Wednesday, August 29, 2018

a modicum of umbrage

The original Words for Wednesday was begun by Delores and eventually taken over by a moveable feast of hosts.  The aim of the words is to encourage us to write. A story, a poem, whatever comes to mind  This month the words were supplied by River and can be found right here.
     Sara sat in the dark on the balcony, listening intently, straining her eyes to see any kind of movement in the dark house.  Watching the cat to see if was tracking someone she couldn't see or hear, she was relieved when it relaxed and closed its eyes again.  She stood and carried the cat into the house, closing the sliding glass door behind them and setting the cat down as she walked through the darkness to the alarm control panel.  She had remembered to reset the front door and window alarms when she came in!  Allowing herself to breathe again, she set it now for the sliding glass door as well and turned on the light in the kitchen to pour herself a second glass of wine.

     The long drive to Isla Vista had been spent wracking her brain for even a modicum of sense about what had happened earlier in the day.  How could it be him?  The news reports after Quigley's disappearance had said there was no way that Quigley could have survived with that amount of blood loss.  The rest of the blood found at the scene only indicated that Quigley had fought back, but not that any of his attackers had been seriously wounded.

     She'd been careful after that day, waiting for the right time to leave so no one would notice she was gone, and so overly cautious she had never taken the same route twice to anywhere until she had left.  Trips even to the grocery store were planned so perfectly that she didn't shop at the same store twice, driving miles out of her way to go to a new store where she wouldn't be known or be able to be recognized if anyone came looking for her.

     Almost five years later, she still chose random routes to the Ventura apartment or her condo in Isla Vista, and grocery shopped at various stores along the drive.  She could count on one hand the number of times she had gone to the same stores more than twice.  Looking over her shoulder had become second nature.

     Reaching for her wine glass as she tried to relax on the sofa, she was surprised to feel her lower lip  quivering as sudden and unexpected tears rushed to her eyes.  What was wrong with her?  She wasn't normally so emotional.  Things had been worse in the last few years, even the day she realized that Quigley was dead, she hadn't cried.  Not that their relationship had been anything to shed a tear over, they had spent more than a year working the grift and had become close friends but nothing more.

     Her stomach growled loudly and she realized that she had more than a healthy glass of wine on an empty stomach.  Opening the refrigerator she pulled out a container of garlic roasted hummus.  Taking a strawberry shaped bowl out of the cabinet, she shook Triscuits crackers into it and went back into the living room.

     She was developing a theory about the day, that perhaps it was stress that finally caused her mind to crack.  She had imagined it all.  That was the only thing that it could have been.  She was tired, stressed from her workload, stressed from the fear that underlined every single thing she did.  Her cell phone rang suddenly and she let out a scream, jumping to her feet.

     The number wasn't one she recognized and as she tried to hit the ignore button, her shaking hand hit the speaker phone instead.

     "Sara?  Sara, it's David James from the office.  We haven't formally been introduced, but I was the one that caught you earlier and kept you from falling.  Are you there?"

     She debated on whether or not to say anything, but then realized that if she didn't answer someone from the office might go to the Ventura apartment to check on her.

     "Yes, I'm sorry.  I didn't recognize the number.  You said your name was David?  What department exactly do you work in and how did you get my personal number?"

     "Well, I won't take umbrage with your tone of voice for the second time today, but I'm pretty certain you attended the all-hands meeting last week announcing that Ad Leverage had merged with the David James Agency?  I'm that David.  Your new boss."

     Summoning the last vestige of confidence she had, Sara inhaled deeply.

     "I'm so sorry, sir.  It's been quite a stressful day."
     "Call me, David, please.  I was just calling to make sure you were alright and to let you know we called the police shortly after you left."
     "You did?  Why?"
     "Well, the flowers were just plain creepy, and the man who delivered them had somehow bypassed the building security to get upstairs.  He hadn't signed in, and there wasn't any card with the flowers for us to be able to verify his identity with a florist company.  Your reaction to him was what raised a red flag for me.  I wanted to find out why you reacted the way you did."

     "Sara?  Are you still there?"
     Sara hesitated.  How much should she say?  She desperately wanted to trust someone, but didn't know if it could be him.  Yet, if she didn't give him enough information to appease his curiosity, she knew he would continue to question her and could possibly involve the police further.

     "Yes, I'm sorry.  He is ...  was ... an ex boyfriend.  It wasn't a mutual breakup and I wasn't aware he knew where I worked.  It just surprised me."
     "Do you have a restraining order against him?  Should I be concerned?  I don't want anyone threatening the safety of my employees."
     "No, I don't and I don't think you need to be concerned.  I think he got the reaction from me that he was looking for, and won't be back because he knows that if he gets arrested for anything again he will be in prison for life."
     "You didn't strike me as the type who was attracted to bad boys.  You seemed to be pretty strong and confident to me and that was when I met you for the first time."
     Sara sighed.

     "It was a long time ago, and a part of my life I left behind.  I'd really rather not relive the past, if you don't mind."
     "I understand.  Just know that if you need to talk to anyone, I have an open door policy.  I mean that sincerely."
     "Thank you.  Really.  I appreciate that."
     "If you're sure that you are okay, I'll let you go.  Just have a quiet weekend.  Let us know if you will need any more time."
     "Thank you, David.  I will, but don't think I will need more than the weekend.  I just need to regroup and gather my thoughts.  Have a good weekend."

     After she ended the call, Sara took out a notebook and began to make a list of things she needed to do over the weekend.  At the top of the list was getting a new car.  She'd been driving the Buick for a year.  It was time to trade it in for something less noticeable.

Friday, August 24, 2018

yellow zinnias ...

This month the rotating feast of words is being continued by River. Each week a selection of prompts are posted, which can be words, phrases, music or an image. What is created with those prompts is up to the writer and imagination: a short story, prose, a song, a poem, or whatever they make the writer think of. Some creative minds put their creations in comments on the post, and others post on their own blog. If you enjoy reading their words, please comment to encourage the creativity of the writers!
     Sara left the office early after the incident with Quigley's appearance.  A part of her still refused to believe it was really him, but if it was someone pretending to be him they could have been an identical twin.

     Pouring herself a glass of Yellow Tail Pinot Noir, she stepped out onto the balcony of her apartment in Isla Vista that overlooked the Pacific Ocean.  It had cost her almost $2 million dollars for that view, although none of her co-workers knew it.  It would have been hard to explain how she could afford such an expensive home on her salary.  They would have been even more surprised to know that she had paid cash.

     As far as her co-workers knew, she rented a small one-bedroom apartment in Ventura that was an annoyingly tedious commute to the office in Thousand Oaks.  The kitchen was wallpapered with lime green and orange zinnias that was popular in the 70's, with avocado green appliances. She stayed there only during the week, working ten-hour days so that she could take a long weekend.  The drive along the coast on the 101 made the drive worth it, and by the time she arrived in Isla Vista, she could feel the weight of the week off her shoulders.

     After the grift she had pulled with Quigley went sour, she had taken the money and spent almost a year moving from New York to California, trying to stay one step ahead of the men looking for her to get their money back.  Between each out-of-the-way city or town she stopped at, she would adjust her appearance as much as she could without surgery.  She changed her name, changed her hair color, went from frizzy perms to long wavy weaves, to short haircuts and back again.  She wore colored contacts, put on weight, lost weight, and darkened her skin with cream tanning lotions, even changing her accent from deep Southern to New Englander to Midwest and Northwestern.   Anything that would make her look different on each bank's security cameras, she would open a savings account at the largest bank in each city, depositing funds that would reduce the amount of cash she was carrying, but not draw the attention of federal bank regulators.  When she had finally stopped running in California, she got the Ventura apartment and then the job working with an advertising firm in Thousand Oaks.

    A year after she had been at her job, she started looking for a beach house where she could go for the weekends, finally finding the condo in Isla Vista.  Getting the cash to buy it was as easy as transferring funds from each of the banks, and voila! the money laundered.  Still, she had never stopped looking over her shoulder, and even with the best home security systems money could buy, she had nightmares at least once a week.

     Quigley had told her it was a simple game, and all she needed to do was be the distraction so he could get the money.  After a year-long con, they thought they had pulled it off, and when Quigley told her how much they had gotten she began to become worried.  People didn't just forget about losing that much money or be too ashamed to report the theft to the authorities.  People who lost that kind of money never forgot, never forgave, and if they found you, you'd never be seen again.  They would put you in cement boots and drop you in the Mariana Trench.

     If she had known what the goal was, she might have walked away from it.  But she was too chicken to ask and too tired of living on the streets doing things she didn't want to remember just to survive.  Sara would have known that the con was doomed if she had only asked, even if they had succeeded in getting the money, they would never have been able to spend it or sleep again.

     Quigley had researched extensively what the mark's investments were, how much they had in banks, in various safe deposit boxes and, unbelievably, buried in the backyard marked by flagstones.  What he hadn't learned in all of his research was who the family really was, and where the money really came from.

     Something brushed the back of her leg, and Sara nearly jumped off the balcony.  A cat she had recently rescued slid out from under the chair and gave her a silent, questioning meow.  She reached down and gingerly picked it up.  The security company had told her getting the cat was a bad idea since it could set off the motion sensors when she wasn't home, but when she was gone during the week she kept the cat closed in her bedroom, the only room without a motion sensor.  Security systems could be bypassed, but cats couldn't be.  She knew that if she opened the front door and the cat was there to greet her, someone had been in the condo.

     Holding the purring cat, Sara thought back to the day she thought she had seen Quigley die.  It hadn't taken the mark very long to find Quigley, and the only reason they hadn't found her was the amount of time it took her to miss her subway stop.  She'd been so engrossed in a book she was reading that when she looked up to see how much farther to her stop, she'd been amazed to realize that she had missed it by three stops.  Getting off the train and catching another going in the opposite direction, she arrived outside Quigley's apartment in Queens in time to see what looked like his rolled up rug being shoved into a white van by men in green jumpsuits.  Watching from the alley across the street, she waited for two days before finally going to his apartment.

     Telling the landlord that Quigley was the friend of a friend who said he might be willing to sublet his small studio apartment for the summer, she had waited while he banged on the door to wake Quigley up.  Finally using his master key, he let her in.  The apartment looked like a tornado had hit it, and it was obvious there had been quite a fight.  By the amount of blood left behind, it was apparent that more than one person hadn't walked away without a scratch.

     She had waited while the police were called so that it wouldn't appear that she had any knowledge of who Quigley was.  While the Crime Scene Investigators bagged and tagged evidence, she had impatiently tapped her foot in the hallway, waiting to give her statement of feigned innocence and ignorance.  When one of them walked past her with what appeared to be an eyeball in a plastic bag, it had taken everything in her to keep from throwing up and running out of the building screaming.

     Sara had played her role in the con so well that it was two months before she started to hear rumors that the mark was looking for her.  She had been moving from place-to-place in the city, too afraid to spend too much money getting out of the city that she would draw attention to herself from people who would say anything to anyone if they thought there was money to make.

     The cat in her arms suddenly jerked awake and stared intently into the darkened condo.  Sara had been sitting out on the balcony, so lost in thought, that the sun had set and she hadn't turned any lights on when she came in.  Had it heard something?  Was there something moving in the darkened rooms?  She couldn't remember if she had reset the alarm system when she came in because she was so shaken up after seeing Quigley.

     Was there someone there?

Monday, August 20, 2018

between the pages ...

     I confess that I had a very difficult time getting into this book.  I had high expectations based on the back cover description.

     It promised to "make new habits stick in just five steps," yet there are twelve "mind-set" chapters.  There a section at the beginning of the book that offered tips on how to use the book, and the very first tip was to NOT use it as a study guide.  But each chapter (or mind-set) contains questions, scriptures to look up, blanks to fill in, and boxes to check off as they apply to you.  If that isn't studying I'm not sure what is.

     I found it hard to follow the author's writing as it felt like she bounced around a great deal.  In spite of her claims of a new positive outlook, many of her self-limiting thoughts that she claims to have overcome make me wonder what kind of abusive relationships caused her to have those thoughts in the first place. It may have been better for her to have used this book as part of a counseling program, written with a professional counselor.

     While admonishing the reader not to expect change overnight, she states that "it actually takes 66 days to form a new habit," but in reality, the time it takes each individual is ... individual.  It can take as little as 18 days for some, or almost a year for others.  Which in retrospect is a good thing because it may take me that long to really work through the book.  I read it once through without doing any of the study questions, and felt that it would have been better if it was read as part of a book study or a women's bible study.  I know that for my own studying purposes, I envision more than one notebook being used before I would reach the end of the book... or feel like I had changed my mind-set.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

(a very pampered) chef ...

     Something I miss the most of living in Florida are the cooking classes I used to take at a small deli in town, taught by my favorite little German lady.  Hannalore was an amazing cook and loved to make everyone feel welcome in her restaurant.  To recreate her mouth-watering lessons and creations on my own at home, I would host Pampered Chef parties to get free and discounted products.

        I no longer have a sweet little German lady to show me how to make magic in the kitchen, although there are cooking lessons offered down at the local co-op I haven't gone to yet.  And a lot of the Pampered Chef I used to have seems to have been lost in moves cross-country, cross-state, and cross-town.

     My solution?  To start selling Pampered Chef and replace what has gone missing!  And to get new items!

     One of the (many) things I love about Pampered Chef is how well the products are made.  I haven't hosted a party in more than 10 years and the products that I still have and use (that not are in storage) are in good condition.  Their stoneware is exceptional, and I love the round baking stones for making pizza!

     While some of the items seem a bit pricey, they are actually an investment in your kitchen, your cooking, and yourself.  That is what makes hosting parties even better because the hostess gets free and discounted products.

     For me, hosting house parties used to be my excuse to clean the house once or twice a month.  Now, there is a new kind of party ... online or Facebook parties.  Even better!  No rush to clean, no need to make enough snacks and appetizers to feed an army (or me to eat for days later), and the best part ... I don't even have to get out of my pajamas if I don't want to.

Friday, August 17, 2018

all for naught

This month the rotating feast of words is being continued by River. Each week a selection of prompts are posted, which can be words, phrases, music or an image. What is created with those prompts is up to the writer and imagination: a short story, prose, a song, a poem, or whatever they make the writer think of. Some creative minds put their creations in comments on the post, and others post on their own blog. If you enjoy reading their words, please comment to encourage the creativity of the writers!
[nought = naught = variation of spelling] 
     The phone rang, waking her out of a good dream.  Good as in not a nightmare, not good as in "good."  It had been a long time since she had slept through the night without waking up gasping for breath and clutching the blankets around her.  She never remembered what it was that frightened her so badly.  A part of her was grateful for that, but a part of her wished she would remember so perhaps she would be able to stop having the nightmares.

     "Did I wake you?"
     "It's the middle of the night, what do you think?  Who is this?"
     "You don't recognize my voice?  All our time together must have been for naught then I suppose."
     "Don't be an obnoxious prick.  If I recognized your voice I wouldn't have asked.  Tell me who you are or I'm hanging up and going back to sleep."

     The line clicked and she heard a dial tone.  Mumbling to herself, "Thanks for saving me the trouble," she put the phone back on its cradle and turned her back to the phone.  But sleep was not to come again that night as she tossed and turned hearing that voice over and over again in her head.

     "You don't recognize my voice?  All our time together must have been for naught then I suppose."

     She had no close friends anymore, at least no one that she had known for more than a year.  All the people she had known from "before" wouldn't have her phone number, and it wasn't likely they would call her anyway.  When she had walked away from that chapter of her life, she had erased all contact information for them from her address books and ended multiple friendships.  There was no reason to think that it was someone she knew.  As the sun was beginning to come up, she finally convinced herself it was probably only a wrong number too embarrassed to apologize.

     As the day wore on, she forgot about the call.  Exhausted from very little sleep, she had two large mugs of coffee and a stack of orders on her desk that needed to be completed before she would be able to stop for lunch.

     A knock on her office door made her jump and spill the last of her coffee on her lap.

     "I'm sorry, Sara, I didn't mean to startle you.  There is a delivery for you at the front desk that needs your signature."
     "Can't you just sign for it, Ann?  I'm really busy right now and would rather not stop what I'm doing for a signature."
     "They insisted it has to be you, picture ID and everything."
     "Hmmm.  Does it look like I'm getting served with court orders or something?"
     "No, it's some kind of plastic floral arrangement.  Like the kind you see at funerals and on gravestones."
     "Seriously?  Who would send me something like that?  Tell them to send it back."

     Ann nodded and closed the door as Sara turned her back to her and continued working on orders.  A few moments later, Ann knocked again and opened the door.

     "I think you need to come downstairs to the front desk, Sara."
     "What now?"
     "The guy is refusing to leave unless he sees you.  He said Queenly sent him."
     Sara stopped what she was doing and stood quickly.
     "Are you sure he said Queenly?  Could he have said Quigley?"
     "I don't know, I suppose he could have.  Do you want me to call security?"
     "No.  I'll take care of it.  And Ann, regardless of what he has said to you, please don't mention this to anyone else."
     "Of course not, Sara.  Are you sure you don't want security to go with you?"

    Sara shook her head as she walked past Ann and towards the elevators.  Her hands were shaking as she hit the call button for the elevator.  It was impossible.  Quigley was dead.  Dead.  Buried.  Worm food.  Period.  Ann must have heard the name correctly the first time.  It was someone named Queenly.  Or Keenely.  Or whatever else that might rhyme with Queenly.  Quigley certainly didn't because Quigley was dead.  Dead.  Buried.  Worm food.  End of story.

     As she stepped out of the elevator, she moved behind a large ornamental palm where she could see the front desk without being seen.  The man had his back to her, and when he turned, he positioned himself behind the large plastic flower arrangement so that she still couldn't see his face.

     "Damn," she whispered under her breath.  Adjusting her skirt and smoothing back her hair, she took a step from behind the planter and stopped.  Speechless.  She could see him now.  See his face.  It was him.  It was Quigley.  She could feel the color drain from her face and for a moment she thought about taking the elevator back upstairs and having security escort the man out, but then he saw her and walked toward her quickly.

     Backing away from him, her heel hit the edge of the stairs going down to the lower meeting rooms and she felt herself falling backward.


     Smiling as he said it, the man watched her fall backward before she felt herself being caught from behind by a pair of strong hands.  She gasped with relief and turned to see who had caught her.

     "You look like you've seen a ghost."

     Turning again quickly to see if Quigley was still there, she nodded when she saw that he was gone.

     "Yes, I think I did.  Or some lookalike vermin that crawled out of the devil's underbelly."

     Raising his eyebrow, the man who had kept her from falling down the stairs, and who still had one hand on her elbow, watched as the color came back into her face.

     "Really?  And who would that be?"

     Turning, Sara realized that she had said more than she intended.

     "No one.  It's just a phrase my grandmother used to say when someone startled her."
     "Is that so?  I don't think I've ever heard that phrase before.  Where did your grandmother grow up?"

     Sara pulled her elbow out of the man's grasp and straightened her skirt.  Putting both hands to her hair to smooth it again after being shaken up by her near fall, she stepped back and looked the man up and down as if she was inspecting a horse.  She was not usually someone so obsessed with her own vanity that she spent as much time worrying about her appearance, but the last thing she wanted was someone asking too many questions about her or her past.

     "Perhaps it would be better for you to focus on your own business and not mine.  I appreciate you keeping me from falling, but I don't need your help anymore."

     Turning quickly, she walked back to the elevators, dismissively waving off the receptionist and telling her to just throw the arrangement away.  As the doors to the elevator closed, she could see the man still standing at the stairs, grinning at her as if she hadn't said anything rude to him at all.  She hit the button for the floor of the executive offices and was startled when the elevator doors opened again.  Not seeing anyone waiting to step in, she began furiously pressing the button to close the doors.

     "Damn it all!  I hate machines!"

Monday, August 13, 2018

pass the popcorn, please ...

     This weekend I watched a new Netflix movie called Extinction.  The Hubs isn't into sci-fi-ish movies and so when we started watching it earlier in the week he quickly lost interest and  I finished watching it later without him.

     Without giving anything away about the totally unexpected ending twist, I have to say that this movie has been on my mind all weekend.  Mostly because of several lines and one scene from the movie that just made me stop and think.

     The scene was of a terrified little girl clutching her favorite talking toy [a monkey] under a table and one of the aliens crouches down to see her after her monkey says "Monkey see, monkey do." and gives her away.  The alien reaches out to tenderly stroke her cheek, as a parent would to their child, or as someone who suddenly realizes that we aren't so different after all.

     The line the toy monkey says is also revealing later in the movie in how it ties into the other memorable (for me) line.  The second line that has really been forefront in my thoughts is how we all too often we blindly follow orders to destroy our enemies without even knowing who they are.  The person saying it is remarking on how he learned everything about the enemy, believed everything he was told about them, and suddenly realizes that what they knew wasn't all true.

     We judge people because they look or sound different from us, and sometimes even do everything we can to completely destroy them because they aren't like us.  I'm thinking mostly about Native Americans, but in reality, it can apply to anyone or anything.  Color, religion, ethnicity.

     This was an excellent movie that I'm sure I will watch again and again looking for those little nuances that mean so much more when you think deeper on them.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

atonement ...

This month the rotating feast of words is being continued by River. Each week a selection of prompts are posted, which can be words, phrases, music or an image. What is created with those prompts is up to the writer and imagination: a short story, prose, a song, a poem, or whatever they make the writer think of. Some creative minds put their creations in comments on the post, and others post on their own blog. If you enjoy reading their words, please comment to encourage the creativity of the word chef!
     He wanted her to atone for what she had said and done, but the thought of groveling in atonement for things she didn't say or do, while he refused to acknowledge his actions in what had driven them apart, and especially after he had banished her from their lives... it was more than she was willing to do.  She would much rather endure the banishment.  His cavalier attitude about how much damage he had caused to everyone even remotely involved in their lives ... she couldn't even begin to comprehend his thought process.

     A knock at the door startled her and she wheeled her chair around.  She hadn't expected anyone that afternoon.  Especially today.

     "Who is it?"

     "It's me."

     She hesitated, then turned her wheelchair closer to the door.  She knew his voice.  It was unmistakeable.

     "You are the last person I ever expected to darken my doorway.  What do you want?"

     "Something happened.  I learned something that has changed what I thought I knew.  Empirical evidence that I was at fault.  I want to apologize.  I need to apologize."

     She knew he had a fondness for manipulation and lies, but she wanted to believe him.  She knew that being able to forgive him would allow her to heal as well.  The anger she had held onto for so many years was eating her alive.  The resentment that he walked away from the accident while she was tied to a wheelchair for the rest of her life was all consuming.

     A sigh escaped her, and she heard him lean against the door and begin gently telling her what his life had been like over the last few years since the accident.  He told her about hitting bottom, the guilt he felt over the things he had said and done, the accusations that she had caused the accident and  deserved what happened.  And finally, the realization that he needed help.

     He had worn many hats in his life and career, some more irksome than others.  But it wasn't until he began the janitorial business of cleaning up his conscience did he finally accept responsibility for his actions.  It had been the most difficult job of his life.  Even harder had been making amends to all the people he had hurt along the way.  Some of them had refused to forgive him.  Others had reached their arms out in kindness and told him they had forgiven him long before.

     She had been the last person on his list, and he knew that he risked the most by coming there.  By all rights, she could have him arrested and put in prison for the rest of his life for the things he had done to her.  He would have deserved every day of it.  That's why he had waited to talk to her, because he knew what he had to do when he was done talking to her.  He knew that even if she didn't forgive him, even if she laughed  in his face and slammed the door, he was turning himself in.

     While he told her all of this, she had listened on the other side of the door, tears running down her face.  She knew that she was going to open the door.  She knew it was what they both needed.


Wednesday, August 8, 2018

on my soapbox again ...

     I'm so flabbergasted at some people's ignorance and (probably drunken) stupidity right now I can feel fire shooting out of the top of my head.

     I stumbled across a story on Bing this afternoon about how hundreds (HUNDREDS!) of eggs from a federally protected beach bird, the Least Tern, were killed over the 4th of July weekend.  Some drunken stoned idiots party-goers boaters on an island beach in lower Alabama thought it would be smart to move them out of their nests and away from their protective parents so they could PLAY VOLLEYBALL! 

     The eggs would have been sheltered from the blazing sun by a parent sitting on the nest, and instead, they were decoratively placed in the sun to boil in their shells.  The eggs that weren't moved were still left to bake in the sun while their parents were chased away from the nests by the activity on the beach.

     I think sometimes that if any species deserves to go extinct... it is us.

Monday, August 6, 2018

between the pages

If it seems I've been reading an extraordinary amount of "religious" themed books lately, it's true, I have.  My quest for knowledge and understanding at times drives me to constantly look for perspective and wisdom from those older or more educated than I am in such matters.

Dr. Larry Crabb is one of those authors whose frank and insightful way of sharing his knowledge, honest experiences, and faith makes reading his book a breath of fresh air.

Don't expect sugar coating or blissfully ignorant optimism in his words.  At times, his own pursuit of answers will make you wonder if he has been watching over your shoulder.  But they will also open your eyes to the fact that we are not alone in our struggles, or in seeking answers.

We may tremble daily in our lives as we struggle to understand things, but the truth to relieving our fear is in trust.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

the lake

image source:
This month the rotating feast of words is being continued by River. Each week a selection of prompts are posted, which can be words, phrases, music or an image. What is created with those prompts is up to the writer and imagination: a short story, prose, a song, a poem, or whatever they make the writer think of. Some creative minds put their creations in comments on the post, and others post on their own blog. If you enjoy reading their words, please comment to encourage the creativity of the word chef! 
He was a cruel and pitiless man to those that he worked with, but few knew of the circumstances that had broken his heart and made him that way.

"Coffee, sir?"
Startled, he looked up at the waitress standing by his table in the small desert diner.
"Yes, please. Black." She nodded as she filled his mug with the carafe in her hand.
"Are you waiting on anyone? Do you need another minute to look at the menu?"
"No. I'm alone. I'll just have your breakfast special. Over easy on the eggs, bacon, and sourdough toast. Can you have them add onions to the hash browns also?"
"Yes, not a problem."

He watched as she walked away without even really seeing her. The shimmer of the silver bottoms on the coffee carafes she carried in each hand, made his thoughts wander again and reminded him of another time.

The lake had shimmered under the sun as the two of them sat with their legs hanging over the edge of the sailboat, gently rocking them as they worked putting notes into empty water bottles before re-capping and sealing them with candle wax.

"What if no one finds these in time?"
"Someone will."
"What if no one believes?"
"Someone will."
"What if no one does anything?"
"Someone will."
"How can you be so sure?"
"Because I have to be."

He stood then and stretched his back, raising one hand to let the morning rainwater gathered in the torn sail sluice over him. The cold felt good on his skin after sitting in the blazing evening sun all afternoon watching for other boats.

They had sailed out of the bay for a day trip onto the big lake on Friday, two days before. A sudden thunderstorm had pushed them farther away from the bay than what he had wanted to go. The storm had torn their sails and by the time it was over, the sun had gone down and the darkness had swallowed them. When morning came, they could no longer see land in any direction and he had no idea where they were. He had turned the engine on and they slowly motored to what he thought was south, back to the bay but he really couldn't be sure. The compass built into the galley wall had been broken during the storm when the waves were thrashing them. They hadn't had time to secure anything down below, and everything had been thrown about the cabin.

The gas in the boat had only lasted an hour before the motor sputtered to a stop. It hadn't been intended for long distances, only for getting out of the marina before they could raise the sails, and then back in again when they were dropped. They had tried calling the Coast Guard on their small two-way radio, but all he could hear was static and didn't know if he was even being received.

He had tried to reassure her that someone would come for them, but by the second night, it was apparent that they might be out there longer than they thought. They hadn't even heard the sound of planes overhead, and he had no way of knowing if anyone even missed them yet. The long holiday weekend meant that no one was expecting him back at work until Tuesday. He doubted that the notes in the bottles would be found, but it was all that he could think of suggesting when she began to panic. It had given her something to focus on. Something to do to make her feel like she was doing some "thing." Anything.

She had stepped on a fragment glass that must have come from the compass that first night, although in the darkness they hadn't known where it came from. What might have been just a routine trip to the urgent care clinic for a few stitches on land, had become a small emergency that was gnawing away at his mind. In the morning when he had been able to see just how deep and severe the cut was, he had torn apart the small compartment where he thought he had packed a first aid kit. All he had been able to find was one antiseptic wipe and a band-aid that barely covered the wound.

This morning when he woke up he could see a red streak going up her leg from the wound and he knew they needed to get back to land soon. Without trying to alarm her, he had torn his t-shirt into strips and insisted on washing the wound again as much as he could with what little soap they had in the small bathroom. When she had asked if she could go swimming to cool off, he told her no, that he had seen a shark fin in the water and didn't think it was wise. The fact that there were no fresh-water sharks in the lake seemed to slip by her.

The Coast Guard had finally found them a little over a week later. Surprisingly, it had been a fisherman on the lake who had found one of their notes in a water bottle, bobbing on the surface, just as he had told her someone would. But they had been too late. The infection had spread, and he woke up the day before they were found and realized she had died in her sleep. Aspirated on her vomit. He had wrapped her in a piece of the torn sale, gently putting her in the forward compartment of the boat. After that, he had stayed above deck, numb with grief. She'd just been a child. Twelve years old, and all he had left in the world. Her mother, his wife, had died to give her life, and now he had lost her too. It was almost more than he could stand.

After he had been released from the hospital and the NTSB and Coast Guard had cleared him of any wrongdoing, he had sold everything and moved to Arizona to work as a guard in a prison. It was where he felt he should be, not because he thought he could turn the prisoners into model citizens, but because of the guilt he carried.

a bit of a rant ...

I don't know how all of the other countries treat their elderly, but I know we don't take care of them properly here in the United States.

My mom, who will be 77 in September and lives on the social security checks provided by my father's income oh so many years ago, gets just $14 or so in food stamps each month.  Her rent is paid out of her monthly checks, and whatever is left over each month has to stretch to pay for electricity, water, gas in her car, medical bills not covered by her Medicaid, and food.

It doesn't stretch as far as it needs to.

While she struggles to buy groceries each month, there are people getting much more per month in food stamps who are very capable of getting a job and working but choose not to.

I've been helping her for a while by having some things considered "non-necessities" sent to her.  Laundry soap, cat food, cat litter.  I have her grocery "perks" card loaded with coupons that will spit out of a machine when she goes shopping to try to save her some money, but honestly, most of the coupons available at her favorite store are for items that aren't edible and what is, are things she can't eat because of health conditions or because she isn't an infant.  Sometimes the coupons aren't even worth the paper they will be printed on like saving 30¢ on four yogurts that cost $1.50 each.  Saving 30¢ off $6 isn't really saving much, and you have to buy four in order to use the coupon at all.

A shout out to those food companies ~ if you are going to offer a coupon, offer one that makes sense!

Once upon a time, some grocery stores would double the amount a coupon was worth - so that 30¢ off would be 60¢, still not much off $6, but if you could use it on just one item and not have to buy more, it makes it a better coupon.

This month, already, she had to choose between toilet paper or food, and finally swallowed her embarrassment and asked if I could have some shipped to her.

I wish I lived closer so that I could see when her pantry is empty and know that at the end of the month, she is eating more than a bowl of cereal twice a day trying to make her groceries stretch until her next check.  I know in the four years since I saw her last, she has lost enough weight that her diabetes is under control, which was a good thing, however, I suspect that some of the weight loss was more from not being able to afford enough to eat well at times than really wanting to change her eating habits.

Fortunately, she is still capable of driving and going to the local Senior Center for a free lunch if she chooses.  She drives some of her neighbors in her semi-independent apartment complex to doctor appointments, grocery shopping, or other errands in exchange for a few groceries or gas money.

There.  I've had my rant and am getting off my soapbox now.