Monday, February 11, 2019

Lost in a Snowstorm, Umpqua National Forest, Oregon




Ethan was struggling in the hard driving snow, a blizzard. The storm had sprung up out of the northwest and was obliterating his sight, snow stinging his face. Planning an all-day hike on the Boulder Creek Trail in Umpqua National Forest, Ethan had hiked five miles to the halfway point where he rested, had his sandwich and chips. The storm had roared in unexpectedly and he had cut short his hike, working his way back to the trail-head parking lot where he had left his SUV. 
       The wind was whipping the snow and he wrapped his scarf around his face. As he peered ahead he saw a Douglas Fir had crashed across the narrow trail, a casualty of the fierce wind. The fallen evergreen blocked his path, but he worked to his left and found the jagged stump, seeing he could make his way over the break at the base of the tree. As he stepped over the fallen tree, Ethan saw a sudden flash of light which stunned him. He raised his hand to his face feeling dizzy, then lost his balance and toppled over, collapsing in the fresh snow.
        When Ethan recovered, he sat up slowly and noted the wind had quieted. Instead there was a soft snowfall of large flakes, but the blizzard seemed to have died. He moved slowly in the deep snow, reaching out to a branch of the fallen tree. What happened? There was that flash of light, maybe a lightning strike at Mount Thielsen, which was known as a lightning rod of the Cascades. Slowly standing up and looking around, Ethan wondered at the weather break on this side of the Douglas Fir. He smiled at his good fortune, not having been seriously worried, but it had been a struggle in the blizzard and he had at least four miles back to the parking area.
        Dusting himself off, he started down the trail in the falling snow. After twenty minutes, he stopped and sipped his water. Off to his left he saw someone and Ethan gaped as he focused on a figure through the pines on a parallel trail who appeared to clothed in bearskins with a bow across his chest. Ethan waved at him, thinking this must be a Cow Creek Indian. But this warrior looked to be from another time. To his amazement the man took an arrow from the quiver on his back and fixed the arrow in the large bow, pulling back the bowstring and aiming at him. In the quiet he heard the twang of the bow and Ethan instinctively ducked behind the Ponderosa Pine he was leaning against. With a solid "thunk" the arrow hit the tree he was hiding behind.
        Letting out a breath, Ethan didn't hesitate, but stayed low and ran through the snow that was shin deep. As he struggled, he took out his cell to call 911, but there was no signal. That was odd as he had checked his phone before, using the compass to navigate and being sure he had a signal. Coming in on the trail, there had been a strong signal, but now there was nothing. Perhaps the blizzard had caused an outage.
        Working his way through the snow, Ethan saw the sharp turn west, leading to the parking lot. He had another 100 yards or so down a sharp slope and then he should find the refuge of his SUV where he could warm his chilled body.
      Slipping and sliding down the slope Ethan was amazed not to find the parking lot and his vehicle, but instead a meadow, an empty meadow. At the trail head head there should be a map board and a simple rest room. But they were gone.
        What was going on?
         He walked into the middle of the meadow, wondering how he had gone off route. Where had he taken the wrong trail? Taking out his compass he oriented himself, south was to the left and he was facing west, as he should be.
          As Ethan stomped his cold feet in frustration, he caught a movement out of the corner of his eye. He turned and saw the Cow Creek Indian, noticing the long, black hair cascading down the bear skin. Was it a woman? If so, his adversary had an arrow set in her bow and the string was pulled back. She was aiming at him. But why, and exactly where was he? Had he taken an errant turn in time and space when he climbed over the fallen Douglas Fir? In a panic, Ethan turned to head back to the safety of the pines. But he was too late.
     
          "Twang!"
     








Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The Star-Crossed Lovers and the Chipmunks, Lake Hortonia, Sudbury, Vermont



Jody and Steph stood on the cottage deck and held hands, gazing down the glass-like Vermont lake, a hidden jewel. Their heads turned as there was movement and they saw two chipmunks scurry from the brush and stand on their hind legs, chirping at the reconciled couple.
        "Aren't they darling." Steph commented, then looked away. Jody stared at the chipmunks and would swear one of the chipmunks raised a tiny fist and shook it at them. As if they had disturbed its peace.
        The next morning Jody awoke feeling refreshed and smelled the morning coffee. He hollered at Steph he wanted cereal with the fresh peaches they had purchased from the Wood's fruit stand. Steph started to respond, then yelped. Hopping out of bed Jody joined his wife who was pointing at the kitchen side table and glass bowl which was full with half-eaten peaches. "We have a rat!" She exclaimed.
        "Maybe a mouse," and Jody paused." But more likely those chipmunks" Jody looked out on the porch and noted the screen door to the outside had a small hole chewed through the screen. As it had been warm, they had left the door to the porch open. Jody stared at the screen door and decided to go to nearby Brandon. He would buy some traps and screen repair, then visit Woods for more peaches, maybe some corn. He smiled, the chipmunks had declared war.
       Later that day Jody purchased a package of mousetraps, screen repair and also a box of shot gun shells for the shot gun he kept hidden in the spare-tire well of the SUV. He also got more peaches and some Vermont corn at Woods.
        That night, much to Steph's protest, he set the traps around the cottage and in the kitchen. He primed them with peanut butter which, according to Google, attracts chipmunks. Steph groused she would not arise until Jody had checked and disposed of the mousetraps. She took an ambien to get to sleep, worrying about her cute chipmunks.
        To further her protest, Steph slept in the roadside bedroom next to the bathroom. Jody was alone in the lakeside bedroom and fell asleep immediately. About one in the morning, he awoke with a start. There had been a sharp "snap", then three more snaps. Jody cautiously got out of bed and peeked out the door, a moonbeam lighting the living-dining room. All was quiet. He took the broom he had positioned by the door and went to inspect his traps. 
        He saw that the trap by the porch door was sprung with a twig. Quickly he checked the other traps and found the same thing; the chipmunks had  sprung the traps. Jody felt a chill, wondering at the ingenuity of the chipmunks, snapping the traps by poking a twig at the peanut butter.  
        The next morning Steph was back to herself, obviously relieved that no chipmunks had broken their necks in Jody's traps. Her husband was more contemplative. He would have to move on to Plan B, the shotgun? Double mending the screen doors and sealing cracks around the chimney with putty occupied his morning. Even when they closed the road and lakeside doors, the chipmunks got in as they could squeeze through narrow spaces.
        That night Steph retreated to the guest bedroom, which allowed Jody to load his shotgun and position it by the bedroom door. He lay awake for more than a hour, listening for the pit-pat of the invaders, but all was quiet. 
        Then in early morning, Jody awoke to a munching sound. He sat up and confirmed something was going on. He got out of bed and took his shotgun, pulling back both hammers.  He slowly opened the door and there on the dining room table was a chipmunk chewing on the new peaches. The door creaked as Jody opened it and stepped out. The chipmunk looked at him, chirped, then flew off the table. The startled husband swung the gun around and fired.
        Both barrels hit Steph square in the chest as she emerged from the bathroom at the end of the room. Jody's mouth hung open and the gun drooped in his hands, smoke filled the small cottage. 
        On instinct, Jody took a close look at his fallen wife then ran to the cupboard and grabbed a large paint cloth, which he gently put under her still body. One look told him, there was no need for the EMS. 
        His mind was racing. These two weeks were supposed to be  reconciliation. Actually, it was Steph's lawyer who convinced Jody to try again. Their pre-nuptial was solid, the lawyer reminded sternly. Steph was an heiress to the Hood Dairy fortune and worth millions. The lawyer had patted Jody's shoulder and laughingly said the only way Jody would see any money was to kill his wife.
        And now he had shot Steph. 
        Jody went out on the deck and stared down the lake. Somewhere to the south a Loon sounded, a mournful cry that echoed, sounding like a demented soul, someone had written. For Jody it was the end... or perhaps a new beginning as a plan formed in his mind. 
         Going to the barn across the road, Jody found old boats canoes and fishing gear, including three small anchors. There was lots of rope, plus the sail from a neglected windsurfer. Returning to the cottage, Jody carefully wrapped his wife's body in the paint cloth, then placed her on the sail, which he had spread on the floor. Wrapping her in the sail, he placed the anchors at her head, middle and feet, then completed folding the sail over her.
         Jody then tied the rope around the sail. He stood back and admired his tightly secured, anchored package. It was dead of night, so he felt secure dragging his burden out and placing it in front of the small motor boat that came with the cottage. 
        Admiring the three-quarter moon, Jody motored out of the cove and headed across the lake to the cliff that rose on the western side of the water. He set the motor to troll and went to the front and toppled Steph into the dark waters in the deepest part of the lake, some 200 feet. 
        Rest in peace, he thought as he motored back to the cottage. But once again the Loon sounded, as if a warning to Jody. 

Two days later Jody had set a course. He would return to their Burlington Mansion. The servants had the month off so no one had seen them go. He would start calling Steph's cell which was in her purse with the package.  After another week, he would call their few friends, continue calls to Steph's cell leaving a voice mail asking her to come home. Steph was known to go off by herself. The cottage on the lake was to be their quality time together.
        Jody decided it was time to return to Burlington. But he wanted a final goodbye, as he had truly loved his rich, erratic wife. Early in the morning, he drove over to the road to the cliff, his thought was to look down on her resting place as the sun rose over the green mountains.
        As he turned on the sloping road to the cliff barrier, Jody tapped the brakes, but the pedal went to the floor. No brakes. Then the SUV suddenly accelerated. Jody glanced down and was shocked to see two chipmunks perched on the tip of accelerator, forcing the pedal down. Had the chipmunks chewed through the brake line? The black and white barrier was looming ahead and in panic Jody reached for the door, thinking to tumble out of the speeding vehicle. But he slammed through the barrier and flew out over the lake as the sun peeked over the Green Mountains. Then gravity took over and the SUV plunged into the dark, cold waters beneath the cliff.        
        Ironically, the car settled 15 feet away from Steph's sail-wrapped body. When the divers found the car, they would see Steph's white shroud.

It was late fall and the trees were ablaze with colors. Andy pulled the car up to the quaint, white cottage on the cove that looked down the lake. The newlyweds stared at the isolated spot. "Oh my, perfect!" Sandy gushed. "I'll take a peek." And the young bride hopped out of the car, knocked on the door, then cautiously went inside.
    In a minute she reemerged. And Andy leaned out of his window. "How is it? Anyone one there?"
     "Just what we want." Sandy replied. "Its empty, except for two adorable chipmunks."  

        

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Six- Shooter Siding, Tucumcari, New México




In 1901, the Pacific and Chicago Rock Island Railway set up a construction camp in Western New Mexico called Ragtown. Due to violence and wildness, the town was known as Six Shooter Siding.
        In 1904 a half-breed came to town, a stranger to all, and he took a room in Maude's boarding house. One by one the man in black challenged the miscreants and misfits until only the fastest guns remained. One, a habitual drunk, confronted the stranger and paid the price. The others left town in the middle of the night and went west.
        Eventually the settlement  grew into a small town and in 1905 was renamed Tucumcari after the nearby mountains. The mountain name comes from the Comanche meaning ambush.


















Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Cabin in the Woods, Brandon, Vermont



Mackenzie was sipping a glass of wine on the screen porch and reading about the pre-Colombian mound people who settled in Cahokia on the Mississippi, east of St. Louis. Her reading was interrupted when a bolt of light soared over her, flashing across the lake, a piece flaring off and falling on the mountain side. The meteor disappeared over the New York State Adirondack Mountains and headed west.
         The young woman left the porch and stood out on the deck, staring into the blackness of the quiet lake, scanning the landscape a quarter mile away which was blanketed with evergreen trees and undeveloped. Had a piece of the meteor fallen into the pines? Was it a meteor?    
         Mackenzie cocked her head as she realized the crickets and the croaking frogs were silent. The night sounds had ceased, but then she heard a chirp and croaking as they started again. A chill ran through her as she wondered why the music had paused.
         Mack shrugged off the meteor and suddenly felt tired. The wine and her meds were taking taking their toll. She went to bed and immediately fell into a deep sleep. Suddenly, she was back on the deck and watching as the meteor passed over her, a piece falling on the mountainside. Then she saw a figure emerge from the evergreens and climb onto rocks known as Old Maid Cove. The person paused and then began to glide across the water. Mack was frozen as the figure silently flew over the water to the rental cabin down from her.
         With a start, Mack awoke from her sleep and sat up, looking around her dark bedroom. She cocked her head but breathed easier to hear the frogs and crickets. The man on the rocks had been a dream, a nightmare as she recalled the figure gliding over the water to the cabin at the end of the peninsula. She sighed smiling to herself and fell into an easy, deep sleep.

The next day she was up early and out on the screen porch with coffee, a heavy sweater and sweat pants to ward off the late August morning chill. Mackenzie was just digging into her book when Bobby Walker who lived on Route 30 and took care of the peninsula came around the corner. "Hey," he called. " You have a neighbor. I rented the cabin on the end last night."
         Mack sat up and went out on the deck offering Bobby a cup of coffee which he refused, saying he had to mow the grass along side of the road. He went on to explain that the renter was a single man, a computer engineer who was writing code and would be there for two weeks. A friend had brought him  to the lake and would come on occasion to take him to Brandon or Rutland for shopping. Apparently the engineer did not drive. Mack updated Bobby on her husband Josh, who hoped to join her in 10 days.
         Her garrulous neighbor also noted a meteor had passed over them last night and fallen somewhere in New York state. Mack commented she and seen it and Bobby said the meteor story was in the morning Rutland Herald. He then excused himself and headed to the nearby barn to get his mower. Before long the silence was broken by the roar of the lawnmower and she retreated to the porch, sighing as the machine headed down the dirt road, the racket diminishing.
         Sipping her coffee and picking up her book, she hesitated, thinking about her dream and the man on the rocks. Now there was a renter in the place on the point, an engineer who did not drive. Strange.
         Later that morning she walked down to the dock, staring  at Old Maid's Cove as her mind percolated. She thought about the mound builders and how they flourished in the 1100s, Cahokia's population was as large as London in those days. Then in the 1300s they vanished. Conventional wisdom was river floods destroyed many mounds and the mound-builder population dispersed, eventually assimilating with the Native American tribes. But that theory nagged Mackenzie as the mound builders were sedentary, and the Native Americans were nomads, following the seasons and the buffalo.
         The Cahokians just up and left, Mack concluded. But maybe there was an alternative theory. Perhaps they, like the pyramid builders, were aliens. That realization brought her back to the stranger, the figure who glided over the lake in her dream. Had the meteor been an UFO which ejected a capsule landing Bobby's new renter? Was an alien on her peninsula? Or was it time for her meds to fend off the recurring paranoia?
         That afternoon Mackenzie swam her mile along the shoreline, then had a light meal and was in bed by nine. In a deep sleep, she suddenly awoke in the dark to a presence straddling her. The person leaned down and nuzzled her neck, emitting a dank, fetid odor. Mack started to scream, but was silenced with a sharp pain that radiated in her throat and she sank into a deep coma.

Mackenzie groggily awoke as a hand gently shook her. "Hey," you okay. She sat up slowly pulling the covers around her. It was Bobby standing near her bed, looking concerned, and embarrassed to be in her bedroom. "It's almost eleven and I didn't see you about, so I checked. You okay?"
         "Must be the flu." Mackenzie said weakly. 
         "I'll bring some of Nell's stew over." Bobby said, backing out of her bedroom. "Leave it on the porch for you."  
         Then he was gone. The dazed young woman lay back on her pillow. She closed her eyes and relived the nightmare. She felt her neck, and the pin pricks throbbed. A deep dread seeped through her as she slowly realized what had happened to her. More importantly, what she had to do.
         Sleeping all day with a break to gobble Nell's stew, Mack spent most of the day in bed. But surprisingly she awoke the next day refreshed and invigorated. She immediately developed a plan, rooting in her kitchen until she found a wooden mallet. Next she searched in the woods behind her cabin finding a solid Hemlock branch, which needed work. She spent the afternoon shaping the piece of wood with her husband's hunting knife. Later that evening, she surveyed her implements and plotted next steps, which would begin in the morning just before sunrise.
         The next day Mack was up before dawn. It was chilly and she put on a dark cardigan, putting her tools in a small carrying bag. She slipped out of the door, noting there was a hint of dawn to the east behind the Green Mountains. She hurried down to the point cabin and paused at the porch door. Smiling to herself, she  moved a flower pot on the ground to find a door key. 
         Moving as a shadow, she opened the door and slipped inside, noting all the blinds were closed to shield from the sun. Mackenzie was startled to see the lodger lying on the dining room table, his legs splayed and his arms folded over his chest. He was six feet and trim, but easily 180 pounds. More gripping was his long face with high cheek bones, his skin an eerie alabaster. She moved to his left side, setting her bag on a chair and opening it. Pulling out the hemlock stake she had fashioned and then the wooden mallet, she took a quick breath. There could be no pausing or reconsidering, so she placed the stake over his heart and hit it with a solid whack.
         The man on the table shrieked and threw his arms open wide, almost hitting Mack who jerked back. Without a pause she gave the stake another bang, then another and the stake exited his back, hitting the table. The man's mouth flung open and she caught that dreadful, fetid smell. A black cloud escaped his mouth and suddenly enveloped her body as if embracing her. She screamed and jumped, watching as the cloud left her and floated out of the open door. The miasma disappeared over the back pond.
          She returned to the table and pulled the still body off the table and rested him in a chair, which Mack then tilted and dragged onto the porch, setting the chair in front of the screen door. Stepping away, she watched as the sun peeped over the mountains and a beam of sunlight struck the stranger whose body began to smoke. Then suddenly his body collapsed into a pile of ashes. Mack moved the chair and swept the ashes outside among the flowers by the steps. 
           It was early evening as the sun touched the western Adirondacks when Mackenzie awoke and cautiously looked around her bedroom. She had returned from her quest, cooked a breakfast of scrambled eggs and bacon with toast. Shutting the blinds she had laid down for a nap, but apparently she had slept the day away.
         Getting out of bed, she marveled at how well she felt. There was no guilt. She had done the necessary. She heated leftover coffee in the microwave, then went out on her deck as the sun slipped behind the mountains to the west. The coming darkness was oddly welcome to her. Mack had not taken her meds since the stranger attacked her, and intuitively she knew the paranoia was now gone forever. She had a new found strength which reassured her.
          Yet a thought nagged Mackenzie. Had she been infected?

         Time would tell.   
              
          


Monday, November 13, 2017

An Incident at the Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado




The room was pitch black, save for a moonlight beam streaming through the window. Suddenly, there was movement to the right and Wicker sat up, a chill running down his spine. Something was in the corner.
         That nightmare had been repeating lately and as Wicker was visiting in Boulder Colorado he decided to travel to Estes Park and stay a few nights in the Stanley Hotel, one of America's most haunted lodges. Perhaps a few nights  where it all began would serve as a cure.
         A year ago Wicker had met a client at the Stanley, a veiled woman in black, who had an assignment for him. He was to meet her in Boulder and escort a 12-year old girl named Lilly to Moab, leaving her at sunrise under Wilson's arch, south of town.
         The pay was high and up front. The woman said she would trust Wicker to deliver the girl, no questions asked. An unusual request for Wicker, whose assignments normally were targets meant to vanish which he arranged with consummate skill. Escorting the girl to Moab and leaving her at Wilson's arch for top dollar was a "gimme".
         Taking charge of Lilly had been effortless and they started the drive to Moab mid-morning. Wicker had a reservation at the Best Western where they would stay the night, two queens as he did not want Lilly out of his sight. His reputation and the money were at stake. Along the way they stopped in the town of Rifle at a Shell for gas and went in the food mart for a break. Lilly was quiet but seemed at ease and Wicker noticed he was getting attached to the green-eyed girl. Later in Moab they had a light meal and then to bed as they needed to rise early in the dark morning.
         Wicker fell asleep, a nagging concern about leaving the girl under the arch. In his sleep Lilly spoke to him..."Not to worry." She whispered. "I am going home. But I will return...I promise I will come back for you." He awoke with a start and looked at the other bed. But Lilly was there with her back to him. Had it been a dream? That next morning they departed in the chilly predawn. He parked at the cutout macadam and led the way in the dark with a flashlight. They paused under the arch and Lilly squeezed his hand nodding for him to leave her. Wicker returned to his vehicle and looked back as the sun rose over the Eastern horizon. He searched the arch for his charge, but Lilly had vanished.  
         
It was a crisp fall day when Wicker arrived in Estes Park, having replayed in his mind the event of a year ago. He found the Stanley majestically perched on a ridge, parked his car and went to the reservation desk where he was given room 313 on the upper floor. He then took the afternoon hotel tour which included visits to the closed billiards room and the dining room, including a stop upstairs outside room 217 where Stephen King spent a fall night, conjuring the outline for The Shining. It was the same room where Jim Carey supposedly bolted, refusing to say what had spooked him. Wicker had an early dinner, enjoying a rib eye and a bottle of Colorado Bookcliff Ensemble, a tasty blend of Merlot, Cabernet and Malbec. Slightly woozy, he then retired to his room. 
         Wicker fell into a deep sleep, but awoke suddenly in the dead of night. A moonbeam touched his bed and to his right there was movement and he sat up. Someone was in the corner of his room. It was Lilly.

The desk clerk looked up from his computer and was startled to see a thin woman in black with a veil and a young, tow-headed girl standing before him.
        "We want to check out." The green-eyed girl said, placing the key to 213 on the counter. The clerk checked his computer and confirmed their identities. "I hope everything was in order." The young man said unctuously as he eyed the couple in front of him; the older woman was motionless and quiet. 
         "Yes, it was fine." The young girl responded. "But there was an incident."
         The clerk raised his eyebrows and leaned across the counter. "A problem?" He asked. "Yes, last night there was noise above us in room 313. It sounded like someone was scratching on the wall with their fingernails. And then dragging a trunk across the floor. I was about to call the desk, but it stopped."
         Smiling at the girl, the clerk slowly nodded and then checked his register. "Let's see who was in 313." The man offered, pecking at his computer. He stared and then frowned, looking back at the pair.

          "That room was unoccupied last night." The clerk said.    

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Loons on the Hidden Lake, Somewhere in Vermont



She awoke to the cry of the loon, a mournful cry of distress. Katie got up and went to the front of her Aunt's lakeside cabin. There by the wooden dock were two loons, one appeared to be tangled in a casting net her nephew had left dangling off the dock.
        Cautiously she went out and approached the two duck-like birds, the one tangled and a second circling nearby, which appeared slightly bigger, probably the male. The two birds had black dagger-like bills, gray heads, white breasts, and black backs with white speckles. 
         As Katie approached, she made reassuring sounds and gently moved her hands up and down, hoping the loons would not fear her and startle. Slowly Katie eased down the stone-lined embankment and entered the chilly water. The sounding loon backed away as Katie approached his mate. The female eyed the young girl and called, but remained still, not flapping her short wings. Gently, Katie untangled the distressed bird from the net and gave her a gentle push out, the male gave a hoot, sounding across the lake.
        The two loons circled in the water a couple of time as if to thank Katie and then swam south together toward their nesting spot.
         A few days later Katie was sunning on the dock in her bathing suit. She was drowsing when a shadow fell across her face. Startled, she sat up to see Ray, the lumbering maintenance man who took care of the seven properties on the peninsula and cleared the wooded common land on the other side of the road. Katie felt a chill as he stared at her with his beady eyes. Drool seemed to drip from his small mouth. "Hello, Honeybun." He intoned in a hoarse voice. "I think we should go for a swim."
         And then Ray slipped the strap of his overalls off his shoulder. He started to advance toward the the girl when suddenly a bird swooped down and hit him on the side of the head and Ray staggered. A second bird followed and hit Ray just above his left eye, sending the maintenance man toppling off the dock. Katie watched in horror as Ray fell head first onto the rock embankment. Blood gushed as his head hit a sharp rock that protruded from the wall.
        Katie shakily stood and watched as the two loons landed near Ray's still body. They pecked at his shirt, then looked up at the girl and called their mournful cry. She understood they wanted help in pulling pull Ray off the rocks. It appeared they intended to drag his body into the lake. The deepest part of the lake was just 90 feet off her dock. If Ray sank, the current would take him south to the dam. Perhaps the carp would eat him, Katie thought, as she tugged Ray off the rocks into the water.
        The two loons paddled with their webbed feet and Katie walked Ray's body past the dock. She then swam sidestroke pushing his inert body and the team gradually moved Ray out past the raft where he floated easier. Katie tread water as she watched the birds pull the inert body out into the deep. They circled and pecked at Ray repeatedly until he finally sank beneath the chilly lake water. Katie and the two birds looked at each other. Once again they called, a haunting sound that echoed down the lake in the late afternoon, often described as a demented person's howl. The loons then turned and swam side-by-side toward the south.

A week later Katie was reading in the cottage on a cloudy day. She started as a car stopped in front of her cottage. The young woman went to the door and stepped back as she saw a forest green and gold Vermont State Police SUV. She felt a chill as a tall, slender trooper got out and approached her. He stood on the small porch, hat in hand and appraised her, then asked if she could answer a few questions. Katie nodded and invited him in, but he declined standing on the other side of the screen door. He asked if she knew Ray Lash, the peninsula's maintenance man. Katie nodded, but said she had not seen him this week. He usually came on Wednesdays to cut the grass and clear fallen tree limbs.
         The trooper asked again if Ray had been around. Could she have missed seeing him? Katie replied to her knowledge no, then she asked if something had happened to Ray. The trooper leaned forward and said: "It looks like he died about a week ago and his body appears to have been pecked by birds.
          "The birds killed him?" Katie asked. The trooper shook his head. "Not really, the birds pecked him, but Ray drowned. There was water in his lungs."
        Katie stiffened. So Ray had been alive when she and the loons ferried him out to the deep water. If she had known Ray was alive maybe she would have called emergency. 
         But maybe not. 
       "Have you seen anyone around here that does not belong, maybe a stranger?" The trooper asked. Katie shook her head. "Have you seen anything this past week, maybe something out of the ordinary?" The lawman queried." Katie paused, then shook her head. "Only the loons" She responded.
     
         "I did see the Loons."



.
.

          

Thursday, July 27, 2017

An Unfortunate Incident in a Small Town, Jamestown, New York


Nelson was driving from Arizona to Vermont to spend a week with a friend. He decided to stop in Jamestown, New York as memories tugged at him. Years ago he had known someone in that small town and he was curious. Unable to get a room at the Jamestown Comfort Inn, he noticed a white Victorian that had a bed and breakfast sign. As he had eaten a late lunch and was tired of driving he decided on a whim to try it. He went up the steps and rang the bell, which was answered by a young, attractive woman in a white blouse and a long, black skirt. She smiled at him and opened the screen door, extending her hand. Nelson prolonged the hand shake, feeling a strange connection. She looked at him with puzzled hazel eyes and introduced herself as Marion, the owner of the B and B. She welcomed her visitor as it was the middle of the week and he was her only guest. 
         That night she invited him to the porch and they sipped ice tea, easily chatting. Nelson told her he was retired and living in Flagstaff, divorced with grown boys living in Arizona and Colorado. Nelson hesitated to tell her about his encounter some 30 years ago when he had lived his junior year in nearby Olean and played for the high school baseball team. There had been a series in Jamestown and afterwards festivities where he met Annette. Her last name escaped him as they rocked on the porch. That night they had walked and chatted, sitting sat shoulder to shoulder against the right-field fence. A warm spring evening led to a coming together, which was never forgotten. He had written Annette letters from Olean but no reply. She had told him about  a boy friend in the army and he could tell she was embarrassed at their encounter.
          As they talked on the porch, Nelson formed a plan to spend a few days in Jamestown, tour Chautauqua Lake and linger with Marion to know more about her. She had already told him her mother had recently died of cancer, her father had died years ago in an army accident. There was something about Marion that tugged at him, but what was the connection? He needed to give it time. No need to rush to Vermont.
          The next morning Nelson rose early and went to a nearby convenience store, buying coffee and doughnuts for them. As he walked back, he paused to allow an elderly lady slowly back a large, dated Cadillac out of her drive. The woman buzzed down her window and with annoyance motioned Nelson to pass. As he started behind the big car, the woman accidentally hit the accelerator and plowed into Nelson sending him and his coffee flying. He fell awkwardly and hit his head on the curb.

Awakening later, Nelson found himself in a white room that was replete with medicinal smells. He vaguely recalled the old lady backing into him and he gingerly tested his limbs, then felt the back of his head. He settled, waiting for the busy nurse to check on him, or for a visit from the attending physician. But no one came. 
          Having assessed that he was reasonably okay Nelson carefully got out of bed and dressed himself, shedding the white, hospital gown. He made his way out of the hospital, noting that no one was about. Perhaps there was an emergency in some other part of the building. He could settle his account later as he planned more time in Jamestown.
          Nelson found has way back to the white Victorian and climbed the steps. He went to open the screen door when he heard Marion on the phone. "Yes, he is staying here." She said. And then her shoulders slumped, her eyes wide. "But that can't be. What happened?" Marion cried, putting her hand over her mouth.
         Opening the door and stepping into the hall, Nelson waved his hand. "Marion it's me. I'm here." He was in her line of sight, but she seemed not to see him and slowly hung up the phone, then started as the screen door banged.
         At that moment, Nelson understood his hospital solitude had been for his transcendence. He gazed at Marion who was rigid, her face taut and pale, as if she had glimpsed a ghost. He reconciled that this chance encounter with Marion was cruel folly, an irony. His connection with her 30 years ago would remain an unsolved mystery.
       
         Nelson was dead.