Old Mysteries

“But I like exploring old abandoned places.”  Jude Cannon had tried explaining his hobby to his grandson, Neil, but the younger man never seemed to understand.

“Why would you want to poke around those empty dirty places? I don’t get it?”  Was Neil’s usual reply.

Jude had always been attracted to empty places-barns, sheds, houses and, like this new one, factories.  He enjoyed rummaging through the abandoned rooms and sifting through those items cluttering the floors.  He had found the most unusual things in his adventures and had even found a few items of value.

Some years ago, Jude had been on one of his beloved road trips to nowhere.  It was his idea of the perfect vacation to just get in his car and drive. He never took the main roads because his intention was always to find hidden treasures.  On that particular trip, he had come across an old barn. It looked as though it was only held up by a wish and a prayer and it intrigued Jude so much he went to the next house he saw to ask about it.  As it turned out, the resident also owned the barn and gave Jude full permission to go through it as he liked. The man had told Jude he intended to tear the thing down at some point so whatever Jude wanted from the old place, he could have.  Jude was certain the man had thought he was looking for old barn wood, but he would be wrong, of course.

Jude had spent three hours sifting through years of clutter and dirt and old wood. He had dug through old rotted wood and shredded horse blankets. He had dug through piles of straw that were probably as old as the barn and, ultimately, he had found a small metal box.  Jude hadn’t really cared what, if anything, was in the box. He simply like the box and the inscription on the top. ‘Feister Tools-1927’.  So after three hours, Jude had carried the box under his arm and left the memory of a barn.

Later, when he checked into a small motel somewhere down the road from Knoxville, Jude thought of the box and opened it.  Inside were small tools as those used by a clockmaker.  They were wrapped carefully and when Jude pulled back the wrapping, each tool was pristine. None looked as though they had ever been used.  Jude knew he probably had something worth a few bucks.  It was later, when he was home again, he discovered this particular set of tools were worth a number with at least 4 zeroes.  He had sold them for a VERY pretty sum.

So now, he tried to explain yet again to Neil that his wanderings and searches were for his own enjoyment, but also that he occasionally found something of worth.  He tried to explain the feeling of searching through history because that was how he saw it.  As Jude wandered through an old building, he imagined what stories might be attached.  Who had been here before? What were their stories?  But Neil never understood.

So this morning, Neil had come by to spend some time with Jude.  The original plan had been to play Rummy and watch old John Wayne films, but when Neil arrived, Jude told him he had a line on an old factory he could explore. Jude asked if his grandson might like to tag along-to maybe see why his old Pop enjoyed this so much.  Surprisingly, Neil agreed.

The pair packed snacks and drinks and headed out in Jude’s red and white ’57 Chevy.  The classic was taken care of as though it was a newborn, but Jude also believed in driving his prize.  Neil never argued about traveling in the beautiful old car and happily slid into the passenger seat.

An hour or so later, Jude pulled into a large empty parking lot next to an old factory that easily covered a couple of blocks.  It stood three stories tall and most of the windows had been shattered long before.  The pair made their way to the first door they saw.  There was a padlocked chain on the handle so they wandered along until they came to an open door.  Once inside, every noise was amplified.  Every step they took sounded like gunshots echoing through the vast space.

As the men moved from room to room, they looked through piles of refuse.  They studied various spots of graffiti on the walls, some dating back 30 years, it seemed.  On the second floor, they found where homeless individuals had bedded down at some point. There were remnants of old blankets, old clothes and old food.  There was evidence of animals looking through it all at some point.  And there was evidence of new residency in a back room.  When Neil pushed the door open wider, they saw a bed on the floor of stacked towels and blankets and clothing.  An old jacket was rolled up as a pillow and there was an old picture frame with the glass missing holding a photograph of a small girl.  The picture sat at the side of the bed.  It was obvious this bed was being used.  Neil and Jude felt as though they were intruding on someone’s home so they turned and left.

On the third floor of the old building had been offices.  There were many smaller rooms, some still holding desks.  Neil let out a small laugh and headed for the first desk. Jude watched as he opened each drawer in hopes of finding something, but they were all emptied.  The pair looked in cabinets attached to the walls and found old papers, old pens that would no longer write and an old stapler.  Neil stuck the stapler in his back pack.

Finally, in one of the last offices on the floor, the pair opened a desk drawer to find a large binder. In the binder were plastic pages holding papers.  On the front of the binder was the logo of the Boston Braves.  Neil frowned as he showed it to his grandfather.

“Boston?”  Neil asked.

“Son, before the Braves were in Atlanta, they were in Boston. In the 50s, they moved to Wisconsin. Milwaukee, I think.  Then they moved to Atlanta in the mid 60’s.  Wonder what’s in that notebook?”  Jude moved closer.

When Neil opened the binder, Jude let out a whistle.

“NO!” He gasped.  He leaned in closer.

“What is it, Pops?” Neil was looking in the binder but not certain what he was seeing.

“My boy, this is an absolute goldmine!  Look at that!  Bob Elliot!  Sam Jethroe!  ROGERS HORNSBY!  WOW!!”

“Ok, Pops, I know they are baseball cards, but what’s special about them?”

“Son, these are original Boston Braves cards!!  These on this page are of players in the 50s.”  Jude flipped a couple of pages over.

“Look at this! EDDIE MATTHEWS!  WOW!”  Jude was like a 10 year old boy finding buried treasure. Neil gazed at his grandfather for a moment.

“Here.”  Neil handed the binder to Jude.  “You found a treasure, Pops.  and I get it now.  I see why you like going through these old buildings.  This binder isn’t just a collection of cool old cards. Somebody collected them. Somebody cared enough to take care of them.  That’s cool. But what gets me is that they were left behind. Why?  Why would somebody care enough to collect these things and take care of them this way and then leave them? Yeah. I get it now.”

Soon after, with the binder tucked tightly under his arm, Jude led Neil from the old building and back to the Chevy.  Once inside the car, Jude sat still for a moment staring at the old building. He knew he would be researching the building-what it had been used for and, if he could find out, who had worked there.  It was a story he needed to learn.

As he finally put the car in gear, Neil turned to his grandpa.

“When do you suppose we can do this again, Pops?”

 

Dedicated to my Anna who suggested a story about an old man and a factory.

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Prejudice Isn’t About Color {a personal rant}

Recently, I was told I was “privileged” because I am white.  Now, technically, I am not white.  I am a tan/pink hybrid. Even more to the point, no one else has my exact skin color. They also don’t have my history, my set of beliefs or my ancestry.  I am fully and completely unique unto myself….right down to my tan/pink skin.

As for the “privilege”?  In various ways, I agree.  I have not been subject to ridiculous and incomprehensible abuse simply because of my color.  My only claim to being a minority, to some, is that I am a woman.  I have never felt the uncomfortable nature of being the brunt of prejudice…at least I hadn’t until I moved to a state where I was the only “white”, blonde, blue eyed person for miles around.  Then I was stared at wherever I went. I was whispered about just loud enough so that I could hear.  And those people who followed me through the store whispering about me…did not know I understood the language they were speaking.  They were not afraid of me.  They were not concerned about my presence. What they were whispering were ugly words I would not repeat in solitude, let alone in this forum. They were sharing thoughts on what they would like to do and what they thought of me.  They did not know me, nor did they even try, but they had some very ugly remarks and opinions simply based upon my skin color and ethnicity.

Does that fall in line with the centuries of prejudice and abuse some have received?  Of course not, but it gave me a unique insight.  One that was not particularly new to me either.   Most of my life I have wondered at people who believed a person less or more ignorant or more disposable simply because of something so menial as skin color. It always made as much sense as judging a person based on the time they woke up that morning, or their shoe size, or the side on which their hair is parted, or which sock they put on first.  NO sense whatsoever.

Yes, those who hold prejudice toward ANYONE are simply showing their own stupidity-their own insecurities, but they sometimes take the prejudice to extreme measures and show themselves to be less than human.

When I was “accused” of being privileged because of my skin color, I was told that I should be eternally apologetic to those who had been held in slavery by “my kind”.  I’m very sorry, but not for the reasons this person expected.

I am sorry that person feels the right and need to express prejudice toward others just as they decry it applied to themselves.  I am sorry that this person feels it is necessary to condemn every other person for their own inadequacies or insecurities.  I am sorry they chose to condemn me when they do not have a clue of my history.  So, let me set the record straight.

I have traced my family history back for more than 1,000 years {Yes that says THOUSAND} and while I did have ancestors who fought in the American Civil War {on both sides}, throughout the history of this nation and beyond, NOT ONE of my ancestors ever owned a slave. Not one.

Want to know what MY forefathers did?  They worked.  They survived.  My forefathers were, for the most part, never wealthy. My forefathers were mostly farmers.  They never had much, but what they did have, they worked for themselves.  They worked their own land. They sometimes worked for others and they provided for their families.

Through the generations of my family, the story has been much the same-work hard, provide for the family and pray to manage month to month.  That is no different from most other people, regardless of their skin color, ethnicity or religious belief, because, you see, most people want the exact same things.  We all want to survive. We all want to provide safety and security for our families. We all want a peaceful content life.  Skin color has NOTHING to do with any of that.  Ethnicity has NOTHING to do with any of that.  Heritage has NOTHING to do with any of that.  Country of origin–religious belief—they have NOTHING to do with what we want and need as human beings.

To condemn someone for the stupid reasons of color, heritage, religion or any other reason is the epitome of ignorance.

So, no, I do not apologize if your forefathers suffered at the hands of slave owners.  I have sympathy and deep feelings of caring for them and the horrors they probably endured, but I do not apologize for what someone else did THEN.  I do not apologize for what other “white” folks do just as I do not apologize for what any other “human” does. I will apologize if I PERSONALLY do or say something I should not.  I will always strive to be a good person to everyone. I don’t CARE what color the skin. I don’t CARE what country you are from. I don’t CARE what god or gods you choose to worship. Are you a good person?  Do you treat others with respect and kindness?  Yes?  Then we are good.  If you don’t do those things, then YOU are the one with the problem…privileged or not…you show yourself to be less.

When you yell and scream about prejudice, what are you truly yelling about?  Are you living a life to SHOW others why prejudice is such a ridiculous thing?  Or are you living a life that reinforces all the stupid stereotypes that have caused such prejudice?

We are, each one of us, responsible for our own life-how we live it and how we portray ourselves. We are, each one of us, responsible for THIS life. The one we have been given.  We cannot go backwards and change anything that has occurred before us, but we CAN change how we react and we CAN change how we portray ourselves and we CAN change the look of prejudice.   The look of prejudice has nothing at all to do with color. It has EVERYTHING to do with fear.  To learn is to erase prejudice in all it’s fashions.

Learn about the person you fear. Learn about the religion you fear. Learn about the country you fear. Learn about the beliefs you fear.  You fear these things because you do not understand them. You fear these things because they are different and you fear these things because you do not understand yourself.  Before you choose to condemn a person for ANY reason–color of skin, country of origin, religious belief, sexual orientation…or anything else, learn about what it is. Learn about those things you fear and  you will find they are not what you expected.

Fight prejudice at it’s very core and you help to change the world.

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Excerpts and Inspiration

*****

~“I am just tired. I am so damned tired.” Danny Morgan told the room. He sank back into his recliner and looked around at the room. His recliner, an old stained couch, a coffee table with cups holding various remnants of coffee left from the past week or two. There were papers on the floor that he could not identify. There was one picture hanging on the wall. Fern. Gone far too soon and taking his soul with her. The only other thing in the room was the marble urn in the corner. It was the only thing in the room without layers of dust.~

*****

That is the opening paragraph from my latest writing outburst.  Many writers, I am aware, gain their inspiration from various ‘prompts’.  I often have a comment on a Facebook post or a photograph such as “that is a perfect writing prompt”.  This is true.  I have written a story that I enjoyed very much which was based solely upon a picture I saw.  Nothing but the picture.  I have been inspired by the view outside my office window from time to time.  I have been inspired by a dream. But most often I am inspired by a simple word or phrase.  They seem to come to me out of an abyss.

Last night, as I sat watching something or other on television and working on a textile project, the thought came out of nowhere “I am so tired.”   I wasn’t personally feeling as those words suggested, so I knew it was something else.  My universe was suggesting. My universe was prompting me.  I rolled that small sentence around in my head for a while.

When I woke this morning, nearly my first thought was “I am so tired.”  That was when I knew I had to do something with it.  So I sat down at my computer and typed those very words.  I felt the need to change the small sentence to “I am just tired” and when I did, the rest simply poured from my muse out through my fingers.  The story itself is not yet finished. The character, Danny, has not told me what comes next-and perhaps he does not know yet himself, but I will keep my mystical ear open for when my muse figures it out.

How are you inspired?  What touches your soul and causes your creative juices to flow?  Are you sometimes so inspired that you are nearly overwhelmed?  Please share your story.  Please share what inspires the beginning of creativity for you… whether it is writing or sketching or sculpting or crochet or knitting or carving or building..makes no difference.  What is it that drives you forward?

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The Last Time

I was thinking about my cousin, Ramona, today.  It started when The Beatles came up on Pandora. You see, Ramona and I were Beatle freaks from the very beginning-we were about 10 years old.  We watched them on Ed Sullivan and we watched them on American Bandstand. Ramona and I were practically raised together and as youngsters and young teens we pretended to BE The Beatles.  We knew every song and we sang them loud and proud. As adults, when we got together, those songs always found their way into the mix.

The last time I was at Ramona’s house, we were in our late 50s, we sat on her bed as though we were 14 all over again and sang every Beatle song we thought of.

The last time I saw Ramona, she was in the hospital. She was awake, but not really responsive. I had gone to visit her previously with my oldest daughter, but this time it was just me.  I sat down next to Ramona, held her hand and told her about every day things.  Then I started to sing to her.  I sang every Beatle song I could think of and at one point I was sure she squeezed my hand.

I was thinking today that she knew. I was thinking that maybe, just maybe, I was able to take her away from her suffering for just a moment. I just know I miss Ramona. I miss that closeness from our childhood. I miss that it remained through rough times into our adult years.

Her suffering was so hard for her to endure. It was hard for me to see especially when I couldn’t help her. But maybe I did help for those few moments.

I just kept thinking how we never know what we do for one another. We never fully know how we effect someone’s life.

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Intentions

Most people would look at the low grey sky and think of it as gloomy and smothering, but to her it was a security blanket. She felt a sense of warmth and safety when the sky hung low this way. There was something about the subdued color and the fresh smell of the rain that lifted her. She gained contentment from the sound of raindrops on her roof and she felt herself surrounded by beauty and comfort from the earth itself.

She had sat on her porch as the rain pounded the ground and knew she must be the only one for miles around who was happy at that moment. She did have sympathy for those who were not moved by the rain, but here she felt safe.  Here, she was content. Here, she knew only the scent of the rain, the feel of the breeze and the exaltation of the earth as it drank in every drop.  That had been two months ago. Since then there h ad been no rain. the earth was dry and crackling under her feet. She closed her eyes and asked the universe for relief.

Elsie was a green witch, you see.  She knew what others would think should she tell them, but they would be wrong. Elsie knew that other, unfamiliar with the arts, would believe she was some sort of devil worshiping heathen, but they would be wrong.

Elsie’s religion was the earth itself. She cherished every living thing and took great care and pride in protecting those lives. She cherished everything placed upon the earth because, she believed, each thing had its own place and specific purpose. As for the devil worshiping heathen business, Elsie would chuckle. If those people truly understood, they would know that witches didn’t believe in the devil at all. That is not to say they did not believe in good and evil, simply not the devil in particular. There was no worshiping but for the earth itself. Elsie believe in a creator. That creator, to some, held the name God. To others it was Allah and to still others it was Lord as well as many other names, but in the end, they were all one and the same. Elsie spoke to her own version.  Elsie spoke to the Goddess Gaia when she needed to offer her thoughts at all. But for the most part, Elsie simply loved and cared for the world around her. To Elsie, that was what true “religion” was supposed to be-caring for and cherishing everything created.

The problem came, as problems nearly always do, when Elsie was forced to interact with other people.  She had found that, in her observation, the life form at the top of the food chain was also the life form responsible for the destruction of everything below it. It wasn’t logical and it wasn’t a manner of life that could be maintained. Every day Elsie saw damage that should never have been allowed. Every day trees were destroyed for no reason other than aesthetics. Every day the natural resources of the planet were abused and wasted with no regard for the damage being caused. Every day Elsie could see the world she loved and cherished quickly heading for destruction.  The world was spiraling toward non-existence. The world’s population was committing suicide and they didn’t even care.

So Elsie had removed herself to a plot of land left to her by a relative. She had used her savings to build a small cabin and a small barn.  She had installed solar panels and even a small wind turbine so that her world supplied her power.  She had a compost toilet.  She built a greenhouse and had a substantial garden.  In her small barn lived a cow and several chickens.  The cow, whom she had named Glory, provided enough milk, cheese and butter to trade for those things she could not produce.  Her chickens, likewise, produced enough eggs that she was able to trade for her goods. In the far corner of her acreage, Elsie also maintained a substantial beehive.  She used this instead of processed sugar.  All of these things allowed Elsie to live with as little interference to the planet as possible-and as little interaction with other people as she could manage.

Elsie lived far enough from the nearest town that no one bothered her.  She paid menial taxes on her acres of land and kept only a couple of friends who lived nearby and were like-minded.  But men can be greedy and men can be hateful for no reason at all. this was the case for Elsie and it proved to challenge her most valued beliefs.

On that cool day in late October, Elsie heard a car. For anyone else that wouldn’t mean very much, but Elsie had no car. Elsie had no driveway and was a good distance from the nearest road. Elsie never had visitors, especially none who drove cars. Whoever this car belonged to did not know Elsie.  For that reason, Elsie wanted no part of this person.  But she walked out onto her porch to see a large black car sitting in the middle of her yard.

“Why have you parked this ugly mess in my yard?” She barked. She felt no need for niceties.

“I am sorry, Ma’am. I thought—well, I didn’t see a road or a driveway.” Stated the tall man in a suit who climbed from the car. He stepped toward Elsie and held out his hand. Elsie looked at his hand but ignored the gesture.

“The reason there is no road or driveway is because I do not allow these gas guzzling, poison spitting things near me. ” She remarked easily.

“Uhh..yes, well, I’m sure that is all true, of course. hmm You are Miss Landry, are you not?” The man asked with a greasy smile.

“Who I am is none of your business. I don’t know you, nor do I wish to. I only care that you climb back into that monster and leave. I only care that you don’t come back.” Elsie would ordinarily be polite and welcoming, but she also h ad a knack for seeing a snake no matter what skin he wore. and this man was all snake to her.

“I see. Well, allow me to leave my card, won’t you?”  Elsie did not accept the card offered.  The man continued “I represent a company who would like to purchase your land. They are building a housing complex they hope will be helpful to low income families. Your land is perfect for their intentions.” The snake flashed that greasy smile once more.

“My land is not for sale. Not to you or anyone else. Not now and not ever. This is my home and I am not going anywhere. Perhaps those you represent should use their money to assist those people to not be “low income” instead of destroying the land and the trees.” Elsie glared at the man. She saw deep coldness in those eyes.  The greasy smile slipped just a bit under her gaze.

“well, I am truly sorry you feel that way, Ma’am. I’m afraid there are ways for us to acquire the land without your consent.” He took a step toward her.

“Try it. I beg you. Sir, I have beliefs and convictions that you could never understand, but I also have abilities you could never imagine or even believe. I have never used those abilities for harm. Not once.  It is not in my nature, nor is it in my system of believing, but you try to hurt this land in any way-try to destroy what I have cherished and valued and cared for -and you will feel the extent of what I can do.  So, as I said. Try it.” With that, Elsie turned and went inside her cabin. After a moment, she heard the beast of a car start, rev its engine and drive away.

When the sound of the beast was gone, Elsie knew what she must do.

From the table at the wall facing north, Elsie took down a jar of course salt. She took down a white candle and gathered small jars of necessary herbs. Sitting at a small table, Elsie began by thanking the Powers That Be for hearing her. She thanked the Great Goddess for granting her wish.

Elsie continued her ritual of protection until she felt at peace. She hoped it would be all that was necessary, but remembering the coldness in the man’s eyes, she thought ahead to what might be necessary if she was pressured into action.

Elsie found need for those things in just two day’s time.  The man returned, this time with a second man.  The two of them dared to step onto her porch and stand at her open door.  That was where they stopped.  Elsie had placed a strong talisman over her door and had cast a repelling spell on the door step itself. The men appeared slightly confused.

Elsie stepped to the door and faced the same coldness she had seen before.

“Ma’am, we have come to give you one more chance before this proceeds. You really don’t have a choice, you know.” He flashed that same greasy smile.  Elsie knew then what must be done.

“You have called down your own end to this.  I did warn you. Elsie closed the door in their faces.

At her altar, just after the men had gone, Elsie proceeded to cast a strong spell, one which she would never have expected to use, but she had no choice-just as the man had told her. She had seen in the men’s eyes that they would stop at nothing.

When Elsie had finished, Elsie lit her incense and sat to try and come to terms with what she had done. She didn’t know if that would ever be possible.

Only a couple of hours later, her closest neighbor and friend, Indigo, walked across the yard and into Elsie’s cabin.

“Elsie, were there men here before?”  She asked as she accepted tea.

“Yes. One of them had been here a few days ago as well. They wanted to buy my land and I refused.  They insisted they could take it with or without my consent. ” Elsie’s voice was barely above a whisper.

“Elsie…what did you do?”  Indigo was a fellow witch and could tell something was wrong.

“I’m afraid I cast a spell I never thought I would use. I had to keep them away, don’t you see?”  She pleaded with her friend.

“Yes. Yes, I see. I believe I would have done the same. I can tell you it worked and it worked quickly.”

Elsie gripped the arms of her chair. “What do you mean?”

“I mean that ugly car of theirs crashed, just up from my house.  They were driving fast, I can tell you. I heard a screech as though they had slammed on their brakes and when I looked they had hit a tree. The car caught fire.  I doubt anyone could survive that one.” Indigo’s hand shook as she sipped her tea.

Elsie sank back into her chair. What had she done? She had never used a spell for harm. Not once. She hadn’t expected this one to be harmful either. She had simply wanted to keep those men away.  But spells are strongly based on intentions and despite her not wanting to cause harm, Elsie had been angry and afraid and desperate. She felt the dread of knowing something was coming.  A witch knows not to cause harm because any spell cast comes back to you three times over. If she caused harm, she knew what was ahead. That was when they heard the sirens. The air was filled with the shrill sound. Then Elsie smelled the smoke.  She and Indigo stepped out into the yard and found the air becoming thick with that smoke.

A firetruck pulled into Elsie’s yard alongside a police car.  A fireman hurried to the women.

“Ladies, you have to leave now. There was an accident up the road. The car caught fire and the woods started to burn. With no rain for the last couple of months, everything is so dry the fire is spreading quickly.  We need to get you out of here.  You can drive out that way.”  He pointed toward the east.

“No.  We have no car.” Indigo stated.

“This officer will get you out then. No worry.” The man told them.

“My animals! I have to at least let them loose!” Elsie cried out.

“No, we will let them out. You just have to leave now.”  The police officer motioned toward his car where the back door was open. Indigo slid onto the seat, but Elsie turned to look at her beloved land. She had destroyed all of it. She was certain of that. She could only ask The Great Goddess for forgiveness.  But even that wasn’t enough for her.

Suddenly, Elsie began to run.  She headed for the barn where she threw open the door for the animals.  As the officer started for her, Elsie ran again and quickly disappeared into the smoky woods. Her fate would be the same as the life she cherished.

 

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Papillon

Hi name was Papillon.  It was, of course, an extremely unusual name for a young man in Bleakerton, Illinois.  His middle name was MacDonald, after his mother’s Scottish family, so from the first time another kid had asked his name, he was Mac.

Papillon MacDonald Nattier was a high school junior and had just gained his driver’s license. Needless to say, he was proud. He was also, of course, excessively anxious to drive. It didn’t matter where or when and he didn’t even mind shuttling his younger sister, Abby, to her dance lessons or her play practice or to her frequent sleepovers.  For the record, Abby also had an interesting name.  She had been blessed with the name Abyssinia MacDonald Nattier.  Sometimes Mac thought she had the more rotten end of the naming stick with Abyssinia, but then he remembered the time in 8th grade when Bobby Joe Crippen had found out his full name and announced it.  He didn’t just announce it, though.  Bobby Joe ANNOUNCED it over the school’s intercom.  Mac could still hear the whine of the speaker and then “ATTENTION ALL STUDENTS! Mac Nattier’s real first name is PAPILLON!”  Bobby Joe, of course, being the idiot he was, hadn’t even pronounced it properly.  The other kids in that social studies class had giggled and turned to look at him.  To Mac’s credit, he had avoided blushing or looking away.  He simply rolled his eyes and said something like “How does he think up this stuff?”  Fortunately, Mac was a bit more popular than Bobby Joe, who had a tendency toward bullying, so no one paid any attention. But Mac remembered.  He remembered the blood leaving his face and the moment of panic before he saw the other kids didn’t take it seriously.

Now, in high school, and with his own crowd, he didn’t worry about his name.  The kids in his crowd all knew the name he had been given. They knew his parents were, shall we say, eccentric, and they thought it was cool.

Abby, on the other hand, was terrified someone would discover he secret. She was exceptionally concerned about her looks, her social standing and how she was viewed by the other “popular” kids in her 8th grade class.  Her given name had never once been mentioned in school.  Mac remembered when Abby was registered for kindergarten, their mother had told the school officials that her child was ALWAYS to be addressed as Abby. NEVER Abyssinia and they had complied.  Mac had always wondered, if she was so adamant about keeping that name a secret,  why had Mother named her Abyssinia in the first place. For that matter, WHY was he named Papillon?   Neither of their parents had ever explained that to either child. Mac was beginning to think he would simply have to sit them down and insist on an explanation.

On this particular Wednesday, Abby had to be at school an hour early for play practice, so Mac pulled himself from a very good dream concerning a red convertible and a certain Megan Briley and drove Abby to the middle school.  He didn’t have to be at school for an hour and a half so he thought he might go inside with Abby and visit with his favorite teacher, Mr. Mallow.

Mr. Mallow was the art teacher and much more.   Mr. Mallow was the kind of teacher who came to school because it mattered.  To him, the kids were important and he loved teaching them, not just about art, but also a bit about life and how to be a good person. Mr. Mallow deeply cared for each of his students.  Because of his caring, his students strived to be their best in more than just his art classes.  Because of his devotion to teaching, Mr. Mallow’s students strived to succeed and they strived to make him proud.

So, on this Wednesday, Mac strolled through the doors of Carper Middle School and headed down the west hall to the art class at the end.  At the door, he heard a commotion.  Someone was calling out “STOP!  You don’t have to do that!”   Mac recognized Mr. Mallow’s voice. He sounded afraid.  Before Mac could open the heavy door, he heard a thud and then a bang.   When the door was open, Mac found Mr. Mallow laying on the floor, blood pouring from the side of his head.

Mac grabbed the phone on the wall next to the door and called to the office for help.  It seemed forever before Mrs. Tradley, the vice principle, rushed through the door.  Right behind her was Mrs. Curry, the school nurse.  Mrs. Curry dropped a bag next to where Mr. Mallow lie unconscious. She kneeled next to him and took a look at the wound on his head. She quickly grabbed a thick gauze and held it to the wound.

“Has someone called 9-1-1?” she asked of the room.

“Oh, yes, right away, Margie. They will be here shortly.” Mrs. Tradley offered.  “What can I do to help?” She was on her knees across from Mrs. Curry.

“Hold this gauze tight against his head.”  Mrs. Tradley placed her hand against the gauze and Mrs. Curry felt Mr. Mallow’s wrist for his pulse.

“It’s low, but steady.  Is the ambulance here yet?”  She looked up at one of the other teachers who had gathered.

“Just pulling in, Ma’am.” The young teacher stood at the window.

In moments, the room had been cleared by EMS and 2 police officers.  Mr. Mallow was tended, placed on a gurney and taken away in the ambulance. The nearest hospital was 20 minutes away in Marville.  Mrs. Tradley sent her assistant, Arthur Streuber, to the hospital to stand by for word.  The police officers gathered everyone who was involved, including, of course, Mac.

Mac told his story quickly and was asked to sit out in the hallway until they could speak with the others.  Finally, Officer Brown came out and stood in front of Mac.

“So you say you didn’t see anyone?” He kept his eyes on his notepad where he continued to scribble.

“Yeah.  Like I said, I was coming by to just say hi to Mr. Mallow. I got to the door and I hear him tell someone to stop-that they didn’t have to do that.  Then I heard what sounded like something heavy dropping and then a bang.  That’s it. I went in and saw Mr. Mallow on the floor and I called the office.”

Officer Brown nodded his head.  He was quiet for an uncomfortable few moments before the other officer came from the art room.  Mac recognized him as Lt. Denby.  Bleakerton was not exactly a bustling metropolis, so most people knew most other people. Lt. Denby had been on the police force since Mac was a small boy.

“Mac, you give your statement?” Denby asked.

“Yes, Sir.”  Mac stood from the bench.

“Ok. Fine.  You go on then. We will call you if we need more. Thanks for getting help so fast.”

“Is Mr. Mallow going to be ok?” Mac needed to know.

“I’m no doc, kid, but it looked like a bad hit to the head.  Guess we’ll see.  Thanks.”  And Lt. Denby hurried down the hall toward the principle’s office.

That evening, dinner was full of talk of what had happened.  Mac told his part and Abby bubbled over about how the kids were all “freaked out” because someone said there was a murderer running loose.  Dad cut her off mid sentence at that point.

“Ab, you really do have to calm that imagination about this.  There is no mad killer on the loose.  From what I was told, some guy was in the art room stealing a computer or something when Mr. Mallow caught him.  The guy hit Mallow over the head and went out through a window he broke.  The guy got a cut off the window so they have his blood. These days they can do a DNA or some such thing and identify him.  That’s it.  Now eat your dinner.”  He waved his fork toward his daughter and went back to eating.

For several days after the excitement, all manner of wild stories flew through the school and the community itself.  It seemed everyone knew something about something and everyone had a suspect in mind.  It was even said that Mac had tackled the intruder saving Mr. Mallow’s life.  Mac suspected that one was started by Bode Farraday.  Bode was always trying to be the one who had all the info on whatever was going on-even if he had to make it up.

Four days after the event, Mac got a phone call from Mr. Mallow asking if he could come by the hospital.  Mac agreed, of course, and borrowed his Mom’s Toyota.  At the hospital, Mac found Mr. Mallow sitting in a chair by the window, his head wrapped in a white bandage. The patient turned when the door opened and chuckled at the look on Mac’s face.

“Looks worse than it is, I promise.  Thanks for coming.”  He held out his hand.  The two shook hands before Mac sat across from the teacher.

“Mr. Mallow, do….”   Mr Mallow held up a hand.

“Son, after what you did, I think you can call me Chris.  We’re both adults here…and friends.”

This time, Mac reddened a bit.  He felt proud that his favorite teacher saw him that way.

“Yes, Sir-I mean Chris.  I can do that.   How you doing?”

“Oh, I’m good.  Bad bump, but you know that.  Had a bad concussion so I stayed here longer than I would have liked. I get to go on home this afternoon.”

“Cool.  The whole thing had to be rough.”   Mac stated the obvious, but he was unsure how to proceed in this newly adult friendship.

“Rough?  sure.  I think I just can’t understand why someone would steal from a person who would give them whatever they needed if they would just ask, you know?”

“Then that was it?  He was stealing.  That’s what I thought.”  Mac shook his head.

“Oh yes.  He had unhooked that old computer of mine. You know, the one on that back table.  I must have had that blasted thing for 10 years.  Anyway, he was picking it up when I walked into the room.  He just stood there holding that old thing and staring at me. Scared, for sure.  I told him he didn’t have to steal it. You know, he didn’t have to do that, but he dropped it and I think he felt trapped because I was between him and the door.  He picked up that walking stick I brought back from Virginia all those years ago and just whacked me with it. I don’t remember anything after that.”

“yeah, I was about to open the door when I heard you say something like “you don’t have to do that.”  Then I heard the thud and the bang and I came in.  You were on the floor and the window was broken. I didn’t notice the window right away but Lt. Denby said that was how the guy got out.  Did you know the guy?”  Mac leaned forward.

“Yes. Yes, I did.  Mac, do  you remember that kid from class, last name of Amos, I think?”

“Amos?  You mean the one who drew all that weird zombie stuff?”

Chris Mallow chuckled. “Yes, that’s the one. He had talent, but he also had problems.  That all came out in his art.  I kept trying to show him he could express himself in different ways-you know-different modes of art, but he kept going back to those really dark haunting sketches.  I told him they were good and I tried talking with him about what motivated him.  Remember my always telling you guys how art is motivated by all kinds of things in life?  Well, when I asked him about that, he just got up and left class and never came back.  He actually never came back to school.  I heard he left town after that but never heard why or where he went.  I was always concerned about him.  Anyway, when I walked in the classroom that morning, there he was, stealing my old computer.  I tried to keep things even-calm, you know?  When he was holding the thing, I think I said something like ‘you know that thing is so old you won’t get anything for it.’, but he never said a word. He had such a look on his face, Mac.  He scared me.”

Mac was speechless.  He barely remembered Randy Amos, but he did remember those drawings.  Now, he seemed to recall a buzz of misinformation when Randy had suddenly been gone from school and then town.  As always happens, when people didn’t know the truth, they made up their own.

“Anyway, ” Chris continued “Don’t share what I told you just now, ok?  They arrested him last night and I guess they are investigating  and until all that’s done, the information needs to be kept quiet.”

Mac nodded his head.  “Sure. But why did you tell me?”

Chris smiled, “Because, my friend, you deserve to know what ‘s going on. You saved my life.  I could have laid there and bled to death or something.”

The pair were quiet for a moment before Mac asked if Chris had a ride home from the hospital.

“No, actually I don’t.  I don’t know if you knew, but my wife and I divorced last year and she moved out of state.  My family all live in Montana and I kind of keep to myself a bit too much, I guess.”  Chris seemed to drift off into thought as he stood and stared out the window.

“Not to worry. I’ll come by and pick you up. Just let me know what time.”  Mac stood and turned toward the door. “Listen, Mr.–Chris–I want you to know that, well, most of us-students, you know-we appreciated,  you know, what you have always done for us.  Sometimes it’s like teachers are just there cos it’s their job, but  you always cared about us.  Most of us knew it and, well, it matters.  So-thanks.”  Mac turned and hurried from the room before Chris could see his red face.

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Maybe The Mist

Dana enjoyed that peaceful time just as the sun was rising.  Often, she would make the short drive to the area park where the trees replaced buildings and the birds replaced the sounds of man.  On this particular morning, the sun was rising as she stepped from her car.  

For a moment, Dana stood leaning back against her car with her eyes closed.  She could hear the early morning conversations of various birds. She could hear the sound of the breeze rustling the trees.  All of it proclaimed a ‘Good Morning’ to her and her smile was inevitable.

Then, Dana opened her eyes.  She turned toward the small pond which was something of a legend in this park and had been for generations.  There, hanging over the pond and over the surrounding grasses, was a soft white mist.  It caressed the grasses.  The soft breeze caused the mist to undulate slightly and the mist seemed to spread and settle even as Dana watched.  It was a magical sight and Dana found herself edging toward the mist as if called to it.

Just as she reached the edge of where the mist rested, Dana looked over the field to see that same mist spreading over the 2 or 3 acres toward the edge of the woods on the far side.  As she stood watching, it seemed the mist had taken on a life of it’s own.  Dana watched as the mist reached the trees and stopped.  It seemed the trees held them back. It seemed the trees held a power over that mist.  Dana was fascinated.  The eerily magical sight took her away from her everyday stresses and landed her in a place where her worries could not exist.

When Dana looked down, she found the mist had reached her as well.  She watched as the mist gathered around her feet and climbed it’s way to surround her knees.  She turned to look behind her and saw the mist spreading toward her also from the other direction.  Something about the mist rolling in two directions at once woke Dana from her fanciful thoughts and she took a step back.  The mist around her legs came with her.   She turned to see the mist behind her coming closer.

Dana glanced to see she was a good 10 feet or so from her car.  She chided herself for her fanciful thoughts and the sudden grip of concern, but she could see the mist moving in ways she thought should not be possible.

Dana hurried toward her car and fumbled with her keys as she reached for the door only to see the mist closing over the car itself.

~~~~

Dana’s car was found later that day sitting just as she had parked.  Dana’s keys were found on the ground next to the driver’s door.   Dana was never found.

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