TX History – Chapter 9

Site: Munsche Family Cemetery
Location: Portillo, TX
Established: 1886
This small plot was established by the Munsche family, which helped establish the towns of Deepwater and Genoa, later incorporated into the city of Portillo. It contains 17 graves dated from 1886-1947. Construction of Texas State Highway 225, begun in 1964, was altered specifically to preserve the site. It can be found between the north side of the highway and the feeder road, across from a plant site currently occupied by Air Today.

From The Atlas of Texas Historical Sites

~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~

Portillo, TX – Morning

RJ toiled at his editing workstation. His monitors displayed a scene of a machine shop mishap. An employee, with his arm tucked in his shirt, held the end of his empty sleeve with a surgical tube concealed in it. RJ, out of frame, pumped red-dyed Karo while CARELESS WORKER wailed. If only one real injury was prevented by these theatrics, RJ felt like he was doing some good in the world.
A doorbell sounded, which signified a patron entering his retail space. RJ moved through the small office in a handful of steps, and opened a sliding window to the lobby.
“Welcome to Vid ’em All, how can I help you?”
Before his eyes registered the visitor, RJ noticed a videocassette laying on the counter between them. He picked it up, speaking as he inspected it.
“Duplication? You need a copy?”
RJ took his guest’s silence for assent.
“That will be $12.99, when you pick it up. I can have it by 4PM.”
RJ was intrigued, noticing the cassette was the same brand and format he shot on. The label bore a single handwritten word: URGENT!
The doorbell rang again, and looking up, RJ saw that the lobby was empty. He tought he could smell mulch.
Desperately curious now, RJ carried the mysterious customer’s cassette to his duplication rack. One row of VCR’s was in use making a batch of the WelChem video. Free of charge, of course. He was reminded of his disappointing ride. His faith was strong; he knew sometimes the light revealed nothing but an aspect of its own radiance. Perhaps he was being reminded of the crassness of his offer to Bro. Dennis. He was a recent initiate to the Receivers; maybe he was simply being reconciled with his own impetuousness. Patience and humility above all.
RJ shoved the cassette into an available VCR and pushed PLAY. There was an interval of static, then the picture resolved. The recording depicted darkness, or nighttime. RJ heard the faint noise of traffic, a single pair of footsteps. Next, a louder whooshing sound, maybe an 18-wheeler, and the camera appeared to get knocked over, arcing past a street light, and resting on the ground. As the auto-focus adjusted, RJ tried to decipher a series of shapes. Headstones. He thrust his face against the glass of the TV, tilting his head to the side. The glare of passing headlights illuminated the frame for a second, then a voice spoke.
“Oh, this thing’s on.” The image flickered back to static.
RJ mashed the REW button, then PLAY, then ||, freezing the tape on one grainy frame. He could read a single name and its accompanying dates:
Gerald A. Molo – b.1907 d.1929
How could this be? RJ had just been asked to document Molo’s presence at the High Energy Event, two weeks away. Why would his name be on a grave marker? At that moment, the duplication monitor showed the painting of Molo, the depiction of his revelatory dream. Molo, barely an adult, sat in an old car, perhaps it was new at the time. The whole scene was rendered in golden tones. RJ had seen this dozens of times, but something about it suddenly struck him as familiar.

~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~

Portillo, TX – Present

Heather entered her apartment, drained, taut with apprehension about her appointment with Dr. Momus, just a few hours away. The tumult in the pop music world over the past week had pushed the details of the DEA’s action against VDML to sidebars and back pages. However, the media held in common, with Heather’s adolescent pupils, an acute caprice, and the tale of the sad, dead singer was already fading, making room for the next sensation. The DEA deadline still loomed, and Heather would soon welcome the disputed chemical in her blood once more. Only once more? Never again? That would have to be her conviction, and with what consequences, she had yet to discover.
A tiny red light winked on Heather’s telephone answering machine. She did not want to deal with Rex, presently. The weight of her other problems, and an agave-flavored headache, had tamped down her anger sufficiently to complete her work week. Alone, in the stillness of her apartment, the questions came back. Why did he ditch me? What excuse could he possibly have?
Heather activated the message playback, and Rex’s voice emitted, tinny and pitiful, “Heather, I’m sorry.” Beep. Nothing more.
She had to give him the chance to apologize, to quantify the status of their barely-resurrected relationship. They were both, after all, going through some things.
Heather picked up the phone and dialed Rex’s pager number, then pressed 4, shorthand for an inverted h. She hung up and waited, and her eyes landed on the projector and screen, which she had put off returning to Ms. Jenkins, in the library. Something was stuck to the bottom of the projector case. She knelt down and saw a pink paper napkin. Tilting back the heavy case, she tugged it free, a piece remaining, stuck to an exposed bit of adhesive where the plastic covering of the case had worn off.
One side of the napkin was printed with the logo of the Mobius Strip. Rex never goes to those places, she thought. The other side bore a strange message, in Rex’s handwriting:

BLOW UP AIR TODAY

She did not comprehend its meaning, and she knew she could not endure the conversation that was to follow its discovery.

~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~

Rex sat alone in his dank apartment, on his drab, secondhand couch, in a tattered bathrobe. He had stayed in the tub a long time, thinking and soaking. Before that, he had lingered too long in black, dreamless sleep. He had privileged information, and a plan, and precious little to prevent him from tumbling over the precipice of self-obliterating folly. He had a calling. Rex repeated the meditation he had refined the last couple days, opening the filmstrip. He scrolled to the image of the valve wheel. He emptied his mind of anything but that red circle, and his hands turning it, forcing its concomitant valve wide open.

Rex’s pager vibrated on the side table, next to the phone. He didn’t pick it up, but leaned over and read it, letting his head rest on the arm of the couch. He hugged his knees to his chest and took a few deep breaths. Stretching out, supine, he reached for the phone. He had Heather’s number on speed dial, but he entered it manually, stalling, unsure what he was going to say. He toyed with the spiral handset cord as the answering machine came on, then the tone. Rex waited, in case she picked up, then proceeded, grateful to postpone the full confrontation.
“Hi Heather. I’m sorry I didn’t make it last night. I can’t tell you why, right now, like this, but I’m so sorry. I know you’re seeing Dr. Momus tonight. I know that’s important to you. Let her help you, get the good you need from her. Let’s talk tomorrow. I’ll tell you everything. You don’t have to tell me everything, or anything at all, but I’ll listen. Take care of yourself.”

Rex hung up. He wondered why she didn’t answer. Maybe to get back at him, maybe she just wanted to hear what he would say. He had a strange feeling that those words could be the last thing he ever said to her, and that would have to do.

~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~

I am Kyle Blyte. Nemo and I are tooling down Center Street in his dream machine. The stereo repeats Fade to White full blast, in tribute. We’re gonna go hang at the Sol-Mart parking lot. That’s the new spot. All the mini-truck guys park and show off for each other, and maybe even some girls, if there are any around. El Capitan is asking me about my freak-out the day before. Some of the white paint is still stubbornly crusted in the edges of  my knuckles and fingernails.
“Ms. Slown was so cool about it. She gave me some good advice. The feeling is true. The music gives the feeling, and that’s what I can hold on to.”
Nemo nods, “word, she’s one of my Mom’s head-case patients. I saw her name on this calendar in the office.”
“Wow, I can’t believe she’s in need of crystal-jangling. I wonder if she gets DeMoLished, like in a clinical capacity?”
“Most of them do. They use smaller doses for that,” says Nemo, “like little Junior High party hits.”
“I heard it’s good for people trying to get their head straight. Ironic, I guess. Even so, it’s weird that a teacher does that.”
As I’m thinking about this, I consider the bitch of a week I’ve been having. I could do with some unwinding myself. I excuse myself from the enclave of truck geeks and head for the baño del Sol-Mart. This place has only been open a couple days, and I’m sure they are already tired of us coming in just to piss and boost Cokes. I find an empty stall and take out the Dim baggie Nemo gave me last week. Friday night’s as good a time as any. Just one.

~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~

Rex had waited for dark, he had waited for his battery to charge, and now he was getting in position. He pulled the Crown Vic off the feeder road, onto a tiny patch of gravel next to the Munsche Family Cemetery. From here, he had a perfect view of the Air Today plant. He sat on the trunk and meditated, holding the filmstrip up to the street light. He visualized the location of the valve wheel inside the plant. He imagined again, turning it, releasing a fatal pressure into the system. He went further, seeing himself tear the wheel off with superhuman élan, hurling it through the air, so no one could stop what he set in motion. Fortified by this mental image, he prepared his camera. From this vantage, he would capture a stunning shot of the explosion. Everyone would want this footage, tonight, and every year hereafter; people would remember this night. They may never know the plot Rex had disrupted, the malevolent whisperings he had silenced. He wished he could know the complete, horrible details of the important men’s scheme, but maybe it was too much for him to grasp. He knew, if he ruined one spoke of the wheel, the rest would falter.

~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~~X~

Heather drove to the Momus residence, thinking about Rex’s message. She would hear him out, but she deserved an explanation about that strange note, and why he was going to one of those places. Did she even know him at all? Maybe it was just part of his process. Maybe they would both come back around the circle, to being two normal people. Then, they could face each other in honesty, with bare, genuine feelings. They had been there before. Maybe they had not been ready for how far they had gotten. Maybe they had both been afraid.
Heather arrived, and walked to the back of the house. She gripped the handrail at the foot of the metal staircase, ascending to Dr. Momus’ office door. She looked up, hesitating. One more time up these steps.

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