Vincent Truman (vincenttruman.net)

THE THIN PINK LINE
a novel idea by Vincent Truman

FEATURED IN THE BOOK "UGLY BUNGALOW"

1999-2007 Vincent Truman-Mulvihill/Razor Spirits ASCAP.
All rights reserved.

Introduction

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

 

THE THIN PINK LINE

a novel idea by Vincent Truman

2001 Vincent Truman-Mulvihill/Razor Spirits ASCAP.
All rights reserved.

CHAPTER ONE

 

Lance Lamour was a man with a mission. He had won it in the "Win a Mission" contest held by the Church of Immediate Concern when the need came to raise some emergency funding. The mission itself had long been abandoned – in fact, it had never been used at all – and sat on the edge of town overlooking the Phukaduk River. Weeds grew like weeds, nearly camouflaging the structure in the wooded area it was built in, making it appear to be nothing more than a four-story bush.

Initially, Lance was elated to win the mission. After all, the only thing he had won prior to this was a seven-foot styrofoam representation of Mr. Log, the wooden mascot of the Phukaduk Loggers. But soon it was apparent that the mission was more of a burden than a joy: the property taxes were high, there was no running water or heat and the place seemed to be filled with a bunch of damn crosses.

For the months of September, October and November, Lance would visit the mission and wander room to room, cutting down weeds and admiring the view of the town from the tower. He sat in the tower sometimes for hours, listening to the lightly babbling Phukaduk River, and thinking of life’s mysteries, like why bad things happen to boring people and why shows like When Animals and Road Rage Collide III could get on the air and rack up ratings previously reserved for a Kennedy assassination.

As the months continued to end in "-ber" and the days shrunk like testicles in mountain spring water, Lance began to grow depressed. He was not happy before winning the mission; he was less so now. His day job was redundant, thankless and redundant – he worked on an assembly line in an LED factory, enabling the displays to blink "12:00" endlessly, while he sat below a flashing morale-boosting sign that chided employees to "get the LED out" – and his home life was only slightly more interesting. At only 29 years, he had his own home, at, curiously enough, 1200 Blinkety Blink Road, where he occupied himself with his fondest hobby: making life-size balloon people.

But aside from that, Lance had very little to show for his life. His parents died a few years back, although his brother and his family lived nearby. His romances were few and far between, although he nearly married a city girl named Barcelona McVee, who fell into impoverishment – and out of sight - after marketing her video series Lose Weight Through Sheer Public Embarrassment. Since then, his hair – formerly a very autumnal red – had grown pale with his complexion. A slight double chin had appeared over his slender frame, making his head seem bigger than it was. There was occasionally a fire in his dark, magnificent eyes, but was that due to his dyslexia and lack of hand-to-mouth coordination when it came to cigarette smoking. "Wrong end!!" people would yell to no avail as Lance would jab the wrong end of a Camel into his retina. As a result, a lot of people tended to avoid Lance. Even Jahovah’s Witnesses had gone so far as to scrawl "Not Worth Saving" on his mailbox, for fear of being lured into the strange house with the funny balloons in the basement.

So it was no great surprise that on Christmas Eve, as carols and psalms tumbled down from the Church of Immediate Concern onto the snow-blanketed streets that Lance borrowed his brother’s truck and moved from 1200 Blinkety Blink Road and into the only building on Abandoned Mission Road.

"Lots of crosses in here," remarked Hugo Lamour, Lance’s older brother, as the two of them entered the large hall that was to become the living room. Hugo, a thickly muscled man (below the neck), carried Lance’s Steinway piano. Lance followed, carrying a dozen wooden hangers.

"Yes, there are," Lance replied.

Hugo was as tough as nails and smart as a hammer. His burly frame, wavy hair and dark red moustache made him look like the man on the paper towels. People would stop him on the street and ask, "Hey, are you the Brawny guy?" to which he would invariably reply, "Well, I work out."

Hugo was three years’ senior to Lance and had built up his body primarily to protect his younger, more sensitive brother. Hugo remembered with great sadness the day when Lance came home from school beaten, bloody and crying. So Hugo worked out constantly, with an eye toward defeating Lance's as-yet-unseen bully. It was only years later that it was revealed that Hugo had multiple personalities, and it was Hugo himself who had been beating up Lance all of these years. Well, thought Hugo at the time, that explains how Lance went from simple bumps and bruises to actue bone fractures and internal organ displacement.

But still the brothers remained close, and Lance bore no ill will. It was Lance, in fact, who introduced Hugo - or rather, Hugo's Personality Number Four, Martha - to the therapist who would cure and eventually marry Hugo. Now Hugo and Dr. Dray had a perfect house, perfect marriage and three clinically depressed children.

"So you really gonna live here?" asked Hugo when he returned into the mission, a sofabed balancing on his head.

Lance drily spoke, "I need some water." As he poured a glass of Sea Thru Water From the Orient into his favorite styrofoam cup, he continued, "That's better. Ahh. It's really dry in here." A pause. "I don't know, Hugo. Perhaps my life has become as cold as these stone walls, my spirit as transparent as a ghost in time, my ability to truly love as dry as this cup. Once I finish drinking, that is. Yes. After I am done drinking.... and this cup sits out for a while... maybe a few hours... then it will be a dry as... whatever I was saying.:

Hugo twitched. When Lance attempted to be poetic, he could almost remember the joy of breaking Lance's solar plexis the first time. "Yeh. Where do you want the sofabed?"

"Oh anywhere," replied Lance, gazing absently at the Mr. Log statue behind the piano.

Hugo gingerly threw the sofabed up a flight of stairs and walked over to his younger brother. His arm rested on Lance's shoulder. "Lance, you look sad."

"Yes," acknowledged Lance, taking a final gulp of Sea Thru Water From the Orient. "I guess I am."

"Well, why don't you stay with us? It's Christmas Eve, after all. Tomorrow afternoon, I'll bring you back and cut down a bunch of trees so you can be warm."

Lance bit into the rim of his cup. "I don't know, Hugo."

"Of course you know me."

"What?"

Hugo continued. "The kids would love to see their Uncle Lance." Hugo's blue eyes grew wet and his right eyebrow twitched so loud that Lance could hear it.

"But I haven't bought any presents..."

"Oh, shucks. We'll think of something!"

Lance looked up at Hugo and saw the compassion in the big ogre's face. "Thanks, Hugo," he said, his voice beginning to falter. "You are the best older brother a guy could hope for."

"You are, too," said Hugo. With that, the two siblings embraced tightly, communicating wordlessly their love of and dedication to each other. They only stopped hugging when Hugo heard the distinctive and familiar sound of ribs cracking. As Lance slumped against him, Hugo gently patted his head. "Sorry, Lance."

"....uhhgghh..."

"It's okay. The hospital's on the way."

"...ah...gr...glug..."

"Right then. Let's see about those presents and get you to the emergency room!" said Hugo, laying his brother across the piano and, for reasons unknown, attaching a tournaquet to one of the Steinway's legs. Lance lay there thinking of nothing but the welcoming warmth of his brother's family. And oxygen.

The warmth of Hugo's family was exhibited perfectly when, an hour later, the two of them pulled up to Hugo's house, and discovered the residence was on fire.

"Oh my God," wheezed Lance, fingering his bandages.

"Oh shit," grumbled Hugo. "That's Doom. Just goes to show that you can't trust an eight-year-old with matches." Hugo exited the truck through the missing front window and approached the house, his hands on his hips, watching the blaze. "Doom! Get out here!" He turned to Lance: "Kind of Christmassy, though, isn't it?"

A young girl, with golden blonde hair that draped over her Product Placement Patty pyjamas, and holding a lit kitchen match, appeared from the cloud of black smoke that eminated from the front of the house and stood before her father. Her lower lip puckered sadly.

"Doom, honey," Hugo said, compassionately yet firmly, "put the fire out."

"But, Daddy...."

"Now."

Doom inhaled as if she were about to cry, then turned and disappeared again into the plume of smoke. Hugo turned and smiled, winking at Lance. "Kids, huh?"

Lance nodded. "Kids."

* * * * *

Lance woke up the next morning feeling unnaturally better. The same genetic miracle that had enabled Hugo to balloon to 250 pounds of solid meat had also granted Lance the ability to heal quickly. He rolled over and peered out the frost-edged window to the signs of Christmas everywhere: snow on the ground, the town drunk passed out in the street wearing a red hat, the remains of Hugo's garage. Slowly, he sat up and looked at the guest room's digital alarm clock. It blinked "12:00". Lance smiled to himself.

Walking into the sunken living room to see the children took Lance's breath away. Or maybe he had a punctured lung after all. Doom, the middle child, opened presents consisting mainly of weights, psychological journals and flame-retardant clothing. Terrance, the oldest at 12, was trying to negotiate the weak points of his brand new Baby Jesus Pinata. The youngest child, a rather odd boy curiously named Also, sat under the tree soiling himself with great determination. Even the parents were in the spirit. Dr. Dray, Hugo's wife, chain-smoked over a pile of case studies decorated with tinsel, weeping to herself. Hugo could be seen in the backyard constructing a life-size train set.

"Good morning, all," said Lance, "and Merry Christmas."

Terrance waved. "Thanks for the cross, Uncle Lance," he said, producing a ten-pound crucifix Lance and Hugo had hastily wrapped the previous night. Then, wielding it wildly above his head, Terrance smashed the Baby Jesus Pinata into dozens of small, but holy, bits of plaster, revealing an assortment of Chocolate Gold, FrankenFUNce and Myrhh-Mania.

"You're welcome," smiled Lance.

"Yeh, thanks for the cross," echoed Doom, who was already trying to see if hers would ignite. Also grunted from under the tree, instantly scalding the east side of the tree from his self-made fumes.

After a lazy morning of coffee, casual conversation and putting out the odd fire, Lance and Hugo drove back down Abandoned Mission Road. Drumming absently on the steering wheel, Hugo said, "It was great having you over. I really think the kids enjoyed the crosses."

"Also also?"

"Sure!"

Lance shrugged. "Next year, perhaps I'll buy them something useful." He looked out the passenger window (or where it would have been if it were there), barely noticing the pedestrians running out of the path of Hugo's truck.

"You still seem sad, Lance. What are you thinking about?" asked Hugo, barely noticing the pedestrians running out of the path of his truck.

"Mom and Dad," mumbled Lance. "I always miss them this time of the year." Lance remembered his parents' senseless death several Decembers ago during a bank non-robbery. It seems that the bank alarm was triggered by the extreme cold weather, and when the police showed up, they found everyone but the tellers wearing ski masks, including Lance's and Hugo's folks. The ensuing blood bath had made all the local papers. The bank, for their part, offered all heirs of their former customers gift certificates to local restaurants. Lance never did use his coupon for $5 off the Stickyhair Burger Meal at Mr. Quief's.

Lance snapped back to reality to find Hugo staring at him with a stranger's eyes. Hugo's right eyebrow moved like Michael Flatley's right foot on amphetamines. "What's wrong, Hugo?"

"Who's Hugo?" snapped Hugo, his voice much higher and his accent much Southern. "Mah name is Martha. Whatchu doin' in my buggy, boy?"

Martha. Ahh. Personality Number Four. "Hey, Martha," said Lance, "how are you?"

"I know y'all. Yer that evil Mr. Jenkins frum the pharmacitical, ain't chu?" Hugo sneered, attempting to cross his legs. "Sellin' them condoms ta da kids. You oughta be shot, you amoral snake in the grass. That's what you ahhhr."

Lance didn't blink. He had had this conversation several times. In the past, he tried to reason with Hugo's puritantical personality; now, he knew better. He smiled. "Oh, you didn't hear? I gave up the pharmacy and you're giving me a ride to church."

"Tarnation! It's 'bout time!" exclaimed Hugo, his face red with self-righteous rage. "Hear ye the word of the Lord and He will save you! Fear Him and you will fear nothing!"

"Yes."

"Feminine hygiene is not a dirty word!" continued Hugo, whisking back the long locks of greying hair that was not there. "Yer still a snake though. You know, I could save yer soul muh-seff, Mr. Jenkins. We should have dinner. Do y'all like Elvis? I love Elvis. I saw Elvis in Las Vegas. I hate Las Vegas. Full of amoral snake-types. Snakes in the grass. I want a man I can depend on - is that too much to ask?"

A few minutes later, the truck pulled up to Lance's mission residence. Lance looked at Hugo. "Now whatever you do, don't hit your head with all your might on the dashboard."

Hugo's face twisted. "Now, Mr. Jenkins, don't be telling me what to do or what not ta do... just cuz I'm a woman!!" With that, he slammed his forehead on the dashboard five or six times in rapid succession. The whole cab rattled. Hugo blinked. "Oh, Lance. We're here already! Great."

As Hugo busied himself by pulling up nearby trees by the roots so he could saw them into firewood, Lance sat in the mission's tower overlooking the winding Phukaduk River. As the water rushed by his eyes, so did his life rush by his mind. So boring were the last few years that Lance found himself daydreaming about his youth in hopes of finding something - anything - that might put him on track again.

Then came a thought of his first love, when he was seven years old. Immediately, he tried to dismiss the thought of his "first love" - how could that have been love, after all? He was only a kid - younger than his firestarter of a niece. But his doubts eroded when he remembered the first time he had laid his eyes on young Ismarelda LePoofe.

It was his first day in the second grat and he was quite nervous. He had hated the idea of learning cursive - the lessons for which were to commence on this day - because he had thought it involved wearing a skirt. But his fears disappeared faster than a fair-weather friend on Moving Day when Ismarelda floated into the room. She wore a Prince Valiant brunette bob, which hung over piercing blue/green eyes, a pointy nose and thin, pretty lips. All that would have been stunning enough for a seven-year-old if it weren't for the fact that she was actually floating. Ismarelda LePoofe had an acute case of landophobic gravitosis, which kept her levitating above the ground from six to eighteen inches, depending on her mood.

Lance and Ismarelda became good friends and often paired up as 'buddies' for field trips. They even kissed once during an class excursion to a corn field. Even now, when Lance heard the world 'stalk', he got all flustered and goose-bumply.

But that was long ago, thought Lance. Since then, he had certainly dated, but in most cases his heart had been ripped out like Jimmy Page from the Led Zeppelin history books when Page/Plant started recording together again. It was no surprise he had taken to drinking. Sure, he only drank imported spring water, but he did it compulsively. He just couldn't help himself. He downed another greedy glug of Sea Thru Water From the Orient.

Hugo appeared in the tower. "Well, I got you six trees. Should last for a while."

"Thanks, brother," said Lance, pausing a moment to check out the man who just walked in. "Hugo, right?"

"Of course," replied Hugo. "You got a phone out here, right?"

"I have my cell."

"Ok, good. Well... if you need anything..." Hugo trailed off. "Merry Christmas, Lance."

"Yes," Lance said absently. "Merry Christmas, Hugo."

Lance listened to Hugo's truck pulling away. He sighed to himself, chugging some Sea Thru Water From the Orient straight from the bottle. Then he was a struck by a thought. He stood up. "Hey, Hugo, I think someone just stole your truck!" Without speaking, Hugo ran past Lance and jumped out of the tower window. Lance watched as his brother leapt landing to landing before crashing to the ground. A moment later, Hugo was up again and running up the road. Lance sat back down, the orange glow of the setting December sun filling the room like Tang.

END OF CHAPTER ONE

 

 

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