Bicycle Rider in Park

Beware the Pedaler – Part Two

by VJ Miller, Sr.
If you missed Part One.

When we last left Bart, he’d had a series of bad luck or someone’s vandalism, cause him to be late for work three days in a row. That lateness and Bart’s lies put him on suspension for the rest of the week. His only solution was drink…

Beware the Pedaler – a Psychological Thriller

The only friends Bart could count on to never desert him were a 12 pack of 16-ounce Coors and a large bag of fried pork rinds. They consoled him all afternoon while he watched the local stations offerings of soap operas. He cheered when every man or woman in authority got their comeuppance.

He called the police upon arriving home, demanded they give him extra priority to catch the filthy slime that tampered with his truck. They sent an officer to gather all the pertinent info. Bart still smarted from the officer’s admonition.

He was loaded for bear, telling the disinterested officer of his troubles at work and loss of pay from all the fucking with his truck. When the officer could not promise any additional help Bart blurted out, he’d maim or even kill the mother who was doing this if he caught him. He was strongly warned that he’d find his own ass in a cell if he persisted. When asked who he thought might have vandalized his truck Bart was at a loss; he didn’t have an enemy in the world.

Cheap is as cheap does:

Bart never wanted a hand-held phone. What with the cost of the instrument, that it could get lost or smashed on the job or just be a nuisance, he opted for the old landline with the dial tone.

His phone jangled just after General Hospital had gone to commercial at 3:30. Bart’s clouded mind was certain the caller was that fuckhead of a boss calling to apologize and beg him to come back to work; that all was forgiven. Fuck him – let him squirm. On the sixth ring Bart lifted the receiver gently to his ear.

“Had an accident today pendeho. Too bad you lived.” (click)

“WHAT!” Who the fuck is this?” shouted Bart at the dial tone.

The gentle buzz of 112 ounces of Coors consumed over two and a half hours became overwhelmed by the adrenalin rush of 216 pounds of overwrought Bart Tredan. Ma Bell must have smarted down to her ankle socks after he so emphatically replaced the receiver.

The seething asshole did the only thing he could… pop the top on another Coors, see how fast he could down it all, then pop the top on another.

Bart got his mandatory hour of mayhem from the WCW and now laughed himself silly watching the Simpsons. His namesake drove him into rapture. During the second commercial break at 8:17 the phone rang again.

“Hey asshole, wanna know what I’m going to do next?”

Bart’s face went from ecstasy to agony in a heartbeat. “Who the fuck is this?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know —. asshole,” cooed the voice.

“When I get a hold of you—”

“You have to find me first asshole, and I doubt you could find your ass with both hands.”

“What gives you the right to mess with my truck?”

Revenge asshole.” (click)

“Wait!? FUCK!” Again, the receiver took the brunt of Bart’s wrath.

Another good buzz wasted. Sixteen ounces shot down the chute followed rapidly by another ten to be followed just as speedily by the abrupt return of the evenings take down the garbage disposal. Racing to the toilet bowl was out of the question; little used logic told him he’d never make it. The kitchen sink was closer. After the third wave crashed on the stainless shore the tank hit empty; two more retches just empty gags.

The lingering effect of foul-tasting bile caused neck and jaw muscles to shudder when he stood erect. Reflexes had him at the open door to the refrigerator.

The tall cans of Coors stood at attention on the top shelf like good little tin soldiers. One was in his firm grasp halfway to the other hand with the duty of yanking the pull-tabs when his stomach kicked him in the side. A moment’s hesitation and the can was replaced rather brusquely back into its formation.

His hands under the tap he cupped water and brought it into his mouth in an effort to flush out the vile taste. The fumes in the disposal from his previous visit evoked an immediate gag reflex. His lips parting involuntarily, just enough at the corners to allow the water in his mouth to flow out and run down his neck onto his dirty T-shirt.

“Fuck!” he said after he bent abruptly at the waste, spewing the last of the rinse water onto the back of the sink. Wiping his chin with the back of his hand he kicked the cabinet below the sink.

Standing Guard:

Dawn broke over the hood of Bart’s truck, the light filtering through the early morning dew on the windshield. Bart’s eyes, puffy from lack of sleep, squinted to mere slits. He’d spent the night in the cab to prevent any more vandalism. The rare rainstorm poured steadily from midnight to 4:AM. Determined, he’d wait for whoever and catch him in the act. Then before he called the police, he’d beat the bastard to a bloody pulp; but the prick never showed.

By 6:AM he dragged himself out of the truck, stiff, sore and chilled to the bone. This time of year, the nights in the southwest got extra cold. Even with the extra blanket he’d not been able to prevent the numbing cold from getting to his feet and spreading up the rest of him.

Once inside, the hot coffee went smoothly down his throat, spreading its warmth rapidly to the rest of him. He turned on the TV and sat in his chair, but the screen barely lit up when he was out.

At 10:AM he awoke to a nagging phone.

“Hey asshole, you weren’t at work this morning. How come?”

“I got suspended till Monday,” tripped off his lips before he was alert enough to realize he was talking to his tormentor.

“Hey. All riiiight.”

Bart sat bolt upright, fully alert. “What do you want now?”

“I tried to call you last night to tell you I couldn’t make it on account o’ the rain but your phone just rang and rang. When I called your work, they said you weren’t there today.”

“You got me suspended you fucker. When I get a hold—”

“Yeah, yeah, we been down that road already.”

“Who the fuck are you?”

“Tell you what…. How ’bout you just call me, the Pedaler.”

“What the fuck’s that supposed to mean?”

“You figure it out asshole. Betcha can’t.”

“You Mother Fucker!” (click) “Wait! — DAMMIT!”

He stopped short of slamming the phone; instead finding himself dialing the number of the police station. Thirty-five minutes later an angry Bart answered the knock on his door.

“It took ya long enough.”

“Mr. Tredan?”

“Yeah. I called over a half hour ago.”

“Is there a medical emergency here?”

“Well, no, but…”

“Well I just came from taking a pregnant woman to the E.R. Crank calls aren’t high up on my priority list.

Smacked ass about summed up both the look on Bart’s face and his state of ego.

“Well, er, come in wouldja.”

Five minutes of hasty while colorful language brought the officer up to speed.

“When did these calls first begin?”

“Yesterday – yesterday afternoon. Then one last night.”

“What time was this?”

“Just after eight I think.”

“Did the caller make any specific threats?”

“Just that he was doing it for revenge.”

“You made any enemies lately?”

“Are you kiddin’? No one’s got the guts to be my enemy.”

“Someone has, — don’t they?”

Bart’s face took on a pained and surprised expression. He’d never been on the receiving end before and it was most definitely an uncomfortable feeling. “It’s easy to be tough on the phone. When I get a hold of the bastard—”

“You’ll go to jail for assault if you do.” The why me expression on Bart’s face, the officer had seen all too often in his career. This guy was just another jerk that rubbed somebody the wrong way; now he’s crying foul. The assholes of the world are all alike. All he wanted to do now was wrap this up and be on his way. “How many people have your phone number?”

“Not many. It’s unlisted.” Though he’d check out those mothers later just to be sure.

“So, who has it?”

“Coupla friends… and my job of course.”

“How many people at your work might have access to your number?”

Bart rubbed his stubbly chin while he pondered. “I really can’t say. Anyone could probably walk in there and get it I guess.”

“Is there anyone there who might want to do this?”

“I doubt it.”

“Well you’ve not given me much to go on. I don’t see what we can do.”

“Why doncha tap the phone. I’ll let ya.”

“Unless you get some sort of death threat, we’ve no reason to do so.”

“Boy, some big help you guys are. What do I pay taxes for?”

The officer fingered his nightstick lightly in his fingertips.

“Why don’t you just have the number changed. These crank callers usually give up after a while.”

“Yeah. I think I’ll do just that.”

“Now you’re sure you can’t think of anyone in particular that maybe you rubbed the wrong way recently who might do this.”

“Like I said I…” Bart’s countenance went blank for a second when the dim bulb in his head flickered briefly.

“Did you think of someone?”

“Uh, n-no. I just thought o’ something I gotta do.” Bart was in a hurry to shoo the officer away so he could do just that.

“Well, if you come up with anything more let us know. In the meantime, I’ll put this in the works though I don’t know what we can accomplish with so little.”

“Yeah, yeah, sure, fine. Thanks for all your help,” said Bart while closing the door behind the officer. Jerk, crossed both their minds.

A Suspect:

A shitfaced grin on his mug, Bart hurried to the imitation mahogany end table his Mother-in-law gave them two years ago; to the drawer in the front where he tossed just about everything that needed some place to be shoved. The drawer, so packed full of debris came out only a few inches on the first tug. The second did little more. A forceful yank shot the drawer out where it crashed against his shin, dropped off the lip of the drawer guides, spilling its contents on the dirty carpet. The sudden jarring effectively tipping over the lamp set precariously upon the table.

“Fuck!” he said, rubbing his shin. The first rapid pass through the mass of: junk mail, fliers from the pizza parlors, assorted trinkets, rubber bands, slips of paper and the odd dead insect or two turned up nothing. The second sifting found the object of his search, a dog-eared gray linen business card. “Gotcha you bastard. Now it’s my turn.”

On the card, in the finest calligraphy, the name Ranken Fyle, salesman of just about everything for the home. Even Bart’s semi-educated brain caught the play on words. The dipshit musta had some pretty weird parents. “I got you now you fucking peddler. You slipped up when you told me who you were. You didn’t think I was smart enough to figure it out.”

On the lower left corner of the card sat the peddler’s home address in the next town over. On the lower right corner his phone number. The phone leaped into Bart’s hand and the number dialed before he could think to do so. After the third ring…


“Ranken Fyle?”


“You’re pretty tough on the phone you bastard! Let me see how tough you are when I’m in your face.”

“Who is this?”

“I’m the guy whose truck you been screwing around with!”

“Are you sure you have the right number?”

“Don’t play dumb with me mister! I got suspended for three days and I’m coming over there right now to beat you to a pulp then take the money you owe me outta your wallet.”


The phone slammed down, Bart grabbed his jacket, hurried to his truck, roared out of the driveway and down the street.

During the ten-minute drive Bart contemplated just where he would punch this guy and how many times. He’d stand triumphant over the fallen bloody mass of Ranken Fyle. He’d exact his revenge – be victorious – the mayor would give him a medal for apprehending the vile criminal.

His truck hadn’t finished sliding to a stop his feet leapt on the ground running for the front door.

He pounded heavily on the door – nothing. He pounded again several more times in rapid succession.

“FYLE! Open up you lily-livered son-of-a-bitch! I know you’re in there! C’mon and get what’s coming to you!”

Still nothing — he pounded again and again — still nothing. Bart’s stupid rage grew ever greater when he felt he was being ignored; he was a juggernaut not to be denied.

“All right! If you’re not coming out, I’m coming in!”

Several lunges with his shoulder on the heavy oak door proved futile along with painful. Taking another tack, he introduced his heavy-booted foot forcefully to the lockset. In his animal rage full of primeval adrenaline two kicks did the dirty deed. The door thrust open slamming against the inside wall; rebounding in his face he slapped it aside, swaggering into the foyer. He was in, the smell of blood heavy in his flaring nostrils.

“Where are you, you fucking dipshit? C’mon out so I can punch your fucking lungs out!”

His rage throbbing, eyes bulging, he never heard the screeching of tires outside. Seconds later two muscular police officers burst through the open door. Simultaneously one had Bart high around the neck with his nightstick, the other low around the knees. The three crashed heavily to the floor in a tangle of flailing legs and arms. Incoherent shouts came from all three — Bart feeling the pressure of a potent knee on the back of his neck holding it firmly against the floor. More shouts before he felt first his right arm then the left dragged up behind his back; the unmistakable sound and feel of cuffs being snapped about his wrists.

“Relax fella! Relax! You ain’t going nowhere! See if the owner is around anywhere?” said the officer with his knee against Bart’s neck. Scant moments later the second officer returned with Fyle from a rear bedroom where he’d hidden. After Bart made his threats over the phone Fyle immediately called 9-1-1 for help from some madman who threatened to come and kill him.

Not wishing to get too close, Fyle stayed at a discreet distance while the two officers dragged Bart rather brusquely to his feet.

“Do you know this man?” said the second officer.

“He looks familiar.”

“What’re you doing? Arrest him not me,” bellowed Bart.

“SHUT, UP!” said the first officer thrusting the point of his nightstick up too firmly under Bart’s chin. “You’ll get your turn…. Now, do you know this man Mr. Fyle?”

“Yes, yes I do. He’s the same guy who assaulted me last Saturday when I tried to sell him something.”

“You got no proof of that!” shouted Bart, causing the officer to push up ever harder on his nightstick.

“What’ve you got to say?” said the officer with the stick.

“This guy’s been screwing around with my truck and calling me on the phone making threats.” Bart gurgled out.

“What do you know about this Sir?”

“The guy’s a nut. I don’t know what he’s talking about.”

“Did you threaten him?”

“Of course not. He’s—”

“You’re a fucking liar!” bellowed Bart, kicking out at Fyle, struggling to free himself, causing still more retribution from the impatient officers.

“You either hold still,’ said the second officer jabbing a pointed finger into Bart’s chest, “or I’m gonna put the leg irons on you.”

“Do you wish to sign a complaint?” said the first officer.

“You bet I do.”

“Then we’ll take this man into custody, and we’ll expect you at the station.”

“Wait! You’re arresting the wrong man. I wanna press charges on him too,” said Bart while being dragged out.

“You’ll get your chance,” said the officer after they dragged him through the broken doorway. “You have the right to remain silent….”

After being processed they let him go on O.R., but if he showed himself within 500 feet of Mr. Fyle, he’d find his ass in jail until the hearing.

Arriving home just after 9PM, exhausted, hungry and in need of a shower, Bart went directly to the bathroom. They hadn’t cleaned the cell where some drunk resided to sleep it off the previous night and hurled in every corner.

The Threats Take on a Deadly Tone:

Refreshed but not relaxed he was halfway through his third can of Coors before he succumbed to his exhaustion and dozed off in the chair. The late news, the Tonight Show and Conan O’Brien played to a snoring house. The Late Late Movie was just signing on when the phone rang. Bart sat bolt upright on the second ring. For the first time in his life, he feared picking up the phone. Beads of sweat peppered his brow; each succeeding ring prodding the jerk inside into action. By the eighth ring anger superseded all other emotion.

“Who is it?” he barked gruffly into the receiver.

“You know who it is asshole,” returned the calm voice.

“You bastard! You won’t get away with what you did to me.”

“I tried to call you earlier but you weren’t home. I hope you had a nice day.”

“You know where I was you Mother Fucker.”

“You bet I do,” followed by a short pause filled with a clicking noise Bart could not place and largely ignored. “Don’t worry, you’ll never make the hearing.”

“And what the fuck is that supposed to mean?”

“You’re so smart asshole you figure it out.”

“You’re not so smart either ass-wipe.”

“Oh really. And how is that?”

“You figure it out.”

“You think you have all the answers asshole.”

“We’ll see who the asshole is when I’m done with you.”

“That won’t be much longer.”

“What makes you think so?”

The pause was deafening, the reply unsettling. “‘cause you’ll be dead by Sunday.”

Bart shook thoroughly, unprepared for this type of threat that escalated from more than a prank. Suddenly, his mouth was very, very dry. “Hey. That’s not funny.”

“It’s not supposed to be asshole.”

“What I did to you wasn’t that bad.”

“By itself no. But that sort of thing has been happening to me over and over again to a point where it’s gotten unbearable.” The voice took on a malevolent tone. Imagining the icy cold touch of death made Bart flinch spasmodically. He wanted to hang up; transfixed, he could not. “I swore the next son-of-a-bitch who did that to me would pay, and pay dearly. You just happened to be the asshole schmuck who got the prize.”

“You won’t get away with this,” tripped stupidly out of Bart’s mouth; the only thing the once brazen bully with all the answers could come up with.

“If I don’t you won’t be around to know it. Make out your will while you still got time… asshole… bye.”

The receiver clicked like the snap of a hypnotist’s fingers when he brought some simpleton, clucking like a chicken, out of his trance. Aghast to angry, Bart poked 9-1-1 and demanded an officer get to his home immediately. He’d just had a death threat and he demanded protection.

Not Again:

The officer listened distantly to Bart’s painful tale of woe; reminding him that he’d been arrested for breaking and entering, and attempted assault on Ranken Fyle, and if this were some sort of attempt to hassle Mr. Fyle he was in deep shit. However, noting the desperation in Bart’s eyes and voice he agreed to check out Bart’s allegation.

An hour later the officer returned; Mr. Fyle was not at home. Having checked with a very disgruntled neighbor, the officer learned Mr. Fyle hurriedly left town that evening for a convention in Cincinnati taking his family with him.

That don’t mean nothing,” said Bart. “He could just be setting up an alibi.”

“I doubt that’s true,” assured the officer. “Even if he is the caller, it’s doubtful his threats are real. I suggest you just have your number changed. When he can’t get through whoever it is will just give up.”

“And suppose his threats are real?”

“There’s not much we can do unless he tries something. Besides… he’s got your ass in a sling for all these charges. Why should he want to go any further?”

That didn’t reassure Bart but first thing in the morning he called the phone company to request a change.


The rep, a pleasant-sounding woman was very helpful. She assigned him a new number; assuring him it would be in effect by noontime.

Bart went outside with a six-pack to cut the lawn. He’d never been more meticulous: trimming, edging, weeding, raking, watering, washing off the aluminum siding. Even the truck got a long overdue wash and wax. He wasn’t so much interested in how the yard looked; he dreaded being near the phone.

Only after the noon hour by 30 minutes did he allow himself to venture into the house. He had to; the six-pack he’d consumed plus several long drinks from the garden hose on that sultry morning demanded to be let out.

The steamy water of the shower not only washed the sweat and grime from his flesh it also provided a calming effect on his delicate psyche. Lunch and two cans of Coors answered his other needs. By three o’clock when the phone still hadn’t called attention to itself did, he feel more relaxed and secure. Then again, the six-pack he’d downed in the last two hours may have had something to do with his bliss.

Spoke too soon:

Rapt in the middle of a steamy love scene on General Hospital, Bart leapt straight to his feet when the phone at his elbow jangled at 3:20. Eyes like saucers, sweat popping from his brow, he gaped at the phone. It rang six times before he snapped out of his paralysis. Not until the eleventh ring did his trembling hand grab the receiver. On the twelfth anger set in, he jerked the phone to his ear.


“Hello asshole. You’ve been naughty.”

“What the fuck are you talking about? How’d you get this number?”

“Guess…. You can change it as many times as you like, I’ll still find out.”

“When I get a hold of you…”

“You gotta find me first you stupid fucker. You don’t have the first clue where to look. Don’t worry, I’ll be coming to you soon. If you got the courage stay there so I can end your misery.” (click)

“Hey! Wait!” No dice. Bart seethed with frustration, firmly put down the phone. He kicked the chair then slapped the lamp off the table before he stalked off into the kitchen for another Coors.

He stood at the refrigerator gulping down half the can in rapid-fire bursts; stopping only because the carbonation lodged painfully in his throat. His eyes glazed red; he went over his mental list of all the horrendous things he’d do the mother when he got hold of him. No court in the land would convict him; everything would be justifiable.

His heated blood chilled to ice water when the phone rang once more. He approached slowly, stood by stock still as if the phone were a rattler for three rings, then hoisted the receiver to his ear.

“Hey asshole. You got company coming soon. If you got a gun, you better get it… now!” (click)

“Hold it!” No use – the caller was gone. Heart racing, Bart’s head snapped around, eyes darting like cold water droplets on a red-hot griddle. The receiver slipped from his grasp; clunking heavily upon the carpeting while he scurried to his bedroom.

In the closet on the top shelf back in the corner in a royal blue, velvet bag he found it right where he left it – the .357 long barrel magnum revolver he’d bought last year just because he wanted it. He’d had delusions of “Dirty Harry” feeling a gun would enhance the macho image only he had of himself. He’d fired the cannon maybe a half dozen times since he’d bought it, not touching it in the last seven months.

Now the revolver was in his hand, heavier than he remembered. The chambers still held the empty shell casings since the guns last use. The bad day at the range remained clear along with the ridicule from the two girls who were bulls eyeing every shot. Embarrassed, he chucked the gun in the bag, never bothering to clean the weapon, tossing it up on the shelf where it lay until now.

Dumping out the spent shells he rummaged around in the bag finding only four unused rounds. They’d have to do. After he chambered the last round and locked the cylinder, he heard the screech of tires out front.

Heart pounding, sweaty palmed he made his way gingerly to the entry to the living room. Crouched low, peeking around the corner he heard rapid footsteps coming up the walk; climbing his steps to the front door.

Fear freezes some men into inaction, others it makes stupid. (It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to guess what Bart opted for.) Two quick strides brought him to the front door — his free hand on the knob. Flinging the door open in a half crouch he thrust the gun out the opening. Something in the survival instincts of Bart’s brain must have been on autopilot for he froze stiff.

Backdropped by their flashing red and blue lights, Bart stared down the barrels of three 9mm Glock 17’s with their seventeen shot clips held by three heavily armored officers of the SWAT team.

“DROP THE GUN! DROP THE GUN! DROP THE GUN!” ripped off in staccato fashion from the middle officer. Bart heard him on the last one, the gun dropping limply around his finger by the trigger guard. The officer to Bart’s right grabbed the gun while the other two manhandled Bart to the floor, flipped him over and forced his arms up behind his back. For the second time in as many nights Bart felt the bite of cold steel around his wrists and an angry officer’s knee in the back of his neck.

The officer who disarmed Bart made a quick search of the house and reported finding nothing. The house rapidly filled with officers barking orders and gruffly asking questions while the front yard filled with the curious from nearby houses.

Yanked off the floor Bart was thrust into his chair. The impact of all the pandemonium playing itself out in rapid-fire succession overloaded Bart’s ability to comprehend. His mind went into vapor lock; only remotely, like a drugged observer in some surreal somnambulistic sojourn, was he aware of what transpired before him.

Sights and sounds blended together into a grotesque blur of kaleidoscopic color and static noise. Only when the phone rang once did he show any signs of awareness, cringing away from the abusive bell. At best another minute elapsed before he could conjure any coherent thought — another before he could verbalize anything.

“What’s going on?”

“That’s what we’ve been asking you for the last five minutes,” said the Lieutenant. “Are you on drugs or something?”

“No. No…. It — it’s just the phone…”

“What about the phone?”

“It — it rang— and, and the guy told me— I was gonna get— company. — and if I had a gun—” That’s when he thrashed about trying to get up.

“He strung out?” said an officer.

“I don’t think so,” said the Lieutenant. “He’s got no tracks on him anywhere I can see, though he does reek of beer.”

“His ID says he lives here. Oh, and this gun hasn’t been fired in some time.”

Over the course of the next half hour Bart calmed down enough to tell his story. Convinced enough, they released him from the cuffs.

“Do you know why we showed up here?” said the Lieutenant.

“No,” Bart said, staring at his thumbnails.

“We got a call that screams were coming from your house and shots were being fired. You’re lucky my officers showed some restraint or you’d be zipped into a body bag on the way to the meat locker right now.”

“Like I been tellin’ ya, that guy Fyle is out to get me.”

“We’ve checked on Mr. Fyle. He’s out of town to a convention. One of my men talked to him at his hotel just minutes ago.”

“That don’t mean he didn’t make the call.”

“True enough, but he couldn’t kill you from there.”

“You almost did it for him.”

“Lucky for you we didn’t.”

At just that moment the phone began to ring. Bart lost it completely.

“Aghhh! HE’S GOING TO KILL ME,” as he leaped into the air.

The officer lifted the receiver to his ear, nothing. “Someone must have dialed the wrong number.”

“NO. No, it must have been Fyle.”

“I doubt that.”

An hour of interrogation slipped by before the officers assured themselves there was no crime here; the cars leaving one by one.

Bart’s ravings nearly got him a trip to the lockup where the state psychiatrist could have a field day with him, but he was lucid enough now to know when he’d gone too far. They did confiscate his gun though. When he proved he could be competent with possession of a weapon he’d get it back. For now, everyone around, including himself, was safer if he didn’t have a gun.

Once the police were gone and the night quieted down the neighbors went back to their homes, the excitement over. They’d have to be satisfied with entertainment from the TV the remainder of the evening. Several shook their heads, muttering or laughing while they strode away. A few stopped long enough to give Bart the finger when he peeked from behind the curtain.

The hall clock chiming six nearly shot him out of his skin. He should be thinking about dinner. Opening the fridge, the first thing his hand went to was the can of Coors on the top shelf. Hefting the cold weight in his hand, pondering unsure, he chucked the can back in the box and slammed the door.

From below the sink he pulled a half empty bottle of tequila. The clear glass shook in his trembling hand while he brought the open end to his lips, threw his head back, taking two huge gulps. His lower lip stuttered briefly when he lowered his head allowing some of the liquid fire to escape down his neck. The back of his free hand served as a napkin again like it had so many times.

The heat barely subsided in his throat he repeated the process. His whole body shuddered involuntarily, nearly choking on the last mouthful – spitting half of it into the sink he stood gagging over the drain. Tears gushing profusely from the action forced him to put down the bottle and splash cold water on his face.

His brain, numb from the afternoons events, made stringing two coherent thoughts together difficult. Everything was a collage of disjointed facts shuffling around in his consciousness. He took another series of small gulps from the bottle. He nearly jumped into the sink when the phone rang just once. The caller had to be his tormentor; no one else had the number yet. Another gulp — get hold of yourself man! A phone call from someone states away can’t hurt you — get it together.

The pain in his gut sent him into the closet to find something to sop up the fire within. Pulling down a bag of pretzels he fought with the seal for several seconds before the two sides relented with a flourish: spilling a third of the contents on the floor. Oblivious, he thrust his hand into the bag and began stuffing them whole into his mouth. Somehow the act of feeding and easing an ache deep inside initiated some calming effect.

The more his abused nerves quieted he found thinking easier, and the more he thought the more he realized he didn’t want to think. The Simpsons were on by now. He’d turn on the TV and lose himself for a while.

Distraction? Not for long:

His namesake, cantankerous and funny as ever, left Bart unfulfilled. It barely managing more than a grin while uneasy thoughts nagged at him from the shadows of his awareness.

The phone rang. Bart jumped again, his flesh trying to crawl off and hide. After the initial fright he just let the phone ring. Five, eight, twelve, the tintinnabulation clawed at his ears. He should have just disconnected the ringer but after each jangle terminated, his anger and resolve doubled in intensity. Now he was full blown mad and would have his say.

“LOOK you little fucker I’m getting tired of all this!” No answer. The pause confused him. The line was open but where was his tormentor. “Say something you little bastard. You think you’re funny sicking the cops on me.” Still nothing. “You won’t get away with this. I’ll rip your FUCKING lungs out when I get a hold of you.”

The continued silence deafening, Bart’s anger escalated to blind fucking rage. “SAY SOMETHING DAMN YOU!” No voice answered his plea. Even a tormentor would have been welcome at this point. “Why are you doing this to me? What did I do that was so bad?” On the verge of tears, he sat with his forehead in his hand. “Why can’t you just leave me alone?… GOD DAMN IT – WHY DON’T YOU SAY SOMETHING!”

“Asshole,” came across in a soft whisper just before the dial tone kicked in.

“AAAGGGHHHH! YOU MOTHER FUCKER…. IF I EVER GET MY HANDS ON YOU!” Bart tensed, stomped his feet like a frustrated preadolescent and wrung the hell out of the phone, banging it several times on his knee. The receiver dropping to the floor, he cradled his head in his hands and shook from side to side.

The attention signal from the un-cradled receiver squawked insistently causing Bart to leap out of his skin. When the initial shock subsided, he grasped the receiver tightly and smashed it firmly, several times, onto its cradle. Anguish and fear like he’d never experienced before creased his face. These were totally foreign sensations to this man who’d taken great pride in his inconsiderate ignorance. The shoe was on the other foot and he didn’t like it — nor did he know what to do about it.

The phone RANG. The receiver was at his ear before another tinkle. He just listened, his heart pounding in his temples, he sat transfixed to the numbing quiet.

“What’sa matter asshole, cat got your tongue?” so suddenly caused Bart to flinch and crawl under his flesh. “I want to apologize for my last call. You seemed pretty upset.”

“Why are you doing this to me?” came out almost whimpering.

“I told you asshole, revenge.”

“All right. Whatever I did to you I’m sorry, okay?”

“Ain’t good enough asshole. You’re gonna be a lot sorrier when I’m done with you.”

“Look, if it’s money you want, I can pay for your stuff.”

“And that will make everything all right. You think with just a few dollars you can ease your conscience. Not that I think you got one. No. Not good enough.”

“Then what?”

“Everything you value.”

The knock at the door, nearly unheard by Bart, was enough to derail his train of thought; making him forget all he had to say.

“You still there, asshole?”

“I’m here you little fucker.”

“My my – such language over the phone.”

“You sound pretty damn cocky over the phone. Why don’t you meet me face to face…” The knock at the door cut him off again.

“Hold on you little bastard there’s someone at the door.”

“I know asshole.”

That bewildered Bart. “How could you know?”

“Because I sent them there.”


“Why, the police of course.”

That did it. Bart was not about to put up with another round of indignant questions. “What the FUCK did you do that for?”

The knocking became insistent, escalating into a pounding. Bart laid down the receiver went to the door and jerked it open.


“Mr. Tredan?” said one of the two officers standing on Bart’s stoop.

“Yeah, so what?”

“We heard shouting Mr. Tredan. Is everything all right?”

“Yes. Now go away and leave me alone.”

“I’m afraid we can’t do that. May we come in?”

Knowing he wasn’t about to get rid of them he reluctantly ushered them in. “I know why you’re here and it’s a false alarm by that little pest that’s been bothering me. In fact, he’s on the phone right now.”

The second officer picked up and held the receiver to his ear. “Nothing but a dial tone now.”

“Well, he was there.”

“Are you sure?” said the first officer. “We got a call that there was shouting coming from here.”

“Well, that’s a lie!”

“We did hear shouting while we were knocking on your door. Want to explain that?”

“I was shouting at that little fucker Fyle whose been bugging me.”

The two officers gave that pained expression they save only for those times when they’re confronted with a dipshit.

“Look, we heard what happened here earlier from the previous shift. We’d just like to take a quick look around to make sure everything’s all right. If you’ve no objections?”

Bart threw up his hands, “Knock yourself out,” and stepped aside to let the officers have their quick look see.

“Satisfied?” he said when they returned to his living room.

“For now, Mr. Tredan. But I must warn you… if we get any more of these crank calls, you’re gonna find your ass in the slammer. Now just leave your phone off the hook and whoever it is won’t be able to bother you.”

“Yeah fine,” he said after he closed the door behind the two men who walked away shaking their heads.

Bart paced the room. Each time he passed the phone his head involuntarily looked down at the receiver. Disconnected, the phone wasn’t about to ring but he couldn’t quell the feeling that if he didn’t look at it the bell would ring anyway.

Pacing to the kitchen he opened the refrigerator and stared inside. Seeing nothing he wanted, uncertain if he wanted anything, he closed the door, went to the cabinet and stared at the skimpy content, seeing nothing. Repeating this process, a half dozen times he never really knew what he was searching for.

The quiescent phone nagged at him so severely the silence drove him into a frenzy. He had to get out — go to a bar or something; just get the hell out of the house. Grabbing his coat, he nearly flew out the door.

Quick steps carried him to his truck. Jumping into the cab he fumbled for the keys in his pocket. Trembling fingers lost their grip on them on the way to the ignition. He slammed the steering wheel with his open palm then groped for the keys in the dark at his feet.

Inserting the key on the third try he turned it violently. The engine cranked and cranked but would not catch. He stopped, cursed then tried again with the same result. Stomping the gas several times in rapid succession he tried twice more — the engine wouldn’t fire. Refused at every plea and threat he kicked the floor. Grabbing the steering wheel so tightly with both hands they drained pale white, he shook it like he wanted to rip it from the column.

Frenzied, bewildered and distraught he unlatched the door; kicking it open only to have it rebound to strike him in the left kneecap. Grimacing and hurling epithets through clenched teeth. After rubbing his sore knee, he thrusts the door open with his hand, leapt out and slammed the door behind him. Then kicked it once, twice, a third time for good measure. Throwing his hands up realizing how stupid and childish he’d just been he looked to the heavens — why me?

What to do now? Screw it: he’d walk to the store a mile away. Jamming his hands into his pockets he strode a meandering walk to the store for some booze.

This time of night the store was often full of shoppers stocking up for the weekend but was strangely devoid of them.

The small mom and pop store has but one customer who is leaving as Bart enters.

Bart goes to the cooler and pulls out a 12-pack of Coors then grabs a bottle of Tequila and takes them to the counter.

The proprietor, an elderly man, thin, stooped waits on Bart, ringing up the sale. Bart pulls out some bills and hands them over.

“Heard you had some trouble at your place tonight, Bart.:

“Don’t ask.”

The store owner puts the merchandise in a bag. “What happened?”

Bart picks up the bag. “Like I said, don’t ask.” Bart walks out the door while the owner shakes his head.

The walk back home was uneventful; Bart already had his hand in the bag to grab a can of Coors.

Between the beer and the tequila by 10:30 he’d developed a pretty good jag but there wasn’t enough alcohol in the county to drown the frustration he experienced.

Throwing himself upon his bed he laid on his back staring at the darkened ceiling, mind racing. Sleep denied him though the amount of booze consumed would have put him under the table any other time. Twice in the next two hours he got up to take a wicked piss that burned while it exited — never again he promised. Exhausted, he succumbed; drifting off about two — but it wouldn’t last; Morpheus was vengeful tonight.

He dreamed of giant phones and Fuller brush salesmen chasing him — alternately jangling in his ear — calling him asshole — and beating on him with their sample cases. They chased him through muck and mire never letting him rest. When they tired of chasing him, they surrounded him and beat on him unmercifully.

Bart sat bolt upright in the darkened room sweating profusely — breathing in short bursts. Cobwebs of near consciousness gave way to alertness; he realized the horrific visions had all been a bad dream. Then he realized something else — he was not alone.

End of Part Two

This story adapted from my anthology

Be here in one week for Part Three, the conclusion takes a deadly turn

If you have any thoughts on this series if you liked or didn’t please feel free to comment
©2023 VJ Miller, Sr. Fair use rights with attributes are implied

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