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Buddy

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Christine Yellow Hawk is like most little girls who just turned 12, she is headstrong. She is tough and can handle herself as best as they can, from the Reservation that is. There’s certain notoriety in being a Native American that cut both ways. The first, being a part of storied history steeped in mysticism, while the second is kicking it with your “Homies from the Rez.”

In the beginning, opening Casinos on the white man’s land was viewed with distrust by some of the elders who clung to their ancient history, but in the end it enriched all of their lives in big ways. The money allotted to her family, as part of the overall tribe, was like a windfall. Christine’s dad wasn’t like most of the other men of his time, because he was always working and saving to provide a rich and stable heritage. She had all the trappings that a girl would want and a rich allowance that her father made her invest half of, every Friday. She fought it at first and even called it fascistic, but every time she looked at her balance statement each month, it added up quickly. She found a sense of pride for making such good decisions, with her dad’s input, of course.

This afternoon she was going into town with the remainder of her money, to the mall.  There is this new “Palm Reader” business that opened a couple of days before, and all of her friends were talking about it because the owner was not an Indian, but they all wanted to go anyway. 

It was her turn in the chair across from Madame Viola, with four girlfriends squirming in their chairs and giggling at her. She shot them a glance that, given her distinct facial features, made them quiet down so she could have her experience. In anticipation of this visit, Christine had to consider the questions she would ask. This had to be thought out precisely. Asking incorrect questions only ensures the session is, for her, a dull one. Viola reached and took Christine’s hands into hers and bowed her head in concentration. Christine mimicked her every move. When Viola looked up she turned Christine’s wrists over and exposed her “life lines” in her palms.

Christine was about to blurt out her first question because the pregnant pause in Viola’s action caused her to panic, sort of, when Viola said in a loud voice, “Save the Dog.” Again, a pregnant pause! This gave her time to think about the dog vision that just “popped” into the front of her thoughts. The vision was so strong that she could describe him by memory. Suddenly, in all of its horror, she knew what it meant.

He didn’t pick Buddy, the neighbor’s dog, the dog picked him. It was a convenient set up for Christopher, the neighbor, to simply knock on the door at any time without notice and Buddy will have a buddy.  So imagine his surprise one day while he waited for Buddy’s owner to retrieve him when a knock at the door, and three hours later than he would have wanted. He swore as he opened the door, but instead of Christopher with some lame excuse coming off his moving lips, stood a couple of detectives. They filled the entire door frame and gave him a start and mumbled something about soup. That is when they decided to be the ones asking the questions. They informed me they were investigating the death of one Christopher Crowder earlier in the evening. They did so with all the aplomb of a deformed yellow table gourde. I told them I was dog sitting for Mr. Crowder and thought it was him at the door, when you knocked. 

He immediately thought about Buddy. So, he asked if he could just keep the animal until things get sorted out, which they were all for. He told them everything I knew about this neighbor, which didn’t amount to anything but passing exchanges involving a leash and a doe-eyed Labrador. Buddy didn’t mind and took it in stride with a stretch of his hind legs as he lay about the couch.

He saw the good detectives on their way and turned to face Buddy as the dog turned completely on his back with legs splayed wide. Looks like a talk is in order, he thought to himself and sat on the couch next to him, and his eyes told him he was happy. He told him about Christopher, his master, dying ,and this was met with a good strong licking of his exposed parts.

Normally, given all possible responses, this display of cleanliness would be inviting but, not so much as it is inappropriate to watch. Buddy then put his paws over his ears, like telling him he has heard enough.  “Ok, some ground rules,” he said out loud, to probably the recliner across the room. 

He was about to sit down for the evening in his favorite chair when he heard knocking sounds coming from the hallway. He got up after the second round of forceful banging coming from his neighbors door.  The sound of his door opening caused the young Indian girl to pause just as her knuckles were about to meet wood for the third time.  She looked older than he knew she should be because the aura she gave off was impressive. 

“Can I help you?”  He offered.

“I’m looking for my brother Christopher, he lives here but I haven’t been able to speak with him. Do you know him?” she asked.

Oh, boy.  When he decided to get to the door instead of plopping into the recliner he had planned on, he wasn’t thinking about having to break the news to a family member of a recently departed brother.  This kind of conversation is to be avoided at all cost, yet he finds himself ready to divulge the bad news and get it over with, because of Buddy.

“Well, yes I know him. In fact, I am still watching his dog buddy. I don’t know how else to tell you, but your brother is dead.” There, he said it!  He got it out into the big blue, so to speak.  As soon as he heard the words falling out of his pie hole, he offended every sensibility there is to mankind.

“Dead?” she cried out, almost tantrum-like.

He motioned for her to come down to his place and meet Buddy and for everyone to remain calm. He would tell her everything he knew about Christopher, and not the detective version. He put his arm over her shoulder to give comfort, when Christine’s brother’s door opened, much to their surprise. The man stepped out into the hallway and immediately set his eyes upon them. He was turning in their direction and produced a gun from his leather coat. 

“Where is the dog”? the man asked forcefully.

They both stood frozen in their tracks with that “deer in the headlight” look in their eyes. Neither spoke to answer the big man’s question.

“Look, don’t give me any crap. I know you have the dog because I overheard you a moment ago. Now, fetch me the dog, I want its collar,” he said as if feigning no interest in the animal itself.

That was music to his ears. He would get the collar and get this man on his way. He ushered Christine inside his apartment and turned to tell the man with the gun he would have his collar in a moment.  Unfortunately, this only angered the man, and he followed them into the apartment, his gun still trained on them. Once inside, the man got antsy, and once he saw Buddy, he shot him down. He walked over and unhitched his collar to heft it, as if to weight it against something in his mind. He stood up and strolled out of the apartment without uttering a single word.

Christine immediately went to Buddy and sat on the floor next to him looking at his wounds. He was still alive. She placed her hands over his body and started chanting, no, channeling her ancestors. Suddenly, beneath her hands, above his wounds, a light omitted brightly. The light kept getting brighter and brighter until it shown like a super nova exploding in the cosmos. It ended in a large flash-like emission, sending the room in semi-darkness again.  Buddy came to life with an exuberance that ebbed out every pore in his body. Someway, somehow, Christine healed his wounds.

The trip to the “palm reader” came to mind, when Viola had said, “Save the dog.” The unusual visit to something so foreign to her heritage actually was the impetus to find her true Indian self, a healer.

It doesn’t matter what path you are on as long as it is true to your heart.  A dark path leads to dark places. Buddy, was her “light.”

From my lips, to your ears

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As Lucinda Johnson waited during her introduction to the packed audience of the National Press Club, she knew her speech would be important. She was the youngest African American female to address the historic venue to be honored. Every US President since Roosevelt has spoken here, as well as monarchs, prime ministers, and members of Congress.  Though only sixteen years old, she understood that in this day and age, she is considered by those in attendance, a “cultural trifecta”. As the thunderous applause ensued after her introduction, she ventured to the podium and tried to hold her head as high as possible. This was an attempt to subdue her fear of having to speak in front of such a large group of dignitaries. She simply stood at the podium, set her speech down, and spoke. 

“I am humbled to be here today. I stand here on my Momma’s shoulders (the audience applauded).  It is said, “we don’t pick our family”.  Ever since I was a young girl (the audience laughed at the irony), I had a lot of time to write because my Momma was always absent. I never knew my Father. My Momma was mentally ill and a drug addict. She just died recently from AIDS. I didn’t know this wasn’t normal. Because of her disability, I was homeless a lot and ate from trash cans. The only escape I had was my schoolwork. The book I wrote, “The Potters Field Project”, is a testament to my Momma in spite of her painful life. When Momma was still alive, I learned my grandfather was living in care home six miles from the condemned apartment we were squatting in. I was 14 when I found out he existed. 

The very idea of having a Grandfather intrigued me enough to seek him out on my own. I found he was in a nursing home for the poor. I cobbled enough bus money to get there and found myself sitting in waiting area. There were old people sitting in wheel chairs everywhere, and the smell of urine bit my nose like the smell of ammonia. The people I saw that day didn’t have a life like we know it, it was as if they were waiting to die. I was saddened by the neglect and fearful for my Granddaddy.

As I waited for the staff to wheel my grandfather out to the common area, I decided to talk to a woman that sat expressionless, facing the window, looking out in the small and unkempt patio area just beyond. I introduced myself and in return received a blank stare. I took a piece of hard candy that I had brought to give to my Grandpa and offered it to her, and this gesture woke her to my presence. The arrival of my grandfather interrupted us, and I gave her a hug and spent three hours that day with Grandpa. He was so happy to get a visit and we talked and talked.

The following Saturday I came back, and as soon as I arrived the woman I had befriended the last time I was there beamed a big smile at me.  I walked over and gave her another piece of candy, which she took with excitement. It seems I had made a friend. We talked the whole time until my Grandfather came into the room. I had learned she use to be a “field nurse” during WWII in Africa. She told a story of the time she saved a young man’s life, only to have the same man die in her arms a year later in the same hospital. She was also a writer like me, but of poetry. Her name was Bernice. Then a funny thing happened. When I arrived at the home, a week later, there was Bernice with another lady, to meet me.  She, like Bernice, had a story to tell about her life. Bernice had befriended the elderly and frail woman during the week since I visited.  Mattie was alone and depressed with loneliness like an elephant in captivity separated from her baby. I cherish those days spent with my Granddaddy, but what started with getting to know him also allowed me to interact with these other people as well. There is almost an order to unintended consequences, for lack of a better term, in allowing me to absorb their life stories. I asked Bernice to help and work with others during the week. I gave her candy and paper to aid in her task. The change in Bernice was remarkable. She cried, in happiness when I asked her to do this for me. It was our little project, and she had a purpose to her time. For the first time in a long time she was no longer lonely. In turn, those she interviewed during the week were also coming to life again. My lips, to your ears!

Management of the center took notice of the dramatic change of atmosphere among their charges. They began offering daily hair care for the patients, and by the fourth week of my visits I could no longer smell the stench of urine. Where once I would have arrived to neglect and apathy, I now found life inside those walls. This is the real story behind the book, the wholesale changes to improve the quality of life for future “Potters field residents”. 

The immediate impact of the unforeseen results I witnessed with the residents also had an empowering effect on me. Standing on my Momma’s shoulders, I realized that in return for the quest to get to know my own family, I found the fascinating and compelling stories of others.  For the first time in a long time, in our own way, we have elevated our elders to a new level of respect and gratitude. Sure, they were poor at the end of their lives, but we all come into this world without a single possession. Allowing them an opportunity to share their stories provided them the means to pass their meaning on to us. What greater gift could we give them than this?

(The center erupted in thunderous applause that turned into a standing ovation) 

If you’ve read my book, you know the rest of the story. In all, over the two years until my Granddaddy died, I had collected 29 life stories. These are our elders, and soon to be our ancestors. We are the legacy of their time on earth.  How far we have fallen to allow people to be erased in the sands of time?  Fittingly, the first story in the book is of my granddaddy.

I stand here before you as a testament to his life. Without him, you would not be sitting here today to hear his words, his stories. We cannot choose who will be our families, but we can choose to learn from them. We can learn from their paths, struggles, and accomplishments to break the cycles we seem hopelessly caught in. Progress does not end with an individual’s life because life marches on. When my Grandfather died in that home, his bed was quickly filled with another story. A story that has yet to be told! 

In closing, I have decided to go to college to earn a journalism degree in order to ensure that our heritage isn’t treated like a warehouse. Thank You!”

Lucinda stood there overwhelmed by the sustained ovation that didn’t subside for five minutes. At the dinner party there was talk of a Pulitzer and offers from colleges (of her choice, including Ivy League).  She was beginning to feel a little guilty about all the big things about to come her way, but was determined to keep telling the stories that needed to be kept alive. She was only 16, and her story is still being written. And she would make sure to show just whose shoulders she was standing on—the name for a foundation came to her: “The Potter’s Field Project”.

 

The Two Lives of Barton Crick

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A confidential informant provided Constable Crick with the crucial piece of information he needed to bring down a gang that had been plaguing his community for a long time.  The nondescript building in the old warehouse district was surrounded by heavily armed men sufficient in numbers to breach the building and arrest those responsible.  It was decided that they would quietly enter through different sides of the building because of the dangerous nature of these particular criminals and their penchant for violence.  They also wanted to bring their leader, Archibald Prentiss, to justice alive if possible.  Things didn’t go as planned.  Shots rang out and chaos ensued.  The remaining men stationed outside stormed the building and joined fray.  Barton Crick was one of those men.  He wanted Archibald all to himself because his blatant disregard of the law was personal, and Crick always got his man.  As soon as he entered the interior, he saw his quarry climbing a metal ladder leading to a catwalk above the floor.  Archibald was not being pursued by any of his men because they were engaged in the violent firefight.  Though shots were whizzing around him, Crick holstered his weapon and began to climb the ladder in hot pursuit.  The older Archibald was no physical match for the younger Crick as he was closing the gap between them.  His men had the situation under control and arrests were occurring on the floor below.  Now he had his man trapped at the end of the catwalk with nowhere to run.  Archibald wasn’t finished yet, and with a tip of his hat in Cricks direction,  as if bidding him adieu, crashed through the window behind him, falling some 35 feet into the cold waters below.  Crick swore under his breath and called for his men to search for Archibald along the river banks.  The sweet hands of justice would have to wait yet again.

Later that evening, as his head hit the pillow, he thought of Archibald and understood his foe was a clever criminal, but in the end, he would pay for his crimes.

Barton Crick had possessed an active imagination since he was a little boy.  At first he thought that they were just wonderful dreams of an imaginary place in another world.  His parents were amused by his tales when he was awake, but after a while they became quite concerned with his mental health.  He really had it good in those younger years, the best of both worlds as they say, but that all changed with the concern his parents had.  He learned to keep his worlds separate as an endless stream of doctors began to invade his waking world.  Those doctors would come and go as they tried to cure him of this affliction.  He was diagnosed as bi-polar; schizophrenic; psychotic, and finally dual personality.  With each doctor that came and went, so did the medications they prescribed to keep his other world at bay.  The medications didn’t work on him, of course, because he didn’t have a mental condition but, a temporal one.  This kind of condition didn’t require a PhD, it required a quantum physicist. 

Each night when he went to sleep he would transport his waking self to this other realm, leaving his body behind as a place mark like you would fold a corner of an unfinished paper novel.  If it weren’t for the other world and its wonder and promise, this world’s troubles would have been a little hard to deal with. 

Sometimes he wished he could sleep forever in this world, so he could be in the other all of the time.  In this world he couldn’t be himself because the medications altered his energy to the point he was nothing more than a 160-pound paperweight.  After a while, his parents had him committed to the Billings Hospital for the mentally ill.  That was fine with him, because he could sleep more and more.  The problem was the more he slept here, the more ambitious his doctors became in their desire to curing his malaise.  The Group therapy sessions as well as the intense individual sessions with psychiatrists were wearing him down to the point that he was starting to believe them when they said his alter ego, and the world it inhabited, was all in his sick mind.  He was no longer the boy with fanciful dreams, but a 30 year old man with serious mental health issues.  In his youthful days it was easy to discount adults because honestly, how could they know what was in his mind?  But, as an adult, he saw things in a different and logical light.  The alter ego, as they called it, smells; tastes; loves; cries and does everything else associated with normalcy.  How could he make them understand it was reality?  The quick answer was ‘he couldn’t.’

He needed to sleep.  Archibald was still at large, or at least he was when he laid his head to sleep in that world.  The only thing that could keep him away from sleep was to stand in line and ingest what was dispensed from a little white paper cup.  While waiting, it dawned on him that Archibald had just lost his base of operations and most of his ill-gotten gain in the raid, so he would be off his game.  Depending on how many men he lost he would be desperate to regain that which he lost, Barton knew his next move, and once asleep, would flip into that world to be where he needed to be.  It was strange because in the other place, he really had the most to lose.  His wife and child resided with him by the purple lake called Epsilon in the house that was built with his own two hands.  He coveted the life that was so rich in everything he lacked in this one.  You would think he would have chosen a safer profession there, but he was incapable of complacency because complacency was his identity here.  He had the ability to fight for what was true and just, and had the reputation anyone here would be envious of.  Not once had he given thought to the consequences of dying in the other perfect world.  What would happen here?  Perhaps he should be a little more careful instead of running around warehouses with bullets flying all around.  It never occurred to him before then. 

The line was going slowly, but he eventually found himself standing on the other side of the dispensing window when the nurse looked up at him from her sheet. “Ah, Mr. Crick”, she said, like a snake hissing prior to striking its prey.  “It looks like we have a change in medication for you today, now that your new doctor has reviewed your charts.”

“I don’t have a new doctor.”  Barton countered.

“Yesterday you didn’t, but today, you do!”  She hissed again.

She tapped the sheet with her sausage-like fingers as if saying paper does not lie. 

“It would appear your current treatment regimen has not improved your condition sufficiently so a new doctor has been brought in.  He is quite an impressive man, very clever you know?  He has all the answers.  The good news is that in an hour you will get to meet him in person.  His new treatment regimen is contrary to everything you have experienced since your arrival.”  She proclaimed proudly.

“I am telling you, I do not have a new doctor and I must go to sleep soon. I do not want to have a session with someone when I should be sleeping.”  He said pleadingly.

He had no choice, as two burly aids standing on each side of him loomed in case of resistance.  He took the pills, downed them, then padded back to the common room and waited.  It didn’t take long, as all of the other patients on the wards on his unit were systematically herded into their rooms like compliant cattle to the slaughter house.  Each and every one of the patients was going to sleep and apparently, he was not.

An hour later, the same two goons who convinced him to take his medicine were there to escort him to meet the new and clever doctor.  While padding his way through the mazelike corridors he noticed that his new medication was having a different effect on him.  He didn’t feel the normal drowsiness that quickly followed his ingestion of medication.  In fact he felt energized, edgy and very alert.  It was this type of affect that would counter his ability to sleep.  Dread crept in with the realization his doctor’s treatment was meant to keep him from sleeping.

He approached the door of his new doctor, which was emblazoned with the name, “Archibald Prentiss, PhD”

Pawnshop Horrors

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Pawn shop horrors

Jimmy Childress snuck through bushes on the side of the house, keeping an ever watchful eye for any movement inside it.  His modus operandi was always the same.  Find a door in a secluded spot cloaked in darkness and apply masking tape to the lower portion of the glass in order to break it without any sound outside that would carry in the still of night, but instead a dull thump that wouldn’t arouse any suspicion.  Normally, a short but forceful rap of a hammer in its center would suffice, then all he had to do was peel away the tape and the glass came along with it.  Then all he had to do was reach inside the hole, unlock the door from the inside, and voila.  He has done this type of burglary hundreds of times before.  The only downside was that if he ever got caught, it would be easy to pin all of them on him instead of the one that night.  This was a risk he was willing to take because his prints weren’t in any law enforcement system and getting caught would be his first offense.  The added bonus was that he was a minor, so his ultimate sentencing would be light.  His only rule of thumb was to take only what you can carry without trouble, hopefully cash or jewelry.

He had studied the house for over a week and never saw any movement around this time of night.  The fact the house resided at the end of a cul-de-sac with a large stand of woods behind it made it a juicy target. 

He entered the kitchen and paused to listen for any signs of the occupants.  Satisfied he was alone, he started for the second floor because it was also part of his routine of things.  He always worked his way down before leaving.  He made quick work on the upper floor, pocketing a few pieces of jewelry, no cash, and came down the stairs to hit the ground floor next.  Much to his dismay, he wasn’t finding enough in the rather large house.  He’d thought he would find more, and was about to call it a night when he saw another door that stood just to the left of the one he came through.  He opened it and saw it led down to a basement.  He stepped onto the top step and closed the door behind him before turning on the lights.  He proceeded down the stairs, and once he was halfway down them, he heard a sound coming from somewhere below him.  He stopped in his tracks and swore under his breath because he was careless in thinking he was alone.  A voice came from below.  “Jimmy, don’t stop now.  Come on down, we’ve been expecting you”.  The blood in his veins came to an icy stop while hairs on his neck stood tall like saw grass.

He still stood motionless, trying to comprehend who it was that knew his name, let alone knew he would be there.  He took the last five steps and looked around the corner leading into the main room of the basement which was the same size as the floor above it.  That’s when he saw a man sitting in a chair bound and gagged with a neat-looking man in a blue suit standing over him with a menacing looking gun in his hand.   He motioned with the gun for Jimmy to take a seat waiting for him directly across from the bound man.  Jimmy did as he was told, and as he did so, was looking for a way out of this unusual predicament.  “How do you know my name?  Have we met?”  Jimmy asked.

“Well, you don’t know me, but I certainly have been following your work for quite some time”.  The man replied.

“Let me be more specific.  Introductions are definitely in order.  My name is Grandy Jenks, and over in the corner is my son, Bart Jenks,” he said, as Jimmy noticed the young man standing in a darkened corner for the first time.  He too was armed with a gun, and nodded his head as if introducing himself without saying a word.

“We are the purveyor’s of G & B Pawn.  You know the establishment well because you are one of our repeat customers.  You have been selling us your stolen goods for quite some time.”  Grandy said, in an amused voice.

Jimmy didn’t know what to say.  Again, he swore under his breath about another mistake he has made. 

“Anytime we conclude a purchase we check the items against a police report that is provided to our establishment because we are bound by law to report it when discovered.  After your second visit we noticed a trend with you, young man.  That was the exact moment you made it to the top of our list,” he stated, with much amusement, again.

“List, what list?  If you knew the items were stolen, then why didn’t you go to the police and turn me in?  The first time I sold to you was over 5 months ago, and I have been back many times since.”  Jimmy sneered.

“Well, my boy, let’s just say you are …er…, our hobby.  Don’t you watch the news?  You have become quite famous as of late.”  Grandy exclaimed, with grandiosity.

Now, Jimmy was getting angry at this man and his riddles.

“Like I said, after your second visit we took an interest in your career and began to follow you closely.  You are quite the busy thief.  All those houses you robbed.  Anyway, it was your last four houses you should be concerned with, because that is when we enhanced your work, so to speak,” he said matter-of-factly.

As Jimmy was trying to digest all of this, Bart stepped out of his hole and placed a small table directly in front of the two men, then untied and unbound the first.  He reached into his waistband and from its backside, produced two handguns and placed them onto the table.  He then returned to where he was standing when Jimmy first saw him.

“As I was saying, you’re quite a famous man.  The police have been searching for you because you have killed the occupants of your last four burglaries, seven dead in all.  But, being the sporting fella that I am, I’m going to give you a chance to survive this.  On the count of three, the two of you will reach for those loaded weapons and eliminate the other.  The one who survives has a chance to escape the fate of the other.  Those are the ground rules gentlemen.”  Grandy explained.

Both men turned their attention from him to each other, anticipating the countdown.

“One . . . two . . .three.”

Both men reached for the weapon closest to him and fired at the other. 

Because Jimmy was much younger and quicker than his opponent, the owner of the home managed to get off only one shot before succumbing to his fatal wounds.   The basement was filled with the smell of cordite and Jimmy’s ears were ringing from the report of his weapon, but he quickly raised his gun at Grandy.  Unfortunately for the young burglar, Grandy had already put a well placed shot in the center of his forehead, killing Jimmy instantly.

After staging the basement to look like the homeowner and the intruder shot it out, killing each other, Grandy and his son Bart had one last stop to make before they went home.  They entered Jimmy’s sparse apartment using his own key taken from him an hour before, then placed all of the items he had sold to the pawn shop into a shoe box and hid the serial killer’s trophies in the freezer behind several pizzas. 

The news came on the following night with a breaking story stating the police had solved a spate of killings tied to a young man in the area.  The police chief told the public that they were sure they got the right man since he used the same method to gain entry to all of the homes of the deceased as well as many, many more.  The city could now rest safely.

Grandy got up from his recliner and turned off the television when his son walked into the room and announced with a smile, “Dad, I think we have a new candidate”, as he brought the stolen property list and items for Grandy’s perusal and acceptance.”

  

The Devil's Glasses

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It was Jackson Mayes 23rd birthday, and it was the same as his first 22, alone and in ill health.  He had blown through his inheritance in just three years’ time since his parents died in an auto accident. To make matters worse, sitting on the table since last week was a notice from the court ordering child support resulting from a paternity test order last month. The string of one night stands due to his inability to sustain any meaningful relationship with the fairer sex finally caught up with him in the worst way. He didn’t even remember her. Topping this unwanted news was the fact he lost his job a week ago with rent looming in a couple of days. He was sure it was because accounting received the garnishment order from the same court and it was easier to just let him go. Boy, he could sure use a little luck for a change.

Losing his parents wasn’t that big a deal because they never showed much interest in him, especially since he constantly needed surgery to correct one thing or another and they were always fighting about money. He knew they despised him because of it. He was cooking one of his last cans of spaghetti for lunch when his front doorbell rang. Now what? He turned the burner to low and dragged his left leg behind him to answer it. 

When he opened the door, it was his parent’s attorney standing there with a briefcase in one hand and a clean white handkerchief smartly covering his mouth with the other, as if Jackson had leprosy and the man didn’t want to inhale his essence. “Mr. Balducci, I hope you’re not here for money, I spent it already,” Jackson said dryly.

“No, no, my good boy. In fact, I am here with news of another inheritance. Your Aunt Esmeralda, from New Orleans passed away and I am here to codify your portion that she left for you,” Balducci informed him.

Stunned into silence, he could only motion for the meek but impeccably dressed man to enter.  “For the life of me, I don’t remember an Aunt from New Orleans,” he stammered hesitantly, hoping not to jinx the good fortune.

“It’s true, you’re Aunt Esmeralda’s attorney contacted me last week, and the contents arrived this morning,” he said as he balanced his case precariously on his lap and opened it. From Jackson’s vantage point he couldn’t see inside of it, but soon an envelope appeared clutched in the hand that formerly held a handkerchief. He neatly sat it on the table in front of him and reached into the mysterious case again, pulled out a small box that looked like one that would hold a diamond bracelet and sat it on the table next to the envelope. He smartly closed his case, reached inside his lapel and pulled out a gold-embossed ball point pen and neatly placed it on the table.  The economy of motion he employed in this ritual was hypnotic.

Without a word, Jackson opened the envelope and freed a legal document that the man asked him to sign to complete the legality of the matter. Curious to see what was in the box, Jackson took the pen that was offered and quickly signed on the spot that a little arrow sticker indicated and slid the executed legal paper back in Balducci’s direction. He caught himself licking his lips as a nervous response. The attorney took the paper, opened his case and neatly placed it inside, closed it with a whip-like snap, then slowly slid the box in his direction. Their business having been concluded, the lawyer stood and walked out of the house leaving him sitting at the table with the mysterious bounty. As he reached for the box he noticed that the envelope still lay where the fastidious man left it and it still had contents in it. His reaching hand stopped momentarily, then redirected from the box to the envelope. As he picked it up it had a considerable heft to it and he plucked the contents out and unfolded them to read.  He counted the pages before he read them. There were 23.

It was a letter penned by his Aunt to Jackson. He had never been much of a reader and the lure of the little box was getting the better of him, so he put the pages down and again reached for the box. The box was light in weight, which disappointed him as his imagination told him that much bigger things were about to change his destiny. He slid the lid off and inside was another box which appeared to be carved ornately out of wood and very old looking.  He pulled it free and turned it over and over until he perused all six sides. There was a strange string of odd rune-like markings which he could not read that ran around the sides.

He slowly opened the lid exposing a single pair of ornate eye glasses. They looked very old and very expensive as they were encrusted with jewels that appeared to be inlaid into gold frames.  Bingo.  He picked them up and scrutinized them like a miser would count his gold coins.  He carefully laid them back into the case and returned his attention to the letter.  Perhaps there would be some indication as to their origins and a clue to their value.

He read:

Dear Jackson,

I know this may come as a surprise, but I am your Aunt Esmeralda. If you are reading this it means I am dead. I’m sorry for any confusion, but I, as well as your mother, kept my identity a secret as we attempted to keep a larger secret hidden. This secret has been in our family and goes back to your Great Grandfather William Mayes. The glasses that sit before you now are a sort of talisman that has passed from one family member to the next, and that immortalizes a blood oath with dark forces during a difficult period in his life.  Unfortunately, this pact with the devil did not end with his passing, and will not end until every last Mayes on this earth leaves this mortal coil.  It appears to end with you as the only surviving heir to our family line, thank God.  It is imperative that you do not bear any more children as the curse will remain ongoing.  Do not attempt to destroy or sell these glasses, as they always return from whence they came. They are intended only for our family tree as a reminder that you cannot cheat destiny. If and when you pass, and provided you do not bring another Mayes into this world, then it ends with you and the glasses disappear as well.  Please understand that you can try to outrun this curse, but there is nowhere you can hide that darkness won’t find you.  Your soul as well as all those souls of our ancestry have been spoken for and damned. I am sorry that you must learn this unimaginable fate of ours, but you must know and prepare for the inevitable.

Esmeralda Mayes

He sat back into his chair and realized this must be some cruel joke—it had to be. He didn’t believe in the mumbo jumbo that Aunt Mayes espoused in her last letter written on earth.  He picked up the remaining 22 pages and rifled through them but unfortunately could not read their content because the language was in the same rune-type writing on the box lid. He did see his Great Grandfather’s signature at the conclusion of this mysterious letter.  It looked to be signed in blood instead of ink. As he sat there in shocked silence, his left arm felt like it was on fire and much to his horror his flesh was actually singeing like when cattle are branded, leaving behind a sick aroma in the air. When the pain subsided, he saw that an indelible mark was left in a red welt. Unfortunately, it was too much for him to bear and the next pain that he felt was in his chest. The pain was unlike any pain he had ever endured in his short life span as he slumped forward and hit his forehead, pinning the paperwork to the table like a grotesque paperweight. 

Three weeks later, a pregnant Jessica answered the door to a strange fastidious looking man clutching a briefcase in one hand and a handkerchief in his other. “Yes, may I help you?” she asked.

 

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