End Of Watch – Chapter Five

Holly and Earl arrived at headquarters and were met in the parking lot by Chief Morrison.  They immediately knew that something was terribly wrong, especially when they noticed Senior Chaplain Phillips was with him.  Holly looked at Earl and he looked at her, both wondering “are they here for you or for me?”

Their question was answered when Chief Morrison said “Holly, come on inside.  I’m afraid I have some bad news.”

Holly was not one to fall apart or get hysterical.  She simply said “yes sir.” Earl followed them into the office but Chief Morrison told him that he was excused.  He put his hand on Holly’s shoulder and said “if you need me, I’ll be right outside.”

The room seemed to be spinning as Chief Morrison, step by step told Holly what happened.  She sat in the chair, slightly nodded, mumbled an occasional “yes sir,” and just stared at the floor.  At one point, Chief Morrison snapped his fingers in front of her face and said “are you still with me?”

Holly looked up at him and said “sir?”  She was clearly in shock.  Father Phillips put his arm around her and said “come, child.  Let’s go to the Chapel and say a prayer.”

Holly seemed to annoyingly reject his offer, snapped to attention and told Chief Morrison that she was 10-8.  “No, you’re not,” Chief Morrison said. “You have things to take care of and you are officially 10-42 as of right now.”  When Holly started to argue, Chief Morrison firmly said “that’s an order.”

Father Phillips told her that he would take her home and the next day, would help her start making the arrangements.  Holly numbly walked with him to his car.  Earl came running toward her and said “if there’s anything I can do, just let me know.”  She didn’t even answer.  For some strange reason, Alvin came to mind.

When they got into the car, she looked at Father Phillips and said, “why didn’t he see this?  Why the hell didn’t he see this?”

Father Phillips asked her what she was talking about.  She said “one day Alvin told me that he was a bit psychic.  He lied to me.  If he was psychic, he would have seen this coming, don’t you think?”

She shook her head like she knew the ridiculousness of her statement. “Father, I am just broken and I’m trying to find a punching bag.  Sweet Alvin, who was always so loyal to my father is not the one I need to attack, physically or mentally.”

Father Phillips said “my child, it’s only natural to want to strike out against someone when there is a tragic loss.”

“But why them?”  Holly asked.  Father Phillips said “you want answers, child but the only person who truly has those answers is Almighty God.”

She surprised him when she went on a cursing tirade.  “Yeah, He knows but that doesn’t help me does it?  And don’t give me any of that bullshit about Heaven needing a few more angels.  There are enough angels up there.  God doesn’t need any more.  I needed them here and He’s a fucking asshole for taking them.”  Father Phillips smiled.  He understood grief and anger and rage.

When they got to her apartment, he said “you shouldn’t be alone right now. Is there anyone you can call?”  Holly again surprised him when she said “like who?  Who the fuck am I going to call?  The only family I had was just murdered.  Who am I going to fucking call, Father?”

Father Phillips said “I can send Helen over to stay with you.”  Holly apologized for her outburst and said “that won’t be necessary.  I’ll be okay, Father.  I just need to let it sink in.  If I need to talk to someone, I’ll call you.”

“Do you promise?” he asked.  Holly said “I promise.”

She sat down and as if talking to herself said “what a senseless way to die. Tell me Father.  Do you see any sense in this at all?”

Father Phillips shook his head and said “no.  As I said, only God knows about these things.”

“Did they catch them?” she asked.

“Yes,” he said.

“And what’s going to happen to them?”

Father Phillips said “that will be up to the court.  You know that.  I would imagine there will be some psychiatric evaluations and most likely, juvenile detention.”

Holly angrily said “so in other words, nothing more than a little inconvenience, right?”

Father Phillips was worried about her, even though he knew she came from good, strong stock.  He also knew that everyone has a breaking point and he didn’t want this to be hers.  Through the years, he had seen some of the toughest, strongest, most resilient officers crumble before his eyes.  He was determined that she would not crumble on his watch.

As he started to leave, he turned and said “child, you mustn’t let this pain and anger turn into a vendetta.”

 

To be continued_______________

 

 

 

End Of Watch – Chapter Four

It didn’t take long for Holly and Earl to form a close working relationship as well as a deep friendship.  One day out of the clear blue, he said “you know, you’re sort of considered royalty around here.  I mean you’re following in your fathers’ and grandfathers’ footsteps.  We call you ‘little miss royal goody two-shoes.”

“Who calls me that?” Holly demanded.  “Everyone,” he said.

Holly let out a “Pffft!  Royalty, my eye.  I sat behind a desk for six months and then played babysitter to ‘Chuckles the sleepy clown’ for three more.”

Earl laughed and said “oh yeah.  Good old Chuck.  We’ve all had our turn with him.  They wanted to get rid of him a long time ago but they didn’t want to fire him.  Since he was short, they just let him ride out the rest of his time until he could retire.”

“You know,” he said.  “Chuck used to be good police but a few years back, he got burned out or something.  He started hitting the sauce a little too hard and would show up for his shift, drunk.  We covered for him as much as we could but it got out.

His wife eventually left him and after a while, he went to rehab.  Even though he was successful, his wife didn’t come back.  After that, he never really could get his life back together.  I guess after losing his wife, the Captain didn’t want him to lose his pension too, so they kept him on.”

Holly felt bad and said “I shouldn’t have called him ‘Chuckles the sleepy clown’.  That was really insensitive and my father would be ashamed of me. I’m ashamed of myself.  I’m the one who preaches that we should treat everyone like they matter and here I am, guilty of doing the very thing I despise that other people do.  Judging without question and having no knowledge of a situation.”

Earl said “don’t beat yourself up over it, kid.  We all make mistakes.  Hell, don’t you remember how I wanted to arrest that homeless man, for no other reason than I thought he was a bum?”  Earl wondered aloud what had become of him.  Holly shook her head as if to say “I don’t know.”

She quickly switched gears and said, “and for your information, I don’t follow anyone.  I’m going to make my mark and people are going to be following me!”

Earl smiled and said “I don’t doubt that for a minute kid, but you might want to work on your social skills.”

Holly let out a hearty laugh.  She enjoyed the back and forth ping-pong style banter they had developed.  She didn’t speak ill of people and when she committed that social faux pas about Chuck, Earl was ready to pounce on the “little miss royal goody two-shoes.”

Earl was ten years older than Holly, married to a wonderful woman and had two little girls.  He said the three of them were the “lights of his life.”  He talked about his wife Rachael with a reverence that reminded Holly of the way Henry spoke of Sara.

Earl would smile and say “it’s takes an extraordinary woman to do what Rachael does.  The way we work is really hard on a relationship and if she resents the hours I spend away from them, she never says a word about it.” His eyes were sparkling when he said “but I spend as much time as I possibly can with my three girls.”

He was reminding Holly more and more of her father, which garnered a deep respect and admiration.

He looked at Holly and said “someday, you’ll see.”  Holly quickly rebutted. “Not a chance, pal.  Not a chance!  I intend to be the Captain one day and I am not going to have time for a husband or even a boyfriend…at least not until they pin those gold bars onto my uniform.”

They were in a collective laugh when dispatch called with a “10-19.  Code 3.”  Holly looked at Earl and said “10-19? Is that what you heard?”

Earl confirmed.  “I wonder why are they want us to return to base?” Holly said.  Earl shook his head, laughed and said “maybe we’re getting a promotion.  Light her up!”

Holly clicked her walkie and said “10-4.  Show us en route, Code 3.”

Dispatch:  “10-4.”

 

 

To be continued_________________

End Of Watch – Chapter Three

Holly knew that her father was wise beyond his years and was one of the most respected officers in the force.  When he gave advice, she listened.

Rookie police officers didn’t make much money but after a few paychecks and Henry’s help, she moved into her own place.  It wasn’t much but it was hers and it was the last step to her complete independence.

Six months after she joined the force, she was given a partner and a regular patrol.  Charles (Chuck) Littlejohn was a gruff, unkempt man who was looking at retirement in three months.  It was clear that teaching her the “ropes” was not very high on his agenda.  He would often fall asleep while they were on patrol.  Sometimes she would slam on her brakes just to wake him up.  “What the fuck?” he would ask.  She would smile and say “squirrel.”

She constantly reminded herself of what her father told her about paying dues and treating people like they mattered.  Henry was nearing retirement, too and she tried to understand that about Chuck.  But Henry was just as diligent now as he had been when he was a rookie.  In her eyes, Chuck no longer honored the uniform, the badge or the profession and to her, was just about as useless as a third tit.

She didn’t dare complain because she didn’t want to be known as a whiner. She knew she could handle herself but she did worry about facing a real situation with a partner who was clearly no longer in the game.  If she could just hang on for the next three months, everything would be golden.

Chucks’ retirement day finally came and there was the usual “good old boy” send off, regrets about seeing him go and good wishes for the future.  Holly dropped by long enough to shake his hand and lie when she said “it was a pleasure riding with you.”  Then she walked out, raise her hands in triumph while channeling William Wallace as she yelled “F R E E D O M!”

Her next partner, Earl Sinterman was the complete opposite of Chuck.  On their very first call together, they were dispatched for “some strange man wandering around town.”

As soon as they found him, his first reaction was to run.  He was no match for Holly’s speed and was quickly detained.  Earl wanted to immediately slap handcuffs on him and haul him to jail.

Earl was one of those officers who wanted total and complete control of the situation.  He told the suspect to keep his hands out of his pockets and when it looked like his hands were moving, Earl pulled his revolver and threatened to “shoot him where he stood.”

Earl was senior to Holly, so she figured that her input would be mostly ignored or considered invaluable but she was no pushover.  It seemed to her that he could learn a few things like respect, consideration and compassion…the very things Henry tried to instill in her…and she wasn’t shy about sharing those thoughts with him.

Holly said.  “Let’s talk to him and see what’s going on.”

Earl still had his revolver drawn as Holly began talking.  “Sir,” she said. “Can you tell me your name?”  He looked at her and said “people call me T-bone.”  Holly asked why.  He said “when the restaurant throws out the trash, I sometimes find what’s left of a steak and I gnaw on the bone.”

He looked at her and said “I wasn’t trying to cause no trouble, Miss.  I was just looking around for change that maybe someone had dropped so I could get something to eat.”  Earl snidely said “or something to drink.”  Holly quickly gave him the “eye.”

She asked T-Bone where he slept.  He said “most times, I sleep in the dumpster behind this restaurant.”

“How long has it been since you ate anything besides a bone?” she asked. T-Bone held up what looked like broken fingers and said “I think maybe three days.”

Holly walked into the restaurant and ordered a meal to go.  When she handed it to T-Bone, he looked like a child on Christmas morning.  He cried. Holly cried.  Earl holstered his revolver.

As T-Bone walked down the dark alley, littered with trash, he turned and gave Holly a gentle salute.

She turned to Earl and said “we are the authority figures here but we are also the protectors.  People call us when they need help or they think someone else needs help.  Some people call us when they are afraid and see something they perceive as a threat.  Some people call just because they’re mean-spirited and think homeless people are a menace to society.

Not everyone is a criminal.  Not everyone is a bad guy and until they prove that they are, they deserve to be treated like they matter.  This man may be dirty and he may smell bad but the only thing he’s guilty of is being homeless and hungry.  Try to put yourself in his shoes.”

It was a watershed moment for Earl.  Holly had made an impression.  He appreciated her candor and her empathy.  He excused his behavior as having been influenced by other officers who were trigger happy and more or less considered the general population to be garbage.

He apologized and Holly accepted.  They were going to be a good match.

 

To be continued______________

 

 

End Of Watch – Chapter Two

As the years passed, Holly’s fascination with badges, “suits of arnor” and weapons never waned but she was no longer receptive to plastic, tin and “pretend,” although she would sometimes stand before a mirror, saying “I am Officer Holly Redmond.  What’s going on?”  Most times, she could barely get the words out without laughing nor could Henry and Sara when they were hiding behind the door watching.

Henry had taught her to always refer to officers as just that.  Officers. “They’re not the heat or the pigs or the fuzz,” he said.  “I don’t even want you to refer to them as ‘cops’.  I find that term disrespectful,” he said.

On Holly’s sixteenth birthday, Henry bought her a Remington 870 shotgun, just like the one he carried in his cruiser.  A Smith and Wesson 38 special handgun would follow a year later.  He was thinking of college and protection.  She was thinking “police force.”

Hours and hours spent at a shooting range yielded an excellent marksman or as she constantly corrected Henry, “marks-woman.”  Henry bragged to his fellow officers “hell, she could shoot the wings off a fly and leave him thinking he was still a maggot.”

When asked if she was going to become a third generation of the city’s finest, Henry always said “no.  I want her to go on to higher education and put these bastards away with a slap of the gavel, not a shot from a weapon.”

When the subject of college was broached, Holly always dismissed Henry and Sara.  “I’ve got plans,” she said, “and my plans include school but not the kind of school you’re talking about.”

Henry and Sara would be disappointed when Holly enrolled in the academy just days after she graduated from high school.  Having already been taught to shoot like a seasoned “marks-woman,” was an advantage, not to mention the family name and history.

She was inquisitive and her mind was like a sponge, soaking up every snippet of information.  She aced all the written tests and it went without saying that she could out-shoot most of the instructors.

When her graduation day arrived, Henry and Sara were proud but there was an element of sadness that they tried hard to hide.  They, especially Henry, knew what the real world was like.  He knew that in law enforcement, your life could change or end in the blink of an eye.  That’s what happened to his father and although he had never told Holly, he had barely escaped a fatal shot more than once in his career.

He knew drug dealers and what they would do to protect their territory and their interests.  He knew the rule of most gangs, which included a random kill and extra points were offered for the murder of a “cop.”

Fate is kind to some, luck rides with some and others become sacrificial lambs.  It’s the law of nature.

As a “rookie” Holly would most likely spend the first few years handing out parking tickets or riding the desk, taking reports.  Henry knew she would be chomping at the bit to see some real action but he hoped she could keep her naiveté as long as possible.

Alvin, Henry’s long time partner saw the concern on his face and offered the old adage “don’t worry.  Fate protects the young and the foolish.”  Henry stared off into space and said “she’s young, yes.  But she’s certainly not foolish.”

Alvin patted him on the back and said “hell, she’s no different from you or me.  All of us have at some point wanted the one ‘big collar’ that would put our picture up there on the wall.  She’ll be fine.”

Henry looked at him with a cross between hope and sarcasm and asked “and you know this how?”  Alvin smiled and said “I’m a bit psychic.  I just know things.”  Henry snickered, gave him a one hand shove and said “get outta here.”

Just as Henry had hoped, Holly was assigned to a desk taking reports such as an Elvis sighting just ten minutes earlier or a frantic woman who was sure that Jimmy Hoffa was buried in her back yard.

When Holly complained to Henry and Sara about the ridiculousness and mundaness of her job, Henry reminded her that she had to pay her dues, the same as he and everyone else before.

Holly could often suffer from wanting “instant gratification.”  Henry reminded her that patience was a necessary attribute, especially in the police force.  “You can’t just run into a house and arrest somebody without getting the necessary information,” he said.  “You have to listen and make a decision based on that information.  Don’t be a know-it-all.  Don’t be gung-ho.  Don’t be handcuff happy and don’t be trigger happy.”

“Above all,” he said, “you are an authority figure but that position is never to be abused.  Don’t be a bully.  Your job is to protect and serve, not berate and abuse.”

“It doesn’t matter how someone lives.  It doesn’t matter what kind of car they drive.  It doesn’t matter how they smell.  It doesn’t matter if they speak broken English.  You are to treat everyone with respect.  Follow your intuition, not the aggression you see displayed on television or from other officers.  I would say to you ‘treat people the way you would wish to be treated or more importantly, the way you would wish your mother and father to be treated’.”

Henry smiled and said “okay, end of lecture.”

 

 

To be continued______________

End Of Watch – Chapter One

Holly Michele Redmond was the only child of Henry and Sara Redmond. Almost from the time she exited her mother’s womb, it was clear that Holly was the classic tom-boy.  She could out climb, out run and out smart every little boy in the neighborhood while complaining that they “stunk.”

On the occasion that she was required to wear “little girl clothes” she dazzled like a shining star of beauty.

Henry was a member of the city’s “finest” as was his father before him.

When Holly first became aware that her father carried a weapon, she asked him what it was and what it was for.  In his best Gary Cooper accent, he put his hand on his weapon and said “this right here is my sod-arm.  Her name is Betsy and you best not be messing with her.  She helps me keep law and order around these here parts.”

Holly giggled and asked if she could see Betsy.  Henry stooped down and said “no little one.  Betsy is not a toy and you must never touch her unless I give you permission.  Do you understand?”

Holly said “yes, sir.  I understand.  Do you shoot bad guys with Betsy?”

Henry was always honest with Holly.  He said “yes.  Sometimes I shoot bad guys.”  Holly said “do they shoot back?”  Henry said “yes, sometimes they shoot back.”  Holly started rubbing her fathers’ arm in little girl fashion and said “did the bad guys shoot Pops?”

Henry cupped her face in his hands and said “yes, child.  The bad guys shot Pops.”  Holly suddenly and almost desperately wrapped her arms around Henry and said “please daddy, don’t let the bad guys shoot you.”  Henry patted her on the back and said “don’t worry child.  I’ll be careful.”

Holly’s grandfather was killed when she was only three.  She didn’t really remember him but was taught about him and was asked to pray for him every night.

She knew he had gotten shot but on television or in the movies, the bad guys always lost and when one of the good guys got shot, they were always okay.  She didn’t really understand death.  She thought aloud once that “maybe he’ll be in another show.”

She had her mind set on two things.  When she grew up she was going to (a) marry her father and (b) she was going to be one of the cities’ finest. When she saw Henry in his “blues,” she thought he was the most handsome man in the world.

At six years old, she wrote a letter to Santa Clause, asking for a badge, a hat, a “sod arm” and a holster just like her fathers’.

When Sara read her letter, she asked Holly if she wouldn’t rather have a nice doll or one of the fancy gizmos that were so popular.  “Nope,” Holly said, shaking her head.  “I want what I asked for.  A doll?  Bleah!”

Against her better judgment, Sara made sure that Santa came through.  It was one of the happiest Christmases that Holly ever had.  She put on her little tin badge, hat, strapped her “sod arm” to her waist and went outside to play “cops and robbers.”  Sara had even found a pair of plastic handcuffs, which Holly almost wore out on the first day.

Holly would run around the house, saying “hands up.  You’re under the rest! You have the right to amain silent and anything you can say will be wused against you.”  Sara would put her head in her hands and say to herself. “oh my goodness.  What in the world was I thinking?”

Sara thought it was interesting that Holly never said the proverbial “pow, pow, or bang, bang” when she pointed her gun.  She never gave her gun a name and Sara thought that maybe in some part of Holly’s psyche, she didn’t really want to shoot anybody because her Pops had been shot.

Putting them “under the rest” was the extent of her interaction with alleged criminals, of course coupled with a completely mangled version of being “Mirandized.”

Holly’s search for perpetrators waned a bit but she always made sure she had her “sod arm” somewhere nearby.  One day, she put it on her bookshelf and never picked it up again.  Her childhood innocence was giving way to young girl curiosity about life, fashion and little boys, who suddenly didn’t smell so bad.  But, in her mind, none of those boys could hold a candle to her daddy.

One summer day when Holly was eight years old, she came running into the house and said “mommy, if I never ever get anything else for my birthday or Christmas for the rest of my life, I really, really, really, really want a suit of arnor.”

“A suit of armor?” Sara asked.  “Why in the world do you want a suit of armor?”   Holly said “I just really, really, really, really want a suit of arnor. I’ll be your best friend.  Okay?  I promise, you will never have to get me another thing.”

Sara said “well, we’ll have to check with Santa and see if he can bring you one but you have to promise not to be disappointed if he doesn’t.  Okay?”

Holly gave her best pouty face and said “okay, but I know he can bring me one.”

Sara gave it her best shot but couldn’t find a suit of armor anywhere, unless it was a real suit of armor which was far above their budget.  Thankfully, when Christmas arrived that year, there was no request from Holly for a “suit of arnor.”

It wouldn’t be until years later, that Sara would finally understand Holly’s request.  She didn’t want a suit of “armor.”

She wanted a “suit of Honor,” just like her daddy wore.

 

To be continued____________________

 

 

 

 

 

“I’m Looking For You”

The first time she heard those four words, it awakened her from a sound sleep.

“I’m looking for you.”

As she rubbed her eyes and let them adjust to the darkness, she scanned the room.  “Hello?” she said.

She wasn’t scared even though she had lived alone for many years.  The voice sounded familiar and as she tried to shake herself into reality, again she said “hello?  Who’s there?”

After a few minutes, she shook her head and lay back down as she said “it was just a dream.”  She never remembered her dreams and this one would be forgotten in the morning.

As predicted, the next morning she got up, fixed a cup of coffee and had forgotten the dream but something was gnawing at her.  She thought she could almost touch the remnants of the dream but it didn’t quite come into focus.

She read somewhere that if you didn’t remember your dreams, it meant that you weren’t in touch with your soul.   She laughed as she thought “I’ve been out of touch with my soul for so long, I’m not sure I even have one anymore.”

By all accounts, she was a bit of a recluse and to the neighbors the reason was unknown.  They’d see her now and then, driving out of the neighborhood and she’d wave but never stopped to talk.  Her solitary life seemed to be what she chose and it suited her although she often thought that she was wasting her life.  She knew she should “get out and live” but she was just too comfortable within the confines of her self-imposed tomb.

Part of her daily routine was walking through her house, touching things as if trying to sear them into her memory or perhaps, wishing to erase them.

As she reached the third bedroom she rarely entered, she heard the voice.  “I’m looking for you.”  This time she wasn’t asleep.  She turned and was startled to find no one behind her.  Again, she said “hello?”  Again, no response.

This continued for weeks with no explanation and she started to question her sanity.  Along with the information she read about souls she had also read that “if you think you’re insane, you probably aren’t but if you think everyone else is insane, you probably are.”

“Whew!” she thought.  “So far, so good in the insanity department.”

She had never been one to entertain the idea of Karma or sending something to the “Universe.”  Bad “sends” would bounce back and smack you in the face and good “sends” would pat you on the back.  She called bullshit on those ideas but she did believe in signs.  Signs, such as finding a dime and a penny or finding a bird feather in a most unlikely place.

Bird feathers have different meanings, depending on their color and size and even where they fall.  They’re supposed to be sent from angels, according to what information she could gather.  Dimes and pennies are also supposed to be signs from angels.

“What are these angels trying to tell me?” she wondered.

Suddenly, she thought “they’re telling me that my Prince Charming is looking for me!  That’s his voice!  He’s looking for me!”

She had spent so many years alone, thinking that was how it was supposed to be and how it was supposed to end but these “signs” had given her hope.  Every emotion she ever had was dead but they say hope is the last to die.

“Tomorrow,” she said.  “Tomorrow, I am going to get dressed up and walk uptown.  The angels are sending me messages.  What better reason than to find my Prince Charming?  What better reason than to find my destiny?”

That night, just as she was about to fall asleep, she heard those words.

“I’m looking for you.”  She smiled and whispered “I know.”

The next morning, she got up with a renewed enthusiasm.  She got dressed and for the first time in as long as she could remember, put on make-up.

There was a lightness in her step as she made her way uptown.  She found herself smiling at people as she passed them on the way.  A park bench she had never noticed seemed to beckon a brief rest.

There were many little shops that she had never frequented and she noticed “welcome” signs hovered over every door.  “Why have I never wanted to discover what little treasures these stores might hold?” she asked herself.  “Maybe later,” she thought.  She had a different purpose today.

He was there.  She just knew it.  All she had to do was find him…or maybe just go back to the bench and wait for him to find her.

Before she realized how long she had been gone, darkness began to fall.  Disappointment also descended as she hadn’t been approached by her Prince Charming.

Her enthusiasm had waned and hope was beginning to fade.  As she started the long walk home, she cut down an alley which was a known shortcut.

Halfway down the alley, she heard “I’ve been looking for you.”

A slight glimpse of a dark figure was all she saw before he slashed her throat.

 

Kkeut.

End Of Watch – Introduction

His name was Robert (Bobby) Martin Morgan.  His End of Watch came on a cold, snowy January night.  As the snow flakes gently fell onto his still warm body, they lay quietly as did he. His still open eyes, glistened as the melted snow streamed down his face like tears.

Across from him lay his pregnant wife, Holly Redmond Morgan and their two-year old son, Bobby, Jr.  They lay on a bed of soft pink snow, colored by their life’s blood.

The deafening sound of silence was interrupted by a car revving its engine in the distance, followed by the ear-piercing, haunting wails of sirens, responding to Bobby’s desperate last words “officer down.”

 

 

 

 

The Great Carnival Caretaker – Chapter Four

After my grandmother’s estate was settled, my life went back to normal and the first thing I wanted to do was go visit with Lucien.

I was excited as I pulled into the Shady Spot Rest Home.  After I went in, I walked by my grandmother’s room and gently touched the number 38 on the door.  That had been her room for almost five years.  There was a new resident there now and I wondered if maybe some of my grandmother’s spirit had been left behind.

Like I said, I’m a bit of a romantic about some things.

I walked to the sitting room, looking for Lucien.  The familiar spot where he sat day after day, looking out the window was vacant.  I was puzzled and walked toward the nurses’ station.

I saw Margaret and cheerfully said “hey Margaret.  Where’s Mr. Lucien?” Margaret put her hand on my arm and said “honey, Mr. Lucien died last night and they took him away this morning.”

As my eyes filled with tears, the only thing I could get out was “but he had stories to tell.  He had stories to tell.”

Margaret said “come with me.”  She took my hand and led me down the hall.  “This was Lucien’s room,” she said.

I just stood there for a minute, frozen like I had been hit with a blast of cold air.  The walls were covered with posters of Carnivals, Circuses and Big Top events.  Margaret handed me his scrapbook and said “I think he would want you to have this.”

I sat down on the side of his bed and started flipping through the pages.  It was full of copies of newspaper clippings.  The first one was about a man named Gilbert Hensley.  He had been killed when an elephant repeatedly stomped on him.  The date on the Kingsport, Tennessee newspaper was September 22nd, 1916.

The next clipping was about a woman named Mary Smithy, who had been arrested In Milwaukee, Wisconsin for lewd and lascivious behavior in the presence of children.  The date on the article was October 3rd, 1923.

On July 26th, 1930 in Omaha, Nebraska, a young man was killed when the car he was riding in on a roller coaster, disengaged and sent him flying into the nearby woods.  At the time of the article, his identity was unknown.

The next article was about a woman named Eva Gomez.  She was a trapeze artist who had plummeted to her death on August 10, 2003 at the Hippodrome in Great Yarmouth, England.

To say I was confused would be an understatement.  Margaret came back into the room and said “do you understand now?”

I told her I didn’t understand anything because nothing made any sense.  “None of the names in these articles are the same as the names in Lucien’s stories.  Did he really go to all of these places?”

Margaret smiled a sad smile and said “no honey.”

I asked what she meant and said “are you saying that Lucien was never the caretaker for the carnival?”

Margaret shook her head and said “no.  He was the janitor here and he had been working here since he was a young man.  I guess you could say he was the caretaker of the Shady Spot Rest Home.”

I was almost crestfallen and for a split second, I was glad that I had never told my grandmother about him.

She looked out the window, much like Lucien had always done and said “as a boy, his dream was to ‘run away with the circus’ but he had to work to help his family pay the bills.”

“You should have seen him,” she said.  “He would pick up a chair and act like the sofa was a ferocious lion.  He’d say ‘stand back ladies.  I’ll protect you’.”

“He used to take one of the wheelchairs out and ride it down the hill as fast as it would go, pretending he was on a roller coaster.”  She giggled when she said “more than once, that old chair won and would pitch Lucien out.”  She shook her head and said “sometimes life plays dirty tricks on you.”

“When he was in his early forties, he was stricken with early onset Alzheimer’s and it invaded him with a vengeance.  When the diagnosis was first given, he knew that his dream would never be realized so I guess he started creating his own memories about a career with the carnival.”

“He continued to work here as long as he could function in some way.  He’d forget where the cleaning supplies were and when he found them, he couldn’t remember what they were for.  It was such a pitiful sight.”

“When his family passed away, he had nobody but us so we took him in and gave him a room.  The state took care of him financially and we took care of him physically.

“How long had he been here?”  I asked.  “I mean, I guess that he was in his mid-nineties, so he must have been here for a long time.”

Margaret looked surprised.  She said “oh no, dear.  He was sixty-four.  The disease that took his youth.”

She shook her head and said “sometimes he would fall or wander down the street and get lost.  One night he was hit by a car when he got loose.  That’s when he became wheel-chair bound.  We had to strap him in to keep him from trying to escape again.  His body wore the marks of running into things but everything else that should have failed, was just fine.  I had always heard that when that awful disease gets you, all the sickness goes to your brain and for some strange reason, the rest of your body is relatively healthy.  It’s almost like a form of what they call brain reorganization but it was ultimately unsuccessful, at least for Lucien.”

She walked around the room, touching each poster and said “several years back, he started ordering these and we helped him hang them on his walls.  Then he started collecting newspaper articles from the library and he’d carefully paste them into his scrapbook.  After a while, I’m not sure he really understood why he was getting them but he would read them and then put them away.”

She let out a sigh and said “so you see, his dream never came true in reality but what a wonderful world he created in fantasy.  All of those people became his family.  They had stories and their stories became his stories.”

She smiled as she said “and oh my.  He had stories to tell.”

 

শেষ
Śēṣa

The Great Carnival Caretaker – Chapter Three

I was becoming very fond of Mr. Lucien.  I was glad that he had someone who would listen to his stories…and he had stories to tell.  “Oh my.  He had stories to tell.”  I giggled every time I thought about those words.

I wondered what he might have been like in his younger days.  You know how you can look at some older women and tell that when they were young, they were great beauties?  It was like that with Mr. Lucien.  There was something about him that led me to believe he cut quite the figure in his youth.

Maybe it was his eyes or the dimple-like creases in his cheeks when he grinned.  Even without teeth, I was sure that he had at one time been rather fetching.

I couldn’t tell how tall he was.  He was confined to that wheelchair and due to his age or maybe a previous injury or illness, was hunched over quite a bit.  He had the famous horseshoe bald pattern and wore coke-bottle lens glasses, which he removed when he was telling his stories.  I thought he was a dear old man and oh my, how I loved hearing his stories.

He had never mentioned having a family and I didn’t want to pry and like I said, I figured he would tell me what he wanted me to know.  Maybe he considered his family to be all of those people who worked at the carnival.  Maybe that was why there was a detectable sadness in his voice so often.

Two days after my last visit with my grandmother, she passed away.  She died peacefully in her sleep and the nurses said she that she had died with a smile on her face.  My grandmother had been blessed with a wonderful life and she had lived it to the fullest.

I was sad of course, but I knew that she was ready to go and I think she knew it was almost her time.  She would often talk about “seeing” my grandfather in her dreams and smiled when she said “he says he’s waiting for me, so I tell him that I’ll be there shortly.”

I had never told her about my visits with Lucien and I’m not really sure why I didn’t.  Maybe I thought that somehow his stories were secret and meant only for me.  I’m prone to have romantic notions about things like that from time to time.

Lucien had never asked me why I was at the Shady Spot Nursing Home nor had he ever even asked my name.  He hadn’t asked if I had stories to tell. He had never asked me anything, other than “have I told you about ‘so-and-so’?”

My grandmother’s death wasn’t going to stop me from continuing to visit Lucien. although it would be a several weeks before I could return.

During that time, I thought about him often.  Late at night, after I had said goodnight to my grandmother and grandfather, his words came floating by like a gentle breeze:

“I have stories to tell.  Oh my.  I have stories to tell.”

 

To Be Continued__________

 

The Great Carnival Caretaker – Chapter Two

After I visited my grandmother the next day, I stopped by to see Lucien.  I walked up and said “good afternoon, Mr. Lucien.  How are you today?”

He looked at me and said “well hello there young lady.  I have stories to tell. Oh my.  I have stories to tell.”

I said “I know you do and I was hoping to hear a few more of them.  You told me about Hobbs and Maribel and Pete.”

He looked at me with wide eyes and said “Oh yes.  I have stories to tell.  Oh my.  I have stories to tell.”

He looked out of the window and it seemed as if he was trying to gather files from the recesses of his mind.  Suddenly he said, “did I tell you about the young Williams boy?”

I told him he hadn’t but I’d really like to hear about him.

He said “oh my.  Young Hiram Williams ran the roller coaster.  He had been obsessed with roller coasters since he was just a little freckle-faced tyke with the wildest hair I had ever seen.  I think his hair must have been licked by a cow at least fifteen times and he walked with a limp because he had been born with one leg shorter than the other.”  He chuckled and said “maybe that cow stepped on it.”

“Anyway, come rain, sleet, snow or a Hades-hot day, young Hiram was out there gazing at the roller coaster.  Sometimes he would run errands for neighbors and straight away, he would spend the money on a ride.  When he got old enough, he got a job running the roller coaster.  Oh my.  How he loved to run that roller coaster.”

Lucien again got that sad look on his face as he continued.  “One day when there was no one waiting in line to ride, young Hiram decided to take a spin.  Oh my, he was flying around on that roller coaster and it just kept going faster and faster.”

“I guess he had forgotten that somebody had to control the speed and also pull the lever to make it stop.  By the time the crowd heard his screams, it was too late.  He and the roller coaster cars went flying.  Oh my.  He was found might near a mile away, still strapped to one of the cars.”

I found myself echoing him when I said “oh my.  You have stories to tell.” He looked down and said “yes, I have stories to tell.”

His mood changed and his eyes almost twinkled when he sighed and said “Jasmine.”

“Jasmine?”  I asked.  “Jasmine,” he said.  He tilted his head and looked toward the sky as he said “she was a trapeze artist.  She wore this little white outfit and her hair was tied back with sparkly ribbons.  She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.  She had porcelain skin and her hair was as black as coal.  Oh my.  Many a young man lost their hearts to her.”

That toothless grin came back as he went on.  “She would fly from one platform to the other, almost in slow motion.   To me, she looked like an angel flying high above all of us.”

I wryly smiled and said “was there a romance?”  Lucien looked down and said “no.  There was no romance.”

I asked what happened to her.  Lucien said “she got old but she wouldn’t quit flying.  One night she put on her costume, climbed to the top of the trapeze, spread her arms like wings and jumped.  I guess she wanted to go out in what they call ‘a blaze of glory’.”

I said “Lucien, your stories are so sad.”  He looked at me and said “yes.  My stories are sad but oh my, don’t you think life is sad?”

With that, he motioned for the nurse to come wheel him back to his room. Then he asked her to stop.  That familiar toothless smile reappeared as he looked at her and said “this is Margaret.  She’s my favorite nurse and she takes real good care of me.  Oh my.  Don’t you think she’s pretty?”

I smiled and nodded in agreement.  Margaret laughed and said “Mr. Lucien, you little devil you.  How you do run on, flirting with me like that.”

Lucien looked at me and said “I know all the pretty girls and oh my.  I have stories to tell.”

Lucien did indeed have stories to tell but he never spoke about himself.  He never really told me exactly what he did.  I wondered if I should ask but I thought that when he was ready, he would tell me his story.  After all, he had stories to tell.  Oh my, he had stories to tell.

 

To be continued___________