We got up early for the drive through the rest of the Badlands on the way to Custer, which would serve as our base of operations for the next few days. Shortly after passing through the town of Scenic and turning south onto Highway 27, we crossed over the junction between the north and south units of the park and came to Sheep Mountain Road. It was nothing more than a dirt road and not all that long according to the map, but it looked like it would be scenic, so we turned right and left the pavement behind. I was sure glad we had all-wheel drive, as the road was barely a road at all in spots.
We saw some of the most spectacular scenery in the Badlands National Park, and we ended up spending far more time exploring the area than we’d planned, taking several short hikes along the way. Again, we were careful to be sure we could always see our way back to the car. I practically filled a whole memory card, just from making that one right turn. I kind of wished we’d allowed more time for it, but nothing we’d read online mentioned much about the road, and in fact, we hardly encountered anyone on the route at all. It seemed that very few visitors ventured beyond the Badlands Scenic Loop Drive.
The White River Visitor Center was nothing more than a trailer, but the ranger there was quite helpful in showing us some of the best places for hiking, including a several-mile hike into the Palmer Creek Unit just across the highway from the visitor center, but it required wading across Porcupine Creek. Returning to our car, the drive west along Highway 2 took us well into the Stronghold Unit, where we found numerous opportunities to get out of the car, hike a bit and photograph the spectacular scenery. Turning north on Highway 41, we followed the western boundary of the park, stopping at the Red Shirt Table Overlook and then passing through the town of Red Shirt, if a group of houses and some silos could even be called a town.
By the time we got to Hermosa, it was already after 7:00 PM, and I worried we might not find anything open by the time we got to Custer, but we didn’t want to find ourselves driving winding mountain roads in the dark. Apparently, the Tesla had a cell signal, as when I asked the Nav system for restaurants that would still be open after we arrived, it listed several. Although the road was winding and long, we arrived in Custer just ahead of 8:00 and most of the restaurants were still open. In fact, most were open until 9:00. Based on Yelp reviews, we chose a quirky place named Denial South Dakota and the Peanut Gallery. With a name like that, how could we not stop? And with a dish called To Die For 5-Cheese Gourmet Mac and Cheese, how could I not get that? I had mine in a bread bowl with the grilled chicken add-on. Wow, what a great meal. Henry had Mike’s Cuban Panini, which was ginormous. We shared our meals with each other, and both dishes were fantastic. We went away stuffed.
Custer proved to have significantly more variety in both lodging and restaurants than Wall did, but that wouldn’t have taken much. We’d considered staying in one of the campgrounds, some of which offered rustic cabins, but then we discovered that in addition to the Tesla Supercharger in town, a number of the motels offered Level 2 charging stations at no additional cost. The Rock Crest Lodge was one of the older, but nicer accommodations, and we were able to rent a small cabin that actually looked like a cabin. Unfortunately, the charge station was at the main lodge, and we had to walk up a hill to get to the cabin after plugging in the car for the night. Still, it was just what we needed as a place to spend the next four nights.
Over the course of the next few days, we visited all the usual tourist spots, including Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Monument, Custer State Park, Black Hills National Forrest, Wind Cave National Park and Jewel Cave National Monument. We also continued our discussion of my escape from Indiana in extreme detail, taking care to avoid discussing the shooting itself or the steps I took to cover up the nature of Alan Farmer’s death. That discussion would be for another time and not until I was ready for it.
Our nights were filled with making love, and boy, did we make love! Henry might have been only fifteen, but he was in every way my equal, and the more time we spent together, the more and more I fell in love with him. Which wasn’t to say we didn’t argue. Some of our arguments were memorable, but then we’d had a few years of experience, having lived under the same roof.
When it came to the next phase of our journey, boy, did we argue. I’d originally planned to make a day of it, driving from Custer to Moorcroft, Wyoming, driving to Devils Tower National Monument, Hiking the Tower Trail and then driving to Miles City, Montana, where we’d recharge the car and spend the night. We’d then drive the short distance to Makoshika State Park and on to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, where we’d spend the next few days camping. The problem was that I’d deviated from Henry’s original, well-thought-out plans, and in my attempt to make the journey with as few charging stops as possible, miscalculated the distance from Custer to Devil’s Tower to Miles City. Because of that, we would have had to drive over three hundred miles on a single charge in a car with a range of only 300 miles. It was a charging station too far.
We’d made reservations along the way that would now have to be changed, and Henry was none too pleased, particularly since we’d have even less time at Devil’s Tower. As it was, Henry was disappointed we were spending so little time there. The long and short of it was we’d either have to drive an hour out of the way to Gillette to work-in an extra recharging session or to detour through Spearfish to do the same. The distances were similar, so it didn’t make much difference either way. Then Henry exclaimed, “We’re just gonna hafta stay in Gillette! It’s the only way.” But Gillette was another three hours from Miles City.
Staying in Gillette would mean spending five hours of driving the next day instead of two, leaving scant time to spend in Makoshika State Park on the way. Besides which, it was one thing to arrive late in the evening at a motel, but quite another when camping, as time was needed to set up our campsite. “We could stay in Spearfish,” I suggested as an alternative. “It’d mean skipping Makoshika State Park, but it would disrupt the trip a lot less.”
“Don’t be silly,” Henry responded. “If we charge up the Tesla the evening we arrive in Gillette, we can leave early the next morning, spend a few hours in Makoshika instead of all day and still arrive at the campground in the early evening in plenty of time to set up camp. Henry and I argued back and forth for a while before we reached an agreement: we’d stay overnight in Gillette. Henry was right, of course. I had little difficulty getting a reservation at the LaQuinta Inn, which had top reviews, but it was too late to cancel the reservation in Miles City, so we were on the hook for paying for both places. At least it was only for one night.
To make it up to him, I let Henry drive from Custer to Devil’s Tower National Monument. I was a bit nervous at first, but he drove cautiously, and I began to relax and enjoy riding shotgun. It was nice to be able to take my eyes off the road and enjoy the scenery around me for a change. When we got to the visitor center, we couldn’t find a single parking spot and eventually gave up and retreated back down to the amphitheater, which had a large parking area that was nearly empty. After making use of the facilities, we headed to the Valley View / South Side Trail, which we followed along the river and across the park road, where it joined the Red Beds Trail, the longer of the two trails that encircled Devil’s Tower. It was a 2.8-mile loop and about halfway around, it brought us to the visitor center. Lo and behold, there were several parking spots available now.
Neither Henry nor I were wearing shirts, but what the hell, we went inside anyway. It was quite crowded, so we didn’t stay long. Returning to hiking, we took the Tower Loop Trail, which was so crowded as to almost spoil the experience. Even so, the views of the tower were spectacular, and I managed to get a number of excellent photos along the way. After completing the Tower Loop Trail, we returned to the Red Beds Trail and followed it back around to where we could access the amphitheater parking lot. The drive to Gillette was short, and we ate at an excellent Mexican restaurant while the Tesla charged up nearby. It seemed that Gillette had a large Latinx population, and the selection of restaurants was outstanding.
After dinner, we checked into the hotel and then went to the adjacent Walmart Supercenter, where we outfitted ourselves with food and camping supplies for the next week. After returning to our room, our intention was to make love until the sun came up, but that plan quickly went out the window when I logged into the Applazon corporate server to check my email.
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“You look troubled, Babe,” Henry responded to the furrowed look on my face. I was reading an email from Jitendra, and the news wasn’t encouraging. “Is everything okay?”
Sighing, I answered, “They’re still having trouble with the superconducting motor design,” I replied. They added magnetic sensors to the matrix and then added more sensors and tweaked and re-tweaked the software to compensate for irregularities, and even still, the superconductivity collapses when they try anything more than simulations and lab tests. In the real world, it just doesn’t work.”
Scratching his head, Henry asked, “How are you cooling the motor? Could there be eddies in the air currents that cause microscopic fluctuations in the spacing between the stators and the rotor?”
“We’re not using air cooling,” I responded. “Obviously, we tried that first, but there was too much heat buildup and not enough airflow. The deformation of the tires generates a lot of heat, too, which makes it difficult to get cool air where it’s needed. We’re therefore using circulating oil with a conventional radiator.”
Seemingly staring off into space for a minute or perhaps even longer, Henry began, “It’s too bad you can’t use circulating water and laminar flow, but it would mess up the circuitry. Oil doesn’t have near the heat capacity, and it’s not truly incompressible. Small temperature variations will cause deformation of the oil flow that you wouldn’t have with water. Those eddies will disrupt the magnetic field and cause the superconductivity to collapse.”
“Not to minimize your abilities, Henry, but you’re a mathematician,” I pointed out. “What does fluid flow have to do with superconductivity?”
“How much training do you have in the mechanics of fluid flow?” Henry asked.
“Almost none,” I answered. “I’m an expert in electromagnetic flux in superconductors and semiconductors, but that’s in the quantum world. I live and breathe quantum mechanics. Fluid flow is in the realm of continuum mechanics. It’s classic Newtonian physics, and I leave that to the experts on fluid dynamics and cooling systems.”
“Then consider me an expert,” Henry responded. “Few things are more complex than fluid dynamics. Sure, the math is pretty simple, but an exact solution would require the solution of trillions of simultaneous equations. It’s just not feasible. That’s why these sorts of problems are almost always solved using numerical methods. Fluid dynamics provides an ideal way to explore methods of computational mathematics, and because we can actually measure the fluid motion, we can test our algorithms in real time. Believe me, I know the ins and outs of fluid mechanics as well as anyone. You absolutely should model the fluid dynamics inside your motor. Chances are that eddies in the oil are responsible for the loss of superconductivity. You also need to consider boundary effects. Your oil probably behaves more like a gas when it contacts the ceramic elements. Depending on the geometry, you may be able to keep the flow laminar, reducing friction. However, turbulent flow would have the opposite effect, and it would destabilize superconductivity.
“It would be better if you could get rid of fluid flow altogether. Perhaps you could use a good old-fashioned heat sink,” Henry went on, “something with high thermal conductivity. Perhaps you could use aluminum or an aluminum alloy. It’s not ferromagnetic, so it wouldn’t affect your rotating magnetic field, but it would protect the ceramics against runaway thermal effects.”
“But we need the open honeycomb of the ceramic elements for flow of the coolant,” I pointed out. “By adding a heat sink, you’d reduce the surface area available for heat exchange.”
“Maybe there’s another way to get rid of the heat,” Henry suggested. “Are you familiar with the Peltier Effect?”
“Of course,” I replied. “It’s like a thermoelectric effect, the reverse of the Seebeck Effect, like a thermocouple in reverse, using current to drive a junctional temperature differential. It’s a heat pump that’s sometimes used in low-level cooling applications such as wine coolers and dehumidifiers. It’s much quieter and more compact than a conventional reverse Brayton-cycle compressor, but far less efficient. How would that help us here?”
“Because a metal/ceramic-superconductor/metal sandwich will act like a Peltier device. If you apply a direct current, you’ll create a temperature differential between the two metals. In effect, you’ll be able to pump heat from one metal plate to the other,” Henry pointed out.
“So, you’ll cool one metal plate and heat the other,” I surmised. “The thermal conduction coefficient of the ceramic is actually extremely low, which makes it an excellent thermal insulator. The ceramic will remain superconductive on the cold side, but will lose superconductivity on the hot side, leaving you worse off.”
“That’s why eddies are causing problems, J.J.,” Henry responded. “Think about it. Small eddies result in very small temperature fluctuations at the surface of your superconducting ceramic, but those temperature fluctuations result in a temperature differential between the inside and outside surfaces of your ceramic superconductors. By the Seebeck effect, that generates a current which generates a small magnetic field, collapsing the superconducting properties of the ceramic. You need to eliminate fluid flow altogether, and the best way to do that is by placing the whole thing in a sealed vacuum.”
“A vacuum!” I exclaimed.
“With superconductivity, electrons can flow across a vacuum, right?” Henry asked, rhetorically. “The effect is from quantum tunneling. It’s what makes your Josephson Junction possible, hence quantum computing.”
“With superconductivity, electrons will pass through a vacuum as if the gap wasn’t there,” I acknowledged, but suddenly I saw where Henry was going with this. “But thermal conduction will be blocked. The only thermal leakage would be from black-body radiation and with mirrored surfaces – that can be made negligible. Heat transfer will be minuscule, but the electrical current will tunnel through the vacuum as if it weren’t there and a temperature differential will result, based on the electrical differential between the ceramic and the outer casing of the motor. Henry, that’s ingenious but if we lose superconductivity for even a half-second, the effect will collapse, and the vacuum will instead serve to trap the heat inside.”
“That’s what a heat sink is for,” Henry explained. “The heat sink will absorb any excess heat, and because its nonferromagnetic but electrically conductive, it’ll help steady fluctuations in the magnetic field without interfering with the function of the motor.”
“The only problem is that for the motor to remain in a vacuum, we’ll need sealed bearings between the axle and the casing, and those are likely to fail under the stress of a race,” I pointed out.
“If you make the motor casing out of something nonferromagnetic, such as aluminum or maybe even a carbon-fiber composite, would it still work if the rotors and stators were self-contained, each in its own casing?” Then drawing on the motel notepad, he continued, “If you could do that, you could have each one in a separate, sealed vacuum, and you wouldn’t need to use sealed bearings.”
“Wait a minute!” I responded. As my level of excitement shot through to the stratosphere. “Yes, Henry, I think that would work. I’ll have to do some calculations, but I’m pretty sure.”
Taking a look at Henry’s drawing, it was ingenious. It eliminated all of the issues with fluid flow, thermodynamics and bearings and got rid of the need for a separate cooling system, too. Henry and I spent half the night on the company’s servers, using the CAD-CAM software to implement a workable design based on his ideas. It was no mean feat, given we were both accessing the software using our cellphones and a tablet. When we were satisfied, we sent the design to Jitendra.
The alarm on our phones went off way too early in the morning, but reflecting on what we’d accomplished, it was worth it.
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“Whose idea was it again to go camping?” I asked of no one in particular. We were camping in the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park and our good luck with the weather had seemingly evaporated before we even arrived. It had been raining off and on for more than a week in the park, and everything was a soggy mess.
“I’m pretty sure it was yours,” Henry answered as we shivered in our zipped-together sleeping bags. They were well-insulated and supposed to be adequate for sub-zero temperatures, but they couldn’t block the dampness, and no matter how warm they were, there was a clammy chill. It didn’t help that we were constantly wet, either.
“Actually, I’m certain it was yours, and remember, I’m the one who remembers everything.” I responded. When we’d arrived, it was already raining and getting dark, and we had to pitch our tent in near darkness on muddy ground. Our tent of course was waterproof, and it was a large pup tent, so all we had to do was open it and secure the frame, but we also had to anchor it into the muddy ground, lest it blow away. There was a nice fire grate at our camp site, but we couldn’t use it. We had our own camping stove, and it worked even in the rain, plus it was safe to use inside a well-ventilated tent. Still, attempting to grill any kind of meat quickly filled the tent with the smoke of burning fat, which was difficult to get rid of and clung to everything. We’d bought a bunch of perishables for our camping excursion – ground turkey; turkey hot dogs; turkey bacon; chicken breasts, thighs and legs; cheese and eggs, none of which were suitable for indoor cooking. We filled an ice chest to keep it all fresh, but the ice would melt in less than a week, so we needed to use or lose all that food. For better or worse, we had to grill it under a tent flap in the rain. We intended to camp for three nights in the South Unit and two in the North Unit, and with basically nothing to do besides driving the scenic loops and hiking, we had no other plans.
“We’d be more comfortable sleeping in the car,” Henry added. “At least we’d be warm and dry.”
“The heated seats would be nice,” I agreed, “but they’d quickly drain the battery, and we couldn’t snuggle up together. It’s starting to get light out. We might as well get up.”
“I was afraid you’d say that,” Henry said as he started to open up the zipper between the sleeping bags and then shivered. I got up and shivered, too. We had a small combination, propane camp stove and heater, and we felt a lot more comfortable once it was lit. Even though it had a low-oxygen safety shutoff, we didn’t like to sleep with it lit. For one thing, we had a limited supply of propane and didn’t want to have to leave the park to refill it. Besides which, we didn’t really need it once we were snuggled up together inside the sleeping bags.
Throwing on some sweats, a jacket, a poncho and flip-flops, I grabbed some clean underwear, a towel, shampoo, soap and deodorant. As we made our way through the mud to the showers, I couldn’t help but notice how much Henry had matured. He wasn’t quite sixteen, yet he had a real beard now, sparse though it might be. I liked it better when he shaved, but there was little justification for that while on vacation, particularly while camping, so we’d agreed that he’d merely keep it neatly trimmed. He had a rechargeable electric razor for doing so, and I had to admit that Henry looked good with a beard. Very, very sexy.
The hot water felt good as we washed the dampness away. Getting dressed in fresh underwear and sweats, we headed back to our campsite, dressed for the day, and Henry got to work making breakfast while I attempted to make plans for the day. A quick update on the weather showed the rain wasn’t expected to let up for at least another couple of days. Fuck.
We attempted to drive the scenic loop and see what we could see. Donning ponchos, we attempted to hike in the mud, but with the hilly terrain and the impaired visibility, that actually turned out to be dangerous. With all the rain, it was hard to even tell there was any scenic beauty, although the photos I’d seen on the internet certainly showed that there was. There was no point it in taking my own photographs, regardless.
Our attempts at sightseeing were hopeless, so we returned to our campsite and spent the afternoon making love. Even in the dampness, on an air mattress in a minuscule tent, the love we shared was all that we needed. That evening, Henry made Sloppy Joes with ground turkey and barbecue sauce served over buttermilk biscuits. It was true comfort food and the perfect meal to make and eat in our soggy tent.
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Waking up to the steady sound of a moderate rainfall on our tent, Henry suggested, “Why don’t we skip the showers today? It’s not like there’s anything for us to do.”
“That might be fine if you ignore the need to piss, which we have to do anyway, but actually, there is something for us to do today,” I countered. “We’re going to have to recharge the Tesla before driving to the North Unit anyway, so we might as well do that today and spend the day in Dickinson. We can eat our three meals there, maybe see a couple or three movies and recharge the car.”
“That’s a fantastic idea, Babe,” Henry agreed as he got out of the sleeping bag. “Let’s grab our showers and head to Dickinson,” which was exactly what we did. We took quick showers, secured the campsite and were on the road within a half hour, but the Nav system warned us that with the lights on and the windshield wipers going, we barely had a sufficient charge to reach the nearest Tesla Supercharger. The car automatically went into dark mode, with the windows and sunroof closed to minimize drag, the lights dimmed to the minimum legal brightness and all non-essential functions turned off. It was eerie, seeing a completely dark instrument panel but with the car driving on autopilot, there was no need. The car dutifully woke up when we got to Dickinson, and we wasted no time in plugging it in. Having a completely depleted battery meant letting it charge for over an hour, but the alternative would have meant curtailing part of our route.
The charging station was right next to a City Brew coffee place, which was open, and it certainly seemed to be better than most of the surrounding restaurants, including such gourmet brands as Burger King. However, there was a Caribou Coffee that was open in the Prairie Hills Mall, located across the parking lot, and I knew they had a much better breakfast menu, so that was where Henry and I headed. I had the spinach, artichoke and provolone sandwich on an English muffin with a bowl of blueberry-almond oatmeal and Henry had the turkey bacon, egg and Swiss cheese on a whole wheat roll with the maple, brown-sugar-crunch oatmeal. We both ordered the nitro-infused coffee for which they were known. How appropriate, since I’d perfected nitrogen-cooled servers.
As long as we were at Caribou, we decided to pick up some food we could use while hiking during the next few days, so we ordered a dozen everything bagels, two orders of apple fritters, two orders of raspberry white-chocolate scones, two dozen oatmeal-chocolate-chip cookies and six cans of cold-brew coffee. The total wasn’t cheap, but the goodies were undoubtedly way better than what could be found at the Cash Wise grocery in the mall.
There were a couple of movie theaters in the mall, The Griffin, which had three screens and showed current releases, and The Odyssey, which was an art theater associated with Dickinson State University. Unfortunately, The Griffin was the only one in Dickinson showing current releases, so we looked over the meager selection of movies and made plans to see two of them during the day. The mall itself had a very limited selection of stores, including the grocery, Durham’s Sporting Goods, Maurices, Starboard, and Boot Barn, all of which carried women’s clothing. In other words, there was nothing at the mall for us to do other than the two movies we intended to see. For that matter, there wasn’t much to see or do in Dickinson, period.
“Do you feel up to continuing to go over your escape from Indiana?” Henry asked as he guided us to a bench, where we sat down. “It’s not like we have anything better to do.”
“As dead as this mall seems to be, why don’t we get right down to brass tacks,” I suggested. “There’s no one around to hear us, so this might be a good chance for me to retell the story of the day I shot my so-called father.”
“Are you ready for that, Babe?” Henry asked with obvious concern on his face. “Don’t you think you should wait until we’re back home?”
“Remember, ‘home’ is going to be New York,” I pointed out, “and we won’t be there for a few weeks yet.”
“Yikes, I forgot,” Henry responded.
“There’s never going to be a better time, Henry,” I added. “So, like I said, Alan Farmer had his hands around my neck – around Adam’s neck – and he was strangling the boy. He couldn’t breathe and there was damn little blood getting through to his brain. Only from the vertebral arteries ’cause the carotids and jugulars were blocked by Alan’s stranglehold. Adam was near passing out, so he did the only thing he could think to do, which was to knee him in the balls. Alan let go of Adam, and Adam ran from him, gasping for breath. Knowing that Alan kept a gun behind his headboard, Adam headed right for his bedroom, reached behind the headboard, and grabbed the gun.”
“What kind of gun was it?” Henry asked.
“A handgun?” I replied. “I’ve no idea what kind. I don’t know shit about guns.”
“Was it large or small? Was it a revolver or did it have a magazine? Did it have a long or a short barrel?” Henry asked.
“How the hell would I know?” I replied. “It was a handgun. It had a trigger, a safety and it shot bullets.”
“Do you think you could identify it from a picture if I showed you some?” Henry asked. “Maybe figure out what caliber it was?
“Maybe by type and size, but not by brand, caliber or anything else,” I answered.
“Alright, I won’t belabor the point,” Henry responded, “so let’s put that aside for the time being. It may not be relevant anyway, just another detail to help you get past the emotional aspects. So, you flicked off the safety, or rather Adam did, and he aimed the gun at the center of Alan Farmer’s chest and told him not to come any closer —”
“When he kept charging right at me and before he got close enough that he could grab the gun, I slipped my finger inside the trigger guard and squeezed the trigger,” I said. “I’m sorry, Henry, but I can’t keep referring to myself in the third person. Shooting the man I thought was my father was a very personal experience. There’s no way I can separate Adam’s experience from my own. I heard the loudest sound I’d ever heard, and a gaping hole opened up in the center of Alan Farmer’s chest. Bright-red blood spurted out of the hole and splashed all over the bed and all over me. I actually thought about how I must’ve pierced his left ventricle, and I was being splashed by freshly oxygenated blood. I just couldn’t shut the rational part of my brain off, not even when being splashed with my father’s blood.
“I imagine he was already dead or unconscious by then, since no blood was reaching his brain, but he still had forward momentum, so he landed right on top of me. He was way bigger than I was, so I couldn’t move him very easily. Ultimately, I did, but with him on top of me, the only way to get out from under him was to slide my body out. I was completely covered with his blood from head to knees. I could even taste it.
“Already, I was starting to think in terms of the risk of being prosecuted for his murder. I was worried that someone might have heard the gunshot, but we were literally in the middle of nowhere, so, of course, there was no one to hear it. But I was also thinking about getting rid of the gun as well as my boxers —”
“Your boxers?” Henry asked with a bemused expression.
“I rode my new bike around the area, then came home and got undressed. Since starting high school, I’d refused to go around in the nude, but Dad, or rather Alan Farmer always kept the house too warm, like maybe eighty, so I usually lounged around in my boxers. So did he. I think maybe he liked it that way. Besides which, the heat came from a couple of wood stoves, so it wasn’t like we had a thermostat. The only way to control the temperature was to add more wood or open a window.
“So, when Alan Farmer confronted me and when I shot him, I was wearing only my boxers, but they were soaked with his blood. Again, I knew nothing about guns and didn’t even realize there was such a thing as a casing, let alone that it was ejected after the gun was fired. Obviously, I’d have gone looking for it if I’d known. But I knew that either the gun or my boxers could have tied me to the crime scene, so I had to get rid of them in a way they couldn’t be found. I got a couple of Ziplock bags from the kitchen and sealed the two items in one of them, and then I sealed that inside the other. Right away I thought of tossing them into the cave under our house. No one knew it was there, but even if they found it, retrieving the gun would be exceedingly difficult. Plus, there was an underground stream, and it was likely it would carry the gun away from the house if it didn’t just sink to the bottom.”
“You were next to Muscatatuck Park, right?” Henry asked, and I nodded. “What if your underground stream fed into the Muscatatuck River?”
“Fuck, I didn’t think of that,” I responded as my eyes opened wide. “I was in a panic, and I did the best I could for a brand-new teenager.”
“Of course, you did,” Henry replied. “So, you were still covered in blood, and you probably figured there was a risk you could’ve tracked your blood all over the house, so I’m guessing that your next move was to take a shower.”
“Yeah, but first I rolled Alan Farmer onto his back. I thought I should at least try to save him but quickly realized that wasn’t possible once I had him on his back and saw the gaping hole in his chest and the glassy eyes. I’ll never forget the eyes. Also, if I’d left him prone, it would’ve been obvious he was shot running into the bedroom. Any decent detective could have seen that anyway, but I wanted the sheriff to think he was shot in bed.”
“Was there an exit wound in back?” Henry asked.
“I didn’t notice any,” I answered.
“If there was a gaping hole in his chest, it probably was a large-caliber bullet,” Henry said. “I don’t think a 9mm would leave a gaping hole. It was probably either a 22-gauge or a 38-gauge, but a 38 would’ve blown a hole through his back. A 22 could, too, but if it was a hollow-point bullet and if it hit the spine after going through the heart, it probably lodged in the spine and there was no exit wound in the back. Carry on.”
“I took a thorough shower, and then I thoroughly wiped the shower down with Clorox to remove any traces of blood.” I replied. “I remember thinking that a CSI unit could probably still find traces of blood, but the local sheriff had too much pride and was too dumb to call anyone else in to examine the crime scene. I then took the Ziplocks with the gun and my boxers out back, behind the shack, and I climbed into the entrance to the cave, which is pretty well hidden. I threw the bag out into the cave and listened for the splash of it landing at the bottom, which it did. I returned to the house and got dressed in fresh clothes.”
“What did you do with the clothes you wore outside?” Henry asked.
Blushing, I answered, “I wasn’t wearing any.”
“You went outside in the middle of February, wearing nothing but your boxers?”
“I went outside in the nude to throw my boxers and the gun into the cave,” I replied.
“Weren’t you cold?” Henry asked.
“I was freezing, but my heart was still pounding, and I barely noticed the cold,” I replied.
Looking at his phone, Henry mentioned, “Would you believe it’s already 12:34? The Tesla must be beyond fully charged by now.”
“Shit, the Tesla!” I practically shouted. “I forgot about it completely.”
“That’s understandable,” Henry responded. “I don’t know about you, but I’m famished, and listening to your story has been emotionally exhausting. I can only imagine what it’s been like for you. We also have tickets to the show at 1:20, so we need to make tracks. Let’s go move the Tesla to a regular parking spot, grab a bite to eat and go see the movies. That sound like a plan?”
“A most excellent plan,” I replied. “Speaking of lunch, there’s a Mexican restaurant right next to the charging station called Qdoba. It has great reviews on Yelp, and the menu looks interesting. A lot of healthful takes on traditional Mexican food. Do you want to give it a try?”
“Definitely,” Henry agreed.
Although Qdoba was a chain, the scent of the food that greeted us inside was significantly better than what I’d experienced in 90% of Mexican chain restaurants. The food selections were remarkably healthful, too. They even had an Impossible™ Fajita bowl, which was tempting, but the Chicken Protein bowl looked incredible. It was a chicken fajita with beans and rice as well as a scoop of guacamole. Henry chose the Cholula Hot and Sweet Chicken. Both were full meals by themselves – and excellent.
We barely got back to the theater in time for the movie, but then there were a gazillion previews, so we wouldn’t have missed anything, in any case. The movie was a rerelease of Chris Nolan’s film, Tenet, which came out in late 2020. It was terrible timing, as it was an IMAX movie debuting at a time when very few places had allowed movie theaters to reopen. I was in Africa at the time, and it was no longer in theaters by the time I returned to the States. It got middling reviews, so I never even bothered to rent it. However, it had recently returned to theaters in an extended version that was supposed to clarify some of the more confusing aspects of the original film. Although Dickenson didn’t have an IMAX theater, The Griffon did still have a 35mm film projector, and I had to admit, the colors were so much more vibrant than what I’d seen from the digital movie projectors I was used to. More importantly, I thought the movie was brilliant, as a Brit like Nolan would’ve put it. It reminded me of his breakout film, Memento, which was a movie told in reverse. Tenet was told in two directions at the same time, which was probably difficult for some to grasp, but to me, it was an amazingly well-done story. Tenet would easily go down as one of my favorite movies of all time.
After a break to empty our bladders and to grab some popcorn and cokes, we entered the other theater and waited for the next movie to begin, which wasn’t for another half hour.
“How are you holding up, Babe?” Henry asked.
“You mean after pouring my guts out?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he replied.
“Remarkably well,” I said. “You know, I would’ve thought it would be emotionally draining to recount the actual event itself, but it wasn’t nearly as traumatic as most of the dreams I’ve had ever since.”
“I sure as fuck found it emotionally draining,” Henry countered.
“Don’t get me wrong,” I continued, “Something like that is enough to scar a person for life, but I think we may be onto something in how we treat it. So long as I keep it inside, it’ll fester, and I’ll continue to have nightmares. By retelling the story in clinical detail, it makes it a hell of a lot less frightening. We still have a ways to go, but I think this’ll help.”
“That’s why we’re doing what we’re doing,” Henry replied, but before he could say anything else, the lights dimmed, and the previews came on – all eight million of them. Talk about a waste!
The second movie was timely. Based on the true story of a kid who got sucked in by a white-supremacist group, it followed his radicalization and his eventual arrest in the aftermath of the Capitol riot of 2021. Although I’d seen my share of cellphone and body-cam videos of the storming of the Capitol, as had the entire world, the in-depth dramatization of the events of that day was extraordinary. The trial and sentencing of the kid was straightforward, but he was clearly brainwashed and continued to insist that Trump had really won the election by a landslide, and he believed Trump would grant him a last-minute pardon.
As so many of the rioters found, the President didn’t give a shit about them. Trump’s only concern was his fantasy about the election results being overturned and his being returned to the Whitehouse, and of course he only pardoned those who were close to him as a reward for staying loyal. Even now, the kid was having a hard time wrapping his head around the reality that he, along with Trump’s other followers, had been lied to and used by a megalomaniac to feed his power trip. However, the kid was quickly adopted by a white-supremacist prison gang so that when he eventually got out, he’d be even more indoctrinated into the culture. What a scary ending!
Henry and I were starving again when we got out of the movie, so we checked our phones for other places to eat and then drove the short distance to the Sakura Steakhouse. Although Sakura was a chain and better known for its hibachi tables and showman chefs, we bypassed those and headed straight for the sushi bar. The menu was extensive, but more than half the entrées were cooked. There were several sushi-sashimi combo meals that offered standard fare at a rather high price. There was something called the ‘Love Boat’ that included twelve sushi, twelve sashimi and two chef’s special rolls for close to sixty dollars. The selection was rather mundane, but it seemed like a pretty good deal, particularly after checking the prices on the a la carte menu, and so that’s what we had.
It was still raining heavily when we got back to the campsite, and we were still pretty well depleted from having gone over the shooting of my father and from watching two movies, so sex was nearly the farthest thing from our minds. Well nearly so. We ended up making out for a bit and sucked each other off in a slow, sensual 69, and then we went to sleep.
Disclaimer: This story is purely fictional and any resemblance of characters to real individuals is unintentional. Although it takes place in actual locations, in no way are any official policies, opinions or events inferred. Some characters may be underage and at times engage in homosexual acts. Anyone uncomfortable with this should not be reading the story, and the reader assumes responsibility for the legality of reading this type of material where they live. The author retains full copyright and permission must be obtained prior to duplication in any form.