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BACK TO NORBAL

FurnitureRandall Smithwithers was coming home. Finally. It had been a struggle reconciling his thought toward coming back to the family manse. So many memories which with Randall just couldn’t come to grips. But the place must be so neglected, he thought. Coming back to Norbal took some doing.

Father had a stranger sense of humor. He had called their home, Norbal. As a boy, Randall had once asked why father had been saying normal wrong. The elder always proclaimed the end of family vacations as “Returning to Norbal” It meant time to go home. It was a stranger quirk his father possessed.

The drive up the boulevard gave Randall the sense that something was wrong. Things had changed, he thought. Different in a strange way. The cab driver kept glancing back at his passenger.

“You okay, Pal?” the hack asked.

“I don’t know. Are you sure this is Caufield Boulevard?” Smithwithers inquired.

“Look Buddy, I’ve been driving this burg for 15 years. I know my way…” the cabbie started.

‘No, I mean… it’s just that I don’t remember…” Randall interrupted before tailing of into an inaudible mutter.

Silence filled the car. The driver continued to look back at his suspicious charge. Turning into the rather long driveway of the address Randall had given, the cabbie saw Randall face again, looking rather puzzled…again.

“Here we are, Fella!”

Randall stepped out and paid the man and watched as he navigated around the curve drive toward the street. Then he turned back to face the house. Taking each step tentatively, the returnee took in every sensation that overcame him. Slowly, he turned his key in the lock. He dreaded coming back to restore the place to livability.

As the door creaked open he noticed that the slip covers were all removed from the furniture. Not a speck of dust to eradicate. He heard soft music. Randall smelled a wondrous aroma. Roast Beef. Placing his bag on the floor, Smithwithers went to investigate.

The music he heard was coming from the drawing room. He recalled the years of his youth sitting here with his rock and roll records, driving his father crazy with its volume. The furniture was arranged as he had remembered, except that father’s chair had been replaced by an overstuffed recliner.

He walked through the alcove to the library. He noticed his books were missing. The shelves were empty, save for the brick-a-brack and knick knacks. His books! Stories of adventures. Collections of poetic works. Encyclopedias and such. Gone. All gone. This was upsetting Randall.

He heard noises from the kitchen. There was no longer a staff on duty to care for things. He had been gone far too long. Puzzled now. Puzzled and upset. Randall peered around the corner into the brightly lit room. A woman, standing near the counter with her back to the doorway in which Randall stood. She was busy in preparation of a meal. He could not process what was happening.

Softly, Randall cleared his throat. The woman turned dutifully, not startled or afraid. It was as if she was expecting “visitors”. Reaching back for her apron strings, she untied the bow and acknowledged the man.

“Randy! Oh my dear. It’s wonderful to have you back home. I’ve prepared your favorite…” she halted in mid-sentence and rushed to the confused Randall.

She thrust her arms around him in an exaggerated hug. Smithwithers had no clue. His lack of response made the woman pull back and her sad look gave Randall a start.

“You’ve been gone for so long… don’t you remember?” she said wiping a single tear.

He looked at her, studying her features. Something was familiar, but he didn’t know what it was. But he did know something was amiss.

She started to cry now, loud sobs that touched Randall deeply. He reached to console her, but he didn’t know why. Her perfume, a gentle scent, triggered something. He pulled away to look at her. Something… in her eyes, something.

“Pamela?” he asked, almost as a whisper.

Tears streamed harder now.

“You’re remembering, aren’t you?” she cried happily.

He embraced her again more for purpose than comfort.

“The doctor said it would take some time. I’ll be patient. You were in the coma for so long!” Pam reassured him. “The amnesia is expected, he said. But, I’m here. I’ve always been here.”

Randall took consolation in her words. It made some sense now. He wasn’t sure what to expect. But he just knew he was returning to Norbal at the right time!

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PERFECT, MAJESTIC, WARM

PerfectMajesticWarm

“… a poke of light to crack the horizon’s stoic shell…”

The storm had passed. And every last remnant was fading faster than two hearts could imagine. Forgiveness came in hushed whispers of the heart. Yet memory reminded, that hind-sight was alright if it provided a lesson. He learned the hard way. He always learned the hard way.

The early bird did indeed get the spoils, as work and its toils became the obligation to end his lack of motivation. Settled under the covers until the nagging need to proceed overwhelmed him, Will’s feet finally kicked free of flannel confinement. Poking aimlessly with pointed toes in search of his slippers, the call of the wild overcame him to fore go the footwear to traipse across the tile’s frozen tundra for relief.

Will had this belief that his days mirrored the mood of his early waking moments. Often tense and hectic, he picked a bad day to give caffeine the finger and lingered with his orange juice a bit too long. His thoughts previewed the day ahead. He dreaded his Monday meetings, he had over-scheduled his clients, squeezing two lunch dates into his incredibly shrinking day. Travel tumbler clutched and briefcase under his elbow, Will started for the office.

A text buzzed his phone. He didn’t reach for it. The tone said it was urgent. It didn’t matter. Will drove toward the complex.

The stretch of Highway was relatively clear this time of morning. It seemed this corner of the world had been untouched my human interference. Off to his left in a clearance of trees, it began. A glimmer first; a poke of light to crack the horizon’s stoic shell. Edging skyward, It rose in rapid progression. Will’s indiscretion would set the stage for a great day. He pulled off to park and watched the rapid rise of a new day dawning. He sat fawning over it’s beauty, and out of duty to his heart, he called her.

“Good Morning Sunshine!” he began. “I saw this incredible sunrise on my way in this morning.It reminded me so much of you!”

A mumble; sleepy, sexy, nearly incoherent – it was laced with her heart.

“I love you very much” she finally broadcast in her warm comfort.

“I love you very much, too!” Will repeated passionately. It was going to be a fabulous day!

THE HISTORIAN

PencilpageShe held her ledgers closely, as if protecting their contents from prying eyes. But how can history stay hidden? She wanted the world to learn what life had been before the conflagration. But she had forgotten one important fact. A far as she knew, she was the only survivor.

They had called her “Historian”. That was a name that carried great import. And since the Great Truth Purge, Reconstruction history was punishable by death. Little did that matter now, but the Historian held ethics in high regard.

She had a sudden pain in her head, a stirring of thought in the guise of a memory. It needed to be recorded. She went to the case mounted on the wall. Sliding the glass panel to the left she exposed the object of her office. It was a primitive instrument unearthed in the battle. She held it in as much reverence as the ledger clutched to her chest. She had found mention of it in the earliest pages. It was referred to as a “pencil”.

She handled it gingerly; the tip of the nib was fragile. She knew that once it had deteriorated beyond usefulness, all history would cease. She was frugal with her words. She was not ready to die.

GONE FISHING

Phil-bee woke up early. Before his mom. “Before the roosters”, like his grandpa used to tease. Actually, it was thoughts of his grandfather that enticed him to carry out this quest.

Philbin Barrett, Phil-bee for short, was grandpa’s pride and joy. Gramps was the only father Phil-bee knew, his own “a flash in the pan” as he heard his mother mention on the phone when she thought Philbin was out of the room. A mistake. A one-night stand, mom spoke in confession. Until then, Phil-bee had thought his father had died when the boy was three.

“The only redeeming quality of that man, was the little guy in the back bedroom” she was heard to interject.

So Phil-bee’s grandfather assumed the part as role model and teacher. A creature of habit was Jackson Barrett, and he taught his grandson the things Jack felt Phil-bee needed to learn in this life if he expected to go far.

All that changed as grandfather’s memory started to fade. Mom blamed some guy, an Al Shimer, for that. Ever since this Al showed up, grandpa just wasn’t the same. It was hard for Philbin to watch the only man who mattered in his life slowly become someone else. As Jack deteriorated, Phil-bee had to rely on the lessons learned from this good man. He tried to remember that man more than the person who did not recognize him any longer. Mom called it a “blessing” when Jackson Barrett had passed away.

“Gramps isn’t suffering any longer” she tried to explain to a tearful Phil-bee.

Phil-bee knew that along with being his grandfather and his teacher, Papa Jack was his friend. Phil-bee lost his BEST friend. If there was anything good in that revelation, it was that grandpa would live in his memory as long as Phil-bee kept him there.

The young boy’s mind was elsewhere as he stood next to his mom at Jack’s graveside. Philbin stared at the pile of dirt behind the square hole, watching the worms peek out and scurry back into the soil. The crowd of people that came to pay their respects was small. A few cousins, a couple of Jack’s friends from the service, Mrs. Burgess from their old apartment and the undertaker were Papa Jack’s only mourners.

Phil-bee remembered the talks he had with Jack as they sat at lakeside with their fishing line in the mossy green water. This was their classroom; where they had their best talks. Philbin needed to talk to Jack. But Jack was no longer there.

worms

“he reached into the tin can that held the wiggly worms”
(Photobucket)

Phil-bee dressed quietly, slipping his blue jeans over his spindly legs. He zipped his jacket right up to his chin and grabbed his ball cap. He gave the doorknob a soft turn and stepped out onto the back deck. Reaching down behind the deck chair, Philbin took the dented tin can that he had placed there last night.

The sun was coming up over the treetops as Phil-bee settled on the shore at their favorite fishing spot. The boy nestled into the moist grass as he reached into the tin can that held the wiggly worms that were distracting him at Grandpa’s funeral. With a shaky finger, Phil-bee hooked a fat worm. As he baited his hook (just like grandpa had taught him) Philbin started to talk out loud.

“Hey Grandpa Jack. It’s a good morning for fishing. I saved your spot…” Phil-bee started his long monologue.

In the early morning mist, a boy and his grandfather shared another moment discussing life and the future. Well, Phil-bee talked, and he was sure grandpa was listening. He had cast his line into the water a few times, but wasn’t having any luck. But it didn’t matter. Jack always said a bad day of fishing was better that anything he could think of.

Phil-be had talked himself out. He had told Grandpa Jack all he needed to say. He thanked Jack for being his Gramps and for teaching him stuff; for not being “a flash in the pan”. Phil-bee was honored to have been given time to be with Jack Barrett. He found peace there. Phil-bee forgave Al for taking Jack so soon.

“I love you, Grandpa!” Phil-bee tearfully whispered.

Philbin felt the tug on his line. He knew his grandfather loved him too.

HONORS AND AWARDS

ShoesIt was the greatest tribute he could have been given.

He lived a honorable life; a loving husband, a doting father. He was the perfect son and brother, a hard-working employee and he did works of charity. Christopher Blandings only did what he had been put on this earth to do.

There were times that he wondered if it was all worth the trouble. Christopher was never one for accolades and acknowledgements; most of his meanderings were done in the strictest anonymity. It was just that the world seemed so out of step with the morals he was raised upon. People never seemed to understand or appreciate the way things were. Blandings was baffled.

His wife sympathized with her mate, but being almost a decade younger than he, she straddled the fence between the generations. But she believed in his good and kind heart. She loved his honesty and his loyalty. He surprised her on occasion with breakfast in bed or a tender back rub. And he had a fire burning deep within him that made Jessica lose control. There was nothing bland about Blandings.

She loved her man. She loved Christopher right up to the day he died. Sadness and grief were not emotions to which she prescribed. Jessica knew life was a celebration. And death was clearly an extension of that celebration. In his passing, she saw that her Christopher did not go unnoticed. As the funeral processed to the cemetery she became aware of something. The telephone wires were adorned with shoes. Their laces bound together, they were tossed aloft to wrap around the overhead lines. There were well over a hundred pairs hanging; she witnessed people removing their footwear and adding to the milieu.

Puzzled, she questioned the undertaker. His explanation brought a tear to her eye and a flicker in her already gracious heart.

“When a person passes, tradition had the mourners remove their shoes and by draping the secured pairs over the wires, pay homage to the person so loved. The more shoes that dangled, the more respected was the deceased.” he informed.

Again Jessica looked. And the tear were more abundant now. The entire route to his resting place was graced with shoes. Hundreds and hundreds of pairs pointed to his life as one well lived; having touched many hearts.

It was the greatest tribute he could have been given.

GOSSELIN’S GALLERY – 25 Jan 2013

'Twin bicycles stood near the front entrance of the abode"

‘Twin bicycles stood near the front entrance of the abode”

EXHIBIT #1 – IN TANDEM

Twin bicycles stood near the front entrance of the abode. It was cozy. A lovely little cottage where life found a way to flourish. Richard used to tease Talia that it was a great home for a swinging bachelor.

“Or for a young couple just starting out… if they were really in love!” he teasingly amended.

It remained home for him after she had passed. He was reluctant to change anything. Richard felt that Talia had worked so hard to make this a proper home and besides, it reminded him of her loving hand in every nuance of this place, he decided to leave it intact.

For forty-three years, they had shared a simple home; their hovel was more of a palace in their eyes. The lack of offspring became a convenient reason to stay.

“This is a great place for the two of us” Talia would mimic, “if only we were in love!” We couldn’t possibly squeeze any children into this small space.”

There was always sadness in her voice when she admitted this. Oh, how much Richard wished it was a problem with his “plumbing”, and not her cancer riddled ovaries. He was glad that early detection had bought them so much time. So what if the had no children, it was the trade-off that gave Richard and Talia a lifetime together.

He held fast to his resolve. The divan would remain by the window. Their chairs would remain side-by-side at the far end of the living room. And the bicycles they used to ride around the villa would stay shackled near the front door. Talia would have wanted it that way.

EXHIBIT #2 – WE INTERRUPT THIS PROGRAM…

"She wanted more out of life than a 32 inch phosphorous screen."

“She wanted more out of life than a 32 inch phosphorous screen.”

Chester was a glutton for information. Where everyone had a favorite television program that they would watch and comment upon, Chester’s show ran four times a day. He could be found as a fixture on his couch, remote control at hand at five and six, ten and eleven.

News was his addiction; his obsession. He could tell you the price of oil in Kuwait, and which despotic dictator ran roughshod over his populace. Which celebrity did what with whom. What parts of the county could expect heavy snowfall… Any bit of minutia was fodder for Chet’s fertile mind.

And the world around Chester still went around. Neighbors came and went. So did his wife. She had enough of the constant barrage of depressing news. She wanted to laugh. She needed to dance. She wanted more out of life than a 32 inch phosphorous screen.

And his show continued on. Daily death and destruction. Weekly features about foregone conclusions. Analysis and more analysis. But life as he had once known it had changed. It had been interrupted. And he had never noticed.

—–

"The leather valise landed on the chair near the desk."

“The leather valise landed on the chair near the desk.”

EXHIBIT #3 – HIDEAWAY

Daniel Cavanaugh had finally found success. The latest of his manuscripts had been accepted for publication. It was indeed a proud moment and just the encouragement he needed to further pursue hid ambition.

Cavanaugh had “pretended’ to be a writer for twenty-two years. Always with something to say, or so he thought, he had ideas galore but very little time to hone his already precarious position.

So Daniel packed a small bag and headed for the cabin near Fielding Lake. It was an escape that his family had taken advantage of all these many years. Peace and serenity oozed from the landscape and Daniel knew it was his best shot at completing his latest project.

The place was… rustic. It needed some work, but that would have to wait until he had finished his draft. Cavanaugh took note of the broken hinge on the screen door. A family of birds had nested under the south eave. They added atmosphere; character. It was just the right setting.

He removed the coverlets from the furniture. He dusted off the desk near the rear picture window overlooking the water. Daniel set a pot of coffee to brew. The leather valise landed on the chair near the desk. He stretched his arms out wide and breathed the fresh lake air.

It had been years since his parents had gone leaving him this property. It was almost as many since his face had graced this place. It was always a home away from the confines of home. It was peaceful and serene.

“Work can wait” Daniel mused. “I’ll just enjoy being ‘home'”.

Amidst the water’s splash and the wilderness noises, Daniel fell asleep upon the couch. Work waited. It had little choice.

HOME SOON

A sleigh pulled by two strange horses and an old driver came alongside the dead snow tracker.

It was a strange twist of fate. All of his luggage made it home fine. But somehow, Andrew Worton never did. How the hell he ended up in the Yukon was beyond any stretch of imagining. Clad in a short sleeved Polo shirt and light khakis, Andrew looked out of place.

And here it was, a week before Thanksgiving and no means of getting out of there until Tuesday. He had resigned himself to missing the dinner. He would not get to sample his mother’s pie. Her health wasn’t what it used to be and his sister was lousy with Mom’s recipes.

Dad was another story. The picture of health and vitality. Golfed twice a week. Swam at the “Y”. Walked the treadmill with great regularity.
Working his way to better health. But something went off course. He had worked himself into a massive heart attack. Andrew wished there was another way.

Stewart Crossing sat mid-province and had been isolated just after Andrew’s flight had landed in Canada. Snows and wind whipping and the cold was stinging Worton’s bare arms. The constable at the landing strip had found Andrew something more suitable, which was a blessing, he thought.

“Don’t think you’ll make the States by  week’s end”, the officer informed, making Andrew more anxious to head on out. “If we can get you to Whitehorse, you can catch a flight there, but getting south looks treacherous.

Frustration had settled in and Andrew did a foolish thing. Bound and determined to get home com hell or high water, he rented some skis and headed southward.

He was making good time, considering, but his legs were tired and sore, and stray caribou mocked him with their trumpeting and snorting. In a clearing was a small village, a new destination.

Nothing spectacular. Some residences, a general store, a postal facility and a snowmobile dealership. Great luck for Andy!

The proprietor felt for the young man and traded an older machine and some gasoline for the cross country skis and the promise to pay him when he got back home. Andrew couldn’t say no.

The further south he went, it seemed the snows followed him. He ran adrift a couple of times. And ran out of gas near Champagne, slightly off course. He sat in the rigging despondent and sure he’d never see his family before he met his end.

Something in the distance. A ping? A tingle? A jingle! Louder and stronger it came. A sleigh pulled by two strange horses and an old driver came alongside the dead snowtracker.

“Ho-ho” the old man said. “Looks like you should’ve stayed put now, doesn’t it.”

Andrew was in no mood, but did agree. The man offered transportation. Andrew accepted and climbed in beside the gentle soul.

“Get on, Musher! Get on, Mudder!” he yelled.

His beasts sprung into a gallop and leaped over a fence rail. The rig rose skyward gaining altitude and Andrew held tightly to the side rail.

“Breaking in the new “guys”” the old man smiled. “A little over a month and I may need backup”.

Andrew stared at the driver and finally realized he had seen him before. The old man glanced a wink at Andrew.

“You know, they’re not going to believe you!” smiling so lively and quick.

“Just get me home, Nick. I’ll worry about that when I get a drumstick in my hand!”