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The Woods – 6 Inspecting The House (2015) by LV Gaudet

1The Woods:

1 – The Woods – The Dare (1985)

2 – Thirty Years Later – The Old Bennet House is for Sale (2015)

3 – The Woods – Jesse Hears a Noise (1985)

4 – The House – First Entry in 30 Years (2015)

5 – The Woods – Return to the House (1985)

2015

 

The realtor enters first, staring in fascination at the outdated furniture and décor.  The air feels heavy with dust and it tickles the back of his throat.

Awkwardly, he remembers and steps aside to let the other man in.

He steps inside after the realtor and, like him, stops to take it all in.  He scans the room, absorbing the old furniture, the layer of dust covering everything like a shroud. The dust in the air is heavy and gives his throat a dry tickle that makes him want to cough.

With a distracted nod to the realtor, he steps further into the house, feeling a momentary pang of regret for not taking his shoes off. “You are supposed to take your shoes off when you enter someone’s home,” he thinks.  He looks around taking it all in.

“It’s eerie how the house feels like the family just left it moments ago, like they are about to come back at any time.  The house looks lived in, except for the thirty years of dust coating everything and the vague feeling of abandonment.”

The mostly green cover of a comic book left laying open on the floor catches his eye.  He picks up the comic book and looks at it, trying not to disturb too much of the dust clinging to it.  It’s unavoidable, his fingers rub smudges in the dust coating the old comic book.  The Thing, an orange blocky comic book creation made of stone, part monster and all hero.  On the cover, The Thing appears to be battling a many-armed green wall, the green arms surrounding him in a barrage of punching fists.  Marvel Comics, The Thing issue #21 dated March 1985.  The price on it is sixty cents.

The top front corner is curled from a boy’s rough handling.

He puts it down with a frown, wondering if it’s worth anything on the collectors’ market.  He can’t take it, though.  It belongs to the municipality, along with the property and its contents.  At least until after the auction.  He hopes the realtor didn’t notice it.

“How often do realtors scoop up gems like this without anyone ever knowing?” he wonders.

Against the wall on a stand, a tube T.V. with its faux wood exterior box, two front dials, and bent rabbit ears poking up from the top at the back, sits darkly silent, a haze of dust coating every surface.

He walks through the house, past a pair of socks discarded on the floor, and into the kitchen.

“Did you say they still lived here after the boys vanished?” he called to the realtor in the other room.

The realtor is studying the spines of books in a bookcase on one wall.  It’s made of the old particleboard that expands and crumbles when it absorbs moisture, which it inevitably does over time.  The shelves have some warping and bubbling, crumbled on some edges.

“Yes, I don’t know how long.  They lived here while the search for the boys was going, and for some time after the search was given up.”

“And the husband moved out, leaving the mother alone?”

“Yeah.”

“How long?”

“I don’t know. Months? Years? They locked the place when they took her away. Like I said, we’re the first to set foot in the house since they institutionalized her.”

He leaves the bookshelf and starts for the kitchen.

In the kitchen, the buyer walks around, taking in the two tea towels carefully hung on the oven door handle, yellowed and rotting with age.  The teakettle on the stovetop. On the countertop, a measuring cup sits next to a mixing bowl with a wooden spoon. Two bags he guesses are flour and sugar bags sit next them. The bags are faded and stained with age, the paper brittle with age, and even the larger print words hard to read.

“Looks like someone was going to make a cake.”

He turns away, circling the table, studying the place settings set with care.

An old tan rotary dial phone hangs on the wall not far from the kitchen table, where the person on the phone can sit down at the table while they talk, the coiled cord stretched from them to the phone on the wall.

The realtor walks in and looks around, his footprints in the dust coating the kitchen floor joining those following the buyer’s trail across the room.  “Weird, the table is set for four.”

“For her family.” It is said with a dull gravity that makes the realtor turn and stare at him.

He breaks the awkward moment.

“I’ll show you the bedrooms.  There’s three bedrooms, I think.”

 

 

* *   ***  **  ***  **  ***  **

Author’s Note

While writing can be a panacea for stress, finding the time for it in a busy schedule can be a seemingly insurmountable challenge to circumvent.

Our backyard treesThings get hectic and perhaps you feel like you have lost control of even the little things (like your unread emails!).  It’s well worth finding that little niche of writing time.  Even writing these little bits, like the very short chapters of The Woods, can help keep that inspiration alive to feed the bigger stories brewing behind your hectic day of everyday life.

Some of my blogs are woefully neglected.  I try to find the little ways I can contribute and keep in touch with the world.

I am still plugging away when I can at those other writing projects.  Always in hopes of making significant progress.

Then again, the best progress could be sitting on the deck with a large glass of wine and looking out at those marvelously spooky trees.

Follow The Woods installments

 

 

 

L.V. Gaudet is the author of Where the Bodies Are and The McAllister Farm
where the bodies are

 

What kind of dark secret pushes a man to commit the unimaginable, even as he is sickened by his own actions? Find out in Where the Bodies Are.

 

The McAllister Farm-cover 1

Take a step back in time to learn the secret behind the bodies in Where the Bodies Are:  The McAllister Farm reveals the secrets behind the man who created the killer.

 

Link to purchase these books by L.V. Gaudet

 

 

Link to reviews of Where the Bodies Are on Angie’s Diary

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The Flying Boat by Chuck Thurston

The PBM Martin Mariner was a flying boat that saw considerable action in World War II. It was a long-range sea plane that provided escort duty for convoys headed for Europe and was credited with sinking 10 German U-Boats during the course of the war.

After the war, a number of these planes were transferred to the U.S. Coast Guard for search and rescue service. The Coast Guard phased them out in 1958, and I expect I was one of the last aircrewmen to have a ride in them. These planes were built to stay in the air a long time, and they were outfitted accordingly. They normally had a crew of nine, so you could be relieved after a four-hour watch – as a radioman, in my case. Off duty, you could go to the small galley in the belly of the aircraft and get something to eat. Then, maybe, take a nap in an available hammock.

I would go for the sandwich and drink, but I was more into sightseeing, and I found the perfect place for it. Although the .50 caliber guns had been removed, the gun turrets were still in place, and the tail gunner’s seat provided a view like no other. I had to crawl on my hands and knees through the long tail boom to the back of the aircraft. I would squeeze into the plexiglass bubble, hunker down in the tailgunner’s seat and watch the world go by.

I would have my sandwich and drink and watch the ocean roll below. I could imagine the battles planes like this engaged in – the sight of a U-Boat just breaching the surface, or alerted to danger, preparing to dive. I could feel the course change, the big plane wheeling over to line up on the target, and the thump as the depth charges were released. I could imagine the tail gunner manning the hand-aimed machine gun, and alert for danger from the skies.

Or I could daydream. It was peacetime. We were actually in-between wars. Korea was over, but Viet Nam was not yet on the horizon. In any case, the action was over for these old flying boats. Their exploits were honored, their duty was done. There is one in the Smithsonian now. There are a few others, scavenged for parts in a sunbaked bone yard in Arizona – far, far from the rolling ocean.

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Ellie and the Hoyas by Chuck Thurston

The oldest cliché in human relationships is that of the contentious mother-in-law. I luckily escaped that dynamic. I truly loved my wife’s mother, and we had wonderful times together. She lived in Denmark, so getting together wasn’t a matter of a neighborhood visit or a short road trip. Consequently, when she came to see us, it was usually a stay of a couple of months. She was an easy houseguest, and one we thoroughly enjoyed.

She didn’t like the hot southern summers, so her visits were invariably in the spring or fall. During one such stay, I introduced her to “March Madness.” In the mid 1980’s, the Georgetown Hoyas had a run of good seasons, and were routinely in the NCAA’s championship tournament. Elinor – Ellie – knew nothing of basketball, adopted them as her team. She was in fact, a soccer fan in Europe, so perhaps the spectacle of men in shorts chasing around a round ball resonated in some way. Maybe it was the blue and grey uniforms, which dated back to the civil war and signified the union of north and south – although she didn’t know much about that conflict, either. Ellie’s adoption of the Hoyas ran counter to popular sentiment. The team was often – perhaps because of its success and the swagger that goes with it – the one that everyone liked to dislike.

Georgetown’s coach, John Thompson –a giant of a man – captured her admiration. Perhaps his display of passion for the game and for his team appealed to her. He prowled the sideline during games with an ever-present towel over his shoulder.

john thompson

In the spring of 1984, the Hoyas took it all. They polished off the Houston Cougars, and Ellie and I watched every game, usually with a beer or two. I didn’t make many attempts to explain the intricacies of the game. I’m not an expert in any case, and the athleticism and competitiveness of the contests spoke for themselves. When the final whistle sounded on the final game of the tournament, we both felt satisfied, but somehow incomplete – there would not be another round of basketball to look forward to. It would have to wait until the next year and the next March Madness. In those days, it was almost a given that Ellie’s Hoyas would be back – and Ellie would be back to cheer them on.

PS – in 1985, the Hoyas were back, and lost in the final game, a 62-64 nail-biter to Villanova.

Chuck Thurston is currently absorbed in the March Madness of 2017. We lost Ellie a few years ago, and the Hoyas are not the powerhouse they once were, but I believe we would have found a suitable replacement.  

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Carry On by Chuck Thurston

 

victorian-mourning

We were talking with old friends – a couple – that we had not seen for some time. It was the tail end of the holiday season. The grey of a gloomy day had darkened into a cold night. An outside light showed snow flurries swirling around the bare limbs and darkened evergreens. We were digging into memories of past times good and bad. The short days and long nights of the winter solstice often seem to invite these reflections. The setting and time of year lent itself to nostalgia.

We talked of the parties of long ago – the candles, the music, the gaiety, those then present; the several now gone. The lady said that she got in this mood after her father died, and that she missed him and grieved for his absence every day. I had not heard of her father’s death and told her I was sorry for her loss. I asked when it had happened. “Eight years ago,” she replied.

Had she lived in Victorian times, her job would have been much easier.

Back then the process was highly ritualized, and twelve months was considered appropriate for a child mourning a parent, or vice versa. If you’re wondering, yes, there was a sliding scale. A full two years was considered appropriate for a widow; first cousins merited only four weeks. Everyone else – a sibling, aunt, uncle, grandparent, was somewhere in between.

The Victorians wore the appropriate clothes, conducted the appropriate ceremonies, had a lavish funeral and erected an ornate monument for the grave. Manuals and journals described the mourning etiquette in the event the survivors needed guidance. I am sure they continued to miss the departed for a longer or shorter period of time depending on the nature of the relationship, but as far as formal mourning went, they dropped it after the prescribed period.

Life then, if less complicated, was harsher. Household tasks had to be taken care of; farm or home tended to, children to be raised with few of today’s conveniences. In many cases efforts were begun to acquire a new mate or partner to fill the void. “There’s no limit to what a person can accomplish,” the saying is, “but they can rarely do it by themselves.” So it often seemed desirable in those days to hook up with another solo soul and carry on. My grandfather’s first wife died leaving him with nine children, and he wasted no time finding another mate.

The Victorians believed in curtailing social behavior for a set period of time, but that practice seems outmoded now. Many losing a loved one today feel obligated to advertise the extent of their pain across the internet. Perhaps this is a part of the healing process, but many of the posts are troubling; some are frightening in their description of despair and the feeling that life has lost much of its meaning.

Viktor Frankl was a Jewish psychiatrist imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp during the Second World War. He later wrote that suicides were not uncommon under these brutal conditions. Two prisoners in his building were talked out of their intent to kill themselves. Others reminded them that they had important things yet to do. One had a child who had escaped to Canada and would want to join him after the war. The other was a noted scientist who had begun a series of books that only he could finish. When others reminded them of their duty to their future, they abandoned their suicide plans.

And that is key – our duty to the future. I do not know what cognizance the departed have of the lives they leave behind, but I would be saddened beyond belief if I knew that a loved one of mine was crippled with inconsolable grief by my going. It would seem to speak poorly of my earthly contributions to our happiness. Was the time we spent together so vapid and unfulfilling that he or she can’t summon up memories of shared joys to buffer the pain of my departure? If the spirits of the dead are permitted anger, I think mine would be angry.

For life is not a three-legged bag race. Barring some catastrophic event, one of a loving couple will die before the other. My wife and I brush on this topic now and then. One or the other of us usually mentions that it would be extremely difficult to carry on alone. But the answer to the statement that “I couldn’t go on without you,” is certainly, “Yes, you could; you must, really.” Each person will find the tools necessary to build a new life and directions for the path going forward. The tools are the good memories of years gone by. The path will reveal itself through them. Healing will commence, because it must; grief is not a career and doesn’t deserve that consideration.

So back to Viktor Frankl…how did he come through? Was he empowered by the knowledge that he had something important left to do? As a matter of fact he did. When he first entered the concentration camp he set three goals for himself. He first determined that he would survive; he made a commitment to use his medical skills to help where he could, and, remarkably – that he would learn something from the experience. His book, “Man’s Search For Meaning,” came out of the misery of Auschwitz.

Carry on.

 

Chuck Thurston lives and writes in Kannapolis, NC. His two volumes of Senior Scribbles (Unearthed and Second Dose) will be joined by a third in 2017: Senior Scribbles Bathroom Reader. His work is available from the Indigo Sea Press and Amazon.

Joel Barker’s The Power of Vision documentary tells the story of Viktor Frankl.

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She Made Them Mittens by Heidi Thurston

hand-knitted-mittens

They all loved her – from time to time they still talk about her and the things she did in years past.

There was, for instance, the time when their first child was born and she stayed over, did the cooking, the cleaning, and even took over a couple of 3 am feedings. Yet, she never interfered or tried to take over the care of the baby or the running of the house, and when mother and child were stronger, she quietly went back to her own home.

There was also the time when junior was without a ride to a special game out of town and she volunteered to drive; then remained to cheer him and his team to victory.

Whenever there was a birthday, anniversary or other family celebration, she was on hand with homemade gifts made especially for those she cared about, and she always lent a hand in the kitchen afterwards so the honored guests did not have to wake up to a mess.

For years, the children never had to worry about holes in the knees of their favorite jeans, because she knew how to operate her sewing machine as well as her mixer, with which she made the most delicious cookies. Little hands were also kept warm by homemade mittens and many a toddler went out on a chilly fall afternoon wearing one of her sweaters and matching cap.

She was also on hand whenever someone needed to be taken to the doctor and everyone else was working, and she took a lot of friends who were unable to drive, along for grocery shopping or just for a ride out of town.

Oh, she had her bad days too…we all do. She could be grouchy and not on top of things, but those moods usually did not last long and she is mostly remembered for her smiles and caring ways, and for the love she so generously gave to those around her.

So, where is she now, and who is she?

She is in a nursing home, placed there by a family who knew they could no longer take care of her, realizing that she needed around-the-clock care.

And she is someone’s mother, older sister, maiden aunt, grandmother, or just a former next-door neighbor who would love to have a visit from anyone she used to know.

We all know someone like her with some of the above-mentioned virtues, whose company we enjoyed when she was around and able to participate in events. But the day came when the only realistic thing was to place her where she could be cared for properly. Most of us would like to have taken her into our homes, but of course, that is seldom practical since the majority of us work and do not always have the extra space.

But that is no excuse for not making an effort to visit her now and then. Why must we feel so guilty for having done the only right thing that we let it keep us from stopping and telling her about the things we are doing, showing her pictures of our family and friends, and listen to what she has to say?

It takes only a few minutes once in a while and it is so appreciated by her, who sits day after day and waits for someone to stop in and say, “Hello, how are you?”

This is the time of the year to give thanks and share our abundance with those who need it. Why not end this year with spreading a little cheer to those who once were so much a part of our lives but who now are alone and unable to join us in our day-to-day lives.   Why not make yourself a promise; put away the guilt, and go visit her…she’ll be so glad you did – and so will you.

Heidi Thurston lives in Kannapolis, NC. “She Made Them Mittens” was one of her “Not So Strictly Speaking” columns published weekly in the Sayre Evening Times in Sayre, Pa. It won an award from the Pennsylvania Press Association for human interest columns. Heidi’s adult romance novel, “The Duchess, The Knight And The Leprechaun” is available from Amazon and Indigo Sea Press.

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Being Grateful for Things I’ve Always Taken for Granted by Sherrie Hansen

Those who are close to me know that I’m approaching a milestone birthday. (I’ll let you guess which one.) In some ways, I don’t think it will make a difference in the way I lead my life, or how I feel about things. In other ways, it looms over my daily walk with great significance.

One thing that I’ve noticed about getting older is that I appreciate a lot of things I’ve previously taken for granted… simple things like a good night’s sleep. I am immensely grateful for those few mornings when I sleep peacefully through the night and wake up slowly and languorously rather than being rudely awakened by a cramp in my leg. Life’s simple pleasures.

ky-mom-and-dad

As I get to an age where many of my friends have only one or no parents still living, I am daily reminded how blessed I am to have both of my parents still active in my life. I’m grateful for all of the things my parents have done for me, taught me, and given me, and that I have people in my life who love me, just as I am.

I’m thankful to have been raised with a hard work ethic, that I was not brought up to feel entitled, but with the knowledge that if I worked hard. I could earn the things I wanted and have the freedom to do what I wished. Those principals have shaped my life, and because of that, I have been very blessed.

I also find that I spend far more time being grateful for what I have and less time lusting after what I don’t have. It’s the realization that I have enough or even plenty of what I need, and that if I don’t need something, I should find someone who does.

B&W Blue Belle Inn

I’m privileged to have owned and operated my own business for 25 years, and to have served my wonderful customers, and participated in their lives, their special occasions, and the hard times they’ve gone through.

I’m increasingly thankful for my good health, even as it daily worsens, even as the definition of good has to be continuously downgraded.

mm-charlatans-web-deb

I’m grateful for a soft mattress, a sweet husband, nieces and nephews who make me smile and do me proud.

I’m grateful to have been able to see so much of the world, to have had the luxury to enjoy beautiful landscapes and picturesque places in so many countries.  I’m thankful to have been given the gift of an artist’s eye to capture that beauty in photographs, to appreciate art and beauty.

B&W View

I am grateful to have been given second chances, and that when I’ve made mistakes, I’ve had the opportunity to try again and again, until I’ve gotten it right, or even made amends.

I am thankful for the few, true blue friends who have stuck with me for a lifetime, and not just a season.

zion-roses

 

I’m grateful for a Savior who forgives me over and over again, who loves me unconditionally.

I’m thankful that I have the right, the honor, and the skill to express myself.  I’m grateful for every single person who admires my art, listens to me speak, or reads what I’ve written and respects me enough to take the time to let me share a little bit of myself.

The Wildflowers of Scotland Novels.jpg

Getting older may not be the most fun thing in the world, but it comes with its perks – one of which is that every so often you have time to sit back and count your blessings.

So, thank YOU – because I don’t take you for granted either.

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Boo Boos and Bogeymen

100_4290It’s that time of year again. Halloween.  All Hallows Eve.  A day that lives under many other names too.  It is a day where kids of all ages from young to old dress up as something they are not.  Where age becomes relative to how young or old you feel, and the little goblins run amok from door to door begging for sweet candy bliss.

It is a celebration of both life and death, and of all the worlds that strike the imagination.  It is a celebration of celebrating the imagination.

Halloween has always been my favorite holiday and it feels like defeat to say that I am just not feeling it.  Apparently I’m not the only one.

Driving home, I could not help but notice that I did not see a single house with Halloween decorations.

100_4325Maybe, like me, it started with the rash of break-ins two years ago.  With the gradual decay of our Halloween decorations from the ravages of time and lack of extra money to replace them over the past years, that climaxed with the theft of the only good one left, and my favorite, my Halloween spirit has been in decline.

Or maybe the town is just tired.  It has been a hard few months.  The bridge that is one of the two main entrances into town has been closed indefinitely with no plans to replace it.  Days before school was set to start the elementary school and only daycare serving the surrounding area caught fire, displacing all the kids for most of the school year while it is repaired.

2009-10-31-53This is not about whining and moaning about our problems.  The kids are resilient and because they are we all will be.

With resilience something grows.  Right?

Maybe.

While my Halloween spirit seems to be missing, I felt a bit giddy anyway.

The day after Halloween in November 1st.  The start of National Novel Writing Month.  A global event where crazy writer geeks pledge to write 50,000 words in a month.  A new novel from scratch, writing mostly from the seat of your pants.

Why am I giddy?

20150809_211733I might have started something magical.

Every year I encourage my girls to embrace their imaginative capabilities.  This year my eleven year old shows an interest.  My eleven year old told her teacher a story about a magical month of mayhem and wild imaginative writing.

She was intrigued.

She asked questions.  She was interested.

Time will see.

We might see some renewed energy in a tired town, a classroom, maybe two, embracing a month of wild abandon and imaginative freedom in that strange phenomenon we call NaNoWriMo.

New writers born and new stories.  It can only be a good thing in a tired place.

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Feeding the Hungry by Chuck Thurston

 

Primitive men and women were hunter-gatherers. Eating was catch as catch can. Sharing was essential. If one of them ran across a nut tree in the forest, he or she didn’t keep it to himself or herself. Survival of their tribe demanded that they run and tell the rest.   They stored very little, but ate whatever could be consumed on the spot — and hunted for another source.

Some would say that the behavior of teenagers in the food court of a large mall indicates that this human instinct is still strong.

But in every age and in every way, humans periodically drop whatever else they are doing and hunt for chow.

My farm mother had five sons and a husband to deal with. We did grace on special occasions – large family gatherings, church holidays, etc., but my dad’s everyday injunction, once the vittles were on the table, was to “grab and growl!” Nothing was wasted. Leftover mashed potatoes became potato croquettes later. Left over baked beans were slathered on sandwiches with a sliced onion and packed in school lunches.

Anything that survived this feeding frenzy went into the slop bucket for the hogs. It is for certain that every now and then these critters dined on the remains of one of their comrades who had made the supreme sacrifice before them. Were they sentient, they might have found temporary solace in Von Braun’s assertion that “Nature does not know extinction. It only knows transformation.” Temporary, I say — that transformation was destined to be next winter’s bacon.

There was a sign over the mess hall of one military installation I spent some time at. It read, “Eat all you want, but eat all you take.” I knew of a few guys who took this to heart. They would gobble down their first tray of food in a mad rush so they could get back in line for another go at it.

At one base, I was invited by one of the storekeepers to accompany him on a truck trip to a large depot that warehoused food meant for military installations in that particular section of the east coast. I was off duty and figured I would enjoy the ride. The SK had been given a list of items he was to pick up for our unit. They would be waiting to be loaded for him.

As he checked off his sheet, one of the warehouse workers informed him that there had been a run on the more popular ice cream flavors. All he had to give us was pistachio. We ate pistachio ice cream for the next several weeks. Look, most folks can breeze through a month with only chocolate or vanilla as their options. But pistachio? I have not touched it since.

My new wife could not cook – came from a long line of women, in fact, who could not cook. I did not know this in advance. Actually she didn’t either until she questioned her mother about her mother. And aunts, and various cousins… “Did you know that your great Aunt Agnette hated to cook?”

I knew a little and was willing to experiment. I had to, really, for self-preservation. I became so familiar with Lipton’s chicken noodle soup that I could tell when they made subtle changes to the formula. “Lipton’s has done it again,” I would say.

Early on she mastered eggs — boiled and scrambled, although an omelet escaped her – and does to this day.

When my wife and I raised a family of our own, we rediscovered what generations of parents before us had already found out.

Our boys had a garage rock band and the house was for some time a teen hangout. Rehearsals took place in our cellar game room. Other parents pointed out that we, at least, knew where they were. Oh, did we know. Every nail in the house was loose. On one occasion, rehearsal coincided with our dinnertime, and we had made a nice casserole. It wouldn’t have fed them anyway, and a Matthew 14 loaves and fishes multiplication was beyond us. As the latest rock riffs billowed up from the basement and filled the rest of the house, we called friends across town. Could we come to their place for dinner? We’d bring it! We put our casserole in the car and headed out.

No need for fine dining or niceties. Invariably these pals would be kids from the swim or wrestling teams of the local HS. They were always in training. You have not lived until you have fed wrestlers who are moving up to a bigger weight class for a coming meet. We cooked spaghetti by the tub-full.

I used to do backpacking trips with my sons and an occasional buddy. On one such trip, we all packed one of the big chocolate mega bars…designed for a week’s survival, I would guess. On the trail, I took mine out at occasional rest stops and nibbled a bite or two before putting it back in my pack. About two hours into the hike, the boys were eying my stash and confessed that they had polished their own bars off.

This particular trail bordered a vineyard in the New York grape country. It was no effort at all to hop off the trail a step or two and grab a bunch of grapes in passing. I am sure the vineyard owner planned on losing a few bunches to the occasional hikers. Luckily for him, the boys’ plunder was limited to what they could carry in their hands without breaking stride on the hike. We grabbed an afternoon snack and trekked on.

That night we pulled into a family campground that was not far off our hiking trail. I set up the tent, stowed the packs, lit a campfire, started the little gas stove to heat up some water – then relaxed while our freeze-dried food rehydrated for cooking. After we had eaten, the boys wondered if we might also finish off the breakfast stuff we had brought. And go hungry for breakfast? I couldn’t believe this.

I pointed out that this was a family campground and there were probably lots of folks there with teenagers – likely a few girls, too. I assured them they weren’t the worst looking boys in the state. Why not cruise the grounds, and casually, strike up a conversation here and there to see if a hotdog or burger invitation might be forthcoming? Off they went. Hunters and – hopeful – gatherers.

For many years Jimmy Anderson ran a popular restaurant in Charlotte near the Presbyterian hospital. Jimmy was a genuine Greek – his son, Gary, told me his untranslated name would be Demostanis Anageros Andritsanos. I ate at Anderson’s several times over the years, and never met Jimmy personally, but heard he was a genial and generous soul.  He passed on in 1988, and Charlotte was saddened by its loss.

sssd-jimmy-anderson

The restaurant picked up a lot of hospital traffic — patients and visitors coming and going. Some perhaps having a final restaurant meal before a hospital stay, or ones coming off a stay and back in the world of mashed potatoes, meatloaf, “The World’s Best Pecan Pie,” as Jimmy called it — and the other sturdy dishes that Jimmy served. It was not uncommon to see people with canes and crutches and bandages coming and going on the arm of caregivers. Uniformed nurses, doctors and local businessmen often complimented the crowd.

One time a woman with a small infant walked in — perhaps in the neighborhood because of some hospital business. She asked Jimmy to give her a rear booth with a little privacy because she had to breast feed her baby.  Jimmy graciously complied.

Although she was as discreet as she could make it, an observable customer noticed and complained to Jimmy.  Jimmy replied, “Hey — everybody’s gotta eat!”

Right on Jimmy. RIP.

“Feeding the Hungry” is from Chuck Thurston’s “Senior Scribbles Second Dose” – available from Indigo Sea Press and Amazon. He is working on a third book, pausing only a few times a week to refuel at the dinner table. 

 

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Another Special Day by John E. Stack

Today marks a very special day.  In the doctor’s eyes, this special day was never supposed to happen.  Nor were the six before it.  Today is my daughter’s seventh birthday.  At seven years old, Allie is full of herself.  And, rightly so, because she has come a very long way.

We originally met Allie when she was 4 months old.  We are foster parents and she was in the pediatric intensive care at a hospital over an hour from where we live.  Right after she was born, she developed what is called “short gut” syndrome.  Due to lack of oxygen, her intestines started to die.  Her birth mom smoked a lot so delivery would not be so painful, but it was devastating to the baby.  After several surgeries, the doctors had removed around eighty percent of both her large and small intestines. 

Allie came to live with us at around six months of age.  The doctor at the hospital told us she was very sick and she didn’t expect the baby to live more than three weeks.  I won’t go into what my wife told that lady doctor.  We took her home and treated her as if she were our own – holding, loving, cuddling.

At that time, Allie was on a feeding tube and IV nutrition.  She had not been held or bonded with.  Through time, she has gone through more surgeries for intestinal blockages.   She has gone through occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech therapy.

We quickly fell in love and knew that God had placed her in our lives.  At two years of age her adoption became final.  I became a dad again at the age of 56.

She is now in the first grade (a lot the doctor knew).  She is still in speech therapy but no longer has a feeding tube.  She has always been smaller than her peers, but is now starting to grow and is actually taller than some of them. 

Intellectually, she is doing great. Speech helped her to learn words that she did not know.  She taught herself to read at age three and now is reading chapter books, such as Nancy Drew Mysteries.

Allie surprises us every day with something new.  She is AMAZING.  God has blessed us in our old age with this wonderful little girl.  And, we praise him.   

To Allie:

Happy Birthday, my baby girl.  I love you!

                                                      Dad

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo, and Olivia’s Sweet Adventure.  He is also the author of soon to be released Cody and the Great Zoo Escape and Secret Lives (of middle school teachers).

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I Take The Con by Chuck Thurston

grumman-albatross-in-flight-copy

Every now and then, Captain Kirk orders one of his starship Enterprise crew to “take the con!” as he beams elsewhere to handle other business. It’s usually Spock, but if Spock joins him on his mission, the con passes down to Sulu or Checkov, or…who knows? In a recent movie, so many of the high level regulars were elsewhere, that the duty might have passed down to a surprised ship’s steward, as he delivered coffee to the bridge.

Just what is the “con” and what does one do with it? The expression originated on early battleships and cruisers, and dates as far back as 1840 sailing warships. These ships were built with “conning towers” – a raised platform on a ship, often armored, and usually located as high on the ship as practical, to give the conning team good visibility of the entirety of their own ship, and of ocean conditions and other vessels. The officer could “con” the vessel, i.e., command or “conduct” the operations of a ship during battle by passing orders down to the helm. The Star Trek crew assumed a lot of Naval terminology as they sailed through the stars.

I was always obsessed with airplanes. As a young boy in WWII, I collected books and pictures of the warbirds of that era. I wanted to be a pilot. One of my idols was the lead character in a movie serial, “Don Winslow of the Coast Guard.” Commander Winslow piloted a seaplane on the lookout for spies, saboteurs and other enemy agents that might be threatening America’s Pacific coast.

Some years later, I had the con for a very short time.

I never did get to pilot training, but I did get to fly – and I had the best seat in the house. I joined the Coast Guard, went to Aviation Electronic School and flew as radioman on the principle search and rescue aircraft of the day – the Grumman Albatross amphibious flying boat, military designation UF1G. The radioman’s seat was on the flight deck on a slightly raised platform directly behind the co-pilot – one looked over his shoulder, as a matter of fact.

On one SAR flight, the co-pilot had to answer a call from nature and went aft to the plane’s small head (toilet, to civilians) – smaller than a phone booth, and located in the very rear of the aircraft. As he left, the pilot turned to me and said, “Like to sit up here, Radio?” Did I! I hurried up and strapped myself in before he belayed (rescinded, to civilians) the order. After a minute or so, he spoke again, “How would you like to feel the plane?”

I can’t describe the feeling as I took the yoke and gently moved it up and down just a bit, while watching the artificial horizon gauge on the instrument panel. I had the con!  Of a six ton seaplane! Over the North Atlantic!

grumman-albatross-sea-rescue

I’d like to say that I spotted something in the ocean below, turned and banked, and roared over the object of our search – a distressed soul waving frantically from a life raft. Of course that isn’t true. Soon enough, the co-pilot finished his business, returned to claim his seat and I went back to mine. My four or five minutes at the con were over.

Chuck Thurston has published two collections of his columns and stories, available from Amazon or Indigo Sea Press. A number of reminiscences of life in a Coast Guard SAR unit are included.  

 

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