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Trans/Figure: Fiction by Michael Steven
Secretary to a Serial Killer: Fiction by Robert Jeschonek
The Big Well: Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Sooter: Fiction by Ron Capshaw
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A Spider Among the Flies: Fiction by Gary Earl Ross
He Wore a Purple Heart Inside a Gray Uniform: Fiction by John C. Mannone
So Bright They Were, So Bright: Fiction by Paul Radcliffe
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While My Mother Dreams of Judge Judy: Flash Fiction by Tina Barry
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crowbars and middle fingers: Poem by Rob Plath
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7 ways of Seeing a Scar: Poem by Jack Garrett
Freddy on 14th Street: Poem by Jack Garrett
Peace, Baby: Poem by Meg Baird
The Light: Poem by Meg Baird
The lunatic equation and the lemon revolution: Poem by Partha Sarkar
A knife with three wheels: Poem by Partha Sarkar
Belle in the Bottom: Poem by g emil reutter
Glint: Poem by g emil reutter
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Pretzels: Poem by Damon Hubbs
Times Argus: Poem by Damon Hubbs
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The Indiscretion: Poem by John Doyle
The Sadness and Beauty of Car Boot Sales: Poem by John Doyle
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Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

Kenneth James Crist: The Big Well

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Art by Sophia Wiseman-Rose 2023

The Big Well

Kenneth James Crist

 

For Clinton LaRue the nightmare began in Greensburg, Kansas, on a sunny day in March 2014. Clint was traveling 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 he 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 he 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. He was alone at the bottom and 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. There was a little brown-skinned guy in a turban standing there looking at him. He stood about four-foot-nothing and besides the turban, he 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 they 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 had his palms pressed together, fingers outward, and 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 Kwik-E-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 it 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 necessarily 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 he 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 he 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 he 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 $418,000 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, dogs, cat, 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 the 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 La Rue 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 she 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 his right to keep and bear arms.

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

When it was all 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, 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.

~~ END ~~

Kenneth James Crist is Editor of Black Petals Magazine and is on staff at Yellow Mama ezine. He has been a published writer since 1998, having had almost two hundred short stories and poems in venues ranging from Skin and Bones and The Edge-Tales of Suspense to Kudzu Monthly. He is particularly fond of supernatural biker stories. He reads everything he can get his hands on, not just in horror or sci-fi, but in mystery, hardboiled, biographies, westerns and adventure tales. He retired from the Wichita, Kansas police department in 1992 and from the security department at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita in 2016. Now 75, he is an avid motorcyclist and handgun shooter. He is active in the American Legion Riders and the Patriot Guard, helping to honor and look after our military. He is also a volunteer driver for the American Red Cross, Midway Kansas Chapter. He is the owner of Fossil Publications, a desktop publishing venture that seems incapable of making any money at all. His zombie book, Groaning for Burial, has been released by Hekate Publishing in Kindle format and paperback late this year. On June the ninth, 2018, he did his first (and last) parachute jump and crossed that shit off his bucket list.

Sophia Wiseman-Rose is a Paramedic and an Episcopalian nun. Both careers have provided a great deal of exposure to the extremes in life and have provided great inspiration for her.  

 She is currently spending time with her four lovely grown children and making plans to move back to her home in the UK in the Autumn.  

 In addition, Sophia had a few poems in the last edition of Black Petals Horror/Science Fiction Magazine

 

https://www.artstation.com/sophiaw-r6

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2023