SHORT STORIES

SHORT STORIES

BY

 

BILL BUTLER (alias "el Toe")

Habana, Cuba, 1946

          Bill Butler wrote these essays during his junior year of High School at Ruston Academy, entered long hand into a school notebook. They are reproduced below exactly as written.

Realists Viewpoint.

          Lazily the boat inched forward, bouncing off the small ripples, disturbing the boundless seas. What a miserable day. No wind, no clouds but, Oh, plenty of sun. I was, with the rest of the boat practically dehydrated. I drank the canteens dry. I ate the last crumb in the lunch box, but hunger still prevailed in my body. I paddled, drifting slowly into a feeble breeze, which only made my boat jolt ever so much more. Clouds suddenly sprang up, blotting the entire sky, covering the heavens with a dirty coat of gray. I saw rain coming, it came, it passed, leaving me drenched soaked to the skin, and above all, cold! The Sun, the same sun I had cursed not so long ago was screened by a heavy layer of clouds. The icy water, which had previously fallen from the blue vault above, had chilled me, for I shook like a leaf. What wretchedness, what despair! That beautiful day had now changed from bad to worse. For swells began to spring up, on whose peaks rode countless undulations, making my journey exceedingly jolty.

 

          What anybody can see in a rainy, cloudy day is beyond me. All I can see in it is misery, misery and more misery. Some poets write poems about rainy days and actually make then jovial. They must be demented or have a cracked sense of humor, for there is only one thing connected with rain and that's misery. Dusk was slowly creeping on me and the sun, for a split second, shone through a break in a cloud, only making me conscious of what I was missing. On the westerly quarter of the horizon there was a presumably beautiful sunset, beautiful only to poets I quess, only signifying to me a colder and icier trip. The wind was picking up, unfortunately from the wrong direction, for I had to tack home in the dark. The weather had changed from cold to freezing. On shore I could see lights in the houses, in rooms, warm rooms, a luxury I was not enjoying in my present state. And lazily the boat inched foreward, bouncing off the huge swells, gliding into my homeport, for a good nights sleep, a rest for its aching planks.                                                                                                End

 

Romanticists View.

"Oh what a beautiful morning,

O what a beaut--    WHAM!!"

         

          Boy, just ducked in time for that skull crushing boom would have scalped me cleaner that an Indian. What a life, sitting on my tail all day, drifting with the breeze, with an occasional jaunt produced by an overgrown wave, which helped to eliminate monotony and boredom. The sun shone with all its might so in hope of an even coat of tan (or an uneven coat of sunburn) I lay down on the deck and absorbed sunshine by the ton. Satisfying my hunger with a few sandwiches and water, I sat up and earnestly took in my surroundings. The sky was dotted with clouds of all shapes and sizes and the use of a little imagination one could associate them with various people of things. On the horizon were some schooners, beautiful things with two masts, square sails, and long bowsprits, all of them going like the devil.

 

          The sun hid behind some clouds, producing some very curios patterns. Rain fell, cleansing my skin and the deck of the boat. I felt like a million dollars, without a care in the world, drifting along at a deadman's speed. The sun was proceeding on its journey around the world and soon left my part of the earth in total darkness. Sailing in the dark is quite a thrill, something like sailing with your eyes closed. One could detect certain lights on the shore with which to guide oneself home. The sunset in the tropics is said to be the most beautiful in the world and I can verify that statement. The variety of colors of the clouds is dazzling, somewhat resembling a painter's paradise. I glided into my harbor, riding the foamy tops of murmuring waves and parked my boat at its customary lodging, in its private parking lot, its buoy.

                                                                                                End

 

Spanish Man-of-War

Out of the West, gilded by the rising sun, rose the bulky form of a Spanish man-o-war! The people of Havana, who had not yet quite arisen, quickly poured out of their houses to gaze at the magnificent sight. I had slept that night on the seaward side of the Malecon, caring for several fishing boats, which belong to my uncle. Closer came the dreadnaught, plowing through the waves, with its powerful oaken bow, its white canvas sails filled with a fresh north breeze, its deck crammed with anxious sailors. On the mainmast flew the scarlet and gold, on the mizzen the skull and crossbones. The captain of the vessel was at the tiller, guiding his ship through the uncharted waters of Havana Harbor.

          Since my uncle had gone way out to the Vedado selling fish, he wasn't expected for a couple of days. So, boldly, I shoved a longboat into the water and rowed over to the opposite shore where the galleon had docked. The splendid grandeur displayed on the deck was deeply contrasted with groans and whines of the prisoners held below. I saw, peering in through on of the numerous gaps made by an incoming projectile, something which made my stomach turn over a few times, There, in a circular room, partially filled with bilge, were some captive seamen, held to the walls by chains. They seemed to have had nothing to eat for days and could not sit down for their necks were fastened to the walls.

          A procession had just started to walk up to the Morro Castle heights, at whose head was the captain of the craft and his mates, the governor of Havana and some of his cronies and some well guarded British prisoners. With what pomposity and arrogance the executives walked, like peacocks in their mating season, and the captives, barely strong enough to straggle along, were urged onward by impatient sailors.

          I left the boat beached on some rocks and determined to watch the procession, I clambered up to the head of the mass. When we entered the newly constructed fortress, I discovered the reason of their expedition. Two prisoners were first led to a sunken pit, which had a wall, about two feet wide, dividing it in half. At about a foot below the height of the wall, on both sides were two eager, ravenous crocodiles. The object was to keep the prisoners running back and forth, avoiding the hungry jaws of the alligators. One of the two prisoners, exhausted fell into the pool, to be devoured by one of the famished beasts. The other was shot and amid roars of laughter from above, fell pray to the remaining hungry reptile.

          The Procession next halted at a large room where one of the strongest captives was strapped to a massive wooden chair. Before the priest could assist him, the garrote, handled by a fellow prisoner, tightened at the prisoner's neck. The captive, without a last word fell limp into the chair. The gang continued and within a short period, left that gruesome, ghastly, grisly room far behind.

          It was about lunchtime and procession, slowly sauntering down the hill, vanished into a harbor inn for a round of ale. I departed amid their singing and their bellows, climbed into my boat and rowed off in the murky deep waters of Havana Harbor.

                                                                                                End

 

Bold Young Man

          Because it was a small town, four hundred people and sixteen dogs - he had counted the dogs two weeks ago - he knew and could name every house and its occupants. Down the street he saw the flagpole in the square and the bell tower over the fire-cart house. Fred Hawkings was getting sleepy now, but he couldn't help starring at such names scribbled on the wall as "Mike McGuire" or 'Gus Jones". They were old pals of his who had previously left town for some reason or other. It was a bright June night and the tremendous mosquitoes and the minute gnats were making quite a racket flying against the window screen, hitting with sharp pings.

          He awoke the next morning in time for a quick breakfast and to get ready for a picnic scheduled for early that morning. Everybody was there, Freddy in his nice clean, ironed trousers, stiff shirt and the dress that goes with that sort of drab, the rest in their dungarees and old shirts. This didn't mean that Fred was better off or anything but, well he was older and most important of all, he had a girl or girls. They walked across a golf course, down a pasture and around a hill until reaching some beautiful picnic grounds with a stream and tall beautiful trees surrounding it. An idea flashed through Fred's mind. Wading. Why that seemed harmless enough, for there wasn't any glass on the bottom or any big animals to bite you.

          In goes Freddy, and right behind him go the girls, for wading is a feminine sport too. Through some mishap, a droplet of water ventured into Hawkings' eye. In a playful mood he tenderly splashed the girls, who in return, sent a terrible volley of water his way. Well, that started it, and we all watched from shore, which was at a reasonable distance, at this terrible massacre. The foam cleared and from the midst of the disturbed waters he could distinguish three heads of hair, all dripping, all coughing, and gulping for air. His suit was ruined, but that a matter of the past. The matter of the present was food. Well he ate, not nearly as much as I did, but enough to make the girls sigh and wonder how his breadbasket could hold so much.

          Another brainstorm flew across his brain center. Fishing. Fred wasn't satisfied with a hook and line, but he had to spear the minnows. In he went once more, taking care not to moisten his partly dry trousers, with a long pole with a point on end and a flock of girls behind him. He tried for an hour, didn’t catch a thing, so he decided to wade out, and hand in hand with his admirers he tried to do so. The bunch came across a ledge and the girls, grasping the opportunity shoved the big gallant man off. Drenched once more he resolved to stay away from that river and in hope of drying his pants he proposed a hike, Dragging along a couple of comrades he set off to explore the pastures, soon returning though, in what seemed to be quite a haste. Of all the dumb things to do, they were chased by a couple of bulls, playful bulls and our hero had tripped, fell and had consequently gotten his pants full of a thick coat of mud.

          He settled down for a peaceful rest and amid rustling poplars and murmuring girls and there we left him to enjoy his misery.

         

                                                                                      End