Note from Jake Rivers
This is my sixth semi-annual "invitational". The initial one was based on the Statler Brother's song, "Bed of Rose's". The second used the Marty Robbins El Paso trilogy: "El Paso", "El Paso City", and "Faleena". The third had stories based on the various versions of "Maggie May" or "Maggie Mae". The fourth invitational was based on any Country & Western song and the fifth on songs by Merle Haggard.
The current invitational is based on any song written or performed by Willie Nelson.
I've chosen "I Love You Because" that Willie Nelson, among others, sang. Thanks for reading this fictional story, and know that I appreciate all your votes, comments and feedback.
Trying was useless, and Wade understood that. As a young boy, he'd tried to behave only to have his mama whip him so bad the bruises stayed for a month. By twelve, his attempts to stay away from trouble resulted in broken arms and ribs. Before he was nineteen, he had given up all efforts.
It wasn't long before his so-called friends talked him into a crime spree. For fifteen years, he'd been behind bars more than on the street. Each time he'd tried to turn his life around, something knocked him back down. With his latest boss stomping through the warehouse aisles now, Wade knew nothing had changed.
"Flynn, yer fired. I warned ya ta keep yer hands clean. Git yer stuff outta the locker room'n git ta the office fer yer pay. See if'n I hire me another con agin," the pudgy man yelled. "Yer all worthless. They aughta' put all yer sissy asses in'a room an let ya fu—"
Wade didn't stick around to listen to the rest of the man's tirade. He'd heard the same thing before anyway. The bored redhead sitting in the dingy office figured out his hours, taking her time to write out a check, daring him to complain. Tossing it his direction, she picked up her nail file and turned her back to him.
Check in hand, he walked out.
"God damn this town! There has to be somewhere better than this!"
Eyeing the almost empty gas gauge, Wade decided there was enough to make it to the run-down trailer park across town. He'd cash his paycheck and put some gas in the truck in the morning, then hunt for a new job.
Stale cigarette smoke, old beer, body odor and cooking grease mingled to leave a horrid stench. The rickety screen door sprang back on its rusted hinges as he went inside. A judge berated those in her courtroom on the old TV in the corner. Piles of clothes, clean and dirty, littered the worn carpet and hid the recliner. Torn cushions covered the sagging sofa. This was his reality; what he called home.
"Ain't time ta be home," a raspy voice shouted from the corner.
"Short shift today, Lou," Wade replied, kicking aside an empty pizza box on his way to his room.
There was no reply, nor did Wade expect one. The old man had already gone back to watching his television show. His mother's third husband, Lou had taken him in when there was nowhere else to go. She'd died in a car accident while Wade was in prison, and he had no siblings. It wasn't as if he didn't pay more than his share though, Wade thought as he closed out the noise and stench.
Dozing on the lumpy mattress, the unmistakable rumbling of a train woke him. He waited for the whistle, knowing it would be next. The tracks ran right next to the trailer park, a perfect view from his window.
Today he wanted to pack a bag, run alongside the slow-moving train, and hop into one of the empty cars. Visions of the bums he saw as a kid made him smile. Where would he end up? Would anyone miss him? The desire to leave was so deep, he found himself starting to sit up.
"Ah hell, I can't leave Lou," he muttered, resigned to staying.
The clanking of the wheels was almost hypnotic, and Wade fell asleep before the caboose chugged past his window. A cool breeze floating across his face woke him during the night. His alarm clock showed ten after three, yet Wade swore he heard the television.
"Now he's falling asleep in front of the damn thing? What next?" he whispered into the darkness.
Knowing it wouldn't do any good to wake the old man to get him to move, Wade rolled over and ignored the sounds. It was close to ten before he made his way into the cluttered living room the next morning.
"Lou, you need to get up and have some breakfast. It's time for your pills."
Wade touched the old man's shoulder, recoiling in shock. His skin was gray, mottled, and cold. Feeling for a pulse, he found nothing. The sounds of a morning game show droned on in the background, reminding Wade how he'd heard the TV during the night. Now it was obvious why. After dialing 911, he sat on the filthy sofa and waited.
He watched as they lowered the wooden casket into the ground a few days later. The pastor nodded and mumbled his sympathies before escaping into a blue mini-van. Any other time, Wade would have chuckled at how the man went out of his way not to touch him. Today, he just didn't care.
Slamming the door of the old pick-up, the words bubbled up in his chest. The last thing that had held him to this judgmental town was gone. Pulling out of the cemetery, Wade grinned for the first time in years.
It took less than a week to tie things up after his stepfather's death. The few items that weren't trash went under the topper of his old truck. Inside one of the storage containers, he'd hidden the lock-box that held the small amount of money he'd saved over the years. The total wasn't much, but it was a start.
Wade left the next morning, following the road to an unknown destination. He just knew that for the first time in years, he felt alive.
"Mr. Flynn," the dark-haired woman standing in the doorway said.
Holding his fingers up to get her attention, Wade stood.
"Follow me this way, please."
They stopped at a small office where she pointed to an empty seat, then slid behind the desk and sat down.
"My name is Suzanne Harwood. I'll be your new parole officer, Mr. Flynn."
Hearing those words coming from this woman somehow embarrassed Wade. The long list of misdemeanors and other offenses projected the image of a hardened criminal. He'd been on the wrong path for years, and deep inside he knew it.
Only half listening to her speech on the rules for reporting in, he tried to visualize a life without all the crap in his past being an issue.
"Do you have any questions, Mr. Flynn?"
"Where's the local employment agency?"
He watched as she scrawled something on his paperwork before replying. "I've already set up an interview for you at one of the local factories. They're looking for second-shift help, a straight forty-hour week."
"Thanks, appreciate it," he replied.
"It's just something I do, Mr. Flynn. I'll expect a report within two days on how the interview went. Here's the form, you can drop it off up front once you've completed it. Is there anything else?"
Shaking his head, Wade took the papers and stood. As with all his parole officers lately, he felt as if he left her office dirty when he walked out. He hated it and longed to know what it was to be clean.
His back ached and his feet burned. It was his third day at his new job and Wade hated it. The building didn't have air conditioning, and all the machines put out an exorbitant amount of heat. Yanking the lever to keep the production belt moving along, he felt the pull on his muscles and winced.
Sweat poured off his face and ran down his neck, saturating his collar. Even though he'd guzzled a bottle of water during his last break, his mouth was still parched.
Glaring at the over-weight shift manager as he tossed orders around from his glassed-in office, Wade wished he could just walk away. Already his past was out all over the factory, despite the promise of confidentiality on their employment forms.
"Boss wants ta see ya. I heard he's been missing his girl."
The voice came from his right, an unspoken challenge in it that Wade knew well. Reigning in his temper, he took off the heavy protective gloves and turned.
"Hope ya like em big."
Three steps took him within inches of the sneering co-worker. Wade didn't say a word, but he didn't have to. His fierce glare wiped the look from the man's face. Waiting until the bully moved back, Wade smiled at him and went to see the manager, knowing the outcome even before he got there.
The quaint town of Boden wasn't any better than the one he'd left. But it was as far as his old truck had taken him before it gave out.
Knocking on the rusty door, Wade shook his head at the piece of cardboard taped in the middle of it. The word manager printed in black marker was faded and stained from what he assumed was years of hanging there.
"Yep, bout time ya got yer ass up here, now git it inside."
Stepping inside the stuffy office, Wade felt his stomach lurch. Foul body odor and nauseating cigar smoke assaulted him and almost choked off his air. Years behind bars taught him how to project a blank look, and he called on that skill now.
"Yer not keepin' up, boy. All them machines down there need men runnin' em, not wimmen. Ya bin a wommen a time er two, eh girlie?"
"Sir, I'm working hard, but I've had to learn how to run the equipment on my own," Wade replied.
"Whatcha sayin' girlie? We ain't done takin' time ta teach ya'?"
"I understand everyone is busy."
"We don't gotta be busy. That's why we gots ya girlies fer," the boss said.
.... There is more of this story ...
Tear Jerker /