An Unkindness Of Ravens Hover Above – Chapter Three

When people’s lives intersect, some may call it fate.  Some may call it untoward.  Some may call it fortuitous, and some may call it pure happenstance.

Old man Mosley, George and Maude’s lives had converged and thus, become intertwined in an almost other worldly way.

Maude Bowman, at age 56, had been shuffled from foster home to foster home, from the time she was 7 years old.  Although some of the families who took her in were kind, others treated her more like a servant.

She had never been trusting as far as belief in longevity of relationships, and given the trauma she suffered at the tender age of 7, it was understandable.  Baring her soul to someone was never going to happen, and Maude seemed to be comfortable with that omission.

She had long ago lost her luster, much like the fake pearls in the chain that held her glasses.

When she was 17, she escaped the last home where she had been exiled after rebuffing several attempts of unwanted advances from her foster father.  She packed a garbage bag with the few things that belonged to her, and crawled out of the window at midnight.

Finding refuge in the alcove of a store, she waited out the night, and began walking the next day.  She wasn’t sure where she was going.  She just wanted to go somewhere that wasn’t where she had been.

After three nights on the street, she found respite on a park bench, outside Mosley’s Crematorium.  Old man Mosley saw her, and like he would later do for George, bought her a hamburger, and offered a warm night’s rest inside.

Maude was hesitant at first.  She didn’t trust men in general, and certainly didn’t trust a stranger, but something about old man Mosley was curiously comforting.

The next morning, old man Mosley came to check on her, and they began to talk.  He asked her if she was looking for work, and although it hadn’t yet occurred to her as to how she would live, she found herself blurting out, “Yes, I am.”  Then she hesitated, and said, “Wait.  Would I be burning bodies?”

He chuckled and said, “No, child.  You would be my bookkeeper and secretary.  Geraldine worked here for a long time, but she moved away.”

Maude looked around at the dismal room and said, “I don’t imaging you get very much business.”  Old man Mosley said, “You’d be surprised.  I charge much less than other establishments, and sometimes it’s shocking at how quickly greed surfaces when someone dies.”

“What do you mean?” Maude asked.  Old man Mosley said, “it’s much cheaper to set a body on fire than plant it six feet under.  Sounds harsh, I know, but it’s true.”

Not having any other option at the moment, Maude agreed to work for him.

“You’ll be working with Mort.  He’s a good guy,  Quiet.  Keeps to himself.  Comes in, does his job and then goes to the local pub to have a beer with the locals.  He’ll be here until he reaches retirement age, and then he’ll move on, but it will be a while before that happens.”

He found a room for her in a large house, not too far from the Crematorium, and paid the first month’s rent.  He gave her an advance on her salary, and told her to buy some groceries.

After several weeks, old man Mosley came in and checked on things, much like he always did.  He had very little to do with the business itself, but liked to peep in now and then, just to see, as he said, “if the old furnace is still firing.”

He could see the sadness in Maude, and although he wasn’t one to pry, he had a kindness about him that made people more or less expose their soft underbellies.

Once, he looked at Maude and said, “sometimes, child, it’s good to touch the living.”  He was surprised when she said, “I think I’m more comfortable with the dead.  The dead don’t leave you.  They’re already gone.”

An uncharacteristic tear fell from Maude’s eye.  Old man Mosley sat down, and said, “What is it child?  What has made you so sad?”

Maude began to tell her story.

“When I was 7 years old, my best friend Noble, was having a birthday party.  I had never been invited to a birthday party before.  I had never been invited anywhere before.  I remember being so excited.”

Old man Mosley could see the pain in her eyes as she continued.

“My mother and father had to drive me, and I remember being annoyed when they brought my brothers with them.  I was the oldest, and the only girl.  I thought my brothers were pests.  They were always teasing me.”

Old man Mosley asked her how many brothers she had.  “Four,” she said. “I remember sometimes telling them that I wish they would fall into a hole and never come out.”

“What happened?” old man Mosley asked.

“When my mother and father were coming back to get me, they were hit by a school bus.  Their van caught on fire, and they all burned up. Sometimes, I think it was my fault that they got hit.  I was always wishing that my brothers would go away.”

Old man Mosley said, “you mustn’t think that way, child.  We all have bad thoughts from time to time.  If we were punished for bad thoughts, the entire world would be in a constant state of collapse.  All brothers annoy sisters, and all sisters annoy brothers.  It’s just a part of life’s circle.”

Maude looked at him and said, “Is it wrong for me to wish that the person who hit them would suffer a horrible death, and burn in Hell?”

“Yes.  It’s wrong,” he said.  “First, you must forgive the driver.  Then, you must forgive yourself.”

He patted Maude on the shoulder and said, “Think about what I said, and we will speak of this no more.”

Twenty-six years later, when Mort retired, Maude would unknowingly come face to face with the man who killed her family.  His name was George.

 

Het Einde.

 

 

 

 

An Unkindness Of Ravens Hover Above – Chapter Two

George Schwartz gave every indication that he enjoyed his job, to the extent that anyone enjoys “cooking someone,” as he often said.  Maude wasn’t shocked when he said things like, “gonna go roast a body,” or “gonna go make a crispy critter.”

He had extraordinarily muscular arms that belied his slight build, and an ever-present bristly stubble almost covered the facial scars from youthful acne.  One his left arm, the roman numeral VI was tattooed.  His shabby clothing and unkempt appearance didn’t really matter, because he wasn’t in the public eye.

He was grateful to have a job, but his disingenuous attitude toward the dead might give a lay person pause.  He would often say, “when you’re dead, you’re dead.  After that, who cares if you get scorched?”  Only once had Maude heard him say, “at least they don’t scream.”  Although a little perplexed, she dismissed the statement as just another one of George’s eccentricities.

His prospective about death, and burned bodies was ironic, given his past.

When he was 16, he stole a school bus and drove it all the way across the state of Georgia.  On his way back, he collided with a mini-van.  Six people were trapped inside as it caught on fire.  George tried to open the doors, but was repelled by the flames.  He watched as the people desperately tried to free themselves, and he listened as they screamed in pain.

He was charged with grand theft auto, and six counts of manslaughter.  He was tried as an adult, and sentenced to 40 years in prison.

He was a model prisoner, and was released for good behavior after 35 years.  He wasn’t one to make grandiose statements about having found God while incarcerated, but he never drove a motor vehicle again, as a sort of self-imposed punishment.

Transitioning back into the world was difficult for George, and he spent several months on the street.  Oftentimes, he would stand on the corner and hold a sign that said, “will work for food.”  Most assumed that he was seeking money to buy alcohol, but George had never had a drop to drink. Having an alcoholic father didn’t keep him from being a juvenile thief, but it did keep him away from the booze.

His mother died while he was in prison, but he didn’t know that his father had beaten her to death, until he was released.  There was no mechanism for revenge, as his father finally put the bottle to his head, and pulled the trigger.

One night, while shivering in the pouring rain, his sign faded and worn, George had a fortuitous encounter with old man Mosley, who bought him a hamburger and took him to the crematorium.  He gave him a blanket, and allowed him to spend the night on the floor.

The next morning, old man Mosley returned with the expectation that after a good night’s sleep, George would be gone, but he was surprised when he found him still there.  They went to get a cup of coffee, and George told old man Mosley about his past.

Old man Mosley had a few skeletons of his own, buried deep in the closet, and he was sympathetic to George’s plight.  He offered him a job cremating bodies, and they made a pact that they would never speak of George’s past.  Neither of them ever broke that pact.

Sleep hadn’t come easy for George in years, and on the nights that he could actually drift off, he would awake screaming.  He had never stopped having nightmares about the six people who burned alive while he was watching.

 

 

To be continued_______________

 

An Unkindness Of Ravens Hover Above – Chapter One

In a dank, run-down crematorium on the outskirts of town, a body had been prepared to be set afire, and reduced to nothing more than a pile of bone and ash.  A body that would most likely be forgotten as soon as the ashes cooled, and were poured into a nondescript black, plastic box.

Maude Perkins sat behind an old, scratched and cluttered desk, held upright with legs secured with screws and mending plates.  The dimly lit reception area consisted of two lone chairs, and a table that looked as though it had been rescued from a dumpster.  Thick dust covered the few magazines that dated from the 1960’s, and a faded picture of John F. Kennedy hung on the wall.

Maude’s look was haggard and worn, and she seemed to be indifferent even to her own existence.  Or perhaps she had already been deflated by life, and was just waiting for her turn to take her leave.

She had worked at Mosley’s Crematorium for 38 years, and had seen stiff, lifeless bodies arrive, and then go out in, what she sometimes called, “a blaze of glory.”

She had seen unimaginable grief, and she had witnessed unbelievable insouciance from next-of-kin, who had made the journey to claim remains She was certainly seasoned, and was somewhat immune to the idea of death, but was still sometimes shocked at people’s behavior.

When she wasn’t reading a novel picked up at a rummage sale, she spent her days going over bills, checking to see if they had been paid, or were still outstanding.  She used to think it ironic that after a good life or a bad life, in the end, everyone danced to the music, and everyone had to “pay to the piper.”

While focusing on a long overdue account, her attention was suddenly redirected to a woman who seemed to have materialized out of thin air.

The woman was there to collect the temporary inhabitant of the chamber, and presented the proper paperwork.  Showing no emotion, Maude stood up, and said, “Let me check for you.”

The large, heavy door leading to a back room seemed to moan with agony as if it hadn’t been opened in years.  She went in, and pulled the chain to a light bulb suspended from the ceiling as the woman’s eyes followed her.

Peering through what seemed to be a window, Maude returned and said, “I’m sorry, but it will be a few more hours.”

The woman protested rather loudly, saying that she had come a long way, and needed to collect the remains so that she could get back home.”

Maude stood her ground with her own distinct shade of apathy as she removed the glasses which sat low on her nose, held by an ancient chain of fake pearls, having long ago lost their cheap, lustrous covering.

“The body has to cool, you know,” she said to the impatient woman.  “I suggest you come back in a few hours.”

With a sigh of disgust, the woman asked, “and how many hours is a few?”

Maude glared at her and said, “most people don’t understand the process. You don’t put someone into a furnace, and expect them to be cool when you take them out.  That would be like shoveling the ashes from a fireplace into a trash bag, while the embers are still glowing.”

The woman mumbled obscenities as she walked out the door, but Maude had no sympathy.

Maude was almost catatonic while at work.  Her dour demeanor could be the result of having seen death for so long, or it may be the result of not having had anything close to a remarkable, or even a meaningful life.  Or it could be that Maude just wasn’t used to dealing with the living.

Old man Mosley was nearing retirement age, and rarely made an appearance at “The Oven,” as it was commonly known.  The daily operations fell to Maude, the receptionist/bookkeeper, and George, who irreverently referred to himself as “the cook.”

He would come in and ask, “Who’s on the spit today?”

Although he and Maude had worked together for more than 12 years, they knew nothing about each other.  Neither asked, and neither told.

Maude and George had secrets.

 

To be continued____________

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dating Game – Redux – El Fin

I’ve had so much fun on this dating site.  It just renews my faith that there are still so many scumbags out there…just ripe for the picking.

Man:  “I saw your profile and I have to say that you are one good-looking woman.  I would like to know more about you.  I am separated and not living with my wife, so technically, I am free.”  (Not bad looking and is tall.)
Me:  “If you are separated, you are still ‘technically’ married, and I am not interested in dating married men.  Thank you for the message.”
Man:  “I would beg you to reconsider.  The only reason I am still married is so that she can remain on my health insurance.  I think we have a lot in common.”
Me:  “Who has a lot in common…you and I, or you and your wife?  I’m sorry, but I will not be involved with a married man, and I think I’ve heard that insurance excuse before.”
Man: “My daughter is fully supportive and approves of my desire to find a special someone.  If you could just talk to her, she can validate my circumstances.”
Me:  “I’m impressed with your smooth verbal skills, and I guess what you are saying is that your daughter is essentially okay with your intent to cheat on her mother.  I would like to talk to her, not about you, but about how she could possibly be comfortable with what you intend to do.”
Man:  “It wouldn’t be cheating.  As I said, my wife and I don’t live together. Please, give me a chance.”
Me:  “I know of men who refuse to discuss divorce with their wives, while seeking another woman’s company to ease their loneliness.  I don’t know how you could respect a woman who would intentionally begin a relationship with a married man.”
Man:  “I believe that being separated is entirely different from being married.  If we could just talk, I think I can make you understand.”
Me:  “Thank you for the messages, and I do understand.  I understand that you are married, and my answer is no.”

Man:  “Hi.  I saw your profile and was impressed.  A woman who says what she thinks.  Check out my profile and I think you will find that we have several common interests.”
(Has pretty decent looks, but a tad bit younger than I am.)
Me:  “I’m not sure about the age difference, but thank you for the message.”
Man:  “Age is just a number and you sure don’t look your age.  Would you like to ask me anything?  You can ask anything and I will answer.”
(Going back to his profile, I see that his “requirements” are women from the age of 50-90.)
Me:  “Okay.  What could possibly interest you in an 80 or 90-year-old woman?  Could it be…um…MONEY?  See ya.”

Man:  “Would you like to ride me?”
Me:  “I know that most men think they’re studs, but no.  I would not like to ride you.  I wouldn’t mind shooting you, though.  On second thought, have you ever heard the term ‘grab and twist’?  It’s a defense mechanism I learned a while back.  If a man is trying to overpower you, grab a handful and twist.  Coupled with my long fingernails, that would certainly leave quite an impression.  I would be happy to show you, even if you’re placid…or flaccid…because you are a real scumbag.”

Man:  “Hey.  Hit me up.”
Me:  “How old are you…twelve?”
Man:  “No.  I’m eighteen.”
Me:  “ALRIGHT!  The man I’ve been looking for!  I’ve always said that I want to die in bed when I’m 99, and I want my boyfriend to be so upset, he has to drop out of high school!”

 

The End.

 

The Little Pearl – Chapter Four

Leona and Norman anxiously awaited Pearl’s appearance for the brief questionnaire.  As she walked onto the stage, she showed no hint of nervousness, but the grip Leona had on Norman’s hand betrayed hers.

The judge asked for Pearl’s name, which she proudly announced.

“Well,” the judge said.  “Tell me, Pearl.  What is something you find to be curious?”  As fast as a speeding bullet, Pearl answered…”CATS.”  The judge let out a hearty belly laugh, and the others joined.  “That,” he said, “was a very clever answer.”

The evening gown competition was next, and Pearl gleamed as she did her required strut across the stage, with no detectable falter.  Leona and Norman couldn’t have been more proud.

The talent competition was next.  Leona and Norman had no idea what Pearl was going to do.  They quietly hoped that she hadn’t decided to sing or dance, although they would have never discouraged her.

All were surprised when Pearl walked out on the stage, and began to speak.

“I wasn’t blessed with natural talent.
I wasn’t blessed with great beauty.  
I wasn’t blessed with vast knowledge, but I was blessed with a good heart.  A heart that sings with joy when I am happy.
A heart that openly bleeds when I am sad.
Like everyone, I have hopes and dreams, and fears and worries.
I know how it feels to be different, and I know how it feels to be special.
I know how it feels to love, and I know how it feels to be loved.  I know these things because that’s what my parents taught me.
Words may not be considered a talent, but these words are for my parents, who always made me believe that I could do, and be anything.”

After she thanked the judges, there wasn’t a dry eye in the building.

I believe that everyone deserves a standing ovation at least once in their lives, and that night, Pearl got hers.

She made the first cut, but she didn’t win.  What she did do, was make history and she did indeed become famous.

She was the first ever Miss Alabama contestant, with Down Syndrome.

 

Amaiera.

 

The Little Pearl – Chapter Three

To say the least, Leona and Norman were surprised by Pearl’s announcement.  They had no idea what the venture would involve, but never once having discouraged her, they asked if she was prepared for all the work it would take to become a contestant, and more importantly, if she knew the rules.

“Oh yes,” she said.  “You have to be between the ages of 17 to 25, which I am.  You have to be an American citizen, which I am.  You have to meet residency requirements, which I do.  You have to meet the character criteria, which I’m sure I do.  You have to be in good health, which I am, and you have to meet the time commitment, and job responsibilities, which I know I can.”

Pearl was just beaming as she talked.  The one thing she did not lack was intestinal fortitude, and pure drive.  Leona and Norman had raised her to believe that there was nothing she couldn’t do, if she worked hard.

Leona asked Pearl if she knew that she must first win Miss Alabama, before she could compete in the Miss America pageant.  “I do?” Pearl asked.  “I believe so,” Leona said.

Pearl didn’t miss a beat.  “Well, then I will enter the Miss Alabama pageant, and I will win.”  Leona smiled and said, “you do understand that making an effort is often just as rewarding as actually winning.  If you do your best, you may not get the prize, but you’re still a winner.  I want you to remember that.”

Pearl smiled and said, “I’ll remember.”

Leona knew that she would have to enroll Pearl in a finishing school.  She would have to learn how to walk and turn properly, she would have to list a talent, and she would have to be fitted with a gown.

Leona gingerly asked Pearl if she had a particular talent in mind.  Pearl thought about it for a minute, and then said, “yes.”

“Might I know what?” asked Leona.  Pearl smiled as she said, “It will be a talent that no one else has.”  Leona wasn’t sure exactly what she meant but, as always, encouraged her by saying, “Whatever you do, my precious Pearl, I’m sure it will be wonderful.”

Pearl started dancing around as she said, “I told you.  One day, I’m going to be famous.”

The first week of finishing school proved to be a little daunting for Pearl. After hours of walking in high-heeled shoes that she had never before worn, her calves and feet were aching.  A few tumbles left her a bit more embarrassed than injured, but she was a good soldier.

The olden days of walking with a book on the top of your head, had given way to the more modern “shoulders back with a straight spine,” which allows you to carry out the perfect “strut,” a slightly serpentine path that makes your hips twist.

She was given instructions to never interject “ums” into her sentences, and to be prepared to answer surprise, sometimes ridiculous questions, designed to catch the contestants off guard.

Leona arranged to have the finest dressmaker in town, design a dress just for Pearl.  It came dear, but to Leona, seeing the finished garment on Pearl was worth the expense.

The entrance fee was paid and pageant day arrived.  With hugs, kisses and best of luck wishes, Leona and Norman watched as Pearl went into a room to get dressed.

 

To be continued______________

 

The Little Pearl – Chapter Two

“What do you mean?” Leona asked.  Pearl said, “I’m not beautiful like they are.  I look different.”

Leona said, “Oh, my precious little Pearl.  You are beautiful, and never let anyone tell you, or make you feel like you’re not.  We all look different. Imagine how dull the world would be if everyone looked the same.  We all have our own special kind of beauty.  You must embrace yours with vivaciousness, but you must never have a haughty spirit.”

Pearl said, “well, no one has ever said that I’m not beautiful but, I just don’t look like them.  I’m always the last one picked when we have intramural sports, and once we had to dance with the boys, and no one picked me.”

Leona said, “Sit down and let me tell you something.  When I was in school, I was what most people would call…very plain.  The captain of the football team never asked me to go to the prom, and the basketball star never asked me out on a date.  They asked the beautiful girls.  I wasn’t one of the beautiful girls.  But mind you, some people can be beautiful on the outside, and very ugly on the inside.  You, my precious little Pearl, are beautiful on both sides.”

She smiled as she said, “I might have been plain, but look at my life.  I’m married to the most wonderful man in the world, and I have been given the greatest gift God can bestow…you, my precious little Pearl.”

Leona cupped Pearl’s face in her hands and said, “Feel better?”  Pearl smiled and said, “yes.”  Leona said, “You have always told me that you are going to be famous.  What have I always told you?”

Pearl cupped Leona’s face in her hands, and said, “Reach for the stars and they will be mine.  A pearl is one of the most valuable gems in the world.”

Leona looked at her and said, “And what else?”  Pearl said, “Oh.  You said that I can do anything I want to do, and I can be anything I want to be, and the world is my oyster, and I am its’ Pearl.”

Leona said, “You’ve always dreamed big, and you must never lose sight of your dreams”

A few months later, it was time for graduation.  Amid the hustle and bustle of preparing for commencement and gown fittings, Pearl was ready to meet the world head-on.

Sporting her royal blue attire, she walked across the stage and received her diploma.  She quickly flipped her tassel to the left side of her cap, and boldly took the microphone from the valedictorian.  “One day, I’m going to be famous,” she said.

Leona and Norman were a bit surprised by her daring move, but they beamed with pride as they watched.

Later that day, Pearl strolled into the living room, and cavalierly announced, “I’m going to enter the Miss America Pageant, and I’m going to win.”

 

To be continued_________________