|Posted by Paul McCall on April 16, 2019 at 4:30 AM||comments (0)|
Paul J. McCall
Another freshly printed page of dialog, reviewed and found guilty of crimes against prose, crushed into a small tight ball followed the pages before it. Rejected and receiving the same judgment and the same verdict, the sentence now carried out; a long toss to the far side of the office, going for yet another three points, an air ball, straight into the wire wastebasket Paul had placed a month ago on top of Miss Moneypenny’s desk.
“Ho, what do you say to that Miss Moneypenny? I’m getting good at something.” Paul leaned back in his chair and rubbed his face with both hands. He dropped his arms as though his brain cut a switch and dangle them by his sides, his knuckles brushing the floor like an Ape. “Damn, I’ve got to crack this.” He said aloud.
Paul had recently turned fifty-five and though he’d managed to make a living writing columns and short stories, the success he expected when he launched his writing career never grew. You can a good writer but if you don’t have connections in this business it’s you against the world. Nine years ago, his wife, Irene, divorced him; the divorce hit him hard and certainly holds responsibility for his staying single all these years. Even now, he keeps her picture on his desk, where it’s been since the day they were married. He tried to stay positive and focus on the benefits of single life, such as having the time and freedom to write without restrictions.
Whether he was a good writer or not wasn’t the question, he had been at it too long to give up now. There had been many times he considered quitting, but he knew he would never stop writing. All he could do was keep banging away on the keyboard.
He was in too deep now, it had cost him his marriage and was part of the list of reasons his former wife, Irene had used in court as grounds for divorce.
“He never made a serious effort to find time for our marriage; I just can’t live like that,” Irene testified as she wept during the proceedings. Paul wept as well, for he had no defense. He wanted to succeed and he knew he could not change.
Paul suffered countless rejections and felt his age was constantly gaining on the final chapter in his life. He was becoming more depressed.
He felt all those down the drain years of living in Boston, busting his ass, losing his marriage and receiving unfair offers. Paul concluded he must make a drastic change in his life.
Boston wasn’t serving him. Determined a change of environment might spark some form of fresh inspiration, he decided to move out of Boston and head for the country, out in the Berkshires somewhere betting all his chips on a change of environment.
Out where writers like, Nathaniel Hawthorne, W. E.B. Du Bois, Herman Melville, William Cullen Bryant and Edith Wharton found inspiration. He hoped to tap into whatever it was they found out there. It was a gamble, but it may transfer that spark, that inspiration he needed.
The realtor he had recruited and employed to find this oasis was Mrs. Janet Hendricks of Lavish homes and properties. Since she first began the job, she had been keeping in contacted with Paul every couple of weeks or when she found a new prospect, letting him know she was on the job.
Paul worked out of his apartment; “Miss. Moneypenny, I’m gonna fire you if you don’t start helping out around here!” Paul said addressing the mannequin his buddies snuck into his office four years ago as a prank. They set her up behind the desk near the entrance to Paul’s office. When asked about the empty desk, Paul always joked how he needed a secretary but could not afford one.
As a prank, his friends provided one in the form of a mannequin. Paul named her Miss. Moneypenny after Ian Fleming’s James Bond secretary in the movies. Paul would toss his hat on to Miss Moneypenny’s head using her as a hat and coat rack, claiming, “Miss. Moneypenny has to do something around here! “Miss. Moneypenny’s left arm was outstretched as though she were gesturing toward the door. Paul used the arm as a coat hanger. She had become an official part of Paul’s office décor.
One late sunny morning while sitting at his desk, scribbling on his yellow legal notepad, a shadow shot across the top of Paul’s desk it was the shadow of a passing bird from outside the window and it drew his attention to the large window. He spun around and looked up from the large swivel chair. He saw a perfectly beautiful sunny afternoon wasting away before his eyes. Like hypnosis, it drew him out of his chair and to the window. First, he looked up at the blue sky; slowly he scanned lower to the top of the buildings and down to the tops of the few trees and finally to the ground. He began watching the people buzzing about their busy lives. He picked out one and focused, trying to figure out what might be going on in that head at that moment.
A heavy knock on the door snapped him out of his hypnotic daze. Turning and dropping his notepad on his desk then passing Miss. Moneypenny on his way to the front door. Opening the door an instant smile came to his face.
“Jack”! How the hell are you?” Jack Webster and Paul grew up together as kids and neighbors and had been close childhood friends. Paul swung the door open with a big smile and a welcome look on his face.
“That’s what I came to ask you, you, old buzzard, you haven’t called, you haven’t been to the club. I thought you might have croaked on me or something?” Jack said as he entered.
“You couldn’t have come at a better time; I was just about to hang myself!” Paul said laughingly as he led Jack to the backroom, he called his office.
“Hey, you’re funny,” Jack said with a scornful smile.
“No, no such luck, I’m not dead, I’ve just been so damned busy trying to find a house” Paul replied.
“Yeah, I heard about that, any luck?” Paul shook his head as he held out his left-hand palm up gesturing for Jack to sit down as he walked around his desk to his chair, “No, No, nothing yet” Paul said as he sat down, sounding like he didn’t want to talk about it.
“You sure you’re doing the right thing, moving way out there?” Jack said as he took a seat across from Paul, his eyebrows morphing into a concerned V shape.
“No doubt about it, Jack, I need to do this!” Paul said with confidence.
“You’re going to be away from all the action way out there, and alone!”
Paul laughed, “What action? The last time I sold a good money maker I had hair. All I got here is Miss. Moneypenny!”
Jack laughed, “You auto to write more humor.”
“Hey, how’s Elizabeth?” Paul asked trying to change the subject. “Great, in fact, she was asking about you, and made me promise to check in on you.”
“Ah, she’s a sweetheart.” Paul paused as he reminisced the last time they all got together.
“So?” … Jack said.
Paul tried to read his implication, “So, what?” Paul replied, snapping out a momentary drift into the past.
“So - how are you doing?” Jack said leaning forward in his chair, his forearms on his thighs.
“I’m good, you know writers Jack. I’m a keyboard Hermit when I’m writing.”
“Hum…” Jack looked over at Miss. Moneypenny while Paul was pretending to be looking for something on his desk.
“Listen, Paul, why don’t you forget this house stuff for awhile?” Jack said with true concern. Paul looked up at Jack.
“You know, the thought has occurred to me to call it off, for a while at least, I’m beginning to burn out over it!” Paul said.
“Paul listen, I’m on my way to the Sticky Wicket for some lunch, why don’t you take a break and join me, get out of here for awhile? I’ll buy the drinks.” The Sticky Wicket is the Pub and restaurant where he and Paul often went to relax. They knew waitresses and many of the regulars and the place served great food and drinks and it’s within walking distance from Paul’s apartment. Paul knew Jack was right.
“Yeah…yeah, let me put this stuff away”. Paul stuffed things in draws and put a freshly edited manuscript in his lower desks compartment and locked it. Getting up he went to grab his notebook.
“No! Put that down” Jack demanded. Paul paused a moment, looked at Jack with a smirk and dropped the notebook back down on the desk.
“You’re hard!” Paul said. As they were going through the door the phone rang.
“Leave it!” Commanded Jack, Paul thought for a second,
“Nah I can’t it might be about the house” he walked over and picked up the phone while Jack stood impatiently rolling his eyes.
“Hello… ah, Mrs. Hendricks, I’ve been meaning to call you, listen, Mrs. Hendricks, I appreciate all you have done and those two places you showed me were very nice but its been three months now and I think it’s time I rethink this …”
Paul stopped and listened. “You did, yes that’s right, the more secluded the better, god no, that’s fine I need some piece and quiet, when can you show me? … This Sunday would work great for me.” Paul said as he looked at his empty appointment book. “Excellent, what time, nope, one o’clock would work great; your office, right, I’ll see you then… I will, thank you, Mrs. Hendricks, you too, bye now.”
Paul returned the phone to its receiver and looked at Jack with a conquering grin.
“She found an old Victorian out in the boondocks. Now I’m going to enjoy those drinks you promised. I haven’t been to the club for a while and if I get drunk I got you to blame for it!” Jack laughed.
“Hey, I’ll be glad to take the blame besides I have to look out for the elderly, right!” Jack said as the door slammed behind them.
The fallowing Sunday was another bright, sunny day with occasional popcorn clouds in a blue sky. Paul hopped into his aged 1992 blue Dodge Grand Caravan. He had removed all the seats so he could use it like covered pickup truck. He drove to Mrs. Hendricks’s realty office arriving promptly at 1:00pm.
She saw Paul pull up the driveway from her office window and hurried out to meet him. When she got outside Paul was getting out of his van.
“Good afternoon Paul,” she said as she walked toward him with her hand outstretched to engage in a handshake.
“Good afternoon yourself, nice day huh?” he said as they shook hands.
Mrs. Hendricks had a slight look of anguish under her smile as she spoke, her head cocked to one side thanks to the bright sun.
“I hope you don’t mind my rush, I know I told you I would drive you out there but I got a call and I have a meeting at 6:00pm, so we really should get started so we have time for you to give the place a thorough inspection, unless you would like to reschedule?”
Paul did not hesitate.
“No, that’s fine the sooner the better for me, let's go!” Paul was eager to see the place. “You can follow me, oh and please, call me Jan.”
“Lead on Jan, I can’t wait to see the place.” He followed Jan’s car, the drive was a long one and Paul became aware that buildings seemed to be growing further apart. Homes had more yard space and soon buildings and homes had become minutes from each other. It had been an hour and forty minutes since they left the real estate office and Paul’s seat was beginning to bother him.
Mrs. Hendricks’s car took a sudden right turn off the road; Paul followed and found himself on a narrow gravel road flanked by two waist-high stone walls that looked to be protecting two rows of neatly spaced Oak trees. Mrs. Hendricks’s car was stirring up dust, to the point where Paul could hardly see her car. Then he began to catch short glimpses of the house through the dust and the trees. Mrs. Hendricks’s car came to an abrupt stop in a large cloud of dust. She hopped out of her car without waiting for the dust cloud to dissipate and suffered the consequences.
She began to stretch her stiffened body back into shape after the long ride. The dust cloud-driven on a calm breeze consumed her, she got dust in her hair; eyes, nose, mouth and her clothes received a powdering. She pulled a hanky from her purse and whipped her eyes and face and then. Paul pulled up behind her car, stirring up another dusty cloud.
He leaned forward over the steering wheel to glimpse up at the house through the windshield as he wrenched his van into park. He couldn’t help laughing as the dust cloud his van created now consumed Mrs. Hendricks. The breeze finally escorted the cloud of dust away as though it were a huge ball of cotton candy. When Mrs. Hendricks’s image became clear, she was standing like a statue glaring at him.
Hopping out of his van, he couldn’t take his eyes off what he had just caused. Struggling not to laugh,
“I am so sorry Mrs. Hendricks, I wasn’t thinking, I was looking at the house I’m so sorry!” Paul had all he could do to keep his face straight. He quickly changed the subject.
“Wow, this looks great!” Her glare vanishing as she turned her attention to the old three-story Victorian home.
“Wait till you see the inside” Mrs. Hendricks replied with a performed smile. Paul couldn’t help making an ill attempt at a bit of humor,
“can I still call you Jan?” she glared at him curiously.
Paul stood for a moment to admire the façade. Both corners of the house had rectangular three-story towers set at forty-five-degree angles from the face of the front facade. Their roofs were pyramid style roofs and were topped with and artistic four-foot dowel wooden spikes. A broad stairway of ten stairs leads to an elevated crescent-shaped porch enclosed with a waist high wall upon which were two pillars supporting the porch roof.
“Would you like to go inside?” Mrs. Hendricks held an outstretched arm in a jester offering the stairway to Paul.
“I’d like to walk around the outside first if you don’t mind?” He answered.
“Not at all, here, let me show you around,” she said as she hurried to take the lead around the left side of the house. Once near the rear of the house,
“It looks like it’s in pretty good shape!” Paul said.
“It is it’s in very good shape.” She replied. At the rear corner of the house, Paul saw a set of stairs that led to a small porch with a roof housing a single door.
“What’s this, the back door?” Paul asked.
“No, this was used as the servant’s entrance.” She replied. Paul chuckled,
“Well I’m not going to have to worry about that, I’m looking for peace and quiet!”
Mrs. Hendricks paused “well to tell you the truth that’s why it’s selling so low, it’s so secluded,” she said as she brushed the toe of her right shoe through some overgrown grass to remove some dust as she spoke.
Behind the house, next to the barn Paul spotted an old green 1949 Oldsmobile Club Coupe; complete with a windshield visor that made the old car look like it was wearing a baseball cap. Apart from the weathering, the car looked to be in pretty good shape.
“What the hell is this?” Paul remarked.
“Don’t worry about that, I can have that hauled out of here by Wednesday, no problem if you think you might buy.” Mrs. Hendricks assured.
“Oh no, no way, are you kidding me?” Paul said as he pressed his nose against the passenger’s window, his hands cupped to shield his eyes from the sun as he looked through the glass at the interior of the old car.
“Is it open,” he said as he tugged on the door handle, it opened. He crouched down and inspected the inside. “Not bad,” he said as he poked his head inside and looked around, there were dozens of dead bees lying on the hot dashboard. Backing out he stood up and closed the door. “Wow, you could bake cookies in there.” Then he looked at Mrs. Hendricks. “No Jen, this stays,” he ordered. Mrs. Hendricks giggled,
“Great then, no extra charge” she laughed shaking her head.
“Oh yeah this is a keeper,” Paul said unable to take his eyes off the old car.
“Well how about we go inside” Jen suggested. Now, Paul was like a boy hunting for treasure.
“Not just yet, I wanna check out the barn first, have you been in here?” he asked as he approached the small door built into the larger closed sliding door.
“Well actually, yes I have but it’s pretty much empty.” Paul opened the door and stepped in. immediately to his right from the entrance and against the front wall was a door. Paul opened it and found a stairway cluttered in cobwebs leading up, he gazed up and saw that it turned left at a landing about six steps up. He looked back at Mrs. Hendricks and with a tilt of his head he said, “Common up”. Staying close to the front door she said,
“I’ll wait right here thank you,”
“What, no sense of adventure?”
“None what so ever” she replied. He turned back and climbed the staircase to the next level. Above a small third level was a small lookout tower at the very top of the barn.
Unable to resist he climbed up into the tower. It had windows on all four sides and he could see green fields, old stone walls, hedgerows, and treelines and far in the distance he could make out a lake or a pond. “You don’t know what you’re missing Mrs. Hendricks!” Paul hollered down. “You really ought to take a look.”
No thanks, I’m fine.”
Paul came back down talking to himself all the way, “
This place is beautiful, perfect dam I can’t wait.”
Left of the barns entrance and next to a front window was a door that led to an add on addition housing a lower level that looked like a sort of a repair shop for farm equipment. Back in the main section of the barn along the left wall toward the rear of the building two stalls for horses and at the far end, a tack shed complete with workbench and tools. Across from there on the right wall were three more horse stalls and up next to the stairs going up to the loft was a glass office space.
“Wow, look at this, I can’t believe you didn’t want to come in here!” Paul said.
“Too many spiders, I hate bugs!” Mrs. Hendricks replied, her face twisted in a, get me outta here look. She was still standing within jumping distance from the exit.
“Common, there’s not that many bugs,” Paul said as he peered through a dusty old window complete with spiders webbed.
“Only has to be one.” Mrs. Hendrix replied. “Well, that does it for me I’ll wait for you outside.” Mrs. Hendricks said as she bolted for the door at the double quick.
“Alright, I can check it out later,” Paul said, reluctantly flowing Mrs. Hendricks out of the barn. “Now, can I show you the inside of the house?” she pleaded.
“Lead the way” he resigned and flowed. He turned briefly walking backward as he gave the old car next to the barn one more anticipating look while thoughts of restoration danced in his head.
Mrs. Hendricks led him through the ground floor rear entrance. “Where would you like to start first Mr. Hollander?” She asked politely,
“How about the bathroom.” Paul replied. Mrs. Hendrix’s surprise was apparent on her face. Paul then added, “It was a long drive.” He had a look of anguish on his face.
“Oh sure, it’s this way.” She led him to a hallway. “That door on the right” she motioned.
Paul couldn’t help slamming the door behind him. He tore at his jeans as he rushed to the toilet, struggling with the zipper. There was no way he could hold back any longer and when he finally managed to free himself; like a runaway garden hose pee went everywhere. When he got things under control, he stood inspecting the damage as he finished emptying his bladder. After a couple shakes and a zip up, he looked for toilet paper. There was none! He couldn’t leave the place like that! He thought with horror,
“Damn, what if Mrs. Hendricks had to use the bathroom too?” He searched his pockets for a handkerchief, but he had none.
Then innovation struck, he put the seat down, sat and took off one shoe and removed his sock then he put his shoe back on. He proceeded to use his sock to wipe up the pee. Rinsing the sock and ringing it out in the sink, he kept glancing anxiously toward the door. Then he folded the precious forty-dollar sock neatly and put it in his jacket pocket. Those were forty-dollar socks and there was no way he was going to throw them away!
When he came out Mrs. Hendricks got right back to work, “The kitchen is right here, we might as well see that first.”
“Lead the way!” Paul said relieved in more ways than one that she did not need to use the bathroom. The kitchen was located on the ground floor in the rear of the house. Paul had never been in a kitchen like this before. It was large; it had a long table island in the center of the room. Above the table island was a pot and pan rack hanging from the ceiling.
On the left wall as you faced toward the left side of the house was glassed in cupboards that ran the entire length of the room, beneath them was a long work counter. Below the work counter were panel wooden cupboard doors. On the right side of the room stood an old cast iron wood stove that had been converted to gas. A table was against the front wall with four chairs. The wall had what looked like a window to nowhere but was instead a dumbwaiter.
On the back wall was a long soapstone sink sectioned off into three large tubs each with its own set of faucets. A large empty wicker birdcage hung from a hook on a tall stand that stood against the wall near the sinks. Next to the cage stand a chest of draws with various books on birds, mostly pictures of yellow Canneries.
Near the wooden cupboards and next to the rear exit pushed back in the corner, a large green leather easy chair, next to the chair and within arm's length, stood an end table. It had an ashtray designed for pipes and cigars placed upon it.
Two small clotheslines were strung in the kitchen, one strung over the sinks and another off to the side of the stove; to Paul they seemed out of place.
“What are these for?” asked Paul.
“I was told they were used to hang hand towels for the cook’s and maids to use to wipe their hands.”
“Man, I never saw anything like this, this is great!” Paul said in awe. In the front left corner of the kitchen was the hallway entrance that led to a door on its right it opened to a good size room that looked like it was a break room the service people used when relaxing. Against the left wall of the narrow hall was a stairway leading to the first floor, at the foot of the stairway the door that lead to the boiler room in the cellar.
“The main floor upstairs is next, I’m sure you’re going to love it.” Mrs. Hendricks said as she climbed the stairs ahead of Paul. Paul nodded and flowed, his eyes and head constantly checking out walls, ceiling, and floors. Until he returned his attention to where he was going and he looked up to find his face uncomfortably close to Mrs. Hendricks’s behind, prompting him to stop a moment.
“Be careful it’s hard to see, the light switch is at the top of the stairs.”
“I’m right behind you,” Paul said grinning from ear to ear. At the top of the stairs was a long hallway that ran all the way to the rear of the house. Mrs. Hendricks paused with a smirk, “Ah if you need to use the bathroom up here, it’s at the end on the left.” Paul returned her smirk,
“I’m good, thanks.”
“Okay then, this way to the den” she turned left, Paul flowed. Unlike in the kitchen, the ceilings were high. Entering the den there was a grand fireplace of dark marble with a carved wooden mantle supported by scrolled carved pillars on each side. “Nice!” Paul remarked as he looked around.
The living room was accessed from the den through two French doors. They opened to a spacious living room with a chandelier hang from the center of the ceiling. At the very front of the room was the interior of the tower section he had seen from the outside. As Paul glanced around the living room Mrs. Hendricks gestured with her left arm toward the opposite side of the house. “There are two large mirror image style rooms like these on the opposite side of the house.” Mrs. Hendricks was beginning to show some anxiety as time crept closer toward four o’clock.
As she led the way she spoke; “This first room was used as the library by the previous owner.” She explained. The library was empty of furniture but surprisingly many of its books were still on their shelves. “Oh, I’m going to have a ball in here going through all this stuff,” Paul said as his eyes scanned the shelves checking out the spines. Mrs. Hendrix diapered into the study. When he noticed, Paul hurried after her, there, against an outside wall to the left was an upright 19th century piano. “Hey, this place is full of surprises!” he said as he examined yet another pleasant bonus.
“Do you play?” asked Mrs. Hendricks.
“Well… no, but with this, I just may try to learn.” He replied.
Mrs. Hendricks was becoming confident that she had just about closed a deal. Paul looked up at the piano; where a prominent rectangular light spot was present upon the wall. “Looks like there must have been a picture or mirror hanging there huh?”
“A little paint or wallpaper will cover that.” Mrs. Hendricks assured him. “Na… I love it just as it is, that’s no problem.” To the right of the piano, in the far front of the room where the three windows, one facing front, one facing right and one facing left. Paul checked out the views. “This could be a great place for my desk. I can see anyone approaching from here!” he said as he checked out each window.
“Yes, it would.” Mrs. Hendricks agreed. “No one could sneak up on you here!”
“Will you be living here alone?” she asked.
“Just me and Miss. Moneypenny!” he said turning back and looking at her. “Is she your girlfriend?” She looked confused.
“She’s my secretary.”
“Your secretary is going to live with you?”
“Oh, it’s not what you think, Miss. Moneypenny’s not alive.
“What!” Mrs. Hendrix looked extremely confused now. Paul laughed when he saw her face. “She’s is a mannequin Jan.” He explained.
“She was a prank a couple friends of mine pulled on me years ago when I complained about not having any office help, weird huh?” Mrs. Hendrix shook her head,
“I was curious about why you would want such a big place if you’re going to be living alone, is all?” She said as the color returned to her face.
“Well, it’s not really that big, after all, those years living in that cramped apartment in the city I need space. Just Miss. Moneypenny and me; we need a change from the city life. My apartment is like living on a small boat, no space, you know what I mean?” He said looking back at her over his left shoulder.
“Yes, well you two will have plenty of space here.
“Okay, we still have the second and third floors to see, you ready?”
“Yeah, let’s do it, lead the way!” Paul said. A pair of double doors opened to another hall that brought them to the front main entrance. The entrance had two large double doors. The stairway up to the second floor was against the left wall as you faced the entrance. They climbed the stairs as Mrs. Hendricks described what he was about to see, Paul noticed the echoing of their voices throughout the empty hallway. When he looked up, he once again found his face a bit close to Mrs. Hendricks’s behind.
“A little hollow sounding isn’t it?” Paul said as he ascended the staircase and having to remind himself that, Mrs. Hendricks was a married woman.
“I think once you have some furniture and some carpeting covering these stairs that will dissipate.
The second floor had a wide hallway and at the end was a bathroom. Off the bathroom a door that leads to a screened-in porch. “This is nice, what a view.” Then Paul pointed, “Look at that, that looks like the lake or a pond I saw from up in the Barn tower over there?” He said as he placed his palms on top of the waist-high wall and leaned his face almost against the screen.
“I think it’s called Hays Pond?” Mrs. Hendricks replied. Paul soaked up the view.
Paul looked out above the treetops and green fields, enjoying a moment of silence. “You know living in the city; I forgot places like this still exist.” Turning his head to glimpse Mrs. Hendrix’s response and expression he found she had gone back inside.
Finding her back in the hallway nervously looking at her watch, it was obvious that she was growing anxious about the time. Her anxiety insidiously increased with every minute that ticked by. Leading Paul the next room, she tries to conceal her urgency.
“This left side of the second floor has two good size room which mimicked the library and study directly below on the first floor.” She said as she led the way. Paul was checking out the high ceilings. “These two rooms were used as bedrooms by the last occupants.” Mrs. Hendrix explained as she made a sudden u-turn and returned to the hall.
Crossing the hall, the rooms on the opposite side of the house had the same floor plan in reverse. Two features however were unique on this side, the first was a kitchenette the other was a door that Paul just had to open. The door was stuck, and Paul had to tug a couple of times until it sprung open.
Dust particles swirled in the beams of sunlight coming in through the openings in the Curtains from the window next to the door. Paul looked down the repelling cobwebbed and very dusty old stairway. “Where does this go?” Paul asked as he held the door open and peered down the flight of stairs.
“Well, I’m told…” Paul interrupted her,
“I thought you said this place wasn’t occupied?” Mrs. Hendrix looked puzzled. “It’s not; no one has lived here for over a year or more, why?” Paul was still holding the door open wide with his left hand high on the edge of the door, his right foot placed behind his left leg and resting on the toe of his right shoe exposing his sockless ankle. Mrs. Hendrix took notice as Paul nodded his head toward the stairway inviting her to take a look.
Mrs. Hendrix cautiously moved closer and timidly looked down the dusty staircase. After a moment, “I don’t get it, what?” she looked at Paul with a dumbfounded look.
“Well, if those aren’t rat or mouse tracks and droppings in the dust, then we got some mighty small ghost’s in this place!”
Mrs. Hendrix jumped back; her head snapped toward him as though it was spring loaded, locking eyes with Paul. Paul was surprised by her reaction sensing something odd. They stared at each other momentarily, “What?” Paul said with a smirk,
“You don’t like Rat’s?” She backed away from the open door collected herself. “You got that right.” She said as she continued to regain her composer, quickly changed the subject.
“I was told this was the staff quarters and those stairs lead to the door you saw outside on the side of the house; they continue all the way down to the basement behind the main kitchen.”
Paul closed the door and thought to himself, what a cool house. He could hardly control his excitement. “This place is perfect.” Mrs. Hendrix was standing out in the hall.
” Okay what’s up on the third floor?” Paul said eager to see more. Returning to the hall he followed her to the front of the house where, yet another flight of stairs led upward.
“I really appreciate you showing me around today!” Paul said, as he once again found his nose where it doesn’t belong.
“My pleasure, it’s what I do for a living.”
At the top of the stairs on opposite sides of the landing were large single rooms one on the right also had a kitchenette. “These were also used as bedrooms but you could use them for anything, storage may be?” She commented. “I don’t know, this might make a cool office, god, look at the view, you can see for miles from up here!” He said as he gazed out the top of the tower window. Both rooms had slanted ceilings because of the roofs.
“I could put a couple of telescopes up here, one for each side of these tower spaces.” “You look like you would be very happy here.” Mrs. Hendricks said. Paul was leaning against the windowsill over an old chair that was blocking him. I can’t imagine what it would be like sleeping in this place without sirens wailing all night.
He said as he leaned forward a better look, exposing the ankle with the missing sock. Finally, she asked, “What happen to your other sock?” Paul stammered,
“Oh… I … ah, guess I was in such a hurry this morning I, ah, must have forgotten it!” Paul clumsily explained.
“Uh-ha, so… ah what do you think?” she said. “Well, I guess I just wasn’t thinking, I….” “No! I mean what do you think of the house?”
“Oh… it’s great, I’ll take it.”
They went back downstairs and went out onto the front porch. “I’m glad you like the place, I have the history of ownership here,” she said as she dug in her shoulder bag,
“It’s pretty much been one owner since it was built in 1848.” She said as she rummaged through her bag. She pulled out a manila envelope and handed it to Paul.
“Thanks, great, I’ll look it over, I’m curious about its history.” Paul said, “Okay then.” Mrs. Hendricks said looking at her watch. “You sure you don’t need to follow me back?”
“No that’s okay. I know the way.” They shook hands. “Thanks for everything.”
“Great I should have the paperwork by Wednesday, is that too soon or do you need more time?”
“No Wednesday is fine; I’ll talk to you then.” “Great, here take the keys I have another set, hang around a while if you like and be sure to lock up before you leave?”
“Yeah, okay thanks again.” Paul smiled.
“I hope you find your other sock.” Mrs. Hendricks said with a smirk as she descended the front porch stairway, Paul detecting her giggling.
“Yeah… thanks” Paul’s embarrassment made his voice weaken as he spoke.
He watched Mrs. Hendricks’s car stirring up the dust until it was out of the gravel driveway and out onto the paved road.
He went back into the house and look around a bit more wanting to check for any overlooked details he was sure he must have missed when Mrs. Hendricks was rushing him through the house. He went into the study to take a second look at where he planned to do his writing. Looking around the room he felt drawn to the old piano. He wondered why the previous owners would leave a nice piano like this behind. Lifting the keyboard cover he began taping some random keys with one finger checking out its tone. The sound seemed loud as the hollow house that acted like an amplifier.
Using two fingers like a pair of miniature legs he walked them down the ivory keys to hear if the piano was tuned. He was about two-thirds down the keys when he heard a woman’s voice! He abruptly stopped! Lifting his head to listen for any further sound, after a moment of dead silence he called out,
“Mrs. Hendricks… did you forget something?” There was no answer, he closed the keyboard cover and hurried to the front door. Pausing at the threshold he looked out. Seeing and hearing nothing, he ventured out onto the porch. Placing his hands on the top of the waist-high partition he leaned forward to look down in front of the house. Mrs. Hendricks’s car was not there; Paul called once again, “Mrs. Hendricks!” after a moment of looking around, he shrugged it off and went back inside. Stopping in the main hall he called out, “Is somebody here?” there was no answer.
It was now almost five o’clock. And he wanted to get back to Boston before dark. He closed the place up; as he locked the front door, he paused momentarily to listen one last time. Hearing nothing, he descended the porch stairs and walked to his van. He opened the drivers’ door, tossing the manila envelope that Mrs. Hendricks had given him onto the passenger’s seat. Standing with the door open his right elbow on the roof his left on the top of the door he took one last look at the house that soon would be his home. He felt good about this place. Hopping in his van he turned the key started the engine. He couldn’t keep his eyes off the place. Finally, he put the old Dodge van in drive and headed back to Boston.
On the drive back he began thinking about the possible changes this could make in his life. First! He was sure this was the right move. Even now all sorts of new book ideas were flooding into his mind, he was overcome with anticipation.
When Paul got to his apartment he got on the computer and began looking for moving companies. He found himself nodding out; he leaned back in his high back swivel chair and spun himself around facing his desk. He rubbed his tired pollen filled eyes and felt ready for an early night. He let out a yawned that cracked the sides of his jaw. Scanning the top of his desk, there lay the manila envelope Mrs. Hendricks had given him with the information on the house and its previous owners. Though he was tired, his curiosity wide awake! He sat up and reached across the desk letting out a groan as he grabbed the envelope then fell back in his chair, holding the envelope up in front of his face, flipping it from front to back, he opened it and pulled out its contents. Looking over the first page the information began to lure him in.
It listed the first owner who commissioned the building as a man named, Joseph, Paul, Castle, or as he was known, J. P. Castle. Mr. Castle bought the land and built the house in 1848. Mr. Castle was an actor and singer by profession and became very successful. It noted, along with some newspaper clippings from the time, which showed Mr. Castle had shared the stage with such famous actors as, Junius Brutus Booth who died in 1852. Booth was a very famous Shakespearian actor of the time, Mr. Booth was also known to be a violent drunkard, especially when on the stage. What's more, Booth was the father of infamous, John Wilkes Booth, who was Abraham Lincoln’s assassin!
Paul could not stop reading as he learned; Mr. Castle became very rich through his acting career and commissioned the building of the house for his growing family. In a note from the construction, company manager, he asked Castle, why he would build so far from Boston after all, Boston was his main place of employment? Castle replied humorously that, building out in the Berkshires would keep his family safely away from his haunting fans and the press in Boston. There was a small side note in the margin where Castle had scratched in an additional comment, “and my womanizing.”
Paul read quietly in silence until the silence was broken when Paul could not restrain verbalizing, “why, you… old… bastard!” this was the first hint of Mr. J. P. Castle’s skullduggery, Paul laughed. Getting up out of his chair he dropped the papers on his desk.
“I got to get something to eat,” he said as though Miss. Moneypenny could hear. Scooping his keys off the hook near the door he left. He walked to the Sticky Wicket and enjoyed a quick dinner. Returning back home he took a shower and went to bed. While he lay in bed he began thinking about the woman’s voice, he swore he heard while he was messing with the piano. He agonized trying to analyze who it could have been? Then he concluded that he would call Mrs. Hendricks in the morning to ask her if she had returned to the house for any reason and then left before he had a chance to catch her? He rolled over and went to sleep.
The next morning Paul anxiously forced himself to wait until nine o’clock before calling Mrs. Hendricks. At nine he picked up the phone and dialed the number. After several rings, “Lavish Homes and Property’s this is Jan Hendricks?” “Hey… Jan this is Paul Hollander.” “Oh, hi Paul, I’m sorry but I haven’t had time to …”
“Oh no, I’m not calling to rush you, I have a question.”
“Sure?” Jan said. “What is it?”
“Well, yesterday when we were at the house and after you left, did you come back for anything?”
“Why no, I drove straight to my office, why is there a problem?”
“Not really, it’s just, after you left, I was poking around the house. I began messing with that old piano and I swear I heard someone call out! It was a woman’s voice; I couldn’t make out what she said. I thought it was you but when I went to the front door, of course, you were not there!”
“Well that’s weird but like I said I came straight here after I left.”
Did you show the house to anyone else on Saturday?” Paul asked,
“Why no Paul, you’re the only one and I stopped showing it after you said you had a strong interest in the house.”
“Okay, that’s all I called for, sorry to bother you,” Paul said.
“Would you like me to call the Outlook Ridge, police department and ask them if they could check the property for any signs of burglary or unlawful tenant, It has been empty for a while, someone could be staying there?”
“I suppose it wouldn’t hurt; do you mind?”
“No, it's no bother at all Paul, I’ll give you a call when I hear from them, and don’t hesitate to call anytime you have any questions.”
“Okay Jan, thanks, I will.”
“I should have that paperwork for you on Wednesday if all goes smooth, all okay?” “Yeah, perfect Jan thanks again, I’ll see you later.”
“All right then, till Wednesday?”
“Bye.” Paul hung up and shook his head in doubt and thought out loud, “I d-no, maybe I’m starting to go senile?”
He went back to work on one of his novels, his pattern was to have a number of manuscripts going at the same time and leapfrogging from one to another. It helped him avoid writer's block. The Snow People was a novel he was testing, a story basted on the plight of a group of elderly people who are way beyond child-bearing age who ended up being the last people left alive on earth after a war where chemical weapons were used but for reasons unknown, this group survived!
After only three hours Paul found himself nodding out at the keyboard. When he snapped his head up, he saw a whole paragraph of semicolons. He leaned back in his chair and stretched as he looked up at the clock, it was, 12:45pm. “Miss. Moneypenny, the old man is ready for his old man nap! I’m going to lie down. Paul saved his work but left the computer running. He shut off the monitor and unplugged the phone and headed for his bedroom.
As soon as his head hits his pillow and he was out. Three hours and fifteen minutes later he woke, half asleep he looked over at the red blurry display that gradually came into focus to form the hour of, four o’clock. “Well! That took a good chunk out of the day.” He sat up and heard his stomach growl, lacing up his sneakers he looked over at Miss. Moneypenny. He got up and grabbed his keys. “I’m locking you in, keep an eye on the place,” he said, addressing the mannequin on his way out. “If anyone calls, I’ll be at the Sticky Wicket getting a bite and a beer, maybe two! The door closed.
Early Wednesday morning Paul’s phone rang, “Yell-low!” he answered. “Hi Paul, this is Jan.” “Hey Jan, you’re up early.” “I am I wanted to tell you that if you like we could close on the house this afternoon.” “Wow, you’re a fast worker.” “Actually, the house has been on the market for a while and the bank wants to close as soon as possible. So, what do you think?”
“Hell yea, I can’t wait to get out of the city.”
“Okay then, the bank reps said they could be here by 2:00pm. Is that alright for you?” “I’ll be there Jan; in fact, I’m calling the moving guy as soon as I hang up!” Jan laughed, “Well I’m happy you’re happy.” Jan giggle.
“Oh, I am, living out there will be like being on permanent vacation! If all goes smoothly, I would like to begin moving out of the city by Friday.
Everything did go smoothly and early that Friday morning the movers arrived at Paul’s apartment. Paul had already begun packing boxing with things that he would take himself. One of the movers asked, “Mr. Hollander, what about this?”
“That’s my friend, Miss. Money Penny and she goe’s with me but you guys can take her desk and chair!” Paul walked over to the mannequin.
“Miss Moneypenny you, are coming with me!” he picked her up and as he walked by a mover he asked, “can you get the door, she has a tough time walking you know.” Two of the workers stared at each other. Paul went down the elevator and out to the old beat up van. He put the mannequin in the passenger’s seat and began strapping her in. “Hey, this is going to be our first ride together. You’re gonna love it I-!”
A couple walking by stopped on the sidewalk and gawk with perplexity. After getting Miss. Moneypenny all strapped in, he backed out of the door and was about to close it when he spotted the couple glaring at him.
“Oh, hi, ha, she’s… a… a mannequin, I was just strapping her in… it’s a long… ride. We’re…a… moving!” The couple shook their heads and then continued, taking turns looking back at Paul until they rounded the corner. Paul closed the door of the van and ran back up to get more things. The movers were hard at work. When Paul walked in the man in charge told Paul, “We’ll have this wrapped up in no time this is a small place!
When will you be at the house?” Paul asked. “I have a few stops to make but I should be there sometime early this afternoon.”
When Paul arrived at the house the movers were already working. The moving truck was in front of the house, so Paul pulled around back and parked near the old green 1949 Oldsmobile Club Coupe. He got out of his van and took a closer look at the old Olds. He knocked on the hood and stood back waiting to see if any bees came flooding out from under the hood. All was clear he opened the hood and razed it inspecting the underside of the hood for bees. The motor in the old car was completely original; a smile appeared on his face.
A voice startled him, “Mr. Hollander!” Paul turned around to see one of the moving men approaching him. “Yeah, what’s up?” Mr. Hollander, I wonder if you could come in and show us how you want your office set up in there. “Sure,” he said as he turned to close the hood.
Paul showed them where to place his office furniture and Miss. Moneypenny’s desk. “What about this piano? It would probably look a lot better against this wall over here.” Paul shook his head, “No, leave it.” Paul could tell the old piano had been in the same spot, probably forever, and felt moving it would desecrate it in some way.
He went to his desk and sat down. His desk was facing the center window and the other two flanked him. Sitting there he felt like a captain on the bridge of his ship. He pressed the power button on his vintage tower computer that was set on the floor on the right of the desk. Nothing! Paul swing around in his chair “Is the power turned on?”
“Yes, it is, the man said, just a second I’ll check the plug” he hurried over “yeah, it’s not plugged in, hold on” he plugged in the surge suppressor. “Try it now.” Paul hit the button and the computer began to wine. “Thanks” “no problem sir,” the worker said and went back to what he was doing. Paul turned to his monitor.
“Oh, by the way Mr. Hollander, you won’t be able to get online right now; the phone guy hasn’t got here yet.” “Oh, okay,” Paul said. He shut down the computer got up from his chair and left the room to check out the progress the movers were making.
After inspecting, each room Paul went out onto the porch and sat in one of the rocking chairs and relaxed for a bit. It was another nice sunny day as he gently rocked and looked out over the veranda. He propped his feet up on shelf-like top of the veranda and leaning back. He studied the white ceiling of the porch. Soon his eyes closed, and he nodded off to sleep.
“Excuse me, Mr. Hollander… Mr. Hollander, sir!” Paul jerked awake. “Sorry to disturb you, I just wanted to tell you, you're all set sir, were done. We put the dummy in your office just like you said, with the desk and all.”
“Miss. Moneypenny” Paul corrected.
“Yeah, sure, well ah, she’s all set up in there. So, if there is nothing else were going to hit the road? Oh, and ah, the phone guy is here, I think he wants to talk with you, probably about the phone on the dummies desk.”
“Yah okay thanks.”
The nap seemed like seconds, but it must have been closer to an hour when the moving man came out onto the porch and woke him.
Looking in the direction of the blurred figure he strained to see who was speaking to him, slowly a man came into focus. Paul blindly answered the ghost-like figure as he pulled his painfully stiffened legs off the top of the veranda rail; the backs of his knees hurt the most. “Ah, great, let me take a look before you shove off, okay?” Paul said painfully as he agonized to work out all the kinks, he had developed from sitting in one position so long with his legs up.
“I’ll be right in,” he said to the man. The man nodded and went back inside. Rising out of the chair he tried stretching and twisted his torso back and forth, but his knees were far too painful, he found himself almost unable to walk as he hobbled more like the Frankenstein monster as he approached the front door.
By the time he got to the living room he had pretty much worked out the kinks in his legs and slowly his normal stride returned. “Hey, this looks great!” He said as he looked around, still suffering a slight limp from that awkward sleeping position.
“The phone guy is in your office; he wants to talk to you.” The moving man said as he jerked his thumb in the direction of Paul’s office.
“Oh right, thanks, I’ll be right back.” He headed for his office; the phone technician was busy connecting the computer to the Internet. “How yah doing? I’m Paul Hollander; you wanted to talk to me?”
“Oh yeah, this room is pretty much all set, I wanted to ask if you need any phones placed anywhere else in the house?” Paul picked up the phone on Miss. Moneypenny’s desk and put it to his ear, there was a dial tone. “Nope!” he said as he returned the phone back down. “The fewer phones the better, besides, I have a cell.”
“Okay then, I guess I’m done!”
“Yep, hey, thanks a lot, out here a phone could prove to be an important piece of equipment!” he shook the guys’ hand.
“If you think of anything ells just give us a call!”
“I will, thanks.”
Paul walked through the rest of the house and was pleased. As he signed the sheet on the moving man's clipboard, confirming he approved of the job,
“Looks like you will have to buy some more furniture to fill the place up?” the workmen said.
“Yeah, I know, my apartment was small,” Paul said as he handed the clipboard to the man. They shook hands and the crew left.
Paul decided to choose the upstairs room with the kitchenette for his bedroom, anytime he felt a quick snack everything would be just a few steps away plus he wouldn’t have to run up and down stairs. Now that the house had some furniture it didn’t sound empty and it no longer had that echoing sound. Paul didn’t allow the phone guy to put a phone in his bedroom. His thought was if you want to get some sleep, why the hell would you put a phone in your bedroom? He was not the kind to jump up like a fireman to answer a the phone. His mother was like that, she could be in the shower and if the phone rang, she would wrap a towel around herself and try to catch the phone. Paul would let it ring until it burst into flames before he would rush to answer a call.
He was going to spend his first evening in his new house and it felt great. The first thing he noticed was the absence of the sounds of sirens, honking horns and traffic. When he went to bed, he could not believe how peaceful it was. There was nothing but sweet quiet. For the first time, Paul had no trouble sleeping through the night. It felt great to wake up feeling well rested.
Saturday morning was the start of Paul’s first full day in his new home. The morning view from the three windows was a beautiful sight as he stood and absorbed the quiet. He opens the window and placed his hands on the windowsill and thrust his head out. The air smelled fresh and clean with the scent of morning due. He could smell fresh cut hay and figured it must be coming from somewhere nearby. There were no exhaust fumes or the sounds of morning rush hour traffic.
“Oh… yea, this is the way to go,” he mumbled to himself as he took another deep fragrant lung full of fresh country air. It was a really nice mild day. Pulling his head back inside, he left the window open.
He went to the kitchenette to prepare breakfast. His customary one broken fried egg on a toasted cinnamon raisin English muffin and a decaf coffee, cream no sugar. He brought his breakfast to the small dining table next to the window. He was amazed to see five Deer grazing not far from the house. From the second storey vantage point, he could see for quite a distance across a field that was enclosed by waist high, loose stone walls. They seemed to be holding back the encroaching forest. He envisioned horses frolicking in its interior. Then realized, “Yeah… I could get a couple horses!”
He returned to the kitchenette and cleaned the dish and frying pan he had used. Excited to take advantage of the peace and quiet and begin work.
He went downstairs to his office. “Good morning Miss. Moneypenny!” He said as he entered. Then stopped and was drawn to the piano. He walked over and lifted the keyboard cover. As he looked down at the keys, he noticed marks on the floor where the movers had moved the piano to bring in his leather sofa. He pushed the piano back to its original position, but something was stopping it. Crouching down and reached behind the piano he felt something. He tried to look behind to see what it was but could not, he muscled it away from the wall and took another look. Behind the piano was a large, elaborately carved and very dusty old gilded picture frame. He reached in and took hold and removed it.
Carrying it to a part of the room with the better light he leaning the picture against the wall for a moment while he pushed the piano back where it belonged and closed the keyboard cover he then placed the picture up upon the keyboard cover and gently leaned the picture against the piano employing it as if it were an easel.
It was an exquisite oil portrait of a beautiful young girl from the mid to late nineteenth-century judging by her dress; the mark on the wall just over the piano seemed to be where the portrait had hung? He went over to where he had his art supplies and easel set up and grabbed a large dry brush and used it to dust off the painting.
As the layers of dust were brushed away from the portrait his eyes widened, “My god!” was all he could say. The painting was so well done and the girl so beautiful, he began to work a bit quicker and soon had cleaned all the dust from the painting and frame. He backed up across the room and placed his brush down without taking his eyes off the painting, it was captivating!
He hurried to his desk and opened a drawer and grabbed a magnifying glass and went back to the painting and began to study it more closely. He searched for a signature but could not find one. “You are going right back up where you belong, young lady!” he said addressing the portrait. He moved the piano bench to use as a footstool, hopped up and carefully placed the portrait back on its original hook above the piano.
When he got down, he crossed the room to view the painting. “Ah yes, you belong there,” Paul said pleasingly. Miss. Moneypenny is going to get jealous.
He wondered who the young girl in the painting could be. Surely, she must have been a family member who once lived in the house. Maybe one of the original Castles?
Then the inspiration came to begin a new novel based on the girl in the painting! Using her image as inspiration and create the rest! The idea grew so quickly and became so strong that he went to his desk cranked up his computer and began work before he lost his initial ideas.
For the time being, he would call it, “The Girl in The Portrait”! He always found it helpful to have a title to launch his imagination. By lunchtime, he had worked out a rough first twenty pages. I mean he was cooking, he got out of his chair he stretched, sounding like a lion roaring as he stretched out the kinks in his tired body. He kept going to the painting for further study. He became aware the girl seemed to have a smile; he hadn’t noticed before. As he stood quite still, his eyeballs shifted from left to right, up and down covering every inch of the work.
It was difficult to leave it but he went downstairs to the main kitchen to make some lunch. He was so eager to get back to work on his new title he decided on a quick toasted tuna fish sandwich. Popping two slices of bread into the toaster he slammed the knob down. A brief spark flashed from the cord, but the toaster seemed to work okay after that.
|Posted by Paul McCall on April 14, 2019 at 10:00 AM||comments (0)|
This is a short story I'm working on that came to me in a dream I had.
Found myself driving through my old home town awhile back, and it turned out to be a trip down memory lane.
I cruised slowly down Main Street and noticed the old gym where I made my first attempt at boxing, it was still in business.
I pulled into a parking spot and just sat in my car and thought about it for a while. I decided to pop in and look the old place over.
I jerked the car door open and got out. I had to cross the street; traffic wasn’t bad but the noise the cars made swishing by polluted the scene. I crossed when I got the chance and when I got to the front door, I could hardly believe I could still make out my initials where I had carved them so long ago under all the years of paint.
Opening the door, the smell brought back memories. Not much had changed from the last time I had seen the place. Feeling my age, I took a seat on one of the benches along the wall and watched the young kids working out and sparing. A couple of the kids were pretty good and in between rounds I kept looking the old place over.
I noticed one of the trainers in the ring who looked familiar, I was sure I had seen him some ware before.
Once the bouts were over, I got up and wandered over to the ring and leaned on the edge watching from under the ropes.
After a while the man I thought I knew spotted me and said, “can I help you with anything?”
I said, “no, I’m just looking around, I use to train here when I was a kid”.
“Really,” he said, “when was that?”
“Oh, must have been over fifty years by now”. The guy was milling about with the boy he had been working with removing the kids gloves, then he told the kid, “take a break Mike” the kid said, “thanks Mr. Peterson”.
Unlike me, Mr. Peterson, had a full head of thick gray hair and was in a hell of a lot better shape than I was. He came over, grabbed the stool from the corner of the ring near me and sat.
Wiping his face and neck with the towel he had around his neck and shoulders he said, “you from around here, are you?”
“Not anymore, I had to go to Boston this morning, god I hate driving in there. I'm on my way home and thought I'd make a slight detour to check out the old town.
When I saw the gym was still here, I had to stop and check it out”.
“what’s your name, I’ve been here forever I might remember you”
“Paul, Paul McCall”. I said as I reach out my hand and we shook. I could see a strong resemblance and then it hit me. “hold on, you’re Snuffy Peterson”?
“guilty as charged” he said, then, “holey shit, P. J. is that you? I don’t believe it.”
“Yup, it’s me, we were quite a team back in the late nineteen-sixties’?”
“no shit.” Snuffy hopped down from the ring and stood almost face to face with me, Snuffy was much taller. He looked me up and down. “Dam P. J. you’re falling apart old man.”
“yeah, well, life you know?” I said
“Son of a bitch it is you” he said, and he pulled me into a hug. “I thought you must have been dead by now; as I recall you were a drinker.” then he put me at arm’s length and cocked his head and said, “after all, you were such a shitty boxer.”
I said, “yeah, but I never hurt anybody.”
“Not a good thing in this business.” Said Snuffy.
I said, “As I recall you lived close enough to go home for lunch. You know, I never did see where you lived.”
“Yeah well that old place is gone, there’s a Minnie Mall there now. Paul, listen I got some time, how about some lunch on me? Ted’s Dinner is still here, different owners but just as good.”
“sure, can’t wait to see the old place, just across the street, right?”
|Posted by Paul McCall on August 20, 2015 at 10:00 PM||comments (0)|
As a Viet Nam veteran, I’m relieved how attitudes about Viet Nam veterans, have improved since my discharged from the Marine Corps in the summer of 1969.
I can recall how, in 1967 and 1968, when I was in Viet Nam, the U. S. military indulged in censorship to prevent negative news, back home, from reaching the troops. When my tour of duty was up, in the summer of 1968, I was sent home for a long deserved four, or was it six-week leave.
During the thirteen months I served in Viet Nam; I had no clue how widespread the negative feelings about the war in Viet Nam was back in the U.S. All I knew was, I was hungry to go home.
My first day home I learned how dangerous those feelings could be. The first thing I did, was to get out of my uniform and changed into civilian clothing. Having no driver’s license, I asked my mother if she would give me a ride to a local mini-mall. When she dropped me off, she said, "I have some errands to run, are you going to need a ride home?"
"No, I can hitch a ride home." I wanted to enjoy my first sense of freedom from the military and play civilian hanging out for a while.
I was eager to wade through crowds of civilians and pretend I was one of them. After a bit of window shopping and poking around, the only thing I bought was a carton of Marlborough cigarettes. I left the Mall and walked across the parking lot and up to the street to hitch a ride home.
Stand on the shoulder of the road cars rushed by; I paused to light a cigarette. I began walking backward slowly facing the oncoming traffic. Holding my cigarette between my fore, and middle finger of my left hand I held my right arm stretched out with my thumb out.
I wasn't paying much attention to the cars as they zoomed by. I was preoccupied looking at houses and yards, dreaming about owning my own home someday. I kept glancing, behind now and then to be sure I wasn't going to back into a ditch.
Eventually, a car pulled over waking me from my daydream. I spun around and trotted up to the car door. The window was open, and I glanced in to be sure I did not miss read the drivers intentions. the guy said, "hop in." I opened the door and jumped in. "Thank you," I said before the driver had a chance to speak.
“Where ya headed kid?" He was a middle-aged man.
"Straight up the road, not far," I said nodding toward the windshield. "Just past Howard's produce stand."
“Hot one today,” the man said, his head poked out the window checking for oncoming traffic as he pulled back onto the road.
“Yeah, it sure is,” I said placing my right elbow out the open window.
"I hate this shit, don't you?" the guy said.
"I don't know; I'm sort of use to it" I replied.
“Ya are ha," he said with a smirk.
“Yeah, I just got back from Viet Nam. It’s hot as hell over there” I said.
“What!” the man said in a raised tone of voice.
“I’m in the Marine Corps; I just got back from a thirteen-month tour over there.”
I thought a dog ran out in front of us, the way he braked and swerved the car to the side of the road.
A giant cloud of dust drifted from the rear of the car and past the front end of the vehicle as he hollered at me. "Get out!"
"What's wrong?" I said, completely puzzled. This guy was agitated.
"I don't want no goddamn baby killer in my car. Now get the fuck out, now!"
I got out, and the guy spun his tires, pelting me with gravel in the process leaving me standing in a cloud of dust. I couldn't believe what had just happened; This was my hometown.
I don’t know where that guy heard that kind of crap, but the few enemy I got when I was in the country, were at the age of consent and had notches carved in their rifle butts.
I guess that’s just another cost for freedom.
|Posted by Paul McCall on August 4, 2015 at 12:40 AM||comments (0)|
When engaged in severe fighting a soldier must find suitable cover. Having been ambushed, I look for better cover and see a soldier make a run for it. A sniper finds his mark, and the soldier goes down hard and lays motionless.
I figured the sniper must be reloading so I test my luck and make a run for the better cover then, my lights go out.
I wake with no idea how long I have been laying here. I can still hear, the sounds of battle have died away. All I know is I'm in extreme pain and unable to move sparking my concern of paralysis. I attempt to open my eyes, but the pain is unbearable. I panic, and it commands my need to know if I can still see. Forcing my eyes to open as much as posable I can not detect any light. My eyes feel as though hot sand has been rubbed into them.
My head is throbbing, and my ears are ringing so loud all I can hear is the ringing itself. Still; it gives me some comfort to know that at least I can hear.
Blood seeps from a head wound and pools inside my helmet. The right side of my face rests in the blood that fills my ear. Sensing another wound on the right side of my body. I am feeling nauseous. I fear I may heave in my helmet and drown or suffocate in the vomit. I'm aware I'm seriously fucked up.
Determine that I must try to move I attempt to move my feet, to be sure I still had them. My whole body screams for me to stay still. It seemed like some fifteen minutes before I managed to realize movement, another fifteen or twenty to work myself up into a sort of half-ass sitting position against whatever this is I'm lying against. I manage to work myself up a bit straighter, blood runs from my right ear and down my neck into my flack jacket. It clott's quickly and feels as though sticky molasses had spilled inside my suit.
I attempted to open my eyes. The visor on my helmet smashed, so I tried to wipe the clotting blood from my eyes with my hand. Sharp pain puts a quick end to that idea. Dirt or some fragments are in them. The thought of permanent blindness frightened the hell out of me, and I have no idea where I am. I choose caution and do not call out for a medic.
Feeling around and find a canteen on my belt. Aware of the wound on my side, I took only a small sip. Then I held my head back as best I could and poured water through my smashed away face shield into my eyes to flush them out. I force them open as best I can. I do this again and again until the water is gone.
I think I passed out, but somehow I lost some time.
I notice a bit of light, not much, but at least now I know I'm not entirely blind.
My vision gradually improve. Excited, I scanned my blurry surroundings. I make out what looked like a body lying very close to me. I had to slide down from the wall and onto my side and drag myself a short distance to get close. He was on his side facing away from me. I reached over to check him out.
Eventually, I managed to tug him toward me and over onto his back. I was surprised, and I guess, disappointed when I saw it was a severely damaged but very human-looking android. Its body felt so real.
It wore a coalition uniform and the damage exposed some of its internal components which, I could see were biologically manufactured. I was not frightened or concerned as I felt I should be. It was creepy though, its passed for a real human body.
I could see much better now, but I still had no idea where I was. More alarming to me though, I can't remember who I am. I keep racking my brain for my own identity. I noticed the name tag on the android. Only two letters, "TC." I attempted to look down for my name tag, but my helmet prevented that. I try to remove it but it had been crushed out of shape and jammed, and I can't budge it.
It relieved me to be able to make out English lettering instead of some form of alien hieroglyphics on the android. Still, I can't get over how human the body felt when I moved it. Its face shield down was beginning to bother me; I hesitated but finally reached over and slid it open; I was stunned when I saw the face of a young girl or at least a very female looking face inside the helmet. I thought how depressing it would be if she were a real young girl. I know they make more female droids than male because they seem less threatening.
I could see much better and was able to make out my surroundings, but I was feeling weaker. Unsure how long I would last if I kept losing blood. Already I was too weak to crawl. My breathing was becoming more labors, and I thought, if I passed out now It would surely be for the last time.
I thought, if I were able to move, I might be able to recognize my surroundings, but I was now too weak to move around. My body slips from the leaning position and slides from the wall to the ground, and I roll onto my back facing the sky. Judging from what little I can make out the sky seemed as though it was at dusk, or was it dawn, I have no idea, it could be my poor eyesight. Losing consciousness, I know this is it. The air smells different every time the wind shifted, one way it smelled like Napalm another direction like a foul barbecue.
I was still alive, but I was feeling colder and weaker; not much longer now I thought. I made one more attempt to poke around with my fingers for any com device I might be able to use to call for help. But my arm and hand stopped moving. I thought this would be a good time to think about the wife and kids… That is if I had any. My head started spinning and everything.
The first thing I became aware of was my sense of smell then I became aware my eyes and my head were in bandage. My first thought was, "I've been found!" My second was, yeah, but by who?
I made an effort to move, and immediately a heavy hand struck me in my chest. A female voice said, "stop, do not move, you are severely injured please lay still." The word, "Please" made me realize I was receiving care.
Barely able to manage a whisper I said,
"Where am I, a field hospital?"
"No, I found you unresponsive, I was able to revive you and stop your bleeding, but you must remain still, or you will begin to bleed again, and you will die."
"Thank you… you got my helmet off thanks; I couldn't do it."
"It had to be cut off." The voice said. "You have sustained a serious head wound; it may affect your sense of balance."
"We're still in the field?"
"Were you able to establish contact with command."
"Unable at this time."
"I lost some memory along with this bump on the head; I don't know who I am."
"Your name is, Captain, John McCall sir."
"Sir; do I outrank you or something?"
"Yes, Captain you do."
"What is your name and rank soldier?"
"My name is, TC sir. ASIB's have no rank."
I felt my heart roll in my chest.
"You mean you're that Droid I found?"
"Sir, my name is "TC" I am an ASIB, an Artificial, Self-aware Intelligent Being, I am not a Droid sir."
"Wow, a sense of pride! That's interesting, my apology. When I found you I thought you were dead... or whatever it is you call it, how did you get repaired?"
I had been talking too much; I could feel myself losing what little strength I had regained.
She said, "I have biological nanotechnology, most of my damaged organs and parts can regenerate and repair themselves."
"Lucky you, so you're practically immortal?" I said.
I experienced extrema pain in my side.
Instantly aware, T.C. adjusted my position to make me more comfortable.
She said, "If I become damaged severely enough I cease to function, just as a human."
"Okay, so where do we go from here?" I said, staring into the hollow blackness of my bandages.
"Sir, you are human, you are in command."
Frustrated by the inability to see, I attempted to shake my head unaware if she was even looking.
I considered she might better understand me if I described my injuries as though I were a droid.
"Look; TC, I'm damaged, I'm blind and my memory, for all practical purposes, has been erased. I don't know what I am and until you told me, I had no idea who I was. I'de like to know, how you learned who I was?"
"You have a bar-code tattooed on the back of your neck, Sir. I read your bar-code. You also have a small ID chip just under your skin in the same area."
"Alright then, give me a report."
"Yes Sir, you are Captain, John McCall, of the Third Military Police Battalion, Force Logistics Command. We were on an escort mission providing security for diplomats on their way to a meeting in the capital when attacked. You and I were in the rear of the column and caught the worst. My data suggest that the main part of the convoy got through with only minor damage and loss of human life. The mission was successful, Sir."
I felt a sharp pain. "Awe, well It doesn't feel successful to me. Why haven't we been rescued, you said my chip is active?"
"I am working to establish communication with command; However, enemy drone activity is heavy in this area, and any attempt to communicate could be detected at this time. It is standard procedure that command would neutralize all enemy drones before search and rescue can be launch."
"If you haven't made contact, how will they know where we are?"
"Command will note where the enemy has been searching for us; they will then search the same area once all drones are neutralized."
I felt numb all over, and by this point, I could barely speak.
"Well if they don't get here soon... it will be a recovery mission, not a rescue mission."
Commanding the Third Military Police Battalion, General, Matthias Hollander shook his head with disbelief, "McCall must be dead, he would have made contact by this time if he was alive, he's one of my best; I can't believe this shit. What's the status of the rescue?"
A young, Major standing at ease in front of the General's desk began reading from a clipboard.
"Sir, we have just cleared all the enemy drones from the area, and the rescue team is beginning their search now sir. Reports also show that an ASIB, TC was lost as well, sir."
"I thought those things were practically indestructible why do they think that?"
"No contact sir, if TC were functional it would have contacted us by now sir."
General Hollander walked behind his desk and slowly backed into his leather chair and leaned back.
"Major, I don't want to see you again until you have some confirmation on this situation, you understand me?"
"Yes sir," the Major said as he snapped to attention. General Hollander looked up at the major and nodded his head.
After a moment, The General said almost in a whisper.
"You're dismissed, major."
Search and rescue lifted off and headed out toward the ambush point.
TC was now able to make contact. Both were picked up and flown straight to the hospital. Command took TC for debriefing.
I could smell that I was in an infirmary, with no clue how much time had passed, but I was aware I had been, sedated. I could hear voices and the sounds of people walking. My whole head was heavily bandaged, and the blankets were wrapped around me so tightly I had the idea I had was in a straitjacket.
To be continued.
|Posted by Paul McCall on June 2, 2015 at 6:00 AM||comments (0)|
A man who loved life more than any person I have known, who was looking forward to his ninety-first birthday, which happen to be April 4, 2015, was, struck down by a massive stroke some time Tuesday night March 31 or Wednesday April 1 while he slept. He lingered at Milford Hospital in Milford MA as all his family members and friends could only await the terrible inevitable.
Glen R. Dowen married my mother, Irene when I was about thirteen, which would have been around 1962. The relationship between Glen and my brothers and I, at first, took some getting used to. We certainly were not angels by any stretch of the imagination.
We also gained a stepbrother, Allen and a stepsister, Dianne. On November 1, 1968, Mom gave birth to Cynthia Ann Dowen and our two families were then, genetically linked. Glen was a tenacious hard worker and really seemed to enjoy every minute of every job he had. I cannot, recall ever hearing him complain about any job he worked. I grew to love this man; he was frugal man but had a good heart that I believe in certain circumstances, sometimes he tried to conceal for his own protection. Glen had a strong sense of humor, and oh, how he loved to tell stories of his life's adventures. In his senior years he often forgot how many times he had told you a particular story and would go on to repeat it even after you told him, "Glen, you already told me this story" he pretend he didn't hear you and just went on with his story as you sat there politely lip sinking almost every word.
The Doctors told us a stroke of this severity would be terminal. We who knew and loved him could not get a grip on this diagnosis because even at ninety Glen was active and so full of life.
I hope God has fashioned a replica of Glen's huge yard where he can continue to putter around with all sorts of his beloved projects to nowhere, doing what he loved to do most, keeping busy.
|Posted by Paul McCall on December 18, 2014 at 9:25 PM||comments (0)|
At times when I shave in the morning, I can’t help realizing the old man that I have become. After all, there he is looking back at me through the mirror, mimicking my every move, I think sometimes mocking me. I lean forward; he leans forward, reciprocally studying my face as I study his. I'm surprised at times when tears well up in my eyes and I begin to choke up as I think back on the many wrong turns I have made on the road for success, success I never found. Then I look again as a small boy from long ago materializes. I'm back to Christmas day 1953 when that little boy, still in his pajamas, standing on a chair in front of his parent's bedroom bureau mirror, leaned forward and stared back at me. His little face covered in shaving cream, leaning still closer as he studied himself while shaving for the first time using his new red plastic toy safety razor that came complete with cardboard razor blades and how he gazed in the mirror making funny faces as he imitated what his father did when he shaved. Pretending the blade was real carefully scraped the shaving cream off his small face. I think of my lost youth as though it were a child who has passed away. So innocent and full of hope, a child who I know I will never see staring back at me ever again through the mirror. It is a painful genuine remorse, a genuine sorrow, a genuine feeling of loss, a genuine regret for the life I have wasted. As I silently mourn, a voice calls through the bathroom door, “dad, are you almost done?” I shake out of my self-hypnosis. “Yeah, be right out!” I finish shaving and carry on with the time I have left.
|Posted by Paul McCall on February 6, 2013 at 1:35 PM||comments (0)|
Paul J. McCall
In 1954, I was six years old, one bright and sunny June day my mother taught me a lifelong lesson. She brought me along grocery shopping. The “First National” was the grocery store where she did her shopping. It was only ten or fifteen minutes away by car from our home and located on route nine in Natick, Massachusetts.
When we arrived, my mother parked our 1955 two-tone red and white Plymouth wagon in the parking lot. At that age, I was always in awe when I went to a big store like that. There seemed to be everything a kid could possibly want in there. While mom went about her grocery shopping my eye's were feverously scanning the shelves for possible personal benefits.
Then I saw it! My eyes locked upon a wire basket full of small miniature footballs. Right there in the middle was a green football with red strips around each end that was calling to me. I can’t recall the amount on the price tag because I wasn't interested in that trivial detail of this treasure. All I knew was I wanted that football so bad a refusal would surely crush me.
When I made my plea to my mother I got what I felt a cruel refusal. She ordered me, “You put that right back where you got it”! After my repeated failed attempts to conceive new and different angles to win my case I began to severely suffer from the almost certain frustration of failure. I was so grieved; in desperation I made a very brief attempt at a temper tantrum. I wanted that football that bad. The obvious outcome I was about to experience actually made me feel ill. The tantrum was useless and made her absolute in her refusal.
After I had exhausted every persuasive tactic I had acquired up to that point in my young life, I was forced to concede defeat. I finally realized it was no use and I reluctantly returned to where I had found the treasure to place it back. When I got to the basket that contained the footballs it suddenly occurred to me that no one could see me behind the rack. I abruptly felt a hot flash rush through me as I pondered a desperate alternative.
After careful inspection of my surroundings, I nervously tucked the beloved football into the inside pocket of my reversible jacket. I was careful to keep my right arm covering the obvious bulge so no one would notice my skulduggery. At that age, my intelligence and logic were far from developed which was obvious when we arrived home. I was so eager to play with that football the first thing I did when I jumped out of the car was run straight for our front yard and I began tossing the football up into the air and catching it.
My mother kept making her trips back and forth to and from the car as she brought the groceries into the house while I, unwisely and carelessly, played with the football in plain view with complete disregard concerning how I had acquired my treasure. I was so anxious to play with that ball I never thought to go some place where my mother could not easily see me. As she got closer to the last bag she finally became more aware of her surroundings and the fact that I was not interested as I usually was in what she had purchased.
Normally I would be going through the bags with her to see what she bought. It was at this point my mother finally became aware of my unusual disregard and my joy as I played with my ill acquired toy. Making matters even worse when she rushed over to me and yelled at me, “Where did you get that?” I lied, telling her, "I just found it, right there in the bushes." She snatched that football out of my hand so fast I had to count my fingers to make sure I still had them all.
She quickly examined the football and said in a tone I would not want to hear again, “well it hasn't been lost very long; it still has the price tag on it!” She immediately grabbed me by my arm with a vice grip strength that I was unaware a woman could possess. She then lead me to the car and pushed me into the rear seat and slammed the door. “Don’t you move!” she said with her finger pressed against the glass and pointing directly at me. She then ran to the house to get her purse and car keys.
I had never, at any time, seen or experienced this level of fury from my mother in my life. We were both silent during the entire trip. I sat in obedient fearful silence in the back seat as she drove all the way back to the First National store. I was shaking in my drawers the whole ride. All kinds of thoughts of doom jail and prison were racing through my head.
When we got to the store, still with a strong grip, she again towed me by the hand and back into the store to where the manager's office was. To make matters worse there happened to be a Cop in the office at the time; my mother looked down at me, “see! They know already,” she said and I believed her. She then asked a lady if she could speak with the manager. He was in his glassed-in office with the Cop. The lady went into the office and said something to the manager. I was trying to read their lips as they spoke. That is until all three of them turned their heads and looked directly at me. I thought my heart was going to burn out on me right there.
When the manager came out of the office the Cop came with him. My mother told the manager I had something to give him. My hands and my whole body were shaking uncontrollably as I handed him the ball. “And how did you come by this young man”? I didn't dare look him in the eye; my eyes fell and caught his nicely shined shoes. I locked my eye's on his shoes as I reluctantly told him I had stolen the football as my mother was doing her shopping.
I was so scared I began to cry uncontrollably and I didn't dare turn to my mother for comfort, I was on my own this time. After a little drama play between the manager and my mother, who was standing behind me, I guess in case I tried to run? The manager was in front of me, I glanced up to see what the Cop was doing and I could see my mothers' reflection in the office glass wall. She was indicating in silent hand language to the manager not to spare me.
The manager looked at the Cop and asked, “You got any room down town in the jail today”? The Cop shook his head and said, “Nope, unfortunately the jail's all filled up today”. The manager then looked back at me as he said to my mother, “well Mrs. McCall looks like we can’t have him sent to jail this time, so I’ll let you take him home if little Pauley here promises not to steel ever again” All I could do was quickly shake my head back and forth I was still quietly crying and shaking all over.
That short performance that seemed to take forever taught me a lesson that is so embedded in my being that it is still with me to this day. To some degree it has been often to my detriment! I was not allowed to go out and play for the rest of that day and from that day on I have always had a deep respect for other people's property. The cure was making me face up to what I had done and the lesson was indelible.
|Posted by Paul McCall on February 5, 2013 at 5:05 PM||comments (0)|
Hazel J. Hollander
A poor little waif was trodding alone.
More wondrous eyes have never shown.
She had no shoes, just her little bare feet.
And a tattered dress, though she looked so sweet.
She seemed to be searching for something she lost.
Or was it something she never had that caused her to look so lonely and sad?
I stopped and asked her, dear if you please, what is your name, and where do you go?
She answered Marie and I really don’t know.
I’ve searched for a mother, they said I had one but I’ve looked everywhere and have
Well my dear I’ve been searching too for a baby I’d lost who’d look just like you.
We’ll live together and be happy, you’ll see.
Forever and ever for God meant it to be.
|Posted by Paul McCall on February 2, 2013 at 11:55 AM||comments (0)|
Paul J. McCall
In the nineteen fifties, my family lived in Natick, Massachusetts. We had a small house on the shores of Jennings Pond. Neighbors in those days were mostly friendly, but one pair of neighbors stand out in my memory the most, the Flannerys. My parents were good friends with Jack and Blanche. They were older than my parents, and I wouldn't call them "close friends" because they seldom invited anyone into their home.
They were hard drinkers, but of the happy sense of the term. To me, they were the most beautiful people I may have ever known. Jack was a retired hard-working railroad man. I remember him and his distinctively deep, raspy voice. He was a tall, medium-built man with gray-white hair. I never saw him without his old beat-up oil stained railroad hat and the ever-present red rag hanging from the right rear pocket of his worn coveralls.
His love and extreme skill for farming, gardening, and growing things are what impressed me the most about him. He raised every kind of fruit and vegetable I can think of on his relatively small piece of property. Old Jack grew apple trees, peach trees, a huge cherry tree and next to his garden, was what appeared to be one sizeable thick grapevine that covered a sturdy wood frame that was large enough to park a car inside and made from sturdy four by fours. Where he grew three verities of grapes, his white grapes on one end, red grapes in the middle and blue on the far end.
In the shade of its interior, Jack set up a medium-size picnic table that he built himself. It had two bench seats, upon which on hot days he could escape the sun. He even installed a small stainless-steel sink with running water fed by a garden hose where he would wash his freshly picked vegetables.
On the opposite side of the grapevine was his large, impressive, well-kept vegetable garden. How I wish I’d taken pictures, it was so beautiful. He also grew strawberries and mint leaves. Mr. Flannery introduced me to the knowledge that the mint flavor in my chewing gum came from the leaves of this small plant. One day when I was visiting when old Jack handed me a little leave and said, "here Pauley, chew on this and tell me what you think?” When Jack saw me hesitate, he added, “They're delicious!" and he popped one in his mouth and began chewing. I trusted Old Jack without question and popped the small leave into my mouth. When I tasted the mint, I felt as if I had discovered something no other kid in the neighborhood knew.
Then the letdown, Jack made me pledge never to tell the other kids in the neighborhood. He warned if I told even one friend, the word would spread, and they would come and pick all his mint plants to the ground, and there would be none for me! Keeping that pledge was like having an itch that I couldn't reach. It killed me; I was dying to tell every kid I knew the little something that I was sure they didn't know. Mrs. Flannery once gave me a glass of ice tea with some of those Mint leaves crushed up in it, and it was the best ice tea I ever tasted.
By July the Flannery's entire property looked like something out of a hobbits landscape, his whole yard was green. His wife Blanche was one of the sweetest ladies I ever met. She planted flowers everywhere. Blanche was petite; her long thick white hair had occasional streaks of jet black; she wore bangs in the front, and the rest was all pulled back into a ponytail that she tied with a huge, typically, black or red ribbon. She regularly wore bright red lipstick. Her heavy smoking contributed much to her deep heavy raspy voice. Her overbite with receding gums made her tobacco-stained teeth look longer than usual, which often caused me to catch myself staring. She seemed to favor wearing black slacks with a brightly colored printed blouse. She had small feet, and her shoes looked like they were little girl shoes.
Whenever she would hold something up to show me, I couldn't help but notice her heavily stained fingers from all those cigarettes. She once told me that Jack and she had a daughter, though I never saw her or was ever shown any photos of her. I never was invited into the house, but I noticed from outside that there were real butterflies pinned to her curtains. I asked her "are those real Butterflies?"
"Yes, they are," she said.
"Where did you get them"?
"I catch them in the garden" I couldn't help but feel bad for all those creatures and to think, what a shame to kill all those beautiful Butterflies.
My younger brother Drew once told me how Mrs. Flannery invited him into the house on one occasion and gave him a tour, and even showed him the upstairs. All the neighbors thought that the Flannerys did not invite people in because the house was a mess. But Drew told me Blanch kept the house like a museum, all nice and clean.
Drew's hair was very light and very curly blond and may have reminded Blanche of her daughter in some way? Drew later told me that Mrs. Flannery showed him their daughter's upstairs bedroom.
Drew asked, "Where is she?"
"Away, in school" Blanche replied. But Drew told me, judging from the smell of the modest size room, it hadn't been occupied for a long time. Drew was amazed at all the cool stuff in that room. Though Drew was young, he instantly surmised that Mrs. Flannery's daughter must have died because the room possessed all the signs of a shrine. There were all kinds of toys, knickknacks, stuffed animals and crayon drawings, and rubbings fastened with thumbtacks on the walls. All little girl stuff, nothing to indicate a teenage girl ever had occupied this bedroom.
Mrs. Flannery then asked Drew, "If this was your room, Andrew, what would you like the most about it?" Unaware of the reason for such a question, Drew carefully scanned around the room and saw a scruffy looking, very used beat up little teddy bear lying on the bed. Unsure why Mrs. Flannery would ask such a strange question he hesitated and studied her for a moment. Once he realized that she was scanning the room with him and not mainly looking at him, he relaxed, and he pointed out the Teddy bear. Mrs. Flannery's lips formed an instant smile as if she knew what he would choose. Then she looked at Drew with a half-smile. She walked slowly over next to the side of the bed; she stood for a moment as though to pray or maybe try to make up her mind about breaking a promise she made to herself, never to move anything since that tragic last day?
Drew heard her take a deep breath, she bent down and picked up the bear, she held it for what seemed like a long time, long enough for Drew to notice the tiny dust particles stirring in the beams of sunlight coming through the window. Dust that had been disturbed after she had picked up the bear which must have been laying there for who knows how long? The dust particles swirled and danced around in the beams of sunlight. Blanche stared into the worn little face, then she broke her silence, her deep voice cracking, "he was her favorite, that's why he's so beat up" she then turned her back toward Drew facing the window and paused.
Regaining her composer, "she played with him all the time"... Drew could hear her swallow. "His name is, Sooty, they were inseparable, I think she would want him to be played with again, after all, that's what he's for isn't he?" Then she turned her head and looked at Drew with a smile on her face; her eyes were welled with tears as she turned and slowly walked toward Drew from the other side of the bed. Then she handed the bear to him. "Take good care of him, won't you?"
"I will Mrs. Flannery. Thank you".
Blanche didn't know it then, but that little Teddy bear would become a treasure to my brother, not merely because Blanche gave it to him but because Drew knew how hard it was for her to let go and what it meant to her.
Drew, literally adopted "Sooty" the dusty, little worn-out bear. Drew kept his word and loved that little Teddy bear. It became a part of our family throughout our childhood. My brother had Sooty until his premature death at sixty years old. Sadly, the original Sooty was lost in a fire.
Blanche also gave Drew a pencil box that day that looked like a small golf bag; the plastic top cover looked like golf clubs were sticking out of it when the top was on.
Jack Flannery would sometimes allow a few of us neighborhood kids to pick his apples and peaches but his one rule was we must ask first. So, whenever we wanted a couple apples or peaches, we would either look for him in his yard or knock on his door. Still, sometimes if Jack was not there we could not resist the thrill of sneaking up on his garden or grape vines and taking just enough so it would go unnoticed.
Jack and Blanche were terrific people and great neighbors. It's hard to find people like them in today's drive up window world; most people today are living too fast, they don't even know about Roses, let alone take the time to smell em. It seems the more intelligent humanity believes itself to be the more impaired it is too vital elements of life. People like the Flannery's are going extinct. In today's world trust in your neighbor can be a risky business at best. Make sure you take the time to smell the roses, the ocean, and the fresh cut grass.
|Posted by Paul McCall on December 9, 2012 at 12:10 AM||comments (0)|
I WISHED YOU WELL
Paul J. McCall
I saw you tonight, when I came to your ward, you looked younger you had your hair done; it was parted on the right side, long and straight to your shoulders. Your face looked so beautiful; your complexion was smooth and fresh. You had little eye makeup, just a touch of eyebrow pencil. You were wearing a maroon shade of lipstick. It all went together so well.
You were on your way out; you had on a light blue long overcoat that looked like a female version of a Pea Coat. I was overwhelmed,
“Where are you going?” I asked, you smiled,
“I’m going shopping for a car”.
“OH” I said, “you look so beautiful I was wondering”. She had that kind of smile that told me she understood I was pleased but at the same time confused.
“Don’t worry, I’ll be back soon,” she said as her thumb and forefinger touched the tip of my chin. She leaned toward me with her lips perked for a kiss. It caught me by surprise, I tenderly took her by the shoulders and kissed her, careful not to mess up her lipstick. When I pulled away she saw my watery eyes.
She opened her purse and took out a hankie and lightly dabbed my eyes and then some lipstick from my lips. I didn't want her to leave,
“Good luck” I said as she returned her hankie to her purse. I could hardly get the words out. “Don’t worry; I told you, I’ll be back”.
“Yes I know”, she turned and walked down the hallway and as she went through the door she paused to look back and give a little wave. Then she went through the door and was gone.
I just stood for a moment staring at the closed door that took her from sight. After a moment I turned to a nurse at the desk and asked,
"Where is she?" The nurse pointed and said,
“She’s in there, through that door”. I went in she was in a bed lying on her side.
“How you doing" I asked as I slid a chair over to sit down next to her bed.
“Okay” she answered weakly. I reached down and cupped the back of her head with my right hand as I kissed her lightly on her forehead; I wanted to tell her,
“I just saw you, when I came in; you were well, completely cured. You were going shopping for a car” but I kept my vision to myself. As she looked up at me she seemed puzzled,
“What’s that on your face?” I got up and went to the mirror and found a small spot of maroon lipstick on my face.
|Posted by Paul McCall on December 8, 2012 at 5:15 PM||comments (0)|
DYSLEXIA AND ME
Paul J. McCall
I knew I had a problem when I was very young and that was a very long time ago. When I was in elementary school, dyslexia did not seem to be in the dictionary. At that time (I’m talking in the 1950’s now) my parent’s tried having me fitted with glasses. When that didn't work I was simply labeled as, “stupid” and then placed in a corner of the classroom away from the rest of the children so I would not disturb the other students or try to cheat.
Punishment, it seemed, was the only treatment for a dyslexic child back in those days. Happily, today that is not the case. When I was a kid spell checkers were called, “Dictionaries”, there were no electronic devices to aid a student in those days. I had to look up every word I could not spell and that meant just about all of them. It was extremely time consuming and by the time I found the word I was looking for, my focus on what I was trying to write was lost. Even today one cannot depend on spell checkers alone, dyslexia victims must use the (thesaurus) together with spell checker.
I learned the hard way and even then I require an editor. Dyslexic people who want to write should not despair, I found many successful famous people with dyslexia who have learned ways to function despite this disability. People like, Albert Einstein, Walt Disney, Orlando Bloom, Tom Cruise, Jay Leno, Keanu Reeves, Whoopi Goldberg and Robin Williams, are just a few, all have dyslexia. Each and every one of these people had found their own way to work and function despite dyslexia.
That is what dyslexics must do, find what works for them personally and continuously develop. If you have a child struggling in school, the first things you should do is discuss the problem with your child. In most cases with your help you can work out a plan with your child.
Parents should inform teachers about their child's disability. Most schools today have programs for dyslexic students or at least can assist in finding places to get more help. What it boils down to is finding what works for you or your child personally. Good luck and keep writing. I hope this is of some help to others with this disability. Always remember when you look in the mirror, the person you are looking at is smarter than you may think.
|Posted by Paul McCall on December 6, 2012 at 12:55 AM||comments (0)|
Paul J. McCall
Two forty-five past midnight, a light sleeper, Paul is awakened by the distant, and increasingly stronger, rushing sound of the late night freight train. Just as the rumbling of the train reaches its loudest, it rudely interrupts the slumbering population as it boldly sounds its blaring horns with three consecutive long, wailing blasts. The rumbling of its wheels upon the steel tracks then begins to fade off into the distance. The whole process lasting for two to three minutes but seems more like twenty. Now having been rousted out of a dream, that he wishes he could resume, he struggles to return to sleep, his worn-out body assists him, and soon he is soundly sleeping once again.
The alarm snaps his head from the pillow. In the darkness he franticly tries to reach toward the bed stand, feeling around in the darkness for the snooze button on the alarm, but his arm won’t respond. It is paralyzed from sleeping upon it and the alarm keeps hammering away as he desperately tries to force his numb lifeless limb to obey his wishes. Slowly as the blood return to his arm he manages to maneuver his lumbering club of a limb over the clock and finally hits the snooze button. As suddenly as the hammering noise began, there is silence. Exhaling in relief he fall back down on his side In the dark trying to focus his still sleeping eyes on the red blur that slowly comes into focus, five fifteen a.m. then he realizes it’s his day off but due to force of habit he set the alarm last night. Rolling over to the right and onto his back, his eyes focus on the dancing shadows cast against the ceiling from the streetlight outside and below his bedroom window. “Must be a little breezy outside,” he thinks to himself.
His little dog (a Welch Corgi named Angel) that was also alerted by the alarm rushes into the room and jumps up on to the foot of bed. Making her way up to his face she delver’s a sloppy good morning lapping dog kiss. Snapping his head to the side, "woo, you need a tic-tac little girl”. Angel was an unwanted refuge from his daughter, who promised that when she moved out she would take her dog with her. When she found an apartment it was where no dogs were allowed. At first he resented the dog but now he loves the little brat and he genteelly pats her on the head, "hey you little shit, how you doing"? Angel uses her nose to lift the covers and slips under and heads for the warm under covers settling by his feet beneath the blankets. Paul lifts the covers and looked to his feet, "hey, how can you breath under there”? Dropping his head back to the pillow and bringing the covers back down to his chest, he looks back up at the reflections on the ceiling, a rush of thoughts begin flooding his mind. What’s on today’s to-do list? What’s the most critical procrastination that needs attention first?
Like a bomb going off he is jolted from his thoughts as Angel suddenly bark’s loud enough to wake the dead she struggles with all her might to free herself from under the blankets. Breaking free she quickly dives from the bed to the floor and thunders out of the room and down the stairs toward the sounds that alerted her. Paul recognized his son's voice, his footsteps heavy on the stairs. His head peeks in the open door, "morning Dad", Morning Kev, you just going to bed?” “Yeah, I was playing my game all night, I just got back from getting some butts”. “Dam Kev you got to adjust your sleeping habits, lm beginning to think you might be a descendant of Vampires”. A light laugh comes from the young man, "ya, I know, well good night Dad". “Yeah, ok, good morning Kev”. Kevin lets out another small laugh and disappears into his room. Turning his attention back to his “to-do list” he begins trying to sort the priorities. As he lays there he becomes more and more overwhelmed by how many things there are to accomplish. “I’ll never get all that done in one-day” (he thinks to himself).
He starts drifting of back to sleep when bang! he is rudely jolted from his fog as the alarm goes off once again, this time he makes sure that he shuts the dam thing off. Surrendering to fate he throws the covers off and swings his legs off the bed and sits up planting his feet on the carpet. “Well, that’s step one” he quietly says to himself. Reaching over to his right he feels around for the string that turns on the light. After fumbling around in the dark for a few seconds he finally feels the string and yanks on it, suddenly blinded by the light he peeks out between squinted eyes one eye at a time and slowly open them a little at a time until he is able to see. There right at his feet, as always, is the little dog he reluctantly inherited from his daughter. “I know what you want you little shit; you want to go outside to do your business.” Angel startles him as she lets out a confirming, and very loud bark, as though she understood. She jumps up and heads for the bedroom door then sits down and waits. “O.k. come on I’ll take you out.” He pulls on his sweat pants, slide into his slippers, gets to his feet and heads for the stairs Angel is right under foot. Though Paul spoils her rotten she must be very insecure; she seems to feel that she must be close and touching him all the time. “What are you trying to do kill me? You know you’re not on the insurance policy.” When they get to the foot of the stairs Angel runs straight for the front door sits and waits. He looks at Angle, “me first dog” he says as he walks into the bathroom.
When he comes out Angel starts jumping up and down continuously, anxious for Paul to open the door. “O.K., O.K. I’m coming”, flicking on the outside light and opening the door and then the screen door Angel runs out and begins her ritual of sniffing every inch of the front yard. Paul goes to the side chain link gate Angel sees him and dashes to the gate. Swinging the gate open the squeaking hinges tell him that they are in desperate need of lubrication. Angel runs out and begins a new routine of sniffing around and doing her business. He walks out to the middle of the driveway. Looking around and up into the darkened sky. “Stars hmm”. The air seems fresher in the morning before traffic of the morning commuters starts pumping their exhaust into the morning air, “Hey look at that Moon looks like it may be another good day”. Angel starts wandering too far down the sidewalk, “Angel get over here” the dog ignores him. “Angel get over here right now”! The little dog takes her time obeying but then returns. “Come on in the house, let’s go”. Angel scurries past his feet to the front door. Pausing Paul takes one last look at the Moon before stepping back into the house. As though the dog can understand Paul thinks out loud, “I don’t know why but I get a sense of awe knowing that, the moon we all see up there is the same moon that Galileo, Deviancy and the pharaohs of enchant Egypt looked upon”. He shakes his head and enters the house and closes the door. Flicking off the outside lights, “feel better?” he says addressing Angel.
Looking at the clock, “five forty five, I might as well stay up now. Maybe I can get some writing done while there’s peace and quite?” He makes his way to the coffee maker and reach for the coffee pot that still contains yesterday’s coffee, grabbing the pot he walks over to the kitchen sink which is full of dishes, cups, silverware, pots and pans. He pours the old coffee in the sink and rinse out the pot. After starting the coffee maker, he walks into the den and cranks up his ancient computer. The first thing he does is check in on the mornings news, as the desktop comes up he thinks to himself, “o.k. Let’s see who is killing who in this crazy world today” he grabs the trackball and begins to scan the headlines. “Looks like the Middle East is still in the front of the line of, killing because there’s nothing else to do, dam… that place is mad and terminally ill. Welcome to world war three”, ” OK weather time, heat wave across the US, hot and humid, you call that news, I think everybody in the US is aware of that one! He hears the coffee maker gurgling “ah! Coffees done” he gets up and head to the kitchen, he gets his favorite cup his large stainless steel and blue plastic Dunkin Donuts cup with a black plastic handle and pours. The smell of fresh brewed coffee starts his wakeup process. He ads some coffee mate no sugar and carefully takes that first molten lava sip. He heads back into the den and sit back down at the computer. He clicks on Microsoft Word and gets into one of his projects. Angel snuggles close to his feet, as always she has to be touching him so she lays against his right foot. It’s quite except for the whine of the internal fan of the old desktop computer. He loves it when it’s like this he can think clearly and with out distractions.
After some time working he decides he needs a break and heads to the bathroom to freshen up. Adjusting the water to Luke warm he bends down and splashes his face with the warm refreshing water. With his face wet and eyes tightly closed he feels for the towel and then wipes his face. Looking in the mirror he decides he needs a shave. As he stares at his reflection he realizes the old man that he has become. Talking to his reflection he jokingly says, “what are you looking at” the reflection looking back mimicking his every move, leaning forward reciprocally studying his face as he study his. Suddenly, and aberrantly for no reason tears well up in his eyes and he begins to choked up, as he thinks back on his life. Especially to the time long ago, when the little boy, still in his pajamas, once stared back at him, his face covered in shaving cream, leaning forward while he studied himself as he shaved for the first time on Christmas day 1953; using his new red plastic toy safety-razor that came complete with cardboard razorblades; and how he gazed in the mirror making funny faces as he imitated his father; carefully scraped the shaving cream off his small face. He recalls his lost youth as though it were a child who had passed away. An innocent child who he knows he will never see staring back at him ever again through the mirror. It is a painful genuine remorse, a genuine sorrow, a genuine feeling of loss. As he morns, a voice calls through the bathroom door, “dad! Are you almost done?” He snaps out of it, “yeah, I’ll be right out” he finishes shaving and carries on with life.
|Posted by Paul McCall on December 6, 2012 at 12:50 AM||comments (1)|
JIM AND THE BULL
Paul J. McCall
Jim was seventeen; Elves Presley handsome and already he loved to drink. Our family lived on a crumbling farm in Hopedale, Massachusetts. One afternoon in the summer of 1969 Jim had a few of his fellow indulgers with him on the patio in our back yard. Getting bored Jim and his drinking buddies decided to hop in Jim’s Demo-Derby looking 1963 Chevy Impala and go riding around the back country roads. There were four of them in the car, the girl Jim was with and another couple in the backseat. When they came upon a cow farm the girls immediately wanted to pull over and watch the cows and maybe get a chance to pat one or two of them. This was where Jim saw his chance to show what a professional he was with farm critters. Everyone had a good buzz going and each had an open can of beer in their hand as they jumped out of the car and climbed the banking to the fence to watch the cows.
Jim hung back before getting out of the car so he could take a large gulp of Tango from the bottle he had in a paper bag that he was protecting between his knees. He was paying more attention to that bottle than the girl he was with. When everyone got out the girls ran right up to the fence and began calling for the cows to come to them. Jim, however, went to the rear door of the car, opened it and sat on the back seat. After slipping the bag with his precious Tango under the drivers’ seat he reached down and took a big hand full of grain out of the coffee, can he kept on the floor. He closed the door and walked over to the girls. “Hold out your hand,” he said then he poured a little grain into each of the palms of their hands. The girls were thrilled and sure enough the cows slowly came toward them.
Everyone was happy petting the cows when the other guy with them said, “Hey…look at the size of that big cow under that tree over there”. Jim looked over and immediately knew it wasn’t a cow, but a big bull escaping the hot sun in the shade of large tree. “That’s no cow, that’s a bull you idiot,” Jim said exhibiting his expertise to the young ladies.
“I wouldn’t want to mess with him, he’s a monster”,
“are you kidding I work with those things all the time,” Jim said boasting.
“I do…I’ve even ridden them” Jim ventured to say.
“Yeah, well why don’t you hop on that one?” the guy said jokingly but with a challenging look on his face. Knowing the girls were listening Jim stuck to his story. The more Jim bragged the closer he brought himself to being humiliated in front of the girls.
“You don’t think I will?” Jim was now on the path of no return.
Jim’s mouth was the cause for most of his problems. The girl Jim was with spoke up,
“no Jim don’t do it”
“I bet he won’t even let you get near him” the guy taunted. At this point Jim knew he was in too deep to back out now. Jim threw his head back as he finished off his can of beer,
“I guess I’ll have to show you.” He walked back to the car opened the back door and sat with his leg’s out the door, reached under the front seat and snuck a huge couple of swallows of Tango and put it back under the seat. As he got out he took the coffee can of grain with him. Jim kept the grain in his car for when one of our horses would break out and he would have to use it to lure the horse close enough to grab his halter. Then he would walk or ride the animal back to the corral. To keep his stash of Tango secret, Jim displayed the can openly so everyone would think that was the sole reason for him returning to the car.
To keep the Bull from getting to the cows, a barbed wire fence separated him from the cows. As Jim slipped through the fence the guy asked, “whatcha gonna do with that?” as he noticed the coffee can in Jim’s hand.
“You don’t know much about Bulls do you?” Jim said as he paused, looking at the guy like he was an idiot.
“These critters are as dumb as a rock, maybe even dumber than you? They’ll do anything for some grain with molasses in it.” With that, Jim started walking toward the large tree. At the same time, he was struggling to show no indication of fear, as Jim got closer the bull finally became aware of him. The bull was content in the shade so he stayed put and just followed Jim with his eyes for a while. Eventually dropping his head back down to graze some more. The bright, hot sun made Jim’s eyes squint as he slowly walked toward the tree. A bead of salty burning sweat ran into his right eye causing him to stop and rub it dry with his right shirtsleeve.
When he finally reached the tree he looked for the lowest branch under which he poured the entire contents of the coffee can then quickly and quietly he climbed the tree and placed himself straddling the branch above the grain. By now his accelerated heartbeat was helping the Tango do its job and with his Vodka enhanced bravery Jim began showboating waving and silently mocking the bull for his audience as he sat on the branch like it was a horse. When the bull finally got a whiff of the grain he immediately went to it and began to eat it. Jim knew he had only seconds before the Bull could finish the grain so he had to do it now or never. He hung on to the branch and swung around to where he was hanging on with his feet and his arms over the bull. He let go with his feet spreading his legs careful not to touch the bull and then finally lowered himself onto the bull. At first contact the bull jumped, but just a little, he was not yet finished with the grain and was sure not to leave any behind.
Jim thought, hey this wasn’t as bad as he had thought it would be and although the height really alarmed him he began waving to his friends. The guy who dared him to ride the bull looked at the girls and said,
“Damn, he really wasn’t bullshitting, no pun intended”. Then the girl that was with Jim said,
“Oh my god, the bull is moving”
“so…” the guy said. Suddenly Jim realized he had nothing to hold on to and looking down, it seemed like he was sitting on the top of a tractor-trailer. The bull walked for a few feet but soon began to break into a trot. Jim found himself bouncing up and down on the Bulls back with nothing to hold on to and each time he did the bull got more alarmed with the foreign presence on his back and went faster and faster. In fear of falling Jim grabbed the bull by the horns, pun intended. The bull then broke into a full gallop. Jim was now hanging on for dear life the bull sensed something grabbing his horns and stopped on a dime throwing his head toward the ground and between his front legs, the momentum flung Jim over the bulls head breaking his grip on the horns propelling Jim for some distance landing him hard on the ground and on his back with such a force that it not only knocked the wind out of his lungs but the centrifugal force tore his shoes from his feet, so that they cart wheeled kicking up little puffs of dust as they went spinning across the ground.
Jim lay there unable to move or breathe. He was flat on his back and on the verge of losing consciousness with his socks pulled down to his ankles leaving about a half a foot of empty sock pointing in the same direction as his toes. Jim could not move but he was still aware of the bull and then he heard his friends voices all holler at the same time,
“He’s coming back!” now, Jim was drunk but he knew that meant move or die. With no air in his lungs and no strength he forced himself up and staggered as fast as he could stagger toward the fence. He could hear the bull coming then he could feel the ground vibrating as the bull got closer and closer. His vision was as distorted as a hand held camera being handled by an armature running for his life as he saw the fence get closer and closer and the bull louder and louder behind him. He knew the bull was close because he could see his friends backing away from the fence as he approached. When he got to the fence he threw himself through the barbed wire tearing his shirt and rolled down the embankment to the gravel at the edge of the road.
He laid there motionless on his back looking up into the blue, and watched the white cloud’s moving across the sky. All were asking,
“are you alright Jim?” still finding it hard to speak he said,
“I told ya I could ride em.” Then he got up on his elbows and his girlfriend helped him struggle to his feet, he was covered in dust his hair was sticking up in every direction, his socks hanging from the ends of his feet, his shirt was torn. He staggered to the car opened the back door and sat down with a thump on the back seat. He reached under the driver’s seat and grabbed his bottle of Tango under the front seat and took a huge couple of gulps, then wiped his mouth with the sleeve of his shirt and leaned back against the car seat and said to the guy that dared him to ride the bull,
“Okay big shot, now you try it” the girl’s said,
“what about your shoes?”
“Yeah… there you go big shot, go get my shoes”.
“No, I’m not going out there”
“yeah just like I thought, all mouth”. Jim took another swig, put the cap back on his Tango, put the bottle down then pulled his socks back up.
He got out and walked to the fence.
“Where is he” Jim asked.
“He’s back under the tree”. Jim looked to be sure and then went through the fence and quietly, calmly walked over and picked up his shoes and came back. He went through the fence and walked back to the car, he sat on the back seat and brushed off his socks and put his shoes back on. The other girl said to Jim’s girl,
“your boyfriend’s a mess” Jim interrupted the conversation,
“yeah but at least she’s with a man”.
The next day I went to my mother’s house, I saw Jim sitting in a lawn chair on the patio, he could hardly move, he was covered in bruises, cuts and scrapes. My first thought was he got into another bar room brawl.
“What the hell happened to you?” I asked anxiously awaiting yet another bar room brawl story. Jim looked at me, reached around behind his chair grabbed his bottle and held it up like he was the statue of liberty and said,
“Nothing a bottle of Tango can’t cure”.
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