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The Sun Never Rises: Chapter Eight

Updated on October 12, 2016

A Long Way to Go

That’s the way it is for Max and Katie, a long way covered, a long way to go. Don’t bother asking them where they’re headed. They wouldn’t be able to tell you with any certitude. All locations look the same when you’re on the street, just different street names from week to week. The one thing that doesn’t change is the weight pressing down on you, and a horizon where the sun never rises.

Shall we join them?

Source

SADNESS

Bullet Bob died at the Mission last night.

Three cots over from us.

No one knew his real name, not unusual with street people. They come, they go, and their stories are buried with them in a pauper’s lot.

Over a dinner of beef stew the night before, he told me the “Bullet Bob” name came from a bullet still lodged near his spine, a souvenir from his days roaming the scenic byways of Vietnam. Thought he was going to die in that festering cesspool, he told me, but his platoon carried him to safety, he flew home with a Purple Heart, only to die in a mission on a cold-assed winter’s night.

Shit happens, right?

I saluted the old soldier as the emergency personnel carried him out on a stretcher, the white sheet covering a lifetime of struggle. I figured he deserved a salute.

Katie squeezed my arm.

“I don’t want to die like that, Max. Promise me it won’t happen to us.”

What was I supposed to say?

It was a Saturday morning when Bullet Bob left us, one week to the day since we arrived in Mt. Vernon, Illinois, five days since I caught on, part-time, with Continental Tire, ten bucks an hour to clean up the warehouse, an extra hand, where needed, during the holiday rush, good honest labor for the much-needed paycheck, and that paycheck, now cashed, was sitting in my pocket, three-hundred and thirty-eight dollars, money enough to finance the next leg of our journey.

There was no more work. The decision to move on had been made for us. We packed up our rolls, said goodbye to the Mission personnel, thanked them for their kindness, and stepped out the front doors to a battleship-gray morning, colder than a scorned-woman’s heart.

“Where to, Katie?”

“I like your description of the west coast, Max. Maybe there’s sunshine and warmth there.”

She had changed since I first met her. Her skin had cleared, and laugh-lines were replacing worry-lines. Her riotous-red hair had shine to it, and her eyes seemed to reflect new-found hope. I was looking at the young girl before the abuse sent her out on the streets, and I liked what I saw.

I don’t know why I chose that moment, in that place, but I bent over and kissed Katie on the lips. She tasted like strawberries. She smelled of lilacs.

“I hope you don’t mind I did that, Katie.”

“I’ve been waiting for it, soldier. It took you damned long enough.”

Source

The Wheels on the Train Go Round and Round

We decided we were tired of walking and hitching. The Amtrak would take us to Kansas City for thirty-three bucks each, money we had, and money we were willing to spend, to stay out of the winter weather for one more leg of our trip. We boarded the train at nine-thirty-two that morning for the three hour trip.

There weren’t many travelers that time of day, that day of the month. A couple businessmen, keeping commerce moving, a mother with two young ones, she looking worn out, the kids looking like hell unleashed, a couple elderly folks bundled up under an afghan, all strangers in a tin box hurtling down the tracks, racing an unseen sun.

Katie rested her red head against my shoulder and squeezed my hand.

“Tell me about your life before the army, Max.”

Farms, silos, water towers, barns, empty fields, granges, used car lots, abandoned cars, rusted down farm machinery, we sped past the Midwest landscape, flatter than flapjacks, brittle with cold.

“Nothing special, Kate. Went to high school at Seattle Prep, a Catholic high school. Dad worked his ass off to pay the tuition, Mom picking up odd jobs to help out. I played three sports, basketball, football, and baseball, loved baseball the most but couldn’t hit a damned curve to save me, so no college scholarships and my grades were mediocre. Bottom line, we couldn’t afford college unless Uncle Sam paid for it.

“My parents are good people, my sister a good sister. Last I saw her she was fifteen, driving boys crazy with that developed body and tease attitude. Hell, maybe she’s married by now, has kids, I don’t know. Anyway, Seattle’s as good a place as any to grow up, mountains and water nearby, skiing in the winter, boating and fishing in the summer. All through high school I worked for old man Thompson, he owned a bowling alley in the Ballard neighborhood, paid me decent and gave me free bowling, as good a job as any for a wise-assed high school kid.

“And then there was the Army and, well, now there’s here.”

The green train car cut through the gray of Illinois, Katie watching it all go by, not interrupting while I talked, gaining more of my respect for it.

“A Catholic boy, huh?” she said. “Do you believe in God, Max?”

Heavenly Hosts

“I don’t think much about it, Katie. He either is or He isn’t. My dad, he served back in the Eighties, he said there are no atheists in a foxhole, and I’m pretty sure that’s the truth, all manner of conversions happening when lead buzzes by your ear and life comes to an end next to you with a muffled thump. It’s a full-time job for me to keep the crazies at bay, you know, so thoughts of God I’ll leave to other people. I think, for today, I choose you as my Higher Power. Hope you don’t mind!”

“Kiss me again, soldier,” was all she said in response, so I did, and once again the bosom of a good woman calmed my world.

The miles continued to fade behind us and stretch before us.

“If you could make it all go away, Katie, the rape, the abuse, the hooking, the street life, what would you wish for? What kind of future would you like to have?”

She held onto me tightly as the car swayed and rumbled along. She cried for a spell and I let her. Words are useless when facing the past.

“I’d like a future, Max, where I wasn’t afraid. I don’t need much, no fancy house, no country club membership, no swanky new car. Three solid meals a day, a soft bed, those things are nice, but mostly, I would like to open my eyes in the morning and not fear what lies ahead. Doesn’t seem like much to wish for but man alive, it sure has been a struggle to find, you know? Bullet Bob never found it. I don’t want to end up like him, Max, and it scares the shit out of me that I might.”

Source

Arriving at Kansas City

The great engine breathed a sigh of relief as we departed the train, stepping down onto Kansas City, Missouri. I looked around and saw more flat, more gray, more cold, same shit, different day. I felt Katie shudder next to me, the cold hitting us both like a sledgehammer. I thought about Katie, wishing for a day without fear, and I felt the responsibility of having feelings for another.

“You know, I could probably call my folks, ask them to send me enough money for train tickets home. I’m pretty sure they would do that for their long, lost boy.”

She didn’t answer, just pointed to a coffee shop inside the terminal. We both ordered steaming black and found a table, sharing a blackberry muffin. The cold retreated, but not my question.

“I think we need this trip, Max. We need to scrub off the past so that, by the time we get out west, we’ll be clean of it all and ready for the new. We’ve both got some shadows following us, and we need to get rid of them so we can stand in a new sunshine and make new memories. That’s what this trip means to me, soldier, a new beginning, and I don’t want to shorten it before its time. Does that make any sense?”

I kissed her again and the lilacs swayed in the gentle breeze, the warm sunshine fell upon my shoulders, and the shadows receded ever so slightly.

2016 William D. Holland (aka billybuc) #greatestunknownauthor

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    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 9 months ago from New York, New York

      Another great installment and very much liked the ending here today. Have the kids off one more day as school is closed for the Jewish holidays here and will be off line for a bit, but just had to stop in to read and also wish you a wonderful, Wednesday ahead now, Bill! ;)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 9 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I appreciate that, Janine! Have fun with your daughters and Happy Wednesday to you!

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 9 months ago from Queensland Australia

      And this delightful story continues. Now, to await the next instalment and see what Kansas has in store.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 9 months ago from Southern Illinois

      Traveling with Kate and Max is a joy. This story touches the heart because it's so real. Bullet Bob's death was so sad. How could we not take care of a war hero? I loved the last lines that seemed to be hopeful for a better future????? See you next time...

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 9 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks a lot, John! I'll let you know when Max and Katie let me know. :)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 9 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Ruby, thank you! I think this story touches many because most of us witness the reality of it daily and feel helpless.

    • DreamerMeg profile image

      DreamerMeg 9 months ago from Northern Ireland

      Great reflective chapter and I like Katie's idea of a cleansing journey. There is definitely a sense in which external travel can echo a journey within, or maybe it's the other way round. Whichever way, it gives you perspective on your life and the way ahead.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 9 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I completely agree with you, Meg, and perspective is oh, so important. Thank you!

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 9 months ago from Jeffersonville PA

      Dear Bill,

      Thanks for a day of inspirational and hopeful reading as I have become thoroughly immersed in Max and Katie's journey.

      Looking forward to seeing what life has in store for them next week.

      Love, Maria

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 9 months ago from United Kingdom

      I agree with Katie: it's about damn time he kissed her. It's a lovely respite from the misery of their lives. I hope it's the real thing.

      So what the deal with Max and his family? Did he just not go home after he got out? Did his family reject him? It would be nice if he could open up more, but I understand the military mentality. Still, I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 9 months ago from Oklahoma

      This is really a significant work.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 9 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you so very much, Larry! That means a lot to me.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 9 months ago from Olympia, WA

      He just never went home, Zulma. He was traumatized by the war, and not too happy with his conduct in the war (which he hasn't explained yet) and he didn't want his family to see what he had become.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 9 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Maria, you have done yeoman's duty today. Thank you so much for following the whole story. Max and Katie send their love....

      as do I!

    • Glenis Rix profile image

      Glenis Rix 9 months ago from UK

      I'm beginning to feel a little more optimistic about the future of your protagonists. But Katie has an awful lot to deal with. I'm not sure that she is going to be able to come to terms with the past and I'm hoping nothing else dreadful or sad is going to happen. Looking forward to the next stage of the journey.

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 9 months ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      Excellent. The chapter held my interest, and I cared about the characters, even though I have not yet read the earlier chapters.

      Maybe sometime I'll send anecdotes about the Gospel Mission in Kalamazoo.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 9 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I would love that, Brian. Please do, and thank you for your kind words.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 9 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Glenis, I'm going to try and stay true in this one, so I suspect some more tough luck coming up...and psychological wounds sometimes never heal.....thank you!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 9 months ago from USA

      I wonder whether the lilacs signal something significant.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 9 months ago from The Caribbean

      I like that hope remains alive not matter what. Katie's fears are relatable and it's good that she can express them, because she has someone to listen.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 9 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Katie's comment about needing to complete the journey in order to scrub off the past is very interesting. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens in the next chapter of the story.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 9 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Well I guess we'll just have to wait and find out, Flourish! You are a detailed reader, for sure....great observation! Thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 9 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Dora, it makes all the difference in the world, having someone to listen. Thank you for mentioning that.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 9 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you very much, Alicia....I think that's something most people can relate to.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 9 months ago from london

      A brilliant piece of writing from the greatest unknown writer. All those kisses and lilacs swaying with the breeze, had me yearning and hugging tightly unto my pillow, here in my hotel in Germany. Who says you're not a poet?

      Poor Bullit Bob. One of my despairing poems reflects or mirrors characters just like him. A wise and meaningful discourse for us all.

      A great and enjoyable read. Love to the family. Peace.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 9 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you so much, Manatita, from Olympia to Germany, with respect and the love of brotherhood...again, thank you for the kind words.

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 9 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Bill, I'm loving this couple and I love the story line. This chapter was especially good.

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 9 months ago from United Kingdom

      I suppose I understand Max's view, but still...to not how the family is getting on. :( Maybe Katie can get him to open up more. Hopefully, Max has learned to trust her enough.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 9 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you so much, Linda! I value your opinion.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 9 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I know, Zulma, I feel the same way, but I've talked to some vets who have done that....that's where that came from, those discussions.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 9 months ago from Victoria, Australia

      This great story continues and as we enjoy following it along, although we have not been there ourselves we can still relate to it. Good story-telling!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 9 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you so much, Blossom! I'm growing quite fond of these characters.

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 9 months ago from Texas

      Dear Bill, what does life hold in store for Katie and Max? I guess I just have to wait and see, until next week.

      Wonderful story.

      Blessings my friend

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 9 months ago from Massachusetts

      Wonderful chapter Bill. Can't wait to see what awaits Max and Katie on the west coast. Things are looking up for them at the moment. Have a great weekend.

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 9 months ago

      I see a light at the end of the tunnel, and I like that.

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 9 months ago from Riga, Latvia

      Looking forward to what will happen in Kansas City.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 9 months ago from Olympia, WA

      They are moving west, Shyron, and to whatever fate has in store with them. See you next Wednesday, and thank you.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 9 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Bill, thank you! I wish it were all roses and champagne for our couple, but I suspect tough times are ahead.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 9 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I hope so, Pop! No promises, my friend, but I hope so. Thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 9 months ago from Olympia, WA

      It's never boring on the road, Rasma...we shall see. :) Thank you and Happy Sunday to you!

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 9 months ago from Dubai

      Hope Kansas city has wonderful surprises for them. Waiting to know what is going to happen next.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 9 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Coming soon, Vellur, and thank you!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 9 months ago

      Your centering this chapter around Bullet's death was exceptional. All we really need is simplicity in life, but having security to live the next day would be ideal. Looking forward to how you answer this fact of life.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 9 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you so much, Dee! These people are special to me. They are forcing me to consider writing a novel about them.

    • Joyce Fischer profile image

      Joyce A Fischer 9 months ago from Thailand

      Loved the music. I'm wondering why the hash tag doesn't take you to the website, if that's what it's for?

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 9 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Joyce! If I understand correctly, the hashtag is supposed to take you to other entries on Twitter with that hashtag on them.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 8 months ago from Central Florida

      I'm loving where this story is going. This is the best chapter yet, Bill! Katie's a wise lady and it seems her soldier will go to the ends of the earth to keep her safe and unafraid. They're a great pair. Can't wait to see what unfolds in Kansas City.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 8 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm glad, Sha. It's funny how writing goes. This was just a writing exercise, but the characters demanded that their story be told, so I'm just along for the ride.

    • Michael-Milec profile image

      Michael-Milec 8 months ago

      Oh Bill if this chapter would be a bit longer it would leave me to live breathlessly (!). I've been enjoying every moment of its true life's actuality (Some moments of my personal past.) Surprisingly full of an endless life.

      Following Katies' talking... "Doesn’t seem like much to wish for but man alive, it sure has been a struggle to find, y o u ..." ( My way of interpreting.)

      Did anyone said HOPE ?

      One last interjecting: the photo of the old abandoned building would be my favored dream project for life to make it a dwelling place.

      ( You would understand me my friend, wouldn't you ?)

      Blessings always.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 8 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Michael my friend, I understand completely. There is history in old buildings like that one, a feeling of life having been lived there, and I would love to live in a home like that.

      Thank you always and blessings to you today!

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 8 months ago from Northern California, USA

      This leg of the journey is showing me that there is some hope in life. I'm cheering for Max and Katie. Will they find love? Maybe they have and just haven't said the words yet. We'll see. Right? But, who knows what The Greatest Unknown Author will deliver. Interesting life stories, that's for sure.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 8 months ago from Olympia, WA

      There is always hope, Marlene, and that's what I want to portray in most of my stories...hope and love...with those two, we can live quality lives....as you have!

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 8 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Bill

      A story about hope, that's what this is! Kate is good for Max and they're both beginning to hope!

      Great story

      Lawrence

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 8 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Always hope, Lawrence! There is always hope!

      Thank you!

    • Missy Smith profile image

      Missy Smith 8 months ago from Florida

      This one makes us plagued people with a single status really wish for more. I related to Katie, when she answered Max's question; not to be afraid of the future, but to find one that keeps her in a state of happiness that helps her stop being afraid of that beast.

      After the election, it threw me into a frightened state like no other, I have since found some inspiration in the people who are protesting against an unfairness. Oddly, in that way, I found hope despite that evil condition we are stuck with now, or maybe not; something of a miracle could happen, right? If not, I choose to look at the good that's happening because of it, that he never wanted anything to do with. lol.

      Back to Katie and Max though, they are already on their way to finding what Katie described by finding each other and realizing how special that is. Great story!

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 8 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      MMMM~s i g h..........This chapter is soothing, except for the sadness of Bullet Bob's passing, a bit more warmth for Katie & Max in both body & soul. RIP, Bullet Bob....and thank you dear soldier, for your service & sacrifice.

      I was pleased to know that for at least 3 hours and many miles, Max & Katie were comfy and warm aboard the Amtrack.

      This reader loved learning the stories of their pasts & their dreams of a future they dared not to taunt. I heard myself tell Katie I could feel her wish to "open her eyes in the morning and not fear what lies ahead." I wanted her to know how often I shared that same wish in my own life. She needs to know she's not alone.

      I have such hope for these 2 drifters, while it looks to me, neither intend to "drift apart."

      They may not know exactly where they're headed but their journey has opened their world, their minds & hearts, to be sure that destination has something wonderful in store.

      Such a feel good tale, Bro....these people crawled into my heart. Sis

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 8 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Fear can be paralyzing, Missy. My wife was in horrible shape after the election results. I had to basically talk her off the edge and bring her back to reality. My message: we take care of family and loved ones, and trust in love.

      I know you know this.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 8 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Aw, thanks, Sis! You're just an old softy, and not that old to boot. :) A life without fear? I know, when I finally did realize that state, it was a miraculous feeling. This pair will be just fine. I'm not about to let them fail now. :)

      Hugs from Olympia

    • shanmarie profile image

      Shannon 7 months ago from Texas

      I like the idea of new starts! I'm wondering where else the road will take them before they get to their destination.

    • shanmarie profile image

      Shannon 7 months ago from Texas

      I could have sworn I commented on this chapter already, but I must be going crazy. I read it waiting for my son's band concert to start earlier tonight. Fifteen minutes. Then we had to listen to four other bands perform. And earlier today, I took the trash to the road, put it in the can, turned around, and walked straight into a ditch. Yes, sir, that's what I get for looking off elsewhere instead of paying attention to where I was stepping. One foot in the hole and the rest of me to the ground like a child scrapping up her hands and knees. Could have been worse, though. One inch more to the right and my hand not only would have been scrapped by gravel, but dirtied by dog poop. At least no one was watching. Or no one laughed anyway. LOL. But now I'm going to bed. I ache and I'm hoping it's just from the fall. I'll catch up on this story soon, I hope.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      They have quite a journey ahead of them, Shannon, one that will change their lives forever. It's always good to see you here, my friend. Thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Shannon, I'm trying very hard not to laugh. Sheez, you can have an adventure taking the trash out. :) Thanks for being here and I hope you feel better soon.

    • shanmarie profile image

      Shannon 7 months ago from Texas

      Go ahead and laugh, it's funny! I know it must have been hilarious to anyone who might've happened to see it.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I've had a number of those events, Shannon, so when I'm laughing I'm sharing laughter from experience. :)

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