Dear Reader, this Musea is a short story where scattered events lead to surprising outcomes. Let me know what you think. - Tom.
Click! On came the TV set.
This time of the week was Scott's favorite - Saturday afternoon, chores done, groceries bought for the next week, apartment straightened up, and coming up next his favorite show, the Korean TV Drama, with subtitles, "You Are Too Much". The story was coming to a boil!
He looked at his TV. What is this? This isn't normal. The screen showed a bird's eye view of a small white pickup truck with police cars in pursuit on a major highway. The captions at the bottom read, 'Metroplex Chase - 2nd Hour'. Beside that was a clock showing the time. Scott had 10 minutes till his show, so he kept watching.
Minutes later the suspect exited the six lane highway on to the service road, ran a red light, and sped through the start of a residential area. Something looked familiar.
The police cars in pursuit slowed down to avoid accidents. The suspect speeded up, and weaved through the drive home traffic.
Suddenly an unmarked black van ran its green light across the path of the suspect, and screeched to a halt in the middle of the intersection. The driver got out and ran off. The suspect was blocked. He slowed down. Bystanders on the corners began to back up as they watched.
The white pickup then turned toward the people on the sidewalk and slowly plowed forward, as they scattered, some banged their fists against the side panels, he drove around the parked black van, weaved through the other stopped cars, and accelerated again.
Scott thought, I know that corner. I know that drug store. That is my neighborhood! That's a few blocks away from here! He moved closer to the TV screen.
The white pickup saw the road ahead was full of stalled traffic. He swerved into a private parking lot of a large apartment complex. Thirty yards further down one of the long rows of open parking, he found himself cornered. The road ended. The police cars slowly pulled up behind him. They surrounded the pickup, and blocked him in.
He got out of the truck, and crouched behind it with what looked like a gun, or something shiny in his hand.
From the TV screen Scott could see the police cars on the left, the suspect’s pickup in the middle, and the suspect running back and forth behind it. Scott heard a pop and a whiff sound.
Then the window on his left shattered and his TV blew up. Swirls of blue smoke rose up.
Scott dived to the floor. He crawled away from the window to his front door, reached up with one hand, and locked and chained it. Then he crawled as far away from the broken window as he could and waited.
Outside the suspect decided to not throw his life away there. He shouted out something, threw out his gun that rattled across the cement, and lay face down on the concrete.
The police approached with guns drawn, took him into custody, and put him in the back of a squad car.
Scott heard people talking. He thought he recognized some neighbor women's voices. He crawled to the window and saw that the crisis was over.
Scott talked to the police on the scene and told them about the shot that broke his window. One officer went with him to his apartment to see the damage. He followed the trail of the bullet from the shattered window across the room into the TV set.
"You'll probably find the bullet in the parts."
"No, just a statement."
In his statement, Scott said that he thought he heard maybe 4 or 5 shots? The officer said, "There were three. One went into the air. We still don't know where the 2nd one went. (Though it was never found, it had gone under the eaves and buried itself into a two by four beam.) And the 3rd one came here."
"I think that's all I need," said the policeman. Looking around he pointed to the chair up close by the TV and added, “You sitting there?" Scott nodded yes. "That was kinda close," and he grinned. "Consider yourself lucky!"
"Do you think he'll ever come back?"
"I don't think he could even find the place!"
Scott walked out with the officer and saw the landlord talking to some tenants. The landlord was repeating to them what the police had told him.
Scott approached the group and said, “Mr. Stratton, my apartment was the one that was hit."
"Let me see."
Inside the apartment Stratton surveyed the scene. Looking at the window he said, "Damaged the jamb too. That'll have to be replaced. I'll get Ramon out here tonight and board up your window. He'll set up a time next week to fix it."
Then he looked at the TV. "Do you have renter's insurance." Scott shook his head no.
The landlord seemed to guess the next question and said, "I'll ask the owner if he'll cover the cost of the set, but I'm afraid he's going to say no and claim it's one of those 'act of god' situations." Act of one jerk you mean, thought Scott.
Stratton called Ramon on his cell phone, left a message and turned to Scott, "OK, call us if you have any other problems." Then Mr. Stratton went back outside.
About 90 minutes later Ramon showed up. Greg saw a long gray pickup out the broken window, and met him in the hall. He brought him into his apartment and showed him the window and TV.
"Me and my family were watching the chase too! So he ended up here of all places."
He looked out the window to the parking lot. "He must have been about there." Then with his pointer finger, he traced the path of the bullet through the window, across the room, and into the TV set.
"I'll board it up for tonight and repair it next week... I can also haul the TV parts away if you want. The trash men won't take it."
"Thanks," said Scott.
After making his dinner Scott went back to working on his writing project. The phone rang. It was his girlfriend Kelly.
Kelly: Hi hon.
Scott: Hi darling. Where are you?
K: Stuck in the airport still. This is getting old!
S: Oh no.
K: The woman at the gate said the very soonest my plane can de-ice and leave is late tomorrow or more likely Monday.
S: You there in the terminal?
K: Yeah. I'm going to try to get a room if the airlines will pay for it. If not, I'll sleep in the airport. Hardly any food courts still open though... What's going on there?
S: You sitting down? I got shot at!
Scott told her the story. After consoling him, she said,
K: Maybe you should move.
S: But the guy wasn't from here. He was from some small town near Fort Worth, a hundred miles away.
K: That's true, you haven't been fired on in your apartment before... I can't believe I'm saying that!
S: Kelly, I promise that the next time some random fugitive corners himself in my parking lot and has a shootout with the police, I'm moving!
K: (laughed.) When I get back let's go TV shopping. I'll find you a good deal.
Tuesday. While Scott was waiting for Ramon to show up, he continued to work on his latest writing, a short story mystery. He had lit a stick of patchouli incense and started a CD on his player.
Ramon showed up with a helper.
As they walked in, Ramon explained, “He’s my wife's younger brother, Dylan. He's helping me out today."
"Hi Dylan, come on in."
"He is deaf so he can't hear you," added Ramon. "Though he is learning to read lips a little... mostly Spanish."
"Oh OK, well I'll let you get to work."
The two began to move furniture to get access to the window. As Ramon spread out a plastic work sheet below the window, he made signs to Dylan to get the tools from the truck. Scott went back to his desk and began writing.
Later, Ramon looked over to Scott and asked, “Are you a writer?
"I'm trying to be in my spare time. I'm working on a short story featuring my detective named, Leo Mars. He's investigating a suicide by a rich man's only son. The father wants to know why his son did it. So Leo Mars is investigating. But I won't spoil the ending...
Ramon changed the subject, "What's that music? Is it church music? It's very dignified and nice."
"That's Mozart's Requiem. I like to play it while I write."
"I like it."
Ramon went back to work. He and Dylan made assorted trips to his truck as they fixed the window. The old jamb was taken out in a flurry of dust, the new jamb fitted and secured, and finally a new window pane added.
While Ramon was removing the sticker from the clear window he said, "Your window is fixed. It should be better." Then he demonstrated. "It opens easier. The seal is tighter so you won't have any draft underneath or along the sides. And this lever at the top locks in better. These brown places are where I sanded some peeling spots on the old window. The next time I'm working in the building, I'll come back with some touch up paint and make it all match."
While he was using a glass cleaner on the window, he motioned to Dylan to start taking things back out to the truck. When he came back he carried a hand vac that he used on the floor tarp, then the carpet under it.
While this was going on, Ramon turned to Scott and said, "Before I go, I'd like to write down what music that is and buy a copy. I really like it a lot!"
Dylan watching them talk, was puzzled and tugged on Ramon's sleeve. When Ramon turned, Dylan asked what he was talking about. Ramon slowly said, “I like the music." He pointed to the player and then to his ears. Then he played an imaginary violin and swayed back and forth and smiled. Dylan lifted his eyebrows, rolled his eyes, and shook his head.
Turning back to Scott, Ramon said, “I don't know how much he knows about music. He was born deaf... Let me write down what that is." Ramon pulled out of his pocket a well worm, small pad of paper and pencil, and waited.
"It's Mozart's Requiem. This version by Saint Martin in the Fields.
Ramon said, “I want that music, the music on that one!"
Scott said, "No, I mean different orchestras have recorded it, but it's always the same music.
"Oh ... tell me again."
"Mozart's Requiem, this version by St. Martin in the Fields, but any orchestra version should do.
Ramon wrote down, ‘Mosart Requem by Saint Martin Fields,” and underlined it 5 times.
Later that week, Scott answered his door to see Dylan alone. He said, "Here to paint," and he held up a small, well organized, tool box with assorted things: brushes in different sizes, a pint of off white paint, tapes, rags, and more. After spreading out a thin plastic tarp to catch any paint, he began to work. First he carefully put a bit of putty here and there in any tiny holes. Then he began to tape the areas around the window.
Scott, with his hands folded, watched him work from across the room. He was a little surprised at how careful, and meticulous Dylan was in every part of the process.
After a few minutes, he went back to his table and turned to the notebook with his first draft. This evening for inspirational background music, he was playing a recording of classic 50's rock 'n roll hits.
Scott's immediate writing problem was trying to figure out the plot to his story. Right now he had backed himself into a corner. He did not know what to do. He was sure of one thing, he wanted it to go beyond clever, and say something meaningful; not just resolve a plot, and then trail off. He scanned his initial notes, put down his pen, and began to think.
The writing experts say that I have to have conflict that drives the plot. There has to be an antagonist, a heavy, a meanie, an arch villain. But do I really? Who in my story fits the part, the kid that commits suicide? Maybe. But he isn't even alive during the story. The rest of the characters work together. The rich father hires detective Mars, who gathers evidence, and solves the mystery. But who is the bad guy...
Then he thought about other writers and their work. Yes, for the most part the disruption of the lives of characters comes from a troublemaker, a bad guy, one jerk in the room - someone who upsets the rest. Usually the jerk was someone in power too.
He liked that phrase, 'jerk in the room'. "Or I could say 'the room jerk.'" He wrote both versions down in his notes and underlined the first one. Then he wrote, 'Who is it?'
Scott wondered, how far back did this writing rule go? First it was a nation of jerks, where one army fought another. One side was always pure and righteous, and the other fiends. So in that case there was a nation of jerks in the room.
Society evolved over time and the jerks in the room, shrank from an army to a renegade group that upset the civilization they were in. These stories were about bandits, rebels, gangs, a space ship of aliens. Now we had a smaller group of jerks in the room.
What next? Instead of a group of jerks in the room, maybe it would boil down to a single jerk in the room, a single evil political leader, or tycoon; a thief or murderer, a drunk or drug abuser, a monster loose from a lab. Or even less dramatic, a weird neighbor on the block, a mischievous wild animal, or a jerk in the family that upsets all the rest.
If he was writing about the incident that had happened to him in real life - the jerk in the room would be easy to spot. He'd be the guy in the pickup that shot his window and TV. But what if my mystery story doesn't have a jerk in the room?
Let’s say things continue as they are going in the world, and the jerk in the room changes from a nation of jerks, to a mob of jerks, to a single jerk, to.... no jerk at all. Let's say people advance and there are no upsetters anymore, or they are so mild that it is more an amusing anecdote than a Greek tragedy? Could you still have literature? Could you still have great writing that was worth reading? Could you still have a story that grips the reader?
A few weeks later Scott saw Ramon with his helper in the halls of his apartments. He stopped to say hello. Dylan waved and kept going up the stairs.
Scott: What are you up to today?
Ramon: Painting apartment #205.
Scott: I see Dylan is helping you today.
Ramon: That is one thing he likes to do. He likes to paint, and he's good at it. I don't much care for it. I'd rather do just about anything else. I hate the smell...
By the way, we got that Amadeus Mozart piece. I told all about it to my wife. She's pregnant with our first - 5 months now - and she was always saying that playing classical music would make our baby smarter, more relaxed, and even cry less.
So last Friday night we went out looking for it. This used CD place had a bunch of copies by different orchestras, but not the Fields one. So I asked my wife, what should we do? And she said, “They’re just $3 each. Just buy them all!" So we bought 5 different versions! And they ALL turned out great!
We both play all of them a lot! She likes to go to sleep with one on. She says she has less morning sickness! We are going back to look for the Fields one too. That'll make 6 versions!
Ramon: Yeah, I love it. Inspiring music!
Scott: Yes it is.
Then the two separated. Ramon climbed the stairs and joined Dylan in #205, and Scott went back to his apartment.
It was quite by accident that Scott discovered it. He was at his desk and he had dropped his pen on the floor and it had rolled somewhere by the window. On first look he couldn't find it. 'Things can't disappear!' He got down on the floor and was looking around when he happened to look up under the window sill. There, underneath, he found very thin painted lines in light gray that read 'D. L. ‘18’. Dylan had signed his work!
(c) Tom Hendricks 2018
Musea is: Tom Hendricks
4000 Hawthorne #5, Dallas, Texas 75219
big website: tomhendricks.us
cover photo: "Musea, the zine with attitude"
Thanks for Reading!!!