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Thought I would let all of you know some news from Ariel 🙂

Ariel’s Engagement Story


























































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Confusion surrounded me as I slowly woke. I heard a distant roar in the background but could not place it. I tried to bring myself to the reality of the noise and my surroundings, but I could not manage it. All I could remember was taking my pain medications at bed time and passing out. I remembered taking some extra morphine pills but not how many extra. Surely not enough to…well, not enough to cause any damage.

I knew my eyes were open, but I was surrounded by a grey fog that I could not see through. The roaring sound continued and was calling me to it. I still could not place it, but there was a power in the call that could not be ignored.

I sat up in bed without any effort or pain so now I knew none of this could be real. I tried to call out to Wendy in our other bed, but no sound came out of my opened mouth. Then the impossible happened as I swung my legs to the floor and stood to my feet. My body still felt nothing as I began to walk.

The roar was incessant giving me no choice but to follow it. My hospital bed and walls around me vanished into the fog with each step I took. I now recognized the noise. Ocean waves crashing onto a rocky coastline. The thundering sound growing louder with each step I took.

The grey fog began to lessen into a swirling mist around me. My eyes could now make out a surf before me as the mist swirled around my body took on the shape of huge hands pulling me forward. The strength of the ocean was overwhelming and could not be ignored. Each wave crashing over and over onto huge, teeth-like rocks around me.  I was following a very old and slippery path.

My feet were now in the water and the icy cold gripped me with fear. I tried to stop but could not. Each step brought me deeper into the swirling waters as I now felt seaweed tangle around my legs working with the undertow pulling me forward.

I was helpless at the onslaught of the strength. I continued to attempt to call out for help, but there was no one there to help me. The cold was sapping any resistance that I had of fighting. Each step I took I knew I was walking to my death. Death…cold, alone, unforgiving.

Then the roar changed to an angry hissing sound and my pace slowed. The anger of this ocean burned from losing a battle. I felt a warmth returning to my body along with a different voice calling my name. The mist vanished around me being replaced with a solid life again. Walls, lights, my hospital bed were now in my vision as the roaring sound and fog fled from the voice calling my name.

It was Wendy. I turned my head and she was sitting on the edge of my bed talking gently to me. Telling me that I was having a nightmare. She told me that I was cold feeling as she pulled the covers back up over me. My mind continued to clear as my pain reminded me of my reality. But my reality, filled with paralysis, pain, coldness and fear, could be born if I had Wendy beside me calling my name. Death would come to me some day. But for today, Wendy and her love were all I needed to face my earthly trials.

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My heart, thoughts and prayers go out to a dear friend who just lost his wife after many years. I do not know his pain, but my thoughts needed to be expressed.


I know

I open my eyes in the night

     The room not quite dark from the glow of the clock

            Reaching my right arm over to where you should be

I know

                        But my hand does not feel you there

The empty place on my bed matches the empty place in my heart

I know

                                     Death, this is your sting?

            Death, this is your victory?

                        The ache in my chest makes it hard to breath

I know

            Your pain is over as you found your eternal rest

                        My pain lingers on day by day

                                    I am alone

I know

I believe what the Bible says

                        Christ fought the final battle of death and won

                        My hope is your promise of life

I know

                        You are waiting for me to join you

                             To die is gain

                                    To be with you again

I know

         But for now, my earthly pain is real

                                       I am empty

                               I am hollow

                        I am alone

I know

            For you, I will press on with life

                        Waiting my turn to pass through the vale

                        My tears will be gone when once more I see your face

                                    Eternity will be ours

                                                                             I know

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Breaking all rules of blogging, this short story is way too long to post as a blog. But for those of you that do read it, a few things to be noted. This is a very real story that did happen to me in my junior year of high school. The majority of the people in this story are deceased. And I even changed a name of one of the characters. A few of you will remember when this happened and probably be able to figure out the changes. Consider it my creative license in writing. As for the rest of you that do not know the story…now you do.

The Incident

 Chapter 1

Lloyd walked into the mud room off the kitchen shutting the door behind him. He smelled burnt bacon and heard Millie on the phone. He kicked off his boots, walked into the kitchen, and went to turn the stove off. Bacon fat was splattering everywhere as he grabbed the pot holder to take the pan off the burner. He grumbled under his breath as his got splattered with hot bacon fat. He left the charred pieces of bacon on the stove and went to pour himself another cup of coffee. He could only hear one end of the phone conversation coming from the living room, but he knew who his wife was on the phone with at this early hour. It had to be Ethellynn Walker. His mood darkened as he sat down at the kitchen table with his coffee. From the sound of Millie’s voice, Ethellynn must have passed on some great new gossip. He had no interest in it at all but knew he would have to hear all about it as soon as Millie got off the phone. He needed food and a shower and was wondering which one he wanted first. He had waited too long as he heard his wife hang up the phone. As he figured, Millie came trotting into the kitchen full of delightful glee at the expense of someone else.

“You will never guess in a million years what has happened,” Millie breathlessly said. Lloyd didn’t even look up from his coffee cup and said nothing. He knew he would hear it regardless. “Ricky Huntress was expelled from school yesterday and the Sheriff was at Charlie and Joan’s house to arrest him!”

Lloyd did look up at this point, and could not hide the surprise in his eyes or voice when he asked “Why?”

“Well I see this news certainly interest you,” Milly gloated with pleasure. “This will knock the snobbishness out of the mighty Charlie and Joan Huntress for quite a while I would imagine.”

“There is nothing snobby about Charlie and Joan,” Lloyd quipped, and you know it. “And as far as I know, Ricky is a pretty decent kid in town. A lot better than most.”

“Just because Charlie and Joan are deacons with you at church does not mean they ain’t snobs.” “You ever see either of them coming into our store to buy anything? Well do you?”

Lloyd didn’t answer the question and kept his thoughts to himself as to why they didn’t. Their store consisted of a few loaves of bread, a cooler for milk and ice cream, and a rack of assorted outdated candy bars. The only people that ever bought anything from their “store” were people coming in to get their mail or to gossip with Millie. Charlie and Joan did neither.

Millie took Lloyd’s silence as agreeing with her assessment of the Huntresses. Her enthusiasm was evident as she scurried around the kitchen with her mouth moving faster than her feet. Lloyd ended up with a plate in front of him consisting of some cold scrambled eggs, four burnt pieces of bacon and one piece of dry toast. He kept drinking his coffee as he listened to Millie filling in all the details about how hard Charlie and Joan would fall after their pride and joy, Ricky, disgraced the family. After sifting out all of Millie’s opinions, he gathered that Ricky and some girl he went to school with had done some sort of mischief and got caught.

Ricky was in his Junior year of high school. Lloyd saw him every Sunday at church with his parents. Lloyd wasn’t surprised at all that a girl was involved in whatever the trouble was. Ricky was a little taller than he was which would put him about 6ft tall. He had a nice color of red hair and a quick smile. He was not heavy at all and had that young lean look of most guys his age. Charlie and Joan worked hard at their place and he was pretty sure that Ricky did also. The few girls that he knew in town seemed to enjoy being around Ricky. “And why not,” Lloyd thought. He knew of a few married women in town that thought about Ricky Huntress maybe a bit too much.

“Well?”  Lloyd are you listening to me?”

Lloyd came back to reality and looked at Millie standing in front of him.

“I said ain’t you going to eat the breakfast I fixed up for you?”

Lloyd looked as his untouched plate of food and his insides grimaced. “I’m not feeling really well this morning,” Lloyd replied. “I think I will just take a shower and maybe fix me up something later.”

“Ain’t feeling well? What’s wrong with you?” Millie questioned. “You sure got up early enough to do your chores in the barn. I think you care more for those silly animals then you do for me,” Millie snapped.

Lloyd got up and headed for the bathroom leaving Millie prattling on about wasting perfectly good food.

His body began to relax a bit as her voice faded into the background. He closed the bathroom door behind him completely drowning her out. “So, Ricky and some girl are in trouble” he thought. He had to admit that this particular gossip did interest him. He wondered what kind of trouble they were in. Sex came instantly to his mind, but no school would kick anyone out for having sex. And even if that were it, the Sheriff certainly would not be involved. Unless the girl’s family put up some big rowel about it. No, he didn’t think it would be sex. The church put on a big birthday party in February for Ricky when he turned 17. Ricky was pleased and polite to everyone but didn’t seem to show favoritism to any particular girl in attendance. Getting kicked out of school at the end of his Junior year would be rough. About three weeks of school left.

Lloyd figured he would hear more about it tonight at the Deacon’s meeting. Charlie and Joan would be mighty upset over this one for sure.

Chapter 2 

Sid and Helen Mason got into their car and backed slowly out of the garage. The door closed behind them as they drove off, heading for Charlie Huntress’s place. Helen spoke up first. “So, Joan didn’t say what this is all about?”

“No,” Sid replied. “She just asked if we could come over and talk with her and Ricky. I guess Charlie must be at work this time of day.”

“Well” Helen said with emphasis, “For Joan Huntress to ask for help, it must be something pretty bad. I hope that they are alright. Ricky is like a grand-son to us.”

“I know” said Sid as his brow furrowed with worry. “Let’s not borrow trouble just yet. We are almost there.”

Sid pulled into the driveway of a large white house with black shutters. A ranch style that Charlie had built himself. The grass was neatly cut, and the house was surrounded by beautiful June flowers. Charlie and Joan took a lot of pride in their home just like they did with everything they got involved with. Sid glanced across the street as they headed up the walk to the front door. He knew they were being watched by Charlie’s mother, Carlotta. She never missed a trick and would be on the phone instantly with Ethellynn Walker informing her of their visit.

The front door was opened by Joan who welcomed them in. Helen gave her a big hug and could see that she had been crying. Sidney closed the door to prying eyes and spotted Ricky sitting on a sofa in the living room. He was sitting in a balled-up position and didn’t even look up. That certainly was not like Ricky. Something was wrong.

Joan asked them both to come in and sit down. Helen saw Ricky looking like a lost soul and immediately went to the sofa, sat down beside of him and pulled him into an embrace. Ricky’s shoulders started shaking as the tears flowed.

Helen took charge of the situation and said “So, why are you two crying? Is Charlie okay, Joan?”

“Oh yes,” she replied. “Everyone is fine health wise. We have had something pretty bad happen and I’m at a loss of what to do.” She just sat there with her face in her hands and said nothing more.

Sid glanced at Helen and shrugged. “Ricky you haven’t even looked at us once since we came in. Now come on, it can’t be all that bad, tell us what is going on.”

Sid heard Ricky mumble “I’m too embarrassed to look at you guys. I’m in some really bad trouble.”

Helen pulled up Ricky’s chin. His face was tear streaked and blotchy from crying. Helen hated to see this in someone she loved and was more determined than ever to help if she could.

“Alright. So, you have done something that you should not have done and are in trouble for it. Who hasn’t,” she quipped.

“That’s right,” Sid interjected. “Now tell us what has happened. You know that we love you no matter what.”

Ricky glanced over at his mother who was now looking at him. He knew she was holding down her temper pretty well. And with the Mason’s here, she would not say much. He just remembered how white her face went when the Sherriff knocked on the door with an arrest warrant for him.

“How could I have been so stupid.” The words just started to pour out. “I have been kicked out of school and put on house arrest. The Sherriff was here this morning to serve me the papers. He was on his way to Kara’s house next.”

“Kara?” Helen asked. “Kara who?”

“A girl I go to school with. She and I have been kicked out with just three weeks left of our junior year. That means no finals, no moving on to my senior year, and probably no possibility of any college accepting my application now,” Choking on his words.”

Helen wasted no time with the obvious. She was well known to be loving but also blunt. “So, what did you and Kara get kicked out for?” Even Helen was dreading the answer.

“We broke into the chemistry lab at school. We took some Sodium and Phosphorous. We only meant it as a joke. Nobody got hurt from it.”

“Sodium and Phosphorous?” Helen asked in bewilderment. “My chemistry days were a long time ago Ricky. Why in the world would you have done that? And why would you be arrested? This is making no sense to me at this point.”

“Sodium mixed with water will make a small explosion, and phosphorous will ignite into flame if taken out of Kerosene. Kara wanted to use them to scare her father’s mistress. We did this back in February in front of her home. After the Sodium blew up and the Phosphorous ignited, we took off running. Well I guess the lady was petrified and called the cops. They have been working the case ever since then and just now figured out who did it. Kara and I.”

In one-way Helen was very relieved to hear the story. She had been prepared for what she thought would be the problem. So, it was a relief to find out otherwise. But looking over at Joan, she knew how horrible this was. Joan was a good woman, but one thing she did not take well was being embarrassed. And for Ricky to embarrass the “family” like this had to be catastrophic in her mind.

Helen just continued to hold Ricky and looked at Sid. “Ricky,” Sid said quietly, “I don’t understand everything yet in all of this, but I do know one thing. We still love you and you never have to hang your head in shame around us.”

I looked up. “You know people in this town Mr. Mason. I know Grammy saw the sheriff here this morning which means Ethellyn Walker knows, which mean Millie Hooper knows and the list goes on. The best thing I can do is move out of state.”

Everyone in the room knew he was right about the gossip. News like this was the life force of Shapleigh. And unfortunately, one of the biggest gossips in town happened to live right across the street…Charlie’s mother.

“Look” Helen chimed in, “Let’s not worry about gossip. Let’s just wait and see how this plays out. In the meantime, Sid and I are going to go pay a couple of visits. The first one to the school superintendent, Spiero Theriano, and the second one to the Chair of the school board, Eleanor Loija. I may be retired, but the superintendent and school board still listen if I want them to.”

Joan just nodded. She had called the right people. 

Chapter 3 

Gossip began to fly through town about the sinful Ricky Huntress. Every time the story got retold, a new piece was added. Millie was completely appalled that the Huntress family was still allowed to attend church let alone do anything else in town.

“What do you mean they were in church?”

“I said all of them were in church this morning as usual. And Ricky was in the choir as usual,” Lloyd repeated with inner amusement as he looked at Millie’s jowls flapping in disbelief.

“Well! I just can’t imagine how any of them would ever dare to show their faces in public again,” Millie sneered.

“Why Carlotta told me just yesterday morning that there has been a parade of people in and out of their house ever since ‘The Incident.'”

Ethyllynn had started calling it “The Incident” and it stuck. So everywhere a person went now, people were all talking about the incident and how Ricky had fallen from grace. From what Lloyd could see, Ricky had not fallen anywhere. In fact, just the opposite was happening. A quiet teen boy had been thrown into the spotlight and was now seen as quite the young man. Seems like the school board had been “convinced,” thanks to Sid and Helen Mason no doubt, to let him finish his classes in summer school and still get his regular high school diploma. Also seems like the sheriff, Reggie Cram, was up for reelection this year and was hoping that nabbing two hardened criminals would be a shoo-in vote for him. Lloyd seemed to think that Reggie had picked a very poor choice of who to tangle with. Charlie and Joan had position and influence, and anyone that they did not personally know, was probably not worth knowing. Lloyd knew for a fact the attorney Basil Kellis was already handling the case and things were not shaping up well for Reggie.


In the mean-time I was staying mum to all the questions and minding my own business. I went to school each morning, avoided hanging around Kara per instructions, and stayed close to home the rest of the time.

The next week I was busy finishing up my summer session at school. I was so sick of school. Kara and I had most of our classes together, but we didn’t hang out much anymore. For one thing we were both busy. For another thing, the upcoming court date was just a couple of weeks away and both of us had been warned to avoid doing much together anymore. I knew that my parents were pouring a lot of money into this. It wasn’t just the attorney fees for the court hearing, but they were going to make sure that I had no record from any of this. I didn’t know if Kara’s mother was doing the same for her or not. My attorney told me that because I had never been in trouble before, had a good standing in school and some great personal reference letters, that he was pretty sure things would go very well and that I could get all this mess expunged. Whatever that meant.

So, I was doing my best to mind my own business in life and stay in the background as much as possible. Just two more weeks and all of this would be over. Our upcoming senior year is when we start searching for colleges to apply to. I was nervous that I would not get accepted because of getting into trouble. But I guess I was not the first guy that had ever gotten into trouble that was in college.

The court date finally arrived. Mom made sure I was dressed up nice to make a good impression on the judge. We got to the courtroom early and I had to sit up front with my attorney. Behind me sat my parents, Mr. and Mrs. Mason, my pastor, the high school superintendent, the head of the school board and my grandmother. I knew the only reason why she came was because she wanted to catch everything to spread the news around town once it was over. I was surprised that dad had even let in her in. But I guess he didn’t have much of a choice.

Kara sat on the opposite side of the room with her mother and attorney. The only difference was that they didn’t have anyone sitting behind them like I did.

The sheriff that had arrested us, Reggie Cram, was sitting off to the side of the room.

“All rise.” Some guy said as the judge walked into the room.

He went to his bench and sat down without even looking up. Then the rest of us sat back down. Some lady started reading a bunch of stuff that didn’t make much sense to me. All sounded like some formality that she had to read every time. Then the judge asked for both attorneys to approach the bench. The three of them talked for just a couple of minutes. The judge looked up once at me sitting there. I looked back at him with little expression but did not avert my gaze. I also saw him look at the people sitting behind me. Then the attorneys came back and sat down again.

“Sheriff Cram.” The judge spoke out.

“Yes, your honor.” He said rising to his feet.

“Where was this bucket of water and sodium at the location.”

“Approximately 100 yards from the residence your honor.”

“I didn’t ask for ‘approximately’, I asked where it was.” The judge did not sound pleased.

“At the end of the defendants drive your honor.” Reggie corrected his statement.

“Was it on her property?”

“No, your honor. It….”

The judge cut him off mid-sentence. “So, it was on the road by her property then?”

“Yes, your honor.” This time Reggie did not try to volunteer any information.

“Was there any danger that she could have been harmed from inside her house?”

Reggie did not like the question. “The defendant was extremely scared….”

“Sheriff Cram. Perhaps you are not hearing me well. I asked if there was any physical danger that she was in from inside her house. A yes or no will suffice.”

“No.” Reggie responded with obvious distaste that he could not speak his mind.

The judge picked up on his tone and did not like it.

“Do you have a problem with my questions?” The judge asked as he looked directly at him.

“No, your honor. I am….”

“Good to know.” The judge cut him off again and looked directly at me.

“Mr. Huntress.” He called me.

“Yes, your honor.” I spoke up clearly as I came to my feet.

“I suggest in the future that you choose your friends wisely and refrain from anything that affects people in a negative way.”

“Yes, your honor.”

“Miss Bently and Mr. Huntress. I assign each of you to 25 hours of community service. Do not let me see either of you in my courtroom again, because next time you may not find me in such a gracious mood.”

“Case dismissed.” He banged his gavel.

“All rise.” The guy yelled again, and it was over.

Reggie Cram looked like a balloon that had lost all its hot air. My attorney was saying something to my parents. I glanced over at Kara, and she was talking with her mother and attorney. Everyone behind me looked at me, gave me a warm smile, then left the courtroom. Everyone but my grandmother who had already left. Since she didn’t drive, that meant that someone was outside waiting to pick her up. I knew within an hour, the entire town would know everything that happened, complete with a few additions to spice up the gossip.

My attorney turned around to me and shook my hand. “Things went very well. I will take care of your records and let you know when things are done. You have nothing to worry about now. There will be no evidence that this ever happened.”

No evidence except for the old busy-bodies in town that would keep the story going for as long as possible. Man, I couldn’t wait to get out of Shapleigh.

On the drive home, my dad brought up my 25 hours of community work that I had to do.

“Basil was telling us that community work can be just about anything. I’ll contact some people that I know need some things done and you can get started immediately. We just have to let Basil know what you are doing, and he will do the rest.”

“Thanks.” I said as I looked out the window.

Mom turned around to look at me. “You had some good friends supporting you today that made the difference in how this could have ended Ricky. You understand that, right?”

I looked at her and knew what she meant. “Oh, I know Mom. Don’t worry, I have learned my lesson, and I won’t be doing anything stupid from now on.”

“Good. Make sure you don’t.”

Chapter 4 

Lloyd stirred in bed. So far in life his internal alarm clock knew when to wake him up. But this time he had the feeling that something different woke him up. He sat up in bed and put his feet on the floor. He just sat there a minute to get his bearings. Then he took his clothes from the straight chair and headed for the bathroom. The night light put out its usual dim glow in the room when he stopped and looked at the bed. Millie’s side was empty. That must be what woke him up. Now he wondered what the time really was. He turned on the light and squinted from the glare as he looked at his watch. A little before his usual rise time.

He began his trek to the kitchen when the smell of coffee hit him. He walked into the kitchen to find Millie busy cooking up a storm and even had his coffee ready.

“Good morning.” Millie said in a cheery voice. “Your coffee is ready and so is your breakfast. Scrambled eggs, bacon and some pan fries.”

Lloyd stood there a minute just looking at her.

“Err…good morning. And thank you.” Lloyd tried to hide the surprise in his voice.

“There, all done. Have and seat and I’ll fill your plate. You can eat before the animals do today.”

Lloyd sat down at the table and took a few sips from his coffee. It was just the way he liked it.

Millie set the plate of steaming food in front of him and then got herself a cup of coffee and joined him at the table.

“Eat up,” she said, “before it gets cold.”

Lloyd started eating and everything tasted great.

“This is really good Millie, thank you.”

“Well nothing says I can’t do this for you once in a while…does it?” Millie asked.

“No, I guess it doesn’t. I’m just thinking this is awful early for you to be up.”

“Well, now that you mention it, there is a reason why I am up this early. I wanted to talk with you about something.” The tone in Millie’s voice now put him on his guard. She was up to something and he could smell trouble.

“I wanted to talk with you about Ricky Huntress.”

Lloyd stopped chewing and looked at her in bewilderment, mixed with amazement.

“Ricky?” Lloyd could not hide his confusion. “You want to talk about him at this hour?”

“Yes, I do.” Millie hastily replied. Then she started right in on her reason for being up and trying to soften him up with a good breakfast.

“Carlotta was talking with me yesterday about how Ricky is doing his community service hours. Near as I can tell, he isn’t doing much of anything. Why Carlotta told me that he got to work off some of those hours just by visiting people at the nursing home with Sid and Helen.”

Millie took another sip of coffee and started up again. Lloyd was chewing slower and he was losing his appetite listening.

“Seems to me that ain’t no work at all. Anyone can go and sit with old people. Now you tell me what kind of work is that I’d like to know.”

Milled snorted and continued.

“Well as you know, the mail office here makes part of our home a federal institution. Why sortin’ out all that mail each day and keeping it straight for people is a lot of hard work for me. I don’t think everyone appreciates how much I do around here.”

Millie looked at Lloyd with that statement expecting to get some approval, but he was very intent eating his pan fries now. After another snort, she continued.

“Carlotta told me that he has just a few more hours to work off and he will be done. Then he begins his senior year like he didn’t do anything wrong at all. Don’t know what that high school is coming to letting someone like him back in to graduate and all. Probably Charlie bought his way in is what I am guessing.”

Lloyd spoke up on that one. “Millie you know there is no truth in that at all. Charlie would never do that.”

“Hrmff…I don’t know any such thing. But that is not what I want to talk about. I have something here that I want done and I’m going to get Ricky to do it.”

Lloyd just looked at her in surprise. “Something here you want done? What in the world are you talking about. Don’t I keep this place up good enough for you?”

“Well you keep it up good enough…I guess. But there are a few things I have been wanting to get done for a long time now and I just know you don’t have the time to do them with all of your other work around here.”

Lloyd stared at her waiting for the other shoe to drop.

“I want all of the chicken coops cleaned and scrubbed and the two outhouses cleaned thoroughly.”

Millie had on this smile that she thought just boasted of her genius. The only thing it did in Lloyd’s mind was make him realize what a conniving woman she was.

“Have you lost your mind?” Lloyd growled at her. “We aren’t going to ask Ricky to do any such thing. I cleaned all those chicken coops just last month and they are fine. And as for cleaning our outhouses…we only have one at the end of the wood shed and that hasn’t been used in years.” Lloyd was quickly losing his temper which he rarely did.

“We have two outhouses.” Millie snapped right back. “Don’t forget the one on the side of the small barn in the back field. And when is the last time that you have cleaned that one out Lloyd Hooper?”

Millie’s eyes were ready for a fight.

“Those chicken coops stink to high heavens in this August heat and that smell comes right into my store. Enough to turn a person’s stomach. And it ain’t proper for a United States Post Office to have smells like that floatin’ in.”

Millie glared at him. “Well is it?” She asked again, not waiting for an answer.

“Carlotta, Ethellyn and me think it is high time that the mighty Ricky Huntress does some real work. Not just driving around with Sid and Helen and then treatin’ him out to lunch all the time.”

Lloyd started to get up and leave the table. He had heard just about enough.

“Lloyd Hooper, don’t you dare walk away from me. I tell you I want that punk to do some real work around here. And if you don’t call Charlie about it today, then I will. And I tell you this Lloyd Hooper. If I call him, he will get a piece of my mind about what I think work is or isn’t.”

Lloyd stopped and turned around. So much he wanted to say to the homely figure in front of him. She had a heart that was pure evil, and he couldn’t imagine what he ever saw in her to marry her. He never drank alcohol a day in his life, but he swears he must have been drunk to ask her to marry him.

“Well?” Millie sneered as she stood up. “Are you going to do the askin’ or am I?”

She knew she had won. Lloyd glared at her and just about spat out his next sentence.

“I’ll call Charlie tonight.”

He turned around and started out of the kitchen when he stopped.

“After I tend to the animals, I’ll be back in to fix up the upstairs.”

“Fix up the upstairs?” Millie gave him a quizzical look. “What is wrong with the upstairs?”

“Oh, nothing bad. Been meaning to fix it up now for some time, and I think today is just the right time. I’ll be moving my things to the upstairs spare bedroom. Only it won’t be the spare bedroom any longer…it is now my bedroom.”

Turning away from Millie’s shocked expression, he began whistling as he left the kitchen and headed for the barn.

Chapter 5 

“Well Ricky,” Charlie broke in on the TV show, “looks like you have your last few hours of community service taken care of.”

“I do? Was that the phone call just now?”

“Sure was, and you won’t guess who has some work for you to do.”

My dad had a quiet little smile pulling at the corners of his mouth which made me a little nervous.


“Lloyd Hooper.”

“Lloyd?” My mother and I said at the same time.

“What in the world would Lloyd have Ricky do that would count as community service?” My mom asked with doubt.

“Well seems like Millie running the Post Office is what would make the work count as community service. After talking with Lloyd, I am pretty sure that Millie is behind this idea, though he would not come right out and say it. I could tell that he was pretty embarrassed over the whole thing. He kept apologizing all over himself.”

I knew that Millie didn’t think much of me already and I was not too sure about doing any work for her.

“What do you think Dad? Should I do it?”

“Well it can’t do you any harm to at least go down there tomorrow and see what the work is. And it would be the end of your hours and you would be done with it. Then we can put this entire mess to bed and forget about it.”

“Yeah…you are right about that. Did Lloyd say when he wants me there tomorrow?”

“Not until the afternoon he said. Then if you agree, you can do the work on Saturday.”

Mom started talking with dad about the overall opinion of Millie Hooper and I went back to watching TV. I supposed I could make it through one day of working for Lloyd, or Millie or whoever just to be done with everything.

The next morning, I helped out in the garden for a while, and after lunch headed down to the Hooper farm. I drove up the drive and parked to the side as far as possible, so people could get to the post office. I hadn’t even gotten out of the truck when Lloyd came out of the barn to meet me.

“Afternoon Ricky.” Lloyd said extending his hand for me to shake.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Hooper.” I shook his hand and then waited to see what he had for me to do.

“Why don’t we talk in the barn out of the heat.”

I followed him into the interior of the barn. It was cooler with all the doors swung open. And it also got me out of firing range from inside the post office. I knew Millie was watching, and I also saw Ethellyn’s car parked when I pulled up.

“I feel pretty foolish about this whole thing Ricky. To be completely frank with you, this is all Millie’s idea. And she has found out exactly what I think of her idea.” Lloyd said with a smile. “I’ll let you know what she wants done around here, but I want you to feel perfectly free to say no if you don’t want the work.”

“Oh, that is fine Mr. Hooper. I don’t mind hard work.” I could tell he was feeling awkward about the whole thing. He would not directly look at me.

“Millie thinks the hen houses need cleaning, and the two outhouses we have. One outhouse is here at the end of the woodshed and the other is up at the barn in the back fields. The hen houses are not bad at all he quickly chimed in. I cleaned them just about a month ago. And of course, the two outhouses are not even used any more at all. Well hardly at all.”

The outhouses did not thrill me too much, but I knew how to muck out a hen house pretty quickly and figured an old outhouse would not be much different.

“Sure, that would fine.” I said with a smile. “I can start on the hen houses this afternoon if you want and finish everything up for you tomorrow.”

“You sure you are okay with doing this?” Lloyd asked.

“Oh yeah, I’m sure. No problem at all. If you show me where your pitchfork and shovels are, I’ll get started right away.”

Lloyd led me to the back of the barn where there was a decent array of tools hanging on the wall. I grabbed a pitch fork, a flat shovel and a hoe. Lloyd also took a flat shovel off the wall and headed out the back door of the barn. I fell in beside of him as we walked to the hen houses.

I really did not know Lloyd very much. I saw him Sunday mornings in church, but he was always in a suit and pretty quiet. He was still being quiet but had replaced the suit with jeans and a t-shirt. The change in clothes made him look like a totally different person. I just knew him as Chairman of the Deacon Board at church

When we arrived at the chicken coops, most of the hens were out scratching in the dirt. There was a total of four coops to be cleaned out. They did stink, but I certainly had smelled worse. It was obvious that they had been cleaned out not to long ago which meant Millie was getting some sadistic glee in having me clean them out again. Well, let her have her moment, I thought. In eight days I would start my senior year in high school while making plans to leave Shapleigh for college, and wow was I ready.

It was now obvious that Lloyd planned on helping me muck out the coops.

“I can do these fine by myself Mr. Hooper. I must work off six more hours, and this job should do that for me. You can continue what you were doing, and I’ll get these started.”

“Tell you what then. You work on these coops, and tomorrow I will help you with what is left. I’ll make sure you don’t work more than six hours total. We will save the barn in the back field for last.”

It took me three hours to thoroughly clean two of the hen houses. They just about sparkled when I was done. I decided to save the rest of the work for the next day. I headed back to the barn to wash the tools and take care of them. I found Lloyd putting some oats in the trough for the animals.

“Done for today?” Lloyd asked.

“Yes.” I replied.

“If it is okay with you I can be here around 8:00 AM tomorrow and be done by lunch time.”

“That sounds good. I’ll see you then.”

I got back home and told my parents what the work was and that I had already done half of it. Mom was about ready to call Millie and let her have it when she heard I was to clean out their outhouses. Dad calmed her down and said, “work is work,” Ricky can handle it and it won’t kill him. “Don’t give Millie the satisfaction of knowing that it bothers you.” 

Chapter 6 

The next morning, I wolfed down my breakfast and put on some pretty ratty clothes. Jeans that were ripped in several places, an old t-shirt that had a few rips also and some sneakers that I did not care about. If I was going to be crawling around the inside of two outhouses, I did not want anything on I cared about. After I was finished, I could just toss everything into the trash.

I pulled into the Hooper yard a little before eight. Once again Lloyd came out of the barn to greet me. I was starting to think he lived in the barn. Of course, being married to Millie I couldn’t blame him if that were the case.

“A slight change in plans. I thought we would start in the back field this morning and work our way back to the house. That okay with you?”

“Sure, that is fine. Whatever works best for you.”

“I have all of the tools we will need in the trailer on my tractor. We can take that instead of walking.”

He got on the tractor and started it up. I jumped onto the back of the trailer swinging my legs as we headed to the back field. The early morning ride was nice. I had never seen any of the Hooper back fields. They were well maintained and so was the small barn. It really didn’t amount to more than an oversized pole barn. Lots of farms had these as a place to keep some small equipment without having to go back to the main house all the time.

We stopped at the barn and Lloyd went to open the side door. I jumped off the trailer, grabbed the tools, and followed him into the barn. It had that nice smell of fresh hay and old timbers. There were two small windows that let in some filtered light, but no electricity up here. As I expected, Lloyd opened  the large double doors to let in more light.

“I’m making a small change in Millie’s jobs for you. I have 50 bales of new hay here that I need to get up into the mow. I figured if you get up in the loft, I can pass them up to you so that you can stack them. That okay with you?”

“sure, that is fine.”

I walked over to the old wooden ladder and climbed up into the loft. Lloyd began handing the bales up to me. They were only 50 lb. bales, but still quite a lot of weight to be moving around. I worked up a sweat fast and was all itchy from the hay dust in the air.

When we were finished, Lloyd said it was time for a break.

I climbed back down to the main floor and walked over to the open doors to catch a breeze. Lloyd had walked back to his trailer and grabbed a cooler I had seen there earlier.

Coming back into the barn, he grabbed a couple of tin cups off a timber and filled them up. He handed me one and sat down in one of two old wooden chairs he had pulled up to the open door. My cup was filled with some ice-cold water flavored just a bit with molasses. Just like dad and I drank when cutting wood. We sat there in silence drinking the water. It was nice and cold and sure hit the spot.

“So,” Lloyd spoke up, “you start your senior year next week.”

“Yes sir”, I said. “I’m so excited to start, and be looking at colleges to send in my applications. Will be nice to do something different and try to figure out what I want to do with my life.”

“Well you will be missed at church. It will seem strange not seeing you in the choir. I would imagine that Sid and Helen will miss you a lot. I have no doubt you will get accepted into a college and do very well.”

Lloyd seemed to want to say something but acted like he did not quite know how to say it.

“Everything okay Mr. Hooper?” I asked.

He sipped some more of his water and just stared out the open doors.

“I want to apologize for Millie making a fool of us and having you do this work.”

“Oh, do not worry about that at all, Mr. Hooper.”

“I know the past couple of months have be rough on you. But I also wanted to let you know how much you have impressed me and a lot of others in this town. Not everyone in Shapleigh is an old busy-body like my wife and a few others that you know. You have proved to most people that you are a hard-working young man from a good family in this town.”

He sat silent for a moment and gave a small sigh. “Just one more thing I want to say. Consider it a small piece of advice from a man that lives with a few regrets.”

Looking over at me now, I could see sadness and loneliness in his face.

“Stay strong in the good convictions that your parents have obviously brought you up by, and never settle for anything less than the best in life.”

His gaze went back to the wide-open world outside of his small barn. “There are a lot of decisions ahead of you. Make wise choices, Ricky, ones that you will never have to regret living with for the rest of your life.

I did not say anything as he looked back at me. But I knew exactly what he was talking about and I felt an ache for him. He was a man that had given up hope, like an animal caught in a trap with no way out.

Shapleigh did have some very good and decent people living there and I knew many of them.

Those few words that he spoke to me sent home a message more than anything else that had happened over the summer. Choosing the right thing to do in life was not always easy, but looking at the broken life beside of me, I knew I would be thinking very carefully before making any future decisions in life.

“Thank you, Mr. Hooper. That is the best advice I have gotten from anyone about ‘The Incident’.”

We both chuckled a bit over that and then it was time to head back.

We rode in silence to the house. Lloyd turned off the tractor just as Millie walked out of the kitchen door.

“So, you finally finish up the jobs I needed done. You sure took your sweet time about it. I guess that Charlie and Joan’s little Ricky is not used to real work”, Millie said with a smirk in her tone.

At the mention of my parents I turned around and glared at Millie.

“I guess my parents raised me fine enough to see something mighty good when it is right in front of me. Too bad everyone wasn’t raised the same way.”

I could tell that Millie felt like I had just insulted her in some way but was not sure how. Then I just sweetly smiled and said goodbye. I turned around and reached out my hand to shake Lloyd’s.

“Thank you, Mr. Hooper, for the work and for helping me out when I needed a hand. Please let me know if you ever have more work for me to do around your place. I would be more than willing to help you out.”

He shook my hand and wished me good luck in school. I got into my truck and drove off.

I had no idea what my future held, but I did know one thing for sure. There would be no Millie or further incidents in my life.

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I think a little preamble to my main writing here is needed. Most of you that read my blog do know me. Others do not. Either way, you may or may not know what my life has been like the last three years. Starting with my mother’s death, and my father’s death just three months later, my life seemed vapid and out of control. Over the course of the next two years, I attended several funerals of very dear friends as well as people that I loved dearly. The emotional strain of it all began to take a toll on my physical. I would stay in bed for days on end and only get up to do necessary parts of life. Manic depression? Perhaps. But what I do know is that I felt my body shutting down. I had to do radiation treatment and two chemo shots for prostate cancer. All of this left me very weak. My immune system was gone and I was getting more urinary tract infections then I can remember. Then in January of 2018, it happened. My body gave up fighting. I got another UTI which turned into sepsis and staff infections. One night Wendy called 911 to a raving lunatic…me. My fever was 104 degrees and no amount of antibiotics the local hospital pumped into my veins, cured it. After one week at the local hospital, they told Wendy they could not help me and that I was in septic shock. I remember that week in bursts of anxiety and anger and fear. One minute I would be restless in bed and the next minute I would be crying and begging for Wendy to just let me die. I even insisted that the hospital take me off everything, stop all of the IV fluids/antibiotics, and let me die. I had my living will and DNR in place. They had no choice but to do what I demanded. Wendy, my family, and my pastor were there and finally convinced me to not quit. I agreed at last, but almost too late. My body was near death and I knew it.

The hospital contacted an ambulance transport which brought me to the VA hospital in Boston. Infectious Disease took over by trying different combinations of IV antibiotics. They did manage to get my fever under control, but never did find the cause of my blood poisoning. They told us I had some “super bug” that they could not find or cure. I was in the hospital that time for about two months I think. After they felt I had reached some baseline of a new life, I was released to go home. I was fighting Wendy on this decision. I wanted to go into a nursing home but wow can she be stubborn! lol The VA told us they would provide for me at home what I needed so I could remain at home.

While I was waiting on the home modifications, now in the May time frame, I fell. I broke both of my femurs and tibia plateaus. I also ended up with a blood clot in my left leg. I ended up spending the entire summer of 2018 with both of my legs in traction. And while in traction, I once lost control of my wheelchair and went careening down the hill at our camp. About the only thing I remember of that, is Wendy screaming very loudly until I finally stopped tumbling at the bottom.

I tell you all of this to give you a snapshot of my life at that time. On a scale of 1 – 10, I would give it a -3. Am I whining? Perhaps a little. But the point of this is to let you know my state of mind and body when I wrote the following. Being transparent about one’s thoughts is not an easy thing to do.

One Way Ticket

My mind was slowly waking from sleep. I lay in bed on my back with my eyes closed. I could tell it was some time during the night since I saw no glimmer of light through my eyelids. I opened my eyes, but just continued to stare up at the ceiling.

I turned my head to the right and looked out the window from our sleep sofa on the front porch, which has become my temporary residence since breaking my legs. I could see the moon through the pine trees that surrounded me. I lay there a minute just watching it as it cast shadows all around. I knew it would be beautiful shining over the lake as I have seen many times. I pulled myself up to a sitting position in bed and I was right. The moon cast its light across the lake right up to our dock. The lake was placid and the reflection of the light on the water was breathtaking. I have seen it this way many times and it always reminds me of a magical walkway across the water to an unknown destination. I sat there for quite a while admiring the scene before me.

My mind and soul, so eager to leave my broken body behind, imagined that if I only had the key to open the portal before me, I could rise and walk the trail of light and be free of earthly sorrows. I leaned to the right, and reaching slightly under my mattress, I took what was there.

I looked out at the moon over the water again and craved to walk the gleaming trail before me. I opened my hand and looked at what I was holding. I saw the key that I needed to cross over into the world of beauty before me. I then looked back up at the moon as I slowly took the cover off the bottle of pills that I was holding. I poured the contents into my hand. I knew the name very well…Morphine. I also knew that the number of pills in my hand would certainly be the key to open the door before me. I looked back down at my open hand…and wondered.

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I feel myself floating in a brilliance that cannot be explained

My gaze beholding a beauty before me that outshines all things that I dare approach

A veil that is woven in purest gold, with strands of royal purple intertwined

Telling the story of time that is not mine to understand

A low roar comes to my ears as I watch the veil tremble from top to bottom

The roar becomes a deafening sound of tearing…I see it part in two and try to run as the destruction grows before me

Beyond the tear the appearance of darkness begins to move into the light

But I am wrong…the darkness has not moved

Rather the light is being pulled into the ever-widening abyss

Where I am standing slowly begins to dim as I see the light in a liquid form being dragged into a darkness that leers at me with unquenchable hunger

My body, no longer my own, is giving way to a blackness that offers no hope

Being pulled apart in pieces, screaming to overcome the sneer of victory from the consuming darkness

My reason, the last to go, as all light fades from me

Leaving no trace of my existence…only a lingering despair that once was my life.

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The title I chose should give you the reason why I have not written here in a very long time. I find myself still writing, but mostly on Word. I have not shared much here because being completely honest, blogging is baring your soul for others to see. When life is going fine, I do not mind if others get a glimpse of my soul, but lately my life has not been anything to brag about. And so…I have gone silent.

Things in my life since 2015 have spiraled out of control and left me in some very dark places. From the death of my parents and many friends, to even a time when my own demise was so close, I could reach out and touch it.

I have a recently new friend that I have shared some of my writings with and he tells me that he enjoys my style of writing. But style is very different than content. Most things over the past couple of years have been what I have dubbed as “dark writings”. Similar to Poe in many ways. Not his genius of turning those dark thoughts into fascinating reads, just the dark thoughts.

My new friend encourages me to continue writing and so blogging seems to be about as close to writing as I care to get right now. I do have one small piece that I wrote, that I have decided to share here. Of course all of us know that once something goes to the internet, it cannot ever be changed or retracted.

It is one of many memories that I have growing up. Sometimes my head feels like bursting with things and typing away on my laptop is one way to open the pressure valve of my thoughts.

I am not sure how many, if any, of my thoughts I will choose to share here. I guess time will tell on that one. Words can be very hurtful. Much more so than any physical weapon. So if you should read anything I put here, and you take it personally, or adamantly disagree, I apologize now. Hurting anyone is not my intent at all. Which is why I am reluctant in sharing. I will start with something simple and see how it goes.

You may want to get a drink and some popcorn for this one. It is longer than I remembered.

Asking you to enjoy this is like asking someone to enjoy reading the obituaries. So in the words of Betty Davis, “Fasten your seatbelts, it is going to be a bumpy night”.


I laid in my bed tonight, wanting to drift off to sleep, but my mind would not let me. My thoughts would not allow the slumber that my body craved. My eyes were shut, but my mind rushed to a place that I had not seen or been to since I was 13 years old. With my physical eyes shut, a window in my soul opened to a place I could never forget…my grandparents’ home.

A seven-year-old scrawny boy, with cropped bright red hair, stood on the granite slab that acted as a step at the front door. I looked down to my right to see the familiar chiseled markings on the side. I stepped on the far-right corner and the stone rocked a little just as I knew it would.

The house was a small New England Cape. I thought the house was so beautiful. Now, looking back through the years, my aged eyes realized what disrepair the house had been in. The small summer kitchen and wood shed that at one time had linked the house to the barn, was no longer in existence. Long ago, I am sure it was a very quaint house with the large attached barn. But the barn was dangerously close to caving in upon itself and the house was not much better.

I harbor many memories here. The memories were mixed emotions of love and awe, to hate and fear. My mother came almost every day to visit her mother. Memories of my grandmother were all good. I felt an unconditional love with her. I knew that nothing could ever change that. A dull ache formed in my soul 44 years after her death for a time in my life that I would never be able to relive.

The house was covered in faded white paint, cracked wood and large paint chips missing. There were two windows on each side of the front door. Beneath these windows were bunches of tiger lilies and old-fashioned bluebell flowers. Seeing the tiger lilies made me smile because I called them freckle flowers. They reminded me of myself. Carrot-red hair and freckles.

I reached for the tarnished door knob that was as loose now in my mind’s eye as it had been so many years ago. The door slowly creaked open to the very small front hall. Directly in front of me was one step up to a door kept closed with an old-fashioned thumb latch. To my right was a door, rarely closed, that entered the kitchen. To the left of the step up was an antique hall tree. By antique I mean it was old, banged up and not worth very much. But I loved sitting on it to take my shoes off. Then standing up, I could lift the seat up to place my shoes into storage. It was like a secret hiding place to me. Then I would look in the mirror on the back and see the reflection of green eyes looking back at me.

To the left of the hall tree was a very small door that opened into a closet. This small door, also kept closed with a thumb latch, held many hours of exploration for me. Dusty boxes that held marvels for a small child. Old shoes and clothes that were far too large for me but were great fun to try on and show them to my grandmother who would laugh at how funny I looked. Small empty trunks and carpet bags that I used to hide my childhood valuables in.  Old, round tins full of assorted buttons, wooden thread spools, and many other things to intrigue me for hours of pretend. Behind me, opposite the closet door, was an old-fashioned steamer trunk. The clasp was always down, and the cover sat at a crooked angle due a broken hinge on the back. Inside of the trunk was a various assortment of mittens, caps, coats and such. A type of catchall to toss things in that had no other place to be tossed. In front of me was another closed door. My grandmother would only allow me through this door with strict demands of my behavior. No running or touching things unless she had given me permission to do so. I turned around and looked back toward the open kitchen door. I started walking toward the open door and with each step I took, I felt a chill in the air growing stronger. I stopped just outside of the door and swept the kitchen with my eyes. A rush of cold and dread knocked me to the floor.

My eyes flew open in the real world and I was laying back on my bed in the dark once again. My heart was racing as I remembered the fear that I felt as a child but could not explain. However, years later in adulthood, I recognized that fear as an evil, and I shivered as I realized how it destroyed the childhood of my mother and her family. And how that evil was always present and wanted to destroy everything that held any goodness.

I closed my eyes again and found myself still sitting on the floor looking into a very sparsely furnished kitchen. In the center of the room sat a large kitchen table with four carved legs and cross pieces to hold them in place. The table was far from being fancy and was painted white to make it look new. The wall to my right, the front of the house, had a tall metal cabinet used as a pantry cupboard. Between the two windows sat an old steel spring framed mattress folded in half and held by a clasp at the top. The mattress was thick and dark green. There were tears in the fabric with tufts of white stuffing poking out. Sitting in the corner was an old ringer washing machine. Its four legs had wheels, so it could be rolled over to the kitchen sink and be used. Small rust spots here and there around the screws holding the many pieces of the machine in place. Not much better than washing one’s clothes on a scrub board in a river but was a leap in technology for the house wife of the time. The side wall of the kitchen had numerous cupboard doors and shelves, a refrigerator with rounded corners, and an old chipped porcelain sink in the center. I knew if I ran and opened the cupboard on the far left, I would find a chipped, white coffee mug that I had claimed as my own. I did not drink coffee, but I would sit with my grandmother for hours sipping on a cup of weak tea with lots of milk and sugar in it, pretending to be an adult. A small window over the sink allowed natural light into the room filtered by old lace curtains. At the back of the kitchen were three doors. The one on the furthest corner was my grandmother’s bedroom. The next door opened to some very steep stairs that went down to a dirt floored cellar just large enough for an old wood furnace and a root cellar that sat empty with glass canning jars covered in cobwebs. The last door on the left now opened into an indoor bathroom. A very small room that had been my mother’s bedroom when she was a child. In that room was a closed door that went into the part of the house that I was rarely allowed into. Coming back along the center wall of the house was an antique Hoosier kitchen cabinet. The wooden doors at the top and bottom were painted white. The enamel baking top was also white with chips of missing enamel along the sides showing the black color of the metal. It had the enameled bread drawer on the left with a built-in sifter for flour and such. Four metal legs which had scratches and rust on them, held it in place. Next to that was an antique Barstow kerosene cook stove. There was a large kerosene tank on the back, eight cast iron cook plates on the top with an oven door on the front. On the side of the stove were two small square holes that were covered with mica. I used to love to watch the flames inside the burner as they made different colors on the mica and moved across the windows in waves of red and gold.

Beside the stove was a battered chair with worn and cracked brown vinyl cushions. I only ever saw two people sit in that chair…my grandfather or a friend of his named Henry that would sometimes be there. Henry never said much but just sat in the chair with a lit cigar in one hand and a bottle of beer in the other. The cigar smoke was a welcomed scent that helped cover his horrible body odor. He was extremely overweight and always wore the same clothes that were far too small for him. He barely acknowledged my presence in the room which suited me fine. He would be talking with slurred speech to my grandfather sitting at the kitchen table with his own cigar and beer. The last piece of furniture in the room was a rather battered rocking chair that set right in front of the cook stove. This was my grandmother’s chair and Grampa or his friends new better than to sit there. Especially since Henry never bothered to get up to use the bathroom. He would just sit in the old vinyl chair and wet his pants. I did not care for Henry at all since all he did was upset my grandmother every time he showed up.

A country kitchen can give so many people memories of love, laughter and the smell of fresh baked cookies. In my case, it was quite the opposite. I remembered arguments and quarrels that sometimes ended up in drunken brawls between my grandfather and his many friends and relatives that would always show up intoxicated. My grandmother did not drink at all and was pretty good at holding her own in the arguments until more of them would show up. Then she would call my mother in tears and Mom would drive the short distance to Grammy’s house. My mother, who also did not drink a drop of alcohol, was very good at dealing with a room full of drunks since she had grown up in that environment. Within a very short time, people started leaving the house very quickly including my grandfather. My grandmother would take me to the back part of the house and close the doors, but even as a child, I knew what was happening. Foul language filled the air, sometimes kitchen chairs would get overturned, the sound of breaking dishes, and once I remember seeing through the windows my mother swinging a cast iron skillet at more than one person, and she did not miss. She knew them all by name and could turn the air around her as blue as the best of them.

I once again opened my eyes in the darkness and as an adult, I now knew the chill that filled my memories of that small country kitchen. It was fear, lies, and hatred that alcohol could cause in a family. I would say very little during those escapades, and once things had calmed down, I would set to work cleaning up the mess in the kitchen, now listening to my grandmother and mother argue about letting that trash in the house especially if I were there. I hid my own tears and fright as I listened to my mother threatening not to let me visit any longer. My grandmother, still in tears, would plead with my mother not to do that. The volume and tone of the arguments would slowly calm back down once the influence of alcohol was cleared away. Years of growing up in a life like that, my mother did not want me to have the same battle scars that she had. She would take me to the front yard and open the car door for me to get in. She would then get into the car herself, start it up, and drive away. I remember looking out the rear window of the car and see my grandmother, still in tears, waving goodbye from the front door.

My heart ached at that memory and at last from pure mental exhaustion, I closed my eyes and this time there were no more memories for me to relive. Just the blessed quiet of sleep.

I woke up from a noise. Everything was still dark, so I figured it must still be night. But I felt disoriented. I could not see anything but slowly things started to come into focus. But they were things that did not make sense. I felt like I was in a fog seeing shadows of things as the fog swirled around me.

A door closed behind me and I finally realized where I was. I was back at my grandparents in the front parlor of the house. The room that I had to be very careful of. I was alone and just looked around me remembering every piece of furniture, the decorations, books, rugs, everything. And unlike the kitchen, this room was immaculate. Old fashioned wall paper. Built in corner cabinets. Marble top stands decorated with hurricane lamps, pictures, and beautiful pieces of glassware and china. I could look through an arch into the next room which was complete with a beautiful dining room set. China closets that sparkled. Even an old phonograph that still worked.

I walked over to an old hutch and opened the bottom drawer very carefully. My green eyes sparkled at an old cigar box that somehow, I knew would still be in place. I carefully lifted it out and set it on the table. I turned and closed the drawer and then returned to the table. I pulled out a chair with a soft, flowered upholstered seat and wooden back. I sat in the chair and remembered the feel of being there so many years ago.

I pulled the cigar box over to me and slowly lifted the lid. Inside of the box was something that meant so much to me, but probably would have meant very little to others. I called them peanut people. The reason why was because the bodies were made from actual peanuts. Each peanut was dressed in handmade clothes, hats, and painted faces to represent a different country. A well-traveled friend of my grandmother had made them and given them to her. At the bottom of the box was a map of the world with each country labeled for the correct doll. I carefully took out the peanut people and set them on the table. Then I unfolded the map and placed each peanut on the right country. It showed me where my grandmother’s friend had traveled to around the world. I would carefully study each one and see where they were on the map. My imagination brought them to life and with the hope that someday, I would be able to travel to all the same places and meet people that were dressed like the peanuts. I wanted a life that would be filled with awe and amazement of so many beautiful things around me. Just how I felt in this room.

I looked around me and my eyes settled on an old framed painting. I got up and walked over to it. Studying every detail and remembering the many stories that my grandmother told me…about herself. It was her high school graduation picture. I could always see a likeness in the face, but there was a difference. The difference was not apparent to me when I was only eight years old. But I now could see it. Her smile. She had a beautiful smile that the artist captured. A smile that no longer existed. I looked over at the closed door leading to the kitchen, and now I understood.

Alcohol. The evil influence of it had stripped the smile from her face over the years.

She appeared before me and I looked at her as an adult. She was not a ghost, but a memory that I had of her. She was laying in a bed in a nursing home. She had high blood pressure and because of a stroke, she could no longer move. Her eyes probed mine as she lay there with a small amount of drool coming out of her mouth that sagged open to one side. There was a plea in that look that I recognized as tears filled my eyes. The scene began to swirl away but the message remained.

Remember, Ricky. Always remember how the evil of alcohol destroyed so much in our family. Never give over to the evil but keep your life pure. Remember.

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