Home / Buzby-Retribution

In a small, California desert town, Grandma sits in the kitchen peeling potatoes with a small knife. She’s preparing food for Grandpa Bill’s neighborhood, backyard Barbeque. The house is full of people as the grandkids, Suzie and Billie, chase each other, adding to the chaos. “You kids play nice or you’ll taste my blade.” Grandma points her knife at them, the kids freeze in their tracks. “You hear what I’m saying? I will cut you!”
The kids shake their heads, Suzie is unimpressed, “I told you, Billie.” Grandma can see Suzie knows better than to mess around in her kitchen, “Suzie, take your brother out back and say hello to your Grandfather, he’s got something to tell ya’.” Grandma waves her knife at them pointing where to go, the kids reluctantly leave for the backyard.

There is a big party going on in the backyard as Suzie and Billy come out the back door of the house. The two kids make their way through a gathering of adults tall enough to block their view of Grandpa Bill. His loud voice guides them to where he is holding court at a patio table covered with beer cans and ash trays, he is talking to friends. There is an older Asian man at the barbeque nearby cooking steaks, he is Uncle Tang, the husband of Aunt Tina.

Grandpa Bill is in the middle of a story, “So I looked up, and there he was at the top of the hill, blastin’ away. He got every one of them bastards and got us out alive. That’s why I’m having this barbque today in honor of my friend Buzby. I owe that man my life, a lot of us do.” Grandpa Bill is a bit drunk, one of the men at the table has never heard the story, Grandpa Bill, I never knew you were in the war.”

Grandpa Bill takes it up a notch, pounding his fist on the table, “That wasn’t any war we were in, boy. It was a secret operation that saved an entire country from the grip of Communist tyranny!” Suzie and Billy have been standing nearby watching and listening, Grandpa Bill sees them and he motions over, the kids are reluctant and awkwardly move forward.

“Hey you guys! Come on over here and meet everyone!” Grandpa Bill pulls them close, “these are my grandkids, Billy and Sue. They’re Kathy’s kids, I’m real proud of ’em.” Going around the table, Grandpa Bill does his best. “This here is your cousin Jack, that’s Carl, Denzel, and these two boys are Robert and Dale, over there. You two already know your Uncle Tang.” Suzie and Billy look at Uncle Tang, he gives a weak smile and notices the disapproving look on the Suzie’s face, it reminds him of someone in his past:

It was night in the Cambodian jungle, a grim faced Cambodian girl, about the same age as Suzie, waits in the shabby headquarters of who was then, Colonel Tang of the Cambodian Army. He is interrogating the girl’s mother, who is seated in a chair, he stands over her. It is hot, sweaty and dirty, a few soldiers stand guard nearby. “You want your husband? You want him back?” The Cambodian mother is exhausted and dejected with her head bowed. She shakes her head yes and holds back tears. “Then you give me what I want, I will give your husband to you.” Colonel Tang motions with his head towards an open door behind them that leads to a room with a dirty, mattress. The woman looks towards the room, again bows her head as she considers the offer. She slowly gets up and walks towards the room. Colonel Tang speaks to the guards as he points at the daughter, “Watch her, she goes nowhere.”

Suzie has noticed Uncle Tang is gazing at her with an emotionless face, the steaks start to burn, bringing him out of his flashback. Grandpa Bill continues his story, but has also noticed Uncle Tang’s gaze. “Did I ever tell you two about my friend, Buzby? If it wasn’t for Buzby, you’re Uncle Tang wouldn’t be here right now, and your cousin Julie would only be a fart in the wind.” He looks at Uncle Tang, “Ain’t that right, Uncle Tang?”

Uncle Tang goes from emotionless to a smile that shows no happiness in his eyes. He nods his head in agreement, but the steak on the grill pops a bit of hot grease on his arm changing Uncle Tang’s demeanor to that of Colonel Tang, he raises the spatula at the grill as if he were standing before one of his subordinates back in Cambodia, “Yeung nung bamphlanh anak! (I will destroy you!)” Uncle Tang catches himself, he lowers his hand instead of hitting the steaks and gives a weak laugh as the party continues in the background.

Grandpa Bill continues with the kids, “Buzby has been a friend of mine since way back, remember those Medals I showed ya’?” The kids feign a remembrance, “Well Buzby has twice as many as I do.” The whole reason Grandpa Bill is having a backyard Barbeque is to announce the return of his longtime friend from his days serving in Vietnam, Buzby. Everyone at the event knows Buzby for good and bad reasons, many people at the neighborhood barbeque remember Buzby for coming to their aide when they were being bullied at work or at home. Others remember Buzby as an agent of retribution and a man to fear, so as Grandpa Bill makes tells his guests that they are here to celebrate Buzby’s return and that he’ll be arriving soon.

Several of the neighbors make comments about their encounters with Buzby and immediately leave. Grandpa Bill takes notice of who they are as he seats himself as his two grandkids come to the table to say their hello’s. Grandpa Bill has had a few too many beers by now and insists on telling them about the way Buzby saved his life in Cambodia many years ago.

Grandpa Bill was in the Army Rangers as a young man was on a secret mission in Cambodia at the height of the Vietnam War. After accomplishing their mission, Grandpa Bill and his men found themselves surrounded by Cambodian Army detachment led by the infamous Colonel Tang. In the midst of their dilemma, Buzby makes a surprise appearance, coming out of the jungle with a plan to rescue the four men.

Lying between the men and escape is a mine field, behind them are Colonel Tang’s men. Buzby sees a goat nearby and ties a large branch to the goat before sending it the direction of the mine field. The goat should clear a path through the mine field wide enough to let the men through.

Colonel Tang is receiving a report from his men when an explosion from the mine field begins setting off all the mines. As Colonel Tang stands there, he realizes the men are going forward, but before he and his two aides can move, the head of the goat lands before them. Colonel Tang is shocked and laments the demise of his favorite goat.

Grandpa Bill looks to his two Grandkids waiting for them to look awed and impressed, however, the only reaction he gets is his granddaughter wanting to know more about the goat. Before Grandpa Bill can get gruff with her, Buzby arrives at the barbeque. He takes a seat at Grandpa’s table, Grandpa makes introductions, the Asian man minding the barbeque is Uncle Tang, who Buzby already knows from Cambodia. Uncle Tang gives them a weak smile, he is now Grandpa Bill’s son-in-law and part of the family, no one but Grandpa Bill and Buzby know his history.

Buzby has an announcement of his own, he now has a wife named Opal, a tall, beautiful, dark haired woman who wears jeans and likes beer. They have purchased an old house at the end of the street next door to Thornton Kean, a heartless man who employs most of the town at his factory. Grandpa Bill is glad Buzby has returned, and hopes Buzby can right the many wrongs in their little town, since it has come under control under men like Thornton Kean, and worst of all, Big Ron Morgan.

Opal is waiting at home, she is in the kitchen, stops what she’s doing, grabs a herself a bag of potato chips and walks down the hall and on to the front porch. Waiting at the edge of her front lawn are Thornton Kean and his wife Ruby, looking as sour as vinegar. Buzby comes from behind Opal and stands next to her.

Thornton and his wife Ruby come up the walk to let Buzby know how is boss of the neighborhood. Thorton complains about his previous neighbor and tells Buzby to never put his trash bins on his side of the house. Buzby and Opal have no reaction, Thornton and Ruby wait for a response but get none.

Thorton loses it and raising his voice, he takes a few steps toward Buzby. “Look here, Buzby, or whatever your name is, we are the meanest damn people on this street, ask your friend Bill, he’ll tell ya’. You and your family better watch yourself or there’ll be big, I mean big trouble.”

Buzby continues to star while Opal puts more potato chips in her mouth, which makes Thornton all the angier. Thorton points out to the street and tries to catch his breath, “Now tonight’s trash night and you will not place your trash bins anywhere near my property, do you understand? You put them over there next to the Wilson’s house. Looks like you both have the same low standards. Its people like you and them that are ruining this town. Do you understand me!?”

Buzby finally reacts with a smile and a laugh, he tells Ruby how impressed he is with Thornton’s performance. Ruby comes forward to throw in her two cents, placing herself in front of Opal, who now has a mouth full of potato chips. Ruby jabs her finger at Opal’s face, “Did you hear what my husband said!?” Opal responds with a fake sneeze, “Achoooo”, spitting chewed potato chip chunks all over Ruby’s face. Ruby screams and falls back onto to Thornton, they both struggle on the walkway and begin arguing with each other as they get back on their feet and return to their house next door.

That night, Buzby goes out at 2 am and loads up his trash bin with the heaviest things he can find, then drags the bin out to the curb and places it on the edge of Thornton’s property. Buzby puts glue on the handle of the bin. He knows Thornton is watching from his upstairs window, so Buzby places himself as to block Thornton’s view. Buzby goes back and takes a seat in the dark next to Opal to witness the drama they know will come.

Thornton makes his way downstairs and out to the street. He is grumbling and cursing as he grabs hold of Buzby’s trash can and finds it is too heavy for him to move, but his hand is stuck and he cannot let go. It begins to rain, Thornton struggles the best he can, finally dropping to the wet ground sobbing, unable to free himself.

Out of the dark appears Buzby. He looks like Marlon Brando in ‘Apocolypse Now’: Cammo paint on his face, dressed in loose black clothing worn in the jungles of South East Asia. Buzby stands quiet for a time, then wipes the rain from his face as Tornton struggles and fails again. Thornton sobs “What have you done to me?!” Buzby looks at him silently, then kneels next Thornton and says “I can set you free”. Thornton is elated, “Oh God, please! Look, look I’m sorry, please help me, please!” Instead of freeing Thornton, Buzby disappears into the darkness, “Hey! Hey! where ya’ going? Please don’t leave me here!” Thornton becomes dejected as the rain continues to pour and resolves to sit in there and suffer.

In a short time Buzby returns, he is holding a mallet in his left hand, he holds his right hand behind his back. Buzby stands silently as the rain runs over him, Thornton looks up at him motioning for help, but Buzby only moves his head around to loosen his neck, then looks up at the night sky. Thornton cowers, suspecting Buzby will hit him with the mallet, but Buzby tosses the head of Thornton’s fountain statue in the mud at his feet. Thornton begins screaming, but no one can hear him, his wife is sound asleep with her white sound earphones playing. Buzby smiles at Thornton, then turns and walks into the darkness, leaving Thornton stuck to the trash can for the night.

The next morning, Thornton is awakened by an approaching trash truck. He is still stuck to the trash bin, he pulls himself up and signals to the driver for help. The fire department soon arrives and begins dissolving the glue. Pretty soon the police come to Buzby’s door after asking Thornton why he was out in the middle of the night to begin with. When Buzby opens the door, the cop recognizes him, “Hey, you’re the war hero guy, Buzby, right?”

After a few questions and a short chat, the cop tells Buzby he’ll say the old man got himself in a jam trying to move a trash can. Thornton is pointing at Buzby and raging from the sidewalk, but the cops demand to know why he was on Buzby’s property to begin with. Thornton realizes he is in trouble, he looks down at the head of his statue in the mud, “But what about my statue?”

Thornton’s office is very busy, the two women who run the office are confused by his absence. Deesha Darwell and Mrs. Hargrave are doing what they can to make sure things run smoothly until Thornton arrives. Deesha makes sure the factory report is on Thornton’s desk, with the threat of being terminated over her head, Deesha had stayed late the day before to complete it. However, another worker throws a pile of new mail on top of the report.

Thornton finally arrives at work, he is dressed as usual but looks worn and tired, his right hand is bandaged. Everyone in the office stops and watches as Thornton heads for his office, as soon as he shuts the door they begin to gossip and wonder. Thornton goes to his desk, he begins by throwing out the golf magazine and Deesha’s report along with it. He fumbles through the papers on his desk grumbles to himself, it hurts to use his injured hand, “Damn it! Where is that inventory report? Damn it! Miss Darwell! Get in here!” Both women come into the office and receive a rude going over for not doing their jobs, but as Mrs. Hargrave looks around, she finds the report in the trash can along with the golf magazine the boss had thrown out. When Mrs. Hargrave asks for an apology, Thornton shrugs it off and tells the women to get back to work.

Thornton soon realizes his bowels are ready to burst, his breakfast is having its way with him. He goes to the restroom to relieve himself, but there is no toilet paper. He realizes his only option is the paper towel dispenser near the sink. In an agonizing effort, with his hand still bandaged and his pants around his ankles, he manages to shuffle over to the paper dispenser near the sinks. He gets some paper towels and is on his way back to the stall when someone walks in and sees him in this awkward position, that person turns and leaves. Thornton is finally able to clean himself and comes out of the restroom raging to Mrs. Hargrave “What time does that damn janitor come in!?”

Mrs. Hargrave is surprised by Thornton’s outburst and giggles when she notices a piece of wet paper towel stuck to his shoe as he crosses the office to her desk. She tells him the janitor comes in at at 4 pm. Thorton tells her the man is fired. When she asks Thornton why, he blurts “Toilet paper, Mrs. Hargrave! Toilet paper! Contact the employment agency and get us a new janitor by tomorrow. Do you understand!?”

A week later, Buzby is reading the morning paper on his front porch with Opal when he comes across a wanted ad for a janitor. Opal tells him the Grandma, Grandpa Bill’s wife, told her no one in town would take the job when they heard it was working for Thornton Kean. Buzby decides to take the job and heads down to the employment agency where he is welcomed with honor as a war hero. Glad to have anyone interested in the job, the employment clerk blushes as she hands Buzby a key, “Well, Mister Buzby, that should do it. Here are the keys and a list of duties. I’m sure you’ll know what to do, you start at 4 pm sharp.”

It is early evening and everyone in the office has gone home, Buzby is in Thornton’s chair with his feet on the desk. As he randomly goes through some of the things in front of him, he finds a company newsletter with a gratuitous photo of Thornton on the front page. After making a few dozen photocopies of the picture, Buzby has himself a seat at Thornton’s desk with a pair of scissors and a felt pen.

Buzby tapes the cut out head of Thornton along with a funny remark inside the bathroom stall with a small sign that says, “The floggings shall continue until moral improves”. Buzby tapes another to the bulletin board in the break room. This one is saying “Don’t make me repeat myself”, Thornton’s go-to remark whenever he’s annoyed.

Buzby puts another on the front of the refrigerator saying “The only taste I have, is in my mouth.” And another beneath Mrs. Hargrave’s phone receiver saying “I’m watching you!” Buzby puts one on wall above the office clock that says “If I were a food, I’d be a corn dog”, then one on the inside of Thornton’s office door with a small paper sign saying “CHUMP OF THE YEAR”. The last one Buzby places inside Thornton’s desk drawer saying, “Are you having problems with erectile dysfunction?”

When Thornton comes in the next morning, everyone in the office is snickering and there is laughter coming from the break room. Mrs. Hargrave picks up her phone and sees the little face of Thornton with a note, “I am watching you”. She turns to Thornton, and asks him if he is watching her and shows him the the picture and note on her phone. Thornton is utterly confused and storms off to the break room to see why there is laughter.

Thornton bursts into the breakroom and sees the pictures everyone is laughing at, he begins tearing them down and demanding to know who did this. The employees are cowering and shaking their heads no. Thornton storms out of the break room as another employee comes out of the restroom laughing. He makes eye contact with Thornton, who’s mood changes as he flees back to his desk. Thornton goes in the restroom and sees his picture with the words, “The floggings shall continue until moral improves”. He tears it down and leaves to go sulk in his office.

Thornton calls in Mrs. Hargrave who notices the “Chump of the Year” sign on the back of the door as she closes it behind her. Thornton gets up and tears the picture down and throws it in the trash, he sits at his desk and opens the drawer to see his picture with the words, ‘Are you having problems with erectile dysfunction?’ Thornton chokes for a second and remarks in wonder “My God! How could they know that?”, before slamming the drawer shut.

Out in the office, Deesha gets a call from her son’s school demanding she come pick him up as he has been suspended for three days. Deesha knows this is the worst time to ask to leave the office, Thornton is in the worst mood, but she is a single mother and her son always comes first. She steels herself and goes into Thornton’s office as Mrs. Hargrove listens to Thorton plan his revenge against the new janitor. After a threat to her job, Thornton lets her go for the day, but wants her back all the earlier in the morning.

At school, Deesha realizes that the principal is suspending her son instead of the bullies that harassed him. The principal seeming a bit racist and too supportive of, Dirk, the son of the local crime boss, Big Ron. Big Ron and his son have been having their way with everyone in town in one way or another and there is no stopping him. Deesha agrees to the three day suspension, but tells the principal, “My boy needs to understand that adult life for him will be no different than it is now. We all have our bullies and the sooner he learns to deal with them the better. But, if you can’t handle what’s going on here, then maybe we need to talk to your boss about it, all of us, together. We’ll be talking soon.”

Back at the office, it is nearly 4 pm and Thornton is anxiously waiting for the new janitor to come in so he can confront him about the pictures, the fire him. Thornton sticks his head out his office door and yells to Mrs. Hargrave, “Is that damned new janitor here yet?” She tells him the janitor just clocked in and is downstairs in the supply room. Thornton grabs the erectile dysfunction picture and storms downstairs to the supply room. The door is open, so Thornton walks in and sees the new janitor standing there with his back to him, “Are you the one who put this in my drawer!?”

As the new janitor turns around, Thornton finds himself face to face with Buzby. Thornton is shocked and stands frozen. Buzby steps close to Thornton and looks him in the eyes, “You have a woman working for you, her name is Deesha. I don’t like the way you’re treating her. Get off her back, in fact, you’re gonna bend over backwards to be nice to her, real nice. Do you understand? In fact, I want you to start being nice to everyone here, all the people that work for you. You’re such a prick, you fired that old guy that had this job, how’s he going to pay his rent?” Thornton agrees to get off Deesha’s back and rehire the old janitor.

Buzby starts to leave, but pauses, “There’s one more thing. You trapped a cat that belongs to a little girl down the street. You know how much she cried over that? You son-of-a-bitch”. Thornton apologizes and Buzby tells him he bailed out the cat and returned it to the little girl. Before he leaves, Buzby puts his finger in Thornton’s face, “You get off Deesha’s back and no more trapping cats. I hear anything about you making more trouble, and I’ll make you eat a bag of Friskie’s in a clown suit, I’ll put pictures of it all over town. You get me?”. Thornton agrees as Buzby walks out giving his notice, “Oh ya, I quit, I wasn’t planning on doing any work anyway.”

It is 3 am, Thornton is asleep in bed next to Ruby, he is dreaming of walking on a jungle path, it is hot and humid. He comes across a clearing and finds Mrs. Hargrave at her desk, she is dressed in skimpy jungle attire and holding a banana to her ear. She offers it to him “It’s for you.” Thornton cringes at the sight of Mrs. Hargrave and continues until he comes across Deesha trying to put out small fires all over her desk. “These are your fires, Thornton! I keep putting them out and you keep lighting them. You don’t pay me enough for this bullshit. Remember when my husband died? How long have I worked here and you couldn’t remember his name?”

Thornton is shocked by what he sees and turns away only to find his old janitor in a big black kettle on a burning fire. “You put me in hot water, after all these years, you ratbag, son-of-a-bitch. Remember when you looked me in the eye last year and said “Merry Christmas”? Ya, maybe for you, but not me! Look at me now!” Thornton, now terrorized finds himself out in the rain, its night, lightning strikes and his hand is stuck to the trash can again, he sees Buzby standing over him, “This is all you have, Thornton. What good are you to anyone? What shit did you ever give for anyone but yourself? You know what we do with animals like you? We put them to sleep, forever.”

Buzby looks down next to Thornton where a little girl in a muddy white dress holds a syringe with a green liquid in it. She looks at Thornton as the rain falls across her face, showing him a hateful look. She moves the needle close to Thornton’s leg, “Oh my God, No!”. The little girl squints her eyes and moves her face closer, “You trapped my kitty, they would have killed her. Now you’re gonna’ pay”, then she jabs the needle into Thorton’s leg.

Thornton screams and wakes himself up, he is covered with sweat and breathing hard. He turns to Ruby who is now wide awake, “I’ve been doing everything wrong. I’ve become a mean old man. We never really did anything with our money, ya know? What’s it all for, Ruby? Have ever thought about that? What are we supposed to do with this place, all our things when there’s no one to leave it to. No one that would really care. I’ve been doing this all wrong.”

It is getting close to sundown the next day, Buzby and Opal are on their porch relaxing, watching some boys playing football in the street. Deesha and her son, Reggie, are taking a walk on the street and are passing by Buzby’s house. They see Buzby and Opal and waves to them. Buzby stands and invites them up on the porch. Buzby asks Deesha how things are at work, Deesha tells him that Thornton has been very nice, even gave her three days off with pay when Reggie was suspended. She looks behind her to the boys playing in the street and tells Buzby they’re the same ones that have been giving Reggie so much trouble. It is Dirk, Big Ron’s son, and his friends from school.

Deesha tells them Reggie is a good boy, he doesn’t argue or fight. He doesn’t feel like he has to prove himself. He’s a great singer, he isn’t made for sports or football, but football seems to be all that matters in their little town. Deesha asks Reggie to sing for Buzby and Opal, he sings a dark, edgy version of “When You Wish Upon A Star”. Reggie is interrupted when a football thrown by Dirk, hits him in the back, Reggie picks up the ball and throws it back, refusing to let the boys rattle him.

Dirk catches the ball and laughs, “You throw like a little girl!”, the other boys laugh. Reggie answers, “You’re welcome, Dirk”. Dirk gets cocky and threatens Reggie, but Buzby steps in between them. Buzby leans in to Dirk and speaks quietly, “Listen, Dirk the Dork, I know where you sleep. Did you know that? Ya, you and all your little buddies here, I know where all of you sleep and close your little eyes at night, whack your little peckers and dream about girls you’ll never know, never meet”. Buzby looks at other boys and names them off one by one they are shocked that he knows their names. “Isn’t that right? Larry, Carl, Kevin? I hear any more lip from any of you little squeaks, the last thing you’ll see is me standing over your punk asses laughing.” He looks at Dirk, “You’ll be first.”

Dirk and his friends gather themselves and begin to walk down the street on the way to their respective homes, they talk among themselves, Dirk saying “I think we need to pay him a visit and teach him a lesson.” They make a plan to trash Buzby’s house while he is away, Dirk can spot the house from his bedroom window down the street. When he sees Buzby leave, Dirk will call his buddies to meet in front of his house.

The next morning, Buzby and Opal conclude their morning coffee with plans for the day, Buzby is off to the local liquor store for beer and Opal is preparing for tonight’s event, the Barbeque Of Retribution. As Buzby walks into the liquor store, his friend and owner, Arty, is tied up with two guys in suits, leaving Buzby waiting. They are Leonard and Darrel who work for Big Ron, there to collect their cut of Arty’s profits, but Arty doesn’t have it. Buzby can sense what is going on and steps in, paying the bill, “There ya’ go. Twenty Five Hundred bucks. Now you can go home.” Leonard and Darrel don’t like the idea or Buzby, and give Arty a warning before leaving. Arty can’t thank Buzby enough, but Buzby is cryptic, advising Arty that it is doubtful he will ever see Leonard and Darrel again.

When Buzby gets home, Opal is busy hanging sewing thread from the ceiling in a small room. The room is filled with hanging thread, some with small, fake spiders on the ends. There are also fake spiders on the wall and ceiling. Some are stencils and some are plastic. She turns to Buzby “Our very own Room 101”, a reference to the room of terror in the Novel, 1984. Opal is proud of her work and loves her life with Buzby, “Ya’ know, Buzby, all this makes me feel like I am doing something really important, something that is actually going to change things for the better. You’re a good man, Buzby. That’s why I love you.” She kisses him, Buzby holds her and looks around the room, “This is gonna work great. Well, if you’re finished, let’s get ready and head over to Grandpa Bill’s.”

Big Ron sits behind the desk in his office, in front of him are Leonard and Darrel. They sit silently for a time when Big Ron blurts out, “You guys are stupid. Did you ask this guy his name?” They shake their heads no. “You guys get names from now on. Buzby is a war hero who recently moved back to town. He’s been gone a long time. Frankly, I’m surprised to see him back. Either way, Mister Buzby has a surprise coming to him tonight. I’m thinking he’ll get the message and keep his nose out of my business. If he doesn’t, you two will have to arrange for a personal consultation with this guy.” The two men nod their heads in agreement.

Dirk watches from his upstairs window as Buzby and Opal leave their house and begin walking the few houses away to Grandpa Bill’s. Dirk picks up his phone and dials his friends to meet him so they can break into Buzby’s house. “It’s time, call the others, I’ll meet you out front.” The boys meet and take inventory of their equipment, a crow bar to pry open the front door.

Down the street, Buzby and Opal have moved out to the front porch at Grandpa Bill’s house, they pass out the beers and talk about the coming entertainment. Grandpa Bill is especially excited, “This is going to be good. Those little shits got it comin’ to ’em.”

Dirk, Larry, Carl and Kevin walk down the street headed for Buzby’s house, it is dark and there is no one around. They pause out front and Dirk gives them commands, “When we get inside just start smashing or turning over whatever you can. Try and take different rooms, if anything happens, scatter and meet back at my house.” The four boys quickly come up the walk and on to Buzby’s front porch. Larru is cued to pry open the front door, but he finds the front door is unlocked and opens it.

They come inside and close the door and realize the room they are in is empty. There is no furniture or a lights. To their right, in the dark, they see a closed door with the words “INTERVIEW ROOM” on it. Dirk opens the door and the others follow him in. They slink into the room but see there are only four chairs and another door. Dirk steps forward to check the next door, but its locked. As Dirk turns around, the other shuts and locks behind them, they are trapped. The boys begin to panic and try to find a way out, “Look, there’s a window!” They go to the window and pull back the curtains, but there is no window, just the wall.

The boys are unable to kick the door down through which they came. As much as they try, they only wear themselves out and finally take a seat, they are out of breath. Suddenly, a voice from a hidden speaker greats them, it is Uncle Tang, “Good evening, gentlemen. We are ready to begin the interviews for our open position. Let me advise you, there is only one opening, so do your best. Good luck, gentlemen”. The boys are confused and look at each other.

The second door in the room opens, in the doorway stands Uncle Tang in a suit and tie. Behind him is a huge Cambodian man who is dressed in military garb. Uncle Tang calmly introduces himself, “Hello boys, I am your job counselor. I will interview each of you, one by one. The most qualified will be chosen for our opening”. Uncle Tang points to Kevin, “Come with me.”

The large Cambodian man walks into the room and stands in front of Kevin, Kevin looks at the other boys and shakily stands up, looking back as he goes through the door he tells his friends, “Tell my mother what happened to me.” Kevin disappears through the door which shuts and locks, the boys look at each other terrified, “Oh, God! We’re gonna’ die in here!” Larry starts to puke. Kevin becomes emotional, “I don’t what to do! I’m trapped in here the same as you are!”

The boys hear the faint screams of Kevin coming through the walls, they look at each other in silence, too fearful to speak. The door opens once more, it is Uncle Tang with the large Cambodian man, “Mister Carl, you are next.” Carl begs for his life, but Uncle Tang reassures him, “Mister Carl, so dramatic. You will be fine. Don’t worry! Maybe you’ll get lucky and be the one who gets the job, then you can go home!” The large Cambodian man clasps Carl by the upper arm and guides him quietly out of the room.

Down the street, Buzby and Opal are sipping beers with Grandpa Bill, it is a warm quiet night. In the distance and coming closer they can hear Kevin, screaming. Grandma comes out the door as Kevin runs by in his underwear, screaming and arms flailing as if to brush something off himself. They watch Kevin continue down the street and disappear into the night, Grandpa Bill has a laugh, “That was a good one.” Buzby laughs, “Hold on, that’s just the first one.”

Dirk sits alone in the locked room waiting for his turn when the door opens to reveal Uncle Tang and the large Cambodian man, “Young Mister Dirk, you are our last interview for the day. Come this way, please.” Dirk gets up on his own and follows Uncle Tang through the door who takes his place behind a desk. On the wall there is a large old-timey portrait of Colonel Tang with a small Cambodian flag crossed with US flag. Dirk is directed to sit in a chair in front of the desk. The large Cambodian man stands behind Dirk and places his hands on the back of his chair. Dirk sees a closed door to his right that is labeled ‘ROOM 101’.

Dirk tries to get cocky, “How many rooms you got in this place, Mister?” Uncle Tang smiles at Dirk and looks him in the eye, his speech is slow and purposful, “Oh, there are many Mister Dirk. We have many rooms here, all for different purposes. For instance, this room here? Room 101, it is the opening we told you about. It is the only way out of here. You do want to go home, Mister Dirk?” Dirk tries to hide his fear, “Yes, yes, of course I do!”

Uncle Tang lights up with delight, “Very good Mister Dirk, but first, we’d like give you something. You see, you came for something very specific, you came for revenge. Perhaps you’ve changed your mind by now, but still, we don’t want you to leave empty handed. Instead of revenge, we are handing out retribution. Do understand what that is, the difference between revenge and retribution?” Dirk admits he doesn’t know the difference, Uncle Tang enlightens him, “Mister Dirk, it appears the benefits of an American education have eluded you. Retribution is a punishment. A punishment handed out as a form of justice to someone for being unjust. Your presence here is unjust, wouldn’t you say?” Dirk tries to play tough guy, “Hey, look, I am sorry, man, I mean really sorry. It was a mistake, let me go and you’ll never see me again, I promise.”

Uncle Tang reaches behind his desk, “Let me show you something”, he places two large specimen jars on the desk in front of Dirk. One jar contains large spiders, the other a mass of smaller spiders. The spiders are very active and Dirk is repulsed by them, “Oh God, I hate spiders!” Uncle Tang smiles, “Yes, we know. That is what room 101 is all about. Room 101 contains your worst fears, its different for each person, but yours is spiders.” Dirk tries to keep it together and nervously asks, “You mean that room is filled with spiders and I’m supposed to go through there to get out of here?”

Uncle Tang calmly explains the details of Dirk’s coming ordeal, “It’s more complicated than that. You see these big spiders? They are extremely poisonous, they hate humans. They can sense movement and any kind of disturbance in the atmosphere. They can jump up to five feet and their bite is very painful. People usually die within a week of being bitten.” Dirk is terrified as Uncle motions to the jar with smaller spiders, “You see these small ones here? They are devils. They may be small, but they are even more poisonous than the big ones. They jump on you from above, and get under your clothing. They don’t bite right away, but wait until you’re relaxed and no longer fearful. That’s when they strike! There is no remedy for their bite to this day.”

Dirk is horrified as Uncle Tang continues, “You must find the door knob on the other side of the room, once you’re outside, immediately take off your clothes and throw them away from you. Do you understand? There will be someone to hose you down as soon as you’ve undressed. You must keep moving and remove any remaining spiders. If you relax, any that are left will bite, you must run from here as fast as possible. Do you understand?” Dirk nods his head as he stands on shaky legs and edges towards the door to Room 101.

Dirk walks in to Room 101 cautiously as the door shuts behind him. He hears a soft shuffling overhead. There are sounds of little things in the dark, crawling around him. DIRK makes a move towards the other side of the room for the door, and encounters what thinks are spiders webs. Dirk panics and begins to flail about trying to avoid what he thinks are spider webs. Dirk is screaming, he finds the door to freedom, opens it, runs out and begins tearing off his clothes. Two people in hazmat suits start hosing him down, “Oh God, look! He’s covered with them! Hurry, hurry, get that stuff off!”

Dirk is left soaking wet in his underwear, but It is an embarrassing moment because Dirk is wearing women’s underwear, he’s turning and flailing in the water in a total panic. “Run! Now run for your life!”, Dirk takes off down the street screaming and flailing his arms in a desperate effort to save himself from the spiders.

Buzby and Opal watch with Grandpa Bill and Grandma as Carl, then Larry go by screaming in nothing but their underwear, soaking wet and flailing as if they were being attacked by bees. They have a good laugh at each until they see Dirk run by in a panic, wearing a pair of panties. Grandpa Bill squints his eyes, “Well, there goes their ring leader, that little prick. Is he wearing girl’s underwear?” Opal gives Dirk a wolf whistle, Grandpa Bill laughs, “Those damn kids make nothing but trouble. Everyone coddles them because that little shit is the football coach’s favorite, and because of his father. Why I asked you to come back Buzby.”

Buzby takes Opal’s hand, “I know, Bill. I’m glad to be back. I think I’m gonna stay this time.” Grandma smiles at them, “I think being a husband suits you, Buzby. It’s something that’s been waiting for you a long time.” Buzby looks into Opal’s eyes, “If there’s any credit to be given, it goes to Opal. She’s the one that brings it all together for me. Opal, the job you did on Room 101 was enough to make any man fall in love.”

Big Ron is half asleep in front of the tv, his feet up on the coffee table. Dirk, comes bursting through the door in a panic. He’s dancing in circles and doing his best to find any spiders, “Ahhhh! Oh God, God, do you see anything on me!?” At first, Big Ron is surprised and confused, the he notices Dirk is wearing women’s underwear, “I see your wearing your sister’s underwear. What the fuck, Dirk?” Dirk is mortified, he gasps and runs upstairs into the bathroom and starts the shower, gets in and pulls the shower curtain shut. Big Ron comes in sits himself down on the closed toilet, he wants to give his son a break.

Dirk is in the shower breathing hard and beginning to calm down, “That place is full of poisonous spiders, some Asian guy in a suit made me go in this room with full of spiders, it was all fucked up, Dad.” Big Ron is more confused than ever, “Some guy in a suit? What kind of guy was he?”

“Some Cambodian guy, they must have known we were coming, I swear. We got there and the door was open, so we went in. The place was empty! I mean not a stick of furniture anywhere. There was only this door that said interviews, we went in and got trapped by this guy.” Big Ron looks on the floor and sees the panties, but not the expensive sports shoes he bought Dirk the day before. “Where’s the sports shoes I bought you? Those damn things cost me a fortune. Look, Dirk, what’s with the panties?” Big Ron picks up the panties and throws them in the trash.

Leonard and Darrel seat themselves in front of Big Ron’s desk, Big Ron is looking very serious. “Okay, pay attention you guys. Our friend Buzby has stepped over the line. He’s messin’ with my kid, I can’t have that. I need to send a message to this guy so its loud and clear, he needs to stay outa’ my way. I want him to understand that he stays away from my people. I know what he’s here for, and that ain’t gonna’ happen!”

Leonard asks why Buzby is here, but Big Ron avoids the question, “You let me worry about that. I want you to go down there tonight, make sure he’s home first. You guys go in and deliver my message. Make it painfully clear to Mister Buzby who’s in charge here.” Leonard and Darrel assure their boss they will get the job done, as they leave, Big Ron makes a request, “Oh, he has some fancy sports shoes that belong to my boy, gettem’ back.”

It is a bright sunny day and Buzby is walking to the liquor store, he sees up ahead there is a small guy with a bag, two young thugs appear to be harassing him and possibly robbing him. Buzby approaches them, interrupting their abuse of the smaller man, one is holding a knife, “Hey, you little piss warts. You both better start running or you’ll end up as chunky bits in my dog’s dinner.”

The thugs look at each other and tell Buzby to go fuck himself, but Buzby responds, “Then tomorrow, he’s going to shit you both out, I’ll pick up what’s left of you two shit balls with a shovel and toss you both over a fence.” The thug holding the knife becomes enraged, lunging forward he yells, “Die, motherfucker!”

Buzby slips the knife and strikes him in the left side of his neck with his forearm. The man stumbles forward and falls face down. Buzby then kicks the other man in the stomach, who folds in two and begins to choke. Buzby pushes him down and stomps on his right hand, breaking his right hand. “You won’t be wiping your ass with hand hand for a long time.” Buzby then walks over to the unconscious thug and stomps on his right hand, breaking it. Before he leaves, Buzby warns the whimpering thug, “I’m going into that liquor store to buy some booze, if you assholes are here when I come out, I’ll break your legs. If I ever see you again around here, I’ll break your legs. You understand me?” The thug cowers and begs Buzby to let him go.

The man they were robbing is still there, he is an unemployed music teacher named Theo, he is nervous and shaken by his experience. Buzby invites Theo to stay with him, “Why don’t you come back in the store with me, I gotta’ buy a few things, then I’ll walk with you to your house. Okay?”

Buzby goes into the liquor store with Theo where he buys an expensive bottle of cognac and some beer. He asks Theo about his music teaching, but Theo tells him he is out of work since the town’s music store closed. Theo tells Buzby why he’s out of work and what is plaguing their little town, “There’s some big shot around here collects protection from all the local businesses. It started about two years ago. These two guys come in, they say we gotta’ start paying or else. When Mr. Judkins got beat up, he’s the guy owned the music store, well, he started paying. But it killed him. There was no way he could pay them and keep the store open too, so rather than get beat up every month, he closed the store.” As they continue to Theo’s house, Theo talks about teaching children and wishes he had children, he asks Buzby if he has any kids, “No, well, not yet anyway. I just got married a while back. I suspect my wife’s on the outer edge of bearing kids, but it’s something we haven’t discussed.”

They arrive at Theo’s house, Theo turns to Buzby before he goes in, “If you ever have kids, I’d be glad to teach them. You saved my life today, Buzby. I’ve been avoiding those guys for a long time, but they finally caught up with me today.” They shake hands, as Buzby walks home, he imagines what his child might be like, after a few disturbing fantasies, he arrives home.

Opal is in the kitchen mixing a small batch of liquid with crushed pills and some unknown chemicals, she is wearing rubber gloves and humming an early 1980’s rock tune as she works. Holding her final product up to the light for inspection, it is a clear liquid in a plastic squirt bottle. She coats the inside of some drinking glasses with the liquid than sets them on a rack to dry. Buzby walks in from the liquor store and puts his bag on the counter and sees the glasses drying, “Once again, Opal, you are the orchestrator of a special kind of doom.” He smiles and gives her a kiss and looks at her closely, “I was thinking, uh, we may not be able to do things like this if we have kids.”

Opal is surprised, she puts her arms around Buzby, “I still have time, Buzby. I don’t think kids will keep us from anything we want to do. I’ve been thinking about it lately, maybe kids is what we want to do.” Buzby thinks for a moment, “Do you think we’d be good parents?”. Opal laughs, “Probably not. I dunno’, I think we’d be okay, I don’t want to look back someday and wish we had kids, but it’s too late.” Buzby can’t help being concerned about the whole idea, “I just don’t wanna’ create some kind of Frankenstein kid that has no respect or, or knowledge of things.” Opal reassures him, “Tonight is going to be fun, let’s enjoy it while we can. If kids come along, then let ‘em come, as long as I have you.”

It is late that night and Leonard and Darrel are standing in the street next to their car, they are down the street from Busby’s house, watching for any clue that he’s at home. They perk up when they see Buzby come out and light up two large tiki torches on either side of his porch, he then plants a sign in the lawn reading, “WELCOME TO TIKI TIME!”, before walking back into his house leaving the front door open.

Leonard and Darrel look at each other, they think is going to be an easy job, quickly done. They check their weapons and head to Buzby’s front door. They go past the Tiki sign and up the steps of Buzby’s porch, they can hear music playing and see colored lights through the open front door. Curious and confused, Leonard and Darrel come through the front door, the room is highly decorated as if it were a Hawaiian themed nightclub: There is a bar at the opposite end of the room behind which stands Uncle Tang. There are a few tables and chairs and colored lights, their eyes light up when Opal greets them and invites them in, “Gentlemen, come on in. Welcome to Tiki Time!. Would you like a drink? They’re on the house.”

The two men look at each other as if this was their lucky day, but then notice Opal is wearing the expensive sports shoes that Big Ron instructed them to retrieve, “We’re looking for a guy named Buzby, is he here?”. Opal smiles, “Yes! Buzby is here, if you’ll have a seat at the bar, I’ll get him for you.”

Leonard and Darrel walk across the room admiring the décor and take a seat at the bar in front of Uncle Tang, “Welcome gentlemen, this is Tiki Night, it’s a special night when we welcome friends from around the neighborhood for some relaxation and entertainment. Tonight, we are serving something very special.” Uncle Tang shows them the bottle of cognac Buzby bought earlier in the day, “A fine cognac, gentlemen, Three Hundred dollars a bottle, try some, its excellent.” Uncle Tang picks two glasses from those that Opal treated earlier. He puts a bit of crushed ice in each and pours a healthy portion for each man.

Both men take a sip, Leonard is impressed, “Hey! Not bad.” Uncle Tang pours them another, “It is a favorite among South East Asians”. Leonard’s attitude suddenly changes, “What the fuck do I care, why don’t you just shut up, take your scrawny ass and get Buzby out here”.

Uncle Tang sets the bottle on the bar, “As you wish gentlemen, help yourselves”, then walks away. Leonard picks up the bottle and tries to read the label, but his vision is becoming fuzzy, he looks at Darrel who has a wide eyed, fixed gaze. Leonard realizes the have been drugged just before he passes out.

Buzby and Opal are driving through the California desert in a small moving van, it is a beautiful day. They are on the way to visit Sgt. Roy, Buzby’s cousin. Opal looks out on the desert, she likes coming to see Sgt. Roy, but wouldn’t want to live in the desert. Buzby agrees, “Sergeant Roy is a cool guy. When we got back from the war, there was nothing for us, so we made our own way. We’re both good at what we do. I do what I do and Sergeant Roy fixes things.”

Sgt. Roy is sitting out in back of the gas station in the heat. He’s smoking a cigarette and sweating, he’s dressed in a gas station attendant’s uniform, a name patch reads “SGT. ROY”, he is gazing out into the desert and thinking.

Out in the distance, through the heat, he eyes a roof to a structure. It is oddly shaped and seems out of place. He hears a customer pull up to the pump at the front of the station, Sgt. Roy gets up and goes inside. The scene is similar to the desert gas station scenario in “No Country for Old Men”. A large man comes in to pay for his gas, He’s a big guy with dark hair. Sgt. Roy is behind the counter.

“What’s the most you’ve ever lost in a coin toss?”, Sgt. Roy laughs, “Let me see, the last guy that asked me that lost a quarter up his ass.” Now the big guy is angry and reaches for a gun tucked in his belt behind him, but he is stopped by a huge Japanese man. This Sumo Man is massive and grabs the man’s arm with his right hand, wraps his left arm around his throat, choking him. The would be bully is shocked and unable to fight back. Sgt. Roy comes from behind the counter and taunts the man while taking his gun, “We been waitin’ fer you. Take him to the tank.” Sumo Man lifts the bully off his feet and chokes him as he takes him into the back of the store.

In a large office, brightly lit, with desks arranged in rows, there is an isle down the middle. There are men at each desk, the men are dressed in various ways, suits and ties, work clothes, pajamas. They are reading books, looking at magazines, writing or just staring. At a desk at the head of the room are two Asian men in white smocks, one is putting medications into numerous cups on a tray the other pouring water into small cups next to him. The scene is similar to the office in the movie “Seconds”, with Rock Hudson.

The door at the end of the isle opens, the bully from the gas station enters escorted by the Sumo Man. They come down the isle to an empty desk, Sumo Man points to it, “This one is yours.” The bully is wearing a gas station shirt with the name “Lyle” on it, he slowly sits down. The Sumo Man takes a position at the side of the room as one of the Asian men in white begins going down the rows of desks handing out medication which the men readily take.

The door at the end of the aisle opens, the bully from the gas station enters escorted by the Sumo Man. They come down the aisle to an empty desk, Sumo Man points to it, “This one is yours.” The bully is wearing a gas station shirt with the name “Lyle” on it, he slowly sits down. The Sumo Man takes a position at the side of the room as one of the Asian men in white begins going down the rows of desks handing out medication which the men readily take.

Lyle notices the man in front of him has turned around and is staring at him with a shit-eating grin. Lyle says nothing and tries to ignore him. The Asian man with the pills stops in front of the man who is staring who takes the pills, then quickly turns back to Lyle, he speaks in a low voice, “It’s me! Charlie!”

After a moment, Lyle recognizes him, “What are you doing here?” Charlie whispers, “The same as you, waiting.” Charlie explains how things work, “Well, depending on what you get, like say you get Happy Birthday, it costs a lot to set up those things and they want to make sure they make their money back.” Lyle becomes impatient, “What the hell is Happy Birthday?”

A loud buzzer sounds and a medical attendant walks in through the door at the back of the room. “Mr. Carlson, please.” Charlie slowly rises and becomes emotional, he is overjoyed, he looks at Lyle with a big grin, “I think you’re gonna’ be okay.” As they leave, the medical attendant announces his apologies, “Sorry to disappoint the rest of you, perhaps tomorrow.” When Lyle turns back to his desk he finds a small bag of chips and a can of soda placed there by one of the Asian men in white who asks him “Would you like a book?”

Buzby and Opal pull up to Sgt. Roy’s gas station, when they open the back of the moving van, Leonard and Darrel struggle to awaken, they are disheveled and dirty. Armed with a cattle prod, Buzby guides them into the store where they find Sgt. Roy behind the counter. After Sgt. Roy inspects their teeth, he is pleased, “They look good. You always bring me something good, Buzby. That’s why I always take good care of you, and now that you’ve got a wife, you gotta’ keep it comin’! Right?” He hands Buzby a lunch bag full of hundred dollar bills, “I hear you’re hunting big game.”

Buzby motions the cattle prod as he looks at Leonard and Darrel, who look very worried, “Big game named Big Ron. He’s run his course and is on his way out. These two? They’re his, when they don’t come back, he’ll come looking himself, he want’s his kid’s shoes back”. Buzby points to the shoes Opal is wearing, She obligingly shows them off to Sgt. Roy.

Back in the tank, Lyle is at his desk with the other men, he’s passing the time reading the paper and munching on potato chips. He notices an article about a murderer being sought by police. Lyle smiles to himself and looks around the room full of men, “They’ll never find me here, that’s for damn sure.” Suddenly, the door at the end of the room opens, Sumo Man is guiding Leonard and Darrel to their assigned seats next to each other, they look bewildered and confused.

Before they are seated, a medical attendant stops them, “Welcome, gentlemen. I would offer you a book, but I don’t think you two will be here that long. Isn’t that wonderful? You’ve been chosen by one of our special partners and he is anticipating a very exciting outcome.” Leonard looks at Darrel, “I, I don’t understand what this is.”

The attendant reassures them, “No need to worry about that. We’re going to take good care of you!” He offers them the tray of medications and punch, “Meds? They take the edge off, try it.” Leonard and Darrel take the meds and sit quietly while the medical attendant makes his way around the room. Lyle is craning his neck to get a good look at them. As they look around, they see Lyle and recognize them. Darrel remembers him well, ” That’s the guy we hustled about a month ago, he was the one looking for that snitch they found dead a few days ago. I wonder if he ever figured out we were the ones who ratted him out.” Lyle suddenly gets up out his chair and moves toward Leonard and Darrel, but Lyle stops when Sumo Man, standing nearby, taps a cattle prod against the wall. Sumo Man points to the Lyle’s chair with a grim expression and Lyle begrudgingly sits back down.

“Good morning everyone, Mister Wint and Mister Kidd. This way please”. Leonard and Darrel look at each other and hesitate, they look at the attendant, but don’t move. Sumo Man walks over and stands over them with a menacing look, they slowly get up and go with the attendant. Lyle glares at them as they pass his desk.

Sumo Man brings Leonard and Darrel into a room with bright lights and an audience which applauds as they enter. The audience is mostly obscured by the dark, many appear to be well dressed foreigners or rich hippie types. On the stage is a large, numbered wheel of fortune. It is colorful and numbered 1 through 60. Next to it is a large file cabinet and an announcer with a microphone. Sumo Man places Leonard and Darrel next to the wheel and stands behind them, the announcer motions the audience to settles down.

“Ladies and gentlemen, tonight we offer you a rare chance, something we don’t come across very often, so pay close attention.” The audience stops speaking among themselves and listens. “These two fine specimens have just arrived and already have a sponsor. Thank you, Mr. Predoza!” Everyone cheers as stands up to take a bow, Mr. Pedroza is a round faced, sweaty little man with dirty glasses and well combed, dirty hair. He has a thin moustache and is wearing a dingy white suit. He bows to those around him and sits down.

“Well, boys, this is it, good luck to you both.” He spins the wheel and it lands on number 45, he then goes to the file cabinet and opens the middle drawer, pulls out a folder numbered 45. “Here, gentlemen, in my hand, I hold your future. Here we go!” He opens the folder holding a single sheet of paper with printing saying only ‘IT’S A GIRL’. “Congratulations, Mister Predoza, it’s twin girls!” The audience explodes as Mr. Pedroza raises is hands, takes another bow and starts handing out cigars. The announcer shakes Leonard and Darrel’s hands, “Welcome to your new lives, I’m sure you’ll be okay.” Darrel starts to panic, “What new lives?” The announcer is confused by their question, “Your new lives as girls! But first, to the branding room!” Sumo Man puts his hands on Leonard and Darrel’s shoulders and guides them away.

They soon enter a dark, fire lit shack. There is a furnace with the handles of iron brands sticking out. A blacksmith waiting for them, he is wearing thick gloves and a blacksmiths apron. There are several big men standing nearby in work clothes. The blacksmith asks them to have a seat and pumps up his furnace th at belches sparks and heat. “You, know, you’re both very lucky, ‘It’s A Girl’ is one of the few penalties where you don’t die, well at least not on purpose. Would you gentlemen be so kind as to lay face down on the table?”

The two large men grab Leonard and slam him on the table face down and strap him in as he struggles. The blacksmith comes to the head of the table, bends down and looks Leonard in the eye. “This won’t take long.” Leonard is panicking, “Jesus! What are you going to do to me!?” The blacksmith grins and with two fingers make a cutting motion like scissors, “Snip, snip!”

Darrel tries to run but the two large men grab him as Leonard starts screaming. A third large man puts a ball gag in Leonard’s mouth as the blacksmith removes one of the red hot brands from the furnace. The brand is the letters ‘BITCH’. He shows it to Leonard who thrashes about as his pants are yanked down and the hot iron sears the skin on his left butt cheek. Leonard’s muffled screams amuse the two large men, Darrel is near collapse.

Big Ron is on the phone to Guy Pierson, the man who runs gambling in the entire region, “Look, Mr. Pierson, I’m all alone out here now, Leonard and Darrel are nowhere to be found, I’ve got no one here to back me up.”

Guy Pierson is fed up with Big Ron, “Look, Ron, you’ve been out of bounds for a long time. We said there’d be no running protection there, and that’s what you’re doing. You set yourself up, these are the consequences.” Big Ron continues to complain, “So what does that mean? You’re not going to do anything? That protection racket was earning big time until my boys disappeared. Now I’m dead in the water and asking you for some help here.”

Guy Pierson is through with Big Ron, “I told you no protection, Ron. You violated our agreement, why would I assist you? If you’re having problems down there, you solve ’em yourself. Guy hangs up leaving Big Ron in a nasty mood, “I’m gonna’ kill that son of a bitch myself!”

That night, Big Ron finds himself standing in the street in front of Buzby’s house, he is very angry, checks his gun and begins walking up to Buzby’s door. He knocks with no answer, then begins to pound. the door slowly opens to reveal Uncle Tang. Big Ron looks him up and down with disgust and makes a racist remark, “Aw, geez, we’re being invaded. Where’s Buzby?” Uncle Tang invites him in, “Buzby, yes, I will get him for you. Won’t you please come in?”

Big Ron feels like he’s getting somewhere and confidently steps through the door which is shut behind him. Big Ron finds himself in the middle of Two Large Asian men who hold him and take his gun. There is a recording playing of people cheering, the room appears to be prepared for a sumo tournament with a rudimentary audience painted on the walls, Japanese decor abounds.

Uncle Tang welcome’s him, “Welcome to Sumo Night, Mister Ron.” Big Ron is cocky and laughs, “Its daytime.” Uncle Tang motions to the fake audience, “Not in here, Mister Ron. Tonight we have a special feature, a bout between two longtime rivals who, so far, have an even score against each other!”

Two Sumo wrestlers enter the room and take places facing each other in the center of the room. Uncle Tang introduces them to the audience, “Are you ready? Then let me present, from Kyoto, weighing in at three hundred and eightythree pounds, Ōkinaoshiri!” The audience cheers through a set of speakers. “Next, let me present, from Nagasaki, weighing in at three hundred, ninety pounds, Futottatori!”

The fake audience cheers as Big Ron is lead to the center of the room between the Sumo wrestlers. Uncle Tang continues, “In Sumo, there is a tradition of throwing salt into the ring in order to chase away evil spirits.” Both Sumo wrestlers grab a large handful of damp salt from a box next to them and throws it at Big Ron, covering him in salt. Big Ron spits and brushes himself off, “What the hell is this? You fucks are gonna’ pay for this!”

The two wrestlers charge each other and collide with Big Ron in the middle. Big Ron is being crushed as they fight and is held up only by the pressure of the two wrestlers against each other. The wrestlers begin slapping Big Ron and pushing him back and forth into each other in a mock wrestling bout. Big Ron finally ends up on his back, bruised and dirty. Uncle Tang stoops over him, “You lose this one, Mister Ron, Siyonara.”

The two large Asian men grab Big Ron off the floor and toss him outside onto Buzby’s porch. One of them gives Big Ron a push off the porch with his foot, who tumbles down to the front walk and groans, he picks himself up and slowly begins to limp away, “Awww, fuck. I’ll get you guys for this, fuckin’ bastards.”

Big Ron drives to Guy Pierson’s Cowboy Bar in a desperate attempt to get some help in his personal war with Buzby, but narrowly escapes with his life. Big Ron heads back to his office and locates another gun before he goes back to Buzby’s house.

Buzby is working in the front yard as Opal watches from the porch. She is sipping beer from a bottle in her hand. Buzby has just finished pounding in two stakes on either side of the walkway leading up to the porch and is stringing trip wire between them, “There we go, this should slow down any freaks and geeks. Now all we do is sit and wait.” Buzby plucks at the wire, it makes a twang, “I use to make these when I was a kid. Use myself as bait, then wait. Works every time.”

Buzby walks inside as Opal looks down the street and sees Big Ron down the street, headed towards their house. When Buzby comes back out, he has a beer in his right hand, his left hand is behind him holding a pistol with a silencer attached. Opal is calm and collected, “Here he comes.” Buzby watches Big Ron as he approaches, “A little sooner than I expected, when he hits the cement, that’s when we move in.”

Big Ron approaches the house cursing, swearing, dirty and beat up, he comes up the walkway and begins to reach for his gun. Opal quickly throws her beer bottle and hits Big Ron in the forehead, he stumbles forward and trips on the wire falling face first into the cement, his gun falls away from him, he is out cold. Buzby laughs, “Damn! That was a great shot, baby! Holy shit, right in the head. I bet that hurt.” Opal acts as if that was not the first beer bottle she has thrown, “Fuck yes, you know it hurt.” They take a close look at Big Ron, Buzby gives him a push with his foot, “Well, let’s get this piece of garbage into the van.”

Buzby and Opal are, once again, driving their moving van through the desert on a clear, beautiful day. In the back of the van is Big Ron is tied up in the back. Opal starts to talk about kids, “I was kinda’ thinking that if we’re not gonna’ have kids, you know, I could get some chickens. Placate any maternal instincts that might come to haunt me.”

“Look, Opal, you can change your mind. You’re not too old yet to have a baby. If that’s the kind of thing you wanna’ do, then I’ll support it. You think about it and be truthful with me, okay?” Opal smiles and takes Buzby’s hand, she feels comforted and reassured. Buzby smiles, “I’ve heard it said, there’s nothing like having kids and paying someone else to raise them. I mean, we can bring in some help, let them do the heavy lifting.”

Sgt. Roy sits alone in front of his gas station on an old car seat. He is smoking a cigarette and gazing at the highway off in the distance. The thermometer nearby reads 117 degrees, the sound of a motorcycle going by cues a memory: A young Sgt. Roy pulls up to the gas station on a motorcycle, the old gas station looks clean and new. He is wearing a military uniform underneath his leather jacket, which he removes before going in. Out in front of the counter is a plump older man holding a clipboard and is checking inventory. He looks up when Sgt. Roy walks in.

The plump man is surprised and is unnerved, “Well, holy Jesus, they told us you were dead!” Sgt. Roy is angry, “Ya, well I ain’t dead, Chester. Here I am. I come to take my store back. You’re through.” Chester is defiant, he lowers his clipboard and stand his ground, “No, Roy. You can’t make me go. I’ve been taking care of this place the whole time you’ve been gone, you’re not giving me any credit for that. I’m staying, Roy. I’m staying.” Sgt. Roy comes very close to Chester, “Okay, Chester, you can stay, forever.”

The young Sgt. Roy is operating a backhoe, digging a long narrow hole. He finishes, comes to the side of the hole where a dead Chester is rolled into the hole, “There ya’ go Chester, like I said, you can stay as long as you like!” He laughs as he gets on the backhoe and begins to cover Chester.

The old Sgt. Roy returns from his reminiscing, he is still sitting in front of the gas station. The desert is beautiful, and empty, Sgt. Roy is happy in his thoughts. Buzby and Opal pull up in their moving van, stop and get out, Sgt. Roy stands and greets them, “Hey! Good to see you again. You got the big fish this time, right?” Buzby opens the back doors to the van, there sits Big Ron with his right wrist tied to his left ankle and left wrist tied to the right ankle. He’s groggy, battered, dusty and smelly. “I tied him like that so he’d have to smell his own farts, he’s all yours.”

Inside the blacksmith’s shop the light is dim, it is hot and the sound of the bellows’ heavy breathing signals that branding time is very close. Big Ron stands in front of two large Asian men as Sgt. Roy comes in and stands in front of him, “You don’t remember, me do you?”

Big Ron is confused, he looks carefully at Sgt. Roy, “No, I don’t know you mister, I’ve never seen you before.” Sgt. Roy reminds him, “You’ve forgotten. It was a long time ago. You robbed a gas station in Fresno. You shot a guy while doing it. Remember?”

Big Ron blurts, “I had nothing to do with that, besides, it was a long time ago.” Sgt. Roy steps closer, “I was there, don’t you lie to me. You were there, I was there. So was my brother, the one you shot? That was my brother.” Big Ron freezes up as he begins to recognize Sgt. Roy. Big Ron flashes back to the robbery:

A young Big Ron is holding a gun on a young Sgt. Roy and his brother, Ed. “Just give me the money and don’t get cocky!” Ed hands him a paper sack full of cash. Big Ron snatches it away, at that moment, Ed’s Asian wife comes into the store from the back. She sees what’s going on and freezes. Big Ron sees her and points his gun at her, “I fucking hate gooks!” Ed steps in front of his wife as Big Ron fires, Ed falls dead in the arms of his wife. Sgt. Roy sees Big Ron turn and run out of the gas station.

Back in the blacksmith’s shack, Sgt. Roy takes a step closer to Big Ron, “I’ve been waiting a long time for this. We’ve got something very special planned for you. Okay, boys.” Sgt. Roy stands aside while the two large Asian men grab Big Ron and hold him down over the edge of a large wooden table. They yank down his pants, the blacksmith withdraws a branding tool from the fire and pushes it into the left bun of a screaming Big Ron, the brand reads ‘PATHETIC’.

Lyle is at his desk in the tank, reading a magazine. A medical attendant is handing out meds with a cup of water on a tray and stops in front of Lyle’s desk. Lyle thinks for a moment, then takes the meds and continues reading. A loud buzzer sounds and a attendant comes through the back door. Lyle turns and their eyes meet, he points at Lyle, “This is your lucky day!” Lyle looks at Sumo Man standing guard near the wall who motions with his head to get going. Lyle stands slowly and leaves with the medical attendant, “Sorry, gentlemen, that’s all for today. Perhaps tomorrow.”

The wheel of misfortune is spinning, Lyle watches while Uncle Tang stands by with two large men, the audience silently looks on. There is whispering among the audience as the wheel stops on 32. Uncle Tang goes to the file cabinet and pulls out a folder numbered 32 and opens it, “This is really a very special day. We have not had one in a while, so we are very happy to wish you a HAPPY BIRTHDAY!”

The audience stands and cheers, they talk amongst each other as Lyle is taken away. Uncle Tang quiets the audience, “Okay, quiet, quiet. Everyone can place their bets starting today. you know how it works, wherever the head lands, that’s the winner.”

At Deesha’s house, her son Reggie is relaxing on the couch, sees an ad in the paper, the music store in San Bernardino is having a talent contest, the winner gets a trip to Hollywood and a chance to perform on television. Reggie takes the ad to his mother who is at her kitchen counter preparing a meal, “I wanna’ go to this. Mom.” Deesha sees there is an entry fee she cannot afford, but promises she’ll ask her boss, Thornton, for an advance so Reggie can make the deadline for entering the contest.

The next day, Deesha is in Thornton’s office, “I think you know my song can sing, I mean he can really sing. He wants to go to this contest, but I would need an advance on my pay or some kind of loan to sign him up in time. I was wondering if there was any way,…” Thornton holds up a hand to stop her “Deesha, don’t worry about it. You let me take care of this. Your son deserves it and so do you. You’re a good employee and you deserve this. Deesha is surprised, she feels a sense of relief and satisfaction, “Thank you, Mr. Kean.”

Buzby is walking to the liquor store, it is a hot, beautiful day. He passes an empty lot with a big tree, underneath the tree sits Mystic Bob, he’s a homeless veteran that Buzby has known for many years. Next to him is a small sign reading ‘MYSTIC BOB – FORTUNES TOLD’. Some people are speaking to him, they hand him a bit of cash and walk away. BUZBY comes over as Mystic Bob is counting his cash, he looks up at Buzby, “Buzby, you been following me?”

Buzby laughs, “No, Bob, we just seem to end up in the same places.” Mystic Bob scratches himself, “Why they call me Mystic Bob. It’s mystical, ain’t it. I heard you got married”. Buzby is curious, “Who’d you hear that from, Bob?”

“I got the voices, man, I hear things, why they call me Mystic Bob.” Buzby asks him if he’s still sleeping outdoors, “You know me. I got to be able to see the stars at night. They speak to me, they say freedom, they say freedom.” Mystic Bob looks Buzby hard in the eyes.

Buzby puts his hand on Mystic Bob’s shoulder, “Hey, man, relax, take it easy. You’re not going anywhere. I was just checking in on you, see if you were okay.” Buzby reaches in his pocket and hands Mystic Bob some money, their hands touch, as they do Mstic Bob’s demeanor changes. He looks Buzby in the eye, he speaks clearly with no emotion. “Be a father, Buzby. Your woman is ready, your time is now, your time is now.”

When Buzby comes to the counter at the liquor store, Arty mentions that Buzby was right, he hasn’t seen Leonard or Darrel for a long time.

Leonard and Darrel enter the blacksmith’s shack, they are dressed as women wearing short skirts, crop tops and fish nets. Leonard has high heels and Darrel is wearing flats. Big Ron and Lyle have just been branded and are secured backwards in chairs so their butts can heal. Big Ron is groggy, he looks up to see Leonard and Darrel standing in front of him.

Leonard greets Big Ron, “Hi Big Ron, it’s good to see you!” Big Ron can’t believe his eyes, “My God, is that you, Leonard?” Leonard struts around showing off his new look, “It is, Ron. This is the new me, they changed me into a girl. They’re still healing but look!” Leonard and Darrel open their tops, they have breast implants and the surgery is still healing. “I’m a thirty-eight double D, Darrel is only a thirty-six.”

Big Ron is repulsed, “That’s disgusting, did they cut off your dicks, too?” Leonard lifts his skirt and pulls back a pair of panties he’s wearing to reveal stitches where is balls were. “Just our balls, Big Ron, it was liberating.” Lyle is horrified and Big Ron is sickened by what he sees and becomes belligerent, “You two never had balls anyway. I don’t know why I ever hired you two.”

Leonard becomes defiant, “Listen Ron, I have more balls now that I have no balls than I ever did when I had balls. You get me?” Lyle puts in his two cents, “You two are a couple of sick fucks.” Leonard laughs at him, “Be as cocky as you like, you two are slated for some real fun. Mister ugly ass here got ‘Happy Birthday’, and you, Big Ron, your gonna’ do ‘Roll Out The Barrel’.”

Big Ron changes his attitude, “What’s ‘Roll Out The Barrel’?” Leonard fills him in, “You run on the feed belt for the rock crusher. Everyone bets on how long you’ll last. You in good shape, Ron?” Then Lyle asks “What’s ‘Happy Bithday’?” Darrel rolls his eyes, “Oh hoho, now that’s everyone’s favorite. In a nutshell, they go out in the desert and dig a big pit, put you in it, then blow off your head. Everyone bets on where it will land, when it’s over, they just fill in the pit and it’s like you were never here.”

The theater is filled with bettors anxious to place bets for the upcoming ‘Happy Birthday’. In the audience there are some at a desk on phones betting for their overseas employers who are listening in. On the stage are Leonard and Darrel next to a model version of the ‘Happy Birthday” layout in the desert. The announcer enters and motions the audience to be quiet, “Now, you all know how this works. It’s one thousand dollars minimum bet. The largest piece of the cake gets a ten percent return, the smallest doubles their money. Remember to respect your fellow players, It’s first come first serve. Begin!” Leonard and Darrel begin taking bets as the audience surges forward.

In the blacksmith’s shack, Lyle has been built into a large wooden box, his head sticks out the top. Two husky women dressed as carpenters are finishing up, nailing the final pieces in place. One gets on top of the box and places an aluminum air conditioning flange around Lyle’s neck and nails it down. Lyle has a ball gag in his mouth as ge gets his head shaved then painted bright red. The big box is painted with bizarre stick figures and birthday wishes and the title “BOOM BOX’, each side of the box has a hole with a fuse coming out. One of the women turns to the other, “He looks ready to me!”

Out in the desert, Lyle is in the pit, around his head are burning sparkler candles attached to the fuses going into the sides of the box. In the background is the audience singing the happy birthday song, they are together in a watching area away from the coming explosion. Lyle is struggling within the box to free himself as the fuses burn, he is almost ready to free himself when the box explodes, sending his brightly colored head into the air. The audience is in silence as the head starts to fall, it plops down in the section marked 100.

Everyone runs to see the head but one, it is Buzby. Sgt Roy walks up beside him, “Congratulations, so how much did you put on One Hundred.” Buzby smiles, “Five grand, that means I’m going home with ten. That’s a nice haul. And it included entertainment.” Sgt. Roy gives Buzby a pat on the back, they watch members of the audience quibble over the head in the distance.

In a large factory room, a conveyor belt surrounded by plexiglass on either side, is running full tilt, the conveyor belt leads to a huge turning stone shaped like a barrel. Big Ron is running on the conveyor belt, doing his best not to trip on the occasional rocks thrown in front of him. As the rocks hit the crusher they pop and send shrapnel his way. On the wall ahead of Big Ron is a huge countdown clock, it is coming up to one minute.

People in the audience around the conveyor belt are talking loud and making bets as each second goes by. Big Ron is huffing and puffing, he’s getting tired and beginning to panic and making odd sounds. Buzby stands motionless next to the plexiglass where Big Ron can see him watching, Buzby points to the clock as it reaches one minute and gives Big Ron a thumb’s up. Big Ron finally slips and falls face down on the conveyor, Buzby watches as he goes through the crusher. The audience reacts, some happy, some disappointed.

Reggie is at a singing lesson, his mother looks on as Reggie finishes his last song. The instructor gives her advice before they go home, “Make sure he gets lots of rest and shows up on time. You know, ninety-nine percent of success is showing up on time. I’ll see you guys there.”

Deesha thanks the instructor for his patience and great instruction, “I can’t tell you how much it means to me to have a student like Reggie. It’s really a gift to teach a kid like him, he’s the type you never forget and always wonder about after they’ve grown and gone. Sometimes I imagine one day I’ll see him in the paper, performing at a concert or on tv. That would be nice.”

Opal is reading a magazine article about choosing a baby’s name, she stops and contemplates one of them. She looks at the magazine and mumbles to herself, “These are awful, I don’t like any of these.” Opal looks up and sees Ruby Kean standing at the edge of the yard with a pie in her hands. Opal stands up, she’s puzzled by what she sees. “Hello Misses Kean. Wathcha’ got there.” Ruby steps closer, “Well, I made you an apple pie, I thought maybe we could talk a minute.”

“I wanted to thank you and your husband. Whatever he did with Thornton has made him a new man. He’s like he was when we were young, thoughtful and caring.” Ruby glances at the magazine and sees the cover about baby names. “When we were still young enough to have children. Something that never happened. I can’t say why.”

Opal moves a newspaper over the magazine, “I thought maybe you guys had grown kids that lived somewhere else.”

“No. I think we got too involved in success and ourselves. I kept putting it off, put it off so long that the time was gone, as if I had done it to myself on purpose. Now when I sit by myself and think, I realize I have nothing, nothing that’s really lasting.” Ruby looks Opal in the eyes, “With all that Thornton and I have, we have no one to leave it to. No one to look at and say, this child is part of me, passing into the future. Instead, I have furniture and dusty mementos of a time and people long gone. Opal, if you can have children, have them. I don’t think you want to end up like me, looking at the ceiling in the middle of the night, wondering what kind of mother I might have been, what my life might be like now.”

Opal smiles sparingly, “You’re scaring me, Ruby.” Ruby laughs, “You’ll make a great mother, I hope you like the pie. If you ever need anything, you remember, I’m right next door.” Opal watches as Ruby gets up and walks back to her house.

It is the day of the music contest in San Bernardino, the old civic auditorium is full of contestants and their supporters. Three judges sit and cringe as they watch a young girl finish a horrible rendition of ‘Tomorrow’, from the musical ‘Annie’. As the girl bows, her mother stands and claps excitedly, everyone else is silent. Buzby and Opal are in the audience sitting with Deesha, Vince, Reggie’s voice coach, Thornton and Ruby. They are all there to see Reggie sing and hopefully win.

The announcer comes on stage, “Thank you Miss Haversham. For our next contestant, we have Reggie Darwell! He will sing his version of ‘Put On A Happy Face”. Here he is, Reggie! Reggie takes the stage and bows, he is holding a microphone attached to a cord and speaks in a serious but subdued voice, “Hello everyone, this is a song I like to sing when things aren’t going my way, or when I start to lose hope. I want to sing it for you today.”

The cute old church lady at the piano plays a short introduction before Reggie sings an edgy version of ‘Put On A Happy Face’ from the musical ‘Bye Bye Birdie”. The audience watches curiously, the rendition seems more mature than Reggie’s years and a bit bipolar. When he is done there is quiet, Buzby, Opal and Deesha begin to clap followed by Vince, Thornton and Ruby, the rest of the audience seems confused and give only a mild applause.

Reggie bows and exits the stage as the judges haggle.The stage now has all the contestants shoulder to shoulder creating a menagerie of humanity with odd shapes and sizes andstrange costumes. In the middle stands Reggie as the announcer comes out and stands in front of them, “Okay everyone, this is the moment you’ve all been waiting for, who will win the trip to Hollywood and a chance to perform on television! “The audience has no reaction other than Miss Haversham’s mother who applauds as loud as she can.

The announcer opens an envelope and reads its contents, “The winner is, Julia Bentworth of San Bernardino with her dance of the magic pillows! Congratulations, Julia!” A girl with long dark hair, wearing a bikini and holding two pillows jumps and cheers, Reggie crinkles his nose in disgust. Buzby is disappointed, “I don’t get it.” Thornton is partial to the girl in the bikini, “The judges have an eye for talent, but the wrong kind.” Ruby protests, but looks at the girl again, “Well, maybe you’re right.”

Buzby, Opal, Deesha, Thornton, Ruby and Vince the voice coach wait outside for Reggie, he comes out and they congratulate him, especially Thornton, “Hey, kid! I thought you were terrific!” Buzby has a new kind of respect for Reggie, “You were the best.” His mother, Deesha is emotional and proud, “Reggie, my heart melts when I watch you. I am so proud of you, I don’t care what happens here. You’ll go to Hollywood because you have talent, not because you won some contest out here in the desert.

Reggie blushes at his mother’s words, “Mr. Kean, I want to thank you for getting me this far. I’m sorry I didn’t win, but I’m still glad I came. It felt good singing on a real stage.” Thornton is touched, “Reggie, you’re a blessing to us all, you keep singing and I will always do what I can to help you.” Reggie smiles then turns and whispers to his mother, “I’m gonna’ go back inside for a minute, I really gotta’ go.”

As Reggie comes out of the restroom, a large man in a dark suit and tie stops him, “Are you Reggie Darwell?” Reggie freezes and senses he’s in trouble, “What did I do?” The large man laughs, “You sang in there, right?” Reggie is confused, “Is there a law against singing around here?” The big man puts his hand on Reggie’s shoulder, “Where’s your mother, kid?”

Reggie and the large man walk up to all that are waiting for him. Deesha sees the large man with Reggie and looks upset, especially when she sees the look on her son’s face. The large man stops in front of Deesha, Are you this young man’s mother? Deesha is ready to battle for her son, “My son hasn’t done anything wrong!”

The large man laughs, “I’m not a cop, my name’s Burton Lamont, here’s my card. I work for NBC, I’d like you to come to Los Angeles and record a demo. Your son’s a minor, so in order to do that, I need you to come in and sign any contracts so we have permission to record your son.”

Deesha takes the card, Reggie comes to her side to read it too. “This looks real.” Burton reassures her, “Oh ya, its real. You call me at that number tomorrow and we’ll set up a time for you to come in. What do you think? Deesha is still in disbelief, “Mister, I don’t know what to think, but I’ll call you rain or shine.”

Everyone is stunned, Burton shakes Reggie’s hand before leaving, “Okay, I’ll be waiting. Good job, Reggie, you were great.”

Out in the desert, out behind Sgt. Roy’s gas station, Leonard and Darrel are dancing atop a large wooden boom box painted and decorated for ‘HAPPY BIRTHDAY’. Thumping nightclub music plays. A man’s head sticks out of the top of the box and is painted bright read, the crowd begins to pumping their fists and chanting “Happy birthday! Happy birthday! Happy birthday!…”

Leonard looks at Darrel and yells over the music, ‘We are so damn lucky!” Darrel smiles and nods his head in agreement. At the back of the room stands Sgt. Roy who is silently watching the celebration. After a few moments, turns and leaves the party.

The gas station is closed, Sgt. Roy comes out in front and sits in the old car chair. He lights a cigarette and watches the highway in the distance. It’s a dark night, the passing lights and sounds of a motorcycle in the distance have a lonely kind of feeling. Sgt. Roy is content, his face is illuminated as he takes a drag of his cigarette. He looks up into the night sky, it is vast and full of stars. He sees a shooting star and says quietly to himself, “Freedom.”



© 2023 Jim Caron

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