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Relax and Go Limp



By Ryan Scott




About the book:

The story began with Harold as a passive, fearful recluse when Jack, a brutal young thug enters his life falsely believing he had taken his money. After pistol-whipping Harold and chaining him in his old Dodge Charger, along with Rainbow, an attractive but dissolute alcoholic, he took them on a murderess trek from Austin to Seattle pursuing his money.

After each harrowing escapade, Harold relived a phase of his life, inadvertently resurrecting Zeus just in time to save their lives. . Harold had been an artistic sensitive youth who was misunderstood by his family. After achieving modest success in Hollywood as a hat designer, he met and Married Nola, an up and coming starlet who convinced him to create a more dynamic persona for his public image. As Zeus, with jewelry in his beard he became more assertive and less passive, shy and reticent, but when the marriage failed, he gave up being Zeus and eventually became his invalid parents’ subservient care- giver.

During their horrific ordeal, both Harold and Rainbow overcame their emotional issues and became whole.

About the author

Ryan Scott holds a Ph. D. in Psychology and lives in Austin with his guide dog, Chaucer. Other books he has digitally published include: Matter of Attitude, Ella, Realty Riches for Cowards, The Amazing Dr. Mulfinger, Penny Fishbound, Dogs Are Better than Women --A collection of short stories, Off Center Poetry and Darkness, the Secrets of a Blind Psychologist.

https://www.booksryanscott.com/home/


Dedication:

I dedicate this book to Yar.


Contact information:


The reader can contact Ryan Scott to make comments or ask questions at https://www.booksryanscott.com/home/

Acknowledgement: Mathew John Soffe, a noted British artist, illustrated the cover of this book. He can be contacted at http://mattsoffe.weebly.com/
http://wherethewildthingsaredrawn.weebly.com/

Copyright pending

Chapter One

Jasper flicked his ears and jumped off his owner’s ample belly when the phone began to ring. Harold woke up with a start and put the phone to his better ear. “Hello, this is Harold."

"Are you the guy that sells boxes on the Drag?"

Harold wiped the sweat from his bald head. "Uh, uh, yes. Who is this?"

"Never mind that. Were you there today?"

"Yes, I was. Now listen, who is…"

The caller hung up.

Harold felt a vague sense of danger as he absently rubbed his sore calves, trying to make sense of the call. That didn't sound like anyone I know, but that voice was familiar. I just hope it wasn't one of those damn Nazi skinheads who caused all the trouble this afternoon.

Over the past several years, Harold had become cautious about his security, rarely venturing out of his home, fearful of muggers, automobile accidents, and hip fractures. With an eye to safety, he carefully planned his occasional outings. To stretch his limited means, he clipped coupons and bought his groceries and other essential items on sale. To make a little extra money, he took advantage of the free space offered to senior citizens to sell home-made arts and crafts.

Earlier that day, in spite of threatening weather, he had set up his booth at the Renaissance Fair where the city of Austin had reserved part of an alley.

The stress of facing the public always made him nervous, but the need for extra income forced him to leave his house. Normally, he stayed inside if there were the possibility of rain, but because the month preceding Christmas was the best time for selling his art, he decided to take a chance on the weather.

Earlier that morning, while he was arranging his display of miniature oil paintings on custom boxes, a short woman selling macramé in the next booth asked, "What have you got there, Harold? Are those jewelry boxes?"

"Yes, you could use them for jewelry, or business cards, or anything else you would like. Here, would you like to take a look at one?" He liked most of his fellow craftsmen who encouraged each other, rejoicing over the good days and rationalizing over the bad. Their camaraderie reminded him of the time when he had lived in Greenwich Village.

Suddenly, there was a commotion at one end of the alley. A group of young people with their heads shaved and wearing Nazi insignias were drinking beer, smoking pot, yelling obscenities and laughing derisively at the exhibits.

His neighbor quickly put her things out of sight, warning, “Harold, you better watch your things. Last month those hooligans ran through here and knocked over our displays.”

The disturbance became louder. A dog lifted its leg and pissed on Harold’s booth, a girl in patched up clothes began to sing loudly, "I ain't no god damn mother-fucking son of a bitch."

"That's disgusting! Someone should call the police," his neighbor said indignantly.

"You’re right! Those damn kids are driving our customers away.”

Suddenly, a girl wearing nose rings linked to her ears scream, "Hey, man, it's the pigs!"

Harold watched the police sealing off both ends of the alley and making arrests while people screamed and ran in all directions. Suddenly, he was jolted backwards when a young man with long matted hair wearing a black leather jacket crashed into his booth. After scattering the custom boxes on the ground, the young man quickly got up and returned one of the boxes . “Here dude, take it!”

A policeman came running up. “Stop that man!” he shouted, but the black jacket escaped through the back door of a women’s apparel shop.

After the excitement was over, Harold noticed one of his boxes had an ugly scratch. Damn it! I’ll just have to fix it later.

When customers began to return to the fair, a blonde woman with a dissipated face stopped to study Harold’s boxes. Her tee-shirt had two large oranges over her breasts with the inscription: “Vasectomy: All Juice and No Seeds." There's something about this girl that reminds me of someone. No, she's not a girl. She must be about 35. Nola! That's who she reminds me of. She has Nola’s voluptuous figure.

"These are amazing. Did you make them?"

"Well, yes, I did. Each one is an original," he replied, hoping to sound professional, yet modest.

"They are really beautiful. How much do they cost?”

"The price is marked on each box, but if you buy 5, I’ll give you the 6th one for free. I’ll even throw in Christmas cartons."

"Then deal me in! I want to send them to my family, even though they’re all a bunch of shits!” After she had selected six boxes, she put them in their mailing containers. "How much do I owe you Pops?"

When he told her the price, she wrote a check. “I’m going to mail these right now so they’ll get there by Christmas.”

As she walked away, Harold adjusted his Greek fisherman's cap. That’s a good start. Now let’s see if I can sell more boxes.

When the rain began to sprinkle, He packed his things. With his back aching and his legs cramping, he wearily returned to the safety of his home and slumped in his easy chair. Thank God the ordeal of acting like a successful artist is over. Now I can be just plain Harold Mellby. Later, as he sipped a glass of Classic Coke, he continued to be disturbed by the earlier phone call. No one ever calls me. I just hope it wasn’t one of those hooligans, but I'm letting my imagination run away. It probably was just a crank call.

When he heaved himself up to lock the front door, Jasper raced after him, meowing loudly. He stooped over and gave his cat a pet. "There there big boy, you know you can't go outside. You could get beat up, catch fleas or be run over."

He went to the kitchen to lock the back door and then picked up a ten-pound sack of cat food. When he heard someone pounding on the front door, he dropped the bag. "Who is it?” he called.

"There's been an accident! Someone is pinned in her car. I need to call an ambulance quick!"

Harold, imagining someone crushed, quickly opened the door, but a young man with long matted hair wearing a black leather jacket stepped inside and kicked the door shut. "Move back slowly loser,” he demanded and jammed a gun in Harold’s gut.

Aghast, Harold raised his hands and backed up, recognizing the man who had knocked over his boxes. He began to tremble, imagining a bullet shattering his body. “Please don’t hurt me. You can have anything you want.”

"Where are those boxes and don't fuck with me!"

“Do you mean the boxes I was selling?"

"What else, you fuckin’ loser,” he snapped with his cold blue eyes glittering menacingly. “Now where are they?"

Harold pointed to the dining room table. “Look, they're stacked over there. Listen, you can have any of the boxes you want. There will be no charge."

"I don't want your God damn boxes. Just shut up, but don’t try anything or else!"

After he looked inside each box, he threw it aside. His demeanor darkened. Without warning, he struck Harold’s face with the gun. “Where’s my money!" he yelled

Harold reeled backwards, gasping, "What money are you talking about?”

"Cut the shit old man; just give it to me, you son of a bitch!"

“Please don't hit me again,” he begged. “I don't know what you’re talking about!”

"I'm talking about ten thousand dollars I hid in one of your goddamn boxes. That's what I'm talking about. Now give me my money or I’ll blow your fucking head off," he yelled and hit him again.

Harold dropped to the floor with his face bleeding. "Please, I haven't seen your money. I swear I would give it to you if I had."

The young man became infuriated and kicked him in the ribs. As Harold lost consciousness, he thought, Relax and go limp.




Chapter 2

Spike was tall for his age and was good in sports, but he took sadistic pleasure in tickling his younger brother, enjoying listening to him scream for mercy. He taunted, " Poor scrawny little Harold, Mama's little suck tit. can’t even hit a ball."

Stanford, Harold’s younger brother, avoided Spike’s harassment by keeping out of the way.

When Harold complained to his father, Spike would say, "We were just playing. Harold is always making something up and crying about it."

His father, just home from work, was tired and irritable. “God damn it, your mother and I work our asses off to make a good home for you boys. I want peace and quiet or I’ll beat your asses blue!”

His mother said, "If Spike is tickling you, you must be doing something to annoy him. You shouldn’t bother your father, especially when he’s tired."

On the following day after school, Spike trapped Harold in the dining room. "You little shit. You tried to get me in trouble. I'm going to teach you a lesson you won’t forget!"

As he held Harold down and tickled him without mercy, Harold went limp, quit struggling and held his breath, pretending to be dead.

"Harold, are you OK? Why aren’t you moving? Damn it Harold, answer me!”

Harold slowly let out his breath, but remained perfectly still, inwardly smiling.

"Harold, don’t be dead!" Spike cried as he put his ear to his brother’s chest, but when he heard a heartbeat, he jumped up. “Damn it Harold, you're no fun. I'm gonna go play with my friends."

After Spike left, Harold sat up, intrigued with the possibility of playing possum to avoid torture. Just Relax and go limp, he mused, liking the idea of tricking his brother.

AT sixteen, he was embarrassed by his skinny arms, but he hoped Janine, the senior cheerleader, would overlook his scrawniness, and be attracted by his musical talent and his proficiency at dancing.

Last fall at the annual sock-hop, girls had begged him to dance, but most of them had braces, acne or their legs were too thin or too fat, unlike Jeannine’s perfection. Being familiar with the sting of rejection, he had danced with each girl who had requested a dance.

Now, he stood before a mirror, trying to determine if he were ugly or good-looking. If he held his head in a certain way, he thought he was handsome, but when he glanced at himself on other occasions, he thought he looked really stupid.

This year, at the spring dance at the high school gymnasium, he was going to sing with the Meadowlarks . He thought about Janine, gorgeous, witty and much sought after. He pictured her looking at him as he sang on stage, with her lovely face melting into adoration.

Stanford, his 13 year old brother pounded on the bathroom door. "Harold, let me in. I've got to go real bad."

Harold heard his father calling from the living room. "Harold, would you come here please? I need to talk to you."

I wonder what the hell he wants now. I know he will find something to criticize.

After he sat across the room from his father, the stern face with iron-gray hair began, “Harold, I'm concerned about you. I'm afraid you’re spending so much time with that band, your grades are going to suffer."

Harold hoped to forestall a lecture. “My grades are all right, Dad."

"We'll both know that in two weeks when you get your report card, but in the meantime, I want to see you spending more time on homework. I'm afraid you're going off on some wild tangent with this singing nonsense."

From previous lectures, Harold knew the shortest way to get through his father’s tirade was to agree with everything he said.

His father continued, “Both your brothers show good horse sense. As you know. Spike is making something out of himself in the Navy and Stanford hustles doing odd chores, but all you want to do is to sing and paint pictures. Those things are all right as a hobby, but you've got to think about your future and making money."

His mother came in from the kitchen, drying her hands. "Your father is right, Harold. If you want to sing, you can always sing at the church. The last time you sang there everyone thought it was just lovely."

His father continued, "Just what do you plan to do to make a living?"

Harold faltered. He knew he wanted to act on stage, dance professionally, sing, and paint pictures, but these activities were sore-spots with his father. Feeling a sense of self- betrayal, he replied, "I'm not sure what I want; maybe accounting like you said last time."

His father smiled. "That sounds sensible, but you’ll have to organize your time better if you want to succeed in the business world. Now, as I promised, here are the keys to the car, but it must be washed and clean thoroughly.”

While Harold was polishing the car, he thought about asking Jeanine if he could take her home after the dance. By that evening, he still was uncertain how to entice her to ride with him.

At the dance, he eagerly looked for the popular cheerleader. When he saw her across the dance floor wearing a pink frock, He tried to get her attention, but she turned her back.

Suddenly, he felt queasy as his band began to tune up, realizing he would soon be in the spotlight.

When the drum built to a crescendo, the master of ceremonies announced, "Ladies and gentlemen: Presenting the Meadowlarks, featuring Harold Mellby."

Harold walked on stage, dazzled by footlights, and began to sing a hard driving rendition of “Flat-foot Floozie with the floy floy.” Soon the gym was gyrating with twisting, bending bodies. As Harold sang, he caught glimpses of Janine dancing and laughing with football players.

At the end of the song, the crowd cheered wildly.

Harold was anxious to sing his last song, selected especially for Janine. When he caught her attention, he began to sing, “Janine, my queen of lilac time." As he sang, he looked into her eyes, believing they had exchanged a mutual understanding.

At the conclusion of his performance, he worked his way across the dance floor toward Janine, but a chubby girl wearing glasses from his English class plucked his arm. "Oh Harold, would you please dance with me just once?"

He felt trapped, not wanting to break the magic spell with Jeanine, but he didn’t want to hurt his classmate's feelings. As he circled around the dance floor with his chubby partner, he kept track of Janine and managed to stay close to her. When the dance finally ended, He thanked Mitzi and quickly turned to his quarry, intercepting Mike the quarterback. Wedging between them, he asked, “Hey Janine, How about the next dance?"

She pinched his cheek. "Oh, Harold, I didn't know you could sing like that. Were you singing that last song just for me, you foolish boy?"

"Maybe I was and maybe I wasn't. How about that dance?" Harold persisted, not wanting Janine to be snatched away.

"Oh, all right. I'll dance with you," she said, flashing a glance at Mike.

As Harold gracefully glided her through her envious admirers, she whispered in his ear, “Harold, you're such a good dancer."

Harold felt the evening was progressing better than he had hoped. When the dance was over, he said, "Let's step outside for a breath of fresh air."

"Well, it is hot in here so I'll go but just for a little while," She replied and took his hand.

When they were outside, he led her to the back of the gym, out of view of the chaperones. "Care for a cigarette?" he asked nonchalantly, taking a package of Lucky Strikes from his pocket and hoping he wouldn’t choke. When she told him she didn't smoke, he thankfully returned the cigarettes to his pocket.

He was uncertain what to do next. He thought, be bold. Faint heart never won fair lady. He awkwardly took her in his arms and tried to give her a kiss, but she turned away. "Hold on tiger! Who do you think you are? Spike?"

He felt confused, hurt and embarrassed. He wasn’t sure if he should apologize or act as if she had made a funny joke.

Before he could react, Mike came around the corner and yelled, "Hey, Janine, do you want a ride? I've got a bottle in my car."

“Oh hi Mike! I’d love to go!” she replied and ran to the athlete, neglecting to say good-bye.



Chapter 3

When Harold regained consciousness, he became aware someone was slapping his face. At first he thought Spike was holding him down, but then he realized the man wasn’t his brother. “Wake up you loser, we need to talk serious."

"What happened?" Harold asked, half dazed.

“Nothing compared to what's going to happen if you don't give me my money, so turn it over."

"Harold struggled to sit up. Listen, I don’t know anything about your money.”

“Yeah, then where the fuck is it??”

“Maybe it was in one of the boxes I sold. After you left, I sold six boxes to a woman, and then I came home."

His attacker yanked him up. "You ain't shitin' me, are you?"

"I’m telling you the truth. Maybe she has your money.

"Shit! Maybe you’re right, but who bought those boxes?"

Harold pressed his fingers to his sticky temple, trying to remember. "I don't know. No wait; she gave me a check. It's in my wallet. Here, you can take a look."

The young man examined the check and read, "Gladys Friggen, 17131 Flair Street.” “OK Bubba, you and me are gonna take a little trip. I ain't letting’ you out of my sight until I get that money back; and if I don't get it, you're going to be one sorry mother fucker," he said, tapping Harold's chest with the gun.

As Harold walked unsteadily to the door, he grabbed his red and pink alpine ski cap from the side table, but the young man jabbed the gun in his ribs. “Get a move on you mother fucker!”

He walked faster, thinking; I have to be careful not to provoke this punk. Those cruel lines in his face scare me.

After the assailant roughly pushed Harold into his dirty red 1968 Dodge Charger, he sped across town and stopped by a run-down Victorian building. “Ok Bubba, walked to the garage apartment in the rear, and I’ll be right behind you with my gun.”

When Harold began to climb the rickety stairs, he noticed an old bicycle chained to the banister. At the top of the stairs, he tapped lightly on the door while the young man stood three steps down, pressed against the building.

Harold knocked again, but louder. Please be here.

The outdoor light came on, and he heard someone say, "Just a minute."

When a woman opened the door, she looked at him suspiciously. "Yes? Can I help you? Oh you're the man I bought the boxes from! Oh dear, were you in an accident? There’s blood on your face. Come in,” she said and held the door open.

Harold entered the tiny apartment with his nose twitching from the smell of rotting garbage, stepping over the litter on the floor. The woman ignored the mess and pushed a pile of clothes to one side of her bed. "Sit right here and let me take a look at you."

"No, really, you don't have to do that," Harold objected, worrying about the gunman.

"Don't argue. It will just take a minute," she insisted.

The gunman entered the apartment and was going to say something, but he held his comment, allowing her to rummage in the bathroom.

When she returned, she sponged the dried blood. "That's a nasty-looking cut. This iodine will kill any infection."

The man at the door coughed. “Hey lady! Where are those damn boxes?"

“Oh, I don't believe I know you. I'm Rainbow. What’s your name?"

He hesitated. “My name is Jack."

“It's nice to meet you Jack; and what’s your name?” She asked, turning to Harold

"I'm Harold," he quickly replied.

"It's nice to meet both you guys, she replied and went to her refrigerator. “Care for a beer? I’ve got Pearl light and Lone Star long-necks.”

Jack stepped forward. "Forget the beer. I want to look at those fuckin’ boxes."

"Is there anything wrong with those boxes? There better not be! I mailed them to my family for Christmas!"

Jack slapped his forehead. "Oh shit. I'll take that beer after all."

Rainbow gave him a long neck and offered one to Harold.

"No thank you, I’ve quit booze, but could I please use your restroom?" he asked, feeling a violent cramp in his lower bowels.

"Stay where you are!" Jack ordered.

"Please, I have to go really bad."

"Well, all right, but keep that door open so I can keep an eye on you," Jack demanded, taking a swig of beer.

Harold was embarrassed, but he immediately sat on the toilet while the others watched.

"Jack, would you please tell me what’s going on? Is there a problem?”

He took the gun from his belt. "The problem is we all have a problem. Sit down, and I'll spell it out for you. Today I stashed ten thousand bucks in one of those fuckin’ boxes. Just give me my money and save yourself a lot of trouble,” he said, glancing at Harold who was groaning on the toilet.

"What in hell are you talking about? I don't have your God damn money," Rainbow shouted.

"Just shut up and listen. That money don't belong to me. If I don't get it to certain people by midnight, I’m dead meat, and then they'll come looking for you," he said, tapping her knee with his gun.

She drew in her breath. "Listen, when I bought those boxes, I put them into containers and immediately mailed them.”

Jack remained silent. Finally he asked, "Where did you send them?”

"I sent two of them to my aunt and uncle in Long Beach. I sent one of them to my brother Jonathan in Santa Cruz. I mailed another one to my brother, Larry in Reeds Port and I sent two of them to my parents who live in Seattle."

“Oh, shit,” he moaned.

"Look, they told me at the Post Office it took from one to three days for the boxes to be delivered, not counting Sundays. On Monday we could call my relatives and have them return your money. In the meantime, you can just explain to you’re... uh ... friends "what happened," she said.

Harold looked pale and shaky as he came out of the bathroom. He heard Jack say, "That's too risky. How would I know if they just keep the money and lie? It’s Saturday night. We could be there in time to meet the postman."

"Are you crazy? I can't leave. I just got a job washing dishes at the Hyde Park Bar and Grille. No way, baby. I ain't going'!"

His face twisted into an angry snarl. “Shut up!” he shouted and slapped her face.

Harold wanted to go to her aid, but, feeling sick and weak, he was no match for the young man, especially one with a gun.

Jack rubbed his stinging palm on his jeans. "You bitch! You'll do what the fuck I say! Now give me your purse!" After he pawed through her handbag, he found her address book. "Are your relatives in here?"

When she said that they were, he put the little black book in his pocket and took twelve dollars from her wallet. "Is this all the money you have?"

“Yes, that’s all I have to my name.”

He tossed the purse to her and went to Harold. “Give me your wallet, Bubba!"

Harold reluctantly surrendered his billfold containing twenty five dollars. Jack pocketed the money and found a master credit card. "Is this card good?"

Not daring to protest, Harold replied, "I think so. I keep it for emergencies."

“Well, this is an emergency. Get up both of you. We're gonna take a nice long trip to California.”

Rainbow wiped her eyes with the tail end of her tee-shirt, whimpering, “If we go, please don’t hurt us.”

As they descended the stairs, Jack noticed the bicycle that was chained to the banister. “Rainbow, is this your bike? If it is, Take off that chain and padlock and give them to me.”

While Rainbow was looking in her purse for the key, Harold thought about slipping away in the dark, but the wild look in Jack’s eyes made him afraid to run.

After Jack ordered him to sit in the back and Rainbow in the front, he slid the chain underneath the seat and locked their ankles, using a second padlock. As he roared the big engine to life, he giggled. “That chain should discourage you from running away unless you want to drag the car."

Harold didn't think his joke was funny.

With a lurch, the trip got underway with the car leaping forward and speeding through the night.

As he hurtled towards El Paso across the flat lands on Highway 10, Harold shifted his position, trying to become more comfortable in the cramped backseat of the low-slung two-door car. His hemorrhoids hurt, and the chain wrapped around his ankle chafed his tender skin. The cut on his head and the bruise on his ribs still ached, but he was grateful no bones were broken.

When Rainbow squirmed in her seat, he felt little tugs on his ankle, imagining he could feel her misery. I wonder if she can feel my suffering as well, he thought about slaves with chains around their necks, prisoners chained to medieval walls and the invisible chain that held him to his past. My emotions have held me prisoner for a long time; and now I'm a prisoner of a crazy young man, But what crime have I committed? Have I created this situation merely by worrying about possible catastrophes or are my anxieties justified. It doesn’t matter. Now, I’m in real danger!

Jack cleared his throat. “Harold, Wake up, I’m gonna get gas, but I don’t want no trouble from either of you losers."

When he pulled into a brightly lit service station, a middle-aged attendant with the puffy look of an alcoholic limped to the car. "Howdy folks. What can I do for you?"

"Do you take Master card?"

“I sure do."

"Then fill it up."

Harold rolled down the window and surreptitiously spelled the word, “HELP” On the dusty side of the car. While the attendant filled the tank, Harold willed him to notice his plea, thinking, Call the police, you dolt!

But the attendant was oblivious. "You don't see many Dodge Chargers around anymore. I know plenty people got killed in them,” he said. “They got plenty speed. Check that hood for ya?"

When he peered under the hood, he whistled. "Man, that's a big 'un. Them hemi 427s go like hell!"

As the gas pump continued to ding, Harold worried about paying the bill.

When the attendant went to the rear of the car, topped off the gas, and returned to Jack's window, Harold stared at him, trying to direct his attention to the message, but the attendant looked in the wrong direction. “The oil and water are good. That'll be $24.39."

Jack handed Harold’s Master card to the attendant. After ringing up the sale, he returned the card and shuffled away without noticing Harold’s message.

Harold vigorously rubbed out his message. I don’t want Jack to discover my futile attempt to escape.”

When Rainbow winked and gave him a short tug on the chain, he wondered if she could feel his frustration.

As they were speeding down the highway, he tried to sleep, but a siren was coming up fast.

"Oh fuck," Jack shouted as a motorcycle with its red light flashing and its siren screaming rapidly caught up with them.

"Shit, if either of you two say anything, I’ll blow your fuckin” heads off!" he warned and put his pistol under his leg.

I hope to God the attendant called the police, but I sure don’t want to get killed in a gun fight!

A big leather-clad officer dismounted the motorcycle and approached Jack's window. "May I see your driver’s license please?"

Jack gave his ID to the cop and said, "What seems to be the problem, officer?"

The trooper ignored his question and examined the license with his face impassive. "Is your name 'John Fairbanks'?"

"Yes, that’s me,” Jack replied with a smile.

"Remain here. I'll be back shortly,” he said, returned to his motorcycle and talked on the two -way radio. He returned in a few minutes and said, "I’m giving you a ticket for speeding 90miles an hour. Take it easy Pal. I'd hate to scrape you off the pavement."

When he thundered away, Harold let out his breath. well, at least I'm not dead.

"Is John Fairbanks really your name?" Rainbow asked.

"It's one of them, but when it gets too hot, I'll get another one.”

“How in the world can u do that?" Rainbow asked, acting as if she were impressed.

I think Rainbow is stringing him along to find information that might be useful, or maybe she is trying to find a crack in his armor.

Jack boasted, "It's simple. Anytime you want a new name, all you have to do is to find someone near your age in the obituaries. Then you call the relatives, acting like you're from the coroner's office, finding out his social security number, his birthday and where he was born. Then you contact the county seat where the dude was born and request an official birth certificate. With that, you can get a driver’s license. It takes about three months for somebody's death to be put on the computers, so they don't discover the fraud until it’s too late. That's all there is to it."

"Oh that’s brilliant! How many times have you gotten another name?” she asked.

Jack answered evasively, "When I finish with a name I never use it again."

"That sounds smart. Were you able to get a passport as well?"

"No, but getting a passport is easy. If I had the contacts to sell them to foreigners, I could make a fortune. Hey, I need a joint. Do you want a hit?” Jack asked, pulling a bag of marijuana from his pocket.

“Why not? I’ll even roll it if you have the papers," she replied, holding out her hand.

After she rolled a large joint, she passed it to Jack. He took a long drag and held his breath, talking between his teeth. “Man, that’s fuckin’ heavy shit!”

Rainbow turned around in her seat. “Harold, have you ever smoked pot?"

"Yes, I used to, but that was a long time ago. I can't put anything in my lungs without coughing, including cigarettes."

"Good for you Harold. I wish I could give up my bad habits as well," she said and took a hit.

Harold lay back in his seat, closed his eyes and tried to sleep, but he overheard them murmuring over the roar of the Charger.

"Hey, Jack, did you notice that cop’s motorcycle? It was a Kawasaki, one of those damn rice-burners. Cops used to ride Harleys exclusively but they now buy Kawasaki’s to catch fast cars."

“How do you know about bikes?" Jack sarcastically asked.

She held up her hand and showed the tattoo of a skull wearing a gold earring. "Do you see this? I rode with the Satans for ten years. Yeah baby, I rode to live and live to ride!"

" Why did you ride with those losers?"

"It's a boring story, but I'll make it short. My family was well off with a big house and plenty of money. I received lots of private lessons and was praised for my achievements, but no one really cared about me. When my uncle molested me, no one was interested. When I hit fifteen I took the road with a biker dude. That time was really exciting with dope, sex and lots of Harleys. I loved them all, flatheads, panheads, shovelheads and knuckles; there's something about their sound that gives me the shivers," she said, taking another hit.

"What happened after that?"

"Time passed. I saw a lot of shit come down that you wouldn’t want to hear. Things got out of hand, and I got into booze and speed pretty deep. Once in Florida at a biker convention I was raped by 15 dudes from another chapter. After the shooting, I went home to my Mom and Dad to get myself together. I tried to go straight but I couldn't fit in that life. I got real depressed, so I took off again. It seems like every guy I hooked up with abused me. I'm attracted to that kind of guy. I know it sounds real sick, but I’m even attracted to you. I feel so disgusted with myself!" she said and fumbled in her purse for a cigarette.

"Well thanks a lot for the compliment."

Harold, feeling high from the secondhand marijuana, remembered when he had been disgusted with his own sexual conduct.





Chapter4

In 1944, Harold was drafted in the Navy and assigned to teach artillery, for which he was completely unqualified. When he was off duty, he relaxed at the Congo Club, but he was disdainful of the girls who were dancing in short skirts. I bet those girls are just gold-digging chippies, he thought as he sipped his cocktail.

While the juke box was playing a Glenn Miller hit, an attractive well-dressed man in his early fifties approached his table, casually asking, "Do you mind if I join you, sir? It's pretty crowded in here."

"Not at all," Harold replied and pulled out a chair.

"It's awfully good of you to share your table. My name is Alexander," he said, extending his hand.

After Harold shook hands and introduced himself, Alexander sat down. “I think I’ll have a martini. Let me buy you a drink. I would like to repay you for your kindness.”

“Why thank you,” Harold replied, pleased with the offer.

"Have you been in combat?”

"No, I’m just a gunnery instructor, and I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, but my brother is on the USS Enterprise. He has a chest full of medals.”

"Hey, where would those front line guys be if it weren’t for instructors like you teaching the art of killing?"

"Well, I never thought of myself as a trainer of killers. There’s no glory in what I do."

Alexander laughed. “You’re too modest, but as an artist, I can understand your aversion to violence.”

"You're an artist? So am I! What sort of things do you paint?"

” I paint a lot of things, but human bodies are my specialty. I studied in Paris when I was a kid. Guess I never got it out of my system. Do you specialize in any particular style?"

"Well, I haven't had much time lately for art, but I like to paint a variety of subjects. You might say I still have to find my groove."

Alexander laughed and finished his drink. “We all have to find our groove. Say, my studio is just a couple of blocks from here. Let's go there, and you can look at my work. Maybe you would let me do a quick sketch of you."

Harold felt flattered and readily accepted the invitation. When he entered Alexander’s studio, he smelled the sharp scent of oil paint and turpentine.

“Well, here we are. It's a little cluttered with my work, but make yourself comfortable while I mix martinis,” he said, motioning to a small round table with a bouquet of roses in a crystal vase.

Harold looked around the studio and saw paintings stacked against the wall, several works in progress on easels and a neatly made double bed.

Alexander returned from his closet-size kitchen and placed the drinks on the table. He lit a candle, switched off the overhead light, and put on a record of Ravel's Bolero. He returned to the table and sat across from Harold. “Drink hardy my buddy. What do you think of the studio?"

“It’s a great place. I like that northern window for its light. You've made this place very homey."

"Well, I'm glad you like it. When my models feel comfortable, I do better work. Are you feeling comfortable Harold?"

"Oh yes, I'm very comfortable."

“That’s good. Care for a cigarette?”

“Why thank you,” Harold replied, having mastered the art of smoking since high school.

When the artist lit Harold’s cigarette, he lightly brushed his hand on Harold’s wrist with his long tapering fingers.

As Harold inhaled the smoke, he admired the artist’s classic profile.

“When we finish our drinks, I would like to sketch you in the nude. Are you up for that?"

Harold felt shy, but replied, "I’ve never modeled before, but I’m willing to try.”

"Great! Let's finish our drinks first. When you’re ready, you can hang your clothes on that hook over by the door while I get my materials ready."

Harold removed his clothes. “I’m ready. Where would you like me to stand now?"

"You can stand over there by the bed, but first, I want to give your body a particular sheen if you don't mind?"

"I don’t mind," Harold replied, feeling a ripple of excitement.

Alexander poured a few drops of oil in his palm and began the massage with gentle caressing strokes, starting with Harold’s shoulders and gradually working down his chest, stomach and hips.

Harold shivered from Alexander’s touch. When his penis began to thicken, Alexander laughed softly. "That's all right; don't be embarrassed. Here, I'll smooth oil on that also," he said, sliding his slippery fist up and down in a rhythmic motion.

Harold was shocked but didn’t protest. "No more, no more, please," He finally begged and shuddered with sudden release.

"All right, it's my turn now," Alexander said and quickly took off his clothes. “Lie down on your stomach and put this pillow under your hips."

Harold obediently lay down with his jaws clenched, thinking, just relax and go limp. After agonizing minutes, Alexander went into spasms, crying out in ecstasy.

Later, when Harold was back on the base, he was overcome with guilt, unable to forget the experience. what’s wrong with me? Am I a queer?" he thought as he touched his anxious penis.




Chapter 5

Jack parked at a rest stop in the early morning hours. “Ok you losers, I’m going to take a short nap, but don’t try nothin’ funny. I’m keeping my gun under my leg ready to shoot if I have to.”

When he began to snore, Rainbow quietly felt in her purse for the spare key. After she unlocked the padlock, she cautiously pushed the door open and got out, shivering in her vasectomy T-shirt. She began to run, but stopped and returned to the car, whispering, "Harold, be quiet. We're going to escape. I’ll help you get out."

She carefully pulled the chain from under the seat and pulled him out with both hands, but the car lifted, causing Jack to mumble.

They held their breaths until he began to breathe normally.

Harold stuffed the end of the chain in his pocket and began to run unsteadily on his stiff knees. With only the faint moonlight to guide him, he followed Rainbow into the woods, trying not to make noise, gulping for breath. The frigid air made him shiver, but Rainbow doggedly forged ahead fighting her way through low-hanging branches. When she discovered a narrow trail, she looked back and saw him limping. “Harold, do you want to stop for a rest?”?”

"No, Just keep running,” he gasped.

Suddenly, the car door slammed. They stopped and listened.

Jack shouted, "Rainbow! Harold! Where are you?"

They stealthily crept away on the deer trail, but Harold stepped on a twig with a resounding cracked. Jack came crashing through the undergrowth with his flashlight sending shafts of light through the trees. Rainbow whispered, “Quick, crouch down by this brush and be still!”

Jack stopped running. "Rainbow. Harold. I know you're here. Answer me!”

Harold was wheezing and gasping for air, but he forced himself to breathe quietly.

Suddenly, a small animal rustled in the undergrowth, an owl hooted and the wind whispered in the trees. Jack came closer. "Rainbow. Harold. You're going to freeze out here. Come on back to the car, and I’ll take you home."

Harold felt an itch but refrained from scratching his nose, remaining still and trembling with fear.

"I'm going back to the car,” Jack shouted. “I'll wait for you. Everything will be all right if you just come back."

When he left, Rainbow whispered, “Let’s wait longer. He might be sneaking back."

As they waited, Harold sat down on the soggy ground to relieve his knees while Rainbow hugged herself trying to keep warm.

Finally, she said, "I think it’s safe now. Let’s go."

After a while, Harold struggled for oxygen. “Hold up Rainbow, I've got to catch my breath."

They became alert when they heard someone running.”Quick, let's hide behind that big tree on the other side of the creek,” Rainbow whispered.

Harold splashed through the water and all most fell, but he regained his balance and scrambled up a muddy bank, dropping into tall weeds behind the tree.

Suddenly, a stag crashed through the brush and lept over the creek. As it flicked its tail and disappeared into the undergrowth, Harold thought, Thank god it wasn’t Jack!”,

A cold rain began to sprinkle. “Harold, we have to find somewhere to keep warm or we’ll freeze to death!”

"Maybe we should build a fire," he replied.

"No, Jack might see us. Let's walk a little further."

Abruptly they came into a clearing and saw an abandoned cabin with its windows broken and its door hanging from one hinge. They dashed to the shelter. Harold gingerly stepped inside the shack and felt broken glass crunching under his feet. When Rainbow struck a match, he saw an old rusty wood-burning stove in the corner. “Look Harold! There’s firewood outside. I'll go get it."

While he stuffed pages from an old magazine in the stove, Rainbow shoved in several pieces of wood. After he lit the paper, the fire began to crackle, radiating warmth.

As they held their hands to the heat, Rainbow picked up a half burned candle from the floor. When its flickering light illuminated the room, she said, "Look Harold, there's a bed.”.”

“I see it and there’s an old army blanket used as a makeshift closet,” he replied and pulled it down, choking from the dust.

Rainbow used the blanket to brush the debris off the mattress. “Let's pull this bed near the fire where it’s warmer."

As they pulled the sagging mattress with old-fashioned coil springs across the floor, it scraped on the broken glass. A gust of wind blew through the missing windows.

Rainbow laughed. "Hey Harold, what's Holiday Inn got that we ain't got?"

They began to laugh, unable to stop. Finally Rainbow said, "Let's put our shoes and socks by the fire and get under this blanket."

As they lay on the squeaky bed with the blanket wrapped around their shivering bodies, Rainbow said, "Do you mind if I cuddle next to you to get warm?"

"Honey, I'm beyond caring about anything. Thank you for rescuing me."

“Don't be silly," she replied and kissed him lightly on the neck.

While she slept, exchanging warmth, he listened to the rain tapping on the roof, the wind blowing through the trees and the occasional snap of the fire. He inhaled the fragrant aroma of the smoke leaking from the stove.

Today, I was afraid for my life, but something kept me going; maybe Zeus is back, he thought, recalling his alternate self, strong, assertive and self-assured, but that was long ago.

As Rainbow adjusted her position on the lumpy bed, his thoughts returned to Nola.

The next morning, he woke up to the sound of loud thumping and was confused, but then he heard Rainbow. "Hey Harold, are you up yet? Be careful. There's broken glass all over the floor.”

When she returned to the shack, she handed him his Oxfords. “Here you go, I just knocked the mud off. Now, I’m going to see if I can get that fire going,” she said and began to poke the embers.

He sat up, rubbed his eyes and yawned. "Thank you Rainbow. Damn! It’s colder than a penguin’s bottom! Have you seen my hat? Oh, there it is," he said and pulled the wool cap over his head.

She shoved more wood in the stove and blew on the embers. As a small flame licked upwards, she brushed her hands together. "Harold, there's an outhouse in the back if you need it. I suggest you take a magazine for toilet paper.”

“Thank you Rainbow. I won’t be gone long.”

When he returned, she was wearing half a blanket wrapped around her shoulders. "Here Harold, take this other half. It’ll help keep you warm. ”

After he wrapped it around his shoulders, he stuffed the loose end of the chain in his pocket. "Ok Rainbow, let's find our way back to civilization."

"Do you think Jack might still be around?"

"I hope not, but we better get moving."

When they went outside, the trees were covered with frost. Rainbow shuddered. “I don't remember how we got here. I think we’re lost.”

"I think we came from that direction," Harold said, listening to the distant sound of the freeway.

They began their descent down the hill, struggling through dense undergrowth. Harold thought he felt something crawling on his back, but it was beyond his finger tips.

When they came to the creek, they carefully stepped on rocks, avoiding getting their shoes wet.

Rainbow shouted when she saw the freeway in the distance. Hot damn! There it is!” With renewed energy, they walked towards the sound of traffic and arrived at the bramble of brush dividing them from the highway.

“Look Harold, I think we can break through the brush right here,” Rainbow said. “Now we can hitch-hike back home, but let me do the talking. While I flag down a car, you keep out of sight but come running when I open the door.”

He agreed to her suggestion, impressed with her craftiness.

When they pushed the last branch out of the way and stepped into the clearing, Jack giggled, leaning against the rear of his car. "Welcome back campers. Your limousine service is ready."


Chapter 6

In 1949, Harold was established as a up and coming designer of hats. When the head of costumes at Warren Studios had approached him about making a special hat for Miss Nola Grant, he was excited, aware his business would benefit if the popular starlet wore one of his hats in a movie.

The costume head said, “Nola is a beautiful woman, but one of the producers thinks her hips are a bit too wide. I told him her figure could be balanced with the right hat so you need to design a hat that will meet her approval, but she’s rather sensitive about her body.”

After he agreed to the project, the studio made an appointment with the young actress for their meeting on the following Friday. At the appointed time, he entered the Beverly Hills Hotel and found the elevator to her floor. As he waited, he recalled her big-screen image, enormous blue eyes, baby doll face, wide smile and blond hair.

When the elevator delivered him to the eleventh floor, he found her apartment and knocked.

A petite pretty but scowling woman opened the door. "Yes, what do you want?” she asked in a French accent.

“Good evening Miss Grant. My name is Harold Mellby. Warren Studios sent me. I’m here to take measurements and pictures so I can design a special hat for you.”

So, you are za one who will make my derriere smaller, no?"

Harold smiled. "Your derriere is just fine. My job is to make a hat that will flatter your lovely figure."

“Zis is all a waste of my time," she spat, flicking her hand at his briefcase. She went to a floor -to-ceiling window and looked at the busy streets below, leaving him standing in the hall.

He followed her into her living room. "I beg your pardon, Miss Grant," he said sharpely.

She whirled around. "Za studio has many pictures of me, and zey know my size. There is no reason for you to be here!"

As Harold watched her standing by the window silhouetted in a semi-transparent negligee, revealing protruding nipples, he forced himself to keep his eyes on her face. "Miss Grant, I'm sorry to inconvenience you, but it is necessary to photograph you from different angles. If this is not a good time, we can reschedule our session."

"No, you are here, so I might as well get it over wiz," she said with a frown.

Harold worked quickly to get the information he needed before she changed her mind, ruining his prospects with Warren Studios. When he finished, he said, "Thank you for your time Miss Grant. I hope I didn't disturb you too much. I’ll finish the preliminary design by next week. Should I come back at the same time for your approval or should I call first?"

"If you have to come, you can come next week at za same time. Do not call me!"

"Well, good-bye then. I can let myself out," he replied, anxious to get away from her caustic tongue.

Back at his workshop, he used the information he had collected to sketch the preliminary design. I wonder why she’s charming, vivacious and fun-loving in her movies, but with me she was an absolute bitch. I guess I just don’t understand women.

As his work progressed, he became enthused. I think it’s going to work! I just hope she’ll like it.

On the following Friday, he knocked on her door. This is not going to be fun, he thought, holding a large hat box in his arms.


She opened the door and smiled. “Oh Harold, I’ve been waiting for you. Come in, perhaps a glass of wine?”

“Thank you Miss Grant, A glass of wine would be appreciated.”

“Call me Nola. I’m excited to see za hat you made. Sit right here while I get the wine,” she said taking his arm and leading him to the sofa.

When she returned with an ornate decanter, she poured the wine. "I can hardly wait to see za hat you made. I want to see it now”

He took a sip and said, "It will be my pleasure to show you. Do you have a full-length mirror?"

"Yes, zere is one in my bedroom. Oh, I can hardly wait.”

When she was standing before a full-length mirror, he said, “Now close your eyes. I want the hat to be a surprise.”

“Whatever you say, but hurry.”

He carefully arranged the hat, pleased the lace, feathers and pearls sculpted into a flowing expression of her lovely face worked. Her hips were definitely minimized.

"Ok, now you can open your eyes."

She looked at her reflection and clapped her hands. "Oh Harold, I love it!” she said, gave him a hug and kissed both of his cheeks.

He blushed. "I'm glad you like it. I hope the studio will like it also.”

"Oh Sheri, don't worry about zat. I will tell zem this is the hat I want. Now, let's finish our wine."

As he sat on the velvet sofa, awkwardly balancing a goblet on his knee, he thought, how am I supposed to relate to her now, especially after her change of attitude. I’m just a nobody, but she’s a famous movie star. He cleared his throat. "You have a very nice apartment,” he said, immediately feeling his comment was inadequate.

She laughed, removed her high heel-shoes and crossed her legs. "Thank you. I like it. Tell me, Harold, how did you happen to make hats?"

He relaxed with the conversation shifted to familiar grounds. "Actually, I never meant to get into making hats, but it pays the rent. I wanted to be an actor, but I can't make a living on bit parts so I make hats to eat."

She nodded. "I understand. What other zings have you done?"

“I was in the Navy during the war, and then I became a bookkeeper to satisfy my father, but I hated it. After I went to acting school on the GI, I was a dance instructor for Arthur Murray. I've waited on tables, and a lot of other things not worth mentioning."

When he paused to take a sip of wine, she asked, "So when did you start making hats?"

"Oh yes, hats. I started making them two years ago. I didn't have a job, so I made six hats I was able to sell through a beauty parlor. Gradually, my Business grew, but now I don't have enough time to act."

"Zat's too bad. But you did make such a beautiful hat. I zink you have the soul of an artist, no?"

"I don’t know about that, but you scared me the first time we met," he replied, appalled for blurting out his feelings.

She frowned. "Oh, poor Harold. Pay no attention to zat. It was just my moon madness. Every month when za moon gets full, I go a little bit crazy. Now, I have to get up early to make za pictures so you have to leave."

Following his success with Warren Studios, Harold received numerous orders for hats from fashion-conscious women who were willing to pay high prices. With his finances improved, he upgraded his Hollywood salon, making it sedate, quiet and elegant, but his own living area in the back was fanciful. Murals of jungles, brightly colored parrots, pink and purple monkeys and colorful butterflies gave a tropical feeling to his home. He also had purchased a zebra-skin rug, African war masks, and other tribal artifacts. After work, He enjoyed relaxing under his potted palm tree with a hi-fidelity recording of a rain forest.

One afternoon while he was assembling a special order, Nola walked into his shop and blew him a kiss. “Hello Harold, I’ve been on set. So, is zis the place I’ve heard about?”

"Well, Miss Grant, hello, it's nice to see you. Yes, this is where I work and live," he said, suddenly feeling happy.

“Do you have a cup of tea?”

“I sure do. I'll lock up so we can visit without being interrupted. Let’s go into my living quarters."

When she entered his apartment, she clapped her hands. "Oh Harold, I love it! I feel like I'm on a safari. It’s wonderful."

He smiled. "Thank you. Here, take a seat on this campaign chair while I brew our tea.”

“I’ll do that, but first I want to look at your parrot,” she said and went to a large malevolent-looking macaw walking back and forth on its perch.

"What’s your name birdie?" she asked.

It squawked, “Donde esta la banya!”

"He only speaks Spanish. His name is Clam Lip, but be careful; he bites."

“Oh Clam Lip, I should teach you French."

“Are you from France?" Harold asked conversationally.

She sipped her tea and glanced away, looking annoyed. "Yes, I’m from France. Did you paint these murals?” she asked, changing the subject.

“Yes, I’m guilty,” he replied, wondering if he had said something wrong.

"Harold, I’ve been zinking about you and I have a suggestion."

“What is it?” He asked, expecting her criticism.

"I zink you need a better image. You look like a bookkeeper, but if you want to be noticed in Hollywood, you need to change your look. Pick some zing that feels natural and comfortable, but don’t let anyone else define who you are."

He remained silent, thinking, Being unique appeals to me. When I’m acting, I express my emotions through the words of others. I could create a role for myself and act the part.

“All right Nola, I’m willing to take your advice.”


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