Thursday, October 31, 2019

NaNoWriMo

     November 1 begins the National November Writing Month.  I've decided to do my writing here on my blog, and on Wednesdays, I will incorporate the "Words for Wednesday" into my storyline.  The goal is to write 50,000 words, which is roughly 1,667 words a day.

     Writing on my blog makes me accountable to you, reader, and I'm hoping that your comments and the Wednesday words will help with the direction and flow of the story.

     I am excited to be starting this project!

Weyward Sisters Hair Salon

Words on Wednesday is provided by a number of people and has become a movable feast. 
Essentially the aim is to encourage us to write. Each week we are given a choice of prompts: which can be words, phrases, music or an image. What we do with those prompts is up to us: a short story, prose, a song, a poem, or ignoring them. We can use some or all of the prompts. 
The prompts will be on the Elephant's Child's blog for the month of November.

     I had a mild headache that was with no uncertainty threatening to become a full-blown migraine before the stylist would be finished with my haircut.  Especially if she kept stopping to offer her own consultation on what all the other stylists in the salon were doing.  The odor from the perm being done on the woman to my right was competing strongly with the woman on my left who was having her hair dyed a bright green.  It was a complete mystery to me why a woman who was clearly in her later years would want such an unflattering color.  But to each their own.

     My stomach gave a lurch, almost like the unfortunate actors in the movie "Aliens."  Well, that was weird.  I glanced down at the drape covering my front and lap.  My stomach lurched again, this time visibly against the drape.

     "Um, Joy?"

     She continued to gossip with the stylist doing the perm.  Again, my stomach lurched.  The surface of the drape was now visibly moving and had caught the attention of the poor woman getting her hair colored green.

     "Excuse me, Joy?  I think I may need to use the ladies' room."
     "Oh yeah, sure honey.  Whatever.  Just don't be too long.  I got another appointment right after you."

     I tried to stand, this time when my stomach lurched again I could feel something tear inside of me.  I screamed and fell to the floor.

     "Oh my, honey, are you alright?  You just fell asleep and fell out of the chair on your face!  Let me get you some ice for that schnozz of yours."

     Embarrassed, I sat back in the chair, gently feeling my stomach under the cape.  I must have fallen asleep and had a nightmare.

      "Now, here you go honey.  Hold that right there on your schnozz.  No more falling asleep like that, okey-dokey?  Do we have an agreement now?  I can't afford to be paying for your nose job, right?  Not after what these boobs cost me, ya know?"

     I nodded my head at her reflection in the mirror, my eyes glued to a freckle on her cheek that had just sprouted legs and began to run across her face and into her nose.  I watched to see if she would try to brush it out.  Another freckle grew legs and ran into her other nostril.  Soon, her face was crawling with freckles running in and out of her nose.  She continued to chatter with the stylists to my left and right, completely oblivious to the freckles that were now running in and out of her mouth and ears.

     Closing my eyes, I slowly inhaled and exhaled, trying to remain calm.  The smells of the perm and hair dye were overwhelming my senses now and I wondered if what I was experiencing was some chemical-induced hallucination.  My head was throbbing now, and I could actually feel the blood thumping in the veins in my temples.

     I opened my eyes again, staring at a wall fixture on the other side of the room that I could see reflected in the mirror, trying to avoid looking at my stylist's face.

     The voice of the stylist to my right broke my concentration and I looked at the reflection of her a the perm lady in the mirror.

     "So what'cha think, Sweetie?  Like it?"

     She cupped her hands just above the woman's shoulders like she was puffing out a perm, but instead of hair curls, she had a head full of snakes.  Writhing, wiggling, slithering snakes.  I waited for the shriek I was sure would come but it didn't.  I turned my head to look at her, rather than the reflection.  There were bouncing curls of hair on her head, not snakes.  I looked again in the mirror and saw snakes reflected.  I groaned involuntarily, and my hand went to my head. 

     "You okay, hon?  Got a headache from your little nap and crash?"  She laughed hysterically, and the other two stylists cackled with her.

     I shook my head and closed my eyes, I was afraid to see what my reflection would show me.  The blow dryer to my left started and I could occasionally feel the heat from it as the stylist was finishing up with green-haired lady's dye job.  Cracking my left eye open just a tiny bit, I looked at the reflection in her mirror.

     Her hair was green, alright.  Green seaweed with octopi and a solo squid hanging from it.  A small fiddler crab crawled out from under her hair on the back of her neck and went down her arm, dropping to the floor where it skittered away.  Another crawled across her forehead and attempted to battle an octopus, waving its one large claw in the air.  The octopus squirted black ink in the crab's eyes, and as they waved on their stalks, an octopus behind it suddenly made a leap, landing on the crab and wrapping it in its tentacles.  I could hear the shell of the tiny crab cracking from the octopus' beak.

     I squeezed my eyes shut as I heard scissors snipping by my ears.

     "There you go!  All done.  You want to take a look?"

     I stood quickly, my eyes still shut.  "No.  No thank you.  I'm in a bit of a hurry."   Pulling off the drape, I turned my back to the mirror and walked quickly to the front counter, pulling my wallet out of my purse.  "How much do I owe you?"

     "Now, now.  I can't let you leave until I know you are a satisfied customer.  Take a look-see and tell me what you think."

     Before I could protest or even turn my head away, she pulled a hand mirror from behind her back and held it up in front of me.  I screamed.  Over and over again I screamed at my reflection until the room began to fade away.  The last thing I heard was the sisters cackling.

     "Oh, you are such a witch, sister!  You always do save the best for last, don't you?"

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

WfT

Writing for Therapy ...

I've been dealing with "stuff" for a few months now.  Trying to wrap my head around memories from my teen years, and things recently said to me.  How what was said so many years ago changed me and my relationship with my father, and now, to realize that it might be based on a lie.  All the years of thinking that he resented me, hated me, that I reminded him of the first betrayal in their marriage ... all those years of feeling unworthy, unwanted, unloved and alone.  All the years when we didn't talk, and now I understand so much better the meaning behind his last words to me. 

The hurt I feel, betrayed, angry ... I don't even know how to put words to it right now.

So I'm not.  I'm just letting it go for now and letting whatever else wants to come to mind be in the forefront of my thinking.

Saturday, David went hunting and got another doe just as the sun was setting.  He came back to the house to get flashlights, and me, so that we could follow the blood trail and find it before the bears got to it.  Let me paint that picture for you ... I'm in the woods.  ln the pitch-black woods where bears live.  Following a blood trail.  In the pitch-black woods.

Yeah.

After wandering deeper into the woods ~ David leading, me following and trying not to poke my one good eye out on a branch while watching the ground to keep from tripping on a dead tree ~ he finally found it.  So then he field dressed it, which is pretty much gutting it.  Except the doe was bigger than he thought and cleaning her out was a little harder than he expected, and I had to hold one of her hind legs up and out of the way.

Really, I'm getting to the whole reason for telling you this ...

Cut to Sunday, [because you don't want to hear how we got lost in the woods, dragging the carcass of a deer, in the pitch-black woods where bears live] and we got all the meat packaged up for the freezer.

This morning (Monday) while I was running errands it crossed my mind that I am a "just jump in and do it" person.  I started thinking back to all the times when something came up and I didn't question it, I just jumped in and did it.

~ the time I just jumped in and cleaned and bandaged the hand [of a drunk idiot packing a homemade firecracker with gunpowder] that had been cut nearly to the bone at a New Year's Eve party with #1 ~ and yes, he did get to the hospital and get it stitched.

~ the time I just jumped into #2's truck in the desert and drove off to a flash I saw just briefly.  his 4-wheeler had broken down almost half a mile away and he had taken off his helmet and waved it just once trying to get my attention.  I'd never driven his truck before ~ it was a manual transmission ~ and while I knew how to drive a stick, it had been years and years since I'd driven one.

~ the time I just jumped into a solo trip to Europe not long after losing most of the vision in my right eye.

~ the times (plural) I have just jumped into a job in another state and packed up and moved ~ alone ~ leaving everything familiar and everyone I knew.

How many times have I just jumped into a challenge and conquered it?  What does that say about me?  Is who I am no longer defined by those words spoken so many years ago?  Did I change my definition without even realizing it?  Am I worthy?

Yes.  I am.


Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Room 122

Words on Wednesday is provided by a number of people and has become a movable feast. 
Essentially the aim is to encourage us to write. Each week we are given a choice of prompts: which can be words, phrases, music or an image. What we do with those prompts is up to us: a short story, prose, a song, a poem, or ignoring them. We can use some or all of the prompts. 
The prompts will be on the Elephant's Child's blog for the month of October.

Image Source:
Elephant's Child for WoW
     We were in Gilman, Illinois, just off the I-65 highway.  Driving home from a week-long vacation in Alabama, David couldn't drive any farther that night.  The full moon had been bright, but not bright enough to keep either of us awake.

     Super 8 had just one dog-friendly room available with a window that faced the parking lot.  Room 122.  Two double beds.  David had already fallen asleep on one of them.  I was sitting up on the bed closest to the window, reading emails while listening to the television.  Charlie was asleep on the bed with David.

     Something touched my hand that was resting on the bed at my side.  I glanced down, momentarily thinking it was Lucy tapping my hand.  A thought also ran through my mind ... the memory of palmetto bugs running across my feet in Florida.  While I knew it was impossible, I really hoped it was Lucy instead.

     There was nothing there.  I decided it must have been my imagination, or air circulating in the room, and went back to reading my email.

     It happened again a few minutes later.  Nothing was there.  I went back to reading.

     A third time.  I was getting annoyed.  Deciding I was just exhausted from the long days and not eating healthy on the trip, I shut off my computer, turned off the light, and laid down to sleep.

     David calling my name woke me up.  I had been yelling in my sleep.  A nightmare I clearly remembered.  I was being suffocated in the bed.  Someone was laying on top of me as I laid on my right side, pinning my left hand under my pillow and biting my free right hand that was trying to push her (yes, her!) away.

     I've had very graphic nightmares before, sleeping on my back for some reason gives me nightmares.  But nothing as real as that one, and I hadn't even been sleeping on my back.  I rolled over to my stomach, prayed for a few minutes, then fell back asleep.

    Almost instantly, I was back in the same nightmare.   Again, David had to call my name to wake me.  I was thrashing and screaming.  I got up and drank some water.  Went to the bathroom.  Prayed some more.

     I've never had a nightmare that continued after I woke up and got out of bed, walked around, or prayed.  But it wasn't over yet.

Image Source: WeHeartIt.com
     I got back in bed, this time laying down on my left side, facing David.  I fell asleep almost instantly, which is unusual in itself.  Immediately, I was in another nightmare, this time drowning, being held down in a bathtub of water.  For a third time, David had to call my name to wake me up.

     I was shaken.  First, the sensation of something (someone?) touching my hand, then not just one but three consecutive nightmares of someone trying to kill me.

     David hadn't been able to sleep long enough to feel like he could drive again, and needed at least four more hours.  I climbed into bed with him and Charlie and instantly fell asleep.  This time, however, I slept without dreaming at all.  It was the alarm that woke all three of us up.

     When we checked out, I asked the night clerk if there had ever been any complaints about the room being haunted, or if she knew of something bad happening in the room.  She hadn't heard of anything but had only been there for about three years.  There had been a night clerk murdered at one of the hotels across the parking lot about 30 years prior.  She referred to it as the Days Inn Murders, but it was later officially called the [I-65 Serial Killer].

     Had something horrible happened in Room 122?  I'll probably never know.  What I do know is that I won't ever stay at that motel again!

(and this is a true story!)

Friday, October 18, 2019

the bride

Words on Wednesday is provided by a number of people and has become a movable feast. 
Essentially the aim is to encourage us to write. Each week we are given a choice of prompts: which can be words, phrases, music or an image. What we do with those prompts is up to us: a short story, prose, a song, a poem, or ignoring them. We can use some or all of the prompts. 
The prompts will be on Elephant Child's blog for the month of October.

     At first, it looked just like a marble rolling across the floor.  I would see it out of the corner of my eye, movement on the floor.  Sometimes it startled me, reminding me of the month I lived in Florida and palmetto bugs running across my bare feet in the dark.  I'm not ashamed to say that I screamed.  Every. Single. Time.  Which is why I was a little more than zealous when it came to finding a job that would get me out of Florida.

     So it was no surprise when unexpected movement rolling across the floor caused me more than a little concern.  I found a can of the strongest bug killer spray on the planet and armed with that and a flashlight began my search for the mysterious whatever it was.

     I never found it and after a few weeks of not seeing it, I pretty much forgot about it.  Until it appeared again, this time larger and glowing just a little.  It was about the size of a golf ball now, and as I watched it brazenly roll across the floor in front of me, it seemed to be guided by some kind of invisible line.

     Shaken, I sat down as soon as it vanished into thin air and wondered if some sassy spirit was now sharing the house with me.  Reaching for my coffee, I scalded my tongue and instantly spit coffee into the air.  I heard sobbing behind me and quickly turned.  But there was no one there.

     The mysterious ball didn't appear again for several months later.  Now it was the size of a softball and brightly glowing.  It seemed to rake across the floor now, leaving glowing streaks behind it as it rolled that stayed for several minutes before fading.  It rolled from one side of the room to the other before rising a few inches off the floor and coming straight for me.  I ran from the house, terrified, and as I slammed the door behind me I could hear a woman sobbing again.

     My logical mind wanted to find a simple explanation.  I didn't believe in ghosts.  Wouldn't.  Couldn't.  It had to be some wicked little brat playing with a flashlight of some sort.  I had only lived in the house for a year, and while I hadn't yet met the neighbors, the children in the neighborhood all watched me suspiciously whenever I was in the yard.  That was it.  Plain and simple.  Someone was playing a trick on me.

     I went into town, reluctant to return to the house until my nerves had settled.  The drive was relaxing after I was able to calm down and not grind the gears in my old car as it climbed up and down the hills to the small country town.

     My appearance was a little less groomed than I usually prefer to be seen in public.  I hadn't had time to comb my hair or change out of my pajamas and house shoes.  I tried to appear nonchalant as I sat down in the local café and ordered a large black coffee.  The obsequious waitress complied and then returned a few minutes later with a small bottle of Irish whiskey.

     "The gentleman at the table across the room wondered if perhaps you needed an Irish coffee this morning?"

     I looked up to the table she indicated and saw an old man in shabby clothes.  As our eyes connected, he stood and shuffled over to my table.

     "May I join you?"

     I nodded, unsure of why he seemed familiar.  The man sat down heavily and sighed.

     "You just moved into the house in Warner's Holler, didn't you?"

     I nodded again.

     "I used to own that house once upon a time.  I know I don't look it now, but you can't judge a book by its cover.  The same goes for houses too.  When I owned the house, it looked like a place I could be happy forever.  I had plans to marry and start a family.  I imagined happy children running in the yard, maybe a few chickens for fresh eggs.  It was going to be my own little piece of heaven in the hills."

     "What happened?"

     "At first it was just a little thing.  I'd think I saw something move out of the corner of my eye, but when I looked there was nothing there.  I'd forget about it for a few weeks, then it would start again.  Each time, it was bigger.  Brighter.  I started hearing things.  Crying.  Voices.  I thought I was losing my mind.  Work stress, you know.  I worked in New York as a stock exchange broker.  I had my own business, with a lot of people under me, and a lot of money going in and out every day.  The house in Warner's Holler was my escape from the craziness of the big city.

     "They say the squeaky wheel gets the grease and I was one of those managers who was constantly squeaking out orders to everyone in the office for that grease that lined my bank account.  I had put everything I had into my business, and into that house.  I was riding high.  When I started to see and hear things, I thought maybe I just needed a break.  A vacation.  So I took a few weeks off to spend at the house.  Thought I might set up a home office so I could relax a little more, you know?  But that was a mistake.  It was what it wanted."

     "It?"

     "Her.  The house.  Have you been up in the attic yet?"

     "No, not yet.  I've been getting things settled in the main house because I do work from home.  I'm an author."

     "When did it start?"

     "Start?"

     "Seeing things.  When did you start seeing things and hearing voices?"

     I sat silently for a few minutes.  I really didn't want to sound crazy.  Or at least as crazy as I looked sitting in a café in my pajamas talking to an old man who looked and smelled like he hadn't had a bath in a few years.

     "Don't worry about it.  You don't have to tell me.  I know what you are thinking.  You don't want people to think you are crazy.  I thought the same thing.  But the more time I spent in the house, the more I felt crazy.  I starting seeing not just a glowing orb, but sometimes there was a woman in a white dress who would be standing just far enough to my left or right to where I couldn't quite see all of her but I could still see that she was there.  I'd catch a glimpse of her gliding up the stairs or down the hall.  She'd be standing in the front window, just looking out over the valley.  Like she was waiting for something.  Or someone."

     "Who was she?"

     "It took a while for any of the townspeople to talk to me.  I was an outsider.  By then my mind had really started to unravel.  I didn't know what was true anymore.  I spent less time in New York and more time at the house.  The business started to fail and while every fiber of logic told me to get out of the house, I couldn't.  It was like she was drawing me in.  I wanted to see her.  All of her.  I wanted to know who she was.  I started researching the history of the house.  Who built it.  Who owned it.  Who died in it."

     "Someone died in it?"

     "She did.  Hung herself."

     "Who was she?"

     "There was a different house in the Holler before that one was built.  It was built in the early 1700s and actually is the existing living room walls and foundation.  Various owners through the centuries have added onto it."

     "Really?"

     "Her name was Elenor.  She was the oldest daughter of the widow Reverand Edgar Smythe.  She was engaged to be married to a young man when the French and Indian War broke out in 1754.  Her man was called up to defend Fort Duquesne.  He never came back.  She refused to believe it and kept watch for him, all while making her own wedding dress.

     "When her father and younger siblings died of smallpox that swept through the area, she was left alone in the house.  She went insane with grief, loneliness, and her refusal to believe that her fiancé had died.  After a year or so, someone came up to see how she was getting on since she hadn't been seen in a while.  They found her, hanging from a rafter, wearing the wedding dress she had finally finished."

     "Wow."

     "One of her spinster aunts came to prepare her for burial, but instead of burying her in the wedding dress, she decided to have her buried in a plain black dress.  The wedding dress was tucked away in a chest in the attic where it stayed when the house and land were sold off.   Eventually, a family with girls moved into the house and during remodeling and restoration, someone found the wedding dress.  The oldest girl decided she would wear it for her own wedding that was coming up, but that was never to be."

     "What happened?"

     "She hung herself, just the same way Elenor did.  Wearing the dress.  The family naturally was devastated.  They put the dress back where it had been found in the attic, sold the house and moved away.  Every few decades a family with girls would move in, the dress would be found, the oldest would decide to wear it, and history would repeat itself.  Elenor was determined that she would be the only one to wear it to her wedding, and she still waits and looks for her fiancé.
     "When I moved in and found the dress, I put an ad on eBay for it that said 'For Sale: Antique Wedding Dress, Never Worn' but that was before I knew the history of it.  I did sell it, but the buyer sent it back saying it was haunted.  I scoffed at the idea and tossed it back up in the attic to be dealt with later."

     "And how did you end up like this?"

     "Homeless?  Crazy?  The stock market crash in 2008 took care of my business.  Elenor took care of the rest of my sanity."

     "So what am I supposed to do?  I put everything I owned into buying the house."

     "My advice, cut your losses and run.  Maybe she'll let you get out before you lose your mind."

     With that the man stood, dropped a dollar bill on the table for his coffee, and shuffled out the door.  I sat there for an hour after that.  Trying to decide what to do.  I couldn't afford to just cut and run.  Finally, I knew what I needed to do.  Just one quick stop to make on the way home.

     It was springtime, and the roads back to Warner's Holler were lined with wildflowers.  I stopped the car to pick a bunch that would look nice in a vase on the kitchen window sill, careful not to soil my suit.

     She was watching for me when I pulled up in front of the house.  I could see her shadow in the front window.  I opened the door, dressed in a tuxedo, with the bouquet of flowers for her.

     "Elenor, I'm home."

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

the curse

     This on-going feast of creativity was started by Delores a long time ago. Now Words for Wednesday is provided by a number of people and has become a movable feast. I am very, very sad (and angry) to write that a troll has led Delores to leave the internet completely. She will be missed.
     Essentially the aim is to encourage us to write. Each week we are given a choice of prompts: which can be words, phrases, music or an image. What we do with those prompts is up to us: a short story, prose, a song, a poem, or ignoring them. We can use some or all of the prompts. 
     The prompts will be on Elephant Child's blog for the month of October.
     I looked at the urn sitting in the box on my desk.  It had come in the mail the week before while I was out of town at an archeology conference.  For a week it sat on a hall table outside my office door while students and faculty passed it by, completely unaware of the danger inside the nondescript brown box.

     The note handwritten on a piece of fragile papyrus paper that had been inside the box with the urn was from my first-year archeology colleague, Jean-Francios Champollion.  A man I hadn't heard from, or even thought of, in over 20 years.  A man who had died, 10 years ago on a dig in Egypt.  Yet, here was a packaged from him, addressed to me, Antoine Isaac Silvestre de Sacy, in his handwriting, with a note in it also addressed to me in his handwriting. 

     Oh, did I mention it was dated the day before he died?  Ten years ago?  Not only that, but I didn't start teaching at this university until five years ago.  How had he known where to send it?  And with the right amount of postage so that it wouldn't disappear into a postage due box in some dark closet?  The postmark indicated it had truly been sent the day he died ten years ago, but where had it been all this time?  Why would it appear here, and now?

     I was getting a headache just trying to figure out those logistics, and then I read the note.

     "Isaac.  I know this will come as a surprise to you, especially since I made it clear when you were a colleague of mine that you were not an intelligent man.  But you are the only one I can trust with this urn.  You must try to destroy it, but no matter what, DO NOT OPEN IT.  The hieroglyphics I read on the crypt in which it was found stated that it was cursed.  I scoffed at that, of course.  You know I am a true skeptic of all things paranormal.  But since we discovered the urn, there have been several events that have caused me to reconsider some of my skepticism.

     "The urn was found in a small sarcophagus with several petrified cats.  Mind you, these were not the usual embalmed and preserved Egyptian cats that we usually find.  These were several thousands of years older than the sarcophagus and appeared to have been naturally petrified.  They looked as if they simply went to sleep and turned to stone.  While it was unusual, it did not alarm me as much as the events which followed.

     "A few days after the urn was found, there was a small Egyptian girl who was playing near our dig site on a strange hopping device our German associates, Max Pohlig and Ernst Gottschall, called a pogo stick.  Imagine a stick on a metal spring with little foot pedals to stand on.  The objective is to balance the stick and bounce on the spring.  If you are particularly skilled, you can travel quite a distance.  If you are not skilled, as I am not, you can wind up with skinned knees, elbows and noses.

     "The girl, whose name I believe was Paris, bounced around the dig until suddenly she disappeared into a hole in the ground that we had not seen.  It was my assistant who heard her screaming at the bottom of what turned out to be a very small well.  We were unable to get her out of the well for several days because of the depth and narrowness of it, and by the time a parallel hole was dug the girl had died.

     "When her body was recovered, every single rooster in the small town near our dig began to crow.  It was quite unsettling, even more so when we saw that every inch of skin on her body had been peeled off, even what had been covered by her clothing.  Issac, she appeared to have been blanched in boiling water, like a tomato is to remove the skin.

     "There was no explanation for it.  While the days were warm, they were nowhere near the temperature required to boil water, and no evidence there had even been water in the well.  In fact, the nights were downright cold.  I would have understood if we had seen signs that she died from hypothermia or drowning, but none of that was present.

     "As you can imagine, the death of the child put a damper on the mood in the camp.  What had once been an atmosphere of happiness at the prospect of finding something no one had ever seen before, we were all rather melancholic.  It became worse as we continued to decipher the hieroglyphics found on the urn.  There was now an overwhelming morose attitude of everyone in the camp.

     "The entity contained within the urn is an immortal being.  Yes, you read that correctly.  It is alive.  However, what it is exactly I cannot describe.  I opened the urn only once, and it took every ounce and fiber of my being to close it again and contain the entity.  But the damage caused by my ignorant excitement in the find had already started.

     "Issac, I released something dark into the world.  I don't expect you to believe me.  In fact, if our positions were reversed, I would ball up this piece of papyrus and toss it in the wastebasket before opening the urn to see what kind of a joke you were playing on me.

     "I cannot express this strongly enough, Isaac, whatever you do, or choose not to do, with this warning, please trust me on this one thing.  Do not open the urn and finish releasing what I managed to stop.

     "The world can be quite an unfriendly and stormy place at times.  But even in our darkest hours, there are always knights of the light that keep us from being taken over by the dark.  If you open this urn, there will be no hope for any of us.

     "I'm counting on you, Isaac, to find a way to destroy it.  I tried, and many died for my attempts.  You are my last hope.  With the highest respect for the man you have become, Jean-Francios Champollion."

     As I folded the note Jean-Francios had included in the box, I reached across my desk and slowly put the lid back on the urn ...