Guardian Angel

She died the other night and her guardian angel received word from God via text message–modern age. She was a sad angel because she was always there to protect her for over seventy human years–angels are eternal. Now she had to go and find a new human to protect, but there was time and she always had time–angels are good at that.

She went to the funeral disguised as a breeze and watched the woman’s family worship and pray for her eternal soul. Tears were shed and songs were played in her honor. A young preacher came and offered comfort to the family. She watched the father and two sons place her into the earth and place the soil over her simple casket. They laid a cross made of wood upon her grave where eventually a engraved headstone would lay that had MOM carved into the pine home-made cross. The Guardian angel saw all of this and she cried too.

“I will miss you human, but now somewhere in heaven you are meeting God for the first time and someday I’ll introduce myself to you.”

Some days later, A recently released spirit came to the guardian angel’s door of her house. There was a tentative knock, then a slightly more forceful knock as if this spirit thought she was hard of hearing. She answered. “Yes? Oh you! How marvelous I finally met you! I was your guardian angel, but I guess God told you that or you wouldn’t be here.”

“This isn’t a social call,” she replied in a terse, unapologetic arrogant voice. “Some a..hole–wait I can’t curse in heaven?”

“Oh goodness no, that’s one of the rules in our bylaws. Never ever curse a human. Instead you will become all tongue-tied as you just found out. Now, tell me what happened over tea and scones.” The guardian angel led her inside and they sat on a divan where a tea service sat on a coffee table in front of them. “Lemon or sugar?”

“No thank you. Look, obviously you know who I am. I just found out something horrible–someone stole the cross that my son in law made and my family placed upon my grave. My son and daughter went to visit and discovered it was taken. I want revenge for that!”

“Oh my word, that is unfortunate. I have just the spiritual being that will do you the justice you seek. It does cost you though.”

“What could it cost?”

“One of your chuilden will not be here when there time comes.” She sipped on her tea and waited for the new spirit’s response. “I would suggest you think long and hard before you answer.”

“You mean if I seek out this avenging angel, the payment is that one of my children don’t go to heaven? Where do they go then? Hell?”

“Nothing that drastic, no. It’s complicated. The place is called Neverland.”

“You mean like Peter Pan?”

“I wish. If you agree to this you can never see that person, and he or she can never see you. Nor will that person ever be here, thus the disillusionment that all they were taught on earth regarding the greatness of heaven and the beauty of God, will be for nothing. They will be stuck in a limbo, like inside a bubble, forever.”

She chewed on her scone with a thoughtful expression on her ethereal face. “There is no way to go around this? Like a loophole?”

“Well, there is always a loophole, but that too requires some form of payment. My suggestion to you is to forgive this lost soul for his moment of weakness. After all, he can’t gain anything from it. No amount will be provided where he could possibly profit from. The Golden Rule was preached to you from Jesus’ mouth for a reason. It is a good rule to live and die by. Aren’t these scone just divine?”

“Yeah, sure, whatever. So, you aren’t going to help me on this?”

“I’m more than happy to help, but there is always a cost to everything. My question is, how much are you willing to pay for the satisfaction that you got your revenge?”

“Damn, I want to see all my children and grandchildren and great grandchildren here when their time comes. I don’t want to leave anybody out!” She started weeping bitterly.

“Then, the way I see it, is your mind is made up to forgive this person who stole that cross from your earthly grave.”

She wiped the tears from her face and nodded. “I supposed that’s what I’ll have to do then.”

“More tea?”

What Else Is There?

I just got back from the car wash about a minute ago and came upon a rude realization that my wife awoken me on when I informed her the trip to the car wash was a wasted trip. I had in mind to vacuum out the interior because it was filled with all manner of dirt, pollen and dog hair. But, while you can wash the car, you can’t vacuum it because some genius thought Coronavirus lived inside vacuums,

I’m not certain how scientifically true that is because I have no evidence disputing their claim. Maybe it’s true, but if that is the case, shouldn’t I been infected with COVID-19 everytime I stepped inside my car and drove around? Shouldn’t I be dead? Or in the hospital with a ventilator run down my throat and forced to breathe pure oxygen?

At this moment, I’m upset because many people are doing things that defy common sense. This little case demonstrates that most clearly. I don’t believe whoever thought that corona virus lived in a vacuum had his or hers facts straight.

As for the rest of this stuff we are forced to endure, it’s a scientific case of trial and error. According to an article in the New York Times, the relaxing of restrictions is at best a gamble–roll of the dice. Frankly no one knows anything about this and that is what so terrifying for everyone. Are we doomed to a sudden reemergence come November when our guard is down? Is this whole scare going to enforce a new normal and redraw our political and social fabric to those that believe in the safety and security of the many at the sacrifice of our freedom and liberties. Will this pandemic create new civil wars and revolutions for the foreseeable future?

One thing that is a certainty, is the fact that everything has turned upside-down and many who lived in the comfort and complacency of the status quo are feeling more and more isolated and frustrated. So now everyone needs to buy their own Dust Devils to clean their car’s interiors with.

Mouse Trap

While sitting at my desk writing and reading; basically passing away the days during this shutdown, I’ve noticed a little mouse who has decided to play with fire while searching for food. On top of another desk in my office I have an hdtv, my “gaming” computer, which at one time long ago, was my primary pc, a DVD player and a cat dish that is filled with Friskies Seafood platter that Snowball loves.

Snowball is getting up there in years and she is well fed, so she doesn’t need to hunt mice to survive. Unfortunately, our house suddenly became Miceville and we have done everything short of TNT rid them from here. I don’t keep the tidiest of offices either; constantly cluttered with my unfiled paperwork, unopened boxes filled with items packed from our last move here nine years ago and my wife’s unattended computer desk.

The little mouse in question made her appearance a month ago after I had to stay home and suffer through this forced layoff from work. I’m assuming a female, purely based upon her petite size in relation to a few of the males that have suddenly succumb to one of our many mousetraps we strategically placed throughout the house.

She is also blind in one eye, so more than ever relies on her sense of smell to find food. I personally don’t think she even knows what mother lode she has discovered. If she knew, I’m sure she would have gone elsewhere to find her food. I noticed this deformity the first time spied her going to Snowball’s food dish. One eye was closed possibly due to an injury. I hypothesized one of her siblings scratched her eye and blinded her.

She’s also the only one who dared venture to that no-mans-land. Either because she hasn’t communicated this wonderful find to her communal mates, or they know better and consider her quite warped to dare go to a cat’s food dish and steal from the very mouth that would surely eat her without batting an eye.

Snowball either hasn’t noticed, or has become so complaisant as to not bothered with one single little, malnourished looking mouse. In any case it has been a fascinating adventure watching this thing defy all the laws governing the natural order and seemingly getting away with it…so far.

The Joys of COVID-19 Quarantine

I’m writing from the comfort of my home-office where I’ve been staying hidden from the people out there who may or may not be infectious spreaders of COVID-19. I had a cold that I just recently got over. I also am happy to report I have no fever, no dry, hacking cough and no shortness of breath. So far, so good.

Last night I received word from our state governor, Jay Inslee that he has extended the stay at home order for another month. It’s already a trial of patience not just here at home where step-son has it in his head this is all some crazy hoax fabricated by the Chinese government.

Of course it doesn’t help my wife and I when we see news reports from our neighbor just east of us–Idaho–who have state representatives claiming that what is being enforced is unconstitutional. At this point, does it really matter if we shouldn’t be publicly assembled if it means one less infected by a virus that in all likelihood is tantamount to the plague?

Of course there are people who take this all too lightly or casually. I admit, I too believed that over a month ago before it came here and then spread like a wild-fire across this country. They obviously don’t understand what is at stake, or are in complete denial over the whole ordeal. My wife informed me the other day her ex-husband claimed to have had it back in January, according to her son who talked with him over the phone. His position is that COVID-19 is nothing but a minor flu bug that he caught two months ago.

When I heard that I just shook my head in disappointment. I wish corona virus was just a minor bug that could be easily treated with Ibuprofen, water and plenty of rest. It’s much, much worse than that I’m sorry to say.

A Funeral for a Friend

The road trip was because of a funeral of a family friend. She was 79 and lived a fulfilling life. Now I drove to a small town where I first met her over 52 years ago. We see things differently in the lens of time and here was no exception. Even though I had a google map in front of me, I second guessed myself twice because, well because I forgot how to get there.

I forgot how to get there because I was getting old too. Someday, I too will join her and my parents to a place predetermined to be the perfect, harmonious place to spend eternity in. Some call it heaven; some call it paradise. Like that Eagles song’s reframe, “I don’t know why.”

I almost don’t make it. It almost ends before I begin. I thought I could use my right knee to press against the steering wheel and sneak a sip of hot coffee. It didn’t work though. As the car veered toward oncoming traffic, I didn’t have time to watch what I was doing and dropped my thermos mug of hot coffee near my center console. The contents spilt from my enclosed cup. My ass burns intensely.

“Goddammit,” I cursed. I pulled off the highway and got out. My ass burned and I knew I had first and possibly second degree burns there. It felt like I did. I got back inside the car and pulled my sweatpants down to expose my naked butt. No one else was in the car. I drove alone. I am alone with just my thoughts, memories of her and the family I see so rarely anymore.

It’s not like we saw that much of each other anyway. That’s probably why we were so close because we didn’t have to experience each other’s faults and imperfections daily. We had our moments and it wasn’t pretty. Those memories are hidden safely inside my mind’s dark recesses.

I drove on. The hot coffee on my seat had turned into a cold stain on a black car seat cover. The cold dampness felt good on my burn. I drove west on US 2. After Couley City, I was supposed to get on Highway 17 north. After I reached Wilber I for some reason thought I should get off at 174 north. But then I realized my error and turned back to US 2. Maybe there’s a shortcut? I don’t know. I’m back on my original route. I continued driving on a two-lane gray ribbon. I count time by the center lines along the way. It’s a three-hour drive according to the map. I have the cruise control set at 65.

Coulee City appeared but I refused to believe it. I looked at the map on my cell phone. I go north on highway 155. I realized I’m going the wrong way once again. There is nothing about Brewster or Pateros. I see Omak, but I’m not going there. I’m going back to where it all started 52 years ago.

I turned around and find I’m back on the right track. I don’t recognize any of this; alien and desolated like a moonscape. I finally turned on Highway 17 North. The towns in front of me on those green location signs lave familiar rings to it. I am finally going back to that time when I looked through the glass window of my dad’s station wagon with wonderment and a sense of adventure. I recognize Mansfield, Brewster and Pateros. They remind me I am on the right track for once.

I received the news via Facebook, rather than an early morning phone call. I’m sure the family received that call. When Dad died it was late at night of May 7, 2009. I got the news from Mom the next morning, though she or my sister who was with him in the hospice when he finally left us could have told me then. I didn’t want to be there watching him die. When Mom died just six weeks later, it was in the afternoon amid afternoon commuter traffic heading toward home, but she never made it.

I thought about plot development of my latest project. I decided on a course of action and let it go. I also thought about my stepson who wanted to live at my house rather than move out so that my wife and I can sell it. She’s leaving to be near her mother in Southern Idaho. He wants us to give him the house. No, no, no. It’s not going to happen.

I was innocent when we were introduced for the first time. I was a shy and happy young boy. Happy to be alone with my cars, my books and the pieces of paper I used to write on. It wasn’t much; a word or sentence, which after I wrote it out, I threw away.

Dad brought them all here to our house in East Wenatchee on a March evening. I know it was evening because the darkness was very apparent. I met the two boys. One was tall, but not as tall as me. I think he was seven then. He had large ears and short brown hair. His brother had the same color hair, ears not as pronounced and shorter. I also noticed a deformity on his neck and much later that night I heard of his accident with a pot of hot coffee that he somehow knocked over and the liquid that fell on his arms and upper chest and neck. I wanted to pity him but knew better.

There were two girls too, but ten-year-old boys generally don’t mess around with girls. One was a couple years younger, the other was between my two sisters’ ages. She fit in nicely. I thought the older girl might have been happier hanging out with her two brothers than with my five-year-old sister who was a control freak then, and my baby sister who wasn’t even a year old yet.

“I want you kids to behave yourself,” Dad told us under no uncertain terms. In other words, he wanted us to become invisible. Play all you want in your rooms but don’t make noise, don’t fight and don’t hurt yourselves. Dad hated noisy, ruckus children. I went to my bedroom.

“If I have to go in there, all hell will break loose,” I overheard this short woman with black hair and brown eyes tell us, though more directed toward the two eldest siblings. She had a loudmouth that even scared me into behaving. But I heard both snicker as we headed to the two bedrooms. My sister had her Barbies and other dolls that seemed to make them all happy. I had Hot wheels, Matchbox cars and GI Joe. Both thought they died and went to Heaven.

I sat on my hands and knees and began playing with my cars. Before to long, they both sat down with me. We began playing. “What’s your name?” I asked the oldest boy with big ears.

“Greg, that’s Ross. We’re from Methow.”

“Where’s that?”

“A long way from here,” Greg replied. “What’s your name?”

“Jerry,” I replied. I continue pushing my Pontiac GTO toward Greg’s Ford Mustang Mach 1. We raced from the door to the bunk bed. I let Greg win.

“You talk funny,” Ross told me. I gave him an embarrassed look as if I felt ashamed of the way I talked.

“I was born with a cleft pallet,” I said, acknowledging my imperfection for the first time.

“Is that why you have the weird thing on your lip?” Greg asked me. Apparently, he was neither discouraged nor afraid of me, unlike some of the kids I knew at school.

I nodded. “Yeah, I was born with that too. It’s called a harelip.” They both smiled at me as if saying, it’s okay, none of us are perfect either. I could hear them talking in the living room. Sometimes Mom or the lady I later learned was Desi laughed at either Dad’s or the man, I later learned was Peter, made some joke or told some anecdote. We continued playing well into the night. Then at some prearranged time the two mothers came in to inform us it was bedtime.

We got ready and I shouldn’t have but I couldn’t help but stare at Ross’ burns. His long sleeve shirt was taken off along with his t-shirt and I felt revulsion, then pity, and anger at myself for those feelings. Desi dressed him in his pjs, and we crawled into bed; me and Greg on the top bunk and Ross was on the bottom.

We slept, but not before we talked for over an hour. I don’t know what we talked about. I guess upon hindsight, it didn’t matter. The next morning we had breakfast and then Greg and Dori, the girl with brown curly hair and black framed cat eyed glasses helped me pick up dog poop, and when we finished, we walked my Springer Spaniel, Prince, and Heidi, the very pregnant Dachshund around the neighborhood.

“What’s your name?” She asked me. Her voice was soft, almost whisper like. She appeared as shy as me. I’m sure I blushed at her question.

“Jerry,” I replied as I held Prince by his leash, and she held Heidi by hers. Greg walked next to me on my left.

 “You have a nice family. I’m Dori.”

“I know, Greg told me last night and your Mom and dad called you twice this morning.”

“You do talk funny. But I like how you talk.”

“I don’t. One day I’m getting another operation and I will talk normal like you guys. When I get old enough to grow a mustache, I’ll do that to hide my harelip.”

We walked in silence until we got home. The adults were ready to go. All us kids didn’t want them to leave.

“It’s alright, we’re going up there next week,” Mom remedied the situation quickly, and all were happy as they piled inside a Chevrolet van. It was two-toned white over red, or was it red over white? The doors closed and they left.

The following weekend I stared out the window and saw the Columbia Basin in front of us until we reached the town of Pateros and then went north along the Methow River to a little town along that river named after it. The white sign with black-block letters stated it was unincorporated. I barely read the word and had no idea what it meant. Prince and Heidi came with us and he began marking his new territory as his, like any explorer would.

We all went inside, and I thought I died and went to heaven. Pete and Desi had books on a shelf that dealt in history and literature and anything else ones’ heart desired. I didn’t wait or asked permission, I began reading as soon as I found the first book that caught my passion.

I think both Greg and Ross were disappointed that I didn’t go out and play with them. I didn’t pay them the slightest bit of attention. I barely saw the living room where that shelf of books was. I didn’t even see Dori wonder into the room until she said, “Hi Jerry!”

I looked up at her. I was reading about President George Washington. “Hi,” I replied and went back to reading.

“What’s you reading?”

“George Washington,” I replied not bothering to take my eyes from the pages in front of me.

“You want to go for a walk with me and Greg. I’ll show you the Stonehouse where Grandma Catherine live.”

Mom always raised me not to turn down a request from a girl most especially. I wanted to tell her no, but that’s not why Dad drove us up here. I knew that. “Okay, sure,” I replied and smiled at her. I put a bookmark on the page and intended to go back to it as soon as the walk was over.

We ran outside hearing Desi scream at us, “No running in the house!”

We got outside and walked the dogs across the highway and in front of a mansion in the eyes of a ten-year-old boy. “Is it haunted?” I asked with hope. I loved the mystery and suspense of a haunted house.

Both laughed at me. “No, but my grandma says sometimes she hears the floorboards creak. Only her lives there,” Greg replied.

I looked at the large house closely It was all stone except for the cedar shake shingles and the French doors and the bay windows. “So, it is haunted, then,” I said in awe.

“No, it’s not,” Dori chided me. “It’s the house that Grandma Catherine lives in.”

We walked up a slope and went in through the backdoor. A sudden heady aroma of nutmeg assaulted my senses. “Cookies,” I cried out joyfully.

An elderly woman with white hair turned around at the stove and saw me for the first time. “Hello,” she stated.

Both remained mute and expected me to introduce myself to this matronly, tall woman with wrinkles and gray eyes. I looked from her to them for introductions.

“Aren’t you going to introduce me to this young man?” She asked her two grandchildren.

“Grandma, this is Jerry,” Dori told her. “Jerry, this is Grandma Catherine.”

“Can we show him the house?” Greg asked.

“Yes, but like I always say, don’t touch anything. There are pieces in this house that are hundreds of years old and irreplaceable.” She smiled at me for the first time. I then realized her eyes were more a blue color than gray. She talked so formally that I felt respectful fear of her and didn’t dare touch anything. I was afraid to even breathe. The living room had a massive grandfather clock, its pendulum swinging in time to the mechanism that ran everything.

I walked slowly from room to room, upstairs and finally down and into the basement. When we returned, she handed each of us a sugar and cinnamon cookie, with nutmeg and allspice. “Tell Desi, I wish to speak with her this evening, please,” Grandma Catherine told Dori. Greg and I ran outside where Prince and Heidi greeted us.

I forgot about the book the rest of the day, playing with Dori and Greg instead, checking out the river, the two suspension bridges that appeared all rickety and dangerous, the Methow store where they bought their groceries, and inside a small café with a pair old men gossiping amongst themselves.

We went up the one main street behind the highway where we spotted several houses with older cars from before I was born sitting and waiting to be driven.

It was dinner time when we came inside the house and Dori told Desi, Grandma Catherine wanted to talk to her. We ate in the kitchen. I remember that house now, as an old thing with two floors and creaky stairs. In a ten-year old’s eyes, everything appeared bigger than it was. Dad, Mom, Pete and Desi ate in another room with a chandelier and framed pictures of living and dead family members from years ago before color photography caught on.

When dinner was over, all the kids were instructed to go play in our rooms while they entertained in the living room. Soon enough, it was our bedtime and Desi informed Greg to never ever bring a stranger into Grandma Catherine’s house without introducing him first. “That was a very rude thing to do, young man.” I imagined because we were still considered guests, the full wrath of Desi’s fury would not reveal itself this time. She then kissed the boys and turned out the light.

The next morning, I got up first with the intention reading more about George Washington. I noticed Desi in the kitchen, cooking over a stovetop of an antique wood burning stove, except it wasn’t an ancient relic but their primary appliance.

She had in her possession a black cask-iron skillet that she sat upon the hot surface of the stove. She warned me before I even dared step inside, “the stove is hot; be careful.”

I heeded her advice, remembering Ross’ unfortunate accident; the result, and steered a path around her and the stove. “What are you cooking?”

She had her hair up in a ponytail, her face was natural, and she had a nice and pretty smile on her youthful face. I thought her around 29 or so. She wore a nightgown and robe, both flannels. “I’m making pancakes. Do you need something?”

“No ma’am,” I replied and walked quickly into the living room and the bookshelf where the book I read the day before sat with the bookmark still where I left it. I continued reading until breakfast.

My mind found itself back to the here and now. Back to the town of Brewster and later Pateros, where six years before, the Carlton Complex Fire burned the town to the ground. They rebuilt from the ground up. I found the highway I needed after I crossed the bridge where the Methow River converged into the Columbia.

Ten minutes later I parked in the grassy lot in front of a barn-like storage building with an antique fuel pump that had the Hudson Gas logo on its front and a glass bulb on its top. I backed my Dodge Charger just as Dori and Cathi’s spouses walked up.

“You Jerry?” The one with long gray beard asked me. He was Shane, Dori’s husband.

“Yes, and you are?”

“Shane,” he replied smiling through the long beard that ended just level to his chest. We shook hands. Ken then came up and offered his hand to shake. His beard was more like a goatee and not even nearly as long. Both their hair on their heads were gray and cut short anymore.

“I’m Ken, it’s nice you were able to make it,” he said to me with a genuine smile.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” I replied.

“You didn’t bring your wife?”

“She was concerned about this corona virus. Plus, she can’t trust her son to stay out of trouble and thought it best to stay home.”

Both nodded and I looked at everything around me. The Methow Store closed along with the café. It was bare and empty inside. The store owners could no longer stay in business. I understood that harsh reality. Rather than be saddled with paying what amounted to convenience store prices, most people opted instead to drive out of their way to a larger grocery where prices were lower. I used to work for a convenience store and knew how much higher convenience store prices were than at grocery stores.

I parked my car next to Greg’s Avalanche that also had a U-Haul trailer behind it. I knew Desi was inside awaiting her turn to be in the spotlight one last time. Ken was on the cell phone and got off. “Greg is on his way.”

We looked at a part of the storage building. I guessed Ross had built himself a Man cave next to it, though I’m not certain why since he now had the run of the Stonehouse. The two brothers in law were talking amongst themselves about a possible addition to the man-cave. I walked to where they stood and listened, though they might as well have been talking in a foreign language because I wasn’t following any of their conversation. My thoughts were on other things at that moment.

Another vehicle pulled up; A Tundra that I later learned had the manufacturer’s customized lift kit installed that made it a good foot or so higher than the standard Toyota full sized pickup. There were four people inside: three women and one man. They greeted Shane with hugs, and I realized one of them, maybe two of them was Dori’s daughter or daughters. One did look exactly like Dori when she was in her mid to late 20s. The other I couldn’t recognize because her hair was cropped short and she covered her head with a cap.

I saw Greg, followed close behind by his wife Terry and Dori and Cathi. The only one missing was Ross, who I later saw in the Stonehouse. Greg was all gray hair and beard, both of which were longer a few years ago. The requirements of work forced him to compromise his appearance. Terry was my age with silver cropped hair and wide hips. She had her fair share of bumps on the road and her limping made that apparent. She had ankle issues, knee issues and recently had hip surgery.

Dori had wired framed glasses. She didn’t have Greg’s graying hair, but it was starting. Cathi, who looked just as Desi did came over to me with the same hauntingly familiar smile on her face.

We hugged each other with the familiarity of long-lost friends. I grabbed my overnight bag and briefcase that held my laptop and headed up to the large mansion, though now it didn’t look as large anymore.

“Can I carry something?” Greg asked me. I handed him my laptop which he carried up to the house. I also had my suit I planned to wear the next morning for the service. He ribbed me about my choice. He wore a pair of bib-overalls and a faded blue t-shirt. “I was gonna wear this tomorrow,” he boasted proudly.

I laughed. “Mom would haunt me the rest of my life if I did that to her soul-sister.”

“Yeah, your right.”

“I thought I raised you better,” I mocked what Mom might have said if it were meant that way.

We both laughed. I made it up to the back door and we entered and took an immediate right downstairs. Greg showed me the room and the cot-like bed with narrow mattress. A French door of ancient glass greeted us, and I realized we could have gone through that door instead but didn’t say anything. We dropped off the stuff on the mattress and headed back upstairs. Spaghetti noodles were cooking, and a large pot of red meat sauce simmered on the stove top. I realized I was getting hungry after my drive here. How many miles was it? I forgot to set mile trip odometer, so I had no idea. It wasn’t important at that point. Ross greeted me with a handshake. Like Greg, his hair turned gray. He wore a Fu-Man chu mustache with the same tall and wiry features of their father. He had jeans and sweatshirt with work boots, dusty and scuffed.

It was even longer since I last seen Ross; his high school graduation in 1983. I always treated him like Greg’s little brother, which upon hindsight, was a mistake. He wanted to be a good friend with me, but I ignored his entreaties. I guess he finally gave up on me and we never talked since. We both greeted each other with guarded respect.

I then went downstairs and grabbed my laptop. I wanted his Wi-Fi password so I could continue writing my latest project. Once I got it, I went outside for a bit while someone else showed up. It was Ross’ son and daughter in-law. Other family members arrived throughout the course of the night and I got to see the family tree taking form and showing its roots.

Pete finally arrived from Arizona where he and his present wife wintered. Not a member of Greg’s siblings liked her, loved her or respected her. Dori’s name for her was Cruella, from 101 Dalmatians. No one; even Pete, corrected her on that. His hair had become white as snow, but still full headed and he sported a very bushy mustache. He was still rail-thin and wiry. A healthy-looking man who I don’t believe ever smoked, drank very little and had a very easy-going air about him. I don’t know how he and Dad ever got along. I guess opposites do attract. We shook hands and talked small talk before I retired to my writing on the dining table while Pete ate the last of the Spaghetti.

I went to bed, but the younger crowd stayed up drinking and carrying on. I closed my eyes though my ears were still quite active. Finally, they too tuned out the commotion upstairs and I fell asleep. I dreamt of Mom and Dad. They were at a train station waiting for someone.

I awoke to the sounds of running water. Ross informed me last night the shower upstairs wasn’t working right, and everyone would need to use the shower downstairs. It was something Pete put together long ago. There was a drain in the floor to capture the water, a huge shower head that sprayed water in every direction and three faucets that one would see in a steam plant; a vertical thing with yellow or blue plastic insulator to protect fingers from getting burned, and the toilet and sink sat nearby to capture the spray from the water jets. There was no shower curtain.

Dawn came into the room from the French door and I made myself get up and get dressed. I opted not to use the shower when I overheard Terry cursing the hot water running out earlier. Apparently, adjusting the shower was paramount to having enough hot water to bathe.

I went upstairs and greeted everyone with Good mornings. “Yes, I slept well, and you?” I responded kindly as I found a ceramic mug and poured some coffee. It was black, not as strong as I make, but good enough. I sat at my laptop and continued writing but was interrupted by a lot of background noise and then it was breakfast time and I put everything away.

Breakfast was store-bought donuts, cheap but filling with unhealthy calories diabetes causing sugars. We ate ravenously. I went into the living room and sat on a chair. The room was filled with clocks of every conceivable fashion, design and vintage. They were the kind with pendulums that Ross rewound every morning. They tick-toc constantly. The little girl that was Greg’s granddaughter told her mom to make them stop. We laughed at her consternation.

“We can’t honey. They keep the time.”

It was in that time I began writing again and until I noticed it was nearing 10:30 and everyone started getting ready. I went with Greg towing the U-Haul trailer up to the cemetery. It was a narrow dirt road we had to climb and at one-point Greg place it in four high to reach the cemetery itself. Greg told me on the way earlier he forgotten about Mom, about him coming to the service and about the reasons he came. I didn’t invite anyone else in the family. I assumed my sisters did that for me.

“It must be a mental block to fool your brain to forget something so traumatic,” I told him. He seemed to accept that reasoning. I don’t believe he’ll ever forget this day though

The first time I went there, I was eleven and it was 1970, Memorial weekend. Pete was tasked with laying flowers at his Dad’s plot, along with an American flag. Greg, Ross, dad and I went there. It was like an old homestead graveyard I sometimes visited outside East Wenatchee; high tombstones with names of forgotten people with dates of when they were born and when they died, years before I was born. The brown grass choked with thistles and sage grass.

It hadn’t changed. Obviously, some of the plots increased since that day fifty years ago, but the ground hadn’t. Grave markers still showed names of those who desired to be buried here. An orchard bordered the cemetery to the south and the high saddle we stood on went up to a high ridge to the west. The grass was brown but come April when the rains come, the younger seedlings will appear as green shoots, only to turn brown and dry again in June. We unloaded the casket after Greg backed the trailer to where Desi’s desired resting place was set upon years ago.

The brothers and brothers in-law, along with Pete brought her out. The casket looked like it was made of Walnut or Ash. It reflected the sun’s rays nicely. Greg asked me before coming up here if I was interested in seeing her.

“No, I do not. I had to see Mom before they placed her in the oven. It’s not fun.”

“I forgot something,” Greg announced to everyone present. He pulled out a Lifer Saver mint. “She wanted a mint inside.” He then grabbed the lock and unlocked the coffin, raised the half-lid and placed the mint inside. Pete and I stayed back but Ross, Greg and Ken looked inside. I glanced in there though, as if I couldn’t help myself. As if my curiosity had to make certain it was her. I saw her blue dress and part of her bodice; her one small breast covered by her blue dress. It was her, I told myself. My throat constricted and I began to feel the raw emotion that would feel throughout the next two days began to overwhelm me.

After he locked everything back up, Greg came up to me. “Did you see her?”

“I couldn’t help it,” I replied and we both grabbed each other, holding an immense embrace and sobbing into each other. The tears welled up and fell down my face. Then we released.

Ross announced, “I need to go back to the house and get dressed.”

For reasons that only my inner conscience knew, I stated, “I’ll go with you.” It was like I was telling him how sorry I was for treating him like he was somehow second banana to his older brother.

The statement caught both by surprise. “See how you are, leaving me here like this,” Greg complained with mock objection.

“I still love you man.” I stated this as I got inside Ross’ Dodge Ram pickup. It was the same year as the one I just traded in and we discussed this rather than talk about my reasoning for wanting to go with him. I thought or hoped he figured it out himself, and I wouldn’t have to ask his forgiveness for me being such an ass when we were younger.

When we arrived, Dori, Kathy and everyone else were ready to leave. They saw me and I’m certain thought I was having another stroke. “Aren’t you going?” Dori asked.

“Of course, I just wanted to come back with Ross,” I replied. “I’ll wait down here for him.”

Both sisters gave a shrug and were gone, along with the rest of the clan. I stood by Ross’ truck and waited for his return. I noticed it took longer for him to get ready than I would have. Is he taking a shower?

Finally, he showed up from the Stonehouse and got inside the truck. I got in too and we headed back to the cemetery.

 I got out from the truck and noticed everything appeared ready. I met one of Ross’ friends and we chatted in idle chit-chat, ignoring for the moment the casket with Desi’s earthly remains inside. He moved on and I stood alone as I felt I always have.

The heat of the early spring sun felt good on my shoulders and back. I wore a charcoal double-breasted jacket with one button hooked to keep it in place. I made my way to the burial site that the coffin set over. I sat on a folding chair. We all waited for the preacher to arrive. When he finally called and asked Ross what time he wanted him, Ross told him on the phone, “Right now would be a good time.”

Ten minutes later a tall young man possibly in his thirties with brown, trimmed beard arrived carrying a scripture book. I can’t say I was impressed with him. He seemed so young and everyone of us had so much more experience in this business than he could possibly have. I’m sure his parents are still alive.

Pete and his family of Dori, Greg, Ross and Cathi sat up front. I sat behind them, the rest sat or stood behind me.

He began the service with prayer, and I wept. My eyes closed tightly, tears rolled down my cheeks and I could see Mom and Dad embracing Desi at the train station and all was good.

The ceremony continued with usual scripture readings from the most popular verses: Ecclesiastes, and Psalm 23. He then asked us of any fond memories they wanted to share. I stood to break the ice of bashfulness.

“I’m Jerry,” I told everyone. I felt myself breaking but held it in. I can do this. I know I can. “I’ve known this family forever. When we first met, I was ten and the first morning I remember being here Desi was fixing pancakes on an old wood burning stove with a cast iron skillet. Those were the best pancakes I ever ate, and Desi knew how to do that thing and make it good.” I sat down and waited for others around and behind me to follow suit. No one did.

The service continued with Greg telling us about getting pulled over by a Missouri State Trooper, the joke Terry played on Dori and Cathi, and then he stopped and looked at the casket that held Desi inside. He couldn’t continue. I felt my emotion break and I saw all the siblings tried valiantly to keep it together. I saw Pete sitting there stoically. What thoughts are you thinking right now?

“Goodbye Mom,” was all he could muster and sat down. Dori and Cathi then song Amazing Grace. We all sang along. I remembered every word from that song and didn’t need the sheet music that Shane passed to me. They too tearfully sang out with their emotions laid bare for all to see and hear.

When we finally finished, the preacher preached to us about how the only way to Heaven was through Jesus who died on the cross for our sins. I heard that numerous times before and tuned him out.

We prayed one last time and left the graveyard for the community center where a potluck was getting readied. Greg parked the truck at the Stonehouse where his step granddaughter came with us. We walked to the community center. I went inside and sat down. Long tables with white linen tablecloths were arranged longways and pictures of Desi were laid out along with Life Saver mints. The little children helped themselves to the mints while the adults talked of other things, listened to Desi’s favorite songs and saw a slide show before the meal was ready.

Greg and Ross and Pete disappeared. I figured they went back to the plot to help bury her. The task they had to do because the cemetery lacked a mechanical casket bearer, was to lower Desi into her eternal home.

They arrived twenty minutes later, showing pictures of her final resting place. I sighed in relief. It was done and I picked the three best pictures and placed them in my jacket pocket.

Corona Scare Tactics

It’s quite obvious, from where history stood that the media people and the government are using the same scare tactics used to alert us minions about certain unfounded bumps in the night, and the latest Corona virus is no different.

We can go back as far as the 17th century when the hysteria of witches were all the rage, starting in Europe and ending up in Salem, Massachusetts.

What had just begun to guide people into this hysteria? The invention of the printing press, the first mass social media outlet.

Every incident there after, that warranted fear and ultimately a repression of peoples’ rights can be traced to the government’s will over the people by instilling unnecessary fear into the social psyche, exploiting the press as their personal propaganda machine:

  • Fear and persecution of minority groups.
  • Repression of political ideas.
  • Paranoia of change to the fabric of the social order.

In subsequent years where major breakthroughs in the means and method of spreading news and information, or lies and disinformation, the media and the government have walked hand in hand to tell the masses this new threat is on the horizon and we all must be vigilant to avoid catching this or that.

I’m not a naysayer in this latest news outbreak. Corona is a real virus that is spreading and has the potential of killing people if not treated. Prevention is more the key here then anything.

What I have issue with is the bombardment of misinformation that has come with this. It instills more fear that this is something that could kill anyone by just being near someone who looks Chinese, or coughs, or whatever.

Stop the hysteria, the disinformation, the bias and the propaganda. Let the healthcare professionals do their job and allow our government to fund the crisis as best they can.

Coming to Town

My mother in law, Lillian is here. She arrived from Yakima yesterday and will leave with her common law husband, Tom. He’s a cowboy in the classic sense. The camper we bought is now home as of Friday night. Unfortunately we had to deal with issues that were never resolved.

But, that is another issue for another time. My wife and I spent the day getting the camper readied. Then we went shopping when she got the call from her mother that they overshot the exit they needed to take. They were at a Fred Meyers store in the Spokane Valley and were hopelessly lost. Lillian ran the navigator unit to get the directions to our house. She hadn’t any idea how to get here from there.

My wife told me what the situation was and I thought for about three seconds and told her, “Tell them to go north.” North being the northbound street that was a block from the department store.

“Just say on that path until they get to Wellsley, and wait for us or Terry(stepson).” It is always a good idea to have an alternative route in one’s mind when your in-laws get lost because I’m sure Tom would have just back tracked to Spokane proper, and perhaps compounded the problem.

We just arrived to our house when I heard the dogs barking after Stephanie let them outside to relieve themselves. I was in the garage with the intention of putting the groceries in our spare refrigerator, when I saw Terry getting out of an F-350 and Tom riding high on his steel steed wearing his cowboy hat and his gray, bushy mustache hiding a toothy grin as he pulled up in front of my Ram 2500, its camper sitting proudly upon the truck for all to see.

“They’re here,” I called out to Stephanie.

“They are? How?” She asked more to herself than to me as I walked toward the big truck and wondered why he didn’t bring something that was more fuel efficient.

Lillian got out first as Stephanie and Tom did a ballet of vehicle moves to make everyone happy. Lillian and I hugged each other. Once Tom was parked horizontally to my truck and Stephanie’s Buick was parked next to my truck, I shook Tom’s hand we then set about to getting the camper readied for them to have a comfortable night’s sleep.

We got the heater going and the bedding in placed, but still couldn’t get that silly slide out to work. Hopefully that will be resolved Monday. As it was, it is fortunate that both Tom and Lillian are not robust individuals. Tom was tall and wiry; Lillian is a petite 85 year old woman, who one could assume was frail, though she would challenge you on that point. They squeezed between the inverted camper without issue.

It is the largest camper one can have. The manufacturer recommended using a one ton duelly for such a unit. Which was why we had to buffet the truck up to support such an RV. It has added struts, springs and supports that will hold the truck. When driving home I felt like a hippo tipping her toe in a shallow lake.

It’s the next morning and they’re in the TV room watching Net-Flix. I heard no complaints from them. She usually don’t and Tom has been known to sleep on bare ground with just a saddle blanket over his body and his saddle for a pillow. I think they’re happy with the accommodations.

It’s A Mystery

I knew the moment I saw the news report that it wasn’t as the authorities were reporting. On January 26, 2016, Dr. John Marshall went for a jog along the banks of the Spokane River and seemingly disappeared until a day later when his body was discovered several miles downstream.

Now the Washington Attorney General has stepped in to launch the investigation where there now appears that foul play was involved. I always believed this was more than a mere accidental slip on some ice and fall to his death into the icy waters of the Spokane River.

I also figured there had to been a connection of some sort going on, which was verified in this KREM 2 news investigative report four years later that placed the widow front and center into the investigation.

According to the report, she was impatient to have the cause of death determined so she might get life insurance benefits, and the medical examiner determined the cause of death accidental. Later, though rumors spread about a possible relationship between Dr. Marshall and someone seemingly unrelated, Brenda Thurman, who died weeks earlier when her husband accidentally shot her while cleaning his handgun.

It is quite the mystery that has all the earmarks of a love connection and murder through jealousy. As the news report indicated Dr. Marshall’s did not have the bruising, bumps or lacerations one would expect to have on their bodies after falling over a hundred feet into the river.

It is a truism that facts are stranger than fiction. I couldn’t make this story up. It’s just too juicy to make it any less. I believe it most likely was the jealous husband who discovered this relationship between Dr. Marshall and his wife Brenda. The husband, by the way, was convicted for manslaughter in the death of his wife. The jury didn’t buy his story that it was an accident.

Last Night

Well there I was sleeping when my wife crawled into bed next to me and asked, “You asleep?”

“No,” I lied, figuring she had something to get off her chest.

“My son got arrested. He’s in jail,” she told me in a matter-of-fact tone that told me how upset she was with her son.

I was fully awake now. “What for? DUI?”

“No, driving without a license and no license plates on that car he bought.”

It’s no secret that the police in this town of nearly 500,000 have better things to do with their Friday nights, and going after a car that has no license plate, isn’t high on their priority lists, unless of course, the officer was a rookie on his or hers first ever patrol.

Or, he did something else equally stupid, like drive too fast, weaving between the lines, driving too slow or not using his turn signals. All of which are tell-tale signs of someone under the influence of drugs like marijuana or alcohol.

She rambled off some more before she drifted off to sleep. I stayed awake, not so much because of my stepson, but the stories I’ve worked on. I’m almost done reformatting the third book in the Four Seasons series and was looking at the next three books that will come up hopefully later this year.

This morning I finally remembered the title of the one story I wanted used in book number five. Now that that is squared away, I can start organizing that into a coherent format for both e-book and print versions.

Now it appears we have to drive into Spokane Valley, where he parked his car last night. Hopefully, it wasn’t impounded.