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The Sun Never Rises: Chapter Five

Updated on September 21, 2016

On the Road Again

“We do what we have to do to survive, Katie. No shame in that!”

How true are those words, spoken by my protagonist, Max? Have you been there? Do you have any inkling what it would be like to have life broken down to those basic words….anything to survive?

The homeless are human beings and as such deserve compassion. That is my message…that is the reason for this writing exercise.

So lace up your shoes and let’s get walking.

On the road again
On the road again | Source

Outside Cincinnati

On the Forty-Two, southwest of Cincinnati, heading for Louisville, hopin’ against all logic that winter will loosen its icy grip on our bones. With some money in our pockets, thanks to some hard work and the kindness of the Carter family, we left Washington Court House with something neither of us is too comfortable with, namely hope.

We hitched a ride this far, an octogenarian who really shouldn’t have picked up two strangers on a country road, more compassion than common sense in that woman, but it turned out fine for all of us. “Keep heading south,” she told us. “You’ll find warmth eventually and until you do, keep each other warm and safe. Now bless you, children, and God speed,” and off she sped into the winter’s gloom, a red dot rushing into the gray backdrop.

Walking in silence, that’s our way, a comfortable silence, the silence of two human beings who have come to understand the importance of companionship, of trust, of compassion, as semis rush by, their back-draft adding to the chill, digging deep into our bones, into the marrow, into connecting tissue, into the nerve endings, signals sent to the brain, cold, brutally cold, keep moving, for to stop is to invite lethargy, that heartless bitch of death.

We pass a horse in a pasture, a lone sentinel, blanket covering its back, plumes erupting from its nose, drifting in the light breeze. It looks sad, this horse, surrounded by hundreds of acres of desolation, a winter wasteland too damned cold, too damned unforgiving, and far off is a farmhouse, smoke rising from the chimney, smoke promising warmth to those invited, to those accepted, a cruel reminder of the haves and the have-nots.

“Do we have a plan yet, Max?” she asks for the hundredth time, as if I have a clue, but I understand it, desperate fingers of hope clawing for purchase on the cliff, the chasm yawning below.

“You said it yourself, Katie. We do what we have to do to survive, and right now that means keep moving.”

She thought on that a bit, digging her hands deeper into her pockets, seeking extra warmth in the depths.

“Is there ever going to be more than that, Max? Are we ever going to move beyond mere survival?”

She’s an intelligent woman, Princess Kate, educated by good schools, groomed for success at an early age, on that path until a night of horror sent her rushing off into the unknown, and I won’t insult her intelligence by lying to her.

“I don’t know, Katie. That’s the best I can give you.”

Source

More Miles Pass By

The ground is harder in the winter. That’s a fact most people don’t consider, why would they, rushing from warm house to warm car to warm coffee shop to warm office, an over-abundance of warmth for those who have never known the comfort one sheet of cardboard can provide a bone-ass-tired body. The soles of your boots wear down with each step, simple physics, weight, mass, gravity, toss in some Newton, some friction, words and theories and truths learned long ago, long before the discharge papers, long before the sanctioned killings, long before the eager recruit signed on the dotted line, back when the rising high school jock thought the world was his oyster to shuck along the shores of the Puget Sound, homecoming king making his parents proud, going to serve his country, a bright future ahead of him, God bless America.

Yep, the ground is harder in the winter.

“We can do better than this, Max,” she says to me as we approach a four-way stop in the middle of nowhere, not a car in sight.

“Can we?”

Her hand reaches out and grabs mine.

“I want to believe we can,” she says, and I don’t have the courage to look into her eyes, for fear she might see the truth of the matter.

A Bite to Eat, a Moment of Warmth

We grab a burger at Bob’s Drive-In in downtown Carrollton, on the icy banks of the Ohio, the wind digging its unforgiving fingers into our flesh, the warmth of the interior deceiving, eyes of the hired help watching us closely, afraid we might make off with a salt shaker or infect the respected clientele with whatever ails us, their scrutiny every bit as cold as the wind.

You don’t stay long in places like that, order the meal, pay with crumpled bills, eat it quick and back out into nature’s fury, the Forty-Two taking a sharp turn to the south, the unseen sun straight ahead now, warming, if nothing else, our imaginations.

“Do you have any kids, Katie?” my question blown south, past her ears, by a north wind that hates the homeless.

“No, thank God,” she says. “At least I can count that blessing.”

Deserted, rusting tractors in fields, crop nubs standing strong; outbuildings leaning to the south, ever-so-slowly losing the fight against nature; fences of barbed-wire and fences of white pickets; junk yards and junk yard dogs, old gas stations from another era, discarded dreams all littering that state road, the industrial north meeting the agricultural south, an invisible dividing line separating the two, and there we were, silent, invisible, to all who didn’t see us, non-existent.

Source

Now I Lay Me down to Sleep

One of those outbuildings served us well that night, once a functional equipment shed on a functional and thriving farm, now simply a way-station for those looking to escape the thrusts and parries of nighttime cold. Roll out the mats, spread out the bags, zip them together and cling to each other in the gathering night, the darkness our pillow, the mournful wind serenading us as we pressed closer together.

“Did you ever want any kids, Katie?”

A laugh without depth followed.

“Maybe, Max, long ago, back in the days of Barbies and Kens, back when I didn’t know any better, back when I thought happily ever after was a truth rather than a bald-faced lie. Now? What would be the point, right?”

Somewhere a dog howled, or maybe a coyote. Not sure which, as if it mattered one way or another.

“How about you, Max? Ever think of having kids one day?”

The howling stopped, or maybe the wind simply overcame it.

“We were securing a village about ten klicks south of Kandahar, deep south in Afghanistan, two squads of us ground grunts, going building by building, one squad on the north end, one on the south, going to meet in the middle, you know? We were just about done, our squad finishing up, standing in the village center, watching the other squad approach us, when this little kid, couldn’t have been much older than six or seven, comes out of a building, walks up to the squad leader, Tommy Perkins, and explodes. My guys hit the sand immediately, and I remember looking up and seeing this red mist float by, red against sandy brown.

“I don’t think I want to bring a kid into that kind of world.”

“Because you’re afraid he might become another Tommy Perkins?”

“No, because I’m afraid he’d become another little kid who didn’t value his own life.”

She held me tighter still and, for a moment, I was warmer.

See You Next Week?

Max and Katie invite you to join them on the road next week. You’re not expected to bring anything. All that’s required is you be respectful during the journey.

2016 William D. Holland (aka billybuc) #greatestunknownauthor

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    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Fine, Shannon, thanks for nothing!!!!! LOL You are a joy!

    • shanmarie profile image

      shanmarie 11 months ago

      Accurate indeed. It's really. . I don't even have the word right now. . .but it's crazy how accurate that entire statement of yours is. Too many are paycheck to paycheck.

      Thanks for what? Whatever it is, you're welcome! LOL. Don't tell me for reading because I've read your work outside of HP, too, and I would do it again even if I didn't know you!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      "There but for the grace of God," Shannon, and it's an accurate statement regardless of your religious beliefs. A great many of us are one paycheck from being on the streets.

      Did I say thank you?

      Well, I mean it...thank you!

    • shanmarie profile image

      shanmarie 11 months ago

      Another good installment here, Bill. Whenever I am faced with a hardship or some of the ones that damn near left me homeless, I try to remember that there is always someone worse off. I hope these find their happy ending or whatever is close enough to it.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Missy, I'll tell you this truly. You write from the heart, and we need about another million writers like you in this world. I love the raw emotions in your writings. Please don't ever give up on that.

    • Missy Smith profile image

      Missy Smith 11 months ago from Florida

      I love that, Bill! And I will do my best not to get buried with feedback from ones whom do not get that I'm not the standard to the writing world. I think for years that is what held me back and made me cower from putting my thoughts down.

      I'm not unrealistic. I know myself, and that I am a non-typical human. However, it's now time to embrace it all; my past from hiding from that fact, and my ability to love myself for exactly that fact. Like you, I will write and tell any damned story I want and in the way I so choose to tell it!

      Proofread-that's all the feedback they gave me on the last one, which to me meant, there was nothing really wrong with it but a perception of what it should be in whomever's eyes got to edit it. That one word would have helped no writer anyway, it was very vague. I never changed anything but an explanation to my thoughts, and I guess it worked, it's featured now. :) Thanks for all the kind words of encouragement you give me. And thanks for sharing your talent with all of us. :)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      And Missy, I love reading your memories, so we both win in this situation. Great story about your dad and I understand your mother's concern, but I could picture my dad doing the same thing, especially for a veteran. Different times for sure but still, there are stories like that happening daily in this country, and there is goodness, and as long as I can write I will record the world I want to see while still adding the authentic vision of the world the way it is. I'm a storyteller, Missy, and that means I can tell any damned story I want. LOL

      Thank you kind lady!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you so much, Lawrence. Like you, I've known these people in real life, and I believe their story needs to be told. And that's what we writers do . . . we tell stories and by doing so record history.

      bill

    • Missy Smith profile image

      Missy Smith 11 months ago from Florida

      You are an excellent writer, Bill Holland! Your visions for your characters are always clear, and details consistently so on point that I don't think anyone of your readers would disagree with me when I say we can feel all the emotions, and the pains of winter's freeze on homeless life. We are on the journey for sure!

      I like that your stories seem to gravitate me back to memories that are forgotten sometimes as we get older. I remember when I was young, and my dad would always pick up hitch hikers. My mom would be worried, but wouldn't say anything. I mean, she had valid reason; she had three little girls who were along for these rides. I think in my child's mind it was a good thing. I felt it was harmless.

      One day, while at home on a normal day, my dad showed up with a stranger. I can vividly remember this stranger now. He was maybe in his twenties, dirty blonde hair just slightly missing his shoulder blades in length, tank top, glasses; the ones that looked like nerd spectacles. lol. And his dirty sneakers that looked like they had walked a million miles, which I'm sure they had. They reminded me of Forrest Gump's shoes after he had run all those miles in those shoes his Jenny gave him. :)

      Anyway, I remember feeling it's just one of my dad's friends, but boy; he was dirty, for some reason. I can see my mom's face going pale and not understanding why. Grabbing her composure and offering the stranger a plate of spaghetti as it was dinner time when my dad came home from work. I watched that man eat that spaghetti with such hunger, and at the time I didn't understand. I remember him smiling and politely saying his thank yous for the hospitality.

      Later, my dad invited him to sleep in my older sister's room. Our rooms were at the back of the house, and my parent's room was at the front, so I saw that concern creep to my mom's face again, but she was and has always been an obedient wife to my dad. She said nothing. I'm sure she prayed a lot that night as he was right across the hall from three little helpless girls. That's all I remember though. I remember waking up, and the stranger was gone. It wasn't until years later that I thought back at that time and figured the scenario out myself. My mom validated for me that I was correct when I asked her.

      I have mixed feelings about how my dad was back then. Now that I am a parent, I don't believe I would have done the same thing, not in the same way at least. I probably would offer a meal if I saw them on the street with a hungry sign, I have done that before, or some money I could spare. I've done that a time or two, but I may not have offered anything else around my young children.

      When I look back, I'm pleased my dad did these things, and I'm happier to know that, I believe, there are more honest people just down on their luck more than they are people here to harm. I'm glad there are people like my dad as well who are willing to help a lost soul.

      Again, I will probably be the longest comment here, but your story made me remember that particular time of my life. Take care, Bill. I love reading your work!

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 11 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Bill

      Every time I read about Max and Kate I get a lump in the throat and a tear in my eye, why? Because I grew up around people like them!

      I've also personally known people like Max and Kate, and they were my friends.

      This is a story that every generation needs to hear.

      Awesome stuff

      Lawrence

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm blushing, Ann, but thank you so much.

      bill

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 11 months ago from SW England

      Brilliant! Superb! I have no other words for this. Writing like, 'my question blown south, past her ears, by a north wind that hates the homeless' is the stuff of great writers, bill.

      Ann

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Maria! I love writing stories that are character-driven....delving into their psyches and letting them tell the story...I appreciate the affirmation.

      love,

      bill

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 11 months ago from Jeffersonville PA

      Max and Katie are experiencing the gamut of human nature in their journey.

      Love getting to know their stories more and more in each chapter.

      Love and thanks, Maria

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      For sure, Michael my friend.

    • Michael-Milec profile image

      Michael-Milec 11 months ago

      Yes my friend, Hope in the truth never fails.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      MIchael my friend, I believe you understand the situation quite well. That was a perfect summation of modern society, and I thank you for it.

      Blessings my friend. Let us hope we live to see major changes for the better.

    • Michael-Milec profile image

      Michael-Milec 11 months ago

      Close encounter with Katie and Max, listening to their inteligent conversation, hopes and struggling, I have to say, the homelessness is a cruel redundant invention of a 'new era' in our senseless greedy social dictature preserved to exist. This is all I can say at this point. My heart is broken and hurt seeing robotick production of neutral unbiased generation in socialistic educational system mainly acceptable by caretakers or if there are some kind of parents. (Children at home, on the streets, busses or even at school are preoccupied individualistically by electronic devices void of warm personal touch, feelings or regards for other human beigs... thus when helping hand is needed there isn't one extended nor other to receive it which consequently ends up in so called 'homelesness’.)

      Accept please my warm regard called love my friend, my desire is to understand and be understood.

      Peace.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      and you are appreciated :)

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 11 months ago from United Kingdom

      I'm here to help. :)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I'll remember that, Zulma! Don't always swing for the fences! Great advice and funny, too!

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 11 months ago from United Kingdom

      Your very welcome, Bill. Now you don't want to overdo the home runs. Hit too many of them and they lose all meaning. You've got to have a few base hits if you want to make the homers stand out. :)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Zulma, thank you so much. Every once in awhile I hit a home run on a line. Now the trick is to do it on a regular basis. Thanks for the affirmation. It means a lot to me.

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 11 months ago from United Kingdom

      “No, because I’m afraid he’d become another little kid who didn’t value his own life.”

      Wow. That has so much depth I don't where to begin. The most obvious is a child so indoctrinated he believes an abstract idea is more valuable than, not just his life, but the life of others.

      On another level, there is the child who turns to drugs/alcohol to escape their problems. Soon addiction takes hold to the extent they value their lives less than the substances they abuse.

      Then there is the child who grows up believing that money and success are the be all and end all of their existence. They give up everything in pursuit of it: friends, family, health. The things that comprise a valuable life.

      This is a powerful line, Bill.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Dee! I have to admit, I've never been there, but I looked at pictures of it and winged it from there.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 11 months ago

      Cincinnati, my home from years ago and I was excited to see Washington Courthouse mentioned! I am touched by her statement, “Is there ever going to be more than that, Max? Are we ever going to move beyond mere survival?” This stirs a reader's heart.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you very much, Norlawrence!

    • norlawrence profile image

      Norma Lawrence 11 months ago from California

      Very good post as usual. I enjoyed it. Also great pictures. Thanks

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Sha, there but for the grace of God, my friend. You and I are the lucky ones, me thinks!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Rasma. Kate and Max appreciated the company.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 11 months ago from Central Florida

      I could see the landscape and feel the cold as Max and Princess Kate continued on their southern trek. I kept thinking, "God, I can't imagine having to live like that and I hope I never find out."

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 11 months ago from Riga, Latvia

      Enjoyed the trip and looking forward to more adventures.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Bill, it is not going to be a gentle trip, for sure. Thanks for walking along with them.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 11 months ago from Massachusetts

      Max and Kate are certainly taking us on an adventure. I hope it works out for them in the long run although I suspect they will encounter more than their share of misery along the way. Have a great weekend Bill.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Alicia, I can't imagine a tale about homelessness that wasn't dark, but I always try to have a speck of hope. Thank you!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 12 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      The story of Max and Katie continues to be both moving and interesting, Bill. It's a dark tale that raises some important points about the sadness of some people's lives.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      No reason to be cheerful, MizB. This was never meant to be a cheerful story. :) Thanks for slogging along with me.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 12 months ago

      Bill, I was reading along hoping the best for Max and Kate, then one line really hit home:

      “No, because I’m afraid he’d become another little kid who didn’t value his own life.”

      I hear too many of my generation say that about their children, my best friend, myself, among others. Sorry I can't be cheerful today. Love you anyway, my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Dark is my middle name, Flourish. LOL Good thing I can turn it off when I stop writing, or I'd be in a padded cell.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Vellur. I'm afraid luck is in short supply on the streets, but we always have hope. :)

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 12 months ago from USA

      Gosh this is dark. I probably should've waited until later in the day to read it rather than first thing. I hope things pick up for these glass half empties.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 12 months ago from Dubai

      I am glad Max and Kate have each other for company on this long, difficult journey. Hope luck blows their way and brings on good times for them.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      No, Meg, no coming of age, but I'm glad you're learning as we walk. :) Thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Manatita, and much love received and given in return.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I really do appreciate that, Pop, and they love having you follow them.

    • DreamerMeg profile image

      DreamerMeg 12 months ago from Northern Ireland

      Is this a "coming of age" story? I don't know about Max and Kate but I feel I am learning a whole lot from their journey.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 12 months ago from london

      Interesting conversation about kids and a safer journey, so far. Much Love.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      For sure, Larry! perspective brings a whole new view to a subject matter. Thanks for your thoughts.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Kristen! I appreciate you taking the time to read.

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 12 months ago

      I love following so many of your characters.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 12 months ago from Oklahoma

      If I wanted to try to some this up in a word: perspective! People try to vilify the homeless. Why? We're all thinking, breathing people. We all deserve a bit of humanity from time to time.

      Wonderful read.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 12 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      Bill, woah! What a powerful chapter except to this short story. Nice work with great pics. Thanks for sharing. God bless America!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      And Ruby, that's the nicest thing you could tell a writer, that his characters seem so real. Thank you for that and God bless the wounded warriors.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 12 months ago from Southern Illinois

      Even though it was cold, your writing warms the heart. Your story about the boy was so sad, and I know it happened. I've talked to veterans who had to shoot kids because they were wired to kill. And, we wonder why so many vets are loners and homeless. I will be glad when Max and Kate reach the south. I love your story. God bless that woman who picked them up and gave them a ride, oh I know it's a story but each of the characters seem real to me....

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Eric, I reckon that would be a good thing for both of us to do, buddy. Thanks for the reminder.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Blessings, Shyron, and thank you for the smile you just gave me.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 12 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      I know, I know this is dark and dismal. But it just occurred to me how blessed these two are to have each other. Seems that as long as we have another we will not fall to far into the abyss. I reckon I need to reach out and touch someone today for both our sakes.

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 12 months ago from Texas

      Bill, I feel the chill for Max and Kate

      The icy breath of death

      breathing down their necks

      how soon can they find reprieve

      from the cold winds that deceive

      chilling winds that numb their beliefs

      *

      *

      Blessings my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm glad to hear that, John! Thanks my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Dark for sure, Linda, but thanks for walking alongside my team.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 12 months ago from Queensland Australia

      This story never disappoints, Bill. I enjoy being on the road with Max and Katie.

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 12 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Oh Bill, this one is dark today. Well done. Waiting for next week.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Janine, there is always room on the road for you. I'll tell Max and Katie to expect you. :)

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 12 months ago from New York, New York

      Thanks for invite and will totally rejoin these two once again next week now. Happy Hump Day now, Bill to you!! :)