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Freddie Mesquit

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Vacation Time
By Freddie Mesquit
Monday, December 10, 2007

Rated "G" by the Author.

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It's a strange time to be taking a vacation. And even stranger when Bill Blanchard's wife Harriet actually wants to go along. Find out just how strange things can get in "Vacation Time" by Hollister King.

Vacation Time

Hollister King

Bill Blanchard softly whistled a nameless little tune through his teeth, as he guided the station wagon up the mountain.
He smiled.
A premature snow had already dusted the pines at lower altitudes with two inches of fresh powder and much more was expected. Bill knew there would be few if any campers, but he and his wife Harriet this late in the season. In fact, he counted on it. He welcomed these two as acolytes in his recently-hatched plan.
The sun felt good on his arm, which rested out the window. Despite the new snowfall the sun still shone bright and hot. Harriet’s ascent to join him made butterflies dance in Bill’s stomach. Especially since he had conceived the plan at the last minute. It had to be now or never. He couldn’t take it much longer.
It was a most pleasant surprise that Harriet would go this time. She seemed almost happy about the idea and offered no resistence at all. Puzzling to Bill, but practically everything Harriet did was a puzzle to him. Harriet had always hated his camping trips - never wanting to join him, so he and his fishing buddy, Joe, had always gone together. But something had come up this time and Joe couldn’t make it. Bill smiled. What a stroke of luck.
Bill filled his nostrils with crisp, pine-scented air. Soon, it would all be just a memory. A twenty-two year nightmare to be more accurate. He glanced over at Harriet, who, as usual was absorbed in furious knitting. She wore the same rigid and determined expression she had for the last twenty-five years since they had met in their first year of high school. Why, or how, they had been mutually attracted remained a mystery to Bill.
Harriet’s practiced hands transformed the long needles into miniature swords, which, over the years had parried forth and endless stream of yarned goods, most of which was donated to the hospital where she worked in E. R. She had even followed up on a Mexican man who had wandered into the emergency room on evening with an ice pick sticking out of his chest. There was no pain, he said and almost no bleeding. He was so poor that he couldn’t even afford a refrigerator so he bought ice by the chunk and kept it, along with perishables, in large plastic coolers. He had been chopping at the ice when the accident occurred. The man had told her that he had six children, all under the age of ten, and while he was recuperating, she had knitted six stocking caps for winter.
Knitting, was indeed, a life-long love affair for Harriet, and when off work she was almost never without her needles and balls of yarn. She even kept it all stuffed under her sweat shirt when taking short breaks from her work. Harriet had stopped wearing anything feminine years ago. For her, sweat shirts and jeans were it with the one exception of her weekly meeting with the girls after work every Wednesday without fail. It was her one chance, she said, “to do something I would like to do.” She was so faithful to her Wednesday nights, that she even took a dress to the hospital, not bothering to even come home. There, she would put on a dress. Never for him, but for “her only night out,” she would be happy to wear a dress and feel like a woman again. He had certainly failed to inspire her to that degree. This knowledge not only hurt Bill, but it angered him as well.
Bill wasn’t normally an angry person, but he wasn’t any different than any other person. He had his limits - a line which, when crossed, can turn the best of us into someone we’re not. When Bill brought up her Wednesday nights, and the question of why couldn’t she at least slip on a dress and apply a little makeup for him once in a while, Harriet counterattacked with the cold fact that he gave her no reason to look or even act like a woman. She had refused sex so often that Bill took to sleeping by himself in another bedroom for years now. A point she had tried to drive home into Bill’s “thick skull” any number of occasions. Their infrequent conversations were brief; only the facts were of interest to Harriet. There was no reason to state the “superfluous,” which included observations of how the nice weather was today, or how he would much more enjoy taking his wife with him on camping trips, rather than his buddy Joe.
There lie the enigma of Harriet Blanchard. So compassionate, so giving to others . . . to almost anyone else. Yet, she remained ever hateful of him. But why? He did not know. He did not care anymore. With any luck it would soon be over.
His eyes cut sideways. “Just about done, dear?”
“Eyes on the road, mister! Mountain roads are dangerous,” she barked, without looking up from her work. “Gotta keep your eyes on the road.”
Bill obeyed, but something distracted him. Something that sounded like bees trapped in a jar. And then he saw. As if from nowhere, a gang of bikers loomed in his rear-view mirror.
My God! What if they’re Hell’s Angels?
A second later the bikes were on his tail, and Harriet sprang alive from her knitting. Demon hornets swung in and out - jeering at their captives and threatening to sting.
“Who the hell . . .? What’s going on, Bill?” She waved a knitting needle at the bikers.
“I wouldn’t do that,” said Bill, in a dry voice.
“Do what? Who are those idiots? Do something, Bill!”
Two of the bikes moved in front of the wagon, forcing Bill to slow down to almost a full stop. The riders were greasy and wore Levi jackets. A fat, pink pig, with and evil grin was embroidered on the backs of their jackets. The pig sat astride a chopper with the name, “Road Hawgs” below.
“Who’s who?” squeaked Bill.
“That filth out there! Who the hell do you think I’m talking about? What are you going to do about it?”
“Do?” Bill’s mouth turned to dry aluminum. He scrunched down as far as possible, wishing the whole scene would somehow evaporate. An uncontrollable whine escaped from his lips. Drums beat furiously in his temples. “They’re not Hell’s Angels, honey. They’re just Road Hawgs, see?” He pointed feebly at the rider just inches away from the front bumper, who turned and made an obscene gesture at him.
“It’s just like you, Bill Blanchard! No guts! I don’t care if it’s Mother Teresa and her orphans out for a Sunday drive. Tell them to buzz off, or I will!” She jerked on the window handle.
“But . . . dear . . paraphernalia.”
Bill’s protest was interrupted with the bikers sudden departure. They shot off as suddenly as they had appeared. In seconds they were completely out of sight, and once again only the steady purr of the wagon was heard.
Bill breathed a sigh of relief. Harriet regarded him with a long look of contempt, then resumed her knitting. Bill could not discern her muttering for the next five miles - only the repeated mention of his name. The rest of the trip was uneventful. With her knitting paraphernalia tucked under her sweat shirt, Harriet snored away, as Bill wound the station wagon in and out of hairpin turns. The road was almost empty. Only two cars had passed them, and both were headed back down the mountain.
At Table Top Campground it was just as Bill had figured - deserted. He and Harriet would have the whole thing to themselves. He stopped at the big sign equipped with a compartment for envelopes and slot for depositing fees. He knew the campground by heart and headed straight for space number twenty-two. It was dusk, and Bill was well aware of just how fast the mountains became dark as soon as the sun dropped below the horizon.
“I’ll get a fire going, dear,” he offered, he headed in the direction of a fallen tree. Many of the dead limbs had already been sacrificed to the many camp fires which had been built earlier in the season.
“Don’t you be gone long now, Bill,” said Harriet, as she gestured with her hands. “All this junk needs to be unpacked you know. You’re not leaving me with all the work.”
“No. I won’t, hon. I’m just going to gather a little wood.” He looked skyward. “Gets pretty cold after the sun sets.”
Harriet condescended with a grunt. She found a folding chair from the rear of the wagon, unfolded it, and plopped her huge bulk. She sat with her back turned to her husband. She recovered her knitting from under her shirt and resumed working on her last project.
Ten minutes later Bill returned with a huge armful of dry pine and set about building a fire. Once the fire was going he chose the flattest spot to pitch the tent. He whistled while he worked. Harriet narrowed her eyes at Bill.
“Is all that chirping really necessary, Bill? Aren’t there enough birds around for that?”
Not in the winter, stupid, he had wanted to say, but instead he refrained from rebuttal as he had learned to do over the years, and busied himself with pitching the four man tent. Soon after he’d finished, Harriet yawned and stretched.
“You can stay up if you want, Bill. I’m tired.” She wrestled a sleeping bag into the tent, and in no time Bill heard the familiar buzzing.
He discovered that his wife had finished off the sandwiches in the short time he had been gathering wood. That was okay. He wasn’t hungry anyway. There was too much on his mind. Too much to plan on short notice. He found his Thermos and poured some coffee. As he sipped the hot, black liquid he stared into the orange coals of his little campfire and thought. Maybe a little nature hike . . . at the end of the day, and at the highest point . . . an accident . . .
Bill didn’t remember falling asleep that night.

“A hike?” Harriet glared. “Why in the world would I want to do a thing like that? Besides, it’s cold this morning. Why don’t you make yourself useful and fetch some more wood?”
Bill obeyed, but he wasn’t going directly to collect fire wood. Instead, he headed up the trail which followed the mountain’s edge. An edge which proved treacherous each year to at least one or two hikers, despite the CDF providing hand rails along most of the walk. He stopped when he knew he was out of Harriet’s sight and considered different scenarios. If he could only get her up the trail somehow . . .
That evening at the campsite, Bill discovered that Harriet had polished off the last of the cold chicken, which was to last the rest of the weekend. Stupid . . . And she was acting funny - content almost. He didn’t know the reason, but he welcomed the respite from her usual self. However, by nightfall she had returned to her old self. Bill dug out some cheese and crackers while Harriet buried her nose in a paperback. He munched his meager subsistence quite aware of his wife’s periodic glances of disapproval.
“You gonna make noise all night?” she hissed.
Thirty minutes after sundown the mountains and trees had merged into one impenetrable inkiness, and the coals of the campfire were feeling especially good. Bill had ventured out a number of times that day to stockpile more wood. It was going to be a cold one.
Suddenly, Harriet perked. “Did you hear that, Bill?”
“Hear what?”
She shook her head while glaring at him. “If I knew that, I wouldn’t have asked you, now would I?” She pointed in the general direction of the disturbance - toward the trail that traversed the edge of the mountain. “Sounded like it came from over there.”
Bill hadn’t heard a thing, but instinct kicked in, and he knew it was the opportunity he had been looking for. He stood and walked toward the path. If he could hide, then . . .
“Stay here!” commanded his wife. She grabbed a flashlight. “I doubt if you’d be much help. It sounded like a child.”
“A child?”
“Stay here. I’ll be right back.”
Bill watched as the blackness of night swallowed his wife. In a few seconds the flashlight beam disappeared. Dazed with the unexpected good fortune, he almost blew the opportunity. It was now or never. An increasingly louder thump in his chest and an unfamiliar sense in his nostrils surprised him. Unconsciously his feet moved silently after her. Stalking her. He felt as though his body had somehow detached itself. His very breath became foreign, as though it belonged to someone else - not him. He was floating - floating as part of the cold wind which cut silently through the trees. The dark path was lit only by the intermittent peeking of stars. The tiny ray of Harriet’s flashlight darted in and out of the woods ahead was only faintly visible, then gone. He couldn’t go back. There might not be another chance.
He pushed on. Still floating, as though a spirit - not a body. Still unaware of anything but the strange sense of non-existence and a brain traveling at lightening speed. A million electronic impulses raced - burning up the channels that coursed his brain, above all - don’t panic. Just don’t panic.
As he came to within fifty feet of so of the light, he could tell that Harriet’s flashlight appeared stationary. He froze, then stepped off to the side of the trail, and backed into the cover of the dark pines. He waited for an eternity, in deafening silence. His chest felt as though it would explode any minute. Finally, he could wait no more. He moved cautiously toward the lights origin, and what Bill Blanchard found both puzzled and excited him. It was obvious what had happened. Harriet’s flashlight lay flat on a boulder, aimed at nothing but the blackness of the deep chasm below.
Bill’s initial bewilderment was instantly replaced with a jolt of raw terror as the hard push from behind sent him plunging into the inky abyss - his screams splitting the cold night air. He sailed some one-hundred feet before smashing his skull against a granite boulder. He never knew about the next one-hundred feet.

From the rim of the cliff Harriet searched with her flashlight until she was satisfied her husband wasn’t coming back up. Snow was piling up fast now, and as well as being at the bottom of a thousand foot drop, he would soon be completely covered in snow.
Back at camp silver-dollar sized snowflakes floated gently down on top of the station wagon, and from inside the car Harriet admired their beauty. She reflected on the prediction of two or more feet falling tonight alone and smiled. She considered taking out her knitting but decided in favor of hot tea. She poured the last bit of Bills coffee out of his Thermos, then ventured out to feed the fire with a little more wood to heat water. Back in the car she noticed the fire and the snow with interest, and as the flames, impervious to the frozen missiles, disintegrated each flake as the two collided.
Her husband had slipped and fallen. Unfortunate, but a fact of life. How many times had Bill told her that the mountains can be dangerous? Especially in these conditions? It certainly hadn’t been her idea to come up here. She hated the mountains, and anyone acquainted with the Blanchards would testify to the fact and that she had always refused to go with him. Joe would tell them that and testify in court if necessary. She thought about Joe and realized that there would have to be a reasonable period of mourning. It wouldn’t be prudent to see each other until it was over.
When the water boiled, Harriet made enough tea to fill Bills Thermos and retreated to the comfort of the wagon. She was snug in her little nest of sleeping bags and extra blankets. And warm as toast. She poured herself some tea and turned on Bills portable radio to catch the weather report. Outside, the silent snow caught the bottoms of the windows, reaching a thickness of several inches, making it necessary for Harriet to swipe it away from time to time. She located her stash of food - conveniently and easily hidden from Bill. It may prove necessary in the case too much snow and she ended up stranded longer than she had planned. She contented herself with cookies, which went well with the tea, and soon Harriet was lost in her paperback, until the sudden sound of motors alarmed her. Her heart jumped. But she quickly realized that it was probably just a park ranger. She rubbed the fog from the window. The noise became louder . . . and somehow different than the sound of a car or truck motor. But there was something familiar about the noise.
There were lights. Too many lights. And they weren’t in pairs. Numerous single lights. Harriet blinked behind her glasses. They aren’t rangers at all! She dropped her book, lifting her head to get a better view.
“My God! The bikers! The bikers are back . . .but, how? The highway must have been plowed,” she whispered to herself. The wagon would offer little protection. They would simply kick in the windows and . . . She shivered with the prospects of what would happen next.
For a split second she recalled how frightened Bill had been. Then, to her great relief, and total amazement, The Road Hawgs, slowed down. But they didn’t stop. She squinted as the red tail lights slowly pulled away. She even felt an odd sense of victory. Then, without thinking, she cracked open the wagon door, and as the dome light came on, Harriet immediately realized her fatal mistake, and short-lived victory.
“They’ve seen me! My God, they’ve seen me!” she cried.
Her mouth went dry. Her heart thumped, as the bikers aimed their headlights at the wagon, fighting to keep their bikes upright on the slick road. They were traveling slow - but they were coming right at her. Harriet slid out the passenger side of the car. She left the flashlight behind. It would be of no use to her now. Terror had robbed her legs of all strength and had turned to lead.
When the bikers reached the wagon she had only managed to move a few feet away. Desperate, her eyes frantically searched for somewhere to hide. Darting pencil beams danced around her, trying to hone in on her position. Tail pipes of a dozen Harleys popped like firecrackers, shooting plumes of acrid blue smoke into the bitter air. Laughing and shouting, two of the bikers were on foot now, and closing in. Harriet ran in the deep snow as fast as her two-hundred pounds would allow. She seemed to recall a rock formation near the beginning of the trail. Maybe if she made it there . . .
She came to within feet of the cave when her foot found a snow-filled hole, and she plunged in up to her knee. The sickening crunch of her ankle folding under her weight took her breath away. She fell forward, and the intense immediate, pain surprised her - but not as much as an even more urgent situation. Suddenly she saw the Mexican gentleman’s expression. The man who had wandered into E. R. that night. The one with the ice pick sticking out of his chest. She recalled that there had been no bleeding then - just as she knew there would not be now. There really wasn’t much pain either - just a tightness in her chest, where the fall had driven one of her knitting needles through the middle of her heart.

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