Author: Peter Kelton
Book title: The Junk Yard Solution
Genre: Literary Fiction
Publish date: March 12, 2019
As the rest of the world goes wild over smart phones, an odd assortment of eclectic characters hunkers down near Lebanon, Kansas, geographic center of the lower 48, at the middle of a square-mile junk yard where railroads dump old boxcars. The characters live in the boxcars. They don’t like electronic gadgets. They’re fed up with digital life. In a triumph of literary fiction, adventure, mystery, suspense and caustic comical digs at contemporary society and U.S. history, they create an acerbic comical satire in search of lost causes.
Among them lovely Loretta campaigns to tear down a cell phone tower that rises above the boxcar village. The tower is owned by a communications company whose salesmen are Cheyenne Native Americans. But then Loretta is discovered one morning hanging dead from the tower. A large Federal Marshal and ex-NFL tight end investigates her death, grilling all residents, each with their own peculiar fantasy tale. Suspense builds. Who killed Loretta? Will the tower come down? Why are the Cheyenne circling the village?
Big Rick Senate, our Federal Marshal, played tackle at Kansas State for four years and tight end for the San Francisco 49ers for 11 years. He also boasted state wrestling and hog breeding championships. I first saw him working out in the abandoned Indian Reservation gym over at Oak Creek; sweaty biceps the size of cantaloupes.
“Now you, Mr. Don Quixote,” asked the towering Marshal Senate, “Who the heck would want to do in Miss Loretta? Did she have any boyfriends?” Rick Senate leaned over me in his tailored grey shirt and official black tie, his Pewter badge glinting at me where I sat in my director’s chair.
“Couldn’t rightly say.” I stood so he wouldn’t look so tall, so intimidating. “She talked a lot with that cell phone guy, called him Wihio.”
“Yeah, I know him. Kind of sleazy, but don’t have the guts to kill a cockroach.”
“We don’t have a list of folks. They come and go. But I could tell you I what I know. Would that be helpful?”
“Yeah, tell me who hangs out in this dump.”
I ran down the names I could remember – Helena, likes to be called the Chocolate Lady; she has a boyfriend, a doctor, Ben Smothers, drives a green Ferrari and always wears a white Panama hat. There’s Arthur, of course, I know you met him. He’s the skinny guy you thought might be a fugitive a year or so back . . .
“Yeah, the fag,” chuckled Senate. “We was looking for an Indian, a guy who killed a marshal over in the Black Hills; but your Arthur, he sure wasn’t it. Has an Indian face, right?”
“Yes, that’s Arty. Then there’s Ellen McDougal, she’s a frail widow, lives alone. Of course, you know what? I think Loretta kept notes about her cell phone meetings, a very meticulous individual, in a flighty kind of way. She might have some kind of records on people, too, come to think of it.”
“Damn, Don Q., how can someone be meticulous and flighty at the same time?”
“She just was, that’s all.”
“Well, I don’t think you’ll find everyone I’m naming here full time; folks just sort of come and go. We have only one rule, you know.”
“Yeah, I heard – no cell phones. If you ask me, that’s kind of silly. You got a goddamn cell tower.”
“Loretta’d been negotiating to get it out of here, Mister Marshal. You don’t suppose somebody would murder her for that, do you?”
“Not likely, Don Q. Who else you got?”
“Back yonder near that tower we got a retired Episcopal missionary who’s been writing his memoirs; real interesting stuff.”
I pulled out a yellow sheet of legal tablet paper the Reverend Mister Reginald Smythers had dropped off that morning. I handed it to the marshal. To my surprise, he started reading softly aloud, and surprise wafted over me. The brute had the sing-song reading voice of a choir boy.
Author Peter Kelton writes fiction when he’s between news jobs and has written for some of the world’s largest news organizations. Most of his work has been in New York. He has critiqued more than 450 novels in a national column and has written seven novels of his own. He grew up in Texas, served overseas in the US Army and returned to Europe as a foreign correspondent. He currently divides his time between his homes in St. Louis, MO and Querétaro, Mexico. He has ghost written for more than 100 clients and is a top-rated writer for the Upwork Global Inc. free-lance agency.