PLEASE NOTE: THIS WORK IS FROM A PUBLISHED PIECE.
IT IS COPYRIGHT PROTECTED AND CAN ONLY BE USED WITH PERMISSION BY THE AUTHOR
Courage of Fear
Library of Congress Control Number: 2008903818
Copyright © 2009 by Barbara Boyer
In order to understand the choices a person makes today,
we must know the choices that brought them to this day.
Wrestling With the Demons. Angela Hearly-Peterson.
"So this is heaven," Jackson whispered with a poetic rhythm that matched the soft sway of the sailboat.
"One can only dream," Angela said. She felt the waves roll under them, back and forth, one after another, the undercurrents pulling with their opposing forces. Like a life being lived, one need not see the sea's power to sense its raw unbridled force. The waves didn't whine about their thunderous crash or simple splash. They didn't question or ponder "why?" They only felt rapture for the wind against their backs, gently nudging, moving them forward. The ocean took each moment for what it was, never trying to bring any other moment into its present. It lived with what it had and flowed wherever its Force led it. It was steady, never changing its direction in mid-stream.
The ocean did not worry about what was below its shimmering surface, or fear age or time. It never questioned its weight or beauty, or contemplated its lost youth. Instead it embraced the good and bad, ugly and beautiful as part of its whole. The ocean's waves knew only of the moon's seduction—forcing them in and out, only to begin again. Continuously moving, beautifully in place.
Angela had spent much of her twenty-seven years on or around either the Atlantic or Pacific. There are certain things in life from which one will not stray. Her relationship with the ocean was part of her genetic code, passed down from generation to generation since the beginning of her lineage. Not only did she appreciate it, she also had a profound respect for the lessons it had taught her and the enlightenment it had given so freely.
"No phones. No people." Jackson squirted sun block on his hand and then began to smooth the lotion on Angela's body. "Just you and me, totally alone."
Angela closed her eyes and focused on the feel of his hands. He wasn't just putting the lotion on her. He was memorizing her entire body with his palms and fingers. Every curve, every indentation, every line, was his to explore. It was as if he were doing it for the first time.
Jackson told Angela of this surprise months ago. He hadn't been lying when he described the long overdue sail as "one glorious week of Nowhere, Pacific." What a week it was turning out to be.
"Mmmm, alone," Angela said. "It's hard to believe. The interviews, all the research, the grind—all that's behind me. Can you believe the work it took to fine-tune a lifetime of thought into one itsy-bitsy inspirational book? Truly, by me, coming soon to a store near you." She smiled. "Now if only people like it."
"Of course they will."
"Enough about all that. All we need is right here. More importantly, we don't have anything we don't need—no blueprints you need to complete, no parties we need to attend. It's been years since we sailed like this. Just us."
"Not even Tyler can track us down in the middle of the Pacific."
Angela suddenly had impulsive images dancing in her mind, forcing a deep laughter to escape out to the salty air.
Jackson stopped rubbing and smiled. "And what's so funny?"
"I was picturing a chopper hovering over the sail. And there, hanging from a dangling ladder is Tyler, waving a copy of my manuscript over her head."
Jackson laughed. "'I don't mean to intrude, darlings, but time is of the essence—chop, chop! Wait till you see what I've done!'"
"Yep. We're wicked to make fun of her. But that's Tyler, all right." Angela chuckled.
Jackson lay on the weathered teak deck of their forty-year-old, Islander 29 sailboat. It wasn't much to look at, but when they bought it the year before, it wouldn't even float. Countless spare hours had been dedicated to making it seaworthy. As it was with so much else in their life together, it was the creation that made them who they were—complete.
Like the ocean that surrounded them, Angela's tanned body shimmered the sun's brilliance. The salt carried by the ocean breeze made her skin tingle. She didn't think she was capable of feeling any freer or more peaceful.
Jackson softly sang in her ear, "and she told me the story yesterday about the love between the moon and the deep blue sea." He snuggled next to her, his broad physique shielding her from the heat of the sun. "You are the moon that draws me. And me? I am the sea. Moon, sea, tides . . . one cannot exist without the other, Angel."
Angela leaned into him. Softly her full lips joined with the curve of his. When there was only a glimmer of air between them, she took his breath in hers. She leaned back and placed her hand on his heart, and then she placed his hand on her heart. For a few moments neither made a sound. They stared at each other, staring into one another's soul. It was there, where their connection was solidified by several lifetimes together.
Angela wrapped her slender, toned legs and arms around Jackson. Her long blonde hair fell to his chest when she buried her face in his neck. She took three deep, long, steady breaths. "I love the smell of you."
"Do you now?"
The tremble in Jackson's voice ignited something deep within Angela's core. She buried her head back in his neck. "Sometimes, when you're away from me . . ." Again, she took three deep, long, breaths. "When you're away, I can close my eyes, take the same three breaths, and your smell will be drawn to me, just as if you were with me."
Jackson kissed her forehead as he eased himself up on to his feet. "Here, wait here a sec. I'll be right back." He ducked below the decks. When he returned, his hand was cupped behind his back. "I've been waiting for just the right time to give this to you."
He brought his hand forward, revealing a small, royal blue and silver, gift-wrapped box.
"Oh, Jackson, what have you done?"
"When I saw this, well, it just made me think of you."
Angela opened the tiny box. Inside was a silver, heart-shaped, Tiffany key chain. Before Angela could pull it from its cotton, Jackson scooped the bauble up in his hand.
"Look. I had it inscribed, so no matter where life takes us, you'll always be reminded of the one who'll love you forever. See?"
Angela read the inscription, Sweet Angel. Forever by your side. Love Jackson. Tears formed in the corners of her eyes. She kissed Jackson on the cheek.
"Wait. There's more." Jackson released his hold from beneath the heart. A more important ring dangled from the key ring, symbolizing his commitment to their future.
Angela's fingers trembled when she lifted the small blue sapphire, nestled between the many diamond chips, resting in Jackson's hand.
"I know it isn't much," he said, "And you deserve . . ."
She stopped his words with a kiss. "I already have more than I deserve."
"Wait." Jackson braced one hand on the gunwale and rose. Awkwardly, with the sea swaying his body, he rested his sculptured torso on one knee. He took her left hand in his, his tone deep and steady. "Never, in all my life, have I ever experienced anything as incredible as you and me." His voice became as reflective as the sun on the chrome. "I want to spend the rest of my days knowing that no matter what ever happens in this journey, when it happens, you will be there, experiencing it with me, and me with you. I want us to be each other's roots, be the safety net on which we can fall. Angel, please, will you let me spend forever by your side?"
Angela nodded her head. "Forever. After. And again."
He slid the ring on her finger. "Forever, after, and again."
Human existence, or one's manifestation of it, is the greatest riddle of all. Many people will pursue this curiosity through insurmountable tragedies to get to the unanswerable other side.
Angela Hearly-Peterson. Wrestling With the Demons.
A champagne colored BMW Z3 sport car twists through the Malibu hills. In the distance heat vapors distort the pavement. On the hillsides partial glimpses of the many mansions strobe in and out of view as the Z3 follows the isolated curving road. The Beamer jets up a drive to a steel security gate. A woman's arm, clothed in a man's thick blue wool sweater, extends from the window. Chipped and bitten manicured nails stroke the numbered keypad.
The automobile wheels spin, spewing gravel, before it accelerates past the swinging black gate. As the car draws closer to the Italian stucco mansion, one of the garage doors begins opening. A twin midnight blue BMW is parked inside the quad shelter. The California whale license plate reads HRH. The champagne Beamer license is OT LF. Slowly the massive garage door rumbles down again.
Angela's hiking boots crunch in the white pebble chips of the walk. Why was everything so damned difficult? She yanks at her over-sized blue wool sweater that now begins to accumulate the moisture of the sweltering day. As tempted as she may be, she refuses to remove the garment that engulfs her. Even her tightly fitted blue jeans scream for her to return to the simplicity of days gone.
Jimi, the German shepherd greets Angela at the door. His wet loving kisses slide over her sweat drenched hands and he entwines himself in her walk. But today his efforts at comfort and familiarity go unnoticed.
Every step Angela takes through the meticulously maintained mansion is slow, dragging. She lingers at pictures of herself and Jackson displayed around the formal living room showing as much as film can, the passionate energy that was once a home, a life filled with love. God, they were as beautiful as any couple plastered on a Calvin Klein billboard or the cover of People Magazine's "100 Most Beautiful People" issue.
The photos cover a wide spectrum of love's moments: two young lovers on the lawn of the University, living on loans and part-time jobs, the future bright in their eyes; a posh, elegant wedding that would have even Joan Rivers drooling; their college graduation; various parties gathering friends and family. The quiet intimate moments the couple shared: the many stages of building their dream home, Angela's book signings, Jackson designing and building Jimi's doghouse, Jackson leaning over his drawing table at his office and at home, Angela and Jackson lying on the deck of their boat out in the blue Pacific . . .
The moments seemed so insignificant when they were captured on the film. Now her mind played them over and over, and she would give a last breath to live them again, because the total of all of those moments was the very essence of her life. An energy and love so vivid she finds herself actually entering the moments of the snapshots. It is overwhelming—and she welcomes it.
Her shaking hand lifts a picture from the piano and holds it close to her heart, bonding with its memory, opening the door to a compartment in her mind where passion once lived and thrived; where she once smelled the sweet fragrance of lavender love. She turns around and finds the living room empty as it was when Jackson carried her in his arms, as any groom would his bride, over the threshold of their first home. The smell of new paint now long dried fills her senses. Their laughter echoes in the front hall.
"Is it everything you dreamed it would be?" Jackson asked.
"Better than dreams," She whispers with her memory, as her lids begin to close and the once connected kiss now burns on to her lips, the lips of the observer.
A screaming match turns her attention from the front of the home to the rear. The living room is now decorated in celebration of the birth of The Savior. Christmas candles exude ginger, cranberry, bayberry, and vanilla.
"How can you invite sixty-two people?" He shouted. "I don't understand you! You're not making any sense."
Angela slammed her open hand down on the cold brown granite counter. "Well, why would you want to be with someone you don't understand?" Knowing she was about to completely lose control she fled from the kitchen.
As she passed Jackson he grabbed her wrist and pulled her toward him. He slid his hand up her arm bringing it to rest on her cheek. He took a deep thoughtful breath. "Why would I want to be with someone I always understand?" He lifted her lowered chin so their eyes connected. "Besides, why would anyone not want to be with someone—" Using his thumb, he wiped her tears away. "I am a better man reflected from here," he softly kissed her eyelids, one then the other. "Who would refuse to be part of that?"
She places the memory in its rightful place, back on to the black baby grand piano.
Her body shivers as the fear returns, leaving her breathless once again. The musty dampness has replaced the sweet scent of peace. She wonders if she will make it to the next doorway. She wonders if she even has the willingness to make such a passionless attempt. And if she does, will the darkness overpower her ability to see what might be right in front of her?
She feels herself weaken even more as she goes through the foyer to the stairwell. Her feet connect to the base of the stairs, careful to step around the spot where the two young lover's foreplay turned to passionate lovemaking.
With every step she takes, the weight of that one day returns: the cold chill climbing up her spine, the unbearable weight of the rain dripping from her body, the squish of her toes being pressed like a vise in her soaking wet Anne Klein leather pumps. Her heart pounding to the premonition of finality. Mere seconds take lifetimes, and no matter how swift her feet, she would have to spend a forever knowing she was too late. Yet secretly—despite the rain . . . despite the horror . . . despite the terror—inside, she would give it all away to be able to live that one day again. Just to have the chance to convince him to stay.
Angela drops to her knees outside the bedroom door. She brings her oversized sleeves to her face and takes three deep, long breaths, trying to recapture the courage of the sweater's rightful owner. She needs for him to be on the other side of this door. Silently she pleads, envisioning him lying on the bed reading Plato. His soft tone welcoming her home and making her feel safe once again.
The bedroom door swings open. Angela hesitates before passing through the doorway. There is no Plato. There is no softness. There is no Jackson patiently waiting for her return.
The room is full of exquisite eighteenth century, hand carved Queen Anne mahogany furnishings, but no bed. She had the bed removed. Parts of the carpet have been cut away. The ceiling fan is missing its blades and the domes to its lights.
An aluminum painter's ladder blocks her path to the dresser. She begins to walk underneath it, stops, backs up, and goes around. The fresh primer that covers parts of the ceiling and walls is a reckless, angry disruption, masking the once subtle softness of the original pale yellow.
On the north wall, on opposite sides of the centered master bathroom, are his and hers walk-in closets. Gucci, Dior, Posen, Karen, Armani, and Polo hang evenly spaced on wood-brass hangers. Shoes line one wall. On separate mannequins hang Jackson and Angela's clothing from the Friday of a few weeks past.
Angela stumbles to the dresser and opens two of its drawers. They are crammed full of bundles of one hundred-dollar bills. She hesitates briefly, staring at the mounds of banded crisp paper. She cannot help but think what is in these two drawers is supposed to replace, or buy back, what she lost. It is absurd that anyone, especially Jackson, could or would ever believe that possible.
She runs to her closet, grabs a large army surplus duffel bag, and begins shoving it full of the cash. With each fistful, she feels a growing disgust. Finally she shoves the last of the bills down past the small green rope ties and fights to pull the strings closed. The more she fights, the harder it is to swallow her rage.
Then sunlight pierces through the window and bounces off a silver ring on the dresser. Her heart freezes. Amongst the cologne, cufflinks, watches, and hairbrush (still holding remnants of Jackson's cocoa brown hair), there it is. The moon band, the unity of their eternal love. How had she missed it before? She feels possessed by the gravity of the moon ring that had always drawn the waves of her own sea band. Before she can resist, her fingers bond with the band that used to rest on his finger.
Succumbing to the rings' seduction, she closes her eyes. As if in slow motion, the moon ring slides down her finger, over her own sea band, until it clicks in place, as they had designed it to do. She can feel his energy woven into the metals. When she opens her eyes for a split second, she sees in her reflection that she is whole again.
The feeling is gone as quickly as it came over her. How could something so powerful disappear so completely?
She turns to the mirror and stares misery in the eyes, wearing the same blue wool sweater Jackson wore on the University lawn so many lifetimes ago. She takes a long close look as her fingers outline her reflection, an image she no longer recognizes. Her usually stylish blonde hair lies limp and heavy from days of oil buildup. Her face is puffy. Not even her extravagant makeup could conceal the dark circles under her swollen sea blue eyes. Her once tanned skin is now as dull and colorless as her world.
Lost are the days of Estee Lauder flawless make-up beginnings. These days are consumed laboriously swallowing the darkness. Where even a breath is a constant conscious effort. How does one tire so easily over a task once done so naturally it was somehow taken for granted?
Her hand slides down the mirror leaving an unsettling smudge and distorting her image. She feels her knees buckle beneath her. Angela grabs the sides of the dresser, tugging on the tapestry runner scattering Jackson's deserted possessions.
A heavy pewter picture frame falls forward. She does not need to right it to know what it contains. Her smile in the picture, once so charismatic and natural now seems cruel and mocking. She no longer knows that woman so full of life, enthusiasm, and happiness. Sudden rage boils up and she slams the heavy pewter frame against the reflection before her. Mirror fragments sail through the air freeing the pain of her soul. Even if she wanted to, she can't stop. She needs to breathe.
She uses the pewter as a weapon, wielding it wildly around the place that used to be their sanctuary . . . sending plaster, wood, glass, perfume, books, and lamps flying through the air like dancing demon fairies screaming victory. She hurls the pewter frame out through the window, over the garden, and into the swimming pool below. She yanks out the dresser drawers, flips them upside down, sending the contents cascading through the air. The dresser drawers too, go out the window, over the garden. Effortlessly, as if with years of practice, she shifts dismantling the nightstands. After she finishes with the second nightstand, she notices a crusty brown spot on its edge.
Her sight blurs.
Slowly her eyes travel around the vast wasteland created out of her once domesticated silence. Her legs give way to the weight of her feelings of emptiness, and she drops to the floor in tears of exhaustion and grief.
As the tears flow she is powerless to stop them, as she has been powerless against so much these last few weeks. She buries her face in the thick white pile. Even there, she can smell him.
Presently she looks around the room. What started as a mere mess now looks like the revenge of Zeus. She can't really tell where she ends and the devastation begins. What used to be only on the inside now surrounds her as well.
Jimi's barking from outside is heard through the chaos in and around her. This brings her back to her reason for being there. She lifts her head and notices Jackson's writing on an envelope sticking out from the pages of her book, Wrestling With the Demons. Though she fears his words, she also longs for them. She grabs the letter and shoves it in the duffel bag with the money.
Her leg muscles throb when she forces herself to her feet. She makes her way to the master bathroom, opens the medicine cabinet, flicks through the many medicines to find the one brown bottle that holds her future. She throws the pills in the bag, tosses the bag over her shoulder, then leaves the room, without looking back.
At the car, Angela throws the duffel bag into the trunk next to two forty-pound bags of organic dog food, two large CD cases, and a Stevens double-barreled, twelve gauge shotgun. She slams the trunk closed. Her keys are clenched in one hand and she has a fist full of papers in the other.
She looks at the key chain that links the mansion keys and two sets of BMW keys. The heart shaped key ring is inscribed: Sweet Angel. Forever by your side. Love, Jackson. She looks toward the mansion, then to the keys, then back to the mansion again.
She slides her exhausted body on to the warm tan leather seat, opens the passenger side door, and whistles for Jimi.
Jimi runs to the car door, props his two front paws on the seat and then jumps back out again. He looks to the mansion and then to her. He runs to the grassed area lining the circular drive and rolls around as if finally freed from years of confinement.
"Jimi," she says, "not now."
He looks to the car, barks, then jumps in, grabs the keys from the ignition and darts to the grassed area.
Agitated, Angela begins chasing after him. They face off on the grass like linemen in a football game. He goes right, she goes left. He darts fakes left and bolts. She chases him in a large circle. Her tears turn to laughter then to tears again. With the weight of her world she collapses to the ground.
He hesitates, then trots over and drops the keys at her side. With his dripping wet tongue hanging he waits for her cue. When he receives none, his chest goes down. His chin delicately rests on his front legs, butt up in the air swaying ever so slightly with his wagging tail.
She doesn't move.
Ears perked, he whines and nestles his nose under her chin.
He whines, barks, then gives her another nudge. He presses his wet cool nose under her chin staring eye-to-eye with her. Patiently and delicately he holds this position.
There is something all too familiar about Jimi's eyes, as if the one who trained him now possesses them. Angela smiles, glides her hand through the fine abundance of fur on his neck as she rises. She makes her way toward the car.
He quickly takes his position riding shotgun.
If it were not for the depths of our pain how would
we know our happiness?
Angela Hearly-Peterson. Wrestling With the Demons.
Not even the twisting curves of Topanga Canyon Drive slow Angela's determination.
"A plan well in motion demands execution," she whispers, tapping her fingers on the leather-wrapped steering wheel. Her thoughts veer around the fissures in her mind, pulling up bits of wisdom from all the prophets she encountered along her journey thus far. None seem to fit. The one that keeps racing through her mind was her father's favorite expression, "If you can't beat'em, join'em."
The air begins to chill as the sun sets west of Hollywood Boulevard. The crisp, late afternoon ocean breeze works as a street sweeper, swirling detritus from its resting places. On a nearly deserted Jeep lot, Angela shakes hands with the salesman.
"It is a solid vehicle," he says. "The best in its class."
"That's what I've been told," Angela says.
"Are you sure you don't want to trade? It would take at least ten grand off the list."
"No, thanks. If you don't mind . . . later . . . if you'd just let the church know its here."
"Sure, no problem. That's a hell of a donation you're giving there. Sister Mary—" The old salesman points to the church across the lot. "—will probably have a stroke when she sets her eyes on this machine. It's a car with a meaning, if you know what I mean?"
"Yes." Angela rubs her temples trying to encourage her sluggish blood flow. "It should continue to have meaning with someone."
"Are you sure you wouldn't rather finance? I mean, it's not too late. We can still do the paperwork. We here at Wheeler aim to please."
"No, I have a long trip ahead of me. I really do need to get going."
But before she leaves, she runs her fingers first over the red cursive lettering "California" and then over the raised navy lettering of "OT LF" on the license plate, delicately outlining its curves. She feels it almost plead with her: stay. Do not burn these bridges. Angela's thumb revisits the "L" with the same unconscious draw her mind has to its enchanted beginnings. Heat flushes her face. As much as she tries to resist the visit, her mind forces her back to that place, that time, all of which she now begs, warm cheek on iced steel, to be freed from. The moist bitter taste of salt encroaches in past her lips. She tries to blink them away. Yet again, she fails. With all apparent exits barred, she is the movie-goer outside the locked projector room that has no control to stop the relentless display of the images that are driving her mad. They are in and of themselves an entire relentless entity separate from anything hopeful or encouraging. She caves to its force, its determined direction back in . . . full color high definition . . . back behind that door in her mind . . . back to a time of them.
She had been working on Wrestling With the Demons when Jackson ran into the study of their Malibu home. She found his enthusiasm a bit odd considering he had just been to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Then the truth was revealed. From behind his back he dangled two California whale, personalized license plates. One read "HRH," the other read "OT LF."
"I'm sorry, Jackson." Angela said. "I don't get it."
Jackson let out a theatrical sigh. "That's right. I just picked some random letters."
"I'm trying to focus. I really don't have time for games right now."
"Come on Angel, think about it." His grin stretched ear-to-ear. "What have you been stuck on? Bridges? Burnt bridges? Crossing bridges?" He dangled the two plates, one above the other. "Brrrridggggge . . ."
Her focus shifted from one whale plate to the other plate. An almost instant smile appeared as she bridged the letters together. "O T H R H L F. Other half."
"One needs the other to be whole for the world. People couldn't understand, unless they saw the two together. When they're separated, they make no sense. Get it?"
Angela got it all right. She had been stuck on those two old English proverbs, 'Don't burn your bridges before they are crossed' and 'Don't burn your bridges behind you.' She believed both sayings to be ludicrous, but many held them close to their hearts. How to explain them? To persuade her audience to an understanding?
"That's it!" Angela bounced up and down, planting wet kisses on Jackson's cheeks.
"Of course it is." Jackson said. "Angela?"
Angela turned to her desk and grabbed up a fist full of papers. "You're a genius! Until a couple minutes ago I was in fear."
"I see. You were afraid I wasn't a genius?"
"Oh, silly." She tapped the fist full of papers against his arm, "It's that whole bridge thing."
"Of course, you're afraid of bridges. But since I'm a genius—"
"The past and the future are fear."
"Okay. But I still don't understand what this has to do with the two proverbs."
"Fear uses the past and the future, like the two proverbs—don't burn your bridges, either before or behind you. Keep your escape routes open. Keep you eyes on the past and future. When you came rushing into the office all upbeat and bubbly with the plates, I couldn't stop thinking about all the work I needed to get done and hadn't gotten done—future and past. If I didn't get these pages completed, there would be no book. At the same time, I was kicking myself for not already having the pages done. Natural right?"
"Well, common enough."
"So, when I think about something, I invite it into my soul . . . the more I think about it, the more welcome it makes itself. Right?"
"Okay. With you so far."
"So even though you were right here with me, I wasn't with you. I was with fear. I wasn't in the moment. I was in yesterday and tomorrow. Like the proverbs, see?"
"By God, I am a genius!"
"Things are as they are," Angela reiterated her most prized saying, as she had thousands of times in the past.
"Now go," he said. "Back to work with you. A plan well in motion demands its execution."
The day Jackson brought home the license plates, the pieces of a once unsolvable puzzle came together, showing Angela the path she had to take. This day, in the Wheeler parking lot, was no different.
Jimi cocks his head watching her move her bags from the trunk of the car to the back of a brand new Cherokee. She digs in the front pocket of her jeans, pulls out a dime, using it to remove the license plate which she tosses in the back of the Jeep.
One last time, she sits inside Champagne's familiar interior, an embryo to the womb. Her eyes roam over the many buttons and gadgets as her fingers gently slide over the dash's leather console.
Her trembling hands grip the steering wheel and her head falls forward. Maybe she was torching the bridge she was supposed to cross. Maybe it was supposed to be this way. Angela looks down at Jimi, whose head is now resting in her lap.
"I keep reliving it," she says. "No matter what I do, I can't make it stop. I can't spend a lifetime with it. I can't. I have to do something."
Angela withdraws the keys from the ignition. She opens the glove box and grabs the papers she took from the mansion earlier that day. She shakes her head, forcing herself out of the car, loosening the grip of the past. With the wind to her face, she walks off the lot, Jimi trots behind her. She battles up the stairs and into St. Patty's Cathedral next door.
Angela makes her way down the red carpet, between the wood pews. She hesitates for a moment, overwhelmed by a sense of letting go, before she makes the final climb. At the Altar she neither makes the sign of the cross nor kneels, just drops the papers and the heart shaped key ring. Then, she pulls the keys back, removes them from the heart chain, and then sends the keys clanking back down on the marble.
The stained glass image of the Virgin blazes in the afternoon sun, but it's only colored glass. Even the woodcarving of a pathetic, thorn-crowned, blood-bonneted Christ is incapable of penetrating her invisible, self-imposed prison. A task completed, that's all this is. She turns and leaves.
Outside, Jimi dashes to the Wheeler lot and stands at Champagne's door. As Angela draws closer, he begins to hop in circles by the car, waiting for her to catch up.
Angela looks at him, opening the door to her new Grand Cherokee, "Come on, boy." After a moment's hesitation, he hops in and she climbs in behind him.
She used to say her life was like owning a new car every day. When she slid behind the wheel, everything was strikingly different and fresh. She would nestle in the unfamiliar seat exploring all the buttons and gadgets. Learning what did what and how. Driving, she felt empowered by the car's pristine polish and shape, intoxicated by the smell. Today even that new car smell angers her.
Angela takes the keys from the ignition and places them on the empty heart key chain. She slips the keys in the ignition, and begins her journey back home—back to him.
Many who are physically, emotionally, and spiritually pained
believe they must find the ending to create a beginning.
Angela Hearly-Peterson. Wrestling With The Demons.
Culann's old pick-up rattles on the stone drive between the tall old pines that leads to the guesthouse. He's aware that his black Italian suit and white silk shirt clash with the battered baby-blue F-150, much the same way the Protestants clash with his people back in his hometown in Killeevan, Ireland. He pays neither no never-mind.
As he climbs out, he notices an unfamiliar Grand Cherokee parked in the drive at the main house across the lake. He weaves around his many iron sculptures on the guesthouse lawn to the front porch swing and drops into it, fills his lungs with the early, cool, crisp New England evening air and slowly empties them. Above him is the clear, summer night sky spangled with stars, and across the lake are a black sport utility vehicle and the unfamiliar sight of the lights shining in the main house. It was late. He was tired. But Christ, he'd always been a curious sod.
He makes a screeching sound and a raven flies to the tattered and peeling porch banister. He reaches in to the bag nestled beside the swing for a handful of seed, which he scatters on the rail next to the bird. He does this without ever taking his eyes off the main house.
"A fine evening indeed, Bird," he says. "Come, you've had your seed, let us meet our unexpected visitors."
Culann's knuckles rap on the solid oak of the main house's front door to the beat of Purple Haze blaring from inside. Bird clings to his shoulder, flapping her wings, as if dancing to the cries of Hendrix's strings. Her beak nestles in Culann's long wavy brown hair, mussing his ponytail.
Inside the house, a dog barks strong enough to be heard over the whine of Hendrix's pick.
Culann peeks through the kitchen window. The animal's fur, from the top of his head to the tip of his tail, stands on end like a forest on a windy cold night. No sign of human life. Though he's fairly confident the mutt did not master, on his own, such a large machine as the utility vehicle parked in the drive.
Without warning, the beast's dripping nose and fierce white fangs slam against the wavy windowpane. Culann jumps back and trips, hitting the patio floor with a wallop. The fright nearly sends him home to change his britches. As it is, he will have to change his shirt since, in her attempt to show her support for her human friend, Bird sunk her claws into his shoulder.
Culann stands and shakes his head, "Hello, Jack?" he yells to be heard over the dog and the music. "Bullocks, when'd you get the pooch, Jacks?" He knocks again and then removes the raven from his shoulder and places her on the porch railing.
The dog continues barking.
"Jacks, is that you there?" Culann shifts his body slightly to one side of the doorjamb—out of harm's way—lowers his chin to his chest and then back up again, signaling to Bird, then pushes the door open.
Bird takes flight through the doorway then quickly turns, flying off at a low altitude. The dog begins chasing off the unexpected Bird intruder.
Culann looks about, careful to step around the duffel bag, CD's, and dog food in the middle of the kitchen floor. He tries to be quiet but he would make a poor thief. He clomps down the hallway to the main bedroom, and then stops suddenly when he sees an artist's vision of despair needing only his easel.
"Why you're not Jacks at all."
Culann takes the glass from her hand, places it on a nightstand, next to the nearly empty fifth of Johnny Walker, Black. He lifts the bottle to his nostrils to savor the burnt wood smell. Two fingers left. He pulls the coverlet over Angela. A hard object bounces off his boot.
He reaches down to find a little 22-pistol. He opens the chamber, fully loaded.
"Now, what do we have here, Mrs. Jacks?"
* * * *
The customers on the barstools of the Never Forgets Saloon are as permanent fixtures in Tallahara as the Saloon itself. Most of them grew up in the small Nantucket Village, springing from family roots planted for generations. It's an ongoing joke with the locals that familiar faces leave the island, yet many more always return.
Sixties paraphernalia lines the walls of the Never Forgets. "To Leo, great place man. Frank Zappa," "To Leo, We all have landslides, Stevie Nicks," "If you see, you think that woman is going to leave, she's already gone, give her the sun, G. Slick," "Damn those eyes, Love Etta." Janis Joplin belts from the jukebox.
Leo, II, son of the sixties Leo, towers over his female bartender, the slender, petite Pepper, from behind the tavern's aged mahogany bar. He's talking to Sammy, an over-weight bud slumped over the bar.
"Hey man, I saw lights at the Hearly's place," Sammy says.
"There's always lights." Leo says. "The caretaker."
"Since when did the caretaker live in the main house?"
"Yeah? The main house?"
"I'm telling you, man. My own eyes."
"Huh . . ." Leo turns to draw Sammy another draft, places the beer down in front of Sammy. "The main house, huh?"
"Total eclipse of the heart. I knew she was trouble, man, ever since she kissed you on the playground in third grade."
Leo busies himself wiping the peanut skins and cheese cracker remnants Sammy left in his wake. "Yeah, right."
"Well man, you haven't been the same since. I mean, look at yourself, man."
* * * *
Culann can hear the dog sprinting toward the bedroom. Damn, Bird couldn't keep him occupied. He shoves the pearl-handle beauty in his belt, makes a mad dash for the nearby master bathroom, and slams the door behind him.
The dog smacks into the latched door with a thud, then begins to scratch, sniff, and bark, trying to dig his way into the bathroom.
Culann rests his sweating head against the door. "Fine mess now." He starts to pace the small confines of the bathroom. After a few minutes he steps into the claw foot bathtub to get to the only window, a wee small thing about one foot square. He undoes the little hooks that lock it in place, and then bangs his fist on the window's tiny wooden frame. The window swings outward like a screened porch door. Culann sticks his head out the small-framed opening and whistles for Bird.
No Bird, nor noises of Bird's arrival to rescue him.
Culann returns to the bathroom door. The air is still and quiet. Hendrix finally played out. Perhaps the dog decided to take advantage of the open kitchen door. Just as he reaches for the door handle, he sees a brown tuft of fur poking under the rustic wood barrier.
The fool dog's posted guard.
The only way out is through the window, so back in the tub he goes. He tries feet first. No go. He whistles for Bird again. No go. He looks to the bathroom's door again. Absolutely no go. Finally he shimmies his slender, exhausted body out the wee window face first and catwalks down the side of the sea-weathered gray shingles. His feet break loose from the window frame, and he falls to the ground in a heap. Slightly stunned, he wobbles to his feet, brushing the leaves off the Armani, off his ahrse.
When he approaches the front porch, Bird removes her head from under her favorite wing and flies to his shoulder.
"There shall be no more seed for you tonight, Bird."