Monday Miscellanea

Hold your applause, please.

My parents instilled a number of sayings in me that pretty much function as my life manual: don’t lend what you can’t lose, smart people learn from their mistakes while wise people learn from the mistakes of others, you don’t pack a plate until everyone eats – that sort of thing. One that has stuck out, especially in my teaching career is that you don’t reward someone for doing what they are supposed to do.

But that’s exactly what’s happened with Officer Jessee Kidder of New Richmond, Ohio. He was facing a belligerent man, Michael Wilcox, who had just murdered his fiance and best friend. People are applauding Officer Kidder for displaying restraint in a situation where he had what our police call a justifiable reason for killing. Wilcox had committed murder, was aggressive, refused to take his hands out of his pockets and was a general threat to Officer Kidder. Yes, Officer Kidder gets a nod from me for risking his life in hopes of avoiding an even worse scenario. Yes, if I had been in his shoes I may have shot Wilcox and thought of the consequences later. But I don’t get two things: that we are happy he didn’t kill anyone, and that we are comparing this situation to that of Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Darren Wilson, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and Michael Slager.

We are a Christian nation. I’m not a Christian, but our country was built on those morals and standards that guide Christians all over the world. One of those morals is, in fact, a commandment – to not commit murder, under any circumstance. How are we simply excited that Kidder didn’t kill Wilcox? Is this really that comforting? And what does that say about our belief in the officer’s right to possess a license to kill? I believe we’re mostly celebratory that he didn’t kill someone because, as of late, police officers are being scrutinized and criticized – sometimes unfairly, sometimes not –   because of the killings of so many black….

But that’s just it. Michael Wilcox just so happens to be white. No, I cannot say that if Wilcox had been black the officer would’ve reacted differently. I can’t. And I can’t say Kidder is or isn’t a cool headed and reasonable guy, because I don’t know. But what I do know is that this comparison is laughable. People are protesting and enraged at what many agree to be a blatant disregard for the lives of African-Americans, and to pacify the masses you mention that – hold your horses – a cop managed to not kill a white man. We saw this with Sandon Sierdan (tried to rob Walmart, also attempted to take a deputy’s weapon), with James Holmes (the batman movie theater guy), and with numerous others. A white, violent criminal is taken into custody while his black counterparts – often unarmed – are killed on the scene.

The truth is, even if Wilcox was black what do you expect us as a nation to feel? Happy that one in dozens is allowed to live another day while there are many, many others who aren’t given the same humanitarian treatment? Please. And I am tired of people pretending like anyone who calls out racism is a delusional militant. The first step in the road to recovery is admitting you have a problem. Go on, America, admit that shit.

-em

STORYTIME SUNDAY – WALTER

The Christmas Eve Walter Holdenfield left his pregnant wife he drank so much the owner of the jook-joint had to take him to Dothan Regional for alcohol poisoning. When he awoke in the hospital the next day he was still stubbornly angry with her and decided to teach her a lesson by staying at the local Y. It wasn’t until four days later when he felt his underwear sticking to the backs of his thighs that he finally decided to go home.

But she wasn’t there. Loretta had decided that enough was enough and she had meticulously packed everything that was hers and left all of Walter’s belongings behind. She was so careful in her packing that the home looked as though it had ever only housed Walter himself. He ravaged the drawers and boxes but there was no photo, no piece of jewelry, no memento whatsoever of her anywhere to be found.

Walter searched everywhere for his wife. If there was no reconciliation to be had between the two he still hoped for some news of his child. But there is no finding a woman once she truly wishes to never see you again. There is a force that protects them so vigilantly that you could pass them on them on the street and never see them beside you. This happens because their hearts are not yet ready to face you again. Often the hearts heal-up and you can find them just as simple as finding your own nose, but by then most men have given up the search.

Five years later Walter had given up the search. Ten years later and he’d forgotten that he ever did search and by fifteen years he’d forgotten himself. Isn’t that what happens when you immerse yourself so deep into finding something? You forget what it was you were looking for in the first place, and then you have to fight to remember yourself in all of the forgetting.

And so, fifteen years later, Walter was still in the house, and he was still a denizen of the jook-joints on the outskirts of Dothan. It was in one of these dirt-road social pillars on a particularly cold and dry night in December that Walter happened to engage in a conversation with a woman he presumed was from Louisiana named Evangeline.

He had been in the bar for perhaps a full day. He had wondered in sometime after breakfast under the pretense that he’d be out by noon. This fooled no one, of course. By the time Evangeline walked in his vision and speech were so blurred it was lucky he still sat upright in his seat. She strode up to the bar and pulled up a seat two over from Walter. Because there really wasn’t much need to impress customers to keep them returning the owner hadn’t bothered using stools that matched for over a decade. This made Walter, who really was a rather large fellow, an entire head lower than Evangeline. When she spoke for the first time and ordered a glass of Southern Comfort in a heavy accent from the Bayou it awoke in him a memory of a face, youthful and lovely. You northern boy’s don’t know nothin bout takin care of us southern girls Loretta had said to him. They were in high school and Walter was the new boy. Fresh from Chicago. He’d wanted to tell her that Chicago was in fact the Mid-West but she was so pretty he didn’t want to argue with her. After all she was fresh from New Orleans and was also the new girl and that meant he was in competition with all the other boys. How young they were then. How in love he knew himself to be.

This memory sobered him a little and he glanced up at Evangeline. “I loved a girl with a voice like yours once. I married her too. Then I left her.” He chuckled to himself.

“She must have had a smoking problem to have the voice of a sixty-year old lady,” Evangeline replied incredulously.

“You know what I mean,” he smiled at his reflection in his cup. “Sweet. She had a sweet voice.”

Evangeline didn’t respond but she turned her entire body to face Walter. She assessed him as a prospector would a piece of land. A man in his late forties he looked much older with his gray hair and downtrodden face. He wore the pale blue top and navy blue trouser uniform of a Janitor. What one presumed was once an athletic frame now drooped in all the places liquor makes you droop; eyes, belly, heart.

“So,” Evangeline smiled, “ Walter tell me what done happened to this sweet voice.”

“Me.”

“How you?”

“Good”

She pursed her lips and shifted in her chair. “You sholl’ don’t know nothing bout no southern girls. How you affected that girl walter? What you did to her?”

“Nothing,” he sighed  not looking up from the glass before him. “Everything. I asked her to marry me right out of high school. But she wouldn’t. We went to Alabama state together, but I couldn’t survive school like she could. I dropped out halfway through my first semester. And I made her feel guilty for it. I begged her to come back to Dothan and marry me. Said I’d move mountains to make sure we had a good life. Turns out I wouldn’t move a muscle for it.”

“But she ain’t leave you did she?”

“No. She married me in her last year. I got her pregnant the night she graduated. I didn’t mean to. Lord knows I didn’t want a child just yet.” He paused. The conversation with Evangeline seemed to be sobering him up greatly but he still needed time getting his message across. He shook his head slowly. “No, I did. I meant to do it. If she had my baby, I thought I’d be able to keep her.”

“I don’t get it,” Evangeline cut in. “If you was so hard up on keeping the girl, why did you leave her.”

“I walked out on pride. I didn’t ever mean to leave her. Not really.” His fingers slipped from the counter top to his lap. He seemed to be deep in thought and it was a few minutes before he continued, “She was always the smart one. How you think I felt having her unable to work cause I got her pregnant. Then I couldn’t work, not really, not enough. We just kept fighting about money. Don’t know man ever wanna fight about money with his woman. Times might change. But men don’t. We the same hunter type we been since cave man days. Your woman can’t throw your spear for you. She can cook your mammoth but she can’t kill him; not without killing you too.”

“And that’s when you started drinkin?”

“The thing about it is I miss her. I thought she’d be home when I got there. She wasn’t. My baby wasn’t. And I looked everywhere. I know she ain’t coming back to me, but I just wanted to know if she and the baby alright. I loved her. Love her.”

His look of a child who had misbehaved was amplified as Evaingeline looked down on him from her seat.

“So what you been doin since?”

“Working anything I can. I never been a day without a job since she left me.” He looked up for the first time and glanced over at Evangeline’s drink. She never seemed to pick it up but the glass was growing steadily emptier as their conversation progressed.

“Type of work you do?”

“I’ve been a farm hand, a stock man at different places. A bus driver, a truck driver, a rich folk driver. Now I’m a custodian and,” he smiled brightly, “a drunk.”

“Well honey it seems you been that for quite some time now.”

“You are no fool lady” they laughed.

“Listen,” she said tenderly. “I usually have a driver take me when I have long ways to go. My arthritis is starting to get the best of me. How bout I pay you to take me down to Florida. I got a, a god-daughter down there I need to see. I’ll pay for your own hotel room and I’ll take care of your eatin’. If you can get a couple of days off I can pay you twice what you woulda made workin’.”

“Now?”

“No fool not now you drunk. We can leave in the morning. You’ll be home fo’ Sunday evening come.”

They met, as arranged, the next morning at the same jook-joint as the night before. Walter was pacing out front in a white dress shirt and black pants and his ‘church’ shoes. Evangeline pulled up in a 1979 Lincoln Mark IV. She stopped the car and put it in park but kept it running. She got out and the sunshine from behind her gave her an ethereal look. Like she had some purpose in the world. Some journey she needed to complete.

“The hell you got on?” she called out to Walter.

“Well, you rich folk. This my rich folk drivin clothes.”

They stared at each other for a moment. She was trying to suppress her laughter, he was trying to look like a gentleman.

The road from Dothan, Alabama to Miami, Florida has a way of luring you from your original path. Before you know it you’ve spent an hour in some small town looking at Alligator skulls and wondering why there were Palm Tree keepsakes in what looked like any other land locked southern town. The landscape had the magic of Disney, the swamp, and the ocean all in one.

They were about 5 miles out of Leesburg when Evangeline called out from the back. “Lord lord, we have to stop here. I need a piece of pie.”

They were passing a small wooden building that seemed to serve both as a bakery and a family home. The aroma of pecans and butter and peaches brought forth another confidence from Walter.

“My wife,” he smiled at the memory, “used to make the best Sweet Potato Pie this side of the Mississippi.”

They pulled into the dusty driveway and parked between two other patrons.

“Can you get my slice for me? My legs starting to act up in this moist air” Evangeline called sweetly from the back.

“Sure, what kind you want?”

“Well if it’s that good, course I want some sweet potato pie.”

“I dunno if this person gone make it like Loretta.”

“I’ll take my chances”

Walter hoisted himself from the drivers seat, happy to stretch his legs. The misty Florida air clung to him like a lover relieved at his return. The dusty ground threatened to clump to his best shoes and he treaded carefully to the door of the establishment. It was a screened wooden door, to a screened wooden patio. It was through here the business was run but glancing through the window behind the bar turned serving window Walter could see that this was someone’s home.

“Hi,” a young man spoke to Walter from behind the bar. “Can I get you?”

“Let me get two slices of potato pie.”

“Ok, two-fifty. But I’ll tell you, my ma makes a pretty good Pecan Pie too.”

“Walter laughed at the young mans business savy. “Ok then, let me get a slice of that, too.”

Walter looked at the young man and saw himself at that age. Lean, handsome, hungry for success. He wondered what happened to himself. Wondered if he’d had too much faith in fate. He had waited for something great to happen to him. Waited for Loretta to come back, and now what? Was he waiting to die?

The boy handed him the slices of pie in small Styrofoam boxes along with a fork. Then he looked Walter in his face. Tilting his head this way and that.

“Thank you,” Walter walked out.

Before he made it to the car a woman about his age came strolling up to the house carrying a bagful of fresh pecans. He knew her walk. There was Loretta coming towards him like he had dreamed so many nights. Of course she was no longer a wobbling pregnant 22 year old, but he wasn’t the same handsome steadfast young man he had once been.

“Loretta?,” he choked. He cleared his throat and spoke again, “Loretta?”.

The woman looked at Walter and stopped in her tracks. Her eyes grew very very wide. Then slowly they went very very narrow.

“Walter what the hell you doing here?” she hissed.

“I-“ he fumbled and held up the pie, stupidly.

“How did you find us?

“I didn’t. I –“

“I thought sure I was rid of you.”

“Loretta?” She tried to march past him but he sat the pie on the hood of the nearest car and grabbed her, not unkindly. “Is that you?”

And without restraint he embraced her. She fought her way out of his arms.

“I can’t BELIEVE you came here!” Loretta yelled.

“I can’t neither.”

“Who told you I was here? Did you google me? What did you say to your son?

“My-“ and it dawned on him why the boy had stared at him so. “My boy.”

“He your son. Not your boy. You can’t love him now. You don’t have the right.”

“I looked for you.”

She stopped fighting and looked as though she was seeing him for the first time. “I know” she said matter-of-factly. “I didn’t want you to find us. So stop avoiding it, how the hell did you find us?”

For an answer Walter pointed at the car to Evangeline, but she had gone. Assuming that she’d gone inside Walter went back into the patio, but Evangeline wasn’t there either. He looked at the boy.

“You know me?” Walter asked in a hushed voice.

“Yes sir, I do.”

Overcome with emotion, but entirely too afraid of Loretta Walter stared at his son, his baby, his boy and soaked up every detail of him. When Lorettaentered the Patio Walter went to a corner by the bar and gestured for her to come over. She did.

“I dunno how none of this happened. I got drunk. I came back you were gone.”

“You left before I did Walter. I’m just the first to move out”

“Listen, I know I don’t deserve a thing from you. But that’s my boy. I can call him what I want, love him all I need. And now I found you. I ain’t losing you no more.”

Something about Walter’s tone eased Loretta’s fire even more.

“What’s his name?”

“Junior. So you stayin here now?” she asked. “We got a guest house. You welcome to it if you pay rent.”

Walter looked at his son who was staring back. “I have to go to Miami to drop this lady. Then I gotta pack up and take care of stuff in Dothan. I’ll be back in a week.”

“What lady?” his son asked.

“The one I came here with.”

Walter walked out into what was now a gentle rain. He peered into the backseat, thinking perhaps she’d stretched out in the back and to his surprise he found a note.

Walter,

Now I told you you’d be home by Sunday, didn’t I? Car in Junior’s name now.

Love,

Evangeline.

STORYTIME SUNDAY- A Generous Theft

Mr. and Mrs. Olliver owned a tiny antique shop off of the main highway. It marked the change in scenery between the bustling new shopping district and what was once a bustling middle class neighborhood. But that was when they opened nearly forty years ago. Now the neighborhood that had typically been the home to teachers, small business owners and the like was nothing as it was before. Like the shop itself, the street seemed to have become dusty and rusted with time.  There were shabby convenient stores in lieu of the family owned soda-pop shops. The Peruvian-owned Chinese restaurant took the place of a Hal’s Diner.  When Mr. Olliver looked out of the window of his shop to check on things he still chuckled, thinking about the summer of 1972 when Hal, in an ethnocentric rage, refused service to white people not from the neighborhood.. A taste of your own medicine he’d laugh as his daughter served their food in Styrofoam boxes. No one’d ever seen anything like it. They still came though, white folk, because nobody this side of the Mason-Dixon line could cook like Hal. But no one on this street knew any of those things today.

Except for a few families who were able to hold onto their homes, everyone was new; no one ever stayed for long. And no one who lived here hardly ever went into Olliver’s. Though the tiny shop possessed many items they knew full well to be of great value, people were no longer interested in anything of value at all. No. People today wanted flash. Especially those lower on the socioeconomic scale. New money and no money have one thing in common: they see little value in anything that doesn’t showcase it’s worth. The only reason no one ever robbed the store was out of great respect for Mr. Olliver. He could be seen carrying groceries for anyone he saw who needed help. He gave jobs to people who were on hard times for as long as he could afford it. Actions like this, though seemingly insignificant, can hold great value in the eyes of people you didn’t even know were watching.

But things were not so pleasant within the Olliver home. In its heyday the shop brought in customers from all over the city. Mr. and Mrs. Olliver would dress each day as though they were dressing for a formal dinner. Mrs. Olliver could be seen shopping at all of the finest department stores. Each week she’d sport a new hair style and freshly manicured nails. They had been everywhere from Lisbon to Johannesburg to Bali.

If you’d asked Mr. Olliver he would tell you that he had lived a full life. Even as the shop declined, Mr. Olliver was happy for the year’s he’d seen, the places he’d been and the people he’d known. This would not be true if you asked his wife, who’s lust for money was nothing short of insatiable. She’d decided that the singular cause of their financial stagnation was her husband’s inability to attract attention to the store.

“Oh my, look at all these people,” she’d say theatrically to her husband as they sat together behind the counter in the empty shop. Then she’d sigh, as though she were tired from a great deal of work and then stroll around with her arms spread wide to show the empty business. “My God Henry, some sort of advertisement would get more people in here and we could be rich again!” She’d rub her finger along whatever shelf she was nearest and add, “And clean this dump up. This is an antique shop not your grandmothers attic.”

But Mr. Olliver would shake his head, careful not to rouse the beast within his wife, and respond with “Honey, if we had the money for advertisements, we wouldn’t need them.”

Aggravated by her husband’s cyclical reasoning, she’d storm off to their even tinier apartment above their shop and could be heard cursing him for miles around. Eventually, she became so distressed she refused to even leave their apartment. “I’m sorry, but I can’t afford fresh air”, she’d say when he asked if she would take a stroll around the park with him.  When he suggested they take a drive to the ocean she didn’t even look up from her Soap Opera before she responded, “Sorry hun, I can’t afford sunshine.”

She hadn’t always been this way, but then again they’d typically had more to live off of. So, every day now , Mr. Olliver manned the shop on his own, knowing that he’d no longer be able to coax his wife out of bed without sufficient funds.

One morning as he climbed down the rickety wooden stairs that led to the dusty back room of the pawn shop he had an unusual feeling. It was that feeling you get when you know someone’s coming around the corner or down the hall, even when you don’t hear them or see a shadow.  He checked the shop over three times, but could not for his life rid himself of this awkward feeling. Finally, he realized that a small golden watch had been removed from the jewelry case and in its stead was a note.

“I apologize for taking the watch. I will pay you back it’s value a hundred times over if only if only you don’t report this to anyone.”

But it wasn’t because of the note that knew he that he would not be speaking to anyone about the theft. The cops would file a report, but there were no camera’s, they had no witnesses and the case would collect as much dust as the shop itself. He did not tell his friends and family because he didn’t have any and he dared not tell his wife.  What would she say after she’d discovered that they’d lost one of the items that had the greatest value? What would become of him in her wrath?

So, Mr. Olliver pocketed the note, and went about his day as usual. Wondering who had broken in was not important. The issue was how. They had one window and one door, and both had steel bars. The window had been glued shut for twenty years now. Before retiring upstairs, Mr. Olliver made sure to double check every aspect of the door and window. Though he could not see how anyone got in. He shuffled upstairs to his wife and went to sleep.

The next morning, Mr. Olliver rushed down stairs as fast as his feet could take him hoping, though he did not admit it to himself, to see a pile of money on the counter. The note did say 100 times the value of the watch. Perhaps now his wife would be happy. But there was no pile of money. And after  a once over of the shop Mr. Olliver noticed that there was another note in the place of where a shelf full of antique books were placed. The note was written in the same hand as the one before.

“Please forgive me for taking of these books. If you please don’t tell anyone, I will pay you back 1,000 time’s their value.

My. Olliver felt slighted. He had not reported the first theft, and here was the thief requesting once again that he not reveal the situation to anyone. Begrudgingly he took the note, folded it with the first and once again placed them in his pocket and went about his day as usual. He glanced out of the window and wondered if the thief, whoever it may be, was watching him at that very moment. Perhaps he was sitting across the street in the bar/liquor store having a laugh at old Mr. Olliver’s expense. Perhaps he was one of the customers to whom Mrs. Olliver had refused to bargain with for these items and was now making a fool of the both of them.

Still, Mr. Olliver was more understanding than he’d wanted to be. Perhaps the young fellow or young lady was on hard times. It was, after all, a mere two days before Christmas. The books and the watch were extremely valuable, true enough, but who’d been in to buy either of them lately? Damn it all, Mr. Olliver thought, my wife complains about what it is we don’t have, but we’ve never been hungry, or cold. Not one day in our life together have we had to do without. I’ve taken her all over the world, there’s hardly any soil she’s yet to set foot on and she complains because now we can’t afford those things? So what if the shop isn’t what it once was. Neither is her body, but I still love her the same. What do I have to do to keep this woman happy? It was his wife who was dissatisfied with life, not he. And though their shop was dusty, they had many loyal customers who had come in for many years. Mrs. Langly,  for one,had been coming in the shop for nearly thirty years now. Mr. and Mrs. Olliver knew her as well as they’d known their closest relatives. They were saddened to hear about the death of her daughter, and delighted to see how close she and her granddaughter had become over the past few weeks. Though Mrs. Langly never had much money with which to purchase items, her family had a great many collectible items, things they had procured over quite a few centuries, it seemed. It was many of those things that lay on the Olliver’s shelves now, and those that attracted the truest collectors of the city. Well, thought Mr. Olliver, come to think of it, both the watch and the books had come from Mrs. Langly. Perhaps it was her who had come in the night. But no. It couldn’t be. Even if the window had not been glued shut, it was entirely too small for the old woman to fit through. Mr Olliver let his imagination wander over to the granddaughter, perhaps she…but the little girl could not possibly have been strong enough to force her way in. Even if someone had come through the window, though, it would not have been resealed in the same fashion, especially without a lack of disturbance on the dust.

Lost in contemplation about how content he really was and how to get his wife to feel the same, he didn’t notice that the sun had completely set. He walked over to the door to switch on the light outside and smiled to himself as he saw Mrs. Langly’s granddaughter. She was walking with a little boy about her age and they were carrying grocery bags and were having what seemed to be a very passionate, but elated discussion. Neither of them could stop smiling. Mr. Olliver was elated to see them in such a wonderful state. Both had lost their parents, the boy to prison, the girl to death. How they could manage with such frail guardians and meager means and still be this happy made him feel appreciative that at least some people in the world were grateful for what they had. If his wife was any proof, this world was full of people who were never satisfied.

In the heat of his affection for the children he opened the door and called them over. The children stopped and looked at one another. The little girl was shocked, clearly she’d thought they were going to be chastised by the old scary man in the doorway. But the boy shrugged his shoulders and gave her a look that seemed to say “He’s alright, let’s go.”

“Hi Mr. Olliver,” the little boy sounded slightly uneasy.

“Hi Brandon,” Mr. Olliver said as he gestured for the kids to come inside. “I have something for the two of you.”

With Brandon at his heels, Mr. Olliver trotted over to the register. He went around the counter and pulled from inside a cabinet beneath the register a small porcelain jewelry box. As he placed the box on the counter he noticed that the little girl was still standing in the doorway. She had not ever come into the shop with her grandmother and Mr. Olliver felt slightly abashed at the idea that he may have been making the little girl feel uncomfortable. But he wanted to give them both a gift. Brandon, who was standing just in front of the box looked at it curiously and turned to the little girl.

“It’s ok Emily,” he spoke softly. “This is Mr. Olliver, he lets me sweep the shop sometimes for a job.”

“And due to your fine work young man,” Mr. Olliver beamed, “I’d like to present a gift to both you and your little friend.”

Like one handling a scroll that may turn to dust any moment , Mr. Olliver pulled out two golden rings. One was set with what were, unmistakably, emeralds, the other with rubies. They were simple and elegant, befitting of royalty.

“These”, Mr. Olliver said in a voice filled with awe, “are said to be the true rings that the Magician’s nephew found.”

Brandon looked quizzically into Mr. Olliver’s eyes but Emily had taken a few steps forward, her eyes set on the rings.

“The rings that take you to other worlds?” she said in a near whisper.

“The very same.”

Emily took a few more cautious steps forward. She had been a child who had read and who had been read to. She knew the story very well. These were the rings that brought the White Witch from her world into our’s and then, in turn, into Narnia itself. These were the rings that were said to have been destroyed.

“I know most people don’t believe In things like this-”

“I do.” Emily said to no one in particular.

Mr. Olliver knew that he had chosen the perfect gift for the children.

“Well,” he sighed, “then they are yours. One for each of you. In the spirit of Christmas of course.”

“Thank you Mr. Olliver Brandon said taking the ruby ring.

Emily seemed to be speechless. As she and Brandon headed out the door she turned and said “You’re very kind Mister. I won’t ever forget this.”

Mr. Olliver feeling eerily complete decided to close shop for the night. It had been fairly busy and the children brought a perfect end to one of his most, relatively, lucrative days. But after he locked the door and turned on the spot his wife emerged from the shadows of the storage room.

“Well,” she said in a biting voice. “How quaint. You give away what could have been our biggest sale to two poor, filthy children. You’re too complacent Henry. Don’t you want a bigger house? Look at our clothes! The boy doesn’t even clean well when you let him come. But how can he clean up anything with filth falling from every part of him. And that little brat of Langley’s daughter is no different. They keep bringing us things to sell but haven’t bought a thing for years! You’re fool. A damned fool.”

Mr. Olliver took her venomous words with a grain of salt. He was used to this. He did wish she hadn’t seen what he’d done though, and was grateful even more that he hadn’t told her about the thefts. Once Christmas was over, he’d have enough money to take her out somewhere up to her standards and to buy her more jewelry and clothes than he thought necessary. Then she’d be appeased. With this comforting thought, he followed his wife upstairs and with little Emily’s words playing over and over again in his mind he fell asleep with a smile on his face.

When he went down to the shop the next day he’d forgotten all about the thefts. That was until he noticed that one of the teddy bears he kept propped in the window to attract holiday shoppers was missing. And once again, in it’s stead was a note.

“I am sorry for taking this bear. I will pay back it’s worth a million times over but only if you don’t whisper word of this to anyone.”

Not giving it another thought Mr. Olliver took the note, put it with the other two in his pocket and replaced the teddy bear with a monkey he personally favored. As the next day was Christmas eve, he was so busy that he’d forgotten all about anything except that he was near making enough money to satisfy his wife. Mrs. Olliver, for her part, must have smelled the money coming in. She was downstairs right after lunch and stayed with him until it was time to close. After the last customer of the day had gone, they locked the door and together went up the dusty old stairs. Mrs. Olliver was so HAPPY about the money they had made she offered to cook dinner for Mr. Olliver for the first time in months. What’s more she would wash their clothes together and not make him do it alone again. As Mr. Olliver sat reading a novel in his chair, Mrs. Olliver stormed into the room.

“WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS?” her voice rang out.

Before he looked up from his page Mr. Olliver already knew what it was his wife was clutching and he hurriedly looked for an excuse.

“Someone has been stealing from us and you’ve kept it from me? And worse they stole that watch that lady said she’d come in and buy with the new year. She promised us a thousand for it and it’s gone. I’m calling the police!”

“Susan,” Mr. Olliver said smoothly. “I wrote those notes. I plan on reporting the items missing after new year’s and we can get an insurance claim on them. The rings I gave the kids too.”

Mrs. Olliver’s cold countenance melted away. She beamed at him.

“Good. It’s well time you put that brain of yours to use.”

She went back to her laundry, he back to his novel and not an unkind word was spoken again that night.

As the sun rose the following morning, which happened to be Christmas Eve, Mr. Olliver lay in bed wondering if he’d done the right thing, lying to his wife. She wasn’t the most genteel lady, but wasn’t her aspiration to be one what prompted her to behave in such a foul manner?  Just look, he thought, at how she’s behaving. Up early this morning cooking breakfast for us. She hasn’t made me breakfast in months. He climbed out of bed, not knowing which creaked more – the bed or himself, and yawned his way to the kitchen table.

“Coffee?” a soft, sweet voice said as a plate of sausage and biscuits and eggs was placed before him.

“Who the hell are you?” Henry choked. Standing before him, smiling and stirring coffee was not his wife.

“Darling,” this new woman looked at Henry with pity, “I think you ought not carry out your plan.”

“Where’s my wife?” Mr. Olliver asked, not angrily.

“Are you feeling alight Henry?” she seemed to have misread the confusion on his face and she continued: “If anyone sees those children with the rings they’d think they did it. Especially Brandon. We know how he takes…risks. And anyway I don’t think it’s in your nature and for some reason I don’t feel too keen on it either.”

They looked at one another solemnly. Henry Olliver could not believe his eyes and ears. This strange woman spoke to him as though she really was his wife. Or maybe it was him. I’m going senile, he thought. This must be the onset of dimentia.

“Okay,” he coughed. “I won’t do it. Burn the notes.”

“Good.”

An hour later Mr. Olliver sat in the stool behind the counter. He was quite alone in the shop as he’d put the CLOSED sign up and convinced the woman who thought she was his wife that she’d be of more service to him if she’d made his favorite meal. He needed time to think. To adjust. He couldn’t understand it. So consumed by his thoughts he didn’t hear the bell over the door jingle as Emily walked in and peered at him over the counter.

“Oh. I’m sorry Emily, but we’re closed. I’m sure the sign is up there I guess I forgot to lock the door.”

“I guess you did forget,” she replied. “I brought you this cake from my grandma. And me and Brandon made you cards. Merry Christmas!”

Singing a tune that reminded him of his childhood, Emily made to exit the shop. She paused at the door, however and looking Mr. Olliver square in the face said, “You ought to read mine first” and she picked back up her tune and was gone. The jingling of the bells after she’d walked out hadn’t even slowed their pace before he tore the cake box open. Munching on a chunk he looked through the basket and found the card marked “Mr. Olliver” in such dainty writing it could only be the little girl’s.

I know it was wrong to take those things especially since my grandmother gave them to you.. I just wanted to get presents for Brandon and his family. Since you kept your word, I’m keeping mine. I took the qualities of the stuff I took and found a wife for you who had them all. Patience for the watch, wisdom for the books, and you could use some kindness so I gave her some from the bear. I’m still learning, so my grandma made this cake to make sure everything stays this way. She says  if you share this cake with your new wife, and make sure she has three bites she’ll be kind forever. She’s not really new, and I didn’t really find her…we, well, we sort of changed your old wife. Alot. Merry Christmas. And thank you for the rings.”

Mr. Olliver looked at the door Emily had just left through. It was bolted. He looked back at the note, but it was blank. As swiftly as he could he carried the cake and the cards from the children upstairs and shared them both with his wife. With whom he shared a happy, appreciative life.

Storytime! – Lydia – (Part 1)

There was a very wealthy lawyer who had three beautiful daughters. He loved each of them very much and in their best interest he began to find suitors for each when they came of age so that they would be well taken care of once their father was no longer in this world. The first was married off to a man in the father’s firm long before she was legally able to take her first sip of wine. The second daughter married a civil engineer days after graduating from her preparatory school. But the third daughter, being the lawyer’s favorite and most prized child was allowed to finish college before her father began to look for appropriate suitors for her. This youngest daughter was named Lydia.

One day as she and her father sat in a coffee shop, Lydia knew that he would be announcing his choice for a suitor over their latte’s.

“Lydia,” the old lawyer spoke with tenderness. “You are quite a bit more independent than your sisters, I know, but I still worry about your future once I’m gone.”

“I know papa,” Lydia smiled.

“And I know you alone of my children would have the most to argue when it comes to being married. But I am not asking you to get married. Just meet with the boy, get to know him. And, who knows? It could be a real fairytale.”

Lydia stirred her coffee absent mindedly. She knew her family was very much into tradition. Knew that to break from her father’s wishes would break his heart. But she didn’t want to marry just anyone. She wanted that poison and antidote, love. Although her sisters were both quite fond of their husbands, and their lives, Lydia wasn’t sure her father would be able to find a proper prince for her.

“Who?” Lydia asked.

“Do you remember,” her father began to reminisce, “the family who lived across the street from us when we lived in the home we lived in when your mother was alive? They had a little boy-“

“Alan” Lydia brightened. She did remember. Alan was the Pepe to her Madeline. As children they played together. They built forts and camped out in each other’s backyard. But Lydia’s mother got sick with Cancer, and her father moved the whole family closer to the hospital where she was receiving treatment. The last time she saw Alan he was standing in his mother’s arms waving goodbye to Lydia and her family.

“Well, his father came into my office about a month ago. Some lawsuit issue with one of his patients. Anyway, he said that Alan has finished his Masters of Business at NYU and had returned. I invited him to Thanksgiving. That way, I’m not putting my nose too far into this. But I do want to say, he comes from a good family. He’ll be comfortable even if he never works a day in his life. I only want the best for my daughters.”

The old lawyer smiled sheepishly. He was growing more tired with each passing day and it showed in his greying eyes. Entering his later years he wondered, as most do, about his legacy. With no male child, he had ensured that his daughters were married and well matched. And they were happy, weren’t they? Now, only Lydia was left. She’d have her portion of the inheritance, and she was very self-sufficient, but still, he wanted his youngest daughter to have a happy marriage. He did not live to Thanksgiving.

Continue to Part Two of “Lydia”:  http://thelastmuse.com/2013/05/20/storytime-lydia-part-2/

The Mourning After

I didn’t think this through, admittedly. But I was hurt. Wouldn’t you have done the same? I mean, who’d have thought?  Childish though it was, it was cathartic in my mind and well, I put into play all that she deserved.

Evana awoke with a headache she had never known the likes of before. She attempted to sit up, but all she could manage for the time was to roll onto her back. Gazing around the room lazily,her mind still fuzzy from the night before she smiled to herself. What an amazing twelve hours, she thought. After a few minutes, she was able to stand and walk to the window. The view of the ocean was impeccable, and though it was mid-August in Miami, there was hardly a cloud in the sky. This is what life was supposed to be, this was what she deserved.

All I had to do was call in a favor. One of the spring breaks I’d spent at home while at FSU, I made a connection for him. I also allowed the 5 lbs of ecstasy pills to ride in my trunk with me all the way back. He’d made a nice profit, and I’d asked nothing of him. We went our separate ways, but always kept in touch. He was just what I needed, a man with cash to burn and the morals of Loki. All I had to do was ring him up, tell him what I needed, and boom, just like that he agreed to take her out. That’s what friends are for, right?

After she’d had her fill of the sights below, she turned her attention to the reflection of her naked self in the mirror. True her face looked more and more tired, and her once athletic, statuesque frame was bordering on hefty, even masculine; nevertheless, she felt sexier than she had in the past few months since her breakup. And feeling sexy shows. It showed in the way she wore her same old blue dress with a dazzling smile, and tits bigger than Texas. The few pounds she put on recently had her closet staple fitting snug in all the right places. She thought of the previous night with relish. Her latest client, a handsome A&R, had wined and dined her twice now. They got along well. He seemed to know what she liked, and didn’t like on her plate as well as in her bed. And it made her work much easier. She felt his hungry eyes on her all evening. Even if he hadn’t paid for anything but the food, she’d have treated him like a king, just as she advertised.

This time a year ago she didn’t imagine herself in this position. But, she thought, this time one year ago she was in an unhappy relationship, and a dead-end job. Her neighbor and closest confidant had been in the business for years and it took little for her to convince Evana that this was a power move. She’d told Evana how she made her own hours, worked just a few days out of the week and was now ready to put a down payment on a new home at just 25 years old. That, thought Evana, is an ambitious woman. And so casting aside all common ideals of morality, knowing them to be beneath her, she took up this new career. And she was happy, and making money, and that’s all she’d ever wanted, right?

All I asked of her was to leave me alone. To leave us alone. I never lied to her, disrespected her or taunted her. This girl was a master of manipulation and all I wanted was payback. To laugh. She sent me an old sex tape of her and my soon to be husband and told him how she missed him, how she wanted to see him in private, how she loved him still. And all this after she told me she would leave us alone. But it wasn’t until she gave her word she’d let us be that she started her real harassment. 4 am phone calls, coming to our home unannounced. Questioning our friends and planting rumors. I handled it like a lady. But when the opportunity present itself. I did what I felt needed to be done. At least, what I needed to feel closure.

Rather than allowing her to park on her own and walk the blocks from the lot to the hotels entrance, Malik paid for her car to be valet parked along with his. When the valet boy brought the 10 year old, rusty and dented Honda, it seemed rather out of place perched between the 2012 Camaro and the all black Bently. But head held high, Evana climbed into the drivers seat like the princess she was. It was, after all, her very first car, and she was proud. The fact that she hadn’t actually worked for the car did nothing to dampen her pride. It came to her like most things, as a gift. But it was hers, her own, and that was something to be proud of wasn’t it? This time last year, she thought bitterly, she was sitting passenger seat to her unemployed boyfriend’s Chevy. She was the one who paid for his gas and her rent on her check from the beauty shop. How shocked and angry she became when she found that he not only had one, but two jobs now. And was paying for his new fiance’s car with his money, because she, his fiance, was unemployed. Fine, Evana thought, he can have that unemployed bitch. Her degree obviously didn’t count for nothing, and she definitely wasn’t sexy. Her little skinny ass.

But the idea of it being “fine” didn’t occur until she met Lawerence. An ex-marine who appeared in all lights to be her knight in shining armour. He proved even easier to manipulate than her last boyfriend. At the beginning of their affair, while Evana still pined over her ex and continued to text him requesting secret hookups, texts that were only responded to with phone calls from his faince, Evana thought it was time to stir things up. After a morning of taunting the new girl, Evana was thrown off course by the threat of her sex tape going viral should she continue to harass them. She quickly thought to have Lawerence drive her to confront the bitch. She’d sent the tape not thinking it could possibly… no, it could never. She’d go and convince her ex that she was too innocent to have herself slandered like that for all her friends to see. With one call Lawerence did what he felt was the chivalrous thing to do. Nothing was settled, of course, except it was now out Evana was seeking extracurricular attention. After the encounter, however, Lawerence convinced Evana to move on, and the sex was so amazing, she did. So when anyone asked why she kept insisting she meet with her ex she stated, plain and simple, she’d simply wanted closure.

Oh, she’d call all times of the night. I was nice to her, at first, I made a real attempt to be understanding and to speak with her respectfully. When I, in tears, asked her why she chose to disrespect me when I had done nothing of the sort, she laughed. Cold and calculating. Then she replied “We’re not friends, doll. I don’t need to respect you. I don’t need to give you any type of courtesy, you do nothing for me.” She’d told me that it didn’t matter that he and I had only been romantic after their breakup, she’d never stop until he left me. So, when I found out she was selling herself, I concocted a plan. Malik would take her out, tape their time in the room, and email it to every contact in her phone, including her mother back in Trinidad. Childish? yes, very. But who ever thinks of reason when they are given but a moment to hurt someone whose hurt them? It is only after time we think with maturity, and oftentimes, that is too late.

Stopped at a light before she got on 95 south Evana hastily checked her bag for her phone. But something else in there made her skin crawl. Fuck it, she thought, it’s too late.

And so it was when Malik had told me the exact extent to which he went. To which I went. Not only had he succeeded in wining and dining her. Not only had he gotten it all on tape and was currently putting it on the internet. He had also succeeded in consummating their business deal condom-less.

There nudged between her I-phone and her knock-off Michael Kors wallet was the wrapper to the Magnum. Unopened. DAMN. She’d been so drunk they made love condomn-less.

None of us knew then, not until months later that Evana or Malik, or both, were HIV positive. Truth be told we can’t even say they gave it to one another. This is, after all, a great big world.  I could hardly blame myself.

As the light turned and she took off, she adjusted her rear-view and thought, I just had the time of my life. Take extra care not to get too messed up next time. I mean, I can’t blame myself.