A friend of mine called and said he had recently gone to see a medium. He said he had never done so before and wanted to see what it was like. He said the medium was an elderly man who closed his eyes and seemed to go into a trance then said,
“There is a spirit present who wishes to communicate with you. She says you used to practice law.”
My friend replied, “No. I never practiced law.”
The medium continued, “She says you suffer from arthritis.”
My friend replied, “I have never had arthritis.”
The medium continued, “She says you have a heart condition and recently died but were revived.”
My friend replied, “No, but I have a friend who has experienced all of those things.”
Then the medium said, “She must be trying to contact your friend.”
I was raised in a traditional Methodist church. I do not believe in spirits. I believe that when we die, our soul leaves our body and goes to heaven or goes to hell. I also believe in the Doctrine of Salvation. So I was definitely skeptical of what my friend had told me, but nevertheless said, “Give me his name and his number and I will go see him.”
I called, made an appointment, and went to the meeting. The medium was an elderly man who closed his eyes and seemed to go into a trance then said, “There is a spirit present who wishes to communicate with you. She says she made pies for you and suffered from stomach problems.”
I replied, “My mother always made pies for me and she died of stomach cancer. Are you communicating with the spirit of my mother?”
The medium said, “Yes. She says that she is your mother.”
Me: “Why is she contacting me?”
Medium: “You and she have a very strong connection that goes way back through time, through several lives. She wishes to be close to you. When you are happy, she is happy. When you are sad, she is sad.”
Me: “Tell her I have a wife whom I love very much, and she loves me and takes good care of me.”
Medium: “Your mother knows that and is very grateful for her love and care of you.”
Me: “Tell my mother that I love her, too. I miss her, and I will see her soon.”
Medium: “She says you will not see her soon. You will live another ten years.”
Me: “I have been retired fifteen years. I have accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish. If I am to live another ten years, what as I supposed to do?”
Medium: “She says you have a talent for writing and that you should write.”
I still don’t know what to think about it, but what I just told you is the truth. It did happen just as I have written. I don’t know how to reconcile that with the religious beliefs of my upbringing. All I know is that it did happen just as I have written.
It was just before Christmas 2016. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon. My wife, Lorrie, and I were returning from Atlanta where we had spent a week at our condo, visiting children, grandchildren, and exploring new restaurants. We had turned off of I-77 at the Hillsville, Virginia exit and were proceeding east on Hwy 58 in our Range Rover. We were on the old two-lane section before it reached the new four-lane section. She was driving, and I had just remarked to her that we would be home in about fifteen minutes, and I was glad of it. The drive from Atlanta was long, and it would be good to be home again.
Then, we saw the SUV come around the curve ahead. It was slightly across the centerline into our lane. At first, we were not concerned because that often happens, but the trespassing vehicle always returns to its side of the road before it passes by. Even so, Lorrie steered over to the right edge of our lane. Then to our horror, we watched the SUV continue to further encroach diagonally into our lane. Lorrie steered to the right, off of the pavement as far as possible, but we were on the edge of a precipice. The drop was at least several hundred feet and there was no guardrail. The SUV kept coming for us like a terminator machine. There was nothing we could do. We had to swerve right and drive off of the cliff, or we had to take the hit. We took the hit.
The impact was stunning. Both vehicles were traveling at about fifty miles per hour and neither had slowed before the collision. All the Range Rover air bags exploded. Black smoke filled the interior of the car. The Range Rover was knocked over onto its passenger side and was sliding. I couldn’t see anything. I was lying with my right side against the passenger side door, as I heard the screech of the metal on the pavement, felt the vehicle sliding, and waited for the sensation of falling over the cliff. I realized that the air bags had already deployed and when, after a long drop, we hit a rock outcrop or a tree, there would be nothing to protect us.
The Range Rover stopped sliding. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t understand what had happened. Gradually I could see as the black smoke escaped through some breaks in the glass. I saw Lorrie above me hanging unconscious in her seat belt, her body pressed against the armrest and console that separated us. Because of the black smoke and tank full of gasoline, I was worried that even though we had, by some miracle, not been knocked over the cliff, we might still be killed by burning to death when the gas tank exploded.
I yelled “Lorrie, Lorrie, Lorrie,” as loudly as I could.
Finally she responded. “What?”
I yelled, “Get out of the car. Get out of the car.”
“But if I release my seat belt, I will fall on you.”
“Try to open your window, and then hold on to the ledge as you release your seat belt,” I said.
“OK. Got it. Now what?” she replied.
“Pull yourself up through the window, jump down to the ground, and then get away from the car.”
Lorrie has been an athlete all of her life and works out several hours every day. She easily got out of the car through the window and jumped to the ground. But then to my horror, she immediately reappeared just outside the broken windshield in front of my face.
“Get away from the car,” I screamed.
“But I want to help you.” she replied.
“If you want to help me, then get away from the car,” I yelled as forcefully as I could.
Frantically, I released my seat belt and forced my way up until I was sitting on the ledge of the open window of the driver’s side. My back was to the road and I no longer had the strength or balance to get up, turn around, and jump to the ground. By that time, several cars and pickup trucks had stopped. Two strong men came up to the car and realizing the problem said, “Just fall back and we will catch you.”
Right, I thought. I will land on my head and break my neck. But if I stay in the car, I will burn to death when the gas tank explodes. “OK. Here I come.” I closed my eyes, leaned back, and fell out of the window.
They caught me. No part of my body ever hit the ground. They stood me on my feet and let me go but grabbed hold of me again, when my shaky legs refused to support me. I was not hurt, just shaken up.
But Lorrie was hurt. She had a broken finger and was bleeding from several scrapes and cuts. She had bruised ribs and might have suffered a concussion. An ambulance appeared and took her to the hospital. I followed, driven by a Good Samaritan.
When I got to the hospital, Lorrie had already been taken to the back. I refused medical attention because I didn’t feel like I had any injuries. However, I was coughing, coughing, coughing. An elderly woman in the waiting room addressed me.
“Since you have the croup so bad, do you think you should be in the waiting room with all of these healthy people?
I responded, “Madam, I do not have the croup. I was just in a near fatal car accident and my condition of congestive heart failure has been aggravated by breathing a lot of black smoke from the exploded air bags.”
“Oh good.” she replied.
Lorrie and I eventually got home but not until well after dark. Of course, the Range Rover was totaled. The next day, I went with a friend and salvaged all our belongings. When I got home, Lorrie asked if I thought we should ask him to take us to Mt. Airy to rent a car. She said she was sure the insurance company would pay for it. My response was “You can’t rent a Range Rover and I don’t want to drive anything else.” Five days later, I had purchased and was driving a new Range Rover.
But then I got to thinking. How exactly did we escape certain death? I went to the cupboard and got out two soup cans of the same size. I held them on the edge of the kitchen counter and moved then toward each other on a collision course. The can on the edge when hit nearly head on was driven over the edge. When hit in the center of the driver’s side or on the rear wheel of the driver’s side, it was driven over the edge. But the can on the edge when hit on the front wheel of the driver’s side spun its back around up onto the counter.
When the Range Rover had stopped sliding it was turned over onto its passenger side, but it was not on the edge of the cliff. It was exactly in the middle of its paved lane of travel. It had been struck on the front wheel of the driver’s side so severely that the entire wheel had been ripped from the axel.
Just the other day I said to my wife “I don’t remember a minute of the drive from Atlanta up until the collision, but I remember every second of the minutes from first realizing the SUV would hit us, until I was on my way to the hospital. Those memories are still clear in my mind, and I think they always will be. That is a yesterday that I will never forget. That Range Rover saved our lives.”
“You are wrong,” she corrected me as she lovingly fingered the gold medallion she wore around her neck on a gold chain. “The Archangel Michael saved us.”
The mind is constantly dwelling in three periods of time: the past, the present, and the future. The amount of time spent in contemplation of each differs with each person. The point is that today will become your yesterday. Today will become your past and will go with you into your future. Present time should be used to create memorable past time that will go with you into future time. So why not do something significant today?
And remember…always travel with an Archangel.
(Photograph courtesy of Lorrie Mann)
Early yesterday morning my wife sprang from our bed, a woman on a determined mission. After fully dressing, she was on her way down to the garage to warm up her little black Audi TT convertible, (with black wheels of course), for a trip to Floyd for her periodic session of quantum bio-feedback. (Don’t ask. I don’t know.)
From our bed, I sprang, like a filmed slow-motion outtake, put on my warmest robe, (it was 7 degrees outside, with a brisk wind), and shuffled as fast as I could on my walker, my titanium left hip still not in full operation, down in the elevator, and across the garage to kiss her goodbye. As she drove away that early dawn morning, I watched until her little “Black Olive” had disappeared between the twin stone towers that guard the beginning of our mountain top property drive to our house, greenhouse, and barn.
As I stood there, for some strange reason, I did not feel cold. I turned to my right in the dawning light to admire the hay field that lies back of our house, like a picture framed on three sides by majestic native trees. I squinted a little - I really need new glasses - when I noticed a black spot about halfway down the large pasture. I have often hayed that area on my 82-horsepower tractor and knew there was a spot there where a tractor wheel would dip, scare the…out of me, then right itself and proceed forward as if nothing had happened. I asked a farmer friend of mine who said fat ground hogs have tunnels all under our land and occasionally a tunnel will collapse causing a passing tractor, or ambling cow, to momentarily take a scary dip to one side or the other.
However, from my perspective, the dark spot looked larger than that. Shuffling back into the garage, I selected the warmest Outback overcoat I could find, my bearskin mittens, sheep skin lined boots, then leaning on my trusty walker, slowly headed for that black hole. The closer I got, the larger it looked. When I finally got there, I noticed that there were old wooden stairs, with an old wooden handrail, descending into a cave to which I could see no end. Abandoning my walker and holding firmly to the handrail, I slowly made my way down the old stairs.
It appeared to be a hand-dug cave, if I may call it that - narrow and long. There were not tables, chairs, or shelves. My first impediment: a pile of rusty steel blades. As I edged my way around them in the dim light, I could make out rifle bayonets, cavalry sabers, pre-civil war swords, (probably family heirlooms), and various versions of the Bowie knife. As I backed away from them down into the cave, I tripped over a pile of rusty handguns. Luckily my titanium hip was not injured, but as I sat there, I noticed Colt Navy Revolvers, Kerrs Revolvers, Le Mat Revolvers, a few Colt Baby Dragoons, and even one Walsh Revolver.
Leaning against the dirt wall of the cave, I got to my feet and proceeded on to a stack of rifles. I saw Springfield Model 1861s, Pattern 1853 Enfields, Lorenz Rifles, M1841 Mississippi Rifles, some bored out to 58-caliber, several Sharps Rifles, a few Henry Rifles, and remarkably, one Whitworth Sniper Rifle. Then more accustomed to the dim light, I looked further back into the cave.
That is when I saw them. They were laid in two rows, with a center walkway between their feet. They were shoulder-to-shoulder and still wore their uniforms, or what was left of them. Gold sparkled here and there from wedding rings on skeleton fingers. There must have been one hundred of them, in all. I knew in an instant that they had stacked their weapons after the end of the civil war because, being men of honor, they would not take a life after the official end of the conflict. But I also knew that being men of honor, they would also not take an Oath Of Loyalty to the Union. Instead, they had laid down, brother by brother, shoulder by shoulder, and while praying silently in their own way, they had, one-by-one, died of dehydration.
I was horrified. I was shocked and so, stumbling and scrambling, I made my way out of the cave, up the old wooden stairs, and back to my walker. Leaning on it, I turned to look at my home for some reassurance that I was still in my life, that my life still existed. It did. My home was still there. Feeling a little more courageous, I turned back to the hole that housed the wooden-stair-descent into the cave. It was all gone.
I stood in the middle of my hay field, it looking as it had always looked. Some movement drew my attention down to the right. It was my yellow barn cat, Eric. He seemed to be smiling as he looked up at me. I was slowly but surely infused with a feeling of calm and peace. Then, as I gratefully gazed back at Eric, I realized that he was God. In shock, I raised my head and viewed the surrounding mountains in the growing morning light. I saw that they, too, were God.
Then, for a split second, the mountains became transparent and I saw what lay beneath. I saw the bones and artifacts of millions of people who had lived, laughed, cried, and loved and died in those mountains. I knew they were not there. They were with God. But the love that they had shared over millions of years was still there. And I and my house, my neighbors and their pickup trucks, Chateau Morrissett winery across the valley, and all the roads that connected all of us had been built upon, and were supported by and sustained by, that cumulative love.
Then, it dawned upon me in an instantaneous revelation:
#1. I might be completely insane, but also
#2. Does it really matter?
On a Thursday afternoon, November 13, 1941, Carolina and Butch were sitting at their usual table, discussing business, when the bartender approached and said, "There is a man up front. He says his name is Ed Mason and he needs to see Butch and Carolina. I have never seen Ed Mason. Do you think that it is really him?"
"What does he look like?" asked Butch. The bartender was good at recognition recall, which is why Carolina had her working the bar. She was the eyes, and sometimes the warning signal, at the front door.
She closed her eyes as she answered, "He is about 6'2" tall, with thick salt and pepper hair, dark brown eyes, and wide shoulders. He stands very erect and looks muscular, but not bulky. He is wearing a long sleeved, white shirt, black pants, and black boots. He has a long black coat over his left arm and, in his right hand, he has a large black hat. But what is most noticeable is his stare. His eyes are hard and intense. He doesn't so much look at you as he stares into you."
"Yep. That is Ed Mason," said Butch. "That has always been Ed Mason. It is uncanny."
Butch and Carolina looked at each other in wonder. They never thought that they would see the day that Ed Mason walked into Carolina's. Carolina said to the bartender, "Tell him to meet us in the conference room of The Travel Agency in ten minutes. Give him directions to find it."
As Butch and Carolina walked out the back, he asked her, "What do you think he wants?"
"Maybe someone died or is sick. We will know soon enough."
When Butch and Carolina entered the conference room through the alley door in back of The Travel Agency, they saw not only Ed Mason, but also two other men, one white, large, and one light walnut colored, spare, fine featured, standing to one side of the table.
As soon as Carolina saw Mayor Wallace and Randolph Mason with Ed Mason, she knew it was not a social family visit. She knew that they wanted something. She knew that Ed Mason wanted something. She knew that he wanted something from her. She had longed for this moment. Oh, how she had longed for it.
What Ed Mason did not know was that the small woman he saw before him had a near genius IQ, an analytical mind that would put a chess master to shame, and an understanding of men that would have been the envy of Madame Pompadour. He also did not know that this former teenage prostitute was as fierce as a badger, and she loved Butch, his younger brother, with all her being. It hurt her that the Masons had ostracized the hulking brute she knew to be a beautiful, vulnerable little boy. She knew that Ed Mason thought she was the beauty and Butch was the beast, but she was about to educate him as to the errors of his ways. She smiled demurely and relaxed her hands as she imagined her fingers tightening around his balls. She was about to introduce him to the world of the castrato.
Ed said, "Butch, it is good to see you again. This must be Carolina. I have heard a lot about you. I am Ed Mason. This man to my right is Mayor Wallace and to my left is Randolph Mason."
Carolina said politely, "Nice to meet you gentlemen. Please be seated."
After everyone was seated, Butch and Carolina across from Ed Mason, Mayor Wallace, and Randolph Mason, Ed began,
"My name is Mrs. Mason, just the same as your wife's," said Carolina sternly, clipping her words tersely.
An awkward silence followed. The air seemed to have thickened, coldly. She clenched and unclenched the fingers of her hands resting in her lap under the table.
Butch was embarrassed. "Carolina, Ed is my brother."
"I know that," she replied evenly between clinched teeth, "but does he?"
Silence. Menacing silence. Carolina's calm steady gaze engaged Ed's hard direct stare, her fingers clenched, then as all watched, his eyes softened and moistened. He said, "I understand. You are right. Yes, of course."
Ed was not slow witted. Turning to Butch, he said, "We were wrong to ostracize you. We tolerate, accept, and even facilitate things others do, things which we do not do. So why did we not accept you, one of us whom we loved, just because you are not like us. I have often thought we were wrong. I am sorry, and I hope you will forgive us."
"You said forgive US, not just you. So, is Butch back in the family?" inquired Carolina.
Butch said, "I am glad. I have really missed everyone, the family reunions, birthdays, Christmas, the Fourth of July."
Carolina knew what he did not say. She knew what he had told her. The nights when he won fights by staying on his feet, taking beatings no other man could have endured. The nights none of his family came to watch. The nights none of his family came to congratulate him. The nights he went back to his motel room alone, his torso severely bruised, his lips split, his eyes swollen almost shut, to lie alone in his bed willing his physical pain to mask the pain of his solitude. But it never did.
Carolina's stomach contracted as she felt like crying, but her face showed no emotion. She uttered not a sound. Her hands contracting and releasing, contracting and releasing, were silent.
"As a matter of fact," said Ed "Why don't you all come to dinner on Sunday. I will have everyone there. It will be a family reunion."
"You ALL?" asked Carolina pointedly.
"Yes. You are Butch's wife. You are a part of the family, too."
"That will be very awkward for me and your wives. Perhaps I shouldn't come. I am sure they know who I am. They will shun me."
"No, they won't."
"You are a man, and like most men you do not understand women. I am no longer a prostitute, but I used to be. I know men don't hate such women, but other women do. To them I am a leper, an untouchable, an outcast, one unclean. They will not allow me to be among their men. They will not allow me to be in their homes."
"Did not Jesus embrace Mary Magdalene? Did not he allow her to anoint his feet? Was not she with him at his crucifixion? Was not she with him at his resurrection? Who are we to judge Jesus and Mary Magdalene? Who are we to judge Butch and Carolina? God save us from the damnation of such antichrist-inspired self-righteousness. I am the acknowledged leader of the Mason clan, and I welcome you both into the family. I guarantee that you both will be accepted fully and completely with love and respect."
"He is right, Carolina," said Butch. "That is the way it has always been. Once the Mason clan leader makes a decision, it is accepted and followed fully, without reservation," added Butch.
"Will everyone be there?" asked Carolina.
"Yes, everyone will be there," replied Ed.
"Butch likes his bourbon before dinner."
"We will have bourbon for Butch, and what would you like to drink?"
"I don't drink. I never have."
Then she asked with a devilish smile, as she relaxed her hands,
"Should I wear a red dress? Show some cleavage?"
Ed knew she was being facetious, so he replied, "I think you would look lovely in white, cleavage optional."
"Fine," said Carolina. "Now that we have taken care of that, tell us why you gentlemen are here."
Ed turned to Mayor Wallace. "I think you should tell them."
"Yesterday, I received this letter."
He pulled a sheet of paper from his jacket pocket, unfolded it, and slid it across the table to Carolina and Butch. It was dated November 5, 1941. It read,
"Dear Mayor Wallace:
I will be in South Point the first Friday and Saturday in December to view your site for the possibility of building a large plant to produce ammonium nitrate explosives for the war effort. Your site will be the last of the six I visit, and the decision will be made by me immediately thereafter. The plant must be built as quickly as possible. Do not fail to accommodate me or your site will be eliminated from consideration.
Head of The Department Of War Procurements"
"So?" asked Carolina.
"We want you to get that plant for South Point."
"What's in it for Butch and me?"
I will tell you the land Wellington is considering and then you can go buy it and resell it to them at a profit."
"Mayor Wallace, are you trying to blow smoke up my skirt?"
"What do you mean?"
"The Federal Government does not negotiate. They take from you what they want and give to you what they want. All you can do is bend over and say, "Thank You." They won't even take you to dinner first. So, what is in it for Butch and me?"
"Mrs. Mason," interjected Randolph Mason.
"You can call me Carolina, and it's pastor Randolph Mason, isn't it?"
"Yes, Carolina. South Point and Burlington are becoming ghost towns. We desperately need this plant to save our villages from extinction. There are no jobs here. After the war is over, our young people will not return home. They will go to the big cities to find work. The old people who remain behind will wither and die.
"We will starve, but not physically. They will send us money for food, whatever they can, whenever they can. We will starve spiritually. We will starve for the sound of their voices. We will starve for the glimpse of their smiles. We will hunger for the feel of their touch. We will never know our grandchildren. We will never see them run and play in our yards. We will never hold them on our laps. We will never hear the words 'Grandpa, I love you.' Their imagined kisses will fall into the void of our separation and disappear with the death of our dreams. We will wither, we will starve, and we will die alone in solitude to be forever forgotten in the dust of time, which will sift down to cover our abandoned villages."
Carolina was impressed. "Ah, finally a man who understands the art of seduction. Damn you are good. You are really good."
"I have an advantage. I am a Negro. We are closer to God. We don't have to overcome the pride, the arrogance, and the feeling of superiority that handicaps you white people. We have been spared the wealth, the dominance, and the pretentions."
"Wait a minute," interrupted Carolina. "Are you saying that we white people bear the mark of Cain? That we are cursed?"
"I don't know," said Randolph, "but consider this. We live hour after hour and day after day in a world subservient to yours, where we constantly pass through the eye of the needle."
"Well," said Mayor Wallace, "if you two have finalized indulging yourselves in spiritual speculation, could we address the earthly issue at hand?"
"I presume that you gentlemen are asking me to honey trap and blackmail a Federal government official on a matter of national security in a time of war. If it goes down badly, I will go to prison. If it goes well, I will get nothing. Is that about it?"
All three men looked down at the table trying to think of what to say, but nothing came to mind.
"Fair enough. Let me think about it. I will let you know."
Outside, Mayor Wallace asked of his companions,
"What do you think?"
Ed Mason replied, "She is a Mason now, and I suspect the most formidable of us all. I think she can do it."
Mayor Wallace said, "No offense, Ed, but you know she is just a madam and Butch is just a thug. Your premonitions are nothing more than wishful thinking. But having said that, I hope you are right. What do you think, Randolph?"
"She doesn't know it, but she has been chosen. God's hand will guide her. She will get the plant for South Point."
"Right," said Mayor Wallace. He hung his head in despair.
After they were gone, Butch asked, "You aren't going to do it, are you?'
"I don't know. They must be really desperate to come to us, hats in hand. Let's go back to the club. I need to talk to Murdock as soon as possible."
"Carolina, don't do this," implored Butch. "Don't put yourself at risk. You don't owe the Masons anything. I would sacrifice all of them for you."
"I know, Butch. But wouldn't it feel good to do something for others without any pay back. It would be like the universe owes us. We would be more than we are, forever."
Murdock was a private investigator who did background checks for Carolina. He specialized in providing her with all of the information the subject wanted known and all of the information the subject did not want known. He was expensive, but he was good, quick, and discreet.
Murdock looked at the name and title. "Do you want the usual and when do you want it?" he asked.
"Yes, and yesterday," replied Carolina.
Twenty-four hours later, Murdock reported, "I know what you want, so let's cut to the chase. Reginald Wellington is from a prominent, but recently impoverished, family. His father drank and gambled away the last of the family fortune, which was reputedly to be ill-gained. Reginald graduated from Princeton. He was a legacy, not much of a scholar. A few years later, he married well. His wife was older and ugly as homemade sin, but very rich. A couple of years later, he divorced her and took a lot of her money.
"A few years after that, he married the second Mrs. Wellington. She was also extremely wealthy, but about his same age and not too bad looking. However, some thought she was not too bright and somewhat naive. Nevertheless, due to substantial campaign contributions made by her recently deceased father, she also had political connections. She got him a place in the FDR administration. Two years after their marriage, he divorced her, as well, and also took a lot of her money.
"I would say he is now on the hunt for the third Mrs. Wellington."
Carolina left the club immediately and went to the Huntington, West Virginia public library, where she spent the afternoon pouring over past issues of the Huntington Herald-Dispatch.
The next morning, she made a call to a Manhattan penthouse. She spoke to the woman there for a long time and in great detail. In the end, they had come to an agreement with only one remaining contingency.
After she hung up the phone, she wrote a note, addressed an envelope, and sent for her administrative assistant.
"Take this to Pamela Morgan in Huntington. The address is on the envelope. Wait for a response."
Shortly thereafter, at a mansion high on the hill above Ritter Park in Huntington, West Virginia, the butler took the note and said condescendingly to Carolina's administrative assistant, "Wait here."
Pamela Morgan read the note from Carolina Mason.
What did the note say?
Did South Point get the plant?
If so, how did Carolina do that?
The answer to all of those questions and more may be found among the pages of my book. Click here: “The Burlington Agreement.”
Many people have told me they are tired of reading about how much I love my wife.
On Monday morning December 11, 2017 my left hip was surgically removed and replaced with titanium and plastic parts. The following Thursday morning I was excited to leave the hospital and transfer to a rehabilitation facility.
But first I wanted to stop by home.
Later, as I attempted to get into my Range Rover’s passenger seat to leave home, my right leg, the good one, started to fail before I got all the way up to the seat. Hard as I tried, I couldn’t stop it from sinking. I was going down, hard and fast.
My wife was putting a suitcase into the passenger side back seat of the car.
“HONEY! LOOK OUT! I AM FALLING!”
Without a word or any hesitation she dove to the garage concrete floor directly under the seat from which I was falling. She is 4’11” tall and weighs 100 pounds.
My entire 210 pounds fell hard, crushing directly down upon her.
The only words she uttered were, “Honey are you hurt? Are you OK?”
To paraphrase well known words from the chapter of John: “No greater love has a wife than this, to lay down her life for her husband.”
Now tell me. Do I write too much of my love for my wife? Impossible.
(The following is an excerpt from my book, "The Burlington Agreement.")
Butch Mason was known as the black sheep of the family. Because of his break from family traditions, he very seldom had any contact with the other Masons. He never had any interest in farming. Since he was a little boy, his only interest was in fighting. In his teens, he took up boxing and while a teenager was known to be the undisputed heavy weight champion of the area. He won, not by being the fastest or the most skillful, but by being able to take a punch. He could take a savage punch in the head or body without flinching, and then deliver a return punch that crushed bones and ruptured organs. He was a bull. Soon, he had no challengers.
But there was no living to be made in boxing at that time, so he worked in a factory that produced railroad car axles and wheels. Butch made good money because he could lift a railroad car axle with wheels attached, from the production line, carry it to and place it on the tracks to roll to the next assembly. Normally, it took two men to do that job, but Butch did it alone for the pay of one and a half men.
Butch was known, not only for fighting, but also for drinking. The Masons did not drink, but Butch did. He drank bourbon. And finally, Butch was known to frequent Ironton's brothel, Carolina's. His brothers never asked him and he never told them, but he did not go there to buy the services of the young women who worked there. He went there to be with the Madam, Carolina. She was at least 10 years older than he, but she looked younger than her years. She was small, about 5'2" tall, and had a nice, big busted figure with a small waist and ample, but firm, hips. Her complexion was cream colored. Her face was framed with soft, light brown hair. But her most noticeable feature was her calm, direct brown eyes. She had composure and a presence to which almost everyone deferred. Butch once heard someone say that she was an old soul, but he didn't know what that meant. Butch liked to sit and talk with her at a table back in the shadows, as he sipped his bourbon and watched her run the business. He admired the diplomatic way she handled unruly customers and the petty cattiness of the girls who worked there.
She knew he was not there to buy sex but simply because he liked being with her. She respected him for that and she liked being with him. Even though he was ten years younger than she, he didn't look it. He was large, with bulging ropy muscles, pale of complexion, with a head of coarse, unruly, dark brown hair. Too many times his nose had been broken, his eyes had been cut, and his lips had been split. It was known that he could take a punch, and his face showed that he had done so often. They were a strange pair, the large, beat up bull, and small, jaded woman who commanded respect, but they liked each other and enjoyed each other's company.
Carolina continued, "You are known as the champion heavy weight fighter in this area. The average man considers your fists to be lethal weapons. Also, you are a member of the Mason clan. And even though you say they have disowned you, everyone believes they would avenge any injury to you as a matter of family pride. They would have to because if it became know that a Mason could be killed without retribution, then all of them would be put at risk. It only has to be known that you own the business and I will be safe. I can run it. I can manage all aspects of the business. All that you have to do is stand behind me, keep me safe, and I will split the profits equally with you."
Butch knew that he only wanted to be with Carolina always, and that he would always keep her safe. "I don't want the money. Here with you is where I feel at home. This is where I belong. I will do it for you. I would do anything for you."
"Really? You would do anything for me?"
"Will you marry me?" beseeched Carolina with a tender smile.
"Well, I am going to need some time," answered Butch.
A pallor descended over Carolina.
"I see," she said. "Let's talk about the business. I think..." She choked back a sob. "I think..." The dam broke. She sobbed uncontrollably, as she pushed away from the table and ran to the bathroom. There she hung her head over the sink and gripped the edge tightly as she willed herself to quit crying.
Then she heard the voice in her head. Stop it. You are blubbering like a little girl. All of your life you have been abandoned, used, discarded, abused, and beaten. But you never cried before. Why are you crying now? Did you really think he would marry you? Butch Mason's strength is the envy of every man he meets, but no man is strong enough to walk the streets of Ironton, looking into the face of every man he passes, wondering which of them has been with his wife.
"All right. All right," said Carolina out loud, almost shouting. "I've got it. I really do. And as God is my witness, I will never cry again."
She splashed cold water on her face, patted it dry with a paper towel, and left the bathroom. Walking back to the table she thought, It's just business. We will talk business. We will forget that this ever happened.
But when she reached the table, Butch was gone. She asked the bartender, who said he left without a word. Carolina waited expectantly all night, but Butch never returned. As the hours mounted so did her fear that she had ruined it all. She had foolishly lost everything she wanted.
Butch worked the 8 AM to 4 PM shift at the railroad wheel and axle plant. He usually got to Carolina's at 6 PM. The next night she waited at their usual table. As she waited, she practiced her apology and her promise that it would never happen again. 6 PM passed. 6:15 PM passed. Carolina feared the worst. Then at 6:20 PM, the bartender came to her table and said, "Butch called. He asked for you to meet him at McArthur's for a celebratory dinner."
McArthur's, situated three blocks from Carolina's, was, at the time, the best restaurant in Ironton. Carolina was jubilant. Butch would run the business with her. They would be business partners. At least, she would have part of what she wanted. She stood to go, then realized that she was dressed like a brothel madam. Carolina understood that an essential part of any position of authority is to assume the mantle of the office. In her case, that was a red satin dress showing a lot of cleavage. She ran to her room. There, she selected a russet colored, fine wool tailored suit with matching veiled hat. She accessorized with a complementary fox stole, alligator pumps, and purse. She wore a short amber necklace and amber drop earrings.
McArthur's was crowded. She could barely get in the door and certainly could not see over the waiting crowd. Then she heard a high-pitched condescending voice saying, "Excuse me. Pardon me. Please make way."
The crowd parted, and before her stood a young man who was unmistakably the Maître D. He said simply, "Follow me."
Carolina looked for Butch as she followed the Maître D through the restaurant. Finally, she asked, "Where are we going?"
"Just a little further," he said as he proceeded down a wide, dimly lit, mahogany paneled hall. He stopped in front of a door, opened it, and stepped aside to let Carolina see.
It was a private dining room. It normally contained tables and seating for 24 guests. But tonight, there was one table for two in the center of the room. The rest of the room was filled with white roses, whose velvety soft pedals seemed to glow in the flickering candlelight. In her peripheral vision, she saw several waitstaff standing in the shadows, but her focus of attention was on a large, virile man who stood by the table dressed in a suit, white shirt, and tie, with a smile on his lips.
A waiter appeared from behind her to take her hat and stole. She walked to the table.
"Butch," said Carolina. "This is lovely. Does it mean that you will do it, you will be my partner, and we will run the business together?"
Butch said nothing. He pulled out her chair. She sat down. She looked questioningly at him as he stopped halfway past the table, turned to her, and went down on one knee. At first, she was concerned that he had tripped, but then she heard him say, as he held forth a small, royal blue, velvet box, from which sparkled a beautiful blue diamond ring, "Carolina, will you marry me? Will you be my wife? Will you let me be with you forever? Please"
Neither Carolina nor Butch knew what was about to happen on November 13, 1941.
However, you will know after you read the next blog which will appear on 12-26-17.
Years later, when Ed Mason was the senior managing partner of an Atlanta law firm that was expanding nationwide, he was talking to Dale Murphy, the senior attorney for the Governor of West Virginia, about expanding his law practice into that state. During the conversation, Dale mentioned that he had started his career in Huntington, West Virginia with a law firm representing coal mine owners.
It suddenly occurred to Ed to ask, "Hey Dale. When you were in Huntington did you ever run into a girl named Shawnee?"
"You mean Shawnee Rogers?"
"Yeah. I think that was her last name."
"You don't know about Shawnee Rogers, do you?"
"What about her?"
Then Dale Murphy told Ed Mason the following story:
I know everything from the very beginning. How? You will see.
Early in the autumn of 1968. Shawnee was working in the shoe department of Anderson-Newcomb when a young man came in accompanying an elderly woman. She was his grandmother. and he was buying her new shoes for her birthday. His name was Taylor Wilson. He was about 6-feet tall, athletically fit, and sun tanned. His hair was wavy blond and his eyes were bright blue. Shawnee thought it was sweet that he was buying shoes for his grandmother. And when he stood close to her, Shawnee felt strange...in a good way. He worked at Armco Steel in Ashland, Kentucky.
He asked her out to dinner. She said, "Yes."
He picked her up in a 1966 Chevy convertible, all black with a red leather interior. Riding in it made her feel special. They rode is silence. Shawnee enjoyed the feel of the leather seat through her thin cotton sundress. Taylor pulled into a parking spot at Ritter Park.
Shawnee looked at him curiously as he got out of the car, took a large picnic basket out of the trunk, then came around to open her door. Shawnee felt like a princess who had finally found her prince. And he was. He was the real thing. And whenever he was close to her, she had that funny feeling again. And when he gave her a tender kiss, the feeling was strong, really strong.
It was only a few weeks later, and a few dates later, when she and Taylor were parked, kissing in his car on the hill above Ritter Park, that the feeling became unbearable. She urgently breathed into his ear "Yes. Yes." He knew that was the answer to the question he had been silently asking.
What happened then? A sensation she had never felt before. A sensation she craved again and again. Taylor morphed into a god before her very eyes, the god of physical pleasure. Shawnee became an addict. But addictions have their consequences.
Shawnee became pregnant. When she began to show and lost her job at Anderson-Newcomb, her mother told her to get out of her house. Shawnee moved in with Taylor. Gradually things changed. The urgent hot sex faded, but Shawnee took comfort in building a nest. Taylor didn't want to talk marriage, but Shawnee knew he would come around before the baby was born.
Then at the beginning of her ninth month, Taylor was laid off at Armco. They were alone in their small apartment day after day. With plenty of time and no sex to divert them, they soon learned that they didn't really know much about each other. To relieve his frustration and stress, Taylor began to drink. It was only a few days later that he hit Shawnee. The first time was only a slap. He cried, said he was sorry, and that it would never happen again. A few days later he slapped her again, and again, and again. He watched her cowering and crying, then walked out. A few days after that, he punched her in the stomach. Shawnee grabbed a kitchen chair and held it tightly over her stomach while he punched her in the face again, and again, and again.
Not long after he left, a city police car pulled up. The male officer remained silent while the female officer explained that a neighbor had called, and that Shawnee should press charges and go with them to a shelter for battered women. She refused. About two hours later a state highway patrol car pulled up outside. The officer came to the door with his hat in hand. He introduced himself as Ray. He asked if Taylor was home. When Shawnee said he had not returned, Ray asked if he could come in to talk to Shawnee. Shawnee showed him into the kitchen. He watched her as she fixed him a cup of coffee, then sat down at the table across from him.
"Shawnee, would you like for Taylor to leave?"
"I'm afraid he will hurt the baby. But if he leaves, who will take care of me?"
"Shawnee, he is not taking care of you now. I can make him leave. Then I will take care of you."
"Yes. Make him leave. I am so scared he is going to kill my baby."
Early that evening, Taylor was sitting in the kitchen drinking while he watched Shawnee fix him dinner, when there was a knock at the door. Taylor went to the door. Shawnee listened.
Taylor saw the officer standing there, "What the hell do you want?"
"My name is Ray. May I come in?"
There was the sound of a scuffle as Ray pushed in past Taylor.
"Get the hell out of my house."
"No. You pack. You are leaving."
"The hell I am."
Ray reached into his pockets and produced a bag of white powder and a black revolver.
"Taylor, what I have here is a bag of heroin and a gun with filed off serial numbers. Now you can pack a suitcase and go wherever you want to, or you can go with me to jail and then on to prison."
Taylor said nothing. He went into the bedroom and started packing. He returned with a suitcase in his left hand.
Ray stopped Taylor and said, "If I ever see you again near this apartment, or if Shawnee tells me you have been here, I will arrest you, and you will go to prison. And if you ever hit Shawnee again, I will beat you to death with a baseball bat."
After Taylor was gone, Ray went into the kitchen where Shawnee sat crying at the kitchen table. He said, "Shawnee, he won't be back. I know his kind. But friends of mine on the city police force will cruise by regularly for the next few days, and I will be back tomorrow to see what you need and take you to the doctor."
"But Ray, I don't have a doctor. I can't afford..."
"Shawnee, don't worry. You have a doctor now, the best in Huntington, and there will be no charge. He is grateful for something I did for him. Actually, he will be grateful for what I did for him for the rest of his life. Now get some rest. I will pick you up tomorrow at 2 p.m."
Ray took care of Shawnee, as promised. He bought her groceries, paid her rent, and even brought in a young woman to care for her when she came home from the hospital. The baby was a girl. Shawnee named her Ray Ann.
About a month after the baby was born, late in the afternoon, Shawnee was expecting Ray. She took a shower, put on her makeup, brushed her hair, oiled her body, and donned her finest robe. Ray came in through the kitchen side door with bags of groceries. He put them on the table and then turned to see her across the hall, standing in the bedroom doorway. She smiled and pulled loose the sash, letting her robe fall open.
"Oh, Shawnee" said Ray, "You are so beautiful, and I really appreciate the offer, but I am married, and I am faithful to my wife."
Suddenly, Shawnee felt ashamed and exposed. She hastened to cover her nakedness. Confused, she clasped her arms around herself, as she stammered, "But I thought...You know...That you...If not, then why?"
"Shawnee, you needed help. You needed to be rescued. I could do that, and so I did. I care for you, but not in that way. However, you could repay me by helping a friend of mine. He is a very nice man, about my age, whose wife recently died of cancer after a six-month-long battle. He is really hurting, and he hasn't been with a woman for a very long time. I could bring him by tomorrow afternoon, introduce him, to you, get a call to go out, and then return in about an hour. You will like him, and you can think of it as repaying me."
"OK, if that's what you really want me to do. I can't promise you I will do it, but I will try."
The next afternoon Ray drove up in his cruiser. With him was a nice-looking man in a well-made, navy blue, wool suit, off-white French cuffed shirt, and maroon silk tie.
Shawnee had dressed like she was going out on a blind date. After introductions, Ray said he had to go and left. Shawnee did not know the protocol for such situations. She was afraid that if they engaged in small talk she would lose her nerve. So, she just smiled shyly at the stranger, lowered her eyes, took his hand, and led him into the bedroom.
When Ray returned an hour later, they were fully clothed, sitting in the living room, engaged in small talk. As they were leaving, Ray turned to Shawnee and said, "I will be back late this afternoon."
"Looking forward to it." replied Shawnee, with a forced smile.
When Ray entered the apartment later, he called out for Shawnee.
"In here Ray. I'm in the kitchen."
When Ray entered the kitchen, he saw Shawnee sitting at the kitchen table with a glass of bourbon in her hand. He knew she didn't drink but, perhaps, the occasion called for it. Ray said proudly, "Well Shawnee, he said you were really good in bed."
"Don't worry, Ray. I'll see that you get your money's worth."
"I don't understand," replied Ray.
"As we entered the bedroom he said, 'I already paid Ray.’
"Shawnee, you know how I feel about..."
"No. No. No. Shut up." She glared at him as she wept. Then she stopped crying. "Sorry, I just had to get that over with."
"No, Ray. I really mean it. Don't. Just don't. Now, first things first. He gave me a $50 tip. Is that yours or do I get to keep it? And how much do I owe you? And what's the rate for working it off? Tell me, Ray. I want to know. Because I am going to repay you. I am going to see that you get every damned dime. Now, get out of my house."
It was about two months later. Shawnee and Ray had settled down into a working relationship, when Ray Ann got the flu and then Shawnee got it too. She called Ray. "I need help. The baby is sick. I am sick. We need help."
In less than an hour, Ray was there with a nice young woman. She had an exotic look to her like she was Algerian. She said her name was Eva and that she worked for Ray's partner, Reece. Shawnee liked her.
"So how many of us are there?" asked Shawnee.
"There are 30 of us working for 20 state troopers. I think your Ray is bringing on a new girl now, but I haven't met her. Most of us are single moms, but some of us are married. We are all rescue cases. I was a runaway, living on the streets.
“One day, four men grabbed me and pulled me into a car. A police spotter saw it happen and called it in. Reece and Ray were only two blocks away when they heard the call. They rammed the car I was in, and then beat the hell out of the four men who had abducted me. Resisting arrest, you know.
“Reece put me up in a nice apartment. He fed me. I was starving. I looked awful. Then he bought me some nice clothes. I started to feel good about myself. I started to look good. Then I tried to seduce Reece. I really tried. But he refused. I found out later that none of the troopers sleep with any of their girls. It's a very strict rule. However, he said if I wanted to, he would fix me up with someone nice. You see the guys won't let just anyone buy us. Most of our customers are doctors, lawyers, accountants, politicians, business men, and clergy. And practically all our appointments are in the afternoon. After a while, you will establish a regular clientele and hardly ever have a blind date. And don't ever worry about anyone abusing you. They know who you work for. They wouldn't dare hurt you.”
Eva stayed with Shawnee and Ray Ann for a week, except for a few hours off occasionally to attend to business. As she was leaving on her last day, Shawnee asked,
"Do you think you could contact all of the girls and ask them to meet with me?"
"Sure, I can do that, but why?"
"I think we should discuss what we have in common and what we can do to help each other. But ask them to not tell the boys."
"OK. Some girls have early morning appointments, like you know, their customers leave home early, but instead of going to work they go to her apartment. She greets him in full make up, wearing only a very seductive robe. The smell of fresh brewed coffee and fresh baked pastries are almost equally inviting. You get the idea. However, everyone should be available by 10 a.m. How about next Wednesday? Consider it a date, and I will let you know if there is any problem."
The next Wednesday at 10 a.m., Shawnee's apartment was packed. All the women were above average in looks, modestly dressed, and appeared to be between the ages of 18 and 26. They were swapping tales of their experiences until Shawnee called the meeting to order.
"Ladies, thank you for coming. I believe we all share a common life style but do not have the benefit of shared knowledge or mutual help. I propose that we band together to share knowledge and to help each other. You know how the guys must feel about us. We must be a pain in the ass. They put up with it from their wives, but, at least, they sleep with them. They don't even sleep with us. Do you think your guy wants to hear that he has to cancel your appointment because the dust swirling in the sunshine made you sad? I understand. You just need to cry. But he doesn't understand. I propose that we consolidate all operations, scheduling, payments, everything. I will take care of it all. The guys will receive a little less than they are used to and that will be my pay. But on the other hand, all they will have to do is provide security. The arrangement will not affect your cut. And you and you and you and you, we will all be friends and we will all be confidantes, and we will be all for one and one for all."
When Shawnee told Ray, he said he would ask the guys, but he was sure they would agree. Shawnee then told Ray she would need two things, a car and a gun. Ray said he understood the car but why the gun?
Shawnee told him, “Two weeks ago Jenny had a client for a 3 p.m. appointment. He showed up drunk. Nevertheless, she gave him his money's worth. But then he wouldn't leave. He demanded more. She called her trooper, but he couldn't be reached because he was testifying in court. I promised the girls that I would always be available and would always protect them.”
Ray got her a bored-out Mustang. It seems it had been confiscated in a drug bust in Charleston, then gone missing off the evidence yard, only to turn up at Shawnee's door painted a pearlessence gray and wearing Alabama plates. The gun was a 5 shot 357 magnum that came with a pair of gloves. Ray explained to her that all serial numbers had been filed off. The gun and bullets were wiped clean, and she shouldn't touch them without gloves on.
Less than a week later, one of the girls did call her for help. Shawnee was quite apprehensive, to say the least. She let herself in the back door, as she had been told to do and made her way through the condo until she found the bedroom. There, she saw a big guy lying naked on a bed with a nude small blond woman beside him, crying. Shawnee addressed him trying to sound authoritative.
"I don't know what the problem here is, but get dressed. You are leaving."
He was in disbelief. He lay there without shame, completely exposed and smirked, "Oh, yeah? What are you going to do about it? Cry?"
Shawnee calmly sat on a chair facing the bed. She slowly took out and put on a pair of white cotton gloves. Then, she took out a black 357 magnum revolver, pointed it at him, and said, "I am going to kill you, and then I am going to call my state trooper friends to come and stage your death as a righteous kill."
That resulted in an immediate attitude adjustment. "OK. Don't shoot. I am leaving."
As he threw on his clothes, Shawnee warned him, “I don't know what you did to her, but I do know someone who will want to know, and when he does, he and his friends will come looking for you. And you are not going to like what happens next. If I were you, I would leave town."
Shawnee watched from the window as the big guy ran to his car, jumped in, and screeched away. She smiled to herself as she thought, That wasn't too difficult. Things are going well. I think I can handle this.
But Shawnee didn't know that trouble was on the way. Oliver was trouble's name. Oliver was married to Suzie, who worked for Shawnee. Only Oliver didn't know Suzie worked for Shawnee, at least, not until he came home one afternoon unexpectedly.
Oliver was a virile young man who enjoyed the carnal pleasures his wife performed so well. Late that day, he told his boss that he was sick and then hurried home for some afternoon delight. Unfortunately, John, who managed the local savings and loan, had the same idea, only a little bit sooner. Oliver, in his haste, parked his car on the street and hurried through the front door. That is why he did not see John's car parked around back. Nor did John or Suzie hear Oliver enter the house over John's loud "Oh God, Oh God" praise of Suzie's performance.
Now Oliver was not a violent man, and neither was John. Oliver actually knew John. He and Susie had an account at the savings and loan. They were saving money for a down payment on a larger house. They wanted to start a family.
Oliver collapsed into a chair. Head in hands he pleaded, "Why, Suzie? Why? I thought we were happy. I thought you loved me."
"I do love you," pleaded Suzie. "I was just trying to make some extra money for our house, so we can start a family."
"Is that why you called our banker?"
"I didn't call him. The service sent him over."
Oliver then looked at John and asked, "Is that right?"
"Yeah, I didn't even know Suzie worked for Shawnee until she sent me over here. I don't want any trouble, Oliver. I am a happily married man. Well, not as happy as you must be married to Suzie."
Oliver noticeable bristled at that, so John hastily added, "I'm going to leave now. You just stop by the bank any time. Your loan is approved, and we will waive the 20% down requirement."
After John left, Oliver sat staring at Suzie who lay on the bed, sheet pulled up tightly under her chin, as if too modest for Oliver to see her naked. She could not look him in the eyes.
He began, "Was John the first or have there been others?"
"He was not the first."
"I don't know"
"Oh, God. When did it start?"
"Before I met you."
"Suzie, I thought you loved me."
"I do, Oliver. It's just a job. I do it for the money. I do it for us. A lot of girls do."
'Oh yeah? Who?"
"There are 30 of us who work for Shawnee."
Suddenly, Oliver understood. Suzie did love him. She was just trying to help them get a house and start a family. It was Shawnee. Suzie was not to blame. It was Shawnee who was to blame.
"What is Shawnee's last name?"
Oliver arose and marched out of the house. He did not respond as Suzie called after him,
"Where are you going? What are you going to do?"
Oliver drove straight to the offices of the Herald-Dispatch, Huntington's daily newspaper. There he asked to see Arthur Boggs, the expose reporter. Arthur showed him into his office and closed the door. Oliver said, “There is a housewife prostitution ring operating in Huntington. There are about 30 housewives involved. I can give you the name of the woman who runs it. I want you to take her down. Put her out of business and put her in jail. But keep my name and my wife's name out of it."
"You have my word. What is the woman's name?"
Arthur made a few quick calls to verify the information and then started typing his article. He was confident that he could make the deadline for the morning paper and that his editor would give him the front-page headline.
The next morning everyone read the article. Shawnee was mortified. She took Ray Ann and moved in with one of her girls who lived alone and had an extra room. Shawnee and the girls were on the phone constantly. She told them to stay calm and keep quiet. She assured them she would not give them up. Ray was on the phone with the guys doing the same thing. He assured Shawnee he would take care of her.
One of the people who poured over the article that morning was the evangelist Michael Archer. The situation was perfect. Just perfect. It was what he had been looking for. Sin! Right here in iRver City. God's work awaited him. Shawnee was the cash cow he had been praying for. He started writing furiously. When he had finished, he emptied his bank account. He took the article and the money down to the Herald-Dispatch. He bought a full-page ad. The next morning, his words covered the city, inflaming every good Christian who read them.
Shawnee had braced herself for an attack from Bob Barber, the district attorney. Now,she knew her real enemy was Michael Archer and the witch-hunt mob he commanded. She knew he was more dangerous than the DA, but she also knew she had a better chance with him.
So, it was early that morning that Michael Archer found himself sitting across his desk from Shawnee Rogers. Her pitch was straightforward and direct. "Michael, I am a small fish. But I work for a big fish. Throw me back, and I will give you the big fish."
"Well, I don't know. Tell me who and then I will let you know."
"No. Believe me. It will be worth your while. But first promise in writing."
Shawnee slid a paper over to him. He read it, then smiling said, "There is no consequence if I break my promise."
Shawnee replied, "If you break your promise I will use this to expose you as a liar. That's not a good thing to be known as in your line of work."
Michael signed the paper and slid it back over to Shawnee. She folded it and put it in her purse. Then she looked up directly into his eyes and said, "You will portray me, and my girls, as victims of a gang of rogue state highway patrolmen. You will not ever reveal the names of the girls and you will withhold the names of the troopers for several days until you have so hyped up the story that all of the attention is on them."
"OK. So, you and your girls were victims of a gang of rough state highway patrolmen. Let's go sit on the sofa and you can tell me some of the things they made you do."
Shawnee smiled to herself as they walked to the sofa. She had been right about Michael Archer. She had been right about what she wore to the meeting. She just hoped he would be satisfied with the stories she would make up about the things they made her, and the girls do. She hoped he would not insist on a demonstration. She found hypocrites so repulsive.
When the story broke the next day two things happened;
First, Shawnee changed from predator to prey. She was now a victim. She could almost hear the audible sighs of sympathy that arose throughout the city.
Second, in Charleston, the state capital, phones were ringing off the hook, especially in the governor's office. After taking several calls, the governor, Logan Welsh, sent for agents of the West Virginia Bureau of Investigation. His instruction to the four, buzz-cut, no-neck, grey-suited men was simple.
"Go to Huntington, get the evangelist Michael Archer, and bring him to me."
About four hours later, they called and told the governor that the evangelist Michael Archer had disappeared. They had done a thorough search, but he was gone. He had just vanished.
The governor thought for a while and then said, "Find Shawnee Rogers and bring her to me."
It took some time, but they found her, her friend, and Ray Ann. Shamed by their failure to find the evangelist, they were determined not to let Shawnee escape. She was in the kitchen when she heard the doorframe shatter and give way in response to an agent's shoulder blow. She lunged across the table, grabbed her purse, and pulled her gun, but the agents were running through the apartment and the one who raced into the kitchen hit her forearm with a hatchet blow. The gun flew across the room.
They took Shawnee. They left the other woman and Ray Ann after explaining they were WVABI and were taking Shawnee to see the governor. That afternoon, Shawnee found herself standing in front of the desk of governor Logan Welsh. Governor Welsh was a popular governor. He had been the youngest governor elected in the history of the state and was serving the last year of his second term.
The lead agent reported. "Sorry sir, but we couldn't find the evangelist. He has vanished. But this is Shawnee Rogers. She pulled this gun on me." The agent held up the 357-magnum, revolver.
"Give her back her gun, agent."
"I imagine Ms. Rogers is a very smart young woman, at least smart enough to not shoot us. Now, give her back her gun and leave us. Close the door on your way out. Ms. Rogers, please pull up a chair and make yourself comfortable. Can I offer you some water, coffee, or a soft drink?"
"No thanks, governor. Please call me Shawnee."
Shawnee was actually a very smart young woman. When her relationship with Ray transitioned from labor to management, she did a lot of thinking about her future. She thought about what road she might travel to independence and financial security. She couldn’t see herself running a store. The idea of joining the clergy seemed hypocritical. The thought of a medical career turned her stomach. The thought of law and accounting seemed technical and dry.
However, the thought of political science sparked her interest. A young man who robs a filling station because he needs money, kills the clerk in self-defense, spends the rest of his life in a prison cell eating pigswill. But a U.S. Senator who sends 50,000 men to their deaths for a cause no one understands spends his life living in a mansion, eating steak and lobster at state banquets. A young schoolteacher can enter politics and spend his entire life as a government employee, then die with an accumulated net worth of $100 million dollars. Shawnee thought about what she knew of governments and concluded that they were now, and always had been, the largest, most powerful, legitimate criminal organizations in the world.
So, Shawnee began taking a full schedule of political science night classes at Marshall University. She had never considered herself to be particularly intelligent or ambitious, but that was because she had never before had any interest in academics. But in the study of politics, she was a natural genius and the top student in every class. When she entered the governor’s office, she was not intimidated. She felt right at home and completely at ease in her natural element.
"OK, Shawnee. I guess you know why you are here. This state highway patrol scandal is going to tarnish my spotless reputation. I am leaving office soon, and I don't want this to be my legacy. So, tell me what happened. And call me Logan."
Shawnee appraised Logan. His eyes showed intelligence. He was confident and relaxed. His approach was direct. He seemed to be genuine. She decided that she liked him and could trust him. But business first.
“OK, Logan. I will tell you everything, but first I want immunity for all my girls. There are thirty of them."
"You got it. Just give me a list of their names, and I will have the papers drawn up."
"No. Give me thirty grants of immunity. You can be specific as to the recipient and what the crimes were, but leave the names blank. When I get those papers, you will get your story. I will tell you everything."
"All right, Shawnee. That may take a few hours. Meanwhile, you are in protective custody. You will exit through the door behind you, where you will find a burly woman dressed in grey who looks like a bodyguard. That is just what she is. She will take you to a safe house. She will return you here at 6 p.m. Immunity papers for your girls and dinner will be waiting. We are going to work as long as it takes to resolve this matter. I want this problem nipped in the bud before it gets out of hand."
Dinner was first. There was no talk other than "Pass this. Pass that. Thank you." Occasionally, they glanced at each across the table, each trying to take the measure of the other. After dinner, they moved to winged-back chairs, flanking the fire place. A small table in between offered coffee and dessert cakes. Logan poured them each a cup of coffee.
"OK, Shawnee. Now tell me. Tell me everything."
"Logan, thank you for the immunity for my girls. That's all I wanted. I will tell you what happened. I will tell you everything, starting with the summer after I graduated from high school."
And she did. She told him everything and in great detail. It took her several hours and a few tears before she was finished. She wasn't sure because of the tears in her eyes, but sometimes, she thought she saw tears in Logan's eyes. When she finished, Logan got up and walked to his desk, where he picked up a piece of paper, which he took to the bar. There he poured two cut glass snifters half full of brandy. He walked to Shawnee's chair. He handed her one glass, then sat back down with the other glass and the paper.
He took a sip of his brandy and looked directly into Shawnee's eyes, "So, you are a whore?"
Shawnee was shocked. She had thought they had a rapport. Had she misjudged him? Was he coming on to her? Shawnee was confused. Then she heard him say, "So am I."
Shawnee didn't know how to react. She listened as he continued.
"I was born in a small West Virginia coal mining town. I was the youngest of 11 children. Everyone I knew worked In the mine or was dependent on someone who did. Life was harsh. Life was brutal. But I discovered an escape. I discovered books. I read night and day like an addict on drugs. And my enabler was my mother.
“She stood guard over me with a broom. Even my father couldn't get past her. ’Leave him alone. Go away. He is reading.’
“Then before I knew it, I was going to college. I had a free ride on a scholarship from the coalmine owners’ association. It was available only to children of coalmine workers. It was sweet. It paid for everything and even gave me an allowance for spending money. I was the only person in my family who had ever gone to college. Hell, I was the only person from my town who had ever gone to college. My senior year in college I was visited by a partner in the law firm that had recommended me for the coalminers' association scholarship. He told me that, if I applied to the law school they recommended, I would be accepted, I would get a full scholarship, the firm would even buy me a car, and give me a generous monthly allowance. All they asked was that I work at the firm during the summers and then work there for, at least, one year after I graduated.
“Of course, I agreed. I was living the dream. I had enjoyed college, but I really enjoyed law school. I found that I had a natural aptitude for the law and I reveled in it. I was at the top of my class. The law firm partners were impressed.
“I knew the firm represented the mine owners and my first assignment was combating the EPA. It was summer work. Who didn't hate the EPA? If they had their way, my entire family would be out of work. After graduation, I joined the firm.
“My first assignment was to combat Federal regulations. Who didn't hate the Federal Regulations? If they had their way, my entire family would be out of work. I was good. I was really good. So, the firm moved me into dealing directly with the coalminers’ union. The union didn't realize It, but the firm had agreed upon a good cop/bad cop strategy. I was the golden boy from poor a coal mining family, so I played the good cop. But unknown to the miners, I was also the legal genius behind the bad cop.
“The strain was starting to wear on me, but then the firm decided to move me into politics. I became the favorite of all the voters. From small coal mining town halls to fat cat country clubs in Charleston, I had them all eating out of my hands. The run for the governorship was a walk in the park. Then, when I married Rebecca, the darling of Charleston society, my second term was guaranteed. Do you know that every piece of legislation I have signed over the past seven years has favored the mine owners, and still the mine workers adore me as one of their own?
“And now Rebecca says she wants a divorce as soon as I leave office. My people tell me she has already begun an affair with a man who will probably be the next US senator from West Virginia. Oh well. I have decided that when I leave office, I am going to work for the law firm that represents the unions.
The governor sighed into his glass. Shawnee said, "I'm sorry, Logan."
Whispering, he said, "Me too."
He cleared his throat and straightened up. He picked up the paper on the table and handed it to Shawnee.
"What is this?" she asked.
"It's your pardon. You have earned it for what you have done and what you are going to do"
"And what might that be?" inquired Shawnee.
"First of all, can you call Ray? Will he tell you the truth?"
"Yes, I can and, yes, he will"
"Good. Call him right now and ask if he killed the evangelist and, if not, does he know what happened to him."
Shawnee went to the governor's desk, made a call, and returned to her winged back chair, “Ray said they did not kill him but in his haste to leave town, the evangelist accidentally slammed his left hand in his car door. He told Ray he might go to Oklahoma, change his name, and start over.
"Good. Now tomorrow morning I want you to meet with the state's attorney general. She is a nice woman. You will like her. I want you to tell her that the troopers did not force you or the girls to do anything. They did not have sex with you or the girls. They simply helped you all out from time to time. The money they received from you was in repayment for the help they provided. You and your girls have received immunity in exchange for your testimony against the state troopers, but your testimony will show that the troopers were not involved in your illegal activities. The attorney general will conclude that the troopers exercised poor judgment but committed no illegal acts. She will immediately announce her decision to the press and that will be the end of it.
"However, I would like for you to remain here in protective custody until I am sure you are safe, and this matter is finally concluded. I will send for Ray Ann and move you into a nice house. You will have a chauffeur=driven car at your disposal and a live-in housekeeper who will double as your body guard. I may need to see you from time to time about details of this case until I am sure it is finally and completely put to rest.'
Their relationship continued until the governor left office. The minute he did so, his wife filed for divorce and 30 days later, it was granted. She had set her cap on the rising senator. The governor went to work for the law firm representing the unions but not before taking off 30 days to honeymoon with his bride, Shawnee. It turned out that his children liked her better than their own mother and they called Ray Ann their "sister."
Now, Logan and Shawnee are retired. They spend a time with their children and grandchildren, and the mutual love and respect they have enjoyed through the years still shines in their eyes and is apparent to all who know them.
Last night my wife and I were in San Francisco. We were meeting at a huge, very popular Chinese restaurant. From the entrance I could see my wife sitting alone by a window near the back. She looked so beautiful. I stopped at the desk and said I was joining a party already seated. As I walked toward her, my cell phone rang. I checked the ID. Damn it. I had to take that call. I sat down at the bar and terminated the conversation as quickly as I could. When I stood up, my wife was gone. I figured she had gone to the rest room, so I proceeded to her table and sat down to wait.
I waited and I waited. I knew that sometimes there is a long line for the ladies’ restroom. After twenty minutes, I motioned to a waitress, described my wife, and asked her to go to the ladies’ room to see if she were there. She returned and said she could not find her. I panicked. I got up and searched every booth and table in the room. She was not there. Then I went to the next room. It was filled with Asian families, including children of all ages. But still I searched every booth and table. She was not there. I went on to the next room. It was mostly young Asian couples. She was not there. The next room seemed to be mostly Asian workers. Many still wore their work clothes. Many sat alone. Some had fallen asleep on the booth benches. She was not there.
I asked to see the owner. I was directed to a small office in the back where the middle-aged couple seated there said they were the owners. They immediately started searching, asking every staff member they could find. No one had seen my wife. I was going insane. Finally, it occurred to me to call her cell phone. There was no answer. I broke down and cried. Then I pulled myself together. I knew then that I had to go to the police.
I ran through the restaurant and out the front door but was immediately blocked by the crowd that was assembled there, waiting to get inside. They were mostly Occidentals, not Asians. All the chairs and benches were full, and a large throng milled around in front of the door. Then, I saw her sitting in a corner. I started to cry again, but as soon as I could see through my teary eyes, I pushed my way forward through the throng to her. She smiled up at me. She did not rise. Then I saw why.
She was holding a Chinese baby in her arms. It was wrapped in thick, colorful, Chinese baby clothes. I asked, “What is that?”
She replied, “It is a baby girl. Her name is Mei-ling. It means beautiful and delicate.”
“Okay,” I said. “Whose baby is it?”
Still smiling like Mona Lisa, she answered, “Mei-ling is ours.”
“Oh No,” I sternly replied. “I am almost 75 years old. We have middle-aged children and now grandchildren. We are not taking a Chinese baby. Absolutely not. No way in hell!”
Then she turned the child so she looked directly into my eyes. Her eyes were as soft as a baby doe and seemed to be endlessly peaceful. They smiled at me, the angry, ugly old man who stood threateningly over her. As I looked into the depth of those amazing eyes, I saw her future. I saw her as a child barely able to walk, perfectly performing yoga and Tai Chi with my wife. I saw her as young girl running through the field back of our house, playing with the wind. I saw her at the age of eight, sitting at our red Steinway grand, flawlessly playing great classical piano compositions. I saw her as a preteen, standing on our patio, hand extended, as a butterfly landed on it. I saw her as a teenager, happy and proudly waving to me, as she drove our huge tractor through the fields cutting hay.
Then I saw her sitting by my hospital bed reading to me, in a soft melodious voice that gave me peace. Finally, I saw her standing by my casket at my gravesite with her arm around my wife. Mei-ling was a head taller than Lorrie and had just turned twenty. I had never expected to live so long. Her hair hung in two long ponytails, one on each side. I had never thought the Chinese people were attractive, but she was beautiful. I knew that Lorrie would live for another twenty years and that Mei-ling would love her and care for her like no other daughter had ever loved or cared for her mother.
Back at the restaurant, I held out both of my hands and spread wide my arms. Speaking through my tears, I said, “Let’s go home. I want to show Mei-ling our home, her new home.”
Then I awoke from my dream. Lying there in the dawning light I wondered why do we dream the things we dream? Obviously, our dreams somehow relate to our reality.
In two weeks, a needle will be inserted into the back of my right hand and then taped in place. A tube will be attached and then a liquid will start flowing into my veins. Soon thereafter, darkness will descend upon me.
Three years ago, I underwent a similar procedure. I can emphasize with the operating staff as they heard that constant monotone sound and saw that flat line flowing across my heart monitor screen. I was dead. Frantically, they worked for two minutes, exactly 120 seconds, until my heart faintly began to respond to their efforts.
Supposedly, I was not at risk for that surgery. Supposedly, I am at some risk for this surgery.
I love my wife with all my heart and all my soul. It is inconceivable to me that I would ever leave her, but I know that someday I will. Perhaps, my dream of Mei-ling was a projection of my desire to always be with her, always love her, always care for and protect her. And if Mei-ling is not to be with Lorrie, then perhaps, she can be with her in her dreams. Perhaps, Mei-ling can appear to her every night and let her know that she is loved, that she will always be loved, and that she will never, ever be alone.
COWS - PART 1
I haven’t written much recently because I have been on pain medication for my arthritis-destroyed left hip. But it has caused me to sleep more and dream more. I have often wondered why I cannot remember those dreams. But today I do remember one of those dreams. That must be significant, so I want to share it with you.
But before I do, there is something I must tell you.
When I asked Lorrie to marry me, she said,
I said, “OK. I will ask your father for your hand in marriage.”
She replied, “Are you crazy? No one does that any more and, anyway, you are almost as old as my father.”
“I don’t care. He hardly knows me. I want his blessing.”
So I met her father. I was very nervous. He did not know me. Actually, he and I were nearly the same age. I was in my late sixties and my betrothed was in her late forties. I felt like a pedophile.
“Sir, I love your daughter. I have asked her to marry me and she has agreed, but I want your blessing. I am asking for your daughter’s hand in marriage.”
He looked at me without expression for what seemed like a long time and then solemnly said,
“I want eight cows.”
I was shocked. I replied,
“I don’t understand.”
“Then come back when you do.”
*****NOW I WANT YOU TO LEAVE THIS BLOG AND GO TO YOUTUBE AND SEE THE 23 MINUTE VIDEO OF JOHNNIE LINGO AND THE EIGHT COW WIFE. *****
After I saw that video, I commissioned an original oil on canvas of eight cows. I had it framed with a plaque that showed that it was the payment to him for giving his daughter to me in marriage.
Two years later, I apologized to him for having paid too little for her and gave him another painting of two more cows.
COWS - PART 2
Meadows Of Dan is in Patrick County, Virginia, population 18,000. Everywhere you look there are cattle. Hell, I have lived on streets in Atlanta that had more than 18,000 people. It seems like everyone in Meadows Of Dan owns cattle.
Last night, I dreamed that I was not in Meadows Of Dan but was observing it from above. In that dream, everyone in Meadows Of Dan owned cattle. Cattle can be quite valuable. In a good market, a good cow can bring a $1,000.00. A man who owns 1,000 cattle is a millionaire.
I dreamed that Jesus appeared in Meadows Of Dan on a Sunday morning. He appeared at the community center. He stood outside as people came to see Him and honor Him. One by one, they came and knelt before Him and said,
“Lord my name is xxxxxxxxxx and I give these cows to honor you.”
When they had all made their presentations, He went inside to eat the midday meal. Jesus was seated in the center of the long table, just like in the painting of The Last Supper.” The chair to His right was vacant. The wealthiest man in Meadows Of Dan had given him 100 cows. He confidently walked to the chair, but Jesus reached out His right hand and blocked the chair. He looked up at the man who saw the expression in His eyes and turned away. All of the other chairs at the table were full. People sat on the floor, filling the room. People sat on the pavement in the parking lot. They sat on the road. They sat on the hillsides and fields around the community center.
Jesus stood. Silence. No one dared breathe. They parted as he walked through the community center, through the community center parking lot, across the highway, then up the hill, until He reached an old man who was slumped, dirty, ragged, and
Jesus reached out His right hand. The old man looked up into eyes that shown with unconditional love. He clasped Jesus’ hand. Together they rose in the air above the crowd, floated over them, and then appeared at the two vacant seats at the table.
Everyone stared in amazement. Jesus said,
“This man gave me only one cow. It is old. It is sick, and it will die soon. But it is all he had. Who else among you has given me everything? He has honored me today, and I will honor him for eternity.’
COWS - CONCLUSION
I have wondered why I had that dream. I have wondered why I remembered that dream. I have wondered why it reminded me of Johnny Lingo And The Eight Cow Wife.
My bones are being destroyed by arthritis. Three years ago, I had a nine-hour operation that repaired nine vertebrae in my spine. Now, arthritis has destroyed my left hip. I can no longer drive a car. I can no longer walk without a walker. I can no longer bathe myself. I can no longer dress myself. I am constantly in pain, mentally confused by medication, tired, and depressed. I am no longer my wife’s active companion or lover. I feel totally and completely worthless. I frequently wish I were dead.
My wife, on the other hand, is the perfect picture of health and beauty. She has never taken a prescription medication in her life. She used to compete in triathlons.
She is currently a yoga instructor. She is young, healthy, intelligent, vibrant, animated, and beautiful. She is perfect in every way.
And guess what? She drives me wherever I want to go. She bathes me. She dresses me. She waits on me hand and foot. And she constantly tells me she loves me.
So why did I have that dream? Because I am the most helpless man in Meadows Of Dan, but the most honored. I have a ten-cow wife and she loves me. ME. She loves ME.
Do you look in the mirror to see your self worth? Don’t. Don’t believe your lying eyes. Look in the eyes of someone who loves you. Do you think no one loves you?
Not true. Think again.
The Best Day of My Life
by Lorrie Mann
With an Introduction
by Doug Mann
The morning of October 13 was just like any other morning, or at least I thought so. As I lay in bed watching familiar objects once again become visible in the slowly increasing diffused light, I marveled as always at the gift of life. It is totally inconceivable.
Then I heard the sound for which I had been listening. It was a whispered purr. I turned my head slightly to the left and in the dim light could just make out the vision of a beautiful naked young woman lying on the bed next to me. Was she a dream? Yes, but she was also a dream that emanated a whispered purr. Moving slowly to not awaken her, I inched closer. Damn it. She is a light sleeper.
“Good morning darling and Happy Anniversary,” she said with her typical exuberance that occasionally causes me to wonder if she is otherworldly. From her nightstand she took a handful of rolled parchment, tied with a ribbon.
OMG! I had completely forgotten that six years earlier on October 13 in Paris, we had exchanged wedding vows. I said,
“I have nothing to give you.”
She replied, “I know because you have already given me everything I could ever want. Just stay in bed, read The Best Day Of My Life and I will bring you some hot tea.”
I watched her get out of bed and walk to her clo set --- I never can resist --- and then I read:
The Best Day of my Life
The forecast for the day called for snow. No surprise there since it was the nineteenth of January. The wintry forecast didn't faze me a bit, even though it probably would mean a treacherous and exciting drive down Squirrel Spur Road toward Mount Airy. I have gotten used to driving that curvy mountain road over the years, even in rotten weather, since I have been a die-hard fanatic about having my shop open exactly as the sign in the window says, announcing the store hours. “Ten to six...seven days a week, come hell or high water!”
It has just always really bugged me when I would be standing in front of a business, ready to spend some money, and the front door was locked even though the sign posted in the front window says they are supposed to be open. Twenty years before on the first day I opened my place of Outdoor Lifestyle goods, I promised myself that I would not conduct my business in such a lackadaisical manner. Just not my style.
This day was no different. I pulled on my dark denim jeans, my favorite gray cotton cashmere Henley sweater, the rugged black El Naturalista Spanish boots that lace up the side with the slip proof soles, and the Kuhl black fleece beret that has the interesting blue rickrack around the edge that the Kuhl brand is so well known for. Out the door I go, all geared up and ready to slowly creep down the side of the mountain that I know like the back of my hand. Even so, I give myself plenty of extra time, so I don't feel like I need to rush to be ready to greet any daring and eager customers that might be standing at my door at the designated 10:00 hour.
On a snowy day like this, that is totally wishful thinking, I suppose. Either way, that is how I work and what I believe in, and I just hate to let myself down. I managed to arrive plenty early so that by the time I unlocked the door at 9:59, I had the Putumayo World Music coming through the speakers, the Hazelnut Creme coffee prepared for sampling, and a lighthearted smile ready for any adventuresome person coming to join me in celebrating the awesomely beautiful snowy day.
There is always someone who needs a gift for the birthday or anniversary they came close to forgetting. I imagine this day will be no different. And then there are usually some crazies like myself that simply love the snow and want to walk to town and shop, while stopping to make a couple of snow angels on the way, just for fun. I guess I will never truly grow up, no matter how old I get.
Actually, my plan is never to think or act old, even when I turn 100 many years from now. On days like this, I tend to feel really festive, for some reason. I usually allow my employees to stay home, since most of them are big wimps when it comes to driving in the snow. And it is rare that I get to run the shop all alone, since it is a large and usually fairly busy place. But history has shown that days like this snowy Wednesday, one person working will suffice. I gladly elected myself to be the one.
It gives me the chance to be out front the entire day, merchandising the store and using my magic to create new and interesting displays to inspire big sales. I very much love this part of my business. But I equally love getting to meet and interact with the nice folks who wander through the front door. People, in general, intrigue me, so conversing with them as they sip on the small cup of coffee I offer them as they shop, makes me feel happy. They, in turn, feel welcome and at ease as they move around the store, not quite knowing where to look first as they comment on how it is almost like a museum. So many crazy and fun things to look at.
As I tend to expect on a day like this, I have far more time than usual to create some visual bliss. I simply adore coming up with new outrageous get-ups in which to don the mannequins. The more layers of interest the better. This day I constructed an outfit consisting of a lacy, dusty rose cami peeking out from under a black, tencel tee over an artsy looking, flowy floral skirt. Completing this work of art (if I do say so myself) is a pair of Euro-comfort leather ankle boots. The handmade long copper necklace really pops against the black top. And, as I generally do, I topped the outfit off with an open weave silk scarf from Italy and a locally made velvet cloche topped with a flower the exact shade of dusty rose in the cami. Ah. Why does dressing that lifeless female form in this variety of wearables make me feel as if I just completed a Picasso?
The most satisfying part, however, is when a gentleman walks through the door and says he wants to buy the entire ensemble as a gift to his wife for their upcoming wedding anniversary. Yes! Sold my masterpiece.
So, there I was all alone in my favorite space, my own personal gallery where my creative juices flow effortlessly, when I heard the soft jingle of the small, brass string of bells I placed on the front entrance to alert me as to when I had company, awakening me from my zone. I turned to see two guys coming through the front door, politely stopping on the huge rug to stomp off the bits of snow and ice from their boots. I then recognized one of them to be David Mann, a building contractor that had moved to Meadows of Dan a couple years ago from the Charlotte area. He and his wife had shopped in the store several times, and I had run into them once at a fund raiser at Olde Mill Golf Course.
But on this cold, snowy noontime hour in mid-January, he was accompanied by a man who had a similar look to him. David introduced him to me as his brother, Doug, who had recently moved to the area. As I greeted him and reached out to shake his hand, I felt that warm tingle near my sternum that caused an awareness of something I hadn't felt in a long time. Not giving that initial stirring sensation much attention, I began the normal, friendly interaction that I so much enjoy with my customers.
"Hey, crazy weather today, huh?" followed by general easy, light conversation like that. I gave them each a cup of the Hazelnut Creme and allowed them some space to wander around the store on their own, noticing the worn, but notably expensive, Outback hat Doug wore. Shoulder length blond hair fell below the brim in a bit of a messy heap, as if he had been working outside, shoveling snow, perhaps, when suddenly deciding to go on a jaunt into town. Funny, but I have always kinda’ liked a little bit of a scruffiness on a guy. I find it sort of carefree looking and sexy.
As I gazed at his handsome face, trying not to be too obvious that I felt the sudden urge to study him, I began to focus on the slightly unkempt blond beard coordinating perfectly with the look of the free-falling hair framing his masculine face. Hum, I like. Instead of me being the one to initiate conversation, which is usual with customers, he seemed to be circling me. We began talking about his recent move to Virginia from Atlanta. I had a strange desire to find out more about this guy who suddenly began to warm me from the inside out on this brisk, winter morn.
He began telling me a lot about himself. I was learning much quite quickly about him. He's a lawyer. He is divorced. He went to college and law school at Washington and Lee. He has two giant schnauzer dogs. He drives a new, top of the line BMW 750 and also has a couple of massive pickup trucks. He lives in Meadows of Dan. HE LIVES IN MEADOWS OF DAN! I am incredibly happy to hear that. What on earth is going on with me? I am feeling so light and alive. This guy I just met 15 minutes ago is causing the air pressure in the room to feel different. The oxygen suddenly tastes sweeter as I struggle to push it down into my lungs. My skin feels an odd, goose bump sensation, even though I am not at all cold. In fact, I notice that I feel nice and warm for the first time all day.
As we continue to converse, I see he is missing his front tooth. Well, there must be a story to that. Seems that, since he is a lawyer, he could certainly afford a good dentist. I didn't dare ask him about it, drawing attention to something he might be quite sensitive and embarrassed about. It, actually, added a little more intrigue to the scruffy look the guy presented today, as he daringly ventured down the same mountain road I did. He seemed to have my kind of off-the-wall spirit. But still pondering that missing front tooth, suddenly I am sensing I might be in the presence of a modern-day pirate. 0MG. I am really allowing my imagination to run wild. What is he doing to me?
While I busied myself once again with merchandising, allowing them uninterrupted browsing time, David walked close to me and whispered in my ear, "My brother usually has a front tooth!"
That made me giggle, and I think Doug heard what he said, so I just came out and asked. Doug replied that he was having oral surgery and the post that was installed in his gum had to set before they could attach the tooth. Okay. Well, nothing quite as exciting as a bar fight or getting kicked in the chops by an angry horse, but I like a guy that doesn't sit around crying in his beer just because he doesn't have a front tooth. He has the balls and grit to carry on with life. Made him even more interesting to me.
Geez, they must have stayed an hour or more. I loved every minute of it. As they were preparing to leave, Doug brought a black Outback hat to the counter. I took my time ringing him up, as I really hated the thought of him leaving the shop. As I placed the hat into the dense plastic bag with the Meadows of Dan Trading Company logo, Doug handed me his business card. He said he would love to take me to dinner sometime, and for me to call him and let him know if I would like to have dinner with him. Wow! Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!
My heart was pounding, and I couldn't wait to call my friend, Brenda, to tell her I had just met someone that I am really interested in. Someone who intrigues me. After they left, I just stood there dazed a bit, pondering the way I was feeling. Every inch of me was so ALIVE. What on earth just happened? Here I had been imagining no customers for the day and that I would just be getting a lot of work accomplished all by myself. Instead, suddenly there was magic in the air. I cannot deny it. I cannot deny the crazy way I felt. I cannot deny that I REALLY wanted to see him again. But since I was brought up that girls never call boys, I was going to have to get creative on how to run into him. Hmm. I will figure something out. I simply must.
I took a deep breath to settle myself down and tried to get back into my merchandising zone. I couldn't get my mind off him. I kept replaying our conversation, thinking of things I wish I had asked him. I kept seeing his eyes and that scruffy hair and beard and missing front tooth. I had no idea at that moment that the pirate-like guy I had just spent an hour with was carrying the most beautiful, size 5, glass slipper. Fit me most perfectly!
And they lived happily ever after.