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Authors: Christopher Klim

The Winners Circle

BOOK: The Winners Circle
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The Winners Circle

Christopher Klim


Hopewell Publications



Books by Christopher Klim





Jesus Lives in Trenton

Everything Burns

The Winners Circle


True Surrealism





Write to Publish: Essentials for

the Modern Fiction & Memoir Market





Firecracker Jones is on the Case

Copyright (c) 2005 by Christopher Klim.


All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher, with exception of reviews.



Published by Hopewell Publications, LLC

PO Box 11, Titusville, NJ 08560-0011 (609) 818-1049


[email protected]


Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Klim, Christopher, 1962-

The winners circle / Christopher Klim.

p. cm.

ISBN 1-933435-02-X (alk. paper)

1.  Farmers--Fiction. 2.  Millionaires--Fiction.

3.  Lottery winners--Fiction. 4.  Group psychotherapy--Fiction. 5.  Swindlers and swindling--Fiction.  I. Title.

PS3611.L555W56 2005




First Edition


Printed in the United States of America



For Karin always,

my lucky ticket.


In memory of Jack Seidel,

war veteran, loving father.


Also in memory of Mark Drucker,

who helped me at the right time.


Special thanks to

Robert, Carolyn, Matt, Margaret, & Tom











For a long time after he struck it rich, Jerry Nearing was haunted by the specter of a rattlesnake. It rose in his dreams, just as it had in real life. He felt its thin white fangs piercing his skin, remaking his life in a million ways. He often snapped forward in bed, draped in a cold sweat, aware that he was alone and with no one to hear the ricochet pace of his heart. But the strange part, the hardest fact for him to reconcile, was that on the afternoon he almost died beside a stinking pile of manure, people called it the luckiest day of his life.

Jerry never recalled feeling lucky or even lucky to be alive. On the day the rattler struck, he
awoke quiet and somber, docked by small problems with no easy answers. Icy rain sheeted the old farmhouse windows, and damp air filled his nostrils. He held the nagging feeling that the roof was leaking, but Chelsea had left for work without the slightest remark, and the house lay silent as a corpse. Jerry sat up and perked his ears, listening for the shifts and creaks of his beloved homestead. For most of his life, he felt the urge to set about working, somewhere an unfinished task summoned.

Good deal,” he uttered, celebrating the peace that filled his wife’s absence. He’d rather make love to her and stay cuddled up beneath the sheets, but they’d been arguing about the roof again. Chelsea had a habit of harboring a disagreement until it grew legs and became a beast of its own. They both knew they didn’t have the money to make repairs, and he grimaced at the thought of going one more round with her.

He slid from bed and followed the steps down. He searched for a disheveled pile of laundry or a mean stack of dirty dishes, an indication that Chelsea still burned. The uneven floorboards skipped beneath his bare feet like Braille. Odd sounds emanated from the kitchen. He found the cabinets ajar and saw his pots sprawled across the floor. His best skillet brimmed with water. Chelsea had trumped the argument, distributing his fine kitchen hardware like old wash buckets to catch the rain.

Water dripped from the ceiling in cold blue lines. A symphony of disapprovals splashed in the pots, the chorus to Chelsea’s one-note song. Jerry longed to scale the roof and get to work. He knew how to refinish the floors and repair the pickup truck. He owned the time to attack every task imaginable. When General Motors pink-slipped him, when they shut their doors in Trenton for good, they rewarded his loyalty with an endless string of vacation days, minus the pay.

He closed his eyes. If time was money, why couldn’t he barter one for the other? He sent up a wish, a prayer, a plea for a bargain. Let God or the Devil hear him now. He didn’t care who seized the deal.





When the storm quit, Jerry put on his rubber fishing boots and drove through Hopewell. He labored all afternoon, stopping at each dung heap on his list. People complained about their crap jobs, but his livelihood relied on it. He sold manure to organic farmers around the county.

His Ford sputtered and stalled in the entrance of Taddler’s Horse Center. Jerry gripped the steering wheel, willing the old pickup to the crest of the hill. Gravel crunched beneath the tires. He held his breath, as the truck rolled to a halt.

He opened the door and dropped his boot to the ground. He leaned into the steering wheel, and the truck glided downhill toward the horse stalls, powered by nothing more than gravity. He released the air in his lungs.

Several handlers stood by the huge barn doors. Jerry’s window was down, and he heard them mock him.
Let them laugh
. He wasn’t stupid. He knew how to assemble a door handle and latch for any late model American car. He used to create entire dashboards from raw materials. He always felt that he could match wits with other people, given the time and opportunity. They would never believe he read Dickens, Jules Verne, and the odd Sherlock Holmes mystery too. They would be amazed when he turned over his engine with a can of aerosol and a cigarette lighter.

The truck stopped behind the main barn, where the wet manure piled above the March snow thaw. He grabbed his pitchfork and wheelbarrow and loaded up. It was the largest mound he’d seen in a while, two truckloads, enough booty to buy a flat of roof shingles and construct a truce at home.

Good deal.” He needed a break like this. Last night, as Chelsea eyeballed him across the dinner table, he sensed the cold, dark silence of her retreat. No conversation. No chitchat about her day. They hadn’t made love in a month. He might never view the light of the sun again.

A young woman maneuvered up the dirt path to the barn. She wore bluejeans and a beat-up shearling coat, but it was the foal in her arms that caught Jerry’s attention, a gorgeous white-nosed foal with spotted hooves. Its mother whinnied in the paddock, nudging the gate.

Jerry studied the wriggling foal. Horses were pretty smart, naturally honest. They didn’t hit you with the mysterious stuff that people carried like baggage in their words and actions. He often watched the trainers work the reins for new riders. It wasn’t the horse they taught so much but the person on the horse. The best trainers showed a rider how to read a horse and anticipate its movements. Jerry wanted to train horses too, learn to decode that equine language, but he’d spent fourteen years on the assembly line, since the day he graduated from high school. People thought he did nothing else but shovel shit.

The girl stumbled on a large rock, setting the foal loose. Jerry stepped onto the path and grabbed a fistful of the animal’s mane. It felt like straw between his fingers.

The foal twisted its neck, tugging to get free. Jerry gathered its legs in his arms. The animal smelled like damp leather, and a gentle lather greased its neck. It beat its head against Jerry’s chest, until it relinquished the fight to his grip.

Thanks.” The girl climbed to her feet, taken aback by Jerry’s long shadow cast over her. She dusted off her knees. Both the girl and foal seemed suspicious of Jerry’s intentions.

He eased the frightened horse into her arms. The foal had wet his sleeve and the front of his shirt, and the scent of warm urine stung his nose.

Embarrassed, the girl tried to keep her eyes away from the stain on Jerry’s clothes. “Sorry about that.”

He glanced at his boots—soiled with mud and manure. “I’m used to the smell.”

There’s a hose if you need it.” She pointed toward the spigot near the barn door. They used it to cool down the horses after a hard run.

No thanks, I’ll shower in my own stall.” He waited until she disappeared inside the barn, before changing into his spare flannel.

Jerry emptied the loaded wheelbarrow into the truck. He recalled the struggling foal in his arms. He had control of the animal. Then he remembered Chelsea and his heap of unsolved problems.
Damn GM
. They had run south for cheap wages and a sexy tax deal. They shut the plant and liquidated his future.
With a steady job and benefits, he’d start a family. He’d have a baby in his arms. Chelsea would get the family of her dreams. She was made for kids.

He wheeled back to the manure heap. Sweet steam rose in the air like an exotic recipe—ripe and firm with hints of foreign spice. Decomposing manure was a living thing, hosting a city of microorganisms and insects, provoking life wherever it mixed with dirt.

Jerry tensed his arms, absorbed in worry, wishing out loud for a complete solution. He raised his pitchfork and plunged his tool into the mass of horse crap that defined his days.

A nest of rattlesnakes opened up to daylight. Several snakes shook their tails, too many to count. They coiled and cocked their heads. Jerry was mesmerized by their proximity and sound. He never imagined hearing that awful noise up close. It fluttered with an obscene rhythm.

A rattler squirmed on the third prong of his pitchfork, skewered like a worm on a hook, and he chucked his tool aside in repulsion and stepped back.

But a six-footer shot from the pile and broke his skin. The fangs set deep and hard, before disengaging from his leg. His heart jerked in an unfamiliar way. In a spit of time, poison injected into his veins. He’d heard of snake handlers who pulled back before the first strike, but Jerry possessed reflexes of stone.

He limped away, grabbing his pants near the bite. Two pinholes floated on the bunched material. It didn’t look that bad, but his pulse raced. Adrenaline mixed with venom. How long did it take? Was it already too late? His brain resembled an unplugged appliance that continued to run on its own.
Get to the truck. Don’t fall here. Drive.

He staggered to his pickup and dropped into the front seat, fumbling for his keys. His leg felt numb. His throat constricted. Was he going to die covered in shit? Had he expected this all along? He considered untying his boots.

A rattlesnake slithered past his tires, shaking its terrible song. His heart jumped higher than before.

The girl emerged from the barn. She gave him a double take, as he slumped in the truck. He felt lightheaded. He wanted to call out, but his lips and tongue tingled. Extreme body parts no longer felt like his own. The tips of his fingers, the touch of his clammy hands felt like rubber.

She stepped toward him, curious, but the snakes circled the mound, squirming like a bundle of rope come alive. She stopped moving and went pale. In Jerry’s poisoned brain, she appeared more shocked than he.

How queer it was. Nothing but broken bridges ahead. He metered his diminishing breaths. He felt his life slipping through his palms, as if the rope had always been slipping through and now he’d lost the end of it, felt it whipping away like a snake escaping his grip, a snake that didn’t even pause to strike on retreat.

BOOK: The Winners Circle
7.7Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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