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Short story: THE HAPPY VALLEY MASSACRE
© copyright, January 1, 2003
This is my story, or at least my version even if other people who survived are going to tell it another way. My name is Thaana. I’m so embarrassed how I got into this condition. I haven’t always been baldheaded and fat even if I always have been much taller than most people including men. But I don’t know where to begin to tell you how I got stranded outside of my trailer standing with no clothes on. It just all happened so fast. If it hadn’t been for that mean old man Elmer, it wouldn’t have gotten so bad. Of course there was Jethro, but everyone around here knew he was absolutely no good. The way he was carrying on with that bitch Harriet, it’s no wonder it turned out the way it did. Well, to be truthful it was my big mouth that couldn’t keep shut that is mostly to blame, but probably what was going to happen was written in the stars and my mouth just made it happen a little sooner. Still, I do wonder what happened to the boy and the girl and that dog they took away.
Well, this all is so confusing isn’t it? I guess I should just tell you how it all started. The problem is, in a place like this, who knows how things began to unravel. It was a tragedy from the beginning. One thing for sure, it is a complete mess now and I expect the police will be arriving soon. Boy, are they going to be surprised to find the Deputy Sheriff buried with that slut Harriet and worthless Jethro. They will have to take my word for what happened. I seem to be the only one still here with my eyes wide open and the Pontiac Chief and the Mexican’s trailer are the only trailers still left standing. Of course the Mexicans just disappeared because they knew the cops would be here pronto, and them with no papers and all them kids, no wonder they’re gone One thing for sure, Harriet’s husband Wilbur sure flattened most the whole damn trailer camp.
I moved into the place about a year ago. At first I was depressed as hell about moving into a trailer park. I was in my trailer number 10 for about a week before I noticed the manufacturer’s model name. You know what? They called it the “Pontiac Chief.” At first I laughed at the ridiculousness of such a name, but then oddly enough somehow it made me feel better. The name made the trailer park seem kind of glamorous even though it is the worst place I ever lived. I knew I had hit the bottom one morning when I looked out the window and saw for the first time what it looked like -- what it really was – a white trash trailer ghetto.
There were only ten trailers. All of them were built in the early fifties. That lying pig, Elmer Freeport in number 1, owned the place and he called it the Happy Valley Mobile Village. That name was crap. Every word was a lie. Happy? It was the saddest place I’ve ever been. Secondly the trailer park was as far away from a valley as you can imagine. It was out in the middle of parched badlands. The only thing mobile about that place was the way all the trailers were melting into the ground. The only movement of this place was due to gravity and rot that was pulling it to the earth. To call the place a village was the biggest lie. It’s more like an encampment of hatred. Anyway, ten molting trailers with only a handful of people who never talked to each other was hardly a village. The location of the place was dismal as anywhere I ever been.
It sat beside two busy roads where the traffic roared 24 hours a day. To add to the volume there was the Interstate 10 which was only another hundred yards to the west. On the south side, right across the street was the truck stop. Generally about 20 to 40 big rigs were parked there and at least a dozen were moving all the time. But that doesn’t matter much being those damn truckers kept their trucks running 24 hours a day. There was the noise from those clicking diesel engines but worse were those angry little generator motors that cooled the cargo down.
Of course all of that seemed comparably quiet to when the train rolled through a dozen times a day. The train track was between me and the truck stop. The trains blew their whistles for miles away to warn the truckers at the crossings. By the time they passed the trailer court they shook the pictures off the wall. Once I was in the bathtub and the train caused so much vibration the water had waves like the Pacific. It was scary. But the trains were kind of enjoyable because they just sliced through time like a big noisy cleaning machine.
The noise and that really bothered me was the slamming and banging that came from the beer bottling factory just on the north side of the trailer court. For some reason the delivery trucks loaded up between midnight and 5:00 in the morning. The forklifts made a kind of irritating chunky noise but it’s the darn sliding and crashing sound of the retractable doors on the back of the truck trailers that drove me nuts. The sound was something like you imagine a toboggan would make if it came sliding down an icy shoot and crashed into a metal wall. It took me nearly two months to get used to the noise before I could sleep.
I wouldn’t have lived here at all except for two things. I didn’t make enough money to live anywhere else, and the place I worked was the truck stop just across the street. It was the descending ladder of poverty that got me here. I work as a waitress at the Travel Inn Restaurant over at the truck stop, or that is I used to work there because I expect things will change now. The truckers were nice enough but they don’t tip worth a damn.
Still the convenience was something. I could just walk across the street and be at work. I don’t really like walking since I gained all of this weight, but I didn’t really have any choice. My little red Toyota truck finally died at 307, 000 miles. You know I would drive the 200 ft. over to the truck stop if the thing was running. Still I guess the walking did me some good. The bad part about the job was the boss could send one of her boys over and nab me for an extra shift any time one of the other waitresses didn’t show up.
I haven’t always been a waitress, and like I said I haven’t always been fat and baldheaded as well. In fact back a few years ago I still retained some beauty and charm. That was before the treatment started and I lost all my hair. I was good looking, I had a career and I was going places. As far as I could see my freelance work as a photographer was something that would never change.
My work had actually fulfilled a childhood curiosity. You see from the very early age I was kind of a paparazzo. Of course when I was a child I didn’t have a camera, but I had a photographic memory, or at least I imagined every time I saw something really interesting my brain would go click, and I stored the image in there somewhere. It’s because of that ability that started me at a very early age being what some people call a “peeping Tom,” or in my case a “peeping Thaana.”
I guess I was that sure enough. I don’t even know when it started. I might have been five when I used to go to my parents’ bedroom door when I heard all the noise and banging of their bed hitting the wall. I would stand in at the door and look through the keyhole and just see the top of daddy’s butt as he pumped away on mama. I had no idea what they were up to, but it made me laugh and I couldn’t stop from watching. Later on I was so curious I even cracked the door open to get a better look. That is, until the old man caught me one time and beat the living hell out of me. I better explain something. He wasn't really my daddy. He was just an old man that took to my mama and he stayed around so long I started calling him daddy.
But I’m not telling you how Happy Valley Mobile Village was a trailer court of desolation, or how I fell to the earth as a lowly waitress. I was more than that in the good years. I used to be an artist, even an intellectual. If Steinbeck was alive and young he would have found Happy Valley Mobile Village and continued the theme of Tortilla Flats. Everybody at Happy Valley was down and out but sort exotic characters -- kind of like a weird cross between The Rolling Stones and skid-row winos. They were like mental patients, drug addicts, and bandits, illegal aliens and old men hiding in trailers with rubber women. So what the hell is this all supposed to mean? It is probably easier just to explain trailer by trailer and describe the contents that fill each of those dismal cavities. I can’t think how I can do this and not mess with your mind, but what the hell if you want to know about a bunch of sick and hateful people just hang with me for a while longer.
I’m exaggerating just a little bit for the effect of drama, but some people make you wonder how humans have get through life. I guess it is because there are some people that make you believe life is worthwhile. For instance, there was Billy and that young girl of the illegal Mexican family. I think her name was Wendy, but that doesn’t sound Mexican to me. Anyway, they were the only two people in this hellhole that had some element of human decency, but it was the dog -- I’m talking about the dog owned by that damned evil Elmer Freeport – it was that dog that brought them together. Well, it was the dog and that crazy old man in number seven, who let the dog loose and then got beat by Elmer. People like Elmer shouldn’t be allowed to own animals. It used to break my heart to see that poor dog chained up on that short chain out there in the rain and the snow and the sun and whatever could punish him from the world. Elmer, and his ugly wife, just didn’t care. To the Freeport’s, that dog was just a beast that was born to suffer. All that is over now of course, and who knows where Philip, and Wendy and the dog and that old man from number seven have gone. Good for them is all I can say.
I might as well start at the beginning. You see, it was Elvira, that was Elmer Freeport’s wife, who met that fat slob husband somewhere back in the fifties I am told. Elmer and Elvira, what a combination -- with names like that they were bound to meet each other and they were so mean and spiteful I guess it was natural they found each other. People are always saying the longer someone is married the more they look like each other. Elmer and Elvira both look nasty from the beginning I bet. They just deserved each other and with names like that it’s no wonder they wound up looking like a couple of matched cracked old marbled bowling balls.
All ten trailers was laid out in a long skinny kind of “U” shape. Five on one side and five just kind of opposite. Elvira and Elmer, they owned of Happy Valley Mobile Village. They live in the front trailer number 1 right next to the gate -- that is, they used to live there with that worthless son of theirs, Jethro, but I don’t think any of them is alive right now. They kept that poor dog chained right at the front gate so it was impossible not to see the dog every time I came into the trailer park.
Next to their trailer was number 2, the trailer of the truck-driver Wilbur. I never did know him very well, even though he used to take most of his meals at the Travel Inn when he came back off the road. He was gone most of the time and when he did come back it was only for a day or so. It was a funny arrangement, but his wife who lived in number 3, the trailer next in line, which was right next to the deputy sheriff’s trailer, number 4.
From my position at number ten, which was right across from number 1, I could pretty much keep tabs on and the coming and going those who visited her. When Wilbur the truck driver came home, I used to watch the ritual between that weird pair. He would stand at the door and knock for a few minutes before she would answer. Then I would hear him begging and pleading to let him in. The poor man would almost be in tears before she would open the door, and that was always after he had taken out his pay envelope from his shirt pocket and showed her as she peeked through the window. It was pitiful. She would crack the door open and he would pass it through.
Sometimes she would just slam the door and tell him to come back when his pay was a little bigger. I would hear him say that he had bills to pay and that was all he had. Usually he would keep begging until she would open up the door. But sometimes she would just go back to her bedroom and turn music on real loud and ignore the poor man. After an hour or so I would see him slump his shoulders and he would go back to his own trailer.
I have no idea what gets into the head of some men that they could love such a nasty human being, but he sure did have something for that wife of his. I know one thing though she was absolutely no good. It wouldn’t be an hour after the truck driver had driven away, that I would see that worthless Jethro shambling down from his parents’ trailer and just step into Harriet’s trailer like he was the rightful husband, and sometimes the deputy sheriff would just walk in. It didn’t even matter, if Jethro was there. He would go in and damn if I wouldn’t hear sounds like monkeys in a zoo for the next hour or so. They would start playing music and get drunk and make more noise than the whole damn truck park, beer warehouse and railroad put together. Jethro would keep visiting Harriet until the truck driver’s paycheck ran out then he’d go back up and sponge off his parents again. Jethro was one despicable little bastard. I saw him kick that dog more than once. Some people just aren’t worth the time of day. As far as the deputy, I sure think he had a few kinks in the his head, cause he only would drop in Harriet’s whorehouse if Jethro was there.
On the other side of the deputy was number 5, were the illegal aliens, the Mexican immigrant family. They had six kids and all of them were boys except for Wendy. She was the oldest so she had to watch after the whole pack. The family seemed to be nice enough, and I think it was all her father could do to keep them alive with the money he made at his construction job. I expect he was a common laborer by the amount of dirt I would see on his clothes every day. I think Wendy must have had to wash all of their clothes by hand, because her hands always looked so red and she was everyday hanging the laundry on the clothesline in the front yard. I used to watch her out my bedroom window and I saw the first time that Billy came over and talked to her. Billy is the boy who lives with his drug dealing daddy in number 6, across the way from the Mexicans.
Number 7 had already melted into the ground and I guess nobody lived there but rats and crack-heads.
Next in line was number 8 and it must have had some problem, cause people would move in, be there a day or two then move out. I bet you the Freeports never gave then their rent back.
Then there was the crazy old man who lived in number nine. He had all of the shades pulled down, so I could never see inside the trailer but there sure strange noises would come out of the place late at night, like rubber squeaking and hippopotamuses humping. He had a little work shed in front of his yard and every once in awhile I would see him grinding on some kind of machine in there that looked a like a cross between a motorcycle and a sailing boat. The thing was painted all orange green and purple. He came to the Travel Inn to have his breakfast and once I asked him what it was he was building. He said it was a portable sculpture he was going race in California.
Well after he said that I figured sure enough he must be crazy as they come. He told me the biggest problem he was trying to figure out with the machine was how he could get the music to play as it rolled down the street. I figured it was better just to agree with him and say that’s nice. I didn’t ask him about the machine after that, but it was hard not to watch him when he was out there working on that thing in the yard. I have to admit I got pretty curious about it, and actually it started looking kind of interesting although I hated the colors. I would see young Billy helping the old man work on that machine once in awhile
Billy lives with his daddy who is the local dope peddler. The daddy looks like some kind of old hippie from the sixties, complete with the ponytail and missing front teeth. There must be five or six different cars that pull up to his trailer at night time. Usually they’re only there for a few minutes. Everyone has to make a living, so I have nothing against Billy’s daddy except I could see that he was doing nothing good for his son. Billy used to come over to the Travel Inn a lot so I got to know him better than anybody else at the trailer camp and I can tell you that he was a very talented and intelligent young boy. He deserved a whole lot better than have a worthless drug dealing daddy. Billy told me all about how he had fallen in love with Wendy, and had a plan to take her away. He said he was going to steal the dog that the Freeport’s chained up. I didn’t believe him.
The deputy sheriff worked the night shift, so his deputy sheriff car was parked out front of the trailer all day long. Usually about 6:00 he would drive away and then about seven or 8:00 the clients to the dope dealer would start arriving. That used to strike me as the funniest thing, as I wondered if they actually knew that a cop was just across the row from them. More than likely the deputy sheriff was in on the drug deals too. There ain’t anything that would surprise me about that.
It is amazing what can go on in one little incestuous white trash trailer park. Oh my god, this story is more than I can bear and I don’t even know how one can explain the circumstance of so many hateful people coming together in the same space and time. But it is better for me not to think about it at all and just tell you what I know and what I have seen. In fact, everything becomes totally confusing to me because there are several ways I see the details. It’s like a million particles of dust in the air swirling and mingling but no way can you find anything that is connected.
Whatever Elma and Elvira wanted in the beginning no one can tell for sure. What is obvious is what they created in the end. The Happy Valley Mobile Village was the place where everyone had something to hate. You could tell just by looking at it. That was because Elmer and Elvira hated each other. Their son Jethro hated them. The dog they kept on a chain hated its masters. The Mexicans hated anyone who wasn’t a Mexican. Harriet hated her truck driving husband. Her husband hated anyone who paid attention to his unfaithful wife. The dope peddler hated the Law or anyone who tried to interfere with his illegal trade. The deputy Sheriff hated anyone who worked in the daytime. And I hate just about everything. So I guess it was best that we all should live in such an encampment of hatred. In a way, we all deserved each other and brought the events that happened just as surely as if we had put a coin and the machine and pushed a button.
Everything just happened like a small pebble that starts rolling down a mountain because a mouse bumped it, and the next thing you know it has turned into a darn full scale avalanche and half the mountain just comes rolling over you. I was there and I heard the first whispers of disaster and saw the thing get started. It was that stupid worthless Jethro that brought the mountain down on us all.
It started at lunch time when Jethro came over to the Travel Inn to have a greasy hamburger for his breakfast. He must have just got out of bed with that tramp Harriet, because when I happened to walk past him he said to a truck driver he knew, “Yup, makes you mighty hungry pumping a long distance truck drivers wife all night, cause they are on a diet, if you know what I mean…”
Well the truck driver he was talking to thought that was funny. I don’t think he was married, otherwise he probably wouldn’t have thought it so humorous. So this driver turns and tells the little joke to the driver next him and the guy laughed because that was what he was supposed to do, or maybe the first driver improved the joke and it was funny. Anyway, whatever from there on it was like that old game they used to call Chinese whispers, because I kept hearing variations of the little piece all afternoon long until about four, which was the end of my shift, when one of the regular drivers, Bubba, who calls me Cutie, came over, took my elbow and whispers, “Hey Cutie, you know why a truck drivers wife never gets skinny?” He didn’t wait for my utter bewilderment. “Cause they always get pumped up when their husbands are away—har, har, har…”
Well I just smiled at him and gave him my most tip-getting tone of voice and said, “Oh, Bubba, that is just so darn funny, honey.”
Wouldn’t you know it but it was also just then when Wilbur, Harriet’s long distance truck driving husband walks in, and damn, I don’t know what got in me, but I turned back to Bubba and said, “Honey, that is just a scream. Why don’t you tell that sad looking driver over there that story? I bet it will just cheer him up a bunch.” He said he thought he would, and I went into the office to punch out and put all my waitress stuff away. I hadn’t been in the office a minute when I heard the commotion out in the restaurant. By then I had my coat on and was preparing myself for the long distance shuttle of 200 feet to get back to my Pontiac Chief trailer home. My God, I walked out and there was Wilbur just beating poor old Bubba all over the head. I don’t know why, but I just panicked and ran like a scared chicken. Before I knew it I was back in my trailer peeping out the windows as usual. That was about 4:30 p.m. the best I can figure when I see the deputy sheriff come out of number 4 and head for number three.
I figured Jethro must be at Harriet’s hole again otherwise the deputy wouldn’t be going there. I watched and sure enough that weasel snake Jethro opens up Harriet’s door and in prances the deputy. By this time I am beginning to get a gloomy feeling because I know what I just left in the Travel Inn and some how I know it won’t be long before poor old Wilbur might just show up…the thing is I didn’t reckon on how he’d arrive.
I guess it was about 5 p.m. when first I heard all the crashing and banging across the street at the truck stop, and then it was only a few minutes until I heard a whole bunch of sirens that seemed to be coming my way. I went to bathroom and decided to take a shower, because you know when I get nervous like I was then, a shower just seems to calm me down, and damn sure I needed to calm down. I tried not to think about what was going on over there at the truck stop, but somehow I just knew it was because of my big flap. Whatever was happening over there, I had somehow started it.
Well that noise over at the trucks top just kept getting noisier and noisier. Even though I had the shower on full blast I kept hearing all this crunching and crashing sound over there. Sirens seemed to be going around and around over there in the parking lot as well. I tried to ignore it all by shampooing my wig, but finally curiosity just got the best of me and I stepped out of the shower to peep out of the little bathroom window which I had to wipe the steam off. What I could see was kind of weird. A big truck was going real fast with a whole bunch of cop cars all around it. Well, you know what I was thinking. Wilbur had done lost it and it didn’t look good. “Oh my God,” I said as I watched the big rig turn sharp and run right over a cop car. Worse than that, those evil headlights on the truck seemed to be just looking at me, and they kept getting bigger.
Well, I just stood there looking at them lights like I was hypnotized and they just kept getting bigger. I wasn’t until I realized they were getting bigger and that damn truck was busting through the hedges on the opposite side of the road from the Happy Valley Trailer Village and heading exactly towards my bathroom room window, that I just dropped my wig and ran for my life out the side door of the trailer.
Yep, I was there in the back corner of the park, huddling behind a big tree, nude as all nature when I saw that 18-wheeler come roaring by the Pontiac Chief, missing it by a couple feet. But he sure didn’t miss Harriet’s Trailer. He nailed it dead on, and boy shit flew everywhere. Wilbur just kept making a big turn and then that big old truck came straight on down the line and wiped out 5, 4, what was left of 3, then he got his own number 2, and rammed right across Elmer and Elvira’s hacienda. He had made another turn and some how missed the Mexicans trailer by an inch or two and was plowing his way down the line towards the Pontiac Chief when the clapping noise of guns seemed to just happen everywhere. The truck came to a dead stop with its front bumper just kind of stuck into the side of the Pontiac Chief like a French kiss. And there I was standing behind this tree, with no clothes and me without my wig.
I don’t know how I’m going to explain this all happened when the cops get here.
1) excerpt from PARKING METERS
2) excerpt from ASSASSIN'S ANGEL
3) excerpt from THE CRYSTAL TIGHTROPE
4) short story, MASSACRE AT HAPPY VALLEY
5) short story, CAFE LUNA
6) short story, THE RIVER SONG
7) short story, TURN OF A CIRCLE
8) short story, THE BEACH HOUSE
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