The Pot Brownies

Before I begin my story, to any law enforcement officers out there, I’m pretty sure the statute of limitations has long ago expired.

My friend threw a party. She always threw a party around Christmas…wonderful and delightful parties, and since it was going to be our last year there, the party was a combination “going away and Christmas party.

My friend was a fabulous cook and went all out for these parties. My daughters and their intendeds were there and my friends family was there…and our longtime friend, who we considered to be family was there.

Eatin’ time was upon us. I got what I thought was roast beef, and took a bite. “What the hell.” I thought. I told the ex not to eat it, because it was rotten. (What I didn’t know what that it was lamb.) I couldn’t believe my friend had tried to trick me into eating Bambi.

No worries though. She always put out a dessert spread, so I grabbed a new plate and headed toward the delicious goodies I was sure to find. Ah! There was a huge platter of brownies. She had never served brownies before and I’m not a big brownie fan, but why not?

I had three on my plate when my middle daughter came over and softly said, “you don’t want those brownies, mom.”

“Ooooh, yuk. Did she spit in them?” I asked. Middle daughter just said, “you don’t want them.”

“Ah, I thought. She must have made them with booze.” (I had not yet experienced the Jack Daniels fudge, but I wouldn’t put it past anyone to include booze in any kind of food.)

I put the brownies back on their platter and moved on to the other goodies beckoning me.

A few hours later, I started wondering where the ex and our friend were. I looked all over the house and couldn’t find them anywhere. I finally went outside. Oh my Lucy! First, I saw our friend, sitting in a lawn chair, looking like a cat who just ate the canary…then I see the ex, holding his head with one hand and grasping a pole for dear life with the other one.

I put my hands on my hips and said, “you boys are drunk!” Our friend is smiling and telling me to come sit on his lap. I tapped him on the head and said, “remember yourself!” The ex is moaning like a cow in labor.

I had driven of course. I was always the designated driver. Now, how I got those two huge guys into my little sports car, I don’t know, but I finally did. I turned my radio on, maybe thinking the music could soothe their savage souls. What? Oh, well.

Luckily, we only lived a few blocks up the street. I got the boys out of the car and into the house. I got the ex into the bedroom and got our friend onto the sofa.

The next morning, I got up bright and early and was in the kitchen making coffee. I heard somebody say, “good morning,” but all I could see were these two brown eyes peeping over the top of the sofa. He said, “I need a cup of coffee.” I told him he could have a cup as soon as I got it made.

He got up and was holding on to any and everything he could…the back of the sofa, the cabinets, the table…the chairs. I was thinking, “this boy’s going to need more than one cup of coffee.”

Finally he made it to the sink. When he got there, he said, “I need to go home.” I told him he could go home as soon as he had a cup of coffee.

He kept standing there, looking back and forth and back and forth and back and forth. Now…there were six of us and we all had cars, so at any given time one might think there was a hootenanny going on, or maybe a drug deal was going down, but…whatever. That day there were seven.

Finally, I asked him what he was looking for. He said, “I’m trying to figure out which one of these cars is mine.”

I didn’t find out what was in those brownies until a few years later. Our friend had come up to see us and he and the ex were on the patio drinking beer and talking. I sat down for a few minutes and our friend asked if I remembered that night. “Of course, I said. Ya’ll were two drunk monkeys.”

They both started laughing. Of course, I had no idea why. Finally they started talking to each other. It went like this.

The ex said, “yeah, I remember that night. On the way home, I thought we were on a magic carpet ride.” Our friend said, “and I thought Laurel was playing the flute.”

I was still confused. A few years after that (and an incident with one of my future sons-in-law), I was told exactly what they were.

The Guards

This is the story of “The Guards.” It started out as an innocuous call, or so I thought.

We were dispatched to an urgent cardiac event at the Naval Base. Ready to beat feet, I looked at partner and said, “to the Naval Base! Isn’t the Naval base defunct?” Partner says, “defunct?” I say, “yeah, you know. Shut down. Out of commission. No more.” Partner shrugs and we carried on.

I’m flying down the streets, lights flashing and sirens wailing, and suddenly my mind turns to the dark and twisty. I said, “what if this defunct Naval Base is now being used for espionage, or illegal experiments, or maybe it’s used to house captured creatures from space!”

Work partner is cracking up as I continue. “What if it’s the president, or maybe the vice president has shot somebody else and they called us to come whisk him off, and pump him full of morphine so he won’t talk? Or what if we go in there and see those men in black and we’re never seen again because we know who did it?”

As we pulled up to the assumed defunct Naval base, we are cracking up. I figure they’ll think we’re too goofy to be a threat…or maybe that would be a perfect disguise for a couple of spies. Who knows?

I saw a little building and stopped. A little door opens just as I noticed a guard standing in front of the ambulance, holding a gun that was bigger than either of us.

The man in the little house looked at us, then looked at the man with a gun, and motioned for him to open the gate. The man in little house also had a big gun. He didn’t smile, or ask us why we were there. He didn’t even look in the back of the ambulance.

Driving on, I mention to partner…”that was weird. He didn’t even ask for our badge numbers or anything. How does he know that we weren’t hi-jacked down the street and someone else put on our uniforms?”

Literally, at every turn, a man with a gun was standing, directing us where to go.

We finally came to the end of the road, and were met by men with guns, standing on either side of the ambulance. They walked with us to the back, and watched us take out the stretcher and medical bags. They didn’t even offer to help! Chivalry is dead.

When we got into the base itself, there were guards everywhere. We were halted until four guards met us and escorted us to this huge elevator. They were like the queens’ guards. They didn’t smile, nod or speak. They just kept their eyes focused on us like they were thinking, “go ahead. Make my day.” I thought it was hilarious.

Being me, once the doors closed, I looked at one of them and said, “so, how ’bout them Mets?” Talk about the evil stink-eye! Let’s just say nobody was amused and thankfully, nobody was shot.

The man we were picking up was some sort of Rear Admiral General or something. With no clothes on, to me, he looked like any ordinary man, and he was a bit friendlier. He didn’t appear to be having a cardiac event, so I don’t know what the deal was. At least he answered the important questions like, “what’s up? What’s happening? Who’s your daddy?”

Getting him out to the ambulance was the same. Guard escorts with big guns everywhere. One of them even rode to the hospital with us…with his big gun. We never could find anything irregular about the patient, which leads me to think….maybe he was from outer space.

My Little Monk

At the suggestion of the fabulous Brian Lageose over there at Bonnywood Manor…this is the story of my encounter with a little Monk…but first….

When I was running EMS, everyone knew that there was monastery about thirty or so miles from the big city. I knew and that’s about all I knew.

One day, my work partner and I had just dropped a patient off at the nearby hospital and since we didn’t have another call, she said, “want to go to an old cemetery?”

I was all in. I loved walking through cemeteries, even though it was always sad. Seeing the tiny little graves of children who never had a chance at life, and noticing that length of years was not a blessing for a lot of those born in the late 17, 18, and 1900’s.

Weaving my way through the graves, all of a sudden I looked down and couldn’t believe my eyes. I yelled….”look! Here are the graves of Clare Boothe Luce and Henry!” She asked, “who the hell is Clare and Henry?” After mumbling to myself, my gaze wandered upward.

There was this hill that had to be two stories high, if not more. “What’s up there?” I queried. “Somewhere you don’t want to be,” she said. Being the obedient person I was, I started climbing, despite her constant warnings. I knew it couldn’t be Ft. Knox…that was in Kentucky. I knew it couldn’t be area 51…that was in Nevada. So, what was there?

When I finally crested the hill, she yelled, “you better get down!”

What I didn’t know was that I was peering down at the monastery. After a quick glance and fear of my everlasting soul being damned to Hell for having invaded such a sacred place, I slid back down the hill.

Flash forward a few years.

My first work partner drifted off into the world of anything besides EMS, and my new work partner arrived. One day, we got a strange call. Go to the hospital and pick up a “special” patient. Hmm. We got a little excited. Maybe it was a movie star. We had done “stand-bys” for things like “the great American race,” and several movies had been filmed around there.

We got to the hospital and were guided to a room, where a cute little old man was sitting in the bed, eating Jello. I introduced myself and my partner, while he dutifully continued eating his snack.

The nurse came in and asked us to step outside with her for a minute. She told us that he was a Monk, and we would be taking him to the Monastery. “Now,” she said, “you will not be allowed to go any further than the entrance, but someone will be there to receive him.” I asked if whoever “received” him would have the authority to sign the disposition. (There always had to be someone to accept a patient, who had an equal or superior level of medical training, or we could be charged with abandonment.) She assured me that there would be no problem.

After introducing myself, I told him that I would have to remove his catheter, and asked if it was okay. (You have to ask the patient to let you touch them. Otherwise, it’s assault.) He smiled, threw back the covers and said, “okay. Here it is.” I told him that I would hold his hooter in one hand and pull the cath out with the other. His eyes got real wide and I smiled as I said, “hey. This doesn’t mean we’re engaged.”

We got him loaded and out to the ambulance. I asked if it was okay for me to put the BP cuff on him, so I could monitor his blood pressure on the way. After all the formalities were taken care of, I started talking to him. Obviously, he hadn’t taken a vow of silence, or he would have had an interpreter.

I always talked to my patients, unless they were…well…dying, or pulling my hair, or spitting on me, or calling me everything but a child of God, or telling me where to go.

I asked him if he had always had the calling to be a Monk or if at some point in his life he had an epiphany. He said he had been in the Navy for years. I asked, “did you have a girl in every port of call?” He smiled and said, “there were a few, yes.” He said that after years of living “that kind of life,” he decided to become a monk. When I asked if he every regretted leaving the world behind, he said, “no. I never have.” He was a delightful man and I enjoyed every minute with him in the back of that ambulance.

When we got to the monastery, we were met with what looked like a medical team, but when I opened the back doors, he waved them off and told them that we were coming in. WOW! We were going into the monastery.

We rolled him down a dark hallway, passing a few monks on the way, who nodded rather that spoke. After we got him in his bed, he told the other monk in the room to take us down to the “shop.”

I knew the monks raised chickens and sold the eggs, but I didn’t know much else. I did, however, know that the monastery had been endowed by Clare Boothe and Henry Luce. (Guess that’s why they’re buried there.)

My partner and I hadn’t had time to eat anything that day, and we were starving. My little monk instructed the other monk to make sure he gave us some fudge. Fudge. That was right up my alley.

We took the fudge and my partner was driving while I filled out the paper work. I tore into that fudge and handed her a big piece and I was chomping on my own. Suddenly, I realized that the paper work seemed to be fuzzy. Before I could say anything, my work partner said, “I think I’m drunk!” We were so crazed with hunger, neither of us noticed the pungent smell of Jack Daniels.

Yep. We were both probably drunk on fudge, made with Jack Daniels…from a monastery.

I took the fudge home and not even the ex would eat it.

The motto of the story is…beware of monks bearing gifts of fudge.

Oh, and to Brian. You mentioned “brownies.” That wasn’t brownies….but do I have a story about brownies! LOL

The Real Story Of Lizzie Borden

Lizzie Borden took an axe,

And gave her mother forty whacks.

After he saw what she did,

Her father gave her forty quid.

“Thank you, thank you, little one,

For snuffing out that evil scum.

But now, you must be on the run.

Leave the axe and take the gun.

Your secret I will never tell,

Of how you sent your mum to Hell.

Your fingerprints will be erased,

From the axe that I’ll somehow misplace.

Again, I thank you Lizzie dear,

For killing that old hag.

All she ever did,

Was bitch, complain and nag.”

But what her father didn’t know,

Was he was ’bout to get a blow.

And dirty minds should be aware,

That we’re not talking ’bout “down there.”

Ole Lizzie whacked his face in half,

And glowing in the aftermath,

She heard him gurgle as she laughed,

And smiled, and spoke his epitaph.

She never did get caught, you see.

The townsfolk simply let her be.

She got her mansion on the hill,

With flowers on the window sill.

She lived alone and died the same,

But no one ever will forget,

Ole Lizzie Bordens’ name.

Ripley…Believe It Or Not

This is my new kitten. Her name is Ripley.

I know she looks much like an alien, hence the name Ripley, after the heroine on Alien.

She is a Cornish Rex. They have only been around since 1950, when a barn cat in Cornwall, England, delivered a litter, containing a strange looking male offspring with huge ears. It is a natural mutation…I’m sure from some wayward alien species, who was catting around, looking for some strange.

The owners decided not to kill him, so they kept him around until he got old enough to mate with his mother. (Sounds like the kin-folk of a few people I used to know.) They eventually made it over here to the good old USA and there are strict rules when it comes to Cornishes. They are all pure bred and if you decided you no longer want your kitten, you must return it to the breeder. They are only in-door cats, and feline leukemia has been successfully bred out of them.

They are hard to come by. If you can find a new litter, the waiting list is sometimes more than two years, and mothers usually only have two to three kittens. When I found mine (in Florida) she was one of six.

Anyway, they are very smart little creatures. She was playing fetch with me after I had only had her for five days.

Cornish Rexs’ don’t have fur. They have what is called a “down coat.” It is very wavy and feels like velvet when you stroke her back. Her whiskers are curly…like they were singed or something.

They love to be up high, and as I type this, she is sitting on my shoulder. This love of being high (in a purely legal sense) can and has caused more than a few harsh words from mama.

They are fiercely loyal to their owners and if I leave the room, she starts calling for me.

Anyway….ain’t she just as cute as she can be?

Oh…and shout out to Brian Lageose…I think I figured it out. Just cut and paste…right?

These People Called Writers

These people called writers are a breed apart.

Some writers post random pictures and create guffawing humorous stories as if they had been privy to the conversation just as the camera shutter snapped, capturing the subjects who will forever be frozen in time.  

Some writers have the ability to use their words as a medium to create hauntingly beautiful pictures, which literally take your breath away as you read the illustrations they have painted.

Some writers sit at their computers and feel as if they’re bleeding to death, all the while hoping for rescue, or seeking solace from a bottle or a pill or a bullet.

Then there are always those,
Who are able to write magnificent prose,
With words they very carefully chose,
For the ones who fought, or fled or froze.

Some writers pen stories of broken angel wings, and flowers blooming in the dark.

Some writers shed tears, pleading for mercy and begging for understanding. Their keyboards become caked with salt that hardens like they fear their hearts eventually will.

Some write about hopes and dreams that were never realized.

Some writers bring tears to your eyes, and break your heart while you helplessly join in their poignant journey to the end of their life, after having been diagnosed with a fatal illness.

Some writers tell about their scars that may have been self-inflicted, or may have been the result of an accident, or a horrific trauma.  They tell about the invisible scars left from unspeakable suffering that can’t be seen.  They tell of wounds that caused those scars; wounds so deep they will most likely never recover, but they put on a brave face and soldier on, trying to deny that the wound was fatal.

Some writers weave used memories and secrets into tapestries, meant to offer a hint about what shaped their lives and made them who they are, but no one wants to remember.  Those same writers are told that no one wants to hear their story, and denying someone of his or her story is the worst kind of suffocation.

These people called writers are a breed apart.

The Bittersweet Farewell – Chapter Five

One week later, Alice and Jacob were at Tierney’s, and gossip was abundant.

The server walked over to their table, smiled and handed Alice a note when she brought their hot chocolate and Bonbons.  The note was from Georgia.

Dear Alice,

Thank you so very much for
opening my eyes and giving
me the courage to follow my
own path.
I will write when we get settled.

Your eternally grateful and
affectionate friend,

Georgia had defied her fathers’ wishes, left town and married William. Alice was thrilled, and hoped to someday see her friend again.  Before the smile left her face, Jacob said, “darling, I have to tell you something”

Alice’s heart sank.  She knew what he was going to say.  She swallowed hard and hid her disappointment as she asked, “are you going away again?”

Jacob said, “I am, but my darling, if all goes well, when I come back, we are going on a whirlwind trip.  We’re going to go places we’ve never been. We’re going to see sites we’ve never seen. We’re going to meet people we’ve never met. We’re going to stay in the finest hotels, and we’re going to dine in the finest restaurants.” 

“While I was in San Francisco, I was approached by some gentlemen who admired my work.  They asked if I’d be interested in putting the finishing touches on a project for a woman they described as a ‘grand lady’.” He smiled and said, “I imagine she’s some wealthy, bored heiress who is in the process of restoring some fancy new hotel, or maybe an elaborate art gallery, which will bear her name.  The work would be quite the feather in my cap.”

Alice said, “it sounds intriguing, but where are you going, and how long would you be gone?”

Jacob took her hand and said, “you must understand, my darling.  I would be traveling to Europe and I would be gone for at least two or possibly three months.  Most of the work is done but, as I said, I would be assisting in the completion.”

Alice said, “of course you must go, but I shall miss you terribly. I feel as if I am not whole unless you are with me.” She hesitated as if she didn’t really want an answer when she asked, “when will you be leaving?” Almost agonizingly, Jacob said, “in three days, but remember my dearest darling, our farewells are always so bittersweet, but, oh, how glorious our reunion when I return.”

Alice spent the next three days, trying to think only of Jacob’s promise of untold adventures, but she was desolate. Before, her loneliness had been tempered by Georgia, but now Georgia was gone.

The day of Jacobs’ departure arrived. He boarded the train, which would take him to the port of call.  As before, Alice said a prayer as she stood and waved until her beloved was out of sight.

After he left, she again tried to busy herself and not dwell on things like missing him, and her Papa, and Grace and Georgia.  Occasionally, she would go to Tierney’s for hot chocolate and a Bonbon, and even shake things in town up a bit by arriving in trousers, but for some reason she felt empty as she sat there alone.

After almost three weeks, Alice received a letter in the mail.  She felt like a little girl on Christmas morning, opening a special present as she read:

My dearest darling,

I arrived safely, although I 
will admit that more than
once, I was stricken with 
motion sickness.  I am stricken
with even more sickness from
missing you.
I have met the grand lady I will be

working for, and I must confess
that I am quite taken with
her. I am perhaps even a bit in

love with her, but don’t fret my 
dearest darling.  It shall be a fleeting
affair.  There’s not much time

for writing, but I will write as 
often as I can.

Your loyal and faithful husband,

She held the letter to her chest and whispered, “thank you.”  Once again, her prayer had been answered.  He had arrived safely.

Another month went by and Alice hadn’t received a letter.  She was worried, but knew that mail traveled slowly, and also knew that Jacob was working hard.

She found herself remembering, in his last letter, he said that he was a bit in love with this, as he described, “grand lady.” She could understand the attraction of a wealthy, high-born, poised older woman, but he hadn’t said that she was an older woman.

What if she was a younger woman?  A younger woman who might confess that she was a little in love with him?  A younger woman with aspirations to leave a bit of herself behind, just as Jacob wanted?

Alice quickly dismissed what she told herself were silly notions and patiently counted the days until she received another letter, and anticipated even more, the return of her beloved.

Still, she wondered why he hadn’t told her much about what he was doing.  It wasn’t so much that she thought he was keeping something from her; he just wasn’t being very forthcoming.

Thirty-eight days after the last letter, Alice was delighted when she received one.  As she opened the envelope, her hands shook slightly with nervousness.  With untethered joy, she began to read.

My dearest darling,

By the time you receive this,
I will already be on my way back 
to you.  Please forgive my indolence
in writing, but things were being hurried,

and I am so very tired.
I have been successful,
although there
have been some disagreements with the
I will be traveling with the grand lady, but

I want you to know that I have remained,
and will forever remain true to you, 

my dearest darling.

Upon my return, I have a marvelous

Beside herself with joy, she clutched the letter close to her chest. The work he had done for the grand lady would surely leave a lasting mark, but what he didn’t yet know was that his greatest achievement was yet to arrive. As she gently rubbed her stomach, she smiled as she whispered, “and I have a marvelous surprise for you as well, my love.”

Glancing once more at the precious letter, she noticed a post script. It read: 

P. S.  I have enclosed a picture of 
the grand lady I have been working

for, and will be traveling with.
I think when you see her, you will

understand my infatuation.
Until we meet again, my dearest
darling, I remain,

Your loyal and faithful husband,

She put the letter down, and began to open the small envelope.  “Ah,” she said to herself.  “This must be a picture of the lady who enamored him with her great beauty.”

She opened the envelope and took out the picture.  Across the top, in bold letters was written:


Die Einde.

The Bittersweet Farewell – Chapter Four

Alice busied herself with the daily routines of life, albeit missing Jacob terribly. Every minute, she wished that he was with her, but she didn’t retreat to solitude.

Twice a week, she went to Tierney’s for a cup of hot chocolate and a Bonbon.  It was one of her favorite places to go and the visits always brought back such fond memories of both Jacob and Grace.

One day, she quite literally ran into a young woman named Georgia.  They laughed at the dark, chocolaty stains they both wore on their frocks, and after futile attempts to remove them, began to talk. Georgia reminded Alice of Grace, and she liked her straight away.  

Georgia was very prim and proper; the epitome of what a young lady of those times should be, but she wasn’t stiff or hubristic.  She had a delicious, almost naughty sense of humor and a high-pitched, head-turning squeal when she laughed.

Alice told her about Jacob and how they met.  Then she told her about the day she and her Papa had seen him with another woman.  Georgia let out such a guffaw, that she had to reach for her elaborately detailed smelling salts holder. Recovering, she said, “mercy.  This corset is going to cause the death of me yet!”

Not wanting to be obtrusive, but straightforward to a fault, Alice asked Georgia if she had a beau.  Georgia, blushing bright red said, “I have my eye on a certain gentleman, yes.”  Then she fanned herself and said, “I get the vapors just thinking about him.”

Alice leaned forward and whispered, “you must tell me all about him, but first, what’s his name?”

Georgia said, “his name is William Longstreet and he’s a lawyer.  My father has a firm here and he works for him. Maybe you have heard of it. The Morgan Phillips firm.” Alice made a polite apology and said, “perhaps Jacob knows him and has done business with him.”  Then she smiled and said, “or perhaps he knows and has done business with your beau.”

Georgia sighed and said, “I would think not. Alas, it has become an unrewarding occupation. There just isn’t enough business for all the lawyers here.  My father’s firm used to be so busy, he barely had enough time to come home for supper, but no more.  Wouldn’t you think that in the age of constitutional reform, there would be a need for lawyers?”

Georgias’ voice softened when she said, “my father doesn’t like William.  He doesn’t think he’s suitable for me.”  When Alice asked why, she said, “he wants me to marry rich.  He wants me to put on airs, and act like we’re royalty just so I can land a wealthy husband.” Alice put her hand on Georgias’ and said, “what about love?  Doesn’t your father want you to love and be loved?”

Georgia said, “I think my father would rather I be rich than happy, or in love.  See, he and my mother married because it was good for the family. My father’s parents were wealthy landowners and had a lot of money.  After they died, he couldn’t afford to pay the death taxes, so he lost all of the land and most of the money. Then, I guess you could say that fortune smiled on him when he met my mother. They married, and all of her wealth became his.”

She smiled and said, “I believe that they are fond of each other, but I have never seen my father look at my mother the way William looks at me.”

With an apology, Alice told Georgia that she must get back home. She looked at her and said, “you are a strong, and from what I can tell, an intelligent woman.  Fight for what you believe, and never let anyone make you do something you don’t want to do.  Don’t give a fig about rules.  Make your own rules.”

As she was leaving, they agreed to meet every Tuesday, until of course, Jacob returned.

When Alice got home, a letter was waiting in the mailbox.  She rushed inside, sat down and opened it.

My dearest darling,

Things are moving more rapidly
than I had expected.  Everyone
seems to be excited about the work
we are doing, and have done.
I believe my part will be accomplished
in no more than two weeks.
Then, my treasured one, I will be anxiously finding
my way back home to you.

Your loyal and faithful husband,

Alice felt as though she was walking on air.  Her beloved would be returning and once again, she would feel whole.

Two weeks and a day after Alice received the letter from Jacob, he arrived at the train station.  She could hardly contain her excitement as she embraced him.  She smiled and said, “you must tell me all about your adventure, but not before we have some time together.”

The next morning, Alice told Jacob about meeting Georgia.  “She reminds me so much of Grace,” she said, “but her father has plans for her.”  Jacob queried, “what do you mean?  What kind of plans?”

Alice said, “Georgia carries a torch for a young gentleman, whom her father thinks is unsuitable.  He wants her to marry a wealthy man.  It’s just so sad, because I believe that she will bend to her father’s wishes.”

A month later, Alice and Jacob went to Tierney’s and saw Georgia sitting at a table with a much older man.  In a low voice, Alice said, “that must be her father.  He’s a lawyer in town.  Do you recognize him?”  Jacob said he didn’t.  Alice said, “I’d like for you to meet her.”

They walked over to the table, the gentleman stood up and a surprised Georgia said, “hello Alice.  This handsome young man must be your Mr. Harper.” Jacob extended his hand, requested that she call him Jacob, and said how happy he was to make her acquaintance. He followed it with, “I’ve heard such lovely things about you.”

Georgia said, “please allow me to introduce you to my fiancé, Mr. Horace Spellman.  He’s the president of the B & O railroad.” Alice had to hide her disappointment as well as her anger as she allowed him to kiss her hand.

Horace looked at Jacob and said, “I understand you travel quite a bit on my train, young man.  We must see about getting you a discount.” Jacob thanked Mr. Spellman, but avoided possibly putting himself under obligation.

Georgia could see the displeasure on Alice’s face and said, “Alice.  I would like to extend an invitation to you and Jacob.  Mr. Spellman and I are to be married in three weeks, and I would like very much for you to attend.”

Alice quickly said, “I need to powder my nose.  Georgia, would you like to accompany me?”  Georgia, as if in servitude, asked Horace if he minded, which angered Alice.  As soon as they got out of earshot, Alice angrily asked, “what are you thinking?  I know you don’t love that man, not to mention that he’s old enough to be your father!”

Georgia said, “my father arranged the wedding.  In return for a lavish life-style, plenty of money, financial help for his practice, and the promise of a male heir, he gave Mr. Spellman my hand in marriage.”

Alice, unsure if she could sway Georgia said, “I I beg you.  Don’t throw your life away.  Wouldn’t you rather be with someone you love instead of being some old man’s drudge, catering to his wishes and being nothing more than a silent, pretty face and a brood mare?  And what if you don’t produce a male?”

Alice tried to calm herself and said, “we only have one life, Georgia, and we mustn’t waste one minute of it doing the wrong thing.”

To be continued______________________

The Bittersweet Farewell – Chapter Three

Trying to control her laughter, one day Grace told Alice the tale of the tree-house.  “Jacob cut down trees and scavenged wood from anywhere he could find it,” she said.  “He worked day and night, and mind you, he was only nine years old.  He was determined to have the biggest and best tree-house ever.”  She giggled as she said, “he just knew that people from all over would want to come to see what he had built!’.”

“He used the gardeners’ ladder to climb up this huge oak tree that had bifurcated through the years, creating what Jacob thought would be the perfect place for his house.  He heaved all those pieces of wood up that tree, and tied them together with weeds because he didn’t have a rope or nails. He didn’t even have a hammer.”

“He carved his name into one of the pieces of wood, using a sharp rock and tied it to the base of that big tree.  Finally the day came when it was finished and he was so proud of himself.  He came inside and asked me to come look at it. Just as I got outside, he stepped into the tree-house and down it came.  I was trying so hard not to laugh, but you should have seen his little face.”

“He was hanging onto a limb, looking at what was now just a pile of wood. He looked much like you would expect someone to look after their lifelong dreams had just been dashed.”

“But,” she said, “surrender was not in his nature. After having his first effort at building something fall down, he wanted to know why it fell down.  That’s why he became a structural engineer.  He wanted to understand weight distribution and what made some things last merely a few years, or in his case, a few minutes, while others lasted a lifetime.”

Alice smiled and said, “yes.  He has a sense of leaving a part of himself behind, I think.  Something that is beautiful, and lasts, but something isn’t necessarily beautiful because it lasts. The beauty is in the art of the way it’s built to last.  He wants to leave something behind that will be appreciated long after he’s gone.”

Alice crossed her heart with her arms as she said, “he’s such a wonderful man, and I am grateful every day that he came into my life.” Grace smiled and said, “he really is a wonderful man, and he’s a wonderful brother.”

Just ten months after Alice and Jacob were married, Grace became gravely ill.  The doctors were baffled as to the cause of her ailment, and their treatment ranged from warm cinnamon milk, to behind closed doors blood-letting, an almost abandoned and frowned upon practice, but desperation sometimes calls for unconventional methods.

Grace was languishing in a semi-conscious state.  Alice and Jacob were at her side, feeling helpless and hopeless. When it became obvious that she was never going to recover, Jacob whispered to Grace that it was okay for her to leave.  “Go be with God,” Jacob whispered.  After five days, she finally succumbed.

She was gone and they grieved, but she was no longer suffering, and they were grateful.  Her charming way of speaking and her captivating stories of days gone by were forever silenced, but she would not be forgotten.  Alice and Jacob would always remember their darling Grace.

In lieu of a funeral, Jacob and Alice decided to have a memorial service.  They would not mourn for her.  They would celebrate her life with song and dance and yes, stories of their own.

Two weeks after Grace died, Alice went to see her Papa.  She found him sitting in his chair, holding a picture of her mother.

Death had come knocking twice in as many weeks, and the loss of her Papa left Alice devastated.  Her only solace was believing that he and her mother were finally together once again.

He had talked to her about dying, and told her not to grieve for him when his time came. He told her that he had tried to be an honorable man, and being re-united with the love of his life would be his long-awaited reward.  He said, “I have been fortunate enough to have experienced great love.  I have loved someone with all of my heart, and I believe your mother loved me with all of hers.”

As with Grace, Jacob and Alice decided to celebrate Papa’s life, and laughed as they reminisced about the day she and Papa saw Jacob and Grace together, and how that happenstance had almost cost them their future together.

Jacob cupped Alice’s face in his hands and said, “don’t fret my dearest darling.  Just think of how rich we are from having known them, and having had them in our lives.”  Jacob had a way with words, as had Grace.  He also had a way of making Alice feel as if she was the most important person in the world.  Their bond, she thought, was going to be unbreakable.

Six months later, Jacob had news.  A hotel in San Francisco had suffered major damage from the 1906 earthquake.  It had been renovated to serve as City Hall, but now there were talks to convert it back to its original beauty and purpose.  A previous client had put forth Jacobs’ name to help evaluate the restructuring, and should he accept the offer, he would be leaving in three days.

Taking the job would mean that he would be gone for several weeks.  He hated the thought of leaving Alice, but he knew that she would be fine, as she was a strong-willed and independent little spitfire.

She would miss him, but she also knew that it would be a wonderful opportunity to further his already established, but not yet quite renowned career.  She expressed her dismay that not only was he was going to the other side of the country, he was going to the very spot where just a few years earlier, a catastrophic event had occurred.

He assured her that statistically, it would be another hundred years before such a calamity would happen again, and with a smile said, “besides, my dearest darling.  I will make sure that the new hotel will withstand mother nature’s mighty wrath, should she decide to shake things up again.”  

Alice said, “don’t tease me. You know I couldn’t bear it if something happened to you.” Jacob said, “nothing is going to happen to me, except finding it agonizingly painful to be separated from you.”

It was the day of departure and Alice was unusually melancholy.  Jacob tried to cheer her up as much as he could, but he understood.  He knew that his heart would feel empty and incomplete without her, but he promised to write every day.

As they embraced, Jacob said, “farewell is always so very bittersweet my dearest darling, but how glorious our reunion will be when I return.”

Jacob boarded the Transcontinental Express and blew kisses to Alice from the window.  The loud whistle sounded and the train slowly started moving down the tracks.  Alice said a prayer as she stood and waved until her beloved was completely out of sight.

A week later, a letter arrived.

My dearest darling,

I arrived without incident, although as you
can imagine, it was a long and tiring trip.
I am getting ready to settle in for the night,
but wanted to send my love, and tell you
that I am thinking of you, and already
missing you terribly.

Your loyal and faithful husband,

Alice closed her eyes and whispered, “thank you.”  Her prayer for Jacob’s safe arrival had been answered.

To be continued__________________________

The Bittersweet Farewell – Chapter Two

She was smiling as she watched him drive down the road, and as his car crested the hill, she couldn’t see that he was smiling, too.

When she went inside, she sat down in the comfortable side chair and said, “oh Papa.  I’ve just had hot chocolate and a Bonbon with the man I’m going to marry.” Papa smiled and said, “good Heavens, child.  Is he a prophet?”

With a twinkle in his eyes he said, “I seem to recall a certain young lady professing that she would not, under any circumstances marry, as that kind of commitment would never allow her to have the freedom to do as she wished.”

Alice, in an almost dream-like state, said, “oh, Papa.  He’s so very fine and polite and charming and handsome and smart.” Papa said, “and does he share this infatuation?” Alice said, “it’s not an infatuation, Papa.  You know how it is when you meet someone and you instantly know that they’re the one.”

Papa looked down and said, “yes child.  I know the feeling.  It was that way with your mother.  I knew the first time I laid eyes on her that she was the only one for me.  I still miss her every day, and I thank God that He allowed me to have you to remember her by.” Alice got up and put her arms around him.  She said, “I’m sorry if I made you feel sad, Papa.”  

He said, “with great love, there is always great sorrow when one of you dies, but it is with love and happiness that I remember her.  She wouldn’t have wanted me to remember her with tears and sadness.” He sat down and said, “now tell me more about your young man.”

Alice said, “he’s a structural engineer and he wants to build things that will last.  He’s not a ‘here and now’ person.  He wants future generations to appreciate things that will endure throughout the ages.”

Papa smiled and said, “well, I’d like to meet him.  Bring him to dinner on Sunday.”  Then he leaned toward her and said, “but you must be careful who you give your heart to.  You must be sure, because when you give your heart away, it should be forever.”

Alice smiled and said, “Papa, you’re such a romantic.  I can see why mother loved you so much, and that’s why I love you so much.” Papa chuckled and said, “get off with you now.”

Suddenly Alice spun around and said, “oh Papa.  I don’t even know how to get in touch with him.”  Thinking aloud, she said, “I’ll go into town tomorrow and look for him.  That would be quite forward and very unladylike but…” Before she could finish her mental strategy, Papa said, “maybe you could drive into town, get stuck in a ditch, and he could rescue you again.”

Alice looked at him with wide-eyed surprise, but said nothing.  He had a playfulness in his eyes when he said, “did you think that young Jacob was the only one who saw you?”

Once again, Alice hugged him and said, “Papa, you’re so wise and so wonderful and I do love you so dearly.”

He said, “how about we both take a trip into town tomorrow?  It might not look so…how did you put it?  So forward and unladylike?” Alice almost squealed with delight.  “Yes, Papa.  That’s what we shall do. Oh, thank you Papa.  Thank you.  Thank you.”

The next day, Alice and Papa drove into town, past Granville’s Department Store toward the Worth Building, thinking they might see him there.

When they didn’t, they drove to Tierney’s and just as they arrived, they saw Jacob. His arms were wrapped tightly around a woman, and they watched as he gave her a soft kiss on the cheek.

Bravely trying to hide her disappointment, Alice asked Papa to take her home.  As he was turning the car around to leave, Jacob caught a glimpse of Alice, and couldn’t hide the surprised look on his face.

Alice looked straight ahead as they left, and neither she nor Papa said a word as he drove down the road.  Papa felt helpless. He knew about sadness, he knew about loss, and he knew about the pain they caused.

He didn’t want his precious daughter to know those feelings at such a young age, but he knew that after a period of mourning, her heart would heal.  She had her whole life ahead of her, and love would find her again. He was sure of that.

Alice retreated to her bedroom and stayed there for the rest of the day. Papa knew that grief makes one so terribly tired, and maybe sleep would give her the strength she needed to face tomorrow.

Early the next afternoon Jacob arrived, unannounced and uninvited.  When Papa greeted him at the door, he stepped outside so as not to disturb Alice.

Jacob introduced himself and said, “forgive my familiarity, but my intentions are to call on Lissy.” Papa was a kind man, but he became a fierce warrior when it came to protecting his daughter.  He told Jacob that he and Alice had both seen his “intentions” at Tierney’s, and he and his familiarity were not welcome.

Before Jacob could protest, Papa said, “as you can imagine, my daughter is very precious to me.  She is my only child and I will not allow anyone to toy with her affections.  I appreciate your help when my car was stuck in a ditch, but my gratitude does not include allowing you to trifle with my daughter’s heart.  Now, off you go.”

A pleading Jacob said, “Forgive me, but I don’t understand.”  Papa said, “Alice and I saw you holding another woman in town yesterday.”  Jacob took a deep breath and said, “what you saw is not what it seems, and if you would just let me explain…”

Papa interrupted and said, “son, I don’t want to be impertinent, but I know men like you.  Handsome, charming men who are familiar to many, but faithful to none.  I feel quite certain that there are several young women who would be more than happy to accompany you in your life’s many endeavors.  Alice, however, will not be one of them.  Now, I really must ask you to leave.”

Jacob started to walk away but turned and quietly said, “the woman you saw me embracing yesterday is named Grace. She is my sister.”

Three months later, Alice and Jacob were married.  Papa and Grace stood beside them as they spoke their vows, and Papa beamed with pride.

Alice and Grace became as close as sisters, and when Jacob was out of town supervising a new building he designed, they would meet for hot chocolate and a Bonbon at Tierney’s.  There they would chat about life and love, and occasionally indulge in improper gossip, surrounding the local men who allegedly frequented a house of ill repute.

Grace was as full of life as Alice.  Although not brave enough to defy tradition the way Alice did, she was certainly one of a kind, and was what you might call, “a silent protester.”

Alice loved to hear the childhood stories Grace told about Jacob.  She was such a delightful, detail oriented story-teller, and ofttimes told them with a mischievous look in her eyes.  Alice listened with focused intensity and relished every word, every nuance and every particular.

To be continued_____________________