Newtonville by Chris Covert - Read Online
Newtonville
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Summary

Shootings and a threat of war hangs over the isolated ficticious southeastern Oklahoma town of Newtonville.

Follow the story of young Honey Rimeola, her family and her friends as they encounter crooked lawyers and
mountain men as well as the revolutionaries trying to arm them.

Published: Chris Covert on
ISBN: 9781476204437
List price: $5.90
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Newtonville - Chris Covert

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author.

Part One: War

Chapter One

Jack Mitchell walked into the only diner in Finsick and at once began to scan it for his contact, shivering off the January winds. He was not hard to find, for he was the only man in the place. He was sitting at a dark green and cream tuck and roll vinyl booth situated by the front picture window.

Jack only knew him by his voice, which was gravely and course. The man with the voice matched Jack's expectations for the man was short and heavy with gray closely cut hair.

The man looked up from a cup of whitened coffee and then immediately came to his feet with a warm smile and a welcoming handshake.

I'm Reverend Jennings. It's Henry Jennings, but don't call me Hank. I get enough of that in Newtonville and here. Can I buy you a cup of coffee? he said rapidly.

Jack nodded in assent, but he said nothing in reply. A skinny waitress with broken front teeth and a brown gravy stain curtly took Jennings' order for coffee. When she brought the coffee she barely acknowledged Jack's gratitude and she glared at the two in hostility as she went behind the main counter to conduct her business.

What's the matter with her? asked Jack.

Ignore her. You'll get a lot of that here. It's because of Newtonville, explained Jennings. Jack pondered the answer for a moment.

Are you all right? asked Jennings.

I'm fine now, replied Jack.

You told me over the phone that there were a lot of things to be taken care of before you could join me here. Are they done? asked Jennings.

There wasn't that much, said Jack.

I'm truly sorry about your wife and child. Please except my deepest condolences, said Jennings

Going through seminary school courses learning about grief doesn't prepare you... Jack could say no more.

It's not intended to. Just relax for now. We don't have to talk about it for right now. But if you need to talk to someone, you can come to me, advised Jennings.

No, I came here to talk about Newtonville. It'll get my mind off that for a while, said Jack.

Good! It's a good idea to stay busy, said Jennings.

So, why's the waitress so angry at me because of Newtonville? asked Jack.

You'll have to forgive her. She probably couldn't tell you why she's angry. But she is with good reason, little of which has to do with Newtonville, said Jennings. Jack became confused.

Jennings almost laughed at Jacks contorted face, but he knew he was obliged to provide Jack with an explanation.

Newtonville is isolated. It's not part of the county. It's not even part of the world right now. We, you and I, are here to reestablish contact with the outside world with a minimum of bloodshed, explained Jennings.

Bloodshed? exclaimed jack. You never mentioned anything about that.

It's not what it sounds like. There have been shootings and there have been gunfights. At night you can hear at least one gun going off somewhere on the ridge. There's supposed to be a truce and it mostly holds, except for when a few folks from the surrounding area like to go to the ridge and shoot at folks, explained Jennings.

Can't the sheriff stop them? asked Jack.

Jennings laughed. He saw Jack wasn't amused. The sheriff is 75 years old, and the only time he even comes into the office is to sign paychecks. There is deputy Rickerts, said Jennings.

What about Deputy Rickerts?

Rickerts has less to hate about Newtonville than that waitress over there, said Jennings. His folks sold their land off Newton's Ridge only a few days after the road washed out.

And he won't stop the shootings?

"He can't. Newton's Ridge has a 140 mile perimeter.

Finsick County has only four deputies including Rickerts and that includes their dispatcher," replied Jennings.

Why are folks shooting at each other? asked Jack.

These people in Newtonville are suffering from the 15 years of isolation. People have moved away, even their children are gone. Were it not for this project, there would be no mail, and I fear the situation would get much worse, said Jennings.

How could this get much worse? And how did things get to this point?

Taxes.

Taxes?

When the road washed out the people of Newtonville and the surrounding area couldn't make their money, said Jennings.

The road had something to do with that?

The road was the only way a car could get up the ridge to Newtonville, said Jennings.

They couldn't get crops to market?

Jennings snickered. It was a saloon. Walter Newton owned Newton's Saloon, the only place for miles around where you could drink liquor and dance, and not worry about the law, said Jennings.

I thought Oklahoma was dry then, said Jack.

We had county option, and Finsick County was dry. Newton's Saloon was the place to go in the 30s 40s and 50s, said Jennings.

And the road stopped all that. Why couldn't a new road be built? asked Jack.

Newton tried. He knew two of the three county commissioners, and he tried to prevail on them to rebuild the road, but they refused, because it was a private road to begin with, said Jennings.

And this saloon going out of business caused all this, said Jack.

It wasn't just the saloon. There was a small motel up there run by the Sanders family, a couple of cafes and gift shops, grocery stores. Some farmers on the east side of the ridge, the so called 'easy' side of the ridge brought their products through Newtonville. It was the only way to go, explained Jennings.

What about schools? Churches? asked Jack.

Most children moved off the ridge, so that by now, there are little but 30 kids on the whole ridge. Most of them went by bus via the road into Finsick. But the road washing out stopped all that, said Jennings. Life was tough on them anyway, because as the isolation grew, the kids in Finsick made life for the kids from Newtonville very tough.

They couldn't pay their taxes, said Jack now realizing. Did the county seize all the land?

They seized some of it, and it was sold. But the buyers can't get to it get to it because of the lack of a road and the shootings, I would expect, said Jennings.

How did the church become involved?

I was sent here to negotiate between the county and the residents of the ridge. This project, which grew out of those negotiations, is their link with the outside world. Eventually, the county agreed to allow residents to retain their property, if we could help them make the necessary money needed to pay taxes. So, once a week, whether we want to or not, we go up to the ridge to deliver mail, proceeds from the sale of whatever they have to sell, net of their taxes, of course, and the spread the word of the Lord, explained Jennings.

Rendering unto Caesar, quipped Jack, but the remark evoked no response from Jennings.

I gotta tell you, Jack, this job isn't easy. I set this system up and I run it, but it is not getting easier as time goes by. That bunch in Oklahoma City never liked your father's ilk, but then, they're a bunch of radicals anyway, said Jennings. They hate oil and everything and everyone associated with it. That's why they won't send you to a church or a congregation. You were sent out here, said Jennings.

Is it that bad here? asked Jack.

It's not really that bad out here, especially if you went through seminary school and never expected to minister to a flock on a regular basis. Most do, and since your family background and your education lends itself to projects such as this, this is perfect for you, explained Jennings.

Jack pondered what Jennings said for but a moment.

"I'm getting old, Jack. I started this project when I was a chipper 57-year old, and that was seven years ago. The good people in the synod and the federal people say I'm out to pasture by next year. My involvement with the Newtonville project ends when I find my replacement

As it is, I can't go up to the ridge each week. That's a ten mile walk uphill. I was a little like you are now, except I boozed it up and smoked like a train until I went through seminary school ten years ago. I need someone like you who can carry on until Newtonville is reconnected with the world."

There's nothing left for me except God. A murderer took my wife and child, and God took my father. Now I only have God left, said Jack.

Jennings smiled warmly and he grasped Jack's clasped hands.

Chapter 2

Honey sobbed from the experience as Bob kissed her gently on her forehead. For three days they played some kind of game Honey never realized.

The game was chase and Honey was it. That Sunday morning he found her in the bathroom stepping out of the shower in preparation to go to church, and he pounced upon her, forcing her with his great strength and his superior weight against the cold tiles of the bathroom. He seemed so passionate when he entered her, and he seemed so grateful when he finished that she felt completely helpless afterwards.

Honey spent 20 minutes cleaning up the mess made with her blood, and the mess Bob made when he washed himself off on the bathroom sink. When she came out, she realized it was too late to go to church.

Bob was sitting on the couch packing his duffel bag, ignoring her, whistling some off key tune to himself, and immersed in some inner thought.

You know when my tour ends in 'Nam, I'll come back and we can do that again, he said his voice thick with satisfaction.

Honey issued an obligatory smile, but she said nothing.

You tell Floyd I'll see him in about six months, okay? he said, as he threw the full bag onto his back. He came closely to her. We'll keep this encounter our little secret, okay?

Honey nodded, but again she said nothing. Bob came to her and kissed her on the cheeks, then without taking leave, he was gone.

Floyd and Florence would be home this evening. Everything had to be right and clean. Honey set herself about cleaning the house she and Bob destroyed in his game. She didn't want to tell Floyd, but she didn't know why. She thought about what had happened, but she wasn't certain Floyd would be sympathetic. After all, Bob had been here before, and Floyd treated him like royalty because he was a sergeant in the Army.

Things were different now. Honey could not go to school and be the same way as before. The Friday after the rape, Honey asked to borrow the car so she could go out. Floyd gave it to her without hesitation with the caveat to stay away from Porky's. Honey solemnly promised, jumped happily into the car and made straight for Porky's.

Honey parked the car close to the street where boys and men cruising in their machines would have a good first look before they passed through the drive-in. It was already dark, and soon the parade would begin. She ordered a cheeseburger and French fries, but she let them get cold as she sat quietly, one knee propped up on the dashboard, the other leg hanging freely, swinging aimlessly.

Next to Honey's car pulled in a man only slightly older then her driving a station wagon. Honey liked him immediately, but she continued her little act, aimlessly watching the entrance to the drive in as she picked at her decomposing supper. After several approving glances and the heart-pounding echoes of the music of nearby car radios, the man was in her car, hungrily gobbling down her meal.

I'm Mike, he said as he stuffed his mouth with French fries.

I'm Honey, she said.

You're kidding, said Mike.

No, really. I'm Honey. That's my name, she said.

What school do you go to?

Grant.

I went to Marshall.

Went?

I graduated last year.

What are you doing now?

Salesman. Honey stared into the blue eyes of Mike. She liked what she saw. He appeared to like what he was seeing.

So, he began slowly. You want to go somewhere and make out?

Honey was stunned. She could not answer. She recalled Bob's moment or two of extreme pleasure. She recalled how painful it was when he penetrated her. She did not want to relive it. But she wanted to be with this stranger.

I can't, Honey pleaded.

Why not? Don't you like boys?

Of course, I do. I just don't want things to get too far,said Honey.

Great! Neither do I. Start it up! Let's get going! They left Porkey's in her car. Mike gave directions. First, a few blocks here, and then a few blocks there, then there, then stop here. He came to Honey and they embraced. He left so good to her. They kissed. Within her welled up something which felt so good, she felt and uncontrollable rush come over her. They kissed seemingly without stop. She could not resist. She brought his hand to her. He did not hesitate.

She knew she would never forget this night.

Back at Porky's, Honey ordered extra napkins. Mike wiped his face thoroughly. She felt so clumsy. He looked so hurt. I'm sorry I got so much on you, but that is the first time... began Honey lamely.

Yes, I know, Honey, said Mike. It's the first time for me too. I expect payback, he declared. He smiled as he handed her the used napkins. He smiled and kissed her. I want to call you."

Honey wrote her telephone number down on one of the napkins.

How does church sound?

Church? Mike repeated unbelieving. You gotta be kidding.

It's a good place to be together, said Honey.

And where we were wasn't?

Where we were was great, too, but there was something... not there, said Honey struggling with her explanation.

Not there? You mean there was no romance. Oh, yes, I know what you women need all the time is romance and clean sheets. Fine! I will call Sunday for directions to your church, said Mike. Honey wrote the address of the church on another napkin and handed it to Mike just before he left.

The next night, Saturday, Honey and Florence sat together on the sofa watching a television program on circuses. Into the house stormed Floyd and Brother Roland, the assistant pastor to the Southern Avenue Bible Church. They sat on the sofa with Honey and Florence.

Florence, we are changing churches, declared Floyd.

Changing? Why? asked Florence, trying desperately to divide her attention between the television and the two new arrivals.

Because, interjected Roland. The snakes of Satan have invaded and are taking over. Niggers! They are allowed there.

We are changing churches because of that? asked Honey.

You be quiet! stormed Floyd. You have nothing to say about this, Honey!

I don't understand why we must leave the church, said Florence. Brother Roland, you're still assistant pastor there, aren't you?

I'm gathering support to leave the church so that we may found our own, said Roland. I need help and commitment from God-fearing, hard working people such as yourselves that you will be the bedrock upon which we can build a church, one according to the precepts of the Holy Bible.

We doing all this just because a few niggers are coming into my church? asked Florence.

You don't understand. The Bible says that the races must not mix. We owe it to ourselves to keep the white race pure. Do you want a slimy nigger fondling your daughter, perhaps even deflowering her? asked Roland.

No, but they're not like that...

Florence, you can't be serious, said Floyd. Of course they're like that!

Floyd, they are not. Besides, not one works at the plant with you, so how would you know? said Florence.

You don't live near them and they aren't allowed in our church, so how do you know? retorted Floyd.

Floyd, niggers are no more harm to us than anyone else! Brother Roland, you should be ashamed of yourself, asking us to leave the church just because you hate niggers! said Florence, her voice raising in volume.

Oh Lord, pleaded Roland, his hands raised to the ceiling in supplication as he came to his feet. Floyd obediently bowed his head. This woman is lost in her wicked ways. I pray to the almighty God that she be freed from the demons that possess her.

Honey watched as her mother became increasingly angry with each word Roland submitted to the Lord in prayer.

I pray, Lord, she be brought out of the wilderness that is her love for the mongrel race, prayed Roland.

Now, Florence was angry, as angry as Honey had ever seen her. Honey remembered her mother's face when she, as a four year old child, tipped over a bowl of cold chilli while trying to retrieve something from the refrigerator. But before Honey on her mother's face was an expression rage such as she had never seen.

Florence came to her feet with her teeth clenched and her fists formed.

You leave my home this instant, Bother Roland. Or, I should not even call you a brother. You're not even a man in Christ! You're in Satan's grip yourself! shouted Florence.

FLORENCE!! shouted Floyd. You apologize this instant to brother Roland. And then you pray to God for forgiveness!"

Honey held her breath and watched her mother as Florence held her anger and her fist formed tightly for a few seconds more before she shuddered, then dropped to her knees. She asked Roland for forgiveness, tears streaming down her face, her voice filled with submission in a whining high pitched resonance.

Roland and Floyd both came to their knees. Roland signaled Honey to join them, but she resisted. Roland insisted with an even more animated hand signal. Honey relented. She came to her knees beside Roland.

Roland led the prayer. He smelt of shaving cream and Swiss steak. All eyes were closed. Honey felt a meaty hand on her waist as it rubbed gently ever so inexorably going to her rear.

Honey wore a skirt and fingers began to make their way in. Honey opened her eyes to see it was Roland's hand. She looked at the pastor, who merely winked and smiled as the sensuous caressing continued. Honey cocked her elbow, and then sent it smashing into Roland's ribs. Roland lost breath for but a moment, but Florence and Floyd did not seem to notice the brief interruption.

The next morning, the Rimeolas all went to Roland's and Mabel's house. Mabel was not a pretty woman. She was skinny and her complexion was bone white. She wore flesh color stockings and flat shoes. Her dresses were almost always congregation discards and they were tattered. Her eyes never seemed to leave the floor and her hair was always curly, yet not coiffed. She wore plain wire-framed glasses. In all the months since Roland had come from nowhere to become assistant pastor, Honey had never seen Mabel say anything to anyone, even to Roland. A few others in the Southern Avenue congregation gathered at the plain framed two bedroom home. A few hymnals were brought in, albeit a couple from Southern Avenue itself, and someone passed around copies of a church service which had been run off the church mimeograph. The service was short but uncomfortable.

People were packed shoulder to shoulder in the clean, but musty smelling wood frame house. Throughout the service Honey kept her eyes on Mabel. When the service thankfully ended, a few of the adults gathered together in informal groups and discussed how to bolt the church.

As the men talked, Honey went to Mabel. Honey smiled and said hello to a visibly uncomfortable Mabel. Mabel cracked a tiny smiled in a faint attempt at cordiality, but she was very good at hiding her feelings with her face. Mabel's lips were eternally pressed tightly together and they were thin. Her jaw was taut.

You never smile, observed Honey. Why?

Mabel seemed for a moment unmoved to reply. I am happy. I reserve all my outward expression of joy for the Lord, said Mabel quietly.

You mean for Roland, said Honey.

I mean for the Lord, shot back Mabel, who was unamused at the prying questions directed at her. The question seemed to Honey to bother Mabel, but Mabel resisted elaboration.

The meeting broke up quickly. Plans were made to move Roland and Mabel out of the house and into another. Southern Avenue had to be informed this very day, it was agreed. Floyd stayed at Roland's to prepare for Roland's move, while Florence and Honey drove home together.

Mom, why doesn't Mrs. Miflis ever smile? asked Honey.

She reserves all her outward joy for the Lord, said Florence.

She told me the same thing, said Honey.

You asked her?

Yes, I asked her because she seems unhappy with Brother Roland, said Honey.

These are not good times for her, said Florence. They are breaking away from the church. They will be living in poor ways until this new church can be built. The reply was plausible for Honey. But she pondered instead about the night before.

Why did you back down from Brother Roland? asked Honey.

Honey, I did not back down. I saw the light, replied Florence. Her voice was sweet and thick. Honey didn't believe her.

You backed down, Mom. I saw you. You thought Roland was going to hit you! said Honey. What are you afraid of?

You know your father would never have allowed that to happen, said Florence.

He would have helped Roland! said Honey.

Honey, this is not funny, said Florence. You stop it with this talk. I'm warning you!

I'm not making jokes, Mom, said Honey. He was going to hit you, wasn't he?

No, he wasn't!

You're lying, Mom!

Florence backhanded Honey hard in her mouth. But no words came from Florence. Honey felt anger, but for her father and for Brother Roland. Mother did not hit her. It was the thickly meated fist of Roland.

The next Wednesday Mike called. He immediately apologized for failing to call and he asked for directions to her church.

Honey described the circumstances surrounding her parents leaving the church, but Mike was silent on the other end of the line. It was as if he wasn't listening to her. She gave the address of Roland's home, warned him about Mabel and then hung up. She started thinking about him, and she felt something very warm for him.

As Honey walked home from school the next day, Mike came rolling by in his car.

Let's go! he exclaimed opening the car door for her.

Go? Where? she asked as she climbed in.

Have a party.

I need to tell my folks, said Honey.

You tell them, and they will never let you out of the house, warned Mike. Honey thought about it for a moment.

Mike was right. One word about this salesman and her love would die. She would be grounded.

Let's go! she said as he sped off. Mike drove them to Norman and pulled the car through a series of turns in some back wood dirt roads stopping when they came to a thick grove of black oak. He stopped the car and lit of a cigarette. It smelled funny to her. He gave it to her.

Take a puff. Hold it in, advised Mike.

What is it?

It's marijuana, said Mike.

Panic gripped her for a moment. Those films and the lectures in health class they have, all came back to her. She wanted nothing to do with all the wretchedness it entailed.

Don't make me do this, pleaded Honey. I don't want to die. I don't want you to hurt me.

What the fuck are you talking about? asked Mike in a falsetto. He acted as though he wanted a reply. Okay, agreed Mike. I didn't bring you here to hurt you. If you don't want to smoke that's fine with me.

Mike, that drug: you'll lose control.

Mike smiled and then he laughed. I was kinda hoping you'd lose control, he said. He handed the marijuana to her again.

It's not dangerous. You smoke it and you feel good for a while. It's as good as you sitting on my face, except there's no mess and no hang-ups afterwards.

Honey reluctantly took a puff. The smoke was thick and the odor was strange to her. She coughed as she tried to hold it in her lungs.

Before long Mike was laughing and making jokes about anything he could see. He seemed to feel good.

Mike laughed until tears came to his face. The revelry went on for thirty minutes. Mike lit up another one. Honey shared the cigarette again.

This time it hit. There was something funny in all this after all. Everything was cause for a joke. She told them as well as he did. When the sun came down, they both fell asleep in each others arms on the hood of Mike's car. When they woke it was very late. Panic again gripped Honey. She was far from home with a man she only knew for a few minutes, and she was depressed.

Mike woke and lit up another cigarette. Honey shared it and then calmed down, again. Everything was all right. She fell asleep in the car on the way back. When she woke, she found Mike had parked in front of her home.

It was fun, said Honey preparing to exit the car. Mike had a funny look about him and she knew it was not because of the marijuana. He grabbed her hand gently and brought it to him. He rubbed for her.

Payback? he asked softly.

I can't, she pleaded. I'm in front of my parent's home. I can't let them find out.

They're asleep. They won't know.

Honey could not resist him. Mike grabbed her neck and he brought her to him. She felt humiliation as he gave her instructions on how to avoid rubbing him with her teeth. Mike refused to let her go until he was finished. As soon as he released her she opened her door and spat.

I didn't like that, Honey said almost gagging. I don't think I should see you anymore.

Why? I love you, pleaded Mike as he grabbed her hand and squeezed.

You don't make someone you love do that, argued Honey.

But it makes me feel so good, said Mike softly. I love you for it.

Honey could not resist him. She came to him and embraced him, and then she kissed him. If you love me, then you'll marry me, said Honey.

Mike smiled expansively. You want to marry me?

Mike started the car and drove away from Honey's home in a cloud of dust down Southern Avenue, to a cheap motel near the meat packing plant by the Canadian River. They spent the rest of the night in bed.

When Friday came, Mike found a pastor to marry them.

Are we going to tell your parents, now? asked Mike that Friday night.

They'll find out soon enough, said Honey.

Perhaps we should call them, suggested Mike.

In time, my love, said Honey.

When Sunday came, Mike and Honey went to Roland's house. The new congregation was gathered there preparing the worship service. She and Mike came in linked arm in arm. They were greeted with a cry of relief by Florence.

Mama, I'm married! exclaimed Honey.

Florence's jaw dropped. But why didn't you... Florence began as she started crying. She reached for Honey and they embraced.

Florence shook with her sobs. People in the home started gathering and asking about Florence. Florence stopped with her catharsis and turned to introduce Mike as her new son-in-law.

The congregation let loose a congratulatory cheer. Honey shook so many hands, few of which she knew to whom they were attached.

Roland was nowhere to be found and neither was Floyd. When Honey asked, Florence simply shrugged her shoulders. Mike was completely alight with all the happy and encouraging advice proffered him, so much so he failed to see the two well-dressed men who came into the home.

Mike Viscule? said one of them a tall hulk wearing sunglasses and a gray suit. Mike turned to see who was speaking to him.

FBI, said the other. You're under arrest for AWOL, said the agent, as they gently led him to the nearest wall to search him and to handcuff him.

Honey was unable to speak for a moment. Then she quietly started to ask what was happening. The two FBI agents said nothing to her as they led Mike outside. Honey started to cry.

The congregation which gathered around her before was equally shocked, but they were mute as well.

I'm sorry, said Mike just as they were placing him in the back of a black Ford sedan. My name was the only thing I told you that wasn't a lie. I'm going to 'Nam. Find me at Ford Ord in California. Get there before too long!

Chapter 3

The busride to Monterrey was interminable. For Honey, this time was endless days and dark nights in which she tried to sleep and she worried about her mother. Florence felt sorry for Honey when the FBI came for Mike, but Floyd was not. He ranted and yelled at Honey for four hours after they got back home about Mike's service status. Honey was miserable.

Floyd continually made repeated telephone calls to Roland trying to get him to come over to discuss the problem with Honey, but Roland could not be found.

Florence was captivated with Mike and his sudden appearance in Honey's life. His sudden disappearance was painful for Honey, Florence knew that, but she could not intervene for her. Florence hesitated in a lot of things with Honey because Floyd wanted his way on certain matters. Florence felt Honey had contempt for her because of her own hesitance in dealing with Floyd. Florence cried alone that night before she laid down. She told Floyd that Mike looked much like Floyd did when she married him.

Floyd failed to see the similarities and was not softened by Florence's attempts to soften his anger. I would not abandon my country in time of war! he declared, his fist and jaw tightened and his face reddened. All Florence could see was the young, strong face of Mike when he stopped by the church. Florence feared a reproach from Honey for crimes much more severe than that. Florence had done nothing to make Mike comfortable with her and Floyd.

Someday, Florence secretly hoped, Mike would understand that it was the suddenness of it all that they displayed, not their feelings for their daughter.

Florence and Floyd were married just before the Korean War under much the same circumstances. Florence did not feel as comfortable with asking Honey if Mike forced himself on her. Floyd had, and for days Florence plotted to return to her own parents. Years later she figured out Floyd probably sensed it. And for those next three nights following her decision to leave him, Floyd was more gentle, much more so than before. Her will to leave melted as those days passed.

Florence was startled when Honey told her about the cost of a bus ticket to Monterrey. That was a lot of money, Florence told her, and with all the resources being devoted to the building of the new church, Florence was certain Floyd would be against it.

The next morning, Floyd left for work at the mill, and Florence was cooking a breakfast of oatmeal and toast when Honey came to the table looking tired. She mixed herself a strong cup of instant coffee. A copy of the Oklahoman lay on the table before her. Mainly it was more war news. Hue was being relieved by US forces. A new offensive was being planned. It entailed a high body count confidently predicted by an unnamed source.

Florence served Honey the oatmeal.

How are you feeling today? asked Florence.

I'm so tired, said Honey.

Too tired for good news?

Honey slowly shook her head. Florence laid $200 on the table.

Honey was agape at the sight of such a wad of cash. Florence was giddy.

After you live with a man 20 years, you come to know what works and what doesn't, Florence explained. I know what will ease your father's pocketbook.

Honey took a bus line into Fort Ord and straight to the Provost Marshal's office. She stood before an unsympathetic captain named Prescott who wore black horn-rimmed glasses and who dressed in wood-hard pressed khakis. His eyes reminded Honey of a beetle. She didn't even read his name plate.

There is no Mike Viscule here, stated Captain Prescott in a monotonous voice.

He told me to meet him here at Ford Ord, protested Honey.

I can't help that. Did he say what unit?

No.

Are you certain he was in the Army?

I didn't know he was in the Army until the FBI came to get him.

The captain thought for a moment.

If he was brought back to Ord, we would have gotten him to return to his unit, thought the captain aloud. I will enquire for you. Until then, there is nothing I can do for you. Come back tomorrow.

While on her way out, Honey noticed a group of young men and women, all with long hair and wearing jeans and t-shirts gathered just outside the guardhouse which straddled the main entrance. The group carried Stop the War placards and signs. As the bus passed by slowly, some of the riders, all of them enlisted men, leaned out of the bus windows and shouted out insults and expletives at the oddly peaceful group

Fuck you, you fuckin' faggots!

You smell like shit and you look like it, too.

FUCK OFF, you goddamn communists!

But, to Honey's surprise, none of the peaceful group responded with anything approaching the vigor of their tormentors. They instead smiled, exchanged two finger salutes for one,and chanted slogans and sang songs. Honey had seen these protesters before, on television. But they had been confined to a tiny gray-green screen. Here they were real and in color.

Honey found a cheap ten-room motel near both the outbound busline and the Fort Ord busline. A fat, balding man who wore a sleeveless t-shirt and chomped on a filterless cigarette, helped her register with hardly registering a glance in her direction. Her room was a tiny tile covered concrete floor cell. She could smell the mustiness which seeped through the white sheets. The television picked up on a local station and the transmission was gabled. But it was in color. The bed was lumpy but that did not stop her from sleeping until almost noon the next day.

Honey passed through the post gate where the day before protesters were, and they were there again today, still chanting slogans and singing songs, responding to taunts in an unnervingly easy way.

The duty sergeant at the provost marshal told Honey she should come back the next day to talk to the captain.

Crestfallen, Honey returned to her room and slept with the television on all night long.

That evening, the commanding officer of Mike's infantry unit waited for Mike at the provost marshal's office. Mike was escorted to an interrogation room, and told to sit.

Into the room strode the captain full dressed in forest green parade uniform. Two hollow eyed guards entered the room as well. Mike sneered at him.

Got your ass, private, said the captain to Mike.

Mike simply looked up at the officer as he lit a cigarette. Mike sneered again at the captain.

You think we are just going to let you sit in the stockade and rot until your UD comes through. Mister, I am here to tell you you figured wrong, said the captain.

You send me to 'Nam and I’ll own your ass, sir, spat Mike.

That's a threat if I ever heard one, replied the captain.

It takes you motherfuckers so long to figure things out, said Mike his voice laden with contempt.

The cockiness of the swaggering officer melted in an instant. The captain threw his cigarette to the floor, and then he struck Mike squarely in the jaw. Mike went crashing to the floor.

I ought to have your ass court marshaled right here and now, but with all the faggots running the country right now, they'd probably give you a medal! shouted the captain as guards helped Mike back to his seat.

It's alright, sir. Just like I told you, I'd just tell them to shove their medal up their ass anyway. It'd save me the embarrassment of telling them you're my C.O.

The captain lit another cigarette and leaned in closely to Mike.

Here is how it will be. By 1000 hrs you will be on a Huey on your way to Vandenburg, where there will be a MAC transport with a Da Nang terminus. I am flying your ass to 'Nam with the rest of you eggheads. When you get there, say your prayers. You'll be transferred to an engineer company. A fucking year in the bush digging zipperheads out of the slime and mud. Do you or your smart mouth have anything to say about that? The captain signaled the guards who then grabbed Mike, and carried him to the jeep and the heliport.

Mike knew this was his end, finally. The stories he heard about fighting in the jungle would spring to life, and would probably bring his death. He wanted to cry for never having seen Honey in time, nor his wife in Abilene, Texas. Never to hold them against and find comfort in them.

As the guards loaded him onto the helicopter, he shed a tear longing to say his goodbyes to Honey. He thought about all those minutes he spent with her and with his other wife. He recalled them for they would be the only things to keep him going and alive.

The turbine engine of the helicopter spun up to an unimaginable pitch as the blades started to turn. Soon Mike was caught up in the maelstrom the dust and wind which swept into the cabin. A ground crew closed the door, and with a mild jolt, the Huey was airborne. As the pilot started a sudden turn, an irregular jolt knocked Mike slightly forward, then an instant later the irregularity became more and more pronounced. Mike then realized the helicopter was going down. Debris started to hit the cabin and break plexiglass .It all went quickly for before Mike could realize the conclusion his life was ending, the helicopter plunged into the ground. Mike’s last conscious thought was watching a fireball engulf him.

The next day, Honey came to the provost marshal’s office to see Captain Prescott. He was at his desk. He seemed to be waiting for her. He seemed distracted by something. He politely showed her a chair, and she sat.

I can’t find your husband, he confessed.

So what am I to do?

It don’t make a damn to me, lady. I think the man you married screwed you and left you. Whoever this Mike is or whatever the hell his name is, he ain’t in the army.

Why would he lie? asked Honey,her voice breaking.

Why are you asking me? I don’t know. Trust me, we don’t treat women that way. Now, you can get your ass back on the bus and back to wherever you came from, and stop bugging me. I have a war to win, said the captain.

Honey was shattered with the news Mike lied. He was never in the army. How could a man love me so much, and then lie to me, she thought.

Honey returned to the motel, and started perfunctorily to pack for home. Afterwards she went to dinner and then came back to watch television.

Honey was readying herself for bed when a knock came at the door. When she opened it, she saw it was Captain Prescott from the provost marshal office, minus the glasses. His uniform was unkempt and he appeared to be completely drunk.

May I come in? he slurred.

Honey could smell the liquor well into the room. It permeated the air around the captain. She shook her head no.

Aw, come on. I have news about your husband. I lied.

Honey did not hesitate. She let the captain pass into the room. He almost fell forward getting passed the door, then he tripped landing onto the bed. As soon as he was in the room, he jumped to his feet and then bolted the door shut. He began to remove his clothes.

Honey’s blood began to run cold.

What are you doing? she asked trying to exude calm despite her voice breaking.

Now, there is a very old tradition inn the army which says that anytime an enlisted man gets sent to war, his commander gets first crack at his wife. The captain still before her completely aroused and completely nude. I have that honor.

I let you in because you said you had news about my husband," Honey said with fear growing in her.

Right, right. Well, here it is, he said showing himself to her. I’m him. You come over here and wrap those lovely lips around me!

Mike! shouted Honey. What happened to him. She was now in tears.

"What the hell do you