Teaser Tuesday ~ Ilena Holder ~ Nuclear: A Tale of Love and Radiation
Ilena Holder is a multi-published author (books, Internet, magazines) who spent her four year Navy enlistment in Rota, Spain. Being stationed at the entrance to the Mediterranean gave her ample opportunities to explore Europe and Northern Africa during the mid-Seventies. After her enlistment ended, she used the G.I. Bill to further her education. She has been married forty years
Blurb: Billy Blue is weary of living in an all-female household. Fresh out of high school, he’s ready for his first job and he’s determined to get hired at Kalinde nuclear plant. With his father dead, he’s never had anybody to talk to him about being an adult. When he’s on the construction project, he finds out what it means to be his own man, make decisions, and be pursued by a very determined Sugar Sparkles. Now that he’s earning his own way in life, he feels ready to set goals for himself. Will he stay at his entry-level job, or challenge himself by setting higher goals? Will he cave in to Sugar’s clingy demands or stay true to his chosen path?
Spend one year building a nuclear plant in Mississippi. Experience life as a young twenty-something working construction, falling in and out of love, and earning your first paycheck. It will be just like M*A*S*H builds a nuclear plant!
Billy Blue was settled in his room, listening to his radio. The chatter of his sisters and his mother got on his nerves, and he didn’t feel like sitting around the television watching the Waltons television show and eating popcorn tonight. Sugar had just called him and he had sat in the kitchen talking to her about half an hour. Since they only had one phone in the house, he had kept his voice low. He guessed she just called to gossip and he wasn’t far off the mark on that. Tying up the phone line with silly chatter wasn’t really his thing, but he knew it was part of the dating ritual.
Sugar hadn’t said anything of any great importance, except to say that she found out through the grapevine that Luxora had gone to New Orleans to buy a dress for the Kalinde Christmas party. Why a woman would want to buy a dress six months ahead of an event was puzzling to Billy, and he told Sugar as much. Then she got huffed up at him for suggesting that the party was trivial. By the time they hung up, he found out that Sugar was already also planning her dress for the party and he was expected to take her. The whole thing almost made his head ache to think about probably having to buy a suit for the dumb thing. He didn’t even know if he’d be alive six months from now.
Fiddling with the dial on his radio, he looked out the window. Since tonight was a full moon, he could see quite a ways towards the Swandoo river. Seeing something move slowly across the horizon, he went and got his field glasses his mother had given him as a graduation present. Many times on nights like this he could spot wildlife walking around, plus bats and owls. But the objects he saw were much larger than bats and owls.
Man oh man, it looked like the monthly Klan meeting!
They didn’t make any bones about being seen. As he watched them through the glasses, they were suddenly backlit by a bonfire that one of them had started. Oh great, now I can see them better! Thinking back to the last full moon, Billy remembered that it had rained a mighty downpour that night and their meeting probably had been moved indoors to someone’s barn.
Men clad in white sheets and pointed hats assembled in a circle and paraded around the fire, carrying burning firebrands. They walked around twice clockwise, then changed direction and went counter clockwise twice. At this point, they all stopped and faced the fire.
Billy wished he could hear them, but even with his window open, the night outside was relatively soundless except for crickets and such. He knew from the five o’clock weather report that there was a slight westerly wind, so that would mean he was upwind from them and no sounds probably would carry. No mind, he couldn’t imagine much of anything coming from their monthly meeting except perhaps some chanting.
Everyone around Hog’s Holler knew the KKK existed, but they left them alone. It was simpler just to pretend they didn’t exist. If some of your kinfolks were in it, it wasn’t talked about openly. And even if nobody was in it, you did the same. It was just for the best and that’s how it had always been done. Anyways, they didn’t have much of anything nowadays to march or holler about so both groups were pretty grateful for that. Nobody had been shot or run off or had any crosses burned in their yards in many years.
While Billy was watching the robed figures amble about, doing whatever they did at a Klan meeting, a huge figure on horseback now appeared. He swooped in quite elegantly and reined his horse to a stop.
Now this was getting interesting. Some more wood was thrown on the fire and the flames leaped higher. The horse and rider now were turned sideways so Billy could get a good view of their profile.
He propped up his elbows on his bedroom window sill. Bursts of his sisters’ intermittent laughter came down the hall but Billy still remained disinterested in Ma and Pa Walton and their travails. Something more intriguing was unfolding across the field. He twisted the lenses of his glasses to try to bring them in clearer. The larger fire now helped him out. The reason the rider of the horse looked so huge was that he had a woman riding double behind him! It was actually two people.
Though the horse was clad in the customary white gear, down to a suitable hood, his legs stuck out from beneath the too-short sheet. The horse, though a dark color, had four white legs. He could probably be easily identified by checking out the local pastures around the area, Billy thought. He made a mental note of it.
But what was unusual was that the woman, who clung precariously to the man’s waist, was garbed in summer wear, T-shirt and cut off shorts. Why wasn’t she wearing some kind of white gown? Billy wasn’t sure if women were in the Klan, but maybe this one was an apprentice? He would have to read up on them. Maybe they were having a membership drive or starting to admit females now. He wasn’t sure. Now the horse and riders turned again and Billy saw the woman’s hair move and shake with the movement of the horse. The bonfire was high enough now and threw out enough light that he could see more details of the gathering. The woman’s hair was flame red and long. Since the horse had stopped so the man could give some directions to his fellow members, she took her hand and brushed back the hair from her face. He recognized the hand movement and gave a slight shudder.
But the next movement froze him to his bones. The rider of the horse turned the animal around a quarter turn to face Billy’s house. Forgetting that his bedroom light was on, Billy saw the man reach down to his chest and pull up on a strap.
Billy then hopped up from his window ledge to flip his overhead light off. He hoped it wasn’t too late. He then returned to the window and put the glasses back up to his eyes. At this point, the man on the horse put a pair of field glasses up to his eyes and focused straight at Billy’s now dark window. As Billy figured, it was Boomtown.
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