You've entered Melodyland, where perception is slightly skewed, potential is limitless and imaginary people live happily ever after

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

My Game of Thrones Review 11/27/2012

The Game Of Thrones--the first book in series (of 5?) had to be an awesome project for the author.  The story evolves beautifully from the viewpoint of ten families (kingdoms).

It hit me as probably just about exactly how the history of England progressed.  The author made up his own country and in my copy created a map, without which I don’t think I could have followed the story.  It was daunting enough having nearly 50 people to keep up with.  Told from the viewpoints of so many individuals including their titles and their geneaology(s) the plot twists in and out of vision.  For instance, each character has a first name, a last name, a title and a reference to their relationship to each other individual (son, cousin, father, bastard of, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, etc.) which are all used interchangeably in the text, magnifying the confusion.  Exactly no names were pronounceable.  Being proper nouns, even the dictionary didn’t help with that.  I did not follow it well, but was able at least to find the plot and realize it was more about the separate families than each person.  After I got through that obstacle, the story was full of deception and intrigue.

On a personal basis, 17 pages of eyeballs being gouged out, horse entrails falling on warriors trapped under their thrashing bodies, routine beheadings, outright evil mean acts and war strategy isn’t my thing. This was juxtaposed to human feelings of concern, heartbreak, worry, love, loyalty.  Odd.   I found it kind of interesting when the rare instances of fantasy popped in for a visit to the plot.  In fact, I spent way too much time trying to figure out what the character had actually seen from his/her venue.

As I mentioned in an earlier facebook post, the author spent a huge amount of time researching words and found the most obscure usages for ordinary terms, then stuck with them religiously.  Unless you are a Rhodes Scholar, I doubt anybody will be reading this story without some kind of word reference source handy.

Interestingly, since I was using an Iphone as my dictionary, most of the words I looked up came from wikipedia’s reference to the movie version of the very book I was reading. Go figure.  The visuals painted by the author do what a book is supposed to do and sets you into the story nearly as a participant.  I don’t think I would sit through the movie knowing as I do that Hollywood would make the dreadful pictorials even more absurdly graphic.  I’m quite sure the history is realistic in all its human acts of inhumanity¸  however.  I’m not sure yet if I’ll go on to the next volume.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Painting step 4

Well, hello there!  I knew you were in there somewhere.
Now is where I get excited. His soul came out with his eyes.  The rest is auxiliary.
I've blobbed in some pure black to see how much contrast I can get from the dark colors, and have lightened some of the background under his neck for the same reason.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Painting under way Step 3

This is sort of the paint by numbers stage.  Color gets put on but blending isn't too good yet.
I'm concentrating on shade and light contrast.  When there are several shades of the same color sometimes this gets tricky.  Some of the browns are blue/brown, some are yellow/brown, some are red/brown.

Poor little horse is kinda funny looking without his eye.

Painting under way Step 2

I've added some background, kind of outlining the subject.  Since I'm using acrylics, I can come back later and lighten the background up if it needs it.  Right now I'm mostly concerned about the dark/light contrast thing I want to develop later on.

The background isn't really black.  It's a combination of red and blue with some browns and yellows thrown in to look like a blurry forest, like a camera lens shows.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Painting under way. Step 1.

Here is the picture I plan to paint, with a sketch of the same thing.  Notice the grid lines running horizontally and vertically across both the picture and the sketch.  These lines help me keep my perspective--whatever is in one square of the picture should end up in the same square of the drawing.

The extra lines on the drawing indicate where I'll have a drastic color change for the horse's blaze, his nose, his lips (contrast).  So when I get into the flurry of painting I won't forget where those lines should be.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

My blog for 11/3/2012 Temporary Title: Silver Strutter Dead CONTINUED


            “Tell me everything that happened from the minute you got to the barn,” the Forsyth County Deputy said to Maria.  They stood beside Maria’s Jeep as deputies swarmed the barn.  An ambulance cruised up and stopped next to them. Two Emergency Medical Technicians hurried out of it to the barn.   A woman in uniform had taken Donna Kelly outside the back barn door to question her.
            “Something looked wrong from the minute I pulled up.”  Her knees wanted to buckle.  She told him the whole story. 
            “Why did you move the horse?”

            “We didn’t want to get stomped and we had to check on the man in the stall.”  This guy was getting annoying.

            He shook his head.  “Yeah, but...”

            “I know.  We had to find out if he was alive, though. Ms. Kelly felt for a heart beat but didn’t find one.”

            “He’s been dead for a while.  Plenty of time for the horse to keep kicking him around.”

            Glad she hadn’t eaten breakfast as nausea swelled in her, she said, “A horse isn’t likely to do that, you know.  After his frightful reaction to whatever happened in here, he’d ignore the guy.  Horses aren’t spiteful.”

            “Really?”  The deputy wrote furiously in his notebook.  Underlined something with his pen.  “I didn’t know that.”

            “Really.  In fact, a horse won’t even step on a person if there is any way they can avoid it.  Something must have happened to scare him so badly he’d do this.”

            “So you don’t think he’s a rogue horse, like a dog that goes wild and turns killer?”

            “I guess it could happen but I’ve never heard of it.  Some horses are afraid of everything and constantly strike out because of it so they’re just mean. I think this horse was probably mistreated.  So maybe.”

            “Can you identify the body as Dixon Wraithmire?  The man you came to see?”

            “I don’t know.  I’ve only spoken to him on the phone, driven by the farm.  It’s listed with an Atlanta broker.”  She handed him her business card with the name and phone number of the listing broker written on the back.  “He doesn’t really look like a human right now either.”

            “The lab will have to identify him.”

            *                                                          *                                                     *
            On the drive out of the property little jonquils that had popped out of the dirt next to the asphalt waved their sunny heads in the breeze.  New life.  Did Dixon Wraithmire deserve to be dead in the spring of the year?  If he’d bought into the theory that a hungry horse showed better because it stayed on edge, then Maria thought the world wouldn’t miss him.  Cruelty was still cruelty no matter the reason.

            She thought about what would happen to the horses now, if the dead man did turn out to be Wraithmire.  They’d been trained to show, bred to show.  Championship stock was a big money game.  Dixon’s family would inherit the barn.  It didn’t

add up that the people with money lacked so much sense.  When she got enough money ahead, she’d change all that and make the most of what she could create with it.

            She tried to put the image of the dead man out of her mind.  One phone conversation didn’t qualify as a relationship.  But she didn’t even get a chance to see what he looked like.  And now his face was pulverized in death.  She pulled over to the side of the road, stepped out of the Jeep and took several deep breaths of cold air.

            Reinventing herself turned out to be not as hard as she’d first thought.  She’d left Phoenix fifteen years ago with nothing but her clothes, leaving behind her abusive husband, her Western lifestyle.  There hadn’t been much except for the potential part that she’d given a lot of stock.  A lot of wasted years.

            Georgia was a new start and she’d been a chameleon changing from dirt to green.  Ironically all the pasture she’d coveted in Arizona when she’d had a horse lay everywhere in Georgia.  But there was no longer a horse in the picture.  She hadn’t known where she’d live or work so she’d  sold her Appaloosa colt to a friend as a trail horse.  The white blanket on his backside was the last she’d seen of him in the horse trailer turning out of the gate. Tears still warmed her eyes every time she thought of that colt.

            But she was still alive.  More than she would have been if her ex had killed her.

            She found a roll of Tums in the bottom of her purse and chewed one as she climbed back into the Cherokee.  Maybe she should change her image again.  Dead people made her sick.

            The dead man in the barn had to be Dixon Wraithmire unless he had a helper for his operation.  Every breeder had help.  The job of a farm and animals was too much for one person.  Especially one with an outside job.  She would have loved to have a farm, but that would take a bunch of money she didn’t have yet.  And now she had a life she didn’t want to jeopardize.  Real estate excited her--finding the right land for the right person gave her the warm fuzzies, as here grandma used to say.

            Probably Donna Kelly wouldn’t want to discuss purchasing this farm now, even if she did need its acreage for her Arabians.  On the other hand, maybe the price would go down with the stigma.  In this market the price was already low.  Three hundred acres carried an excellent commission, regardless.  She’d have to make it work.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

My blog for 10/30/2012 Temporary Title: Silver Strutter Dead CONTINUED

            Maria took her cell phone out of her blazer pocket and called Dixon Wraithmire.  She walked down the barn runway toward the house which clicked her into voicemail after three rings.  She dialed again as she stepped out of the rear door.  At the same time she noticed another one-story building with a drive in door and shed roof that was completely hidden from the front of the barn. 

            She heard a ring she recognized as a cell phone tune.  Somebody had to be in that building.  Maybe Dixon.  She geared up to give him a piece of her mind.

            From the continued fragrance of horse, this was a separated stall area, which could only mean the stud barn.  No breeder in the world would keep breeding stallions in amongst mares.  When mares came into heat, studs could lose their minds and tear down walls.  Could hurt mares, damage themselves, waste their extremely valuable championship sperm.  Stud fees ran into thousands of dollars.  Sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars.

            Maria slid the drive-in door open enough to see an entirely black interior.  A horse began thrashing, whinnying.  She pulled the big doors wide open and hurried to the noise.

            A blue black sixteen hand Tennessee Walker in all his magnificence, towered over her, his head thrown up, white scelera around his black eyes exposed in panic.  Or passion?  He kicked the stall door, which had a two-by six wooden lower half.  The top was jail bars.  He snuffled toward her, neck arched, ready for war, then snorted.  Reared, kicked at the walls, which Maria noticed were padded with rubber cushions somebody had been nibbling on. "Mr. Ambling Man" was posted over his door.

            She scanned the barn for anything edible, hoping to calm him.  Seeing the lightswitch, she hurried to flick it up.

            Donna walked calmly into the barn with a huge handful of green grass.  “I picked this just for you, my man,” she said to the horse as she offered it over.  “I could hear the commotion from next door.”

            Maria breathed in, grateful somebody was there to help who knew what she was doing, and proceeded to the next stalls.  Two doors down, another horse, “Silver Strutter,” posted over his stall door, was hunched under a blanket at the back of a stall with his head stuck into the corner, nose down.  Horses always ran to see what was going on when somebody entered a barn, so Maria dreaded whatever might be wrong with Silver Strutter.  She mashed her face up to the bars to see better inside.    The edge of a human leg wearing a western boot and denim jeans was visible.  She ran through the barn looking for a feed room and found one locked.  Another room held tack and thankfully somebody had left a bag of oats in the corner with a coffee can inside.  She grabbed a beat up wash tub and poured in some oats then hurried back to Silver Strutter’s stall to attract his attention, hoping to not get killed when she stepped inside.  “Donna, call 911, there’s a person down in this stall.”

            “God save us,” Donna said and pulled out her cell phone as she patted the nose of
Mr. Ambling Man.

            “There’s some oats in the tack room,” Maria told Donna, who nodded her head as she walked past Maria.

            She cautiously opened the stall door and shook the pan of oats toward the stallion.  He finally turned his head to look at her and snuffled.  He was not impressed, but moved around to face her as he approached the pan.  He didn’t look like a killer horse when he stuck his head in and lipped the oats.  She counted herself lucky he wore a halter so she didn’t have to put one on him.

            “I don’t think we should take him out of the stall,” she said to her new best friend Donna as she neared after the tedious call to 911.

            “It might get a little crowded in there with a killer horse a hurt man and you.  “Cause I’m not going inside with him.”

            “Okay, then we’ve got to take him out.  We’ll move him to the next stall down.  That way maybe if  Mr. Ambling Man doesn’t see him, he won’t get more upset.  She clipped a lead from the outside stall hook onto Silver Strutter’s halter and opened the door the rest of the way.  Donna moved down to the next stall and opened the door after pouring more oats into the pan Maria still held up to the horse.

           When she had lured the horse into the new stall, Maria ran back to the stall with the man.  Donna, already there, said, “looks like Killer Strutter stomped this guy to death.”

Sunday, October 28, 2012

My blog for 10/28/2012 Temporary title: Silver Strutter Dead CONTINUED

            From the distance as she approached, the farm’s layout brought up an envy she hadn’t felt for a long time.  Rolling land punctuated with trees clumped in ravines where a tractor might have trouble lay out like green fudge.  Fences separated what she knew to be several permanent pastures deep in planned grass full of millet, oats and several other nutritious grains whose names she had in her notes but not her head.  The whole looked like Kentucky’s miles of bluegrass horse parks.  Lexington had reached a hallowed place in her mind twenty years ago.   Phoenix’s horse farms hoarded precious pasturelands. And Phoenix is where she’d been brought up.   Paddocks of decomposed granite looked neat, but lush was only a word until Maria had seen what the south could provide.  Tears rolled up under her eyelids.  Whether jealous tears or admiration of God’s generosity, she wasn’t sure.

            The driveway wound past the house, red maples bordering both sides all the way to the back of the property. She turned at the barn fork. The red barn color was the only thing traditional. This barn rose two stories from the grass, all the sliding doors, tops of the half doors leaning open, bordered in white paint. Washracks peeked out from the back of the barn a hundred feet to her left. A showplace.

            She stepped out of the Jeep and was swept into nostalgia when her nose hit the mesh of clean straw, horse manure, fly spray and horseflesh.  Heaven.  With a sigh and flick of her hand across her cheek, she headed toward the open doors.  Barns always had open doors--another thing that built emotion in Maria.  Business at hand brought her back to reality.  She strode in as if she owned the place, looking for Wrathmire.

            A small head she took for a pony at first, appeared from inside the first stall on her right, and reached out as far as its neck would allow.  Big eyes, bony face.  Too delicate to be a colt, she must be recuperating or younger than she looked at first glance.  A heavy blanket seemed to swamp her.  Maria patted her nose and regretted not having loaded up on carrots or apple pieces for these babies.  The filly shoved her nose against Maria’s hand, jacket, neck.  There was no sign of a snack nearby--no hay or feeder with crumbs lurking at its bottom.  She walked a little further into the barn, where two more horse heads popped up on the other side of the steel mesh stall doors.  A sorrel with a wide white blaze that was almost fluorescent against the taffy colored hide.  A black whose head rose so high above Maria’s she looked into the stall to see just how high its withers lay.  Every rib showed on the black.  She followed its lines down, found huge knee bones and fetlocks like baseballs.  When her eyes met the hooves they found four-inch corrective pads on its feet.  Her stomach lurched over.  The sorrel nickered at her.

           When she turned back to pet its nose, she saw blisters healing on the backs of its front pasterns.  Wrong.

            Maria grabbed the black’s halter hanging near the entry to its stall on a nail.  She rubbed it head then slipped the halter over its nose, opened the stall and led the mare into the runway as a green pickup truck stopped at the barn door and a small woman stepped out of it.

            The woman said, “hello in the barn.” 

            Maria almost ran the horse over her on the way beyond her to the pasture. “Are you related to Wraithmire?” She opened the nearest pasture and pulled the halter off the horse.  It ran to the far corner of the paddock, put its head down and began eating.  It didn’t take time to blow or snort or snuffle.  Eating was on its mind.

            “No, are you Maria Sebastian?”

            “You must be Donna Kelly.  Yes, I’m Maria.  Excuse me for a minute.” She was having  a problem seeing around the giant red ball of anger that had burst inside her head.

            “Is everything okay?  Where’s the owner?  I wanted to talk to him.”

            “Yeah, I want to talk to him too.  Have a look in the stalls.”  Ms. Kelly, Maria’s client who had come to see the property to perhaps purchase it, turned to the first stall and looked at the tiny filly.  Then she looked in at the sorrel as Maria made her way down to the next stall where a bay with a snip of white on its nose looked anxiously out at her.

            “These guys look a little thin,” Kelly said.

            “No shit.”  Maria led the bay out of the stall down to the pasture beyond the first one where the black still munched in the corner.  Maria turned it out the bay and returned to the barn.

            “Are they sick?” Kelly asked.

            “They’re starving.”

            “Well, why?  There’s a lot of pasture out there.”  She waved her hand in a broad gesture.

            “Exactly.”  Maria moved two more horses to pastures.  “Do you know anything about shoeing?  I’ve half a mind to rip the pads off these mares.”

            “Does the owner know you’re raiding his barn?”

            “Do I look like I care?”

            “Yeah.  Um.  Maybe they’ve been sick?” Kelly said.

            “Is that a good reason for six horses to be crippled up from pads, sores and starvation?”

            “Okay, I’m calling the ASPCA.”  Kelly took out her cell phone and poked a bunch of words into it.  “You know, we’re screwing the willingness of the seller to want to deal with me.  In case I might want to buy this place.  If I ever get a chance to see it.  After we save some horse’s lives.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

My blog for 10/27/2012 Temporary title: Silver Strutter Dead




Realtor Maria Sebastian skipped down the stairs of the building in Gainesville, Georgia.  Having been built in 1936, it was no longer used  for basketball but now housed an insurance office, a real estate investment broker, a couple of small spaces for day traders and a marketing company whose product was dog collars.  Part of the old basketball court had been converted to a dance studio where Maria took tap dance lessons.

            She’d fallen in love with tap dancing when she was six years old.  Her grandma put upholstery tacks in the heels and toes of her own as well as Maria’s sneakers, turned on her phonograph and they secretly danced in the garage of her grandma’s house.  Now, so many years later, Maria couldn’t abandon her roots, as she viewed her closet tap addiction.  She obviously couldn’t practice in her carport because the neighbors could see her and tap dancing was a private affair between herself and her grandma. 

            “We don’t need fancy shoes, just so we can hear our toes,” grandma had said.

            Exhilarated, Maria checked her watch and hurried to her white Jeep Cherokee.  Gas for the trip to Gainesville every week was an absolute extravagance that would have made her frugal mother cringe.  But she didn’t plan to discuss it with her mom. 

            If she hurried, she wouldn’t be late meeting her client to show the woman the most gorgeous horse barn in Forsyth County.  It had three hundred acres of rolling pastures outlined with four rail black board fencing.  To date it housed two Tennessee Walker championship stallions, Silver Strutter, a glistening black son of Colorado Strutter, and Mr. Ambling Man, son of Amber Ambler, a slick liver chestnut with gold highlights.

            Breedings were lined up to the moon that would produce an income for that barn for the next five years.  Maria had never seen the studs and was excited to check out the boy’s barn today for the first peek.  The seller, Dixon Wrathmire, wanted a large facility to house the mares that had composite runs criss-crossing the inside stalls.  Two handlers could then switch off exercising the ladies during bad weather.  The sometimes thick pads on their feet needed to remain as dry as possible.  If he could sell the farm he wouldn’t have to take down the old barn and rebuild it with a huge outlay of cash.  He could get the bank to finance the whole thing for him at a new site across the county.

            Maria shoved the hoof paddings out of her brain.  It did not compute that Walking horses with a natural gait should be ignored and the ones born with a pace instead of the traditional ambling gait were “trained” through the use of chemicals and hoof padding into the artificial strut that won championship awards in Shelbyville, Tennessee.  But she was just a lowly realtor and didn’t have to know more than the condition of the rails, the feeders and waterers of the horsefarms she sold.  Three hundred acres, a modest but lovely home, a complete commercial barn and several outbuildings for studs and storage made a tight little package for a breeder planning to grow.

            She sped across the lake, back toward the Chestatee Community of Forsyth County.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

My Blog for 10/6/2012 JOE THE CAT III


Joe walked on light feet down the driveway with his tail straight up in the air.  He cautiously turned toward the side of the house when he heard a commotion and made his way to the corner.  He sat down, picked up a front foot, licked his white sock.   But he got curious about the noise and peeked north.

The brindle Great Dane, Freddy, tossed a box turtle he’d found into the air.  He caught it then sat for a minute as if to think about what to do with it next.  He shook his head back and forth.  The turtle’s back feet waved about frantically inside the left side of Freddy’s lips, which covered all but the turtle’s toes.  Its head had disappeared inside its shell, nearly covered by black dog lips on the right side of his mouth.

Freddy tossed the turtle again.  Joe walked casually toward Freddy until he was inches behind him.  When the dog suddenly sat down, Joe put his foot gently on the dog’s tail, which Freddy did not notice as he caught the turtle in mid-air.  Joe extended his claws into the tail.

Freddy’s eyes distended, the turtle dropped to the ground with a crack.  The dog’s head darted between his own two back feet as the turtle spun downhill like a hubcap off a car’s wheels.  Freddy ended upside down in the dirt.

Joe sauntered south until Freddy got his feet under him again. 
Joe went up a tree.

Friday, October 5, 2012

My blog for 10/5/2012 JOE THE CAT II


Joe the cat lay upside down on the back porch with his feet in the air.  His paws looked like white tulips dangling on their stems.

The mother watched him from the window when he rose to head for the barn.  With the sunlight from the late spring day behind him, he looked kind of noble in his arrogant swagger.  Next she saw him, he sauntered to the back screened door with a dead mouse in his jaws, and deposited the corpse on the Welcome Mat.  Work done for the day, he headed back to the barn.

Soon she noticed Joe the tightrope walker slowing make his way along the wooden top rail of the paddock out back and light on a 4 x 4 juncture post, where he sat down and looked at Molly.  She swung her head his direction lazily, blew softly, and casually four-footed it over to his post.  Put her nostrils, the size of half his body, on his head.  He used her chin as a scratching post.  She sidled up to the rail.  He hopped onto her rump.  She daydreamed as he nestled down to take a nap.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

My blog for 10/3/2012 JOE THE CAT



“What’s that?” the mother said as the baby doll jumped out of the child’s baby buggy and sauntered across the room to the couch.  He stumbled a couple of times on his pink nightie.

“My baby.”

“I see that now.  You shouldn’t torture the cat,” the mother said.  She dashed out of the room.

Millie ran to the couch and rolled the pink gown up, exposing Joe’s stomach.  She fastened it with a rubber band so he could walk.  Satisfied, she ran back to the buggy and picked up a tiny satin bonnet, took it back to the couch and had a problem tying it on Joe’s head while he continued to flick his ears.  When she finished tying the bow under his chin, Joe looked kind of surprised with gray stripe peaks on both sides of his face--like his eyes were open farther.  He stared at Millie before his underlids drug his suddenly exhausted eyes closed.  His feet reached almost to the ground when the five year old picked up his ten pounds and carried him back to the buggy.  She put in his top half then followed up by lifting his back legs over the edge as well.

Twenty minutes later, Joe dashed into the kitchen, hat dragging behind him, dolly gown off one shoulder.  He slipped out of the pink stuff and went to his feeding station to watch his bowl.  Licked the bottom.  Looked at the full water bowl with disdain.

The mother ran by the kitchen table where she dropped a loaf of bread.  She made a trip to the cabinet where she gathered the soft butter dish, peanut butter, a knife,  two glasses and two plates and juggled the items to the table.   

Joe moved to a table chair to watch.

“Don’t worry, Joe.  The magic bowl will fill very soon,” mother told him.

Joe allowed one blink.

She laid out the bread slices and spread butter on two slices, peanut butter on two others.  Walked to the refrigerator, opened the door to grab the jelly.  No jelly.  Lifted the jug of milk instead, then went around the corner to the pantry where a new jar of jelly resided.

She paused at the kitchen counter to wrestle open the hermitically sealed jar after setting the milk jug down.

Joe watched her over his right shoulder while one claw of his left front paw engaged itself into a slice of peanut buttered bread, inching it toward his chair.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

My blog for 10/2/2012 WHAT ARE GRANDPAS GOOD FOR?


There was a parade of four children and one large grandpa through this house just minutes ago.  They were on their way to the garage, looking for string with which to make a bow.  It seems one of them found an arrow in the woods, which would remain flightless if not for the grandpa who knew how to make a bow. 

On their way through, they discussed important things such as how to make a slingshot.  All they needed was an inner tube.  But what would they shoot?  Rocks?  No, rocks might hurt somebody.  How about acorns?  They would probably hurt somebody too, in the war they were planning.  But acorns are plentiful this time of year, so they were chosen as the preferred ammunition.  Now they had to volunteer a bicycle inner tube.  One of them knew just the place to find it.

I don’t know what they found to make the bow with, but I know it will work because I know that grandpa.  Aha!  I’ve just been informed it was made of fresh sapling.

Was this grandpa a retired maker of hunting equipment?  No.  Was he once the architect of innovative patents?  No.  The key to this grandpa is he was a boy once.  He was not raised with I-Pads or video games or DVDs or I-Pods or even cell phones.  He never knew about computer screens or keyboards.  Ergo, he had a little time on his hands, between fighting his seven brothers for the only bicycle.  He can still make a go cart that really goes, a bow that really shoots and a slingshot to die for.

Yesterday he taught his son-in-law how to tear a hole in the wall and fix a leaky shower faucet, then drywall up the hole, tape, sand and paint it.

I wonder what our grandchildren will teach their grandchildren.

Monday, October 1, 2012

My blog for 10/1/2012 VANISHED End of serial




On Jerrold’s return from walking Janet to her car, he opened the office door into Natalie, bumping her with the knob.  “Oh, sorry.   I thought you’d gone.  We’ll follow through on your request...”

            “Well, I came back to give you this box I found in my car.”  Natalie reopened the closed door as she pointed at Cherrie standing behind the urn with a huge teary smile on her face.

            “Is that what I hope it is?” He said, and hurried over to the counter.  “Oh, thank God, it is.”  His mind turned liquid with relief.  He looked back at Natalie, standing with a question mark on her face.  “You have no idea how important this is.”  He knew he should capture the box for fingerprints, call the FBI to question Natalie about the possibility of her taking the box.  He quickly weighed that against the publicity the cemetery didn’t need, that VA couldn’t sustain.  It seemed like there was no way to make some people happy.  The exhumation in progress today at the northwest columbarium was at the request of a woman who had moved her departed husband three times already to improve his “view.”  The media had seen fit to deplore the VA’s tactics for mistreating the deceased’s ashes on the third move. 
            If he called in the authorities, the jobs of all the employees would be at stake, along with an investigation that may run for years.  If he did not call them and the issue came up again, the jobs of all the employees would be at stake.  “Would you please give me your phone number and let me verify your address with your driver’s license?” he said to Natalie.  “I am quite sure we will be able to rectify the issue with your mother’s burial site.  Do the papers you have left us include where she is buried at this time?”  Natalie's questions and curiosity vanished.

            When Harold came by with a donut he’d brought for Cherrie, she shared the news of the found Michael Leonard Smith urn, which Jerrold had returned to its proper place in the columbarium wall.  He asked Cherrie if he could take her and her children to Mission Bay park on next Saturday afternoon.  He had some toy sailboats the children might enjoy sailing around the bay.  If Michael Leonard Smith had not gone missing, he would never have had the opportunity to ask Cherrie this question.  His reticence around Cherrie seemed to have vanished.

            Jerrold went home for lunch.  He hadn’t done that in forty five years.  He wanted to share the returned urn news with Janet. When they talked about it, she thought how fortunate that Michael Leonard Smith had gone missing long enough for her to realize what a fine man she’d married.  Her disrespect for him had somehow vanished. “Sometimes you just have to do what’s practical instead of the letter of the law,” she told him.  She recalled a magazine she’d read with an advertisement for hang gliding lessons and rides.  Jerrold’s birthday was next month.

            Vincent had looked under every shrub along the northwest fenceline from the kiosk to the wilderness area which was inaccessible by car.  He saw Harold approach by foot across the grass between the headstones.  Suspicion, on a low setting inside him raised to medium heat. 

            “Vince, they’ve found the missing urn box inside a woman’s car.”

            “Why’d she take it?” he snarled.

            Harold didn’t seem to notice Mitch’s reaction.  “Nobody knows.  The woman said she found it on her front seat and took it to the office.   I wanted to catch you before you turned over every leaf on the peninsula.  I know how thorough you are.”

            Could this be a compliment?  “Where were you when it showed up?”

            On the other side of the columbarium complex with the other crew, looking for it.  I didn’t want to interfere with the funeral. 

            “When are the authorities going to show up?”  So we can all get fired.

            “Well, that’s the thing.  Jerrold and I don’t want to lose our jobs, and don’t want you to lose yours either.  You’re too valuable to this place.”
            Suddenly glad he hadn’t raised his speculation about Harold taking the ashes, Vince didn’t remember the last time gratitude had been in his mind.  His suspicious feelings about Harold  vanished.  Vince wondered if he’d feel this way about Harold if Michael Leonard Smith hadn’t gone missing.  Or been found.  Maybe he wouldn’t have to start job hunting again after all.  Maybe he wouldn’t have to endure being under suspicion of taking the ashes out of the wall.

            Jose finally understood what Vince had told them.  The urn had been found so his job was safe.  He still had peace in his life to look forward to. His fears quietly vanished. While he was looking for the box, he’d decided to take his relatives with him and go to the night school where they could all learn to speak English.  His relatives would be able to find jobs if they could speak this language.  His own English was not very good.  But they all could not continue to live together in this country.  They needed peace.   The loss of the urn and possibly his job helped him make up his mind about this.

            Mitchie was Alejandro’s hero.  He wanted to be just like him when he grew up.
            He would do anything Mitchie told him to.  So when Mitchie told him the urn had been found and it was all because of such a thorough search, Alejandro was proud of himself.
            He hadn’t felt proud of anything in a long long time.  If Mitchie hadn’t told them to search hard for the urn, it never would have been found, even if none of them had actually found it.  Mitchie said that sometimes the harder you work the luckier you get.  And the luck could come from a direction you never considered.  Perhaps from the vanished urn of Michael Leonard Smith.


            THE END

Sunday, September 30, 2012

My blog for 9/30/2012 VANISHED Serial



            Jerrold was not responsible for the Natalie Christophson issue.  The Veteran’s Administration would have to hold the ashes of the second Mrs. Christophson in an unmarked crypt until the matter was settled.  Jerrold was grateful this was not a decision he had to make himself--he was uncomfortable with conflict, though he managed to get the people who had come to the first funeral of the day under control.  He told them he’d hold the ashes until a decision was made about how the problem could be legally solved.  His soothing voice was one of his strongest assets.

VA always did everything possible to accommodate families. He returned to his office with only a few minutes to spare before the next funeral and gave the paperwork provided by Natalie to Cherrie to duplicate, write an explanation and send to Washington, D.C.

            “I admire how you are handling the problem with the two Mrs. Christophsons,” his wife told him.  She had waited in the office for him during the first funeral and discussed the missing urn box problem with Cherrie.  It broke her heart to know the missing box may be the end of the only job Jerrold had ever loved.  It had made him feel valuable.  She realized then what a fine man he was and how he didn’t deserve what was sure to occur. 

            Janet didn’t know what they would do when Jerrold no longer had the job as funeral director.  His military retirement would cover their financial needs, but she knew her husband would never overcome his humiliation, and dreaded what the next few days would do to his fragile state of mind.
She took his hand and he walked with her to her car where she gave him a cup of coffee still hot in the thermal cup, and the lunch she'd brought for him.

            Natalie, vindicated, made her way back to her Toyota, which she had left unlocked in the seclusion of the cemetery since her purse had been with her at the sham funeral.  She saw a forgotten book she’d left on the car seat as she slung her purse off her shoulder, sat down and placed the purse on the floorboard of the passenger seat.

            It wasn’t a book--it was a ceramic box, and larger than most books.  She looked around outside to see if somebody was near her car, had mistakenly set the box inside.  Could it have been left there intentionally?  She recalled disaster movies involving car bombs, which at first frightened her.  But this would be the first designer bomb in the universe.  She considered if some admirer/stalker had left it for her.  Nobody knew she was coming here.  Besides, there was a sticker note on its side.  “Michael Leonard Smith,” it said, with a bunch of numbers.  It looked surprisingly like the box holding the ashes of the sham woman trying to be buried with her father,  Rene Whoever.

            Natalie watched the mourners of Rene Whoever return to their cars parked along the only drive into the cemetery.   A woman in a gray suit with black edging walked with a tissue held to her face.  The woman who’d spoken up at the committal shelter turned the opposite way up ahead.  Her face was red, hair disarrayed.  Two teenagers were crying together as they walked, arms wrapped around each other.

            A dark cloud settled over Natalie.  She knew she’d added to the grief of the mourners.  Three minutes before, she’d felt vindicated.  She’d been responsible for bringing justice to her long lost mother that atoned for the years of abandonment she and her four siblings had endured.  But that had only lasted three minutes and now she felt bad again, now for those people who’d lost their mother, usurper that she was.  Would it ever go away?  She sat with her head against the steering wheel.  She was tired of hate.

            The box in her car was obviously an error.  If it was an urn, and it certainly had to be one, somebody had made a terrible mistake.  It could be her father in that box, left through somebody’s stupidity in the wrong car.  This wasn’t the same as finding a lost wallet. 

            Her feet felt like cement as she started her car and drove up to the cemetery office.


            Cherrie was alone, in the middle of filling out a form for an exhumation.  She looked up at the woman who stepped through the doorway.  The woman was small boned with black curls sprouting around her face, probably caused by the mist outside.  Cherrie’s second child’s hair had the same reaction to humidity.  “May I help you?”

            “Yes.  I found this on the seat in my car.  I think somebody mistakenly left it there.”

            It was not unusual for urns to be carried into the office.  But Cherrie's heart leapt when she saw the box.  Could it be the one?  She practically ran to the counter.  She read out loud, “Michael Leonard Smith.”  Tears sprung in her eyes.

            Natalie back pedaled to the door, frightened.

Friday, September 28, 2012

My post for 9/28/2012 VANISHED Serial

At eight o’clock, with the funeral set at eight thirty, Jerrold was forced to make his decision.  He would be faithful to his position, to the deceased protectors of the United States, to their families.  He would allow the funerals to progress.  Then he would take his punishment for the loss of Michael Leonard Smith’s urn box.  One way or another.

               He called to the gate and let the guard know it was time to allow mourners to enter.  There were ten cars waiting for access to the funeral, all lined up at the entrance wondering if our country was under attack.  The first one in the queue was Janet MacDonald, Jerrold’s wife.

               Janet sped to Jerrold's office, grabbed her flowers and the favorite sandwich she’d brought with her.  She dashed inside as Jerrold looked up.  He was just getting ready to walk over to the commitment shelter.  She walked quickly to him, placing the things in her hands on his desk and wrapped her arms around him.  “Are you alright?  What has happened today? I’ve been worried sick about you.”  She hugged him close to her, damn the protocol.

               Jerrold was speechless.  He wanted to take her outside and spill everything he’d been thinking, tell her about the missing urn, about losing his job and ask her forgiveness for being such a loser.  His head throbbed from the nitroglycerin he’d just taken, but his heartbeat had settled down and his arm quit aching.

              Tears formed in his eyes as she looked at him, then hugged him again.  She’d never seen him cry and knew this was a significant point in their marriage.

              “I have a funeral,” he said quietly.

              “I know.  We’ll talk after.  I’ll wait here for you.”

              “There are eighteen today.”

              “Maybe Mr. Greevy could step in for you just for today.”

              Cherrie, who couldn’t help overhearing their words, said, “I’ll find Harold and I know he keeps slacks and a dress shirt in his truck for emergencies.”  She dashed out the door. 
              At eight thirty, every car had parked, every cushion held a mourner for Mrs. Rene Christophson, wife of Lt. Commander Richard Thomas Christophson, USN.

              The minister stood to talk about the deceased as an attendent held the urn that would be interred in the same crypt as Richard Christophson.

              Natalie, who had been waiting two hours for this moment, fidgeted, annoying the people in the third row where she sat.  At last she stood, walked up to the minister and announced, “This funeral cannot continue.  It is a fake and must be stopped.”

              The minister said, “I’m sorry for you loss, but why don’t you sit down here next to me and I’ll continue.  We cannot deny this fine woman the last wishes of herself and her husband, the Lt. Colonel.”

                “Oh yes we can,” Natalie blurted out with her voice raised.  She shoved her hand into her purse as several people flinched.  She pulled back her hand holding a sheaf of papers.

               “I saw the obituary notice in the newspaper about this woman’s death.”

                From stunned silence, the congregation of the somber men and women registered bemusement, chagrin, irritation and hostility on their faces as Natalie continued. “I have for a long time been studying the genealogy of my family to find where I placed in the world.  I am an adopted child whose birth mother died when I was four years old.  All of her papers were kept for me by my mother’s sister.  In those papers I found my birth father’s Last Will and Testament.”  Natalie placed a set of papers on the minister’s podium.  You will see highlighted here that my father mandated in his will for my mother to be interred with him in this military cemetery.  My mother was a military wife
who moved all over the world as my father was deployed to Alaska, to Argentina, to Germany and Korea.  She bore hardships you cannot imagine while hauling her five children with her to all these countries and adapting like an octopus to homes without bathrooms, without running water, without vegetables, for heaven’s sake, so she could keep our family together during the time my father was irreverently sent all over the place by his government.  She ultimately died of malaria contracted in Panama in the 1950’s.”  Natalie laid down a death certificate for her mother,  Martina Louise Christophson.
                 “Meanwhile,” Natalie continued, “my father was captured in north Korea and left in a camp until his apparent release sometime around 1960, but nobody knew where he was.  My brothers and I were separated and raised by various relatives and adoptive parents.   My father apparently was released and either did not want his family or was so damaged that he forgot about us.  In any case, he remarried this woman lying here today.  However, he never bothered to be divorced before marrying Rene Christophson."
                 Natalie found the death certificate for her father, Richard Christophson and laid it on top of the podium with her other paperwork.                 “Then he died.”

                 Jerrold, who’d been standing to the side of seating benches spoke up.  “Ms., the woman being interred here today was your father’s legal wife, and her name appeared in his will as being buried with him in this veteran’s cemetery.”

                “But, don’t you get it? So was my mother’s name.  Yes, my father was apparently a bigamist, probably through no fault of his own.  But my mother is the one who deserves to be buried with him.  She went through fifteen years of hell with and for him, all out of love.”

                Natalie turned to the grievers in the first row that was dedicated to the immediate family members.  “I have nothing against your mother.  But my mother was Richard’s legal husband and in the Federal Benefits for Veterans book, you will find that it’s my mothers right to be buried next to her husband as mandated by his will.”  Natalie added the benefits booklet to the stack of paperwork she’d set before the minister, who now stood with his mouth open.

            At first the silence was overwhelming.

            Then a bereaved woman in the front row stood up with a tall man, turned to Natalie and said, “That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard.  My father was not a bigamist and you obviously have contrived to malign the name of a wonderful human being.  Now you get out of here and let us continue in our grief.  My mother died.  Can’t you see that?”

            “If your mother is buried in the same crypt as my father then my attorney will sue the Veteran’s Administration and I’ll go to the newspapers, the television media and anybody else I can find.  Everybody will know he was a bigamist.  Even though he was my father as well.”

             Chaos reigned after that.