Zero Degrees of Seperation

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“The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day”*

We’ll call her Judy. Not her name but if you’ve been around Indianapolis for 30 years or so you’ll remember her. She looked like a news anchorwoman because, well, that’s what she was.

She had me at “Film at 11”. And I was gunning for her.

I was young, single, and had absolutely no fear about asking women out. Even women I had known for about 30 seconds. A lot of times I struck out. Okay, probably most times. But not always…so I did not feel like I was dreaming when I set out to meet this striking newscaster. You just never knew until you tried.

I had friends that worked in broadcasting…but not at that station. They were friends that knew people that knew her. Two degrees of separation as the saying goes. Not as good as one degree but a hell of a lot better than six. They were helpful, they had a few suggestions on how to get in front of her but they were all like “we can introduce you to someone that knows someone that knows her.” Nah. If you are going to go the “introduced by a friend” route they needed to know you better than that. So I decided I was on my own. I laid a plan.

That year I was running the Indianapolis 500 Mini-Marathon and her station was a sponsor. They were talking about it on the air. They were going to have a table at about the ten mile mark where they would be giving out water, shooting some video and cheering people on. She was looking forward to being there. I was looking forward to her being there. My grandfather told me that an important skill for a man was being able to make a woman laugh. My uncles all had that gift and as always I did my best to emulate them.

My plan was simple. When I saw the TV station’s tent I would change pace, maneuver and do whatever it took to put me close to her. Stretch goal was to get a cup of water from her if she was giving out water. Then I would say something witty, she would laugh and I would follow up with a phone message. I am aging myself I know, but email was not yet in widespread use. I had no idea what I was going to say to her but I was going to make it up on the fly…often worked best. I could not control whether she called me back or not, all I could do was execute my part of the plan. Like most simple plans there was little that could go wrong.

Now it’s race day and I’m slowing down at about nine miles so I can look like I’m not working too hard when I get to the TV tent. I can see it up ahead. I start trying to figure out exactly where she is. I see her co-anchor and a few intern looking types. I am not seeing a tall blonde. I am going really slow now, maybe she is hidden behind the remote truck. No. I look over at the male anchor and yell “Where the hell is Judy????”. He yells back, friendly like, “she got pulled off to do another assignment”. FML. Oh well, it was a shot in the dark anyway, and I laugh at myself as I am running. I don’t think about trying again. The gods have spoken, she would have been there if it had been meant to be.

Life goes on and I am sitting in the waiting room at the former Metro Health facility over off of Lafayette Road. Don’t remember why I am there. It doesn’t matter. As I am waiting a pretty girl comes out and sits near me with the usual and customary one-seat of separation. We exchange nods. She is pretty. She is friendly. She looks familiar. While we are chatting it sinks in…she is a TV reporter. Holy shit. From the same station as Judy….one degree of separation! Man, this was as good a chance as I was gonna get. As we are talking I am trying to figure out how to leverage this new opportunity when I realize something. The young lady I am talking to is sending signals. Was it a sure thing? No of course not, but I was pretty sure she would get a drink with me or drop her phone number if I asked her. The crazy thing is she was really cute but I couldn’t shift gears. I could not figure out a way to take the conversation from “hey we seem to be hitting it off” to “oh by the way do you know Judy?” How rude would that be? Why didn’t I just hit on her? I don’t know. My mind was locked up and not doing anything seemed like the best thing. FML. Again.

There is a small theatre a few floors up from the main stage at the Indiana Repertory Theatre. Not the roof ballroom…below that. I was a season ticket holder and so I sometimes took a date, sometimes a friend to see shows with me. In this case it was a date but not someone I felt real strong about. (If you are thinking it might be you, it wasn’t. I swear. ). The layout is a little fuzzy all these years later but I remember we were seated at round tables, the kind you sit at when you are listening to a lunch speaker at a conference. Except this was a play and it was dark. Which play? I don’t remember, I saw a lot of plays there. It might have been Strindberg or some other depressing Scandinavian crap. It might as well have been. Maybe one where the wife kills herself because she thinks her husband is dead but then he comes home after taking a detour to get a loaf of bread and a carton of milk and schtup his sister-in-law. Anyhoo, we all turned our chairs around to face the stage, maneuvering so that no one was blocking our views. My date was sitting to my left and a bit behind. I scooted more to the right so she could see better and I bumped into someone from the next table who was also maneuvering. We apologized and I looked into her face. I was staring at Judy. Zero degrees of separation. She was sitting with a table of women.

If I had brought a male friend with me it would have been game on. Not tonight. I was with a woman. You know there is no way to make this happen. Even had I wanted to be rude to my female guest, it would have been noted by Judy and her table of friends and I would have been placed in the “jerk” category never to emerge. (Jerk is much higher status than friend zone, but to make it work you actually have to be a jerk). And so there we sat. Judy, oblivious to the trauma she was causing, and me. Occasionally bumping elbows, her legs crossing and invading my space. I felt like I was in the plot of “Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy” and someone had turned on the Improbability Drive.

Can you imagine the phone message I could have left her? “Hi, you were driving me bat-shit at the play the other night but I was with another woman so I couldn’t properly flirt with you. I was wondering…”. FML over and out.

And thus ended our one sided relationship. I regret nothing but at the time it seemed like the Gods had it in for me.

“Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
the band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
and somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
but there is no joy in Mudville — mighty Casey has struck out.”*

*“Casey At The Bat” – Ernest Thayer

© Glenn R Keller 2021, All Rights Reserved

Sacrifice

Image by Stacey Kennedy from Pixabay 

I want to ski on wooden skis

I want to wear wool that’s not olive drab

Drinking ice cold beers and mixing high balls

I’d sit in front of a fire

With a curly haired blonde

We will remember the time together

And show dog-eared, photos to our children

They will think it drab

Because the prints cannot show the blue of the sky

Or the red of their mother’s cheeks

When we think back on our lives together

We don’t have to mention this one thing…this one time together

Because all the things

All the times

Merge into one warm memory of our lives together

One will cry when the others is gone

Lost, longing just to be together again

© Glenn R Keller 2021, All Rights Reserved

The Fall

Image by Quang Nguyen vinh from Pixabay

.

Your long tan legs, your shiny brunette hair

Who was I to long for your lips on mine

And why would I dare think I had a prayer

But I looked in your eyes and saw a sign

.

You came for me with those emerald eyes

Your breath in my ear that said this is real

As you disarmed me with your breathless sighs

Your body quivers, betrays what you feel

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Then in a moment your life comes undone

I reach with my arms but it’s all too new

I try to find words but feel I have none

As your pain unfolds I know I’ve lost you

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And I, unnoticed , as Icarus found

Spiraled my way from the sun to the ground

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© Glenn R Keller 2021, All Rights Reserved

An Old Wind

Image by Владимир Харитонов from Pixabay

Janie wrapped her arms around herself “brrrrr, I’m freezing”.

Paul looked over at her “babe…it’s 92 degrees out. What are you talking about?”

But just like that it was over and Janie was once again perspiring. “I don’t get it either. I mean, I was roasting and then I got chilled for like 10 seconds and now I’m hot again.”

“Cold flashes?” Paul teased.

“Very funny. You see me laughing?” But Janie was laughing despite herself. It was hard to be mad at Paul…he had a perpetual mischievous grin and with his wavy blonde hair and a single prominent dimple he was extraordinarily handsome. Not that she was a slouch herself: she had long brunette hair and had been a high jumper in college with the long lean body that went along with that. Once she fixed a man with her bright blue eyes he was a goner. In short, they looked like two people that belonged together; both having won the lottery when they were born and then hitting it again when they found each other.

“I just hope I’m not getting sick. I have to leave for Florida in two days!”

Paul snorted, “Oh yeah. For your ‘girls last fling’. I can only imagine. Meanwhile I get to stay here with your psycho mother while she freaks out about the wedding.”

“Please don’t call her “psycho” Paul, you know she has been through a lot and all mothers get nervous about weddings. Besides, she loves you to death and you know it.”

“Yeah ‘to death’ being the key phrase.”

“Now just cut it out” she admonished. “You two will have a fine old time together. Meanwhile lets get home. It’s hot as hell out here now.”

When they got back to Janie’s place she took her temperature just to make sure. It was fine so she wrote the whole thing off to a freak occurrence. Maybe Paul was right. Ha! Nervous cold flashes about the wedding. About one thing Paul was definitely right: her mother did not care for him. She could never say why, only that he reminded her of someone and gave her a creepy vibe. But even she admitted it was probably just jealously about losing her only child to marriage. To her credit she had never said anything to Paul and did her best to love him, perhaps even overcompensating a little.

The next morning Janie was up early and went out for her morning walk. She was back out on the trail and there it was again, and just like before it came and went in a few seconds. She looked around; nowhere near where it had happened yesterday. Was she going nuts? Why here, on this converted rail trail? When she got home she took her temperature again but decided against telling Paul. He might insist on her going to the doctor and she didn’t have time. Besides, what if he tried to make her miss her trip?

The trip to Florida with the girls came and went. It had been a fantastic success even if they did get thrown out of a couple bars. Hell, you’re only young once. The plane ride back had been quiet because they were all sleeping off the prior night’s festivities. And she’d forgotten all about the cold spells on the trail.

She decided to go for a long walk when she got home to shake the rest of the cobwebs out of her head. Paul was still at work so she decided to take the afternoon to recharge a bit and maybe stop and relax at one of the town center cafes. Everything was fine until she got near the old depot and suddenly the cold came over her. Except this time it didn’t go away. What the hell? Now, to be honest, she was getting a little worried. Maybe it was her nerves. In any case she was freezing and decided to turn around and head for home. She was about 100 yards from the depot when all of a sudden she was hot again….just like that. Well at least it wasn’t permanent. Then on a hunch she did a 180 and headed back towards the station and boom! Just like that she was cold again….another 180, walked a few yards away from the station and yep…hot again.

She was standing there scratching her head when she saw a familiar face walking towards her from the direction of the depot. “Lucinda!”

Lucinda walked over towards her “Hi sweetie! It’s been awhile.”

Janie tried to be polite and they exchanged pleasantries but then she burst out “Is it cold near the depot? I mean did you just walk through a cold spot?”

“Whatever could you mean? It’s crazy hot out here today.”

Janie replayed the whole story for Lucinda, they had retired to a trailside café and despite the past days activities Janie was having a cocktail. Lucinda offered the opinion that perhaps Paul was right and it was a case of the nerves. She recommended a therapist for which Janie thanked her and they parted ways. Lucinda was always trying to fix things and while she was kind, sometimes it was a little much. At this point she just wanted to be home before Paul got there so she could make a surprise dinner.

Dinner was nice, Paul had an exciting day at work and so he was in a good mood and he really made her feel good about her cooking and listened with genuine interest to her tales of their Florida bacchanal. She brought up the subject of the cold while they were laying in bed. Paul reiterated that she was just nervous and asked “what would it hurt to talk to someone about it? Worst case scenario you get some good drugs.”

“Do you really picture me talking to some head doctor?”

Paul laughed “No, you’d probably eat her alive, but it was worth a try.”

She felt that Paul supported her decision which should have made it easy to fall asleep. Instead she lay awake wondering what was happening to her. She really didn’t think it was in her head and she wasn’t opposed to seeing a therapist…she just didn’t think she was imagining it.

She slept late the next morning and her curiosity propelled her out the door and onto the trail. It was Saturday so she had all the time in the world. She walked everywhere she had experienced the cold and today felt nothing. So she put it aside. She mentioned it to Paul only so that he would get off her back about seeing a shrink. Besides, it was nearly time for the wedding and there were so many things to think about, she quite frankly forgot about it. But Paul didn’t.

Monday of the wedding week they were at a dinner thrown by some of his work colleagues and with the wine flowing fast and free he mentioned it to some of them. Janie kicked him under the table hard and he realized his mistake but it was too late…it was one of those dinners where everyone is hoping they wouldn’t run out of things to talk about with their immediate table mates. Janie’s story was like fresh meat and they all tore into it.

No one was unkind, nothing like that, just speculation as to what it might be. There were all the usual things, a fever, a nearby creek, etc. No one had the poor taste to mention it might be in her head though. She relaxed a bit and decided she liked this group of people. As she was laughing, in spite of herself at their half drunken speculation she noticed a waiter hanging close, listening in. It was an older gentleman, one of the types that looked like he might have been doing this forever and was proud of it. Everything about him was immaculate down to his perfectly trimmed gray moustache. She smiled at him “you too? Go ahead and tease me, everyone else is!”. She was actually hoping he would; he reminder her of her late father. He did not disappoint. But neither did he tease her.

“Miss, if you don’t mind me saying so, you’re not the first one to complain of cold spells on that trail.”

She stated at him…”What do you mean? Is this common? Is there something strange about this trail? Why me?”

He replied gently, “No, it’s not common and yes there is something strange about this trail. As to ‘why you?’ Here.” He pulled a pen out of his shirt pocket and made a note on the little tablet he used to remember orders. “This is an old map store on South Main street. The owner is a woman by the name of ‘Lively’. I think you should go see her and repeat what you said here tonight.”

She took the note and slipped it into her purse and assured him she would call there the very next day. “Thank you.” She actually had no intention of seeing this woman, the waiter was a sweet old guy but sounded a bit like a crack pot himself. Besides, she had not felt it in awhile and so was inclined to let sleeping dogs lie. She wasn’t even thinking about it when she went out the next day for a jog along the trail. There was a rehearsal to worry about in a few days and even more stressful, the rehearsal dinner. She was nearly done running, when anyone that had been around to observe her, and there were a few, would have seen her take off like a woman possessed. Paul had taken the day off work but was out running errands, thank goodness. She tore through a pile of clothes until she came up with the note the waiter had given her the night before. She ran back out on the trail and towards the store on South Main Street.

She had passed by the little map shop a thousand times but hardly noticed it. It was sandwiched between a storefront insurance agency and an antique mall. It was easy to overlook on the outside but the inside was another story. She opened the door and a little bell tinkled. From the the back room came a gentle lilting voice “I’ll be right there.” She looked around; the walls were covered floor to ceiling with bookshelves filled with rolled up maps and what looked like atlases. There were other books, some overstuffed chairs with doilies like her grandmother used to have and a lot of used tea cups scattered around. A laconic dog lay under a table, lifting it’s head to look at her. Satisfied that she had no food, it resumed whatever dog dream it had been having.

The old woman came in into the front room “ah…you must be Janie.”

Janie looked at her…”How did you know that?”

“It is written in the wind.”

Janie looked shaken, “oh my god really?”

“No, not really. My waiter friend said a pretty young lady might be coming to see me today.” Mrs. Lively grinned, clearly amused with her own joke.

Janie burst out laughing…she liked Mrs. Lively already. “Did he tell you…?”

“Yes,” replied Mrs. Lively. “And I have what you need right here.” She had already pulled a book down off the shelf and she motioned for Janie to come sit on the settee next to her. “This is an old map of the railroad that used to occupy this trail. It started service in 1871 and kept it up all the way until 1974.”

Janie took a look at the map and the towns that the railroad passed through, including their own town. “This a really cool map…look at all these things that used to be right around here. But what does this have to do with me getting cold?”

The old woman nodded…anticipating the question. She pulled out an old yellowed news paper protected in plastic. “This was a very safe operation, this old railroad. But there are always incidents.” She handed the newspaper over to Janie. There is a story of a train wreck on the front page. Seventy-one people died on a rainy night in 1955. They think it was sabotage, but it was never proven.”

“That’s horrible,” said Janie, “Why would anyone do that?”

“Why does anyone do these types of things?” The woman sighed, “anger, greed, lust, envy. The story was it was a jealous lover. His ex-fiancé’ was on the train. He worked for the railroad and had keys so he threw an old switch that was never open. The train switched over at speed and piled into a stack of logs. Most of the cars fell into the river: all of the dead people drowned, trapped inside the coaches.”

“But what does this have to do with me? Wait, Walter said this had happened before.”

“It has. And that is why I can tell you, that someone important to you died in that train wreck.”

Janie looked at her and shook her head. “I don’t know anyone that died in a train wreck. And that was way before I was born…even before my mother was born. But if I had an ancestor or someone aboard I would have heard about it.”

“Would you?” The old woman said this as if she knew something.

“What are you trying to say?”

“I’m saying that the only other time I’ve heard of someone getting cold like this they had someone on that train.”

“Okay…I have to tell you that sounds weird but I’ll ask my mom,” Janie said “but I’m curious about something…why did I feel this at different places on the trail and why was it for so long when I was downtown?”

Mrs. Lively smiled “trains move dear. I’m sorry, that sounded condescending. “

Janie laughed “don’t worry about it…I can be slow. But why did the cold last so long downtown?”

“You were by the depot. So was the train…”

“…and it was stopped!” Janie exclaimed. “Oh my god” she said quietly and gave out a low whistle.

The old woman put her arm around Janie, “go talk to your mom. I’m betting you’ll be surprised.”

Janie was back the next day: “My aunt died on that train.”

“I knew you’d be back. Did you get any details?”

“It was strange, my mother didn’t want to talk about it. I was lucky to get that out of her.”

“Let’s take a walk to the library.”

They’d been in the library for three hours and still hadn’t found any record of her aunt being on the train. There were photos in the old papers of many of the deceased passengers but not all, and no one with her aunts name was on any of the newspaper lists. But then Janie thought of something and texted her mother.

“What’s wrong?” asked Mrs. Lively. Despite her enthusiasm, she was beginning to fatigue and it showed in her voice.

Janie already had an answer: “my aunt’s last name was different!”

Suddenly the fatigue was gone and they went back into the old newspapers and hit on a gold mine, and something they were not expecting: her aunt was the ex-fiancé that had triggered the jealous rage. There were pictures of her with her friends, pictures of her at her high school prom, even pictures of her in bathing suits meant to boost circulation. And of course, there was a picture, that appeared in every story, of her with her supposedly murderous ex. There was something else that Janie noticed, something about the jilted lover. It had to be a coincidence and she would not let herself contemplate any other explanation. She was shaking her head; “Okay the cold I feel has something to do with my aunt being on that train…but why and and what does it mean? Not that I’m saying I really believe all this.” The truth was, though, that she was much closer to believing it than not.

Mrs. Lively was silent for a long time, she was trying to figure out that best way to say something: “Your aunt is trying to warn you about something. What exactly, we have no idea. But you must be alert to any signs. Don’t alter your routine…that’s important. And you must go where she can communicate with you…and that is along the trail”

“Communicate? How? It’s not like she can hop off the train and have a chat.”

“No, but she will do something you will notice. It might be subtle, maybe not. Either way keep on the lookout. I am very tired dear. Will you walk me home? And I suggest you get some sleep as well. Have a little nip of something…it almost always helps me sleep. When that doesn’t work I have a big nip of something,”

One thing for sure about the old woman, she wasn’t boring. “Sure, lets go and I am sorry for keeping you at it so long.”

“Oh, I enjoyed this immensely! It is just that this old body can only handle so much excitement in one day. You just keep alert.”

Janie had a drink when she got home, not that she needed anyone to tell her that. She had stayed calm for Mrs. Lively but the truth was her nerves were raw. One of the pictures in the paper continued to haunt her and she continued to try and ignore what was obvious. Finally, she got up and just read a book.

When dawn broke she wanted to go out on the trail but Mrs. Lively had told her not to alter her routine, and her routine this week was finishing the prep for the wedding on Saturday and the rehearsal and dinner tomorrow night. She had last minute dinner reservations to adjust; her idiot future sister-in-law had chosen this week to decide she was vegan so that was another adjustment to be made…annoying or not she couldn’t let her eat some thrown together salad. By the time she had finished with all the last minute details and a few errands the day had flown by and it was time for her walk. And time for the afternoon train…well the ghost train at least. Ghost train! She must be losing her mind. If she told Paul he’d probably run like hell before it was too late.

It was actually a little later than normal when she got out for her walk, and when she felt the ice cold of the train she was far from the depot. The train must have been running late as well. It was still speeding along so the cold sensation was gone in a few seconds. But still she had felt it. She walked with her head on a swivel and saw nothing. She listened and couldn’t hear anything unusual. She had stayed out later than normal and was way past the station before she gave up and started heading back towards home.

She got distracted for a few minutes when she ran into a couple of old high school frenemies whom she invited to the wedding hoping they would decline, which they did with regrets. The niceties observed they took some selfies together and parted ways. She completely forgot about looking for any signs and was going through the selfies deciding which one to post on Facebook. She was checking out Estelle’s hair…it was as blonde as always. In school everyone was positive she bleached it…maybe not. Either way Estelle was a pretty woman and not a bad sort. She was cropping the picture before uploading when something over Estelle’s shoulder caught her eye. On one of the old telegraph poles that stood decaying in the overgrowth she could make out some writing…she zoomed in on it and applied a filter. It popped out: “WILL”. What the hell…?

Janie started walking faster toward home, looking for the next pole. There it was…writing in the same style: “HE”. That was it…a message on the poles for sure. “WILL HE” But will he what? She ran to the next pole. Nothing. Maybe it skipped for some reason but the next pole was blank as well. Dammit. All she had was “WILL HE”. She was walking towards home trying to figure out the rest. The map store was closed by now so she would wait until morning and go talk to Mrs. Lively. It would be a busy day with the rehearsal and dinner but she had to know.

She was almost back to the side trail that would lead her home when it hit her: Idiot! She ran back towards the poles and saw “HE”, then “WILL” and then on the next pole: “KILL”. She was breathing fast and afraid she would pass out. It was getting dark and fortunately the few people she passed probably couldn’t see the fear on her face. As she ran towards the next pole the terror rose in her because she already knew what the next word would be. There it was: “YOU”. She didn’t need to go on. She knew that was the end of the message but she checked anyway. Nothing “HE WILL KILL YOU”. She found a bench alongside the trail and sat and cried. She didn’t need anyone to tell her who “HE” was. But was she going to break up with Paul over a supposed message from a ghost? She processed every scenario she could think of. Her mother didn’t like Paul.. had she set him up? Or maybe meeting Estelle and her suggesting a selfie right in front of that pole was not coincidence. No. She was clutching at straws….she felt it deep down in her soul. She was trying to think of what she was going to say to Paul. She would say she was nervous and had to postpone it. That would soften the blow until she could think of something else. Plus it would give her the chance to see how he would react.

Paul was waiting for her when she got home “lets go grab some dinner and drinks. At this point, if it ain’t done it’s not going to get done.”

Janie decided not to mention the ghost train or the cold. “I think we should wait Paul.”

Paul shrugged, “sure, we can eat later, I just thought you might need…”

She cut him off “I mean wait to get married.”

“Why…what? What the hell?”

“It’s not you,” she lied, “It’s me. Let’s just give it some time. It’s going to be a hassle to postpone everything I know but…”

“Come on Janie, we know you’ve been stressed out. Let’s just relax and watch a movie for awhile. You’ll get some rest overnight and….”

Janie cut him off. “No, I’ve made up my mind…we have to postpone things while I think things through. And please stop talking like I’m crazy or something.” Janie thought she knew Paul and thought he might cry or plead or maybe even storm out. It would be hard to blame him. She didn’t expect what came next.

“You stupid bitch!!!” He swung and connected with the side of her head knocking her against the wall. She slid down onto the floor stunned. He came at her again intending to kick her in the stomach but she squirmed away and it landed on her thigh…it still hurt. “I’ll be fucking humiliated. My whole family will be humiliated.” Afraid that he would hit her again she started screaming at the top of her lungs. In a few seconds there were footsteps coming down the stairs and that was enough for Paul to run out of the apartment, but not before he’d managed to knock over her TV and laptop.

After a visit from one of Janie’s cousins, Paul made himself scarce. Janie moved in with her mother for awhile and became fast friends with Mrs. Lively. The memory of that day, the ghost train and Paul eventually faded to the background. She moved out, got back on her feet and married a man who wasn’t a psycho. Her daughter, Wendy, was two years old and at any rate kept her mind fully occupied along with running her own business. It was a Saturday afternoon and her husband was out doing some kind of guy stuff with his friends and she had just put Wendy down for a nap.

She picked up her iPad to catch up on social media. A couple of her friends were talking about something awful but the thread was so deep she couldn’t make out what they were going on about. She messaged her best friend, Haley; “what’s going on?”

Haley came back instantly “you haven’t heard?”

She sighed, this was just like Haley…being dramatic “No Haley, I just got 2 minutes to myself finally…can you just cut to the chase.”

“I’m sending you a link…it’s too awful.”

Oh for god’s sake she thought…then she clicked on the link and gasped; There was a picture of Estelle, the pretty blonde she’d taken selfies with on the trail. She’d been murdered and the suspect was her husband. Poor Estelle! They weren’t close but she seemed like a sweetheart. She regretted not getting to know her better and started tearing up as she scrolled through the story.

Haley texted back “I’m coming over.”

“Don’t be silly, you’re getting ready to move.” What was with it Haley? It was tragic and she felt sad but it wasn’t like she was a super close friend.

She could see the three little dots as Haley typed a response “Did you see the whole story?”

“No, I’m looking now.” Suddenly her blood ran cold and she found herself struggling to breathe. “Haley, please come I need you.”

Haley poured her a large glass of wine as soon as she arrived and sat down to comfort her. “It’s not your fault hun.”

“I should have said something…let people know. I was just so glad to get him out of my life,” she whimpered.

Haley shook her head “It would not have mattered. They were in Florida, and besides, you rarely spoke to Estelle.”

“I know I hardly spoke to Estelle, that’s the point. I wish I would have. There’s more. Something I’ve never told anyone except my mother.” They went through another glass of wine while she filled in Haley on the incident with the cold, the train, and Mrs. Lively.

“You have to know how that sounds sweetie…” said Haley gently, “but what exactly would you have told Estelle? ‘Don’t marry that guy, a ghost from an old train wreck warned me about him?'”

“I don’t know. And I know it sounds crazy. But there’s one more thing.” Wait here. She went into the closet and pulled out a shoe box. In the box was a picture of her and Paul and an old newspaper clipping. It was one of the clippings about the train wreck she and Mrs. Lively had snuck out of the library. She laid them side by side and took her phone, with the picture of Paul and Estelle and laid that beside them. She called Haley over.

Haley looked at the picture of Janie and Paul next to the new picture of him and Estelle. He didn’t look like he had changed a bit. Then she looked at the old newspaper clipping. The one with the picture of Janie’s aunt and her murderous, jilted fiancé. There stood a very handsome man; it was black and white so she couldn’t make out the color but he had wavy hair, a mischievous grin and one prominent dimple.

“Oh my god…”

The Dean’s Office

.

There in the front worked an angel so rare

With pouting red lips and skin velvet cream

The sunbeams dance through her long golden hair

At night, she sings in my electric dreams

.

I can see it all, like an epic poem

Yes we build a love that will never die

Raise perfect children in our perfect home

And write our names against the starry sky

.

There’s just one wrinkle, how do I meet you

An amorous scheme takes hold in my mind

Writing to you of the girl I pursue

Here’s a description of she I would find

.

I have to meet her or I’ll die you see

Then reading my note you blush “this is me”

Summer Girls

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

You always fall for summer girls

With their white shorts and summer tans

Hair straight and long or cascading curls

Your eyes would meet, you’d make your plans

There’s something different in her way

Sharp tongued and full of spice

Let’s hang around she’d always say

She needn’t say it twice

Some other guy would puff his chest

Big mouths did not impress

She always seems to like you best

Just why you couldn’t guess

You had your jokes and funny looks

Which no one else could see

You’d steal away in secret nooks

And hide beneath a tree

She’d twirl her hair she’d hint around

Or maybe she’d just say

As you lay together on the ground

“Don’t let this slip away”

But summer girls always say good bye

And then they disappear

It never really ends, that’s why

You still love them through the years

Who Are You?

Image by Alexandr Ivanov from Pixabay

I don’t know who you are

But I met you in the bar

Then you jumped into my car

And you said it wasn’t far

Now I’m sitting on your bed

With a dagger in my head

Can’t remember what I said

But I’m feeling like I’m dead

Was it worth it? I don’t know

Now the room is spinning slow

And I’m wishing I could go

What is your name? Was it Flo?

I could slip out and be rude

But I can hear you making food

Can smell coffee being brewed

And I don’t wanna be that dude

Now you’re bringing me a tray

And you’re smiling in that way

And you know I’m gonna stay

C’mon dammit…was it Faye?

© Glenn R Keller 2021, All Rights Reserved

Inside Looking Out

Image by Akshay Ranganath from Pixabay

The rain

Saturates the air

Puts a glaze on the street

Traffic lights shine through the murk

Diffused, but somehow brighter

Red, Yellow, Green

The lack of clarity

The air, moist and thick

Amplifies the sound

Diesel engines snorting

Buses picking up and dropping off

Trucks trundling through their rounds

Brakes squealing

Gears grinding

The air, moist and thick

Lays heavy over the city

Lays heavy over him

Hoping where there is none

Praying for a change of heart

It presses down on him

He knows she isn’t coming back

He knows she isn’t coming back today

Just like she hadn’t come back yesterday

And won’t be coming back tomorrow

Where Do You Want To Go?

Image by suesun from Pixabay

Caesar sat in his usual chair overlooking the gardens. It was late spring so they were a carpet of riotous color that fell away down to the edge of the crystal blue lake. There was a sailboat silhouetted against the bright sky, and he wished he was on it. His face didn’t show it, but he was smiling inside. He had always considered himself lucky and here was just more proof. When he could no longer take care of his own home he was faced with living in a sterile senior living tower. The kind with elevators, the kind where everyone decorated their apartment doors to try and retain some sign of their individuality. He loathed those places. Nevertheless, he had nowhere else to go and so he had found the place and was already preparing to move in. That’s when his angel found him.

He was eating breakfast at his favorite diner, an easy walk from his home when he let Sheila, the waitress who attended the local college, know that he likely would not be seeing her again. He was moving away. Sheila teared up. She asked if she could drop something by his house later that day and he said sure, expecting a potted plant or some sort of knick-knack. He gave her his address and she assured him she would be by later.

He was just finishing up the last of his packing and the doorbell rang. He had completely forgotten about Sheila but there she was, standing at his door. But she looked different; freed from her dowdy waitress costume he saw an exotic looking young woman with flaming red hair and piercing blue eyes. She was very pretty, but that is not what struck him…it was her demeanor; she exuded some sort of quiet power…he was trying to put his finger on what it was about her, She smiled and broke the spell.

“Caesar, I have something very special I want to give you. It is very precious and I don’t know if I will ever get another one. I have been holding onto it for the right moment…to give it to you. And now I know the time is now.” She paused for a minute to let it sink in.

“But I don’t think I can accept something that is obviously so important to you…I mean, I figured an African Violet or maybe a pair of praying hands is what you were going to show up with.” He laughed nervously.

She smiled indulgently, “you actually don’t have a choice. We’re all part of bigger plan, we are just players and this is yours. I want you to think carefully, because you will only get to use it once and then it will be gone.” She held out a small brass tablet.

He took the tablet and read the inscription. “Anywhere you want to go. You have one chance only. You will not be returning. She who bears the tablet cannot decide for you. Only you can.”

Caesar handed the tablet back and said “I don’t understand.”

“Where do you want to go? Where would you be happy staying forever”

“Forever?” Asked Caesar.

“Forever”, she replied. “So think carefully”.

And that is how he came to be here. At this beautiful hotel, on this beautiful lake where he and his late wife had vacationed so many times. He was lost in thought about Sheila and how she had came into his life, when he got a tap on the shoulder. “Are you going to sit there all day? I brought your racquet down. Dave and Eileen are already down by the clay courts.”

“I was just daydreaming a bit. I’m ready.” And he looked up at his wife. She looked the same as she had fifty years ago when they’d first come here. Tall, muscular, and fair skinned…with flaming red hair and piercing blue eyes.