Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Campanologist


It had been snowing for most of his shift. He stood at the door of the large warehouse store next to the tripod with the red bucket hanging by a chain. In the past this position paid an hourly rate but it was now a volunteer position with no remuneration. It did put him in a good light at the homeless shelter that he had been staying at since his release from the state prison.


He had no family and nowhere to go when he was emancipated from government internment. That is how he labelled his time on the state’s Jefferson. He was sent there for the possession and distribution of materials that are now rapidly becoming legal. Hell, major tobacco companies were gearing up divisions within their corporate structure to oversee the exact same activity he had been incarcerated for a two decades earlier.


He shook with the cold and tried to pull his clothes closer to his body. The lined vinyl jacket they had issued him was too small to button and his regular clothes underneath were better served in the faraway temperate climate where he had been living prior to his emancipation. He had served the full Monty on his sentence due to the fact that he had no place to go if paroled. He was the sole surviving member of his family. He never had any close friends choosing to ply his herbal trade and avoid most contact with the public outside of his commercial duties.


He chose to return to the place where he was born in an attempt to change things in his life. He remembered living outside the medium sized town in the northeast of the country to seek a simple life. Much as his childhood had been. His father had worked at a lumber company in the shop that made cabinets which had allowed for a decent lifestyle for his family. They had owned their own home, always took vacations, always new clothes for the changing of the season, good food on the table, a dog and a cat, and two cars in the garage when the sun went down every day.


When he got off the bus after a three day journey from the southern environ, the town looked nothing like he remembered. The city was no longer medium sized having grown on what seemed like an exponential rate. At least it looked that way for the number of new buildings (among which were a disturbing number of skyscrapers), the traffic, hordes of people walking the streets, and most disappointing of all, no lumberyard with a cabinet shop.


He walked for quite a while and discovered the bus line that could take him to his childhood home which he was supposed to own after the last of his family members had passed away. When he got there he found the house which looked as if it was leaning on the garage. Most of the windows had been broken and the front door stood ajar. He stood for a long time watching in total doubt and disbelief. A woman pulled up in a minivan with a real estate company sign on the door. She asked him if there was a problem. He told her that he was the owner of the house due to being the sole surviving member of the family. She said that it was in the process of being auctioned for back taxes. She was inspecting it before putting in a bid.


She also told him that it was not a done deal and that he might be able to do something about it. She offered him a ride somewhere and he just looked at her blankly. She noticed the backpack and suitcase and offered him a ride to a homeless shelter. The homeless shelter initially rejected him because he had money. After the purchase of the bus ticket and the few clothes he bought there was only $89 left from the $200 they gave him when he went through the release process at the prison. The $89 disqualified him for free access. If he wanted a bed he would have to give his $89 to them. It had worked similarly in prison. He worked in the wood shop while there for a ridiculous hourly wage if about $0.11 an hour which barely had allowed him to pay for the necessities (hygiene, cigarettes, etc.) he had needed during his captivity. Now, being on the street with no money, He had no clue as to what to do. Hell, he did not even feel comfortable going to the restroom without asking permission first. How was he supposed to make it?


The woman left and came back a few days later to check on him. She had told her husband about him and he had promised to look into his situation. He was a lawyer and thought he might be able to help him in some way. At the very least he could see if the land deal had actually been proper. She also asked him if he might like a job. The shelter allowed residents to stay for an extended time and work if they agreed to pay a percentage of their wages in rent. The rate was sort of high but it did allow him to move forward in some manner that might help him. It was a manual labor position for the facilities division of her company. It was mostly cleaning up, maintaining properties, building wood signs, and some light repairs. Most of it was outside work and would probably shut down once the winter hit.


Winter hit and he was once more unemployed. He had saved some money hoping he could somehow rescue the house. The lawyer told him that he still could pay the tax bill and keep the house. It was quite bit of money but they would take a down payment and they would work with him on the rest in a payment plan. He had most of the down payment saved when the winter hit and he got laid off. He tried to give them what he had but the arrangement was a hard and fast must. They gave him an extension to the first of the year and wished him luck.


He agreed to work the donation bucket until he found another job. The shelter told him that he could stay to the first of the year before having to resume rent payments. This was in a city where freezing snowy weather would probably last until March or April. It looked like a dim future but he just kept on going. The real cold weather hit around the middle of December and he had not found a job. Actually, he rang the bell all day which gave him no time to look for a position that paid.


His location was only about three blocks from the shelter so they made him walk both ways. He was given a bank bag to put the donations in which he must turn in to whatever supervisor was on shift. The only reprieve he got was about noon when the van transporting folks to other locations pulled up and gave him a sandwich and a cup of lukewarm hot chocolate.


He worked his post without complaining. Complaining in prison had severe consequences and he did not desire to find out if the shelter was similar in its practices. At the end of each day he emptied the bucket and walked back to the shelter. About the end of the first week he noticed a small girl, extremely pregnant, standing at the entrance to the parking lot holding up a sign asking for help. She looked to be a teenager, and always smiled at him. He asked her why she was out there and discovered that her parents had told her to leave because she had gotten pregnant and was not sure who the father was.


She shared that she had a small savings account she had hid from her parents for emergencies. She told them at a family picnic in front of the whole family and relatives thinking that they would not flip out and toss her out. This proved to be a mistaken perception on her part. They told her to pack what clothes she could fit into her backpack and leave. The entire room sat silent while she left the house in tears. She rented a room at a boarding house but her money had run out and she was on the streets.


He looked at the sky spewing snow and the frost breath they both exhaled and told her he would try to get her in the shelter if she wanted. Surely they would not turn away a homeless pregnant teenager in winter. Back at the lodge there was a line formed outside and it was quite long. He walked in and tried to speak with the supervisor and was told that she had to get in line and wait. He escorted her outside to the back of the line and gave her the jacket he was wearing. He went in and got a steaming hot cup of hot chocolate and brought it to her. The supervisor complained to him and told him he was walking a thin line trying to help some teenager he had knocked up. He attempted to explain that he was not the father but the supervisor raised his arm in a talk-to-the-hand gesture and walked away.


He went in to get warm for a while and think. He sat on his bed and drifted off sleep for a while. The supervisor came and kicked his bed and told him to get up and do something with his little lovebird, she probably was not going to get a bed. Jogging to the front he found her in line waiting much closer to the door. Just as she reached the door it was locked and a sign put in the window stating that the shelter was full to capacity.


He walked around the back to the kitchen door and found the supervisor and implored him to have a heart. He met resistance and he finally offered to let her have his bed. This, for some reason angered the guy and he told him to pack his stuff and get out. They would not take his crap anymore. He begged him to let the girl stay and was threatened with the police if he didn’t take himself and his little mistake the hell out of there.


He packed his stuff and the guy in the next bunk gave him a plastic trash bag holding a coat that fit him and a pair of blankets. He tried to say thank you and got another hand in the air. This time instead of a scowl he left was sent packing with a wink and a smile.


He found the girl and told her that they needed to find another place to stay. He had the money he saved to pay there down payment on his house and decided to use it to get out of the weather. They tried the rooming house but they were turned away because the manager thought they were a couple. The man had looked and him and her recognizing the age difference and told them to leave. They tried a couple of motels but got refused for the same reason as the boarding house. They ran into a guy in the parking lot and got offered a room if the girl was willing to service men in exchange for rent.


Finally, he got them both on a bus and rode out to his old neighborhood. Arriving at his soon-to-be sold house he jumped the chained gate and went into the garage. He came back with a hammer and crowbar and made a hole in the fence big enough for her to get through. He guided her to the garage and settled he down. He explored the house and found some chairs and a foldout couch. After much struggle he moved it into the garage. He found some old Coleman lanterns and fuel and got them going. There was an electric heater which was useless until he found several extension cords and made a covert journey to the house next door. Finding an outside plug he sneaked some power and got the heater going. He would go over in the morning and offer some snow shoveling or other labor service to pay for it. Making another sojourn into the night he came back with some food things and water from some store. It seemed as if they had won the day.


Come morning he went next door and talked to the elderly gentleman who came to the door. He explained what he was there for and the old guy asked him his name. Surprised, he gave it and luckily it turned out the man had been his neighbor when he was a kid. He pulled him into the house and sat him down to tell his story. He relayed the life he had led and the time in prison and explained his motivation for coming home. He resisted bringing up the subject of his houseguest and finally told him about the girl. The old man frowned and thought for a long time. He finally admitted that he and his wife were staunchly conservative religious folks. His beliefs told him that he should not help based on the reality of a grown man and a pregnant teenager living in sin next door. His wife, who was not there, would have insisted on calling the authorities. He fell silent for another long period of time. He shared that he was a retired police commander. An up through the ranks street cop who had seen much in his time that conflicted with what he heard in church on Sunday. He said that they could use all the electricity they needed. He offered them the use of some coolers to keep food in and packed them from his household pantry and freezer. He told him he did not want any conflict in the house at the holidays. He loved his wife and wanted to keep things that way. He admonished him to keep quiet and things probably would not be the worse for wear.


They settled in to their temporary abode. He went out every day and looked for work and another place to live. The answer was either that there were no open positions until after the first of the year, or an outright no. His funds were dwindling and there was not enough to pay for a place out of the weather. His appearance had grown scruffy and he spent the better part of an afternoon in the police precinct for vagrancy. The old man next door had shown up at the precinct with a can of Christmas cookies his wife had baked and found him being escorted to a holding cell. He intervened and they left and went back to the house. He figured, and the old man agreed, that it would be best not to tempt fate by going out. The next few days he stayed in coming out only to rummage around the house for things to use. A trip to the convenience store for milk wound up with him walking back into the garage finding the girl laying down and groaning in a wet bed. It was not because she peed.


Her contractions grew in intensity closer right away. It was evident that the baby was coming at any time. She had a book on being pregnant in her backpack which he used to help her deliver a little boy.


The old man knocked on the door wondering why there was screaming and hollering in the garage. He saw the baby and immediately wanted to call someone (police, ambulance, etc.) and would have if his wife had not walked in. she immediately took charge and got things cleaned up and arranged. She sent her husband to get pillows, blankets, and, cloth diapers from storage in their attic. Once settled in the old couple kneeled and prayed for them. They started to talk about getting her someplace to care for her and her baby and suggested a facility where she could find a suitable couple to adopt the baby. It was the morally right thing to do.


The girl looked at her rescuer and refused to move. This might not be the best place but it felt safe. She was not going to give up her baby, and that was that. The old couple, feeling the spirit of the season, did not insist. They were going to their son’s house for the holiday and would come talk to them when they got back. They left and came back a little while later with more supplies for them and the baby.


He was digging in the bags of supplies and found a bag of cat food. He looked around to find about a half dozen stray cats sitting or lying around the garage. They must have snuck in with all the opening and closing of the door.


Night came and it grew quite peaceful in the small car refuge. The scene, if filmed, would have been prefect in any film about this time of year. They heated up some food on a hotplate and toaster oven scavenged from the dilapidated house. For dessert it was hot cocoa all around. He went outside whenever she had to breastfeed, and a couple of the cats would accompany him. It was right at midnight when, standing outside he recognized that there seemed to be a lot of activity on the street. Several police cars rode by shining the small spotlights on the door as if they were looking for someone. He ducked back in the garage and decided that he best stay in for a while.


All of a sudden there was a huge bright light over the garage. Through the window, air vents and numerous holes normally not noticeable it seemed to be right over the building. It lit up the space brighter than even a fluorescent lite would. All of a sudden, the door flew open and three men came rushing in. one slammed the door and locked it. The three then started to stack things in front of the door, and garage door to stop anyone from getting in. they finished and turned to the current occupants.


They were gangbangers. Each of them had tattoos on their hands and necks. One of them took off his coat and it looked as if his whole body might have been covered with what the bell ringer knew was “prison ink.” They stared at each other for a long time. The smallest of them introduced him and his friends as “Paco, Flaco, and Juan Diego.” They explained that they were having some “judicial” issues with the po-po’s and needed to chill for a while. The girl asked them if they wanted hot cocoa.


The baby had been covered up during the introduction suddenly began to cry. She uncovered him and he stopped crying, giving his mother a big smile. The three hardened street criminals seem to melt all at the same time. They gathered around the bed and oohed and aahed the child. They made faces to make the infant smile. The smallest thug, Paco, asked if he could hold him and the girl relinquished him after being reassured that tattooed hooligan had seven younger brothers and sisters who he had cared for when they were born. Flaco and Juan Diego summarily wished to embrace the child. Each was quite careful and loving. They talked baby talk, albeit Spanish baby talk, until the baby fussed at all the attention. They asked what his name was and were shocked that he had none. Juan Diego declared that given the date, there was only one name possible.


The trio spent several hours visiting and peeking out the window before they decided their “judicial” problem was no longer as urgent as earlier. They each said goodbye to the newborn and wished the girl luck. They shook hands around and proceeded to leave. Flaco stopped them and they had a whispered conference before Paco pulled a piece of paper out of the pocket on the large backpack they had brought with them. After writing on it for a while they put it in the main part of the backpack and slipped out of the garage. Never to be seen again by either of them.


The next day the old couple came back and came over to the garage. They had not been able to get the three of them out of their heads. They were supposed to stay through the first of the year but came back early. The old woman explained that they were pretty set in their ways and had been given a real wakeup about the way they lived and thought. Things they accepted coming from a pulpit in a large wealthy church were not in harmony with what life might actually be. She apologized for herself and her husband’s behavior and invited them to come share their home until things were better for them. No questions asked or required behavior other than civility. The two evictees from a homeless shelter looked at each other and accepted the offer.


The two moved in and asked for separate bedrooms. Once settled the girl asked if he would watch the baby while she took a long hot bath. He sat in his room holding the baby until the older gent called and asked him to help him move a crib into the girl’s room. Securing the baby on the bed with a wall on one side and pillows too large for it to scale they moved the crib into the room. The wife came in and made it up from the baby things she had in the attic. Once bedded down, the child drifted off to sleep.


Sitting and watching the child his eyes fell on the backpack left by Paco, Flaco, and Juan Diego. He pulled it to him and opened it. He found the note and a bag full of rolls of hundred dollar bills. The note explained that the money was proceeds from the sale of items responsible for their “judicial” issues. It had been laundered and was completely legal. The three were using it to get out of town, but felt the baby could use it better them. Nobody was looking for it. Not even the po-po’s.


The old man came into the room and found his new housemate confused. He looked at his benefactor and held the note up for him to read. Reading the note slowly and looking into the bag, the old man stood there for quite a while. Finally, looking as if he had made a decision, he handed the note back and looked at the baby. The girl came back from her bath and was presented with the information. Wondering what to do they looked to their benefactor. Not having looked away from the baby, he said, “Well Emmanuel…it looks like it has turned out to be a really good Christmas.”


Saturday, September 3, 2016

Once upon a love lost time…

There was a girl who lived in Lindenhurst, NY who, for a summer, had my heart in her grasp and I never intended that it be released. It took place in the mid to late 1970’s in that faraway place that I remember thinking was simultaneously glory, joy, utter bliss, and extreme ecstasy. It is a location that must be where the Rapture takes you. All that is good and kind is everywhere, and your soul, no; your very being is complete. A place like no other that might only be found in a specific set of eyes.

I am not able to access her name from the rapidly deteriorating hard drive between my ears. I can, fortuitously, rescue a memory of opulence in the orbs with which she observed me in my foolishness. 

We met while we were gainfully employed as taxi drivers at a small cab stand at the Long Island Railroad station in Babylon, NY. The money was terrible and the hour’s even worse, but it sufficed to pay a weekly rent and allowed for enough to enable the noble search all young men required in their quest for female companionship and whatever mind altering, mood changing substance essential to the discovery of true love.

The particular advantage to my spirit that this unique lady offered is that there was no need to wander the pubs and beaches in the execution of the marvelous mission that is coital coupling. We got off at about 11:00 pm and the world was, literally, our oyster. Pub crawling was not necessary, and quite cumbersome to us as we crossed the threshold into the adventure of discerning if either of us might just be, THE ONE AND ONLY.

We would ride across the bridge spanning the Great South Bay parking out by the nearest beach. We would lie on the hood of her car while watching the sky and the surf. We would drink beer or wine and talk about grand ideals while listening to the FM station playing love songs. We would look deep into each other’s eyes before we embraced. We would skinny dip, but not get too close. We had promised to wait for the gift of intimacy until there was no doubt that we had, in fact, uncovered THE ONE AND ONLY.

This pausing in the exercise of release that most young people yearned for served as both a blessing, and a decided disadvantage. This was not something my Neanderthal mentality was properly adept at. I have visions of cavemen and the lack of romance required back in those glorious days prior to language or etiquette. I realize this is a racial memory, but in my misspent youth I was not the judicious and perceptive intellect you have all come to love and submit your time to. Today I can listen to “Here comes the Sun” by the Fab Four and reminisce of the women in my life I have loved. Back in the day, it was much more “Paradise by the Dashboard Lights” by Meatloaf. So why agree to this absurd abstinence?

It was her eyes.

I would look in them and feel safe. I would wonder why the only thing I really wanted to do was see the shine in those sky blue near translucent orbs lit by the moonlight bouncing off the water, and hear her soft voice telling me things I had never heard before. I never found an answer to my speculation.

It seemed as if God had sent an angel to me. She would smile and tell me goodnight when she dropped me off closing the night with deep embraces. My heart would ache for the sight of her until I got to work the next day. Then, right at about 11:05, Shangri La would open and all else would evaporate in the face of the magnificent creature that God had allowed me to hang with.

The memory is still breathtaking, and it comes to me from time to time to, I believe, remind me that I am alive. There is much in life currently that is ugly, unpleasant, and foul. One thing that is not revolting is the memory of a love lost in time.

The reality of the time proved not as splendid as the memory. Summer turned into fall, and then winter. It became too cold to sit out by the beach unless we were extremely inebriated. An old boyfriend of hers moved back to town and wanted to rekindle old times. I picked up a decidedly exotic girl in my cab one night and discovered that adorable eyes existed in other woman. We drifted apart and marched on our individual ways. We never did discover the wonders of the flesh, but that was fine. Like I said…it was her eyes.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Dysphoric Displeasure

Writing at the speed of a snail has been the reality of late and the ideas have not been popping as usual I find myself in need of respite. I have things to do and I have things to say yet all I seem to be able to accomplish is manipulation of the remote control and the aimless ventures in the land of Social Media.

What I really have is to tell the truth and admit that what is wrong with me is that I have things to write.

I do not have so many things to do that it should negate my personal method of communication. I do not have, considering that I am retired and live alone, all that much to say. I have ennui, lethargy, and languor invading my existence and all I have to say about that is;


I watched a well-known writer on a talk show talk about the thing he would suggest to aspiring writers. He thought that they should be bored. Not have anything going on, or anything to do, or anything to feel. I thought this absurd and was almost ready to dismiss it as folly. Until I remembered what it was that made me become a writer. I cannot leave anything alone. I cannot see or read or hear anything that does not trigger some riposte. I cannot keep my big mouth (or fingers) shut!
Now what is it that I have to say? What is it that is going to come bubbling up from inside me that will satisfy that need, that yearning, that obsession?


It is the Sit-in by the Democrats in Congress that was most certainly a publicity stunt. God Bless them for doing it! It is all the Anti Trump memes on my Social Media accounts because they are terrible drudgery due to the sheer numbers while being totally necessary. We need protection from lunatics and the election process in America is not providing it. It is a report on a Sports show about an award winning gymnast and athlete, born with no legs,  that watched another athlete and was inspired to become as accomplished as her heroine. Then finding out that the heroine was her biological sister.

It is halfway through writing a book about free standing self-driving cars and seeing one of your ideas in a commercial. One that you did not know existed when you got the idea for the story. It is having two blogs and posting on another just because you can. It is about having that story…that story that is inside you and writing it just because it is inside you and needs to be on paper.

I was in a store a couple of months ago and somehow got engaged in a conversation with a gentleman in the frozen food section. He got asked what I do. I told him that I am a writer. Now the first thing most people might ask a writer is whether they might have read some of their work. This guy asks me when I got my last royalty check. I published a story in an anthology about four years ago that sends me a 1/27th royalty portion (their words not mine) once a year. The checks average about $3.27. At the time of the conversation while shopping for sugar free ice pops I had just received one of these checks. So I told the guy that it had been a couple of days to which he proclaimed that I was, indeed, a writer. It was an amazing revelation that at the age of sixty two years I was officially dubbed a writer even though I wrote my first short story in 1963. It is now a mark of distinction in my life that a few million words later I can now confidently proclaim to the cosmos’


Having that as a banner to carry it is particularly displeasing to discover that the boredom that NY Times bestselling author champions is not a place where I find any particular gratification. I want to be typing faster than normal because the story has bubbled to the surface and the magma within the meditation of inspiration has erupted and is spewing out everywhere. Boredom is boring!

So my answer to all this discontent is to focus that suggested monotony and give it away. Give it to whoever is reading this and move on to what is not boring. That would be a work in progress that is a mess because of my absence. Back to that guy building and testing a car that can fly who is about to get drunk and get in his flying car and wake up on the moon.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Dozing Dispossession

Five o’clock AM and I once more find myself without the ability to get the requisite forty winks one needs or desires on a daily basis. It has been the norm since I have taken up residence in this apartment building. New to town I found myself in need of an abode that would not drain my less than generous bank account. I had turned in my papers after twenty years as a cop in a major city before relocating to another major city far away from the city I had developed a genuine dislike for. The pension was only half my salary and it barely paid the bills. I drove a cab a few days a week in order to afford booze and food. The flat was really a rented room and the apartment building was really a sleazebag hotel. There was a blinking sign outside the window reminiscent of an old time Dashiell Hammett story, and the denizens of said hostel would fit well in any Sam Spade, or Mike Hammer yarn. It was depressing and I knew it. The blinking light had a buzz to it that drilled into my ears and nearly drove me mad.

Most nights I would simply drink myself to sleep but, for some reason, the whiskey wasn’t working. I tried watching television and spent an hour trying to decipher the story from a Telenovela on the Spanish station. Pushups proved useless, and reading a book might have worked if I had one. I called the Goth chic down the hall who supplemented her income from managing the Adult book/video store around the corner by performing carnal acts of, depending on one’s proclivities, either mercy or atrocity for the older gentlemen of the building such as me. After an hour and a half of vigorous gyro-acrobatic shenanigans, she left my room out of breath and properly remunerated. I lay there unable to move…and still wide awake.

Surrendering to my situation I got dressed and went out for some breakfast. There was an all-night diner across the street where the local cops would stop for coffee and food. It made me feel comfortable to be around some guys on the job and I would eat at least one or two meals a week there. I had no desire to engage any of them or “talk shop.” I just found the atmosphere familiar. There were a few there when I walked in and took my regular seat in the corner where I could see everything. I was content to just drink coffee (it wasn’t like it was going to prevent me from sleeping) and read the newspaper I had bought from the machine outside on the curb.

A couple of the guys who drove for the same cab company came in and told me that the dispatcher said that he was short a couple of drivers that day and for them to put the word out. I finished my coffee and went to the garage and picked up a unit. I figured I might as well make a few extra shekels during my unwanted bout of insomnia. The fares started coming in on the radio and it turned into quite a busy shift. About six that evening I called in to take myself out of service. Fourteen hours was enough and I was beginning to feel tired enough to sleep. The dispatcher told me to get one more fare from a hotel and call it a night. As it worked out, I probably should have turned it down and gone to bed.

She walked out of the hotel as if she were exiting a royal palace where she was the lead noble lady. Her attire was a throwback to the same 1930’s noir detective genre that my rented room had going for it. She was tall with perfect makeup and a form fitting dress reaching to just below the knees. She wore gloves and a hat. The bonnet was a plush contraption with feathers lining her upper face and a fish net screen covering her face. The gloves were silk and full length. Bright red lipstick offset a pair of piercing dark eyes. She kept a small pout on her face most of the time but when she smiled there were the most alluringly sexy dimples on each side of her mouth. She looked out at the world with hooded eyes accentuating eyeliner and shadow that made my mouth water.

She had a deep voice for a woman and it wasn’t until much later that I noticed the Adam’s apple underneath her chin. Her figure was pure woman and hourglass in demeanor. She wore heels that were at least four inches and silk stockings with seams up the back of what must have been exquisitely gorgeous legs. Overall she must have been at least 6’5”. If I had to choose one word to describe her it had to be…glorious!

She handed me a card with an address on it. I, being new to town, simply thought it was a high end cocktail club. It did not occur to me to question the hook under the name of the club. That all-purpose catchy phrase all high end joints used which would entice customers and keep them curious enough to frequent the establishment. “For those of discriminating taste” was what this one stated. Sort of a sublime hint that the place had something only the most discerning of clientele could possibly appreciate. Only the extremely erudite might need apply.

Imagine my surprise when I dropped her off and discovered that it was just a bar for drag queens and their unsuspecting dates.

I never, at first, pegged her for a lady (?) of the evening. She had manners, you see, and I always thought of her as a lady. Perhaps a little old fashioned based on her “accoutrement” as she called it. She told me her name was Étiennette Émile. It was her father’s name in French she proclaimed proudly. Her surname was also French. She always would use little phrases in that language and then translate them for me. I found it adorable.

Even after I discovered that it was a drag queen bar I never put one and one together to figure out that Étiennette was really just French for Stephen and that he dressed up to pick up “Johns” at that bar to pay his/her bills. I later discovered that Émile was also a translation. This time for his/her mother, Emily and that his/her last name was Fleming. Possibly French but Stephen was never sure. In his/her defense I got told a story of a confused kid who always preferred men for romance and felt out of place all the time.

It seemed as if I should have known. After all I spent twenty years as a cop, seventeen of them as a detective. There was something about her. I never really thought of the fact that “he” was a man, or should have been from a biological point of view. Whenever we were together it was always Étiennette. It was always a given that I held the door open for “her.” It was always a given that I held the chair for “her” at a restaurant. And it was always a given that I was in the company of astonishingly beautiful woman.

I am for sure not and have never been gay. I like woman both carnally and personally. I have no discriminatory preferences in female companionship. I like them all, again, carnally and personally. But there was something about Étiennette that just cried for me to be around her. It was like a moth to a flame. Like, as a child, when you were being told not to stick your hand in a light socket. You just had to do it. I just wanted to be in her presence.

It all began with rides in the taxi. She lived in an old Brownstone house on an upscale street. I would take her on shopping jaunts here and there and noticed liking the conversation in between stops. She shopped every day for new outfits and I was on the receiving end of the marvelous visions she would create for her evening time. I started working seven days a week just so that I might be around to pick her up. She never called when she was with a “gentleman friend” as she called it. She always had her companions call a different cab company. She called one day and requested that I be her personal driver. After a while we agreed that it would be better if we were not confined by the rules of the cab company. She asked me to come to work for her as a driver. She would and could give me a decent wage and I could have my pick of cars to choose from. I told her that it should be something stylish and grand. She gave me a number of pages downloaded from the internet and told me to choose.

They were all from the thirties and forties and all retrofitted to be legal and trustworthy. We picked a 1937 Cadillac Fleetwood Town Sedan with a stunning black paint job and chrome accessories. I never knew how much it went for, but Étiennette never blinked an eye at price. My days became much more relaxed and enjoyable. I bought a black suit with a chauffeurs cap. We travelled all over town and dined in fancy restaurants. It made the retired cop in me curious to wonder how much she made with her “gentlemen friends” and what she had to do for it. I never considered sex with her, given the anatomical realities, and she never mentioned it. I took to kissing her hand when I dropped her off at night. She would greet me at the door in the morning with an air kiss to my cheek. We were as happy as if either of us had good sense.

I began to meet with the Goth chick down the hall (her name, it turned out to be, was Midnight) more often. Our shenanigans became much less energetic, meaning that I was able to move afterward, and after a while she stopped taking the money I left on the bedside table for her. She told me that bumping uglies with me was good exercise. It finally began to feel as if retirement was not going to be all that bad.

And then Étiennette got sick.

Well, that was what Étiennette called it. She called and told me to take a few days off until her doctor released her from bedrest. I offered to come and take care of her but she refused. She explained that her miniature collie was all the company she could handle and that the day nurse would provide everything else. I had violets (her favorite) delivered to her house every day. She stayed in for almost a week and when I did get to pick her up she came out walking with a cane. It was a standard hospital issued cane. I immediately drove to a nearby antique shop and bought her something much more elegant. When she climbed into the car I noticed that she wore much more makeup than usual. The type of makeup I used to see battered women wear to hide the results of an argument with the abuser in their life. I ask her why she was moving so slow and she just said that she had not completely gotten her breath back. She just wanted to get a civilized meal and come back home. I knew what was going on but figured that if she wanted me to know she would tell me.

We had never discussed that fact that I was a retired cop. She thought I had been a civil servant in some city office somewhere like Building Inspection or the Water Department. I never really discussed being a cop with anyone but Midnight and only her because she figured it out on her own. I wasn’t ashamed of it in any way, but it had left me with memories and a decent case of insomnia. Putting it in the past was my goal. One I would never achieve.

It took about another week for the makeup to go back to normal and the cane to disappear. Another week after that for the shopping trips to resume. Another two weeks and I was dropping her off at the club. I imagined that she was resuming the commerce that was paying my salary. Commerce, as I called it, did not begin again but came to a screeching halt.

I was watching a game show I had recorded with Midnight when I received a call from Étiennette about 2:00 in the morning. She was crying and asked me to pick her up at the Emergency Room of a nearby hospital. I brought Midnight with me for moral support. A wise choice, I discovered, once I got there.

Étiennette came out of the patient section into the waiting room being helped by a nurse. Her makeup had been wash away. She had a large bandage across her nose. Her eyes were nearly swollen shut, she wore a neck brace, and her jaw was wired shut. A doctor trailed her and the nurse imploring her to let them give her a room. She shook her head, as much as possible while groaning and reaching for me when she was close enough to recognize me. She had a strap on cast on the hand she reached for me and her other was in a similarly wrapped and restrained by a sling. Her left foot was in a walking cast. Her every movement elicited a groan of pain. When I got close to her she threw her movable arm around me and began to cry again. I held her and eased her into a chair in the waiting room. We sat there for a long time and when we pulled away from each other I told her that she was staying…no argument.

Midnight had spoken with the doctor and came and gave me a report on all of Étiennette’s injuries. She walked away and came back with a wheelchair. She crouched down and, with a handful of tissues, wiped the tears away from Étiennette’s damaged eyes and shushed and loved on her. I sat there with her head on my shoulder and felt the first warmth of a seething grow. Someone did this to my Étiennette and they were going to pay.

Later that morning, after seeing to it that she had a private room and was well taken care of, I left on the pretense of getting some things for her to wear while she was in the hospital I went down to the nearest police station and got the paperwork started for a Private Investigators license and a concealed carry license. My record prior to my retirement elicited two responses. First, the precinct captain tried to talk me into joining their force, and second he expedited both requests for immediate acceptance. I had what some would consider large amount of decorations and medals over the years and was consequently considered a hero cop. My thoughts were simple; I shot some guys and they pinned medals on my chest for it. The medals never prevented the nightmares. Étiennette did that…almost from the day we met.

A stop at a gun shop, a full figure lingerie shop, and a florist for a bouquet of violets were all on the agenda before returning to the hospital. She was asleep, as was Midnight in the recliner next to her bed. I shook Midnight awake and told her I would take over. She shrugged and told me to find another chair. She was not going anywhere. I followed my “exercise” partner’s direction and we both waited while Étiennette slept off the medicine she had been given.

She woke up and began to cry again. I held her as best I could taking into account the rails of the hospital bed and the IV’s and tubes running in and out of her. She stayed distraught for the next couple of days and Midnight and I started to take shifts. The healing came slow but was steady. Physical therapy came in everyday and after a week she began moving around a little better. I refreshed the violets often and her spirits began to lift. I thought long and hard before I said anything, but it was time.

I began by telling her about why I had become a cop. My mother had been mugged and in the course of it she suffered a stroke and we had to take care of her for the rest of her life. She never recovered and died many years younger than she should have. I told her about finding the guy that did it and sending him to prison…with a permanent limp and no vision in his left eye.

I told her that I had been a real tough cop and had been awarded many medals. I told her about how I felt about the medals and I told her about the nightmares and insomnia. Then I told her that meeting and loving her had made the dreams and sleeplessness fade away. I told her that I was going to find the guy who did this to her and he was going to go to prison for what he did.
Her eyes teared up and she just sat there saying nothing. We sat for a long time before she told me that I would not have to go find the guy who did it to her. Well, actually, I would not have look too hard. It was her brother. It was her twin brother.

He lived right next door to her. Her parents had bought them matching houses just like they did with clothes when they were kids. They grew up different, though. They had not been identical; they were fraternal twins and did not look very much alike. At least not as close as twins should look. She had grown tall and stout. He had been at least a foot shorter than her and wasn’t as healthy. She grew up and liked men. He grew up and liked girls. The problem came when it came time for them to notice others from a romantic point of view, she became Étiennette, and he just became a nerd who could not get a date while holding a calendar. He was shy while Étiennette was outgoing. Even as a boy Étiennette was beautiful. He, on the other hand, was slight of nature with an acne scarred face that only a mother would love. Women and men alike all were drawn to Étiennette while anyone he even looked at all rejected him. She tried to set him up but nothing ever worked. She had a dozen dates for the Prom (boys and girls both) and he stayed at home watching the television with their parents.

He finally met someone who did not think he was repulsive and they began dating. She was a lovely girl and pretty as a picture. They fell deeply in love, or so he thought. They got married and Étiennette thought it was “Happily Ever After” time. After their parents passed away and they moved into the Brownstones her brother’s wife began coming over and talking to Étiennette about all kind of “Girly” things. Not really a problem at first. Until, that is, one unfortunate day that her sister-in-law tried to kiss her.

Étiennette had never even hinted at any attraction. She was decidedly preferential of men and all her family and friends knew that. She pushed her away and told her to never do that again. She was not mad, but she was family and that was unacceptable. The sister-in-law threw her hands in her face and ran out crying. When she got home she ran to her bedroom and locked herself in. When she came out she told her husband that Étiennette had tried to have sex with her. That was the first time she got “Sick.”

Her brother came over and beat her with a wooden spoon from the kitchen. This was before she had started calling him for cab rides. When they had progressed to the Cadillac her sister-in-law had taken another woman as a lover and was hiding it from her brother. When he discovered the lesbian girlfriend he blamed Étiennette and came over and beat her with a miniature baseball bat he had been given as a cruel joke one birthday. That was the next “sick.”

There had been no more trouble until the brother came home and found his wife hanging from one of the balconies in the Brownstone. She had broken up with yet another woman and could not take it anymore. The suicide note she left stated that it had always been Étiennette she had wanted and that the other girls were just substitutes. If she could not be with her true love she did not want to live. Her brother watched Étiennette her leave the house and followed her to the drag bar. He had hired a guy to pick her up and make like they were going to a hotel. He, in disguise, had even held the door to the cab that was supposed to take them. When she got in she found that the driver was actually her brother. He came at her with a lead pipe and pushed her out at the hospital.

I listened to her tell me about her brother. She had no animosity towards him he was the only family she had and she loved him. Even though he hurt her terribly she was quick to forgive. I was not of the same inclination. I know how I used to take care of these situations. Mostly it meant that the perpetrator received at least as good as they gave, male or female alike. Then, they all went to prison for a long time. I never cared what I had to do or say to ensure they went to prison. None of them resisted taking the time. I made sure they knew what was in store for them if I found them walking the street too soon.

I never really deserved the medals and commendations. I was a monster cop…until I met Étiennette.
She knew what I had in mind and she did everything in her power to stop it. She made me sit and listen to all her stories about her brother and how he got to be the way he was. She told of bullies and the cruel things they did. She talked about how the girls all shunned him and how the teachers in school would make him sit in the back of the class because he was ugly. He could not see well and had too much pride to tell their parents he needed glasses. He thought that eyeglasses would make it worse; perhaps creating another insult that might be hurled at him. Étiennette always loved him and would protect him as much as she could. It did not help. Imagine the shame he felt to have his gay, crossdressing, brother defending you. Étiennette had never accepted bullying for being gay and was of sufficient statue to physically stop any kind of discrimination. Most everyone thought it was a novelty to have a huge drag queen around who could kick your ass. Her brother just thought it was just one more thing people could hold against him.

He walked around ashamed of himself until he met his wife. When she hung herself he stopped being ashamed and began blaming Étiennette for everything wrong in his life.

I listened to her explain that it really was not his fault. I decided that it might just be that this time I would not include the beating before seeing that he go to prison. I told Étiennette that I would not hurt him but that he would have to go to jail. She wept for a while but I convinced her that he was not going to stop until he killed her for revenge. She shook her head and told me to be gentle. She asked Midnight to go with me to make sure I did not lose my temper.

I decided to do it “by the book” as they say. I went to the see the captain who had expedited my PI license and carry permit. I told him the story and what I wanted done. He got a search warrant and a crew of cops to go and arrest the brother. He let me and Midnight tag along. Nobody answered the door when we got their and he ordered the breach team to gain entry to the Brownstone. What came next was for sure not the result I ever intended.

Hanging from the same landing as his dead wife was the brother with a suicide note attached to the lapel of his suit coat.

The note was an apology. Apology for what he did to Étiennette. There was a lengthy apology for the death of his wife where he really held no liability, culpability, or responsibility. He wrote an even more extensive apology to his parents for not living up to what he should have as their son. He took credit for every bad thing that ever happened to him. He concluded by asking for forgiveness for not hanging himself sooner.

I sat there on the stairs reading the letter and found myself stunned. Until that moment I had never bothered to look at a perp as human. Never considered any of them might possibly be just a human being worthy of…well…compassion…or…mercy.

I left the scene and went to the hospital. I told Étiennette what happened and held her while she grieved for he brother. I stayed until she fell asleep. I sat in the hospital and wondered when I lost the monster cop gig. I no longer seemed to have the anger, apathy, aggressive thought, or animosity that had made me what everyone thought of as a great cop. I felt something foreign and I could not figure what it was. I could not figure when it happened either. I sat there and thought for a long time, finally falling asleep in the chair. When I woke up Étiennette was staring at me and smiling. She was beginning to lose the bruises and the adorable lines on either side of her smile had reappeared. Those dimples that made me want to look at her beautiful face forever. It was at that moment that I realized when the change had taken place. It happened the first time I kissed her hand and looked up at that wondrous smile.

I remember thinking that maybe I had it right in my head finally. How justice worked, that is. I pulled out my cell phone and called the captain and asked if he thought he could find a place for me.

But just in the evenings. My days would be full taking Étiennette shopping.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Méadú tagtha

The kid was just taking a walk in the woods when he found it. Hidden behind a group of trees was this great big rock that had what looked like a round door in it. It did not seem to be anything that one might expect to find in the middle of the forest or even anywhere for that matter. It was a bright tan and it did not look like any other rock in the area. Most of the terrain around it was forest and this seemed as if it belonged at the foot of a mountain or somewhere in the desert. It was surrounded by trees and bushes and could hardly be seen at all. Almost as if someone had intentionally hid it there.

Pushing his way through the growth around it was hard and he did not realize until he broke through to a small opening in the trees that he could see that nothing touched it at all. It appeared as if the trees had grown around it but stopped short of getting anywhere near it. It seemed as almost as if it had grown there without ever touching anything but the ground it sat on. There was a canopy above it where the branches of the surrounding trees gave the impression, at first glance, to be protecting it. Upon closer examination it was easy to see that the branches had simply grown around it. Like as if it was something not to be touched.

The door to the thing was of a different, darker, color and had a lip on it that you could grab. The kid did not try to open it or even touch it. He just walked around it to see what was on the other side. He walked a few feet and discovered that the door seemed to follow him. He stepped back and looked around to see if it was some kind of trick being played on him. He got on his knees to see if maybe it was on some kind of spindle or something that would make it rotate but found that it was sitting firmly in place. He tried to walk and not look at the rock and went six or seven feet and turned back only to see the door again. He turned around and discovered that he was standing right where he had pushed his way through the brush. He turned back to the rock and found the door, or whatever it was, right where it had been every time he had looked at the rock. Almost as if the only thing he was supposed to see.

He approached the rock, still not touching it, and turned his ear to listen to the rock. This made no sense to him but he could not stop himself. None of this made sense yet here he was looking at this strange rock in front of him with the even stranger door. He brought his ear as close as he could to it without touching it. He heard some sort of soft sound, almost like a murmur, coming from it. He moved a little closer nearly putting his ear up to the rock face of the door and heard a slight, barely perceptible, voice come through;

“Let me out.”

He jumped back and almost turned to flee. He stopped himself and stared at the rock. He approached the rock again with his head turned to listen;

“Open the door and let me out.”

This time the sound came out clear as day. It had a certain unblemished inclination to it. Sort of like a plea while at the same time feeling authoritarian. Like as if you had heard it coming from your father and mother. As if it was something you just had to do. Something that you just knew was…the right thing to do.

He turned his ear away from the rock and reached a hand to it. He hesitated for a second out of trepidation and foreboding. He froze for a second and seemed to hear the rock tell him that it would be okay. It appeared to be saying that all was just a touch away from being, well, sufficient.

He placed both hands on the door because he felt as if it would take a lot of effort to move it. This proved false. The door slid to the left with ease and opened with barely any pressure. There came a wash of hot air from it that made him step aside and fan the air in front of his face to escape the warmth and musty smell. There also came a smell that seemed somewhat familiar. He stood there trying to remember where he had smelled anything like that. Something like the kitchen when his mother cut chicken or meat for dinner and the trash can out in the yard, or perhaps when Grandpop made blood sausage for smoking on the grill.

He stood back and just took in the sight of the open door wondering what came next when a tall man stepped out into the sunlight. He wore what might have been a nightshirt, or some kind of sleep thing. He had long hair walked with a decided limp from both legs. It was hard to tell really what he looked like. His face was covered in contusions and huge purple discolorations. His eyes were both nearly swollen shut and what could be seen the whites of his eyes were actually deep red. He walked with a hunch and his hands and feet were wrapped in bandages. He smiled and his teeth were all broken and horrible. There was a blood stain on one side of the robe.

He limped over to a fallen log on the edge of the forest and sat down. He tried to say something but it came out garbled and nearly a whisper. He shook his head at the kid and tried again. The kid stared at him for a long moment trying to decide what to do. Something told him that this guy needed help but there was also a feeling that he should just run as fast away from this dude a he could. He decided to stay. He slowly walked over to the log and sat down a few feet away. The beat up man said something else which sounded almost like a growl. It took a few tries but the kid finally understood.

“Thank you.”

The kid quickly replied. “You’re welcome.”

The guy looked at him and smiled his demolished, broke tooth grin again. He shook his head and wrapped his arms around his stomach launching into a rasping, gut wrenching coughing fit. The kid waited for him to finish and asked if there was anything he could do to help. Again the ugly smile. The dude raised his arms a slight bit with his hands in the air and just shrugged.

“What happened to you?” the kid asked.

“Tell me what your name is my friend.” The beat up guy replied


“Ah, the friend of my friend…it is nice to meet you young rescuer.”

“Okay, but I don’t know what you are talking about with this friend of friend thing. You just came out of a freaking rock dude.” The kid looked confused.

“Not to worry. Your name reminds of things in my past. Forgive me.” As he spoke his voice lost the raspy tone and began to sound…well…almost soothing.

“What happened to you, man? Did you get in a wreck or something?”

“I angered some people who I probably should not have.” Another coughing binge came on him.
“They must have been really pissed at you.” The kid untied his bandanna from around his neck and handed it to the damaged man to wipe his mouth. He reached into his backpack and offered him a juice box. When the man accepted the kid went ahead and poked the straw in figuring that the dudes hands were not what you would call, dexterous.

“I think it would be safer to say that they were probably more afraid than angry. I have always had that effect on people. I am not wise where it comes to expressing my opinions. They were not entirely wrong for what they did to me. I am not angry or hold bitterness. I am still here and this,” he motioned to his body, “will heal.”

“You’re a better man than me, Dude. I would be majorly pissed if someone even as much as punched me for no good reason.”

“It would not have solved anything to attempt retribution, or revenge. I would be denying the very thing for which I received this thrashing.”

“What’s that?” the kid grew confused again.


“Dude! You got your ass stomped for love? That seems stupid!”

“Perhaps, but I did just tell you that I am not wise when I open my mouth. I do believe that Love is the answer…for all things. I have not been able to find a way to communicate this without others becoming angry.”

The kid, Timothy, sat for quite a long time thinking while the damaged man stumbled his way through negotiating the juice box. He turned to the man and could not think of anything to do but smile. He received a smile back, ugly and bloodstained as it was, and they both just stared at each other.

“What if you had help?” Timothy asked. “You know, telling folks about love.”

“It might be just the thing that would work. Do you have anyone in mind?”

“I got some time on my hands. After school and on weekends, but yea, I’d give it a try.”

“That would be love-ly.” They both smiled at the pun.

“Well, first let’s get you someplace and get you fixed up. Here, use my shoulder. My Dad is a doctor and he’ll help. What’s your name Dude?”


“I’m pleased to meet you Manny. We need to be careful going through this brush, don’t want to hurt you any more than those other folks did.”

“Is it a long trip?”

Timothy looked at the man with all his injuries and considered why he had them in the first place and simply replied, “It might be, but we’ll get there.”

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Pink Haired Whore

The first time I saw her she was crossing the street right by the only motel left in town that serviced those of her kind. She was standing in the middle of the road waiting for traffic to clear so that she could get the rest of the way across. We looked at each other. Me, well I was curious. She wore converse sneakers, a pair of blue jeans, and a nondescript top and hoodie. She had her hair dyed mostly pink with some blond highlights. Not categorically any discernable style except what might be explained as the vagaries of the young and rebellious. We caught each other’s eyes for a second. Mine surely was just a simple curious glance while hers was a mixture of ambivalence, apathy, and arrogance. She had, at a deeper level, an air of contempt. I thought little of it and went about my way.

The next time we chanced upon each other I was sitting alone in a parking space at one of those high-end-five-dollar-a-cup coffee shops. I had gone through the drive thru, as is my habit for ease and expediency. I usually ask for them to put a couple of sweeteners in the cup before they pour but this time they gave it to me on the side. I had pulled in the parking space in order to rectify their mistake. Dealing with this overpriced and wrongly served cup of much too expensive coffee, I was oblivious to what the rest of the world was engaged in. I hear slight tap on my passenger window and looked up to find the girl with the pink hair and the derision in her demeanor.

I rolled the window down and she met me with a smile and a sly sideways look. She asked if it might be that I was in need of some company. I stared at her for a moment before realizing that, even though it was the middle of the afternoon she was, vocationally speaking, a lady of the night in search of a customer. It had been a number of years since I had been approached, or even tangibly interested, in the wares she was offering. Additionally, having attained the age where life has eradicated all the needed physical requirements for the implementation of such a quick transaction on my part, it seemed an unlikely idea and imaginably improbable state to achieve in the first place. I will say that it did occur to me to accept the invitation. I am of an advanced age, but not yet deceased or demented. I was also not pharmaceutically prepared. The thought was present but the flesh was out to lunch and medicinally deficient.

She shrugged her shoulders and asked for a ride back to her usual place of commerce, the motel where I had first viewed her crossing the street. On the way we talked about things. Not anything personal, just things about, well, nothing of consequence in the whole scheme of things; who my favorite baseball team was, and why, why pink for the hair instead of some other color, would the Cowboys win the Super Bowl this year. All just nonsense, or no sense, or just filler while ignoring the bigger questions about what was going on in this nouveau relationship that neither of us realized was about to occur.

We got back to the motel and she got out of the truck. Before she closed the door, she once more made offer of her services and I, once more, declined. I went about the rest of my day and found my mind drifting back to the young lady engaged in the world’s oldest profession. I thought of what her age might be. I then went through the laundry list of life circumstances that could explain her entry into that less-than-safe occupation. The ideas came and went and the thought of searching her out and seeing to perhaps offering some assistance that might negate the need for her to involve in such a risky enterprise. I brought my thoughts home and lost the idea in the day-to-day duties of life. Making time for the dog who always met me with a wagging tongue and an excitement that told me I was the one it loved beyond measure. Making my way to the home office to do some work that needed completion to meet a deadline. Talking to my girlfriend who wanted to know who the hell was in my truck when she passed me on the way to the coffee shack, and why was I stopped at that “Dopetell 6.” After dismissing all of it I walked into the living room and picked up the book I had been reading. The world within the pages held much more of me than the banal intricacies of the life outside my Sanctum Sanctorum.

I found myself a few days later at a convenience store getting gas for the days sojourn when I once more met my young courtesan. She was kicking the trash bin outside the entrance to the store. As I walked to pay for my purchase I greeted and asked her what seemed to be the problem. She glared at me and, after a moment, recognized me from the other day. She announced that they would not sell her any cigarettes because she did not have any proof that she was old enough. I asked her if she was and she glared at me some more and informed me that she was “twenty three damn years old.”

I asked her why she did not have ID and she told me that she had lost it running away from an irate customer. She asked if I would buy her a pack of smokes and I declined the opportunity. For some reason she did not get angry at that and asked me if I was some sort of social worker or cop. I told her I was a writer and that I had, in fact, once been a social worker among other things. I also told her that my former profession had nothing to do with it. I just would not buy her any cigarettes because they were nasty and I do not like them. She accepted that and turned to walk away. I went about by business in the store and upon returning to my truck found her leaning against the hood. She asked me that if I had been a social worker, did I know how she could get a replacement ID. I told her that I did and what she needed to do to do so. Most of it was something she could accomplish but she had a problem with the legal address thing. She had been living in the motel and that it did not seem to be a good address to give anyone of a legal type.

I agreed with her and gave her one of my cards. I told her to figure it out and call me and that I would give her whatever ride she needed to take care of it. I asked if she needed a ride anywhere and she accepted another ride to the motel. Another offer of services came at the motel followed by another dismissal from me. I went about my business which included another trip to the coffee shack. I had brought my laptop and intended to sip an altogether too expensive cup while using the environment as muse for something to write. This was interrupted by my girlfriend who had, once more, seen me discharging the pink haired lady at the motel. This turned into a detailed conversation about our relationship. Well, not so much a conversation as a series of accusations from my paramour accompanied by not many answers from me. I had done nothing wrong and would not submit to unfounded allegations. This elicited an announcement that we would not be going on our mid-week “date” while she considered her options. I told her that was fine and that she should let me get back to work. Something told me that the conversation was not finished, but something also told me that I would not be engaging in further discussion on the subject. Her natter was unfounded and I knew that I would not be participating in it. Perhaps time to find a new sweetheart.

Leaving the coffee shack I went home to escape into the world of daring do that was the historical fiction novel on my reading stand. I received a phone call later that evening that was an inquiry into the garage apartment that I had behind my house. I usually had a renter and the last one had moved on without paying the rent. I had not rented it or tried to rent it again. The caller told me that she was reading an old ad in the paper and was wondering if it was available. I told her to call me the next day while I considered it. When the call the next day came I thought the voice sounded familiar. I gave the caller the address and set an appointment to show the pace. At the appointed scheduled time I answered the door and found the young lady with the light roseate toned hair.

She stood there with her mouth open for several moments in surprise. I believe that I must have had a similar look on my mug. She asked me if I was the one with the apartment and I asked her if she was the prospective renter. We stumbled around finding a conversation for a bit and finally came to rest in my living room. I offered her a drink which she declined and asked if she could see the apartment. I took her outside and up the stairs to the rental piece. She checked everything out and asked a few questions. Finally, she inquired as to the rent and when she might move in.
This presented me with a dilemma. I was used to a level of quiet and did not wish it to be disturbed. I had initially bought the house because it was on a cul-de-sac with only two other houses. Both belonged to retirees and they kept to themselves except for an occasional conversation when we found ourselves outside at the same time. It was tree lined which insulated us from the noise of other streets in our neighborhood. I never saw anyone pull onto my street except the mail man. The idea of this young lady possibly plying her trade out of the apartment made me envision an unwanted amount of traffic and noise.

I shared my feeling with her and she fervidly apprised me that she would only work out of the motel. She needed a good address as well as a soft place to go and rest. My girlfriend came to mind and the possibility of my neighbors having something to say about the situation also occurred to me. To this day I do not know why I agreed to the arrangement, but I did.

She showed up the next day in a taxi with her belongings slung over her shoulder in a pair of backpacks. She had a large box of fried chicken and a six pack of Gatorade and the deposit money I had asked for. The apartment was furnished and I told her that she could use the washer and dryer in the garage that I had installed and hooked up for any renter. She thanked me and disappeared up the stairs. I did not see her until the next afternoon when she came back with a used boom box and a thirteen inch television she said she found at a pawn shop. She told me that she would not play music too loud, and asked if she could splice into my cable. I told her that it was already hooked up and that it was just basic service. If she wanted any movie channels she would have to pay for those on her own. She said she might get a football package in the fall but that the sports channel that came with cable would work in the meantime. She thanked me and I did not see her again for a few days.

She proved to be as quiet as a church mouse and when the first of the month came around she knocked on the back door and paid rent. She asked if she could use my barbecue grill sometimes and surprised me about a week later with a plate of ribs that rivaled any I had ever tasted. I reciprocated by bringing her a plate of smothered pork chops and mashed potatoes. This turned into a once a week thing. She would bring me a plate of something and I would reciprocate. Just like neighbors.

The girlfriend was the only casualty of the entire situation. She could not find it in her to believe that nothing was going on “after hours” as they say. I wished her well and rebuffed even slightest attempt to explain, deny, or justify a single thing as it applied to the young lady. Nothing was going on that shouldn’t and if she did not believe that than it was her problem. My young friend heard the final argument and brought me a plate of brownies to “sweeten things” for me after the break up. Again, just like a friendly neighbor.

A few weeks later she knocked on the back door and reminded me of the conversation about her picture ID. She thought it might be better if she got a driver’s license and wondered what it would take to do so. I told her that she needed to prove that she was old enough and that would require a birth certificate and/or Social Security card. She had a Social Security card, sharing that her mother had seen to it when she was young. It was the only thing that she had that was from her mother. I remarked that we had the same last name. We both kind of grunted at that and wrote it off as a coincidence.

I gave her a ride to the county office that replaces Birth Certificates and had to call in some favors from my Social Service days and was able to obtain the requested document. With that it was just a stop at the Driver’s License office for an application and a test for a learner’s permit which she passed after leafing through the booklet. She made an appointment to take a driver’s test and about a week later came home with a freshly printed license. She had borrowed a “client’s” car to take it with and proudly displayed her first official photo ID. We celebrated by grilling hamburgers and some beers (now that I knew she was of legal age).

She came home one afternoon, catching me riding around the yard on the riding lawnmower I had purchased so as to avoid any excess manual labor, by pulling up in a small car. She parked on the street and waited for me to finish mowing the yard before asking me about the parking arrangements available. We looked at the driveway and the garage and decided that she could take the side of the garage I was not using. I always parked outside and kept the garage for my lawnmower and the old Triumph motorcycle I had for the extremely occasional times when I felt it necessary to relive my ill-spent youth. This normally entailed a short ride that served to do nothing but remind me that I was never really a biker and that such an indulgence was simply the yearnings of an old man desiring to relive a youth I had never been entirely comfortable with. She walked around the bike and remarked that at least it wasn’t a Harley that I was neglecting. The impish grin she shot me reminded me of something. Nothing I could put my finger on, really. Perhaps it was just a lonesome old memory that would not fully surface.

We went about life after that and grew a friendship that was a little more than neighbors but not all the way towards intimacy. I never asked her about her work, and she never asked me why I had not replaced the girlfriend. On the whole, it was as near a perfect relationship as I had ever experienced. We had a decent level of familiarity that seemed to be satisfactory while not placing any burdensome requirements that a more intimate relationship might require. Closeness was not sought, and casualness seemed the order of the day. I liked it and felt that she also enjoyed the time we spent together.

The girlfriend who had left me called one evening and admitted that she missed me more than she wanted to and that it might be a good thing for us to reimagine our romance. I warned against any remarks about my tenant and agreed to go to dinner with her. We kept that going and my renter kept a wide berth when the girlfriend’s car was in the driveway. I made sure that there was room for her to get into the garage and all seemed fine. The only casualty came when the girlfriend began spending more time at my house. Our weekly little dinners sort of went by the wayside. I missed that and thought of doing something about it but could not figure out a way to do it without creating some form of chaos. I went for about a month without seeing my young friend and realized I missed our time together.

I got a knock on the back door one afternoon and found my renter standing there with an arm full of papers, booklets, a black eye, and a fat lip. I brought her in and wondered what was going on. She told me that she had finally come upon that one “client” that all girls who plied her trade hoped to avoid. He had put her in the hospital for three days and the police had arrested him for assault. They told her that they would prosecute but that she had to give up selling herself. She was moving slow and grimaced a lot. She admitted that she had a few broken ribs and that he had knocked out one of her molars. She looked at me and dissolved into tears. She sobbed and held her arms around herself trying to keep the pain in her ribs at bay. She looked at me and asked for help.

And there it was. All pretenses as to my ability to stay aloof where it came to this girl evaporated. Suddenly there came this tremendous need in me to do something positive for this girl. An obsession began growing and it scared me because with that came compulsion. Impulse would replace reason and logic would be left by the wayside. It scared me because I had spent the last twenty something years compelling myself to be remote in my emotions and reserved in my actions where it came to those of the female gender. Ever since Angelika left.

Angelika! I had not even thought her name in many years. She had been my first love, or perhaps my only love. We met at a concert when we were both twenty. We took a bunch of acid and when we came too looked at each other and never even tried to look at another. We fit in every place of our minds, hearts, bodies, and very souls. We stayed together for over twenty years. We loved everything about each other. We never spent a single night separate and we never even thought of anything but each other. Kids never happened and that was fine because we had each other and that was sufficient. Until the night I came home and found the letter.

She had been to the doctor and was told that she had a brain tumor and would die. She wrote that it would be bad and that she could not stand to see the look in my eyes as our love faded. She went away and I never saw her again. I got drunk for about a year and when I sobered up never even tried to feel again. I had done a lot of things and had all kinds of emotions in me which needed to get out. I became a writer and that was where I put all my feelings, dreams, nightmares, and everything else that had always been given to Angelika. It worked and I was able to make a good living at it and keep my sanity at the same time. I had girlfriends but I realized that, looking at my young friend struggle to move, that was simply for physical reasons. The physical thing had never been much either. Just something that filled some time and gave nothing but release from time to time. It never meant anything but a good feeling every now and then. That was probably why the Girl with the Pink Hair had always been safe from me. There were no desires in me for anything but the next book or story and the occasional dalliance.

Until, that is, now.

She pushed the papers at me and told me she wanted to go back to school. She did not know how to do anything but what she had been doing. I told her that she would have to get a GED first and that it might be a good thing in the long run. Many people made a good living and never had to take their clothes off. She stared at me and stated that I wasn’t funny. 

I bought her a GED prep book and told her where to go to take classes. She handed me three month’s rent from her savings and told me that she would get a “real” job that did not entail taking off her clothes. This did not turn out to be accurate. After she healed up from the beating and the bruises and black-n-blue spots disappeared, she went to work as a stripper. It was not the ideal situation, but she did promise me that she never tricked with the guys in the club. She only worked three nights a week so that she had plenty of time for her studies.

Things went back to normal after that. We reinstituted the weekly dinner gig and the only real help she asked for was in deciding what to study at college. She came to the back door about three weeks after going back to work to show me something she had received in the mail. It was her GED. It had her proper name on it and when I read it the official look of it made me realize something. We had always called each other “dude,” and “chick.” Looking at the diploma I realized that her name was Seraphima Reilly. This translated into something that felt like a knife in the heart. Seraphima was a weird way of saying “angel” and Angelika was a weird way of saying the same thing. I smiled at her and congratulated her profusely. She reached up and gave me a hug. Just as we were about to clasp each other she stopped and told me to switch sides. That way we would touch hearts when we hugged.

That was exactly the way that Angelika insisted we hug.

I held the embrace for what was a longer time than I thought was appropriate and stepped back both confused and concerned. She looked at me and asked what was wrong. I stammered out that I was suddenly feeling dizzy. She offered to help me into the house and I told her that it would be fine. Old men did that some time. She told me that she was going to cook some ribs and that I should go relax or take a nap and that dinner would be ready in a few hours. I smiled and congratulated her once more before retreating into my house.

The girlfriend called and I told her to stay home that night because I did not feel good. I went to my computer and began searching online records of births and deaths. It took me a while and I had to call a friend for assistance before I got to see the original birth certificate. I had only seen the Social Security card and never made any connection. I remember thinking that “Seraphima” was an odd first name. Now I knew what its origin was.

I stared at the birth certificate on my screen for a long time. I was focused on the parent’s name. Angelika was there as mother and in the space for father was my full name. I remembered that Angelika would call me by my full name all the time. It was a joke going back to the idea that when you were a kid you knew you were in trouble if your parents used you complete name. She would call me that whenever she thought I was not listening to her. It was the fondest of memories and seeing it there made my heart beat and ache. Then my arm went stiff. I stared at the computer screen until it got blurry, hazy, indistinct, and finally just went away when everything went black.

There was this bright light shining in my eyes and I remember thinking that all the bull about when you go is right. That whole bright light at the end of the tunnel thing was turning out to be true. Except that, as it turned out, it wasn’t a tunnel but just a fluorescent light above a hospital bed. I looked around and discovered Seraphima sitting with a blanket over her and her legs curled beneath her in one of those hospital recliners n every patient’s room. I was hooked up to IV’s and all kinds of other things that were monitoring everything about me. I lay there quiet for a while before calling her name.

She sat up and reached over to press the call button for the nurse. After that it all became a blur with doctors and nurses coming and going and telling me about the heart attack and that they did not think  there was a stroke and that I was going to be okay, and on and on and on. I did not listen to most of it while I looked at Seraphima and she looked at me.

When they all left she stood and handed me her copy of the birth certificate. She told me that it was on the computer screen when she found me. She did not seem mad, but she was not smiling. I told her that I had never known. I told her about Angelika’s letter and what my life was like after that. I never knew. I began sniffling, and then a tear formed in my eye, and I finally broke down and openly wept. The first time since the night I read Angelika’s letter.

She pulled up a chair, grasped my hand, and wept with me. She told me that her mother had gotten sick when she was about six and died. She had never really been well. She always had headaches and would have to lay down a lot. She had a friend at the place she worked at who would come and help out when things got real bad. She would let the old woman who lived in the apartment building take care of her daughter when she was at work. When she died, the state took her and put her in foster care. She never knew why they never looked for a father and just imagined that she had no father.

It was just like you imagine…bad places and good places. Some kids were cool and some were not. When she was old enough, the boys started messing with her and she learned how to use them to get things. She finally ran away when she was fifteen and never looked back. A couple of backpacks of clothes and her looks got her through just about anything. Until her and I met.

I told her I was sorry and she looked at me and told me I had done nothing wrong. Then we sat and wept together…for a long, long time.

Coming home from the hospital held many uncertain circumstances. The last time either of us had been here, we were just a “chick” and a “dude.” Now we were father and daughter with no clue on how to be either a parent or the child of a dad, daddy, pop, or any other name we might imagine I should be called. She had an equal difficulty with what I might call her. Baby, Precious, or Princess seemed altogether too cliché. Platitudes definitely would not work as the possibilities made both of us want to throw up a little in our mouths. I expressed that to her and we both were instantly reduced into tear producing laughter. Recovering from that laugh-fest brought all the uncertainty to an end. We were still exactly who we were before she showed me the GED. We were both the same people who liked ribs that she made and laughed at the same silly jokes. We were both the same two people who had a slightly cynical look on life. We were both the same two people who enjoyed each other’s company…in small, occasional doses.

What we were not was a pair of people prepared to make the monumental changes the revelation of relation had inflicted on us. We had no desire for change yet change was inevitable as it applied to each other. We could not go back in time and un-become parent and offspring. We also could not deny or refuse to accept the situation. What we could do is, well, grow the hell up and deal with it.

The first thing we positively could do is finish celebrating her GED. I sent her out to get the fixings and cook the rib dinner that we had talked about. While it cooked, we poured over the catalogue from the local junior college for something she might like to study. We talked about college and I was able to give her some real information. We talked about the fact that she would probably end up going to class with guys from the strip club. She frowned and told me to mind my own business. I harrumphed and reminded her she was the child and I was the parent and we both laughed until our ribs hurt.

The girlfriend came by and informed us that she was not signing on to the “family” thing and wished us well. We looked at each other and realized that I had missed the chance at harrumphing at her while declaring myself a father with responsibilities. Once more we laughed until our sides were about to split. We both turned our phones off and enjoyed the celebration. Especially…the rib dinner that the cardiologist would have scoffed at.

We talked into the night, “Of sealing wax and sailing ships…” as the saying goes. We did not know what would happen, but promised to try as best we could. I took the first initiative. I asked if she would allow me to pay for college. She replied by asking if I would walk her down the aisle if she were ever dumb enough to get married. We both smiled and agreed.

Come time to go to bed she walked to the back door to go to her apartment. She reached for a hug and I made her switch sides…so that our hearts would touch.