Posts Tagged ‘Vietnam’

Copyright 2010 held by Alayne Floyd.

Hollis felt himself being watched. It hit him while washing his supper dishes. He held his rough, arthritic hands beneath a sheen of soap bubble rainbows floating on the dish water, bracing for the adrenal flush building inside him. His blood warmed. The skin on the back of his neck prickled. His hearing and eyesight sharpened minutely. He breathed slow and deep. He felt the thinness of his strapped T-shirt against his skin. The familiar, surging need to move fell upon him.

“Been awhile,” he spoke softly.

Taking his time, he dried his hands with a frayed brown towel on the counter. He stared out the window above the sink. The sun fell below the horizon. The small patch of grass between his house and the next gave ground to the night.

Hollis walked slowly through his dining room and into the living room. His bent shoulders ached. Eyeing the front door before turning his back to it, he settled painfully to his knees beside an old cedar chest. He hefted the solid lid.

He grabbed his old bayonet and wedged it into the wood to hold the lid up. He shuffled the chest’s contents around.

He placed several small cardboard boxes onto the floor, then withdrew his service pistol and tucked it into his web belt. Next was a hand-held spotlight with an extension cord attached. After a pause and a sigh he gently set his father’s old scatter gun next to the boxes. The M 14 Hollis had bought at a gun show followed. He yanked his bayonet free. The lid slammed shut.

He walked into his kitchen with the rifle, spotlight, and ammo boxes. He leaned the rifle against the back door, piled the boxes on the counter, and plugged the spotlight’s cord into an outlet over the sink. He turned out the porch light and went back for the shotgun.

The screen door slammed behind him. He sat down in his lawn chair and stared for a moment into the shadows between the houses surrounding him. The house behind his was a conflagration of strung lights, people, and loud Norteῆa music.

“Yep,” he said. “Welcome back, Teddy Bear.”

He dropped the bayonet blade down into the wooden floor of his porch.

To the right of his chair he kept a small icebox. On top of it lay a pair of thick prescription glasses. Laying the shotgun across his lap and juggling the rifle, he leaned over and put on the glasses. Grabbing a Coke from the icebox, he popped the top and settled in for a long night.

Hollis waited in silence for an hour or so. The shadows shifted under the moon. The party showed no sign of ending. The noise was a distraction. The bastard might use it to sneak up close. The moonlight helped, but Hollis’ eyes had grown old. Even with the glasses, his vision was limited.

Hollis leaned the barrel of his rifle over the narrow porch railing. He switched on the spotlight and began to dance its powerful ray against houses and under small trees, panning the rifle. Nothing moved, but he knew the thing was out there. He had never seen it, but felt it every time it watched him. The neighbors at the party were looking at his porch. He flipped off the light.

“We’re going on thirty years, Teddy Bear,” Hollis spoke. “I ain’t gonna be around forever. I think you should come on out and introduce yourself, you son of a bitch.”

Hollis placed the light on the porch and took the Coke from between his legs. He took a long drink. His eyes scanned his surroundings.

“We both know what happens if I come off this porch. You run away again. You’re scared of me, ain’tcha Teddy Bear!” His voice was rising.

He sat back and spoke to himself, “Ain’tcha Teddy Bear.”

Only the music and voices answered Hollis. He thought in silent stillness for awhile.

“Or are you curious?” He asked the night. “Is it just because I’m not afraid of you? I’ve given up hunting you, you coward. Though God knows, I have a right to. I guess you’ll just have to work up your nerve and come for me.”

Another pause. Another sip.

“Teddy Bear, are you waiting until I’m too old to fight you? Here I am, sixty-four years old. Got guns now instead of fists. No matter how feeble I become, I still won’t fear you. That’s what brings you back, isn’t it? I’m not afraid of you. That’s why you can’t come for me like you do the others.” Hollis laughed.

“You need to get your nerve up. Mine is.” His voice grew louder.

He stood, slinging the rifle over his shoulder. He held the scatter gun by the barrel with its stock on the floor.

“Hey!” he yelled. “You hear me, Teddy Bear? Do you hear me, you black bastard? Quit wasting my time! Get your shadowy ass over here!”

The tone of the party shifted. Four men hopped the low fence separating the yards. Shouts of encouragement and derision followed them. They advanced on Hollis, hollering in Spanish.

Hollis held up his shaking hand. The sense of being watched intensified.

The man in the lead switched to English.

“What the hell did you say, man?” He asked angrily. “Did you call us black? What are you doing out here in the dark? You crazy, or just lookin’ to get hurt?”

They were near enough now to see him. He could feel Teddy Bear approaching, sniffing for his fear. Hollis didn’t feel any. Yet.

“Shit, man. You’re black! What the hell is wrong wit’choo?” The first man shouted. The others were forming a circle around his porch. The lights and noise from their party had affected their senses. They were blind in the dark.

The scatter gun barked rapidly. Sparks burst from both barrels. The two slugs punched up dirt and grass in front of the man who had threatened him.

All four broke into a run, cursing and stumbling their way back over the fence. The party music stopped. Hollis was aware of people scrambling to get inside the house, but was busy scanning the shadows. He stepped off the porch in instinctive pursuit.

Teddy Bear retreated too.

Hollis stretched. His neck cracked. He’d been sitting for longer than he realized. His spine ached and his toes tingled. He turned his back to the night and slowly returned to his chair. The thing had drawn back, but was watching. Hollis could still sense him.

“Got too close, didn’t you?” he said to the night. Flipping the shotgun open, he removed the spent shells and replaced them with live ones.

The staring contest continued. Hollis reached for another Coke. He needed the caffeine. If he had to relieve himself he would make sure Teddy Bear saw that too.

A few minutes passed. A flash caught Hollis’ attention. A strobe light pierced the darkness in the neighbor’s back yard. Hollis could hear a car crawling along the street in front of his house. The beam lit up his yard.

Three uniformed officers appeared around the corner of his house before he could gather his supplies and duck back inside. One yelled “Gun.” All three aimed their pistols at him, shouting commands. Hollis sat frozen, Coke in one hand and rifle balanced on his railing with the other. The spotlight flashed out as the police cruiser reached his house.

The officers moved around his porch, spreading out. One climbed his steps, eyeballing the barrel of the M 14 as he did.

“Don’t be afraid,” Hollis kept his voice calm and low.

“What?” the officer in front of him asked. “Put down the gun!”

The officer saw the shotgun in his lap.

“Shotgun too,” he hollered over his shoulder.

“Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid,” Hollis repeated. “You can’t be hurt if you’re not afraid. Don’t be afraid.”

A cop to his left hopped his porch rail and leveled his pistol at Hollis’ head. The third officer stayed back and spoke into his shoulder mike.

Hollis remained still, his eyes straight ahead.

The strobe stabbed through the dark on his right, making the shadows run. It continued its slide into the next yard before disappearing.

Four more policemen rounded the right side of his home. Four more guns pointed at him.

This time he shouted. “Don’t be afraid! Don’t none of you be afraid. I ain’t afraid!”

One officer holstered his pistol and pulled a stun gun from his side, aiming carefully at Hollis’ chest.

“What are you, crazy?” Hollis said to the man. “Look at my finger.”

His finger was snug against the rifle’s trigger. The barrel faced the house across the yard. The officer closest to him holstered his weapon and motioned for the man to wait.

“You’re not afraid.” said Hollis to the closest cop, still staring into the yard.

“Why are you pointing that rifle at your neighbor’s house?”

“I ain’t pointing this rifle at my neighbor’s house.”

“What are you doing with the shotgun?” The cop asked.

“Got me a pistol too, sir.”

The patrolman glanced at another officer before speaking. “What is your name?”

“Hollis Dwayne Watts, sir.” He anticipated the next question. “This is my house.”

“Mr. Watts, you don’t need to be scared. Tell me what is happening. Did you discharge a firearm?”

“Sir, I ain’t been scared since My Lai.” Hollis’ eyes flicked for a moment into the officer’s. “And I had to get rid of a distraction just now.”

“For me it was Tora Bora. You seeing Charlie out here?” The officer probed.

Hollis laughed hoarsely. “You run my name yet?”

“You have priors?”

“Teddy Bear’s gotta be loving this. I can feel him close again.”

“Who’s Teddy Bear?”

“Nine-teen-Seventy-Eight.” Hollis enunciated determination in his voice.

“Alright. Who’s Teddy Bear?”

“It’s a term of endearment,” Hollis eyed the man. “Like pig.”

The officer ignored the slight. “You got a beef with this Teddy Bear?”

Hollis grunted. “Yeah, you could say that.”

“He in that house over there?”

“No way. That house still has people partying in it,” Hollis shook his head.

The patrolman who had hung back stepped up onto the porch.

“Hollis Dwayne Watts,” he recited. “Sixty-four years of age. This is his residence. Prior convictions: three counts residential trespassing, one count public disturbance, one count harassment. Diagnosed Paranoid Schizo-Affective by court psychologist. Wife and daughter disappeared in the fall of 1978. No arrests were made. No Teddy Bear in the system either.”

“Does that sound about right, Mr. Watts?” The first officer asked him.


“Have you been taking your medications?”

“Damn pills only blur the edges. Make me hear things too.” Hollis mumbled.

“Want to put the guns down?”

“Hell no.”

“Want to tell me about your wife? Where do you think she took your daughter?”

“My girls? Ask Teddy Bear.”

“How do you want this to end, Mr. Watts?” asked the first officer.

“I’d like to see Teddy Bear. Bastard runs away every time I show up. I’d like to know what it is that chases him away. I ain’t always had to have these guns. I want to know why he wasn’t chased away from my girls. Then I want to kill his black ass.”

“Mr. Watts, put the rifle down right now.” The officer’s voice grew stern.

Hollis caught a stirring of shadows in the neighboring yard, something smooth and wispy.

The officer placed his hand on his pistol.

“Mr. Watts, put the rifle down.”

The shadows blinked longer, stretching toward the house.

“Hollis. I know that look. Don’t be scared…” The officer commanded.

“Scared gets you killed, sir.” Hollis snarled, leaning into the stock of his weapon. He pivoted the barrel a few degrees.

A large patch of flickering shadow broke away from the darkness. It was visible to him for a second before it latched onto the blackness alongside the house full of people.

Hollis shot three rounds. Each slammed into brick. The police around him fired. He heard the noise and felt the flaming hammer strikes as bullets punctured his body. He slumped out of his chair, his father’s scatter gun dropped to the porch. His head sagged against the wooden floor.

The talkative officer shouted for the others to stop. The rifle clattered over the porch rail. The night felt very still. Hollis could sense Teddy Bear. Worse, he could feel its glee, its anticipation. He had seen the beast at last, but the beast had tricked him. He created fear for Teddy Bear. He spoke the names of his daughter and his wife softly to himself. Heartbroken, He lifted his eyes and stared at the dark until his vision failed him. He pitched forward.

The officer closest to Hollis stood staring down at his body. His pistol remained in its holster. The look that settled into Hollis’ eyes had tugged at an instinct in him. The dead, fierce eyes of a soldier committed to action.

The officer turned around and stomped down the porch step, his eyes reflexively hunting for movement.

Across the yard and past many shadows, the lights in the neighbor’s house blinked out.