Old Town Pasadena – Conclusion

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(Part IV – Previously: Sam and Kristie’s vacation gets interrupted by a wild party at the back of their B & B. Mialee’s sister Jen is caught with a smoking gun and one of the guests ends up dead.)

Later, the three of them were back from the station. Mialee went off to buy supplies for the kitchen and Bill was outside raking leaves. He got a rake for Sam. They dumped leaves into a green plastic bin.

“Honest to God, Sam, I didn’t realize these girls were so young. You know how it is with some of these gals. They can be fifteen, they put on a bunch of make-up, heels and Presto! They look twenty-five.”

Sam shrugged in agreement.

“Plus, I wasn’t really around any of them for any period of time. They were always in the back house. coming and going very late. We’ve been so busy with customers. . .” The big guy stopped and leaned on his rake. “Honestly, I just wasn’t paying that much attention. Didn’t think it was a problem. That and Mialee. . . well, I love her. But, you know, this is family, and you don’t rat out family.”

“There’s that,” Sam replied.

“I am not really sure how much she even knew.”

“The cops said they found crystal meth, coke, marijuana, pills and alcohol there. Did you know about that?” Sam asked.

“Jen has always been a bit on the wild side. It seems like things have been getting more out of control recently. I knew she drank a fair amount, and even some MJ now and then, but the other stuff. Whew! That surprised even me.”

“Well, Jen is going to have her hands full when they catch her. Manslaughter for sure, depending on what she says. Corruption of minors and prostitution. She could be looking at some real time. The good news is, I had a heart to heart with the detectives and they will try to keep the name of the B & B out of the papers as much as possible.”

“Whew! Well, thank God for that little bit.” Bill stared down at the leaves. “Bad press could kill the business.”

“Well, if you get any calls from the press, act like it was on a neighbor’s property and you know nothing. Got it?” Sam shot his friend a stern look.

Bill looked sheepish. “Got it.”

                                                            #

Sam was getting tired after the events of the day and decided to follow Kristie’s example. He went upstairs to take a nap and was completely out of it for several hours.

Then, “Sam, Sam, wake up.” A groggy Sam came to with the large face of Bill peering down at him.

“What. . .?”

“She’s on the bridge.”

“What bridge?” Sam asked.

“The jumper bridge. Colorado Street Bridge. And she’s got Crystal with her.”

“What? Crystal?”

“She sent a text to Crystal that she needed help and Crystal went to help her.”

“We’ve got to go!” Sam cried jumping out of bed. He grabbed a sweater and pulled on his pants. He had his boots in his hand as they stomped downstairs.

“My car!” Bill shouted.

They jumped into Bill’s car and raced off. In a few minutes they were at the Pasadena bridge. Cop cars were everywhere. They could see Jen posed at the edge of the bridge, leaning against a railing.

Sam stopped and stared. In one hand, Jen still held the gun she had had last night. The other arm was wrapped around Crystal’s neck. They teetered perilously close to the edge. Bill froze in place.

Out of the crowd, Mialee came running up and grabbed Bill. She was weeping.

“She’s going to kill her. I know it. She is going to kill her! Oh, my God, Bill.” The big man wrapped his arms around her.

Sam stared at the scene, his mouth moving soundlessly. He turned to Bill.

“Baseball.”

“Baseball?”

“In your car. Get it.”

“Oh,” light was dawning on Bill. “Softball?”

“Hardball.”

Bill let go of Mialee and ran to his car. He was back in a few moments bouncing an old hardball in his hand.

“You got one shot at this pal,” Sam said tersely.

“I know,” Bill answered.

The big man rotated his arm several times. Sam whispered to the sargent close by and the cops parted from in front of Bill. He scrunched and scrunched the ball several times in both hands.

Then, taking a mighty breath, Bill pulled back and threw the ball as hard as he could. There was a ‘thunk’ sound and Jen fell backwards. Several things happened all at once. The gun clattered to the asphalt, Crystal ran away from her aunt and the cops galvanized into motion. A bunch of men ran for Jen and had her in handcuffs within seconds. She was still knocked out cold so, they let her lie where she was.

Crystal ran to her mother who grabbed her, and they both started sobbing. Pretty soon Crystal, Mialee, Bill and Sam were all in a big group hug. Even Sam cried a little.

                                                          #

The next day, Sam and Bill were busy packing Bill’s red Mustang convertible for the trip back to Tranquility. He had insisted on driving Sam home. Sam tried to protest, he could take the train or rent a car, but Bill wasn’t having it.

Mialee packed them a big basket lunch and they were on their way early.

“Thanks for letting me drive you, Sam. Truth be told, I really needed a little time away. . . “

“From the girls?” Sam finished.

“Yeah, they need a little alone time together and I need a little. . . “

“Guy time?”

“Yeah, that’s it. It’s all been pretty stressful and this last bit was the topper.” Bill nodded philosophically as he drove.

Sam peeked into the basket. “So, now have we here?” He pulled out some good-looking grapes and cheese to go with his mug of coffee.

“Well,” the big guy breathed out, “she can’t come back.”

“No doubt,” Sam popped some grapes in his mouth.

“Apparently, what they got out of her at the station last night was she was defending one of the girls when she shot the guy.”

“Ah,” Sam broke off some cheese and handed it to Bill.

“He was roughing the girl up and Jen came to her aid. Things got ugly.”

“Very ugly.”

“So, maybe she’ll get manslaughter under a self-defense kind of thing.”

“But” Sam added, “although her motives were good, there is still the question of what was the girl doing there in the first place.”

“Exactly.” Bill added, “Sixteen and out on a school night. What’s up with that?”

“Do they even know who the girl was?”

Bill shook his head. “Apparently, everything was on a first name basis. No last names. And you saw those girls running for it. It will take a while to get any of them to come forward as witnesses.”

“I bet so,” Sam munched. “So, the money, on the mortgage? Jen’s half?”

“Well, like I said, she is half owner of the place, and we will have to buy her out.”

“Could be a lot. But, then again, Jen is going to need money for attorneys, etc.”

Bill laughed. “She’s already asked Mialee for money for her attorney.”

“How much?”

“Ten thousand, cash, up front. No credit.”

Sam whistled. “And that is only the beginning.”

“I know,” Bill grabbed some grapes, “we may be negotiating this ownership deal of the house for some time to come.”

“Well, if you need some help. . .” Sam grinned at his friend. “I do know some good attorneys.”

“You’ve already helped, Sam. You helped get our Crystal back. And thank you, brother.”

The two guys did a fist bump.  

“Plus,” Bill brightened, “I have a little saved up and if that B & B really starts to get successful, we won’t need Jen’s money. The place will pay for itself.”

“Well, you got a regular customer with us, buddy.”

Bill beamed at his friend and hit the button. The canvas top rolled back and settled on the back seat. Sun was shining, and the breeze ruffled their hair.

It was a beautiful day in California… not a cloud in the sky.

                                                            The End

Old Town Pasadena – Part III

(Part III – Sam and Kristie have gotten to the B & B in Pasadena and are enjoying their visit with old friend Bill Blass and his girlfriend, Mialee. However, a sister seems to be a little less than friendly.)

The next day dawned bright and beautiful again. Kristie wondered at herself as she poured her first cup of hot, steamy coffee from the large silver urn downstairs. There was no sign of the sister and she felt silly about her feelings. Probably just the late hour in a strange house.

After breakfast, she made Sam promise to take her to the Stats Christmas shop in Pasadena. Then they were going the Getty Museum for a walk around and ending with a drive down PCH to Gladstone’s for Fish in Malibu and an early dinner.

“I am going to gain ten pounds with all this eating we’re doing,” she complained to Sam.

“But it’s all really good, huh?” Sam winked at her.

“It’s great!”

Sam and Kristie poked around the Christmas shop and got jostled by frantic bargain hunters. Then, down to Malibu and The Getty Villa. Kristie had seen it years ago, but it was beautiful all over again.

“These are really good replicas,” Sam commented gazing closely at a painting.

Kristie laughed and hit him on the shoulder.

“They aren’t replicas, you goof, these are the real thing.”

“Oh,” was his reply. He pursed his lips, crossed his arms and wandered over to another painting.

Foot weary, Sam drove them to Gladstone’s, where they ordered clam chowder with their great, crusty sour-dough bread. They watched the sun drop in the sky and listened to waves breaking against the rocks. Kristie insisted they walk on the beach a little. They both took off their shoes and dug toes in the sand. Sea gulls screamed plaintively overhead.

“You know, it wasn’t all bad,” Kristie told him.

“What wasn’t?”

“Oh, you know. Being married and living in LA. It wasn’t all bad, we had our good times.”

Sam wrapped an arm around Kristie’s shoulders. “I bet you did.”

It was a tired two-some that tramped back to the car. Sam drove up Sunset Blvd. to save time and then back to the 405 north. Kristie snoozed in the car.

They arrived back at the B & B by 8 pm.  Kristie staggered up the stairs mumbling something about a bath. Sam dumped the keys in her purse and was about to follow when Bill stopped him.

“Sam, beer?”

Sam turned and was about to decline but paused when he saw his friend’s face.

“Sure, Heineken’s?”

“Yup, coming right up. Let’s have it on the porch,” Bill replied.

Sam got himself comfy in one of the over-stuffed chairs on the big wooden porch.

Bill was out in a moment and handed him his brew. They talked about Sam’s day trip and this and that for a while.

Finally, “Something on your mind, buddy?” Sam asked his friend taking a sip of his beer.

Bill stared down at his Heinekens and started picking the label off. Something he always did when he was troubled.

“Ah, yeah.” The big man looked over his shoulder to see if anyone was in the living room. It was empty.

“It’s Mialee’s sister, Jen. You met her?”

Sam shook his head no. “Heard her motorcycle come and go is all.”

“Ah, well.” Bill seemed to consider his words carefully. “Don’t exactly know how to say this.”

“Yes?”

“It’s the girls. It’s the girls coming and going.”

“Girls?”

“Yes.” Now the flood gates were finally open, the words came pouring out. Girls in the back building, coming and going. Living there, in and out. Out all night, parties. Crystal and Daniel cleaning up bottles and other ‘debris’ after parties. Crystal talking to her mom, telling her she knew some of these girls, they were her age. And, Jen.

“Jen, she’s in the middle of everything. She works as a bartender at a local watering hole and people end up coming back here at all hours. They are having parties until 6am when everyone passes out and it’s over until the next time.”

“Every day?” Sam asked.

“No, thank God. We would never be able to keep any customers in the big house. It’s two maybe three times a week.”

“Mialee has spoken to her?”

“Over and over. It gets nowhere.”

“Kick her out?”

“Can’t. She is part owner of the B & B just like Mialee. She put down earnest money to get the place and pays her share every month. Won’t work. Plus, you know,” Bill seemed to focus on pulling every bit of the label off the bottle, “it’s her kid sister, tough times together back home, no parents, all that.” He nodded, seemingly to himself.

“Hmm, that’s a real problem.”

“And now. . . Crystal told her mom. She is sure at least two of the girls who were at a recent party are from her high school.”

“Call the cops?”

“As soon as she went to clean the bathroom and came out, the girls were gone.”

“I haven’t seen anyone going down the drive,” Sam commented.

“There is a back path, through the trees, pretty well worn. They come up from the street through there and never go by the house.”

“So, have you seen any of this?”

Bill looked sheepish. “I’m a very heavy sleeper, Sam. You know that.”

Sam shrugged. It was true, the guy could sleep through a bomb blast.

“So, what now?”

“That’s it, Sam. I don’t know what to do. Jen is a piece of work, and I don’t like her, but, it’s Mialee’s sister. He shrugged his big shoulders, a look of resignation on his face.

Sam did know.

“It’s a problem, buddy. Underage girls, drinking, maybe drugs. And, if the cops get called. . .”

“It could be trouble for us,” Bill finished.

“Yeah, I would say so. Like Mialee could lose her business license kind of trouble.”

Bill blanched.

“Jesus. I hadn’t thought of that.”

“At the very least, could lose her license to sell alcohol and that would hurt your business, right?’

“Would it ever. People like their glass of white wine with dinner.”

“And Heinekens,” Sam raised his bottle and finished it off. He stood up.

“I don’t know, Bill. It’s bad. Might have to end up with you two buying her out to get her off the property. You might want to think about that.”

Bill stood up and looked like a big, confused kid. “That could be a lot of money, Sam.”

“Could be. Hey, it’s getting late, and I’m bushed. Talk to you tomorrow. Kristie is going to have to get back to work anyway, so, we’ll be up early.” He slapped his friend on the shoulder.

“Okay,” Bill was glum.

Bill sounded like Eor from that kid’s book, Sam thought with a chuckle.

“Tomorrow.”

Sam stumped back upstairs. Kristie had already taken her bath and was in bed with a magazine. He went to get a quick shower.

He dried off and put on a clean t-shirt, boxers and got into bed.

“Trouble?” Kristie asked.

“Yeah,” Sam yawned. “The sister, I guess she’s being a real pill.”

“Huh,” Kristie told him about her late-night encounter with the woman.

“Weird,” he said almost into the pillow.

“Yah, weird and creepy,” Kristie replied and shut off the light.

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A groggy Sam struggled up from a deep sleep. He looked around. What? Moonlight streamed through a high window, and he read the little digital clock on the side table. 3:00 am. Why am I awake? He listened and then heard muffled voices. They were coming from outside and he couldn’t tell if they were laughing or crying, or. . . The voices got louder. Suddenly, there was a bang! Sam instantly recognized it as the report of a pistol. He sat up, threw his feet over the bed and ran over to his bag. He dug through, found his Smith and Wesson and ran to the bedroom door. Unlocking it, he ran down the stairs. He heard more commotion and realized it was coming from the back house.

Going from the dining room to the back mudroom, he had to contend with a complicated series of locks and latches on the door. He cursed trying to get them undone. He finally was able to get the last lock undone and ripped the door open and ran out into the cold night air.

His amazed eyes could hardly take in what he was seeing. A dozen girls, in various forms of dress and undress were streaming out of the building and running toward the trees. He tried to stop one, but she wrestled out of his grasp and kept running. Slowing down his breathing, he went forward and climbed the steps to the building. His bare feet tingled against the cold, aging wood steps. There were bright lights in one of the rooms and the door was wide open.

He walked in. There on the floor lay a short man in evening clothes. Black hair, he looked Asian. There was a large red stain on the front of his shirt that was getting bigger. Bent over him, almost double, Sam recognized what had to be Jen, the anime-double sister. The woman jerked up when she realized he was there. In her hand, was a twenty-two pistol. She swung the gun his way.

“Hold on there,” Sam put his hands up and tried for his calmest voice. “Why don’t you put that down.”

She glared at him, her hair was a disheveled mess, her eyes almost blood red, black makeup circling the eyes. Her clothes looked torn. Slowly, she approached him, and he backed up. She made a wide arc around Sam, the body and approached the door. Suddenly, she darted toward the door and Sam raced after her. But she had a head start and he didn’t know where she was going.

He got downstairs and looked wildly around seeing nothing but the cold night. Suddenly, an engine revved loudly, and he could hear the Ducati zooming away. Sam went back upstairs and looked for a phone.

                                                             #

Two hours later, Sam, Kristie, Mialee and Bill were all sitting in the dining room having coffee. The South Pasadena police had showed up. But, since it was a murder and possibly involving minors, LAPD showed up too and were swarming all over the place. The police coroners were there to get the body.

“Might have been self-defense, Ma’am.” The officer was speaking to Mialee. “The man had some defensive wounds on his fingers. He was either fighting with someone or fighting to defend himself.” The officer looked thoughtfully at her. “Did you know the decease, Ma’am? Know why he was here?” The man looked around the dining room. “Because I believe this is a bed and breakfast, right? You don’t usually specialize in wild parties. Am I right?”

Mialee nodded numbly. “I didn’t know him at all. Not a guest. Probably a friend of my sister’s or one of her friends knew him.”

“Yes,” Officer Padgett tapped his pencil on a pad. “And she’s gone, correct?”

Mialee looked at Sam who nodded.

“I see. Well, we’ll have to have you come down to the station to make a report. Here’s my card. You can do that, when you get some clothes on, Ma’am?”

Mialee nodded.

“Oh, and you too, Mr.. . . “He looked at the business card. “Mr. Sam Reynolds, PI. Hmm, very timely.” He smiled at Sam.

Kristie looked at the officer. “Do I need to come too? I didn’t see anything; I was in bed and don’t know what happened. Also, I am on vacation and need to get back to work.”

“Give a statement to the sergeant with all your information and then you should be okay to go.”

Kristie looked at Sam. He made a little finger gesture upstairs. In thirty minutes, Kristie’s statement was made, and she was back upstairs packing.

Sam came in with his head down.

“Don’t say it. I know. You have to stay. He’s a friend.” Kristie was trying to keep the peeve out of her voice. She jerked the folded pants into the suitcase.

“Well. . .” Sam said slowly, “I am a witness.”

“And never one to leave a good fight. It’s okay, Sam. I understand. He needs you to help out. I get it. But I’m ready to leave and will just be underfoot, so. . .” She took a big breath and let it out. Arms akimbo, she stared at him.

“Will you be okay driving back by yourself?” he looked at her sadly, fingering her suitcase.

“Oh, pish. I have done this drive tons of times. I’ll be fine. Look after Bill and… Mialee. They’ve got their hands full.” She gave him a kiss and he gave her a full hug.

Forty minutes later the Sebring was packed and ready to go. Mialee and Bill came out to wave goodbye to Kristie. Mialee kept apologizing.

“I am so sorry this has happened. I am so sorry.”

Kristie waved at her. “Don’t worry about it. We loved our time here. I am so sorry this had to happen at your beautiful bed and breakfast. Mialee looked ready to cry.

“Really, got to go.” Kristie blew Sam a kiss, backed up and went down the drive.

“Guess we need to get to South Pas police to make those statements,” Sam said.

Continued Part IV

Old Town Pasadena – Part II

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( Previously, Kristie was getting some unwanted attention at church. She called on Sam Reynolds, her boyfriend to help. He then decided they could both use a short vacation. They are on their way to a B & B in Pasadena.)

They stopped at a McDonalds on the way down to get some lunch and regroup. Sam pulled out his street map of LA.

“Okay, I think it’s right here.” He pointed.

“Alright,” Kristie replied putting some French fries in her mouth.

“I think we can, yes, get over the Grapevine down on the 405 and then branch over at the 210 to Pasadena. That should save us a bunch of LA traffic.”

“Sounds good,” Kristie said, “want me to drive?”

 Sam stole some of her fries.

“Uh, sure. You want?”

She shrugged her shoulders. “Shouldn’t be too hard. I’ll put the address into my phone for the GPS thing.”

Back on the road, they had traded places and it was Sam’s turn to snooze.

Kristie looked over at him. I love watching him sleep, she thought to herself. Actually, I love watching him anytime. A buff dude, Sam spent a fair amount of time in the gym keeping in shape. He would wear a turquoise cut off gym shirt that played up his bright blue eyes and she would just sigh. I am a lucky gal. Not everyone my age, divorced with two grown kids can say the same.

Driving along, her mind wandered back in time to her divorce. She had filed when she discovered her husband was cheating on her on his out-of-town trips. When she had confronted him with the evidence, he had just crumpled like an over-blown balloon. He had wanted reconciliation, but she had suspected this for a very long time. Who knew how many women it had been. She was done playing games.

Oddly enough, her two daughters continued to take his side for a long time and insisted she was being unreasonable. She learned to stop arguing with them about it. Phil was still in the LA area and her two girls still gravitated more to him. Although he had been the absent parent, always gone with work and trips and she had been the caretaker, they still seemed to care for him the most. She couldn’t understand it.

She sighed at the memories. However, since Sam had showed up on the scene, they seemed to be coming around more. They both enjoyed his easygoing manner and gentlemanly ways. He would kid them about this and that and they would both laugh hysterically. Like kids again, she thought. Just like kids again.

She consulted her cell phone again, the little arrows were starting to point toward the 210. Traffic began to slow and Sam woke up.

“We there yet, Mom?”

“Getting close. Look at this map again would you, I think the offramp might be the tricky part.”

Forty minutes later they were traveling south through Pasadena towards South Pasadena. The weather for late fall was sunny, crisp and clear.

“Hey, look at that bridge,” Sam called out.

Kristie pulled the car to the curb.

“Yeah, that’s the Colorado Street Bridge, been here a long time. Called the Jumper’s Bridge.”

“The what?”

“Jumper’s Bridge. Apparently, more people have jumped off that bridge than anything else around here.”

“Whew, good to know, I guess.”

They traveled through dense foliage next to the road as it curved around the soft hills of Pasadena. They could smell the faint scent of something burning. A few houses had chimneys and wispy trails of smoke escaped from the tops.

Sam looked at the map. “Think we’re almost there. It’ll be on the right.”

Abruptly a sign came into view and Kristie barely had time to signal and make a sharp right into a drive. The drive led up the hill and was edged with large trees and bushes. They pulled right into the parking lot and the three-story house came into full view.

“Wow!” Kristie let out as she pulled in.

It was a beautiful, turn of the century home that had been carefully restored. It had a peaked gable roof over a large front porch cluttered with easy chairs and occasional tables.

Sam reached over and popped the trunk while Kristie walked toward the house.  There were large plate glass windows on the front and the tops of each had clear decorative glass panels with lead scrolling. She went up the steps to admire the scalloped shingles on the outside.

She was touching one with a finger when the front door flew open, and a very large Bill Bass appeared.

“Kristie! Sam! You’re here!”

Bill squeezed Kristie in a bear hug and she momentarily stopped breathing.  

“Thanks, Bill,” she gave a little gasp.

“Go in, go in! Mialee!” he boomed, “they’re here.”

A little woman of about 5’3” came hustling around a corner and lead Kristie into the living room.

“You must be Kristie. I am Mialee.” She smiled and gave a tiny bow.

Kristie put out her hand for a shake. “Yes, I am. So nice to meet you.”

“Let me show you your room and then we do lunch.”

Kristie let herself be lead upstairs. Sam and Bill were still booming at each other down in the parking lot. Might as well take the opportunity to wash up, she told herself.

Mialee led the way to an enormous bedroom with a huge double bed covered in a white, fluffy comforter. “The bathroom is here,” Mialee pointed. “Lunch in about twenty minutes.”

“Good, thanks.” Kristie put down her purse and as soon as the owner was out of the room, she sat on the bed and began to bounce up and down. Then, she sank backwards into the comforter and let the softness enfold her.

Sam came into the room backwards holding suitcases in both hands.

“What are you doing darlin’? It’s not time for bed yet.”

“Sam, I might never move again,” she told him.

He laughed. “Okay, but more grub fer me.”

She sighed, pulled herself up reluctantly and went to wash her face and hands. The tantalizing smells from the kitchen started to waft their way upstairs as she descended the stairs.

She entered a very large dining room off of the living room. It had two big walnut tables set for lunch and turrets of steaming food were being put down. Mialee was helped by a guy that looked to be the cook and the table was rapidly full with various dishes. Suddenly, Kristie realized how hungry she was and that McDonalds was a distant memory.  

She began to serve herself.

“Wild mushroom soup,” Mialee pointed. “Long grain rice. Chops, stuffed chicken breasts,” she pointed at another bowls. “Rolls, butter. Would you like wine?”

Kristie waved it away. “Too early for me. Tonic water?”

“Coming up,” Mialee scurried away.

“. . . bought it when it was just a shack and have been rebuilding it for about ten years. Old guy finally ran out of money and Mialee was on the scene and just happened to have the ready to bail the guy out. I mean, he didn’t want to sell of course, but what could he do? Couldn’t afford the utility bill anymore.”

Sam nodded as Bill blathered on about the history of the house. Not so much to stop him filling his plate and shoveling in the goods.

Kristie cut into a very delicious pork chop and had a bite. That combined with the fluffy mashed potatoes and gravy and thin, green asparagus and she was almost in heaven. She chatted with some of the other guests around the table and admired the heavy crown molding that edged the top of the white plaster walls. Views of the Pasadena foothills could be seen through the enormous plate glass windows. She noticed a second building out back, a smaller, two-story affair.

“So, what’s that,” she pointed a fork at the building.

“Oh, that’s our overflow building. It gets too crowded here, we stuff them in over there.”

Kristie nodded.

“Yeah, and, um, Mialee’s sister lives there too,” Bill added through a mouth of mashed potatoes.

“What’s her name?”

He looked momentarily embarrassed. “Jen, yeah, uh, Jen.” He took a swig of his beer and his eyes slid over to Mialee.

Kristie grabbed a hot roll for buttering and glanced at him. Wonder what that’s about, she thought.

After the filling lunch, Kristie wanted to walk. She and Sam motored over to Colorado Blvd. to walk around the shops. The boulevard was festive and the city had already started to put up fairy lights on the overhead light standards. Pumpkins and signs of Thanksgiving could be seen in abundance. They ended up at Vroman’s book shop and wandered the shelves.

The store had a coffee shop so Kristie ordered her favorite…pumpkin latte. Sam couldn’t be persuaded to try anything stranger than a latte so Kristie gave up trying. They took their drinks to a table and sat.

She had found a cute book on cooking for the holidays and Sam was leafing through a new issue of Field and Stream. 

“So, the place is beautiful,” she commented to Sam. “Where did Mialee get the money to buy a place like that?”

“Ever the nosey one, aren’t you?” he gave her nose a little tap. “Well, apparently, Mialee had a restaurant in Thailand that was fairly successful, which she sold. Plus, she is divorced from an American GI and I believe, don’t quote me, she did pretty well in the divorce.”

Kristie nodded and sipped her latte.

“The place is probably mortgaged to the yin-yang so, let’s hope they stay successful.”

She raised her cup to that. “And the food is divine.”

“It is that, it is indeed.”

After window shopping, they drove back.  Kristie wanted to take a nap and Sam had plans to go out with Bill to a cigar shop. When they got back, Mialee’s daughter, Crystal was busy running back and forth with fresh towels. Her son, Daniel could be seen emptying trash cans.

“Looks like everybody gets to help,” Kristie whispered to Sam.

They wound their way around the two. Even Bill was busy, running a vacuum of all things. Kristie escaped to their room and closed the door. Throwing off her shoes and dumping her bag she fell face first into the giant coverlet and was soon fast asleep.

A couple of hours later, a groggy Kristie awoke from the sleep of the dead. She was disoriented a moment and didn’t know where she was. Looking around the room, she finally got her bearings.

What woke me up? She wondered and then heard it again. Voices drifting up from the kitchen.

“I told you no. How many times do I got to say it? No is no and why don’t you quit asking?”

There was a low murmured reply Kristie couldn’t hear.

“Jesus! I got to get dinner ready. If you’re not going to help, why don’t you go do something with yourself. I’m busy.”

There was the sound of a slamming door and then sounds in the kitchen. Mostly pots and pan getting banged around loudly. Kristie got up and went to wash her face in the lavatory. She combed her hair and changed her shirt.

Walking down the stairs, it looked like Sam was still not back. She remembered some hot tea fixings in the dining room. Quietly, she went in to make herself a cup. She could hear Mialee in the kitchen. Cup in hand, she gingerly pushed open the swinging kitchen door.

Mialee was standing at the sink, both arms stretched out straight, leaning against the porcelain. It looked like she had been crying.

“Oh, I’m sorry. . . “

Mialee jerked her head around and wiped her face with a shirt sleeve. “No, it’s okay. Just me being emotional. Did you have a good nap?”

“Oh yes, like a bear in hibernation. Your beds are great.”

Mialee walked out of the kitchen into the dining room. Kristie followed and watched while the woman made herself a cup of ginseng tea. Mialee gestured for Kristie to sit at the big table. The other guests were either still out sightseeing or napping upstairs.

“This is such a beautiful house…” Kristie started.

Mialee nodded. “Yes, and a great deal of work. You probably heard me with my sister, Jen.”

Kristie shrugged and sipped her tea.

“She, I, uh, both of us have put so much into this place.” She waved her hand around expansively.

“I am sure,” Kristie replied, “but your business seems to be doing so well.”

Mialee nodded. “It is doing well, but it has to do really well for us to make the mortgage and pay the bills. I’m not trying to make you feel guilty or anything, but it is hard to make it in the restaurant trade.”

Kristie nodded. “I’m not expert, but I work at a credit union, and we see a lot of struggling owners. I guess it’s easy to lose your shirt in this kind of operation.”

Mialee sighed and wrapped both hands around her mug. “Jen used to help all the time with meals and maintenance. But then Bill showed up, they kind of . . .clashed and she got a job tending bar. Now, I hardly see her anymore. Then with her weird hours and these friends she brings home…I just don’t know.” Head down, the woman stared into her cup.

“Ah,” Kristie replied. A picture was staring to form. “And you don’t like her friends.”

Mialee shook her head. “No, not at all.” She sipped her tea some more. “Listen to me. I don’t know why I am telling you all this. You’re a guest! Time to get the dinner on. But, thanks for listening, Kristie. Bill talks about you and Sam all the time.”

“No problem,” Kristie replied. “Anytime. But now I think I’ll take a little walk before it’s time to start eating again!”

Mialee disappeared into the kitchen. Kristie grabbed her key, a cold bottle of water from the guest fridge and a sweater. She walked outside and saw the Ducati motorcycle parked next to the annexed building. There was no sign of Jen. Kristie walked down the driveway then a few blocks toward town. The leaves were turning bright red and yellow, and she was enjoying the sights and smells of fall. As she was returning, she noticed a little footpath close to the B and B that seemed to run from the street, up through the trees. Wonder where that goes, she thought.  

A little later Sam and Bill got back, and Sam smelled of cigar smoke. Kristie didn’t mind because she loved the smell. Even though she knew he shouldn’t be smoking, she decided to not nag. Sam had got them a video to watch for the evening, so she was content.

As dinner was served, they heard the loud roar of the Ducati as it sped off from the back of the house and left the property. Bill and Mialee exchanged glances. Kristie noticed but said nothing. Not really my business, she chided herself.

Later, dinner was done and Mialee and Bill were busy with clean up. Kristie and Sam got half-way through the movie in the big living room.  Both were tired and decided to go upstairs.

 Later, Kristie woke up and pawed at the side table for her water glass…empty.  Getting up, she decided to get a fresh bottle of Fiji water from the little frig downstairs. Quietly, she made her way down to the dining room and got a bottle. Something made her turn. Someone was standing next to the window smoking a cigarette.

She realized after a moment that it must be Mialee’s sister Jen. At first all Kristie could see was the glowing end of the cigarette.

“Oh,” she said, “you startled me.”

There was a little laugh, the young woman came forward.

“Yeah, I have that effect on some people.”

Mialee and her sister were about the same 5’3” in height and had the same coffee colored skin. That is where the similarity ended. Where Mialee had long hair tied in a pony, her sister had black hair cut in a jagged bob sticking out in angles all over her head. It was half purple and stood up in spots. She must use some killer gel, Kristie thought to herself.

She was dressed in tight, distressed jeans, over that a black leather jacket with chains and buttons everywhere. On her neck and everywhere skin showed, there were tattoos of all variety of pictures and colors. She wore heavy black eyeshadow and spikey silver jewelry in her ears, nose and neck. Reminds me of an anime character. Kristie thought absently.

“So,” Kristie commented, making conversation, “you must get off work very late.”

“Yeah,” the young woman replied, “the bar closes at 2 am and then there’s clean up.” She puffed on her cigarette. “You a guest here?”

“Ah, yeah.” Kristie started to inch toward the stairs. The girl had dark, intense eyes that were staring at her hard. She felt uncomfortable, almost like a question was hanging in the air. Somehow, she didn’t feel like waiting around until that question found a voice. “Well, back to bed.”

The eyes kept following her, the cigarette continued to glow in the dark. Kristie hustled back upstairs. She made sure the bedroom door was locked.

“What in the hell is that all about?” she mumbled to herself as she got back in bed.

“Wha. . .” Sam mumbled at her and then threw an arm over her. She smiled and snuggling up close to him, closed her eyes and was soon asleep again.

(Part III – Sam and Kristie have gotten to the B & B in Pasadena and are enjoying their visit with old friend Bill Blass and his girlfriend, Mialee. However, a sister seems to be a little less than friendly.)

Old Town Pasadena – A Sam Reynolds story

  

Kristie sipped her coffee thoughtfully.

The pastor droned on and on. She could feel someone looking at her. Almost against her will, she turned her head slowly.

Frank, one of the other parishioners, at another table, was beaming at her. She managed a watery smile and turned her head back front. It was almost an act of sheer will to not look again.

Later, the pastor was fielding questions from parishioners. She turned her head back to that side of the room again. Frank was actually looking away for a moment. She took in his usual garb. Although it was late fall already, he was still dressed in army fatigue shorts, his best wife-beater t-shirt, a trucker cap and flip-flops.

A little past middle-age, white tufts of hair stuck out from beneath the cap. Her eyes were drawn to his feet. They were dry, with large calluses ringing the heels. The nails were longish and faintly tinged with dirt. He had a habit of rubbing his feet together which made a slight rasping sound.

As she had in the past, Kristie caught herself wondering what it would be like to be in bed with such feet. God. An involuntary shudder passed through her and she managed to pull her face back forward before the man had a chance to glow at her anymore. It has probably been some time since ol’ Frank has had the opportunity to share sheet time with anyone, she thought to herself.

At the end of the class session, people were getting up and grabbing their jackets and bags. She jerked when she saw him trying to push his way in her direction. Grabbing the car keys, she practically ran out of the building. Pam, her good friend, tried to stop her to say hello. She just shook her head no and kept going.

Once in the car, she breathed a little sigh of relief. But, damn it! If he wasn’t coming her way to start some conversation in the parking lot. She cranked the engine over and pulled a turn around him. He lifted his hand to wave and she gave him the briefest wave back and gunned the motor.

Back at her place she gave Sam, her long-time boyfriend, a call.

“So, what do you want me to do? Beat him up? He’s an old guy.”

“No, I don’t want you to beat him up. Just . . . “

“What?”

She was momentarily at a loss for words. What did she want?

“Just, be a presence. Come to church with me and be a presence.”

“Come to church?”

“Yes, the Bible class.”

“Oh, Kristie, the last time I was in Bible class, I was twelve. And I didn’t much like it then!” Sam protested.

“Sam… “

“Well, has the old geezer actually done anything?”

“No, he hasn’t done anything. But. . . he keeps trying to ah, . . .  hit on me and I get really uncomfortable. I am going to have to stop going if. . ..”

“Okay, okay. Whatever. If you say so. Jeese.” Sam blew out his breath wondering how much perfectly good football time this would entail.

“Oh, Sam, thanks.”

“Well, hold on now. How many of these damn. . . uh, classes will I have to do?”

“I don’t know for sure. Just enough so he gets the idea I’m not available.”

“Alrighty, I will go and flex my biceps for this clown.”

                                            
“Oh, good.”

“Does this mean you owe me some more apple pie?”

“Deal.”

                                                            #

The next day at work, Pam came up to Kristie.

“What the heck was that all about last night, girlfriend?”

“I’ll tell you at break,” Kristie glanced around.

“Okay, fine. Thought I had cooties or something.”

Kristie laughed. “It’s not you, not at all.”

Pam looked relieved.

                                                            #

The following week, Kristie was back in Bible study and her sidekick, Sam, was by her side. They sat together at a table and the pastor welcomed Sam.

“I see we have a newcomer,” the pastor said genially. “Welcome.”

Sam smiled and waved to the group.

At break time, everyone got up to get a cup of coffee and some cookies the church ladies had set out. Sam moseyed over to the coffee urn and poured himself a cup of regular. He looked around the room and spotted Frank and did a beeline.

“Frank!” He clapped the older man on the back forcibly.

Frank staggered forward a step and spilled a little of his coffee. Looking around he gave a half-smile to the taller, more buff Sam.

“I think we know each other from the gym, don’t we?” Sam continued and put his arm around Frank’s shoulders giving a subtle push toward the open door.

“I, I’m not sure. Do you go to the gym in town?”

“Yes, I do. How much can you lift, Frank? Two – two fifty? You look like a guy who likes to stay in shape.”

The two men walked awkwardly toward the outside of the building.

Kristie was watching from the sidelines and nearly choked on her coffee laughing. She almost felt sorry for Frank for a minute when she saw the wolfish grin Sam was wearing. One she knew too well, right before he was ready to punch someone.

Stop it, she told herself. It’s all the man deserves. That and more. She had to laugh again at that panicked look in Frank’s eyes. Hump! Guilty conscience no doubt.

Later, Kristie and Sam got into his truck to go home.

“Thanks, Sam, for doing that. I started to feel sorry for the guy,” she told him.

Sam cranked up the engine and pulled out of the lot.

“Well, don’t. The guy’s a loser. He drank his way through two marriages and has finally seen the light. Why do you think he started coming to church?”

“I don’t know.”
“He gave up drinking and decided to try Jesus instead. He simply has a preference for blondes.” Sam reached over and tugged at one of Kristie’s blonde curls. “And you are just his cup of tea.”

“Ick,” was her reply.

“Yeah, me too and I’m a guy. Nope,” he gave her a little wink, “don’t think he will bother you anymore. We came to an understanding.”

“What?”

He wagged a finger at her. “Ask me no questions and I’ll you no lies.” He smiled.

“I…” Realizing she really didn’t have anything to add, Kristie shrugged her shoulders and gave it up.

                                                                        #

The next morning, they were at Kristie’s house and Sam was having his first cup of coffee for the morning. Kristie wandered out in her dressing gown and yawned.

“Morning, sunshine.”

“God, I hate early risers,” she half moaned and poured herself a cup. She had to admit, Sam could make a decent pot of coffee.

He was sitting at the kitchen table leafing through the paper.

“Hmm. Look at this,” he pointed at the paper. She came over.

“Bed and breakfast. Old Town Pasadena. Charming Arts and Craft house, restored. One-night stay includes breakfast and dinner.”

“Yeah. That looks like it might be good,” she commented.

“And,” he pulled her down to a chair, “it might be good for you to get away for a little. Away from . . . ah.”

“Creeps,” she said.

“Work was what I was going to say. Plus, if I am not mistaken, this looks just like the place Bill Bass was telling me about.”

“Bill?”

“Yeah, you remember Bill. All 6’ 4” of him?”

“Naturally, I remember Bill. What’s he been up to?”

“Well, you know he was in Thailand a long time?

She nodded.

“Well, he’s back Stateside with a new girlfriend. Apparently, he met her there and she talked him into coming here and helping her with a bed and breakfast.”

“You think this is the place?”

“Sounds a lot like it, based on what he told me. I’ll give him a call.”

Sam got home and checked his calendar. Looked like he had some free time. As a free-lance PI, Sam took on the occasional case looking for missing persons and some corporate espionage. He could use a little vacay himself.

He punched up Bill’s number.

“Buddy! It’s Sam. No, same old, same old. How you?”

“Gosh, that’s great. So, you are in Pasadena? Hey. I got this newspaper ad. Is that your place?”

“Wow, well, her place actually. Sorry. No, no, you’re right. Not a good idea to make that mistake. Ah. . . think about taking Kristie on a little trip. This might work.”

“Yeah, I’ll hold. She needs to check the calendar? Sure. I’ll wait. Two weeks? Should be okay. Let me get back to you. Look forward to it and catching up. Thanks, later.”

Sam smiled as he hung up. That Bill, always seems to fall right into a complete bed of roses. Place sounds like a dream!

                                                            #

Two weeks later, Sam and Kristie were packed up and on the road. She had the dog sitter coming to take care of her dog and the Sebring was gassed up and ready to go.   

At Sam’s insistence, they hit it by 8 am.

“God, Sam, the break of dawn,” Kristie complained.

“Hey, you’ll be complaining if we get a lot of traffic. So, just lean back and leave the driving to me. No points lost for snoozing.”

She couldn’t fight logic, so Kristie popped the seat back, pulled a throw snuggy over her shoulders and closed her eyes. Before long, Sam could hear a gentle snore coming from that side of the car. He smiled.

He loved watching her sleep. Hell, he thought to himself, I love watching her period. I’m one lucky guy! And that was no joke. At sixty-six years, widowed, grown kids, many men his age had no love life at all. Much less a cute, blonde fifty-five-year-old by their side.

Ah, life’s good, he thought putting on the cruise control, soft jazz on the CD. The sky was a bright, eggshell blue, not a cloud anywhere. He leaned back and sipped his coffee. His mind flicked back to Frank at the church. Jesus, a guy like that; middle-aged, paunch, bad clothes. He’d probably be lucky if he could buy some love the odd Saturday night. He shook his head. Next thing I’ll feel so bad I’ll be inviting him to dinner. Bad idea! Who knows, there might even be somebody out there for someone as hard up as Frank.

(End of Part I)

The Tootbrush

                                                         

He left his toothbrush,

a trifling,

no more.

Yet, he’s never done that before.

At first I thought

it was mine,

but I don’t use

that kind.

He will see me ‘next time’

he says, telling me,

we are not ‘together.’

Ok, I say, whatever forever,

and yet, he forgot

his toothbrush.

Humm.

The Wind

                                                                     

Tap, tap, tap! Father Paul jabbed at the blank piece of paper with increasing staccato force. Jab! The page stayed blank.

In disgust, he threw down the pen and stood up and walked to the double pane windows and looked out. The trees bent and swayed in the afternoon wind, the last lingering leaves hanging on tenaciously. He brushed his unruly bangs out of his eyes once again and they immediately fell back into the same place. He folded his arms together and stared out.

As the newest parish priest, young Father Paul had some big shoes to fill. His predecessor, Father Lee had recently been kicked upstairs to a much larger church, with a bigger, more established and wealthy congregation. Whenever they had cause to get together to share mass for the holidays, Father Lee was positively leaking bonhomie, good will and enjoyment of life in his new, more comfortable surroundings.

Father Paul couldn’t really complain. This was his first promotion to head priest at this largely immigrant parish church with its tiny, cramped rooms, worn out facilities and a nave so small it could hardly hold the throng of Pilipino parishioners that pushed in every Sunday.

“Ah, well,” he sighed to himself, “here I am wondering about how well I’m doing when it’s questionable how many of them speak English and understand anything I say!”

Father Paul was no stranger to doing time in the trenches. He had spent three long, hot years in the Philippines and one wonderful year in Australia. Apparently, he had impressed the higher ups with his abilities and had been transferred to this small, poor parish in the city. He knew that if he just did his job diligently, to the best of his abilities, the nicer, fancier parish offers would eventually appear.

“I just have to get through this part,” he thought to himself, “and by the way, that damn homily!” This was Friday and he was completely out of ideas for the Sunday Mass. His writer’s block was blooming into panic.

He was about to turn away from the window when his eye was drawn to the one last little brown leaf stubbornly clinging to the tree in front of his window.

“The wind,” he snapped his fingers, ‘that’s it!” he almost shouted. He ran over to his desk and pulled out his Old Testament reference manual. He paused for a moment and looked up. “Thank you, Father,” he said with quiet sincerity.

                                                                        #

Dan, a thirty-eight year old construction superintendent, was balancing his huge frame on a little metal folding chair. He was also balancing a blue Big Book in his lap trying hard to concentrate on what he was reading.

Successful in most areas of his life, Dan had never been academically inclined, but had managed to scrape by in high school. After two years of college, he managed to get his coveted General Contractor’s license. Dan valued this license very much. Also, Dan’s wife-Cecile, two kids, bank officers, his Mom, Dad and various friends and relations all valued Dan’s license too, along with his prodigious ability to make money. Dan’s innate good looks, easy manner, and charm helped to land many housing contracts that afforded his wife and kids the life they had grown very accustomed to.

Cecile’s brunette beauty queen good looks were the perfect complement to Dan’s 6’2” rugged build, blond hair, blue-eyed, Viking self. Ten years after they were married, Cecile was still very much a looker and when she turned those big brown doe eyes on Dan with disappointment written on her beautiful face, his heart just broke. He couldn’t let her down with this drinking thing, he just couldn’t.

Dan sweated under the bad florescent lights in the shabby AA meeting hall and tried hard to stop mentally replacing the horrible brown carpet with a higher-grade brand.

“Just focus!” he thought viciously. He wiped the sweat from his brow. “This getting sober is the shits,” he mumbled  through gritted teeth.

 Dan read out loud about Bill W’s experience of meeting God and it how it felt like a great mountain wind blowing through him.

The lady next to him whispered that is was the wind not of air but of spirit blowing. “Heavy,” thought Dan.

The next Sunday, some miles away in another section of town, Christine McCarthy was getting ready to go to Mass. She could do a lot with her long red hair, she had a bunch of it. The rest of her was a bit more of a challenge.

Of Irish ancestry, Christine was tall, skinny, with pale white skin, freckles and unfortunately, a big nose. A little past the comfortable middle of middle age, Christine resembled, in profile, the Witch of the West. The nose combined with a pronounced chin needed a lot of expensive cosmetics to soften.

After doing her very best with bottle and brush for an hour, she knew it was as good as it was going to get this side of a Hollywood makeover. She picked up her purse and did one last glance at the hall mirror. She was looking forward to hearing Father Paul, the new priest today, even if she had to drive a little farther to that tiny church. She liked him and he was kind of cute. She almost thought there for a minute that he was a little taken with her.

“Oh, no,” she laughed at herself, “a priest, never!” Shaking her head, she went to get her car.

                                                                                      #

Later, Father Paul did deliver.

“And a whopper too,” Christine thought. He had delved way back into the Old Testament to discuss their interpretation of the word ‘wind’ and its being the visible sign of the presence of God, almost like the moving finger itself.

“Thus, it is with the symbol of the wind, a fundamental event in the revelation of the Holy Spirit: ‘And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house where they were gathered [with Mary]” (Acts 2:2),’ quoted Father Paul.

Also, “We must also note that the wind symbol, as an explicit reference to the Holy Spirit and the Spirit’s action, belongs to the language and doctrine of the New Testament. In the Old Testament the wind, like a ‘hurricane,’ is the expression of God’s wrath (cf. Ez 13:13), while the ‘tiny whispering sound’ speaks of the intimate nature of his conversations with the prophets (cf. 1 Kgs 19:12),” he went on.  The very wind itself can be seen as a sign of God he told the congregation.

“Wow,” thought Christine, “this Father Paul is the goods!”

                                                                                      #

Six months had passed since the sermon and Christine, in addition to being a regular church goer, was also an AA old-timer and had been asked to speak at a meeting, an invitation she gladly accepted. Christine was definitely between boyfriends – way between and did everything in her power to increase her public exposure.

“You never know,” she thought to herself, “when the next He might be listening.”

It just so happened that Dan was in the audience that night with six solid months of sobriety under his belt. He had gotten past the sweaty, bright light and loud noises phase. He was almost able to concentrate now when one of the speakers was talking.

Dan got his coffee and said his hello’s and sat down to listen to Christina speak. She talked about her life, her former singing career and her aspirations to return to the stage. Dan was touched, he was moved. He sat there, crammed in between other big, hunky, sobering up drunks, absorbing her every word.

It was at that moment, when something swept over him like a strong, what?

“What?” He sat grasping. “Like a strong wind, yes, yes, that was it!”  A strong wind: he heard what she said and he understood and understood her feelings at that very moment. It was a complete epiphany moment. For the first time in his life, this good-looking, selfish, pampered, self-centered guy had complete empathy for someone else. Wow! He couldn’t believe it. Incredible. He realized he was having a spiritual experience.

After the meeting, Christine was surrounded by well-wishers telling her how much they liked her talk. Dan couldn’t get through to thank her and had to inch his way forward. He kept glancing at the big clock, his ride was due to leave and he couldn’t be late.

Finally, he got close enough. “Hey, can I get your number?” he burted out to her.

Christine gawked, she had seen this guy before at a distance at meetings, but, up close, what a looker!

“Sure,” she fumbled and grabbed a piece of paper and scratched out her phone number. Snatching the paper, he thanked her quickly and ran off.

She stood staring at the back of his retreating head before getting caught up in the babble of member’s voices again.

Later, Dan was careful to compose his text to Christine. He was still new to this AA thing and wanted to get it right. He told her how much he had enjoyed her talk and how much he really wanted her to have everything she wished for.  He sent it to her phone.

Christine stared at the text message a long time. She read it over several times. She had no idea that she had made such an impression on him. Besides, he was so much younger than she was. But, what the heck! Age was just a number and if he didn’t care, well, neither did she! Three days later, after thinking it over carefully, Christine sent back a very warm message to Dan thanking him for the kind words.

Things continued to progress with Christine and Dan over the next few months. They would exchange the odd text back and forth, always regarding some AA matter or other. They would also see each other at meetings and Christine found herself, almost unconsciously, gravitating toward those meetings where Dan was a regular attendee. Dan for his part was forever grateful to the AA old-timer who had helped him with his newfound understanding of others and their feelings. This was especially true with his wife, Cecile, who had often in the past accused Dan of being insensitive.

In solid AA fashion, Dan attended an all-men’s meeting and kept personal remarks about his wife to that meeting and shared more generic, general stuff at the mixed meetings.

Christine for her part was getting foil treatments on her hair to increase glossiness, Botox in the forehead to reduce wrinkles and buying Victoria Secret super-gel bras to increase volume and lift. She was also looking for blouses with increasingly lower front cuts.

The happy day arrived for Dan when he was about to turn one year sober. Dan was happy, Cecile was thrilled, his parents were delighted and nothing would do but to crank out the all-weather BBQ set in the backyard and throw the first ever summer celebration of Dan’s new found sobriety.

Dan and Cecile published a flyer to invite ‘everyone’. Dan made sure to place one firmly in the hand of Christine with endearing words about how he really wanted her to be there to celebrate his day.

Christine almost blushed. Instead, she rushed home, checked her closet and decided she did not own one thing sexy enough for a day-time BBQ. She grabbed her purse and headed for the mall.

Three days later, with a new flouncy hairdo, teeth cleaned (and whitened) at the dentist, fresh polish on nails and toes, she surveyed herself in the full length mirror. “What do you think?” she asked Frisky her dog. He seemed to like the get up. The outfit was a slinky blue-green top and pants set that was close fitting and looked good on her lean frame. It actually brought out the green in her eyes which was really why she bought it. “Frisky, the whole enchilada cost me a small fortune, but he’s worth it right?” Frisky looked thoughtful.  

Christine found the place, address clutched in her hand, nestled deep in the burbs with kids, cars and dogs everywhere. It was clearly the right address because of all the cars parked up and down the street. She walked in the front door which was half open, displaying a clutch of colorful balloons.

She grabbed a diet coke and started making the rounds of the gabbling AA’s filling up the house. She preened and pirouetted as person after person complimented her new outfit. She was of course waiting for the perfect moment to make maximum impact on her boy. Just as she was turning to go out to the pool area she was greeted by a delicious brunette pushing a large plate of canapés in her face.  

“Try one, they’re great!” The brunette twinkled and smiled at the other guests as they walked by. “You must be Christine.”

Christine had popped a tasty morsel into her mouth when the young woman said “I’ve heard so much about you, I’m Dan’s wife, Cecile!”

The morsel caught in Christine throat, and she almost choked. She started to cough. Cecile looked alarmed and cried “Fred, Fred, some water please!” Fred, a guest, a look of alarm on his face, grabbed a glass, splashed some water in it and came running.

“Oh, oh, are you okay?” Cecile was patting Christine on the back. Christine grabbed the water and gulped it down.

“Thank you, thank you,” she gasped. “I’ll be ok,” as she waved away the concerned Cecile. She took a big breath. “See, I’m okay, fine really. I’ll just go use the bathroom a mo….” Christine escaped down the hallway into the first tiny loo she could find.

She splashed some water on her face. “The hell with the makeup,” she snarled at her own image in the mirror. For a minute she rested both hands on the cool ceramic and stared at herself in disbelief.

Collecting herself, she slowly and softly opened the bathroom door and stepped out. Speaking cheerfully and in as normal a voice as possible, she made her way casually and quickly out the front door and fairly trotted to her car, wiping the tears away as she went.

The next Sunday Christine was back in church wearing flat black shoes, black tights and a plain black synthetic fiber dress.  Her hair was in a knot at the back of her head and for makeup she was wearing lip gloss. She clutched her rosary beads in one hand and her little prayer book in the other.

She was listening very hard to Father Paul talk about the necessity of forgiveness of others.

Christine sat very still and listened, not moving a muscle.

The Shoes

        

She stared and stared at my shoes.

I looked down at my feet – leather
sandals with blue, rhinestone straps.

My fresh pedicure winked back at me with
gold sparkle polish.

I looked back at her. Now her head was hanging
way down like she was thinking.

“If I could just have the shoes, it would all be okay.”

I looked away. She made me uncomfortable with her
shabby clothes and dirty hands, holding the handle of the old
metal shopping cart.

It was filled to the brim with stuff, flotsam and jetsam, boxes and bags
in all mis-matched colors and styles. They matched her clothes.

Her head hung down so you couldn’t see her eyes.

I glanced at my Seiko watch to check the time. Didn’t want to be
late for that hair appointment.

She had on an old visor, stuck in her hair that mostly hid her face.
I readjusted the ear buds on my Apple I-phone.

I didn’t want to look at her, share her shame. Irresistibly my
eyes were pulled back to her riding on this crowded subway.

Why so many bags and boxes? Ah, this is her house that she carries with her.
Of course.

She blends in here, with all the other people, all going somewhere.
She could be anyone else.

It’s when she leaves here and goes up to the street,
that’s when she has to become someone who has
somewhere to go, someone to meet.

But there is no one and nowhere. Just the street.

I check my lipstick in the mirror in my handbag,
the train is slowing down.

Time to get back to my life.

Reacting when children make mistakes

Recently I was out to a Christmas lights festival with a younger friend and her four year old son. We all wanted snacks so we found a snack cafe that was serving hot cocoa and pastries. It was night and cold, so the cocoa looked good. She ordered one for her son and set it on the table.

Because I wasn’t thinking small child and reacting quickly enough, naturally when he picked up the full, adult sized cup of cocoa, he dropped in on the floor. We both rushed to clean him up and the spilled cocoa. I went and got another cup, poured out half and told the boy to always use two hands.

Unfortunately, the mother was highly embarrassed by what had happened and kept characterizing it as him throwing the cocoa down. Too bad.

Her sense of identity is too wrapped up in this child and his every little movement is perceived as a reflection on her. Not.

Here is a good article on dealing with childhood mistakes. (Even in public!!!!)

https://sleepingshouldbeeasy.com/when-your-child-makes-a-mistake/Nina V. Garcia

1. Consider whether the mistake was an accident

How often do you get frustrated when your child stains her nice shirt with jelly or drops her plate of dinner all over the kitchen floor? If you’re like me, you’ve lost your temper at some point.

But ask yourself whether the mistake was an accident—usually the answer is yes. Rarely do kids make mistakes on purpose. She may have spilled all the cereal out of the box and onto the counter, but she was likely just trying to be more independent and serve herself breakfast.

Reminding yourself that the mistake was an accident helps put the situation in perspective. We all make our own mistakes. How often have we gotten frustrated at our kids for spilling a cup of water, only to do the same thing ourselves?

2. Thank your child

When your child admits to making a mistake, thank him for telling you. Yup, before you even discipline, thank him for letting you know what happened.

Maybe he was rough housing in the living room and ended up pushing his brother too hard, or didn’t clean his toys like he said he did. Before telling him to be more careful or to not do that, thank him for telling you the truth.

He’ll feel like she can tell you anything, even when he’s in trouble or needs help. He should be able to tell you both good and bad parts of his day, including when he makes a mistake. Otherwise, he might develop a fear of failure, or that his bad choices define who he is.

In fact, thank him when he…

He needs to know that being honest with his parents is more important than hiding things and getting into more trouble.

3. Embrace mistakes as learning moments

Common childhood mistakes make for awesome teachers. When your child makes mistakes, don’t make her feel ashamed for doing so. Making poor decisions can be healthy and helpful—they help her learn what to do and not do in the future. Mistakes are an inevitable part of life that we can make the most of.

Rather than reprimand her, help her sort through her emotions and allow her to learn from her mistakes. She’ll know you have faith in her ability to try, fail, and eventually learn and succeed.

Making mistakes helps her develop the coping mechanisms for managing frustration, anxiety, and guilt. She’ll build resilience and develop a growth mindset and the emotional skills to decide how to make the situation better.

Read more about how to help your child embrace mistakes.

4. Prevent common mistakes

Though mistakes are inevitable, you can also prevent many of them from happening in the first place. Child-proof your home, or set valuables out of reach. Pull the kids apart when they’re starting to play too rough, and guide them toward more appropriate activities.

In my case, I could’ve moved the cups of water away from the dining table when my kids were goofing around, or communicated clearly when I told them to stop. Kids can make mistakes because we didn’t take the precautions to avoid them.

Conclusion

Mistakes are inevitable, there’s no doubt about that. And how you respond is just as important as addressing your child’s mistake in the first place.

To start, see if the mistake was an accident or not. Often the impulse isn’t to be mischievous but a simple mishap. Thank her for admitting her mistakes, especially when she could’ve withheld it from you out of fear of getting into trouble.

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Years ago, when I was working for the big, bad insurance company, I realized that I had made a mistake on one of my files. It was bad but not necessarily irrideemable. At this moment in time, I can’t even remember what it was I did. However, I do remember that my first impulse was to hide the file and attempt to hide the mistake. I had to talk to myself about it for three days. Finally, hat in hand, and knowing this could be a career ender, I picked up the file and walked it over to the litigation super to talk it out. He was a little surprised, but glossed it over and I went back to my desk. A huge weight was lifted from my shoulders.

The lesson was reinforced again for the umpteenth time, the price of hiding the mistake was far greater than just admitting the mistake and walking through it. It is a lesson I have had to learn and relearn.

cew

Elu’s Story – Conclusion

The body in the water stirred as little eddies and currents flowed in and out. A grey coyote came cautiously down to the water’s edge. He got closer, jerking away each time the body moved. The coyote stood still a moment, when there was no further movement, it moved closer and sniffed the thing. The animal stepped back, its golden/brown eyes bright in the nighttime light. Moving away, it drank some water, retreated and paused again. Lifting its head, it howled into the night. A frog croaked and jumped into the stream, a night bird squawked, and the coyote slunk into the night. The body continued to float.

In the soft night air there was a slight movement, a glimmering. A grey shadow, almost diaphanous in nature appeared and seemed to float above the water. The form moved slowly, and approached Elu, still face up in the water. The figure was in a loose cloak that went to the ground and had long sleeves. A hood was up over the head. A passerby would not have been able to see the face, if they would even have noticed what appeared to be no more than another shadow.

The figure was above Elu and bent over. One knobby old finger extended out of the cloak and touched Elu on the face. The finger pushed into her cheek. Further and further the finger pushed until it seemed to disappear under her skin. The shadow spoke. “Awake, Elu, awake.” The finger pulled away from her skin and the figure paused in the air. The Ghost of Sabino Canyon had spoken.

Elu tossed her head back and forth feebly and then suddenly, her eyes popped open. She tried to focus. She thought she saw something, a shadow, something leaning over her but then it disappeared. Was she dreaming? She could hear voices.

“She might be in the water down here,” she heard the deep voice of a man talking, shouting to others. “The water could have moved her.” There were voices of other people in the background.

“I’m here,” she croaked, but the sound was so low. She paused to take a breath, then leaning back with all her strength she yelled, “Here.”

There was a crashing through the brush and big hands grabbed her. “She’s here. Get the paramedics, she’s hurt!” the man shouted to others.

Elu closed her eyes again and sighed into the water.

“Where’s the boyfriend?”

“He’s still talking to the cops.”

“I bet,” said another.

Soon big men were around her and were shoving a long board under her body. She was strapped to the board and lifted up. There were bright lights and she had to clamp her eyes shut. She was jostled up the short hill until the men got to an ambulance. The board was lifted and gently pushed onto a rack in the vehicle.  More hands were laying warm blankets over her body. She felt a needle pushed into her arm. The ambulance siren went on and the vehicle turned and went down the hill. Elu passed out again.

She didn’t know how long she was out. When she came to she was lying in a bed, in a hospital obviously as she was in hospital pajamas and covered with several blankets. The light in the room was dim. She was hooked up to IV’s and other machines. The machines beeped quietly in the background. It was like a warm cocoon. There was someone sitting by her bed. She turned her head a little, not much, because it hurt so much.

It was Elena. “Ma.” Elu rasped out.

Her mother stood up suddenly and grabbed her hand. “Elu, you’re alive. Oh, thank God.” Her mother started crying.

“What happened?” Elu asked. “I was standing on the bridge, and then I fell in…”

“You fell off the bridge and hit your head. The water carried you away. Sebastian got help. Search and Rescue found you. You’ve been in the hospital since.”

“How long?”

“Three days,” her mother answered.

“Three…how is little Sally? Mom, tell me she’s okay.”

“She’s fine darling,” her mother patted her arm. “Daniel is at your place and he is watching her. I think they are both having a good time.”

“But his job at the school…”

“It’s okay, Elu. The astronomy department can live without him a few days. Those stars aren’t going anywhere.”

A sense of relief swept over Elu and she started to cry. Her mother grabbed a box of Kleenex and patted the tears.

“Mom, the strangest thing happened…”

Her mother looked at her.

“I saw something out there…”

“What?”

“I don’t know for sure. Maybe like a person, but not a person, more like a shadow.”

“Well, you did hit your head pretty hard.”

“Yeah, I know,” Elu gingerly touched the top of her head, now covered in bandages. “But, I heard it. It spoke to me. I mean, not in words, I didn’t hear it hear it…”

Her mother looked confused.

“It…it touched my face and then I could hear it in my head.”

“What did it say?”

“It told me to wake up.” She turned and stared at her mother. Her mother stared back.

“Maybe…maybe you received a visitation.”

“A visitation?”

“Yes, it doesn’t happen very often and not to too many people.”

“What do you think it means, Ma?”

“Maybe you weren’t supposed to die.”

There was silence in the room. Neither spoke for a while, letting the information sink in.

“Sabastian?”

“The police have been asking that young man a lot of questions about the whole thing.”

“But he went to get help,” Elu reasoned.

“Yes, he did. But…I guess they are still not happy with his account of how things happened.”

“Hmm,” Elu laid back and closed her eyes. Her mother sat back down in her chair.

“I think I’m going to go to sleep again, Ma. I’m kind of tired.”

Her mother patted her hand again. “No problem, baby, no problem. You just get better.”

As Elu floated off to sleep again, she added a note to her mental list. No more visits with Sebastian, no more reconciliations and no more hiking. She was going to have to speak with that lawyer again.

Finis.

cew