Copyright (c) 2017 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.
By R. Peterson
Memories are works of art that never end up in a museum. We decide on a perspective, choose our own colors, and the images always die with us. The images of Brian Deskota and Gloria Storms remain vivid, although I don’t know how much truth there is in my recollections … I was much younger and too close to those involved be entirely objective.
David Fess broke his B string and while the lead guitar player replaced it and re-tuned his guitar Brian adjusted the controls on his distortion pedal. Almost the entire Cloverdale High School Senior Class and double that number of lower classmates and alumni were crowded together in the field behind the Porter’s barn. A steady line of approaching headlights shone in the distance as Eddy Claymore and Richard Glen collected five dollars per person at the pasture gate. Jim Hunting and Bert Monson had just tapped the third keg of beer; there were two more on the way.
Clint Early stepped up to the microphone double-timing the E, A and D strings on his Rickenbacker bass. “Ladies and Gentlemen!” His voice boomed over the 600 watt Sun P.A. system. “I think this calls for a drum solo!” The crowd broke into hoots and drunken applause as Doug Mansfield began his best Ginger Baker impersonation. Brian squinted to look through the other side of the raging bonfire. Gloria Storms looked exceptionally breathtaking dressed in tight jeans torn at both knees. Her long strawberry-blonde hair partially covered a black Alice Cooper tour shirt. At least two other seniors as well as three alumni on break from college were all vying for the popular cheerleader’s attention. Brian didn’t blame them; the girl had it all: S curves, no matter what angle you were looking from, a pair of legs that went all the way up to her neck and a way of walking that made you feel like you were standing up in a roller coaster.
Gloria smiled at one of the college freshmen, a guy named Jerry Bolger, and Brian saw her whisper in his ear before they walked arm in arm toward a Toyota Celica parked in the shadows … probably to smoke a joint Brian thought although there were plenty of the rolled marijuana cigarettes being passed around the fire. Brian shrugged his shoulders there was no reason for him to be jealous, it wasn’t as if they were going steady.
Brian stared into the flames remembering the playground behind Cloverdale Elementary during third grade recess, watching as legions of boys made fools of themselves sometimes with daring and dangerous feats, like hanging upside-down on the monkey bars and trying to perform a loop to loop on a swing-set, each of them trying to get the attention of the girl with the golden curls. The guys were still trying to make themselves stand out, this time by hanging Rolex watches from their wrists and spinning loops with Corvette Stingrays. Gloria loved being the center of attention, she always had. Brian wasn’t worried, not really. They ended up together at the end of each night and always would.
David Fess had replaced his guitar string by the time Doug finished his drum solo and was just twisting it into tune. When Brian heard the string reach 246.9 Hz, he had perfect pitch; he began the opening riffs of Johnny River’s Seventh Son played in a heavy metal style reminiscent of early Grand Funk Railroad.
Most of the girls were dancing in front of the bandstand; some on Charles Allen’s father’s flat-bed hay-truck but at least a dozen sat on the edge of the stage, clapped their hands and chorused the oohs and aahs in the correct places. Brian could tell by the sparkling eyes staring up at him as he played that they adored him … if only Gloria felt the same way. Brian stared at the Toyota it wasn’t rocking yet … always a good sign.
It was three AM when the last keg ran out; someone said the cops were on the way. Brian had just finished loading his guitar and amplifier into a friend’s van when he saw flashing red and blue lights approaching in the distance. This was Sheriff John Walker’s way of letting the Cloverdale High School students know that the party was over. Brian looked for Gloria but didn’t see her … hadn’t caught a glimpse of her for over an hour.
He straddled the seat of the Harley Davidson soft-tail and brought it to life with a heavy booted downward thrust on the kick-starter. He felt Gloria slid onto the seat behind him. No other girl on Earth could radiate the woodsy allure of Chanel No 5 in exactly the same way. “We better get a move on,” she whispered in his ear. “If you don’t want to spend the night in Judge Parker’s drunk tank!”
“I’m not drunk,” Brian told her, “a little high … but I can manage.”
“You do a little more than manage,” Gloria sounded angry although she put her arms around his waist and held tight as he roared across the field. “I saw all those chicks flocking around you as you were packing up your equipment. What were you doing … passing out grain?”
“You weren’t around …” Brian began. Gloria cut him off.
“Do you know where you’re going?” Gloria shrieked when the bike bounced over a dyke.
“We figured the cops would show up and so we developed a contingency plan. Anytime you get a party going this size there’s bound to be someone who wants to go squealing to the police. Lemont Porter took down part of the pasture fence on the north side yesterday; an old logging road in the woods will lead us back onto the highway… far from the flashing lights.”
Gloria turned around; a long string of headlights followed them out of the field and onto the wood road.
“You and your friends are almost too clever,” Gloria hugged him tight.
“Almost?” Brian grinned. “I thought we did pretty well.”
“Whoever told about the party also told the sheriff about your escape plan!” Gloria pointed to flashing lights just around the bend. “See ya later … jailbird.” Gloria giggled as she slid off the back of the bike as Brian slowed.
“Where are you going?”
“Anywhere but jail!” Gloria laughed. “My uncle is the prosecuting attorney … remember? I don’t want to embarrass my mother’s brother by having his niece arrested for underage drinking!”
“You’re going to stay out in these woods all night alone?”
“Of course not,” Gloria giggled. “I have my own contingency plan! I can’t wait forever to have you come and rescue me.”
Brian watched her flag down a car three cars behind and then stared as the off road vehicle ripped through the trees making its own road.
“License and registration.” The officer said as he shined a light in Brian’s face.
It was after 9AM when Brian posted bail on the underage drinking charge and decided to ride past Gloria’s house to see if she made it home okay. He parked the bike a block away down the street and crept across the lawn to just beneath Gloria’s upstairs bedroom window. It was Sunday morning and Brian knew both Gloria’s patents would be asleep.
Brian was picking up a handful of sand to throw at the window when he heard Gloria giggle. “Getting our hands dirty, are we?”
She lay in a lawn chair with a blanket over her.
“You slept outside with a dangerous killer on the loose?”
A serial killer had been stalking girls in the northeast and had been front page headlines for months.
“Of course not,” Gloria said. She stood up yawned and then kissed him. Her breath smelled like fresh mint. “I just got home. I went for breakfast in Missoula in Tim Clawson’s Land Rover.”
“You lead a charmed life!” Brian watched as she walked toward the back door.
“The best things in life never come easy,” Gloria called over her shoulder as she went in the house.
The Cloverdale Stallions were down five points in the final quarter of the championship game with the Butte Bulldogs; there was two minutes on the clock and it was fourth down with thirty yards to go. Coach Bender sent in a new wide-receiver with a play he wanted to try. “Eighty-six!” Brian moaned when he heard what the coach wanted them to do. The Bulldogs would be expecting a long-pass on the outside; it was the same play that Bender had used all season whenever the team was in a critical position. Brian glanced at the opposing team from the huddle. The Bulldogs were already setting up for the play he was supposed to call with their best running-backs covering both sides. “This is like handing them the game,” he told his teammates. “To hell with it! Toss me the pig on nineteen and I’ll run it down the middle!”
“If this works … you’ll be a hero,” Clay Ruston said seriously. “If it don’t, you won’t be able to date any girls that want children because Coach Bender will roast your nuts over a fire made from your team jersey and your hair in the locker-room after the game.” The rest of the players in the huddle laughed and agreed.
Gloria and her cheerleaders had been boosting moral from the sidelines. Now she held her breath as the Cloverdale Stallions formed at the line of scrimmage. Brian’s voice sounded forceful and husky, the way it always did when he was going against adversity and the situation was critical. “Sixteen, eight, thirty-four, four, nineteen …” Gloria heard the clash of helmets on the line and knew the ball had been hiked.
Brian scrambled backwards with the football seeming to look for an open receiver. The Bulldogs had read Coach Bender’s play correctly and within two seconds every wide receiver would have double and triple coverage. By sheer brute-force two Cloverdale linemen forced an opening in the center and Brian hurdled through it clutching the football tightly under his arm.
The stadium was on its feet and the roar of the crowd was like a hurricane. Coach Bender was screaming profanity as he unwittingly stepped across the sideline onto the field, manic that his first-string quarterback had ignored his play.
Brian threw off one tackle and then another as he surged forward. Suddenly his way was blocked by a massive two-hundred eighty pound defensive back. There was no way to go around the enormous Butte Bulldog charging toward him. Brian feigned to the left and then quickly to the right just before the monster lunged. The huge defensive back was caught off-balance and stumbled. He was halfway to the ground when Brian sprinted up him using his cleats like a mountain climber and leaped into the air just as three other Bulldogs crashed together where he’d been only an instant before. Brian’s legs were a blur even before he hit the ground running. The next ten yards were a series of near tackles as Brian zigged and zagged his way forward twisting away from one tackle after another.
There was a moment when the Bulldogs thought they had him. Massive fingers reached for him from both sides at the ten yard line like huge bear claws and slashed the air instead. Brian dashed over the goal-line with the closest pursuer at least two strides behind.
It took at least half a minute for the crowd noise to subside before people noticed the referee blowing his whistle. The Stallions victory celebration was short lived when the referee announced a technical foul against Cloverdale for having a coach on the field during game play.
The Stallions were given a ten yard penalty and ordered to repeat the down. Coach Bender was furious and no amount of arguing could change the referee’s mind. Bender blamed Brian and replaced him with the secondary quarterback for the last play of the game. The long pass to the right was knocked away and almost intercepted. The Butte Bulldogs won the championship game twenty-six to twenty-one.
Brian looked for Gloria as he left the locker-room after a heated meeting with the football coach. Most of the cars had already left the stadium parking lot. There was a victory dance planned in the school gym but Brian didn’t feel up to going. Several people asked if he wanted a ride, his bike was at home, but he decided to walk.
Thunder beat the night clouds like a wet blanket and a drizzly rain began to fall an hour later just as Brian walked up his driveway. He was just reaching for the front door knob when he saw someone climbing out of the hammock on the front porch. “That’s two showers you got tonight and you’re still not washed up!’ Gloria grinned as she pointed to his dripping hair.
“You walked all the way out here after six girls have been murdered in the northwest in the last two months?” Local authorities and the FBI suspected a serial killer but so far no one had been caught.
“My sister dropped me off.” Gloria looked at her watch. “She’ll be back in about ten minutes to pick me up. Besides, lots of guys say I’m the killer … maybe I am!”
“Bender says he’s rescinding my scholarship endorsement,” Brian said ignoring her remark. Gloom was begging to settle over him as he thought about his future.
“The guy’s a jerk. Who needs him?” Gloria reached out and wiped a wet curl of hair off from his forehead.
“I do. A scholarship is my only chance to go to college.”
“Take off your blinders,” Gloria said. “Your future is blocked only because you insist on such a narrow view of things.” She turned around and stared at the city lights in the distance.
“Where were you after the game? This had to be one of the worst days of my life!” Brian was trying to get her to look at him but she shook his hand off from her shoulder.
“I was with happy and successful people. I don’t want to be part of the worst day of your life … I want to be part of your best days.”
Brian tried to smile. He hated to be around depressing people himself. He thought to change the subject. “My mom’s sister, Fran, works in Wedding Bells and she said you bought the designer dress in the store window.”
“I did and it’s amazing,” Gloria smiled. “I have to go back again for another round of alterations … your aunt is quite the seamstress … but it looks fabulous!”
“I can’t wait to see you in it.” Gloria allowed Brian to pull her close to him. She was struggling not to give in.
“I didn’t know you were going to the prom … who did you ask?” she whispered in his ear. She turned her head when he tried to kiss her.
“Stop kidding around,” he told her. “I plan to borrow my uncle’s car … a Cadillac Coup De Ville … for once we can ride up to a school function in style.”
“I already have a date … and I’m not kidding.” Gloria pulled away. Suddenly she was furious.
“Who?” Brian was shocked.
“Ted Evans,” Gloria said. She grinned but her smile resembled a crocodile. “The senior prom is only a week away and I hadn’t been asked yet … I’m in the running for prom queen and I wasn’t about to show up without a date.”
“That second year law student renting a room from Sheriff Walker?” Brian’s mouth hung open. “What’s he got that I don’t have?”
“He’s good looking. He’s president of the young Republicans at Montana State and he’s got money! Oh and don’t try to tell me he might be the killer. Would a guy like that rent a room from the sheriff?” Gloria laughed as she turned and walked toward the car lights.
“What makes you think I’m going to the senior prom with Brian?” Gloria replied to her sister when they were only a mile down the road.
“You’ve been fussing over that dress in Wedding Bells for over a month,” her sister gasped. “Did you and Brian break up tonight?”
“What’s to break up?” Gloria wiggled her fingers in the air. “You don’t see a boy’s class ring on my finger do you?”
“I just took it for granted…” Her sister’s voice trailed off.
“That’s the problem.” Gloria smiled suddenly sure of herself. “Everyone, including Brian, takes what we are supposed to have for granted.”
“But this isn’t just another dance.” Her sister objected. “This is the senior prom … one of the most important nights of your life!”
“Don’t worry,” Gloria smiled as her sister dropped her off at her house. “I know what I’m doing.” She had a few anxious thoughts as she stared out the side window into the rain which was now pouring. Brian Deskota was her dream; he always had been. At least a thousand girls would give up their virginity and anything else they had to go out with him. If you want to catch the biggest fish you have to know how to play them out her father had always told her. Now all she had to do was talk Ted Evans or some other boy into asking her to the dance. She was sure Ted had been ready to ask her at least a dozen times at Paxman’s, at the grocery store and when she ran into him at the game. He was a stranger in town and wouldn’t be a problem to dump later. Dogs were barking at the neighbors but Gloria ignored them hurrying to get out of the rain.
Car lights turning around in the driveway swept over a dark shape crouched in a clump of swaying snowball bushes. It could have been a large dog but it wasn’t. Eyes with the intensity of a snake watched as the girl disappeared into the house. The air around the figure held a faint odor like rotting almonds. “One more week … I must take my time with this one and make sure everything is perfect,” the shadowy figure hissed. Droll dripped from a gaping mouth onto the wet ground. Silent laughter caressed the white flowers like fingers from an evil wind. “Sometimes very bad things can happen … I must be very careful!”
Inside the house Gloria closed her eyes for a moment as she flopped onto her bed and then smiled. What she was about to do was dangerous to any relationship, but Brian was no ordinary guy. He always needed a challenge and always would. Gloria was sure everything would work out in the end … it always had … and it always would.
What she didn’t take into consideration, and most people don’t, was that this was Cloverdale … like no other small town on earth.
TO BE CONTINUED …