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All People > anadyr > Roger's Ramblings--the Anadyr/Stepping Stones Blog > 2017 > November > 26


Posted by anadyr Nov 26, 2017

The store reeked of newness on that early April day. Racks of clothes neatly arranged. The clerks were still smiling.  Many checked from time to time for their shiny new name badges, fidgeting, and stalking every customer who walked in the door. I was covered by two women, sure that I one of the few customers with deep pockets.  Everyone else had a 20% discount post card clutched in their hands, not me, so I was going to help the store’s bottom line.

An imposing manager stood watch as people left and entered the store, smiling, reaching to help those with their packages, gently taking anyone back to the registers whose purchases did not have the security tags deactivated.  A smooth running operation, a new beginning in an old building.

I saw him from a distance.  I watched as he searched his pockets for the cigarette pack that was no longer there, a habit borne of decades of addiction.  Finding nothing, he adjusted his thick glasses, and turned toward me.  It was something he was wearing that gave me the final clue.

“John?” I asked tentatively, walking toward him.

He pushed his thick lenses back up the bridge of his nose, his eyes magnified even more.  “I remember you,” he said, listing the places that we’d been together, both in and out of the 'service.'

“How are you?” I asked, patting him on the shoulder.

“Not good, in fact terrible. I’m considering a law suit against…” he lowered his voice and hissed, “them!”  His brown stained crooked teeth rattled when he spoke.

“What’s the…”

In 2011 I wrote a book, a novel, and passed it through them, like we all have to, and that was OK. Now, decided I’d recount my years there, not a kiss-and-tell mind you, and they took two years to get around to OK-ing it!”

“Long time, even in the worst of cases,” I muttered.

“Damn straight. Fools told me they were swamped but you’ve probably seen that they released a couple of other books in the meantime?”  He rattled off three titles recently released.  “So, I finally get it back, and some of my old cellmates tell me that the place is out to get me, they want revenge.”

“Lots of changes?”

Plenty of redactions and plenty of marginal notes too.”

A commotion on the street outside the store started as a pedestrian walked in front of a large bus, nearly getting run over in the process.  Horns honked, glances were exchanged, tempers rose. In the end no one was hurt. Washington returned to the normalcy of the total silence, the isolationist phones, the i-Pods, and the head down, don’t bother me life.

I used the distraction to ask a question. “How long were you there?  Refresh me.”

“Thirty one years, most of that time in the polygraph program, headed it for ten of those years. He looked over my shoulder, his large magnified blue eyes dampened with memories of victories in far flung places and defeats at home.

“John, I….”  I was searching for something to say. “I find it ironic that they’d see you as a threat, and….”

He thrust his hand into a jacket pocket and with a practiced movement that many agents have, passed a small card to me while speaking and gesturing with his other hand.  Classic sleight of hand maneuver, but he was still good.  “Check it out, see what I mean.”

“I will.”

John looked nervously over his shoulder, seeing something that I did not. He turned to leave.  “Got a card?” he asked.

“No but here’s my email,” I reached for a pen and pad.

“Just tell me and I’ll remember.”  He committed my email and my phone number to memory, repeating it back as I’d given it to him.

You afraid of them?” I asked innocently.

He focused on me, a penetrating stare that had drilled into the consciousness of many new hires and veterans over the years.  “No, but they better watch out for me.  I’m not done with all this yet.”  He made a face, nearly pushing his heavy glasses off his crooked nose. He brushed back his thick gray hair.

John wandered away, stopping to look at various decorations in the store, checking back over his shoulder to see if anyone was there.

To me at least it seemed that the store was chock full of shoppers and clerks, no one else on this overcast cold day.  I saw the first signs of rain through the window, the unfurling of umbrellas, the quickening pace of shoppers heading for the garage and uncovered parking. Damn, I should never have had the Mercedes washed and detailed, many were thinking

Maybe it was my imagination but the manager kept looking me and then at John, his gaze friendly, but focused.

John walked out of the store into the diorama, no umbrella, his collar upturned. Heavy rain varnished the streets, cleansing the thoroughfare of lies.






Posted by anadyr Nov 26, 2017


QQQ.jpgShe was crying, the kind of outpouring that men and women have sometimes. Mascara was flowing down her face, but she kept her hands clenched on her lap.  The room seemed smaller and hotter than I remembered it, even though the windows were open and the fan whirred at full speed. Sobbing, she looked at me, eyes reddened, knowing that I would be gone soon, maybe forever. I was trying to be stoic. I did not know what to say, how to explain, when to hold her hand, what to do.

.  We had met only a few months before; one of those chance encounters that everyone says is kismet. We lived near each other. I guess we saw each other when she was coming from work.  I was walking home from school, the long way.  Our eyes met, we nodded, that kind of friendly kind of nod people use all the time.  That was that.  I climbed the stairs; walked into my home, spoke to the maid.

She told my family that she had seen me, wondered who I was.  It started that way, the first hint, followed by family reminders that I should call or see her.  I hesitated, reminding everyone that I just was passing through, on my way from here to another place.  I was not even sure when I would ever get back.

Dinner was a formal affair, and she was there with her mother and younger sister.  I should have known that I would be seated opposite her; the smirks on everyone’s face gave away the game.  I found it hard to make a connection, I was not as socially aware as she was.  Her mother looked at me during the meal, assessing me as a suitor, I guess.  I was too inexperienced to see most of what was happening, so I concentrated on eating and not spilling food on myself. Her younger sister giggled a lot.  Most of the conversation was about things I never cared about, or did not understand.

I wished her family goodnight at the door.  Her hand seemed to hold mine longer than anyone else’s. She looked at me in a way that no one had before.  I was uncomfortable, but I liked the feeling.

A few days later we talked in the lobby, hesitatingly at first.  She wanted to be sure that I knew she was not married.  I said that I did.  She told me her mother wanted her to be married.  I assured her I was not.  She laughed, sharing some joke that I didn’t get at the time.  She asked if I could come for a formal dinner at her house.  I said I thought I could.

All day I thought about our dinner date, wondering what might happen?  I got home and laid out my best clothes, telling the maid that I needed my shoes shined to their best gloss.  She looked at me with knowing eyes, answered yes.

I arrived early, even had flowers. Her mother met me at the door.  Without a word she ushered me in, told me to wait.  We ate dinner, can’t remember what, and talked.  Mother was in the kitchen, watching, waiting.  It was small talk.

We started to see each together, but not out of her apartment.  She wanted to see me, but not be seen with me.  I thought it strange but went along.  We tried to learn about each other, where we’d been, where we were going. At times we could not find the words.

She had beautiful brown eyes.  Expressive eyes.  She told me that when people could not speak with their mouth, they used their eyes.  I know that was right then and now.

Our third date we held hands.  Her mother had just taken a phone call and she took my hands in hers.  I shivered, but she just smiled.  The room seemed cooler, the traffic lighter, the walls brighter. We spoke of our plans, the future we might have together.  For a long while we said nothing.

Her mother came in the room, our hands pulled apart. I stood, walking to the window, looking at the traffic in the street below, the stagnant city air rising up from the concrete.  She and her mother spoke, I didn’t hear what they said.  Her mother left.

We were together a lot that summer.  It was difficult for me to juggle everything that I had to do, but I made time for her.  We spoke on the phone, we left notes.

I remember the promises we made, how we swore to love each other forever.  I remember that apartment, the swinging door ajar between the living room and the kitchen, her mother always nearby. I can almost touch that marble window sill, the one that I looked out of when her mother came in the room. I remember that feeling of being in love, or wanting to spend the rest of my life with her.

Times change, situations change, promises were made and then broken.  I had to leave. We were young; at 19 she was three years older.  She was working, had a good job. I could not ever marry her, I guess only I knew that.  I was in high school, a Student Exchange Student in South America.  It was 1961, so long ago. 

I have one thing from her:  a small black and white picture, her writing on the back:  it says “my love always.”


Feeling Crabby

Posted by anadyr Nov 26, 2017

crabs.jpgMust be the run-up to Christmas and the hectic pace that is just around the corner. Time for a change of scene.


Flat calm, the Pacific is like an oily mirror sprinkled with kelp and sea otters.  Disgusted surfers sit on truck tailgates, angry the waves are gone, boasting of past rides.  Hollow boasts, fading tans, white and yellow blonde heads.

A noisy blue and white Scrub Jay hops along, looking for anything to eat. We keep pace for a while, but he flies off to the East.

Fifteen brown Pelicans skim the horizon barely above the water, Carmel coastal surveillance.  Chain link fences guard empty lots where venerable houses stood.  Greed and renovation knocked them down and blew them away.  Now only a hole here and there, mute testimony to time and chance.

A pickup truck comes from behind, rattling with age, held together by tape.  I do not turn, the Spanish radio station tells me it is a day laborer heading for a seven o’clock appointment with minimum wage.  I smell the smoke from his exhaust. 

Other walkers come toward me, each heading for something, getting somewhere.  The slow strollers are as earnest as the fast ones.  There is a stream now, most coming from the point, and half way to their turn-around in town on Ocean Avenue.  It’s the look, the determination that carries them forward.

I pass a large stone and steel house, the one that took years to finish.  Two large dogs bark from the safety of their living room couch, making sure I know that they see me and disapprove.  The plate glass window muffles their voices.  I wave. One dog stops barking.

I pass the Frank Lloyd Wright house on the right, the ocean side of the way, and am overcome by the stink of sulfur from fields of rotting Bull Kelp ten feet below on the beach.  It all seems logical, and I walk faster.

Ahead the barricade and a sign say the road is closed.  I walk through the small diamond-shaped warning, looking at the way that the ocean has undercut the right edge of the asphalt.  Silent houses of great value face the road, wondering if they will also fall in.  It’s a long way down to the ocean from here. I wish them well.

The road makes a sharp left here, Dead Man’s Curve they call it, since it’s barely one lane wide and traffic is supposed to go both ways.  Makes for an exciting trip on a foggy morning.  Not today, the barriers will save a life or at least a fender of a rental car.

I look at the small crescent shaped beach below, strewn with gnarled driftwood, wondering if it will go back to the sea at high tide.  There are a couple hundred seagulls resting on the sand, fog bathing I suppose.

Passing the state park now I resist the temptation to go in, to look at the beach.  I have places to go, deadlines to meet.  I move on, pick up the pace, and smile at a couple of dogs with masters coming toward me.

It may be my imagination but I think I see a little blue mixed with the steely gray skies overhead.  Maybe the fog will lift, just maybe.

It’s been 45 minutes, three miles, more than two hundred million dollars in real estate, and I am back at the car. I press the key fob and the doors open with a soft click.  Older dogs are getting help from their older masters, hesitantly, painfully jumping into cars.

I sit down on a rock facing the water and for the first time reflect on the day ahead but more importantly the time just past.

My crabbiness is gone.