Talk About Unaware

Once again, I’ve combined an entry for the Thursday Doors Writing Challenge with a gallery supporting Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge. Cee’s prompt this week is Catching People Unaware. I don’t photograph people often, but I’ll see what I can find. My story also has an element of the unaware. I drew my inspiration, much like I did last year, from a lighthouse photo by Wheat Salt Wine Oil. This story is much shorter than last week’s but if you want to skip to the gallery, click here.

Wheat Salt Wine Oil

Billy Two Sticks

Arnold Turner trudged into the kitchen of his friend, Philip Singer’s house. Arnie had been staying with Phil for several weeks, hoping to extend the severance pay he was living on. “What’s that you’re reading Phil?”

“Poems from Behind the Cell Door.”

Arnold shook his head in mild disgust. “Maybe you could set aside your leisure and try looking at the want ads. I need to find a way to get some money.”

Phil closed the book but kept his index finger in it to mark the page. “Arnie, you haven’t done an honest day’s work since you quit your weather service job. Nothin’ in the want ads is ever gonna to appeal to you.”

“Yeah, well, sooner or later, I’m gona to find something big. Something so big I’ll be able to retire. Maybe I’ll take an honest job at that point. You know, when I’d be set so well that, if the boss gave me bunch of crap, I could walk out, instead of getting fired.”

Phil laughed. “Like Johnny Paycheck? Take this job and shove it?”

Arnie nodded. “You got that right.”

“I never understood why you quit that job with NOAA(1). That was a decent job. You went to school for meteorology.”

Arnie slammed his hand down on the kitchen table. “I went to school to be a weatherman. You know, on TV. Then I cracked up my car. That left me with a face made for looking at radar screens in a dark room while some pretty boy or some hot chick made five times as much as me reading my forecast in front of a camera.”

Phil stuck a piece of paper to mark his page. “Arnie, you can’t keep wallowing in the past. Bad stuff happens. Look at me, laid off after thirty-five years. But I’m not gonna cry about it.”

Arnie interrupted. “No, you’re gonna drift from one temp assignment to the next until you can collect Social Security. ‘Cuz nobody’s gonna hire a sixty-year-old computer programmer. And what about Paulie? He’s been living with bad stuff all his life. What happens when his folks finally kick?”

“For your information, I promised Paulie’s mother I’d take care of him. He can move in with me—after you get a job and move out.”

Arnie walked over to the coffee maker. Phil opened the book and started reading where he left off. “Here’s a poem by a guy who made it big. Too bad he died in prison.”

In the Orb’s Shadow

Full blood moon set
Shadow cast three thousand feet
Hatteras stands by

Billy Two Sticks

Arnie rubbed his face. “Who wrote that piece of junk?”

Phil laughed, “Billy ‘Two Sticks’ Fleming.”

“Yeah, what was he in for?”

Phil turned to the back of the book, where the prisoner’s stories were written. “Fleming was a demolition expert in World War Two. It says here, he planted dynamite in a series of drainage culverts under a remote state highway in North Carolina. He set off the explosion when an armored truck drove over the drains.”

Arnie laughed. “See, that’s big. That’s what I’m talkin’ about. He used his education to make it big.”

“Yeah, a little too big. He blew up two hundred feet of road. Killed the driver and the guard in the back. The guard next to the driver was severely injured but shot two of Billy’s accomplices. Billy and one guy got away with over two million dollars, but the guy they left behind to die, told the cops where they’d been hiding.”

Arnie shook his head. “Two million bucks, lost.”

“Two innocent people dead, Arnie. That’s why Billy Two Sticks never got to spend any of that money.”

“Did the police ever recover the loot?”

Phil shook his head. “Nope. Says here the money was never found. The second accomplice died in jail, awaiting trial, from wounds he sustained the robbery. The police caught up with Billy after a few weeks, but he never talked.”

Arnie poured them both a cup of coffee, and hacked a couple pieces off a crumb cake that was open on the counter. He took a piece over to Phil, but he didn’t set it down.

“You gonna give me that coffee cake, or make me beg for it?”

“Shut up. I’m thinkin’. Read me that poem again.”

Phil flipped back and read “In the Orb’s Shadow” one more time. Arnie put his coffee down and took out his phone. A few minutes later he asked Phil if he could use his laptop.

“Sure, just don’t download anything I wouldn’t want to be caught with. Some of the engagements I get scan for ‘inappropriate’ content.”

Arnie snorted. “If I’m right, my education is finally going to pay off.” An hour later Arnie called Phil over to the desk.” You, me, and Paulie need to go to North Carolina.”

Phil was confused. “What’s in North Carolina?”

“The orb.”

“The what?”

“That poem tells where Billy Two Sticks hid the money.”

“It’s not a very long poem, Arnie. What makes you think there’s a message in there?”

“His reference to the full blood moon setting, and Hatteras. The ‘orb’ is the Hatteras Light. He hid the money there.”

Phil sipped his coffee. “Arnie. Forget it. First off, they moved the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse ten years ago. The shore was eroding, and…”

Arnie interrupted. “I know that. I’m unemployed, I’m not stupid. I looked up that robbery. I worked from where the light was when Billy hid the money.”

“OK, but even if he buried the money there, they would have found it when they moved the lighthouse. They also moved the Lightkeeper’s house and a couple auxiliary buildings. And even if they didn’t find the money, the site is a national freakin’ park, it’s not like you can go there and start digging for pirate booty.”

Arnie started reading from a pad full of notes as he pointed to the screen in various places. “Billy Two Sticks wouldn’t have had time to bury the money, but he didn’t have to. During the war, there were shore batteries all along the east coast, looking for German submarines. They tunneled out the whole area near where the lighthouse stands today for ammunition storage. The entrances to those tunnels were sealed after the war, but I bet he got in through an old ventilation shaft, and I bet that shaft still exists.”

Phil was impressed. Arnie had downloaded historic lunar paths and timetables and he’d looked up the height of the Hatteras Light at its original location. His notes showed the original lighthouse with angled lines drawn pointing down, and an arc where the shadow would have fallen.

“OK, say you’re right. What are you proposing?”

“You, me and Paulie drive down there. We scope the place out during the day. You take me and Paulie back at night. We go in a ventilation shaft, gather up the loot and sit tight. The next night, you come back and pick us up. We split two million bucks three ways.”

In preparation for the drive, Arnie gathered the tools he would need to get in and around in the tunnels. “I’ve been in tunnels like these before. They were all over the place on the shore, and they’re all pretty much the same. This is gonna be easy-peasy.”

The trio drove to North Carolina and out to Hatteras National Seashore. They took the tour, climbed the lighthouse, and then they wandered around some hiking paths. From the top of the lighthouse, Arnie was sure he saw the area they needed to explore. After 45 minutes, Phil found a rusty ventilation shaft cover buried in the brush. Arnie wrestled with it for a while, and with help from the other two guys managed to get it loose.

“OK, let’s leave now before someone figures out what we’re doing. You can drop us at the gate tonight after it’s good and dark.

A few minutes after midnight, Paul and Arnie each grabbed a bag of tools and headed up the hillside behind the lighthouse. Arnie also had several heavy-duty garbage bags he hoped to carry out full of money. He looked over at Phil. “Be here the exact same time tomorrow. I’ll keep track of the time it takes us to get in. We’ll be ready to move as soon as you get here.”

The following morning, Phil went down to the breakfast buffet in the hotel. He took his book of poetry with him. Sitting at a table in the lounge, he picked at some scrambled eggs and sausage, sipped some coffee, and read more poems. Suddenly, he dropped his fork as he read another poem by Billy ‘Two Sticks’ Fleming:

Booby Trap

Approach from the east
From the west, you will perish
Then all will be lost

Billy Two Sticks

Phil tossed the rest of his breakfast in the trash. He went back to the room, grabbed his wallet and keys, and drove to the park. When he got there, the storm gates were closed at the entrance to the access road. He parked on the shoulder and walked over to the ranger on duty.

“Good morning. Why is the park closed?”

“There was a minor seismic event in this area last night. It’s probably nothing to worry about, but they called an engineer to inspect the foundation of the lighthouse. You know, better safe than sorry. I’m told we’ll be able to open around eleven o’clock


(1) U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Catching People (and one bunny) Unaware

In case you want to sing along with Arnie

If you like magical realism with suspense, action and a bit of family sarcasm, you will enjoy these books:

The Evil You Choose
When Evil Chooses You

Series page on Amazon

My profile page (and books) on Lulu

All available on Kindle Unlimited!


  1. Definitely should have read more! Clever ending Dan. I knew a happy ending was too good to be true!

    Great shots, especially of Faith! You did a good job of catching people unaware!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I decided that all my stories can’t have a happy ending after all, Ginger.

      I’m sure some people, and the bunny, were aware, but they’re the people I like, so…


  2. If I take a photo in which I catch people unaware I immediately delete it. Yet this is a whole theme for sharing photos? I don’t know what to make of that. Oh well, whatever…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I didn’t think I was going to find many pictures that would satisfy this prompt, as I generally avoid taking pictures of people. But I found more than I thought I would. Most of these are photos that would be impossible to get without people, as they are large events. The closer photos are from events where I knew most of the people. These are photos that were shared among the attendees.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Whoopsie. No wicked deed goes unpunished eh? Great tale, Dan. I like that Phil is a retired ‘computer guy’. Loved all your photos too, especially Faith, the Gyro place and that serious guy up on the ladder. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I am honored you chose the wswo lighthouse photo. Really enjoyed the story, creative haiku! Sad ending but when has there ever been ‘easy’ riches? Phil got the payoff–life! A suspenseful take on Cape Hatteras’ nickname–graveyard of the Atlantic :(

    Liked by 1 person

    • I wanted to write for that lighthouse since you added it. It took a while. I think I was reluctant to ditch the happy ending. I didn’t know the nickname. That does fit. Nothing ever comes that easy. Thanks for the photo.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I take it Arnie and Billy are no more? Lucky my husband and I got to climb to the top of Hattaris Light before the “seismic event.”

    “Take This Job and Shove It” has to be the most relatable song in the English language. Country music at its finest.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. As always, I admire your skill at story-telling, but that ending prompted a big EUW from me. On the other side of life, there’s the caption about the hard hat from Faith. I couldn’t help laughing — that had something to do with what I know about dads and daughters.


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