The View From Here

The line zig-zagged up and down Harold’s long driveway. People came from as far away as South America to see what the news media dubbed “a window to the stars;” a phenomenally clear view of the Milky Way from Harold’s back deck.

Harold was used to seeing the famous galaxy star cluster from his home, but on this occasion, because he was so impressed with the camera on his new phone, he took a video to show off its impressive function. His post went viral within hours. By the next evening, Harold, his wife and kids got calls, texts and emails from just about everyone they knew asking if they could pop by to get a look at the Milky Way. By midnight, Harold’s street was jammed with people from all around the county cruising by in their cars to see if they could catch a glimpse of the view.

The following night, Harold stood at the end of his driveway and invited people to park their cars and walk around his house to his back deck. He simply wanted to keep his street clear so as to keep from angering his neighbors with all the traffic. Still unaccustomed to the power of social media, Harold did not anticipate that people would tweet and post and text that Harold’s back deck was open for viewing the Milky Way. Then came the news media, and before Harold and his family really knew what was happening, they were playing host to hundreds of curious onlookers.

That was 10 days ago. Harold had figured a few things out in the meantime, and believe it or not, things seemed to be going pretty smoothly. A couple of local boy scout troops volunteered their time with traffic and crowd control, the local cops made routine drive-bys, a few neighbors popped by from time to time to lend a helping hand or to act as security guards, just in case someone in the crowd got the wrong idea. Mostly, though, people were kind and grateful.

Harold wandered away from the long lines of people to a cluster of trees in his front yard. The solitude felt as refreshing as a cold beer on a hot day. He leaned back against the largest evergreen and lit a cigarette, drawing in a deep and letting it out very slowly. It was the first time since it all began that he actually stopped to take in the strange sight of all these people cycling through his property.

As Harold stood silently in the shadows, he reflected on not only the events of the past week, but what had come from it. For the first time ever, his family was happily working together on a common goal. Neighbors he never spoke to gladly joined in to help out. Visitors thanked Harold and his family for the generosity of opening their home so others could see for themselves the spectacular view. When they did this, Harold would shrug and smile and say it was no bother. He was just happy to share the experience.

And Harold genuinely meant what he said. Opening his home to strangers was the right thing to do. All who wanted to could see the Milky Way, up close and personal, as if they were looking through a telescope. Just because the view happened to be from his private property did not mean he owned the rights to it.

But, at the end of each night, as the rising sun turned the black skies to a dull grey and the people left, Harold would take the box he constructed to solicit cash donations (because, who wouldn’t ask for a couple dollars to offset the wear and tear on his property) and empty it onto the dining room table. Half way through his count, his wife would call out the total contributions made to the online account she had set up.

So, as altruistic as Harold’s invitation seemed for all the world to come on over and take a look at the Milky Way from his back deck, as it turns out, sharing this wonderful experience was also a lucrative endeavor. As Harold snuffed out his cigarette butt, he said a little prayer that the skies would remain clear for just a few more days.


The UnOLWG prompts this week: He leaned back and lit a cigarette; Window to the stars; Ulterior altruism

To ‘re’ or not to ‘re’

“What do you have against theatres?”

“Not ‘theatres’, I don’t have anything against theatre or theaters. Just the spelling. ‘re’ versus ‘er’. Makes me nuts.”

“Why? Both are correct, right?”

“Technically, yes. Lots of words have a couple of acceptable spellings. That’s not my point.”

“And that is…”

(sigh) “I know the common use is with an ‘re,’ but I think that should only be used when speaking of the art. ‘Er’ should only refer to the building.”

“Kind-of a pointy-toed logic you got there, but I get it.”

“I know, sorry. I’m a total nerd like that. Anyway, you were saying you want to see that new Mexican film?”

“Yeah! Veinticinco Ovejas por El Pastor Jesus. It’s playing at the Guild 45th Movie Theater. They even spell it with an ‘er’ “


Prompts this week are: veinticinco; pointy toes; what do you have against theatres?

It’s all fun and games until you piss off Me-mah

As Boyd lay on his side, trying to keep his head from spinning, and from up-chucking another time, he realized Daniel had no idea he had fallen down the ravine. If Daniel had seen him fall, he’d be calling out for him. There wasn’t a sound except the icy wind passing through the giant evergreens and the occasional thump of accumulated wet snow falling off the limbs as the trees swayed. Asshole must have kept skiing, Boyd thought. Fuck!

How long had it been since he fell? Boyd thought it must have been a while. His fingers and nose burned with the freezing cold. Shouldn’t he be hearing Ski Patrol by now? It didn’t take that long to get down the back country, and grab the shuttle that takes skiers back to the lifts. Daniel would have waited a few minutes for him, but if he waited until the shuttle came back from the lifts, he would have known Boyd was in trouble, right? Fuck! Boyd brought his arm up to read his watch. As he did, the pain in his legs and back shot through him like an electric volt. He shouted as he fought off another wave of nausea.

Boyd called out for help, but his screams were completely absorbed by the snow. Exhausted, he had to fight losing consciousness. He needed to listen for someone, anyone, to come along the rim above. He knew anyone who came by needed to hear him, but with his face half buried in snow, it was impossible to be heard. With all the concentration he could summon, he beared down and, screaming through the acute pain, rolled over on his back. He then screamed as loud as he could: FUCK THIS! FUUUUUUCK!! MOTHER FUUUCK! HELP ME!…HEEEELP!….THE FUUUUCK…AAAAHHHH!

The tears started in earnest. Water poured from his eyes, snot streamed out his nose, and the metallic taste of blood in his mouth turned to a thick sludge. Boyd panicked and spat, repeatedly, afraid he’d choke on all his mucus and blood. His tears turned to heaving sobs, and regardless the pain the heaving caused, he could not stop crying.

“Boyd! BOYD! Now, that is EE – NOUGH!!”

Shocked, Boyd opened his eyes. Standing above him was his grandmother, just as if she hadn’t been dead these past four years.

“Nobody likes a bawl-baby! Quit that goddamned HOLLERING! “

Boyd ignored his confusion. “But, I…fell, Me-mah.” He meekly pointed to the ridge high above him. “I…fell…it fucking hurts!”

“Think you’re the first boy in the whole wide world take a tumble?! Huh? Out here, you and Daniel goofing around, not paying no attention! Serves you right, dammit! Now, get the hell up and let’s get you seen to. Up, I said! UP! NOW!”

Boyd started to push himself up on his arms when, instead of his grandmother, he saw his mother, father and Daniel, in his face, all shouting at once. “Whoa, whoa bud! You just take it easy! Lie back! Don’t move!”

Boyd blinked a couple of times. It was bright and very white, but unmistakably, he was in a hospital room.

“It’s sure good as all hell to see you awake, son,” Boyd’s father said.

Boyd’s mother started to cry and his father, clearly just as distressed, hugged her tight. Daniel, a big grin spread from ear to ear, smirked, “Shit, man. Holy fuck,” and gave Boyd a gentle chuck on his good shoulder, just as the duty nurse walked in.

“He’s awake!” Boyd’s parents exclaimed, as if Boyd was an infant who had just taken his very first steps.

“Where’s…uh…” Boyd started to ask.

“What, honey?” Boyd’s mother replied.

“Me-mah. I saw Me-mah. She was pissed.”

Boyd’s father laughed out loud, “I bet she was! Ha!”


This week’s UnOLWG prompts are: Plucked it out; Daniel has no idea; I can’t do this.

The Kennel

As Mark pulled up to the large ranch house, a woman stepped out onto the porch. He stopped his truck and cut the engine. The concoughany of dogs barking was something else. It sounded like hundreds of them. Mark now understood why the kennel was so far out in the country. It was the only property around for at least five miles.

The woman walked up to the driver’s side and gave a little wave.

“Hi,” he said, offering a hand as he stepped out of the cab, “Mark Jefferies. I called you about the puppies.”

The woman shook his hand. “Erin Eschelbach. That momma?”

Mark turned around to look at his dog, who looked pitifully forlorn. “Yes. That’s her, Agatha Christie, and…” he walked to the back of the truck and opened the hatch, “this is her litter. Minus three. Found homes for three of them.”

Agatha Christie jumped from the cab into the back of the truck and proceeded to tend to her pups.

Erin shook her head, a wry, crooked smile on her face. “Well, at least they’re weaned. You spay her yet?”

Mark nodded. “Soon.”

Erin started again to shake her head, but caught herself and quickly asked, “Why Agatha Christie?”

“The name, you mean?” Mark asked. “When we got her, she would spend hours snooping and sniffing around and she has this uncanny ability to find things. Like, stuff we thought we lost. Spiders under the couch, trash in the bushes. Dead animals. Loves to bring us dead animals.”

“Cute.”

Mark thought Erin meant her remark as a genuine compliment, but her disappointment about the puppies was as plain as day in her expression. How many litters had this woman taken into her refuge over the years? From the look on her face, it was clear she considered him part of a never-ending battle.

“The vet said we weren’t supposed to fix her until after her first heat,” Mark offered as an apology. “Said that’s healthier. You know, decreases the risk of cancer and whatever.”

“No offence, Mr. Jefferies, but I got a kennel full of what the vet says. Problem is, for the casual pet owner, the vet don’t ever clearly say what a bitch in heat is to a male that ain’t been neutered. Mighty strong impulses on both their parts that make them do things they don’t normally do, like climb fences and the like.”

“Yeah, well, if it’s any consolation, we feel really bad about this.”

Erin placed her hand on Mark’s arm. He suddenly wished she would give him a hug.

“No worries. We’ll get them settled. They look great. You obviously took good care of them. You’d be horrified what I normally get dropped at my door. Now, from the looks of momma, best you carry the puppies up to the kennel. She trusts you. Keep her in the truck, though. But before we go, let’s let her get one last look at them.”


Prompts this week are: She smiled crookedly; at least a hundred; dogs are barking.

What Once Was: Jerome, Charlese, Ellie & Philip

JEROME
By the time Jerome reached 40 years of age, he had achieved all he wanted in life: A great marriage, children, the best group of friends a guy could ever have, vacations to just about anywhere he could imagine, tickets to every game in town, membership on a couple of high-profile charity Board of Directors, and a very, very lucrative and satisfying career. He was absolutely a success, by anybody’s standard.

The only thing was, Jerome was not the incredibly attractive, athletic man he once was. Women no longer perpetually smiled when speaking to him, nor did gay men linger a minute too long in his company. No one ever remarked, as they did so often in his youth, that he “must” be a fashion model. These days, Jerome was a regular customer of the Big and Tall shops. What little hair was left on his head, he had, at long last, decided to shave off, finally embracing his baldness. And, the “old football injury” gave him a pronounced limp. Orthopedics were all his crippled feet could tolerate. Though his wife protested he had not lost his appeal, Jerome missed making people feel, well, sexy.

So, when a new young clerk at the grocery store asked to see his I.D. before scanning the bottle of wine in his cart, Jerome had to chuckle. He knew it was the gesture of an incorrigible flirt, but secretly, he felt it like an unselfish act of random kindness. It absolutely made his day.


CHARLESE
As a child, Charlese and her sister were terrified of their grandfather. He was a deeply bitter and angry man, hardened by every misfortune life could dish out. The girls dreaded weekly Sunday dinners at his home. The rule was to never raise your voice, and to stay out of the way. So, the sisters played outside when the weather was good, and huddled silently in a corner of the living room when the weather was wet and dreary with a couple of books.

On one such wet and dreary Sunday, Charlese and her sister were startled to find their grandfather asleep on the living room couch. Neither had ever seen the man in such a state of repose.

Despite their fear he would wake and yell at them, intense curiosity tempted the sisters to tip-toe over to him, just so they could get a close look. With his eyes closed and every line on his face fallen away; his brow unknit and his scowl slackened, he looked completely different. Almost unrecognizable.

Fifteen years later, at his funeral, as Charlese looked at him in his casket, she thought of that Sunday. He looked very much as he did that day. And though Charlese knew he could not suddenly wake and yell at her, the fear he would was as visceral as when she was a little girl.


ELLIE & PHILIP
Boxes and crates, on top of more boxes and crates, on top of even more boxes and crates filled the large storage unit, all of them stacked nearly to the ceiling, with each filled with expensive and priceless items of a life defined by grandeur and wealth: Statuesque hand carved ivory figurines, Swiss mantel clocks made of mahogany and intricate brass, gold and silver details. Cloisonné vases from China and France. Giant hand loomed Turkish tapestries. Gold plated snuff boxes. Hand embroidered lace and table linens, multiple sets of ornate fine china for a seating of 20 or more, cut crystal bowls and stemware, sterling flatware and serveware, sterling silver and gold-plated candle sticks of all shapes and sizes, and five 3-foot
tall Waterford crystal centerpiece candelabras. To Ellie and her husband Philip, opening a box or crate was like unearthing vast riches of a Pharaoh’s tomb.

Ellie held up a sheet of newsprint used to wrap many of the items: It read, New York, April 15, 1930.

“This stuff has been in storage all this time?”

“I guess,” Philip replied. “My great-great grandparents were the ones who made the family fortune. Probably the ones who accumulated all this stuff.” Philip sliced open a cardboard box and rummaged around.

“According to Dad,” he continued, “his grandfather did everything he could to maintain the family’s wealth, but, he said that’s the same time the federal
income and inheritance tax was, like, made a law. A lot of wealthy families had to sell off and close up shop. Even if some were able to hold on, it didn’t matter, because they ended up getting hit by the Depression. Anyway, that’s what Dad said happened.”

“And, all this stuff, just, what…sat around?” Ellie asked. “You’d think they’d have sold it off if they needed the cash, or whatever.”

“Yeah, well,” Philip held up a large sterling service tray to inspect it. “I guess, but not my family, apparently. Found all this shit in chests and crates in the basement of some cousin’s home after they died, just after World War Two. Dad said Grandpa Bill claimed it, and a judge agreed it was his. For whatever reason, it’s been moved around, ever since.”

“And, you are sure nobody in your family wants any of it?”

“Too bad, right?” Philip said, as held up an even larger sterling silver platter. “I mean, with a little work and polish, all this could be restored, good as new.”

Ellie examined the facets of a cut crystal champagne coupe. “I guess, but, seriously, these days? People only keep stuff like this for sentimental reasons. Maybe that’s why nobody sold it in the first place. Seriously, I can’t remember the last time I saw an old fashioned champagne glass like this.”

“Oh, we’re not gonna keep any of it. We should sell it. Somebody will want this stuff. A collector. Museum. Maybe a Hollywood production shop, something.”

Ellie nodded. “But, it’s weird, ya know?” she said. “Standing here, all this amazing stuff, talking about how to get rid of it? I mean, having expensive things like this was such a statement of, I don’t know, whatever. Wealth! and class! Seriously, I can hear your great-great grandparents turning in their grave.”


Fun with vignettes this week! Prompts are: need to see an ID; Some of them, with work and polish, can regain their former shine; when your eyes are closed (https://aooga.wordpress.com/2019/01/13/olwg-85-nigh-on-noon/)

Jack and Jill, Katrina and Leonard: One of the oldest stories in the book

Shush, now! You will do well to listen to what I have to say on the matter, for things aren’t always as they seem to be. No, indeed!

Jack and Jill went up the hill, ostensibly, to fetch pails of water. Many of us saw them head out on their errand with our own eyes, to be sure. No argument there. But after that? Well, it’s anyone’s guess.

Jill says they came tumbling down the hill, and that would explain that nasty gash on Jack’s crown. But, did any of you stop to ask if anyone actually saw them fall down the hill? Hmm? All folks attest to seeing is the pair of them head up the hill. And, I don’t know if you noticed, but, when they came back, Jack was covered head to toe in dirt and brambles, but Jill had not a speck on her! I say, something else happened up on that hill that day.

According to Jill, Jack offered to bring both pails down the hill. If we are to believe Jill’s story true, then, according to Jill, Jack was so overburdened, legs and arms akimbo, he lost his footing, and, again, if Jill is to be believed, her attempt to catch him failed, so Jill, too, came tumbling down. But, I ask you: Why would Jack, of all people, the laziest ne’er-do-well as has ever been, insist on carrying not just his, but Jill’s pail full of water back down the hill?

Now, wait. There’s more! You see, on my daily trek to and from market with the cow, I seen Jack with Jill’s sister, Jan! The two of them, carrying on, back of the stables. I seen them more than a few times, I tell you!

Here’s what I think happened: What if Jill found out? About Jack and Jan? She found out, and confronted Jack that day, up on the hill. I say she took a swing at him with her pail and bashed ol’ Jack on the head, and then in a fit of fury, pushed him down the hill. Think about it! Makes more sense, given what I seen of him with Jan, and what we all know of ol’ wastrel Jack. Offering to carry both pails full of water down the hill? My Aunt Fanny!


https://aooga.wordpress.com/2019/01/06/olwg-84-murder-most-foul/ prompts are: shush, listen; legs akimbo; Jack and Jill…with inspiration from Sir Kerr’s preamble story.

Holiday Hide Away

OK, once again, I combined two weeks of prompts (it helps to have time off work to manage it!) The prompts are:
oyster; lots of money; while I was sleeping;
ceramic drums; a bee in your bonnet; shadow children


December dawns are slow in coming. It’s a cruel mid-winter trick of the sun at playing hide and seek. But on the rare occasion the skies are clear, it’s a special treat to see how daybreak’s warm orange, pink and golden glow quickly erases the pitch black of a long winter night.

These clear mornings are what Noel liked best about her winter visits to her family’s cabin. The summer months have their own charm, of course, especially if you are able to catch the wildflower season with the meadows awash in bright greens, blues and purples. But, winter is truly a picture-postcard wonderland. Such a sight can make a person forget about the chaos of life’s miseries.

When Noel announced she wanted to spend Christmas alone, her parents were unsympathetic.

“Oh, Noel-belle,” her mother said, “are you sure? You need to be with family. I mean, everyone will be at Beck and Kev’s! They’ll be so disappointed. You could stay with Charice and her boyfriend, you know? I asked! They said it would be OK.”

“I suppose you told Charice why I’m not coming?” Noel waited for an answer, but her mother’s only reply was guilty silence. “Well, you’ll be telling everyone my business anyway, so, whatever.”

“C’mon, kiddo,” her father piped in from the other line. “No sense in brooding. I know you love it out there, but go another time. Isn’t there a 3-day weekend in January? Go then. Have your alone-time then.”

Noel hated when her father came up with perfectly reasonable options. Defying him made her feel silly and spoiled.

“If it’s the money, you know we’ll cover it,” her mother blurted.

Noel sighed. “It’s not… I mean, yes, you are right, I’m not in a place right now I should be spending that kind of cash on plane tickets and hotels, but no. It’s not the money. I mean it, and thank Charise for the invite, but seriously. I’m really looking forward to just me, the dog, and the cabin.

“You have to tell me what spending Christmas and New Years alone is going to accomplish,” her mother continued to argue. “We know you’ve been dealt a bad hand, baby, but it’s time you snap out of it. Come be with family. You’ll feel much better.”

Noel dug in, stubbornly refusing to argue the matter any further. She kept quiet, letting her mother hem-and-haw. Then she heard a click and rightfully assumed it was her father hanging up. She knew she’d be getting the cold-shoulder treatment from him for a while.

Her mother continued. “I want you to let go of this bee in your bonnet. I mean, it’s Christmas, hon! Not a time to be selfish and all caught up in yourself. Go on an Outward Bound pilgrimage some other time, like Dad said. Spend the holidays with your family.

Noel remained silent. She was determined not to let her parents guilt her into changing her mind.

“Well… call me when you get there,” her mother finally conceded. “Uncle Fred says they have cell towers all over the valley now, so call if you need something or get stuck in the snow.”

The first night there, burrowed under layers of down blankets, Noel slept her first deep sleep in weeks. When she woke, it was still dark.

She quickly dressed, and then pulled out her grandfather’s old fleece-lined hunting clothes and rabbit fur-lined aviator hat from the trunk in the closet. She put on her Ugg boots and bundled up in the heavy wool Pendleton throw off the couch.

Cuddling a hot mug of coffee close to her chest, she walked to the front door, calling to her dog, Buna, to join her. Buna came cautiously to the threshold as Noel stepped out onto the porch. Sniffing the freezing air and detecting there wasn’t a treat involved, the dog returned to her warm spot next to the pellet stove.

“You’re a snow chicken!” Noel called out, as her dog lay back down on her blanket with a groan.

Noel settled in on the long bench under the window to sip her hot coffee and watch the sun rise over the crest of the hill. The utter silence brought the peacefulness she had been craving for months, and all the reason why she decided to come to the cabin all on her own this time.

The cold eventually became too much to bear. Reluctantly, Noel shuffled back into the warmth of the cabin. Setting her mug on the table, she spied a drum of some sort in the corner by the pellet stove. Picking it up to investigate, she wondered if it was something her eldest cousin brought back from his time in New Zealand. She tapped on it with her finger tips a couple of times.

“Look, Buna, we even have musical entertainment!” She continued to rap her fingers on the drum, trying to get Buna to jump up and play, but the dog only gave her a confused and somewhat worrying look.

“You’re absolutely right. Don’t quit my day job.”

Noel set the drum back down. As she tossed the wool blanket back on the couch and took off her grandfather’s hat, her stomach gave a growl. She brought groceries for the week ahead, of course, but was in no mood to cook. She rummaged through the kitchen cabinets for anything she could eat; just a quick bite to stave off hunger. Years’ accumulation of various food stuff produced a can of chili, a packet of onion soup mix, unopened jars of mustard and barbeque sauce, a can of corn, and a tin of smoked oysters. Noel went for the oysters and opened the can of chili for the dog.

She settled on the couch with her oysters and a fresh mug of coffee. Looking around the place, the memories of many happy days spent here with her grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, and most especially cousins, to whom she was so close, came flooding back. There wasn’t a corner of the old place that wasn’t filled with delightful apparitions of childhood.

Noel was happy. For the first time in a long time, she was smiling. All her memories of the place would keep her in very pleasant company throughout the week. In that moment, she vowed to do as her mother insisted; to finally let go of the troubles of recent months and ring in the new year with a renewed outlook and a commitment of moving on.

Bad Hallmark Channel Christmas Movie of the Week Radio Theatre Podcast

Saw this on Facebook and could not resist sharing…

“@keatonpatti: I forced a bot to watch over 1,000 hour of Hallmark Christmas movies and then asked it to write a Hallmark Christmas movie of its own. Here is the first page…”

SETTING: International small town snow globe refillery. We see a SINGLE MOTHER refilling snow globes with Christmas juice. She is a widow. Her husband died in every war.

SINGLE MOTHER
I refill globes better than Jesus Claus, yet still my twins are dad-free. Why? They need double-dad.

BUSINESS MAN enters the shop. He wears clothes that cost money. His hands are briefcases. He is Hallmark Hot.

SINGLE MOTHER
Hi. Do your snow globes lack wet? Hurry. Christmas attacks soon.

BUSINESS MAN has flashback to when he was BUSINESS BOY. A Christmas tree explodes his family on purpose. He now hates trees and Christmas and explosions. He exits the flashback.

BUSINESS MAN
Shut your sound! I am from Huge City. I bought your land and am turning it into an oil resort.

SINGLE MOTHER
Rude behavior! This is a family business. I sell families. I am a widow. My husband is now bones.

SINGLE MOTHER points to her husband’s bones in the corner of the room. They are gift wrapped in eggnog.

BUSINESS MAN
All of my wives are bones! That is America. But I must make money for my twins to live. They are a prince.

SINGLE MOTHER
I too own twins. Please, don’t have bought my land. Christmas is today.

BUSINESS MAN
Laugh! I bought Christmas and now it is never! Unless we go on dates.

SINGLE MOTHER
I cannot date because of a snow curse. I pray Santa helps me.

Santa cannot help. SINGLE MOTHER did not know but Santa was her husband. Santa is bones. Bones help nobody.———————-

As Tiny Tim said, “God bless us, every one.”
A very merry, one and all.

Doodling on my notepad

Sometimes you just have to tune out. Yesterday was a perfect example. I attended a day-long training session for a software program I use at work. By the time lunch break was announced, I figured I gleaned just about everything I needed to know, so I thought, what the heck! I will duck out. Play a little hooky. (Oh, now, don’t you look at me that way! I’m certainly not the first person to take advantage of the situation!)

I was on my way out when a woman ran up to me, “LRose? Right?!” I turned around to see a high school classmate I hadn’t seen in decades. We went to lunch together and got caught up.

My escape plan thwarted, I returned for the the afternoon portion of the training, which proved inapplicable to my work as I anticipated. But, leaving in the middle would be every shade of rude, so, after I cruised my email and Facebook, I looked up UnOLWG’s recent set of prompts. While the instructor prattled on, I wrote a little prompt response on my notepad. Made it look like I was taking notes (You will note that I’ve already used one prompt).


Mary stood in front of the mirror, twisting and turning this way and that, taking in as much of the full picture as she could. 

“Pretty fabulous, actually,” she mused.

Mary felt wonderful to be back in a lovely, diaphanous sundress and not feel self conscience about how she looked. She imagined herself as one of those Before-and-After people on a weight loss TV ad.

“What do you think?” Mary asked her husband as he walked into their bedroom.

“Fine. And, by that I mean,” he quickly added before Mary could accuse him of anything, “you look SO fine! Umm-hmmm. Yes!”

Mary gave him a peck on the cheek. “Good boy. Always said you’re one of the best.”

“Oh!? Does that mean I can watch football all weekend, then?!”

“What? No! I said you are ONE of the best, not Number One. Don’t push your luck, bub.”


https://aooga.wordpress.com/2018/12/09/olwg-80-british-racing-green/

Mountain View Cemetery, 1943

Everett Duncan drove along the valley’s back roads, thinking he’d remember his childhood spent there, but nothing came to mind. Not much was in the valley in those days, except miles and miles of grazing land and a couple of farms. The thought occurred to him the road on which he drove might have once been a cattle trail. There certainly weren’t cars in those days. Not in this part of the world. And there certainly weren’t all the homesteads and houses that now dotted the country highway. The only thing he recognized were the mountains to the east.

“Sorry to say, but you’re late, mister,” the cemetery grounds-keep said when Everett arrived at the Mountain View Cemetery’s funeral home. Everett apologized. The drive from Barrettsville took much longer than the man at the filling station said it would.

“Well, I guess I can point you in the right direction of where you think your family is buried, but you’ll have to forgive if’n I cain’t take you out there myself. Daylight’s fading and I got a service t’marra mornin’.”

“I’m OK to find it. Just point me in the right direction,” Everett replied.

The section with the unmarked graves—what folks used to call the pauper’s grave yard—was on the far southern edge of the cemetery, on a hillside that faced away from the view of the mountains that gave the cemetery its name. Somewhere among the hundreds of plots defined by only by a chunk of un-carved granite were Everett’s parents and sisters. All four were laid to rest in just two unfinished clapboard coffins, one containing the bodies of his parents and the other his sisters, buried one on top of the other in a single plot. On the next hillside over stood several large mausoleums. Everett had to bend over to shield his eyes from the unbearable glare of the setting sun bouncing off one gilded crypt. Even in death, Everett grumbled to himself, the bastards have to lord it over these wretched souls.

A cousin told Everett the grave was 26 paces due east of a tree that stood in the middle of the pauper’s grave yard. Everett spotted the tree and made his way to it. He noted the setting sun’s location near the horizon, then turned his back to it, and marked 26 paces. He stopped and reviewed the granite stones in his immediate vicinity, looking for one with a small yellow cross his cousin told him to look for, but saw none. He broadened his circle, walking several rows of Jane and John Does, but the marked granite was nowhere to be found. 

The grounds-keep pulled up in his tractor. A black lab in the back jumped out and ran toward Everett, tail wagging.

“Find it yet?” the grounds keep called out. 

“No, not yet. My cousin said there’s a rock with a painted cross. Something my aunt did so she could find it when she came to visit. Ring a bell?”

“Nope. Don’t mean it ain’t there. I only been here a couple years, m’self. If your family say it’s there, I’m sure it’s there. C’mon, Roscoe!” the grounds-keep called to the dog.  The dog looked up from its rooting around and barked. “C’mon, boy!” The dog barked again and flopped down where it stood.

The grounds-keep chuckled. “Stubborn mutt. Well, then. If you’re OK, mister, I gotta keep working on getting ready for t’marra. Mind if my dog keeps you company?”

“No, sir.” Everett reached down and gave the dog a scratch around the ears, and resumed his search. The dog popped back up and resumed its sniffing about. It raised a leg and let out a stream that splattered against one of the granite markers. As Everett watched, a feeling of emotional disgust came over him.

All these people, he thought, as if it wasn’t enough they had to stare at the hillside beyond with all the rich-folk’s mausoleums, they also get pissed on in death as they did in life. Frustration and a tremendous sense of guilt overcame him. Everett sat down on a nearby bench to gather his thoughts and calm his mind.

He ought to have come home when he got news about the fire. His family’s deaths were shocking, naturally, but at the time it simply didn’t occur to Everett to attend the burial of people from whom he had grown so distant. It had been nearly 15 years since Everett had seen any of his family. He sent  a telegram to his aunt and uncle stating it was not possible to get the time off of work to come home, wired a few dollars to help with to cost of the burial, and put anymore thoughts about his family out of his mind. That was twenty years ago.

It was during the memorial service in honor of his eldest son that memories of his parents and sisters came flooding back. Watching his daughter-in-law hold tight to her infant son, sobbing pitiful tears into the baby’s blanket, that it grieved Everett his infant grandson would never know his father, or anything about him. Everett was ashamed he never took the time or interest to keep in touch with family.

The decision made to right a wrong, Everett set out on a trip back to his childhood home. During the trip, Everett tried to recall specifics about his parents and sisters. He remembered his mother had a high forehead. He would stare at her for long periods of time, because her pronounced forehead looked so strange to him. She had very thin hair, as well. So thin you could see her scalp. Or, maybe the picture of the woman in his mind was his grandmother, or maybe even his aunt. He spent as many days in those women’s care as he did in his mother’s. 

His sisters, however, he definitely recalled. Identical twins. Toddlers, the last time he saw them. Carrot tops with pale blue eyes and freckles. They weren’t happy, laughing children, as his own had been, or as his grandson was now. He remembered somber, shy waifs. One had a bad leg and wore a make-shift wood brace. He couldn’t recall, though, if it was Ellen or Elaine who wore the brace. 

His father was a sullen, dark figure; a broken soul who passed briefly through their daily lives like a silent apparition. The most time Everett ever spent in his father’s company was the last time he saw him. At the age of nine, Everett was sent to work in the cotton mill in Concord. The only words Everett remembered his father speaking to him was as the train to Concord pulled into the station.

“Boy, listen’ here: They tell me there’s a school there, so you learn t’write your letters, reads books and do your numbers. I don’ wanna hear nothing ‘bout you not goin’ to dat school, ya hear?  And when you learnt these things, you see to sendin’ your mam a letter. She’ll wanna know you’s getting’ on. They’ll have paper and pencils at dat school, I reckon, so yous can write a letter, but ask polite, don’t just go takin’ it. Never, ever just go takin’ things. That’s against the commandments. You remember we’re God-fearin’ folk. Anyway, the company store’ll have a post.”

The train car door opened and without another word, Everett’s dad lifted him onto the first step, handed the conductor a ticket, then shooed him on with a wave of hand. And that was that. 

A breeze had picked up, and the sun was nearly set below the horizon. Everett knew his search for the grave was hopeless. His cousin would feign surprise when he phoned her later that night to say he couldn’t find the stone with the small yellow painted cross she swore was there. Over time, the elements and the lawn mower mostly likely chipped the mark away. Not that there was much he would have learned about his family if he did find the plot. The actual point of coming all this way was that, at long last, he could say he visited his family’s grave. Everett realized he’d harbored a little notion that, if he found it, he would arrange to bury his family in proper plots, each to their own, with proper headstones. Maybe on one of the hills overlooking the view of the mountains. Defeated, he accepted none of that was possible now. He said a short prayer asking for forgiveness, and then made his way back to the funeral home, the dog respectfully trotting along behind him.

As he pulled out onto the road, Everett knew he was once again putting this part of his life behind him. When his grandson was old enough, Everett vowed to himself he would share with him as much about Everett’s life and his family’s history as he could remember. He prayed again, this time to be granted a long enough life to do at least that for his grandson.  Beyond that, who he was and where he came from would have to remain unknown, and his family would remain in their unmarked grave, like all the others laid to rest in all the other anonymous graves, each a dim reminder of all that once was.


I felt so blah about my first go at the prompts, I had to take another stab. It was fun to retry.
BTW… the prompts are: Of course, she was surprised when I told her; shielded his eyes; the dog flopped; an unmarked grave; a high forehead; “you’re early,” he said. 
https://aooga.wordpress.com/2018/12/02/olwg-79-kumamotos/ 
https://tnkerr.wordpress.com/2018/11/27/olwg78-a-high-forehead-and-an-unmarked-grave/