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Posted: Wed Dec 05, 2007 10:54 am
Tom was over at the town hall. He and Luther were going over the Christmas decorations that had to be put up before the parade. It was slow work.
Luther didnt' see ANYTHING wrong with the way the lights looked now. They were good enough for his Dad...why CHANGE???
Tom begged to differ:'Okay, Luther, WHAT is this?? Last year, one of the kids asked me WHY we have a cowboy hat hanging from a power pole, and another wondered if it meant that GENE AUTRY was coming to town."
Luther took the decortion that was maybe three feet high and held it in front of himself. It had fringe on the outside so it would reflect light during the day and shine. The fringe hid a neon tube that made everything glow at night
"See, it's a pair of CANDLES...this is ONE, this is the other...the curled thing at the BOTTOM on both sides is the HANDLE, not THE BRIM OF A COWBOY HAT.."
"Can we put a flickering BULB on top that would make it LOOK more like a candle, but a different COLOR fringe on the bottom, make it look more like an iron candle holder and LESS like a Roy Rogers white hat??"
Luther would think it over. It might even work.
Posted: Wed Dec 05, 2007 11:32 am
"WHAT about me???" asked Dicky.
Terry and Caroline turned. Dicky had managed to blindside them both by coming towards them between a pair of parked cars.
Caroline didn't know WHAT to say, but Terry only needed a second to recover."Your older sister wanted to know if YOU wanted a Coke TOO...I'm buying for her and Roscoe when he comes back from the oranges delivery..she figured you'd be around.."
"Really???? How did she KNOW that???"
"Well, you know I'm bringing in your parents Christmas stuff she asked for, and besides, I have a special EARLY present for you..."
Terry pulled out a little black book and gave it to Dicky while he slowly and quietly closed the trunk of the Cadillac. Caroline admired the smoothness.
"Wow, BLACKSTONES MAGIC TRICKS THAT ANYONE CAN DO...thanks a LOT"
Terry smiled."Yeah. You're welcome. Roscoe TOLD me he was teaching you some on his own, and I ran across that at a going out of business sale. All yours."
The push to get Dicky involved in magic was a secret family battle. He had REALLY asked for a chemistry set, but his Mom was horrified at both the expense and the thought of his getting burned. Roscoe started to teach him coin tricks, and Tom would drop by now and again and 'just happen' to show off a card trick for him...it seemed to be working..hopefully the book would nudge him to want a nice safe magic kit...one eveyone could ADD to at little cost.
It was shaping up like it might work, too.
The three went in, got their Cokes, and sat down..there was still maybe five or ten mintues to go before Roscoe would have to concede defeat, and the betting pool members were starting to gather around the clock.
..and then they heard it.
Roscoe, coming up to the diner, doing 80...at least.
The diner crowd could only stare. Bell was in the front seat, but laughing out loud, head tilted back. The two got out, and she was still laughing..and coming to the diner with a bag of oranges.
The doc said if he hadn't seen it, he wouldn't have believed it.
Bell was through the door first and said 'hello/hello/hello/' about a million times the way old ladies do when they are getting a kick out of something, then handed EVERYONE an orange.
All eyes turned to Roscoe. They couldn't have been more amazed if he had walked on water..
The mechanic only grinned and pocketed the change. No one complained.
"EVERYONE, everyone...you should THANK Roscoe for this gift..he has done the most AMAZING thing for me.." Bell was in a talkative mood."See, for YEARS AND YEARS I thought I had to CARRY the crates of oranges on my LAP so I wouldn't ADD to the burden of the car and burn more gas...ROSCOE here, showed me different..he told me that if we put it in the BACK..and drive VERY FAST...the car will move so quickly the weight doesn't have TIME to settle in ANY ONE spot and so, the FASTER we go, THE LESS the oranges WEIGH..."
Terry turned and LOOKED with a totally blank stare. But his eyes burned into Roscoe. It cracked Roscoe up...because he could read what Terry was thinking behind it.
His friend came over and actually said it as he tilted his head towards him:"THAT is the biggest..."
"Yes...it's the BIGGGGGEST THING he could do.." said Bell."You must be Terry, Roscoes' negro war hero friend. Welcome to Silver Pines. Do you know we helped escaped slaves get to Canada in the Underground Railroad?? I'm glad you're here..."
Bell came over and gave Terry a hug. "You must come to my house. Tell me and my sister about the island war. They say you come from Hawaii..."
"Born and raised in New Orleans, but went to the Hawaiian Islands with my folks...Dad is in agriculture and grows rice...Can I get settled first?? I still have a trunk of stuff to unload at Roscoe's up the street."
"Oh yes, yes, yes. In the meantime, I need to get home myself..LETS LET THIS GAS BUGGY RIP, Roscoe...you know, driving in cars fast is FUN...can we get it up to 85??"
Posted: Fri Dec 07, 2007 11:19 pm
When everyone finally left, Terry started to peal his orange and Dicky curled up beside him. Dicky watched what Terry was doing with eyes wide.
Terry was taking the white back off the orange peel and leaving just the orange outer skin...almost transparent..behind. Then he started to tear it into the shape of an animal.
This time it was a duck.
"Terry, what did you do in the war?"
Terry didn't flinch. He knew it was coming. He chose his words carefully and talked softly to the boy."I wasn't a war hero. I drove trucks and stuff. Roscoe saved my life...there was a sniper...he had taken the guy out beside me..and Roscoe got him first."
"How come you weren't fighting with Roscoe?"
Terry didn't look up from the duck he was making."I wanted to be. But negroes and whites can't fight together. We have to be segregated. According to color.
"I drove trucks and heavy equipment, I wound up running in supplies."
"Some folks don't want the races to mix, others think we would run the first time we were fired on. That's a lie, by the way...if you look in your history books, we did really good in World War One when we had the chance to fight..and also in the Civil War.."
"That's just WRONG...but what happened to Roscoe?"
"We BOTH hit a Japanese booby trap right after that. Tore us both up pretty badly...they called us The Booby Trap Twins because we both lost an eye, part of a lung and a foot..."
Dicky could only stare.
Terry raised his right finger and pointed to his eye."This is glass. I'm blind in this eye. Rosoce lost most of his lung, I lost the upper lobe on the right..and we both lost a foot."
"I just thought it was the foot."
"Roscoe doesn't make a big deal about things. We were also so bandaged up that you couldn't tell us apart sometimes..started to write to the others family when the other guy was under the knife..we got to know each other...Stayed friends.
"C'mon...enough war talk...I want to get unpacked and then maybe we can meet up later for some fun with Roscoe, deal?"
The two left as Caroline came out the kitchen and gave a menu to a new customer.
Pale guy. Thin.
"Can you give me the adress where I could find Ben Carter?? I think he used to teach in this town."
Caroline lowered her voice and touched his hand."I'm sorry..Mr. Carter died last night in his sleep. I hope you didn't come a long way..."
The man's face twisted with a surpressed emotion, and he found it difficult to speak. He opened his mouth a time or two, then ordered a coffee and drank it in silence.
Caroline felt sympathy, but also thought she recognized him.
Later, after he had left, it came back to her like a thunder clap.
She had seen his face in the paper. He was supposed to go to the electric chair for killing his wife.
Posted: Mon Dec 10, 2007 12:47 pm
Bernard and Vern turned on the living room lamp in Ben's place. The night comes to Vermont suddenly in December, like someone switching off a light.
Both stretched and groaned. It had been a long day, and both men were not used to the sheer EFFORT it took for this job.
Right after the docs and funeral home people left, the phone wouldn't stop ringing. The two knew it would be either donors or customers NEEDING stuff, and neither could walk away.
Both sides were understanding and patient. By after lunch, the two ex teachers had pretty much figured out the lay of the land. It was also helpful that Ben had left records of his charity that were 'high school English teacher perfect'.
It was supper now, and two friends wandered out to the kitchen to get something in the icebox.
"Vern, we have to face facts...we have been chosen for this calling..."
Vern looked Bernard in the eye."He KNEW we would come and find him. He KNEW we wouldn 't have the HEART to abdandon this whole thing...and he was so RIGHT..this is the most alive I've felt in years. God, you heard the same kind of calls I did...people so GRATEFUL...so RELIEVED..and it just wasn't the help, it was someone trying to make things better..someone who cared."
"Yeah, he knew we'd stay..Now, wanna see if he was right about the other thing??"
"I'm not betting against it..."
Both laughed. Halfway through the day, they had found a letter adressed to the two of them, about half way down through the TO DO in box..just as if Ben had expected them to pick up where he had left off.. in it, he congratulated them both for getting this far on the first day..a FINE intial effort..and clued them into his LAST great practical joke.
It would involve the obit.
Terry and Roscoe came in after supper to see how the guys were getting along. It seemed right to everyone that his buddies were going to keep things running.
"But Terry..WHERE did you pick up your info on art??"asked Vern.
It would have been easy for Terry to take offense and come back demanding to know why a negro shouldn't know about classic art, but he knew where the teacher was coming from...in every culture classic art education was rare.
"Mom. Studied it at Tuskeegee. Became a tour director and took folks through the great galleries in Europe before and after she met Dad. SHE knew about the art. I just listened. She has a beautiful speaking voice.
Vern smiled. "Wanna HAVE it??? I think she'd be really bowled over. It's a good copy. That's if it's not given to anyone in the will or anything."
Everyone agreed, it seemed like a good home for the painting and Terry was sincerely moved by the gesture.
Tom came in and asked about the obit.
"How does this sound? He died as he lived loving the classics..with THE DECAMERON on his lap.."
The two teachers gave each other a knowing look.
Rosoce burst out laughing."No. Change it to DON QUIXOTE!"
Vern played coy."Why???"
Roscoe was still laughing."THE DECAMERON was a 13th century naughty book satire. Poked fun at the priests and upper classes getting into sticky situations. The FANNY HILL of it's day...the first real edition only came out here about ten years ago...pretty TAME now, but I can GUESS what Ben was trying to DO...he was hoping that some stuffed shirt couple would buy the book because 'the ENGLISH teacher in town' read it and THEY wanted to look EDUCATED..it's a time bomb. Sooner or later, someone MIGHT read it, or know what it was, and THEN you'd get your good laugh when the couple blew a fuse."
Vern was laughing now." You passed. One hundred per cent. He left behind a letter where he outlined that almost word for word. But how did YOU know?? That's pretty obscure."
"Rabbinical school. You ALWAYS keep an eye on satire. Always. First you get your satire in the 13th century. Everybody shrugs and says;'whhaaat can you do?'. Then you get a guy called Erasmus who was funny but pointed at the same time. You still have a chance to end things peacefully.THEN you get Martin Luther who is NOT funny and by then, it's hit the fan. So if you wanna fix on what they'll be fighting in the streets about tomorrow, read what they are making fun of today."
Vern was impressed."Very shrewd. So we change it to DON QUIXOTE?"
Roscoe thought long and hard."Naw. Let it ride. The book is a classic now. And hey, how ELSE are you gonna get folks to read classic Italian 13th century writing?? Let him have his fun. Guy should have run for president."
Caroline came in carrying a newspaper. She didn't even say hello."Hey everybody. BOBBY CASSANDRA is in town."
Everyone said;"Who???" at the same time.
All except Roscoe.
Caroline showed them the paper. She followed crimes and crime trials with a passion, so all of this was old news to her boyfriend.
"He was the guy who was supposed to go to the chair for killing his wife."
"But he was released.." Roscoe reminded her.
"Holy Toldeo...." Tom whispered."THAT'S the guy at the Inn..."
Posted: Fri Dec 14, 2007 10:54 am
Everyone stared at Tom, who suddenly wished he had kept his mouth shut.
"No...cancel that...but they are related...this guy has a rounder face and his hair is not as long at the guy up at the Inn, but they are AT LEAST cousins."
"I wonder what's up?"
"Really not our affair as long as they don't break the law." Roscoe got some malted milks made.
Caroline was getting the Monopoly out."But the lead suspect for the biggest murder trial in the south,and YOU don't want to know what's going on???"
"Okay, okay, how do you guys PLAY this???" Terry interjected.
"By the RULES" said Caroline."No money on FREE PARKING. All rents go in the bank. No kitty. No extra hundred for landing on GO. NO building on the Electric Company or Water Works."
This was too much for Terry."WHAAAAT???"
Roscoe was deadpan."Sometimes Dodger, the lady who hunts I told you about, comes in to play..she thinks you should be able to put up a power station or a sewage treatment plant and charge double.."
At that moment, Dodger was laying flat on her back on the carpet of the Inn. Moaning.
"That was the BEST turkey I have ever eaten." She sucked her breath in shallow gulps and ginergly rubbed her belly. She had one taste of the bird and went for the kill. Even the guest was amazed and amused. He still chuckled in one of the chairs.
"By the way..forgive my rudeness..but I'm Dodger..who are you?"
"I don't know WHY I should tell you, but my name is Sven. I'm from Wisconsin. I'm here to see my brother. First time in years. His girlfriend will be joining us later in the week. I must also add my congratulations. I have rarely seen anyone attack a turkey with such gusto."
"It was my first store bought turkey that I have eaten."
"I'm glad you liked it. It does me good to see that sort of passion. I hate things and people that just go through the motions. Sometimes that is not a good thing, though. I was rude the day before to a man here in town who I thought was only funning me with a Santa Claus suit. Now I wish he'd come back and so I could apologize. I found out he really IS the centre of Christmas in this town."
"You mean Tom..yeah, nice guy...keeps the trains running..so what do you do??"
"Both my brother and I are doctors. He's...been down south for a few years. It will be good to see him again."
"Four. One/two/three/four. Community Chest. Ten Bucks. But what I can't get is why he got out??"
Roscoe sighed."He must have had something good. Your clippings said they were getting ready to shave his head for the chair. Doubles. Indiana. One house. Pacific...thank you very much.."
Terry handed over the green land."So update me. I've been off shore for a while. What do you have?"
Dicky took the dice."See, this doctors' wife turns up dead. Head hit 62 times. They arrest the husband, see, he had found out she was cheating on him and he hit her at a party...lots of witnesses. Then they find her dead four hours later. They arrest the guy and put him on trial, and he goes through every appeal you can think of and then, suddenly turns up here..Income tax, pay two hun-red dollars."
Terry scanned the ceiling in thought."Usually when folks get released on the Q.T. like that, it's because there are enough reasons for every one involved to keep the heck quiet."
Caroline was triumphant."See? See? It's A MYSTERY"
Roscoe put his head between his hands and moaned."Let's let the poor guy in peace, huh??"
"Oh CERTAINLY, dear....we are not BUSY BODIES" replied Caroline.
Roscoe turned and gave her a wide eyed Bob Hope/Joe E Brown look;"Noooooo, not you..."
Posted: Fri Dec 14, 2007 11:14 am
"Jim Enright, please."
"This is Mr. Enright speaking."
"Mr. Enright, this is Vern Everley, State Department. We are going to need the use of four hotel rooms for the end of this week."
"Your funeral in town sir. Ben. Ben Carter. English teacher. The Secretary of State will be coming to the funeral. Possibly the First Lady."
Jim was thunderstruck.
"The obit in the New York Times? Two days ago? We saw it. Directed it to the Secretary of State."
Jim still didn't know what to say.
After a long pause, Vern Everley said;"I take it that Mr. Carter did NOT tell anyone he was a pen pal with the Secretary of State."
"And the First Lady, also, I assume?"
Everley's voice softened. "Yes, marvelous letters. Your English teacher wrote her glowing, optismtic letters that could make her day. We live in partisan times, sir. And you cannot believe the attacks a person in public life has to suffer through, just because they ARE a public figure.
"Your Mr. Carter felt that the citizens of a country owed their leaders a certain degree of loyality and respect even if they didn't agree with them...and that attacks for the way a person looked or what accent they had should have no bearing on their public appraisal.
"He could make her feel beautiful and interesting and important and funny and validated a lot of her opinions."
Jim was choked up. He had to pause before go on to bury the lump in his throat.
"And the Secretary of State?"
"No, he didn't agree with him, but he would give him helpful hints like...oh, right here..'Don't stoop when you are dedicating things like you did last week. You wind up looking like a hoodlum."
Jim laughed out loud."He WROTE that???"
"The Secretary of State had it up on the bulletin board for a month. Your English teacher was very funny and very intelligent, and even though they differed in most areas, he was an articulate essay writer and very arresting in presenting his opinions. And the Secretary of State DID stoop that day.."
Jim and Mr. Everley laughed at the same time.
"So I'm guessing you need..."
"One room for the Secretary of State, the other rooms for the crew and the Secret Service who will be guarding him. We will seal off the floor."
"How long did the two write to each other?"
"Years. From what we could figure, Mr. Carter just started one day. "
Jim ironed out the details and then rang off...much more impressed.
Posted: Tue Dec 18, 2007 1:25 pm
Before Bobby Cassandra became 'Bobby Cassandra', he was Dr. Robert G. Cassandra...MD. Then being a convicted killer became a full time job, just staying alive. Now that was over too, and the ex doctor, ex death row inmate was left to wonder who he was now.
Vermont seemed like a good place to find out. He walked towards the Inn, where his brother was to meet him for supper, and his girlfriend would join them shortly.
Bob had to smile at that. Girlfriend. Like he was 15. But it wasn't much different then that sort of chaste teenage relationship. They had only written to each other for years. Her coming down to prison was way too much for her..even when they LET her visit.
And he wasn't even sure they had given him all the letters she wrote. Sometimes she'd refer to a previous letter and he wouldn't know WHAT the heck she was talking about. He'd mention it to the lawyers in passing, but never wanted action taken. The focus was on keeping him alive and getting him out. All the money went to that.
Bob also smiled at another pleasure he had forgotten about..being able to ride in an automobile for as long as he wanted to, where ever he wanted to go...in fact, it made him laugh out loud in glee.
His brother Sven heard that first in the next room of the Inn and nearly lost it right there.
It had been many many years since his big brother had laughed.
The two hugged and sat down by the fire and didn't even try to make small talk for many many minutes. For Bob, it was taking in the fire, the freedom..being able to talk to his brother without a visitors cage between their faces. For Sven it was not having to wonder if THIS, this very visit would be the last time they would see each other...worrying that something could go wrong, the phone would ring, and he would find out his older brother had been taken out and killed in the night.
He could relax again, afford to worry about little things.
His brother would not die today or tomorrow.
Christmas seemed like a very good holiday indeed right now.
The two talked about how the war was going, and neither thought it would last past 1943. Complained about how the Tigers did, and laughed at the kid who sang for the Dorsey band, Frank Sinatra...everybody wanted to feed Frankie...he was even in a couple of Looney Tunes/Merry Melodies now..gotta love that..
Bob asked Sven what else was tickling his fancy...there was something..he could sense it...
As usual, Bob was right.
Sven told him about his idea of the two of them going for a hunt. They could line up some decent rifles and a good guide. Relax like the old days. Pheasant. Rabbit. Lynx. Just like the old days, before everything got complicated...
"And wait until you meet the guide.." Sven chortled." A real local character. It's just like the woods of Wisconsin, I tell you.."
Bob smiled. When was the last time the two had gone hunting? After college?
Yeah. Might even bag a snow goose. Perfect.
The brothers laughed and Bob ordered a hot rum. Inside, it felt like a tiny set of gears started to slowly, slowly unwind
Posted: Tue Dec 18, 2007 11:48 pm
Her name was Lill, and some days she thought she just might be the biggest sucker of all time.
Five foot one. Blonde, natural blonde. Straight white teeth. Beautiful clear pale skin. She would be the best looking woman in the room, unless Dora was also in that room.
And that's what happened. Bobby saw Dora and fell for her and married her and discovered that Dora couldn't love anyone but Dora.
This was bad news for Lill, because Lill couldn't love anyone but Bobby.
Had since the 5th grade. Hopelessly. Helplessly. And she never told a soul. Not her parents. Not her friends. Not Bobby.
Left town after teachers college and headed east. She could work anywhere, but with their winters, Vermont was a lot like Wisconsin, and she knew she might as well not even try to forget. It would be Bobby and nothing else.
So she skied, and read and learned to dance and gourmet cook and sometimes dated. And then one day that whole murder case blew up on the front page.
She read every paper.
Then she went to The Three Whistles pub and got a double Jim Beam and tossed it back. Took another. She caught her breath, and just sat there, staring straight forward and telling everyone and yet no one in particular the whole story.
They let the juke box go quiet sometime during that telling.
No one noticed.
There were tears and dead silence. Wide eyes. Some people decided to phone home and tell someone on the other end they loved them...just because they could.
The regulars started to take up a collection after that and gave it to her every month. She sent it to the lawyer.
She wrote Bobby and told him she loved him. How she KNEW he couldn't be guilty.
Bobby wrote back and thanked her and started to talk...slowly..as if he was really talking to himself...how when he kissed Dora he would still see her face, how when he had a problem, he would sometimes find himself pretending he was talking to her.
And Lill became scared because all her life, she had never had the feeling she belonged. Love was never easy or passionate enough or would backfire. And she kept waiting for him to leave her alone, not write back, or for his appeals to end and him to die.
But he didn't die. And he always wrote.
Then Bobby wrote her and told her about Ben Carter.
Carter was an English teacher in the same state she was. Other end, near the Canadian border. He had also written Bobby and said he thought he was innocent too.
Bobby and Ben had never met. Ben had read about the murder in the paper, and couldn't SEE it...Bobby had been an athlete in school..developed muscles..if he had smashed a face 62 times, it would be pulp...and Dora's wasn't. There were other facts, too.
Ben had an ex student working for a Baltimore paper who had gone down to cover the first trial, the one that went out of control. She interviewed the judge, who was probably looking at her legs when he let it slip he thought that Bobby was as gulity as sin.
How many years ago had that been? After that came the in depth stories about how Bobby might be innocent. Ben's students' was one of the first.
It was the start of things unravelling in the prosecutions' case. The start of hope. Lill and Ben and the lawyers and some volunteers found 50 irregularities in the trial. Very possibly manufactured evidence.
Dora's family had money. Probably even thought they were doing the right thing
The defence had enough for a new trial when that woman in Kansas left a confession before she died. Her and her boyfriend. Robbery gone wrong. Dora had tried to flirt her way out.
The woman didn't like it.
Details only the assailant could have known checked out, and everyone backed away fast. Dora's family had paid for swift vengeance and now, just as quickly had everything paved over and filed away to be forgotten.
There was no contact from the family for him. No apology. Just the cell doors quietly springing open.
Bobby wrote Ben and said:"Heck. Her dad never liked me anyway."
Ben and Lill laughed until they cried over that one.
After, Ben had invited her to come to town, to spent Christmas. It could be the couples' first together in years. He'd put them up at the Inn. His wedding gift.
She parked the car and went into the Inn and found the two brothers, sitting by the fire. She came to them out of the darkness and stood in the warm glow as they turned to look at her."Hello, Sven. I'm sorry about Ben. The lady told me when I phoned ahead to see if he needed a ride out here."
Without saying anything, she sat down beside Bobby and touched his hand. Once.
She locked her eyes with his and said;"You wanted me to come to Memphis just after you got released, my love. I wanted you here. I didn't want anything hurried or us coming together like thunder clouds. I wanted the two of us to be able to look at a snow drift while in each others arms and see the flakes carried in the winds while we talked nice and low.
"It would be then we would know it was the time to start planning our lives."
And Bob knew she was right as always and had to thank her for it.
Sven decided to check out a movie.
ROAD TO MOROCCO with Bob Hope was in the next town. Supposed to be funny...maybe that lady guide would like to go..oh, heck, why not go for the gusto and take her to that other one CASABLANCA...now THAT was supposed to be a DATE movie..
Posted: Thu Dec 20, 2007 10:14 pm
When a fuse blows, you need the fuse NOW, so that's why you put fuses beside the fuse box or near it..for when the fuse goes and you don't have to rummage looking for it. It's right there.
Mary was that kind of person. The kind who looked ahead. And it wasn't just with fuses.
She also had stuff stashed at various places through out the Inn, for immediate need.
A suitcase for the times Jim would surprize her with a New York weekend, so she could just GO. A fire extinguisher. An umberlla by the back door.
And, even though Dodger didn't know it...an outift in Dodger's size.
Mary always thought the day would come when Dodger would come out of her 'phase', and that December, she was right.
Dodger made it over the afternoon after Sven asked her out...laughing and crying at the same time.
"His brother is in town with his girlfriend and he wants to make himself scarce, and wants to take me out for a movie..I haven't a thing to wear..can you help?"
Mary reached into a closet and pulled out a new V neck, all new zephyr wool, about three bucks in the big city. Black skirt. White blouse to go underneath it.
And real stockings.
Dodger was astonished."Just like that???"
"I was hoping. You used to be so beautiful. Would you like to do something with the hair??"
Half in hope, half in defense, Dodger asked what she was thinking."Not a color job...I don't want to look schlacked over..."
"No..I have shampoo and we can give you one of those New Look waves..different without anyone thinking you're brassy or something."
Dodger smiled meekly."It's been a long time since I dressed up for anyone..."
"I know.." Mary softly consoled." You go back inside and you stick to stuff that matters. That is essential. That is true. And a lot of other stuff just isn't important anymore.."
"After Jeff...died..I just stayed by myself and tried to make sense of it. Lived in the cabin...let the rest of the world pass...we hunted a lot and trapped and did the outdoors. That was where I loved him. It was like making sense of him not being there."
"Toby says it took her two years before she could read Hemingway again after Alex died. You're not alone. And I don't think anyone expects you to just forget. What do you want to see?'
"I don't know, whats good?"
"Take him to the new horror pic over in the other town. THE CAT PEOPLE. I guess this girl turns into a panther when she is excited and there's a great scene where the other lady is going down a street and you think she's gonna be attacked.."
"...oooookay...MY kind of movie...what kind of EXCITED are we talking about???"
Mary gave her a knowing look."ALL kinds..when she's mad, when she's romantic...all kinds.."
Dodger smiled and got the shampoo.
"....I need to know just when the funeral is...I play centre field for The Red Sox, and this guy would write me these great letters. I was lit up like a pinball machine for the first year and he would get me to laugh and calm down and stop choking up on the bat.."
"...this is the secretary for Mr. Groucho Marx. Where can we send a wreath? Mr. Carter was a regular correspondent...they shared a love for literature. They both loved this Canadian humorist...Stephen Leacock."
"Where IS the funeral home? My boss will be driving through and needs good directions..."
"We took up a collection for him....give me a name of a charity he'd like it to go to..."
"After the fire he sent us an oxygen tent for my gramma...she's alive because he cared. I need two rooms.
Posted: Sat Dec 22, 2007 11:39 pm
Lill wanted to cry.
She was sitting curled in a big leather chair about a century and a half old, cupping a mug of Chase and Sanborn in her palms. Bob was flaked out in the bed in front of her, hands at his side,feet pointed straight up.
It was the snoring that made her want to weep with sheer happiness. The only man she had ever loved was thundering away like a saw mill in front of her, totally out.
For Lill, the world was perfect.
The sun was reflecting off the snow, making the sky look like lemonaide outside. The ski lodge was toasty warm, and she would start making pancakes for them both soon.
Soon. But right now, she was taking this in.
Bob let out a sharp SNORK and startled awake. Turned and looked at her.
"...where are we???...." he whispered.
"Silver Mountain. Ski resort. Outside of town. I rented it so we could get some 'alone time' once you got to Silver Pines. Place came for a song."
Bob smiled. He slowly climbed out of bed and went to the large picture window. Looked out on the snowfield below.
You could pull curtains across for privacey, but they were the only people for miles. The snow was undisturbed as far as you could see.
It would take getting used to. Bob had been in a very small room in the southern United States for the past few years just by himself. And prisons never REALLY slept. This silence and space would take getting used to.
He could feel his chest beating inside.
Bob tried to breathe smoothly. Slowly.
Lill came behind and hugged him and put her face against his bare shoulder blade. He was wearing some p.j. bottoms, and was barefoot. She had on a thick white bathrobe
"Tell me..tell me what it was like.."
"You never asked before.."
"It was never safe before...not this safe.."
"Christmas was the worst, or close to it. You had the guards who would sometimes make a sizzling noise with their mouths on their rounds just to get under your skin. No pun intended.
"Others just treated you as well as they could or thought you deserved. Nobody really comes to death row to visit. The air in the place at Christmas seems to get thick...heavy...can't describe it. You never really get quiet, but at the same time, there is a stillness that you can't cut through...room noises echo, conversations sound harsh.
"Here, it's a warm, calm quiet. There it was cold and never let you relax."
"Mom, they want you to have it. It's a copy of that Tintoretto we saw on the second trip to Rome." Terry was in Ben's old office. Vern had just cleared out, and Terry was looking at the painting they had decicded to give to his mother.
She gave out a small laugh on the phone. "That's the one in London, not the Vatican."
Terry scowled unconsciously.
"Okay sue me. I didn't pay close enough attention. But it's big, it's good, and it's yours. Come up. Bring Dad. They're nice people. They would like to meet you, too. I know I can't lug it out of here by myself..."
His Mom laughed again. "Hey, a ski trip...why not? Never even TRIED to ski before. How big did you say it was?"
"I'm guessing about six by four."
"Got a signature on it?"
"Never even thought to look."
"They name the title of the painting. Another of his suffering saints. Tintoretto. Roman numerals I can't read. I'm better at the ones at the bottom of movies. Then there's a circle with two pink dots inside."
His Mom, Dott Williams, stopped breathing when she heard about that cirlce and the two pink dots.
Getting her cool back, she asked him to keep a look out for two guys. One would be kind of his dad's age, bald and really grouchy. The other would be younger, about Terry's own age, but with big brown El Greco eyes and black hair. Could he do that?
"Sure Mom, what's up??"
"A couple of art buyers that I don't want to get mixed into the soup. Don't let on..just figure out where they live and let me know when we get to town."
Mom thanked him warmly and rang off and started to make plans to go. It was a done deal in her mind that Dad would come with her.
He had to.
The circle with the two pink dots inside.
Okay, okay, his name REALLY translated out to BABY CHEEKS. But the thrust of it was closer to Baby Face. And Baby Face was one of the most sought after forgers in France, America, Mexico, and anyplace else you could name.
Mom smiled to herself. Perfect. If you were going to hide a forger, where else would you do it??? Right there, in plain sight, in the boonies of Vermont. And Chicken would be with him.
The two were the Abbott and Costello of the art world.
And it was only a fluke someone like her had caught on.
Posted: Sun Dec 23, 2007 4:42 am
How many miracles do you WANT in a day???
Tom had stopped by the diner and saw Sven and Dodger eating breakfast together and laughing. Land sakes, Sven even waved him over and bought HIM a cup of coffee..
"So you're not REALLY from Sweden??" Tom ventured during the second cup. Dodger curling up into Sven's arm was not lost on him either. Smiling. Bathed. Happy. Beautiful in fact...a real Christmas miracle.
"Almost as bad...I'm from WISCONSIN...see, we have a huge Polish, Swedish, Norweigan, what-have-you population up there..and the accents are some of the strongest you'll ever hear this side of Stockholm...My brother, whom I am visiting in the area moved south after HE graduated med school and lost his accent..me...I just kept it..when a couple of folks thought I was from off shore, I let them..the name I gave was pretty much the same as John Smith..I was trying to keep things quiet..Bob wants a low profile for reasons you already guessed..and thank you for helping..."
"I'm glad you came to town and found Dodger though...she deserves to be happy again...do you know she was the belle of the ball the year that I graduated??? I only got ONE dance with her...she and her date.."
Tom stopped talking..his face turned white, scared he had gone too far.
Dodger reached out and touched his wrist and said softly:"Tom..it's okay..Jeff went to war and died. I was sad and angry but it's time to let go of that too..we were in love in high school and he went away to fight Hitler and I was really upset and felt cheated and just sort of retreated to things that I thought made sense...things I could depend on..and I know what you're thinking...and you are RIGHT...this IS a Christmas miracle."
Tom was stunned. "You read minds now as well as guide hunters???"
"I read faces...remember the year you guys let me play poker with you and I took you all?? Same thing. Your tell is around your eyes."
They all laughed.
Tom finished the coffe, and rose to leave."No rest for the wicked. We have to move that funeral of Ben's to the arena. It's the only place that will hold it...the funeral home seats maybe fifty and there's lots and lots of folks coming from out of town.."
Dodger smiled."Take it to Silver Mountain..you have that dance lodge/convention hall thingy up there half way up...it holds two, three hundred easy...and it's classier then the arena, Bob and Lill won't be bothered...its a big lot of land.. and it's where he'd like to end up...I just know it."
Tom smiled, leaned over, and gave Dodger a kiss."Glad you brought her back, Sven."
Posted: Mon Dec 24, 2007 5:05 am
The Christmas parade came and went, and Tom cornered a couple of kids after to see if the Christmas decorations he had 'improved' on mainstreet had made any difference.
"The were okay" said one boy.But what happened to the cowboy hat and the Buck Rogers rocket?"
"Those were supposed to be candles."
"But we got used to them being cowboy hats and rockets. Kind of made us look forward to our cowboy and Indian men and our Buck Rogers space hats.."
"They were supposed to be candles."
"Not the things that Roscoe uses to celebrate that Jewish day? Not a dray-dell?"
Roscoe, in the meantime, had gone two towns over and found an old silk hat in a pawn shop. (WHO pawns a silk hat?, he thought to himself...and didn't want to know.) By then, Dicky had been fully converted to wanting a magic set over a chemistry set.
Roscoe got the false bottom and the sides rigged for the top hat tricks and whistled some Bing Crosby.
Caroline had got copies of magic act posters that she was going to glue to the box they were putting all the stuff in to make it look store bought.
Dodger had been making some chaps for Dicky to wear out of some tanned deer hide she had been working on since the fall. It was a light brown and tied with bows on the side. She threw in a gun belt at no extra charge.
Roscoe had also snuck in one night when Caroline wasn't looking and stuck the ring that Terry had brought on a carrot stick, and put both back in the refrigerator.
Terry, meanwhile, couldn't figure out where his Mom had gotten her wires crossed.
He found both Chicken and Baby Face, first day.
That was the easy part.
They both lived at the bottom of Silver Mountain.
Both had wives and sold, not BOUGHT art. And Baby Face wasn't grumpy at all.
The art they sold was all original. Both guys did it and signed their own names to it. Copies of the masterpieces EASY to spot.
But good. Real good.
You had Pinky and Blue Boy...only instead of being in TWO pictures that were usually side by side, these guys had them both in one, having a kiss.
Mona Lisa they did a bunch of times. In one, she was laughing. In another, she was scratching her back. A third had her putting a hand to her mouth to cover a yawn or cough.
"Americans LIKE things different.." Baby Face explained to him the day he came to his studio."They get bored seeing the same masters, if such a thing can happen...so I make EXACT copies, but with the masterpieces doing things before or after or slightly unusual..."
Baby Faces' real name was Gaston. His friends name Hans, but even Gaston called him Chicken.
It was Gaston's Last Supper that really got Terry, and it was that painting he was admiring the day his Mom came to town.
The painting was about half the size of a living room wall. It was of the disciples, but at another supper sometime before. A waitress was behind them all, tryng to refill a cup. One disciple was rising from his seat, pointing at a goblet, trying to get her to fill his too. She was turning with that smiling expression all waitresses learn ealy in the career which means the same thing in every language...'hold your horses'.
Two more were looking at her, with one pointing over his shoulder as if to reassure the other he could put in a good word. One (Judas?) was bugged eyed at his bill, mouth open. Two were making fun of him behind his back. More were talking to each other with their chins resting on the back of their hands, some leaning back in their chairs, smiling.
It was the end of a day of hard work. Everyone was happy.
And in the middle, Jesus was still there, but he was staring at the viewer. He had an indulgent smiling look as if to say;"Be kind. They forget God has come down to earth to dwell among them. Just like you do. So let's let them enjoy one of their last good nights together.."
"It's one of your best, Gaston."
Dott Willams had walked in. Nobody had noticed. All three turned to see her."Hi, Terry, I saw the Tintoretto you were talking about. You're right. It's perfect. Missed you, Gas. Hello, Chicken."
After giving his Mom a hug and a kiss, Terry asked what was going on.
"These two are the best forgers France ever made. Chicken did etchings. Usually Goya. Baby Cheeks could fake any Old Master. Really well, too. Mexico City has two that they admit to, and one they don't know about.."
"Three they don't know about.." Baby Cheeks smiled as he corrected her.
"Chicago, has, I think, two of each.."
"One they admit to, two they don't..." Baby Cheeks was still smiling.
"The list keeps going. I only found out about the ones I did because he used some hickory...Tintoretto wouldn't have had it to paint with.."
Baby Cheeks smiled even more."I always wondered how you knew.."
"Then these guys went straight. Government idea. See, they found out the Nazis wanted to loot the masters when the invaded. So they made a deal. Forge paintings and get a pardon. Your record would be erased. They kept their word, and State brought these two over here...Even I didn't know about that..we had tracked the Chicago forgery to France, just before the invasion, and then State tells us he's THEIRS now and all bets were off.."
"Why would the American State Department help hide them here?"
"Baby Cheeks is a Jew, son. He did a LOT of forgeries..and France thought they should keep him SAFE and reformed."
And Terry understood and the room was silent.
"So how did Ben get the copy of Tintaretto?"
"Because some things even I cannot control..."smiled Baby Face.
Posted: Mon Dec 24, 2007 5:23 am
"See, this beautiful young lady was married to an old English lord, and she was said to have 'shot him in cold blood, point blank range'.
"Anyway. This lawyer 'gets her off', I guess is how you say it. But the payment is a painting. A Rembrant.
"The lawyer takes the painting home, opens up a real bottle of Napoleon brandy to celebrate..one of the last real bottles around his parts. Falls asleep. Burns down the painting and himself.
"They only mentioned the painting in the paper over here, not the rich guy...I thought it was a perfect display of what was REALLY valuable...but your English teacher..he liked to follow murder trials and read the New York Times. The Times had the NAME of the painting,but NOT the pic..so he goes to the library to SEE what has been burned away from the world.
"So JUST THINK how he responded when he was in Cinci, or Chicago or Florida or where ever it was, and sees that Rembrant, the one he KNEW was burned in England, on the wall.
"Goes to the lady who runs the establishment, tells her he thinks it's fake..and she SMILES and tells him the real story as long as he keeps his mouth shut..about them smuggling out the artists. How I had painted it before I left Europe. Before the war. How THIS is the last trace of that Rembrant ANYWHERE and maybe is pretty valuable in it's own right..
"I was still in Boston. It must have taken him months to figure it out...months more to track me down.
"Thought I might like it here better. He was right. I found a lovely lady from another high school I married. Settled down.
"Chicken and I were straight by then..and he asked us to do an exact copy of the Tintoretto, but to sign my name and admit it was a copy. Proud to do it.
"We were making some good money doing that, and then we figured out how to make GREAT money doing those changes I told you about. Americans like ANYTHING new...but your English teacher only liked what was GOOD...
"It's not Napoleon brandy, but a toast...to Ben..."
Posted: Mon Dec 24, 2007 5:51 am
The funeral took forever, and no one cared.
The mourners walked on foot to the Silver Mountain club for one last good by and testament to Ben Carter, English teacher.
His two fellow retired high school teachers phoned up and down the lines that day and had a moment of silence arranged, coast to coast as the hearse drove by.
Vern had a sheet drapped from the window:"Goodbye Ben. We love you."
Others had done the same on the route...sometimes only naming books they had been exposed to, others just stating the year he taught them.
Athletes and politicians and movie stars walked with the townsfolk. There was a scientist who did work no one understood. Ben had written him to say he TRIED to understand his stuff and hoped he was successful.
There were other people convicted of crimes besides Bob that Ben had rooted for. Some had been pardoned, others hadn't been yet. A few of those came from prison still in cuffs, with guards . They cried and told how he believed in them, and how much just that meant. Many of those still serving time hoped someday others would believe too.
No one minded.
It was family. And in families you take your turn.
Rev Abernathy had the last say:'You know, the Christmas tree was a accident?
"True. The only reason we celebrate it as a Christmas symbol over HERE is because Queen Victoria married this German, Albert, and he introduced HER to the idea..and HER subjects brought the idea with THEM.
"But I would like to suggest we have this great symbol of Christmas right here in town..the mountain and the town itself...
"Silver Mountain and Silver Pines reminds us of the best in each of us, because it helps us to bring that best out..we are not at our best all the time, but we can support one another, love one another, and with each doing what we can...we create a better world for each other..and the funny thing is, we don't think anything special is happening..
"Some of us had the idea of promoting the town as a celebration of Christmas symbols we all love. Nothing wrong with that. But thanks to Ben, we've become a celebration of the love that's behind the season and those symbols to begin with.
"It's one of the reasons that all faiths have come to love Christmas as we all do now..it used to be a great day to go out and sack the Jewish ghetto and kill a few Jews in the deal. Now there's love and peace in the air, we tell strangers 'Merry Christmas', and you don't have to hide under the bed in fear. That's a heck of a transformation..and it's an American one. We should be proud, and the idea of a mountain as a symbol of good will is not a bad one to start with.."
Later that day, Roscoe was unwinding with Terry's family over at Carolines. When she saw the diamond she started to cry.
"Yes...I'll marry you..."
The house broke out in applause and the couple kissed.
Gramma was over for the day, and invited Terry to sit beside her for Christmas dinner.
"Do you mind sitting beside a Buddhist for Christmas? asked Terry."I picked up the religion in Hawaii."
"Jesus is Jesus, Santa is Santa...no matter WHAT you call them.." Gramma crowed.
Terry took her by the arm, and agreed with her as he led her to the table.
Posted: Mon Dec 24, 2007 5:52 am