In a word: Bark

Here’s the thing, a bark is the sound made by a dog.  Isn’t it?  Apparently, it can also be from a fox or a seal

Not necessarily.  A man or woman can bark orders, especially if they are in the army.

And then, their bark might be worse than their bite, this usually refers to newspaper editors and school teachers.

You can theoretically be barking up the wrong tree, and believe me, I’ve done that a few times myself.

People can be barking mad.  Just go to any old spooky hospital that is named Belleview, and has a basement.  How do I know this, I’ve seen a lot of old black and white movies.

Then there’s that other type of bark, the outer layer of a lot of trees, and can be very useful as a top layer of a garden to keep the moisture in.

It can be thin sheets of chocolate with a thin layer of nuts or other confectionaries.

You can bark your shins, that is, scrape the skin off when you trip over a tree with bark.

Or just to complicate matters, there is also a barque, usually a three-masted sailing ship, though you don’t get to see many of them these days.

In a word: Bark

Here’s the thing, a bark is the sound made by a dog.  Isn’t it?  Apparently, it can also be from a fox or a seal

Not necessarily.  A man or woman can bark orders, especially if they are in the army.

And then, their bark might be worse than their bite, this usually refers to newspaper editors and school teachers.

You can theoretically be barking up the wrong tree, and believe me, I’ve done that a few times myself.

People can be barking mad.  Just go to any old spooky hospital that is named Belleview, and has a basement.  How do I know this, I’ve seen a lot of old black and white movies.

Then there’s that other type of bark, the outer layer of a lot of trees, and can be very useful as a top layer of a garden to keep the moisture in.

It can be thin sheets of chocolate with a thin layer of nuts or other confectionaries.

You can bark your shins, that is, scrape the skin off when you trip over a tree with bark.

Or just to complicate matters, there is also a barque, usually a three-masted sailing ship, though you don’t get to see many of them these days.

It’s that time again, the end of the month

This month had been unusually busy, with the NaNoWriMo revision exercise and the A to Z challenge.

The NaNoWriMo has been particularly challenging because I have had to pull together all the work done in writing a novel titled “The Will”. Like a lot of my writing projects this had been one that I wrote about half of it, then put it aside, either having written myself into a proverbial corner, or there was another project that needed completing.

Then in succeeding weeks I would go back and write another chapter, perhaps having had a brainstorm.  This would happen off and on with a number of other stories as ideas for them came to me.

Then I noticed the April version of NaNoWriMo and decided this was an opportunity to pull it all together, and over the 30 days, this novel has turned into a manuscript of 360 pages and 48 chapters.  Gaps have been filled, prior writing has had an edit, and continuity has been checked.

I now have another novel that will be sent to the editor for a first reading.

The other exercise, the A to Z Challenge, this year, is about a phrase, like You’ve got to be kidding, and turning it into a story, where, somewhere within it, the phase is used.

I had hoped that the stories would be short, and easily fitted in with everything else.  Well, you know how that goes.  Stories write themselves, and some have been 6 to 8 pages long.

Talk about making a rod for my own back.

Aside from those two exercises, there has been some time devoted to my episodic stores, and one in particular, the Treasure Hunt.  I have managed to write several more episodes which will appear in the coming weeks.

Any chance of getting a break next month will be impossible.

The episodic stories need more episodes, and three new books are just about at the stage where I can send them to the editor, two for final approval, so hopefully, these can be published in June.

But, as always, there is no rest for the wicked.

A to Z Challenge – Z is for: Zero

Z2020

When it came to holidays, I preferred to get as far away from everyone as possible.

I saw my parents, and sister who lived with them, every week on Sunday, for lunch and cross-examination of why I was not married with children yet.

Explaining I was only 27 was not a reason because, “your brother married at 21 and he’s got three children, a great job, his own house..”  and in and on it went.

And I saw my brother every other Saturday just to tell him that I was Ok.  He was considerate in one sense, it was just the matchmaking wife always inviting what she considered suitable women for me.

That fortnight off work was an oasis in a desert full of well-meaning people.

I’d tried dating several girls at work, but they never got past the family inquisition.  If I had been in their shoes I’d just say it was all too much too.  The lesson I learned there was to never take a girlfriend home.

But, for now, I was footloose and fancy-free.  The most recent girl I’d met had decided to return home, no it was nothing I’d done wrong, but I guess it was.  Perhaps asking to go with me to Hawaii was a bit too forward too soon.  Another lesson learned.

I think I’d probably get it right by the time I was fifty.

So here I was, a history buff, looking to further my knowledge of the events surrounding Pearl Harbour.  I’d read a great many history books on the subject, and now, it was a matter of going there, and getting a feel for the place.

More than once I had lamented the fact I could not go back in time and live through the event.  I had mentioned this once to a friend, and he asked if I was stark staring mad.

Of course, he was right.  Who would want to be in the middle of such a violent attack, especially when it came largely by surprise?

Since my work required mt to fly a lot I had sufficient frequent flyer points to upgrade to first class.  I was hoping after flying coach for so long, I’d notice the difference.

Certainly, the initial service after being shown my seat, and the champagne soon after as a welcome onboard, set the tone.

When the door closed, and everyone was on board, only half the seats in first class were taken.  A glance at those who were fellow travelers showed an interesting cross-section.   A husband and wife who definitely upgraded from coach like me, but were a little m less refined.  An executive and his personal assistant, who, judging by the way she looked after him, there was more to that relationship, a woman in her sixties, definitely born to money, and casting somewhat distasteful stares at the upgrade couple, and a woman about my age, who looked very unhappy.

I managed to fit in another glass of champagne before the plane reached the runway.

Then, with a roar of the engines, we were off.

Halfway through the 13-hour flight, I found it impossible to sleep, even with the luxury first-class provided me.  I just couldn’t sleep on planes.  Instead, I sat up, found a book of crosswords, one of three or four I always had with me and usually got to solve one or two puzzles.

It was quiet and still except for the noise of the air rushing past outside the plane.  In that almost soundless atmosphere, I thought I could detect any changes in engine speed or the gentle movement of a change of course.  The ride was quite smooth, except for some turbulence and the pilot took us up another 2,000 feet to escape it.  We’d been slowly coming back down over the last hour.  I’d been monitoring it on the flight path screen.  It might be a larger screen, but watching movies was, to me, boring, except in a cinema.

“Can’t sleep either?”

It was the soft voice of the girl from two seats across.  She had several revolutions of the plane, exercising I heard her explain to the cabin crew because she couldn’t sit down for long periods.

“Not on planes, no.  Trains, yes, ships yes.”

“Crossword fanatic?”

I saw her glance down towards the book.  “Not really.  This has been floating around for about 10 years, and I drag it out as a last resort.”

“I try reading.  It doesn’t help.  Where are you going, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“Oahu.  Doing the whole Pearl Harbor history experience.  And just laze around for a few days before going back to work.”

“New York?”

“Yonkers, upstate.  Are you from New York?”

“My family is.  I work in San Francisco, come over once a year, but this year I got sick of them early, so I just jumped on the first plane out that had a first-class berth.  It was this one.  I’ll let you get back to your crossword.”

I was going to say it wasn’t a problem, but she had gone back to her seat.  A moment later our cabin attendant, Lucy, came over to deliver a glass of champagne, then came over to me.  I hadn’t seen the second glass on the tray.  “Miranda thought you might like a glass too.”

I looked over to nod a thankyou, but she was looking out the window.  There wasn’t much to see as it was dark and most of the passengers had the shades down.

Then, just as Lucy turned to leave, the plane hit more turbulence.  A second, maybe two, later the seatbelt sign went on, just as the co-pilot came on the speaker system to advise all cabin crew to sit down and belt up.

A minute later what sounded like a large bang, one I would have said was an engine exploding, made everyone jump in their seats, to be quickly followed by a sudden jerk to the right that was almost instantly corrected, but that was not the worst of it, equally suddenly the plane started to descend.  Very quickly.

At the same moment, the masks dropped down from overhead, I grabbed it and fumbled putting it on, realizing that panic was setting in.  It took a minute, but then it didn’t seem like there was any air flowing through it.

Not that any of that mattered.  Starved of oxygen, I could feel myself losing consciousness.  A minute or so later, I think the plane had started to level off, and a look at the flight path showed we were down to 10,000 feet, in the middle of the ocean.  My last thought, how long we would survive if we ditched.

I felt a hand on my shoulder shaking me.

“Sir, sir, are you alright?”

I opened my eyes and blinked several times.  I had to be in the middle of a nightmare.

The first thing I noticed was the engine noise, it was very loud, the loudness that came from propeller engines.  The second, I was no longer on an Airbus A330.  This was more like a Boeing 314, a flying boat.  The third, the man shaking me awake was a steward in a white coat, with PanAm on it.

Where the hell was I.  No, when the hell was I.  What the hell had happened?

“Sir, there’s a message for you.”  He handed me a folded sheet of paper.  “The captain asked me to tell you we’ll be landing in an hour, and that you, we all, should be prepared.  It’s a mess.”

“What is?”

“Pearl Harbour.  It was attacked yesterday morning by the Japs.  Bastards came in and practically blew everything up.”

All of a sudden there was a roaring sound outside the plane, followed by what had to be the chatter of a machine gun, followed by the sound of bullets hitting the fuselage.  One minute the steward was standing next to me, the next he was a bloody heap on the floor.  Above my head was a line of bullet holes.  More machine gun chatter, then an explosion, followed by a cry behind me of, “got the zero.”

I got out of the seat and went to the steward, staring at me with lifeless eyes.  A quick check for a pulse told me he was dead.  When I looked behind me there were a dozen or so military men, army, and navy.  Two sailors came up and gently maneuvered the steward towards the rear of the aircraft.  He had been the only casualty.  Turning back towards my seat I caught a reflection of myself in the window, that of a Lieutenant in the Navy.  How, and why was I here, now?

I remembered the note the steward had given me, sat down, and unfolded it.

The receipt date was 3:00 pm on 8th December 1941.  It was addressed to me, that is, a man with my exact name.  Orders to report to an Admiral who would reassign me, the ship I was being sent to had been sunk, and likely not to see service again.

We’d been in the air at the time of the attack, and I guessed news would have been sent to the plane, just in case it was not safe to land.  Perhaps they hadn’t counted on try Japanese Zero fighters hanging around for just such a flight as ours.

Whatever the reason I was here, however it had happened, I would have to make the most of it.

Only then did I remember what I had once said, ‘if only I could go back’.

Once again I felt a hand on my shoulder, and a voice, this time of a woman, gently shaking me awake.

“We’re arriving in Honolulu in about 40 minutes.  You need to prepare for landing.”

At the same time, I heard a change in the engines as we began to descend.  I looked around.  More familiar surroundings, back on the A330, the quiet hum of jet engines, and the sight of familiar faces.

“Did something happen to the plane or was I imagining it?”

“Just a lightning strike.  We had to go down for a bit, but these planes are designed to handle just about anything.  You slept through it, the best thing to do in situations like that.”

OK.  It had to be a dream.  That’s all I could put it down to.  Except for one small detail.  My grandfather’s name was the same as mine, he was in the Navy during World War 2, and he had been sent out to Pearl Harbour and was en-route when it happened.  But there was only one slight difference.  He had been killed when the lone zero had struck, not the steward.

© Charles Heath 2020

Camp NaNoWriMo – Day 30

The April version of the November write-a-thon is upon us, well, me actually.  I’m not sure hope many others are trying to resurrect an old piece of writing.

The truth is, I’ve been at this story off and on over the past three years, and every time I get a head of steam, something else comes along.

Now I’ve decided to use the April version of NANOWRIMO to get this thing finished, or at least in a first draft state.

Part 4 is now finished and it is onto the laborious work of getting part 5 in some sort of shape.  It’s mostly done, but so many other things got in the way, it is still not complete.

What I have to do now is not drop the ball, and stick at it until the first draft is completed.  This will probably take a few more days.

Today’s I continued with making some revisions, where words were struck off and words added, the net result amounted to adding another 1,328 words for a final total of 77,145.

 

 

 

Camp NaNoWriMo – Day 29

The April version of the November write-a-thon is upon us, well, me actually.  I’m not sure hope many others are trying to resurrect an old piece of writing.

The truth is, I’ve been at this story off and on over the past three years, and every time I get a head of steam, something else comes along.

Now I’ve decided to use the April version of NANOWRIMO to get this thing finished, or at least in a first draft state.

Part 3 is now finished and it is onto the laborious work of getting part 4 right.  There will be about ten chapters in this section, and then a short Part 5 which is yet to be written.

Today’s assignment was to go back and make some revisions, where words were struck off and words added, the net result not amounting to much and certainly does not justify the amount of work put in.

Today’s word count adds another 632 words for a total of 75,817 so far.

We are going to exceed my original estimate of 75,000 words by at least another 5,000.

 

 

 

A to Z Challenge – Y is for: You’ve got it all wrong…

Y2020

How often do we make a judgment call simply on what we see?

I knew what I saw, and it looked exactly like a situation that, if you asked any ten others who witnessed it, they would agree with me.

And then there would always be one that wouldn’t.

The prosecution had made a very good case, the defense counsel had woven a brilliant tale from start to finish, and he delivered in an almost persuading tone, with the subliminal message, the defendant was not guilty.

I felt sorry for the prosecution because his delivery had been halting, filled with ums and ers and in the end, everyone, from the judge down, wanted it to end.

As for the jury, it was an odd assortment of characters, a lawyer, a builder, a plumber, a housewife, two sales staff, two clerks, a janitor, two retirees, and a motor mechanic.  I thought it would be the lawyer who would be the problem.

The trial had lasted 22 days, and over that time I noticed that groups would form, and discuss aspects of the case, each of the groups forming a different opinion.  Sometimes, the dynamics of the groups changed as more evidence and testimony was revealed.

But, I think on those first few days, opinions were made, and judgment was passed.

In my opinion, based on looking at the defendant, it could be said that she didn’t look like a murderer, nor did she seem capable of committing such a heinous act.   Having said that, as a throwaway first assumption, the lawyer nixed it in a second.  Knowing something of how these trials worked, he said there would have been a lot of careful grooming, dress down, but not to drab, look demure, not aggressive, and speak in a modulated tone, like everyday conversation.

In other words, he was basically telling us she was giving an academy award performance.

I certainly looked at her in a different light after that, but the fact remained, for some of us, that initial assessment said not guilty.

A few days before we had to deliberate, a very damning piece of video was tendered and we all watched as the defendant was shown talking to her alleged accomplice, the victim’s current girlfriend, and passing an enveloped which the defense claimed was the payoff for helping her dispose of her husband.

It seemed odd to me that someone had known she would be in that bar, perfectly placed under the CCTV camera, both women so easily recognizable.  Of course, the woman in question could not be found, and the inference was that she might also be one of the defendant’s victims.

Several people were called by the defense to assert a line of defense that the husband was a cruel man, who had treated his wife very badly indeed, to the extent her best friend remarked that she had turned up for work on several occasions with the results of what looked like a beating, and another, an ER nurse, had confirmed the defendant had visited the hospital on several occasions with lacerations consistent with what was considered spousal abuse.

Those photographs were quite confronting, but a question had to be asked, why had she not gone to the police with that evidence and let them deal with the husband.

The fact she hadn’t was one weakness in her defense.  The thing there was why the defense introduced such testimony because, to me, it confused the issue by pushing the jury into thinking she had killed him, but in mitigating circumstances.  Was she looking for a verdict of justifiable homicide?

From day two, after the lawyer had told us about how lawyers schooled their clients, I watched her carefully, when sitting beside her lawyer, or when on the stand.  There were interesting actions she made when certain events occurred, like brushing a stray lock of hair back behind her ear, like teasing it out with a slight shake of the head, in a subtle but obvious show of displeasure.  Like smoothing out the invisible wrinkles in her clothes, perfectly fitting and obviously made for her, but understated in a sense that she would stand out in a crown but not ostentatiously so.  It was almost a ritual when she came in at the start, and when she took the stand, preparing herself.

Perfectionist, maybe.  Or trying to convey a certain picture.  Certainly, in the early days before the trial began, the media had a field day with the case, whipped into an even bigger frenzy when the police finally arrested the wife for the murder of her husband.  Almost all of them said he had it coming, with page after page of revelations about a man who could not have done half the things he was accused of.

The trial by newspaper done, I suspect it was hard to find 12 unbiased men and women who could be trusted to make the right decision.  I knew 100 would be jurors had been called up.

Now, in the jury room for the third day, trying to reach a verdict, it was the lawyer trying to wrap it up.  He had a job to go back to.  So did everyone else, for that matter.

“So, in essence, we are all agreed, that she is not guilty.”

It had been an interesting change in his position on the morning of day three of our deliberation.  Before that, he wanted to hang her from the nearest yardarm.  Interestingly enough, that morning, after he had given us his reasons for changing his mind, it would have been unanimous, and over.

The thing is, I didn’t like the way he changed sides so easily or for the reasons he spoke of.

So, in that vote, I changed my decision to guilty, and watch a group of people who had been friendly suddenly become enemies.

But at that moment, that other ten didn’t interest me, it was the expression on the lawyer’s face.  He hadn’t expected the vote to go that way.  It was like he had been goading everyone into voting not guilty and weathering the storm because of his stance.  Had it been staged, had we been led down this path, and then all of a sudden, the verdict he wanted being reached?

I had to find out.

I watched the eleven raise their hands to vote not guilty.  I did not.  And immediately felt the looks of every one of those eleven on me.

“Why?” he asked.

By this time he had taken the lead, and the others had let him.  Now I suspect they would let him do the talking.

“You’ve got it all wrong.  The reasons are the same.  There are two sides to that tale you came up with this morning.  The problem I have is from being adamant she was guilty, and as you said, without a shadow of a doubt, now all of a sudden you’re having doubts.”

“So, you don’t think she’s guilty, you’re just voting that way because you suspect my motives?”

“What I think is irrelevant right now.  You need to convince me that you truly think she’s not guilty.  What is it you saw, or heard, or know that changed your mind.  It certainly had nothing to do with that so-called video in the bar being staged.  It has nothing to do with the fact they can’t find that woman so they can either verify or dispel the accusations being made she was an accomplice.   It had nothing to do with the fact you think she might have been goaded into it and was left with no other option.  In that case, it might well be a case of manslaughter rather than murder.  Is that what you’re trying to suggest?”

“I think given the evidence, or lack of concrete evidence against her, she is not guilty.”

“But given everything you have said, it seems to me you think she had some crime to answer for.”

“Hasn’t she suffered enough?”

“That might well be the case, but it doesn’t give you an excuse to murder., and there’s certainly no forensic evidence that she was defending herself against an attack at the time.  She should have taken her case to the police and have it investigated.  She chose not to, for reasons that were never fully explained.”

“And didn’t we hear that the husband had links to various police that might have made such an investigation a waste of time.  This was a woman trapped in a bad situation with no way out.”

It was a long way from where we, as jurors, were at the beginning of our deliberations.  The first vote at the end of the first day was four voted not guilty and eight voted guilty.  In the following days, a lot of arguments changed the decisions of those seven to vote not guilty, when they believed, in their own minds the defendant was guilty.

In my mind, the first instinct was usually correct.  Over time that decision was only changed because of expediency, not necessarily for the right reasons.  My first instinct was that she was, in fact, not guilty for all the reasons the lawyer cited.

“Look,” he said.  “We’ve been here for three days.  It’s an open and shut case.  Let’s vote.”

We did with the same result.  Eleven for not guilty and one against.

A hung jury.  I wasn’t going to be moved on my position, and so it went back to the court.  It was declared a mistrial and the defendant was returned to custody and a new trial was to be scheduled.

I was reading the paper’s version of events, and speculation on the result.  Several of the jurors had featured in the discussion, but none were willing to talk about the result or who was responsible for the hung jury, only that one juror had not agreed with the majority.  In some states, it was argued, it only required a majority, but in this and other states, quite rightly, it needed a unanimous decision to confer the death sentence.

Justice, it seemed to the writer of the piece, had prevailed.

They also believed that the plight of women trapped in marriages to violent men was a matter that should be looked at and that such women should be treated better in the eyes of the law.  It was not a position that I disagreed with.  What I disagreed with was the notion of jury tampering.

It was, apparently, the fifth time that a case such as this had a similar track record, that the deliberations of the jury had swung from an initial guilty verdict to not guilty at the hands of a single juror.  In each of the five cases, the circumstances were similar, the wife had endured violence by her husband, and then, in odd circumstances, the husband had finished up dead.

Someone had discerned a pattern, and this had been a test case.  In each of the other four cases, a not guilty verdict had been handed down by a jury that had also started with a majority guilty verdict, only to be worn down by a single juror with an agenda.  To get the defendant a not guilty verdict.

My job was to find out which juror it was that was there to change minds.  Then it was a case of finding links between him and four other jurors who were equally instrumental in obtaining a not guilty verdict.  In each of the five cases, there was irrefutable evidence that the defendant was, in fact, guilty of the charge, and the expectation was the legal system would prosecute them.

And then, in each of the cases, a weak prosecutor was selected, and a particular juror was selected by that prosecutor.  From there, the trail led back to a particular assistant District Attorney who had overseen each of the five cases.  The fact was, justice was not served, and four out of the five defendants had escaped justice.

Until now.

 

© Charles heath 2020

Camp NaNoWriMo – Day 28

The April version of the November write-a-thon is upon us, well, me actually.  I’m not sure hope many others are trying to resurrect an old piece of writing.

The truth is, I’ve been at this story off and on over the past three years, and every time I get a head of steam, something else comes along.

Now I’ve decided to use the April version of NANOWRIMO to get this thing finished, or at least in a first draft state.

Part 3 is now finished and it is onto the laborious work of getting part 4 right.  There will be about ten chapters in this section, and then a short Part 5 which is yet to be written.

Today’s assignment is the fallout from the reading of the will.  There will be more until the various inheritors finally accept their shares, which inevitably they have to.

Never have so many waited so long and got so little.

Today is going to be one with a smiley face, for all the wrong reasons, I’m enjoying writing this bit too much, and then there will be a sad face, because there is so much more to do, and so little time.  This chapter was also fun to write.

Today’s word count adds another 3,167 words for a total of 75,185 so far.

We are going to exceed my original estimate of 75,000 words by at least another 5,000.

 

 

 

A to Z Challenge – X is for: X marks the spot

X2020

I hated playing games.

I hated it when I was younger, namely because my brothers always cheated, and that had been carried through to adulthood.

Now, I just avoided them.

It left me wondering how I managed to paint myself into a corner, and agree to do the one thing I assiduously avoided.

You could chalk it up to being persuaded by a pretty girl.  Yes, I am the typical male, a sucker for a pretty face and a little flattery.

It would not have happened if I’d just gone home, instead of being asked to go and ‘just have one drink’ on the way home from work.  I used to, once upon a time, before I got sick.  But, perhaps it was a combination of cabin fever, and the monastic existence I’d adopted since that saw the one visit a chink of light at the end of a very long tunnel.

Whatever the reason, had I not gone, I would not have met Nancy.  I’d seen her before, off and on, at work, and had noted, probably with a degree of disdain that where she was, was the most noise.  You know, the one who talks loudest in the elevator, or the one who was the center of attention at a dining table.

And yet, underneath that, if or when anyone got close enough, there was something else.  Something that fascinated me.  But, having become reclusive had made me more reticent, and even though I was sitting at the same table, almost within arm’s length, I was too shy to strike up a conversation.

Until it was time to go home.  I had moved out of the way so she could get out, and as she passed me she said, “You’ve been very quiet, Brian isn’t it?”

“Yes.  And I know it’s rather lame but I don’t have as extensive knowledge of sports, which I guess I should.  Ask me about old movies, and I’m your guy.  Anyway, I pride myself on being a good listener.”

“Old movies eh.  I’ll keep that in mind.”  A smile, she went to leave, and then turned.  “Look.  I have this thing I have to go to, and I don’t want to go by myself.  It’s not a date or anything like that, I just need someone to come with me.  You might even find the people interesting.”

“I’m sure there’s someone else here more qualified than I am.”  It was lame and I was floundering.  It was not every day a girl asks you to go out with her.  Even if it was, to a certain degree, and unflattering invitation.

“They all seem to have something else to do.  Look, here’s my phone number,” she handed me a piece of paper with her cell number scrawled on it, “Call me if you change your mind.  It’s not going to be as bad as you think.”

I should not have picked up the phone.  I definitely should not have called her number.  And I knew I was going to live to regret telling her I would go to her ‘thing’.

Before I walked out the door I looked at myself in the mirror.  It seemed to be telling me, ‘you are a fool, Brian’, and I agreed.  This had disaster written all over it.  I hadn’t been out for a long time, and if anything, those few hours last evening were a sign I was not ready to face the world.  Not after being so long away from it.

A lot had changed in the fifteen months I’d been in a coma.  It was a miracle, the doctors said, that I came out of it with very little damage.  I’d lost a chunk of memories, particularly surrounding the accident, and perhaps, I’d been told, that was a good thing.  Cameron, the guy I worked with had summed up the change in a few short words, ‘you’ve gone from being the biggest dead shit in the world to something that resembles a human being’.  I didn’t remember that person, though others did.

Maybe she remembered who I was, and, if she did, that didn’t explain why she asked me.  The person Cameron described was not a person I would want to be with, so I guess the answer to my rhetorical question would soon be revealed.

Nancy was bright, talkative, and, at times, over the top.  She was the loudest in the room and the center of attention.  I wondered if the old Brian had been like that because if he was, I wouldn’t like him.  It begged the question, why did I agree to go with her?

Curiosity?  Maybe.  That I might find some people who knew the old Brian?  I certainly hoped not.

I had barely got out of the car to go and knock on her door when she came out, a small gym bag on her shoulder, dressed casually.  I had to admit, in the morning sun and surrounded by an idyllic setting, she looked almost like an angel.  She jumped in the car and all but slammed the door shut.

“You’re early.”

I looked at my watch, then the clock on the car’s dash.  Both said the same, Eight a.m. exactly.  “You did say eight a.m. and not p.m.”  I couldn’t remember what she said, not right then.

“I mean most guys who come to collect me are always late.”

“Then I guess, by inference, I not like most guys.”

She smiled, one of those impish smiles I’d come to recognize from anther woman I’d dated somewhere in a distinct past, and who was trouble.  I did, for some strange remember the night we spent in jail, though I couldn’t remember why, except the impish smile.

“I suspect you’re not.  Cam said you were different.”

“Cam did, did he?”  The mentioning of his name raised a red flag in the back of my mind.  Cameron was not above playing complex pranks and I was beginning to see indications that this might be one.  I would have to be careful.

“Not in a bad way, I mean.  He had nothing but good things to say about you, though I had the feeling there was something he wasn’t saying.  You’re not an ax murderer or anything like that?”

“Shouldn’t you have done some more research before asking me along?”  I had also heard from another source, actually, a chap named, rather aptly, Jones, who was also at the party.  He had left earlier but was still in the carpark, apparently his car parked next to mine, smoking a cigarette.  A suspicious man might say he was waiting for me.

He had some ‘sage’ advice.  “You want to be careful when you’re with Nancy.  She’s not what she seems.”

I asked him to elucidate, but, cigarette finished, he stubbed it out rather violently under his blood, and left.  He looked angry, sounded angry, and it was an angry warning.  Perhaps he was a current or, more likely, ex-boyfriend.  That ‘advice’ only added to the intrigue value.

Someone else, when he asked them about Nancy, had told him she was ‘brilliant’ with computers.  Was that in programming, or hacking, or simply data entry?  He only knew she had helped the web site programmers when the company had built its intranet.  Computers and I never got on, and I was the only one who got a weekly visit from the IT help desk, just in case.

“I did.  Do you remember anything from those fifteen months?”

“Like what?”

“They say that when you’re in a coma you can still hear people, you know, that sort of stuff.”

I thought about it for a minute.  I wasn’t one of those lucky ones, though I did have one of those out of body experiences, where I suspect I’d nearly died.  Just not my time, I’d thought, later.

“I’d like to meet the people who have that ubiquitous title of ‘they’.  They have a lot of opinions, most of which are about the unknown.”

“So would I, to be honest.  All you ever get to do is read about them.  So, are you ready?”

“For what?”

“A weekend away.  It will be fun if you want it to be.”

“Otherwise?”

“It’ll be fun.  You have my promise.”

“And where is this ‘fun’ going to be?”

“Rhode Island.  A friend of my parents, son is having a party and a few side events.  There’s about 40 of us, so there’s no shortage of interesting if sometimes eclectic people.  I’ll put the address in the GPS.”

Rhode Island, the other home of the New York rich, as well as others, and I hoped it was the others we were going to see.  The host was the son of possible millionaires, so that was an interesting description for me to mull on.  Would he be an ex?  It seemed to me that Rhode Islanders would be less likely to mingle with the paupers, and if they did it would be for their own amusement.

There was a memory on the back of his mind, that popped up, albeit briefly when she mentioned the destination.  The fact it didn’t want to come to the surface told me it was a bad memory.  One from ‘old’ Brians days.

Nancy’s beauty, manner, and the fact she was clever might just win over the son of a millionaire, an heir to a fortune, whereas it would intimidate a lesser man.  As for me, I was a means to an end, so it didn’t matter what I thought, other than it was better than staying home.

It was the house with all the cars parked out front.  Multi stories, with towers that no doubt overlooked the ocean, and extensive gardens that seemed to be shared, that blocked the sightlines from the street front to that invisible ocean.  I was will to be, once on the other side, the never-ending sound of the sea might be heard.

In winter, this would be bleak.  In summer, well, what was the saying, anyone who is anyone would be here.  Well, the sons and daughter thereof, perhaps.

I had expected the moment I parked the car she would be out, and gone, like a proverbial schoolgirl dying to get back to school after the holidays.  She was not.  She stood there, at the front of the car, and looked at the scene before us.  To me, it was just a building, with trees, shrubs, and grass around it.  To others, it was a portal into another world, one that would never be available to that 95% of the rest of the world.  It was a phrase that popped into my mind, again, randomly, that said, the top 5% of any country held as much if not more of the wealth belongs to the other 95%.

I came up beside her and looked in the same direction, at one of the towers.

“Having a Rapunzel moment?”  I hoped she had some memory of fairytales or it would seem an odd comment.

“I used to have long hair once.  But, the last time I was here, I can’t remember.  My mother’s hair was always long, some sort of hangover from hippy days, you know, the 1970s.  She was here once.  The stories she used to tell me about the houses, and the people she used to know.  I’m ready.  Are you?”

It was like a walk through the park, getting to the front door.  There was a driveway, but there must have been a rule, no cars on the property.  Or perhaps the front gate was locked and the owner had thrown away the key.

Or, more than likely, the butler, standing at the front door, welcoming guests, had it in his pocket.  He was a tall, severe-looking man, with a military bearing.  I somehow knew he was more than just the average butler.

Nancy gave him our names, and in return, he gave us a sheet of paper.  The rules and the room number where we would be staying the night.  I had thought that we would be given separate rooms, but that wasn’t the case, and it didn’t seem to worry Nancy that I would be staying with her.  The only other words he said were, “The rotunda, 11 a.m.”

The room overlooked the ocean, today more or less a millpond, and a number of yachts were out making the most of the weather.  There was a pier at the end of the property, and, yes, a reasonably large boat attached to it.   There was also a view of a croquet lawn, the rotunda beside the rose garden.  On the other side was a large pond, and seats where, no doubt on days when people like us were impinging on their solitude, they sat and contemplated how to make more money.

I didn’t realize I was that cynical.

The room had two beds, and it’s own bathroom.  She had thrown her bag on one, checked out the bathroom, then dashed past saying, “I’ll see you at the rotunda.”

I followed her down about a half-hour later, descending the stairs at a more leisurely pace, looking at the paintings on the wall as I did.  Forbears, and landscapes that were from around here.  The one with the lighthouse was of particular interest.  It brought another memory to the surface.  I’d been there before, sometime in the distant past, and it was significant.

The Butler was standing at the bottom of the stairs, having stopped there when he saw me descending.

“It’s nice to see you again, Master Brian.”

“Not Master Brian, anymore, Jeffery.  Sadly, I had to grow up.”

“We all do, sooner or later.  Pity we can’t say the same for Chester.”

“Where is he?”

“You need to ask.  I hope you’re up for a little X marks the spot.”

I groaned.  Chester and his treasure hunts.

My last memory of that he had hidden a fluffy bunny stuffed with money.  It was the weekend I had the crash the result I was told of too much booze, too much alcohol, too much of everything.  I was just glad the girl I had brought up with me had left with another chap, a decision, I told her when she visited me in hospital, was probably the wisest thing she would ever do.

I just shook my head.

“Even if you don’t think so Brian, we have missed you.”

Another look around, I sighed, then went outside.  My doctor had been right.  Coming back had stirred up the mush in my brain, those thoughts, feelings, and memories of who I was, and what I was.  And who I would never be again.

Nancy was waiting by the rotunda, talking to a more youthful version of myself, Chester.  It was an awful name, one that our mother must have come up with in one of her drug-fuelled dreams, and he had taken a ribbing at school, and a willing participant in many a fight.

Chester looked surprised to see me, no, that wasn’t surprise, but shock.

“I thought you said you would never come back.”

Nancy looked from him, then to me, then back again.

“I’m not here, Chester.  It’s just Nancy and Brian, here for the treasure hunt.  And this time there better be more than a hundred dollars in that stuffed animal.”

Chester looked confused for a moment, then smiled he brand of childish smile, that of a child that would probably never grow up, the result of what I did to him, and would spend the rest of my life trying to earn forgiveness for.

“OK.”

“What was that about?” she asked.

“Long story.  Remind me to tell you one day, if you stick around that long.”

In the background, I could hear Jeffery calling the treasure hunt participants together.

Like it had ten years ago when I came home…

 

© Charles Heath 2020

Camp NaNoWriMo – Day 27

The April version of the November write-a-thon is upon us, well, me actually.  I’m not sure hope many others are trying to resurrect an old piece of writing.

The truth is, I’ve been at this story off and on over the past three years, and every time I get a head of steam, something else comes along.

Now I’ve decided to use the April version of NANOWRIMO to get this thing finished, or at least in a first draft state.

Part 3 is now finished and it is onto the laborious work of getting part 4 right.  There will be about ten chapters in this section, and then a short Part 5 which is yet to be written.

Today’s assignment is probably the part I’ve been waiting for, the reading of the will in front of a greedy self-serving avaricious group of family members who have been hovering at the mansion waiting for the ‘old biddy’ to die.

Never have so many waited so long for so little.

Today is going to be one with a smiley face, for all the wrong reasons, I’m enjoying writing this bit too much, and then there will be a sad face, because there is so much more to do, and so little time.  This chapter is far from finished.

Today’s word count adds another 2,115 words for a total of 72,018 so far.

We are going to exceed my original estimate of 75,000 words by at least another 5,000.