The Big Well
Kenneth James Crist
All’s well…or maybe
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
language, please?” the little man, his palms pressed
together, was bowing to Clint.
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?”
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.
me? Why would you…wait, who are you?”
am The Genie, Sir. At your service.”
a genie. Riiight. Okay, nice meeting you. Gotta go…”
Sir. Not a genie, Sir, The Genie. You see, I am me and there is only
me. There are no others…”
So, where’s your lamp, or bottle, or whatever? Aren’t you
supposed to be freed from a lamp or bottle and grant wishes?”
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,
“Oh, right, right. Cutbacks, yeah. The
economy, I suppose.”
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.”
had decided to play along with this little charade for a
while. “Okay, so what are you going to do for me, then?”
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.”
to capture my soul or something? Steal it away?”
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.”
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.”
shall be yours then,” The Genie said, “and thank you, Sir.”
are you thanking me?”
have allowed me to continue my journey for another hundred
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
least the SWAT team didn’t set the cabin afire or kill the kids
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.
Kenneth Crist, firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.