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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. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

My blog for 9/27/2012 VANISHED Serial



Cherrie couldn’t handle just standing around the office looking at paperwork she couldn’t get her mind around.  She put on her light jacket and walked outside.  If she stayed within sight of the office she could at least help look for the box.  Trees and shrubs were not dense on the peninsula except in the wilderness area and it was blocked off by the chainlink fence.  The fog was beginning to break up so she could work her way to the fence and still see if anybody approached the buildiing.  The normal function of the office had ceased anyway, as if the world suddenly waited to exhale.  Whoever had moved the box had moved her heart with it.  The missing urn box could have been that of her father or her husband.  She, in fact, could be interred with her husband’s location in the columbarium, which is what she’d planned.  Her life had mostly died with him anyway.  If she didn’t have four children to raise, she had no idea of what her purpose would be.

Looking for the box was not the same as looking for missing car keys.


            Vincent seemed to get more angry as he walked.  How stupid that everybody was out wandering around eighty acres of cemetery looking for a little ten inch box.  Whoever had taken it surely had an agenda.  Could one of the workers there removed it?  But why would they do that?  He counted the ones he knew had family buried there--only three of them he could recall.   If he eliminated those people, the number of suspects was cut down to the Mexicans and the crazies.  He always wondered about Harold.  The guy was single with no relatives.  So there were actually five of them.  Harold would be his choice.

But why would he do that?  Vincent would have to take matters into his own hands and go over to the maintenance barn to search it.


            Jose was certain that since he’d found that the urn was missing, he’d be the one to find it again and return it to its proper place.  To restore order.  The job at this cemetery was the only stable thing that had ever happened in his life of chaos.  His wife and their six children, his wife’s mother and Jose’s brother and his wife and their two children all lived together forty miles east away toward El Centro, California.  Some of them had sometimes jobs.  The children would soon be old enough to have jobs too, if they didn’t get involved in gangs.  But the world was a new place and the children all wanted cellphones and ipods and cars and clothes.  He could not give them everything they wanted.  And now he didn’t want to give them anything at all.  But he didn’t know how to tell them these things existed, but not for them.  Because it’s not good for you didn’t fly any longer.  His wife thought he was too hard on the children.  All Jose had ever really wanted was peace.  The cemetery was all about peace.  Peace earned for the fighting men and women.  But also peace for those taking care of them in this city of the dead.  If the cemetery closed because the workers were not responsible enough to take better care of their charges, then there would never be peace for Jose again.


            Waiting was stressful.  Natalie was grateful for the cushion she could sit on now that they’d been distributed.  The concrete bench was cold.  With the fog rolling back toward the west, the sky had begun to clear in the east and turn the clouds red. Her very curly dark hair tumbled onto her forehead, which made her look six years old and took away her credibility.  She rethought her plans.


            Jerrold walked through the commitment shelter, looking for the lone woman, preparing for the first funeral, that nothing was out of place, looking for a lone box perhaps abandoned under a shrub.

            When he found her he introduced himself.  “I see you are here early.  It’s good the fog is lifting.”

            She nodded to him.

            “We’ve had a little difficulty and I’m not sure the funeral will be on time today.”

He watched her closely for a response.

            “That’s okay.  I can wait.  Did the minister not come?  What has happened?”

            “Just an issue has arisen.  It should be taken care of right away.”  He learned nothing.  He didn’t know what to look for, had never been an interrogator.  He excused himself and returned to his office to look for his little bottle of nitroglycerin.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

My blog for 9/26/2012 VANISHED Serial

Alejandro finally found Mitchie’s crew over the bayside hill on the lighthouse end of the cemetery. They had just finished trying to mow, but the fog had saturated the grass to the point that it clung to the hardware in clumps and clogged the blades in low areas.  They spent the allocated time moving rocks out of the way for new grass to be rolled along the fenceline while they waited for the fog to burn off as the sun rose higher in the sky.   The four men stood with their mouths open while he explained about the missing urn box.  “No, no, no, no,” one of them said.  Another whispered, “This cannot be.”

            For his part, Mitchie, who was parallel crew chief with Alejandro, in charge of four men, felt anger burn words inside his brain.  He knew better than to explode them into the atmosphere, because his men expected more from him.  If he did not have their respect, then he would make a very poor crew chief.  He’d been taught this by his father, who had been a crew chief before Mitchie.  It was a prestigious job to walk among the dead every day, to care for their eternal resting place.  This resting place after all, was a place of honor in the country that had dedicated itself to freedom.  Mitchie’s family was not of America.  He’d been born Miguelito Antonio Lucas, the son of a Mexican family that could not survive in its own country.  His father had made his way into the United States before Mitchie was born.  Mitchie was a citizen, of which he was very proud.  He felt as if the missing urn box belonged to his family alone.  Anger was the best substitute for tears.

            So Mitchie tamped down his anger.  “We will find this urn box.  We will stop working our job and search every inch of this peninsula until we find it,” he said between his clenched teeth.

            Alejandro was relieved to hear this edict.  It gave him faith that all would be restored.  His crew, too, vowed to begin the search for the vanished box.

            The men divided up the peninsula into equal search areas and began to comb every inch of grass and shrubs and rocks in different directions. They began the search to  empty trash cans, look at the fronts and backs of every single tombstone, monument and marker.  They would search the lighthouse and the gatehouse.

            Jerrold MacDonald got the message that his wife was down at the gate, not being permitted to pass the guard.  He didn’t want to tell Janet that he’d failed the Veteran’s Administration, his position as director.  She’d already lost her respect for him somewhere along the way of their marriage, and now he’d lost it for himself.  Michael Stanley Smith could easily have been Jerrold’s father, or even his son.  He could be a decorated hero in a battle to save the United States from a war played out right here at home.  The loss of his ashes was more than Jerrold could bear.  He would have to deal with Janet later.

            If they did not find Michael Stanley Smith’s box soon, he would have to tell the VA in Washington D.C. it was missing.  Worse yet, the family would have to be told.  In just over an hour the gate would have to be opened for the mourners to arrive for the first funeral.  There had been no precedent set for delaying funerals at a national cemetery.  Even if he called every one of the mortuaries bringing deceased military veterans here today, the logistics of delaying eighteen funerals was an impossible task.  And he would be at first humiliated and ultimately fired because it happened under his watch.  He understood perfectly how the military worked.  In his dreams he’d been able to fly and knew just how it would feel... quiet, wind rushing through his hair.  Thrilling.

            Harold Greevy could see a little bit of blue sky through the fog now as the desert air coming over the moutaintops overpowered its moisture.  Soon the fog would be relegated to stand like a fortress over the edge of the California beach, and the sun would have control of the land for another day.  He took in a big breath of air as he walked along the columbarium walls and pushed on each of the doors.  He felt so bad for Cherrie, whose husband was buried right there on the grounds.  The missing urn may just as well have been her husband’s.  He’d always admired her for taking on the world alone with four children as she had done, but never thought she would notice him.  It was good to be emotionally helpful to her.

            Janet MacDonald, still stuck at the gate was frantic for news of Jerrold.  The guard told her it wouldn’t be much longer of a wait, even though he didn’t know what the problem was.  There would be a funeral in just over an hour, with seventeen more to follow.  Whatever it was would have to be rectified soon.  Janet drove back into town and picked up some food and flowers for Jerrold.  He loved flowers.  And food always helped in a trying circumstance, whatever it was.  Jerrold was such a little child in some ways.  It’s what she’d found attractive about him twenty years ago.  She didn’t know when he’d stopped needing her to take care of him.  On her way back to the gate, she thought about how he looked when he was sleeping.  Like an angel with his eyelashes soft against his cheek.
           Natalie Christophson checked her purse again to make sure she'd brought everything.  She glanced at her watch.  Not long now.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

My blog 9/25/2012 VANISHED serial



Harold Greevy slammed the door to the Cemetery office as he hurried inside and looked around for Jerrold.  “Where’s the boss?”  The maintenance supervisor was dressed in a golf shirt he’d apparently slept in and the same dark khaki pants and boots he wore every day.

            Cherrie turned to him in her gray slacks and white blouse with little pink flowers dotted on it.  Her youngest daughter learned her numbers by sitting on Cherrie’s lap and counting the blossoms on that blouse.  “He’s still looking for Mitchie’s crew, I think.  What in the world has happened?”

            “Jerrold didn’t tell you?”

            “He was so upset I didn’t want to ask.”

            Harold scanned the small room as if anybody could be standing where he could not see them, and lowered his voice.  “An urn box is missing from the columbarium.  The door was standing open.”

            A violent oven seemed to ignite in her chest.  “But how can that be?  It’s a mistake.”  Her eyes welled up and tears ran down her cheeks so quickly she didn’t know it was happening till drops fell on the papers she was holding.

            He walked around the desk and held her close.  “We’ll find it.  You’re right, this is a mistake.  I’ll go check it again.”

            Cherrie hadn’t been held like that since a complete stranger had done the same thing in his sympathy at their father’s funeral.  She was surprised it meant so much and wanted to stand there wrapped in Harold’s arms for as long as possible.  As it was, he appeared to not be anxious to turn loose of her either.  They’d worked at the cemetery for four years together and had never touched.  Now she didn’t understand how that could have happened, along with confusion about how an urn box could go missing.  Her head spun and life as she knew it no longer made sense.  Even her desk looked odd from Harold’s shoulder.

            The last Cherrie had heard, Harold was seeing somebody.  But that was how many months ago?  Her professional side made her pull back from his arms.  Her father, now buried outside in the green carpet of conventional plots, had been a lifer in the Marines.  Cherrie understood protocol.  And standing in the middle of her office in Harold’s arms was not protocol.

            Harold’s face turned red right up including his ears.   He asked Cherrie to let Jerrold know he would check all of the columbarium walls in person.  In fact, he would test each door to see if any were open, though that had never happened in the years he’d been associated with the cemetery.  He hurried back out to his four wheeler and started toward the southeastern columbarium.

            Cherrie tried to watch him go, but the fog had settled into a wall of tin plastered against the office windows.

            Jerrold had driven to the extreme southwestern end of the columbarium wall.  His grandfather was buried in a laydown urn plot near that end.   He stopped and read the headstone marker for the ten thousandth time as he passed it. Walter Lawrence Greevy, May 6, 1962 - November 17, 1952. He took the footpath that ran between the lawn graves and the wall, checking for anything odd, somehow hoping to find the missing urn box. But found only a couple of weeds that were not there yesterday.  When he got to the end he walked west toward the sea, around the perimeter of the lawn graves.  He rolled down hill remembering the feel of his legs on the lurching ships he’d been assigned to as an ensign in the navy.  Flying was what he’d really wanted to do, but that didn’t happen.  Now, at the bottom of the cemetery where the chain link fence separated wilderness growth from manicured lawn, Jerrold gazed over the three hundred foot cliff, tried to see the ocean.  He heard it below him, the surf rolling in, softly pounding against the sand with a kind of breaker thunder.  If he only had wings, he’d soar out to the beautiful expanse that he knew was there.  Fifteen miles north, hang gliders peeled off the same type cliffs at UC San Diego’s Glider Port above La Jolla. He should have been born ten years later.  Or a hundred years later when men will be able to fly on their own.  He'd almost bought a hang glider once.  Now he was too old.
            He still couldn’t see fifty feet in front of him but he’d been there so many times before he could walk it blindfolded, with or without the fog.  He’d memorized the headstones nearest the ocean and silently nodded to Peter, to Jim, to Sancho, to Nathaniel and all the rest as he continued to walk.  The tour of his “friends,” calmed him as he silently made a vow to find Michael Stanley Smith.
            When he returned to the office, Cherrie began to hover.  Did he want a drink?  Did he want to go to breakfast, take a break, call home?  One message on his desk was from Harold and one said he should call his wife.  He picked up the receiver and dialed his home number, though there were strict instructions to make no personal calls.  Janet had never called him at work before today.  The message machine picked up.   Could this day get any worse?

            Janet MacDonald, the funeral director’s wife, was stopped at the gate at the land end of the Point Loma peninsula.  The navy guard would not raise the cross bar for her to continue to the cemetery, though he would not explain why.  Alarm rose in her breast.  Was the base on alert?  She frantically dialed through her Lexus’ radio stations for news of some disaster.
            She hadn’t treated Jerrold very well lately.  He’d become remote, she’d become petulant.  He hadn’t noticed.  So she started making emergency plans in case he was going to leave her.  She was insulted he didn’t care enough about her to see she needed more attention.  If he loved her, he’d notice, wouldn’t he?  Of course he would.  But why did Cherrie call from Jerrold’s office?  Why had Jerrold called and left no message?  Only out for an hour for her standard bi-monthly pedicure, what could have happened in one hour?  Jerrold had decided there was no point in having a cell phone he couldn’t use.  She hadn’t known she would not be permitted on the cemetery grounds when she drove over from their retirement home just three miles away.  It may as well be a hundred miles.
            She’d noticed the man reading the newspaper looked at her several times while she drank her latte at Starbucks on her way to her pedicure.  He didn’t have as much hair as Jerrold, wasn’t as good looking.  But he smiled at her.

            The woman named Natalie Christophsen who’d arrived very early for the first funeral walked to the USS Bennington Memorial to get out of the way of the cemetery staff who were distributing the leather seat cushions for mourners to sit on during the funeral services today.  She read about the 62 sailors who were killed in 1905 when their ship blew up, perused their names.   Then she walked up hill toward the grave locator kiosk to find where her uncle was buried.  As she walked with her new found resentment, she planned the steps she would take today.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

My blog for 9/23/2012 Vanished--Serial Part I

“I don’t think it’s supposed to be like that,” Jose told his crew chief.  The two men stared at the open door of the empty columbarium crypt. The vacant hole detracted from the stoic stack of burial crypts at Fort

            Morning fog obliterated the world that lay beyond fifty feet.  Its soft insulation cocooned them against sounds of the Navy base activities two hundred feet below them in the harbor.

            “Maybe Mr. MacDonald forgot to lock it,” Alejandro replied.

            “Maybe it is a new tomb, with nobody in it yet.”

            “But it has a name on the door--Michael Stanley Smith, February 2, 1916 - June 14, 1954.”  He reached in his jacket pocket for his cell phone, but remembered the cone of silence the military had placed over the peninsula. Electronics were blocked out over the strategic military base grounds.   “I better go get Mr. MacDonald.”  He walked quickly toward his truck parked on the roadway of the cemetery, got inside and started it up. 

            Jose, an intent worker bee, picked up his shovel and carried it to the flower bed where a dead azalea plant crouched on the grassy floor.  A little breeze swept damp gray cotton up into his face.  He squinted.

            Alejandro drove back a half mile through rows of headstones that followed the flow of land over the cliff to the Pacific Ocean on the west and the bay into San Diego Harbor on the east.  The low-ceiling 1950’s style block building housing the office of the funeral director, Jerrold MacDonald, had just been painted the color of desert sand.

            MacDonald, a military retiree with a full head of gray hair that matched his eyes double timed over to the columbarium wall clutching a printout of the remains for that section of the huge wall.  With over a thousand deceased veteran graves spread over eighty acres, keeping track of where each of them lay was his responsibility.  Having one misplaced bordered on heresy and could mean the end of his tenure as director. 

By time he arrived, the maintenance superintendent, Harold Greevy, the beefy maintenance supervisor stepped out of the truck with Alejandro.  “Did you look around the ground for an urn or a burial box?” Greevy asked. “We can check with the rest of the crew for why this is open.  Maybe the door was damaged by a piece of equipment.”  His burr-cut hair contained drops of dew.  He sipped from an insulated Starbuck’s coffee cup he’d brought with him on the way into work.

            MacDonald verified the crypt number with the sheet he held, then examined the door.  He found no evidence of tampering or damage.  His heart beats pushed his blood pressure up to 180.

            “It wasn’t like that when we got here at five thirty,” Alejandro said, with tears in his eyes.  The enormity of the situation overwhelmed him.  “Jose would have told me if he’d seen it earlier.”

            Jose stood leaning on his shovel handle. He’d finished removing the azalea plant and replaced it with a one-galleon hibiscus.  He suspected a vole had eaten the azalea roots and killed the plant. But he was not an agronomist.  “That is true.  It was not open earlier.”  He’d been born across the Tijuana border in Mexico, fifteen miles southeast and had never been further north than San Diego, California.  Small boned, he stood inches shorter than any man there and weighed 130 pounds.  He could lift three fifty pound sacks of mulch, and he knew he could shovel for three days straight because he’d filled sandbags that long when rain had fallen on his town in Mexico during a hurricane ten years ago.

            “Drive down toward the lighthouse and find the irrigation crew,” Greevy said to Alejandro.  “Ask if anybody knows why this door is open.”  He didn’t add and where the remains are.  “I’ll go to the commitment shelter and find Mitchie’s crew.  They’re working on tree limbs in that section.  How far did the mowers get this morning?”  He couldn’t hear mowers over the entire two miles from the gate to the lighthouse.

            Nobody knew where the mowers were.  Greevy took off at a run, tossing his coffee cup into the trash can near the vase watering station nearby.  He found his electric cart at the maintenance shed and drove to the commitment shelter.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

My blog for 9/18/2012 Travel by RV or Plane

My own personal 2200 mile travel experience was a good one, since I flew a US Airways flight with a layover at the Phoenix airport for only one hour.  San Diego's airport is a little daunting when it's full, especially since there is absolutely no parking anywhere at the airport.  Somebody has to let you out at the curb and kiss you good bye because the new parking buildings they're constructing are still not finished and they've blocked every other access to cars.  Then you're on your own to find your way.  Fortunately it's not difficult if you've ever flown before.  Meanwhile the Phoenix Airport is a lot of fun and not hard to find your way through to whatever gate you need.  But an hour is a good layover because it's quite a distance between gates.

Atlanta's Hartsfield Airport is daunting, even for a seasoned traveler, especially if you've never been there.  I advise studying a map of the place before trying your hand at finding your way around.  The only way from the plane to the terminal is underground tram (unless you want to walk four miles).
And when you understand how it works it makes a lot of sense.

OR, like the Darrel and Abby, you could drive 2300 miles, spend the first day going across the desert in blowing sand storms that threaten to tear off your skin and sandblast your vehicle.  The second day, as you cross from New Mexico into Texas the monsoon fall rains begin to pelt you for the two days it takes to get across Texas.  The Mississippi roads are so bad they can flip a bowl out of the sink in a trailer onto the floor.  Then, from Birmingham, Alabama to Atlanta the freeway is  under permanent construction and is cut to one 9-ft. lane which includes all the 18-wheelers, cars, RVs and motor bikes snailing along in the wind, rain and pitch dark.  It takes more courage than I have.  Of course, if one knew it was going to stay like that for 20 years, maybe it would not have been attempted.  It just stands to reason it won't happen absolutely every time you try the drive over 20 years.  But I'm here to tell you it does.

I got to do that a few times with Darrel and a trailer and stressed out so badly that I can't face it again. Highway 10 to Highway 20 across this great nation is caustic and scary.  We had occasion to run into the same thing on Highway 40 coming from the west to home twice too.  Equally awful--and it always seems to happen in the dark and wind and rain.  No wonder I have gray hair.

Friday, September 7, 2012

My blog for 9/7/2012 Going Home

California, it’s been nice, but I miss my fireflies that twinkle through the evening mists like fairies in their silent miniature world.  I miss the slow quiet peace that somehow thunders through the heavy air that yearns for--anticipates even--the rainclouds blooming off somewhere overhead waiting for a chance to flood my driveway and fill the creek out back.

I miss slow lazy smiles of friends who tease so inconspicuously that I have to think twice to catch up to the underlying meaning of their wit.  I even miss their baffled faces when I blather on about nothing in particular.  Their tolerance of me.  I still have remnants of the wild west about me.  I still talk too fast.  I still glaze over when I have to sit still, my mind running on tomorrow.

Most of all, I miss the eighty shades of green coloring the gazillion leaves of prehistoric hardwood trees--graceful oaks spread 100 feet wide to shade the red and yellow mushrooms swollen with spores waiting to burst.  Hickory trees filled with rodents scampering like acrobats blessed with no gravity.  The dinner-plate size leaves that look like cut outs from a kindergarten class.

I miss the free use of those woods, of launch ramps and islands and lakes and the surprise of streams that run through neighborhoods.

I anticipate Fall this year, and am grateful I won’t miss seeing the trees like ladies at a ball trying to outdo each other with their flagrant colors.   I even miss the orbweaver’s webs spread a yard wide thankfully made conspicuous by water drops along their guywires.

I’m going home this week, California.  You’re like a previous marriage--an ex-spouse I know so intimately, but has faded into my past.  You’re kind of colorless, actually, in your granite and sage.  Appropriately soft colors for a faded past.