So anyone that’s interested in my writing knows that I’ve currently got two RDR2 fics on the go. Those will still be continued!
But for the moment I have this shortish Billy Butcher x original female character story that I just have to get out of my head.
I’m not convinced it’ll be any good haha but I’m gonna give it a good go. I’ll be playing around with the timeline a bit and I’m undecided whether I’ll take it to the end of Season 1 or not....I have nothing against Becca but this is a “romance” story for Billy and my OC. Either way though Becca will *never* be mentioned in a negative way. I feel for that woman.
Anyway if you’re still interested! 😂 Here’s Chapter 1!
Please let me know what you think xx
PS. Thank you so much @billybutchersbabe for helping me brainstorm and work out the mess in my brain! 😂🙏🏻
Pairing: Billy Butcher x OFC
Warnings: Swearing, Violence
Breathe, Emmy thought, just breathe.
In, out. In, out.
Put one foot in front of the other.
Left, right. Left, right.
She’d never seen so many people. Only on TV. She didn’t even know where she was walking, only that she hoped when she finally collapsed it’d be far enough away.
Emmy did the math in her head, she had about $15 left. Would that pay for somewhere to sleep? Shelters, those are a thing in big cities right? She’d seen that on TV as well….
As she dodges every passer-by, she keeps her head down and hood up. She’s not sure if New York would even get news reports from her insignificant little town but she doesn’t want to risk being recognised. Every glance or look her way threatens to send Emmy into a panic as she fiddles with the torn-up matchbook in her hoodie pocket. Her very old backpack is light on her shoulders as it barely contains anything.
After walking for what feels like days, Emmy finally stopped and took in her surroundings. Big, blinding buildings and dirty sidewalks.
But, in the distance, smoke.
Before it could even register, Emmy’s feet took her towards the gathering of people one block over who were all congregated to watch a street vendors cart go up in flames. People were throwing buckets of water onto the blaze which was very quickly moving to engulf neighbouring cars.
People are panicking. A man gets too close and the arm of his jacket catches fire. As everyone yells and shouts, Emmy moves slowly through the crowd. Getting closer and closer to the heat. Heat which doesn’t bother her at all.
This is probably what a sauna feels like, she thinks to herself.
Thankfully, in all the panic, no one notices when she removes her hands from her pockets and reaches towards the flames.
Well she thinks no one notices….
As soon as the flames begin to die, Emmy’s feet are lifted from the ground. Before she has time to shout, she’s thrown onto a hard alley floor which smells horrendously like urine.
She tries to scramble to her feet, her backpack hanging low on her arms but she goes flying once again as a fist….or possibly a boot…..collides with her stomach. Emmy gasps for breath on the floor while holding her stomach. She doesn’t dare look up but can see three pairs of legs in front of her.
“What’ve we got ‘ere then lads?” one of the men says while he rips the hood down off of Emmy’s head. Taking a chunk of hair with it. Emmy knows it should have hurt more than it does but the pain in her stomach and the blood running down her face from the fall, are the only things she can properly register.
“Why it’sa little girl! Lookie here.” The same man says and Emmy dares a glimpse up at him and the others. Behind the man who’s currently sneering at her stands a younger one who seems closer to her age. The third guy stands off to the side with his arms crossed.
When the first man goes to land another blow, the younger jumps in quickly.
“Hey, hey! We don’t know if she did anything…..I didn’t see. Did you see? MM did you!?” he glances over to who she can only assume is “MM” who simply answers, “Naw I didn’t see nothin’. Butcher you sure?”
Emmy recoils as “Butcher” lunges forward and picks her off of the floor by fistfuls of hoodie. He smacks her back into the wall, freeing the backpack from her limp arms and shaking the almost-used matchbook from her pocket. When Butcher looks down at his feet and sees the matchbook he gives the others a toothy smirk and throws Emmy back to the ground.
“Look man, I didn’t see her start no fire. But if you’re gonna do somethin, do it now, we gotta go.” MM says.
“Hey! S’not everyday we find ourselves a wannabe Lamplighter. She may know somethin.” Butcher says as he throws Emmy’s backpack towards them, “Hughie have a gander in there.”
MM grumbles under his breath and looks out of the alley to see if anyone’s taking any notice of them. However the fire, which still sizzles, is keeping attention away from them and Emmy. As Butcher picks her back up, Emmy feels vomit rising up into her mouth and doesn’t even try to avoiding hitting him in the chest with it. Butcher looks at his chest for a second before muttering a “are you fuckin kidding me?” and slamming her round again to be held on the wall.
“There’s nothing but, but clothes in here. And like, ten bucks. Butcher I think she’s homeless.” Hughie says somewhat timidly, looking like he could bolt at any moment.
Butcher looks at Emmy and takes in her appearance. She’s clearly mid 20’s, 25+ if he had to guess and she’s pale. Extremely pale. Making the blood and bruises forming on her face that much more distinctive. He tips her lolling head back and makes note of older cuts and bruises around her eyes. Those he did not do. His split second of curiosity is fleeting before he’s back to business.
“Now why don’t you tell us what ya have against pretzels? Or is it the corndogs you dislike so much?” Butcher mocks as the others hover behind him.
Emmy opens her mouth to speak but finds it difficult, causing Butcher to scoff, “Come on now luv, I know ya small but even you should be able ta take a beating.”
She puts her hands on the arms of his jacket to try and feel a bit more stable and pushes the words out past the pain.
“I….can’t….can’t start…..fires…..” she heaves and begins to cough. She wheezes as she takes in another breath, “I…was...putting it out.”
Emmy see’s the very minor tell of confusion on Billy’s face and that’s only because she’s so close to it right now. His eyelashes are so long….
“Hey, look at this.” Hughie says from behind Butcher and brings his phone in front Emmy’s face. Butcher watches a shaky video of the fire blazing with some teenage boys, behind the camera, laughing and cheering, “It’s all over twitter. Apparently cops already have the, the guys who started it. Just some dumb kids.”
Hughie steps back with MM and Butcher sighs before dropping Emmy to the ground, “Alright. Well. Guess it’s ya lucky day.”
“You can’t just leave her like this!” Hughie implores, causing MM to groan.
“What you wanna play nurse maid?” Butcher bites back and makes a move to leave the alley.
“No but we need to at least get her to the hospital!” Hughie replies and moves to crouch in front of Emmy who gasps, “No!”.
Butcher gestures to Emmy and holds his arms out wide in a winning stance.
“See! Supe don’t wanna be coddled so,” he makes a popping sound with his mouth and gestures out of the alley with his thumb “let’s get back ta business.”
Hughie ignores Butcher and kneels in front of Emmy who, while holding her stomach with one arm, reaches out for the matchbook with the other. She gets herself onto her knees with the help of Hughie.
“Look, we can get you some help.” MM says, clearly ignoring Butcher’s order as well, causing the man to groan a string of low “fucks”.
Doubled over, Emmy fiddles with the matchbook in her hands. Maybe this is where it’s supposed to end, she thinks. Maybe she was never really meant to escape…..but she’ll be damned if she’s made to go back.
“They’ll find me….” She says loud enough for the three men to hear, still struggling through her injuries, “if you take me to a hospital….they’ll find me…..”
Butcher, who’d been tapping his foot in aggravation, becomes intrigued enough to stop and turn back to the others.
“And who’re ‘they’?” he asks.
Emmy stops fidgeting and looks up at Butcher at the end of the alley. Her defeated face crumples into tears and she wipes the wet, bloodied mess onto the back of her sleeve.
She shakes her head and turns to him saying quietly, “Just finish what you started.”
“’scuse me?” Butcher asks without betraying a hint of his actual thoughts or feelings. He does however glance his eyes down to the match Emmy is holding near the broken book, “Hughie, get up” Butcher says evenly without moving his position at all. Hughie relents and moves over to stand with MM who watches the exchange between Butcher and the young woman silently.
“Please….I….just finish it. You want to. I know you do….you hate me….I don’t know why, but you do” Emmy strikes the match against the book causing a small flame. She cusps her hand over the flame, taking it from the match into the palm of her hand.
Butcher, unfazed by her ability slowly stalks his way over to where she’s huddled on the floor.
“Whatca doin there Sparky?” Butcher asks while Hughie and MM back off.
Emmy shakes her head as more tears fall, causing the fire to splutter and shrink in size. She returns her free hand to her stomach and tries to square her shoulders. Butcher recognises her attempt to try and seem resolute but also has to laugh. She obviously doesn’t know Billy Butcher.
The flame in her hand grows again to the size of a baseball, cracking and sending splinters of fire off in different directions. Almost like a fiery electric current.
“Just…end it…I….I don’t want to hurt you. But I will” Emmy wheezes and Butcher continues his slow approach, ignoring the sound of his name from the other two men.
“You’ll hurt me…if I don’t kill ya?” Butcher asks and Emmy sniffs and nods. Butcher looks to the others, nods and shrugs like it’s the most reasonable request in the world.
The last thing Emmy see’s is a large black boot in front of her face before everything goes dark.
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Phoenix by Fallout Boy
I’m gonna post chapter three wicked early. I’ll make a chapter list and link tehm alll together as soon as I figure out how.
Chapter Three: Young Volcanos by Fall Out Boy
What are you doing!? Don’t show weakness! Virgil’s thoughts screamed at him.
No, I’m warm and safe. A different thought argued.
You don’t know him! What if everybody is like Dad!?
Then I’m already screwed!
He’ll use this against you!
You think I know? I don’t think like them!
Maybe he doesn’t either!
You put your guard back up this instant!
Let me enjoy this…
Virgil ignored his louder instincts for the time being and pressed his head further into Patton’s shoulder. It was a nice feeling, and sure he probably couldn’t trust this guy, but he was going to enjoy feeling like this while he could. Patton seemed like a nice guy, and he smelled like butter. And everything else smelled like hand sanitizer, and it was cold because it was a hospital. But Patton was all warm.
Besides, even if he was going to do anything, he couldn’t with witnesses hanging around and security cameras everywhere. Maybe this was ok. Maybe this was normal. Virgil let himself slide down lower and rested his head on Patton’s lap.
“Ya getting sleepy there, kiddo?” Patton cooed, still stroking his hair.
“No, I’m ok.” Virgil mumbled. This was nice. He wanted to stay here.
Virgil became aware of Patton’s heartbeat it was going fast. Was he nervous too? That was weird. Why was he worried?
Virgil sighed. Both Patton and Thomas were probably waiting for him to say something. Hell, they were probably expecting him start belting songs from Annie or jump up and click his heels. It’s not everyday someone gets pulled out of hell and sent somewhere better, so they were probably looking for a more mood fitting reaction than lying down and taking a nap. One more minute.
“So, what happens now?” Virgil asked, keeping his head on Patton’s lap. One more minute.
“Well, Patton has already signed all the forms and the background check should be coming back tomorrow.” Thomas answered, for whatever reason he looked really content. “So, as soon as you’re discharged you can go home with him.”
“When can I be discharged?” He was trying not to sound too eager. If they knew he wanted something they could probably use that to toy with him.
“I’m afraid that’s up to your doctors.”
“Ok.” That made sense.
“But when you do get out, we’ll have your room all ready.” Patton chirped at him. “And you’ll need to tell me what all your favorite foods are so I can make them.”
What an odd thing to say. I guess I should get up. One more minute.
“Ok.” He mumbled.
“Oh, and do you have any allergies or eating restrictions. Like vegetarian or vegan and the like?”
“No.” One more minute.
“As for right now.” Thomas sounded hesitant, was he going to kick Patton out? “Your doctors and I need to document your bruises. And if you want to you can make a statement for prosecution.”
“Right now?” Virgil sighed, no more hitting reality’s snooze bar. He slowly pulled himself back up.
“It is better we do it sooner rather than later.” Thomas sighed. “Patton can stay if you’d like him to.”
“Good idea, I was hoping for an even bigger group of people to see me in my underwear.” Virgil sneered, rubbing his arm. Despite his will he also felt his face going red. Damnit.
“I know it’s uncomfortable, but it’s kind of a necessary evil.”
Virgil sighed and glanced at Patton. He might as well stay. This was as good a test to see if he was weird as any. Right? Yeah, he could be a serial killer, or this could be his kink or something like that. Best to know what he was going to get himself into. Just that. That and no other reason.
“I mean, he can stay if he wants to.” Virgil mumbled impassively. “It’s a free country, he can do whatever.”
“I’ll give you your privacy.” Patton replied, ruffling his hair. “I’ll come back in when they’re done kiddo.”
Patton stood up and took a few steps towards the door. Virgil’s heart sank. Patton abruptly stopped and turned around.
Are you gonna stay?
“I almost forgot to give you this.” Patton said happily. “this should help you ‘bear’ your stay here.”
Patton gleefully produced a stuffed bear and gently set in his mummified hands. As the toy stared derpilly up at him he got the joke and impulsively smiled. Then he saw the pun written across the bear and let out a laugh. Double whammy with the dad jokes. He glanced at Patton and saw that the older man was beaming (bee-ming?), clearly enthralled that Virgil liked the joke.
“He’s cool.” Virgil tried to play it off. “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome.” Patton turned back to the door. “I’ll be right out here if you need me. Ok?”
Patton closed the door behind him only to reappear in the window and wave enthusiastically at him. He mouthed out the words I’ll be right here and gave a thumbs up. Virgil waved in return and fought back another smile. Patton was a funny guy and so far, he seemed pretty cool.
# # #
Patton shook his arms to get the relief tinglies to calm down. Everything seemed to go well. Virgil didn’t hate him, and he even liked dad jokes. And he liked the bear. So far things were going well.
He saw them close the blinds in Virgil’s room so that no one in the hallway could peep in on him. They must have started cataloging his bruises. Patton hoped his brother had a mean cellmate. He made a mental note to look up a few legal things when he got home.
While waiting Patton sent Logan a quick text to let him know everything was going ok on his end and to ask what was going on in the outside world.
# # #
Logan set another casserole dish on top of the stove. He had to shove aside the other three dishes, the two pies and the pot of soup. Both Patton’s library friends and all their neighbors had been at it for hours.
“How many friends does Patton have?” Roman exclaimed, walking into the kitchen with a Tupperware of pasta. “And why are they all old ladies?”
“Some of them are just parents whose kids were in his class.” Logan sighed. “He’s a lot of kids’ favorite teacher.”
“Is the fridge full?”
“Yes, just set the pasta on the table.”
“Any updates on the news?” Roman set the dish down exhaustedly.
“No, not yet.” Logan looked at his phone. “Patton texted. He says that Virgil’s fine, and seems excited to come live with us. And of course, he wants to know how we are.”
“Drowning in food and tired of small talk.” Roman switched into a frail voice. “It was so brave of you to rescue that boy. It’s so good of you three to take that boy in like this. It’s about time Patton and Logan adopted a kid.” He changed back. “I never thought I would get sick of praise. I feel like Jack Skellington.”
“Minus the kidnapping I hope.”
“You’re the one with the kid now.” Roman jabbed, eating the pasta straight from the dish with his hands.
“Roman, get a plate.” Logan began.
They were interrupted by a knock at the door.
“If that’s Barbra from next door I’m calling the police.” Roman stood up dramatically.
“It’s my turn to deal with callers,” Logan walked towards the hallway. “But if it is her, I’m getting you.”
“Let’s set her up with my brother the next time we know where he is.” Roman laughed. “She’ll never speak to us again.”
“Neither will Remus.”
Logan could still hear Roman laughing when he got to the front door. He glanced through the peephole to see if it was indeed well-wishers. He instead saw several smartly dressed people bearing cameras and tape recorders rather than food. With few other options he turned out the lights in the front room and went back into the kitchen.
Roman was taking inventory when he got back.
“Say Lo-bot, how much of this could we take to the homeless shelter?” He asked casually. “I don’t want to be disrespectful or ungrateful, but this is a lot. The freezer is full, the refrigerator is full, and the oven is full. It would be more disrespectful to let this go to waste when the less fortunate could have it.”
“We will discuss that later,” Logan took the car keys off the rack. “But it is a good idea.”
“Where are you going?” Roman squinted at him.
“I’m going to pick Patton up from the hospital.”
“Who was at the door?”
“Reporters have found us. I’m all for the first amendment, but I do not wasn’t to be harassed in my own home. So, I’m leaving.”
“But won’t they go away if we talk to them?”
“Yes, but then they, and all others will think it’s okay to show up at people’s houses.”
Roman looked around.
“We could ask them in for dinner.” He laughed.
“But we won’t.”
# # #
Patton sat at the foot of the bed while Virgil sat across from him at the head. Virgil was sitting cross-legged with his casted foot poking out from under the blanket and the bear in his lap. Patton clicked his heels together; it was very quiet.
“You’re not much of a talker.” Patton teased.
“My throat hurts.” Virgil answered.
“Oh, right. Sorry.”
WHAT HAVE YOU DONE!!!!!
“So, you’re really my dad’s brother?” Virgil asked skeptically.
“Yeah, he’s about three years older than me.”
“And you’re related?”
“Yep, people used to mistake us for twins. Until I had to get glasses.”
Virgil coughed and tapped the bear on the nose a few times.
“This isn’t actually my first time meeting you.” Patton started. “My mom and I kind of did a lot of the raising when you were a baby.”
“Is that stuff dad said true?”
“No.” Patton dropped his shoulders. “It’s not. Our mother was wonderful and supportive. She even took Logan in after-” He stopped himself. “No, it’s not true. He was the homophobe.”
“Yeah, I never really believed the pseudo-rape story.” Virgil shifted his feet. “Dad always seemed more like a predatory animal. And maybe that was a front, but if it was it was flawless.”
“I think Payton said something about being with her for posterity.” Patton rubbed his arm. “She was really pretty and was a cheer leader in high school. And a lot of guys wanted to be with her. So, it was like a triumph for him.”
“He told you?” Virgil coughed.
“No. I just kind of figured. He did say he was gonna marry her, you know when we found out about you.”
“Because.” Patton mimicked his brother’s tone. “Children need a mommy and a daddy. And I have to accept my mistakes.” Patton switched back. “I never really believed him.”
Virgil shivered and looked down into his lap. Through his bangs Patton could see him biting his lip.
“I’m sorry.” Patton said quickly, but softly. “I shouldn’t have brought that up. I should have known that would hit too close to home for you. I’m sorry.”
Virgil looked at him quizzically and his eyes darted around the room. He seemed utterly baffled. Still looking like the world had just flipped over Virgil crawled over and put his head back into Patton’s lap.
“Are you ok, Kiddo?”
“Yeah,” He sounded stunned. “I’m fine. I-I just need to pull my thoughts together.”
“I get what you mean.” Patton tried to lighten the mood. “I never think straight, just ask my husband.”
Virgil laughed very softly.
“We’re gonna have to get that laugh stronger.” Patton teased, stroking his hair. “As soon as your throat is better, we’ll have you practice.”
“Practice laughing, ya goof!”
“I’m dreaming, aren’t I?” Virgil said in a strained voice.
“No, you’re wide awake.” Patton soothed. “And I can prove it. Your throat hurts, doesn’t it?”
“Like I swallowed a bag of razors.”
“Well, you can’t feel pain in dreams. And you can only feel one emotion at a time in them.”
“Yeppers, if you’re having a happy dream, you’re happy in the dream and nothing else. Same for all the other types of dreams. And they’re never this elaborate.”
“I guess not.” Virgil yawned.
“And you can’t get tired in a dream, now can you?” Patton asked, booping the younger man on the nose. “And you can’t learn something you don’t know in a dream, because it’s in your mind. And you don’t know what you don’t know.”
“So, this is real?” He yawned again. “It’s not a dream or an act or something.”
“Nope, it’s as real as that sore throat of yours.”
“Ok.” Virgil sighed, his eyes fluttering closed. “You can keep talking if you want.”
“Maybe I’d better go until you’re feeling better.” Patton brushed his fingers through Virgil’s hair. It was starting to feel like he hadn’t showered, which was fair.
“Can you stay until I fall asleep?” Virgil mumbled, halfway asleep already.
“Of course, I can.”
# # #
Patton paced into the waiting room. Logan had texted him saying he was coming to pick him up. He thought that was a bit unnecessary, but it would be nice to not have to take the bus.
“Maybe Logan missed me.” Patton said to himself with a coy smile. “I guess we’ll have to pick up dinner on the way back.”
Patton slid into one of the uncomfortable chairs that normally furnished all waiting rooms. He leaned his head back and closed his eyes. Maybe he’d just tune out for a minute.
“In other news we have conformation that the destruction of former mayoral candidate Payton Foster’s home last night was in fact arson. Traces of accelerant were found inside the house, leaving Mr. Foster himself as the prime suspect. Police believe he was attempting to destroy evidence of previous crimes for which he had been accused. His teenage son is reported to have escaped the fire with minor injury thanks to the actions of a heroic stranger. That’s quite the Disney convince, eh, Garbo?”
Patton glanced wearily at the TV as the reporter’s counterpart took over.
“But he’s not so strange anymore now Malloy. We did figure who he is. Seems that drama teacher slash community theater star Roman Lupine has gotten tired of the stage and is out there looking for drama in real life. That may suit Mr. Lupine, but I think here on Garbo and Malloy we would just stick to playing fictional heroes.”
Patton started looking for a remote to change the channel or just flat out turn this thing off. The publicity was bad enough, but he hated these guys’ banter. How did they even get this job?
“And of course, we all recognize Mr. Lupine from his press infiltration over a week ago.” Malloy droned.
“Speaking of the ShareBook incident, most of our sources believe that Foster’s brother will be taking custody of his son.” Garbo, who was aptly named countered. “But so far no one has been able to get a hold of any of them.”
“Well let’s hope Mr. Foster and his husband are prepared for their new son coming out as straight.” Malloy swung for the obvious joke.
The two trash goblins laughed like they were those guys from the Muppets and they mercifully changed the subject.
“Next up on Garbo and Malloy, Garbo and Malloy go dumpster diving.”
“Don’t come back.” Patton pleaded as he finally found the remote and shut the TV off. “And Thomas already told that joke.”
He slid back into a chair and sighed hard. How could anyone joke or bant about this? It was a little like saying Anne Frank was bad at hide and seek, it wasn’t funny. It was just tasteless. And were they making fun of Roman?
“Excuse me, I’m looking for a patient by the name of Foster.” Someone interrupted his brooding and worsened his mood.
“Are you family?” The receptionist countered.
“No, I’m with the press, I’d like to see if he or his current guardians are willing to do an interview.”
“Come back tomorrow.”
Not willing to do that, Patton his behind a chair until he was sure this man was gone.
# # #
The car ride home was saturated in a tense quiet for the first few minutes. With a look they all communicated exactly what they knew to one another. Unfortunately, they all knew a lot of the same things. Both Patton and Logan had at least fifty unchecked messages on their phones and Roman was in the back seat agitatedly sending out explanations to every single person in his contact list.
“How has everyone in Florida found out about this so quickly?” Roman sighed from his spot on the back. “One of my students texted me somehow knowing that I was in the hospital last night. I have never been so fed up with the age of information.”
“They were talking about you on Garbo and Malloy.” Patton added in a barely audible mumble.
“Were they reviewing the play?”
“No, they were talking about the fire.”
“Those two discuss current events?” Logan interrupted, sounding absolutely dumbfounded.
“Not very well.” Patton sighed. “They were making fun of Roman.”
“Oh, of course that were!” Roman barked. He then slid into a mimic of one of the reporters. “Next up on Garbage and Malloy, Garbage and Malloy let a child burn to death in a fire, ‘cause people who try to help are just attention seekers. hA ha Ha HA.”
“Several of your friends from work brought us food and expressions of good luck.” Logan added, evidently trying to change the subject.
“Aww, that’s sweet.” Patton melted into his seat. “All this talk of my brother was starting to make me doubt humanity.”
“Well,” Logan sighed. “I certainly hope you’re hungry.”
A question bounced back and forth between Logan and Roman. Well, more like the question. And the question took turns resting in their brains and mouths but remained unspoken.
“Patton,” Logan sighed, tightening his grip on the steering wheel until his knuckles turned white. “Did Payton actually…” He couldn’t say it.
“Yes.” Patton gagged on the words, they tasted vile. “He did.”
With that the silence returned.
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I took a deep breath as I walked towards an old iron gate I had entered a thousand times before. I stopped just before to gaze up at the sign that hung above the entry, McMartin Peace Camp. This hippie commune I had grown up on, been so desperate to leave as soon as I could, I never thought I would return. It was by no means an eternal Woodstock, but rather a ranch with few rules and many members. The faces were in a constant wave of change, vagrants took advantage of the camps arms open, hearts open mentality, but a few people had been there constantly since I found myself at the porch of Mr. McMartin. The man who held the biggest place in my mind was Carl Corbin, or The Captain as he had always wanted to be called. As luck would have it, The Captain was the first person who was alerted to my presence as I found myself wandering the familiar commune. Little dorms circled around gardens and fire pits, and the overwhelming smell of the honeysuckle vines covering the buildings drowned out the farm animal stench that wafted in from over the hills.
The ranch itself was huge, and people who stayed very long were expected to earn their keep in the hills of Peace camp, doing whatever odd jobs necessary to keep the place up and running. The result was a peaceful, organic environment, with the sounds of children running and laughing intermingling with quiet music and the calls of animals in the distance. The sounds and smells and sights of this place jettisoned me back to a simpler time 5 years prior when all I wanted to do was leave. It was a big slice of karma that landed me here again, now realizing the beauty of camp. It was right then, as I was reeling in the memories, when I felt a strong hand land on my forearm. “Well look who found his-self back here at the farm! Been many a plow stroke, boy, and nary a letter to be found between!” The Captain had found his way over to me and was now greeting me in the way only he could. Growing up, my campmates and I would swap stories over fires and garden plots conjecturing where The Captain came from. Was he a pirate, an Irishman, a lunatic, or a poet? No one knew, but his unique dialect and grizzled appearance could weave propositions for eternity.
I turned to him and smiled. He looked exactly the same as he did when I had left, like time overlooked him. It was another cheery anomaly of the ranch, people never aged. I would like to think that when people are truly at peace, their soul remains young, and their body is left in limbo. The Captain looked 65, with leathered skin, salt and pepper hair, and a cloudy left eye that added to his mystique, although no matter how many times the kids would ask, he would say “I’m as old as the soil I plow, and as long as I treat it good, it returns the favor.”
“Hi, Captain. It has been a long time, hasn’t it? But,” I raised the bag in my hand in emphasis “camp is always going to be home. That’s what they always say, right?” It was true, from the minute you first set foot in the camp, its well-known you are always welcome back with open arms. I was grateful for that right about now; I was yearning for the place I could breathe easily like I once did. “That’s no tall tale for ya, that’s for sure and all! Come and sit, have youself a pint and a puff, fancy man. Tell me of yer travelin.” I was happy to oblige his offer, and soon I found myself leaned against a well-worn stump sipping a beer. The Captain filled a pipe to the brim with whatever he smoked today, and soon was ready to talk. The Captain was always ready to talk.
“So what have ya gone and done to youself. Runt off with a lass half a decade ago and we nary hear from ya atall. Figurt ya been havin the time of ya young life, makin yer magic and moolah and maybe a youngin or three, but seens as ya got one bag and not a little skittler in sight, I must be a mistaken man. Have ya been to the moon, or are ya too good for we “smelly hippie peoples” tat ya were yellin to the gods about when ya left to drop us a declaration of your health?” His question was pointed enough to make me grimace. I had left in a loud mess, promising to go off and “be normal”; I had met Lindsey, a beautiful woman with promises galore, and the lure of suburbia was strong enough for me to cut ties with the only family I had ever known. I had bounced from homeless shelter to street corner before I finally found myself at the camp, and I had gotten spoiled to the life of the commune. No one looked down on me, I was given respect and work and a place to stay.
It was amazing how little regard I had held for it once Lindsey convinced me that this was no real life to live. For a woman I had met at community college, her attitude suggested she already had a plan to better than everyone else. Her aloof charm had snagged my interest, and I proved myself malleable enough to earn her love. She had visited the camp once with me and made it clear that it was the only time. “Glen, those are not people, they’re animals. The kids don’t wear shoes, the men don’t have teeth, the women don’t wear bras, and nobody uses deodorant as far as I could tell. I don’t care what they told you they were, that’s a camp of Druggies and Do-Nothings, and I can’t tell my parents that you go back to Manson Land on holiday. Something has to give here, and don’t expect it to be my standards. You deserve better than that, whatever that is.”
She lectured me with a faux air of concern and a tender grip on my hand. The manipulation rang in my ears now as I surveyed the camp. Sure, everyone here was cut from the roughest cloth, and maybe drugs and laziness were just threads of the fabric that held them here, but that same fabric was eager to become a blanket of warmth or a tablecloth to a stranger. No person here was ever in need, and I had never seen someone unhappy longer than due. That is, except for me. I felt my exit from the camp needed to be unforgettable, a show for Lindsey as I piled my few belongings into her car. I hurled condescension and insult to anyone who had ever set foot through that iron gate, and without so much as second look I slammed the door and drove off.
“Look at them, Glen! Just smiling and waving. That’s how you know they aren’t right. They’re acting like they’ll see you again, like it’s some vacation.” Of course, everyone knows how those stories end. Lindsey didn’t like parts of me, and the more I changed to her model, the less I felt alive. And now I was back, and the thought of her chastising them, wishing me well off on my way, it made me scowl into the beer I was downing. “You know, Captain, you probably know the whole story. It’s the same one you’ve heard a thousand times from people who leave here mad and come back sad.”
“Oh, don’t beat youself up too bad boy, every robin sings the same song, but they all still fly into a fookin window once in they lives. The important thing is ya know where the glass is now.” I laughed and his eyes danced. He made things seem easy, and his advice was unforgettable as always.
The Captain played many roles to the people in camp, one of the last people alive who remembered Collin McMartin, the farmer who left his ranch to the camp before passing. Now The Captain acted as a sort of an overseer, mostly to the crops and cattle, but also as a man of the people. From minister to medicine man, you could assign a title to The Captain and it would seem as if he had always worn that hat. All his abilities added to his mystique, a relic from the time when a Jack Of All Trades was alive and well. He leaned forward to me with a sneaky leer.
“Boy, we all had our share of beauties come and try to straighten our spines and clean up our livers. But ya know what this old man has learnt? Thaint a single one of them ladies want us for what we gonna be til times old. Thas why ya find youself here again. But thas aboot nuff talk of the past and poor. Why don’t ya find youself a bed to sleep in. things mightn’t of changed but a smidge, and ya still got a place to lay yer head.” He winked and started to toss logs into a familiar stone ring. “We’s gonna have to have a bit of a get em all to celebrate ya comin to yer senses.” I smiled and started to wander off toward the blank, but was stopped by The Captain clearing his throat. “And, eh, boy.” He walked close and placed a loving hand on my shoulder. “Clear ya head of all that garbage she tolt ya aboot us and youself and everything else. If she saids ya were anyting less than perfect, well thas 4 horses worth of shit in a 2 horse stall. Thaint any point in wastin yer time in the past. Whats done is jus that, and naught a bit more. Yer home now, and thas that. Ya best be brining yer ass down there in a jiff though.” With that, I walked off towards my old bunk, feeling lighter with each step. I walked through the doorway and was overwhelmed with emotion. Nothing had been touched, nothing had been moved. They all knew I would be back. The only addition was a tiny pillow, embroidered and placed on my pillow. I picked it up with misty eyes and read the mantra it declared, summing up everything I knew.
“May your lovers be frisky, may your trials be few, may your drinks be whisky, may your heart be renewed.”