Copyright 2017 Warren Emens
Published by Warren Emens at Shakespir
Shakespir Edition License Notes
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your enjoyment only, then please return to Shakespir.com or your favorite retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
Table of Contents
Becky Whatkins looked out at the cloudless blue sky and whispered, “It will be another hot one today, Anodibe.” She often talked to the life growing inside her. With her husband working many miles away and only home occasionally, she longed for someone to talk with. She walked around the outside of the house, her bare feet making small footprints in the dirt. She wore a simple cotton dress and had put her hands in the side pockets. As she prepared to go back inside, she cupped her hands under her taunt round stomach and waited for the reassuring kick.
Becky and her husband Lenny had a little over ten acres of land a few miles off highway 58 near the California Mojave desert. They intended to farm when they bought the land with the money Lenny received when his father died. Lenny was no farmer, and without a reliable source of water it was impossible to grow anything. He had taken a construction job working on the interstate highway about four hundred miles away. Becky had two more weeks out there alone at their isolated place, before going to town and staying with her mother-in-law Rachael until the baby came.
Becky went back inside and decided to take a morning nap. As her due date had approached she became more and more tired and unable to do even routine tasks. Had she looked back out through her open door she would have seen a tan colored cloud rise slowly over a distant hill. It had been extremely dry, and the late summer heat produced conditions ideal for wildfires. Warm moist air from the coast passed over the valleys without giving up a drop to the parched earth below. As the air rose over the mountains, thunderstorms ringed the foothills. The storm’s lightning often caused wildfires in the dry brush. Winds fanned the fires through the foothills, threatening to spread destruction all the way to the coast.
When Becky awoke from her nap she was puzzled by the warm half-light outside. When she looked out the door she was startled to see a huge plume of smoke covering half of the sky, and the faint disk of the sun. She turned and hurried back inside as fast as she could manage. She had already packed her bag for the trip when the baby was to be born. She opened it and stuffed in a picture of she and Lenny at the beach before they were married. She had no jewelry to bother with. What else to take? She couldn’t think, and for a few minutes stood frozen staring at her bag. Then she snapped the bag shut and headed out the door and over to their pickup truck.
Becky turned the key. The starter clicked several times, but the engine did not start. She tried again but it failed even to click. Flames were advancing down the distant hills, and from there on to the house it was fairly flat land covered with dry grass and weeds. Lenny had cleared the brush from around the house, but with the strong wind the fire would literally come right inside the house with flying embers. Becky started the generator at the well so that she could turn on the pump and get some water on the house. She felt a little relief as it roared into life and water gushed out of the hose. Her efforts had little effect. The wind dried the wood of the house quicker than she could wet it down. Then Becky realized she had another problem. Her water had broken.
As the fires came closer Becky ran back inside and curled up on the bed. The house was fully involved in fire when the firefighters arrived. They managed to get Becky out, but she had been severely burned. Shortly after they carried her out she gave birth to baby Anodibe Whatkins. When the baby was older Becky might have told her she got her fiery red hair from the fires that almost claimed her life. She might have told her she got her dark eyes from the blackened hillsides left by the fires. She might have told her she got her different name from Becky’s favorite song. She might have told her all those things and more had Becky not died shortly after Anodibe was born.
Unable to care for the baby, Lenny left his infant daughter in the unsteady hands of his widowed mother Rachel Whatkins. Rachel’s husband had worked on the Mojave Valley railroad and died in an accident at work. Rachel received her husband’s railroad pension and could manage without having to work. She spent her days watching daytime television and nursing her habits of eating and drinking more than she should.
Baby Anodibe shattered that comfortable existence. Whether it was due to her tragic and tumultuous birth or her genetic makeup, the baby seemed to resist having anything Grandma tried to feed her. Finally in desperation Rachel settled on feeding the baby a diluted milk mixture sweetened with corn syrup. She prayed it would not do too much damage to the infant’s developing brain.
Lenny did not see his daughter until December when he came home for Christmas. Anodibe was almost five months old. Unaware of the basics of infant capacity for toys, Lenny brought Anodibe a big doll in a cardboard box with a cellophane window. The doll had curly yellow hair and was dressed in a plaid jumper, white blouse and socks and black shoes. Grandma laughed and teased him for not knowing better. Lenny did not take her reproach well and grumbled that he would take it back. Rachael just laughed and said Anodibe would just have to grow into playing with it. Rachael placed the doll on top of the highboy dresser in Anodibe’s room.
When Adodibe turned one, Rachel tried to get her on solid food, but she either refused or was allergic to one after another items offered. Finally after months of struggle, Adodibe began eating chocolate flavored cereal and little else. Anodibe was a small pale child, so thin her little bones tended to protrude slightly and her eyes had a sunken appearance characteristic of not getting enough sleep. In spite of her appearance, she was always full of energy and a handful. Rachel seemed to become more content with Anodibe’s eating habits and less worried about her getting the proper nutrition. She remained content with her daytime TV and wine. Anodibe settled into the life of an only child. There were few children nearby close to her age.
One afternoon as Rachael dozed in the living room while the program ‘Amy’s Love’ flickered on the TV she awoke with a jump at the sound of a large crash in Anodibe’s room. She rushed in to find Anodibe crushed underneath the highboy dresser tipped over on the floor. With all her strength she lifted the heavy piece of furniture off the little girl and dragged her out. Anodibe lay limp in her arms. Half screaming and half crying Rachael laid Anodibe on the front seat of the car and drove like a mad woman to the hospital.
Anodibe was in the hospital for several days. A couple of times the doctor planned to release her, but she relapsed and lost consciousness for several hours. The doctor finally concluded she could go home, but Rachael would need to keep a close watch on her. He also cautioned her to keep anything off the top of the highboy Anodibe might want. She had apparently pulled out the drawers one by one to climb up to get the doll. Her weight had tipped the heavy piece of furniture over on her. Rachel put the doll by Anodibe’s bed. She told Anodibe she could not play with it until she was older. After all, she thought, I didn’t get my first doll until I was eight. Anodibe is only three.
One morning a few days after Anodibe came home from the hospital, Rachael went into Anodibe’s room to make her bed and straighten up the room. As she entered, she stopped, shocked by what lay scattered about the floor. Anodibe’s doll was out of its box, stripped of its clothes. All the clothes were cut into pieces and strewn about. The blonde curls of the dolls hair were sheared completely off. Rachael sat on the edge of the bed not knowing what to do. Had the little girl thought she was helping make the doll prettier, or had she enacted revenge on it for it falling on her?
When Anodibe was five another family moved in and their child Amy was about Anodibe’s age. She had difficulty pronouncing Anodibe’s name and simply shortened her name to Ann. Anodibe took to the name immediately and would fly into a rage whenever anyone called her by her real name.
Amy and Anodibe, now called Ann, became close friends, and as with most five-year olds went off to kindergarten. Amy was a big girl for her age and wore glasses. She soon became the prime target of any of the other kids. They called her fatty four eyes and played mean little tricks on her at every opportunity. For a while Ann seemed oblivious to what was happening to her friend. She almost seemed to be enjoying watching Amy’s misery, although she never entered into the torment herself.
One day some girls gathered around Amy and pushed her up against the tether-ball pole and began wrapping the rope around her. Amy cried out and for a brief moment Ann grinned and seemed about to break out in laughter. Instead she attacked one after another of Amy’s tormentors with such fierceness that they backed off and began screaming, “ano – dib, ano – dib, ano – dib,” which only made Ann the more furious as they were mocking her unusual name.
The bond between the two girls strengthened, and the schoolyard bullies, no longer bothered Amy. By the time the girls were in second grade they became the ones the other children avoided. Amy’s size was definitely intimidating and Ann’s temper was explosive and unpredictable. As with any strong willed individuals, there were the occasional clashes, tempers raised, retaliation dished out, but always reconciliation. One day after a particularly nasty exchange between the girls that had lasted for several days, they met up in the schoolyard at the climbing wall. They each began climbing, Amy at one end and Ann at the other. As they reached the top, they laughed. The bell rang. Recess was over and all the children began running to line up to go back into class. Ann was the last to step into line.
It was almost a hour before Amy’s teacher realized she had not returned to class. When they found her body it was clear she had fallen off the climbing wall. She had not landed feet first, for if she had she would have survived with perhaps a broken leg. Somehow she landed headfirst as if she had toppled over backwards off the wall. Ann was uncontrollable and the paramedics ended up treating her after it was clear they could do nothing for Amy.
Loss of Amy caused Ann to double down on intimidation of others. This did not mean she had no challengers to her domination of others, but she always met them head on, and when punched, punched back twice as hard. Soon any potential aggressor realized it was best just to let Ann have her way. Even the teachers treated her with caution and tried to cajole her into obedience, rather than to punishment.
Rachael Whatkins, her grandmother and now formally her guardian was really out of her element in attempting to deal with Ann. The school called her whenever Ann’s behavior warranted action. After several unsuccessful attempts to get Rachael to take charge of Ann they gave up. They even tried to track down Ann’s father Lenny. They learned Lenny had moved to Salinas, remarried and had given up custody of Ann. She was now Rachael’s ward. The school hoped they could last out for another year. Ann would be in sixth grade and going to another school.
Gloria Lewis one of Ann’s teachers was not to be intimidated by Ann and devised some clever little ways to get Ann to behave. Ann had never been on a proper diet. Her main pleasure was anything sweet. Gloria devised a plan for rewarding Ann’s behavior with candy. As strange as it sounds, it worked well until Gloria withheld a reward to which Ann believed she was entitled. Ann flew into a rage, then suddenly calmed down and simply smiled. Gloria was confident she had won a minor skirmish with Ann.
That night there was a mysterious fire that totally destroyed Gloria’s car parked in her driveway. The fire department determined she had a small leak in her gasoline tank and the fluid from the tank had pooled for some time under the car before some unknown ignition source set the car ablaze. The leak was found to be coming from a small round hole in the gasoline tank. The source of the hole was not determined, but it was if some sharp object, such as an ice pick, made it.
Ann began middle school by skipping sixth grade altogether. She had always had very good grades and was likely a candidate to advance a grade. Still, there was talk among the teachers the school did it just to get her out. Socially, it was a mistake to advance her. Ann was always a small child, looking younger than her true age. Skipping a grade put her in with older children who looked at Ann as if she did not belong. Once again the teasing began and for the first time Ann seemed to be unable to fight back effectively.
Someone took pity on her and became her protector. Greg was an eighth grader and a full two years older than Ann. He saw a thin little girl being picked on by a clique of seventh grade girls and effectively became her big brother. Ann did not see him as a brother. She saw other girls with boyfriends and wanted the same. She just needed to get Greg look at her the way other boys looked at their girl friends. Fortunately for Greg, his mother saw through Ann’s plan for conquest, and stepped right in. Outside of school, Greg was to have no contact with Ann.
Greg’s mother did not need to worry. Ann met Rusty, a high school dropout who had a car and a drug habit. Rusty had everything Ann wanted. He always seemed to have money and a ready supply of marijuana to meet the demand of the high school and the middle school. Because of Rusty’s status, Ann was no longer bothered. In fact, she became a celebrity of sorts. No one saw what Rusty saw in Ann. He could have had any one.
Rusty had the gift of being able to read people well and figure out who he was able to manipulate and what they were capable of doing. He saw Ann as insecure and as such was susceptible to suggestion and easy to convince and motivate. He also saw the fire that burned inside her small frame and how that could be forced to erupt with relative ease. He had no immediate plan for her, but his senses told him it was coming.
At school, Greg confronted Ann, telling her it was a big mistake to be with Rusty.
“He’s just going to get you into trouble.” Greg’s words made Ann laugh, which caused him to redden and start to walk away.
Ann ran after Greg and began to pound on his back with her fists and screaming something intelligible. Greg turned around and put up his arms in defense. He finally was able to grab Ann’s arms and stop the pounding.
“Let me go.” Ann screamed and ran off when Greg released his grip.
Later, when she told Rusty what happened, she asked him what he was going to do about it. Rusty just laughed.
“That’s your problem little ‘Dobie – anobie.” Rusty sneered as Ann, once again Anodibe, gritted her teeth.
Ann had no intention of following Greg’s warning to stay away from Rusty, but she wanted nothing more to do with Rusty, at least for now. Whenever anyone made fun of her name it was as though they were laughing at her mother, the mother she never knew, the mother that gave her life to save her. Ann, with the strange name, Anodibe.
Towards the end of the year the school principal asked Ann’s grandmother Rachael Whatkins to come to the school to discuss Ann’s grades. Perhaps skipping sixth grade had been unwise. Should Ann remain in seventh grade another year? No one wanted to try and force that on Ann. Fortunately, Marc Saltzman, Ann’s math teacher, volunteered to tutor her and help pull up her grades. Marc was twenty something, good looking and unmarried. Ann brightened at the thought of Marc helping her. She knew she didn’t need any help, but having some time with Marc would take her mind off Greg and Rusty and make the other girls jealous.
It didn’t take long for Ann to realize the importance of being around an older man. The tutoring sessions lasted an hour and Ann was always able to get Marc off track and talking about something other than schoolwork. Marc was an avid photographer and easily launched into the topic of photography, the equipment, subjects, unusual effects and all the places he travelled during the summer vacation. One afternoon as Marc talked, Ann fantasized being with him on one of his adventures.
“I’m going out to shoot some cactus on Saturday.” Marc said, bringing Ann out of her daydream. “Do you want to come along? You seem interested. The Mojave Mound Cactus is blooming out on the road to Rosamond. You’ll need to get your grandmother to say it’s okay. I’ll need a note from her.”
“No problem.” Ann smiled, tingling at the opportunity to be out and alone with Marc.
Saturday morning Ann met Marc at the school and climbed into the front seat of his jeep.
“Note?” Marc asked.
“Oh yeah. Here.” Ann produced a neatly penned note:
Mr. Salesman: It is all right for Ann Whatkins to go with you
to photograph cactus in the Mojave Desert on Saturday.
signed, Mrs. Whatkins
Marc had never seen Rachael Whatkins handwriting. In fact no one had seen it since her trembling hands had made writing impossible. She communicated in writing only by patiently tapping a key at a time on her portable Royal typewriter.
It didn’t take long for Ann to realize the desert cactus shoot of that boring little red flower with Marc Saltzman was a mistake. He paid little attention to her other than to have her carry some of his heavy photographic equipment. He had driven past numerous clumps of the red mounds of cactus looking for just the right one, and then took his sweet time setting up a single shot. The sun was scorching hot even though the wind was cold. Ann was thirsty and all Marc had brought was an old canteen of warm water that almost made her puke.
“Do you photograph anything else? Besides flowers, I mean.” Ann asked, hoping to get Marc to direct some of his attention to her.
“Sometimes. Gimme that box.”
“Like what?” Ann asked, making a face as she handed Marc a heavy black box of lenses.
“Oh, sometimes, the mountains or a sunset. Maybe an old building or a house.”
“Do you ever photograph people?”
“No. Well, maybe if I see an interesting subject. Like an old man or woman with an interesting face.”
“Would you ever photograph someone like me?” An idea began to form in Ann’s mind.
Marc hesitated. Ann might not like what he wanted to say.
“I don’t know. Never thought about it.”
Marc wanted to get off the subject and decided to pack it in for the day. On the ride back to the school Ann was unusually quiet.
“See you Monday.” Marc said. Ann said nothing. She just got out of the jeep, turned and waved.
On Monday morning Ann and her grandmother were back in the principal’s office along with Marc to review her progress. Marc’s report was generally favorable. Nevertheless, he felt Ann should attend summer school, as he did not see she was not ready to handle eighth grade work. Ann knew her outbursts of temper often, but not always, brought desired results. She listened patiently and began to formulate a plan for the summer that included Marc, but not school.
Ann and her tutor Marc Saltzman had just finished her tutoring session for the afternoon. As Marc gathered up the papers on his desk, Ann came up and leaned against the desk facing him, then hopped up, sitting on the desk.
“Mr. Saltzman will you be teaching me in summer school? She asked, sure he would say no. She needed help in English, and he was a math teacher.
“No, I think it will be Mrs. McFadden, your English teacher.”
“I don’t like Mrs. McFadden. That’s why I have trouble with English” Ann complained, crossing her arms.
Marc looked up at Ann as she spoke. She was really becoming an attractive young lady, even with her sometimes-explosive temperament. For an instant he considered tutoring her in English himself, then he remembered his own struggles with the subject.
“Have you thought about what I asked you on Saturday?” Ann asked, changing the subject.
Marc paused and looked up at her. Ann crossed her legs and looked down on Marc from where she sat on top of his desk.
“What did you ask, Ann?” Asked Marc, with just a touch of irritation.
“Will you photograph me? I don’t have any photographs of me. Grammy has no camera. I didn’t like the picture they took at school. I tore it up.”
“ I don’t think it would be a good idea, Ann. People might get the wrong idea.”
“Wrong idea? What do you mean?”
“Never mind. Ann, I’m just not going to do it. Please don’t ask me again.”
Ann slipped down off Marc’s desk and walked out without a word. As she walked down the hall, she paused by the principal’s office, and then went into the outer office. The secretary who was normally the principal’s gatekeeper had gone home for the day. Ann saw the principal, Mrs. Diaz, at her desk.
“Mrs. Diaz?” Ann said, looking in the door at the principal.
“Yes, Ann; is everything alright? You are still here?”
“Yes, Mrs. Diaz. I just finished my tutoring session with Mr. Saltzman.”
“Oh, yes, Ann. How did that go?”
“Fine. I do have a question, though.”
“I’m not sure what to say. I don’t want to get Mr. Saltzman in trouble.” Ann walked into the principal’s office and sat down.
“Ann, what are you saying?”
“Mr. Saltzman wants to take my picture and I am not sure what to tell him. I think it will be okay, but he has shown me pictures, of you know, women, and I don’t want him to see me like that.”
Ann talked with Mrs. Diaz from some time. As she walked home, Ann smiled at what she had accomplished. She had not solved the problem of summer school yet, but so far things were working out the way she planned. As she approached Granny’s house where she lived, she was surprised to see a big expensive car in the driveway.
When she went inside, Ann saw that her grandmother, Rachael Whatkins, was talking with another woman who looked about the same age as Rachael, but was younger looking and better dressed.
“Ann, come in. There is someone I want you to meet. This is your grandmother, Mary Chapman, your mother’s mother, your other grandmother, dear. She has not seen you since your mother’s funeral, Ann, but of course you were too young to remember that. You were just a baby.”
Ann stared, not knowing what to say.
“Ann dear, come here, “ said Mary. “It has been so long since I saw you. I see you have changed your name too, from Anodibe to Ann. Ann is a fine name, but I bet you don’t know why your mother wanted to name you Anodibe.” Mary held out her arms.
Ann cringed when she heard Mary Chapman, her grandmother call her Anodibe. She had hated the name that had been her source of torment. Now this stranger was to bring it all back to haunt her. She stared at the two women, her grandmothers, and how different they were. Rachael sat in her recliner dressed as if she had just risen from her bed in the morning. She occasionally brushed her hand over her hair, which defied the motion and remained upright as if a crown. She wore her usual robe with the loose hem and missing belt. She was barefoot. Mary might have been on her way to church or a fancy tea with some ladies. Her hair was perfect as was her outfit, a smart blue pantsuit. Ann’s eyes took in all of the contrasts between the two women and stopped at Mary’s shiny not-too-high heels and a shopping bag at her feet.
“That name was very special to your mother.” Mary continued. “It all had to do with a song I sang to her when she was a little girl.”
“I always wanted to know how Becky chose that name, but she never told me.” Ann’s other grandmother, Rachael Whatkins smiled.
“When Becky was little she didn’t understand the words,” continued Mary. “Do you know the song, ‘Go tell Aunt Rhody’?”
Ann and Rachael shook their heads.
“It’s an old American folk song. My mother sang it to me, and I sang it to Becky.” Mary looked up to see if Ann and Rachael understood what she was saying. “Becky was just learning to talk and saying a few words. She tried to sing with me. The song goes like this, ‘ go tell Aunt Rhody, go tell Aunt Rhody, go tell Aunt Rhody, The old gray goose is dead.’ That’s the chorus. Then there are several verses,” explained Mary.
“That’s a stupid song.” Ann sneered. “Who’d sing about a dead bird to a baby?”
“Ann, please don’t,” Rachael looked at Ann, trying to prevent one of Ann’s tantrums.
“It may sound stupid to you, but for some reason it always calmed Becky down when I was trying to get her to sleep,” continued Mary.
“What’s that have to do with my name? Anodibe isn’t the name of the song or anything in it, is it?” Ann was calmer but not convinced she was going to like whatever Nary had to say about her name.
“No,” Mary explained. “It was not the song, but the way your mother sang what she thought were the words. Remember she was just a very little girl and was just learning how to form sounds. She heard, ‘go tell Aunt Rhody,’ and when it came out of her mouth it was, ‘go tell andt ro bee.’ She thought the song was saying to tell someone with the name ‘An dtro bee’ that the goose was dead. She named her doll ‘An dtro bee; and the name eventually came to be Anodibe. She said if she ever had a baby girl, she’d name her Anodibe. And that’s how, Ann, you came to have that name. It’s too bad you don’t like it, but I can understand why you don’t. I’m sure your mother would too.”
Ann did not like the name Anodibe and learning the stupid story of how he name came from her mother’s inability to pronounce a couple of words made it worse. Ann bore a quiet hatred for her mother dying and leaving her. Ann glared at Mary, walked out, went to her room, slamming the door.
“I’m sorry, Mary,” Rachael apologized. “Ann gets upset easily, especially about that name. Can I get you something? Some tea?”
“No, I have to get back to LA. I have a flight out later this afternoon. I just wish I didn’t live so far away. It’s not fair for you to have to raise Ann all by yourself.” Mary rose, and then remembered the bag at her feet. “I know Ann is much too old for this now, but she should have it. I found it when I was going through some things. It’s Becky’s doll, the one she called Anodibe. Ann should have it.”
Rachael stared at the doll and remembered Ann’s destruction of the doll her father had given her. Becky had clearly loved this doll. Her outfit had been removed and replaced many times and a little child’s fingers sometimes pulled a little too hard and seams opened up. She was missing one shoe and sock, but otherwise was all there. Rachel wondered what Ann would say when she saw the doll.
“Ann, your grandmother is leaving.” Rachael called, knowing Ann would stay in her room.
Ann kept saying her name, her real name, Anodibe, over and over. Knowing how it came to be her name seemed to fill a hole. She even wondered who Aunt Rhody was and why somebody wrote the song in the first place.
“Am I Ann or Anodibe? Ann or Anodibe? I think I’ll be Anodibe.”
The following day Ann stared at the doll her grandmother had given her. She had only had one other doll and that was the one her father had given her years ago. Too young to know better, she had destroyed it. Now this one had been her mother’s. What she had always wanted was a mother and father, and by some gruel design, all she received were lifeless toys. Ann set the doll aside and went off to school. She directed her thoughts to Marc Saltzman. After having spun a tale to the principal about Marc’s interest in taking pictures of her, she imagined Marc pleading with her to set the record straight. She would have him and have none of the summer school he wanted for her.
“Who knows where that will lead?” She thought.
When Ann got to class she was surprised to see the principal, Mrs. Diaz and another woman standing next to Marc’s desk. Marc was not there. When all the students were seated, and the bell had rung, Mrs. Diaz called for everyone’s attention.
“Class, I have an announcement. Mr. Saltzman has taken a teaching job at Antelope Valley Academy in Lancaster. I know this is unsettling for some of you, but there are only a few days left before we’re out for the summer. Miss McFadden will teach this class for the remainder of the term.”
There were a few muffled groans from the class. Ann stared at Miss McFadden and thought, she must be right out of school herself, probably twenty-two. She will want to do everything by the book, need to come up with a plan to work around her. With marc no longer in the picture, she needed to find Rusty. She had not seen him since he taunted her with her name.
“That’s your problem little ‘Dobie – anobie.” Rusty had said as he sneered at Ann, making fun of her name.
“Thanks Rusty,” Ann said to herself. “I think I’ll be Anodibe from now on.”
It was not hard for Anodibe to track down Rusty. He was always hanging around near one of the schools where he had a ready source of customers for his drugs. He was a small cog in a bigger wheel. His boss made sure the Sheriff was taken care of and Rusty did not have to worry about the law. Anodibe slipped out of school after lunch and looked around for Rusty’s truck.
He had a small white import pickup truck outfitted for the desert. It had a bar of high intensity lights on top of the cab for night driving. The truck had been jacked up to accommodate oversized tires for off road driving. He had five-gallon cans of gasoline strapped on the bed of the truck with two spare wheels and tires.
“Hey.” Anodibe said when she found Rusty in his truck, parked under a tree.
“Hey back. Get in and be quiet.” They waited in silence. Finally Rusty said, “Looks like he’s not going to show. You probably scared him off. What do you want?”
“Nothing. I just want to get away from here. Have some fun.”
“Got any money?”
“What about your grandmother. She have money in the house?”
Rusty and Anodibe had gone to get whatever money her grandmother Rachael Whatkins had in the house. They came away with almost six hundred dollars, as Rachael had just cashed her social security check. Anodibe knew where she kept her money and they almost got away without being caught. Rachael had awakened and starting screaming at them. Rusty hit her hard, and she went down. Anodibe panicked to see her grammy hurt, but Rusty grabbed her by the arm and pulled her out of the house.
“She’s fine. Let’s get out,” was all Rusty said.
They rode in silence. Rusty reached down and flipped on the switch for the light bar on the roof of the truck. Instantly, a large stretch of the road ahead was illuminated. It was a dangerous move. Using the off-road lights on the highway could bring a hefty fine, or even a night in jail. Some of the sheriff’s men were not happy with Rusty’s arrangement with the law. They watched for a chance to arrest him in on any other offense. Rusty’s protection from the police was limited to his drug business.
After a few miles Rusty made a sharp left turn out onto a dirt road that ran perpendicular to the highway. Ahead loomed the foothills of the Tehachapi Mountains. This was familiar territory for Rusty, and he cut the lights.
“I can’t see.” Anodibe screamed. “Why did you do that?”
“Shut up. I know what I’m doing.”
With that, Rusty made a sharp left turn and headed up a dry wash formed by runoff from the mountains. The dry bed twisted back and forth as it rose higher and higher. The open landscape of Joshua trees and cactus of the desert gave way to thicker undergrowth. Deep grass, tumbleweeds, sagebrush and live oak trees made following the dry riverbed necessary. At a spot where the riverbed widened Rusty slowed the truck and switched on the lights.
“What’s that?” Asked Anodibe, looking at a stone structure straight ahead.
“Home, for now. It’s called Lunada.” Rusty almost whispered, as if someone might be listening. Anodibe had questions but decided to remain quiet.
Lunada was obviously old, but had been built by someone who knew what they were doing. The stones had been carefully fit together without any mortar, and all the walls were intact. Two holes in the wall were visible. One was an opening for a door, another for a window, but neither door nor window remained. The roof had originally been made of poles, covered with some sort of thatch. Most of that was gone. Someone had draped a large blue plastic sheet over the roof and with some rocks, anchored it against the wind. Rusty cut the lights and got out of the truck.
“Where are you going?” Asked Anodibe, not wanting to leave the truck.
“Sit tight. I’ll get some light.” Rusty walked toward the stone building.
It was beginning to get cold and she still had on the clothes she wore at school that day. Within a few minutes a soft light illuminated the interior of Lunada. Anodibe got out of the truck, shivering in the cool mountain air. Light from the open door cast flickering shadows over the rocks and brush along the edge of the wash. She almost fell tripping over something in the darkness. She could hear the crackling of a fire Rusty had started, but the was another sound off to one side and she hurried toward the open doorway.
Shaken by whatever had made the noise in the darkness, Anodibe stumbled into the stone house Rusty had said was called Lunada. She immediately felt the warmth of a fire Rusty had lit in a fireplace along the wall opposite the door. Still shivering she walked up to the fire and held out her hands.
“I heard something outside.” Anodibe turned around to face Rusty who sat on a stone couch built into one of the sidewalls. Anodibe looked around. The building was all one room, about the size of Grammy’s living room, Anodibe thought. Everything inside was made from the same type of flat gray stones. In addition to the couch and fireplace, there was a table, two benches and even a bed. Along the wall that had the single window was a counter that might have been used for preparing food. There was no sign of a supply of water, and certainly no toilet.
“Did you hear me? I said I heard something out there.”
“Probably a bear. There are a lot of them around this time of year.” Rusty grinned.
“Oh shut up. I know there are no bears. But I did hear something or someone.”
“Probably a coyote,” said Rusty. “Come sit down.” Rusty patted the couch next to him. He had placed a frayed woolen blanket over the stones to make it more comfortable.
“Thanks. I’ll stand. Are we going to stay here all night?” Anodibe crossed her arms.
“No. Just ‘til things quiet down. After midnight anyway. By then they’ll figure we got out of town.”
Anodibe’s visualized with the money they got from Grammy they could go to Vegas. Rusty knew how to make money on the street. She would never have to do anything she didn’t want to do ever again. It all seemed to make sense when she and Rusty decided to get Grammy’s money. Now, the excitement of running off with Rusty was beginning to wear off. She was cold, hungry and thirsty.
“Do you have any water?” She asked Rusty.
“No, but I have a beer in the truck.”
With that Rusty went out and came back with a quart bottle. He set the rim of the bottle cap on an edge of a rock and hit the top with his hand. The cap fell soundlessly to the soft dirt floor. He passed the bottle to Anodibe. She had only tasted beer once before on a dare. She hated the taste, but whenever she told the story she bragged about how great beer tasted. She was very thirsty, and even though she still hated the taste, she took several long draws on the bottle before stopping to burp.
“Hey, share the goods, there little guzzler. It’s my beer, remember.” Rusty took the bottle from her hand. Anodibe sat down on a rock stool by the fire.
“What did you call this place?” She asked, yawning.
“It’s called Lunada. Well, at least by some of the locals. Seems some recluse built it and lived here for a while. One day he disappeared and its been deserted ever since. Some sez it’s cursed or haunted. I don’t believe that crap. I think the name means no moon, but that don’t make sense. Why can’t you see the moon?”
“I’m tired Rusty. I want to go home.” Anodibe got up off the stool and lay down on the blanket on the couch.
“Can’t now little ‘be be.’ Get some shut eye, we’ll be heading out in a couple of hours.”
“Don’t call me that.” Anodibe said as she closed her eyes.
The darkness, the beer and the altitude made Anodibe very sleepy. Lunada was at an altitude of about 4500 feet, in a north-facing gorge of the Tehachapi Mountains. Its location prevented it from getting any direct sunlight. It had a clear view of the northern sky and the sundrenched hills on the other side of the valley below. The local people guessed the unknown recluse who built the structure named it Lunada for the fact one could never see the moon for the house, hence the combination of Luna (moon) and nada (nothing). One could never see the sun either, but the builder chose Lunada over what might have been the alternative using sol for sun or Solnada.
She awaked briefly when something was added to the blanket she had wrapped around her when she lay down. She was aware of Rusty starting up the truck, but too sleepy to get up and see what he was doing. She had crazy dreams. She dreamed of trying to get back home to Granny. She was driving Rusty’s truck and had trouble shifting the gears, and the truck was going very slowly. She could not find the street Granny lived on, as they all looked the same and all the houses looked the same. She panicked and went to a house where she wanted to ask for help, but no one answered the door when she knocked. She pounded louder. Her hands made a whomp, whomp, whomp, sound on the door.
The sound became louder and Anodibe opened her eyes. A shaft of soft grey morning light filled the entrance to the room. Anodibe looked around for Rusty. The whomp, whomp sound became louder, very loud, and Lunada was suddenly filled with noise and blowing sand. The sound was unbearably loud and Anodibe screamed and held her hands over her ears. A figure cut off the light from the doorway. Anodibe looked up to see a man coming toward her. The helicopter outside powered down to a whine and the propeller blades continued to rotate slowly.
The man was an officer in a yellow jumpsuit from Kern County Fire Rescue. He asked Anodibe some questions to determine her condition and satisfied she was alright to transport, lifted her into the helicopter, strapped her in and within a couple of minutes she was down on the highway, and being led to a waiting sheriff’s patrol car. When she saw Grammy in the back seat of the car she began to cry. Grammy, tears streaming down her face, head wrapped in a bandage, was holding on to Anodibe’s mother’s doll with both arms.
“Don’t say anything Anodibe. Grammy whispered through her tears. “I’m just glad you are all right. I was so worried that kid would do something bad to you. The sheriff said he had to wait to daylight to look for you. He already caught Rusty when he went into town last night to get something at the store. Rusty would say where you were. I was so worried.”
Anodibe reached out for the doll that bore her name as Grammy handed it to her. She felt like a little girl for the first time in her life.
About the Author
Warren Emens is a contributor to http://writersforum.boards.net/ a forum for writer formed by members of FutureLearn classes on writing fiction. He is a retired aerospace engineer.
Other Books by the Author
Connect With the Author
Barely surviving birth in a devastating wildfire, Anodibe seems to seek revenge by striking out at everyone and everything that touches her.