The Apprentice | A Work in Progress

{ 404 words so far }

“I am Death,” he tells me as he hands me the scythe.  He had personally forged the blade out of stainless steel himself.  I can’t help but be amazed at his resourcefulness, and the meticulousness of his craft, his attention to detail and his drive to be the best he is at what he does.  “If you join me, Callie, you will be Death’s apprentice.  That is, if you agree to be my assistant.”

He presents even more weapons of horror to me from a briefcase that lay on the table in his basement.  I could not begin to describe most of them with words.

“And provided that you were not just telling me what I wanted to hear when I saved you from the empty life of a rudderless street urchin you were living.”

That stings.  I hate his throwing my recent status as a homeless person out at me as some kind of grand judgment of my worth.  I start to think that in his deep-seeded misanthropy that maybe his opinion of women is right on par with his hatred of men.

“What will it be, Calliope?”

How can I not accept his offer for this great opportunity?  A few weeks ago I was a nobody runaway living hand-to-mouth on the streets, squatting in rundown abandoned houses with creepy bums, pick-pocketing unsuspecting yuppies on the subway and finding, to my dismay, that they only carried plastic.  I didn’t care if I lived or died.

“Remember that pack of wolves I rescued you from?”

Boy, do I remember.  Again, he is picking at healing scabs.  The night Death saved me I had been sold out by a squat-mate who had tipped-off the local boys in the ‘hood that if they looked past my short-cropped hair cut, flat chest, baggy clothes and outward androgyny that they would find a virgin teen-aged girl who was ripe for the picking.  That asshole squatter traded my virginity for a meth fix.

“Once you finish your studies in self-defense, and once I teach you the fine art of killing and the ways of death, then no man—or men, will ever be able to do what those gangbanging cowards did to you.”

I give it some serious thought and consider heavily what he says. No man includes him as well, right?

“Yeah, I’ll be your apprentice.”

And in the end I will become Death.

“When do I start?”

Written: December 22, 2009.

Copyright © 2009-2016 by Brandon L. Rucker. All Rights Reserved.

Image courtesy of Wallpaper | RuckerWrites | @RuckerWrites

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The Road Is My Map | A Work in Progress

{ 756 words, began Aug 3, 2001 }

It’s funny how I got here. The first ride I got was from a car full of guys. They were of the ripped jeans and faded rock t-shirt variety, blaring classic rock and heavy metal in an old muscle car that was much older than me.  Only the cutest one of the boys flirted with me and I got the impression he was the only one of them not a virgin because all of his lines were smooth and confident. Had I not flirted back I may not have managed to get him to buy me a pack of smokes.  They dropped me off at the rest stop off I-70 without trouble.

From there I got offered a ride by a kind elderly lady who had taken one look at my dingy clothes, windblown hair and the most pathetic face I could put on and felt sorry enough for me.  She got me here and was reluctant to let me out in the middle of nowhere, but I had to get away from her.  Her lectures and bad hearing reminded me of my long dead grandma.  Grams was a peach and I miss her dearly.

I’ve been on the road three days and four nights now, hopping from one town to another without so much as a full night’s rest or a meal to nourish me or squelch the endless rage I feel. Memories of Mama’s slap and Daddy’s indifference are all the fuel I need to keep me going.

The evening sun abandons me to the night as I stand here on the side of a country road in a Podunk shittown that I’ve already forgotten the name of. I burn my last cigarette and curse my rumbling tummy. It’s time to put that thumb to work again, girl, ‘cause nighttime in the dark countryside is the best time to get what you need.

Up the road and coming from the north, I see strobes of hope, headlights, a pickup from the looks of it. The red Ford truck slows just before it reaches me; head beams drop in favor of yellow parking lights. How considerate. A ball cap covering sandy brown hair and a chiseled face rears its handsome self from the window. “Need a ride, there, Ma’am?” God bless country boys and their chivalry. Except this guy’s no boy, he’s a bona fide man who’s old enough to be my daddy.

He asks me where I’m headed and I tell him a lie, which is nowhere in particular. He says, “You runnin’ away er somethin’?” and I tell him another lie. “No, I’m eighteen I can go where I please. It’s just I got nowhere to go. I don’t have any money and the last time I had a home-cooked meal was a couple of days ago.” I lay it on thick with a lost puppy frown on my Barbie doll face. He eats it up like I expect him to, but not before stating my story sounds exactly like a runaway, and that hitchhiking at night is a dangerous thing for a girl like me.

I climb into the pickup, buckle up and ask for a cigarette. “Thank you . . .”

“Name’s John. I just live up the road here. Got a ranch with some animals . . . a garden.”

Farmer John takes me up the long road to his ranch house. He’s married but his family hasn’t been here in months. How convenient; there’s no need to explain this awkward situation. I use his shower. He finds some clean clothes that his sixteen-year-old daughter’s left behind that fit me perfectly. Turns out his family didn’t just go on an extended vacation. His wife just packed them up and left the poor guy.

I sit across from him at the supper table, eating cereal. “So you’ve been here all this time by yourself, John, with no one to keep you company?” He nods, solemnly. “No wife, no daughters, no one to do the womanly things that a house like this . . .”

“Tandy, please.”

“I’m sorry, I just thought you must get awful lonely.” I let my bare foot accidentally-on-purpose make contact with his denim covered knee under the table. I’m giving my best Emmy performance, I muse, having been coached by the best vixens on my daytime soaps.

I figure I’ll just give Farmer John what I owe him and be halfway to the next shittown by noon tomorrow. I’ll make sure he’ll miss me when I’m gone.

{not fin}

Written: August 2001.

Copyright © 2001-2016 by Brandon L. Rucker. All Rights Reserved.

Image is Copyright © Alex Master. | RuckerWrites | @RuckerWrites

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