In 1945, the town of Four Corners, Georgia found they were having babies born with four-arms. It happened on the black side of town first, and they tried to keep it a secret . . . until the first white babies were born with four-arms. Now the two sides of the town had to come together to save itself and regain its balance. This story has heart, humor, and action as the town copes when the discovery begins with one of its own after a big rig truck crash. Four Corners is never going to be the same . . . again . . .
1. DRIVING INTO TOWN
1993 – July
It was a hot sticky southern afternoon.
Joyce Madisen, a pretty blonde, drove her ’68 Mustang with the windows rolled up, and the air conditioner high. Her favorite Rod Stewart tape played and she sang along with the raspy voice; “if you want my body and you think I’m sexy, come on baby tell me so . . .”
She glanced at her gauges and saw the needle was almost on ‘E’.
“Oh, shit. . . .” she said with no small disgust, “you would do this to me.” She looked around and saw a sign coming up. Four corners, six miles. Joyce rolled her eyes heavenward and said, “Thank you! Thank you!” She eased back on the speed and prayed her fuel would hold out long enough to get her to the town she hoped would be her salvation.
Night was falling.
Joyce smiled as she came into town and pulled into the first gas station she came to. It had a cashier’s cage with a small snack shop attached. There was a youngish, burly man wearing overalls, dark glasses and a plaid shirt with a not too friendly look to him.
She pulled up to the pumps. “Evenin’, ma’am, what can I do for you?” He was about six foot even, and he was appraising her coldly from behind the dark glasses….dark glasses at sunset?
“Fill me up, regular.” Joyce said. “Do you have a restroom?”
He pointed. “Right around the corner, and they’re clean. I know city folks are worried about things like that.”
Joyce gave a nervous smile. “Thanks. That’s nice to know.” She got out of the car and walked backward a few steps staring at the man as he filled her car. He was big, with a bulge around his middle.
Joyce did her business then went back to her car. The big man watched her from shaded eyes, trying not to make contact with her. “That’ll be twenty-two fifty.”
“You take plastic?”
She handed her card to him and he went to the small cashier’s cage, made out the charge receipt, then came back and handed it to her to sign. As he did so, Joyce watched as the bulge under his clothes seemed to give a slight move, as if the bulge was trying to break loose from the restraint. She looked twice, and was sure the second time. Some thing was under his clothes.
The man took the signed receipt and gave her the customer copy.
“I guess you eat well.” Joyce said. “Is there a place around here I can get a meal and some sleep?”
“Right across the street at the hotel; funny y’all didn’t see it when you drove up.” The big man said. “Sign’s all lit up.”
“I guess when you’re not thinking, you don’t see things.”
“Reckon you don’t.” He watched as Joyce got in her car and drove over to the parking lot of the hotel and coffee shop. At the sight of the coffee shop, Joyce remembered how hungry she was. She parked, and then went inside.
Joyce wondered if she’d made the biggest mistake of her life. There was an empty stool at the counter that she took. She placed her purse at her feet, and smiled at the waitress who wore dark glasses like the big man at the gas station. Joyce smiled, but the woman didn’t smile back.
Were all the people in this town unfriendly?
“What’s on the menu?” Joyce asked, trying to break the ice.
“Fish is good, fresh caught this morning. We got the best fried chicken in these parts, and there’s still some soup left, that’s corn chowder, made with fresh corn.”
“Of course fresh corn,” Joyce smiled.
“You from New York? You sound like it.” The waitress asked,
“Uhm, yeah, Manhattan; on my way back home from vacation,” replied Joyce.
“I hope you had a good time.”
“I did.” She looked over the menu for a moment, then said; “I’ll have the fried chicken. I really shouldn’t, but I have taste for it tonight.”
“You’ll love it.” The waitress took the menu and placed the order with the cook, who also wore dark glasses.
Joyce looked around as careful as possible.
Everyone wore dark glasses.
This made no sense. Joyce had the feeling that if she asked, she’d get a brush off. As she looked a little closer, doing her best not to look like she was looking, she saw the same peculiar bulge under the clothes. There was a family in a booth in the corner to her right. Even the children and she knew that only when the little boy got up and ran around the restaurant until his father, who had the same bulge as everyone else, got up and grabbed him by the arm and sat him down.
Joyce contained her curiosity as tight as she could. She hoped she could fall asleep tonight now that she had a major bone to chew.
The waitress set her food in front of Joyce who thanked her.
Suddenly, the waitress did a quick frantic wave to someone behind Joyce who turned to see what looked like a young man drop to the ground. Outside of the restaurant, the young man Joyce thought she saw scurried away in a crawling motion, turned the corner of the building, then got up and ran across the street to the gas station.
“That fool’s gonna try and come in here naked!” The waitress said. “He bet me he’d do it too!” She turned away from Joyce and said to the kitchen; “Get that fool Purdy’s lunch! I don’t know what he thinks he’s gonna do trying to come in here like that! Marshall, you run over to where he is and give him this, and tell him if he does that again, we’re gonna have an extra piece o’ sausage for breakfast! You hear me?”
Joyce laughed as she dug into her food, and she kept an eye on Marshall who picked up two sacks with the food and left. She tried to follow him as he left the store, but didn’t turn her head as he left her sight. Why the excitement?
Joyce had the feeling something was up, and there was some kind of cover up that was going on. It was dark, and even so, Marshall wore a pair of dark sunglasses. It had occurred to Joyce that he never looked in her direction.
What if her frantic little wave wasn’t about a man’s nudity?
As she ate, that funny little feeling she always got when something was going on gnawed at her.
“She just started eating,” Marshall said as he approached the sheriff, Jim Mosley. “Marcy sent me out to get Purdy his lunch. He was gonna try to get in there naked like he said he would, and Marcy chased him off before he could get in on account of that woman. You know she’s sweet on Purdy, but she didn’t want that woman seeing him.”
“It wasn’t for him being butt naked, and you know that, Marshall.” Mosley said. “I saw her license plate. She’s from New York.”
Marshall looked at the coffee shop. “I hope this is just a stopover for her. Hate to see anything happen to her.”
“Me, too,” Mosley said. “If she leaves in the morning, fine. I don’t even want to think about what could happen.” He slapped Marshall on the back. “Go get Purdy his lunch. You know he works the late shift.”
“Yeah,” Marshall walked down about a quarter mile to a dirt road, then another quarter until the main road disappeared behind the trees that hid the building Purdy worked at from view. He walked up to the electrified gate pulling out a plastic identification card, sliding it in to the box’s slot that hung next to the electronic lock. Two lights flashed, and he slid his right hand onto a panel with the outline of a hand on it. The gate slid open enough to allow Marshall in, and then closed. He made his way up to the door, stood in front of the camera, waited for the buzz, and then went inside.
“Did Purdy order out?” Dave Marcus asked as he spotted the two sacks in Marshall’s hands.
“Naw, but I brought you a ham sandwich, milk and piece of pie.” He handed the sack to Dave who happily opened it.
“Thanks for the pie. Jenny’s been on me to lose some weight, and if she finds out I’ve some of Marcy’s pie, she’ll kill me.” Dave pulled out the food and placed it on the small table in front of him. “Y’know, this is one the things that drive me crazy with Purdy, his going to get some food and him not asking if I want anything.”
“Didn’t Jenny make you a lunch?”
“Yeah, but y’know how it is; Low fat, low calories and low taste,” Dave said. “I just wish she’d let me eat normal. I’d be happier.”
“I’ll bet.” Marshall said. “Look, we got a stranger in town, and she’s at the coffee shop. I think she planning’ to stay overnight, and then go on in the morning. At least I hope so.”
“I hope so too.” Dave said “This is the only place I can let all four arms hang out with no problems.”
“Well, I envy you. You can be comfortable; I got to be bound up like a turkey at Thanksgiving.”
“Why do you think I took this job?”
“Cause your daddy got it for you.”
Dave shrugged. “You’ve got me there.” Both men laughed.
“Anyway, I’d better get back. When Purdy gets back, give him his lunch.”
“Right, see you later.”
“See you later.” Marshall left, whistling. Dave turned back to his lunch when he heard the door to his right open. In came Purdue Jackson “Purdy” McClain. He was trying to retie his necktie, which he hated, but it was company policy that employees wear them. He finally made a sloppy knot as Dave looked at him in disgust.
“You just had to try that stunt, didn’t you?” Dave said as the younger man went to the desk, saw the other sack and picked it up.
“I told her I would try it.” Purdy was a dirty blond haired young man of twenty-three, who lived most of his life in Four Corners. Five foot eight, on the thin side, he had a crooked smile that complemented his bright hazel eyes. ” ‘sides, the bet’s still on.”
“Well, I’m glad that stranger didn’t see you,” said Dave as he lifted his carton of milk. “The last thing we need is some stranger seeing you trying to win some silly bet!”
“She didn’t see me.” Purdy said as he bit into his sandwich. “Since she didn’t see me, ain’t no harm done.”
Dave shook his head in disgust. “Why do you have to learn everything the hard way?”
“That ain’t fair. . .” Purdy started.
“I ain’t talking about fair!” Dave exploded. “I’m talking about the lives of everyone in this town! Don’t you get it? We could lose everything if we’re found out.” He picked up his food and walked away. “You’re too damn selfish to be eatin’ with.”
“Dave, aw, come on!” Purdy said as the older man went to the lunchroom. He slumped on his stool.
Damn him for being right.