This is a place to examine plans filled with hope; plans which promise a refuge from chaos; plans which will shape our futures. Veterans with and without PTSD, Pentecostal Presbyterians, Adjudicated Youth, and Artists-Musicians-Writers: I write what I know. ~~~ Evelyn
“Looky, looky, looky!” Jeremy, our public relations
coordinator foisted a massive foam hat at me as I walked into the back room. “Just
in time for May.”
Two-foot masts blossomed with canvas sails. Hemp
rigging attached the sails to the two and a half foot boat.
“It’s a ship,” I blinked, taking it from Jeremy.
“The Mayflower.” Jeremy identified the hat with a
Scarlet O’Hara twang.
“Wait ‘til you see the pilgrims,” growled Doreen.
“Is this an anchor?” I asked.
“Yeah,” Calvin smiled coldly. “Turn your head just
right and smack! You hook someone’s eye with it.”
Everyone laughed nervously because as much as we
loved Calvin, sometimes he wasn’t joking.
Doreen clapped her hands for attention. “Good
morning my Perky Ambassadors! Welcome to the first Monday in May!” She called
our monthly associates meeting to order, and turned the meeting over to our
newest of a long line of short-lived managers. He stood before us, trim, tidy,
dressed in a black suit, white shirt, red power tie, and shiny leather shoes.
“Good morning. My name is Thomas Ambrose. I have
been known to change traditions. I’m going to do so this morning. I would like
us to go up into the café for our meeting. I think it’s very important for
every employee to know all of our products, not just books, so I’m going to
treat you all to breakfast. Tea, coffee, doughnuts, and bagels.”
“Please tell me you brought them in from Martin’s
Bagels down the street,” Calvin gasped.
“I love humor in the workplace,” replied the new
“Then you’re gonna love the coffee!” Jeremy
“A bribe by any other name,” suggested Sam Wayne.
“You’d think these GM’s would leave notes for each other. GM number 572, treated staff to breakfast to get them on my side.”
“That’s a good idea, but then they’d have to keep
tallies of how many died from food poisoning,” laughed my best friend Lilly.
“But NOW, they have to make another list of
tallies for those who died from being ripped apart.” Henry shoved past us.
“Well, looks like someone didn’t enjoy being taken
downtown for interrogation about Mrs. A’s murder!” Calvin did the teapot
gesture, so I smacked him on the head.
“Interview, not interrogation,” I smirked.
“Did you get that detective’s phone number, Henry?
He could ask me anything he wanted—at anytime,” cat-called Jeremy.
“Now, now, children,” scolded Angelique. This
stunning six-foot blond with an hourglass figure, stiletto heels, size D cups,
and blood-red fingernails’ real name was Adam. He smoothed his linen suit over
his hips and tugged the hemline of his skirt a little closer to his mid-thighs.
“We’re not really going to wear that thing, are we,
Uncle Billy?” Bessie was a new ambassador. She clung to Billy’s arm.
“There, there, little girl. You’ll get used to the
h#%&&* things. Pardon my French.” He patted her hand.
Each of us sat with a steaming cup of Perky’s
finest brew and a pastry; no one except Henry had touched them yet.
We looked up at the new GM without quite achieving
the expectant hush most new GMs demanded. “My name is Thomas Ambrose.” He
glanced around the tiny café. “I expected a larger turn out. I’m sure you are
aware that these monthly meetings are mandatory.”
“Preaching to the choir, brother,” sang Jeremy.
“This is the entire staff. He fired seven people
this week,” Calvin mumbled.
“Seven?” I usually keep my mouth shut at these
meetings, but Calvin’s information startled me.
Lilly held up seven fingers.
“Yes?” Thomas pointed at Lilly. “The woman in
jeans and the Have you martyred a
Christian today T-shirt. Did you have something to add?”
“Sir, no sir!” she snapped. Despite a face like an
angel haloed by glossy black ringlets which cascaded below her shoulders and were
held back with a turquoise ribbon; despite size eight faded jeans and hemp
sandals; despite rings on her toes and no need for a bra (due to firmness, not
size); once a Marine, always a Marine.
“Mr. Thomas?” Bessie raised a trembling hand.
“We don’t really have to wear that thing on our
heads, do we?”
Thomas glared with obvious distaste at the
Mayflower sailing on top of Calvin’s head. Calvin had almost managed to hook
Angelique’s hoop earrings twice now. Thomas sighed in disgust. “Yes. They will
help identify you as Percival Floor Ambassadors.”
“Or escaped loonies,” Sam Wayne snorted.
“Ain’t that the pot calling the kettle black?” Jeremy
pointed at Sam.
“I notice none of you are eating or drinking. Or—few
of you.” Thomas put his hands in his pockets. Henry snatched the shiny doughnut
off of Doreen’s plate.
Doreen was a solid chunk of muscles and would have
been happy plowing fields, baking bread, and slaughtering hogs on a prairie
farm during the Western Expansion. At five foot one, she was the only Perky
Ambassador shorter than me. She wore beautiful dresses that just didn’t look
quite right on her, and scuffed Doc martens, which she’d gotten from the
Catholic thrift store for two dollars. She brooked no insolence from anyone for
any reason. But she had a soft-spot for Henry.
Thomas continued. “I’d like to take this time to
thank,” he peered at an index card in the palm of his hand. “Elizabeth
Smythe-Covington for filling in as café manager during your recent loss.”
“Who?” Sam asked.
“Elizabeth Smythe-Covington,” Thomas repeated.
“Who’s that?” Angelique questioned.
Thomas referred to his card again. “Did I
pronounce your name wrong?”
“No. It’s fine.” Henry kept her eyes on the tabletop.
“Elizabeth? Your name’s Elizabeth?” Sam gawked.
“Yes.” She glared at him.
“Like, a girly girl’s name, Elizabeth?”
“Sam, don’t piss her off!” I warned softly.
“Well, I can see why you’d go by Henry. It’s a man’s
name. Manly. For a man.”
“Sam!” Lilly hissed. “Don’t make it worse!”
“Sam, Henry’s real name is Elizabeth. She’s called
Elizabeth because she’s a girl.” Billy said this in a stage whisper, behind his
The phone rang at precisely six a.m.
the second Saturday of the month like it had every third month for the last fifteen
years.I reached to answer it, when all of
a sudden, Josh grabbed my hand and growled, "Let the machine answer
He looked adorable with sleep
tussled hair and sheet wrinkles on his cheeks.
The phone clanged a second time.
"But I know who it
is."I reached with my other hand.
He captured that one, too.I remembered
our kiss; he remembered our kiss, too and smiled.
The machine crackled, "Ronnie,
that you?I'm having a lot of static on
the line.Listen, I know they're
monitoring us, so think a minute.Remember Huey, Dewy, and Louis?Three days from now. Women at War.My-my-my."There was a
pause."Whenever you can,
"Who else knows about
"Nobody else knows."I pressed the stop, rewind/erase button on my
new answering machine and crossed my arms.
"You're tampering with
evidence!"He jabbed the stop,
knocking the machine to the floor.
"I'm erasing my own
tape."I walked into the living
"That was some kind of code,
wasn't it?"He followed me,
gesturing back toward the office.
"Wow.You don't miss much, do you."I crawled back onto the sofa bed."I'm going back to sleep."
He yanked the sheet off me."You are compromising your own
safety.Now, I demand you tell me who
was on the phone and what it meant!"
I stood up on the mattress and
towered over him, furious."I have
never compromised anything in my life.And that's another thing -- this is my life!!MY LIFE!!"I stormed off the sleeper sofa and stomped
into the kitchen."It used to be so
I glared at him."Organized!"
"Are you saying this is MY
fault?Don't get mad at me.Your father --"
"Leave the Mad Scientist out of
this!"I clanged an iron skillet
onto the stove, jerked open the refrig, wrestled the bacon out of its plastic
cocoon, and tapped my foot, waiting for it to sizzle.
I spun around and hollered,
"Don't just stand there, make some coffee!"
"Yes, ma'am."Josh stated calmly.
I smothered bagels with cream cheese
and finally commented, "I bet Claire's having a real laugh at me."
"How so?"Josh poured the coffee.
"This terrorist slant makes no
sense.None.What if Claire made up the note and got one
of her friends to hire those people to make an attempt?What would be the result?"
"I'd get stuck here the rest of
my life."Josh mumbled around his
"So go home!"I pushed away from the table, terribly
hurt."Nothing about this makes
"By 'makes sense' you mean like
vacuuming in the middle of the night makes sense?You mean like never having any clocks in the
house that tell the right time makes sense?!"He was standing, too.
"I'll come back another
time."A sweet old lady stood
inside the back door.
Josh's hand flew behind his back,
drew his pistol and dared the intruder to breath.She screamed, dropped the jar she was
holding, and crumpled into a heap on the floor.
"Mrs. Jenkins!"I cried."Josh Dylan, is that the best you can do: scare little creatures
and defenseless old ladies!"
Josh lifted her up and placed her
gently on the sofa.She moaned in
terror, but I sat beside her, patting her hand.
"How did she get in?"His voice sounded strangled as he tried to
control his rage.
"She has a key."
Josh pursed his lips, glanced around
the room, and took a deep breath, “Why?"
"Because she's my neighbor."
Josh nodded fiercely.
"He was going to shoot
me!"Mrs. Jenkins whimpered.
"No, no dear."I helped her sit up."He's just a Yankee."
"Oh."She accepted all the implications.
"Would you like some coffee,
Mrs. Jenkins?"Josh pointed toward
"I wouldn't presume," she
"There's bacon and bagels,
too."I added, accompanying her to
"Well, maybe just a
little.After such a shock, you know."
Mrs. Jenkins consumed three bagels
and four slices of bacon, regaling us about the Caribbean
fruit flies that were devastating her papayas.
I caught Josh's eye once and
smiled.He smiled back and stood up to
retrieve the jar by the back door.
"Here's your jar,
ma'am."He placed it in front of
"Oh, I don't need it now.Silly me, I was going to make pancakes this
morning, but I didn't have any flour.I
saw you were up, and I knew you wouldn't mind."
"We don't mind a bit,
ma'am."Josh went to the freezer,
pulled out a bag of unbleached wheat flour, and handed it to her."I love pancakes, my grandfather used to
make them every Sunday before church."
He held her elbow as he walked her
to the door."Maybe you could save
me one or two, Mrs. Jenkins.It'd bring
back good memories for me."
There were tears in Mrs. Jenkins
eyes as she promised to do so.Then she
kissed him on the cheek."You be
good to my Ronnie," she whispered.
"Yes, ma'am," he replied.
We spent the morning at the Public
Library.Josh finally sat down in the
magazine section and I slipped upstairs to non-fiction.I took an index card out of my pocket and
copied down the four digit Dewy Decimal number from the spine of Women at
War.Next, I went to the Star
Trek Encyclopedia and figured out the star date for three days from today,
and rounded it to four digits.Then I
put 13 on the end, for 'M' if A = 1 and B = 2 . . .Put all together in the proper order, it made
a phone number.I put the card back in
my pocket and sat down next to Josh.
"Whenever you are,” he
stood."Aren't you going to check
words echoed up to Hunter as she squatted in an air vent.She was exploring new territory.The cave she looked down into was full of
'chairs' and 'tables'.It was a large,
dimly lit room.Three cave people sat at
one table in the middle.
words answered the understandable words.
sniffed the air, not smelling death.She
listened carefully to the cave dwellers. They were laughing and putting their hands
over their faces.They punched each
other playfully and talked about 'bad smell'.
Hunter sniffed and smelled nothing different.
climbed out of the vent and cautiously approached the three, sniffing, trying
to discover what caused their reaction.
saw her and stopped laughing.She stood
still.Maybe one was leader and wanted
her submission.She watched their faces
for signs of their rank.
whispered to each other.One reassured
the others.It smiled at her and spoke
Hunter smiled back.Encouraged by their calmness, Hunter moved
closer, running her
hand over the smooth 'tabletop'.She said these words to herself.Gods spoke
to her in the dark, telling her the names of things. In light, she touched the items she'd learned
and said the words mentally.
day, she would say the words out loud.
smiling pointed to its chest."Mark."It pointed to
sign 'same'?Hunter came closer, about a
table away.She recognized the sound of
her name.Mark nodded and repeated its
slapped her breast.It sounded muffled
against the material of the green outfit she still wore.
Hunter Rogue."The cave dweller
tapped its chest and smiled."Im
Mark -- same!Hunter was surprised.She smiled and leaped onto the chair next to
her new friend.
God!"The cave people at the table
covered their faces and made strange noises.They puffed out their cheeks.
was scared.She jumped away from
them.Mark was making sounds of anger.
signed 'same', but as she bent to slap Mark's chest, it jerked away from her.
slowly crept back up to her air vent.
returned to her troop empty-handed and angry.
New was there.Hunter bowed to Bigfeet
and then walked over and sat down next to her friend.
New touched her hair and hummed, "Hunter?"Hunter grabbed First New's hand and held it
to her nose.She sniffed.
New had no scent.
sniffed up First New's arm to her armpit and neck.Her hair smelled like trees in summer.Nothing else about First New smelled.Hunter pried her mouth open and smelled.Even her breath was nice.
"Same,"Hunter signed."Same," she repeated, hitting hard.
Vivian signed gently.
curled her lips and puffed her cheeks.She took First New's hand and pressed it against her nose.Then she pressed her own hand against First
gagged, like the people in the table-chair cave.
stood up and walked away, deeply hurt.
jumped up, then hesitated.She clapped
her hands and took a deep breath.Slowly, she took off her outfit.
troop watched in habitual silence.
skin was dark, hairless.She walked to
the flower and sat on it.The water
swooshed.She stood up and walked into a
niche in the wall.She touched the
wall.Rain fell only on her.
smiled and laughed.She exaggerated the
motions of taking a shower.
already had her suit off.She began
pressing the walls, asking the cave to give her rain, too.
New took her hand and let her stand under the rain.Warm rain!Like summer.First New rubbed
something on her skin that smelled like trees.The dark layers of dirt smeared and ran down her legs.The skin underneath was pale and
freckled.It was the most wonderful
feeling Hunter ever remembered.
tree smell overwhelmed her own scent.Her skin changed colors from rusty brown to shell pink.The itches in her hair stopped.Hunter let First New bathe her and didn't
care that the whole troop was watching.
would not hold its nose now.
of times, Hunter's scent had saved her life.Most carnivores eat good-smelling animals, not strong musky animals like
her.But that time was gone.
time to live like these cave dwellers.
the other females showered, Vivian brought combs and brushes in and showed
Hunter how to use them.Hunter
recognized the small branch.Now she
would learn to use it right.
hair was short, but the colonists were tenderly impatient with their long
hair.Vivian left the cave and returned
with something covered.She went to
Hunter assured her happily.
New lifted Hunter's hair, then ran her fingers through her own short
"Same."Hunter would learn whatever First New wanted
to teach her.She sat patiently as First
New put a cold thing to her hair.Her
hair fell into her lap.
was too busy enjoying her shower to notice.
rust-colored locks fell in a matted heap onto her lap.She caught Darkarm's eyes again.He smiled admiringly, aware that Bigfeet
could not see him.
Vivian picked up the fallen hair, covered the scissors, and left the room.Dr. Arton begged for Hunter's first hair
clippings.They are still his favorite
ordered new outfits for every female.The five males still refused to dress or wash.
Rivers whispered, "Can you teach me how to bathe tonight?" for which
he received a bruise.
A few other females wanted their hair
cut.But for the most, the shower was
quite enough adaptation at one time.
was a huge Newfoundlander; dark and muscular.Colette was a yellow lab, large by most standards, but diminished by her
companion.They looped across heathery
fields and bounded over streams full of koi.The sun never rose; it never set; it burned golden in the powder blue of
the dream-world sky.In a lucid dream,
everything was brighter, smelled richer, felt fuller, tasted like heaven.In lucid dreaming, everything had
and Newfoundlander nipped affectionately at each other, as dogs do.
They topped a rise and she heard murmuring.A bee circled her, buzzing.She snapped at it and continued chasing her
friend.More droning; three more bees
joined the first.They flew in front of
her, diving at her tender nose.She yelped.
More singing, more bees.She stumbled as
a dozen sank into her thick mane, stabbing her with their stingers.She howled and tumbled down the hill.
rushed to her side, devouring as many bees as he could.The whirring deafened her as hundreds of bees
attacked her, stinging and dying as she tried to outrun them.
The phone was ringing.Colette fell out of bed, gasping and
sobbing.Her skin was on fire, remembering
the dream-stings.She grabbed the phone
“You’ve got a nosy neighbor.” The
usually gruff voice sounded dulled.
“You need me to come and clean his
clock?” Slurred.Camp loved Bushmills.
“Camp, what time is it?”
“It’s – aw fuck – it’s only midnight.”
“In Wyoming.It’s midnight in Wyoming.”
“I’m in Florida.”
“Ah hell, Spooky, did I wake you?”
“I was being stung to death by bees.”
“Don’t call me Spooky.”
Good natured silence balanced them.
“Deputy Fife doesn’t believe I’m a
“His loss.” The tinkle of ice against
glass.“You doing OK?”
“Sure.” Colette crawled off the floor
and sat on the bed.
“You tried to protect me from them.”
“I was in your dreams?”
Always, but she didn’t say it.
“So, what do the bees mean?”
She took a deep breath. She realized he was giving her time to pull
herself together, to slip into her safe teacher-mode. “Bees represent betrayal, usually sexual in
nature.Mindless mob ruled by instinct
and preservation of a singular concept, fanatically so.Bees are ancient and the first insects to be
“I know something about bees,
too.They can’t really fly.”The ice and glass tolled again.
“What do you know about Ralph Waldo
“They were those mutant turtle things,
If she closed her eyes, she could
still smell his skin.“He wrote a
poem.Lots of poems, but there’s one in
particular.It’s creepy to me.I keep hearing phrases from it.‘Alway, alway something sings’.”
“Do you – need some company?”
“Camp, this is the first vacation you’ve
taken since Noah launched his ark.”
“That wasn’t a no.”
“Are you fishing?”
Metaphysically, she threw herself at
him for a brief moment.“Be careful
where you put your hooks.”
“I keep them in my tackle box.”
“Nope.There’s one scattered on your boat, hidden.Be careful not to get stuck by it.”