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"For fools rush in where Angels fear to tread."
Essay on Criticism
John Ballew lifted his eyes and looked around the room.
Faded green curtains danced in slow-motion away from the
window. A spider on the sill hung precariously on the strands
of a web. Time slowed to a dusty crawl. The young man licked
his lips with great effort and relished the sensation of
his tongue against the dryness.
"How you doing, Johnny Blue?"
Ballew tracked his eyes to a figure in one corner of the
room. A face grinned down at him showing large, yellowed
teeth. Another face, this one hidden in a mass of black
hair, appeared next to it.
"How much did you give him?"
"Enough to make him think he's on his way to heaven."
Ballew could make out the voices, but the words themselves
made no sense. It really didn't matter. Sound drifted through
the thick air and bobbed up and down in the currents, like
the green curtain. He let his eyes go back to the window.
"Do ya wanna go to heaven, Johnny Blue?"
The Faces wanted something from him, but Ballew couldn't
understand what that something was. He wanted the Faces
to either join him in this soft-focus world or leave. Again,
he licked his lips, but his tongue had gone dry. His eyes
were dry too, and he was aware of the weight of his eyelids.
If he closed his eyes completely, the Faces would go away.
"Seein' any angels yet?"
His eyelids were so heavy, they pulled his head down. He
felt his neck lose muscle and bone as his head swelled and
increased in weight. His chin descended toward his breastbone,
but the neck stretched and held.
One arm hung loosely across his body. He didn't know where
his other arm was and he was too tired to look for it. He
followed the muted colors of a snake tattoo that slithered
up his inner forearm. Between the fork of the snake's tongue,
was the needle. The plunger was down and it was empty.
It was the last thing John Ballew saw.
* * * * *
The primer gray Ford LTD turned down a dusty road and pulled
up sharply in front of a mobile home half-hidden in a nectarine
orchard. Without waiting for the dust to settle, two men
got out. The driver reached back into the car and furiously
pressed on the horn.
"Damn informants," fumed the bearded man as he gave up the
horn and stood waiting in the driveway. "I told him eleven
o'clock at the Texaco station on McCall and 186."
"Probably out partying last night."
He started to knock on the door, but it swung open at his
touch. He was immediately aware of a stench emanating from
the doorway and the sound of buzzing flies.
"Whew, what died?" asked his partner, coming up behind him.
"Let's hope it's not Blue."
They drew their .45's and slowly entered the trailer.
With the air conditioner off and the summer sun beating
down on the metal roof, the mobile home was easily ninety
degrees inside. The air was dense with smell of decay. Flies
concentrated on an object hanging on the opposite wall.
"What the hell. . . ?
Impaled on the wall, above a cluttered dining room table,
was the carcass of a large rat. Written above the vermin,
presumably in its own blood, was the word "Blue."
"Wolfman," the partner said, as he put a hand on the other
narc's shoulder, "You are in some deep shit this time."
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I actually got a complaint that there wasn't enough about me in my bio section. Apparently, that's a serious oversight on my part, so here goes:
I'm a Navy brat, born in San Diego. We
moved constantly. When I was ten, we were stationed at Lemoore,
in the San Joaquin Valley of California. I found I had writing
talent in the journalism classes and became editor of the
high school newspaper. I graduated in the class of '69 (that's what the numbers in my e-addy means!).
With no money for college, I took a job as a Ma Bell operator in the Los Angeles area. I joined the Navy in 1972, at the end of the Vietnam era. I wanted to be a journalist in the military, but the Navy, in its wisdom, made me a dental tech. I found an outlet for my writing by volunteering as a stringer for base magazines
I got out of the Navy in 1976 and headed for the University of Fresno on the GI Bill. I worked as a photo journalist on a small Fresno newspaper that folded. I found a job in the Fresno Sheriff's Department and worked with an undercover narcotics team. I retired in 2003 and returned to Lemoore to take care of my parents and write fiction full-time.
The astrology? I learned that when I lived in Los Angles (the Age of Aquarius, remember?). I described the actual incident in “Fools Rush In.” I had to put it aside while in the military, started up again as soon as I was discharged.
No husband, no children, seven cats, the proverbial little house with a white picket fence, and a very supportive home town. All that and writing in my favorite genre—mystery. Can it get any better?
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