A few years back, I was commissioned to write a story for the 'We're Alive' podcast.
Long story short, it didn't pan out.
But I spent a very long time writing it for it to languish in my computer. I spent that time not only writing it for the 'We're Alive' folks, but mostly for my readers.
So what I've decided to do is publish my initial story here, via my blog, as a work of FAN FICTION, a completely unofficial piece about a character from the series. This is completely unofficial and unauthorized, but I think my work and time spent on this project deserve to see the light of day.
I would like to encourage everyone who might enjoy this fan fiction to check out the officials 'We're Alive' website HERE. It is a fantastic and well-developed world created by a group of professional writers and expert voice actors.
In the meantime, here's the completlely unofficial, unauthorized 'We're Alive' fan fiction, originally entitled (WORKING TITLE: BURT)
BOWIE V. IBARRA
From an idea from the creators of the
“WE’RE ALIVE” podcast
Copyright 2011 PRODUCERS OF “WE’RE ALIVE” PODCAST, BOWIE V. IBARRA
7D. WINTER OF BITTERNESS
Burt and Shirley grow in love together, working through lows and riding highs.
Burt and Shirley prosper with their gun store, ‘Locked and Loaded’.
Burt and Shirley hold each other tight on the couch every night. All they want, all they know that will happen to them, is to grow old together.
That’s all they can see when they think of their future together.
Shirley lets her bottled black hair show hints of gray.
Burt’s beard completely transitions to white.
They drink together. They drink a lot together. Together.
Their love is at its peak. Their commitment will never die.
And as the years pass, adding to their perfect love and sweet financial prosperity, all they still know, all they still can see, is that they will grow old together.
It’s all they can see.
What they can’t see is the vile harbinger of doom growing rapidly inside Shirley’s body. They can’t see it. So they live. They laugh. They love.
It was supposed to be a yearly checkup like previous checkups. Shirley was supposed to go in, get a clear bill of health like always, and go on. It was not supposed to end like this.
The doctor found the malady. After checking and double-checking, it was cancer.
The doctor told Shirley and watched her smile fade.
The doctor patted Shirley on the back as she shed cruel tears.
This was not how the day was supposed to go.
“I don’t know if I can do this anymore, Mike.”
“What do you mean?”
“I guess I mean I really don’t have to do this anymore.”
Shirley was talking to Deputy Mike Guerra over her cell phone as they drove in their individual patrol cars to a call.
“You have to stay in one more year to get your full retirement benefits, Shirley. You can’t get out now.”
I don’t have a year, she thought.
“The shop is doing really good. Burt’s kept the city off our ass by giving to city charities in the name of the shop. I just… I don’t have to put myself on the line anymore.”
“You’re good at what you do, Shirley. We need you. The county needs you.”
“But I don’t need them anymore, Mike. I don’t.”
“What about me? Won’t you miss me? I’ll miss you.”
“Stop it, Mike.”
“You know I’ve always been sweet on you, Shirley.”
Shirley blushed. “You need to stop it, Mike. You’re my friend.”
“What about that night in Long Beach?”
“Mike, that was over ten years ago, when I was still with Greg.”
“What was that?”
“An escape with a friend, Mike. Now stop it. I’m with Burt now. He’s my husband.”
There was a moment of awkward silence before Mike spoke again.
“I have to say I’m jealous. But I admit, Burt’s the best guy I’ve known you to date.”
“And marry, Mike. We’re married.” She paused. “And so are you. You know, Mrs. Guerra back home? Your family?”
Shirley could hear Mike huff in frustration on the other end of the line.
“You’re right, Shirley.”
“I’m your friend, Mike,” she said. “Please, be mine.”
The conversation cooled off as they pulled into the scene at Washington and La Brea, just west of downtown Los Angeles north of Santa Monica freeway. They parked their cars in the parking lot near a taco stand where the disturbance was reported. As the law enforcement team pulled up, a small group of Mexican nationals scattered as inconspicuously as they could. Shirley and Mike walked together as a team to the taco stand.
“I hate this shit,” said Mike.
“What?” asked Shirley.
“My Spanish is shit,” he said.
“I got it,” said Shirley.
The music from a Spanish radio station played loudly over an old soundsystem. Accordions and percussion could be heard over lively lyrics. A billboard featuring every item that could be ordered was placed over the front desk. It was all clearly painted by hand. A spot of graffiti lined the front of the taco stand.
“You better get this,” said Mike.
An old lady approached them as they arrived. She was visibly upset.
“Gracias a Dios,” the old lady said, relieved.
“Buenos noches, senora,” said Shirley, greeting her. “Usted es Octavia Jimenez?”
“Que paso, senora?”
Tears of relief were wiped from her eyes as she described what happened.
“Seis jovenes se peliaron con mi hijo. Y se fuen aya,” she said, pointing to a nearby alley where the boys she claimed assaulted her son ran off to.
Shirley and Mike turned to where she indicated the perpetrators had run.
“What did she say?” asked Mike.
“Some kids beat up her son and ran to that alley.”
“What’s the next move?”
Shirley groaned, considering her choices. It would be dangerous to follow the kids into the alley. It was just the kind of thing she was complaining about earlier, the kind of thing she didn’t want to risk anymore. But she wanted to help the old lady.
“Let’s check out the alley before we ask her son some questions,” said Shirley. “They might still be there.”
Turning back to the old lady, Shirley said, “Vamos a ver, senora. Regresamos in un momentito.”
“Little dangerous, don’t you think?” he joked.
“Yeah,” Shirley replied. “But it’s our job to do right by the lady.”
The deputies placed their hands on their weapons, prepared to draw them, and turned the corner. Nothing was in their sight line, but there were two large dumpsters blocking their view. One was on each side of the alleyway.
“What do you think?” Mike asked, trying to get Shirley to change her mind.
“We’re committed now, Mike. Let’s just walk to the end and back, see what we can see.”
“Okay,” groaned Mike.
The first dumpster was only a few yards away. They would be able to see the other side of it in mere moments.
“This isn’t a good idea,” he said. “They’re going to panic with us sneaking up on them.”
“Just relax, Mike,” she said. “We need the element of surprise.”
“Okay, Shirley Tzu, Art of War,” joked Mike.
The two deputies slowed down, creeping slowly to the blind spot behind the large dumpster. The funk from the massive trash bins hit their noses, the rotting smell of sun-roasted waste caking the interior and exterior walls of the bins for years. The odor danced in their noses as their hearts beat in their chest.
They secured their hands on their individual sidearms.
Shirley turned the corner.
Old trash and an aluminum can sat against the wall near the corner of the dumpster.
No sign of the juvenile delinquents.
Shirley sighed with relief in spite of the malodorous garbage.
“Nothing here,” he said. “Let’s go back.”
A side of her did want to leave. In fact, for one moment, she was ready to turn around and leave. Something inside of her was telling her she needed to. Woman’s intuition, perhaps. She suddenly became more fearful, but still felt like she had a job to do.
“Let’s check that other dumpster and get out of here,” she said.
“Okay,” said Mike, also relieved. It seemed clear the kids had probably left the scene of the crime out of the other end of the alley. But they would know for sure after looking behind the next dumpster.
“So, you’re really going to retire?” asked Mike, slowly walking behind Shirley.
“Dumb shit like this,” she said. “I just don’t want to put myself in harm’s way anymore.”
“Lost its luster, huh?”
“What luster?” asked Shirley. Deputy Mike was more relaxed than before. But Shirley was even more tense than before.
“Just a weird change of heart,” said Mike as they crept closer to the second dumpster.
Shirley considered confiding in Mike in that moment. Her friend should know about what she knew about her own health. Her days were numbered. But Burt should know first before anyone else. Her Burt.
“We’re alive, Mike. That’s all. I just want to live,” she whispered.
“So live,” he said as they edged toward the blind spot behind the dumpster. The familiar funk of fecal matter hit their nose.
Diaper genie, thought Shirley to herself as she turned the corner of the trash bin.
Mike and Shirley were greeted by a large rat that walked right in front of them. It scooted by up against the wall with an arrogant indifference.
But there were no perps.
“Damn,” said Mike. “Is that a puppy?”
Shirley chuckled in relief. “No shit,” she said. “Let’s get out of here.”
“What is that smell with the baby caca?” asked Mike.
“Potpourri?” chuckled Shirley.
“Potpourri-smelling caca,” said Mike. “Better than caca-smelling caca I guess.”
They had a laugh as they began walking back to the taco stand when a group of teens ran into the alley. The deputies heard them and turned around.
The teens stopped in their tracks.
A beat passed. An OK Corral moment. This was not meant to be a standoff. But in a charged second, that’s exactly what it became.
“Hold it!” shouted Mike, putting up one hand and placing his other hand on his piece.
Shirley did exactly the same thing, shouting, “Don’t move, boys.”
Four of the boys stopped dead in their tracks. One even threw his hands up in the air.
But one of the boys was too surprised to comply. Too scared. Too guilty.
The boy, no more than fifteen, reached for the front of his pants. The instinctive move suddenly made the situation an old west shootout. It was a bad move.
“No!” shouted Shirley and Mike at the same time. They both drew their weapons, also at the same time as the boy.
It was fast, but the boy had a full few millionths of a second on the two deputies. He pulled out his gun first and committed to aiming at one of them.
Shirley could feel the weight of her pistol as she drew it from its holster. All she could do was focus on the boy. She wanted her gun up so much faster. It was as if a strong piece of elastic, like a thick rubber band, was pulling against her movement, adding tension where there shouldn’t be tension. It all felt so slow. There was nothing else in the world in this moment. Her mind, realizing death was close, focused all her concentration on the boy. Complete and total tunnel vision.
She could see the boy leveling his gun as she raised hers. White smoke coughed violently out of the boy’s Glock, split by orange fire. And for a moment, she could almost see the round flying out of the gun.
This is it, she thought to herself as she pulled her weapon’s trigger. Her bullet was sent through the air at its target. She would not miss.
But neither did the boy.
As she discharged her weapon, the boy’s round struck her square in the chest. It hit right up against her flak jacket, and it made her stumble.
As she fell, she watched the boy fall as well. The other boys had already jumped away from their foolish partner in crime as he was hit by another bullet.
Then three more shots were fired. One came from the boy’s pistol. The other two came from Mike. Both his rounds punched their way through the boy.
“Don’t move!” shouted Mike at the other boys. They remained stone-still where they were. Shirley began to feel the pain in her chest. She ran her hand across the bullet hole in her uniform. She felt for blood, but there was none. Only a severe divot in the body armor.
I can’t do this anymore, she thought to herself.
She thought of Burt. His smile. His sweet embrace. His gruff voice. His love.
Shirley never wanted to lose it. She knew she would, though, sooner than she ever expected. The clock was already ticking for her, and Burt didn’t even know.
For a moment, she felt bad for the dead boy. What made him think he could win a shootout with cops? It was a dumb move. But Shirley knew it was a dumb choice to walk into the alley in the first place.
All Shirley wanted right now, lying on the ground, was to feel Burt’s embrace again.
First, she needed to pull herself together. She had a job to do.
I can’t do this anymore, she thought to herself again as she rose to her feet. The pain in her chest was going to have to wait.
She rejoined her partner.
A week later, Shirley retired from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
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