A Sad Time

The other day I got this Facebook notice from a former co-worker from Northern Quest. She was an African American woman who I knew for years and resigned to have her baby three years ago. So, I was pleasantly surprised that she sent a post to me. Most of the time people who used to be on Facebook friends’ list cancel or delete these former contacts. I assumed she did the same.

At any rate she showed  a collage of photos of her and her daughter. She then mentioned how her two-year-old daughter had passed and was going to buy an urn for her and bury her next to her grandmother at the cemetery.

Two years old! Wow, it’s hard to grasp what she must be feeling right now, how utterly alone she must feel losing her only daughter. The cause was kidney failure which I suppose is something congenital. I couldn’t imagine something environmental would be the cause of someone so young.

I tried doing research on it and of course all the statistical analysis and studies told me very little. At least it didn’t tell me anything except that both enfant and child mortality rates in most of the developed world are going down, and a study done on acute kidney disease was so academic and dry as to make little or no sense to what the author was trying to express.

The hardest job I ever had was when I worked for the cemetery company in Richland, Washington. It was a grave I had to dig by hand on account it was meant for a four-year-old child and an earth mover would disturb the other graves too much. The ground was rocky and the grave was only to be big for the parents to come and visit on those special occasions we all feel is fitting. It was an area reserved for the children who passed from any number of illnesses, accidents or worse. I never like to consider the worse, but that too happens much too often these days. I know the innocent children always go to Heaven. After all, they aren’t corrupted by the evil influence of mankind.

I pray that her daughter is in a better place where her spirit is flying with the angels of Heaven and Jesus is smiling down on her with love and tenderness and mercy.

My Writing This Week

Okay, here is the good news that I have wanted to share for months now but only today am able to tell my loyal readers, my book I Albert Peabody is paid for through my diligent efforts. Like I said it’s been several months of suffering through in which case it seemed someone or something always seemed to get in the way. I don’t know when the release date will be yet, but hopefully, at least this time it will happen before Christmas which is an ideal time for books to get out there to the public.

Like I mentioned some time ago I am currently working on a new project called Mobley’s Dick. It’s a mystery suspense thriller, a bit tongue in cheek and also some romance to go with it to add some spice that I rarely do with most of my books. I also decided to use my Spokane Fiction Writers’ Club as a bit of a backdrop to the story, though it isn’t a centerpiece of the main plot.

I blew the dust off one of my second draft manuscripts called Luke Warm: A Nick Roberts Mystery. The detective is a down and out PI whose partner is murdered in the first scene. A news reporter named Luke Warm witnesses the shooting after he and his girlfriend end their date at a theater in Missoula, Montana. They partner up and soon discover there is much more to this mystery than just the murder of Nick Robert’s partner.

So here we are again looking at my next up coming projects in its various stages of metamorphosis. I am hopeful with the help of some marketing companies who have helped me these past months, these projects will begin to blossom into something quite successful.

I Don’t Know About You, But…

I’ve been just on pins and needles feeling like Gumby, being pulled in different directions because of this home deal, my book promotions and marketing, my wife and of course my own writing which has suffered the most.

I’ve been escaping by reading my Kindle books and going to work, which has benefitted my sanity somewhat. One would think that working at a job would be stressful enough, but in this case, it has been like an aphrodisiac because I can push everything else to the back burner for eight hours and not have to deal with buying a house, marketing a book on another promotion campaign, or dealing with the woman I love and am married to.

It’s when I get home after work that I have to revisit that zoo. My room mates are understanding to my predicament though they haven’t experienced exactly what I’m going through, they at least empathized with me; both are divorced.

The newest book I’m trying to write has been tough because of all the other pressures I’m having to put out as a priority too. It’s supposed to be a murder mystery where a writer witnesses a murder, gets the idea to write something similar and eventually finds himself in trouble for it when he tells the wrong person his plan. It’s floundering from neglect right now, and I’m not certain on what path to take at this point. It’s almost tempting to place that project on a back burner until these other issues get resolved.

But, I have to do as all recovering alcoholics do; take one day at a time and rely on sobriety and not dwell on trying to getting everything done at once. I always read the Serenity prayer that goes: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

Here It Is

As many of you know my wife and have been living apart these past ten months and we are about ready to sell the house on Rowan. That is almost complete and buyer just has to sign the title agreement and it’s hers. We think we have found our place outside Cheney and Airway Heights which are towns outside Spokane. It’s 4.5 acres with a mobile home, a barn in the back, a shop, and unused pasture that will eventually be mine and Stephanie’s new home, either a modular or conventional house.

Our realtor told us the zoning rules and yes we can have another residence but it can only be no more than 800 square feet, but we can add upward, meaning a second story. There are other issues related to this and we are free to petition for an exemption. It still isn’t a for sure thing, but if we can make it work so be it. In the interim her daughter, children and husband will inhabit the mobile home, which is a nice sized double wide, though it’s a bit old: 1976. My wife and I agreed to live in a camper and the truck camper until our house is built hopefully in the following year.

Point Of View

Last night my writers’ group had a class in point of view. In case my loyal readers are not aware or have forgotten what they learned Junior High and High school English, point of view is the perspective of how the writer want to present his characters, such as first person: me, myself, or I, second person: you, or third person: he, she, them, they.

It isn’t a hard and fast rule on which genre point of view should or shouldn’t be used. They all work. As an example, I used a second person point of view story I wrote recently that was related to a larger book called A Case of Mistaken Identity. In this book are two different characters who are identical in appearance and age. I used one character in the second person and the other in the third person. Both meet each other briefly before one of the characters dies. But that too is a ruse.

One of the main points of using any point of view method, like anything concerning plot or character development, is consistency. You can’t just suddenly switch from first person to third without warning the reader first either through a break or chapter change. It would confuse the reader and force him or her to just give up on the book entirely.

I personally prefer third person omniscient where the narrator actually is more god-like being able to manipulate the characters and get inside their heads to bring their own thoughts out for the reader. But I have also used Third person limits such as I did in A Man’s Passion. This next book that is set to be published, I Albert Peabody, is in first person because it reads more like a memoir. This life: My Life after my Stroke, was also done in first person because it too was a memoir based on my life experiences though I used a fictitious name for the protagonist.

Point of view is a necessary element in drafting any story to engage the reader and make him or her feel something toward that character, be he the protagonist or antagonist, point of view helps the reader define an emotional feeling toward that particular character. This is so that in the end of the story we either cheer for the good guy or weep over his demise. That is what good story telling is all about.

Non-Conformist

Long ago in a school district far, far away and before people in a decision-making capacity realized that I had speech impairment and not a mental disability, I was placed in Special Ed. No one had to tell us that we were not part of society, from a young and impressionable age we all knew we didn’t belong. We didn’t learn the way the other kids learned, we didn’t speak clearly enough to be understood like the normal children, and obviously some of us didn’t look normal either. We learned early on we were the rejects, the misfits, and the nonconformists of society.

Now, they are called “special.” Does anyone realized what that tag means or symbolizes to a child born not normal to that child? To me, seeing the other children with autism, mental retardation, cleft lip or pallet, speech impairment, deafness, or blindness, I felt like I was an outcast. I was bussed several miles from the normal school the normal kids went to, to an old school made of brick and mortar called Eastmont. Across the street was the high school.

Fortunately, one of my teachers there saw my potential and lobbied in my behalf to put me in a regular school with the other normal kids. It was a bit of a culture shock but I did adjust, made new friends, and began to excel in school regardless of how I looked or sounded. But, in a truly obvious sense the damage to my psyche had already been done. For good or bad, I learned I was a different person and that knowledge affected me profoundly.

I’m certain had I been, “normal” like the other children I grew up with, my whole attitude, credo and political mindset would undoubtedly had been much different. My parents were conservative, voted Republican and insisted on living in neighborhoods of similar, white-minded conservative, Republican people. After I acclimated into the sphere of normalcy I should have gone that same track, but two things affected more than anything else: my Special Ed and the crap that I grew up on in the sixties and early seventies. I was cut of a different cloth and no matter how my parents and their friends saw things; I saw the opposite.

Early on my psyche was also affected by certain behaviors that other children did. I smoked my first cigarette when I was nine when one of my school friend pulled out a half-smoked cigarette from his dad’s ashtray. There were five of us in a circle during recess, taking turns puffing on the butt until it was done. After that I knew I wanted to be like the other cool people I saw on TV, the advertisements, and the high school teenagers across the street that we saw with cigarettes in their mouths.

High School I was the oldest and knew I didn’t belong because, well I was eighteen and a sophomore. I should already been going to college or joining the military. I would have done that except, besides being born with a speech impediment and harelip, I was also graced with scoliosis. That’s where the back is twisted sideways like a pretzel. So once again, I’m the nonconformist who talked funny and was three years older than anyone else when I graduated from high school.

Yet I was still forcing my oblong self into a square hole by trying to become popular like everyone else at that time, hence I began smoking pot and going to parties where beer and wine were consumed. I felt like I belonged and everyone seemed to like me. And I went to college with this knowledge that by abusing my body and mind I was like everyone else who went to college.

It wasn’t until much later that I realized how stupid I was like the day after my stroke in 2002. I had to pick up the pieces of my broken self and start over again. An occupational therapist, his name was Roger, though I’m not certain, came into my hospital room. I saw him and I reacted with abhorrence, which I shouldn’t have. He too had a harelip like mine, though his plastic surgeon did a better job of “normalizing” his upper lip than mine did, which is why I chose to sport a mustache to hide my disability.

He saw my reaction and naturally it upset him and he told me he wasn’t any better or worse than me and to learn to get over it. I later apologized to him for my initial reaction. It was after all the same reactions I received growing up in Wenatchee. They saw the disability before they saw the person behind the disability and then made immediate assumptions about my mental capabilities. It’s something I still get to this day when someone at work goes out of their way to be nice to me. I am immediately on the defensive because they only see a part of me, not the intelligent, caring person, but someone “special.”

The other day at work a security guard buddy and I were talking about the people on the streets who go out and get high in our restroom, doing their crystal meth, heroin, or marijuana. He told me that when he was growing up and going to high school, he couldn’t even afford those drugs and whenever he was asked if he wanted to indulge, he always said no.

“Oh my God,” I exclaimed in horror, “You’re a nonconformist!”

“Yeah, I guess I am, aren’t I?”

Again?

This goes beyond words to describe how I feel right now following what happened Monday in Highland Park, Illinois. Once again, a deranged individual comes out of the woodwork and using an assault style rifle shoots parade goers on our most sacred holiday.

I truly hope this person is proud of himself for ruining the lives of over thirty families, seven of which must bury their loved ones because Robert E. Crimo III, a gutless coward, kills and maims for some sick fantasy inside his twisted head.

Once more America has to bear witness to a lawless and despicable act brought on by a person so deranged and pathological that even his own parents wouldn’t have anything to do with him and his ideology. It’s a credo of hate brought to him on his cellphone through social media sites that preach this nonsense to gullible young men such as him and the Uvalde massacre killer, Salvador Ramos.

Like I said before, we don’t need more gun laws, we need something more pragmatic and more hopeful. It’s a tide of violence that comes from those who feel disenfranchised, lost and forgotten. As long as we as a society neglect and abuse and incite these young men toward a path of hate and violence through video games and social media, as well as a bloodlust to have their names forever remembered long after they are a footnote in history, we will continue to have this insanity at our feet.

Like John Lennon and Jesus Christ said, love is the answer. Love is the antithesis of hate and intolerance. We all must coexist, enjoy each other’s company, and not speak ill of others. It does sound easier than it appears now, but it must happen or we as a society are doomed to chaos and anarchy.

Slaughter

Jose was six years old riding in the back of a long trailer with over fifty others fleeing, what Padre called a dire situation in Honduras where they lived but were suddenly thrown out. He saw his uncle give this man all of the pesos they possessed to get out of here and into a land of promise.

He saw the man who took their money and he felt frightened and uncertain. He couldn’t trust this man, an obese and single-minded person who smelled of too much cerveza and tequila. He wore sunglasses and had gold crowns that he flashed whenever he smiled.

“Your family will be just fine,” he told his tio. Jose didn’t believe him though. “Go ahead, get inside. You will be in Texas very soon. There you will have freedom and more money than you could imagine!”

“I don’t want to go!” He told his uncle and father, but they picked him up anyway and put him inside the trailer. It was already hot and airless inside. Madre held him close and his two brothers joined him. The gate closed and they felt the trailer rock and then move. They heard the tractor accelerate and the gears change while they all waited for deliverance from the terrorists and the poverty that they had know for far too long.

Darkness inside felt stifling, profound, and deadly. Jose believed he was imprisoned in a giant coffin. Air was no whereabouts. He removed himself from his mother’s arms and hugged the trailer’s wood floor to get even a faintest of much needed oxygen in his small longs.

They stopped briefly and they heard many voices outside. Then the rig resumed traveling. Jose could only assume they were headed north, though he wasn’t certain on that note either. Voices that started off hopeful and confident became more and more muted. The voices became increasingly replaced by sobbing.

“Abuelo!” Someone shouted in the darkness.

“Abuela?” Someone else cried out. Jose didn’t know but the old ones were going first. They would not live to see the promised land of riches and safety.

“Oh, my baby!” a young mother screamed out in agony. Many more cried out too. This bargain for a better future turned into nightmare and this trailer was their doom to hell on earth.

The rig turned sharply and stopped suddenly. The truck’s engine shut off and another car or truck, Jose wasn’t certain which, came and stopped briefly. He heard a brief exchange in Spanish. “No worries, they will all be dead and we will be rich beyond our wildest dreams.” Jose heard the vehicle drive off.

Night Fear: Part 2

“I guess, what kind of game, Xanadu?”

“I ask you a question about yourself, and you answer truthfully. Then you do the same, ask me a question and I answer truthfully.” The thought of this both intrigued and frightened me.

“But I already know as much as you confessed to me earlier that I would want to know.”

“That’s just the surface, what you can clearly see, and yes I confessed how I got this deformity, which you wouldn’t have guessed in a million years. Are you ready? I’ll start out simple.”

“What happens at the end?”

“If you answer the last question truthfully, you live. But if you lie, even a little white lie, I must kill you.” She smiled at me as if she were kidding.

“Are you serious?” My back went back into defensive posture.

“No, silly, I was kidding, but you will have to do something for lying to absolve your sin. We’ll decide on your punishment later.”

“Okay, I guess there’s no harm in this.” Another thunder boom erupted above us after a lightning strike lit the night sky.

“What is your favorite color?”

“Blue,” I replied. “Your?”

“Violet,” Xanadu said.

“I would have figured brown or pink.”

She ignored my comment. “What’s your favorite season?”

“Summer, and yours?”

“Spring and autumn because it symbolizes life.”

“I like summer because I like to go out and do fun things like camping,” I told her.

“What’s your favorite hobby?”

“I like to cook. Then I create recipes of what I created and put them into my cookbooks.” She appeared intrigued by my answer.

“I thought you were just making up stuff to get my confidence.”

“Do you want to see the book I have so far? Oh duh, we can’t, it’s all on my computer and the power is shut off. When the power returns, perhaps?”

“Maybe, now it’s your turn.”

“Okay, what is your hobby?”

“Playing these kinds of games. I really get to know a person this way. Next question what was your first car?”

“Oh, that was ages ago, when I was in high school. I think it was a 72 Firebird my dad got me. It was old and used and beat up. I learned to fix it up and sold it four years later to go to technical college. You?”

“My first car I got after I graduated from high school seven years ago. It was a minivan. A Dodge I think it was.”

“Do you still have it?”

She shook her head no. “Next question, what’s your favorite food?”

“Pizza with everything on it. It’s in my cookbook. I call it ‘The Garbage Pit.’ And yours?”

“Saulsbury steak with mash potatoes and gravy with mixed peas and carrots. When we had that it meant my parents weren’t fighting like brothers and sisters. We had it rarely, as you can imagine.”

I was intrigued by her answer. I also felt sorry for her because that kind of meal seemed so basic, as if made in a buffet line kitchen and served to the masses. “I got a question for you. Did you have any pets?”

“Once, I found this turtle on the middle of the road. I took it home but I didn’t know what to feed it and released it back to where I found it. The little time I had it, I knew he wasn’t happy. He probably had to feed his family, but later read that turtles are like snakes, once they hatch from their eggs they’re on their own. I never had any desire to own a pet like a dog or cat. I didn’t want to see them grow old and then die.”

“I had dogs and cats throughout my life. I don’t have anything now because, as you said the last one passed a short time ago. I haven’t had the time lately to go and find one.”

“Next question, who was your favorite president?”

“John Kennedy, though he didn’t accomplish as much as he should have in his short time. And yours?”

“Bill Clinton most recently, but also Franklin Pearce because he was so handsome. The only problem I had with these men, until Obama was they were white, and they preferred to pass the buck on the slavery issue before the Civil War, and then didn’t want to deal with the prejudice issue after.”

“Interesting point,” I said to her. “Lincoln was the only one who had the courage to stop slavery.”

“If John Adams had the backbone, he should have signed that emancipation proclamation, and damn the consequences later,” she appeared on a roll now as her eyes danced with the candlelight. I laughed at her sponk. “Why did you laugh?”

“I find it refreshing that you and I share the same thoughts on history. Yes, I agree. If he had done that there would have been no civil war. Granted the southern states might have gone back to England out of pure malice and spite, but it definitely would prevented the calamities later on.”

She looked thoughtful at me, apparently trying to read my thoughts. “What is your favorite love song?”

“ ‘Time in a Bottle,’ by Jim Croce, and yours?”

“I don’t think I have one, though I like ‘I Will Always Love You’ by Dolly Parton and Whitney Houston.”

“Interesting,” I replied. “Okay, next question.”

“Okay, but I must warn you these next questions are going to be harder and your punishment, more severe if you lie. You must be absolutely honest with me.”

I looked at her with uncertain eyes. “How…I mean how would you know if I was lying?” “Oh, I know. You have been truthful far, correct?”

“Yes, of course.”

“You looked me straight in the eyes, your voice was relaxed and conversational. You were being honest. If your body language deviates at all from how you respond to these next questions, I will know you’re lying.”

“Okay, I have  no skeletons in my closet, excuse the cliché.”  

“I don’t care about that. Okay here is your first question, In The Wizard of Oz, by Lyman Frank Baum, he portrayed our most base fears on the characters, Scarecrow, Tinman and Lion: Fear of not knowing, fear of not caring for others, and not having the courage to step and do right. Which fear best represents you?”

“I don’t know. I never read the book, I’m afraid.”

“Then the first?”

“No, maybe, I don’t know.”

“Next question, if you were awakened in the middle of the night by a loud crash, would you go and investigate?”

“Yes I would.”

“Without fear?”

“I’m sure I would feel anxiety and apprehension. It’s human nature, but I would still investigate just for the peace of mind it might bring.”

“What if it did not bring you peace of mind? What if you were confronted by someone or something that could harm you or even kill you?”

I looked at her trying to figure out where this was leading. “I don’t know. I would have to rely on instinct and hope I could defend myself if it came to that.”

“Very good, you are definitely the scare crow here. Next question, going back to high school did you ask a certain girl out to the prom?”

“Why yes, her name was Suzy Best. Gosh that was a long time ago.”

Did you rape her?”

“No! I did not. I was a perfect gentleman to her that night at the prom. We kissed goodnight at her parents’ front porch. Then sometime later that night someone snuck into her bedroom, raped and then strangled her to death. That was in the news.

He was caught by the way and confessed. I think he’s still in prison.” My mind began racing and my eyes darted back and forth to her and to the darkness on either side of her.

“You are lying, aren’t you? You raped her and placed the rope you used on someone else, a nobody with a history of drug and alcohol abuse. You framed him.”

“NO! Where did you get that? It was not me.” I felt my heart pounding loud in my chest. Beads of sweat formed on my brow and under my arms. I began breathing through my mouth.

“Very well, next question, where did you meet your wife?”

“I met her at a job I used to work for back in 2005.” I began to relax.

“Was it a happy marriage?”

“Yes, it was a pleasant time in our lives.”

“Why did she leave?”

“She didn’t give me a reason, but I suspect it was because I lost my mother so suddenly. I guess she couldn’t handle my mourning any longer. I still mourn for her.”

“How did your mother die?”

“It was a heart attack.”

“Did you kill her?”

“No! Why are you insinuating this stuff?” My heart began pounding louder and louder. My mind felt numb and I couldn’t think of anything to say.

“You killed your mother and you killed your wife, didn’t you?”

“For the last time NO!!! I killed no one. EVER!!!” My chest ached and I felt a sharp cramp in my shoulder Oh my God I think I’m having a heart attack!

“What is your worst fear George?”

“What?”

“What are you afraid of?”

She already knew the answer to that question as she slowly arose from her chair and went to the front door. Just before she opened it, she blew out the candle. The very moment she opened the door the candle blew out on me…

End

Night Fear: Part 1

An angry storm spit rain and wind whipped the trees about. I looked from the comfort of my warm house and hoped the power would return soon. In an instant I saw the lightning crack and the thunder clap so loud I jumped a foot from the wood floor.

I then saw in that instant of electric lightning light her standing just outside my door, my window, my house. Then the image was gone. A person, woman? Or was it a spirit, an aberration or poltergeist? I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand out.

Against my base instincts, I ventured outside into the stormy night of whipping wind and drenching rain that soaked my shirt and caused the material to appear translucent against my skin. I shivered but whether from the storm or something more terrifying, I  couldn’t hazard a guess. I used my cellphone’s flashlight and shined in the area where I thought I saw this woman.

“Hello? Don’t be afraid. Come inside the house. I’ll keep you warm and safe. I’m George Rockefeller. Not the famous Rockefellers of New York, but a poor and distant cousin several times removed. Please come out. I promise I’ll be a gentleman in every sense of the word.”

I heard nothing save the wind crashing into the trees. I waited for a reply but none came. Perhaps it was my imagination playing games with me. How did that song go? Just my imagination, running away with me.

I hummed the song as I turned and went back inside.

“You promise?”

The sound, the voice froze me in place. The hairs on my neck arose again and I stifled the urge to scream like a little girl. “Yes, yes I promise. Come to the light here so I can see you.”

She slowly appeared and I saw a pale woman with raven colored hair, a long nose and dark eyes stared back at me. “Hello George,” She said with a coy grin that caused her skin flush red. Her eyes casted downward as if I embarrassed her.

She wore a thin jacket, perhaps a windbreaker that soaked through. She had it zipped up, but she shivered anyway. “Neither one of us are dressed for this nasty storm. Let’s go inside. I think I have a flannel shirt or sweat pants you can borrow from me.” I looked down past her jacket and saw a saturated pair of jeans, holy, as was the style teenagers wore these days. I doubted that she was younger than 30 years though.

I pressed my right palm onto the back of her jacket and guided her inside. “I have a lantern and some candles I can light. I didn’t earlier because I like storms like this if I don’t have to be outside, that is,” I chuckled at my attempt at humor in this time. For whatever reason I felt anxious.

“Your wife doesn’t mind?” She asked.

“My wife left me ten years ago.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” she quickly apologized.

“It’s water under a bridge now,” I told her with a nervous laugh. “You are the first woman in ten years that has crossed this threshold.”

She looked about the darkened living room. I’m sure she must’ve imagined how I kept this house now that she knew I lived alone. Like some men I know, I’m one who prefers an uncluttered house. I admit I dust rarely, mop the floors infrequently but I keep my kitchen and bathroom clean.

“Penny for your thoughts?” I asked her as she looked seemingly beyond the darkness.

“I guess I’m trying to categorize you; see where you fit in this world.”

“Like I said I’m a very distant relative of those famous New York Rockefellers. Beyond that, there is nothing else. I work as an auto mechanic, I write as a hobby, mostly cookbooks, and I like viewing storms in the darkened house I live in.”

I left her standing in the dark living room as I searched the closet for that lantern I promised her I had. At least she was pleasant to the eyes, I thought as I pulled the lantern from the top shelf and pressed a button that would, should turn it on.

Nothing. “Damn, the battery must be dead,” I muttered more to myself than to this stranger. I looked at her in an apologetic air. She appeared tall but slightly shorter than me. I’m five foot eleven, though I’ve gotten away with telling people I was six foot. Like me, she had a slender body, maybe slightly anemic by her pale face and hands.

“Oh, you said you have candles. I’m more favorable to that, George.”

“Yes, of course. I’ll go and get them.” I went to the kitchen after closing the closet door. There was something about the situation that had me both excited at the prospect of entertaining a woman for the first time in ten years and a nagging anxiety that she might be dangerous.

I went to the utility drawer and began rifling through the various tools I kept inside when I found three candles I used the last time the power went out from the last storm we had. Next to the candles sat a disposable lighter, which I used to ignite the wicks, casting a yellowish glow. My eyes immediately lost night vision capability and all I saw outside the outer boundary of this limited light was darkness.

She was right there and I jumped. “Shit you scared me.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. I followed you. I assumed you heard me.”

“No, I didn’t hear you,” I replied, as I slowly recovered and handed her the other candle. I took mine to a twin holder and pressed the candles firmly onto the spike. “I don’t think I have an extra one for you though,” I told her. “I never got you name.”

“Xanadu,” she replied.

“What an unusual name!”

“It’s an idealized place,” she replied. “Kinda like Eden.”

She held the candle slightly away from her face. I saw the beauty of her and a blemish under her nose, like scarred over defect that will undoubtedly be with her for life. In life there are always imperfections, I reminded myself as I forced myself to look beyond her upper lip and focused instead on her eyes, a deep, deep brown color. They mesmerized me. “Wasn’t there a movie by that name?”

“Yes, and a song by Olivia Newton John.” A loud clap of thunder erupted and she and I both jumped. We laughed at each other. “You mentioned dry clothes?”

“Yes I did. Please, stay here. If you’d like, there are some snacks in the cupboard over there and I think maybe some fruit in the fridge.” I quickly left her and followed the candle light into my bedroom and opened a drawer from an antique bureau I inherited from my mother after her passing ten years ago. It was a rough year and I believed I shut my wife out to the point of leaving me. She couldn’t handle my mood anymore.

I searched and found the sweatpants, and then I took a bathrobe hanging from my bedroom door. I changed out of my shirt as well, opting for a sweatshirt with the technical college’s logo on its front I once attended several years ago, and took them to the kitchen. I saw her sitting at the table. She had poured the melted wax on the table and stuck the candle fast upon the tabletop. She ate crackers, a variety of fresh fruit mostly melons and pineapple chunks, and slices of cheddar cheese from a platter I had bought a while back.

“Here you go,” I told her with lightheartedness as I stared at the disfigured tabletop that I imagined was ruined now. “I hope that cleans up.”

She looked confused by my comment. “Oh, the candle! Yes, it will clean up very nicely.”

“It’s just it’s an antique I got from my mother’s inheritance.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” she apologized with sincerity. She got up and snatched the clothes from my hand and went into the living room. I afforded her privacy and sat at the table on a chair opposite from the one she sat on. “Do you have a washer I can put these in?”

“I do but the power is off. It will do you little good now.”

“It would be a place to stow them until the power does come on,” she replied tersely. She walked back into the kitchen, her wet clothes in a bundle cradled in one arm, her candle in the other,

“In the bathroom down the hall on the left is where I keep a laundry basket. You can use that for the time being.” I placed a cheese slice in my mouth. “The washer and dryer are in the basement. It would be too dangerous for you to go there now.”

Her mouth worked on something to come back on, but then smiled and left the kitchen, walking toward the bathroom down the hallway where she disposed of her wet clothes. A moment later I heard the toilet flush and then water running from the faucet. I had moved into the living room and sat on my recliner, though I sat with my back straight up and my bottom inclined toward the front of the chair. She made me nervous.

She came out wearing the sweat pants and robe, its sash knotted securely. The front of the robe showed a hint of her young chest. I was uncertain how developed she was but assumed had little to brag about. “Sit down,” I told her pointing at the chair next to me. An end table sat between us. She hesitated, then acquiesced. She too sat on the seat but never fully relaxed. It was as if we were on a blind date and meeting each other for the first time. “Xanadu,” I blurted out without thinking as if trying the name on for taste and feel.

“Yes?”

“It’s such an unusual name, quite unique.”

“I would like to think of myself that way.”

“Your mother must have been a very creative woman.”

“She wasn’t. I made up that name after I turned of age and left my family five years ago.”

“What was your birth name then?”

“Blanch,” she replied in bitterness as if she just bit into a lemon.

“But that’s a method of cooking. Why on earth would she resort to naming you that?”

“Ask her yourself. She hated me anyway.”

“But why?”

“Her brother, my dad, raped her when she was a teenager. Her parents, my grandparents, were strictly religious types and refused to have an abortion performed, insisting they raise me proper.”

I was shocked at her answer to say the least. “It must have been hard growing up knowing that bitter truth.”

“All I have to do is look in the mirror every day and am reminded the effect of my mother’s rape and their sin.” She put the candle closer to her face showing me the harelip.

“I’m so sorry for your horrible, horrible life.” I couldn’t think of a suitable line to use. I looked at her, but at the same time I wanted to cast my eyes away from the deformity. “Why haven’t a plastic surgeon taken pity on you and get that fixed?”

“Pity?” She flashed angry eyes at me. If she were Medusa of Greek myth, I’m sure I would have turned to stone. “I don’t want anyone’s pity, George!”

“I guess I said that wrong. I apologize,” I replied quickly. “Your speech is impeccable though.”

It took her a moment to calm herself down before she replied, “I practiced every day, learning how to enunciate the words I would need to use.” She seemed to relax her defenses and leaned back in her chair. I did the same. It was obvious by the storm outside; we weren’t going anywhere tonight. “You want to play a game?”