Running In Plain Sight & Other Stories by Charles R. Butts Jr.
A compilation of four diverse and entertaining short stories.
The title story, “Running In Plain Sight” chronicles the journey of Leander Sills Jr. At the age of ten, he was forced to flee after the brutal murder of his parents and his subsequent retaliation. Follow his travels as he tries to stay a step ahead of those seeking vengeance.
“If All Minds Are Clear”, tells the story of Reverend Brantley Wilkerson II. A young, handsome and charismatic minister on the rise and newly engaged to the pastor’s daughter. But when a potential indiscretion lurks and could possibly derail his dream of being named pastor of Grace Baptist Church, will he reach his dream, or will he fall from grace?
“Home”, follows the story of P. Randall Spires. Born an albino, he can’t shake the pain of being disowned by his father at eighteen. Now forty-eight and a successful securities trader living in Seattle, he yearns to exorcise a haunting nightmare and reconnect with his family. Can he reconcile the present by healing his past?
“A Balanced Imbalance”, begins with another failed suicide attempt by Zachary Price, who is living with bipolar disorder and cycling from the highest heights of mania to the darkest depths of depression. With his quality of life nonexistent and everything to live for, is he willing to give his doctor, his medications and therapy one last try, or will he end it all for good?
June 20, 1902 Attapulgus, Georgia
It was mid-afternoon on a sweltering and humid summer day. The sun was bearing down and I was weeding the crops when I heard what sounded like gunshots. Scared out of my mind, I ran to the house as fast as I could to see what was going on.
When I reached the doorway, I froze; both Papa and Tully Bates were lying on the floor covered in blood, holding shotguns. Half of Tully’s head was blown off, so I knew he was dead. Pa was moaning and trying with all his might to move. Mama, seven months pregnant, was lying on her back near the stove. Her clothes were nearly ripped off, she’d been stabbed a few times and wasn’t moving. I’ll never forget that far away look she had in her eyes. Tully’s son, Buddy, who wasn’t much older than me, was standing near the corner holding a blood-covered knife. Enraged, in one motion, I grabbed Pa’s shotgun and blew Buddy clean across the room. His blood bathed the floor and quite a bit of him splattered all over the walls. Everything happened so fast. I stood there catching my breath and trembling. I didn’t snap out of it until I heard Pa calling out to me.
Covered in blood and gasping for air, he said, “Lee, there’s not much time, I need you to listen to me. Run out to the barn, climb up to the loft, look under the second bale of hay and bring me that box.” I did what he asked, and when I came back, he said, “Open it up, put all the money in your pocket, and the land deed in the bib of your overalls. Take my hat and boots too, you’re going to need them. Mark my x on the back of the deed and give it to Reverend Pope. Tell him I’m donating this land to the church so they can build a school, a separate house of worship and a cemetery. This land’s gotta always stay in colored hands, I worked too hard for it. Tell him to bury me and your Ma’s bodies here, and to save four or five plots for yourself. When it gets dark, I want you to go down to the rail yard, and sneak on the southbound train headed for Florida.”
He continued, “Now go on, get going. I’m sure somebody who heard the shots is probably on their way out here now. You’re big for a ten year old, and you have to be a man now. Your Ma and I love you something fierce. You are a product of our love, and no Ma and Pa has ever been more proud than we are. Give me your hand son, and go with God. Take hold of His hand and keep us in your heart always. Be a good man and be strong. Don’t start trouble, but don’t run from it either. Always be willing to stand your ground and defend yourself. Find work wherever you go and keep moving. You’re bigger and stronger than most men, and I believe you can outwork them too. Never stop looking over your shoulder.” He smiled, relaxed his calloused grip and passed from this world to the next. With tears in my eyes, and a painful lump in my throat, I put on Pa’s hat, slipped on his boots – the first pair of shoes I ever owned, and ran into the woods.
Crouched down and hidden in the woods about a mile away from the farm, and scared out of my mind, I watched the orange sun set before making my way over to Reverend Pope’s place. I handed him the deed, along with Pa’s instructions. I also told him everything that happened. Short and thin, with kind eyes and a garbled voice, he was extremely grateful for the land. Grateful, but saddened for Ma and Pa, and scared for me at the same time. He and Mrs. Pope covered me, said a prayer for Ma and Pa before he blessed me, anointed my head with oil and sent me on my way. Before sending me on, Mrs. Pope packed some fried chicken and pound cake for me to take along. A bit taller and bigger than her husband – she was really pretty.
Reverend Pope handed me a few dollars and said, “Go with God son, and be forever blessed. I’ll do everything your Pa asked me to, and we’ll always be praying for you. Find a way to let me know how you’re doing from time to time. Your Pa was right, it’s not safe for you here. I imagine those boys will turn this town and county upside down looking for you.”
( Continued… )
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About the Author
Running In Plain Sight and Other Stories is a compilation of four diverse and entertaining stories. It’s the second book written by Charles R. Butts Jr., a former soldier of the U.S. Army and a postal employee for over thirty-three years. When he’s not reading or writing, Charles enjoys spending time with Shawanda, his wife of twenty-one years, and his children Amber and Trey. Influenced by Langston Hughes, Walter Mosley and James Baldwin, he hopes to entertain and provoke thought in the reader.