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The Sun Never Rises: Chapter Eleven

Updated on November 2, 2016

The Journey Continues

Thank you for following Max and Katie this far. It’s been one hell of a journey for all of us, and I’m thankful you’ve chosen to stick with these two unassuming lead characters as they trudge west in search of . . . well, that’s hard to define, isn’t it? A new life? A second chance? A destiny they didn’t now existed?

There are no action-packed scenes in this continuing story. There are just two wounded human beings trying desperately to find themselves.

They are in Wyoming now. You are invited to join them.

Leaving Colorado
Leaving Colorado | Source

Cheyenne, Wyoming

January in Wyoming!

Those three words are enough to make the strongest man, or woman, curl up in a ball and cry for their mommies.

We’ve lost weight during our sojourn. My two-twenty is down by at least twenty. I can feel it in my bones, the wind rattling around inside me, threatening to blow me away from the inside-out. Katie is looking gaunt, too, and I worry about her, not that far-removed from pneumonia, but she’s made of solid stock and she matches me step for step, not a word of complaint out of her, and I like her more because of it.

About ten years ago the medics took a piece of metal out of my leg, a gift from the Taliban. Most times that chipped bone is just a memory, but in the cold, shit, that memory comes alive and leaves me slower than usual. Katie noticed as we approached Cheyenne, the north wind threatening to blow us back to Denver.

“You’re hurtin’ today, Max,” no question, just a statement of concerned fact. “Maybe we should lay over in Cheyenne, rest up a couple days.”

I couldn’t find fault in her words and I said so. Three antelopes ran by us, not thirty feet away, over the drifting sheets of powder snow, their brown bodies stark against the gray background. For some reason I found hope in them and picked up my pace a bit.

“Are you looking forward to seeing your parents, Max?” she asked me, her red curls blown straight back, her face white, eyes watering, snot crusted to her nose, a modern-day pilgrim battling the worst thrown at her. It was the exact question I’d been kicking around inside my brain for weeks now. I loved my parents, great people, honest people, loving people, and they loved me, their only son. But did they love the memory of who their son once was? Could they love the man he had become, the man asked to do unthinkable things in the desert, the man who answered that calling and still hears the reverberation of those shots every morning, noon, and night? Could they love the man who was afraid of what he might do the next time a metal door slams shut or a car backfires? Could they love a man who wakes up with the sweats and immediately reaches for a gun long ago discarded?

It had been over ten years. I wasn’t looking forward to discovering the answers to those questions, but still . . .

“The truth, Katie? I’m scared shitless!”

An Outpost on the Prairies

Cheyenne does not rise up from the distance. It’s not that kind of modern-day city. It sort of sneaks up on you, one building at a time, then a slightly bigger building, then bigger, and they multiply until you realize you’re standing in a city surrounded by flat on three sides and a jagged wall of rock to the west. Pickups of every size and shape dominated the streets, and hardy flatlanders leaned into the wind wearing barn coats, jeans, and the ever-present cowboy hat.

We needed a meal and the Lazy K Diner was calling our names as we approached it, early afternoon, along West Lincolnway. The parking lot had five pickups, an eighteen-wheeler, and two rusted sedans. The steps up needed mending and the door creaked when we opened it, but the warmth of the interior embraced us.

Mindi, bleached blond and big-breasted, caramel-skin, mid-fifties, grabbed two menus and took her sweet time coming over to us, most likely dragging from the lunch rush but managing a smile nonetheless.

“Jesus Sweet Jesus, look at you two, will ya?” she said. “Don’t you two have enough sense to stay out of this weather? Come on now, follow Mindi, I’m going to sit you two down and then bring you some hot coffee,” and she followed through on her promise and planted us at a window seat in the back corner. She returned and poured us both a cup.

“Where you from, Sugar?” she asked Katie while placing one hand on my shoulder and the other on her hip. Her smile was as warm as the interior and I liked her immediately.

Katie told her Pittsburgh, took it a step further and told her we were making our way to Seattle.

“Oh Lord Almighty, what in the world? And you’ve just been walking and hitching all this time? Mister, you need to take better care of this filly,” and I knew she didn’t mean no harm with that statement, but it stung just the same. “All right, it is what it is. You two are going to enjoy the house special, meatloaf and gravy. I get off at four, and I’m going to drive you two over to my church. The pastor there, Pastor Charles, he’s older than Moses himself, and he needs some help fixing things up, and after I talk to him he’s going to let you two sleep in the backroom there. No arguments now. Just let old Mindi do this for you, okay?”

“Why you doing this, Mindi?” Katie asked her, same question battering around inside my head, trust coming hard on the streets.

“Shee-it, girl, cuz old Mindi can, that’s why,” and she left us to fetch our meal, whistling “Jesus Loves Me” as she went.

Take me to church
Take me to church | Source

Take Me to the Church

Pastor Charles may not have been older than Moses, as MIndi suggested, but he had seen some tough road over the years and showed every pothole. He was a leprechaun of a man, no taller than five feet, or five-two, blacker than the night, and didn’t weigh much more than those antelopes out on the Plains. Mindi and him made a strange pair, her clucking like a worried hen, explaining her case, suggesting that the Lord Jesus wouldn’t turn us aside and by God, Pastor Charles, neither are you and besides, these two are willing to earn their keep and this is just what we all need now isn’t it, Pastor, and him smiling back at her, patting her arm, nodding at everything she said as if she were the spokesperson for God himself.

His smile was real as he shook our hands.

“Well, now, welcome to the Church of the Open Heart. As you well-know, I’m Pastor Charles. Welcome, welcome, please sit and let’s talk.” Katie and I did as invited. The pastor pulled up another chair and joined us while Mindi towered behind the pastor, resting both hands on his shoulders.

“Mindi has suggested that you stay here in exchange for some work and I have learned, through considerable trial and error, to always listen to Mindi. Since she’s promised to be my bride in the near future I damned well better listen to her, don’t you think?” And he laughed, and the warmth of his laugh invited us to join him, which we did.

“You’re homeless?” he asked, no blame or recrimination in his question.

“I prefer to think of us as between permanent residences,” I told him. “We’re heading to my hometown, Seattle, so until we get there, we’re just in transit.”

He smiled at that. “Aren’t we all, son? You’re ex-military, am I correct?” I nodded. “And you, Kate, your ex-what?”

“I was a hooker, Pastor Charles,” she told him, just like that, up-front about it, head held high, and at that moment I realized I was closing in on love for that woman.

Pastor Charles looked at Mindi and they both started to laugh.

“In Genesis, Tamar plays the part of a prostitute to win over Judah,” the pastor told us. “We all do things for a reason, Kate,” he continued. “I suspect you had yours and Mindi here had hers fifteen years ago when she was hooking for me on the streets of New Orleans. It makes no never mind to either of us what you once did. All I need to know is can you help out at the clothing center and Max, can you do some carpentry work around here? If your answers are yes then we just struck a deal, three meals a day, a bedroom to share, and some traveling money when you leave,” and with that he reached out his hand to shake.

Four Days to Recuperate

It was exactly what we needed, those four days in Cheyenne. Mindi and Pastor Charles were good people, down-and-dirty folks who knew the tough times, spit in the eye of the devil, and did everything in life with a smile and kindness.

“I was an evil sonofabitch,” Pastor Charles told us over dinner the second night of our stay. “Until a rival pimp shoved a shank in me, tickled my ribs and nicked a lung, and as I’m laying in that alleyway, figuring my time was up, learning to pray on the fly as my blood mixed with a fall rain, Mindi found me, got me to the hospital, nursed me back to health, and taught me a lesson in humility. I’ve been trying to see things differently ever since, and Mindi is still with me, making damned sure I do.”

“Shee-it,” Mindi added. “He wasn’t so evil. He was just a little bitty man with a mountain of attitude, in dire need of a good woman. Lucky he was that I came along when I did and took care of his sorry ass. I gotta say, though, that it’s all turned out fine for us, and it’s going to turn out fine for you two as well. You just listen to old MIndi, now, and know I speak the truth.”

On the third day the wind slackened and shifted from the north to the south, bringing with it some much-needed thawing and a glimpse of a warmer future. I was fixing a broken railing on the basement stairs when the pastor stopped by to chat.

“Don’t let the warmer weather fool you, Max. Those mountains looming to the west are killers this time of year. You can’t be walking and hitching your way through them.”

“I don’t see we have much choice, Pastor. That’s how we’ve made it this far from Pittsburgh. Our options are severely limited.”

He reached into his pocket and tossed me a ring of keys.

“Now your options have increased by one,” he told me. “Those keys fit that old Ford Ranger out back. It’s a ’97 and not too damned good on gas, but it will get you through those mountains and maybe, with a little loving care and a kiss from God, it will take you all the way to Seattle.”

I couldn’t figure it out.

“Why you doing this, Pastor?”

The little man looked out the window for a spell, seemed fascinated with the church parking lot. Finally he turned back to me.

“I see Mindi and me in you and Kate and, selfishly, I want to make it to heaven. I’ve got a whole lot of bad to make up for, and I figure helping you two can’t hurt me when my judgment day arrives. So you’d really be helping my eternal soul by saying yes to my offer. When you get to Seattle, pay it forward!”

“I’ll have to talk it over with Katie, but I suspect her answer will be yes, so thank you,” and I shook his hand to seal it.

The gift of a stranger
The gift of a stranger | Source

Westward Bound

Lao Tzu once said that kindness in words creates confidence, kindness in thinking creates profoundness, and kindness in giving creates love. I thought about that as Charles and Mindi waved goodbye to us, the old Ford balking briefly at the starting signal but then settling into a comfortable rumble. Katie slipped her hand in mine as we pulled out of the church’s parking lot.

“It’s warmer out, Max. I’m beginning to believe we’ll see the sun before long.”

I’ve learned never to argue with a good woman.

2016 William D. Holland (aka billybuc) #greatestunknownauthor

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    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 7 months ago from New York, New York

      Aw, beautiful edition today and looking forward to see what Seattle has in store for this too soon now, as well. Happy Wednesday now, Bill :)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Max and Katie thank you, Janine, as do I. Happy Hump Day, my friend.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 7 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Another great installment on the "there but for the grace of God go I" train. Makes me wonder if the greater the obstacle the greater the miracle.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I like that, Eric....the greater the obstacle....I might steal that for one of my books. Thanks buddy!

    • DreamerMeg profile image

      DreamerMeg 7 months ago from Northern Ireland

      Oh,wow. Pay it forward. Great concept, as is the concept of allowing people to do something for you because it benefits THEM. They are finding what they need as they travel. Fantastic story.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you so much, Meg. Your comment made me smile. Exactly!

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 7 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Bill, you are digging deep into your soul on this one--your descriptions are amazing. Do you recognize what a skilled story-teller you have become? I really think this is your best work on HP.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 7 months ago from USA

      People do sometimes give huge gifts to those they don't know well. My mentally ill uncle, a self-ordained pastor and veteran on Social Security, was given a car by a dying man whom he was kind to. The man simply said he no longer needed the car and it looked like my uncle did (which was true because he walked everywhere). We learned not to simply disbelieve everything my uncle said just because he's schizophrenic. Some of it was true.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 7 months ago from Southern Illinois

      How could I not love Pastor Charles and Mindi ? Here's hoping that old truck keeps on keeping on ? Another great chapter !

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      That means a great deal to me, Linda, and to answer your question no, I'm not quite ready to state I'm a skilled story-teller. :)

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 7 months ago from Oklahoma

      We all need a bit of sun.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Great story, Flourish. Thanks for sharing that. At first I debated making that part of this chapter, such a grand gesture of kindness, but then I looked back on my life and realized yes, people really can be that kind.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      True, Ruby, Pastor Charles and Mindi are my kind of people....as are you! Thank you!

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 7 months ago from Brazil

      Oh thank goodness they didn't go into a Denny's, they would have never found Mindi.

      Post traumatic stress is awful. Anytime a cold plastic water bottle expands, I jump. It sounds just like a gunshot.

      Pleased you got them a set of wheels.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      For sure, Larry, for sure. :) Thanks my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Mary, and thanks for sharing your experience about PTSD. It's helpful for us all to know things like that.

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 7 months ago

      I want these two to make it to a better place. I wish I could help!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Pop! I have it on good authority that they'll make it to Seattle in one piece. :)

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 7 months ago

      Thank you billy. I will sleep better tonight. The thing is I really mean it!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      it's nice to know someone besides me is that invested in this story, Pop. Thank you!

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 7 months ago from london

      This one touched me in a different way. You have to write in such a way as to create those compensative pieces, true. But sacrifice is Love and Love is sacrifice, and that gesture from the Pastor and Gina was pretty big. It reminded me of what I would do in such a situation, what all good folks would do, and I felt joyfully tearful.

      Them, Max and Katie and the cold weather, they made the story beautiful!! I knew a Saint who decided that he would just wander and carry no food for three days. He felt that God would feed him. Somehow he always got food when he needed it the most. Therein lies the audacity of hope.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 7 months ago from England

      Love reading your stories last thing at night cuppa in hand and a box of chocs next to me! lol! wonderful as usual!

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 7 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Bro....The setting was frigid & brutal enough for me to recognize. I think I may have even shivered, I know it so well. Wyoming isn't the only place where January brings her wind, snow & ice. I could feel the cold for Max & Katie and know my empathy is good for nothing in that kind of weather!

      Your magical writing never fails to bring me face to face with people I know and love. Mindi is so very much my kind of lady, acting on instinct that has rarely fails her and never looking past an obvious need she sees in someone else.

      Another gift of kindness & generosity from people who only appear to be strangers but in reality are our kindred souls.

      The closer they get to Seattle, the more I look forward to an infamous William B. Holland ending of sweet satisfaction...

      Hugs & Peace, Sis

    • jo miller profile image

      jo miller 7 months ago from Tennessee

      Wonderful to catch up on my traveling friends this morning.

      I think you are becoming a very good writer. Keep it up--and have a great day.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Manatita, the audacity of hope! Beautifully stated and yes, this story is about hope, and love, and I'm proud of my characters for portraying those two traits so well. Thank you sir!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Nell, that is high praise, a cupp, chocolates, and my words. Thank you so much!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Sis, I'll try not to disappoint you. Who knows, maybe there will be no ending. Perhaps this will become a book, their adventures will lengthen, and they will live on forever.

      I would like that. :)

      Thanks my dear Sister!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you so much, Jo. I like the words of praise...becoming a very good writer. I'm not there yet, but I know I'm getting closer. Thank you!

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 7 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      You disappoint? Impossible. A book? Go for it bro!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 7 months ago from The Caribbean

      I like the description: "a little bitty man with a mountain of attitude, in dire need of a good woman." That fits so many individuals pushed down by hard times. Great that your story includes hard times; but there always comes some hope through kindness and understanding. I like that.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I do believe I will, Sis, but first I have to finish the one I'm on currently, and then one more after that....but I don't think Max and Katie will mind waiting. :)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you for mentioning that line, Dora. I was happy with that line and it's nice to receive affirmation about it.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 7 months ago from Dubai

      Mindi is a kind hearted soul, all ready to help Katie and Max get some food and shelter at the church. Now they can rest for awhile before fate deals the next blow or maybe lady luck will shine upon them. Great write.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Maybe Lady Luck will shine on them, Vellur. i sure hope so. Thanks for riding along, my friend.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 7 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I love the alternation of happy periods with difficult times in Max and Katie's journey. It's good that they're meeting kindness in the midst of hardship.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      There will always be kindness in my stories, Alicia. I believe in the goodness of man. Thank you!

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 7 months ago from Jeffersonville PA

      I don't see my comment, dear Bill...yet am getting notices - so 'whatever I said' x 2...!! Love you and love this series, Maria

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 7 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      This makes me want to take off down the road and see where it leads. I've traveled a lot, but never hitchhiked much. But I've picked them up and bought them a meal. Good Writing, Bill. I'm enjoying it.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I don't know what happened, Maria, but I saw your comment and responded. Thank you again, and a love to you.

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you very much, Chris! This story was never supposed to last this long. LOL

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 7 months ago from Massachusetts

      What a wonderful chapter Bill. Love how you worked in the Ford Ranger. I had a 1987 and drove it from California up through Washington, Idaho and every other state between there and here. You have stirred up lots of great memories. Have a great week.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Bill, I've had a Ford Ranger since 2002. Love those trucks!

      Thanks, buddy, and Happy Tuesday to you.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 7 months ago from Northern California, USA

      I like Max's description of being homeless as, "between permanent residences." God is really on their side because each leg of their trip they are met with at least one kind person to help them through it all.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      It is my hope, Marlene, that that would happen to anyone in need. Perhaps a silly hope but my hope nonetheless.

    • Missy Smith profile image

      Missy Smith 7 months ago from Florida

      Well, it's been a feel-good story for me. It's been one I come to when all this other stuff clouds my brain up with hopelessness and anger towards the world. It makes me feel there are definitely more good-hearted people here than evil, and all of us need to believe that more than ever now. :)

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 7 months ago from United Kingdom

      And now we're back to what makes this story so special and what Blanche DuBois always depended on: the kindness of strangers. We've also returned to the accompanying them of hope. If Max's family are as good as he says, they should welcome him back. If will be a tough transition, no doubt. Let's see if all they need is love.

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 7 months ago from Riga, Latvia

      Thank you for the stay in Cheyenne and for restoring my belief that there can still be good people in this world. I know it is so in reality but once in awhile it is great to be reminded through the written word.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I do believe that, Missy, and people like you help me daily to see the good out there. Thank you for being you.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Let's see indeed, Zulma. I suspect there are good times ahead. :) But what do I really know? LOL

      I know I appreciate you, for one.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      You and me both, Rasma! You and me both!

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 7 months ago from Central Florida

      Life is just getting better and better for Max and Katie.

      As I was reading I was marveling at the natural flow of conversation. Most of this chapter is dialogue. It brought the characters to life.

      Love Mindi and Pastor. What a colorful couple!

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 7 months ago from Texas

      Bill, Katie and Max are touching hearts across the country.

      Max, drive carefully I am riding with you and Katie.

      Well done Bill

      Blessings my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      It is mostly dialogue, Sha. I did that for a purpose, and you found that purpose right off. Well done and thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Blessings, Shyron, and thank you so much for riding along with my friends.

    • Michael-Milec profile image

      Michael-Milec 7 months ago

      Classy people named Mindi and Charles made historical monumental statment: We've been low dowm on the bottomless pit once, but the grace brought us up. Now by the same grace we will share our blessing with you. Mr. Holland my friend you are implementing here several universal principles, the one though have to be said here, namely ' It is more blessed to give then to receive.' As long as there is a 'receiver' a 'giver' will always miraculously have more - to give. It seems to me that these two couples are known to me for long time, only now you gave me opportunity to resume our acquaintanceship. Thanks for that.

      Peace with us.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Michael my friend, your comments are always so eloquent and to the point. Excellent summation and I agree with you totally. Thank you so much, an may blessings be your constant companion.

    • profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 6 months ago

      Bill

      You said "there's no action in the story" but to me, it's 'all action' just the right kind!

      The kind that reminds us there is a 'second chance' that we can grasp with both hands.

      Mindy and Pastor Charles have done that, and it's awesome to see them 'paying it forward' with Max and Kate.

      Blessings

      Lawrence

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you very much, Lawrence. I really appreciate that. i want to believe there is a place in literature for "no action" stories. :)

      bill

    • shanmarie profile image

      Shannon 6 months ago from Texas

      I certainly like people Luke Mind I and the pastor. Just help and don't ask questions or except anything in return. People like that seem rare, but perhaps they aren't as rare as they seem.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I don't know how rare they are, Shannon. Maybe they are the much talked about silent majority, and we just don't know it. I hope that's true.

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