Fire On The River Pt 2

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Kyle Wingret, a reporter for The Bozeman Chronicle thinks he has landed an exclusive interview with legendary author Jack Hillerman. What Wingret doesn't realize is that Hillerman doesn't do interviews. Instead the reporter will have an encounter that will change his life forever.

Submitted: October 10, 2016

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Submitted: October 10, 2016

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Wingret followed Hillerman to his pickup truck. They both climbed in and Hillerman started it for the lower end of the field. It was close to the main road of Hillerman's house.Hillerman pulled over near the entrance of the gate. He signaled for Wingret to open the gate. Wingret got out and pulled the chain that was wrapped around the wooden fence post. Hillerman brought the truck in closer to the field where he needed to lay about 500 feet of new fence on the property.

Wingret walked over to meet Hillerman by the tailgate of the truck. He witnessed the big man lumber out of the truck. Hillerman's movements were swift and decisive, as though he had preplanned every step he was about to undertake for this project. Including the accidental hiring of help. Wingret opened the tailgate and looked at Hillerman. He noticed Hillerman had a bottle of Tequila and two Red Solo Cups. Wingret tilted his head in curiousity.

"What are those for?" Wingret asked.

"You need to start a project on a strong note, Mr Wingret." Hillerman said. "I got this from a Cowboy in Big Sky. It gets the job done."

Hillerman poured a big serving of Tequila in each cup. Wingret waited for Hillerman to finish. He looked at the big man who was smiling.

"A toast. May your ink never run dry and may your pages always be full of words," Hillerman said.

They both took a big sip. Wingret choked as he was drinking. Hillerman laughed.

"I take it you have never enjoyed Tequila before have you?" Hillerman asked.

"Only in College and then it was a rare commodidity," Wingret said.

Hillerman tilted his head in curiousity. "What is your particular poison?" Hillerman asked.

"Coors Original. If I wanna cut loose I stick to Jack Daniels Whiskey," Wingret said.

"Well I'll be doggone damned," Hillerman said. "There is hope for the world after all. I am a Whiskey man usually. Coors is OK, if you wanna punish yourself for things you believe you have done, go with Vodka and Tequila."

"I will make a note of that," Wingret said. "What all do we need to get done?"

Hillerman pointed outwards. "We have about 15, maybe 16 fence posts in the truck. Your gonna help me place them in these holes. If we have time, might put some barbed wire around the posts." Hillerman said.

"I haven't built fence in a long time," Wingret said. 

Hillerman reached for the first posts that he could reach. He pulled them forward. Wingret picked one up, Hillerman followed suit. They both head over to the first spots and placed the posts in the holes. Hillerman looked up at Wingret.

"You like what you do?" Hillerman asked.

Wingret tilted his head. "You mean Reporting?" Wingret said.

"Yes, how do you like it?" Hillerman asked.

Wingret walked back over to the truck and grabbed another post. "I like it fine, I suppose. I'm just a General Assignment Reporter. Look for stories in boring things like the County Fair, School Board, City Council and things like that. I wanted to find the real stories, things that matter to people. Find that one story that people will remember me for." Wingret said.

"Who are you to judge what is important and what isn't?" Hillerman asked.

Wingret stood still. "What do you mean?"

"How do you know that those things aren't important? Maybe there is a mother who missed a School Board meeting and wanted to know why the School is charging a certain amount for the activities going on this year. Maybe someone wants to know who is performing at the fair. Mr Wingret, wherever there is something going on, your job is to look for the story. Regardless of what is going on, you have to find the story." Hillerman said.

"What inspires you for story ideas?" Wingret asked.

Hillerman smiled. "This is off the record for right now," Hillerman said.

Wingret nodded his head. 

"I suppose that life inspires me. Perhaps not so much my own, but the human condition. For many years I wrote based on old stories I had heard as a child. Ghost stories, Cowboy tales, stories of fortune hunters looking for gold, anything I had heard I took and spun into something else. It is like I said, there are stories all around." Hillerman said.

Wingret grabbed another post and walked over to Hillerman. 

"Can I ask you some questions? Not so much for an interview but just as a fan?" Wingret asked.

Hillerman, who was impressed at how seamlessly Wingret was working decided he needed to be rewarded a little bit. "Go right ahead," Hillerman said.

"Did you really outdrink Oliver Reed in the early 1980's?" Wingret asked.

Hillerman dropped his fence post and started to laugh. 

"How did you hear about that?" Hillerman asked.

"It was something my professor talked about in one of my English classes. He had a discussion on images of contemporary writers. That day's topic was on you." Wingret said.

"I'm flattered," Hillerman said.

"Besides discussing your work, we discussed popular stories about you. That one was the one that stuck out to me. What do you say? Was it true?" Wingret said.

Hillerman walked over to the driver door and grabbed the bottle of Tequila. He motioned for Wingret to come over. He handed Wingret the bottle and decided to tell the story.

"In 1983, I was researching a novel over in London. I wanted to write about a spy. Not so much like James Bond, but more like the one Michael Caine played in The Ipcress File." Hillerman said.

"I hadn't seen that movie," Wingret said.

"I forget that you are too young," Hillerman said. He was shaking his head.

"Anyway. One night I was in a bar and there was this rather tall man. He was a good looking man, brown hair that was rather shaggy. His eyes were heavy and his breath reeked of Gin. I had heard that Oliver Reed was in the bar and sure enough, I was staring right at him. Reed was a good looking bastard. He looked me up and down, put his arm around me and screamed ORSON! I laughed out loud. I couldn't believe he called me Orson Welles. I told him who I was and that I was a fan of his. He looked at me and said we needed to drink," Hillerman said.

"That sounds like a lot of fun," Wingret said.

"Son, two alcoholics getting together, nothing fun about it. He had a bottle of Whiskey and told me that we were gonna drink until one of us couldn't stand. Reed had already gotten a head start cause he was starting to look wobbly. We sat down in this booth and spent two straight days of drinking. Didn't move, didn't get anything to eat, just chugged bottle after bottle of Whiskey. I never had such a horrible hangover. Hell we put on quite the show. Reed, ever the performer tried to recite Shakespere. Nothing like a drunk British man trying to speak from Hamlet. Truthfully, I don't know if I did or didn't outdrink him. All I know is that I will never ever drink that much ever again." Hillerman said.

"Wow, I am just shocked." Wingret said.

"It is rather funny, perception. It gives us an outlook of a situation or a person and once you have that, it is hard to deviate from it. I have heard a lot about things I have done or haven't done, but in the end I look at it as this. I know what I have done, I know what I haven't done. Do I know what I will do, I cannot say. I know that all we can do is what we can. Nothing more and nothing less." Hillerman said.

Wingret nodded his head in agreement. He stood there with the realization that he was learning something from this great man. But he couldn't figure out what it was. Rather that just stand and think it over, Wingret grabbed another fence post and walked over to Hillerman. Hillerman grabbed it and put it in the ground. Once the fence post was in place, Hillerman wiped the sweat from his brow. He put his big arm around Wingret.

"You know what we need?" Hillerman asked. 

Wingret tilted his head. "We need lunch. Or dinner. Hell, we need something to eat. You look like you are an eater. Let's get some steaks and grill them." Hillerman said.

They got in the truck and headed up to the house. As they made it to the house, they noticed that Collette Carson was standing next to Wingret's car. Hillerman felt himself getting angry. He turned to look at Wingret.

"Did you tell her that you were coming out here?" Hillerman asked.

"No I didn't. I'm tired of working with her. She is just awful." Wingret said.

Hillerman believed his new friend. They got out and started for the house. Carson followed them.

"Kyle, I am glad you are here. Your wanted back in town for a meeting," Carson said.

"I am working right now, tell them I can't make it." Wingret said.

"You are actually interviewing Jack Hillerman?" Carson asked.

"Young lady, if you don't kindly leave my property, I am legally entitled to shoot any intruders. I suggest you get off the property now." Hillerman said.

"You wouldn't," Carson said.

"Probably right I suppose," Hillerman said. "Mr Wingret, I am heading into the house to cook the steaks. Come in at your convenience."

"Absolutely," Wingret said. Hillerman nodded and walked into the house. Carson grabbed Wingret shoulder and lead him over towards her car.

"How did you do it?" Carson asked.

"How did I what?" Wingret replied.

"You are talking and from the looks of it dining with Jack Hillerman. Everybody has been wanting to talk to this guy for close to 25 years. How did you do it?" Carson said.

"He needed help with working on his ranch and I volunteered for it," Wingret said.

Carson shook her head. "Yeah right. You just snuck off so you could get the story without me." Carson said.

"Now look Collette, We were sent to talk to Hillerman. I managed to get another story idea and I am working on it. You want to interview him, be my guest. I am gonna follow my story lead and see where it goes." Wingret said.

"What do you have?" Carson asked.

Before Wingret answered, he turned around to see Hillerman loading shells into a Shotgun. As he finished loading the last shell, Wingret got the instinct to duck. Carson stood still and watched as Wingret got on the ground. A loud boom went past Carson's ear.

"What the hell was that?" Carson asked.

"You get the hell off my property. I would call the law but on my land I am the law. Get going or the next one is gonna be in your stomach." Hillerman said.

Hillerman started to cock the gun when Carson got the hint. She got in her car and sped down the driveway back to the main road. Hillerman glared at her car as she was leaving. When it became clearer that she was gone, he turned to Wingret and smiled.

"Meal is cooking, come on in," Hillerman said.

They made it into the dining room. Wingret was shocked. The house looked rather sparse as far as any photos or decorations. Hillerman had the basics, a kitchen table with chairs, a couch and a recliner with an endtable next to it. 

He looked at Hillerman who was outside at the grill cooking. It raised his curiousity. Why would a man who was world famous, had money that could last at least 4 lifetimes, not have a lot of possesions? Let alone no photos?

After a few minutes Hillerman walked in with a plate of steaks. The aroma made Wingret shake. He was hungry and couldn't wait to dig in. Hillerman motioned over to the table where he had a couple of beers on the table. Wingret walked over and opened a can. Hillerman sat the plate down. Wingret and Hillerman dished up their plates. As they were get situated Wingret couldn't help but ask some more questions.

"How come you went into seclusion?" Wingret asked.

"What do you mean?" Hillerman replied.

"Nobody has seen a photo or had a real opportunity to speak to you in almost 25 years. Why?" Wingret asked.

"You pick a hell of a time to ask some real downer questions." Hillerman said.

"I have to be a reporter right now," Wingret said.

"Was hoping for a friend," Hillerman said.

Wingret's eyes widened at the sentence. Hillerman was considering him a friend? His hero was talking to him as though they were equals. He was in complete shock.

"I'm sorry, Mr Hillerman, but you promised me if I worked for you I could interview you." Wingret said.

Hillerman paused. He did promise an interview. Perhaps he could do something about this.

"I tell you what," Hillerman said. "Let's eat dinner, then you get your notebook and write a list of questions. I will fill them out tonight and send them to your hotel. Right now let's just eat dinner right now. Deal?"

"Sure," Wingret said.

They spent the dinner talking about Wingret's career. Wingret mentioned that he wanted to get into books. He had no desire to continue with the newspaper. Hillerman nodded his head and was very encouraging. After they finished dinner, Hillerman and Wingret walked out to the front porch. They sat in the chairs on the patio. Both were quiet and watched the sunset.

"I honestly have to say this was one of the best days of my life," Wingret said.

"Yeah we got a lot done on the fence," Hillerman said.

Wingret got up from the chair and walked over to his car and grabbed a notebook. He came back and sat down, started to write down his questions. As soon as he was done, Wingret handed the notebook to Hillerman.

"Thank you for the day," Wingret said.

"My pleasure," Hillerman said.

"I will be here for a couple of days," Wingret said. "I leave on Friday."

"Fair enough," Hillerman said. "I'll have it sent to your hotel." 

Wingret nodded his head and walked down to his car. He pulled out of his spot and made his way into town. During the drive back to town, he couldn't help but think of Hillerman. For a man of his stature, he was unsually quiet. He didn't really talk about himself except for one awkward drinking story. The one quote about perception was one he could use for sure. Wingret realized that Hillerman was right about perception. His view of someone listed as a hero didn't not match the actual facts.

The next day, as Wingret was checking his messages the front desk clerk gave him a notebook. Wingret thumbed through it and noticed that it was the one he gave Hillerman last night. Wingret scribbled down ten questions and Hillerman answered each one. With rather long answers. He was reading as fast as he could. This was what he wanted and Hillerman delivered. On the last page, Hillerman wrote a postscript:

Kyle, you are a good hand. Too bad I can't keep you on full time. I would like to remain friends. Feel free to call me at this number. Do not set foot on my property again.

Your friend Jack Hillerman.

Wingret smiled and laughed. Perhaps his perception of Jack Hillerman wasn't all that far off afterwards.


© Copyright 2017 Robert Logan. All rights reserved.

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