Wish I could write what a giggle sounds like in this journal. Geez but I have got to find out why Cal snores so loud. And he’s doing it right behind me. I had to put Feena back in her crib but pull it close to the bed … my side. She kept trying to stick her blankey in Cal’s mouth. I was afraid he was going to gag and suffocate. He only does it between being lightly asleep and being fully asleep; I ought to know, I listen to him most nights from down the hall. Only tonight? No more down the hall.
It is been a full day. When I woke this morning it was to a beautiful winter day. The sky was cerulean blue and not a cloud in sight. Humidity was so low all Feena wanted was her cuppy all morning long. I didn’t sweat a bit as I worked on the garden and around the house. Then about eleven thirty as I was feeding Feena her lunch I noticed that the sky wasn’t quite so bright.
I stepped outside and sure enough off to the northeast I saw a line of storm clouds … a front. The wind had picked up a bit as well; not so that I would really notice it, but the water did as I saw a few white caps had started to form here and there. I put Feena on my hip and walked towards the dock to look towards the mouth of the river and sure enough, the closer to the Bay it got the slightly rougher the water became.
I jumped and turned. It was Darla. one of the women from yesterday. She and someone else were out in sea kayaks and wet suits. I waved.
Darla came close to the dock. “Wetha bulletin says a cold front is cuhming. Be heyah by evening.”
I looked at her and said, “It’ll be here by six the way it is moving. We’re already getting white caps into the river; usually means the Bay is really gonna churn. I probably don’t have to tell you that you better tie down good on the Bay side. If the wind is pushing the water this hard already no telling what it will be like tonight, probably pretty cold.”
“This is cold?”
I smiled and admitted, “OK, maybe not for you but you might be surprised how nasty what we call a cold front can be.”
She gave a small smile then just nodded her head and gave a casual wave of her paddle; she and her companion were off and around the shoreline vegetation and then out of my sight though I noticed they weren’t all that silent. They slapped the water with their paddles too much like they were afraid of gators or something. She’d be better off watching out for something coming out of the mangrove swamps. I’ve seen novice kayakers freak out and turn themselves over at sighting horseshoe crabs or baby sharks.
We started having rolling brown outs at one o’clock and I could already feel the temperature dropping. The radio said they were trying to conserve energy for the hospitals and emergency shelters since not all of the electrical capacity had been rebuilt. It was bound to get cold sooner or later, it is December after all. I sat Feena in the swing Cal had strung in the old oak near the rear of the house and I started moving my more sensitive tropicals into the Florida room. What a job that was. Lucky for me I got a nice surprise right around three thirty.
He looked tired but when he saw me and smiled and got out of his truck, came over, and swung me around in a happy greeting.
I laughed, “Are you crazy?! Put me down you big goof!”
He was still smiling and so was I when he said, “I can’t tell you how good it is to have someone welcome me home and mean it.”
“Well I’ll do more than say it. Why don’t you go get cleaned up and I’ll put some soup on.”
“Actually I brought dinner home.”
That surprised me so much I didn’t know what to say at first. “Brought … brought dinner home?”
“Let’s get this in the house … should stay warm in the oven even without turning it on … and then I’ll help you finish getting this stuff put up. I wasn’t sure whether you’d know there was a cold front coming in.”
“Honestly, you’d think I’d never lived here before. All I had to do was look outside and see that line of clouds and see the white caps.”
He nodded. “Yeah, you’d notice that.”
“And besides a couple of people from the base or compound or whatever warned me.”
All the good humor drained from his face. “What was his name?”
“Him was a her … two hers actually although they had a guy with them yesterday. Her name is Darla Dutton and I suppose there is a rank in front of the name but I don’t know what it is. Darla is Coast Guard. I don’t know what the other two are.”
Sounding like an interrogation he asked, “How did you meet them?”
“Darla came over wanting to know if I would tell her what trees were what because they didn’t know what fruit was safe.” I stopped, laughing in remembrance. “Can you believe they didn’t know what a kumquat was? They couldn’t tell the difference between a sour orange and a calamondin. Darla was telling me how awful the oranges tasted and they thought they were poisonous or something.”
I was giggling but stopped when I saw Cal was still looking serious. I put my hands on my hips and said, “I didn’t go over there if that’s what you are thinking. I do have some sense you know. They brought me leaves and I labeled them … by the time they were finished it looked like a science project for middle school.”
Still serious he asked, “That’s all they wanted? Then why did they come back?”
“They didn’t come back exactly. I walked down to the dock to look towards the mouth of the river and they were out paddling in kayaks. From the junk on the hulls it looked like they had just come from one of the water trails through the mangroves. I waved, they paddled over. They didn’t stay and only stopped for like two or three minutes max.”
He finally relaxed and started to help move all my pots. “I don’t like to leave you with so many strangers around.”
“Well, you might as well get over that. Now are you going to tell me if you still have your job or not?”
He stopped for a minute and was just as serious as he had been about my visitors. “Would it bother you if I didn’t?”
Slowly I answered, “Only if it bothered you. We’d have to sit down and work out a strategy of how we were going to make ends meet but I don’t want you worrying and taking some stupid, crazy job just to say you have a job. I …”
He bent over and shut me up with a kiss. “I’ve still got a job but they’ve … hmm, how to put this. They’ve temporarily repurposed our department.”
“What do you mean repurposed?” I asked cautiously.
“We’re still law enforcement but rather than all of us running the streets the National Guard and DHS is going to do that.”
Irritated I said, “They are so not making you guys the scapegoats for what has been going on.”
“Yes and no. They’ve put the county on ‘observation’ but they can’t really do it without us. They know it. They’re … er … selectively adjusting our job descriptions.”
“What about … you know … what you guys did before. Especially like the holding cells and prisons?”
“Most of the prisons are being privatized …”
I didn’t mean to yelp but it came out that way. “What? You mean like … like a corporation kind of thing?”
He nodded. “Pretty much. The prisoners are going to have to contribute to the cost of their own maintenance by participating in whatever the industry is that gets set up in each prison. It is going on around the state. They’ll dump the ones they can … petty criminals, drug addicts, drunk drivers … and from what I understand they are bringing back hard labor.”
I shook my head. “Sounds like a recipe for disaster. With the way things are dumping people that have already proven they’ll ignore the law onto the streets just means we’ve got more desperate people with no way to support themselves except through crime. That will just get them sent right back in.”
“Maybe, maybe not. The streets are … are going to get pretty tough. Looters are to be shot on sight.”
I dropped a pot on my foot and started dancing around. When it finally stopped hurting long enough for me to listen Cal said, “That’s why the National Guard is going to work the streets. They aren’t messing around with this martial law anymore.”
“But … but that’s … I don’t know … that happens in other countries, not here.”
I shivered and Cal brushed some hair behind my ear. “Things are changing Aria.”
“Yeah, apparently. I’m almost afraid to ask what you are supposed to do.”
“Everyone has their own territory but mine is to watch the river between here and Commongood Park.”
Surprised I said, “All the way up there? And how do they expect you to do that?”
He snorted, “All the way up there isn’t that far compared to what I used to drive. And how? In my boat. In civies. Keeping a low profile.”
“Uh huh. And where is Fish and Wildlife in all this?”
“Good question. Ask another ‘cause I don’t have the answer to that one. I think they have their hands full in other areas. There are a lot of people squatting on public lands because they don’t have any place else to go and they imagine camping is going to be safe. We got a lot of people heading south to escape the cold of up north … assuming when they get here someone will just have to help them. Well they get here and find out they assumed wrong. There’s a lot of homelessness right now.”
“What a mess,” I said dejectedly.
“Yep, but there are perks to this new situation. Since I have to keep a low profile I’ll be able to do more fishing. My fuel will be delivered right to the house here … probably by Josh because he is a floater.”
“You aren’t partners?” That alarmed me because I knew that Josh would always have Cal’s back.
“We’re working on it. He’s … uh … look, got a question for you.”
Hearing the tone in his voice I asked slowly, “What?”
Cal sat the last pot in the Florida room and then shut the door before grabbing my hand and pulling me over to the bench near Feena’s swing. He gently pushed me to sit down while he stood and pushed Feena, much to her delight. “You … have you and Dorrie had a fight or anything?”
“No! Why on earth would you ask?”
“Darryl told Josh you probably wouldn’t want to go shopping with Dorrie for a while.”
I rolled my eyes. “Geez, that man has no tact.”
“So you and Dorrie have had a fight?”
“I told you no.”
“So, is there like anything else going on?”
I sighed, “Cal, it’s nothing … not really. Just …”
“People are getting so weird and Dorrie’s mother is so clueless about it.” When he just kept looking at me I told him, “Look at me Cal. I’m half ‘cracker’ whatever that means but I don’t look it. My complexion is even darker than Dad and Papa’s were and even they weren’t one hundred percent Hispanic. I’m just, a … a throwback.”
“You aren’t that dark,” he said.
“I’m not exactly that light either if you catch my drift. Add in my black hair and what do you think certain types of people are going to act like.”
He snorted impatiently. “But you’ve got green eyes.”
“You know how many times I’ve been asked where I get my contacts from?”
“They aren’t contacts … are they?”
I snorted a laugh. “No. Geez … observant much Mr. Police Man?”
“Watch it,” he said with a grin. But then the grin faded. “You didn’t tell me you’ve been bothered. I thought it was just Darryl … being Darryl.”
“I’ve discovered he’s more bark than bite these days. Maybe he was before and I just caught him on a bad day although Dorrie said that he was like that all the time most of her life. And maybe he’s changed now. Don’t know, not sure I care, just know I can live with whatever he is now.”
“Then I’m not getting it. Something happen while you all were out?”
I shrugged. “Like I said, people are … different. Stressed out. They see something and fixate on it. They see me and … and the old prejudices and fears come back. Somehow I’m taking an unfair share or something. I never did understand some of the damage people carry around with them. We’re just to a point that I don’t need to deal with it right now so I’d rather not.”
He gave Feena a big push that would keep her going and then sat down making the bench squeak in protest. “You aren’t telling me something.”
I sighed and leaned my head over onto his shoulder. “People change Cal. Something … something is going on with Dorrie. Maybe it was always there and I just never saw it but I don’t think so. She started changing when they got to her through her work, making her rat on people. Her mother is clueless; she’s always been a bit ditzy but she seems to get worse the worse things get around here. Dorrie … I just don’t know but I’d … I’d just rather not … she just let people … look, can’t I just say I’d rather not go shopping and that be enough?”
“You sure you’re OK with things being that way? Did she … did she say something to hurt your feelings?”
“I’m not OK with it exactly but I’m not going to put myself into other people’s crosshairs just to try and force some kind of confession out of her one way or the other. And she didn’t say anything precisely so I don’t even know if I’m imagining it. But she … she didn’t stand up for me either. I would have for her. I thought that’s what friends did for each other. And when she and her mother got going at the same time it just … it left a bad taste in my mouth. I just … look … I didn’t say anything because I don’t want trouble between you and Josh.”
“There won’t be trouble between Josh and I. He and Dorrie … they never really settled things after he got out of the hospital. He said she threw walls up that he just decided he wasn’t interested in trying to climb over after the first few tries. He’s actually looking for an apartment but not having much luck because he is tired of the having people make assumptions and, like you, doesn’t want to cause problems by having to explain. They’re her family after all.”
I opened my mouth but he said, “No. I like the guy – I’m closer to him than I am to my brothers – but no.”
“You don’t even know what I was going to say.”
“Yeah I did. You were going to say he could have the spare room here.”
“Ok, so you did know what I was going to say. But are you sure?”
“Yeah. I’m sure. Josh can … he can be … he’s a flirt and has a mouth on him.”
I snorted, “Like that is supposed to be a surprise. He tones it down around me.”
“But if he lived here he wouldn’t. He’d get … comfortable. And I just don’t want that stuff around you or Feena. Josh can also … he can drink. He doesn’t do it on the job but on a long weekend you can bet he can put it away.”
“He’s … he’s an alcoholic?” I asked in surprise.
“No,” he said with absolute certainty. “He just likes to drink. Some guys are like that. Josh is one of them. He’s not a mad drunk or a sappy drunk … in fact you can’t really tell the difference Josh drunk and Josh sober but his reflexes suck and his mouth can get a bit much to handle when he gets loose. Like I said, I like the guy but I might not if I had to put up with it 24/7.”
“Ok,” I told him not really knowing what else to say.
Rats! Pen is running out. Looks like I’ll be finishing this tomorrow night. Should have put the good stuff first of why my feet aren’t going to be cold tonight, or any other night for that matter so long as Cal is home.