“You may not always see us, but you must always know we’re there.”
Regarding Howie “Hoots” McGee
About a month has passed since John walked away from Howie at the fire pit on Vhykus Path – forty-two days to be exact, not that there’s anybody left keeping track. He’s been back to the house several times since then – and not only to gather firewood, either – but he’s never noticed a change in the scenery. No extra set of tracks, no ashless paths through the wood, no stench of pot nor the smoke signals burning it sends out. Nothing. The Sisters Three have noticed a change, though, a change in John Kerry. He’s different now than he was when he first came to the church; the man was incredible, he took charge from the moment he stepped through the door, he had the Sisters bustlin’ and movin’ and gettin’ stuff done like they never had before, but that was only for the first week. Then he went back to Vhykus Path and he started to slow down, and he only got slower with each journey he made. Sure, he claimed he was only going out there to collect more firewood for when he eventually gets around to clearing some ash out of the parking lot and building a bonfire pit – not a fire pit but a bonfire pit – but more often than not he’d leave with no backpacks and come back the same. As the leader of The First Stand of New Civilization, the elected by a majority leader, mind you, growing reclusive and slinking off into the ash during the days is not a good look, not by a long shot. What are all the other survivors going to think when they start coming through?
Because they are going to start coming through, you know, The Center of the Last Stand of Civilization (or just The Center for short, dearest, whichever you prefer!) will not host only four, then three, then two, then eventually one last human being until he mercifully dies from living stranded in the ashen wasteland, and when they do start coming through John is going to have to step up. John is going to have to snap out of this snafu he’s been stuck in sooner or later, and as far as Sister Letty is concerned, sooner can only be better. That’s what she tells John out on the front stairs of The Center where they sit talking as she once did with a certain demi-pansexual stoner dude who shared a jammer with her out of the kindness of his heart, a jammer he broke showing off how durable it was, a jammer she fixed, as Sister Letty’s been known to fix a jammer or two in her time.
“You know I never would have guessed that, looking at you,” John tells her as he rolls Howie’s joint between his fingers.
“Hope it’s not an issue, Johnny dearest,” she tells him back. The sky is bright like it was when John first woke up and got a’walkin’. It looked like it was going to rain at one point, but that passed. Guess the rain had better shit to do.
“Of course not, Sister.”
“Good. Now,” as she takes his hand in hers and forces him to stop fiddling with that silly jammer he refuses to smoke, “we need to deal with your issue, John Kerry.”
“My issue?” he asks, slightly put off. “And what issue do you think that is, Sister Letty?”
“The issue regarding Howie Hoots McGee, John.”
John shuffles his seating. The issue regarding Howie “Hoots” McGee, huh? ‘Yep, I’m thinking I heard that right.’ Suddenly these steps aren’t very comfortable.
“Look, John, all I’m saying is…” she says, then trails off. Sister Letty isn’t prepared to have this conversation, not at all, but she had to get away from Sister Betty for a moment and John was already out here and it just sort of happened. It all just sort of happened and now here she is, Sister Letty of The Center, left alone to deal with it all.
“What are you saying, Letty?”
“I… don’t know,” she finally decides. Her hair droops to the steps when she hangs her head between her knees. “I wish I knew what I was saying. I wish I knew what I could say, but… it’s the end of the world, John. It’s been the end of the world. If he was going to come back…”
“He’s not, though. He never was. He felt horrible about leaving you three here, he thought you lot would turn him away if he tried coming back. No, don’t–… I don’t say that to blame you, Letty, nor either of your Sisters. I was just… Hoots was tough. He was a hardcase; I only knew him for a half a day, but I know that much better than anything else about him. Other than the fact he liked to smoke his pot…”
“That boy certainly liked his pot,” Letty says, resting her head on John’s arm. He lets it happen. Usually he doesn’t, not for any of the Sisters (not that they’ve tried), but right now he lets it happen. “Central Wuester, too. He seemed very curious about that.”
“That right?” John asks. “That sounds familiar… if I remember right, which,” he reveals his bottom teeth. “But I think he got a little weird when I told him where I came from. That I was walking on Cannonball Road. Told me he heard if you stay on Cannonball long enough you get to the center of town.”
Sister Letty is quiet for a moment.
“Maybe he went looking for it.”
Sister Letty is so tired of it being so quiet all the time.
“Yeah… maybe he went looking…”
Sister Letty raises her head. She forgot where she was for a second. “Looking for what?”
“Huh?” John asks her, having zoned out himself.
“You said maybe he went looking. Looking for what? I’m assuming you mean Howie.”
“Yeah, I did,” John says.
“Sooo what?” John asks innocently.
“Sooo what did Howie maybe go looking for? You’re making me crave wine, John. Out with it already.”
John Kerry of the Ashen Wasteland smiles at Sister Letty of The Center, but he’s not looking at her. He’s only looking into the gray miasma hanging over the horizon.
“Oh, I don’t know.”
Only looking forward.
“Maybe he’s looking for some flowers to smell.”
Hello Commons, this has been the fourth subchapter of the last chapter of Flowers, a novel about a man who smokes the last of his pot.
Flowers is part of the Third Spiral, an anthology of sorts called The Here and Now which is comprised of stories told from the various planes of Existence.
Flowers is available to read for free in its entirety on my website. Click here to check it out.
I’ve written a few other books, too. Click here to see the list.
If you like Flowers and would like to help support my work, click here and buy an autographed copy of the book (or anything else!) from my store. Alternatively, you can snag a cheaper (and unsigned) copy from Amazon by clicking here OR you can buy the ebook for even cheaper here.
If you’re there, hypothetical reader, thank you for being there. Be well Commons~