and Go Limp
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
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
I dedicate this book to
The reader can contact
Ryan Scott to make comments or ask questions at
Mathew John Soffe, a noted British artist, illustrated the cover of
this book. He can be contacted at
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
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."
disgusting! Someone should call the police," his neighbor said
Those damn kids are driving our customers away.”
Suddenly, a girl
wearing nose rings linked to her ears scream, "Hey, man, it's
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.
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
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!"
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.
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."
younger brother, avoided Spike’s harassment by keeping out of the
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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?
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
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
Harold asked, half dazed.
“Nothing compared to
what's going to happen if you don't give me my money, so turn it
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.
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
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
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
"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
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
"What in hell are
you talking about? I don't have your God damn money," Rainbow
"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
“Oh, shit,” he
"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,"
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
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!"
surrendered his billfold containing twenty five dollars. Jack
pocketed the money and found a master credit card. "Is this
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
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
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
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
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
“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.
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
As they were speeding
down the highway, he tried to sleep, but a siren was coming up fast.
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'?"
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."
brilliant! How many times have you gotten another name?” she asked.
evasively, "When I finish with a name I never use it again."
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
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
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.
"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
"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.
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
"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
"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
“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
“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
Harold felt shy, but
replied, "I’ve never modeled before, but I’m willing to
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
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
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.
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
"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
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
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
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
“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
When they came to the
creek, they carefully stepped on rocks, avoiding getting their shoes
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
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."
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
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
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
“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
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!"
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
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
"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,
He carefully arranged
the hat, pleased the lace, feathers and pearls sculpted into a
flowing expression of her lovely face worked. Her hips were
"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
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
"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
“I sure do. I'll lock
up so we can visit without being interrupted. Let’s go into my
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.
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.
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.”