Fear of Flying

“She’s touching me.”

“She’s on my side of the seat.”

“Quit fighting.” Our mother vehemently said and glared at my sister and me.

There were a few minutes of silence as we watched our parents fly the airplane and talk about how bad the weather was. We could tell they were tense but it didn’t seem that scary to us and we continued to fight.

“Knock it off you two.” Our mother spoke loudly this time.

“She’s looking at me.” My sister answered.

“Don’t look back.” Our mother replied.

Then the most incredible thing happened. She actually reached back and slapped each of us on the legs. We couldn’t believe it. We looked at each and started laughing. It didn’t hurt at all. She hadn’t ever hit us before this. Her first attempt at corporal punishment had failed miserably.

“You girls need to stop fighting. We are going to have to land the plane because the weather is too bad to keep flying. Please quit. Dave and I are trying to find a place to land.”

We quit fighting. Not because she hit us but because she seemed so genuinely scared.  Our stepfather landed the plane shortly after that at a small airport a few hours away from our home.  This was the last part of our family vacation to Yellowstone Park that hadn’t gone as well as I expect my parents intended it to.

First off I got air sick about an hour into the flight. It was a beautiful day but there were lots of air pockets and it was like being on one of the rides at the fair that always made me sick to my stomach. The small four passengers Cessna 182 bounced up and down almost immediately after we took off. When I got sick into the small bag I had been given it caused my younger sister to get sick as well. We had two more hours to go before we got to the airport at Yellowstone.

Having a plane sounds cool when you tell people that you get to ride in it to go to cool places for trips and vacations but the reality wasn’t all that cool. For an airplane ride to breakfast at a town a couple hours away we had to drive to the airport in the car and then wait while our parents got the plane out of the hangar and get it ready for us kids to get in. About a half an hour to an hour later we took off. That part was cool. Our stepfather would hold the plane on the ground until the very last minute and then take off really fast. I always liked the way all of the houses got really small when we took off. He would frequently fly low in our neighborhood so we could look at how our house which looked like a toy down below us.

Then came the part I didn’t like.  By the time we got to the place we were going to have breakfast at I was usually sick to my stomach as it usually took about 20 to 30 minutes and by the time we landed and walked in to the restaurant at the airport we flew in to I had no desire to eat even though I was hungry. Between the amounts of time it took to get to the airport, then to get the plane out of the hangar and ready to fly and then to fly to the destination and back it took the same amount of time as if we had just driven there. I guess it is obvious what my preference was.

We weren’t rich but my stepfather was self-employed and had caught the flying bug from my mother. She was the first female pilot in the state of Oregon.  She did acrobatics in an open cockpit plane with my father. My father was an airplane engineer who died in a plane crash in a plane he had repaired to factory specifications. Unfortunately they were faulty and when he tried to take off the flaps on the plane went the wrong way and flipped him upside down and crushed him immediately. My mother was watching and she was six months pregnant with my little sister and I was three months short of being born. The schematics from the manufacturer were backwards and they paid my mother $15,000 for the loss of her husband. This was the maximum amount that could be sued for the state we lived in. Melvin Belli was willing to take the case but my mother would have had to move to California and she wasn’t willing to do that. My father’s death is one of the early reasons that airplanes became required to test the flaps and ailerons before they took off from the runway. Disaster is the mother of safety laws.

My stepfather bought the plane he had with two partners, Chad Long, who was a policeman, and Bob Haxby, who had been his flying instructor. I don’t like flying and it has nothing to do with my father dying in an airplane. I get sick to my stomach and I also don’t like the fact that I have no control over what will happen if something goes wrong. I am a good driver and I enjoy driving to places in cars. I feel like I have some degree of control over what happens when I drive. Though I do wholeheartedly believe that driving down the road in a car is when a person exhibits extreme faith. It takes an amazing amount of faith to drive down the road and believe that the other people driving will stay in their lane, because frequently they don’t. It is almost more unlikely to believe that people will stay in their own lane than to believe in God. As far as flying goes I do fly if I have to, like when I went to Spain many years ago. It is the only way to get there.

So, this two hundred thousand dollar airplane, with two partners that they made payments on was not cheap but not as expensive as it sounded like, was my stepfather’s toy. The biggest issue was that he felt guilty for having such an expensive toy, even though he was technically the one who was working and making the payments. He wanted the family to participate in the airplane so he could justify it. So that meant he tried to get us to fly as many places as he could. To any vacation spot, to the twenty acres in Central Oregon that my grandfather bought for us to vacation on which happened to have a small runway a mile away besides the out to breakfast trips.

Then there was the year we flew to Yellowstone and it was by far the most memorable trip we ever took in the airplane. Besides the part where I got sick on the flight there were other issues. Like the rooms we got at the motel, it had horribly uncomfortable beds to sleep on. Our parents traded beds with my sister and I because the bed was sloped to the middle and I ended up choosing to sleep on the floor because of how bad it was. My sister would lay on the side by the wall and push me out of the bed, she was asleep so we had to assume it was subconscious. The air conditioning in the rental car quit working halfway into the first day so we had to drive through the first half of the park without it working in 100 degree weather because it would have taken too long to return it and still see the entire park in the three days we had to do it in. We did get a different car for the other two days.

I do have memories of this trip that were good. It was a beautiful place but the things that were bad still live in my memory forty years later. And I still don’t like to fly.

 

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White Christmas

    1983 -December -Randy taping flashlight to his head to sled down the hill It was Christmas Eve and the snow had started coming down way before dawn.  Our family had been having our Christmas Eve celebration in the country at my parents’ house for many years. Their house was the only one large enough for everyone to sleep overnight at was the main reason. We enjoyed having hot buttered rums and wine and didn’t believe in driving after imbibing.  Spending Christmas there had become a family tradition for my sister and me, along with whoever we wanted to bring along, to eat, drink and be merry with. It had started as soon as she and I moved away from home after high school.

    This year would be no exception even with the heavy snowfall. Everyone would make it there in their various four wheel drive vehicles no matter how much snow fell. We always spent the night there so we could all be together on Christmas day. This would be the eighth year we had been engaging in this tradition.

My sister and her husband Randy, with their two sons who were six and three, arrived at our parents’ house first in their four wheel drive Explorer. Next on the scene was a good friend of both of us two daughters, his name was Aaron and we frequently referred to him as our brother. Aaron usually went to his parents’ house for Christmas. They lived two hours north of us and because of the heavy snow it was too dangerous to drive there so he drove out to join the party in the country with his second family.  Aaron arrived in his old four wheel drive jeep that he owned for just this kind of occasion.

My boyfriend, Greg, and I arrived last in Greg’s Volkswagen bug which navigated the snow very well. We would be sleeping on the pull out couch in the family room. Aaron would get the large couch in the living room where Annette’s two boys would sleep on the floor in sleeping bags and Annette and Randy would get the spare bedroom. There used to be a third bedroom but our father had turned it into his hobby room after my sister and I moved out and had kicked the bed out of it.

By the time Greg and I arrived the hot buttered rums were flowing freely and everyone was getting buzzed on the alcohol. The two boys were outside playing in the deep snow. When they came in the house they would steal a drink out of someone’s unwatched glass now and then. The snow hadn’t let up all day and by the time it got dark there was over three feet of snow on the ground.

“Hey Dave, do you have a sled around here?” Randy asked his father-in-law.

“There is one up in the barn. It’s hanging on the wall over the shop. Do you want me to go out there and show you where it is?”

“No I am sure I can find it. Aaron, do you go up to the barn with me to get the sled?”

“Sure. Let me go put on my sweater and snow pants. I’ll be right out.” Aaron left the room to go get the clothes he brought that were still out in his jeep.

They went out to the barn and returned with the sled.

“So who wants to go down the hill on the sled with me?” Randy looked around the room.

His two sons jumped up. “Let me ride it.” They both yelled at the same time.

Randy and the boys went outside and everyone else watched from the living room. Randy sat the kids on the sled and shoved it down the hill. After a while the kids got tired of sledding and came back in the house to lust after the presents that were sitting unopened under the tree. Aaron took the sled down the hill after the boys and took an unplanned journey off of the road into the bushes.

Randy, Greg, Aaron and Dave proceeded to get quite toasted on hot buttered rum. The women were not too happy with the men.

“Dave, how about you and me and Greg go down the hill together on the sled?” Randy suggested.

“You have got to be kidding. It’s pitch black out there.” Greg wasn’t too enthusiastic.

“I can hold a flashlight.” Randy responded.

“Oh really.  How can you hold a flashlight and hold on to the sled?” Greg asked.

“I can tape it on my head,” and Randy proceeded to take duct tape and taped the flashlight on top of his head. Michele quickly grabbed her camera and took photos, she figured this ought to be good blackmail material when she got the photos developed.

Michele, Annette and their mother couldn’t quit laughing as they watched the spectacle unfold. Dave laid down on the sled first and Greg lay on top of him. Then Randy, with the flashlight taped to his head, got on the very top and the three of them proceeded down the hill.

The women watched from the living room window as the three drunken fools took off on the sled. When they were went around the corner out of sight they went to the kitchen and brought out the Christmas Eve munchies feast. This was the family tradition to have a meal consisting of all appetizers on Christmas Eve and then have a traditional dinner the next day.

When the three men walked back in the house they found everyone was sitting at the table eating.

“What took so long?” Michele asked.

“When we got to the big corner Dave couldn’t get the sled turned so the sled went off the road and ran us into the blackberries. We aren’t going to do that again.”

“Do you know how stupid you looked with that flashlight taped around your head?” Annette remarked.

“The best part is I’ve got a photograph. That is going to be a priceless photo!” Michele had trouble talking she was laughing so hard.

“I don’t care, you girls can screw off!” Randy was drunk and couldn’t really get too mad.

Everyone continued sitting at the table and ate the munchies the women had prepared. The boys were chomping at the bit to open their presents.

“It’s getting really late. Can we open the presents you said we could?” Zak pleaded to his mother.

“Oh you boys sound so pitiful. Go ahead and open them!” Annette laughed.

As soon as she had given the boys permission they rushed to the tree to find the presents that had been set aside for Christmas Eve. The rest of them would be opened the next morning.  Everyone watched as the boys tore open their Christmas Eve presents. This was the real reason everyone was there this evening. Snow and sledding had been a bonus.

White Christmas

1983 -December -Randy taping flashlight to his head to sled down the hill

     It was Christmas Eve and the snow had started coming down way before dawn.  Our family had been having our Christmas Eve celebration in the country at my parents’ house for many years. Their house was the only one large enough for everyone to sleep overnight at was the main reason. We enjoyed having hot buttered rums and wine and didn’t believe in driving after imbibing.  Spending Christmas there had become a family tradition for my sister and me, along with whoever we wanted to bring along, to eat, drink and be merry with. It had started as soon as she and I moved away from home after high school.

This year would be no exception even with the heavy snowfall. Everyone would make it there in their various four wheel drive vehicles no matter how much snow fell. We always spent the night there so we could all be together on Christmas day. This would be the eighth year we had been engaging in this tradition.

My sister and her husband Randy, with their two sons who were six and three, arrived at our parents’ house first in their four wheel drive Explorer. Next on the scene was a good friend of both of us two daughters, his name was Aaron and we frequently referred to him as our brother. Aaron usually went to his parents’ house for Christmas. They lived two hours north of us and because of the heavy snow it was too dangerous to drive there so he drove out to join the party in the country with his second family.  Aaron arrived in his old four wheel drive jeep that he owned for just this kind of occasion.

My boyfriend, Greg, and I arrived last in Greg’s Volkswagen bug which navigated the snow very well. We would be sleeping on the pull out couch in the family room. Aaron would get the large couch in the living room where Annette’s two boys would sleep on the floor in sleeping bags and Annette and Randy would get the spare bedroom. There used to be a third bedroom but our father had turned it into his hobby room after my sister and I moved out and had kicked the bed out of it.

By the time Greg and I arrived the hot buttered rums were flowing freely and everyone was getting buzzed on the alcohol. The two boys were outside playing in the deep snow. When they came in the house they would steal a drink out of someone’s unwatched glass now and then. The snow hadn’t let up all day and by the time it got dark there was over three feet of snow on the ground.

“Hey Dave, do you have a sled around here?” Randy asked his father-in-law.

“There is one up in the barn. It’s hanging on the wall over the shop. Do you want me to go out there and show you where it is?”

“No I am sure I can find it. Aaron, do you go up to the barn with me to get the sled?”

“Sure. Let me go put on my sweater and snow pants. I’ll be right out.” Aaron left the room to go get the clothes he brought that were still out in his jeep.

They went out to the barn and returned with the sled.

“So who wants to go down the hill on the sled with me?” Randy looked around the room.

His two sons jumped up. “Let me ride it.” They both yelled at the same time.

Randy and the boys went outside and everyone else watched from the living room. Randy sat the kids on the sled and shoved it down the hill. After a while the kids got tired of sledding and came back in the house to lust after the presents that were sitting unopened under the tree. Aaron took the sled down the hill after the boys and took an unplanned journey off of the road into the bushes.

Randy, Greg, Aaron and Dave proceeded to get quite toasted on hot buttered rum. The women were not too happy with the men.

“Dave, how about you and me and Greg go down the hill together on the sled?” Randy suggested.

You have got to be kidding. It’s pitch black out there.” Greg sounded skeptical.

“I can hold a flashlight.” Randy Responded.

“How can you hold a flashlight and hold on to the sled?” Greg asked.

“I can tape it on my head,” and Randy proceeded to take duct tape and taped the flashlight on top of his head. Michele quickly grabbed her camera and took photos, she figured this ought to be good blackmail material when she got the photos developed.

Michele, Annette and their mother couldn’t quit laughing as they watched the spectacle unfold. Dave laid down on the sled first and Greg lay on top of him. Then Randy, with the flashlight taped to his head, got on the very top and the three of them proceeded down the hill.

The women watched from the living room window as the three drunken fools took off on the sled. When they were went around the corner out of sight they went to the kitchen and brought out the Christmas Eve munchies feast. This was the family tradition to have a meal consisting of all appetizers on Christmas Eve and then have a traditional dinner the next day.

When the three men walked back in the house they found everyone sitting at the table eating.

“What took so long?” Michele asked.

“When we got to the big corner Dave couldn’t get the sled turned so the sled went off the road and ran us into the blackberries. We aren’t going to do that again.”

“Do you know how stupid you looked with that flashlight taped around your head?” Annette remarked.

“The best part is I’ve got a photograph of you with the flashlight taped to your head. That is going to be a priceless photo!” Michele had trouble talking she was laughing so hard.

“I don’t care, you girls can screw off!” Randy was pretty drunk so he couldn’t really get too mad.

Everyone sat down at the table and ate the munchies the women had prepared. The boys were chomping at the bit to open their presents.

“It’s getting really late. Can we open the presents you said we could open tonight?” Zak pleaded to his mother.

“Oh you boys sound so pitiful. Go ahead and open them!” Annette laughed as she said that.

As soon as she had given the boys permission they rushed to the tree to find the presents that had been set aside for Christmas Eve. The rest of them would be opened the next morning.  Everyone watched as the boys tore open their Christmas Eve presents. This was the real reason everyone was there this evening.

Looking For The Aliens (Revised)

I awoke to the one sound that never failed to wake me, the sound of silence. It follows when the timer on my television turns off at 3 am in the morning. Most people need noise to wake them up but not me, my brain fills with loud disquieting thoughts when there are no background noises for it to focus on.

I looked out the window and the dark sky was filled with bright and shiny shimmering objects. I saw a planet and a couple of bright stars I presumes were satellites and one seemed to be slowly moving in my direction.

My black cat, Mojo, appeared out of the darkness and he sat next to me. He also stared out the window although I doubted he was looking at the stars. Mojo has always been a self-centered dick, he only does what makes Mojo happy, and he walks down my body like I am a piece of the furniture. I was told this is a sign of dominance.

“Wouldn’t it be cool if we saw aliens?” I said to Mojo since there was no one else in the house. I am not crazy enough to expect an answer, or at least a verbal one. He looked at me with his shimmering liquid green eyes and then he looked back out the window just as I did.

I saw one of the stars, one that I thought was a satellite, seemed to be getting larger so I assumed it was also much closer to me as well.

I went to the refrigerator and got something to drink and sat back down on the couch. I looked at the stars again. I still saw that one had moved closer and appeared to be coming right towards me. Maybe it was a plane and not a satellite and maybe it was turning around so it could land.

I was visited by aliens in my bedroom many years ago. I felt that the room was filled with the presence of displaced energy. I felt the presence of aliens. I told them I was not ready to meet them and they left. I have always imagined that this was an open invitation and after all the years have come and gone and so many things have happened I decided I was ready to meet them.

Who are them? I don’t know. I eagerly hoped that I could find them again. I have come to realize my place in my friends and family’s lives is not as precious as I once thought so I am free to seek something new. Things change sometimes.

I walked out of my house to where I saw the light back by the well. It was faint and surrounded by the oak saplings that had sprung up around where the underground spring runs.     The abyss of murky fog surrounded it and the light evaded my best efforts to locate it.

“Where are you?”

I got no answer. I kept walking towards the light. I looked for a sign that something else might be out there.

“Why did you bring me here?”

I saw the light coming from inside the cluster of small trees.

“What do you want from me?”

Still, no answer and it was very quiet. I was surrounded by darkness but I felt that I am was not alone.

“Who is here watching me? “

They didn’t answer but I still knew that I was not alone.  After all I was the one who summoned them in the first place.

Why can’t I find them? They brought me here, at my request perhaps, but they still brought me.

Why aren’t they answering me? What is the purpose of bringing me here if they won’t talk to me? I do not understand.

I walk on a little farther in the darkness and I see a dim light up ahead so I pursue it. When they first offered me the invitation to go with them I didn’t feel that I was not free to take them up on it. I am now totally unencumbered by anyone’s expectations so why don’t they show themselves?

I think I know who they are but I don’t know where they came from or what they want. They offered to take me away that one time a long time ago, but they didn’t tell me what they were offering to take me to and now I want to know.

I kept walking but the light was dim and far away. I wondered if I was going to make it. My body felt heavy, as if something was dragging it down. I was determined to make it if it was the last thing I did.

I was almost there and I saw figures standing in the darkness of the light I had been struggling to get to.

Finally I was there but it made no sense. I was looking at faces, my dead boyfriend, my mother and my grandfather. What?

I had asked the aliens to take me away. What happened? Did I fall asleep? Oh hell, was I just dreaming! Am I the alien?

Skippy’s Lesson

The streets were empty this night in the small coastal community where two women and a man were walking down the sidewalk headed towards the local bar. A faint reddish pink glow emanated from the small faded neon OPEN sign which sat over a large wood sign proclaiming the establishment’s name. They were attached to an old building sporting a log cabin façade which had palm trees painted on it. The bar was called THE OASIS but it looked like anything but that. The neon flickered bright and dim atop its perch and the wood sign was covered with flaking green and gold paint that had seen its better days many years ago.

The front door was ajar and a colorful group of men and women could be seen through the crack.  The patrons were clad in varying styles of apparel ranging from hippie to cowboy to work clothes. The band blasted out punk rock and they wore leather and studs with tight tank tops. Most of the crowd was attempting to dance to a good song that was being performed way too loudly.

The two women and man entered and sat down near the dance floor. They appeared to be in their mid-thirties. The women had dark blonde hair and were attractive with shapely figures. All three of them were wearing tee shirts and jeans, two of them had on sweatshirt jackets and one of the women wore a glittery jacket along with a lot of makeup. The man looked older than the women and he had a sour look on his face.

“This band is pretty good. I saw them play at a bar in Eugene a couple of months ago.” The flashily dressed woman remarked.

“I recognize their name but I haven’t seen them play before. You’re right about their being good. Do you like the band Aaron?”

“I like them though the songs are going to be hard to dance to.” He didn’t sound very enthusiastic.

“Way to have a good time! We are going to have to find some other men to dance with if you are going to be such a drip.”

“We are going to have to wait until the dance floor clears to see who’s available. It looks like we are going to have to go to the bar and get our own drinks. They are pretty slammed right now.” The woman wearing the sweatshirt jacket remarked.

“I’ll go get us some drinks. What do you want Michele?”

“I would like a Tequila Driver please. I can go up and help you with the drinks.”

“This is what I do for a living. I can handle it. Aaron?”

“I’d like Bombay and tonic.”

“I’ll be right back.” Since Annette worked at a bar she was used to carrying several cocktails at a time. She liked working in a bar, most of her clientele were men and they tipped her well.

Annette came back with their drinks. There were a couple of guys sitting at the next table and she started up a flirtatious conversation with them. They both had on loud western style shirts and flashy cowboy hats, though they didn’t look like cowboys.

Michele and Aaron watched Annette behaving in her normal flirtatious manner with the men at the next table. Michele wanted to dance so she walked over to the dark haired man with brown eyes. He had a very muscular build and was handsome.

“So are you a real cowboy or do you just like to dress up like one?” She teasingly inquired.

“I can ride a horse,” replied the attractive stranger.

“Can you dance as well?” Michele was standing next to his chair by this time.

“Let’s go do it.” He jumped up and grabbed her hand and led her to the dance floor.

 Michele felt lucky because the band had just broken into an old rock and roll classic by Bad Company. It had a good beat and was easy to dance to. After the dance she sat down at a table and visited with her dance partner.

“My name is Michele. Where are you from?”

“My name is Marty and I live in Eugene. Jerry and I came over her to go salmon fishing this morning. Where are you from?”

“It’s a small world. I am from Eugene also. I am over here visiting my parents. My dad owns a fishing boat and he and my mother just bought a place and moved over here last month. I used to go out salmon fishing on my dad’s boat a lot but now that they live here I can just come over and visit. I work at Mansell’s American Tire and Brake. Where do you work?”

“I used to work with one of the owners of that place, Randy. He was the manager at the Les Schwab store I used to work at in Portland.”

“I heard that is where he was before he became a partner at Mansell’s. I also heard there was some kind of scandal up there and that he was fired. You say you used to work there?”

“Yes, I quit last month, we had a disagreement on the way the place treats its employees. So I moved to Eugene on a piece of property I have owned for several years. There was a rumor going around that Randy embezzled some money, but I don’t know if it was true or not.”

They spent the evening dancing with each other and visiting. Annette spent the evening flirting and dancing with his friend. Aaron found a couple of local girls to dance with and the three of them had a fun evening, or at least it seemed that way. When it came to closing time Marty asked Michele if she wanted to see the 30 pound salmon he caught earlier. His truck and boat were parked in front of the bar so Michele went out in the parking lot to look at the salmon he had in the icebox.

Annette and Aaron showed up at the boat and Michele could hear Aaron talking loudly to Marty’s friend Jerry. Michele got out of the boat and walked over to where they were standing.

“You shouldn’t disappear like you did.  We looked all over the bar for you. I was getting worried.” Annette was yelling at Michele. Then Aaron walked up and got in Marty’s face.

“You should leave. Michele has more class than to hang out with a loser like you.”

“Knock it off Aaron. Marty was just showing me the nice salmon he caught today.”

“Are you sure that’s all he wanted to show you?”

Michele was getting embarrassed by Aaron’s behavior. “It was nice to meet you Marty. Come by and see me at the tire shop sometime.” She walked away with Annette and Aaron and they walked to the women’s parents’ house a few blocks away. Aaron was going to go out fishing the next day with the women’s father. 

Frequently when Aaron got drunk he took on another persona, a drunken asshole with a belligerent attitude. Because he was so different than he was when he was sober his friends started calling him Skippy, after George Bush’s evil twin character created by Gary Truedeau in his cartoon strip.

 

The next week Marty showed up at the tire shop Michele worked at. Her boss that he said he used to work with did indeed know him and greeted him warmly. Michele thought that was a good sign. He asked her if she would like to have drinks with him after work and then maybe go out to dinner. She said yes.

 Marty arrived at the house that Michele shared with her roommate Aaron. Aaron answered the door.

“I remember you from the bar in Winchester Bay.”

“I remember you also. Michele is getting ready. Come on in the house. Can I get you a drink while you wait for her?” Aaron was very friendly and nothing like Marty remembered him from the coast.

Marty accepted the offer of a drink and after finishing a couple with both Michele and Aaron he invited Aaron to go out to dinner with him and Michele. It was a casual date and it seemed like the polite thing to do Marty thought.

Aaron pulled Michele aside and asked her if it was alright with her for him to go to dinner with her and Marty. She had just started to get to know Marty and if he wanted to invite Aaron it was fine with her. She wasn’t planning doing anything that Aaron couldn’t be around for.

Aaron and Michele suggested that they go to one of their favorite restaurants called Original Joe’s. It was an Italian restaurant which had the grill set up in the front part of the restaurant so that the customers could watch the cooks as they made the orders. Sometimes it could be pretty entertaining, especially if a customer wanted to change a menu item. The cooks had all worked there a long time and didn’t like customers who wanted special meals. Afterwards they went to a somewhat pretentious bar that was just around the corner called Oregon Electric Station.

Michele was driving and Marty and Aaron seemed to be having a bit of a contest to see who could drink the most. Aaron was a friend and not a romantic interest but it seemed like some kind of a macho pissing contest was going on. Maybe Marty didn’t realize this or maybe Aaron was just screwing with him for some reason.

Aaron and Marty were both getting drunk and obnoxious so Michele suggested they leave. Marty suggested they stop at a western themed bar that was close to Aaron and Michele’s house and on the way back so she agreed to do so and got them started on the way back to the house.

The place was called Bliss’s Steak Ranch and Michele used to go there quite a lot a several years before when she worked at a sign shop located next to it. She discovered that she still knew a lot of the customer’s that frequented the place and also that many of them also knew Marty. Aaron was starting to get pretty drunk and was beginning to turn into Skippy. 

One of the bar maids came up to their table and told them someone was complaining about Aaron’s attitude. Just as Michele was getting ready to say that they should leave Aaron got mad and said he was going to go to the stripper place behind the bar.

“I am going back to the Silver Dollar. You can come pick me up when you finish your drinks.”

“Fine, we will be done in about fifteen minutes.” Michele didn’t feel like fighting with him.

She and Marty finished their drinks and then went out to her car. They sat in the car and visited a little while and then Marty went to the stripper bar to get Aaron so they could go home. After about 5 minutes he came out to the car and said he had looked all over but he couldn’t find Aaron.  The doorman told him someone fitting the description had come in but when he found out they didn’t serve alcohol he left and said he was going to the bar across the street.

Michele drove then to the bar across the street. Marty and Michele both went in to look for Aaron. They were told that there was a guy in there that could have been him. He was really drunk and another customer said he would help him get home and they both left. Michele thought maybe Aaron had walked back to their house on the bike path. She drove to the house, keeping an eye out for Aaron, but they saw no one on the way and no one was at the house.

They waited a little while and then they drove down to the bar he was possibly seen leaving and Marty walked the bike path that Aaron would have taken to walk home. Michele met him in the car at the other end of the bike path and Marty hadn’t found Aaron. She was starting to get worried.

They went back to the house and when they walked in this time Aaron was sitting there with a strange looking man. He looked startled when she and Marty walked in. Michele thought he looked somewhat familiar but she was unsure why that would be. There was a palpable uneasy air in the room and she also felt Aaron was pretty uncomfortable with the situation. 

“What the hell went on tonight? Marty and I looked all over for you. What were you thinking?” She was really mad.

“Obviously I wasn’t thinking too clearly.” Aaron said sheepishly

  Michele looked at the stranger on the couch. He started talking, “I was just getting ready to leave the Eldorado when I saw this guy stumble in and he sat next to me at the bar. He was really drunk. I had the bartender bring him a cup of coffee. He got up and said he was going to walk home so I offered to help him get home. It was really cold outside and I was afraid if he passed out along the way he might freeze.”

“Thanks for helping Aaron get home. What’s your name? Can we give you a ride home?”

“I live in the Shamrock apartments a few blocks from the bar. I’m glad I got him home safely. My name is Jim. I can walk home.” He was a pretty husky man with a flashy tattoo coming out of his shirt collar showing on his neck. He had a scar on one cheek and looked like a pretty rough character.  He avoided direct eye contact. 

“Nonsense, I will drive you home. It is about a half mile from here and it is freezing out.” Marty quickly offered.

Michele noticed Aaron’s wallet was lying on the kitchen counter and it was open and empty. She wondered if they had interrupted a robbery in progress and that his help might not have been that innocently offered.  The man accepted Marty’s offer of ride and they went out to his car. 

Michele quizzed Aaron as soon as the two men walked out the front door.

“That guy gives me the creeps, he is scary.”

“I know. He followed me out of the bar and I was afraid he was going to mug me. I told him I didn’t have any money with me but I would give him some if he helped me get home. I was hoping that you and Marty would be there. I was pretty freaked out when you weren’t. I went in the bathroom and when I came out I could see he had gone through my wallet on the counter. I sat down on the couch and he came and sat down next to me and then you and Marty walked in.”

“You better quit drinking, you have a problem. You get drunk and turn into someone that is not cool. Besides you being an asshole it’s dangerous when you black out like that. I hope this teaches you a lesson.”

“Don’t worry it did.I think he was planning to rob me. I was getting sober by the time we walked here. He is a pretty big guy and he scared me. I was happy when you and Marty showed up here.”

Marty walked in the door. “That guy looks like he just got out jail. He had me drop him off at the front of the apartments. I don’t think he wanted me to know where he lived.”

The next day Michele stopped at a gas station near her house. She recognized that the attendant was the guy who was at the house and that was why he looked familiar. It was a gas station she occasionally stopped at on her way home from work. He hesitated when Michele told him she remembered him from that night at the house. She got weird vibes off of him. 

That night she was watching the news and there was a story about a guy getting mugged and attacked on the bike path behind their house. Then they flashed a picture of Jim and it said he was a person of interest in the case. The next morning the news reported Jim had been arrested for robbing and beating up a guy the same night he walked Aaron home. It also said there were other cases they were investigating. Skippy never came out to play again. Aaron realized how close he had come to getting mugged.

The List

The phone rang at ten minutes until four. I was afraid to answer it. In ten minutes my eight hour shift was done and I would get to go home. When the phone rang so close to the start of the next shift and the employee wasn’t there yet it was frequently to say they wouldn’t be in.

“West Eighteenth Seven Eleven” I answered with trepidation.

“Hi Sherrie.”

“Hi.” It was my boyfriend. “I was afraid this was going to be Rod telling me he wouldn’t be in tonight.”

“No it’s not. I need you to come over to my house as soon as you get off.”

“Okay. Can I go home first and change my clothes?” His voice sounded off.

“You have plenty of clothes to change into at my house. You don’t need to go home first.” I could tell something was very wrong.

“Alright I’m almost off. I’ll be right over.” I couldn’t imagine what was wrong but he definitely sounded shook up. Just then Rod walked in the door.

“Sorry I wasn’t here sooner. My car wouldn’t start.” Rod looked pretty stressed out.

“It’s alright. I still have five more minutes of my shift left. I’m just happy when someone gets here so I can leave. I don’t care if you’re early just that you show up.” I sincerely meant that. I had more than one person not show up for their shift before. I had to work an extra four hours one time before the owner finally came in to relieve me. Rod had been working there as long as I and he had always been reliable. “Well I need to get going. My boyfriend just called and wants me to come over. I don’t know what’s going on but it sounds like something’s wrong.”

“Let’s change tills and you can leave.” He grabbed the cash drawer and counted the money into it.

“I’ll see you tomorrow night.” I grabbed my purse and headed out to my car.

Greg’s house was only a fifteen minute drive from where I worked. I parked in the driveway and walked up to the house. Greg met me at the door. Our friends Larry and Debbie were sitting on the couch. They looked tired and stressed out.

“Come in.” He grabbed me by the shoulders and looked me in the eyes. “Bill killed himself.”

I felt a wave of shock come over me. “What do you mean?”

“He’s dead. He shot himself in the head a couple of hours ago.” Greg looked terrible.

“What happened? How do you know?” I felt numb.

“I was there when it happened. Come in and sit down.” Greg grabbed me and guided me into the living room. He held me and I started crying.

“How did it happen?” I was overcome with a feeling of dread.

“It will be on the 5 o’clock news I’m sure.”

Larry and Debbie looked really freaked out. They were sitting on the couch holding each other.

“Last night we were all over at Bill’s house across the street. He had already rented it to Larry and Debbie, but you already know that. He had moved in with me two days ago, but you already know that too. There was a pay per view fight on and Larry had rented it and Bill and I were over there watching it with them. When the fight was over Bill said he needed to get something from my house and he left.”

      Greg continued to tell me the story.

“About ten minutes later there was a knock at the door. Larry answered it and there were two policemen standing there.”

“Is this Bill Snyder’s house?” One of the policemen addressed Larry.

“Yes it is. I am renting it from him.” Larry looked over at me.

“Is Bill here?” They looked around the room for Bill.

“He was but he is staying at Greg’s house across the street right now and he just went over there to get something about five minutes ago.”

      I went to the door. “Bill is staying with me. Do you want me to go get him?”

“Which house is he at?” They both were looking across the street at my house.

“The one with the Camaro parked in the driveway.” I pointed to my house.

“Does that Camaro belong to Bill?” One of the policemen asked.

“Yes it does. I can go get him for you.”

“If it’s alright with you we would prefer you stay here. Do we have your permission to go over to your house?”

“Yes but I’ll go with you?” I was getting a little worried by the way they were acting so I walked across the street to my house. The policemen followed me. When I opened the front door I could hear the sound of a gun being cocked. The policemen heard it also and they each moved to either side of the door. I was getting worried about what was going on so I carefully entered the house.

“Don’t come any closer.” Bill had a gun in his hand and he had it pointed at his forehead.

“What are you doing? There are a couple cops here that want to talk to you.”

“I know. They are here to arrest me. They don’t want to talk.”

“How do you know? Talk to them. You are planning on going to court tomorrow. You aren’t doing anything wrong. Put the gun down.”  I was getting worried about the way Bill was acting.

“You don’t understand. You need to leave.” Bill was still holding the gun to his head.

“Come on. You don’t want to kill yourself. Why don’t I call one of the counselors at Serenity Lane? They helped you before didn’t they?”

“They aren’t there this time of night.”

“Well then we can wait until they are there in the morning.”

“Okay. But don’t come any closer.”

     I sat on the floor of the living room and tried to talk Bill into putting the gun down. The two policemen waited out in front of the house. I yelled at them that Bill was going to turn himself in to Serenity Lane in the morning. I made small talk with Bill all night long. It seemed like the night lasted forever. I was hoping Bill would go to sleep but he didn’t.

     The morning came and I called Serenity Lane. I told them I was coming in with a former patient that needed their help. I told them Bill’s name and hung up. Bill walked to my car that was in the garage. He was still holding the gun to his head. I drove the car the fifteen minute drive to the drug and alcohol clinic. When I pulled in the parking lot I saw S.W.A.T. team members lurking around the back of the building. I figured they would shoot Bill when he got out of the car. I tried to wrestle the gun away from Bill but he was too strong. A shot went through the floor boards and then a shot went through the roof.

I gave up trying to get the gun. Bill got out of the car and sat down in the grass next to it with the gun pointed to his head. I walked up to the building to talk to the police to try and get them to back off. They immediately grabbed me and handcuffed me to a pole. They walked up to Bill and talked him into lowering the gun. Just as they got close Bill picked the gun up and shot himself in the head.

     “They took off the handcuffs and told me to go home.”  Greg finished up the history of Bill’s suicide.

I felt sick to my stomach. I knew that there had been a possibility that Bill had been guilty of the crimes he was accused of. I was told he was by his boss Rick and his wife Diane, who were friends of mine, right after he was arrested.

Rick was the president of the company Bill worked for. Rick’s wife, Diane, was well known for being a gossip. My roommate, Erin, and I both were their friends and were invited over for dinner a couple of days after Bill was first been arrested for the crime he called Greg about and had us feed his dogs and cat while he was in jail.

“Did you hear about Bill getting arrested?” Diane had asked me after I got seated on the couch.

“Yes I did, I went over to his house with Greg last night to feed his pets after he called and told Greg he was in jail and he thought he would be released the next day. And he was.”

I didn’t tell Diane that I had noticed his house was in a total state of disarray. There were empty bottles of beer all over the place and girlie magazines spread all over the house, he obviously hadn’t planned on having anyone see it like this. I wondered where his girlfriend Jennifer was. I couldn’t imagine him having his place look like that with her around. “Do you know why he was arrested? Greg thought Bill said it was for threatening someone?”

“It was. He pulled a knife on a woman that works with him and his buddy Dana, she works directly under Rick. Apparently she dated him a few times a several months ago. Supposedly she told Dana that she’s pregnant with his child and if he didn’t take responsibility for it she said she would make his life miserable. Dana told Bill all about it and that he was afraid she will ruin his relationship with his fiancée. He never told her about the times he had slept with the other gal. Bill followed her from work to the store and got in her car and threatened her with a knife if she didn’t leave Dana alone. She started screaming and jumped out of the car and ran. Bill ran away but the cops came and found him hiding behind the store and took him to jail.”

“That’s weird. Why would he do that? Dana isn’t that good of a friend.”

“I don’t know but the police came to talk to Rick about it today. He found out Bill is a registered sex offender. They wouldn’t tell Rick what he did before but if I were you I would stay away from him.”

“Trust me I won’t! That really scares me. I don’t want to around a man who threatens women.”

The next day I called up Greg. “Did you know Bill is a has been arrested before and is a sex offender?”

“Who told you that?”

“It was Bill’s boss’s wife, Diane. You met Rick and Diane at Bill’s parties.”

“I remember them. How does she know?”

“Apparently the police came and talked to Rick about what happened with Bill and Julie. They told him that Bill has been arrested before and he is a registered sex offender. They wanted to know if Rick knew anything about anything about what was going on between Dana, Bill or Julie. That is when they told Rick about Bill having a record. I don’t want to have anything to do with him.”

“I’d like to talk to Bill first. It’s kind of hard to believe that he would do something like that. I think you are overreacting.”

“I admit it seems out of character but I don’t have any tolerance for people who commit sex crimes.”

“I think we should find out the truth first.”

“Where are we going to find that out? Do you really think Bill will tell you the truth about something like that?”

“I don’t know but I would like to give him a chance. I have known him for years and have never seen him do anything wrong, ever.”

I understood Greg’s reluctance to think Bill was guilty. He has never done anything bad or weird for the four years we have known him. I went over to Greg’s house the next night. After we had dinner he brought up the elephant in the room.

“I asked Bill about what the police told Rick. Bill said that he used to be a serious alcoholic and did some really stupid things but he was never in jail. He said that he had a party one time and there were minors at it. He said that no one would admit to being at his party so the police were mad because they couldn’t prosecute him. He said they harass him occasionally when they feel like it. I believe him.”

I didn’t think that sounded right but I let Greg think what he wanted to. I still planned on having nothing to do with Bill. A couple of nights later I was visiting Greg and Bill came over. I didn’t say anything to him. He had just come over to borrow something of Greg’s and didn’t stay long. He was acting the same as he always had, and it made me wonder a little bit about whether he was being falsely accused.

I had known Bill for most of the four years I had been dating Greg. He lived directly across the street from Greg and he was the only neighbor of his that was close in age. At first he had just been someone we visited with in the front yard but then we started inviting him to our barbecues and him and his girlfriend Jennifer became good friends of ours. When we went to Mexico for two months last winter he came over and took care of the yard and watered the plants. He had a key to the house so he could come over whenever we needed him to.

Not long after Bill was arrested Greg ended up going out of town to work for a month and as usual Greg had Bill keep an eye on the place when I wasn’t around. One night I went over to Greg’s house to get away from my roommate and the party that was going on at our place. I was in bed reading a book in bed when I heard someone unlock and open the front door. I had forgotten that Bill was watching the house.

When he came in I yelled at him to him that I was there. I had parked in the garage so he didn’t realize I was staying there. I came out of the bedroom and he was the same old friendly Bill I had always known so I told him to stay and visit. We had a nice conversation and he went back to his house. I was starting to think Greg was right about Bill and that even though he screwed he wasn’t the dangerous criminal that the police were trying to make him out to be. Otherwise he would still be locked up right?

Greg came back to town and I told him that I had changed my mind about Bill’s being dangerous. The time was drawing near for Bill’s court date and he told Greg that he was sure that he would end up being put in jail because of what Dana’s girlfriend had been telling everyone. He said he believed the police were still mad that he didn’t do any jail time from the case from ten years before and that they would like to make sure he did this time. It was starting to look like a bit of a set up.

Greg’s friends, Larry and Debbie, had been renting a house a couple of streets away and the house had been for sale while they had been renting it and it finally sold. They were frantically looking for a place to live. Bill offered to rent them his house because he was so sure that he was going to do jail time. He said he would like it if they would live in his while he was in jail so he didn’t lose it because he wouldn’t be around to make the mortgage payments. He admitted he had been drunk and doing drugs again when he had threatened Dana’s girlfriend. He was pissed off that she was trying to ruin his Dana’s life.  The sex had been consensual between her and Dana and he didn’t think it was fair for her to screw Dana over. If he hadn’t been drunk he would never have done what he did as he knew it was none of business. He was upset because Dana was so stressed out that he had been talking about suicide.

Bill asked Greg if he could stay at his house while he waited for his trial so he could rent his house to Larry and Debbie. He said even if he didn’t get convicted he would still rather rent them his house and live somewhere else that was cheaper since he no longer had a job. All he needed to do was find places for his dogs to live. Greg told Bill it was alright with him. I hadn’t been staying there much since I wasn’t really sure what to believe about the whole situation. I had always had a place that I rented with a friend which was close to where I worked that I had always spent at least a couple of nights a week at. I just changed to spending most of my time there after the incident with Bill. Greg’s house was his to do with what he wanted.

Larry and Debbie rented Bill’s house and moved in. His trial date was five days away. He moved into Greg’s spare bedroom. I went over to Greg’s house two days later while Greg was gone to a union meeting. I had some things still at his house that I needed the next day. Bill wasn’t there and I went ion the house and got the things I had come for. I was sitting on the couch when Bill walked in the door and he came in and sat down.

“Hi, how are you?”

“Fine, how are you?”

“I’m not very good actually. I did some stupid things when I was drinking and doing drugs ten years ago. I’m sure I’m going to be put in jail on Wednesday for doing something even stupider. I got drunk, after so many years staying sober, and made someone think I was going to hurt them.. The police have been trying to send me to jail for ten years and it looks like they are going to get their wish.”

I was trying to be unbiased. “So you didn’t do anything wrong?”

“I did something wrong, I stupidly threatened Julie for trying to ruin Dana’s life. He told me he was thinking about killing himself and I believed he might. I was drunk and did some coke, I shouldn’t ever have started drinking again but I did. It doesn’t really matter what I did. The police want me to go to jail.”

He was extremely emotional. What he did was dangerous and stupid but he sounded pretty convinced that Dana was not doing well.  He wasn’t trying to hurt the gal but was just trying to get her to back off and not try and ruin Dana’s life.

“Would you go out to dinner with me tonight? I really want to have one last dinner at the Valley River Inn before I go to court. I really love their food.”

I have always tried to trust my inner voice and it told me I had nothing to worry about. I felt Greg was right, “Sure I’ll go out to dinner with you, but I’m driving.”

“Fantastic, I will buy you whatever you want.”

I drove Bill and I to dinner at the very nice and expensive restaurant. We had a great dinner and a nice time visiting, just like we always did. He told me how freaked out he was about the prospect of going to jail. He asked me to stop in the park on the way back to Greg’s house and I did. We watched the teenage kids ride around on skateboards for a while. Then I took Bill back to Greg’s house and since Greg was still at his meeting I went home.

Greg had just finished telling me what happened in the parking lot of the drug and alcohol center. I was trying to process what had happened. The man I had known for four years who had always been a kind and understanding friend was dead.

     Larry, Debbie, Greg and I went to the golf course bar and drank and danced our grief away. The next morning I went outside and grabbed the morning newspaper from the front porch of Greg’s house.

“Man kills himself at Serenity Lane” read the headline on the front page. I started to read the article. “Local man shoots himself after a standoff with the police” is the secondary headline. “Police went to the home of Bill Snyder to talk to him regarding a claim by a prostitute that he had kidnapped her the night before and raped her. He taped her mouth shut with duct tape and left her tied to a pole alongside the road sixty miles south of Eugene in the small town of Curtain. A motorist noticed the woman and called the police. The woman described her assailant as being a man who drove a 1969 blue Camaro that had fur on the dash. Police had recently arrested Bill Snyder in connection with an attempted kidnapping case and the car fit the description of Mr. Snyder’s car. The police went to his house to question him about the case but he was waiting for them with a gun.”

I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Bill’s car was one of a kind. There were a few blue 1969 Camaro’s in town but I had never seen one that had fur upholstery on the dash other than Bill’s. Bill kidnapped the prostitute the same night I went out to dinner with him. I felt like someone punched me in the stomach. Greg and I went in to the bedroom that Bill had stayed in for the last few nights. Greg put the few personal items of Bill’s that he had in the room in a plastic bag. I took the sheets off of the bed and I felt something under the mattress.

I pulled out a pad of paper and it had a list with five items written on it,

“Duct tape, Rope, Plastic bags, Lye, Shovel.”

I never heard who Bill gave his two dogs to the day before Larry and Debbie moved into his house. I was afraid I found out what happened to them but I will never know for sure.

 

 

 

 

 

My Friends Wear Fur Coats!

He lies in the tall grass intently watching the three wild turkeys that are pecking around in the grass looking for food. The smallest hen is getting nervous. She looks around and comes face to face with the predator stalking as he comes leaping out of the grass. Before she can vocalize her fear she is pounced upon and her neck is deftly broken.

The other two turkeys let out shrill cries and fly off. The feathers from their fallen comrade flutter on the breeze as the beautiful silver and white wolf trots off with his prize hanging from his mouth. He lays the turkey on the ground in front of his mate. She is a brown, white and silver female with large expressive dark brown eyes. The two wolves start devouring the kill.

Hunter is a seven year old male and his mate is three years older than he. Their lifelong companionship started when he was thirteen weeks old and she was three. He grew up with her as a friend and then a lover and their bond is for life.

The brush is dense and bushy where the hunter is lying in wait for the pheasant that is warily eating on top of the mountain of dirt. The pheasant knows that there are many enemies that hide and wait for him to show himself. He has an advantage in his ability to fly but he does need a little time to get airborne. This particular predator has been waiting for this pheasant to get complacent and relax its guard for several hours.

The pheasant starts to go around the back side of the manmade hill of dirt he has been hunting seeds on for the afternoon. There are a couple of dogs in a backyard nearby that have been barking at him whenever they see him. He isn’t worried because they are inside a fence and can’t come close.

Out of the corner of his eye the bird sees a blur of action on one side of him and he prepares to take flight. On the other side of the dirt the hunter who has been lying in wait for such a long time has to make his move since his prey has been startled. Just as the large black cat comes leaping out of the brush to flank the pheasant the smaller cat clumsily comes running out in the open towards him after already giving its position away. The pheasant sees the two cats closing ground and takes to the air.

The muscular black cat has deep green eyes that shimmer with a look of liquid velvet. He looks at the fat calico female that just scared the pheasant off with disgust. All of his hours of patient stalking have been laid to waste by the clumsy female that he thought he left at home. This is not the first hunt of his that she has screwed up. Many times he has hunted mice and successfully has caught them. Occasionally he offers one of them to his female companion to kill after he has caught them. He feels like a mighty hunter when he can give some of his prey away to another to enjoy the kill. This female always fumbles the mouse and allows it get away. He should learn not give her live presents but he has grown tired of killing and eating the little creatures. He enjoys watching others when they get excited when he offers them a live mouse to kill so much that he wants her to enjoy it also.

Hunter looks up at me as I gently stroke him with his dark brown eyes that project love and mischief in the same glance. I tell him how beautiful he is and he sucks it up rubbing the top of his head against my leg. Saki barks as if to say “Hey I am in the room too, look at me!” We both look at her and she comes over and tries to wedge her way into the action. I pet her furry head with one hand while petting Hunter with the other. They are jealous friends and lovers for life.

I hold her tiny grey paw in my hand. She gently flexes her claws in a loving gesture of friendship and she looks at me directly with her soft olive green eyes. Then she starts purring loudly and curls up under my arm. There is no way to know what she is thinking but from the look in her eyes and peaceful ambiance it feels like love. What is love anyway? Mojo tromps up and looks at his friend curled up next to me and he starts washing her head, not gently either. At first she leans into him and enjoys the bath but as he continues to vigorously wash her she gets annoyed and hisses at him. He backs off a bit and stares at her, he won, he pissed her off and she walks off my lap which he immediately inhabits.

I adopted the 2 eighty percent wolf dogs when the male was thirteen weeks old and the female was three years old from a wolf and wolf dog sanctuary seven years ago in the neighboring state of California. They are now 7 and 10 years old and still beloved mates. The two cats I got from the local pound in Oregon and the male was 8 weeks old and his mother had been killed by a dog when he was three weeks old. The female was 6 months old and had been turned over to the pound by her owner, she was tiny and the reason was they said she didn’t get along with the other cat. The two cats became immediate best friends and still are to this day and they are fourteen years old. We all live together on my 12 acre mini ranch and they sleep together with me in the house at night. They are my best friends and companions and they all wear fur coats!