Adrift

Is that my pencil case, full of the broken bits of glass I found on the beach? I have been looking for it! I miss fingering through it, holding each piece up to the light, admiring the dark ambers, deep greens, jeweled blues, and frosted whites. See here? Look! So beautiful. I’m so relieved you found it.

Where, you say? At the bottom of an off ramp? What were you doing there? Wh…why were you looking for me there? What made you think I would be on the street, of all places. No! You look around! I am at home! Where else would I be? Just look. Just look around, and tell me this is not my home. It is a sunny spring day and you can see as far out to the ocean’s horizon, just as always on such a day. Yes, the horizon! Are you telling me you cannot hear the waves on the shore down below the cliffs, or the gulls calling from high above? And just smell the scent of salt in the breeze! How strange you are. What is the matter with you? Of course I am at home.

Prompts this week are: At the bottom of the off ramp; is that my pencil case?; broken.

https://aooga.wordpress.com/2018/11/18/olwg-77-urban-fisherman/

Blue Mesa Dreamin’

Edmund’s mother Carol Anne found him in his favorite spot on the cliff staring out at the green valley below and the blue mesa beyond. Carol Anne flopped down next to him, exhausted.

“Found Dexter grazing ’bout half mile from here,” she said with slight admonishment. “Tied him and Honeysuckle up to the tree back yonder. Honeysuckle’ll keep him calm.”

“Thanks.”

“Ya know, one of these days, that horse of yours is going to just keep on walking.”

“Sorry.”

“I’ve asked you time and again, tie the animal up.”

Edmund did not respond. Carol Anne let out an exasperated sigh. ” ‘spose when that day comes Dexter goes and trots on down the road, you’ll just walk on foot out here anyway.”

” ‘spose so.”

“Well, that’s just fine, ’cause I ain’t got the money to get you another.”

Carol Anne took a good long look at her son. As he approached manhood, he looked more and more like his father. She wondered what her late husband would think of their boy. Moody and wistful, and nearly as silent as the grave, Edmund was a mystery to her.

Carol Anne stood up and brushed the dust from her trousers. “I left Melody all by her lonesome, so we best get a move on.”

“Reckon I’ll be along, by and by,” he said.

“Son, that’s enough daydreamin’ for one day. It’s enough I gotta be both mama and daddy to my bairn, than to have you running off every day to do whatever you see fit.”

Edmund frowned and mumbled to himself.

“What’s that?” Carol Anne snapped.

“Nothin’, mama.”

“I swear, boy, you test my very limits!  I mean, all the time you spend up here when there ain’t never enough hours in the day to get done what’s got to be done?” Carol Anne lifted Edmund’s chin off his chest, turning his head to look at her. “What you thinking ’bout all this time you up here, anyway, huh?”

Edmund wrenched his chin from her grasp and started walking down the hill. Carol Anne chased after him, “I am askin’ you a question, mister-man. You answer when your mama asks you a question.”

“I just think!”

“I’m trying to understand you, Edmund, I really am, but I cain’t know, if you don’t come out with it.”

They walked to their horses in silence, Edmund stubbornly refusing to speak. As they mounted, Carol Anne could see her son was making ready to bolt and quickly maneuvered to block him.

“Look, I don’t mind you wantin’ to come up here from time to time. It’s a lovely spot. I can see why you like it up here. But,” Carol Anne cautioned, “you have to pull your own weight. Every single day. You’ll be grown in just a couple of years and you cain’t have folks thinkin’ you cain’t, or worse, won’t pull your own weight.”

“Alright.”

“We understood, then?”

“I said ‘alright,’ din’t I?”

As mother and son rode together, Carol Anne chatted about any number of things that popped in her head, mostly about the ranch. Edmund usually let her prattle on uninterrupted, but this time something suddenly seized him from inside. He blurted angrily, “Mama, I don’t want to be a rancher!”

Carol Anne reigned her horse, forcing Edmund to do the same. “Where’s this coming from?” She asked.

“I’ve been thinking ’bout it a while now. I don’t want to be a rancher. I want…I…that is, you know how good I am at building things? How I like to fix things?”

“Sure am.”

“I want to build things.”

“What things?”

“Dunno. Buildings? Maybe trains. I dunno. Just, whatever. Build things!”

Carol Anne smiled the broadest smile Edmund had ever seen on her face. Her eyes twinkled. “Well, now. I think that is a mighty fine thing, you wantin’ to build things.”

“You ain’t mad?”

“No, sir! Not in the least. Not in the least.” She rode closer to her son and gave him a kiss on the forehead. “Now, let’s get on home and finish up what needs be done, and tomorrow, I promise, we’ll carve out some time to sit and discuss this some more.”


This week’s UnOLWG prompts are: Tell me about it; blue mesa; You would if you loved me. Two of the three are more implied. I think. At least, I tried to make it work that way.

Dan

What a f-n cliché. Frickin’ corny, Dan thought. A windy fall day blowing giant orange, yellow and red fall leaves through the air. It was a scene right out of a cheesy chick-flick. All that was missing was a sweeping piano sound score. The thumping bass from the mobbed-up Honda parked at the far end of the parking lot did not match the postcard-perfect image. Dan shook his head. Something was always fucking up the picture.

Dan took a deep breath and stood up. Can’t sit here all day. He started walking south, not at all sure where he was going. Reaching for his wallet, he surreptitiously figured the bills in its fold. A hundred or more. The thought suddenly struck him: It was enough for a Greyhound home. And just like that, he turned west toward downtown.

The woman next to him on the bus was chatty, never drawing breath as far as he could tell. If anyone asked, he’d not have been able to tell what the fuck she was yakking about. He took off his coat, balling it up into a pillow, and lay back into his chair. He was asleep before she figured it out.

The walk home from the bus station was longer than he remembered. Passing familiar sights, Dan realized it had been a good while since he walked through the old neighborhood. He smiled when he saw Mrs. Stokowski mowing the lawn in front of her place. Dan gave a short wave as he passed, but Mrs. Stokowski only offered a tentative polite smile in return. Had it been that long? Dan thought. I wasn’t all that young when I left, was I? Am I that unrecognizable?

“You know, of course, Kitty never came back.”

Dan turned around. Mrs. Stokowski leaned over her mower and turned it off. “You know that, right?”

“I do,” Dan said.

“OK. Just sayin’.”

“OK.”

Dan gave Mrs. Stokowski another short wave and resumed walking. Why the fuck would she think he gave two shits about Kitty?

Anyway, just one more block, he thought, and it would finally, once and for all, be said and done.


The prompts this week are: A hundred dollars in her purse; loquacious; Kitty came home

https://aooga.wordpress.com/2018/11/04/olwg-75/

Variations on the blah-blah-blahs

  1. I don’t think I ever said that
  2. I really need you to
  3. watch this shit
  4. I don’t really need you to watch this shit
  5. I really said that?
  6. This shit is really…that is, I don’t think I ever watched it
  7. You really need that watch
  8. I need that watch. Really. Not this shit.
  9. Think. When have I ever said that.
  10. This and that. You and I.

The prompt is the first three. I am not in a writing mood, so I thought I’d just goof around with variations using just the words in the prompts. Maybe something would spark an idea for a story. But, even a second cup of coffee is not working. I gots the “blahs.”


https://aooga.wordpress.com/2018/10/28/olwg-74-jacy/

Funereal Arrangements

Hannah asked, almost rhetorically, “Why, at funerals, do people have to be so…I don’t know,” she shook her head. “So awful? Isn’t it sad enough?”

Hannah and her husband Charlie were driving home from Mrs. Fitzgerald’s funeral. Charlie kept his eyes on the road, not knowing what to say.

“You talking about that woman? At the coffin?”

“Yes! God, how … I mean, holy crap. That was so…”

“You had enough at the reception?” Charlie asked, changing the subject. “I mean, it was a pretty nice spread, but, not exactly dinner. Wanna go out? Maybe catch a movie?”

“Sure. Whatever.”

“But, I’m glad we went, right? Support Kenneth and Emily.”

“I guess.”

Charlie reached over and patted his wife’s knee. “Hey. It’s a good thing. I mean, you’d want friends and family to show up for your funeral, right? Be a support for me, Pauly and Karin, yeah?”

Hannah didn’t respond. They drove for a while without talking. The news station on the radio ran a story about the death of fifteen Marines during an ambush in Afghanistan. Hannah leaned over and pressed the off button.

“Charlie, we’ve never talked about funerals. Ours, I mean.”

“Sure we have.”

“No, not really. Not specifically.”

Charlie paused a moment. “Umm…hey. So, dinner? You want to go to that Cajun barbeque place or is Village Burger OK?”

Hannah stared at Charlie with that stare of hers Charlie hated. “Hon, I say, ‘Hey, we haven’t talked about how we want to be remembered at our funerals,’ and you say, ‘Barbeque or burgers?’ ”

“I’m just asking. I mean, you love those Courgettes Frites at the Cajun place. So, if we’re going to do barbeque, I’ll take 36th, otherwise I’ll just keep going to Village Burger.”

Hannah sighed “We haven’t had barbeque in a while, I guess.”

Charlie and Hannah chose a booth toward the back of the restaurant. They didn’t speak while they ate. Charlie watched the game on the big screen across the room and Hannah picked at her food.

“Another?” Charlie asked pointing to Hannah’s empty pint glass. She shrugged. Charlie ordered a second round. When the beer arrived, Hannah spoke up.

“So, about our funerals…”

Charlie knew he’d deflected the topic for as long as he could. “OK. What.”

“I mean, that woman, right? Sitting by the casket? Who brings a bottle of booze to a funeral and sits there talking to the deceased like that? So rude. I’m surprised Emily didn’t freak. I mean, I would have!”

“OK. I promise I won’t let anyone booze it up over your casket.”

“Charlie, I’m serious! Remember Aunt Maribeth? When she died?  I thought it was weird there wasn’t a funeral, memorial service, or a wake. Nothing. Remember?”

Charlie shrugged.

“Well, after today, I understand why she didn’t want anything. Charlie, I’m telling you now, I don’t want a fuss. I know people need to grieve, but people putting on a show of it? I mean, I can just see it. My sister will get all dolled-up in some god-awful outfit with one of those big garden party hats of hers….playing the part of the hostess of the biggest party in town. So gross! And, Pauly? He’ll probably invite his percussion group! I mean, seriously. A bunch of xylophones and steel pans playing To Thee Oh Lord? Amazing Grace? Wind Beneath My Wings, or whatever that song is called?”

Charlie was laughing. “And Karin with her cycle club?,” he offered between the giggles. “All hot and dripping sweat after one of their long weekend rallys?”

Hannah began to laugh. “…walking through the church with their bike cleats still on, click-clacking past my coffin in those gross bike shorts that show every lump, bump and crease…”

Both were laughing hard enough to draw the attention of the tables around them. They didn’t care.

“Yeah, OK!” Charlie finally said. “No xylophones or bicycle clubs. Got it!”

“And no titty twirlers for you, bub!”

“Awww…c’mon! Those chicks’ got talent!”


The Un-OLWG prompts this week are: bicycle; xylophone; courgette.
Thom’s preamble story before the prompts is the inspiration for my story. It reminded me of my parents’ reason why they asked that there not be any ceremony recognizing their passing. They sternly believed that funerals, memorials and wakes were tasteless and undignified. So, we cremated their bodies per their only stated wishes, and then it was left to me to decide what to do with the ashes. I made the only choice I could, and I have to believe my folks are 
A-OK that I scattered their ashes in the most unceremonious ceremonious  way I could imagine (by the way, Mom and Pops…happy Valentines Day!)

 

 

D.I. Fischer and The Girls

Richie gave unsmiling Detective Inspector Fischer a wink. “Not me, gov. I’m just one of the girls!”

“Alright, sweet cheeks,” Detective Inspector Fischer said, “let’s move along, move along.”

The other members of the drag club laughed and clapped as Richie approached their group. Richie gave a cat walk twirl and pose, then took a bow.

Fischer shook his head. He hated calls like these. All anyone will say in their statements is that they were just out for a night of fun, nobody was behaving any differently than any other night, nobody got into a fight, nobody saw anything, etc. etc. etc. But here was a dead guy bleeding all over the floor, his gut sliced open from sternum to groin. A very personal killing. But no one knows anything.

“OK, guys…guys…OY!” Fischer yelled. The group stopped joshing and paid attention. “So, who’s the guy on the floor.”

“Stella B. Della,” a voice said from somewhere in the group.

“His real name,” Fischer barked.

“Don’t know, pet,” another said. “Only seen ‘im a few times before.”

“Do better, guys,” Fischer admonished. The group murmured and whispered to each other but said nothing to Fischer. “C’mon! Someone probably needs to know he’s dead, right? Mum, Dad, boyfriend, someone! Who is he?!”

“I met him. I mean I talked to him. The other night.”

“Who said that?” Fischer asked

“Me.” Richie stepped out from the group. Fischer’s angry gaze unnerved him. He bobbed an awkward curtsy.

“Did he tell you his real name? His regular name?”

“Francis.” Richie replied. “But I didn’t get a last name.”

“Well, it’s a start. Thanks. And, what’s your name?”

“Richie Rich, the Personification of Perfection!” Richie started to twirl but thought better of it.

“Don’t fuck with me, kid,” Fischer snarled. “Lemme see your I.D.”

Richie reached down the front of his lamé tube top and with a mock flourish, produced a small pink, glittered pouch. He unzipped it and took out his I.D. and handed it to Fischer.

“Richard Akhil Richardson.”

“Richie Rich, The Perfect” Richie said. “I am, actually, Richie Rich, The Perfect, copper-man.”

“Akhil?” Fischer asked.

“It’s Hindi for perfect, or complete. A ruler or a king,” Richie replied. His friends oo’d, ahh’d and applauded. Richie turned and took a deep Prima Donna curtain call curtsy, then turned back to Fischer.

“My mother is Hindi. Indian,” Richie explained. “She knew I would be her only child, so, to her, I am perfect. Nevertheless, my father, being every bit the wanker that he is, wanted me to have an English Christian name. They couldn’t agree what that name ought to be, so they settled on Richard.”

Fischer shook his head again. God, how he hated calls like these.


 This week’s prompts are: If it’s too perfect; move along; one of the girls

https://aooga.wordpress.com/2018/10/14/olwg-72-a-haibun-of-sorts/

 

The Death of Artemis Deco

Artemis Deco lay on the ground, her face half buried in dirt and rock. A wet warmth dripped into her exposed eye, obscuring her ability to see. She lifted her free hand and attempted to wipe clear her vision, but only managed smearing a bloody mix of mud and shards of rock across her cheek.

Artemis heard a hawk screech above her. “You don’t waste time, do you?”

A dung beetle, rolling its cargo backwards with its hind legs, crossed her limited line of sight. One of the strangest of God’s creatures, Artemis thought. She forced herself to concentrate on the beetle, knowing she must not lose consciousness.  When or where did she first see a dung beetle? On Gran and Grandpa’s ranch? At school during one of Mr. McDevitt’s science lessons? Must think. Concentrate. A television documentary? In a National Geographic?

Her mind drifted into memories of school and friends. Dances, the county rodeo, the time she won a 4-H prize at age 10 for her three lambs, tedious hours in Miss Schmidt’s English class, happy hours on her grandparents’ ranch, hunting trips with her uncles and cousin Galen. Galen. Lost, and very likely buried in Iraq. Artemis hoped she would see Galen again. To apologize. He was right, and she was wrong. There had not been anyone since.

A sharp sting shot through her ankle and foot, and as she brought her leg up to investigate, a pain exploded through her limb as though a knife had been driven through her boot. She cried out. It was beyond anything she had experienced before.

With great effort, she raised up onto her elbow. She took a deep breath and forced herself to an upright position, letting out the scream of a banshee as the pain from her wounds turned into wild running rivers, coursing up and down from head to foot and back again. Her head spun and throbbed. She felt faint and nauseous.

Artemis took another swipe at the blood still streaming down her face. “One step at a time,” she coached herself. Perhaps if she sat for just a minute and maybe regained a bit of her strength, she could attempt to stand.

The prairie stretched for miles around. Artemis spotted small purple flowers the spring had brought forth seemingly floating above the tall, swaying grass. It was calm, warm and quiet with only a hint of a breeze. She looked around for her horse, but it was nowhere to be seen.

As she stared out over the prairie, a darkness crept in from the periphery of her vision, slowly closing down her view. The last thing Artemis Deco saw before falling backward was the unending expanse of a pristine blue sky.


The prompts are: Art Deco; a knife in her boot; start with baby steps

https://aooga.wordpress.com/2018/10/07/olwg-71-eleanor/

Weddings and Funerals

 

Seated around the dining room table were Fred and his sister Claudette, their spouses, and Fred and Claudette’s cousins Alexander, Marianne and Scott with their spouses. The last of the funeral guests had left minutes before, and the exhausted cousins sat quietly contemplating the day’s events.  The low growl of a digitized race car and the uproar from their children playing video games in the basement den were the only sounds now filling in the house.

“Weddings and funerals,” Fred said.

“Weddings and funerals,” Alexander agreed, giving his cousin a sympathetic pat on the hand.

“More coffee? Anyone?” Claudette asked. All murmured their answers of yes please no but thanks. Claudette stood up. “I’ll start a new pot. Won’t be a minute. Jeff?” she said, turning to her husband with a please-help-me look. Her husband followed her into the kitchen and the group returned to their thoughtful repose.

Scott was the first to speak. “I didn’t get to share my favorite Uncle Ted story.”

“What story is that?” his sister Marianne asked.

“The one about the monsters, and how he would tell us they were under the bed because they were there to protect us, but only if we got into bed, turned out the light, shut the door and went to sleep.”

All the cousins chuckled. “You guys were always suckers for that one,” Claudette called out from the kitchen.

Simultaneous protests rose from the table, “Except me!” “Not Alexander!”

“I never bought it,” Alexander concluded.

“You’d argue with him, I remember,” Fred said. “I was always amazed, you standing up to him, the way you did.”

“A defense attorney in the making,” Alexander’s wife joshed.

“What was the argument, again?” Marianne asked.

Alexander said, “I told Uncle Ted that monsters are mean, vicious and out to get you, otherwise they weren’t monsters. If they were protecting us, they were guardian angels, and if they were guardian angels, they wouldn’t be hiding under the bed, they’d be flying above us in plain sight.”

“Yeah, thanks for that,” Scott scoffed. “I mean, I bought it! I couldn’t see angels overhead, so I knew, because my big brother said so, there were monsters under the bed. Never could sleep in this house.”

Marianne tilted her head back and gave it a little shake. “I never thought much about it then, but looking back, especially now, as a mother, I am in awe of how he managed, with all he had going on, how he raised you two on his own.”

All nodded. “The monster story was one among many he used to keep us in line,” Fred said.

“Of course, that’s why we spent so much time at your home, Mari” Claudette called out again. “Both houses, this and your folks’, are my homes, you know? It’ll be devastating when it comes time to sell either one.”

“Which will have to be soon, ‘Dettie,” Fred admonished his sister. “We can’t afford to keep this place up.”

Alexander said, “Yeah, so, on that note, not sure if you guys know mom and dad decided to buy into that assisted living place. They’ll be selling their house end of the year.”

“No!” Claudette called out. “Wow,” Fred replied. “Yep, true,” Scott confirmed. “Time’s come,” Marianne agreed.

Scott cleared his throat, and asked, “Fred, did you guys ever find out what happened to your mom?”

“No, never did,” Claudette replied as she and her husband returned from the kitchen with coffee. Fred nodded, then added, “Actually, I did try looking for her again. A few years ago.”

His sister stopped refilling cups and stared at him. “You didn’t say.” Her tone was unmistakably scornful.

Fred shrugged, “Because nothing came of it, and if I had said I wanted to try again, you’d have been adamant I forget about it. I didn’t want to. Still don’t.”

An abrupt, loud yell from the children in the basement, followed by peals of laughter, swept away the tension.

Fred stood up and leaned over the table. “Ya know, they have the right idea. Let’s play a game.”

Amused and slightly confused, everyone looked to one another for clarification.

“Like, what? Charades?” Marianne asked.

“God, no,” Fred said, to the relief of most. “Dad’s got all these board games…”

Fred walked into the living room and opened the built-in cupboard. On the bottom shelf were stacks of board games, a poker chip carousel, a box of dominoes, decks of cards and two leather dice cups. Fred held out the dice cups.

“Didn’t we give him these?” he asked his wife.

She nodded, “Actually, they were a regift. Do they have those dice with the extra-large dots?”

Fred poured large, bright yellow dice with large black dots onto the table. “Yep! Where’d we get these?”

Fred’s wife gave him a weary smile. “From Chris and those guys? For your Over-the-Hill 50th?”

“Let’s play Yahtzee!” Scott gleefully declared. “Uncle Ted loved Yahtzee.”


The prompts in the story are in bold. UnOfficial Online Writers Guild prompt: https://aooga.wordpress.com/2018/09/30/olwg-70-just-look-at-this-place/

btw…I don’t write a story in only 25 minutes. I edit and tweak over the course of the morning, but in keeping with the guidelines, I do make an effort to get the premise and 1st draft down within 25 minutes.

Fourteen Years, Here

The prompts are bolded…


Mrs. Burien! Charlotte! I’m here! God, you make me crazy. Staring out the store window the way you do, with that look on your face.

Fourteen years. That’s so weird. And they say stuff, like, “seems like yesterday.” I say it is still today! I didn’t leave, I’m here!

OK, yeah. I left. I packed what would fit in my school backpack, stopped by the store to say goodbye to my mom and dad, and bought a bus ticket to Nashville. I’ve always wanted to see Nashville, so I thought, what the heck. I’ll go to Nashville.

The bus ride was fun. I sat next to a dad and his daughter. She was about five years old and she had a doll and she told me what she and her doll like to play. I told her I used to have a doll, too. I taught her how to do cat’s cradle and her dad let me split my bag of potato chips with her.  Her name is Casey. His name is Vegas. Charlie Vegas.

The bus made several stops, but at Gulf Port, the driver said we’d be there for an hour, so I got off, like most everyone else. Casey and Charlie Vegas went one direction and I went the other. There was a little park behind the station with a couple of picnic benches. I wandered around the park just for something to do to kill the time.

A ravine, is what I remember. A thump and then another thump, and then I fell, the sky and dirt and rocks and grass and trees, all jumbled together. I opened my eyes and saw my backpack hanging off a shrub and I thought I better get it, but I couldn’t move. Something heavy was on me and then I saw Charlie Vegas looking right at me. He was yelling to little Casey he’d be right there but he was looking right at me. I knew I was hurt and was glad Charlie Vegas was going to help me. I heard another thump.

I ran in the store when I got back, right up to my mom and threw my arms around her. She didn’t move. She didn’t even look at me! I walked over to my dad and put out my arms. I’m back, I said. I told him I was sorry. He didn’t look at me or say a thing.

They keep saying it’s been years. I don’t know what that means. It’s been a long, awful day, is all I know. It wasn’t right, me going off like that. I’ve tried apologizing and I know they are pissed with me. I get it. I’m in big trouble. But I’m here, I keep telling them, and always will be here. I’ll never leave, ever again. I’ll just keep saying it until someone finally looks at me. I’m here! I’m here!


The prompt site is here: https://aooga.wordpress.com/2018/09/23/olwg-69-me-to-me-and-me-to-you-only-two-versions-of-me-with-a-little-haiku-on-the-side/

These Fourteen Years, Gone

The prompts are bolded…


It’s been fourteen years since Claire Dubois left. I’ll never forget the day. She walked in the store, a big smile on that pretty face of hers, gave her father and mother a hug and a kiss, and without a single word, walked out the door. No one’s seen or heard from her since.

Now, people going off and not coming back isn’t unheard of. ‘Round here, when times are good and they open up jobs at the plant or refinery, new people move in. Times go bad and they start laying folks off, people leave. Folks get divorced and one of them moves away. Kids go to college and don’t move back. Whatever. It goes on. But, for the most part, people from here have family that goes way, way back. Generations. All I’m sayin’ is, most folks just stay put.

That’s why, in a small town like ours, things like Claire Dubois up and running off like that and never being heard from again is something everyone talks about. Even after all these years.

See, there was nothing particular about Claire. She was the second to last of the eight Dubois kids, and except for her pretty looks, you couldn’t say anything stood out about the girl. She wasn’t brash, nor was she shy. She wasn’t a happy girl, nor was she a sad girl. Always polite, I can say that about her. And did OK in school, according to her folks. She worked weekends here at the store, as did all her siblings, at one time or the other. Played clarinet in the school band. Had a nice group of girl friends, and as far as I could see, never gave her family a moment’s concern. Made the police crazy, trying to find something, anything, about Claire that they could point to and say, aha! That’s the reason she took off.

When the police finally came around, knocking on doors asking about what folks knew about Claire, the only thing I could tell them was that time she came into the store saying her mom needed a pound of sugar. This was about, oh, two, three months before she disappeared. She walked straight back to the store room, which I thought was odd. Why didn’t she just take a bag from the shelf? But then (and this is the odd part) she came out of the store room with a box of tampons and a big bag of apples, and no sugar. Next day, when her father come to work, I told him about Claire coming in for sugar and leaving with the box of feminine hygiene product and the apples. All he said was he better check to see if she marked it off the inventory.

The closest the cops ever got to figuring out what happened to Claire was a few years later when they found out who her mystery boyfriend was at the time. The Dubois’ eldest, Leo, told the police, back when Claire left, when everyone was first trying to figure out why she left and where she’d gone, that she said something about a kid she’d recently gone out with. The boy was older, Leo remembered, and worked at the refinery, doing what Leo wasn’t sure. He said he also thought Claire said something about the boy going to night school at the community college. But Claire never mentioned the boy’s name.

Nobody else remembered Claire saying anything about a boyfriend, and none of her friends ever saw her with anyone in particular. He was just as much a mystery as why she left in the first place, or where she got to. Then, one day, a detective who’d stayed on the case all that time, learned who the boy was.

His name is Lawrence Venter, Jr. Goes by L.V. He’s one of them folks who came to work in the refinery when they was hiring, back then. He still works there, and he later married Tracy Jeffers. They got two kids now.

L.V. was fishy with the cops about how he and Claire met, probably because Tracy and Claire were friends at the time. Not close, but the girls were friendly. Claire’s childhood gal pal Angela and Tracy are cousins. Anyway, Tracy was stupefied her husband had a history with Claire. She thought she knew all the girls he dated before her.

When the cops first came around town asking about Claire, L.V. didn’t mention he’d been seeing her because she disappeared not too long after he broke it off with her. He didn’t want the cops to think he had anything to do with it, which, as it turns out, he didn’t. He was just scared they wouldn’t believe him, so he kept his mouth shut.

L.V. told the cops he and Claire had only gone out a couple of times. It was more than that, of course. See, at the time, he thought Claire was older, not a high school girl.  Apparently, she let him go on thinking that. But when she admitted she was just 17, he said he called it off. Said he drove her home then and there and never saw her again. The cops kept pushing him about how they met and about the times they went out. See, they were convinced he knew someone who might know something about where Claire gone off to. But the trail went cold there. That one detective who stayed on the case for a time was sure L.V. knew something about Claire, but with nothing more to go on, the detective told the Dubois he had to let it go.

This afternoon I found myself staring out the window of the store, thinking about that day fourteen years ago when Claire came in, kissed her folks goodbye and then just walked away. It’s an odd feeling to know you are one of the last people to see a person…I was going to say, “alive,” but who knows.

Thing is, I think Claire’s alive and well in the world somewheres. I think she just wanted to get away from all of us. And nobody can say why. Me? I like it here just fine. But folks like Claire? Well, they just got to move on down the line, I suppose. Who can say, right? Some folks just gotta move on down the line.


https://aooga.wordpress.com/2018/09/16/olwg-68-filmore/