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The Sun Never Rises: Chapter Six

Updated on September 28, 2016

There’s Room on the Road for You

In truth, there’s room on the open road for all of you reading this. There’s room in the alleyways and the cardboard jungles. There’s room in the tent cities and abandoned warehouses. From sea to shining sea we welcome all with open arms. Just don’t expect us to give you a hand up.

Cynical? Perhaps, but I’ve grown tired of seeing the increasing numbers of homeless, and civic leaders with no plan on how to deal with the problem, and a general populace that simply chooses not to see the problem.

And so I write!

Let’s see what is happening with Max and Katie.

On the road again, somewhere southwest of Cincinnati
On the road again, somewhere southwest of Cincinnati | Source

LOUISVILLE

My first impression of Louisville is not a good one, black and white pulling up alongside us, boy in blue, not much older than I was when I signed up with Uncle Sam, rolls down his window and tells us we have to keep moving, there’s no place in Louisville for our kind.

Our kind?

I feel Katie’s hand squeeze mine.

“Let it go, Max,” she says. “It’s not worth it,” she looking pale and frail all of a sudden.

But the thing is, sometimes it is worth it, and damn the consequences. I reach into my coat pocket and pull out one of the few possessions I have that means a shit.

“Officer, this here’s a purple heart. I got it a few months after a sniper’s bullet shattered my shoulder, chunks of me flying off into a cold desert’s night. It’s been almost ten years now so most the time, it don’t hurt much, but when the weather’s cold, like recently, there are mornings I don’t feel like I can lift five pounds, you know? Our kind? I’ve served my country, Officer, and I figure that gives me, at the very least, the right to walk the streets of that country. Now Katie and I aren’t hurting anyone. We’re not even panhandling. We’re going to find a mission, get a meal, maybe take a shower and then be gone. Total elapsed time in your fine city of maybe two hours, and then we’ll either head south for Memphis or west for St. Louis. Do you suppose your fine city can tolerate us for two hours?”

The window slides up, engine shuts down, and our new friend gets out of the patrol car, jacking up his belt, releasing the strap that holds his gun to the holster, shiny black shoes creaking in the cold as he approaches us, the wind pushing against his back, nasty-assed day to be rousting the homeless, that thought undoubtedly rushing through his mind.

“What unit were you with over there, soldier?”

“Fourth Infantry, Officer. Paktika Province, sixteen months.”

We were on a slight knoll, just high enough so we could see the gray waters of the Ohio off to our right. The cop looked in that direction then back at us, tossing it around, giving it some thought, making decisions based on input and gut.

“The Salvation Army is six blocks down that way,” he said, pointing to the west. “First Light Mission one block further. You’ll find what you’re looking for at both locations.” He tipped his hat. “Welcome to Louisville, soldier. Thanks for serving our country.” He tipped his hat at Katie. “Ma’am! Just don’t get too comfortable in our fine town.”

He drove off and I watched him. Katie squeezed my hand again.

“What do you think he sees when he looks at us, Max? Why the instant hostility?”

“It’s what he might see down the road of life that bothers him, Katie.”

“What’s that?”

“Himself! He knows we’re not a problem. He just doesn’t want to see a reminder of how bad this country has gotten, and he hopes it don’t infect him. Now let’s get us some lunch at that Salvation Army.”

downtown Louisville
downtown Louisville | Source

No Warmth to Be Found

Louisville ain’t much warmer than Pittsburgh, you want to know the truth. Not much cleaner, either, at least not the parts of the city we’re allowed to roam. Reverend Parker at the First Light Mission spoke of salvation and a kinder, a gentler life in the hereafter, same boilerplate message I’ve heard in one-hundred such missions, sign on with Jesus and all will be well, but as we move on after a lunch of tater tot casserole, I’m wondering where the hell Jesus is. He’s sure not in the puke-stained alleyways we pass. I don’t see him administering to the junkies or the alkies, or protecting the shop owners as they get ripped off by the street punks trying to make a name for themselves. What the hell, right? Parker would just say those people aren’t true believers, or salvation awaits those folks after death, and maybe he’s correct….or maybe he’s just shucking his jive to stave off his own demons.

Whatever he’s selling I’m not buying.

Memphis or St. Louis, those are our choices as Mother Nature blows more needles through our overcoats. I can feel Katie shivering as we stand at an intersection debating directions, thirty-eight-fifty in my pocket, money enough for four or five days of food on the road, life boiled down to two choices, south or west, both looking bleak, both holding very little in the way of promise.

“I’m tired, Max,” Princess Kate says to me, the light in her eyes dimming, and I feel her forehead and it’s blazing, and just like that our indecision is solved, south or west, neither are options. Katie needs some medical assistance. I half carry her to a park bench, get her settled, not quite sure what to do, strange city, no clue where aid is, “excuse me, Sir, would you know?” but the words are swept away by the wind as person after person walks quickly by us, and damn that wind why can’t it just stop for a moment?

“Katie, I’ll be right back,” and I rush into a storefront, “excuse me, can I use your phone, medical emergency?” totally ignored, “get the hell out of my store before I call the cops,” almost exactly the same words I hear at my second stop, getting frustrated now, feeling my pulse increase, the adrenaline and anger coursing through my veins, my vision starts blurring, my memories taking me back to another time, answering every slight with two fists, blood and teeth spraying over a parking lot, the judge giving me a choice, serve my country or serve the county for twenty-four months, mom and dad in attendance, wondering what had become of their son.

Source

Rush Back to Katie

Somehow I tear myself from the black thoughts, don’t allow them to overtake me, make it back to Katie and wrap her in my arms, stand her up, walk her slowly to the street, out in the middle where they’ll have to notice us, standing there, cars narrowly missing us, honking, windows rolled down, cussing, Katie leaning against me when the cop pulls up, right there, middle of the road, same cop who welcomed us earlier, seems days but really only a couple hours, window rolls down and there he is, pink cheeks and baby face.

“What’s up, soldier? This is no place to dance.”

“Katie’s sick, officer. I don’t know what to do.”

The door locks click.

“Get in. I’ll take you to the hospital.”

Six block ride, pulls up to Norton Brownsboro Emergency, brown and white façade, five or six floors, cop gets out, keeps the engine and heater running, walks in the doors, I can see him there talking to a nurse as I keep telling Katie we’re going to get her fixed up, then he’s walking back out pushing a wheelchair, the nurse in tow.

“You need to let us take care of her, soldier,” the nurse says as she helps Katie into the chair, Katie’s hand in mine, me not letting go, drawing a line in the sand, enough is enough, I think, it has to end, no more pain for Katie, by God, and the young cop tells me it’s okay, “suspend the fighting for one day, soldier,” and I kiss Katie on the forehead and let go of her hand.

Two hours later a young doc approaches, everyone seems young and I’m feeling the old, sits down next to me, explains that Katie “basically has pneumonia, fluid in the lung, you know” and we got her there in time so that’s good news, he says, battle it with antibiotics and she should be good as new in a couple days, “keeping her overnight as a precaution,” and I explain I don’t have but thirty-eight bucks and the cop, he tells me at ease, soldier, it’s all being taken care of.

Room Two-eighteen

They lead me up to two-eighteen and there she is, looking small in that bed, white covers wrapping her warm, a tube snaking out of her left arm, asleep and looking peaceful, and I can’t help it, don’t know where it came from, but the tears start falling and they won’t stop, a flood of tears and convulsing sobs, big old veteran crying like a baby, and that young cop with his hand on my shoulder telling me exactly what I needed to hear.

“Everything’s going to be all right, soldier.”

AND DAMN I HOPE HE’S RIGHT

We’ll leave Katie and Max for now. Katie needs to rest up and Max, well, he needs to rest as well. They’ve still got a long road ahead, so we’ll join them next week.

They do want me to tell you thanks for joining them. They appreciate your kindness.

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

      Always glad to join these two on their journey and do hope Katie can rest up for the next chapter here. Thanks Bill and wishing you a wonderful Wednesday now!! :)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Happy Wednesday, Janine, and thank you for joining my characters on their tough trek.

    • Ericdierker profile image

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

      That damn fine line between sanity and the alternative. That single occasion that anchors us or sets us free into oblivion. A wicked event as man is capable of. I reckon it just might be OK to love characters in a story. I love my traveling companions. Maybe for all my worldly crap I just might be more insane than them. Bill, of course you are a good writer, but you are far more a good man to bring my feelings alive.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 7 months ago from Oklahoma

      Again, just a very meaningful work.

      Great read!

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 7 months ago from Queensland Australia

      This is a heartwarming story, Bill. Despite the ignorance and judgements of some people, good Samaritans show up in the end to do what's right for our fellow travellers. I love it.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Hey Eric, how ya be? World crap we all have, buddy. Control of our feelings we all lack. Humanity we all share. :)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I appreciate that, Larry. I really do.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you John! These characters are dear to me. I have to take care to protect them as much as possible, within the confines of "reality."

    • profile image

      Old Poolman 7 months ago

      Billy, you are one of a few who can tell a story and send a very important message all at the same time. This homeless problem is one that should be a top priority, but unfortunately has been moved to the bottom of the list.

      Keep up the great work my friend and I love the story.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 7 months ago from Southern Illinois

      Bless that cop with a heart. Your story reflects the life of so many veterans, Katie has a different story to tell I'm sure. The way they were treated by the good citizens is a national shame. What happened to people's heart when they can look the other way when people are in pain and needing a hand? I love this story!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      MIke, I really do appreciate the kind words. This is too large a problem to ignore, and it's a shame we all must live with as citizens of this country. Something must be done. A homeless veteran? I can't imagine how that happens in the U.S.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Ruby, thank you! I don't know why homelessness keeps being ignored by our government, but I know we all share the blame for it. People needs to speak up against it.

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 7 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Oh Bill, you've done it again. What a heart-breaking story. I think the reason people prefer to turn away from the homeless is not from disgust or fear, but rather that we recognize that just one unforeseen event--a divorce, a job loss, a major illness--cold put us squarely in those worn broken-down shoes.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 7 months ago from london

      Very nice story. Sorry that Katie is so ill. A friend told me yesterday that he liked to help prisoners, because in every seemingly dark Heart, there is a Soul. So your policeman came good. Bless him! Much Love.

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 7 months ago

      Billy,

      I have tears in my eyes. This is a book!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I completely agree with you, Linda! It's hard to look at our possible future...but we must!

      Thank you my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Manatita, I love that friend of yours. I want to believe that....most of me believes that. :) Blessings, my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Well Pop, bless you! Maybe some day in the near future....two books ahead of it....maybe three...sigh! LOL

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 7 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Bill, any way you can move this one up on the priority list? The Billy the Kid Chronicles and others might be fun for you, but this story speaks so much to what is really hurting the heart of our Nation.

      You have such a clear voice on this topic. I really think you were meant to do this.

    • Joyce Fischer profile image

      Joyce A Fischer 7 months ago from Thailand

      This chapter really got to me. It hasn't been quite as tough for me as for Max and Kate. But I feel their rejection. It's hard when all you are asking for is a chance. I've tried repatriate three times and each time more or less been told I don't belong when all I was asking for was a job for which I was well qualified.

      And the hospital--that's my worst nightmare. I just do my best to stay healthy. Kate was lucky. You don't always get taken care of. If it's not life threatening they usually do their best to get rid or you with as little treatment as they can.

    • clivewilliams profile image

      Clive Williams 7 months ago from Nibiru

      a very touching story....just a reminder of how scared, stupid and horrific us humans can behave towards each other. I like this chapter billy.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 7 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks for sharing the story of Max and Katie. It's an important reminder of the homelessness problem. It's also an important reminder that unexpected circumstances could force us to become homeless.

    • DreamerMeg profile image

      DreamerMeg 7 months ago from Northern Ireland

      Great chapter, some people just have to be challenged to display their better nature but Max took some chance pulling out his purple star!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      You are very kind, Linda. I'm in the middle of a current one...can't stop on it now.....and I've been waiting two years to do the next one...so the way I feel now, this is #3 in line....but I won't forget about it. I like these two too much.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      True words, Joyce. Maybe, when I write the book, this won't have such "staple" conclusions, because I know what you say is true. Thank you and I'm glad you are with us.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      It really is, Clive, and I totally agree with you about us humans. :) Thanks, buddy.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      That could very easily happen, Alicia, and I'm crossing my fingers as I write this. Thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      For sure, Meg, but I suspect Max is pretty much at the end of his rope. Thanks for joining us from Ireland.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 7 months ago from USA

      We all have some mission or cause that drives us and the issue of homelessness is where your passion lies.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Flourish! I just think a country this great can't afford to ignore our citizens...call me silly! :)

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 7 months ago from Dubai

      Glad that Kate got to the hospital and is recovering. The officer is a God send. Everything is going to be alright, that is reassuring.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Vellur! All is well for the time being. :)

    • Glenis Rix profile image

      Glenis Rix 7 months ago from UK

      A compelling story. It brought tears to my eyes. Reminded me of when I saw an ex-British Army soldier begging on the streets of Edinburgh. I had never encountered a situation like that before and was deeply shocked. Governments need to do much more to help those who struggle for survival. I wouldn't object to a few more pennies on my taxes - but that's not a step that wins votes for politicians. I hope that your story has a happy ending - but then I guess it wouldn't be a true reflection of life.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Glenis, how nice of you to stop by. Unfortunately no, in order for this to be a "realistic fiction," a happy ending is a bit of a stretch....but maybe I'll lean more on the fiction end of it than the realistic. :) Thank you!

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 7 months ago from United Kingdom

      Oh, poor Max. Katie will be all right, won't she? Max needs her and she needs him.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      We'll find out tomorrow, Zulma! I suspect Katie will be fine but you just never know.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 7 months ago from Massachusetts

      Great chapter Bill. Good to see the good in people come shining through. What's really sad is that there are thousands, probably millions of people in our country living this everyday. And I don't believe I've heard any discussion on this topic from our future president, whoever that might be.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      All too true, Bill, and it saddens me. I guess this is my way to raise awareness, so thanks for being part of my mini-movement.

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 7 months ago from Texas

      Bill, Max is crying so am I.

      Katie gets a reprieve from the icy wind

      The cold that seeps into the bone

      For now she is warm and will not die

      But what will happen when back out in the cold

      Where it is enough to turn a young man old

      There is a better life waiting

      That is what I've been told

      But, where is this place with streets paved with gold?

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Shyron! I love the effort of your comment and your words. Blessings dear lady.

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 7 months ago from Jeffersonville PA

      Thank goodness Kate is in the hospital where she belongs and for the cop with the hard exterior - whose heart got the best of him.

      Compelling story and you are keeping a steady pace. Love, Maria

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks again, Maria. This was just a writing exercise to start out...now I'm thinking Max and Katie deserve a book of their own.

      love,

      bill

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 7 months ago from Central Florida

      My heart is warmed by the cop who came to Katie's aid. I'm really hoping someone offers these two a job so they can have a roof over their heads and not be subjected to the elements, both natural and human.

      I can't even fathom hoofing it across the United States.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      You and me both, Sha, and I've been pretty damned desperate in my lifetime.

      Thanks for spending time with me. Eli and Liz send their love.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 7 months ago from Central Florida

      Bill, is the third book out? I miss Eli and Liz!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Not yet, Sha! Look for it about Christmastime.

    • Michael-Milec profile image

      Michael-Milec 7 months ago

      But we are all human beings subjected to the same unspecified

      understanding of life. Your characters my friend do reach deep into the heart of compassion demonstrating how much we need friendship, understanding and love at every step, in every given situation. You made me love myself impersonating a cop or Max or a dosctor / nurse. A question remains, how would I handle situation becoming homeless or a potential "good Samaritan". This chapter is becoming a serious character testing as far as I am concern.

      With these thoughts I am going to sleep.

      Blessings and peace.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Michael my friend, that is the nicest thing you could say to me. If I force my readers to look within at themselves, then I have done my job as a writer. Thank you for that affirmation, and Happy Sunday to you.

      blessings always

    • shanmarie profile image

      Shannon 7 months ago from Texas

      "What do they see when they look at us?" Katie asked. They see druggies and street trash that want to mooch off of everyone else instead of try to pick themselves back up. They see people looking for handouts without a desire to change their lives.But that's all stereotypical and appearances can be deceiving, as you so skillfully portray with your characters here. If you stop to think about it, it's easy to see why so many people are against accepting any form of charity.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      All true words, Shannon, all true words. I just wish, just once, that everyone would see human beings when they look at the homeless. Then we might take steps towards solving this problem.

      Thank you for being you!

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 7 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Bill

      So the cop wasn't as much of an 'idiot' as he first seemed, he got to look 'behind the rags' and saw something/someone else!

      Max reminds me of a couple of men used to work for my dad, to the rest of the world they were 'drunks and tramps' but we got to know them.

      One of them actually won the Military Medal (Britain's second highest bravery award) at Monte Casino, and the rest of the world just saw the 'drunk' (I still get angry about it!)

      Great story

      Lawrence

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I know exactly what you are talking about, Lawrence. I knew one such man, and he was treated the same way, and it was shameful at best.

      bill

    • Missy Smith profile image

      Missy Smith 6 months ago from Florida

      Exhaustion. I can just feel both their exhaustion from trying to make it through the day. The total panic when one gets sick. What kind of life is this. The past of childhood must haunt them. The feelings of how and why did it have to get so bad. Jesus, well, I agree with Max; Jesus and where he is at is in question for sure. I think about that myself sometimes.

      I enjoy reading your stories. I think they shine a light on struggles that exist today with quite a few unlucky souls. Nice job as always, Bill. I do wonder why they have only placed a few of these installments from this story on letterpile. What's up with that?? Crazy! If you are going to place a few, you must place the whole story as it continues.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Interesting question, Missy, and I have no answer for you. I never understand what HP is doing. :)

      Thanks for your kind words. I always try to reflect real life with my works, and I also always try to deliver messages about real life. It surprised me not at all that you see those messages so clearly.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 6 months ago from Northern California, USA

      This episode grabbed my heart and squeezed out tears with, "he tells me at ease, soldier, it’s all being taken care of." Just the thought of someone taking time to care for another. If only the entire world was like that. What a wonderful world it would be.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Very true, Marlene! I'll tell you truly, with people like you in this world, I feel a whole lot better for our chances as humans. :)

    • jo miller profile image

      jo miller 3 months ago from Tennessee

      Two more chapters this morning. Such a nice way to start my day.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      And I appreciate you doing that, Jo! Thank you and good morning to you!

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