Big Ned died the way everyone assumed he would. Being a jerk. But no one ever guessed what sort of problem he would leave behind, that problem being... Big Ned's Guest, a novella by Jake Wilhelm Left to handle Big Ned's sins is his son. Little Ned is about to confront his father's evils – the ones he knew about, and the horrors he didn't know about. When he comes out of this, can he be a better man than Big Ned? Or does the apple simply not fall far from the tree?
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...the late, barely lamented Big Ned left behind a big secret....
Big Ned’s Guest
Title: Big Ned’s Guest
Author: Jake Wilhelm
Cover design: Jake Wilhelm
ALL ITEMS (c) Jake Wilhelm 2019/EP Dowd Enterprises. All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in shape or form by any means, including but not inclusive to electronic, mechanical, copying, recording, audio methods or otherwise without prior written permission.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
This book is dedicated to my father, for his inspiration and support...and for not being like Big Ned Atcheley...
Big Ned Atchley died the way everyone assumed he would.
Being an asshole.
Big Ned Atchley spent the final hours of his life down at the local bar with some of his car club buddies. This little get together was, naturally, immediately after a meeting of the same car club. Big Ned was on a roll. At the meeting - oh boy did he ever have fun – he made Marge Hettinger burst into tears as he assured everyone the new upholstery job on her ’65 GTO was pure garbage; she had been taken by Ultra Auto. How bad was her car’s new interior – at least according to Big Ned? Well, Big Ned explained his opinion until, as noted before, Marge Hettinger burst into tears, so he must have been quite abrasive.
So. As has already been noted, Big Ned was on a roll, and such were the things that made Big Ned Atchley happy.
The old man was drinking beer, and he had been drinking lots of beer (and even more than that) when he took issue with Norm Emery’s stance on intake manifolds. Norm wanted to install an aluminum three-carburetor manifold in his hopped up ’52 Chevy and Big Ned said he should go with fuel injection instead.
Actually, Big Ned insisted Norm do so.
“What are you, some kind of asshole idiot?” roared Big Ned, hopping to his feet without managing to spill his beer mug (primarily because said mug was nearly drained of life). Using the mug for emphasis, he saluted God on High, or maybe he was just trying to hit the rafters overhead, and as he did this, he screamed “Everyone knows that carbs are a thing of the past and-”
Although this discussion had been going hot and steady for quite some time, folks finally got nervous when Big Ned made that first big step to get to his feet and most people scattered into their roles as helpless onlookers. They had already accepted their roles (each silently glad they weren’t tonight’s target) when Big Ned, his lips curled back over his teeth, screamed, “I give up! Norm, you are the stupidest motherfu-”
And that’s when Big Ned’s own carburetor, namely his heart, decided all this taking in blood from its upper ventricles was too much hassle and quit on Big Ned. Death claimed Big Ned Atchley in a split second. He fell face down, slicing his head open on the bar. There was so much blood that the first responding officers assumed someone finally beat Big Ned to death.
Amongst protests from the patient’s friends, the paramedics insisted on bringing Big Ned back to life. Those gathered in the immediate proximity of Big Ned’s second chance at life later remarked that all in all, it was a good lesson in how that CPR stuff worked and it showed folks that even you – yes, even you – could give some cranky old bastard the gift of life. Big Ned was breathing (but not yelling, praise the Lord) when he was placed in the back of the ambulance, but was dead for real by the time he got to the hospital.
No one was surprised. Dude was in pretty rough shape when they carted him off – he struggled to get the last word in the rudely interrupted fuel injection versus carb debate, telling Norm, “you come by my place and I’ll give you all the fuel injection you need, dummy” but these words were croaked so weakly that they were almost kind and that’s when, well, the guys pretty much knew they’d would soon be trying to Paper, Rock, Scissors their way out of being his pallbearers.
His widow Candace, however, was very surprised, perhaps even astonished, upon reading the letter Big Ned had left her. The folded sheet of paper had hovered in plain view for about a week now on the fridge, held down by a magnet advertising the local Cadillac dealer. Every day of his final week, Big Ned had been good about pointing to the note under the Cadillac magnet and telling her, “If I die, you read that.” Being well acquainted with the various positive benefits of following Big Ned’s orders to the letter, Candace didn’t read the letter until her son, Little Ned, called up and said Big Ned was no longer among the living.
Norm went with the triple-carb manifold. As Big Ned lay dead the first time, Barking Bob suggested he go with a triple-deuce Carter set up and Norm said he’d look into that and Barking Bob said he’d help him. Barking Bob was a pretty good guy even if he was into Mopars, AMCs and Japanese motorcycles.
When Candace first read the letter, she was in shock. This shock lasted two days.
Then she recovered. Because, well, two days had passed and this sounded like a life or death situation.
She called Little Ned. Her son listened for quite some time before he finally understood what Candace was going on about. Let’s face it, ever since Big Ned threw her down the stairs that time, banging up her brain in the process, Candace’s various trains of conversation and her very thought process had been quite difficult to follow. You got confused real quick with her. This trait of Candace Atchley, coupled with the fact Little Ned would never be asked to join MENSA or to make important decisions at the Target store that employed him, made understanding Candace, and therefore the letter, take quite an effort. But when Little Ned picked up what Candace was putting down, he picked up on it but good!
He yelled, “Holy shit, Mom, you better not say anymore on the telephone!”
“Why? Is someone listening?” she asked in her usual soft voice. Little Ned despised her be-quiet-in-case-Big-Ned-is-around voice. He supposed she would never talk like a real person. That fact hurt his heart but there were more important things boiling over on the stove right now.
“Hang up!” he yelled. “I’m on the way!”
Little Ned literally dropped what he was doing (trying to fix his kid’s train set) and raced to his ancestral home. While Little Ned was somewhat dismayed by his father’s death, he became utterly depressed upon pulling into the driveway and catching too many glimpses of his father’s old car shop and its ancillary junk, garbage and crap. The old man had started his sprawling empire with a shop building and managed to put up a million rickety buildings around it while stuffing every other corner with the worst worn out cars and busted car parts he could find. Yeah. Big Ned didn’t throw stuff away. Folks claimed Big Ned’s first diaper was somewhere in all his mess.
“Gonna be a big mission there,” he said, sighing.
He caught himself. He was here for another reason and that reason (he thought) oh hell that reason, holy hell the old man had been nuts just like everyone knew and what the hell had the old jerk gotten into - the guy was nuts he was crazy he was-
“Jesus ate crackers!” Shivers scrambling up his spine, Little Ned jogged to the house. By the time he got inside, he was running, desperate to get where he needed to be in the shortest time possible, because maybe – just maybe – Candace might have made some kind of mistake or she was putting Little Ned on. Hopefully.
“Mom!” he screamed many times throughout the house, sounding like a six-year-old kid looking for his Momma and by now, he felt six years old, because he knew Mom didn’t joke around and Big Ned was precisely the brand (Patent Pending) of twisted maniac to do what he claimed he did in the letter.
Little Ned found his mother in the kitchen. Candace hadn’t heard him come in yelling like a little kid because her ears were bad. Consult her experience plummeting down the stairs head first for the probable diagnosis for asking people to speak louder. When she finally spotted Little Ned, she jumped and whispered, “I wish you wouldn’t sneak up on people like that.”
She was bent over the kitchen counter, studying a piece of paper pressed over the tiles there, the sheet of blue paper flanked by grout so gray and gross no matter how many times Mom cleaned it or Big Ned smacked her around while trying to train her how to properly clean grout. The letter was written on that fancy blue paper some charity raising money for blind kids sent Candace in the hopes her cheapskate husband would pry loose of a few bucks. The organization was out a pad of paper every year, yet, every year, another plea came along to help kids buy white canes. The world was a crazy place that never learned from their first mistake, Big Ned was wont to say.
The world? Dude. Let’s just worry about the craziness right here, right now.
Candace said, “He gave this to me last week, honey! It was like Daddy knew he was going to pass. How did he know that?”
“He was magical,” Little Ned grunted. “You better let me read that.”
“I read it to you over the phone.”
Little Ned snapped his fingers. Candace handed over the blue page. The paper was bordered in a real fruity, real flowery sort of border. Big Ned had carefully inserted his words at precise points between the lines, forming his own nice, neat margins. Yet the words were insane. You couldn’t miss that little fact if you tried. And Little Ned, he tried. Tried awful hard. He read the note not once or twice but thrice. He couldn’t make himself believe what he read either of these three times. Squeezing shut his eyes, he handed Candace the note.
“I guess you better make some food, Mom.”
“Just like the note says. I remember it anyhow because I do it every night. The food. Not the rest.” She claimed to remember, but paused to read words written by a madman, her lips moving, a slight whisper sagging from her mouth. Candace walked to the fridge, then the microwave. Consulted the note before carefully nuking three Oscar Meyer hotdogs. Checked with the note again and placed the weinies on a paper plate along with three pieces of white bread. She considered the inside of her eyelids a moment before adding a goodish portion of bread and butter pickles, little dabs of mustard and ketchup.
She handed Little Ned the plate.
“Me?” he asked.
“Don’t you think it’d be best?”
“Why do you think that?”
“It just feels right. Don’t you think?”
He had to protect his mother from the worst of it.
The horror of it.
Yeah. She wouldn’t have to face what Big Ned did, not head on. A good boy always protects his momma.
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