A Mightier Penn (46)

This is not a standalone blog entry or short story, as such, I’d recommend beginning at the beginning: A Mightier Penn (1)

It was go time.

Hastily he began pulling the pins from the smoke bombs laid before him. He was engulfed in smoke by the time he pulled number four. Dirk the clerk was right, it was a shit ton of smoke. Squinting his eyes and clinging to his breath, he ripped the remaining pins. Smoke poured from the bombs. The billowing cloud devoured the lobby’s air and flooded into the adjacent air ducts.

Penn stood with his backpack in his hand and sped to the elevators, passing a door designated ‘Stairway’. Gripping a bomb in his pack, he considered fumigating the stairwell, but decided against it and continued to the elevator bank. Smoke swelled behind him, but he pretended not to notice.

The instant the word “smoke!” rang out over his shoulder, Penn vaulted the waist-high access gate like a gymnast and sped to the first set of elevators that serviced floors one through twenty. He pushed the ‘up’ button before glancing to his side.

Corporate bedlam had quickly, but professionally, taken hold. Everyone was moving in restrained sprint, the guards to their assigned posts, commanding those in the lobby to vacate the building, and those being commanded to the doors as fast as business decorum would allow. For those in suits, primeval self-preservation was strong; it was every businessperson for themselves. People spun through the revolving doors without looking back. Once outside and a safe distance from the building, the self-proclaimed survivors transformed into concerned and compassioned gawkers.

“Come on, come on,” he quietly repeated to himself. The seconds refused to rollover.

Waiting, staring at the illuminated floor numbers above the elevator doors, he spied traces of white smoke trickling from the vent located above the elevators. He knew, without having to turn around, that the lobby would so be a dream.

Penn heard a seasoned sentry order another to activate the fire alarm, but just before the deafening alarm rang out, the elevator doors opened in front of Penn. No one stepped out. He stepped in and illuminated every yellow circle on the wall with a swipe of his hand before repeatedly pressing the ‘door-close’ button. The doors obliged.

The car rose as the fire alarm sounded. Penn was fortunate that in the event of an alarm, the elevators were programmed to complete their assignment before returning to the ground the floor. Had that not been the case, or had he summoned a cab following the alarm’s activation, he would have found himself taking the stairs and swimming upstream against a deluge of fleeing employees.

Kneeling, the backpack before him, he fished out two bombs and readied himself.

When the doors opened on the second floor, he pulled the pins, lobbed the pair onto the floor, and watched the smoke blossom to life before the doors closed and he was carried onward and upward.

Penn repeated the smoke bombing on each presented floor. At a few floors he encountered office proletarians jockeying around the elevators for a more effortless evacuation. When they approached Penn’s inviting elevator, Penn hollered “Out of order, take the stairs”, winked, and rolled a couple smoke bombs past their feet.

The employees appeared dumbfounded. From their vantage point, an old man just barked “Out of order” from a functioning elevator whiling bowling a couple smoke bombs in their direction. Stunned, they took the stairs.

At floor twenty, the elevator rested momentarily before automatically beginning its descent to the lobby. Penn removed one last smoke bomb, pulled the pin, and dropped the bomb to his feet.

The smoke raced from the bomb, overtaking the small elevator cab, and eventually blinding the concealed camera mounted in the upper corner.

Before being entombed in white smoke, Penn took a hurried breath of air. He then scrambled to strip his hat, wig, fake beard and mustache, which he replaced with the gas mask. The oblong lenses reminiscent of honeymoon snorkeling.

Penn took a breath. The mask, like the smoke, worked as advertised. He jammed hat and disguised into his backpack along with his tie that he pulled from his neck. Leaving the pack slightly open, Penn shed his suit jacket, which he draped over his forearm and backpack like a butler holding a towel.

The elevator returned to earth and the doors opened to a smoke-filled lobby. Penn had anticipated dense smoke, but was in awe at the ghostly glow of the dense fog shrouding the lobby. The ambiance of the otherworldly lobby was surreal, almost peaceful, away from the fire alarm. Visibility, measured in centimeters, was next to nonexistent. Lit from the sunlight beaming through the large plate windows, the air in the entry was a compacted indiscernible brick of bright heavenly cloud. Most of the occupants had already evacuated, and those on the floors above were using the stairwells that led directly to the street to exit, leaving only a few shadows and voices moving through the smoke.

Penn edged his way towards the light coming from the windows and doors. It then began to rain. The overhead sprinkler system engaged and water poured through clouds. Penn was unfazed, unhurried, and continued on his way with outstretched mummy arms guiding him. When his dripping hand touched the metal crossbar of the revolving door, he took another deep breath, ripped the mask from his head, tucked it back into his pack under his jacket, and leaned into the door.

One hundred and eighty degrees later, Penn, clothes soaking wet from the sprinklers, walked from the building towards the flock of gathered employees and onlookers. He stepped into the crowd just as the police and fire vehicles screamed onto the scene.

To begin at the beginning, click here… A Mightier Penn (1)

A Mightier Penn (45)

Please note: This is not a standalone blog entry or short story, as such, I’d recommend beginning at the beginning: A Mightier Penn (1)

That night, despite ingesting super-sociable amounts of alcohol, Penn again had unaccustomed difficulty sleeping. He rose with the sun, hung over and exhausted, and crawled out of bed. After a long shower, he dusted off his former corporate garb: a stiff grey suit, white button down shirt, tie, and black leather belt and a pair of Italian dress shoes. Beth, his former wife, nurtured a shoe fetish that extended beyond her own two feet. Obsessed with not only her footwear but her husband’s as well, she showered Penn with expensive loafers, wingtips, and Oxfords. After years and thousands upon thousands of dollars spent, the result was a mind-numbing collection of designer shoes, of which Penn wore one pair, expensive black loafers topped with bright silver horse bits.

Dressed, he transferred his gas mask and all the smoke bombs to a sizable black backpack. He then neatly folded the now empty boxes and stowed the flat cardboard in the bottom of his closet, under his laundry hamper, away from the prying eyes of his guests.

Penn heaved the pack onto his back, scooped his now favorite felt hat and grabbed the plastic bag from the party store that contained applicable costume paraphernalia in addition to some odds and ends from the grocery store. He silently stepped from the apartment without waking the fellows in their room and chair, and drove downtown to the same alley he had parked prior to the Knight Power and Electric protest.

He palmed his phone and dialed information. Penn asked for the Knight Power & Light headquarters and was connected to an automated menu that he navigated with the touch of his thumb. Eventually, he reached an operator who directed him to the appropriate department, human resources, where Penn inquired at length about possible employment opportunities within the company. In an intentionally longwinded conversation, Penn peppered the representative, Stacey Campbell, with a variety questions surrounding her company’s green initiatives and the application process. He brought the call to an end by thanking her and asking Stacy if he could drop off his resume at their offices, to which she replied that he could.

Penn hung up the phone and extracted a small box of disposable latex gloves, a greeting card, and a pen from the plastic bag sitting in the passenger seat. Stretching the thin powdery rubber over his hands, he picked up the pen and scribed, “Please allow us to return the favor. Love always.” Penn then paused. What name, witty slogan, or political point could he make with his signoff? He wondered for a minute before his sister’s name flashed to the forefront of his imagination, although he was certain she would not condone his forthcoming actions. But Eve was vague but symbolic, and therefore misleading. She was a woman, the first woman, or perhaps a harbinger of destruction.

Penn slid the signed card into an address-less envelope, which he placed into his suit jacket pocket.

From the plastic bag, he pulled out a dark grey wig, matching beard and mustache, and a dated pair of his father’s tortoise rimmed glasses. The faux hair and glasses, when wed beneath the hat was amateur, unsophisticated, but sufficient. He looked into the rearview mirror and smiled. Inside three feet and under a scrutiny, he thought the disguise looked utterly ridiculous. But at ten feet, and in passing, the getup was convincing. The crafted senior citizen smiled back, and Penn was on his way.

With his backpack shouldered, he walked the blocks down Tryon Street to the Knight Power and Electric corporate headquarters. He was expecting to be overcome by giddy fear, but instead found himself impressed by his own composure. His pulse remained psychopathically in check. He breached an imaginary point of no return and approached the building at the center of so much controversy. Penn slowed his pace to that of an older man and shuffled across the plaza toward lobby.

Through the revolving door he went. The imposing lobby of the edifice hummed with professional types scampering about like ants in a plastic farm. Overseeing the comings and goings of the colony and monitoring the access gates to the elevators were several uniformed security guards stationed behind counters. Typically, Penn would’ve failed to notice security guards, but typically he wasn’t wearing a disguise and toting dozens of incendiary devices as well as a gas mask.

Without attracting attention, he drifted towards the elevator bays. Automated access gates, glass partitions that parted when the appropriate corporate badge was waved across the scanner, secured the building’s elevators. Penn had anticipated as much and was ready to break from his elderly character and hop over the turnstile, when he spotted a partially obscured alcove off to the side. The inconspicuous recess, masked behind a blind of fichus trees and plants potted in massive planters, contained the return vents for a portion of the building air conditioner system. Penn slowly made his way to the nook, and under the unoriginal guise of an untied shoelace, he knelt behind the plants opened his backpack. He acted quickly but steadily, and removed the thoughtful greeting card and ten smoke bombs.

He paused for effect.

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A Mightier Penn (44)

Please note: This is not a standalone blog entry or short story, as such, I’d recommend beginning at the beginning: A Mightier Penn (1)

Resembling an overburdened Himalayan Sherpa saddled with cases of smoke and dangling shopping bags from his forearms, Penn strained not to drop the smoke bombs while trying to reach the apartment doorknob. Unable to open it without shedding everything he was holding, he tapped on the hollow metal door with the toe of his shoe and waited. He knew the fellows had returned to the apartment; the note affixed to the door earlier was no longer taped to the door and he could hear the muffled sounds of people moving about inside, but the door remained closed. He tapped again, and this time he accompanied the percussion with vocals, “Hey it’s me. It’s Penn. Open the door.”

The sound of Penn’s voice doubled as the magic word, and within seconds Bayer opened the door. “Sorry, we didn’t know.”

“No problem,” said Penn as he staggered into the living room. Bayer backpedaled while examining the cardboard box tower his host’s arms. Penn eyes watched Bayer’s eyes before the two men’s eyes met.

“Can I give you hand?” Bayer asked.

“I’m fine; I just need to drop this off in my room.”

At the junction of the living room and the hallway to the bedrooms, Penn intersected Bob and the Colonel, who were emerging from the bedroom in which they hid at the sound of the first knock.

“Hey, bud, you all set?” questioned the Colonel.

“I am,” replied Penn, edging past them. “Let me put this down and I’ll be right out. I’m thinking Mexican for dinner tonight. Also, down in the Jeep are some air mattresses, one for each of you.”

“God damned slumber party fiesta,” yelled the Colonel with a firm slap to Bob’s back. “And beds to boot.”

Bob winced at the wallop. “That mean you won’t be crashing in the beach chair?”

“Shit, no. Not unless the tube comes with.”

That night, true to the Colonel’s proclamation, a small-scale senor-only fiesta ensued in earnest. A typical array of conventional ingredients was combined into various incarnations of Mexican fare. Cervases topped with limes were plentiful and eventually shots of medium grade tequila joined the fray.

The four thoroughly enjoyed themselves and the festival’s volume reflected as much. Every time the bottle of tequila made its way around the small circle of beach chairs, the audio ratcheted up a notch. The conversation, as it had the night before, toggled between the comedy of Penn’s lifestyle and the finer points of existing as a homeless man in a modern world. Intermittently, the Colonel blessed the group with fantastic, borderline unbelievable, cartoonish tales of hoboing and living on the rails. He spoke at length on catching trains, running from yard bulls, working outlandish jobs in far off places. He touched on time in jail, time under bridges, and time spent cruising above America on the top of rolling boxcar.

Bob, in his more reserved way, periodically commented on the Colonel’s tall tales, pointing out irregularities between the differing versions of the stories that he had heard.

Bayer, on the other hand, anonymously sat back and silently enjoyed the evening.

At the stroke of midnight, Bayer retired to his room for the night with Penn not far behind, which left Bob and the Colonel, well oiled from the beer and tequila, arguing about something or nothing into the following day.

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A Mightier Penn (43)

Please note: This is not a standalone blog entry or short story, as such, I’d recommend beginning at the beginning: A Mightier Penn (1)

CHAPTER TWELVE

That afternoon, basking in the glow of Holly and still energized by his activism, Penn trekked to a military surplus superstore where he toured the monster warehouse behind the handlebar of an army green shopping cart before a sales associate, clad in a red beret, walked up and saluted Penn with a limp halfhearted swipe. “Sir, is there anything I can help you find?”

Penn politely declined the assistance, opting to wander the valleys of the enormous depot. For the better part of an hour, he lost himself in the wares of war. Although it required a lensatic compass to gain his bearings, Penn eventually located the target of his errand: high capacity fuse-less smoke bombs. The box-side bullet points on the sturdy cardboard boasted a total an obscure power rating, a generous seventy five thousand cubic feet of coverage, rip-pin ignition, five minute burn time, and a discharge color described as burning village white. Kneeling over, he scooped four cases of the smoke bombs from the lower shelf and placed them in his shopping cart. Down the aisle, he picked up a rubber gas mask from an adjoining display.

Penn headed for the checkout, but not before loading his cart with three twin-sized air mattresses.

At the helm of register was a Neanderthal named Dirk, a mountain beneath a polished dome head unadorned with one of the store’s mandated berets. He despised the inauthentic headwear and imitation Army green uniforms, and had written management by way of the employees’ comment box making several recommendations that more elements of Imperial Germany be incorporated into the store’s dress code – his suggestions remained had yet to be followed.

On the conveyor belt rolling to Dirk, Penn placed the air mattresses followed by the smoke bombs and gas mask. At the second case of smoke, Dirk looked up at Penn and commented, “smoke ‘me if you got ‘me.” Upon the third and forth, clearly respectful of the enormous amount of smoke being purchased, Dirk said, “That’s a shit ton of smoke, buddy. You’ll be able to fill five Superdomes with all this.” When the lone gas mask came across his scanner, he asked, “What’s all this for?”

“We’re filming a movie,” responded Penn, without hesitation.

Dirk raised an eyebrow.

“It’s about fire.”

“Well, you can’t have fire without smoke.”

Penn nodded in agreement before he noticed two bandages on either side of the burly man’s neck. Parlaying the Colonel’s lack of decorum, Penn asked the clerk, “You cut yourself shaving?”

Grinning a yellow grin, Dirk stroked his hearty goatee. “Na, the boss don’t like ink,” he said as his massive mitt wandered from the fur on his chin to the large flesh-tinted Band-Aids on his neck. “No tatts they tell me. I think it’s got something to do with the gang bangers’ prison tats, but, my shit’s clean, my shit’s art.”

Thumbing one of the bandage’s edges, Dirk slowly peeled it from his neck. Penn was neither surprised nor impressed by the black Schutzstaffel-lettered logo or the corresponding S.S. Death’s Head tattooed on the man’s razor-burned neck. Proud, Dirk covered his body art but continued with his jaundiced smile.

“Yeah, I’m surprised they won’t let you rock those at work,” commented Penn with subdued sarcasm.

Dirk’s skinned head bobbed in agreement. “That’s what I said. I paid real money for that work. They weren’t done in some jailhouse rat with a Bic and a wire.” For a split second, Dirk reverted back to the role of cashier. “That’ll be $378.67.”

Penn paid in cash.

“The manager says the quality don’t matter none,” continued Dirk. “He says it’s store policy – no tattoos other than family names and initials and crap. I’ll tell you what, I think it has something to do with the skull scaring kids.”

“That and the whole Nazi thing,” said Penn. “Although, you could change your name so that your initials were S.S.”

Dirk considered the recommendation. “That’s a good fucking idea, buddy. I just might.”

Penn thanked Dirk and headed on his way, which included a stop at the grocery store and a return to PartyTown before heading home.

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A Mightier Penn (42)

Please note: This is not a standalone blog entry or short story, as such, I’d recommend beginning at the beginning: A Mightier Penn (1)

CHAPTER ELEVEN

An hour after admiring his handiwork at the four-way stop Penn was leisurely traversing the quad of Queens University, a local college nestled in the upscale Myers Park neighborhood. The grounds of small school were picturesque, with coordinated brick buildings connected by broad sidewalks crisscrossing freshly cut lawns, and tidy beds of groomed brushes and budding trees.

The weather was shifting with the season and the temperature was warm, but still retained a subtle nip. Throngs of students and faculty walked between buildings and classes, sat on thoughtful benches, and chatted in clusters while a few slacken souls played Frisbee and football in the open spaces. Their presence and energy completed the utopian academic scene.

From his pocket, Penn withdrew a folded post-it note and reaffirmed the name of the building. After consulting an attractive pair of non-biological sorority sisters, he located Gates Hall. Penn looked at his watch, ten minutes till the top of the hour. He took a seat on a stout wall, not far from the building’s entrance to the building, and waited and studied the matriculating masses as they walked by: studious bookworms weighed down by capacity backpacks, jocks in scholarship warm-ups carrying nothing more than a pencil behind the ear, preppy frat boys in crumpled button down shirts and their vibrant counterparts walking in co-dependent clusters, a few skateboarders on skateboards, bikers on bikes, every demographic of the well-intentioned, well-off college-going populace represented. Since his own graduation, every campus Penn had the misfortune of visiting had been of the corporate variety and he missed the dynamic atmosphere that surrounded colleges and universities.

The hour came to a close and the front doors of Gates Hall swung open, propped by an exodus of students and followed by a lagging trickle of teacher’s assistants and instructors.

Penn wait became increasingly impatient, but eventually Holly strolled from the building, her stunning red hair coming into full view. Dressed slightly more maturely than her students, she walked alone in a long skirt and sweater carrying with her purse over her shoulder and a sizable portfolio case hanging from her hand. Penn rose from his stakeout and angled to intercept her, his palms dampening and his face feeling slightly flushed.

Though he had thought of her frequently, Penn had not seen or spoken to Holly since their impromptu coffeehouse two weeks before. Since then, he had intended to reach out to her and on several occasions and had considered calling, but for whatever timid reason, held up.

From a few feet away and in her blind spot, Penn managed a meek “hello” that fell on deaf ears.

Holly, unhearing and undeterred, continued on her way away.

Penn combatted the growing distance with an uncharacteristically loud, “hey there, hi.” The bold salutation rang out and proved effective.

Holly looked over her shoulder and came to a stop. “What do you know?” she said at the sight of Penn. “I have a stalker.”

Holly was more attractive than he recalled, and he stood for a long moment in awe. With his heart thumping in his chest, he elbowed through the bourgeoning awkwardness. “Yeah – so – stalking – hah – well maybe – I mean – uh, it’s tough to get out of that one without lying.”

“I’m sure it is.”

“I didn’t have your phone number and you mentioned teaching at Queens so I pulled up your class schedule on the school’s website. Technically it’s public information, and I’d think that partially absolves me from the stalking claim.”
“Partially.” Seeing Penn on campus infused Holly’s day with a shot of excitement and elicited a coy smile. “Don’t they list my office phone number and e-mail address in the school directory?”

“They do,” said Penn. “And I guess I could have called or e-mailed, but – – -”

“ – – – but stalking in person has a much more personal touch to it.”

“Exactly.”

Penn was not alone in having thought repeatedly of the coffeehouse date. Since she had left him, Holly had spent a great deal of time considering the man in the suit. Although, she knew only a little, she found him to be refreshing in his approach and a welcome contrast to the vain self-absorbed men that littered her past.

“What brings you to school today?”

“I wanted to thank you for the protest and ask about a second cup of coffee.”

Holly contained her excitement and kept her cards close to her vest. “Ah,” she said playfully. “So you’re here to ask me out?”

“Something like that,” conceded Penn, who had envisioned an overflow of enthusiasm pouring from Holly at the very sight of him. In reality she appeared reserved, almost unimpressed. On his next inhale, with a lift of his brow he managed, “What do you think?”

“I think I have a meeting in ten minutes with my department chair on the other side of campus,” she said as she slowly began to walk away. “If you’re parked in the satellite lot or still stalking me, you’re more than welcome to walk with me.”

The two walked and talked. Penn informed Holly that he had indeed taken a stand, refused to fire his team, and was now officially unemployed. His summary was forthright, but the abridged version conveniently excluded the juvenile antics of his last days. Managing his persona to the best of his ability, he also failed to mention his vendetta against Dr. Janney, the gutter episode, or the adopted trio of homeless men.

“I thought you’d find your way to the right answer. Your team should be grateful.”

“Former team. And, to the extent they know anything, I guess they’d be grateful – or horrified.” Penn reflected for a moment. “The only guy I’ve spoken with since I left is Ronald and I kept the details pretty vague. Although, I get the sense he kind of backed into some of it, and, yeah he kind of seemed grateful.”

“That’s good, although, I’m thinking you didn’t do it for a pat on the back.”

“True, although a pat on the back in the form of a new job would be nice,” said Penn with a grin.

“There are always more jobs out there, but there are not are people willing to dig in their heels and fight for a cause or people unable to fight for themselves.” Holly looked at Penn. “It doesn’t take much. A few people doing a few things can make all the difference in the world.” Holly smiled. “Now, if you could just do something about our power company, we’d be all set.”

Although her suggestion was intended as joke, Penn neither laughed nor smiled. Instead, he nodded in agreement as the cogs of possibility creaked to life.

The remainder of the walk was consumed by small talk: teaching, the university, and the warmer weather. At the foot of an administrative building, Holly came to a stop. “This is me.”

Although he had returned to college in search of a date, and had initially mentioned the prospects of a sequel to Holly, Penn had failed to secure a coffeehouse reunion. Mustering one last effort, he asked with apprehension. “So, yeah, about the coffee?”

“Ah, yes, coffee. Truth be told, I’m not much of a coffee drinker.”

If Penn had had a tail, he would have felt it recoil between his legs. He scratched his neck for lack of anything better to do or say.

“But I’d love to grab dinner,” said Holly.

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A Mightier Penn (41)

Please note: This is not a standalone blog entry or short story, as such, I’d recommend beginning at the beginning: A Mightier Penn (1)

The next morning, Penn awoke from a restless night. He was tired, but invigorated. He pulled on fresh clothes and made his way into the living room where he anticipated seeing the fellows strewn about beach chairs working their way through leftover pizza and beer while debating daytime television, but to his surprise the apartment empty.

A countertop note scribed into the cardboard of a pizza box explained their absence: ‘Penn, Thanks for everything. We appreciate the food and lodging. If it is not too much trouble, we would very much like to try it again tonight.’ Like a birthday card, all three had signed the note.

Penn considered their departure and decided it was a way for them to test the framework of their curious landlord-tenant relationship. He was fine with that. Their presence made him feel genuinely good and the charity offset much of the negativity swirling about his pranks.

He grabbed a raw bagel and headed for the door, but not before crafting his own response to the fellows, which he taped to the outside of the unlocked front door.

Penn headed back to the scene of previous night’s crime.

The resident truck that Penn had hitched hours before was nowhere to be seen. Instead, two trucks, one belonging to a gutter company truck, the other a general contractor, were parked in the driveway near a tangled mangled mess of metal in the grass. The twisted pile of aluminum, much of the home’s former gutter system, resembled a piece of abstract art.

Penn smiled as he envisioned how the incident played out: Just past dawn, the man of the house, in his middle management uniform of kaki pants, golf shirt, and a windbreaker, departs for the office. Carrying a stainless traveler mug of coffee and saddled with a convention-issued attaché. He inadvertently walks around the rear of his truck to the driver side, and thereby misses the tether. Once inside his king-cab, the abusive patriarch reverses from the driveway, looking out the rear window with his right arm stretched out behind the passenger seat headrest. Twenty-five feet backwards, the hose goes taut, but the weight of the truck and give in the hose prevent him from feeling the tug until it is too late. The gutters take flight. He turns his head towards the windshield and is greeted by the sight and clatter of two hundred feet of corrugated metal crashing to his front yard. Mortified, he stops in his tracks. His day, along with his gutters, now destroyed.

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A Mightier Penn (40)

Please note: This is not a standalone blog entry or short story, as such, I’d recommend beginning at the beginning: A Mightier Penn (1)

With his company tucked away in a bedroom and a beach chair, Penn ducked into his room and timbered down upon his floor-bound mattress without undressing. A wave of contentment washed over him. He relished his newfound purpose, his nobility. His recent wrongs; however childish, indecent, and immoral, were mitigated by his role as Good Samaritan.

On his bed and in his head, he mulled the events of the last few hours, days, and weeks, his mind churning like whitewater: Holly, Eve, Mauney, Dr. Janney, the fellows. A minute passed, then twenty. His thoughts finally came to rest, settling like sediment, all but one – the man hitting the young girl at the stop sign. The sequence repeated itself several times over, and the more he thought about the abuse, the more it angered him, and the more it angered him, the more he felt obligated to do something.

Prodded by frothy wrath, inspired by his recent pranks, and ignited by a surplus of beers, he rose from his bed and walked the dim hall. He pocketed his keys from the kitchen counter before telling the disinterested, television-engrossed Colonel that he would be back shortly.

Penn headed to his Jeep, leaving the three characters alone to mind the apartment, and drove to the four-way stop without plan or provision.

Just past the sign, he abandoned the Jeep and approached the house by foot, picking up speed as well as a course of action en route. At the side of the house, he unscrewed a garden hose from the spigot, and with the coil underarm moved to the front corner of the house where he took a knee near a gutter downspout. Penn then tied one end of the hose to the gutter before he scooted over to the front bumper of the truck parked in front of the garage and repeated the knot. With the truck married to the guttered, Penn masked the connecting length of hose before disappearing into the night.

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