Closed Door

Friday, August 29, 2014

Part 38


Dear Diary, 

Oh happy, happy day.  Well, compared to what it could have been anyway.  Josh’s grandfather owned a pest control company and he worked there as a kid, through college, and right up until he became a cop.  He knew exactly what to do but it has been several days of work.   

Rather than taking the siding off the outside of the house we’ve taken the old cedar paneling off the inside of the attic.  There was no insulation and the hive was relatively new, probably just one season’s worth, and small so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.  Josh even helped to relocate some of the hive by capturing the queen and most of her court with a shop vac, taking some of the honey and comb, and depositing them in a hollow oak tree in the woodlot.  I feel bad about that but not so bad that I’m going to put Feena at risk. 

Getting rid of the bees was actually the easy part; it was cleaning up their mess that was a challenge.  We disturbed some of the comb when we took off the paneling and gooey, warm honey dripped even further down between the walls almost to the first floor.  We had suspected it but began to be sure of it when Josh pushed on the crown molding and baseboard of the room directly beneath that part of the attic and heard a kind of sticky sound like something was tacky behind them.  We had to take both off but luckily there was only dribs and drabs in a couple of places and we got most of it by taking down the trim and the molding from around the window on that wall. 

Josh also showed us how to save what honey that we could since he didn’t use pesticides to get rid of the bees and there was no insulation in the walls so no particles to worry about in the gooey stuff.  I guess you just never know about some people.  We got eighty pounds of honey alone from that one small hive and that didn’t include the waxy combs.  I wanted to pay Josh for his help but he got all offended. 

“Don’t be hard headed.  You may be Cal’s friend but that doesn’t mean your expertise hasn’t been valuable.  You certainly saved me a ton of cash.  You even managed to remove the bees without killing all that many of them.  They’ve probably been pollinating my trees and garden and I’d hate to lose the free labor.” 

Josh crossed his arms and just looked at me.  “You’re trying to make me feel bad.” 

I told him archly, “I’m trying to have my own way.” 

My honesty startled a laugh out of him.  “All right already.  Then how about giving me some of this honey and comb and we’ll call it even.”  I wasn’t going to argue with a good barter deal like that. 

Josh did not strike me as the most useful person the first few times I met him.  He comes off as a bit of an oversized goof but then again I think some people think of Cal the same way.  They are way handier to have around than you might guess.  Shows you can’t always judge someone on initial meeting or short acquaintance. 

The bee wall also happens to be the one that faces east and gets the most sun.  Cal and Josh talked me into letting them inject pre-expanded foam insulation into that wall.  It worked so well that we’ll likely do the other exterior walls as well when we’ve saved up a bit more money.  The only thing that I didn’t like was all the holes they drilled.  The attic was OK since it was just cedar paneling over cypress framing and the paneling could be reused with only a few minor repairs.  Second floor also wasn’t too bad since it is easy to repair drywall.  First floor?  That is the problem; it’s real lime plaster on slats and can be a pain to fix if it cracks.  I should know, I was playing downstairs when I was ten and rough housing with one of Papa’s dogs that wasn’t supposed to be in the house.  We knocked over a table that then hit the wall and created a big dent with a running crack.  In addition to lots of extra chores I had to help repair the mess I had made.  Taught me real fast that rough housing was NOT something you do inside, a lesson I’ve never forgotten even to the point of cringing when I see other people doing it in their homes. 

One of the reasons I loved the bungalow was that it reminded me so much of my old home; it had real plaster walls too except in the bathroom which was green board.  In a way I am sad that it has been torn down but I have a feeling it would not have survived the winds that went through the Ybor area during the hurricane.  Many of the historical structures near downtown sustained heavy damage; to the point that some of the older homes in the area simply have to be bulldozed down.  I’m not sure how far they have gotten in the clean-up efforts; the news media seems to be focused on the more affluent areas of town.  I hear it is a lot like what happened after hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.  Even though I miss the cultural flavor of the area and the unique people, I’m glad I don’t live there.  It would have been nice to visit but everything has to change eventually.  There are very few real constants in life.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Part 37


Dear Diary, 

We’ve had a full week of clear weather which hasn’t happened in a while.  The thermometer doesn’t reflect it but it feels a little cooler without all the humidity resting at near one hundred percent all day long. 

Cal is actually at home tonight and I’m having a hard time not laughing.  I can hear his snores all the way down the hall even with his door closed.  I suppose I should cut him some slack, he’s been working really hard with only limited overtime to show for it.  Every cop in the county has been doing the same.  Things are finally settling down but they are nowhere near “normal.”  Whatever normal is supposed to mean anymore. 

The primary reason that crime has dropped off is that the kids are officially back in school.  They were two weeks late starting because the schools were still being used as shelters for those made homeless by the hurricane but those people have finally been evicted – a lot of them didn’t want to give up their free room and board at the city, state, and county’s expense – the campuses cleaned up and the kids reinstalled. 

Fewer domestic calls, fewer calls about vandalism and petit theft, fewer loitering calls and public nuisance calls.  The home invasion calls have gone up but that’s a different demographic usually.  Shoplifting reports remain high as well for obvious reasons.  Pawn shops and grocery stores now have 24/7 on-site security guards.  Dorrie’s Uncle Darryl and one of her other uncles switch off in guarding their liquor store ‘round the clock.   

Dorrie’s family figured out a way to get people to use their gas station more often than many of the others.  They are allowing the “twenty” in the store to include grocery store gift cards and prepaid calling cards.  They are also carrying less and less general merchandise except for some auto type stuff like oil and fuel treatment.  They also purchased a commercial ice machine that pays for itself.  They shut down the deli which was losing money and now rent that side out to a guy that does small engine repair or minor car repairs and he accepts barter.  He even does a bit of welding and I paid the guy to repair the hitch on the trailer when the lock thingie broke when I unexpectedly hit a pothole hidden under a palm frond that had fallen on the road. 

That was a bill I didn’t need but the trailer has been a Godsend and I don’t know how I would do what I need to do without it.  Cal also paid the guy to do some welding on some upright, commercial grade fence posts.  The guy is the type that asks no questions and answers none himself so when he welded those uprights that seemed for no particular purpose he didn’t seem interested in the least. 

Cal has decided he is going to mount the solar panels near the ground instead of to a roof so that they will be easier to remove and store in case of another storm.  He is only doing a few additions at a time so that it draws less attention.  He’s holding off until they are finished with the road in particular so that the less traffic in the area the better. 

I was worried there because for about a week they were considering doing the old “imminent domain” thing on that side of my property but then they agreed to drop it as long as I agreed to sign a contract saying that I would not sell any of my land to a commercial or waterfront developer and kept my dock below a certain size.  I asked them that if I could trace various branches of my family to the land for over a hundred and fifty years why would I all of a sudden just up and sell it to any yahoo that came along?  The county guy just sort of blinked at me like he didn’t understand that type of family history at all. 

He came back two days later and I found out he wasn’t stupid he just hadn’t believed me.  He asked if I had ever considered deeding the land to the state wildlife people.  My answer was to the point and clear enough that even a DC bureaucrat could understand it. 

After the guy had left I walked around the house to find Cal and Josh nearly rolling on the ground trying to hold their laugher in at the stunned look the guy had had on his face after I explained things.  Honestly, sometimes those two are nothing but a couple of oversized boys.  Big feet, big hands, big appetites … at least that time they knew when to keep their big mouths shut. 

I’ve been giving the house a seriously good cleaning, especially the windows and walls.  Old houses “breathe” better than the hermetically sealed things that pass for a modern home so I haven’t had to worry about mold and mildew so much but everything has had that sticky icky feeling you get when it’s been humid all summer long.   

I was even up in the attic today – what a joy that is I simply can’t express – and found a honey bee nest the size of two basketballs.  Not sure how they got in but it has been interesting trying to get them to relocate without dislocating something vital avoiding one of the flying devils.  I think they might be between the walls too as when I opened one of the windows honey kind of oozed out of a nail hole.  Sigh.  This is going to be another fun project and a half.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Part 36


Dear Diary, 

Blessed silence … at least until seven freaking o’clock in the morning again.  I shouldn’t complain, I’m up anyway, but honestly the banging and pounding and buzzing would drive a saint to drink.   

A lot of the shoreline along the river got washed away during the storm surge.  I lost almost a foot of shore just on my protected little section.  Well the environmentalists were having hissy fits.  The new flow was disturbing things in the Cockroach Bay preserve.  Something just had to be done right there and then or millions and millions of dollars was going to wash out into the Gulf and umpty bumpty fancy schmantzy homes were going to lose property values (lowering the taxes they’d have to pay) and on and on.   

So out comes the dirt and rocks one dump truck at a time and every time a truck hits a pot hole – BAM! – and every time they dump their load – BANG! KABLAM! – and then the constant grinding of the back hoes and this big fat machine that mash everything flat.  This goes on from seven in the morning until at least seven in the evening as they try and address the eroding shoreline fast enough for the green freaks and the rich environmentalist. 

I guess anything to distract from the real problems we are all facing.  But it is also true that the squeaky wheel gets the oil because they are rehabbing the shore line.  But to do so they used government privilege to use my private road to travel down.  Of course before they could do that they had to fix my road so do you hear me complaining? 

It’s also quiet because I finally convinced Cal to stop treating me like a baby and go with his buddies and do some more crabbing.  I asked him how likely a bunch of maniac river pirates were to pick my particular part of the shore with the way the county and state have the place under lock and key.  Even I had to get a special pass to use my own blasted road.   

They also need Cal’s boat because one of the guys has a brother that has some lobster traps and he’s willing to share if they help him guard his haul until he can get it to market.  Mmmmm … lobster.  Haven’t had it since … 

Sigh.  I haven’t had it since Daniel and I were on our honeymoon over in Daytona.  We only had three days and the only time we left the motel was to eat … and even that was usually brought back to the room.  I swear we got so many smart remarks about coming back with less of a tan than we left with. 

OK, enough of that.  Back to the present.  Had a chance to ply my old wares today.  (snicker, that sounds dirty, wish Dorrie was here to share the joke)  Actually one of the granddaughters of the carneceria owners is getting married tonight – probably saying her vows in front of the priest as I write this – and I overheard how she was having a difficult time getting her grandmother’s mantilla and veil to stay properly.  It just sort of grew from there.  I did the bride’s hair and then the mother’s and grandmother’s then the father of the bride needed a good cut and so on and so forth.  I spent all morning and most of the afternoon and had a really fun time talking with people and hearing all the local gossip.  It was a while before I realized that people were putting money or other things in a hat the grandfather had sat on the table beside me. 

“No Senor, no es necesario para, esto es un regalo para la novia.” 

He just shrugged and said, “La mitad de los hombres no estaban en la fiesta de bodas. Hacerles pagar lo que pueden. Les hace sentirse como un hombre.” 

I suppose it is hard to argue with that kind of logic.  I hadn’t known that not all those men were in the wedding but were customers.  And I also can’t argue that it feels good to pay your tab rather than take charity.  It was something the men wanted to do with whatever they had to offer.  Most of it was change like I would get in the tip jar back at the sal√≥n but there were a few little trinkets and stuff that looked like it had been found on the beach as well.  Spanish men have a machismo that can’t be ignored.  Of course most men are like that in my experience, some are just more obvious about it than others.  Daniel didn’t have a drop of Spanish in him but his machismo could compete with …  

This is ridiculous.  I swear I’ve got a one track mind tonight. 

Anyway, the owners also insisted that I accept some corn and wheat flour in payment for what I had done for the wedding party.  The grandmother winked and told me that they still got off cheaper than had they paid a salon and that she was much happier with her granddaughter’s makeup; she looked like a young woman getting married and not one going out to a club to go dancing with a bunch of hombres. 

Everyone was in a good mood because for now there are construction jobs to be had.  It made up for the poor harvest and ruined fields which meant no harvest jobs until they could be replanted.   

But from Dorrie’s side of things I’ve heard a lot of talk that the planters aren’t going to replant; they are taking their insurance money and digging in, trying to force the government to back off the ridiculous federal licenses.  That is a dangerous game, not only for the business owners but for the customers they serve.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Part 35


Dear Diary, 

Been too busy to write.  I figured if I was being forced to do all the yard work due to the storm damage I might as well go ahead and get a fall garden started … well late summer garden … whatever.  

Promptly in the first week of August I planted pole beans, sweet corn, okra, black eyed peas, squash, watermelon, broccoli, lima beans, cucumbers, and late tomatoes.  Heat has been so bad I had to hang burlap to shade the seedlings or risk them shriveling up as soon as they popped out of the ground.  At least we now have power, although it continues to be sporadic since they basically just put bandaids on the worst of it until they can put in more permanent fixes.  There is a new excuse every day; the latest one is that the parts that were ordered from overseas turned out to be wrong or something so now the process starts all over again. 

About the only thing in the produce markets these days that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg is local tropical fruit but a lot of people have forgotten how to use them, or didn’t realize they were edible to begin with.  You’d think with things being as they are people would be more willing to get outside their comfort zone and try something new, or at least new to them.  Soursop, sweetsop, atemoya, karanda, kei-apple, langan, pineapple guava, governor’s plum, imbe, acerola, mango, sapodilla, prickly pear, avocado, strawberry guava, guava, pomegranate, downy myrtle, muscadine grapes, pineapple, papaya, calamondin, lemon, Persian limes, carambola, fig, passion fruit, pear, Surinam cherry; I’m just thankful that we’ve got it to use even if some of it does look a little like something a Martian might enjoy.  The price of groceries is getting outrageous.  No, they’ve been outrageous for a while, now they’re … they’re … well, not even sure there is a word in Papa’s thesaurus that fits the way things are right now.  It’s even caused rioting in some places.  Not around here, the stuff coming in at the Port kinda keeps things from completely falling apart.  But Chicago and LA have only been saved by the fact that school has started back up.  Now that’s scary.  Of course what is happening closer to home is scary too. 

Sorry for the smudged page, thought I heard someone on the porch but it was Cal up prowling around again out in the Florida room.  I don’t know if it is that his days and nights are mixed up, or he’s still getting used to living in the house, or if the dead stranger down the road is still weighing on his mind; or maybe it was the conversation he had with his oldest brother.  No matter what it is it seems to be dragging him down. 

He sold the trailer.  He got a good price for it too; some cash which he has insisted on adding to the household money as “rent” though I swear it makes me want to kick him in the ankle every time he brings it up, and some equipment in trade.  Some guy in the gated community down the road walked over to talk to Cal the other day.  Turns out he’d had enough of the Florida life and was moving back to Maine, wanted to know if Cal would sell him the trailer.  He wasn’t interested until the guy was ready to up the cash and throw in a solar set up he’d never bothered installing after the HOA nixed placing anything on his roof. 

Cal and I had a long talk about it.  We both know that we’ve crossed some kind of indefinable line.  We’re family.  We’re friends.  I honestly can’t imagine surviving this past year without his support.  But when we started this whole “survivalist” thing it was with the idea that Lily would be coming out and we’d be one, great big happy pod of people … like Feena would have three parents or something; kinda like I had growing up to a certain extent.  But with Lily out of the picture but not quite gone and Daniel’s ghost still haunting me on occasion I’m not sure either of us were eager to be forced into redefining what the future was going to be. 

I’m not going to repeat word for word what all was said.  Bottom line is this is my home, but it is Cal’s too, just like it has been home to various members of my family, from blood kin to marriage to adoption, since the land was first cleared back in the 1800s.  If at some point in the future either one of us does – and here we both shuddered like a goose had walked over our graves – does wind up finding another significant other then this would be their home as well or we would be free to once again redefine our living arrangements. 

OK, as a solution it isn’t perfect, there is potential for problems, and people might get the wrong idea on occasion but lots of people are having to go back to the old-fashioned way of families doubling up to make ends meet.  Look at Dorrie’s family.  Four generations, some of them blood, some halves, some steps, all under one roof making it work because they need to.  If the menagerie works for Dorrie, then Cal and I can make it work. 

Actually after learning that the body I found is still unidentified but more than likely belonged to a looter – the body had bullets in it so it is a toss-up whether he bled out or drowned first – and because there have been a lot of mysterious lights on the river and coming close to shore, it doesn’t hurt my feelings any to know that Cal is closer. 

About half the houses in the gated community are now empty.  There had already been a few due to foreclosures but some of the homes are just in too much disrepair and the fire marshal won’t release their hold preventing the electric company reinstalling the wires to the house until all of the code inspections have passed.  I don’t know where all the former residents have gone.  I walked over there one day only to find that some of the places are now deemed “hazardous to human habitation” due to things like black mold or vandalization.  The entire neighborhood has a really creepy feeling to it and Cal asked me not to go back alone anymore.  He also told me there have been several domestic calls in the area and he’s heard that one guy in particular is on the raw edge. 

He must have seen my face and realized I was thinking about Daniel.  “I didn’t mean to bring it up but at least you have some idea of what I’m talking about.” 

“Sure.  And I’d rather know than not.  My Pollyanna days are long over.” 

He nodded and went back to his brooding.  He’d called his brother just to give him a status update that all was well, yada, yada.  His brother then just flat out told him that he needed to make some other plans if he had imagined being able to come to him if his life fell apart here in Florida.  Said he’d seen the pictures and it looked like a war zone in some areas and he just couldn’t afford to invite that kind of thing into his home. 

“I never planned on coming out to your place without an invitation but I wasn’t holding my breath Gary.  I’ve yet to get an invitation to even visit from any of you.  I get I’m on my own and I got it a long time ago.” 

And then unbelievably you could hear the relieved smile in Cal’s brother’s voice.  “Oh?  Well … well good.  I hadn’t known how to tell you, you’re my little brother after all.  It’s a relief to get it out in the open.  The others feel the same and they’ll be happy you’ve finally grown up.  So, how’s the job going?  Made detective yet?” 

Talk about thoughtless and out of touch with reality.  And it didn’t help that he’d asked about Cal’s work.  He’s heard through the grapevine – whether he wanted to or not - that Percival Perfect and Lily are still hot and heavy.  PP thinks that Lily is his upwardly mobile ticket to the big leagues.  Lily … well I’ve given up trying to guess what Lily is thinking.  But to make himself look better PP has used innuendo to blacken Cal’s reputation.  That’s going to be a lot of political compost to overcome if he does decide to pursue being a detective. 

Cal is thinking seriously about considering other career options but all he has ever been is a cop, all he ever wanted to be was a cop, and with the economy being what it is he feels stuck. 

I’m feeling moments of panic myself.  The support and benefits checks were almost a week late this month.  They said it is because of the hurricane but still, it gave me pause.  I’ve got enough in savings to pay the taxes on this place for a couple of years and I intend to keep it that way but any time a major repair comes up … like the septic system I had to replace … it eats into my savings and it seems to take twice as long to get the money back in to the account.  Just writing about it is making me itch. 

I think I’ll go downstairs and see if Cal wants to watch something completely mindless on the blue ray.  I’m just tired of thinking and worrying for a while.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Part 34


Dear Diary, 

What a mess.  The water came all the way up to the front porch steps on the river side of the property.  Barn was flooded but nothing was damaged except for a little wash out by the doors when the water started receding.  Not one but two trees are down over the driveway.  One corner of the roof on the shed got dented pretty good when a limb fell on it but no major structural damage at our place. 

Unless you count the septic field which is toast.  When the plumbing in the house backed up I checked the clean out and that’s when I noticed several pools of bubbling water that reeked.  I knew that I’d have to do something eventually but I hadn’t really put it in the priority column of potential disasters. 

In the scheme of things we got off far luckier than a lot of the neighbors.  I don’t mean to be nasty but that’s what they get for building a house with the footprint the size of the Taj Mahal on land that is little more than filler left over from dredging.  What part of Shell Point Road and Man-Made Canals and Florida Wetlands do they not understand? 

OK, maybe I do mean to be nasty.  I’ve had several people over here complaining that I need to do something “right now” about my private road being washed out and unusable.  I told them they’d just have to use their real access through the gates of their gated community, that my private road was not a right of way for construction crews. 

“That’s not fair.” 

If I hear that one more time I will flaming shriek.  Fair?  Fair?!!  Fair would mean them not coming over uninvited demanding that I do something that they have no authority to demand from me.  Fair would mean they would have a little concern for me and not just me supposed to only think of those poor babies in their million dollar mcmansions suffering and cranky because they have no AC or electric which also means no water.  Their HOA has trucked in a couple of loads of bottled water but I’ve been offered not a drop … but they expect me to repair the road so their construction crews can use it.  In their freaking dreams.  Even if I could I’d be tempted not to just to show them they have no power over me. 

Sigh. 

OK, that’s out of my system for a little bit.  I don’t need to start fussing.  It will wake Cal up and he is finally supposed to have a full shift off and I want him to spend it sleeping.  The National Guard has been sent in because of the rampant looting and so many people applying the castle doctrine and shooting intruders. 

Typical groups are up in arms about it naturally.  I walked down to the gas station to meet Dorrie and her father who wanted to check on me … cell phone service is still sketchy … and when I heard about some demonstration led by the types of people you’d expect and I said a little louder than I had intended, “Tell ‘em to take off the suits, roll up their sleeves and shut up long enough to actually do something to help and I might give them some respect.  Tell ‘em to man a soup kitchen, help folks unclog the drains to let the water to run off into the canals like it is supposed to.  Put tarps on the roofs of those people they are trying to defend and tell them to tell the kids in those neighborhoods to stop standing around waiting for someone to help them and teach them to help themselves so they aren’t a burden on society.  Until then they are nothing but a bunch of hot air and we’ve got enough of that already in case they haven’t looked at the thermometer.” 

I heard several people around me snicker but not too many said anything outright since there was politically mixed company around and it was too hot to brawl.  I was at a point I didn’t care, the septic field being the straw that was coming close to breaking my back. 

Now for the rest of the story like that radio guy Daddy liked to listen to old recordings of would say.   

Returning to the house I was picking up debris when I saw one of those small fire proof safes sticking out from under a large tree limb.  I figured someone had lost something in the storm and I would give it to Cal and he could turn it in.  As I got closer I saw sparkles in the sand and thought that maybe some jewelry had washed in too.  I was going to just pick it up when I noticed that the ground was literally crawling with fire ants.  The water had obviously disturbed a large, underground mound; no way was I sticking my hands in that.  I looked around and saw a plastic trashcan lid and a broken rake.  Like I said, the road area is littered with junk the river had picked up and then deposited. 

I slid the trashcan lid over near the safe and tried to work it out only it was stuck on something. 

“No good deed goes unpunished,” I muttered to no one in particular, wiping the sweat off my face. 

I stuck the rake in as far as I could and pulled, solidly hooking the safe.  Then I gave a big heave ho and it finally came out … at least part of the way.  It was still stuck and I could finally see what it was stuck on.   

I’m not normally someone to lose it and my experiences of the last two years would have dulled that instinct even if I had been.  For some reason the phrase “death grip” entered my mind and I finally understood how apropos it could be.   

I stepped back and took out my cell phone praying for a signal.   

“Aria, I’m busy right now.” 

“Ok … then could you send Josh or somebody?” 

There was a micropause as something in my voice must have caught his attention and he asked, “Is everything all right?” 

“Not … not really.  There was this fire safe under this limb and then I saw sparkles all around it but the sparkles were covered in ants so I used a rake only … did you know that a death grip is a real phenomena.  I thought it was just hyperbole or something.  So if you could send someone out …” 

In a very steady and calming voice he said, “Aria … I want you to take a deep breath and start again.” 

I did and then realized what I was smelling was not fish washed ashore by the storm.  I gagged for a moment before I said, “I told you, there was a fire safe.  I was going to turn it in to lost-and-found or whatever they call it after a hurricane.  Only it was stuck.  I used a broken rake to tug at it because of the fire ants.  Only I can’t get it loose because there is a hand on it.  The hand is covered with ants too.  The hand is connected to an arm but if you guys want to know what the arm is connected to you are going to have to come out here yourself.  OK?” 

It wasn’t long before a sheriff’s car and a National Guard vehicle was pulling up close.  I didn’t recognize any of them and I had the urge to run but then a woman got out of the shotgun seat of the sheriff’s car and came around. 

“Hi, I’m Mel … Cal says you found something?” 

I pointed in the general direction of what I’d found and added, “I thought it was dead fish I was smelling.  And the fire ants are really bad so be careful.” 

I was repeating my story to Mel while the other deputy called in for the coroner when Cal showed up and came running over interrupting my story to Mel.  “Are you OK?” he asked. 

“Yeah but now I’ve lost my place and I’m going to have to tell the ding blasted story all over again.” 

He looked at me closely then asked, “When’s the last time you’ve had any water?” 

“What?” 

“You’re white as a sheet except for your cheeks which are red as beets and that’s saying something considering your normal skin tone.  When’s the last time you had any water?” 

“Oh.  At the store.  I was standing outside with Dorrie and her father made me drink some because I had given the last of mine to Feena.” 

Next thing I know I’m sitting in Cal’s truck while he looms over me until I prove that I know how to drink from a cup which he’d filled with some washed out blue sports drink.   

“Cal this is the worst tasting …” 

“I don’t care if it tastes like licking the bottom of my boots after I’ve mucked the goat pen.  You’ll drink it.” 

“God you are so bossy.”  But I drank it while Feena inhaled another bottle of water.  Then his majesty ordered me to stay in the truck.  I leaned my head back and closed my eyes, it was just so hot. 

I must have jumped a mile when something wet touched my face.  “Easy Aria.  You got too hot, this will help.  People are suffering from heat exhaustion left and right today.” 

“The heat doesn’t bother me; I grew up without air conditioning remember?” 

“This heat would bother Beelzebub.  You ready to tell it one more time?” 

I groaned but when I turned my head he stood in my line of sight.  I asked, “That bad?” 

“Yeah.  You don’t need to see it.  Trust me.” 

“Of course.”  He blinked like he had expected me to make a fuss.  “But … like can you tell me after they figure out who it is?” 

“Maybe, depends on what goes down and when they say information can be released to the public.” 

“OK.”  Then I looked around.  “So who am I supposed to tell it to this time?” 

“That’d be me.” 

A rumpled man in dark dress slacks and a polo shirt with the sheriff’s department insignia on it came around Cal.  Cal looked at him and nodded then turned to me, “Aria, this is Det. Jason McLeod.” 

So I told it again.  Safe, sparkles, ants, rake, tug, hand, arm and then calling Cal.  “You didn’t notice it the first time you walked down the road Mrs. Lowery?” 

“No,” I told him taking a sip of the awful sports drink to keep Cal from glaring.  “I was more concerned with not tripping over the rest of the junk in what’s left of the road bed than what was up in the grassy area.  Feena … my daughter Josefina … was wiggling and I didn’t want to lose my balance or turn my ankle in a hole.” 

“And coming back you decided to look for stuff in the grass?” 

“No, not purposely.  I was avoiding being seen by the guy who lives right over there in that house and it just sort of happened.  He keeps complaining that he wants the road fixed so he can have his construction guys come this way rather than ruin his bushes in his front yard but he won’t listen that this road isn’t certified for large equipment because they’re too heavy.  He won’t shut up about it so I was trying to sneak back without him seeing me; I wasn’t up to another … er … discussion on the topic.” 

“I see.” 

“No you don’t … but you will when you go talk to him.  The man is as tenacious as a bull terrier.  And he’ll try and sell you insurance while he’s at it.” 

Deputy Mel picked that moment to come over shaking her head.  “She’s not exaggerating.  He’s already been over twice, asked for everyone’s business card, and asked if we could encourage her to do something about the road.” 

“Oh brother,” I groaned. 

“Don’t worry about it,” Mel grinned.  “He irritated the NG boys and they bolted his rear gate shut and stuck a sticker over it and told him that if he drove over the crime scene they’d be coming back by the front entrance.” 

I smiled in return then remembered there was a dead body nearby and it melted.  Mel asked, “You OK?” 

“Yeah, just … you know … not every day you run into that,” I answered pointing in the general direction of the body. 

Cal came up and asked, “You through with her?  She and the baby should get back to the house.” 

I rolled my eyes and went to get out of the truck.  “Where are you going?” he asked. 

“I’m walking back to the house.” 

“Does my truck look like it has a flat tire?” 

“Oh.” 

“You need some sleep.” 

“What I need is the number to a good, cheap septic company.” 

“What?!” 

On the way back to the house I explained.  He said he’d ask around and then said, “We need to talk about water.” 

“I’m drinking, I’m drinking.  Any faster and I’m gonna toss my cookies.” 

“Not this water … although yeah, finish that up.  I mean water water.  They still don’t know how long the power is going to be out around here.  I’ll switch the generator from the freezer tonight and hook it up to the well long enough to refill the barrels but the gennie doesn’t exactly sip gas and they’ve tightened fuel restrictions even more.” 

“Yeah.  Speaking of, do I need to bring you out a can of gas for your truck?” 

“No.  Since I’m being forced to use my truck on the job they’re letting me fill up using my gas ration card; I just have to keep my mileage.” 

“OK, what about food?  Had anything since breakfast?” 

His stomach gurgled and we both smiled despite the situation back down the road.  He put it in four-wheel and went around the trees, dropped me at the door and waited just long enough for me to run him out some left over rice and beans in a plastic container and a bag of dessert pears before turning around to go back to the scene. 

“Call me if you need to.” 

“I’m fine.” 

“Call me,” he insisted. 

“I’m fine,” I insisted right back. 

“Then I’ll call you.” 

I rolled my eyes and he finally left.  I didn’t really mind.  I was – and still am – a tad freaked out by what happened.  My imagination has been coming up with some pretty gruesome backstories for the owner of the hand.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Part 33


Dear Diary, 

It’s so stuffy in this house you can barely breathe.  Closing the shutters downstairs and upstairs both makes me feel like I’m just about to choke.  Bringing all my plants in the house has made the jungle-like atmosphere even worse.  Thank goodness Feena finally fussed herself to sleep. 

It’s hard to see through the rain but the little bit of dawn like there is has shown high tide has been pushed up over the road.  I’ve seen it worse but not much.  When everything recedes it is going to be a mess to clean up.  There’s a tree across the driveway but I’ll deal with it later.  I don’t have to worry about Cal coming home and not being able to get around it because he’s at the station waiting for the next call from some looby that didn’t evacuate when they should have.  They opened the schools early but less than a quarter of the people that should have evacuated did before the storm started getting bad.  Now they are all cussing that no one will come get them and take them to safety. 

Got a call early yesterday from the Produce Station with an offer I just couldn’t refuse though Cal just about flipped a switch when he found out I had left.  When the track of the hurricane was more firmly established they realized that the bay area was going to take a beating so they were trying to get rid of as much of their produce as they could so they wouldn’t have to truck so much out of the area.  I took the trailer with me and came back with carambolas, pineapples, papayas, Persian limes, guavas, passion fruits, lemons, grapes, and pomegranates.  I also had a bunch of cases of drinks and bottled water from the open air food stand in the back.  On top of the fruit there were several pumpkins, some hubbard squash, and three hundred pounds of pinto and black beans weighing my little car down to the point I was almost dragging my tail pipe.  I’ve got plans for those beans and will be giving some to Dorrie’s family too. 

The very earliest squall lines were starting to drift through by the time I got home and it was close to dark.  Cal was so angry he almost wouldn’t talk to me. The only thing he did was move the bags of beans – each one weighing fifty pounds – into the kitchen; then he left for work after telling me that he’d be back between shifts to tie down the trailer and anything else that needed doing. 

I didn’t stop him from growling, it had taken me a lot longer than I had expected to complete the transactions and load up; it was every man – and woman – for themselves and the place had been like a madhouse.  Coming home was no fun either; the evacuation routes were a mess and I had to cross several.  I put all the produce in the house and after it was full dark moved all of my plants in using a head lamp whose elastic was so old I had to fix it to a baseball cap with a safety pin.  Cal had already gotten his boat out of the water and tied it down and secured it the best he could.  He’d started the job on the trailer and might have finished it had I been home to help him.  Rather than wait for him I completed it using a ratchet to tighten the straps and then started filling water containers. 

Cal came home and was mollified to see what I had accomplished in his absence.  He still managed to say, “You shouldn’t have been out on the roads Aria.  I’ve seen storms before but I’ve never seen people acting this crazy because of storms before.  We’ve already had several calls because of store looting.” 

I shrugged.  “People are animals.  Expect the worst and you won’t be disappointed.” 

He stood up from his stoop and said, “Hey, I’m supposed to be the cynic around here.” 

I shrugged again.  “I’ve seen too much not to know how stupid some people can act.”  Smacking yet another mosquito that was dining on me I asked, “Have you heard how Dorrie’s family is?” 

“All buttoned up.  Josh said that I was to tell you if the water gets too high you’re to take off to their place.” 

I snorted. “That’s sweet but Dorrie knows better.  If the water gets too high we’ll be trapped on this side of the river.  In the old days the storms would push the water clear up to the house, that’s why the crawl space is so deep … so the water can flow under the house rather than through it.  The animals are as secure as I can make them in the shed.  At least we finished all the repairs to it.  I suppose I’ll bring them up to the house if it gets really, really bad; I’ll lock them in the Florida room if I have to.  I’m worried about your stuff though.  At least consider letting me bring it in the house.” 

“You already store almost all of it in here in the back bedroom.” 

“Not that stuff, your everyday stuff that’s in the trailer.” 

Looking at me, “You’ve seen storms out here before.  You think it’s necessary?” 

“I don’t know about necessary necessarily but it couldn’t hurt.” 

After a moment he said, “You got bags or something to put it all in?” 

“I’ve got some empty storage tubs.” 

I dragged the tubs over to his trailer and he started filling them and then looked at them more closely.  I asked him, “What?  Is there a crack in that one?” 

“No,” he said cautiously.  “Aren’t … aren’t these the ones you … er … had Daniel’s stuff stored in?” 

“Yeah, they don’t have cooties.  I cleaned them before I stacked them up.” 

He shook his head.  “That’s not what I mean.  Just … uh … where did his stuff go?” 

I sighed not wanting to have the conversation.  “Some here, some there.  I suppose I should have asked if you wanted anything.” 

He shook his head.  “No.  But … but when?  I mean you wouldn’t even touch or move the stuff when we were replacing the locks and doorknobs.” 

I leaned against the trailer door and talked to him through the screen unable to stand in the light and look at him while I spoke, even if it meant vampire mosquitos sucked me dry.  “While you were off with your buddies playing Creature from the Black Lagoon.  And before you ask, I don’t know why then.  It was just time.  Feena is almost nine months old.  Daniel has been gone … over … over six months … longer in a way, a lot longer.  I was in the hospital for Thanksgiving last year and we were all in mourning by Christmas.  Here it is July and I didn’t even want to go to the 4th of July picnic because it reminded me of last year.  So much has happened since then, I’ve come so far yet sometimes if feels like … like I haven’t moved a step.” 

“But why then?  Were you waiting until I was gone?” 

“That’s not it at all.  I hadn’t even thought that was what I had planned to do. I don’t know what put the bee in my bonnet Cal; I was sitting on the porch trimming my toes nails when it just hit me.  I was still holding on to things, not dealing with them.  I’d put it off too long, let it get too big in my mind.  It was just stuff, inanimate.  It needed to be done.  End of story.”  Slapping at a beetle that had zigged when he should have zagged and had wound up in my hair instead of against the porch light I told him, “I still can’t see anything like normal in my future but if I’m going to help Feena to have it I’ve got to … got to …”  I shrugged.  Refusing to verbalize anything else I ended with, “It was just time.  That’s the only thing I can say.  Please don’t ask me to explain it any better than that because I can’t.” 

Matter-of-factly he said, “OK.  So long as it wasn’t because you were afraid to deal with things with me here.” 

“No.  That wasn’t it.  It was just time.” 

After we got everything but the built in furniture out of the trailer he ate a plate of picodillo while I packed him some empanadas for him and Josh to eat on if they had time. 

As he was leaving he said, “I wish there was room for you and Feena at the station but it’s crammed with people that have gotten arrested on purpose to get out of the storm.  It isn’t a fit place right now.” 

“We’re fine.  Go before they start asking for your twenty.” 

I slept a little but the storm really started whipping and whistling and woke me up.  I can’t say for sure but I think I see a couple of power pole have snapped.  The river probably looks like the ocean at this point.  I hope no one is crazy enough to be out in this stuff.