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Archive for the ‘BURNT’ Category

BURNT CODA

In BURNT on February 3, 2011 at 8:16 pm

1970

Dawn is breaking over the mountains as Candace and Josey emerge from the earth.  The ranch house is a smoldering black frame.  Ash floats around the woman and the girl as they walk in a dream towards the sun.

Candace starts Critter’s truck.  The engine coughs to life along with the radio.  It emits a constant static.  She begins to cry.

Josey takes her hand and holds it tight.

Together, they begin their journey down the mountain road.  As they approach town, they pick up a signal.  Clear as a ball, a gospel choir sings a hymn from Candace’s youth.

Just a closer walk with Thee,
Grant it, Jesus, is my plea,
Daily walking close to Thee,
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.

———————————————————–

1901

The baby room is much brighter than when Sunday first saw it, twelve years before.  The mural now circles the walls.  It tells her story, but it also tells of the birth of three children and how they’ve grown.  She can hear them now, outside the hacienda, laughing and playing with her husband.

She steps outside to join them, her beautiful daughters and the good man who is their father.

The Story

BURNT FINALE

In BURNT on February 2, 2011 at 8:15 pm

1970

The ranch house must be burning pretty good by now, judging by how fast Lucas charges up the stairs.  I’m sitting bedside, holding Mom’s hand and the pistol.

He just stands there for awhile.  “It broke my heart when you didn’t come to your mother’s funeral.”

“What heart?  Last I heard, Mom was on life-support and you turned off the machines.  But you never did.  Resurrection?  Was that the idea?”

He smooths the sheets.  “Yes, but I waited too long.  The drugs I’ve used to maintain the coma have diminished your mother.  I’m afraid she’s really gone now.”

“Too bad.  That would have been quite a trick.”

“It sure has captured some folks’ attention.  For years now, there have been rumors and whispers that I have the secret, that I possess the power to restore life.  I don’t discourage them.”  He stares fondly at his wife.  “The Blue Light Project.  Where do they come up with these names?’

Flames lick at the door.  Smoke is filling the room.  “You’re not going to shoot me.”

“I won’t have to.”

“Then we all die together.”

“Like a family.”

The Story So Far

BURNT 7.9

In BURNT on February 1, 2011 at 8:03 pm

1970

Candace grips Josey’s hand tight as they run.  She can see the beam of Lucas’ flashlight behind them.  He’s moving at the slow, steady rate of a man confident in his abilities in the woods.   His prey is a middle-aged city-dweller and a young girl.  Having flushed them from their hiding place, he knows it won’t be long until he catches them.  Candace knows this as well.

A sliver of moonlight gives her a wink through the thick trees.  It renews her hope and she pushes Josey on.

They enter the clearing and she searches the darkness at their feet, a prayer repeating and drumming in her ears.  “Our father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…”  There it is!  She is swallowed by the earth, pulling Josey with her.

They huddle close in the darkness of the tunnel, pressing their bodies to the damp earth.  Above them, they can hear Lucas searching.

Josey’s breathing is sharp and jagged.  “Finish the story.  Please.”

Candace whispers.  “After Sunday left the Yanina woman, she pointed her horse North.  She started riding and she didn’t quit.  She rode for days and weeks and months.  Somewhere on the trail she met up with the preacher called David.  He had never stopped looking for her.  He showed her a wanted poster of her father.  After that, they rode together.  They holed up in an abandoned Pony Express post near Berthoud Falls for a long time.  They’d ride in one direction and then return.  The next day, they’d pick another direction.  Each time they rode longer and further.  Finally, Sunday found Arango.  At his hide-out.  Right here in Caballo Blanco.”

Candace hears the thud of Lucas’ boots above them.  He’s close.  Josey is shaking.  Candace pulls her closer, whispering into her ear.

“When Arango saw her, everything changed.  She had forgiven him, you see.  Arango quit outlawing and returned to Los Rios where he spent the rest of his life working to restore the hacienda to its former glory.  Each day, he would rise at dawn and work until dark.   He only took three days off before he died, and those were on the days that his grandchildren were born.  Three girls.”

They hear a bellow and some crashing as Lucas charges back into the woods.

Josey begins to cry.  “A happy ending…”

The Story So Far

BURNT 7.8

In BURNT on January 31, 2011 at 8:17 pm

1889

Arango’s army is on the run again.  This time they hit the mine at Leadville.  They made off with a sack of cash and only caught a few bullets.  But the posse was ready this time, and formidable.   A couple dozen armed and angry riders are hot on their trail.

Arango charges over the bluff and into the clearing they call Caballo Blanco, dismounting from his horse at a run.  He lets go of the reins and drops into the closest hole.  The rest of the men disappear underground as well, their steeds wandering off to chew on tall grass.

Arrango leans against the strong dirt wall.  He and his band of former miners dug them all, an interlacing matrix of tunnels running under the entire field, with multiple entrances and exits.  They also dug holes for their many pursuers, nearly a hundred graves now.

He readies his gun.  Through the earth, he feels the thunder of the posse’s horses.  He can hear the clatter of sharply reined mounts.  He can hear shouts of confusion.  He prepares to leap out.  This is the signal.  His men will follow.

From behind him in the dark, someone grabs his arm.

It’s Sunday.

The Story So Far

BURNT 7.7

In BURNT on January 30, 2011 at 8:43 pm

1970

The door to the ranch house hangs open.  It’s dark in there.  Has Lucas returned from the lake?  If he has, I’m going to find him and I’m going to kill him.

I raise the old pistol and follow it inside.  My bare feet navigate the furniture and loose rugs.  The only sound is the slog of my wet clothes.  I stop moving.

At first I think I’m hearing my own breathing.  It’s a ragged wheezing sound.  I get a fix on it.  It’s coming from the kitchen.  It’s coming from behind a door in the back of a closet.  Why is there a door there?

Behind the door is a dark stairway and at the top of those stairs there is another door.  White light peeks from under it.  I climb the stairs.  The wheezing is now accompanied by a small beep.  I push the door open.

A figure lies on a hospital bed in a white room.  The wheezing is from the ventilator that keeps her breathing.  The beeping is from the machine that monitors her vital functions.  There are other sounds now and other machines whose duties I don’t know.

But I know the woman on the bed.  It’s my mother.

The Story So Far

BURNT 7.6

In BURNT on January 29, 2011 at 9:21 pm

1889

When the wagon pulls up to the Assayer’s office, Arango starts lighting fuses.  A half-dozen men with rifles flank the building, scanning the crowded street.  Two more with pistols on their belts begin unloading bags of silver.

Arango counts five of his men traversing the muddy street.  There are five more on horseback somewhere nearby.  They blend in well with the miners who’ve come to town to blow their wages.  A few months earlier, they would have joined them, drinking and screwing and maybe springing for a bath to wash away the grime.  That was before the owners brought in thugs from Denver to break heads and quash any talk of unions.  When wages were cut to fifty-cents a day, some grumbled and some complained and those that shouted were driven by gun-point to the edge of town.

When Arango stumbled upon their camp, they were making periodic raids and hauling off mining supplies — shovels, picks, blasting caps, dynamite.  They were also starving.  Arango taught them to take their revenge in a more lucrative manner.

The building explodes in a hail-storm of splintered timber.  The guards stagger aimlessly through smoke and falling debris, left dazed and deaf from the blast.

Arango’s men only have to shoot a few of them.  They rise from the street or swoop in on their horses and, as Arango’s second blast blows a wall off the saloon, they commandeer the wagon and ride hell-bent for the mountains.

Arango catches up with them as they enter the trees.  He sees pride on their faces even as they ride for their lives.  After taking that beating at the tracks, Arango has wanted only one thing.  It took a lot of work to gain the trust of these desperate men.  Now he has what he’s been looking for.  Respect.

He throws a glance over his shoulder.  The army patrol has left town at a full gallop.  It won’t be long until the soldiers catch them.

——————————————————

Captain Brockson pushes his steed hard over rough ground.  The wagon won’t last much longer in this terrain.  He makes the signal to bear arms.

The patrol crests a bluff and enters a large clearing.  The wagon stands deserted.  The outlaws’ horses mill about, empty saddles.  Brockson circles the wagon.  Where are the men?  There is no cover for hundreds of yards.  The soldiers pull up hard, scattered, looking to him for an order.

Brockson opens his mouth to shout when suddenly the patrol is surrounded by men.  They have appeared from thin air, armed to the teeth.

Arango raises his pistol.  “It all ends here at Caballo Blanco.”

The Story So Far

BURNT 7.5

In BURNT on January 28, 2011 at 8:54 pm

1970

The night is deep black with only the hint of a moon hiding somewhere in the wilderness.  Guests aren’t allowed their own cars up here so Candace and Josey aren’t going anywhere until morning’s light.  Without a plan, they huddle close in the cold sweat lodge and wait.

Josey shuts her eyes tight, wraps her arms around her knees and pushes at the image of her drowning father, trying to force it out of her head.  Candace knows she has to start talking before the girl slips further away.

“Do you like movies, Josey?”  The girl nods slightly.  “I made one once.  I finished it for someone.  No one wanted to show it so I ended up buying the theaters.  Now I own a chain.”  Candace closes her own eyes.  “In the movie, there is an ancient race called The Builders.  Long ago, these beings gave Man all he needed to create a perfect society — will, intellect, individuality.  The Builders check in on Mankind from time to time to gauge their progress.  In the film, they visit us three times in our history.  Each time, the world is a mess ruled by a senseless mob.  And each time, there exists a single guardian of these sacred truths — a sole visionary who keeps the flame alive but at the cost of his own life.  The film ends in the future, when these martyred visionaries have triumphed and the Mankind has realized its full potential.”

It seems to be working.  Josey stops rocking.  Her eyes are open.

“The film is full of bad ideas.  I rejected them all as I rejected the man who wrote it.  But, somehow, I’ve continued to hope for a Utopian future.  I think that’s why I was so ready to believe in Lucas James and his vision of our world.  This mountain was my utopia.  I fell in love with everything about it.  I’ve spent months in libraries and classrooms, studying everything I could find about this land and the people who lived here.  Why, I…”

They listen.  It sounds like someone is moving around in the ranch house.  Josey closes her eyes again.  Candace lowers her voice and leans close.

“But that’s a boring story.  Let me tell you a good one.  Let me tell you the story of Sunday Warring.”

The Story So Far

BURNT 7.4

In BURNT on January 27, 2011 at 8:10 pm

1970

Critter is in the tractor’s cab.  He’ll probably spend the night there.  Earlier, he woke up in his cot, drenched in piss.  That’s been happening more and more lately, especially when he’s up late drinking.  It’s so damn cold.  That cot won’t dry for hours.  Better to sleep in the tractor.

He’s finishing the bottle when something moves over by the door.  He peers into the darkness of the barn.  There’s something stirring near the hay-loft now, something big.  He snaps on the headlights.

A man is standing there,  covered head to foot in mud.  He opens his fist.  “I need the keys to the pump.”

Critter stares.  It’s the owner’s son.  He looks like wet death.  Critter hands him all the keys.  Jay staggers outside.

He tries to stay awake but it’s too much.  The rhythmic glub glub of the pumps, the splash of gasoline in a bucket, Jay rustling off and returning to glub glub and splash again.  He drifts off.

When he wakes, Jay is standing there with a torch.  Critter decides to tell him a story.

“This land had a lot of different uses before your dad came along.  Indians used to make camp here.  I’ve seen pieces of their pots and such.  There was a pretty big silver mine not too far from here.  It’s long gone now.  Folks used to come up here to fish and hunt.   I’d show them around some, made my living that way for a long time.  It’s my home and I knew I’d see it change.  But I never thought I’d see anything like your father and his group of crazies.  It surprises the hell out me.  I betcha the land is pretty surprised too.”

Jay hands him a torch.  “Fix things.”

Critter opens a battered wooden box he keeps under the seat.  He hands Jay an old pistol.  “You too.”

The Story So Far

BURNT 7.3

In BURNT on January 26, 2011 at 8:13 pm

1970

When Josey reaches the ranch, she’s stumbling like she’s blind.  She can still see her father sinking into the river, his face turned up towards her.  This image is superimposed over everything in front of her eyes.  A double-exposure like how they make ghosts appear in scary movies.

She rushes through the house, throwing open doors, searching for a human face to replace the horrible vision that haunts her.  She finds no one.  The place is deserted.  She runs outside and collapses.  The sobs come now.  And the horrible shaking.

She feels a hand softly stroke her hair.  It’s the older woman, the one who held her last night when she was afraid.  “Lucas sent everyone away.  The staff too.  Everyone.”

Josey stares hard, forcing the kind face to fill her entire field of vision.  She grabs air between sobs.  “He killed my dad.”

Candace takes her hand and they walk briskly away from the ranch.  The sun is setting fast.  Candace knows there’s a barn out there somewhere in the gathering darkness but she doesn’t like the idea of dragging Josey around looking for it.  The only shelter she can see is the teak sweat lodge Lucas uses for vision quests.  They huddle inside.

When Josey can breathe again, she asks, “Why didn’t you go with them?”

“Do you know what my name means?  It’s from the bible.  Candace means Queen of Children, after a woman who protected children.  That’s why I chose it.  I know all about fathers.  Children need protecting.”

Her words calm Josey.  “What was your old name?”

“The name the church gave me.  Lotus.”

The Story So Far

BURNT 7.2

In BURNT on January 25, 2011 at 8:49 pm

1889

The bottle travels around the circle.  No one takes as big a pull as they would like, though their throats are dry and the whiskey tastes very good.  This is a rough bunch and they don’t know one another at all, having each found this fire by the railroad tracks separately.  The builder of the fire is unknown as is the owner of the bottle.

“Shall I tell you the story of how the Coyote tricked the wind?”

The tension around the fire doesn’t allow for a nod or a grunt of agreement so Arango just proceeds.

“Coyote was wandering in the desert and he came to a great lake.  Now Coyote was lazy and didn’t want walk around the lake, so he said to the Water, ‘Water, why don’t you move aside so that I can cross?'”‘

As he speaks, Arango studies his new compadres.  Their rough hands tell him that they were laborers once.  They are dirty.  The kind of dirty that means sleeping without much between you and the dirt.

They share something else as well.  A lack of desperation.  These are men who have faced desperate times and despaired.  But those times are behind them.  They are beyond despair now.  They live with it.  In it.

Just like him.

“So this is how we got the Santana winds, which still blow hot when the Wind is angry.  And this is how Coyote came to die of thirst at the bottom of a lake.”

Arango upends the bottle.  It’s empty.  He’s drained it.

Without a word, the men fall upon him and begin to beat him to death.

The Story So Far