Five Years Ago
A helicopter flew high above the city swooping and diving every now and then. They were on the hot pursuit of an escape artist. Four times already this man had escaped prison and this would be the last time. At the moment he was running through the park. Under the oaks, over the baseball fields, and finally past the soccer field the man was not slowing.
The CB blared, "Subject is now heading northeast. Subject is heading toward the river. At the river subject will be lost in the suburb. Units stop subject before river."
"CAPTIAN I'll engage on foot. Drop me at the basketball courts!" A low ranking officer, who had been on traffic duty for the last two years, finally got his shot at the big leagues in this sudden chase. It was three forty-five when the convict escaped the county lock up. A second later and the call had been sent out. The rookie was at the station at the time. The captain told everyone at the station to suit up.
Four fifteen read the clock and the criminal was on the brink of escaping. Something had to be done. The rookie saw his shot at being the hero of the day.
"Okay," the captain gave him the usual look of doubt, "Land over the courts!!!"
As soon as the helicopter was ten feet from the ground the rookie jumped out and made it for the convict. The helicopter had landed ahead of the fleeing felon but as the helicopter swooped down the convict sped up. Booking it the man was already past the courts when the rookie leaped out of the air.
Not looking back the convict slid across the frozen parking lot. A blockade was nearing the other end of the park. He jumped over the skidding squad car. The rookie on his tail slammed into the car and screamed out unclear profanities. In the mist of the oncoming morning a huge freighter passed under the bridge. A light turquoise color was rising from the eastern horizon. Smells of baked goods and coffee rose from the surrounding city. A convict in the rags of orange and with nothing but socks on his feet and hands, he had lost his shoes in escaping. The world went by and started its day again without any notice of the chase. A Waste Management truck slowly pulled up to the dumpster in front of the bridge. For a split second the assailant was blocked from view.
The rookie cussed again and yelled at the dump truck driver for getting in his way. At that moment a unit of Swat screeched to a halt at the opposite end of the bridge blocking the runner's escape route. Now he stood in the middle of the bridge out of breath unable to move. Milliseconds passed by like hours. Slowly like pitch from a dying tree time dripped away. Breaths escaped lungs of a convict on the run.
The rookie approached on foot and he stopped when he got close to the man. Hopeless floated over the two mans' minds. It wouldn't be long until the Swat team started to move on the bridge. The rookie's CB blared, "SHOOT him!!!" The man had no weapon and it was apparent he was contemplating jumping.
Climbing over the safety fence the man in rags looked into the dark black water. The water swiftly flowed under the bridge, beneath the freighter, out pass the delta, under the Golden Gate Bridge, and finally out to the Pacific Ocean. Every year it claimed at least eight swimmers and was well known for it's under current. Jumping into it the man knew he only had a ten percent chance of surviving. Even if he survived he would still have to deal with having a hefty warrant on his head. The sun started to rise and a chilling wind blew through the trees. Clouds high up in the atmosphere signaled snow in the mountains and rumors floated around that that year the snow may reach the valley. Frost on the ground and trees signaled the freezing temperature. The chance of survival in that weather went from 10% to more like 3% but he was not going back to jail. He went to take a cigarette and a lighter out of his jacket, one more puff before his inevitable end.
From far away, a few onlookers had gathered on the jogging path as the event came to its climax. All that could be seen were the two units on opposite sides of the bridge and two men, one of which was standing on the fence rail looking into the water.
A shot was heard and a body splashed into the water.
37.9 Miles Away and Five Hours Later
An automatic door swooshed open and close. A cash register clicked open and clicked closed. A printer beeped and a receipt on carbon copy paper printed up. A cashier said usual departing comments, "Have a good day, thank you for shopping here, and see you next time." A cart squeaked out the automatic doors. All day long the hours went by with the usual same monotony. Three times the store was rushed. In the morning, at noon, and finally two hours before closing, the hours came and the hours went. Once in the day the usual character would roll through give some unspoken piece of wisdom or make a joke that would last the week through.
That particular day two characters graced the lumber store. An old bankrupt farmer in his old blue dodge truck clunked into the yard around the noon rush. An old golden laughter drifted in on the breeze as the usual pushy unpleasant city slickers passed through. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief when Old Blue, as they all called him, clunked into the yard. As usual he was followed by his rough neck friends. An aged kind of white Oldsmobile gurgled into the handicapped parking spot and the driver pulled out his walker. Three assorted trucks all with matching scrapes and dents raced to get behind Old Blue. Finally a squealing sedan with peeling paint pulled into the parking lot. All the passenger doors opened up and seven Latinos poured out and into the store. A hoarse voice followed them with instructions to pouring a cup of coffee for him. Ten minutes later a group of old rough neck men came sauntering in from the yard. The group came in through the contractor's entrance. Loudly they were arguing about who was the hardest worker and how they all still worked, which was nevertheless tall tales. One was talking to a dirt covered boy in Spanish they were discussing politics as usual. The group of Latinos was laughing and making jokes towards the old men as they walked pass them out to the yard to pick up scrap wood from the bins. One very dark skinned old man hit at one of them with a rolled up Blue Angels magazine. They all laughed and then the old man with the walker decided to join the Latinos in a scrap bin scavenger hunt.
The cashier smiled as she saw them approaching. All but one went to the center counter to gossip with the managers and owner. The one that broke away was Old Blue himself he wandered up to the cashier. Passing by the boom box he switched it to a country radio station. One of the shop-lifting department heads glared his way. Laughing he walked up to the cashier.
All the while the men gossiped at the center counter Old Blue and the cashier talked about everything but gossip. A couple customers came through the line but the manager had called up the cashier that was in the back smoking dope. Old Blue, though old, unfashionable, rough necked, and seeming of little wealth was actually the wealthiest of all the customers. He was even the wealthiest of all the contractors. Last time he was interrupted in the weekly conversation with the cashier he liked he forgot to buy his load of lumber for his recent porch rebuild and went to the competing lumber store with his business. Therefore every time after that day when Old Blue showed up the other cashier that usually was allowed to slack off was required to man their cash register. Most days when this particular cashier, whom Old Blue revered as his own daughter, was working no other cashiers had to. She took up the work of three cashiers. Because of this the other cashiers didn't work the days she worked.
It made the other cashiers hate the girl. The managers were always using her as an example and the customers were always singing her praises. She unknowingly evoked a deep hatred towards herself. For the time she had a job, for the time she was the wealthiest man's adopted daughter. Politics, religion, war, peace, culture, car talk, fashion, education, and all topics other than gossip made their way through their conversations. Never did they put anyone down; rarely did they talk about people they knew, even more rarely did they speak about other's misfortunes, and they never talked behind people's backs. They were always as honest and straight forward as they could be. The conversations were regal and sophisticated. Many would mistake them for being college educated. Neither one had ever even been on a college campus. The most formal education they had was from technical schools.
An hour went by like the breeze in the trees. Neither one knew how long they talked. It didn't matter for that hour they were almost family. For the countless minutes the two conversed like well rehearsed political candidates. Both with different objective views, neither one afraid to say what was on their minds both Old Blue and the cashier would years later think back on simple wisdoms learned in their talks.
The conversations always ended in the usual way. The group at the center counter would wonder to the front. In a slow agonizing process the men would make and take back purchases. Always in search of any deal they could get they would hassle the cashier not talking to Old Blue.
"This PVC pipe is scratched and should be discounted."
"I found this piece of birch in the scrap bin."
"I only have 98 bolts and nuts, not 100. Here let's count 'em to make sure."
By the time the old men were done the cashier not talking to Old Blue would be on the verge of strangling someone. Purchases made and all said and done one of them would pull Old Blue along with them. Smiling he would pull himself away.
The day would then slip into a golden auburn sunset. The other cashier would count out; then clock out. All the yard, contractors department, and most of the store would go home. All but four would clock out. One manager, one puller, one gate guard, and one cashier would be left for one more hour. In that hour if there was nothing left to do the manager would wander up to the front. The cashier and manager would talk, chit chat, or just simply watch the sunset. It was a simple existence but it was an honest existence. But, most days with her incurable thirst for excitement she would take routes that would range from 5 to 15 miles long. It wasted gas, it wasted money, and it wasted time. Those road trips would someday be what kept her from dread. Those dirt roads and skinny winding highways gave her a sense of freedom that would never be replaced.
Most days if not busy she would find her way to a certain muddy pond like lake. A place few knew about those days was the sanctuary of the few country kids left in the area. A little place called Camp Far West had hunting, fishing, and one long dirt highway circling it and connecting it to five hick towns. Though in a short time, as everyone knew, the lake would no longer allow fishing, hunting, or even dirt roads. In a truck her mother had graciously gave to her she would tear up the dirt highway, jump a fence to go swim, and chase friends in their beater vehicles. A couple times she won in the usual off the road races, where contestants try to drive one another off the road. This made her a legend. The only girl, besides Grandma Anne, that could hold a candle to the boys. She was one of the few that even held the same esteem. She wasn't an A+ student; she wasn't much of prep; she wasn't much of a looker. But, she had a heart of a thousand men, the soul of Gandhi, the courage of a king, and was like no other. Problem her grandfather was a grand mason therefore she could never get a date and very few would even be her friend. It was just the way things were and it didn't matter much back in those days.