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Mel Hathorn

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The Prisoner's Dilemma Chapter 1
By Mel Hathorn
Posted: Tuesday, October 02, 2007
Last edited: Friday, September 25, 2009
This short story is rated "G" by the Author.
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· Spanking Plato: Prologue - Chapter 3
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This is the final version of Chapter 1 of the Prisoner's Dilemma
Chapter 1

West Hartford/Avon, CT
Early afternoon

Donald Kaddam shifted into low gear as the traffic light turned green. He dreaded this trip over Avon Mountain. The distance from the intersection of North Main Street and Albany Avenue (Route 44) in West Hartford to the other side of the mountain was four miles. It was a deadly four miles, especially for a loaded dump truck like his. He had asked his boss at Edifice Wrecks Demolition Company for permission to drive an alternative route, which unfortunately was clogged with traffic and twice as long. His boss told him to go the shortest way in the least amount of time.

His boss, Mike Jurgen, was under the gun. The large land-development company in Seattle, Mighty Meadows Development Corporation, had bought out his business five years ago. He had to make his firm profitable; otherwise it would be spun off and he would lose everything. With the housing market crashing because of the sub-prime lending scandal, Mighty Meadows and all its subsidiaries were on the brink of collapse. Expenses had to be cut. Jurgen had been warned: profits must be protected at all costs.

Even worse, Donald thought, was the poorly maintained truck. The brakes were on their last legs. The transmission was miles past its last service and the coolant hoses were practically rotted out.

Kaddam, a beefy man with muscular arms, was built like a beer wagon. He wore a black T-shirt and worn work trousers.

He drove his truck through the intersection and for about a mile, the road was level, rising slightly. After passing through the next light, the road inclined more steeply. Shifting into low gear, he drove his heavily laden truck slowly up the mountain. Several impatient drivers passed. He reached the top of the hill and slowed his truck to a crawl as he passed a sign warning of the 10-degree mile-and-a-half grade. At the bottom of the mountain a traffic light waited where Route 10 ran perpendicular to Route 44. He started down the hill.

Avon Mountain was the site of many accidents. Over 14 people have died on this Mountain since 1995. The stretch of Route 44 that traverses Avon Mountain was known as Connecticut’s version of “Dead Man’s Curve.” From the peak of the mountain, the road twists and winds down a 10-degree hill for a mile and a half. In spite of its dangers, it is a beautiful drive with tall pines and reservoirs on each side. Many families bring picnic lunches and hike or bike along winding trails beside the reservoirs.

Over 23,000 vehicles a day travel in both directions over Avon Mountain. It is a main thoroughfare for commuters going into Hartford. Truck traffic over the last few years has increased to 100 trucks a day, supplying the many stores and outlets in the town of Avon and further west. Many of these out-of-state truckers work for large global companies and their drivers are unfamiliar with Avon Mountain.

* * *

20 Summer Wind Drive
Avon, CT
Earlier that morning

“Beth, don’t forget your lunch.” Kate West, Beth’s Mother, ran after her to the school bus. Beth stopped halfway up the steps. Beth was an eleven-year-old fifth-grader with a face full of freckles and long blonde hair.

“Don’t forget to pick me up after school, Mom. We’re going on our field trip to the Mark Twain House today,” she said excitedly.

“I haven’t forgotten dear,” answered Kate. “I’ll be there. Have a good time, honey.”

* * *

45 Pine Hill Lane
Avon, CT
At the same time

“Hurry up with your breakfast, Carl. The bus’ll be here soon.” Lisa Richards, Carl’s Mother, took Carl’s lunch from the refrigerator, and put it on the table in front of him.

“We’re going on a trip today to the Mark Twain House,” said Carl, a boy with red hair and blue eyes. “ We read Tom Sawyer in class. It’ll be awesome to see where he lived.”

“Carl, your bus is here,” said Lisa. “Have a good time, dear.”

* * *

Kathy Jonson’s Fifth Grade class
Avon, CT

The class buzzed with excitement as they lined up with their lunches. “Class, before we leave for our field trip, I want to remind you of a few rules. Once you are on the bus, stay in your seat. When we get to the Mark Twain Museum, remember to keep your voices down. The guides will divide us into two groups. When we go into the house itself, remember not to touch things and do not sit on the furniture.”

The bus pulled into the parking lot of the Mark Twain House. When the children unloaded, they lined up single-file as they had been instructed to do and walked into the long hall of the Museum. They sat on wooden benches while Ms. Jonson talked to the staff.

The first group, that included Beth and Carl, left with Martha, a Museum Teacher. The second group went with Sarah. They walked up a flight of stairs that twisted back on itself and down a long hall that led into a cafeteria. Outside, they walked to the large porte-cochere where Martha asked them what they knew about Mark Twain.

“He wrote Tom Sawyer,” said Carl excitedly.

“He lived out west for awhile,” said Beth.

“That’s right,” said Martha. “Anyone know anything else?”

After getting a few more responses, she led them to the door of the Mark Twain House and went over a few rules. “No picture-taking inside the house and please don’t touch anything,” she said.

After the tour the first group went to the theatre to see a film about Mark Twain’s life. Then they visited the gift shop. Carl bought a small plastic frog that represented Mark Twain’s story, The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. Beth bought a plastic pin that formed the head of Mark Twain. After lunch the class of twenty-five boarded the bus to return to school.

* * *

Avon Mountain
Early afternoon

Donald Kaddam proceeded down Avon Mountain in low gear. As the dump truck loaded with slabs of concrete and scrap iron moved down the mountain, it began to pick up speed. Kaddam applied the brakes harder and harder. They began smoking. The truck rolled faster and faster. It approached a sharp curve but Kaddam managed to keep control. The transmission began screeching and smoke poured out of it and billowed up the side of the truck. The brakes, now superheated and worn down to bare drums, squealed against metal disks.

As the runaway truck approached the final descent toward the bottom of the hill, Kaddam saw a yellow school bus sitting in the left lane waiting to make a left turn onto Route 10. Oh, my God!! he thought. The truck barreled out of the final turn down the straightaway toward the bottom of the hill. It swayed back and forth as worn steering gear gave way. In spite of Kaddam’s best efforts, the truck smashed into the rear of the school bus. The exit door was crushed. The bus was pushed forward into the crossing traffic of Route 10.

With dragging metal parts that created sparks and a ruptured fuel tank, the damaged school bus exploded in a massive fireball incinerating all inside and demolishing windows, stores and businesses along the roadway.

Witnesses claimed that the resulting fireball could be seen for miles.



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