Monday, December 12, 2022

Heller and Shannon: Sheep-dogs

Eldridge woke up at 6:00 AM sharp.

The launch of rafts on the river were very tightly scheduled. The bus was not going to leave Zanesville until 9:30AM because there was not enough room to park a zillion buses at the launch site some five hours down the road.
Eldridge knocked out a five-mile run in a bit more than 40 minutes. The hills were an interesting addition to his usual routine. He took a shower and did a quick recheck and re-pack of his gear.

The first few rafters started straggling into the lobby at about 8 and they looked pretty rough. Eldridge joined them as they walked across the parking lot to the local Bob Evans restaurant.

Eldridge could not resist messing with them. He ordered biscuits-and-gravy. When it showed up he doused it with Tabasco sauce and announced “You guys look a little green around the gills. What you need is a big cup of luke-warm, lard gravy to coat your stomach.”

Three of the guys left the table and did not return.

Listening to the conversation, it became apparent that  the women who was sitting across the table from him was the one he had doused.

It was no skin off of his nose. She had it coming. The silly-string had been bad enough. He just wanted to be left alone. But when they started throwing water-balloons he knew it was time to make a statement they would understand.
At close range it was clear that she was totally not his type. He preferred edgy women with hard-bodies. As his older brother would have said, Shannon was built for comfort rather than speed. Her body was comfortably upholstered rather than covered with tight bands of muscle. Very comfortably upholstered! Her replies were slower and it was clear that she thought before she spoke.
Her hair was long and brown with reddish high-lights, twisted up in a bun. Her skin was as translucent as sugar frosting. Eldridge preferred women with short, practical hair-cuts and deep tans.
As far as he could tell, she didn't have a single tatt on her. She probably watched Public Television and liked Agatha Christie mysteries.
Definitely not his type.


Shannon bristled every time the new guy, Eldridge, spoke.

It seemed as if every time he spoke it was to grind the other diner’s noses in their misery.

Admittedly, her buddies had drunk to excess the night before, but that was no reason to mock them.

In all honesty, it seemed to be mostly show. He didn’t eat very much. And based on his radiantly good health, he probably hadn’t had much to drink the night before.

Doing a little bit of testing she obliquely noted “It doesn’t look like the brown-bottle bug bit you last night.”

Eldridge cocked an eyebrow. “Nope. I am not much of a drinker.”

“Why is that?” Shannon asked. She understood about people with alcohol abuse issues.

“Well, because there are things I cannot do if I have been drinking” Eldridge said.

Shannon responded with sexual innuendo.

“I didn’t now you had company last night” Shannon said.

“No. It is not what you are thinking. I cannot carry a firearm if I have been drinking” Eldridge said.

“You mean, like...a GUN?!?!” Shannon asked. Dumbfounded. “You are one of those people?”

“What do you mean, ‘One of those people’?” Eldridge asked, irritated.

“You know. People who carry guns in public” Shannon elaborated.

Eldridge settled back in his chair. “I won't say if I do or if I don’t.”

“But don’t you think that the possibility that one person in every fifteen MIGHT be carrying a gun discourages bad actors?” Eldridge said.

“You won’t know if they are carrying...but they won’t know either” Eldridge said. “It could be me or that old guy over there or that soccer-mom over there…” Eldridge said discretely motioning with his chin.

“But are YOU carrying a GUN?” Shannon asked.

“I won’t say” Eldridge said.

Of course he was carrying. He was in public and he was wearing clothes.

Some battles just weren’t worth fighting.


The ride to the launch site was much more subdued than the ride the day before.

Eldridge picked a seat with nobody behind him and put in his ear-buds and listened to music.

Word of his maltreatment of Shannon had spread and he was studiously ignored.

Pulling up to the launch site, the group had a half-hour safety talk from the guides and then they launched.

Eldridge had opted for a kayak and was surprised that Shannon did as well. Somehow, she did not strike him as the kayak type. The rest of the group opted for inflatable rafts.

The guide nixed Eldridge’s fanny pack. “If you dump and we have to pull you into a raft, then that pack will get in the way.”

That made sense to Eldridge.

“That pack has my insulin and syringes in it. Is there any way to secure it into the kayak where I can get to it quick?” Eldridge asked.

The story about the insulin was a straight-up lie but the guide bought it, hook-line-and-sinker.

“Yeah, sure enough” the guide said as he showed him a loop molded into the kayak near his knees. “That is where fishermen secure their tackle boxes.”

Eldridge clipped the webbing through the loop and he was good-to-go.

By unspoken agreement Eldridge hung out with the guide in front while Shannon stayed with the guide bringing up the rear, as far from Eldridge as possible.

The people on the raft did absolutely no paddling so the entire group moved at a snail's pace, giving Eldridge plenty of time to poke around the shore and scout out the best runs between the rocks. He had time to get a feel for the kayak and paddle, which was considerably heavier and sturdier than the one he used on the placid rivers of Michigan.

He also had time to paddle the kayak backwards and watch the show behind him.

Most of the rafters were power-drinking while a few of the guys were attempting to untie the bikini tops of some of the flirtier girls. Eldridge shook his head. He was absolutely sure that the girls would have cheerfully “flashed” the boys if they only bothered to ask. The games the “bad-boys” were playing could go sideways in a dozen different ways.

He also noted that Shannon was way out of her league with the kayak. She was neither experienced nor physically capable.

He wondered what drove her to be one of the sheep-dogs.


  1. ERJ, there is a certain edginess to this for me. It is different from what I usually read - but I like it.

    1. Oddly, this makes me happy.

      I have no imagination. I "steal" personalities from people I know. In many cases, from family members. The person who is the model for Heller is "edgy". Black-is-black. White-is-white. There is very little gray. Challenges are not ducked. Winning comes from escalating faster than your opponent thinks you are capable of.

      It means that I am able to project "Heller's" personality into your head.

  2. Ok, I'm a little confused. What did she do that was so obnoxious to be doused with ice water? Taking pizza orders doesn't warrent that response. But then I don't respond to hazing or practical jokes well. I used to respond extremely violently. Yes, I'm messed up. Is it her attitude? Great intriguing beginning. Always look forward to your blog post and stories

    1. What silly string incident? I reread the 1st installment twice and still missed it.

    2. Shannon's group of yuppie-pukes were hazing Eldridge because he was an outsider.

      Shannon was unaware of the hazing.

      She was guilty of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    3. Thanks ERJ. Much appreciated.

  3. There are two kinds of people in the world.
    1. Those who can extrapolate from incomplete data.

    1. And those who have mental disorders that effect their cognitive thinking skills?

  4. Someones gonna hurl..

  5. True opposites... Gonna be interesting!

  6. Shannon is a herd dog, she tries to take care of everyone in the flock. Heller is a guard dog that patrols outside the flock protecting it from strangers, but doesn't interact with the flock members very much. An interesting contrast, this is shaping up to be quite the story.

    1. The difference between a Border Collie and a Maremma or Kuvasz.

  7. I'm looking forward to this story developing, Joe, have to admit, I'm usually bummed when your story lines end, I always want more.

  8. ERJ, you write a lot like Hemingway. Just the right words to bring to life interesting, realistic characters in realistic situations, action-oriented plots, no fluff. Just the right combination of explication and implication. This is very good indeed.


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