The Minter

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A soldier is rewarded generously for avenging the death of a young POW.
This is the prequel to my novella, Ice Cold, coming soon,

Submitted: June 18, 2014

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Submitted: June 18, 2014

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The Minter

By: Jessica Wren

(Winter, 1945)

Jim Minter thought he was dreaming when he heard a girl’s scream in the distance. He had not slept in nearly 36 hours, and had been dreaming of his hometown in Georgia, where the weather was pleasant and life was simple. His watch was about to end and he had been hoping to catch a few hours of rest. Although he was wearing a heavy coat, gloves, and boots, he was shivering vigorously. Having grown up and lived his entire life in Statesboro, Georgia, Jim was not accustomed to the harsh winter weather of Germany. He was anxious to finish his tour of duty, so he could go home to be with his family and his girlfriend, Pamela. The first thing I’m going to do, Jim thought with a pang of homesickness, is eat a big piece of fried chicken.

When Jim heard the second scream, he knew he had not been dreaming, He retrieved his rifle and went out to investigate the source of the ruckus. He found himself in front of a small, ramshackle storage shed. When he looked inside, he saw a fellow American soldier whom he did not recognize. The soldier was standing with his back to Jim. His pants were down to his ankles, exposing hairy buttocks. A pair of squirming, skeletal legs with dirty, calloused feet straddled the solider on either side. Jim barely had to time to register the victim as a probable escapee of a nearby concentration camp.

“Shut the hell up,” the solider hissed as he slapped the girl hard across the face. Despite this, she let out a bloodcurdling scream when the soldier penetrated her.

Without a second thought, Jim aimed his rifle and shot the soldier point-blank in the back of the head. The soldier fell to the floor, dead. He never even knew Jim was there. Jim went over to the girl, hesitating when he saw the terror in her eyes but disarming her with his gentle demeanor. He estimated she was around fourteen years old. Her head was shaved bald and she was wearing nothing but a tattered shift. Her scabies-infested body, which was broken out with scabs, welts, and bruises, was so emaciated that Jim could count her ribs.

“What’s your name, sweetheart?” Jim asked her in a soothing voice.

“Margot,” the girl answered in a raspy, barely audible voice.

“Do you know where your parents are?” Jim asked. Margot did not attempt to answer. She looked weakly at the American soldier who had come to her rescue. Jim knew there was nothing he could do to save her; instead, he held Margot’s hand, reassuring her, as he anticipated that moment when her chest would not rise again and her hand would be weightless in his. As her final breath released her spirit from her body, she whispered in German-accented English strange dying words that would haunt him until the end of his days.

“When you get back home, I have a special gift waiting for you,” Margot told him as he bent down his left ear to hear her. The poor girl is delusional, Jim thought as he returned, with a heavy heart, to his post.

*

Jim had no idea what fate had in store for him. From the moment he had stepped foot on American soil, there had not been one second that he did not think of Margot. He always felt her spirit hovering nearby, and even thought she was trying to talk to him. During his tour of duty, Jim had witnessed worse horrors, and the rape of young girls and women was, unfortunately, commonplace in times of war. The fact that Jim had avenged Margot’s rape felt like a hollow victory, and he was left with a vague sense of guilt.

One day, while Jim was reading the newspaper, he came across an advertisement for some land for sale in Bulloch County-$10 an acre for anyone willing to clear it. Margot’s incessant urging from the spirit world broke Jim down, and he bought the land, 2000 acres in the middle of the woods.  At first, he had no idea what he was going to do with so much land, as he had no vocation for agriculture, but quickly decided on horse breeding.

Jim spent the next year clearing the land with his own hands. He did not recruit any help because he did not want his father to find out that he had squandered his mother’s meager inheritance to buy this useless piece of land at the insistence of a ghost. He first cleared a narrow zigzag road, reasoning this was would discourage horse theft. He then cleared all 2000 acres of the land with nothing but a chainsaw, a rented bulldozer, and an old pickup truck he bought from a friend. Each night Jim, by this time married with two stepsons, went home exhausted and with a backache, but he persevered until the whole was cleared for development.  He made a sizeable income selling logs, which kept his family comfortable.  Finally, he completed the long, arduous task of clearing the area and decided to ride his new horse, a beautiful Arabian mare, around to admire the results of his hard labor. He discovered a cave next to a small lake. The voice of Margot indicated that he was to meet her in there.

“The present I have promised you  It’s in there,” she told him.

Jim obediently went into the cave. Whereas before he only heard the voice of Margot in his head, once inside the cave, he saw her clear as day, as if she were there in physical form.

A few days later, Jim finally confessed to his family about the land, explaining that he was going to start a horse ranch. Much to his surprise, Jim’s father did not express any objection to the idea and even offered a sizeable investment so Jim could buy stallions. The elder Mr. Minter was deeply scandalized however, when Jim announced his engagement a few weeks later to a woman who was twice divorced, had two sons from each of her ex-husbands, and was ten years his senior. Less than a year into the marriage, his wife, Pam, became pregnant and later gave birth to Diana, Jim’s only biological child. Pam died shortly after Diana’s birth due to a uterine infection.

During all this, Jim continued to work and raise his child and stepchildren. He had more luck as a horse breeder than as a father. His oldest stepson, Andrew Thompson, was a kindhearted fellow who had acquired an unfortunate addiction to heroin in his youth. His habit was tolerated as long as he used discreetly and continued to provide for his wife, his twin sons, and his daughter. On a warm spring day, Andrew took his children to the park. While his children played, Andrew sat in a gazebo and covertly shot up a double dose. Minutes later, he collapsed on the ground and died.

Brian Atkinson, his younger stepson, was actually Pamela’s stepson, the son of a no-good second husband who had abandoned both of them. Brian threw himself into work. He had a solid reputation on the ranch but mostly ignored his wife, son, and daughter.

Jim’s daughter, Diana, was a painfully shy, sickly girl who had almost no friends and preferred to spend her time alone. Resigned to his daughter’s reclusiveness, Jim allowed her to live in the Minter house for as long as she wished and never pressured her to marry or start a family of her own.  This would have been what happened, but fate had other plans for Diana in the form of a mysterious stranger who wandered into Minterville. A torrid love affair resulted that would change Minterville’s history forever.

After the death of his wife Pam, Jim married Nancy Harrison, the single mother of a teenage girl, Shirley. Jim’s new stepdaughter was sweet and generous but painfully promiscuous s. At fifteen, the girl had given birth to a daughter of her own, just has her own mother had done.

 Over the years, Jim divided his land up and gave it away free to anyone he deemed deserving. Along with the land, he gave each recipient a smooth blue stone. Jim’s family and friends joked about this behind his back-Old Mint must think those are magic stones. Is he taking LSD?-but they accepted the land graciously. The first people who received land-and stones were Andrew, Brian, Nancy, and Shirley. Next were Aaron Sheffield and Nelson Holmes, his two best friends from childhood. Jim gave a stone each to Aaron and Nelson, their wives, and one to Walter, Nelson’s 3-year-old son. Jim took one stone and placed it in the hand of his toddler daughter. Both Walter and Diana started to cry when they touched their stones. Jim handed out all of his stones until there were no more to give. The last stone was given in 1979.

As he took his stone, Aaron Sheffield thought mint i think you done gone off the deep end.

“Why would you say that, Shef?” Jim asked verbally.

They all exchanged astonished looks. Aaron Sheffield had not said his thoughts aloud, but everyone in possession of a stone heard him what he was thinking.

 

 

 

***

In the spring of 1989, Jim took his 8-year-old granddaughter Kendra to the mouth of the cave where he met with the ghost of Margot more than forty years earlier. He told Kendra that he was going to tell her a secret, and warned her sternly that she was never to repeat it or share with anyone. Kendra nodded without a word, unaccustomed to her grandfather’s sternness. Kendra guarded her grandfather’s secret with her life until she told it to her own grandson many years later.

Margot had granted Jim the power to communicate nonverbally with anyone he wished, and these folks also could communicate with each other. For lack of a better name, folks called this power the Minter.

Jim, feeling the end of life would come sooner rather than later, on that day confided the secrets of The Minter to his granddaughter.

Jim had met the ghost of Margot in that cave by the lake. Margot pointed to a large pile of blue-green stones that looked like slightly larger versions of the kind found in a fish aquarium. Margot ordered him to pick every one of them up and put them in the bucket he was carrying. When he was done, Jim uncovered the most amazing sight he had ever seen: a glowing orb that was about the size of a watermelon that looked like a large diamond.  He turned to the ghost of Margot, speechless.

“Its power now belongs to you. You can share it whomever you choose. If you wish for a person to have its power, all you have to do is give him one of the blue stones. Everyone who has the power, and their descendants, will be able to communicate with one another without words,” Margot explained. She added that only Jim himself would be able to give this power out, and the power of the stones include a distress signal that will activate automatically if a power-holder’s life is threatened.

“And,” she added as a final warning, “It is timid.  It is afraid of anything evil. You must take care not to allow evil into your town. If anyone with a wicked heart comes near, it will get scared and run away. It will hide until it is sure the evil is gone. So choose wisely who you share its power with.” Jim was so moved that he began to cry.

“You are a kind man,” Margot said, touching Jim’s cheek before departing to the other life for the final time. Jim found a stick of dynamite, sealed the entrance to the cave for good, and went out to tend to his affairs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


© Copyright 2019 Jessica Wren. All rights reserved.

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