Black Petals Issue #75 Spring, 2016

The Big Well

Home
Mars-News, Views and Commentary
The Big Well-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
The Boxlike Object-Fiction by Charles C. Cole
The Enemy of My Enemy-Fiction by Roy Dorman
Virtuality-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Virtuous Reality-Fiction by A. M. Stickel, Editor
Walking to Class-Fiction by George Economou
Whispering Ghosts-Fiction by George Economou
Churchyard watcher-Two Poems by Chris Friend
August Nights-3 Poems by Dr. Mel Waldman

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The Big Well

 

Kenneth James Crist

 

All’s well…or maybe not.

 

 

For Clinton LaRue the nightmare began in Greensburg, Kansas, on a sunny day in March, 2014. Clint was travelling from his home in Pennsylvania to Colorado for a job interview. He would have preferred to fly, but money was tight. He hadn’t worked in almost six months and funds were running out, surely but not so slowly. As he came into the small town, he noticed a lot of new construction and then he wondered if this was the town he’d heard or read about that got wiped out by a tornado. Seemed like it was back in about 2007 or maybe 2006. Supposedly, they were rebuilding everything, but with a twist—Greensburg would now be the “greenest” town in America, with everything built to the latest, high-tech clean energy standards.

As he cruised slowly through the town, he noticed their single tourist attraction had apparently come through the tornado unscathed. There was the sign, “World’s Largest Hand-dug Well & Pallasite Meteorite, Left, two blocks.”

Well, why the hell not? He found himself making the turn almost without thinking about it. He’d been sitting for hours and needed a stretch and a restroom visit anyway. Might as well look at the big hole in the ground, too. Nobody can say I’m not a sport, he thought as he parked and got out at the gift shop.

Inside, he walked around and looked at the tourist junk and found the restroom, then paid his admission to see the big rock from space and the big hole. The meteorite was a thousand pounds of metallic iron ore, pocked and partially melted by its trip through the atmosphere and interesting in its own right, if one liked that type of thing.

The well was 109 feet deep and 32 feet in diameter, lined with concrete that was poured on the surface and lowered into place as the digging progressed. This task began in 1884. For its day, it was an engineering marvel. Clint decided he’d do the climb. He’d paid his money and he might as well get some exercise along with his history lesson.

At the bottom, there wasn’t all that much to see. A pool of water and a man-made cavern of sorts, and that was about it. Alone at the bottom, he read the plaques and decided he might as well start back up. It would be a bit tougher than coming down.

Then, suddenly, he was no longer alone. A little brown-skinned guy in a turban stood there looking at him. He stood about four foot-nothing and, besides the turban, wore baggy pants and those goofy shoes with the toes that turned up.

Clint hadn’t heard him come down the steps, which were iron and had made considerable noise as he came down. There was a peculiar smell in the air, too. As soon as he thought about it, Clint realized what it was: ozone—the smell you get around electric motors and transformers, where high magnetic fields and sparks have changed ordinary oxygen, adding a third electron.

“What language, please?” the little man, his palms pressed together, was bowing to Clint.

“Ahh…English, I guess…”

“Ahh, thank you. That is good. I am fluent in nearly all languages, but English is one of my favorites. So many nuances, so many homonyms and antonyms. It is a fun language. Now, how may I be of service, Sir?”

“Okay, ah…wait, what?”

“How may I serve you, Sir?” The little guy bowed again and then looked up expectantly. Clint was reminded of his Jack Russell terrier, Bennie, when he was seeking a treat. The bright-eyed expectancy was spot-on.

“Serve me? Why would you…wait, who are you?”

“I am The Genie, Sir. At your service.”

“You’re a genie. Riiight. Okay, nice meeting you. Gotta go…”

“No Sir. Not a genie, Sir, The Genie. You see, I am me and there is only me. There are no others…”

“Right. So, where’s your lamp, or bottle, or whatever? Aren’t you supposed to be freed from a lamp or bottle and grant wishes?”

“Oh, yes, Sir. That was in the olden days. It was actually a means of travel for me, you see…a type of portability. Now I get around in a Prius, like everyone else.”

Clint was starting to like this little guy, whoever he was. He sounded sort of like Rajesh Koothrappali, from The Big Bang Theory, or maybe Apu, the owner of Kwiki-Mart from The Simpsons. Might as well have a little fun…

“So, does that mean I get three wishes then?”

“Oh, no, Sir. I only get to grant one wish and then only once every hundred years. Like everywhere else, we’ve had cutbacks, you see.”

“Oh, right, right. Cutbacks, yeah. The economy, I suppose.”

“Oh, no, Sir, not the economy. It’s the lack of belief in magic and all that entails. People today do not believe properly in magical things, spells, hexes, curses and the like. They think it is all clever illusion, merely put on by charlatans to entertain and make money.”

Clint had decided to play along with this little charade for a while. “Okay, so what are you going to do for me, then?”

“Anything you wish, Sir. You may have wealth, you may have women, you may have any pleasures you like, but you must be careful, Sir. All things granted have their price, you see.”

“Going to capture my soul or something? Steal it away?”

“Oh, no, Sir! I am not the devil. There is no black magic here, only karma. But karma is very powerful. Choose wisely and think always of the outcome of your actions.”

Clint didn’t have to think very long. He remembered a book he’d read once, or maybe it was a short story, about a guy who asked for only one thing, but it was cleverly done. He looked at the little genie and said, “I’d like to have a magic wallet that would always provide exactly the amount of money I need to cover the cost of anything I want to buy. You see, I’m not greedy, and I don’t need to be rich. But it would be nice to never have to worry about money or holding a job.”

“It shall be yours then,” The Genie said, “and thank you, Sir.”

“Why are you thanking me?”

“You have allowed me to continue my journey for another hundred years.”

There was that ozone smell again, and then a blinding blue crackle and flash, and Clint was once more alone. At his feet, lying on the concrete floor, was a reddish-brown wallet of thin leather. He picked it up and opened it and found it empty. He almost tossed it in the well, but then decided, what the hell.

“Okay, that was fuckin’ weird,” he said as he headed back up the stairs, “I’m gonna have to find out how they did that shit.” He shoved the wallet in his back pocket.

 

When Clint got ready to hit the road, he realized he needed gas and pulled in at the Farm-Rite station on the main drag. He filled the tank on his old Ford Crown Vic, a car that had been a police car and had seen better days. He knew his Visa card was almost maxed out and he was very low on cash, but when he reached for his wallet, his hand found the other, new wallet instead. On impulse, he peeked inside and found $26.50 in cash—the exact amount showing on the pump. He leaned against the side of the Crown Vic and did some deep-breathing exercises for a minute, then went inside to pay. The wallet was now empty.

After paying for his gas, he had another thought, and went and got a sandwich, a bag of chips and a Coke from the cooler. The clerk rang them up and Clint opened the mysterious wallet. There was five dollars and seven cents—the exact amount on the register. Clint felt a grin starting to spread across his face. He paid for the snack and ran for the car.

Seventy miles down the road, Clint had another thought. Why was he rushing to a job interview, when he had in his pocket a wallet with an unlimited supply of money? Why did people work in the first place? To promote their livelihood, put food on the table, be able to buy the necessities of life in a modern society. He took the next exit, turned around and headed for home. Fuck the job; this was just too cool.

 

Clint arrived back in Pennsylvania in a new, gunmetal-gray Lexus with all the bells and whistles. The back seat and trunk were packed full of toys and gifts, and he was giddy with his new-found wallet, the source of everything and anything he’d ever wanted.

Within a few weeks, he’d moved his wife and kids to a nicer house and paid it off in cash. The wallet had swollen to the size of a small briefcase to hold all the money required for that transaction, and the real estate company had three salesmen with counterfeit pens going over the hundred-dollar bills for hours.

Life became very idyllic in their little corner of the world. His wife Katie would later remember those days with fondness as some of the best times of their marriage. With two kids, Dawn and Michael, two dogs, one cat and no mortgage, it seemed they were set for life.

 

The first visit from the IRS came seven months to the day after Clint’s visit to the World’s Largest Hand-Dug well. Two Federal agents rang the bell of the 418 thousand-dollar suburban ranch and quietly demanded to see all tax returns, pay stubs, payment receipts and bank statements for the last seven years. Katie was all ready to spill the beans about the wallet, but Clint would have none of it. He knew that if the Federal government ever got their hands on a source of unlimited cash…well, look how far in debt the country already was. Politicians with a magic wallet? That could not be allowed. He’d go to jail first.

By the time the agents left, promising indictments soon to come for fraud, money laundering, and God only knew what other charges, Clint and Katie were poised between a shit and a sweat, their fight-or-flight mechanisms in high gear. They opted for flight.

While Katie started packing stuff into Clint’s new Ram four-wheel drive pickup, he took the Lexus and went to pull the kids out of school. Upon his return, they packed kids, pets, and themselves into the truck and lit a shuck for Tennessee. The magic wallet was still working fine, covering all the bills, including the cost of the AR-15 rifle and ammo they bought just before they crossed out of Pennsylvania.

Within a few days they were settled into a modest cabin on a small lake buried back in the hills and, at about the same time, they officially went on fugitive status with the feds. They carefully avoided going into town together. They always paid cash for everything. They kept to themselves and hunted and fished, and life went on. Then Katie made a mistake and called her sister in Maryland from her cell phone while she was in town shopping.

An operator at the NSA flagged and recorded the call and emailed it to an agent at IRS. The exact cell tower that the call went through was pinpointed and the hunt was narrowed. Twelve million illegal immigrants went about their daily grind, unmolested by the federal government, while the LaRue family was mercilessly hunted down.

The agents camped in the town where the cell phone call was made, set up surveillance, and waited. By the time Katie came to town and did it again, almost a million dollars of taxpayer money had been wasted trying to prosecute people who had yet to break any laws.

As the IRS agents took Katie into custody in front of the hardware store, a small man in a blue Prius drove by, observing the action. This was getting good, he thought, but it was about to get better.

Katie gave up the location of the cabin in about five minutes, no torture required. Katie had always been a good girl and had been taught to obey authority figures. Did Clint have any weapons? Yes, he had a new rifle. What kind of rifle? It was an AR-something. Aha. An assault rifle. The agents parked her in the county jail to await further developments. That was why she never got to see the FBI SWAT team move in on the cabin and her husband heroically defend his right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, not to mention his right to protection from unreasonable search and to keep and bear arms.

At least the SWAT team didn’t set the cabin afire or kill the kids or pets.

When all was said and done, Katie only told one small lie. She had to admit she didn’t have any idea where Clint got his money. When the FBI handed over his personal effects to her, the wallet was in there. Katie’s spending habits were much more modest than Clint’s had been. But it was nice that she was able to cover his final expenses so handily.

The End


Kenneth Crist, blkptls@cox.net, www.blackpetals.net, of Wichita, Kansas, wrote “The Big Well” & “Virtuality” for BP #75 (+ “Gift of the Anasazi” for BP #73, “The Weeping Man” for BP #72, “Pebbles” for BP #71, “The Diner” for BP #67, “New Glasses” for BP #61, “Ones and Zeros” for BP #50, the novelette Joshua) and has edited BP for many years, continuing as Editor Emeritus, then Coeditor/Webmaster. Widely published, esp. in Hardboiled and on Yellow Mama, he also has four chapbooks currently for sale in Kindle format on Amazon.com, Dreaming of Mirages, The Gazing Ball, Joshua, and Groaning for Burial, his latest zombie fiction.

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