Through Pressed Lavender

The tone in her voice was intense as she glared out into the nothingness of a picture in her office. The man on the phone was questioning her integrity and she was not going to have it. She was once nominated for a Pulitzer for chrissake! Who was he to challenge whether she asked for gluten free or not? Upset with the poor effects of her complaining she hung up the phone defiantly.

She was working on something, but she couldn’t tell you where she was at in it. It was supposed to be a story of a study on women’s life habits, and how they change as they age. Right now it was just a pile of upcoming issues she would have to deal with in her personal life as well as her professional one. This story didn’t bite, it was her idea and she pushed it to her editors, it just lacked any traction with her after a while. She had worked for this online publication since the beginning and this was the first time something like this had happened.

Her Editor noticed all of the delays and the frustration and called her into her office. Lori was going to take a little time off, no but’s about it.

The next few weeks were supposed to be uncommonly warm and she was willing to accept she was in a funk of some kind. This professional career that seemed to have a life of it’s own had left her little time to have much of her own life. She should be at the beach was the first thing that popped into her head. She had a few friends and she felt the need to reconnect with them, she was thinking about it and realized it had been months since she had heard from most of them. She knew why, she was always at work.

For the next three days she sat on the couch and watched TV, well not really watching but rather using it as a substitute for a brain pattern. She was overwhelmed and underwhelmed at the same time, and after checking her e-mail and Facebook for the umpteenth time, something snapped. Unplug, undo, un-city, un-plastic. If she was going to be this hollow right now, might as well take it all the way down to the nub.

She called her old boyfriend Mike, who was a wonderful guy and it could have worked in another life. Politics and her career being the deciding factors, they still remained good friends. He had brought her out to the woods one weekend while they were together. It was a little very rustic cabin in the woods and if she remembers right it was his Uncle’s place. Mike had moved on and had met and married a wonderful woman named Lynne who suggested that Lori come over for dinner that evening. Looking at her Cheeto stained sweatshirt she decided to just do it.

Lynne and Lori were no strangers by this time, she was like her husbands buddy coming over. Mike had talked to his uncle Bud and found out the cabin was clear and ready to go. Hunting season didn’t start for a while and at this time of year there shouldn’t be too many folks around at all. When Bud found out who wanted to use it he chuckled, remembering hearing about her first stay. Mike got the key from the garage, it was tied to an old fishing buoy with a big monkey knot and on a little chain was this little key. Bud always said don’t lose it, he couldn’t replace it! with a wink…

Lynne had made Fettuccine Alfredo since it was easy and one of Lori’s favorites. They hadn’t seen her for months and were beginning to wonder. The garlic bread was out of this world Lori was thinking as she filled in the small talk and catch up stuff over dinner. She was telling them about the latest piece that she had popped up with and how after reading and interviewing all of these women, she was burned out. The assignment should have been easy, but when these women shared things about how life is as what it means to them… All of those good questions she asked got answers that just blew her away, both good and bad. She felt like a balloon being pumped up and down by the word, by the moment and by the story. bleh…

Mike heard about every third word of this and was watching the face of his wife just stare in rapt attention. She wasn’t even eating actually and he was kind of cracking up a bit wondering how long between bites he could rib her about. He felt for Lori, but that had been an issue with them to begin with, she did it her way and all the way. She was an alpha go-getter business wise and that meant second place for everything else. It was her passion though and he respected that immensely. Tonight though he felt more like a third wheel as Lynne and Lori talked after dinner. It was fine though, it was good to see her again, they both were concerned about her lately.

As she packed up the basic essentials she was constantly reminded that there would be no outlets, no no running water. She would bring her phone, but she would take the battery out of it and put it in the glove box. Mike and Lynne both rolled their eyes wide when she told them of her plan. They knew she could take care of herself, just not so much about the unplugged part, she was addicted for sure….

A stop at Walmart for some camping “stuff” she had listed out and some food, maybe she would try those fancy freeze dried foil pouches they had.

She was ready to go and had some trepidation at the same time. She cranked up the stereo tried to get in the right mood. The first thing she noticed was that every stop light she looked for her phone and felt naked, unattached and out of the loop. Whew! this is going to take more than I thought as she sang out of tune to Taylor Swift’s latest breakup song. Hitting the highway she changed the station to some kind of Jazz and it helped though she had to remind herself that this was not the time to practice meditation.

It was a “town” in the sense that there was some sort of community feeling about it. The fact that there was four buildings on four corners was not lost on many. The size would be comparable to a mid sized city, but the population was about three dozen to be honest. It had a one pump gas station/post office. A market with a tavern attached or vice versa. A small church with a few smaller outbuildings that double as school portables. On the last corner was Beau’s General Store/ Justice of the Peace/ Mayor’s office/ Police Department and barber/beauty shop. Lori just gasped at the sheer 1971 of it all. It was a tiny mountain…town? but this was kind of creepy in a time warp kind of sense. Seeing a few satellite dishes on rooftops and whatnot she was at least assured she was in the right decade. Double Creek road she repeated again and again, having turned off the navigation system to truly be unplugged as possible. Passing a small farm just outside of “downtown” she slowed to marvel at the chainsaw carvings being offered near the roadside. Deciding not to ask for directions she drove on slow enough to catch the few and far between road signs.

Part Two:

Double Creek road she repeated again and again, having turned off the navigation system to truly be unplugged as possible. Passing a small farm just outside of “downtown” she slowed to marvel at the chainsaw carvings being offered near the roadside. Deciding not to ask for directions she drove on slow enough to catch the few and far between road signs.


  The door was sticky as Bud had mentioned and she found it just as he described. It was stocked up on fresh water in the tank attached to the side of it and Bud had recently added solar powered LED lights and called it all city like now. She forgot about the dry ice for the cooler box, but could go to Beau’s for that in the morning, it was chilly enough that anything she had brought with her could stay in the car just fine. Speaking of chilly, she had to get that little cast iron savior going soon, it was her everything out here, heat, cooking, hot water etc… It was no more than a ten foot by ten foot log box, carefully crafted by Bud and his father in the mid 1950’s. They had gotten the plans for it out of a camping magazine and decided to buy some property to put it on. Of course over the years both father and son and numerous family members had accented it with their own ideas. One being a semi-modern bathroom built in the eighties that actually had a tub. The bathroom being the only other room in the box and its walls went only as high as the eight foot high walls. The rafters were open and all manner of gear was stored up there by the looks of it. Getting the little stove going and checking out if the new lights worked, Lori sat down on the makeshift futon kind of cabin couch, a nod to some kind of Murphy bed she imagined and closed her eyes for a few minutes just trying to relax and be there. Uncommonly warm my butt, she thought.

George came home from a day playing bridge at the tavern. The first thing he noticed was some ruts in the new gravel he had put in over the summer. They were leading up to the Hudson’s place and that was unexpected. The kids just started school, and it will be a while until seasons open. Besides it was private property and George didn’t need folks spreading out his gravel before the Winter hit. It took him awhile to get to the cabin, it was smack dab in the middle of forty acres and he slowed when he saw a car there. Lori must have nodded off for a few minutes or an hour, one or the other because the knock scared the crap out of her. “Hello?” came a male voice from the door, Lori didn’t know what to think so she grabbed the shotgun hanging up on the wall. The dust and rust flying off of it made her cough, but it gave her courage. “Yes?” She replied. Oliver had noted the key and buoy that was hanging from the door and relaxed his grip on the .38 that he carried. “Just the neighbor checking in on the property for the Hudson’s!” Lori relaxed and opened the door a crack, she immediately recognized him from the last time they were here. Bobby, Gulliver? “George Cain miss?…” He too recognized her and they began the piecing of who each other was. After a few minutes and a laugh or two George realized what was going on and left her in peace. He gave her his phone number but warned that service is spotty as a Leopard. Well, she was awake now, better make the most of your unplugged time girl, she thought to herself. It was then that she realized she had no idea of how to go about it, there was no web site telling her how folks did this?…. Okay, I can at least get comfy and start to work here on my heat and food, something will come later…

She sat there for what seemed like eternity, looking into the fire she was proud of at that moment. Looking into those flames like some ancient eye candy, click bait, visual stimulation. It was so intoxicating that she noticed it and had to pull herself away from the show. She had brought some books and some paper, they didn’t need power so they qualified. Looking through the titles and seeing nothing appealing at the moment she sat back and drifted off to sleep again. Three hours later she woke up in a bit of a fright, the fire had gone down in the little stove and there was zero light coming from anything. That coupled with the fact that she was momentarily confused about where she was, shook her for a millisecond before she remembered where that light switch was. Aghhh! blinding LED lighting immediately came on, Thanks Bud!….

For her first night there she slept rather comfortably and nothing spooked her or woke her up. She didn’t know if that was a good or bad thing, little naive city girl or just not a jumpy one? She had a breakfast of granola and berries she had brought with her noting the Cheetos had to go too. One of the things in those interviews with those women was their wish to have taken better care of themselves health wise. She thought she would walk down to the lake and enjoy this bit of Indian Summer the area was having, cool, chilly nights and beautiful sunny days. Perfect weather in her mind, if it would just stay this way for her time here she would be happy with that. She hadn’t put a time limit or frame on this trip, she had all the time off she needed, she was just trying to see if she could take life at a different pace. If she knew the answer she wouldn’t be doing this anyways.

In 1969 on a quiet Brook Street in London a thirty something year old woman stops the vividly dressed young man. He was with a similarly dressed young woman and they were walking with their arms wrapped at the hips. His face goes from an almost ecstatic wide smile to pardon the phrase white as a ghost and serious as all get out. Angry at the woman he pushes her aside and pulls his girl along with him. This old honky lady just told him he was going to die in 1970 because of drugs and stuff… Jimi don’t like voodoo, not like that…

Lori hiked the quarter mile or so to the lake. It was not entirely the Hudson’s but a good deal of it was, most still considered pristine. This part of the woods folks seemed to be more stewards of the area that developers. It had the same sense that Santa Fe had on her with an almost Artsy vibe. The people were weird as anyone else but not the weird like some Deliverance kind of thing she thought. She saw a boat on the very far end and it was just a speck, a rowboat with someone fishing. That was a good two miles away but on this clear morning you notice stuff like this. Just being here is already helping but she is fighting back all of the automatic reactions still in her, like looking for her phone incessantly. It was going to take a hard luck approach to this unplug thingy, but she also felt like she was on the right track. It was the workaholic part of her that was going to kill her, not the digital drugs. Closing her eyes she remembered what an old boyfriend had said about meditating, just concentrate on breathing in through your nose. Calm, deliberate and deepening breaths. If you have too many things pop up visually, then picture a white dot on a black wall or vice versa and just concentrate on that and breathing. She leaned against the large rock that a glacier had so nicely deposited some tens of thousands of years ago, it was warm with the morning sun and she began to get a little bit of “it.”

Part Three:

Calm, deliberate and deepening breaths. If you have too many things pop up visually, then picture a white dot on a black wall or vice versa and just concentrate on that and breathing. She leaned against the large rock that a glacier had so nicely deposited some tens of thousands of years ago, it was warm with the morning sun and she began to get a little bit of “it.” 


  In December of 1974 a woman bought a copy of Popular Electronics. It was not her thing at all, but it did demonstrate the Altair 8800 computer. Flipping through the pages she found some things she understood and many she did not. She sent in the subscription form and filled it in with her neighbors name on it. He will like that she thought, Paul always did like those kinds of things and this was on the list. So maybe he and his buddies can get this little thing going after all. He moved shortly after that but she will never forget him or he her after she funded his move a bit with some seed cash, a few thousand for the trip.

The sound of a truck coming up behind her on the road brought her back to the here and now. It was George and he pulled up to a slow stop and made sure she knew he was there. Opening the tailgate he pulled out a burlap sack that was billowing a mist from it. It was dry ice from Beau’s and he placed it on the ground next to the tire. “Morning! Ms. Lori,” he called. She got up to meet him halfway back to the cabin from the lake, it was like a quarter of a mile but open enough that it was like a big yard really. Lori and George passed a moment talking about any needs or things she might have forgotten. Then he mentioned the dinner that night at the hall, a once a month kind of meeting at the local longhouse that acted as a catch all of everything from bingo to boy scouts, fraternal clubs and knitting circles. George explained that the dinners were a news program for the area really, you aren’t going to know what is really happening around there if you didn’t attend.

He knew she was there to get some rest and wasn’t part of this community in that respect but the food is good and the company would be appreciated. Lori thanked him and told him she would call him by noon with her answer. It was too much too soon in her eyes, she just wanted to sleep still.

Over the hill and down the trail she regularly follows, sometimes many times daily, Berta was in a fuss. She was having trouble with a Black Bear in the area and she wanted to do something about it. This was the last time she was going to rebuild the boxes that she put up for Owls and Bats. Berta was the miserly old woman who lived up the mountain from the Hudson’s property, as she rounded the top of a rise she stopped altogether. It isn’t hunting season and there is someone down at their property whose car she did not recognize. Making a mental note of it she continued to huff back to her cabin home.

Lori was just waking up from a nice unexpected nap and as she looked at the clock she noticed it was 12:34 pm. Something stuck in her head that she was missing something, then she remembered that she was going to call George by noon… whoops. Putting her phone together from the glove box, she had all intentions of just thanking him and passing on the dinner, what she found herself doing was saying sure, that she might as well go…. What the heck was that? She thought as she hung up the phone, what did I just do now?

Part Four:

George would be there at about 5:30 and Lori started to feel ok with going after a bit. In the meantime she started going over what she needed at Beau’s and to stock up for some good isolation time. She had to keep on reminding herself to relax and just be there, although she was also constantly looking for a computer, a phone, some kind of outside connection. There it is she said to herself, now there is the addiction.

In 1980 in a Wall Street office a younger man named Tom was just beginning his job as an analyst. He was there to check the books and make sure everyone was in compliance. It is in those types of reviews that patterns and sometimes improprieties are highlighted sometimes. Tom being just a month into the job, but a rather large overachiever noticed something a wee bit odd. Someone with a certain account number was doing very well for themselves. The number of investments into what at the time were bare bones ideas of companies were noted. What was the most surprising aspect of this for Tom was the amount of pure unadulterated success of those companies. It was something he was going to keep his eyes on. He scratched the number down on an index card and slid it into his desk drawer for another time. Back to the Middle East accounts and Iran’s in particular.

Lori did not want to make a statement so she just put on her everyday clothes and waited patiently for George. He pulled up right on the minute, he was a man that did what he said when he said, Lori had figured out. Maybe a little control issue, maybe just organized too though. Lori climbed into the older but well maintained truck and noticed that George must use this as an office of some sort as well. He had a set up sort of like the police cars did for a few electronic gadgets and a mobile Ham radio to boot. This guy was prepared for anything it looked like to her, it was then that she noticed a few magnetic signs on the inside of the doors, bright yellow with the words Search and Rescue. That made a lot of sense now, but this truck was something else.

They made small talk about how it was going to be at the dinner and who was going to be there and do what. Billy McEntyre will talk about Bigfoot and ask if we had all seen or heard him too… That was Billy though, and Kevin will goad him along sometimes going along with it just for entertainment. Susan and Tammy will make the dinner and don’t you dare go near the kitchen, they have it all under control and will take it personally if you see something you think you could help with. There will be a Pinochle game going on in the corner and a few other cliques but that’s about it. Ronny Hunt will get up and read from the agenda and run the meeting part, it’s his turn this year. George explaining that it’s just good to be safe around here and knowing who your neighbors are helps out a bunch if Lori is going to spend any time up here. We’re a self policing area.

Lotus 1-2-3 is a discontinued spreadsheet program from Lotus Software (later part of IBM). It was the IBM PC‘s first killer application, was hugely popular in the 1980s and contributed significantly to the success of the IBM PC.[1]

The first spreadsheet, VisiCalc, had helped launch the Apple II as one of the earliest personal computers in business use. With IBM’s entry into the market, VisiCalc was slow to respond, and when they did, they launched what was essentially a straight port of their existing system in spite of the greatly expanded hardware capabilities. Lotus’ solution was marketed as a three-in-one integrated solution, which handled spreadsheet calculations, database functionality, and graphical charts, hence the name “1-2-3”, though how much database capability was debatable given Lotus’ sparse memory. 1-2-3 quickly overtook VisiCalc, as well as Multiplan and SuperCalc, two VisiCalc competitors.

1-2-3 was the spreadsheet standard throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s, part of a suite of three office automation products that included dBase and WordPerfect, to build a complete business platform. With the acceptance of Windows 3.0, the market for desktop software grew even more. None of the major spreadsheet developers had seriously considered the graphical user interface to supplement their DOS offerings, and so they responded slowly to Microsoft‘s own graphical-based products, Excel and Word. Lotus was passed by Microsoft in the early 1990s and never recovered. IBM purchased Lotus and continued to sell Lotus offerings, only officially ending sales in 2013.[2]

There was some serious considerations about this GUI business to begin with. After some debating it with an old friend the big wigs ran with it.

Part Five:

She put away the supplies and grabbed a flashlight to get some more kindling from the woodshed/pile outside. It was a ten foot walk and she completely forgot where she was when she started only to realize that she was out here in the night with nobody around. She got a little spooked and grabbed the kindling a little faster and bolted the door as soon as she got inside.

Tom Johnson was always a bit anal in his work, and well, home life too. He was a large man with giant features and the mind of one of the best analysts out there and yet was stuck behind the look of a slightly whiter Shrek. He had kept every postcard, report card, business card and comic and they are mostly in pristine condition. He liked things as they were, not all broken and kidded up. It was 1989 and the job route that he had taken was all the way to a clerk in the Department of Energy, a numbers pusher really, no natural light for the most part except when something like the Exxon Valdez dumps a load and a trip is in order to go over other people’s ten times checked numbers again. In the name of investors the day before he left he saw it again, Robert Newman. He knew he knew the name like you knew a bit actor in a movie or something but couldn’t for the life of him remember where, so he scribbled it down on the manila folder he had his law school applications in.

1992   Starbucks Completes initial public offering (IPO), with common stock being traded on the NASDAQ National Market under the trading symbol SBUX. A large share rally was on. Later that year three years after the Exxon Valdez disaster a ten million dollar donation was made to the Valdez School district from an anonymous donor. A very rare expenditure from an account years and years old.

She was booking it down the trail, black fur and claws gripping the ground with every stride. She knew she shouldn’t have been there, the place was clearly marked as off limits. But the rewards were greater than the risk she thought and she was changing her mind with every pant of breath, and whine of pain. She had heard her before, the Mother bear that woke up and started shooting at her. But she is as mad as a bee’s nest and coming up behind the bear… is she gaining?…

A rock salt filled 20 gauge was in her left hand and she and the bear were about matched for size, she had a big Bowie strapped to her right leg and a Desert Eagle .50 cal strapped horizontal to her left front. The woman didn’t even like guns really, but at times she needed to put on a show. As she is getting into her 80’s though, the shows are farther apart than normal, yet still amazingly effective. She was screaming like a wild woman to scare the bear and because she was hurting too! The old broken toe on her right foot and the swelling too was a real pain to walk on let alone run, she was running though.

Lori opened her eyes, it was early but light outside. She just laid there and wondered why she woke up? It was too early for her to normally wake up, what the heck? There was nothing on her mind, no dreams, no noise?… Was there a noise? She lay there contemplating if she was going to go back to bed or get up and go potty?… The bathroom won out shorty and she was putting on her slippers. As she grabbed her robe from the end of the bed she thought she heard something other than the birds outside, “damn they are loud” she thought. Then as she was in the middle of her constitutional and really agreeing with herself that she was going right back to bed. Boom, a gunshot? She didn’t know whether to hit the floor or finish up. She heard the most blood curdling screams and they were coming closer, like really close, and right towards her.

In 1994 the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect and some more numbers were needed for the suits in the big games. The ground was still wet from the evening rains and morning dew. Tom Johnson looked out over the United States Capitol from his new office. It was a nice office he shared with over 100 other guys in cubicles as part of the Department of Justice. His resume included a newly passed Bar rating and an invitation from one of his old bosses at the Department of Energy. They were some of the best around him and he felt pretty good about his work, he was OCD about it so it meant a lot to him. His current

Part Six:

The whole cabin shook with a thunderous thud, and again a thud. Lori wasn’t waiting any longer, grabbing her keys and her bag along with it she paused for just a second. She glanced at the old wall hanger and remembered what George had said and the next thing she saw was a fifteen inch cast iron skillet. With a deftness and wrist strength she didn’t know she had she was at the door in two wild steps. To Lori whatever it was was coming through the bathroom wall by the sounds of it and with a quick deep breath she opened the door and bolted for her car. The first thing to happen was she ran out of her slippers in the first few steps and that caused her to hit a pebble on the next one. It sent shock waves up her leg and she was down, about halfway to safety. She grabbed her now numb and deadened leg and rolled over to see something running up the pasture at her. She rolled over again in pain and thought is this how it all ends?

She jumped at the sounds coming from the cabin still and rolled over again to see… Berta?… She was running at her, wow, fast too… She was screaming something too but Lori couldn’t make out what she was yelling. The pebble had hit a terminus nerve just right and it was going to smart for a few minutes at least. She tried to get up to get to her car and she was dragging herself now toward it when she finally heard what Berta was yelling at her. “It’s a Bear!” “Get inside you fool!” It was about this time that Berta realized what had spooked the girl so bad, the bear went to the cabin… That was usually empty. “Well get to the car! I got ya covered!”

Lori’s leg was coming back by then and she tried her weight on it and it folded. She went down to one knee and just looked over at Berta through her armpit, a panting eighty something year old woman. Here she was in pain with a bear somewhere within close range and she started laughing and laughing. She was in tears as she finally got up to one leg as Berta reached her. Berta just looked at her kind of puzzled and told her again to get in the car as she helped her hobble to the drivers door. “Get in” the older woman told her as she turned around to check their backs. Berta reached into her pocket and grabbed a few shells and deftly unloaded and loaded the slim shotgun. “I’ll be right back, get it started she said to Lori through the rolled up window. She disappeared out of sight for what seemed like an eternity and was shuffling back to the passenger side door when Lori unlocked it.

Tom was bored looking into the numbers again. It was 1997, He did this every four months or so, the creative side of him taking over from the numbers crunch. He took some time off of work to do some cleaning, going through old clothes and doing the once every ten years Spring cleaning bachelors do. It was not Spring, but that never matters anyways when it is needed. At the end of day two he stopped to look over his work, not military detail, but close. Now he just had a day or two of work to organize his boxes of paperwork and miscellaneous crud he had acquired over the years. He saved everything and his comic book collection was now properly back in order and protected once again. Piles was his thought as he cleaned off the dining room table of decorations. Yeah, he had a plastic candle and fruit and a few knick knacks from his mother he always loved.

“Good Morning!” Berta bellowed as she got into the car beside the barefoot woman who was seemingly losing it as she laughed and laughed. Some kind of nervous tick happened with Lori there and this was her response to the stress? She would have to work on that, when she is awake dammit! “What the hell?” was about all Lori got from her mouth before being ordered to start the car and get moving. Lori went from laughing to pissed in about 1.3 milliseconds, she started the car and spun her tires, she zipped by the other side of the cabin and saw a huge hole in the skirting. Click, click, in her head… The bear had been shot? and ran under the cabin? at what time, she looked at the display to find it a bright and cheery 6:30 am. She glanced to the shotgun Berta had pointed at the floor and the smile on her rosy cheeks as she looked like she had just ate the canary. “A Freaking Bear!” Lori screamed as she hit the gravel road headed towards George’s.

Part Seven:

George had been up for hours already, he thought he may see something from that end of the road after hearing a few shots. Had to be Berta he thought too, she was just about the only other one armed on this side of things. The little Hyundai pulled up to an abrupt stop about a hundred yards away from his place. Lori just looked over to Berta at this point and was in terrible pain from her foot. She looped her foot up to look at it and it was absolutely huge. A blood blister was growing and her heel was about as round as a baseball. George just looked out of his window, a bit curious, a bit confused… Did Berta shoot Miss Lori? Looks like she is hurting from here. His Bulldog, Sprocket barely raised his ears and head, but at least he moved, George was getting worried.

In 1997 as well, one of the first Tech Billionaires gets a call from someone he has not heard of or thought about in years. Time was made for the call and good times shared. In the midst of all of this reunion, a curious and insistent piece of advice came and taken as well. As the Billionaire looked down onto the number he had written down it seemed so bizarre. Those were huge numbers and the good friend was owed some respect at least for her help all these years. Later that year, Microsoft bought a minority share of Apple computers for 150 million.

Lori pulled the car forward and Berta told her to stop at George’s, he was waiting on his porch by that time, sipping his ever present coffee. She slowly rolled up close to the porch, Berta rolled down the window and told him what had happened. George insisted that they park the car and he have a look at it, as he spun slowly and reached inside his door a bit. The Graco tackle box was just one of the many he had for his volunteer work. Placing it on the table on the front porch he went back in for some gel packs and a towel. The women were slowly making it over to the porch and George’s first comment was along the lines that Lori probably wouldn’t have hurt her foot if she was wearing shoes?…

With Berta on one side George helped Miss Lori up the three stairs to one of the chairs on his porch. It doubled as a local scout meeting place and S&R meetup location and was oversized for his small home. He brought up another chair and lifted her foot to a whip of pain and a grimace from his patient. He and Berta were talking about the bear and what had happened. The bear apparently had a name, Snaggles, from his bad teeth and his apparent need to snag up everything in his path, fishing line, barbed wire, corn stalks… They would know it was him because the trail would lead for yards in any direction. Well now he was stuck under the Hudson’s place real good and that would be an issue for Lori. “Huh?” Lori chimed in? She was both trying not to listen too close and at the same time paying attention to what the kindly old male nurse was doing to her. “He’s gonna be there for a bit!” Berta canted back, “He’s pretty hurt, that last shot I took at him was close to his sensitive areas if you know what I mean?”

It was decided then that George would drive them both over to Berta’s and the girls would hold up there for a bit. When Lori asked if he was going to shoot the bear it was as if she was doing a stand up show in Vegas when the laughter came. “No, Miss Lori, we don’t do that kind of thing on this side of the hill.” George replied. That’s why the little shotgun was loaded with rock salt, just to scare and shoo Snaggles away for a while. He’s a good bear really and he keeps the wolves from getting too close too. Wolves? Lori thought again where the hell was she? Is that Banjo kid going to show up now? Plucking Bluegrass echoed in her head.

Tom had taken note of the name enough in his life, he was bored running numbers for the Government. He was taking his fourth “break” from work after putting in years of hard work. It was August of 2001, He was sure that he was onto maybe one of the largest and longest running criminal investor, or more than likely a group. He had bits and pieces going back to the mysterious mastermind and he was certainly intrigued enough, even as much as to start a binder on all of it. The next month everything changed for him, He was a gifted linguist and his short stint in the reserves all those years ago called him back to duty in short order. Storage unit packed, and a sense of deja vu hit him as he closed the door to the unit and double padlocked it with a sigh.

As they pulled up to Berta’s place the road was badly rutted and a bit overgrown. Lori was expecting a miner’s shack or a place like Mike’s family had. When they rounded the corner she was struck with a sight out of her expectations. A little white plaster cottage with a thick thatched roof, a little front yard and an expanse behind it that look absolutely storybook in nature. “I have some Moccasins I haven’t worn that Aurelia Nolen gave me for Christmas, she made them but they are a bit too thin” Berta said as she opened her door. George had wrapped it and she was given an ice pack and instructions. If the swelling did not get better in the next day or so, then she would have to see a doc. In the meantime it’s going to be sore as heck and difficult to walk. He had outfitted her with Ibuprofen and one of the canes he made along with walking sticks etc… in his abundant spare time anymore. The water district sold out to the county a few years back and his paid position, although retired, was eliminated.

Part Eight:

The yard was not manicured by any means, but there was a certain care being applied to it. There were a few Gnomes here and there and a couple of pieces of curious yard art. The front door was small she thought as Berta opened the rounded topped, and apparently heavy wood door. It opened into a beautiful living room, not cleaned for company, yet not dirty at all. George helped Lori over to the Victorian couch with the Paisley mole hair pattern while Berta went to grab the moccasins and put the extra gel pack into the freezer.

George said his goodbyes to Lori, he had driven her car and was going to check on Snaggles on his way back to his place. The surprised look on Lori’s face made George reassure her that he would be just fine. As he piped up a bit to say “See Ya! Berta!” he was out the door and Lori just sat there trying to get her foot into a comfortable position. She had hit a main vein in her foot with the little rock and it is bruising up good, the pain may be going down too she thought as another pulse of blood made her doublethink her assertion. As she got comfy she also noted in her head that Berta had some nice antiques, probably back woods fare etc… but nice nonetheless.

He never wanted to see sand again in his life… ever. Living in Antarctica would be a more welcome assignment, but this would be his last. Arriving in Kuwait, the Major was looking for a familiar face. Captain Alicia Burns, his crush was coming right at him, but he could not see her through the crowd because of her height, 5’2″ and cute as an…ahem “Major. Sir!” They had worked together on his last tour here and she gave him a ride back into HQIT. Tom was just happy to get this over with, like he said, he never ever wanted to see sand again and he really, really meant it.

The investments into Tesla, and Facebook, small solar companies and larger oil ones continued. The expenditures should be there, the stocks keep doubling and tripling over and that portfolio rarely gets any real attention. It is not borrowed against, it is not gouged for payments, it just sit there and grows. The stories became to come out in niche investment journals in 2006 and again in 2009. They were asked to drop the subject by some lawyers saying there was no real story here, just move on. They did and didn’t stop, but it did die down again, the Lore of this Newman guy was now in the realm of the mystical to some. They could not run down a lead on an interview or insight into the methods of this brilliant investor.

Berta’s place was just a small two bedroom cottage. A small entry into the living room on the right and the dining room on the left with a slightly larger framed window. It was looking out over an overgrown Rhododendron, but would be the front yard if it were trimmed. Behind the dining room was a quaint kitchen with both wood and conventional appliances. It was still country living and not a thing about the place seemed “new,” it was a well lived and very comfy place. Berta came out of one of the bedrooms toward the rear of the cottage and was looking around expectantly. “Do you see some glasses?” She asked Lori as she scanned the room that was slightly cluttered but not dirty. Lori didn’t see any and was just about to tell her so when the older woman gave a yip and a yeah, “found them!” “Be right back with those moccasins, I couldn’t see a thing back there!” Was that a smile and a good feeling Berta? She hadn’t seen this woman lighten up for a minute, maybe this is the real her?

He made his way to the trail on the lake side of the property. It was still some ways away and over a rise to the Hudson’s but it was the quickest way. He saw the broken Bat boxes and didn’t think much of it until he saw one of Berta’s owl houses and she spent time on those. It was busted up real good, and no wonder she was so pissed off at Snaggles. Snapping off a good sized walking stick and feeling the weight on his side he continued on to the little place lakeside.

Part Nine:

The door of the storage unit creaked open after being locked for that long. A changed person looked on into the possessions of another lifetime from not too many years ago. Backing up the U-haul to the doors Tom was thinking that he should just go to the dump. But it would look funny driving an empty truck halfway across the country. He was out, it was 2007 and he was on to his next chapter in life, and another government gig, The Treasury Department, and a choice job running some of the best minds in analytics and research. Great, now he was a money cop, not something that inspired him but it was a job.

The smell of the coffee smelled like ambrosia, and the warmth of the little cottage had settled Lori’s nerves and pain a bit, that plus the painkiller George had given her. Looking at her when she was in pain earlier he looked straight into her eyes… just a few and only if she needed it. Berta was getting a gel pack from the freezer and rotating them out while the Victorian couch doubled as a hospital bed for the time being.

From 2005 through 2007 there was an unexpected uptick in movement from the mysterious Mr. Newman’s accounts and investments. It was closely watched and in some cases imitated by corporate financiers and other personal investors. A divergence away from the market was not always an indicator of something untold, but this was starting to look like a landslide. On January 21st 2008, Black Monday hit, Investors from around the world took their worst one day hit since 9/11. That same day a Mr. Barack Obama received a large check from The Newman Fund, it was the only check ever written by this LLC.

With coffee in hand the women started off awkwardly; Lori was taken care of for the time being and Berta was bluntly just not used to company or being social at all. Berta broke the ice by apologizing for the ruckus this morning and the scaring the wits out of her. Lori just nodded appreciatively and said it must just be part of the nature of the area, she shouldn’t be too surprised. “I think those painkillers that George gave you are kicking in, this isn’t normal for us here either dear” she said with a giggle. Lori loved the woman’s laugh and the energy that surrounded her, yep, those pills are kicking in. Seeing how tired she was Berta just told her to rest and grabbed a handmade Afghan she made years ago to wrap her in.

The job was not the least bit easy at first. Tom was just getting into the flow when all of this financial debauchery started, it was a real mess and one that brought up a name that sparked a memory as old as the hills it seems. He went back to his home and asked his wife Alicia if she knew where he put his old copy boxes from Colorado and she looked at him like she didn’t know what he was talking about. He checked the attic and the basement and it was there that he found the four or five still disorganized boxes from his work years ago. On top of the second box he opened was a notebook, something that he was onto years ago.

Aha!

In 2009 a American acting icon received the news that the cancer has worsened. As she lay in the private Hospital suite she was visited by a kindly old woman. They shared the stories of life and adventure, loves and losing them. They continued their close friendship and visited each other often throughout the last months of her life. On may 1st 2010 was her last visit and they both knew it, but her friend had kind of always known when right?… The next day Lynn Redgrave passed away at the age of 67 and America, and a lovely friend wept for the loss of such a wonderful spirit.

He picked up a small shotgun shell as he was rounding the trail to the clearing before the Hudson’s place. Walking quietly as he was far off he was listening for any sounds. A few steps more and he didn’t have to strain much, the bear, or a wrecking crew was still moaning and groaning, swiping at things by the sound of it. Getting closer he could see the hole in the skirting, the next second he was instinctively ducking his head behind his arm as a window is blow out by something on the inside of the historic little family cabin. “Aw Crap” was his only words as he debated turning around and going back to Berta’s. Nothing he could do about it now, and the sound of him wailing like that is just going to bring in more of the critters. He better get on the radio and let some folks know that we may have a bit more company than usual, and what’s going on here.

Lori had the weirdest dreams, the painkillers probably didn’t hurt, but the smell of Lavender was hitting her nose in her dream to wake her up. She opened her eyes to the old beamed ceiling and felt like she couldn’t move. She could, but the place in her mind she was coming back from was trying to stick and she was afraid to move in all reality in fear of losing that feeling. It soon passed, but it was memorable, talk about losing it she thought.

Part Ten:

Berta had gotten George’s radio call about the bear while Lori was sleeping. Her little place was too small and not set up for guests. She had a little apartment above the small building that Berta just called the barn. It was a barn, but it was also built in the manner in which her house was, all except the thatch roof. She had gone up there to open up the windows and doors, it was dusty as heck but it was still there. As she came down the ladder stairs she was thinking that she must have lost track of time, that poor girl doesn’t know where I am. Lori just sat there and wondered which way to the bathroom? She didn’t want to be seen checking out the place like some petty thief or something. She waited and called Berta a few times but the little woman was nowhere to be heard. She grabbed the cane George had given her and got to her feet. Her stumbling gait and hop technique took her to her first guess and she was right, what a relief.

The case was not easy, there was so very little to go on other than the stuff that was common knowledge. Tom didn’t know if this guy was even real let alone what his secret was. He had a subpoena in to Fenwick and West, the firm handling his affairs yet they had said openly they had had no direct contact with their client for over 30 years. They had a contact that worked for them on a need a signature type of basis but they hadn’t needed one for decades. A lone representative handles all of the contact requests and since the stories started appearing in the media that person had made herself scarce. The paperwork that he did eventually get popped his eyes out some more. This guy was brilliant or the best insider trader in history, and it had been going on a lot longer than even he thought.

She got a little startled when she came back in, Lori was not on the couch? A flush of the toilet soon brought her back to the here and now. Lori got the same start when she opened the door and saw Berta waiting for her in the doorway leading out into the living room. “I’m sorry, I had to go so bad” Lori said, Berta was apologizing as well for not pointing it out to her. She helped the younger woman back to the couch and pulled up an padded foot stool she used for her own swollen paws at times. “George says that Snaggles has torn up the place down there pretty good, it seems you are going to be here for a bit, overnight at least.” The older woman looking for clues from the younger woman’s face and seeing a blank stare almost. Lori’s head went straight to going home and giving up, going to the hospital and getting away from this crazy hillbilly-ish place. Even though she had only been there for three days, maybe that was enough? She realized then that Berta was waiting for her to respond to what she had said. “Sorry, I was just..” Berta slapped Lori’s knee lightly a few times and said “that’s alright, I would want to leave too.” Lori’s eyes peaked, what the heck?

Sprocket didn’t move much but he popped his head up when George’s radio call went out. He was going to get in his truck and go to Jimmy Nolen’s place on the other side of Berta’s to see if he had seen anything. They could at least set some pepper pots around the Hudson’s and in the usual areas. Pepper pots are filled with different peppers like Cayenne etc… bears hate the stuff and they can smell it really well from a distance. Needless to say George never told Jimmy he was on his way, while Jimmy was wondering what was taking George so long. Jimmy had a new Classic Mustang he picked up yesterday and he wanted to show it off to George, they liked the classics.

The boxes came in on a pallet, plastic wrapped around the four foot pile. The pallet jack was wheeled into a spare office a few doors down from Tom’s. There were two eight foot tables and a scanner the size of a Mini Cooper. This system fed straight into the Justice Department’s computers and filed it where ever Tom wanted it to go. It was just so damn much! He thought his little folder had gotten him deep into this mystery. Now he has a warehouse of papers and this is still on just a strong hunch, a thought and a gut feeling. He was going to go down in history and hopefully the Government still gave a .01 percent finders fee for getting them Billions in ill gotten gains back.

“You are in no state to drive dear, really” was her blunt response. Lori was feeling trapped to a certain degree and if she was going to leave she would have to do so soon. It was getting later on in the day and she would have a drive ahead of her. As she was thinking of the drive her foot pulsed again with a wild pain, nope… not happening. She was noting then that she did not see another vehicle when they pulled up? Did Berta even have a car? As she sat there pondering for a few moments Berta used the opportunity to get up and move across the room. On a beautiful but tarnished silver tray was a crystal bottle of something with a few small glasses. It had a brilliant stopper at the top and the Older woman asked if Lori would like some? Lori not knowing or even really in the room completely, a million miles away in some parts of her head just nodded.

Part Eleven:

As he cut away at the shrink wrap on the pallet his eyes did a quick scan of the labels. From what he could see in the few seconds of scanning is that they at least have them in reverse order. Meaning which most of the boxes that were the oldest were on the top and the newer stuff at the bottom. That is something that he would have done, sent the information starting at the beginning. He noticed that there was one box that didn’t match, it was an apple box instead of a document one and had some newspapers taped over the top. He set that one aside for it had no date and whipping the pallet jack around he wheeled them into the corner. He began from there  as he went to work organizing the boxes by dates he could see. A real excitement went through him, this was like a treasure map and he realized he hadn’t felt like this for a long time.

The guys had known each other since they served together. They were not some kind of tough guy mercenaries or anything, but they had not had to work at a normal job for over twenty years. “Snaggles? Really?” Jimmy said to George as the older gentleman walked up to look at the 64′ Mustang that had just come in by flatbed a few days earlier. On this side of things there are a few more folks and George wouldn’t have noticed everything. This would be one that caught his eye though if he hadn’t been busy with Miss Lori.

He had some pepper pots and Jimmy added a few of his, they didn’t need to check their weapons or flash them about because they knew what they had. More bear will be coming in after those shrieks, maybe looking for an injured one, maybe just curious. As they climbed in the truck Jimmy just asked again if they could just shoot the damn thing and be done. George looked over at him with that shut your face look that was a little unsettling to Jimmy even after all of these years.

She looked on at the younger woman, a glow of youth that she had lost long ago washed over her face. She handed her the Apple Brandy that she makes from the few trees that are still clear of the forests creep. “So what have you decided?” Berta asked Lori, as the younger one took a very dainty sip from the minute glass, pinky finger extended even. Berta was a little curt with her words, she had waited for this answer since she first saw Lori’s car down by the cabin. Lori was still a million miles away in her head and wasn’t really the clearest of minds yet from her day, who would be? “I have a little place above the barn that you could stay in overnight, and we will see if the cabin is free by then?” Lori thought about her things in the cabin and dismissed them as really not important in this kind of situation. She had her bag with most of her important things on it. “I… I guess that would be fine if it doesn’t put you out?” Berta tried to hide the change in her face, almost a disappointment as she cheerily said “Not a problem at all dear, not at all.”

Berta sat in a high back chair that she had cleared some papers off of. She was never very good at this getting to know folks thing. She started off with asking about their mutual connections, the Hudson’s and Mike in particular. Lori filled her in on her side of things, saying that it just wasn’t right for some reason? Mike was so right, and at the same time it felt life she was with a brother more than a boyfriend or fiance most of the time. When he met Lynne and she saw that part that their lives had always missed she knew she was right. She was in her career mode anyways and couldn’t think about settling down with someone back then. That did remind Berta that she had read some of her work, that this woman was a dynamo and that she loved her writing style. “I saw that piece you did for Forbes and I was impressed” Berta piped in. That brought Lori back to why she was here to begin with, and she just then noticed that she was not looking for a screen anywhere to tell her friends what had happened.

The first one was marked 67′ and it smelled as if it had gotten wet a few times. After the sand pits of the Middle East he was notoriously aware of smells and anything else that could effect his breathing. He wasn’t sure but he inhaled some stuff over there that may cause problems later on. It was that OCD, Oscar Madison behavior that drove his wife nuts too. Flipping the top off with a spin he looked down into the few folders that were there. It appeared that one Attorney handled this back then before they were bought up by Fenwick and West. An attorney with a private practice at that time named Douglas Moreno, it looks like Mr. Newman put him on the map, and as he piled up the stacks from each year he soon could see a definite pattern. For each year the piles grew a little by little unless there were peak years where activities in his affairs blew up so to speak.

On February 27th 2013 Pope Benedict XVI presents his farewell address to Vatican City. The throngs of believers and witnesses to this historic event were world wide. There were vendors selling religious themed items among various other things. As one of them tried to sell his wares to a large man watching the balcony above a diminutive figure watched from behind him. Her eyes watering and in her heart a worrying personal trouble. Unlike this Pope in front of her, her time will not be marked immortal and it will not be filled with long term plans.

Part Twelve:

In 1972 Mr. Moreno hired another attorney to his one man show. A Denice Patrick showed up on the scene and took over the client. The records were immaculate and he could see that she was even more fastidious than he was in her almost OCD organization. For the next few years there was little if anything going on until 1975 when fourteen applications for Non-profit 501-C3’s were sent in located in various states. They dealt with everything from Breast Cancer research to funding of South American Tribes as far as their Mission Statements.

Also curious was in their By-Laws the money could never funnel up, simply over and diversify. That was something a bit unusual, most of the time these kind of folks want their seed money back at least.

Playing a good hostess and enjoying the company for once she poured the brandy into the aperitif glasses once more. The two found out that just beneath their outward masks was a sarcastic run that both appreciated, the laughs started to roll out a little bit more as Berta told her the story of the place and her adventures there as well. Lori was telling her of her job and all of this go go go mentality and that she needed to unplug. The story she was working on had her stumped at the story itself, and what it meant to her in her personal life too. Lori found herself opening up like a waterfall to this woman who she really just met. The other woman sitting there and patiently listening and letting her vent, share, cry for about the next hour. The brandy was no slouch in the kick department, Berta knew that, she made it. To the unaware guest though it was almost unnoticed as it kicked in.

“I Thought you were going to put in an elevator last month?” Jim asked George as they climbed down the ladder to the large underground bunker. “Nah,  I looked over the plans again and it still won’t work. ” The lights came on and Jim went over to the computers and flicked the power buttons. Around them came to life a command center the likes would make some military minds jealous. Jim had designed and built them when he ran the fiber optic throughout the hills. On one of the large flat screens a map of the area showed up and the sensors were visible as little green dots. There was one red one still and it was in an area they hadn’t been to yet. Also on the map was a blue dot that just read Snaggles underneath of it and it was still smack dab in the middle of the Hudson place. Jim grabbed a few extra batteries and told George he would be right back.

“Were you ever married?” Lori asked Berta after a long run and cry about why her and Mike couldn’t have made it. Berta told her her husband had died in the Vietnam and she hadn’t remarried. “So no family, no kids?” Lori could almost feel the air thicken as she thought she had gone too far with her reporter like inquisition. Berta sat still for a moment and looked down at the glass in her hands and said, “I had a beautiful bab…, but… The woman almost said something there, almost imperceptible… It was a different time then and things weren’t as fancy as they are now.”” Been on my own since then… well all except for Doug.” Lori decided not to push it any more with the personal questions. Talk about the apartment above the barn came up and Berta realized it was getting late and she wanted to shake some dust from the place. She asked Lori if she needed anything and Lori asked for some paper and something to write with. Berta had plenty, and gladly handed her a stack of paper and some writing instruments as she left to finish her chores.

Normally a bunch of Non Profit paperwork would be useless in any adventure. But he had access to all of their data, at least the stuff they made available to the government. The scanner would pick the number out and associate the appropriate government files for them. The harder work now is to find out how this too perfect of a trading record and investment history happened. When he looked at some of the documents he was spooked by the simplicity and sheer genius of it all. He again thought about some of the other dark forces and secret societies it just may be associated with. With no call from Alicia again tonight he worked on and well into the night.

Part Thirteen:

“All ready as it’s going to be dear!” Berta announced as she walked in. Lori had tried to take notes of some kind about some thoughts, yet all she had written were a few one liners. Looking up and smiling at the woman she was slightly ripped but in a state of euphoria for some reason. Just the perfect balance of tired and influences. Berta looked down at her and hoped she could make it up to the apartment. So this is the one huh? she thought silently once more, she shook off the saddening emotion that set in and smiled back at Lori. “Now tell me about this story you are stuck on?” She inquired as it being the first next thing she could think of. “Women, ” Lori said almost like a drunken sailor complaining about his wives. “The habits that have been a part of their lives, and what that means as they age…” “A sort of, if you do this, it’s a good thing, or this and it is a bad thing. The secrets that successful women incorporate into their lives, personally and professionally.” Berta was impressed, and wanted to laugh at the same time. Who ever said there was any secrets to anything? Then Lori finished, “That’s it! A whole lot of interviews and not a single bit to really bite on….” Berta could see her problem right then and there.

The Harley Davidson’s were loud as they rumbled up to George’s place. He already knew they were coming, even if he couldn’t hear them. He went up and closed the opening to the bunker. Mark and Bridge were riding up to his place, there must be something amiss somewhere, they didn’t like to take their bikes on his road for just nothing. Gravel is just not nice to Bridge’s classic 36′ Knucklehead, and Mark’s  41′ Military EL Knucklehead. George just smiled and even Sprocket got off of his bed on the porch and wagged his tail at George. “No, we aren’t going for a ride today boy” was all he said and Sprocket went back to his bed. He was still happy to hear the bikes though, and George looked on as the two rode up and told him about the bear sightings they had just had. It wasn’t Snaggles and they aren’t all Black ones either. That worried George a bit, but not much, the boys on their bikes do a good job of shooing them off.

The tables were stacked and there was still more than fifteen years to go. Tom just looked at it all, all of that he had consumed. “Just too perfect” he said out loud. Hungry and very tired his head hurt at the job that had encompassed him. It was a full off addiction now, a very much needed diversion from his failing marriage. In turning away from his personal life he found safe harbor in his work, something that was always important to him. The job makes the man was the life motto his Father had instilled into him. The years of work of the non-profits had created a pocket for this guy Newman to hide his money behind many layers. His expenditures were modest at best and downright miserly, but Tom did glean clues from some of the timing of the withdrawals and the location they were sent. London, California, Japan, this guy went places.

Berta was coming out of the kitchen where she had started some coffee. Lori was in the middle of complimenting the furniture and taste she had. She noticed that they both had an admiration for Shelah Dow and her artwork and jewelry. She had a few prints of Laure Anne Hartmann’s and some books by Kevin McDaid, and Sharon Fader Chiasson, a few of Lori’s favorite authors. This all felt scripted somehow to Lori though, she felt so at ease and it wasn’t the influences talking anymore. Like she was supposed to be there and see this, “I always wanted someplace like this to live in, away from the crazy world” Lori said almost under her breath as she finished speaking. Berta heard that and smiled once more, a sense of foreboding and at the same time goodwill, and blessings.

Mike Hudson had gotten a call from Jimmy about the cabin. He had some time off and Lynne was busy with a friends wedding. He knew Bud wasn’t feeling up to going out there so he decided to check it out, something about the bear?… He was actually almost worried for Lori, he knew she would be fine, but just how fine and just how unplugged was she getting herself into? The road became lost in the darkening twilight and he turned on his headlights, miles to go still.

Part Fourteen:

On Monday, August 21, 2017, all of North America was treated to an eclipse of the sun. Anyone within the path of totality could see one of nature’s most awe inspiring sights – a total solar eclipse. This path, where the moon will completely cover the sun and the sun’s tenuous atmosphere – the corona –  Stretched from Salem, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina. Observers outside this path saw a partial solar eclipse where the moon covers part of the sun’s disk.  Far removed from the lights of civilization and high above in the Rocky Mountains a motor home sat quietly, the figures under the sky looked up to see the darkness come and go. An older woman looks through her special glasses, you just can’t buy this she says in an almost schoolgirl tone. ————————————————–

She gently closed the door to her small home and sat where her guest had been just a while earlier. She was overcome by the sadness and at the same time very happy and couldn’t explain the dynamic to herself. She knew in her heart of hearts that this was a good thing and a joyous time, but she could not wrap her head around that feeling now. She laid down on her couch and cried and used the afghan as a pillow; Time is amazing, and life is wonderful she repeated again and again. With that in her mind the eighty seven year old woman soon slept and visions of every part of her life danced before her eyes again.

Lori was out like a light after getting comfortable, it smelled like a barn alright but besides that it was a lovely little dusty place. Her dreams carried her all over the last few weeks and into the first time when she was up here with Mike. There was a comfort to these dreams, a home like feeling she could feel, it held her and the smell of lavender. She woke up to a start, the thing that shook her out of her sleep from the quiet dream… A baby?

Tom was behind a freshly rotated pile of manila folders after having moved the already scanned ones to their place in the chronological piles. A face he had seen around the halls of some office or another in his time and walked in; Nobody has done that yet? “Tom? Tom Johnson right?” The man piped out as he made his introduction, Tom reached out to shake his hand and affirm that that was who he was when the man slipped an envelope in his hand. “You’ve been served Tom!” “Cheers,” the man said as he spun on his heels and cleared the door. Working in government offices you don’t expect these kind of things, but here he was, holding his divorce papers. Sliding down into his chair he sat there and looked at all of the paper, all of the boxes, thought of all of the time and wondered what it was all about? This wasn’t some crazy business was it? He posed aloud to the audience of ancient wood fibers. A feeling absolutely a part of that crazy business hit him, almost as if an audible voice said, No, No it’s not!

Mike had called George that morning at 4:30 am. He knew he would be up for a while by then and on his second cup, George was simply an amazing guy he thought. He wasn’t that worried about Lori because he knew the guys up there. Yet, there was something about all of this which was really strange to him, all of this activity at such a peaceful place. He and George traded Good Morning’s and he asked if there was any change to the cabin. George hadn’t been downstairs today yet so he responded that he didn’t know of any. He would call Mike back if there was any change and he would expect him within a couple of hours. George liked Mike, straight shooter, good kid, better Marine.

The lavender smell had not fully gone when she awoke for those moments, the stimulants though quickly allowing her to go back to sleep. She awoke awash that morning in a sunrise that was nearly fully upon her. The glow and the warmth made her think for a moment that she may have died, the hangover told her differently. Warm, warm, hot, ugh!… She started peeling off her shirt and pants as she looked around for the bathroom, sick from her trauma and cure.

Part Fifteen:

Tom went into a slump after the divorce to say the least. He had a brain fog and his work wasn’t cutting it. He had gained weight and began smoking again as he did in the military at times. He had used all of his sick and personal days and pretty much just camped at the office, unshaven and un-showered at times to the point of complaints. It was as if his brain was a percolating coffee maker that never quite got halfway up the tube. His immediate boss didn’t care for him one bit, but he had connections to a lot of higher ups and that was the only thing that saved him from being just squarely canned with prejudice. He was ordered to take time off and to lock his office as to not lose his work. Tom took this as a final blow, his head swimming with self destructive thinking and suicidal plans as he very flatly shook his head at the news and went home. His boss thinking that he needed some serious help, and a number of showers.

The place was a clutter and she had a guest! Was her thoughts as Berta waited for the coffee to finish. Her head was unusually cluttered as well, the overwhelming emotions started crawling into her and she didn’t have any way to stop them. She knew it was a matter of time, and not too long, but when? The coffee maker beeped as it emptied its water supply over the grounds. She snapped out of her thoughts and went numbly to pour some of God’s greatest gift to humanity. The lavender smell was in her mind and nose too, but she was very used to it and it was as if it were more comforting now. The tears started up in her eyes and a lifetime of lifetimes started flowing back into her thoughts. Nothing to do but enjoy them at the moment; “That’s why they are there,” she thought…

Lori felt like she was in college again, sick to her stomach and a migraine type of headache only gallons of water could heal… and ibuprofen… She wanted to wail in pain, and it was not a wince but a crumple that she averted as she tried to put weight on her foot. She caught herself head upside down and looking backwards, bent over to almost the floor and looking almost eye to eye with the culprit. Her head exploded repeatedly and her stomach was insisting she didn’t stop there or risk a mess. She was grateful for that little spot of wall where her hand went, and the moulding around the little linen closet that she used to climb herself upright like a snail up a log. Head barely moving, nausea at every centimeter in height. Three feet, three very long feet to go, what the hell did she do herself?

Nothing had seemed real for a very long time. Numb and just operating on a robotic like canter Tom had no cognizance to know what was going on inside of him. Disheveled and rough on all fronts he just sat at home and “watched” tv, even though he couldn’t tell you what the hell he was watching at any moment or why. Somewhere deep down he knew he had to break out of it, but he had no idea what it was or how to go about that. He had called a friend a few weeks ago, that one friend that everyone seems or wishes they had when it all goes South. When Tom got out of the Military he got involved with some PTSD treatments and charities. Tom had seen the costs of war firsthand in some cases and it got to him, he had to adjust and the folks were there just to talk to. One of the charities had a small contingent at a sort of career fair for assistance when they got out. There were employers there and health companies and charities, he just walked past one and saw a very nice pen on the table. When he asked about it a guy named Bud explained that he made them as a hobby. Tom was impressed and that was that, they have spoken pretty irregularly sometimes more, sometimes less.

Part Sixteen:

Berta was at the stairs going up to the apartment when she heard a familiar sound. Lori was upstairs and something had not agreed with her stomach apparently. Thinking she should turn around and get something for her she decided to get upstairs first and see what the poor thing would need this morning? She walked right in because of the layout and saw the partially closed bathroom door. placing the tray of coffee and cream and sugar down, she went to the cabinet above a wall. It used to have a kitchen style sink below it but that had been taken down and the wall still not repaired behind it. She saw the aspirin and a few other things in there and she gathered them up and set them on the table next to the coffee. “Lori? is there anything that you need?” she said softly through the open door. Lori had heard someone and suspected it was Berta, there was no other person it could be. Besides, she wasn’t going to move or make another sound if she could help it. Everything was so damn loud as it was! My God! she thought, I haven’t been rocked by anything like this since I turned thirty and drank thirty shots of Tequila! “I just need water and rest.” Lori thinks she spoke aloud enough for her to hear. Berta heard a mumble really but left her alone for a while as she woke up herself and started picking up the clutter in her own place. “What a slob I am…” Berta was beginning to laugh at that thought, like it really mattered nowadays!

The morning was at least starting off as a normal morning around here George was thinking as he headed up the ladder to the cabin. Sprocket was acting his usual self and was sleeping, completely content on his rug. In reality anything under six inches tall was his, George has found him asleep on top of cases of dog food, shoes and boots and anything else he can lay on or against… Good dog, just what a dog should be George often thought, drool and all. Grabbing a fresh cup of coffee and his jacket, George went out to make his rounds on foot, he had done an extensive check this morning but wanted to get a feel for it too.

Berta had collected up all of the newspapers and picked up all of the books that she had scattered around her living room. My goodness, that book was from last September and here I am now just picking it up? Silly old lady, it’s a good thing our guest arrived when she did, I may have gotten lost in here if I had let it last any longer? The thoughts bouncing around in her head was far from the truth, a little dust, a little clutter, but a lovely well kept and cleaned place all in all. As she moved one of the books off of her table she caught sight of some mail that had been buried. She picked it up and thumbed through it like we all do and one piece made her stop. That shouldn’t be out here, and she put in in her back pocket with a note where it goes stuck in her head. She continued to pick up and dust and just keep busy because in all reality she didn’t want to face anything that could be next. Those things she knew, the complexities of it all and the simplicity of it all, right now that all could wait, couldn’t it?

The world was starting to come into context again for Lori after some water and a few of the asprin’s that she had found by the coffee. She wasn’t to the point of coffee yet, her stomach had to handle that brandy she remembered she had drank last night. At least the hatchet planted square in her brain was disappearing. Sitting back and closing her eyes, she just tried to be nowhere and to stop all of the trappings going on in her head. Hard to clear up a mind after the last few days she thought as she just focused in on her breathing. The pounding was actually moving her head with every beat of her heart and she was not going to be going anywhere for awhile. As she was taking note of her body’s functions she told herself that she needed to thank Berta and talk more to her about all of this that she has made for herself. It must have taken such hard work to carve this kind of living out of the woods. Those were the type of women she wanted to know more about. Especially today as she thought about what was next for her in parts of her life that wasn’t working out very well at the moment. Arghh Lori! Stop thinking dammit!

Berta opened the door as if she was expecting to be attacked by a hidden danger. The door opened stiffly as it pushed the pile of envelopes and papers that had accumulated in its path. Dust could be seen lightly billowing in the sun-streaks coming from the lace curtains. Closed up for the better part of five years and even then rarely stepped into, Berta didn’t know what to expect when she opened up the door? Boxes and papers cluttered and partially obscured an elegant but well used office; One that looked like it was straight out of the early 70’s. There was the smell of old cardboard and there must have been a few small guests that had found their way in, other than noticing that She stood there blank as a chalkboard. I have to clean this up was her next thought and as soon as it appeared to form it felt ridiculous at the same time. She tossed the envelope onto the nearest pile and took a short look again at it all, and closed the door. Her own head was not all that clear this morning either with a lifetime flying through her thoughts.

Part Seventeen:

Thoughts going everywhere must have been the theme of the lunar cycle during all of this. As Mike drove up the familiar, but ever changing roads and views, he was struck with his own thoughts about growing up going out to the cabin. The fishing and hunting, mostly though he was thinking about his family and how all of that had morphed into something more, and something different as he grew himself. The new clear-cut before heading up the hills broke him out of it and reminded him he was driving. “Wow,” he thought, “Now that is very different.” The government had sold off some land in this area for the first time in decades and folks are none too happy about the sprawling creep. He would be at the property in a little bit and he wanted to get a good look at the changes in town because his family were a part of the community too.

The walk was non-eventful and George’s trouble senses were not even starting to engage. Most days are like this, with the duties taken care of and enjoying nature’s gifts. George knew something was changing, not the seasons, but something bigger. There was something about the last time he saw Berta that told him something? Just what that was he was sure to find out, she shared a lot with George and they were great friends, besides he was patient as a rock… Knowing Mike should be coming in sometime soon, he headed back to his cabin and Sprocket, who was just too tired to follow him today, again.

The mania was at its peak, he was just too jumpy and unhinged. Tom knew enough though to call someone, or talk about it with someone. He called his first contact Jade Barrett, they had been chatting the most recently and Tom didn’t want to get too talkative and catching-up with anyone. Jade was of course out of town and travelling the world playing Bridge, his go-to mental challenge. Tom sat for a few hours between call attempts and while he waited, he just sat, not thinking, not engaging in anything apparently. Jade had been talking to their mutual friend Bud, and knowing that Tom called, which is an emergency alert kind of thing in this group, Jade emailed Bud from Italy explaining he was deep in play, and needed help with their friend Tom. 

Lori was still feeling horrible though her trembling and shaking had subsided to a dull roar. The coffee was like a magic elixir when she came around to sipping on it. There was a claw foot tub in the bathroom and she thought that sounded awfully nice right about now since she couldn’t see standing in the shower. As she was getting her things ready for her bath and checking to see if there was hot water attached, she was overwhelmed with the scent of lavender again. Had she touched something? Curious?  She ran her bath and climbed in and just about cried as her foot hit the hot water. Raising it above the tub and resting it on the rim under a towel helped a great deal, but it still hurt. Closing her eyes and relaxing as much as she could her thoughts went to a grassy field and a man and their baby!? “Oh My God! What the hell!?” Lori shouted out loud as she furiously wondered where the hell! That came from? Just shocked, she soaked in the hot water and thought about the floral wallpaper print, just the wallpaper print, she repeated to herself, shaking. 

“I think it’s time to go on a trip?” Berta was mumbling to herself trying to get her mind on something other than the calendar. She ran over in her head a few things about current events, and then her mind just went blank, so much to do and nothing at all at the same time… With that thought she just stopped, plopped on the sofa and engaged a billion-trillion synapses. All of her, all of her being began to play, a tragically magnificent symphony of thoughts and emotions, memories mixed with the very essence of life. For the first time in recent memory, she was tired, a tired that stretched into her bones and her soul, the whispering’s of somewhere else. She didn’t know how long she had been sitting there when she came out of it, was this even the same day? 

The truck pulled up to the tiny cabin, Mike could already tell that things didn’t look quite right. There was too much clutter and debris scattered about the ground by the cabin, George had told him what had happened and there was no sign of Snaggles then. Too early to be calling anyone, Mike headed down to the lake to take in the sights again. He needed to take a break, and this was a cruel tease in the big picture of things. George saw him pull in and was headed towards the place as Mike reached the shoreline. Checking the clarity of the water, looking for any weird floating algae like he had since he was a kid. One Summer an algae bloom, a one off event really, gave him swimmers itch so bad he kept that memory all these years. He too needed a break from everything like anyone else, and the get away from it all was pulling at him hard these days. 

“Mornin George,” Mike said softly without looking up from the water. George knew what Mike was doing, he did it every time he got there. “We haven’t had one of those blooms since Mike.” Mike laughed a bit inside, there’s nothing like being around old friends to make you feel like you’re right at home. The two big men shook hands and exchanged pleasantries. “I heard Lori didn’t have a great time of things?” “Not a regular thing for anyone Mike.” George replied, Then he tossed in something that surprised even him. “I think something is happening here?” Mike didn’t answer or think too much about what George had said, Mike didn’t get up here much and change could mean a bunch of things, besides… he needed more coffee. “How’s Berta?” Mike changed the subject a bit, “Just Berta.” was the standard phrase said once again for the quadrillionth time.  

The towels were as soft as any she had ever felt, and the water made everything but her ankle feel much better. She felt stronger than she had since she took the meds, that was a good thing as she could support herself much better now. Still fuzzy in her head, but this could be taken care of with a razor and a toothbrush now, instead of a set of hedge clippers and a hose brush needed before. As she was getting dressed she stopped as she pulled her blouse over herself, this all seemed normal for a few moments? Like she had done this before, almost a deja-vu kind of experience? It shook her a bit, but not enough to shake away that comfort feeling, that feeling that everything is going to be fine, no matter what. Yes, there was a whisper of lavender in the air, but Lori was too struck by the other feelings to notice it. 

“Tom!? My name is Bud, a friend of Jade’s,” began the voicemail the number left. He didn’t answer a lot of his calls unless he knew the number, the amount of scammers was at an epidemic level. The message covered all of the connections, so Tom knew who Bud was in all of this. He had heard his name before, so there was a little comfort too. Tom called Bud back fairly promptly, he really had nothing else to do to be honest, and he needed to connect with a human being again. Over the next few hours, which ran into days, Tom filled Bud in with everything. From the service, to his work, Tom let it all out there, probably breaking a few laws about disclosure in the process, but he didn’t care because it felt like letting the gas out after being constipated for years. Piece by piece, layer by layer, they talked and reminisced about common experiences, beliefs and even fishing stories. 

Part Eighteen:

Britain! It will be Britain again! She said aloud to nobody. Berta was all a jumble of making herself busy. Looking for old pictures, and her passport too, she knew what that would mean, and she wasn’t quite ready to go into the clutter and fish through the stuff to find them.