Category Archives: Domestic violence

Redemption

(part 2 – a short story by Sha’Tara)

“Let me show you something, Reed.”  He got up and led me from the kitchen down a short hallway.  A closed door I knew hid a bathroom, I could smell it.  He opened the next door and reaching up, pulled on a string, turning on a light bulb also hanging from the ceiling.  I was amazed.  The bedroom had a clean, fully made double bed in it and the walls were painted white.  A crucifix hung over the headboard and a bible was on its shelf.  One small closet and a set of drawers completed the room.  He opened the closet and there were a few dresses and a couple of what were called ‘maxi’ coats, terribly out of style as were the two pairs of small shoes on the floor.  I smelled the mothballs that must have been in the pockets of the garments.

“After she left I moved out and kept it as ‘ours’.  This is all I’ve got left of her.  I got rid of the pictures, they were too painful to look at.  But this, I thought, was OK.  It was an invitation for her to come back.  Then it just became a shrine.  I come here to pray.  I read from that Bible, the only thing she insisted on bringing with her when I took her away from her folks.  But I don’t find any consolation in it.  I’m not of those who believe they re-encounter loved ones in heaven.  If she didn’t want to be with me in this life, what would have changed her mind that she’d want anything to do with me in the next?  I don’t know the rules there, but I don’t think I’d be able to court her all over and make her fall in love with me for the rest of time.  I’ve thought about that a lot.  It doesn’t add up.

“Anyway, if you want, you can have this room.  Just leave everything the way it is, if you can.  If you must move something, please let me know.  I want everything back the same after you leave.  I know I keep the house a bit chilly but I’ll make sure there’s a good fire in the stove tonight.”

I agreed to staying the night and we returned to the kitchen table to talk.  I wanted to hear the details of his story, why Sally left, how she left, alone or with someone?

“Except for her folk, mainly her dad and her oldest brother who were what you’d call assholes, the people around here are quite open and trusting.  We don’t think bad of any stranger until they give us cause.  So after we’d been here three years and eight months,  May came around and spring was in full when a government surveyor came by.  He offered us some money if we’d put him up.  We had the extra room then behind the house-kind of collapsed now-and he said it’d be fine.  We certainly could use the extra money.  He’d come back after each day out surveying and putting those steel markers at the corners of each section.  He had bundles of those in the back of his government pickup truck.

He talked to Sally a great deal; I was too tired to talk much, after the field work and the chores.  But Sally couldn’t get enough of his stories, and she looked through all his magazines.  He gave her a transistor radio and she was happy to be able to hear what all was going on while she worked around the house.  I never paid much attention to it all.  Up here, a man’s married, no one bothers his wife.  She’s safe with any stranger.  And women know to stay with their men, that’s our way.  You don’t worry they’d ever leave for another man.  That’s city stuff, Hollywood stuff, not what real people do.

“But one day I come home from the fields to do the chores and there’s no one in the house.  The dishes are done and in the drying rack, but there’s no cooking.  The table’s not set.  I get worried thinking she went out and got herself hurt.  I call her and I look everywhere.  Then it occurred to me that Jean (that’s the surveyor) isn’t there either.  Now I think maybe he’s taken her into the city and maybe she thought she’d be back in time, so didn’t bother with a note.  I waited a bit, made a sandwich, although I wasn’t hungry.  I milked the cows and fed the pigs, going through the usual chores, trying to figure out what had happened.  Finally I took the old Chief and drove to Webster’s Corner.   She’d been there, and left a note.  I could tell the store keeper, Mr. Jameson, was very upset when he gave me the unsealed envelope.  I guess Sally’d told him what she was doing.  He’d tried to talk her out of it but she had gotten really angry and left.   She’d gone off with the surveyor.  I read her note.  It was a terrible thing.  I remember it, although I tore it up then, then burned it later.

“Dear Pete,  Thanks for taking care of me and taking me away from my folks.  I never really loved you but I felt I owed you for helping me.  So I didn’t know what to say when you proposed marriage.  I really had no choice: either you, or them.  You were nice to me.  But that wasn’t the life I’d been dreaming about.  Jean’s taking me to Toronto, or maybe Montreal, he speaks French and knows people there.  I won’t be coming back.  Find yourself a proper woman, Pete and forget about me.  Take care of yourself, Sally.”

“I didn’t know what to do then.  I went to the police and tried to enlist their help to find her.  The RCMP were very sympathetic but there wasn’t much they could do.  Although Sally was a married woman, she had the right to leave.  Legally, there was nothing they could do, except to try to find out for me where she’d gone, or was staying.  They traced her in Toronto.  I sold our four cows and the pigs for the money and went there to find her, sure I’d talk her into coming back; that she’d have seen through it by then.  But that was already two years later, two years it took for the police to trace her from an employment bureau.  By the time I got there she’d moved again.  Again they traced her, in another part, where she’d worked in a hotel.  But she quit before I got there.  Three years now.  I traced her again to a slaughter house.  Four years.  I took odd jobs, lived in low-rent areas and sent just enough money to my folks to pay the taxes on the land.  Five years, and finally another break.  She was working for the CN as janitorial help.  I tried to locate her but that company was reluctant to help me.  Not our policy, they said.  So I had to hire a private detective.  It was him who found out she’d had a baby.  Not only that, but she did the one thing that made me stop looking for her: she’d abandoned her child in a department store.  I don’t know how these people find these things out, but I believed him somehow.  I suppose because I figured he knew it would mean the end of that job for him.  He told me to go home, forget her, and get my life back.  But all I heard was ‘get your wife back’ and isn’t it amazing how those two words are so much alike?  He told me the little girl’s name was ‘Redemption’ – that was the tag they found in a  pocket of her coat when they picked her up.  Even the police could not find her after that: she must have planned it carefully.  Maybe she knew by then I was after her and I’d take the child.  Only I didn’t.  She wasn’t my kid.  I wanted my Sally, not some bastard kid by some hated surveyor I would have gladly killed at the time.  I could have found the kid.  She’d be in an orphanage.  The police would know.  I could lay some claim to her and adopt her, most likely.  But I chose not to go that route and I came back home.

“But it was never the same again.  If you’ve ever considered the meaning of the phrase, ‘a broken heart’ well, that’s what I mostly suffer from.  Some people heal and some don’t.  I suppose it’s like other diseases that strike people, it seems, at random.  Cancer, heart attacks, that sort of thing.  I love Sally, Reed.  I know I always will.  Even if there’s a heaven, I’ll love her there just as much even though I have no hope inside me that I’ll find her there either, as I mentioned to you before.  It seems as if I’m under some strange spell that nothing can break.  Do you know how many times I’ve thought that maybe it was because I just didn’t want to stop loving her; that I was in love with something I’d made up and all I had to do was just stop?  Stop, then start again fresh.  ‘Get a life’ as the young people say now.  Yes, wouldn’t that be easy, simple?  Just change my mind about that part.

“Fine, except it’s not in my mind, it’s in my heart.  It’s in every aware part of me.  I guess you could say that half of me is, or was, Sally.  It was that good and great half of me that left me.  How could I deal with that?”

He started sobbing heavily, and tears ran down his face unto the old blueprints.  I walked over to stand behind him and I put my arms around him gently, then hesitantly I put my cheek against his stubbly one.  I was surprised at my own feelings.  I held him tighter and when he calmed down I asked him to tell me about the blueprints.

“Mr. Jameson had been an architect of sorts before he bought the store at Webster’s.  He knew how to make blueprints and everybody knew this.   Some of the richer folks around had hired him to draw buildings for them, and make blueprints of the plans.  One day while talking, Sally and I laughingly said, ‘Let’s get Mr. Jameson to make us a set of blueprints for our new farm house!’  Well, it was something we could laugh over together-we’d been drinking dandelion wine she’d made and feeling silly-but she decided on her own to ask Jameson how much he’d charge us for a house plan.  ‘I’d be honored to do it for you as a Christmas present’ he’d said.  We were shocked, but we accepted.  The plans arrived on Christmas day and we pored over them through that long winter.  We were able to scrape just enough money from the sale of our pigs to pour our foundation for the new house.

My folks and her two younger brothers (they were the decent ones in that family) came to help.  It was the happiest time of our life together.  When we’d taken off the shiplap forms, pulled the nails and stacked the lumber, we sat in what would be the living room and we drank her wine with our help.  She’d also made egg salad sandwiches and bowls of fresh vegetables from her garden.   Simon, her youngest brother, brought his fiddle and we danced to his scratchy music but no one cared.  It was the best of times.

“Give us two years,”  I said to Sally, “and we’ll be raising the walls and maybe put the roof on.  In five years we’ll have our new home.  You’ll see.”  And she smiled and sighed and kicked one foot against the other from behind as she always did when she wasn’t sure how to deal with a situation.  So, she smiled again.  That was her answer:  we’ll see.  But she meant more than that.  She was becoming restless again.  She’d always been restless as a kid but I thought it was because of her home life.  I didn’t think-didn’t know, even-that such people remained restless all their lives.  Join up with a loving partner and everything changes, right?  You know Reed, us humans, we’re a naïve bunch.  We don’t know anything about each other and yet we assume we know it all.  And that’s where we go wrong.  We should never assume we know what the other person is thinking, or thinking of doing, at any moment.  All of us, we’re liked cocked guns just waiting for something to pull that trigger.  Of course we have all sorts of safeties we could use to make others safe from ourselves, but of course, we don’t believe we are the dangerous ones, only the others are.  Our downfall is thinking that we are either better, or worse, than others and living within that constant judgmental attitude.”

I watched his head droop lower and I felt I’d heard enough for one day.  I too was dead tired.  The house was cold and I wanted a hot bath, which I would not get, so I wanted to get inside my sleeping bag on top of the nice clean double bed, pull my comforter over my head and cry myself to sleep.  Yes, me, tough Reed, the girl who survived the orphanage, was never adopted because she was too strong willed-was returned twice!-now feeling like crying over some vague thought, idea, wish, dream.  I’d come all this way in my own way to find a story-no, to find myself, or rather, to find a me that would be more real than the one that was raised in that horrible orphanage and who clawed her way to the top of her profession simply because she kept burning her bridges as she moved forth.  There had never been any turning back for Reed.  Her life was lived from a one-way ticket to another.  When she left the orphanage with the help of a visiting priest, she closed that door.   When the affair with Edward cooled, it was over-the end, that’s all she wrote.  Now here I am, all emotional over an old man and his rather pathetic story.

I’d been warned in college not to get involved with the people in my stories, or with my sources.  It was just business and you used your feminine attributes to get into places no one else could get into, and to get the answers that made great copy.  You bargained with the chips life handed you.  A female body was a great asset if you knew how to use it without getting slammed.  If you got caught, your career could be over in a day.  Found out.  Exposed.  A slut, cheat and liar.  Men could do it, of course, but women, while giving the impression they were doing it, could never afford the possibility they’d be caught actually doing it, not if they held any kind of professional status in a man’s world.  And journalism is a man’s world, make no mistake about that.  As is publication.  It’s a man’s world because it is a money world.

“Uh, Pete?  I’m sorry, but I’m dead tired.  Could we continue this tomorrow morning?  I notice there’s a bathroom next to my room.  Is it OK for me to use it, or… do I have to use the outhouse I saw out there?”

“Oh, sorry about that.  I didn’t think to ask you.  Sure, use the bathroom.  Everything works, but there’s no hot water.  It’s not the cleanest place in the house, I’m sorry.  If I’d known sooner that you would be staying overnight I would have cleaned up…”

“That’s OK, thanks.  See you in the morning then?  Say around eight?”

“Anytime.  I’m up around six anyway, don’t need to sleep much.  Today’s the most excitement I’ve had in years so maybe tonight I’ll sleep more.  Good night.”

I watched him for a bit but he didn’t look up.  So I went out to get my stuff.  It was raining, cold sharp needles that hit the skin and felt as if they were drawing blood.  I shivered, grabbed my bag, sleeping bag, comforter and ran back in the house.  Pete was stoking-that’s what I think it’s called-the fire in the stove and putting more wood in.  The smell of dry wood burning filled the house and I suddenly felt really warm, good, safe.  ‘Thank you’ I said to no one in particular, but if I’d been pressed to say, I would have said, ‘to the goddess’ and been none the wiser as to who I meant. Emotional shit is what.

(end part 2)

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(This is one of those stories, mostly fiction but enough personal life included in to make it more than just fiction. It’s fairly long so I’m going to post it in three parts over the next few days)

[a short story by Sha’Tara]

I found out about him from some research I was doing, trying to piece together what happens to old people who end up living alone in rural areas, particularly in the central prairies-forgotten on homesteads of farms long ago fallen through the cracks of commercial viability.  He’d shown up on police records-a man looking for his wife in the city.  According to the records she had a daughter at the time.  His name is Peter Breckman.  Further inquiries revealed nothing else but that he’d returned to his farm in Saskatchewan, north of the Saskatchewan River, somewhere to the north-west of Prince Albert.

I was hooked.  I asked my editor for some long overdue vacation time.  There was no argument.  With several awards, including the Canadian Association of Journalists Award, and a possible Pulitzer for a book I’m writing based on my work in investigative reporting (including a stint in jail for not revealing a source) I was not to be argued with on that point.  The House wanted me happy and of course, working.

“You’re going to drive all the way into central Saskatchewan in October?  You’ve never driven outside Ontario, all on paved highways, except those two trips we took to Chicago, and I did most of the driving.  Why don’t you fly to Regina, take a bus north, rent a real four by four when you get to Prince Albert and give yourself time to explore the country, you know, before you’re buried under the snow or die in a blizzard while listening to Leonard Cohen?  Come on, give yourself time to flush out your quarry, and regale us with another of your tear-jerking prize winning stories of people down on their luck who somehow manage to see themselves through it all.  Look, if it’s money you need, or an advance, we’ll be happy to give it to you, Reed.”

Even in heels I have to look up to see his round face.  I notice his hairline is receding more and more and there’s graying at the temples.  We, none of us are getting younger, hah!  “I know Edward.  But I don’t need money; I need time alone to think.”

“Suit yourself, I know when my arguments are wasted.  But stay in touch will you?  Call, or email once a day-promise?”

I took a very deep breath, studied the genuinely concerned look on his face.  “No promises Edward, not ever-remember?  That’s why as long as we were together you were always free to be with anyone else also.  I commit only to my work.  This time is for me – alone.  I’ll call if something warrants it.  If something happens, someone will call, I’ll make sure of that.  I’ll carry a note in a pocket so when they find my frozen body under a snow drift by a clump of waxberry bushes, they can contact you on your cell.”

He smirked and that was done.  We kissed goodbye as two people who had been married for many years would.  The romance, if there ever was any, and it was more House’s gossip than reality, was long gone between us.  We were business partners and that suited me fine.

The next morning I finished packing my CRV and I headed west from Toronto, hitting the number 1 highway until I was about a hundred klicks from the city and then switching to service roads and secondary highways.  I waited until the landscape became utterly unfamiliar to allow myself to relax.  The land began to flatten and the roads became margin lines on the edges of graph paper, or so I imagined it would look from the air.  Here and there, small rivers or dry ravines with denuded clumps of aspen, cottonwoods or willows, graciously offered a break in the scenery and let me pass, lost to their own concerns.  Eventually I got around to putting a Leonard Cohen CD in the drive and I turned the volume almost as high as it would go, rolling down the side window and letting my feelings have their way and flow on the breeze.  I literally flew as there didn’t seem to be any speed limits, or if there were, they weren’t posted.

Somehow it was all very fitting for as I listened to my all time favorite Canadian poet and singer my mind began to form the outline of the story I was going away to dig up and write.  Yeah, I guess you could say that I am an archaeologist of sorts, digging up stories of ghosts not yet dead and giving them one more moment of light before the final darkness drives them away for good.  Ok, so I’ve read too much gothic fiction, but I like it.

As I drove along and played with the words of the songs, mixing my own with them, I became convinced that whatever I found out there would not only change my life, but give me a greater awareness of myself.  Here, in this endless land called the Prairies I would lose the City that had formed the city girl and this Changing Woman.  Here I would find another me, one more real than this one.  That was what I was after.  The story was to be the frame around my new face,  and I didn’t care whether the world was ever going to see that face.

I eased off on the accelerator and stopped more often, choosing my overnight stops carefully, frequenting restaurants that catered to the locals, mostly farm people.  I did not hide myself and attracted quite a few hopefuls.  I asked questions and they told me their stories which I surreptitiously recorded for the main story.  I needed background material as I knew nothing of this land or its people.  Which is a good thing actually as I had no preconceived ideas about any of it, except for the questionable I had gathered from the CBC, McLean’s and the National Film Board.  I had done my desk research but now I was in it for the show-down, so to speak.
I took five days to reach Prince Albert.  This is what they have to say about this town of 35,000 people:  Prince Albert is the 3rd largest City in Saskatchewan. Located in the broad valley of the North Saskatchewan River near the geographical center of the province where the agricultural prairie of the south and the rich forest belt of the north meet.  Much of Prince Albert is built on the sloping south bank of the North Saskatchewan River while the north bank provides a spectacular view of mixed forest, typical of northern Saskatchewan.
I set up my ‘office’ in a hotel and began to inquire as to the whereabouts of Mr. Breckman.  The police were the most helpful.  They cross-checked their old files with up-dated information and found me an address.  I didn’t tell them who I was and they didn’t ask why I wanted to know.  These people still trust strangers here and I was somewhat surprised but said nothing.  Soon enough, I thought, soon enough when they will become suspicious and closed like those of us in the big cities.

After two days of Prince Albert, I checked out but indicated I could be back, and drove across the North Saskatchewan river and headed north, then west into what seemed to me terribly empty lands with modern machinery parked in the fields and huge ‘farmsteads’ of barns, storage sheds, silos and modest homes holding up the grey sky and keeping a vigil over thousands of flat, empty acres of cleared land.  I passed a church with its front door gaping open, its steeple fallen down and a couple of weathered sheets of plywood nailed over the hole caused by the fallen construct.  Well, I thought, at least now the door is open to all, at any time, even if there is only dank mildew and darkness inside.  Beats religion anyhow.  I know Leonard would have a poem and a song to write about this place.  His words would be gentler than mine, perhaps.

I hit the dirt roads and eventually serpented my way down into a deep ravine and snaked up the other side, thankful that the road was dry as I had heard tales of prairie gumbo and I did not relish the thought of being stuck at the bottom of this twisty, steep and not too well kept road.  As I crested and leveled upon the flats again I saw my destination.  A clump of blue spruce and some ramshackle buildings with a broken and falling picket fence that had once been painted white, along the road.  Slowly, I turned into the rutted driveway, sides and center of the drive overgrown with coarse horsehair grasses and dandelions, a few still blooming.  My car being narrower than the normal, if rare, traffic that had formed this road, I had to use my four-wheel drive and some skill to not be thrown sideways.  I was to learn later that the best thing to do when driving over a deeply rutted road is to straddle the ruts and create a new set in between.  I am a city girl.  There are things you have to grow up with; that cannot be learned overnight, or even by observation.  Sometimes you have to accept your own ignorance, knowing that if the foot was in the other shoe, you’d be the one explaining and demonstrating the rules of the game.

Reaching what seemed like the end of the driveway, I turned off the engine and peered around without getting out.  I had seen some sad places along the way here, but this was the saddest imaginable.  There was an old Dodge van parked in front of a grey, sway-backed shack with a peeling tar paper roof.  The van had once been white but now was a mixed shade of green algae or mold and accumulated wind-blown dirt.  A weed with small, shriveled purple flowers grew from the windshield gasket.  It had a jack supporting the front struts and the driver side front wheel was gone.  All the others were flat and the tires were sun-baked and weather cracked.  From a broken window of the side doors a dog of indistinct lineage, age or gender stared at me without making a sound.  It looked strange until I noticed it only had one eye.  It seemed to be trying to smell me and I judged its remaining eyesight was not too good.  Safe to get out of the CRV?  I thought it was, but I was careful to open the door wide first, then put one leg on the ground, then slide slowly from the seat to stand beside the car, ready to jump back in at a moment’s notice.  The dog left the window and disappeared.  I waited and I heard it jump out of the old vehicle, heard a whimpering then it limped around the front and came slowly towards me.  It wagged its tail slowly, as if putting too much speed on it would detach it.  It approached me and sniffed, then just stood there until I bent down gingerly and petted it lightly on the head and behind the ears.  I don’t like dogs or pets in general and this was wild country.  I didn’t know if Mr. Breckman was even home, but likely he would be.  Obviously his supplies were brought in by someone as there was nothing around that was drivable.

The dog whined a bit and I felt sorry for the old thing but didn’t know what to do.  I walked to the shack, up the two creaky steps of loose boards and knocked on the door.  There was a shuffling inside and some indistinct words that may have been ‘Wait, I’m comin’ and in a few moments the door creaked open.  I saw an old man, old beyond his physical years I could tell.  A man who knew anguish and much suffering.  I introduced myself as Reed, the reporter from the “House.”

“Did you get the message I sent you about a possible interview?”
“Yes, the message was given to me. Sorry I couldn’t get back to you but I don’t have a phone. I’m Pete” he answered.  “I’m sorry about the state of this place but I don’t get around to doing much anymore.  My back just won’t let me.  Please come in if you care to and we can sit at the table.  Then you can tell me why exactly you’re here.”

We sat at a dusty table, on two old wooden chairs that certainly pre-dated my time.  A naked light bulb dangled from two twisted black and white wires that came from a hole in a yellowed drywall ceiling.  I was facing the man as he sat squinting at me, holding his head in his hands.

“Mr. Breckman” I began, but he waved me to stop.

“Please miss, call me Pete, or Peter, but forget the mister.  I’m no mister, just an old man waiting for nothing to happen.”

An interesting ‘tournure’ of words, I thought.  But before I plunged into my spiel I found myself wondering if I could do something for this ‘old man’ before me, or for the dog.

“Your dog, Pete, seems to be in great pain, and I think it’s very hungry.”

“Who, Bean?  She’s a great hunter, she doesn’t go hungry.”

“Pete, I watched her.  She can hardly move anymore and she’s starving, for food and affection.  Something should be done for her.”

“Ah, yes, I forgot.  She’s old and she don’t complain any.  There’s some chow stuff in the cupboard under the sink, I think.  D’you think you could get some to her, and some water too?”

I nodded and complied.  It was simple and heartwarming.  The dog was grateful to me and that was a first.  And so was the man I’ll now call ‘Pete’ for clarity.  I had some supplies in my car so without asking I brought in some fresh food and made us sandwiches.  Pete stared at me as I worked at the counter, wiping it as best I could first.  I was surprised to find running water, though not hot, at the taps and found a dish cloth that looked reasonably clean to wipe a few items of cutlery.  Then I brought out a couple of cans of Canada Dry ginger ale and we ate in silence.  I watched him eat.  He was definitely enjoying his sandwich and I felt gratified.  My heart was not just going out to the old man, but racing to him.  I wondered why I was so taken and accounted it to the emptiness of the place, being tired from my traveling and a degree of nervousness I was working to overcome.  My watch said it was already after 14:00 hours and the nearest hotel I knew of was almost two hundred klicks back the way I came.  I’d be driving back through unfamiliar country dirt roads with no signs, re-crossing those horrid ravines and if it rained, or sleeted as it seemed wont to do, I’d be in serious trouble unless I overcame my natural reticence of asking for help and pulled into one of those modern farms.  Surely, I said to myself, I can’t sleep here.

He had finished his sandwich, mine being half-eaten and he turned on the light.  To my surprise I saw a set of battered blueprints which I’d earlier taken as some kind of tablecloth.  He sighed, leaned his head in his hands again and stared at the drawings.  I saw tears welling up in his eyes, reflected by the light.

“Ahhh!” he groaned.  Then he looked up at me again and apologized.  “So sorry miss, but you have no idea how much your presence is hurting me.  You look like her.”

“I’m sorry Pete.  So sorry.  You mean I remind you of your wife?”

“My wife, yes, my pretty little Sally.  My life.  Yes, you do remind me and I suppose I’m an old fool who never made the effort to get over his love for one woman.  I only knew Sally, no one else.  We grew up around here and kind of became attached to each other.  She had a bad home life and ran away to our place many times.  Finally at sixteen, and me eighteen I couldn’t stand it that she’d be abused at home, so I went over there, threatened her old man and took her away.  We married in the church and lived with my parents for a short while, then we moved here.  Kids didn’t stay with their parents in our day, you had to make your own way in life.  There’s a quarter section here, not something you can live on you know, but you add on and add on and eventually you have a real farm.  It’s tough, those first few years but that’s why you do it young, when you have plenty of stamina and you know everything and you know you’re going to get what you’re after.  If you have a good woman behind you, it’s even more of a sure thing.  Sally was a good woman miss.  A very good woman, make no mistake.  But I think deep down she wanted more than life had given her and it didn’t look like we were going to hit the good times soon.  Ours was going to be a life-long struggle which eventually would be for our kids.  We’d see the results of our hard work in them.  That’s what I saw at any rate.  And I think that’s what she saw too, and she wasn’t as accepting of it as I was.”

He stopped talking and looked at me again.  He took another deep breath and stared at the blueprints.  I could see stains, cracked folds and rips in them.  How long, I wondered, had it been since he brought them out of wherever and put them on the table to look into his past?  For I had no doubt they were linked to his life with Sally.  How to ask?

“I noticed a set of footings to the side of this house out there.  Are these the plans for what was to be a new farm house?”

“You are sharp, miss.”  It was my turn to wave him to stop.

“Please call me Reed.  That’s what everyone calls me.”

“Oh yeah, Reed, that’s what you said.  What’s your full name?”

“My name is Jones, Reed Jones.”

“OK Reed Jones.”  He pronounced it heavily and deliberately, each syllable as if he was driving them with a sledge hammer.  “I should thank you for the fresh sandwich.  That was good food.  You’re much taller than Sally was, an’ your hair is longer and darker than hers was, and o’ course you’re much older than she’d been, but seeing you at the counter there, preparing the food, well, no woman’s done that here since she left.  I’m sorry.”

“That’s OK.  I won’t patronize you by saying I understand, but I can feel some of it.  I’m an empath-makes me stay one step ahead of the competition in my field, and the competition is fierce.   But I’m determined to be the best at what I do, whatever it takes to get there.  Look, if you’re tired or you want to stop, I can come back tomorrow and we can go on, or finish then.”

“Actually, if you don’t mind, I’d like to continue.  I feel much better when I talk to you about that time.  It’s like something clears up and I can see through it for the first time.”

“Well, I was thinking about the drive back to my hotel.  It’ll take me over two hours if I don’t run into rain, or sleet or whatever you call it here.”

“You looked at the sky when you went out, didn’t you?”

“Yes.”

“What do you make of it?”

“Well, it’s uniformly grey and the clouds seem a bit low.  But there’s no storm that I can see, or sense.”

“Well, let me tell you.  In about an hour it’s going to start to rain.  Then the rain will begin to freeze.  The first coulee you hit, you’re dead stuck at the bottom, no way out until you’re towed with a tractor.  Gets pretty cold out there, even for us who’ve lived here all our lives.  I don’t think you want to get out on that road this evening.  Besides, it’s October.  It’ll be pitch black in half an hour and I’d bet you’re more used to driving with street lights.”

“Yeah, driving in the dark with only headlights to go by is weird.”   I hesitated.   “I brought a sleeping bag and a comforter.  I could sleep here, maybe, somewhere.”  And I looked around hoping for that suitable ‘somewhere’ to manifest.

(end part 1 of 3)

You can’t stop them from seeing (your broken life)

(Lyrics from the song, Hallelujah, by Leonard Cohen)

  [poem from   ~burning woman~   by Sha’Tara]

City streets can be colder than stone
when you’re vulnerable and all alone
nor ever paved with the rich man’s gold
in threadbare clothes, wet and cold.

She comes to a familiar doorway
in the night when she’s lost her way
remembers the days of her short life
how desperately she’d run from strife
finding a hallway, a basement stair
then running again from every nightmare.

The deskman knows.  She tosses her hood
and puts her hand on the worn wood.
Her words, like a voice from the tomb:
“Please, I need a cheap room.”

He smiles at her – or is it a leer?
He replies, she can smell the stale beer —
“Forty dollars for a night at the inn –
or free, and I’ll tuck you in.”
His hand slips over her cold wrist:
for the mill she will ever be grist.

Through the window, two sheets, a case:
she grabs but he says, “No need for haste.”
Here’s the key – it’s three – o – four –
and don’t forget: don’t lock the door.”

He watches her walk to the rickety stairs,
shoulders slumped, broken by despair
and as she steps on the very first rung
comes a line from a song she’d once sung:

“Baby I’ve been here before
I’ve seen this room and I’ve walked the floor
used to live alone before I knew ya
But I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch
Our love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah”

I Lived and Died, Then

Remembrances of a young French woman

by Sha’Tara

The resurgence of Fascism, or Neo Nazism is not something I could easily ignore. This past life piece of an autobiography will explain why that is such an important issue for me. At least that’s what I mean to happen. I have to put heavy restraints on my feelings in order to get this written in some proper chronology. The following is difficult, and painful, to recall and to recount here, even now, at this time and in this life.

Let me take you back to those years of which so much history, so many stories and movies have been written and made, beginning in 1940, and for me, ending in 1943.

In 1940 I was living in eastern France, on the border with Belgium near Mont St. Martin. I was 23 years old, married to a heavy set, tall, abusive drunkard and had no children. My name was Helene Matthieu, nee DuPre. For me the draft had been a God-send as it had taken Henri away from me. What happened to him subsequent to his going to war against Germany I cannot say. I never saw him again, nor heard from him. It may sound callous but I never regretted his disappearance. But then as you will read, those were strange times.

Suddenly though not unexpectedly my small world was invaded by the Germans. I was out on the street of our town to watch the Panzers rolling through, as were just about everybody else in town. The pretty girls were noticed, as I was. Before I knew it I had made the acquaintance of some very handsome, gorgeous German soldiers. One thing to another and I was introduced to the general staff, and promised that I’d be in Paris within the month. I had nothing; there were refugees everywhere. The future looked bleak and Paris was a powerful attractant for someone like myself. I needed this event to disappear from Mont St. Martin. How could someone like me have any idea what living under the Wermacht-SS coalition was going to devolve into?

Subsequently, with my Wermacht contacts I did make my way to Paris after the cessation of overt hostilities. It was a breath of fresh air. Full of their superiority and success, the Germans were gallant to a fault though some were pushy – men are men, whatever they wear, whatever language they speak. I didn’t mind, none of the other girls did either or we would have found ways to return where we came from – though I would never call it home. Paris became my home.

My luck kept up with me. I knew how to drive, even recklessly, so I was trained and hired as a driver for the general staff, mostly to run errands, sometimes to deliver messages. Some of those drives took me to areas bordering the Channel – which we call “La Manche” as you probably know. Though the war raged across the Channel and I heard about it, the horror of what the English, especially in London, had to sustain didn’t come down to us. Our news were carefully filtered, you can imagine. Still for me, the rest of 1940 and to the Summer of 1941 were a good year.

Though I could not know it however, my own black clouds were gathering and these good years were to become the sort of good year you experience reading a romance novel, not in a real life.

Things, strange and troubling, were happening around me. My German friends remained friendly but my mood changed. I saw people taken out of their homes, beaten and taken prisoner. They were Jews and those who had harboured them. Then I saw ordinary French people, including women and children, rounded up and summarily shot. My fear and anger grew day by day though I did not show it. I was beginning to think of a way I could help some of these people being taken away. I had passes and access to Wermacht vehicles. And often enough I was sent to the coast where the great defenses against a sea invasion were being built. The vehicles I drove were large with lots of room inside where a couple of people could hide. My passes meant I’d never be searched.

It was late in 1941, early Winter, when a young man with a bicycle was standing near the entrance to the flat I shared with another woman. He watched me as I unlocked the door to enter, then rushed up, grabbed me, pushed me inside and closed the door – so quickly I had no time to even think of screaming. I fell to the floor, he on top of me. He held me in a stranglehold and had one hand on my mouth. “Shhh!” he said and made the throat cutting gesture. I went limp, waiting, petrified, sure he was going to kill me.

Je suis avec la Resistance” he said. That was enough. Already several women who “collaborated” with the Germans had disappeared. We had one chance to remain alive: join the Resistance and work to defeat the Reich. When he allowed me to speak I told him I had already decided to do that. He knew all about me and what I did so he was cautiously relieved. “Je ne voulais pas the couper la gorge, tu es trop belle.” (I didn’t want to slit your throat, you’re too pretty.)

And so began a terrible cat and mouse game. I was able to carry documents to the coast along with a few terrified Jews and Gypsies, mostly children. There were contact points and small boats came in the dead of night under fog to pick up escapees and survivors. I have to say, as memory serves here, that the English people who came thus to help were probably the bravest and most honourable people imaginable. What a contrast with my swaggering “hosts” in Paris. From today, from another life, once again: Thank you, English water folks.

Such serendipity cannot last. Predictably my clandestine operations were discovered. I was stopped, searched, arrested by the SS only three months (give or take) into my new life as a “Resistante.”

I will not, cannot, describe the sort of tortures they did to me. I’ll tell you the rest from a different viewpoint, from this life.

It is common for children to have terribly frightening nightmares. The most common is the kind where you try to run away from someone, or something terrible and you cannot get up to speed. Something always holds you back, forces you to just drag along. I had those, and another kind where I was walking in a gloomy landscape bathed in greenish light. All around me were those gaping round holes. I had to try to escape by walking around them or jumping a cross them over very narrow ledges. Each step threatened death. But as a child I had a third kind of recurring nightmare, one I could not share with anyone, it was just too hellish and I didn’t, couldn’t, understand why I could see such a thing.

In this repetitive nightmare I saw a young woman chained to a cement wall, spreadeagled. She was naked and there was blood on her skin. Her hair was matted and she either screamed, or moaned. The wall was part of a small, squarish cement room and in the middle was a table. There were usually three men in the room. Two were soldiers in uniforms and oh yes, I did recognize those! The third man, quite older, sat at the table and spoke to the woman. If she answered, she was beaten by one of the other two. If she did not answer, she was beaten, sometimes savagely whipped with a sort of belt.

Years passed and I grew up. The usual nightmares stopped, but not this one. It only became more real, with more details as I could now reason why this woman was being tortured and what they were doing to her, including raping her time and again.

In the late eighties, while under the instructions of “The Teachers” as I call them, the one called “El Issa” – a small woman with a keen interest in all the things of earth – asked me about my nightmare. “Do you know yet what that is all about?” I said no, no idea, but it is very personal and poignant. What does it mean?

She said, I waited to tell you because I wanted you to understand the meaning of true forgiveness. Now I will tell you who the woman is and what happened to her. Her name is (not was) Helene Matthieu. You have been looking at a few scenes of your immediate past life, that’s why I say “is” – for you, all these events exist in real time. You are here, but you are there also. And in many other places, as you will now discover with your power to delve into past lives and perhaps if you are diligent, into future lives as well.

I will finish this story for you. The SS tortured you mercilessly because to them you were the ultimate traitor. They had taken you in and you betrayed the hand that fed you. So you had to pay a heavier price, you see? They raped you in that cell and you became pregnant. They watched as you grew, then they systematically beat you until you aborted. They made you watch that dead child. They burned it in front of you. There were more tortures. Eventually they didn’t even want your answers, they’d gotten all they’d get from you and got nowhere. You were and are, a very stubborn individual. They just continued to torture you until late in the Summer of 1943 you finally gave up fighting to stay alive and died. You were then twenty six years old and you joined millions of other young women who died in similar circumstances: the costs of war; collateral damage.

There is much more to this story; this past life remembrance that is so vivid it may as well be of this life. There is the whole aspect of forgiveness which the event was used by El Issa to stamp into my consciousness. I have written about this here and there, and probably will again. But it’s got to be for another time, this is already so long. And as always when I delve into that time, I feel extremely wiped, mind tired. Thank you for reading. I’m not asking that you accept the reality of other lives – that’s a personal awareness.  Sha’Tara, aka, ~burning woman~

Benny

[a short story, by Sha’Tara]

Benny sat by the river that flowed past the house, just beyond the back yard.  He was tossing small twigs in the water, watching them float away and he was trying to remember so he’d know who he was.  

His memories were all a jumble in his head and they usually frightened him.  He thought he remembered a couple, a man and a woman who were very loud and made him scream.  He remembered hurting and feeling guilty for that.  Then the woman would hurt him more but he never understood why.  He remembered being cold, dirty and hungry.

One day when he was alone in the yard and crying, hurting and hungry, a nice smelling woman came to him and picked him up.  She took him away from the bad people and he never saw them again.  Then an old man came to see him where he played with other children.  The old man took him away from there to a house that had trees around it, green grass, and at the back of the house, water flowed.  The old man would hold his hand and let him lean over the water.  Leaves and twigs floated on the water and down below the rocks shimmered and danced, changing colours.

Benny liked it with the old man.  He grew up and the old man said he was his maternal grandfather.  He explained about his daughter, who was Benny’s mother, how she was addicted to drugs and drank and how she liked running around with bad men.  One of those men was his father.  He explained that it was that man who had hurt him and that he was in prison.  Benny tried to understand all that when he got older but he liked the water better.

The old man, his grandfather whom he learned to call “granpa” taught him about the water.  “It’s called a river” he’d say, “it is very pretty but it is also very dangerous.  Even for a good swimmer, it’s a fast running stream and a person can easily drown in it, do you understand that?”

Benny had learned when only a baby to agree, no matter what was asked; to do what he was told or there would be consequences.  “I understand granpa,” he dutifully replied. 

But the water was more alive than anything else had ever been for Benny.  It would sing to him in a language he could understand.  It didn’t scare him like people did, or make terrible noises like street traffic.  It never hurt him and it was even more gentle than granpa.  If he felt thirsty, there was a log that dropped down into the water.  He could carefully walk down to the water, then scoop the cold water into his mouth.  It was so easy and simple, he’d laugh whenever he did this.

There were very large trees that grew by the river’s banks that bent their heavy, luxuriant tops over the water and swayed in the wind.  During the warm seasons the leaves would come, then slowly at first, when still green, they would fall in the water and speed away.  Benny liked looking up into the green canopies waiting for a leaf to get tired of hanging on to its branch, let go, and flutter down to the water to be swept away.  Later, as the leaves changed from green to brown, yellow or even red and green, more and more of them would fall away from the branches and float down to the water to also be swept away.  If a strong wind came up there would be cascades of leaves falling, covering the ground and the top of the water.  That thrilled Benny as he stood under the falling leaves with outstretched hands. 

Some days when he was really happy, Benny imagined himself a leaf floating down to the water and being swept away.  He knew granpa meant well to warn him about the water but if the leaves weren’t afraid, why should he?  He though of asking granpa, but that would be like disobeying and Benny remembered what that meant.  He felt the deep fear of the pain he had been given when disobeying the man and woman who were his parents.  If he questioned granpa, he knew he would be beaten and locked up and made to go cold and hungry.  I mustn’t say anything, but if I float away then no one will hurt me.

A leaf fluttered down noisily, landing for a moment at Benny’s foot then sliding down into the water to spin away.  Benny followed the leaf and the river took him away. 

The Interview

[short story by Sha’Tara]

          Brian adjusts his lapel mike and checks his recording equipment.  He speaks, Brian Hinksley Interview with David Burnside, January 12th, 2038.  The man sitting across from him gives him a bit of a crooked smile.

          Good morning, David.  I trust your hotel accommodations are to your liking?

          Good morning, Brian.  Yes, the hotel is quite over-the-top decadent.  I sleep on the floor as you know.  And I would never eat in that $100 a breakfast restaurant, so I walked around to a deli and fixed myself up a nice meal that cost under $20.  I warned you about wasting your money. 

          It’s not my money David, so don’t worry about it.  I know your habits but at the same time I didn’t want to appear cheap and nobody over here  but me would understand your ways anyway.  Shall we start then?

          By all means, let’s.

          Direct question to get things rolling: How often have you thought about changing the world, David?

          As far back in my life as I can remember.  I was raised in a dysfunctional religious family remember.  Corporal punishment was the rule, not the exception.  It was mandated, and given on a regular basis.  However I tried to do what was asked of me there would always be at least one thing that would guarantee a whipping.  Some failure as a child to accomplish two or three things at once as ordered would necessarily result in at least one failed attempt resulting in a beating from either parents.  When I got old enough to leave home I didn’t go into denial about the way I was treated.  No, I used my home life as an example of how it is for most people in this world; how they are treated by their elites.  And I was driven by the idea that something had to be done.

          So, what did you do, David?

          Nothing!  Absolutely nothing.  Oh I wanted to do something, almost anything, and there were quite a number of moves I could have made to place myself into a world changing position back in the days.  Lots was happening around me.  There was student unrest at home; the flower children “movement” if one can call it that, the Hippies with their own dysfunctional ways of tuning out the world of their parents.  There was war and violent revolution in many parts of the world.  Suppression of popular movements in dictatorial “empires” like the USSR and China of course.  Out on the seas there were the Greenpeace boats and the Sea Shepherd society blocking oil tankers or attacking whaling ships.  I had lots of choices in entering the world changing scene.

          But why didn’t you, David?

          That should be obvious to anyone with a smattering of history.  Certainly that is a question you could answer for yourself, Brian, being a journalist and having travelled all over the world for your stories.  Isn’t it obvious that none of those quests to change the world have been entered into by individuals, groups, movements and armies since history was recorded and if anything they have only made things worse?  Oh sure there are a great many people, usually with some sort of vested interest, who argue against this claim of mine.  They’ll point at a great number of modern civilization’s accomplishments and bandy that about as proof that all these efforts have borne fruit; that society is essentially better now that it has ever been.  But you and I know this isn’t true, don’t we Brian?

          I’m doing the interview, David, so why don’t we agree that I’ll ask the questions? 

          Ah yes, interview – business – not conversation, huh? 

          Well yes, this is business, like it or not, and you did agree to do this interview remember?

          Yes I did.  Let’s move on then. 

          OK, so the ways and means people have tried to change the world, according to you, have only made things worse.  Could you elaborate on that?

          I’m not going to quote you statistics, Brian, that’s your department.  But I will tell you this: how many major charitable organizations have escaped unscathed from rulings of massive corruption in management since the new world-wide UN regulations mandate that audits be done by non-aligned, non-partisan UN auditors? Not one, Brian.  How much has the massive expansion of private security companies made the world, or individual nations, safer for their citizens and their visitors or tourists?  How have expanding wars and our yearly growing list of destroyed and failed nations brought about global peace?  And how much of this turmoil has been made possible by technology combined with the advent of computers?  How does that square with the oft-quoted line that “the computer revolution” has made life better for the world, I have to wonder – I am phrasing this so it does come across as a series of rhetorical questions, you understand.  After all, you’re asking the questions…

          I’ve heard your acerbic humour in other interviews and some of the documentaries in which you were featured David and point taken.  Let’s move on to the meat of this interview.  If none of the things previously attempted to make this world a better place have succeeded, or to use your view, have only succeeded in making it worse, have you, in your mental ruminations and experience discovered something that may be of use to us should we decide, let’s say, that our world does need fixing and all our efforts to date have not worked?

          I may have, Brian.  There is something available to man whereby he may yet save himself from the doom he’s placed himself under.  Mind, it’s not something I’ve discovered, it’s something that’s always been available to every person on earth having reached the age of reason.  It’s certainly not esoteric knowledge that requires special intelligence or wisdom, quite the contrary.  It’s so common place that it has been rejected out of hand as impractical.  People considering the idea have shrugged it off thinking that if it were designed to be so effective it stands to reason that the great leaders and rulers of the world would have latched on the idea long ago.  That the great teachers and way showers would have taught it as of first, if not of the only importance.  But it has been completely ignored while other concepts much more open to corruption or gross misuse have been loudly and dutifully promoted in its place. 

          Let me give you a partial list of some of the concepts proposed that were meant to change man; to make him a better person and by that, to make his civilized world a better place for all.  Consider love as being at the top of this list of very popular ideas pushed forth to change man and his world.  On its heels, happiness, or should I say the pursuit of happiness.  Peace, another popular concept and definitely one that has always ended up near the end of the race.  Humility has also been proposed, but mostly to servants and slaves in relating to their masters, or their gods and by definition, their betters who it is understood have no need to display such a weak nature.  Kindness, usually relegated to women and their children, preferably girl children: what have red-blooded men and their male heirs to do with kindness when it can only weaken them?  Goodness, that being strictly attached to one’s own, one’s nationality, or towards “the poor” (don’t forget to put that in quotations, Brian) if in a carefully restricted way intended never to pull them out of their poverty.  Gentleness, again a virtue generally reserved for women in service to their men.  Ah yes, let’s not forget patriotism, and what a wonderful virtue that has proven to be.  Then there’s faith, particularly religious faith.  There’s a world changer for you but I doubt that except for the most brainwashed of individuals few would consider it’s effect upon this world to have been much of a salutary one.          

          So let me leave you with this thought, Brian: the one thing all of you need to think about seriously is the concept of compassion.  As you know  this has been the central point of my teaching, if one may call it that, and certainly the expression of my own life.  Once I made a decision to think and act in a compassionate way it behoved me to express the idea to others in such a way that they wouldn’t think of me as another odd-ball altruist; a religious self-flagellating crazy; a charismatic mystic dreaming of leading multitudes to counter the works of global social dysfunction or whatever labels your world would want to give me.  The “evil” (again I remind you to use quotations around that term when coming from me) within the Power workings of your world is adept at destroying the works of those who would counter it.  Any good it encounters it turns to some form of destructive evil, and claims its destruction as virtuous.  People are taken in because they believe they cannot see the future, or should not try to see it. 

          Here’s some re-hashed, modernized teachings the Matrix uses to keep people in mental lethargy as the pull of organized religion wanes planet-wide.  People are told to live in the present; that it is a present.  Unfortunately for those who become believers of this mindless exercise it’s a complete lie.  The present does not exist.  The whole teaching of it is an obfuscation; a forced denial of one’s life from one’s past and all the possibilities that are held in its future; a poisoned dart that kills the spirit.  There is nothing in the present, and here’s another lie of the Matrix: that having nothing in one’s mind is the ultimate wise choice for beingness.  That such a thought is both foolish and futile somehow never registers.  These vacuous concepts of now and present and nothingness create only powerless mind-zombies.

          But when you approach all of your life through compassion you find yourself energized.  You are no longer the innate selfish Earthian but a kind of angel of mercy to all those you interact with.  You become empowered to give; to heal, to understand but also to judge all things and know right from wrong, not from external sources but from within your own spirit.  You know what to say, and what to do and if there ever is doubt in a situation, you know to give rather than withhold, to free instead of holding on; to sacrifice yourself if need be; that your whole life is a transaction in giving and in which you are always controller and master; in which you express of your own and constant free will – by choice, a choice once made and endlessly renewed.   

          Well, thank you David.  An interesting view point, and not lost on many these days, based on the level of popularity you seem to have garnered.  Any final thoughts on that point?

          My personal popularity is one of the difficulties I have to deal with.  It’s not something I wanted but it is something I knew might happen if what I teach was to catch on.  I sometimes think of “Stranger in a Strange Land” by Robert Heinlein and wonder about the parallels.  Fortunately for me I know the lures and the traps of such a path.  I seek neither popularity nor martyrdom, just to live an honest life within a difficult and demanding idea, or concept.  The goal for me is to be true to what I am.  What others see, what they get from it, what they do with it, that is entirely up to them, just as what you make of this interview is entirely up to you.

          You’re not going to hold me to writing what you said here word for word?  You’re allowing me the freedom to describe our interview as I see fit then?

          Absolutely Brian.  I hold no copyright on anything.  Write whatever you think is best for you.  Once I stop talking, the contents of this interview are yours, not mine.

          Thank you, David, and I mean that.  I need to ask, will you be staying the full four days at the hotel?  I need to know, for the paperwork. 

          Ah, no Brian.  Please tell them I’ve checked out.  From here I’ll be taking the bus back home.  And I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you about the accommodations but I had warned you I didn’t need them.  Thank you again.

          Oh, one more question I meant to ask, one that many have asked and you never answer.  How old are you, David?

          The balding man in the comfortable black work pants and grey sweat shirt smiles to reveal a mouth with very few teeth left in it.  He stands, as does Brian and neither men say anything more.  They shake hands near the set of automatic sliding doors which open wide then close with a definitive hiss behind the reclusive, nonagenarian David who walks out easily and casually into the morning sun towards the bus station.  

 

My Golden Boy

(*** for Vidhika at “The Grateful Dead” blog***)
   [a Short Story – by Sha’Tara]

It had all happened so fast.  Maybe because everything spoke of perfection, a dovetailing of events that happen only in fairy tales.  It was my fairy tale.  That perfect Summer.
 
I probably better go back a bit and explain.  Our family, that is my mom, my dad and me, well, we were what is called dysfunctional.  My dad is an alcoholic and an abuser.  Even as I write this, and admit it to myself I cringe inside.  I can still see him come into my room those nights when mom worked the night shift at the hospital.  I can still smell his breath and feel his hands on me as he tugged at my nightgown while I tried to hold on to it, curling up and crying, begging him to leave me alone.  But every time I had to let him or get beaten.  If I got beaten I lied to mom about the bruises.  I was so sure all of this was my fault and if she found out she’d hate me or beat me up and maybe send me away to a foster home or something.
 
But then he beat her too and she fought back.  She’s a nurse and you could say she’s pretty tough.  She kicked him out of our lives finally, divorced him with an injunction against him not to contact us.  He tried it once.  He went to jail.  I don’t know where he is now and hope I never find out.  I’m still afraid of him; afraid he’ll show up one day, even though I’m now living on my own.
 
After the divorce things got better for mom and I.  I told her then what dad had done to me and we became, well, more like two women who share their pain in understanding rather than mother and daughter.  You will say, she should have known, but I think she didn’t want to face it then.  I was only fifteen then but my life had made me mature in some ways, though in others I trailed behind.  In school I did well and I had a dream to become a doctor. 
 
Mom had saved up some money and some vacation time and after I turned sixteen she decided to spend a whole month in a cabin at a popular lake near the mountains.  Kind of a birthday gift for you, she said.  We took only what we could pack and took the bus to Chanesville, then a smaller tour bus to the resort on lake Chitsaw.  Our cabin was back in the trees, a bit old and moldy smelling at first, but it was far enough we didn’t have to hear the jetskis and power boats that continually tore up the waterfront.
 
The beach was perfect.  Golden sand under a golden sun.  I tan easily and within a couple of days I felt pretty good walking around in one of my two bikinis.  I had a blue and a pink one and sometimes I mixed the colours.  Within a week I knew almost everybody and had a couple of girl friends from my school.
 
I saw him during the second week and I fell in love.  No, not just infatuated, but deeply and madly in love.  It was as if he had materialized from inside my dreams.  Tall, handsome, beautiful of face with shoulder-length blond hair.  I wasn’t the only one who noticed him, of course, and soon he was the talk of our circle.  We dared each other to go over and talk to him.  Sometimes he walked alone along the shore and it seemed to me that the sand became even more golden after he touched it. 
 
I decided I’d risk it and waited until he took one of his walks by himself and walked to the water in an intersecting path.  When he was within a couple of yards from me I bent over pretending to be inspecting something in the sand.  He came over and asked what I was looking at.  I lied and said I thought I’d seen a green bug burrowing in.  He laughed.  Introduced himself: Dean.  I did likewise: Shauna.  We walked together.  I, lost in a lucid dream.  He, probably looking me over as men do.  It often made me uncomfortable but with him, well, I would have danced naked for him if he’d asked me!
 
D’you have someone?  No I said.  Neither do I.  There’s a party at our cabin tomorrow evening.  I’ll come by your place and escort you, if you want to come.  Sure I said.  It’s number forty-three, up there in the trees.  Yeah, I know, he said.  I’ve watched you before and I followed you yesterday. 
 
Well, with that my feelings went off the chart.  The rest is just too predictable, right out of a bad novel.  He came to our cabin and I introduced him to mom.  She didn’t take to him the way I’d expected.  She took me into her room and closed the door.  You watch yourself, Shauna, she said.  This boy makes me uncomfortable.  Maybe it’s just me, being your mom and seeing you go out on a date like that.  Promise you’ll be home by midnight and that you won’t walk back alone?
 
Yes mom, yes.  Promises are easy to make when your mind, your heart, your whole being is somewhere else.  Walking with Dean was like floating in the air.  Everything was wonderful, beautiful.  The stars were brighter than usual.  The air was cleaner, sweeter.  The party was great.  When most of the people had wandered off, the kids to “midnight swims” and the adults back to their own places, I found myself practically alone with Dean.  Come upstairs, I’ll show you my room, he said.  I felt a twinge of something – a warning?  Mom’s words tried to make me stop.  But I couldn’t.  He was my golden lover. 
 
Yeah, we made love.  Wildly, passionately.  He had experience.  He drove me crazy.  I lost myself in him and finally fell asleep in his arms.  He woke me up just before midnight, reminding me of my promise to my mother to be home by then.  We got dressed and he walked me home.  I was still in that mood you get when you walk out of a movie theatre when the romance has triumphed.  Dizzy with love.
 
I spent most of the rest of that vacation with Dean.  Inseparable, we were.  Afterwards, we talked every night on the phone.  It was long distance but mostly he made the calls so it didn’t cost me much.  Then I missed my period.  I knew I was pregnant.  I couldn’t tell mom and didn’t know what to do.  So stupid.  I just forgot the damned pills.  Just figured it couldn’t happen until Dean and I were married, or living together, you know?  I told Dean.  Dead silence on the other end of the phone.  Dean?  Yeah, well, you going to get an abortion, aren’t you?  They’re not legal here and I can’t tell mom.  What do we do?  I asked stupidly.  I don’t think it’s a question of what we do, babe.  It’s not really my problem, is it.  You have to get an abortion.
 
I must have passed out.  When I came to, the phone was talking to me.  I hung up and tried to wake up from a nightmare.  But it was like before with dad.  It was no nightmare.  Real.  This was real.  Dean dumped me.  Then mom noticed and after much crying, I told her.  She was real mad at first, said I should have told her and she could have made the arrangement.  Stupid, you’re so stupid.  Now it’s too late.  What are your plans?  She asked.  My plans?  I don’t have any plans!  Dean and I were going to move in together eventually, get married.  Now I’m alone again, just like when you worked the night shift and dad molested me.  What can I do mom? 
 
You have to give my mom credit.  She didn’t stay mad, or in blame, or denial.  She asked me, what has life taught you so far when you have a problem?  And I told her, I have to find my own solution to it.  It’s my problem and I must deal with it.  And I want my baby I said suddenly with a new kind of passion I’d never had before. 
 
I continued in school until it got too embarrassing.  Took correspondence courses put together for girls in my situation.  Mom supported me.  She attended when I had my baby.  At first, well, he was just a typical shriveled up little thing with a loud mouth.  But as he grew I saw the spitting image of Dean in him.  He is my golden boy and I love him.  He’s the legacy of my lost pleasure and happiness as a stupid young girl and he’s my joy now, my life. 
 
I’m nineteen now, soon I’ll be twenty and Shane is three.  I moved away from home last year, just to be alone with my son.  It feels right to do this by myself and for him to know who his real mother is.  Mom was spending too much time with him thinking I needed time to myself.  I don’t need that much.  I like my work – I work in a hair dressing shop where they train you.  I like working with people and pleasing them with the right words, the right touch and of course, the right hairstyle.  We live in a basement bachelor suite in a run-down old quadplex but it’s a good place.  The owners live upstairs; an old Jewish couple who adore Shane.  They baby-sit for me, most of the time for nothing.  What can I say more?  My life and my world are good.
 
The other day as I was getting on the bus I noticed a stretch limo stopping on the other side of the street by a Starbucks.  I smiled – I always do at those ostentatious ugly vehicles that have only one message for the rest of us: Hey look at me, I’m rich.  Dumb.  Then I saw a man step out as the chauffeur opened the door.  Tall, handsome, blond.  It was Dean.  I know it was.  My heart was pounding in my chest and I had to grab the back of the seat to keep my balance.  I looked again but he was gone and the bus pulled out.  It’s then I realized how good my life really is.  It’s mine.  Dean could have been a part of the wonder we created in our foolishness.  But he chose not to and left the entire fortune in my hands and my heart.
 
When Shane is old enough I’ll let him go and give him his life too.  We make our own way in life; we don’t depend on others or belong to others.  Then life is truly good.