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Monday, February 22, 2010

White Pickups, Episode 23


“Whoa,” Cleve said. “Don’t kill him. Not yet.” Their captive pulled his knees up to cover his abdomen, wincing at his arm but doing his best to cover himself.

“Why not? He would have killed us if he had the chance. Right, asshole?”

“Just go check the damage. I doubt he did more than bang ’em up a bit. He doesn’t look smart enough to know how to destroy a bike with his bare hands, and I don’t see anything else he could have used. I’ll keep an eye on him.”

Tim feigned another kick, then turned and stomped away to assess the damage. Cleve squatted down and whispered, “I’m gonna ask you a couple questions. Nothing you need to worry about, as far as giving away anything, but personally I’d like to address you as something other than ‘Asshole.’ You got a name?”

He said nothing for a moment, then licked his swollen lips. “Joseph,” he whispered.

“Okay, Joseph,” Cleve said, “I know I shot you and smacked you around a little, but I saw wounds like that in Afghanistan and it ain’t gonna kill you if you don’t let it get infected. You think you’re up to walking a couple miles, especially since you disabled our transportation?”

“If you’re smart, you’ll just leave me here.”

“If you were smart, you wouldn’t have made all that noise down here and let us know we had company. And you wouldn’t have come alone. Your buddies would have come a-runnin’ soon as they heard the first shot, right?”

Joseph said nothing.

“You were right,” Tim said. “He just wrecked the wheels and dinged up a few things. Nothing that can’t be repaired, but we’ll have to carry them back. Or make him do it.”

“Good.” To Joseph, “I assume you would prefer to live, given a choice, so I’m gonna ask you one more question before I tell you a couple of things. You gonna try anything stupid, like yelling for help?”

Again, Joseph said nothing, but finally sighed and shook his head.

“Good. ’Cause if you did, I’d have to shoot out your knee. That would make a lot more noise, and your friends might get lucky and rescue you, but you’d never walk right without major surgery — assuming your leg didn’t come off. And I don’t see too many doctors outside a truck these days, do you?” Joseph shrugged.

“So this is how it’s gonna go. You’re gonna walk, and you’re gonna be quiet about it. You’re gonna go left when we say left, and right when we say right. But you also ain’t gonna be anybody’s bitch, I give you my word — as long as you don’t give trouble. What else happens to you, I can’t make any guarantees. Fair enough?”

“Where in Afghanistan were you?”

“Bagram. 455th Aerial Evac.”

Joseph nodded. “Yeah. I won’t give trouble.”

“Good.” Cleve lifted Joseph to his feet one-handed, keeping his other hand on the pistol. “Tim — can you carry both bikes, or do I need to take one?”

“I can get ’em both,” Tim said, “but I’ll have my hands full. You think we should each take one so we can have our shooting hands free?”

“Yeah. Okay, Joseph goes first. You’re gonna tell him which way to go, and —”

“Yeah, I’ll tell him where to go.” Tim looked grim.

“Just play it straight,” Cleve snapped. “You watch him and our front, I’ll cover our backs. If he tries anything, kneecap him.”

“You mean shoot out his kneecap?”


“That I can handle,” Tim said. “We got time for a pee break first?”

“It’s only four. We can be home in an hour. Go ahead.”

Tim slipped into the stairwell. “Your friend has an attitude,” Joseph said.

“Yeah. His girlfriend lived upstairs in the apartment we came out of. She killed herself. Pain pills. He’s looking for a reason to take it out on you.”

Joseph looked away. “Damn. My wife jumped in one of those trucks… I guess I know where he’s comin’ from.”

“Yeah. So don’t even let him think you’re trying to give trouble.”

Tim stepped back into the foyer, and Cleve got them moving. Outside, the truck’s whispering seemed to grow louder, perhaps sensing Tim’s distress and Joseph’s fear. All of them stood and stared, unwilling but listening: Join us. No sadness. No death. No fear. Leave all cares behind. After a long moment, Joseph spat, breaking the spell. Tim lifted a middle finger, from the hand wrapped around his damaged bike, then turned away.

It was a long hour’s walk, even with no incidents or trouble from Joseph. The sentries did a double-take, then waved to the others. Charles met them at the end of the block.

“What happened? We were about to send some people out after you!”

“Ran into a little trouble,” Cleve said. “We handled it.”

“Doesn’t look like the bikes did, though,” Max said. “What happened?”

“Our friend here had a little fun with them while we were upstairs,” Cleve said.

“So did you find her?”

“Yeah,” Tim said. “But not soon enough.” He glowered at Joseph one last time, took Cleve’s bike on his other shoulder, and walked away.

“Not good, then,” Charles said.

“Nope,” Cleve said. They stood quietly for a moment as some of the others gathered around. “So we caught this little redneck. What do we do with him?”

Charles looked Joseph over. “You wanna tell us anything about your friends?”

Joseph blinked. “Hell no.”

“He’s nobody’s bitch,” Cleve said. “I promised him that.”

“Well, what good is he? He won’t help us out, and nobody would want him for that anyway. What do we do with him, then?”

“Toss him in a pickup?” someone suggested. Some onlookers nodded or voiced agreement.

Joseph turned pale. “You’d do that? That ain’t right!”

“You and your buddies tried to kill us.”

“Yeah,” someone else said. “You came off the street like the pickups. Why shouldn’t you go away in one?”



  1. Mmm .. police experience might well be a handy asset in the After.

    Nice ep! :)

  2. I like how the hateful redneck got his comeuppance! Maybe Joseph will make himself useful. But not in a certain particular way, hahaha.

    This series looks like GLBTs have a hope of a better future than what the present Ugly Reality USA appears to portend for us.

  3. Now where is that pitchfork? Rough justice for Joseph, Far? ;-)

  4. Hey all!

    Nudge, Cleve is going to talk to us in a couple of weeks about his experiences. From last week: if Cody is right about who jumps in the trucks, the Amish may be at least as susceptible as anyone else — they don't conform to the "English" way of life, but they sure as heck conform within their communities.

    Hi Ed, good to see you here again! Joseph is having a Very Bad Day right now… not all the 27 people there are GLBT, but they are a far higher proportion of the "surviving" population — again, if Cody is right, they had learned how to resist the siren call of conformance to "straight" society and thus are at least partially inoculated.

    Boran, Joseph was one of the Saturday night attackers… and he may also be the unfortunate symbol of all the oppression they felt through their lives. It's pretty easy to understand how, now that he's in their power, a lynch mob could flash into life…

  5. The After would be an "interesting" time alright for members of minorities who, even under the best of circumstances, still got a lot of grief from others.

    Clearly bigotry has survived into the After with Joseph and whoever his gang is :(

  6. Indeed, bigotry survives — but is it going to be the force that it has been in the past (and still is, to some extent and in certain regions)?

  7. @FARfetched: I think with the White Pickups, the antigay bigots will find themselves outnumbered! And with this series indicating Atlanta's suburbia becoming an LGBT haven, ha, ha! :D These days I'm sure Atlanta's suburbs are dotted with megachurches, all preaching homophobic bigotry.

  8. Hi Ed… it's ironic, the woman who divorced her husband because he was gay, has invited him and his acquaintances to move in!

    As far as the megachurches go, I don't think that kind of thing is limited to the Atlanta suburbs…

  9. .. but survival is survival, and if the difference between making it vs not is a matter of letting go of some prejudice, then hopefully folks can clue up (was going to say man up or woman up, but English lacks 'der Mensch') when the time comes. In something like this, the bigger community with more talent/skills is much more viable.

  10. Clue up, or as some others put it, acquire clue. Either way, it's an excellent point. Can people put their prejudice aside, even when the trade is their very survival? Looking at some of the people around Planet Georgia, I guess the answer is "depends."

    A bigger community is helpful, yes, but is there also an optimum size? I'm not sure I know the answer to that one.

  11. @FARfetched: Yes, I noticed! Some can overcome their prejudices. Others like Joseph the Redneck, not so much. But I suspect he'll change in due time. He may even end up wanting to be someone's beyatch! Hahaha. But the reality is, as found by the Univ of GA (up your alley!), if a guy self-identifies as straight and is homophobic, there's an eighty percent chance that he's either a repressed homosexual or bisexual: i.e., get turned on by male-male sexual situations.

    We have megachurches here in New Orleans as well. A mile up the street from my house is this gigantor baptist church that looks like it belongs in an office park. And speaking of Atlanta megachurches, I noticed there's a decided lack of born-again Christians! It seems they were swept up in "The Devil's Rapture," hahaha.

  12. Ed, all I can say about the "lack of born-again Christians," there's Christians and Christians. Again, if Cody is right, that desire to conform (both themselves within their group and others to their own standards) made them more susceptible to the lure of the truck.

    We'll see what happens to Joseph on Monday… I've put the episode in the auto-post queue, since I'll be on vacation all next week & am counting on spotty access.


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