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Sunday, November 8, 2009

“Life is like an ice cream cone, when you think you’ve got it licked, it drips all over you…” unknown author

Many, many, many years ago I saw a film titled “Stop the World, I Want to Get Off” and I remember thinking at the time, what a dumb movie. Of course I was only 10 or 11, and I couldn’t really relate to the plot or subject matter. It was about a character named “Littlechap” trying to improve his lot in the circus world by marrying the boss’ daughter (Evie). That’s about all I really recall from the 1966 movie, other than it had a lot of singing and it wasn’t the science fiction film that the title had led me to believe. That was $1.25 I was never getting back!

After an emotional late night telephone conversation with my intended (brought on by frustration and disappointment over new developments with KK’s struggle) that title resonates in my brain. Not so much for myself, but more so with her. It’s sobering discovering how quickly a balloon can deflate, how instantly a mood can swing, and how harmful it can be avoiding confrontation in the name of harmonious compromise. It’s like ignoring the pebble in your shoe because it’s only a minor irritation. Of course we know that over time, that minor irritation can and likely will grow into something more, something more irritating, more painful, and more serious. How silly we feel when that happens, especially when all that we had to do was remove that pebble when we first noticed it. The same goes for pebbles in a relationship.

She had reached that moment in her life where she must have been thinking those words…”Stop the world, I want to get off!” I didn’t notice I was asleep at the wheel; I was caught up in life’s day to day realities. I missed all the signs, and all the signals. Basically I messed up! And so we had one of those couple’s conversations, the kind that stirs up all the ingredients of the relationship soup before they stick to the bottom of the pot and ruin it. That was a good thing, but hard, and more importantly, totally avoidable had we only taken care of those pebbles straight away instead of waiting for the blister to form and burst. I hope I’ve learned from this, I know that she has forgiven me, and I hope I prove myself worthy of her compassion in the future. I’ll do my best…

Okay, on with chapter six of:

“KK Undercover…The Cookie Caper…”

School Bus Stop: You’re going down Bandito!

Question: “How long does a note hang in the air?”
Answer: “Until the next one is played!”

That’s sorta our process for coming up with a really cool plan. Winifred, Claire, and me toss ideas around until we come up with something that we all agree on. But, you have to be pretty close friends though. Otherwise, you just fight with each other. Fortunately the three of us are tight as a drum! As usual, we finished the plan long after our parents thought we were asleep in our beds. Cell phones are way cool! You don’t even need a flashlight under the covers anymore cause the darn things come with one built in. All you do is roll over, pull the blankets over your head and text yourself into the next dimension, silent communications, I love it! Of course this wouldn’t have been possible I were still on that stupid feeding tube. Fortunately they removed the button and I can eat like a normal person and sleep BY MYSELF again, WOO HOO! Hello Mr. Cheeseburger and curly fries, good-bye forever yucky formula. Seriously, I don’t know what babies see in that stuff.

I wolfed down my yummy scrambled eggs (made them own self thank you) and then waddled out the door on my crutches to catch the bus at the corner. I’m still a little wobbly on these crutches but they’re way better than that darn chair and the stupid walker! I won’t let anybody help me, not even Mom and Dad. Well, that’s not totally true, I let Claire help me onto the bus sometimes, but only when my legs hurt after chemo.

The bus is on time as usual, and there are several kids getting on, laughing and messing around. I can hear Mr. Beadle hollering at them, that always makes me smile, he’s so funny!

“SIT your little behinds in the closet seat you munchkins!”

Claire waives to me from the first step, “Hurry up slow poke, you’re gonna make us late,” she yells.

“I’m coming; I’m coming, keep your shirt on!”

“You need help?”

“No, I’m okay, go sit down. Where’s Winifred?”

“She’s in back finishing her math homework, she says she overslept.”

“NICE,” I say as I reach the bus and hand Mr. Beadle my crutches. He puts them behind his driver’s seat clears a path for me.

“Climb on board Miss Britches, we need to get a move on now,” he says, offering me his hand as I climb into the bus. I smile and take his hand as I pass by him and then use the backs of the seats to steady myself as I walk down the aisle to my seat beside Claire in the back of the bus. Last one on, last one off, as usual.

Claire scoots over so I can sit beside her and Winnie grunts a hello without looking up from her notebook.

“Hi,” I say to both of them

“Hi,” they reply in unison.

I turn in my seat and give Winifred a sideways glance, “Almost done,” I ask?

“Yeah, just one more problem. Stupid word problems, I hate em,” she replies!

“Me too,” I say.

“Me three,” Claire adds.

Mr. Beadle closes the door with a bang and the bus lurches forward away from the curb. We’re off to good ole Deer Canyon now. Claire puts her arm around me to keep me from bouncing out of my seat on the bumpy ride to school, and I shout over the engine and other kids on the noisy ride.

“Did you call Daniel before you left,” I ask Winifred?

NO! I over slept KK, that’s why I’m doing homework on the bus, duh!”

“Alright, alright, don’t have a cow,” I shouted!

“Daniel’s probably already there waiting for us with the cookies anyway,” I added under my breath.

Claire is already asleep again, her head softly knocking against the window with every bump we hit. That girl conks out every time she gets into a car. I think that she was seriously affected by the “Wheels on the Bus” song when she was a little kid? It’s a short distance to school but a long ride because of all the crazy parent traffic we have to navigate through. Honestly, sometimes I think that it would be faster to just walk!

Daniel is waiting for us out front with the cookies, just like I knew he would be, sweet! He’s gonna be a good addition to the team I think. He is carrying a shopping bag in each hand as well as the humongous backpack on his shoulders. Actually, if not for the two shopping bags I think Daniel might tip over from the weight of that huge backpack. The poor kid is gonna be hunchbacked if he keeps carrying so many books in there. Well, to be honest, half of that weight is his lunch, that boy can EAT! Mr. Beadle pulls into the drive and comes to a stop at the yellow curb.

“Alright boys and girls, grab your gear and exit here/” he hollers!

“Better wake up Claire KK,” Winfred says as she packs her homework into her backpack. I shove Claire, “Come on Claire, wakie wakie,” I shout, giving her arm a pinch!

“OUCH! What did you do that for,” Claire yells?

“We’re here Sleeping Beauty,” I answer.

“Oh, okay,” she replies, yawning and stretching.

“Look, there’s Daniel with the bait, he’s waiving at us,” Winnie says leaning over us as she waives back to him.

Winifred helps me up and we trod on down the aisle with Claire trailing behind slowly. Mr. Beadle is waiting for me up front.

“Here you go Miss Britches,” he says.

“Love the hair darling, you were right, Wednesday is orange day,” he adds, lifting his Padre baseball cap to show off the orange strip he painted down the center of is extremely bald head!

“You’re crazy Mr. Beadle,” I giggle, giving my orange wig a little flip as I pass by him.

Daniel met us on the sidewalk as we got off the bus. He held up the two bags.

“There are a couple dozen chocolate chip cookies and a couple dozen peanut butter cookies,” he said with a smile.

“We better taste test them before we get to class,” Claire says as she dives into each bag!

“HEY, what are you doing, we’re gonna need all of those,” I hollered, trying to stop Claire from munching down all of our cookie bait! Not that I could actually stop from eating at least a handful. Trying to get between Claire a sweet treat would be like trying to get between the ocean and the beach…IMPOSSIBLE!

“I only ate one, leave me alone,” Claire groused with a mouthful of peanut butter cookie and a chocolate chip cookie in each hand.

“That’s disgusting,” Winifred said, wincing as she watched crumbs spilling out of Claire’s mouth as she chewed and whined at the same time.

“NO IT”S NOT,” whined Claire!

“Okay, okay, get a grip people, I shouted!

“We’ve got five minutes before the bell rings, so listen up,” I said to the team.

“Here’s the plan. Daniel, you walk in first and show the cookies to Ms. Ryan. Make a big deal about it so the Lunchito Bandito (whoever it is) gets a good long whiff or chocolate chips and peanut butter. Go all Homer Simpson on her; you know, hmmmmmm, cookies,””

“Check,” Daniel replied!

“Claire, you tell Ms. Ryan the big story about Sissy wanting to share her Home Economics homework with the class.”

“Double check,” Claire replied!

“Winnie and me will watch the room for a guilty face while you guys are hamming it up with the teacher, right Winifred?”

“Triple check,” she replied!

“Then, Daniel stuffs the cookie bait into his cubby and it’ll be business as usual until recess. When the bell rings we’ll stand outside and count noses to see who stays behind to take the bait, got it?”

“Wait, what if ALL of the class comes out, what then,” asked Daniel?

“Yeah, what do we do then,” Claire added.

“Ahhhh, good question, I didn’t think about that,” I replied sheepishly.

“Did we miss something,” Winifred asked the group?

We walked to class in silence thinking about how to answer that question. We lined up to walk in the room and waited for Ms. Ryan to open the door.

“We’ll just cross that bridge when we come to it,” I said quietly without turning around and drawing attention to us.

“One way or the other the Lunchito Bandito is going down TODAY!”

From over my shoulder I heard the team answer one at a time, “Check, check, check!"

Next post: chapter seven of “KK Undercover…The Cookie Caper”

Thursday, October 29, 2009

“Because I want to get better……” KaSandra Dang (KK)…2009






I know, I know, Life is beautiful, Life is precious, Life is meaningful, Life is a freaking gift from God! Unfortunately, Life is also a struggle, a challenge, a chore, and a uniquely personal test for each of us. We exist in a world with a perpetual forecast of “sunny with a chance of showers and oh yeah, watch out for the occasional tornado, earthquake, or hurricane!" It’s enough to drive you NUTS! Maybe that’s the idea?

Maybe Life is one long series of tests? Maybe that's how God molds us into who He wants us to be, using events and struggles, even His children to test our faith, to teach us valuable lessons about ourselves. And if it weren't for the whole "free will" thing, perhaps we'd get there as He planned. Mortals rarely walk a straight line, we're curious and naughty by nature. Our best lessons are usually taught the hard way...thanks a lot Eve.

Let's face it, Life is out of our control, it happens no matter how much we prepare for it. That's true from the get go. Think about it, how many of us planned on being born, planned on meeting "the one" and then losing them, planned on being hit by the proverbial bus or being thrown under one by someone who loves you, or planned on getting gravely ill? The only part of Life that we are in control of is how we deal with it. Doesn’t matter how closely you pay attention to the signs, or how carefully you travel down the road, sooner or later you’re going to step on a land mine, "Life," is riddled with them. It is inevitable and it is so unpredictable. The minute you think you have it all figured out, BAM, the inevitable crazy “out of left field” occurrence takes place and totally challenges you! Those with strength of character absorb these obstacles and with faith stay the course, God is always on the side of the faithful.

Having accepted that axiom, I am learning to avoid the urge to ask “why.” I believe that to be the most frustrating word in any language. Why you ask? Because it only leads to more “whys” and eventual frustration as those at whom the word is directed inevitably run out of answers. My personal philosophy is to try and not question the will of God as there's no peace in that action. Only acceptance will offer you a chance for peace because it puts you in a mindset to deal with whatever it is that Life brings to your doorstep.

My little muse gets it! She accepts the fact that these are the cards that Life has dealt her, for reasons beyond hers or our understanding. And, she has resolved herself to play them her way. She is up to the challenge. She likes lemonade, she knows how to zig after a zag, and she refuses to take strike three looking, she's going to swing away! I am inspired by her strength of character and her will to live. If there is a snowballs chance, watch out, this little girl is going to start an avalanche!  You go KK, I want to be like you when I grow up…;)

Okay, enough lamenting and on with chapter five of:

“KK Undercover…The Cookie Caper…”

Rady Children’s Hospital: Chemo Shmeemo!

Sometimes it makes me mad looking at all the cutesy pictures of smiling children hanging in the halls here. I know that they are meant to make kids comfortable and less afraid when they stay here, but still, sometimes I think they should have some fine print under the pictures of smiling faces that says “enter at your own risk!” Sometimes I ask myself “why do you keep coming here, you almost never have a good time!” But then I watch my Mom take charge of my care, questioning everyone and everything, and I know I’ll be alright. And I see my favorite nurses who take care of me, give me stickers, hugs, and smiles, and I know I’m in good hands. And then Dr. S, and Dr. L, and Dr. Z come by and their soft voices and kind eyes make me feel safe. That charges me up in spite of the hushed tones they use when they talk plainly to my Mom.

“So, how are we feeling today KaSandra?” asks Dr. L as she walks into my room.

“What do you mean we?” I answer with half a smile.

Touché! I mean how are you feeling smarty-pants,” Dr. L teases.

“I’m okay, but my stomach hurts a little bit,” I reply.

“How do you mean, like a cramp or nausea?” she asks.

“Nausea,” I answer.

“Hmmmm, let me see,” she says, feeling my tummy under my shirt.

I turn my head and try and look out the window, but the blinds are closed and all I can see are shadows of people walking back and forth in the hall outside my room. There are two other kids in the out-patient chemo room with me today and they are both asleep. I sorta wished I were too.


“Tender there is it?” Dr. L asks, wrinkling her nose.

”Duh,” I reply, annoyed at the dumb question.

“KaSandra! Don’t be rude!” snaps my Mom from the chair beside my bed.


“Sorry Dr. L, she’s been irritable all week,” my Mom explains.

The two of them disappear into the hall like they always do when they don’t want me to hear everything they’re saying. I don’t care; I want to be left alone right now anyways. I need to finish my plan to capture the Lunchito Bandito at school. Daniel will be bringing the bait tomorrow if his sister comes through with the cookies. All I have to do is work out the trap with Winnie and Claire tonight when I get home. I’ll text them when Mom thinks I’m doing homework! The tricky part will be getting warm cookies past Ms. Ryan’s desk without her making us put them on her desk. We need to get them into the cloakroom and into my cubbie so that the lunch swiping fiend will feel safe about making a play for the treats while were all at recess. The trickier part will be getting back into the classroom before the bell rings to catch him in the act. That’s where being a handicapped kid comes in handy! Ha-ha, I made myself laugh! I’ll tell Ms. Ryan that I’m not feeling well and get Winnie and Claire to help me back to my seat early. Then, while she is calling the nurse’s office, BAMMO, we catch the Lunchito Bandito in the act!

“Nice plan, simple, and effective,” I mumble to myself.

“What did you say honey?” asks my Mom.

“Nothing Mommy, I just was wondering when we were going home,” I replied.

“As soon as you're done here, around 5:30 we’ll be able to leave,” she said.

“Oh, but first we have to go and pick up your sister and brother at Aunt Tanya's house,” she added.

“Oh man! Can we get boba on the way home?” I asked whining.

“We’ll see, it’ll depend on the traffic, Mommy still needs to cook dinner,” replied my Mom.

I didn’t bother whining anymore, my Mom is really good at blocking out those noises. It doesn’t work for my brother either and he is the KING of the whiners. But, he’s really cute too so sometimes it works for him…NO FAIR!

Dr. L pats me on the head and tells me that she’ll see me next week. She waves to my Mom as she leaves and I watch my Mom watch her leave. The expression on her face bothers me but that just means she is thinking hard about something, not necessarily me. My Mom is ALWAYS juggling ten balls in the air at one time; it could be any one of the other nine! Its 5:05 according to the clock on the wall and my Hannah Montana watch, we’ll be leaving soon. I close my eyes and try to take a ten minute catnap, running the plan over in my head one more time.

“Tomorrow’s your day Mr. Bandito,” I mumble to myself.

“What did you say honey?” asks my Mom.

“Nothing Mommy…”

Next post: chapter six “KK Undercover…The Cookie Caper”

Sunday, October 11, 2009

“If you really must keep score in the game of life, remember this; what you ‘give up’ is worth more than what you ’give’…” author unknown

They say (who are these guys anyways?) that life is one big roller coaster. Okay, I may have heard that once or twice over the years, but I’m here to tell ya, now I’m a true believer! At last I understand why so many people shut their eyes and scream on these rides. I get why they raise their arms high overhead as if reaching out to someone, anyone, who might grab a hold and yank them to the safety of solid ground! Life IS a roller freaking coaster! Big and scary sometimes, fast and thrilling the rest of the time, with the only real peace coming when you finally reach the end.

Dealing with the day to day issues of caring for a seriously ill child is hard enough, but when you factor in the ups and downs associated with remissions and resurgences, well sir, the ol’ stress meter can peak pretty darn quickly! This week we’re on an ‘all clear’ (cancer free) downhill run, hoping for a long slow glide to the end of the ride and NOT another uphill climb to uncertainty. Well, that’s what prayers are for, right?

Anyway, I’ve come to understand after 50 something years in the game, that we have absolutely zero control over what life brings us; that's up to God by way of the gifts and challenges he gives us. But, we are 100% in control of how we deal with them. So, speaking only for myself, I will be grateful for this week’s good news, accept the challenges of day to day life, and have faith that whatever the Almighty has in store for us will be in our best interests according to His perfect plan.

Okay, enough pontificating, on with chapter four of:

“KK Undercover…The Cookie Caper…”

Deer Canyon Elementary: School’s OUT!

We stood at the curb huddled together against the cool autumn temperature, me, Winifred, Claire, and Daniel (the new kid). We were waiting for Daniel’s sister to arrive to pick him up. That’s when we planned to gang up on her and charm her into baking the cookies we needed to trap the ‘Lunchito Bandito!’

“What kind of car is she driving anyways,” asked Claire?

“Um, my Dad got her a Mustang, he says it’s a classic,” answered Daniel.

“What does classic mean,” Winnie asked?

“It means OLD,” I replied sarcastically.
“Here she comes,” Daniel exclaimed, pointing at the candy apple red car turning into the school drive.

“WOW, that is an OLD car,” Claire gasped.

“CLASSIC,” added Winifred!

Daniel’s sister drove up and stopped beside us at the curb. She leaned over and seemed to wrestle with the door as the window jerked its way down slowly.

“What’s wrong with your car,” Claire wondered out loud.

“Nothing, it’s just hard to crank when I’m leaning over from the driver’s side is all,” Sissy replied.

“What’s cranking,” we all asked together?

“Well, it’s an old car and doesn’t have automatic windows so you have to roll down the windows with a hand crank,” explained Sissy.

“Oh,” we replied together, nodding our heads but really understanding.

“You know, cranking, like this,” Sissy added, making a circular cranking motion with her hands.

“Ohhhh, CLASSIC,” we said in unison, her visual aid made sense of it all.

“Right, you guys are cute! Who are your friends Danny,” Sissy asked her brother?

“Um, they’re just in my class,” he answered.

“I figured that much Einstein, what are their names?”

“Sorry about that! Um, the tall one is Winnie, the blonde is Claire, and the one with the purple hair is KK,” Daniel replied, pointing at each of us in turn.

“It’s Winifred,” Winnie corrected.

“Actually my hair is ash blonde,” Claire added.

“My hair is only purple on Tuesday’s,” I explained.

“Nice to meet you, I’m Danny’s sister Bethany, but you can call be Beth. Nice hair KK, I like it!”

We waived back at her sheepishly. “But Daniel said your name was Sissy?”
“That works too, I’ll answer to either one,” Sissy replied with a smile.

“Well, we gotta get going, hop in Danny,” she said after a pause, opening the door for her brother.

Daniel climbed in and shut the door. Sissy waived and put the car in gear when her brother suddenly hollered, “WAIT!”

Sissy hit the brakes and the Mustang screeched to a stop. “DON’T DO THAT, what is wrong with you doofus!”

“Sorry sis, but KK wanted to ask you something, didn’t you KK,” Danny explained hurriedly.

Sissy leaned forward and looked at me with a little frown, “well?”

Gulping I walked up to the car and put my head in the window a couple of inches.

“Um, well we were wondering if you would mind making some cookies for us tonight, I mean if you’re not busy or anything?”

“You’re kidding right? Can’t your mom do that for you?”

“Well, Winnie’s mom was going to but now she has to work, and my mom has to take me to rehab tonight, and Claire’s mom, well, Claire’s mom doesn’t bake, I think it has something to with math, fractions specifically,” I answered in one breath!

“I see, I think? Well, I guess I can make a couple dozen cookies for you. Chocolate chip okay?”

“Oh yeah, chocolate chip would be great, thanks!”

“Alright, I'll bake them later and Danny can bring them in tomorrow morning. Hope your party turns out nice,” Sissy said, waiving as she put the car in gear.

“What p…,” Claire started to ask.

“It sure will now that we have cookies to share, thank you so much,” Winifred said, stepping in front of Claire before any damage could be done.

“See ya girls, nice meeting you,” Sissy said waiving as she drove away.

We waived back and started walking toward the school bus. Claire got on first, while Winnie held my cane and helped me climb the steps.
“Hi Mr. Beedle,” I said to the driver as I past by and headed down the aisle to my usual window seat two rows behind him.

“Hiya KK, thanks for reminding me it’s Tuesday,” he replied pointing at my wig.

“No worries, don’t forget tomorrow is carrot top Wednesday,” I said.

He winked at me and closed the bus doors. “Sit down everybody, we’re on the road!”

Winnie sat beside me making sure I stayed in my seat while Claire took her usual seat behind me to hold my neck pillow in place. Besides being my two bestest friends these guys were my crew as well. It would really suck to deal with this yucky cancer stuff all by myself. Luckily, I’ve got people!

“Alright, phase one is done, we have the bait. Now it’s time for phase two, setting the trap,” I said as I looked out the window.

“So, what’s your plan KK,” Claire asked?

“Yeah, we know you have one, we can see that wicked little smile on your face,” Winnie added.

I turned back and faced front, making eye contact with Mr. Beedle in the rear view mirror. “Oh I’ve got a plan alright! Listen up…”

Next post: chapter five “KK Undercover…The Cookie Caper”

Thursday, October 8, 2009

“Nobody told me there’d be days like these…” John Lennon…1984

I’m working on getting my life back on track, writing wise specifically. That is to say back to writing EVERY SINGLE day! Actually, it’s as hard as it sounds because, well, I don’t live in a bubble. Oh well, that’s my goal, albeit a tad lofty given my life’s current circumstances, but not out of reach once I make it my priority. If I were to chart my creative life metrically, I think I would measure progress in terms of, good days, not so good days, and ho-hum days. Why these three? I dunno, they just seem like the right adjectives to encompass a day in a life (forgive the shameful plagiarizing of a John Lennon tune). Like as not, I’d choose three different terms tomorrow. So, short answer to an unasked question, why not! How am I doing so far? Well, let’s give it a month or so. Good days would be 4 hours, not so good days would be 2 hours, and ho-hum days would be, hmmm, you guessed it, what hours? Stay tuned for a future post with a tale of the tape performance chart.

Nobody wants to win all the battles and lose the war! So keep in mind that when one starts a project the primary measure of success is FINISHING IT!

Okay, here’s chapter three of:

“KK Undercover…The Cookie Caper…”

Deer Canyon Elementary: Lunchtime!


Finally, the lame lunch bell! Not that Mrs. Ryan’s lesson was boring or anything, even if the new kid and Ali had started snoring halfway through it. Oh, by the way, the Incas were from Peru, the Mayans were from Honduras/Guatemala, and the Aztecs were from Mexico. Ya gotta love the Internet!

“Okay class, that’s thirty minutes for lunch. Try not to trample each other on the way out,” Mrs. Ryan barked as she pulled a brown bag from her top left desk drawer. There was a telltale stain darkening the bottom of the paper sack. That would mean she had packed either a tuna-fish or a sardine sandwich for lunch…gross!

Mom, I am not breaking the rules! The bell already rang and Mrs. Ryan told us all to scoot,” Winnie whined into her cell phone.

She passed me in a mini-huff and headed out the door to our usual lunch table. Claire winked at me as she followed directly behind her, cinching up the combo book-bag/lunchbox which set squarely on her back. I waited a few seconds as the class emptied and then casually strolled out, smiling at Mrs. Ryan as I passed her desk. She gave a “what you up to” stare as she went about unwrapping whatever was in the brown paper bag. My guess was a sardine and limburger cheese sandwich by the tears in my eyes. Adults are just plain weird, there’s no getting around that! I hope they find a cure for that before I get old!

“So where are we eating,” the new kid asked, startling me in the process.

“Don’t do that,” I hollered, socking him in the arm as I jetted ahead him quickly. I stopped after a few feet and looked back. I must’ve hurt the poor kid’s feelings because he was still standing where I socked him, staring down at his shoes. I shook my head and walked back to get him.

“Come on new kid, we haven’t got all day, I’ve got a plan to hatch,” I said, taking his arm, pulling him along after me. The kid didn’t even try to hide his smile as I dragged him along to our special table. Note to self; I hope he isn’t gonna be a problem, there’s nothing worse than puppy crushes!

“It’s about time! What took you so long,” Winifred asked frowning?

I pushed the new kid toward the table as I grabbed a seat on the bench. “I had a little trouble getting out the door,” I replied, pointing at the new kid who still had that silly grin on his face.

“SNAP OUT OF IT,” I hollered, tossing Claire’s Twinkie at him.

“Hey, I’ve been waiting all morning for that treat,” Claire whined.

The new kid handed back her sponge cake and pulled his own lunch from his back pack. It looked like PB&J on whole wheat, some celery, and a bag of veggie chips. His mom must be a health freak like mine. I turned back to Winifred and gave her the ‘so tell me all about it look.’
“Oh, yeah, well I called my Mom and we got problems,” Winnie started.

“What kind of problems, how hard can it be to bake a batch of cookies,” I asked?

“The problem is my Mom has to work tonight and you know my Dad’s all thumbs in the kitchen,” Winnie replied.

“Oh yeah, you’re right, I remember the BBQ last summer when he set your back yard on fire. It was pretty cool!”

“You squished my Twinkie KK,” Claire suddenly complained.

“HELLO, we’re working out some details here snack-a-saurus,” I replied, giving her the look. Claire stuck her tongue out at me and went back to eating her lunch.

“So what are we gonna do now,” Winnie asked.

We sat there staring at each other for a minute or two when the new kid broke the silence by uttering the first words any of us remember him speaking.

“My thisister can cook,” he said through a mouthful of PB&J.

“Excuse me? Can you repeat that, I mean right after you swallow that glob of Skippy in your mouth you Philistine,” I said, scolding him for his totally “boy like” manners.

The new kid squeezed his eyes shut as he dry swallowed a huge mouthful of peanut butter and jam. Claire must have felt sorry for him cause she offered him her water bottle.

“Who is this guy anyways,” she asked, sitting back down next to me.

“He’s new, I think his name is Danny or Daniel, or something like that, I dunno, he’s one of Ali’s friends,” Winnie replied.

“But why is he sitting with us,” Claire asked as she watched the poor kid gulp down the water. He wiped his mouth with the sleeve of his jacket and then used the same sleeve to wipe the water bottle clean.

“Well, he looked kinda lost at recess and since we’ve been looking for someone to do the dirty work for the team he just sorta seemed like a possibility,” I answered timidly.

“Thanks,” he said, smiling sheepishly as he handed the water bottle back to Claire.

“Uh, that’s okay, you keep it, I’ll share with KK,” Claire said, wrinkling her nose and making the eeww face.

“Alright, Danny is it? What about your sister,” I asked?

“Um it’s Daniel, and I thaid my thister can cook,” he replied with a smile.

Wait, is that a lisp,” Claire gasped?

“Oh, no, I still had some peanut butter on the roof of my mouf,” answered Daniel. He stuck his finger in his mouth and scraped the rest of the goo from his mouth and swallowed it.

“There that’s better,” he said smiling large, showing all his teeth, top and bottom.

“Ah, you still have a little jam on your mouth kid,” Winnie said looking down at her lunch as she pointed.

“Oh yeah, thanks,” Danny replied, licking the jam from the corner of his mouth.

“So, you’re saying your sister would bake some cookies for us after school,” I asked?

“No, I said she CAN cook. I dunno if she will or not, we’ll have to ask her.”

“Well, can you call her? Where does she go to school? How old is she,” we all asked at once?

“Wait, um, I don’t have a phone, she goes to Westview High, and she’s 17, so I guess that makes her seven years older than me,” Danny replied.

“Oh man, a high school kid isn’t gonna to help out a bunch kids like us,” Claire whined.

“”No, she might, she has to cook dinner for us during the week cause my mom works, so, maybe she’ll bake some cookies too,” Daniel explained.

“Well, you can use my phone,” Winnie offered.

“Thanks, but Sissy doesn’t have a phone either. My Dad says cell phones are the beginning of the end,” said Daniel. Claire, Winifred, and I looked at one another and silently mouthed "Sissy," not even trying to hide the giggles.

“Her name is Beth, but I call her Sissy because, well, because she's my sister. Anyway, she picks me up after school every day, so we can ask her then,” explained Daniel.

“Any better ideas,” I asked looking at my team one at a time. Not a sound came from them, you would’ve head crickets speak if it were nighttime.

“Okay, I guess we continue with operation “Lunchito Bandito” after school,” I said.

“Let’s do it,” Claire added. We reached across the table and hooked our pinkie fingers together to seal the deal.

Next post: chapter four “KK Undercover…The Cookie Caper”

Sunday, September 13, 2009

“If I could save time in a bottle…” Jim Croce…1973

Today has been an “E” ticket ride (a term you old time Disney brats will remember) courtesy the woman I’ve given my heart to. After this “roller coaster” of a day, I’m beginning to understand the relationship between love and time. If love is the greatest gift one can give or receive, then time is the box it comes wrapped in. It would be difficult to over emphasize the importance of the relationship between these two elements of the human condition. Suffice to say that you cannot give one and withhold the other. One without the other would merely be an empty gesture. To my mind, and I can only speak for myself, true love is unconditional, yet strangely measureable by virtue of the time invested in nurturing it. Temper that with mutual respect and you have a formula that can stand the test of time. Realizing that affirmation made today’s emotional freefall a ride worth getting in line twice for. But always remember and never forget, nobody rides for free…

And now, chapter two of:

“KK Undercover…The Cookie Caper…”

Deer Canyon Elementary School

One of the risks of planning capers at recess is missing the bell. It sucks being the last one in the door. Not only do you have to deal with the ooohs and ahhhs, but you have to spend the rest of the day sitting next to Mrs. Ryan in the “seat of shame,” ugh! Fortunately I beat the new kid into the room by half a step, literally, having given him a flat tire right when we reached the doorway. I’m pretty sure Mrs. Ryan saw it, but I was too quick taking my seat for her to make a big deal about it. Besides, it was time for Geography (double ugh!) and I knew she was planning to show pictures of her vacation to Machu Picchu, whatever the heck that is? So, the new kid grabbed his books and took the slow walk back up the aisle to assume the position, giving me the stink-eye all the way…rookies! More on that later.

Anyways, while he’s cooling his jets in the hot seat I’ve gotta figure out how to get Winifred’s mom started on the cookie bait! Wait a sec, looks like Mrs. Ryan is pulling down the wall map, it’s officially geography time, woo hoo! This subject is so boring she nearly puts herself to sleep during the lesson, sweet! I’ll just jot down a quick note and tell Winnie to text her mom ASAP.

“Pssst, pass this back to Winifred,” I whispered to Zoe, the girl with the cutest curly hair that we’re all jealous over. Actually, I’ve tried to recruit her into the unit once or twice, but she’s too good, no natural sneaky tendencies, pity!

“Okay,” she replied cheerfully.

I kept my eyes on Mrs. Ryan while the note worked its way to Winifred in the back row. The tallest kids always got the back row seats, makes sense if you think about it. Anyways, Mrs. Ryan had pulled down the map of South America and was pointing out where Machu Picchu was located. Why would anyone go to another country on vacation when Disneyland, Sea World, and Legoland are all right here in San Diego? Bizarre, I know, maybe the school makes teachers go to weird places like this so they can teach kids how cool it is to live right here in good ole US of A!

“Pssst, back attcha,” Zoe whispered as she handed me Winifred’s reply.

I took the note from over my shoulder without looking back and unfolded the paper in my lap without breaking eye contact with Mrs. Ryan who had looked my way after hearing us with her super teacher ears (pretty sure they hand those out when you graduate from teacher school). She stared me down for a moment and then continued with her mesmerizing recounting of her trip to the famous Inca temple in Peru. By the way, I always mix up the Incas, Mayans, and Aztecs, am I alone on that? I don’t think so! Anyways, back to Winifred’s note. Keeping my head pointed right at Mrs. Ryan I lowered my eyes to read Winnie’s reply:


I’ll text my mom at lunch, can’t do it know, she’ll ground me and take my cell phone away for a month for using it during class!

Perfect! I love it when a plan comes together! I gave the secret signal, two quick coughs from me followed by one little sneeze from Claire, letting Winifred know that everything was A-O-K. Today at lunch the three of us would finish hatching our plan to trap the Deerfield Lunch Bandit before school let out tomorrow afternoon. SWEET!

Next post: chapter three “KK Undercover…The Cookie Caper”

Thursday, July 9, 2009

"Little sumpthin sumpthin"

This sorta came to me the over the weekend while spending time with KaSandra on her Build-A-Bear adventure. I thought I would include you all and see if anyone could suggest a title. I think this might make a good lyric (possibly country) and plan to copyright it and shop it around the industry. If you have a melody in mind when you read it, that could be fun too!


I know a girl, you know her too
She lights up the world when she walks in the room
She’s crazy cute, she talks on for miles
She’ll crack you up, she’ll make you smile…but

KK needs a miracle; she’s fighting for her life
Every now and then the world, well it just ain’t right
So when you hit your knees tonight, when you talk to God
Remind Him of a girl you know, and pray she’ll be alright

Her days are lonely even when there's a crowd
Nobody knows how hard, she struggles now
Family and friends are here, close by her side
They pray and pray each day, they cry and try
She’s in a race ya know, with no one at all
She’ll never quit ya know, she’ll never fall…but

KK needs a miracle; she’s fighting for her life
Every now and then the world, well it just ain’t right
So when you hit your knees tonight, when you talk to God
Remind Him of a girl you know, and pray she’ll be alright

She’s in a state of grace, she’s standing tall
Forget all the odds they quote, as they meet in the hall
Whatever will be will be, I know that is true
Until it’s revealed to me, I’ll just pray she'll pulls through…cause

KK needs a miracle; she’s fighting for her life
Every now and then the world, well it just ain’t right
So when you hit your knees tonight, when you talk to God
Remind Him of a girl you know, and pray she’ll be alright

Monday, July 6, 2009

"cowabunga dudes..."

They say that inspiration comes in waves, and I suppose that’s true. Unfortunately they neglect to tell you that you can visibly age waiting between sets! Now, I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember and I’ve done my fair share of floating on lullaby swells waiting for that perfect set. One with a killer ride that just goes on and on and on! But the wait can be a win-win experience if you use the time wisely. When I write I tend to wait for inspiration in much the same way that I wait on the next wave. I know its coming sooner or later, so I take it all in, notice the world around me. I let my view and whatever comes into it season my perspective on whatever my twisted little brain is hatching at that moment. It always works out in the end. Either a wave comes and I scoot and shoot, or an idea hatches and I run it through my mind and out my fingertips onto my keyboard (there is usually a board involved somehow).

If you’ve been following my blog lately, you know that I have been catching rides on a KaSandra theme. My little muse is an inspiration beyond words. So, as promised in my last post, I give you chapter one in:

“KK Undercover…The Cookie Caper…”

San Diego, California…2009

Listen up new kid, my name is KaSandra, Cassandra with a K! That’s big K, little a, big S, little a-n-d-r-a, get it? I live right here in San Diego (that’s in California for anyone geographically challenged) with my Mom, my sister, and my little brother. My sister is a couple of years older than me (I’m 10), and she’s pretty cool. My brother is a couple of years more than a couple of years younger than me, and he’s, well, he’s my little brother and let’s leave it at that!

I’m a fourth grader at Deer Canyon Elementary School. I like school okay most of the time, but I could do without the homework. I’m a bit of a tomboy, but still a girly-girl when it suits me (translation: shop-a-holic). I tend to hang out with my two BFFs, Winifred and Claire, but we occasionally tolerate a couple of the not so creepy boys in our class. Basically I am a pretty normal 10 year-old California girl. At least I am as far as everyone knows.

Can you keep a secret kid? Winfred and Claire don’t even know about this! Okay, between you and me and the tether-ball, I sorta lead a double life, part time kid, part time spy. That’s right, I said spy! I’m working undercover for the government. What? Yes, our government silly. Specifically I work for S.A.M. That’s short for Secret Aides for Moms. I know what you’re thinking, what the heck does that mean? Have you ever heard the old saying that moms have eyes in the back of their heads? Well, we’re those eyes!

See, many years ago, I don’t know how many, some President, I don’t know which one, wanted to help his wife with their children. Legend has it they were mega brats and were really messing up the White House, literally. So, the President created a super secret organization, S.A.M. and the government has been recruiting brainy, take charge kids, like me, ever since. Close your mouth kid, it’s impressive, but not that impressive! Now, you’re supposed to be at least 12 to start and you have to quit by 18 when you go off to college. But in my case they made an exception. No surprise right? I’m smart, pretty cool, and a little bossy (little brother/monster, remember?). Wait a sec, actually that is pretty darn impressive! Go ahead kid, let your mouth hang open minute or two!

That’s my bio so keep it under your hat see? You’re just a rookie in this game, so pay attention and I’ll learn ya good! That’s detective talk by the way. I must have read it in a book somewhere. I can trust you right? I hope so because I’d hate to have to make you disappear! Ha-ha-ha, just kidding silly, they would probably only send you back a grade or two. Close your mouth kid, I said probably!

Okay, today’s message came the usual way, tucked inside my strawberry Pop Tart, just like a fortune cookie, pretty clever huh? Looks like we got a lunchbox bandit on the loose at dear old Deer Canyon! First things first kid, empty your pockets for me. Can’t be too careful ya know. The best suspects are usually the ones right under your beezer. Uncross your eyes kid, a beezer is another name for your nose. Sorry about that, more detective talk, that must have been a pretty old book I read, because nobody talks like that anymore!

Hmmmm, let’s see now, thirty-eight cents, two green life savers, and a really old stick of Juicy Fruit. Did you get this outta your Grandpa’s pocket or what? Never mind, you’re clean. Stuff it all back in your pocket and let’s get to class before the bell rings. I want to hand Claire a note to make sure we hook up at lunch with Winifred. I got an idea on how we might trap this perp. But we’ll need Winnie to sweet talk her mom, again. Winnie’s mom Alice can bake like nobody’s business; and her Snicker doodle cookies are pretty famous around here.

Come on, hurry up kid, Mrs. Ryan is getting ready to close the door!

Next post: chapter two “KK Undercover…The Cookie Caper”

Saturday, June 27, 2009

"Rear window view...sort of..."

I have read books (Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelanzy) and seen films (one of which is nearly plagiarized by the title of this post, my apologies Mr. Hitchcock) that address this theme. Imagine your world being reduced to mundane, intrusive, and irregular excursions supporting care that you cannot give yourself. Your world reduced to what others allow you to see. I don’t have to strain my brain very hard to imagine that as I have witnessed it daily for several weeks watching KaSandra (KK to her friends) deal with the confinement and confusion imposed upon someone with a serious illness like cancer. I try not to stare at her but I do, and sometimes she catches me looking at her. I’m certain that must annoy her to no end and it makes me feel guilty every time it happens. However, I can’t seem to help myself. I am curious about what she is thinking, and I wonder what I would be thinking in her place.

As I write this post, trying hard to be extra quiet and light fingered typing across the keyboard of my laptop; I am stealing glances of her going in and out of consciousness, trying to nap. The TV is tuned to the CARE station playing soft instrumentals and rolling peaceful pictures of panoramic views of nature mixed with close encounters with flora, fauna, and various critters, woodland, aquatic, and airborne. Her mother is in the chair beside her bed, peacefully grabbing a rare opportunity to rest. I listen to the soft sounds of their breathing mixed with the constant humming and ticking of the machines that nourish her, poison her, and monitor her. The sunlight shines in from the window and illuminates her face while casting a shadow across her pillow. She opens her eyes and catches me, again! I look down quickly and tick off a few more words before I steal another glance, she is sleeping, I think/hope.

The window has caught my eye and my attention. This window is her main outlet to what is happening in the world outside this room. The Jacaranda trees that fill most of the viewing space are beautiful in their green and purple splendor, and if you block out the cars in the parking lot, the red brick architecture of the building makes a nice border for the picture she sees each and every day. The random elements of this daily picture are the time of day, the weather, and the people that walk through it at any given moment. That can be fertile ground for an active imagination, and I believe that she certainly has one. I wonder what she conjures up in her mind as she watches the world pass in and out of her line of sight. It’s a little like Paul Simon’s vision described in his lyric to “Homeward Bound” where he and his traveling companion are people watching and “imagine the man in the gabardine suit is a spy.” Makes me wonder, where do you go when you dream? Answer, anywhere!

And so, inspired to wonder out loud, I am imagining myself in her place, in that little bed looking out the picture window. Why, there must be at least a bazillion stories walking by this window. How hard could it be to capture one or two? Next post, chapter one of “KK Undercover – The Cookie Caper”

Sunday, June 14, 2009

"you say its your birthday, its my birthday too, yeah"...john lennon the white album

Today, Sunday June 7th, was supposed to be a special day, a bright day of celebration. But the light went out of it before the sun even came up. Although special became tragic, at day’s end it turned out to be special after all, at least to did for me. Instead of giving a present today, I received a present, one that will last a lifetime and beyond. Certainly happy birthday plans turned into a day of vigilance and prayer. And yet, in the midst of an unfolding tragedy I experienced something unusual, something I’ve never experienced before, possibly a miracle?

Now, as a male I understand that I can never experience the joy of giving birth. I’ll miss the experience of actual labor, actual pain, very real terror, and the total elation of bringing a new life into the world. Truth be told, I’m not exactly all busted up about that. Those privileges belong to women alone. They are a woman’s cross to bear, her connection to God Almighty and His creation. These are facts of life pure and simple; facts that we’ve all grow up with. However, today I discovered a new fact. Apparently there is a similar birthing process associated with the end of life. The pain can be as great, perhaps even greater. The difference being that at this birth the pain is is felt by all, by everyone connected by varying degree to the life ebbing toward an uncertain future, a life at the crossroads that separates Heaven and Earth.

That pain brings grief so profound that you feel as if your heart is being ripped from your chest. That grief brings frustration so intense that words are meaningless, and you are reduced to primal screams or wailing to express yourself. That frustration brings an uncontrolable anger that threatens to consume you as it turns your heart to stone. That anger, mercifully, is soothed by faith through prayer, your prayers and those of others. And that mercy begets hope which softens your hard heart, and allows you to continue to continue. From one uncertain week to the next, one uncertain day to the next, one uncertain hour to the next, you continue to continue.

And so, here I am staring up at the window in this small room. The sun is beginning to rise. I notice that there are three vertical blinds missing on the end of the row. All of the other blinds are turned toward the wall, directing the sunlight away from the bedside. I don’t know what made me focus on such a trivial anomaly. Perhaps a need to be useful, to do something besides sit there and wonder what was to happen next. At first I feel compelled to find a way to cover the open space made by the missing blinds. I even stand up from my seat on the edge of the bed across the aisle. But before I take a step my eyes are drawn again to the missing blinds. I notice the light creeping across the floor, slowly making its way toward the bedside.

I sit back down and watch the trail of light inch closer and closer. My eyes alternate between the missing window blinds and the steady march of the sunbeam. Each time I look up at the window my mind focuses on the missing blinds, 1-2-3. The light is at the edge of the pillow now and she turns her head to meet it. Sightless and speechless it must be the warmth that attracts her attention I rationalize. I look back to the window, again at the blinds, 1-2-3, curious? The sun is up now, and her face is awash in the ray of sunshine that I’ve been tracking for twenty some minutes. There is an aura of intense concentration in the air, in direct conflict with the blank expression on her face. As I wonder about that I suddenly realize the significance of the three missing blinds, perfectly placed in the exact spot where the mornings first light would bathe her in healing sunshine, 1-2-3, three missing blinds, Father-Son-Holy Ghost. It was a prayer answered before it had even materialized in my mind. I believe that I was gently told in those moments to stand down, to be still, that this child whom I love dearly was in His hands now, and that whatever was to be would be right and good for her.

Garth Brooks, the country singer songwriter wrote that “some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.” I’ve wondered about that line many times in my life. It’s a good answer to hard “tell me why” questions, but truly I don’t believe it. I’ve also read that all prayers are answered, every one of them. And that it is our inclination to hear only what we want to hear that prevents us from understanding that. The older I get the more I’m convinced that there is power in prayer. And I don’t think that belief in God or membership in a religion is a prerequisite to being heard. If there is a God and I truly believe that there is, then God exists for all. And sooner or later everyone turns to Him consciously or unconsciously in a moment of quiet desperation hoping to be heard.

Today was a special day for me. Today my heart was opened to the true meaning of scripture, specifically 1st Corinthians 13:13, “But now abide faith, hope, love, these three, but the greatest of these is love.” Today I saw three missing blinds,
1-2-3. To my mind, they represented the Father-Son-Holy Spirit. They embodied scripture, faith-hope-love.

Today I witnessed the birth of an angel. No matter which path is chosen for her at the crossroads where she waits, she will be forever changed. Touched by the hand of God she is special beyond imagination and we are blessed to be near her.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Its a hard knock life

I love baseball, always have, always will. Having a catch (whoops, curse you Field of Dreams), I mean playing catch with my Da, brothers, and my friends are fond childhood memories. Hell, we still play catch off and on, only now we’ve included sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, and a tomboy wife or two.

I remember sandlot games between neighborhood pick-up teams. I remember choosing sides by tossing a bat into the air, catching it before it hit the ground, and the opposing captains racing fist over fist to the end to determine who chose first. Of course then there was the elation of being chose first, the agony of being chose last, and the relief of being anywhere in between! Good times…

I always go back to those times whenever I’m stressed, angry, scared or confused. Baseball’s slow familiar pace comforts me. And I find peace in knowing that it rarely if ever changes. Peace and comfort, yeppers, that’s what I get from my sandlot memories of days gone by. I can’t count how many times I’ve gone there to ease the pain or pressures that life brings intermittently to us all. They say that life ebbs and flows, that it oscillates if you will, and it’s true enough. So what?

So, here I am again at my sandlot altar, calling upon these memories like old friends to help me cope with another of life’s curveballs (there is a baseball metaphor for EVERYTHING). In my last post I wrote a poem for a child, not my own, but one whom I’ve grown to love as my own. I wrote about the challenge that life has fated her with. It is perhaps life’s greatest challenge, survival. It is a big challenge for such a little girl and in the face of seemingly untenable and definitely unfair odds. Only by the grace of God have you and I avoided a similar fate.

When I was told of her illness of her challenge, I was shocked, scared, and then angry. It’s not hard to understand the compulsion toward anger and bitterness. But these are shallow reactions of one who insists on understanding the reasons for God’s will (for those of a faith) or the natural order of things (for those who are not). Admittedly I am one of the former, and succumbed to those base emotions, instantly demanding to know WHY! And I brought that bad attitude with me to hospital that first night, not sure if it would explode in a grief inspired tirade or remain dormant inside me, simmering into bitterness.

Imagine my surprise when in a nanosecond all of that was washed away as I sat by her bedside and looked at her face. It was the face of an angel. She lay there quietly breathing, doing her part to recover from surgery, mankind’s first pass at miracle working. Surrounded by doctors, nurses, social workers, machines, family, friends, and well wishers, she seemed to me to be the only person at peace in the room. Oblivious to the chaos around her she lay in quiet repose, beyond REM, in a place where only those on the brink are allowed to visit.

In that short period of time my attitude changed. It was as if someone had erased a blackboard. And, over the next few hours calmness washed over me and I felt my hard heart soften, the anger and bitterness turning to peaceful acceptance. I imagined that I heard voices and I wondered if someone were speaking to her. I strained to listen but the voices were faint and low. Whatever was being said was meant for her ears alone. I imagined that they were tender words, words of encouragement perhaps, but from where from who? Perhaps from loved ones passed, perhaps her father, perhaps God? Who’s to say, it mattered only to her.

The coming days brought good and not so good news. As she continued to recover, every new day brought a new challenge, a new hill to climb, each one a little steeper than the one before. ALL of them met with a strength that I had not seen in her before now. Terms that I would not have used to describe her, like stoic, determined, focused, and brave were now written all over her face, shielding her beyond her natural abilities. These were the characteristics of the baseball giants that I idolized in my youth, whom I still idolize to this day. These were the traits that defined my heroes. This child before me was walking along side them now, and I am in awe of her.

Today I am sweating over a hot BBQ, cooking up burgers and dogs for her tenth birthday party. I am watching her out of the corner of my eye holding court at a table surrounded by her friends and her family. She is happy and smiling as if she didn’t have a care in the world, as if none of what she is dealing with is worth tears or fears. She is living in the moment and she is an inspiration to me.

As I reminisce at the foot of my sandlot altar I am introducing my past to my new hero. Her name is Truc Han or KaSandra, and I ask you, all of you, to keep her in your prayers.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Deep Thoughts & High Hopes

Been a while since my last post...sorry...:(

Truth be told I have been channeling my energies elsewhere the past few weeks and have only recently come up for air. A large part of the writing process is experiencing life, but you know that already, I'm preaching to the choir. Suffice to say that the following poem is what I needed to write to break a creative log jam. It is dedicated to someone near and dear, someone I've grown to love and admire...

Truc Han’s Poem

I know a wee girl, I think you do too
Who captured my heart in a minute or two

Her smile drew me in, beguiling and sunny
A shy wicked grin, contagious and funny

I felt her look through me with ebony eyes
In dark pools of wonder she made up my mind

Twas friends we would be, and I knew straight away
My life would be richer from that very day

I know a wee girl, I’m sure you do too
Who’s facing a challenge that few of us do

Surrounded by family, loved ones, and friends
Alone in a crowd on faith she depends

I’m humbled by courage she shows every day
I’m grateful and honored that she came my way

I know a wee girl, I know you do too
She’s happy, she’s loving, she looks just like you…

Saturday, March 28, 2009

“…rejoice in our suffering because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character, and character hope…” Romans 5

It seems like every time I tune into the media these days, whether in print, on TV, or on the radio, I am assaulted with an endless stream of bad news. We’re at war with terrorists, drug cartels, flesh peddlers, Ponzi schemers, sub-prime this, and bail-out that, as well as a whole slew of petty dictators and fanatic regimes working hard to join the “nuclear mouse club” each of them hell bent on changing the world by blowing it to smithereens! There should be a LAW, an ordinance of some kind, one that requires a prerequisite 50/50 mix of bad and good news prior to broadcast or publication.
I’m not talking about filling the airwaves and newspaper stands with mindless fluff, sports, or porn. I’m talking stories and articles about positive events, creative solutions, great ideas, and incredible vision. There must be a few of those out there, right? Okay, maybe that mix is more like 70/30. In any event change is what those things are about. Funny word, change, lots of people use it, especially leaders, be they corporate, political, religious, or even parental. Let’s be honest, we’ve all used it from time to time. And usually whatever change we achieved was nothing more than stirring the pot so to speak. Sure it might look fresher but it’s still the same ingredients, same taste, and same smell. Oh you might add a vegetable or two, but in the end, it’s just a variation on a theme. It seems like we heard the “c” word a lot last year Mr. Democrat and Mr. Republican.
This made me think a lot about the mess we’re in, so much to complain and grouse about I wondered if there was anyone or anything worthy of praise, trust or loyalty. Aside from God, the list seems pretty short. I thought about our new President, the Presidents that came before him and those destined to follow. I tried to think of something useful to contribute, something more than cash, lip service, or complaints. It was harder than you’d think. In the end, the best I could do was a prayer. Now that I think about it maybe that is the best I can do. It doesn’t cost a cent, it doesn’t take a lot of time, you can do it anywhere anytime with anyone. And if we could do it all together, maybe it will make a difference…it could happen…

An American Prayer

Mr. President, we watched, we listened, we read, we believed, we voted

For you…

Mr. President, we’re angry, we’re disappointed, we’re fearful, we’re hopeful, we’re ready willing and able,

For you…

Mr. President, many of us were listening, too many of us were not, many of us thought hard about change, many more of us took a leap of faith

For you…

Mr. President, what will you tell our children about tomorrow, what visions will you share, what will you need to get there, what can we do

For you…

Mr. President, when you wake each day may you feel God’s guiding hand, when you sleep each night may you dream in peace, and when the challenge overwhelms you, may you know that your country prays each and every day

For you…

Saturday, March 21, 2009

"you've got to change your evil"

Ever wonder about evil? Interesting word. It has a tone in and of itself, one that comes through loud and clear, delivered in writing, in a glance or a stare, spoken out loud or in a hush, or left unsaid altogether. Curious? I don't believe Websters does it justice definition wise, how could they, it is so much more than a word. It's a verb, and adverb, an adjective, even a proper noun at times as in "Dr. Evil" of Austin Powers fame. Nevertheless, however its used it encompasses in degrees all that human beings fear, outright and in secret. For example:

Child to Mother: "I wish Daddy was dead!"
Mother to Child: "What an evil thing to say!"

Is evil instinctive or is it a learned condition? Can someone actually be born evil? That's an unpleasant thought. Is it any less unpleasant knowing that there are those among us who are learning this condition under our noses, often under our supervision? What does the parent of a serial killer feel, when there was never a sign that their child was being altered? How many times have we read this in a newspaper, "he was a nice quiet guy, he was our neighbor for years?" Some cultures believe that evil is an entity that feeds on human fears using the weak willed or simple minded to initiate terror. Who's to say you're not living next door to or sleeping beside a ticking human bomb. There have been many stories along that line of reasoning, including this one. It's pure fiction of course, I'm reasonably certain. However, consider this, for those of you who believe yourself to be of a faith, be you a Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu or whatever, if there are angels, there are also demons...

(a short story by nicholas sheridan stanton)

(… “well now they call me the breeze……I keep blowin down the road…” Lynyrd Skynyrd tune 1972 or 1973…something like that )

Vehicle A, southbound on Hwy 41

The world looks different from the back of a Harley Davidson. Sort of inspires the outlaw in you. You know the part of you that secretly roots for the bad guys in every western you ever watched as a kid. There are those that can leave behind childish things, most of us are that way. Then there are those that never seem to grow out of them. This guy was one of the latter. He was dressed from head to toe in raggedy denim and leather, his long unkempt hair blowing wildly in the wind with a pair of dark glasses keeping flying bits of the road from punching out an eye. Whoever he was, he looked lost in a highway daydream as he motored south past Myrtle Beach toward Daytona, FLA. No doubt he was on the hunt for high times with some smooth skinned coeds enjoying ‘spring break’ from campuses up and down the eastern seaboard. It wouldn’t be much trouble scoring with that crowd; at least it never had been. This dude usually got whatever he wanted, one way or the other. Preferably the other, if the other involved whiskey, blood, and fear. He was your typical scooter trash, the sort that runs wild from north to south then back again whenever and wherever the law chose to look the other way. Born to lose and destined to raise hell, this badass was everything your Daddy warned you about. On any other day this would just be another drunken venture into Babylon. But not today, this day was going to be different, this day would be a pisser, this day would bring some changes ready or not.

Vehicle B, Northbound on Hwy 41

Bobby Pinella was exhausted, he did a slow blink, his eyes drooping for only a second or two, but it was just long enough to cause him to drift over the bumpy lane dividers. He jerked the wheel quickly in a reflex course correction, spilling the cold drink he had just bought a few miles back in Savannah...
“Shit,” he exclaimed.
“Why can’t these fucking Bozos ever get the lids on these cups right,” he shouted at no one in particular. It had been a typical steamy afternoon in the deep-south, so a pit stop at Hardee’s had seemed like a good idea on this last leg of his journey home. He was returning from yet another mind numbing seminar on teaming and sexual harassment in the workplace. It was an annual pilgrimage required of all middle management working in the aerospace industry. A prerequisite handed down in large by the Feds who held the purse strings on the huge defense contracts that his company and countless others relied upon for their life blood. Honestly, how many ways can they re-hash the same tired P’ rhetoric he thought? For Christ’s sake, it’s getting so you can’t mention the crack of dawn without offending some thin skinned weenie somewhere, somehow, someway.
“It’s the emasculation of America I tell ya,” Bobby would vent to his buddies and co-workers, always careful to be out of earshot of the known feminists working in finance. After he finished toweling off his wet lap with a wad of napkins from the Hardee’s bag, he fiddled with the radio and changed the station.
“KBST 109, in Richmond” sang the radio, playing a familiar jingle that pours out over nearly every AM station in this part of the country.
“Get ready for another 30 minutes of uninterrupted music from the 60’s, and 70’s,” said an overly mellow DJ.
“Here’s a classic from the Rolling Stones.”
“I see a red door and I want it painted black…”
“Well all right,” Bobby said out loud, singing along with Mick and the boys. Eventually he forgot about his damp pants and started to feel a little closer to home.
Robert Jon Pinella was pretty much as normal as they come. Born and raised in Brooklyn, but settling in New Jersey to start a career and raise a family. The father of three, he was the first shift production manager at the Power Amplifier Devices plant located in Fairfield. He was a regular Joe of sorts, devoted to his wife of 13 years, but still enough of a sinner to notice the hot little Cuban number working on the low voltage assembly line, as well, truth be told, his neighbor’s nineteen year-old niece home for the holidays from Columbia University. He wasn’t unattractive, not by a long-shot; in fact some might refer to him as ruggedly handsome, a real man’s man! He took pretty good care of himself, playing racquetball three or four times a week, coaching peewee football, and avoiding McDonald’s most of the time. Well, okay, some of the time (goddamn Big Mac’s). He and his spunky little spouse had a decent marriage. They were good parents, albeit a tad vocal at times. They were active in their church, as volunteered regularly at the children’s school. And if you asked either of them, they would likely say that they loved each one another dearly. Although to the untrained ear, it might not appear that way given the volume of their weekly sometimes daily discussions. Were one to rate their marriage it would register somewhere between level 3 and 4 on the intimacy scale. Where level 3 referred to bedroom sex (you know, children in the house, privacy), and where level 4 would be termed hallway sex. This is where you pass each other in the hallway and say fuck you! For the most part everything was okay, but something was definitely missing, something important. Something that clarified, qualified, and intensified their life together. They each sensed something coming their way, although neither had a clue what it might be? It was coming alright, without warning, and it was coming soon and head on.
“I want to paint it, paint it, paint it, paint it black…black as coal, black as night…”
“Sweet Jesus,” Bobby screamed!
The motorcycle came out of nowhere flying across the center divider directly at him. Bobby had no time to react other than to brace himself for the impact. The rider’s head hit the windshield of the mini van with a loud wet thud. He wasn’t wearing a helmet and the impact made a sound like a watermelon hitting the pavement from a second story fall. Mercifully, Bobby had been spared a total visual experience having been blinded by the van’s instantly deployed air bag. The mini van swerved wildly, dragging the motorcycle under the front wheels creating a shower of sparks as the two vehicles slid and bounced hard off of the center divider. They came to a sudden and merciful stop about a hundred yards from the point of impact. Bobby groaned, his eyes tearing from the punch in the face courtesy Mr. GM’s efficiently designed airbag. He suspected that his nose might be broken at least it sure felt like was. Pushing the deflated plastic away from his face he leaned back in his seat. He rolled his head to the left and watched as cars whizzed by the scene. He closed his eyes for a moment to collect his thoughts. His head ached and it seemed as if he’d been sitting there an awfully long time. By his count no less than fifty cars and trucks had passed him on by without a one stopping to help. You’d have thought that at least one of them would have had a cell phone! He heard sirens in the distance.
“About time,” he said out loud!
“HEY mister, mister,” a voice called.
“Can you hear me dude,” shouted a kid in faded blue jeans?
Bobby was aware that there were people trying to free from the wreckage, his seat belt seemed to be holding him inside what was left of his mini-van. He looked around and studied his situation. They were going to have to cut the steering wheel away, that much he knew for sure! While he couldn’t see the wheel through the deployed air bag, but he could feel it wedged snugly in his lap. He wiggled his fingers and toes and took a quick inventory, relieved to know that everything was still attached. A few cuts and bruises maybe, but nothing serious from what he could tell. He sighed deeply, still here, he thought, uttering his first audible words since the impact. “Thank you Jesus,” he sighed.
A firefighter appeared and placed a heavy wool blanket over Bobby, covering his face and torso and then signaled for someone to start cutting. The blanket was meant to shield Bobby from the sparks caused by the circular saw that they were using to cut away the steering wheel pinning him in his seat.

Meanwhile, back in Jersey…
The phone rang over the noise in PJ’s (short for Paula Jo) busy kitchen. JR (little Bob) was sitting under the kitchen table banging the lid to a saucepan on the floor to an erratic rhythm. The girls would be getting home from school any minute PJ thought as she walked over to the phone on the wall. She picked up on the fifth ring just as the answering machine intercepted the call.
“Darn you stupid machine!” Paula yelled over the chaos as she picked up the receiver.
“Hello,” she shouted over the outgoing message.
“Hello?” she said again, this time with a little attitude.
“Mrs. Pinella, Mrs. Robert Pinella,” a voice asked?
She gave the marinara sauce a stir as she wedged the receiver between her ear and her left shoulder.
“Yes?” she answered, suddenly aware that her husband wasn’t home yet. She anxiously looked around the room and counted noses.
“Ma’am, this is Trooper Stringer with the Georgia State Police,” the voice said identifying himself. He paused a moment to give her time to reply When she didn’t respond right away he continued
“Your husband was involved in a traffic accident ma’am,” he explained.
“Oh my God,” PJ whispered loudly!
She froze beside the stove placing her left hand across her furrowed brow. She didn’t want to hear anymore and was sorry she’d answered the phone at all. Yet at the same time she desperately needed to hear everything.
“Ma’am,” the officer said, his thick southern drawl strangely comforting.
“Yes, yes, please go on, is Bobby alright,” she asked?
“Yes ma’am, he’s okay considering the circumstances, but he’ll be a little late getting home for supper,” the trooper answered in a much calmer tone.
“Thank goodness,” PJ said with an audible sigh.
“Listen, did he break anything important like a leg or arm,” Paula asked a nervous little giggle in her voice? She bit the nail of her left index finger while she waited for a reply. It was a habit she had since childhood.
“No, just a few cuts and scrapes as far as I know.”
“Listen, your husband asked us to call home so you wouldn’t worry,” the trooper added.
“Thanks so much officer,” PJ replied sweet as you please, hanging up in the middle of the trooper’s parting pleasantries.
Paula Jo turned off the burner under the sauce and reached down to pick up JR who’d been crying ever since the phone rang. She held her son tightly, silently thanking God for his mercy. Looking up she was startled to discover that Sarah and Jasmine were standing in the doorway anxiously waiting for an explanation, tears welling up in their little eyes.
“Oh man, I’m sorry girls, come on over here,” she said to them kneeling down to scoop up the rest of her brood. She held them close as she explained what had just happened.
“Daddy was in a little car accident today, but he’s okay, so don’t worry. He’ll be home a little later to kiss you each goodnight just like he always does,” she said stroking their hair as they quieted down.
“What happened, did a dunk diver get him,” Sarah asked with a slight lisp, her little hands set firmly on her hips, a stern look on her face?
“I don’t know honey, let’s just all put on our smiley faces and wait for Daddy to get home, OK,” PJ said glancing at the clock over the fridge; it was 3:45 in the afternoon.

Back at the scene of the accident…

It seemed like he had sat in that car for hours waiting for help, but Bobby was finally free from the wreckage. He sat on the far right shoulder of the highway, safely out harms way and held a cold compress to his head. All things considered he was in pretty good shape. Through the haze produced by his throbbing head he surveyed the chaos surrounding him. The Highway Patrol was on the scene with two cars and a motor officer, as were two engine companies from Savannah, including a Paramedic unit. Apparently his mini-van and the motorcycle were the only vehicles involved in the collision. So there was that to be thankful for. Bobby surveyed the roadside in both directions looking for a sign of the motorcycle rider. He hoped that whoever he was, that he hadn’t been too badly injured, although he suspected the worse. Squinting in the mid-day sun, his eyes focused on a yellow mound in the middle of the highway. It was surrounded by brightly burning flares as a stream of ghoulish voyeurs cruised slowly, no doubt taking to heart the grim reminder that life is random and that nobody is guaranteed a tomorrow.
Unable to control his curiosity he got up and walked over to the figure lying still on the hot blacktop. He felt a little nauseous as he neared the body, experiencing all at once anger, horror, relief, and guilt in a rapid fire machine gun like cadence. He expected to be stopped before he reached the motionless figure, and was surprised when he was met with only casual resistance from an officer standing nearby. He gave the man a nod and walked on by. Then, without understanding why, he knelt down beside the victim and stared at the yellow rain slicker like material stretched out in front of him.
“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph,” he whispered, genuflecting quickly and reaching for his crucifix.
He felt curiously chilled in spite of the heat of the day. He grabbed the bright yellow blanket and looked over his shoulder to see if anyone was watching. His hand trembled slightly, as he pulled the blanket toward him, revealing the face of his not as lucky co-victim in this accident. Gasping he drew back involuntarily as he surveyed the corpse, mentally assessing the damage. Actually he was surprised by the relative neatness of it all. The poor guy’s arms, legs, and head were all where they were supposed to be, and the clothes on his back were still attached and un-blemished except for a small amount of drying blood on the white tee-shirt under his black leather jacket. There was the obvious head trauma with the pale discoloration of the face. And the thick trail of drying blood ran down the left side of his head. The drying blood was matted in his dark shoulder length hair. The guy looked as if he may be only sleeping. As if he might get up at any moment and walk away, well almost. The look on the biker’s unshaven face was disturbing though, and gave Bobby the willies. Even so, he couldn’t look away or make himself re-cover the corpse. He just stared into his open and lifeless eyes, those incredibly clear, blue-green, wide-open, dead eyes. The longer Bobby stared into them the less dead the biker appeared, and soon a chill ran from his spine all the way to the base of his neck, causing him to shudder visibly.
A soft breeze whipped up and seemingly drowned out all the background noise. Bobby thought that was odd, maybe he had damaged his hearing in the crash he wondered, moving his jaw trying to make his ears pop. Suddenly a whisper broke through the silence, but from where? He looked around but it was just him and the dead guy, how weird he thought? A few seconds passed and then he heard the whisper again, a little louder this time.
“What the hell,” he started to say, not finishing his sentence. He squatted beside the body and placed his ear close to man’s face. Then, as if he had been shot from a cannon, Bobby fell backward away from the corpse. Landing on his butt he reached behind him and crab walked in reverse five or ten feet from the dead man. He nervously looked around making sure that no one had caught his hasty retreat. Then, the whisper came again. It was soft and low, an even toned voice, and it was coming from the body.
“Hey man, what took you so long,” the voice asked?
Bobby looked around nervously, a queer grin on his face, was anyone else hearing this he wondered?
“Actually, we’ve been waiting for you dude,” the voice continued.
The dead man’s unblinking eyes gazed skyward, unwavering. Bobby could swear he could see the rolling clouds reflected in those eyes. He looked around again nervously. He could feel the sweat begin to bead on his upper lip, just like it did when he was scared or when PJ caught him in a little white lie.
“HEY, Bob,” the voice shouted.
“Forget about everyone else for a sec okay,” the voice commanded.
This wasn’t happening, how could it, words from a corpse, ridiculous! The lips weren’t even moving for Christ’s sake!
“Look man, we gotta talk, and I there ain’t a lot of time,” the voice continued, oblivious to the argument Bobby was having with himself.
“Come on Nancy, get a grip will ya! Nobody can hear this, it’s just you and me old son,” the dead man assured him.
Wha… What,” Bobby said in a loud whisper, trying not to appear to be doing exactly what he was doing, which was talking to a dead man! He cleared his throat.
“What,” he asked again, in a slightly calmer, slightly softer voice?
“Listen, I don’t know exactly how this is supposed to work, but let’s agree on a few facts, OK,” the voice asked?
Bobby nodded involuntarily, silently answering the direct question. He shook his head violently hoping the vigorous action would put an end to this hallucination. It didn’t, and the voice continued.
“So, first of all let’s agree that I am dead, literally road-kill, that’s painfully obvious!”
“Second, and here’s a news flash for ya, there really are angels man! In fact I’m speaking to you through one right now.”
Bobby’s attempted a 360 degree head turn, trying to spot the alleged spirit.
“Get real Bob, you can’t see him, or her, actually I don’t know what it is, you can’t exactly tell by the looks of he or she?”
Bobby grinned sheepishly, nodding in acknowledgment.
“Anyway, you’ll just have to take my word for it. I mean, you don’t see my lips moving so someone must be getting these words into your head. ”
“Third, and believe it or not this is weird part, the whole accident thing was arranged for our benefit by you know who,” the voice said, pausing to let Bobby catch up.
It became uncomfortably quiet for a couple of minutes. Bobby looked away from the body. He could see the rescue personnel packing their gear back onto the engines, while the cops busied themselves with traffic control. The coroners van had arrived and the driver was talking with someone who Bobby presumed to be in charge of the scene. Traffic had started to move a little smoother now that their vehicles had been moved out of the way. Things were beginning to look like they were returning to normal, and he hoped that he would blink and discover himself in the back of an ambulance suffering from a concussion or something, and that all this weirdness had just been an illusion. The short silence was broken.
“Still with me Bob,” the voice asked?
“It’s a lot to accept, I know, but take the advise of someone who's spent a lifetime NOT listening, pay attention to what I have to say,” the voice pleaded.
“OK,” he replied under his breath, trying to avoid drawing attention to himself.
“So, how’s your faith anyways Bob,” the voice asked softly?
“Excuse me,” Bobby replied?
“Your faith Bob, do you believe in what that crucifix hanging around your neck represents?” The question touched a raw nerve in Bobby and he frowned involuntarily.
“Never mind, you don’t need to say anything. He knows you do, and that’s why you and I are here right now man.”
“What do you mean,” Bobby said out loud before he could catch himself?
“Apparently it’s true that everything happens for a reason Bob.”
“Apparently you know who is a bit of a control freak.”
“What happened,” Bobby whispered?
“My bad, angel baby here just warned me that I was about to queer a sweet deal for myself. Anyway, we move on!”
“Apparently this is my chance for redemption for the life I’ve led.”
“Apparently this is an answer to my Mom’s prayers, years and years of them. This is sort of a reward for her faith I guess.”
“You’re kidding right?”
“Careful Bob, the needle on your faith gauge is shaking, and dig it, the meter reader is standing right next to us,” the voice chuckled.
Bobby’s face reddened as if he’d been caught farting in church, keenly aware that he was buying into all of this nonsense. He suddenly felt the presence of others. Other what he didn’t know, but he and the corpse were not alone, he sensed that much!
“Like it or not, this was all planned dude. We couldn’t have avoided this even if somebody had told us all about it beforehand. It’s just how it works my man. Of course, that doesn’t mean we don’t have a hand in what happens next, you know, free will and all that. Well, at least you do, I’m sort of handicapped at the moment.”
“That tears it, this is nuts, I’m losing my freaking mind,” Bobby snarled as he started to rise up. But before he moved an inch he felt a tremendous weight upon his shoulders, as if someone were literally pushing him back down.
“Might as well sit tight and listen Bob, looks like you’ve got an angel of your own now,” the corpse said empathically. Bobby crossed his arms and reluctantly relaxed.
“That’s better dude. So, like I was saying, apparently were here to help one another.” “You’re here to help me help my mother’s prayers get answered, namely, to help me save my immortal soul by saving your immortal soul.”
Bobby lowered his head into his hands and rubbed at his temples. He thought about jumping up and making a run for it, but he could still feel pressure on his shoulders.
“And what does that mean,” he asked in exasperation?
“It means Bob that I’m gonna tell you something you ain’t gonna like, then I’m gonna give you a task you’re flat out gonna hate. And like it or not, you’re gonna to have to take it on faith that these are the words and wishes of you know who.”
“You know who?”
“That’s right, JC himself!”
“No damn it, now cut that out!”
“Alright already, I meant the Lord God Almighty. There, are you happy now you pasty white whatever you are!”
“By the way, those better be pointy toed shoes you’re wearing bucko, otherwise I’m gonna drag your winged bootie by the first nail shop we come across when we get on up to Heaven!”
“Can we get on with this, I’m getting a cramp from sitting crossed-legged,” Bobby pleaded?
“Sarcasm, perfect, nice to see you’re buying into this Bob, I was a little worried.”
“So, getting back to business, the tale and the task right? OK, here’s the thing Bob, your old lady Paula Jo, well, she ain’t what she seems to be.”
“Is that so?”
“Yeah, that’s so, and don’t cop an attitude asshole, OUCH, I mean buddy!”
“Hey, cut me a freaking break angel baby, I’m deliverin holy words here man!”
“Now, where was I, oh yeah, PJ ain’t who you think she is. Hold on now, you might want to take a breath here dude, she’s one of Satan’s brats my brother, that right, daughter of that old devil himself!”
The corpse’s unwavering eyes continued to stare skyward while Bobby’s rolled in his head as he sighed audibly.
“Okay, that’s the tale part, now for the task. Well sir, she’s gotta die Bob, and that’s all on you buddy!”
“Bob? Bob? Are you still here, are you picking up what I’m laying down?

Back in New Jersey…

Paula finally got the twins to sleep and was on her way to peek in on JR when she felt the first wave of nausea. Must be nerves she thought as she steadied herself with one hand on the wall in the hall. She was anxious for Bobby to get home so that she could hug the stuffing out of him before socking him good and hard for scaring the crap out of her! Continuing down the hall she reached the nursery and looked in on JR. He was sleeping peacefully, although she couldn’t see how with his chubby little knees tucked under him like that, and his fat diapered butt sticking up in the air like an alley cats tail. Closing the door quietly she made her way back down the hall to settle onto the couch in the living room and catch the first few minutes of the 11 o’clock news.
She wondered if there would be any mention on the TV about Bobby’s accident. Paula surfed the channels checking the major network news broadcasts. Alas, there was no mention of his brush with death. Just as well she thought she didn’t want to hear all those details anyway.
“Jeez, so much crap in the world today,” she said to herself as she watched another replay of the senseless shootings at that High School in Colorado earlier. Paula winced as she fought another wave of nausea. The sandman finally took over and PJ fell fast asleep during the weather report, “another cold front moving into the tri-state area this weekend, don’t put away those umbrellas yet folks!”

Confirmation, acceptance, and resolve…

“That’s it in a nutshell Bob, pretty wild ain’t it?”
Bobby fidgeted with his crucifix while he digested all of this. He was having a hard time accepting this insanity, hell, he was having a hard time breathing!
“And you thought that I got the raw end of this deal,” the voice added softly.
“This is too weird man! I can’t believe any of this! Why me, why her,” Bobby asked?
“Can’t answer you Bob, that’s a question you’ll have to ask the man himself when your time comes,” the corpse seemingly replied matter-of-factly.
“How in God’s name could I do such a thing?” Bobby wondered out loud.
“That’s right, you got it, in His name, that’s how you do it man,” the voice answered.
“No such thing as a free lunch Bob, everything worthwhile requires a little sacrifice, a little suffering. No pain no gain, right,” the motionless body added?
“I ask again Bob, how’s your faith? Is it as strong as it was thirty minutes ago? Do you acknowledge what you are experiencing right now is real?”
“Wait, just wait a minute! I’m supposed to believe that my wife is the actual daughter of the actual devil? I’m supposed to believe that there actually is a devil?”
“Well, if you accept that God you pray to Bob, you sorta have to accept the devil that he spends so much time warning you about, don’t ya think?”
“This is too bizarre, too absurd! I’ve known Paula forever, since we were kids. I’ve slept beside her for years, she’s the kindest, gentlest, sweetest person I’ve ever known,” Bobby shouted!
“What, OK, hold your horses, hold your horses! Bob, my silent friend here says to remind you that we’re dealing with the great deceiver here, the father of all lies. Don’t let him into your head, keep the faith, accept the truth, do what you’ve been told.”
Booby Pinella wiped the sweat from his brow with his shirtsleeve and sat in silence while he contemplated all of this crap.
“Hey, you OK over there buddy,” hollered an officer as he took a statement from a witness?
“Uh, sorry, I’m just dealing with all of this, you know,” Bobby answered quickly.
“Well wrap it up, you shouldn’t be near that body anyway, you’re contaminating the scene,” the officer added motioning for Bobby to clear the area.
“Yeah right, sorry bout that, I’ll be right there,” Bobby replied suddenly aware that there was no longer any pressure on his shoulders.
"You know, the outcome is already known to Him, I don’t know it, but wish I did!”
“Believe me, if I did I’d tell you, honest! The only thing left now is for you to decide between the world and your faith. Wish I could see it play it out, sounds like a role for the ages!"
“I’m beginning to wish you had come through the windshield and killed us both,” Bobby muttered as he stood up to leave the scene. He bent down to re-cover the body with the yellow blanket, as he rose he heard the voice once more.
"Sorry bout you havin to off your old lady man, but if it’s any consolation you were chosen for this a long, long time ago.”
“So, like Mr. Nike says, just do it,” giggled the voice.
“Ok, my angel baby here says that we gotta go now. Remember, I’m countin on ya, you’re my ticket to Heaven dude. Don’t let me down!”
“Just to be clear, there’s no wiggle room right? She has to die,” Bobby asked in a normal tone, no longer concerned about being overheard?
“Read Revelations Bob, carefully. It might help you make the right decision. By the way, it never actually says that the Anti-Christ is male or female, food for thought Bob, food for thought. See ya in the funny papers citizen!”
Bobby stared at the corpse a moment longer grateful the silence. He searched one last time for signs of life, wondering if that was all there was. He imagined the corpse grinning at him from under the blanket; he even thought that he heard the voice chuckling sucker!
“HEY,” the officer hollered!
“Didn’t I tell you to clear out buddy?”
“On my way officer, my bad, sorry,” Bobby apologized, turning quickly to walk back toward the tow truck that was dragging his car onto an angled flatbed.
“Wait a minute you guys, let me get my stuff out of the back first!” he yelled to the operator. Bobby Pinella jogged toward the wrecker, trying to come to a decision in the time it took to cover the fifty yards. His faith or his world…

Pinella Home, Fairfield, New Jersey

Bobby glanced down at the illuminated face of his Timex watch and saw that it was a little past midnight as he pulled the rental car into the driveway. He was so glad to be home and put this confusing, exhausting day behind him. All he wanted to do at the moment was get inside, lock the door behind him and hug his family into the next dimension! Of course, he also wanted to warm up some of PJ’s pasta with marinara, crack open a cold one and wait for the sounds of his normal life to lull him into a deep, deep sleep. He wanted to peacefully erase any memory of what may or may not have taken place on that hot Georgia blacktop.
He heard the TV in the front room humming softly as he quietly closed the kitchen door behind him. Bobby took a quick look in the fridge, man, he was hungry, but he didn’t have the energy to chew much less fix a plate of something. He settled on a fast swig from a half full bottle of Gatorade. He drained the bottle then went in to wake up his sleeping wife. He stood over her, watching her sleep peacefully, and wrestled with his given task. Se didn’t look evil, she looked like an angel?
“Paula, hey PJ,” he spoke softly into her ear as he stroked the hair away from her face. “I’m home honey,” he whispered. PJ stirred and opened her eyes sleepily.
“Poopy, you’re home,” she whispered while she hugged his neck and wiped the tears from her eyes on his shirt. Poopy-pants was the pet name she had christened him with after she saw him in a pair of sweat pants. Not the most flattering term of endearment, but it was harmless as long as she didn’t use it front of his brothers or his Dad.
“Sorry babe, this must have been hell for you,” e whispered, immediately wishing he had chosen his words more carefully.
“Are the kids okay? What did you tell them,” he asked softly.
“Don’t worry, they’re fine. I told them you were in a fender bender and not to worry,” PJ answered. She sat up suddenly and hugged her husband tightly. They held one another for a long time before Paula suggested they go to bed. Bobby kissed her on the forehead and told her he’d be in after he peeked in on the children. Paula kissed him back and got up to walk to their room wrapped in the afghan Bobby’s mother had knitted for him when he had gone off to university. He watched her enter the hall and disappear into the darkness. His faith or his world…

Midnight, decision...decisions...

Bobby stared at the red numbers on the cheap digital alarm clock on the nightstand. He had been watching the digits change one at a time for the last twenty minutes. Paula had fallen asleep before he had gotten to bed, exhausted from her own day. Typically they would have made love before going to sleep, but clearly this was an unusual day. He was sure that Paula had convinced herself that she would make it up to him in the morning. Sex at sunrise had always been her favorite way to start the day. Bobby wrestled with the tale and the task. He had wrestled with it all the way home, he had wrestled with it walking up the drive to his house, he had wrestled with it as he kissed each of his children goodnight, and he wrestled with it now as he watched the night tick away one red digit at a time.
He had actually blinked sixty times trying to catch the change from 11:59 to 12:00. He had been a few seconds early and had to watch the red colon flash four times before the time changed. Midnight, the witching hour, how apropos he thought.
Paula stirred next to him and rubbed her naked bottom back against his, moaning softly in a dream. Bobby felt a little guilty when he became semi-erect, given what he was contemplating. He closed his eyes and tried reciting batting averages in an effort to squash his natural urges and stay focused on the task at hand. Mantle, Maris, Ford, Berra, he chanted softly, using his beloved Yankees to usher him back to a controlled state. He opened his eyes, 12:03 in blood red numbers stared back at him. That was nuts he thought, he was certain that at least thirty minutes had passed since he’d nodded off. He pulled his arm from under his pillow and checked his Timex just to be sure. Yep, 12:03 give or take a few seconds.
This was going to be a very long night. Bobby felt a drop roll from his brow to the tip of his nose, realizing suddenly that he was sweating profusely. His hair was matted with perspiration and his tee-shirt stuck to him under the covers. As he rolled over to kick off the blankets and gasped. He found himself nose to nose with Paula, her eyes wide open and staring right through him. Recovering quickly he realized that she was still sleeping deeply, but her eyes were open, trance-like, it was really weird! He felt tightness in his chest, like he might be having a heart attack or something! But before he could attempt to rationalize an explanation he heard a familiar sound, a voice, seemingly coming from the direction of Paula’s sleeping form.
“Penny for your thoughts Bob,” it asked softly.

12:03am State Police HQ Savannah, Georgia...

The fax machine beeped twice as the paper began to feed through the rickety old antique. At the same time the monitor on detective Josh Cadenhead’s desktop flashed and displayed a fading Outlook notice of an incoming email from the FBI’s fingerprint bureau. Officer Cadenhead was a second year patrolman recently assigned to this precinct. Josh sat up in his chair and set his Georgia Bulldogs coffee mug down on the desk in front of him. He pulled out the keyboard tray from under his tabletop and used his mouse to click on the Outlook tab from the bottom of his desktop where all the other minimized programs were resting. He doubled clicked on the unopened email once the program came up and read the short message, rife with the typical adjective challenged law enforcement jargon. As he read the three lines he began to choke on his last sip of hot coffee.
“HOLY SHIT,” he shouted to a near empty room! Josh swiveled his chair toward the now silent fax machine. He jumped out of his seat and covered the ten feet between he and the fax in less than two steps. He grabbed the only sheet in the tray and looked at it intensely, his teeth exposed in a tight lipped grimace as he recognized the face on the page.
“I’ll be goddamned,” he said shaking his head.
At that moment a rather frumpy looking fifty-something man in uniform appeared in the doorway. His hair and clothes were a bit disheveled and it was obvious that he had just been awakened from a deep and until recently peaceful sleep. The agitated man was Sergeant Marlon Dupree, the watch commander.
“What in the hell is all the noise for Josh? May I ask why you insist on ruining a perfectly peaceful shift with all this commotion boy,” asked the Sergeant?
“Sorry Sarge, but you better take a look at this,” the young patrolman replied.
Sergeant Dupree walked over to where Josh stood by the fax machine and took the paper from his extended hand. He reached into his shirt pocket to retrieve his reading specs and placed them low on the bridge of his nose as he looked at the face on the page. The sergeant shrugged and handed the paper back to Josh.
“So, what’s the big deal,” he asked?
“Sarge, that’s the fella we kicked loose from that accident on Hwy 41 this afternoon, the one where that bad-ass biker was killed. Remember, the one they call Oatmeal on account of him being sorta retarded,” Josh answered.
“Yeah, I remember, Oatmeal, aka Virgil Caley. And he wasn’t retarded, he was just slow since his older brother Vince had caved in his head with a 2X4 when they was kids,” Sergeant Dupree replied.
“I’m still not getting the connection Josh, what’s the big deal about the other fella? As I recall from the 5150s he was just Joe Average on his way home from a business trip, nothing exotic or exciting?”
“Yeah, well maybe he was nothing special this afternoon, but tonight I think we got a problem,” Josh said excitedly.
“Meaning,” Sergeant Dupree asked?
“Meaning we ran his prints as SOP for accidents with fatalities and we got a hit from the FBI database,” Josh replied.
“What sort of hit,” asked the watch commander, suddenly wide awake?
“It turns out that one Robert Jon Pinella is not who he claims to be. Actually, his prints belong to one Frederick no-middle-name Rogers, a suspected serial killer from up Boston way,” Josh answered. “And we had him not five hours ago!”
“I remember him,” Sergeant Dupree shouted!
“He was that Yankee bastard that murdered his family in Mars, Massachusetts about forty miles or so outside of Boston. Pretty gruesome as I recollect, killed them all, a mother and her children, three of them, with a claw hammer while they slept. He left a note saying that wasn’t his idea, that it was God who had told him do it, said he was sent to save the world, or some such nonsense. That was back in 1978, and then he surfaced again in Lynchburg, Virginia around 1988, same thing, a whole family, a mother and three children bludgeoned to death with a claw hammer, it was horrible. Again, the father was the prime suspect and nowhere to be found. The same note was left to come to think of it. Fast forward to 1998, right here in Savannah. You’re too young to remember but I do, I was actually involved with the search for this guy. A woman and her three baby boys, triplets, and I mean babies, they were infants, five or six weeks old, were found dead in their home, each of them had their heads caved in with a claw hammer. Once again the father was suspect and once again he was nowhere to be found, just up and disappeared as if he never really existed. Same note, same fingerprints, same result, cold case.”
The two patrolmen sat in chairs facing one another and pondered the facts for a few minutes. It was uncommon quite in the station house for a Friday night, and the two men took advantage of the absence of interruptions to chew on what had been said.
The young officer was the first to speak. “I don’t get it; the guy you’re talking about would have to be well over sixty years old if of course we’re assuming the guy in this picture and the guy in the wreck are the same fella?”
“Sarge, that fella in the accident today couldn’t have been too much older than me, twenty-nine or thirty, thirty-five tops!”
“I know that Josh, but fingerprints don’t lie boy. Listen, maybe he’s just aged really well, or maybe he dyes his hair, or maybe he had some work done on his face, hell son, maybe a lot of things.”
“One thing’s for sure, he went home to a family, and we know that for certain. Officer Stringer’s report states that he spoke to the wife around 1:00 or 2:00 o’clock this afternoon,” Sergeant Dupree recited, looking back toward his office as if he were trying to remember something.
“Way ahead of you Sarge,” Josh said, jumping out of his chair, heading for the bank of file cabinets against the far wall. The elder watch commander got up and followed his excited charge. Josh went to the traffic bank and rifled through the current open cases eventually locating the Caley/Pinella file. As he pulled it from the cabinet Sergeant Dupree pulled it from his hands.
“Let me see this thing,” he said, placing the manila folder on the top of the five drawer cabinet and opening it. It was a good thing that they were both over six feet tall, otherwise someone would be hunting for a chair to stand on right now in order to get a glimpse of the documents inside. The Sergeant ran his forefinger over each page until he found what he was looking for.
“Here it is, Fairfield, New Jersey. Quick, get the local PD on the phone, we don’t have much time,” the watch commander shouted!

12:04am Pinella home...

Bobby blinked as he waited for the voice to continue. His initial surprise had faded, replaced by a queer curiosity. He wasn’t alarmed by the sudden presence of the voice; in fact he had been expecting it. After all, wasn’t this the way it always happened? How many times had he come to this moment? How many times had his faith been tested? How many tests must he pass? How many others he wondered had to do likewise? Could he be the only one asked to serve this way? How long had he done this, how many times had he been called? He couldn’t recall, he didn’t want to recall. The whole process was tiring, he wanted the world to stop, he was ready to get off.
“I know what you’re thinking,” the voice continued finally.
“You always say that,” Bobby answered weakly.
“And it’s always true isn’t it,” the voice replied.
“I suppose. Can I ask you a question?”
“I rather you didn’t, I’m not in the mood to chit chat Bob.”
“Humor me, have I ever let you down?”
“Very well, ask me…again,” the voice said sighing.
“You know it’s not fair that you can read my thoughts. That really bothers me,” Bobby said softly.
“The point Bob, get to the point will ya. It’s getting late and you’re burning daylight somewhere in the world. I’ve got other stops,” the voice replied tiredly.
“That’s just it, what other stops? Are there others like me?”
“No Bob, you’re the one and only.”
“So what are these other stops you speak of?”
“Just other stops Bob, for other things. There are lots of fish to fry my friend.”
“I don’t get it?”
“And I don’t have the time or inclination to explain it to you. Suffice to say that you serve a purpose, a divine purpose, but it’s not the only purpose that needs attention. Now, as we’re not omnipresent like the other team we need to hurry along as we have a schedule to keep.”
“It just would be nice to know what that purpose was for once, that’s all I’m saying. Frankly, the whole faith angle is starting to dull,” Bobby said, capitulating as he always did.
“Okay Bob, we’ll make it up to you next time, promise,” the voice chuckled.
“Right...” Bob replied rolling over to get out of the bed. He rose gently, careful not to wake his sleeping bride. He looked down at her and admired how beautiful she was. They were always beautiful, that was a prerequisite, it made the shock, horror, fear, and outrage more intense, assuring a hardness of hearts that would last the required time period before the next installment. He thought about that a moment, perhaps that was his purpose, made sense sort of? Maybe his work was meant to give mankind the fortitude to deal with evil? Yeah, maybe that was it.
“You just keep thinking Bob, whatever floats your boat dude,” the voice whispered.
“Shut up,” Bobby hissed as he left the room, headed for the garage to fetch his tool.

12:16am State Police HQ Savannah, Georgia...

“That’s right, Pinella, Robert Jon,” Officer Cadenhead repeated into the telephone handset. He drummed his fingers on his desk nervously as he waited for a reply, locking eyes with his boss Sergeant Marlon Dupree from across the room. He’d spent the past fifteen minutes trying to convince a desk Sergeant in Fairfield to get off his ass and whip over to the Pinella home before something terrible happened, if it hadn’t happened already. He rubbed his face nervously while he listened to a conversation going on in the background on the other end of the line.
“What’s happening,” Sergeant Dupree asked?
“Sounds like they’re deciding whether or not to hang up on us, it’s two against one that we’re a hoax,” Josh answered.
“Christ on a stick, gimme that phone,” Sergeant Dupree ordered, taking the handset violently from the young man.
“Alright, who’s on this fucking line,” he demanded!
“Watch the language buddy unless you feel like talking to a dial tone,” came a quick reply.
“Okay, now we’re getting somewhere. This is Sergeant Marlon Dupree of the Georgia State Police, and you would be?”
“I would be Sergeant Cavatelli, 23rd Precinct, Brooklyn, New York that’s who!”
“Brooklyn,” Sergeant Dupree asked confused, looking over to Josh for an explanation. The junior officer shrugged apologetically, confused himself at the mishap.
“Listen, Sergeant, we’re urgently trying to reach the local PD in Fairfield, New Jersey.”
“Boy, did you get the wrong number Mac!”
“Yeah, yeah, rookies, you know what I mean!”
“Amen brother, we got our share of those up here as well.”
“Okay, Sergeant to Sergeant, can you help expedite this call to the right people? There may be lives in harms way as we speak?”
“So we gathered from your guy’s rambling,” Sergeant Cavatelli replied.
“We just got the fax from your office and cross checked it with the nimrods in Boston. Your photo matches there photo from 79, pretty freaking incredible if it’s true!”
“What fax, what photo,” Sergeant Dupree asked befuddled?
“Uh, that was me boss, I sent them an email with some pictures from the accident scene this afternoon,” Josh confessed.
“You did? When did you do that?”
“While I was dialing the wrong number I glommed onto a wrong email address as well,” Josh explained. It wasn’t a good explanation, but it was the truth.
“Oh, well um, good job officer,” Dupree replied still confused, he was still a snail mail kind of guy. The instant information age had steamrolled right on past him years ago.
“Hey, if you two are finished feeling each other up you maybe want to take this number down,” Sergeant Cavatelli said, butting in. He read them the Fairfield number and wished them luck, making them promise to call him with the details later no matter how things worked out.
“Thanks Sarge,” Marlon Dupree said, hanging up and quickly dialing the Fairfield PD.
“Cross your fingers boy,” he said to Josh as he punched the numbers on the phone.

12:25am Pinella home...

Bobby paused on the way back to his room and peeked in on the children. He usually took care of them first because they made the least noise and besides, he just wanted to get that part over with quickly, it was toughest on him emotionally. So innocent these sleeping cherubs, this part of his task was always hardest to understand. But these children were older than all the others, having come early in his marriage to Paula. He had had time to bond with these kids; he had developed a relationship with each of them. They weren’t strangers to him, or dolls as the others had always seemed to be. The boy would be easy, he was the youngest and most detached from Bobby. The girls would be hard, but he didn’t let himself dwell on that. He closed the door and continued down the hall to his bedroom. The Berber carpet was soft and the house was new and well constructed so he made no noise as he walked. There were no creaks or squeaks, no unexpected settling, there would be no warning, there never was.
He pushed open the door slowly he looked over to his bed. Paula lay sleeping peacefully, snoring softly as she always did when she wound up on her back. He smiled wryly and gently closed the door behind him. Walking to the foot of the bed he listened for the voice to return as it usually did at this juncture. He paused a moment to listen more closely, no sound came and he continued. He held onto the hammer loosely in his left hand and gave it quick spin. He liked the way the smooth wooden handle felt as it revolved in his palm. He repeated the motion several times and then abruptly clenched his fist, instantly stopping the spinning hammer. Squeezing the grip with all of his might the tool began to physically vibrate as the muscles and tendons in his arm tightened and flexed revealing the full potential of his full power. Bobby drew in a deep breath through his nose and then let it out slowly through his pursed lips, the soft whispering sound ringing in his ears as he turned to walk around the bed. He stopped beside the night stand on his side, his back to the window, the dark outline of his frame shrouded in the backlight of the full moon. He closed his eyes, and struggled with the challenge, “My faith or my world,” he recited silently?
“Do it, do it, do it, do it, do it, do it,” the room shouted.
Bobby began to sweat and softly chanted, “my faith, my world.”
He raised the hammer to his face, grasping it in both hands now. He touched the cold steel to his lips, drawing strength from the sensation.
“My faith, my world…”

12:45am State Police HQ Savannah, Georgia...

“What’s happening over there,” Sergeant Dupree asked in a harsh whisper?
“Stay cool Sarge, they’re going in as we speak,” replied Lieutenant Garrett of the Fairfield Police Department.
He stayed crouched behind the open door of his police cruiser, one hand on his weapon and the other holding onto the cell phone pressed to his ear. Lt. Garrett had been giving the Georgia State Police a blow by blow account of what was going down at 8558 Oakdale Avenue, Fairfield, New Jersey for the past five minutes. They had arrived on the scene with half dozen patrol officers and the SWAT team around 12:30am, about fifteen minutes ago. The perimeter had been established and SWAT was about to enter the home of Robert and Paula Pinella. There had been no reply to the telephone calls placed to the residence once the scene had been secured. That would be good or bad Lt. Garrett had thought, although his gut suspected bad. He decided to wait another minute, it was 12:46, he would give the signal to go ahead at precisely 12:47, and that would be that. He spoke very softly into the cell phone, “okay sarge, you’ll know what we know in about two minutes,” he relayed to Marlon Dupree back in Savannah. Lt. Garrett set the phone down and turned his wrist to check his watch. Twenty seconds, nineteen, eighteen, he looked up to make eye contact with SWAT Team Leader Daniel Olsen who was standing ten feet to his left behind a good sized sycamore tree. The officer held a walkie-talkie to his face and held the lieutenant’s gaze. Nine, eight, seven, Lt. Garrett nodded, three, two, one…
“GO, GO, GO,” Officer Olsen barked crisply into the hand held radio transmitter.
On his command a dozen officers entered the Pinella home from three different directions, four through the back door, four through the front, the balance through a bedroom window on the west side of the house, which as it turned out belonged to JR, the youngest of the Pinella children. Back in Savannah Sergeant Dupree and Officer Cadenhead waited patiently for an update. They could hear the normal commotion associated with a tactical solution, the shouting, the breaking glass, the frantic footsteps, but they hadn’t heard much after the initial surge. Josh Cadenhead bit at his thumbnail as they waited and looked pensively at his boss. It had been three minutes since the start of the operation. He raised his eyebrows, asking his boss with the look on his face, “anything?” Sergeant Dupree shook his head and frowned. “Nothing yet, I don’t like it,” he replied.
An answer came a moment later by way of a shrill scream, followed by more shouting, “down, down, get down now!”
“I heard someone scream, a woman I think,” Sergeant Dupree whispered.
“That’s good right, means she ain’t dead right,” Josh asked?
“Maybe, wait a minute, the Lieutenant’s back on the horn,” Sergeant Dupree said.
“Hey Sarge, you still there,” asked Lt. Garrett?
“Yeah, we’re here, what happened man, what happened?”“Damndest thing, we found a male victim dead in the master bedroom, apparently the husband, Robert Jon Pinella. At least he looks a lot like the fella in the picture that you sent us. But I can’t believe that this is the same guy from those Boston murders. He looks younger than my kid, and he’s 26? Mrs. Pinella isn’t much help either; she’s hysterical but unharmed, as are the kids thank God!”
“That is good news, weird news but good. So what’s so damned peculiar?”
“Well sir I’ll tell ya, I’ve been a cop for better than twenty-two years and I thought that I’d seen it all. But this is a new one. We found this guy covered in blood sitting on the window seat right next to the bed. Hell he looked like a damn cherry snow cone. Looks like a large Vaughn framing hammer had been buried into the top of his skull, claw side first, right up to the handle. You couldn’t see anything but wood Sarge, I mean the entire business end on that hammer was sitting in the middle of this poor bastard’s head. And he his fist wrapped around that hammer like his hand was a vise grip. At first I thought that it was a defensive move, or that he was actually trying to pull it out maybe? But now I’m not so sure.
There is no way he could have done this to himself, not at that trajectory, but the way the damn thing is driven into his head he would have had to have been facing his attacker and sitting perfectly still for that thing to be embedded like it is in his noggin. That was our first take on the situation. But then our CSI with us noticed a strange thing. Mr. Pinella’s right shoulder was horribly dislocated and the hand grasping the hammer was twisted in such a way as to appear as if he had actually delivered the blow himself! It’s crazy, I know, but it’s what the physical evidence is suggesting, go figure? Besides, we can’t find any sign of forced entry or any evidence that someone other than the family was in the house? And I’d bet my pension that the wife could not have delivered this blow. That hammer had to be swung with a great deal of force, by someone way more powerful than the 100 pound pixie sobbing in the next room!”
“Sounds like you got quite a mystery on your hands Lieutenant,” Sergeant Dupree said rubbing his chin whiskers as he spoke. He looked over at Josh and shrugged, and the young officer shrugged back.
“Oh, one more thing; there was a note, just like at all of those other murders. At first glance it looks like the same handwriting, but I’m no expert. But this note is different, I mean first of all it wasn’t on the nightstand, it was nailed to Pinella’s chest,” the Lieutenant explained.
“Was it another God note,” Sergeant Dupree asked?
“Sort of, I guess you might say that,” Lt. Garrett answered.
Lt. Garrett placed his hand over the receiver and answered a question from a passing officer.
“Sorry, where was I?”
“The note, what did it say?”
“Oh yeah, well it was short and sweet. It read:
My family is my gift from God, that gift is my world; my faith, my world are one in the same, eternally connected. You can’t fool me anymore ya liar, screw you, I only listen to you know who.”
“What do you think that means,” asked Marlon Dupree?
“Hell if I know Sergeant, hell if I know. But my gut says that note’s what got Mr. Bob Pinella killed, and was Mrs. Pinella’s and the children’s salvation as well.. My gut also suspects that he wasn’t exactly sad about it either. Actually to be honest, it wasn’t the note that gave that away, it was the goddamn smile on his face that told me that. Yeah, that’s right; I said the son of a bitch was smiling. Smiling like he’d just won the freaking lottery or something. Ain’t that one for the books!”
“Anyway, thanks for the tip. I’ll write this up as an Interstate collar between Jersey and Georgia, sorta has a ring to it,” Lt. Garrett said.
“Yeah, well, ya’ll take care now, ya hear,” replied Sergeant Dupree hanging up.
He leaned back in his chair and nodded at Officer Cadenhead who was staring past him through the window behind him.
“JOSH, you okay boy,” the sergeant asked.
“Ah, sorry, what’d you say Sarge,” Josh replied softly?
“I asked if you were alright boy, you look like you’ve just seen a ghost or something,” Sergeant Dupree teased.
“Nah, I’m okay, I just thought I heard somebody calling my name is all…”

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