The Country Dragon
Part 1: Turmoil
A ray of sunlight started to creep through my windowsill, slowly raising me from my slumber. The light, every morning, always seemed to shine directly into my eyes
Not a good way to start the day. The room was dark, apart from the light seeping under the windowsill, and every so often, the oak wood floor would creak in the warmth of a new arriving day.
Looking around, I saw my computer, sitting on my desk, and my guitars, resting in their holders just to my left. In front of me, my closet sat, concealing clothes, my guitar amp, and other random little things. To my right, just a few feet away from my bed, sat the closed door, sealing my room from the rest of the house.
I groaned a little and slid my feet into a pair of slippers by my bed.
My name is Alan Douglas Stuttgart. A typical seventeen-year-old guy who was in his final years of high school... About six foot two, brown hair, hazel eyes, a thick, well-trimmed beard, littered with scars, and (thanks to a bunch of hours spent working on a ranch) a heavy build. That's me in a nutshell.
Yawning and stretching, I slowly made my way out of bed for a brand new day.
My back ached, my head was sore and I was dizzy
yesterday's air soft was fun, but the hangover you got the day after sucked.
*Snap. Crackle. Pop.*
I groaned through gritted teeth as my spine snapped and popped. I had thrown my back out during the air soft game yesterday, but whatever, I would live. I stood up and opened my window. The day looked like it was going to be a good one. Clear, blue California skies shown over the ranch. I took a big breath of fresh air before I turned around and headed for the door.
I made my way out the door and down the hall when George and Mike walked out of their rooms and decided to join me. George and Mike were my stepbrothers. Mike is a seventeen-year-old teenager (like myself), standing at a height of five foot ten, and, like me, sported a heavy build, however, a routine weekend partier also meant that he was just a tiny bit heavier proportioned. With no scratchy beard, dirty blond hair, an awesome sense of humor, and an active social life (unlike me), this meant he was mister popular around everyone at any given time indiscriminately.
George on the other hand, is more 'average Joe' than outgoing Mike. At eighteen years old, six feet tall, covered with thick black hair, a gentle demeanor, and, a great sense of humor, George was the average run-of-the mill teenager
And with a deep interest in music also meant that he was often hanging around his room, playing his little Yamaha keyboard.
I nodded my hello to both of them and continued down the hall until I reached the stairway.
Narrow and creaky, the stairs seemed to rebound with every step I took. Once at the bottom, I stepped into the conjunction between the front door ahead of me, the dining room to my left, the kitchen to my right, and the living room behind me. I could see the road beyond the front door, watching vehicles motoring by my house in the distance. I was too drowsy to care about what was going outside though. The smell of freshly cooked eggs wafted into my nose from the kitchen, as did the noises of Clara cooking. I drifted into the kitchen and saw Carol cleaning and her husband Keith sitting, leaning against the counter with his nose buried his breakfast of coffee and omelet.
Clara was your typical, country-raised sweetheart. Born in the early fifties, Carol was raised on a ranch near Spearman, Texas. Standing at five foot three, a little overweight, with blond hair, and a heartwarming demeanor, Clara was, as I said, your typical country-raised sweetheart. She had lost some of her southern accent moving to California, but her Texan charm remained.
Keith was just as old as Clara. Raised in Eatonville, Washington, Keith stood at a towering six foot four. He had balding black hair, with a very thick, medium length beard. Keith had a simple demeanor and a decent sense of humor, which only complemented off his already simple lifestyle. He wasn't good with mechanics, but he was as versatile and handy as a toolkit when it came to electronics.
"Hey Clara. Hey Keith." I said as I walked past both of them, on my way to nab a bite to eat.
"Hey Al." Carol greeted.
"Hi Al." Keith said through a face full of omelet.
Clara and Keith were the people who had adopted all three of us. They never had children, but they adopted anyone who had a good heart. Clara is a retired kindergarten schoolteacher and Keith owns his own electronics store in nearby Peteluma. After Clara retired in the late nineteen-nineties, the two started adopting kids. Mike was the first to be adopted after his parents had dropped him off at an orphanage in the early nineties, and in 2000, he was taken in by Clara and Keith. George followed a year later after when his parents perished in the terrorist attack of 9/11.
I was last, following in mid 2005. I was adopted after a tragedy that occurred in summer of 2004. While on vacation in Germany, a three-car pileup on the Autobahn took my mother, brother and father's lives in a period of less than five minutes. I was adopted in mid 2005, after I was released from rehab, Carol and Keith adopted me, and immediately, I was taken in as family.
I am thankful they did
I couldn't imagine life without them.
I walked over to the fridge and grabbed the gallon jug of milk, and a box of Captain Crunch.
"Al." Keith said, shoveling omelet into his mouth.
"Mmm?" I quizzed, my nose smelling my blissful cup of coffee.
"You're coming with me to get your car today." He stated.
"Did they call?" I asked.
"Yeah, the new transmission is in."
"Sweet. When did they say it would be ready?"
"They said to stop by at eleven and it should be ready to run." Keith answered.
"Excellent." I said as I took a good sip of my cup of coffee. I walked over into the living room and sat down on the leather couch next to George.
The living room was your average room. The TV was mounted on a wall in between two windows. Across from the TV sat a glass coffee table and a large brown leather couch. On either end of the couch sat two end tables, and to the right, turned at a forty degree angle or so towards the TV, sat a recliner. Everyone knew it as Keith's seat. George reached for the remote on the coffee table in front of us and turned on the TV.
"-Mass chaos breaks out over the Northeast part of the states as mass kidnapping sprees are spreading rampant across the Midwest, it is only a matter of time before they reach California, back to you Craig." The anchorman said.
flick it over to something decent like SpongeBob please." Mike asked.
"With pleasure." George said, immediately reaching for the clicker and switched the channel.
"Turn it back onto the news please. Thanks!" Clara shouted from inside the kitchen.
All three of us on the couch groaned in reluctance.
"Now what?" George asked complained.
I'm going to get up." I said, getting up.
The two just looked at me, with a pair of sarcastic faces. I rolled my eyes at their sarcasm and suppressed a chuckle. I went around to the back door. Looking at the old clock, I saw it was ten forty-five, just as I walked out back onto the ranch.
The sheer size of six acres became apparent the second you stepped outside. The fence was so far away; it disappeared from sight as soon as it reached the hilly part of the property. Then there sat the "Sniper's Crest"
During the airsoft operations I had with George and Mike, I'd often sit up on top of the largest hill of them all, which overlooked the property. Dubbed "Sniper's Crest" by George and Mike, the area was always occupied by me
Higher ground meant that I was undefeatable when the others came within my gun's range.
I was broken from my trance as a loud series of swearing and cursing flew out of the barn
I already knew it was Keith, what he was doing was the next thing in question. I chuckled softly and headed on over to the barn. Once inside, I saw what he was swearing about.
" he swore under his breath.
Keith was underneath his old 1994 Ford F150, changing the oil. I saw him roll out from underneath the truck, his whole face covered in black oil. I suppressed a laugh; I remembered only a few months ago when I made the mistake of laughing when he came out from under Carol's 1984 Buick, after emptying all the oil onto his face
He walked over to his workbench to my left and grabbed a rag.
"Ohh. Al. How long have you been there?" He said as he mopped up his beard.
"Long enough to see you come out from under the car." I said as I motioned my head towards the truck.
"You didn't laugh did you?" He said in a bitter tone.
Without hesitation I said, "I learned rather quickly to not to last time I saw you changing the oil." I didn't want a repeat of last time.
"Good." He said with a cold look, "Anyway, what time is it?"
"Ten to eleven."
Keith nodded, "Alright then. Best finish this up and go get your car."
I asked, "Yeah. Do you need help?" He was about to slide beneath the car again before he stopped.
"No." He said coldly "I can do it myself, thank you very much."
I nodded sluggishly and backed away from Keith. With some speed, Keith changed out the filter, and screwed back the bolt into the oil pan before sliding out again. I just leaned on the barn door, watching Keith go about his business. He grabbed a canister of fresh oil and was about to fill the car up before he stopped in his tracks.
"Hold on Al." He said as he set the oil canister back down on the workbench.
I raised an eyebrow, waiting for him to give me an order. Keith grabbed a rag, soaked it with water from the hose, and cleaned off his arms and face before he spoke up again.
"Al. Fill it up with oil while I run out and get my wallet, then we will be on our way." He said as he threw the rag on the workbench.
"Okay boss." I said as I headed over to the oil canister.
I took the oil canister from the workbench and topped up the engine as Keith ran back to the house. Keith was a fun guy, simple, but short tempered at times. I shuddered as I remembered the last incident while he changed the oil. Keith was too kind to beat people to a pulp, but he can roar loud enough to make your eardrums hurt for days. Keith walked back into the door the second after I finished filling up the car.
"Lets hit the road." I said.
He said as he tossed me the keys, "You drive."
I hopped in and together we drove down to the only auto repair shop I trust: Country Club Automotive down in Novato. It took a good thirty minutes, but hey, I liked them. They were the only people I trusted with my precious BMW. We pulled into the parking lot and I leaped out.
"So are you going to have lunch out somewhere?" Keith asked.
"Yeah I'll probably head out to Mister Pickles, why?"
Keith shrugged, "Okay then; I'll tell Clara that you're not having meatloaf for lunch then."
"Oh thank god
That's a meal best avoided." I said with a humorous laugh added at the end.
Keith laughed a bit, "You are lucky. I swear she always adds a mystery ingredient every time she cooks meatloaf."
"Okay, drive safe." I said with a small wave. Keith waved back, then shifted the car into reverse, and drove off. Little did I know that was the last time I was going to see him for two days. I turned around then scanned the parking lot for my BMW
only to be surprised by the sound of an old friend's voice.
I turned around and saw a familiar face running towards me.
"I knew only one person had that old Beemer, how's it going!?" Richie shouted joyously as he ran up and gave me a firm hug.
"Richie! Hey man! Long time no see, eh?"
"Long time indeed." He said as he nodded his head.
Richie was a long time family friend, and last time I saw him was when I bought my car, just after the funeral for my family. Standing at six foot one, black hair and a neat goatee, Richie was a swell guy. Good sense of humor with a friendly disposition and, like me, he had a thing for cars. Anything and everything car or truck related grabbed our attention quickly.
"How's it going?" I asked.
"Not good. My car has got a bad cylinder." He said in a bitter tone.
"Still driving the Lexus?" I asked.
"Nope, I traded it in for a Porsche 944."
lucky, I am still stuck with the Beemer."
"So what's wrong with yours?" He asked as he looked around the parking lot.
"Mine has, or had a bad transmission."
"I can tell you that my wallet isn't enjoying the diet."
He snorted a laugh, "Wallet is going all Nicole Richie on you."
"Heh, yeah. It sucks."
"Yeah." Richie sighed. There was a small pause, but he soon filled the air with a new conversation.
"How's life up north?" he asked.
I shrugged, "It's lazy. We played an air soft game yesterday, after school, so yeah. It's lazy... At least it's summer time now though." I said joyously.
He smiled, "Ahh tell me about it. I was waiting for school to get out for soooo long. I started counting the days down in March."
"Well at least it's gone and done for a few months."
"I say summer should be longer." He laughed a bit.
"Heh, I agree." I said.
"So you said you did a game of airsoft yesterday?"
"Yep. It's fun but it gets boring quick... mostly because I camp with a rifle."
Richie nodded, "I bet
Shooting Mike and George getting too boring?"
"Not when I pull a no-scope with a pistol on George from fifty feet away."
He laughed heartily before he asking, "Did he get mad?"
"Furious. I think my gloating didn't help."
"Hahaha. I would have loved to see that." He said.
We talked until the lead mechanic approached me.
"My car ready Jerry?" I asked as I turned my attention to Jerry.
"Yeah, it's over there-", he pointed over to where my little red BMW sat; in the corner of the lot, "
and the keys are on the dash."
"Thanks man." I said in a happy tone. And with that, I said my goodbye to Richie, and then headed for the office to pay up and do the paperwork. It only took a couple minutes to write up the bill and write down my name on the lines provided.
"Alright, thanks again Jerry." I said as I handed him the last bit of signed paperwork. I walked over to my car and hopped in, firing up the old engine. It sounded good as I drove off. I knew it was another hour before I would be home, and that there were some great places to drop by and get some grub
so just a little extra time away from home couldn't hurt
Especially with that meatloaf in the house
I pulled into a place called Mr. Pickles in Peteluma for a quick sandwich. It's a nice little fast food restaurant that I like. I walked in and ordered a tuna sandwich with a Pepsi. The place was almost full; almost every table and stool was filled. After I had taken my order, I headed off to a table. As I sat down, the little TV in the corner caught my eye, and soon my attention.
"-And the spree of kidnappings have started to appear in California! I can't believe it. The cops had better get to the bottom of this." A witness bellowed over the little TV screen speakers at the end of my table.
"I know, and there are rumors that all the kidnappings all over the US, are all related." Blurted another witness.
"Like a gang?" the news anchor asked.
"Like a huge gang. It must be thousands of kidnappers for there to be thousands of cases in the US alone!"
' I thought to myself. 'As long as they do not mess with me, I'm fine.'
"Your order sir?" The lady behind the counter half-asked, half-informed me.
"Thank you." I said as got up, grabbed my sandwich, and swapped it for a two dollar tip. I sat back down and started munching into the sandwich
It was a tasty sandwich
I tell you, there is never a bad sandwich at this old eatery.
"Excuse me, sir." A voice came from behind.
"Yes?" I asked as I turned around to see a man, standing over me.
"You wouldn't happen to be that comedian that does shows on Thursday nights in that old comedy bar up north, would you?" He asked. I was getting a nervous feeling from this guy
"What does it matter?" I asked, apprehensive.
"I saw you last week. You are hilarious!" He exclaimed.
"Heh. Glad you liked it." I said as I swiveled back around, hoping he'd leave.
"One more thing
" he added. I was about to turn around to face him again when
And just like that, I was on the floor, holding either side of my head.
"Owww." I groaned in agony through a mouthful of sandwich.
"Why did you do that?" I asked in pain.
Again, he hit me over the head and now, I was seeing stars. I looked up at him to see him holding a metal serving tray. Then, two hands grabbed me by the arms and the shoulders.
"WAIT A MINUTE! WHAT IS GOING ON! SOMEONE HELP!" I shouted at the top of my lungs as two other men hurled me to my feet. I looked around to see that everyone had gone. What was happening?
"Lights out comedian
" He said darkly.
*Whack!* and pow, my lights finally went out with a solid hit to the head.