First Light-Conclusion

A moment or two passed before he looked up. Back from his musing he smiled showing those teeth again and stated very quietly;

“When I was just about your age”, he began, “my Dad saw me standing and staring and asked me why I always spent so much time just staring at flowers and rocks and picket fences and, well, at just about everything under the sun”.

“I couldn’t give him a good answer, at first.” Adam mused out loud. “In fact, I didn’t really know why I stared so much at everything.”

“I just knew that I was mesmerized, not so much by what I was looking at, but by how the shapes seemed to change as I watched and how the light could make something so simple look so complex just by light making shadows.”

He looked at both Elizabeth and her daughter for a moment and said, “Are you sure you want me to go on? ”

Margaret looked at her Mom and Elizabeth at her and then both turned towards Adam and nodded their heads in unison. As they nodded they both smiled and said at the same time,”Please.” And Elizabeth added, “If you don’t mind. I think we would both love to hear the story.”

The photographer stood up and walked to the brow of the hill where he turned and motioned for them to come stand by him. When they came up beside him he pointed at the next hill and then at the pond down below. He mentioned the way the hills sloped into the pond as though making a bowl where water could stay and then looked directly at Margaret. They stood looking at where he had pointed, puzzled, and then he spoke,

“Look very closely at the way the light shines on the trees and the pond”, he said pointing. “ Do you see the way it touches each leaf ever so gently and doesn’t leave one of them without some portion of light or shadow?” They looked hard at the trees for a moment and then nodded.

Then he added,”Notice how the light changes so quickly that the eye can’t follow the shadows and the ripples on the pond. See how the ripples seem to make the light dance? How the leaves change shape with shadow and then light as they move? This is what I saw in everything as a child. The play of light and shadow.””This is why my father wondered at what I was seeing.”

Adam looked down at the ground for a moment then looked back at Mom and daughter.

“When I was a boy I was fascinated by the play of light. No matter where I went or what I was doing I always noticed that light made everything change as the minutes sauntered by. I was struck at how different a pebble seemed to grow its shadow as the sun started to go down and the angle of light got shallower and shallower. What was once just a small piece of stone grew in shadow stature just before the sun left it to the dark. Kind of like a reassurance that after night would follow day and the sun would return.”

“Of course the light plays with everything there is. It shines and changes minute to minute during the day. If you bend your mind to recognize the changing light there is no reason to ever have a lack of wonder or be bored.”

“You asked me what it is to be a photographer.” “A photographers life is one of light and shadow” he began, “When you look at the light and shadow and how it moves and changes you see what a photographer sees.” “The beauty of the photographers world is that light and shadow are the miracle that is a photograph.”

He looked up as a hawk glided overhead and pointed. “See the shadow under its wings?” “See how bright the sun is and the light all around and yet the bottom of both wings are in shadow but still catch enough light to be seen with color and shades.”

”That”, he said,”is reflected light.””The light that hits the earth and is reflected back to the sky and, in turn, lights the wings of the hawk from the bottom,”

He paused as they gazed at the hawk while it flew in lazy circles into the distance leaving the bright blue sky empty for a time as it disappeared over the forest canopy. He turned to them both and said, “This is what I do everyday.” “Watch for light and watch for shadow”.

Margaret looked up at him and blurted, “But, doesn’t that get boring?”

Adam, taken a bit by the surprise of her question, smiled down at her and said,”It would if the light was just light and shadow were just shadow all by themselves, he answered, “but light falls on everything. It defines what everything looks like. It gives everything its form and dimension.”

He went on, “If not for light and shadow your Mom and you would look just like two paper dolls lying flat on the table. Instead, he stated, looking at both of them, “you have the pretty shape of your faces and stand in the light letting everyone know that you have shape and substance and are real human beings. This is what a photographer sees. The dimensional shape that only light and shadow can show.”

”It is what makes the planet and those beings that walk and grow upon it so very beautiful.”

”It is the reason that I had you look at the trees and the way the light played on them and then the water so you would see the ripples dance.”

“This is what a photographer is; a person who studies light and how to make a photograph that uses the light to make a subject as pretty as he can.”

“Just a minute”, he said walking back towards the bench and rummaging in his bag underneath. “Stay right there and I will take a photo of you and your Mom so that, when you look at it, you will remember what I just told you and see precisely what I mean.”

He took his camera out and posed Margaret and her Mom against the blue sky holding hands. He walked back a number of paces, turned and said ”Smile like a pumpkin!”

They both looked at each other and grinned pumpkin grins and heard the brief click of the shutter.

Adam looked up at Elizabeth and said, “Give me your address and I will send this to you when I get it printed.”

It was Friday afternoon two weeks later when Margarets father got home from work at his usual time. The photo promised by Adam had gotten there three days earlier. Elizabeth and Margaret had shown the photo to David who was struck at how simple, yet, beautiful a photo it was. He looked at it long and hard and then asked who had taken such a beautiful photo of them. They told him about meeting a man who said he was a photographer and that he had told them all about light and photography. David looked at them and said that you never know who you will meet when going for a walk.

Elizabeth had framed the photo and placed it on their mantle over the fireplace and looked at it every time she walked through the living room. Margaret kept thinking about the conversation with Adam when she looked at the photograph. Elizabeth had taken Margaret up that hill a time or two since but Adam had not been there so they just looked at the scenery and thought about how the light worked and made everything so beautiful. Margaret had been especially moved when she thought of Adam and was starting to realize that the more she looked at things with a photographers eye the more realized that she had received an unexpected gift from a man who was really all but a stranger to her and her Mom.

The next Sunday David had gotten the paper when it first came to the door and was drinking a cup of coffee while perusing the news. Until a little 2 inch column caught his eye. He called Elizabeth and asked her what that photographers name was again. Adam she said. He looked at her and drew a breath, “Was he an older man?” he asked in a low voice. Elizabeth stiffened and answered, “Yes, not elderly but he was and older gentleman. Why?” She hadn’t had to ask, she merely had to look at the expression on David’s face. “Says here that a photographer by the name of Adam Scanlon died after a short illness and that he had no next of kin.” Tears welled up in Elizabeth’s eyes and she started to sob. “That can’t be the same man” she murmured.”There is no way that that can possibly be the Adam we met!”

David looked at her and shrugged. At the same moment there came a knock at the door. David, seeing that Elizabeth was in no shape to greet neighbors got up to answer the door. When he got to the door and opened it there was nobody there. Just a box wrapped in brown paper and tied ever so delicately with oiled brown string. It only was addressed to Margaret with no return address on it. David bent over, grasped it by the string and brought it inside and set it on the dining room table. “Package for Margaret”, he called to Elizabeth. At that moment Margaret was coming down the stairs in her fuzzy slippers and pink robe rubbing the sleep from her eyes. When she came into the dining room she spied the package and yawned, “Who got a present?”

Not knowing who it was from David and Elizabeth came over to her, thought twice about telling her the sad news, and Elizabeth said, “We don’t know but it’s addressed to you.”

Margaret was as surprised as her folks because it wasn’t her birthday and she didn’t know who would send her a package. “Can I open it?” she asked. “I’ll give you a hand”, said her Dad. Opening it was very easy. The knot of the string was expertly and meticulously tied and almost fell open at a mere tug.

Inside was a cardboard box with only a name on it. Printed in black felt tip were the words “For Margaret-Remember the Light.”

That was all it said but Margaret almost burst with joy because the only person she had ever spoken to about light was Adam, the old photographer. She pulled on the tape and looked inside. There, wrapped in soft paper were two boxes. She opened the smaller one first; a lens. The second one she already was sure was a camera; it was. Not a cheap little camera. A really heavy good camera. Underneath was a card with a few lines of writing on it. The card said:

“Margaret, please accept this gift and may it bring light to all you see and do.” Adam.

The letters were neatly and succinctly printed. The handwriting of a perfectionist.

It was the next day when David and Elizabeth told Margaret the sad news. There were tears all around as the import of a chance meeting imprinted itself on all their minds.

The night before she and her Dad had sat down to figure out how the camera worked. As Elizabeth had headed off for bed that night she said that tomorrow morning, the morning of the news, she was going to take her first picture with that camera.

The next morning, when the tears had stopped and the sun cleared the tree outside, a beam of light came through the window and washed over the photo of her and her Mom with a sweet golden light. Margaret ran and got here new camera and took her first picture with her new camera.

Elizabeth grew up, as little girls do, and went to college and became, what else, a photographer. On a table in her apartment in San Francisco sits a framed photo of a beam of light through a window. Under the photograph is a card which simply says:

“First Light-Adams Light”.

(To my daughter, Jennifer and my mother, Margaret Elizabeth Crowe. Love you always.)

Copyright Crowe-2015-All Rights Reserved

First Light-One

I had a major health problem which nearly killed me in 2013. After coming home I knew that writing was the solution to how shaky I was then. Weak and not able to drive or fend for myself I dove into this story. It has to do with my daughter and how much I love her.

First Light

It was early morning when Elizabeth awoke. Her husband was already up and gone on a flight to Europe for his business. Carefully, she placed both feet on the floor, stretched, got up and pulled aside the bedroom curtains. She wanted the sun to shine today because today was Margarets 12th Birthday.

Her daughter Margaret was a bright little lass with golden tresses and the sunniest personality that could possibly be for any little girl. She was the apple of her mothers and fathers eye and she easily reciprocated that apple as she dearly loved her Mom and Dad. And why not? Mom and Dad, his name was David,  were two peas in a pod. They were always charming to both Margaret and her friends and met each of life’s circumstances, be they good or ill, with a positive and common sense attitude. An attitude which had clearly rubbed off an Margaret. She greeted each day with a smile even when feeling less than well. They were a small and loving family of three with a depth of understanding pertaining to the important aspects of life. Each parent handled adversity with aplomb and a steady hand.

This morning there was to be a special birthday breakfast for Margaret due to her Father being away. It had been decided mutually, by Elizabeth and Margaret, to forego the birthday dinner and party with all the friends and, instead, just do breakfast. Besides, breakfast with her Mom and the whole day open for adventure was better than any silly party. For sure it was!

Elizabeth had fixed a breakfast of pancakes with dollops of blackberry jelly and huge pats of butter making a buttery, blackberry mess that was absolutely delectable to Margaret. Elizabeth thought, Well, once in a blue moon I think it’s Ok.

First Light- two

Breakfast done, they made ready to go for the long walk of the week. Margaret and her Mom walked every day. They had a routine you see. On school days the walks were short, with rapid steps around the block where they lived. They would chatter about the important items to follow on the day and those things that Moms and daughters talk about within the confidence of females. Little things like a boy that Elizabeth liked and Mom’s thoughts of life, raising a daughter like Margaret and teaching the little girl some of the fun things that she could look forward to as she grew to womanhood. On weekends, Saturday especially, the walks were long and uphill to a bench in the local state park. There was a bench there which overlooked a pond 200 feet below the brow of the hill formed where the bottoms of all the hills sloped gently together. At the bottom they met to form a little bowl of sweet, clear water. From their house on Olive street the walk was almost a mile and a half. The uphill section was reasonably steep and it required a brief rest, and a lot more talk, when they got to the bench to sit, enthralled by the beautiful view they knew they would have. The day was, to put it mildly, the most gorgeous day of the year thus far. The suns touch was warm but not yet hot. The breeze that blew was gentle, cool and refreshing. As David, Margarets Father said, it was a ‘great day to be a flower’. A truth that was never easier to believe than on a morning such as this.

As they walked they greeted neighbors and folks riding bicycles who passed with a special wave to Grandma Dolores who was, by nature,  the neighborhood Grandma. Dolores was the chicken soup and fresh biscuits Mom that everyone loved. Loved for her demeanor, grace and rock-hard common sense. If anyone deserved a special wave it was Dolores.

First Light-Three

Immediately after Dolores’ house was the start of the uphill portion of the walk. It was dirt road, firetrail actually, mixed with small stones with a nice border of wild yellow-green grass and poppies of purple and orange. At the top of the steep climb the trail meandered on, curving through the oaks and bays of the old woods that harbored both rascal squirrels and screeching crows accented by the flash of deep-blue of raucous scrub jays. But before anyone got to the winding trail through the woods at the top some smart man or woman had decided the trail needed a bench for folks to sit on after the climb for rest and, perhaps, a little “mind-wandering” while sitting, basking in the sun-dappled shade. Especially while looking at the beautiful view of rolling oak filled woods down to a 6 acre pond of blue.

When Margaret and Elizabeth came over the brow of the hill they could see that there was a man already sitting on the bench. He was what one might call a “tweener”; not yet elderly but getting there. He looked up at them and smiled with a friendly wave and moved to one end of the bench so that they could sit. This they did and, as they sat, they saw that the man had a kind of rucksack sitting at the other end of the bench. Attached to the rucksack was a photographic tripod so they guessed he might be a photographer. And that he was.

As they sat there Margaret screwed up the courage to ask the man his name and what the bag was for. He answered, “Well, let’s see, first, my name is Adam, yep, and I am a photographer and in that bag are the tools of my trade.”

“Oh, and a bottle of the best water on earth; the water from the well at my home.”

Margaret and Elizabeth smiled at Adam and Margaret asked him, “What is like being a photographer?”

”I mean”, she stammered “What makes you a photographer; your camera?”

After a long pause the old man looked down the oak clad hills toward the pond and took in a deep and considered breath. “That”, he said looking up from the pond toward the sky, “is one tough question.”

He looked down at Margarets upturned face and then over to Elizabeth and said with a smile, “How much time do you have for me to try to answer that?”

Elizabeth smiled and Margaret had that puzzled look with wrinkled nose that little girls sometimes get when they are about to delve into deep deliberations concerning life; as they understand it.

“I don’t know, exactly” said Margaret. “How long would it take?”

She turned and looked questioningly at her Mom and Elizabeth quietly looked at Adam, nodding her head and said in a quiet voice, “I think we can make some time. After all, we are just on a walk together and this sounds like something we would both love to hear”. She looked up and gave Adam a knowing look. He smiled expansively showing that wise smile and whispered to Margaret, “It’s been a long time since anyone asked me so intelligent a question”. “Where should I begin?”

He seemed to be asking the question of himself even though looking at Margaret and Elizabeth. His mind started back to some salient time when he actually realized that he would be a photographer.

Now, when a person of Adams age starts looking back it is much like a librarian putting books back on shelves where they belong that readers had left lying on the desks and tables of an old library. Books full of knowledge needed sorting exactly right so that each book the librarian has to replace on the shelves is placed in a orderly and exact manner. Much like a minds “Dewey Decimal system”. Each memory alphabetized and numbered with dates ascending or descending depending on which one went where and which category it needed to reside in.

Preface-Amos Branson

Dear Reader, This is a story written in the third person. That means you and I are going on a journey of discovery and, perhaps, trepidation. I refer to us as “we” (you and I) in the following Story. Are you game?

An oddity was Amos Branson. Certainly not one of the typical denizens one would meet in church. Or, for that matter, in polite society. Add to this his inheritance and the oddities simply grew.

Amos Branson, though a wealthy man, was also a deviant. His definition of a good time was bilking someone out of five dollars; or less. A mere $2.50 bilked would leave him chortling like mad when he got home. It was the chase that got him off. More if possible but he found that the more money people had the smarter they were with it. As he would say, “It’s axiomatic.” He used newspapers and, to a degree, the internet.

He had, at first, put up a “Go Fund Me” page on Facebook asking for $1000.00 to help his wife procure needed medications for her disease; unnamed. Both disease and wife were non-existent. The ploy worked until someone, probably an ex-fleeting friend, complained to Facebook of his shenanigans and he was summarily banned. Not, however, before he bilked another $517.34 he didn’t really need from the good members of Facebook.

So, instead, he made the noble decision to prey on widows, friends and acquaintances. The latter of which he had few of and friends were, as mentioned, fleeting. A lonelier man you could not find. A more bitter man you probably could find for Amos had something that allowed him to tolerate his alone time. He wrote. He wrote using the non de plume of “Cedrick Hawthorne:” to be exact. He had sold his work for years, all the while refusing to go on book tours or even meet his editors. He conducted all his business through a law firm which he had jokingly named “Tidily, Hood, and Wink.” Not the firms real name of course but it suited Amos just fine. Amos did have a sense of humor after all.

Our story starts on a rainy Sunday afternoon. Well, rainy does not do the weather justice. His estate was in Oklahoma and it was Tornado season. As we look in on Amos he is headed for the storm shelter outside his rather large and rambling home. A home paid for by an inheritance. Not money earned by Amos. This may explain him for some of my readers. However, there is much more to Amos than meets the eye. Shall we say, he had, in his spare time, and most of his time was spare, gotten into some rather iffy channels of endeavor above and beyond his bilking of widows. The darkness of the storm shelter may offer us all an unabridged idea of just how much of a screwed up Amos he had made himself. It is, in the final analysis, axiomatic!

Amos Branson-Part 1-The House

Were we in a small plane or helicopter, flying over the midwest, we would peer down at the ineffable beauty of the green shades of corn fields running off in every direction. Here and there we would see the dots of homes and barns with roads leading to and away from those dots. Rather like a tinker toy construction with the joining hubs being the cleared land of the houses and the roads being the wooden dowels that run between them; from horizon to horizon.

Flying just a little over 15 miles west above this beauty we look down to see a surprisingly ugly parallelogram of devastation interrupting this expansive green sea. Standing as a scab in this beauty are about 150 acres of brownish, desert-like land. In many ways it appears as we might imagine a nuclear accident to look. We ask the pilot to turn and take us around the perimeter of this scar; our curiosity spiked, like one who gawks at a terrible accident scene on a highway. Looking down from on high we try to get a grip on what caused this horrible blemish on the land.

Our pilot banks into a gentle left turn tilting the passenger side of the aircraft down so that we might witness this inglorious intrusion into our sea of green. At the outskirts of this parallelogram we see the ruin of farming machinery; to numerous to count. There are small tractors, green and yellow fading into the abyss of elemental destruction. There is a large hole dug into the soil filled with debris which is an obvious dump site. Old washing machines, tires, indiscriminate machine parts such as harrows and plows, wheels and drive trains lying, baking in the midwest sun. There is also garbage and litter from household usage on which flocks of crows fight and clamor over small niceties of rotting food.

As we turn from the south and nose toward the north we see on the far reaches of this scar a home. At least, we assume it is a home. A structure which rambles and appears to be at least two stories tall shaped like an “L” with varied, patchwork additions added on over many decades. It squats on the desolation in disrepair. A clothes line with a pair of pants dangling tells us that it is most likely inhabited.

As if to be the guarantor of our thoughts we see an older satellite dish looking to be about 10 feet in diameter on the north side of the home. It points west into the sky toward a satellite which may or may not be still in orbit. It’s antiquity makes the question of its functioning suspect.

We’ve seen enough at this point. With an affirmative nod to the pilot we turn east to take us back to the field from which we took off. Our curiosity about this blight in the middle of so much beauty has, however, piqued our interest. This bears looking into as its oddity and starkness will not allow it to drift away without seeking answers to its birth and development. We will investigate this until we find answers to our questions. To start, who owns this mess?


Amos Branson-Part 2-The House

Remember, this is written in the third person.


We have just turned off the main road onto the road which steers through the corn fields, by-passing the Branson property. Like most midwest roads this one is also of whitish coloring due to the gravel used for decades on such roads. It’s a five, or so, mile trip to Branson’s driveway and we finally get there when we see an old weathered and cracked sign hanging from one nail which has three letters left on it: B-R-A. We smirk at the spelling and turn left onto the drive. It isn’t one hundred and fifty yards before we are stopped by a 1954 Cadillac blocking the road. It was a convertible with white top and the chrome is still attempting to shine through decades of rust to say, “I’m still here!” While its age speaks to us we notice that the hood is missing as is the intake manifold and carburetor. A vestige of the convertible top flaps in the wind behind the rear seat adding a little haunted atmosphere to the scene. Still, we feel that a good restorer could make this a prize still as the patina of rust shows no holes or rot in the fenders or rocker panels.

Now we have an idea of what to expect as we proceed. If the Caddy looks like this we need to prepare ourselves for what lies ahead. With a little trepidation we dismount our Subaru Forester rental and scramble around the old Caddy to walk the rest of the way on foot. It’s hot and humid and we neglected to bring any water. We can’t blame ourselves, though, as we really never intended to actually make this trip out here in the first place. Ruminating about the wisdom of this short journey is crossing our common sense somewhere in the back alleys of our mind. The thought comes unbidden whether we should trust anything that Mr. Branson might be willing to offer us should we get so thirsty as to ask. With nothing known for us to lose we throw caution to the wind and trudge onward.

It isn’t long before we make a slight left turn and there we are, looking straight at what fills the need for shelter. It is long and rambling as we witnessed in the plane. From here, however, it is more decrepit than we could have imagined. It is approximately 60 feet in length, 30 in height and had once, by all appearances, been a tight and water proof dwelling. No longer. We see holes in the roof in at least 7 places and doors hanging ajar on one rusted hinge. These are haphazardly boarded up to keep them from falling from the doorway completely. No professional carpentry job this. Looking beyond the house proper we see the roof of the barn has collapsed inward and only the rear wall still stands. What looks to be a faded “Burma Shave” sign was once painted on that roof.

Looking farther west we see a couple of outbuildings which are reasonably well maintained. The tower that used to house the windmill for the well is fallen over on yet another outbuilding. One of the well maintained buildings has power lines running to it so the well pump must be fairly new.

In the foremost front of the house it looks like the original homestead has been incorporated into the house which was added on. Obviously sod, the structure has not been properly kept and is disintegrating was we gaze upon it. It also houses the front door which, lo and behold, is brightly painted an azure blue. We make our way to the front door trying hard to quell our stomachs in preparation for what we might meet once through that portal. Our fears and trepidation are met by an obnoxious odor on the wind blowing past the rear of the building and into our faces. An odor redolent with decay.

Screwing up our courage we knock on the door. There is a doorbell button  to push it is hanging out of the receptacle by a single wire; useless. With no answer to our knock we knock yet again. No answer so we launch a fullisade of knocks. Still, nothing. The urge to just barge in is tempered by our fear of trespassing. If we just walk into the house we are “open season” to be shot, stabbed or bludgeoned by any occupant of the house. We decide, instead to walk around the house yelling, “Hello! Anyone home?” We do so, not once, but twice. To be honest, we are feeling more than a little foolish and wondering what the hell we are trying to prove by even being here. Still, our curiosity grows. Not only from our hours spent finding the house but from the plane ride overhead.

As we look at each other the same question is etched in our eyes, “What the HELL were we thinking?”

That’s when we hear a voice yell at us, “Stop! I have a gun!”

Amos Branson-Part 3-Amos

With our hair standing up we slowly turn to face the direction from which the voice came. Standing just outside the out building behind us is a youngish man of about 30-35 years. Evidently, he had egressed from that outbuilding which is why, we realize, there was no answer to our knocks on the front door. In his hands is a shotgun. We see that it is a double-barrel shotgun and we are looking into the maw of its two barrels. The shotgun is pointed generally at our faces and the young many is standing roughly ten yards from us, grimacing.

He is wearing a grey and yellow horizontal stripe T-shirt and cut off khaki shorts. On his feet are ankle high, partially unlaced work boots. He is soaked in sweat with stains in the arm pits of the T-shirt and his cut off khakis have one leg about tow inches longer than the other. Those to are stained. His demeanor and style makes us glad that the wind is at our backs. If he smells at all the way he looks his odor would probably be gagging.

On his nose rest a pair of gold rimmed spectacles. The left lens is missing leaving a hole into his eye which is disconcerting as it creates the look of dementia. His pot belly only adds to the general state of disrepair he represents, Not what we were expecting to say the least. We realize that we are in what some term, “A pickle.”

“What do you think you’re doing on my property?” His voice comes to us with a growl. “I oughta drop you right where you stand! I have the right to you know.” We see that he is quite angry and don’t doubt that he just might discharge the weapon; ruining our day. Actually, his question is the one question we were afraid he would ask us. We both know that, in truth, we haven’t have a good answer between us. In fact, we were just asking ourselves that same question.

We start to blurt out some thing like: we were just riding around and saw your place and were wondering if it might be for sale. We don’t get the chance though. Amos cocks back both hammers of his shotgun. The sound is like a death knell. Clear and acid-like.

“I think you just better get off my property right now.” His voice bodes no discussion of his principle of our ceasing our trespass.

I finally gain a modicum of control and, trying to keep from stuttering, carefully state, “We were told that your property might be for sale in town. We knocked on your door several times and thought you weren’t home. We drove quite a while to get here so we thought we would just take a look-see to see if we’re interested in your property. Is it for sale?” You sigh with at my lack of originality. The look on your face says that we are now going to die.

For just a second we see look of hesitation on Amos’ face. He blinks, then, lowers the shotgun. When the barrels are pointing toward the ground he shifts his weight from one foot to the other. “Who told you that?” There is suspicion in his voice but it feels to us like the worst might be over.

You chime in quickly, “A waitress at the Godfrey Diner said that she had heard this parcel might be on the market.” My gratitude for your quick thinking is palpable when you continue, “She said she knows you and that you mentioned to her that you were considering selling a few weeks ago. She also said she wasn’t sure but she said it might be worth our time to take a run out here. So, here we are. Sorry if we seemed up to no good. Our fault, completely.”

With that, a smile appeared on Amos’ face. “Shirley?” he asked.

“Pardon?” I blurt out, half expecting him to finish with “Surely, you jest?”

“Shirley, the girl at the diner.”

I come back, “I didn’t ask her name. Blond, short hair, if I remember correctly?”

“That’s her. Well, pretty dark hair for a blond but…I kind of like her, you know? She doesn’t care much for me I think but she’s a nice lady. She knew my mother and father when she was a kid.”

The unpronounced sigh when one realizes they aren’t going to die suddenly ran through my body. I felt like collapsing and barely not peeing my pants. How close was that? In truth, I didn’t know but it seemed for a few slow minutes that blackness was inevitable.

“Well,” you interject with suaveness, “perhaps you can show us around?” Amos thinks about that, screwing his face into an almost comical expression. The manner in which he pursed his lips almost sends me into a chuckling fit until I feel your elbow dig painfully into my ribs. You’re right though. It probably wouldn’t do to laugh at Amos now.

As we wait for his answer his expression changes as he raises the shotgun again. “Her names not Shirley.” Anger is seeping back into his face as unease and panic start to sink into ours. Aw, shit! We blew this big-time. I feel the loosening of my bowels as he points the gun straight into my face; cocking the triggers again. Taking two steps forward he hisses, “You have two minutes to get off my property.”

With that we both say, “No problem, we’re going. So sorry to have bothered you.” The sound of our voices must have sounded like someone rubbing a balloon; only, acapella. We both turned and started running toward the car. The feeling we had as our backs were turned to him was ghastly. Would he let us go or just shoot us in the back and bury our corpses out in the back forty.

Fairly leaping into the car we hear from behind, “And don’t ever come back!” Then, a gale of laughter. We look to where he threatened us and see him sitting on his butt laughing and holding his stomach; the shotgun laying in the dirt beside him. “It wasn’t even loaded!” He managed to croak. Evidently he thought we were the funniest thing he’d ever seen. In truth, I guess we probably were.

Amos Branson-Part 4-Relapse

The ride back into town was balefully quiet. Each of us editing and reediting the scenes of the past few hours in our minds as tempered by the contrast of the “it wasn’t even loaded” chortle.  That chortle felt to each of us like a rock in our shoes; grinding painfully with each mile back to town.

Finally, you look at me as I’m driving, grim faced, and burst out in guffaw’s of laughter at both our discomiture. “What a couple of ‘Maroons!’ We fell for that hook, line, and sinker!” Your laughter starts grating on me after 5 minutes of stops and loud galed restarts.

“What if it actually was loaded and he just chickened out of shooting us? I’m going back.” I say this with grim determination on a face which, just a few minutes ago was grinning like a Cheshire Cats. “I can’t let this go.”

Plain and simple for me to say but what was really bugging me was that smell. I didn’t relate this to you but that smell was, I was pretty sure, death; or remians of same.

“Something is really wrong back there and I aim to find out what.”

The look on your face was one as though I had just shit my pants. “You can’t be serious? Tell me you’re just joking around, right?” I nod over to you, my face set in stone.

“Well, do what you want but I’m not going back there! Not in a million years; or even tonight! That guy is a whack job born to rouse the devil. Leave me out of this”.

That said, I sigh. “No, you’re probably right. But I am going to call the cops and ask them to do something like a welfare check. That stinch was one of dying, not an old claustrophobic house. I’ve smelled dead animals but this was different. The same, only different, I guess. It had a sick-sweet odor to it and I have heard that human decay has that difference in odor from other animals.

“You’re right though, I’m not built to challenge a situation like this.”

That settled, we got into town, went to our hotel and I called the police which, in this case, was the county Sheriff. They told me they would check this out today or tonight as they were already aware of Amos. The last thing the deputy said was, “it was just a matter of time.”


Amos Branson-Part 5-Mutterings

I set the room phone down and walked to the window of my bungalow; pulling the drapes aside. Not ten seconds passed before I saw two Sheriff’s cruisers heading out of town fast, the way you and I had come back in; lights, no sirens. I believe that’s called “Code 2.”

“Put your clothes on , Martha, we’ve got company,”

That old saw came out with my breath. An old saying I’d heard as a kid. It never ceased to draw a smile from me. I wonder about the validity and truth of old sayings at times. You know, who and why had cause to utter them and the how is, how did they get repeated enough to be handed down through time. A bar room comes to mind. At least for the off-color ones. Some are excerpts from the Bible. Some are just too old to ever know how they came to be.

At this point I was muttering, mouthing my words under my breath, but I also really wanted to head back out and see what was going on. If the smell that alerted me was what I thought it was then there’ll be a lot more emergency vehicles headed out the same way very shortly. For now, I knew, I wasn’t going anywhere. I do, however, remember that you have one of those little bars in your room. The ones that sometimes have Canadian Club in them. I knew I needed to talk this through before I did something really stupid.

Going outside, headed, ultimately, your room, I noticed the lack of light and looked up at the sky. Clouds were scudding in. There had been high cirrus earlier but I hadn’t taken much notice then. Now, however, they were getting thick and black and the first thing that came to mind was “tornado weather.” The midwest is noted for corn and tornadoes and the old answer to these storms was that they were God’s answer to trailer parks. It did seem that way at times but it was also a cruel remark directed toward those less fortunate. The kind of remark born of elite urban dwellers who didn’t know which end of a shovel actually made a hole in the dirt.

I was surprised when I saw the maid coming out of your room with a bundle of sheets and towels. “Is he in there?” The question almost was forced out by my surprise.

“No sir, he left in a cab.” That stopped me cold. What the… ! Surprise wasn’t the operant term here. Shaking, shock, perhaps? I walked quickly to the door and looked in, sure as hell, there were no suitcases or duffle bags in your room. Just the comforter lying on the sculpted green carpet as the maid put new sheets on the bed.

“Are you sure he didn’t just go to the lobby or down to the cafe?” Her nod was all i got back. Standing there, mouth open, I had to think. That’s when it dawned on me that you had had enough of this. Dumb as a stump I told myself. You weren’t cut out for anything remotely like a murder scene; if that’s what it was out there. You were a family man and a good friend but, it struck me hard, I should never have thought to get involved in this to the extent I had. Saying I was going back there to sneak around had probably been the straw that broke the camel’s back. But, shit, you could have said something. Question is: Would I have listened? Pondering that, I had to say to myself, “Probably not.”

Now, you’re on your own “buck-o”. Nice going moron. Any thought of a “CC and Seven” dissipated like a drop of water in a hot skillet. Ok, what to do?