another pSecret pSociety pshort pstory
Mad River Madman by Mike Bozart (Agent 33) | June 2017
Mad River Madman
by Mike Bozart
© 2017 Mike Bozart
Bill Monziweuk, a balding, 47-year-old, Caucasian, divorced, childless Gulf War veteran who took part in Operation Desert Storm (January – February 1991), had an old 5th-wheel camper on Airstream Avenue near the spare playground in Town & Country Mobile Villa, a neater-than-most mobile home and RV park in the Korblex area of Arcata (CA, USA). He would often watch the children playing while downing his after-dinner Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and think, sometimes aloud. Hope none of these kids has to experience what I did in Kuwait and Iraq. My God, that has to be the most forlorn slide in America. Is it even safe? What is safe? Where is safe? Hope that little girl doesn’t fall off that merry-go-round. World keeps spinning. Keep your hands on the railing, young lady. And, keep your head down. And, keep your fear to yourself. And, keep yourself free from the keep. Doug. Yes, it was Doug who said that ‘keep’ can mean jail. Where is Doug now? In some small-town Texas keep? Maybe try to track him down later.
It was a drizzly March (2014) Monday morning. Bill was getting ready to head out the door to his electrical company’s work van when his cell phone buzzed in his jacket pocket.
“Hello boss, where do you need me to start today?”
“Bill, I’ve got some bad news. We’re going to have to lay you off, effective immediately. We have lost too many lucrative accounts. We just don’t have the money right now. We’re laying off Larry, too.” Wonderful. Let go with lazy Larry.
“Wow! Right in the gut with a quarter twist. Mince no words, Marty. Though, thanks for not sugar-coating it.”
“Listen, I’m sorry, Bill. I hate being the bearer of bad news. Your work performance has been exceptional. We may be able to hire you back in a couple of months when our cash flow improves.” And, until then … exactly what? Just tell the park manager to chill out, and that I’ll have the lot rent in two or three months? That should go over really well. Not!
“What about the van?” Hope Bill doesn’t flip out and take it on a joyride to Crescent City [75 miles (121 km) north] to see that tramp again.
“You can drop it off today or tomorrow. No rush. Someone will be here to drive you back home.” No thanks, ex-boss. I’ll just take the bus.
“Ok, Marty. Will do.” Bill then terminated the call. Some days it doesn’t pay to wake up. Yeah, some mornings you envy the deceased.
On April 10th, while returning from a morning walk, Bill saw a white envelope taped to his front door. It was from the park office. The form letter was giving him official notice that if he didn’t have the full rent payment by April 15th, he would be evicted. Oh, crap! What to do now? Can’t hit up the bank of mom and pop anymore. [They died in 2013 and 2012, respectively.] Should I hit up Steve [his five-years-younger brother in Flagstaff, Arizona] for a loan? Or, maybe Sylvia? [his three-years-older sister in New York City] No. This is my problem to deal with. Just figure something out.
Bill glanced out the main window. A small Hispanic boy in the playground was trying to carry two red kickballs, but kept dropping them, as his arms just weren’t long enough yet to cradle both. Then the boy left one ball on the ground and ran off gleefully with the other one. That’s it! I’ll sell the old pickup truck and keep the camper right here. [Kelley] Blue Book value is $3,400 for a private-party sale. Price it much lower. Maybe $2,500. Yeah, that’s it; that should move it fast. A quick cash-only sale. Yes! That’s the ticket. Anyway, the grocery store and fast-food restaurants are only a short walk away. Plus, both orange and gold [route] bus stops are right there on Giuntoli. [Lane] Yeah, let’s list that truck online right now.
Three anxious, nearly sleepless, gray days later, Bill got lucky: His burgundy, high mileage, 2001 Dodge Ram pickup was bought by a middle-aged Caucasian man from Blue Lake (5.6 miles – 9 km – east) for the asking price. After being dropped off by the new owner on Boyd Road, he walked to the park office and paid his outstanding balance. Bill breathed a sigh of relief as he ambled down Oasis Street towards his camper. Mission accomplished. Wonder when Marty will call? Sure hope he calls by May 1^st^.
April turned into May with no word from Marty. Bill then began calling around for work. However, there was no electrician work to be had, except for a small company in Fortuna (28 miles – 45 km – south). But, he thought it was just too far away, and ruled it out.
And then, with hours of free time on his hands, Bill started drinking. Heavier. And heavier. By June 1st he was up to a 12-pack a day. And by July 1st, he was up another 25%. Yet, his savings were down 75%. Time was running down. But, his stress was running up. Way up.
On Friday evening, July 4th, a nine-year-old boy lit off a firecracker in the playground. It triggered a PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) episode, Bill’s first since 1997. Bill immediately had a vision of a charred, still smoldering, blown-off left arm – his army buddy’s – on the kitchen floor. He ran outside, somewhat drunk, and began yelling: “Get down! Incoming! Everyone, get down now! And, stay down.”
The kids stopped and looked at him, all mouths agape. Time froze. A passing vireo almost forgot to flap her wings.
Then, about ten seconds later, he realized that he had suffered another PTSD event. He turned around, lowered his head, and slowly stumbled back inside his camper. It’s over. I’m cracking up. I’m almost broke. What to do now? Ah, yes, I know. It’s mini-storage time.
The next Monday he walked to the park office. He told the sandy-blonde-haired, 40-ish, slightly overweight Caucasian lady the truth: He was just about out of money. Bill also told her that he was willing to sell his camper for only $3,500, just 70% of its current value. She agreed to give him one month to sell it.
Bill put a For Sale sign on his camper and advertised it on a local buy-sell-trade website. In the last week of July, a prospective buyer showed up and offered him $3,200. Bill accepted the bid, provided that the 50-something, thin-mustached Honduran drive him and his belongings to Mad River Storage Center in Glendale (3.7 miles – 6 km – east). The man then replied: “Deal, señor.” [mister in Spanish] And, off they went in the man’s shiny, blue, 2012 Ford F-250 pickup, camper in tow. So much for this place. It’s been mostly nice.
At the mini-storage facility in Glendale, the smiling, denim-clad Latino helped Bill unload the contents of his former camper into a 6’ x 8’ (1.83 × 2.44 meters) exterior-access storage space at the back of the property in the shadow of a tall evergreen. Perfect. Joe [an old friend of Bill] gave me the 24-hour gate code. Murphy’s [a grocery store] is just across the street. That will also be my bathroom. Sponge baths here we come. Great! There’s an electrical outlet for the fridge and microwave. A space heater should be enough for the winter. Living on the margins now – on the edge of homelessness. I should probably start a journal. Maybe turn it into a novel someday.
Bill thanked the Hispanic man. Then he watched his camper being pulled away. There she goes. Bye-bye, humble abode. / [English translation] Is that man going to live in that mini-storage unit? I think he is.
From August to November, Bill’s 400-foot-radius (244-meter-wide) world was just three places: his mini-storage loft, Murphy’s, and the adjacent bowling alley (E & O Lanes), or more specifically, the D & L Lounge.
It was at this no-frills D & L Lounge at 5:05 PM on the Friday after Thanksgiving that Bill started talking to a svelte, red-dressed, mid-40-something brunette. She had seen better times, too.
“So, what’s your story?” he brazenly asked her as she took a seat at the bar, two stools to his right. She’s quite attractive. Almost too attractive for this place. / Woah! When was the last time this guy shaved?
She raised her penciled eyebrows. “Oh, nothing that unusual. Got married. Had two healthy kids. They grew up and left home. Husband failed to grow up. So, I left home, too. Got divorced. Took a financial beating. And, now I’m here. Now, what’s your story? Oh, by the way, my name is Charlene.” Charlene, Charlene. Where is that Charlene from my army unit now?
“Nice to meet you, Charlene. My name is Bill. I’m a Desert Storm vet. Now an out-of-work electrician. Divorced, too. But, never had any kids. My living arrangement at the moment is quite unique.”
“You still live with your ex, don’t you?” Huh?!
“Oh, God no! Nothing like that.”
“Hmmm … Let me guess. Hold on. It’s coming to me. You’re renting a garage apartment in Arcata.” Probably from a successful sibling.
“Ha! I wish.”
“You’re renting a backyard shed near the airport [ACV] in McKinleyville.”
“Warmer.” I wonder if he can still get it up.
“You’re living in an unfinished basement.” That sure would be nice.
“Bill, I think you have me stumped.” Man, I’d love to stump-hump her.
“Drumroll, please. Dah-dah-dah-dum. Ok, prepare for shock, Charlene. I’m living in a mini-storage unit across the street. I plan on turning the experience into a novel someday.” Whew! The wacky ones always seem to find me.
“Oh, my … Well, I’m sorry to hear that, Bill.”
“It’s really not that bad. It’s quiet. Never any loud neighbors. The space heater is more than adequate on chilly nights.”
“But, it’s cramped, right?”
“Space is at a premium.” I’m sure.
“Excuse my bluntness, but where do you use the bathroom, brush your teeth, and take a shower?”
“Over at Murphy’s.” No wonder he looks – and smells – the way he does. Need to get him cleaned up. Seems like a decent guy just down on his luck. Maybe he doesn’t have a family. Plus, he’s a vet. I owe it to him.
“Hey Bill, the small house that I’m renting has a large, insulated shed with electricity and indoor plumbing. Could you afford $200 a month, all utilities included?” Sure could use some help on my rent. He looks trustworthy. I don’t think he would rape me, or harm me in any way. Might even add some safety. That house is way out by itself. I’m an easy target out there all alone.
“Sure. When can I move in?” Bill grinned. He almost looked like Jack Nicholson from ‘The Shining’ when he said that. Should I really do this? / I bet she’s wild in the sack.
“Well, I live out in the country. Do you have a car?”
“I had a pickup truck, but not anymore. Sold it. Are you near a bus stop?”
“No, I’m not anywhere near a bus stop. However, I have a motor scooter than you are welcome to use.”
Two days later, an overcast Sunday (November 30th) afternoon with drizzle, Bill was loading his stuff into Charlene’s silver minivan. They then drove three miles (about 5 km) up Fieldbrook Road to a small one-bedroom cottage off in the woods.
Charlene backed down to the outbuilding, about twenty meters (65.6 feet) behind her redwood-sided, one-level residence. She then helped Bill load his stuff into the finished shed, which was almost as big as her cabin. Eighteen wet minutes later, Bill prepaid the rent with ten $20 bills. Nice to get the money up front. He’s a good guy.
Charlene then walked back to her 2007 Chrysler Town & Country minivan. Dusk was already mixing with the silent, almost-hovering mist. She stopped and looked back at Bill. “You should have hot water in about thirty minutes. Have a restful night, Bill. Please call me if you need anything, or if something isn’t working. Oh, the motor scooter has some gas in it. Feel free to use it. I think tomorrow will be less rainy.” She trusts me. / I hope that I haven’t made a terrible decision.
Bill and Charlene would have a wild sexual romp after a wine-saturated dinner the next night in the cozy cottage. It had been a long time without for both of them. They, however, would still maintain their separate domiciles. It made the sexual forays more exciting.
But then on Thursday, the 18th of December, Bill disappeared. Charlene wondered what had happened to him, as his belongings and cell phone were still in the shed. She considered calling the police, but for some reason never went through with it. She just assumed that he was wandering around somewhere, perhaps on a long hike.
Two days later, a dank Saturday, she saw his picture on a local news website while sipping herbal tea. He looked crazy, frightened and bewildered. Apparently a McKinleyville policeman had arrested Bill on Friday for cutting out sections of fence along the Mad River. The article stated that seven dogs, five goats and three horses were now missing.
Bill, who was apprehended in the frigid Mad River while standing with a staff in his right hand and a German Shepherd at his left side (on a point bar), died of hypothermia later that day. The dog survived.
Note: The idea for this story arrived when Monique (Agent 32) and I (Agent 33) saw a disheveled man and dog burst out from a wooded tract along the Mad River.
Bill, a Gulf War veteran who is living in a camper on the outskirts of Arcata (California, USA), gets some bad news on a gloomy morning in late winter of 2014. With no savings, he starts selling. Stress builds. Old demons re-emerge. Eventually, he is living somewhere not intended for human occupation. At an across-the-street watering hole, he meets an attractive lady, Charlene, who is down on her luck, too, though not anywhere as much as Bill. A unique cost-saving living arrangement ensues. But then, Bill disappears one December morning. Forty-eight hours later, Bill's fate is revealed to Charlene. Approx. 2,300 words. If this tale were a movie, it would probably be rated PG-13, possibly G (ok for all ages).