Friday, October 12, 2012

Part II is here! In Older Worlds: Donnie Bleeds

      In part II of the dark fantasy, In Older Worlds, a mystery connected to a strange stone stretches deep into the past.
      Jennie Stewart, a straight-A student, obsesses over the Mahesh cult, searching through old news papers for answers to something she's not even sure of herself.
      Under a burning eclipse a group of friends are viciously pursued by bullies into the Flumes, only to find themselves facing darker perils.
      Separated from the others, Rachel Varney crosses into another world, and Nancy Nash, having been there herself, comes home.

Read the first three chapters here!

Copyright © Robert Goble, 2012
All Rights reserved
Cover photograph © Rick Wallace, 2012

Not limiting the rights of the copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced in whole or in part, by copying electronically, printing, Emailing, faxing, photocopying, or stored or transmitted by any other means, without the prior written permission of the author. 

This is a work of fiction. The characters, names, incidents, and places are creations of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any likeness they may bear to any actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is coincidental.

Pony Rides the Sunbeam

            Bogie threw his keys on the kitchen table, and his dog, Barney, enthusiastically greeted him, nuzzling his legs and gently biting his hand. Bogie took a beer from the fridge and a box of dog biscuits from the cabinet. 
            “Miss me?”
Bogie tossed him a treat, which he made short work of.
            Barney followed him to the bathroom with a big, wide doggie grin, looking up almost worshipfully as Bogie relived himself. Together they went to the living room, where Bogie fell heavily onto the couch. He took a folded piece of paper out of the inner pocket of his black motorcycle jacket, then tossed the jacket on the easy chair his dad used to sit on, when he’d come home tired from work at Kennecott. Next to it was a framed photo of his dad and one burned-out candle in a dusty holder.
            Bogie turned on the television and stared blankly, letting the aggravations of the day pass through his mind. Scenes of a defiant Saddam Hussein mixed with a constant mental replay of his foreman accusing him of being inept. President H. W. Bush, not the image of a tough guy, announced more sanctions against Iraq for invading Kuwait, and that a massive build up of American and “coalition” forces was taking place in Saudi Arabia in anticipation for a possible attack to drive Saddam (Sa-damn Insane, as the joke went) back to where he belonged.
            The urge to quit work and join the Marines almost became overwhelming. Barney hopped onto the couch and snuggled his head onto Bogie’s lap.
            “Who’d take care of you if I went off to hump sand dunes and get shot at by rag-heads?”
            A contented Barney snorted and made himself comfortable. The television became unbearable as talking heads began to swooningly discuss Mikhail Gorbachev’s Nobel Peace Prize. Bogie turned off the television.
            “Should have given the damn thing to Reagan. Sort of discredits the whole Nobel thing, doesn’t it, boy?”
            Silence filled the room. Outside, evening light made the October trees glow. A car passed, blasting that stupid new song from the band Warrant, “Cherry Pie.” From the moment he’d first heard the song, he’d hated it.
He used the heels of his leather boots to move a stack of books on unexplained mysteries and solar phenomenon, accidentally knocking to the floor a couple of books on Philolaus and his Counter-Earth theory. “Antichthon,” he whispered.
Barney’s eyes shifted as Bogie reached for a manila folder full of papers, sitting on a shelf. He opened it. Inside were various notes he’d been collecting since the day Donnie—
Writing! Something had been written on the back of the map Donnie’s brother had given him. He unfolded it and let the afternoon sun that shined through the window reveal faint images of words that had been erased. He carefully studied it letter by letter, grabbed a pen and another piece of paper, and slowly transcribed what he saw.

Pony rides the sunbeam
Take me far away
Ere my Eden’s wind doth blow
In paths of light I stray

Pray my soul with the eagle’s cry
Will conquer the burning sky
            Let the vines of time cover their eyes
In older worlds I’ll stray

            “Shit!” Bogie whispered.
            Giving Barney an affectionate nudge to get him off his lap, Bogie stood, found a couple of No. 12 welding lenses he kept taped together on the shelf by his notes, and went outside. He put the lenses to his eyes and stared at the sun, until it fell behind the Oquirrh Mountains.


October 11, 1857

            Freezing wind disturbed river grasses. Coyotes kept their distance. Orrin Porter Rockwell lay still, below a starless sky and misty moon, prematurely awakened from a needed sleep. His hand slowly moved to his knife. Under orders not to shed blood save in self-defense, he waited and listened. His own men were farther away than the enemy bivouac—to which he was close enough to hear their snores—so the footsteps he heard had to have been a sentry posted to keep watch over the horses.
            Rockwell and his men had burned several miles of grass (essential to maintain livestock) ahead of the troops sent by President James Buchanan to wage war against the “rebellious” Mormons, take control of Great Salt Lake City, and hang its leaders. That evening he’d had the pleasure of listening to the campfire grumblings of Colonel Edmund B. Alexander’s infantrymen as news spread of raids destroying hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of supply wagons. The poor bluecoats shivered on winter’s doorstep without crucial provisions, and Colonel Albert Sidney Johnston’s troops, who’d left later from Fort Leavenworth,  wouldn’t be arriving for days, if not, weeks. The name of Lot Smith, the fellow scout responsible for the raids, was becoming infamous, and Rockwell quietly chuckled.
            Rockwell had ordered the burning of Fort Supply. A gristmill, a sawmill, a thresher, and more than one hundred log houses, had gone up in flames before his eyes. Stockade and straw disappeared in the billowing inferno, as property owners begged to be allowed the dignity to burn what they’d spent years building with their own hands. Fort Bridger suffered the same fate: two major outposts that wouldn’t fall into the hands of the U.S. military invaders.
            Echo Canyon, the same canyon through which the first pioneers had passed to enter the Great Salt Lake Valley back in ’47, had been turned into a fortified death trap should the troops try to pass, but it looked, instead, as if Alexander would attempt to bypass the resistance by following Ham’s Fork to make a turn through the mountains near Bear Lake, then take the city from the North.
          With first-hand memories of the Missouri mobbings; the cold-blooded murder of the prophet Joseph Smith, Rockwell’s personal friend; the expulsion of a peaceful people from their beautiful city, Nauvoo, Illinois, denied their American right to their freedom of religion, their sufferings ignored by an indifferent government, Rockwell wasn’t about to stand idle during this last and final outrage. When the call came from Brigham Young for him to saddle up and help hold back a third of the U.S. army to protect his people, he rode proud.
          A grunt and the sound of urine splattering nearby. His hand stayed close to his knife, but he relaxed, closed his eyes, and rested until the sun peeked through the sagebrush on the hillside above the creek.
It’s all wheat, he thought, then gathered his blankets.
            At camp he sent an express rider with a message to General Daniel H. Wells of the Nauvoo Legion, detailing the frustration and falling morale among Alexander’s troops. His stomach cramped with hunger as he cooked up what was left of some flour and water. His backside ached against the cold rock he sat on to warm himself by the fire. Several men studied a crude map. Someone mentioned Camp Winfield.
            “I was just there.” He turned to the men. “I need eight more to go in, play ‘em some music tonight” —music, meaning cowbells, pot lids, and anything else that would make noise in the dark and echo in the creek bottoms. “Keep ‘em on guard. Don’t let ‘em sleep.”
            “They been firing artillery,” one of the men said.
            “Raids got ‘em shook up. They’re positioned defensively.”
            Hoof beats drew everyone’s attention to the far side of camp. A large man rode in on a tired horse. He dismounted, led his horse to the creek, then walked to where most of the men had gathered around the fire. A couple of them silently parted to let him though. He lifted the coffee pot from the coals with a gloved hand then poured some into a tin cup—seemingly uninterested in asking the cup owner’s permission.
            “Orrin,” he said, lifting the steaming cup in salute.
            “Hick,” Rockwell said, then turned his attention back to the men studying the map.
            Bill Hickman, eyebrows arching over wild eyes, emanated a dangerous humor. He nudged a fellow and with a voice too loud for the frosty morning, said, pointing to Rockwell’s long hair, “Hangs like my horse’s tail. It’s what’s behind it you gotta watch out fir.”
          The conversation died. Several men moved away as if they’d suddenly forgotten something important. A younger scout, not much older than fourteen, paled, his eyes widening.
         Rockwell slowly turned, six guns bulging in his coat pockets. A grin grew under his wiry beard. “What’cha got for me?”
            “Sent my two brothers to watch them soldiers. Ain’t seen ‘em since. I think they took ‘em. But I did get word a massive herd of cattle just moved up Ham’s Fork. Five hundred head, maybe more.”
            The younger scout let out a sigh of relief and went about his business.
            “Tell me more,” Rockwell said.
            “It’s unguarded.”
       Several men exchanged glances. Rockwell folded his arms and stared thoughtfully at the ground. “Unguarded…doesn’t sound right to me. Could be a trap. We also gotta find out ‘bout those boys.” Turning to the others, he yelled, “What do you say we go have us a look?”


            “I guess we’re not making music tonight,” Henry Brown said. He adjusted the scarf that wrapped around his hat and chin. Sun-melted frost dripped from sagebrush and made a light mist in the low places.
         Sylvester Wilson, a fellow Legionnaire, rode as close as he could, singing, “Old Squaw-killer Johnston’s on the way, du-da, du-da; he swears the Mormons he will slay, du-da, du-da, day,” to the tune of “De Camptown Races.” He looked like a furry creature in his buffalo robe. When he quieted down, he leaned over and said, “That’s ol’ Bill Hickman. I heard he’s one of the men who set fire to the supply trains over Green River. Lots of wagons gone up in flames. Didn’t kill nobody.”
            Brown watched the man who rode alongside Rockwell. When Rockwell raised his arm for the riders to stop, the man beside him turned in his saddle and surveyed the group. Henry couldn’t look him in the eyes.
            Wilson leaned closer. “He was one of ‘em who stood up in the darkest days in Missouri. Fought the mobs. Protected our homes and families. Mobs would come take everything we had. They’d go take it back. Danites.”
            “Here we go again,” Brown said, thinking of his young, pregnant wife and his children left behind in the parched Tooele Valley west of the Oquirrh Mountains. Dirty, murderous Goshutes on one side, the U.S. army on the other, and crickets from above; all he could think of was whether or not they were getting a harvest without men or horses to do the harvesting. Would they starve? In the morning cold, burying his face deeper into his scarf, wondering why they were stopping, his molten anger at the Gentiles and their relentless anti-Mormonism hardened into something more than determination.
            Three men rode up from a small fork in the creek and joined Rockwell and Hickman.
            “I’ll be darned if that ain’t Lot Smith!” Wilson said.
            “What are they doin’ up here?”
            Rockwell made the sign to move forward. The Legionnaires followed. Bivouacked below were the men under Lot’s command, more than enough to double their forces.

            High on a bluff, lazing in the sun, and forgetting the morning’s stinging cold that harbingered the deadly snows of winter, Brown and Wilson waited for Rockwell and those he’d taken with him to scout the nearby hills for bluecoats to return—he hoped with news about the two missing men and a decision on what to do about the cattle (far more than Hickman had reported) that peacefully grazed in the low, grassy areas along the creek. When Brown had lost count at nearly a thousand he turned to Wilson and asked, “Is it true? What they say about Rockwell?”
            “Probably not. But what is it you’re asking?”
            “Did Brother Joseph really promise him if he never cut his hair no enemy would ever touch him?”
            “I’d say that story’s true. I can tell you he’s walked away from more tight spots than you or I ever would. He’s faced armed mobs, bad Indians, horse thieves, stagecoach robbers, drunken ruffians of every sort, and angry women all the same.”
            Brown laughed at the last item on the list. “I hear it was him tried to kill ol’ Governor Boggs.”
            “That devil had more enemies than the Mormons. He put out the order for our extermination, but I think whether any of us had vengeance in mind or not, someone else beat him to the punch. If Rockwell had fired the shots, ol’ Lilburn wouldn’t have survived.”
            “Pst!” One of Smith’s men waved for Brown and Wilson to follow. “We’re movin’!”


            Lot Smith tugged on the reigns, his horse turned, and he faced the assembling men. “We take the beef, we take their food, we take their food, they can’t take our homes!”
            Brown’s fists tightened. He braced himself in the saddle, waiting for the signal to charge. His body vibrated. When Smith said the word “homes,” Brown saw, in his mind, women, children, and elderly, once again loading their wagons, handcarts, wheelbarrows, anything that would take their humble belongings, and heading south to Spanish Fork, where they would await word to flee to Mexico should the army break through the rag-tag resistance in the mountains; their vacant homes and barns, filled with dry straw, with a few men left behind ready to burn what they’d labored ten years to build, the civilization they’d scraped from the desert valley floor.
            “Now, hold on!” Rockwell said to Smith. “I don’t like it. We haven’t scouted enough. This could be a trap. We should wait a little longer.”
            Smith, younger than Rockwell, shook his head and laughed behind his long, black beard. A few quiet seconds passed. He held out his hands as if nonplussed. “Hardly a picket guard and one damn wagon master! They couldn’t have handed us an easier victory!”
            Visibly flustered, Rockwell raised a finger to Smith’s face. “Ol’ Alexander’s discovered what a damn fool you are! There’s likely an ambush waiting in the thickets and bottoms!”
            The smile disappeared from Smith’s face. He sidled away from Rockwell, wiped his mouth with his coat sleeve, then jammed his spurs into his horse’s belly. “Ha!” he yelled. “Come on, boys!”
            “Damn you, Smith!” Rockwell hollered. He swung his horse around and made after him down the bluff. “You shit for brains! You’ll get good men killed!”
            As Lot’s men joined the charge, the rest of the Legionnaires hesitated, bewildered, waiting for a clear order to follow. Then Rockwell’s screaming voice echoed through the close hills. “Damn it, boys! What are you waiting for? Get your granny-arses movin’!”
            Brown and Wilson whipped their horses into a frantic gallop. Far ahead, Smith and Rockwell led the charging, screaming men. A few infantry guards scrambled in terror to drive the herd ahead of the charge. Brown raised his rifle and fired above their heads. Dirt from horse’s hooves flew into the air. Wilson hollered like an Indian and fired his pistol at the sky.
            The steers started away, a giant, bovine wall of frightened confusion. One line of men followed Smith alongside the herd to keep them from going farther up the creek. Several other men kicked up dust and aimed their rifles at the pale guards (boys barely old enough to grow whiskers), who, surrounded, raised their hands to the sky and surrendered, pleading for their lives.
            Rockwell whistled and yelled, “Separate the herd!” He pointed at Brown and Wilson. “You two! Take thirty head and drive ‘em up the bluff!”
            They slowed their charge. Whistling and hollering, they pushed part of the herd into the creek. As the cattle hit the water, they slowed and headed into the willows. Some stumbled, splashing over the bank. Brush and small trees, whipped and crashed. Clear, sparkling water churned to mud.
         Though Rockwell had said thirty, Brown counted forty-six head by the time they had their bunch separated and grouped at bluff. Many of the men already had theirs above the creek and into the sage.
           Lines of cattle pushed dust into the afternoon sky. The massive herd moved slowly from the meadows into the hills. Brown yipped and hollered until his throat hurt.
            Wilson caught up to him as they slowly moved on tired horses. He gestured with his head toward the other side of the creek. Soldiers, silhouetted against the sun, crested the hills. They seemed almost ghostly in the haze. Brown’s stomach hardened. He touched his rifle.
            “They been watching us for some time,” Wilson said. “Gotta be a whole company up there.”
            “What the hell are they doing? Why haven’t they attacked?”
         Wilson then tipped his head the other direction. Two Indians on horseback, barely discernable, watched from a distant hilltop. “Shoshone,” he said. “Gotta be more. I just can’t see ‘em yet.”
            “Why do I get the feeling there’s something else going on here?”
            “Because there is,” Wilson said.


            Tiny, glowing sparks from the fire floated into the sky as a light snow fell. Brown, Wilson, and several other men huddled together. Though they bragged from time to time about their role in the raid, hunger and fatigue subdued them.
            “Things are heating up,” Andrew Allen said. “Soldiers ain’t releasing Hickman’s brothers. Rockwell knew that wagon master. Called him ‘Rupe.’ Scared him such he blanched and about lost control in his breeches. Told him to tell Colonel Alexander we’d kill every man in his command unless he turns our men loose. Then he left the teamsters twenty head of cattle so they wouldn’t starve.”
            “I still don’t get it. At last count we drove away pert near thirteen, maybe fourteen hundred head, and the soldiers looked on like we was puttin’ on a show,” Wilson said.
            Brown, fighting to stay warm in a wet blanket, said: “I been expecting an Indian coup. Should have at least tried to stampede the cattle by now. They been poppin’ up more and more closer we get to Bridger.”
            “They’re interested in our movements, soldiers and Indians alike.” Allen said.
            The group stirred and turned to see who’d spoken. A man appeared, barely visible in the fire light and falling snow. Perkins, who’d united his cattle with Brown and Wilson shortly after the raid, reached for his rifle. Wilson put a hand over his arm. “Hold it!”
            “Who be you?” Allen asked.
          The man didn’t answer. Wearing rabbit fur pants and coat and wrapped in a buffalo hide, he motioned with his hand toward the fire.
            “Make him some room,” Wilson said.
          Brown scooted aside, and the man placed two deerhide sacks before him. When he sat down, he pulled back his hood, revealing the face of an Indian, perhaps in his thirties. He untied one of the sacks and lifted out a strip of dried buffalo meat, then passed the sack.
            Aishen. Thank you,” Wilson said.
            The man grunted, then opened the other sack, which nearly overflowed with pine nuts. He passed it around. Brown, sick with hunger, relished both the meat and the nuts in one bite.
            “Who are you,” Wilson asked.
            Ne Hinni?” Who am I?
            Wilson nodded.
            Wilson gave the name a try, then, pointing to himself said, “Sylvester.” 
            The other men introduced themselves, and Weahwewa nodded his head. When the men looked as if they’d had their fill, he produced a small pouch. Inside were finely polished stones, crystals and agates. He took one, placed it in Wilson’s hand, then placed another in Brown’s hand. He stood, leaving the sacks of food by the fire, and, without another word, left the group and walked into the snowy night.
            Brown held what he thought might be a piece of smoky quartz and admired it in the firelight.
            “So peculiar,” Allen said. “Don’t know if I’ll ever get them red men.”
            “I think he gets us,” Wilson said.

Tuesday, May 8, 1984

            “Sign here,” BJ said, pointing to a line on a sheet. A smiling lady, holding her baby, scribbled her name next to her voting information, then took a ballot.
            “I think she’s a Sadler.” Norm said. He shifted in his chair, smoothed down his tweed jacket, then straightened his tie.
            “Good family. No Rosa Jean minions there, I don’t think.”
            “Hope not.”
            “What are you reading?”
            Norm slid his newspaper to BJ. “Soviets just announced they’ll boycott the Olympics.”
            “No!” BJ laughed and looked over the article.
            “Can’t come up with anything original, can they?
            “Let’s see…bloody proletariat revolution? No. The French did that first. The bomb? They had to steal that. Most technological advancements? Nope. Had to steal those, too. Man on the moon? Nyet.”
“Ah! And I was doing so well.”
 "Don’t worry, they got it from the Germans. But you have to admit, we boycotted the last Olympics  over their invasion of Afghanistan and the UN’s apparent if not tacit support of it. And so why do they boycott this time? Um….” He read down the article. “The commercialization of the games. Wow! Oh. Here we go: lack of security for Russian athletes. The U.S. is using the games for political purposes, so that violates the Olympic charter. Why doesn’t this reporter state the obvious and say the Ruskies had nothing better than to respond in kind like kids on the playground. Does anyone actually take seriously their moral grandstanding?”
            “Maybe that would be editorializing.”
            “The pinko press editorializes all the time! Just look what they do to Reagan.”
            “Yeah, but the Soviet way of life is the great social hope for humanity. You can’t criticize it or you’d be anti-intellectual, unwashed.”
            BJ laughed through his teeth, tossed aside the paper, and looked at his watch. “Time to close the polls.”
            “Time to watch Magna become a city and the Rosa Jean minions get their comeuppance!”
            “You did see this other article, didn’t you?”
            “Which one is that?” Norm picked the paper back up, and BJ pointed to an article buried in the local news. “No, I didn’t. ‘MAGNA CITIZENS COULD PAY FOR THEIR CHOICE IN HIGHER TAXES.’ Who wrote this smut?
            “‘Kennecott and Hercules would provide the lion’s share of the tax base, up to eighty percent of the estimated $185 million assessed property valuation…increased to more than ninety percent when Kennecott completes its 1.2 billion dollar expansion project….The new city would be heavily dependent on the world copper market….A downturn in industry…taxpayers could be left holding the bag…massive increases…curtailing of city services….’ You’ve got to be kidding me!” Norm’s face turned red. “There’s nothing here about the potential for attracting massive amounts of business by lowering taxes and making city regulations business friendly, which is far more realistic. It’s a scare tactic, is all. Nothing here of substance. Let me guess…who did this reporter talk to?”
            BJ secured the ballot box with a padlock. “It’s not what it says that’s the problem. We’ve heard it ever since the incorporation question came about. It’s the timing.”
            Creating a large newspaper ball with several vigorous grips of his hand, Norm threw it as he would a basketball. It bounced off the side of the garbage can and landed on the floor.
            A woman spoke from among a small group of Rosa Jean supporters. “Good thing our councilmen are intent on cleaning up Magna. Littering is such a shame.”


            Had Jennie Stewart gone to observe the vote with Ms. Delfini’s class, she would have earned enough extra credit to rescue her straight-A report card, but she couldn’t stomach spending any more time around that woman than she absolutely had to, even if it meant her good grade. Instead, she happily indulged in her new obsession (added upon her many other obsessions, dark chocolate being one of them, Rob Lowe and Mat Dillon being a couple of others), the Mahesh cult. She asked herself how something so awful could be so interesting, then asked why she couldn’t take her eyes off the dead woman as she passed in the car? Why, in the third grade, she’d read every book in the school library on tarantulas? Why she’d spent the sixth grade reading about burn victims and first aid? The answer: just because. Underneath, a little voice said, Maybe because they scare you.
         “When Doves Cry,” by Prince, seeped softly from her radio. She didn’t sing along as she normally would have, but instead engrossed herself in a book about famous cults of the twentieth century. She found chapters on the Manson Family, the Symbionese Liberation Army and the Patty Hurst case, Children of God, Hare Krishna, Scientology, Jim Jones and the Jonestown massacre (sounded to her like acid rock bands), but nothing on the Mahesh cult. She noticed a pattern with some of them, how they seemed to have roots in the sixties counter culture and alternative philosophies. All of them had one thing in common: the sacrifice of individual freedoms.
            She closed that book and opened another. This had a small article dedicated to the Mahesh cult, with a badly printed black-and-white photo of a group of hippies casually standing together by a grossly decorated old bus. One of them in particular caught her attention. He had a handsome “Jesus” look. A form-fitting button-down shirt with unfastened sleeves added a slender attractiveness. She paid attention to the way the shirt opened over his chest.
            Everyone else seemed to radiate from him. A young girl with blond hair looked at him worshipfully, while another, a gypsy type, bowed her head in his direction but seemed to look at his sandals. Most of the group was female, with a few males woven among them, their faces blurred. But one face in particular stood out among the women, framed in long, straight, dark hair, stabbed with dark eyebrows, shining, vivid eyes, and a delicate chin. The attitude of superiority played a low, reactive note in Jennie’s stomach. She’d seen that look before…somewhere.
         The article read:

         Overshadowed by the Manson Family murders, this communal cult arose in San Francisco in the late sixties during what later became known as “The Summer of Love.” Sharing many similar characteristics to the Manson Family, this group of wayward youth centered itself around a charismatic leader, George Doyle Lutz, AKA “Mahesh.”  It has been reported that Lutz’ belief in a pseudo-Eastern mysticism and notions of an imminent collapse of capitalism was the driving force behind his teachings of apocalyptic environmentalism and race war.
          Lutz, known to be an avid reader, had a fascination with the books On the Road, by Jack Kerouac and Thoreau’s Walden, and also the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzche. He dabbled in the occult, encouraging practices that, through the aid of hallucinogens, would supposedly generate psychic visions.
          After a sojourn through Mexico, he and his growing band of followers retreated to the Rocky Mountains to prepare for the coming Armageddon. Their goal was to bring on this war by eliminating organized religion, something he saw as the only way to free humanity from the oppression that denied its authenticity and true potential. According to testimony during the trial for the murders of Bruce Royal Bills and Gary “Alabama” Mott, information came forward that their target was the leadership of the Mormon Church.
          A tip led to the raid on the communal farm in Henefer, Utah, where a large cache of drugs and guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition were confiscated. Along with Lutz, two other cult members were found guilty of aiding in the murders: Deborah “Shining Star” Louis and Stacey Leah Goodman. Though Goodman has since died in prison, Louis still serves her sentence of fifteen years to life. It is believed that others involved in the murders are still at large.

           Chills like thousands of tiny pin pricks raised gooseflesh on Jennie’s arms and neck. She looked up at her copy of Walden that sat on the shelf next to Leaves of Grass, her Jane Austen and L.M. Montgomery collections, the Bible, and the Book of Mormon. Her eyes narrowed on the picture of the hippie man, and she thought of “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci.
           “Walden? Mr. Lutz, you can’t have it!”


            BJ slowly placed the last ballot onto the stack, the stack that had been independently counted by Oliver Weissman. Oliver stepped back, stood tall, put his hands on his hips, much like the comic book version of Superman BJ had grown up with, took a deep breath, then said: “That’s it. The count’s in. You boys sure did put up a good fight.” He extended a hand to Norm, who paused ever so subtly before taking it.
            “All the precincts are in!” Rosa Jean said as she entered the polling area like royalty. “What’s our count here?”
            “Yea two hundred and eighty-eight. Nay four hundred twelve in this one!” Oliver said.
            “We carried every precinct!” she said.
           Norm quietly shut the books containing voter information and signatures, books that would go to the county offices. “Well….” He loosened his tie then let out a long breath. “Supper’s getting cold.” He lightly rapped the table with his knuckles, adjusted the lapels of his jacket, then walked to the doors without another word.
           “It’s an historic day!” Rosa Jean said.
           Gordie worked in the background, securing a distant hall. He became a wan shadow that reflected on the tile under security lights.
           Stacking chairs, BJ watched Delfini enter, followed by several students, probably working to get hands-on civic experience for her class. She gave Rosa Jean a cooing hug, kisses on both cheeks, then she turned her attention back to the kids. Gordie stayed in the background, probably waiting for everyone to leave so he could finish locking up. BJ sent him a subtle salute, which he returned with a wave of his hand.
On the way out the door, BJ saw Chap walking slowly to his car. His cane clicked on the concrete. In the mild night air, he closed the distance between them, his feet scraping in a way that made him feel not so young anymore.
           “Like a bite to eat?” BJ asked.
Chap hooked his cane over his arm, then fingered through his keys under the street light.
          “Feel like I’ve been bitten, rather,” he said, then opened his car door. “Think I’ll go home and have some herbal tea to settle my stomach.”
          “Yeah,” was all BJ could say.
          “You know, Magna will always be what it is. People get scared, never take the leap of faith that’ll carry them to their better potential. This place will dwindle, forget its heritage, and West Valley will grow to become an economic powerhouse. I can’t take the apathy anymore, BJ.”
          “There’s always next year.”
          “Nah. This might not come up again for a generation—if it ever will. We squandered our chance, gave up self-determination for a sense of security, security that will crush economic growth with its benevolence. The council will cry to the county for money. They’ll get their crumbs, the people will get fireworks and parades, but Main Street will never revitalize, because no business will be profitable being crushed between the weak economy and the indifferent county bureaucracy. They worship big government, my friend.”
BJ nodded his head.
          Chap struggled into his seat and set his cane on the floor on the passenger side. He sat quietly for a moment, then said: “Our immediate problem now will be the unions. They’re too stubborn to renegotiate. Kennecott won’t have any other choice but to lay off a lot of workers. This will be an even worse disaster for our community. You watch. The same people who supported this anti-incorporation campaign will support the unions in their quixotic crusade. They’re hurting us, BJ.”
          “They have a political monopoly here. How do we break its back?”
          Chap thought for a moment, then said: “Create a new town council and force the West Oquirrh Council to dissolve. Make it so we’ll all have to answer to the voters, instead of half of us being appointed by unions and local industry. Let the people of Magna decide. Haven’t you noticed lately a lot more of an independent conservative base has been moving into the newer neighborhoods? We have to tap into that.”
          “How do we do it?”
          Chap smiled. “It’s late. We’ll talk.” He turned on the engine and shut the door.
BJ watched him drive away. Listening to the crickets and feeling the loneliness of the parking lot next to the ball field, he felt tempted to leave his car and walk home. He kicked a small pebble, and it clicked, echoing into the darkness.

Thursday, May 10, 1984

          A workman, hands in dirty leather gloves, deftly twisted wires holding the new, gleaming chain-ink fence to its posts. Two others unrolled the heavy fencing as they went. Watching their progress, Dwight Donaldson, company president and major shareholder, probed, with his foot, deep ruts in the playground lawn left over from a cement truck that had filled the post holes.
An upper management suit, acting as an official escort, promptly began to explain: “We addressed the damage with the school district. We’re bringing in landscapers to—”
         “I’ll personally see to the expenses,” Donaldson said. “We’ll keep this on my books.”
         “Yes, sir.”
         After a quiet moment, Donaldson pointed at a slope north of the flumes. “I was born in the shadow of that hill.”
         “I beg your pardon?”
         “Ragtown. My father worked the mill.”
         “Ah! Yes. Ragtown. I’ve heard stories.”
        “What have you heard?” Donaldson asked, rearranging a small bundle of books and papers.
        “The early copper company had first built it to house workers. It eventually had to be moved because of heavy smoke from the mill and the old power house. There were also flooding and disease problems.”
        “You could taste the sulfur in the air. Could hardly grow so much as a potted flower, let alone a garden.”     
         Donaldson opened a manila folder that held several old black-and-white photos. Handing one to the manager, he said, “Tell me what you see.”
         After studying it, he pointed toward the hill. “I see the row houses, the old power house, several buildings that no longer stand.”
         Donaldson smiled. “Is that all?”
         “I’m not sure what you want me to see.”
         “That’s all right.” He took the photo and placed it back in the folder. Several people approached from the parking lot, and he turned his attention to them. “Our guests have arrived. Please see to it they get the very best treatment. Wherever I go, they can go.”
         “Yes, sir.”
The manager stepped aside.
         “Chap, you old rascal!” Donaldson said, vigorously embracing his friend. “Ruth!” He took her hand and kissed it.
         “None of that silliness!” Ruth said. “Come get a hug!”
         “Save some for us,” Sheryl said.
         A cool breeze harmonized with early summer sun.
Judith stepped forward, her eyes met Donaldson’s, and something inside, undimmed by old age, recognized the young woman he’d once worshiped—and for whom he’d spent his life secretly grieving. It should have been me, he thought. He brought her close, slender and frail in her soft sweater, letting her gray hair touch his face. He remembered sego lilies, a picnic at the base of Wild Cat Rock, and the touch of her youthful fingers against his.
         Unwilling to let the moment end, he offered her his elbow, and she took it.
         “New developments,” Chap said. “You’ve read the news. We lost the incorporation vote, or I should say Magna lost. And then there’s the girl….”
         Donaldson subtly raised the hand that held the books and papers. Turning to his escort, “It looks as though our party has increased in number. Would it be possible to find a vehicle that could accommodate us comfortably? I’d like to give them a tour to explain the new concentrator and modernizations. We’ll also be going to the smelter and then to the mine.”
         “Certainly, sir.” The manager turned to leave.
         “Oh! And by the way, please have a lunch prepared for when we reach the mine offices.” Waiting until the manager was out of ear shot, Donaldson passed his books and papers to Chap. “He’s green, but he’s a good kid. Hasn’t had the chance to truly piss anyone off yet. I don’t envy him.”
Chap held up the same photo Donaldson had shown to his escort. He squinted his eyes, laughed, shook his head, then put it back in the folder.
         “You know I had to stay neutral in that campaign,” Donaldson said.
         “The opposition has tremendous influence in the local press. We could have used more help there at least.”
         Donaldson sighed. “I have to be careful. I can’t show my hand.”
         Chap leaned on his cane and stared at Donaldson. “What would it have mattered at this time in our lives?”
         What’s the word on the missing girl?” Donaldson asked, changing the subject.
        “I’ve asked my grandson.” Judith said. “He shrugs and walks away. Something’s eating at him. I’ve approached him delicately. I might have to be more direct, but I suspect he’s passed through to the other world. If he hasn’t….”
         “I’ve taken small journeys.” Sheryl said. “I don’t have the strength to go for very long. There’s no telling how far she’s gone. I’ve left it up to Gordie. He hopes circumstances will be better than they seem.”
         Donaldson followed the trail on the other side of the fence with his eyes. Blocked. The grass might grow back until someone cuts the fence open again—always the same spot. Pointing to a worn, leather-bound journal, Donaldson said: “Find the map inside. I believe I’ve pinpointed the source of all our trouble.”
         Ruth took what Chap held except for the journal. He carefully turned handwritten pages, with the brown ink fading, and found a map showing sites of important actions that had taken place during President Buchanan’s “Blunder,” or what others called his “bloodless” war against the Mormons. “What did you see that I didn’t?”
         Pointing at thin lines indicating creeks and rivers, Donaldson traced a route from Big Sandy to Green River. “That dot is Camp Winfield. Just north of there is Ham’s Fork, which today is in southwestern Wyoming, formerly and briefly Utah territory.” He took a topographical map from Ruth and unfolded it. “Here’s the route Porter Rockwell took when he led the Legionnaires with about fourteen hundred head of cattle seized from the invading US army.” He cleared his throat. “Here’s where we lost track of the story, until I found this—Ruth, if you don’t mind…” Donaldson drew another manila folder from the bundle. “It’s a letter written by Sylvester Wilson, a legionnaire who rode in the charge with Rockwell and Smith to rustle the cattle. He describes being one of the few chosen to stay with the herd, while the others were sent to act as decoys for the troops who were following them, or at least to slow them down.”
         Chap took the folder and carefully studied the pages inside. “They rested at the Fort Bridger site, which had recently been burned, but then took a more southwesterly direction, crossed the Bear River, then passed through Echo Canyon. That makes sense.”
          “Let me see that,” Judith said. The others waited in silence as she read. She let her finger hover over a line. As if not wanting to lose her place, she seemed to try to keep an eye on one page and at the same time lift another page to take a second look. Then she read:

         “…we moved the herd north, toward Fort Buenaventura. The Shoshone joined us as we followed the river to good pastures and little snow. It was then Rockwell and the good Chief Washakie arrived. And who would be with them but that fool boy Nicholas. I was angry with him. He should have been helping with the harvest and the evacuation. He said he could do both, but his brother needed him for a short time. I told him I’m his brother, but Washakie looked at me such I couldn’t look him back in the eyes. He asked for our tokens. What followed, I’m not to speak of, but, Oh! The glorious sights mine eyes have beheld….”

         Judith raised her head. Her hand subtly trembled. Whether it was old age or excitement, Donaldson couldn’t tell.
         “Uncle Nick!” Judith said. “I remember sitting under the table at my grandparent’s home in Coonville when Uncle Nick would come by for a visit. He’s related to my mother’s side of the family through marriage. He always wore a hat because of the scar from the arrow that had pierced his skull. He was a very old man then. I was such a little girl. I would listen spellbound to his stories of when he ran away from the Grantsville settlement to go live with the Shoshone and his adventures as a Pony Express rider. Did you know the Shoshone really call themselves Newe? It simply means ‘people.’”
         “I thought you’d like to see that letter,” Donaldson said.
         “Where did you find it?”
         “I have my connections.”
         “Oh!” Judith slapped his arm. “You always do!”
         Chap raised a finger to catch the other’s attention, then folded his hands thoughtfully behind his back, took a few paces away from the new fence, then said: “So what was Buchanan’s blunder really all about? Was it to quell a nonexistent Mormon rebellion? He ran as a Democrat and beat Kit Carson, who ran for the newly formed Republican Party. The big issue of the day was whether Kansas would enter the union as a slave state or a free state. I often wonder how history might have changed had Kit Carson won the election. Would there have been a civil war? Perhaps. But Kit knew something about the West, unlike the soft Pennsylvanian who’d beaten him.
         “I’ve read many first-hand accounts of that war, from both the soldier’s side and the resistance, and I can’t help but make a few connections and draw a few conclusions. Individual soldiers footing across the plains under the summer sun often complained about their superiors’ inaction. Many of them had signed on, aching for a fight and a chance to shoot a Mormon. When they met resistance in the high country at the edge of the Utah territory, they often stood bewildered when the officers ordered them not to shoot. By golly! They’d been ordered to take control of something, but it sure as hell wasn’t old Brigham Young and his house full of wives!”
         Donaldson smiled. “Then you’ll enjoy this!” He withdrew another folder containing a letter incased in clear, plastic leaves. With it was a special permission slip from the National Archives in Washington, D.C.
Chap smiled, shook his head, and held it so the others could see.
         “I’ve had copies made for each of us,” Donaldson said. “But I wanted you to see the original before I took it back. It pays to be a close friend of the president.”
         Ruth’s voice took on a sharp quality. “Does he know? The president?”
         “To him I’m just an eccentric Old West history enthusiast. We used to ride horses together at his ranch in California when he was governor.”
         Sheryl spoke, adding pomp to her tone of voice. “It’s a letter from…drum roll, please…Associate Justice William W. Drummond, the old scoundrel himself!”
         “It was in his not-so-graceful letters to the press and to Buchanan when he charged that Mormons recognized no law but the leaders of their church, ignored the laws of congress and the constitution. Charged that they were in open rebellion to the federal government,” Donaldson said.
         “So…let’s see….” Sheryl said. “The pioneers entered the valley July 24, 1847. In their hardship they’d sent a battalion of husbands and fathers to aid the U.S. government in the Mexican-American war, which during that time is won, and the Guadalupe-Hidalgo treaty is signed. So suddenly finding themselves in federal territory once again, what’s the first thing they do?” She gasped then whispered: “They petition the U.S. Congress for territorial status, then statehood! Very rebellious! No recognition of Congress or the Constitution! For their first Independence Day celebration, they unfurled a large American flag at Black Rock. But wait! This hadn’t long before been Mexican territory when they unfurled the flag. Very unpatriotic—should have unfurled a Mexican flag, maybe?
         Donaldson added: “Instead of letting the Mormons govern themselves and elect their own leaders, the feds send a bunch of federal officers openly hostile to the Mormons and are then surprised when the good Governor Young—legally governor according to federal law—starts using his authority to reverse bad decisions and circumvent actions that ran against the rights of the free people. To top it off, they send Drummond, who abandons his wife and children and brings with him a prostitute as his consort. Then he turns around and attacks the Mormon’s practice of plural marriage—that, right or not, good or bad, wasn’t against any federal laws at the time, mind you!”
         “So what did he have to say that we haven’t already heard?” Chap asked.
         “This little goodie was written in a simple diary code that became common during the civil war,” Donaldson said. “I believe it was the letter that started it all, though its accompanying map is missing. From the descriptions, it’s easy to guess what he was writing about.”
         “Very sophisticated,” Sheryl said.
        “I actually broke the code myself, but I recruited some trusted help at Langley to add a second opinion in case I’d overlooked something.”
         Judith poked him with her elbow. “Oh! Get on with it!”
         He put his arm around her and brought her closer. “You do the honors.”
         Judith took the paper and read:

         “Numbered on map:
         1 Sacred Indian site confirmed near settlements west of Great SL City, north end of western    mountains. Base of foothills near Hastings’s Cutoff.
         2 Thirty miles east of city along river just north of Echo Canyon mouth.
         3 Shoshone territory near Teton Mountains, land of volcanic curiosities. Pocatello and Crow in competition for site.
         4 Cave forty miles southeast of city and west of Utah Lake, Tin Tick Indians hostile. Discovery of Silver deposits near site. Mormon criminals might already have control.”

         “So they knew….” Ruth said, looking over the flumes.
         “Let me see that topo map again!” Chap said. “‘Along the river just north of Echo Canyon mouth, he says! How did we not know about this one?”
         “That’s what I wanted you all to see,” Donaldson said. “Rockwell was last seen here.” He pointed to a spot between Echo Canyon and Fort Buenaventura. “Today we know Fort Buenaventura as Ogden, Utah. This spot is where the town of Henefer runs along the Weber River. There’s Devil’s Slide rock formation. There’s Morgan. Rockwell must have disappeared in the river bottoms where Henefer sits today and reappeared several days later here in the far western side of the Salt Lake Valley. That’s a long way to go without anyone in the settlements along the Wasatch Mountains seeing him and fourteen hundred head of cattle.”
         “So what happened there that makes you think this site is the source of all our problems?” Sheryl asked.
         “It’s just a hunch, but for some reason Johnston’s army didn’t stop there. They never occupied that area. Instead, they went straight on to Salt Lake, passed through the vacant city, then traveled to the place west of Utah Lake they would name Camp Floyd after the secretary of defense at the time.”
         “That’s still close to what would become the Tintic mining district,” Chap said. “They bypassed one to go to the other.”
         “My great-grandfather often spoke of a cave near Tintic. He said he thought it had long ago been under water. Its walls were lined with tufa. It was special. The very same day Brigham Young received word the army was on the way, great-grandpa was ordered to take several men into what was hostile Indian country and dynamite the cave entrance. Funny thing….Tin-tic and his people let them do it,” Ruth said. “The soldiers must have searched those mountains till their boots wore out, but they did make plenty of mineral claims.”
         “I think,” Sheryl said, “it’s safe to assume someone unguided and unprotected managed to slip through at Henefer.”
         “Or unworthy and uninvited,” Ruth said.
         “Could it have been Rockwell?” Judith asked.
         Continuing her thought, Sheryl said, “I assume Washakie and his people were the guardians. But Rockwell was also a guardian. I doubt it was he or any of his men. Going by the evidence in that letter, the spoiling event had to have taken place before the army arrived.”
         “And after Rockwell and his men had been there,” Chap said.
         Donaldson warmly smiled at his friends. “It’s special! It might help us answer this question after all!” He opened a wood briefcase that held a display case framed in aluminum. Inside it was a map, tattooed on what the guardians had originally hoped was rawhide (a test of a few flakes determined human skin), of what at first glance looked like the terrain around the Great Salt Lake. East of a body of water stood two large trees side by side, creating a sort of passage. Just like old times! Who’s up to another adventure?”
         Chap tapped Donaldson’s knee with his cane. “I’ve stood guardian here for well more than half a century. We all have. My strength has left me. Of the younger generation, we only have Gordie. But only one man? Judith’s grandson shows promise, but I think we’re being too cautious. Folks are beginning to get hurt again. That poor young lady, the Nash girl…she’d had no warning, yet none of us can find her. Our numbers have diminished too far. Remember Rag Town!”
          Donaldson’s smile disappeared. His eyes softened with deep memories. He put his hands on Chap’s shoulders. “Have faith. The right people seem to come along at the right time when they’re needed. You should know that.”
         “And the wrong people, too,” Sheryl said. She gestured with a nod of her head toward the parking lot.
         A door to a dark, wine-colored Lincoln Continental reflected a dagger of sunlight as it closed. Demint, net scarf over her hair, large, tinted glasses hiding her high, arrogant brow, waited for Weissman to take her elbow before she stepped onto the curb. Seagulls strutting on the warm grass in her path suddenly took flight.
         Donaldson growled. “How the hell did she know I was here? And where’s our transportation? It should have been here by now.”
         “She always looks so out of place,” Ruth said. “So garishly Hollywood.”
         “Keep calm. Don’t make any sudden moves,” Judith said.
         “You girls are terrible,” Sheryl said. “Well…maybe not.”
         Donaldson cleared his throat. “Time to play the impartial executive donor and local sugar daddy.”
         “That’s the problem.” Chap whispered. “The more you give to her little causes, the worse she gets.”
         “It keeps her distracted.”
         “Dwight! What on earth brings you to our humble little town? It’s such a pleasant surprise!”
         “Why, Rosa! You always look so glisteningly Hollywood!”
         “Oh! You’re too much!” Demint said.
         Ruth’s eyes shined as she traded a subtle glance with Judith.
         “Oliver!” Donaldson said, vigorously shaking his hand. “What trouble are you causing today?”
         Looking as if he wasn’t sure how to answer, Weissman laughed and patted Donaldson’s shoulder. “I came to discuss some union concerns—and don’t bring up the mumbo jumbo about copper prices. People are going to lose jobs.”
         “You’re more than welcome to come to the next meeting. We’ll hash it out then.”
         “Now, wait a minute!”
         “Oliver, how’s your father? Our old men worked together for many years. Shared a lot of beers. Did a lot of fishing.”
          “This has nothing to do with pappy.”
         Putting her hand on Oliver’s shoulder, Rosa interrupted. “How is your father? I’d like to know, too.”
         “I finally get him cornered, and you want to talk family?”
         Donaldson held up his hand. “Oliver! You’re personally invited to the meeting coming up. In fact, we can go together. I’ll buy you dinner after.”
         Oliver acquiesced. “Oh, hell!”
          “He means yes,” Demint said. Then she turned to the fence. “Very nice. I wasn’t privy to any news that the company would be doing work near Webster.”
         “Just a little service to the community,” Donaldson said. “I heard about the young lady’s disappearance. I wanted to personally supervise the repairs.”
         Demint took off her glasses, walked to the fence, stopped where the trail began, and gently placed her hand on one of the chain-links. A quiet moment passed as she looked out toward the flumes. 
         Nature, vibrant in the sun, momentarily darkened under cloud shadow. A breeze arose in the distance then came in waves of grass and whirling dust. Ruth took Chap’s hand and gripped it tightly. Sheryl gasped. Judith stepped forward and raised a hand that held a small stone.
         Chap whispered: Has Rosa any idea what stares back at her from the other side of the fence?”
Oliver seemed to become aware of a subtle change among the group. He looked around as if not quite sure what it was.
         Demint closed her eyes and breathed deeply. Then, turning to Donaldson, she said, “Our organization is willing to double our original offer for this insignificant slice of land.”
A gray van arrived in the parking lot, and at that moment the recess bell rang. Kids poured from the building, flooding the playground. The workers tightened the last section of fence and cleaned the area, loading their tools and extra pieces onto a truck.
         “Finally!” Donaldson said, clapping his hands together. “We can finish our little tour.”
         Rosa touched Donaldson’s arm; he fought to hide his revulsion.
,        “You’re not even going to consider my new offer?” she asked.
         “There’s nothing to consider. This property is not on the market.”
         “But imagine it being accessible to the community. A park! An open wetland preserve!”
         “Yes. Imagine that,” Chap growled under his breath. He followed Ruth to Judith’s side as she moved to the spot where Rosa had stood by the fence. The cloud shadow passed. The breeze reversed direction.
         “There’s so much history here!” Rosa said.
         “Who has the old photo?” Donaldson asked.
         Sheryl handed him the papers and folders. He quickly flipped through them, shifted a manila folder to the top, then opened it and held it out to Rosa. The look in his eye had changed from friendly diplomacy to something else. “Tell me what you see.”
         As if surprised at Donaldson’s tone of voice, Rosa narrowed her eyes, paused, then took the photo. She studied it for a moment, then handed it back. “Here! Magna—I mean Rag Town, what was left of it after it had been abandoned.”
         “It’s the oldest known aerial photo of this side of the valley.” Donaldson said. “What else do you see?”
         “The old power house. The flumes.”
         “Is that it?”
         “I don’t know. What else do you want? I’ve seen it all before.”
         “So you see nothing?”
         “I’m not sure what you’re asking.”
         Donaldson’s face became pleasant once more. He took the photo and slipped it back into the folder.   “That’s all right. It wasn’t important anyway. Just being nostalgic.”
         “I’m sure,” Rosa said, offering her elbow to Oliver.
         “If you’ll excuse me,” Donaldson said. “I have a tight schedule today.” He exchanged glances with Chap, and they left Rosa where she stood with Oliver.
         She watched them go, then turned her attention once again to the flumes.
         Relieved at having put a little distance between himself and Demint, Donaldson felt Judith gently rest her hand on his arm. Always like a sunrise, her touch, he thought.
         “You don’t mind if I take a gander at that photo, do you?” she asked.
“Be my guest.”
         The moment she had it in her hands she smiled. “Oh!” she said quietly. She seemed to fight the urge to touch the old black and white surface.
         “The pilot might never have noticed, but for a brief shutter snap…the camera….
         “Yes…of course.” She shook her head and put away the photo.


Friday, May 11, 1984

            The atmosphere in the lunchroom felt subdued as rain washed against large glass windows. It was a strange feeling, almost sadness. Lightning lit up the courtyard in bright purple and orange reflections, then thunder followed, and the kids responded, for the most part, with collective, oohs, aahs, nervous laughs, and sighs. For nearly a second most of the conversation had died down, but then re-grew to rival the rain.
            Chad and friends, including Tina, mingled near the pop machines. As far as Donnie was concerned, life would be happy as long as they stayed there. Rachel sipped on a Shasta and ate Doritos. Jeff sat on the table, resting his elbows on his knees and supporting his chin with his fists. Donnie scribbled the word FITAN on a note pad, then erased it. No one in their little trio said much.
            Rachel occasionally looked around the room. Donnie assumed she was looking for Bogie (though they weren’t talking), but he tended to avoid the lunchroom, even on rainy days.
            “This sucks,” she said.
            When neither Donnie nor Jeff said anything, she sank back into her quiet mood.
            “Have you guys ever heard of the word fighting or fitan?” Donnie asked.
            “It’s what you do when you ain’t lovin’,” Jeff said as a matter of fact.
            “No, really. It’s a word like a name: fiton.”
            Jennie Stewart, who sat at the next table with her friend, Kendra Farnsworth, perked up. “You mean Phaeton?”
            Surprised, Donnie turned and said: “Yeah! That’s it!”
            “The son of the god Helios—Helios means sun. He tried to ride his father’s sun chariot, went out of control, and Zeus shot him down with a bolt of lightning to keep him from destroying the earth. You know, another depressing Greek mythology story.”
            “Cool!” Donnie said.
            “No, hot. He burned up Africa.”
            Donnie laughed. Then as she and her friends stood to leave and picked up their trays, Donnie stopped her and asked: “How do you spell it?”
            She thought for a moment, then carefully dictated the letters while he wrote them down.
            “Thanks!” he said.
            “Don’t mention it.”
            As they walked away, Rachel said, “I like her.”
            Jeff threw her a weird smile.
            “No, really!” Rachel said. “I think she’s nice, both her and Kendra, even if Bogie used to make mooing sounds when Kendra walked past—the jerk.”
            The bell rang. Donnie picked up his tray, and Jeff took the empty Coke can that was sitting next to him and crushed it on the table with the palm of his hand. As they walked to the door, he threw it like a Frisbee into a garbage can.
            At that moment the janitor approached. Jeff, probably thinking he was in trouble, changed direction and moved into the crowd leaving the lunchroom.
            “Come here,” Gordie said, waving Donnie over.
            Donnie’s mother’s words came to his mind: Not my son! He looked at Rachel. She shrugged and slowed down.
            “Yes, sir?” Donnie said.
            “Polite. I like that,” Gordie said. “It’ll get you far in life.”
            Stopping, Donnie hooked a thumb in one pocket and looked around nervously.
            “How’s Dennis?” Gordie held out his hand for Donnie, who, trying not to be rude, automatically shook it.
“You mean my dad?”
“He’s the only Dennis Fish I know.”
“Okay, I guess. Why?”
“He’s a good man. I’d like to talk with you. Why don’t you stop by my office after school? Can you do that?”
            “What did I do?”
            “I don’t know. Unless there’s something giving you a guilty conscience, I’d say it’s good news.”
            “About what?”
            “See you after school.” Gordie smiled, winked, walked over to where his broom leaned against the wall, raised his hand in a small salute, then went to work sweeping up the mess left behind from all the kids.
            “What did he want?” Rachel asked.
            Donnie shrugged and joined the crowd moving through the doors.

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