I pulled into the drive at the Bed and Breakfast just as twilight was falling. It was already getting dark so early it was depressing. I hoped Margot had kept something warm for dinner for me. Getting out of my car I pulled out my tote and kicked the door shut with my foot. One of the barn cats ran over to me for rubs and scratches, a nightly ritual.
“Sorry, sweetie, I’m overloaded. I’ll come out and bring you a treat after dinner.” I told the lithe little black cat. She chirped an answer and skittered away. Well, I guess she put me in my place.
I went through the front door, just in case there were any guests congregating in the kitchen as they sometimes do. I slipped past the front parlor and into my room which was the first door on the right. Brownie-Blue-Eyes was curled on my pillow, his great blue eyes watching me accusatorily.
“Yeah, I know, I’m late. I left some kibble in your bowl so stop looking at me like that.”
He rose and stretched, then strutted across the bed to me. He then plopped himself down and started grooming himself, making a conscious effort to ignore me.
“Fine, be that way. You know, if I knew you were out all day trying to make enough money to keep me in catnip and kibble I’d be a little more understanding; but hey, that’s just me.” I told him as I playfully covered him with my sweatshirt. He just sat with it on his head, stoically waiting for me to pull it off of him.
Ignoring him I went into the bathroom and set down my tote. I ran the shower and undressed as I waited for the water to get warm. I heard a disgruntled, “meowrph” from the other room and a thump as Brownie jumped down from the bed to come and throw guilty glances at me in the bathroom. I got a fresh towel from the shelf and slung it over the top of the shower door, then I tentatively stuck a foot into the water. It was perfect, so I slid in and shut the door behind me. I could see Brownie sitting right outside of the shower waiting for me.
The hot water felt wonderful after the chill I got from sitting in the churchyard, and I let the heat soak out all of the tensions of the day. I also began to formulate a plan for tomorrow’s trip to Rosario Resort. I didn’t think it wise to tell Margot; she would just advise against it and then want to tag along. And since I wasn’t one hundred percent sure if I’d even find Jamie’s boat I thought I’d wait to call Officer Mathews from the marina if the boat was indeed there.
That reminded me that I needed to call him with the phone number of Jamie’s buddy. I reluctantly rinsed the soap out of my hair and slathered in some crème rinse, untangling my hair as I rinsed that out as well.
Once I was soap-free, I turned the water off and grabbed my towel. I stayed in the shower stall to keep warm as I began to dry off. Wrapping the towel around me I opened the door and peeked out. Brownie had jumped onto the counter by the sink; he was not going to be ignored.
I got out and turned on the overhead heat lamp, then went to the counter and pulled my comb and blow dryer out of the top drawer. Brownie continued to watch me patiently. I scratched behind both his ears and under his chin. He began to purr. I bent down and nuzzled my nose in the fur or his head and I felt him push his head up toward me. He really was a great cat and I didn’t know what I’d do without him.
I gently placed him onto the floor, since I knew he hated the blow dryer. Satisfied, he sauntered out towards the bed. I turned on the dryer and began working through my long snarled hair.
Having showered and dressed I padded sock-footed to the kitchen where I could hear Margot talking with someone. I pushed open the door and the wonderful aroma of the spinach quiche that I’d missed at lunch wafted through the air, seductively calling my name.
“I see you’ve found your way home. Good. We thought of calling out the boy scouts to go find you, but were afraid they’d find you in some compromising position that wouldn’t be appropriate viewing for young impressionable minds.” Margot said as she moved to take something out of the oven. I realized it was indeed my left over quiche.
“Margot I am so sorry, but I had an idea that I really needed to follow up on.” I realized too late that she’d been talking with Terry Mathews; he sat at her cozy kitchen table with a dirty pie plate and a cup of coffee. “Oh, Officer Mathews, I didn’t see you, I have that phone number for Jamie’s friend. I’ll just zip back to my room and get it.” I turned on my heel and made it almost to the door when his voice stopped me.
“It can wait a few minutes, Callie. Margot said you did a bit of a disappearing act today.” His mild brown eyes gazed evenly at me. I gave Margot the best glare I could give without being detected; she ignored it.
“Oh, at lunch, yeah I had forgotten an errand I needed to run.” I moved to the cabinets and got a plate and glass out for myself. I could feel Terry watching me; he seemed to be waiting. I helped myself to the quiche Margot had heated for me and poured a glass of tea before I went to sit at the table next to Drew. I busied myself with digging into my quiche and making appropriate “yummy” noises. I realized that the kitchen had gone quiet and everyone was watching me eat. I gulped down a big bite and looked up the faces around the table, “What?” I asked nonchalantly as possible.
“I didn’t know you had any errands to do, did you Drew?” Margot stated.
“No, I didn’t either. Must have been something important that just popped up I guess.” He said, eyeing me closely. Officer Mathews was still just watching me.
“Oh, okay. I had a last minute coffee date. I didn’t want to mention it because I know what those two are like.” I motioned to Margot and Drew with my fork.
“Do you mind if I ask who with?” Terry asked.
“Um, well . . . with Nick Scarpetti. You know him, the EMT who was at the Carlyle’s the other night.” I kept my eyes on Terry, not wanting to catch Margot’s gaze. It did no good.
“Ooh, you mean Mr. Biceps? When did that happen?” Her eyes gleamed with the possibility of gossip.
“We met at the police station this morning, he just asked if I’d have coffee and I accepted before I remembered I was having lunch with you guys. I’m sorry.” I looked as contrite as possible.
Terry smiled and nodded. “Nick’s a nice man, I’ve known his family for a long time.”
I smiled back and purposely ignored Margot’s questions. I set my fork down and took a long drink of tea. “I’ll just go and get those numbers you wanted, Terry.” Before anyone could stop me I was out of my chair and through the door. I wasn’t sure why I didn’t want to tell Terry about what I’d really been doing. Partly it was because I felt silly since there was no boat to be found; and partly it was because I felt helpless enough not being able to help in solving Jamie’s death and I wanted to do something really tangible. If he knew about the marina then he’d certainly get the same idea I did about Rosario, and I wanted to go there myself.
I reached my room and ducked quickly inside and grabbed my Carlyle file. Brownie sat on my pillow and eyed me suspiciously. “Who asked for your opinion?” I asked him testily. To his merit, Brownie didn’t so much as blink in response. I went back down the hall to the kitchen. I found Officer Terry standing with his coat already on.
“Here you are. You can keep it as long as you need it, I’ve made copies of the dogs’ information in case Rachel needs it.” I handed him the file. “Oh, and I remembered that in my e-mail archive I have several old messages from both Diane and Jamie, some with phone numbers. I’ll make copies and send them to you, or would a hard copy be better?”
“I think both would be good, but instead of sending the information you might want to just copy it onto a disk for me.”
“Sure, I can do that tonight and drop it by your office tomorrow.” I answered.
“That would be just fine, Callie. Thank you. Oh, and say ‘hello’ to Mr. Scarpetti for me.” He smiled an impish smile, making his eyes twinkle. He gave Margot a quick hug and waved goodbye to Drew and myself, then let himself out. I let out a sigh of relief and sat back down to finish my quiche.
It wasn’t long before I realized I was being stared at once again. I set my fork down and took a deep breath.
Margot and Drew just sat and stared at me. Finally, Drew got up to take his dishes to the sink. “Coffee, huh?”
“Yeah, it’s that black stuff that some of us crave.” I watched him suspiciously.
Drew just stood at the sink with his back to me, washing up his dishes. Margot sat gazing steadily at me.
“WHAT?” I snapped at her, putting down the glass I was about to drink from.
“Are you going to elaborate, or are you going make me force it out of you.” She asked menacingly.
I snorted. “As if. Look, it was coffee and that’s all it was.”
She continued to look at me, her mouth set in a determined fashion. She said one word, “Inquisition.”
I sputtered out some of the tea I’d gulped and grabbed at the tea towel laying on the table to try and dab at it before it stained my clothes and Margot’s linen tablecloth. “No, not that.” I told her.
“No one expects the Inquisition,” Margot smiled wickedly at me.
“Thanks, Monty. I told you, it was no big deal.”
Margot sat looking at me, contemplating something. She cocked her head to one side. “Okay, where did you go?”
“What do you mean? I told you, we went for coffee.”
“Yes, I got that part. You didn’t say where you’d gone for this coffee.”
“I don’t see what it matters . . .” I began.
Drew spun around from the sink. “Aha! You didn’t go for coffee! If you’d gone you’d tell us exactly where and what type you had!”
I gaped at him, trying not to let my mouth hang open. Damn. Sometimes I think my friends way too much about me. Margot stood with her arms folded in front of her, studying my face.
“Sit down, Callie. Drew, the chocolate, it’s in the top cupboard.” Margot came forward and took me by the shoulders, steering me back to the table.
“Oh no, no you don’t. I will not be bought off by chocolate, not this time.” I tried to stand but she just pushed me back down into the chair.
I knew better than to try and struggle with her. Margot dragged a chair over next to mine, draping one arm over my shoulders. “Now then, let’s talk about this little coffee date of yours.”
Drew showed up at the table just then, bringing a beautifully wrapped untouched bar of Swiss milk chocolate. He set it carefully in front of me, being sure to waft it near my nose before he set it down. He drew up a chair on the other side of me. I was done for and I knew it.
“Okay, we all know how this works. We ask you a question, and if you answer truthfully you get some chocolate.”
“You guys need hobbies, you know that? I mean it. Seriously. What kind of people are you to stoop to the level of torture. It’s unbecoming.” I could smell the chocolate as Margot began to unwrap it.
“Be that as it may,” she said, “I’m going to ask a simple question. Where did you go today when you left the restaurant?”
“I went for coffee.” I recited.
“I don’t think so, do you Drew?” Drew shook his head and bit off the tiniest bit of chocolate. Swine.
“Okay, I went to the cemetery.” I figured I could tell some of the truth and that would work.
“Now we’re getting somewhere.” Margot broke off a small bit of chocolate and gave it to me. “Why the cemetery?”
The chocolate was perfect, melted completely on my tongue. “Because, after the events of yesterday I needed time to center and ground myself.” Another truth, hurray for me! Margot did indeed give me yet another small piece.
Okay, I’m going to ask you another question. Did you go directly to the cemetery?”
Aha, another truth I could tell! “Nope. I had a sit with George the Dane.” Instead of giving me another piece she broke one off and gave it to Drew. “Hey, hey, hey wait a minute! I’m telling you the truth!” I cried.
“Yes, you are; however, you’re only telling me part of the story. So, until you’re willing to open up to your nearest and dearest friends in the world I’m afraid there will be no more chocolate.” She moved a hand as if to snatch the bar away. My own hand shot out to stop hers. I’m such a weakling.
“You know there is very little difference between friend and fiend here.” I said. They both shrugged at me. “Fine. I went down to the marina, to the docks.” I said reluctantly.
They looked at each other and then back at me. Margot slid the bar over to me. I seized it before she could change her mind. Drew and Margot waited as I tore open the foil wrapper and took a big bite, closing my eyes as it melted in my mouth. When I opened my eyes they were both still watching me.
“What? I told you where I went.”
Margot smiled her most complacent smile. “Yes, but you have included the reason why you decided to dash down to the marina right in the middle of lunch.”
“Oh. I suppose you wouldn’t accept that I was having coffee at the marina?” I asked hopefully. Drew just gave me a haughty gaze. “No, I didn’t think you’d go for that.” I sighed. “Alright. I had the idea that maybe Jamie had moored his boat at the marina.”
“Clever girl.” Margot said as she reached over and snuck a bit of chocolate from the bar.
“Not so clever,” I told her. “It wasn’t there.”
I could see Margot mulling this information over. She smiled at me and looked askance at Drew, who was busy picking Brownie hair off of his shirt. I knew she wouldn’t push it any further until we were alone. We both adored Drew, but he wasn’t the soul of discretion. Before she could question me further we heard the back door slam and then heard stomping in the mudroom. This wasn’t as startling as it might seem since only a few people use that door, and even fewer bother to stomp the mud off their feet. I took the opportunity to get away from my tormentors and went to the sink to wash my hands. I heard Rachel’s voice call ‘hello’ before she even came into the kitchen. I turned around, towel in hands, and smiled at her. Rachel was one of my very favorite people. She was down to earth, forthright, and she had a soft heart.
“Hey, there you are.” She said as she took her jacket off and draped it across one of Margot’s oak kitchen chairs.
“Oh, here we go again.” I said in mock disgust. I smiled at her when she cocked an eyebrow questioningly at Margot and Drew. “Yes, we’ve already been through the Inquisition.”
“Not the Inquisition!” She laughed.
“I’m afraid so.” I sighed. “Torquemada and her accomplice already made me confess. It was the dreaded Swiss Chocolate test.”
Rachel nodded knowingly, saying solemnly, “No one can pass the Swiss Chocolate Test. Damn them.” We both laughed and she shook her head. Looking at Drew and Margot she made a ‘tsking’ sound, “When will you two learn to play nice?” She took the chair I’d been sitting in; setting her palms down on the table she lowered her head to them and emitted a long sigh.
“Long day, huh?” I asked.
“Long month.” Came the muffled response.
“Would you like some coffee and a bit of something sweet?” I asked as I looked to Margot for suggestions as to what to offer Rachel.
“I’ve tried a new recipe for blackberry cobbler, you’d be doing me a favor if you’d at least sample some and give me your opinion.” Margot was already opening the cupboards for plates.
Rachel didn’t even need to answer, we’d been Margot’s guinea pigs before when it came to untried recipes and there hadn’t yet been a failure. She sat down at the table with us.
“Callie was just telling us where she wasn’t during today’s lunch.” Drew announced as he took a plate from Margot.
“Ah, you mean besides the restaurant.” Rachel answered as she received her own plate. She snuck a peek at me and winked. I looked at Drew and rolled my eyes.
“Yes, I have no secrets in my life. I went to the marina to check and see if Jamie’s boat was there. It was not. So I spent the rest of the afternoon chasing after a great dane and then spent some time at the cemetery.”
“The one off Cattlepoint?” Rachel asked as she took a bite of cobbler, making sounds of approval to Margot.
“Yep.” I shook my head as Margot gestured toward the cobbler. I was already stuffed with chocolate.
Finally, Margot sat down with us. We all sat in companionable silence. I held my coffee cup and looked out the window into the dark, I wondered idly whether Nick might be working tonight. I did a quick mental shake to rid that thought from my head! I suddenly felt a stab of pain in my right shin as Margot kicked me under the table. I mumbled an ‘ow’ and looked fiercely at her as clearly she’d lost her mind. She just held my gaze for a moment and then sipped her coffee. While running her lithe finger around the rim she slowly turned her attention to Rachel.
“Oh, you know, Rach, I’ve been meaning ask if you’d found a good OB/GYN to go to, I’ve been having the worst cramps lately!” She looked at me as if to tell me that it was my turn to say something. Rachel just sat with her fork suspended in midair.
“Oh yeah,” I chimed in, “Me too, really horrible and the cost of all those tampon boxes, you know it’s a crime against women.”
Rachel, bright woman that she is, caught on to Margot’s game. She looked at Drew as she said, “I always hoped my cycles would get better not worse with age.”
Drew shifted uneasily in his chair. He finished his last bite and carefully placed his fork on the plate. “Okay, I can take a hint, I don’t need to sit here and listen to idle menstrual chitchat. You guys never want to dish about men, honestly I don’t know what to do with you all!” He rose from his chair, took his dishes to the sink and without really slowing down he went right out the kitchen door. Waiting a few seconds to be sure he wasn’t coming back, we delayed our laughter until we couldn’t hold it anymore. This was a common trick we used when we wanted to discuss something without Drew, any talk of feminine reproduction or hygiene and he was just gone!
“Now, you want to tell me what was so important that you decided I needed a knot the size of a baseball on my shin?” I asked Margot.
“Stop being such a baby, I’m sure it isn’t any bigger than a golf ball. The reason I wanted to send Drew on his merry way is that the fewer people who know what’s going on, the better.”
Rachel and I looked at each other, both of us shrugging. “I’m kind of lost now,” I said. “What is going on that’s the big secret?”
Margot ignored me and turned to Rachel. “Officer Mathews was here earlier and Callie decided it would be just a peachy idea to lie to him about her whereabouts today.”
Rachel looked from Margot to me, back to Margot and then returned her gaze to me. “For such a smart woman sometimes you do the stupidest things.” She said.
“Gee, thanks, I had no idea you were such a big fan of mine.”
She reached across and smacked my hand, actually smacked my hand like a wayward child! “Callie, Officer Mathews is neither stupid nor is he without resources. What was in your head!”
I repeated to her why I didn’t think it important enough to drag everyone into it, and triumphantly related that since the Zephyr was not at the marina I had actually done the police a favor by saving them the bother of going to look. Rachel still looked unconvinced. So, I chose to ignore her and turned my attention instead to Margot. “Drew already knows all about this, thanks to your demented chocolate attack on me. So what’s so bloody important that Drew needed to be chased from the room?”
“Drew is incredibly intelligent, but he doesn’t know you quite as well as I do.” Margot announced. “He wouldn’t guess where you’d be headed next.” Her eyes never left mine and I had to fight the urge to fidget.
“Still not getting it.” I told her; although, I was pretty sure I knew exactly where this was going.
Margot sighed the long suffering sigh of a saint. “He wouldn’t guess that you’d be headed next to Rosario.” She answered in an ‘aha’ manner that I found annoying. I chose to ignore her, so I arose and took my dishes to the sink, rinsing them and putting them into the dishwasher. Margot had turned to Rachel, “You see, I know I’m right because she can’t even come up with a good argument as to why I’m wrong. Why? Because I am not wrong.” She crowed and looked very well-pleased with herself.
“No, you are not right. I hadn’t even thought about Rosario,” I lied. “You know, though, that’s not a bad idea.”
“You’re such a bad liar.” Margot told me.
“Ladies, please. A little decorum if you will?” Rachel cut in. “Whether Callie is lying,” she glanced at Margot, “Or not.” She looked at me, “Is really besides the point. What we need to know now is whether you, Callie, have it in your mind to go looking for the Zephyr at Rosario?”
I stared at her blankly for a few seconds, my mind racing around like a gerbil in a habitrail trying to come up with a viable answer. I couldn’t. They both stood silently watching me, Margot with a particularly irritating smirk on her face.
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Well, this has been an absolutely horrendous day, the likes of which I hope not to repeat anytime soon.
We had to get up at an insanely early time this a.m. so we could 1)drop the dog off at home; 2) drop our car off at the garage; 3) pick M.'s mom up to take her for a cortizone shot at the hospital; 4) Drive 20 miles back out to where we're staying and pick up our client's check; 5) Drive another 20 miles to walk a couple of dogs; 6) drive ten miles to our next sit and let another client's dogs out; 7)drive ten miles into downtown to drop off a check for the down payment for our client's new Saab; Drive 25 miles to the bank; 9) Go to the grocery store that's right around the block from the bank; 10) Pick up our car (another 5 miles) only to find out they can't fix the A/C for less than $995.99; 11)drove back to his mom's house to pick up the dog; 12) Stop for gas; 13) Drive another 20 miles to where we're doing our stay over.
Thought that would be it, but I got a crappy e-mail from my ex telling me all about how he and his new wife went to New York City for his birthday, and about his new blog, and how he's paying to put her through grad school now. I should never have gone to see his blog---I wanted to see pictures of my kitties or I wouldn't have done it.
My ex is an absolute git. A prat, full on. He actually said "I'm a sucker, I'm sending another one back to grad school." First, he didn't SEND me to grad school, I worked to go and I paid my way. AND I think his new wife, who has worked at Microsoft much longer than he has and probably makes a very good wage, does NOT need his permission to go back to school.
Plus, his blog is full of trite descriptions and dippy expository writing masking as "charming." It's not, it just comes off being smarmy. He cannot write honestly about anything seriously. And I'm speaking as a critic of his writing, not as a nasty ex. He may get better the more he writes, I hope so.
Anyway, tomorrow is another glorious day of cleaning houses and walking dogs, so I should toddle off to be.
Sorry this was such an acrimonious post, but I really needed to vent. I feel better now.
I was watching Live From Lincoln Center when I was struck with a bout of melancholy--yes, again.
It reminded me of nights in Seattle when I would go to the Seattle Opera House and hear amazing musicians: Wynton Marsalis and his brother Branford. I loved those evenings, driving into the city just as the lights of the skyscrapers were coming on, and the Sound was a dark streak in the distance. Sometimes we would go to dinner first; often, a tiny hole-in-the-wall family run place--usually Italian. "There were often friends who would join us and we would be laughing and anxious for the show.
This was many years ago, back when I had it easy and didn't realize it. I'd probably never be able to afford tickets to a jazz concert--let alone dinner out at a four star restaurant. Sometimes I close my eyes and see . . . oh, so many things. So many things that I miss--that I took for granted at the time. Things like walking into the lobby of the Opera House and seeing all the people so differently dressed, from evening gowns to jeans. That's something that is so typically Seattle: everyone is free to enjoy the arts and it's not considered "affected" or "snooty," attitudes which I have experienced fully here in Ohio.
What else about those jazz nights is typically Seattle? The parking garages blocks away, and having to walk past blocks full of ethnic restaurants--all of the glorious fragrances of exotic spices. The traffic, especially the taxis. Groups of young men and women hanging out at the bus stops, sometimes asking for change. The air would smell of Puget Sound-ocean-fresh with a tinge of salt to it. And the aroma of coffee! Yes! Every corner: Starbucks; Tully's; Seattle's Best; and the many other smaller coffee-houses that have made Seattle the coffee kingdom of the U.S. Even in the lobby of the Opera House I could by a mocha and sip it while waiting anxiously for the show to start--and then again during intermission.
The concerts were so amazing, the artists absolute legends playing the stuff of their legends. I remember closing my eyes and letting the music fall upon me like a drenching rain; a rain that washed away those little annoyances of the day and left my soul clean and pure. I am very sensitive to music and have always felt it quite strongly. And jazz had a power over me, I had to move my feet or hand or head in time to the music. If I could have I would've gotten up and danced. I dreaded the moment the show would end, because it was so sad. We all would applaud until arms felt light and our palms stung, just so we could get as many encores as possible. None of us wanting the music to end. Yet, when it inevitably did we all would file out, smiling like children at a fair. We'd left many of our cares behind us, beaten down by the jazz, and washed away for the night at least.
When we'd emerge from the lobby we would huddle in our respective groups and made our plans. "Do you want to go?" "I know a wonderful place that serves a killer cheesecake." "How about a cup of coffee?" And we would troop off in our little groups, huddling together to protect that rush we'd gotten from the music from the downtown night. It would sometimes be chilly, and it would quicken our steps to our next destination.
One of my favorite places was Dilletentes' Chocolates. My girlfriend and I would order the "Plate of Designer Chocolates" comprised of the confection of our choosing. And we would order that wonderful dark rich Seattle-style coffee--and when it would arrive there would be a perfect cube of raw sugar and one disk of chocolate in the bowl of our spoons. Or, we would ask for brown sugar and whipped cream and drank our coffee like that. With all of the sugar, caffeine, warmth, and music strumming through us we would talk and talk for hours. We would each tell what had been our favorite part of the concert; then we would each sample each other's desserts, and decide who had made the best choice.
After too much coffee, non-stop talking, and sometimes impromptu humming of favorite songs--we would reluctantly put on our jackets, leave larger tip than was ever needed or expected--then we'd trundle into the street. The streets were so empty, and it seemed like a different city than the Seattle of the day light. After awkwardly saying our goodbyes and making tentative plans to meet soon--we would reluctantly turn and walk into our separate lives again.
In my mind I like to think only of those moments during the concert that filled me so completely I thought I would burst with all of it inside me. With closed eyes I can invision the bluish stage lights; the brighter spot lights reflecting off the brass instruments; and the reflection of all of it on the sequin dresses of the fancy dresses. For me, I'm lucky. I can revisit those moments--I just close my eyes and I can transport myself to those Seattle nights. And I see the empty downtown streets, I smell the chocolate and rich aroma of coffee. I hear the excited crowd; and experience that magical moment between the second all noise would cease, and the moment when the very first note would reverberated out across us all; bonding us in a small way in this one place in time. Then I see all of the lights go out except for one blue spot on the piamist--a lone pianist and he's playing so very softly:
In time the Rockies may crumble, Gibraltar may tumble
They're only made of clay
But our love is here to stay.
Well, it's been ages since I've written. Partly its because I've been so busy and we've had to do a lot of moving from place to place--so I don't have the computer often, and sometimes when I do I am just too exhausted to write. The second reason I didn't write for so long is that the last thing I wrote had been about losing my mom (it got accidently erased), and no one had any comments about it. I guess the little girl in me is still looking for consolation. Silly really.
I've been doing a lot of reading and research about writing a mystery novel. I truly want to do it, but I fear I can't and that I just don't have the imagination or the discipline to finish a book. Then I was thinking the other night when I watched an amazing show about two groups of survivors from the WTC, that maybe I should just write because who knows what tomorrow will bring--if it comes at all.
Who was it who said : "If you want to be a writer: write."?
Been feeling kind of down lately. Summer is almost over--my garden went to hell and I didn't get hardly any herbs harvested. I didn't get to go to the Oregon Coast and stay with my old friends in the annual "beach house vacation," (that I've never been able to attend. My siblings don't communicate with me in any way: via phone, snail mail, or e-mail. I get tired of being the one that is always reaching out to them, always remembring the birthdays and the one who sends the holiday cards. I'm the "baby" and they're the older siblings: it's about time they took over some of the responsibility for the relationship--or at least share it with me. Ever since my divorce, boy, I have been like the kiss of death when it comes to my sis and bro. A couple of hypocrits and I could prove it if I wanted to air dirty laundry--but I am not about to do that.
Even my "best" friend doesn't communicate with me. I realize she had a baby (almost TWO years ago) and she is probably very busy and tired; but I get tired too--I work hard--yet I always make a point of sneding cards--calling her (I end up leaving messages on her machine), and sending little presents (like we've always done for each other. This is standard operatiung procedure for her, I hate to admit, when things are rough she calls me all the time--when things are good I never hear from her. Even my ex-husband told me it irritates him to see her treat me like that. Ah well.
So, that's my whine-fest. My typing is also slow and full of mistakes because I still can't feel my index finger on the hand I cut earlier this summer.
The nerves in my hand are trying to repair themselves and it is extraordinarily painful.
I started this story quite a while ago. It is a fan-fic from the short-lived, yet brilliant series American Gothic. This is a story of one of the families that I made up to live in the town of Trinity.
WHAT'S PAST IS PROLOGUE
By Sammantha Goode
This story was something I started a while back as a means of
dealing with grief - it really helped me, it sounds crazy but it made
me feel not so alone. What really shaped it was Queri's excellent
story, "Red Roses for a Dead Lady." Nimbi's story "Push" also
added to it. The family I have created here are just some ordinary
residents of Trinity-sort of. They are the Manigault family: Celeste
(mama); Robinson (the eldest brother); Valentine, who is called
Val (an older sister); Calder (a younger brother); and Taylor (the
baby sister who is telling the story).
CHAPTER ONE: "He That Dies Pays All Debts"
-- Shakespeare: The Tempest
The year I turned twenty-seven my mother died. It had been long
in coming and not unexpected. She was a desperately unhappy
woman who had given up on living years ago. She had never left
Trinity, even for one day and I had always thought that odd, but
now I believe leaving Trinity was a thing beyond her imagining.
But not me. I got out; I got out as soon as I was handed that high
school diploma. Mama didn't want me to leave, didn't understand
really. I knew that if I stayed I'd turn out just like her and all the
other old women too afraid to live. I believe this is what really
killed my mother: fear. It wasn't her emphysema or the cuts on
her wrists, it was just the fear of facing yet another day.
These were my thoughts as I drove toward Trinity, not kind
thoughts or sweet childhood memories. I felt as if I was preparing
to do battle, and I didn't understand why I felt this way. My sister
and brother would both be there to meet me at the house, I knew
we'd all be feeling the shock of loss. I wondered who else might
be there. Loris would stop by with some wonderful steaming dish
of food, knowing there would be nothing she could say to make
anything better_and smart enough not to even try. Perhaps
Dr. Owen, mama's doc since she was a kid, would be there,
plus the neighborhood ladies brigade_they wouldn't miss this
for anything, a peek inside the house and a chance to see grief
close up. The church auxiliary probably had already been and
gone, bringing casseroles and pies that were never as good as
anything Loris made. And one other person. Oh, he may not be
there when I arrive, but he'll not forget to stop by and offer me
his . . . condolences.
I turned right down Dogwood Avenue. The houses here were
old cracker-box Victorians, just like my mama'' house. When I
was young and would walk home from school down this same
street I would often think that someday I'd have a house like
one of these: big and full of stained-glass windows, gables, and
trim as delicate as spun sugar. And at night when my brother
Calder and I would sneak out the upstairs window, shinny down
the tree and run laughing into the dark. We would stop in front of
different houses and look through the lighted windows. What we
saw, I realize now, was a world we did not know, but ached to
be a part. Calder and I were regular little peeping Toms, we
loved slinking up to a house, hiding in the bushes, and watching
the people inside. It didn't matter what they did: watching television;
talking; laughing; eating dinner. We loved it all. I'm sure our
neighbors must have known, we weren't the quietest or the
cleverest kids on the block, but no one seemed to care_or if
they did they never said anything about it.
It made me want to cry, thinking about all of those times with
Calder. He and I had a special bond. Our older siblings, Robinson
and Valentine seemed so removed from either Calder or myself.
Neither of them understood us, I don't know if it was because of
the age difference or something inherent in ourselves. Robinson
took his role as the eldest brother quite seriously. No surprise
really, it's the Southern way, the eldest male in the family became
the patriarch over the rest. Once daddy had gone Robinson
stepped right up and filled those shoes with barely a pause to
catch his breath. My older sister Valentine, or Val as she insists
on being called, is the typical Southern belle; she had a way of
being so warm and sweet the butter melted in its dish and the
honey dripped from the hive. Robinson and Val were storybook
children who grew up to live familiar lives. They fit in; their looks
and their likes were the same as all the other kids in Trinity.
Calder had always been very like me in both appearance and
actions. Where Robinson and Val had the mousy brown hair
and freckles like our mother, Calder and I had fine almost white
hair and our skin was always milky-colored, no matter how much
baby oil I slathered myself with or how long I baked in the sun. I
think daddy's was like that, but I was too young when he left to
remember much about him. I remembered him in dream-like
memories, as a large man with a resonant voice. Mama did not
keep any pictures of him out, and I wondered whether I might
find one when we went through her things. I suspect Robinson
had one, but if he did he kept it to himself. I do know, because
mama never ceased to tell me, that Calder and I had our father's
deep green eyes. Our looks were contradictory to say the least,
and they served only to alienate us that much more from our peers.
I was raised knowing that Calder and I somehow belonged to my
father's people. That's how they refer to it in Trinity; and daddy's
people had the Manigault bloodline pulsing through it. This made
us both special and frightening.
I slowed the car as I approached mama's house. All the lights
were on, every single one. Mama would've had a conniption. I
pulled up to the curb in front of the house; I noticed my sibling's
cars in the driveway and realized I really didn't want to see them;
what could I say that wouldn't come out as being melodramatic
and maudlin? I got out, unlocked the trunk and began pulling my
old leather bags out. I heard someone shout "hello" and looked
up in time to see my brother headed down the walk toward me.
Other than his hair, which he grown long enough to pull back into
a ponytail, Calder had not changed. He was as tall and broad-
shouldered as he'd been in high school, and time had not left
any traces on his face.
"Hey you, little sister."
I let the bags fall to the ground and allowed myself to be
enveloped in my brother's arms. It felt good to be the baby again,
to let someone else hold me for a change. In the real world I'm
a physical therapist, stress on the therapist. I see so many mangled
people who need to lean on me emotionally as well as physically
that I often go home at night completely drained. I have many
opportunities to be the "strong one," I am good at it. Growing
up in this town and with this mother I had to be. My daddy was
long gone, only wrote once to let my mama know she could keep
the house; a fine man. My brother Calder, Lord bless him, is
nothing like my father. He is totally laid-back but he has a sense
of loyalty to the family, which is ferocious. I don't think he ever
got over daddy leaving us like he did. Calder has always been
my favorite sibling, he understands me like no one else in the
family does. Maybe it's because we're closer in age; he's only
thirty-three. And there are a few other "traits" or "secrets" we
share that no one else knows about or would really understand.
"Hey Bubba, how you doin'?" He may be only thirty-three, but
he'll always be "Bubba" to me. Before I could say his name,
before I could even say "brother," I came out with Bubba. Now
of course it's generally a derogatory name, but not for Calder and
"Been better, been better . . .Val is here."
"Ah, I thought I saw the `Mail Truck.'" This was a joke between
and Calder and I alone, because my sister has six children she
delivers from activity to activity through sun, rain, or hurricane.
God knows why, but she is always talking about having another.
"How is she?"
"Well you know Val, falls to pieces. I don't think she's holding
up very well."
"Hhmm. I was afraid of that. Where is she?"
"Upstairs. Aunt Louise is with her and Mrs. Dobson from next
door. Richard's up there with her, too. They're huddled in mama's
We stood apart a bit, looking up at the big white house. Calder
turned to me with a mischievous smile.
"How `bout you and I take a little walk?" he asked.
"They won't care?" I nodded toward the house.
"Well, I don't think they even know you've arrived. I was kind
of keeping an eye out." He winked at me and I smiled at him.
"Always the Southern gentleman, taking care of things for your
poor little sister!"
He grabbed my hand and pulled me along after him. We headed
down the darkened street; we lived just far enough on the edge
of town not to have regular streetlights, so the eerie blue from
television sets up and down the street lighted the sidewalk. We
walked in silence for a couple of blocks, both of us kicking and
crunching the dead leaves along the sidewalk. Calder reached
inside his brown leather jacket bringing out a small hand-rolled
cigarette and offering it to me.
"How you feeling, girl?" he smiled wickedly at me.
"Calder! You really are too much! Of all days." I said as I took
it from him.
"Trust me, you're going to need this before the night's over.
Robbie's on his way over." He said. `Robbie' was actually
Robinson, our eldest brother. Calder insisted on calling him
`Robbie' just to piss him off, which was really no challenge.
Maybe it was the generation gap, Robinson is twenty years my
senior, or maybe it's more ingrained than that, but none of us
kids got along with him. He was just too `good ole boy,' and
Calder could do a perfectly evil impression of him!
He took the joint from my hand and inhaled deeply.
"Mmm." I could feel the muscles in my jaw begin to loosen for
the first time in twenty-four hours. "Has Robinson been a perfect
ass?" I asked. Calder nodded, still holding his breath.
"Um. So, where is she? Down at the funeral home?" I asked
taking the cigarette away from him.
"No . . . Taylor, the death wasn't, um . . . well, natural causes."
Calder stopped walking and took my hand. "They have to check
"Why? She was unhappy woman who took advantage of the
razor blade. It's not that surprising; she'd tried it before. She
suffered from a chronic case of melancholy, to put it mildly. I
mean, how many times had she threatened to do it?"
Calder shrugged and looked away.
"Exactly; too many times to count. I'm not surprised at her death.
I am a little surprised at how ashamed I feel. I should have known,
or had a hint something was wrong." I began to cry. Calder put
his arms around me, holding and shushing me. A big Lincoln town
car pulled up along side of us. We stepped back and looked at
the man behind the wheel: Robinson. He opened the car door
and got out. Standing with his legs wide apart, hands on hips,
he was like a parody of the southern patriarch.
"So, there you two are. I might've known, off enjoyin' yourselves
while the rest of us are just tryin' to hold things together." He
hadn't changed, obviously.
"Well, it's good to see you, too." I said.
"How long have you been in town, Taylor? You could've
called and let somebody know." He scolded.
"She did let somebody know: me. Lay off, Robbie. I was
just preparing Taylor for what she's about to walk into." Calder
"I bet you were. What's that smell?" Robinson looked around
"Probably the joint we've been sharing." I said, just to tick him
off even more.
"Well, that's just dandy isn't it. My little sister is going to show
up at her deceased mother's house stoned out of her mind." His
voice taunted me.
"It's been really nice seeing you again, Robinson. Reminds me of
why I moved away in the first place." I retorted.
"Has `Mr. Responsibility' over there told you about the inquest?"
Robinson asked, gesturing toward Calder.
"We were just discussing that. Does this mean there has to be an
autopsy?" I asked.
"Yes. Things were . . . just not right."
"Yeah, she killed herself." I snapped.
"You don't have to get uppity! Let's just say that there are a few
things that don't quite add up." He said.
"Like what? Calder and I were just talking about how mama didn't
seem any more distraught than usual, neither one of us can think of
anything that's happened recently that would push her over the edge."
"Yeah, in fact, she seemed happier than usual. Which in itself should
have tipped me off." Calder said, squeezing my hand.
"Right. She seemed all right to me, too. And I saw her all the . . .
you know . . . on a regular basis." Robinson's voice became quiet.
I felt a sudden twinge of regret and guilt. Maybe I could've stayed
or visited. Something.
"No, now I know what you're thinking Taylor. You gotta cut that
out right now." Calder's voice was firm. "You paid most of the
expenses, you called and kept in touch. You were a good daughter,
Taylor." Calder put his arm around me and looked defiantly over
my shoulder at Robinson. I turned my face away from them both
as I began to cry again.
"Ah, Taylor." Calder turned me around and took hold of my
shoulders. "You were a good daughter, you were always the best.
If mama had had sense she would've told you that."
Even Robinson seemed contrite. "I didn't mean that I would've
had any greater insight into her motives just because I lived in the
same town." He said.
"Yeah, we know what you meant Robbie." Calder snapped.
"Calder, Robinson, just stop it, the both of you. I can't handle a
duel between the two of you right now." I said.
"All I meant," Robinson began, staring belligerently at Calder, "Is
that it just seems, I don't know, like it's wrong. Like there's
something more here. Look I don't have anything other than a
gut feeling, but . . . do you think mama might've had a little help
with that razor?"
"Jesus, Robinson! That's patently ridiculous. Why would she?
How would she? She just wouldn't." I was so angry I was shaking
and very nearly speechless.
"Calm down, now just calm down. I told you, I don't have any
solid reason to believe she could've been pushed. All's I'm saying
is . . ." Robinson's voice trailed off.
"All you're saying is that `someone' manipulated mama into killing
herself, and we all know who the only person in town with the
capabilities of that is. Why don't you just say it? Lucas killed
mama. All right mastermind, why would he do that? What could
he possibly gain?" Mama had nothing he'd want, not enough
money, just the house, no power. And frankly, I can't see him
being all that interested in Calder, Val, or even you. None of
you are really the Trinity movers and shakers." I spat the words
"Right. None of us here would interest Lucas." Robinson's
expression turned solemn as he gazed steadily at me. My mind
wasn't functioning fast enough. I tried to shake clear of the
drugged fog that surrounded me. I looked back at him evenly.
Then it struck me what he was intimating.
"I see. Me. You think I had something to do with this."
"Not directly, no. Tell me the truth Taylor, have you talked to
Lucas lately?" Robinson's left eyebrow rose with the question.
"Christ! No! I swear Robinson, you are like a dog with a bone.
I was eighteen and I was na‹ve." "I had nothing that Lucas found
anywhere else in Trinity on any given day."
"Okay, you two, that's enough." Calder stepped between us.
"This is hard enough, let's not start casting stones."
"I'm sorry, Taylor." Robinson said. "I just, well it just seems so
"Well, wake up Robinson, mama was a crazy woman." I said to him
as he dropped his gaze to the ground.
"I'm sorry Taylor, forgive me?" He was almost whispering. I was
still too angry to forgive him.
"Look, why don't you and Calder head back to the house and I'll
be along in a little while." I said without looking at either of them.
"Yeah, okay. Um. You're alright out here by yourself?" Angry or
not he was still my big brother, my protector.
"Yeah, I'm fine. Y'all go on, don't tell anyone I'm here yet, okay?
Unless they saw us or something." I said.
Calder gave me a quick hug, sneaking another joint into my hand.
He whispered into my ear: "I can't believe you're sending me off
with him." I smiled evilly at him.
"I really am sorry Taylor." Robinson wasn't going to let it drop.
"I know you are, and I'll probably accept that apology when I
calm down." I smiled slightly at him. "Off you go, now." I said,
winking at Calder who was mouthing the words "I'll get you for
The night had gotten a bit cool; it'd be winter soon. I walked a
little further on until I reached the schoolyard. I sat on one of the
old red canvas swings and took the joint out, lit it and inhaled
deeply. I began to push myself forward then back. I remembered
this yard, these swings. I'd fallen out of one once and had almost
broken my arm.
"I could arrest you for that." The voice came suddenly from
behind me. A voice I'd heard over the last eight years only in
dreams. Lucas caught the swing from behind and held me
suspended in the air. "Looks like a full moon." He whispered
into my ear.
"Yeah, funny that. It says in the tourist brochure that Trinity's
known for it's full moons and stupid men." I tried to twist
around to look at him, but he was in shadow. Typical. I heard
him laugh softly.
"Well, yah gotta have a gimmick if you want to bring in those
tourist dollars." He rattled the chains of the swing, but continued
to hold me in mid-air. "I hope you weren't referring to me." I
could feel his body against my back.
"Oh, no sheriff. I'd never say anything like that about you. I
just had a run-in with Robinson." I confided to him.
"Ah, how is ole Robbie? Business good?" He asked.
"Why do you ask?" His questions made me suspicious.
"No reason." He said. "I heard about your mama Taylor, I'm
"Uh huh, duly noted, Lucas. Let me down." I said. He let go
of the chains and I was suddenly propelled forward in the swing.
I held my legs out and dragged them along the uneven dirt until
the movement slowed and I was finally still. Lucas sat in the
swing next to me.
"You've no reason to be angry at me." He said without looking
"I'm not. I just . . . It's been a long and difficult day and I think
it's just the first of many. I'm tired." I said. I put out the joint and
put the remainder into my pocket. I stood up abruptly, I had an
urge to get away from him, but before I could move he was
beside me holding onto my arm.
"What is it that you're thinking, girl?" he asked. "Has someone
told you something I should know about?" He tightened his grip
on my arm.
"Lucas, you know every Goddamned thing in this Goddamned
town, you don't need me as an informant." "Now, let go of my
arm." I said in the firmest voice possible. He ignored that and
"I did not hurt or cause any harm to your mama. She was a sad
and bitter woman, but she meant well in most cases. And,
however she did it she turned out one hell of a daughter." He
was looking directly at me. I looked into his face. He was telling
the truth. I don't know how it was, but I have always been able
to tell when someone's lying to me. Falsity has a smell, it smells
differently on each person, but the odor is always present. It
sounds crazy, I know, but even Lucas had a scent when he
lied. A cloying sweet smell of faded and dying flowers, I did
not smell it now.
"Taylor, darlin', you know I'm telling you the truth." Lucas
held my face between his hands and tilted it up to him. I
searched his face for signs of duplicity; I breathed his smell
in deeply. Nothing.
"Yes, I know." I said at last. "It's just something Robinson
said . . ." I began.
"That I'd hurt your mama to get at you. Did he have some
reason behind this brilliant deduction?" Lucas' tone became
"None. I shouldn't have listened to him. I told him mama had
nothing to offer you," I said frankly, watching his eyes for a
flicker of anger.
"Is that what you think of me? That I go around hurtin' people
to get what I want?" He sounded almost offended.
"Oh, I know that's what you do. You don't thrust that knife in,
but you tell them where to stick it and how hard to push. You
ever heard of the Hidden Hand of God theory of the universe,
Lucas? Well, except for the God part that's you and Trinity.
Trinity is your little universe. You control things here. I'd be a
fool not to know it."
"It didn't seem to bother you eight years ago," he smiled wickedly
at me. "In fact, now correct me if I'm wrong, but that was part
of my appeal." I realized he was still holding my face in his hands.
"I was eighteen, Lucas. Eighteen and I'd never been out of
Trinity. Hell yes, that was part of the appeal. You were the
most interesting man in the whole county. I bet you still are.
But I'm not fool enough to think you had any real feelings
for me, other than arousal, that is."
"Well, that's where you're wrong." He slid his hand along my
jawline and then up into my hair intertwining his fingers in it. "I
always knew your worth, even before you knew it yourself. I
could respect you without condition." He bent his head down
to mine, kissing my lips gently. Then his kiss turned deeper and
more insistent. I didn't even try to resist him. I returned his kiss.
God. After eight years away and half that time in therapy it felt
as good as it did when I was eighteen. Better. Damnit.
He slowly pulled back, resting his forehead on mine and
looking me straight in the eye. "Welcome home, darlin'" he
"Lucas, I have just driven over five hundred miles to put my
mama in the ground. I have to meet and greet my `fellow'
mourners, attempt to keep my brothers from killing each other
and try and keep my sister from losing it altogether. My mama's
house is probably filled with people I don't even know but still
have to be friendly to. To top it all off my eldest brother thinks
I'm some kind of long-distance Dr. Kevorkian, not to mention
he's going to give me hell for seeing you. Did you really think
you could give me one good kiss, a "welcome home" and
everything was going to pick up right where we left it eight
years ago? Go away Lucas, you are the last thing I need tonight."
I pulled away from him and stood looking at him directly.
"I'm not the person you're mad at, Taylor." He said.
"I know," I answered, "But you'll do for now."
He smiled slightly, turned and started to walk away, his long
black coat making soft rustling sounds as he moved. I'd be
damned if I was going to stand out here in the cold and watch
him go. I glanced up at the sky_at the beautiful full moon,
turning around I headed up the vacant street towards the
END OF CHAPTER ONE