Category Archives: Short Stories

The True Spirit

 

Mary was angry. Here it was two days before Christmas, she was in a town she didn’t know, a new job she didn’t like, she had no friends and no family close by, and some dirty bum had his hand out looking for money.  And on top of all that, he had the unmitigated gall to be smiling as if he was happy.

Mary wasn’t smiling.  In fact, she was absolutely miserable.  Christmas was just another day on the calendar, it had no real meaning.  People went into stores and spent a ridiculous amount of money on gifts for other people that the other people really didn’t want.  Christmas wasn’t even for the children. It was just another way to teach them about how money makes the world go-round.  If you had money it was a good life.  If you did not then you starved and were miserable, and you should look like you were miserable!

Mary approached the man that she called a bum.  She was frustrated, she was angry, and she needed this person to explain to her how he could be so damn happy. Maybe he was on drugs or maybe he was crazy, but Mary didn’t think so.  Of course, she did drop a twenty-dollar bill into his tin can before she posed her question.

“Are you alright? You are sitting here on a cold sidewalk asking for money.  All around you is obscene wealth.  How can you sit there and smile when you have nothing and so many people around you are spending money like it is water and on frivolous things? You look like you need food and these people are buying toys for people who really don’t want them.  How can you sit there and smile? I’ve seen you everyday for the last week and you smile everyday, you wish people a Merry Christmas, or Happy Hanukkah, or Happy Kwanza and I don’t understand how you can actually be happy!”

At this point Mary was almost in tears.  She felt so alone and so unloved that she felt jealous of this destitute individual.  She wanted to shake him to make him see what an awful place the world was but she didn’t. What she did do was pause for a breath and what she saw then took that breath away.

Just a moment before she had been looking at a dirty bum and now, he had taken on a dignity that belied her original perception.  He sat up straighter and his smile became wider.  Even his eyes seemed to twinkle with a secret knowledge. There was a beauty to his face that she had not noticed before. His voice, when he spoke, was strong and melodic.  The words he spoke were the truth.

“But I have everything.  Someone gave me a coat to keep me warm.  He gave me the gift of warmth. People stop and give me their spare change, a cup of coffee, or a sandwich. A small child gave me a penny.  A penny to a young child is like a million dollars to a billionaire. A beautiful woman gave me her scarf to warm my neck.  An old man gave me a warm pair of gloves.  All I have to offer them in return is my smile and my best wishes.  Some people are embarrassed and hurry on but others take it in the spirit in which it is given. Some people give of themselves, and that is what makes me the wealthiest of people.”

Mary thought about what this person had just said to her.  It was starting to make sense.  The importance of the season was not the gift; it was not the thought of the gift. That was all meaningless.  What was important was the giving of one’s self willingly.

The next day Mary went into work.  She felt a little lighter, a little happier.  She looked around her with a new perspective: people were giving of them selves; the gifts they were giving were simply an extension of their spirit.  Sometimes the gifts were expensive, sometimes the gifts cost only pennies and sometimes it was only a word and a hug.  But these people were giving, Mary saw that now.  And Mary started giving as well.

It was Christmas Eve now and Mary wanted to share with the homeless man what she had learned.  She stopped at the bank and took out one hundred dollars.  She placed the money in an envelope and tucked that into the pocket of her coat.  With a smile on her face she went looking for the homeless man.

But he wasn’t there. Mary walked up and down the street looking for him.  She asked shop keepers if they had seen him but everyone was too busy and said they didn’t remember.  So, Mary continued on her walk home.  She was sad now that she couldn’t share with the man who had taught her so much.  She wondered where he had gone and what he was doing for Christmas.

Just two blocks before Mary reached her apartment building was a small church.  Mary had seen the structure before but had never ventured in.  Today her feet took her over the threshold and into the church.  She sat quietly in one of the back pews and looked up into the beautiful stained-glass windows.  She felt at peace.  As her eyes wandered over the beautiful paintings, a figure seemed to stand out:   it was of a man who was seated on the ground and his hand was outstretched as if beckoning.  Her eyes widened in recognition and then she shook her head, it was not possible.

As Mary turned over in bed that night, she replayed in her head what she had learned and she smiled.  She had left the envelope with the money in the church; she knew it was the right thing to do. Never again would she forget just how valuable it is to interact with other people.  Giving of one’s self is as simple as smiling.  He had taught her that.

 

The end

 

 

Santa Claus is Dead?

I originally shared this story in 2013. That was the first year for my blog. I was quite shocked at the response. To date I think this remains my most popular post. It was simply me with something to say tucked inside a story. I do that a lot.  I will also admit that I think this is one of my favourite tales. I have decided to post a story every Sunday in December.  My Christmas present to you. If you don’t celebrate Christmas, then may I please offer you the blessing of my holiday to you.

                                      Santa Claus is Dead?

 

‘Santa Claus is dead.’

When Sebastian Phillips finished writing that phrase on his bulletin board he turned around to see what the reaction had been on his students. He was not disappointed.    Because this was a first-year philosophy course he expected them to be a little green when it came to abstract ideas.  After all they were just kids.  Truth be told, Professor N. Sebastian Phillips wasn’t all that much older than his students.

When he looked around the room Sebastian saw surprise, humour and perhaps disbelief, it was also very quiet.  Here he was, a college professor talking about a white haired, fat man in a red suit as if he were real.  Well real and dead.

“When you signed up for this course I am quite sure you were not expecting to talk about a symbol for a religious holiday that has come to mean the excesses of commercialism that are rampant in our society.”

Sebastian looked out at his students.  They seemed relieved, this was more like it.

“Santa Claus does exist.”

Now Sebastian heard a few giggles and was that a grunt?

“Professor, those two statements cannot both be correct. There either is a Santa Claus or there isn’t.  I mean really! ”

Sebastian grinned, “Actually they can Adam. A thing can only be dead if it first existed. “

“Come on Professor there is no Santa Claus!  That is only a marketing gimmick to get parents to buy more for their kids. Commercialism at its best:  vulgar!” These words were spoken by a young woman with an earring in her nose and one in her belly button which flashed every time she turned around.

“Well Cindy, yes and no.”

At this point the room erupted in confusion. A great many of the students were arguing about the wisdom of using symbols, some about the evils of commercialism in general and the western world’s corruption of money in particular.  Sebastian noted which students seemed to think he was demented and which students were curious.  Curious minds are open minds.

Very quietly Professor Phillips spoke.  “Amanda did you believe in Santa Claus as a child?”

The room was suddenly quiet. Everyone turned and looked at Amanda, eager to learn her answer. The professor had chosen to ask the one person in the room who appeared normal.  She was conservatively dressed with no strange piercings throughout her body.  She also preferred to observe any heated discussions without actually joining in.

“Amanda . . .” her professor coached.

“Yes.” Was the quiet response.

“And how did you feel when you learned that the jolly man in a red suit was just a marketing ploy.”

The answer was a few minutes in coming and it was not the answer everyone was expecting.  “I still believe in Santa Claus and I do not believe he is dead professor.”

For the second time that morning there was complete silence in the room, a stunned silence.

And then there was pandemonium.  Only snippets of conversations could be heard.  “I always knew that woman was nuts!”  Geez I wish I had taken a mathematics course, that would of made sense.” “It is going to be a very long day.”  “Do you want to go to the pub afterwards I think I could use a drink?”  “I don’t know who is more insane: that Amanda chick or that Professor?”

Professor Phillips let the arguments roll about the room for several minutes. During this time Amanda just sat and looked at her hands as if she was too timid to become involved in a conversation she had helped to create.

“Okay everybody pipe down, you have had your little discussions and each one of them has some sort of validity.  Problem is you’re not listening.  Does Santa Claus exist?  Yes.  Does he exist as a fat, old man in a red suit?  Yes.  That guy in the red suit is on every corner in the Western world ringing a bell and selling products. Something can exist in more than one embodiment.  We see the jolly, old fella and we equate him with shopping at Christmas.  Do you know where the idea for Santa Claus came from?  Amanda might.  Because she alone seems to understand what Santa Claus represents, and who he is.  Let me tell you a little story.”

“In a coastal town called Patra, in what is now Turkey, in the year 260AD a child was born.  His name was Nicholas.  His parents were taken from him when he was a child and yet he still grew up with a generosity of spirit and a love of children. He was a rich young man who tried to use his money to give other people happiness.  He did ‘good’ in secret. Eventually he became known as St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra and his generosity continued.”

“Over the centuries St. Nicholas has become beloved by many religions.  Our Western tradition of Santa Claus and Father Christmas originated with St. Nicholas.  His faith and his actions make remembering him more important even in our day and age. He is our Santa Claus and people need to remember him.  In essence it is his spirit of giving that is behind our traditions at Christmas.  The spirit of Santa Claus is alive and well.”

“A beautiful character is more powerful and more memorable to more people than any marketing ploy or religious dogma.  Santa Claus, even if he comes in the guise of a human being is still the loving spirit of the good Nicholas. Santa Claus does exist, and should continue to exist for as long as we remember what he stands for.”

There was total silence in the room.  Not a single student had a humorous quip, or disparaging remark to make.  In fact when Sebastian looked around the room he saw only understanding and awe. Finally, these supposedly well educated young adults had picked up on something that all children knew from a very young age: if you believe, it will endure.

“Class dismissed.”

Sebastian smiled to himself and started to gather up his books and notes. The class had gone well, better than he’d expected.  But the year was getting on and there are places he needed to be so he was going to have to tender his resignation and move on.  But at that point Sebastian realized that not every student had left the room. He looked up.

“Amanda, how can I help you?”

“Professor Phillips you haven’t been completely honest with us have you?  I know that Santa Claus exists and not as the jolly, red suited man, but rather as St. Nicholas/St. Nick.  You see my family can trace its roots back to that same town in which St. Nicholas was born.  As a matter of fact we’ve kept a very close watch throughout the years on the descendants of that family.  It has always been the responsibility of my family to ensure that yours is protected.  I’m surprised you didn’t know that.  What’s your first name Professor Phillips?”

“Yes I thought perhaps you did know,” Sebastian’s grin was even more pronounced. You know I won’t be here next week.  I have a lot of preparing to do and Christmas is not far away. And yes I am Nicholas/St. Nick. ”

 

The end

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    The Perfect Crime

 

                                       

How do you commit the perfect crime?  So many offences have come dangerously close to being perfect, it is frightening. Actually, there are many unsolved crimes that by virtue of the fact that the perpetrator has not been apprehended, it was a perfect crime.  But let’s talk about the perfect crime, the perfect murder.  How does someone commit a murder that no one knows about?  Would it have to appear to be an accident? Accidents happen all the time.  To garner the most out of committing such a crime, it would be important that there be a suspicion of murder but no proof, no witnesses, no accomplices. Nothing to tie the murder to the murderer.

                                       – A woman shoots an intruder (husband, oops

                                     – Normal teetotaler develops drinking problem (has witnesses) due to stress – wife problems.  Accidentally runs down and kills co-worker while intoxicated, who just happens to be sleeping with wife.  Accused didn’t know?  Swears off drink.

Are these perfect crimes?  No.  The accused may get off but they still go to court. It is still known that they did the crime; they are just able to prove extenuating circumstances.

The perfect crime would perplex the investigator.  No cause of death would be found perhaps, but the victim would be dead.

                                     – frighten someone with a weak heart to death

                                     – Tricking the victim into eating something they are allergic to – peanuts

Killing a stranger would be too easy.  It would have to be someone you know.  Someone whose death would allow you to benefit in some way.  So, our character list includes, a victim who has something to offer.  Revenge is not a good enough motive because it is not profitable.  If you are going to seek revenge you want the victim alive and aware of what you have done, legally.  They must have no recourse. Destroying someone is so much more satisfying than murder.  So, to commit a murder there must be a profit.  Something to make it worthwhile. Working on the premise you have a victim in mind, you need a method.  Motive lies with the victim.  You can’t choose a victim without a reason hence the motive.

 So, method.

                                  – Poison – traceable

                                  – Blunt instrument – messy

                                  – gun/knife – messy

                                 – Electrocution – requires some rudimentary understanding of electricity

Then you need an investigator who is not easily fooled.  It is so much more satisfying to have a worthy adversary.  And of course, we must not forget the murderer.  There must be no witnesses or chance of witnesses, no accomplices, no one to become a loose end.  No dates waiting to be picked up, no one who swears the victim had a pattern and would never deviate from it. Now it starts to get interesting.

Let us choose a hypothetical victim say, an elderly uncle who is very wealthy.  As the only living relative you would stand to inherit the works.  So, it becomes profitable. Unless the uncle really dislikes you and plans to leave everything to an animal shelter. No.  You have always had a relatively good relationship with the uncle.  Perhaps not close, but you do believe you are in his Will.  Do you take the risk that you are not? No. we will work on the assumption that you are in the Will. He has even mentioned it once or twice.

Ok. Now we have a victim and a motive.  A profitable one.  But you are not destitute.  You are not in a position of great need.  Too great a need places too many stresses on the enterprise and will lead to mistakes.  One mistake could be one too many.  No, you are preparing for the future.   Besides, it could make an arresting challenge. Pun intended.  A little humour helps to ease the stress.  After all this is a very serious subject.  Preparing for one’s future should never be taken lightly.

Are there stairs in your uncle’s home? A loose tread could cause a fatal fall.  If you set it up in advance, you probably would be far away from the accident.  Of course, there is no challenge in an accident.  No.  It must appear to be murder by someone unknown. A burglar? Too clichéd. A disgruntled ex-employee? Possible.  But no-one should be named. That entails someone else becoming involved. Too dangerous. Too many players. How about a single shot from a distance, late at night?  Very possible.  Can you shoot a gun?  You would be a suspect. And it is so messy.  Would you want to live in a house with a blood stain on the rug?  Of course, you would be rich enough to replace the rug.

When the investigators approach you, and they will, you are a relative, you must be shocked.  Watch your reactions, these people are trained observers. Don’t weep too much and certainly do not beat your chest, or pull your hair out.  Acknowledge the situation, tear up, choke up a little, not too much, and definitely sit down. Shake your head slightly. It would help to practice this scene, but never with an audience.  It should not appear to be studied.

Of course, you still have to work out how you plan to execute this deed.  Planning is everything.  Just be sure not to write anything down.  A written record really would be dumb.  Take your time and plan, plan, plan.

Oh, and one more thing.  While you were trying to work out the Most Efficient Means of dispatching your uncle, he succumbed to a massive heart-attack.  His funeral is next Thursday and the animal shelter wishes to acknowledge your uncle’s incredible generosity by giving you a puppy.  The licensing fee is $15.00.  Payable by cash or credit card.  Have a nice day.

The End

For Sue Vincent’s Thursday Photo Prompt.

The White Hart

 

It was cold, bitterly cold. Devon tried to shake his head, he felt trapped. I should never have left the car.  I should never have tried to drive the car.  Too much alcohol, too little sense.  He wondered if anyone at the party would notice that he was gone.  And now his arrogance, his stupidity was going to be his fatal undoing.  It was a snowstorm for God’s sake!

Devon’s body started to shiver, violently. It was trying desperately to warm up.  As his body struggled to stay alive, his mind struggled to remember. A whisper of a memory seeped to the surface. There was a tale, a story told to children about The White Hart.  A magnificent beast that would save lost travellers.  It would appear out of the mist, its head held high, antlers gleaming.  The mere sight of it gave strength to the weary and hope to the wretched.  Devon forced his eyes to open, slightly.  He tried to raise his arm, he could not. With a last burst of strength he opened his mouth and . . . . belched?

“Hon!  You took all the blankets again!  It’s bloody freezing!  I gotta pee!”

Seasonal Changes

I know I posted this last year but I like this story and there are a few amongst you who may not have seen it.  So, sorry and enjoy!

Lea looked around her and smiled.  Life was good.  She felt as if she was on top of the world.  Which in fact, was not too far from the truth.  She was high enough to look down on the teeming masses and feel superior.

A gentle breeze moved around her and she shivered in delight.  With the sun on her face and the faintest wafts of air to keep the bugs at bay, there was no other place Lea would have preferred to be. Here she could while away the days in thought and feeling.  The whole experience was a hedonistic surplus of sensation.

It is dangerous to spend all of one’s time in the near-sighted pursuit of just one ideal.  With the passage of time comes change.

Lea woke one morning to a strange feeling of fear.  She really didn’t understand the sensation but she was sure she didn’t like it.  Carefully she glanced around her.  Everything seemed unchanged.  The people she could see were scurrying about their daily lives. The sun was in the sky, the wind was quiet but still there.  It had rained over the last few days but that was not unusual and it even made the world seem a little crisper, more alive.  But something was different.

Lea didn’t live in her little aerie alone, she had neighbours.  When she finally deigned to actually acknowledge them, she discovered that they had changed.  Perhaps they had spent too much time in the sun because they were definitely a different colour.  Not an unpleasant shade of red but it did depend on your tastes.  Once again Lea felt superior.  She wasn’t going to change, not her.

There are few inevitabilities in life, death and taxes not withstanding.  The passage of time can never be halted no matter how much we may want it to and with that passage also comes change.  We can rail against it all we want but change happens.

It had been a few weeks since Lea had first noticed the changes in her neighbours and she was horrified to see that they seemed to have accepted it.  It must be because they were old, past their prime.  Not like her.  Although, in the last few weeks she had been feeling a little tired, not her usual perky self.  It must be the weather.  The wind was blowing a little harder and the sun wasn’t nearly as warm as it had been.  Lea was sure that it would all pass and that one day soon everything would be back to normal.  It had to; she wouldn’t accept anything else.

The next day Lea woke feeling cold and sore.   She made the effort to look around her and noticed that all of her neighbours had gone.  She was alone.  The people below were fewer and those she could see were not enjoying the day like they used to, they seemed to be in a hurry.  It is hard to feel sanctimonious when you are alone.

A few days later Lea did not wake up.  The wind was blowing hard and crisp. The sun seemed lower in the sky, almost as if it too was finding it difficult to rise in the morning.  The warm days of summer had come to an end and the cool winds of change had brought the autumn.  With her many neighbours Lea now formed a blanket of leaves beneath her cherished trees.  The season had changed once more.

-the end-

 

 

 

 

Smuggler’s Cove . . . Again

 

Anita sat back; she was tired but she still smiled as she remembered.  Today was an anniversary of sorts. Thirty-one years ago today she was reborn.   She remembered the woman she had been, fondly.  Actually, if she had not been the woman she was then, she would not be the woman she was today.

With a quiet chuckle Anita stood up and approached the bed where the object of her remembrances lay sleeping.  She laid a gentle hand on his brow and he stirred for just a moment.  But his breathing was deep, he would not wake for some time yet.  So she sat back down and once again remembered.

*******************

‘John cupped her face in his hand, her beautiful face.  She wore no make-up; she didn’t need any.  There was no artifice to her.  Everything she felt showed on her face.  Right now, it showed her dismay at alarming people and something else.  John wondered what she was thinking, feeling. He took her elbow and helped her to stand.’

It was at that moment that the woman, who used to be known as Anna, knew her destiny.  This man was her future.  She once swore that she would never allow another man to get too close to her heart.  But John had sneaked in under her radar.  And she was glad.  John too was having an epiphany.  As he helped her to stand, he could feel the weight of her heart in his hands.  John knew that his future rested with this woman.

Anita sighed and shook her head.  It had all happened so quickly.  Without a word the two had gripped hands and decided to leave together. The woman who was Anna had never considered herself spontaneous.  But here in the blink of an eye she was running away from a life that she had, with a man that she barely knew.  But her heart was full and her conscience was clear.  John too was leaving behind nothing that meant anything to him.  He was not running away from life, he was running to it and taking with him all that had meaning.

*******************

All those years ago John had already been planning his escape.  He loved the park, he really did, but he could never escape who he really was. Jonathan Edward Bellamy III was a curse, an albatross that John wore around his neck.  So to that end, John had been preparing for his escape for many months.  Money had been secreted away, a temporary hideaway had been prepared, and all that was still needed was a push.  Anna provided the final reason.  So, the two left the park quietly in a canoe that John kept in Smugglers Cove.

******************

Anita’s eyes flew open; she had heard a noise from the bed.

“John? John?”  The concern in her voice was evident, but there was no response from the object of her concern.  She felt his brow and it was cool, not fevered as it had been for several days.  Anita was sure the danger had now passed.  She wanted to weep as a release for her pent-up fears.  She had been so afraid she was going to lose him: this man she had loved for thirty-one years.

***************

“Woman, you are starting to annoy me!”  The voice was gruff but the eyes still twinkled with love and with humour.

“The Doctor said you were to take it . . . “

“The Doctor can take his advice and . . .”

“John! Don’t you dare finish that sentence!”

On one side of the room was a slight, red haired lady with her hands firmly planted on her hips and a scowl on her face.  On the other side of the room was a tall, pale man who was still recovering from a recent illness.  The battle of wills was about to be waged and there was little doubt as to the victor.

“Okay, okay, you win!  I promise to avoid marathons and mountain climbing for at least a month.  Just remove the scowl from that beautiful face, please?”

“John. . .”  Anita spoke lowly and crossed the room to put her arms around her patient. “I was so very afraid; I can’t lose you.”

John raised his arms and encircled his beloved. “You will never lose me.”

*************

Later that night Anita once again thought through all the years they had been together.

It hadn’t always been easy but the one thing they never lost sight of was each other.  That first night in the canoe had been amusing.  They were acting like high school students, running away.  It was a bit tricky canoeing with a cane and she would not give up her laptop computer, but they managed.  They only had to go a few miles by canoe and in some ways, it was quite exciting. Well, except for the almost drowning incident.  And of course, they had met Samson.  He was her constant companion for many years.

She never regretted what she had done.  She did always wonder what everyone thought about the two of them.  They slept for the first night in an old rundown cottage that someone had left unlocked.  Or perhaps John was just good at breaking and entering, she didn’t ask.  It had taken them almost a week of traveling to finally reach their hideaway.  John had planned well.  There was a vehicle, there was food, and there was a place to sleep. Of course, he had only planned on one person on the run not two, but they made do.

Perhaps the first month was the most difficult.  They had to discover each other and had to come to terms with the lives they had left behind. Anita felt that she had not left anything important behind but she thought John had.  After all he came from a family with money and position, how you give that up?  But John thought about it differently.  He hated who he had been and by definition the people who had forced him to be that person.  But he had prepared well.  They chose new identities and set about planning their life together.  But there was always one thing in the back in Anita’s mind: returning to Smugglers Cove.

The money John had saved only lasted a few months but both were prepared to work to support their new lives. Perhaps it was nostalgia, perhaps it was guilt but Anita chose to write children’s stories that were quite successful.  John once again took a position in an out of the way park.  They had what they needed in life and they had each other.  It was a good life.

*******************

‘He saw clearly in the sand the imprint of a man’s feet and right beside them a smaller pair: a woman’s.  He looked out into darkness, they were here . . . again.’

Smugglers’ Cove . . .Between

 

The surface of the river was still, almost glass like.  Looking deep you could see the current running swiftly down stream. Hungry birds circled overhead, looking for a meal.  A small fish leapt above the safety of the river narrowly missing becoming lunch. For a moment the world was quiet.

And then chaos. . . .

“John!  Help!  I can’t . . .” For only a few seconds a woman’s head broke the surface before she was dragged back down into the darkness.  The unforgiving depths do not like to give back.

“Oh, my God!  I’m coming! Please God don’t let her drown!  Anna!”

Mere seconds behind the struggling woman was a man in a canoe.  The terror on his face spoke volumes.  More time went by as he searched for any sign of this woman that had enchanted his heart, his soul.  He had to find her!

“Anna! Anna!”  He shouted loudly.

“ Please God, save her.”  He whispered to the universe.  “Please!”

Two gentle souls had found each other in an out-of-way park and without meaning to, had fallen in love.  John could not believe they would be separated so soon after finding each other.  He felt the tears at the back of his eyes welling.  His shoulders ached from the desperate paddling, his eyes searching for his heart.

“Please, plea . . .  Anna!”

He spied her flowing red hair glistening in the morning light.  The only movement was with the water’s drift trying to tug it free from a branch.

Another foot and he could see a shoulder.  It was deathly pale.

“Please . . .”

When the canoe was within reach John jumped out next to the body of his beloved.  Immediately he felt the water dragging at his clothes, determined to pull him down.  The canoe, caught by another branch, floated nearby.  John’s hands trembled, unsure, desperate to know.

“Anna…”  He barely breathed . . .

As he turned her body over an eyelid flickered.  She was alive!

With that almost imperceptible movement John reacted.  His training took over his actions. He checked her pulse: strong.  Breathing: shallow but steady.  Pupils: reactive. Small contusion on forehead.  She was safe to move.  She needed to be warm and monitored. He needed to check for other possible injuries.

The next few minutes became a blur.  John was able to disentangle Anna and get her to shore.  It may only have been a few feet but it felt like miles.  He made sure she was safe and returned for the canoe.  Those supplies could make the difference between living and dying.

When John and Anna made the decision to run away they left behind their lives as well as their cell phones.  They were on their own now.

It took a little time but John was able to make a fire, make Anna comfortable and put water on to boil.  He cleaned her wounds.  They were minor and should pose no future problems.  Her breathing was stronger but still she slept.  John agonized over whether to leave her to find help or to stay.  A little tea should help.  While he busied himself with the mundane tasks of finding the tea and cups he was able to calm down.  They would survive this.  She would survive this.

His head was down, diligently measuring tea leaves into a strainer when he heard a sound. He quickly looked to Anna, still she slumbered.  He raised his eyes to the forest a few meters away.  His heart stopped.  There, just beside a very full tree was the largest wolf he had ever seen. John had seen hundreds in his years in the Parks Services but never one this close and this . . .alive. He was afraid to breath!  And then it moved.

Wolves have a reputation as true killers, vicious animals that maul the unwary for fun.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Wolves are intelligent pack animals who care deeply for their young and avoid people as much as possible.  And yet here was a magnificent specimen silently staring at . . .Anna?  Normally an adversary keeps his eyes on an opponent but that didn’t seem to be the case here.  Why? Before John had finished his thought the wolf took a step forward and then another. Then it did the strangest thing:  it sat. With its head cocked to one side and its tongue hanging out it look just like a family pet.

John sat back on his heals.  The movement didn’t disturb the wolf at all.  It’s gaze never left Anna.  It didn’t seem to be aggressive, more . . . supportive?  Was John dreaming? After what seemed to be hours the wolf slowly returned to the forest.  At that moment the water started boiling furiously. John was reminded of his duties and returned to them.

The hours did pass. John tried to stay awake to tend to the fire and to worry about the wolf but the inevitable did happen. The stress, fear and fatigue took hold and John slept.

He was dreaming.  He felt cool water on his face, he was drowning! With a yell he force his way up, clawing for the surface!

“John!”

With blinking eyes the man in question came awake. He was confused.  He quickly looked to where Anna lay and she was gone!

“Anna?”

“I’m right here John, I’m fine. Look someone’s dog has come for a visit.”

Someone’s dog?  John came awake in a hurry with that comment.  He looked towards the sound of his beloved’s voice and saw her with the huge wolf gently accepting her ministrations. She was petting him and tugging at his ears and he seemed to like it!

“Anna, Anna . . that’s a wolf!  A wild animal!  You have to get away from him!”

Anna didn’t move except to give her newfound friend a hug.

“I had such awful dreams and then I felt this warmth embrace me.  I felt such love. Then I felt a wet tongue on my face and it was Samson.  He sat by me while you slept. I think he was keeping an eye on us both.”

“You named a wild animal Samson?”

John started to laugh.  It was so abrupt that both Anna and Samson were startled. Then they both joined in.  Or, at least one did, the other gave the impression he was enjoying the process.

When the laughter died down the release was apparent. Then both John and Anna started to speak at the same time …

“I’m sorry!”  “I’m sorry!”

“It was an accident.  We’re both ok and we seemed to have gained a companion.”

Anna smiled at their new friend who promptly rolled on his back and presented his stomach for a rub.

John grinned at the two of them. A wild animal and a beautiful writer. What could be more incongruous and more appropriate? Perhaps Anna would write about a tame wolf named Samson in their new life.  He would find an out-of-the-way park in which to work and Anna would write stories for children. All would be well. They had each other.

The end

 

 

 

Smuggler’s Cove

I’m not quite prepared for my weekly post so I thought I would share something from a few years ago.  This started out as a single story but grew into three due to very strong opposition. Seniors can be quite scary when they want something!  So I complied.  This is the first of the three. I will post the second and third on Monday and Tuesday.  I’ll be back to regular viewing on Wednesday.

Pamela

Jonathan Edward Bellamy III.  A name destined to sit in the Supreme Court after a spotless career as a criminal lawyer, or perhaps the head of a multi-national banking conglomerate with a profit margin in the tens of millions.  Well perhaps Jonathan might have gone that route but not John.  John was sitting in a ten-year-old truck wondering if his rent cheque was going to bounce, and that truck was sitting on a mountain pass that overlooked a pristine national park which that Supreme Court judge would kill to see.  John figured he was the wealthier of the two.

Being born into a wealthy and prominent family brought with it a great many obligations that John had always balked at.  People who knew he came from money were either anxious to be his new best friend or hated him for his presumed privileges.  It had been hard trying to fit into that world. John didn’t like the phoney debutants or their mothers trying to make ‘good’ matches for them.  He just didn’t belong to that world. He belonged here, where the air was fresh, the people were real and where one worried about rent cheques.  When John walked away from the privileged life he also walked away from his wealth.  That was fine with him. Money should be earned not inherited.

Today John was thinking about that rent cheque but he was also thinking about the tourists.  Today was the first day of summer vacation and it had always been a trial in the park.  High School kids brought booze, which was banned, and College kids brought drugs, which were worse. Parents brought small children and expected the Rangers and Park Attendants to be babysitters.   Couples brought their pets and were indignant when they were turned away.  They didn’t seem to understand that this was a Wild Lands Park with wild animals, animals that might mistake ‘Spot’ for lunch.  It had happened.  Not often fortunately.  It really was amazing just how dumb some people could be.

It was almost time.  The Park opened at 10 am and it was almost that now.  John turned his ignition on and started for the main gates.  It wasn’t all bad; there were a lot of good, decent people who genuinely wanted to learn about the bears, the deer, and the other inhabitants of the forest.  They were the ones that made everything worthwhile.

As John approached the main gates, he could see the people waiting patiently for the gates to open.  Not everyone was waiting patiently of course: he could see a couple of cars of what appeared to be college students. We had better flag that group. Maybe they will turn out to be biology students with a real love for the forest and it’s inhabitants, and maybe not.  John heaved a quiet sigh; it could be a long summer. 

He watched the cars entering the park. Movement near the lodge caught his eye.  Red.  Specifically: red hair, long silky, red hair.  It belonged to a single woman who had booked a month at the lodge that was adjacent to the park.  She was quite a looker Miss Anna Wilson. Now there was an interesting story.  Young, attractive, women did not spend a month at an out of the way park alone.  She didn’t seem to be meeting anyone and she wandered the forest trails quite often. Always alone.   She used a cane and carried a laptop computer. Why?  Jessica at the lodge said she was a very nice, quiet woman. She seemed sad some how.  What was she running from? She had been here a week and John had spoken to her often, going out of his way to do so.  She was intelligent, but not forthcoming about her past.  Everyone was entitled to their privacy.  Except John was curious.

* * * * * * * * *

It had been a very long week.  There was the two-year-old who had burrowed underneath the showers rather successfully.  That took a couple of hours and several staff members to bring to a satisfactory conclusion.  Mom wanted to go home NOW.  Then there was the diamond necklace that went missing.  Why anyone would bring an expensive bauble to a park went beyond dumb.  It was located in the husband’s jacket pocket.  He was playing a trick on his wife. As for those college students, they really were here to study the local flora and fauna.  Unfortunately, they were also studying the effects of some of their own personal flora, which was definitely illegal. They agreed to leave quietly, without the illegal plants.  Another one for the burn pile.

********************

John stood at the top of the trail and looked down.  It was steep, an awkward climb even for him.  There was no way a woman with a cane could manoeuvre down to the cove.  It was one of John’s favourite spots.  Here, alone, he could think without any interruptions from tourists.  He scanned the small beach and started to turn away.  Out of the corner of his eye he caught a shape that did not belong.  It was a woman. A woman with red hair and she wasn’t moving.  Her hair was splayed out behind her as if she had fallen backwards. John started to run.  It took him a full minute to reach her but she didn’t move.  He looked for signs of an injury and softly called her name once, twice, three times.  She stirred; eyes sleepy. She stretched like a cat.  John sat back on his heels and pulled out his cell phone.

“Central, this is John.  The package has been located and verified.  All is well.  Out.”

Anna sat up, confused.  “What are you doing here?”

“Looking for you.” John snapped.  He was angry.  This blasted woman had the unmitigated gall to make him fall in love with her, to disappear for a full day and then not even have the decency to be injured or, or, whatever.  He had been worried sick and she was fine.

The object of his silent tirade was completely unaware of the effect she was having on him or the situation away from her little cove.  For that is how she thought of this idyllic spot, as hers.

“John, did you know about this spot? It’s wonderful!  It is quiet and serene. I have been able to write here so easily; it is almost as if . . .. John? What’s wrong?”

Anna had finally noticed the look on John’s face.  The anger was apparent, and something more, concern?

“Anna you have been gone for almost 7 hours. Jessica is worried sick.   Rangers have been out looking for you ever since you failed to show up at the lodge for lunch.  And how the hell did you get down here anyway?”  As he spoke John’s voice grew in volume until he was almost shouting and his teeth were clenched.

Anna smiled.  She tried to hide her grin but failed miserably.  Of course, this made John even angrier. She stopped listening to his lecture on the dangers of the Park and instead watched his face.  It was a good face, clean-shaven with a slight nick under his jaw line.  He was probably distracted this morning, thinking about the latest batch of tourists.  He was always concerned that each individual reaps the most from their stay at the campgrounds.  He wanted everyone to love the park as he did, just as she had come to do.  Anna had come to the park to escape her life.  She didn’t want to end her life she just didn’t want to live it any more. Yes, John had a good face, strong, his eyes were brown, a deep inviting brown. And his body, well….  Yes, he was definitely nice to look at and his voice, well he could read a phone book out loud and still enthral a crowd.  At least a crowd of one.  Anna stopped smiling.  Was she falling in love with this paragon of manhood?  She could not allow that.  That was a dangerous trail she would never venture down again.

John noticed the change in Anna’s face.  Had he been too hard on her?  Dammit he worried about her!

“Anna?”

“I.. . I’m sorry I worried you, I lost track of time.” Her eyes were downcast, her voice cracked slightly.

John cupped her face in his hand, her beautiful face.  She wore no make-up; she didn’t need any.  There was no artifice to her.  Everything she felt showed on her face.  Right now it showed her dismay at alarming people and something else.  John wondered what she was thinking, feeling. He took her elbow and helped her to stand.

Anna looked up the path.  “It wasn’t so hard coming down, really, just slow.  But it was definitely worth the effort.”

John looked at this woman that he had come to care for.  They were both lonely people looking to escape their lives.  Perhaps they were both here on this spot for a reason.

*********************

Coach Adamson wondered if he was doing the right thing bringing these boys to this park for the weekend.  They didn’t know what had happened here, on this spot, thirty-eight years ago.  Actually no one really knew what happened.  Two people were gone. What they had found all those years ago was an abandoned truck and a sweater that had belonged to a park visitor.  His father’s little sister.  Had two lonely people run away together or had an accident claimed their lives? Coach looked out at the river, now shrouded in darkness.  He had been warned that the currents near the centre of the river could be deadly.  Had they been thirty-eight years ago?

“Hey Coach, does that Ranger want us to put out the fire?”

The Coach turned back to the bonfire and his charges, “What Ranger?”

“The Ranger you were just talking to with that hot chick.  Wow I guess there are perks to working in an out of the way Park like this!  The boys laughed and turned back to their fire and their questionable jokes.

The Coach turned back to look at the water’s edge.  He saw clearly in the sand the imprint of a man’s feet and right beside them a smaller pair: a woman’s.  He looked out into darkness, they were here . . . again.

A Single Cardboard Box

Eloise sat back in her chair and sighed.   This would be her final move. It was a hard one, leaving so much behind. But it was time. She thought about her husband of 61 years, Elliot. He’d been gone for a while now but she was managing. He’d always loved that about her:  her ability to adapt.

Hands clasped loosely on her lap, legs demurely crossed at the ankle. She had been taught to be a lady but she also knew when not to be. Something else Elliott loved about her.  She smiled to herself. As she raised her head her eyes caught the single cardboard box resting on the edge of the bed.  How is it possible for 92 years to fit inside one single box?

There were so many memories. Dipping her toes into three oceans over her lifetime. That midnight buffet on the cruise ship. The smile became a chuckle as she remembered poor Elliot looking for his shoes in a strange motel after a very long night. He eventually found them in the refrigerator! They had laughed all the way to Albuquerque. Good memories.

There were camping trips with four active and insatiably curious children. And then the children’s children, there seemed to be so many of them. She remembered the strange noises a sleeping child makes and the wild-eyed wonder when they saw something for the first time. Learning to read, learning to walk, learning to slow down. That was always the hard one. But they did it together. Eloise and Elliot. It had lovely ring to it. What a great partnership they had. And that partnership didn’t die when he did. She slept with a pair of his gloves under her pillow. He was never far from her.

She relaxed a little more in the chair, resting her tired shoulders. And she cast her mind back over her 92 years. She had earned her rest. Her memories of her childhood were all good. She’d had loving parents who had taught her to love the world and to respect what it had to offer. She had grown up with wonderful pets who had taught her humility and selflessness. She had friends who taught her the art of compromise and acceptance and French kissing. Yes, she had learned how to laugh early.  And she laughed often.  She had reason.

They had traveled the world together. Elliott was a wonderful traveler. Except for the shoes.  When the children had come along they too were initiated into that world. First traveling near at home and then farther and farther as they grew older and more capable of appreciating it. And then they too caught the bug. The world was theirs to explore.

As time inexorably moved on so did the children. And then she and Elliot rediscovered the wonders of each other. It was like a second honeymoon and they had enjoyed it for many years. Oh, the children came back to visit. In the beginning it was quite often but as their lives became more and more complicated, that too dwindled off.  That was to be expected.

Most of the children and grandchildren made it back for Elliot’s funeral. It was good to see them, to get reacquainted. But they had their own lives to get back to and in time Eloise was again alone.  That was okay. She had much to occupy her. She had quite a vibrant social life and plenty of friends to keep her company. But there were adjustments. She moved to a condominium and hired a cleaning service. There were even a few male companions who were interested in more than just companionship. They were proper gentlemen when she refused. Her heart still belonged to Elliot. Besides he hadn’t been gone that long. But it was nice to have a man around to escort her to a dance.

The box caught her eye once again. It seem to beckon to her and to mock her. It was her box of treasures, precious memories, tokens worth more than any precious jewel ever could be. A single tear escaped her eye.  She felt sad and more than a little proud. She wondered about the next step in her life. What was still to come? She closed her eyes.

 

*********************************************************************

 

The door burst open! A tall, young; man, strode aggressively into the room.

“Where the hell is the damn thing?”

A few seconds behind him an equally tall woman sashayed into the room somewhat less aggressively.

“They said it was on the end of the bed and you could pick it up at your leisure.  I think it’s important. What do you plan on doing with it?”

The man became a little less forceful as he spotted the single cardboard box just where he had been told it would be.

“It’s just some old trinkets. What possible value could it have? “

 

 

the end

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Irish Eyes Are Watching

Father John Murphy stood back and looked at his church.  He was quite pleased with this tiny but perfect building that was his first very own parish.  He knew it was a sin but he felt great pride.

“Top of the morning to you Father Murphy.”

As he started to turn around Father Murphy ran through the list of names in his head that might belong to that voice.  “Ah yes, good morning Miss O’Dell.  It is indeed a lovely morning.”  The voice belonged to the ancient and diminutive local gossip. There were some who said she had been around for more than a hundred years.

“Are you settling in now Father Murphy?  Have you made peace with the locals?”

“I’m not quite sure I understand what you mean Miss O’Dell.  The local what?”

“Why the wee folk Father Murphy!  Don’t you know the truth?”  Before he had a chance to answer, Miss O’Dell answered for him.  “Oh, my goodness you don’t!  You’re from the ‘Americas’ and you don’t know!”

Without another word Miss O’Dell put a hand to her throat and turned away.  She was muttering to herself as she hurried down the main street and was quickly gone from sight.

Father Murphy was surprised at the reaction but he had too many other things on his mind to worry about.  So, he dismissed the incident and turned to go back into his office.  He still had Sunday’s sermon to write.

Kilkenny was a small village on the northernmost point of Northern Ireland.  It is said that the old ways are still practiced in Kilkenny and people guard their privacy well.  Father John Murphy was indeed from the ‘Americas’ but both his parents had been born just a few miles down the road from this tiny village.  He had been raised hearing stories about this idyllic section of the world and when he joined the church, he had let it be known that he would love to someday have a parish here.  It took many years but his wish came true.  Unfortunately, his parents didn’t tell him all the stories about Kilkenny.  But then, he didn’t know that.

Several hours after his encounter with Miss O’Dell, Father Murphy was working on his sermon when his housekeeper entered his office with a cup of tea and a few biscuits on a tray.

“It’s time for a break now Father Murphy.  You canna work your fingers to the bone.  You need sustenance.” She spoke as she placed the tray on his desk.

Father Murphy looked up from his work a little confused.  He had been working intently and hadn’t heard Mrs. Finnegan come into the room.

The woman who had interrupted the good Father’s work was formidable.  She had been involved in the upkeep of the church for the last 47 years and it was doubtful she was ever going to retire.  She knew how things were to be done and made sure everyone else knew it too, including the resident priest.

“I heard you had a wee chat with old Miss O’Dell,” continued Mrs Finnegan. “They say she has the second sight.  You would do well to pay attention to her words.  Do you want more than two biscuits now?”

“Um, yes, no, I think two biscuits will be just fine Mrs. Finnegan.  How on earth did you hear about my conversation with Miss O’Dell so quickly?

‘Now Father Murphy you have to understand that there are very few things in this village that I don’t know.  I have a network you see.”

“Well then maybe you can tell me where my pens are.  They all seem to have disappeared.  I’m down to using pencils that are much too dull.”

“Did you say all your pens are gone?” Mrs. Finnegan studied the young priest for a moment.  “Well now, they’re starting early with you.  You would do well to make peace with the locals.”

Before he had a chance to react Mrs. Finnegan flicked her cloth at an imaginary piece of dust and left the room closing the door behind her.

Father Murphy sat back in his chair and shook his head.  “What locals!”  He burst out.  But there was no one there to hear him, or was there.

Absentmindedly he reached out for one of the very delicious biscuits.  Mrs. Finnegan made them fresh every morning and he looked forward to them with his tea at just about this time every day.  What his hand closed on was not a biscuit.  It was wet and soft and quite unpleasant! He quickly dropped it and stood up, staring at the offending item.  It smelled too.

“Mrs. Finnegan!  Mrs. Finnegan! Could you come here please!”  He tried to keep the panic out of his voice.

Mrs. Finnegan must’ve been right outside the door as she was there within seconds. “Ewwwwwww they gave you a mud biscuit!  You are lucky, the last priest they gave him a dog turd! You’d better make peace in a hurry because it will escalate from here.”

Ever the efficient housekeeper Mrs. Finnegan picked up the offending item and made to dispose of it outside.

“Wait”, said Father Murphy as he wiped the mud from his fingers.  “I need to know what’s going on.  I keep hearing cryptic comments about making peace with the locals.  What does that mean?”

Mrs. Finnegan smiled.  “I’ll be right back.  Sit down and I’ll explain everything.  I just want to get rid of this first.”

Father John Murphy sat down behind his desk, in his first parish in the village of Kilkenny and wondered just what he’d gotten himself into.  He had heard stories but he’d always thought they were just that, stories.  They couldn’t possibly be true.  Not now, not today.  Such things just didn’t exist except in myth and legend.

“Oh, we exist.”

It was a tiny voice and Father Murphy wasn’t even sure he actually heard it but when he turned around, he saw a flicker of movement just at the edge of his peripheral vision.  He wasn’t even sure he had actually seen it.  But if he had, then that meant . . . it was the locals.

Mrs. Finnegan bustled back into the room with a fresh plate of biscuits.  “If you don’t take your eyes off these you will actually get to eat them this time.”

“It’s true then?  I thought it was only in legends and myths”

The housekeeper made herself comfortable in a chair across the desk from the priest and helped herself to a biscuit.  “You really didn’t know then?  I thought your parents were from near here?”

“They never told me.  They did act a little strange when I told them I was taking a parish here.  Why do you call them locals?”

“They were here first.  We come and go, but they are always here.  And they are always watching.  My advice to you, don’t make them angry.  They’re cute and adorable in stories but the reality is much different. Farmer Bellamy had cows that didn’t give milk for three weeks because he made a crass comment about the locals.”

All Father Murphy could do was shake his head.

Mrs. Finnegan continued, “You said you mislaid all your pens, have you noticed that your shoes aren’t where you put the night before and your toothbrush is always upside down in the glass?  They’re giving you a warning.  Be nice to them.  And they’ll find you fresh blueberries every morning.  They might even clean your shoes when you’re not looking.  And one more thing, St. Patrick’s Day is coming up so you might want to be extra special in your sermon.  They like that, the leprechauns do.  Because you know they’re always watching.”

The end