book stuff 7

  • Chapter 4

    Debbie stopped by the bridge on her way to Rose’s and hid one of the bags before she continued on her way.  She didn’t want to get caught with it on her even though she hadn’t left the neighborhood yet.  She noticed the daffodils blooming in several yards on her way to get Budweiser.   She wondered if officer Brent had picked the ones he’d given Grace from his own yard.  “It was a nice thing to do,” she thought, “there’s no telling how many times he was called to that house, even though Grace wasn’t one to call the police.” 

    Curtis came driving up in his old raggedy truck.  He slowed and drove alongside her as she walked, finally he said, “You need a ride?”  Debbie stopped and so did Curtis.  She walked around and got into the truck.  Curtis made the block and went back to the bridge.  Neither one of them spoke for a while as the radio played classic rock to fill the silence.  “I’m sorry about your dad,” she said.

    “You know how many times he swore none of us were his kids?” Curtis said.

    “Three of you look just like him,” Debbie replied.

    “Lonnie is the only one like him,” Curtis said, “You can ask his wife.”

    “She wasn’t there today,” Debbie replied.

    “She hated dad.”  Curtis said.

    Debbie reached into her blouse and handed him the bag, “I was expecting you.”

    He gave her the money.

    “What’s your mom gonna do now?” Debbie asked.

    “Live better than ever before,” Curtis said, “Dad had a good pension and life insurance, he took his job serious.”

    Debbie nodded, “Well that’s good then.  At least she has that.”

    “I have a lot of mixed feelings right now,” he said as he was rolling.  “I never had what I wanted from him and now it’s an impossibility to have it.”

    “Curtis,” she said softly, “Maybe it always was.”

    He lit the joint and then passed it to her.  “What are you going to do?” She asked and then took a hit.

    “Keep working, keep my nose clean, make sure mom is okay.”  He said.

    She handed him the joint, “Why would your mom put a Bible on the casket instead of inside?”

    “I guess she figured it was something he used but it wasn’t really part of who he was.”  He took a hit.  “You know what she did?”

    “What?” Debbie asked.

    “She had us boys each write him a letter, a goodbye letter.  Then she put them all in that Bible along with hers.”  He handed her the joint.

    She took the joint, “May he rest in peace.” She said, “And you boys too.”


    Curtis dropped Debbie off in front of Rose’s house, she thanked him and got out of the truck without giving him the hug she thought he needed.

    Rose was cleaning the paneling with wood soap when Debbie knocked.  “Come in,” she yelled, not wanting to be interrupted.

    Budweiser met Debbie at the door.  “Smells good in here,” she said.

    Rose dipped the sponge mop in the bucket and wrung it out, “Thank you!  How as the funeral?  Was it anyone you knew?”

    “Weldon Smith,” Debbie said.

    Rose leaned on the mop.  “Really.  How did that happen?”

    “He had a heart attack.” Debbie said.

    Rose began cleaning again, “How could that be possible?  That man had no heart.  How’s Grace?”

    “She was taking it all right, so far as public appearances anyway.”

    “I guess I’ll make something and take it to her house.  I didn’t know.” Rose said.  “And the boys?”

    “Not a tear in the bunch, but he raised them to be tough.” Debbie said.

    “That he did.  Not the kind of tough most people appreciate.”  Rose said.

    “They had their mother,” Debbie said.

    “She had them, that’s why she stayed.” Rose said.  “She gonna move back home?”

    “I don’t think she will, the kids are here and they’ve always been here.  Her people don’t have much to do with her.” Debbie said.

    “Men like that manufacture that kind of situation,” Rose told her, “It makes their lives easier, less people to answer to.”

    Roger came through the door and turned down the music.  “Really?” He said.

    “You know I like it that way when I’m doing housework,” Rose retorted.

    “I like it quiet when I come home from work.”  He said.

    Rose was going to ask Debbie to stay for supper but when she turned around Debbie and Budweiser were already gone.  “You ran Debbie off.”  She said.

    “No I didn’t,” Roger replied, “What’s for supper?”

    “Sandwiches,” Rose said as she continued cleaning the paneling.  “Weldon Smith died.”

    “I know, too bad.” He said.

    “Yeah, too bad,” Rose replied.  And so the day transitioned into the evening.

    The girls arrived home, Paula from a friend’s house after school and Dorathy from work.  The routine hardly ever varied, everyone would arrive home and then they’d be buried in their computers talking or texting their various friends.  As promised, it was sandwiches for supper. 

    Rose skipped it and put on her loafers and took a walk to the pavilion in town, it was a lazy day so far as traffic went.  A truck pulled up in the parking area and Smokey Jones got out.  She always smiled at his name.  He was wearing a button down shirt and tight jeans and work boots that never saw a factory a day he’d owned them.

    “Rose, why do you come to this place?”  He asked.

    She smiled, only Debbie asked her about her motives, “I guess I always thought someone would want to talk to me and they’d know where to find me if they knew much about me.”

    “Count me out of that crowd,” he said, “I just happened along and hadn’t talked to you in a while.” He grinned, she loved his moustache.  He handed her half a joint.

    Rose dropped her cigarette and discreetly took a hit.

    “You’re old man still in the delivery business?”  He asked.

    “Yeah, he’s still plugging along.”  She said.  “Weldon Smith died,” She said.

    “Debbie told me,” he dipped his head.  “I went to school with him so I knew him before he felt like he was in control of something.  I liked him then.”

    “Did Grace know him then?”  She asked.

    “Not hardly, she met him senior year, she was a twirler from another town.  A darn good one if I remember right,” he said fondly.

    “She’s free now,” Rose said.

    Smokey averted his eyes, “I think she needs some time to get used to the idea, besides, she’s really not my type.”

    Rose didn’t know what to say to that, it hadn’t occurred to her that Smokey Jones had a type but then it did occur to her that he’d been single for a long time.

    “I heard he was beating her when it happened,” he said.  “Street justice never happens to a man like him.  But maybe it was justice all the same.”  He sat down on the bench and looked up at her, “You don’t have to send Debbie, you know.  You’re welcome to come by anytime you like.”

    Rose blushed, “Roger would probably hear about it and as much attention as he pays me, that would be one of the things that would get his attention.”

    “Suit yourself.  Just remember the invite stands.”  He said.

    The sun was going down and Rose thought about how fast time went by, everything governed by it, the one thing you couldn’t buy any extra of and the main thing people took for granted.  She and Smokey sat and passed the joint back and forth watching the sunset together.  She tried to remember the last time she’d done that with Roger and came up empty.

    “You think too much,” Smokey said and laughed.

    “Now how do you know what I’m thinking?” She said.

    He leaned nearer, “I don’t, I’d just like to think I do.”

    Rose didn’t want to get too deep with Smokey.  They hadn’t had very many interactions and if Roger was a judge of men, she didn’t want him to feel contempt for her way of thinking like Roger did.  She assumed silence was the best prescription for this brief interaction.

    He changed the subject, “Do you think Grace is going to be alright?”

    “I plan to take her a casserole,” she moved her bangs to the side, “I really don’t know.  She had five boys with Weldon, maybe there’s a reason she stayed…….you know…….considering……”

    Smokey cleared his throat and adjusted his position, “I suppose that’s right.”  He gave her a sideways glance.  “I’d offer you a ride home but…..”

    “I can use the exercise anyway,” she said regretfully.  “Thanks anyway.”

    “You can finish that,” he said as he rose from his seat and sauntered back to his truck.  Rose knew she’d never walk past his street again with indifference.  Then she got irritated at Roger for not being who she needed him to be at least part time.  Their sex life was fine, but sometimes she needed companionship and he never would be that person unless it was on his terms and his terms didn’t feed her intellect.

    “My intellect,” she laughed at the thought.  “Your madness,” the beast said.


    Sometime between Rose going to the pavilion and her walk back home a thick fog had fallen and she thought about how Genesis said the Lord used to walk with Adam and Eve in the mist.  She hoped the Lord was somewhere in the fog close by and she knew he was the one she could talk to at any time and he would be listening.  She took her time walking home, relishing the feel of the night and the quiet of the neighborhood.  The dogs had grown accustomed to her presence and only a couple of them would serenade her on her walk home.  Dogs gossip, she thought with a smile, cats never did.

    She found Roger at his computer as usual and decided to sit with him.  His fantasy world was on the screen and he was absorbed, obsessed with it.  Roger had been bullied in school and it occurred to her that on that screen, he was in control of his world, it was a form of escapism as surely as the bottle in the fridge was for her.  She had no desire to join his world and he had no desire to join hers.  Roger manipulated the little man on the screen with precision and purpose as easily as she manipulated the rest of the world around them.  His family knew it was she who’d gotten the house paid for early, it was she who did the shopping and interaction with the children.  In public it was him who took the credit and she let him.  She sat and watched for awhile and now and then he would look over and smile and rub her leg.  “Good doggy,” she thought, “I might as well be.”


    Debbie roasted a couple of wieners over her small fire and wondered what her house people were doing tonight.  Her mind was drifting back to when she was part of the “real” world and had her own house to clean, her own man to spoil and all the conveniences that cost your entire paycheck to maintain.  They work to live and to their bosses they live to work.  She guessed the thing she missed the most was connected to the part of her that wanted a nest.  She slowly turned the wiener as Budweiser sat alongside her slobbering, Debbie grinned and fished him out a cold one.  He gobbled it down in two bites.  She gave him another.  “We should hitch a ride on a train, Bud,” she said to the dog.  “I don’t know where we would go.”  He laid his head on her knee still watching the wieners on the stick.  She gave his head a sympathetic pat.

    “Can I have one of those?” The old man came out of the mist and sat nearby.

    “Can I have one of those boxes?” She asked.

    “We already discussed that Debbie.”

    “I don’t recall telling you my name.”  She said.

    “People know who you are,” he replied.

    The wieners were done so she grabbed two buns and put mustard on one of the dogs and handed the other to Pappy.  “And you are?” She asked.

    “I go by Pappy here,” he gladly took the hot dog.  He took a bite, “You don’t believe in religious mumbo jumbo.” He said.

    “I never put much stock in it,” Debbie replied.  “It’s just something for people to fight over and a good con’s way of making a buck or two off of the dreams of the masses.”

    “What if it’s real?” He asked her.

    Debbie laughed, “Then I’m probably screwed.  Fact of the matter is, so would be a lot of the people who say they believe in it, truth be told.”

    “The hypocrites you mean?” He asked.

    “You have to believe in something to be a hypocrite about it,” she corrected him.  “They preach that your life will be bad if you aren’t one of them and they proceed to make it come true.  At least they are honest about it.”

    Pappy swallowed the last bite and pulled out his flask.

    “Hey, how did you get that back?” She checked her pocket.

    He took a pull off the flask and offered it to her.  She took it and washed down the last bite of her own hot dog.  She took another drink and then handed it back.  “I should have known you were better than me.”

    He capped it and then went through his backpack and pulled out a box.  He opened it and pulled out a different box similar to the one he’d given Rose.  He assembled it and told her to look at it as he gave it a tap.  Debbie was mesmerized and excited all at the same time.  In the blink of an eye Pappy was no longer there, in his place sat a younger man in robes, he had the same clear blue eyes but they were sharper and brighter, he was gorgeous.  “What just happened?”

    “I’m letting you see my true form but I cannot tell you my name,” he smiled showing perfect teeth as white as snow.

    She looked around, “Where are the other spirits I’ve been hearing about?”

    “You might say I work alone,” he told her.

    “What do you mean you work alone?  What is your mission?”  She asked.

    “I’m not really completely sure.  I’m supposed to help some people but they have to believe, that’s why I can’t give you a box, you don’t believe.”

    “I see what I see but I don’t trust my eyes, this is some kind of mind trick isn’t it?  Otherwise I’d be seeing spirits like Rose did.”  She said as she looked back to the box.  Suddenly it was slowing and everything was back as it had been before, including Pappy.

    “Believe as you wish,” he said as he put the box back up.  “You’ll question it later.”  He offered her one last sip of whiskey, which she took, and then he rambled off back into the fog and she was alone once again.


    “Good doggy,” Rose thought as she got up and went to the bedroom.  “Let him play his games, I think I’ll get some sleep and get up early in the morning.”  She undressed and then slipped into her nightgown, something she hardly ever wore.  Everyone in the house slept in regular clothes even if they were for lounging.

    She turned on the tv and stretched out reveling in the feel of the flannel sheets.  Rose usually slept on the couch, she woke often during the night and didn’t want to bother Roger when she decided to watch TV.  The bed was a luxury for her, especially when she had it all to herself.  She laid there listening to the reports on the futures markets knowing full well if they told the truth they’d lose money so they hedged a bit here and there to keep the wealth all in one basket.  “Gambling for rich people,” she thought.  She closed her eyes and talked to the good Lord until she drifted off to sleep.  He wasn’t always the first one she talked to in the morning, but she liked having him be the one she talked to at the end of the day.


    I stood there shaking in the shadow of the eave of the house.  The whole block looked like a series of condos.  She was yelling at him again and this time he was yelling back.  I tried not to listen but I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

    “You think I just asked you out clear out of the blue, don’t you Ruth?”  He was screaming.  “You think it was an accident that the only decent job you could get in Stockton was a ball bearing plant don’t you?”  He paused.  “It’s ironic really, you had a lot of balls doing what you did before you left Arkansas, a lot of balls.”

    “You don’t know anything about Arkansas or what I put up with there…..” she screamed back at him.

    “Honey when you tell on an aristocrat news travels and you’d be surprised where those dominoes fall.”  He paused again, “Don’t you know how this thing works bitch?!”

    “Give me that,” she was screaming.

    “Neck deep oh girl,” his voice was cold, “you’re neck deep and that’s as far as you go.”

    I dared to peek in the window as he threw her necklace to the floor.  She got down on her hands and knees to retrieve it and as she did he pulled the pistol from a side holster and shot her in the back of the head.

    I almost fell on my face as I ran into my back yard, it was the closest place to get out of sight.  Tears began to flow and I wasn’t sure what to do or not do, the conversation burned into my brain and the police were dismissed as an option immediately.  Mike was an honorary volunteer at many of their functions and maybe those “dominoes” went further than I thought.

    “Normal,” I thought to myself.  I had to act ignorant of the whole thing.  Then I thought about poor Ruth.  We’d swam in the pool together, baked in the sun and swapped hard luck stories, hers had been infinitely worse than mine.  Still, no amount of telling the police could help her now and I angrily wiped away the tears.

    Just then Mike came out of the back door with the folder my husband had sold him six months ago.  Jake sold insurance part time and to a very limited clientele.  It was something he did to make a tidy little sum under the radar of the IRS so we never talked about it.

    Mike glanced through the fence at me as if I wasn’t even there as he went out the back alley gate to where his car was parked and I knew I now shared his secret.  I stood watching the gate for a few minutes in unbelief.  I went inside my own house to think, or not to think, something, anything to shake off the chill that California sun just couldn’t erase.

    The house was spotless so I couldn’t release any nervous energy there, so I went upstairs and ran a hot bubble bath and soaked, and cried.  When the chill wore off and the tears quit coming I was numb with the knowledge that Ruth didn’t exist anymore.  You can’t call the police, I told myself.  Dominoes.

    In the three years I’d lived next door to Mike and Ruth I’d only heard them fighting occasionally, usually about money.  He wouldn’t have to worry about that now, his policy on her was two hundred and fifty thousand with double indemnity for a premature death.

    I got out and dried off and got dressed.  It was time to resume my routine.  Supper needed to be fixed and a good face put on for my husband whose decision it would be to redeem or no to redeem, that was a question only I could answer.

    At five fifty-seven the police and ambulance appeared at the request of a very distraught husband next door.

    At six fifteen Jake arrived home in his late model Jag to observe the confusion next door, but he was calm and why shouldn’t he be, he didn’t know the skinny on the whole mess and I was still debating on whether or not to tell him.  I was hoping the police would figure it out without my help.

    “What happened?” Jake asked.

    “I have no idea but it must not be good, they’re taking a while before wheeling that gurney back out so it must be serious.”  My voice was so steady I surprised myself.

    We stood there looking on from our yard holding hands, something Jake seldom did.  We watched as they wheeled out Ruth’s covered body.  Ten minutes later Mike appeared outside with a plain clothes cop.  He nodded grimly in our direction and then focused on the officer who was questioning him.

    We went inside to an overbaked chicken and thirty minutes later, just in time for coffee, Officer Brail, the cop who’d questioned Mike, appeared at our door.  He was tall and overly lean with unruly blonde hair and generous mouth, not your average looking cop.  Something about him made him look young but it certainly wasn’t his eyes.  They hinted at volumes of mystery and made me want to question him.

    Brail accepted the coffee graciously and asked his questions.  “Were you home all day?”  “Did you see anything unusual next door?” “Did you hear a gunshot?”  “What time did you get home?”  “Seen anything unusual in the neighborhood lately?”  All ‘no’ answers, simple enough.  Then he took it up a notch, “Did the Johnsons fight?”


    “Did you know Ruth Johnson?”

    “She was an acquaintance.”

    “Did she seem happy?”

    “She’d had her hard knocks but most of the time, yes.”


    “Just a failed previous marriage and her ex has all the children.”

    He nodded.  “Are you aware of any life insurance policies?”

    Jake broke in, “I seriously doubt it, he wasn’t the sort to spend money on unnecessary things.”

    “They did a lot of camping and boating?” Brail asked.

    “Oh those,” Jake replied, “I suppose they were planning to.”

    “Hmm…….” Officer Brail paused.

    Jake asked, “Are you saying the husband is a suspect?”

    Brail sat down his cup and stood up, “Everyone is a suspect, he’s just the most likely one.” He smiled disarmingly.  “I think I’ll be taking my leave and if you think of anything, here is my card.”

    The logo was an eye, I pointed to it and raised my eyebrows.

    “Oh, I’m a private eye in my small amount of free time, pay it no mind.”  He grinned and left.

    I watched until he was back in Mike’s yard and then said to my husband, “Jake why did you lie about the life insurance policy?”

    “Honey I don’t feel like going up for tax evasion.”

    “Don’t you think her life was worth something?”

    “Of course I do,” He put a reassuring arm around me.

    “I think it’s suspicious that the policy was only six months old.”  I turned to face him.  “Isn’t it your job to report a suspicious policy?”

    Jake looked surprised, “Do you honestly believe Mike could have done this?”

    “I……I suppose…….maybe.  I don’t know,” I stammered.  It made no sense to get my husband involved, he was safer not knowing.  I let the subject drop and went to clean the supper dishes.

    Something about sunshine makes everything okay, but that yellow tape was still a barrier to the truth next door………


    Rose woke from her dream and laid in bed thinking for a while.  “I must have just been dozing.  The things you remember when you dream,” she thought.  There were too many things she wished she could forget.   She remembered what the police had said about Ruth, that it wasn’t uncommon in California for someone to marry some schlep who’d moved out there looking for their own version of gold and then find themselves married to someone who intended to defraud some insurance company.

    Mike had only brought his bride close enough to home on that camping trip to see who cared enough about her to come the extra miles to visit her, no one had bothered and her children were too young.  Rose doubted it had been investigated any further, just as her own death might not have been had her tormenters been successful in getting her to kill herself.  “Lord knows they tried,” she thought.

    She got up from bed and went to talk to Roger.  He was impatient when she asked him to take off his headset and listen.  He was even more impatient when she asked him to come out on the porch with her to have a heart to heart.

    She sat down her coffee on the windowsill and lit a cigarette.  “I want to make a road trip and I don’t want to go with the girls.”

    “What girls?” He asked.

    “Marsh and Cat are planning to go to Tulsa and they invited me along.  We’ve been there once before together but I don’t want to go back there with them, I’d like to take my own posse.”

    “What the hell is in Tulsa?” He was suspicious.  She’d never wanted to go so far without him and the kids the entire time they’d been married.

    “I want to see the center of the universe.”

    He laughed, “That’s probably in the cradle of life somewhere overseas, why are you really going?”

    Rose sighed, to be so “innocent” and “clean-cut” Roger surely did have some evil thoughts and he assumed she was the same way.  “There is a place they call the center of the universe and I’d like to experience it.”

    He crossed his arms, “Tell me about it.”

    “It’s on a bridge that crosses over the railroad tracks.  It’s built in such a way that if you stand in the circle and speak, you hear an echo, but no one else, no matter how close they are to you can hear it unless they are in the circle.  They call it the center of the universe.”

    “Why?” Roger asked.

    Rose thought about it a minute and then said, “Probably because every person walking this planet loves to hear themselves talk.”  Which comes in handy, she thought.

    “Who would you take with you?” He asked.

    “I suppose Debbie and Budweiser.”

    Roger thought about it a minute and then said, “When would you go and how long would you be gone?”

    “I guess over the weekend,” she told him, “I can’t afford to be gone much longer than that, my mad money isn’t what I’d like it to be.”

    He was still suspicious, “You could go to the lake and do the same thing,” he suggested.

    “That’s not much of a road trip,” she told him.

    He reached up and ran his fingers through his thick, dark hair, then he gestured and shrugged his shoulders, “Very well then, take the weekend and enjoy yourself, I think you should take my phone though.”

    “I don’t want to have a phone with me.” She replied.  If he was going to be there, she wanted to be found HIS way, not THEIR way.  “Facing your demons?” the beast inquired.

    “You’ll take my phone so I know how you are or you don’t go.”

    “What if I only answer it when I feel like it?”  She was getting angry.  Nothing was more irritating than a babysitter who ignored you all the time and then had a heightened interest in your life only when things weren’t routine.

    “Then I’ll have the police try to find you.”

    Rose grinned, “Fair enough.” She said.  Then she asked, “When are you going to start treating me like an adult?”

    “When you grow up,” He told her.

    “I’ll check to see if you called after I get gas and once I get there and I’ll leave the phone active when I’m at the motel, which they have a phone anyway so I don’t see why it matters.  I won’t answer it when I’m traveling, paying for a purchase or at the attraction.  If you called, I’ll call you back.”

    “I just want to know you’re safe,” He defended himself.

    “Budweiser will keep us safe.”

    “I guess it’s settled then, get the oil changed before you go if it’s time.”

    “I just got that done the other day,” she replied.

    “Can I go back to my game now?”

    Rose nodded and watched him leave the porch and walk around to the other door.  “That was too easy,” the beast suggested.  “Yes it was,” she thought.  “Oh, great.  Now I’m suspicious.”  She pushed all those thoughts away and finished her cigarette.  She wondered if Debbie would be up for the weekend, road trips could be fun.  Marsh and Cat would just have to go on their own, the last time she’d went with them they left her out of most of their activities, at least the day time ones.  To this day she’d vaguely wondered what they’d actually done when they’d left her at the hotel but as it is in some circles, she’d declined to ask. 

    She sat awhile and sipped on her coffee and thought about the fog.  The Lord had walked with Adam and Eve in the garden mist so when she saw fog, she hoped he was nearby somewhere and entertained the idea that he was.  She couldn’t imagine what it would have been like to walk with the Lord just to make small talk.  “God never makes me feel small until there’s a storm,” she thought.  “Or look at the moon and stars, or study your children when they aren’t looking, or have sex…..” “That’s enough,” she interrupted the beast.

    Rose gathered her mug and her cigarettes and went back inside wondering if she’d be able to sleep at all.  It had been years since she’d been on a real road trip with a like-minded person, free to be herself and jam her music as loud as she wanted and toke a little along the way.  “What if you get caught?”  The beast asked.  “What if I do?”  She thought.  It had been a very long time since she’d taken those kinds of chances.  “I won’t get caught,” she decided, but the beast was skeptical.

    The kids were on their way to bed as she settled in with the TV.  Roger had to work so he’d be going to bed soon himself.  She had twenty four hours to prepare Debbie, assuming a bag lady needed much time to prepare.

    “You’ve already took your walk tonight,” Roger said as Rose donned a light jacket and headed out the door.

    “I want to go find Debbie before tomorrow to ask if she wants to go with me to Tulsa.”  With that, Rose was out the door and into the fog to go to the bridge to talk to Debbie.  She saw the fire and knew that Debbie was still up, of course it wasn’t overly late.  She called out before she reached the campsite.  Debbie called back.

    Debbie added some wood to the fire as Rose appeared out of the fog into the light.  “You’re out later than usual,” she said.

    “I’ve moved my trip to Tulsa up to this weekend and I was wondering if you wanted to go with me.”

    “What about the others?”  Debbie asked.

    “I’d rather it was just us and Budweiser,” Rose told her.  “The others hold too many secrets from me and if they don’t trust me, how can I trust them?”

    Debbie studied the fire and considered what Rose had just said.  It made no difference to her if the others were along or not.  “Can I use your place to get presentable for the trip?”

    “Of course you can, but you’re always presentable Debbie.”

    “Why is Tulsa so important to you Rose?”

    Rose watched the fire and they sat there in silence until finally she said, “I met someone there once.  He asked me to dance and we danced all night, he was the best looking guy to ever ask me to dance and better looking than a lot who never have asked me to dance.”  She picked up a stick and started drawing randomly in the sand.  “He was in town with a convention and he had some friends with him.  Thing was, they were all older than him, way older.  He asked me if I would dance on a table, everyone was doing that so I said sure, but only if he got up there with me and he did.”

    “So he wasn’t from there?” Debbie asked.

    “I never expect to see him again,” Rose told her.  “He asked me which of his oldest friends would I go out with if they asked.  I thought about getting off the table to look into their eyes before I made a decision, but then I did the typical thing and chose the one that was most physically appealing to me.  To this day I think I should have gotten off the table and looked into their eyes first.”

    “So this is a trip down memory lane?”

    Rose looked at Debbie and said, “I don’t know what it is.  I wrote to the guy I danced with for a short while and funneled the letters through Marsh so my first husband wouldn’t know about them.  Then when I left him we graduated to phone calls.  He asked me to stay in touch when Allan came into my life but on the grounds that he hadn’t stayed in touch when a female had dominated his life, I quit calling him, so it’s not about him, I guess it’s about me.  My life changed after Tulsa in a way I can’t explain.  I just have to go back there and see what happens.”

    “What if nothing happens?” Debbie asked.

    “Then I haven’t lost anything.  I don’t really expect anything to happen, I don’t know what I expect.  I guess I just need to get out of the house for a bit.”

    “You aren’t telling me everything.” Debbie was matter of fact about it.

    Rose looked down at her hands, “I’m telling you as much as I know for sure.”

    “Good enough then,” Debbie said.  “Can I invite a friend along?”

    Rose looked up in surprise, “Who?”

    “I want to surprise you,” Debbie said.  “I don’t even know if they have the weekend free, but they won’t get in the way.”

    Rose smiled, “Aw hell, the more the merrier.  Just make sure they pitch in on gas and snacks.”

    “I will,” Debbie said.  “I got to go into one of those trances.”

    “What?!”  Rose was astonished.  “How?”

    “Pappy payed me a visit and let me in on the box.  He looks great when you’re in a trance, why didn’t you tell me?”

    “What do you mean?  He looked the same to me, trance or no trance.”

    “Are you serious?”  Debbie asked, “He really looked the same to you when you were in a trance?”

    “What did you see?”  Rose asked.

    “A very handsome, young man dressed like some kind of old testament royalty, didn’t you see him like that?” 

    “No, he looked the same to me.”

    “He told me it was his true form,” Debbie said.

    “I wonder what he meant by that,” Rose ventured, “Do you think he meant what he looked like on the inside?”

    “That would be a hell of a note, if you had a way to see what people really looked like on the inside.  He told me it was his true form when he was in his world.”

    “It’s a mystery to me then,” Rose said.  “I wish I did have a way to see what people looked like on the inside.”

    “Is that why you wish you’d looked into their eyes?”  Debbie asked.

    “Yes it was,” Rose replied, “The Bible says the eyes are the window to the soul.”

    “Well, if you run into another game of eenie, meenie, miney moe, I guess you’ll know to do that this time.”  Debbie grinned.  They laughed.

    “I need to get back to the house, it’s late already.  Tell your friend we’ll pick them up sometime after noon, I don’t want to have a rigid schedule, the only real plan is to visit the center of the universe and other than that, all bets are off.”  She slipped Debbie some money for party supplies and headed back home.

    Rose took her time walking, the foggy air made her feel isolated, private, and intimate with the Lord.  She took the time to silently speak to him and thank him for all she had, all she had seen and done up till now and for his hand of protection.  It came to her mind how she’d been speaking to her first husband about a time he pointed a gun at her with intent to use it but he’d remembered a different time she hadn’t even been aware of.  She’d hid her alarm at this revelation but it wasn’t lost on her why she was still alive.  There was something nice about knowing there was a being that knew everything about her and loved her anyway, such was the nature of the Lord, a man who had asked forgiveness for his executioners surely forgave her indiscretions without condoning them.

    “How can people believe in ghosts and reject the Lord, how can they believe in aliens and reject the Lord, how can they believe every inch of the universe down to the last rock had a spirit and reject the Lord?”  Rose truly didn’t understand and she hoped she never would.  She took the time to ask God for protection during the coming adventure.  She didn’t know what to expect so she opted to just remain open minded and expect nothing.  She thought about showing Roger what the box could do but for some reason she decided to keep it a secret.  She wished she knew why she declined to show it to him, he certainly didn’t believe her when she told him about the spirits she saw and if he saw them as well, maybe he would believe her about other things.

    Roger was still at his computer.  Rose put away her jacket and got ready for bed hoping she would have a good dream this time.