BAD MOON RISING-Chapter 1, Part 1

BAD MOON RISING by Stephen J. Pickering
Chapter 1 – Part 1 

Sam took a breath and his mouth began to form the words that his thoughts had not and would not release.  Carl gripped the steering wheel with both hands as he stared at the taillights of his father’s Ford pickup. They were moving at a sedate forty miles per hour but Carl’s knuckles were white as he drove his ’69 Roadrunner. “Leave it alone,” Carl said. “But I didn’t. . . .”  Carl cut off his little brother’s words. “You were going too,” he said. “Just leave it alone,” Carl repeated as his own thoughts screamed inside his head. They were screaming to be let out.

The three walked into their home together like survivors of some epic battle. “They got stuck on the soft shoulder on the Fish Creek Road,” Arnold said to his wife. “I had to pull them out.”  She didn’t notice the still wet blood on the sleeve of his insulated denim jacket. She didn’t think the dazed and subdued demeanor of the boys was unusual. She was sure that Arnold had not been pleasant when he found them and she didn’t dare ask about Carl’s black eye. The three never spoke about the incident though Carl had nightmares for several months with the first beginning that night.

Just three hours earlier Sam Peterson had no way of knowing that his young life was about to change direction. Like most 14-year-old boys he had not yet plotted a course for his life. He lived one minute at a time and worried about what happened when it happened. Sam was only five foot four inches tall and weighed a hundred pounds soaking wet. He had long blonde hair which accentuated his feminine features and hazel eyes.

One would call Sam pretty. Not the description he wanted. He compensated by dressing like he spent the weekend at Max Yasgur’s farm with three hundred thousand of his closest friends. He wore torn bellbottom jeans, black T-shirts and Converse Low-Tops with no socks. Sam’s parents were not impressed but he was a good kid and they tolerated his taste in clothing. It worked for Sam.

“Sam,” his mother called out. “Will you take care of the trash for me?”  “In a minute,” he said. “I’m doing my home work.”  Anne smiled in disbelief but Sam was actually doing his freshman geometry homework, something he normally put off until just moments before the class was to begin. He was sitting at his small desk that was manufactured by rapists and murderers in the Thomaston State Prison wood working shop. His parents gave all three boys desks from the prison last Christmas. New desks, in their new rooms, in their new house, life was good.

Sam shared a sparsely furnished room with his 11-year-old brother Darren. The room had two beds, two bureaus, two desks and one closet. Sam’s thoughts bounced from parallelograms to Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon. These four fueled Sam’s dreams of excitement and fame. He didn’t realize that he had surrounded himself with senseless death and wasted opportunities. Yet, before this year would be over, three of the four would be gone and Sam nearly got to where ever they were going before them.   Sam’s door was open and he could hear Carl, his 17-year-old brother, trying to explain to their mother why he didn’t need to take Sam with him when he went to see his friend, Gary Grover.

Anne Peterson was a striking woman. Tall with dark brown hair, almost grey eyes and fair skinned. She had just received her teaching degree the hard way. She took classes at night and on weekends during the regular school year and day classes in the summer. She did it in five years and graduated with high honors. Not bad for a mother of three with a part time job picking out crabmeat for a local seafood dealer.

Anne thought that if she made Carl take Sam with him, Carl would at least try to stay out of trouble for fear his brother would tell on him. What Anne didn’t realize was that Sam worshiped his brother and never would betray Carl’s trust. As added insurance, Carl threatened to beat the living shit out of Sam if he ever told Mom and Dad about his occasional indiscretions. Anne also didn’t realize how many times she nearly lost two sons instead of one when she sent Sam along with Carl. Tonight would be one of those nights.

Carl Peterson was the antithesis of Sam. Six foot one, a muscular one hundred and seventy pound three sport athlete, short blonde hair and sharp blue eyes. Carl wore straight leg black jeans, cable knit sweaters and brown penny loafers. He was nothing like the prep school student he looked like. Though very intelligent he lived hard and fast and was well on the way to discovering that alcohol might be a cure-all for all of life’s woes. Alcohol was something that would control the rest of his life. Of course what was about to happen was going to seize his entire being and never relinquish it. Not even alcohol would be able to flush away the memories of March 17, 1970.

Carl had been drinking beer since he was 13 years old. His parents didn’t suspect anything until he was 16 years old when he crashed his car and the deputy found beer bottles in the back seat. Anne also suspected that Carl may have been experimenting with marijuana. That’s what parents call it when they find out their child is using drugs. Experimentation, a phase, something they will grow out of. Carl wasn’t experimenting. He had it figured out and he liked it.

Anne called out, “Sam. Your brother is going to Stonington and he would like you to come along.”  “Right,” Sam said to himself, or did he say it out loud? Sometimes you can’t tell. Sam knew Carl didn’t want him to come along but Carl and his friends had gotten used to Sam being there and they learned to trust him. “Yeah sure mom. I’ll be right there,” Sam called back. Sam heard the front door slam as Carl left and the next sound he heard was Carl’s Roadrunner starting. It seemed to start hard but Carl explained to Sam that the 383-cubic-inch engine had a very high compression, 10:1, whatever that meant. Carl said that was the reason it seemed to start hard but when it did start it was music to Sam’s ears. Even their father was impressed.

As Carl explained, the 383 had 1967 GTX 440 heads. The camshaft had a high lift and long duration. Carl said this meant more fuel to the engine and more power. It had a Holley 850 cfm, double pumper, four barrel carburetor with mechanical secondaries mounted on a stock cast iron intake manifold. It had Hooker headers that dumped into two and half inch dual exhaust with little Thrush mufflers.  Arnold Peterson, the boys’ father, loved the car and was scared to death at the same time. It was a killing machine in the wrong hands and Carl seemed to be proving to anyone who saw him drive the medium blue Plymouth with the flat black hood that his were the wrong hands.

Sam approached the passenger side of the big square Plymouth and smiled as he listened to the slow labored idle of the engine. It was one of those quiet afternoons. It was the kind of quiet that comes just before a storm. So quiet you can hear the flapping of a bird’s wings or the sound of a cat’s tongue as it laps milk from a dish. If not for the low rumble of the powerful motor Sam would have likely heard the deer chewing on cedar boughs just 50 feet into the woods from where he walked.  There was no predicted storm on the horizon, at least not one caused by converging weather fronts.

As Sam slid onto the black vinyl bench seat Carl grasped the long, chrome-plated, strangely bent gear shift lever, put the blue beast into reverse and slowly backed out onto Route 15. “Where are we going?” Sam asked. Sam was eager for a ride in his brother’s car and did not think about why he was actually there. “Shut up,” Carl said. Carl was annoyed that Sam was sent along to keep an eye on him. Sam was cool about the drinking and driving fast. He actually seemed to enjoy the driving fast. Today was different. Carl’s friend, Gary, didn’t like having the “little punk” along. Gary especially didn’t like Sam around when he was making a sale of marijuana to Carl. You couldn’t trust “little punks” no matter whose brother they were.

Carl revved the 383 to about 3,500 rpm and quickly released the clutch. The Plymouth violently squatted in the rear as if it were a cat about to pounce on its prey. The front end lifted as the torque of the powerful motor tried to twist the car in two. The Mickey Thompson 60 Series rear tires made a weak little squeak as the car was catapulted south on the narrow two lane country road. Carl liked the fact that the Roadrunner hooked up so well. Most guys with powerful cars liked long smoky burnouts like the drag racers on television did to heat up their tires before a race. Sam was fond of burnouts too and the feeling of being slammed into the seat as the car launched was pretty cool, he thought.

Carl, with blinding speed, slammed the shifter into second. This caused the rear of the car to slide to the right and the Mickey Thompson’s began to smoke. This would have caused Sam to fall over in the seat but he was used to this maneuver by now and he clutched the armrest with one hand and braced his other on the seat. Sam couldn’t suppress the big grin on his face. One day when Carl was in a good mood he had actually let Sam drive the Roadrunner. Carl patiently explained the nuances of gas pedal and clutch release and compensating for the violent torque with the steering wheel. Carl told Sam, “If I can see your hand move, you’re shifting too slowly.”

The engine rpm’s built quickly and Carl wasted no time muscling that long, bent, chrome shifter into third gear. This gear change caused the rear of the Plymouth to snap to the left and Carl managed to control the direction change and had the car pointing straight again. The 140 mph speedometer shot past 90 mph as they reached the sweeping left turn in the road. The big square car seemed to plow into the corner like it wanted to dig a hole into the pavement. Sam wasn’t very impressed with this part as it always seemed that they would leave the road and crash into the trees.

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