Friday, November 15, 2019

Chapter 13

Coming Soon

Chapter 12 - The Honeymoon


(As always if you are new to the book here are links to the earlier chapters, Chapter 1Chapter 2Chapter 3 Chapter 4Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8, Chapter 9 and Chapter 10, and Chapter 11).

Julie arrived to work early the following Monday. She wanted to make sure everything was ready. A refreshing Sunday had helped her get over her sorrow of not having Byron to talk to and she was ready to begin her new life as a married, albeit distantly, woman.

The week previous she had taken leave, this not only gave her time to finalize all the wedding plans, but also gave her sufficient time off for people to assume she had been on a honeymoon. They didn’t need to know she had just been married the past Saturday.

She was well prepared, a new name plate, had been acquired. Julie had debated legally changing her name but it had seemed a bit too much effort, so instead the name plate that once read Julie Smith now simply read, “Mrs. Julie Smith.” No one really put the prefix on their name plate but she would break the mold if it meant one more point that proved to the world, particularly Larry’s world, that she was indeed married.

Several pictures had been purchased and printed of her and Byron. She was now trying various places in the office to place them. Once they all had a home, she pulled out a thumb drive with an updated slideshow to use as a screensaver. Throughout the last few weeks she had taken selfies of herself and Byron at almost every place they had gone. And she had quite a convincing collection that would play across her screen. Sitting back she looked over her handy work with pride and satisfaction. No one visiting this office would dare say that this was the office of an old maid. Instead, it was clearly a happily married, not to hit on, set up with, or feel pity for, woman.

The day to day work was just that, like any other day. But all her little efforts were paying off. At a morning meeting Jan noticed her ring, and congratulations followed. When Ryan came in to hand her a set of plans he noticed the picture and asked, “ Who’s this?”

“That’s my husband, Byron,” came her ready reply.

“You’re married?”

“Yup, just recently.”

He too followed with congratulations.

And when the boss walked by, he asked, “How was your time off?”

“It was great.”

“Are these pictures new...wait...did you get married?”

“Yes, I did.”

Then he said the thing all the co-workers had said in their head but were not willing to say out loud. “Oh, I guess you really did have a boyfriend.”

“You thought I made him up?” Julie said.

Her boss instantly regretted allowing his tongue to outpace his better judgement and defensively said, “No, of course not. Although, Larry was convinced you did.”

“You can’t trust anything Larry says.” Boy, that felt good to say, she thought.

“Well, you have a good day.”’ The boss said on his way out.

Julie muttered as he left, “Oh trust me, I will.”

But as good as all this felt the real moment of glory wouldn’t be until Larry had walked through that door. And this was the one point that had been the grey lining on an otherwise perfect day. Larry usually had annoyingly interrupted her 4 times by now. It would be just like him to call in sick on the only day of his existence that Julie was actually looking forward to seeing him.

For a brief moment, Julie contemplated walking by his cube, simply to verify he was in. But, where was his cube? She had avoided seeing him for so long that she had forgotten exactly where he sat. Not that she never needed to get a hold of him. After all, he was the drafting lead on several of her projects, but if she ever had something to show him or give him she put it on the side of her desk, knowing that in a few minutes he’d be poking his head in. Now that she thought about it, it wasn’t just for things for Larry. She often set things for other people aside, thinking, ‘I’ll have Larry grab it when he comes by and take it to them.’

There was a brief moment of fear as she thought all this effort was putting an end to her free office delivery service. But the benefits were great and that wasn’t even counting the added exercise, and this put her mind at ease. And right on cue, Larry’s little pointy head made its entrance, “Hey JuJu bug, miss me. I was off this morning getting my pearly whites cleaned. I want to keep your view, top notch.” The smile he gave was almost as obnoxious as he was.

“It’s Julie, or better yet, you can call me Mrs. Smith.”

“Mrs? I hate to break it to you babe, but that’s usually not given as an honorary title.”

“Very funny Larry.”

“Thanks, I am pretty clever.”

“For your information, I am very, very happy to let you know that while I was out, I got married.”

“Yeah right...nice try. To who? Your imaginary…” His face looked much like Prince Humperdinck when he discovered Wesley, very much alive and in the bedroom of his fiance.

“Oh, you like that picture. It was taken of Byron and I,” she paused, “on our wedding day.” She had purposely chosen the photo that was displayed most predominantly because the perspective made Byron look rather tall and impressive.

“Lovely,” he said as clearly as anyone’s whose world had just crashed down around his perfectly clean teeth could. “You know… I was...well...just kidding this whole time. I knew he was real. If you’ll excuse me, I need to run to a meeting.” And he was off.

If was with much more joy than guilt that Julie sat back knowing that the meeting he had to rush off to only had two invitees, himself and a box of tissues.

-------------------------

Julie wasn’t the only one who was finding wedded bliss. Monday mornings were not Byron's favorite but today had a special feeling in the air. Today, he was going to work not only as a marriage counselor but a married marriage counselor. He would never have to hear his clients say "well how would you know?", "you wouldn't understand", or his favorite "that's easy for a single guy to say." The gold band still gleaned from its newness. It was probably thicker than most bands, but he wanted the fact that he was married to be noticed rather than spoke. As long as nothing was said, he wouldn't have to mention the fact that he was newly wed, at least not to his new clients.

He had been around long enough to realize that no one took newly weds seriously. Whenever his clients commented on seeing a couple that looked like they were enjoying being together, they would quickly say, "Oh, they must be newly weds, like they know anything about marriage." He continued to think of ways of helping his clients realize he was married without getting himself labeled as in the "honeymoon stage."

Byron’s first act was to give birth to a small army of fake internet profiles that were now running a rather successful, ‘Dr. Lewis is a happily married man,’ PR campaign. For every comment on RateMyCouncilor.com or similar site that scathed about his lack of ring, certificate and therefore qualification, was met with a response from harleys4life343 or balletmom751647 (It appears ballet is really making a comeback.) saying, “Not that it matters, because councilors can be good, even if not married, but you might want to check your facts, because I know for a fact, that Dr. Lewis is happily married.”

Byron had been torn if the ‘happily’ was too much. He had deleted it, put it back, and then deleted it about 5 times before ultimately saying, ‘I am married, and I’m happy, so I’m happily married.’

As weeks rolled on, it became clear that balletmom751647 knew how to run a PR campaign. The number of dropped clients was doing just that, dropping, while the number of new clients was expanding. Before long, all of his minions, even his favorite hipster, vegan_burkenstocks4ever found themselves in early retirement.

Byron was even allowing himself to do the one thing he swore he would never do, use his own experience in his counseling. “You know, Mr. Jordan, I find in my relationship, sometimes my wife needs her space, some time alone, some “me” time. Maybe you just need to give her some room.”

Often in defense of marriage; and his billable rate, Byron would say to clients, “Marriage is one of the best life and financial decisions you will ever make.” And for him it was true. The improved business far more than made up what he had to pay Julie each month. He couldn’t see a downside to this marriage thing. That is, until his secretary fell in love.


Here is Chapter 13.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Chapter 2 - Following Honey

Image result for A&W homeless

(If you are new to my John York book here is a link to Chapter 1.)

The waves crashed against the rock cliffs hundreds of feet below. The moon was just bright enough to make out the white foam from the waves as they kept up their rhythmic dance along where a vast sea met the land. “It’s been too long.” John York thought to himself. Work took John all over the world but there was something special about California’s coast line. It drew him in even as he avoided it. For amidst all its beauty it carried with it, great pain. Ocean breeze had become a cliche with every air freshener or candle maker trying to provide you access to it, even if you lived in the dust bowl of Kansas, but only the true fragrance reminded him of her.

How long had it been? He tried to stop his mind from asking the question, one whose answer he knew perfectly: 7 years. It was hard not to know the answer to a question you ask yourself multiple times everyday. When he woke up, when he was in the shower, when he sat down for lunch, anytime he tried to clear his mind, there it was. The only thing that entered his mind as often was the thought to stop asking, to let it go, to move on, and then the inevitable thought. “Will I see her again?”

But he wasn’t here to be dragged into his past like surf back into the vast ocean from whence it had come, nor was he here to simply enjoy the view. At least, not the view that anyone's eyes would naturally be drawn to, from this particular vantage point. It had taken him over 45 mins of hiking through thick brush and far too many thorns to get to this view. Below sat a mansion that was vast enough that even the word mansion seemed lacking. Arnold McMaster’s Father had owned the property before him back when coastal property in Southern California could be afforded by your everyday millionaire. Had that not been the case, even a fortune like the CEO’s of McMaster Mattresses would have been unable to purchase this much land, in this perfect a location.

Located far enough north of Los Angeles to have the amazing cliffs and yet close enough to make the commute to the mattress factory in the metropolis reasonable. Not that traffic was really an issue for the McMaster family. Arnold McMaster, the Master of the McMasters had his Chauffeur leave every morning promptly at 4:30 to be in the office by 4:45, priding himself that he beat even most people on the east coast to work. This had been his practice since his youth, and the business had been propped up by no shortage of sheer grit and hard work. He used to stay late enough that there was also little traffic on the way home, which, in LA, meant some very late nights. However, since his 80th birthday he was not putting in the hours he once did and often left the office in the early afternoon.

The other McMasters in the house, the pudgy man who spurned root beer floats and called himself Jake and his sister Adaline, who went by Jennifer, (John York regretted that he would be unable to give her the same lecture he had so eloquently given Barnaby about the world being chock full of Jennifers, but he knew such an opportunity would not present itself given the circumstances that she and he would meet under.) They too had very regimented schedules. They both held high positions in the mattress company, at least in pay, not necessarily in responsibility. They left every day shortly after waking up around 11:30. After stopping for a nice lunch and catching up on facebook and latest news from buzzfeed, they would wander into work just as their father was on his way out. They would leave promptly at 5, unless they felt like leaving earlier. Traffic at this time would have been horrendous but luckily their favorite bars, and clubs were all a short distance from the office.

This was John’s fourth trip to this particular look out, it was one of his many stops that he had made in order to understand the goings and comings of the McMasters. But the persons whose goings and comings he had spent the most time studying wasn’t a McMaster at all. Exactly on que, the small pink porsche boxster pulled up to the gate. John York wished that all the people he had to follow would chose to drive custom made bright pink cars, not that he needed it. He could track a rainbow through a gay parade. Yet he was always grateful when life made things easy.

Mrs. Honey’s habits were much more mundane then her vehicle but no less expensive. She worked very hard at her chosen profession, shopping. John York had seen the insides of more jewelry shops, hat shops, clothes shops, pet shops and even soap shops than he hoped he would ever have to endure. The one establishment that she went into that she didn’t do any shopping at was McMaster Mattresses, several times a day she would stop by to see how the old man was doing. From a distance, it became very clear that to Mrs. Honey the business was not only useful as a place to manufacture sleep aides but also a very useful bank. The best bank you could possibly think of, one that allows withdrawals without requiring any deposits.

Tonight was exactly what John York had hoped for. While the going and coming of the McMaster Clan was his primary interest, the other thing that he hoped to gain by these late night house watch parties was a decent layout of the home. From his studies, he had figured out which of the guests homes belong to each of the children, and most of the layout of the main home. But several rooms, particularly on the upper floor had remained a mystery. But tonight with perfect weather, the curtains had been drawn and windows opened.

Despite his profession often requiring him to expand the limits of what was strictly legal, he liked to keep such activity to a minimum. Sneaking around someone's home without permission was something he generally avoided. But, at times, it was necessary, and when it became necessary he had learned the two most important rooms to be prepared to enter were the bedroom and the study. He now knew where both were located.

But with this information in hand it was time to be on the move. The past few nights had always had a surprising ending, and that was with the pink porsche making an exit. There could be many reasons for such an exit. While the number of people who waited until marriage to consummate their relationship seemed to be ever shrinking, John York did know such people existed. Mr. McMaster was a devout Catholic, who each Sunday after putting in a few hours at the office, attended mass. But John York had known many devout Catholics, who contrary to Billy Joel’s theory, didn’t start much too late. The other possibility was Ms. Honey’s morals, she did not strike him as religious in anyway. However, if one was after an old man’s fortune, it would be wise to find or feign morals and hold out the goods until you have secured your spot in the family tree as rightful heir. But wise, was not a word regularly coupled with Ms. Honey. It is true that if she had been in a battle of wits with a jellyfish she would have likely won, but that is only if it happened to not be a particularly smart jellyfish. There was also the possibility that she helped the old man to bed, as it were, and then departed. After all, at 85 some people keep some rather early bedtimes.

So, this left John York with a particularly hard choice. With the bedroom window open he could observe at what time the old man did chose to retire, and even perhaps his activities prior to laying down for the night, but more importantly he wanted to know where that little pink boxster went to each night. With the decision made, he packed up his high powered binoculars and headed to his car. As noted earlier, it was quite a hike, but he would have to do it at a rapid pace if he was going to make it.

Forty five minutes later and he sat quietly with his headlights off, on the side of the road. The pattern of what time she left and in what direction had been the same for the past few nights. Knowing this allowed John York the rare opportunity of not waiting long. Five minutes after picking his spot, he saw the unique headlights of the little Porsche coming up behind him. As she passed he began to follow. It was now a little after 9 and the roads were busy but not packed. This made keeping track of her car more difficult as she carelessly cut people off and sped around semi’s. Usually, John York took care to ensure that there was no chance the person could figure out he was following them. With Scarlet, such precautions were totally unnecessary. She didn’t seem to notice anyone or anything on the road. Given her driving habits, John York would have put her life expectancy on par with that of Mr. McMaster. If Barnaby had seen her drive, he thought, maybe he wouldn’t have been so worried.

The neighborhood in which he now found himself was very different from the one they had left. Apartments were everywhere, people and litter lined the streets as they drove by pawn, smoke, and liquor shops. The car pulled up to one side of a yellow rundown duplex that sat back no more than 5 feet from the street. There was no shortage of vagrants throughout the neighborhoods but there was a particular gathering outside the home she pulled up to, as if they had been waiting for her.

As she pulled up they gathered around. Two questions instantly came to John York. One was how her car stayed unstolen in this neighborhood and more prominent on his mind, why the conflagration of homeless acting as a greeting party. John York could see the disdain in Scarlet’s eyes as she walked out of the car.

“What you got for us tonight Ms. Honey?” one of them called out.

Her hands were filled with shopping bags and she carefully selected two bags and handed them over. “You know the deal. Keep the car safe.” The group crowded around the bags and began to riffle through the contents as Ms. Honey went inside.

Given how generous Master McMaster seemed to be with his money he was surprised to see his girlfriend living in such conditions. Especially since two guests homes remained unoccupied.

As he thought his eyes caught a beautiful sight just down the street, an A&W sign. A smile kept across his face. Tonight he would get to do two things he loved, drink root beer floats, and interview the homeless. A pretty good way to spend his last night as John York.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Chapter 11- The Wedding Night



(As always if you are new to the book here are links to the earlier chapters, Chapter 1Chapter 2Chapter 3 Chapter 4Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8, Chapter 9 and Chapter 10).

Byron awoke to see a bright light shining ahead of him. He would have assumed he was dead except for the paramedic standing behind it.

“Oh good, you’re not dead. I thought I was going to be the world's fastest widow.” Came the voice of Julie standing behind the paramedic.

“I don’t know, I’ve seen some pretty fast widows.” said Byron with a weak smile.

“Glad to see that the trauma of our wedding didn’t damage your sense of humor.”

The paramedic had him sit up and gave him a drink. “You feel okay?” he asked.

“I think I’ll be okay. I am feeling much better now.”

“I think he’ll be fine.” The parametric said to Julie. “Give him plenty of fluids and no strenuous activity for the next day or two.” He winked during the last statement. “You’d be amazed how many weddings we get called out to.” Then whispering to Julie, “always the groom.”

The paramedic picked up his bag and then left. Julie was now alone with Byron.

“So, what happened out there?” Julie asked.

“I felt really sick.”

“I figured out that much.”

“I guess I was more nervous than I expected.”

“Is marrying me, even though you won’t have to see me, really that scary?”

“It wasn’t you. It just sort of hit me.” He wanted to tell her more. Share about how the idea of their marriage kind of tore him apart. And that as he went to actually go forward with it he felt this was a serious commitment that he wasn’t taking seriously. But the trust needed for that conversation was not there yet between them, even if they were husband and wife, and Julie was not the person. After all, she didn’t have any issue, saying he wasn’t taking it seriously enough would only be insinuating that she wasn’t either. He had no desire to implicate her.

“I wonder what everyone thought.”

“I’ll tell you what they thought. My Aunt Maybell said, ‘He must sure know how to throw a good bachelor party.’”

“Oh great, they think I’m a drunk.”

“Don’t worry about them. Most of them are my family, so you will never have to see them again. I’m just glad you are feeling better.” This was said with more sincerity than Byron expected for someone's who’s wedding day he had just ruined. Perhaps she really did care about him. And speaking of their wedding day, Byron had to ask, “So, are we married?”

“I think they are going to let us slip under the bar. Or at least I got this. “Julie held up their wedding certificate. “Father Young said the only part we didn’t get to before you baptized him in stomach acid was the kiss. Which, no offense, I wasn’t looking forward to. Given the circumstances, I mean. “

Byron wasn’t sure if she meant the fact that they didn’t love each other or that he had just vomited, so despite being a bit wounded said, “I understand.”

“Someone noted I might get a chance to give you mouth to mouth instead but I had seen what just came out of you, and I also noticed you were still breathing.

Byron wasn’t sure he liked the order she noted those two items and almost asked what she would have done if he hadn’t been breathing, but decided he better not ask questions he didn’t want the answer to.

“Where is everyone else?”

Most people went home, only ones left are your secretary, my friend Becky, and our parents.”

“So, what’s the plan from here?” Byron asked.

“What do you mean?”

“What’s next?”

Fear ran through Julie, did this guy just trick her into a real marriage by pretending they’d live separately and now that it was official change the plan.

“What do you mean. You go your way, and I go mine.”

“Yeah” Byron was now confused. “But how, we can’t go out in the parking lot and walk into our separate cars and wave goodbye to our parents and each other at the same time. Might not go over to well.”

With the realization that he meant short term and not long term Julie sighed. “I have that all planned. I thought we talked about it.”

“If you did, it left my mind as completely as my breakfast left my stomach.”

“Well we walk out and convince everyone you’re okay. That part is new. My Mom will cry, we hug and then walk. We ignore Father Young scrubbing the carpet at the front of the church, probably also crying. Head out the front steps, they toss rice as we walk down to your car, which no doubt is covered in Oreos, stringers, silly string and a just married sign in the back window.”

“My car?”

“Don’t interrupt, it will wash off. Then you will drive me across town to the Hampton Inn, that I have a reservation at. See, my parents will be at my home for one more night. They are driving my car home. You drive off. Is your Dad staying in town tonight?”

“No, he flys out this afternoon.”

“Okay, then you drive around, do some shopping or whatever you want until your Dad leaves and you go home. I get a great night's sleep, take a Uber home in the morning and we both go back to our separate lives.”

And so it was. Well, mostly. Julie forgot to mention a few points. First, after everyone was assumed Byron was truly okay, sensing this may be the last time he would see Byron for a while, his Father held him close, and then pulled him away and while still bracing his shoulders looked at him. It was a look Byron had never really seen in his Father. It was contentment and pride, honor, love and esteem. It was a look every boy instinctively hopes to see in the eyes of their father. It expressed fulfillment of expectations for both Father and Son. More clearly, then the limitations of words could express. It said, “Son, you are now a man.”

Byron didn’t know this existed and yet knew he had always wanted it. And while a rush of joy began to flow it was quickly tempered with inadequacy. For he knew what led his father to look at him with this look was all falsehoods. The moment was beautiful, but it was built on lies. And poor foundations didn’t discriminate based on the beauty of the edifice they held, and Byron knew it.

The next departure between Julie's carefully crafted future and reality was the next Father. Pelham embraced Byron as he went through the line and whispered in his ear. “She’s yours now, remember your promise and vows and you’ll do fine.” Instantly, the nausea had found its way back home. But with nothing left in his stomach to churn and expel, it did not last.

From that point, Julie's tell got back on track, the crying Mother, the rice, the decorated car and ultimately Byron found himself parked below the archway marking the entrance to the Hampton Inn across town.

Throwing the car into park, he said, “I’ll get the door.” As he hopped out and began to help Julie out of the passenger seat. Her outfit was much more traditional than his and the poof of her wedding dress did not make exit from the vehicle easy. Once standing up right her bag was retrieved from the back seat and the two stood awkwardly for a minute.

“Well, I guess this is…”

Byron paused, “good bye.” He couldn’t think of a better word but hated it once it came out. They both did. It seemed too cold, too final, and while they didn’t like it neither could contradict it.

“I’ll send you your first check to the routing number you gave me, first of the month,” Byron continued.

“You know, I feel kind of bad taking the money.” Julie responded. “After all, this will benefit me too.”

“No, a deal is a deal, and I always stand by my word.”

Another long pause.

“Well, I better go. “ Julie reluctantly said.

“Okay” Byron reluctantly agreed.

They looked at each other and both leaned in for a hug. It was more than a goodbye, it was nice to meet you hug. It expressed, friendship, an honest gladness for having known one another, and most importantly desire. Not a desire for passion, but a desire for this to be more, more than goodbye, more than a short lived friendship that ended in a long, distant marriage of convenience, and in the emotion of the hug Julie turned her head and gave Byron a small peck on the cheek.

Shocked Byron instantly let go, and just as instantly said, “Thank you.”

“Thank you?” Julie asked, “for what?”

The honest answer was, “the kiss” but Byron instincts had stopped and while Julie would have loved the honest answer, and may have replied with, “if you liked that, try this on for size.” But we will never know, for Byron, in an effort to cover his instinctive reply, to what he now saw as a kindly, no more than one would give to an Aunt when saying hello in many cultures kiss said, “for being willing to marry me and go on this journey. Not everyone would be willing to marry someone they would never see again.”

The reminder of the words, “never see,” was sufficient to end whatever moment they had.

“Well, thank you, I think it will work well for us both. Have a good one.” and with that Julie headed toward the doors that slid open and then shut behind her. Byron shortly thereafter pulled out, leaving his bride to approach a front desk clerk who, given his view of their last exchange had a very confused look on his face.

As Julie had predicted Byron did a little shopping to ensure there was no chance encounter with his father, grabbed a bite to eat and then headed home. Early evening found him sitting wondering what he did with his nights before they had been filled with nightly calls to Julie, to go over wedding plans. It was only six weeks ago and yet it felt an earlier, distant life. And as much as the past without her seemed distant, a future without her seemed impossible. He wasn't in love, or at least that is what he kept saying to himself. He simply liked her company. And he began to think of an excuse to call, as he stared down at her contact information on his cell phone.

Julie too was not enjoying the relaxing evening at the hotel she had envisioned. Six weeks ago, when things were on her mind she’d always call Becky, but she had worked so hard to avoid her over the past 6 weeks. She didn’t want all the piercing questions about Byron, and how they met, and how could it be happening so fast and what if she had asked, “isn’t that guy from the newspaper. Is it?” So, she had limited her contact with Becky. Wedding plans with Byron had more than filled the void, but with no plans the void was very apparent. And she couldn’t exactly restart calling Becky tonight. “I’m just sitting around on the first night of my honeymoon, thought I’d give you a call.” Probably wasn't the right way to restart their relationship, especially if she hoped to avoid questions about her marriage. The other option was Byron. She really didn’t have a reason to call but she always enjoyed talking to him. Maybe, she should just call.

So, both sat looking at each others contact information on their cell phones. But Byron and Julie had agreed that after marriage, no contact, and unfortunately for both, they had married someone who were true to their words. So, while phones were stared at a plenty, neither rang.

Here is Chapter 12

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

1 year Election Day Goal

Today is election day in the US. That means in 1 year we will be electing the person we want to be the president of our country for the next four years. At this point it will likely be Trump, Biden, Warren, or Sanders. Of course, there are many more on the democratic side and who knows, maybe an independent or two will throw their name in the hat.

I am making a goal, a simple one. To say nothing negative about any of them over the next year. Not to focus on where I disagree or why I think they will be bad for our country but rather focus on their good traits, what we have in common and how they could help our country. Everyone of them is hard working, successful people in their own right, and that is what I will focus on.

This is stupid and ignorant, some may say. You are simply putting your head in the sand. You need to know the truth and expose them for what they are. I am not at all blind to the fact that these are not perfect people. They often have policies or proposals I disagree with, they may not live their lives to my standards, but trust me, the negatives of each and everyone of these candidates will be covered ad nauseam. Unfortunately, there is so much effort in telling you why they are bad for our country, no matter who the candidates are, we are likely to feel we are stuck with the lesser of two evils.

And much of this is our own fault. If it bothers you to hear or acknowledge anything good about Trump, or vice versa, Biden or Warren, I think that is a shame and might say more about you than about them. I will still weigh, the good and bad of all candidates on the ballet. But my hope is by focusing on the positive I can actually go into the voting both excited about voting for our next leader, instead of fearfully voting against their opponent.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Chapter 10- The Ceremony

Image result for priest at wedding

(As always if you are new to the book here are links to the earlier chapters, Chapter 1Chapter 2Chapter 3 Chapter 4Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8 and Chapter 9).

By the time Byron and Pelham emerged from the little office in the back of the chapel, the wedding was only 20 minutes from kickoff. Julie and her mother had both done a marvelous job of looking nothing but happy as they greeted family and guests. But their true feelings were manifest by the frequent, nervous glances towards the door of the little office.

The faces of the two men walking out of the door told two very different stories. Byron, who emerged first, looked like he was preparing to audition for a part in The Walking Dead, and when Julie caught sight of him, she thought for sure the wedding was off—that is, until she saw her dad.

She hadn’t seen him look this excited since he had paid for the final semester of her college tuition. One of them looked like someone who had just managed to sell off swampland in Florida, and the other looked as if he had suddenly realized what he got. She wasn't sure what to make of it, but she did realize in that particular analogy she was cast the swampland.

Julie and Mother both, from opposites sides of the church, abruptly abandoned their conversations with relatives and dashed towards Pelham and Byron. But before they reached them, Father Young cut them off. “We really need for everyone to get into their places,” he said with no shortage of nervousness in his voice. A short nervous voice is never desirable, but even his was more voice than Byron could muster at this moment.

Julie’s face was pleading to know what had happened. Her Dad spoke up, “All right, everyone to their places.” As he spoke, he grabbed Julie’s arm and gave a little push to send Byron in the right direction toward the front of the church.

Pelham, in an effort to continue his orchestration, he leaned into his bride of many years, “Don’t worry hun. Everything’s okay. Go take your seat.” Byron had started his movement to the front of the chapel, but his pace was not brisk, nor linear. “Come to think of it, Maybe you’d better help Byron,” he added.

She walked up and helped steady Byron who had begun to tilt with nausea.

“Daddy, what happened?” Julie asked as they headed to the back of the chapel.

“You have a good man, Julie. He asked for your hand and I gave my consent.”

“Then why does he look like you punched him in the gut?”

“Does he? I thought he looked dapper when I was with him. Nice tux, did you pick that?”

“No!”

“Well, don’t worry about it. Maybe he is just a little nervous. After all, it is his wedding day.”

It is not at all uncommon for there to be a slow dramatic walk down the aisle during a wedding, but it’s less commonly done by the groom and his soon to be mother-in-law. Byron was not sure why this nice older lady had taken his arm, but he was grateful for it. She was saying something but he couldn’t make it out. His body was preoccupied with two tasks: keeping the monster growing in his gut at bay and playing over and over again in his mind Pelham’s words, “Promise me you will always put her first, care for her and fight for her needs.” Nothing in this was above and beyond what he knew he was about to promise in his vows but coming from her loving Father it hit in a new way. His whole career was about protecting such vows, was he desecrating all he stood for? Was he betraying her Father, her Mother, Julie herself? Wasn’t he robbing her of any chance of ever having real love. With too much focus on the mind he almost forgot to keep the stomach from making an entrance and things began to bubble in his throat. He regained his focus on his gut and willed everything back down.

His rather slow saunter down the isle had come to an end and Byron now stood at the feet of Father Young. Julie’s Mother having gotten the package to his destination went ahead and took her seat. Left to stand on his own Byron decided he better take a seat as well and did so on the front pew. No sooner had he sat down then he felt a small tap on his shoulder. Turning around he made out the blurry outline of his secretary, Ms. Whitacker. “I’m so excited to be here. It’s really happening, you are actually getting married. I worried this day would never come. I am so happy and proud of you. It reminds me of when I married Tom. I wish he were here. He loved weddings, we even went to his Father's second wedding, after he ran off with his secretary and left his mother. That one was a little awkward. But don’t you worry I won’t be letting you run off with me.”

Byron loved Ms. Whitacker, she was always fun and helpful around the office but now her rather high pitch whisper reciting this rather long winded story was not helping settle either his stomach or mind. He attempted a small smile but didn’t dare attempt speech. Luckily, before further conversation was required the organ began to play the wedding march.

Julie and Pelham right on que began their own, much less wobbling walk down the aisle. Julie was radiant. Truly a beautiful bride, one worth all the attention that should have been shown her at this moment, but most eyes were fixed on the front of the chapel where Father Young was trying to becken Byron to stand up without abandoning post. Byron’s head was down until Ms. Whiticker always anxious to help tapped Byron again on the shoulder and pointed kindly to Father Young who continued his beckoning. Byron looked up, saw the beckoning and held up the “1 minute” finger.

Julie kept her cadence between walk and organ but her face showed worry as she noted Byron’s lack of uprightness. Was Byron able to handle this? Did she want to marry a man, even if she didn’t have to see him, who couldn’t handle the pressure of a little ceremony?

Byron taking a deep breath decided to ignore his brain and put all his energy on his nausea. His goal was simple, have the nausea far enough under control to be able to stand up by the time Julie made it to the front. Not standing for his bride while she walked down the aisle he knew was not kosher but he figured him sitting was preferable to him passing out, and he wasn’t jewish. As Julie came to the front Byron took a deep breath and stood with a little help from Pelham.

Father Young, happy everyone was standing and in place, quickly began. “Dearly Beloved and honored guests, we are gathered together here to join Julie Smith and Byron Lewis in the spiritual union of marriage.”

Up to this point Byron thought he might just be on the mend but that all changed as Father Young said, “This contract is not to be entered into lightly but thoughtfully and seriously and with deep realizations of its obligations and responsibilities.”

Father Young had told Byron and Julie that these would be the words of the vows and at the time he had thought nothing of it. But now he thought and thought and as he thought his nausea once again grew in vigor, and Father Young continued, “Please remember love, loyalty, and understanding are the foundations of a happy and enduring home.”

“Julie and Byron will now exchange rings as a symbol of their love and commitment.”

Byron panicked slightly, had he remembered the ring. But, as was usually the case, his Father was prepared. He handed the ring to Byron who after a few more breaths to calm his stomach took it out and placed it on Julie's finger. As Julie leaned in close to place the ring on Byron’s finger she whispered, “you okay.” Byron nodded as he closed his eyes and continued his deep breathing.

“Do you, Julie Smith, take this man, Byron Lewis, to be your lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold, in sickness, “Julie felt this particularly apt right now.” and in health, in good times and woe, for richer and poorer, keeping yourself unto him for as long as you both shall live?”

“I do.”

Julie's confident and straightforward answer impressed Byron and gave him some strength. It also made him wonder how she could be so calm at a time like this. She was so strong, or maybe just a really good liar.

But he couldn’t worry about that. He needed to prepare himself. It was his turn and as much as he wished he had Julie's confidence, he knew it would be all he could muster to simply say anything.

“Do you Byron Lewis take this woman, Julie Smith, to be your lawfully wedded wife.” Sometimes knowing what is coming makes us more prepared and better able to handle what we must face, but at times the knowledge only seems to exacerbate the feelings, good or bad, that we feel, and much was the case with Byron, knowing what Father Young was about to say, his stomach went from churning to high speed mixer as he knew Father Young's words before he said to them, “To have and to hold in sickness and in health, in good times and in woe.” That was it. He was promising to have and to hold someone he never planned to see again, what what was he to do? Yell out. “I can’t do it.” Admit in front of everyone it was a sham. Julie would kill him. No alternative seemed fair to her. On one hand if he said, “I Do.” he would be robbing her of her chance at real love and true companionship, not to mention making a mockery of the vows he worked so hard in others to save. On the other hand, if he didn't he would have led her along, made her show up for her own wedding day only to embarrass her in front of all her family and friends. He didn’t know what to do, and his indecision only made him feel all the more nauseated. But despite his swirling thoughts and mixing insides Father Young marched on.

“For richer, or poorer, keeping yourself unto her as long as you both shall live?”

Every eye was on Byron. He took two deep breaths and said, “I…” vomit began to rise. He paused, forced it down lightly belched. Held his hand over his mouth in embarrassment, and as a safety precaution. Took two more breaths and quickly said, “do.”

There was an audible sucking of air as everyone in the building drew in breath as all had been holding theirs waiting to see what Byron would say.

It was done, but that did nothing to help Byron feel any better, and he wondered if he’d done the right thing as the room began to spin.

“By the authority vested in me I now pronounce you husband and wi.” Halfway through the last word Byron could hold it no more and vomit projected from deep within the troubled gut straight onto the front of Father Young. Byron’s stomach finally felt better but the rest of his body had had enough. Everything went black.


John York- Chapter 1

Image result for root beer float


Bugs flicked in and out under the only street lamp left a glow. The sidewalks had long ago been rolled up. The quiet of the desert enveloped the small town as the street saw its first guest in hours. A large coyote striding through the landscaped rock. Lone headlights appeared competing with the street light for the bugs attention. The sleek Tesla pulled up into the parking lot of the small brick building.

The building had no signs, descriptive paints, signs or logos. The gap in the wall where once stood an ATM and the abandoned drive thru bore testimony that this building was once the trusted establishment of people's hard earned money, their hopes and dreams. No dreams seamed stored inside now. The building was completely dark and void of life.

The man who stepped out of the car as it’s electric engine purr grew silent did not match the sleekness of the vehicle. The suit was of similar caliber but a tailor can only do so much and buns and roles were as plentiful as they were in the all you could eat buffet in Las Vegas, the town that still it up the horizon only a few miles away.

“This idiot better show up.” The man muttered under his breath, as he broke the silence again and again with each step towards the front door. After staring into the glass doors for a moment and with nothing else to do he pulled on the front door and was surprised to find the large door unlocked. But having entered, he found the place no more life like on the inside of the threshold.

The once bank lobby was vast and void. And the man's blood pressure, already high, began to rise. “Drag me to the podunk town and doesn’t even bother to show up, what a”

“What exactly am I?”

The man jumped about a foot off the ground, which is the highest he had jumped since over a hundred pounds ago.

“What the devil. What’s the idea of creeping about in the dark?”

“Darkness in my profession is very often required. Not that I enjoy it. I believe in light, rainbows and lollipops but one must do what one must do. Shall we?”

They walked over to a massive metal door that bore a large wheel on it’s center. If one has ever wondered why bank vaults seemed to be adorned with pirate ship wheels, well blood sucking pirates had to do something in retirement and never seemed willing to give up the helm.

“Um...why the vault?” The man asked with trepidation as the stranger took the helm.

“Ah, this cozy little place is where I keep my office.” With a couple of well placed turns the door began to open. The door had barely cracked when light began to poor into the void in which they stood. Once fully opened, the man stared inside. The office was in perfect contrast to its surroundings. Light from several antique fixtures, lining the walls, filled the room. The floor was an antique carpet of reds and golds. The entire office looked like it had been transplanted from the 1800’s.

“Well, have a seat...Barnaby.”

“Thank you...and the names Jake.”

“No it is not. Barnaby Jacorum McMaster is the name. I find birth certificates most reliable.”

“Fine. I go by Jake.”

“What a shame. Parents give you a unique jewel in the name Barnaby, and to really make you an individual they top it with the middle name Jacorum and you cast it off to be one of the millions of Jakes in the world. My boy, the world is stock full of Jakes.”

“Isn’t your name John?”

“No, while the monosyllable is among the world's best, my name is John York. Always, John York. John is the vanilla ice cream, but York is the root beer. Speaking of which, would you like one?”

“A root beer?”

“You have completely missed my point. Always John York. I’m offering you this. He handed his guest a large root beer float in a classic glass mug.

“No thank you.”

“Well you don’t mind if I indulge do you?”

“No, go ahead.” Barnaby, or Jake as he preferred, was anxious to move beyond strange analogies that produced deserts. “Mr. York”

“Call me John...York. Always John York.”

“Okay, John...York. I wanted to meet you because I heard you may be able to help.”

“I could help you to an excellent root beer float. This really is amazing. You know, when I retire I think I’ll turn this place into a soda shop. Everyone loves soda.”

“Can we get back to the point?”

“Oh sure, go on. But now that I think of it, forget the soda shop. I think a mortuary would be better. Anyways, continue.”

Barnaby was beginning to doubt if he’d come to the right place. Dillon, a trusted friend, said he had heard that John York was a miracle worker, the only thing for such situations. And given the job, perhaps a healthy level of insanity was required.

“I have come here for your help.”

“As you know, I am no detective, but that much I gathered.”

“Remind me again, Why couldn’t do this over the phone?”

“I never take a client I don’t meet in person. You can appreciate that.” John York said as he drew in a huge slurp of root beer from his mug.

“I understand. Well, it’s my Father.”

“Ah yes, the master of the McMaster’s. And CEO of the family business, McMaster Mattresses. Dream masterfully on a McMaster. I believe your commercials say.”

“Quite. Well two years ago my dear Mother died.”

“Ha. Your dear Mother? You hadn’t spoken to her in years. Ever since she said she’d cut you off if you wrecked another company car. Why does a mattress company need a Jaguar?”

“I see you do your homework.” But ignoring the question, Jake continued. “While we had our rifts, I loved her and so did my Father. Life without Mother has been hard on my Dad, but I am worried that he is about to ruin his life.”

“Strong words. How exactly is he going to effect this ruin?”

“Well, there is this girl.”

“There always is.”

“She is after my Father.”

“Oh, she is lurking in alleys and bushes hoping Master McMaster walks by so she can leap forth and stab the man?”

“No. But I do believe she plans to kill him. But not until after she marries him.”

“Are you sure? I find that most people do not possess the strong desire to dash one another to pieces until after they’re married. But you say she wants to now, but for good form will wait until after the I do’s.”

“She is after his money. She’s a gold digger.”

“A hefty accusation. May I ask you a few questions?”

“Go ahead.”

“How much cabbage would you say your old man has socked into these mattresses of his?”

“My Father's estate is around 100 million dollars.”

“No wonder you all dream masterfully. And what is the name of this girl you say works so hard mining for precious metals?”

Jake had to think for a moment but eventually caught on. “Her name is Scarlet Honey.”

A snort escaped John York’s nose as a small amount of root beer escaped it. “Excuse me, but just to clarify, you did say, Scarlet Honey?”

“Yes.”

John York snorted again. “Okay, moving on. When your Father lays down on the mattress smothering his hundreds of Benjamin Franklins are his masterful dreams filled with Honey?”

“Can you drop the riddles?”

“Life is a riddle, my dear Barnaby. But to clarify for you, Jake. Does your Father fancy himself to be a bee after this Honey.” Jake was not amused. “I’m sorry it’s just so perfect.”

“My Dad is a bit taken by her, which is the problem. He doesn’t know what he is getting into.”

“Love can strike at any time, why stop this young, sweet couple?”

“He is 85.”

“Good for him.”

“She is 30.”

“Well as they say, to the victor goes the spoils.”

“I don’t believe this. You make me drive to this pathetic town, drag me into your creepy vault and you are not even willing to help.”

John York stood up with a start. “Barnaby my boy, Boulder City is not a pathetic town.” softening he continued. “And I am perfectly willing to help. What is it you want? Me to swoop in and save your inheritance from the clutches of this hussy?”

Barnaby was clearly hurt, that struck too close to home. “No, it is for my Father. I just don’t want him hurt.” He paused and thought of the best way to add something, “Also for the sake of the company. He loves that company, if he married and she ran it into the ground and lost it’s money, it would kill him.”

“I agree that he would at least find it difficult to sleep at night.” Before Barnaby could respond John York continued, “I’d require half my 40,000 dollar fee upfront and all expenses covered.”

“I understand.”

“So be clear. What is it you want me to do?”

“Do what you do, get rid of her.”

John York paused, looked closely at the overgrown mattress heir, disappointingly noticed his root beer float was gone and said, “Okay, I’ll do it.”