Dear God – Chapter Twelve

I told Miss Mabel that Katy’s mother had never responded to my pleas and expressed my utter disappointment and yes, my outrage.  Miss Mabel said “for everything there is a season…and a reason…and a time for every purpose under Heaven.  Only God knows what her reason is.”  I liked her rendition of that Biblical scripture.

I absolutely adored Miss Mabel and she had become a sort of surrogate mother to me.  Over the next few months, my visits became less frequent but I went as often as I could.  One day I went over and she handed me a paper bag.  “You need to have this now,” she said.

“What is it?” I asked.  She smiled and said “open it.”

When I opened it, I pulled out a stuffed panda bear.  “That was Katy’s” Miss Mabel said.  “I bought it for her and she kept it here so her father wouldn’t tear it up.  She used to sit in that chair over there and hold onto it like it was her very own little child.”

I couldn’t help myself.  I started crying uncontrollably.  What a wonderful, wonderful gift.  I started hugging the bear, probably the same way that Katy had.

Then Miss Mabel surprised me when she said “run along home now.”  She didn’t follow it with “we’ll talk more tomorrow.”  I thought maybe she was feeling as emotional as I was.  She had given me a part of Katy which had become a part of her and would now become a part of me.  I gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek and told her I’d see her later.

I went back home and later that evening, against my better judgment, decided to open a note.  It said “Dear God.  I still hate you.  I don’t believe in you anymore.”  It was dated 1967.  Katy was still praying to a God she no longer believed in.

I picked up her bear and held it, wishing it was Katy.  I imagined that she had never known the warmth of a hug and she was most likely touch-starved.  I remember Miss Mabel telling me that if she moved too quickly or got too close, Katy screamed.

That was the night I decided not to open any more notes.  They would remain folded and carefully rest in that box.  My thought was that if I didn’t open them, I couldn’t read any more unanswered prayers from a lonely, heart-broken little girl.

In the wee hours of the morning, I was awakened by flashing lights.  I got up and stumbled to the window.  There was an ambulance at Miss Mabel’s house.  I threw on my dressing gown and flew out of the house.  I saw Miss Mabel strapped to a stretcher, straddled by a paramedic who was pumping her chest.

The medics asked if I was a relative and I told them I wasn’t.  It was at that very instant, I realized I knew nothing about Miss Mabel’s past.  She had talked about marriage and men in a rather disparaging way but had never mentioned siblings.  They asked about her medical history but I told them I knew nothing, other than that she was wheel-chair bound.

Miss Mabel died that night.  I wondered if she knew she was going to leave and that’s why she gave me Katy’s bear.  I felt helpless and hopeless.  I cried for almost week.  My beloved friend was gone and I was going to miss her terribly.

Having no next of kin, she was buried in the City Cemetery where all the other indigent people rested and although she was now just a number, she would not be forgotten.  I had a small marble plaque made which said “Miss Mabel, My friend.”

Her house was taken by the state and prepared for auction.  If I had been able, I would have bought it, for two reasons.  It was hers and it housed Katy’s painting.  I went to the auction and bought her Bible.  Katy’s note was still inside and that’s where it would stay.

Her house went to a flipper who had no intention of preserving its originality.  Their idea was to completely gut it, equip it with modern appliances and accouterments more in step with the present time and then make a quick profit on the re-sale.

The contractors arrived and I walked over to talk to them.  I asked them exactly what their plans were.  They said they were commissioned to knock down all the walls and make it an open floor plan.  I showed them the painting and asked if there was any way to save it.  I even offered to pay them to just cut out that one wall.  They were I think, trying not to make me feel like a complete idiot when they said it wouldn’t be possible.

I remember thinking that I would never hear another story about Katy.  I had no idea what she looked like.  I had no idea how old she was.  Had the man who bought her granny’s house not painted over the mural, I might have been able to see her as a little girl.  I was sure the “old woman and a little girl” must have been Katy and her granny.

I was grief-stricken over the loss of Miss Mabel.  I would never know the story behind her disgust toward marriage and men.  I would never know why she was in a wheelchair.  I would never know her hopes and dreams, other than what Katy had depicted in the mural.

We think there’s always going to be one more day, one more Coca Cola and one more story, but life and death are unpredictable.  We all have our own expiration date and Miss Mabel’s had come.  I think maybe she was ready but I wasn’t.  I wasn’t ready to lose this extraordinary woman who had left an indelible mark on my life and my heart and I would be forever grateful that I had been blessed to have known her.

I knew that she wouldn’t want me to be sad nor would she want me to sit around and mourn.  I decided to get busy and put all of my efforts into my house.  One room at a time.  One day at a time.

Eventually the restoration of my house was complete but Katy’s story was not.  I knew there was one more thing I had to do.

I had to find Katy.







Dear God – Chapter Eleven

As I walked home, I wondered which one of Katy’s notes I should give to Miss Mabel.  Quite frankly, I didn’t think she would be too picky.  “Shoot,” I thought.  “I forgot to ask her which house had belonged to Katy’s granny.” Oh well, I would ask her tomorrow.

I decided to settle in for the night and start reading some more of the notes.  I had never been one to believe in the supernatural or Karma or bounce-back universe retribution, but I wondered if I could feel Katy’s presence if concentrated hard enough.

I had heard and laughed at the notion that when we go away, whether in death or just physically moving, we always leave something of ourselves behind.  I considered it to be an old wives’ tale.

The cleansing idea came back to mind but I still wasn’t sure about it.  I knew if that old wives’ tale was true, there would be something left of Katy and there would be something left of that horrible father as well.  It was a double-edged sword.  If I got rid of him, I would have to get rid of her..that is if I believed in that sort of thing.

I knew one thing and that was that despite what we all like to hope, justice doesn’t always visit the wicked.

I opened the first note and it almost broke my heart.  It said “Dear God. Please don’t let him kill me.”  It was dated 1962.  That night I didn’t think I could bear to read any more of the prayers that tortured little girl wrote.  I wasn’t sure I ever could read the rest of them.

I decided to give Miss Mabel the note saying “Dear God.  Please make me a horse so I can fly away.”  The next day, I went to her house and gave her the note.  She held it for a minute and all she said was “sweet child.”  Then she rolled over to the coffee table and put it inside her Bible.

I told her I had found a Bible with scriptures inside and also found a note inside the cover that I was sure had been written by Katy.  “She bought that Bible for her father,” I said “but why on this earth would she do that?”  I told Miss Mabel that the note wasn’t dated but it said that she was 13 years old when she bought it.

“Katy didn’t talk about her life much, but she told me about that Bible,” Miss Mabel said.  “She really believed her father would change if she bought him a Bible and prayed for him.  Her granny told her that you must pray for the wicked and if you do, God will make them righteous.”  She shook her head and said “I think Katy thought that she didn’t pray hard enough.”

I knew it was difficult for Miss Mabel to talk about Katy and it was getting more and more difficult for me as well.  I changed course and asked Miss Mabel where her granny’s house was.  After she told me, I cut the visit short and told her we would talk again tomorrow.

I walked down the street and found the house.  I rang the doorbell and a man answered.  I introduced myself and told him that I bought the house where a little girl lived and her granny once lived in his house.  His answer was an abrupt “yeah.”  I asked him if there had been a painting or mural anywhere when he bought the house.  “Yeah,” he said.

I asked him if he remembered what it was.  Again, the answer was “yeah.”  I was beginning to wonder if his vocabulary extended beyond that one word. Impatiently, I said “okay, could you tell me?”

My heart sank when he said “it’s not there no more.  I painted over it.”  I wasn’t sure which offended me the most…his grammar, his rudeness or the fact that he had destroyed one of Katy’s paintings.

I persisted and asked him if he could tell me what was in the painting.  He said “it was some old woman and a little girl.”  I asked him if it had been signed or dated.  He said “lady, I didn’t pay no attention.”

It was hard for me to be civil but I begrudgingly thanked him…basically for nothing and went back home.

I didn’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me before, but I decided to try to talk to Katy’s mother.  I knew that she had gone to an old folks home and there were only two in the area.  I called both of them, asking for her.  With things like those pesky Hippa laws, it wasn’t easy to get information.  I found out that she was in the Green Acres Retirement Home.

The duty clerk could only tell me that she was in fact a resident but nothing more.  I left my name and number and asked that they pass it along to her. I told them that I had bought her house and used the excuse of wanting to return some things I thought she might like to have.

For weeks, I called Green Acres and asked if the message had been delivered.  The clerk said “all we can do is pass along the information.  We can’t compel them to respond.”

I never did get a call from her.


To be continued__________________


Dear God – Chapter Ten

Miss Mabel and I sat there and for a minute, I was afraid that we were both going to break down.  Then, true to character she said “run along home now.  We’ll talk more tomorrow.”

After what she told me about Katy, I felt like the wind had been knocked out of my sails.  I wanted to open more of the notes but I wasn’t yet prepared for what I feared I might see and I was already so desperately sad.

For an instant, I thought about having Dawn come over and cleanse the house but an instant was as long as the thought lasted.  I, probably erroneously, thought that maybe my growing affection and compassion for Katy would somehow counteract the sadness left by her and maybe erase the energy left by that horrible, drunken excuse for a father.  I just knew that I didn’t want to erase Katy.

I was being consumed by her and although the excitement of returning my house to its former glory was still there, it had taken a back seat to her.  I found myself almost counting the hours until I could hear more of Katy’s story.

Later that night, I stared at the box of notes but couldn’t bring myself to open a single one.  It was like I was caught in a self-imposed world of limbo…wanting to know what they said and not wanting to know what they said…being in this time and wanting to go back to her time.

The next day, before I went to Miss Mabel’s house, I stopped at the market and bought a six-pack of Coca Cola.  I thought it was my turn to treat her.

I had so many questions but I knew that I would have to be patient.  Miss Mabel was a centenarian and I also knew that talking about Katy was difficult for her.

She sipped on her Coca Cola, smiled and said “now where were we?”  I told her that she had told me why she thought Katy never signed her name. “Ah, yes,” she said.

Before she went on, I asked her if she had ever seen the murals Katy had painted in Samwell’s and Dawn’s houses.  She said “I didn’t know anything about them.  Have you seen them?”  I told her that I had and that they were absolutely breathtaking.  Then I asked if she knew where Katy got her paint and brushes.

“I do indeed,” Miss Mabel said.  “Her granny bought them for her.”  My ears perked up and I asked if she knew if Katy had painted anything in her granny’s house.  Miss Mabel said she didn’t know but maybe I could go ask the people who lived there.  She said, “her house is just down the street a little ways.”

That was exciting news and I had to fight the urge to get up and leave.  I wanted to see if Katy had painted anything in her granny’s house.  Miss Mabel read me quite well and said, “there will be time for that later, child.”  I smiled and thought “Coca Cola, cigarettes and Jeopardy have done her proud.  She really is one sharp cookie.”

I asked her how she came to know Katy.

Miss Mabel said “well, Katy eventually got older, got bigger and got faster. She would run out of the house when her father was on a drunken binge and he couldn’t catch her.  She wouldn’t go back until he passed out later that day.  Her hair even started to grow back.”

“What do you mean, her hair started to grow back?” I asked.  She said “that father of hers used to get the scissors and cut that child’s hair off, all the way down to the roots.”

I got a chill.  I remembered the doll I found in the attic, hanging from a ribbon and told Miss Mabel about it.  I said “her hair was cut off at the roots and there were band-aids on her arms and legs.”

Miss Mabel said “I’m not surprised.  After an overnight stay with her granny…which I always called an overnight reprieve…she came home with a doll.  It absolutely enraged her father.  He yanked the doll away from her, took out his knife and started cutting off her hair.  Katy was begging him to stop but he kept on.  He threw it down, stomped on it and then threw it in the trash.”

“I imagine Katy rescued it when he was asleep.  Poor little thing.  She probably put the band-aids on it to hide the marks.”

I told her about the toys I found in the attic.  A top and a little radio.  “They were pretty old,” I said.  Miss Mabel said “they weren’t Katy’s.  I can almost promise you that.  They were probably bought before she was born…when they expected a boy.”

She went on to say that Katy’s father used to catch her praying and made fun of her.  “He once took her out in the yard and made her get down on her knees and raise her arms.  He said pray for God to turn you into a little boy. Then you’ll be worth something.”

All I could think about was how much I hated that absolute horror of a human being and yes, I wished him a life in Hell a thousand times over.  I wondered if he was the reason Miss Mabel thought “all men should be put down.”  I agreed with her when it came to that monster.

We had talked through Miss Mabel’s mid-afternoon nap and it was time for her daily cigarette.  We had gotten side-tracked, talking about what Katy’s heinous father had done to her.  She said “let’s go out on the porch and I’ll tell you how I came to know Katy.”  She lit her cigarette and began.

“I saw her one day, sitting under that big oak tree over there.  I went out and offered her a Coca Cola.  She didn’t say much for the first few weeks but she finally started talking a bit and even came inside the house.”

“We talked about any and everything except the hell she was living through.  I told her about my love of the beach and how I longed to visit one.  She was a bright little thing and like I said, a sweeter child never drew breath.  But you know, she never talked about her hopes or dreams or wishes.”

I interrupted Miss Mabel and asked her why she had never been to the beach.  She said “I just never had the opportunity and then after my accident, it was too late.” I asked her if she minded telling me about it.  She put out her cigarette and said “that’s a story for another day.”

She told me about the day Katy brought all of her paints over and said she had a surprise.  “For almost a week,” she said, “she made me promise to close my eyes when I went down the hall.  I kept that promise and had a few bruises and a few dings in my chair to prove it.  The day she told me to come in and look, I almost cried.  I rolled my chair toward her and raised my arms to hug her but she screamed and put her hands over her head.”

She looked down, shook her head and said “she never did let me hug her. She was so damaged, she couldn’t stand to be touched.”

It was time for me to go home.  Miss Mabel looked at me and said “do you think you might let me have one of her notes?”  I smiled and said “of course.”  As I was walking away, I turned and asked Miss Mabel if she knew what happened to Katy.

Again, she looked down and in an almost whisper, said “one day Katy left and never came back.”

To be continued__________________________

Dear God – Chapter Nine

The next morning, I returned Miss Mabel’s little plate and reluctantly accepted the Coca Cola she offered.  I wanted to get right down to business and find out as much as I could about Katy.  I really wanted to know if Miss Mabel knew why Katy never signed her art.

Miss Mabel took the lead and asked me if I would tell her what Katy had written in her notes.

I said “well, she prayed that her granny wouldn’t die.”  I kind of giggled when I said “she prayed about not going to Hell because she had drowned a worm.  She prayed that God would make her a better little girl and she asked Him to turn her into a horse so she could run away.”

Miss Mabel rolled her chair over to the window in front of her house and sat silently for a few seconds.  Then she said “Katy used to stand and look out that little window in the back of the house.  She looked like a prisoner longing for freedom…or a pardon.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

Miss Mabel’s voice was pensive as she said “sit down and get comfortable child, while I tell you a story.”

This is the story as told to me by Miss Mabel:

“Katy’s daddy was a vile, vicious drunk who almost beat that poor child to death.  Everybody in the neighborhood knew what was going on.  Everybody in the neighborhood heard her screams and pleas for mercy.  Everybody in the neighborhood saw her bruised and broken little body.”

She leaned forward and said “now I know you’re going to want to know why nobody did anything, but back in those days you minded your own business.  You closed your eyes and your ears and your windows and shut your doors to drown out the cries for help.”

She went on to say “she prayed for her granny because sometimes, her granny was able to walk up the street and rescue her but one day, her granny died and her rescuer was gone.”

I was more or less talking to myself when I said “that must have been why she wrote God and told Him she hated Him.”  Miss Mabel didn’t seem shocked about that note and said Katy was devastated when she lost her granny.

I asked why Katy’s mother hadn’t tried to help her.  Miss Mabel said she thought her mother was scared of her father or maybe she had his same mindset.

I asked what she meant and she continued.

“Katy was an only child and her daddy made it clear that he wanted a son. He would yell at her and say the most awful, hateful things you ever heard. I watched him throw her halfway across the yard once because he caught her trying to climb a tree.”  He screamed “boys climb trees and you’re not a boy!”

She said “Katy liked to climb out onto the roof and just sit there.”  I told her that one of the notes was telling God that she had climbed out on the roof and begged Him not to tell her daddy because he would whip her.”

I asked Miss Mabel if she knew how Katy had managed to get on the roof. She said “she climbed out a little window in the front of the house.”

I told her that I found notes all around that little window and I saw that it had been nailed shut.

Miss Mabel said “yes.  Her daddy came home for lunch one day and caught her.  He climbed up there and dragged her down.  The whole time, Katy was screaming ‘don’t whip me daddy.  Please don’t whip me daddy’.  When he got her down, he grabbed that little girl’s arm and snapped it in half.  That was the day he nailed the window shut.”

She said “it wasn’t long after that day, we heard him screaming in a drunken rage, ‘I wanted a son to carry on my legacy and my name.  You are nothing.  You are nobody.  You are worthless.  Your name is worthless.  You can’t carry on my legacy or my name because your name is worthless’.”

Miss Mabel had tears in her eyes as she continued.  “I don’t know this for sure but I really believe the reason Katy never signed her work was because she thought her name was worthless.”

To be continued______________________

Dear God – Chapter Eight

I made my way up the hill and saw Samwell sitting on his front porch.  Still holding Miss Mabel’s plate, I slowly walked up to the house, trying my best to not look like a salesperson.

“Afternoon,” he said.  “You lost?”  I laughed and said “no, I live down the street and I was wondering if you could give me a moment of your time.”

When he said “I’m not buying anything.” it was apparent that I hadn’t succeeded in not looking like a peddler.  I smiled and told him that I wasn’t selling anything.  He looked at the little plate and said “I thought maybe you were selling dishes.”

I laughed and said “no, not selling dishes.  I heard there had once been a painting in your basement.”

“Still is,” he said.

I don’t know why but I was feeling like a child on Christmas morning.  I was so afraid that he had painted over it and when he said “still is,” I felt like I had been given a gift.

He said “take a seat and let me get you a glass of cold lemonade.”  I begged off, having so far escaped my diabetic coma, not to mention I had just eaten lemon pie.  I told him I would settle for some water.

He got up and went inside.  He walked sort of bent over and it looked like every step he took was painful.  I imagined it was from age as much as anything but I didn’t know.  He came back with a glass of lemonade and a glass of water.

Samwell was a little abrupt but not in a rude way.  He looked at me with stern eyes and said “so, what have you got on your mind?  You say you’re not selling dishes and I know you didn’t come here for water.”

I told him that I was there to “talk” about the painting but what I really wanted was to see it.  As we chatted, I told him about the mural in Miss Mabel’s house as well as Dawn’s.  I told him that I heard about him from Dawn, when she mentioned “Samwell’s dilema.”  He laughed and said “yeah.  She’s a real character.”

Samwell looked at me and said “I expect you’re wanting to see it.”

“Could I?” I asked.  He said “Come on in the house but mind you, be careful of Cujo.”

“Cujo?” I said.  I had seen that movie, based on a Stephen King novel and that was one dog I would never want to tangle with, rabies or not.

We went in and on a satin pillow sat this tiny, wiry-haired dog that could have fit into the palm of my hand.  He growled when I went in and his teeth looked like little hypodermic needles.  A snap of Samwell’s fingers accompanied with the order to behave was all Cujo needed to hear.

He smiled and said “he thinks he’s a lot bigger than he is.”  Naming that little snip of a dog Cujo, made me appreciate Samwell’s sense of humor.

We made our way down into the basement and when he turned on the light, I was witness to another of Katy’s unbelievable masterpieces.

Samwell said “I understand that this was painted for the folks who lived here before I bought the house.  It sat empty for years you know, because apparently they left no will and everything had to go through probate.  I used to wonder why none of the children wanted it, especially given that this paining is here but you know young folks.  They don’t appreciate much these days.”

He didn’t mention a wife or children of his own but his statement about young folks not appreciating much made me think that maybe he had an ungrateful child or two.

I stood there, looking at the wall.  She had painted the couple’s children playing in the back yard.  Like the mural of the beach and the stallion, those children looked almost alive.

I quickly realized that Samwell was one of those old souls who saw beyond the mundaneness of the world.  Modernization was unimportant when it came to saving a piece of art like this.  He looked at me and said “don’t you feel like you can almost hear them laughing?  But look at their eyes.  Their eyes look almost sorrowful somehow.”  He was right and I wondered if the family had seen it.

A little boy was in a swing and if your imagination allowed, you could hear him begging for someone to push him higher.  A little girl was holding a floppy rag doll, while stooping to pick a dandelion, or “wet the beds” as children used to call them.  I could almost smell its fragrance.

A third child was peeping from behind a tree as if playing hide and seek. The bark on the tree was so realistic, I felt like I could pull a piece off.

I wondered aloud where those children were now.  I wondered if they had no appreciation for having had their young lives captured for eternity.  This wasn’t like a photograph, which could fade or possibly be misplaced.  This was a rendition that would last through the ages.  In this picture, they would remain forever young.

It was dated 1966 and like the others, hadn’t been signed.  I asked Samwell if he knew who painted it and he said he didn’t.  I told him it was a girl named Katy and she used to live in my house.

“Is that right?” he said.  “Well, she sure was an artist.”

We walked back upstairs and he asked if I wanted to sit a spell so I told him I could stay for a little while.  “Why are you interested in these paintings?” he asked.

I told him about the notes and pictures I had been finding in the house.  I told him that all the notes were written to God and so far, the dates ranged from 1956 through 1964 but that two sketches I found were dated 1956 and I believed, 1968.

Samwell asked if there was a painting in my house.  I told him about “The Mysterious Blue Forest” painting I found but it was on canvas and had not been dated nor of course, had it been signed.  If there had been a mural, which for some reason I doubted, it had long ago been painted or plastered over.

It was time for me to go back home and “crash and burn.”  Samwell gave me a standing invitation to come visit any time and I reciprocated.  I liked him. He seemed the type to have no time for bullshit and neither did I.


To be continued__________

Dear God – Chapter Seven

I wanted to know why Katy never signed her work but before I could ask, Miss Mabel cut the conversation short by saying “come on in here.  I have a lemon meringue pie that is so good you’ll want to slap your mama.”

I couldn’t help but laugh out loud.  As I said, Miss Mabel was a real hoot. She cut two rather large slices of pie and handed me one on a little plate that had to have been made the year she was born.

I was thinking, “first the caffeine, sugar filled Coca Cola and now a slice of pie that makes my teeth hurt just looking at it.”  I was sure I would be in a diabetic coma before I got back home but I indulged and it was just as Miss Mabel said.  It didn’t necessarily make me want to slap my mama but it made me want to slap myself for the sugar high I was sure to be experiencing pretty soon.

Then she rather abruptly said “it’s time for my mid-afternoon nap.  Run on now.  You can take the plate with you and bring it back tomorrow.”

I felt like a delinquent child being sent home after being caught with my hand in the cookie jar, but I wasn’t angry.  I hoped to live long enough to some day need mid-afternoon naps.

As I walked back home, the image of that mural seemed to be burned into the retinas of my eyes.  Then I wondered, “had Katy painted murals for other neighbors?”

I decided to visit Dawn Rising.  She answered the door, wearing nothing but a t-shirt and a smile.  One of the fattest cigars I had ever seen in my life was clenched between her teeth.  It bobbed up and down as she said “did you decide it was time to cleanse your house?”

I said “actually, I wondered if you had any paintings, like maybe a mural on one of your walls.”  Dawn looked at me and said “that’s a strange question to ask somebody the first time you visit them.  Do you have any paintings on your wall?”  She laughed and said “actually, I do.”  I asked if I could see it and she said “sure.  Come on in.  It’s over here.”

There was a fireplace in her front room that had been enclosed.  On the enclosure was a painting of a white stallion against a sky that looked like it was on fire.  It was in mid-flight as if trying to escape a determined cowboy’s lasso.  Like Miss Mabel’s mural, this was an extraordinary piece of work.

Dawn bent down, looked at it and said “I’d like to open the fireplace back up but I would have to destroy this wonderful piece.  It is truly remarkable. I mean, look at it.  Every muscle is clearly defined and look at the eyes. The eyes are full of fear.”  She sighed and said “It’s dated 1964 but there’s no indication of who painted it.”

I said “Katy.  Katy painted it.”  Dawn plopped down in a chair and said “cool.  Who’s Katy?”

I told her that she was the little girl who used to live in my house and was an extraordinary artist, as she could see.  I asked her if she had ever seen the mural in Miss Mabel’s house.  She said she hadn’t but I might want to walk up the street and talk to “Samwell.”

“Samwell?” I asked.  Dawn said “well, his name is Samuel but when he was little, he couldn’t pronounce it right…thus Samwell was born and never…well….died.”  She said “after I moved here, I heard somebody talking about ‘Samwell’s dilema’ as they called it.”

“What does that mean?” I asked.  She said “he bought the house and apparently there was a painting in the basement.  He wanted to freshen things up but was wavering about covering up that painting.   You might want to talk to him.  Maybe he took a picture before he covered it up…if he covered it up.”

I was liking Dawn more and more.  She had a depth that was not clearly evident at first and I had unfairly judged her as nothing more than a strange, pretend-to-be-seer, air-headed hippie.

As I was leaving, she said “do you think something happened to her?”  I was taken aback and asked her why she said that.  She said “I told you.  Your house holds a lot of hatred and grief.”

I was thinking that maybe it was time to get my house “cleansed” but not before I had a visit with Samwell.

To be continued___________________

Dear God – Chapter Six

The next morning, I went back to Ms. Cartwrights’ house and knocked on the door.  “Just a minute,” I heard somebody say.

After about that long, the door opened and a smiling, toothless, white-haired, wheel-chair bound little old lady beckoned me inside.  “Ms. Cartwright?”  I asked.  She said “oh, child.  Call me Mabel and wait just a minute while I get my teeth.”

She rolled her chair over to a doily clad table and pulled her teeth out of a ceramic mug that said “Here They Are!”

She said “okay.  Got my teeth in and let me tell you something straightaway.  I’m not ‘Ms’.  I’m not married, never been married and never intend to be married.  Men are skunks and they should all be put down.”  I couldn’t help but laugh when she said that.  I almost felt the same way.

“You’re the young girl who bought the house in front of me, aren’t you?” she said.  I answered “well, I don’t know that I would call myself young but yes, I am.”

She shook her head and said “you’re young to me.  How old do you think I am?”  I was a little hesitant to answer because I didn’t want to offend her.  I thought she looked to be in her eighties, but I erred on the side of caution and guessed “70’s, maybe?”  She laughed and said “I am 101 years old.”

Well, she may have looked to be in her 80’s but she sure didn’t look 101.  She said “let me roll into the kitchen and get you a cold Coca Cola.”  I wasn’t much of a soda drinker but I didn’t want to be rude.  She came back with two bottles of Coke and said “I drink a Coca Cola every single day, smoke one cigarette every single afternoon and watch Jeopardy every single night. That’s what keeps my mind sharp.”

To say that Miss Mabel was a hoot, a holler and a hi-de-ho would have been an understatement and I liked her right away.

She said “now then.  Tell me what’s on your mind.”  I told her that I wanted to know a little about the people who had lived in the house before I bought it and I began with “did a little girl live there?”

Miss Mabel said “yes’um.”

I asked her if by any chance she remembered her name.  Miss Mabel, a bit insulted said “of course I remember her name.  I’m old, not senile.”  I gave her the “okay…tell me her name” look.

She said “her name was Katy and a sweeter child never drew breath, but that little girl never had a chance.”

My smile broke and I stuttered as I said “wh…what do you mean?”  Miss Mabel intentionally ignored my question and I could tell that I was not going to get answer, at least not then so I changed the subject.

I told her that I had found little notes all over the house and in the attic.  I said “she seemed to be very religious and she prayed for her granny.”  Miss Mabel said “yes.  She believed in the Almighty and she loved her granny.”

Then I told her about the picture of a horse and the painting of the blue trees, but I didn’t tell her about the beautiful man drawing.  She said “oh, yes.  Katy was quite the artist.  That child could draw anything.”  I asked if she had ever seen any of her art.  She smiled and said “come with me.”

She rolled her chair down the hall and turned on the light.  I stood in frozen silence as I looked at this long wall, painted to look like the beach.

There were palm trees, with hammocks tied between them and I expected them to start swaying at any given moment.  Coconuts lay on the ground and I swear I could smell them and I felt that if I put my ear to the wall, I could actually hear the ocean.

I said “she painted this?”  Miss Mabel’s joviality seemed to turn nostalgic as she said “yes.  She painted this for me because she knew how much I loved the beach and she knew that I’d never be able to go to one.”

I looked at this remarkable mural and all I could manage to say was “this is just stunning.  This is just absolutely stunning.”  There was no date that I could see so I asked Miss Mabel when she painted it.

She said “she painted this in 1965.”  I was scanning the corners for a signature and Miss Mabel, being a pretty sharp cookie, knew what I was looking for.  She said “you’ll not find one.”

Trying to act innocent, but not for one minute fooling Miss Mabel, I said “not find what?”

“You’re looking for a signature,” she said.  “But you’ll not find one.  Katy never signed her work.”

To be continued__________________

Dear God – Chapter Five

The picture had been drawn on a piece of cardboard and as I looked at it, I was simultaneously in awe of the details and also troubled by them.  The artistry was superb and the shading made the picture seem lifelike and appear almost ready to jump off the paper.

If she had drawn it, I wondered what she was thinking.  It was dark and even more haunting than the painting I found and named “The Mysterious Blue Forest.”

It was a picture of a strikingly beautiful man.  He was sitting on top of a rock, looking over what seemed to be a kingdom.  I thought for a moment that he must be an angel as he had wings attached to his back but they were not made of feathers.  They looked much like the wings of a bat and had a claw-like barb on the top.

His face was expressionless but somehow, whether imagined or not, I thought I detected an evil look in his eyes.  When I saw the horns on his head, I thought he must be the artists’ rendition of what the devil looked like.

Could it have been Lucifer?  In Sunday school, I learned that Lucifer’s beauty and intelligence was beyond compare but he became guilty of self-generated pride and was cast out of Heaven.  If this was a picture of him, then in my eyes she had without question, captured that beguiling beauty.

As disturbing as I found it, I must admit that I was absolutely captivated by the exquisiteness of this man.  I considered bringing it downstairs but decided to wait.  I just wasn’t sure yet, but I was sure of one thing.  I wouldn’t destroy it, so I returned it to the box.

I realized that I had been so enthralled, that I forgot to look for a date or a signature.  The bottom right corner was badly bent and part of it had been torn away but I could see what I thought looked like 1968.

A quick search of my memory did the calculation.  In 1964, she wrote God and told Him that she hated Him.  In 1968, if that is the real date, she is drawing a picture of the devil.  What happened during those four years?

Later that night, I began reading the notes.  The first one I read was so cute. It said “Dear God.  If you are real, please leave me a dollar so I can buy a hamster.”  Dated 1959.  Even though I knew that wasn’t how God worked, I was really hoping I would find a thank you note.

Putting the notes I had already read in chronological order, I wanted to see if I could figure out when her faith started to wane.  I wanted to play detective but I also wanted somewhat of a mystery to remain, if that makes any sense.  As much of a temptation as it was, I decided to only read one note a day and I wasn’t even sure that I had yet found them all.

I hadn’t met any of my neighbors.  I had been too busy restoring my house and of course, being a scavenger.  One day I was walking to the mailbox and met the girl who lived next door.  She was what my parents’ generation would have most likely called a hippie.  She had full sleeve tattoos and long, purplish-black hair.  She introduced herself as “Dawn Rising,” and I was trying not to laugh as I introduced myself.  She walked back to the house with me and invited herself in.

“Have you cleansed your house with sage?” she asked.  I told her that I didn’t know what she meant and she said “I’m a seer of sorts.  Would you like for me to read your house?”

What was I going to say?  “Um, no thanks.  I don’t believe in that sort of thing?”  I told her it would be fine.

She walked around, and looked as if she was in some kind of trance.  She even asked to go into the attic.  “What a strange person,” I thought.  For all I knew she could have been a serial killer but I allowed her to visit every room, even the attic.

She came downstairs and asked if she could have a glass of water.  “Of course,” I said, still a little perplexed by her boldness.

She took a sip and said “this house has seen much hatred and great sorrow.”

I was stupefied.  What did she mean?  She said “your house needs to be cleansed.  I can do that for you, if you want.”

I was thinking “okay, here we go.  The pitch for money.  She’s some scam artist who makes a living off of scaring people.”

When I politely declined, I wondered if she really was a “seer of sorts” when she said “my services are free so this is not about money.  It’s about getting rid of residual pain and agony.”

I asked her how long she had lived next door.  She said “only a few years.”  Then I asked if there were any original neighbors that I could talk to.  She smiled and said “yes, one.  Miss Mabel Cartwright.  She lives behind you and I’m told that she was actually born in that house.”

She smiled and said “thank you for the water and let me know when you would like the cleansing.”  I was more interested in talking to Miss Cartwright but I thanked her and told her that I would certainly think about it.

It was late in the day but I decided to go knock on Miss Cartwrights’ door.  From inside, I heard a voice say “I don’t open the door after 5 o’clock.  Come back tomorrow.”

I giggled.

To be continued_______________________

Dear God – Chapter Four

When I read the note, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud, although I did feel a bit guilty.  It said “Dear God.  I drowned a worm.  I didn’t mean to.  Please don’t let me go to Hell.”  It was dated 1958.

I wondered why she was diligent about putting the date on the notes but never signed them.  I know past generations often heard the phrase “a fools’ name, a fools’ face, always seen in a public place.”  Maybe that was why but her artwork should have been signed.  At least I thought it should.

I started looking through the attic, being careful where I stepped as only some of it had been floored.  Near the front of the house was a small round window.  Stuck around the window were more notes.  The walls surrounding it, hid several more.

I remember thinking, “this is almost like the Wailing Wall.”  I began taking them down and carefully put them into a wooden box that before I cleaned it, held the remnants of what appeared to have at one time been a rats’ nest.  As I wandered through the attic, I found small hair ribbons wrapped around protruding nails.  I unwrapped them and put them in with the notes.

While investigating the back wall, I found a doll hanging from a ribbon.  Her hair had been cut off to the roots and band-aids were wrapped around her arms and legs.  “Ah,” I thought.  “Maybe our little author was playing both hair stylist and doctor.”  She went into the box as well.

My curiosity got the best of me again, and I decided to open a few more notes.

The first one said “Dear God.  Would you give me wings so I can fly away?” Dated 1958.  First there was the wish to be a horse and now she wanted wings.  “Why did she want to fly away?” I wondered.

The second said “Dear God.  Are you there?  Granny said you are everywhere.  Please don’t let her die.”  It was dated 1959.  It was the second note, pleading for the life of her grandmother.  They must have been close and I wondered if her grandmother was sick.

The third one I opened made me laugh again.  It said “Dear God.  I climbed out on the roof today.  Please don’t tell daddy.  He’ll whip me.”  Dated 1958.  How that little girl managed to climb onto the roof, I have no idea.  Did she go out the window?  Is that why it was nailed shut?  Surely if there was a ladder somewhere, she would have been seen.  The attic was three stories up.

I began to think that the attic must have been her play room or hiding place or maybe even her refuge.  Maybe she played dress-up or maybe she pretended to slay dragons.  I hoped the other notes would reveal more about her.

The rest would be read later while I was relaxing and drinking a much deserved cup of coffee but I decided to open one more box before I went downstairs.

In the box, I found a picture.  It was a scene of trees painted entirely in blues and I couldn’t tell if it had been painted with oils or acrylics.  It was almost hauntingly beautiful and like the picture of the horse and the notes, it wasn’t signed.  I wondered if it had been painted by her or someone else.  I searched for a date but was disappointed when I didn’t find one.

I thought it would look lovely in a frame and it would find a home on a wall somewhere, even though for reasons I couldn’t explain, I always had an aversion to the color blue.  That color seemed to be so cold and lonesome, much like I viewed the ocean.

As I pulled out crumpled newspapers dated from the fifties and sixties, they were almost as intriguing and the treasures they covered.  Scanning the advertisements, I was mesmerized.  A 12 pack of Drewrys beer cost $1.79. French fries at McDonald’s were 12¢.  Red potatoes cost 3¢ a pound.  The cost of admission for an adult to Disneyland was $3.75.  A child under twelve was $2.75.

The best was an advertisement for “Cocaine Toothache Drops.”  Price, 15¢.  I imagine a little cocaine would fix you right up, toothache or not and wondered if it really did have cocaine in it, like the old Coca Colas.

This house was holding so many memories and bit and pieces of the past, which I appreciated.  So often, it’s out with the old and in with the new but I had a reverence for old things and yes, old people as well.

I took one more look into the box and found another picture.  This one gave me chills.

To be continued____________________________

Dear God – Chapter Three

I was truly enjoying the notes I was finding but I didn’t know if they had been written by a little girl or a little boy. The dates were on the notes but I had no idea how old the child was.

I was almost finished with the dining room.  The last task was cleaning the windows and as I worked, I noticed a small piece of paper behind the casing.  I gently pried it out, sat down and carefully opened it.  It said “Dear God.  I didn’t mean to be bad.  Could you please make me a better little girl?”  The note was dated 1957.

The mystery was solved.  The notes had been written by a little girl who had obviously done something wrong, at least in her eyes.  I couldn’t help but smile, wondering what she had done that she thought was bad.

The dining room was finished, so I decided to work on the upstairs bedroom that I had claimed for my own.  I had noticed a small room up there, in the very back of the house that appeared to be unfinished.  It also seemed to have been an afterthought of whoever had built the house.

It only had baseboards along two walls and the one tiny window seemed somehow out of place.  The rest of the house had grand windows that were 7 feet tall.

The walls had been partially painted a dull blue color.  I didn’t think it could have been a bedroom because it didn’t have closet.  If it was, it could have only supported a twin bed and even that would have taken up most of the space.

I would take as much care with it as I would take with the other rooms.  I intended to turn it into a library of sorts, putting shelves along the walls and maybe an easy chair and lamp in the corner.  For some reason, I began pulling up the baseboards.  They were formidable foes but I finally succeeded in getting the first one off the wall.  When the piece finally lost its grip, a note fell to the floor.

I sat down and excitedly opened it.  It said “Dear God.  I hate you.”  It was dated 1964.

The notes had just spanned eight years and I wondered why she now hated God.  I felt a sadness for some reason but like running away from home, haven’t we all at some time been a little pissed at God?

The other baseboard hid nothing but nails and a bit of plaster.

As I worked in the bedroom, I was disappointed when I found no notes behind window casings or baseboards.  The closet hid a secret staircase that went to the attic.

I have always been an adventurer and this was going to be fun.  If there was an old abandoned building on the side of the road, I would stop and wander through, although with a little trepidation.  I remember finding an old yellow Tupperware bowl, complete with lid in one of those abandoned shacks.  I still have it.

I wondered what kind of secrets lay hidden in the attic.  Maybe another Tupperware bowl?  I was ready to play Sherlock Holmes.

As I walked up the narrow steps, I got a whiff of what smelled like burning wood.  I knew everybody smoked back in those days but this smell was not from cigarettes.

When I made it to the top of the stairs, I could see that I was right.  Burned rafters were visible but they were still sturdy enough to hold up the roof.  There must have been a fire at some point.

The attic was huge and I felt like I was on a treasure hunt.  I had given the okay for the previous owner to leave some of her possessions behind, like that wonderful dining room table, so I wasn’t surprised when I found things.  The first thing I noticed was a set of bed springs.  It wasn’t the kind of springs we have today.  It was the kind of springs that my grandma had in her house.

Jumping on the bed was strictly prohibited, but when her back was turned, I discovered that the springs almost sang as I jumped on different parts.  When the slats fell out, telling her that I just walked in and the bed fell down never worked.  Grandpa had to come put the slats back in the rails and he wasn’t happy about it.

There were old doors, which had to be original to the house and I wondered where they might have once been.  There were boxes everywhere.  I picked one of them and when I opened it and looked inside, I saw several old toys.  There was a top and the upper part, although cloudy with age, was clear.  A train went around a track when I pushed the handle down.  There was a little wooden radio with a pretend antenna made from a red ball on top of a spring.  When I turned the knob, it played a tune.  These toys had to be from the fifties and I wondered if they were hers.

These treasures would no longer be hidden away in the attic.  They would come downstairs and find a place in the front room, perhaps gently resting on my childhood rocking chair.

In another box, I found a plate.  It was thick and heavy and had little partitions in it.  A small coffee cup had been wrapped in tissue paper and the green stripe matched the one on the plate.  These were old and they didn’t look household dishes.  They looked like they had come from some little side-road cafe.  They too, would find a place downstairs.

As I stood up, I noticed a piece of paper stuck inside one of the burned rafters.  I took it down and carefully unfolded it.

To be continued_____________________