- 10/15/2007 9:28 AM ET
Love your style...and humor...
|Bad Moon Rising
Last week I was in town and drove by the local Sonic Burger place and noticed they had a parking lot full of old cars. Classic cars from way back when. I whipped it in there and parked and got out to look.
They had Corvairs, Buicks, an Edsel, and a whole bunch more. I strolled around the cars gawking and then I saw it over at the end of the row. A 1967 Dodge Charger. 270 horses under the hood in 383 cubic inches of power. Four bucket seats. Fire engine red. Exactly like the one I used to own. It was in perfect condition. I swooned as I stood looking at it.
I stood there slurping my peanut butter milkshake, staring at that '67 Charger, and started thinking back.
In the summer of 1973 I was living down in South Georgia in a small town called Thomasville. I was doing drafting work, designing sewage treatment plants. Sounds like exciting work, doesn't it? I think I was knocking down about $1.32 an hour or some outrageous income like that, but at the time it was good money. Plus I got to go fishing down on the coast of Florida every weekend. I loved fishing in the gulf and on weekends would head south through Tallahassee, Florida on my way to Apalachicola.
A few miles west of Thomasville, over in Seminole County, lived a family of farmers named Alday. There was Jerry, Ned, Jimmy, Chester, Aubrey, and Mary. Hard working country folks. That was the best way to describe them.
On May 14th, a bunch of sleaze balls broke out of a prison in Maryland and headed south towards Florida. Stopping at the Alday farm in hopes of stealing something, they ended up raping the women, then killing every single person there. Nice guys, huh?
The company I worked for closed down so all the friends of the family could attend the viewing and the funeral. I didn't know any of them so I had three days off work to do whatever I wanted. What I wanted was to go fishing.
I'd been driving for what seemed like hours and the sun had long since eased down over the western horizon. The weariness settled bone deep inside me. I'd had far too many cigarettes, far too many cups of acid tasting coffee, and not nearly enough sleep. My eyes burned, my chest felt like a vice was closing around it, and my stomach was rolling.
In the distant reflection of my headlights I noticed a weather-beaten sign dangling precariously from a rusted metal pole. "Sea Breeze Inn," it read, although I had to squint to read all the faded letters. I wheeled my old 67 Dodge Charger into the parking lot, spraying crushed oyster shell from beneath my car as I braked to a stop near the front door.
I eased myself out of my car, carefully stretched my sore back, and started off toward the office. I didn't see the usual "NO Vacancy" sign anywhere so I surmised that either they never had a full house or never cared enough to let you know in advance that you're wasting your time if you stop.
As I stepped up on the rickety boards that made up the front stoop, I heard the faint sounds of a bass guitar in the background. How nice, I thought as I opened the creaking door. All I wanted was to get a couple of hours sleep before moving on around the coast to St. Petersburg for some good fishing.
To the right was a check in counter made of the finest marine plywood that could be bought or stolen in this area, I was sure of it. Behind the counter stood the skinniest excuse for a human being I'd ever seen that still lived and breathed. A piece of straw, sea oats, or some sort of vegetation dangled out of the corner of his mouth, giving him the appearance of a cow chewing its cud.
He moved his head slightly as I approached the counter and gave a slight nod that in this part of Florida could either mean, "Hello, friend" or "one more step and I fillet you like a flounder." I decided to play it down the middle and be very polite. I was in no mood for anything other than sleep and there was the possibility that he just might not be in the best of moods.
"Hidey," I said, taking the initiative. "I'm looking for a room for the rest of the night. Ya'll got one?"
He made a show of taking the piece of straw out of his mouth and swallowed so slowly I could see his Adamís apple bobbing up and down his skinny neck. As I watched his neck, I couldn't help but think of the many chicken necks I'd dangled on the end of a piece of string while bobbing for blue-shell crabs.
"Don't rightly know if we do or don't," he drawled in a whiskey saturated growl. "Most I can tell you is to wait till Leon gets back from his beer run. He runs the place, I'm just here keeping an eye on it till he gets back."
"When do you expect Leon back?" I asked, knowing no matter what the answer, I wouldn't like it.
"Don't rightly know," he replied. "Been gone prit-near two hours now so he coulda stopped off at the house for a bite to eat or some lovin' before heading back. He's been known to do that." He grinned at his own humor, not really caring if I found it funny or not. I did not find much humor in anything at almost 2:30 in the morning.
"All I want is to sleep for about 4 hours and I'll be gone," I told him, thinking that somehow he'd care enough about my plight to bend the rules a bit and give me a room. I'd noticed outside there were only 5 cars parked in the shell lot, and two of them didn't look like they'd been cranked in quite a while. I knew there had to be at least one room I could lay down in. Just one.
"Hoss," he started. "Like I told you, Leon owns this place and Leon is the only one who can rent a room out. You can either wait for Leon or you can hit the highway."
I had a sneaky suspicion he called everybody Hoss, and I also had a sneaky suspicion he did not care worth a tinker's damn whether I slept another minute before I died. As if to dismiss me, he half turned away and looked down to continue reading whatever magazine he had hidden in his lap. Probably a centerfold picture of a squid or a sea lion, I thought as I mentally degraded him.
"Tell you what, Hoss," he spoke without even looking up, "why don'tcha head on in to the lounge and wait. Leon shouldn't be much longer even if he did stop off at home. I'll tell 'im you're here first thing he gets here." With an air of finality, he halfway turned his back to me as if dismissing me from his existence.
I stood there contemplating my options; I could stand here counting the times his Adamís apple bobbed up and down, I could wait outside in my car, or I could check out the lounge that had emitted the trembling bass sounds I'd heard when I walked across the parking lot. Normally I would have made a halfway intelligent decision and be done with it. This was not a normal night, though, and my mind was foggy from lack of sleep. I'll say that's the reason I chose to go into the bar and let it go at that.
As I walked down the dimly lit hallway leading to the Shark's Fin Bar And Grill, I took in all the gill nets, gaping sharks jaws, and green colored glass buoys that lined the hallway.
Worn and wobbly flooring shifted slightly underneath my feet as I eased the door open and entered the lounge. A long bar stood at one end, and a tiny dance floor was at the other, right beside a juke box that was belting out some sad country song. I went up to the bar, lit one more cigarette of the night, and ordered a Miller from a weathered old woman behind the bar.
I sat there staring at the mirror behind the bar, staring at my own face staring back at me, and sipped the beer and amused myself by slowly peeling the label off the bottle. I turned to check out the rest of the room and noticed a couple sitting at one of the tables.
They did not fit in here in this place, that much I noticed real quick. She was well dressed with an air of sophistication. He wasn't so sophisticated looking, though. The woman had jet-black hair down her back. She was slim but not skinny and wore a dark blue dress that went down almost to her ankles. The man wore jeans and tennis shoes, And they both were sipping some of the good whiskey, leaving the cheap stuff to the rest of us.
From their expressions I could tell they were having a quiet but heated conversation, and I wished I had sat closer to them so I could hear what was going on between them. The man looked like he was getting the short end of the stick. His expression was one of those, "I didn't do it but I won't ever do it again," looks. All of us men have had that expression before. The woman didn't look like she was in a very good mood, to say the least. She looked downright angry. The man sat there with his head down, making a show of looking at the floor.
When you sit in a bar alone you tend to want to eaves drop on other people to see if they have the same stupid arguments you have when you're with someone. At least I do. I wasn't sitting close enough to hear anything so I turned back to the bar and my ashtray. After about twenty minutes of spinning the ashtray and sipping the beer, I stood up and left.
I walked out the front door and down the steps. The oyster shells crunched beneath my feet as I walked across the parking lot towards the back of the building. I could hear the sound of the ocean nearby, the waves softly lapping on the beach. That's where I headed.
As I got down to the beach, down past the sand dunes and sea oats, my tennis shoes made squeaking sounds each time I took a step. I noticed off to my right in the dark distance was a huge pile of concrete. It looked like a graveyard for old concrete bridges had been broken up and dumped here to form a makeshift seawall.
I walked down to the edge of the ocean, right where the water lapped at my feet, teasing me like a beckoning finger to come closer. I stood there staring across the ocean, the full moon above shining through the veil of mist silently rolling across the top of the waves.
Standing at the edge of a vast ocean late at night gives you a sense of smallness in the main scheme of things. It puts you back in the right perspective. Endless as time, the waves come in and go back out. The ocean doesn't care who you are or what you may think you are. It continues on as it has since the beginning of time.
I slowly walked along the edge of the water towards the concrete mounds, my eyes searching out into the blackness of the night, trying to see something out there but not knowing what it was I wanted to see. Perhaps some answers to unknown questions.
I stopped when I got in front of the concrete wall and shoved my hands down into my pants pockets as I breathed the clean air and felt the salty breeze in my hair.
"Peaceful out here, isn't it?" I turned and noticed the woman from the bar was now sitting on a slab of concrete. She was sitting there staring at me.
"Sorry, I didn't see you there," I told her.
"So peaceful out there in the dark watching the ocean do it's thing," she said. "So what brings you out here?"
"Just getting some fresh air," I said.
"The ocean makes you think, doesn't it?" She asked as she stared past me out into the blackness of the ocean waves. "It makes you realize how small and insignificant we really are."
"Yes," I replied.
"Yvonne is my name," she said.
"I'm Ronny," I told her.
"I noticed you watching us back at the bar." She had caught me watching them in the mirror, I guess. I just shrugged my shoulders because I didn't know what to say.
"My friend Carl and I got into an argument so I figured I better come out here and calm down," she told me.
"The ocean makes you think, doesn't it?" She changed the subject. "It makes you think and wonder."
"Yes it does," I agreed. We were silent for a few minutes as we both gazed out into the darkness of the endless ocean. Sometimes you start to thinking about the vastness of the world around you and it brings on a bittersweet sadness. It was that same bittersweet sadness we sometimes get when we walk out of a movie theater into the sunlight. We feel a twinge of sadness yet we don't know what it's for. It's just a brief feeling of emptiness. Perhaps it's because we know the magic of the movie world is over and we have to return to the harshness of our world.
"We are as timeless as the ocean," she finally whispered. "If you want to be timeless, that is."
I didn't reply. Looking out into the night, I began to think. I thought about the past and the future. I hadn't lived long enough to store up too many bad memories and I'm glad I wasn't able to see the ones in store for me in the future.
She was sitting there on the concrete shelf and moved one foot up and rested it on the shelf. She placed her hands on her knee and rested her chin on her hands. Her knee was up in the air and even though it was dark, I could see her shapely leg where her dress had ridden up her leg. She was very attractive and I looked away so she wouldn't see me looking at her legs.
"Come here," she said softly. I walked over to her and stood in front of her.
She reached out and took my hand in hers and drew me towards her. She moved her leg out of the way and pulled me close and put her arms around my neck. Drawing me close, she parted her lips and touched hers to mine. A soft kiss, gentle as a hummingbird tasting the nectar of a flower. Brief, gentle, and soft.
"Oh Lord, what is going on here?" I thought.
She then moved her lips to my neck and gently kissed me there. I sighed and just stood there. Not moving, barely breathing. Then I felt the sting of her teeth on my neck as her hands grip my shoulders and held me tight. It was like the sting of a bee right on the side of my neck. I immediately felt my body going numb starting at my neck and working it's way rapidly down my body. I started to yelp and pull away. I tried to, but couldn't, because I felt myself falling as I blacked out.
I woke up to the rhythmic sounds of the ocean licking the sand. I was lying on the sand and the sun was barely over the eastern edge of the earth. I was alone, too. I stumbled to my feet, brushed sand out of my hair, out of my mouth, off my face, and off my clothes. I made my way back up the beach to the motel and walked up to the parking lot.
As I came up to the front of the motel I heard all the commotion. There were police cars everywhere. And two ambulances sat with their lights flashing. A rather large state patrol officer came up to me and drew his revolver and pointed it at me.
"Turn around," he said as he grabbed my shoulder and spun me around.
He threw me face down across the hood of the patrol car and held my hands behind me. He put a pair of handcuffs on my wrists and made me stand up and face him.
"Who are you and what are you doing here?" He demanded. I told him who I was, told him I had walked down on the beach during the night and had fallen asleep in the sand. He got my wallet out of my pants and read my drivers license and asked me to verify everything on it. Then he asked me if I had seen anyone or anything down on the beach. I hadn't and told him so. I had no memory of the woman out on the beach.
He was a big Bubbah type of Florida State Patrol Officer and looked mean and mad. We ended up sitting in his cruiser for about half an hour going over everything I had done and seen during the night. Then he released me. As I was walking to my car I noticed two ambulance drivers pushing a gurney across the parking lot. It had a sheet covering it and it was easy to tell there was a body underneath it. The sheet was covered in blood. Lots of blood. The sheet was almost entirely red.
I walked faster and got in my car and got the heck out of there fast. I turned and went north, fishing no longer appealed to me I just wanted to get home. Fast.
The sun was up now, shining through the passenger window of my Charger. As I drove north I kept rubbing my neck but wasn't even aware I was doing so. Later on, when I got home and took a shower, I noticed two tiny marks on my neck, like spider bites. I didn't remember being bitten by a spider and forgot about it. Not long after that I moved to Atlanta. It was the early 70's and there was the whole big city of Atlanta to occupy my mind. I sold my Charger not long after coming to Atlanta and forgot all about that car. Until I stood in the parking lot of the Sonic Burger and stared at the one in front of me.
Over the years I have developed a fascination with horror books and horror movies. Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Robert McCammon are the three kings of that genre, and I read everything they put in print. I never wondered why I hold such a fascination with that type of fiction, but it's like a longing, a calling.
Sometimes, late at night when I can't sleep, I sit outside and watch the full moon. I stare up at the moon and absently rub the side of my neck where long ago I felt the bee stings of Yvonne's teeth. It is then, late at night, that I feel an urge, a hunger for something I cannot identify, a craving for something I can't satisfy because I don't even know what it would be.
About five years ago I ran across an article about Roanoke Island, North Carolina. I found it totally fascinating, but didn't know why. Here's the true story in a Readers Digest Condensed version;
In 1585, over 15 men journeyed from Britain to Roanoke Island on North Carolinaís coast and established a settlement. Within three years, they had vanished with a trace. Every single one of them. In 1587, Sir Walter Raleigh organized yet another colonial expedition with over 150 people. Unlike the expedition of 1585, this one included women and children. They all vanished, too.
Yet another ship arrived from England, and again they found nothing and nobody.
Later on, another group of people arrived in Roanoke Island. One person in the group was named Eleanor Dare. She was the first white settler to give birth to a baby in the "New World." The baby's name was Virginia Dare. America's first baby. (They named the state of Virginia after her).
What ties all this history in to my story here is the woman who assisted in the birth of Virginia Dare. She was the cousin of Sir Francis Drake. Her name was Yvonne Drake. Age 22. I saw a portrait of Yvonne Drake. It was the same woman down in Carabelle, Florida, who had sat on a concrete ledge late at night and talked to me. She hadn't aged one minute from the year 1585.
[ E P I L O G }
Carl Isaacs, his brother Billy, half brother Wayne Coleman and friend George Dungee went to trial for the murders of the Alday family in 1973. Billy Isaacs, 15 years old at the time of the killings, received a 40-year sentence. He was taken to Maryland in 1993 to serve a life sentence there for murder. At a 1988 retrial, Mr. Coleman and Mr. Dungee received life sentences. Carl Isaacs, the ringleader of the group, was sentenced to die.
On May 6, 2003, at 8:07 p.m., Carl Isaacs, who had been sitting on death row for 30 years in Jackson State Prison down in central Georgia, was finally put to death by lethal injection.
I know Carl's face very well. He was the young man sitting with Yvonne Dare in a bar in Carabelle, Florida on the night I stopped in.
You don't believe any of this, and I wouldn't either, if I were you. You probably think I'm slap nuts and you're most likely right. It's not really necessary for you to believe me, though. I know what I know.
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