Thread: Utopia Bound
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Old 04-30-2019, 03:49 AM
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Default Utopia Bound

A new story

Chapter one
Utopia Bound
Night had over taken Billy as he wandered into the small town of Pleasantville. He was hungry, it had been four days since he had a full meal and his stomach was in revolt. The pangs of an empty stomach made everything clearer, his mind was sharp and his wallet had been empty for a week. Gone was the hope of eating. Driven away by the malevolent winds that stole what heat his body had retained underneath his business suit. He took shelter in the alcove of The First National Bank. The cold decided him to attempt forcing open the vestibule doors and steal the Save the Children donation jar the he could see on the other side.
He thought, “To hell with saving children, right now I need to save myself, my fingers are numb and my ears are burning from frostbite.” It seemed so long ago that he had had a nice car and the inheritance from his Grandmother... It was all gone now, gone into the hands of lawyers, and his recently divorced wife, along with anything else that he once owned, leaving him with the clothes on his back, his almost new wedding ring, and an empty wallet The idea of get arrested was comforting. At least in jail he would have a warm cot and some food. He kicked the glass panel setting off the alarm that triggering a swath of lights, surrounding him like a rabbit caught in the headlights of an approaching car.
He was happy, he said out loud. “Now all I have to do is sit here and wait for the patrol car to come and take me into their custody”. Five minutes later he was handcuffed and sitting in the warm patrol car. Twenty minutes more passed before he was sitting on a comfortable jail house bunk.
The arresting officer looked in at him and asked, “What in the hell were you thinking.” He smiled at her and said with a sigh of relief. “I was thinking that here I would be warm and maybe get something to eat”. Then he told her of the circumstances that had brought him to this point of desperation. His words were spoken to a woman who had seen many others in similar situations...
“Do you know what day this is?” she said, unlocking the cell door, and then motioned him to follow her. “Today is the feast of Saint Joseph Labre. He is the Saint of vagabonds, beggars and petty thieves. It is your lucky day. He is watching over you.” Shortly thereafter he was seated at a small stainless steel table where he was served a hot coffee, beans and meatloaf. As he ate he thought of his future and what he could do to change its downward spiral. Warm and sated he reflected on his life and wondered if he was responsible, and what he could have done that could have made a difference. .
That night, while he slept in the jailhouse bunk, the memory of his father returned to haunt him once more in a recurring dream.. He dreamt that he is with him, and he is riding on the big black motorcycle behind him. He can hear the low rumble of the engine and feel the stiff leather of his father’s vest. The familiar smell of whisky and tobacco on his breath lingers in the summer air. When they stop at a park and his father helps him off. His father always tells him the same thing. “My dearest, son I cannot stay here any longer. Your grandmother will take care of you until I return… I love you.” Then without looking back he climbs on to his motorcycle and rides away. But never in all those dreams over the passing years has he ever returned..
In the morning he was released from custody with the warning that he would be wise to leave town.
Back on the street, he wandered aimlessly and then found himself standing in front of the public library. Then he thought of the jailers words and went inside. He sat down at a computer and looked up Saint Joseph Labre. As he read, he was struck by the austerity of life that the beggar Saint had chosen to live, and decided there was no way he wanted to live forty years and then die starving on the cold steps leading into a Roman church. The very thought was all the motivation he needed to change the course he was now on. He looked at the useless wedding ring on his finger and suddenly realized that it was worth money. How much could he get for it, he had no idea. But, whatever it was worth he could use .He needed a shower, clean and warmer cloths, something to eat and bus fare to some undecided destination .As he got up to leave the library custodian said to him. “There is a jeweler down this street that will buy your ring for the price of gold.”He stared at the custodian, and then asked him how he knew what he had been thinking. “Son, that was easy. I have been custodian here for over fifty years and I can see you are homeless, helpless, and broke. I also know that you spent the night in jail...When I saw that you had looked up Saint Joseph Labre and stared at your wedding ring that was all I needed to see. The jeweler is a friend and he has a kind heart. He will give you a fair price. I hope you will use the money well, and I wish you luck as you travel to your destiny.”
“Destiny, I have no destiny just a bleak future.” Billy said. The custodian smiled and waved his frail hand towards the exit doors. “Yes you do, and I am positive you will discover what it is.
It is waiting for you out there .Remember that ring on your finger brought you misery, and once it is removed you will be free to find hope again”
Chapter two

Texas Tom
Taking the old man’s advice, he went out into the cold and walked down the street looking for the Jeweler´s shop.
Then he came upon a thin, old man sitting on the tailgate of a dilapidated pickup truck playing a banjo. The truck had a very unusual homemade camper made of plywood, covered with red roofing shingles, with a hand painted sign in the back that read “Scissors, Shears and Kitchen Knives Sharpened While You Wait”.
Billy stopped and studied this long haired man.
His shaggy beard was white streaked with grey, the same color as his hair and his eyes were bloodshot blue. He was wearing faded blue overalls and a matching shirt. A bright red and green Mexican poncho was draped over his boney shoulders and he was wearing leather sandals. The largest straw sombrero Billy had ever seen was tilted to the back of his head.
The dented truck had Texas license plates and its tires were worn to the point of being treadles. The strange man began to pick out the tune that Billy had heard many times before. Without knowing why he began to sing.
“All around the water tank, waiting for a train A thousand miles from home, sleeping in the rain walked up to the brakeman just to give him a line of talk. He said if you got money son Ill see that you don’t walk. I haven’t got a nickel mot a penny can I show. Get off you railroad bum and he slammed the boxcar door. He put me off in Texas a state I dearly love .The wide open spaces all around me-The moon and stars above. Nobody seems to want me or give me a helping hand”
The banjo player looked up in surprise, “There is not one person in ten thousand that knows those lyrics son, why do you? “Sir, my dad once worked for the railroad, and when I was a boy he taught me many railroad songs. “Waiting for the Train” by Jimmy Rodgers was his favorite.” Billy replied.
The old man put up the banjo and stared at directly at me and I could not help notice that his eyes are as blue as mine and there was something comfortingly familiar about him.
“Now this is a real coincidence, railroading runs in my family, father, and my half brother were also railroad men until whiskey got the better of all of us.
My name is Tom, Texas Tom, I am flat broke, this truck is almost out of gas and the local police want me out of town, or they are going to impound it and put me in jail. You don’t have ten dollars to spare for gas by any chance. Do you?”
Billy shook his head and said... “My name is Billy, nice to meet you Tom, I am from Boston. At this moment I am as broke as you. But I am going to sell my wedding ring to that Jeweler across the street. And then I can give you money for gas, provided you will take me out of town with you,
Seems like we know the same cops and they want me to move on also. You wait here and I hopefully I will get us some money.” Tom laughed and said.”You can be sure I will Billy from Boston, the gas tank is near bone dry.”
The two down and out strangers shook hands again, and that is where this story begins.
The Jeweler was at his bench, setting small diamonds into a broach when the bell over his shops entrance rang. Without looking up he removed his loupe and put his hand on top of the small pistol he kept in the drawer beside him. It had become a necessary precaution that he did ever since he was held up two years ago.
He looked at the stranger inside his shop and relaxed a bit. Instinct told him that this boy meant no harm. “Good morning, what can I do for you today?”He asked.
“The custodian at the library sent me here. He said that you buy gold and I want to sell this ring.” Billy said as he twisted it off his index finger, and handed it to him.
“Ah… yes! The custodian is a very good friend. He sends me quite a lot of people who want to sell their wedding rings .It is a good business for me. First I sell them for a good profit to couples who expect love to last forever. Then I buy them back for much less when they find out that it doesn’t.
It is amazing how many young people confuse sex for love. I must pay him a visit soon. How is he? Now let me see what you have to sell.”He took the ring, examined it, placed it on his scale to weigh it, and then he commented. “This is a nice ring, twenty karat gold, it sold for around six hundred but, I can only give you two hundred dollars.”
He was willing to pay up to three hundred, but he waited to see what the stranger would say as he handed him back the ring.
Billy knew how the game was being played .He put the ring back on his finger, said, “ Thank you for the offer” and started for the door. “What would you say to two twenty five?” The Jeweler asked? “Sir, I would say it is yours if you were to give me two fifty.” and a deal was struck.
Texas Tom was patiently still sitting on the tailgate playing Dueling Banjo´s before two large menacing city police men when Billy walked up .Sensing trouble coming he smiled at the cops, and said to Tom. “Thanks for waiting. I have finished my business with the owner. Let’s get some lunch and then we can be on our way out of this town.”
Tom handed Billy the keys and said “You drive; I am tired and want to take a break.” Without questioning, Billy got behind the wheel and Tom took the passenger’s seat, they buckled up the seatbelts and drove slowly out of Pleasantville.
to be continued
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