Paul Hunter is a young man with a checkered past. He graduated from high school without a career goal. He chose to become a seasonal kayaker and raft guide on the beautiful Clancy River in rural Georgia. He scratched out a living with a part-time job, and lived in a tent. Inevitably, life’s travails catch up with him and he takes surprising turns. Good guy – bad guy? Read and decide. Enjoy the ride!
THURSDAY, AUGUST 22, 1991
Paul leaned against the chain link fence and watched Debby approach. She seemed to be looking right at him. He was puzzled by her eye contact since she had pretty much ignored his existence since the start of Huntsville P.S. 21’s fall term. He noticed everything about her. Their too-short lunch break was almost over on this sunny Thursday.
Debby Malone was tall for a 13 year-old girl and very well developed. Her red hair was pulled back into a ponytail that bounced with every bold step. She seemed to be marching toward him. Her red satin shirt, well-filled blue jeans and matching red sandals gave her costume a finished, thought-out look. Paul considered her the hottest girl in his history class.
He wasn’t actually thinking at this moment, though. He was nearing girl-panic but tried to mask it by deliberately keeping his face blank. He stood away from the fence as she came to a halt.
“Hi Debby.” Their noses were just 2 feet apart, and she had him nailed with her blue eyes.
“Paul. What did you mean when you said that in class?”
“What? Do you mean about the Irish immigrants to New York being luckier than the Poles?”
“Yeah,” she almost snarled. “My grandpa was Irish and he had a terrible time. He got into trouble and ran away to Alabama when he was 21. That’s how my family got here and I think it was very hard. I’m going to be the first high school graduate in my family if I can hold on for 4 more years.”
“Well I didn’t mean anything. I just figured that they had it easier since they already spoke English and could blend in better. Um…”
She interrupted him by saying, archly, “I guess you’re Polish. Huh.”
He began to answer but the school bell jangled the end of the lunch period. She spun around and marched away before he could decide how to answer. Debby didn’t say goodbye or even give him a head-bob.
Paul didn’t know where his family came from. He guessed they were English and had arrived a long time ago. He decided to ask his brother Mitch, after school or, maybe, his parents at dinner.
“Uh. See ya,” he called out lightly. He was glad that the day was half over and gave no further thought to Debby Malone. His mind was busy with after-school plans.
Paul Hunter was not the best student at P.S. 21. He got good grades by listening in class but he hated homework, except for English literature. He would read anything that came his way but he preferred novels. His older brother was reading Moby Dick in high school now. Paul was proud that he’d already read it by taking it out of the library.
Well above average height, Paul had erect posture and broad shoulders. On the thin side now, he would gain bulk and become a formidable man in a few years. His hair was dark and his eyes were a light hazel like his brother’s.
For no particular reason the boys never got involved in school athletics. They could have developed sports skills but their parents did not push them in that direction.
They had moved to Huntsville early in 1989 when Paul was just eleven years old. Mitch was 14 then and, since school was in recess, they’d formed a tight bond. Strange to say, they never fought other than wrestling and horseplay for fun. They were best friends. Paul, a little shy, was happy to get his older brother’s attention.
Mitch tried out for the swim team as a high school freshman but the coaches were not impressed enough to put him on the team. There were boys who had been honing their competitive skills for years in area swimming clubs.
The brothers were not under the benign influence of organized athletic competition. Work, boy adventures, and home life were the center of their first years in Huntsville.
Paul was anxious to finish the school day. The family was making plans to go camping and canoeing on the banks of the Tennessee River on Labor Day weekend in 2 weeks. He and Mitch had a lot to do to get their tent and camping gear together. He hoped they could go to buy paddles on Saturday. He wanted a cool wooden one so that he could say, “no thanks,” when the canoe rental guy told him to choose a plastic one. They had their own tents but not boats.
Money was not a problem. He and Mitch had plenty since they’d been hard at work for several years on a number of projects. Most of them were legal but a few were not. The more lucrative jobs were often a little evil. So far they’d never been caught.
Paul walked home since it was less than a mile away. Debby, who lived in the same direction, caught up with him. She seemed a little out of breath. They were approaching her dark red brick apartment building. His house was a few blocks further away from school.
“Say, Paul. I. I-um-…wanted to ask you.” She looked a little troubled.
“Paul. Have you ever had a yen?”
“What do you mean?”
“You know.” She was looking at him. Her head was lowered and her shoulders were a little slumped. “Like to do something you shouldn’t?”
“Well. I guess. But what do y…” He was interrupted by a sudden shout.
“DEBBY!” Her mother was shouting from the window of Debbie’s apartment. “HURRY UP, DEBBY! WE’RE WAITING FOR YOU.”
“Paul,” Debby straightened up and looked him in the eye. Her lids were half closed and she hesitated as if she was thinking something over. “Paul. Come to my house tonight at about eight-thirty. Don’t ring the bell. Just climb that tree there. There.” She pointed to a towering oak growing behind her apartment, “…and wait for me. Be quiet.”
She turned and ran around the corner and into the apartment. Her mother was holding the front door open. “Sorry, Deb. Aunt Betty is waiting for us and we have got to go. Put your books in your room and let’s get it on.”
Paul sauntered home, deep in thought, anxious to talk to Mitch.
Paul’s parents, Samantha and Michael Hunter, and his 16-year old brother Mitch were close-knit. They did not have other family nearby and were happy in each other’s company.
Paul, a normal 13-year-old teenager, was past puberty. He had learned the facts of life some years earlier, thanks to his older brother’s research and experience. Neither Mom nor Dad had broached the subject of sex with him or with Mitch for that matter. They were content to believe that their boys would figure things out for themselves or ask if they had questions.
The boys huddled after supper. “Mitch. This girl Debby wants me to climb the tree outside her window tonight. Do you think I should go?”
“I dunno. What’d she say?” Mitch was very interested in this report from his little brother.
Paul recounted his conversations with Debby. Mitch was excited. “Paul. You gotta go and I’ll go with you, but you have to do something for me later. Okay?”
“Nothing important. Just some fun I want to have at Eddie’s house a little later.”
“Mom. We’re going to see Eddie. Okay? We’ll be back in a little while.” It was just after eight o’clock and dinner was finished. Pot roast.
“Okay boys. Take care to get back before bedtime. Tomorrow’s a school day.”
The door slammed behind them and Mitch said, “Paul. Wait a minute. There’s something I got to get.” He disappeared into the driveway that ran next to the house. Paul patiently waited on the dark street.
When he reappeared, Mitch was carrying a little paper sack.
“What’s that?” said Paul.
“Well, listen here bro. This is a sack of dog shit that I’m going to leave on Pete Jones’ front porch. I’m going to set it on fire and run like hell. You come with me and be my lookout. I don’t want anybody to see it.”
Paul had been curious about the sudden rank aroma that seemed to emanate from Mitch, “What the Hell, Mitch. What did Eddie do to you? He probably won’t answer the door anyways. His mom or dad will have to deal with it.”
“Naw. They’re going to a meeting tonight. I just want to pay him back for some dog shit he left in my locker at school. Everybody made fun of me because my books stank and I didn’t know why. He laughed his ass off and I have to get even. Okay?
“Okay. But we do Debby’s tree first. Okay?”
The street by Debby’s apartment was quiet and the boys were hidden in the leaves of the tree opposite the second story windows. There was a play of lights inside the apartment as lights turned off and on, people shadows moving inside.
A light went on in a downstairs window and they saw Mr. Malone sit at a window-side table, curtains gently blowing as the evening air stirred. The leaves rustled, too. Mr. Malone placed a briefcase on the table and began rummaging through it as the boys saw a second floor room light up.
The shade was up and Debby walked into the room in a light blue bathrobe. She stood in the center of the room and seemed to be staring through the window at them as she began toying with the sash. They practically fell off their branch when she dropped the robe. She was naked except for white panties that kept her bottom covered as well as a bikini bathing suit. She turned away from them but they clearly saw her breasts and then her back as she walked out of the room and closed the door.
Mr. Malone was now the only show and they saw that he was removing cash from his case. He began arranging the bills on the table. He was counting the money and putting the bills into different stacks.
“Holy shit. These are interesting people,” Mitch whispered.
Paul didn’t answer but squeezed Mitch’s shoulder. A short time later the second floor door opened and Debbie walked in again. She still wore her panties but her breasts were again in full view, and she looked better than a woman in a girly magazine to them. Her pink nipples put them in a trance. They couldn’t move.
Debby’s mom appeared in the doorway as Debby stepped into pajamas and raised her arms to shrug into her pajama top. Her boobs bounced a little. Her mom walked to the shade and lowered it without looking outside.
“Paul,” Mitch’s whisper was urgent, “Change of plans. I’m going to put the shit on their porch and light it off. When it gets going good, I’m gonna ring the bell and run the other way and make sure that they see my back. Maybe Mr. Malone will chase me. Anyways, don’t follow me. Go home the other way. If he gets up to answer the doorbell, grab some of the cash through the window will ya. Be quiet about it and run like hell. I’ll see you at home. Okay?”
Mitch was gone in an instant leaving behind a whiff of dog shit. Paul sat still, wondering if the show was over. He was both scared and excited. Visions of Debby’s breasts and the look of her skin sifted through his boy brain. Another upstairs room lit, but the curtains remained closed. Mr. Malone sat at the table busy with his task.
Paul heard the doorbell and smelled smoke at the same time. Mr. Malone got up and left the picture. Paul climbed quietly to the ground and advanced on the window to see that Mr. Malone had been stacking the bills by denomination. There were little piles of hundreds and fifties and larger stacks of twenty-dollar bills and smaller denominations.
Paul heard a loud “God dammit!” from the front of the house as he reached in and took the larger bills off the table. The ones, tens and fives he scattered off the table toward the windowsill to make it look like a gust of wind might have moved things. As he turned to run, he saw one more thing on the table – a large, black revolver. The sight of the pistol shook him and he began running for home, stuffing the bills in his pocket.
Mitch looked up and down the street. It was dark except for the occasional porch lamp. He held the bag and a small box of wooden matches in one hand and used the banister to steady himself. He steeled himself and lit the bag bottom and top in three places. The sack was small but well packed with droppings. He waited as long as he dared then rang the bell twice before running.
Mitch paused in the shadow of a large tree trunk directly across the street and was rewarded by the sight of Mr. Malone standing over the paper bag. He raised his slippered foot to stomp out the little fire and the bag exploded into a stinking, smoldering mess that splattered on his legs and over the porch.
“God dammit!” He hopped around trying to figure out where to put his other foot and, in a moment, figured out what had happened. He saw Mitch’s figure in the deep shadows, and began running. Malone thought that he saw two boys and ran toward them. “God damned kids!
Mitch whirled around and took off at a run. Malone was fast and began to close the distance. Mitch heard his pursuer’s footfalls, his heavy breathing and a muttered, “I’ll see which one of youse bastards can run the fastest.” The old guy was incredibly fast. That muttered threat inspired Mitch to shift into high gear and he got well ahead of the cursing and growling man.
Malone lost a slipper and hobbled to a halt. “I’ll gettcha you bastard!” he yelled. But Mitch was around the corner and took a roundabout path home in case the old man spotted him again.
The excitement was over. Home, showered, and dressed for bed, the boys finally had time to put their heads together. Mitch whispered, “$770.00. Holy mackerel, Paul. Hell of a night, eh?”
“Mitch. What are we gonna do with the money. If Mom or Dad finds out about this, there’ll be hell to pay. We godda think of something. And, oh, I forgot to tell you, Mr. Malone had a gun on the table. A big one, like in the movie Dirty Harry. You think he might be into something illegal with all that cash? Drugs?”
“I dunno. Sounds like it. I hope Debby keeps her mouth shut about you. Us. She probably doesn’t know about me but she could figure it out.”
After a brief pause, Mitch said, “You know, we already had about a hundred dollars in the jar from the newspaper box break-ins we did. Now it’s a lot of money and we have got to find a way of using it; like laundering it so that we can spend it without Mom and Dad getting onto us, and I have an idea.”
Paul nodded, “Tell me. Quick. I’m getting sleepy.”
“Okay. So we go over to Cantor’s Cash And Carry Restaurant Supply Company and get some gear for selling lemonade at the ball games at the park. We don’t have to make a lot of money – we just have got to say that we’re making money.”
“Sounds good. It sounds like fun. We’ll get on it tomorrow afternoon. Okay. I want to get that paddle.”
“Okay. Good night.”
Mitch left. Closing the door. Paul snuggled under the covers squeezing his erect penis. He wanted to think about the canoe paddle but Debbie’s face was in his reverie. They were nose to nose and he wanted to kiss her. And touch her…
FRIDAY, AUGUST 23, 1991
“Mom. You know I want to buy a canoe paddle at the outfitters store for our camping trip?”
“Yes Paul, and I already told you yes, but you’d have to earn the money yourself and I know that you don’t have enough.”
“Me and Mitch…”
“Mitch and I,” she corrected him archly but with love in her face.
“I mean Mitch and I have an idea. I have enough cash, and Mitch will help me, to buy some stuff at Cantor’s. We think we can sell lemonade at the ball games if we have a carrying rack that will hold a buncha cups.”
“Yes, but you guys will have to do it on your own. You know how busy Dad is right now and I’m tied up getting ready to take off for our vacation trip.”
“Thanks Ma. I knew you’d say yes.”
Paul left the house for school on time, keeping his eyes open for Debby. He was terrified of facing her for two reasons. The least of the two was her father’s gun. The other was that he wanted to see her naked again; so bad that it made his throat constrict.
Debby was not in history class. He looked for her in the schoolyard and on the way home to meet Mitch for their shopping expedition to the Cash and Carry. No sign of her on the street and he was leery of walking by her apartment building.
I hope you enjoyed this sample chapter and want to know more. The book is available as a paperback or kindle edition. BS