil completely and utterly disappeared. Despite its dependency on despondency and deterioration, John felt most at home in the peeling paint and weeds.

The front door to Simon’s house was open. But judging from the sweet, skunky smell of burning weed drifting into the street, John knew his friend would not be found there. He waded through the yard and was not surprised to see that Simon’s window was open.

“Hey, you in there?”

A rustling. John smiled. His friend was home.

Simon’s face appeared in the window, big, goofy-looking earphones hanging around his neck. “Yep.”

Re: Towing Wyoming

Great story so far and thanks for writing another story after your last one Sitting the Winstons. I am also sorry for not commenting sooner and can’t wait until you post the next part!!! :slight_smile:

Re: Towing Wyoming

I really like the style this story is written in. It’s very classic, like the Grass is Singing, or To Kill a Mockingbird - those kind of books. Storyline wise honestly doesn’t have much that seems new, but the style makes this entire story fantastic.

Love it.

Re: Towing Wyoming

Yeah, I agree that so far the plot is rather bland so far. The next chapter should reveal a little more about what is going to happen. I might be taking too long to introduce the characters. Thanks for the high praise, though. I’m glad you are enjoying it. I appreciate your time: casper and double.

Re: Towing Wyoming

There is no crime in taking your time to build the plot and introduce your characters. In fact it makes the story that much better to have a solid base to start with.

Re: Towing Wyoming

Chapter 4: Sometimes a Great Notion… v.2.0

“Whatever happened to your brother’s door?” John asked as he sat on the edge of Simon’s bed. He absently bounced up and down, his hands gripping the edge of the mattress.

Simon had moved to sitting cross-legged on the floor and was distractedly licking his finger, the one still sticky from the licorice. He wiped it on his dusty jeans. The state of his jeans contrasted with the spotlessness of his room. The bouncy black cord from his orange earphones ran along the floor to a vintage receiver placed perfectly in the middle between the door and the corner. Carefully hung on his wall was a painting of an Arapaho man riding a horse and throwing a spear: hunting buffalo. It had been a birthday present from his grandpa the year before. The best one yet. A wooden desk, though scratched and scuffed, sat proudly in the corner, a neat stack of paper in the middle. The carpet which covered the floor was threadbare, but clean. A small closet with a broken sliding door to one side. Simple room, but nice. It was Simon’s world, one of the few aspects of his life he felt he could own, and he took extreme care to make it presentable.

“What, you mean on his truck?” Simon responded.

“Yeah. It’s just clean knocked off.”

“I noticed,” Simon said shortly then shrugged, “Don’t really know what happened. A few weeks ago, he pulled up in the morning and it was just gone.”

“He’s gonna be cold when it gets cold out.”

“Yep. Suppose so.”

“Do you ever, ya know, go with him?” John asked quietly.

“Go with him when? To the store? Park?” Simon responded sharply. The conversation with Rudolph still had him on edge.

“You know what I’m talking about.”

“I don’t really want to talk about my half-brother.”

Whenever Simon referred to Zachariah as his half-brother, it was a sure indicator that it was time to move on to another subject.

Times weren’t always so bad, at least as far as Simon could remember. When he was younger, Zachariah had been more like a big teddy bear than the smelly, giant, pious gargoyle he now resembled. The teddy bear days were long gone though and Simon was well aware it was due more to necessity than anything else. As Zachariah had grown into a man’s body, so convincingly that no one believed he was actually nineteen, people began to be afraid. A small Indian boy, like Simon, didn’t scare anyone. Maybe Rudolph would hassle him about licorice, but he didn’t feel hated. Not like Zachariah did.

As Zachariah grew, white people in town started to lock their car doors when he walked down the sidewalk. When he waited on the corner for a friend, the whites would step away. A cop would stop and wonder why he was just standing there. It was just assumed that Zachariah was up to no good. Just another waster Indian wanting to steel what the white folks had. Of course, this wasn’t Zachariah at all. But being treated like that, like fear, like the plague, changes a person. On his own land, no less. It made Zachariah feel very alone and, just as a lot of whites found him threatening, he felt threatened by them. They, the whites, were waiting to pounce at the slightest provocation. Any excuse to call the cops, and they would.

Zachariah wasn’t alone. Other young Indian males on the Wind River Reservation, both Arapaho and Shoshone, experienced the same prejudice. Perhaps it wasn’t outright racism, the kind like having drinking fountains for white folks only or having big painted signs on the window that read “Indians will NOT be served!” Though Simon’s grandpa told him about times when that did happen. His grandpa said the feelings weren’t a whole lot different now, 'cept people didn’t have the signs. But might as well. There were several shops in Riverton that Simon knew he didn’t need to bother visiting. Wouldn’t do no good if he did. Like the deli, Ted’s.

Ted’s Deli was in the middle of “downtown” Riverton. It wasn’t the classiest place in the world, rather rundown. Simon rode by it on his bike almost every time he ventured into town just to feel adventuresome. To feel like he was challenging them. Even though it wasn’t much, it felt good to glare through the windows at the white men gathered around the tables, drinking coffee, maybe buying a sandwich, a slab of meat, but mostly just talking, spreading rumors and souring the breeze. They all wore jeans and cowboy boots and flannel. Cowboys. The real thing, as it were. Most of the middle-aged ones had large bellies, bloated by red meat and beer, which stretched the buttons on their flannel shirts and hung down over the large copper-colored belt buckles. Life in Wyoming was already hard. Ranching and farming, working for the oil and energy companies, the government: it was neither easy nor glamorous work. So it didn’t take a whole lot to get these hard men on edge. And, to make things worse, they loved a good fight. So Simon never went in. It was well known around town that Ted wouldn’t serve you if you did. If you were an Indian, you would just stand there in line and wait all day. Simon just rode by and glared. It made him feel like he was doing something.

But Zachariah, he wasn’t content to just stare anymore. And neither were his friends. Really, it was a gang and everyone knew it. But Simon just referred to them as Zachariah’s friends. He didn’t need to be adding to the bad connotation of his brother’s name. The gang had decided some night, probably drunk and high as a hawk, to take matters into their own hands. And the turmoil that boiled just below the surface in Riverton, Wyoming, was starting to break through, appearing like bulging boils, festering and waiting to burst, to spread pain and filth all over the scarred skin of the Wind River Reservation.

Simon’s mom was fed up with it all and wanted to move.

And so did Simon, really deep down where the fear hid. But he couldn’t help but feel that his brother was fighting a fight that needed to happen and no one, including Simon, had the balls to fight it. Or the stupidity. But Simon couldn’t help but feel that if he moved with his mom, he’d be leaving behind his identity, he’d be betraying his family, his people, and his country. That is a lot to think about for a nine-year-old and it was confusing and scary as hell. So Simon kept his room spotless.

There was a reason why Zachariah’s gang wasn’t that big. They were frowned upon by much of the Arapaho and Shoshone. It didn’t take but the slightest provocation for Simon’s grandpa to start ranting about how Zachariah and his “band of idiots” were going to bring an end to the world. He didn’t mean the whole world, of course. He knew that faraway places, even just outside the state of Wyoming, couldn’t care less if a few whites got into it with a few American Indians. But his grandpa’s world, as he knew it, was fragile. And Simon’s grandpa was well aware of the fact that the young men who bore his resemblance and shared his heritage had the ability to bring it down. Most of the tribe favored passive resistance against the white racism. Outright hostility would just bring matters to a head. Besides, peace was more profitable for everyone. There were goldmines of natural resources on Indian land and hostility with whites could prevent solid profit.

Simon actually wasn’t sure what his brother did when he and his “band of idiots” piled in the truck that was missing its front door and disappeared into the night. So when he told John that he didn’t really know, he was being honest. And he wasn’t sure he wanted to know. What he did know was that things were happening. Property was being destroyed. People were getting mad. Zachariah’s actions were making a lot of people angry, didn’t seem to be helping a whole lot, and, worst of all, making his mom want to move.

Simon’s finger wasn’t sticky with licorice anymore, but he still sucked on it, almost like a baby might suck on a thumb. He so badly just wanted to do something, anything to fix everything. To make his brother not only stop fighting, but to take away the reason to fight. And if that reason was gone, his mom wouldn’t want to move. But there wasn’t a whole lot a small Indian boy could do.

Simon glanced over at John, his partner in this crazy scary world he found himself in, and didn’t see much more. John, whose uncle made him sit in a baby seat in the truck. Not exactly the two toughest kids in the world. Heck, they couldn’t even take on the kids at school. Simon and John were the two wimpy boys and everyone could push around. 'Course that was before John started staying with his uncle during the week. Now it was just Simon, the small, scrawny, wimpy boy who wasn’t completely white and wasn’t completely Indian.

And yet, Simon couldn’t shake the feeling that he could change something, that he could help. Despite the fact that all the cards were stacked up against him, he felt a certain power he couldn’t define. When he hiked the hills just outside of Riverton alone, he felt strength, as if the land was transmitting the confidence he lacked. It was as if the land was asking him to save it, like he was being called. He’d told his grandpa about it. He didn’t dare tell anyone else. They’d laugh for sure. But his grandpa had nodded, like he knew in the weathered lines of his face that his grandson was special. Listen to the land, Simon, he said. It will tell you things you need to know.

“Well, what are you listening to?” John asked Simon, understanding that further conversation on Zachariah was out of the question.

“This,” Simon motioned toward the earphones, “Is the music of America.”

John tried to strain his ears to pick up the low-fi music coming from the orange earphones around Simon’s neck. He couldn’t make it out. “What is it?”

“Take a listen,” Simon said, taking off the earphones and handing them to John. The spiraling cord bounced, almost dancing to the music that ran inside it.

John felt ridiculous with the enormous earphones. They entirely engulfed his ear, surrounding his senses with a melodious tune that reminded him of Ben’s truck. A gravelly voice and a guitar, something about an altar boy and a commuter train. He glanced at Simon, who was squinting his blue-green eyes and asking a question, but John couldn’t hear anything but the music. He pulled off the earphones. “What?” he asked a little too loudly.

“Do you like it?”

“Sure, it’s like the music Ben listens too. Woulda thought you…” John trailed off.

“Woulda thought I what?”

“Dunno, listen to some Indian music or something.”

Simon shrugged. He almost mentioned who had introduced the music to him, but knew he wasn’t supposed to talk about it with John just yet.

John headed home not long after he had shown up at Simon’s window. The sun was down and they both knew better than to stay out later than just a few minutes after the sun dipped below the mountains to the west. John had seemed nervous about going home. Not that that was strange; it wasn’t the best home to return to.

Tomorrow was a big day for Simon, his tenth birthday. Both excited about what his grandpa might give him and nervous about his brother and home, Simon wasn’t the least bit tired. But his mom knocked on his door like she did every evening, just before she went to the night shift at the nursing home, and quietly slipped into Simon’s room.

Simon was lying awake atop the covers of his bed. The cool night breeze just outside his window had yet to filter into the stuffy, hot room. After John left, Simon had exchanged his dusty jeans for a pair of loose fitting pajama pants. They were fleece and incredibly comfortable and enough to keep Simon just warm enough if he didn’t crawl under the covers. When the winter came, he’d have to, but not yet. Simon liked to pretend he was a stick, a brown one in the forest that no one could see. As he lay on his bed, still shirtless, he kept his arms strait by his sides, and his bare toes pointing directly toward the ceiling. Just his pajama pants covering what would surely be the best disguised stick on the forest. He could see anything, hear anything, and no one would know. A spy. The forest, the land, would tell him answers if he were a well-disguised stick.

“How you doing, honey?” his mom asked softly.

“Fine,” Simon whispered. Sticks didn’t talk loudly. They just whispered in the wind.

“Tomorrow is a big day, huh?”

Simon smiled. “Yep.” He felt his mom sit down on the edge of his bed. A pat on his leg.

“Big ten, huh?”

“What you going to get me?”

“Oh, I ain’t going to tell you that,” Simon’s mom said. Simon could barely see her in the dark, she was just a shadowy outline, but Simon could tell she was smiling. She smelled faintly of cigarettes and cheap flowery perfume. “You want some new pjs? Going to be a cold winter.”

Simon shrugged, then immediately returned his shoulders to their rigid position. Sticks didn’t shrug. They only whispered in the breeze. “Guess so.”

He knew his mom didn’t have any money. She could get some cheap pjs at Walmart. Anything would make Simon happy though. He hated to admit it but birthdays were his favorite. All the attention made him self-conscious and uncomfortable, but he loved it too.

“You get some sleep, huh?” She said as he planted a gentle kiss on Simon’s forehead. Simon was quiet as her shadowy figure, like a sad angel Simon thought, moved toward the door.

“Is Zachariah home?” Simon whispered, still a stick.

“No, honey, he left.”

His mom didn’t state the obvious. With Zachariah gone, Simon was alone in the house. He didn’t like to admit it, but being alone made him scared. He held his arms tightly at his side. Sticks didn’t get scared. They just silently watched. And he was such a good stick, so camouflaged, no one would see him. “Ok,” was all Simon whispered.

“I’ll make you breakfast in the morning, huh?” Simon’s mom said, now at the door.

“French Toast?” Simon whispered.

“Sure, honey. Love you.”

“Love you, mom.”

“Sleep tight.”

The door clicked.

“Mom?” Simon called after her.

The door opened again. “Yeah?”

“Did Ben stop by this afternoon?”

A pause. Then, “No.”

“You still dating?”

“We were never dating, Simon. You know that.”

“Then how come I can’t tell John about it.”

A longer pause. “Get some sleep, honey.”

The door clicked shut again.

Simon listened in the silence of his room as his mom’s footsteps traced their way down the hallway. The front door shut softly. Simon could hear the swishing of the weeds. The car door opened then slammed. The engine coughed for a few moments then caught. A whine and the rolling of the engine and his mom was gone.

The stick started to shake. Simon hated being all alone at night. As often as it happened, he still wasn’t used to it and was pretty sure he never would be, even when he was as big as Zachariah, if that ever was to happen. He closed his eyes and hoped sleep would come quick. If he was going to change the world, he’d have to get used to sleeping all alone at night.

The wind was starting to pick up outside, whispering louder. Simon began to blow air out his mouth, softly. He pursed his lips and the blowing became a wavering whisper. Perhaps the same whisper a stick would make in the wind, if it were scared.

Re: Towing Wyoming

Great update. Really love the style of this whole work.

One thing - the in para talking about ‘ted’s deli’, you misspelled ‘a slab of meat’ as ‘a slab of meet’.

Keep writing this! :smiley:

Re: Towing Wyoming

Yeah thanks for pointing that out Casper. Darn homophones! Please continue to help me edit, I really appreciate it.

Cheers!

Re: Towing Wyoming

Resurrected! I had to take some time off due to school and other responsibilities. But now I have free time again and want to complete this story. I’ve made some serious changes to the first four chapters. I highly suggest you go back through and read them, not only to catch the changes, but to refresh your memory of the story. If you choose not to (boo on you!), I’ll briefly state the changes here: Simon’s bedwetting and nighttime diapers have been erased. It was too cliche and hurting the overall story. Yes, this makes TW less ab/dl, but better, I believe. Second of all, there are now hints in chapter five that Simon’s mother is seeing someone named “Ben.” The same Ben as John’s uncle? Perhaps…

Without further babbling…onward! Chapters five and six follow…

Chapter 5: Who says?

It is hard to say when a story starts. It is like trying to define when one war ends and another begins. So to say that this particular story began on the night before Simon’s tenth birthday would be an oversimplification. But there were several events that occurred that night which make it an acceptable start. It at least acted as the spark which eventually led to the upheaval of a whole town, maybe even a whole state; perhaps, in time, a country.

And perhaps it all never would have happened if John’s dad’s boss hadn’t asked him to work a double shift that day. Perhaps it all never would have happened if John’s dad hadn’t been in a particularly sour mood when John walked in the house that evening before Simon’s tenth birthday. Perhaps then Zachariah never would have done what he did. And what ensued the next day to Simon and his mom would never have happened. But John’s dad’s boss did make John’s dad work a double shift. And he was in a sour mood. And he did what he did. And the spark was lit. And the explosion did happen.

Re: Towing Wyoming

Chapter 6: Porcelain Hearts

As John walked back from Simon’s, he felt a certain kind of peace. He couldn’t explain it, of course, as peace cannot often be explained. But it was there. As his sneakers crunched on the Guard-laid gravel, John consciously avoided the little weeds. They too were at peace, and John didn’t want to ruin the Zen which surrounded him. The moon was rising, the sun having decided to submit to the Tetons a while before. The sky was at a crossroads, half a dark bruised orange from the fading sun, half a glowing purple from the moon. John was pressing his luck, he knew, by returning home after the sun went down. But this fact didn’t perturb his peace. The words from the country song Simon had been listening to drifted through his consciousness:

You can gaze out the window, get mad and get madder. Throw your hands up in the air, say “What does it matter?” But it don’t do no good to get angry, so help me I know.

He wasn’t sure what it meant, really, but he liked the idea that it didn’t do no good to get angry. That was a peaceful thought. John didn’t fool himself by thinking he knew all about the world. He was well aware of the fact he was nine years old. But he did have confidence. Confidence to know, for one, he didn’t have a choice. He was a small boy still; under Wyoming law, much safer in a baby car seat. He knew he didn’t have any control. Hell, he still wet the bed some times. But also confidence to know he had a budding spirit which couldn’t be held down. Like the weeds bursting through the gravel in the road. Through, what? A foot of gravel? Still green, still there. I’m a weed, John thought, try and kill me. I’ll be back. Of course he only thought this way in Riverton. There was no need for such defiance in Saratoga. But Ben was gone now. And all that was awaiting him here, now, was a drunk mother, a father now home from work, chipped yellow paint, a worn couch…Try and kill me.

The house glowed. The screen was cracked and the door open. Light poured from the windows. The tips of the weeds of the yard shone in the light, swaying softly in the evening breeze. John trudged through the weeds, feeling the prickling on his shins and smelling the fragrance: a sharp, sweet, sage aroma; enjoying the last of the Zen he knew did not exist inside the walls of his house.

John’s dad, if it was possible, was even more unpredictable than his mom. As a father, he had these bouts of responsibility that usually manifested themselves in unrealistic expectations for those around him. The man did work hard, there was no doubt about that. The flaw was that when his work was done, he felt his duty was fulfilled. Being a supporting father or husband was not included in his job description. Once the work day was done and the buck earned, no one was to disturb his peace or desires. And so the responsibility of the family fell on his wife, or, if around, his son.

Today had been particularly hard. His boss had requested him to work a double shift. From four in the morning to eight at night. And so when he got home and his wife was raging about the bedwetting and the mattresses being ruined and his lazy and irresponsible son, the man got angry. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t true. Or not that true. Sure it happened once in a while. What nine year old boy doesn’t wet the bed from time to time? Maybe John did a little more than his peers, but it wasn’t every night. But Kairy didn’t explain that. And John’s dad was removed enough from the goings on of his family that to him it seemed an every night experience. And if, goddamnit, his boy was going to be there for the weekend, he wasn’t going to be ruinin’ any of his mattresses. And how long had he been staying at that damn brother of yours anyways? Whats his name? Ben? Such a prick. High and mighty bastard. Making our son soft. Why’s our son stay there anyways? State made him? Fuck the state. Well here he ain’t ruinin’ my mattresses I worked so damn hard to buy.

It had been a tough day for John’s dad. Double shift.

John didn’t really know what he was walking into as he opened the screen door. His dad sat on the couch. He was a big man, face unshaved and curly hair greasy. Had a belly the size of a pumpkin that might win the annual state fair held at the rodeo grounds just outside of town. He wore a blue flannel shirt that was tucked into his jeans, held in place by a belt buckle which depicted a kneeling girl gilded in silver staring seductively at the flashing TV which, John noticed, was showing the same preacher who was shouting an hour ago when he had arrived with Ben.

“Sit down, son.”

John sat down on the couch next to his dad.

His mom peaked her head out from the doorway to the kitchen. “Late,” was all she said.

“Sun went down quicker than I expected,” John mumbled.

“What was that?” His dad asked sharply. “I don’t want you sassin’ your mom, you understand?”

John was quiet. The TV was grainy and the preacher was shouting something from behind the pulpit. The room smelled of a recently extinguished cigarette.

“Answer me when I talk to you.” His dad was shouting. Not a good sign.

“Huh?” Wrong answer.

“Are you listening?”

“I’m listening!” John said. He felt small, sinking into the couch. It was sucking away the peace that had accompanied him on the road with the gravel and the weeds. Try and kill me.

“Your mom says you are peein’ on my mattresses.”

“I’m not.”

“Yes you are.” That was from the kitchen, his mom yelling.

“I don’t even live here anymore. How would you know if I’m wetting the bed?”

“You calling your mom a liar?”

John paused, watched the preacher for a while through the marching ants which paraded across the poor reception. It dawned on him that his father was in a really bad mood. A dangerous mood. This wasn’t a regular Friday night tongue-lashing.

A strong hand gripped John’s shoulder. He turned and looked at his dad, who was staring intently at the boy. “You live here, you understand? You do not live with that prick of an man who stole you away during the week. You live here. You are my son, goddamnit.”

John nodded, feeling fear. He hated it: fear. Fear reminded him who he really was. Powerless.

Powerless reminded him of the time earlier that summer. It was a Thursday, the day of his weekly swimming lessons. He loved the pool. It was, without a doubt, the highlight of his week. This was before he moved in with Ben. The pool though, and the lesson that started in twenty minutes, was four miles away. Even in his wildest confidence, this trek wasn’t possible in such a short period of time. So he was sitting in the back of the mom’s dirty blue station wagon. The car was from the 80’s even though it was well into the first decade of the 21st century. John was sitting in the back in his too-small blue swimming trunks that had a red stripe down the side, gripping his towel tightly in his small hands, wishing his mom would realize how much the swimming lessons meant to him. But she was arguing with their neighbor. Yelling and screaming about something John wasn’t even quite sure what. And all John wanted to do was to get to swimming lessons. To be in the pool with his really nice teacher who really wanted him to be able to tread water for more than fifteen minutes. But his mom was arguing and John felt himself crying. God, he hated crying. But he knew he couldn’t do a thing about it. He was going to miss the highlight of his week because his mom had picked a fight with his neighbor. John watched through the grimy window of the station wagon. He had taken off his shirt, so excited about jumping in the water, but now he wished for it; it was lying in his room. He shivered then, in the back of the station wagon, and wished he hadn’t been foolish enough to be excited about anything. What was the point in being excited when you had no control? Someone, anyone, could take that excitement at their whim. No care about how important the Thursday swimming lessons were. That was powerlessness to John.

And as he sat there on the couch, his father gripping his shoulder too tight, he felt that same feeling. He felt the same tears welling up and he hated them. Where was his confidence when he needed it? Where was the Zen of the weeds and the road? Here on the couch with his drunk and angry father and his drunk and lying mother, he felt nothing but powerlessness and the tears. God. Try and kill me. It don’t do no good to get angry, so help me I know.

John’s mom came in from the kitchen and leaned against the wall near the TV. She glared at John. John’s vision was blurring as the tears welled up. He was confused. He knew very well that his parents were wrong. But he was just nine and he wasn’t sure. Maybe they were right. His mom glared. Surely she couldn’t be that mad if he really hadn’t done something wrong. John balled up his fists and tried to hold back the tears, but he felt his chin start to quiver and then he knew it was too late. When his chin started to tremble, he was going to cry. No avoiding it now. His shoulders began to shake and still his dad didn’t let go of his arm.

“See, he’s crying 'cause he knows he’s been bad. Here you are, walking in late. I’m worried sick. Haven’t seen you all week, get home from a double shift and hear you been peein like a baby and now it looks like you forgot how to tell time too.”

“Dunno, Dale,” John’s mom said, “Told you about those diapers. I’m thinking he needs them.”

“Hmmm,” John’s dad mumbled, finally letting go of John’s arm. “Don’t got the money.”

“You just worked a double shift!” John’s mom snapped.

“Yeah, and I’m not spending the money on them diapers. If he’s peein his pants, he can just spend the night in the tub. In fact…” John’s dad roughly gave John a shove. The boy tumbled off the couch and landed with a thud on the floor. “I’ve had enough of you ruining my Friday night. Go there now. It’s bed time. Give us some peace.”

John scooted away from his dad, wiping his tears with his sleeve so he could see properly. “What about dinner?” he asked quietly.

“You missed it.”

“You heard your dad,” his mom said. “Get in the tub.”

John stood up slowly. He could feel his parents piercing eyes as he shuffled out of the living room and into the bathroom. He heard his mom following.

“Can I have a blanket?” John asked softly as he climbed into the cold porcelain of the tub and sat down.

“Forget it. I don’t want you ruining any of my blankets either.”

“It’s hard, though. And cold.”

“Forget it.”

The light turned off and the door slammed. John sat in the cold tub and curled up his knees as close as they would come to his shivering body. The warm day was far gone. It was so cold. John whimpered and shivered. He cried with renewed vigor. Shaking, sad, and so very mad. But he couldn’t think of any other option but to obey. John wished with all his might that Ben would come knock on the door and take him back to Saratoga. But the knock didn’t come. John’s bottom started to get sore. He didn’t have a whole lot of padding on his small body. He lay instead on his side and listened to his parents get drunker and hoped for sleep. But his growing hunger and the biting cold saw to it that sleep was not going to happen.

Re: Towing Wyoming

Awesome. Keep this up man.

Like I said before, I really, really like the style this is written in. Meandering and slow, yes, but it really suits and even enhances the content of the story. I’d describe it as cathartic, even.

I really look forward to further installments of this story.

Re: Towing Wyoming

It is great to see this story has been continued and thank you so much for keeping it going. As for the newest part it was great too and the last part all so sad and true for many young people who wet the bed. They are made to sleep in the tub and other places besides their bed. I consider myself one of the lucky ones. Like John here in the story I wet the bed as a child (it stopped after my 9th birthday) but my parents made sure I was well padded for bed. My mother’s theory was diapers were for protecting the bed and pajamas and not for punishment. Again thanks for all the hard work and I can’t wait for the next installment of Towing Wyoming!!!

Re: Towing Wyoming

Thanks for the support Casper and Double. I’m glad you are finding it enjoyable. You taking the time to comment means a lot to me. Good to know people out there are actually reading the story :slight_smile:

Re: Towing Wyoming

Chapter 7: Sticks and Stones

The stick was woken up around midnight by the sound of someone opening the front door. Simon sat up in a flash, fearfully gulping in the first breath of wakefulness and hugging the blanket close to his body, his head just peeking out over the frayed hems of the bed cover. The temperature in the bedroom had dropped significantly, the night air finally equalizing the stuffiness from the day before. Was his mom home early? No, not in a million years. Her boss wouldn’t allow that. A robber? Not much to take; but that seemed to Simon the most plausible option. He considered briefly trying to crawl under his bed. Perhaps the robber wouldn’t notice him. But the footsteps were coming briskly down the hall directly towards Simon’s room. There was no time. Simon felt his whole body clenching as he watched the door. He offered up a silent prayer to any higher power who might be listening as the door swung open and a massive shadow filled the void. God let it be quick.

“Simon? Why you up, bro?”

“Christ,” Simon breathed. “Zachariah, that you?”

“Who else did you think it was? Wait a second, don’t tell me you were scared! Ten years old and scared of the dark…” The figure moved over to the bed, moonlight sharpening features until Zachariah’s smiling face bent down and landed a kiss right on Simon’s forehead.

“Ugh! Gross,” Simon groaned, feeling immense relief that there was no intruder and immense comfort that his brother was home, but not wanting to show it. “Jeez, what was that for?”

“What? A brother can’t show some affection? Didn’t ya know, it’s your birthday.”

“Is it past midnight?”

“Yep. You are –,” Zachariah yanked the blanket off Simon, “officially ten, buddy! Now get your butt out of bed 'cause I got a surprise for ya.”

Sleep was erased completely at those words. An immediate energy pulsed through Simon as he sat up strait. His brother never had surprises for Simon. Well, at least not pleasant ones. “Thought you forgot,” Simon mumbled, hiding his excitement.

Simon suddenly found himself airborne as Zachariah’s enormous hands gripped him under the armpits, brought him nearly up to the ceiling, then roughly deposited the boy on the ground.

“Git dressed like I told ya to. You’ll freeze and get hypothermia if ya go out in those pj’s with no shirt on.”

Just as Simon regained his balance and was about make his way to the closet, the lights turned on. Blinded, he tripped and fell to the carpet. As his vision slowly adjusted, he could hear his brother’s cackling laughter leave the room and echo down the hallway. Simon let a big smile creep across his face and as the final white-blindness dissipated, he grabbed the first hoodie he saw, his sandals, and sprinted down the hall after his brother.

The wind billowing throughout the cab, freely entering through the large space left vacant by Zachariah’s missing door, was exhilarating. It caused Zachariah’s braided hair to dance. It seemed to be encouraging Zachariah to laugh, his head back, singing at the top of his lungs the song which screamed over the crunching sound of the gravel road and the wind. The radio was all the way up, blasting music that Simon couldn’t place but felt nice. Not the angry stuff his brother sometimes listened to. Simon opened his eyes wide, keeping them open until they begged to be shut. Looking up at the stars, the moon-lit hills, and the fence posts rushing past, he felt free. Free and good. That feeling he had had that afternoon walking home from his grandpa’s. It was the feeling of newness, the feeling that things might work out, that life at ten was not set in stone, but rather as it should be: wide open and hopeful. Simon let out a gratifying whoop. Zachariah looked over at Simon, a goofy grin on his face. He leaned his back and let out a whoop as well. Simon, encouraged by his brother’s echo, yelled with all the capacity of his small body deep into the night: “Whoooooooo-eyeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee-ooooo!”

“You see, here, this is where my pops took me 'fore he died.”

The truck was parked on a hill a few miles out of Riverton and Simon was sitting next to Zachariah on the hood of the truck enjoying the warmth which emanated from the hot engine beneath the metal. “This was 'fore you were born, of course. I was 'bout yer age.” Zachariah lit a cigarette and stared contemplatively out at the winking lights of Riverton which seemed, glowing at the intersection of earth and sky, to be stars. “Not long and you’ll be my age remembering this night.”

Simon didn’t say anything. The warm hood comforting, the stars captivating, and the soft rumble of his brother’s voice cultivating a need to just listen.

“You see, back then it was just mom, my pop, and me. And grandpa of course. Mom, man, you never seen her so happy. I miss that mom I had back then. I got this one memory, from maybe when I was six, she was dancing in the living room with pop. They was just dancing; don’t know why. And I remember I was standing in the hallway watching and I didn’t want to make a sound 'cause I knew it was magic, that right then, that moment ya know? That’s magic. I must have watched them for half an hour, at least. Man, they just danced…”

Zachariah trailed off. The crickets took over the monologue. Shaking, rattling, and chirping: a chorus between the verse of Zachariah’s memory. The wind drifted lazily over the hill. It’s coolness caused Simon’s legs to tingle. He felt goosebumps rising on the top of his leg. Felt good with the heat of the engine warming the bottom. It was like when you blast the heat with the windows down during the winter, driving with his grandpa when he was in one of his silly moods. Felt like that.

“That was before pop got sick. You know, they didn’t tell me ‘till near the end? Thought I was too young to know he was dying. But I knew. Started getting’ skinny, like so his eyes were just peakin out over the bones on his cheeks. Hollowed out, kinda like a skeleton if it had eyes. And they was all dull, even when he smiled. He wouldn’t pick me up no more, and when I sat on his lap, it was like sittin’ on bones. Then one night he took me up here.” Zachariah waved his hand out towards the lights of Riverton. “Told me it was mine…that it was mine.”

Simon felt a bug crawling over his toes. He leaned forward and slapped it off.

“Told me that when I was old enough, I was the one who was going to protect this land. Stop the whites from taking all our gold and all our oil. Payin us nuthin for it. Treating us like outlaws on our own land. Treatin us like snakes. Pop said it needed to stop. Said that it was supposed to be his job, but he was dying early, so now it was mine. I told grandpa after pop died. Grandpa said pop was full of shit and not thinking strait 'cause of all the drugs the doctors were given him. But even being as young as I was, that stuff pop told me stuck. And now I get it. You know what I’m talking about, Simon, don’t you?”

“Yeah,” Simon said softly. He thought he knew.

"So you understand why I gotta do what I gotta do?’

“What you gotta do?”

“Don’t worry 'bout that yet. Jus tell me you understand. That’s all I want.”

“Yeah, Zachariah,” Simon said, “I understand.”

The drive back down the hill was much quieter. Zachariah didn’t turn up the music, which was just fine with Simon, whose eyes were fast losing their fight against gravity. Simon sat half asleep in the cab, feeling the wind, smelling the Wyoming night, his head leaning back against the cushion, and feeling strangely content. What Zachariah had said had made Simon feel strong and mature. Like a ten-year-old might feel. Like Zachariah was passing on the family calling. And just for that moment on the hill, on the warm truck next to Zachariah, Simon didn’t feel in-between, didn’t feel lost, didn’t feel half-white. He felt connected to his land and his heritage, and it was the best present he could have wished for from his brother: home.

The flashing lights and screaming siren and his brother smashing his fist against the steering wheel shattered the illusion. Simon’s birthday present was gone. They were right in the middle of town, threading their way through to the other side where the house was. Right by, Simon noticed, Ted’s Deli.

The police officer slowly got out of the patrol car and sauntered over to Zachariah’s truck. Simon watched him carefully. He knew the faces of most of the cops around town, but he didn’t recognize this one. The officer had a flashlight in one hand which he was shining around the bed of the truck. The other hand was hovering over the strap securing the service handgun, as if Zachariah was about to jump out of the car and attack him. Looking at Zachariah, Simon noticed that this wasn’t out of the realm of possibility. Zachariah was breathing heavily and gripping the steering wheel so tightly his knuckles were bone white, the moonlight causing to glow the scars the knuckles bore from fights gone by.

“How’s your night going?” The officer asked in a slow drawl as he came to a stop a few feet from where the driver’s door should have been.

Zachariah turned his head slowly and glared at the officer. “Was fine 'til a moment ago. Now it ain’t so great.”

“Why’s that?” The officer asked, flashing his light inside the cab. His eyes stopped on Simon for a moment. They were not kind eyes, Simon noticed. In fact, they made Simon shiver. “How come you don’t have your seatbelt on, son?”

Simon, with a sinking feeling in his stomach, realized that he had forgotten to strap it on. Stupid mistake, he thought, mentally kicking himself. Simon always wore his seatbelt. Thought anyone who didn’t was dumb as a dull nail. All he could do was shrug. “I don’t know, sir,” he said softly, his voice sounding weak and scared.

“Don’t call him sir,” Zachariah hissed.

“What was that, boy?” The officer snapped, pointing the flashlight on Zachariah.

The gritting of Zachariah’s teeth was audible. But all he said was, “Nuthin.”

“Ya know why I pulled you over, boy?”

The gritting became louder. Simon silently pleaded with the officer to stop calling Zachariah “boy.” It was going to make him snap. But the officer seemed to know this and appeared to be enjoying it.

“You been drinking tonight? Maybe smoking a little weed?” The officer asked.

Zachariah didn’t answer. The sound of approaching footsteps made Simon look back. Another officer had gotten out of the patrol car and was walking toward the truck.

“Nothing outstanding,” was all the new officer said.

“Smell like weed to you, Joe?” The first officer asked, leaning into the cab, right in Zachariah’s face, and sniffing.

“Yep, sure does.”

“I ain’t been smoking. I ain’t been drinking,” Zachariah spat.

“We’ll see about that,” the first officer said, stepping back from the truck. “Get out of the car.”

Simon was suddenly very afraid. This wasn’t just a speeding ticket. These cops were out to get something. Even with the hoodie on, Simon found himself shaking. He glanced over towards the deli, which, strangely, was still well lit, and saw that a group of men had gathered around the window to watch what they probably saw as great entertainment. Simon watched through the windshield as the officers had Zachariah walk along the white line at the edge of the road. They kept asking him questions and Simon could tell Zachariah was getting angrier and angrier. The police had noticed they had an audience and were hamming up the performance.

The sudden screeching of tires and the sound of spraying gravel caused everyone to look up the road. Rounding the corner a block away was a speeding blue station wagon and it was headed right towards the officers and Zachariah. The three men seemed glued to the road, not moving, not believing that this car was actually headed right towards them. Simon, too, was frozen. That car is going to hit me, he found himself thinking calmly. But he couldn’t make himself budge from the seat. His body wouldn’t respond to the orders to dive out of the cab. Surely the car would steer away. But it didn’t. Zachariah dived first and the two officers quickly followed suit, all three landing and rolling on the sidewalk as the station wagon swerved at the last second and roared past, missing the truck by just inches. And there, in the backseat of the wagon staring in shock out the window at Simon, was Little John.

Everyone seemed frozen for a moment as the dust settled. Then the officer’s slowly stood up and brushed off their uniforms.

“Git on up, boy,” one said cruelly. “Don’t think yer gittin off.”

Zachariah stared up in disbelief at the officers. “You’ve got to be kiddin’ me. You’re not going to chase after that car?”

The officer shrugged. “What? Took the corner a bit fast. Gravel on the road makes it slick.”

Zachariah shot up and stood so that his face was within an inch of the officer’s, their noses almost touching. “Here you are, hassling me and my lil’ bro,” Zachariah hissed, “And we did nuthin’ wrong. And this here car drives by, speeding, almost kills all of us, that driver is clearly drunk off his white ass, and you ain’t going to do shit about it?” Zachariah was slowly getting louder, now almost shouting. “That driver is going to kill someone, and you’re wasting your time making sure you put on a good show for all the white folks in Ted’s. That right, ain’t it? That’s what you’re doing. 'Cause that driver was white, and I’m a no-good Indian. That’s what’s going on.”

The officer didn’t flinch once during Zachariah’s outburst. “Looks like we got a live one here, Joe,” he said slowly, his face still an inch from Zachariah’s.

Simon could tell. The speeding car, Little John’s dad no less, and the cops’ reaction had done it. Zachariah had snapped. Simon saw it coming before the officer. “Zachariah, no!” Simon screamed as Zachariah took a step back and punched the officer right in the nose. The officer stumbled, grabbing his nose. Blood trickled out between his fingers. The other officer reacted immediately. He reached down to about his knee and pulled out what looked like a pistol. Simon was screaming and he couldn’t stop. The officer aimed it directly at Zachariah, who stood still and coldly looked the officer right in the eye, and fired. A dart on a wire shot out and struck Zachariah in the chest. The 19 year old seized up, then fell face forward to the hard cement. The officer that Zachariah had struck stepped forward and kicked Zachariah in the gut. Then kicked him again. Then again. Zachariah curled up, trying to protect his vitals but not doing a very good job of it, clearly disoriented from the electric shock. But there was nothing he could do to stop the destruction of the steel toed boots as they connected again and again with his body.

Simon stumbled out of the cab and ran toward the officer. He was screaming, “Stop! Stop! You’re going to kill him! Stop.” Tears were streaming down his cheeks. Screaming so loud that his voice sounded hoarse. He dived at the officer and tried to hold him back. But it was useless. Simon felt himself being dragged off, a strong hand around his chest pulling him back. He was choking in agony, screaming, shaking and struggling, but he couldn’t escape from the grip the other officer had on him. When the kicking finally stopped, Zachariah lay face down on the cement, his body was shaking slightly. He coughed suddenly and blood seemed to pour from his mouth. Simon was sure his brother was dead. Still the officer held Simon firmly. Simon shook with rage, and as the tears continued to fall he felt a curious warmth running down his legs and his pajama pants began to get wet and he felt a splashing warm liquid on his exposed feet.

“You see that, Joe,” the officer said, out of breath. “He attacked me.”

“He sure did.”

The officer who had beat Zachariah was standing with his hands on his hips, breathing heavily in and out, blood still dripping from his nose. The men gathered around the window looked on solemnly, but agreeing, yes, the beating had been warranted. “Better call an ambulance,” the officer said, reaching for his radio and looking right at the shaking, crying ten-year-old boy. He nodded at the officer holding Simon. “Careful, the boy pissed himself. Don’t get it on ya.”

Re: Towing Wyoming

Thanks Austin for getting the next part out so quickly. Again it was great and left us loyal readers with a bit of a cliffhanger. I can’t wait until the next part and please don’t let anything happen to Simon or his little friend John. I sure hope that there is some justice for Zachariah too he didn’t deserve the beat down he got. Those dirty cops goaded him into what he did!!!

Re: Towing Wyoming

Chapter 8: Righteousness and Peace

John must have fallen asleep at some point. It didn’t feel like he had, but sleep must’ve happened because he couldn’t remember his father entering the bathroom. The splashing of his father’s urine in the toilet had caused John to jolt up. His entire body gripped in pain, the hardness of the bathtub having seeped into his bones and muscles, the process of petrification in hyper speed. Only the light from the hallway brightened the bathroom, just enough to reveal John’s dad swaying in place as he tried to concentrate enough to get at least most of the processed beer into the bowl. From the variety of splashing noises, it was clear he was doing a miserable job.

Finishing with a grunt, John’s dad stumbled over to the sink and proceeded to splash cold water on his face. Accuracy here proved to be elusive as well and John felt the prick of water droplets on his face and bare arms. It was then that John noticed that his pants were wet. In that moment of awareness, the presence of discomfort and fear washed over him fiercely, like the current of the Wind River sucking him downwards during those wonderful days in summer when he and Simon would swim all day. That moment when the current took always scared John. It caused a flutter, in both his stomach and his heart, and a moment of mortal possibility that the river might never let him up. But it did. This current, however, this brutal sucking current that was pulling John down deeper into the cold acrylic, further petrifying his body, was much scarier. This one had the feeling of selfishness, like a snarling dog whose teeth would not let go of a knot-tied rope. Of all the nights, of what rotten luck, why? Why did he have to wet his pants tonight with his father in a mood more dangerous than John could readily remember. His only hope was that the dim light of the hallway was not strong enough to illuminate the tub.

Secrets like to think they’re safe in the dark. Perhaps they are. They, like insects of the basement, enjoy the shadows, scurry from the light. Unlike other creatures of the dark, however, they flourish in the light. Secrets, when exposed to light, multiply and grow like a noxious vine, suffocating the growth of the natural and good. So happened to the secret of John’s wet pants when his dad decided that the accuracy of his face washing would be better if the dusty string of lights above the bathroom sink were lit. John watched, desperately pleading for a miracle, as the silhouette of his father’s finger reached clumsily out and extended toward the switch. The finger prodded around for a bit, but eventually, as John leaned out of the tub watching, hands gripping the edge, the finger found its mark and John covered his eyes. And, as rotten luck would have it, the first thing his dad did was turn a glassy-eyed glare right in John’s direction.

“What you lookin’ at?” His dad growled.

John didn’t respond, but slowly removed his hand from his eyes. If his dad didn’t walk any closer, he wouldn’t notice John’s accident. However, something in John’s eyes betrayed him. Even through the haze of alcohol, his dad must have seen fear, because he stepped over to John and snarled, “Stand up.”

John didn’t. Just sat there gripping the edge of the tub. His dad reached down and grabbed the front of John’s shirt. “I said stand up!” He yanked and John felt the tension of the cotton grabbing and pinching under his arm pits as he was pulled upright. He rocked unsteadily in the tub, standing shamefully in front of his dad, the whole front of his pants and a good bit of his shirt soaking wet.

“Well, I’ll be damned,” his dad muttered. “Your mamma was telling the truth. And you…” his dad leaned down, with poisoned breath, and stared John right in the face, “lied.”

John opened his mouth to say something. Something to defend his situation, to diffuse his father’s anger. But nothing came out. He just stood there open mouthed and shaking. His father was clearly right.

“Alright then, that settles it, we’re going for a drive.”

Not more than a few moments later, John found himself sitting in the backseat of the beat-up blue station wagon that had to have been more than twice his age, his dad wrestling with the ignition. His mom had offered a half-hearted warning about driving, but it was clear she didn’t really care. John was old enough and had seen enough with Ben to know that driving after drinking wasn’t a bright idea. And driving when you were blind drunk was plain suicide. His father was blind drunk. John carefully buckled his seatbelt.

There was a drug store across town and John’s dad decided that was where they were going to go to fix John’s lyin’ ways and pants-peein’ habit. John had a pretty good idea what that was going to entail, given the comments of his mom earlier that afternoon. But the prospect of diapers wasn’t what was scaring John right now. Heck, he’d take a diaper and solid ground anytime instead of the nauseating ride he was undergoing with his dad at the wheel. The car was bouncing off potholes, swerving from one side of the road to the other, spinning out and spitting gravel at each corner. Each parked car that shot past barely a pinky width from the peeling blue paint of the station wagon John was sure was going to be the last. But the impact didn’t come. His dad turned the corner onto the main street and up ahead, John could see the flashing lights of a Riverton police car. This was it. Finally the ride would be over. Surely the cops would see his dad was wasted and pull him over. If only he didn’t hit them first.

Though John didn’t think he could feel any more dread or fear or the sinking of the stomach, it all multiplied then. Recognizing the truck up ahead, particularly the lack of a driver’s side door, John found himself whispering, “Oh God, oh God, oh God.” There was Zachariah on the side of the road, standing defiant and proud, two police officers watching him carefully. And there, in the cab of the truck, was Simon’s face looking back over the seat rest, his wide eyes glowing in the headlights of the speeding, careening blue station wagon. “Oh God.” His dad was headed right for all of them. A moment of the deepest terror, then a slow motion dream sequence as his father managed to turn, spraying gravel, a metallic, “ting ting – ting ting,” pebble hits truck, and the locking of eyes: John and Simon’s, both wide, both scared, both wondering, and both knowing that nothing good awaited. And then with a final ting, it was over and John could only look back and see Zachariah yelling at the officers. And just as they rounded another corner, Zachariah’s fist connect solidly with the face of a Riverton police officer.

After the drug store, they took a different route home, which was at once worrisome and relieving for John. On one hand, John desperately wanted to see if Simon and Zachariah were ok. He knew deep down they weren’t. You don’t get off easy punching an officer of the law. So, John supposed he wanted to see just how bad it was. But on the other hand, he didn’t. He was scared. And the secret of how Zachariah and Simon were faring felt just a bit better in the dark. Besides, while his dad had sobered up some, the experience in the drug store had clearly stressed him out, angered him further, and John was certain that another pass by the flashing lights of the police car would not be a good idea.

Though John didn’t think it possible, the embarrassment and horror of the drug store had briefly caused the image of Zachariah punching a cop to disappear from his mind. His dad had marched him in (step surprisingly steady considering the drive), one hand gripping the back of John’s shirt, and directly up to the night clerk who, prior to their arrival, had been sleeping peacefully with her head on the keyboard of the terminal. When she sat up startled, the imprint of computer keys on the left side of her face, the fear of losing her job for sleeping while on shift flashed in her eyes. This was quickly replaced by bemused curiosity as she took in the scene. A drunk man and a small boy, both grimy and smelling of booze and urine, stood in the harsh glow of the florescent lighting; the boy shaking, eyes cast down, the whole front of his jeans and shirt clearly wet; the man glaring, breathing heavily, and clearly blindly focused with booze-induced rage. After declaring John’s need to be diapered for lyin’ and pants’ wettin’, the clerk, shooting sympathetic and apologetic glances at John the entire time, had helped select the proper size of product. Then John had started to drag his feet, the prospect of what was to come mysteriously turning his shoes to wet sand, suddenly too heavy to lift. So he was dragged back to the cash register, his dad muttering obscenities and threats under his breath the entire way.

Why John was fearful of this package in a thin plastic bag sitting next to him in the worn back seat of the blue station wagon he was not sure. But it scared him. Made him feel small, vulnerable, weak. Like he knew he was deep down. It was like a name tag that identified the depths of his young soul. Like, no matter how hard he tried, he was nothing more than a baby. The world which he so desperately wished to fix was too powerful; and drunk with power, the world had to remind him of how small he was. And how he wanted to fix the world. Oh God, how bad it was. Zachariah, Simon, the Punch! And the world laughed and made him wet his pants and now to put him in his place, from which he could do nothing: a mere baby. That was what the package was saying to him and that was why John was afraid. Because the world needed fixing. Like a car sitting broken on the side of the highway, needing a tow, waiting for Ben. But unlike the stranded passengers who lit up with thanks and optimism at the sight of Ben’s tow truck, John had no such hope. He knew that. At least not tonight. There would be no towing of his broken world.

His shoes turned from heavy sand to sedentary stone as his dad skidded to a halt in front of the house. There was no moving. John knew it wasn’t even possible. So he waited as his dad yelled at him to get out of the car and imagined his neighbors waking up and peeking out past the window blinds to identify the commotion. And when his dad’s patience wore out and he yanked open the door and slid a strong arm around John’s middle and pulled him out of the car, John imagined his neighbors laughing. Laughing at the wet boy being carried into the house by his dad who carried his son like a young child might carry a doll, carelessly with impatience. And then laugh a bit harder when the package of diapers was noticed, the thin plastic of the bag not hiding its contents.

And then John found himself tossed on the couch and he noticed the preacher, or a different one, was still sermonizing behind the curtain of marching ants. And his pants were being yanked off by his mom, then his wet briefs, and he felt naked, even in front of his own parents. Then his bottom was lifted off the itchy fray of the couch and under slid a soft cushion. It was pulled tightly between his legs and John felt it snuggly press on his private parts. A strong hand pushed down one side and a tape was pulled and fastened. The same on the other side. It was tight. So tight it seemed to suck the last of John’s energy and dignity and he lay immobile on the couch, unable to even lift his head, and his eyes traced the cracks of the ceiling and noticed how they all lead to the bare bulb in the middle of the room. Like the tracers of red in a blood shot eye all leading to a beady pupil. Then he was being lifted, this time by his mother. He felt a strong hand on his bottom, now padded, and he was being held tight to his mother, resting on her hip. Was there a sudden connection there? An abrupt flash of love in this murky hate? No. And into his bedroom. He was laid down on his bed. There it was again. A flash. Like hesitant lightning. Love? A memory of times long gone? No. Just the light turning off. “Pee all you want now, Johnny.” A slammed door. Then just John and his thoughts, laying on his bed, in his room, alone.

John breathed slowly and deeply for a long time trying to sort his thoughts. The feeling was strange around his middle. But that soon passed. Then came guilt. Yes, he was to blame for this. His parents had been fair. He had wet his pants and they were right to diaper him. He was just a little boy after all, and a bothersome one at that. Tears fell slowly from his eyes. He tried to make out cracks in the ceiling but it was too dark. Too dark to even tell that the tears were blurring his vision. He felt he was going to be like this for a while and deep down he knew he deserved it. The diaper was right, tightly holding him, sucking him down. It felt heavy now. And he knew he would not get up, even if he had to pee. John knew Simon needed his help. But he was not going to help Simon. He could not. Not now. Now he was where he was supposed to be. Small, weak. And the world was back where it was supposed to be. Here in Riverton. Strong, mad, and in charge. And John closed his eyes. And against all odds, sleep opened its arms. Beckoning. And John came.

Eventually, the winter always killed the weeds that grew between the gravel on the roads in Riverton, Wyoming.

Re: Towing Wyoming

Damn… Good job Austin. Dark but well written. You’re excellent with the detailed descriptions, really providing a texture to the places and the way the characters feel. The parallel cutting between the John and the Simon stories creates a strong sense that there’s something going on here, a foreboding sense, that makes me want to keep reading to find out what that is.

Edit wise… Ch 3, homonym error s/steel/steal/. And in Ch 1 ¶5, there’s some quoting fixes needed.

Looking forward to reading more.