casual reading

  • They were a poor family so eating had to be strategic and affordable, but for her it was more than that.  When she’d been pregnant with Dorathy, she’d bought a lot of cream of a-spare--Gus, these days cream of mushroom was on her list quite a bit.  Paula had finally come to like tune-a fish casserole.  Roseanne made sure to have at least two meals a week that were heat and eat varieties, she hated cooking.  Brand names meant something to her as well, she chose them carefully.  French’s mustard outdid generic any day of the week and Heinz ketch-up was a staple in her house.  She liked green goddess dressing but the rest of the family preferred Thousand Island.

    Her doctor told her she couldn’t have fried foods but she thought smoked sausage was way worse for her cholesterol; it had too much Grease in it.  She liked veggie spaghetti because it took way less olive oil to keep it from sticking together.  She preferred her tacos with mild seasoning, and tombstone pizza had the best sauce.  Parsley flakes went with just about everything and onion was always best cooked even though you had to buy it raw.  It was always garlic salt and onion powder and other than that, the only other seasoning she kept on hand was cinnamon, it went great with sugar and butter for toast.

    Roast was a rare delicacy in their home and she cooked the carrots separate.  Over cooked carrots didn’t appeal to her.  She liked her cube steaks with tomato sauce and Worcestershire, she laughed, “Chester,” it didn’t matter what brand of that you bought, it all tasted the same.  Ida-ho potatoes had a flavor nothing else had and every great once in a while she’d buy pickled pearl onions.  They were great as an additive to any meal.  She really loved ribeye steak, but it was so far above her budget that she had to make it into pepper steak most of the time.  She bought clams for snacks and some Little Debbie’s for the kids, Hostess didn’t seem to be available in their store.  Breakfast blend coffee, although sometimes she liked dark roast.

    Carrots could be fed to horses; they came canned, frozen or fresh.  Tomato was an old word for women and women could be used to seduce most men, good or bad, into betraying themselves or their friends. Steak was something you had in any kind of deal, if you are pickled you are drunk and if you were drunk you were compromised.  For some reason cinnamon was a redhead to her, one that had once taken a man who could be easily led astray.  She imagined it would be a great name for a pole dancer in a club. Breakfast blend coffee meant “stop the machine and look for glitches.”  Colombian coffee should be a no-brainer for anyone but was it a request or was it an identification?  Rose was never sure as she played these games in her mind.  The sanest side of her knew she was playing alone; no one ever really got the gist of it.

    In her imagination there were big corporations playing along and if not the corporation itself, someone who handled their advertising and packaging, the isles at the store screamed choices at her and generic anything just about said that the item was insignificant, just something on her list.

    She thought back to her time at the airport.  The first time working there she’d been prematurely promoted to manager and had to hire some people.  One of the interviews was a man who worked at freight and was very knowledgeable about the industry.  She already had a woman working for her who viewed their company as a second job and asked for time off frequently, this meant Rose had to cover her own hours and this woman’s hours as well with no extra pay for it, such was the nature of working a salary paid job.  She didn’t need another employee like that.  She decided to experiment and hire several young guys who might take the job seriously because of their love for airplanes.

    She hadn’t been able to see how the experiment went because of an internal altercation that was not settled to her satisfaction.  She knew she was to blame for letting the incidents accumulate until the situation had gotten way out of hand.  Partly she blamed her own company though for putting her in a position she was clearly unqualified to be in.

    When she returned to Mississippi she worked in a factory at first, a job her mother had acquired for her.  She could have stayed there and engaged with the party crowd but she’d had the feeling she was being watched for some time now, ever since she’d left abruptly from Utah. She had a deep belief that someone had tagged her in such a way as to find her at will so there was no such animal as having private space.  Rose had waiting to see what came up her back trail and so she hired back on at the airport.  Sure enough, the second key person that had caused her to leave Utah abruptly materialized, “of course,” she thought, “but what is their function and why me?”

    One had been in uniform the last time she’d seen him, the other had been a front guy for a drug operation, or so she’d been told, but who tells children about such a thing.  “So which one tagged me?” she wondered, “And where is the Mexican connection?”  “You know those weren’t Mexicans,” the beast reminded her.  Even so, she was almost positive they had been the ones to tag her.

    On the train she’d worn leather shoes so she couldn’t be found; she’d changed clothing as soon as she could so her description would be off.  Two girls in Colorado had sat with her briefly and chatted with each other, they mentioned to her the difference in their sandals and her shoes.  She hadn’t said a word.

    Years later she’d read where a Saudi man had tried to patent an injectable tracking device in Germany and was denied the patent.  She’d also learned that such a device was powered by kinetic energy, feet always move.  The Saudi connection would have been the second man to show up most likely.  She was satisfied that she had a clue who wanted to find her if they needed or wanted to.  It was related to a conversation on the internet.   She’d given them their bright idea on how to take down the towers about four years before they accomplished it.  Islam was Islam, heroin and guns or ammunition, the Saudis needed dealers and the dealers needed a product.  Dealers came in many races and she never forgot it.

    She’d watched him display his time piece on his wrist and mention how “those knives are hell.”  Bitterly she thought, “If you’re gonna play at the airport, you gotta be way better than you were in Utah.”  He figured she’d taken something away from him there, she figured leading him to the airport more than made up for it.  She hoped they were square.

    “How could you not know who tagged you?” Debbie had asked.

    “My husband left me alone all night, I drank a bottle of wine alone in the apartment and passed out on the couch.  When I woke the next morning the mark was there on my foot and it was way too big to be a regular needle.  You’re the only one who knows.”  Rose replied.  “My mother called that morning and said I should come home.  I was on the train that very night.”

    “So you didn’t wait around to see what was what?” Debbie asked.

    “Not even………” Rose replied, “I even wore leather shoes so the device wouldn’t work.  I was terrified I wouldn’t make it home.”

    Debbie knew about the possible tracking device but she didn’t know about the airport guy, Rose was selective in what she told who and when.  Rose had changed up her life after that, never hanging with the party crowd, just in case the injection was related to her old government job.  She’d worked for Uncle Sam and sometimes Uncle Sam took liberties with their employees.  MK Ultra came to mind but so did some paperwork that had disappeared from a safe, those two things were loosely related.  Rose felt that some questioning came in the form of a whisper, like a missile shot off the coast of California during an important G20 type meeting.  A missile that the government couldn’t account for that likely came from a submarine.  Rose had more going on in her head than anyone could imagine but when she tried to talk about the little things, they increased her medication, or rather, Roger did. 

    From the day she was born to date, life had been teaching her to keep her mouth shut and she’d gotten very good at it.

    She got back to the car and Debbie was waiting on her, Budweiser was nowhere to be seen.  He was Debbie’s shepherd and probably had a better life than most dogs did.  Budweiser had no idea what a leash was but he didn’t need one.  Debbie gave him all the love any dog could handle and then some.  His last companion had been an indigent alcoholic who had died some time ago; Debbie had been his companion since then.

    “Buy anything interesting today?”  Debbie asked.

    “Just food,” Rose answered, “do you guys need a ride anywhere?”

    “I suppose you’re headed home?”

    “That was the plan,” Rose said, “but if you need to go someplace else I’m game.”

    “I think it would be nice to see what new stuff you have in the house,” Debbie said and then whistled for Budweiser who appeared out of nowhere with a half-eaten sandwich in his mouth.  “He eats better than I do.”

    Rose loaded the groceries into the trunk with Debbie’s help and the three of them piled into the Cutlass.  Once inside, Debbie reached into her pack and brought out a flask, “Want some whiskey?”

    “Where’d you get that?” Rose asked.

    “Lifted it last night from a man I met under the bridge.  Never seen him around these parts before and don’t expect to see him again either.”

    Rose took a swig and coughed a little.  “Pretty stout,” she said.

    “Warms the bones,” Debbie replied.

    “It’s almost summer,” said Rose, “enjoy the weather while we can.”  She started the engine and headed home, it was almost lunchtime so she figured a ham sandwich for herself and Debbie might be nice once she got the groceries put up.  The flask was particularly expensive for a homeless guy, Debbie thought and wondered if there was any chance he was an undercover.

    Once they got to the house Debbie helped Rose carry in the groceries.  Afterwards, Rose made three ham sandwiches with Gouda cheese.  She made Budweiser his own so he wouldn’t be begging which he accepted eagerly even though he’d already had a sandwich in the parking lot at the store.

    Debbie walked through the house to see if anything new had been added since she’d last been there.  With Rose using symbolism so much Debbie knew that sometimes a feather in the window had far more significance than just being a feather in the window.  She spotted a spiral on a herringbone chain hanging from the neck of the angel that was grouped with the lion and the lamb.  “What does this mean?” she asked Rose.

    “Jacob’s ladder,” Rose said.  “It represents the struggle of the black people to join forces with other ethnic groups, then together with white people so that they all live in peace and prosperity together.  You ever hear the song ‘Empire’ by Queensryche?”  She went on, “Anyway, in the scripture Jacobs ladder is where the angels went back and forth to heaven, I believe a time will come when new believers ascend the ladder to eat from the tree of life and get their new bodies during the feast of tabernacles.”

    “So it means a lot of different things to you, huh?”

    Rose nodded, “Indeed it does, I knew a black Mormon once named Jake, but I also named the son I aborted Jacob, I named that piece of jewelry after both of them.  There is a staircase in Santa Fe that was a miracle build and the carpenter was very mysterious.  It’s rumored to have exactly thirty three steps, the same amount of years that Jesus lived.  I’d like to see it someday but likely I won’t.  It’s made in a spiral too.”

    “Where did you buy it?” Debbie asked as she cradled it in her hand without removing it from the Knick knack.

    “That’s probably the strangest part,” said Rose, “I ordered a piece of jewelry and the ladder was included in the order, like a complimentary gift, but it’s perfect and I’m not perfect, so I seldom wear it.  I had it stored for a very long time, but finally I decided to put it on display.”

    Debbie turned from Rose’s fantasy world and to business without a hitch, “I’m getting some smoke today, if you want some I’ll be at the bridge tonight.”

    “Sounds good to me,” Rose said, “Roger has been impossible lately, I could use a mental vacation.”

    “Okay, we’ll see you then, I need to go and thanks for the sandwich.” Debbie said as she walked toward the door with Budweiser following.

    “You’re welcome,” Rose said, “See you tonight hopefully.”

    Debbie went out into the sunshine with her pack on her back and Budweiser running ahead.  Rose tidied up the kitchen and went to take a nap.  “Nap,” she thought, “horrible word for black people.”  She liked the word ‘home’ or ‘night’ as opposed to ‘day’ much better.  Code language was never far from her mind and sometimes that made her interactions with regular people difficult.