Moon – A Story by Caleb Pirtle III

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Caleb Pirtle III, bestselling author of Secrets of the Dead and Golgotha Connection

Caleb Pirtle III

There was no doubt about it. You could ask anyone who walked the streets of Pitner’s Junction, if perchance the community had any streets. The world was flat. If you stood beneath the third oak tree to the left, just behind cemetery and on the far side of the all-day dinner on the ground and graveyard working, you could see the edge. Every afternoon at varying times of the year, the sun simply reached the edge of it all and dropped off. I know. I was raised on the cusp of Pitner’s Junction, Texas. In fact, the only two things that ever came out of Pitner’s Junction were me and Highway 259. The “world is flat” folks stayed behind. Might as well. Couldn’t go much farther than the sunset anyway.

I kept looking for the edge.

Didn’t find it.

And pretty much forgot about the gospel of my raising until I happened to run across a bunch of stargazers, vortex sitters, and all-around wunderkinds who called themselves, wrapped in a veil of reverence, the Flat Earth Society.

I knew them well.

Didn’t recognize any of them.

But I must have grown up with their kinfolks.

The Flat Earth Society, I’m told, was one of the first organizations that had the audacity and gall to accuse NASA of faking the moon landings.

Didn’t go there, the flat earthers said.

Couldn’t go there.

Too far.

Too high.

Gas was cheap, but there wasn’t enough of it.

And, besides, the solar flares, solar winds, cosmic rays, coronal mass ejections, and Van Allen radiation made such a trip absolutely impossible.

If Flash Gordon hadn’t really gotten to the planets, then Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin didn’t either. Just like Flash and the evil Ming the Merciless, the flat earthers swore, Neil, Buzz, and the boys staged it all on a Hollywood movie lot.

All of America was afraid that Russia would beat us to the moon.

The race for space was spinning out of control.

Cold war prestige was at stake.

So the government did what the government does best.

NASA faked the whole thing.

I heard it differently. Same message. Different voice.

I happened to be in a beer joint on the outskirts of Chatsworth, Georgia, the day Neil Armstrong made that small step for man and giant leap for mankind.  The beer joint looked pretty much the way it was supposed to in the middle of a hot, muggy, thirsty afternoon. Dark. Cool. A naked light bulb hung from the ceiling. Another one above the bar. Sawdust on the floor. It had not been swept out in a while. Maybe never. Keep it dark. Can’t see the dirt. Dust in your throat? Wash it down with a beer.

The room was crowded and far too quiet.

Men sat hunkered over their tables, leaning on their elbows, their gimme caps pushed back, staring, never blinking, at an old black and white television set stuck on the back wall above the bar.

The picture was blurry.

No one cared.

They were watching the once and glorious achievement of their lifetime. A lunar module had landed on the surface of the moon, some place called, if the man on the tee-vee could be believed, Tranquility Base, and they had seen it with their own eyes, which called for another beer.

They had feared a crash. They were afraid they would be watching good men die a long way from home. A devout feeling of hope and pride had been dimmed by the shadow of impending doom. Their pulse quickened. Their nerves quivered. Their shoulders were rock solid tense.

But there it was.

The Eagle had landed, which called for another beer.

The beer bottles were sweating. So were the gentlemen of Chatsworth.

A farmer sat alone at the far end of the bar. He had been withered by time, cold rains, famine, hard work, and an occasional bout with the lovesick blues.  He wore bib-overalls and a straw hat. He had not bothered to remove it. He had been sipping on the same beer for much of the afternoon. He knew all about the advances of technology in a world grown too modern for him. He had broke new ground behind a mule, then astride a tractor. He had watched the world around him slowly change, usually against his will.

He had never embraced change, but he had accepted it.Golgotha Connection, by bestselling author Caleb Pirtle III, cover image

But this was too much.

He nodded toward the television. “That’s not happening,” he said.

The gentlemen of Chatsworth were stunned. Not a sound could be heard, with the possible exception of another beer being opened.

“Somebody’s lying to you,” he said.

Every eye turned toward him.

“Ain’t nothing but a hoax,” he said.

The gentlemen of Chatsworth frowned.

“How do you figure that?” I asked.

The old man took a long, slow draw on his beer bottle, wiped the froth from his mouth, and studied the blurry black and white screen one more time. He spoke with the deep, growling voice of a mountain oracle.

“We can’t get pictures from the moon,” he said. “Hell, we can’t even get pictures from Atlanta.”

The heads nodded. Somebody ordered another beer.

The man wearing the stained white apron behind the bar turned off the television. Might as well, he thought. Couldn’t argue with common sense.

Tune in tomorrow for Charity Parkerson, bestselling author of The Danger With Sinners (Sinners Series) or Paul (Undefeated Series), whose essay, “From 25 to 25,000 – How I Became a Bestselling Author” is sure to inspire all you closet writers!

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In the Eye of the Beholder – A Story by Stephen Woodfin

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Stephen Woodfin, bestselling author of The Next Best Hope

Stephen Woodfin

 

 

They laughed at Melrose when he read his piece.

Maybe his appearance put them off, his ragged clothes, hair disheveled, beard unkempt, thick glasses held together with a strap of white cotton athletic tape.

Maybe it was his smell, the unwashed odor of a person used to the outdoors, nights under the stars, forages in stray trash bins.

Perhaps it was his grim demeanor, the way he cocked his head when he listened to the others recite, then refused to applaud, to heap praise, to join in the fun of self-congratulation.

Or it might have been the subject matter, the slice of reality he had chosen, so foreign, so unfamiliar.

Their laughter wasn’t the good-humored jostling fellow writers engaged in with a half-hearted critique of someone they judged an equal. It wasn’t happiness at a clever turn of phrase, a snicker at a sideways remark, even a belly-laugh at a passage that had taken a wrong turn and not made its way back to the main road.

No, it was a mean laughter, a laughter of derision, the sort of reception a king reserved for a peasant, the way a star sneered at his fellow nominees when he received the big award.

The professor was as bad as his students, a Ph. D. diploma in literature framed on his wall, a begrudging semester of pro bono teaching of a free class to be endured, students who had not read the Classics, thinking themselves worthy of his time, an open admission policy spawned in political correctness as a noble gesture to the community.

 

After the class ended, Melrose walked across campus, beyond the red brick homes of the faculty members, passed the football stadium, beyond the railroad tracks to the community he called home.

“Been to class again, Melrose?” Shorty asked when he saw him coming.

“Yeah.”

“How’d they like your piece this week?”

“They laughed.”

“Was it supposed to be funny?”

“I didn’t think so.”

Shorty patted Melrose on the shoulder. “What the hell do they know, anyway?”

Melrose shrugged.

Shorty called out, “Hey, guys. Melrose has a new piece he wants to share with us. Y’all gather ‘round.”

“I don’t know, Shorty,” Melrose said. “Maybe not tonight.”

“No way, man. We love to hear you read.”

Eight souls had gathered. They formed a semi-circle around Melrose and waited.

“Okay, then. You asked for it,” Melrose said.

The crowd laughed, a different laugh than he had heard an hour before in the class room.

He pulled out his spiral notebook, opened it to the hand-written selection he had composed for the writing class and began to read.

“Mary loved Claude until the day he died. She died, too, three weeks later. She had give out from loving Claude so hard. When the police found her body in the tall weeds behind the liquor store on Eighth street, they hauled her to the morgue. The doctor at the morgue called the undertaker who brought a pine box. Shorty said LastOneChosenwithbadgeresizedforKDPsome real nice words at the cemetery before two teenagers lowered Mary into the hole and shoveled dirt on her.

“Afterwards, Mary’s friends placed flowers on Mary’s grave, but they couldn’t find the place where Claude was laid to rest, so they brought Claude’s flowers back to Mary and give them to her, too.”

 

The crowd was silent for a minute before Shorty spoke. “That’s just how it happened, Melrose. You did a beautiful job telling it.”

The others piped in. “You sure did,” “Mary loved Claude so hard, she couldn’t be without him,” “It took me three hours to find flowers pretty enough for her,” “I sure miss both of them.”

One by one, they shook Melrose’s hand and thanked him for telling Mary’s story the way it was.

“You are going to be a famous writer one day, Melrose,” Shorty said.

“Not if the folks at the university have anything to do with it,” Melrose said.

He and Shorty laughed out loud together.

 

THE END

 

Stephen Woodfin practices law, writes books and blogs in his home town of Kilgore, Texas, in the United States of America.

Woodfin attended Dallas Baptist College (1974), Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (1979) and Baylor Law School (1986). He sometimes tells juries that he went to seminary to get God on his side and to law school to enlist the Devil’s aid. His wife of twenty-six years is an occupational therapist who provides pediatric OT services. He is the father of three daughters.

Woodfin is the author of six fast-paced thrillers.  These include LAST ONE CHOSEN, NEXT BEST HOPE, THE REVELATION EFFECT, MONEY IS THICKER THAN BLOOD, THE WARRIOR WITH ALZHEIMERS: THE BATTLE FOR JUSTICE and THE LAZARUS DECEPTION.  He has also published a collection of short stories.  One of the stories in this collection first appeared in the Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Collection, where it placed fifteenth out of over 7,000 entries. The Kindle Book Review recently selected his novel LAST ONE CHOSEN as a Top Five Finalist in the thriller genre in its Best Indie Books of 2012 Awards.

You may follow Stephen on Twitter @stephenwoodfin, visit his Amazon author page or check out his blogs.

 

Join us tomorrow for a few moments of hilarity, as bestselling author Toby Neal shares her piece entitled “What Does Your Bedside Table Say About You?” Subscribe to the BestsellingReads newsletter to receive daily fresh voices in your mailbox.

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