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The Sun Never Rises: Chapter Thirteen

Updated on November 16, 2016

Thoughts Before We Begin

I make no excuses for this story. This is a story of hope, and love, and if, at times it seems all “Waltony” then so be it, I can live with that description. I think we need more love, and hope, and so my stories will continue to sprinkle them both liberally.

Settle back and let’s see what Max and Katie are up to in Montana.

A road block with four legs
A road block with four legs | Source

Trouble in the Rockies

West Yellowstone, Montana. The dead of winter. In need of a fuel pump for the Ford Ranger.

Repair estimate: $320.

It might as well have been ten-thousand.

Sure we had it, but if we spent it on the pump we’d have no money for food the rest of the way.

Six of one, half-dozen of the other. Screwed either way.

We were standing on the corner of Firehole Avenue and North Canyon Street, the hub of the town, snow drifting down, hardly any wind, drifts totally obscuring some businesses, and ten below zero. Gilbert at Gilbert’s car repair had just delivered the bad news.

“We can have the part here in two days, have you on the road in three,” he told us. We thanked him and asked for an hour while we talked it over. “Take your time, folks. The truck ain’t going nowhere,” he told us as he walked over to his next patient.

Katie’s nose and cheeks were pink as we stood in the God-forsaken cold, looking for answers among the pine branches and overhead gray.

“What do you think, Max?” she asked me for what felt like the thousandth time, like I had some clue how to navigate the waters of normalcy in a world I didn’t recognize or understand.

Traffic had backed up down the block, an honest-to-goodness traffic jam of snowmobiles and pickup trucks, their exhaust drifting skyward, the heavy thrum of their engines shattering the winter scene, a bison lumbering along the road, probably wondering what all the fuss was about, in no damned hurry at all.

“I think we should spend the night, sleep on that decision, Katie. The same problem will be waiting for us tomorrow, and maybe the solution will be clearer to us.” Katie nodded, and we went back to Gilbert’s and told him we’d see him the next day.

West Yellowstone
West Yellowstone | Source

Home Sweet Home

Winter rates, the young Latina told us, sixty plus tax for a queen bed and cable, sold I told her and the room was as advertised, comfortable and warm. The previous cold drove us to the shower, no waiting one after another, both of us peeling the clothes off, turning on the warm, and stepping in as one. A vehicle with a lot of miles will show its wear and tear, bumps, dents, rust, it’s all there, a roadmap of every pothole and tossed stone it has faced. I thought of that as Katie gently ran her hands over my body, tracing scars, the suicide bomb, shrapnel from ricochets, jagged reminders that the human body is not designed for warfare.

“Does this hurt?” she asked, touching a welt where a round had hit its mark back in the desert, and I swear her touch was enough to make me forget my past for a moment, just a moment, but sometimes a moment is all you have, and I kissed that woman, gentle at first but then with all the pent-up frustrations boiling out, and the water beat down on us, mixing with the tears, washing away the dirt of the road . . . the dirt of the past . . . and I carried her, wet, to that queen bed and told her I loved her.

“Oh, Max,” was all she could say before I smothered any other conversation, and drowned myself in her loving womanhood.

Nighttime in the Mountains

“I know what we should do, Max,” she said after we woke up from a nap, her head on my shoulder, one leg draped over mine, a mop of hair brushing my cheek.

“I think it’s time to call home, Max. I think it’s time to tell your mother and father you love them. There’s no shame in making that phone call, Max. There’s only love.”

There was a kid in my platoon near Kabul, a kid from Cooley, Texas, big old boy, six-four, weighed in at maybe two-fifty, the son of a cattle-rancher, Toby Elias was his name. Good soldier, fearless, always had your six in hairy situations, the kind of guy you felt safe around. One day we were taking sniper fire from a building two-hundred yards away, had us pinned down pretty well, our cheeks down in the sand, keeping low, the grit stinging our eyes. We were weighing our options, yelling to each other across a courtyard, working out logistics, when all of a sudden Toby Elias, he screams “Fuck it”, gets up off the ground and charges straight at that sniper, a big bull of a kid pounding forward, making up the distance, two-hundred yards down to one-hundred, then fifty, bullets hitting in front of him, behind him, the sniper having a difficult time with the range and motion. Five minutes after Toby Elias burst from cover, the sniper was dead, and fifteen minutes after that we were all standing around asking Toby what the hell he thought he was doing.

“Hell, boys,” he said to us. “There’s some problems in life you just can’t hide from. Besides, I’ve faced meaner bulls than this little bitty guy,” he told us, pointing to the body of the sniper.

I kissed my Princess Kate, brushed hair from her face.

“Maybe you’re right, Katie. Maybe you’re right.”

Saying goodbye to the Rockies
Saying goodbye to the Rockies | Source

Going Home

I knew the number by heart, of course. It was the same number we’d had since my Little League days, living in that old Craftsman one block north of Green Lake on Northeast Seventy-Eighth in Seattle, almost eleven years to the day since I last stepped foot in that home, me wondering if anyone was alive to answer, hitting “send” and saying a silent prayer as Katie held me tight.

One ring, two, three and then the voice I first heard rushing out of the womb, the voice I heard every night, singing me songs before bed, telling me everything would be all right as she mended my bumps and bruises, it all rushed back to me with a simple “Hello!”

And she said it again, “Hello,” and again I couldn’t seem to muster up that simple response, my throat tightening, like some noose around it choking off all sound, and a third time she said it and all I could say was “Mom,”. . . but that was enough.

“Max? Honey, is that you?” When still I couldn’t answer I heard her calling for my dad, “Dale, Dale, get in here. Max is on the phone, my baby boy is calling,” and then the screen door slammed and my father’s voice came on, “Max? Max? Ah Jesus Christ, Max my boy, is that really you?” and emotion just overwhelmed me, and Katie had to take the phone from my hand and carry on for me.

“Hi, this is Katie, a friend of your son’s, yes, yes, he’s perfectly fine, just overcome with emotion right now, yes, I promise he’s fine, just give him a minute. What? Oh, West Yellowstone, Montana, we’re on our way to see you, if you don’t mind the company.” And my redheaded sprite of a woman laughed at the response, and she squeezed my hand tight and whispered she loved me, and I have to tell you, never has a human being felt more loved than at that moment in time.

The Next Day

The decision had been made, plans finalized, my parents would wire us money, enough for two bus tickets, and I told Gilbert we were looking to sell that truck and right then and there he took it off our hands, five-hundred cash, thank you very much, and suddenly we had more money than we needed, and the snow stopped, and strong winds overhead broke apart the clouds, swiftly moving clouds, and an honest-to-God patch of blue sky opened up, first blue sky in over a month, no sun yet, but the blue promising more as we went back to the motel to check out.

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

      Very much enjoyed this week's installment and looking forward to seeing what happens now that Max has called home. Happy Wednesday now, Bill! ;)

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

      Twelve hours from home, Janine, and I know Max is super nervous. We shall see.

      Thank you my friend and Happy Hump Day to you.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 7 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      It just isn't possible for things to be more wonderful for my 2 friends, than this very moment. I feel all tingly with joy! What a special couple around which you have masterfully weaved an unforgettable tale of hope, love and family. Look forward to the reunion with Mom and Dad!

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

      Thanks Sis! This one bordered on sloppy sweet, but so be it. I only write what the characters tell me to write, so I'm not responsible. LOL Hugs from Olympia, dear friend.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 7 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Oh, but you always know how to balance....just enough sloppy sweet at the right time for the right reasons.....that's why you're the master!

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

      Embarrassed now but thank you always!

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 7 months ago from london

      Beautiful!!

      That Katie is a delight of a woman, warm ... loving ... as you described her. Picked up pace and with some really touching emotions and writing towards the end. You coming home, eh?

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

      I'm always coming home, Manatita, and in a way, I never left it. :) Thank you and peace be with you.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 7 months ago from USA

      Finally he is reaching out. It's sad that he waited until he was in such a desperate spot. Well written, Bill.

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 7 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Bill, this wasn't sloppy at all, but I'm having a difficult time seeing the computer screen because I have tears in my eyes. Thank you. The Number 13 isn't always unlucky.

    • profile image

      Old Poolman 7 months ago

      Great chapter Bill. In reading between the lines I can tell that you have had some rough times and difficult situations to face yourself. Nobody who hasn't been there could tell the story like someone with experience.

      I'm glad things just keep looking better and better for Max and Kate. Please let them make it home without too many more problems in the next chapter.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 7 months ago from london

      Yes, and I forgot to mention that I liked the way you described everything coming together at the end, Bro. Even the external forces seemed to smile on Max and Katie. A bit like America in ??? How many years? You know I like to laugh. Ha ha. (I mean well, though.) Best wishes for The U.S at this time.

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

      Thank you very much, Flourish!

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

      That kind of reaction, Linda, is music to my soul. Thank you my friend.

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

      I think I can make that promise, Mike, and I believe richness in writing does come from personal experience....so yes, you are right on in your assessment. Thanks my friend.

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

      Very good, Manatita...yes, like the United States in a few years. LOL

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 7 months ago from United Kingdom

      Another hurdle jumped and heading for the homestretch. Go Max and Katie, we're rooting for ya. :)

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 7 months ago from Southern Illinois

      This one made me happy enough to cry, sounds nutty but true. You wrote the most beautiful love scene without getting down and dirty. Mom and dad made this story complete. I have a feeling that Max and Kate are going to heal wounds in a wonderful way. I love this story!!!

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

      They feel the love, Zulma, as do I. :)

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

      That's okay, Ruby! I cried when I wrote it. LOL Thank you so much.

    • justthemessenger profile image

      James C Moore 7 months ago from The Great Midwest

      Hey, good ahead and be as "Waltony" as you like. This is good so long as the writing is good. The sun may not rise for these two but it seems that it still manages to shine on them.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 7 months ago from Oklahoma

      Great read!

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

      Thanks Messenger! It's full-speed ahead to the conclusion, coming soon.

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

      Thanks a lot, Larry, and Happy Wednesday to you.

    • DreamerMeg profile image

      DreamerMeg 7 months ago from Northern Ireland

      Enjoyed that, it was the right time and the right thing. I thought it was going to be the end but I'm glad to know we get to share the homecoming too.

    • Ericdierker profile image

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

      Really cool. You get me under their skin. For some reason I am cautious Nelly here. Love takes a lot of work, I hope son and father will bond like I know mother and daughter will. That shared love of one is so powerful.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 7 months ago from The Caribbean

      Bill, no apology necessary on my part. On my notification list from HP today, this is the only article I really wanted to read. This true to life story with its complications, struggles and invincible faith, hope and love provide energy for the soul. Thank you.

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

      Nah, Meg, we'll keep it going for a couple more chapters at least. Thanks for being here once again.

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

      All true, Eric. We'll just have to see how it plays out, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

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

      Very kind of you, Dora! I appreciate your loyal following and kind words.

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 7 months ago from California Gold Country

      Wow, that warm shower felt good... yes, I could feel it. You are some writer, sir.

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 7 months ago from Jeffersonville PA

      This installment made me sigh with relief after I shed some tears. No wonder you cried when you wrote this piece on unconditional love and hope.

      I'm so looking forward to Max's reunion with his loving parents.

      Have a great Tuesday. Love, Maria

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 7 months ago

      I love where this is going, billy.

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

      Rochelle, welcome and thank you so much. I am honored by your words.

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

      Maria, always love! You know this already, dear friend. You have dedicated your life to acts of love.

      love,

      bill

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

      Pop, I can say without hesitation, so do I! Thank you!

    • Michael-Milec profile image

      Michael-Milec 7 months ago

      Diamonds never lose their value, they just need more time and patience for a thorough abrasion a layer of heavily deposited burden of social injustice. These two people, realized their inner strength, has never given up their aim of achieving top potential of their talents. Certainly there's always welcomed God send help of irreplaceable parents' love. A sigh of contentment ...

      Have a blessed weekend my friend.

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

      Beautifully stated, Michael my friend. Thank you, and Happy Weekend to you, one filled with love and peace.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 7 months ago from Central Florida

      Bill, I'm not kidding... I have goosebumps, a lump in my throat and tears are streaming down my face. Gimme The Waltons any day. I loved them then and I'm loving Katie and Max's life now. They are so blessed to have found each other. One day they're going to look back at the first day they met and marvel at how far they'd come. All fueled by determination and love.

      Can't wait to join them in Seattle.

      I see your muse is deeply enmeshed in your psyche. There's a lot of you in this story.

      Oh, before I forget.... it seems you've finally figured out how to use the camera Bev got you a couple of Father's Days ago. The shots in this story are amazing!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Sha, that may be the nicest thing you could say to this writer. Thank you so much. When I create characters my job, and desire, is to make them real so my readers can connect with them emotionally. Evidently I succeeded, so thank you.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 7 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is a lovely chapter in your story, Bill. The photos are beautiful. I'm looking forward to reading about the family reunion.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 7 months ago from Northern California, USA

      The Waltons! I remember my whole family sitting down to watch that show together. We didn't have DVR's back then, so it was a regular family event. The repair shop where I take my truck always has it playing on the TV screen. I totally love that show. And, Bill I totally love your stories. I go through every range of emotions while reading. Very few writers have such talent that they can conjure up extreme emotions on a regular basis. Yet you do it every time. I look forward to the next episode.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you so much, Linda. I think it will be a reunion we can all savor.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 7 months ago from Dubai

      Good times for Katie and Max, going to a great place called home. What will unfold next, eagerly waiting to read what is going to happen at Max's home.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      High Praise, Marlene, and I thank you for it. HOpefully I'll never lose the ability to elicit emotions from my readers.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Coming soon, Vellur, and I promise it will be a wonderful homecoming! Thank you!

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 7 months ago from Riga, Latvia

      Well this chapter ended with me sporting a great big smile and a bit misty eyed.

    • profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 7 months ago

      Bill, things are looking up for Max and Katie. Love is everything and I do love the Waltons.

      Happy Thanksgiving to Bev and you also Max and kate.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Then my work is done, Rasma! I've done my job! Thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Happy Thanksgiving, Shyron, and I do appreciate you!

    • Missy Smith profile image

      Missy Smith 7 months ago from Florida

      I love a story that reads like a movie rolling in your head. I can see everything clearly, feel emotions the characters feel. Everything. You are so very talented, Bill. You have a big fan in me forever. :)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Missy, that means a great deal to me. I love readers who can appreciate the time and effort it takes to tell a good story. Thank you my friend.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 6 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Hi Bill. I have just gotten caught up on this terrific series. I do not think this is too "Waltony," at all. And we need more love and hope in our collective lives. Your series is not only a message of hope, but of realism and joy. It completes my day to read about Max and Katie; I look forward to seeing what happens next. Thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you so much, Genna! Final chapter approaching. Max and Katie hope you're join them as their journey comes to an end.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 6 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Bill

      I like Toby, he's kind of 'got my way of solving 'problems'

      'A bull in a China shop' as we would say!

      Great installment.

      Lawrence

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Lawrence. It's the only way to solve problems in my life...head on and damn the consequences. :)

      bill

    • shanmarie profile image

      Shannon 6 months ago from Texas

      See this is the kind of writing that could make a person believe this stuff happens more often in real life, not just fiction!

      I suppose that it is kind of "Waltonish" - but we don't see too much of this kind of story anymore. I can handle a modern day Walton tale. Goodnight, Billyboy, I'm off to the next chapter!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Yep, very Waltonish of me, Shannon, but i'm trying to give some balance to my dark side by writing this. It's a struggle but I'm managing. :) Thanks so much....more coming eventually.

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