All the necessary permissions have been freely granted and accepted.
Today was a pretty common day for me. Waking up at the "Crack of Noon" on one of the few days off I had, with no real plans other than to avoid work at all costs. I normally just lie in bed and stare at the ceiling before dragging my lazy butt out from beneath the warm covers. I suppose it could be my own way of protesting a hard work week, or maybe I'm just simply lazy. Once the life returns a bit to my body, I'll throw on an old pair of sweat pants, T-shirt and an old pair of slippers and venture down to the kitchen to start the first pot of coffee and get the morning bathroom rituals out of the way. Then I plant myself in a chair, flip on the news and get some seriously needed caffeine into my system.
Today was no different than the rest, with one exception. I planned to get out and not waste one more day off, sitting around the house. I have no real plans but, once behind the wheel of my little truck, I'll think of a place to drive. Hopefully away from it all, even if it's only for a few hours.
After catching the weather, I shut the TV off and refilled my coffee mug just in time to have my cell phone startled me. The caller ID display showed that all too familiar phone number. Decision time, answer it or throw it through the window… Hmmm…
"Hello?" I answered with an obvious lack of enthusiasm.
"Hi Mike, did I wake you?"'Great, my boss. What now?'
"Nope been up for about an hour now. What's up?"
"Well, we are a little short on help and I was thinking maybe you could come in this afternoon, just to get us through the rush. We can always shorten one of your shifts later on in the week to make sure you don't hit overtime."
It only took a split second to make up my mind on this one. No extra hours and I lose another day off. 'Not this time, I made up my mind that today was for me, damn it.'
"I would but I already promised my nephew that I would take him to get his car worked on. I already blew him off twice and can't do it again." I lied. "Have you checked with any of the salaried managers?" I asked knowing full well that I am always the "First Call" manager, which is an honor I would gladly return if given the option.
"No, I thought I would check with you first. You have been working long shifts and I thought it would be a break for you to shorten one of them." She responded as if she was doing me some huge favor. 'Lose a whole day off to shorten one shift. Nope, no sale here…'
"Thanks, but I really can't today. I've blown off family matters for work way too often lately. I'm sure there are quite a few who would jump at the hours. Call some of the night shift, they have all been complaining about getting shorted on the schedule."
After a short pause, she perked up a little. Almost as if the idea that we had other people on the schedule who may actually need hours was some sort of revelation and she said "Thanks, I'll do that. Well, you have a nice day off."
"Will do. See you tomorrow." I responded and flipped the phone shut.
'Damn, if this is destined to become a ritual, I may be forced to make her clock me in for these "Day Off" conversations. It seems as if there is never a day that I can get away from that place.' After a little more consideration, I flipped the phone open and powered it off. 'That will buy me some peace and quiet for a while.'
"Now, before the house phone rings, finish your coffee, get dressed and run for the truck. Your day off is wasting." I said out loud in front of Buddy, our 11-year-old German Shepard, who really didn't seem all that interested in the whole situation.
I ran back upstairs to get dressed, grabbed my wallet and keys and ran down to let the dog out one more time and have 'one more coffee' before high tailing it for the door.' Freedom, just a few hours. Free from the house, free from work.' I thought to myself as the truck roared to life. Now it's decision time, where to go. Never really gave it much thought until now.
"I just got paid so I have a good amount of money on me," I said to the steering wheel. "A full tank of gas and no phone..." I chuckled as I threw my phone in the glove compartment. "...so, maybe just a drive and see where it leads me."
Since I never "Flew too far from the nest" so to speak, the neighborhood I grew up in was about 5 minutes away.' Maybe I will take a ride around my old stomping grounds. It's been a while since I've simply looked around that area.' Before climbing into the truck, I decided it would be a good idea to throw my bike in the back. 'Hell, I grew up in this area and my bike was always my transportation back then. Maybe the trails I used to ride were still there.' I thought. Being a little nostalgic now and then can be fun at times. Besides, now at age 33 I still love riding my bike. Hell, when I was a kid, I used to ride around aimlessly in an effort to stay away from home. It carried some strong memories of these same "Need to get away" days that I need now and then to keep my head on straight.
With my bike loaded in the rear, I turned out of the driveway and aimed the truck south, time to put some thought into where to start.
"Well, I can save some gas if I pick a spot and park. The bike can be the transportation for the day." I said, more talking to the truck than myself. "Maybe, since school just let out for the summer, I'll go to one of my old grammar schools, get on the bike and hit the trails. Maybe even ride down my old street and stop at some of my old stops." Yeah, today was going to be one of those nostalgic days after all.
The school I decided to head for was more or less the center of the area I "Owned" back when I was about 9 or 10. It would be the perfect point to start my journey. So, I turned off the main interstate and started to navigate the all too familiar back roads, not traveled by myself in quite a few years.
The area looked virtually unchanged, some stores had different names now, but the houses and roads looked pretty much as If time had stopped and waited for me to come back. The sun was shining brightly in a clear blue sky which added even more excitement to my having planned a day on my bike. "This was a great idea."
I stopped at the last intersection before my arrival at the school I chose. Right on the corner was the house of one of my best friends in the world back when I was about 10 years old. That yard was my refuge from my father when he was drinking and looking for a target to vent his anger on. Then that summer when my father had the stroke, when my family was put through one of its hardest tests of survival and I became the "Man of The House". Back in the same time when I had the "incident" with my uncle. Those memories sending a cold chill down my spine.
"God, how the hell did I survive all that?" I asked no one in particular while staring at my friend's house. 'I wonder whatever happened to Dale.' I thought to myself as a wave of regret to never have kept in touch with him set in. 'Just go stupid, you can't sit here all day thinking about the past.' Were my last thoughts as I shrugged my shoulders, took one last look into his yard and let out the clutch to leave.
Just as I had started to pull forward, I heard a loud rumbling and 'wooshing' noise. What appeared to be a 30-foot dragon had been tearing down the street in the other direction and nearly took out the front end of my truck. He put his feet down and skidded and swerved as I slammed my foot back down on the brake, forgetting about the clutch and stalling the truck with a jerk. "BANG" was all I heard as his tail made contact with my bumper. A hot rush swept over me, almost as if panic, coupled with shock overtook me. The hit knocked the truck back and to the left, out of instinct I drew both of my arms up and folded them over my face to protect it. When I finally brought my arms down and looked around, he was grasping at his chest and folding up his enormous wings. Another pair could be seen still neatly folded away.
The moment I regained my bearing, and determined that I was not injured, I climbed out of the truck and walked out in front of it.
'Are you injured?' An overpowering yet soothing voice seemed to come from all around me.
"I'm not," I said out loud as I spun to face the towering creature. "But my truck is all busted up."
'I do apologize.' The voice echoed through my head without a sound coming from his enormous mouth. 'You did begin to roll forward suddenly. I do not believe the fault was entirely mine.'
I looked at this frightening creature and then looked back at my truck before settling my gaze on his beautiful sapphire eyes. At that moment the reality of what had just happened washed over me in a wave. "How thoughtless," I sighed, "Are you all right?"
I watched as he grasped his tail and pulled it as far forward as he was able to inspect it. 'Other than being a bit disheveled, I do believe I am uninjured.' He released his tail and looked past me, a frown forming in the corners of his mouth. 'It appears your vehicle has suffered substantial damage though. It may be wise to contact the authorities and our insurance providers.'
"Dragon's have insurance?" I almost chuckled, having never considered something so humorous.
'Of course, we do,' his voice, still soothing in tone echoed through my head. 'It would be irresponsible to travel these human paths without insurance.'
"I suppose it would at that." I nodded in agreement. "My cell phone is in the truck. I'll call the police and get my insurance information out." I was about to turn for the truck when I saw the slightest wince in his expression. "Are you sure you aren't hurt, um..."
'Gustavo.' The voice replied as his expression seemed to soften. 'You may call me Gus or if you like, 'Goos' would be fine.'
"Goose?" I smirked.
'No, 'Goos'. It is a long story to tell but a very special youngling by the name of Jonah gave me that nickname and I am extremely proud of it.'
I smiled and stepped forward, "I meant no disrespect. It's just that here..." I managed to say before being cut off.
'I know, feathered fowl.' The voice sounded amused. 'Your thoughts come through extremely clearly for a member of your race.'
"Is that good or bad?" I laughed.
'It is something I appreciate.'His expression seemed to radiate warmth, something that just draws you in. 'My tail does sting a bit. You wouldn't happen to have some aspirin in your vehicle, would you?'
"Actually, I do." I replied excitedly and ran to rifle through my glove box, returning with the bottle in one hand and my cell phone and registration in the other. "Not sure there is enough in this bottle to help."
'It will suffice I believe.'He replied as he accepted the bottle and poured the contents into his mouth. 'Thank you, that was very kind.'
"No worries." I said as I flipped open my phone, but simply stared at it. "Look 'Goos', if it's all the same to you, I'd rather not inflate your insurance rates; or mine for that matter."
'Agreed.' He replied as he watched me close the phone and tuck it into my pocket. 'I do believe it is customary to award something to the individual suffering the most damage. In this case I believe that would be you for your vehicle.'
"You are carrying money?" I questioned, not seeing pockets or bags or whatever.
'Actually, I do have some of your currency just, not in my possession at the moment.' He replied with what I can only describe as a smirk.
"Well then," I said as I reached into my pocket and pulled one coin out. With a huge smile, I marched right up to this towering soul and motioned to him to extend his hand. Once he examined the coin, he looked at me with a quizzical expression. "The damage will cost you one penny, sir."
With an amused grumble deep down in his throat, he gently handed the penny back to me with a nod. 'I believe this should cover the damages then...'
"Mike." I offered.
'It doesn't glimmer like gold but hopefully, it will help to heal your ailments.'
"I'm sure it will." I smiled as I looked at the coin in my hand, "Heh, it's dated 1980. That was a pretty rough year for me."
Raising himself to his full height and spreading one set of his wings, he looked down at me and I could swear he winked as he took flight. 'May you find what you are looking for, friend Mike.'
I closed my eyes as the wind hit me in the face, "You as well 'Goos'! You as well!" I shouted as I opened my eyes, startling the dog and causing him to run out of the room. A dream? It was all a dream.
"I really need to stop reading stories on The Story Lover's site so late at night." I yawned and stretched before rolling over to look at the alarm clock and smiling.
Today was a pretty common day for me. Waking up at the "Crack of Noon" on one of the few days off I had, with no real plans other than to avoid work at all costs...
To read more about Mike, click on the following link A Penny On The Train Tracks.
To read more about 'Goos', click on the following link as well, Dragon Earl Book One.