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“The Satyr Saga” Anthology
By Alana Church
Copyright 2016 Alana Church
~~ All characters in this book are 18 or over. ~~
(This book has been modified slightly for mainstream publishing.
If you would like to read the original uncensored version,
please visit http://www.carnal-pleasures.com)
Book 1 of “The Satyr Saga”
Owen Howard pulled into the parking lot and turned off his engine. Looking through the large front window of Mama Juliana's, he sighed gratefully as he saw the large pizza oven was shut down.
No more deliveries tonight, he thought, and got tiredly out of the car.
It was after 1 AM. Fourteen hours straight. I can't keep this up for much longer. The money's decent, but I need a real job.
Like what? his mind jeered. No one's going to hire you full-time if you're still going to community college and they know you're going to quit when the semester starts. And you need a degree. Do you want to be like the rest of these losers? Or your dad? Working sixty hours a week just to make ends meet until he dropped dead?
Owen walked into the restaurant and tossed the warming bags into the bin. “All done for the night?” he asked Jimmy Clark, one of the other two late-shift drivers.
“Yup,” Jimmy replied, wiping down the counter. The inside crew was already gone.“Me and Bob have already cashed out. Let's get this place cleaned up and get the hell out of here.”
Along with Bob Stanley, Owen and Jimmy hauled the leftover dough into the cooler, swept and mopped the floor, and washed the ingredient trays, stacking the plastic holders neatly for the day-shift to set out tomorrow.
He was just collecting his money from his lock-box to cash out when the phone rang.
“God damn it,” said a tired voice from the manager's office. “Which one of you forgot to put the night service on?”
Anaya Ansari stalked out of the office toward the phone bank, long black hair trailing behind her, her dark Indian skin contrasting beautifully with her crisp white shirt, which she somehow managed to keep clean despite the mess of a pizza prep line.
She snatched up a phone. “Mama Juliana's, we're closed,” she said in a tone that was only marginally polite. Her brows pinched in a frown.
“Hi, Darren, what's up?” she said to one of her daytime drivers.
Owen started counting out his money, separating checks from cash, a jingling pile of silver to one side.
“You what? No. No no no,” she said, her voice rising. “I have you scheduled from eleven to seven tomorrow. You can't call in now. I can't replace you.
“No, you listen to me. I've been patient with you and this Scientology crap. But if you don't show up for work tomorrow, you're fired.”
Darren apparently said something that made Anaya even madder.
“Freedom of religion does not mean you can blow off work and not have any consequences, Darren. Either show up or find another job.”
A small pause, and then her voice grew quiet.
“You're right, Darren. I have a very negative attitude and you're probably better off without us. Enjoy your life.” She slammed the phone down and punched in the code for the night service. The “not-available” light immediately started blinking. “Freaking idiot,” she exclaimed, and took off her visor to run a hand through her long black hair.
She turned and faced Owen. “You want some more hours tomorrow? Darren just quit on us.”
“What about Bob or Jimmy?” Owen asked, then spun slowly, looking for them. They were nowhere around. “Oh.”
Anaya smiled grimly and nodded. “They snuck out as soon as they heard me yelling at Darren. I guess they don't need any extra money.” Her eyes fastened on his.
Owen closed his eyes. Eight more hours could mean well over a hundred bucks in tips, especially when there were graduation parties going on, now that the high schools were out.
“OK. But I get to go home at seven on the dot,” he said. “I was scheduled for five to nine, even though I asked for the evening off, remember? And I get to pick up some of Darren's shifts next week. Evening shifts, so I can make some decent money”
Anaya nodded. “Deal. Let's get you cashed out so you can go home.”
Inside the cramped office, Anaya pulled up a list of his dispatches, and then started counting the money he had brought in, plus the credit card receipts. After that, she added the standard delivery fee for drivers. The remaining pile was pushed over to him. “How much?”
He counted it and sighed. “One twenty-seven and change. Well, I'm one step further away from the poorhouse,” he said, and pocketed his cash. “Want to come back to my place tonight?”
She shook her head. Is he ever going to stop asking? “You know I'd love to, Owen, but your landlady is there.”
“How about your place, then?”
“My mother and my father are there. Owen, you're a good guy. But I'm not getting involved with anyone I work with.”
Owen smiled crookedly. “I understand.” One hand fell briefly to her shoulder, giving it a warm squeeze. She looked up, startled. “You're a good person, too, Anaya. I'll see you tomorrow.” He turned and slowly walked towards the doors.
Before he could leave, Anaya raised her voice, “Owen?”
One hand on the handle, he turned hopefully. “Yeah?”
“Be here at ten for prep work, OK?”
“Sure,” he said, voice bitter, and walked out.
Strange, Anaya thought, relaxing in the office at last, the only sound that of the air-conditioning in the slowly cooling store, that two people with so much in common could have such different lives. Owen was only a couple of years younger than her. They had gone to the same high school. They liked the same music, TV shows, and had grown up less than five miles apart. But her father was a vice-president in a multi-national corporation, and Mama Juliana's was only one of its assets. After she had graduated from Iowa State, her father had hired her, and this job was only to prove that she could work in the lower levels of the world of business. After five years she would get a desk job as an executive and start clawing her way up the corporate ladder.
Owen was the son of a man who died of a heart attack when he was just thirty-six, a big friendly guy who drank too much, worked too hard, and had hired himself out as a general laborer for nearly twenty years. His mother was the only child of a family of Greek immigrants. He was smart enough to go to college, but with the cuts in grants and scholarships, he was trying to get an associates degree before he transferred to a four-year school.
He had been at the store for nearly five years, starting when he was just seventeen, and was practically an institution. He had helped her out when she first arrived to run the place, and she knew in her bones that she wouldn't have made it through the early days, when she was still learning the job, without his support.
Which made her rejection of him feel like a betrayal. They joked about how they were perfect for each other, but she was really joking and he really wasn't, and sometimes that made things a bit weird between them.
Her mouth tightened. There can't be anything between us. He's been going to community college for four years, off and on, and still doesn't have a degree. It doesn't matter how much I like him, or how cute he is.
He's a loser. Just like his father.
Owen pulled the grocery list out of his pocket as he entered the store. He was renting a basement apartment, but his landlady let him use her kitchen space and stove to cook when he couldn't stomach another microwaved meal downstairs.
Not too much, this time. Milk, eggs, beans, bread, rice and detergent. He put the items in his cart, and tossed in a six-pack of beer to keep them company.
After checking out, he still had a profit of over a hundred dollars on the night. I'll still have to gas up in the morning, though. Shit. Thirty bucks down the drain.
He frowned as he walked out the door and into the parking lot. There was a circle of teenagers a few dozen yards away, and raised voices.
Dumb-ass kids. Probably just graduated. Even odds one of them wrecks their car on the way home tonight.
He popped the trunk of his car and was putting the groceries inside when he heard the sound of breaking glass and ripping cloth and a high, angry voice screamed, “Get your hands off me, you pig!”
Owen went cold. He grabbed an object out of the trunk and slammed it closed. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out his cell and dialed 911, then ran over to the crowd.
“Hey!” he yelled, “HEY! Leave her alone!”
The circle parted as he barged in, showing him a slender girl with dark brown hair, dressed in a blouse and long skirt, crouched on the ground, teeth bared. She looked wild and feral, ready to attack anyone who got too close. Beside her on the ground was a broken wine bottle, liquid puddling on the asphalt. A heavy gold necklace was around her neck, and several armbands, copper and silver, ran from her wrists to her upper arms. Her blouse was torn and her skirt was ripped, and he could see the swell of her breasts through the gaping slit where the buttons had pulled free.
Owen counted heads. Five of them. Shit. He stood beside the girl, who was trying to climb to her feet.
“Oh look,” said one drunkenly. “It's the pizza man. Pizza Man to the rescue!”
“That's right,” he said calmly. “I'm the pizza man. And you're standing at the Hy-Vee on Pleasant Avenue at two in the morning, drunk and underage, with a hurt girl on the ground. How much slack do you think you're going to get when the cops get here?”
“Cops? There ain't no cops,” said the ringleader, a fat teenager in a hoodie. “There's just us and you, Pizza Man. So beat it, or get beaten.” He clenched his fists and walked towards Owen, his cronies crowding in around them.
“And there's this,” he said, showing them the aluminum softball bat he had pulled out of the trunk. “And this,” he continued, holding up the cell phone with the green “connected” light still glowing. He hit the speaker button.
“How long until the officers arrive, please?” he asked politely, trying to keep his voice steady.
“Less than three minutes, sir. Please stay on the line.”
“Happy to.” He dropped the phone to his side and raised his eyebrows. “If I were you, I'd sit down and wait until the nice policemen get here.”
“Fuck you!” the fat kid screamed. He looked frantically back and forth, then ran for his car, the rest following. They had barely gotten inside and started the engine when flashing lights started to reflect off the windows of the store, and two squad cars pulled into the lot. Owen pointed them towards the fleeing car, and grinned as they roared off down Pleasant in pursuit.
“Are you all...” his voice faded as he saw that the girl had already stood and was walking away.
“Hey! Wait!” he yelled, and ran after her. He was nearly to her when she spun and faced him, the neck of the broken bottle a jagged knife in her hand, armbands jangling.
“Whoa!” he said, raising his hands. “I'm not going to hurt you. I just wanted to see if you were all right.”
“That's what they said, too,” she said, spitting on the ground. She spoke English with a strange accent. Slavic? Owen couldn't make it out. “I was sitting here, drinking my wine, talking to the God, and they came to me. They talked nice to me, so I buy another bottle.
“But they became drunk,” her lip curled in contempt. “Only a few sips, and they start to stagger around like baby goats. Then the big one tries to open my shirt. He is lucky you come. I would have cut his fat throat,” she said, waving the broken glass menacingly.
“I believe you. But I just wanted to make sure you were well, and not hurt,” he said. “I'm not...I'm not like them,” he finished lamely.
For the first time, she actually looked at him. Her eyes softened. “No, you aren't, are you? I am Phoebe,” she said, offering her hand. Owen took it.
Her eyes widened. “Ah! It was you I was looking for.” Her eyes grew thoughtful. “A very good man, indeed.” She stripped a thick copper bracelet from her arm and handed it to him. It was heavy in his hand.
“This is for you. Put it on, Owen.” She waited expectantly until he had slipped it around his wrist. She smiled and kissed his cheek, the scent of wine heavy on her breath. She was almost as tall as he was. “A reward from the God.”
She ignored his blank stare and turned to walk away, then stopped. “Can I give you my number? For the telephone?”
“Sure,” Owen replied, confused. He wasn't sure he would call this girl. There was something disturbing about Phoebe. As if the polite rules of society did not apply to her. She gave him her number and he tapped it into his contacts. “Do you want my number?” he asked.
She waved a dismissive hand. “I do not need it. When I want to talk to you, I will.” Without another word she walked away into the night.
“You're welcome,” Owen muttered. “It's not like I risked a beating to save you from assault or anything. No reason to thank me.”
It wasn't until he was driving home that he realized he had never told her his name.
He pulled into the driveway of the tiny house on the east side, relieved to see his landlady's car already there, concerned that the lights were still on this late.
Probably fell asleep with them on again, he thought. We're both always so tired. He got out of the car, hauled out the groceries, and opened a beer. He lay on the trunk of the car, back propped against the rear windshield, and looked up at the stars. The thunderstorms which had blown through earlier in the evening were gone, and the dark sky was crystal clear. He sighed as he looked up at the heavens, just as far away as his dreams.
Owen's dad had died when he was just a sophomore in high school, and the family's financial problems, which had been critical, grew desperate. Owen had given up his faint hopes of going to a four-year college after high school, and had worked thirty and forty-hour weeks through both his junior and senior years. Somehow, between the money his mother, Diana, brought in as a secretary, and what he contributed with his delivery job, they had managed to keep the house. He had only moved out two years ago, when he was sure he could make enough money to support himself and also keep helping his mother.
Things had gotten a little better last year, when his sister, Melissa, graduated from high school and got a job in a call center for a furniture company in Cedar Rapids. She sent money home every month as well, and seemed content to work as a phone drone and go out with her friends every weekend.
Owen wanted more. He had earned enough credits that he was close to getting his associates degree. And half of his tip money, every day, was deposited into a savings account. When he finished off all his prerequisites, he was going to apply to Iowa and Iowa State and Northern Iowa, and when he was accepted...
He grinned, quoting It's a Wonderful Life, a movie his entire family loved.
“I'll tell you what I'm gonna do. I'm shakin' the dust of this crummy little town off my feet and I'm gonna see the world! Italy, Greece, the Parthenon, the Colosseum. Then, I'm comin' back here to go to college and see what they know. And then I'm gonna build things. I'm gonna build airfields, I'm gonna build skyscrapers a hundred stories high, I'm gonna build bridges a mile long...”
The voice was right in his ear. He squawked and twitched and nearly fell off the car. When he recovered, his landlady was standing beside him, holding a glass of wine and giggling.
“Christ, Isabel! You could have killed me.”
Isabel Jordan laughed harder and pushed Owen's shoulder. “Move over, mi vida. There is room enough for two.”
Owen scooched over and watched as she climbed onto the trunk with him and leaned back. For a few moments they simply lay together, her shoulder warm against his, sipping their drinks.
Isabel was the only daughter of Cuban refugees who had come to the United States in the Mariel Boatlift in the late seventies. Like Owen's mother, she had lost her husband, Reggie Jordan having died in an industrial accident at the manufacturing plant where he had worked for over twenty years. She had one daughter, Samara, who had left home after graduating high school and was working for a lumber supply company in Waterloo.
Needing extra money, she had rented out her unused, unfurnished basement, and after two disastrous episodes with college students, was happy to have Owen as a tenant. He was hardworking, decent, and disinclined to keep her up all hours with loud American music and video games. She had taken to him immediately as the son she had never had, peppering her speech with affectionate Cuban endearments. Occasionally, she had tried to fix Owen up with Samara, suggestions which Samara, as fiery-tempered as Isabel was serene, had cheerfully shot down
Isabel was still dressed for work, in a pair of stylish black slacks and a white blouse. Her bare feet wiggled in the breeze, and she had probably left her suit jacket inside.
“Did you just wake up?”
“Si. I fell asleep after I ate. I had a nice long nap. Then I woke up when I heard your door slam, noisy boy. So I poured a glass of wine and came out here to see you talking crazy to the sky.” She sighed and shook her head, hair a midnight cloud about her face. “What were you thinking of, mi tesoro?”
“Oh. Lots of things. My parents. Melissa. How things worked out for us.”